He set his interface to keep the alarmed headlines off to the side. If they were to be believed secret armies of Tarrare were appearing and taking over cities as their secret invasion had finally begun. Or, worse, that orbital bombardments were already underway from these new hostile Aliens. It was the panic before the real panic.
Omar dismissed it all. He only cared about the messages he’d been sending to his daughter’s school. None of them were receiving a response. The social media accounts of the school were swarmed with worried parents, all receiving worse than silence. Whoever was in charge was telling people they were assessing the situation and were waiting to hear back from state and local authorities. Not something that filled him with warm fuzzies. Omar was standing in a building full of the biggest and most powerful officials in the world, and they were all as dumbfounded as his daughter’s teachers and administrators.
The chamber doors opened, Sihs-Jin ambling gracefully down the hallway on his thin legs. The Alien looked distracted, his many fingers from his four forearms up in the air and touching at unseen things. He was deep in whatever wild interface the lenses over his compound eyes told him. “Fuck it, I’m asking him,” Omar said to Nitika.
“Not a good idea,” Nitika murmured, trying to follow Omar as he went to catch up on Sihs-Jin. By all indication, the bug was headed to the exits.
“Maybe I should spend hours pondering what a good idea might look like and be like everyone else in this crazy-house,” Omar said. “End up dying in a hail of fire and dust or unknown Alien goop like they all probably will.” Sihs-Jin was the only one that had real answers. The bug turned around, stopping. He clearly sensed Omar coming and prepared to address him. “What just happened in there, Ambassador?” Omar squeezed his Sunfire thermal assault rifle. If anything, the Ambassador was honest. He’d learned that over time. He felt like he’d earned answers. “What are we dealing with here?”
“Over the last many years, you have both been very good at your assigned tasks as my security detail,” Sihs-Jin said. “Despite the fact that such a thing was completely unnecessary, I have enjoyed your company. I have learned so much about your culture and your civilization from our conversations.”
“I’m sensing a lot of past tense here,” Nitika said.
“Oh, it speaks now?” Omar asked her.
“Everything’s else is changing today, so why not?” Nitika seethed.
“If you both want to live, I recommend that you follow me. I am prepared to offer sanctuary to both of you. If that option does not appeal to you, I suggest that you both abandon your posts immediately. Time is very short. This city will either be overrun or non-existent within a day,” Sihs-Jin said.
“Anyone else I would ask them if they were serious,” Omar said. “But I know you well enough by now to know you don’t have any other setting. So these other Aliens, whoever they are, they’re going to break through everything and wipe us out?”
“They are called the Ehvow. They will breach all of our combined primary defenses,” Sihs-Jin said, starting to move. “The effort will probably reduce the size of their invasion force substantially, but they will have sufficient forces to begin an occupation of this planet. They will seek only to inflict as many casualties as possible. We may not be able to escape the city entirely before the attack begins. If you choose to follow me, be prepared to defend yourselves. If we see Ehvow soldiers, keep your distance. That is critical.” Sihs-Jin increased his speed, Omar and Nitika desperate to keep up.
“Soldiers?” Omar asked. “They’re going to land ground forces? Dammit, I have to go find my daughter. Moment of truth, Nitika. What are you doing?”
“I’m following the ambassador is what I’m doing,” Nitika said. “He knows more about this than we do, and I intend to take him up on his offer. If this city is about to be leveled, I don’t want to be in it when it happens. Sounds like this is the only way we regroup and fight back. I don’t have any family here, just a job that looks like it’s about to obsolete.”
Omar wondered what he had to do. It was an impossible situation. There was his daughter. His brother. Both somewhere out there in the city. The feeds told him his daughter’s school was still in denial. Maybe his brother could meet him there and the three of them could try for it. “Ambassador, I appreciate your offer, but I have to go. My family …”
“I understand, Omar,” Sihs-Jin said. “Believe it or not, my own race has very strong social and familial bonds, different though they may be from yours. For this effort, I recommend that you abandon that weapon. Should you encounter Ehvow, it will be highly ineffective.”
“This?” Omar said. He held up his Sunfire. “This is supposed to be one of the best, most advanced guns we have out there, and you’re saying it’s going to be useless.”
“Advanced is not always a superior option,” Sihs-Jin said. “I detect an armory on your main floor five. Several of your outdated HK Thunderbolt models of caseless assault rifles are located in storage there with a variety of armor piercing ammunition. Those will be far more effective against the Ehvow than the Sunfire rifle. I would explain why this is so, but we do not have sufficient time. Just know that their weapons will penetrate structures, armor, and many forms of battlefield cover. You should only engage if you have no choice. And, I will re-emphasize, keep your distance. Even if you succeed in killing them. This is very important.”
“Advice is advice,” Omar said. “And considering the source, I won’t question it. No matter how goddamn unreal all of this is.”
“I wish you the best of luck, Omar,” Sihs-Jin flicked a few hand gestures. Omar received a series of messages in his inbox. “I just transmitted several sets of coordinates to you, as well as multiple routes to those locations. If you escape the city, I suggest you find your way to one of them. They are close and we have determined them to be low-risk. I have also sent to you both an early version of the intelligence materials on the Ehvow we’re preparing for your militaries. There is no time to review it now, but should you survive that knowledge will prove essential. Nitika, I recommend you go with Omar and retrieve an HK Thunderbolt rifle as well. I will wait in the loading dock area of the building for you.”
“Do you need any weapons from the armory?” Nitika asked. “Since we’re going there anyway, and all.”
“No, I am quite well-armed already,” Sihs-Jin said. Omar looked at the thin layer of material and blinking lights all over the Tarrare ambassador’s body, wondering what technological violence it could unleash. He’d always assumed it might be armor of some kind, but he clearly didn’t have enough imagination when it came to Alien tech. “As my size makes taking your elevator difficult, I will utilize the stairs.”
“Ambassador,” Omar said. “Thanks.” Sihs-Jin nodded his head with his flexible, segmented neck. It was the one human mannerism he’d picked up so far. Nitika and Omar stepped on the elevator and took it to the middle secure level to get to the armory.
“You think anyone’s going to be on duty there?” Omar asked.
“Nope,” Nitika said. “We’re the most hard-working motherfuckers in this place. If we’re abandoning ship, you can bet all the admin people and check out desk officers at the armory are long gone.”
“I hear that,” Omar said. He shifted in his boots. Advisory messages appeared in his interface about the subway experiencing delays from everyone crowding the platforms. That plans was gone, and he already knew the roads would be a disaster. His feet already hurt from standing all day, but he knew he was about to be doing a lot of walking. For once, he was glad he’d skipped his PT this morning. He’d need all the energy he could get.