B2 — 8. Dark Secrets Pt. 2

“Oh,” he started, blinking rapidly.  “I apologize … I guess you could say that.”  He groaned, rubbing his left shoulder. “It just hit me all at once.  You mentioned red tape … that’s all I’ve been dealing with the last forty-two hours—even before The Oscillation.  I’d had quick power naps between calls and reports, but for the most part, it’s been non-stop.”

He rubbed his bald head with a sad smile.  “It’s not like you haven’t had your fair share of rough times—right, so, onto the intel.  To begin, I don’t expect you to be ready to start this until you’ve slept and a few other things are prepared.

“It’s about,” he pulled back his sleeve to reveal a golden watch, “0715—so, I’d say sundown is around 2000.  No—that’s not enough time. To get a jet ready and the proper gear—plus convincing the others … it can wait at most a day and a half.”

“Day and a half for what?”  Rachel rubbed her neck, shifting her hair to the opposite shoulder.  “You’re making plans for an event I have no details on—I can’t explain it to the others if I don’t know anything.”

“Right,” Tom mumbled.  He opened an energy drink and chugged what seemed half the contents.  Smacking his lips, he rubbed the top of the first file, breathing through his teeth; finally, he picked it up and slid it to her.  “Follow along while I explain; this is going to get pretty insane.”

Rachel settled herself in for a story as she opened the file; her eyes narrowed while she read through the documents and studied the pictures.

“Do you understand Military time?”

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“Just do normal A.M. and P.M.”  Rachel responded, flipping through the pages.

“Right, well—on Wednesday, at approximately ten-twenty-four P.M., an hour and eleven minutes after The Oscillation, we were made aware of another strange phenomenon.  These are pictures taken at High Rolls, New Mexico, population five-hundred fifty-eight.

“As you can see, the entire settlement was surrounded by the same type of unidentified substance as The Oscillation, only in a domed sphere that cut it off from the surrounding area.  A few residents managed to run outside of the barrier as this event set up; they stated that it was forming the moment The Oscillation started and solidified after an hour … somewhat solidified, that is.”

Rachel’s lips sunk as she read further down the report.  “Residents that managed to get outside the barrier before ten-thirteen couldn’t get back in; if they touched the barrier, then they’d instantly teleport to the opposite side of the town.  Everything inside became completely indistinct as the rippling colors solidified.”

Tom nodded.  “It lasted exactly twenty-three minutes before the dome cracked and shattered into dust; there was no known or unknown energy or material found from the dome shattering.  It’s as if the material vanished into thin air…”

Her emotional side squirmed as she read the next part of the report.  “This is real?” She muttered.

“Every horrifying detail,” Tom said, scratching the back of his hand.

“Fifty-three residents left the dome by the time it solidified, leaving five-hundred and five people inside; using the statistical value of changed individuals during The Oscillation, at least three to four of them were likely affected by The Oscillation in some fashion.  What was found inside were…”

He licked his lips, nose twisting in disgust, “Four-hundred and thirty-three people … two-hundred and eighty female and one-hundred and fifty-three male; it looks as if they were forced into some form of satanic death ritual.”

Rachel coldly examined each brutal picture, as Tom explained.

“From what forensics determined; they were skinned alive, and it was done in a manner to make sure they’d live.  Their skin was stretched across an unknown form of ritualistic carved black colored wood with a harness of strange green leather and extremely durable unknown plants that comprised the device; there were foreign symbols of unknown origin written across them; the azure-colored paint used is from some form of strange plant that hasn’t been documented.

“There are pits that were filled with the blood and organs of the citizens; it seems to be mixed with several other unknown liquids that are being analyzed.  The cleaned bones and dug blood pits were placed in some form of design that no one’s been able to make sense of; it appears to be methodically placed, though.  We took detailed aerial and close pictures of the design before trying to put back together each victim to determine causes of death and identity. We still have teams reassembling the remains.

“From what remains have been pieced together, it appears the victims were eaten alive after skinned, and by the teeth marks on the bones, it appears the culprits had serrated fangs.  After they died, it’s speculated that the remaining blood and innards were dumped into the holes. From the tracks, it’s clear that whatever did this had five-fingered, six clawed feet and two tails that dragged along the dirt; they could be anywhere from six to nine feet tall, and were powerful enough to rip apart a fire truck.”

He swallowed, clearing his throat before continuing.  “Most of the structures were left standing, and it seemed like the people were gathered together over several hours.  There are signs of struggle; guns seem to have been fired, but there aren’t any other corpses other than human … except for one male Rhino-type Beastkin that was skinned and placed in the center of the ritual.  His horns seemed to have been cut clean off in a single stroke; there are no serrated markings on the bones, and there are no signs of it in the town. It could have been a trophy.”

Rachel’s brow furrowed.  “Wait, didn’t you say the event lasted exactly twenty-three minutes?  How did it take several hours to gather them if the event only lasted twenty-three minutes?”

Tom acknowledged her question with a nod.  “That’s another one of the mysteries of this event; it’s clear that all of this was done within two days by the still-functioning clocks inside houses.  While outside, only twenty-three minutes had passed, inside, two days, and none of the horrors could be heard or seen from the outside.

“It seems like they first destroyed anything that was producing high volumes of sound, which gives the impression they might be sensitive to specific ranges of frequency; however, none of that seemed to help the residence.

“We also have no clue how to explain the strange circumstances of how they were gathered except through some form of manipulative means.”

He looked up at her as she studied a massive crystal structure.  “Ah, I should backtrack a little … residents that managed to escape said that a sizeable immaterial diamond-shaped crystal appeared out of thin air in the center of town; it was tinted a dark brown with a faint red glow surrounding it.

“Inside it looked like there was a cave; as you can see, there are pictures that two of the residents managed to take before escaping the dome; crowds began to run away after thirty minutes, when the crystal started to pulse, causing residents to feel uncomfortable around the immediate area and forced them back.

“Through the tracks we were able to determine that there were only about seven or eight creatures that appear to start at the crystal.  There are also signs that they may have taken the remaining seventy-two residents with them, and a great many possessions seem to be missing as well, mostly technology.  There are no clues as to how we might mount a rescue or if they have any means to return. The crystal is gone, and so are any answers we might obtain.”

Tom looked up at her gravely.  “What are your thoughts on the first incident?”

“First incident … these pictures … they’re disgusting,” she muttered.  “If I wasn’t using Emotional Detachment, then I might even throw-up.  I kicked Conner in half … punched men so hard they exploded against my fist—but this … this is just disturbing.

“Carefully skinning hundreds of people alive before eating them … while they’re still alive, and using their remains in some dark ritual; they must have had some means of stopping people from taking their own lives.  I think the likelihood of them having mind-controlling abilities is high but on this massive of a scale … that’s terrifying.

“All of this looks like it’s … I don’t even think they’d show this in any kind of horror film.  The methods they must have used; it’s sick, and to do all of this in just two days … to capture, and then perform all of this with only seven or eight individuals—I can’t wrap my head around it.”

“You’re thinking more tactically rather than emotionally … yes, from a practical standpoint, it doesn’t make much sense.  They’d have to be extremely efficient; there’s precision, purpose, and method to this that makes my skin crawl. They couldn’t have slept, they couldn’t make a single mistake, and for several creatures of this size to eat hundreds of humans.  There are signs of struggle, but only initially … it doesn’t add up using conventional logic.”

Rachel nodded, studying the different pictures of the ritual and pictures of the creature’s tracks.  “Were there any pictures taken of them?”

“No, all power was cut when the town became inaccessible, it seems; so, all live cameras without backup power were cut.  Some cars were left on, but none had active cameras that recorded, and we found no cell phone left in the entire town. Almost everything electronic-based was taken; including the dead equipment.”

She glared at the picture of the savaged fire truck; large five-fingered claw marks were raked across the side of a ripped off chunk.  I might be able to destroy a fire truck like that if my Lunar Pool was full and it would be easy in moonlight … depending on the phase of the moon, but the speed that they accomplished this.  Would I be a match against something like this? What about the method they used to get compliance from the citizens; would it affect me? I don’t know…

Her blood began to run hot again.  Lunar Pride says bring it on, but Risk Assessment tells me to stay away.  Could these be the creatures that started The Oscillation? Could it have been a byproduct of whatever they did to get here?  Why attack a small town in the middle of nowhere, though? Why do this disgusting and painfully precise ritual? Could it be linked to The System?  Relica was talking about achievement-based abilities; maybe this could be related?

“You haven’t already considered aliens?”  Rachel asked unironically as she spread out a few of the pictures.

Tom took in a deep breath, rubbing his temple as he looked at them.  “We haven’t ruled anything out, and no, no aliens in area fifty-one; it’s just a cutting edge engineering technology site.”

“They’re gone from this site, though; which means…”  Rachel paused as she flipped through the stack of papers.  “There’s another site.” She stopped on a satellite image of a similar dome.

“Yes,” Tom moaned, rolling his neck.  “Once we discovered this incident, we had our satellites scour the globe for similar imagery.  Mutumbo, Angola … we’re sending a team out there to figure out what happened, but that’s still under investigation.  Turn to the next page.”

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Rachel’s eyes narrowed as she looked at a picture of another crystal.  This crystal was oval-shaped and was shaded dark green and brown with a dim sage glow surrounding it.  It appeared like there was a dense jungle inside. “My first thought is that it’s a teleport crystal, but is it two way or one?”

“My thoughts too,” Tom muttered, “as crazy as that sounds.  This is in Billings, Montana … we’re talking about a population of over a hundred thousand people.  We cannot let what happened in New Mexico happen here. We haven’t had an incident like this since Nine-Eleven.

“It might just be a gate to the Mutumbo site, but it could also be a gate to a different dimension or world across the stars, like Stargate … it could be a million things.  However, what has been observed is that it’s a threat. We’ve already sent a Green Beret team in five hours ago, but they haven’t reported back.”

“So,” Rachel whispered, “people can go through it?”

“At least this one, we can.  However, only five people can enter; the team was able to leave and reenter at will, and there were no hostile targets on the other side by the crystal.  It’s shaped and colored different than the first, which is something to note, and it has acted differently than the previous one.

“Like I said, I can wait a day and a half for you to recover, but I need you four to see what we’re dealing with if the worst case happens and the Green Berets are killed; we don’t even know if you’d be able to get in if they were dead.  Just having you near in case anything were to go wrong would be optimal, though. Your abilities give you a solid edge over normal humans, and might be what we need since The Oscillation caused your changes … there’s just a lot of factors that we need answers to.”

Rachel stared at the image in silence as Tom finished.  This is way further than left-field; I shouldn’t be surprised this could happen … I’m a freaking human-hare.  This is a heck of a lot more dangerous than I envisioned, though. We have no support; the moment we go in, we’re probably going to be on our own, and we don’t know if it will vanish on us like the first, but the evidence from the New Mexico incident shows it’s at least possible.

What if they had to do that ritual to get back?  No, I don’t think that was its purpose. Tom’s right, we need answers … to think this is being kept hidden from the public.  If these crystals can just appear out of nowhere and separate an area from any outside help while a hostile force attacks them … this is a massive issue.  Extra-dimensional creatures, aliens, what the heck kind of world is this now?

“Tom … what if this is some kind of declaration of war?  You’re not sending us in to forge a treaty, right?”

His lips pursed at her question.  “I don’t know, Rachel; all I need you to do is get us actionable intelligence.  You don’t need to decide on treaties, but if you need to fight to get out, then do it.  We need to know what’s on the other side, and if it’s the same for every crystal; there’s been at least two confirmed incidents involving these crystals.  We need to know who, what, where, when, and why … we have questions when we need answers.”

This is a lot bigger than I imagined…

“I’ll have to talk to the others about this … about a lot of things that this opens up.  Thank you for giving me the time to sort through it. Will you be here when we wake up?”

Tom nodded.  “Yes, I’ll be making arrangements, and I still have a lot of other duties I need to address, but I’ll need some sleep soon, as well.  I’m going to talk to the president and have him postpone your psych evaluation until this mission is through. You’ll need to go through it—all the Mythickin and Legendkin will, at the very least.”

She sighed.  “I understand, but if I can make a suggestion; I’d really prefer dealing with Richard and Julia, the two doctors we met at the hospital.”

“I’ll see what I can do, but that part is mostly outside my jurisdiction; I can get it delayed, but the FBI is mostly handling that.”

She rose to her feet, quickly organizing the files and compiling them into a single folder.  “Thanks, Tom; I’ll get in touch with you after I’ve talked to the others.”

She waited for his nod before walking out, leaving the drinks and pen on the table.  How did an ordinary college girl with sister-in-law issues get wrapped up with a top-secret military mission?  Yet, Lunar Pride is sparking like I’ve hit the jackpot…

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