South Brooklyn, New York
In the dream there was fire and terror, and death. It was a familiar dream; one Major Korben Dallas has had plenty of times before. Nearly a lifetime of service in various armed forces had left its mark and Korben Dallas had scant reward but a few medals, plenty of nightmares and a yearly brunch with Colonel Hollander which was always awkward.
Korben knew how this dream would go; watching as comrades went to their screaming end and air and breath would be choked off and there would be a blanket of darkness and…laughter?
Korben lurched out of bed with a hoarse shout and groggily swatted at the alarm, which had been shrilly buzzing. That had been a new one. Generally, there wasn't much laughter in the dreams, nonetheless nasty, dark laughter that had sounded like it found the battlefield to be of great amusement.
Running a shaking hand over a weary face, Korben stretched a body that had more than a few miles on it. It had served her well over the decades, nearly four of them.
Korben had always been a scrappy fighter but training, physical confrontations and many a close call had left their calling card. She swung long, lean legs over the edge of the bed, stretching tense wiry muscles.
Hardened limbs, strong shoulders and ample chest bore the roadmap of every knife that found its mark, every bullet that tore flesh and that one time she scrapped with a particularly nasty celestial strider that left an impressive set of scars running down her side. Bastard almost had her liver for lunch.
The sterile gloomy depths of Korben's apartment greeted her and she gave shaky laugh. Everything was as she had left it the night before; one fifteen by twenty singles residence crammed full of much cheer as she could fit into the cell-like dwelling.
Movement had set off the convection circuits in the maintenance system; lights flickered on, the coffee filter gurgled to life and the auto health dispensed one cigarette with the monotone electronic admonishment,
"Four a day. To quit is our goal!"
What was a silent tomb of a resident burst forth with sound and light. It was the only way Korben felt she could stomach living in a tube; graphic aquarium bubbling away and telebroadcast blaring. Her roommate certainly appreciated it. Speaking of which there was a light scratching at the door followed by a feline yowl and Korben pushed herself out of the bed with a heartfelt groan; it was going to be a long day, she could feel it in her bones.
Almost in answer to that ominous thought process was the piercing ring of the telecommunicator, identifying the caller as 'Finger'. One of the few remaining soldiers she had worked with over the years, Finger had gotten out of the military and managed to scrape a living off of odd jobs around the city. Korben trusted him as she trusted few people; he was nearly as cunning and violent as she was, and that was saying something.
"All right, all right, all right! I'm up!"
Korben jerked the device out of the wall and pushed a lit cigarette between her lips.
"Hey, Dogbreathe. Finger here."
The yowling had increased in pitch and Korben slid the door open, emitting a slender white cat that promptly wrapped itself around her ankles, purring.
Finger snorted over the line.
"I love you too, Major, but you haven't called me that since basic training."
"Not you, I was talking to the cat."
"Huh. That's right, I forgot; you'd rather have the furball than a real companion."
Korben took a long drag and almost groaned again at the sheer bliss of a nicotine rush first thing in the morning.
Decidedly in a better mood she said,
"Well, at least the cat comes back."
"You still upset over that two-timing dick? Forget about him, Major, there are a million fish in the sea."
Inevitably Korben's eyes slid to the one shelf in the tiny space, drawn to her wedding photo. That day she was certain she had found a new life, finally able to bury the nightmares and bloodshed. It hadn't taken long for reality to come crashing down around her ears.
"-Major, Major! You're looking at that damn photo again aren't you!? Why don't you toss that thing out like a sane person?"
Korben pushed the frame down.
"I don't want a million fish, Finger. Just one. One perfect one."
"Hah. Don't exist, Major."
She made an indistinct, noncommittal grunt of agreement. This conversation was treading into distinctly emotional territory that Korben didn't want to go. She picked up the photo next to the fallen one.
"Just found a photo of you."
"Oh yeah? How do I look?"
A mean smile curved around Korben's lips. "Like shit."
"Well, must be an old photo. Listen, you gotta bring the cab in for the six month overall."
Korben pushed herself away from the wall and aggressively opened the tiny fridge door. Not much there either; breakfast was shaping up to be leftover Italian, a couple packets of ketchup and a solitary cocktail onion floating forlornly in a jar.
Finger sighed impatiently, used to the Major's personality quirks.
"Sooner than later, Major."
"Don't need it." Korben muttered around an onion.
"Don't give me that shit, I know how you drive. Sat next to you for a thousand missions, yeah?"
Korben straightened, lighting another cigarette.
"Finger. I'm not a space fighter anymore."
"All right, okay. So tell me; how many points you got left on your license?"
"Mmm, at least fifty."
"Hah, still horrible at lying I see. See you tonight."
Korben pushed the telecommunicator back into place and met the feline stare of Snowball.
True to the feline breed, Snowball turned in complete disinterest and settled onto a cushion to watch the graphics lighting up the broadcast screen by the front door. Korben watched a moment in idle interest as a scantily clad woman opened convivial arms and said,
"Welcome to paradise!"
Korben snorted, recognizing another promo for Radio Cosmo and busied herself with a cup of coffee while words washed over –
"Welcome to Phloston paradise! This is Ruby Rodd, your main man and I will tell you live at five the name of the winner of the super green Gemini croquet contest! The winner will hang with me for two days in Phloston Paradise! So tune into Radio Cosmo…"
Keys? Check. Boots? Tied. Pocket Annihilator? Check. Multipass? Check. Ready for another day in the jungle, Korben thought wryly and tapped on a screen next to the door. A filtered black and white image showed the derelict hallways clear of any presence.
"Don't watch it all day, sweetie, it'll rot your brain."
Korben walked out the door and straight into the barrel of a shorthand assault rifle. She jerked back in momentary surprise and with trained precision assembled the situation given before her.
Camouflage; ingeniously done. Some clever soul had taken a perfect replica photo of the outside hallway and fashioned some sort of hat out of it so it fooled the apartment visual feed. The hands were then free to grip the barrel and trigger of the weapon.
Shaky hands. Male. Young. Emaciated. Scraggly beard, bloodshot eyes. Erratic twitching. Local junkie.
And Korben relaxed. This was old hat; one of those city things that were all part of the local flavor. Big lights, big crowds and plenty of muggings to go around.
"G-gimme the caasshhhhhh!" The words were ground out through clenched teeth.
Korben put her hands in the air, radiating calm amusement. Poor bastard must be desperate to try door to door mugging. Ah well, this made for a pleasant diversion from the black edges of the nightmare she had just woken up from.
"Been here long?"
The weapon moved in little jerks and twitches while the sunken in face and wild eyes of the junkie tried to process Korben's lack of fear.
"Y-yeah, yeah – ages, been here ages. Now gimme the cash!"
"Is that a Z-140? Alleviated titanium, new charge assault model. Not bad, not bad."
Nope, definitely not going as planned. Most people by now would have pissed themselves with fear with the serious hardware shoved in their faces but this hard faced bitch just stood there and looked at him.
"Hm. Good thing it isn't loaded."
Wait – "What? What d'you mean it's not loaded?!"
The junkie cum mugger risked a glance down.
"Well, you have to…push the little yellow button to load it." Korben pointed a helpful finger to the side of the weapon.
The junkie let out a high pitched nervous peal of laughter, man his brain must be really fried if he hadn't noticed something as simple as that. He slid a finger along the side, pushing the little yellow button into place with a click. Good thing his victim here was so helpful – wait.
"GIMME THE CASSHHH!"
With one smooth movement Korben gripped the end of the barrel and the junkie's hand twitched, pulling the trigger. Nothing came out but a disappointed queeb sound and the stock still silence that followed.
With a decidedly rough grin Korben pulled the Pocket Annihilator and trained it right square between the eyes, watching with a small amount of satisfaction as they went from glassy and desperate to glassy, desperate and terrified.
She reached around behind her and typed in the code for the Front Door Arsenal, which smoothly folded out of the ceiling. Well, it had been one of those new features installed in most apartments which gave you a handy place for your shoes and wallet but Korben had imagined a better purpose for it and renamed it appropriately.
"Now that's a very dangerous gun. Maybe you better let me have it."
The junkie's eyes twitched back and forth between the gun in his face and the overstocked weapons cache that had popped out of the ceiling.
"Don't mind, do you?"
"N-no, man. Take it, take it!"
"Take it, I don't need it!"
Free of his burden the junkie backpedaled a couple of steps, doing a weird little jig dance. Like he had ants crawling up his legs. Hell, maybe in his strung out mind he did.
Korben felt a sudden stab of pitied amusement towards the wretched creature who stood before her and fought to keep the laugh rising out of her throat.
"That's..hem, that's a very nice hat you have there."
The junkie looked pleased. He grinned bashfully and choked out,
"You like it!?"
Yup, another day in the concrete jungle.
"Please enter your license."
Korben fiddled with the combustion barometer, pushing dials into place. The latest model of Zorg Inc. Inner City Cabby was cheaply put together and required a creative touch on a cold morning to start up the engine circuits.
"Please enter your license."
"Yeah, yeah – I heard you the first time."
Korben slid the slim piece of plastic and circuitry into the cabs key engine slot and the machine grumbled to life. She could feel the hum in the boards beneath her feet as it warmed up.
"Wecome aboard, Korben Dallas. How are you today?"
The automated onboard personal assistant sounded just as perky and annoying as she had the first day Korben had taken up the job.
"Had a horrible nightmare, thanks for asking. Propulsion levels rising...auxiliary stable. And away we go."
The bay doors opened and Korben was grateful for a cab that had its own air recycle unit; some older models of aerovehicles didn't, back in the good old days before people had realized the lethality of the fogs of Lower New York.
Korben spared a disinterested glance down. Below the current city line of lights and rush of traffic was billowing clouds of murkiness; black and eerie with the occasional discharge of built up energy.
New York had always been packed to the brim with people, opportunities and concrete but there came a point in the last couple of centuries when there just wasn't any more space to be had. The planet was overpopulated, and the flux of out-of-galaxy visitors had just added to the problem. The solution had been to build up. Ingeniously making a new city atop the old one.
Korben released the anchor and the cab drifted upwards.
"You have….five points…left on your license."
"And thank you for reminding me." she grumbled.
"Have a nice day."
"We have forty-eight hours, Mr. President."
Grim faces looked back at Father Vito Cornelius. The summit had been dispersed with promises of constant updates on the impending disaster and the President, a few select Military personal and Father Cornelius had retired to a private room.
Spread out before them was a leather bound tome that took up most of the space of the table in which they sat at. Father Cornelius rested his hands over the page that was filled with archaic writing and a rough drawing depicting humans reaching towards a light.
"That's the time needed to adapt to our living conditions."
The President folded his hands and rested a square cut chin on them.
"Then it will be too late. The goal of this thing is not to fight for money or power, Mr. President, but to exterminate life. All forms of life."
There was discontented murmuring from the background. The President sighed and rubbed a weary hand over his face.
"So what you're telling me, Father, is there's nothing that can stop this thing."
Father Cornelius smiled triumphantly and pushed the tome towards the President.
"Not quite, Mr. President. For hundreds of centuries men of my order have been the caretakers of a very great secret. We have knowledge of one thing that may save us all.
There is a race in the universe so old, so knowledgeable, so compassionate that it is said they were the first born in the entire history of existence. Some called them angels, others called them caretakers but whatever name any society has given them they remain our greatest hope."
"You're talking about the Mondoshawans."
"Correct, Mr. President! The Mondoshawan have in their possession the only weapon to defeat evil. Four elements gathered around a fifth…a Supreme Being."
Father Cornelius briefly pointed a finger at the illustration in the book. Four priests holding something in their hands, surrounding a blinding figure of light.
"The ultimate warrior, created to protect life. Together they produce what the ancients called the Light of Creation, able to bring life to the farthest reaches of the universe. But. If evil stands there…"
Cornelius folded his hands in his lap, dropping the words like leaden stones.
"Then light turns to dark, life to death, forever."
There was resounding silence in the room.
Someone cleared their throat.
"Mr. President. There is a Mondoshawan spacecraft at the frontier requesting permission to enter our territory."
The President stood and replied,
"Give them permission along with my warmest regards."
Father Cornelius smiled. Things were looking up; if the Mondoshawan were here then that meant they stood a chance after all.
"Thank you, Mr. President."
The planet that lay before them glowed cerulean against the black of space; same as it had been for countless millennia. The ship waited patiently at the borders of Earth, marked by two stations that guarded the gateway.
A journey was nearly complete and the good Shepherds of Creation were relieved to lay down their weary burden.
Some of the Mondoshewan aboard were amongst some of the oldest creatures in existence. Only the Face of Boe outranked them in sheer enlightenment and age. Theirs was a race that had existed only for order in a universe full of dark chaos.
As it so happens with many sentient creatures, time, age and experience gave way to an all encompassing understanding of all spaces. The ability to read and empathically understand the space you occupy is a tribute shared among all highly developed consciousness, including the Mondoshewan, who had turned it into an art form.
This was probably why they felt the ripples of darkness before the first blast of propelled G-Force 540 missiles slammed into the side of the ship, sending it listing to one side.
Fire blossomed in the vacuum of the space, metal twisted and screeched under the assault and the Mondoshewan desperately tried to counteract the impending attack. The first volley of projectiles had expertly knocked out the systems shielding; they were sitting ducks.
From the helm the Mondoshewan watched as a handful of sleek fighter vessels swerved and came back around for a final deadly attack.
In those last moments, with flame and death burning in their collective consciousnesses, the Mondoshewan let out one final telepathic bellow, shrieking out terror and anger. The Fifth Element, the final hope for creation, went down in flames.
"We are lost."
The words fell from an utterly defeated Father Cornelius as he laid slumped back into his seat, shock turning his face ashen and vacant.
The War Cabinet and President looked at the man with pity; he had been repeating those words for the last half hour while they awaited reports from the rescue crew sent to scavenge the remains that had landed on the far side of earth's moon.
"Sir, the attack was launched by two unregistered war ships. As soon as the Mondoshewan's ship went into the moon they disappeared. We sent tracers to detect the plasma trail left by the engines but we have no confirmation of region or make yet."
"Close all boarders declare a state of general alert."
"Try to make contact with the Mondoshewan; we owe them an explanation."
"Three hundred years of waiting….for nothing."
The President turned and said, not without kindness, "You should go home now and get some rest, Father. We'll take it from here."
Father Cornelius straightened and said, "No! I- I am the Mondoshewan's contact on earth! They will need me-"
"This is government business now, Father. We will likely be launching an all out war; something that you should have no part of. I will keep you informed as necessary."
"Please see that Father Cornelius and his young acolyte make home safely."
As the Father and his young servant were ushered firmly out the door protesting and unwilling, one last snatch of conversation could be overheard.
"We have a report, Sir."
"And? Any survivors?"
The President sighed. "Thank God for small favors. Now the question is who sent those warships?"
A single perfect azure fingernail was being carefully considered. It took special dedication to transform hands into a higher form of art and Charlotte was dedicated. She fit into the general décor of the high rise office; stylish, cold, meticulous and beautiful.
Charlotte flicked the tiny paint brush against another fingernail and put her hand high to admire the effect, pausing as the telecomunicator rang genteelly in the meditative silence of the waiting room.
"Mr. Zorg's office, how may I be of help?"
There was a long moment, then grumbling static, as though the caller was reaching out through an electric storm.
Oh, one of those calls. Charlotte hit the call waiting button and pushed the signal through to Mr. Zorg's direct line. Certainly, there was mysterious things in her line of work; large exchanges of money, strange, untimely deaths but Charlotte wasn't paid to notice things, merely to look pretty for Mr. Zorg and take phone calls. Something she did very well.
Several rooms away a man stood framed by an antique Tiffany glass window that overlooked the sprawling sky high city of Upper New York. The sun lit noxious fumes prettily in golds and reds, alighting the reflective windows of skyscrapers the same.
Hands folded behind his back, back straight, head high it could be said his stature wasn't extremely imposing. Average height, average build, expensive taste in clothing and an avid interest in the latest fashions that thrive in New York; the latest being plastic head gear that required the shaving of one side of the head.
It made for a startling contrast for Zorg; perfectly maintained inky black locks on one side of his pallid face while the other side of his head was covered by a sheet of clear plastic. It brought to mind warriors of the ancient world who would partially shave the head save for one patch of hair.
In the silence of the room there was a small sound. Zorg smiled, lightly pressing the communicator button and said,
"I'm so glad to hear from you, Aagnahd."
There was a lilt to the voice; a voice that was deceivingly convenial and warm. Beneath it, however, was an undercurrent of gleeful greed.
"The mission is accomplished. We have what you asked for."
"Good, good. Well done, bravo! I will meet you in my factory."
The line went dead and Zorg chuckled gleefully to himself. He pressed another button.
"Charlotte, get my coat. I'm going…out for a while."
Nucleolab, New York City
"You call that a survivor?"
The question was voiced by General Monroe. One of the President's most trusted staff he had unquestionable long experience in military service and was a veteran of many battles and skirmishes. There was doubt in his voice.
He was currently walking quickly down one of the many corridors of a secret government sanctioned facility that dealt with the medicine and science field. Beside him was a team of their best scientists, all crowded around a metal trolley being moved quickly towards one of the medical stations.
Within the hermetically sealed clear container on the trolley was a severed hand, encased in something that looked like a gauntlet. Ragged bits of flesh and bone trailed out of the metal shell, the rest of the owner nowhere to be found.
"Your doubt is understandable, General, but I assure you a few living cells is all I need."
General Monroe cast a speculative eye over the doctor's face. What was his name again? Township, Townsell…no Townsend, that was it! Doctor Townsend had met Monroe's recovery team with glee; fully equipped with things that Monroe hadn't the slightest clue what they did. The doctor was almost beside himself. It wasn't everyday you got to fiddle with Mondoshewan technology.
The room they entered was enormous. High rounded ceiling with huge vents. Well, Monroe theorized, one would need all the vents because all of the equipment. He had heard about this thing, the Cellular Reconstruct Biomotive. Hell, he remembered all the protests that broke out over the cost of having one; despite being one of the richest countries on this side of the galaxy it had put them into five years of debt.
To bring life at the touch of a button.
"And, uh, have you identified what it is yet?"
Doctor Townsend turned a manically gleeful face towards Monroe and he almost recoiled. These science types were always too fanatical for him, their obsessions were beyond him. Give him a nice simple war any day.
"We tried but the computer went off the charts. You see, normal human beings have forty DNA memo groups which is more than enough for any species to perpetuate itself."
He stroked a loving hand over the cold glass container.
"This has two hundred thousand memo groups."
Monroe felt a twinge of unease. He didn't like the sound of this; it was nearing too close to monster territory. If they resurrected something they couldn't handle he was going to put a bullet in it.
The staff busied themselves with the machinery, flipping switches, exchanging phrases that sounded like foreign speech to Monroe.
Finally the glass container was carefully opened and the severed hand reverently placed in the dome coffin of the Biomotive.
Monroe snorted and replied,
"This thing sounds like a freak of nature to me."
Doctor Townsend rubbed his hands together, staring greedily at the container.
"Yup. Can't wait to meet him!"