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Authors: Steven William Hannah

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Kingdom: The Complete Series (37 page)

BOOK: Kingdom: The Complete Series
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The King shakes his
head, grimacing. “I'm the most wanted man in the world,” he sighs, his grip
tightening on Gregor's hand. “No hospitals. Glasgow's lost anyway. The Kingdom
is lost.”

He lets go and leans
back against the wall.


I
can't just leave it, sir. You'll die – I have to do something...”

Gregor trails off as he
sees the truth in the King's eyes.


It's
ok, Gregor,” he says. “It's ok son.”

Gregor feels the tears
welling up and chokes them back down.


Please,
let me try -”


Leave
it,” the King puts a hand on his arm, and the anger leaves his face as the
morphine hits him. “It's ok. I deserve this.”


No,
don't say that – you don't deserve any of this. This is my fault, I failed you,
I failed -”


My
fault,” the King cuts him off. “All my fault. I let Mark into the
administration facility. I thought I could control him. I was wrong. That's
when this all fell apart.”


I
can't just let you die,” Gregor whispers. “I don't know what I'll do. I mean,
what's a Kingdom without its King?”

The King squeezes his
arm.


My
only regret,” the King wheezes, “is that I don't have more to give you. I'd
name you as my heir, Gregor; but heir to what? A pile of ashes? I've ruined
everything.” The King's eyes begin to close, as though he is going to sleep.
“I've so much still to do. I'm not finished yet.”

Gregor is still
clutching his heart at the word 'heir'.


If
you want me to,” Gregor leans in. “Then I
will
take the crown. I'll see
that the Kingdom endures.”


What
Kingdom?” asks the King, resting his head against the concrete. “I've lost
everything. All that's left, Gregor,” he opens his eyes and fixes Gregor with a
furious snarl, “is revenge.”

Gregor nods. “I
understand, sir. I'll make them suffer.”


Could
you,” the King grunts and tries to move, but flinches and stops. “Could you
bring me the screen? I want to see what's happening up there.”

Gregor nods, and
hobbles to the King's desk to get the tablet. He switches it on and comes back
to the blood stained wall, sitting beside the King like an old friend.
Navigating the menus, he finds a news channel and tunes in.


Here
we are.”

As the scenes of the
military occupying the streets of Glasgow light up the gloom, the King pats
Gregor's thigh.


You're
the King now, son.”


Not
yet, sir,” he shakes his head. “Not yet.”

The King's eyes
flicker, beginning to shut even as he watches the news unfold.


Gregor?”


Sir?”


Could
you stay? Until...”


Until
the end, sir. Of course.”

The King nods, and then
says no more. His eyes remain half open as they watch the chaos on the screen,
buried beneath the city together.

 

 

The skies above Glasgow
are filled with the screech of aircraft, whilst the streets are clogged with
military hardware – heavy weaponry, mortars, tanks, huge trucks with dozens of
missiles mounted on their back.

The squad stand under
the canopy of Queen Street station, outside the now empty refugee camp at
George's Square. Most of them sit on the steps, their arms folded and their
nervous faces hidden behind their masks whilst the Trespasser tries to discuss
tactics with an alien life form.


What
about lasers?” he asks. “We could mount an anti-missile laser on a large
aircraft and -”


Heat
won't work. Energy is no problem to us,” the deep bass tone of the alien's
voice cuts through their bones. “The Destroyer could turn heat to sound if it
desired. The only thing that will harm it is force, as I said before.”


I
don't remember much of high-school physics,” says Cathy, “but aren't force and
energy the same thing at the end of the day?”


Not
to my kind.” It sounds like an orchestra playing the lowest of notes at the
edge of their hearing – more a feeling than a sound. “Energy is easy. What
gives my kind difficulty is the sudden, violent relocation of the machines that
make us. De-pressurisation. Sudden acceleration. Kinetic force. These must be
your weapons.”

The Trespasser's eyes
light up. “De-pressurisation? We could drop a bunker buster on it?”

Jamie laughs. “A what?”


A
thermobaric bomb, Jamie,” says the soldier. “It creates a huge blast wave and
consumes all of the oxygen inside the explosion: which causes massive
de-pressurisation. It ruins bunkers, hence the name.”

The alien gives a
rumble of approval. “These may suffice.”


I'll
tell command to load up the planes with them.”


It
may not be enough – you should have other weaponry at hand.”


Other
weaponry? What about massed ballistic missile fire?” asks the Trespasser,
throwing his hands up. “Because that's just about all we've got.”


There
will need to be many.”


Well
every type of missile launcher that we can get here in the next half hour is
what we're working with – not counting ships, planes, and long range launchers
across the country. We'll need to time it to hit at once. Command is working on
it.”

Mark, still in nothing
but his shorts and trying his best to look resolute, puffs his chest out and
says.


What's
the plan?”

The alien doesn't even
turn to look at him when it speaks.


We
focus enough force in a small area to break its shell. Then you and I penetrate
the shell and neutralise the swarm itself.”

Trespasser One cuts in.
“Shell? Is it armoured?”


It
is like me: a swarm of tiny beings joined by their basic intent. Ours is to
protect; theirs is to destroy. Though they outnumber us greatly, they are still
only a single swarm. It will protect itself with a shield comprised of energy.”


My
head is bursting,” says Gary, squeezing the bridge of his nose. “When did we go
from punching criminals to fighting an alien's war for it?”

Stacy nudges him.
“You've never punched a criminal, Gary.”

Jamie sits up straight.
“Here, have we made first contact then?”


Yes,”
says Donald. “We have.”


We'll
have our names in the history books,” says Stacy, only just realising the scope
of this situation.


Aye,”
says Gary. “If there's any history left to record.”


Guys,”
the Trespasser silences them and turns to the alien. “So, the plan?”

The alien's voice
drowns them out, and they all feel its voice in their gut.


You
will need to protect yourself from its attacks.”


What
are we talking here? Does it shoots flames? Fire lightning out its arse?” asks
the Trespasser. “I need details.”


The
potential methods of attack are as numerous as the potential powers we can
bestow upon lifeforms. It may attack with heat, sound, light, electricity, and
more. Be prepared for anything.”


Anything,”
says the Trespasser, taking off his mask and rubbing the sweat from his eyes.
“Be prepared for anything. We should give this guy a job in intel.”


There
is one more thing,” it booms. “The Destroyer is much like myself. I destroyed
its army once before; it will try to raise a new one.”


How?”
asks Jamie, already catching on to the horrible truth that he is about to hear.


The
same way that I did. By searching out beings with similar intent, and
empowering them with smaller swarms. It will reshape humans into warriors to
aid its cause.”


Like
us?” asks Mark. “People with powers?”


Not
just
people with powers,” says Jamie. “Oh christ – the
wrong
people
with powers. Corrupt, hateful people with powers.”


There
must be balance,” says the booming voice of the human silhouette. “Where we
create, they destroy. Where they destroy, we protect. Balance. It will turn the
people that it can find into soldiers. It will absorb them when it is done, and
then it will turn this planet to ash and leave, stronger than before, to find
another planet. If we do not stop it here, there is no telling how many lives
it may take.”


Jesus
christ,” whispers Stacy. “This is like a film.”

The Trespasser lowers
his voice. “Could we nuke it? If worst comes to worst, would
that
kill
it?”


Of
all the beings I have been within the minds of, none have ever deliberately
detonated such a weapon within their own biosphere. You are a peculiar
species.”


We
could
nuke it though?”


Possibly.
It may simply destroy the bomb before it can detonate. We would have to
preoccupy it.”


Which
is my job, apparently,” says Mark. “I wonder if I could survive a nuke.”


Probably
not,” says Jamie. “Why is Mark going to fight it alone anyway?”


He
is not,” says the alien. “He will go in with me.”


No,
I mean: why are we not coming too?”


You
lack the capacity to harm the Destroyer,” it booms. “Furthermore, the battle
will likely end up in the air, and Mark is the only one capable of flight.”

The squad exchange
puzzled looks – none more puzzled than Mark, who stares at the glowing
human-silhouette of the alien.


I
can't fly.”


Yes,
you can.”


No,
I can't.”


I
created you myself,” it says. “I can assure you that you are capable of
flight.”


I
can jump really high? But I can't stay there.”


You
will have to learn then,” the alien's words shake the very air. “Otherwise I
will be fighting the Destroyer alone within the core.”


Look,
I'll help as much as I can but I'm telling you, I can't fly -”

Mark is cut off by a
sudden, wordless sound from the alien, a burst of bass-static that causes them
all to flinch and clasp their ears.


What
the hell was that?” shouts Jamie.


The
Destroyer,” the alien says. “It is here.”

 

 

The night sky above
Glasgow begins to glow red, as though the lights were all pointing upwards.
Amidst the haze the stars vanish, and a single point of light begins to burn in
the darkness. It flickers like a flame, a furious red: the colour of burnt
skin.

As it falls towards the
ground like a hammer-blow, a vicious bass-tone erupts across the city. Like the
heralding call of a thousand trumpets, the ground trembles with the Destroyer's
call. Windows shatter, glass panels obliterated by the vibration. Jamie looks
down at his hands and sees that they have blurred with the violent shaking.

It comes to a stop in
the air above the George's Square camp, illuminating the square, bathing it in
the blood-red haze. They watch it change, taking the same shape as the
Protector did when they found it. Red silk petals and rippling tissue unfold
around it, giving it the appearance of a sea creature, stingers and tentacles
drifting around it as though it were searching blindly for prey.

It changes like the
alien did, cocooning itself within its own fire before re-emerging as a crudely
drawn human, a red silhouette hanging in the sky like a fallen god.

The Trespasser brings a
hand to his ear. “Command – it's here. Open fire.”

The flaming man,
suspended metres above the George's Square monument, lets out another trembling
bass roar, and a swirling field of red energy blossoms from its centre,
expanding to fill the square.

The first missiles
explode as they hit the barrier, and the energy field ripples – and then
nothing.

 
More
missiles streak from the streets into the barrier, creating a fireworks display
around the bubble of red energy.

BOOK: Kingdom: The Complete Series
4.17Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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