P R O J E C T 2 4 2
Written by Greg Kiss.
There was only faint light from the distant stars and cratered moon. Above the Earth's atmosphere he lingered; the puppet master.
"Richard... If you think this is your God speaking, think again."
Kiefs awoke to find himself wandering along a familiar corridor, fully dressed in his military uniform. He was deep under London. The long straight walkway would have made the city's Roman founders proud. The precisely located light fittings, twenty metres apart stretched ahead of him appeared as accelerating dots on a ticker tape. He screwed up his eyes as he approached the chrome security panel on the right of a heavy set stainless steel door. He felt his back bend forward painfully against his will, lowering his face to the panel. His eyes suddenly opened and he saw the retinal recognition device before him. Could it see fear in a man's eyes? Would it permit him access?
The green light shone through the heavy gloom of the corridor and he heard the first of the bolts retracting from the reinforced steel frame.
Onto the voice recognition and he began to summon up all his considerable will, ready to unleash it at the appropriate moment. His mouth began to open before the small protruding pencil thin microphone and he tried to scream for help. His mouth lost its shape, distorting in anguish but to his horror his own measured voice escaped his lips.
"Major General Richard Kiefs."
His chest sagged in disappointment as the green light shone once again and with two loud clicks the door began to swing open.
As he entered the cavernous chamber complete with its large screens and row upon row of racked computers he felt the chill of the air conditioning pierce his flesh. He would have turned up the collar of his tunic had he been able to undertake so simple a task. Two bodies moved towards him dressed as low ranking officers and with a sudden flush of relief thought his captor's plans were to be scuppered.
With horror he realised that their eyes were closed as they walked and that they were moving past him towards the exit. He was not alone. Others were also under control. When they were only a few feet away he could see that beneath their closed lids their eyes were frantically rolling in their sockets trying to break free from this madness. Calmly, the female officer’s arm extended towards the emergency door release switch and they left Kiefs alone.
His body sleepwalked to a desk in the centre of the room, settling itself unnaturally in the high backed office chair, upholstered in black leather. His right palm lowered itself carefully onto a square of glass framed with high polished chrome. The cold pane of glass barely had time to impact upon his senses before the whole panel was lit green and the monitor in front of him sprang into action. He watched his fingers as they danced across the keyboard at furious speed, thinking to himself that if this was caught on CCTV that any witness who knew him would be certain that they were watching an imposter. His reputation as an IT novice was long developed.
He turned his focus onto the monitor and after several minutes began to realise what was happening. He was changing the default targets of all of his country’s nuclear arms. The new targets were all civilian, many of them within their own shores. The soon to be patrolling trident nuclear submarine was now focussed on the new Channel Tunnel, artillery in the midlands and the north were focussed on the major manufacturing hubs of Birmingham and Manchester. The Ford plant in Dagenham was in range of armaments on Foulness Island.
“Why are you doing this?” he thought. His hostage replied causing him nausea and splitting pains through his skull.
“I’ll tell you why I’m doing this Richard,” responded the crackling static voice in his head. “When your race was watching what they thought was my demise, I was watching all of you. I’ve passed your Earth countless times as I have voyaged through the Galaxy and each time I’ve liked it less. Now I am going to return it to the condition that I liked the best; before your race frequented it.”
Kiefs’ body spun clockwise by ninety degrees and vomited on the floor; splashing his high polished shoes and trouser cuffs.
“It won’t work,” he thought whilst turning back to the workstation. “These targets won’t destroy us all.”
His brain felt like it split in half as there was a spike in the frequency of the static which felt like a sadistic laugh. “Don’t you worry about me Richard. You’re not my only assistant. If a country has weapons, then I’ve got a Richard there. I hope that doesn’t make you feel any less special.”
“In fact,” the voice continued, “if you’ve got a car battery, or a bottle of bleach then you can be my Richard. Just relax and I’ll take you to where I need it deposited. Haven’t you noticed all of my little Richard’s walking around like busy little ants? Oh no, of course not. You’ve been heroically slouched at your desk, drinking too much and worrying about God. What a pity.”
“People will know! Once they come to they’re going to just un-do all of these acts.” He was trying to make his thoughts as shrill and spiteful as he would have done if he could have voiced them.
“It’s only you who has had the privilege of seeing all of this Richard,” the voice replied slowly. “You had the foresight to try to communicate with me so I thought I would just keep you in the loop. The others have just awoken today and decided it would be a good idea to direct some nuclear strikes or to stack kindling wood under a nursery school. Today is their day, not ours. Today is the day called X. You’re lucky that I’ve let you see it.”
His fingers once again danced across the keyboard and he could barely bring himself to watch them. Suddenly he was standing and began exiting the room.
“Of course,” said the voice in his head, “controlling all of these people is not easy. I have focussed my energy on those of strategic importance. The common garden variety human tool has just been brought under control by Blue Cola – one of my finer ideas. The human susceptibility to advertising is well established, so I thought I would turn it to my advantage. It has worked even quicker than I could have imagined.”
His pace was quickening as he walked along the corridor, still yet to regain control of his body. Within minutes he was in his office, seated in the Captain’s chair in front of the bay window.
“Enjoy the night sky, Richard,” cackled the voice. “It might be the last time you get to see it.”
The radio switched on from behind his desk. He had to sit paralysed and listen to it all unfold. Action and reaction. Different nations traded blows, but mainly the strikes were against their own governments, corporations and citizens. After around ten minutes the radio cut out and the noise of the reminiscent static sent a chill down his spine. He sat and watched the fires rise, and the queues of traffic increase absurdly as people tried to flee the city.
He wasn’t sure when the spell over his body was released, such was his transfixed state. The radio made a last gasp attempt to find some signal and he turned his head to look at it. Immediately realising that he was free he jumped up from his seat, and went to try to find some safety.
He ran from his office sending furniture flying as he went. He swung open his office door with such force that it bounced back off of the wall of the hallway with a simultaneous thud and creak as the hinge screws were wrenched from the frame. He headed down the stairs knowing that his only hope was to secure himself in the nuclear bunker deep in the basement levels of the building. He hoped that it had not already been locked down.
He arrived to find that it was empty. He hastily shut the thick metal door to the entrance of the airlock chamber, then moved through the next set of doors and secured them, sealing himself inside. Knowing the nuclear strikes were imminent he double checked the control screen which confirmed the air lock, grabbed and switched on the large battery powered torch from the wall and went into the room on his left and tried to remember how to fire up the generator. It was at this point that he panicked. Twisting knobs and flicking switches alone in the dark his huge hands began to shake alarmingly. He stopped and began to sob. He was alone.
He had been alone for a long time in truth. Family and friends had slowly dispersed, drifting away as if he were in some way contaminated. His career had come first and a general neglect of his other duties and priorities had taken hold. It suddenly seemed as though all of his past indifference had in fact been leading to this point: apex solitude. He crouched down onto his haunches, stopped crying and felt the old familiar resolve return and begin pumping through his veins. He stood, took a deep breath and looked at the control panel on the generator. He lifted the green opaque panel on the top right to reveal the key. He turned it and the generator immediately kicked into life, with a smooth, restrained roar.
Within 15 seconds the low-level lighting throughout the bunker came on and almost immediately the bunker shook with the sound of the impact, followed by a sustained rumble that seemed to last for at least a minute. That’s it, he thought, now I am alone.