Welcome to Haden, Darius Dinn
Professor Josiah Mendel grabbed the access panel and gently closed it. Wiping the sweat from his tired forehead, He closed his bloodshot eyes, the sting of all the past defeats still burning in every drop of perspiration.
This time, it will work. The calculations are right, the arclight crystal alignment is correct.
Joanna, this one's for you, my love, please come back to me...
The massive brass cylinder began to spin. The axis of the gear drive synced perfectly with the arclight's embedded crystal, it's timing precisely set with the known calculations. If the ratio was off by only a fraction of a degree, the whole process would fail. Again. More monsters. More pain.
Deep inside the cavern, high above the old west town of Haden, transformers discarded heat in visible waves, their lighted gauges popping rapidly, displaying the energy readout and transference from the enormous energy tower which rose over two hundred feet above the Iron Mountain. The tower supported a massive fifty-ton sphere, constructed completely from steel, and at the base of the tower, a shaft plunged another one hundred feet down into the energy vortex that resided in the belly of the mountain. Sixteen iron shaft conduits jutted down even deeper from the tower to grip the earth. The current from the heavens flowed into the sphere, causing the earth to tremble with each lightning strike from above. Professor Josiah Mendel grabbed the steam level and threw it forward.
The earth began to tremble...
Charlie Dokes was not a particularly intelligent man. In fact, he was scarcely bright in any conventional manner one would find noticeable. What he lacked in wits, however, was offset by a finely-tuned awareness of when something was not quite right on his ranch.
On this particular morning, the prickly, uncomfortable heat of uncertainty crept up onto the back of his sleepy, gray head as the first rays of morning sun glimmered over the cold Haden valley he called home. Frosty sunlight echoed through tiny icicles crowning the spokes of his old mule wagon, hiding the repairs it sorely needed.
Exiting the farmhouse, his worn hat tipped forward, almost covering his weather-worn, old eyes, he heard a peculiar snapping sound high above him in the cool, dry air. Chickens clucked and pecked the bare spots in the snow-covered yard in expectation of their usual morning feast.
Cautiously, he stepped off the porch carrying milk pails, the feeling of old age settling in his creaky bones. His crusty, manure-covered boots crunched into fresh morning snow, carrying him reluctantly to his chores.
Old Duke, Dokes' fat hound dog, suddenly stopped following him, refusing to help with the morning chores, a worried look chiseled into his wrinkled, bloodshot eyes. Dokes also stopped abruptly, as, without warning, a surge of energy coursed through him. His mouth gaped in surprise.
The usual smell of cow manure and pig slop vanished, quickly replaced with the damp, threatening ozone of an impending storm about to be unleashed from the angry sky. A rush of wind belted him. His worn old hat flew off his head and tumbled away like so many dry tumbleweeds before it. The wind tore the milk buckets from his leathered hand, sending them careening across the barnyard, chickens squawking their indignant scorn loudly as they rolled into them haphazardly.
All at once, his dirty, clumped hair shot straight up, and a loud cracking echoed as it rolled through Haden Valley and into the mountains to the west. A brilliant flash of white - blue light shot out, temporarily blinding Charlie Dokes and Duke the old hound dog.
Dokes ran as hard as his aged bones would allow him for the safety of the barn, old Duke close behind, nearly tripping him up a time or two en route. The cold, gale force winds grabbed what chickens were left in the yard along with Dokes' hat and milk buckets, and swept everything under the weathered wooden fence, and out into the pasture beyond.
A few hundred feet to the northwest, just south of Solgien Plain, a rift in the sky opened, slicing through the darkening skies. It was a terrifying marvel to behold. A compact swirling vortex of light, energy, and cold air rushed through it and quickly invaded Dokes' ranch and his surrounding fields.
The rift in the heavens started small, like a glimmer of sunlight through a distant cloud, then erupted into a swirling, twisting cone of light with blue streams of energy swirling in and out of the terrifying sphere, quickly growing to better than two hundred feet across, its edges torn and ragged, in a constant flux of erratic movement.
The pungent smell of ozone invaded Dokes' calloused nostrils and lungs, and the frightened hound dog ran and hid in the hole he'd dug under the back edge of the barn. Far away to the west, high up on Iron Mountain, streams of electricity and lightning flashed, the accompanying thunder echoing off the adjacent mountains, twisting violently in the darker clouds behind the Ulrian Mountain range.
Suddenly, a dark, hulking figure appeared in the midst of the glowing, pulsing rift, more beast than man and not wearing a single stitch of clothing. It didn't matter really because he was completely covered in coarse, dirty-black, clumped hair. He was screaming at the top of his lungs as he ran for his life. Dokes stared in disbelief.
"Taroooga! Sendada! Waasooby!" the hairy beast-man yelled as he ran through the high and dry, dead grass of the field, becoming increasingly indistinguishable from the fleeing cattle before him, dirt and snow embedding into his dark, hairy mane. Dokes stared in horror at the sight of him and reached for his shotgun.
The creature looked back at the rift as he escaped into the field, terror shooting from big eyes bulging out from under his grisly brows as, out of the rift, hundreds of black, swampy rat-like critters poured. They had long noses, beady eyes, and twisted evil-looking fangs. The strange wind carried a foreign stench, an unfamiliar mix of ozone and animal musk that overtook the air Dokes was forced to breathe. Like fleas escaping a wet dog, the ground behind the beast-man sprang to life with the four-legged monsters racing through the grass and snow after him. The critters jumped on his back and surrounded his pounding, calloused feet as he ran screaming past Dokes' weathered barn.
"Heflah! Toda Wakroo!" he screamed out through the swirling wind as he ran for his life, the rat beasts nipping at his heels. He took a big running leap and flew into the air, coming down in a crash onto Dokes' dilapidated farmhouse porch. He then scurried up the side of the awning and onto the farmhouse roof. He turned and screamed unintelligibly down at the pile of menacing rodents hoarding underneath him and flooding onto the porch.
A thunderous boom echoed through the winds and the rift suddenly slammed shut, violently shaking the ground with its closure. The startled, beast-man on the roof jumped straight up into the air in abject terror. The rat critters scattered, some clawing into the wooden sides of the farmhouse, attempting to climb up. The hairy man landed, took off at a dead run again, and disappeared on the other side of the Dokes' roof and out into the countryside.
Charlie Dokes fumbled with the shotgun as he sat bewildered on the ground in the barn, completely befuddled, his legs too weak to stand. He slammed the shotgun shut, finally able to load two shells in the rusty gun just as one of the rat critters scurried in front of him, its long snout quickly sniffing the air. The black, thin-haired rodent was about two feet long. Its beady eyes darted back and forth, and a gnarled tongue licked one of its two long front fangs expectantly as it stared at Dokes. Trembling, Dokes lifted the heavy shotgun to eye level.
"Charlie!" The shrill voice echoed across the barnyard. Mrs. Dokes, her unruly gray hair sitting peculiarly off to one side of her plump face, clutched her dressin' gown closed over her chest with one trembling fist. She had the front porch door cracked open before she noticed the small beasts now darting all over the porch. She kicked at the long, twisted critter noses as they attempted to worm their way into her house. "Charlie! What's happening! Oh Lord, if this be the end, don't let me go to your glory in my nightdress!"