3 of 6 | Chapter 13

 

The entire combined air forces of Algeria and Libya took off shortly after midnight, ready to unload their half million ton payload over major European cities. They found themselves facing European Air Force and US Navy fighter squadrons in Mediterranean air space, but nevertheless they moved quickly towards land. The aircrafts fought a tangled and confused celestial battle, the focus of which moved ever closer to the more vulnerable areas of the continent, towards capital cities where millions lived in relatively small areas. The populations were being evacuated throughout the night, but neither preparations nor the infrastructure were designed for speed. All the while, the enemy was steadily approaching.

On the thirteenth of November the morning sun shone over the whole of Europe, but it was impossible to enjoy it. Not a single airliner, private jet or plane took off for some time. The airports were dead, as were all roads. In every state capital the traffic was limited to vehicles carrying permits; only food supply vehicles were allowed to use public roads besides law enforcement and military vehicles.

Even London, with its 20 million residents, was reigned by an almost rural tranquility with an exception: the air was rank with fear. Even the animals had sensed something; the sky was empty of birds and not a single sound could be heard.

*

Another piece of news hit the airwaves and became the icing on the cake when military intelligence reported a similar air-strike force was heading towards Europe from the southeast. That morning, Iraq and Iran launched two thousand five hundred fighters with only one target: Excolopolis.

 

Fear embodied

Restless rumblings emanated from the crystal clear, blue sky, and though nothing could be seen from a distance, it could be felt. It was like when a hiker gets lost in the wilderness, stands in front of a dark cave mouth and knows that there is something in there approaching him. He can't see it, he can only feel that something is not right.

Over Excolopolis hung an immense scarlet, robotic air shields. The nearly fifteen-meter-long guard units provided security for the whole city, prepared if necessary, to sacrifice their own existence in order to prevent anything reaching the ground.

ASEC did not order a state of alert. Instead, everyone was sent home to their families. The base was evacuated and the streets were deserted. Only in one tower was anybody working. Sean Steersman sat in his office, giving final commands to the groups of robots that were being deployed. They had no weaponry: no missiles, bombs, or anything that could cause destruction. They were not defenseless, however, armed as they were with an invisible weapon that no one, least of all the enemy, had counted on.

The progress of the fighters from Iraq and Iran had not been stopped or even hindered in the slightest. Almost every European fighter squadron was engaged with protecting the western flanks where, for ten hours, a devastating battle had continued to rage across the skies. Although, several allied squadrons had taken off from carriers in the Mediterranean, no serious firepower was expected from the Europe and Allied forces because of the Libyan and Algerian threat.

Sometime around half past eleven in Excolopolis, the silence broke, reinforced by the sense of fear that hummed in the air and began to resonate in the minds of the residents. Even those who didn't believe what they were hearing could see the windows rattling and lighter objects shaking and shelves indicating the arrival of something big. Many hoped for an earthquake.

In their homes, people watched horrific sequences on their screens; scenes that had been filmed by amateur and professional cameramen, showing the approach of an overwhelmingly large air-force, the sound of which was now already audible in their living rooms.

The planes marched across the sky in swarms, larger and smaller units in layers that washed together in a sea of planes. They were flying at very high altitude, their movements very indistinct, but in spite of the distance the huge formation blocked out the light of the sun. A few sequences of images flashed across TV screens at about the time that anti-aircraft guns and missiles were launched against the enemy battalions. Explosions flashed about the formation, yet their numbers did not seem to diminish.

It has been estimated by military intelligence that the enemy aircraft will reach Central European territory within approximately one and a half hours. Authorities are asking the public to leave the streets, return to their homes, and if possible hide in the lowest possible place they can, collect enough food for a few days and stock up plenty of water …” The report sounded over the only authorized channel left broadcasting.

“I've heard from one of my buddies, who has a friend working in military intelligence, that they are heading straight here,” said Jeff.

The Hayes, Griggs and Pineda family had come together to weather the storm. As the Hayes' cellar was the largest, the three families, twelve altogether, hid there and having made sure that they had blankets, bandages, food and water, and even something to read, though no one was in the mood to even read one line. Their food supply was lavish, with more than enough for a few days. In fact they seemed to be prepared to stay there for weeks. ‘One never knows’, as Jeff's father, Gordon Hayes had said.

“I'm glad you're sharing the good news with us, Jeffry,” said his mother drily.

“Why would they come right here?” asked Arch. “Is it because ASEC installed a power plant somewhere else?”

“Dunno. They're mad about something, that's for sure. Maybe they've been wanting to do something for a long time and this is the excuse they needed to do something nasty,” Jeff explained.

“If the war birds are heading here, it doesn't really matter whether we're down here, or on the street,” Archer said skeptically.

“It's so good that we have another optimist in here,” huffed Pat.

“Look at how many of them there are, over there,” interrupted Patricia's mother, Tia Griggs, and she pointed to the TV that they had taken down to the basement.

The male members of the three families watched with squinting eyes at the shaking images of the sky that were zooming back and forth across the screen, as the camera vibrated in the hand of its amateur operator. The green, beige and dark blue forms of planes could just be made out, their noise drowning out everything else, even the sounds of screaming and shouting near the camera. The people around were obviously petrified, all thinking ‘what if … one of the planes above bombs them’.

“I really hope Steersman's going to pull one of his tricks out of the hat and nail these assholes, because otherwise there won't be a stone left standing,” Pablo Pineda, Archer's father established.

“He has already deployed those weird shield robots above the city. I really dunno if it will be enough, though,” said Jeff.

“I'd be surprised if he just leaves things as they are,” said Archer, nodding.

*

A few miles away, in another of city's picturesque suburbs Karen was making tea for her parents. They had been living there for the past few months, since they sold their house in London to pay off their debts.

“You know, Mum, in London you wouldn't be able to relax either. The same alert has been ordered there too, and many people have been evacuated from the city,” said Karen, calmly explaining the situation to her terrified mother.

 

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CHAPTER 1 | EXCOLOPOLIS
CHAPTER 2 | MACHINES
CHAPTER 3 | A NEW TECHNOLOGY
CHAPTER 4 | ATTACK
CHAPTER 5 | THE SOURCE
CHAPTER 6 | THE SCIENCE CENTER
CHAPTER 7 | UNIVERSITY CITY
CHAPTER 8 | GLIDECRAFT
CHAPTER 9 | SECTOR TWO
CHAPTER 10 | THEY KNOW WE ARE HERE
CHAPTER 11 | GRAVITOR
CHAPTER 12 | INSTALLATION
CHAPTER 14 | AFTERSHOCKS
CHAPTER 15 | INITIATION
CHAPTER 16 | PREPARATION
CHAPTER 17 | DEFENSE CORPS
CHAPTER 18 | TRUTH
CHAPTER 19 | BEYOND EARTH