February 15, 2030
Location Undisclosed, Eastern Seaboard, USA
"Fuck this place," spat Jessie. She looked up at me when I lifted an eyebrow to question her. "What? You hate this place too. That's it, I'm signing my paperwork." She shook her head fiercely, her red hair shimmering like fire. She was short, only five foot one, and maybe a hundred pounds. Not your usual military personnel.
Then again, we weren't in a normal branch of the military. We had both joined the Air Force, and were in the same flight during basic military training. She kicked ass, leading the way in everything. She never let her size hold her back. Especially when someone tried to talk down to her. She was a living fire, with a cute button nose seemingly just to throw people off.
"Jessie, we've only served 8 years. We have another year left on this station. Besides, it's just basic intel work. We just stare at pictures all day of shit that doesn't change. Stars or sand, either way. No change from day to day. Let's just finish up the year and then do something different."
She glared at me. "Stars? They made you pick up the HORUS Project, didn't they? When will you start standing up for yourself?! Anyway, it's not like we do cool shit like your dad or great-granddad did."
"You're just pissed off because yesterday was Valentine's day and you were stuck here. Yeah, they did cool shit but they died from the effects. My family is always neck deep in the shit, but that comes back to bite you in the ass. They both died of cancer."
She punched me. Hard. My arm knotted instantly, and I started massaging it and swearing up a storm.
She said "Fuck you. Besides, I'm the only person that's allowed to pick on you. Who's in charge of that Charlie-Foxtrot anyway?"
Okay, hang on. I should probably give a little more context. My name is Dante DeWisr. The family name is Welsh, from way, way back. Apparently we are directly related to one of the ancient kings of Wales. Or a Duke. Something royal, I think. Doesn't really matter.
The point is, we really are always in the shit. One of our ancestors led a small revolution. My great Grandfather was on the Enola Gay in 1945, when the bombs were dropped. My Dad was a firefighter in New York City on 9/11, and even pulled the future president out of the towers himself. Like the last four generations, I joined the military.
My Dad went Marines. He caught a lot of shit from his Dad, who was Army. Of course, his Father had been Air Force, but he was a Pilot. I joined the Air Force too, but I went in to intelligence. So the razzing began.
Even so, my family has never really been on the radar. We were never rich, or famous. We just seemed to always show up in the right place at the right time. But we always pay for it.
So, there's a lot to live up to. But there I was, just an analyst for the Air Force in 2030. The world was pretty quiet at that point in time. National relations were well settled, and Humanity was starting to look to the stars again.
As a result, I stared at computers. Sometimes at dirt and sand, sometimes at the stars. Then I quit, which would have been a disappointment, had my family not already passed on.
My Dad was eaten away by cancer from the Twin Towers, and my Mom died of heartbreak just a year after my Dad, in 2025. I never had siblings. I stared at computers before the military, during, and after the military.
I still miss my parents. My Dad retired from the Marines, then joined the Fire Department of New York. He was forced into medical retirement after 9/11. He lost a lot of his friends that day, and was never really the same. Even so, until the cancer started taking him down, we would spar.
He wasn't huge, just five seven, and maybe one hundred eighty pounds. A good sized guy, actually. I was huge by comparison, at five ten and two twenty. He was so fast though. My reach was more of a drawback, since he would duck a shot and get in under my guard fast as greased lightning.
I can grapple, and because of my inherent strength was great at ground game, but he would hit so hard that our "friendly bouts" rarely went to the ground. Well, he rarely went to the ground. He'd pulverize my ribs and laugh as I squirmed and cussed at him.
I snapped out of my recollection about my family as the elevator dinged. I slid my keycard for access and the doors opened. Jessie glared one more time. Then she turned and walked briskly off. On my floor. Shit, on my floor. As in to the HORUS Project. She wasn't cleared. She was working on another project a few floors down.
I chased after her, still rubbing my sore arm. For such a small woman she can move fast. Doors were opened a little way ahead of me, resounding with force. Heads popped up from behind dividers as we passed offices and cubicles. I ignored them and tried to catch up. She rounded the corner and slammed through the door to the HORUS project lab.
I caught up a moment later, and everything was in chaos. The lab hadn't even noticed our arrival. Several other officers were running around, arms full of binders or paper.
The main screen showed a single image. It had a trajectory map across the Milky Way from a star roughly 90 light years away. We had been observing that star because it winked out without other changes a few years back. The trajectory was clearly of an object, but there was nothing in the shot.
Actually nothing, because it cycled through every spectrum available and showed a gaping hole where something should have been. It shot out of the star system for several years, and then around 85 years ago, it had turned.
I took this in, ignoring everything else.
Jessie caught my tone and looked at me, then followed my gaze.
"Fhuuuuuuuuckk....." she said it with dread, putting a lot of emphasis in. We both understood what that meant. Then someone noticed us.
"DeWisr, get to your desk! Reven, get out of here, you're not cleared."
Jessie mutely nodded, turned, and left. I just dumbly sat at my desk.
Jessie quit by the end of the day. I went home and drank myself to sleep. That became a habit, just knowing what I did. Even worse, knowing I couldn't talk to anybody, even Jessie about what I had seen.
She later told me she started the separation paperwork the moment she sat at her desk. She encouraged me to follow suit. She had backing from some major organization and was starting her own company on the West Coast. Said she couldn't handle doing intel for the military any more.
I really should have followed her, but I stuck out that last year. It was miserable. Without her around, people kept piling work on my plate.
She would regularly call to bother me about taking a job with her. Told me to file for voluntary separation due to hardship. I always told her I would finish up my term. She always ended the call by saying the job was waiting for me.
By the end of my term, I had six different projects I was doing analysis for. I felt some malicious glee when I turned in my paperwork to my CO, and he realized he had six major projects ongoing solely through me.
The scramble was amazing to watch as I gathered my things before processing out. I called up Jessie and told her I was taking the job. Her response was simple.
She had a plane ticket waiting in my email before I even got back to my house on base. She had movers there an hour after me. I was shocked by the speed. Then I was packed up and moving to Washington State just a few hours later.
When I started my new job, I was shocked. I did literally the exact same job- staring at images of deserts that were beamed down from satellite. It was mind-numbing, grueling work.
However, there was one big difference. Not only was Jessie there as my boss, but the whole crew I worked with were kind, caring people. Work stopped being something I dreaded, and started to enjoy, because I was finally around something like family again.