Movement 1: Weeds and Thorns - #13

The thumping music pulsing from inside plucked at Alex Vine’s impatience. Armond Ramirez was next to her, tinkering with his Pax microwave gun. Nikki Rune emerged from her patrol car to join them. All three were suited up in vests and helmets. “You ready?” Alex asked. More sirens, booms, and crackles were heard in the distance. The city was bursting with crazy after the news of what was happening in orbit hit. Traffic on most roads out was completely jammed.

“As long as you take point,” Armond said. Alex huffed, keeping her tactical pistol ready. Nikki had a Mendoza caseless SMG. Alex guessed she’d loaded it with null rounds like she had. They were “non-lethal” in the most generous sense of the word. They’d all been told to expect resistance and had prepared accordingly. 

“Shame it’s come to this,” Nikki said, surveying the block. Most of the other bars were closed, barriers up. The one owner who’d cut out too fast hadn’t pulled the gate all the way down and “customers” had taken over. 

“You weren’t on the force when we had those riots,” Armond said. “People lost it when the Tarrare first appeared. New Aliens, same shit.  I have a feeling the Tarrare brought this on us, whatever it is.” 

“There’s a time and a place and this isn’t it,” Alex said, tired of Armond’s copy-paste rants from the most paranoid parts of the feeds. “I’ve heard all of it too many times, especially the thing about harvesting people to make them into bio-weapons. Skip it, will you?” She was scanning the block with her interface. No other major disturbances other than the drunken-disorderly, breaking-and-entering, and theft combo platter happening in the bar. Her helmet’s sensor identified 23 people in the bar, only two of them armed with any sort of firearm. Both were low-powered handguns. 

“So you’re saying the Tarrare have something to do with these other Aliens?” Nikki asked, committing the cardinal sin of wanting to know more.

“Has to be! They’re either friends coming to help the Tarrare finish the job on us or enemies coming to wipe both of us out,” Armond said. “The World United Council sold us all out, entangled us in all sorts of alliances with aliens against other aliens for scraps of their shiny new technology. We’re on all sorts of kill lists out there and never even know.”

“Let’s just get this done,” Alex said, shutting the conversation down and looking up at the sky. She couldn’t see anything with her naked eyes except a few streaks. Even those she could be imagining from the flickers in her immersive interface. “I want to get home.” She’d debated even responding to this call. She could’ve driven her patrol car home, grabbed her kids, and disappeared with the patrol car and all the supplies and weapons it had inside. More and more, she thought she’d made a mistake by not committing egregious theft of government property.

“Can’t argue with that,” Nikki said. The trio of cops approached the door of the bar, the hinges and lock on it broken along with a window. Suddenly, the thumping music stopped and they were hit with the sounds of a newscast blaring through all of the speakers. 

“All right, people,” Alex said, entering with her gun raised. “Even when things are like this outside, you can’t just break into a closed bar and help yourself to the goods.” The first thing she noticed was that everyone was obviously wasted, people helping themselves to whole bottles of liquor from behind the bar and entire pitchers of beer. The second thing was that they were all transfixed. The place was a sports bar, as she could tell from all the vintage Bears, Blackhawks, and Cubs paraphernalia. Its displays were impressive, covering the walls and the center of the room in holographic projections and interactive graphics.

“The Tarrare spacecraft is about to engage the incoming fleet along with every military fleet that could be mustered at a time.” one  announcer’s voice boomed. “We should be able to bring you direct image from the optics of nearby satellites soon.”

“This isn’t happening,” was all a woman at a table next to Alex said. Her eyes had gone to saucers, a drained bottle of red wine next to her. Another woman next to her was trying frantically to message someone in her interface. The others all looked like they’d wandered into the bar, people who’d just gotten off from office jobs or left the gym. 

“What was that you were saying?” A broad-shouldered man behind the bar said with a distinctly european accent. He was dressed in a tracksuit and drinking whiskey straight out of the bottle. From the blood and bruises on his knuckles and the baseball bat he’d left sitting on the bar, he looked like the one who had the bright idea to break in. “Are you going to arrest us for helping ourselves to a drink when the world’s about to end? Seems like an awful waste of time to me, officer.”

“Something like that,” Alex said. From the information on the displays, she was rapidly losing concern over this bar situation. She tried to focus on what they were watching. The displays changed to a mix bag of shots from Earth and shots from space, supplied from satellite optics. Everything was distant, but there were lots of fiery shapes. “That’s more than I thought it would be,” Alex said. All of the intel the department had given them had suggested this would be an attack, but nothing on a scale like the satellite images pointed into space showed. 

Both Armond and Nikki had fully lowered their weapons to gawk along with the rest. The space-battle the satellite optics could show them began, distant bursts of light and objects fragmenting into pieces. Swarms of minuscule objects were fighting and attacking one another. It was paired with heavy flares in the sky from the earth-stationary newscast cameras as the sides engaged. 

One display shifted its image, a satellite’s optics getting a really close and detailed view of the Tarrare ship. The Black Sphere was taking a beating. “The Tarrare seem pretty advanced, but how much punishment do you think that thing can take?” Nikki asked. 

“I’m starting to think not enough,” Alex said. All of her police feeds exploded. They began playing the same message, and Alex could scarcely believe it as she read it. She wondered if it was local, then she saw it wasn’t. It was coming through the federal, UAS-wide emergency feed. “Problem,” Alex said. “I just received a general evacuation order.”

“What, for where?” Armond asked, trying to pull up his own interface. “For all of Chicago?”

“For everywhere,” Nikki said, reviewing her own feds. 

“A large number of small Alien warships seem to be breaking off,” another newscaster said. “We have no idea where they’re headed, but we’re getting word that there are evacuation orders.” His voice was rising in alarm. “People are being told to evacuate all major cities. No indication is being given of where people should go, but they’re being told to evacuate as soon as possible.” 

“It’s over,” the broad-shouldered man behind the bar said, smashing the whiskey bottle on the ground. Alex thought about asking Nikki and Armond what they should do. She didn’t get a chance. The ground shook, followed by a wall of fire and flashes. Alex lost her hearing after some pitched screams and a loud boom that blew out her eardrums. She had the sensation of air under her, of being hurled and tossed in a sea of debris and wetness as heat and pain followed. Darkness and weight overtook her. 

“Nikki, Armond?” Alex said, her own voice coming out muffled, barely audible. She shoved a a bunch of brick, fibers, and insulation off her body. She was outside, torn fragments of buildings all around her. The bar was gone, broken and scattered with the remains of all of the other nearby buildings. The street was even cracked, the road opened with vein-like tears. 

She saw the source of the damage. It was about the size of a large plane, crashed face-down into the middle of an apartment building. It had an outer shell of charged and bumpy metal, dents, scrapes, and holes punched through it. It was like a tube with branches of what looked like weaponry jutting out of its sides and small wings that looked like rough fins. The color of it was blackened green, plume of foul smelling gas pouring out of it. It had crashed only around 50 yards away and had caused the explosion. 

She looked around for any sign of Armond and Nikki. Hands and feet were sticking out from under debris, buried and still. One other person who seemed to be alive stumbled onto the scene. Alex had no idea where she’d come from, but she didn’t look too dirty so it must’ve been from a few blocks away. 

“What the fuck,” she said, looking at Alex. Alex realized she was drenched, her body covered with a combination of beer, liquor, and blood. 

“We have to get out of here,” Alex said. Her gun was gone, but she didn’t care anymore. With what he’d just seen she wondered if any gun would do her much good. The gas from the crashed Alien ship was causing him to tear up and choke, her insides spasming. The staggering stranger nodded her agreement as they fumbled away. Crackling booms all around them popped their ears as the sky filled with even more flashes and streaks. As Alex wandered away with the stranger, she heard a screech from the direction of the crashed Alien ship. From the way the pitch wavered, shrill and atonal, she knew it was not human. She also knew it wasn’t friendly.

Credit:

Spacetelescope.org

NASA, ESA and the Hubble SM4 ERO Team