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The Hand That Guides
February 20, 1892 in the skies above the Planet Jupiter…
“With this orb, I can have even more control over…” Emperor Phobos stopped for a moment when he noticed something odd about the object he held in his clutches.
What is this? he asked himself. Phobos took a closer look. What he held in his leathery six-fingered hand wasn’t the orb that he had been searching for and needed. This was something else. As he turned the orb, he noticed the click, click, click of numbers counting down. As he gritted his teeth, his fangs grew longer. His eyes widened. His frills spanned out and shook violently as he hissed.
10… 9… 8…
The side door to the ship exploded and Callie emerged from the smoke, looking for her brother and dad. “Come on! Let’s go!” she yelled.
Callie, Ian, and Peter shot away from the ship and, just as fast, they were back aboard the Juno, safe and sound.
Phobos turned and squinted.
“It doesn’t matter,” he murmured.
Phobos pressed a button on his console and smoke shot out from either side of his command chair.
The Predator exploded violently into a ball of cogs, machine parts, and fire.
Seventy-one years earlier, November 12, 1821 on the world known as Terra…
Captain Moses Rogers stood on the bow of the SS Savannah as it cut through a violent storm south of the coast of Greenland. Wave after wave beat the hull of his ship like battering rams. The pops of hard rain battered his long, leather jacket as the wind pressed against him, causing him to slide backwards on the drenched deck. The deckhands who, by a miracle, were still on board, rushed to save what they could from the onslaught. A wooden chest flew hard across the captain’s path and smashed against the hull in a loud crash. A barrel full of grain bounced off the mast and whisked past him as he ducked. His gloved hand grabbed a rope tied to the foremast in hopes that he wouldn’t be tossed overboard along with some of the members of his crew. His first mate pulled himself beside his captain against the raging winds.
“Captain!” he shouted. “The main sail is in pieces and we’re still too far away from shore to engage the hot-water engine!”
Captain Rogers slowly turned to his first mate and held onto the rope with both hands. “From where did this nightmare come from?!” Shaken by his captain’s fear, all the first mate could do was shake his head from side to side. All hope in his eyes was lost.
“This is worse than the storm at Kronstadt, Captain. We cannot afford to lose another anchor! Our hawser is gone so we can’t be towed until we’re closer to shore and signal for help!”
Captain Rogers quickly turned. “Stephen, fire up the boilers. Engage the hot-water engine!” Stephen’s eyes widened in confusion and shook his head.
“We have to save the remaining sails from tearing to shreds,” Captain Rogers answered gruffly. “It’s the only way we’ll make it through this.”
“But we’re still too far away! If we start the hot-water engine now, we’ll use up the rest of our coal and wood before we reach the bay!” he shouted above the mighty winds.
Captain Rogers looked away into the ravaging waves, turned to Stephen, and sternly ordered, “Do it.”
Stephen looked once again into the winds beating his beloved ship to death and simply said, “Aye, Captain.” Then he turned and pulled his way downward into the belly of the beaten beast. With no light below, Stephen grabbed the first gaslight he could find and lit it.
The first mate rushed past the darkened staterooms and into the engine room where the copper boilers fueled the wrought-iron paddle wheels. The ship rocked, throwing him against the bulkhead. He hollered to the seamen, “Fire it up!” Knowing fully that they wouldn’t reach a safe distance before running out of coal, the two seamen looked at each other, confused.
“Now!” Stephen yelled. The two seamen rushed to fire up each of the two copper boilers. The machines awakened with a clank and a thud, and the paddle wheels slowly made their way into the rough seas.
Suddenly, a loud crash threw the seamen and the first mate into the forward hull. One of the seamen fell onto a hot copper boiler, burning his skin on contact.
“Aaah!” screamed the poor seaman as he held onto his smoking arm. As he gripped it tight, he let out a high-pitched squeal from the pain. Grabbing onto a bulkhead beam, the remaining seamen and the first mate stood, looking at each other.
“What was that?” asked the seaman.
Stephen answered, “That was no wave.”
The first mate ordered the seaman as he pointed towards the badly burned engineer. “Secure him and get those boilers fired up before we all go down!”
The seaman nodded in agreement. “Yes, sir!”
As the violent winds outside rocked the ship to and fro, Stephen was thrown against the corridor walls. The door to the deck was in sight, but something else was beyond it. A bright light that shone through the keyhole pointed Stephen in the direction he should go. He put out his gaslight for fear of dropping it on the deck and causing a fire, and made his way upward. He slowly pushed the door open and knew instantly he would surely take to his grave the sight he beheld. As his eyes adjusted to the blinding light, his jaw dropped.
A giant yellow eye glowing like a beacon in the night stared down at him from about two hundred feet above. From the side of the ship, a deafening squeal followed a loud clanking noise. A metal arm the size of half the ship lifted high into the night. A drill attached to the end of the metal tentacle spun with a whiz and a clink. Once the drill picked up enough speed to accomplish its intent, it crashed down on the deck, sending wood flying outward. The ship groaned and rocked with each pounding of the giant drill. Stephen raced towards his captain who desperately tried to steer the Savannah away from this monster when a low grumble shook their very bones. Captain Rogers and his first mate’s eyes met in desperate fear.
“Throw everything overboard and lighten the load!” ordered Captain Rogers. “Then set engines at full-ahead flank!”
“Yes, Captain,” Stephen shouted back. He turned to follow his captain’s orders but after taking two steps, he froze. Stephen’s eyes widened and his chest pounded in fear. His lip quivered as beads of rain ran down his face like sweat.
Stephen looked up.
A seven-foot lizard stood on its two hind feet just between Stephen and his task. As his evil smile widened, his fangs grew longer and longer. The beast’s fins shook in the wind as his tongue reached out for Stephen in a wicked hiss. The first mate quickly reached for his sword but before he could grab it, a six-fingered hand with long nails shaped like needles shot out from the dark and reached across his face.
“Aahh!” Stephen cried with his last breath. Captain Rogers snapped his head towards the screams of his faithful friend. However, before he could react, a giant drill crashed down on him. Water and timber gushed through the hole.
The giant lizard quickly turned and pushed off with its powerful legs and in one giant leap, made it back on board a floating ship that hovered above the ocean. As he turned to watch the rest of the ship go down in pieces of wood, metal, and rope, he heard a whimper from behind a console.
“Ssstep into the night,” he ordered. A much younger creature emerged from the shadows. “As I have taught your father, so shall I teach you the ways of the bak’ra, my grandson. Seek the bak’ra, for through it, you will find the way to bring our world back to life by way of the mist.”
“Why are we here, Grandfather?” asked the youngling.
The giant hissed and marched towards the fearful youngling. The lizard child took two steps back and blinked frantically.
“Hissss… To plant the beast that will give us the mist. And should these Terrans ever harness the mist, the beast will awaken and call to us from the stars.”
“Will it hurt them, Grandfather?”
The giant lizard stepped closer. The hatchling stepped back until he was against the hull of the ship and had no place to go. “Thesssse Terranssss aren’t unlike the Jovianssss who denied our people the misssst. They are a filth who don’t deserve the gift of the mist for they don’t heed the words of the bak’ra. They are unclean and will scheme against us. Only those who are under the rule of the bak’ra are pure and worthy of its supreme authority for it is one of peace. This vessel was the first of what is to come. Their plot will fail. The mist is life.”
The hatchling quivered in the rain. “So they want to hurt us first.”
The elder raised his claw-like hand and formed a fist. The hatchling grabbed the wall behind him. “The mist is life and the one who returns will show us the way of the mist that will crush the enemies of Mars; heed my words for they are of the bak’ra. The mist is life. Your parents gave their lives bravely for the words of the bak’ra.” The elder turned away.
“I miss them, Grandfather,” the hatchling whimpered.
Grrr, the elder growled. “Put away your tears, for the time of mourning has passed. Our world will rise and subdue her enemies. Our children cry out for vengeance upon those who have forced us into the caves. Our fathers and mothers will no longer be slaves to the darkness in which they dwell. The mist is life.”
The elder placed his hand behind the neck of his grandson and walked him towards the edge of the floating vessel. They looked up over the vast ocean, finally calming its fury. As a single ray of sunshine peeked through the clouds, they watched the sea swallow up the last of the wreckage.
“We must rise. The enemies of Mars will be crushed. You, Timor Phobos, will inherit that charge… for the mist is life.”
Young Phobos and his grandfather, Tumulus watched what was left of the SS Savannah sink into the bottom of the icy waters of the North Atlantic Ocean as the light pierced the clouds above. Phobos moved away from his grandfather towards the rail of their vessel and as he looked down at the sinking debris, he muttered, “The mist is life.”
Pub date: November 17, 2017
Author: Leonardo Ramirez
Cover and coloring sheet by Eve Milady and Ben Fosselman of Magnetic Dreams (Iron Man: Extremis, Thor & Loki: Blood Brothers, Sesame Street)