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Saturday Morning, October 23, 2010, I had a dream. An unusually long, coherent and dramatic dream. Dramatic enough that I think it could become a story. What was dreampt was shorter than a full story, and vague, as dreams tend to be. It needs work. I am not much of a story writer, so unfortunately I will probably not be the one to complete it.
I hereby release this story under the GNU Public License. You are free to modify (and expand!) and redistribute this story, so long as the author's name and this introduction remain present.
The story begins in the near future. The world has technology similar to that of today, and a light medival-steampunk styling has become widely fashionable, ranging from consumer technology to cars and architecture. Oil and coal, as humanity's most favored energy source, have run out, pushed aside for environmental reasons, or ceased due to expense. But the former oil companies have not disappointed, for one has discovered a new, powerful and cheap source of electricity. (The monopoly might be a nonspecific conglomerate of today's major oil companies.) This source is a tightly kept trade secret, and only the innermost executives know ultimately where it comes from.
Throughout the story, a group of people will be followed. These are our heroes. They lead ordinary lives; some are single, some are married, some have children. They are all employees at the company, working closely in the same department, and are neighbors at home.
There is a formal party, men dressed in tuxedos, women in dresses, inside the Royal Palace. It is a party thrown by the company. We introduce our villain: sitting in the throne, a man most beautiful and handsome, with a humongous flowing suit, something like an even more beautiful David Hasslehoff, dressed as lavishly as Henry VIII. He is a physically perfect embodiment of humanity (which raises the question, "too perfect?"). This man is the CEO of our energy monopoly.
This party rewards the employees for a job well done—though none of them really know what they've done. No one has worked particularly hard, yet they have succeeded beyond imagination. The truth is simple: the company has turned so much profit over the last few years, that they have purchased the most lavish palaces, are throwing the most ridiculous of parties, and pay their employees generous salaries and benefits, with plenty leftover for investment opportunities, community restoration and international relief aid surpassing most countries contributions. They are a model company, the largest in the world, and still growing exponentially.
During the party, a close group of friends wander off to explore the palace. (There are few guards, and most are paying more attention to the party.) They wander into the basement, then into the catacombs beneath the palace. While wandering, they hear two faint sounds: the fading roar of the party behind them, and suddenly, a single, bone-chilling scream in the distance. They proceed quickly yet cautiously. The screaming is getting louder, but still very distant. They are unable to find the source before the scream seems to be swallowed up: it falls away to nothingness as a low rumbling and wooshing rises and falls. It's all over in seconds, and the only thing they hear is the, now faint, roar of the party behind them. They continue snooping around, and finally find someone: peaking around a corner, the lead person glimpses a security guard. But this guard is different from the others. He is dressed in a sort-of-military uniform and carries an automatic weapon. Surprised, the group quietly retreats. They find their way back to the party, but being preoccupied with what they heard and saw, they leave with their families soon after.
[Nearing the climax] Our heroes return to the catacombs to explore them. Again they spot an armed guard around a corner, but this time they look for an alternate route. They realize the guard is on patrol and turns a corner periodically, allowing them to sneak past. They pass a second guard the same way. They come to a third guard, standing still. After some exploration, they realize there is now only one way forward, and this guard is blocking the path. They have to ambush him.
The entire group charges ahead and knocks the guard over, holding his face tightly so he can't breathe or alert others. The guard is suffocated and passes out [he isn't dead, he will wake up shortly]. However, in the charge, he got a few shots off, one of which grazed a member of the group. The member is injured and will have to be left behind. Guards alerted by the gunfire will be coming from all sides and the rest of the group must hide. The injured member doesn't know what will happen to him, whether interrogated or killed by the guards who find him, or at least arrested for tresspassing. He knows he must not betray his friends.
The remainder of the group runs off and hides. Guards find the two victims, the guard tied with something handy (piece of clothing, belt, etc.?), the other bleeding. This proves to be a useful distraction, allowing the group to sneak past, into the main area of this underground complex. (The victims were dragged to a side path, keeping the guards at some distance from the entrance. Apparently they weren't smart enough to leave one guarding the entrance.)
Inside, they find the power source: rooms full of transformers, high voltage equipment—an underground substation of humongous proportions (see: power station transformer house). The air is warm and buzzes with electricity. They find futuristic reactors, burning unknown materials, automated and unmanned. (It's Saturday, and maintenence doesn't work weekends.) Conveyor belts carry a strange material to the reactors: metallic and shiny, shape ranging from botrydial to sharp fractured, the surfaces brightly colored in the rainbow, as though the material has different colors swirled into its structure. One of the group remarks, "It looks like dried unicorn shit!"
[Here's the "Temple of Doom" part, but I'd really rather not have it be so obviously a "Temple of Doom".] As the group comes to the heart of the complex, they find a room with computer consoles, and a raised platform in the center. Two beautiful men are standing there, one of which the group recognizes: it's their CEO! The men are standing over what looks like a hole in the platform, which seems to be shrinking and fading.
The CEO says, "It's time. Bring in another." The other man goes to a side room and brings out a person [scared, screaming, apprehensive, eager?] and positions him on the center of the platform. Now we learn the disturbing nature of our villains: the CEO extends his right arm into a shiny metal blade, as if made of living metal. With it, he makes a deep incision in the victim, from forehead to pelvis and splitting down the front of each leg, in the victim, who screams intensely. The two men now stand aside the screaming victim, who is now in agony upon the platform, and turn their hands into speculua, which they use to tear the wound open along the full length of the victim, peeling his skin open from the front side. As the victim screams, a faint blue glow leaves his body and is absorbed by the two men. With its energy, they reopen the portal, which expands under the victim as a low rumbling and wooshing rises and falls. It looks like a very deep well into the bedrock, with no particular glow, but it is well lit. When it reaches full size, the victim, now nearly lifeless, sinks into the well, his screaming decaying into the vast depth.
Some time later, cylinders begin rising out of the well. They have animated, glowing labels written in a strange format. The group realizes they can make out the writing: the words are English, written in a futuristic typeface. One of the frames displayed tells the contents: apparently, these are barrels of the fuel that feeds the reactors. Another frame suggests grave hazards [e.g., pictoral representations of zombies, mushroom clouds, poisoning, etc.]. Another frame shows the packing date and time: it comes from the year 2536! This portal is not just some bizarre supernatural phenomena, it's a portal through time.
Obviously, the dangerous, explotative and murderous system cannot continue. (But it could be a very chilling ending if people learn of the horrible truth, and yet do nothing, even accepting or supporting it for the end result!) It is not enough to destroy it, because that would destroy society itself. By this time, most machinery and vehicles are powered by electricity generated in this manner, or by fuels synthesized using it. An alternative must be sought, rapidly and massively, to replace this undesirable method. Once discovered and publicized, how long will it last?
A final battle is suggested. Just how powerful are these alien beings? Who fights them? Our heroes cannot possibly fight a superhuman force. Even if they were given advanced weapons, they wouldn't know how to use them very well. The military is the logical intervention, and nuclear weapons may be necessary to destroy the threat.
Aliens. The CEO, and his assistant in the underground complex, are not aliens exactly, though that's a sufficient description. They are from the future, made of "gray goo", i.e., nanomachines conglomerated into a single entity. As such, they can change their appearance and shape at will, and posess very high intelligence. Besides the liquid Terminator, other examples from science fiction include Star Trek's Changelings (but metallic instead of brown). Eventually, we learn that they came from the future, where technology has advanced far in excess of human capacity. (Whether humanity still survives in the future is debatable; they are probably not physically present, but perhaps their conciousnesses live on in machine form. Perhaps these machines contain human conciousnesses.) To convey this, aliens could travel through the time portal and hold conversations with those on the 'present' side, thus revealing their purpose.
The time portals, for some reason, require a very gruesome human sacrifice. This releases energy, which is best described as life-force, through some unknown process the aliens possess (obviously, a human dying under ordinary circumstances does not glow with blue haze). This energy is required to maintain the portals, whose main purpose is to supply fuel to the reactors. The sacrificee's body is transported to the future, where it is used for some purpose.
The fuel is actually the waste product of the future's machine society. The rainbow colors arise from nanoscopic structures, not unlike a silicon microchip today, but throughout the entire volume, not just a single surface. In essense, it is used computronium. This gives rise to complex patterns and swirls of color in the material. Through some process, which is too dangerous or inefficient to use in the future, but is far more powerful than other methods available in the 'present', the reactors transform this material into extraordinary amounts of affordable electrical power. There is no waste produced, but the material itself is volatile and toxic, and the energy production process is known to be unstable. Since no one else knows the secret, no one is aware of the dangers associated with it.
How does the group get back out of the complex? Alternate exit? Surely guards will be watching the entrance they came in through. Will they be captured? Sacrificed? If so, who will carry the story to its climax?
Possible solutions: After the party, they tell other loyal friends, some of which come along for this trip, thus leaving others in the background to continue.
The group might relay their progress via cellphone photos, and SMS using a more streamlined interface that's very fast to write in. Reception is generally terrible underground, but perhaps cellphones have improved by this time. Perhaps they could plant cellphone repeaters along their path; this may be a suspicious plot element and may not be convincing. (Possibly, peer-to-peer cellphones could be used, allowing rapid communication within the group, as well as leaving a chain of cellphones along the path.) During the party, they might have noticed the poor reception, and might be able to come up with a solution (or maybe this sort of device becomes commonplace). Perhaps one of the group notices his newer cellphone maintains reception, so the rest go out and buy the same brand.
There is a lot of work left. I have only begun fleshing out a few of the more technical details myself. Character building is necessary. I would suggest beginning with an average suburban life, showing the group's background, and the company's relaxed work atmosphere. Beyond that, I don't know. I look forward to seeing how it evolves.
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