“How shall I speak of Doom, and ours in special, But as of something altogether common?”
-12:23 PM April 30, 1987, The Varennikov Line just north of Kondoz, Kunduz Province, Afghanistan
Private Fedor Petrov stared out through the loophole of his bunker and past his KPV at a vast expanse of desolate land that showed no sign of life. The Red Army had spent the past few months tearing out every trace of living matter from the land between the line and the oncoming horde of alien invaders. Nothing moved out there, as the last humans south of there had trickled through along with the last of the survivors from Kabul two days earlier. At least he hoped that there wasn't anyone south of the line, if they were, there wouldn't be a very nice fate in store for them.
Fedor gave his weapon another inspection to break up the monotony. After about a minute he had completed that and then turned to looking over the cramped bunker. It wasn't much to behold really, just a steel reinforced concrete box with a door on the back and a loop hole to fire out of. Nothing existed to differentiate it from any of the other thousands just like it all along the Varennikov line. They had all been pre-made back in Russia, apparently someone rather resourceful back at the Ministry for Defense must have come up with the idea of building these things ahead of time at a factory somewhere and then shipping them to the front.
Granted, these were not quite as durable as some of the non pre-built bunkers that he had seen in Europe left over from The Great Patriotic War, but they provided far better protection than mere sandbags did. Their simple and (relatively)light weight construction was also probably what allowed them to build so damn many. He remembered getting a good look at the full size of the line the other day and the sight of literally thousands of these bunkers dotting the trenches at regular intervals as far as the eye could see. It was truly an awe inspiring sight, and it must have been a herculean effort to build as much as they did in such a short period of time. The amount of concrete used must have been incredible.
From what he had gathered the entire fortified line stretched for literally hundreds of kilometers all the way from the Turkmenistan border where it met Iran in the west and ending somewhere in the Hindu Kush Mountains in the east where the Chinese were fighting. He had heard that they were losing ground pretty quickly there, he certainly hoped that it wouldn't allow the tāziyāne to outflank the line, making all of these preparations for naught.
He heard the sound of someone entering through the rear entrance, he turned to look and saw that it was Filipp returning with their lunch “greetings my fellow brave warrior, I bring a great feast for us to nourish ourselves before heroically defeating the enemies of all humanity” he said sarcastically.
Fedor game him a smile and a brief nod “what is for lunch today?” he asked in a somewhat hopeful tone. The food had been lousy even on good days, but he still held out hope every time that they might actually get something good, perhaps meat for once.
Filipp carried two small metal trays with him “we are in luck today, we get rice and what appears to be chicken” he said in a somewhat excited tone as he handed Fedor one of the trays. He turned around on the small stool that had been provided for him to sit on here in the bunker.
He looked down at the food on the tray, and sure enough right next to a moderately good sized pile of white rice, there was also what looked like a generous sized lump of whitish looking meat. He didn't wait more than a second or two before digging in. The rice was surprisingly well cooked, not too dry and not too watery either, the cooks had actually done a decent job this time. He took a bite of the chicken, it was a bit dry, but he didn't mind, he hadn't had real meat in over a month. He washed down the rice and 'chicken' with a gulp from his canteen then started in for another mouthful of each.
He was interrupted mid-bite by the sound of weapons fire coming from somewhere else down the line. He paused and glanced out the loophole to see what looked like a cloud of something rising over the hills off to the south. He knew that it wasn't a cloud however, it was a swarm of those cursed acid bugs that almost always preceded a major attack, or so he had heard. He looked over at Filipp “It looks as though our boredom is at an end my friend” he said.
Filipp grimaced “and I was really hoping to savor this meal, they have the absolute worst timing” he replied. Fedor quickly shoveled the rest of the food on his tray into his mouth and swallowed it while barely chewing. He then gulped down about half the contents of his canteen and spun around on his stool to face the oncoming enemy from across the battlefield.
An hour later Fedor and Filipp was already falling into a routine of unloading their weapon into the oncoming swarm, reloading and unloading yet again. While the attacking horde seemed to have no end in sight, he certainly felt as though their chances were looking pretty good, the enemy had barely gotten to within a half kilometer of the line, and their bunker had allowed them to weather the attacks of the swarms of acid bugs and even a nearby impact of that horrid fiery stuff that the bozorg fire beetles had launched at them.
The ground shook and some loose bits of dirt and dust fell on both Filipp and Fedor, it was most likely from a nearby artillery barrage impact. Fedor tried not to think about it, these bunkers were meant to defend against the immediate threats of the enemy's spikes, acid bugs, and 'napalm'. These boxes provided little protection against anything heavier than those, but they were far better than sandbags.
Bringing his own thoughts back to the task at hand, Fedor searched for and found another target; an advancing mantis, one of those big black ones. He squeezed the trigger and felt the stiff recoil of the KPV on its mount. The tracers flew out toward the advancing beast, it looked like they were hitting the creature, but it still advanced, only showing the slightest indication that it was suffering any ill effects from being hit by his attacks. After an extended burst from the machine gun, the monstrosity stumbled for the first time, then his weapon clicked empty.
He cursed under his breath, then tapped Filipp's helmet, causing the other soldier to turn around and pull his hands away from his ears “need to reload again!” he shouted at the man.
Filipp nodded quietly and then went to work grabbing another ammunition box from the rather large stack in the corner. Meanwhile, Fedor grabbed the small spade leaning against the wall of their small bunker and started to scoop up expended shell casings and toss them outside the back of the bunker. It was too cramped in there to allow these things to pile up too high.
After completing the operation, he again turned his attention out toward the battlefield, wondering if he would be able to pick out that staggering super-mantis from the crowd. However, something caught his attention, something off in the distance, something large. He searched the horizon for what it was, he wasn't quite sure just what, but after a few seconds he found what he was looking for.
There off in the distance, maybe five or six kilometers away was this massive... thing. Some kind of creature, or monster or whatever. It was giant, and ugly, and heading directly for the line. Fedor suddenly felt a strong sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach, it only got worse when he heard the horrible roar that it let out. He wasn't sure if that's where the sound was coming from, but he didn't really think it mattered where it came from really.
“What are you waiting for?”
Filipp was staring at him with an inquisitive look on his face. Fedor didn't bother to tell his comrade what he saw, it wasn't like there was much that he could do about it.
-2:07 PM April 30, 1987, somewhere over northern Afghanistan
Lieutenant Anastas Yakolev gave the altimeter a quick glance to ensure that they were in fact cruising at 12,000 meters. A quick gaze out of the port and starboard side of the cockpit also revealed that the other five Tu-160's in this flight were maintaining formation. Off in the distance to the south, he could barely make out the tiny dots moving through the air that his radar scope told him were hundreds of human aircraft and thousands of alien creatures, locked in a deadly struggle for dominance of the skies of Northern Afghanistan. On the ground below them, he could also make out what looked like black clouds of smoke and the occasional flash from an explosion. Of course he knew that he shouldn't be able to hear it, but he felt a bit odd realizing that he was watching a massive battle unfold before him, and yet it seemed so peaceful
The radio chirped in his ear “this is colonel Mihaylov, we have reached the final checkpoint, prepare to commence turns for the final approach to the targets in five. Four. Three. Two. One. Engage” and with that Anastas along with the pilots of the other five aircraft started to descent towards the target area. The radio chirped again “remember, our target is only the one behemoth, the other four have been designated for other aircraft to take out, so don't get any ideas about being a hero” the colonel was stern.
Anastas looked over at his co-pilot Lieutenant Pajari “alright everybody, this is it, get ready” he said over the intercom to the rest of the crew who made noises of acknowledgment.
Anastas felt himself become weightless as the bomber descended, however that feeling was mixed with that of being pressed into his seat slightly as the bomber also accelerated. The small little dots grew in size quickly and he started to be able to make out minor details and differentiate between the jets and the alien creatures. An explosion engulfed one of the MiGs as it was executing a tight turn, two dragonflies disappeared amidst fiery explosions of their own. He tried not to think about it too much, the MiG's were doing everything in their power to keep the enemy off of the bombers, every effort was being exerted to ensure that they would get through to deliver their payloads.
Suddenly they were amongst the swarm of dueling aircraft and creatures, Anastas did his best to keep calm “Miroslav, prepare to drop the munitions, we have thirty seconds until target” he said.
The bombardier seemed to be doing a better job of keeping calm than Anastas “bombs are ready to be deployed, opening bay doors” his voice came back in a cool and collected tone.
Just then a bright flash appeared to the right, a quick look outside of his view port showed that one of the bombers was not where it was supposed to be “I think we just lost Matveev!” came an alarmed voice over the radio.
“Stay calm everyone, we're almost to the target, get ready to drop your munit-”
The colonel's order was cut short as something violent shook the plane, then a series of loud bangs reverberated throughout the cockpit. Suddenly a sharp pain shot through Anastas' chest and a violent rush of air smacked him in the face. It took him a second to realize that the windscreen in front of him had been shattered, and another second to realize that he had a large spike protruding from his chest. He looked over at Lieutenant Pajari who lay slumped in his chair, three or four of those spikes protruding from his chest “shit! I think Osip's dead, is anyone else hurt?” he asked over the intercom.
No response came, so Anastas turned his head to look back at the rest of the cockpit where he saw that the entire interior of the aircraft was riddled with more of those spikes. Both Miroslav and Nikita also sat there lifelessly, smoke was starting to fill the cockpit as well.
His own vision was starting to get fuzzy, he wasn't sure if it was because of the smoke, or the blood loss from his own wound, or possibly both. However, he was pretty sure that he didn't have long to live, he was starting to feel lightheaded. He realized then that he wasn't as scared as he should be, perhaps it was because he was in shock, but he really didn't care at that point.
He looked out through the smashed windscreen of his aircraft, the high speed air rushing through it thrashed his head about, but he could see up ahead to his target. A massive hideous monstrosity, it didn't seem to notice the approaching bombers, but then again he wasn't sure if he was looking at it the right way anyway. He thought for a fraction of a second, then realized what he had to do. He reached down and gripped the throttle, pushing it all the way up as far as it would go, then took the control yoke of the bomber and nudged it ever so slightly, that was all that was needed.
The great monstrosity approached the line, the ground shaking with every step. It took aim at a tank that was firing upon the approaching swarm, then unleashed one of its devastating projectiles upon the new target. The resulting explosion obliterated the human vehicle, as well as everything surrounding it.
It then took aim at one of those concrete boxes that dotted the defensive line there, and just as it was about to fire more than two hundred sixty metric tons of steel, jet fuel and high explosives slammed into its chest at just over mach one.
The resulting explosion engulfed the entire upper body of the sixteen meter tall beast, flaming bits of unidentifiable stuff flew off in all directions. Some of it was pieces of the aircraft, some of it was pieces of the monster itself, and some were combinations of the two that were fused together by the incredible heat of the explosion.
A massive swath was cut through the swarm that immediately surrounded the monstrosity, the incredible overpressure from the huge explosion combined with the outward bound high velocity pieces of shrapnel that was thrown out by the explosion caused just about everything within one hundred meters to die almost instantly.
The giant thing stumbled and faltered, flames engulfed its entire upper half. It no longer looked like the massive creature that stood there mere seconds before, it wasn't even as tall as it once was as the impact had literally blown off the top five meters of the creatures body including its two heads and one of its arms.
It regained its balance after a couple seconds of struggling and continued on. Its wounds suffered from the collision were dire and considerably more than anything else yet inflicted upon it, but they could be recovered from given time, the final death blow would come from somewhere else.
Two steps were taken after it regained its footing, then the other four surviving bombers released their ordinance. Another massive series of explosions, even more grand than the one which had engulfed the creature mere seconds before as over one hundred sixty thousand kilograms of explosives went off all around the creature.
As the fire and smoke cleared, the human observers along the fortified defensive line were able to observe the flaming monstrosity as it finally stumbled and collapsed to the ground, causing the ground to shake with the impact. That was all they managed to see as the thing's power source failed.
No one to that point had considered such an option, although perhaps they should have. As the creature itself died, the mechanisms within its body which kept the massive amounts of power in its internal energy source in check gave way and unleashed nearly a megaton of explosive energy.
The energy from the blast obliterated just about everything within a kilometer of ground zero, the carnage was indiscriminate, bozorgs, humans, earth, rock, concrete, metal, anything and everything that had occupied the immediate vicinity of the once living creature was now completely gone. Further out, it wasn't much better as the ground shook with the force of a horrifically devastating earthquake. Tanks and fire beetles were flung through the air like small toys, the concrete boxes used as bunkers along the trench line were broken and shattered like small stones against a sledge hammer.
When the dust had cleared, a ten kilometer wide circle of total destruction had been ripped through the battlefield and nothing but death and dead things existed within its borders.
-7:28 AM May 3, 1987, Central Intelligence Agency Headquarters, Langley Virginia, United States
“Well, at least we know that they can be killed” said Carl Sagan to the rest of the room.
Jerry Pournell nodded in agreement “yes, but at such a great cost, the explosion blew a huge hole in their lines that the tāziyāne poured right on through, I'd say that's a pyrrhic victory if ever there was one” he said grimly.
Roger breathed out a puff of tobacco smoke “indeed, and further attempts to take out the remaining ones has proven quite a disaster too, the tāziyāne got wise to how that first one was taken out rather quickly. They lost twenty five of those thirty new Tu-160's trying to take out the others and all they did was severely wound one of the beasts in the process. It appears that they are going so far as to allowing ground attack aircraft have free reign over the battlefield everywhere else in the interest of concentrating defenses over those giants of theirs.”
“But this is beside the point, the real issue now is that the Russians and the Chinese have started getting itchy trigger fingers now, they've lost a lot of troops and have plenty of nukes to spare. Even the president is starting to get amicable to the nuclear option again, the analysts over at imaging say that they have been able to determine what those big things look like while they 'gestate' and they say that there are at least a half dozen in Minnesota and just as many in Germany ready to pop. Not to mention the extra two dozen or so in various stages of growth in Afghanistan and Brazil. So does this mean that we've found a loophole in their anti-nuclear countermeasure?”
The others in the room stared back at him silently for a second, Carl was the first to speak up “sorry, but we just don't have the information we need to make that kind of call, the power source in those things could be either a controlled fusion reactor or some kind of matter anti-matter reaction, or who knows what other kinds of exotic power source they have available to them. We also don't know what mechanism they use to detect and circumvent an explosive fission reaction so fast.”
Roger put his cigarette out in an ashtray “you've got to give me something more concrete than that, the men with the bombs are ready to start pushing buttons, and I can't say that I entirely disagree with them” he said plainly.
Jerry shook his head “what Carl is trying to say here is that we just don't know, this new development could mean that we've found a 'loophole' in their defenses and we could start dropping nukes as long as it's far enough away from the center of the infestation, or that could have been a freak accident that won't be repeated in a million more tries. We just don't know for sure, but there is that ever so strong possibility that if they start dropping nuclear devices it could be Washington, or Moscow that gets hit next time in stead of Madrid. I know they say that 'a million is a statistic' but we're talking about a really big risk here” he argued. Although Roger didn't like the answer, he was glad to see that after some time a lot of the old divisions amongst the groups here seemed to have been fading away. Going forward it was a good sign for getting the job done here.
Roger sighed “alright, if that's the recommendation that you all have, then that's what I'll have to take to the President.”
A few minutes later they were interrupted when Charlie Post entered the room “sorry I'm late guys, I was waiting for this data to print out” he said holding a stack of papers.
The rest of the group eyed him with curiosity “so what was so important to warrant you being a half hour late to the meeting?” said Roger.
The theoretical physicist walked up to the table and placed the papers down on top of an already large pile of manila folders and other printouts “I'm not sure how many of you have been monitoring the updates from OBSIDIAN WINDOW, but as you may recall, way back in August of last year, we started getting some noise on some of the frequencies that the bozorgs were using for communication and teleportation. We had originally assumed that it was something to do with how they were communicating with other hive minds in other star systems. Well, in spite of our jamming efforts, the noise is still there and continuing to get louder.”
The rest of the group exchanged curious glances “are you saying that the jamming didn't work?” inquired Matt Cromwell.
Charlie shook his head “no, no, it's still working, all our tests confirm it, and like James' reports keep saying; a lot of the sensitives are saying that the bozorg controlling intelligence is feeling 'panicked' as far as they can tell” he explained.
Jerry Pournell guffawed “that's a hell of a way to put it 'panicked', they've practically overrun all of Afghanistan and they show no signs of stopping in Brazil. Hell, I heard just yesterday that the damn things were right on the doorstep to Nuremberg. If this is 'panicked' I don't wanna see what 'terrified' looks like” he said.
Cromwell eyed him with a raised eyebrow “actually, it makes a lot of sense, a cornered animal is a lot more dangerous than one that thinks it is safe” he replied.
Pournell furrowed his brow “that's great, what do we do about it then?” he asked.
The exobiologist shrugged and shook his head “good question, I suppose that they are more likely to make a mistake if they are scared, perhaps waiting for them to make one is our best bet” he explained.
Pournell rapped on the table “so your suggestion is to 'wait them out'? That seems like a pretty lousy strategy to me, people are dying out there every day” anger started to creep into his voice then again, perhaps new divisions are forming in stead thought Roger.
Matt raised his hands in a defensive motion and was about to speak when Roger intervened “I hardly think that Dr. Cromwell here is being quite that craven Jerry, I think he was just speaking rhetorically; besides, we are getting off topic here. I believe that Dr. Post was explaining something?” he said.
The group settled down and Charlie gave Roger a nod “right then, anyway, not only has this noise continued, but there are also these other incursion events that we've been detecting. We started seeing them way back in late September of last year. We're not sure what is going on with those, although they appear to be using the same frequencies as what the bozorgs normally use for teleportation, they look... different.”
“They are quite clearly smaller than anything that they have used before, we figure that they are maybe a couple feet across at most, enough to teleport a person or maybe a large animal, they are also longer lasting. Where the standard portal event usually only lasts about five hundred milliseconds at most, these ones have been recorded to have lasted upwards of five seconds. However, the strangest part is that we haven't been able to detect any corresponding entry or exit portals to go along with them. This would seem to indicate that their matching portals are located at an extraterrestrial location; however, we've still been detecting them even after we started jamming those frequencies.”
Silence filled the room for a second, then “well perhaps your testing has proven faulty and the jamming isn't working after all” said Edward McShane.
Charlie shook his head “ we were thinking that too, but the testing doesn't lie. Also, everything we know about trans-dimensional teleportation says that the bozorgs shouldn't be able to open these portals any way, even without jamming those frequencies” he explained.
Carl looked at him with a curious expression “and why is that?” he inquired.
Charlie leaned forward, placing his hands on the table in front of him “because, there isn't enough energy being emitted when they open. Even with a destination beacon, an interstellar teleport should be emitting at least five times the amount of energy that these are, especially ones which are lasting for as long as they are, it should technically be a physical impossibility, but it's not. This has left two possibilities open to us” he said as he looked around the room “one is that the bozorgs have managed to figure out a way to open portals through our jamming and using far less energy than we think is possible, or that-”
“or that they aren't being opened from this universe” interrupted Carl.
The rest of the room turned to look at Carl, Charlie continued “-right, while our jamming technique works just fine as far as blocking portals from being connected between points in our own universe, we know almost nothing about what is involved in opening a portal from a starting point within that universe. It is highly likely that we have done nothing to prevent someone from opening a portal directly from a separate dimension.”
Again, silence fell across the room, James Randi was the first to speak up “so who's opening these portals?”
-4:24 PM May 15, 1987, Balakovo, Saratov Oblast, Russia
“Let go!” yelled Polina as she struggled to get free from the grip of Misha Popov who was holding her down.
Meanwhile Dimitri Utkin went through her bag “not 'til you tell me what was on that note you wrote” he said arrogantly.
Polina merely struggled some more and stared back at him defiantly “go eat dog shit Dimitri!” she shouted back.
Dimitry merely laughed and continued going through her things, suddenly a giant clod of dirt came out of nowhere and smacked him right in the face. A fraction of a second later another one got Misha too.
Dropping the bag, Dimitri started to wipe the dirt off of his face “who the fuck just threw that at me?!” he screamed as he looked for his attacker. Meanwhile Polina had managed to struggle free from the now distracted Misha who was also trying to wipe the dirt of his face.
Dimitri's eyes came to rest on Ania who was standing across the street hefting another rather large clump of dirt in her hand “you bitch!” he yelled at her in rage as he pointed his finger at her. A second later he realized that Polina had gotten free and tried to grab her, but she managed to dodge out of his way and then scoop up her dropped bag as she sprinted away.
By now both he and Misha were running after her, their dirt covered faces turning red with a combination of anger and embarrassment “good good! Hurry to come and get it! I had never realized that you two loved eating dirt so much!” Ania exclaimed to them in a mocking tone.
When Polina had managed to make it across the street to Ania, they both ran down the sidewalk and took a right at a side street. The boys were running pretty fast, but the two girls were faster, they managed to make it to the bus stop and board a homeward bound bus which pulled away just in time for them to see Dimitri and Misha try to catch it on foot.
They found a pair of seats on the bus where they sat down and caught their breath as they laughed to each other “thanks for that Ania, I didn't know what I was gonna do” said Polina with a wide grin on her face.
Ania shook her head “that's fine, I always wanted to do that, those two are such jerks” she said with a laugh.
Over the next half hour they exchanged jokes and stories and laughs, it was a good time. Then the bus reached a stop near the post office, so Ania wished Polina well and got off the bus. As she walked up to the post office she felt so much anticipation, she did every time she went to see if Nikolai had sent her a letter. Although most times she was met with disappointment, the rare times when she got a letter were well worth it.
She walked through the door and across from her sat Mr. Orolov “why hello Ania, I'm so glad you came!” he exclaimed to her with a warm smile on his face.
She walked up to the counter and stared over it at the old man “how are you doing Mr. Orolov? Did you finally manage to collect that last stamp you were looking for?” she asked cheerfully. She knew that he loved collecting stamps, and that there was one more that he had been trying to get a hold of for a long time. He told her last time she came by that he finally found it and was waiting for it to arrive in the mail.
The postman shook his head “not yet my good friend, but I expect it to arrive any day now, you're here to see if there is a letter from Nikolai aren't you?” he asked. She nodded excitedly “well, that's good to hear, because there was an envelope for you from him today” he said, she practically jumped over the counter at that answer.
Mr. Orolov took a second and looked for something behind the counter, after a few seconds of rummaging around he produced a small battered white envelope “and here it is” he said as he placed it on the counter in front of her.
She reached across excitedly and snatched it up, carefully studying the writing on the outside, it certainly matched Nikolai's handwriting “there you go my dear. I wish I could give you some candy this time, but we haven't been able to get any lately, rationing has been pretty tight lately and that sort of thing is especially hard to come by” he said warmly.
Ania paused for a second before turning around “oh that's okay, but thanks a lot though” she didn't really care about the candy so much, it was the letter that she was really happy about. She headed back toward the door again “thanks a lot again Mr. Orolov, and say hi to Mrs. Orolov for me okay?” she shouted toward him.
The elderly postman waved to her as she headed out the door “no problem Ania, be safe on your way home!” he said after her.
With that she was off, and headed on down to the bus stop where she found an unoccupied bench to sit down on. She pulled the envelope out of her bag and studied it reverently for a second, taking it fully in, almost as if to ensure that it was in fact real. Then without further delay she gingerly pulled back the tape that the censor had used to reseal the envelope.
She then gently retrieved the paper, it was a bit wrinkled and worn at the edges, but otherwise was in better shape than most of the letters that she got from Nikolai lately. The paper crinkled slightly as she gently unfolded it, she briefly stared at it; then after no further delay, she read it:
I feel that I must apologize to you for how infrequent my letters have been lately; things as always, have been hectic. I don't want you to worry however, me and my squad are going to take more than just a few alien space bugs to do us in.
It's quite remarkable really, before the army I had never even been in an airplane, and now I'm flying around in helicopters every day. We see all different parts of the country over here, and you would be surprised, you'd think that it's all nothing but desolate wasteland over here, but actually there is a lot of lush and green areas too. It's a shame that we're bombing the hell out of it though.
You won't believe it, but we have a guy here who looks just like Eduard Khil! You know that “Tro Lo Lo” guy from TV? He can't sing much however, but he's a hell of a football player, too bad he's stuck fighting the war, he could probably be a professional. He's a good man, and I'm proud to be fighting along side him.
I hope that you are doing well in school and that father isn't being too hard on you, I wouldn't want any bruises to mark up that pretty face of yours. I'm sorry, but I still don't have an address to send to you to reply to these letters with. They keep us moving around a lot and don't tell us where we are going to be more than a day or two in advance. I hope that I can change that next time though.
Your loving brother,
She read the letter over three more times, then carefully folded it up and placed it back in the envelope. Then she patiently waited for the next bus to take her home.
About ten minutes later a bus arrived and she boarded it quickly, the ride home was uneventful, it only took about twenty minutes for her to be standing in front of her building. She quickly skipped up the steps toward the front door.
The door squeaked and swung open on loose hinges, she passed through the lobby under flickering lights past an elevator door with a sign on it that read “OUT OF OPERATION” the sign had been there for over two months. The steps were at the end of the hall and she quickly ascended the four flights to get to her floor. She then quietly approached the door to the apartment, and carefully pulled the key out of her bag.
Father often would drink himself into a stupor and pass out by the time she got home, she did not wish to wake him in such an event. She ever so carefully inserted the key into the lock and turned it ever so gently. Each click sounded like a thunder clap to her she was so nervous. Finishing that operation, she then reached down and grabbed the door knob, gripping it firmly she turned it. Finally she gently pushed the door open, careful to hold onto the knob to avoid letting the door slam into the wall.
Her heart sank as her eyes settled upon the sight of Father standing there, a half empty bottle of cheap vodka in one hand. His eyes bore down at her like a pair of hateful little pinpoints of anger “you're fugging late getting back, yooooouuuuu worthlessss BITCH!” he shouted at her in slurred speech, then grabbed her by the hair and yanked her into the apartment.
Her scalp hurt from it being pulled so hard, but not as much as her knees and elbows when she fell on the floor. Father turned to face her as he slammed the door behind him “wwwwheeere elssssse have you beeeeen hiding them!” he shouted, little drops of spittle flying out of his mouth.
She avoided making eye contact with him, trying not to encourage his anger “what are you talking about?” she said meekly.
He stepped closer, grabbed her by the hair again and pulled her up, then just as she got to her knees once again, he smacked her across the face, hard “yoooouuuu know damn well what I mean” he said with contempt dripping from his voice. A blunt but intense pain shot through her stomach as his boot impacted into her midsection, the force was enough to push her about a half meter across the floor.
He stared at her while she cradled her aching stomach for a second, tears did not come, she did not want to give him the satisfaction of seeing her cry. Then he grabbed her by the hair once again and dragged her along the floor; not allowing her to get to her feet, all the way to the kitchen. He shoved her face into the wastebasket “thhhaaat's what I'm talkin' about you lying piece of garbagggee!” he berated her.
There at the bottom of the trash bin sat a pile of crumpled up pieces of crumpled and worn paper. After a second she recognized them as the letters from Nikolai that she had saved, her heart sank as she realized that Father had found them. He grabbed her by her shirt collar, almost choking her and threw her into the corner roughly “...been getting ledders frommmm yer worthlesssss brother...” the rest trailed off into drunken gibberish.
He looked down at her bag and picked it up. He rummaged around in in, causing most of the contents to spill out in a cascade onto the floor, after a few seconds he retrieved the letter from that day. Discarding the now mostly empty bag, he then reached into his pocket and pulled out a lighter no! Ania bolted up and tried to reach for the letter, but he merely pulled it out of her reach and smacked her across the face, hard enough to knock her back down.
As she rolled over to face him, she felt her cheek swelling up, she knew that she had a black eye. He clicked the lighter a couple times, then a small flame sprang up from it. Then he held the letter over the small flame, it caught on fire after no more than a second or two. As he dropped the flaming envelope into the trashbin, a look of... triumph came across his face.
As she stared at the flames and smoke rise out of the wastebasket she felt the warm moist feeling of tears forming in her eyes. She could not hold them back this time.
-8:35 PM May 24, 1987, Needles, California
Cool spring night air ran through her air as she coasted down the hill, it felt good on her slightly sweaty skin. As she reached the bottom and the road started to incline ahead of her, Kelly resumed pedaling “come on Trish, those xenomorphs are gonna catch ya!” she teased to her friend.
Trish panted a bit as she tried to catch up, she didn't participate in sports like Kelly did, so she wasn't in as good a shape as her “you are such a dork, I don't know anybody that saw Alien 3 four times, let alone a girl!” Trish shouted back as she panted.
Kelly chuckled “shut up, that was an awesome movie!” she retorted. It was true, she did like some geeky things, especially movies like Alien 3, it featured way more battle scenes than the previous movie, had all the same actors from the original film, people getting ripped to shreds from the insides out, and bigger and badder alien monsters. She always loved science fiction and horror movies, she guessed that made her a tomboy, although she still liked some girly things too, like The Bangles, and Madonna, and kittens; especially kittens.
They came to a stop at a large intersection with a light, not too many cars came through though. Ever since gas rationing had been instituted the streets were a lot more empty, a truck pulled up to the light next to them with The Eagles Death and Consequences blaring on the radio. Trish and Kelly rocked their shoulders to the beat as they waited by the light.
After it turned green they sped as fast as they could down the street, Kelly was running late getting home. After about ten more minutes they came to Kelly's street “okay Trish, this is my street, I'll see you later!” she shouted as she turned off of the main road.
Trish waved to her as she went on “okay! see you at graduation!” she shouted back. Graduation had been pushed up this year, although nobody had said anything about it, everydody knew that it was because the military wanted kids to be ready to get drafted as soon as possible. She had overheard a lot of the teachers talking about it in the hallways and she gathered that they were pretty upset about it.
Kelly pulled onto the sidewalk from the apron of somebody's driveway about a half a block from home. Then when she got to hers she turned and maneuvered past their big old wood paneled Ford station wagon. Her mom called it “woody” as a joke and said that it was a “family heirloom” but Kelly thought that it was just an ugly old car. When she got to the end of the driveway she stopped her bike and got off, walking it the rest of the way, she popped the kickstand and stood it up by the garage.
She walked up the back porch steps and went into the kitchen through the back door “hey mom! I'm home!” she shouted as she closed the door behind her. Her little brother Eric was sitting at the kitchen table drawing in a coloring book with some stubbly little crayolas “hey Eric, what's going on? Where's Mom?” she asked him.
He looked up at her from what he was doing “oh, she's in your room, I think she's mad. What did you do?” came his response.
She gave him a confused look and mussed his hair “I dunno squirt, I'll go talk to her” then she walked out of the kitchen and through the living room over to the stairs which she ascended in a few seconds. At the end of the hall, she came to her room and walked in. Sure enough there was Mom, sitting on her bed in the dark, Kelly flipped on the light “what's going on-” her question was cut short when she registered the look on her mothers face and what she was holding in her hands there.
Her eyes were filled with what Kelly could only describe as a combination of sadness and anger “please tell me you just forgot to throw these out before you got home from school” she demanded, indicating the Marine Corps pamphlets in her hands.
Kelly stood there for a second, then leaned against her dresser “I'm sorry mom, I wanted to tell you and Dad, but I just wanted to wait for the right moment” she explained in an apologetic tone.
Her mom shook her head “it doesn't matter, you're not going to enlist, I don't care if they are allowing women to serve in the front lines now, I'm not going to wait for some damned man in a uniform to drive up and deliver a folded American flag to me, you're going to college in the fall, and that's final” she said sternly.
Kelly sighed “it's too late Mom, I signed the paperwork a week ago, I go off to training in less than a month” she explained.
Her mother put her hand up to her mouth but didn't say anything for a second, tears were welling up in her eyes, then she spoke “w- why? You said yourself that you were thankful that Bobby wasn't getting drafted, you know that it's dangerous out there, it's not like playing soccer or being on the swim team” a couple tears streamed down her cheek.
Kelly walked over to the bed and sat down next to her mother “yeah, at first, but then I realized that this thing isn't going to go away, and that I have a real chance to do something for my country. I didn't even want to go to college Mom, that's what you and Dad wanted for me, and now I get the chance to do something no woman has had the chance to do before in the history of this country, I-”
She was interrupted as her mother put her hands out and shook them in a frantic fashion “I- I can't handle this right now, you've really hurt this family by doing this, I just...” she trailed off. Kelly leaned over to try and hug her mom, but she quickly got up and walked to the door.
Her mother paused at the doorway “I'm sorry, but I really need you guys to be okay with this, to support my decision” Kelly said. Her mother didn't say anything and didn't turn around, after a second longer, she walked out of the room.
-3:24 PM June 3, 1987, Arlington Ridge, Virginia, United States
Roger took a sip of his heineken as he flipped a burger on the grill and watched Bobby play tag in the yard with some other friends. His next door neighbor, Rick Jones walked up to him from behind “hey Rog, how'r those burger's going?” he asked in a jolly tone.
Roger took another sip of the beer then looked over at his neighbor “they're almost done, be another couple minutes, didja catch the Orioles game yesterday?” he said back.
“Yeah, what a hit, that-” Rick's response was interrupted as Judy's sister, Eileen walked out from the back door of the house.
She was waving to Roger, trying to get his attention “Roger, phone for you!” she shouted to him.
He nodded in response “okay, be right in!” he replied, he looked at Rick “sorry Rick, can you keep an eye on these while I take this?” he said. The other man nodded and took the spatula from Roger.
He walked in through the back door which opened into the kitchen, the phone was sitting on the kitchen counter, off the hook. He walked over and picked it up, pressing the handset to his ear “this is Roger” he said.
“Sorry to bother you right now Roger, but we're gonna need you to come down to the office to take care of a few things” it was Jerry Young, one of Admiral Poindexter's assistants “the President called an emergency cabinet meeting in response to the Russians pulling out of southern Uzbekistan and we need your department's input, when can you be down to Langley by?” he asked.
Roger considered for a second “I'll be there in about twenty minutes” he said and hung up the phone.
“That's nice Roger, good to see where your priorities are” Judy was standing in the doorway, an angry look on her face.
He looked at her apologetically “I'm sorry hun, it's important” came his reply.
Judy threw her hands up in disgust “it's always something important; the president is on the phone, or the world needs saving or whatever, and it's always been more important than your son” she said as she slammed her hand down on the kitchen table.
Roger walked over to give her a kiss, but she pushed him away “look, I'll make it up to him, I always do” he said.
She shook her head “you always say that, for baseball games, and recitals, and school plays, but this is his birthday goddamnit!”
Roger turned to leave the kitchen “I'm sorry, but I really will make it up to him” he stepped out to the dining room.
Judy shouted after him “you're not even going to say goodbye to him are you?” but he had already stepped out the front door.
The drive to Langley was short and uneventful, traffic was incredibly light, he figured that perhaps gas rationing had its advantages after all. There wasn't anyone there to meet him when he arrived, as he expected, he lived closer to Langley than any of the other members of the think tank. So while he waited, he sat down in one of the chairs and lit up a cigarette.
A couple minutes later the door opened and in walked Charlie Post “hi Mr. Jourgensen, I was hoping that we could talk before everyone else got here” he said.
Roger raised an eyebrow “what seems to be bothering you Charles?” he asked curiously.
The theoretical physicist took a seat across from Roger “well, you see there is this old college friend of mine, we used to know each other really well, but after I took my job at OBSIDIAN WINDOW we parted ways. You see, he wanted to work at a teaching position, and we just didn't really keep in touch after that. Anyway, he's a brilliant physicist and I thought that we could use some input from him, so I figure I would contact him and see if he would mind switching industries to help save the world, you know?” he explained.
Roger sat forward in his seat, a wary look on his face “you didn't tell him anything-”
Charlie shook his head “oh goodness no, I've been working for DoD for more than a decade, I know better than to start spouting secrets, I just wanted to see if maybe he would be open to working for the government is all” he said reassuringly, Roger relaxed a bit and sat back in his chair, he took a puff from his cigarette. Charlie continued “as I was saying, I was trying to contact him and so I called him at the last number I got for him at MIT, but the folks over at his department there say that he went on sabbatical last year. I asked them where he was, but they said that they didn't know, they said that they think that he got tapped by the pentagon for some consulting work, but they weren't too sure.”
“So to make a long story short, I figured that he must already be okay with doing government work, so why not see if we could wrangle him for our own team right? And I figured that all you spooks... er, all you spies talked to each other, so I was wondering if you might be able to track him down for me. If for no other reason than for me to say hi” Charlie finished his explanation.
Roger contemplated for a second with a raised eyebrow, he put out his cigarette “well, I hate to break it to you Charles, but all us 'spooks' don't talk to each other, however I will look into it. Couldn't hurt to get some extra help on the team. What did you say his name was?”
“His name is Dr. William Atwood, Phd. in particle physics out of MIT.”