Date: 4 Monday February 2041ce 0928z
Location: Reno Command, Reno, Nevada (-0800)
Like I don’t have enough to worry about today…
He entered the room at a brisk pace; His officers stood, he did not give them leave to sit down.
“It’s been an hour,” he said bitterly. “And I sincerely hope you’ve learned what eleven technicians were paying attention to other than their screens for the greater portion of their shift?”
“Nothing, sir,” Captain Duuma answered.
“They were paying attention to nothing?” Hitchens responded incredulously.
“They weren’t paying attention to anything other than their monitors, General,” Duuma clarified, signaling a technician to activate the main wall display. “On the screen here, you can see the technicians at their stations, working as usual. Observe station five there, the contents of its monitor on display on this screen here. The raiders are clearly visible here, but neither the technician nor the pattern recognition programming seem to notice. Of particular interest here… The raiders come close to this cluster of reeds, causing this flock of birds to take flight. The technician logged the motion, and the program confirmed their identity.”
Hitchens avoided physically reacting to the chill he suddenly felt.
“The recorded video shows their entire trip,” Duuma continued. “Including their attack on Cherry Creek, and their withdrawal from South Dakota.”
“But technician and technology are both blind to what’s right in front of them?”
“Yes, sir. Right up to the moment of the attack.”
He already knew how they escaped back over the border; They had live hostages that the Coalition wouldn’t fire on.
“Can someone explain this to me?”
Everyone remained silent.
“But there’s no doubt now that we had them in our sites?”
Several responded, “No, sir.”
“The entire time? How is that even possible?” Then came the sobering thought. “Did Aberdeen just Red Room us?”
Everyone in the room knew what a Red Room was, though it was still unusual to discuss them openly even in high security areas such as this.
“No,” Major Neuman, Director of Cyber Operations. “This was something… Different.”
“And has your technological marvel taken a look at its own failure?”
“It has, General,” Neuman answered. “The manner of a quantum processor is that it remembers not seeing the raiders. Every observation and decision is recorded, and the raiders are clearly visible in the stored data. It simply did not see them.”
“Just as the technicians didn’t?”
He looked over the officers gathered around him, all of them at a loss for words. Finally, he sat down, allowing the others to as well.
“You know,” Hitchens said finally, “there are some rumors about this Queen of Sin.”
“Are you saying she used magic?” Duuma asked uncertainly.
“She used something, people!” Hitchens snapped back.
“I’m sorry, General,” Director Preston, head of Federal Navy intelligence, “but we’ve never seen anything like this before… Not from the Invaders, and most certainly never from a technologically deficient nation like Aberdeen. There simply is no explanation available until a full investigation has been completed.”
It was the words, ‘never seen anything like this before.’ As soon as Preston had said them, Hitchens had a reverie of a day nearly a decade ago on which he had, indeed, seen something like it.
Not quite the same… But very alike.
He calmed himself down, knowing that his people, and their people, and their people on down, were doing all they could.
What did they do to get through?
“Then the investigation should be done,” he said. “Thank you, everyone. I need a moment with Major Neuman.
The other officers acknowledged their dismissal and filed out of the room.
“Sir,” Neuman began. “I apologize for this, but there isn’t…”
“Calm down, Major,” Hitchens said. “You’re not in trouble. I want you to perform your investigation as you normally would… However, I want you to task someone to investigate a specific line of inquiry.”
“Put someone to test the possibility that while the raiders are in the recordings, they were not in the live feed.”
“That’s… Is that possible?”
“A party of Aberdeen raiders got over a hundred miles into South Dakota without being detected despite barely hiding at all,” Hitchens said, “and at this point, it’s the only hypothesis that fits the evidence.”
“This is some X-Files shit, General.”
“Exactly why I’m asking this in private, and why you shouldn’t pursue it yourself… Folks might think I’m crazy and wasting your time.”
“Yes, sir,” Neuman said. “I understand completely.”
No, major… You don’t understand at all.
“Thank you, Major,” Hitchens said as he stood and began his departure.
I don’t even understand this myself.