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When I realized what I have just read in these series of emotionless documents, I just sat there, feeling empty and staring into nothingness. I was past shock and awe by then, I had no more emotional strength to feel anything. I guess that was a defensive mechanism employed by my psyche to prevent me from going insane. 

This spelled the end of our civilization. I kept reading, and it got worse – which was a tough thing to accomplish: there aren’t many things that can make a nuclear war even worse. Apparently the Horsemen decided that this is it, the ultimate opportunity for their mission to be accomplished. So they dared to do an absolute faux pas in the alien community: kill other aliens, so that they could not interfere with the grand plan. They have decided, as we humans did, for so many times throughout our dark history, that ends do justify the means.

They moved swiftly and killed most of the Advancers present on Earth in a single day. It wasn’t difficult. Technically, the two alien factions were not enemies, or in a state of war. A deliberate murder was virtually unheard of in most alien civilizations. So neither felt in any danger from the other faction until that fateful day. Each faction was just trying to play a game, trying to save future human lives in their own twisted ways. So Advancers did not make a secret of the general location of its agents, in order to avoid any accidental harm as both factions tended to gravitate towards the same significant historical figures and important locations. 

It was enough to know the city an agent was in, in order to locate that agent. Because of the “black box” technology that preserved alien consciousness in case of body death and broadcast it location, the energy signature of such a device, powered by a state of the art energy source, was easily detectable (in alien terms of course, I doubt humans could detect that kind of energy). At least on Earth, where the wavelength (and I’m applying this term very loosely here) of this kind of energy spectrum was dead quiet. 

There were annotated video feeds linked to the next document.

 

CERN headquarters, Meyrin, Canton of Geneva, Switzerland

A computer screen with a scientific paper opened in the editor. Something with “Large Hadron Collider” in the title. Squeaky sound of the door handle being turned. View shifting to the opening door. A pleasant-looking middle-aged man in a lab coat walking in. Draws a gun, smiling, fast. Barrel. Flash. Darkness.

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Biological Technologies Office, Arlington, Virginia, United States

Long corridor lit by neutral LED panels. Office doors on both sides. Distant indistinguishable chatter. Turn. Flash. Darkness.

SpaceX headquarters, Hawthorne, California, United States

Elevator music. Number above the illuminated buttons slowly changing. 2… 3… 4… Bell dings. Doors opening. Man wearing sunshades raising a gun with a long suppressor attached. Blur. Flash. Darkness.

Private house, Vauxhall, London, England

Darkness. Faint sound of quiet steps. “Who’s there,” said in a raspy voice. Hand reaching a night lamp switch, not quite making it. Dark silhouette against the bedroom window. Flash. Darkness.

 

The Horsemen agents located first four Advancers, approached them simultaneously in a coordinated attack and just shot them in the head, at point blank range. It was as easy as it sounds. 

At that point Advancer’s AI had figured out what had just happened, and tried its best to warn and save the remaining agents. For several hours it was a race between the AI directing four dedicated and ruthless killers, and another AI protecting its masters, an intricate chess game of moving agents around, dodging cars, drones and other technology gone berserk, planting false leads, running interference, while trying to collect its agents and fly them up to the safety of their ship. But the surprise attack was too unpredictable and well-planned, and there wasn’t much the AI could do within the time constraints it had. One by one all remaining agents were lost, save one. It was a miracle that even a single agent could survive. 

His name was Theo. 

“Huh?” I thought when I went through those documents, “Now that is interesting.” That piece of information seemed important. It meant that Theo could not approach the area where the Horsemen were present without being detected. No doubt they were prepared to kill him on sight. So he had no chance in hell of preventing their plan from unfolding. 

I suspected that Theo’s motives for saving me were less than altruistic. After all, why would an alien go out of his way to save a single human? Especially when he is used to operate on the generational scope and a billion or more people are likely to die soon anyway? 

I’m not a big fan of the “people are basically good” viewpoint – history and most of the world’s present state contradict this naive theory. So every time I see someone acting in a seemingly altruistic manner, I keep looking for a hidden egotistical motive. Asking the ancient “Qui prodest?” question usually leads to an answer. There was always a reason. Maybe I was going to play a part in all this. Maybe Theo would make me an offer I couldn’t refuse. 

I could understand why the Horsemen’s AI is trying to kill me – most likely it’s just mopping up any loose ends and eliminating all chances of anyone interfering with their final operation, no matter how small and insignificant those chances are. I just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and accidentally discovered something alien, which could get in the way if, for instance, I could get the authorities to believe me. 

Now I started getting a glimpse of why Theo might be interested in me. I was curious and resourceful, reasonably smart (and oh so very modest), holding relatively well under stress, and I was now hunted and could not go back to my normal life until this entire FUBAR situation was resolved. I had nothing to lose and everything to gain by helping Theo to thwart the nuclear Holocaust. Maybe I just happened to be in the right place at the right time, from Theo’s point of view?

It was all theoretical at that point, of course, as he hadn’t actually asked me to do anything yet, but there was logic in this line of reasoning. Why else would he save me and introduce me to alien technology and operations in such detail? With the global apocalypse coming soon, the last thing he needed was to spend time on educating me about alien ways. If he just wanted to save me for some other reason, it would be enough just to just get me out of harm’s way, with minimal explanation, if any. 

Now I knew what my next question to Theo would be: “Do you actually want me to save the world? Are you out of your mind?”

4 Comments
  • Konstantin Medvedev
    Posted at 08:13h, 12 August Reply

    Hi Roman.
    I am a bit lost with the immortality. Struggle to link ends:
    Aliens were shot in heads. Died.
    They produced a detectable radiation linking them with AI and supporting immortality.
    Are they dead-dead or can be recovered in a new body?

    • roman
      Posted at 11:21h, 12 August Reply

      Killing them prevented any immediate interference with the grand plan. However they can still be revived in a new body, and eventually they might be. But it will be too late to stop the Horsemen of the Apocalypse. It won’t even help much with proving that it were them who killed the Advancers. Out of four murders, only two saw the killers and aliens can change their appearance so that doesn’t prove anything. The Horsemen would reason that the Advancer ship might assess the high probability of them being the killers, but would not have the evidence to prove that (they don’t know of the communication hack). On top of that, if the Horsemen can destroy or compromise the Advancers ship, nobody would know of the murders and come to revive the victims. As a last resort, they are willing to risk discovery to “save humanity” from mortality.

      • Konstantin Medvedev
        Posted at 17:36h, 12 August Reply

        May be I forgot when you told about communication and revitalization. Long gap between chapters.

        Reasonableness check: Is Advancer’s AI is smart enough to capture positions of that magical subfrequency signal that links Advancer’s with their ship and do the same for Horsemens, determine their positions and match with latest Advancers location?
        If not then there should be an idea that Horsemens disabled own “recovery” feature to do the assassination silently risking to loose most recent events if they will die (I think the revitalization works restoring brain up to the latest snapshot).

        If above is true, then Theo is in silent mode as well to be untraceable.
        Otherwise he would be killed.

        • roman
          Posted at 22:31h, 12 September Reply

          I explained that I hope. Possibly later in the book, not sure at the moment. The beacon is only detectable within a certain area, the size of a city. So you can’t just tell where everyone is without knowing where to look. You can detect when an alien with a black box comes close, if you have the gear to detect that, and that’s why the Horsemen did the assassinations simultaneously. So a ship can’t see from space where everyone is. It’s intentional: rescue effort with the right equipment will find a black box, but privacy is not compromized generally. It’s not possible to shied it or turn it off, as it’s not entirely in our dimension. That is also intentional, so criminals could not completely murder anyone. It’s not a back-up either, it’s an anchor that keeps a soul connected.

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