Graham Bloodworth

Author

Born 1959 in Worksop Derbyshire. Graham spent time on various RAF bases as his father plied his trade as an aircraft electrical technician.

Moving to Sheffield in 1968, he is best remembered for working in the toy and model store, Beatties of London Ltd. With a strong interest in Science Fiction and Science Fantasy, he is a self-published author.

Rebooting Stonehenge

What if Stonehenge were more than we thought? Maybe it’s part of a portal transit system, and what if it needs maintenance or repair?

Greyson is a senior solid-state engineer, the fact he is a Unicorn makes little difference to him. Yanise, is a long-suffering apprentice.  Yet this scheduled job on earth is not going to be straight forward.

REBOOT

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Yanise looked at the job sheet, as I walked down to the stores to pick up the spare parts for the installation. They had to be specially ordered, the guy in the stores was not fazed by the request.

“Parts for that, grief you’ll be lucky. Stopped making that model century’s ago, have you tried…?”

Here we go, everyone thought they were an expert. I had fought hard to win my apprenticeship, mineral data specialist. Her line mother proud, her brother dismissive.

“You’re a rockhead.” An insult, not a compliment. Even so it’s difficult to listen to somebody who thought they knew better, I held back.

“Thanks, I’ll be sure to try that, how long for the part?” I smiled, that always worked.

“About 25 cycles, although it could be longer. You can’t get the….”

“Parts. Yes I understand that.”

At last, the part arrived. The walk to the stores was exercise, and I got away without too much trouble. A quick message to my partner to meet at the portal, the job itself should be easy. Greyson was waiting by the exit ramp for me, as the portal technician set the dimensional jump up.

“Portal in sync, timeline stable. Through you go.”

She followed her fellow mechanic,  giving him time to move away from the portal exit. Walking into the rump of your partner was not nice, yet he had taken it in good humour. The pins and needles all over my body, and I was clear. The portal dissipated with a “Pop!” Sand, not a big fan. Ok for Grayson, his four hooves spread his weight. My boots just sank in it, a struggle without having to carry equipment as well.

“Greyson, why am I carrying all the tools?” I waited.

“Because my dear, I am senior. The junior always acts as a packhorse, even on two legs.” He snorted at this, finding it amusing. A cosmic joke, that only a unicorn could understand. We reached the stones; I unpacked the gear we would need. The interface screen and console, energising a magnetic field that attached it to the stone. Powering up, the screen displayed the information.

Epona tech v 3.0

Stonehenge Mk5 interface

Solid stone memory

Bluestone v6.0

Build 32006

Accessing main data core

        Systems

While we waited, I looked around. “Greyson, the original install specs say all this around here should be green grass?”

“You’ve not checked the supplemental log, sloppy, I expect better from you. The indigenous species, overran the design specs. The unit here did not control the environment, the Mk5 was only programmed to access the ley lines. It generates a low-level magic field and maintains a portal beacon lock. This one defaulted to emergency backup, hence our maintenance callout.” He smiled.

“This area’s inhabited?” My eyes scanned the area, expecting to be attacked at any moment. Greyson grinned.

“Rest easy. No survivors, they fought to the end. Their mistake being, they did not see the danger until the balance point had tipped them into terminal decline. Our Mk25 climate control, buried deep in a mountain they called Everest, could not handle the abuse they subjected to the environment. Catastrophic climate change on a planetary scale. Drought, flood, wildfires, massive storms.”

“That’s sad, why would a species do that?” My mind could not comprehend their stupidity. Greyson continued.

“Faulty programming. In making them self-aware and with a high attainment drive, certain fractions were greedy, they would not share resources. Others were forced to breed more youngsters to survive. Towards the bitter end many of their military units deployed weapons of mass destruction, to wipe out others not of their belief structure. Thank the Goddess Epona, they did not develop planet killers, mini black hole devices.” 

She of horse and hound, had many such weapons stored in deep underground bunkers. Magic was not the be all, and end all. Greyson continued his impromptu lesson.

“The last remnants here were not to be envied, a miserable end to such a promising species. Digging in the dirt, clad in animal pelts, much the same as we started them out in the beginning.”

“Crazy.” I tried hard to see lush green where only yellow baking sand now lay, trees where only scrub clung on. Could nothing have been done to correct the situation? I would check the universal data base when we got back. 

“Right, upload the diagnostics.” I nodded, to show I had heard.

The stones vibrated, low sub frequencies, showing a mismatch in data core 5. I tapped instructions, awaiting the various reports. 

Only for Greyson to announce, “Bet it’s the power grid alinement that’s out?”

“I know better than taking your bets, 5 cycles on bare food rations was enough to teach me you win every time.” 

Greyson snorted again. “Spoil sport. For that you can go and monitor the sub modulator in stone 9, I’ll adjust it from here.”

Great, I get to play in the sand pit. Walking in this stuff, it’s too hot. Flies harvest my perspiration; the scrub obscures a rock. My foot finds it, sending me sprawling. Sand, everywhere. I spit and splutter, the gritty taste in my mouth. Rinsing my mouth with water from the bottle on my belt. Stand up and eventually find the correct stone, partially buried. I scoop as much sand away as I can with my hands, enough to attach the data transponder. Once online, I sit on a nearby rock. The hairs on the back of my neck rise, the feeling I am being watched. 

“Greyson, there’s something out here watching me.”

Thank heavens for telepathy.

“It’s your imagination.”

Out of the corner of my eye I spot movement, it’s a large feline. On soft paws it moves, one at a time, it creeps forward, hardly disturbing the sand. Bright orange stripes, some black, all on a white background. It’s the eyes that strike fear in my heart, they stare into my very soul. The only reason I am still alive is that it cannot determine if I am a hunter or prey.

“Greyson, I’m not kidding. A large feline beast is going to make a meal of me, help!”

“Stay still, many of that species have a high chase drive.”

The beast has stopped moving, it cocks it’s head as if listening to instructions. More movement, but from behind the beast.

“Greyson, there may be more than one.”

“Stay still, it appears to have an owner. I’m trying to outflank them.”

“Tara, sit.” A female voice.

The beast does just that, complaining in a clear voice. “You have no sense of fun, Hasmey.”

“Where do you hail from stranger?” Hasmey demanded. She looked on the small side, childlike. 

I stay silent, hopefully gaining time for Greyson to get in position.

“Cat got your tongue, are you stupid?” Tara asked, head tilted to one side. Greyson nods to me to reply.

“I tend the stones, they requested help. I have the honour of addressing, Tara and Hasmey.”

The girl pondered this.

“Mistress, there is a strange equine behind you. Be aware she has a sharp horn on her head, she smells strange.”

She turns her head slowly. “A unihorn, I am indeed blessed.” She bows, then turns back to me.

“Tell me stranger, what great deed did you perform to gain such as her?”

“My colleague helps me carry out the tasks I am set.”

“You have bonded with her?” 

“I know not what you mean.” Again, I note the female gender is assumed.

The girl looks shocked. Her companion issues a low growl, before stating.

“Those not bonded are untrustworthy, renegades, a threat to all we stand for.”

Greyson spoke up. “We mean you and yours no harm, nor disrespect. Let us finish our work, then we will leave.”

Tara, considered this. “The horned one speaks the truth, mistress.”

“Shall we start again. My name is Yanise, my companion is Greyson.”

“Names hold power, you either honour us, or are foolish to allow us a hold on them.” Yanise could see the girl was considering what to do, the solution was not long in coming.

“You have a woman’s figure, not a young female like the rest of my kind or those we bond with. For many cycles of the Moon Goddess none have lived enough to become a grown woman as in the old times, for it is known the other ones caused it to be so, after the great war.”

“Other ones?” Greyson asked, moving slightly.

Hasmey, turned so she could view Greyson better, and shrieked.

“You are male, not like us or Yanise. Tara, run. We must tell the others, evil is here.”

With that both departed at great speed.

“Time to go Yanise. I have a feeling this will not end well if we stay.”

I grabbed the data transponder; we both ran for the terminal. I issued one command, then logged out. Powering the screen down, detaching it, hurrying to get it back in its transit case. In the distance we could hear raised voices, angry and shrill, this was going to be close.

“We have to get a distance from the stones, the field they generate masks the recall beacon.”

We ran, the sand was threatening to become my death trap. Sapping my strength, with each stride. Greyson was already on coms.

“Emergency recall, code alpha nine seven. Transmitting location.”

We both could see the mob of angry girls and various beasts. Many carried bladed weapons, they ment business. The girl we had met, and her striped hell cat were going to be the first to reach us. The feline pounced, out running the girl. The portal formed, not a moment too soon. We ran through, followed by the beast and the girl. The beast overshot, not expecting a ramp on the other side. Claws sounding on the floor. The girl skidded to a halt, as the portal closed behind her. Jass, the technician on watch was fast. She hit the intruder alarm, sealing the room. The massive blast door swung closed, hydraulic rams pushed home. Isolating the chamber from the rest of the facility, as security teams swung into action. Agents and all employees carry an imbedded chip, the automated defence system tracked the two other entities as hostile.

Warning, transfer portal 6 lockdown. Life forms not known, three friendlies. Tracking targets.

The girl turned, spear in hand. Hunting for the disembodied voice, the beast lay low on its belly, growling at Greyson.

“Drop the weapon, it’s the only warning you will get. We still mean you no harm but will defend ourselves if you do not comply.” I said.

“The hooved one is evil.” She made the mistake of lifting the spear to throw it. Jass was faster on the draw, her stun gun cleared its holster, a bright flash of electric blue.

“Hasmey!” The feline was distraught, misreading a stunned mistress for that of dead. Tara turned to face Jass, the automated defence system was faster. A, “Phut,” of compressed gas, and the dart hit true, Tara was asleep before she hit the floor.

“Well, the debrief is going to be interesting.” Greyson smiled.

Indeed, it was, at least the reboot of Stonehenge had worked. Our diplomatic corps, had not realised that old terra in this timeframe still had a population. Let alone an all-female one. A rescue team was dispatched, aid given. Tara and Hasmey were repatriated, once we got their recollection of what had happened. We pieced it all together from legends passed down. 

The last gasp of a dying species, was biological. A genetically modified chemical agent that restrained the pituitary gland in effect shut down adolescence. Yet had the unexpected benefit of massively prolonging female lifespans, by centuries. Relatively untested before it was released over an unsuspecting planet, a side effect was that males did not survive long after birth. The ultimate scorched earth policy, one that the others, the males had propagated.

“Couldn’t we have warned them?” There were tears in my eyes. Greyson was still, as if he hated the solid facts of history.

“We tried, deployed undercover agents. Few listened, not even Fate could change the balance. You know the Gods and Goddesses cannot be seen to intervene directly. Epona rescued what she could, that’s why we have such a large genetic database. We can design at atomic and biological level any shapeshifter or entity we require to get a job done, now this you didn’t hear this from me. Control. Acquisition. Recovery. Magical. Artifacts, our employer, is very good at reverse engineering. That nasty chemical remnant from a forgotten war, was valuable. They came so close; I dread to think what humans would have done with immortality.”

That very thought sent a shiver through me.

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