Directive 237

—Joseph Bromley

The man dug. The mine was nearly half-a-mile deep and completely unstable, but the man still dug. His hands were blistered, face bloodied. It was dark in the mine but not too dark as it was dimly light by the presence of a few scattered lanterns. The air was thin, and the bodies of miners lay beside him for motivation. The man meticulously carved a path through the dirt, rock, and coal to find it. The man became impatient and fidgety when the men walked up behind him. The three stood staunch, staring at the digger, observing his every move.

They stood in uniform, and each carried a rifle over their backs. The digger’s shadow was projected onto the adjacent wall, showing the digger taking his pick-axe to the dirt. Strike after strike the miner hit harder and faster. Blood and sweat began to drip off his chin as he desperately continued on. That’s when the pickaxe broke.

A small grin came over one of the three men watching the digger. The digger pulled at the mud with his hands uncovering the strange metallic structure. It was unlike anything the four men had ever seen. The digger sat down and made a sigh of relief—his work was done. He closed his eyes and couldn’t feel the pain from the first gunshot; he knew he’d once again see his family—one day—but not today.

The road was lined on both sides with yellow Imperial flags, enclosed by the dense Tunguskan forest. It was cold, like it always is in northern Russia. A fresh coat of snow covered the ground on the cusp of summer. Nightfall was inevitable as half the sun remained above the earth, slicing beams of light pieced through the trees in the forest. Snow fell from trees as the cold arctic winds blew in from the north unveiling green pines surrounding the road. In the distance, a man rode on horseback up the road, disappearing from sight, leaving the horse’s tracks behind. A bright green light came from the direction the horseback man was heading; it illuminated the sky as the sun was nearly set. The light was followed by an earthquake and shockwave that blasted the snow from the tree-tops and left the Imperial flags face down in the mud. The snow glowed green as the light covered the sky like a ghostly visit from the northern lights.

At the Imperial base, outside the mine, the commander jumped off his horse. He wore a trench coat and carried a side arm. His face was covered in a long black-and-grey beard, his eyes were serious. His boots sunk into the mud as he marched into the site accompanied by a squad of soldiers.

The excavation site was nearly destroyed by the earthquake and the commander made his way through the wreckage to the door. A blue light glowed from within the structure, leaked out into the cave. The commander stepped into the structure without hesitation while the soldiers were struck in awe. The commander’s breath blew steam into the room as the interior of the structure was separately coated in ice. The group moved deeper into the interior of the structure following a long hallway covered with strange markings and metals, illuminated by blue panels on the floor. The hallway led the men to an immense door. The commander ordered his men to find a way to open the door. They tirelessly worked to find a solution while the commander investigated the halls alone.

The commander walked around a corner and arrived at a door. At the center of the door was a dully illuminated cracked green panel, which faded to black. This repeated every five seconds as the commander stoically approached the door. The commander brought his hand up to the door and touched the panel as it illuminated, causing the door to abruptly split apart and disappear into the walls.

The opening revealed an open hangar, unlike any other area of the ship, which was bound to a pentagonal perimeter. The opening where the door once had been led the commander onto a bridge overlooking a 10-story drop. The ceiling was five stories tall. The room was dark, and exceedingly cold. The commander couldn’t see it, though; he couldn’t see them in the dark. The only thing the commander could make out in the room was another glowing green panel 200 feet ahead.

The commander walked across the thin metal bridge, the hangar echoed from his every footstep. As the commander approached the panel, he saw a large tube structure where the bridge ended. The panel was in a pentagon shaped area of the bridge that surrounded the tube structure and the panel. The commander looked over the bridge to see the drop. He could not see the bottom. After the commander took his first step onto the center of the bridge, the lights went on.

The commander saw them, all of them. Thousands of humanoid things sat frozen behind glass. The room was full of them as they lined the walls. The commander had never seen anything like them—they looked mechanical in nature. Struck in awe, the commander remembered the green panel. He raised his hand swiftly to activate it, but he stopped. He took a glance around the room once more thinking what could happen if he touched that panel. The commander turned around and marched across the bridge towards the exit of the room.

Cold smoke rose from the bottom of the hangar, stopping the commander on the bridge. The commander walked back to the panel and laid his hand on it without further hesitation.

“Initialize directive 237.”

A deep electronic voice roared throughout the structure. The commander stood at attention, lifeless, and stared at the tube at the center of the room. Streams of electricity spread across the room like tesla coils reacting. The room, complexly engulfed in the ice cold smoke, became a visionless fog. The room roared with the sounds of the structure activating and the ground shook. The commander nearly fell off the bridge, and as he was on his hands and knees, observing the tube, he saw it. The droid stepped out of the tube and stood just below seven-feet-tall. Its eyes glowed red through the fog.

“Directive fourteen results in failure. Initialize directive nine. Extermination of all life forms on the Ravager may commence before immediate return.”

The droid walked down the bridge before stopping in front of the commander, who lay on the ground.

“Thank you for your cooperation,” the droid stated.

The droid crushed the commander’s skull with his foot as if it stepped on a snowball. It then headed down the bridge. The screams of the Imperial soldiers echoed throughout the ship, along with gunshots… then, nothing.

The yellow Imperial flags still lay in the mud outside the excavation site. It was a dark night with the absence of the moon, but the green aurora above the site still illuminated patches of snow. The ground shook as the Ravager lifted itself from the ground several hundred feet into the air. The Ravager hovered above the treetops for several minutes. Imperial soldiers rode past the flag shouting and running in fear of the Ravager above. An old barefoot man stopped next to a flag and stared into the night sky. The old man smiled at the Ravager as it rose higher into the sky, knowing he was part of its resurrection, making his life worth something in the end.

A beam of light illuminated the sky as a projection of the cosmos was brought up above the Ravager. The projection showed the entire Milky Way, then zoomed into a sector far away from the Sol system. The old man saw a planet made of gold within the projection, surrounded by diamond structures and other flying fortresses, like the Ravager rotating the world. The projection moved away from the magnificent planet of riches to a moon that had been mined in half. The projection moved closer and closer until it stopped at a pair of two black eyes. The Ravager began to spew fire from the back of itself and flew into the projection. The ship and the projection disappeared leaving behind a white ball of light that erupted, leaving a path of destruction in its wake.

“At 7 o’clock in the morning, in broad daylight, on June 30, 1908, a magnificent falling star was observed in the province of Yenisei. Thousands of people saw it; tens of thousands heard the thunder-like noise that attended its passage through the air. The sound waves were measured by barographs at the towns of Kirensk and Irkutsk, and the shock of the fall was recorded by a seismograph at the latter place. Depite all this the place of fall long remained a mystery.”

The New York Times, March 10, 1929.