The Fog of War

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
The term 'fog of war' refers to propaganda that is spread with the intention of 'demonizing' the enemy.

Keep this in mind as the story unfolds...

Submitted: April 20, 2007

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Submitted: April 20, 2007

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The starry, starry night wasn’t nearly as starry as Mac remembered them being but Mac’s eyes weren’t what the used to be either. The stroboscopic lights on Mac’s State Police cruiser painted the desolate stretch of Route 11 just outside Alton, New Hampshire blue and white as the driver of the car with a vanity plate that read ‘Flaky’ dug in his glove box for his papers.

The State motto, ‘Live free or die’ had been written over in black magic marker, replaced with the word ‘REPENT’.

Mac chuckled to himself as the plate now read:

REPENT

FLAKY

New Hampshire

Flaky hadn’t been doing anything wrong but defacing a license plate was still a violation of the state’s motor vehicle code no matter how strange the times were.

Mac had expected trouble but Flaky forked over his license and registration without a single word of protest. Mac was tempted to ask if the motorist knew why he was being stopped but decided against it. The last thing Mac needed was a lecture from a born again on this frigid January evening.

If this guy was going to let Mac write him up without asking any questions, that was fine by Mac. Perhaps Flaky was feeling penitent already.

No sooner did Mac turn back towards his nice warm cruiser than the force of a terrific explosion knocked him to the ground. Huge boulders bounced across the road and tons of dirt fell like rain. Mac found himself sprawled face down on the pavement, covered instantly by a foot of sandy soil that had sprayed down on him from the nearby hillside.

Dazed, Mac picked himself up and started brushing himself off, marveling that besides being dirty, he was otherwise unhurt.

Mac’s eyes drifted slowly to the right. There had been a lighted billboard advertising Foxy Johnny B’s restaurant and lounge up on the hillside. The only thing up there now was huge mound of freshly turned soil.

There were boulders the size of dump trucks strewn across the road. Slowly, ever so slowly, a picture formed in Mac’s mind. Something had crashed into the hill directly above him, something big.

One of the huge boulders had bulls-eyed Mac’s cruiser, crushing it flat. Mac grimaced as he’d left both his portable radio and his cell phone in the cruiser.

Mac looked down and saw that he was brushing himself off with Flaky’s paperwork. It occurred to Mac that giving Flaky back his documents and making sure he was all right was as good a place to start as any.

There was no way for Mac to know that Flaky had passed out in fright when he saw Mac rising up, zombie like, from the impromptu grave made for him by the flying dirt.

Mac rapped gently on the glass to get the driver’s attention but Flaky was slumped down on his seat, unconscious. Mac gave the door handle a tug but Flaky had locked his door.

Mac growled in frustration and the sound was oddly loud in his ears. Not only had it become unnaturally quiet but the stiff north wind that had been chilling him to the bone only moments earlier had also ceased abruptly.

Mac was pretty sure he suffered at least a mild case of shock as a result of the explosion but that did little to explain his uneasy feeling that he had somehow stepped into the twilight zone.

Mac wondered to himself if this strange incident might have something to do with the warning given by the winged messenger’s of God on worldwide television just two weeks earlier.

Mac did not consider himself to be a god-fearing man. He could no sooner grasp the concept of eternal bliss any more than that of perpetual torment--although marriage had come close.

Mac had no use for a God that waited until after death to punish acts he/she/it could have prevented altogether.

By Mac’s way of thinking, the true mystery of faith lay in how anyone with half a mind could believe in the nonsense that the churches passed off as the word of God.

So when the televised arrival of a pair of angels, God’s winged messengers, was broadcast for all the world to see, Mac waited patiently for the other shoe to drop.

As the bible forewarns, the angels had come bearing the warning that Satan’s hoards had sprung up from the abyss and were on their way here. The End of Days, that final battle for mankind’s immortal soul, was about to commence.

While many would die, those that lost their lives defending their faith would find a place waiting for them in the Kingdom of Heaven, so sayeth the Lord.

After this brief announcement the heavenly duo steadfastly refused to answer any questions. They made their exit in much the same manner as they had arrived, drifting up into the heavens on their outstretched wings.

The other shoe dropped less than a half an hour later when NASA reported that the ‘angels’ had arrived in a spaceship, an extremely fast spaceship.

It takes the light of the sun eight minutes to travel to Earth and over five hours to reach the outermost planet, Pluto.

According to NASA, the ship bearing God’s messengers had made the trip from Pluto to Earth in only eight seconds. NASA put on a live broadcast that tracked the angel’s ship as circled the planet, gathering up the ‘elect’.

Mac dealt with people day in and day out. His life often depended on his making accurate judgments about them and what they were up to at any given moment.

Mac had come away with the impression that there was something fundamentally untrustworthy about the angels. It seemed to him that they were hiding something.

Mac felt this first impression was later confirmed when a list of people that the angels ‘saved’ from the coming tribulation was published. It seems everyone snatched up in The Rapture was a gazillionaire, a power broker or both.

Depending on which religion you subscribed to members of the clergy explained this unseemly event in different ways.

Some said that the worldly wealth of those who were spared had no bearing on what kind of person they were. If God had seen fit to save them, they must have been worthy.

Fundamentalist sects that preached the evils of money took a more pragmatic view. They told their flocks that the ship was taking its passenger’s straight to Hell.

Mac liked the second explanation better although he didn’t think either one had any basis in reality. The fact that the ship bearing the angels had bothered to take anyone off the planet at all only deepened Mac’s conviction that there was more going on here than met the eye.

Mac’s watch said it was a quarter to twelve. He dimly recalled it being a quarter to twelve when he’d pulled Flaky over so he looked again and sure enough, his watch had stopped.

Mac peered anxiously down Route 11 in the direction of Alton. Emergency services should have been here by now as the center of town was only two miles away.

Without a working timepiece, Mac could only guess at how long it had been since the unidentified object had crashed into the hillside above him.

From where Mac was standing the road ran straight along the river for the better part of a mile. While the Lakes Region was pretty dead at this time of year there was always somebody on, or off, the road even at this hour. It puzzled Mac that there were no approaching headlights coming from either direction.

His cruiser was crushed, the road was impassable and it was at least a mile in either direction to the nearest payphone. Flaky might have a cell phone on him but having a cell phone and getting a signal up here in the White Mountains were often two different things.

Mac’s attention shifted to a sign on the far side of the road. Mac saw that he was stranded in front of The Clutter Barn, an antique emporium and the Merry Meeting River Camping Area; both of which were closed for the season.

Mac could break into either of the two businesses to see if their phones were still in service but the stack of reports he’d have to file if he did made this option one of last resort.

He could, if he was of a mind to, hoof it down to the circle and use the payphone there but that would mean leaving the unconscious Flaky here alone.

This brought Mac back to the matter at hand. Since he had no idea why Flaky was unconscious, he had to assume he had a medical emergency on his hands.

Mac cast about in the dirt looking for a fist sized rock to smash the window with but he couldn’t find one with only pale moonlight with which to see.

He wasn’t about to use his brand new Glock to break the glass, it would void the warranty and he hadn’t even fired the damn thing yet.

Mac spotted a good-sized rock a few feet away. It would take both hands to lift but it would get the job done.

Mac would have preferred to break the passenger’s side window but Flaky had pulled over too close to the snow bank. The flying dirt had filled in what little gap was left.

Mac hefted the rock over his head and froze. Some dude in a spacesuit was pointing his ray gun at him from the top of the snow bank on the far side of the car.

"Drop the rock and nobody gets hurt!" The spaceman barked in a decidedly feminine voice.

"Th-this isn’t what it looks like…" Mac stammered.

"Drop the rock, now!" The feminine voice demanded.

Hell hath no fury Mac thought to himself as he dropped the rock and slowly lowered his hands.

She hadn’t said anything about his sidearm but Mac wasn’t foolish enough to draw against somebody that already had a bead on him.

"I’m a cop," Mac told the armed intruder, "and I think we have a medical emergency on our hands."

"I know. I’ll have the medics look you over when they get here."

"Not me, him!"

"There’s nothing wrong with him."

"Yes there is. He’s passed out. He may be having a heart attack or something."

"He is not unconscious and his readings indicate he’s quite fit." The alien in the spacesuit countered.

"How would you know?" Mac blurted out against his better judgement but couldn’t help himself.

The alien chuckled.

"Don’t let the tail fool you. I’m just as human as you are."

"Tail?"

The alien wagged its long, muscular tail so Mac could see.

The pieces of the puzzle were starting to fall into place for Mac. If the angels needed a spaceship to get here it was likely the devil’s minions would need them too.

Supposedly the devil had a tail but the one the alien displayed looked much longer and thicker than the pictures of a devil’s tail that Mac had seen in his youth. Mac couldn’t tell if the alien’s tail had a barb on the end as it was concealed inside the metallic spacesuit.

"Human?" Mac asked.

The alien lifted its visor and in the pale moonlight Mac could see an attractive female face looking out at him. Mac hadn’t given much thought to what Satan’s minions might look like but this certainly wasn’t what he’d expected.

With her visor open, Mac could hear her radio blare when a call came in.

"Control to six-oh-nine."

"Six-oh-nine, go." She responded.

"Rescue is experiencing difficulties reaching your location. What is your situation?"

"Area secured. I’ve encountered a couple of locals but I have it under control, over."

"Copy that six-oh-nine. Rescue estimates it could be another five cycles before they can get to you, copy?"

"Copy that control. I’ll keep my guard up. Six-oh-nine out."

"Sounds like you’ll be here a while."

"Not too long."

"How many minutes are in a cycle?" Mac asked.

"Minutes? It’s about sixty cycles ‘til sunrise if that’s any help."

Sunrise was around six hours away which meant a cycle was roughly ten minutes long.

"So you crashed huh?" Mac asked.

"Obviously."

"Equipment malfunction?"

"No. I was shot down."

"Really?"

"There’s a battle taking place right overhead. You can’t see it but it’s there."

"Why?"

"Why what?"

"Why can’t we see it?"

"The ships are moving faster than the speed of light."

"How the heck do you shoot at something that’s going faster than the speed of light?"

"I’m going to guess that your job doesn’t require an in depth knowledge of physics. If both objects are moving faster than the speed of light, it can be done."

"Oh." Mac mumbled. "We don’t have anything that goes that fast here. Who are you fighting?"

"The Empire."

"What Empire?"

"An Empire so vast that no one has found space not under Imperial control and returned to tell the tale."

"If it’s that big, why haven’t I heard of it?"

"The Empire rules through ignorance. You’re not supposed to know it exists. You’re supposed to think you’re all alone in the universe."

"How’d you know that?"

"Know what?"

"That the church preaches we are God’s only children."

"We hear that same story on every planet. What you don’t know is God is the title the Emperor goes by and Heaven is the name of the capitol planet."

"What!"

"We know of a million human worlds and suspect there are as many as a billion more, still feeling lonely?"

"Are you saying there’s a huge human Empire out there, that’s incredible!"

"Not nearly as incredible as the fact they all think that they’re alone."

"But why?" Mac protests.

"Why what?"

"Why make us think we’re alone?"

"A population that believes the only way to escape is through death is much easier to control."

"But the church…"

"Exists to re-enforce the message. The only way to reach the ‘kingdom’ of heaven is to die. Which is another way of saying you’ll never live to see it."

"But the angels said…"

"The angels! Don’t get me started. There’s a lot more to those winged freaks than you want to know. Did you ever wonder why angels have wings?"

"Never thought about it."

"They have wings for the same reason I have a tail. It marks them as a made creature. Angels are just as human as you and I are but they’ve been genetically tweaked. They serve as the Emperor’s guards.

They are true supermen in every sense of the word and far more dangerous than their innocent looks would lead you to believe. That’s why the Emperor had them created neuter, so they couldn’t breed."

"What about your tail?"

"It marks me as a slave. My kind was made from human DNA to serve the Emperor’s will. The tail was added so that the immortals could tell at a glance that I was a slave. Other than the tail I’m just like you."

Before Mac can ask another question he hears the door handle on the Escort pop open.

"Don’t believe her, it’s a trick!" Flaky whispers.

You’d think every man ever born would know better than to whisper in front of a woman and the alien female proves to be no exception.

"See what I mean?" She says.

"Get you gone, wicked one!" Flaky shouts as he struggles to open his door. Mac had cleared some of the dirt away but Flaky still has to use the door as a battering ram, pushing the dirt back a little at a time until it opens wide enough to let him out.

"Sir," Mac says as diplomatically as possible, "You may not have noticed but we’re playing by gun rules and she’s the one with the gun."

"Go ahead and shoot you she devil! I’m not afraid of you! I’ll die for my faith if I have to!" Flaky roars. This is tough talk coming from a guy who passed out at the sight of Mac rising up from under a little dirt!

Flaky was a full head shorter than Mac’s six foot two, a skinny old man with long greasy hair, a scraggily beard and thick glasses.

Mac didn’t get a good look at Flaky’s paperwork. He vaguely recalls the fellow having an unusual first name, something like Oleg or Olaf or maybe it was Omar but he wasn’t sure which.

He still had Flaky’s license and registration in his pocket but it was the pocket next to his sidearm and he wasn’t about to make any sudden moves.

The alien seemed friendly enough but she’d kept her weapon trained on Mac the whole time. In the movies the alien’s weapon was always set for stun.

Mac’s Glock didn’t have a stun setting and standing here in the unnatural quiet, staring down the oversized bore of her carbine, Mac was pretty sure that hers didn’t either.

"Get you gone, hell spawn!" Flaky repeated, shaking his fist at her.

Mac cringed, half expecting the battle hardened soldier to vaporize the little man on the spot but she laughed instead.

"I’m not some figment of your imagination, you can’t wish me away." She chuckled. Flaky frowned at this and turned to Mac.

"Pray with me brother, together we can banish her."

"Are you cracked or on crack?" Mac replied. "Just keep your mouth shut and be patient, she’ll be gone in a little while."

Flaky glared furiously at Mac from behind his thick glasses. "I don’t need you. I’ll banish her myself! Our Father, who art in Heaven…"

"Stop that!" She hissed.

"Hallowed be thy name…" The alien soldier trained her weapon on Flaky and there was no doubt in Mac’s mind that she was going to let him have it.

"Stop!" She repeated through clenched teeth but Flaky just pumped up the volume.

"Thy Kingdom come…oof!" Mac slugged Flaky hard enough to knock him out. He locked eyes with the alien soldier and she backed it down a notch.

"The winged freaks are telepathic, praying attracts them." She explained.

"Praying attracts them?"

"Not only can they hear what the person is saying but they can also see what it is the person is wishing for."

"And since Flaky was praying to banish you…"

"He gave away my location."

"What are you going to do?"

"There’s nothing I can do. I set up a stasis field that’s strong enough to keep your people away but it won’t stop the angels."

"So that’s why no one has come." Mac marveled.

"If the angels find you here, it won’t go well for you." The alien warned.

"I can’t leave either. My cruiser was crushed flat."

"Is the other conveyance operational?"

"Should be."

"I can use my weapon to clear the road. Take him and go."

"What about you?"

"What about me?"

"Didn’t your mother ever tell you it’s impolite to answer a question with a question?"

"I wouldn’t have to if you would say what you mean in the first place!"

"Won’t you come with us?"

"I have to stay and turn off the stasis field."

"Turn it off, run back down and we’ll all go!"

"It’s too risky. We came to liberate you, not to put you in danger. My best chance for rescue is to stay with my life pod. If my luck holds, rescue will get here before the angels do."

"If it doesn’t?"

"It’s a chance I’m willing to take. The angels will do unspeakable things to you if they catch you with me. We’re wasting time. Get him into the conveyance while I clear the road."

Without another word and, Mac noted, without changing the settings on her weapon, she cleared a path through the boulders.

Mac put a fireman’s carry on Flaky and dumped his limp form into the back seat of the Escort. He turned to plead one last time with the pretty woman that had fallen from the sky but she was already gone.

Flaky had left the keys in the ignition. Mac adjusted the seat as far back as it would go but it still felt like his knees were pinned to his chest.

This was no time to think of comfort. There was a fearless soldier out there that was taking a tremendous personal risk just so he and Flaky could escape.

Mac turned the key and the little engine roared to life. He turned the windshield wipers on to clear the dirt away and as he did so he noticed that the stiff north wind had resumed blowing again. She must have turned the stasis field off already. If he could get out of the area in time maybe she could turn it back on.

Mac dropped the car into gear and eased it up onto the foot thick covering of soil. If he lost momentum he’d get stuck for sure. Slowly, ever so slowly, the little car crept forward. Mac applied as much gas as he dared, backing off whenever the tires started to slip.

The first hundred yards were tough but Mac managed not to dig the wheels into the sand. In less than a quarter of a mile the tires were back on bare pavement.

As Mac rounded a bend in the road the flashing lights of a dozen emergency vehicles that were all sitting around the rotary leading into Alton assaulted his eyes.

Upon seeing Mac, the lead vehicle dropped into gear and started towards them. Mac flashed the Escort’s hi-beams frantically to head them off; they must not go down there!

Mac pulled the Escort into the oncoming lane to force the driver of the emergency vehicle to stop. He jumped out of the driver’s seat and waved his arms. The driver of the ambulance slowed to a stop a few car lengths away.

That was then that Mac saw it.

In a scene that could have been lifted straight out of ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ he looked up and saw a solitary cloud mass in an otherwise cloudless sky floating directly towards the crash site.

Mac crossed his fingers and hoped it was her rescuers but there was no way to tell. Unlike the movie, if there was a ship inside that cloud, it was totally concealed.

Mac walked over to the emergency vehicle and the driver rolled down his window.

"You can’t go down there." Mac said.

"You got that right officer. Until a minute ago there was some kind of force field that wouldn’t let us through the rotary." The ambulance driver replied. "What’s going on?"

Mac looked up and did a double take. The solitary cloud was now directly overhead; it had been miles away only moments earlier.

"Get her gone damn it, get her gone!" Flaky’s voice wailed shrilly from inside the Escort.

Mac’s heart sank to his feet. There was no longer any doubt as to whose ship was being shielded by the solitary cloud; the angels had come for her.

"You okay buddy?" The ambulance driver asked Mac.

"Give me a minute, will ya?" Mac muttered as he watched the cloud.

"What the hell you lookin’ at?"

"You’ll see." Mac replied.

The leading edge of the cloud was now over the crash site. Mac saw what looked like a beam of light shooting up from the ground into the cloud. The cloud answered with two powerful thunderbolts, one after the other. Mac had experienced some powerful electrical storms in his day but he had never seen anything like this.

The flashes of lightening were so bright it hurt to look at them, the ground shook like it was an earthquake and the claps of thunder were so loud that the ringing in his ears lasted for two days after the event.

A few moments later Flaky burst out of the passenger’s side of his Escort shrieking, "Praise the lord, I did it! I vanquished the she-devil! We shall overcome, we shall overcome!" And he danced a little jig in the middle of the road.

It took every ounce of self-control Mac could muster to not go over and flatten the old geezer again. If it weren’t for Flaky she might have made it. Flaky had no clue that the alien had sacrificed herself to save their lives and here he was, crowing over her death.

"What’s up with him?" The ambulance driver asked.

"Whacked out. I think you should take him in for observation" Mac replied.

A State police cruiser pulled up behind the ambulance and Mac thanked his lucky stars. If he didn’t get out of there quick, he was sure to do something he knows he’d regret later.

Riding in the passenger’s seat of the young trooper’s cruiser, Mac could hear people singing ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’ as they passed the church in the center of town.

"Think this is the end?" The young trooper asked.

"For them perhaps." Mac replied, nodding in the direction of the church, " For the rest of us, it’s the beginning."

Copyright George C. Anderson Jr 2007


© Copyright 2018 G C Anderson. All rights reserved.

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