[Blackness - 1973]
From within ... tiny fragments of indecipherable memories, images, sensations, and incomplete thoughts explode into existence and disappear just as quickly; over, and over with glacially growing frequency, meaning, and clarity.
From outside ... a mishmash of random vibrations morph into partly decipherable patterns of sound having obvious significance, but no more meaning than a jumble of haphazardly written individual letters scrawled onto a torn sheet of crumpled paper:
“KEEP ... LIQUID NITROGEN GOING, SERGEANT!! DON’T LET ... NO MATTER WHAT!!”
“tank’s ... getting low, captain! where’s ... damned truck?!!?”
“ETA FOUR MINUTES ... WE’VE GOT TO ... HOLD OUT ... CONTAINMENT POD ARRIVES!!”
“they better get here ... before ... , sir!”
“HOW MANY THIS TIME, CAPTAIN?”
“i count three here, colonel... maybe nine total ... won’t know until Victor’s team ... reports ... Anderson’s team is … trying to backtrack where it came ...”
“WHERE ARE THEY ... NOW?”
“they’re doing a final sweep ... of the farm over there. sir. It ... even took out a few pigs ... it’s a miracle we caught up to ... before it reached the town that patrol car came from or ... ”
“DID WE LOSE ANYONE?”
“not this time ... sir? what are ... orders?”
“FLAMETHROWERS ... BURN IT... THE ... DOWN, CAPTAIN!! MAKE IT LOOK ... LIKE THE OLD GUY WENT CRAZY ... KILLED EVERYONE AND SET FIRE ... KNOWN TROUBLE MAKER.
LEAVE NOTHING ... STANDARD ORDERS. JUST BE GLAD ... DIDN’T HAVE TO ... LIVING VICTIMS ... OR IN A MORE ... POPULATED ... LIKE LAST TIME. WE ROLL IN FIFTEEN MINUTES ... NOTHING BUT ASHES, UNDERSTOOD?”
“WE’RE BACK, DOCTOR BELL. IT’S ... PROBLEM NOW.”
“thanks, just what I’ve always ... another bucket of goo that wants to eat me ... have your ... put it in the freezer next to number three ... where are you off ... so quickly, colonel?”
“GOTTA TIE UP ... LOOSE ENDS ... JUST IN CASE ... TIME TO BEG ... PENTAGON FOR CASH ... FINANCE ANOTHER HOLLYWOOD REMAKE JUST TO BE SAFE ... STUPID MOVIE ... BEFORE SOMEONE ... CALLS A NEWSPAPER REPORTER. A FEW ... MORE UFO SIGHTINGS FLOATING AROUND ... SHOULD STOP RUMORS ... OR ...”
[Slumber - 1986]
“WHERE’S CORPORAL MUTT? ISN’T IT HIS TURN TO CHECK THIS VAULT?”
“Jimmy doesn’t ... that nickname, and he won’t come within a ... yards of number four.”
“ ... LITTLE LATE NOW . . . CAN’T BELIEVE ... NITWIT BROKE ... CONTAINMENT PROTOCOLS ON A DARE. THE LEAST HE’D ... WAKING UP ... ANY OF THE OTHERS IS A STUMP ... HAND USE TO BE. NUMBER FOUR TWISTED ... PINHEAD’S SKIN CELLS ... COVERED IN ... FOOT-LONG SHEEPDOG HAIR FROM HEAD TO TOE ... MORE HAIR THAN A COUPLE ... BEAR RUGS!!”
“... six weeks, can’t the eggheads do something? I’m getting tired helping him clip the hair around ... eyes so he can see where he’s going. And unless he grows ... tail it’s hard to tell if he’s coming or going. Lieutenant Morris ... stop sneezing when Jimmy’s around ... allergic to canine ... ”
“DOCTOR ... WORKING ON IT ... GOTTA ... BE SUPER CAREFUL ... AROUND NUMBER FOUR ... YA KNOW. HE’D BE IN ... FAR WORSE SHAPE... IF HIS PALM HAD DONE MORE THAN ... HEAT UP THE ... SURFACE.”
“wasn’t he supposed to ... married next month?”
“THE COLONEL SAYS HE CAN’T LEAVE ... HERE ... IF EVER ... DOCTOR THOMAS COMES UP WITH ... CURE. ANYHOW, CAN’T ... IMAGINE SHE’D WANT TO ... A CIRCUS SIDE SHOW FREAK ... AND TAKE. . . CHANCE HER KIDS WILL BE BORN PART ... ”
“keep the pack ... got another carton … coffin nails in my footlocker ... did you hear ... scuttlebutt going around? They say ... the colonel’s thinking about reassigning ... Jimmy to ice-tray bravo.”
“BETTER ... GET SENT TO THE ZOO ... AMOOK ISLAND THAN ME! I’VE HEARD ... ALASKA IS BEAUTIFUL ... TIME OF YEAR.”
“... with all that fur ... Jimmy ... can’t ... even get into the largest overcoat ... in the stockroom. And ... he’s soaking wet with sweat most of ... time. Think of all the money the army’s ... save. The only uniform he will ... need up there are ... snow boots.”
“IT MIGHT COST ... THE MESS HALL A LOT IN … KIBBLE C-RATIONS IF HE GETS ANY WORSE!!”
“I know ... ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!”
[Quiescence interrupted - 1989]
“monitor room ... video tape ... running ... closed-circuit cameras active ... full lighting on”
“I CAN’T INSERT ... RADIATION PROBE ... SURFACE IS FROZEN... HARD. AND MY SUIT VISOR ... FOGGED UP. CAN’T READ LITTLE ... ON SLEEVE. WHAT’S ... TEMPERATURE ... INSIDE HERE?”
“negative thirty ... centigrade, doctor Torres.”
“RAISE … FIFTEEN DEGREES, CORPORAL.”
“roger that ... what are you doing, sir?”
“DON’T WANT TO SPEND MORE … TIME THAN I MUST IN THIS ... SUIT! A COUPLE KICKS SHOULD LIQUIFY ... SURFACE.”
“physically disturbing ... container ... not within the guidelines, doctor ... are you sure that’s ... ?”
“WHO IS ... NUCLEAR PHYSICIST ... HERE? YOU OR ME?
“you ... sir. It’s ... always you.”
“DON’T YOU FORGET ... IT!! UP ... ANOTHER TEN DEGREES!”
“holding steady ... minus five degrees centigrade. Please be advised ... well within the red zone ... wait! I just checked ... you aren’t authorized to ... run any tests today! I’m ... calling security!”
<WARNING - SECURITY BREACH VAULT FOUR >
<DANGER - AIRLOCK INNER DOOR CLOSURE IN PROGRESS >
<ALERT - SECURITY DETAIL REPORT TO VAULT FOUR IMMEDIATELY >
“KEEP THAT ... DOOR ... OPEN!!
“automatic... you’ve got five seconds to ... it’s moving! drop that ... pole and ... ”
“damn it ... and I almost made sergeant! Colonel Avery is gonna bust … back to private! again!”
“SHULTZ!! WHAT THE HELL ... YOU DO THIS ... TIME?!!?
“I didn’t do nothin’, sir!”
Conversation log 1993.10.6 1115 hours
Duration: 22.4 minutes
 Colonel James D. Forrest US ARMY
<Beginning of transcript>
Colonel James D. Forrest: Good morning! I hope you like what we’ve done to the...
REDACTED: Cut the pleasantries! Neither of us has time for a two-bit tour.
Colonel James D. Forrest: Can I ask why you’re here on such short notice, REDACTED?
REDACTED: No names!
Colonel James D. Forrest: You requested a secure room. It doesn’t get any more secure than these new vaults. The walls are made of six inch thick stainless steel welded on top of two plates of battleship armor. There’s also four yards of fiberglass insulation wrapped around each one, and enough liquid nitrogen in the tanks underneath this level to create a new ice age at the press of a button.
All contact with the outside came to an end when I pulled the plug on the intercom, and ordered the control room to shut the observation window shutters. There’s a fail-safe black box and video camera built into the ceiling light, but only the Pentagon can access what it’s recording if ... let’s just say we experience a very, very, bad day.
In short, REDACTED, it’s secure in here. It’s also colder than a witch’s tits in Santa’s workshop, so could you get to the point before we both freeze? The electric heaters in these plastic suits are only rated for a half hour at this temperature before their batteries die.”
REDACTED: The Russians finally got one. Or it got them. Take your pick.
Colonel James D. Forrest: When?
REDACTED: Two days ago, somewhere near the northernmost coast of the Yamal Peninsula. A bunch of Geology undergrads from Moscow University on a prospecting expedition dug up a REDACTED. It was buried deep under permafrost still inside the shattered remains of a large meteorite.
They turned it over to their professor and went to their bunks to sleep. He took it inside his warm lab to identify. If what happened next followed the usual sequence of events, the REDACTED thawed out, consumed the professor, and went on a rampage. Most of the students died in their sleep never knowing what killed them.
The lone survivor, who suffered an unspecified injury, was doing routine maintenance on the vehicles in their motor-pool, managed to lure and trap a fully active REDACTED in a military-grade shipping container in near-blizzard conditions. It re-froze before it could melt its way out. Her next transmission was heavily garbled and the shortwave radio she was using went dead shortly thereafter.
Colonel James D. Forrest: Did she say how big the REDACTED got?
REDACTED: Somewhere between three and four tons. It almost filled the shipping container the university used to transport four snowmobiles to the dig site by boat.
Colonel James D. Forrest: A REDACTED that size doesn’t last more than a day or two before it goes torpid and vaporizes.
REDACTED: It lasted long enough to consume twenty-two people, and presumably, fatally injuring one more. It also destroyed or damaged several metal habitable trailers, equipment trailers, motorized vehicles, and every electrical device and generator working at the time. To put it more succinctly, it obliterated anything that was significantly warmer than background temperature and / or had any kind of electrical signature it could detect.
The university contacted the Alakurtti Air base on Murmansk Oblast. That naval base dispatched two large snow-landing capable aircraft roughly three hours later. The quick response team inside the planes secured the dig site and searched in a two kilometer wide circle around the area for any signs of possible survivors.
There were none.
To beat a major storm about to hit the area, they bagged the remains of a single corpse, grabbed everything not nailed down, including the shipping container holding the REDACTED, and stuffed it into the cargo bay ... the unheated cargo bay ... of one heavy-lift cargo jet.
Lacking the space to carry everyone back to their base on Vaygach Island at the same time, half of the quick response team stayed behind to secure the site, while the other half was packed like sardines into the other cargo jet to provide security on arrival. If you ask me, the troops left behind are some of the luckiest bastards in the Russian armed forces.
One of our Intel satellites picked up the original distress transmission, and most of the subsequent radio traffic. By the time it was translated and sent up the chain of command for review, it was probably too late. Knowing normal communication channels are far too slow at the best of times, the High Command established contact with a Norwegian Naval training ship sailing off the Western Coast of Novaya Zemiya Island by sat-phone.
They relayed our high-priority alert message just under six hours after the first airplane returned, and, presumably, put everything aboard into a heated space for some kind for examination minutes before nightfall. Local weather conditions were fairly frigid, but nowhere near cold enough to slow down a Chaotic.
Colonel James D. Forrest: What about the base? How many casualties?
REDACTED: They won’t say. Our Intel estimates a normal complement of about four thousand personnel. If their anger is any guide, it must be massive. All they’re doing now is blaming us and making threats . . . serious threats.
Take a look at these satellite photos. About half of Alakurtti Air base was burning out of control when the first two photographs were taken, and that large container cargo ship tied to the pier was listing badly and likely sunk by now. It must’ve gotten hotter than Florida in July when the fuel tanks in that depot went sky-high.
We have no way to determine how many of their people were killed or injured by friendly-fire, but taking all the infrastructure damage into account, they must’ve used every weapon in their armory before the REDACTED went defunct, or died from some other factor.
Take a close look at photo number three. Those tread marks in the slush are all that’s left of three brand new T-90 battle tanks, and a shiny just-out-of-the-box BTR-90 troop carrier; all of which were presumably fully manned when destroyed. Since the old Soviet Union that was paying for them on an installment plan went belly-up two years ago, do I need to tell you how unhappy the Kremlin is with how ineffective their expensive toys turned out to be?
Colonel James D. Forrest: What does any of this have to do with me or my installation?
REDACTED: This whole mess is rapidly spinning out of control. To avoid a major international incident, a world-wide panic, and to keep what we’ve been hiding off the cover of the New York Times for almost four decades, you are going to play host to a Russian fact-finding team.
Fourteen hundred hours.
Iron you best uniform.
Colonel James D. Forrest: What do I tell them?
REDACTED: The truth. But not one word about the zoo. Is ... that ... understood? Both the CIA and the Judge Advocate General’s Corps will be paying you a visit this afternoon. Their representatives will tell you how the top brass wants this meeting to go down, and provide any backup you need while the Russians are here. Follow their instructions to the letter.
Colonel James D. Forrest: Will they be sending an interpreter? My Russian is limited to ordering a bar drink.
REDACTED: None needed. They all speak English. Most of them were educated in Western universities, or spent years here working out of their embassies. Translation ... at least one of them will be highly trained in the white spy vs. black spy game. Watch every word you say.
Colonel James D. Forrest: Any more good news?
REDACTED: Just the one, they asked to meet you ... and Doctor Forrest ... by name. Since Building Three has never been directly connected to the internet, and you can’t even get a walkie-talkie through its gates, we’ve either got a mole or an anti-military save-the-world do-gooder in the loop. Do what you can to keep ... him ... from turning this meeting into a circus.
Colonel James D. Forrest: That’s just great. Will you be in attendance, REDACTED?
REDACTED: No way! I’m taking the red-eye back to my command in California tonight. I only came by to give my replacement a heads-up on the bag of flaming dog shit about to land on his doorstep. My retirement comes up in two years and a month. You’re fairly young. You might still have time to scrape most of this crap off your performance record if this soiree turns into a major cluster-fuck. Good luck with that!
Colonel James D. Forrest: Thanks. Sounds like I’m gonna need it.
REDACTED: Glad I could help, now press the damned button and let’s get out of here! I swear that thing in the bucket is licking its chops, and my feet went numb five minutes ago!