Bessel – another Soft Horizon vignette
Here’s another commute-inspired babble based on the Soft Horizon cluster I built the other night.
The test facility, viewed from the air, is a vast concrete plain that stretches from horizon to horizon, bounded on the north and east by ancient rounded mountains and on the other by a sterile salt like. This paved landscape is marked with obscure symbology — some arcane but most mundane — warning icons and black and yellow diagonal bars, airstrip markers, the zodiac, and arrows pointing from access well to access well. It is studded with the shallow sloped blisters of the observation bunkers from which the tests are viewed and recorded.
General Hoberman, in blue and gold regalia (very fancy by most standards but here this is a utilitarian working uniform), stands inside bunker 47B surrounded by sensing equipment and subordinates. He holds an elaborate pair of binoculars and he is looking out towards MUT-7 — the seventh Machine Under Test assigned to this sector. It’s one of a hundred and thirteen tests he will observe this week. A finned and valved light gun rests on his hip in a complicated holster.
“Commence firing sequence, Mister Belgrade,” he announces in a baritone that carries easily through the large but crowded space. A young woman in simpler attire — no gold braids and very few buttons or bars, and all of that is covered by her lab coat anyway — begins throwing switches while speaking the necessary incantations from the Book of Lens. She doesn’t know what they mean — that’s research stuff — but they are important.
She speaks the last syllable (“ruk” if you must know, though obviously you don’t have the clearance necessary to know any more) and pushes an ivory-handled lever forward.
The scaffolding a thousand yards away that suspends MUT-7 aloft glows red and then white and then vaporizes, leaving a mesh of smoke trails that whisper the destroyed structure, and a column of pale green light connects the concrete plain to the sky for a dozen heartbeats.
“Astrology, report!” commands Hoberson.
“Penetration achieved, sir! And…gone. Transient penetration, maybe seven seconds.”
“Incoming!” another voice in the bunker cries. “I have thirty plus inbound from the rift!”
“Ballistic?” demands Hoberson, by which he means simply, “plummeting”.
“Over half, but the rest are descending under power!”
Enormous tentacled beasts fall from the sky, many of them thudding wetly on the scorched concrete around the skeleton of MUT-7. But some fly, or at least fall more slowly, aloft on vast bladders of lighter-than-air gas or wings or both.
“Dispatch a platoon to mop that up and an AA unit to bring down those new ones. Good work, peopl! Belgrade, get the rig reset and call MUT-8 to let them know I’ll be there in twenty minutes.” The sound of twenty four men collecting weapons drowns him out for a moment. A siren wails. “Dortmund, prepare my car.”
General Hoberson gets his greatcoat from the rack by the door and slips into it. He retrieves his driving goggles as well and fits them over his eyes as the blast doors open. Uniformed troops march around and past him at double time. The lazy smoke arc of an anti-aircraft missile drifts across the sky. Dortmund has already started the car and opened the General’s door.