Fe2O3, by Bruce Corbett



Copyright  1999  Bruce Corbett


Smashwords Edition






I have to give credit to the story, War of the Worlds, by H.G Wells, for the inspiration of this story. I did, however, enjoy taking the story in other directions. My story first appeared in the September 2001 edition of ALTERNATE REALITIES.





The great silver shape hurtled through the void. When it reached the upper ionosphere, it traced out a path of blazing light. A young couple, nestled together on a nameless beach in Egypt saw its glowing flare. They wished on it. In Diego Garcia the great antennae paused in their questing. Powerful tracking computers focussed on the unknown object.

An emergency telephone jumped in London. "No, Military Intelligence knows nothing of a rocket over Africa."

Washington's response was the same. "No. The NASA computers don't list one single damn piece of space junk that has an ETA within the next two weeks. Call the observatory and see if we're scheduled to get any meteorite showers. Yah? Same to you."

In spite of Perestroika, alarms rang and nuclear subs slipped from their docks in both the Russian Federation and North America. The rest of the world slept. The unidentified object blew a hundred foot crater in the parched earth of the African veld. Oddly, its physical characteristics were not changed in any way.

When dawn painted the African veldt crimson, the same decision had been reached in both London and Washington. The UFO could have been an untracked piece of the 'space junk', orbited by the Russians or Americans, or for that matter, the French or Japanese. Alternatively, it could conceivably have been a large meteorite. Or, it really could be something totally unknown. The alert made the third page of several world dailies. In London, the Times didn't even mention it.

A slight tremor in Bwanda had been recorded by several seismological centres. Two American military satellites were quietly re-tasked and assigned the job of finding the landing site. The possibility that the object could have been an unknown Russian satellite made the Americans curious. If it was manmade, then the object had to be located and examined.

As the dawn broke, Jemo's mother shook his naked right shoulder. "Wake now, my sweet son, and go find the herd. It will soon be time for milking."

Jemo crawled sleepily from under his blanket. With amazing rapidity, the sun leap-frogged the horizon. Before Jemo had finished his sketchy toilet and snatched a hunk of cheese, the land was bathed in brilliant sunshine.

The boy whistled to his dog and set off at a steady jog to find the family's cattle. Already he could feel the parched earth reflecting the harsh radiance of the sun. He dreamed of the monsoon season, when the veld burst into a verdant paradise. The scorched earth, now cracked and almost lifeless, would again support lush grass. His family's cattle, now lean and hungry, would fill out, and, even better, would no longer need to be allowed to wander each night.

In spite of the danger from the occasional roving predators from one of the nature preserves, he knew it was necessary in the dry season if the cattle were to survive. Already they were gaunt. His family had to live on a meagre harvest of milk. Within weeks, days, however, the cows would be sleek again, and generous with their milk.

As Jemo ran towards the hollow where his charges generally spent their nights, he noticed strange flashes of light, almost as if reflecting off metal. But who would have metal in his father's pastures? Besides, the amount of reflected light seemed to indicate much too large a structure for anyone to set up overnight.

Jemo noticed his dog hesitate. For the boy, brought up where life depended on animal senses, that was a bad sign. He crossed himself, as he had once seen priests doing in an outdoor church service. The white men had mostly gone from his peoples' lands, but he knew that they had had powerful magic.

He approached the shiny object cautiously. His every sense was alert and questing. He climbed out of the slight ravine which was his accustomed path. Jemo froze; uncomprehending. Before him was a vast metallic globe. Surrounding it was a series of smaller domes.

Even as he climbed out of the ravine, a long slim turret swung in his direction. It paused, and then a jet of pure light struck both the boy and his canine companion. The air was filled with a sickeningly-sweet odour, and a few scraps of charred flesh littered the ground.

The game warden rode slowly. After an all-night attempt to track the elephant poachers who had hit the game preserve to the west, both he and his horse were exhausted.

As he mounted the last major hill before the local chief's village, something caught his eye. The sun's rays were bouncing off something huge and metallic. He clucked to his faithful horse and moved down to investigate. Suddenly he noticed a metal humanoid which had some kind of tube pointed right at him.

He pulled his horse up immediately. It was too late. The headless body of the game warden's horse toppled forward.

Even as he fell, the man grabbed his .500 Magnum express rifle. His nostrils churned at the stench of the burned horse flash. From behind the headless horse, he took careful aim and pulled both triggers, one after the other.

The two hammers struck and two huge slugs, each one with over twenty-five tons of kinetic energy behind it, struck the dazzling robot-like creature in the head. The metal creature paused for a moment, and digested the implications of this new attack. Then a second jet of light lanced out. Even the warden's gun-barrel melted.

Colonel Jomolo and his two bush-boys careened over the top of the hillock. The Colonel was a frustrated race driver, and his little flat-head four cylinder was a poor excuse for a racing machine. He was worried, however. His best game warden was several hours late in reporting in. Hunting poachers was a deadly game, and the man should have been back long before.

Immediately they topped the rise, the three of them noticed the long shiny fence. It enclosed several acres of land. The Colonel slammed on the brakes, and the Jeep slid to a quivering halt.

It was the last thing Colonel Jomolo was to do. One of his boys, with a more acute sense of danger, or just more luck, jumped out of the vehicle. He threw himself to the ground and stared as the Jeep and its occupants reached a liquid, and then a gaseous stage. He crawled back over the top of the hill and then ran as fast as his sturdy legs would carry him.

President Kayitesi, President-for-Life of Bwanda, was a courageous man. Hearing of the mysterious threat for the first time, he immediately hurled his entire air force, comprised of seven Hawker-Hurricanes, at the alien structure. After his air force reported a hundred percent loss of its craft, he hurled curses, both obscene and superstitious. Finally, after his curses and his Commander-in-Chief's western science didn't work, he admitted defeat.

He decided to call both the U.S. and Russia. He missed the good old days when they competed for his attention so assiduously. Still, it was always fun to see who would offer the most.

"Yes, President Gore, I know I had to do something. In the interests of western democracy and our friendship with your great country, I sent my entire fleet of jet fighters against the enemy. Not one of my heroic pilots came back, Mr. President! Not one!.

You said to send some good men in. Well, I did! I sent my entire Personal Guard. They are all dead! Do you know what that means, Mr. Gore? If the Butu scoundrels who make up the majority of the population find out, they might rebel against both their lawful government and their illustrious leader.

How am I going to reason with them if I have no Personal Guard or air force? You know, Mr. Gore, strafing runs are such a GREAT incentive to peace. You do not use them against your domestic enemies?".........................This story is available for purchase at, Apple eBook store, from Sony, Diesel, Barnes and Noble, and, soon, Amazon.