In mid 2016, while studying a distant region of space, astronomers detected a garbled transmission of sorts emanating from the region. They dismissed it as a sensor malfunction. Maybe something lodged in the machinery, nothing more. Then, in early 2017, they heard it again. And this time, they heard it much more clearly. Even then though, it was still warped beyond recognition. By now, a clip of the transmission had spread through the internet and everyone from signal analysts and programmers, to teenagers were trying to figure it out. It even spread to the places no one wanted it to spread. Several small terrorist cells interpreted the transmission as a message from god, a sign of their right to rule. The cells banded together, and set out on a quest of conquest. First the middle-east, then Africa, and finally the west. I know, cliché.
This is about where I come in. I was a nerd and a gamer. My sizeable apartment was filled with nerd stuff. Posters plastered the walls; Game systems of almost every kind occupied an entire room; the kitchen was stocked with equal parts actual food and snack food, and my custom built desktop occupied almost an entire other room. The night before, stumped by a model I was currently working on, I had gone to sleep quite angry. As I woke up, I groped around on my nightstand for my phone and, after finding it, turned it on to look at the time. It was 10:30 AM. I groaned, still slightly tired. After a few more minutes lying in bed, I sat up and swung my legs over the side of my bed. Standing up, I walked to the bathroom and looked in the mirror. My long hair was half-plastered to the side of my face, half-sticking up every which way; my top was a faded Avengers: Age of Ultron t-shirt, and I hadn't put on any pants, so I was still wearing the same pair of underwear. I stumbled out of the bathroom and into the central room of my apartment. My large floor-to-ceiling windows offered what would be a sweeping view of the surrounding city. Unfortunately, the blizzard that had rolled in the previous night was still roaring outside, so most of my view was obscured. As I stared and pondered about some existential bullshit, a cold breeze blew over my bare legs, and I shivered.
Too tired to care about much else, I walked over to my computer room. As I sat down in my chair and nudged my mouse, the middle screen of my set-up lit up, prompting me for my password. As soon as I typed it in, all six of my screens lit up. I opened up my internet browser and checked my usual pages. Nothing much new, superstition, illuminati, the usual. I noticed I had quite a few new Skype messages, so I opened it up. A spam bot, some dipshit adding all of his contacts into a group chat, and a second spam bot. I blocked all of them and sighed. Turning my attention back to my screen, I flipped through the list of programs on my computer and opened my music player, queuing up my favorite playlist, then I opened up my 3D modeling software and surveyed the apparent abomination.
It was a complete mess, armatures connected to nothing, constraints connected to everything, and a mess of faces and vertices inside each other. I tried my best to sort it out until I heard a piercing noise pushing itself through my music. I paused it and listened, and sure enough, it persisted. It was a siren, like the kind used to warn people of tornados. But this one, like many others spread across, was for something entirely different. The US government had erected them in most every large and/or major city to warn the people of an impending strike.
This kicked me into high gear. There were protocols in place for this situation, and I, like most people, had been forced to read them. They were simple; Go quickly, Pack lightly, take only what you can carry. I quickly shut down my computer and ejected the hard-drives, putting them into a foam-lined box. They were full of terabytes of data that was important to me, so I would be taking them. I also grabbed my laptop. I suddenly realized I wasn't fully dressed. I ran back out into the central room of my apartment and into my bedroom. I opened my dresser and tried to decide quickly what to wear. I settled on something special. For pants, I chose a pair of jeans. Over my shirt, I slipped on a flexible vest made of carbon-fiber that I had made myself. Over that, I slipped on a gray hooded sweatshirt, and over that, a jacket. I pondered for a moment, and then strapped on my most prized possession, a sword given to me as a gift. I wouldn't be leaving it behind. I threw a few other items into a backpack, and headed out, stopping for a moment to grab my motorcycle helmet. I ran into the hall outside and booked it to the elevator. I almost punched the garage button, and the elevator doors hissed closed. As it sped downwards, I put on my helmet and used its built-in microphone and Bluetooth antenna to call one of my best friends, named Ian, who lived close-ish to me in the city. He answered almost immediately.
"What do you want, Erin?"
"I'm assuming you heard the siren." I said as the elevator reached the garage.
"I'm not even going to try to come up with a snarky response to that." he replied.
"You heading to the shelter?" I asked.
"Duh" he replied, "I'll meet you there. Start up my computer for me, will you. I feel like I might be slightly late."
"I might have to write you up for that."
He laughed, "You bitch."
I grinned, "The bitchiest. See you there."
He promptly hung up and left me to my thoughts. I pondered a few questions in my head, mostly about why an attack was happening now. The forces of the east had been quiet for a while. Maybe this is what they were planning. I quickly banished those thoughts from my mind and focused on the task in front of me. The elevator doors opened, and I ran to where my motorcycle was parked. I started it, and sped out of the garage. I wove in and out of traffic, sometimes getting honked at. After a few sharp turns, I was met with a very long line of cars leading to the entrance of the bunker. I slowed down slightly and drove along the side, forgoing waiting in the line. Eventually I got to the start of the line. There was a person directing everyone there, and he held up his hand for me to halt. He was about to say something, but I produced and ID badge from my pocket. He strained to get a look at it, then his eyes went wide. He stepped to the side, and I sped inside. If you're wondering how I have an ID badge, long-story-short, I worked at the bunker. And not menial grunt work either, I was the Director of IT. Also, if you're wondering how I got such a high-level position, it probably had something to do with me graduating summa cum laude from MIT…at 17.
The IT Division of the base was really nothing more than a of the smaller sub-divisions of the security. Which meant that we handled most of the menial things, like door control and power flow, that they didn't have time for in situations like the current one. All that, and a host of other stuff exclusively for IT.
I reached the staff parking lot and parked in my allotted spot. I walked over to the elevator which led deeper into the base. As the elevator slid to a halt the doors opened into a crowded hallway. I pushed through the crowd and made a beeline for the IT section of the building. It was a semi-large room, about the size of a small house. Along one wall, a set of servers, each able to hold about five or six zettabytes of data, hummed and blinked. The rest of the room was occupied by a bunch of desks and computers arrayed around a circular desk in the middle, which was mine. I walked to one of the desks adjacent to it and pressed the power button on the computer before going to my own desk. When I sat down, the computers on the desk jolted to life. After I typed a few commands in and issued a few orders to some of the occupied computers, a man in partial riot gear wearing the uniform of shelter security walked up to my desk.
He handed me a small tablet, "Director, this is the list of people who have checked into the bunker. The security director wants you to look it over."
I scrolled through it and looked back up at him, "And?"
He sighed and rubbed the back of his neck, "He wants you to close the gate."
I shook my head, "One, that isn't my department, and two, no, there are still at least ten families who haven't come."
"He knows, and he knew this would be your response, so he isn't asking you, he's ordering you."
We both stared each other down, and at that moment, Ian walked in.
He caught sight of our intense staredown and walked over. He pushed us apart. I did something akin to growling and walked back to my desk to sit down.
"Oh" I called over my shoulder to the guard, "Tell your director that anyone who was supposed to be in here and who isn't, that dies on the outside. Their blood is on his hands."
The guard left and I sat back, spinning my chair around and sighing.
I looked towards Ian, "Close the gate."
He nodded sullenly and tapped a few keys on his keyboard. I went back to my computer and was about to begin working when a small red flashing icon appeared in on the corner of my screen. I clicked it and it scaled up. It was a perimeter alert, sent to me by the security director. My eyes widened. I looked towards the corner of the room; the computers delegated to handling the backwash of alerts from security.
"Are you getting this?" I asked.
One of them nodded.
Suddenly, an explosion rocked the shelter.
Ian looked towards me from his desk, a look of horror on his face, "We have a confirmed perimeter breach."
I pulled up footage from one of the cameras near the gate. A near constant flow of soldiers moved past it. They wore strange uniforms, not of America, but not of the east either.
"Erin!" Ian shouted. "Look" he pointed at the ceiling.
To my horror, some sort of gas was slowly leaking through the vents set into the ceiling.
"Everyone" I shouted, "Out. Now!"
The people closest to the door ran towards it and it opened when they got close enough. But it had no effect. Behind the door, a wall of the gas seethed. It flowed into the room and joined the stuff leaking from the ceiling, forming an inescapable wall. People caught in it fell instantly. Soon there was almost no space left, and then the cloud hit me, and darkness took me.