As the fire truck set down roughly in front of the house, Lukas Vuur saw nothing of what had caused such terror in Lungsod.
“The entire city evacuated?” Lukas said. “For what? For houses like this one?” The groundcover their truck squashed was beautiful. Its rusty maroon stalks and velvety purple foliage enlivened the dark composite exterior of the house. A hover garage of ancient Greek columns topped off the roof. Lukas wished he lived in such a place. “I can’t see anything wrong with it.”
“Dumb recruit,” Captain Jaxon Brand said. The captain’s burnt face scowled when he pointed to the dashboard readout of the inflation detector. Although the detector itself was mounted on the roof of the fire truck, it’s readout on the dashboard flashed red. “Don’t you know you can’t see dark energy? This place is on fire.”
Admittedly, Lukas wasn’t fully trained and he really shouldn’t be out on a call. But with all the dark energy calls, the entire force had been sent out, trained or otherwise.
After Jaxon informed dispatch, he jumped into one of the bulky Higgs suits behind the seat, motioning for Lukas to do the same. The armor was so clumsy and heavy that Lukas could barely get out of the truck. It took the mass of the Higgs boson to counteract the dark energy. Or so Jaxon told him.
“But isn’t it natural?” Lukas said as they unwound a long reel of flexible aluminum hose. “I mean, if it’s expanding the universe, isn’t it everywhere?”
“Yeah sure.” Jaxon aimed the nozzle at the house. “You want to sleep in these suits, then?”
As Jaxon sprayed the outside of the house with intense gamma radiation, he explained in more demeaning tones that the gamma would bend the fabric of space-time and neutralize dark energy. But even after they had doused the entire area, the truck’s detector still flashed red.
“There’s something wrong,” Jaxon said. “I think we gotta clean it from the inside.”
Lukas groaned again. He felt his hands shaking as he helped Jaxon pull the long hose inside the place. He had never been around dark energy like this before.
“It’s the higher densities that are so dangerous,” Jaxon said. “It inflates you from the inside out. Haven’t you seen the training holos yet? Your insides burst out of your skin until you’re like a bloody bubbling mass of goo.”
All the lights were still on when they entered. A holo surround theater system played a raucous crime drama in the middle of the living room. There was even a half-eaten bowl of popcorn next to the sofa, and Lukas could smell pizza. Jaxon quickly shut the holo down so they could hear themselves think.
“Looks like they just picked up and left,” Lukas said.
Lukas helped Jaxon pull as much of the hose through the door as they could manage. Then they flooded the walls, the floor, the sofa and all the furniture with gamma. They found dirty dishes still on the counter and the pizza still in the oven. It was when they were just outside the last bedroom that they heard the crying.
“Is that a baby?” Lukas said.
Lukas caught Jaxon’s burnt expression through his thick transparent aluminum faceplate. Jaxon entered the room first. Before Lukas could follow, Jaxon turned around and shoved him back from the entrance. As Lukas stumbled and hit the wall, he caught a glimpse of the vomit that covered the inside of Jaxon’s faceplate.
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