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by Jeff McCoskey
An INVASIONS crossover


"My fellow Americans. This is perhaps the hardest address any President ever has to make. Yesterday, the leader of the Harrakin race, who came to our planet as friend and family, was the victim of a treacherous, brutal attack. Since then, Harrakin leadership has been usurped by a megalomaniac bent on conquest. The Harrakin as a race are more advanced than us in many ways -- except for one unfortunate respect. They have no concept of individual freedom, and blindly accept the will of their leaders. Much like the German Army served its Nazi masters during World War II.

"Since the cowardly attack on their former Emperor, they have launched exploratory attacks all around the globe. Winnipeg, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Cozumel, Port Au Prince, Cairo, Paris, London, Petrograd, Hong Kong, and Nepal have all been attacked. So far, Nepal, Hong Kong and Cozumel have fallen to the alien invaders, and battles still rage in Winnipeg and New York City.

"My countrymen and women, this is the greatest threat to our planet we have ever faced. The aliens have weapons and spacecraft far beyond even our most advanced technology. Physically, each one of them is as powerful as our stronger Omegas. There is a fleet of thousands above our planet, awaiting some signal we cannot predict to attack.

"Nevertheless, we as human beings and Omegas cannot give up our freedoms and our planet without a fight. Our best estimates put their number in the millions. We have a hundred times that in this country alone. We have the numbers and the home field advantage.

"And the fact is, we're going to need it. From our interactions with the Antarctic colony, we know the aliens to be completely, ruthlessly militaristic. Expect no mercy, no quarter, and no remorse from the aliens. There is no negotiation with mindless beings that will slaughter our children in the name of their mad leader.

"Our fighting men and women have before them the most unstoppable foe imaginable. And make no mistake, our casualties will be horrific once the battle is joined. If history shows us anything, we know that through such tremendous sacrifices we can defeat such an overwhelming foe. We need only look to the heroic struggle Russia fought against the Nazis to see what necessity and unwavering determination can yield. And if we do not find it in ourselves to follow that brave example, our losses will be that much greater."

The President paused, sipped a glass of water and closed his eyes. For a moment, it seemed he never wanted to open them again, but he suddenly put his glass down, and stared back into the camera. He drew a deep breath.

"It is with great sadness, yet with grim determination that I proclaim the following to you, the men and women that have entrusted me with this awesome, awful responsibility. Because of the unprecedented nature of this threat, and with the full blessing of Congress, I have reluctantly assumed my role as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, and I place the United States under martial law.

"The following laws are immediately enacted, and will be strictly enforced by all local police:

"One. We are immediately standing up a universal military force to meet this threat. All Active Duty units are activated at DEFCON One. All leaves, furloughs, retirements and out processings are canceled until further notice.

"All National Guard and Reserve Units are immediately activated for federal service, and will report by 1200 hours tomorrow.

"The SEEKERs are elevated to a fifth Military Branch, and its head, Brenda Washington, is emplaced on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. All Omegas, regardless of sex or age are ordered to report to their local recruiter for immediate screening for service.

"All citizens registered under Selective Service are federalized. Your local recruiters will be mustering new recruits in local schools around the country -- local media will provide details when and where to report.

"All citizens eighteen to thirty-five, not currently registered with Selective Service, are hereby eligible for the Draft. Local media will inform citizens when they must report. Due to the logistical constraints of standing up, the Draft will be deferred for two weeks. Recruiters will be unable to process volunteers not already registered with Selective Service until that time."

Clinton paused before continuing, and his eyes dropped. "In the coming war there will be no sanctuary for conscientious objectors, and in the name of our survival as a race we do not have the luxury to accommodate them. Failure to report will be punishable under military law.

"Two. Effective immediately, all commercial air travel is halted. No flights are authorized after 9pm tonight, and are prohibited until further notice. The United States Air Force assumes control of the nation's skies, and any unauthorized flights may be shot down if mistaken for alien invasion forces..."

Chip poured the last of the coffee into his "82nd Airborne" mug, thought twice, then poured half that into Brian's. Chip's normally Spartan den looked much the worse for the wear. Military uniforms were hanging from every picture, hinge, and door frame. A duffel bag, half packed, was stacked by the sliding glass door next to crates of military manuals, cases of beef jerky, and a camouflage pile of field gear. The television brought images of the Battle of New York in impossible-to-analyze detail, periodically interrupted with updates on the less pyrotechnical, but just as chaotic, riots in Atlanta. Chip had turned down the sound hours ago. He had ten hours to report to his National Guard armory. The telephone had so far refused to ring.

"I'm glad you came up Bri," said Chip, glancing at the TV.

Brian leaned onto the arm of the sofa and nursed his mug. "I knew you'd never get a barber at this hour, Sergeant Symsek." Chip rubbed his freshly-bald head with mock-military posture, and Brain had a dissociated moment where he saw his brother as Patrick Solosbee in the Alpha compound. "Roads were crazy though. The three hour drive took nine. The phones were right out."

"Folks are panicked, Bri. Can you blame them?"

"Hey if Wells pulled it off with a radio, I guess we're entitled to take it to the next level with television. And real aliens." Brian swirled his coffee listlessly, too much caffeine already raging in his system. "And a real hopeless war..." Chip cut him off.

"Woah, Bri. Give us some credit here. We've got Tempest, remember? And God knows how many other Omegas that can stand toe to toe with these bastards. And don't sell the Armed Forces short. We've been training for months with the Slappers, and the Active guys even longer. We can sure bloody their noses, once they land."


Chip slipped into his military voice. "Synchronized Longitudinally Aligned Psion Rays. Creates an inverse psion wave canceling Omegas and Harrakin psion emissions through wave interference. Dynamax developed it as an improvement over the Bashers -- Broadband Anarchic pSion Host Emitters. Where we used to scramble psion emissions through overwhelming..."

Brian impatiently waved his hands. "I used to work on that stuff. I know the wave and particle suppresser designs. I also know the wave designs needed a room-sized generator to power and cost a fortune."

"Well we've got better at it. You know we've got shoulder-fired missiles that use Slappers for targeting? Knock out their psi, then blow them up. It's a great tactical..."

"Even if we do get in a few lucky shots..."

"What do you want me to say Brian?" Chip looked over at Brian, and for perhaps the first time in his life, Brian saw anxiety in his big brother's eyes. Brian wanted to pull back his words, but his brother pushed on. "I know I'm going off to die. We've seen it all night. Those bodies flying around the explosions in New York -- they're guardsmen like me. No better trained or equipped. Those guys are holding the line with their lives, and nothing else. But we need to hold that line and if we ain't got the Omega, that's all we've got to do it with. The aliens out-tech and out power us. We just need to take out one of them for every ten, hundred of us."

Chip drank the rest of his hot coffee in one gulp. "I joined the Army knowing I could be used for some shitty conflict like Viet Nam. At least here I get to make a difference in a conflict we should fight. We have to fight. I...I just wish I had time to make proper good-byes is all."

"Mary is ..?"

"Out of town on business. With flights grounded, she'll live the war out in San Jose. I only slept with her twice Bri, and I wish to God I could again. Hell, I wish I could hear her voice." He glanced to the phone that connected to lines of communication choked with hysteria. "Bri, you need to promise to give my love to Mom and Dad. And for God's sake find a way to mend with Denise before the world dies..."

"Chip, I'm the Eye of Justice." Somehow, the thought that his brother would never know suddenly seemed impossible to tolerate. The non-sequitor jarred Chip.

"You? I thought...sonuvabitch, the camera wonder you had to crush god you're an Omega -- Bri you need to enlist!"

"No, I'm not an Omega." Brian smiled. "I get that a lot though."

"The Eye not an Omega? How is that possible?"

"I'm just real lucky, I guess. Chip if I enlist, is there any way I could get assigned to your unit?"

"First off, no, they'll never put relatives in the same unit. Second, if you are the Eye, you need to be more than a foot soldier. We've got a state full of rednecks and high school dropouts who can rise to the occasion there. There's only one Eye of Justice, and that kind of credibility is power in itself. You've got the voice of Truth, Bri, and you better believe we're going to need that in the coming weeks."

"Chip, this is way past a big brother protecting..."

"I'm not protecting you, you little twerp. Much as I want to, I can't. I'm talking tactically. The war effort needs the Eye more than it needs another body bag -- you leave that part to us. We're going to get the best and worst of the human race real soon, Bri, and we need someone like the Eye making us see it." Chip shook his head in floored disbelief.

"The Eye of Justice. Goddam Bri, that is the greatest thing I've ever heard." Pride, dread and love knotted into an angry mess that lodged in Brian's throat. He slammed his arms around his brother.


"...Three. Effective immediately, all pending legal action against officers and technicians of the Dynamax Corporation is dismissed and all charges dropped, with the exception of those who were directly involved in the vivisections. The pardoned personnel are assigned to the National Science Foundation for the duration of the war. All Dynamax assets and subsidiaries are hereby federalized and also assigned to the NSF..."

"Won't even send me off with a drink, buddy?"

Brian just shook his head. "I'm feeling pretty sober these days, even if I hadn't given it up." Greg gave a look of pained betrayal, before taking another swig of his beer. Greg's apartment looked like the same bachelor repository for electronic toys it always had. Brian had swung through Calhoun on his way back to Atlanta, and caught Greg his last night out of the barracks.

"Sounds like Martha Washington and Herr Hickman's gonna have us giving it up too. Before they kill me with the goddam PT program." Greg shook his budding beer gut. "I became an engineer so I wouldn't have to exert for a living."

Brian looked over at the pressed black uniform hanging from a ceiling speaker. "Them the SEEKER threads?"

Greg nodded without looking. "When they made the SEEKERs a military branch, all SIRECOM employees became support personnel." Greg's voice became a harsh parody of the recruiting campaign, "'I'd like something in computers.' This Dynamax thing just gets richer and richer. God, if I'd studied just a little harder, I could be working for Overtech right now."

"At least they made you an officer..." offered Brian lamely.

"Lieutenant Austin, reporting for duty s-hir!"

"I'm beginning to see what's so attractive about an all-volunteer army..."

Greg laughed, put down his beer, and reached for his boots and polish. "Hey man, I'm one of the Nazi Youth compared to some of the inmates."

Brain started. "They're drafting convicts?"

"You bet they are. Biggest concentration of known, documented OMEGAs in the country. You won't believe how many times I've seen 'The Dirty Dozen' over the last few days, either."

"Isn't that a little unsafe?" Brian had no sooner said it than he realized his own thickness.

"Less safe than a thousand warships orbiting Earth you mean?" Brian nodded, snorted in agreement. "These guys are just what the Army wants -- killers with experience. They've got some high-powered trainers too. Helps that under martial law, they can kill ones that won't toe the line. Actually did it to one poor bastard -- claimed to be a conscientious objector. Prob'ly just afraid of dying. Oops! Anyway, no problem with discipline now. Good thing too -- we're down to 50% security. Most of us are working on converting suppressers to Slappers."

"Uh, Greg, should you be telling me all this? I could be an alien spy, you know."

"Not likely. I've got a Detector under my belt." Greg flipped it around. "24-hour wear. I'd'a got buzzed if you were putting off psions. Got it tuned to filter human Omegas. It buzzes, I punch Mr. Injection button, puts me in a coma to avoid telepathic scans." Greg was deceptively non-chalant.

Brian sat straight up, disturbing PB, the dog. "Are you serious?"

"That's seriously what they told us, yeah. Who the fuck knows if it's real or not?" Greg put down his boots and looked across at Brian. "That's the part that gets me the worst, you know? All the lying and deception. Maybe the detector tunes out Omegas, maybe it doesn't. Maybe it's a coma, maybe it's death. Maybe the Slappers work, maybe they don't. Maybe the convicts get pardoned after the war, maybe not. We can't even be allowed to know the truth, 'cause it could be psi'd from us. There's just so much deception necessary to get anything done. I could even smile through PT if that didn't have to be part of it."


"...Four. The coming war will shatter our nation's infrastructure. There will be no way to avoid food, water, fuel and medical shortages based on geography and tactical operations. All citizens are hereby ordered to limit consumption of food, water, and fuel to limits prescribed by local authorities. Medical care will be rationed for non-combat related injuries. Because of the critical nature of these resources, looters, thieves and abusers of resources will be punished under military law, up to and including execution..."

Brian knew he'd used way too much gas making his trip to Tennessee and back. He'd siphoned off Chip and Greg, and paid $100 for a few gallons to limp back to his trailer park. Rationing or no, there was no way he wasn't going to talk to Chip before he mustered. Coming back, the roads were relatively clear -- it was out of Atlanta that was clogged. Stalled, broken down or out-of-gas cars littered the side of the highway, most stripped of tires, cargo, and useable parts. The pavement between them were bumper to bumper with vehicles not yet out of fuel. The brilliant orange and red of turning leaves were lost on the humanity in the sea of steel and fumes. Where could they go anyway? Can't drive off planet.

The tensest moment had come just outside Calhoun. A woman and child had broken down and tried to flag Brian for assistance. Brian spotted the man's rifle jutting above the passenger seat as he slowed, so he had quickly accelerated past. A sharp crack had preceded a thump from his tailgate. Brian didn't slow down for anything after that.

Brian had finally arrived at the Outer Loop before dusk. Reports of rioting along Martin Luther King Boulevard forced him to take the long way around Atlanta, putting him back at his trailer park after dark. Atlanta lit up like a beacon to the east, and the sounds of sirens were near constant.

Brian pulled to a stop in front of his trailer, profoundly relieved to have finished the harrowing journey. The door to his trailer home was swaying gently in the evening breeze, wide open. Brian paled under his dashboard lights. He killed the engine then bolted for his trailer. Inside, it was mostly as he left it. A cursory glance revealed the television, stereo, and furniture were all present and undamaged in the den area. Brian opened the door to his bedroom, where his video equipment was stored. That too was untouched, as was the Suppresser he had taken from the Alpha compound. All his drawers and closet door were opened, however. The Eye of Justice urban camouflage hung undisturbed and hidden among his clothing.

Brian wandered back through the cramped den to the kitchen. His refrigerator was wide open, and empty. The freezer door on top also hung ajar, stripped even of ice trays. Brian sat heavily on his kitchen chair. He cast a weary eye towards his battery drawer and noticed it too had been emptied.

With sudden inspiration, Brian shot up and darted to the window. He looked out at the overgrown weed pile behind his plot. His dirtbike was still there, probably because he had chained it to the trailer, but the gas cap had been pried off.

Brian filled a glass with water, then slowly strolled back to his bedroom. He popped a tape from the bottom of his editing console, and slipped it into place in the master slot. After rewinding, he saw a bird's eye view of Beverly and Saul nervously rifling his bedroom. Beverly and Saul were the retired couple from Michigan that lived in the trailer down and over from Brian. They looked pained, and were completely silent, never speaking or even looking at one another as they made a cursory search of Brian's belongings. They left the room with half a box of poptarts. Brian stared at the static footage from his violated bedroom, still taped after the initial intrusion auto-started the tiny security remotes. Eventually, Brian rewound the tape and pressed 'erase,' as his stomach grumbled.


"...Five. You may recall or have heard stories of blackouts from World War II, to prevent bombers from finding targets. A blackout is not proof against today's technology, and doubtless would be ineffective against alien technology as well. Instead, as of this Presidential Order, all citizens living in the city limits of a city of population greater than 10,000 will implement a 'white out.' All lights are to burn, with highest wattage bulbs, during all hours of darkness. We cannot hope to hide our cities from the enemy. With a white out we can at least hide our population concentrations within the cities..."

Brian forced his way through the surging mass of humanity in Peachtree Plaza. Every building around the block-wide coopted government area, from the second floor up, glowed unnaturally bright. Despite the incredible population of the Plaza, everyone was illuminated. The feeling was one of being in a spotlight, everywhere you went. The mob was loud with fear, overlaid with painfully amplified entreaties from the governor and policemen and public service broadcasts.

The media had stopped reporting deaths in the frequent riots that seemed to come every night, but it wasn't hard to imagine hundreds of people suffocating in the panicked masses. Some were there in an ill-advised effort to get relief from the fear. Some were there to use the gatherings as an excuse to loot nearby buildings for food, batteries, guns, anything. Many were there to prey on each other. Brian had had to clutch onto his satchel, which was pulled almost constantly. He'd smashed his fist into one persistent would-be thief, and it didn't even start a fight. The man had just let go and looked for someone else.

Most were there simply because it was happening, and there was nothing else they could do but cower in their beds in the face of a possible night attack.

Police had initially tried to break things up with tear gas. This had panicked the mob, causing five deaths in the subsequent chaos. Plus it had used up ammunition they might need to fight the aliens. Since then, they had resorted to riot gear and clubs, and the occasional pistol for looters.

Brian glanced around and jerked his satchel out of yet another invading pair of hands. His biggest problem now was being mistaken for a looter and killed. Brian's target was the tall sky scraper with the twelve-story atrium-like top that now glowed like a light hat. It was the Turner Communications building, and the city hub of the Emergency Broadcast System. The heavy-duty tower relays and satellite dishes for the national feed were actually just outside Atlanta, and under heavy military guard. The Turner Building was just the retrans station for the city.

A phalanx of police behind plastic shields ringed the building. Behind the ring of tired uniformed men, most of the ground level windows had been broken out, as seemed to be standard for Atlanta these days. What Brian could see of the once-stately lobby was devoid of furniture or anything useful. Angry would-be looters had taken their aggressions out on the corporate art and walls, before the police had established their cordon.

Brian worked his way around to the loading dock side, where a slight breeze wafted towards the building. From his satchel, he pulled a pair of motorcycle goggles, and a damp towel. He unwrapped a soda can-sized cylinder from the towel, pulled the pin, and dropped the CS grenade at his feet. As thick, pungent smoke billowed up around him, he pulled the goggles on and slapped the towel over his mouth and nose. The mob erupted in hysteria, believing it to be a police attack. From the concealing cloud, Brian tossed his other stolen grenade to the line of policemen, who were not wearing their masks.

As his skin prickled and burned, Brian forced his way to the line. He was knocked from his feet twice by fleeing people, blinded with gas and smoke. Brian's breath got shallower, and a foul, sharp taste invaded his mouth. He pressed forward, got clubbed twice, then broke through. Glancing at the line behind him, Brian saw only hunched, dark shapes in the thick, greenish haze. He ran for the broken windows of the loading dock.

Brian piled the wet towel on top of the contaminated clothes in the trash bin. He was now wearing his urban camouflage, without hood. His head was still soaking wet from the bathroom sink as he'd tried to wash the gas from his hair and skin. Even in the basements, all lights glowed. Brian seemed to have the brightly-lit floor to himself. He was sure the communications equipment level would be well guarded, but the manpower couldn't be everywhere. Physical plant was relegated to regular patrolling, it seemed.

His lungs still felt as if they were operating at half capacity. With wheezing breath, he unerringly found the computer controlled lighting system. Simply a matter of finding the appropriate wire runs. At the industrial interface panel, Brian surveyed the cable runs above his head. He dropped his satchel and pulled out a laptop. One plug he fed to the lighting panel input port. A second ended in a coax wire splice, which he crimped onto a blue and white cable. The screen faded to life, casting a blue-gray light on his intent features. With one window, Brian downloaded to the lighting panel. Another synched to the Emergency Broadcast feed for the city. Brian connected a microphone to the computer as his programs executed.

The mass of humanity in Peachtree Plaza seemed unaffected by the chaos behind Turner Tower. Brilliant light cast the crowd's desperation in sharp relief, despite the attempted calming of the loudspeakers. In the center of the Plaza, Turner Tower winked to black, rendering the crowd in dramatic shadows. Most of the mob quieted in fearful expectation. A few screamed. It illuminated again in stages, rejoining its bright neighbors. Then it flickered to black again, except for a block-wide pattern of lights, three quarters up on each of its four sides. The pattern formed a crude scales-and-eyeball, complete with a blackened office for a cornea. The crowd hushed.

Without preamble, a computer-synthesized voice broadcast throughout Atlanta on the Emergency Broadcast System, including over the amplified speakers in Peachtree Plaza. "ATLANTA, THIS IS THE EYE OF JUSTICE. YOUR FEAR IS UNDERSTANDABLE, BUT IT IS MISPLACED. NO HARM WILL COME TO THIS CITY, SO LONG AS I AM WATCHING. AS LONG AS MY EYE GLOWS ON TURNER TOWER, YOU ARE SAFE FROM ATTACK. USE THIS TIME! USE YOUR HEADS!


Turner Tower flickered into a negative of itself -- a pillar of light with darkened offices forming the scales of the Eye of Justice. It was visible throughout downtown Atlanta, a towering, black sigil of protection in a field of white obelisks against the night sky. The governor quickly took the microphone when he got sound back and seized on the Eye's comments. Eventually, the mob retired peacefully.


Clinton squared his chin, blinked into the camera. His eyes were wet with passion.

"Many of these measures are so against our nature as a country and a people, I despaired of their enaction. Many of these measures go against my own deeply-held beliefs. But make no mistake. This is the direst threat to the human and Omega races the world has ever seen. In the face of this threat, our lives, our sons, even our beliefs might need to be sacrificed for our very survival. As your elected leader, as a human being, I have to make that sacrifice. We all do.

"Throughout the course of the next days and weeks, I will maintain communications through the Emergency Broadcast System. The United States has already assumed a leadership role in the world's defense, through the UN and as an equal partner to China. We will continue to work closely with all the nations of Earth to resist the alien menace.

"America, hug your children and your loved ones close to you. We are thrust into a conflict of unimaginable horror and human cost. Our own problems of economy, race, crime, and politics are dwarfed by this threat -- and only by putting these distractions aside and pulling together can we meet it. As humans we will meet it, as we must. With sadness, courage and determination. We can not, we must not give our planet to the alien invaders."

Clinton again looked down. "God Bless us all, for we will certainly need His guidance in the weeks to come."


Brian sat on his trailer steps, and looked up at the night sky. The darkness was thick with unfamiliar, strangely colored stars. Trailer homes all around him glowed with light, though the crowding dogwoods rendered the effect much less impressive than center city. The Emergency Broadcast System updates murmured into the night from every open window. They had become the night's soundtrack.

The authorities had surely found his lighting program by now, yet the scales continued to stay dark on the bright Atlanta skyline. The Eye of Justice's speech was being replayed every hour on the local feed. They were desperately embracing his lie.

Brian searched the night sky for any sign of movement, of stars screaming earthward, alien weapons blazing death. Sooner or later, they'd come, destroying his credibility with the millions of innocent lives. All he'd done was make the waiting period more civil, maybe a bit more fruitful. But if his brother could give his life protecting people from aliens, Brian really couldn't give less than his reputation protecting people from each other. Just another casualty of war.

Movement drew Brian's eyes back to Earth. Approaching along a well-lit road, he recognized Beverly and Saul. Saul was carrying several full plastic shopping bags. "Evening Mr. and Mrs. Rousseau," Brian said quietly.

The excellent lighting caught their miserable looks. "Brian, we've done a terrible thing," said Saul. "You've been a good, quiet neighbor for us, and we...we were scared, and that's no excuse, but we saw you leave and figured you weren't coming back..."

"These are hard times -- we've all done things we regret. You don't need to explain anything, Saul." Beverly looked on the point of tears. "Would you like to join me for dinner?"

About this time every year I trot out a teaser for the sidekick story. Why break with tradition?

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