ENTER THE MACHINES
The wintery day may have been cold in northern Virginia but Joseph could feel the heat from the building ablaze a good five yards away from him. The wind was strong and it was one of the few times he was not to blame as it was natural this day. He watched as firefighters worked to try to stop the blaze or at least contain it. Joseph glanced over his shoulder to see the small group huddled together and talking among themselves. He knew each of them – members of the same squad he worked with on the U.S. Super Soldiers for the last ten months. Joseph especially noticed his brother Augustus in the group. It has been three months since Augustus was given command of the squad. When he noticed a particular black sedan pull up, Joseph looked back at the burning building. He knew all too well who the car was bringing to the scene. He took in a deep breath then slowly exhaled.
After two minutes, a sharp voice came from behind him. “So what is your account of what happened here?”
Joseph took a deep breath. “I’m sure they told you.”
Cole stepped in front of him to look him directly in the eye. He showed the fire at his back was not even a concern to him. “I asked you, Blake!”
Joseph took a breath before he spoke. “Mutants attacked this place. They claimed to be after some plans. And they escaped with that vanishing act they can pull.”
Cole stepped closer so he could speak in a whisper and Joseph would be able to hear him. “Did they get anything?” His tone could be a cross between concern and anger but Joseph always had a hard time figuring Cole out.
“I don’t know. Look, the mutants I fought in Miami last year pulls that vanishing act and now we run into a few of them that does the same thing.” He noticed Cole’s expression had not changed. “I’m not sure they truly were after whatever they sought so much as they wanted it destroyed. What’s so important here for mutants anyway?”
Cole did a quick look around then returned his gaze to Joseph. “Classified.” As Joseph was about to speak, Cole cut him off. “I’ll answer that question back at headquarters. Head back there now. My team got this now.”
Joseph turned and walked over to where his team was loading into a large transport vehicle. His brother was normally the first one on and it was no exception. By the time he reached the transport only the youngest member of the team had not already got on.
Lydia Taylor was the youngest and newest member of the squad. She was barely over eighteen. Lydia always struck Joseph as being too eager and a bit of an attitude. However by looks one would not think so as she looked just like how Joseph imagined all high school cheerleaders look. Blonde hair and blue eyes. “Playing teacher’s pet again?”
Joseph just eyed her then replied the only thing he felt like saying at the moment. “Shut up and get in so we can leave.” Joseph looked back to see Cole as usual taking command of the situation with even the firefighters. It struck Joseph as odd since it was a civilian facility. Normally he would see Cole work side-by-side unless it was some federal government situation. He got into the transport and closed the door behind him. He sat down in the last seat remaining. Joseph made eye contact with Augustus who gave him a slight head shake then looked away. Joseph knew by now that meant they would not speak about anything until later so he wondered if Augustus knew what Cole was worried about being taken.
Two hours later, Joseph along with the rest of the team walked into the briefing room where Cole sat at one end of the large table to the right of Joseph’s father. It was not normal for Randale Blake to sit in on a debriefing. Joseph then noticed there were others as well. He recognized Kurt Wade and Jason Hunter but not the other two in the room. One of the two was an older man who seemed to be about the same age as his father. Joseph did feel like he has seen this one somewhere before but could not place it. The other he was sure he never seen before Joseph would have guessed as being late teen or very early twenties. He looked at Augustus who gave him a shrug before he went to sit down.
Randale barked, “Hurry up and take a seat!” After they were all seated, he said while gesturing to the two, “Everyone, this is Kenneth Cabarini the CEO of Cabarini Industries and his son Edward. You know, Cabarini Industries owns the building you let the mutants blow up this afternoon.”
Joseph then realized he had seen the elder one on television a few times. Joseph looked at his father and interjected, “We didn’t let them blow up anything. We did everything we could.”
Randale gave him a hard stare. “Silence!” He looked at Augustus. “You’re leader of Shadow Strike Squad so you tell me.”
Augustus first looked at Joseph and again gave a subtle shake of his head. Joseph understood what that meant. He and Augustus had a way of communicating without speaking a word to each other. Augustus turned back to their father. “We actually had them then suddenly they vanished in a flash of light then next thing we knew the explosion.” Augustus looked at the elder Cabarini. “I’m sorry we couldn’t save your building but at least none of your employees were hurt in the attack.” Augustus looked back at Randale. “And with that said, isn’t it highly irregular for a civilian to be sitting in on our debriefing?”
Cole was the one to speak as he spoke to Randale. “I think we need to tell them the full story.” After Randale nodded, Cole looked at them. “This can’t leave the room. Cabarini Industries in partnership with Hunter Enterprises is developing a new weapon to aid in the war with the mutants. The building they attacked had the plans for the weapon.”
Lydia asked while she eyed Jason, “Hunter Enterprises? Any relation?”
Jason replied, “My uncle owns the company.”
Kenneth Cabarini spoke up next. “It’s a partnership to develop the mutant hunters. Hunter handles the electronics side of the project.”
Augustus asked, “Mutant hunters? What’s that?” As there was a silence, Augustus had a change of expression as he suddenly glared at the door behind Randale. He quickly jumped up from his seat.
Lydia who sat next to Augustus asked, “What’s up?”
“Something big and metal just moved behind that door.”
Randale said, “Stand down! We know there’s something back there!”
Joseph watched as Kenneth smiled then walked to the door to open it. Joseph glanced at Edward who looked to him without any kind of expression. Joseph looked back to Kenneth opening the door to see a large figure in the doorway. The figure was roughly nine feet tall and almost looked human except for the silver eyes and stiff movement as it moved into the room. Joseph noticed the figure stopped next to Jason Hunter and looked at him for a moment before turning to face front.
Lydia asked, “What in the hell is that?”
Augustus who did not take his eyes away from the figure said, “It’s a robot.”
Kenneth gave a small grin. “It’s actually an android to be technical about it. But how did you know that even before he entered the room?”
Randale answered, “My son here has the power of magnetism.”
Kenneth looked at Augustus. “Your son?” He gave a small smile that Joseph was not sure was actually sincere. Kenneth said in a slightly lower tone, “But he’s white.”
Randale stood so he could look him in the eye directly. “Yes he is and my son. I adopted him and I raised him. He’s my son.”
The android turned to Randale swiftly. As it began to raise a hand, it suddenly stopped and lifted off the ground. It was held motionless. Joseph already knew what happened.
Kenneth said to Randale, “I didn’t mean any disrespect.”
After he gave Randale a quick grin, Randale looked at Augustus. “Do you mind putting their machine – I mean their android down, son?” He paused briefly then added while looking at Kenneth, “Gently. I think it cost them a lot to make them.”
After he returned the android to the ground, Augustus said, “If that thing even thinks of raising a hand to a member of my family again, I’ll crush it then put it somewhere you wouldn’t think was physically possible.”
While he noticed Cole had a subtle grin, Joseph looked at Randale. “Wait just one damned minute! You said ‘them’!”
Randale nodded. “They are building an army of them.”
Kenneth said, “Yes. The mutants believe we’re still in the design phase but we are about to begin testing. They sought to destroy the plans. As long as they didn’t get the plans to study themselves, it did them no good. Very soon we’re about to introduce the mutants to a brand new nightmare.”
Joseph noticed the smile on Kenneth but the ever silent Edward continued to show no emotion at all. He then looked around the room to see if he could read any of the others by expression. While he was able to tell pretty much what each person was thinking, Joseph ended his scan on Lydia who just looked down into her lap.
A week later in California, Nicola sat on the grass with her laptop typing away when she noticed someone got into her sunlight. She looked up to see Lacey who looked down on her. Without speaking, Nicola went back to typing.
“Are you still planning on going forward with this story, Nicola?”
Without stopping from her typing, Nicola nodded. After a few seconds, she noticed Lacey had not moved. “It needs to be told.”
Lacey sighed then sat down next to Nicola. “If your story is true then I agree with you. But you need proof of the existence of this hate group called the Discord.”
Nicola stopped her typing to stare at Lacey. “They tried to fucking recruit me!”
Lacey shook her head. “We need more than that. If they are as big as they claimed then we need proof. For all we know, they can be just a few uninformed people.”
“I don’t care. Someone needs to expose them.”
Lacey reached over and closed the laptop. “You’re not thinking.” After Nicola looked at her with anger, she continued, “Listen to me. You’re not thinking right. They tried to recruit you because of your position as assistant editor of the paper and they knew not to approach me as I have been very public in voicing my stance. So why not let them recruit you?”
Nicola could not believe her ears. “Are you insane? They said they hate all people with powers. They are even claiming to be responsible for killing that little girl who showed she had the power to grow plants. Plants for crying out loud! And aren’t you the one who told me not to speak such hatred around you?”
Lacey nodded with a smile. “But if you get on the inside, you can find out a lot more information and get the proof you need. And if they are truly responsible for that girl’s death then you can find that proof too.”
Nicola could just say, “They sicken me.”
“Good,” Lacey returned. “Don’t forget that while you go undercover.”
Cole stood outside the desert of Nevada. While it was cool out for the desert being winter, it was still warmer than the temperatures he left behind in the DC area. He was standing flanked by armed military police. He watched as a familiar black jet descended from the clear blue sky. As the jet got close to the ground, it changed to vertical landing. No matter how many times he witnessed the SR-71D make the maneuver, he still found a slight awe in it. The jet did not engage the state of the art cloaking device since it was not a required this time. When the engines were shut off, he watched the landing ramp lower on the back and a familiar group exited led by Augustus Masters.
Cole nodded at Augustus when their eyes met then Augustus led his team over to Cole. Cole said, “Remember what you’re about to see is still classified.”
Lydia looked around as she said, “So Area 51 does exist. Do we get to see the aliens?”
Cole shook his head. “Don’t believe the tabloids, kid.” He looked at the SR-71D then said, “However, that jet is now back where it came from.” He looked back at them. “Follow me and don’t wander off.”
“I doubt we’re here to see the construction of another jet,” Augustus said as he eyed Cole.
Cole nodded. “Remember those plans the mutants were after?” After Augustus nodded, Cole said, “Follow me.” Cole walked away from the buildings. The walk took them about ten minutes and during the walk he listened to the small talk between members of the team. Cole got the impression that Joseph was not too fond of Lydia’s remarks and he couldn’t blame him.
When they were climbing a small hill, Cole said, “The mutants have been declaring war on everyone not a mutant. Well, now begins the real war.”
Cole noticed Augustus stopped in his tracks and he turned to him. Cole noticed the startled look on his face. Augustus said softly, “No.”
As Lydia went by them, Joseph asked Augustus, “What’s wrong?”
Lydia reached the top of the hill and looked to the other side. “Whoa.” She looked back at them. “It’s those android things.” As Joseph made his way up to see for himself, Lydia said, “Must be hundreds of them.”
As Joseph glared back at Cole, Augustus shook his head. “Not hundreds. Thousands.”
Cole walked up to stand between Lydia and Joseph. He looked down into the valley below filled with androids. He said, “And their numbers are growing every day. The mutants will now get their war brought directly to them.”
Augustus walked up to other side of Joseph. He glared down at the androids that had numbers in the thousands. An intense frown on his face. Augustus said with actual hatred in his voice, “I don’t trust them.”
Cole said, “It’s not your call. Nor mine.” He looked over at Augustus but notice both brothers were looking at him. “Nor your father. We’re getting these allies and the order is coming from pretty high.”
As Augustus did not change expressions, Joseph asked, “How high?”
Cole looked back down into the valley and thought a moment on how to answer that question. He thought of different ways but not one worked for him. Therefore, Cole figured he may as well come out with the truth. “If you want to speak with the person making the decision on this, go back to DC and knock on the door at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.”
As Cole looked at the brothers that gave him startled expressions, he heard Lydia just reply one word. “Damn.”
Cole said, “You all are here to witness the beginning.” He looked back at the soldiers near them and nodded. Cole knew nothing would be the same now as one of the soldiers got on the radio.
Suddenly, the androids looked skyward. In unison, they all flew into the air. Once in the air, they split into smaller groups all going in different directions. Cole could have sworn for a moment the very sun was blocked out by the numbers.
Lydia asked, “Where in the hell are they going?”
Cole took a deep breath.
Vanessa Travis walked towards her next class on campus when she heard several small jets overhead. She looked to the sky to see roughly fifty androids flying over heading in the general direction of San Francisco.
Another student walking by also looking up voiced what she was thinking, “What the hell are those?”
In other cities the androids were appearing in the skies as startled people looked up at them. The same was happening in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Portland, and Seattle. Soon they were also being seen in Dallas, Houston, St. Louis, and Chicago. Then they were spotted above New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Washington DC, Atlanta, and Miami.
Kurt Wade sat watching the television as the President began to giving a statement to the nation.
“I am here to inform you to not worry about the flying objects you are seeing, America. They are our side. For too long mutants have terrorized innocent people. Today that ends. When mutants attack now, the American people can look to the skies for our protectors. The war between humans and mutants is now taking a turn in our favor. That army of shadows known as mutants are about to meet their match.”
Kurt turned off the television then opened a folder to read the information within. After a few minutes he closed the folder and placed it on his lap. The folder had the word “Classified” in big red letters and underneath were the words “Blake Family Genes”.
He thought, “It wasn’t Randale, Erika, Joseph, or William. Augustus is adopted and not blood. So who?” He looked back at the television even though it was still off then he walked over to the window. He looked to the sky at the androids overhead. “And is it now too late?”