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Authors: Patrick Lee

Deep Sky

BOOK: Deep Sky
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Deep Sky

Patrick Lee

 

Dedication

 

For Sue, Tom, John, Barb, Jim, and Chris

 

Contents

 

Definitions Established By Presidential Executive Order 1978-AU3

 


BREACH”
shall refer to the physical anomaly located at the former site of the Very Large Ion Collider at Wind Creek, Wyoming. The total systemic failure of the VLIC on 7 March 1978 created the BREACH by unknown means. The BREACH may be an Einstein-Rosen bridge, or wormhole (ref: VLIC Accident Investigation Report).

 


ENTITY”
shall refer to any object that emerges from the BREACH. To date, ENTITIES have been observed to emerge at the rate of 3 to 4 per day (ref: VLIC Accident Object Survey). ENTITIES are technological in nature and suggest design origins far beyond human capability. In most cases their functions are not readily apparent to researchers on site at Wind Creek.

 


BORDER TOWN”
shall refer to the subsurface research complex constructed at the VLIC accident site, to serve the housing and working needs of scientific and security personnel studying the BREACH. All signatories to the Tangent Special Authority Agreement (TSAA) hereby affirm that BORDER TOWN, along with its surrounding territory (ref: Border Town Exclusion Zone Charter), is a sovereign state unto itself, solely governed by the organization TANGENT.

Part I

 

Scalar

Chapter One

 

N
o one friendly had ever lived in the brick colonial house at the end of the cul-de-sac on Fairlane Court. Which was strange, considering how many different owners had come and gone since its construction, in 1954. Nearly twenty of them over the years. They’d all been polite enough: they’d all nodded hello when appropriate, and kept the yard meticulously neat, and never played their televisions or stereos loudly—if at all. To a man and woman, the owners had all been in their thirties, single, with neither children nor pets. They had dressed conservatively and driven dark green or dark blue sedans.

They’d also never answered the doorbell, regardless of the time of day. They’d never hung up colored lights for the holidays, or handed out candy to trick-or-treaters. Not one occupant of the house had ever invited a neighbor for dinner. And though the place seemed to change hands every two to three years, no one had ever seen a For Sale sign on the lawn, or found the address in a real-estate listing.

Strangest of all were the moving days. Despite the apparent simplicity of the men and women who’d lived in the house, every single one of them had required at least four full-sized moving vans to transfer their belongings. Some had needed upward of a dozen. These vans always backed up so snugly to the garage door that it was impossible to see what exactly was being moved in or out. And they always came at night. Always.

Neil Pruitt knew all of this, though he’d never lived on this street, and had never seen the house until tonight. He knew because he’d seen others like it; there were
many
others. Nineteen more here in D.C., and another ten across the river in Langley. In and around New York City and Chicago there were just under fifty each. Most cities near that size had a few dozen at least. Los Angeles had seventy-three.

Pruitt circled the decorative plantings at the center of the cul-de-sac, pulled into the driveway and got out of the car. The night was cold and moist, rich with the smells of October: damp leaves, pumpkins, smoke from a backyard fire a few houses over. Pruitt glanced at the neighboring homes as he made his way up the walk. A big two-story on the left, all lights out except in an upstairs bedroom, where laughter through cracked-open windows suggested a slumber party. A split-level ranch to the right: through the bay window at the front, he saw a couple on their couch watching a big LCD screen. The president was on TV, live from the Oval Office.

No such signs of activity from the brick colonial. Soft lighting at most of the windows, but no movement visible inside. Pruitt stepped onto the porch and put his key in the lock. No need to turn it—the mechanism beeped and then clicked three times as its computer communicated with the key. The bolt disengaged, and Pruitt pushed the door—a solid piece of steel two inches thick—inward. He stepped from the flagstone porch onto the white ceramic tile of the entryway. While the outside of the house had been updated over the years to stay current with decorating trends, the interior had enjoyed no such attention. It was clean and bare and utilitarian, as it’d been for nearly six decades. It was all the Air Force needed it to be.

The foyer was identical to its counterpart in every such house Pruitt had been in. Ten feet by ten. Eight-foot ceiling. Twin security cameras, left and right in the corners opposite the front door. He pictured the two officers on duty in the house, watching the camera feeds and reacting to his arrival. Then he heard a door slide open, around the corner and down the hall.

“Sir, we weren’t expecting a relief tonight.” A man’s voice. Adler. Pruitt had handpicked him for this post years earlier. His footsteps came down the hallway, still out of sight, accompanied by a lighter set. A second later Adler appeared in the doorway. Past his shoulder was a woman maybe thirty years old. Pretty. Like Adler she was a second lieutenant, though Pruitt had neither selected her nor even met her before. The name tag on her uniform read
LAMB
.

“You’re not getting one,” Pruitt said. “I won’t be staying long. Take this.”

Pruitt shrugged off his jacket and held it out. As Adler came forward to take it, Pruitt drew a Walther P99 from his rear waistband and shot him in the forehead. Lamb had just enough time to flinch; her eyebrows arched and then the second shot went through her left one and she dropped almost in unison with Adler.

Pruitt stepped over the bodies. The hallway only went to the right. The living space of the house was much smaller than it appeared from outside. There was just the entry, the corridor, and the control room at the end, which Pruitt stepped into ten seconds after firing the second shot. The chairs were still indented with the shapes of their recent occupants. He thought he could tell which had been Lamb’s; the indentation was much smaller. A can of Diet Coke sat on a coaster beside her station. In the silence Pruitt could hear it still fizzing.

He pushed both chairs aside and shoved away the few pieces of paper that lay on the desk. Long ago, the equipment in this room had filled most of the nine-by-twelve space. Over the years it’d been replaced again and again with smaller updates. Its present form was no larger than a laptop, though it was made of steel and had no hinge on which to fold itself. It was bolted to the metal desk, which itself was welded to the floor beneath the ceramic tiles. This computer controlled the system that occupied the rest of the house, the space that wasn’t easily accessed. Pruitt could picture it without difficulty, though. He looked at the concrete wall to his left and imagined staring right through it. On the other side was the cavernous space that was the same in every house like this, whether the outside was brick or vinyl or cedar shingle.

Beyond the wall was the missile bay.

Pruitt took his PDA from his pocket and set it on the desk beside the computer. Next he took out a specialized screwdriver, its head as complex as an ancient pictogram, and fitted it into the corresponding screw head on the side of the computer’s case. Five turns and the tiny screw came free. Within seconds Pruitt had the motherboard exposed. The lead he needed was at the near end. He pulled it free, and saw three LEDs on the board go red. In his mind he saw and heard at least five emergency telephones begin to ring, in and around D.C. One of them, deep in the National Military Command Center at the Pentagon, had no doubt already been answered.

The response would come down on this place like a hammer. No question of it. But it would come too late. And those who responded would never guess his final intention. Not until they saw it for themselves.

He inserted the lead into a port on his PDA and switched it on. The screen lit up, the required program already running. It was one Pruitt had written himself, tailored for this purpose. The hourglass icon flickered, and then a password prompt appeared. He entered the code—a very long one—waited through another two seconds of the hourglass, and then saw the screen he’d expected. There was an input field for GPS coordinates. He pasted them in, having typed and copied them in advance, and pressed
ENTER
.

A second later the house shuddered. A heavy, continuous vibration set the floor and the desk humming.

Pruitt turned to the wall. He pressed his hands and then the side of his face against the concrete. Felt the animal waking up in its den.

Fifty-eight years ago the missile bay had contained a Korean-War-era Nike-Ajax. Pretty funny to picture it now, a weapon so simple and limited being trusted to defend the nation’s capital against Russian bombers and ICBMs. The Ajax fleet had been swapped out for the Hercules in the early sixties. Definitely an improvement, though still probably not up to the task. Only in the late eighties, under Pruitt’s tenure, had this program become viable—in his opinion—with the adoption of the Patriot system. A hell of a missile. But that wasn’t what was on the other side of the wall now.

Pruitt absorbed the vibration for another second, then pushed off of the wall and stood upright. He took a slip of paper from his pocket and set it on the desk beside the PDA.

The paper had a single short sentence written on it:

See Scalar.

The intended recipients would know what it meant. Pruitt himself didn’t even know. Or care.

He exited the room, leaving the PDA plugged in behind him. He returned down the corridor; where it met the entry, Adler’s blood had formed a common pool with Lamb’s, cherry red on the white tiles and nearly black where it’d saturated the grout.

Five seconds later he was out on the flagstones again, in the moist wind that smelled like leaves and pumpkins and smoke. He left his car in the driveway; already he could see the headlights of first responders, four blocks away and coming fast. He ducked around the side of the house and moved toward the backyard.

He could hear the missile from out here now. Louder every second. He heard dull thuds as heavy stabilizer arms retracted against the bay wall, and by the time he rounded the back corner of the house, the small basement windows at the rear had blown out and were venting steam into the night.

Pruitt crossed the shallow yard to the pines on the far end and stopped there, just inside them. He turned back and watched. He had to see it.

The house stood haloed by the headlights of the incoming vehicles. Tires skidded in the cul-de-sac and car doors opened and men’s voices shouted. Fast reaction. Almost fast enough.

The roof blew. The whole middle span of it. Wood splinters and asphalt shingles scattered upward like confetti, and in almost the same instant a shape knifed up through the opening.

An AMRM Sparrowhawk. Advanced multi-role missile. In keeping with the military’s crescent-wrench philosophy in recent years, the Sparrowhawk was a single tool with multiple uses. Specifically, surface-to-air and surface-to-surface. This one, stationed at this house, had only ever been meant for the defensive role, surface-to-air.

That wasn’t the role it would play tonight.

The missile, as wide as a telephone pole and almost as long, surged upward through the open roof, driven by a primary charge from the launcher below. Its momentum carried it above the treetops, maybe sixty feet higher than the roof’s peak, and just as it slowed and nearly stopped, the missile’s own engine engaged. For a third of a second it hovered almost still, like a Roman candle held upside-down. Then the flame beneath it went pure white, and the rocket screamed in a way that sounded eerily human—at a hundred times the volume—and a fast heartbeat later the thing was only a streak of light, climbing toward the speed of sound above Georgetown.

Pruitt watched it through the pine boughs. At two thousand feet its trajectory went flat. Its path defined a neat little semicircle in the sky as it hunted, and then it was gone, screaming southeast toward the ground coordinates he’d fed the PDA thirty seconds ago. The coordinates the Sparrowhawk would reach about ten seconds from now.

Movement at ground level caught Pruitt’s eye. The couple at the house next door had come out onto their rear patio, scared as hell and looking for the commotion. It was funny, in a way. Had they known, they could’ve stayed right on their couch, watching the live feed from the Oval Office.

That was where the show was going to be.

BOOK: Deep Sky
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