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THE

AGGREGATE

Moonfall

A Jonathan Lobo Adventure

EPISODE 1: CATASTROPHY IN SPACE

By Jesse Buttar

Two minutes until drop.” As always, the automated announcement stirred up an almost Pavlovian response in Jonathan, and he wasn’t surprised to find himself salivating as he fumbled with the elastic ankle restraints on the deck of his Howler. Managing to firmly strap himself in despite his adrenaline-jangled nerves and drool-slick fingers, he stood up and keyed his monitor to replay the mission briefing for the third time. He would be running on instinct and scent after the transformation, of course, but on some level he felt that his conscious, human side could influence the beast, if not outright control it. “This is General Stalin Romulo,” the briefing began, displaying a rotating image of a harsh man garbed in garish red military dress.

“‘Mind the Gap’ at Heathrow Central.”

Issue I.0I • December 2011

All manner of brightly-polished ribbons and medals ran across his barrel chest, while his pale, sharp face was mostly hidden in the shadow of a peaked military cap. Jonathan struggled to commit his face to memory. “He is wanted,” the briefing continued, “for over seven hundred counts of ordered, authorized, and permitted inhumane treatment of prisoners of war.” The video feed shifted from the general to the images everyone had seen on the late night holo-news - mass graves, emaciated prisoners, and horrific medical experiments. Images that had been seared into the public conscience, leading to the current galactic manhunt. “He is believed to be hiding in this sector, on the planet we are currently orbiting. He’s a very bad man, gentlemen. Sic him. Sic him good.” “One minute until drop.” Although his Howler was soundproof, he could feel the tension in the air, thrumming almost in time with the USWS Hróðvitnir’s massive displacement engines. His

counterparts would all be strapped in, as well, the massive ship’s bays full of grunts in Howlers awaiting the drop and the accompanying rush of sounds and smells that came with it. Command never did a full countdown to a drop. Announcements would be made up to the minute-remaining mark, but after that point it would be a mystery, everyone waiting in breathless anticipation until the floor gave way and they found themselves plummeting towards a strange planet with only a cylindrical pod to protect them from the vacuum of space. Jonathan always continued the countdown in his head, trying to steel himself for the sudden shock to his system, but each time he was several seconds off. This time was no different, as he still had eight seconds left to go when his stomach unceremoniously jumped up into his throat. “We have drop,” the voice unnecessarily announced. Continued Page 2

Photo By Terry Chow


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THE AGGREGATE

“Moonfall” From Page 1 As much as everyone complained, free-fall was never the worst part. The worst part, barring impact, was when the retro-rockets would kick in to slow their descent. Down would fight with up, cabin temperature would rise, and the Howlers would always seem just a little too close to shuddering themselves to pieces. It was almost a blessing that they’d all be in the midst of transforming at that point, which tended to occupy most of their attention. Speaking of which.. “Initiating Exposure.” The thick metal shutters ringing the Howler ratcheted open in response to a signal sent from the Hróðvitnir, exposing the glassteel windows and the depths of space beyond them. Hundreds of other Howlers dotted the echoing void of space, while the impressive bulk of the Hróðvitnir grew smaller and smaller above them. Below them the planet grew larger, oceans and landmasses rising up to meet them, while down and to their left, closer than he’d anticipated, lay the planet’s moon. It was a forest moon, middling in size, but it still served its purpose. Even this far in the future mankind could not fully explain why the rays of a full moon prompted the change, but they certainly weren’t above turning the end product into a weapon. Feeling the change coming on, Jonathan looked down at his hands. Predictably, they were getting bigger – plumping almost like hotdogs in a microwave. His whole body became very itchy as thick, wiry hairs wormed their way out from his pores, and once again he couldn’t tell if he was grinning or just growing an elongated snout. In time with the change, the Howler’s briefing console opened and spritzed something into the air, giving the dogs their first scent of General Romulo. Something was wrong. Not the transformation, of

“A Japanese maple basks in the Earth’s sun.” course. Everything was going according to standard operating procedure there. No, the issue was something only his other half would have been able to determine. They were going the wrong way. He roared in anger, the beast feeling impotent at being locked on the wrong course. Instinctively, he knew his prey wasn’t down on the planet – it was down and to the left. On the moon. The pack knew it, as well. Several of the closer Howlers began to shake, their trajectories wobbling as if something large and very forceful was throwing its weight around inside them. The thing that had been Jonathan followed suit, ripping its hindquarters free from the elastic straps and rhythmically slamming its massive paws against the side of the tube, like a dog trying to overturn a garbage can. “Lobo, Dominguez, O’Brian, stow the nonsense,” the radio crackled, and the beast bayed back. Outside the window, one of the

Photo By Terry Chow other grunts had managed to rock his Howler to an almost horizontal position. “Slowing descent.” Even with his diminished capability for rational though, Jonathan knew this was a bad idea. The retro-rockets were designed for slowing a Howler’s descent, and they relied on the pod being perfectly vertical – their downward thrust designed to counteract the tremendous pull of gravity. If they were to be activated on a horizontal Howler.. It was the last thought he had before Dominguez’s pod leaped across the sky towards his. Everything went black. “Mistress! Something fell from the sky!” Gullwish Khan sat up in her throne, alert. “Then fetch me my sword.” JONATHAN LOBO WILL RETURN IN: EPISODE II: PRIME-EVIL FOREST


THE AGGREGATE

Photo By Jennifer Mendoza

“Young Chris, lost in a world of his own.”

The 99 By Melissa Vasey

J

onathan Lobo considered himself an anti-hero. Not the kind of quirky Michael Cera-esque anti-hero that infiltrates teeny bopper rom-coms and wins hearts with feather-light wit—but an uninteresting, uncreative, uninspired anti-hero right out of the A section of the Oxford Canadian English dictionary. This day had started like any other. Jon got out of bed and brushed his teeth. He poured a cup of coffee. His Blackberry buzzed in his pocket. When he pulled it out and flipped it in his palm, an eloquent message appeared: “It’s over.” He rolled his eyes and slipped the phone back into his jeans. He loved Fiona, truly, but the bimonthly affair of being dumped was becoming as predictable as her volcanic emotions. Besides, he wasn’t sure whether he was supposed to be apologizing for not shadowing her at Sunday’s Christmas market craft

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fair or for sticking a large clump of tape on the tip of the cat’s tail while she was at said craft fair. He regretted neither. Slipping out the door at exactly 7:47 am, he called back to his beloved, “Have a great day, Fiona!” before stepping into Monday. Arriving at the #99 bus stop on Granville and Broadway, Jon leaned against the glass window of Blenz coffee shop. It didn’t strike him as odd that there was only one man waiting for the bus, but the one man waiting for the bus did strike him as odd. He had a feather in his fedora and kept bouncing on the tips of his toes. The cigarette dangling from his lips was unlit, forgotten. This man couldn’t have been older than 25 years. Approaching Jon, the man smiled earnestly and extended his right hand. “I’m Stalin Romulo,” he said. Jon said nothing, shifting his weight. “What’s your name?” Stalin asked. Jon paused, hoping pregnant silence would help the man vanish.

He sighed when it didn’t. “Jon.” The bus arrived in that moment, much to Jon’s delight. He boarded with a flash of his pass, then took a seat at the back of the bus. He groaned with displeasure as Stalin sat in the seat next to him. “I wonder where we’re going this time,” Stalin said, giving Jon a knowing wink. Jon ignored him and stared out the window, watching the buildings blur together. After a couple minutes, the bus signaled its left blinker to turn, maneuvering toward the Cambie Street bridge. It didn’t take a well-seasoned Vancouverite like Jon to know the #99 never turns. He looked around to gauge the reaction of the other passengers, only to notice for the first time that there were no other passengers. As Jon’s panic began to set in, the streetlight flashed green. The bus plunged toward the bridge, gaining speed with every second. Continued Page 4


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THE AGGREGATE “The 99” From Page 3

“Leaves lay in wait.” Photo By Terry Chow

A truck blared its horn and a police car’s sirens screamed into life, but the driver took no notice of either. Faster still, the bus moved on. Jon suddenly realized Stalin was howling maniacally, and a loud, girlish “Yeehaw!” erupted from the driver. The bus jerked to the right, smashing through a lamppost as it broke through the side of the barricade, before falling toward False Creek inlet. Jon screamed at a pitch he’d never admit to, bracing himself for impact. It didn’t come. Instead, the bus slowed to a gentle glide along the surface of the water. “Nicely done, Gullwish!” Stalin said, enthusiastically. Jon wondered whom he was speaking to when the driver replied, “Thanks Stalin! I think that was the smoothest jump we’ve had.” Gullwish stood from her seat, allowing the bus to navigate itself. Standing at 4 foot nothing, she walked toward her passengers, mindless of the surroundings that Jon was just starting to notice. They appeared to be traveling through a forest with crippled trees, their limbs sagging and boughs deformed. Thousands of crows circled overhead, darkening the sky as they moved en masse. Jon’s concentration on the outside world was broken as Gullwish poked his shoulder. “I’m Gullwish Khan, your co-reaper,” she said. “My what?” Jon asked, feeling increasingly less fond of his new company. “You didn’t tell him?” she said, glaring accusingly at Stalin. “You were supposed to tell him.” “Tell me what?” Jon asked. “Listen kid, I’m sorry,” Gullwish said. “Why are you sorry?” Jon said. “You’re running out of time,” Stalin interrupted. “Maybe you want to focus on questions that are more

pertinent to your, uh, situation.” Gullwish shot him another look, but said nothing. “Okay,” Jon said, trying to clear his head. “Where are we going?” “The Otherside,” Stalin said. “The…Otherside?” “Yes, I just said that. No wonder you were sent here.” Jon was fairly certain he didn’t care what Stalin thought of him but the accusation stung nonetheless. As the moment dragged on, Jon’s mind was on the brink of a trillion questions. “Sent here? By who? Why?” he asked. “You really don’t know?” Gullwish said. “You were sent a message.” “What message?” “It’s over.” “You mean the text from Fiona?” “Yes, the one who summoned us to take you away,” said Stalin. The bus stopped with a jolt, making Gullwish stumble before catching her footing. “I’m so sorry,” Gullwish said, again. “This is your stop.” The bus was wedged between two trees that belonged in a nightmare. “You’ve got to be kidding,” said Jon. “I’m not getting off.” Stalin sighed, then grabbed Jon’s arm and pulled him to his feet. Jon’s first instinct was to let his muscles go limp, turning his body into deadweight. Unfortunately, the childish reaction was one Stalin had seen many times before and ultimately did not faze him. Gullwish half-heartedly picked up Jon’s feet, and the two reapers carried the man to the front of the bus. Jon squirmed but the grim duo’s grip was unnaturally strong. Swinging his body to gain momentum, the pair counted to three before letting go, miscalculating the physics and allowing Jon’s head to hit the last step with a thwap, before his body haphazardly tumbled to his final destination.


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THE AGGREGATE Lobo’s Box By Terry Chow

J

une 13, 2013. The last patrol passed me by. I guess even they need to sleep. Sleep. That’s something I used to take for granted. I remember how good it felt to close my eyes, drift away, and not have to worry about what came the next day. My biggest worries were money and relationships. It all seems so insignificant now that both don’t exist. My greatest hope is that whoever is reading this is part of a new generation of humanity and those assholes are all dead or gone from our planet. Believe me, this is not something I feel like reliving. I never thought I’d have to explain this nightmare. All I want is to stay alive and find my family. I’m not even sure if they are still alive. I guess I’m probably trying to find a purpose to remind myself it all still matters. I keep asking myself how the hell things got so bad. It all seemed so innocent and theatrical. We watched the events unfold on the news and internet. It didn’t seem real until they were at our doorsteps. I wish we never heard of that god forsaken planet. Kepler 22b. It was such a boring, unassuming name and the world didn’t pay any attention to it. It was first discovered in 2009 by NASA’s Kepler spacecraft and was announced to the world two years later in early December. We would soon find out it wouldn’t have mattered when it was discovered. It was already too late. Soon after its discovery, a plan was put into action by the G8 to fund and expedite the construction of the E-ELT ground telescope project in Chile. The populations of the G8 countries were in an uproar until the reasoning behind the decision was declared. An anomaly was found in the data and an emergency

meeting between NASA and the G8 had taken place. A scientist named Jonathon Lobo noticed an odd pattern in the 1st light measurements of the Kepler field. During his television interview Lobo admitted an anomaly was very normal in these kinds of readings, however, an anomaly of this size should not be pulsating. It was a sign of life. The telescope was required by the summer of 2012 as that is when the Kepler field of view would be in alignment with the positioning of the observatory and only a large ground telescope would have the magnification and resolution required to identify what the anomaly really was. Through the hard work and partnership of many countries, the E-ELT telescope was brought online and the world was in jubilation. The possibility of discovering new life from a distant planet in our galaxy brought our world together. That was the last celebration I remem-

“The Lions Gate Bridge in Vancouver, BC.”

ber.

The first images from the EELT were unclear. It took months to analyze and process. The world waited patiently to hear what NASA and Lobo had to share. While most of the world’s population reveled on what was coming, there was also a lot of strife and resistance to the coming news. Many of the religious sects compared it to the opening of Pandora’s Box. One such sect, led by a young and charismatic cleric by the name of Gullwish Khan vowed it would be the end of times if we did not heed his warnings and destroy the telescope and data and just be content with the life we have. Many dismissed him as just another doomsday fanatic. Wherever he is now, I hope he is revered. It was 5 days before Christmas 2012. Continued Page 6

Photo By Jennifer Mendoza


6 “Lobo’s Box” From Page 5 We were beside ourselves when the first images and descriptions were broadcast on CNN. Showing a plethora of high resolution computer renderings and photographs, Lobo declared we were definitely not alone in the universe. The images were of satellites orbiting Kepler 22b- which were much like our own earth satellites and there was also a large space telescope orbiting the planet. Lobo went on to say they were at least as advanced as we are and probably even more so since the images we were currently seeing are already 600 years old. With an odd grin, he also noted that based on his calculations, the telescope was pointed in our direction. They were looking at us. Saudi Arabia was the first to fall. The reports of the destruction were intermittent and surreal. Our

“A spider feasts on her prey.”

THE AGGREGATE knowledge of their existence and planet (which they called Nibiru) triggered their decision to reveal themselves. In deciphered data collected after the initial counterstrikes, government agencies found the aliens were already here for thousands of years harvesting oil from beneath our oceans. You’d imagine a species capable of interstellar travel would not have the need for fossil fuels. Scientists later discovered many if not all of earth’s devastating oceanic events were caused by their plundering. During the spectacle of the first interrogation and dissection of a captured alien, more was revealed that added to our collective shock. We were in the way of what they considered their creation. 65 million years ago, they brought about the event that caused the dinosaurs extinction, thus creating the fossil fuels they were here for. They would have continued peacefully until Lobo found their planet. Apprehen-

sive about potential retribution, they decided to attack. After the Middle East fell, Russia was next. The country was spared when President Romulo Stalin declared surrender and would help the invaders harvest Russia’s remaining oil, sparing the nation’s population. The rest of the world was not as fortunate. The world’s oil producing nations are in flames and communications have gone black. There are only a few safe countries left. Japan, Taiwan, Iceland, Malta, and Italy are designated free zones. Those bastards won’t go where there is no oil. How did we end up here? The world’s nations have fought each other for generations for that same resource and now we’re fighting together to stay alive because of it. I don’t know what comes next. Nobody does. The only thing on my mind is finding my family and a big boat.

Photo By Terry Chow


The Aggregate - Issue 1