Chapter 1 - Nobody Thought About It
The city moved. Hustled. Rushed. Oblivious to the others, also hustling. Daniel Kelvin was among that hustle and bustle. At age seventeen, he was walking home from high school. Snow swirled around him, never landing, always on the move. Just like the city. It was February in Michigan. The cold had forced him to put on a coat. Daniel passed lots of people, none paying attention to him in their rush as he returned to his apartment.
On his way back, he froze as a siren wailed off in the distance. Another siren, this one closer, began its wail about twenty seconds after the first siren. Everyone, including Daniel, began to make their way to the underground shelters. As Daniel followed the crowd, he glanced to where the first siren had sounded. A funnel cloud was already descending. In about ten seconds, it would touch the ground.
Since those creatures had landed almost two years ago, the weather had just been crazy. Random tornadoes would appear, wreck some buildings, then vanish. It could rain for a month on end, flooding everything, then the rain would vanish, leaving its carnage behind. They once had snow in the middle of July, snowing for three days and ended up with two feet of snow when it was all over.
The creatures had been unidentifiable, even after the military shot one of the ships down when it got to San Francisco. Scientists were still trying to figure out what the creatures were and what they had done to the climate. But until they figured that out, they were stuck with this random weather and shelters.
Daniel glanced behind him. He saw four soldiers ushering the crowd into the shelter. Two others were standing at the sides of the entryway, ready to close the gate when everyone was inside. Five seconds later, he was inside with the soldiers rushing in behind him. The gate slammed close and all sirens ceased. Not because the gate blocked them out; it was just a metal, chain-link gate reinforced with titanium alloy. The tornado had touched down. Whenever a disaster was about to occur, the sirens would sound to warn civilians to get to shelter. Once the disaster was happening, there wasn't any need for the sirens to continue sounding so they shut off until it was over. They would sound again with the all-clear signal and life would go back to normal. The wind rattled the gate as the tornado passed quickly overhead. Within two minutes, the sirens sounded with the all-clear, one five-second tone.
The soldiers opened the gate and life returned to normal. Daniel continued his venture to return to his apartment and everyone else continued their activities. Speakers crackled to life as the voice Daniel had grown up hearing began reading casualties from the disaster: three dead, five seriously injured, two buildings damaged. Daniel’s building was not on the list. The voice again reminded them to take shelter as soon as possible after the sirens sounded. The speakers crackled again and fell dead.
Daniel continued his venture home. He got to the building and chose to go up the stairs. The electricity tended to go out at random times and he never wanted to risk getting stuck in an elevator when that happened. He reached his apartment on the fifth floor and pushed a button close to the door. A little camera popped up and scanned Daniel’s face. After confirming it was him, the door clicked open. A little red light on the counter illuminated the apartment, blinking slowly. Daniel sighed and went over to it. A message appeared on the little screen: RESCAN WITHIN TWO DAYS. He groaned. The entry system was great, but sometimes it was a pain. Every two weeks, he had to rescan his face into the system. It required this so it always knew what Daniel looked like so it could let him into the apartment. If he grew a beard, he had to rescan every day. That’s why Daniel liked shave; he didn’t have to rescan every day.
He sighed and looked around the apartment, not for anything. Then he noticed his mother wasn’t here. She must have gone somewhere; he didn’t know where. Heading to his room, he pulled his augmented reality off its charging base. He flicked it on and searched for his mother’s location. As suspected, she was at the store. Flicking the headset off, Daniel laid on his back, trying to keep his eyes open. ‘Tonight is the night,’ he thought. ‘Tonight’s the night I finally tell Mom.’ Even though it was only three in the afternoon, Daniel fell asleep.
* * *
He awoke to sirens. The long, descending tone ripping Daniel from his sleep. He quickly sat up and began to make his way to the door, glancing down at the watch he wore on his left wrist. It was 6:13 pm. He’d slept for three hours.
Chapter 2 - Nobody Ever Did
Regina Kelvin was at the store. It wasn’t much of a store, just a few aisles for storing food. She was carrying two cans of tomato soup, a loaf of wheat bread, and a jug of milk. She walked up to the register. As she walked in front of the register, a camera popped up and the screen lit up, reading “PLEASE SCAN EYE WHEN READY”. Regina set down what she was carrying and scanned her eye. The screen then switched to displaying Regina’s favorite picture, a beautiful sunset in the mountains of Colorado.
Thirty years ago, after the aliens landed, the government feared that aliens could hack the current computer systems and take over everything. So they set up biometrics everywhere, at convenience stores, grocery markets, and even your own apartment building. All the servers were in one central location, an undisclosed location in Minnesota. Whenever somebody used a computer, it accessed that server bank and copied everything the user had saved on another device to the current device. It was convenient but also very efficient. That was why cameras were everywhere, scanning everybody’s eye.
Regina scanned all the items and tapped the “Finished” button on-screen. Her total was $6.59. She accepted and walked away. The computer, detecting she was moving away using motion sensors, automatically withdrew the $6.59 from her bank account and locked up. Locking up was the way the computers automatically logged a user out and erased any trace they were there from its system. The government still had records of users who used a machine but the records were stored in another server bank off the coast of Hawaii.
As Regina walked out of the store a lone siren sounded, shortly followed by the rest of the sirens. She hustled to the nearest shelter, carrying her plastic bags with her. She joined the rest of the crowd and moved into the shelter. The soldier’s seemed to be acting weird, glancing over their shoulders. She thought nothing of it and moved down into the shelter.
* * *
It was uncomfortable. Always was. It smelled. Always did. That was it; nothing more, nothing less. Unpleasant, yes. The sirens died, leaving the entire city in silence. A slight breeze picked up, quickly turning into a gale. The sunlight outside the gate faded, leaving everyone in total darkness. Nobody questioned what was happening. Everyone already knew. The tornado passed by, leaving a path of destruction like it always did. Ten minutes later, the sirens wailed once then fell silent again. The soldiers opened the gate and everyone poured out, resuming their tasks before they were so rudely interrupted. The voice, again, read statistics. Three dead, eight wounded. Names accompanied them. One building seriously damaged, eight more suffered slight damage. One was her apartment building. Daniel! Regina quickened her pace.
Twenty minutes later, Regina arrived at the apartment building. Windows were shattered and a few belongings lay strewn about the street. One guy came around a corner, heading toward the building carrying a small armchair. She went up to the apartment, scanned in, and went inside. The inside was a disaster. Pots and pans were strewn everywhere, the couch was flipped over and on the opposite side of the room. Regina called Daniel’s name multiple times, each response was silence. She started to panic when the door opened behind her. She whirled around to see her son standing there.
“You called?” he asked, humorously. Regina smiled. Daniel’s humor never faded, no matter what seemed to happen. Even when his father died, he didn’t lose his humor.
“Well, yeah.” she replied sarcastically.
“Then it’s a good thing I came.” Regina playfully punched Daniel. He looked around the apartment.
“This is a disaster.” he said in a funny voice. Regina laughed.
“Then let’s fix it.” she said. The next thirty minutes involved moving the couch, replacing pots and pans to their respectable places, and Daniel attending to a small water leak under the bathroom sink. When Daniel was done with that, he replaced the tools in their toolbox and slide the box back under his bed. He was going to miss this place. ‘Oh, yeah. I have to tell Mom that.’ he thought. He moved out into the main living space where his mother was sitting on the couch, reading a book.
“Mom, can I tell you something?” Daniel asked.
“Sure, honey.” Regina replied. “What is it?”
“Mom, I’ve been thinking about this for quite some time and I’ve decided…” he paused and took a breath. “I want to enlist in the Army.” He grimaced as he said it. As much as he wanted to, he hated the fact that when he left, he would be leaving his mother alone.
Regina gasped slightly as Daniel said it. Her husband, Andrew, had been in the Army when he had died. She didn’t think this was a very good idea.
Chapter 3 - It's Not Your Fault
Both Daniel and Regina sat in the complete darkness that surrounded them, waiting for the back-up generators to kick on. They never did. Daniel and Regina continued their conversation, hoping the other person was actually listening.
"Mom, I realize it's what dad was doing before he died. But I feel like this is the right thing for me to do with my life."
Regina had stood up and was pacing behind the couch when the power went out. She was steaming by this point. Turning to Daniel, she pointed a finger at him.
"You don't know that half of it! You have no idea what killed your father! You have no idea what awaits you in the Army! You don't even know who your father was!"
Daniel was stunned. He had not been expecting this kind of reaction. He felt around and took a seat on the couch. What did she mean 'you don't know who your father was'?
"Wait, what do you mean I didn't know my who my father was?"
"I mean, your father died before you were born," the voice ran through the darkness.
"What?" Daniel questioned. Regina ran her hands through her hair before answering.
"I mean exactly what I said," she said through gritted teeth. Daniel didn't see this.
"Which means what? Didn't I have a father? If not, who was that all those years teaching how to do stuff?"
Regina paused, looking through the black hole out into the pitch-black street.
"It was an actor friend of mine. He agreed to teach you life skills before you began to permanently associate him as your dad."
"So I grew up with a fake dad?"
An awkward pause ensued, ending with Regina saying, "Yes."
Daniel threw his hands in the air and stood. "I can't believe this! I grew up thinking a random man was my dad who left when I was ten? He taught me everything I know and I've always been associating those memories with a fake dad that I don't know! Is that what you're telling me?"
Regina paused again, finally saying, "Yes, Daniel. That's what I'm telling you."
Daniel stormed over to the door, pausing before he opened it. He turned back to his mother, whose head was hung looking at the floor.
"I can't believe this!" he yelled before opening the door and slamming it again as he went out. He opened the door again, poking his head back in.
"Did my dad actually serve in the Army? Before he died?"
"Yes, he did."
"So who's funeral was that we went to three months ago?"
"It was the guy who impersonated your father for years. He died in a flood." Silence, followed by the door shutting again, not as violently as before. Regina just sat on the couch, sighing as she did so. 'He'll get over this. He always does,' she thought. She went back to reading her book.
* * *
Daniel stormed down the stairwell. His mind was reeling, both with anger at his mother for keeping this secret for all these years and with all the information she had just told him. He entered into the black street, not caring where he was headed. He just needed to go somewhere to clear his mind, organize his thoughts. Turning left, finding a park bench using his night vision goggles that he always carried in the backpack that never left his back and sat down on it.
His mind reflected back on years past. He thought back to the time his "father" has taught him how to use his augmented reality headset beyond what the government allowed one to do with the headsets. That's how he was able to see his mother's location at will. He continued to think about other memories with his "dad". He soon was lost in thought.
Chapter 4 - It's Only Temporary
Three Months Later
The hot, rusty car bounced along the highway, surrounded by hundreds of other rusty cars. Regina was driving the old Chevrolet and Daniel was staring out the window, lost in thought. His small, blue duffel bag sat by his feet. It contained everything necessary that he'd need for the next ten weeks of his life, except for clothing. That would be taken care of later.
Quiet filled the car, aside from the roar of the engine, prompting Regina to ask, "Are you nervous, honey?"
Daniel answered with a hesitant "Yes". They bounced down the highway some more, avoiding potholes and finally slowing to a stop at a standstill in traffic. After about an hour of gridlock, they were on their way again.
Five hours later and very little conversation exchanged, the car stopped in a parking spot outside the massive base that lay ahead.
The base was huge, its concrete walls extending for as far as Daniel could see in either direction. The base rose almost 300 meters into the air, all topped with barbed wire.
Daniel was about to step out of the car when another rusty car squealed to a stop into the parking spot next to them, missing by meer inches. Yelling could be heard.
"Now get out!" a voice yelled. This one sounded like a very angry woman.
"Fine!" another voice yelled back, slamming the door as he said it. This voice sounded like a teenager, around Daniel's age. The car rocked as the door slammed back into place and the tires squealed again. The car flew past and back out the gate, narrowly missing three other cars, causing all to lay on their horns.
Daniel looked back and saw the teenager standing in the next parking spot. He was about six feet tall, broad shouldered and had a messy brown mop atop his head. Over his shoulder, he carried a tattered duffel bag. It didn't seem like there was anything the bag. The kid turned and began walking toward the base. Daniel turned back to his mother. Her eyes were misty and on the verge of spilling all the tears she was holding back. She reached out and touched his hair, caressed his face in her hand.
"You look so much like your father." Regina could barely choke out the words. She was filled with pride, yet horror. Pride that her son was following in his father's footsteps, trying to copy his every move that he had left behind. Horror that she was about to sent her only child, her son no less, into the brutality that was known as the Army. Horror that he would be killed as well. Horror that she would be left alone in this cruel world. Despite being 47, the thought of having no one by her side terrified her.
"You are just like your father. So brave, so willing to give...everything, just to fight an evil world." Regina chocked back, unable to say anymore words. Before she was left totally speechless and broke down to tears, she reached over and hugged her son in a tight embrace. She cried into Daniel's shoulder. After a few minutes, she finally broke the hug and said, "I love you, Daniel. Now go before I start crying again." She said that last part out of humor. Daniel got it and gave a little laugh, one last final laugh for his mother.
They hugged again briefly and Daniel exited the car, his duffel bag slung over his shoulder. When he was about 100 meters away, he turned back to face the car. His mother was standing beside it, the driver's door still open. She waved at him and he waved back. Then he turned and followed the line of recruits into the massive base.
* * *
The line was huge, stretching for about two kilometers. It was also very slow, slower than the line at the DMV. After standing in the sweltering sun for about two hours, Daniel finally entered into a giant building. It was air conditioned in here. Daniel had a feeling that this was probably his last time feeling A/C for quite some time.
A basket rolled up alongside some recruits a few meters ahead. The bald-headed guy pushing it gave simple instructions: All clothes they were wearing, except underwear, were to go into the basket. This included shoes. A kid behind Daniel asked, "What if we don't have boxers?" The attendant simply told him that he'd have to be naked for the duration of the sorting period. The kid asked how long that would be. The attendant answered with six hours. The kid sighed and reluctantly began to undress. Daniel was pulling off his socks when the attendant stopped in front of him. His other clothes were already in front of him. He pulled off the last sock, bent over to grab the pile, and placed it into the cart.
Immediately after the attendant had left, he felt a small pain in his butt. He turned to see a kid looking extremely obvious trying to act like he wasn't the culprit. Daniel simply scoffed and turned back around. It wasn't worth beating up a kid for kicking you in the butt. Twenty seconds later, it happened again. Daniel again turned around to see the same kid with the same wasn't me expression. Daniel was starting to get angry. He'd always had a short temper and when it burst it wasn't always a pretty thing. Most bullies backed off when they saw he was mad.
Despite Daniel's size, he was usually picked on. All because he didn't play any sports. Even though he didn't play sports, he looked like someone who did. At six feet tall, he had brown hair and hazel eyes. He wasn't the most stocky kid. He fell in the middle of big, burly athletes that played football and the small, agile cross-country runners. He'd always hated sports. It was just a waste of time, he'd always think. Still, he sometimes went to a football game or a wrestling match out of spite.
The small pain happened for a third time. Daniel almost turned to cream the kid but saw he was next in line. He decided to leave it alone.
'He'll go away and I'll never have to deal with him again. It's just a minor inconvenience.'
The recruit in front of Daniel moved away, allowing Daniel to step up. The small pain again. The lady there asked for a name, mother and father names and a Social Security number. He told her the information and she handed him a bag.
"Inside of there, you'll find your uniform. Do not put them on until an officer tells you to do so. Make your way over to room J." Daniel did as he was told, moving over to room J. He had his duffel bag and the brown bag. There was a green light illuminated on a small control panel which Daniel took to mean that he could enter the room. He pushed the door open and stepped inside.
He was suddenly blasted with cold air, which caused Daniel's scream to become lodged in his throat. Another blast of air, this one hot. The blasts came from all directions, causing Daniel to shut his eyes to prevent his eyeballs from being blasted out.
A buzz sounded and Daniel opened his eyes. A door on the other side of the room opened, revealing a dark abyss. He stepped out cautiously, watching his every move. Finally, he grew to realize that the floor was solid. He may not have been able to see it but he knew that it was solid. There was a tiny pinhole of light coming from the other side. He began running toward it, his duffel bag banging against his leg, the brown bag bouncing in his hand.
He reached the other side in ten minutes. It was just another doorway with a single light on inside. He stepped in. The door shut behind him. Daniel looked back to see a solid white wall, no evidence of a door ever being there. He looked around. No door was to be found. He dropped his bags, causing the room to reverberate the sound. There was no sound isolating objects in here. The sound just rang until it died out, tired of itself.
Daniel began to hyperventilate. He had never been a fan of small spaces to begin with, but this room with no exit was making him panic. He decided to lie next to his bags, in an attempt to calm himself down. It didn't work. He began to panic, banging on the walls pleading for someone to help him, to let him out. He kept banging and banging until...
* * *
Daniel awoke with a start. He lay on the bed, breathing hard, trying to calm himself of the dream he had just had. Wait. He looked around. This wasn't his room. Where was he? A hiss followed by a pop sounded, scaring the living bejesus out of him. Four suction cup looking things moved away from his head. A person, previously unseen, began to speak.
"US Army, Battalion 57, Brigade 36, Platoon 82. You may now put on your uniform. Exit out that door and find your platoon." The person pointed to a door behind Daniel. He picked up his duffel bag and brown bag and stepped out the door. He stepped out and shook his head. He had no recollection of how he had gotten into that room. He shook his head again and went to find a place to change.
Daniel exited the changing area, duffel bag over his shoulder. He no longer needed the brown bag; a note inside it had told him that. He handmade his way halfway across the yard when the entire building shook violently.
"What the..." Daniel whispered to himself. He was interrupted by a siren, followed by a voice over the intercom system.
"Aliens detected. All persons in the building, please make your way to the underground bunkers." All the soldiers made their way to the east side of the building where at least fifty doors stood. Daniel fell into line with a group of soldiers and marched with them into a bunker. As he entered, the siren behind him died, leaving the only sound to echo through the building being the sound of their boots.
* * *
The pod landed next to the target, shattering the ground around the pod. Breaking the pod wall, Tuipoa got out followed by Gutyju and Vejnero. Tuipoa scanned the area. The robot in the pod behind them spoke up.
"Area clear. No human life forms detected."
Tuipoa stepped toward the building. He nodded and turned back to Gutyju and Vejnero.
He walked back into the pod with his partners, closed the door and blasted back into space.
* * *
It was squished in here. Not as bad as he thought it would be but they were packed in pretty tight. They had been told to keep silent, to listen for any unusual noise. After they had been told that, a slam jolted the building so hard that everyone in Daniel's bunker shifted to one side, causing most to fall over. After they had gotten back on their feet, they heard a small glimpse of something. After that, a roaring sound was heard. The sound got increasingly quieter. They waiting until the alarm sounded to allow them to go back to training.
The alarm never sounded.
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