“It’s too late to stop what awaits us. I warned them. I showed the footage. They continued to drill deeper. The seismic disturbances have set things into motion far worse than the petroleum shortage,” Lyudmila Kovaleva said into the microphone. The eccentric scientist had been speaking out for months, had been pleading with world leaders to change the course they seemed set on, to no avail. Her more recent interviews had taken on a more desperate, fatalistic tone, as if she had resigned herself to what was coming.
Outside of her studio, she could hear the sirens. They were closing in on her. She didn’t have much time left.
“Anyone who can hear this, prepare for the worst. The world as you knew it is over. This may be the last video of mine you ever see. I beg everyone to listen. Fortify yourselves. Go to ground.”
A loud crash told Lyudmila that the authorities had broken down her door. She grabbed her camera from its stand and took off, shutting off the live feed. She had done what she could, but it was nowhere near enough. If the governments wouldn’t act, she had to make it clear what was coming. Footage of the Monsters in the deep would soon be sent out. The classified documentaries she had shot, all the research she had compiled, watchable by anyone with a computer.
Project Ark was in motion as a backup plan. Others had taken her findings and tried to prepare for what was coming. Some were trying to fight against the invaders. Others had sealed themselves away. Humanity would endure. Lyudmila Kovaleva had made sure of that.
Now it was time for Lyudmila herself to disappear.
She was almost at the end of the hallway, towards the window that would be her escape. She leapt towards it, crashing through the glass, only to find her coat caught on a glowing blue nightstick. She turned her head back. A police officer leaned over the edge, holding her up, his uniform doing a poor job of hiding his muscles. Dark shades hid his eyes as he stared down at her.
“Lyudmila Kovaleva, you are under arrest for treason and seditious acts, inciting panic through illegal broadcasts, and eco-terrorism.”
Lyudmila sneered as she threw off her coat, falling down from the second story. She just needed to make her landing and…
Pain shot through her ankle as she landed. She didn’t make it. Lyudmila stumbled and fell as another officer walked up to her. Like the first, his eyes were hidden behind his sunglasses, his long hair reaching past his shoulders. “Trying to run, little bird? You sang too much. Now it’s time for the cage.”
He grabbed her and pulled her to her feet, her arms pushed behind her as he snapped the handcuffs shut. The officer pushed her into his car as he waited for his partner.
“You got her?” The first one asked.
“Yeah, she’s in the back. You ride ahead. Make sure none of her friends lie in wait for us.”
The first one nodded, putting on his helmet as he stepped onto his motorcycle. With blaring sirens, he set off, Lyudmila’s captor following after in the car.
“You can’t stop this by hiding the truth,” Lyudmila protested, though she knew her words would fall on deaf ears. “Your bosses all know what’s going to happen. I do not exaggerate when I say it will be the end of the world.”
“Lady, I’ve driven a lot of raving drunks in my day who have said the same thing you are. So I’ll politely ask you to quiet down.”
Lyudmila sat back against the seat silently for the rest of the ride. They were taking her away from the cities as they drove for some time. She wondered if she’d even make it to trial, or if she’d disappear before that could happen.
Finally, the car came to a stop, as Lyudmila was pulled out by the officer. She stumbled into what was a construction site for a new prison. She was surrounded by barbed wire and concrete. Guards patrolled while the construction crews worked.
Kovaleva limped forward, supported by the officer. She caught sight of one of the laborers, a man with a face used to scowling. He was reading over some blueprints, his irritation growing on his face. He looked like he was about ready to blow a gasket.
As they walked by, Lyudmila deliberately took a bad step, falling to the ground as a very real pain shot through her again.
“Are you alright?” The laborer asked, putting down his blueprint to help her up.
“Yes, I am…okay. Just some pain.” Lyudmila said, as she slipped a drive into the laborer’s hand. She couldn’t risk telling him what to do with it. She could only hope that he’d be curious enough to watch it and smart enough not to say anything. He did not seem like a fool.
“Come on, move it,” the officer behind her said, pushing her with his nightstick. “Keep your distance from this one. She’s not supposed to talk to anyone for a long time.”
Lyudmila scowled and continued forward towards the prison. She had done all she could, for the world and for herself. Now, her fate was out of her hands.
Lyudmila did not know how long she waited. She was under visual surveillance the entire time, even though they had confiscated her own camera. Based on the meals, assuming a morning meal and an evening one, she had been there five days. Her only company were the guards that taunted her. The television told her there were rioting as different groups demanded answers. The government had declared her a fugitive and was smearing her name.
As she was watching the news, the television shut off, right before the whole prison went dark. Lyudmila sat up on her bunk. She could hear shouting. There was gunfire. Heavy machinery. Crashing.
Suddenly, there was light. A large Caterpillar tractor tore through the walls of the prison, revealing the outside world to Lyudmila for the first time in nearly a week. The construction crew was rioting, fighting the officers. Sitting in the bulldozer was the laborer she had given the drive to.
“I watched it,” He said, his face red with fury. His hand was clenched in a fist. “I watched it all. What you saw down there in the Abyss. Those monsters. And they knew. They knew!”
“They did,” Lyudmila said calmly. She walked towards the tractor. “But we are not done yet. There’s still so much work to be done.”
Already, she could hear the officers coming to secure her. She climbed onto the machine, holding on tightly. “I need you to get me out of here!”
“There’s no walls that are going to stop us. We’ll tear this whole place down!”
As Lyudmila was carried away, she could see the truth in his words. The prison that was meant to house those who spoke the truth started to crumble as the battle continued.
But Lyudmila’s war had only just begun.
“This was the start of the end. The final days of the Old Ones!” Diane said with a reverence usually absent in her voice. She sat back in the chair, just thinking of the direction this story was taking.
“Indeed,” a digitized voice came out through the speakers. At once, Diane sat back up, alert. “Ho, ho, do not worry, child. I will not harm you.”
“Who are you?” Diane squinted at the computer. Surely, the machine itself couldn’t be talking to her. Not aware of her.
“I am what remains of Lyudmila Kovaleva. Or I should say, I am what she became,” the image of the screen started to flicker. The video footage closed itself as a face displayed instead, one that Diane was familiar with. She had seen it plastered on many Sect of Metal wanted posters, had seen it in the Arena.
“Ho, ho, indeed! I have been waiting for millennia for someone to find these old data stores. For someone to see the truth.”
“The truth of what?”
“Everything,” Artificer said, her digital face serious once more. “We were successful in ensuring the survival of humanity, but it seems that the lessons learned are always forgotten. I have watched the rise of the Sect of Metal. My work has been perverted by the likes of Maximatics. The Patrons bicker and play their games of power. All hide the truth from the people.”
It was like a light went off in Diane’s head. “You were the anonymous source!”
“You are bright. I like that,” Artificer’s image smiled. “I needed a reporter who could not be cowed to share these stories. You have a torch, Diane Doplin, and now I’ve given you fire. Let the world see the stories of what we fought. Of those who tried to prevent the apocalypse.”
Suddenly, log after log, audio file after audio file, video after video, started to display, unlocked and unrestricted as Diane’s eyes flicked back and forth. There were weeks’ worth of information to sort through here!
“And perhaps we can help Jada keep her promise. Let us not let those left behind be forgotten again.”