Authors: Jeremy Robinson
Tags: #Science Fiction
By Jeremy Robinson
THE HUMAN RACE STARTED THE SIXTH MASS EXTINCTION ON EARTH.
A chain of subglacial volcanoes erupt in Iceland. The melting ice floods the countryside. Poisonous gas descends on Scotland. A tsunami devastates the Norwegian coastline. An ash cloud rises into the atmosphere, blotting out the sun across Europe, ushering in a new Ice Age. Dozens of nuclear power plants, flooded by ocean water, experience meltdowns. Millions perish. Many more are displaced. All on the first day.
On the second day, a series of earthquakes moving in a straight line, reveal the presence of something massive, walking across the landscape. Concealed by a thick, radioactive ash cloud, the ‘aberration’ heads west, toward Russia.
Abraham Wright, a science writer for
, who wants nothing more than to be reunited with his family, finds himself at the center of the United States’ response to the crisis. Under his new title as Assistant Science Advisor to the President, Wright is sent to Europe with a team of Army Rangers, where he uncovers the truth about the ancient behemoth laying waste to the world: there have been five mass extinctions on planet Earth, and the aberration has been present at each.
On the third day, the world fights back.
Separated from his family by continents and oceans ravaged by countless disasters and populated by strange new life, Wright struggles to survive in an evolving world. Hoping to uncover the key to mankind’s redemption, he fights for answers, and to reach his loved ones—before the human race’s extinction.
THE APOCALYPSE MACHINE WILL FINISH IT.
Jeremy Robinson returns to the Kaiju Thriller genre he popularized with the largest Kaiju to ever appear in fiction: the Apocalypse Machine. Bursting with all the epic action, desperate struggle and complex characters that readers have come to expect, Robinson takes the world to the brink once more, pitting humanity against the greatest threat he has yet to conjure, and asking the question: Does humanity deserve to inherit the Earth, or is our time up?
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has been a long time coming. The epic storyline has been percolating for years, but the number of people involved in bringing this monstrous title to life has been relatively small.
First is my trusted editor, Kane Gilmour, who years ago opened my eyes to the idea of writing original Kaiju novels. Next is Matt Frank, the amazing talent behind Nemesis’s design, who lent his Kaiju illustration skills to the cover, bringing the Machine to life. Roger Brodeur once again helmed the effort to seek out and destroy typos, and he was joined by amazing advance proofreaders, Jeff Sexton, Dustin Dreyling, Lyn Askew, Kelly Allenby, Becki Tapia Laurent, Jamey Lynn Goodyear, Julie Cummings Carter, Dee Haddrill, Jennifer Antle, and Elizabeth Cooper.
Special thanks, as always, to my amazing wife, Hilaree, for supporting my whacky career choices and my children, Aquila, Solomon, and Norah, for sharing my excitement over stories and art featuring monsters. Love you guys!
For Matt Frank.
Together we will usher in a kaiju renaissance.
T.S. Elliot got it wrong. The end of the world doesn’t begin with a bang, or a whimper. It begins with a toe prick.
“God damn, son of bitch!” Kiljan Árnason falls to his side, the blow cushioned by layers of clothing and a thick down jacket. He clutches his boot, hisses through his teeth and swears again, “Mother fuck! What was that?”
The four people with him—three scientists and myself—have a good laugh at his expense, not because we’re sadistic and enjoy seeing people in pain, but because our long-bearded Icelandic guide has done us the courtesy of cursing in English. His thick accent somehow transforms his broad, 6’4” tall, hair-covered frame into something adorable, rather than fearsome. His Viking ancestors might have split us in half with an ax for laughing at him, but as he rolls on his back, still clutching the boot, Kiljan chuckles along with us.
When the surprise wears off, and he tears away his gloves and unties the laces of his right boot, the laughter fades. He’s genuinely injured. Not mortally, but when you’re hiking across a glacier that rests atop the caldera of a subglacial stratovolcano more than fifty years past due for an eruption, a guide that can walk is preferable.
The glacier, Vatnajökull, is the largest in all of Europe, covering eight percent of Iceland’s landmass. Its average depth is 1300 feet, but over volcanic calderas such as the one under our toes, it reaches down 3000 feet. The volcano beneath us, Bárðarbunga—Bardarbunga to non-locals—is one of the largest in Iceland, and like the other thirty volcanoes in the region, it still roils with activity. In 2015, an offshoot of the volcano burped lava and toxic steam over a swath of land the size of Manhattan. But that six month eruption was little more than a pressure release. A true eruption, the kind that transforms landscapes and alters weather around the world, could still be building. That’s why our little band of volcanologists and geologists is hiking across an ice cap in search of the perfect location to set up camp and start running tests like ice core samples, as well as air quality and seismographic readings.
A lot of what we’re doing out here is theater, designed to garner public attention to a potentially serious threat. As a journalist for
, I’m here to chronicle the expedition and ruminate on any discoveries made. If the study’s findings are mundane, I’ll write a character piece, focused on the lives of scientists in extreme environments. I’ll pepper it with facts about what an eruption would look like. And I’ll remind people about the chaos caused across Europe in 2010 when Eyjafjallajökull, Bardarbunga’s sister volcano, blew her top, closing airspace over twenty countries and keeping ten million travelers on the ground.
But if the study finds evidence of the opposite, that Bardarbunga is building toward an eruption, the story will take on a tone of Biblical end-times prophecy. I’m hoping for something in the middle, portending doom, but for some future generation—preferably after my sons have lived long lives. If Bardarbunga erupts in a significant way, all of Europe will feel the effects. Between earthquakes, tsunamis, poison gas clouds, hot ash and glacial flooding, several hundred thousand, perhaps even millions of lives will be threatened.
“What happened?” Holly Interlandi, one of our two volcanologists, asks, crouching beside the fallen giant. Dressed in snow pants and a parka, she has trouble bending down. She nearly gets us laughing again, but we’re sobered by the pained look on Kiljan’s face.
“Felt like a bee sting,” the big man says. “On my toe.”
“You do realize that there are no bees to—” Phillip Kim clamps his mouth shut when Kiljan pauses unlacing his boot—long enough to give the man a look that suggests some of his Norse instincts remain intact. Phillip is a know-it-all kind of guy, and he takes it upon himself to educate the expedition, at all times, and on all subjects. To make things worse, his proper British accent makes him sound hoity-toity, even when he’s being down to earth.
“I do not need a volcanologist to teach me about my own country’s wildlife,” Kiljan says. His boot comes away with a sucking sound, unleashing a cloud of steam from the sweat-dampened, wool sock.
Phil opens his mouth to speak again, no doubt to recommend moisture wicking socks or to warn of frostbite, but he’s silenced once more, this time by the sight of blood.
“Dios mío,” Diego Rodriguez says, crouching down next to Holly. The man is a geologist, but he’s also the closest thing we have to a medic, with basic first aid and CPR training. He removes his sunglasses, takes a close look at the blood stained toe and then slides out of his backpack. “I’ll disinfect and bandage the wound, but we need to get your foot in a sock—a fresh one preferably—and back in your boot before…”
“It is not as bad as it looks,” Kiljan assures him. He pulls his foot up close to his hairy face and spits on his injured toe. While Diego gasps and the rest of us wince, the Nordic man wipes his toe clean with the end of his black scarf.
For a moment, I can see the small puncture wound, already surrounded by a ring of purple, but then a bead of blood emerges and trickles away.
Diego removes a small first aid kit from his pack, opens it and removes a package of sterile gauze. He tears it open and offers it to Kiljan. “Hold it on. Tight.”
The big man presses the gauze to his toe, wincing in pain.
“Turn it over,” Diego says, waggling his hand at the injured foot. “Show me the other side.”
Kiljan twists his foot around, and the scientists all gasp again. I do, too. I might not be an official scientist with a PhD in one ‘ology’ or another, but I’ve got the mind and constitution of one. I just couldn’t decide on a single field on which to focus, so I write about them all. My stomach twists as purple spreads beneath the thick toenail.
Diego clears his throat, more to control his gag reflex than to get anyone’s attention. He points to a small rise at the center of the nail. “It went nearly all the way through.” He clears his throat again, this time covering his mouth with his hand, trying not to be obvious about it. If he looked up, he’d see the rest of us doing the same thing.
Kiljan lifts his foot toward Diego. “Bandage it, and let us be on our way.”
Diego, leaning away from the foot, shakes his head. “A simple bandage isn’t enough. Not for long. It seems likely the bone is split. If it gets infected...”
My mind’s eye paints the picture for me; Kiljan’s phalange cleaved like a log, fractured bits of bone shifting around in his flesh. I turn and step away, nausea sweeping through me. Several deep breaths later, convinced the expedition is over before it truly began, I ponder the new story angle:
Scientists Rescue Icelandic Guide from Glacial Demise—Oh yeah, and Volcano Doom
But should I take part, or simply observe? I’m supposed to write the story, not be part of it. But this...
If Kiljan can’t walk, we’ll all have to pitch in to get him back to the superjeep—a rugged, oversized jeep with massive tires, used to traverse the lunar landscape surrounding the glacier. The airspace in this region is closed, but maybe they’ll make an exception for an injured local? Kiljan has the sat phone, so it’s his call, literally.
“Right,” Phillip says. “That’s about all I can take of that. You lot are on your own.” He steps up next to me, arms crossed, lips pursed, eyes aimed at the horizon, where the most brilliant, sunlit white glacier meets the deepest blue sky.
Guilt creeps up on me. I wasn’t abandoning Kiljan the way Phillip did, I was simply trying to not vomit on him. Shame tugs my eyes to the ice.
Go back and help,
I tell myself, but then I quickly argue.
It’s a wounded toe. What can I do?
Salvation comes in the form of a toothpick sized spire of deep black, streaked with dark red, protruding from the ice in front of me. Another step and it might have punched a hole in my foot, as well. I crouch down, raising my sunglasses to look at the slender spear, now hidden in the shade of my bulky, arctic-garbed torso. “I found it. What he stepped on. I think.”
Phillip stands beside me, but doesn’t bother crouching. “You can’t be sure of that.”
It’s a statement. Not a question. And it crawls under my skin. I motion to the vast white glacier surrounding us. “Do you see any other spikes sticking out of the ice?”
His silence says he doesn’t.
“Let me see.” Holly crouches down beside me. The discovery either trumped the maternal nature that led her to Kiljan’s aid, or like us, she’s seen more blood than she’s accustomed to. Rocks don’t bleed. Though it could be argued that volcanoes spew the Earth’s blood.
After a quick glance back to confirm that Diego hasn’t also abandoned his patient, I shuffle to the side and take my shadow along with me. Bright sunlight gleams off the revealed ice, forcing my eyes shut. I pull my sunglasses down and blink until the green afterimage fades. When I can see clearly again, Holly is leaning down close to the ice, looking at the spike.
“I don’t think the red is blood,” she says, sliding a gloved finger over the barb. She holds the finger up, first to Phillip and then to me. The digit is clean. “It’s just red coloration.”
“Closer to a maroon, don’t you think?” Phillip says.
Holly smiles at me without looking back at him, and I try not to laugh. But fail.
Phillip’s eyebrows billow like mushroom clouds, rising steadily higher onto his forehead. “What about this amuses you, Mr. Wright?”
“Abraham or Abe, please,” I say. “People might get the wrong idea if you keep calling me Mr. Right.”
It’s an old family joke started by my father, but I haven’t used it in a while. At least not with this group. My full name is Abraham Lincoln Wright. I had patriotic parents with high hopes for their son. They both died when I was nineteen. Car accident. I miss them terribly, but part of me is glad they were spared the disappointment of having a son with such a promising name become a science writer for a magazine/soon-to-be webzine.
Phillip scoffs and rolls his eyes.
“Abe,” Holly says, probing the prong with her gloved fingertip. “Focus.”
She’s the only one of our crew that I’d met before, and she has seen my sarcastic side. She also knows—we both do—that Phillip doesn’t understand sarcasm. Or humor in general.
I lay down on the ice and look at the small spike from the side. The new angle provides no new insights. It’s slender and sharp, broadening slightly where it emerges from the ice.
Holly pushes on the barb again. “Is it bending or moving? At all?”
“Not even a little. It’s wedged in there tight.”
“Right, then,” Phillip says. “Let’s dig it out, so the next unsuspecting sod that comes along doesn’t step on it.”
I lock eyes with Holly. Both of us want to point out that the odds of someone walking along this very same path, ever, is highly unlikely. I can see it in her eyes, the jab on the tip of her tongue. But she has more self-control than me.
“It’s hardly scientific,” she says, changing the subject with a tone that also scolds me for even thinking about mocking Phillip again.
“An archeologist might study it in situ for a time,” I say, having spent enough time on dig sites to know the protocols. “But, we’re not archeologists. We’re not here to study spikes rising from the ice, and he
make a good point.” I glance up at Phillip. “Bravo, good sir.”
Holly takes my chin in her gloved hand and pulls my face away from Phillip’s glower. “Unless this is a rock. Something welling up from below. Then it
what we’re here to study.”
“This ice cap is stationary,” Phillip says. “Not to mention nearly a thousand meters deep. For objects from the bottom to find their way to the surface—”
“Lava tubes,” I offer. “Rising up through the ice. Upside down geological roots.”
“We know what they are.” Phillip shakes his head. “There would have been thermal venting. Someone would have noticed.”