Godforsaken Future - updated 10/31/2015

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Padawan Learner
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Re: Godforsaken Future - updated 12/10/2013

Post by guest » 2015-04-18 02:34am

Episode 39


“I'm the school bully!
The classroom cheat.
The nastiest playfriend,
You ever could meet.
I'll stick pins in your fingers
And tread on your feet...”
-The Who





-2:23 PM, June 17, 1988, Danvers State Hospital, Massachusetts, United States





Drip.

Drip.

Drip.

Drip.


Rain water leaked through the multiple cracks in the ceiling and ended their journey in the assortment of rusty pots and dingy jars sitting on the grimy linoleum floor.

Drip.

Drip.

Drip.

Drip.


The constant noise was maddening. Terrence just wanted to sleep, to get a break from the monotony, to find some escape from this horrible place.

Drip.

Drip.

Drip.

Drip.


He blamed the sound for his lack of sleep. He blamed the humidity. He blamed the ancient cot he was laying on, or the horrible food. He blamed the excruciating fiery pain that filled all of his muscles every time he moved.

Drip.

Drip.

Drip.

Drip.


Really though, he knew better. He hadn't slept in over a month. There was no logical reason for that. He didn't have to be a doctor to know that such a thing was not humanly possible.

The face peering at him through the window in the door filled him with hatred. He didn't need to get a good look at the man to know who it was.

Terrence had never learned the name of his tormentor. 'Doctor' was the only name for him as far as Terrence was concerned, and it was how he preferred it anyway. Naming him humanized him, and the idea that anyone who was that sadistic could truly be human was not something that Terrence wanted to contemplate.

The man never spoke to Terrence directly, and almost never spoke in his presence. Occasionally exchanging words with the other staff there in heavily accented english; he merely appeared to coldly stare at Terrence as if he were an insect found under a rock, not like a person who was enduring constant, excruciating pain.

Terrence was a murderer. He had killed, but this 'man' was a monster.

Not only did he not seem to care about what Terrence was going through, but it seemed to be almost a certainty that the doctor had known what those injections would do to him beforehand.

He looked back at the window, the face was no longer there. Apparently someone else' suffering was more interesting than his at the moment.

Drip.

Drip.

Drip.

Drip.


The rain water continued to patter into the pots. As apathetic to his suffering as that monster in the lab coat had been.

Drip.

Drip.

Drip.

Drip.


Why had he signed those papers? He could have taken his death like a good little boy and be done with it. Hell could hardly have been as bad as this.





-11:27 PM, June 19, 1988, Arlington Ridge, Virginia, United States





Roger took another drag from his cigarette as he stared at the computer disk sitting on his desk. He'd pulled it out of his briefcase ten minutes prior and had simply let it sit there ever since, finishing off two cigarettes in the process. Snatching the glass of scotch off of the desk and downing the rest of its contents with one gulp; he winced, thumped the empty glass back onto the rich mahogany, then finally reached for the disk with a sigh.

He knew he wasn't going to like what the disk had to say. Clarice hadn't had a chance to read its contents herself. No computer access in any of the safe houses she had been to thus far. He also got a strong indication that she didn't want to read it either. Not that he blamed her.

The more they found out about whoever this group was, the worse the news got. The fact that the previous owner of the disk had killed himself shortly after giving it to Clarice did not bode well for the information contained within.

It weighed no more than a couple ounces. Really, just a flimsy black plastic square. And yet it felt as though it massed a ton. It's color and shape bore an unpleasant resemblance to the silhouette of that damned case Clarice had brought back with her. Of course, it wasn't the case that was the problem, that horrid abomination contained within was. Much like whatever information was contained on this disk.

He suppressed a shudder at his memory of seeing what was inside. There was not enough scotch in the world to numb the discomfort he felt from the two seconds he spend looking at that... thing. Presently sitting in the back corner of a storage unit in western Maryland, probably a couple feet away from someone's stamp collection.

He chuckled at that thought, a little levity in an otherwise somber evening.

Taking one more drag from his cigarette, he finally grabbed the five inch floppy and inserted it into the disk drive on his desk. Then turned the lever to lock it in place.

The motors inside whirred and clicked. After a couple seconds, the disk loaded up and he saw that it contained a single text document.

A couple clicks of his mouse and he was staring at the words of a dead man:

“Greetings. I am hoping that this document is being read by the employer of the 'federal marshal' assigned to McMurdogh Station in Antarctica. You are about to become one of the select, unfortunate few who know the true history of human civilization on the planet Earth. As you may have gathered, the archaeological dig being carried out in Antarctica is far from something as innocent as the simple pursuit of knowledge.

What I am sure you have already learned is that the civilization which inhabited the city here predates recorded human history. You have also undoubtedly discerned that there are numerous 'unnatural' qualities to this civilization and its inhabitants.

The truth behind the existence of this civilization is what caused Alexander the Great's army to mutiny rather than continue further east and drove him to alcoholism, it is the reason why the Mongols destroyed a single city in Eastern China that history books do not talk about and massacred every last inhabitant down to the children and livestock and salted the earth surrounding it for fifty miles in every direction, and it is the reason why the Mayan civilization 'inexplicably' collapsed in the 8th and 9th centuries.

You see, there has been a war going on for over a thousand years now, it has been fought over the soul of the human race. The combatants have been the Catholic Church and the followers of forces beyond comprehension. The stakes are so high, and the enemy so horrible that even as I have looked in horror at the steps taken by the Vatican in years past to fight this war, I cannot entirely discount the motivation for these actions.

The crusades, the inquisition, the extermination of whole civilizations in the Americas. I can certainly say that while many of these actions were horrific, the fear behind them was understandable. The extermination of an entire city, or even an entire civilization is abhorrent in every way imaginable, but compared to the madness engulfing the entirety of humanity should we have failed at any of these times would have been far worse.

Even punishment in the pits of Hell for all of eternity for committing such acts is an acceptable sacrifice to protect this world from the horrors that hide just on the edge of this reality.

Perhaps a bit of explanation is in order.

Some time before 10,000BC, a collection of extremely powerful entities made contact with the planet earth. Due to their influence on various laws of physics and causality, there is no way to accurately determine when they first arrived or the exact chronology of this period and the events that transpired during its course.

We do not know what motivation, if any, drives these beings. We do not know why they came to this planet, we do not know why they left either. The term 'being' may not even be accurate in describing them. Though there is evidence that less powerful entities act on their behalf to influence the affairs of this plane of existence, presumably to suit their needs. For the purpose of this document, I will refer to the lesser beings as avatars.

What is known is that their presence affected the behavior and form of the primitive hominids known as neanderthals and various species of plants and animals all over the world. Strange and aberrant organisms came into existence, either they were outgrowths of people, or of other species.

The warping of the fabric of reality itself was indeed horrible. We have evidence that some of the less affected groups of people and animals simply went insane, committing horrid acts on themselves and each other. The more affected ones either became horribly changed into the stuff of nightmares, or somehow maintained their original forms and even maintained some semblance of sanity, but their behavior became horrific and perverted.

A group of people and animals that had been changed made their way southward, apparently led there by the avatars. Eventually they managed to get themselves to the site of this city in Antarctica. Naming it 'R'larxstx' in a language that is seemingly unpronounceable by human tongues, they constructed massive temples and monuments to these entities, and then a massive orgy of violence and perversion ensued.

Somehow this civilization managed to grow and flourish.

The exact population of R'larxstx is unknown, but appears to have grown to exceed five million people. We are not sure how this is possible. As there has never been any indication that this civilization bothered to do anything other than commit horrid acts upon itself every waking moment. There was no agriculture, no commerce, merely the constant abominable rituals that dominated every facet of every life inside the city.

As the laws of nature themselves became just as warped and perverted as the minds and bodies of the denizens of R'larxstx; time, the laws of physics, the nature of life and death themselves behaved according to something other than what we have become accustomed to. The result is that while the time passing on the planet Earth seems to have lasted for millions of years, all indications we have is that this period lasted perhaps no more than a year or two. Of course, the inconsistencies in the geological record surrounding this period seems to have had a dramatic effect that has stretched far beyond the dates of the period itself, with evidence of the changes going back tens and even hundreds of thousands of years prior to the arrival of the first avatars.

Some time later, the entities began to leave, we are not sure why or how, but their presence became less and less apparent. The effects of their reality-warping properties dissipated and eventually only the avatars remained until some time later, they went into hiding.

The people in the city eventually dispersed. Some of them had warped into forms that were quite simply incompatible with the laws of nature and so they died off or even ceased to exist. Others were consumed by their madness and destroyed themselves, whatever force that sustained them no longer existed, so they died off. The remaining survivors left the city. They took to the seas and eventually disparate groups of them turned up in various locations across the globe. Some in the Americas, some in Asia and Africa.

It is from these survivors that modern humanity has descended. Once having taken the form of neanderthals that populated the planet, they had been changed into what we are today. The 'missing link' that scientists have been searching for between modern humans and neanderthals never existed, and cannot be explained with conventional scientific wisdom. That's because we are the neanderthals, permanently changed by the horrors from beyond existence.

Evidence indicates that all of these groups seemed to have left at about the same time, but that in fact somehow they arrived in different places across the planet at very different times. Some managed to inexplicably show up in Africa nearly four hundred thousand years ago, well before they had even left, others did not appear until a couple thousand BC in the Americas, and some appeared in the near east as recently as a few centuries AD. We may have yet to encounter other groups that have not yet finished their journey.

The earliest groups long ago forgot their origins. Either as a result of reality becoming orderly again, or perhaps simply as a result of this knowledge being lost to time, we will never know which is the cause.

At the same time, there have been certain groups that managed to keep alive the memory of this dark time. They secretly harbored a desire for the return of these entities and the chaos that accompanies them. Keeping themselves hidden, they occasionally surfaced to enact some plan that fit their needs or desires, but never establishing a visible presence.

Our knowledge of the history of these groups is extremely limited due to the secretive nature of their activities, and there are undoubtedly plans and machinations that they have carried out which we are completely unaware of to this day, but we do know that they have been responsible for the founding and destruction of multiple civilizations, some of which history has never even recorded. We know that they somehow managed to affect the weather patterns of the Fertile Crescent and sowed chaos and discord among the various civilizations that arose and fell during antiquity. We know that the Mayan civilization arose out of a group of 'refugees' that arrived in Mexico some time prior to the thirty-second century BC.

We also know that these groups refer to themselves as 'Covenants' today.

Additionally, there has been evidence of their influence on human events throughout much of history. Though the Vatican has taken steps to cover up this fact, the Black Death was caused by an organism that does not correspond to any known species of bacteria or virus. We also know that as many as seven expeditions were sent to the New World prior to Columbus' journey and successfully arrived in Central or South America, but none of them ever returned. Finally, while Adolf Hitler was not an agent of these groups as far as we can tell, his rise to power and subsequent rule did coincide with their plans in some way, and that despite a considerable number of assassination attempts, he survived all of them due to the protection of the Covenants.

Despite the best efforts of the Vatican and its agents, the Covenants have managed to infiltrate the governments of the most powerful nations on earth. This includes those of the United States and Soviet Union, among others. They have also managed to influence various criminal, paramilitary, and terrorist groups as well.

The exact motivations behind all of these activities has not been fully determined by us, but indications are that they have been preparing for some sort of event which is expected to arise within the next couple of decades. The nature of this event is not known, though our worst fears are that the entities they support are returning, or perhaps they will be in a position to summon these beings again at this time.

Likewise, we are not sure how the Bozorgs play into their plans, but after their arrival in Afghanistan, the Covenants began making far more blatant moves than we had seen in centuries. The leading theory is that pain, suffering, and death serve their purposes in some way. In which case it is likely that they have been intentionally sabotaging the war effort in order to prolong it and increase its death toll, but without causing the human race to lose outright.

Additionally, we are not sure if the 'discovery' of the city in Antarctica was deliberately orchestrated by them or was simply an unpleasant coincidence, but we do know that they have devoted significant resources toward excavating it.

Finally, we do know that these Covenants do not enjoy an entirely harmonious relationship with one another either. We have discerned multiple conflicts between them throughout the centuries and that they seemingly hate each other as much as any external threat, perhaps even more. Unfortunately, it appears that the Bozorg invasion and discovery of R'larxstx has triggered a sort of truce between them.

We fear that this new truce signals that an endgame is upon us. That the Covenants are making moves to usher in a new era of horror and madness from which the human race may never emerge.

You must realize that despite the dire threat that these alien invaders poses to humanity, it pales in comparison to that of the entities that the Covenants serve.

Extinction; horrible as it may be, is preferable to the perversion that awaits humanity should a new era of madness ensue. The Bozorgs, the Enigmas, they will simply kill us, but the Covenants wish us to be warped into horrible nightmare images of ourselves. This cannot be allowed to happen.

I have included in this document further details of their plans and activities throughout history, as well as more information on the item that your agent has brought back with her. Horrible as it is, studying it may be the only way to discern how to fight the oncoming horror.

Godspeed whoever you are.”




There was more after that, but Roger needed to stop reading.





5:04AM, June 28, 1988, Perm Juvenile Processing Center 07, Perm Oblast, Russia, USSR






“Everyone wake!”

The controller shouted at them in stilted Russian. Farrukh should have been annoyed at being awoken this way, but she didn't much like sleeping anymore either.

She could see the controller as he stood at the end of the room, bellowing at them.

“Dress and assemble in the exercise yard!” he shouted.

Not wanting to attract any unwanted attention, she quickly climbed down to the chilly floor, remade her bed, pulled off her smock, and threw her jumpsuit on.

Without delay, she trotted out of the room along with the rest of the kids. A few stragglers had managed to find themselves the unwanted recipients of one of the controller's usual tirades. While none of them were strangers to disciplinary action, when it could be easily enough avoided, Farrukh opted to do so.

Making her way to the exercise yard, a quick glance around at the other kids and the expressions on their faces told her that there was something different about that day. After exiting into the yard, she saw a group of men in suits standing near the front.

Most definitely something different, indeed.

After several minutes of activity, the entire population of the processing center had been assembled in the exercise yard, about two hundred children, each grouped into their five sections of forty.

The Administrator stood at the center of the stage on the far end of the yard his grey suit combined with his stiff posture made him look like a statue. The controllers of each section stood next to their charges, facing toward the Administrator just as the children did.

“Good morning children!” his voice echoed through the chilly yard.

“GOOD MORNING COMRADE ADMINISTRATOR!” shouted the children in reply.

The enthusiasm of the response was less a product of their love of the Administrator, and more the result of fear that any of the controllers would spot any children that did not express the proper 'respect' for their dear Administrator.

Dead, grey eyes surveyed the children arrayed before him, and his mouth stretched to form a rictus grin.

“My, that was a friendly response! Your controllers must be so proud of you. They have worked so hard to educate you on proper manners, and you have certainly learned well. That is excellent, because today I am announcing that it is time to move on to a new level in your education.”

A slight shudder went through Farrukh's body as a cool breeze whipped through the yard. She wasn't entirely convinced that the temperature of the wind was entirely to blame though. The kind of 'education' they carried out in this place was less than pleasant.

“Today, you get assigned to teams which you will be part of for the rest of your stay here at Processing Center 7! Your hierarchy will be assigned and leaders will be chosen. It is from within your teams that you all will be able to help new arrivals to the Center learn their part in this wonderous process! Does that not make you excited?!”

“YES COMRADE ADMINISTRATOR!”

Farrukh stole a quick glance at her controller and saw him likewise looking back at her. A sinking feeling hit her right in the gut. She did not like where this was going.

Almost as if reading her mind, each section controller stepped forward and faced the children in their charge. The controller for Farrukh's section looked them over, then began to speak “section four, you shall be divided into eight separate teams. Each team will be led by a first, below each first will be a second. The other three will each be equally ranked below them. You will all be obedient to your second and your first, and each first will be held responsible for the performance of their team.”

The explanation continued on for a few minutes more. Those details concerned her less with what was to come next.

“And now for your team assignments!”

“Team One First, Viktor Twenty-Five. Team One Second Eka Sixteen, now Vladimir Four, now Jamal Forty-Five, now Bahar Thirty-Three...”

He continued listing names. Going from team to team. She did not hear her name nor the name of that monster Sukhrab. She would not have long to wait.

“...Team Four First Farrukh Eight, Team Four Second Sukhrab Twenty-Two, now Dilshod Nineteen, now Kaspar Thirty, now Sargon Twenty-Seven.”

That sinking feeling turned to straight dread as her worst fears had been realized.

Some time later she stood with her team, the four boys looked upon her with sheer unadulterated hatred.

The controller had just finished arranging all of the different teams of the section had been properly lined up according to this new hierarchy, and now he had returned to his previous position, he started to talk once again.

“Now, as your first activity in your new teams, you will begin your morning exercises under the command of your team firsts. Let us begin!”

*-*-*

She lay in her bunk, tired but wide awake. The events of the previous day weighed on her far too much.

Right from the start things had started out with a foul taste to them. She had been given responsibility for getting her team to perform their morning exercises. The entire time they stared back at her with fiery hatred. Each command that she gave them merely fed that fire even more. They all despised her, and the idea of taking commands from her disgusted them.

Sukhrab hated her, and she hated him. It had been bad enough that he had been placed on her team, but for him to be her second, and for the other three members of the team to be the three most devoted members of his little band could be no coincidence. The controller must have hated her just as much as they did.

As bad as it was, that morning in the exercise yard was not what concerned her the most at the moment, but rather what was to come the next day, and the day after that. As the First, if her team fell behind on their performance in any number of categories, and she would be held responsible. If the deficiency was bad enough, she would be ...punished.

In the weeks since arriving at this place, she had seen the kinds of penalties the adults running things here could hand out, she had even experienced some of them herself. They ranged from being denied food, to beatings, to being sent to 'Room 7.'

The children who had been sent there(well the ones that came back anyway), acted terrified at what they had experienced, and not one would dare say even the slightest hint as to what the punishment was. Rumors about what went on there ranged from the mundane to the fantastic, but the only thing everyone agreed on was that nobody wanted to go there.

They had been told that a First could punish members of their team that failed to perform or follow directions, but they were to be given no help from the adults in actually carrying out these punishments. Worse, many of them feared that if they actually dared to ask for help in disciplining the members of their team, they would be seen as deficient and suffer some kind of punishment themselves.

How was she going to punish Sukhrab? Or any of the other members of her team? They wouldn't follow her directions, they most certainly would not allow her to punish one of them. Then there was always the chance that they would simply decide to give her another beating just for good measure.

She had managed to make it through the first day because the Controller had been watching the entire section much closer than usual. None would dare misbehave so openly, but the Controller couldn't be there always. There would be times when she was alone with her team, and that's when things would get nasty.

As if on cue, she heard something moving elsewhere in the room. She opened her eyes and stole a glance in the direction of the noise to see the shape of someone moving in the darkness.

It could have been anyone, for any reason, and probably was just someone getting up to use the toilet, but something in the back of her mind told her that it was Sukhrab or one of his lackeys.

She took a second to ponder the thought, and what to do about it when she heard another noise and looked over to see the shape of another moving out there in the darkness. Both of them were heading toward her bunk.

Deliberating for only a couple seconds more, she pulled her blanket off of herself then swung her legs around and began to descend off of her bunk down to the cold concrete floor below.

There was little chance that she could get out of that room without them knowing, and she had no illusions that she could somehow avoid what was coming for more than a short while, but she had to at least have a little extra time to figure out what she was going to do about it.

A quick glance behind her and there were now three figures moving. Wasting no time, she rounded a corner and headed straight for the door. Within seconds she was in the dimly lit corridor outside, on her way to the lavatory.

When the sound of the door opening again reverberated through the corridor, she glanced behind herself to see four boys emerge from the darkened room. Sukhrab and his followers had looks on their faces that could curdle fresh milk.

Quickening her pace, she rounded the corner and made a beeline for the bathroom door. It creaked as she swung the ancient slab of wood out of her way and entered the dank room.

Once inside, she looked around to see if there was some kind of solution to her problem, something that could help her in her plight. The faint smell of musk and urine filled the air. Somewhere a leaky pipe dripped water onto the floor loudly, the brick wall was cracked and chipped all over. Nothing came to mind.

The sound of the bathroom door creaking open echoed through the dimly lit bathroom, drawing her attention over to the four boys as they entered the room. In seconds she was surrounded.

“Gonna suffer, piece of Afghan filth” Sukhrab's accented Pashto was full of venom. His followers merely sneered at her.

Desperately, she looked around the room, searching for anything that would get her out of this, something that she had missed before. Suddenly her eyes went to the floor near her right foot where she spotted a piece of brick that had fallen out of the wall. Furiously, her mind worked to come up with an idea, then inspiration struck.

She went down to her knees “I'm so so sorry! Please don't hurt me!” she did her best to sound as meek and pathetic as she could. A quick glance up at him revealed that he was smiling even wider than before, except this time it wasn't motivated by malice alone, but by satisfaction as well. He took a step forward. She knew that he had no intention of showing her any mercy.

He spit, and it hit the dingy floor about a half a meter in front of her, splattering her face with miniscule droplets of saliva and mucous “too late Afghan filth. You gonna suffer. I be nice though, break your fingers, not bash in face” he said as his feet came into the top of Farrukh's field of view, then he stopped.

“Look at me” he commanded.

Her hand had inched ever so close to the brick fragment. This was the moment that would decide whether or not she survived this place. She couldn't think of too many situations where she wouldn't be in this very position again and again, even if she managed to escape a beating this time. She'd be avoiding little monsters like Sukhrab every single day in this hole. There was only one thing she could do to avoid that.

When she was still a child, before things became horrible, when the world still had goodness in it, she remembered one of the men in her village getting kicked by a goat. It had hit him in the knee. He never walked the same again. This night, she would be the goat. This night, she would change someone's life forever.

She tilted her head up to look at her tormentor, she stared him right in the eyes. His lips tightened, his head went back slightly, and he let out another gob of spit and phlegm. It hit her square on the forehead this time, splattering across her face.

Quickly she looked away, acting as though she were recoiling in disgust.

“I said look at me. Don't look down when I talk to you. Afghan filth!”

Her hand was practically on top of the piece of brick, she just had to wait for his feet to move one more time-

There!

Again, she saw him take another step forward, and as soon as his foot lifted up off of the floor she sprang into action. Her hand closed on the jagged red piece of brick, and at the same time, she released the tension in her legs, propelling her forward toward the bully.

Her first thought was to go for his face. It made the most sense, but his knees were so much closer. When her head went up again, she immediately focused on his left leg, the one that was still stationary, and with all of her might, she brought her arm back, then swung forward.

She heard the sound of his surprised gasp at her unexpected movement, and saw him shift his weight as he started to change position to avoid her lunge, but they were too close, and he was too slow.

Surprisingly enough, if he had failed to react to her, she would have missed and hit him in the shin. In stead, she drove the brick straight into his kneecap, with all the strength her little body could muster.

Once her weapon connected, she heard the sound of his pained cry echo throughout the dingy room. Then she let her momentum carry her further. Her right shoulder hit his shin, and a sharp pain went shooting up through it into her neck and down her back, followed immediately after by the sound of a sickening pop. She thought for sure that she had broken a bone in her shoulder, the pain she felt was a sure sign of that.

Sukhrab was taken completely by surprise, first by her sudden lunge at him, and then by the unbelievable pain in his knee. His abrupt shift in position combined with Farrukh throwing all of her weight into his leg as well as his surprise caused him to stumble back. He failed to get a good footing when he stepped back to steady himself, and then when he tried to stop himself from falling with his right foot, a sharp pain almost as bad as the last shot up through his leg from his knee and he fell backwards onto the damp floor.

When Farrukh managed to pull herself up off the floor and the pain wasn't nearly as bad as she had expected, she realized that she hadn't broken any bones. One look at Sukhrab's knee bent at a slight ankle that it shouldn't have been able to reach told her what that popping sound had been after all.

Not wanting to waste the opportunity, she did not dwell on those considerations and immediately scrambled up toward him. He was screaming, and his arms were flailing. One managed to hit her with a closed fist across the face, splitting her bottom lip, but the rest of his swings were random and panicked, so she managed to avoid his attacks.

On her way up, she realized that she was still grasping the brick fragment and hit him once in the chest, then again in his shoulder, each time resulting in a satisfying meaty thud and a grunt of pain from her opponent.

By now, she had managed to climb on top of the shrieking Uzbek boy. She brought her weapon up, and down it went, connecting with his jaw, sending a bloody tooth flying onto the floor. She swung again, and this time it hit the side of his head.

She'd always had every intention of really hurting the boy. It was the only way she could survive, but by now she wasn't thinking about that. Now she was just angry. Angry at the Bozorgs, angry at the Russians, at the Mujihadeen, angry at her family for dying and leaving her alone, angry at the whole world.

She kept swinging and did not stop. Not after his head started bleeding all over the floor, not after his eye popped out of its socket, and not even after his struggles ceased.

When her arm finally got too tired to swing, she stopped her attacks, dropped the brick fragment and crawled off of the lifeless body of her victim.

Managing to get to her feet, she dragged herself over to one of the sinks and vomited. Looking up at her reflection in the mirror, she saw someone she did not recognize. Sweat, tears, blood, bile, and vomit covered her face; a mask of horror and fury now. What she saw was not a little Pashtun girl from Afghanistan.

She saw a monster.

At first horror filled her at the realization and she stood there for several moments, statue still, then she turned around and slumped onto the floor.

It was then that she realized that the other three boys were still there with her. They stared at her in shocked silence, looks of pure terror on their faces. Her eyes went to the nearest one: Kaspar, and their gazes met. A split second of this was all it took and he let out a tiny yelp and ran for the door, followed shortly after by the other two.

And then she was left there, alone with Sukhrab. He had been the terror of Section Four. All the other children in the group had cowered in fear of the little tyrant, and now he was no more.

As she looked at his lifeless body, she did not feel guilt or sadness. He had died as all people die eventually. The only question was when it happened and how. It was then, in the darkness of that filth covered room that she realized something.

The Mujihadeen had taken her mother, the Russians had taken her father, the Bozorgs had taken her brother, and that piece of garbage Osama had taken the last friend she ever had. The world had taken everything from her that she had ever cared about, and left her with only her life. She knew that it would take that too one day. She accepted that, but she was going to make the world pay for her life the highest price imaginable. She was going to make it fight hard to take her life because it was the only kind of revenge she could hope to get.

*-*-*

Some time later one of the controllers had found her and taken her out of that room. He got her cleaned up and changed into new clothes and sent her back to bed. She had expected some kind of punishment for killing Sukhrab, but they didn't do anything. They hadn't even bothered to ask her what had happened.

By the next morning, they had all been assembled in the exercise yard, and she had been placed with her team(minus Sukhrab of course).

The other three would not look at her. They would always avert their gaze. At first she thought that they were angry with her for what she had done to Sukhrab, but when she started giving them orders, and they obeyed her immediately, she realized that they were afraid of her.

As the day wore on, and word spread of what had happened the night before, all the other children began to look at her differently. They were all terrified of her, and she didn't quite know how to react to that.

As she lay in bed that night, thinking over the situation she was in, she came to realize that she was no longer a little weakling that ran from the monsters in the dark, she was a monster, one that was feared.

For the first time in longer than she could remember, she smiled.





-8:16 AM July 19, 1988, Palmdale, California, United States





Florescent lights gave the entire conference room a sickly look. Nikita had grown to hate that about those things. Cooped up inside this building for months and months on end with not a single day off, and almost no sleep, at least until recently.

“What are they taking so long for?” Mikhail paced nervously as he looked up at the clock “they said 8:00 AM, and they are not late, not like this.”

Nikita attempted to calm his friend “we just got two days off for the first time since arriving in this country and you are more stressed than before our vacation” he said.

For a moment, Mikhail stopped his pacing to look at Nikita “they've been working us like dogs for six months, all the while we've been hitting obstacles and false leads in our work. We've barely gotten anywhere since we started and suddenly they decide to give us a 'vacation?' surely you cannot be that naive” he replied.

“Relax Mikhail, this isn't the Soviet Union, they don't put researchers in gulags for schedule slippage” said Richard Goldstein as he got up to pour himself a cup of water at the water cooler. Richard had been their team lead. He was probably one of the weakest on the team when it came to the technical details, but he was excellent at getting the group to work together smoothly as well as motivating them properly. An impressive feat considering the amount of frustration and stress that everyone had been dealing with on the project.

Nikita, Mikhail, and the other Russian members of the team had particularly enjoyed working with Richard, his brand of 'motivation' was far more pleasant than what they had become accustomed to on their side of the Iron Curtain.

Adjusting his glasses, Nikita sat back in his chair “see Mikhail? Richard knows what he's talking about, he's been working here for fifteen-”

“Eighteen years.”

“-eighteen years. If he says that we don't have anything to be worried about, then we don't have anything to be worried about” reassured Nikita.

Richard gulped down his water then pondered the cup for a second “on the other hand, I've never seen anything like this either, especially not on a project with such tight scheduling” he said before crumpling the cup and tossing it in the wastebasket.

Gesturing toward Richard, Mikhail gave Nikita an annoyed expression “see? I told you!” he said. Richard flashed a devilish grin in response.

“I'm just having a little fun with you. Take a seat, I'm sure they'll be here any minute” said Richard.

Right then, the door swung open and in walked three people: two men in suits, one was younger, probably in his mid twenties, another was in his mid to late thirties, and the third was in his early forties wearing an Air Force uniform with Captain's bars and carrying a briefcase.

The younger man had 'junior executive' written all over him, the other two however were something else entirely. “Sorry we're late, couldn't be helped” said the executive.

Richard met the group first “that's a hell of a thing to say. You guys forced us to lose two days on a crucial project where every hour counts even if we had a decade to get it done, and we have a hell of a lot less than that. Just what the hell is going on here?” his mischevious grin was gone, replaced by a very unpleasant scowl.

The young executive put up his hands in a defensive fashion “well, in that case I have good news and bad news” he started to explain “the good news is that PROJECT LOOPHOLE is no longer your problem, so no worries about that schedule. The bad news is that you have an entirely new project with an equally demanding schedule” he concluded.

Taken by surprise, Richard was quite literally speechless for a couple seconds. It gave the executive the time he needed to continue “as your reports say, the problem that you've been having on the fueling problem are inherent in the airframe of the craft itself. As far as you can tell, the only way to solve the problem would be to redesign the craft from the ground up. So, why not do just that?”

This time Richard was able to respond “you have got to be joking. With the requirements that you have, we might be able to have a preliminary design in five years, but not on anything near the timetable you're looking for” he said, flustered.

The executive gave a faint smirk “perhaps it would just be easier if the situation were explained to you in more detail” he gestured toward Richard's now unoccupied chair “have a seat?”

After a couple seconds of staring down the new arrivals, Goldstein relented, then returned to his chair and sat down.

Mr. Junior Executive and his two guests approached the podium at the head of the conference table. He faced the assembled engineers and scientists “may I introduce Captain Thomas Quincy of the US Air Force, and Doctor Robert Griggs. He's going to walk you through the preliminaries on your new assignment. Doctor Griggs?” he explained before stepping aside to let the older gentleman take the podium.

After composing himself, Griggs began “morning everyone. Sorry about the confusion, there have been quite a few issues regarding clearance, considering the number of foreign nationals on this team. And by the way, as of-” he looked at his watch “-eight-o-three this morning, you all have above Top Secret clearance

The murmurs and exchanged glances all around. After clearing his throat, the commotion quickly died down “right, so the full extent of what I'm about to tell you is known to fewer than five hundred people either alive or dead, so pay attention.”

“Our story begins in Philadelphia Harbor in 1943...”

*-*-*

Two hours later, the entire room was silent. Richard was the first to speak though “you're putting us on” he said, incredulous.

Griggs' expression did not change “everything I just told you is absolutely true, hard as it is to believe” he replied.

Nikita was next to speak “but, you can send someone across the world in the blink of an eye? Instantaneously?” he asked.

“Well, the specifics of our research into manned teleportation is not something that I'm cleared to discuss with you. Sorry.”

Susan LeClerc, their lone Canadian team member sighed “if what you say is true, then so much about what we know- or rather what we think we know about physics needs to be rethought. I'm sorry, I'm with Dick here, I just don't believe it” she said.

Griggs gave an apologetic look “I know it's hard to believe, trust me, I deal with this stuff every day and I still have a hard time accepting it all. Here, why don't we take a look at your new workspace. There are some things in there that may at least help you come to grips with the reality of the situation.”

*-*-*

The trio led the group down labyrinthine corridors to the other side of the complex from where they had been working until they reached a rather large set of double doors, two sentries stood outside. The executive turned to face the group “apologies for moving you down to the other side of the complex. We'll have a talk with security and HR regarding parking and carpool arrangements” he said in a conciliatory manner.

The executive presented his identification to the security guard on the left who produced a laser scanner from a slot on his belt and scanned the bar code on the ID card, after a second it beeped and a green LED on top of the scanner blinked on. Then the executive turned to face the rest of the group “all of your permissions have been updated for this sector, get your ID's out and hopefully we can get through this checkpoint without too much hassle.”

After about five minutes, the guard scanned everyone's ID and they were through the double doors and into a rather long corridor. About a half dozen doors lined either side of the hallway, and another set of double doors sat at the far end. With very little fuss, the executive reached the doors and swung them open.

On the other side was a rather large room that could have been an aircraft hanger in its own right, but rather than planes, it housed computers, filing cabinets, drafting tables, desks, and a wide variety of complex looking equipment, much of which Nikolai did not recognize. There were also about a dozen people in lab coats and suits who looked up from their tasks to observe the new arrivals.

Mr. Executive made a broad gesture to the original occupants “Team Epsilon, meet Team Flagstone. You'll be working together over the coming months, and hopefully you will be able to help each other achieve incredible things.”

An older gentleman stepped forward and introduced himself “hi, I'm Dr. Reinhardt, I'm the lead researcher for Flagstone. You must be Richard Goldstein, I've heard quite a bit about you” he said with an outreached hand.

Richard tentatively accepted the offered hand and they two men shared a slightly awkward handshake “okay, and just what is it that 'Team Flagstone' is going to be doing?” he asked.

Reinhardt released his grip “oh, we're system's specialists on this project. You guys handle the overall aircraft design, and we are in charge of getting the I/C systems to meet your needs. If you really want to get technical, we'll be working for you guys” he explained.

“I/C systems?” asked Richard with a raised eyebrow?

A knowing smile came across Reinhardt's face “hey Randal? Toss me one of those tennis balls?” he shouted to one of the other men in the room. The other man complied and threw a green orb across the room at the doctor who caught it in his waiting hands.

Ball in hand, Reinhardt gestured toward his left “everybody follow me” he said.

He led them toward one of the strange looking machines. It was about a meter on a side, and took the form of a large metal framework with a pair of what looked like helicopter skids on the bottom. The top of the machine had some kind of thick metal grating covering it, and inside were what looked like a couple dozen wire coils all oriented in a vertical fashion and arranged in what looked like a grid formation. In addition, dozens of wires ran in, around, and through the device, and a thick cable ran from somewhere inside the contraption out onto the floor and over toward a table with a computer workstation on it.

The smiling scientist walked over toward a woman in a lab coat who was writing down some figures in a notebook at a nearby desk “hey Sandra, could you lend me a hand?” he requested and she complied.

Reinhardt then walked over toward another table with a collection of white construction helmets sitting on it, as well as something that looked like a climbers' harness. After a minute or two, he clipped the harness on and donned one of the helmets. He then walked over to the strange contraption, pulled a loose cable which had been dangling from the side and clipped it to his harness “we've tested this thing up to a thousand kilograms, but 'safety first'” he said as he started to climb on top of the contraption.

Standing atop the machine, he proceeded to check his footing, then looked over at the woman who was now seated behind the computer terminal “can you load up program 32A?” he asked. She nodded and tapped some kind of commands on the keyboard.

The entire assembled group stood there in stunned silence as the machine slowly but steadily lifted up off of the ground, seemingly through some magical force. After ascending for about fifteen seconds, the machine came to a stop about a meter off of the floor where it just seemed to hover. It was then that Nikolai noticed some kind of distortion in the area directly beneath the machine, almost like the effects of extreme heat rising off of a fire.

Looking at the stunned engineers and scientists before him, Reinhardt made a mischievous grin “you think this is something? Just watch” he then nodded toward Sandra who tapped another command into the computer.

Gradually, the machine began to ascend even higher while at the same time it started to 'roll' over to the side, taking Reinhardt with it. It was almost as if the man's shoes were glued or tied to the top of the machine, except his tie stayed in place, as did his helmet, even as the man and his machine became completely inverted.

As if that wasn't enough, he took the tennis ball he had been holding and proceeded to 'drop' it onto the metal grating he was standing on where it bounced a couple times before he scooped it back up, then tossed it from one hand to the other. After a couple seconds of this, he stopped “hey catch!” he announced before tossing it toward Richard who was so shocked that he almost didn't catch it. Goldstein then looked at the ball as if he expected it to grow a pair of legs and hop out of his hands again of its own volition.

Reinhardt chuckled at himself for a couple seconds “so, who'd like to save the world?” he said with a laugh.




-2:34 PM, August 8, 1988, Brantley Lake Refugee Camp, New Mexico, United States




A cold breeze sent shivers down Norman's spine, and he thought not for the first time that it was entirely too cold for August in New Mexico. The feeling of a tiny hand tugging at his brought him out of his own thoughts “can you see what's happening?” inquired Jessica.

He stepped up on the balls of his feet, to try to get an extra inch or two of height, but couldn't get any better look at the army trucks up ahead. He shook his head “sorry squirt, no dice” he said in reply. He immediately regretted his choice of words as it brought back painful memories of that day in Rob Teller's basement.

Damn I miss those guys.

Trying to distract himself from those memories, he put his mind to the situation at hand and came up with an idea “hey, why don't you hop up on my shoulders?” he said, looking down at his younger sister.

She pondered the suggestion for a moment, then nodded “okay” she replied.

He quickly went down to one knee “alright, up you go” he said as she climbed onto his shoulders. Then taking a second to steady himself, he started to stand back up again, hoisting his sister aloft.

“Hmm” she said in a ponderous fashion, but didn't say anything more.

“Hmm what?” he said, impatient.

“Well, the army guys are handing out food like usual, but I also see some of those seden- sedentology guys too.”

“Serenology” he corrected her.

The Serenologists had been coming to the camp for about two months now. They walked around, shilling those personality tests of theirs, handing out blankets, water, food, and sometimes medicine. He supposed they were alright for that, but they still creeped him out a bit. Always so damn cheerful, even in this shithole camp. Nobody who could be that cheerful in such depressing surroundings seemed trustworthy in his opinion.

“And is that all?” he asked his sister.

“No. One of the army guys, he's talking to one of the serned- serna- to the church guys.”

There was a pause, then “I think they're arguing.”

“How can you tell?”

“The army guy, he's waving his arms a lot.”

*-*-*

“I swear to God almighty that you are going to let me inspect that van!”

The National guardsman; a Lieutenant, as Gary could tell from the bar on his hat, was furious. The tone of the man's voice made Gary's blood boil. To talk to the Coordinator like that, when all they wanted to do was help these people, it made him want to put his fist right in the smug asshole's face.

It didn't help that he had a very low opinion of the army to begin with. His own CO had similarly been the 'fire and brimstone' type. Preaching about God and Jesus, all the while he sent young men to fight and die like they were pieces on a chessboard.

Despite the belligerence in the Officer's tone, and Gary's own rage, Coordinator Jebsen was surprisingly calm “please sir, we are here only to serve these desperately needy people, just as you are. There is no need for this. Just let us go about our business and we can help these people together, without any trouble” he said.

Unfortunately, the Lieutenant would have none of it “bullshit Jebsen, one of my men says he saw one of your people handling a weapon inside the back of that van and I believe him. You know damn well that NGOs aren't allowed weapons in here. Now, we are going to have a look inside that vehicle and if I find so much as a potato gun, you are going to wish you were never born. Now stand aside!” he commanded before taking a step toward Jebsen.

Gary started to go for the 1911 stashed under his parka, but Jebsen put a hand on his arm and gave him a look. The anger coursing through him was so great that Gary had to take a second to decide to comply.

“What's that tough guy? You wanna take a poke at me?”

Suddenly the guardsman was right in front of him, mere inches from his face. With every bit of willpower he had, Gary managed to keep his voice calm “no, no sir” he replied.

He tried to force his anger out through his nateht back into the Great Matrix, but he met with little success, he knew that anyone with working eyes could see the anger in his eyes.

The guardsman studied him for a second “oh, I think we got ourselves a live one here. You really might just try something. Come on punk, please make my job easier. I'm beggin' ya!” came his challenge.

“TERMINAL! LEAVE THEM ALONE!”

“YOU'VE GOT NO RIGHT TERMINAL!”

The sounds of the jeers coming from the new initiates in the crowd managed to bring Gary back from the edge. The realization that he was not alone amongst a sea of terminals had a strong calming effect. He could draw from their strength to endure what he must.

Looking up at the crowd beyond the cordon, the guardsman shook his head dismissively “God Almighty! Look at those damn fools. You really got 'em going dontcha! Barnum sure was right. One born every minute” he chuckled derisively.

The sounds of cursing in Spanish, English, and French drew Gary's attention to the crowd, and another confrontation brewing amongst the residents of this refugee camp.

The new initiates were facing off with a angry crowd of refugees. There were American, Mexican, and even some of the Algerians. He could make out some sticks, and bats, and a few people holding rather large rocks too. Suddenly he realized his job.

“Coordinator Jebsen, I think we need to get you out of here” he said as he stepped closer to his superior.

The guardsman stepped close to them and placed his hand on Jebsen's right arm “no you don't. You're not going anywhere until we-” he wasn't able to finish his sentence as a rock came flying through the air from somewhere in the crowd and slammed right into his right temple.

Staggering back a couple steps, the injured guardsman lost his balance and went down to his knees while his arm went up to his now bleeding head. That's when a gunshot rang out, and then things went completely out of control.

The initiates and the people accosting them threw themselves at each other in a violent melee. Other groups in the crowd began pushing against the cordon, and before Gary knew it, they had broken through. More weapons fire echoed through the crowd as some of the National Guard troops panicked. The still disoriented Lieutenant was helped up by a pair of his men who then tried to drag him back to the nearest truck.

Gary wasted no time. As soon as he heard the first gunshot. He grabbed Coordinator Jebsen and shoved him into the back of the nearest Church van, then barked orders at the remaining novitiates to climb aboard as well. Within seconds they had managed to all get inside and locked the reinforced doors.

“Novitiate Carlsbad! Get us out of here!” he shouted toward the front of the van.

“Understood Acolyte!” came the response and suddenly they were moving.

Expecting that something like this might happen, both Gary and the coordinator had made the decision to leave almost all of the food and aid supplies in a stack outside the van, and he watched in satisfaction as nearly all of the rioters who headed their way decided to go for the pile of food and blankets rather than the van as it sped away.

“Are all of you alright?” asked Jebsen.

The rest of the novitiates all answered in the affirmative.

Looking around at his subordinates, the coordinator nodded in approval “good” he said before looking directly at Gary “you must be more vigilant in the future, Acolyte. You had almost reverted to terminal behavior” he said in a disapproving tone.

Gary felt ashamed “I am sorry Coordinator. To see that... arrogant terminal treat you that way, especially one in the army. It was almost too much to bear!” he explained.

Jebsen let out a deep sigh “yes, I know. To see someone so self righteous when they are clearly so ignorant and closed minded is a frustrating thing. And your enthusiasm to protect the church is commendable, but you must remember that there is a part for all of us in the Great Puzzle, even for terminals like him” he explained.

Raising an eyebrow, Gary gave him a curious look. The coordinator grinned knowingly “the government has been suspicious of us even before we arrived here to give aid. I am certain that that terminal had even been given orders to keep an extra close eye on us to spot anything suspicious. Enthusiastic to carry out his orders, he jumped at the chance to search this vehicle under suspicion that we were carrying weapons. Unfortunately for him, the will of our initiates is strong, and they will not stand idly by and let a small minded terminal like him obstruct us in carrying out the church's will. Unfortunately, they are just initiates, and have not managed to cleanse themselves of many of the baser urges that all terminals are afflicted with, especially in a place where so many natehts are tangled or disconnected. It would be only a matter of time before terminal behavior reached a boiling point.”

At that, realization finally dawned upon Gary “so when he confronted us, it was bound to spark a larger incident, and set off the inherent negative energies rife in that crowd” he said.

Nodding as he saw that Gary had caught on “yes, and after the riot is pacified, the government will be particularly conscious of the various sensitivities present within the different groups at this and other camps. So a more agreeable officer will be placed in command of that posting” Jebsen finished explaining.

“I truly did not realize just how wise you are Coordinator” Gary said.

The coordinator placed a hand on the acolyte's shoulder and gave him a reassuring smile “my nateht guides me, and I merely follow” he said before looking out the rear window of the van. He pondered for a moment before speaking again “it truly is a shame that some of those initiates will have to die so that many others will be able to be brought to enlightenment, but at least they get to die on their own terms, and their sacrifice will mean something.”

Gary nodded in agreement “true. These days, far too many unfortunates aren't even afforded that.”

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Padawan Learner
Posts: 156
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Re: Godforsaken Future - updated 12/10/2013

Post by guest » 2015-04-18 02:35am

-5:47 PM August 18, 1988, Columbus State Community College, Columbus, Ohio, United States




Dr. Thomas Newton stared out at the deserted campus with a stronger than usual melancholy. He thought that he couldn't have been more depressed than he was the first day he started work at this place, but now he knew that had been a gross underestimation.

Summer term had always been the slow time of year, but even by those standards, the campus was deserted. The war had killed so many and destroyed so much. Now it looked as if it was going to kill this institution.

Fall registration was so abysmal that they had already dropped his own workload from five classes down to two, and even those classes were looking as though he was going to be mighty lonely. His one summer course had all of one student who even bothered to show up anymore. He hadn't seen most of the student body return after Black Wednesday. Some had been displaced by the fighting, others had died.

Desperate to distract himself from these depressing thoughts, he returned his attention to the book in front of him. He read the same sentence five times over before giving up. Closing it, he turned his attention to the want ads.

“Funny place for a man with four PhDs to find himself working.”

Thomas looked up to see the source of the voice. It was a middle aged man, well dressed, carrying a briefcase, he looked at Thomas with a hard to penetrate expression “mind if I join you?” he asked.

Before being given a response, the mysterious stranger sat himself down on the bench right next to Thomas, placing his briefcase on the ground next to him.

“I'm sorry, I don't believe I've had the pleasure” said Thomas, perplexed.

The strange man nodded as he rummaged around inside his jacket before pulling out a pack of cigarettes “you're right, you haven't. Cigarette?” he said, presenting a pack of Morleys.

Shaking his head in the negative “no thank you” Thomas replied.

Relenting, the strange man retrieved a cylinder from the box and inserted it into his mouth. Then he returned the pack and retrieved a metal lighter. With a well practiced motion, he flicked it open and ignited it, then proceeded to light the cigarette perched on his lips. Finally he placed the lighter back where he had gotten it from as he took a long drag from the smoldering stick.

“Probably for the best” he said as he exhaled, blowing a jet of white smoke out of his mouth “both my wife and doctor have been begging me to quit, and with the war on, I even had to change brands.”

As Thomas watched, the stranger examined a thin tendril of smoke as it rose off of the tip of the cigarette “but then again, these days, one really has to learn to enjoy the simple things in life, even the unhealthy ones” he said before taking another drag.

He was a little off-put by how forward this man was being, but his curiosity got the better of him “I'm sorry, do I- should I know you?” he inquired.

“No, don't see how you would. We've never met before, and we have no mutual acquaintances either. You could say that I know you. By reputation, that is.”

“Beg pardon?”

“Let's just say that there are some pretty big reasons why a man with four PhDs that worked as a tenured professor at MIT with a consulting gig for the Boston Police Department on the side finds himself working at a community college in Ohio.”

“You better start making sense, otherwise this conversation is over and I'm going to call campus security.”

“Relax doctor. I don't give a damn about which way you swing, or how many students you decided to do the horizontal mambo with. I don't even care that you sold one of them out to cover your own ass Quite frankly, it's part of the reason why I'm talking to you now. You see, I'm here to offer you a job.”

Thomas almost didn't know what to say, but he didn't like where this conversation was going, job offer or no. He started to gather his things “I'm sorry, but I'm not looking for a job right now.”

“Is that why you've got the classifieds section open to the job listings?”

“That's none of your business.”

“Quite right. I'm simply offering you the chance to do something more consequential than teaching basic science to a bunch of high school dropouts. Something that happens to draw on all four of your areas of expertise as a matter of fact.”

The two of them sat there in silence for a moment as Thomas pondered what the stranger had said, then he made his decision and got up to leave. Just before turning and walking away, the other man spoke up again “look. Maybe I came on a bit strong, and for that I apologize, but the offer is genuine. Think it over okay? I'm going to be in town until ten tonight. If you have second thoughts, meet me at the Grill and Skillet Diner just off route 40. You know where that is?”

“Yeah, I've been there.”

“Good. Like I said; you change your mind, just show up there before ten and we can discuss this further. You've got nothing to lose.”

Thomas didn't say anything, he just paused there for a second longer, then walked away.

*-*-*

Three hours later, Thomas found himself stepping off the number two bus and crossing the street to get to the only establishment open at that hour for at least three blocks.

Before entering the building, he tried to look through the windows, hoping to spot the stranger and see if he was waiting there. After several seconds of searching, he failed to spot the man, and then decided to head on in anyway.

Might as well get a cup of coffee even if he is just yanking my chain.

Stepping through the door, he was greeted by a waitress in her fifties. Her uniform was faded and worn, as if she had worn the same thing to work every day for years. The scent of coffee and pancake syrup filled the air, with a faint hint of cigarette smoke. Tired eyes met his “evening sir, can I get you a table?” she inquired.

He didn't answer as he gave the interior of the diner a visual search, over in the far corner, he saw a man in a dark suit “um, actually I'm meeting-” he stopped himself as he saw the man get up out of his seat, revealing a case of mistaken identity.

Furrowing his brow, he scratched his chin before answering the expectant woman “sorry, yes, I'll take a booth if you've got one open” then after considering for a second “in that part of the dining room please” he said, gesturing toward a wing of the diner near the back.

The waitress gave a shrug and grabbed a menu from next to the cash register “right this way” she said absently.

As she led him back to his seat, he continued to scan the place, looking for any sign of the mysterious stranger, and coming up empty.

I'm more gullible than I thought.

The thought made him curse his own foolishness as he sat down at a small booth in the corner. Looking up at the waitress before she walked away “can I get a cup of coffee, black?” he asked. She nodded in response then turned and headed back the way she came.

Probably some asshole from Boston PD. Come to have a real laugh at my expense.

The coffee came pretty quickly, and soon he was brooding over a cup of lukewarm, watered down black that someone claimed was coffee.

Such an idiot.

Thomas was so consumed with reprimanding himself that he didn't notice the stranger until he'd sat down across the table from him.

“I'm glad to see that you decided to give me another chance” said the stranger as he perused a menu.

“Where you hiding out in the bathroom?”

“If you are wondering where I came from, don't bother. You probably won't figure it out on your own, and I'm not going to tell you. Besides, we came here to discuss something else anyway.”

“So what do you want from me?”

“I already told you that. I want to offer you a job.”

“Ok, doing what?”

“Let's just say that it's very important work, the kind that is right up the alley of someone with PhDs in astrophysics, anthropology, psychology, and molecular biology.”

“Interesting, and what exactly does a spy need with all that?”

“Was I that obvious?”

“All the secrecy kind of gives it away.”

“Fair enough. Before you decide, I must warn you that you will be required to relocate, and you will be required to maintain a certain level of discretion. However, the salary is quite generous, as is the benefits package. You will also be largely exempt from almost every form of rationing. I can also have all traces of your troubles with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology expunged from the record. Should you return to the academic sector.”

That last one elicited a raised eyebrow from Thomas “that'd be quite a trick. Though I think I'm going to need a little more information to make any kind of decision” he said.

The stranger made an apologetic expression “sorry, but I can't tell you any more unless you accept the position” was his reply.

“Not gonna give me much to go on huh? Can you at least tell me just why you picked me?”

The other man seemed to consider it for a moment, then “to be honest; while you are certainly qualified for the position, the fact that you have a hard time finding work anywhere else means that you are 'below the radar' as far as certain parties are concerned. And that quality is of particular interest to me.”

Such a level of candor quite surprised Thomas, but it also made him take the offer a bit more seriously than he might otherwise have. After a moment, he gave his answer.

“Alright. I'll take the job. I'm actually kind of curious as to just what it is you need me to do.”

The other man made what looked like a genuine smile at that “I am very pleased to hear that. And as for just what the job is, well I need you to examine some documents and ascertain their connection to information within the historical record. I will also need you to conduct some research on a particular artifact that has some rather... exotic properties.”

Thomas pursed his lips and furrowed his brow “exotic?” he echoed back.

“If I told you now, you'd never believe me. You're just going to have to see it for yourself, but ah... you're not going to like it.”

More confused than he was when he started this conversation, Thomas finally picked up his coffee and started to drink it. Wincing at the taste, he put the cup down “at least tell me that you guys can get me better coffee than this.”

The stranger nodded “I think that can be arranged” he answered before reaching into his jacket. He produced an envelope and placed it on the table “contained in here is one ticket for a flight out of Port Columbus on Monday at noon. There are also some instructions regarding your new position as well as the rest of your travel arrangements, plus one thousand dollars in cash to cover your moving expenses. Do not deposit it in the bank, and do not pay for anything using any checks or credit cards” he explained as he slid the envelope across the table.

“Monday? But I've got-”

“If you do not make the flight, there will be no way for you to contact me, and no second chances. If you are approached by anyone about this, deny all knowledge. If anyone other than you boards the flight, then I will know. If you compromise the information we have discussed or contained in this envelope, I will know. Your obligations to your employers as well as the lease on your apartment will be handled accordingly. The official story will be that you had to leave town for a family emergency and are taking a lengthy sabbatical for personal reasons. Pack only what you can take on the flight, someone will be by your place on Sunday to take care of the rest of your belongings. Do not close any bank accounts or credit cards, and don't worry about having your power or water closed off either. It'll be handled. Understood?”

The stranger eyed him for a good minute in silence before Thomas responded.

“Y- yes. I understand.”

“Good” was all he said before getting up from his seat.

Examining the envelope for a second, Thomas turned back to the stranger before he walked away “before you go. Could you at least tell me your name?” he asked.

The stranger paused for a second, then cast a glance at him “you can call me Roger. I'll be seeing you around” he said before walking away.




-10:17 AM September 4, 1988, Camp Pendleton, California, United States




Despite all of the familiarity of the place, it all felt alien to her. Kelly had been here before, not just to the base, but to the infirmary too, she could even see the exam table they had her sit on while she was treated for a dislocated finger. Fifteen months since she stepped off that bus and onto those yellow footprints. The drill instructors had seemed so imposing then, as if they were the most terrifying force in the world.

How wrong she had been.

The sounds of helicopter rotors beating on the air echoed in the distance outside, the flourescent lights above buzzed almost inaudibly, and for once the air was not permeated by the smell of sweat, or dirt, or blood. It was... clean.

“Lift your gown up please.”

Kelly complied and the doctor started prodding at her back, specifically the scar on her right side.

“Does this hurt?”

“No sir.”

“Hmm. And how did you say you kept it from getting infected?”

“Handy wipes, from a gas station, sir.”

“Hmm, that's some pretty good work on the stitches. You were lucky.”

Kelly almost winced at that last statement. She certainly didn't feel very lucky. The doctor stopped his prodding. He turned toward the table nearby and picked up the clipboard sitting on it where he started to write something down “okay Corporal. You can get dressed again. I'm going to clear you for combat duty” he said absently as he walked away.

“Thank you sir.”

She didn't even bother to close the curtain as she started to strip down to get changed.

*-*-*

Moments later, she was walking toward the mess. She had a date with some hot food and no intention of missing it.

It was another strange feeling. Even after managing to get through the worst of recruit training, she never would have thought of Camp Pendleton as anything even close to 'comfortable' but after all she had been through in Mexico, she felt as if she was staying at the Ritz. Hot showers, a clean uniform, new Cadillacs, and hot food. She could never have dreamed of such luxury just forty-eight hours prior.

A jet engine rumbled off in the distance as she stopped at a corner to wait for a HUMVEE to pass by before continuing on.

Just two days prior, Kelly's 'unit' had been foraging in an abandoned town somewhere in Chihuahua when one of their scouts reported that they had heard what sounded like an engine. Lieutenant Barret had ordered a squad to recon the area. Half an hour later they were face to face with a Mexican army patrol out of Hermosillo. They'd relayed all of the nasty details of the war; most of Mexico and Central America was gone, as were Texas and the entire US Gulf Coast.

The Mexican soldiers themselves were as surprised as they were. Apparently it had been nearly a month since any other survivors had managed to make it north from what was now Skinny territory. Just about all hope had been lost for any more survivors down there.

From there they were shuffled from one base or command post to the other, until finally finding themselves at Camp Pendleton.

Finally arriving at the chow hall, she found a tray and headed for the chow line. Despite there being no scheduled meal time, there were still various scattered personnel, both civilian, and military sitting around the hall. She even recognized the uniforms of some other nations.

A couple minutes later, with her tray piled high with every variety of food offered by the Camp Pendleton mess hall, she went about finding herself a seat.

Heading for the nearest unoccupied chair, she was stopped dead in her tracks by the sound of a familiar voice.

“Rec- Corporal Kelly Vasquez. Well fuck me!”

Turning to face the source of the exclamation, Kelly was shocked to see a Gunnery Sergeant in greens standing before her. It took Kelly a couple seconds to realize who she was looking at.

“DI Alvarez?”

She tapped her cover “just Gunny Alvarez now. They bumped me up two grades and I'm getting shipped out to France next week” she explained.

Kelly nodded “it's a shame that future recruits are being deprived of your capable instruction, Gunny” she said, half serious. Despite some of the tougher stretches of her stay there, she really did respect what Alvarez and the other Drill Instructors did for her class.

Alvarez flashed a grin “I think I see something brown on your nose Corporal, you might want to clean yourself off” she said sarcastically.

Kelly chuckled slightly “I'm serious Gunny, you did a good job by us.”

Nodding “yeah, well go get yourself a seat, I'm gonna get some chow and join you if you don't mind” the Gunnery Sergeant said.

Nodding in response “no complaints from me Gunny. I'll just be over here” Kelly said, gesturing toward a table a couple feet away.

Several minutes later the two Marines were sitting opposite each other. Kelly, was busy putting away food like she expected it to be her last meal.

Alvarez swallowed a mouthfull of canned corn “Christ Vasquez, if you fight half as well as you eat, I'm surprised we haven't won the war yet” she said with a chuckle.

Kelly slowed her pace, but continued to take bites “sorry, I just haven't had a hot meal in quite a while. Six months I think it's been” she said before taking a large chunk out of a waffle.

Her expression changing slightly, Alvarez pondered that last statement “yeah” she said with a somber tone.

Not wanting to dwell on that, Kelly changed the subject “hey Gunny, have you ever had to give a statement to the spooks from ONI before?” she asked.

The former Drill Instructor had a somewhat distant look in her eyes, it almost looked like guilt to Kelly. After a second she responded “uh, what? No. 'Fraid I haven't had the pleasure. Why do you ask?” Alvarez inquired.

Shrugging “after we got picked up in Mexico, they shipped all of the Marines up here to Pendleton, like ASAP, and right after we arrived, one of the spooks told me that they would be getting in touch in a couple days. Think they're pulling that routine with all of us, probably trying to get some intel on the Skinnies. I was wondering how much 'fun' the experience would be” Kelly said wryly.

Alvarez shrugged “just watch out if they start using cattle prods and whips” her voice was deadpan.

*-*-*

About an hour later, they were finishing up their meal, and their conversation. Alvarez started to get up to leave, but something was bugging Kelly.

“Gunny?” her tone was a bit more serious than it had been a moment ago.

Pausing, Alvarez looked at her inquisitively.

“Yes Corporal?”

Kelly considered what she was about to say for a second before she finally spoke.

“The day we graduated from recruit training, there was something about the way you were looking at us. I didn't know what it was then, but I think I understand now.”

There was silence between the two of them for several seconds more before Kelly continued “I'm not gonna bullshit you Gunny. When we deployed for ROUNDHAMMER it was tough. I mean a real clusterfuck of a nightmare. A lot of us died, and a lot of shit got completely fucked up. There was no kinda training in the world that could've prepared us for what happened out there. Fuck, even the guys who'd seen action in Vietnam... I don't think they were ready for it either.”

Kelly could see the pain in Alvarez eyes, just like on that last day of recruit training. It wasn't blatant, and just about anybody else probably wouldn't have noticed it, but Kelly did.

“...but there were times when I just had to stop thinking about anything else, about the millions of bugs bearing down on our position, about everybody I'd watched die that day, or any of the other fucked up shit I'd seen out there. So I just focused on the simple shit. Loading my weapon, checking the breach, marching cadences, counting out during morning PT. Because if I didn't do that, I'd have lost my shit out there and gotten myself, and maybe somebody else killed.”

“So thanks. You did your job, and because of that I'm alive today. I'm jealous of your platoon, they're probably about the luckiest batch of Marines in the world right now.”

And with that, Kelly got up from her seat and left the mess hall. For a few seconds after that, Alvarez sat there in silence, not sure exactly what to say or do. Then after thinking it over, she nodded to herself, cleaned off her tray, and left the mess hall too.

The pain she felt was still there, but it was lessened. And maybe that was good enough.

Scorpion
Youngling
Posts: 104
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Location: Portugal

Re: Godforsaken Future - updated 4/17/2015

Post by Scorpion » 2015-04-18 09:19am

Thanks for not forgetting about us! And congratulations for your marriage and kid! I hope you'll be unbelievably happy with them! :)
Just a question, if we can know: how far along are we in the story, percentage-wise, in relation to the whole thing you had in your head?

Keep writing, man! And good luck!

guest
Padawan Learner
Posts: 156
Joined: 2010-03-22 02:14pm

Re: Godforsaken Future - updated 4/17/2015

Post by guest » 2015-04-18 06:39pm

Time-wise, the story is set to end sometime between 2015 and 2020. However, i am expecting to do some time skips down the road. For instance, I am planning on continuing pretty steadily until about mid to late 1989, then skipping forward to about 1993. Actual story-wise, it is hard to say exactly, but I can say that the we are coming up to the "end of the world as we know it" so to speak, in that things are going to take a drastically different shape from our timeline and the stage will be set for the "main event" in a manner of speaking.

Sorry if this seems vague, but while I have an overall plan for the story, I also like to see where things are going and make changes from time to time if I feel that it will make for interesting results. For example Farrukh was originally supposed to die and her brother was going to live, but I thought that her character could be taken in certain interesting directions, so I changed it.

Tandrax218
Padawan Learner
Posts: 184
Joined: 2009-12-19 09:47am

Re: Godforsaken Future - updated 4/17/2015

Post by Tandrax218 » 2015-04-18 10:49pm

mr. guest
i hope you continue to write this story of yours that i like very much :)

It has that "something" that keeps me looking for updates every few months
I hope you will have the time and will to finish this in the way that it deserves.

I like the archaeological and anthropological bits that you keep adding to the story. :)
Keep up the good work .

guest
Padawan Learner
Posts: 156
Joined: 2010-03-22 02:14pm

Re: Godforsaken Future - updated 4/17/2015

Post by guest » 2015-11-01 01:25am

Halloween Update!!!!!


Episode 40




“You can kill ten of our men for every one we kill of yours. But even at those odds, you will lose and we will win.”
-Ho Chi Minh





-1:07 PM September 6, 1988, Blackbird Research Facility, Nevada, United States




The loud whining of machinery slowly started to die down as did the bright white light at the center of the platform. As the chamber beyond the thick windows dimmed, Roger took his goggles off, and now he could see that where there was once a teleportation portal, there now stood a man.

After a couple seconds, the room was silent, save the beeping of instruments and the tapping of computer keys inside the control room. Suddenly, the silence was broken by the chirping of the PA system “DIMENSIONAL INCURSION COMPLETE. TEST SUBJECT REGISTERED INTACT” said a mechanical sounding voice.

The man in the chamber below stood there rather motionless, and Roger felt a little unease for a moment as he wasn't sure if he was alright. Then the man raised his hands up toward his helmet and removed it, and looked around the test chamber as a pair of technicians approached him.

“Looks like... oh no, here he goes” said one of the researchers in the control room.

Just then, the man in the chamber went down to his knees and vomited on the metal grating, prompting the two technicians to run the last twenty or so feet and help him up. One of the other researchers in the room stepped up to the glass and leaned in as if trying to get a closer look at the two men help the third out of the teleportation chamber “hmm, looks like formula 72A is an improvement” he said before marking something down on the clipboard in his hands.

As Roger got himself up from his chair, he was greeted by Dr. Frohman “checking up on us again?” he extended a hand.

Roger accepted it “among other things. I think I'd still prefer airline food and a seat in coach, but things are looking promising” he replied with a glance back toward the test chamber.

Frohman shook his head “I know we've had this discussion before, but I think we're going too fast. I never thought I'd see the day when I'd be including a body bag line item on my quarterly budget” he said with disgust.

“You know as well as I do what the stakes are here, and you're lightyears ahead of where you started. There hasn't been a fatality in over six weeks. From what I've read so far, the new injections have also come a long way too. No more heart murmurs, neurological problems, or internal hemorraging. You've really done well” Roger said with a sympathetic tone.

“Speaking of too fast, I just got that memo you wrote.”

Roger looked around the room “yes, that's one of the things I wanted to talk to you about. Perhaps we should continue this in your office.”

*-*-*

Ten minutes later they were walking through the door into Dr. Frohman's office.

The doctor gestured toward the pair of seats in front of his desk “have a seat. Can I get you anything? Water, coffee, tea?” he asked.

Roger shook his head “no thank you” then sat down in one of the offered chairs and placed his briefcase on the floor next to him.

Shortly after that, Frohman was seated behind his desk, and the two of them looked at each other in silence, Roger had a contemplative look on his face as he pondered the man in front of him, almost as if he were trying to make a decision.

Slightly confused, Dr. Frohman broke the silence “so, are you going to give some more details or am I just supposed to figure everything out from a paragraph long memo?” he was clearly annoyed.

Roger was silent for a moment longer, then spoke “yes, um well there are a number of issues that need to be discussed-”

“A number of issues? Well isn't that an understatement-” Frohman pulled a paper out of his desk “-your department is to begin looking into the production of a more 'compact and transportable' teleportation system along with the necessary manpower, resource, and power requirements as well as any other logistical considerations. Not exactly a simple request is it?”

“If you hadn't noticed Doctor, there's a war on. A war that we aren't exactly winning. If the stresses of your job are too much for you, let me know and I'll find someone who can better handle them.”

The doctor thumped both of his fists on top of his desk at that “damn it! This is not a question of stress or difficulty, this about the simple limitations we've been dealt by the real world. Since 1945, we have been conducting intense research and development, and in that time, we had not managed to even get close to safely or reliably teleporting people or materiel across even the shortest of distances, and yet you've asked us to do in two years what we haven't managed to accomplish in over four decades.”

“You and your people have met all of the challenges put to you, and for that I have the utmost respect, but like I said, this is war.”

“We've only met those challenges by taking irresponsible shortcuts, not to say anything of the ethics of these human trials. I used to think that Oppenheimer was overly self righteous, but now I'm starting to understand why he had so many misgivings after Trinity.”

Roger rubbed his forehead “Doctor, have you ever visited any of the hospitals where they treat war wounded? Or seen what happens to an area overrun by the Bozorgs?” he asked with a sigh.

“I've seen the news reports, and I'm well aware of-”

“What about the refugee camps? We've got an estimated five-hundred-million people displaced by the war. Did you know that the population of the US has actually gone up since the start of the war due to the massive numbers of refugees living here now? When I get back to Washington, I've got to help figure out whether we are going to be lowering the draft age to 16 in 1990 or 1992. I'm also expecting about a half million deaths from starvation, and another half million due to disease this winter just in the US alone. And of all the scenarios my people have been working up, the most optimistic ones at this point have us managing to force some kind of stalemate, by the year 2000, after about a billion and a half more deaths. So I'm sorry if you're feeling a little queasy because of what's being asked of you, but all the moralization in the world won't be worth a damn if we lose.”

Another silence filled the room, more tense than the last. Finally Dr. Frohman spoke “are you finished?” he asked.

“I suppose.”

“Good, because as I was about to say before you interrupted me: I'm well aware of the cost, should we lose the war. In fact, it is that very knowledge that has prevented me from resigning the second you demanded that I commence human trials this year, despite my objections. Just because I do not like the situation I am in does not mean that I do not appreciate its realities-” he sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose “-if you'd stop to listen for a moment, I could explain to you that the biggest obstacle we have is one of resources, not resolve, nor encouragement. I requested additional personnel and funding last year in order to meet your optimistic expectations and was given half of what I asked for, and now you want us to start work that is an entire order of magnitude more difficult and more time consuming, and that's without even getting into the anomalous materials division, I-”

Putting up a hand to stop him “so that's it? Funding and manpower?” asked Roger.

The doctor's expression went from anger to one of exasperation “I would hardly put it in such simple terms, but more or less... yes” he said.

Roger let out a quiet chuckle as he placed his briefcase on his lap and worked the combination on it, the latches popped open in a couple seconds and open it went “apologies doctor, the last couple conversations we had were a bit tense, particularly the ones regarding your misgivings over the human trials. Believe it or not, I'm not particularly thrilled about it either” he said as he produced a folder from inside the briefcase, he then tossed it on top of Frohman's desk.

The words 'GREEN JULY BOOJUM' stamped on the front of it, the folder was at least half an inch thick. Frohman eyed it warily for a moment before snatching the document off of the desk and opening it up, the heading read 'OBSIDIAN WINDOW – F.Y. 1989 REVISED BUDGET.'

“I took the liberty of contacting your accounting department as well as consulting with other sources. You should find that there is more than sufficient funding to meet your needs.”

Gordon thumbed through the file, skimming the various figures and breakdowns, it all looked quite generous to say the least “other sources?” he asked, suspicious.

“Doctor Post, he's quite the valuable resource. I'm sorry I had to draft him away from you. I'm also sorry about the earlier budget issues; your program was already being looked at by the hatchet men in DoD before the war started. After that, well... let's just say, although the resources available for military related projects may be vast, they are not limitless.”

“And anomalous materials?”

Jourgensen produced a pack of cigarettes from inside his jacket then placed one in his mouth “check page fifty-seven. It's the main reason why I was able pull this off in the first place. The 'aetherium' as you called it really wowed the right kinds of people. I hear that a lot of engineers over at Skunkworks are having wet dreams thinking about the possibilities you opened up” he flicked his lighter and ignited the cigarette.

When Frohman got to page eighty-three he paused when he read the heading “what the hell is PERSEUS?” he asked with a furrowed brow.

“That, is the other reason I wanted to talk to you.”

Looking at the mission statement, his brow wrinkled further “-study the effects of teleportation on behavioral patterns and metabolism-” he read aloud “I don't recall requesting funding for any such project.”

Roger took a drag from his cigarette “you didn't” he exhaled.

Getting further into the document, Gordon wasn't just furrowing his brow, he was scowling “most of the items in here are redundant to other programs we already have on the books, and why does it need such a large number of security personnel?”

“As far as you're concerned, it is of vital importance to the increased understanding of teleportation technology and its place in the war effort. If pressed about it, say that someone high up at DoD rammed it down your throat.”

Gordon gave Roger a look as if to say 'you have got to be kidding me.'

The spy put his hands up in a defensive manner “don't worry, it'll stay out of your way. If you look more closely, the entire thing is going to be running out of sector 7-G, which hasn't seen use in over a decade if I'm not mistaken” he explained.

Perturbed, Frohman tossed the folder down onto his desk “what exactly is it that you're getting me into?” he asked.

Another drag from the cigarette “don't worry about it. You happen to be both too important and know too little to get into any kind of real trouble” he said dryly.

The scientist raised an eyebrow “I am surprisingly not reassured.”




-7:48 AM September 9, 1988, Vandenberg AFB, California, United States




Jeoffery Lawrence yawned as he brought up the next image in the queue, then cursed when he saw a black screen appear where a photograph was supposed to be. After about fifteen or twenty seconds, the first top rows of pixels started to appear and slowly the image began to render on the screen before him. He popped up and looked over the edge of his cubical and in at his neighbor, Paul Cruz.

“Hey Paul, is your workstation having any problems with the KH-11 imagery from this morning?”

The other man was filling out some paperwork on his desk, his monitor was off “I haven't gotten to that yet. Probably the guys over at deep space telemetry. I keep telling IT that the new software is a huge bandwidth hog, but they don't listen” he said without looking up.

“Goddammit, Colonel Andrews has been getting on my ass about my productivity all week. I just know he's gonna throw a shit fit if I don't get this morning's batch done by noon.”

Paul glanced down at his watch “go take a smoke break or something. DST has a shift change at eight. Should be a good hour or two before they start slowing us down again.”

Considering for a moment, Jeoffery glanced back at his computer terminal. The image was only about a quarter of the way finished rendering. Finally, he reached a decision “I'm gonna go get some coffee. Want anything?” he asked as he started to leave his cubicle.

“No thanks, I already had two cups so far today” replied Paul with a shrug.

“Suit yourself.”

With a leisurely pace, Jeoffery made his way to the coffee machine, though he took care to keep an eye peeled for the Colonel. No sense in attracting any undue attention from the perpetually grouchy Air Force officer.

Ten minutes later, he re-entered his cubicle to find a fully rendered satellite photograph. Satisfied, he sat down in his chair and began giving the image a cursory examination.

Taking a quick glance at the latitude and longitude noted for the image, he did some quick mental calculations and realized that he was looking at what used to be downtown Minneapolis. He could still make out the outlines of collapsed buildings and the faint grid of city blocks, now covered by that mysterious alien growth. He tapped the 'P' key and it brought up the previous day's image, doing another cursory examination, he clicked over to the notes screen and started typing various general remarks about what he saw.

'-growth of infestation consistent with observed behavior in other Bozorg territory
-one additional structure observed at an early stage of development, possibly class 3 in size
-no notable erosion of underlying strata observed as of yet'


Hitting the save button, he clicked back to the image then reached for the '>' key to progress to the next image, but hesitated.

Something struck him as odd about the image, something he couldn't quite put his finger on.

What is it?

He zoomed in and started scrolling over the image, trying to see if he could spot what it was, but nothing immediately presented itself. Pondering for a moment longer, he scratched his chin, then reached for his coffee. As the putrid black concoction passed his lips he absently tapped 'P' again.

Hmmmmm, there's definitely something there...

He then tapped 'C' and placed the coffee back down on the desk. Still not seeing what was bothering him, he quickly tapped both keys in quick succession.

Previous photo.

Current photo.

Previous photo.

Current photo.


Frowning, he paused again as something dawned on him.

Wait, maybe...

Again, he compared the two photos, and that was when he saw it.

Shit.

The previous day's image depicted scores, possibly hundreds of bozorgs of every variety, the one from that morning showed only two.

Probably nothing, just a fluke.

Flipping back another day, then another, then another. For a couple minutes he looked back over three weeks worth of images.

Fuck.

Then he brought up the current image, and stared at it a second longer, then he hit '>' and brought up the next image in the queue. Again, it was deserted. He went through fifteen more images, all were virtually devoid of any Bozorg activity.

Fuckfuckfuckfuckfuck.

Nervously, he crept up to the side of the cubicle and peered over at Paul “...um, Paul, could you bring up your batch from this morning's take over North America?” he requested.

The other man looked up from his paperwork and gave Jeoffery an inquisitive look “something wrong?”

“Just do it for me, ok?”

Performing a quick visual scan of the floor, he spotted the Colonel about fifty feet away, the man was talking with someone that Jeoffery couldn't see, though he knew whose cubicle it was.

The analyst looked down at the phone on his desk, he eyed it almost as one would a live explosive. After a second of contemplation, he picked up the handset and dialed.

After two rings, the line clicked with the sound of someone picking up.

“Wadams” came the absent minded answer.

“Milton, it's Jeoffery Lawrence. Is the Colonel near your workstation?”

“Yeah, he's right here, you want to speak to him?”

“No, just let him know that I need him to take a look at something. Tell him it's urgent.”

“...alright-”

With that, he hung up the phone and turned toward Paul who was looking through his batch of photos, he was frowning “how many bogies are you seeing on those photos?” Jeoffery asked.

“I dunno, almost none. What the hell?”

“That's what I thought. Did you-”

“Lawrence, what's the problem?” interrupted the Colonel.

Turning to face Andrews, Lawrence noticed that the man had a slightly perturbed look on his face. Undaunted, he gestured toward his computer “-um, I was going over this morning's batch and I noticed that... well, the Bozorgs; they're missing” he explained.

Andrews scowled “what do you mean 'missing'?” he asked.

Jeoffery sat down in his chair and brought up an image from three weeks ago “what used to be downtown Minneapolis was literally crawling with Bozorgs-” he cycled through the subsequent images, one day at a time, until he came to that morning “-every day for the past month. Right up until today. Now it's almost deserted. I checked with Paul Cruz and he says that he's getting more of the same in his batch as well.”

He paused for a second to let it sink in, then “so far, all of the images in this morning's batch are the same.”

The Colonel stared at the image for a moment “I want you to go through the rest of your batch for today and check for anything else that might be out of the ordinary” he finally ordered as he reached for the phone and dialed.

“...hello, this is Colonel Andrews down in imaging analysis. Put me through to Aldridge... I don't care if he's in a meeting, interrupt it.”




-12:06 PM September 8, 1988, White House Situation Room, Washington, D.C. United States




The muffled sound of feet on carpet and the quiet tones of people murmuring to each other filled the air as the last few stragglers shuffled into the room. Lieutenant Russel Foraker nervously fidgeted as he waited for his audience to get settled. As the door closed behind the last arrival, Russel cleared his throat.

“Is there uh, anyone else we're waiting on?”

Secretary of Defense Cheney spoke up “let's get this started, anyone who hasn't gotten here yet can ask around afterward” he commanded.

Russle nodded “right, ok-” he took a second to calm his nerves, then continued “alright, approximately two hours ago, a KH-11 satellite passing over Minnesota picked up a significant change in the disposition of Bozorg forces in the North American theater” he explained while picking up a remote from the table in front of him.

He depressed a button and on the TV set, up came a satellite photo of an infested city “-this image was taken of what used to be downtown Minneapolis yesterday morning-” he clicked again and another image appeared “-this morning.”

Unpleasant murmuring filled the room. He continued “in total, 87% of all Bozorg forces in the North American infestation zone are unaccounted for-” more grumbling “-additional investigation has shown comparable discrepancies in Europe, Asia, and South America. Commanders in all four theaters indicated a marked decrease in enemy contact in each starting at approximate 22:30 Greenwich mean time last night” he concluded.

The grumbling turned into an uproar.




-10:28 PM September 8, 1988, Saint-Flour, Cantal, France




“I can't believe that you convinced me to come out here with you. I have a very early appointment tomorrow morning” griped Gaultier as he shook the rain off of his hat.

“But I swear, there was an earthquake. The wines! Mister LaBlanc would have me castrated if I let something happen to any of them!” protested Lionel.

Gaultier gave his friend an exasperated look “you really think he would have you castrated because an earthquake broke some of his precious wine bottles? Besides, there was no earthquake” he said derisively.

Lionel led Gaultier down the corridor toward the back door of the small house “I'm telling you, there was an earthquake, I heard a loud crash and felt the ground shake. It's what woke me up” he almost shouted.

“And I neither felt, nor heard a thing” argued Gaultier.

When they reached the back door, Lionel unlatched the bolt, then opened the door slightly and peered out as if he were looking for something “maybe it didn't reach all the way into town” he said.

“I don't think earthquakes work that way.”

“Look, just help me out. If you are right, we'll just go out, take a look around, and you can go back home to bed” Lionel said as he reached over toward the small table next to the door and picked up the two flashlights resting on top of it.

“Here, take this. LeBlanc told me to keep the lights off everywhere but the servants quarters, so it's going to be pretty dark out there” explained Lionel as he handed his friend one of the flashlights, then he opened the door all the way and stepped out into the courtyard, Gaultier sighed as he put his hat back on and followed his friend back out into the rain.

Five minutes passed as they crossed the villa's expansive courtyard. Suddenly Lionel stopped in his tracks. It was so sudden that Gaultier almost bumped into him “what's wrong?” he asked as he looked at his friend standing statue still.

There wasn't an answer, so he followed the beam of his friend's flashlight up to see what looked like a pile of stones. It wasn't until he noticed the wooden fence next to it that he realized what he was looking at “it- it can't be!” he exclaimed.

The two of them exchanged shocked glances, then they sprinted up to the rubble of what had once been the central residence of a five-hundred year old villa.

Standing a few feet away from the sunken pile of rubble, both friends were breathless as they stared at the shattered remains of the structure. Stones, thick wooden beams, doors, glass; it all lay shattered on the ground before them, stretching out for over fifty meters. Gaultier was the first to speak “you were right, but an earthquake so powerful surely would have done some damage to the rest of the villa, and the servants quarters look completely undamaged, and the gate too. How...” he trailed off.

Lionel finally spoke “what am I going to tell Mr. LeBlanc? He's going to-” he stopped as something caught his eye. He took a step closer, then panned his flashlight back over the same spot again. Something moved.

“Gaultier, I think there's something moving out there!”

“It was probably just the rubble settling, I-” Lionel stopped as he saw it too.

A couple stones were shaking slightly, halfway across the field of rubble. Seconds passed and the vibration increased. Now it was more than just a couple.

They looked back at each other “maybe it's the Enigmas!” shouted Gaultier.

They both turned back to the rubble to see it start to lift up, or rather, something underneath the rubble lifted up. Neither man decided to wait and see what it was, they both turned and ran. What sounded like a blast from a gargantuan horn reverberated across the entire estate, but neither man bothered to turn and look toward the source.




-11:45 AM September 8, 1988, Madison, WI, United States




The rider stumbled and braced himself on the driver's backrest as the bus abruptly hit the brakes.

“Sir, I'm going to have to ask you to step behind the line!” demanded the driver.

The rider managed to steady himself before he continued talking “I need you to let me off, my stop was back that way” he protested.

The driver shook his head “then you should have gotten off there-”

“But I need to get off now! I have a very important meeting to get to and I'm already running late!” he shouted.

The Driver turned and looked at the rider “we have six more blocks before we hit the next stop. You will just have to wait until we get-” he wasn't able to finish as a number of other passengers started shouting and screaming, the driver looked back out of his windshield just in time to see the very roadbed itself erupt right in front of the bus.

“Jesus Christ!” shouted the driver as he slammed on the brakes and turned the wheel in a desperate bid to avoid a collision.

The tires screeched in protest, and the entire vehicle swerved violently, right into the opposite lane. The driver was so focused on trying to maintain a grip on his steering wheel that he failed to notice the tractor trailer heading straight for them.

Glass shattered, metal was torn and bent violently, and passengers screamed as the bus tore itself apart from the force of the impact.

When the rider came to, he found himself laying on broken glass and plastic. He tried to pull himself up, but was met with an excruciating pain in his left arm. A closer inspection revealed the sickening image of bone sticking out through a puncture wound in his forearm. Other passengers sobbed and groaned as they too crawled about the interior of the wrecked vehicle, others were motionless. Sharp pains assaulted him from several points in his body as he struggled to regain his footing with the use of only one arm.

By this time, he had realized that he was now somewhere near the middle of the bus, and that it was laying on its side The air was thick with some kind of smoke, and his nose stung from some kind of acrid stench. A look toward the front of the bus showed the driver laying on the new bottom of the bus, his neck bent in a strange angle and copious amounts of blood leaking from a wound in his forehead. Further up, he saw that the windshield had been shattered and the glass was almost entirely gone.

Finally getting to his feet, the rider started to carefully make his way toward the front. Stepping over the lifeless body of the driver, and another unfortunate passenger, arrived near the shattered windshield. After about a minute, he managed to negotiate his way out of the overturned vehicle and onto the street.

Still slightly disoriented, he tried to get his bearings. The first thing he noticed was that the bus was not just on its side, but that it lay almost entirely perpendicular to the road itself and was blocking a full three lanes of traffic. The next thing he noticed was that he still heard cries and screams, and that they weren't coming from the inside of the bus, but outside as well.

Suddenly a deafening blast seemed to vibrate the air itself, and the rider became disoriented again and stumbled to the ground. Sharp pains once again shot through his body as it protested against this sudden movement, and then he was laying on his back, facing skyward. As his senses returned once again, he managed to see the source of the sound as it reared up from behind the bus.

What the rider saw defied description. 'Horrible' was about the only thing his mind could come up with.

Easily twenty feet tall; a mass of spines, and legs, and what looked like plates of armor moved as one, then its 'head' came around to face his direction. Even more horrible looking that the rest of the creature, it was nothing but a seemingly limitless array of claws and teeth and other vicious-looking protrusions that moved independent of each other.

Filled with terror, the rider was barely able to move. He tried to get himself back onto his feet, but his fear and the excruciating pain of his injured body was just too much and he simply flopped around on the ground clumsily in a general direction away from the massive creature.

Somehow the creature got even taller as it was seemingly growing out of the ground itself. Then it paused for a second, let out another deafening blast, and lunged toward the rider. He had maybe a few seconds of sheer horror before he was crushed by the gigantic monstrosity.




-5:07 PM September 8, 1988, somewhere over Mato Grosso, Brazil




G-forces kicked Commander Jason Caster in the gut as he yanked hard on the yoke of his Buckaneer, leveling off about thirty meters off the treetops which passed under his craft in a blur. Up ahead he could see literally hundreds of Bozorg dragonflies off in the distance.

Next up he checked his radar scope for any more incoming, it registered so many contacts that it looked like a Christmas tree, then his GPS “still with us Flash?” he asked over his headset.

His radio chirped “that is an affirmative Bodge, not for lack of trying though” came his wingman's reply.

Seconds later his radio chirped again and the sound of gunfire and screams; both human and not, blared in his ear, after a few seconds came the sound of a heavily accented voice “to any allied forces, this is Bravo Alfa two-zero-three, we are under heavy attack from Bozorg ground forces. Requesting immediate assistance. Our location is-” then followed a series of coordinates.

“Harry, how close are we?” he asked Lieutenant Harold Stamper, his navigator.

There was a brief pause as the other man looked over his charts and GPS, “fuck all, that's just round the corner from us, not more than three minutes to get there” he said. Caster considered for a second, then made his decision.

“Feel like lending a hand Flash?” he asked over the radio.

“This ordinance isn't doing much good under our wings, now is it?”

The commander switched bands “this is Kilo November eight-eight. I read your mayday, we'll be there in approximately three minutes. What's the composition of the enemy force? Over.”

“I read you Kilo November eight-eight. We've got heavy concentrations of enemy ground forces, both light and heavy. There are several-” there was a pause as something exploded, drowning out every other sound, after it died down, the man continued speaking “-other types. Please hurry, over.”

“Understood Bravo Alpha, we'll be there shortly. Try to stay alive a little longer. Over and out.”

Caster switched back to the cockpit band “you read those coordinates Flash?” he asked.

“That's an affirmative. You ready to do a little house cleaning?”

“Most definitely.”

Stamper's voice came next “let's get some hunting done” he said, the navigator was equally enthusiastic

And with that, Caster nudged his joystick and pushed his throttle up a bit. A quick glance toward his aft starboard side showed his wingman following suit.

A couple minutes later they were coming up to their destination.

“Bodge? What do you think he meant by 'other types?'” asked Flash.

“Good question. The bugs sure are big fans of variety.”

“And I was starting to get bored” said Stamper, sarcastically.

Looking over toward his port side, Caster spotted the distant outline of one of those new bug fliers that they'd seen once or twice on their way out from Mount Pleasant.

Big as skyscrapers, covered with some kind of complex, segmented plating, way too fast for something that big, and always surrounded by big black clouds of hundreds of small things. He wasn't sure of what those were either, maybe acid bugs, maybe something else, and again, he didn't care, he just wanted to stay the hell away from them and was perfectly pleased that they seemed to have bigger fish to fry than the two of them.

The other band chirped and the Brazilian was talking again “Kilo November Eight-Eight, where are you? We've nearly been overrun!”

“We've almost got you Bravo Alpha, we're less than thirty seconds out. Keep your heads down over there. Over.”

“Keep heading this way, it's a straight shot for another fifty and then we'll be right on top of them” came Stamper's soothing baritone.

“Alright Flash, we're less than fifty kilometers to target.”

A sudden shift in the light on his HUD, and he glanced up above in time to see another dragonfly diving in on him from above. A fraction of a second later his collission alarm went off “bloody excellent timing” he growled in frustration just before yanking the joystick hard to the left, sending his plane into a sharp banking turn, then he nudged the throttle up to full power and pulled back hard, throwing himself into his seat with the force of an elephant sitting on him.

Stamper was vigilant as always “he's not giving up so easily as the last one!” he announced.

“A little help Flash?” Caster asked over the cockpit channel.

“I see it, just hold on a little longer and I'll have it taken care of in a bodge, Bodge” crackled Flash's voice over the radio.

His plane shuddered as the sky started to fill his entire view. He held this for about three seconds more before pulling back on the yolk again, and suddenly he was weightless. He then nudged his plane over into a roll just as the ground started to come back into view.

“Fox four!” announced Flash followed by the muffled sound of 20mm cannon fire.

As he nosed into a steep dive, he was just in time to see his pursuer explode under the weight of Flash's attack.

“Nice shooting lad!” he shouted as he then went to the task of arresting his dive. His plane groaned in protest as inertia and aerodynamics fought one another.

Fortunately for him, the latter won out.

“Looks like the fighter boys are gonna have to share some of the glory for once” celebrated Flash.

“Don't gloat too much, they're a sensitive lot.”

“If they don't like it, they can come out here and cover our arses rather than let us fend for ourselves out here.”

“I'd take that deal” said Stamper.

“Me too” responded Caster.

Suddenly they were almost to their target. He didn't see anything, then he heard Stamper's voice in his ears “eyes open mate. Just checked the map and there's a sudden drop in ground level up ahead. Looks like a ridge line or cliff of some sort.”

Just as Caster brought his craft back to level flight, the trees beneath them suddenly dropped away and
they were over one hundred meters off the ground.

“Drop to the deck: sixty meters.”

“Understood, following you down.”

He nudged his joystick forward, bringing his craft into a dive.

A quick search of the ground up ahead revealed a copious number of Bozorgs swarming out of what looked like a large hole in the ground, heading toward what looked like a military encampment of some sort. Several columns of dark smoke rose up into the sky above, and bright flashes regularly flared up in the area between the encampment and the Bozorg swarm, indicating exploding munitions. The scene was striking enough, but what really caught his eye was the gigantic caterpillar-like monstrosity that was crawling over the rubble of what had once been some kind of concrete structure.

“Bloody hell, what the devil is that?!” exclaimed his wingman.

“That, is a target” he said, just before reaching down to flip the switches for his hard point safeties.

“You are weapons-free. Fire when ready.”

“Affirmative. Going hot.”

Just before he hit the sixty meter mark, he made a slight course correction, and lined his crosshair up with the gargantuan monstrosity “rockets away!” he announced as he thumbed the button on his joystick. What sounded like jets of water hitting the fuselage of his plane reached his ears, and he watched as seventy-two rockets streaked out from under his aircraft toward the lumbering creature.

A second later, his wingman echoed the same announcement and another stream of self-propelled projectiles streaked out toward the target. Shortly after that, the beast was engulfed in the fiery conflagration of over one-hundred forty HEAT warheads detonated almost in unison.

“Blimey! Bet that got his attention!” shouted Flash.

Eyes fixed on the raging inferno where the monster had once been, he watched for any sign of life. Seconds passed, and the distance between them and the target shrank. Just before it flew by underneath, the smoke cleared to give clear view of their quarry. It was struggling to regain its footing.

“Christ, that damn thing is still alive!” exclaimed Flash.

Stamper saw it too “shite man, you aren't kidding, but it sure looks like we blew a few holes in that thing. It isn't impervious.

“Not over yet mate. Let's bring it around for another pass” directed Caster.

He then brought his craft into a shallow climb and a sharp bank to the left. By the time he and his wingman had managed to come back around, they were about twenty kilometers out from the chaotic scene below. The flow of the swarm had clearly been interrupted by their attack, but it was clear that there were plenty of enemies to kill down there.

Eying the scene below, Caster gritted his teeth as he readied himself for another attack run on that demonic-looking monstrosity.




11:08 PM September 8th, 1988, Defense Perimeter Sector 7, Punjab Province, Pakistan




Sepoy Arya Konda repositioned the weight of his rucksack on his shoulder as he dodged out of the way of an oncoming BMP-2.

“Bloody idiot!” he screamed in Hindi at the armored vehicle as it sped away, oblivious to his protests. Upon reaching the opposite side of the street, he found that it was no less crowded than where he started. Despite the late hour, soldiers in uniforms from at least half a dozen countries move along the strip of concrete like blood cells in an artery.

The remainder of his journey was largely uneventful, but nonetheless frustrating as he navigated the throng of humanity that clogged the sidewalk for another block before reaching his destination; the front entrance to a building who's original purpose was a mystery to Arya. Not that it mattered, right now it was the lodging for his company. The corridors inside were less heavily trafficked than the sidewalk outside, but there was considerably less space.

He made his way through several hallways, until finally reaching a rather cramped, but not overly claustrophobic room. A group of other soldiers were sitting around a pot that was emitting the pungent scent of what appeared to be mulligatawny soup above a makeshift stove. None of them seemed to give much thought to the fact that they were in serious danger of setting the building on fire.

One of the older soldiers looked up, it was Havaldar Chanda “did you get it?” he asked, expectantly.

Arya reached inside his coat and produced a VHS tape in tattered cardboard with block letters that said 'DEEWAAR.' He displayed the cassette to his comrades, almost as a proud hunter would display the carcass of a fresh kill.

Chanda rose from the beat-up crate he was using as a chair and approached the young soldier, a broad smile across his face “well done my boy, I knew you wouldn't let me down” he said as he led Arya over to a beat-up old television set sitting atop an even more abused-looking VCR.

As they went, the rest of the soldiers in the room erupted into cheers and applause.

“Konda the savior!”

“Finally a real film to watch!”

With a little effort, the Havaldar managed to power on the VCR and the television. He ejected a VHS tape that was covered in Chinese symbols and tossed it aside, almost in disgust, then turned to Konda “-and the tape?” he asked with hands outreached, expectantly.

Smiling, he handed the cassette over and it was promptly inserted into the waiting device. With a bowl of soup pushed into his hands, Konda was given a seat with an excellent view of the screen and soon the entire squad was seated around the television set like priests at an altar, silently watching as the movie began to play.

He took a sip from his bowl. It was surprisingly good. Though, he wasn't sure if he wanted to know how Sepoy Kumer had managed to get the ingredients.

This was truly a great evening: the first in a very long time that the insects weren't sending assault after assault out to the perimeter, a great movie to watch, good food to eat, maybe there was hope for the world after all-

He was suddenly pulled from his thoughts by the sudden onset of a violent shaking in the walls and floor.

Over the next couple seconds the shaking got worse and worse until there was suddenly a loud crash.

Arya wasn't sure what happened next. He simply found himself laying on the far side of the room, the walls and ceiling were collapsed in on themselves, the room was dark, the air was filled with dust & the sound of a lot of shouting, the only source of light now was the overturned TV which was still playing the film.

Reflexively he searched for his weapon, and fumbled about the wrecked room. He saw one of his section-mates laying there motionless; a sepoy named Taneja, a large piece of rebar was sticking out of his left eye socket, and copious amounts of blood were leaking out onto the floor. It was there that he found an AKM, not his, but it would do. He grabbed Taneja's extra magazines as well, the poor sod certainly wasn't going to need them anymore.

As he checked the rifle, he was deafened by what sounded like a massive train whistle. It was so loud it shook the entire room and caused rubble to shower down on everybody there. He then searched for Chanda “Havaldar?! Havaldar Chanda?!”

“Over here!” came the gruff voice of his section leader. Arya managed to follow the sound over to his superior tending to an injured Sepoy Kumer who had a rather grizzly looking wound in his neck, Chanda was holding a wadded up t-shirt to the wound, but it was clear that it was getting soaked through with blood.

Arya had a grave look on his face as he looked at the scene “what are your orders?” he asked.

The Havaldar didn't answer right away as someone that Arya couldn't quite make out arrived with a first aid kit in hand, opened it up and handed over a wad of gause. Chanda quickly accepted it and replaced the blood-soaked garment with the gauze “we've got some injured here, and need to get them out, but I have no idea what the hell is going on out there” he began “Naik Sura!” he barked.

Shortly, the wiry Naik with a ragged scar on his right cheek appeared “sir!” he responded.

“I want you to take Sepoy Konda here and reconnoiter outside. Find us a way out of here, figure out what the situation is outside, and see if you can get us some help in moving the injured out of here!”

“”Understood” replied the Naik who popped the slide on his own rifle as he turned to Arya “you ready to move?” he asked, and almost as if to punctuate his question another loud blast from that 'train whistle' shook the room again, it was abruptly ended by a series of thunderous booms.

Taking a second before looking away from the injured soldier, Arya nodded “let's go” he said grimly, and with that the two of them made their way toward the door.

The trip out through the hallway was a struggle, there were several bodies laying on the floor, as well as plenty of rubble. However, after about ten minutes of carefully navigating the treacherous corridor they managed to come to the front entrance.

The door had been ripped off the hinges, but was still being wedged in the portal by a pile of rubble blocking its movement. After some struggle, they managed to force it open and push on to the outside.

The air was filled with the acrid smell of fire, the sound of intermittent gunfire, as well as a cacophony of screams, both human and not. The scene itself was one of pure carnage. The street was filled with bodies, a pair of wrecked trucks, and copious amounts of shattered concrete and rubble. The building next to theirs had completely collapsed, and laying on top of its remains was some kind of massive serpentine monstrosity, covered in claws and thorns all up and down its length. It lay there motionless, with a massive series of large gaping holes blown in its vicious-looking carapace, and lots of black goo leaking out of it onto the street below. A trio of T-72s sat in the street, not far from the now lifeless creature, with their commanders sitting in their cupolas, letting loose with heavy machine gun fire into a freshly created hole in the ground.

It was then that Arya spotted the bozorgs. There were warriors, and mantis' and a variety of new types he hadn't seen yet, they were pouring out of the hole and swarmed out onto the street. Both he and Sura exchanged glances before hefting their rifles and heading out. Konda knew then that there was not likely to be any movies or mulligatawny soup, not for a very long time.





-9:14 PM September 8th, 1988, Bourges outskirts, Cher, France




Sergeant Claude LeClerc still felt the warmth of the engine of the overturned dump truck he was taking cover behind, it reminded him that this city had once been firmly in human hands an incredibly short time before. The loud cacophony of human screaming, bozorg shreiking, gunfire, and distant explosions told him that this was no longer the case. When one of those shrieks appeared to be closer, he poked his head around the front of the truck, spotting a group of bozorgs attacking some terrified civilians down the road. There were three regular warriors, and one of the new, bigger ones.

These were very similar to the standard warrior, but about a half a meter taller, and more durable, but slower as well. He'd heard a couple German soldiers mention them earlier. They'd given them the name 'uber-krieger' or 'uber-warrior' it was a moniker he couldn't argue with. “Everybody get down!” he shouted before raising his FAL to his shoulder. He then took aim at the nearest one; a normal warrior, and opened fire. It kicked him in the shoulder firmly as a volley of rounds flew forth toward their target.

The creature staggered as it was hit, saving a very terrified young woman who continued to run as fast as she could from the charging monstrosities. He squeezed the trigger again, not giving the creature time to regain its footing, sending it tumbling to the ground, dead.

Before he had the chance to select a new target, he saw that the uber-warrior had taken notice of him and changed direction, seemingly saving another civilian for about two seconds before another warrior pounced on him with both of its scythes, eviscerating the screaming man.

He gritted his teeth as he drew a bead on the monstrosity's midsection. His rifle barked, and a couple rounds found their way into its carapace. It stumbled slightly, but was hardly slowed and kept coming. Claude did not let that deter him and he opened fire again, and again, but he seemed to only inconvenience it slightly.

Despite its slower speed, the uber-warrior ate up the meters between itself and Claude alarmingly fast and was almost within reach when it seemed to explode, as more gunfire from elsewhere tore into it violently. This time the creature actually fell to the pavement, not dead, but severely incapacitated. Claude didn't bother to inspect the damage and let loose with an extended burst into the creature from almost point blank range, emptying his magazine, and finally snuffing out its existence.

He didn't wait to find out who had saved him, and in stead immediately ejected the spent magazine and replaced it with a fresh one, then turned back to the horrible scene down the street from him. More bodies lined the street surrounding both the remaining aliens while scores more people continued to run in every direction fleeing both the immediate threat of these two creatures and the larger threat of the larger horde elsewhere in the city.

His next target still had the entrails of its last victim hanging from its teeth as it turned to find another. It did not get the chance. A half dozen rounds ended its life, and then his unseen saviors joined in to kill off the last remaining bozorg.

A quick check of the surroundings revealed no other immediate threats and despite the chaos around him from the crowds of panicked people, it now seemed quite peaceful by contrast.

Finally he looked toward the source of the other gunfire where he spotted eight soldiers coming out from cover inside a shattered storefront just down the road “Sergeant LeClerc?” said the leader of the group, it was Corporal Colette Martel, she had a relieved look on her face.

Claude gave a curt nod in her direction “Martel, glad to see you and your squad survived. We'll see if that continues for the rest of the day” he said with a humorless grin, as the remaining soldiers arrived by the dump truck.

“Do you know where the rest of the platoon is Sergeant?”

“Not at present. Lieutenant Travert ordered me to set up a position about a half kilometer further up the road from here” he paused, then “I was taking my squad up to our objective when a group of mantis' hit us. They-” a hitch in his voice was all he allowed himself to show of the tempest of anger and sorrow in his heart “-they didn't make it” he finished.

Martel and the rest bowed their eyes momentarily. It was a gesture of sadness, and respect, and all that they really had time for. After a second, she was the next to speak “You were going to continue on alone?” she asked, a bit surprised.

He shrugged “not really much choice. We fight or we die, just because our chances aren't very good doesn't change that” he explained.

She nodded in understanding “alright, well we got separated from the rest of the platoon on our way to muster, so we don't really have any orders. We were just told that the rest of the unit was heading for the N142-N76 roundabout, but it sounds like you could use some help here. Care to let us come along?”

He didn't need to ponder it for long “sounds fine by me” he replied before turning to the rest of the squad “everybody check your ammunition and weapons and let's move out, we haven't got all day!”




-2:28 PM September 8, 1988, Camp Pendleton, California, United States





The cacophony of the entirety of Camp Pendelton readying itself for war seemed to have faded to a dull roar, and the patch in Kelly's hand felt like it weighed a ton “permission to speak freely sir?” she asked.

Lieutenant Coffey twitched an eyebrow “speak up, Vasquez” he replied.

She took a minute and then a deep breath, then she began to talk “begging your pardon sir, but you've got to be fucking kidding. I don't have anywhere near the time-in-grade. I've got barely enough to be a Lance-Corporal, much less a Sergeant. I don't even know the names of the people in my squad and we're supposed to be deploying into combat in just a couple hours. There has got to be somebody else-” she trailed off, exasperated.

Coffey took another glance at the clipboard in his hands, then tossed it onto the hood of the Humvee in front of him before turning to face her, hands on his hips.

“Look, I don't have much time, so pay attention, because I'm only gonna say this once. My command decisions are not something that I am in the habit of explaining; however, considering what will be expected of you as a result of this one, I think an explanation is in order here.”

He paused for a second, then “first of all, I agree with pretty much everything you've just said. Under any other circumstances, I wouldn't let you get within a mile of a squad command, or the rank of sergeant. Unfortunately, we don't have any other circumstances. As of right now this platoon has forty-three Marines in it, and every single one who isn't an NCO has graduated from recruit training within the last week. Of the NCOs we've got, six have seen combat, and Staff-Sergeant Dillon is the only one who's seen more than you, all of which was in Vietnam. No one in this outfit has put in more time against the bugs than you, including me, and I've got no one else to take this job. If I don't put you in that slot I've got to put somebody even less experienced there, or I'm going to be short a sergeant.”

“Sir, I-”

“Look Vasquez. I can't order you to take the promotion, but I can order you to take command of b-squad. Whether you do it as a corporal or a sergeant is entirely up to you. What's it gonna be?”

Kelly looked up at Coffey, then down at the patch in her hand “alright, looks like I've got a new job” she said with resignation.

“Sounds good. Now go meet your squad, we're wheels up in thirty.”

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Re: Godforsaken Future - updated 4/17/2015

Post by guest » 2015-11-01 01:27am

So, we're nearing the end of Act 1(there are three acts in total). I'm expecting no more than five to ten(closer to five than ten probably) updates before going to act 2.

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Borgholio
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Re: Godforsaken Future - updated 4/17/2015

Post by Borgholio » 2015-11-01 01:52am

Glad this story isn't dead. :) Keep 'em coming!
You will be assimilated...bunghole!

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Re: Godforsaken Future - updated 10/31/2015

Post by Scorpion » 2015-11-01 11:44am

There is a god!!!

You know, guest, your story is the only reason I come back to this forum. I've been waiting patiently for more updates on this wonderful story. Shit is just getting harder and harder for the human race, and I want to know how we're gonna get out of this one!
I know life exists and there are other priorities, but I'd like to see updates more often... Love your story, man! Keep up the good work!

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Re: Godforsaken Future - updated 10/31/2015

Post by guest » 2015-11-01 07:20pm

Well, I will say that there is another update already in the works and I hope to have it up in a couple days.

Also, while this is not great news if you want to see the story advance, it will give you more material to read. I've been contemplating doing a graphic novel tie-in which will both depict events that haven't been covered(the fall of peru and Minneapolis stand out) as well as going over some scenes that I really liked from the book, such as some of the opening scenes in Afghanistan and Clarice's segments. This isn't certain, as the style of art I would follow would be a bit time consuming, so I am wary to begin that, but we'll see. However, I think that at least I'll get some creature designs up.

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