Hank woke up on the floor of his best friend’s bedroom, with the box fan blowing right in his face. When had they finally gone to bed? Four, or five in the morning? It was the first day of summer vacation, and Hank and Jake had celebrated the night before by gorging themselves on two large pizzas and watching old anime cartoons on television. They had planned on swiping Jake’s father’s car, to drive over to Shelly’s house, but they lost their ambition somewhere around midnight. Hank was glad, actually. Jake had been seeing Shelly for the last month or so, and if they had gone over there, Hank would have just sat around, while his best friend was in the next room, making out with his girl friend. Sounded fun to Jake, but not so much to Hank.
“Hey, Fritter. Are you awake?” Hank asked, as he noticed no movement from his friend. “That’s what I thought.”
Hank got up from the floor and balanced his way around piles of clothes, pizza boxes, and soda pop cans, scattered all over the dirty carpet. “What a dump!” Hank thought, as he looked at the clock on the wall. It was noon, and he smiled. He knew he had three full months of sleeping in this late. Hank grabbed his backpack and headed out the door.
Hank had yet to take his driver’s education test, so he was still without his license. That being true, he rode his bicycle practically everywhere, or he left the driving up to Jake. Before jumping on his bike, he checked for any missed messages. He had three messages from his dad, which wasn’t particularly strange. Since he was riding home anyway, he decided to skip checking the messages. He would be seeing his pops soon enough, so he hoped it wasn’t a big emergency.
Gill, Hank’s father, was a lonely man, who didn’t have many friends. That made the bond between the man and his son especially strong, and in Hank’s eyes, sometimes a little annoying. When Hank was out with his friends, he would keep his phone off, so he wouldn’t have to answer pointless calls about a show Gill was watching on the History channel, or Gill’s new thoughts and theories about life after death. He was Gill’s only outlet for these types of topics, and although he loved his pops, sometimes it was just a little too much for a teenage boy to handle.
An average sixteen year old boy, Hank was from the country formally known as The United States. His full name was Henry McCall, and his likes and dislikes pretty much marked him as a typical teenager. An only child, he lived in a middle class suburb in Columbus, Ohio, with Gill. Henry, who preferred to be called Hank, had a pretty good upbringing. Despite the fact that his mother had not been in the picture for quite some time, Gill had done a good job raising Hank the right way. Hank was well liked at his high school, and was a very handsome fellow. He rarely had trouble finding a date for Saturday nights, but being a little on the shy side, it was often up to the girl to do the asking. Hank excelled in school, gravitating towards science and math, but was also a fairly good artist in his own right. Gill, who worked as a civil engineer for the state, would often tell Hank “You got your good looks from your mother, but you got your brains from me.”
“Where the heck have you been?! I’ve called you three times! I called Jake’s phone three times also!” Gilled shouted.
“Calm down, pops. Sheez. What’s the big problem? I’m here now, aren’t I?” Hank responded sheepishly. He felt like a little kid again, being scolded by his Father.
“Have you boys even watched the television this morning? Have you seen it?” Gill asked, and he quickly shuttled the boy inside their house.
“I have no idea what you’re talkin’ about right now. You sound like a raving lunatic,” Hank said, as they went into the front room.
The large screen television, mounted on the walled, showed an image of a clock counting down. “What’s this all about?” Hank asked his Dad.
“Watch this,” Gill said, as he switched on the nearby radio. A calm, feminine voice counted down, right along with the television. There was only fifty minutes left on the clock. Whatever the countdown was for, it was going to happen within the hour.
“What’s this all about, pops?” Hank asked.
“I don’t know? Nobody in the neighborhood knows. The internet guesses that it has to do with the Syrian Attack, from last month, but they also claim that nobody is claiming responsibility for this… This countdown. Nobody knows why there’s a countdown, or what is supposed to happen when it reaches zero,” Gill said, as he paced around.
The “Syrian Attack”, which Gill referred to, was a major nuclear attack, which had occurred the previous month. After seizing a large allied battleship in the Mediterranean Sea, a rebel group of extremists set course for the newly form Islamic country of New Persia. Having a nihilist belief that their enemies should be destroyed for their unethical and faithless ways, the rebels were prepared to force the New Persian nation into the ultimate war. Like a row of dominos, they would tip the first tile and then the rest would follow. Within an hour of high-jacking the warship, the rebels launched a nuclear missile at the country formally known as Syria. Landing just outside of Damascus, half a million New Persian citizens were vaporized. They were quick to respond. Once they established that the attack was from an allied naval battleship, they launched their own nuclear missile, which detonated just outside of Berlin. The missile had equal consequences as that of the one launched at Damascus.
Although communication between the two countries had finally established the fact that the attack was started by extremists, working outside of New Persian policy, the damage was already done. As nuclear weapons were almost simultaneously launched, (one headed for Islamabad and one towards Paris) an extraordinary event occurred. In mid air, as the world watched with baited breath, the launched missiles disappeared. Baffled by this, the two countries prepared to launch more missiles, only to find that they were gone. The three super powers of the world, being the United Kingdom of Americorp, The Republic of China, and New Persia, were astounded, as their nuclear caches vanished before their eyes. This was only the first of many unbelievable events that would soon follow. The human race was quickly realizing that in this vast universe, they were not alone.
Gill and Hank tried to go about business as usual around their house, but every few seconds or so, their eyes would go back to the count down on the television. Like anything else that is watched with anticipation, time went especially slow. Motivated by nervous energy, Gill cleaned the front room better than it had ever been cleaned before. Hank took a different approach, as he played his hand-held video game system, while still keeping tabs on the countdown. After a suspenseful fifty minutes, the countdown finally clicked three-two-one-zero. Both Gill and Hank held their breath, as Gill exclaimed, “Well, no use worrying about the things we can’t control.”
The initial contact came, as this other-worldly being addressed all people who could watch a television, or listen to a radio. This shadowy figure communicated with the people of the planet earth. The language the alien used was not English, or Arabic, or mandarin, but it was a universal language. Academics would later philosophize that the language was probably planted in a part of our unused minds, a long time ago. Passed down through heredity, the language was more than likely as old as human speech itself. Once the language was spoken, it worked as a key, unlocking that part of the brain’s ability to understand it. Every man, woman, and child could understand the omnipotent being, without worry of translation.
The creature didn’t seem angry or disappointed. It had probably belabored its decision for a long, long time. When the time came to execute its plan, it did so with a solemn calmness, as though it had known the outcome all along. Every person on the planet watched with anticipation. They knew that this singular entity, whatever it actually was, held the fate of the human race in its hands. And then, it spoke.
“People of the planet called earth, I am known as Orion, The Great Observer. This dialogue has been opened with much trepidation. I have been watching your progress for centuries now. Ever since women and men have had the ability to populate and create modern civilization, I have watched. I observed as human beings created its culture, its commerce, and it ability to overcome major obstacles. It was also in this time, where human beings learned to covet, to take, and to be consumed by the evils perpetuated by greed, vanity, and excess. These things have always been your downfall. Whether you realize this or not is of no consequence to me. Had I not intervened today, this planet, and every living organism on it, would have been destroyed, with all certainty. Against my better judgment, and my sworn dedication to not interfering, I stepped in at the last minute. I had to, in order to save this incredible place. By doing so, I have claimed responsibility for your planet, and its outcome. This being true, I have decided to choose a group of twelve champions to determine your fate. Twelve teenaged-boys and girls, from different backgrounds and geographical locations, have been selected to fight for your very existence. I chose adolescents because they are old enough to be wise in the ways of the world, but not old enough to have a corrupt sense of ethics and morals. Those individuals selected must accept. To decline means instant annihilation. Within a few hours, the chosen twelve will bear my mark. In the morning, they will be transported to the earth’s orbiting moon, where the trials of the earth will begin immediately. Any attempt to interfere with the trails will be handed swiftly and decisively. I come from a race of species, whose knowledge for technology dwarfs that of yours, and any attempt at attack or rescue will have dire consequences. Your only hope for this world lies in the hands and minds of the chosen twelve. I wish you good fortune, people of earth. Even though I wonder if you deserve it, you have gotten your second chance.”
Naturally, this message was accepted with fear and panic. Worldwide chaos ran rampant. Thoughts of the end of the world became too much for people to bear. Police and militaries became overwhelmed, as millions of citizens took to the streets. A multitude of crimes were commented, and although the authorities tried to quell the outbreak, the sheer numbers of rioters were taking over. They acted like people who had nothing to lose, and as governments floundered, they slowly tried in vain to regain control.
One thing that everybody agreed upon was the fact that “The Chosen Twelve” needed to be found. The world’s very existence hung in the balance, and if there was any remote possibility, or sign that somebody was one of the “Champions”, the people of the world would be sure to see that they accepted the alien’s invitation. This, if course, led to many irrational interpretations of what that “sign” could be. People being held against their own will for one reason or another, became an worldwide epidemic. One reported case in British Columbia, a man had locked his seventeen year-old neighbor in his closet, claiming that she had to be one of the champions. Later, after he was arrested on kidnapping charges, he claimed that “She had been speaking to him telepathically for years. It was obvious that she had to be someone this alien would be interested in”. Unfortunately, throughout the world, this type of crazed behavior was not an isolated incident.
Chapter Two: The Champions
The alien presence had announced itself. Along with the panic and chaos came a witch hunt for the chosen twelve, and they weren’t hard to find. A golden-blue light circled around there heads, like a neon halo. The alien symbols that were scribed on these glowing crowns could not be decoded, but everybody knew what they really meant. Twelve young men and women, from all over the planet, were struggling with this overwhelming burden in different ways, just as the people around them handled the chosen twelve in different ways as well. A fifteen year old boy from Japan accepted this summons with great honor and humility, and in turn, was honored by his community for being chosen. The small fishing village, in which he lived, formed an impromptu feast and celebration, unrivaled to any ever seen in the town before. On the other end of the spectrum, a seventeen year old girl, who was not too thrilled about this selection, was chased tirelessly, throughout her village in India. After two hours of running and hiding, they finally captured her and put her in the local jail. Whether she liked it or not, she was going to the moon.
All twelve were eventually discovered. They were all given the courtesy to say goodbye to their friends and loved ones. Some of their parents tried in vain to stop this from happening, but their pleading fell on deaf ears. Love for their children did not factor into the equation, and ultimately, there was no good reason for putting the whole planet at risk. The people of earth were in survival mode, and emotional pleas from loving parents were quickly dismissed. Now was not the time to test the patience of this seemingly all-powerful being.