An Onslaught Antagonized, Part 1
This is the beginning of a story that I wrote for the Writers of the Future Contest. I like it – maybe you will, too.
Krasnoyarsk Outpost Two, Siberian District, Russia
24 August, 2259 Terra Year
1328 Zulu Time
It was clear on that disastrous Day. As hard as I try to rip it from my memory, I can’t. It’s seared into my brain cells, and it revisits me at night still. It seemed to me that the air was wrong somehow. One minute, it was clear and cool and the best of a fall day’s offerings. The next, it was warm and smoky, right out of a bad horror novel.
Screams rent the air as cars exploded and trees were uprooted. I watched in horror as the most shocking things I’d ever seen advanced upon our little outpost. These… beings… I don’t know what to call them, other than the more or less formal nomenclature. The description was scary enough.
I’m looking at you right now and ignoring the camera. I know this is something you’ve probably heard more than once, from more than a few people, but I don’t care about them. This is my story, or at least as much as I can tell you. The rest’s classified. Sorry.
The shortest was eight feet tall. The tallest, maybe eleven. Three strongly muscled legs sprouted from a thicker trunk, with four arms. Each ‘hand’ had fingers that individually seemed big enough to tear a man’s head straight from his shoulders. The head atop each body was roughly human sized, except bigger by a little bit. I saw one with four eyes, one with three, one with none that were noticeable, and most with five arranged mostly around the head. They didn’t have mouths, or at least anything like a mouth to begin with. All I could really tell that day before ducking down to hide, was that they had some kind of ripping bone protruding from the nominal front, and a rough hide.
I came to find out that the bone indeed ripped flesh, but it acted like a straw, too. God help me, they had their own straws that they stuck into the smoothies of our internal organs. I feel like I’m back there, right now, while I talk to you. Best not to think about that now. It’s too busy right now for trips down memory lane. They have an attack wave moving in on our base, and we have civilians to protect. Mostly women and children.
They seem to enjoy ripping up women the most. Something about our hormones punches the pleasure buttons so hard that they have to have us any way they can get us. They get a high, then they go back to wherever they base from and get laid. Sometimes they take prisoners to prolong the experience, then discard them. Men, they just consider worthless, except for target practice or the odd gambling pieces. They’ve learned how to breed us, but most of them are too impatient with the whole idea of procreation. Besides, a pregnant woman drives them bananas. Those hormones are like crack or meth or something to them. A woman in a family way doesn’t survive long, without help. There’s a window between conception and that first division of the blastomeres, where women are relatively safe. After that, they will kill each other to get to the woman. In comparison, men are just tissue. They use men as expendable slaves or toys, with all the concern of a seven year old with a magnifying glass and few ants.
I’m a team leader of a military unit that specializes in rescuing women from the holding tanks that they use. No unit names – that’s classified, too. My name is Major Felicia Màrtainn, and I save people. I’ve got six men and seven women on my team, and there aren’t any jokes about the men being outnumbered. The so-called battle of the sexes was suspended long ago. Now, it’s the battle of the humans. It’s hard to rescue women, since we have to fight in and fight out. There’s a larger organizational unit that we’re attached to, with the usual staff positions and a chief of staff, and another group on the org chart with a bunch of different scientists. Biologists, chemists, physicists, psychologists, and so on. Just about whatever kind of -ologist you can think of. Several of them are hybrids, experts in more than one field, and we’re never quiet sure how to classify them. We go by pay grades and worry about titles and degrees later.
A side note. No one is quite sure what the aliens call themselves. We never noticed at first if they had a spoken language, much less if they speak to each other. We’ve observed them make motions to each other and direct groups here and there, but no matter how hard the intelligence officers try, there hasn’t been any kind of speech, language or even dialect detected where each other is concerned. They started carrying these strange devices embedded in the exoskeleton that speaks for them. How it works, we don’t know. We can’t ever get our hands on a working model to crack, since they fuse into solid blocks of whatever they use to make it from when they die. We aren’t sure if they even have a name for themselves, so we’ve been calling them the trippies. Three legs, tripod, get it? I didn’t think it was all that funny, either, but got to call them something. People who used tripods in their jobs before they came really hate them.
My second-in-command is First Lieutenant Horacio Bisbee. He was an active duty US Marine Corps officer before, now he’s part of the United Terran Hegemony Marines, like me. All of the services in every country were merged into one global service, with the different services now called ‘partitions.’ Yeah, I know, it sounds stupid. Politicians. You know how it is.
It was a hell of a thing to consolidate everyone and there were plenty of problems. The strange thing is, all the other nations’ seagoing infantry like Horacio get along just fine, no matter the language. I guess it’s true, once a Marine, always a Marine. The various navies mostly got along. The various armies argued a bit, and the air forces all tried to outdo each other until the various leaders of different countries put a stop to that crap.
I’m thinking about a thing we had seen back then, something bad. We were looking out from an outcropping in what used to be the Grand Canyon. It won’t be a tourist attraction ever again, since the trippies found it and blasted office space into the rock. I’m not kidding. Go look at the Grand Canyon now and you’ll see a bunch of regularly spaced holes in the rock that look for all the world like windows in a skyscraper. Some are lit with those portable lights they use. Some are dark. The more ‘offices’ lit up, the busier they are and the closer to setting up an operation. It’s like it’s their main regional field office or something there, with satellite offices reporting in as needed. There isn’t another base that size anywhere in the world that we know of.
We’ve seen it too many times. When it’s dark, hardly anything happens. The last time it was lit up like it was, they hit the Kansas wheat fields and burned away most of the years harvest. That caused a famine. Remember that? That was just five years ago, and the world is just now getting over it. If it hadn’t been for the stockpiles of those awful MREs that every military has, the world would have starved. We escaped that one by the skin of our teeth. That and the other wheat supplies in Russia and rice stocks in Asia and other places.
Right now – well, as of two hours ago – every light is on. Never mind how we got the information, and I’m pushing it now to say this much. We’ve used a lot of assets up to understand that there is something else going on that we don’t like. It come back to that hormone thing that they’re all crazy about.
Horacio and I are sweating this one. Supposedly there are a bunch of women gathered for breeding and other experiments on one of these ‘floors.’ We aren’t sure which one, but we’ve seen quite a few of those floating transport barges they use slide into a wide docking bay in the Canyon. We need more information about how they set up housekeeping in there, but everyone we’ve sent in has been either killed or captured for the breeding experiments.
The idea of using infrared viewers died a quick death. The first front looking infrared scanner, the FLIR, that we flipped on got unwanted attention real fast. A squad was using a FLIR and some kind of quick reaction force from the Canyon hit them hard. They didn’t even bother taking the females in that squad, just hit them with something that burned a permanent shadow into the ground wherever they stood. It wasn’t radiation. Dosimeters didn’t even react when we got there. Horacio and I waved them around for ten minutes and there weren’t any clicks other than what would normally be expected if you were taking a walk in the park.
We’ve lost more people out of our little unit. I’ve given up remembering names, and so has Horacio. People come and go so quick. Whether they get killed in action or get transferred out to fill other slots in the TO&E, there really isn’t any point in trying. If they get injured, then it’s just temporary. I’ve lost the same arm four times and others have similar stories there. If they get killed, well, that’s different.
About the arm. We lucked out, if you can call it that. We rescued twelve women from a tiny detention campsite about eight years ago. It had been hit by a quick response team and all the trippies there found themselves suddenly dead with no time to call for backup. The response team commander was looking around the facility for any other prisoners. He found a machine in one of the infirmaries that regrew limbs. He had the time to look it over and take statements from prisoners about what it did. No one on the team believed it when they heard it. I guess they thought the women were all traumatized. To be fair, I wouldn’t have believed them either. If it had been me, I would have packed them all off to the psychs to muddle around and find out what happened.
Anyway, one of the troopers that was up for rotation soon volunteered to try it out. He had lost an eye a couple years earlier. The commander was very hesitant to let him, but the women convinced him. The trooper lay down, after making a quick will, and got up an hour later. The team’s XO started to make a joke about him using any excuse for a nap, when the trooper complained of a headache and dizziness.
No wonder. That missing eye had regrown, and the trooper’s brain was very confused. It was trying to relearn how to use two eyes after years of just having one eye. He walked around squinting for a week, and had to relearn how to shoot, how to feed himself, even how to dress. He had to relearn a lot because his vision had suddenly went from two dimensions back to three, and it was something that he wasn’t prepared for. At least he could cope with that. He hadn’t been prepared to lose the eye in the first place, but he managed.
You can imagine all the hoopla. The shock and the surprise from the troopers in that unit, when he blinked his baby blues at them and one eye was bloodshot and the other was perfectly clear. The usual innovation that comes with wartime economies, plus a slight uptick in stupid behavior. After some of the world’s finest physicists, biologists, mathematicians, and engineers figured out how it worked, then the world businesses took over. Soon there were regeneration units in every hospital, clinic, medical ship, and first aid station in the world. It seemed that we couldn’t get them to the front line fast enough for all the combat related wounds. The stupid behavior, well, the regen units had that miraculous thing going for them, but they couldn’t fix a severed head or a bled-out body. We found out that they had a downside, but more on that later.
Still, now we are stuck holding the short, sharp end of the stick. It’s pretty grim today, and it seemed grimmer then, but there’s so few degrees between ‘grim’ and ‘grimmer’ that we might as well not bother trying to argue the point. Humanity is stuck in a corner, here on old Terra, and we have to make a move.
We colonized the moon a good twenty years before we otherwise would have. You know how politicians are. Professing they’re here for the good of the city/county/state/nation/world. They’re all the same, whether they wear a suit, a thawb, a cloak of feathers, or run around stark naked. The service has some of them, too. We proud combat units try to keep our distance, but we have to make use of them to get what we need. As far as the civilian politicians, it’s simply breathtaking how a vast majority put their political differences aside when they realized they as a collective were staring down the barrel of alien guns. A figure of speech, yes, since the aliens have so far been unsuccessful in taking the planet. Still, the close calls woke them up and probably the frenzied calls from the constituents had something to do with it.
We lost Canada. Or at least a huge amount of it. Alaska is just cinders now. We had a secret military base there, just us and the polar bears that migrated down, and they found out about it. How, I don’t know. We by-God-knew when they discovered it, because they slipped into orbit and targeted that base. It was just a research project on human endurance. Military, yes, but with a lot of civilian applications.
They used some kind of neutrino-based carrier wave to target the base. Neutrinos can zip through a planet with no problem, so how they contained the neutrinos for a carrier wave, I don’t know. There’s a lieutenant commander in the Navy with no hair left that knows about high-energy physics. He didn’t know how they did it either, but there’s a distracted look in his eye whenever someone mentions it. All he’ll say is, “Collimation leakage,” and that’s it for any kind of conversation for the rest of the day. He slipped up one day while he was examining a piece of captured Trippy particle tech and mumbled, “How the hell does a septaquark even exist?” I knew better than to even ask about septaquarks. I didn’t want agents with identical haircuts, sharp suits, and crow’s feet around the eyes to pay me a visit. Besides, I didn’t think there was anything higher than a pentaquark, anyway.
The targeting was spot on, they tell me. Too bad the delivery systems wasn’t up to snuff. We lost everyone in that base, including the basement dwellers. The thing is, there was much more ‘shock and awe’ going on than just for a simple base. That’s an old term, but I don’t think this was a strike that got royally screwed up. I think it was a full-up battle, against overmatched opponents. There wasn’t anyone higher than a major there, and Major Dmitriy Alesnarovich Koryavin was a good man. Dima was something special, and I cried my eyes out for two days when I heard what happened. That’s all I want to say about him, other than he never got the troops he begged for nor the equipment and training time either.
What’s that? Yes, he did. A whole lot. That’s all I’m saying.
We lost more than the base. We lost enough land mass in that horrific bombardment to alter Terra’s axial tilt, and the seasons to go along with it. It gets really damn hot and really damn cold now, and the seasons don’t keep to the months they used to be in. It starts getting cold in July one year, then June, then May, and the seasons lately have been lasting four or five months. I don’t know how we’re going to handle a Christmas with hundred degree heat, but it’s coming all too soon.
I’m dancing around the real point. That alien office building isn’t going anywhere, and neither are the female prisoners.
We lost Canada, like I said. That base was in Alaska, yes, but close to the Canadian border. That way, the Canadians could “lend a hand” and the Americans could put the funding in the blackest part of the defense budget. Politicians, remember. It didn’t matter one bit. When Alaska was vaporized along with a huge chunk of Canada, they all got the message. It was time to put up or shut up and be herded. The political shock waves were stronger than anything the bombardment could produce, and it was felt in Chile, among places.
They got the lead out. First they voted to keep Alaska’s star on the flag, so that there would still be fifty-six stars, but Alaska now has a gold-bordered black star. They got together and planned to get outposts set up on Luna. Private contractors, the Russians, the Japanese, even the Italians contributed, among others. NASA was resurrected, although it was given a new name for a week. Cape Canaveral and Houston didn’t even get a chance to order new stationery before everyone in the world became the United Terran Hegemony. The acronym is bad enough, but at least it wasn’t something to make it UGH. I hesitate to think about the other languages.
So, a good man died before he could see the broad changes. In a way, that’s good. There are a lot of arguing and old resentments between nationalities, and many senior NCOs are driving themselves crazy trying to make it work. There is a lot of martial law happening. Civilians are helping, for the most part, but there are always some people who never get the memo. Conspiracy theorists and Internet trolls are just two types.
Nobody can walk down to the corner grocery store anymore. We have to have ration stamps, just like a few centuries or so ago, in another war and another time. People have to have good reason for going somewhere, and if they go, they have to get there and get off the road. If they don’t, the military arrests and detains them, until they can find out what’s going on. We don’t like having to do it, but people make things hard on us sometimes, and it’s hard enough as it is. Just like last time, there’s a thriving black market for things like food and fuel.
Beaches, theme parks, and movie theaters don’t exist anymore. Hollywood is almost a ghost town. There are still actors, but they make training films for the military, not big budget films. Somebody made a homemade movie criticizing the restrictions the Hegemony had put in place and urging direct action. It started to have a cult underground following on the Internet with all the people stuck in their homes, but that dropped off quickly when another alien incursion came in. The Trippies had found the video, and whatever passed for intelligence organs in their hierarchy decided that the guy was some kind of underground guerrilla leader recruiting for an offensive. In a way, they were right, but they thought they were the target.
They bombed his town. They didn’t use weapons with the same petaton rating, but it was enough to blow a crater eight and a quarter miles wide. The coastal town the guy lived in was obliterated, and seawater fills the crater now. Windows shattered twenty miles away, and ten miles in, some older houses collapsed. People died without having a clue what was happening, and in more than a few cases, whole communities were gutted.
There were probably twenty or thirty others that apparently were in total agreement with the guy’s ideas and their Internet forum activity stopped at the same time his did. It turned out that every single one got the same treatment, in several countries. Craters, all about the same size, and in the case of the larger metropolises, double and even a triple crater.
Now, no one argues. They take their ration stamps, go home and nurse Trippy hate. The enlistment rates are so high that buses leave nearly every other day. Horacio says that he dimly remembers at least ten different sets of yellow footprints, and all were occupied. He thought some sets were so fresh they were still wet. The other services are probably the same way.
So, old Terra is fighting for her life. Military, business, construction, fabrication, electronic, medical, all those industries and more have geared up. It’s a hard, long fight ahead but what can we do? I personally don’t want to be an undead womb to these aliens. I want them dead.
For Dima, God keep him.