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Quote of the Week: "A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within." - Will Durant, American historian (1885-1981)

Godforsaken Future - updated 12/10/2013

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The Vortex Empire
 Post subject: Re: Godforsaken Future
PostPosted: 2011-09-18 05:07pm 

Jedi Master


Joined: 2006-12-11 10:44pm
Posts: 1379
Location: Rhode Island
Fantastic. I was worried this story would never arise again.
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guest
 Post subject: Re: Godforsaken Future
PostPosted: 2011-09-18 07:24pm 

Youngling


Joined: 2010-03-22 02:14pm
Posts: 148
The Vortex Empire wrote:
Fantastic. I was worried this story would never arise again.


This is like Cthulhu in that way.
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Borgholio
 Post subject: Re: Godforsaken Future
PostPosted: 2011-09-18 11:46pm 

Sith Devotee


Joined: 2010-09-03 09:31pm
Posts: 2734
guest wrote:
I just came by to announce that this story shall be ressurrected yet again. RL got a bit crazy for me for a while, and then I got hooked on Minecraft, which is a tough addiction to break indeed.

Anyway, I've got a partially completed episode in the works and hope to have it posted by the end of the week. Going forward, I'm looking to start posting on the same day each week.

Although I don't have an update for you guys, I decided to post now so as to motivate myself to follow through with the goods in stead of procrastinating.

As a bit of a preview of what's coming, I will say that the Enigmas will be making their next big move in the next couple updates. The world of this timeline will become virtually unrecognizeable by 1989(even moreso than it already is now). Humanity will see triumphs the likes of which it has not yet seen in this war, but those who think they have seen grimdark in this story haven't seen anything yet.

Also, while it is not pertinent to the near future, I find it interesting that some folks have mentioned alternate universes.


Well in TGG for instance you have a good number of popular Sci-Fi universes mixing with entertaining results. From reading these boards I've found that Bozorgs or the Turned from "Lost Boys and Girls" would make interesting additions to any number of crossovers / multiverses. Someone mentioned Warhammer vs Bozorgs specifically. Or what if "The Mind" established itself on Coruscant ? :)
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guest
 Post subject: Re: Godforsaken Future
PostPosted: 2011-09-19 01:34am 

Youngling


Joined: 2010-03-22 02:14pm
Posts: 148
Borgholio wrote:
guest wrote:
I just came by to announce that this story shall be ressurrected yet again. RL got a bit crazy for me for a while, and then I got hooked on Minecraft, which is a tough addiction to break indeed.

Anyway, I've got a partially completed episode in the works and hope to have it posted by the end of the week. Going forward, I'm looking to start posting on the same day each week.

Although I don't have an update for you guys, I decided to post now so as to motivate myself to follow through with the goods in stead of procrastinating.

As a bit of a preview of what's coming, I will say that the Enigmas will be making their next big move in the next couple updates. The world of this timeline will become virtually unrecognizeable by 1989(even moreso than it already is now). Humanity will see triumphs the likes of which it has not yet seen in this war, but those who think they have seen grimdark in this story haven't seen anything yet.

Also, while it is not pertinent to the near future, I find it interesting that some folks have mentioned alternate universes.


Well in TGG for instance you have a good number of popular Sci-Fi universes mixing with entertaining results. From reading these boards I've found that Bozorgs or the Turned from "Lost Boys and Girls" would make interesting additions to any number of crossovers / multiverses. Someone mentioned Warhammer vs Bozorgs specifically. Or what if "The Mind" established itself on Coruscant ? :)


Forgive me, but what does TGG stand for?
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Borgholio
 Post subject: Re: Godforsaken Future
PostPosted: 2011-09-19 01:37am 

Sith Devotee


Joined: 2010-09-03 09:31pm
Posts: 2734
guest wrote:
Borgholio wrote:
guest wrote:
I just came by to announce that this story shall be ressurrected yet again. RL got a bit crazy for me for a while, and then I got hooked on Minecraft, which is a tough addiction to break indeed.

Anyway, I've got a partially completed episode in the works and hope to have it posted by the end of the week. Going forward, I'm looking to start posting on the same day each week.

Although I don't have an update for you guys, I decided to post now so as to motivate myself to follow through with the goods in stead of procrastinating.

As a bit of a preview of what's coming, I will say that the Enigmas will be making their next big move in the next couple updates. The world of this timeline will become virtually unrecognizeable by 1989(even moreso than it already is now). Humanity will see triumphs the likes of which it has not yet seen in this war, but those who think they have seen grimdark in this story haven't seen anything yet.

Also, while it is not pertinent to the near future, I find it interesting that some folks have mentioned alternate universes.


Well in TGG for instance you have a good number of popular Sci-Fi universes mixing with entertaining results. From reading these boards I've found that Bozorgs or the Turned from "Lost Boys and Girls" would make interesting additions to any number of crossovers / multiverses. Someone mentioned Warhammer vs Bozorgs specifically. Or what if "The Mind" established itself on Coruscant ? :)


Forgive me, but what does TGG stand for?


The Great Game. It is a series of fanfics based in the "Multiverse". That is, you have several fictional universes all interacting with one another through interdimensional jumpgates. Star Trek, Babylon 5, Stargate, Battlestar Galactica and others all mixed together. It's pretty neat actually.
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guest
 Post subject: Re: Godforsaken Future
PostPosted: 2011-09-19 04:23pm 

Youngling


Joined: 2010-03-22 02:14pm
Posts: 148
hmm, where is it located? Is it posted here?
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Borgholio
 Post subject: Re: Godforsaken Future
PostPosted: 2011-09-19 05:30pm 

Sith Devotee


Joined: 2010-09-03 09:31pm
Posts: 2734
guest wrote:
hmm, where is it located? Is it posted here?


viewtopic.php?f=9&t=126475
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guest
 Post subject: Re: Godforsaken Future
PostPosted: 2011-09-28 02:13am 

Youngling


Joined: 2010-03-22 02:14pm
Posts: 148
At last, IT LIVES!!!


Sorry that it took longer than I said it would, computer troubles as well as an unexpected change to my work schedule meant that I got virtually no work done on finishing this update which would up being considerably larger than I thought. Anyway, here comes episode 32...
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guest
 Post subject: Re: Godforsaken Future
PostPosted: 2011-09-28 02:32am 

Youngling


Joined: 2010-03-22 02:14pm
Posts: 148
Episode 32






“A warrior is free to be a hero and pull off daring do and the soldier is irresponsible if he does it.”
-C.J. Cherryh










-8:17 AM January 12, 1988, Somewhere in Southern Uzbekistan






Kelly checked her weapon one last time as she approached the wounded soldier on the ground ahead. He was cradling an injured leg and moaning loudly, crying out for help, he didn't seem to notice the two squads of Marines approaching him.

She had a bad feeling about this "Miller, be careful alright? I don't like this" she said to the Marine closest to the wounded soldier.

The young Private rolled his eyes slightly "yes mother, whatever you say" he said sarcastically before returning his attention toward the wounded man "it's okay man, take it easy, we're here to help" said Miller to the stricken soldier who still didn't pay him any attention, he still just moaned and repeated the same cry for help.

Something was not right, it just felt... wrong. It was possible that this poor bastard was just in shock, that he had already lost too much blood to think clearly, but still she didn't like the feeling she kept getting in the back of her mind.

Snow crunched under her feet as she took cautious steps forward and a frigid breeze chilled her to the bone. Deep orange sunlight cast dramatic shadows across the area as the sun rose above the eastern horizon, despite the desolation it actually created a pretty picture of the landscape. This did not assuage her creeping concerns though.

She returned her attention toward the wounded soldier who repeated his cry for help once again, then looked at the ground around him. She noticed that there was a considerable lack of not just footprints, but of any sign that the snow had been disturbed in the slightest. How long had he been laying there?

Horrible realization dawned on her like being hit by a truck. Her heart started pounding pitcher plant she started to bring her weapon up to her shoulder. Another voice cried out from elsewhere "everybody take cover!" it was Sergeant Brasseau.

Time slowed to a crawl as weapons fire rang out. Suddenly the wounded soldier disappeared, replaced by the bloated nightmarish visage of a bozorg pitcher plant. Private Miller screamed out in pain as one of it's spindly limbs had shot out and impaled him through the chest., he clutched at it as he went to his knees.

Kelly had managed to bring her own weapon to her shoulder and took aim at the creature's corpulent torso. She was on one knee by then and squeezed the trigger, her weapon bucked against her shoulder as it spat out a four round burst at the horrible creature before her.

The pitcher plant spasmed and convulsed as the bullets ripped through its body. Soon it had collapsed into a mass of broken and shattered limbs amidst a puddle of its own black blood "everybody take cover!" someone else shouted in warning.

Kelly didn't need to be told twice, she found a sizable rock and threw herself behind it just in time to hear the loud popping noise of the creature's bloated abdomen exploding. A sharp, abrupt cry of pain echoed across the desolate landscape and Miller's own cries were suddenly cut short

Silence fell upon them once again, the only noises were the faint howl of the wind and the quiet sizzle of whatever it was that was being dissolved by the pitcher plant's corrosive secretions.

Kelly picked herself up again, taking a brief survey of the area, trying to ascertain the damage that had been done. Two gelatinous masses of blood, bone, flesh and whatever they had been wearing or carrying at the time now lay where Private Miller and another unidentified Marine had once been "everybody sound off!" shouted the Sergeant.

After two voices failed to respond, it was quite apparent that they had only lost two Marines that time, they had been lucky, she had once seen a pitcher plant take out an entire squad, and heard even worse stories from elsewhere.

She took a breath as she replaced her partially empty magazine with a full one. Ever since entering enemy controlled territory, the bozorgs had been nibbling away at them by little bits and pieces. It might not have been the catastrophic bloodletting that they had suffered that horrible day back in November, but it was almost as bad.

As they started to move out once again, her thoughts drifted to Nikolai, she wondered where he was and what he was up to.





-4:06 PM January 14,k 1988, Balakovo, Saratov Oblast, Russia




At last thought Nikolai as he stepped off the bus and breathed in a large gulp of frigid air. He hefted his bag over his shoulder and started to head down the sidewalk in the direction of his apartment building...

Pausing for a second as he pondered that last little idea, he suddenly realized that the only connection that he had to that place was Ania, there was nothing else for him there, it was no longer his home. It was merely a place that he had lived for a certain part of his life. He wondered what that meant for him and the next twenty minutes.

As he walked down the street, it was kind of cerebral, almost like a dream. There was so much less traffic on the street than he recalled, only the occasional bus or truck passing by, there were no cars. He had heard that strict gas rationing had been instituted, even the Americans had made similar moves.

One of the tenements that he passed on the right had half of its windows either broken or boarded up even though last he remembered seeing it, all of the windows had been intact. A group of men and women were huddled around an oil drum with a fire in it, they paid him little heed as he passed by. They were far too concerned with keeping warm to pay much attention just another passer by.

A group of children played football with a ragged that was missing all of its outer patches. He envied them; despite the squalor apparent in their ragged clothes and the even more ragged looking ball they were playing with, they seemed to not have a single care in the world. There was no sign of the haunted look in their eyes or body language that he saw in so many of the soldiers he had served with and that he saw in the mirror when he woke up in the morning, he hoped that perhaps this war would be over before any of them grew old enough to have to fight in it, he didn't think that there was much chance of that happening though.

After passing yet another group of people huddled around yet another fire in an oil drum along with two cars that had been parked so long that the air had run out of their tires and their paint had faded and chipped with rust showing through in spots, he turned a corner and spotted the building he was looking for.

It looked smaller than he remembered last, then again just about everything in the world looked smaller than he remembered, and just like everything else it looked less vivid, less colorful, and less full too. Some of the windows in it also were boarded up or broken, the paint on it was looking a little more worn than he remembered as well.

He ascended the steps toward the main entrance of the building. The double doors leading into the main hallway on the ground floor were clearly broken, the screws attaching them to the hinges had finally given out, one door had been wedged open while the other simply leaned against the door frame pathetically, the glass in its window was shattered. He at least remembered that those doors had seemed like they were about ready to fall off the hinges when he had left, he guessed that nobody had bothered trying to fix them yet.

It was dark inside, the fluorescent lights which had cast a sickly green illumination on everything weren't working. He paid the darkness little attention as he made his way past the two sets of elevator doors which both had "OUT OF ORDER" signs hanging on them, he would have to take the stairs then.

He was a little thankful that such was the case, he was at least partly dreading this reunion, despite going over what he would do and say a thousand times since arriving back in Russia, he still didn't know what would happen when he finally came face to face with Father. And even after all that he had been through, he still feared the man.

As he ascended the flights of stairs, each step seemed to get a little steeper, and his bag got a little heavier. The dread in the pit of his stomach was getting stronger too. He paused as he came to the floor that was his destination and he exited the stairwell into the hallway. He looked down the corridor, blankly staring.

The lighting was dim in there too, with only about a third of the ceiling lights actually working. It was just barely enough to make out the dingy and stained carpet on the floor. It was almost as cold in there as it was outside and he could make out the faint odor of urine, Although a little darker, dirtier, and a little colder; it wasn't that much different from what he remembered.

After another minute or two of just standing there gaping, he took a deep breath and moved forward again. After less than a minute of walking he reached the door to the apartment, he turned and faced it, he knocked three times.

*-*-*

She scrubbed hard all over her body as the lukewarm water washed over her body. She had felt dirty and wanted desperately to feel clean again, she didn't even care when she ran the washcloth over her bruises from when Father had beaten her earlier that morning.

He had been drunk again when she had gotten home from school, and after smacking her around for a few minutes he told her to take her clothes off in front of him. He hadn't actually done anything else to her, he hadn't gone that far yet, but she had been disgusted all the same.

It had started back when she had turned thirteen, and she noticed him looking at her in a different sort of way, a way that had made her feel uncomfortable. Then there were the times when he grabbed her in ways that also felt wrong, and then three weeks ago she caught him peeking into her room while she changed her clothes. Each time it had made her feel disgusted and dirty. She cried herself to sleep each night, as much as she hated him, she had long since stopped caring if he saw or heard her cry, she didn't care about much anything lately.

Suddenly there was a loud banging on the door "Ania..." the rest of the sentence was lost in a bunch of drunken slurring, not that it mattered what he said. The door opened and in he walked clumsily, her heart skipped a beat this is the time that he finally does it she thought with a sense of grim resignation.

A large, fat, grimy hand gripped the side of the shower curtain clumsily and pulled it aside, some of the shower curtain rings popped free from the rail as he did so. She gasped in fear as she saw his beady, dark eyes staring at her lustfully. She did her best to cover herself up, but it was a hopeless gesture.

He looked her up and down "don cofffer yerselllfff up you uselesssss slut!" he shouted angrily and he smacked her across the face hard enough that she slipped and fell onto the tiled floor of the shower stall. As he looked down at her, his expression twisted into a sinister parody of a smile.

"Thadds all yoooooouuuu're good for! Being naged on your back!"

He knelt down next to her and she could smell the horrible combination of vomit, body odor, and booze. She almost wanted to vomit herself. In stead she looked up at him, hate filling her eyes, she didn't care if he beat her for it, not anymore, not after what he was about to do. She would probably even laugh at him as he did, knowing full well that he couldn't hurt her any more than he already had, that every time he struck her, he might as well be pounding his fists into a brick wall for all the good it would do him.

"Ohhh, sssssssooo you thinggg you're gonna gggiiiiivvvvveeee me that attitude will you!?!? I'll magggeeee you ssssorry you ever looooggggeeed at me thadd way!"

Father raised his hand in preparation to strike her when the sound of three loud thumps reverberated throughout the apartment. He turned his head to look back in the direction of the sound "somebodddy at the fugging doooor" he said to no one in particular and it looked as if he might actually leave to go see who it was when he turned back to face her again "fugg him! Whoever he is, he can come baggg lader" he said with a tone of annoyance.

He had let his hand fall slightly during the distraction, so he raised it up again, but then the mysterious visitor knocked again, this time louder. Father slurred out a couple profanities as he turned his head once again "go the fugg away!!!" he shouted. This only seemed to encourage the visitor even more as three more knocks could be heard, these sounded as if they were about to force the door from its hinges "fugging... shove mmmy boot up his ass..." Father grumbled as he clumsily picked himself up off of the bathroom floor and headed back out of the room. He stopped briefly before exiting and turned his head to face Ania "don efen thinnnkkk about moooofing!" he said to her, then exited the room.

As much as she despised him, hopelessness had gripped her too thoroughly, she merely lay there crying to her self quietly.

*-*-*

Nikolai knew that Father was home, what else was a pensioner with a drinking problem to do all day but stay at home and drink cheap vodka?

So, despite the fact that he got no response the first time he knocked, he knocked again, harder. When he heard the sounds of someone drunkenly cursing at him from the other side of the door, he knew that he had been right, but he continued to pound on the door anyway, just in case Father had still decided to try and ignore him until he gave up and left.

His persistence paid off when he finally heard the sounds of someone on the other side of the door "fugging asshole" he managed to make out.

The tension in Nikolai's muscles ratcheted up even further as he heard the sound of the lock on the door being worked on. After a few seconds the door creaked open slightly and the strong odor of vomit, alcohol, and persperation hit him in the nostrils like a smack in the face. The light was dim inside and he could clearly make out the form of Father's face.

There was silence there, Nikolai wasn't sure if it was due to his father being surprised at seeing him, or just that he had nothing to say to his son. After what felt like an eternity, Father spoke "I wondered how longgg b'fore your worthlessss assss would come crawling back here" came his greeting.

Surprisingly, his father's insults actually helped to lessen some of the tension he was feeling "it's good to see you too Father, is Ania here?" asked Nikolai.

Father's eyes narrowed "sh- she- herrr worthlesss ass is in the shower waaasssstingggg wader... goodfornothing bissshhh, come baggg lader" he managed to slur out as he started to close the door again.

For a fraction of a second, Nicolai almost did just that, but something made him change his mind. He placed his hand up against the door and planted his foot on the floor just inside the doorway "heyyy! I'll breagggg your fugging foot off in the fugging doooooorrr!" protested Father and Nikolai almost pulled pack reflexively, but he realized that Father was pushing with all his strength and yet he had little problem holding it open.

"I think I'll wait here for Ania to get out of the shower."

With that, Nikolai gave a stiff shove and managed to push the door about halfway open. The sound of feet thumping clumsily against the floorboards indicated that his father had struggled to keep his footing as he was pushed back by the door. Nikolai then entered his old home.

A quick survey of the apartment showed that it was as pitiful as he remembered. It was illuminated by a single lamp without a shade on it, the bulb flickered and wavered as if it was about to burn out any second. From what he could make out, the carpet was stained and dirty and was getting worn thin in some spots, water stains marked the ceiling, and empty vodka bottles littered the floor. It was only slightly warmer than it was out in the hallway, and the already unpleasant odor of Father was now joined by the musty smell of mildew.

Finally his eyes fell upon his father, and suddenly so much of the fear and apprehension that he had felt leading up to this moment melted away. Father was only about average height, stocky, slightly balding head, a pair of hideous pinholes for eyes, and an ugly pockmarked and unshaven mask of a face. Dressed in a stained and grimy undershirt and pair of dark brown slacks which looked like they hadn't been washed in days if not weeks, he looked as pitiful as any of the most pathetic people he had seen in the refugee camps in India and Pakistan, only chubbier.

Was this the frightening tyrant that he had feared for so much of his life? The vicious monster who had tormented his entire childhood?

Nikolai almost wanted to laugh.

Father stared at him silently agape for a couple seconds before regaining his composure "fugging fine, I ought to bbbeeeaaaattt you for that one, buuuutttt fuggit" he said as he slammed the door and headed for the tattered and faded armchair at the center of the room.

Nikolai almost smirked at that last little bit. To think that there was a time when such a threat actually frightened him.

Picking up a half empty bottle off the floor on his way to the chair, father began the apparently difficult process of sitting himself down in the chair "ssssooo, did your keeeeeppppers in Mmmmmoscow get tired offfff you succckkking offff their generosity like a parasite!" he said condescendingly.

It was then that Nikolai noticed that his father's shirt wasn't just stained, but it was wet, and so was the thin crown of hair around his head Ania is in the shower- no, that couldn't be his heartbeat quickened at the thought "you said Ania is in the shower? Is she okay?" Nikolai asked suspiciously.

Something flashed behind father's eyes, was it panic? Or something else? Nikolai didn't know for sure, but he was starting to get a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. He dropped his bag on the floor and started to head for the hallway and the bathroom "perhaps I should check on her, see if she's alright" he said.

Father clumsily tried to get himself out of the chair as Nikolai reached the doorway, but only wound up going to his knees on the floor "don yoouuu g..." his father tried to say, but Nikolai ignored all the rest as he headed down the corridor toward the bathroom.

He could hear the sound of the water running, but the door was open "Ania? Are you alright?" he asked aloud, there was no response, but as he got closer he thought he could make out the faint sound of someone quietly crying "Ania?!" he almost shouted it this time. The crying stopped.

"Ni- Nikolai?"

His heart racing, he almost sprinted the last couple steps to the doorway; when he looked in, he saw his sister trying to pick herself up off of the bottom of the shower stall, the curtain had been partially ripped off the hooks and water had spilled all over the floor. His eyes went wide with shock as he looked at her. She was naked, and normally he would have averted his eyes immediately at such a sight, but something drew his attention.

Bruises.

Someone who had not known Nikolai's family might have assumed that they were just the result of an unfortunate slip in the shower, but Nikolai knew better. He had heard no sound of such a fall, there were bruises in far too many places for it to have been just from a simple accident, and the look on her face was not that of someone suffering from simple physical pain.

Nikolai managed to pull himself out of his shock and entered the room, and as he did so, Ania walked out to meet him, but stumbled and started to fall. He almost leaped across the room and managed to catch her before she hit the floor and wrapped his arms around her tightly.

She started to cry again. Looking around quickly, Nikolai found a towel hanging on the wall, he reached over and grabbed it, then wrapped it around Ania's narrow frame "it's okay, I'm here now, you're okay" he started to comfort her.

"You fugging piece of ssssshiiiiiddd, both of you are sssssooooo pathedic!"

Father was standing in the doorway, a furious look on his face. Nikolai looked up at him for half a second, then turned his gaze down toward Ania, she was staring up at Father, a look of both terror and hatred in her eyes "Ania?" whispered Nikolai. She looked at him. He stared back at her with a questioning look in his eyes.

He didn't know for sure what had happened just before he had gotten there, but he thought he had a good idea. She knew what he was asking, even without him speaking the question, after a second she nodded, confirming his fears.

For the first time since arriving, anger began to burn through his thoughts; a deep, hot, vicious anger. He gave his sister one last reassuring look, nodded toward her, set her down on the bathroom floor, and then picked himself up to face his father "Ania, go get dressed and get your things" he said, then looked father right in the eye. She obediently picked herself up off the floor and started putting her clothes on.

If it were possible, Nikolai's eyes would have burned a hole right through his father into the wall behind him, and he caught another flash of that same something behind those tiny little eyes of his.

Whether it was fear or not, it quickly passed and now father was making that same sinister grin he always made just before pounding on one of his children. For the first time, it didn't frighten Nikolai.

"Yoooouuuuu- You thing I'm avraidddd of you?!?! Yooouuuu thing I believe for a second any of tthhhadd buulllshidd they printed in Pravda about you? Nothing but lies for the party. I know bedddeeerrrrr. A wwwwaaaassstttteeee of spaaaasssseeee ligggge you is toooo much of a cowardddd to fight like a reaaaalll man...."

Father trailed off in a string of drunken profanity, it didn't matter though, Nikolai wasn't listening anyway.

Just as the last bit of cursing came to an end, father made his move. Nikolai had been expecting it long before it had happened, he just needed to see what form it would take.

It was a clumsy swing, so much so that Nikolai thought Father would trip over his own feet in the process. He easily knocked the blow to the side and responded with a strike of his own. Stepping forward, he threw a stiff left hook into father's ribs, drawing out a sharp grunt of pain. Then he swung down with a swift chopping motion into Father's neck followed quickly by a sharp upper cut into his chin.

Father cried out as he stumbled back and fell onto the floor, his tiny little eyes stared up in absolute fury as he struggled to pick himself back up "you peeeessssseeee of shiiiiiiiiidddddd I-"

"Shut up!"

In spite of all that had just happened, father seemed genuinely surprised by Nikolai's sharp response, he stared back speechlessly. Nikolai suddenly started to laugh, Father merely looked up at him bewildered.

"You want to hear something funny? I just realized it myself."

He paused for a second, as if expecting a response, but didn't wait for one "after all the horrible, nightmarish things I saw over there. All the death and pain and suffering. After all that, you know what haunted my dreams the most? The thing that kept me up at night more than anything else?"

Again, another pause, and again he didn't wait for an answer.

"It was you, it was always you. And yet here I stand looking down at you; a pathetic, broken down drunk, who beats on his own children to make himself feel better. You know something? If I didn't hate you so much I would probably pity you."

He laughed again. His father merely sat there in silence, a look of total confusion on his face, after a second he looked as if he was about to throw out another one of his insults, but Nikolai cut him off "I'm leaving here and taking Ania with me. You are not going to stop me and you will never try to contact or see either of us ever again, is that understood?" he said as if he was talking to an errant child.

Father opened his mouth as if to speak, but again Nikolai cut him off "if that didn't get through to your dim-witted alcohol clouded mind, then perhaps this will-" he knelt down and met his fathers gaze, his stare was pure ice "-I've killed people, I've killed bozorgs, and I've survived things that would have killed better men than you, so don't think for a second that if I see or hear of you ever coming near either one of us that I would even let death itself stop me from ripping out your intestines and strangling you to death with them" he said in the most flat tone he could manage, and for the first time in his life, his father was staring back at him with nothing but complete and total terror in his eyes.

Nikolai knelt there staring into his fathers wide eyes for about a minute longer in silence, when he was convinced that he had gotten the message through, he stood back up and saw Ania standing there fully clothed. She wasn't looking at him though, she was looking at Father, pure searing hatred was in her eyes.

What happened next took both Nikolai and his father completely by surprise.

Moving so fast that she was almost a blur, Ania threw herself at Father. She cried out in sheer fury as her arms lashed out. She pounded and scratched and kicked and pounded some more. Father cried out as much in shock as in pain. Nikolai was so taken aback by it that he merely stood there and watched as his little sister unleashed all her anger and rage on her father. Somehow she had managed to get a hold of an empty vodka bottle and was now swinging it like a club. It made sort of a high pitched thumping noise as it slammed into him. He let out more cries of pain which were joined by the occasional popping sound of bones breaking.

Finally, after he didn't know how long, Nikolai grabbed his sister who struggled at first, but quickly relented as she realized who it was that was grabbing her. He picked her up in his arms and carried her into her room where he quickly threw as many of her possessions as possible into a suitcase. Then he led her out of the apartment and down toward the steps, the whole time she didn't say anything, she merely breathed heavily. It wasn't until they were on the bus that she started to cry again, and this time it wasn't quiet and shallow like he had heard before, but deep, fully voiced sobs in stead.

He didn't care if anyone else on the bus could see or hear them, he merely held her tightly and did his best to reassure her.

"It's okay, I'm here now, I'm so, so sorry I wasn't there for you before, but you don't have to worry anymore, he won't hurt you ever again, I promise."






-7:28 PM January 19, 1988, Sioux Falls, South Dakota




Private Benjamin Stokes stepped around an overturned car; a Hyundai hatchback, he thought.  He almost jumped when he heard the distant sound of artillery going off.  He nervously swung his weapon left, then right, then back the other way. 

Fear had been his primary companion since they had pushed into bozorg controlled territory.  Ambushes befell them sometimes a half a dozen times a day, sometimes they didn't see a single enemy for days on end.  When they didn't find bozorgs, they often found bodies, sometimes civilians, sometimes military.  Horribly mutilated and cut to pieces, they had been strewn about wherever they were; entrails smeared all over the ground, arms and legs broken and severed and left scattered here and there.  Sometimes there weren't even whole bodies, at least not that anyone could tell.

They found fingers and toes, hands, severed heads, bits and pieces of flesh and bone and brain matter, sometimes they couldn't even tell what they were, just that they had come from a body. It was like the bozorgs were fucking with them, deliberately trying to freak them out. Whatever the case, it was working on him.

Then there were the noises, they may have been even worse too, they heard them all the time. Weapons fire; all too often cut short, screaming; sometimes human, sometimes not, sometimes starting out as the former and changing into the latter, sounds both indescribable and horrible.

The sounds were with them all day long, and they haunted his nightmares. Sometimes he would hear them in his sleep and awaken to realize that he had been hearing them for real, other times he would wake up to find that they were only part of his own nightmares, he didn't know which was worse.

The scuttlebutt was terrifying. Stories circulated of bozorgs that could look like people, invisible warriors that wiped out whole squads and sometimes whole platoons, things that came right out of the ground to swallow up men and sometimes even tanks. This wasn't American territory anymore, it wasn't even human territory anymore, he was the alien invader.

Someone screamed off to his right, and he swung his weapon around to aim at any possible threats coming from that direction. He didn't spot any, and so his eyes darted left and right, looking for something that was about to reach out from the shadows and disembowel him, but nothing presented itself. More screams could be heard, and some weapons fire this time too.

Something moved in his peripheral vision and he swung his weapon over, letting loose a burst of fire, but there was nothing there, or had he just missed-

His thoughts were cut short as a bozorg wraith decapitated him with a single swift motion of one of its scythes.

*-*-*

Ten minutes later, not a single human was left alive there as all ten of the wraiths had swept over the platoon and killed every single person that they saw.





-8:23 AM January 24, 1988, Palmdale, California, United States




Nikita Mamedov was once again taken aback by just how cold and dreary it was out there in southern California as he stepped out of the van. He had always thought of the place as a scorching desert at all times of year, but really, it seemed no different than Moscow in the fall(as far as the weather went anyway), if a bit warmer.

His train of thought was interrupted as he spotted the cartoon character at the top of the large building they were being led to. Suddenly he was reminded of just where they were.

He'd read reports, heard rumors, even imagined just what went on in this place, and here he was; about to walk right through the front door.

They were ushered into the main lobby of the building as more vans started to pull up, undoubtedly loaded with passengers from around the globe. Once the group with Nikita were all inside, they were greeted by an attractive young woman in a nicely tailored suit “good morning, and welcome. If you will all follow me this way, we have refreshments waiting for everyone” she said in almost unaccented Russian.

As they progressed down various corridors, being given a cursory tour of the overall facility, Nikita couldn't help falling behind the group as he stopped to marvel at the paintings and models of various different aircraft.

Ever since he had been a child, Nikita had wanted to be a pilot in the Red Air Force. He adjusted his thick glasses on his nose, reminding himself of the reason as to why he had been unable to achieve a career as a pilot. So, rather than give up, he had decided that the next best thing was to design and build planes even if he couldn't fly them.

A hand reached out and grabbed him by the shoulder “come on Nikita, stop ogling the artwork like dirty pictures” teased Mikhail Pogosyan.

Nikita nudged the hand away “alright, I'm coming” he said with a chuckle.

After about a half hour they found themselves inside an aircraft hangar, in one corner of which was a partitioned area with a series of tables and chairs. Along one wall was a row of eight sleek black aircraft, each neatly aligned on display. Nikita's heart almost skipped a beat when he gazed upon them and he had to stop himself from drooling as he was led toward his seat.

Ever since he had seen the first few grainy photographs of them he had always been enamored with these planes. Above all other aircraft, these ones had a certain malevolent beauty that other designs lacked. He read GRU reports, he studied each and every photograph he saw, and devoured every piece of information he could gather on these planes, and yet he had never; not in his wildest dreams, believed that he would be allowed to get this close to one, and now he was going to be working with them in person.

The woman gestured toward one of the tables “please have a seat, and help yourself to a glass of water, servers will be by shortly to take any orders you may have for drinks” she said cordially.

Nikita found a chair and seated himself, he also noted a pair of headphones sitting on the table next to the glass of water in front of him, there was a pair in front of each chair “if you would like to make use of our translator service, please feel free to put those earphones on” she said in that same friendly tone. Already knowing English quite well, he decided not to bother with the headphones.

“Well, isn't that something. They brought in people from Mikoyan and Tupolev too. I am impressed” said Mikhail, surprised.

Indeed, it was quite remarkable that they were bringing together personnel from the three highly competitive Soviet Aircraft Bureaus for one project, and he was seeing parties being brought in from France, Britain, China, and about a dozen different countries on top of the American and Russian groups. It was a true sign of unprecedented international cooperation, the likes of which anyone had seen off of the battlefield.

A half hour later, all of the various groups of engineers had been assembled and seated, and a group of Americans filed into the hangar, sitting down at a row of seats at one side of the partitioned area. One of the Americans; an older gentleman with silver hair and a dark suit approached the microphone stand in front of the row of chairs. Picking it up he held the microphone up to his mouth “good morning and welcome to the Lockheed Skunk Works. I am Ben Rich, the head of this division” he said.

“If you will look around the room, you will see the foremost minds in the field of aeronautical engineering. There are no under-qualified people in this building”

A pause.

“We have been brought here by the Governments of the United States, Soviet Union, and just about every other nation on the planet to take these-” he gestured toward the row of planes there in the hangar “aircraft and make them faster, more reliable, cheaper to build, more maneuverable, and much more deadly. We have been given eighteen months to do so.”

There was another pause, this time he smiled “and I say that we will get it done in one year, let's get to work ladies and gentlemen.”





-9:23 AM February 2, 1988, White House Situation Room, Washington, DC, United States




“Alright, I have to give a briefing to the president in less than two hours, so let's make this brief and simple, what is the overall situation with regards to Mexico.”

John Marsh looked out over the assembled group who were still silent, each person seemed intent on waiting to see who would make the first move. Finally someone broke the silence by clearing their throat, it was General Norman Schwarzkopf; commander of American forces in Mexico “well, there is no sense in beating around the bush here. I've got barely twenty five divisions at my disposal at this point, and I don't need to tell you that that won't be nearly enough should the enigmas decide to start moving. We need more feet on the ground, plain and simple” he said grimly.

The Secretary of Defense took a deep breath “I was thinking along the same lines, we need more troops and we have to pull them from somewhere-”

He was cut off by General James Lindsay “I cannot stress enough the need we currently have for as many troops as we can get right now” he interjected.

The Secretary shook his head “I understand where you are coming from General, but we just don't-”

“Need I remind you that things in former enemy controlled territory are a complete mess. Surely you have read the reports. We've got these new tactics of theirs, the shape changing 'pitcher plants' they've been using, the 'booby traps', and those roving bands of invisible assassins of theirs. We've been suffering upwards of twenty percent casualties since shifting over to the offensive. We haven't been able to draw their major ground forces into a large scale battle, they just sit there inside the infested area under cover of whatever anti-nuclear defense they have. We don't dare send troops out there in anything less than platoon strength, not if we want to see them again. You can't be-”

“I'm well aware of the reports you've been sending in General. And yes, I agree that the situation there is far more difficult than we had hoped for, but we cannot deny the threat that the enigmas represent. If they decide to start mov-”

“Whenever that may be. The truth is that we don't know that they will even try to advance over land at all, and this so called offensive may not come for years if it ever comes at all. It-”

“I'm well aware of the possibilities before us General, but you know the numbers just like I do. Whenever they do decide to make a move, without a considerably larger force there, we will be doing nothing more than sending several hundred thousand men and women to their deaths because we do not have the numbers to match theirs. We've given you and your counterparts in Brazil and Afghanistan months to make progress, and you have all done admirably under the conditions, but the time has come to make tough decisions. Of all people, you should be able to understand that.”

Marsh gave the general a stern look in the hopes that he got his point across “are you telling me that I have to continue to press this offensive with a considerable reduction in my overall combat strength?” asked the General indignantly.

Marsh's gaze did not waver “I'm telling you that when I brief the President, I'm going to suggest that we cease all offensive operations in North America and depending on the positions of our allies, in Europe and Brazil as well” he said flatly.

“And just how high will the butchers bill be after you are done talking with the president?”

“The specifics still have to be laid out, but it will probably amount to something in the neighborhood of fifty divisions in each theater, maybe more, maybe less-”

“That's nearly a third of my full combat strength, you can't seriously-”

“I can and I will General. Although, as always, the final decision lays with the President. Now; before we move forward, do you have anything further to say?”

Silence hung in the room, General Lindsay stared back at the Secretary of Defense with a mixture of anger and frustration. No general likes admitting defeat, but he knew as well as everyone else in that room what the situation was, after a minute he took a deep breath “no, that is all” he said finally.

With a nod, Marsh moved on to another subject “alright, now to the situation in the air.”





-10:23 AM February 12, 1988, Bilma, Niger




Private Jean LaFarge stood at attention at the end of a line of other soldiers, and the hot desert sun was beating down on them. Sweat was running down his forehead, it wasn't entirely due to the heat.

“Well, it appears that after a somewhat late start we have finally begun the process of turning you lot into a group of proper soldiers!”

The Turkish sergeant; his name was Tabak, stood before the group of assembled Nigeriens, his accent was just barely noticeable. Someone grumbled some kind of complaint just barely below an audible level. Jean cringed, expecting the sergeant to jump down the other man's throat and pull his lungs out through his ass. He was both surprised and dismayed when the response was considerably more understated than that. The sergeant merely smiled at them, it was a sinister smile, one with enough ice behind it to cool the entire desert to a frozen tundra.

“Ah, you all have made the mistake of assuming that you are soldiers. That amuses me, so I'll forgive you for not showing proper respect, besides-”

He started to approach the line of men “you'll learn soon enough not to FUCK with me!” he shouted. The look in the sergeant's eyes and the tone of his voice gave Jean a bit of a shiver, despite the heat out there.

Sergeant Tabak stopped less than a meter in front of one of the men further down from Jean and stared at him, Jean did not envy him. After an awkward minute or two of silence, the sergeant started making his way in Jean's direction, he could almost feel the relief in the man that Tabak had chosen to scrutinize while his own dread grew at the thought that he was next.

“While you and the rest of the men in your so called 'army' have been running crowd control in South America and Iran, the real soldiers have been fighting the most brutal war in human history against the most horiffic and destructive opponents you can imagine. YOU will soon be joining them, but I have good news.”

He stopped directly in front of Jean, and turning sharply on his heels, the sergeant turned and faced him. He could practically feel the weight of the man's stare pressing into him “I am here to turn you sorry group of failures into proper soldiers!”

“But don't worry, I realize that the kind of life of a real soldier is something new to all of you, so we'll start with something easy. Therefore we'll do a nice and easy ten kilometer run. Let's get started, I want to be finished today's work before midnight”





-8:17 PM February 14, 1988, Leningrad, Russia




Junior Sergeant Ivan Chernov sat nervously in a small room, a bright light shone down upon him and the table before him, illuminating him starkly. Sweat dripped down his forehead, partially from the heat generated by the bright light, and partially from his own nervousness. Clutched in his arms was a rather thick envelope; he held it tightly, almost as if it was about to jump out of his grasp and run away of its own accord. The rest of the room was dark and shrouded in shadow, making it hard to make out any details beyond himself and the table before him.

When the door opened, he almost fell out of his chair “relax comrade Chernov, it is just I and the gentleman you came here to see. There is no need to get upset” came the voice of one man, he recognized the voice from when he had first come there.

The source of the voice stayed behind Ivan, never walking into view, meanwhile another man in a dark grey suit walked around the table and sat at the chair on the opposite side of it, he never leaned into the light, keeping his features obscured by darkness.

There was a moment of tense silence, then “alright junior sergeant, why don't we get down to whatever it is you have for me then eh?” asked the other man, the one he had come to talk to.

Ivan shook his head nervously and gripped the envelope in his arms more tightly “no, I said that I wanted to talk to you and no one else” he demanded.

There was another moment of silence, then the man in front of him made some kind of gesture that he couldn't quite discern, then Ivan heard the sound of the door opening, and then closing again as someone exited the room.

“Very well, now can we continue?”

The voice had a hint of annoyance in it, but not overly so, Ivan finally nodded nervously “al- alright” he said as he finally took the envelope in his arms and laid it out on the table “my brother-in-law; Anatoli Nasenko told me that he went to school with you at the 401st KGB school here in Leningrad, he also worked with you at the fifth directorate. Said that you were a good man and someone who I could trust” Ivan started to explain.

The other man sat back in his chair “ah, yes Anatoli, I remember him. How is he doing these days?” he responded.

“He's dead, he and his wife were killed in a bus accident last week.”

There was silence in the room for a moment “I'm sorry to hear that, I hadn't been informed. You have my condolences” came the response, it almost sounded genuine “but, I still don't know what this has to do with why you are here” he continued.

Almost as if on cue, Ivan began to open the envelope "my posting is at a munitions depot not far outside the city, I handle record keeping and inventory.  I'm quite good at my job" he said, a hint of pride creeping into his voice.

He slowly pulled a thick stack of papers out of the envelope "a few weeks ago I spotted a discrepancy in the records regarding several crates of high explosives" he started to explain as he pulled a stapled packet away from the rest of the stack.  Flipping through a few pages, he came to one with a highlighted entry on it "this was a shipping manifest from a year ago, and this-" he pointed to the highlighted entry "-is an entry for three crates that were delivered as part of the shipment, the contents are listed as twelve thousand kilograms of composition C explosives, take note of the crates' serial numbers" he explained, the nervousness in his voice seemed to have given way to something more intent.

Ivan laid the packet down on the table and slid it toward the man on the other side of the table who did not take the packet in his own hands, quickly he pulled another off of the stack and flipped to another page with yet more highlighted entries "this is an inventory that was taken about three weeks ago, and if you look here at the entries next to the crate serial numbers that designated the explosives, the contents now read as socks, mind you that the location is the same as before.  They are being stored in a warehouse meant for the storage of high explosives and munitions" Ivan reached for yet another packet and opened it to a page with more highlighting "this inventory was taken a month before that one, it too reads as three crates of socks, after doing some thorough looking, I had to go back to October of last year to find an entry that matched the shipping manifest" he concluded as he produced another inventory list from the stack.

The other man sat silently at the other side of the table and looked at the pages before him, he picked up the latest inventory listing and examined it "perhaps an error?" he hypothesized, although the skepticism in his voice had a slight hint of something else.

Ivan shook his head "I thought the same thing at first, but the inventories taken prior to October all listed those crates as containing explosives-" he took another couple stapled packets and tossed them onto the table "-but the thing that really got me suspicious was the signature on each inventory" he reached over and picked up the second most recent packet.  Flipping to the last page, he indicated the signature there "until a month ago, the inventory of that warehouse was handled by someone other than myself.  A Junior Sergeant named Olansky, he recently died due to a burst appendix.  The fact that no one has bothered to check on this inconsistency until now is almost as worrying to me as the fact that twelve hundred kilograms of high explosives has gone missing" he said with a nervous laugh.

The other man continued to examine the documents "you've found something else" he said.  It was a question as much as it was a statement.

"That's right.  I asked my commanding officer about it afterward and he agreed to look into it."

There was a brief pause, then "three days later he told me to forget all about it, he seemed pretty scared too" Ivan said with a nervous sigh "and I probably would have too if not for the fact that while I was waiting for him to get back to me I decided to check on any shipping manifests for items leaving the depot between the times of the inventory taken in October and the one right after that, there were three major shipments.  However, only one of them involved items stored in that particular warehouse.  It was shipped on October nineteenth and had a destination with our front line forces in Uzbekistan.  Included in that shipment were three crates with identical serial numbers on them, the contents are listed as socks."

He produced another packet, this one with a different layout of the figures on each page "Now, I am just a clerk, I don't know for a fact what exactly happened out there, but I've heard the rumors, and the idea of missing explosives showing up in Uzbekistan in late October started giving me a bad feeling, so I called up Anatoli."

There was a pause.

"Two weeks ago he contacted me with a file containing a bunch of shipping manifests from ammunition dumps all over the front out in Uzbekistan-"

Resting his head in his hands for a moment, Ivan took a deep, ragged breath before continuing "three days later I heard that he was killed in a bus accident along with the rest of his family" he said slowly as he returned his attention to the document before him.  He flipped forward until he reached a page with some more highlighted entries "this is a shipping manifest from one of those munitions dumps, it shows a delivery that includes those three serial numbered crates as well as another fifteen from other depots all over the Soviet Union, they are all listed as containing socks" he said with a slight tone of finality.

The other man reached across the table and grabbed the shipping manifest, after a brief silence he spoke "socks..." he said quietly as if in thought, then a moment later "are there more?" he asked.

Ivan let out a brief, humorless chuckle "I have shipping manifests from twelve different munitions dumps around the area over the course of approximately a month preceding the big operation in November, I counted a total of just over a thousand crates delivered, all listed as containing socks.  Now, since each crate is also listed as holding the same number of socks, I think it could be safe to assume that they all contain a comparable amount of explosives, which would indicate nearly half a million kilograms of explosives in all" he said gravely.

Again, silence hung in the room.  Ivan finally spoke after another moment "Why would someone do this?  What could anyone gain from it?  I just- just don't understand" he said exasperated.

Vladimir Putin finally leaned forward into the light "that comrade, is an excellent question."




Received: from !usgshost!arpahost!obnet.workhub.centloc.gov([186.112.383.124])
by anthonygiles@arpanet.workhub.centloc.gov

to: <racheljarvis@arpanet.workhub.centloc.gov>
date: tuesday, February 16, 1988, 3:38 PM
subject: anomalous readings from minnesota


Hi Rachel,

I was wondering if you had a chance to read the most recent take from the teleseismometers in the midwest from the past week, because we've been getting something of interest.

Now I know that we've been seeing vibrations coming out of Minnesota much like all the other Bozorg infestation zones around the world for months now, but just last Thursday we started seeing what at first looked like a marked change in those vibrations, however after taking a closer look we realized that we were getting an additional set of seismic activity over top of the old kind which is still there.  Most interesting about it is not so much the change in the vibration itself, but rather the fact that it appears to have a surprisingly wide hypocenter which appears to be an elliptical region nearly one hundred fifty kilometers in diameter.

I've sent a message to Tommy Drake over in Keyworth to see if they've been getting similar readings in Europe, but he hasn't gotten back to me yet.

So, please take a look at the readings for me and let me know what you think.

All the best,
Tony







-excerpt from the journal of Dr. Willard Maye PHD, dept of Art and Archaeology, Princeton University




"February 19, 1988,

I know that I and the rest of the staff here have been incredibly ecstatic about reaching RMA-1; I know that I was as surprised as anyone else that they turned out to be more than anomalous readings on the GPR, but I feel the need to record another find in my journal for posterity, for although it may lack in sheer profound scale, its implications may be just as great if not greater than those of the RMAs.

Last week we managed to uncover what at first appeared to be little more than another small sized building near the city center which from all signs appeared to be a government administration or perhaps religious structure.  The building itself did not appear to be very unique in and of itself, however what we found inside most definitely was.

Located at the center of the one-room building was what appeared to be some kind of iron table, and atop that was the remains of yet another unfortunate soul who seemingly had been 'crucified' with sizeable metal spikes driven through his arms and legs.  The very first thing that I noticed that didn't quite fit with previous such finds was the fact that the table was made entirely out of iron, whereas most Antarctican furniture is made either of stone or wood or a combination thereof.  Additionally there was the set of armor and weapons that were discovered shortly after the table in the same building not far from the remains.

The armor and weapons were of particular note due to the artistic style of the carvings on them as well as their overall design which is very inconsistent with anything else that we have discovered here in the city, almost to the point that I would almost be willing to hypothesize that they originated with another culture altogether almost based upon that alone(although I don't really need to).

The craftsmanship of the armor is of particularly exquisite quality; reaching a level of detail so fine that I have never seen its equal from any other culture including here in Antarctica, although the acts depicted in the chest plate are of a particularly gruesome and violent nature which in fact is quite a similarity to that of Antarctican culture, the overall composition and style of the engravings has a flow to it that is very distinctive from anything else that we've found to date.

The sword is additionally well made with intricate carvings adorning the full length of the blade, the grip, the hilt, and the pommel.  The blade itself is also of particular note for the fact that it is so well forged and honed that if I had to guess, I would swear that it was made with modern machine tools. 

Both the sword and the armor were forged with what at first glance appears to be silver; in fact chemical analysis reveals that it is in fact silver, but it displays characteristics which are wholly inconsistent with silver itself.  Its electrical conductivity is far less than it should be, coming in just slightly higher than led, it weighs far less than it should, with a density that is more comparable to that of ice, meanwhile its tensile strength is more on par with that of high grade steel.  Despite the fact that all evidence points to these artifacts being here at least as long as everything else in the city, there is virtually no sign of aging or corrosion, as they appear to retain a luster as if they had been polished only yesterday, in fact the only signs of damage to the sword or armor are scratches and gouges that appeared to have been sustained in combat.

Most interesting of all however is the fact that the 'silver' reacts to magnetic fields far more strongly than it should, as it starts to vibrate and slightly increase in temperature seemingly spontaneously in the presence of one.  This however is somewhat enigmatic, since while it does react to all sources of magnetic fields, it seems to react to those generated by iron the most, even when compared with fields generated by other sources, no matter how strong or weak it is in comparison.


Normally, any such results would be in keeping with much that we have already unearthed here in Antarctica, but while most lab results regarding already unearthed Antarctican artifacts have been consistent only in their inconsistency, the lab results regarding this particular find have been thoroughly consistent in the more conventional sense.

The remains themselves are an entirely different matter altogether.  Their enigmatic nature is apparent at first glance.  The bones themselves possess a faint metallic sheen which I've learned is the result of trace amounts of the same kind of metal that makes up the sword and the armor.  The fully assembled skeleton itself appears far more elongated and slender than would be considered natural on a human body, in fact the exact measurements of the bones are far beyond the range of normal human proportions, and would seem to indicate that when he was alive(and if he was truly human), the subject most likely suffered from some form of disorder such as giantism, yet all lab results have so far returned no results indicating any presence of hGH in the bones, much less any excessive levels.

The teeth are the next most obvious anomaly, as they are quite sharp.  At first I assumed that this was the result of filing as some societies are known to do.  However, the size of the teeth would indicate that they must have been abnormally large before being ground down, and in fact, closer examination shows no signs of any of the scoring or abrasion associated with filing, which would indicate that they grew in this way naturally.

Additionally, upon slightly closer examination, it has been revealed that the number of bones in the skeleton are inconsistent with typical human anatomy.  There are twenty nine vertebra as opposed to twenty-four, there are two more ribs than there should be, six more teeth, and each thumb has an additional joint.

While we have uncovered plenty of human or human-like remains which have considerable abberations or mutations that differentiate them from standard human anatomy, this is something different even from that.

Finally, something else I found striking was the reaction that I got from our 'administrator' when he heard of the find.  So far he has seemed to have a sort of detached fascination with everything we have found so far, almost as if none of this is new or unique to him.  I would almost go so far as to venture that he expects us to find these things as absurd as that sounds.  However, when I informed him of this particular find he actually seemed generally surprised by it, like he thought it wasn't even supposed to be there.  Yet, after my initial report on the remains and accompanying artifacts, his surprise merely turned to something more akin to blithe dismissal.
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 Post subject: Re: Godforsaken Future
PostPosted: 2011-09-28 02:36am 

Youngling


Joined: 2010-03-22 02:14pm
Posts: 148
-10:18 AM, February 20, 1988, Camp Broadsword, Former site of Akkurgon, Uzbekistan




Kelly walked up to the hatch of one of the many Quonset huts that made up just about every structure here at Camp Broadsword.  Despite choosing a small southern  Uzbek city near the Afghan border to establish a forward base of operations, there wasn't much left of the city when the coalition managed to recapture it the previous month.  So, if the Corps wanted to set up a base of operations, they would need to build it from scratch.

Despite the presence of the bustling military base there, it was hard to miss the surrounding devastation.  Even within the base itself, there were the occasional craters that had not been filled in or leveled out, and there was still plenty of ash on the ground which made it a real bitch to keep anything clean for more than ten seconds.  Looking beyond the perimeter told the real story though, as far as the eye could see, it looked like a rubble strewn moonscape, twisted metal hulks that had once been some kind of military vehicle before being shelled into an unidentifiable mangled mess, crumbled piles of scorched rubble indicated places where there had once been buildings. 

Before moving into the area to retake it, the coalition had pounded this area for days and days with an unending torrent of artillery fire before finally moving in to claim it once again in the name of humanity.  This of course was after the whole area had been blanketed by nuclear fire in an effort to cleanse it of bozorg infestation.  They had had to destroy this place before they could save it.  The irony was not lost on Kelly.

It was tragic really, that no matter how hard they fought, they still would be unable to truly reclaim any patch of earth that had been touched by these abominations.  Each and every inch of earth that this enemy had claimed would need to be nuked, bombed, shelled, and burned down to practical worthlessness before it could be properly 'secured.'  Nothing would grow here, not for some time, the choking ash and radiation levels would see to that.  Sure, they had deemed the area 'safe' for coalition troops, but Kelly(along with most every other Marine or soldier she had talked to was skeptical of that ruling.  Of course, even if the radiation was going to give her cancer, there was a very good chance that she wouldn't live long enough to worry about it anyway.

I should only be so lucky she thought to herself with a touch of bitter humor as she reached for the doorknob on the hut's forward hatch, but then she hesitated.

The thought of just what it was that Lt. Samuels wanted with her crept into the back of her mind yet again.  It wasn't that she was afraid or anything, there wasn't much left to be scared of after the things she had seen and done over the past few months.  She did however, feel some form of apprehension.

While she had gotten along with the Lieutenant just fine, they didn't share any kind of close personal bond(beyond that of two Marines who had risked their lives together anyway), and that was perfectly fine.  He was her commanding officer, there wasn't room in that kind of relationship to be friends, so his order to see her like this left questions in her mind, questions she didn't like the answers to.

Am I to be disciplined for something? 

Maybe somebody has accused me of some bullshit charge.  Theft perhaps?  Maybe somebody caught me 'dyking out' with another woman

She mentally chuckled at that last thought.  Despite all she had been through with her fellow Marines, there was still that strong undertone of resentment with some.  It was mostly with fresh recruits and replacements who hadn't seen combat with her or any other female Marines, but there were still the occasional dirty look from a couple of the guys who had been with her since her initial deployment.

Of course what would they do?  Discharge her?  A court martial?

Again, another mental chuckle.  There was fresh meat being shipped in from the States every day, and they were still understrength.

Finally she pushed her speculation aside, opened the hatch, and stepped inside.  The interior of the hut was dimly lit, with a handful of desks arranged along the sides, all of them were presently unoccupied, save one.  Lieutenant Samuels sat at the other end of the hut, punching keys on a typewriter.

Kelly closed the hatch behind her, the Lieutenant looked up from what he was doing "ah, Vasquez, good morning" he said with a warm tone. 

Kelly came to attention "sir, you sent for me?" she inquired.

He nodded as he returned his gaze to the typewriter "at ease Private, why don't you take a seat" he gestured towards an unoccupied chair behind one of the neighboring desks, then punched a couple more keys on the typewriter.

Kelly obediently approached the proffered chair and pulled it up to the front of the desk before seating herself opposite her commanding officer what the hell is going on here? she thought to herself.  She was certainly not used to this kind of behavior from the Lieutenant.

Next thing I know, he'll offer me a lemonade and a newspaper to read.

Silence filled the inside of the hut, punctuated by the rapid fire tapping of the typewriter.  After a few more silence filled moments, he spoke again "you speak Spanish, is that correct Private?" he asked as he continued to rap on the keys.

After about a half a second pause she responded "uh, yes sir, used to speak it all the time at home" she said.

He nodded in acknowledgement "very good, that'll be useful" he said absently.  Another minute or two passed quietly as the Lieutenant continued to type, finally he stopped and looked up from the typewriter to met her gaze for the first time.

"That morning in India, on the second day of ROUNDHAMMER, just what the hell were you thinking when you pulled that stunt with the Russian?"

Kelly froze for a second, she hadn't expected a question about that.

"uh... I don't, sorry-"

"what were you thinking Private?"

His tone had grown much harsher suddenly, she didn't know what was going on.

"Private!"

He almost shouted that time, finally she managed form an answer "I, I needed to save him, I-"

"I don't doubt that Private, but in so doing, you broke rank with your squad and endangered every other Marine there with you, what the fuck were you thinking?!"

He fixed her with a harsh and penetrating stare, suddenly she did feel a bit of fear creep into the back of her mind, after all the things she had seen since arriving out there, she had not been prepared for being on this end of the Lieutenant's temper, she did not like it one bit.

"I just, I-"

She tried to stammer out a response, but he cut her off again "Private, this isn't a game, people are dying out there, good people , you damn well know that just as well as anyone else, we cannot afford to have Marines doing whatever strikes their fancy.  If that's what you want to do Private, then feel free to head back home, we could always use another factory worker churning out bullets.  So tell me Private, what the FUCK were you thinking!?!" he practically barked it at her.

She looked down at her lap as she took a deep breath to calm her nerves, it only worked a little "I- we-" she took one more breath before continuing "when we went through recruit training, one of the most important lessons they taught us was that no Marine is alone, there are no lone wolves.  You put your life in the hands of the man next to you and expect the same of him.  We never leave anyone behind, we keep each other alive, then we accomplish the mission, but when we went into combat, that all went out the window the second we landed."

When she looked up at the Lieutenant, tears were in her eyes along with a generous helping of anguish "I watched people who I went through recruit training with die.  I saw my best friend get disemboweled right before my eyes.  I didn't even get to say goodbye" she closed her eyes and she could see Ditty laying there on the ground out there in India, her blood and guts spilled on the ground, her eyes staring back as the last bits of life left them.

"We all marched like good little Marines right into that meat grinder and took those objectives.  We fought, and died, and died some more, just so that some general somewhere could mark some map grid coordinates as being in friendly hands.  It was a worthless patch of desolate ground, and we won it."

"Then we landed outside that village where the Russians were holding up and I saw that kid.  He looked like he should have been in high school in stead of out there, and he was fighting with his bare hands.  I had to keep him alive.  I know that they said we won that day, but the only victory that I remember was the fact that some poor Russian kid didn't die out there all alone.”

She caught herself and added “sir” on the end.

Kelly slumped in the chair, suddenly she felt exhausted.  When she looked up at the Lieutenant, the hardness had gone out of his expression, in stead she could see pain in his eyes "you may have something" he said quietly "but what I need to know is, will you be able to keep your shit together next time you go into combat?" he asked.

She met his gaze "Sir, I cannot say anything with certainty.  I'm not even certain that I will be alive to see next week, but I will say that as high as I think the price of winning this war is, I've seen what we're fighting against.  I've got a younger brother back home who I don't want to have to see the brutality out here, and I would do anything to ensure that this war ends before he even has the chance to have to fight in this war.  Sir."

He nodded "alright Private, I think I've got enough information to make my decision" he said.

"Sir?"

She looked back at him with raised eyebrows. his own expression changed as he opened a drawer and reached inside "as I'm sure you've heard from the scuttlebut going around, we're pulling out of Uzbekistan and getting shipped to Mexico, and I think it goes without saying that we are in dire need of experienced NCOs and enlisted Marines to keep the next batch of fresh recruits from getting themselves killed in less than five minutes.  So the top brass has asked me to send them what I can" he pulled out something from the drawer and placed it on the desk.

Kelly almost did a double take as she looked down at the desk and saw a rank patch with a lone chevron and crossed rifles on it "sir?" she asked, perplexed.

"You are a good Marine Vasquez, a damn good Marine.  Despite your loss of discipline on that day, you do have the brains and balls to make a damn good NCO as well, maybe even something more than that.  This war is going to be long and bloody, and the numbers are not on our side, we need to keep our people alive so that they can keep fighting this fight, and if we forget that, we will lose this war.  Never forget that."

He fixed her with another stare, this one was stern as well, but lacked the intensity from before "congratulations Lance Corporal, I wish you the best of luck at your new posting" he said as he slid the patch across the desk.
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Scorpion
 Post subject: Re: Godforsaken Future
PostPosted: 2011-09-28 02:19pm 

Youngling


Joined: 2010-04-28 10:43am
Posts: 102
Location: Portugal
Goddammit, guest, you just keep on bringing out the good stuff! Keep that writing ball rolling, I wanna see more good stuff!

Excellent job, can't wait for the next chapter!
Scorpion
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guest
 Post subject: Re: Godforsaken Future
PostPosted: 2011-11-19 04:37am 

Youngling


Joined: 2010-03-22 02:14pm
Posts: 148
Hi guys,


Sorry bout the long hiatus. sometime shortly after the last update got posted, I got hired at a second job in the field of my choice, it was however only meant to be for about a couple weeks to maybe a month and a half. As a result, while I wasn't too interested in sticking with my other job due both to the lousy pay and even lousier hours, I didn't see much choice but to work both jobs, so for the past month and a half I have been working two jobs at about 65-70 hours a week, so I have been pretty damn busy. Consequently there are going to be some pretty sweet VFX in the upcoming Bruce Willis/Joseph Gordon Levitt film coming out next year.

Anyway, long story short, the company I have been working for got picked up for doing some of the visual effects for the new Avengers film coming out next summer and so I now have a much longer term of employment there, and so I finally put my two weeks notice in at my night job yesterday. As a result, I will soon have the time to start updating this story once again.

So, again sorry for the long delay on the updates, but the most recent hiatus looks as though it will finally come to an end soon.

Just thought I would give you guys a heads up.
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Scorpion
PostPosted: 2011-11-19 01:36pm 

Youngling


Joined: 2010-04-28 10:43am
Posts: 102
Location: Portugal
Thank you for thinking of us, guest! And Congratulations for getting the job you wanted! I think I speak for all when I say we wish you the best in your new job!

Also, glad to hear we will be reading more from you in the coming times! There is not enough patience in the world!
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The Vortex Empire
PostPosted: 2011-11-19 05:45pm 

Jedi Master


Joined: 2006-12-11 10:44pm
Posts: 1379
Location: Rhode Island
Congratulations. Awesome that the story will continue, I was just wondering yesterday whether or not it would be.
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guest
PostPosted: 2012-04-02 12:37am 

Youngling


Joined: 2010-03-22 02:14pm
Posts: 148
Well, sorry for the wait guys. Work has been super busy, I worked 14 hours yesterday.

Anyway, I'm almost finished the next update, it had a bunch of stuff I really didn't feel like writing, but they gotta be included in order to set up events further down the line, and they have to be put in before a certain point is reached in the story.

Now, rather than make you guys wait without anything new for the forseeable future, here is a little something to wet your appetite while you wait for the next (big) update.



Interlude



"One of the many interesting mysteries that has yet to be fully uncovered regarding the Southern Cone is the references made in Incan mythology to the 'Camaquen Mikuna' or 'Soul Eaters.'

Information regarding the Soul Eaters is extremely limited as most references made to them was destroyed by Spanish Conquistadors and Catholic missionaries who seemed to have taken a special offense to any stone carvings or ceramic tablets featuring them or their deity 'Ixantep.' Interestingly, while any mention of Ixantep in a religious context depict him as the mortal enemy of the Incan god of creation Viracocha, placing him firmly in the Incan pantheon, the name Ixantep does not appear to be of Quechua origin, and all accounts point to Ixantep originating from within the culture of the Camaquen Mikuna in stead of the Inca. This would indicate that the Inca adopted Ixantep as one of their own gods from another religion entirely. However, the scarcity of records would mean that there is no definitive description of the circumstances surrounding the Incan adoption of this other diety, and it is entirely possible that this is merely just a misinterpretation based upon incomplete information.

A number of theories have emerged regarding the origin of the Camaquen Mikuna. Initially it was thought that they were merely a mythological creation and little more. However, several expeditions to the Southern Cone conducted during the latter half of the 19th century uncovered evidence of the Camaquen Minkuna amongst the remnants of Andean civilizations that predate the Inca, most notably that of the Norte Chico civilization where evidence points to contact with another civilization from the south.

Subsequent expeditions have yet to turn up much more evidence of the Soul Eaters as yet, however indications are that they may have come from as far south as as Tierra Del Fuego. Some theories posit that the Soul Eaters were merely another name given to the Yaghan tribes who inhabited the area, however descriptions of them wearing the skin of other people as garments are contradicted by the recordings of European explorers who described the Yaghans as going about completely naked despite the frigid temperatures of their surroundings.

Most recently, the majority of the evidence points to the Camaquen Mikuna civilization having largely dwindled to nothing but a handful of villages by the fifteenth century during which time it is believed that the Inca engaged in several low level conflicts with the seemingly aggressive people, the last of which ended when the Inca wiped out the last of their villages some time during the latter half of that century.

What exactly caused the Soul Eaters to decline in number is largely a mystery, although the fact that all recorded encounters with them seem to indicate a brand of brutality that their warriors exhibited which was unique among their neighboring civilizations. This would tend to lead one to conclude that a long period of continuous conflict and warfare hampered population growth.

While this is hardly a definitive answer to the riddle of the fall of their civilization, there is one last bit of evidence which may lead in that direction. Aztek writings have sporadically described a mythical tribe of nomads who met their ancestors from the north in the Valley of Mexico. This tribe is described to have originated in a land far to the south and more specifically from a 'city across the sea.' Whether there is anything to such an assertion is not known, but that has not stopped many proponents of the existence of Atlantis from using it to support their own theories. The most likely explanation is that the 'sea' mentioned in these accounts is just an exaggeration of the size of the waters separating the islands of Tierra Del Fuego or possibly the Falklands and the South American mainland. Although there has never been any evidence pointing to the existence of any cities on any part of either archipelago in pre-columbian times.

More importantly is the implications that this meeting has for the debate over when Aztek civilization adopted its propensity for human sacrifice. Writings of the encounter with these 'southern nomads' point to their role in the decision to sacrifice and flay the daughter of the king of the Culhuacan and the subsequent decision to massacre much of the population of Culhuacan and enslave the rest, leading to the eventual rise of the Aztec empire in the Valley of Mexico.

This of course leads to many more questions regarding to the future interactions between..."



-excerpt from 'Lost Civilizations of the Western Hemisphere' by Michael E. Moseley, published 1978
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guest
PostPosted: 2012-06-07 02:52am 

Youngling


Joined: 2010-03-22 02:14pm
Posts: 148
Chapter 33





“What is the use of physicians like myself trying to help parents to bring up children healthy and happy, to have them killed in such numbers for a cause that is ignoble?”
-Benjamin Spock





-4:18 PM, February 23, 1988, somewhere above Antarctica







Clarice mentally forced herself to avoid inspecting her weapon yet again,  she missed her Glock 17, and the 22; while very similar to her weapon of choice, just wasn't the same.  The urge to do so was pretty strong, but giving into it would only draw unwanted attention, and it wouldn't really help her feel any better about the situation.

She looked around the sparsely packed interior of the aircraft, there were about a dozen other people in the belly of the C-130 with her, none of them seemed to be paying much heed to her, but she didn't want to draw their attention all the same.  After taking a slow, deep breath, rubbed her eyes, and let out an equally slow and deep sigh.

The real issue wasn't the weapon, she was quite well versed in how to use dozens of different firearms from dozens of different countries, and she'd used plenty of weapons other than her treasured Glock 17 in the field plenty of times.  Rather, the real problem was the present situation and all of its implications.

While her primary occupation within the Company near the end of her tenure there had been to act as the ‘muscle’ of an operation should things go pear shaped, she had done her share of covert insertions, ones that didn't even involve any shooting or killing even.  She knew how to talk her way out of a sticky predicament, and she knew how to bullshit her way right into them as well, so this really shouldn't have been any problem for her, but it was.

Of course it was different from anything she had done before.  Then she had known who she was going up against, she knew what their overall objects were, and their basic motivations, but this was something else.  She didn't know who was running the show, she didn't know why they felt the need to divert so much funding and resources to an archaeological dig in Antarctica during the most horrific and bloody war in human history, or why it was being kept so secret from the very government that was supposedly funding it.

She had read most of what Brad had brought back with him after getting him out of Trenton.  The information seemed rather straightforward:

They had uncovered a sizable city under the ice down near the south pole, the culture was unlike any other in recorded history, and aside from some rather gruesome religious practices and supposedly anomalous lab results, there didn't appear to be anything of particular note down there. 

It really didn't seem all that remarkable to warrant the kind of effort being put into the dig(especially in these times), but that was just what appeared on the surface.  It was the little bits that weren't specifically stated in his notes and journal entries that had both her and Roger worried.  It wasn’t just the fact that Brad mentioned seeing tons of personnel getting off incoming planes all the time, but that the number of staff he mentioned actually directly connected to the dig itself didn't seem to match up with all the other pieces of information they had about the dig.  The mentions of this 'Administrator' in Dr. Maye's notes that nobody seemed to know the name of also irked her.  Who the hell was he?

The size of the dig and surrounding facilities as described in both Dr. Maye's notes as well as by the young Mr. Danforth did not match up with the sheer amount of funds and resources being funneled there either.

She looked out the window and down on the small cluster of twinkling lights down below which indicated the location of McMurdo station Just what the hell is going on down there?  she thought to herself.  She didn't think she’d like the answer to that question when she found out.





-1:24 PM, February 25, 1988, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States




Jason shivered as another frigid wind cut right through his ratty blue windbreaker.  Despite the clear skies and bright sun, it was freezing cold out on the corner of Allegheney and 17th, and they had been waiting there for the past three hours.  He looked over at Gerome "how much longer we gotta wait here?" he asked plaintively.

Gerome shrugged "I dunno, guy said he'd be here, chill man" he replied, annoyed.

Jason rolled his eyes "I been chillin' man! That's the problem!" he complained.  Gerome merely shrugged again.

There was an oddly deep silence out there on that street corner to match the cold.  Of course there were still sounds; buses and trucks rumbled down some distant streets out of sight, an old lady in grimy sweatpants rummaged through a dumpster about a block away(there were increasingly more homeless people on the streets lately), a dog barked at something that Jason couldn't see.  There would always be sounds as long as there were people left in the world to make them, but compared to the chaotic racket that he had always known to fill the city, it might as well have been in the middle of the desert somewhere.

After a few exceedingly cold and boring minutes, Gerome nudged him "there he is" he said, nodding in the direction of a man about a block away.  He was dressed in a pair of light blue jeans, dark green Eagles jacket, and a black ski cap.  He was walking in their direction.

Gerome nudged him again "now, remember not to freak out on me, this is serious stuff" he warned.

"Yeah, I know, I know.  Relax."

The guy towered over them when he arrived "you Gerome?" he asked.

"Yeah, we're here for the job."

"That's great, who the hell is this?"

There was a pause "this is Jason, don't worry, he's cool" Gerome said, he was clearly trying to sound nonchalant, Jason wasn't sure that it was all that convincing.

The man gave Jason a brief inspection; he didn't like the look in the guy's eyes "yeah, alright.  Jus’ make sure he doesn't do anything stupid" he said as he reached inside his jacket and produced a sizable envelope which he handed to Gerome who quickly stuffed it inside his own jacket.

"Remember, 30th street station, the news stand, Four O' Clock.  Don't look inside, don't let anyone take it from you, and don't be late"

And with a nod to both of them, the unnamed man turned and walked away.  After a minute or two, Gerome turned and looked at Jason "okay, let's go" he said, and they started walking.

It felt good to be moving again, it warmed Jason some and alleviated the cold slightly.  As they made their way down the street, Jason looked over at his friend "what do ya think is inside?" he asked.

Gerome shrugged "I dunno, you wanna look?" he replied.

"Sure, why not?" asked Jason with no indication that he was joking.

Gerome gave his friend a look "I was just kiddin' man" he replied skeptically.

"I wasn't."

"I plan to live to see next week thank you very much."

"Whatever."

Ten minutes later they were descending the stairs into the Allegheney station of the Broad Street Line, and the station was as always with every other transit station in the city, packed.  Gerome tugged at Jason's windbreaker "hey, d'ya see those guys back there?" he said as he angled his head in a rearward direction.

Jason slowed his pace as he stole a glance behind himself and managed to catch a glimpse of two kids who looked a few years older than the two of them, they were both trying to nudge their way past the crowd and they seemed as though they were both looking at Gerome and Jason, they did not look friendly either "I see ‘em" said Jason.

Gerome got a worried look on his face "you think they're after what we got?" he asked with some trepidation.

Jason thought for a second "dunno, but they sure don't look too nice" he replied.  He thought for a second longer, then pulled his friend to the side of the stairwell much to the consternation of about a half dozen commuters right behind them who had to clumsily shuffle around the two boys.  Then he looked Gerome in the eye "you trust me man?" he asked.

The other boy furrowed his brow at the question "wait, what?" he said in confusion.

Jason tightened his grip around his friend's shoulder "I asked if you trust me, and hurry up, we don't have a lot of time" he repeated, more emphatically this time.

Gerome still looked confused, but he answered still "uh, yeah sure Jason, but what are you-"

Jason didn't let him finish though "when I tell you to, I want you to head for the bus stop at Broad and Clearfield, but don't run" he explained as he started heading down the stairs again and gestured for Gerome to follow.

"You just want me to walk out of here and mosey on down to the bus stop?" his friend asked sarcastically.

Jason nodded "yeah, that's exactly what I want you to do" he said confidently.

Gerome gave him a skeptical look "Am I just gonna punch both their lights out all by my self?  Where are you gonna go?" he asked incredulously.

"They won't stop you."

"And what makes you so sure of that?"

"Cuz they gonna be goin’ after me."

Gerome gave him another skeptical look, they had reached the bottom of the stairs and were nearing the turnstiles "but you don't even have-"

"Go now!"

Jason shoved Gerome to the side and in one swift move hopped up on top of one of the turn styles and over into the rest of the subway station "I'll see you at the spot!" he shouted as he sprinted down toward the subway platform while a number of people let out exclamations in surprise.

More people let out shouts of surprise a few seconds later, and Jason quickly turned and saw that the other two boys had decided to give chase, and had seemingly ignored Gerome good, keep on coming he thought to himself triumphantly.

Pushing his way forward, Jason rounded the corner onto the platform.  He peered through the crowd and managed to spot the edge of the tracks and the other platform on the other side almost there.  Suddenly a bright light began to reflect off of the support I-beams lining the center of the tunnel that divided it between the two sets of tracks, a fraction of a second later, he noticed the deep rumbling sound of an oncoming train damn, this is gonna be close he thought as his heart rate quickened.

Nearing the edge of the platform, he fought the urge to stop and look to make sure the other two boys were still following him.

no time for that now, JUMP!

Although he didn't need to consciously think it, he still felt the need to command his body to obey.

More screams and shouts filled the station as he leaped down onto the tracks, the sound of the oncoming train was deafening by now and the concrete below his feet shook with the vibrations, almost as if the train was almost on top of him.  He didn't bother stopping to contemplate that as leaped over the rail in front of him.  He dashed between two I-beams, hopped over the third rail, two more non electrified ones, and hoisted himself onto the opposing platform.

He paused there on the platform for half a second and craned his head to watch as the train screeched to a halt and noted with satisfaction that the other two boys had not bothered to try and follow him across the tracks(or that they had and just weren’t fast enough).  Then he turned and headed up the stairs, out of the subway station.

*-*-*

"You're crazy, you know that?!?!" exclaimed Gerome in exasperation as he walked up to Jason at the bus stop outside 30th Street Station about two hours later.

Jason merely smiled and shrugged at his friend "it worked didn't it?  You still got the package, right?" he asked.

Gerome nodded as he nonchalantly reached into his jacket and pulled the envelope partially out, revealing a corner "yeah, I got it.  Let's go find the newsstand" he said decisively.

And with that the two of them headed into the station.

After making their way inside and over toward the newsstand, they spotted the same man who gave them the envelope back in the Badlands, he was purchasing a newspaper and didn't seem to notice them.  They approached him "hey man, we made it!" announced Jason.

The man gave them a stern look "keep your mouth shut" he said, just barely audible enough to be heard over the sounds of the crowded train station before returning his attention toward purchasing the newspaper. 

As the two boys waited and watched, he calmly handed the cashier a dollar bill, received his change, then turned and walked away from the newsstand, both boys followed behind him.  He headed over toward the entrance to the men’s room and stopped outside, he opened his paper and started to read it "head back out to the front of the station, there will be a large white van waiting for you, get inside" he explained.

Both boys looked at each other for a second "but don't you-?"

"Why you still here?  Get goin'."

The two of them turned and headed back the way they had come "what the hell man?  Why they keep jerking us 'round like that?" asked Gerome.

Jason shrugged "Iunno, we'll find out" he replied.

As they emerged from the building, sure enough there was a large white cargo van parked by the curb on Market Street.  When they got close enough, a man in a long black coat stepped out from the passenger's side door and opened the sliding door behind it "get in" he ordered.

After exchanging brief glances, both boys complied and found themselves sitting in the back of the dimly lit van.  There were three figures sitting in a bench facing them, one was clearly an adult, the other two were smaller, probably kids.  As the door slammed shut and their eyes adjusted, realization dawned upon Jason as he recognized the faces of the two boys from the subway station, they both had unpleasant grins on their faces.

The man sitting there must have noticed the surprised looks on both boys' faces because he put his hands up in a reassuring fashion "relax kids, no one's gonna hurt you in here" came a gravelly voice.  The man was well dressed, in a fancy looking black trench coat and wearing a very expensive looking white scarf.

When the man who had directed the boys to get into the van re-entered the vehicle, the van started up and began to drive away.

When he noticed the dollar sign tattoo on the man's left cheek, he realized who they were talking to, but Gerome must have reached the same conclusion about a half second before, he spoke first "you're Dollar Bill!" he almost shouted it.

The man nodded with what looked like the faint impression of a grin on his face "very sharp boys.  Now I believe that the two of you have something for me" he said.

There was a brief pause and an awkward silence inside the van as nothing happened, then Jason looked over at his friend "Gerome!" he barked at the other boy who appeared to have frozen in place. 

The sudden exclamation seemed to have nudged him out of his daze though "oh, yeah" he said as he suddenly reached inside his jacket and pulled out the envelope which he promptly handed to Dollar Bill who then proceeded to tear it open.

To both Jason and Gerome's surprise, the man pulled out a single piece of paper, it was an army recruitment flier, one of the ones made to look like a comic book with the words 'SAVE THE WORLD JUST LIKE A REAL SUPERHERO!' emblazoned across the top, he handed it to a shocked Gerome who looked over both sides of the paper before handing it to an equally perplexed Jason.

He examined the flier, looking over both sides repeatedly, searching for some secret message or code, something, anything that would indicate that it was more than just a worthless poster "what?  how?" he said as he looked it over.

"Tyrone and Keshawn told me 'bout that stunt in the subway station.  Must say that I'm impressed, never expected you to get out of that situation like that" his 'grin' broadened slightly.

Gerome finally broke his silence "but, you, sent them?" he managed to say.

Understanding dawned upon Jason and he looked up as he crumpled the flier in his hands "it was a test" he said suddenly.

"A what?"

Gerome was looking at his friend now, Jason cast a glance back in his direction "I saw on TV once, a guy was trying to get into a gang, so the big boss gave him a gun to have him shoot an undercover cop, he pulled the trigger, but the gun was empty.  Didn't want him to kill the guy, he just wanted to make sure that he would do as he was told" he explained.

"I think we can skip having either of you shoot anybody" said Dollar Bill dryly "one thing though, when did you guys switch the package?" he asked.

The two boys looked at each other, then back at the gangster "never did" said Jason.

Dollar Bill raised an eyebrow, then looked at the two kids sitting next to him who exchanged glances of their own this time "you kiddin' me?  ‘Mean we chased you through that subway station for nuthin' ?  Damn!" asked the older looking of the two boys.

Jason gave them a cocky grin "had you fooled didn't I" he said with satisfaction.

"I think you two got some promise."

Dollar Bill reached inside his coat pocket and to Jason's surprise, produced a pair of Hershey's candy bars.  He handed one each to both Jason and Gerome who both accepted the proffered candy as if they were bars of gold.

Jason had not seen a full sized Hershey's bar in over a year, and his mouth was practically watering already "is this for real?" asked Gerome.

"This is just a sample of what I can give you if you do well for me."

*-*-*

Theresa Irons looked over the stack of envelopes clutched in her hands as she closed her mailbox door.

Bill, another bill, school newsletter, another bill.

It would appear that the rationing and lousy economy hadn’t even managed to reduce the amount of junk mail that she was receiving, she suppressed a chuckle at that thought.

The front lobby door opened, drawing her attention away from the stack of unwanted mail in her hands.  It was Barbara Jackson, she was pushing someone through the door in a wheelchair, and not having the easiest of times doing it.  Theresa jumped into action and quickly grabbed the door to hold it open "hold it a sec Barb, let me give you a hand th-" she paused as she recognized the occupant of the wheelchair, it was Barbara's son Kareem, and he was missing a hand and a leg, and there was a look in his eyes...

With a couple seconds more of struggling, Barbara managed to push her son into the lobby "oh, thanks Terri, I know that I'm gonna have to get used to doing this myself, but this is my first time " she said gratefully.

Theresa looked over the mother and son for a second "I didn't realize that Kareem was due to ship back home today.  Are you glad to be home now Kareem?" she asked the young man.

He looked up at her, although he seemed to be more looking through her rather than at her "oh, I'm glad" he said absently, then returned to staring ahead blankly.

Theresa turned her attention to Barbara who was silent "do you need a hand getting him to your apartment?" asked Theresa.

She was silent for a second and Theresa noticed that her eyes looked puffy, as if she had been crying recently "-um... no, no thank you" she finally answered.

The other woman started to push her son's wheelchair once again "well alright, but if you do need anything at all, feel free to give me a call" she said.

Barbara didn't respond as she headed down the hallway, Theresa wondered if she had been heard, but didn't bother trying to repeat the question.  She stood there in silence for a moment as the gravity of what she had just seen finally sunk in.

She remembered Kareem before he had been drafted, he was such a nice kid, played on the basketball team, got good grades in school, he even came over to babysit Jason a few times, but now that was all gone.  She had seen that look in his face before, in the faces of the increasing number of homeless that walked the streets lately, many of whom had been vets.

Thoughts of her son went through her head, but she cut them short almost immediately no, that won't happen to him, it won't, the war will be over, or he'll get into college, or something she thought to herself, but somehow she knew those were false hopes.

She turned and headed up towards the stairwell.  The lighting was dim due to a number of the fluorescent lights burning out and never being replaced, there was a faint odor of urine as well.  Four flights of stairs and she was walking along the stained faded carpet of the hallway on her floor.  More fluorescent lights flickered or were out entirely, making her passage down the hallway poorly lit.

Reaching her door, she unlocked it and entered the apartment "Jason honey, I'm home" she announced as she shut the door behind her.

"Hi mom!" said Jason from another part of the apartment.

She walked further into the living room and hung her coat up on a hook next to the door.  Jason's windbreaker was sitting on the couch. She laid her purse and the mail in her hands on the coffee table and picked up his jacket.  Following the same ritual she had gone through each time she got home, she reached into his pockets to empty the.

Nothing much in the left pocket, a crumpled piece of paper. 

She uncrumpled it army recruiting poster, hmm, probably got it at school.  Then she emptied the right pocket, more paper a candy bar wrapper?  How did he get one of these?  She thought for a second and mulled over the possibilities, she didn't like any of them.  Anger and disappointment started to well up in the back of her throat.

"Jason"

She was going to make him think twice the next time he decided to steal something, and she would have to make sure he stopped hanging out with that trouble maker Gerome.

"Jason!"

"What mom?!?!"

She was about to call him into the living room when she glanced at the recruitment poster again, and her mind went back to that meeting in the lobby, and the way Kareem looked in that wheelchair.

The military was drafting everybody these days, even women.  Jason was only eleven, but she knew that the war wasn't going to end any time soon, hell, if they won, her grandchildren would probably be fighting in it.

Grandchildren.

She wondered if she would be so fortunate, if Jason got sent off to war, what were the chances that he would even survive?  What were the chances that he wouldn't turn out just like poor Kareem down on the first floor, or so many other poor kids who she had seen wandering the streets, covered in scars that would never go away, and that no kind of medicine would even heal properly.

Jason wouldn't be able to avoid the draft, sure he could try for college, but she knew of only five kids from the neighborhood in the past two years who had gone off there after graduation.  Sports scholarships were hardly worth the trouble, many schools didn't even have the funding for a proper athletics program anymore, and they certainly didn't have the money to give out full rides to kids.  Her cousin Kevin had run off to Canada during Vietnam, but Canada wasn't fighting in that war.  Now the Canadians were fighting on their own soil.  There wasn't anywhere Jason could run that would let him escape this one.

Prison was hardly a place she would have looked forward to seeing her son ending up, but he would be alive there, and well fed, and far away from any war.  He could even get an education there.  It was not a pleasant place, that was for sure, and while everybody she had seen who had spent a significant period of time there had been changed by their experience, they weren't dead inside like so many of the poor kids who came back from the war.

God, am I really considering this?

"Yeah mom?"

She looked up to see her son standing in the doorway, staring at her expectantly.  She realized that she was staring "um, uh, dinner.  We're gonna have dinner in an hour, it'll be chicken this time" she said.

"Okay, thanks mom."

And with that he turned and headed back down the hall.  Theresa reached out with one hand, almost as if to try and grab him, but she stopped herself and merely looked after her son as he walked away.




-10:06 AM February 26, 1988, Serenology Center #325, Layton, Utah, United States




Gary took a deep breath, held it in for a few seconds, then let it out slowly. When he had completely emptied his lungs, he opened his eyes and looked across at the row of candles at the front of the meditation room. His eyes drifted up until they were focused upon the Nucleus, he studied the intricately carved swirls, connecting the outer ring to the inner core.

It was not just the symbol of their religion, but also of the universe itself, it was the representation of the very birthplace of the universe, the heart of the big bang, the point from which all life and all creation had originated. The swirls represented the nateht, connecting the life force of all beings in the universe to the core.

Again, he took another deep breath and felt the air flow through him, just as the energy of the universe flowed through him, connecting him to the Great Matrix.

He felt at peace here, he felt contented, it was a sensation that he had not enjoyed ever since going off to fight that horrible war. Ever since getting back, he had been a broken man, an empty shell, going through life on automatic, destined to never see his full potential. At least that was the case until the day he found out about Serenology. Now his role in the church had given him meaning, allowed him to balance his own personal nateht. It was good, oh so good.

“Gary?”

His concentration broke at the sound of that voice. He looked over to see Julien standing by the door. Gary gave him a smile as he rose “yes, coordinator Marsten?” he asked in a friendly manner just after coming to his feet.

Julien beckoned him to come closer, Gary complied “I trust that you have been doing well in balancing your nateht connection?” he asked in a paternalistic way.

Gary nodded “yes, I feel at peace with the universe. In fact I feel that my spirit may be nearing readiness to move up from the second tier to the third tier, all I need to do is save up enough for my tithe” he explained.

The coordinator gave an approving grin, then reached out a hand which Gary clasped “that is good to hear, in fact, that is part of the reason why I have come to talk to you today” he explained.

A raised eyebrow on Gary’s face was all the response that Julien needed before continuing “there is an important visitor here to see you today” he said with a hint of excitement in his voice.

“A visitor?”

“Yes, someone very important in the church, he is a Grand Administrator, a full seventh tier member of the Church!”

“Here to visit me? But I’m just a second tier, I’m nobody.”

“Now Gary, we all know that all people have an important part to play in the Great Universal Puzzle, you should know better.”

“Of course Coordinator, I apologize for my foolishness.”

The Coordinator gave him a reassuring pat on the shoulder “nothing to apologize for Gary, you are young and inexperienced, we all make mistakes, even Coordinators like me, it’s all part of the journey. What matters is that we reach the end of that journey and attain full connection with the Universal Core” he said as he gestured toward the door “now, it is time for you to meet this visitor.”

Julien led Gary to the Center’s main office where a grey haired man in a black turtleneck sat behind the desk, he turned as the door closed behind them.

The Grand Administrator had an air of authority and wisdom to him that gave Gary great comfort “welcome Mr. Sellars. I’m so glad to finally be meeting you, please take a seat” he gestured toward the pair of chairs in front of the desk.

“Thank you Grand Administrator” said Gary as he sat down in one of the chairs, Julien headed behind the desk and took a position standing next to the Grand Administrator.

There was a moment of silence as the Church official studied Gary. After a moment, he broke the silence “I am Grand Administrator Wydeck, I came all the way down here from Center #1 in San Francisco to meet you” he said.

A feeling of both awe and nervousness filled Gary, on the one hand it was a great honor to be getting such a visit, but it also meant that there were almost certainly going to be expectations that the Grand Administrator was going to have of him. He could only hope to measure up to them.

Wydeck nodded briefly, then sat back in his chair “so tell me, do you truly believe in what the Church is doing?” he asked.

The question was blunt, and not what Gary was expecting. He paused for a second before answering “y- yes Grand Administrator. The Church is the one thing that has shown me how to live up to my potential. I have no idea where I would be without Serenology to guide me, and I want all people to share in this feeling of harmony” he said.

Placing his hands on the edge of the desk before, Wydeck nodded once again in acknowledgement “that is good. Would you be willing to fight for the Church? To protect it?” he asked, again the question was direct.

He found himself answering with less of a delay this time “I- yes I would” came his reply.

Another nod, then “that is good, we are going to need people like you. The Church is entering an important phase of its growth, and the steps taken now could determine things from now until Completion.”

Gary swallowed hard at that one, important things were happening at the Church, and he was going to be part of it. His heart started to pound harder “what do you need from me?” he asked.

Wydeck leaned forward slightly “the Church is young and it has many enemies who wish to see it die quickly” he explained.

That there were those who wished harm upon the Church was no secret, Gary had remembered recently reading the news article about the Center in Arkansas which had been burned down by Christian fundamentalists. After all the good the church had done; even pulling him from the depths of his own despair, he could only think that ignorance was the source of this hatred.

The Grand Administrator continued "but our mission is far to important to let it die like that, we must protect ourselves, so we can serve mankind" he said with conviction, his eyes fixed Gary with an intense stare.

Hardly waiting for Wydeck to finish speaking, Gary enthusiastically responded "how can I protect the church?" he asked enthusiastically, a pleading expression on his face.

Wydeck nodded "you are spirited, that is good, it is a quality that will be useful when the time comes" another nod, then "I gather that you fought well in the Army?" he asked.

"I'm not sure I would say that I fought well..."

"You're far too modest, the Bozorgs are a fearsome enemy, just to survive a tour of duty one would have to be very strong."

Letting out a brief sigh, Gary looked down at his lap. He hadn't joined the Army voluntarily, and the ordeal had left him with an injury that prevented him from being able to run, at least not easily, and his physical problems were not the limit of all that the war had done to him.

The Grand Administrator's words brought him back to the present "the Church needs acolytes, it needs people like you. Will you accept the call?"

The Army made Gary fight a war he wanted no part of, he fought for them because he had no choice, not because he believed in it. He believed in this, he wanted to fight for the Church. There was no hesitation before his answer.

"Yes, yes I will."






-12:18 PM February 28, 1988, Cosoleacaque, Veracruz, Mexico




Sweat dripped down her back as Kelly stepped out of the C-130 and into the stifling air of southern Mexico.  She surveyed her surroundings as she walked down the ramp onto the tarmac.  Minatitlán/Coatzacoalcos National was a medium sized civilian airport, or at least it had been so before the war.  Now it looked like the largest air base she had seen in her short tenure in the Corps.

The effect was dramatic, she knew that prior to the war there had been little military presence in the area, but now she would never have guessed that the town of Cosoleacaque had been anything but a military base.  Jets rumbled by overhead, helicopters thumped off in the distance, Humvees tanks and APC's rolled across the asphalt of the tarmac, and everywhere she looked people in uniform went this way and that like ants in an ant colony.

When she reached the bottom of the ramp she found a pair of MP's standing by a parked truck.  Shifting the weight of her rucksack on her shoulder, she made her way through the bustling crowds toward them.

"Excuse me!" she announced as she got within shouting distance.

One of them seemed to glance in her direction briefly, but then turned his attention back toward his companion awful loud out here she thought to herself as the distance between them dropped.  Undaunted, she continued "Excuse me!" she shouted louder, struggling to be heard over the roaring of landing aircraft, again they didn't seem to notice her approach.

She arrived a couple feet away from the two other men as she came to a halt "shit! I can barely hear myself think out here!" she said with a friendly tone.  Again, no response from either of them, her slight grin quickly faded as realization dawned upon her oh for fuck's sake she cursed mentally "hey shitstain, you gonna answer me or just sit there with your thumb up your ass?!" she shouted at him.

Finally it appeared that she’d gotten their attention as the nearer of the two turned to face her "-the fuck you think you talkin' to bi-" he started to shout but was cut off as his companion grabbed him by the shoulder and said something in his ear while pointing in her direction.  After a second or two, the nearer MP whose namepatch read 'Holleran' seemed to have quelled his anger at least somewhat "what do you need Lance-Corporal?" he said derisively.

Kelly didn't know what his companion had said to him, but she guessed it had something to do with the fact that he had noticed her rank(both of them were PFCs) she decided not to press the matter as she had neither the time nor the patience to deal with these two idiots.  She shrugged "looking for First Marine Division, Fifth Regiment!" she demanded.

Holleran's fellow MP rolled his eyes "Jarheads are operating a motor pool out of an old bus terminal over that way" he said as he indicated behind himself.

Giving the two of them a hostile grin, she performed a mock curtsy "much obliged gentlemen, good day" she said, her voice dripping with condescension.

As she walked away, she heard a handful of slurs uttered by the two of them, again she chose to ignore them, she had more pressing matters to deal with anyway.

*-*-*

After about two hours making her way through the managed chaos that was the military presence in Cosoleacaqu, she managed to find her way to her platoon which appeared to be berthing inside a high school.  As she had been directed by the driver of the M35 who had dropped her off, she headed up to the second floor and down the hallway.  The building itself was clogged with what seemed like hundreds of people in uniforms, mostly they were other Marines, but there were also a decent helping of Army, Air Force, and Navy personnel, along with a few Mexican army here and there.  Wherever they were from, they all appeared to be in a hurry, much as she was, and they paid her little attention.

As per her directions, she headed down toward the third room on the left.  Additional military personnel from multiple branches of multiple militaries bustled about the corridor.  She paused for about half a second before walking through the door into the classroom, a few considerations regarding her new commanding officer and this new outfit went through her mind, but she quickly stifled those thoughts.  It didn't matter much what they were like, not much she could have done to change the situation one way or the other.

A blast of hot air smacked her in the face as she entered. Somehow it was even hotter in that room than it was in the hall or outside.  A quick look around revealed exactly why.  What had once been an innocuous classroom had been turned into a military command post.  Educational posters that adorned all of the bulkheads were now covered by countless maps, charts, and photographs.  Meanwhile on what had once been the teacher's desk as well as a half dozen folding tables sat a large assortment of computers, radios and other pieces of electronic equipment.  All of which blinked and beeped as they went about mindlessly performing whatever task they were designed for.  Kelly was no electronics expert, but she was quite well aware that when you turned on something electric, it generated heat.  A quartet of sizable box fans had been wedged into the classroom's open windows, working furiously to suck the (comparatively)cooler air outside of the building in in an attempt to lower the temperature inside.  She didn’t care to think of just how hot it would have been in there without them.

Three Marines between the ranks of lance-corporal and sergeant sat in front of the computers, incessantly punching away at their respective keyboards.  Perspiration glistened on their foreheads as they did so.  At one table stood a rather young looking officer in desert BDUs; she guessed that he was no older than thirty if not younger.  His rank insignia indicated that he was a lieutenant and his attention seemed focused almost exclusively on jotting down notes in the notebook clutched tightly in his left hand.  A quick glance at his name patch revealed that he was the Marine she was looking for.

Walking up to the table, Kelly came to attention "Lieutenant Barret?  Lance corporal Kelly Vasquez reporting for duty, sir" she announced with a raised voice.

No one seemed to respond to her inquiry, the three enlisted Marines continued to attend to their own tasks at hand.  The Lieutenant didn't seem to notice her either as he continued jotting down something in his notebook, after a couple seconds she started to think that she hadn't been loud enough and opened her mouth to repeat herself when he started to speak "good afternoon Lance Corporal" he said in a slightly dismissive tone without looking up at her.  There was something about the way he said her rank that gave her a bad vibe.

At closer inspection, the Lieutenant seemed even younger than she first thought, probably no older than twenty-five.  He was relatively tall, wiry, with a pale complexion, despite the fact that he undoubtedly would have gotten a lot of sun since arriving in Mexico, he also seemed to somehow look as though he had barely broken a sweat despite the oppressive heat.

"Glad to see you could find the time to join us, you're only about-" he paused his writing to glance at his wristwatch "two hours later than I expected you" the dismissive nature of his tone remained, but he also sounded as though he were a school teacher admonishing a disobedient student, the fact that they were both standing in a classroom only served to amplify the feeling.

She took a deep breath "sir I-" she started to try to explain herself but he cut her off.

"I'm not interested in excuses" he said as he tossed his notebook down on the table "I'm going to level with you Lance Corporal, I don't like you, I don't want you here, and if it were up to me they'd send the lot of you back home to pop out more babies and work in the factories" placing his hands on the table, he lifted his gaze up to look at her for the first time.

Kelly felt warmth in her cheeks, a mixture of anger, embarrassment, and disappointment filled her "begging your pardon sir, but I-" again she tried to speak in her own defense.

Again, he cut her off "can it Lance Corporal, I don't need to hear about the bullshit story the top brass at the Pentagon spun about the 'courageous struggle of our first female warriors to see action' I ran into enough worthless females in OCS before they shipped me out here and I wouldn't trust a single one of them with so much as a potato gun" her shook his head derisively. 

Slowly, he started to make his way around the table "I also don't care what your CO was undoubtedly told by his superiors to write about you in his after action reports" he came to a stop less than a foot from her and gave her a look up and down.

Kelly clenched her teeth tightly and kept her eyes looking straight ahead, it took everything she had to keep her mouth shut"now I've been ordered to put you to use and I'll damn well follow my orders, but don't expect the slightest bit of special treatment, and don't bother to come crying to me if you start getting shit from anybody else in this outfit, it's all part of being in the Corps, deal with it" he finished.

A couple extremely awkward seconds passed as he continued to scrutinize her silently "alright, report to Sergeant Cranston in the gymnasium, he'll get you situated with your squad-" he turned and headed back around to the other side of the table "dismissed" he muttered at her.





3:18 PM, March 2, 1988, Acapulco, Guerrero, Mexico





Icidro looked the smashed shipping container over and whistled "oh, somebody is not gonna be happy about this" he said.

"Shut up!"

Jose was standing next to him as they both stood over the wreckage of the large metal box on the dock before them "don't yell at me, you were the one responsible for checking the cables before we lifted it" he said accusingly.

Shooting him an angry glance, Jose threw his arms up in an exasperated gesture "I've been telling Julio that we need to replace those couplings for the past six months, it's not my fault that they failed" he said defensively.

After exchanging glances for a couple seconds, the two of them looked around at the largely deserted pier, only a handful of containers were stacked off in the distance.  It had been months since those damned aliens had arrived, and while the first couple weeks afterward had been a chaotic mess as it seemed that nearly the entire country was trying to sail out of Acapulco, by now most everyone who was going to leave, had left.  Now the once bustling vacation spot and shipping port had been reduced to a veritable ghost town.

The same could be said for the normally busy pier.  Now, aside from the two dock workers standing there, the only other souls at the facility were the handful of crewmen on board the container ship moored next to the dock they were standing on, and at the moment about four of them were looking down at Jose and Isidro and the crumpled shipping container they were staring at.

"What's that?"

Jose was indicating something in the vicinity of the container.  Isidro rolled his eyes "it's a smashed shipping container, how long have you been working in this business?" he said blithely.

His coworker shook his head "fuck you, I'm not talking about the damned shipping container, I'm talking about that" he reiterated.

The container had been thoroughly bent out of shape by its fall, the force of which had forced both of its doors open.  On the ground immediately outside the deformed doors, was what appeared to be scattered bits of wood, most likely the remnants of some ill fated shipping crates that had been held inside.  Upon closer inspection, Isidro could see what looked like some kind of small black stones or pebbles mixed in with the wooden splinters.

Jose had taken a few steps toward the deformed metal box "what are you doing?" inquired Isidro.

Continuing his progress, Jose merely gave a dismissive wave "I'm gonna check it out" he said.

Isidro sighed "just what do you hope to accomplish?  You wanna brew some coffee with extra large beans?" he asked sarcastically "be careful" he added.

The other dock worker shook his head "of course mother, any other pieces of advice?" he retorted.

"I'm serious Jose, we don't know what that shit is, and I don't want to break any of that stuff any more than it already is."

As he reached the shipping container's deformed doors, Jose crouched down and slowly put out his right hind to grab for one of the mysterious black objects.  Hesitating for but a second, he picked up one and grasped it in his hand "well?" came Isidro's one word question.

Jose looked at the item, gently tossed it up in the air and caught it again, then he returned his gaze back over toward Isidro "it's weird it's-" he stopped suddenly and looked back at his hand again. 

Suddenly his other hand grasped his wrist, his eyes went wide, and he let out an agonized scream "what- what's wrong?  What's going on?" Isidro asked, alarmed.

Jose didn't say anything, he just kept screaming, Isidro started to rush towards his friend when something strange happened.

Where his right hand had once been, there now wasn't.  It wasn't that his hand had disappeared, or become invisible, it just wasn't there, nothing was.  It wasn't just blackness, it was... nothing.  Isidro was too focused on whatever it was that had happened to his companion's hand to be distracted by the continued screaming, but then it started getting even louder somehow, and stopped sounding like something that a human being could make.  He was able to finally break the trance he was in and looked back up towards Jose's face and he too let out a scream.

The other man's eyes, nose, mouth and ears had started bleeding, then the 'nothing' that had taken the place of his right hand was gone.  He started moving again, but not in any way that anyone would consider to be 'natural.'  His movements were jerky and abrupt.  He straightened his stature and extended his arms out to either side, to the point that he made a literal human 'T' and then his arms and legs became more than straight.  A loud popping noise echoed about the pier and then all of his joints were bending the wrong way.  Red spots started appearing all over the skin on his face hands and wrists, a second later they started showing up on his clothes too.  Blood started dripping down his arms and onto the ground and the red spots on his clothes started expanding.

Strips of Jose's flesh were literally tearing themselves free and falling to the ground, meanwhile his now also horribly deformed hands had started tearing at his clothes and ripping them from his body.  Blood flowed gratuitously onto the ground causing a massive pool of it to form around him on the dock where he stood.

Soon the thing that had once been Jose now stood on all fours, a gory pile of skin and clothes now lay on the ground next to it on the ground.  More loud pops could be heard as it started to turn its head to look at Isidro.  Copious amounts of blood leaked from the eyeballs themselves, muscle fibers glistened red in the sunlight and shredded strips of flesh hung from its face and body.  Then the screaming had finally stopped.

Suddenly Isidro realized that he had not moved since the whole thing began and he felt very vulnerable out there on the dock.

He wasn't sure which had happened first, but the thing that had once been his friend started screaming again and launched itself in his direction, and he turned and ran as fast as he could.

Isidro didn't know where he was headed, he just knew that he had to get out of there, anywhere but that pier, away from whatever his former coworker had turned into and those things in that shipping container, nothing else mattered.  He didn't hear the sounds of the alarmed crewmen aboard the ship at the dock, he didn't hear the sounds of his feet hitting the pavement, the only things that reached his ears and made it all the way to his brain was the sound of his heart pounding in his chest and the screams of the monster chasing him.

Strangely enough, despite his single minded drive to escape, he had managed to devote enough thought power to realize that the screams the monster was making weren't quite as inhuman as they were before, he could have almost sworn that it sounded like words. 

Did he just scream 'help me?'

He quickly pushed the thought aside as he reached a row of shipping containers and darted behind them.  Shortly, reached another row and ran behind it as well.  It was the only way he could think of to lose his pursuer, by zig-zagging through the dock yard, he might be able to confuse it and get enough distance between himself and that thing to make a try for the entrance gate and hopefully somewhere to safety.

After what felt like miles of running, he allowed himself a glance back behind himself and he saw that it was no longer behind him, and then he noticed that the sound of the creature's screaming was more distant than it had been before.  Taking a second to catch his breath, he looked around himself to get his bearings.

Figuring out where he was in relation to the rest of the dockyard, he headed off in the direction of the exit gate, this time at a somewhat more cautious pace.

It felt like an eternity, but sure enough he was eventually walking out of the dockyard and towards the road.

As he walked through the parking lot, he was surprised to see three black vans pull up at high speed and screech to a halt right in front of him.  Suddenly feeling his spirits lifted at the thought that he could be whisked away to safety by one of these vehicles, he quickened his pace.  Simultaneously the doors of all three vans opened and about a dozen men hopped out of them.  Perhaps if Isidro hadn't been so traumatized, he might have been given pause when he saw that all of the men were carrying guns.

Instead he merely shouted at them "help!  Help me please!  There is some kind of horrible creature in there!" he exclaimed as he frantically waved an arm in the direction of the dockyard "something happened to my friend, he's been turned into a monster!" he shouted frantically.

One of the men approached him "a monster?  Is it still in there?" he asked in a serious tone.  Again, had Isidro not been quite so upset, he might have been quite surprised at the lack of surprise expressed by the man at being told of the monster.

He didn't take note of anything suspicious at all until the gentlemen who he had been talking to raised the weapon in his hands and pointed it at him "we'll take care of it" he said calmly as he opened fire, and then Isidro didn't think anything at all.
   Profile |  

Scorpion
PostPosted: 2012-06-07 08:52pm 

Youngling


Joined: 2010-04-28 10:43am
Posts: 102
Location: Portugal
Once again, you fail to disapoint, guest! I wait anxiously for the next chapter!
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The Vortex Empire
PostPosted: 2012-06-08 02:13am 

Jedi Master


Joined: 2006-12-11 10:44pm
Posts: 1379
Location: Rhode Island
Well, uh, that's bad. What the hell were the objects in the shipping crate?

And that Church is bad news. Really, really bad news. Connecting him to "the Great Matrix?" Sounds like the Taziyane hive-mind to me.
   Profile |  

Tandrax218
PostPosted: 2012-06-08 04:34am 

Youngling


Joined: 2009-12-19 10:47am
Posts: 106
great job guest :)

keep up the good work

oh i wanted to ask ...

"Lost Civilizations of the Western Hemisphere" by Michael E. Moseley, published 1978

is this a real book and author or did u made it up ????
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guest
PostPosted: 2012-06-08 04:46pm 

Youngling


Joined: 2010-03-22 02:14pm
Posts: 148
Michael E. Moseley is a real person, he never wrote a book titled "Lost Civilizations of the Western Hemisphere" at least not in our timeline. But being that 1978 comes after the point of departure for this ATL...
   Profile |  

ChaserGrey
PostPosted: 2012-06-08 04:49pm 

Jedi Knight


Joined: 2010-10-17 11:04pm
Posts: 501
Great to see this back, although of course I have to put in the obligatory demand for m0ar Shuttle!
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guest
PostPosted: 2012-06-10 10:34pm 

Youngling


Joined: 2010-03-22 02:14pm
Posts: 148
Episode 34




“The best weapon against an enemy is another enemy.”
-Friedrich Nietzsche





-9:23 PM March 9, 1988, Anaconda, Montana, United States




The faint odor of mildew wafted through his nostrils and the heating vent rattled as slightly warm air rushed through it. Matthew Adams looked over at his younger brother Elija on the other side of the poorly lit dingy motel room. Eli was staring out the window as snowflakes lazily drifted down from the heavens toward the earth "do you really think this guy is for real?" he asked without looking away from the grimy window.

Matthew shrugged "who knows, McCall seems to think so" he replied, tipping his head toward the bathroom door, then turned his attention to the faded emergency escape map tacked onto the wall near the motel room door.

Almost as if on cue, the sound of a toilet flushing could be heard from inside the bathroom, seconds later the door opened up and out walked McCall. The rancid smell of week old urine mixed with the mildew in the room as the air of the bathroom rejoined that of the rest of the suite. The bathroom's former occupant paused at the door for half a second and gave the room a quick look over, almost surveying it to ensure there were no assassins or government spies hiding in the shadows.

He was a middle aged man, his slightly graying hair had been shorn into a crew cut, a set of camouflaged military fatigues covered his broad shoulders, and a nine millimeter S&W 59 sat securely in its holster on his right hip. As Matt's uncle Bill would often say, McCall was built 'like a brick shithouse' with a seemingly permanent scowl on his face at all times. It suited him really, as Matthew had seen firsthand how McCall had dealt with those who crossed him, the man was not to be trifled with, but he also knew what he was talking about and it often seemed like the last hope this country had for salvation.

The older man crossed the room and sat down at the chair on the opposite side of the table from where Matt was sitting, he glanced at his watch "alright, he said he would arrive at nine thirty, we have six minutes, be ready. He is never late" McCall said tersely.

There was a little more tension in his voice than usual, which was saying something for someone who had served two tours in Vietnam, not that Matt was surprised. The man they were due to meet had proven quite adequately to them that he was most definitely quite powerful, or at least had powerful friends, and that had he wanted to, he could most certainly have betrayed them to the Tyrants any time he chose to, the fact that he seemed considerably more interested in helping them out did not do much to assuage their anxieties though.

Minutes later, Eli spoke up "Kevin is signaling" a pause, then "he's here" he said nervously.

In short order, there was a gentle knock at the door, nothing too loud, but enough to be heard on the other side of the room. Reflexively, Matt reached for his own weapon and his heart rate quickened, as if expecting black clad government goons to come bursting through the door any second. Of course, no such thing happened, aside from Kevin, they had posted three additional sentries outside the building as well as one more in another of the rooms, McCall was both a cautious and a thorough man, one reason why their organization had yet to fall to the machinations of the Tyrants from Washington while so many other Patriotic groups had.

With a series of non-verbal gestures, McCall had ordered both Matthew and his brother to their own positions. Eli headed for the door, and Matt rose from his own chair to go stand over in a dimly lit corner of the room. Matt could feel the excitement building, he knew that this was an important meeting, one that had the potential to change the destiny of their own insurgency movement, and possibly that of the whole country for generations to come, and he was going to be there to witness it firsthand.

He tried to imagine what it was like to be one of the Founding Fathers in Philadelphia, conducting a meeting in some tavern, discussing their plans to found the greatest nation on earth. He wondered if they truly knew the significance of what they were doing, if any of them felt the same way he did right then.

He gave himself a mental shake, coming back to the present as Eli reached the door and cautiously reached for the knob. He drew his own weapon and tapped the barrel against the door three times. A second passed that felt more like an hour, then five more knocks came in response, and Matt let out a mental sigh of relief. Eli similarly showed a drop in tension as he started to turn the knob and slowly opened the door.

After exchanging a few hushed words with someone on the other side of the door; presumably David, Eli opened the door the rest of the way and beckoned their guest to enter the room.

With an almost unnatural precision, the gaunt, tall, suited man stepped through the doorway, a briefcase clutched in his bony right hand. His attention seemed focused almost entirely on McCall sitting at the small card table near the middle of the room, largely ignoring Matt and his brother who proceeded to close the door behind him.

"I appreciate you meeting us in this-" Mccall waved his right hand, indicating their surroundings "-location, I realize that it may not be ideal, but it is secure" he said in about as close to an apologetic tone as Matt had ever head the man use.

Their benefactor raised an eyebrow, but otherwise did not change his expression "no apology is necessary, this location is more than satisfactory for our purposes" he said in a dismissive tone.

McCall let out a long steady breath, then gestured toward the seat opposite his own "please, take a seat" he said in an amicable fashion.

The gaunt gentleman obliged "let us get down to business" he said as he placed his briefcase on the table before him.

McCall nodded "yes of course, things are getting more urgent. Have you heard the latest about the power rationing and media censorship?" he asked, the question was largely rhetorical, he did not wait for an answer "now the news will no longer be permitted to be broadcast live, and they are limiting households to less than four hundred kilowatts per month. I tell you, it won't be long before the UN is given total control over all government and military authority in this country. We'll have UN troops patrolling American streets and all of the media will be under total government control. It's the beginning of the end of this country, and once it's all in place, they'll keep this 'alien invasion' of theirs going on with just enough victories to keep everybody happy, but not enough to end the crisis. Quite the scam they've got started" he explained.

The gaunt man silently looked back at McCall, no response, but he didn't seem to be dismissive of the explanation. The silence continued for another second or two, then McCall broke it "very well, so what do you have for us tonight?" he asked expectantly.

It was time for their benefactor to begin an explanation of his own "well, now that you and your compatriots have availed yourselves of our generosity, my employers have decided that they have a request that they would like to make of you" he said plainly.

Matt thought back to that generosity with a mental grin. The three hundred pounds of composition C and fifty M-16 rifles were put to much good use in their last strike on the tire factory in Bozeman. They had managed to shut the damned thing down for over six months and killed over fifty collaborators, it was glorious.

McCall raised an eyebrow "and just what request do they have?" he asked, a hint of suspicion creeping into his voice.

"We have a target in mind for your next strike against the Tyranny from Washington."

With yet another unnatural motion, the mysterious gentleman opened his briefcase and reached inside, he produced a photograph of an old looking building and laid it down on the table in front of McCall.

He picked up the photo and gave it a closer look, a touch of recognition showing in his eyes "they don't think small do they?" he said with a raised eyebrow.

"The target is pretty visible symbol of government Tyranny, strike it down and you strike a major blow to their ability to oppress the ignorant masses."

"Not exactly local either."

"We realize that the location may be a bit further from your own base of operations than you are used to, we are willing to assist with transportation."

"It will be heavily guarded, local pigs and federal thugs will be crawling all over the place."

The man reached inside his briefcase again and produced a folder this time, again he placed it on the table "we have detailed blueprints and information on the patrol patterns of law enforcement assets in the area. We can also assist in motivating them to reposition assets away from your planned point of entry" he explained.

McCall scratched his chin and bit his lip, the gears in his mind visibly turning "hmm" was all he said.

"We are also prepared to provide additional arms, ammunition, and supplies to aid you in completing this operation as well as with the cause overall."

A nod and a deep breath from McCall "very well, what exactly do you have in mind for this target?" he asked, the skepticism in his voice seemingly gone.




-2:23 PM March 13, 1988, Ellis I Unit, Walker County, Texas, United States




Terrence rolled over on his cot and shut his eyes. Suddenly the cinder blocks of his cell wall were replaced by the interior of the court room. There was no noise, just the grave look on the judge’s face as he read off the sentence. He didn’t have to see her to know that his mother was crying.

He opened his eyes again and the courtroom was gone, replaced by the same cinder block wall he had become accustomed to since being sent to this place. He closed his eyes again and then he could see the body of that kid lying in the middle of the Seven-Eleven parking lot, a puddle of blood expanding under it. The smell of cordite filled his nose as he felt the weight of the revolver in his hand, hot from the recently fired bullet that now sat lodged in the kid’s chest.

A sigh of frustration escaped his lips as he opened his eyes again. Sleep had been elusive ever since the night of the robbery, and it had only gotten worse since that day in court. He closed his eyes once again and there he was back in the courtroom.

This time when the judge raised his gavel and brought it down, it did make a noise. Except instead of the high pitched sound of wood hitting wood, it was a dull heavy metallic bang.

Opening his eyes yet again, he sat up and looked over at Jones standing outside his cell door. The guard was looking down at him blithely “wakey wakey Kirkson, you’ve got a visitor” he said.

Terrence raised an eyebrow “a visitor? I don’t have anything in my appointment book for today” he said inquisitively.

Jones shrugged “it’s a mystery to me too, but she seems like someone important and she came all the way down here just to see you” he said wryly.

*-*-*

The woman sitting behind the plate glass window was neatly dressed in a grey pants suit with her hair pulled back tightly in a bun. She looked like a lawyer, but most definitely not his lawyer.

She greeted him with a grin as he sat down across from her, she picked up the phone on her end, he did likewise.

“Good afternoon Mr. Kirkson, how are we doing today?”

Her voice had a sort of phony pleasantness to it that Terrence did not like “I dunno, how am I doing today?” came his response.

Her grin broadened slightly “well, whatever the case, I think I can improve upon it” she said with a certain amount of self satisfaction that only served to put Terrence off more.

He raised an eyebrow again “and to what do I owe the pleasure of this visit?” he asked.

“My name is Lorraine Stokes, I’m a lawyer representing certain interests within the defense industry, and if you’re willing to sign a few documents, I can get you out of here.”

This time both of his eyebrows rose “pardon me for being a bit skeptical, but I’ve gone through four appeals, all of which have failed to achieve just what you’re promising. So what do you got that they don’t got?” he asked skeptically.

“Let us just say that my clients have a certain interest in utilizing people with your particular disposition.”

“Do you mean people who have killed before, or death row inmates?”

“I would say, the latter Mr. Kirkson. You see, my clients are in need of people to participate in a number of scientific experiments.”

He nodded as he took in her explanation “I guess that these experiments aren’t the safest thing that I could be doing” it was a statement as much as a question.

She took a deep breath “you would be correct, however if you manage to survive, you would be entitled to a full pardon, and would avoid your date with a needle” she explained.

He scratched his chin, then after considering for a moment “alright, so what do I have to do?”




-7:18 PM March 17, 1988, Balashikha, Moscow Oblast, Russia, Soviet Union




Nikolai downed another shot of cheap vodka, then slammed the glass down on the counter in front of him. As the warmth of the alcohol filled his belly, he turned his attention to the folded piece of paper before him. Studying it for a couple seconds, then finally opened it and began to read:

“Nikolai,

I writing this to you in hope that you get it soon. My Russian is still bad, but there is Lieutenant here speaks Russian good, and he helping me write this.

It good to be away from combat for time, the bugs are scary devils, but it hot here and I get anxious waiting for battle to come. Many of the guys new, they don’t know what war is like It be hard to think about what happen when find out and don’t know what like to fight Enigmas. My commander don’t like women, but try to deal with all same, lot of good Marines here.

I hear you are big hero in Russia, famous even here! Don’t let your head get big.

I hope write to you again soon.


Kelly Vasquez,
United States Marine Corps”


Nikolai filled his glass as he finished the letter, then downed another shot just as he finished folding it back up. He was glad that she had managed to keep her head together after the horrors that she had undoubtedly encountered in Pakistan. He only hoped that this new enemy wasn’t going to prove too much for her, she was a good soldier and a good person. Though he was pessimistic, he truly hoped that at least one of the friends he made in this horrific war would live to see the end of it.

After downing another half dozen shots, he stuffed the letter inside his coat, then stumbled out of the pub. He didn’t make it far before stumbling into the gutter and puking all over himself. He was too drunk to feel disgusted at the experience, but he was thankful for the warm relief from the frigid night air.

*-*-*

Ania was startled from her reading by the sound of someone knocking on the door to their hotel room. When she opened it, she was greeted by the sight of the hotel concierge holding up a stinking and drunken Nikolai. She grimaced again? before sighing “alright, can you carry him into the bathroom?” she asked.

With some effort, they managed to maneuver him into the shower stall where he collapsed onto the ceramic tile “thanks” she said to the concierge as he exited in silence.

Nikolai murmured something or other that she couldn’t understand, she merely sighed again as she reached over and turned on the shower. The stench of alcohol and vomit began to dissipate as the water washed over him and soaked his clothes.

She reached over to the sink and grabbed a washcloth before climbing into the shower with him. As she started scrubbing the vomit from his stubbly face, she did her best to stifle her sobs. She didn’t think he would notice her crying, and her face was already wet from the shower, so he wouldn’t be able to see her tears.






-3:16 PM March 18, 1988, Casper Wyoming, United States





The padlock sealed with a rewarding metal click, and with that the chain was secured around the thick metal door handles.  Satisfied that his task was completed, Matt turned and looked at the other three men in the room.  Eli had just finished preparing the last of the explosives, it was then that Matt realized his hands were shaking.  He took a deep breath, looked down at his hands and then cracked his knuckles.

"Alright, let's get to business."

McCall was standing over by the stairway, reaching into the duffel bag on the floor next to him, he pulled out an Uzi, inserted a magazine into it, and pulled the slide back with a smooth well rehearsed motion.  Taking the cue, Matt and Eli followed suit, and in a couple short seconds they were both armed with MP5s.

Without further delay, the three of them joined Billy who was holding his own weapon on the six men and three women lined up facing the wall, seven in suits and two security guards.  McCall raised his walkie-talkie to his mouth "this is tallboy, all players are cleared to take the field.  Wait for the whistle" he said as he stashed his walkie back in his bag.

With a look at Matt and his brother, all three of them faced the prisoners and raised their weapons.

"All of you here should be honored to be present for the opening of a new war against the tyrants from Washington."

The prisoners had started becoming more nervous, they fidgeted.  Similarly, Matt's own muscles started to tense as he prepared for what was about to come.

"If you have a faith, I suggest you make peace with your creators."

A brief pause, then McCall gave the word.

"May God have mercy on your souls."

Matt squeezed the trigger on his weapon, and the lobby filled with the deafening sound of gunfire as crimson erupted from the backs of the prisoners against the wall.

"Hold!"

And suddenly Matt released the trigger, complying with McCall's order.  Silence filled the lobby, punctuated by the occasional distant sounds of gunfire and screams coming from another part of the building.  The smell of cordite stung his nostrils and a faint haze hung over the room, mostly from dust kicked up by the shattered marble wall behind where the now dead prisoners had once stood.  An ever expanding pool of blood now lay beneath the pile of broken bodies before them.  It took Matt a second to realize that he was holding his breath.

He again looked over toward his brother, they exchanged glances once again, this time much of the fear was gone, replaced by pure exhilaration.

Giving their handiwork a brief inspection, McCall grunted in satisfaction "excellent work boys" he said with a nod "now to your positions" he concluded, and with that Matt and Eli took their positions by the elevator doors.  Likewise, Billy occupied the guard's desk, and McCall headed for the corner of the lobby closest to the stairway.

The plan was that with the other teams sweeping each floor from the back forward, any survivors that they missed would head away from the source of danger and straight toward the front entrance.  McCall's team was tasked with taking out any of those survivors, a textbook bird dog routine.

Their first victim arrived within a couple minutes.  Some middle aged woman in a dark blue dress, McCall spotted her first and let loose with his uzi, the woman screamed and was cut off abruptly just before tumbling down the stairs like a ragdoll.  They wasted no time in cleaning up the mess "Eli" barked McCall.

Without delay, Matt's younger brother scurried over toward the bottom of the staircase and dragged the body away toward the corner of the lobby and out of sight to anybody who may be heading down the stairs.  No sense in letting their prey know that they were heading for certain doom.

They repeated the process six times, four from the stairs, and twice from the elevators for a total of fourteen kills.  Eli and Matt had decided to make a game of it, to see how many they could each get, and so they started keeping score.  Eli had three and Matt had four, it was a lead that he intended to keep.

On the seventh go, they had gotten so into the fun they were having that the two brothers were practically skipping over towards the staircase to fetch the bodies, they didn't even wait for McCall to give the order anymore, he didn't bother to give them anyway as he was busy reloading his own weapon.

Matt caught something moving in the corner of his eye as he reached for the foot of the overweight man in the white button-up shirt that had been their latest victim.  Turning his head, he saw two police officers with their weapons drawn standing at the top of the stairwell.

Immediately he dropped the foot and went for his MP5, but he just wasn't quite fast enough.  The two cops managed to get off a couple shots before both he and McCall had managed to cut them down in a hail of fully automatic weapons fire.

Taking stock of his arms and legs and everything else, Matt concluded that he hadn't been hit, he let out a brief sigh "well, that was close" he said with a laugh.

"Matt?"

He looked over at his brother to see him clutching at an expanding crimson blob on his chest, a look of fear and confusion on his face "Eli, no!" Matt shouted as he rushed to catch his younger sibling just before he collapsed to the floor.

No!  Please god NO!

Eli looked up at him, tears welling up in his eyes "momma!  Please tell mo-" he wasn't able to finish his sentence as his eyes glazed over and he became still.

Matt stared at his now lifeless brother "no, Eli, please don't go, jus' come back, just, just don't go, please come back, p- please just-" his own sentence trailing off into sobs.

It took a minute, or possibly longer before he noticed McCall tugging at him.

"C'mon kid, I'm sorry about Eli, but we've got to get out of here!"

The sound of sirens getting louder barely managed to get through Matt's sadness, but he was starting to understand, and so he got himself up and followed the other two out of the lobby.

Everything was all a blur by then, what sounded like distant gunfire reached his ears, and then McCall was screaming and Billy was falling to his knees, a single vague thought crossed Matt's mind why is he holding his remote detonator in his hand? before a bright flash of light and a thunderous cacophony blotted out everything else.

Next thing he knew, he was running and firing blindly behind himself down the corridor, screaming obscenities and incomprehensible words as he did so.  His hands moved automatically to reload his weapon and work the slide.  Little mattered anymore, the only thing that did was to kill as many of those bastards as possible to pay them back for taking away his little brother.

*-*-*

"All teams!  All teams!  This is tallboy, get to the extraction point NOW!"

McCall was screaming into his walkie by now.

How the hell had it gone so wrong?  He wasn't getting any responses from any of the other teams and the place seemed to be crawling with pigs now.  They cut the phone lines before the shooting had started, the cops shouldn't have gotten there that fast, couldn't have, unless their so called ‘benefactors’ had-

He cut the thought off.

No, if they had wanted to betray the cause, they could have delivered them into the hands of the pigs at far more opportune times than this, and now it didn't matter anyway, the explosives were all set, and he would ensure that his last act was to press the main detonator button and send them all to hell.

He dragged poor Matt around another corner as the kid let loose another burst of fire at their pursuers, he wasn't sure if the kid was hitting anything, but that didn't seem to matter, as it at least acted as good suppressing fire.

C'mon, almost there, just a little further!

Two more corners rounded, and they burst through a pair of double doors.  The two cops in the rear storage room weren't fast enough and they went down with a pair of quickly delivered bursts from his Uzi.  Then there it was; the door out to the loading dock.  Taking a second to catch his breath, he reached for his walkie again and placed it up to his mouth "I'm gonna need a cab" he said in about as calm a fashion as he could manage.

The response was quick "roger that" crackled a voice on the other end of the radio.

He tossed the walkie back into his bag, then pulled out a small black remote detonator with two buttons and two toggles.  Flipping one toggle, he counted to ten then pressed the button above it.

A week earlier, sympathetic patriots had managed to sneak a couple hundred pounds of composition-C into various trash cans, clay planters, and even street lamp posts in a moderately circular perimeter around the building, their positions were close enough that they should have all had overlapping kill zones, the result should have been- devastating to say the least.

The floor below his feet shook and the sound of the explosion was deafening even in there.  He turned to look at Matt, he had long since stopped crying and now his eyes were of pure ice "it's alright son, we have exacted a heavy price in blood from the tyrants, your brother's death was not in vain" he said with a pat on the young man's shoulder.  Matt responded with a curt nod of agreement "I think it's time we make our way out of here" continued McCall, Matt nodded in agreement again.

Retrieving his walkie once more, he pressed the talk button and spoke into it "this is tallboy, we are about to extract, if there are any other teams still operational, please respond now or we are leaving without you" he announced, after waiting a full thirty seconds there was no response.  With grim nod at no one in particular McCall turned to face the door once again "godspeed gentlemen" he said one last time into his walkie as he opened the door.

They
walked out into the loading dock just in time to see the armored car pull up, it's rear doors opening as the vehicle came to a halt Chris was looking out at them expectantly "where are the rest?" he asked.

McCall practically shoved Matt inside the back of the truck "they're not coming" he said with a note of finality in his voice.

Before he too stepped inside the vehicle, he took a second to survey the destruction.  It was pure chaos out there, small fires burned everywhere, wrecked police vehicles were scattered across the landscape like crushed beer cans, and lifeless bodies were strewn about like discarded child's toys.  Here and there a handful of still living police officers staggered about in a daze, while others rushed in from further afield in order to help their fallen comrades, they were too busy now to worry about stopping anyone from escaping from this mess.  He gave a satisfied nod.  Yes, they had inflicted a high price in blood from the tyrants on this day, and the first major victory in this war on tyranny had finally been won.

Chris gave him a curt nod as he hopped in behind them and closed the door "understood" was all he said.

After a few minutes and he was convinced they had gotten to a safe distance, McCall reached into his bag one last time and again retrieved the remote detonator.  This time he flipped the other toggle, he waited just a second "one last parting gift, I think you should do the honors" he said as he handed the detonator to Matt.

He gingerly reached out and took the device, almost as if he was worried that he would break it.  He examined the button for a couple seconds, almost as if it held some kind of magical quality, finally he rested his thumb on it "for Eli" he said, then he pressed it.

Off in the distance behind them, some eight hundred pounds of explosives placed around the support pilings in the basement of the building and the several thousand pounds of nitrates stuffed in the back of the cargo truck that they had left at the loading dock detonated, obliterating the entire federal courthouse and anyone in it and around it that was still alive.




-11:28 PM March 21, 1988, Selebi-Phikwe, Botswana, Zimbabwe




Sabelo Phama stood in the loading dock of the abandoned office building, flanked by two suited men as he watched the aged Toyota pickup truck come to a halt about five meters away.

Immediately after reaching a complete stop, the truck's engine was turned off and the two men in the back of the truck hopped out onto the ground while both doors swung open and the two men in the cab also stepped outside.  The four of them walked toward the back of the vehicle and opening the tailgate and two of them reached inside to pull out a bound and gagged man.

At first, he seemed rather docile as he was carried away from the truck, that was until he got a look at Sabelo, at which time he started struggling quite a bit.  It was a hopeless gesture, but then again he expected no less of a man who knew what was about to happen to him.

After a small amount of hassle, the prisoner was brought before Sabelo and they stood him up on his feet. A look of sheer terror was in his eyes "you've been a very difficult man to get in touch with Joseph, you have also been very naughty as well.  Fortunately, there is something you can do to attain forgiveness for your sins" he explained to the terrified man.

Joseph’s muffled screams had died down at the end of that last sentence, perhaps he thought that his situation was not as hopeless as he had once thought.

That would be a mistaken assumption.

"I need you to deliver a message to your friends at the UDF."

A quick nod towards the men who had gotten out of the truck, and two of them headed back to retrieve a tire and a can of petrol "unfortunately for you my friend, it is not the kind of message that can be delivered with simple words" he nodded toward the men with the tire and the petrol once again and the fuel was poured into the tire.

As the odor of petrol fumes reached them, realization must have dawned upon the prisoner because he immediately began to struggle once again, unfortunately for him the two men at either side of him were competent captors and so they held him in place quite effectively.  The petrol sloshed around inside the tire as it was placed around the prisoner's neck.

Taking a step toward the terrified man, Sabelo leaned closer still "I pray that you will learn your lesson in time for the afterlife" he whispered and as he stepped back, he reached inside his jacket pocket and produced a match book.  Retrieving a single match, he struck it.  Then with a motion that was as casual as discarding a spent cigarette butt, he tossed the lit match inside the tire.

Fire instantly engulfed the prisoner's head, and the muffled screams got louder.  No longer held in place by his captors, the bound man fell over as he continued his frantic struggles, but it provided no escape or relief.

The sounds of the man's skin and fat sizzling and burning filled the air.  An odor that was a mixture of burning flesh, burning rubber, and gasoline filled Sabelo's nostrils.  He remembered the first time he had 'necklaced' a man, the smell had almost made him throw up, but he had long since gotten accustomed to the odor and it didn't bother him much anymore.

He stood there and watched as the man once known as Joseph burned to death, it had taken more than twenty minutes, but his struggles and cries of pain finally ceased.

Thirty minutes later the body had been disposed of and all seven men stood in the loading dock, waiting for yet another arrival.

The prospect of conducting both pieces of business so close to together and in the same place did not give Sabelo the utmost confidence, however time was short and both items needed attention immediately.

After a few more minutes of waiting, a van pulled up to the loading dock and it's three occupants stepped outside.  The one he was most interested in at the moment; a tall gaunt pale man in a business suit approached while the other two simply stood next to the vehicle which had brought them there.  The gaunt man visibly sniffed the air "have I interrupted any kind of important business?" he asked knowingly.

Sabelo shook his head "don't worry about it" came his reply.

The gaunt man nodded "well, whatever the case.  Let us hope that I have your full attention for this particular transaction" he said.

"That won't be a problem."

"Good."

Gaunt Man stopped about a meter away, he did not extend his hand or perform any other form of pleasantry, as was usual with him.  Sabelo didn't take offense to it, all indications were that the behavior was nothing personal, and in all honesty, he really didn't care one way or the other even if it was.  This particular hairyback had something he needed, the fact that he was giving it at such an affordable price was all that mattered to him.

"Do you have the payment?"

"Of course."

One of his underlings produced a briefcase and opened it, displaying its contents to Gaunt Man who nodded "it is all there?" the statement was as much a question as a direct explanation of simple facts.

"Of course."

A quarter million dollars American was a lot of money, however for the merchandise in question, and in the quantities in question, it was a real bargain.  Gaunt Man gave the cash a cursory inspection, then "very well, would you care to inspect the merchandise?" he asked.

"Of course."

He was led toward the back of the van.  One of Gaunt Man's own underlings proceeded to open the doors revealing multiple stacks of olive green crates with stencil-painted letters and numbers emblazoned on them.

"As promised."

The crate was laid down on the ground and pried open, Sabelo whistled as he gazed at its contents "it would appear that we do have the genuine article after all" he said as he reached down to pick up one of the stinger missile launchers contained within.  As he felt its weight in his hands, he was quite satisfied.

Turning his attention back to the sales man of dubious nature "despite all of this, I am still skeptical of the excellent price that you are offering me, we both know what these weapons are worth, and yet you and your employers give us such a discount, why?" there was a hint of accusation in the question, but not overtly so.

Gaunt Man either didn't seem to notice the subtle accusation, or simply didn't bother to be offended by it "let us just say that your needs and those of my employers happen to coincide for the time being, we would be very interested in seeing you and your organization make excellent usage of our merchandise" he explained.

"I have learned that coincidence is a rare occurrence.  Just who are your employers anyway?"

"I am not at liberty to discuss that issue, however I will simply say that they are not who you would expect.  We'll just have to leave it at that."





-9:18 AM March 22, 1988, CIA Headquarters, Langley, Virginia, United States






Facts and figures filled the page in his hands, they were painting a picture for him, but Stephen couldn't quite figure out just what it was.  He rummaged through the pile of documents on the table before him, looking for something, anything that might help him put together the thoughts in his head.

"Stephen!"

His thoughts were interrupted by Mr. Jourgensen "yes?" said Stephen without looking up from what he was doing.

"We're about to start the next session and I need my chaotitian's input."

There was a pause "now" Jourgensen sounded increasingly irritated.

Finally managing to drag his gaze away from the documents he had been perusing, he looked over towards the spy.

"I know, but I've been going over these interesting figures from the US Geological Su-"

"Is it something that we need to deal with right now?"

"Well, yes... or rather I don't- no, I guess not."

"Then we'll deal with it next time, right now I've got a report to give to the NSC this afternoon, so let's get to it, shall we?"

Stephen sighed as he took one last look at the papers in front of him, then set down the document in his hand and got up to walk across the room where he grabbed a chair and sat down.  Mr. Jourgensen gave him a look of mild annoyance, then turned his attention back towards the rest of the group "now that we're all ready to begin, let's get started, where are we as far as the Enigma's are concerned?  I'm talking big picture here, we'll get to the specifics afterward" he directed them.

There was silence as everyone looked at each other.  Matt Cromwell was the first to speak up "we're still coming up empty on their biological makeup, we've got no idea how their cells even avoid collapsing into biological goo, much less function on even the most basic level" he explained with a touch of exasperation.

Jourgensen folded his hands in his lap and looked over at James Randi "any clues from your sensitives about this?" he asked.

The skeptic furrowed his brow "nothing, in fact-" he paused for a second as he seemed to work something out in his mind "since our last meeting I decided to go back over all of the recorded sessions with them and looked for even the slightest mention of something about the enigmas, and I haven't turned up even the faintest clue" he explained.

A few perplexed looks were exchanged in relative silence, Charlie was the first to break the silence "James, just how many different alien civilizations do we know that the Bozorgs destroyed?" he asked intently.

Randi furrowed his brow further still "you see, that's what has been bothering me the most about this.  We have managed to identify a total of two hundred-seventy three separate civilizations from the accounts of the sensitives to date, and like I've already said, not once have we gotten a single mention of anything resembling an invasion by the Enigmas" he said.

More looks were exchanged, this time accompanied by concerned murmurs "let me see if I understand this correctly, you're telling me that of nearly three hundred invasions conducted by the Bozorgs, not once did they run into the Enigmas?" asked Jourgensen.  A nod from Randi answered the question silently, the spook grimaced "ideas anyone?" he asked the group at large.

"You do realize that we have very little to go on to form a hypothesis."

It was Carl Sagan speaking this time "I'm aware of that, but this is what we pay you guys for.  If it was easy, we wouldn't need a think tank" replied Jourgensen.

Scowls and frowns filled the room, and the silence turned into grumbles and murmurs.  After a few moments, the sound of someone clearing their throat cut through the commotion, it was Pournell "hold on a sec guys, say that again Charlie" he said.

The theoretical physicist looked around for a second before finally speaking "um, I just said that I wondered how many of the alien civilizations in question had developed teleportation technology of their own" he explained.

Silence again as the group looked over at James "any ideas on that Randi?" asked Jourgensen.

Pournell spoke before the other man could respond "I bet you haven't seen any indications of that either have you?" he inquired.

"I'd have to double check to be sure, but now that you mention it, I don't think that I've seen any mentions of that either."

Furrowing his brow, Jourgensen sat forward in his chair "what are you getting at Jerry?" he asked.

"So, here's what we know about the SOP for the Bozorgs-" Pournell paused as he got up and walked over to the coffee machine "they find a planet with lots of life on it, then they teleport one of their 'hive minds' over there.  It starts producing all of these different varieties and begins the process of assimilating the biosphere.  If the civilization there lacks the aggression or the technology, they are overrun and become further fuel for the expansion of the Bozorg horde."

"Now, if the civilization there is strong enough to resist; and sometimes they are strong enough to even clear the initial infestation, the Bozorgs respond by sending more hive minds, and sometimes additional different kinds of reinforcements.  And as we have seen first hand, they always decide to escalate things the next time around.  So while their enemies get weaker and weaker, their invasion forces get stronger and stronger.  If necessary, they repeat the process until the planet has been overrun."

He stopped to look the room over, checking to make sure that the group was following him "two-hundred seventy-three times they repeated this process, and two-hundred seventy-three times it worked without fail.  They've done it to civilizations that have been both more and less advanced than us, yet not once in all those times, have they ever encountered a single race that has managed to discover how to use teleportation technology.  Not one that managed to figure out something that even a primitive bunch of monkeys like us have been experimenting with for decades, and not once have any of them managed to 'jam' Bozorg interstellar transportation."

The room was dead silent as each and every set of eyes were on him, Randi opened his mouth to say something, but Carl spoke first "are you saying that you think it's possible that there are civilizations out there that have managed to defeat the Bozorgs?" he asked.

Jerry shook his head, a humorless smile on his face "I wish things looked that good.  What I'm saying is: what if we aren't the first to have discovered teleportation?  What if there have been a number of other alien civilizations that have figured it out?  More than that, I'm wondering if each of these other civilizations have managed to also cut off their local infestation just like we have, and each time they did so the Enigma's show up and wipe out both sides."

He looked out across the assembled group, looking to see if anyone else may have had an answer, no one did.





-8:42 AM March 30, 1988, RAF Flyingdales, Snod Hill, North York Moors, England, United Kingdom





Sickly colored florescent lighting gave the entire room an overall uncomfortable atmosphere.  Flight Lieutenant Rachel Clarke largely paid it no heed as she made her way across the carpeted floor toward the second closest data terminal "morning Jerry" she said cheerfully to Flight Lieutenant Gerald Cornish who was sitting behind that same data terminal.

Cornish turned his head with a raised eyebrow "a bit early this morning are we?" he said in response.

She shrugged "surely Flight Lieutenant, it is never too early to hold the line against the enemies of humanity" she said sarcastically.

"Ah, bugger it all."

They both chuckled "right, anyway let me just heat up a cup of Earl Grey before I relieve you" she said.

Returning his attention back to the monitor before him, Cornish gave her a wave indicating his ascent.

Several minutes later, Rachel had returned with a steaming cup of tea clutched in her right hand.  With a brief tap on the shoulder and a pair of nods exchanged between the two of them, Rachel and Gerry had swapped places.

Her first order of business was to get a good look at the data terminal, to check for anything out of the ordinary, not that she expected anything of the sort, that's what made it 'out of the ordinary' after all.  Of course, there wasn't anything out the ordinary, as had been the case every other day at the start of her shift, a few score icons indicating military and civilian aircraft flickered across the pixelated representation of North Atlantic, and over central Greenland sat that single large icon indicating the location of that Enigma beachhead.  It stared back at her blankly, almost as if it was saying 'see, I'm still in the same place I was yesterday, and I'll be in the same place again tomorrow' she sighed and turned her attention back toward her tea.

The hot liquid was almost too hot as it passed her lips and flowed down her throat.  Pure bliss it was, she closed her eyes as she savored the flavor.

"Will you be making it to Lieutenant Stark's party tomorrow?"

When she opened her eyes, she saw that Gerry was still standing behind her, she pondered her tea for just a second before answering "don't know for sure.  I don't have any other plans for that night, so I probably will, so long as he buys everyone a pint" she said blithely.

Gerry chuckled "yeah, I sup-" he didn't finish his sentence.

Her attention had returned to her tea, and it took her a second to realize that he had stopped talking "sorry, what was that?" she asked as she looked back up at him, a sudden sinking feeling hit her right in the stomach as she saw that he was standing there behind her, a deathly grave expression on his face, and his eyes were focused on the data terminal.

Quickly, she spun around and looked right at the monitor.  Her teacup fell to
the floor , spilling tea and ceramic shards about.  The sinking feeling in her stomach was gone now, replaced with a sense of horrific dread as she comprehended exactly what Gerry had seen already.

There on the monitor was the very thing that she had prayed every night that she wouldn't see.  Radar contacts over Greenland; each moving out from the Enigma beachhead, hundreds of them.

The Enigmas had started to move. 
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guest
PostPosted: 2012-06-10 10:35pm 

Youngling


Joined: 2010-03-22 02:14pm
Posts: 148
oopse, duplicate post
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Scorpion
PostPosted: 2012-06-10 11:54pm 

Youngling


Joined: 2010-04-28 10:43am
Posts: 102
Location: Portugal
My, two chapters in three days? Trully, I feel blessed...
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The Vortex Empire
PostPosted: 2012-06-11 07:06pm 

Jedi Master


Joined: 2006-12-11 10:44pm
Posts: 1379
Location: Rhode Island
If the think-tank is right about the Enigmas, then this is not good.
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