“All personnel return to your bunkers and activate cyberhide. All personnel return to your bunkers and activate cyberhide,” AVIS droned through all possible space, her hollow, metallic voice sending chills through everyone. Despite the fact that safety was key, activating the Cyberhide did not instigate the safety it provided when something this serious seemed to be afoot.
“All personnel return to your bunkers and activate cyberhide. Cryogenic systems activated in five and counting. Defense, resume your battle stations at Sector three, seven and Delta. Eyes to the sky. Eyes to the sky. Initiating cryogenic countdown at four fourteen, four thirteen, four twelve, . . .”
Everyone was screaming as they rushed to their bunkers, scrambling to safety. Mass hysteria, though luckily they did not trample on one another. That would have left more of a mess than anything else. I ignored their screams as I rushed to the far side of a narrow corridor, barred by a great steel door. AVIS granted me access after the identification system initialized retina and fingerprint scans, opening the door with a loud hiss. The thick metal door, as was the metal layer in the walls into which it lead, constructed to even withhold nuclear attacks, swung open to reveal a dark, circular room. On the floor, a smaller circular radiance danced with figures running across the surface, projecting images of classified documents and outside surveillance on the surrounding walls. I glanced at a small rectangular screen set into the wall on which the room temperature was displayed. The readout still looked good.
From across the room, the Major General looked at me expectantly. My throat was as dry as frozen carbon dioxide.
“Well?” he asked in a rather gruff voice when I hesitated. I overlooked that.
“Code Zen, Major General. Prepare to fall out.”
At the mention of that level of emergency, everyone in the room looked at me, as if aghast, as if I was a little toddler accidentally given the title of General, high-ranking officer having the clearance to kick their asses when the need arise. I cleared my throat in disgust. I hated when they stare. I hated when their reaction slowed down to that of an ass, making me feel the idiot. However, I guess my hesitation also brought some sort of mental delay.
“Cryogenic countdown at three thirty, three twenty-nine, three twenty-eight, . . .” AVIS’s voice never changed pitch.
“Major General, get your ass in gear and follow procedure,” I said when I suddenly realized that time was of the essence. “Stop staring and get a move on, we’re going to the crash site. By god, we could already be dead and wouldn’t even know it, exchanging subtle pleasantries. You two, give me eyes in the sky. I need this in our databank. Find out what those dark objects in the skies are. NOW, NOW, yesterday already!”
o – – – – – – o
It was dark outside. To the north-west, Sectra and Ullna have aligned to make a dim circle within another, giving little light to the surroundings, but that was not much of a bother. Fifty troops have joined me, Major General Volk (by insistence), Captain Zlik, Lieutenant Grober and Doctor Proc against the side of a low hill, above which a magnificent burst of light punctured the night sky, accompanied by columns of smoke from the supposed aircraft having crash landed just beyond the rim. A flickering, orange hue amalgamated with the whiter light, adding to the spectrum. However, the light alone was not enough to reveal anything that was left of what looked like an unknown fleet, still hovering in the sky. They arrived without warning, these objects, about ten minutes ago, when this aircraft disbanded from its formation and landed just outside our Headquarters and laboratories. The crash was loud and electrifying, spooking everyone out of their minds. The automatic stress beacon sounded, and as consequence gave AVIS the order to initiate Cryogenic Shutdown. It’s gonna leave a mess.
I signaled for the troops to stay low while the rest of the commanding officers and I went to investigate. In the distance, I could still hear AVIS’s incessant countdown. At least the other significant personnel are safe. Replacing one another has always been easy, if you were part of the armed forces. The lab techs and scientists were one of a kind. Almost irreplaceable.
We reached the rim with no delay. My heart was racing. I could feel it in my fingers as it disappeared within the side of my Crynon, pressed against DNA receivers. Around us, the white of the world was a beauty to remember. The vast tundra sparkled like mounds of diamonds in what little light there was, and relined the numerous hills that stood against the darker horizon. I was scared, having to admit. Not necessarily of losing my life, for the life of one matters no more than the greater purpose we as a civilization stood for. I could still be replaced. I was scared that this unknown fleet have come to infiltrate or destroy our home, destroy us as a civilization altogether, ridding us from the universe. It did not seem fair to us, in particular.
I scouted ahead for anything unusual as the others lined up a little way behind me.
Upon hearing the strangely fine voice, I saw the crumpled craft, as magnificent now as it must have been before the crash. Apart from the orange tongues of raw destruction that threatened to engulf it, it was as white as its surroundings. A bright light still burst from a fixture on its side, just above some sort of emblem.
That was when I almost fainted.
I recognized it. This emblem held so much significance that it rendered me motionless. That specific emblem adorned all the classified files we have of this specific visitor, this specific world located along the farthest reaches of the universe. Impossible. How? The red striped rectangle with the darker blue one in the top left corner sent chills through my elongated body. The stars in the blue rectangle mocked me somehow, as if saying: “Hello, sucker, missed us?”
I looked down, into two eyes, only two, staring at me willfully, the light within menacing. Its two legs were splayed behind it while it tried to stand up with the second set of double protrusions pressed to the ground, five tendrils snaking around on each ligament. There was a fine set of hair of some sort that covered its head and part of its face, as seen from under its headgear. From within a pocket the creature withdrew something reminiscent to what we would call a rock, ripping a silver pin from its head. It did something with its face as it threw the rock at me. I did not catch it, though. I only lifted my own gun, cocked my head, and thought what an ugly piece of work this was.
“- expect us to come in peace, motherfucker. See you in hell!”
With a mighty explosion, the second war of the worlds began.