He sat the rapidly fading gazelle on the ground and began to remove his backpack. To his credit, although virtually unconscious, Antfarm fought against it but the outcome was inevitable and soon Mason was holding the brown leather pack. He could feel its power, an energy running through it he recognised but couldn’t place. As he opened it, he half expected to see something looking back at him, but instead he was faced with a small gathering of rather mundane contents. He waited. Nothing. He waited some more. Nothing. A playful edge thrilled through him and it took him a second to realise the emotion was not his own.
*Hello* he thought.
*Hello* came the reply inside his mind.
*I want to ask a great deal of questions, but we don’t have the time* thought Mason
*You don’t*. Mason was sure he detected a small giggle.
*Please, I – we – need your help*
*If you care anything for the man you have attached yourself too, please open a way. We need to get far away before the missile hits*
*Not long now*. Another small giggle.
*Then for pity’s sake, open a way!*
*There will be a price*
*I know. I will pay it*
Silence. The feeling that he was alone for a second. Then.
*It’s coming. Bye bye*
And it was gone.
“Dammit all to Hell,” muttered Mason as his mind moved back to the world around him. A small, high pitched whine could be heard from the sky above the temple. In the trees he could hear the natives circling, unsure and watching. He waited. No sign of a portal. He had no options left. This was the end of the line. He grabbed the plunger and shoved down with all his might.
The Leviathan roared with impotent fury as the structure beneath it was sucked back into the vortex created by the binding spell. As it the great mass began to be pulled down, slowly at first but with an increasing force, Mason threw the scroll into the dread hole to complete the seal and the Leviathan sank beneath the ground with a scream he would never forget.
And then the jungle was silent, with just the ringing in his ears to remind him he wasn’t dead yet. He sat up and looked at the destruction he’d wrought. Any minute now the natives would reach him, he thought. Not that they’d have long for their fun. He almost smiled.
He became aware of an eerie light creeping across him from behind. He turned his head and found himself staring directly into a portal! He leapt to his feet with a yell of triumph.
*Me first, then the gazelle-man, if you please. That is the price*
Mason was astounded! He’d expected worse! *Of course* he stammered and threw the backpack through the portal. He turned and grabbed the barely conscious figure on the floor, “Come here, my friend. It’s time to go home!” he said and pushed him into the portal.
Antfarm suddenly opened his fiery red eyes, they were wide with terror as he croaked “No!” and grabbed Mason’s hand, pulling him into the portal. Mason had a brief second to register surprise before the portal closed with a snap, sending both men tumbling backwards, Antfarm into thirdspace and Mason back onto the jungle floor.
Mason blinked and looked at the hand with which the gazelle had tried to pull him into the portal. It was missing.
Behind him, on top of the still burning temple and as dozens of natives emerged from the undergrowth around him, a cone of metal fell from the sky and slammed into the ground. Inside it, a small amount deuterium fuel heated to incredible temperatures and several kilograms of enriched uranium began to compress and go supercritical. When it exploded, it did so with the force and fury of fifty million tons of TNT that obliterated the world around it.
To be continued…
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Darien’s ship detects the explosion here.