With Less Certainty
The Chinook’s rotor blades cut the silence with powerful air whips and slashed through the night air with immense turbulences. The dust and sand on the roads of the small desert town on the American west coast was thrown up in wild aerial dances.
The heavy transport helicopter never touched down, but in a few short minutes the seven members of the tactical team known as Phoenix Company were on the ground.
“REESTABLISH CONTACT IN ONE HOUR.” The helicopter pilot yelled at the team leader, who nodded, before pulling on his control joystick and lifting out of the landing zone.
“Awright. Listen up ladies and gentlemen.” Malcolm McLean surveyed his team, an assortment of six men and women collected from surviving groups, armed with weapons scavenged from other ghost towns and military bases and trained by guidebooks, scrunched up from forgotten libraries.
“Welcome to Nowhere, USA.” Mal continued. “Population Zero, maybe.”
“Hopefully,” One of them whispered.
“Hope for Humans, Ms. Young. Expect Aliens.”
“Sir, yes sir!” She said with hasty jest. Some of them snickered.
“Pay attention!” Malcolm hushed every murmur. “CoE detected very high ‘sionic activity in this here town. Now, we’all been sent here to capture this possible new transgen.” He cocked his AK47 and the rest of them followed with their own weapons. “Quarrie an’ Forbes are with me. We’ll go east an’ counterclockwise to the center. Brian, you take Young, Khan and Yanling an’ head west an’ clockwise. Move out.”
Malcolm peaked around the corner, his Kalashnikov at the ready. He stared at the empty street for several long seconds.
“Looks clear, chief.” Said Quarrie behind him.
“Just makin’ sure, Frank. Take the left side but stay behind me. Lin, keep the plasma gun ready and to center.”
The three of them crept down the open street. They walked below window level, peeking into empty rooms and deserted alleyways.
All of a sudden, Malcolm stopped. He stomped his foot to the ground and held up his open palm. Frank dropped to his knees and held up the L115 sniper rifle. Lin gripped her plasma gun tightly and stuck to the wall behind Malcolm. The alien weapon made a muffled yawning sound and seemed to shiver gently in her hands.
“Do you’all smell that?” Mal said, raising his head slightly. “Like freshly baked cornbread but stuck in your throat.”
Frank shook his head. “I don’t smell nothing. But I can hear something. It’s like a far away thunder but inside a padded box.”
“I don’t hear it,” Said Lin. “But I can feel something else. Like a lump in my chest, food stuck in my esophagus, pulling gently forward.”
“Over there.” Malcolm pointed to a building a few dozen meters ahead. It was a small two story house with stairs in front going from street level to a basement.
“I think you’re right.” Said Frank and pointed his sniper rifle in that direction assessing the front of the building. “I see no movement, Mal.” He said.
Malcolm took the radio handle from his vest. “Team 2, this is Team 1. We may have located the objective on 16th Mane Street. Stay alert. Check-in in 30 minutes.”
The screen door opened easily as it should. Malcolm expected a locked door beyond it but when he reached for the handle it opened just as easily as the screen door had. He burst into the short corridor pointing his weapon forward. The dark confined space forced him to turn on the mounted torch revealing metal dishes spread upon the carpet and some plaster falling off the walls. He looked right at an empty kitchen and left into a deserted living room.
“Come in,” Said an eerie quiet voice.
“Didja hear that?” Asked Mal and turned back to Frank who nodded.
“It came from over there,” Lin’s soft British tone echoed across the empty corridor to its end, the point in space to where she pointed her slender finger, a door leading left. It was an old wooden door made of straight oak planks and without any doubt led to a sub-basement.
The basement was well lit and better managed than the upstairs apartment. The three soldiers made their way down the wooden staircase. Every other stair creaked. Malcolm examined the spacious room through the sights of his AK47. The plasma gun shivered in Forbes’ hands but the atmosphere around them was quite warm.
“Come in, come in,” Said a pleasant voice. It came from a young woman dressed in a bath robe and holding a cup of hot bubbling coffee who had just entered the entry room to the basement from the left, from what seemed to be a kitchen. As soon as she had become evident, Mal and Frank raised their weapons at her. Her head filled Frank’s sniper scope and was augmented by a red dot from Malcolm’s Kalashnikov. However, Lin couldn’t raise her plasma gun for it turned exceptionally heavy in her hands every time she tried to lift it.
“Please, come in. Sit down.” The woman took a seat on a fluffy brown couch and gestured for them to use the matching sofa. She sipped as the team assessed the situation.
“Lin, You’all the Psi expert here.” Malcolm Said. “Anythin’?”
“Nothing, sir,” The Englishwoman replied. “Except a very powerful sensation. I’m not sure.”
“You don’t need those weapons. Sit down.” The woman said gently.
Frank lowered his rifle. “She seems alright to me, Mal,” He said, passing both Forbes and his team commander on his way down the stairs.
“Yeah, that’s what ‘m worried about,” Malcolm said and trudged down the stairs.
“My name is Jane. Where are you people from?” The young woman smiled.
“Malcolm,” He pointed to himself. This is Frank and Lin,” He pointed respectively.
“We’re from the Coalition of Earth,” Said Lin.
“Oh… Them.” Said Jane, turning her eyes away from them, drinking her coffee.
“You have somethin’ against the CoE?” Asked Frank. “For all the trouble, it’s the closest thing we have to a society again.”
“Some society,” Said Jane, placing the coffee cup on a small table nearby. “They’re just a bunch of wannabes with a hopeless cause and nothing to show for it.”
“Hey!” Frank leaned forward but Malcolm pushed him back.
“We’ve come a long way from scattered groups,” Malcolm said. “We have installations, food, weapons, almost global coverage…”
“And it’s worth nothing. The Greys will still conquer and enslave us all. Might as well just live your life while you have it.”
“That’s not the way to go,” Lin interjected.
“Yeah,” Continued Frank. “Just between us three we have over a hundred aliens captured or killed, at least a dozen spacecraft shot down and in custody, six bases I myself have seen being taken over.”
“And for every base you conquer, they destroy ten towns.” Jane leaned forward and accompanied her explanations with flailing hand motions and they could just see it all in their heads. “For every Flying Saucer you shoot down, they annihilate ten escaping busses. And for every Grey you kill, they murder a dozen of us… ordinary people. And I’ve seen this; If not with my own two eyes then with my mind’s eye.” She settled back into the couch holding her face and shivering ever so slightly.
“Waitaminute. Did you say ‘Mind’s Eye’?” Malcolm leaned forward.
“Yes. What did you think? You came here looking for a psionic signature. Well, you’ve found it.”
“YOU... are the psychic?” Asked Lin.
“But that emanation we detected was high even by Reticulan standards,” Added Malcolm.
“Welcome to the Post Twilight and Fall Age, Mr. McLean,” Said Jane with a grim smile.
Malcolm’s face, along with Lin’s and Frank’s, turned to slight puzzlement for neither of them had revealed a last name.
“The Fall is what made you this way?” Asked Lin.
“You can say that but the story’s longer. When I was 9 or 10 years old, I was abducted by aliens.” Tears started to well in her eyes and she quickly wiped them away with the sleeves of her bath robe. “They did horrible things to me, poking and prodding, or at least that’s what I remember. I went to a lot of therapy sessions and even now I’m not quite sure whether it was real or just a nightmare. When the Fall happened, many people died. Some didn’t. I simply became ‘more aware’. I could suddenly feel and see things I never could before. My dear Benjamin sure did love it.” She smirked at them but they could all see a small tear glinting on the side of her mouth which she quickly wiped away.
“Can’t you’all see you’ve been given a gift? It’s like God himself sending you to help us,” Malcolm said.
“You call this a gift?” She sat on the edge of the couch. Her eyes were sparkling with new found tears but filled with rage. “Then your God is surely a cruel master. Every night and even when I’m awake; I’m haunted by head-cracking nightmarish visions of people in pain. People dieing of starvation or of accidental wounds a doctor could fix if there was one in any of the demolished hospitals. And that is only if they were lucky enough to escape the Greys with their horrid weapons and devilish experiments. And that… that thing, the huge bubbling mass of tissue covering every bit of our world, growing every day, eating away at anything it comes across like merciless biological lava. Where is the CoE when these people need help? Where were you when my poor Benjamin was murdered?!” Her eyes were glaring, her voice broken and she started crying.
“We can’t help everyone,” Said Frank.
“We do what we can for who we can,” Added Lin.
“We don’t have the technology or man power to search for every single surviving person,” Said Mal. “People also have to stand up for themselves.”
“Yes. Tha-that’s what m-my Benjamin did, he p-picked up what he could and charged them, he d-didn’t g-get within t-ten yards of them before t-they m-mowed him down.” She was crying badly now. “The only man who still loved me after finding out my past, my weirdness! And he’s dead now because of your hopeless cause! If only there weren’t any people like you encouraging others to do what they obviously can’t, he’d be alive right now And we could have spent our last days together.” She stood up wildly, nearly tipping the table with the coffee cup on it as she did.
“Leave me alone now. I’ll die soon enough. That ‘gift’ you are so eager for is ripping me apart.” Jane turned to leave, not even bothering to take the coffee with her.
All three of them stood up and Malcolm started after her. “We can help you,” He called. “And you can more than help us!”
She stood still, turned at shouted, “I WON’T! N-O-W L-E-A-V-E-!” There was lightning behind her tear streaked eyes and the CoE team could see a small trickle of blood down her right nostril before they were pulled inside, drowning in the deep blue, paralyzed by an unseen yet immensely powerful force.
“Malcolm. Hey, Mal. Are you awake?” Malcolm looked up at the direction of the voice. A man’s face came into slow focus along with the gloomy grey workplace scenery of the underground base.
“Are you alright, man? Are you coming to lunch? We still have missions to do” The man said. Malcolm recognized him.
“Yes, Jim. But we still need to wait for Peter to finish his training. I’ll just finish this report and be right behind you.”
Jim stepped out of the small office space and headed for the mess hall. Mal looked back at his terminal and the mission report he was writing. He kept on typing.
‘The specific details of the mission are beyond my grasp at the moment for reasons I do not know myself. However, I do know we found nothing in that abandoned town. The psionic blip remains an ignorable malfunction in a yet imperfect system. And though I read my past reports and they are filled with zeal, when now I think of our greater task, our cause, I can’t help but approach it with less certainty.’