Web of Ruin: Chapter 9

Deadshot and Ward stalked the abandoned streets of New York’s Redhook district. The police had cordoned it off once it became clear that something was wandering the streets killing people. Additionally, the area had been cut off and quarantined because of a strange outbreak that seemed to be spread by bite wounds.

 

The two marksmen stalked along hoping to find some answers as to what was happening in the borough, and maybe have the opportunity to shoot some holes in whatever had been committing the murders. Ward had his bow off his shoulder and an arrow notched, ready to shoot at a moment’s notice. Deadshot was wearing four pistols, had a shotgun strapped across his back, and held a submachine gun in his hands.

 

They had been searching for hours now with no sign of anything at all. The street lamps buzzed overhead providing them with pools of light every hundred feet or so, accented by a full moon that lit a few wispy, low hanging clouds. They passed several large apartment buildings on their trip, and they were in front of a particularly large one when they heard a bump on the heavy wooden front door. Both men froze in their tracks.

 

Ward pulled back on his bowstring and levelled the arrow at the door. Deadshot motioned with his head. “Cover me, I’ll go check it out.” Ward nodded. Deadshot turned as he walked up the stairs. “Good thing I put you on my will. If I don’t make it out of this, I’d hate to think all of my money will go to the state.” He smiled and winked at Ward, who smirked and watched his teacher approach the door over the tip of his drawn arrow.

 

As Deadshot approached the door, he thought he heard something moving around behind it. He placed his ear gently on the wood. There it was, a scraping sound, then a small bump. It was faint, most people would not have caught it, but Deadshot had senses and reflexes enhanced as part of a government program he volunteered for when he was a Marine. He listened for another moment, and was about to call Ward up when there was another loud bump on the door that made him start.

 

He stood for a second, silent, then motioned to Ward that he was going to open the door. He took a deep breath, then grabbed the door handle, twisted it and pulled. The metal creaked, but moved and the door swung open. Deadshot was immediately struck by an overpowering stench; the smell of rotting meat. He fell back a step, and then stood mute for a second as someone walked out. He couldn’t tell the gender, but when the person turned to face him, he could see that much of the face had been torn off, and blank, lidless eyes stared back.

 

Its hands raised and it made a hissing sound as it shuffled toward the gun expert. Just as suddenly, its head snapped to the side and it fell over, quite dead. Ward already had another arrow notched. “Who was it?” he called up and Deadshot held up a hand to silence him. He reached down and pulled the arrow out of the person’s head, then kicked it over onto its back. The shirt was torn open, and he could now tell that this had been an older woman at some point, but it looked like her head had been eaten?

 

Ward was up with him now.” Holy crap. What ate her?” Deadshot didn’t take his eyes off of her. “I have no idea. I guess we should check inside.” Ward nodded silently and the pair walked in through the front doors. There was a short entryway that led directly to a set of stairs. On either side, there were apartment doors. One was ajar, held in place by the chain. On the floor was blood and matted hair, right at the entrance.

 

“Jesus, it’s like she fell going down the stairs, and someone dragged her to the door, and ate her face.” Deadshot said. They heard a bump in the apartment. Deadshot held a finger up to his lips and Ward nodded and notched his arrow. Deadshot held up his right hand with three fingers, then silently counted down, when he had made a fist, he grabbed his submachine gun and kicked the door in. Someone inside turned to face him. There was a muffled wail, and then the person started shuffling toward them.

 

“Stand fast!” ordered Ward, but they kept coming. As the person passed by the window, the street light illuminated his face to show a man with swollen eyelids and hair and blood covering his mouth. His hands extended and his gate sped up. Deadshot put a bullet right through the middle of his forehead. The shot echoed in the room and hallway.

 

A second later, a loud rasping sound reverberated from up the stairwell. “Oh no, you’ve got to be kidding me…” Mumbled Ward. Deadshot glanced at him. “Maybe we should go outside….” Ward nodded and they rushed back out of the building. As they exited the apartment, they could already see silhouettes moving down the stairwell. “Ready for a little crowd control?” Asked Deadshot. Ward just smiled and pulled back on his bow. The first of the dead stumbled out the front door.

 

Golem had just finished checking up on the teams of Sponge and Psimon, and Cyclone and Booster for Arachne and was on his way to her command room where they were about to initiate perhaps the most dangerous leg of their plan. If it succeeded they would simultaneously trigger apocalyptic natural disasters and capture the attention of at least half the world’s population, distracting them enough for Psimon, and at the same time Sponge, who had absorbed his mental abilities, to launch their attack.

 

The climatic change would give Cyclone and Booster a hand in their mission as well, but for different reasons. Arachne had built a device capable of teleporting matter over vast distances. It required a tremendous amount of power to operate, and they calculated that they had enough energy to use it twice; exactly the number of uses they needed.

 

Arachne’s device was plugged into the electrical grid of the surrounding states, and would leech their power without touching her own reserves. In addition to the other devastation they had planned, they blackout they would cause would cover all four of the “Four Corners” states in the American south west.

Golem had run simulations for months, tweaking his calculations to achieve the perfect set up. The plan: use degenerate matter from a neutron star to launch the moon like a cue ball into a tighter orbit around the earth, then slow it down so that it did not just slingshot off into space. Neutron star matter was only stable because of the immense gravity of the star itself (the mass of a star crushed down into a twenty mile across ball) , and even a teaspoon of it would explode with the force of a trillion megaton nuclear bomb.

 

If Golem’s math was right, and it always was, the basketball-sized lump they planned to teleport would send the moon flying to less than a quarter its current distance from the planet. A counter-shot would slow it down to orbital speed. Satellites would be destroyed, the tides would become wild and oversized, ruining seacoasts and low-lying regions, and even things like hunting patterns of animals would be disrupted.

 

As he entered the room, Arachne said nothing. He could feel her anticipation and excitement heavy in the air. Their target, a neutron star called Calvera, was the closest found to earth and therefore the easiest target for their teleporter. The calculations necessary were enormous, and were processed by a supercomputer the two had collaborated on in the opening days of conspiracy, named Portia. It combined quantum computing with large circuit boards made of fullerene transistors; it could do yottaflops (1 septillion floating point operations per second ) of calculations. Even at that scale, the math might be too much for the computer, they just had to hope it could run their program properly.

 

“Are you ready?” Asked Arachne, a nervous edge to her voice. A miscalculation could fire the moon into the earth, and they wanted to rule what was left of it, not die with it. Before they would commit, Golem was going to simulate the event a few more times to make sure they were as sure as possible. In the meantime, Arachne would monitor the two teams that would leverage the aftermath of the “reassignment” as Golem called it, making sure they would be ready when the time came.

 

Cyclone and Booster sat in a bizarre vehicle of Arachne’s design. Shaped similar to a bee’s head, it was essentially a helicopter that had no control surfaces, blades or tail, which was good considering the storm the two of them were preparing to create. They were racing toward the Pacific ocean, about three hundred miles out from the Baja peninsula.

 

Once there, they would wait for the order to act. Golem had choreographed the insertion of a massive infrared laser onto the “weather satellite” that they had launched into orbit. The laser would heat the ocean below where the two would be stationed, and using Booster to augment her abilities, Cyclone would generate a massive hurricane, the kind of which had only ever been suggested as possible by science rather than ever having actually been documented.

 

They would create a fabled hypercane, a storm that would cover the North American continent from Costa Rica to Texas, with winds in excess of five hundred miles per hour, and lasting weeks. It would be an extinction-level event for the southern half of the continent.

 

Sponge and Psimon sat across from each other, deep in concentration. Norman Parker had absorbed his counterpart’s abilities the day before, leaving Psimon exhausted and powerless. He was back to full strength today, and Norman was operating at about seventy five percent his ability because the absorbed powers faded over time, but that was more than enough.

 

Psimon had imparted how to use and control his ability to the other man along with his power; the power would fade, the lessons would not. When Golem moved the moon, these two men would take advantage of the distraction and walk several billion people outside. When the moon threw off the tides and set off violent weather worldwide, they would ensure that billions would die or be crippled in the ensuing chaos.

 

It was a simple, yet horribly effective plan. The two men smiled in unison, waiting for the signal.

 

They went over the results several more times. Arachne had asked, and Golem had stated that he was as comfortable with the results are he could be. The world was about to change, irrevocably and completely.

 

One of Arachne’s many immaculate, delicate hands hovered over the key that would initiate Portia’s teleportation sequence. After a deep breath and long sigh, and a comforting look from the small man in the metal suit, she dropped a finger on the Enter key.

 

No one breathed. Everything was silent. A few hundred light years away, a small volume of unimaginably dense matter disappeared.

 

At a prescribed distance from the moon, a basketball-sized piece of degenerate matter from from the neutron star Calvera materialized. Incredibly dense, this piece of dead star had the mass of three hundred mountains and the stored energy of several trillion atomic weapons. It hung in the void of space for minute as the lack of the intense gravity it had experienced in its home star caused the neutrons inside to decay into electrons, protons and neutrinos. Only a fraction of a percent was converted into energy, but that fraction still accounted for those trillions of bombs.

 

In places like Redhook where the sky was clear and the moon full, there was a brilliant flash just to the moon’s right, then the strangest thing happened; Almost a quarter of the moon blew off. and it began racing across the sky. The shockwave of the apocalyptic explosion warped the moon and blew a hole in it, firing it off as a celestial bullet. The moon raced toward the earth at an angled trajectory, covering hundreds of thousands of miles in seconds. Millions froze in place, stunned by what they had just seen.

 

It was in that moment that Sponge and Psimon invaded their collective minds.

 

The moon rocketed across the sky, completing a portion of its orbit before the second, smaller chunk of Calvera slowed its approach. It was now less than a quarter the distance it had been for millions of years from the earth. The explosions from the neutron-star-bombs blinded some, but held all who saw them transfixed, and those people were seconds later unable to move, their minds invaded by a powerful pair of psychics who wanted them to stay.

 

The sudden change in the moon’s distance caused the oceans to surge. The west coasts of North and South America experienced hundred foot tall tsunamis. Ships were tossed about like bath toys in the sudden global surge. Arachne sent the signal to Cyclone and Booster. They could see the intense laser from space fire down. Extra retro rockets on the satellite kept it on course while thousands of others were flung out into space or pushed into degraded orbits and rained burning metal down on the planet below.

 

The water in the eastern pacific grew warmer and warmer, and Cyclone, pulled at it to generate the hypercane. With Booster’s help, she could feel the sky and the surf as if they were a part of her. The west coast was now tens of miles further inland than it had been, giving her more ocean to fuel her storm. She’d never felt so alive, so powerful. Pure, exultant laughter poured out of her as the seas heated up and the intensity of her typhoon grew and grew. It would be hours before it reached its full strength, but she had the energy and the desire to see it through.

 

With Booster fueling her, she felt she might be able to make a storm a thousand miles across. She decided to try just that.

 

Around the world, within minutes, billions died, and the moon loomed much larger in the sky than it should.

 

Ward and Deadshot would have loved to have looked up to see why the night suddenly turned as bright as day, but they were busy. One thing the blast did in their favor was give them a clear look at how many zombies were in this neighborhood; there were thousands.

 

“Oho… Crap. Uhm, save your arrows, son and get to high ground.” Deadshot said, an excited glimmer in his eye. As the front of the group approached, Deadshot shouldered his gun and took aim. Firing a shot at a time, he placed a bullet through the eye or forehead of twenty nine zombies by the time his magazine was empty. He dropped the spent clip and slapped in the next one.

 

He let the submachine gun hang by its strap and pulled the shotgun. “Alright you primitive screwheads. This is my boomstick!” He laughed, Ward shook his head and climbed a fire escape. Deadshot was laughing hysterically as he fired round after round through the heads of approaching dead people.

 

He sheathed the shotgun and drew his pistols. A body had gotten behind him. Deadshot, dropped to one knee and moved to shoot the zombie, but it grunted and fell to the ground, an arrow sticking from its ear. He smiled and nodded at Ward. Without even looking, he fired four shots and four zombies fell dead(er). This was like a video game to him.

 

Most of the dead people were on the other side of a tall chain link fence, So Deadshot was not too worried. A few more shots and the street was clear, so to speak. Dead bodies littered the asphalt, but the throng of thousands stood behind a wall of metal. Deadshot approached slowly, loading his guns to make sure they were full. Ward shouted “Do you think maybe you should come up here, now?”

 

Deadshot waved his hand over his shoulder, unworried. He should have been. He had no sooner gotten within ten feet of the fence when the chain that was holding it in place began to give. What was worse, close to a hundred dead people had simply gone around the building and were approaching from both sides.

 

He drew his pistols again. “Bring it.” More shots rang out, more zombies died. With every shot, the corpses behind the fence got more agitated. Their wails and moans began to drown out the sound of gunfire.

 

As the crowd thickened and crawled over the growing pile of dead bodies, the chain bent and then ripped. Deadshot’s pistols went dry. He holstered them and shouldered his submachine gun. He was firing with increasing ferocity and intensity, but they just kept coming. Deadshot jumped over a pile of corpses and rolled to his feet. As he did, and large woman fell upon him and tried to bite his arm. He punched her in the nose, but her head barely moved as the bones in her cheek crumpled.

 

She was strong, undeath causing her to feel no pain and therefore not even slow down. Deadshot was trying to bring his gun to bear, but couldn’t get a good shot at her head. The throng moved closer and closer, boxing him in.

 

Ward watched it all, trying to determine his best shot.He lined one up with the woman, but hesitated. Deadshot was surrounded by two hundred zombies, at least. Ward weighed his option. Deadshot was toast. he could shoot the woman, but to what end? He might need that arrow to survive. And didn’t he will his substantial estate to Ward? He replaced the arrow in his quiver.

 

Deadshot looked up to see Ward climbing higher up the fire escape. “Hey!” He shouted. “Sorry boss!” Was all Ward said back. Deadshot kicked the woman off of him and put three bullets through her head. He kept shooting, but the wall of undead closed in. He was completely surrounded. Every bad decision, every meaningless gamble flooded back to him in those final moments as he watched his ward slip over the rooftop and four dead people began biting into him at once.

 

Cyclone stared down at her handiwork with unbridled glee. She gripped Booster’s hand tightly, and he hers as clouds spun rapidly below them. They hovered over the eye of the storm, some two hundred miles across, while stretching over the horizon in every direction were white, twisting clouds. The wind speed had already topped three hundred miles per hour and were gaining strength.

 

“Magnificent.” Booster whispered. They could only imagine the sheer destruction below. The hypercane had begun forming over the ocean, but as it gained strength and diameter, it moved inland. Thought they could not see it, the land below was being scoured of life; the strongest buildings were ripped from their foundations and trees’ roots held chunks of land as the entire plant was sucked up by the force of the wind.

 

The swirling debris turned the massive storm into a sandblaster, with boulders and vehicles smashing into the few structures not already destroyed by the intensifying winds. Only those people and creatures already located several feet below ground were spared immediate death, but they were in turn buried under rubble and would likely starve or suffocate.

 

The pair in the air pod released hands. Their work was done, physics would supply the energy needed to build the storm to full power, with five hundred mile an hour winds for the next several weeks. It would make its way around the world just north of the equator, likely dying once it had scrubbed Northern Africa free of life.

 

The damage caused by the storm would not be limited to the physical damage, either. Soon, the cloud tops would reach the stratosphere, and the amount of water vapor being spread around the upper atmosphere would cause the ozone layer to dilute as the water caused it to break down into regular oxygen, causing higher levels of ultraviolet radiation.

 

The air pod raced off to the north, back to Arachne’s lair. In a few weeks, they would begin dividing up the spoils of armageddon.

 

Arachne, Vicissitude and Golem toasted one another with exceptionally expensive champagne. The only person they had not heard back from was Indigo; everything else had gone exactly as planned. It would be weeks, perhaps even months before the aftershocks of today’s work subsided and they would be able to set about seizing power, but they could wait. Arachne’s installation had everything they needed to be comfortable in the coming end of times. For them, it was a good day.

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