Alternating Currents

“I think we’ve got something.”

I looked up from the vehicle I was inspecting and over at my colleague. He was at a nearby building, one of the few that wasn’t boarded up or locked. Oddly enough, the door was ajar, creaking in the wind.
“What does it look like?” I asked, standing up and walking towards my friend.
“It looks like a public house,” he responded. “Late 20th century Urban American, judging by the architecture. But we won’t know until we get inside.”
“Well, then, lead the way, Ranger,” I replied with a smirk. He shot me a glare while adding, “Walker will suffice, thank you.”
We pushed open the door and proceeded into the building. The door’s hinges creaked from supporting the wood for so long. It was surprising that the damn thing lasted at all; you’d think centuries of weather would have destroyed the whole place by now.
I scanned the interior to see what I could figure out. Walker was right, this was absolutely late 20th century. Judging by the furniture, late 1980’s.
“We don’t have ‘something,’ Walker,” I said, looking around in awe. “We have a fucking gold mine.”
“This is what you’ve been trying to find for a long time, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, but with little success until… Well, shit, until now.” I noticed a large, wooden box in the corner. There were two large discolorations on the floor nearby: someone had taken two similar items from the same location before.
“Walker, what do you think that is?” I said, indicating towards the object.
“Is that… An arcade cabinet?”
It hit me like a ton of bricks. Of course it was! All the Earth technology had peaked before The Departure, and arcade games symbolized the computational power they were capable of at that time.
I walked over to investigate further. It had a cord lying on the ground that stuck out from the back, with three prongs at the end. A similar hole was in the wall.
“Looks like a rudimentary 120 volt alternating current system powered it. We could probably replicate the same thing once we get back home. I wonder if it still works…”
It occurred to me that something was wrong here. This wasn’t adding up. Supposedly, the humans of Earth hit their technological peak and went to the stars, but this technology is child’s play. I looked over at Walker, who was investigating the bar itself.
“Something seem off to you?” I asked. His brow was furrowed; he was easy to read most of the time.
“I can’t put my finger on it, but yeah. Something seems wrong.”
“Alright, well, let’s get a Mat-En node on this thing and get out of here.”
Humans had something called “instinct” they relied on in their hunter-gatherer days and, at the end of their species’ time, to avoid capture. In a way, I knew something was wrong. Call it instinct if you like. All I know is that we got out just in time for an ursine-class beast to wander in and angrily stare at us as we beamed away. I’m no slouch in a fight, but taking on a 15-foot creature with muscles that could take down buildings is a bit beyond my specifications.
Once we were back at base, it only took a few minutes to jury-rig some power into the machine. Much to my surprise, it sputtered to life. It appeared to be a game called “Donkey Kong.” A remarkably simple game, even considering the time period. Unfortunately, this trip brought me no closer to discovering when or why the Departure took place. And if that damn ursinus wasn’t in the building, we could inspect further…
I grabbed a weapon off of a rack near the Mat-En bay.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Walker asked, confused.
A thousand responses were going through my mind, but only one seemed appropriate. The ship’s motto, written above the entrance to the cockpit:
Omnia potest occidi,” I said. Everything can be killed.
I was going to get information from that building. At any cost.
Drew Schackmann is a contributing writer for Gutai-Pravda Assembly. You can contact him on Twitter.

© 2015; David “Drew” Schackmann, Jr.


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