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Flashback week competition runner-up – James LeChance from ORIGIN

Here’s the runner up for the Flashback week competition 2014, written by MrXanadu. You can see the winning story by clicking here.

3rd place – “James LeChance” from ORIGIN

james lechanceKirrath Prime, Orsai System
June 25th 2353….two years before the ORIGIN expedition

The Archaeology Department at Earth University had finally gotten permission from the Kirrathian Government to unearth the Ironian ruins along the Ukar River basin. It had been a tedious process, but the government finally caved and lifted their restrictions.

James was excited at the prospect of getting to enter an underground complex that had laid untouched for thousands of years. When they popped the cork…they would walking among the first completely undisturbed Ironian facility that had been discovered in 122 years. The technology would be pristine, and hopefully the databanks intact…it was seeming like it would be the single greatest discovery in James‘ career.

The team, consisting of James, his compatriots Thad Friar and Sergei Askopov, the head of the Archaeology Department Dr. Llyod Cohen, and fifteen of the University’s graduate students, arrived and immediately began unearthing the site. Progress was aggravatingly slow….while they had unearthed the ruins, they couldn’t find an entrance. For days, the team slowly excavated the site, checking for any way inside.

To James, it seemed like the Ironians didn’t want the complex to be entered (James couldn’t fathom why). All of the original entrances were sealed, and the surface additions to the complex had been purposely isolated from the underground portion. What was strange about the separation of the two halves is that it was done after the construction of the facility, and that the modifications were done using scrap materials. It was almost as if it was a rush job, that they were racing against something. James didn’t think too much about it though, he just wanted to get inside.

More days passed with little success, until the sensors picked up heat emissions coming from what originally seemed like a sealed entrance. The team carefully worked at the strange octagonal construct, revealing that it wasn’t a sealed entrance but rather a disguised exhaust port (the vent slits were made incredibly small so that they wouldn’t be easily detectable through scans, nor by the baked eye). The team quickly broke through the weakened exhaust port and made their way down into the facility.

James was the first to work through the exhaust port into the main complex.

He crawled through a series of vents into a pitch black chamber. He pulled his flashlight and some glow-sticks from his belt, leaving the lit glow-sticks to mark the exit, and using the flashlight to examine the chamber he was in.

It was colossal, the dome shaped roof seemed almost endless….the small cone of light wasn’t able to find the top. James swept around the edges of the chamber, finding several doorways.

“Guys, I’m going to take a look around, I’ll leave glow-sticks to mark my position”James reported on the radio.

“Roger, don’t go too far” Thad replied.

James made his way through the darkened facility, leaving a trail of glowsticks so that the others could find him once they made their way inside.

He explored some of the chambers, finding stockpiled supplies and weaponry…which was odd considering that this was a science facility (the signs throughout the facility marked things like centrifuges, bio-labs, and experiment storage). There were weapon emplacements scattered throughout the facility, mounted on makeshift barricades. Scorch marks and ancient blood splatter marked ancient battle sites. James‘ optimism changed to horror as an entire lifetime of searching for the fate of the Ironians came back to him….

Suddenly, he came across the barracks. Inside were bones…not entire bodies, scattered bones, uniform and armor segments, and much blood.

That was when the reality of everything hit him….he had suspected it his entire life but there was never any definite evidence. The Ironians barely had anything in this region of space (colonies, military bases, research stations were the majority of what they found), they lived in another region of the galaxy….but for some reason these Ironians came to this research facility to hide…to ride something out because their home-space was under attack.

The Ironians didn’t just disappear…they were destroyed

James knew it his entire life but he was too damned naive to believe it. The paradise that everyone thought the Ironians lived in was a damned lie, they didn’t elevate to some higher form or move to another galaxy or dimension, no…they were destroyed. That was why they never found any full bodies, that was why they left so little data behind. No maps to find their home planet, no logs telling future generations where they had gone too, because they didn’t want anyone to know. They wanted to protect future generations from what destroyed their own race.

James was terrified at the prospect of the Ironian genocide. Who could be so powerful as to destroy the most advanced race in the entire damned galaxy? Even if the Ironians destroyed themselves through a civil war or by some sort of scientific mistake….it was very possible that it could happen again to whomever mastered their technology and followed the same path.

James, we made it in, where’d you go? I found your glow-sticks but….”

“It’s a lie….it’s all a damned lie!” James yelled into the radio.

“What? What’s a lie?!?”

“The paradise that never fucking was!”

James‘ head spun as he pictured the shining cities, the illustrations of the paradise that everyone pictured the Ironians living in….as they burned to the ground. He and everyone in his profession was leading the galaxy down a similar path, reverse-engineering technology that they had little comprehension of in the hopes of creating a galactic utopia…..but in the end, all they would create was chaos…the end of civilization.

The team eventually caught up to James, and after having the same realization as he did, everyone returned to the surface.

They would continue the excavation tomorrow when additional supplies had arrived…but in the meantime, they were stuck contemplating the end of the Ironians.

James couldn’t believe that he had believed the lies of total paradise. He wasn’t sure if pursuing the fate behind the Ironians any further was something he really wanted to do anymore.

But, he thought, there was a glimmer of hope. Finding the fate of the Ironians wouldn’t necessarily lead galactic civilization down a similar path, they had something the Ironians didn’t…a warning.

They could learn what mistakes the Ironians made and avoid them, possibly achieving the total utopia the Ironians had pursued their entire existence.

All James needed was a key….the fabled “key to the Ironians” his uncle Phineas and his father had always spoke of. The Codex’s of the Ironians were their means of storing knowledge and controlling their technology…and if Jamesfound one, it would be the first step.

After returning to Earth at the conclusion of the expedition, he, Thad, and Sergei got funding from the University to begin the search for the codex that had been on a long-lost space station….

Little did James know where that search would take him….