The Unluckiest Man in the World
Image by Enrique Meseguer from Pixabay
General Roan shivered as he left the heated compartment of the government car. It wasn’t just cold, but apocalyptic considering the usually humid area, blasted by the chilly winds under the dark skies which pulsed with a myriad of colours. A canvas tent waited before him within the hastily erected camp, its flap billowing in the wind while the two heavily armed guards on either side stood motionless.
Roan grimaced, probably the two best soldiers in the region to be trusted with this detail and they suffered for it out here. Pulling his cloak tight around his rickety frame he pushed through the winds and the guards saluted.
“Good evening General. High Commander Lee is waiting for you.”
Roan returned something that barely resembled a salute, ignoring the way the guards made cursory eye contact with each other. He didn’t become a General because of his exploits following protocol.
“Is General Nemis here?” Roan asked.
“Sir,” the guard pointed to a second car pulling up behind Roan’s.
A tall, wiry man in his early sixties was let out by his driver and he marched down the path towards them without openly reacting to the cold winds.
“Good evening General,” the guards saluted.
He saluted back, “Men, General.”
“General…” Roan replied stiffly, “shall we get out of this cold?” He eyed the guards, “sorry.”
The guards made cursory eye contact again but Nemis was already pushing past them to enter the tent. Roan sighed and made to follow when the sky pulsed with pink lights. He hesitated and followed the direction of the pulse. The point of origin ended on the horizon, past a bleak expanse that dominated the landscape after the edge of the forward operating base. A fluctuating ball of light raged against the dark skies.
Roan sighed again.
“They are waiting for you, General,” the guard was holding the tent flap.
“Good man.” Roan nodded and entered the chaotic command tent.
High Commander Lee was bent over a topographical map, ignoring Nemis as he announced himself. Aids and analysts operated the communications and survey equipment in an urgent manner. Some weathered scientist was over Lee’s shoulder, she was proclaiming doomsday predictions and the like.
“Lee,” Roan said easily.
He looked up, noticed Nemis for the first time and then Roan. A wave of relief washed over his strained features, “Roan, thank fuck for you. This is Doctor Tyson, she can give you two a brief run down on the current situation.”
Tyson rolled her eyes and honed in on the two Generals. “Gentlemen, what we have here is a…”
“Catastrophic strobe shift failure.” Roan said, perusing the map. “Your experiments altering light speed to communicate instantly with our facilities on Mars shifted one too many dimensions. Now some radioactive element from one of them is threatening to spread out over the Earth if uncontained… am I reading that right?”
“… Yes…” Tyson hesitated. “… How…”
“You did send us briefing packets… We aren’t grunts, Doctor. Not to worry, I have implemented a solution already.”
“You what?” Nemis spun on him, “you enacted orders without High Command’s approval?”
“Good to know you’re General with initiative, Nemis…” Roan sighed, “Lee wouldn’t have brought us onboard if he already had a plan. I saved time before more of our dimension was compromised.”
“And what is your plan?” Lee asked.
“Yeah,” Tyson fretted, “Nothing we have implemented works. The area around the device is so radioactive that it’s frying the circuits of our robots. And due to the blending of dimensions, Murphy’s Law seems to have been exponentially applied to our reality. So every conscious entity meets untold calamity before they can get close. A precision strike would just make things worse…”
“I sent in Corporal Fortis.”
The entire command tent went silent.
“Corporal James Fortis?” Lee asked.
“Yes,” Roan said.
“Corporal James “Rotter” Fortis?!” Nemis yelled.
“Yes,” Roan repeated.
“Rotter?” Tyson asked.
Lee sighed, “It’s an acronym. R.O.T.R… Rest Of The Rabbit. Corporal Fortis is one of the unluckiest soldiers in any army anywhere.”
“Yeah, he was once voted most likely to die from frozen jet stream falling on his head in the middle of the desert.” Nemis interjected.
“… From an anvil falling from that plane’s cargo, actually,” Roan corrected.
“And you’re sending him in to save the world?” Nemis sneered.
“Yes,” Roan rubbed his temple, “You see, he is the one most prepared to face the bad luck plaguing the area from the Murphy’s Law shift.”
“I sure hope you’re right,” Lee said, “because if he fails the world will become a radioactive hell hole.”
Corporal James ‘Rotter’ Fortis cursed when the canvassed transport truck hit a pothole and veered off road onto the unforgiving terrain of the heath. Something burst, a tyre probably, and the rear wheels were sinking into a bog. He revved the engine and saw the shower of mud flit out as he watched with the side mirror.
He smashed the steering wheel with another curse and the air bag deployed, knocking him back into the chair with a grunt.
“Damn this.” He muttered.
He pushed the deflating air bag aside and hopped out the door, sinking knee deep into the bogged ground and muttering to himself as he squelched to the back of the canvassed truck. Luckily he wore extra sturdy gum boots over his hazmat overalls, wouldn’t want to snag it on any debris in the bog. If he noticed the strobing chromatic colours across the dark skies up ahead, he paid no attention to them.
“Rotter?” A voice crackled through his ear piece. “Rotter, report.” It was General Roan.
“Yeah General, I’m okay,” he lamented as he let down the back of the truck and climbed into the dark compartment. “Truck is cooked, about a twenty minute walk from the point of origin.”
“Twenty minutes?!” Another voice cut in, “If we wait that long we’ll reach the point of no return and we’ll all be done for!”
“Who was that?” James replied as he sat over the all terrain quad bike he had loaded up into the back of the canvassed truck.
“That was General Nemis.” Roan said.
“Is he going to be complaining constantly?” James asked.
“Well it’s a good thing communications fail the closer we get to the point of origin.” He keyed the ignition and the quad bike roared to life.
Roan laughed back over the ear piece, “Can you salvage the truck?”
“No Sir, it’s cooked,” James accelerated out the back of the truck and the quad bike cleared the bog to jolt back onto the road. “I’m carrying on with the backup vehicle.”
“Who the hell loads a back up vehicle?” Nemis asked.
“Someone who expects misfortune,” Roan answered for him, “Good luck, Rotter.”
“Thank you Sir,” James said before the communications fizzled out.
The wind was cold and buffeted him on the back of the quad bike as he tore down the road towards the ominous, pulsating glow. It was a good thing he wore extra thermal layers under his hazmat suit. Sure it was a bit warm in the truck, but he expected it to fail. The gusts of wind blew out from the glowing point of origin and a thundering bolt of lightning tore overhear. Then sheets of rain fell suddenly and he found himself squinting through the down pour.
His quad bike kicked up a stone from the road and it bounced into the flood lights, they shattered and went dark.
James reached into his pack for the super strength hand held flood light and attached it to his helmet. The beam was narrow but potent, enough to see the road through the deluge.
A few minutes later he drove through the open chain link gates into the research compound and his Geiger counter started rattling like crazy. The main laboratory was just ahead, a grey box set into the middle of the facility. Pulses of amber light shot through the windows and crumbling roof to shine the sky. As he drew closer the amber light shifted to yellow, then violet, green and back to amber. The rain cleared and James slipped in a puddle as he alighted from his quad bike and smashed into the ground.
He took the impact on his wrists, which would have shattered if he had not worn adequate wrist guards.
With a grunt he got up and shuffled carefully into the main lab.
As he passed through the shattered glass doors a snag caught his hazmat suit and tore it open. Warnings blared within his suit that a breach had been detected and deadly levels of radiation were leaking in. He swore again and calmly pulled out his duct tape to seal up the breach, confident that the second hazmat suit he was wearing underneath had not been breached or he would already be dead.
He made his way through the lobby and up the stairwell to the top floor. The stairs were strewn with detritus and his wet clumsy boots caused him to slip and shuffle. So he removed them, the hazmat suit encircling his combat boots below and he managed to avoid the debris with minimal slips and falls.
The higher he climbed and the closer he got to the device the more the heat increased. He could feel his sweat pooling within the doubled up hazmat suits at the pits, waist and his feet. His visor fogged and he cursed. Strapped to the right of his helmet within his mask was a little squeeze pump bottle. He gripped it with his teeth and squeezed, the anti fog spray within hit the visor and the condensation ran off allowing him to see.
He reached the main research room and as he ducked under the crumbling door frame a florescent light decided then and there to fall and strike him in the top of the head.
It shattered against his head but the military helmet he had donned beneath his hazmat suit prevented a concussion. He swore and stumbled, gripping onto the military robot that had died half way between the door and the device. It was an inert, four legged creature, its lifeless camera lens peered back at him.
“You did a great job!” James spat.
He shuffled away from the robot over to the device which hummed and rattled and pulsated with menace under the hole it had torn in the ceiling. He gripped the shut off valve. With a grunt he turned the valve until the device whirred to a halt and the strobing lights stopped.
His Geiger counter stopped crackling as the multi dimensional radiation was cut off and he breathed a sigh of relief as his comms chirped back to life.
“Rotter, Rotter do you read?”
“Yes General, mission accomplished.”
“Good work soldier, you’ve got a hero’s welcome waiting for you back here. You just saved the world.”
“Lucky me,” James laughed, “Returning to base.”
He turned from the inert device, the robot was rebooting and started shuffling forwards, obeying its last command. As it ambled across the room like an awkward dog the floor trembled and cracked, the integrity failing with the extra weight.
“Ah, shit.” The floor collapsed out from both of them and he tumbled through to land on the floor below in a mess of tangled limbs and debris. “Oh well.” He said to himself in a heap, “It’s not the end of the world, is it?”
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