Chapter 1 - The Introduction
As I am writing this, I´m in my final hour, I don’t know if this will reach anyone, but in the case it does, please be advised that there is something here, and it appears to be waking up. Please don´t let all these people have died for nothing. Please don´t let this be buried and forgotten.
Let me start from the beginning.
My name is Jack Carter.
I had a good career in the Marine Corps. I was a Seargent, in charge or a great bunch of guys, but I got injured overseas and had to be reassigned to desk duty on home turf. This was definitely not something that got my juices flowing, I have always been more of a hands-on kind of guy. Even if the work was good, and the tasks I had were meaningful in the big picture, I never really felt that I was being all I could be, sitting at HQ in front of a computer screen hammering on a keyboard like some sort of robot. I had to be where the action was. I don´t know, maybe I´m an adrenalin junkie or something, but I needed more.
The injury I had sustained wasn´t too bad, but bad enough to keep me from being on the front line. We, my squad and I, were caught in an ambush while on patrol and my leg caught a bullet, grazing my knee and severing my anterior cruciate ligament. We eventually managed to fight them off and get back to base without any other injuries than my own. I had to go through surgery and got sent back home to do about a year of physiotherapy. I was told that I eventually would be more or less back to normal, but the higher up´s didn´t want to take any chances and stuck me at a desk. This is why I was hyped when I was approached by the private sector with a job offer.
I was out for lunch at my usual spot one day, a local burger joint, enjoying a big greasy burger with chili and bacon and a glass of ice water by the bar. God, what I wouldn´t give for one of those right now.
It was hot out, and in as well, late July, and the summer was really peaking in every way. The ceiling fan rotated above my head at full speed, but didn´t do much more than swirl the hot air around. Janice, the owner, doubling as the chef, was standing behind the counter drying of some newly washed glasses and placing them on the little rails above the bar to hang.
How´s that burger, Jack? She asked.
Excellent as always! I answered with my mouth half full of the juicy beef and condiments.
She took a step closer and leaned over towards me. Listen, she said. I don´t want to freak you out or anything but there´s a man In the corner booth over there who´s been eyeballing you ever since you sat down. I didn´t turn my head right away, but instead looked in the mirror behind Janice, covering the back wall of the bar between the shelves, to catch a glance at the man. Janice took a step back again and failed miserably to act nonchalant, glancing over to him and back to me in a nervous tick .
The man in the corner booth was around 50 years old, dressed In a well-fitted dark suit, a white shirt, and a black tie. In front of him, there was a matching Trilby hat & a pair of sunglasses resting on the table. His dark short hair was finely combed backward in a slick hairstyle making him look just like one of those classic FBI agents you see on late 90´s shows. He was thin, but not skinny, and his dark eyes sat deep underneath his well-maintained eyebrows. I turned my head and met his gaze. We looked into the eyes of each other for a couple of seconds before he stood up, straightened out his jacket, corrected his tie, grabbed his hat, sunglasses, and a briefcase that apparently had been laying next to him, and went over to me.
Sgt. Carter, he said in a thick southern accent. Mind if I sit down?
I looked over at Janice who was looking my way and shrugging her shoulders in a way of saying, ”I don´t know?”, while pouring a beer into a frosted glass for an elderly gentleman sitting at the bar.
I looked back at the man standing next to me, slowly finishing the bite I still had in my mouth, swallowing and motioning to the man to grab the seat in front of him. Be my guest, I said after downing the last bite.
He sat down and asked Janice for a cup of black coffee while doing so. Man, too hot for coffee, I thought.
Sgt. Carter, he said, I´ll cut right to the chase, I know you ain´t got much time before you need to be back at HQ.
I´m sorry, I said. Do we know each other?
Well, I know you, he said. I know your history, the missions you´ve been on. I know about your injury, your hard work getting back into shape, your current position as a paper pusher back at the office, and how you long to be back in the field, doing some real work.
I stared at him, clearing my throat. And...just how do you know all this, if you don´t mind me asking? I said.
He looked over at Janice who came over, placing a cup of coffee in front of him. He nodded her way with a quick smile and waited until she had stepped away, then took a small taste of the coffee before continuing.
Well, Sgt. I know it because it´s my job to know it, he responded. I won´t go into the boring details about my research procedures, I´m here to offer you a job.
I´ve got a job, I said and took a big gulp of the ice-cold water.
Yes, I know, and as I said, you and I both know you weren´t meant to spend your time ticking boxes and typing numbers in on a damn screen. You, sir, are a man of action and need to be somewhere that gets your blood pumping.
And you´ve got a job like that ? I asked while taking another bite out of my burger.
Indeed I do! he said loudly, almost in a laugh, while giving me the kind of smile that you can only give when you know you have information on something that no one else does. This job is like no other you have ever had, I can guarantee you that.
I tried to play it cool, but I have to admit, I was already pretty intrigued. I could tell that he saw through my poker face and continued his sales pitch; This is not the time nor the place to go into details, but I´ll leave you my card, and hope to hear from you. But I must stress, we are on a very, very tight schedule. If you want to know more, and I hope you do, I need you to contact me no later than twenty-one hundred hours tonight.
He reached into his pocket and presented a business card and handed it to me. It was made out of real high-end paper, you could feel it on the quality, completely black on both sides with only a phone number in small white print on one of the sides. No later than 9 pm he said while still holding on to his end, looking me straight in the eye. You won´t regret it, I promise, he said and let go of the card.
I looked at it and flipped it over a couple of times, before again meeting his firm gaze.
So, whom do I ask for when I call? I asked.
My name is Berret, Jaque Barret, he said, and with that, he took a last sip of his coffee, put some money on the counter, gave Janice a thanking nod, and walked out of the door.
I looked back at Janice with a look of, what just happened. She laughed and shook her head.
I finished my lunch, and got back to HQ to continue typing ones and zeros into an excel sheet, all the while thinking about that odd conversation. I sat there at my desk, staring into the screen and realizing that I wanted more. I couldn´t see myself working like this för the rest of my life, I just couldn´t.
After my shift ended, around five o’clock, I drove home to my studio apartment and sat down on my couch and took out the card Jaque had given me. I looked at it, and reflected over my life as it was. Single, dead-end job, small apartment with nothing really exciting on the horizon. I grabbed my phone and started to dial the number. A voice answered, Hello?
Mr.Berret? I said. Sgt. Carter! The voice replied, I was hoping to hear from you. So, are you ready to join us and get back out into action? Yeah, I think so, I answered. Great! I will text you directions, meet me there at twenty-two hundred hours tonight. No later than that! Alright, I said with a small laugh, already I felt liberated. Do I need to bring anything? No, nothing, we will gear you up. He hung up.
A couple of seconds later my phone buzzed, I had gotten a text message with directions leading out to a small abandoned airstrip outside of town.
9.47 my dashboard clock read in small red numbers when I pulled in on a small dirt road next to a barn that looked as if it longed to finally give up and just collapse into a pile of debris.
A three-minute drive on the small bumpy desert road lay ahead of me before I would arrive at my destination. Soon I could see a couple of small flashing lights ahead of me. I got closer. A very impressive, and very white, private jet was standing on the runway facing south. It looked completely out of place here next to all the abandoned and unmaintained sheds, hangars, and the cracked and somewhat overgrown runway. A man in a soldier´s uniform suddenly appeared in my headlights and came walking my way, motioning me with his hands to stop. I complied and he came up to my driver-side window. ID, he said in a commanding voice. I reached for my wallet while trying to figure out what kind of soldier he was. I had never seen his insignia before that he bore on his shoulder. An encircled triangle with a thick line going straight up from the top of the triangle. I handed him my ID. He looked it over a few times while he shone a flashlight in my eyes and very closely and thoroughly compared the picture on the ID to my face. After a while, he seemed satisfied that it was me on the card, and told me in the same commanding, almost robotic, voice, that I should park my car in a small grey hangar that stood a bit further down the road and then come back to the plane when I was ready.
I did as instructed, and after had found the hangar, and parked my car I walked back the way I had come and got back to the plane. I now saw that the tailfin of the plane had the same symbol as the soldier’s insignia.
I also saw that it had a text, bending around the bottom half of the circle; ”Et ipsa scientia potestas est” - ”And knowledge itself, is power”, I thought. My Latin was a bit rusty but that one I knew.
Sgt.Carter! I knew that southern accent by now. Mr.Berret ? I replied without actually seeing him.
In here! I heard, and looked over to the stairs leading up into the plane. Come on in! He shouted.
I climbed the stairs and entered the plane. This was like no other plane I had ever been on before. The ones you see billionaires fly around in on TV. All white leather interior, dimmed light, a bar at the end, TVs, and big comfortable-looking armchairs and sofas along the sides.
I must have looked flabbergasted where I stood, and got greeted with a hearty laugh while Jaque stood up and slapped me on my shoulder. I told you, didn´t I? Like no other job you´ve ever had!
Come, sit down! Jague pointed to the armchair in front of his. What´s your poison, soldier? He asked.
Well, anything really, a scotch? I mumbled while looking around with big eyes, still trying to grasp the surroundings I was in.
Coming right up, he said while pushing a button above him. A door opened from behind the bar and another soldier, wearing the same kind of uniform as the man outside the plane had worn, entered. Sir? He asked.
Pour a big glass of scotch for the Sergeant, will you? Jaque replied. Sir! The soldier answered while fetching a bottle from behind the bar and filling up a pretty damn big drink. A couple of seconds later it was in my hand and the soldier had left us alone once more.
I think it´s about time I fill you in on the details of this job, don´t you? Jaque asked with a smile.
I nodded, agreeing while taking a sip from my glass. Well, first of, he continued, this is not a one-man job. You´re gonna be part of a team. Everyone on the team has been carefully selected after hard consideration, and is from what we have gathered, the very best at what they do, just like yourself.
A thud sounded from behind me and I saw that the stairs had been folded up and the door had been closed and secured. I suddenly heard the engines of the plane start and felt the plane slowly roll down the runway.
As I said, Jaque continued. We have compiled, what we deem, the best possible team for this mission. We have two former navy seals, Navy Lieutenant´s Watson & Hicks, two more Marines like yourself, Cpl. Hendersen & Cpl. Johnson, and last but not least, our only civilian on this mission, if you can call her that, Professor Milla Hayes, from NASA.
Well, I said. It does sound like an impressive bunch of people you´ve rounded up. What´s the occasion? Jaque laughed. Straight to the point, that´s what I like about you Sgt, he said.
The plane had come to a full stop and I could hear the jets warm up, just as they do right before takeoff.
Outside, the black hot dessert night had a majestic show of stars way up in space. How the hell did I end up here, I thought. Jaque went on, you are all gathered for what we right now have classified as a reconnaissance mission, he said. But it could turn out to be more than that, frankly – we don´t know at this very moment.
You are going to one of our locations, a research base, to see why we can´t get in contact with our personal there. We have reason to believe that there might have been some incident, maybe sabotage or perhaps worse than that still. His face was serious now.
What kind of research is done there? I asked, Where is this place?
Well, he smiled, that´s where the ”like a job you´ve never had” comes in. I´m guessing you´re pretty fed up with this intense heatwave we´ve been having lately? He said after a while, while looking out the window. The plane just then released its breaks and shot down the runway like a bullet, within seconds we were airborne.
Yeah.. I guess I said while adjusting in my seat and tightening my seatbelt.
Good, he said, ´cause where we´re going is a bit colder. ...A tad, he smiled.
A radio cracked in the speakers; Gentlemen. This is your Captain speaking, welcome onboard this flight, final destination – Orion Enterprises Research facility 3, Koettlitz Glacier – Antarctica
Antarctica?! I thought while my mouth dropped.
Jaque laughed, that´s right, Sgt. As I said, a wee bit colder. But don´t you worry, we have all the gear you´ll need down there. We just have a few stops on the way to pick up your team, then we will be on our way.
I will brief you on the mission once we are all gathered. I stared out the window and just repeated it for myself, Antarctica...
Hey, need a refill son?
We had made three more stops over the night, all on remote locations, far from any big cities. I couldn´t even guess where all the stops were made if my life depended on it. Soon the plane was filling up with people with the same awe-inspired look I had a couple of hours back when I first set foot inside. We had picked up Navy Lieutenant´s Watson & Hicks on the first stop. Watson, a tall young muscular guy with trimmed blond hair and a serious look was first in. Hicks, a shorter, but equally fit man, somewhat older, maybe in his early 30´s, followed close behind. They introduced themselves and sat down on the couch next to us, they too getting a generous drink each from the soldier behind the bar. I got the distinct feeling they had served together before, they were comfortable around each other in a way you can only be if you´ve been through tough things before.
On the second stop, we picked up Cpl. Henderson, who, upon being introduced to me by Jaque, in a flash, straightened his posture and saluted me. As did Cpl. Johnson when he came on board on the third stop.
Well, fellas, Jaque said, breaking the somewhat uncomfortable silence that had spread among us, one more stop to go before we have the full team assembled.
We could all feel the plane go in for its fourth landing, and soon we felt the power of the breaks as the plane touched down and rolled to a stop at yet another desolate location somewhere in the outskirts of nowhere.
The doors opened, and the staircase unfolded itself down unto the ground, and through the opening, a woman in her late thirties entered. She was wearing a dark pinstripe pantsuit and had her long brown hair in a tight ponytail. She had a black briefcase in one hand and a thin light coat hanging over her other arm. You could tell by her eyes, hiding behind her big glasses that she was trying to put up a tough front when being introduced, but her shyness and insecurity showed through when she took the lap around and shook everyone’s hands. Professor Milla Hayes, NASA, she said to each and everyone in a quiet voice.
The plane, after getting some fuel filled up, almost immediately turned back onto the tarmac and positioned itself for yet another take-off.
Well then, now that we all are here and properly introduced, Jaque said, let´s get down to business.
You´ve all been given the quick run-through of this recon-mission. Professor Hayes, would you like to elaborate on what we´re here for? He said, looking over her way where she sat, quietly sipping on a freshly poured drink.
Of course Mr.Berret, she said, now with a bit more authority in her voice. Gentlemen, before we continue, I´m going to need you all to sign these confidentiality agreements for me. She took out her briefcase and presented each of us with contracts to sign, They all had the triangle symbol, as well as the NASA logo on them. Our names were already marked out at the bottom, ready to be signed. to which I am presently in complete violation of, but right now, I couldn´t care less.
We all signed our names on the pieces of paper and handed them back, eager to hear what she had to say.
Ok, so now that all the formalities are out of the way, let me give you the full background, she said.
About 15 years ago, NASA satellites started to pick up some, odd signals whenever they flew over the south pole. Now, these signals were coming from outer space, and were considered odd for a number of reasons.
Firstly, that we picked them up every time we had a satellite fly over that region. Secondly, that it seemed to be a couple of different signals, as if on a loop, and whenever we compared the different signals to the next time we picked them up, they were the same. In other words, they were being repeated over and over, and because of this, it was considered intentional and intelligent. I glanced over to the other team members and they all sat there with eyes as big as dinner plates. Jaque seemed to enjoy this bit, sipping on his drink.
The now familiar roar of the engines once again was heard and we could feel that we were taking of again.
Thirdly, Professor Hayes continued, we ever only picked up these signals over the south pole. No matter when the satellites passed over, which means, that whatever was broadcasting the signal, had the same orbit, or at least, had the south poles orbit calculated so that the signal would always be pointed to the exact same location on earth, no matter where the earth itself was on its orbit around the sun, or on its axis of the obliquity. I will not bore you with the details of interstellar math, but let me assure you, even calculating a precise target for a signal at a quite small distance is hard enough, but with the distances we’re talking about in space, to send a signal from somewhere that we still haven´t been able to pinpoint, to an exact location on earth and hitting that spot over and over, that borders on the impossible.
By now we were all looking at each other in disbelief. Are you... Are you saying what I think you´re saying? Hicks asked. You could tell Professor Hayes was more comfortable now, and in her own territory, she smiled. We haven´t even gotten to the good part yet, she said and looked over to Jaque who smirked and took another sip of his drink. Please! Continue! asked Watson excitedly.
Well, as I was saying, she continued. After observing these signals, and ruling out any and all other possibilities that we could come up with, we realized we needed to study these further. We couldn´t just rely on the data from the satellites, as they only passed for a brief time on various occasions. We needed to be at the location where the signal was being broadcast to. That´s where we came in, Jaque jumped in. He stood up and walked over to the bar and refilled his glass. As you may or may not be aware of, the government sometimes makes use of privately owned corporations to help them with their, less than public, ongoings.
Black ops, Henderson whispered to himself, yet audibly. That’s right Cpl, Jaque answered, raising his glass in Henderson’s direction, Black ops!
Orion Enterprises have been known, or rather, not known if you catch my drift, to lend a hand from time to time when, delicate issues have presented themselves. This was one of those occasions. We helped fund and build the research base, we provide some of the scientists, the transportation to and from the location, and as you´ve seen onboard the plane here, the security.
Right, Professor Hayes continued. When we arrived at the base, we were extremely excited to be able to start working on this project, but when we were all set up, we only caught fragments of the signal, not nearly strong enough to analyze. It wasn´t until we wandered a bit off base that the signal picked up again.
We went out to search for a stronger signal, so that we could place an enhancer out and connect to that from the base, and that´s when we first saw it. Saw what ? I asked, now as intrigued as the rest of the team.
That´s when we first saw the pyramid, she said with a smile, and finished her drink.