FlashFic: Dark Skies, Cold Hearts

A mysterious sight in the night sky takes a treacherous turn.

“What is it, grandpa?”

The old man stepped out onto the porch and looked up at the night sky. “Looks like a shooting star!” The bright blue object did not fade, though the man’s smile did. “No, that ain’t right…”

The boy’s father stepped out of the house. “What is it, Pop? Meteor shower?”

“I don’t know.” The object had tripled in size and brightness. The sky started to rumble. He shielded his eyes.

“Jesus…” The younger man squinted. “That’s not a meteor, is it?”

“No…” The grandfather took a step back. “That’s an aircraft, or something.”

“I bet it’s a space ship!” The boy ran off into the front yard.

“Danny, no!” His father ran after him.

A screaming sound accompanied the rumbling. The object gleamed in the sky. It was triangular, with three brilliant blue circles beneath it. “I told you! It’s a space ship!”

The boy began waving at the UFO. Danny’s father grabbed him and started pulling him backward. “No, Danny! We don’t know if they’re friendly…”

A beam of pure white energy zapped from the spacecraft and struck the father in the chest, knocking him backward. “GAH!” A brown scorch-mark graced his sky-blue dress-shirt. “I can’t move…”

A second beam, much wider and violet-white, engulfed the boy before he could run to his father. “Dad!” The man watched helplessly as his son lifted off the ground. “Dad! I feel…”

The boy disintegrated before the man’s eyes. The individual bits of matter pulled apart and shot up the beam into the ship. “DANNY! NOOO!”

The grandfather burst back out of the front door with an old service rifle just as the purple beam dissipated. “DON’T YOU TAKE MY GRANDSON, YOU SONS OF BITCHES!” The old man took aim and opened fire.

The shots plinked uselessly off of the spacecraft. The father turned his head towards the grandfather and shouted. “Dad, no!”

There were tears in the old man’s eyes. “Hell YES!” He emptied the gun into the spacecraft. The last round caused sparks to shoot out of the front of the UFO.

A third light beam, this one blood red, shot from the spacecraft and into the old man’s chest. “DAD!” The old man’s body was silhouetted in glowing orange light. It disintegrated like the boy’s body had, but the particulates fell to the ground, burning ash blown in the wind from the UFO’s wake.

The spacecraft turned. It rocketed up into the air at an impossible rate. A wash of blue energy blew backwards into the old farmhouse, setting it ablaze. The still-paralyzed father slipped into the cold black hole of unconsciousness.

He awoke sometime later. Several dark figures stood around him. He cried out and flailed his way backwards. “He’s awake.” The voice was distant and quiet to him.

“Shit,” another voice said. “Grab him.” Two pairs of strong hands grabbed the father’s arms and held him fast. They propped him up on his feet and let go.

One of the figures stepped forward, slowly coming into focus. It was a man in US Army fatigues. The father began to cry. “Please! My son…”

The Army man held up a hand. “We know what happened. Did you call anyone? Call for help?”

The father shook his head. “No… I didn’t have time. They took my…”

“We know.” The man took out a pistol. “Too bad they killed you and whoever that ash pile is.” He aimed it at the father’s head and pulled the trigger.

The father let out a single piercing screech and fell dead to the ground. The man put the gun away. “Secure the area.” He turned and walked back into the shadows.

Interlude: The Final Mission

In a world ravaged by war, the environment is often painted in shades of gray.

Here it is: a new Interlude, with a twist. This short story was the inspiration for my new novella series No Road Home! Enjoy this story heavily influenced by Fallout series of video games. Then buy Echoes, the first book in the No Road Home series at Amazon.com on October 15, 2019.

He did now know pain.

At least, not anymore. They saw to that in the lab. They beat it out of him in training. He was oddly grateful for it in the blistering heat of the day.

The sun seared your flesh in a short period of time out here. His skin was accustomed to it. The back of his neck was like leather. Still, the sun was causing it to crack and bleed.

Doesn’t matter, now. The sun, the heat, the hunger… That still hurt, he’d admit. They made him resilient to starvation, but they didn’t quiet the hunger that accompanied it.

He pushed it out of his mind. He had an entire country to avenge. An entire country, ravaged by a war they never asked for, seared by nuclear fire, left to die, like him, in a parched desert landscape.

A house emerged out of the dusty haze ahead of him. Perhaps there might yet be food inside. People? Surely not. Nobody stayed out here after the dust settled.

Those that did were quickly slaughtered by bands of raiders. Their remaining possessions were torn apart, gutted, left to rot along with their decimated corpses. Their ransacked homes became their makeshift tombs.

He stood at the entrance of the home. The surname Garcia was painted in faded black letters above the house numbers. The door before him was shut.

He reached for the doorknob, but stopped himself. A brief glimmer of humanity sparked through him. He knocked gruffly on the weathered paint and listened.

There came no response. He tried the doorknob. It did not turn. He looked up at the top of the door frame. He ran a weathered hand along it. His fingers happened upon an oddly-cool piece of metal.

He slipped the key into the doorknob and turned it. The lock clicked. He turned the knob at last and pushed his way inside.

The temperature dropped noticeably as he stepped into the entryway. His footsteps sent a cloud of dust into the air. The sunlight entering the house flitted off the particles, casting ghosts about the room.

He looked at the floor. There was a dropped purse, a backpack full of unfinished homework. Shoes were scattered around an open closet.

Perhaps this home had escaped looting. He continued forward into the family living room. He wrinkled his nose.

Before him was a long-abandoned couch. In the corner was a worn, green recliner. In it were the mummified remains of an elderly lady.

“Little Pete, what’s to eat? Maybe grandma’s got a treat!” The man blinked the image of his own grandmother from his mind. He turned from the corpse, rubbing at his course cheeks.

A long-darkened TV panel stared back at him from the wall. He stepped over to it and tapped one corner. The screen remained dark.

He stepped into the kitchen. He looked over the fridge. No power meant nothing good in there. He was thankful for modern sealing technology.

The cabinets were fully stocked. The reality made him nervous. His stomach made him decisive. He chose a vintage, unopened box of Cheerios.

He opened it up and ate directly from the box. He looked for the expiration date as he munched away. Not bad for being a few months past freshness.

Something clicked and whirred in the hallway beyond. He put down the box and pulled out his handgun. The whirring and clicking was louder now, but also slower.

He popped around the corner, gun raised. A home security bot was very slowly trundling down the hallway. Its bright yellow eyes barely registered a somber orange.

“Intruder… alert.” The robotic words were barely a whisper in the silence, strung out and broken. So this is why the house was untouched.

“Military clearance alpha delta four two nine zero.” Two weak beeps came from within the robot. It remained still. It’s nuclear battery nearly spent, it wouldn’t have been able to carry on, anyway.

Peter the soldier emerged from the house a short time later. The hastily discarded backpack was now on his shoulder. Its textbooks had been replaced by breakfast cereal and canned goods.

A mansion appeared over the horizon sometime later, a lasting nod to the separation of rich and poor. He eyed it with interest as he drew closer. There could be some good gear in there, perhaps even a functional vehicle. There would almost certainly be greater security…

And of course there was. The hills surrounding the mansion were fenced in. A single, large gate opened onto a grand driveway that led to the main building.

A crazed, bipedal robot stormed out from behind it, screeching. The robot’s silver and white color scheme was quickly being taken over by a sheen of dark brown rust. The battery in this one was quite charged. Time for the gun again.

The soldier called out his clearance code to no effect. He tried to assert his dominance with the gun, instead. The robot barely slowed. “Shit.”

He holstered the gun and raised his fists. He slammed them full-forced into the robot’s chest, sending it skittering backwards a full two feet. The blow revealed the shiny titanium beneath the synthetic flesh covering the soldier’s knuckles.

The robot screeched. It quickly covered the distance between them and grappled with the soldier. “Not allowed! NOT ALLOWED! Violation of grounds! Protect protect PROTECT…”

“United States Army! STAND DOWN!” The robot headbutted him. He yelled as blood burst from the split in his skin.

He grabbed the robots chest plates and pulled with all his strength. The steel slowly peeled back. He jabbed one hand into the robot’s chest. He pulled it back out holding a fistful of wires.

The robot dropped to the ground. Its head and limbs twitched as its systems crashed one by one. The soldier warily stood over it, waiting for it to power down.

It became still at last. The robot turned to look on the soldier with blinking, fading eyes. “Daddy!” It was the voice of a young child, a recording.

“Daddy, I’m scared.”

“I know son,” the father’s voice was heard to answer.

“Daddy, I don’t want to die!” The light faded out of the robot’s eyes for the last time.

He shook his head, then lifted it skyward. He sighed deeply, letting it droop again. He produced a handkerchief from his pocket. The soldier wiped at the blood on his forehead.

Emotions. He’d had enough of them. Yet this world kept shoving them in his face. Part of the “enhancements” the military had given him was an emotional damper. He wondered, did they ever think it would be tested like this?

The soldier continued on his way. Cars were starting to appear on the side of the road, mostly on the right. In times of danger, citizens often look to the military for help.

Most of the cars were abandoned. Many, unfortunately, were not. He stopped looking when he passed a fully-loaded sedan, complete with an occupied child safety seat.

Army Base Delta started to come into view at long last. The lowering sun cast a long shadow before him. It took him longer than expected to get this far.

Something moved behind one of the abandoned cars ahead. He froze. There was another noise. He drew his gun.

A dog walked out from behind the automobile. The soldier grimaced, rolling his eyes. The dog stood staring at the man. It began to pant.

The soldier put away his weapon and continued on. The dog turned and began to follow as he passed. He stopped. The dog stopped. “Shoo.”

The dog sat and stared at him. “Stay.” The soldier waited a moment longer, then continued. The dog remained where he was.

The verbal detent wasn’t very effective. The dog jogged along to catch up. The soldier turned in anger. “I said SHOO!” He swung a foot at the dog.

The animal pulled up short, nearly falling backwards. He looked at the soldier with heavy eyes. “GO!” The dog turned and left with his tail between his legs, whimpering.

The soldier didn’t like what he saw as he drew closer to the Army base. He pulled out a small black device and activated it. The item started clicking immediately: a Geiger counter.

He replaced it with a packet of pills. The packaging was marked “Anti-Rad”. He ripped it open and dry-swallowed the contents.

He picked his way into the remains of the base. It appeared to have taken a direct hit in the nuclear strike. All that mattered was if one particular part of the base had survived.

It had. In the middle of the destruction stood a simple concrete dome. A heavy metal hatch remained intact on one side of it. Heavy black soot coated a half-melted keypad in the center of the hatch.

He cleared it as well as he could and typed in a string of numbers. Nothing happened for a moment. He was preparing to straighten up when there came a loud click from within the door.

He grabbed the large handle on one side of the hatch and pulled. It swung up and out to one side. Dim, yellow lights running on emergency power lit the shaft within.

A cool, dark tunnel extended from the bottom of the shaft. A gentle breeze brought the stench of decay with it. Not a good sign.

At the end of the shaft was a simple bunker consisting of a latrine, sleeping quarters, and a communications room. Inside the comm room, he found the corpses of two men. One was laying in one corner, a bullet hole in its head.

The other sat at one of the computer terminals, also with a bullet in its head. Murder-suicide. The screen was still lit, casting a ghostly glow on the corpse before it.

He slid the corpse’s chair out of the way, opting to sit in a slightly-less defiled chair nearby. On the screen he read “PROJECT: RETALIATE”. Below that, “Critical targets acquired. Launch warheads?”

He leaned back and sighed. One key press. He had come all this way for just one key press. One simple confirmation, and the United States would be avenged. Those responsible for this mass slaughter would be slaughtered themselves.

The soldier closed his eyes. “Little Pete,” his grandma told him. “Don’t repeat, death’s no treat!” He blinked his eyes open, and saw the corpse of the elderly woman in the house.

He squeezed them shut again and saw the corpses in the cars along the road. He saw the tiny skeleton in the safety seat. Heard the recording of the young boy. “I don’t want to die!”

Peter opened his eyes. He stared at the two buttons in the center of the screen: “OK” and “CANCEL”. Just one key press.

He was never sure how long after he opened his eyes it was before he moved. He supposed it didn’t matter. He’d go to his grave certain that he made the right choice.

Peter moved the cursor over the “CANCEL” button and clicked. The computer asked him if he was sure. He told it that he was, without hesitation.

He struck out on the road past the old Army base, the sun stretching out his shadow farther and farther before him. It was joined sometime later by a second shadow. This one was panting.

He stopped and looked to his side. The dog looked back up at him, his tail cautiously wagging. The soldier smiled, reaching down to pet the dog’s head. “Let’s go.” The companions continued down the road, leaving the horrors of the past behind them, looking towards the future.

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Interlude: Falcon 419

A small group of mercenaries crash-land on an unforgiving planet.

Sirens blared. The instrument panel of the stricken bird bled crimson light all over the Falcon’s pilot. “General S.O.S. This is the IMS Falcon designation 419. We are going down on planet UE 85. Repeat, Falcon 419…”

His copilot slapped him in the shoulder. “Just fly, damn it! Nobody’s going to hear us out here, anyway.”

The pilot glared at him, but said nothing. He looked over his shoulder. “Better buckle in, Jacob!”

“Just fly the damn ship, Henson.” The grizzled old man chewed on his cigar, latching his harness in place. The ship started shuddering violently. “Can we breathe down there, Coop?”

The copilot looked over the readouts before him. “Air’s a little thick. We’ll manage.” The ship shook violently, tilting to one side. “Shit! We’re in the atmosphere.”

Orange-yellow plasma crept over the nose of the Falcon. The ship shuddered violently, rumbling loudly in protest. The temperature quickly increased.

Jacob screamed to be heard. “Are we gonna fuckin’ die or what!”

“Now’s not a really good time, Jacob!” Henson shot back. “You’ll know in a minute!”

The plasma attacking the front of the ship faded away, leaving the windscreen covered in black soot. Cooper flipped a switch and held down a button. A white electric field crackled briefly across the glass.

The soot broke free of the windscreen, showing blue sky and far too much green and brown land screaming by. “Pull up! Pull up!

“Shit, shit, shit…” Henson pulled back hard on his controls. The control panel rapidly beeped as the ship shuddered, beginning to wobble. “This is it!

The Falcon tagged a hilltop with its aft end, tipping it forward. It over-corrected, digging the aft into the next rise and tearing it apart. The front of the ship slammed hard into the turf.

It slid and jumped for half a mile, jagged rocks tearing at the ship’s underbelly. It crested a steep hill and ground to a stop on the sharp rocks. It rocked dangerously for a moment, balanced on a pin. the nose settled on the ground with a thunk.

Henson silenced the blaring alarms with a few key presses. Smoke began to find its way out of the air vents. “I’m okay! Jacob, Cooper, report!”

Cooper groaned. “I’ll live. Henson?”

“No, I ain’t okay! My ship’s in pieces and I lost my damn stogie!” Henson flipped his harness open. “Let’s get the fuck out of here. Grab pistols!”

The three men coughed as the smoke in the cramped cabin grew thicker. Jacob pushed on the hatch release. It buzzed back at him. “Hatch is seized!”

Henson pushed him out of the way. He entered a series of numbers on the keypad by the hatch. “Stand clear!”

The men pushed back against the far side of the cabin as the keypad beeped rhythmically.  It let out one long beep. Charges on each side of the hatch ignited, blowing the hatch out. It slid clattering several feet across the craggy earth.

They poured out of the exit, running clear of the ship. What was left of the aft end was burning. Black smoke billowed into the atmosphere.

Henson walked to the front of the ship, staring out at the surrounding land from the top of the hill. “Nothing.” He turned and faced the ship. “I don’t suppose you can fix that, Coop?”

“Yeah, I’m thinking no.” He pushed up his wire-rimmed glasses. Best we can hope for is getting it broadcasting a beacon and…” The ground underneath them shifted without warning.

“Run!” Jacob yelled. It was too late. The ground underneath them disappeared, replaced with darkness. They tumbled down a rocky embankment into a pitch black abyss.

The three men laid crumpled in the shadows, groaning. Henson touched his forehead and winced. His hand came away bloody. He spit. “Everyone alive?”

“I’m in one piece.” Cooper pushed himself to a sitting position.

Jacob rolled over, coughing. “I’m still here… unfortunately.” The ground above them began to rumble again. “Oh, come on!” All three men scrambled back from the rubble-strewn slope.

The Falcon dropped slightly and tilted downward. It slipped forward, steel screaming in protest against the rocks. It wedged fast in the hole that had opened before it, plunging the men into darkness.

Henson stared up towards the now-hidden ship. “What a day… What a glorious fucking day!” He screamed at the remains of the ship.

“Flashlights?” Jacob slapped at his wrist in the dark. “Mine’s gone.”

Henson replied in the dark. “Nothing here. Damn it.”

Light poured from Cooper’s wrist. “Hallelujah, money!” He swept it over Jacob and Henson. “Dang, boss. You got it good!”

Henson waved a hand. “Get that damn thing out of my face.” He squinted his eyes, waving a finger behind Cooper.

Cooper turned around and held out his hand. They were in some sort of cave. His flashlight was the only source of illumination. “Doesn’t look good. You suppose we’re trapped?”

Jacob stepped forward. A slight breeze blew across his face. “No. There’s a breeze. Gotta be an opening somewhere down there.”

Henson pulled his laser pistol from its holster on his thigh. “Arm up! We don’t know what lives here. Step up, Coop.”

Jacob and Henson fell in line behind a reluctant Cooper. He stepped deliberately, slowly swinging his light back and forth as he went. Their steps were lost in the cave, the walls absorbing the sound instead of reflecting it.

Cooper stopped. “Do you hear that?”

Henson frowned in the dark. “Hear what, Cooper?”

“It was like a hiss.” He listened quietly for a moment. “There!” A quiet hiss came from their right.

“Point your light over…” Something black streaked at Henson before he could finish the sentence. “Gahhh!” He fired his laser pistol wildly, striking Jacob in the arm.

Cooper pointed his light and his pistol at Henson. The flashlight illuminated an ebony creature as jagged and sharp as the rocks that surrounded them. Its eye flared red in the bluish light, its gray teeth glistening with Henson’s blood.

He pulled his trigger. The red beam of light from the laser hit the alien in the chest. Bright yellow blood streamed from the resulting hole. It shrieked, lashing out at Cooper.

He screamed, grabbing his arm where the light had been. They were in the darkness again. “Henson! Jacob!”

“Henson got me in the arm! I’m alright. I’ll be alright.” He spoke the last few words to himself.

Cooper pulled out a small plastic stick and snapped it. Dull yellow light emanated from it, falling off only a couple feet from where he stood. “Where’s Henson?” He swept the ground with the light stick.

He gasped as the yellow light fell on Henson. His eyes stared blankly at the ceiling. His throat was a torn, bloody mess. “Damn it!”

Jacob stared at Henson, trembling. “No…” He shook him violently. “Come on, man! No!” He shoved at the lifeless body. Something quietly hissed in the distance.

“We need to get out of here.” Jacob didn’t move. Cooper grabbed his arm. “Come on!

“Fuck off!” Jacob pulled his arm back. He shook his head after a moment and stood. He activated his own light stick and pulled his laser pistol back out.

Cooper nodded to him and started forward again. Silence fell heavily around them, broken only by their footsteps grinding in the dirt beneath them. More hissing drifted to them from up ahead.

Jacob hooked Cooper’s arm. He jumped and gave Jacob a dirty look. Jacob mouthed “Up ahead” and pointed with his pistol. Cooper’s eyes flashed there and back. He nodded.

Cooper held up a finger and pointed his pistol in the direction of the hiss. Jacob nodded. Cooper squeezed the trigger. The hiding alien screamed in the red glow of the laser beam.

Another alien shrieked to their right and bore down on Jacob. He screamed, firing his laser pistol wildly. His screams turned to gurgles as the alien tore into his throat and ended his life.

Cooper screamed out, shooting the alien multiple times with his laser pistol. He turned away and sprinted forward. More hisses came from up ahead. He fired wildly at the sounds. An alien screamed somewhere in the darkness.

The gentle breeze grew stronger. The slightest hint of light filtered into the cave ahead. Cooper’s chest heaved as he fought to breathe the heavy air.

He rounded the corner and was blinded by sudden daylight. He poured on one last burst of speed as the aliens screamed at him from the shadows. He leaped into the daylight, tumbling into the grass outside.

He knelt, hands on his knees, fighting to breathe, but smiling. He wearily stood a few moments later, turning to face the cave. “I beat you, you sons of…” His wide eyes trailed up above the cave opening. “Oh, shit…”

A large reptile-like alien leaped down on top of Cooper. Man and alien cried out in unison. It’s long, steel-like fangs tore into his neck, cutting short his scream.

FlashFic: Experimental

An experiment to create a super-soldier goes awry.

“Are you comfortable?” It was a female voice.

The young soldier moved to brush a strand of hair from her face and was caught fast by her restraints. She settled for blowing at it. Good enough. “As comfortable as I’m going to be.”

“Good, though I suppose this will be the last time you’ll be concerned with physical comfort, hmm?” The doctor chuckled, stepping into view. The soldier did not share in her mirth.

The doctor looked over the notes attached to her clipboard. She arched an eyebrow. “You’re getting the experimental treatment! Oh, my but you’re lucky.”

“Am I?” The soldier looked unsure.

“You are. Usually this procedure leaves you with significantly improved strength, agility, and so forth. You lose a bit of your humanity, of course. This new experimental treatment will enhance all those abilities, while also giving you elemental control!”

“Elemental… Like lightning, or something? But it’s experimental…”

“It all is, dear. You’ll be fine.” The doctor affixed a white plastic mask to the soldier’s face, ending the conversation.

The mask had two holes for the soldier’s eyes, and nothing else. Those eyes were widening. “I can’t breathe!” Her voice was muffled.

“No worries! You won’t need to for much longer.” The doctor smiled. She stepped back, nodding to a pair of unseen assistants.

Two men in white bio-hazard containment suits stepped forward. Each had an uncomfortably large syringe. The doctor stepped behind a clear protective shield.

She pressed a button on a control panel behind the shield. The soldier’s limbs were further restrained. The sudden movement caused her to cry out. She was trembling, fighting to breathe.

“Quickly, now.” The assistants jabbed their needles into the upper arms of the soldier, who unleashed a muffled scream. She became very still.

“The apparatus! Be quick about it!” The doctor studied the mask on the soldier’s face. The faintest trace of blue light was glowing up through the eye holes. “Time is short.”

One of the assistants rolled a large white apparatus over the soldier’s head. The other assistant grabbed a disc-shaped device attached to it and stretched it down over the mask until it clicked in place. The assistant stared into the soldier’s eyes. They were now glowing a brilliant blue.

“Get him out of there!” The other assistant grabbed at the first, who shrugged him off violently. The first assistant produced a second, smaller needle and jabbed it into the second assistant.

The second man went limp in the assistant’s arms. He dragged him out of the room. The doctor shook her head. “We must work on that.”

The doctor pressed a series of buttons. The apparatus over the soldier began to hum. The doctor spoke into a recorder. “Experiment four-two-zero commencing.” She turned a dial. The light coming through the mask intensified.

The soldier began to scream. “Unusual. Did we wait too long?” The doctor pressed a large red button and held her breath.

The blue light intensified and brightened, filling the room with a blue-white light. “That’s better.” An alarm sounded from the control panel. “What’s this?”

The light continued to intensify. The doctor drew a shade to block the light, but found herself squinting at the display before her. “My god…”

The soldier began to scream again. This time she did not stop. The light began to take on a crimson hue. The soldier strained against her restraints, snapping one, then another, then another…

Soon the room was bathed in blood-red light. The soldier began to tear at her clothes. The doctor sounded a general alarm in the complex. She turned back to the soldier.

Her uniform was on the ground in tatters, the apparatus separated. Red light streamed through her mask’s eye-holes. She started tearing at her own flesh.

The doctor sighed. She flipped a clear cover up off a glowing red button and pressed it. A stream of brilliant green light particles washed over the soldier. She screamed for the last time. Her body was torn and disintegrated by the plasma beam.

“Experiment four-two-zero, rated as failure. Reason, unknown.” The doctor took a deep breath. She watched as guards poured into the room. “The threat has been neutralized.”

She stepped from behind the protective shield and approached the remains of the soldier. She was little more than blood and ash. “Very unfortunate.” She turned to one of the guards. “Are they still serving pizza in the commissary?”



Do Your Part! – If you think your loved one has revealed a state secret in this document, report it immediately to local authorities. Don’t let your love for your family member cause the death of someone else’s!

April 21, 2031

Dear Mother,

How are things back home? I hope you and the old man are doing all right. I got a letter from Uncle Jerry saying that Jenna got accepted into the state college. Well, that’s just all right, isn’t it? Send her my love.

Things could be better here. War is war, of course. It was hard flying into London and seeing the devastation those damn Chinese fools wreaked there.

The hard part is England wasn’t even with us when this whole war broke out. Can’t say that I blame them, after how we did them wrong. I suppose the Chinese didn’t want them changing their mind. Still…

Heathrow airport is still a shambles, but is beginning to be rebuilt by our boys. The locals still looked at us like filth. I understand that many of them blame US for the attack.

A couple of flights on and we landed in Iraq in the middle of the night. I imagine the folks there would be a might more comfortable with us, if they’d been up. I heard Congress might bring up a vote on making it the 52nd state. Wouldn’t that be a thing?

I don’t know how much longer they’d be happy, though. Sounds like Russia is looking to get into the fight. They’re just about close enough to spit on them, thanks to Turkey and Iran.

The main battle’s in India now, I guess. China took Japan easy last year of course, so it’s slim pickings coming in from that side. The higher-ups said they’re worried about the Chinese having our bot technology now.

That’s what we’re in Iraq for, I guess: bot training. Well, it’s bot-suit training if I’m being accurate. Not sure how much I’m supposed to be talking about it.

It’s something else to see, mama! The old man would love every moment of it, being an old bot fighter and all. These are a bit larger than what he got to play with, and you get to wear them.

I’d say they’re about fifteen feet tall and look meaner than all hell. The trainers put it best, saying it’s not unlike wearing a tank. I don’t know why we don’t just use tanks instead, but I ain’t in charge of the military, so…

I’m getting pretty good at it, though. They have us run simulations through this Chinese town they pieced together. We have to gun down everyone, including the kids. I know they’re just bots under that skin, but it just feels wrong.

I guess we had to come up with something to show up the boys in blue. The air force has been bringing in these ultra-sonic jet bombers. They look kinda like what I suppose a UFO would look like.

They’ve flown overhead a couple times since I’ve been here. It’ll be all quiet at first, then you hear this low rumble. That builds up to this loud warbling sound.

The planes fly so fast that you can only kinda half-see them. They’ll be there for a minute, pause, then suddenly be halfway across the damn sky. It’s supposed to be something to do with quantum pockets in subspace or something.

It sounds like the government is trying all sorts of things just now. China has us dead to rights and they know it. Now I know that it’s just rumors they have nuclear bombs, but just look at the situation.

They’re real friendly with Russia, now ain’t they? Got real close ever since the US dropped the ball on trade relations. I bet they got enough to cause us some real headaches.

That’s the real reason both sides are getting so fancy with the ground fight. We could blow each other away any time we wanted. Nobody wants that.

We still have to demonstrate our power without pushing them too far, I guess. They see what we’re doing and push back. Then we build bigger bots and faster jets… You get it.

Something feels different lately, though. Seems like both sides have been turning up the heat with their spying activities. I’ve heard some crazy rumors about the Chinese, lately.

You ever seen that classic science fiction movie with the jungle alien? He could make himself invisible to the army guys and all that? Dad has a copy of it if you haven’t.

That’s the rumor, right there. They have some sort of cloaking device that makes it so you can’t see them. They just turn it on and sneak into a troop transport and whatnot.

Then they can do whatever they need to. They take pictures, copy papers, things like that. Then they leave the same way they came in, the army none the wiser. They’re supposed to be nearly undetectable.

It’s got everyone plenty paranoid. Seems like wherever I go, I feel like I’m being watched. Then again, we got our own thing going, now.

You see, we got our own spy program here. They’re being super-secretive about it, of course. In fact, you have to be specially selected to participate. You know, selected like me.

It’s a hell of a deal, mama. They said that being a part of the program doubles my pay, halves my tour commitment, and promises early retirement with full benefits. It’s hard to believe, I know.

I looked it over real careful though, just like Daddy taught me to. I didn’t see anything that sent up alarm bells, other than the offer itself, naturally. It’d be a damn felony not to do it, as Grandpa used to say.

Now, naturally I had some concern about the risks involved, being how generous the offer was. They set to reassuring me almost immediately. I still think I got reason to worry, all the same.

With the program having a name like [REDACTED], I feel I have all the reason in the world to worry. They reassure me it’s just a name, though. It’s just meant to scare the Chinese, they tell me. Seems to work both ways, though.

They were a little light on details of course, but it sounds like more quantum mumbo-jumbo. They put you in this magnetic resonance chamber and flood it with antineutrinos. This causes some sort of phase shift in your atomic structure, I guess.

Long story short, you end up just as invisible as those Chinese spies, but there’s no known way to detect you. The most they’ve been able to pick up on is a slight change in something called EMF. They said it’s about the same energy given off as an incoming text message.

As if that isn’t good enough, supposedly you can go through solid walls! There was more talk about quantum states and so on. It was hard to follow. I just can’t imagine it!

Now obviously it’s a little scary, thinking I’m going to be reduced to the equivalent of a text message. The scary part is they kind of agreed with me. They admitted they’ve had “problems” reversing the process at the end of the soldier’s mission.

So right there is your reason why I’m being so richly rewarded for volunteering. That’s why I’m writing, too. They said it’s best to write a letter home while I still had the fingers to do it. Haha, right?

I’m sure I’ll be right as rain, though. I go through the process tomorrow. I have to admit I’m as excited as I am scared. It’s almost like having superpowers, isn’t it?

Regardless, I’m ready to get on with it. Sometimes when I’m alone, I swear I can hear screaming. It’s real quiet though, like through a wall or a great distance.

I heard the Chinese are using psychological warfare, too. Maybe this is that, but I don’t know. Maybe it’s all the folks going through that machine.

I sure hope not, though. They don’t sound very happy wherever they are. I guess I’ll find out soon enough, won’t I?

I love you, Mama. Send Daddy my love, too. Try not to worry too much about me. I’m sure I’ll see you in time for Christmas.

Love, Dennis

FILED: 22 – 4 – 2031

SENT: 31 – 5 – 2031


Refer to Subsection 8, article iii for more info.

NOTE: This section to be REDACTED for the sake of the recipient.