7.9 Interlude

 

“It’s the street you grew up on and the first thing on your left.”

Kathy frowned and glanced to her left at the coffee mug adorned with hearts she’d bought on clearance a few days after Valentine’s when her usual mug had cracked in the office kitchen sink. “Are you sure?” she asked, scanning the rest of her desk for a more suitable answer. “Isn’t that your porn star name?”

“No, no,” said Laura’s voice over the phone. “That’s something with your first pet. Superhero name is definitely street you grew up on and object to your left.”

Laura was a nice girl. She worked downstairs in accounting and seemed to spend her days doing anything but moving numbers around. Despite having two degrees and more certifications than Kathy’s dentist, doctor and hairdresser combined, Laura seemed to have a suspicious amount of trouble keeping her basic iMac in working order. The amount of times she called IT could be described as ‘obscene’, Kathy had often thought. But then again, if she hadn’t, Kathy would have one less friend to whittle away the hours of the day with.

“Well like hell am I going to pull on spandex and go out in the world with a name like Spruce Mug,” Kathy decided, running her finger along the handle. She leaned back in her chair and glanced over her shoulder to make sure no one was hovering near her cubicle, ready to order her back to work.

Laura let out a hushed laugh, likely looking to mask her own lack of productivity. “I hesitate to imagine what kind of powers you’d have.”

“Honey, do you know what I do all day?” Kathy asked, spinning her chair back towards her monitors where her open tickets list still loomed ominously. Extra RAM request for someone on the graphics team. Email caching issue in HR. Somebody needed a Silverlight update. “I already have powers. And my hero name? Patience.”

Laura laughed again, more openly this time. “I believe it. Hey, you know what I was thinking about this morning?”

“What?”

“Julia Roberts.”

Now it was Kathy’s turn to chuckle. “The Pretty Woman herself? What about her?”

“What happened to her?”

Kathy opened her mouth to answer, but promptly closed it again. As it turned out, she hadn’t heard anything about Julia Roberts in years. “Didn’t she retire?”

“Maybe, but that’s not what I mean,” Laura went on. “What about Paris Hilton? Donald Trump? Kim Kardashian?”

“Who?”

“You know, celebrities. Actors and singers and–well, I guess just general rich people. Remember when they were all over the place? Magazines and gossip rags and trashy websites all about who was dating who and what someone wore to a party and whose bikini was a little too small at the beach.”

“Pretty sure you can still find all that stuff online,” Kathy suggested. “If you’re really that interested.”

“I’m not!” Laura defended. “Honestly, not at all, I just wonder sometimes. Ever since the pulse, ever since we got, y’know, superheroes. Real, honest-to-god superhuman beings, good and evil, you just don’t hear much about those people anymore.”

“Of course not,” agreed Kathy. “What would you rather read about: a wedding dress you’d never be able to afford or someone with magic light beams taking down someone with magic dark beams and saving thousands of people?”

“The latter, of course.” She heard Laura hesitate before she muttered, “But I still wonder.” Another pause passed between them before finally Laura asked, “Ya think George Clooney ever got married?”

Kathy released a sigh of appreciation and mumbled, “If there is any good in the world, no. No, he did not.”

Just then, the handset made a jarring noise and her phone’s face lit up orange. “Ah, hang on, honey, I’m getting a call.” Without waiting for Laura’s answer, she reached over and switched the lines. “You’ve reached Covenant Systems Management, this is Kathy speaking, how may I help you?”

“Alexa?”

Kathy’s brow furrowed. “Systems management?”

The voice on the other end of the line was quiet and slurred. “I need to speak to Alexa.” But even slurred, she recognized it. The timbre, the pacing, the thick Russian accent. It was unmistakable.

“Snookums, that you?” She glanced at the phone’s display. It didn’t show Andrey’s usual connection, but an unknown, unidentified source. “Where you callin’ from?”

But all he said in return was, “I need to speak to Alexa.”

Kathy barely resisted rolling her eyes. Call a wrong number, interrupt an important conversation and then refuse to answer even the simplest question. Heroes and their ego. “Well she ain’t here so why don’t you just hang up and try again, okay sweetie?”

“No no, I need to speak to her,” Andrey said, as if that made a difference. It didn’t.

“Well you shoulda called her, then,” Kathy bit back, perhaps a tad too harshly. Then again, you didn’t exactly pay IT for their excellent customer service. “I’m sorry, snookums, I can’t help. Don’t you two have some secret way to get in touch? Special lines or encrypted servers or–”

“I need her to build me a spacesuit.”

Kathy paused mid-sentence, her mouth still hanging open to form a word that never arrived. “Uh–come again?”

“A spacesuit,” he said again and though she searched his tone for some semblance of sarcasm or irony or even just a particularly unfunny joke, she didn’t find it. His tone still wore its typical Russian seriousness. “I need a spacesuit and I need it today.”

There was certainly only one explanation for this conversation. “You been drinking again, hon?”

“I’m serious,” snapped Andrey, with all the bark of a man who had indeed taken a few shots of vodka too many.

“I’m sure you are, sputnik,” Kathy cooed with the same comforting tone she’d used on her roommate in college as she vomited half a bottle of Jose Cuervo into their toilet. “Now I’m gonna hang up and go back to work and you can just go on believing you’re a spaceman and everything’s gonna be fine by morning, I promise.”

A frustrated growl erupted on the other end of the line and patiently, Kathy held the handset away from her ear til it passed. “This is important. With a spacesuit, I can save the world.”

Kathy couldn’t stop herself from snickering. “By leaving it? Interesting theory.”

“I can travel at the speed of light,” he told her, with all the importance the statement likely deserved. Had this not already been public information for years, anyway… “If I could just survive the journey, if I had oxygen and heat and–I could go anywhere!”

Kathy leaned forward over her desk and curled the phone cord around her finger as she nodded her head. “This is true. You could go anywhere.” She held the entwined cord for a moment and then let it go, watching it unravel itself. “Maybe you should go home.”

At this point, however, he didn’t seem to be listening, instead enthralled in the kind of rapturous epiphany only the inebriated could reach. Kathy’s eyes dragged over to the clock. Barely one. On a Tuesday. Frankly, she was a little jealous.

“–new planet, new resources, maybe even new life,” he was saying when she tuned back in to the conversation. “Think about it. All this? This mess? Who could care about Legion or the Sleepwalker or all these petty little villains when the whole universe is out there for the taking? The new frontier, just waiting to be explored!”

Kathy knew it didn’t make sense to argue with him. She realized that, in the logical portion of her thinking. But again, it was one o’clock on a Tuesday and those IT tickets were looking even less enticing when she had a wasted Russian cosmonaut-to-be on the phone.

“But honey, the closest star, what is it, Sirius?” Straightening up in her chair, she tapped a few search terms into Google and hit enter. “It’s still over eight and a half light years away.”

Andrey scoffed. “I could be there in no time.”

“I think you’d be there in eight and a half years…” she muttered, narrowing her eyes at her cubicle wall. “Do you not know what a light year is?”

“It’s okay, I have a plan,” he went on, ignoring her. “I’m going to go to space and save the planet.”

“You watched a lot of Star Trek growing up, didn’t ya?”

“Everything’s going to be fine, I can do this. I can fix everything.”

At least he was a hopeful drunk, Kathy thought. Could be worse. “Alright, well you go work on that space idea. Put in a call to NASA. Or the Russian NASA, whatever that’s called. And maybe you can stop by New York and buy me that drink you owe me before you jettison yourself off into the universe, okay? That sound good, sweetie?”

There was a long pause on the other side of the line. A pause that made Kathy wonder if Andrey was still there. But then, he said, “Federnoycosmishakoyagensvorosi.”

Or something. She’d never learned Russian. But before she could ask what that meant, he hung up. The phone at her ear made a dial tone and the display read ‘Disconnected.’

“Rude,” Kathy grumbled to herself. As much as she complained about fixing the menial concerns of her fellow office workers, they were definitely preferred over her work with the Covenant’s elite. Sure, they risked their lives and saved people and performed impressive feats around the globe, but did they have to act so self-important about it? Most of them were kids, even. Hadn’t worked a day in their life til some unusual happenstance reached out and slapped them across the face. Internally, she dared the lot of them to give up their fancy powers and try working the daily grind with the rest of the world for a week. How would Radiant manage the pains of poor lumbar support? How would Paladin feel in his tenth irrelevant team check-in on a Monday afternoon? How would the mighty Athena without her powers handle the copier on the 8th floor?

Superpowers, Kathy thought, shaking her head. What had that famous blogger said again? Powers are only needed to solve the problems powers cause.

They were good for a few other things, though, she realized as she hit the reset button on her phone and pressed the line switch. They were good for a story at least. “Laura? You will not believe the conversation I just had.”

 

+++

 

Kathy opened the fridge and peered into it. “It’s not healthy.”

“It is,” Allison insisted, leaning against the purple office kitchen wall and taking a sip from her plastic water cup. “I’ve read all about it.”

“Where? Where did you read about this?” The fridge wasn’t looking very inspiring today. Not that it looked that inspiring on any given lunch break. What exactly had she expected? Kathy closed the door and opened the freezer instead.

“Online,” was Allison’s predictable answer. Facing away from her, Kathy rolled her eyes as she considered her options. Tofu breakfast burrito? Spinach and feta puff pastry? Vegetarian lasagna?

“Gluten-free is the way to be,” Allison went on, like it was a chant she’d been taught at church. “You need to get on this, Kathy, I’m serious. We’re not meant to eat gluten, as humans. That’s why so many people are allergic to it. It goes against nature.”

All this talk of gluten was making her want a sandwich instead. Kathy closed the freezer and crossed the kitchen to the cabinet to pull out some bread.

Allison was still talking, for some reason convinced that she had a captive audience for her latest diet craze. “And ever since I cut it out of my meals? If I have any gluten, I get so sick. If you don’t eat it constantly, you develop the allergy. If that’s not a sign we’re not meant to eat it, I don’t know what is.”

“You developed the allergy?” Kathy asked absently as she painstakingly spread a coat of peanut butter over a slice of bread with a plastic knife. The microwave beside her let out a groan and then a series of high pitched beeps to let the room know it was done nuking its contents.

“Yeah!” Allison replied as she grabbed for the handle to make it stop screeching. “I don’t have celiacs, but I’m definitely allergic now, my stomach throws such a fit if I so much as touch bread.”

This discussion could not have interested Kathy less if it was about paint drying. Still, curiosity got the better of her and she glanced at the black plastic tray Allison pulled from the microwave. It seemed she’d gone for the frozen lasagna. And Kathy couldn’t help herself.

“You know that has gluten in it, right?” She nodded towards the meal. Allison looked down at it in surprise and then back at her.

“No it doesn’t.” She held up the box. “It’s vegetarian.”

Kathy stared at the woman for a long moment, unsure what the right move here was. If there even was one. Allison was the office manager. Piss her off and Kathy would find herself fighting uphill battles to get things into the budget for months. This must have been how heroes felt facing off against villains. One wrong move and there could be hell to pay.

Finally, Allison let out a tiny ‘hmph’, gestured to Kathy’s lunch and said, “You shouldn’t eat that. Way too many carbs,” before turning on her heel and flitting out of the kitchen.

Halfway between sighing in relief and laughing, Kathy finished off her sandwich, grabbed the paper plate and headed for the door herself just as Laura barrelled into it. Which was strange. Laura’s floor had their own kitchen and that kitchen had a soda machine and frozen corn dogs made of pancakes and breakfast sausage. There was no reason for anyone to choose 6’s kitchen over 4’s. Which could only mean one thing.

“I’ve been looking for you everywhere,” Laura explained, out of breath as she grabbed Kathy’s arm and pulled her into the alcove between Nathan’s office and the conference room. “Have you heard?”

“Heard what?” Kathy wanted to know, retrieving her arm from Laura’s grip and taking a bite of her sandwich.

Laura lowered her voice to a whisper. “About Radiant. He’s missing.”

Kathy regarded her curiously as she chewed the sandwich. “Isn’t he technically always missing now that he’s a rogue?”

Laura let out a groan and shook her head. “No, you don’t understand. More than that. Someone talked to Athena and she says that he’s just disappeared. She can’t track him anymore. No one else has seen him or heard from him. No one’s talked to him for a month.” She said the word as though it was meant to be important, but Kathy didn’t understand why. “A month,” Laura repeated, hoping that would help.

Kathy knew Laura well enough that she knew she wasn’t going to get out of this so she inwardly sighed and wracked her brain for what happened a month ago. Then, suddenly, it seemed obvious. A month ago was the last time shehad spoken to Andrey. The realization must have been apparent on her face because Laura’s own expression began to light up with meaning. Her eyes widened, she nodded her head and all at once Kathy knew what she was implying.

“No,” she said as soon as it hit her. “No, that’s not what happened.”

Laura looked crushed, but recovered quickly. “Oh come on, you have that talk and then he disappears immediately after? Untraceable? Off the radar? That’s just a coincidence?”

“Yes!” Kathy insisted. “A stupid coincidence. Unrelated. Entirely.”

“But he’s missing! It makes sense, he–”

“No, Laura, no he did not.” She liked Laura. She did. But god, the woman could be a little dim. “If he’s missing? He’s probably just kidnapped or dead or something.” A second later, she added hurriedly, “Not that those aren’t bad things. That’s bad. Of course. But he did not borrow a Soviet suit and go to space.”

“You don’t know that,” Laura told her, stubborn as ever. “He very well could have. Why not?”

“Because it was a terrible idea!”

“He obviously thought it was good at the time.”

Kathy groaned. She couldn’t believe she had to argue this. “Only because he drank a bottle of Smirnoff.”

Now, Laura frowned at her. “I really doubt Radiant drinks Smirnoff.”

Irrelevant. “Also, who would give a drunk man with lightspeed powers a spacesuit? No one.”

“Russians would.” Laura crossed her arms over her chest. “They really would. They drink all the time there. No one would bat an eye at it. Even the politicians get everyone drunk to make alliances and treaties and all that. I read about it.”

Kathy stared at the woman, dumbfounded. “Where?”

Laura shrugged. “Online.”

Did these people really believe everything that was written on the internet?  This was ridiculous. Kathy’s fingers met her temple as she tried to hold in her frustration.

“You have to tell Athena what you know,” Laura was saying with the utmost seriousness. “Maybe it’s not true, but it could be and maybe she could do something about it.”

Her hand fell from her head and her mouth fell open in indignance. “I am not telling Athena that I think her boyfriend is living out his Captain Kirk fantasies. One, because I don’t think that and two, because it is crazy and I’ll get fired.”

Laura met her glare head-on, but all she said was, “They won’t fire you.”

Kathy released a groan. “I have work to do. You keep believing whatever you like. But I promise, he’s gonna show up at some point. Dead or alive. But definitely of-this-world.”

 

+++

 

The printer emitted a screech so loud Kathy had to cover her ears. “Unplug it!” she shouted over the noise to Nathan, who stood beside it, grimacing and motionless. “Unplug it now!”

It took him another moment, but finally, the man moved to action, ripping the cord out of the wall and the hallway was plunged into relieving silence. “Well,” Kathy began. “It’s definitely broken.”

“Goddammit,” growled Nathan, kicking his foot against the dull grey plastic. “Piece of shit. Can you fix it?”

“Can I? Probably,” Kathy answered, her fingers on her chin as she admired the massive box. “Will I? No.” At Nathan’s perplexed stare, she pointed to the sticker that adorned the printer’s side. It read ‘Larson Electronics Supplier’ in a circle around a little man with a briefcase. “It’s a rental. Not ours. Not my jurisdiction, if you know what I mean.”

Nathan turned his puppy dog eyes on her. “Oh come on, Kathy. I have a meeting in half an hour, I need this presentation deck.”

She just shook her head. “Sorry, you’re gonna have to call it in and hope they get a maintenance guy out in time.”

“In half an hour!” Nathan exclaimed again. “You can’t just fix it yourself?”

“Do you know what that does to our warranty?” Kathy leaned against the printer and tapped the paper tray with her fingernail. “No way, José, I am not dealing with that kind of paperwork. It’s their printer, they have to fix it. Not–”

“Your jurisdiction,” Nathan finished for her, sinking in despair. “I get it.”

He looked so downtrodden, Kathy actually felt a little guilty. Usually the printer breaking was a good thing for her. All the more ammo to convince Allison to let the office buy their own machine instead of rent these outdated beasts. But if it meant good guys like Nathan got caught in the crossfire? Was that worth it? Was the cost too high?

She was probably going to regret this, but it couldn’t be helped. She pursed her lips and spun around to look over the machine more closely. “But…I guess if they don’t find out…,” she muttered under her breath, casting him a sideways glance as his face lit up.

“Really?”

“Only ‘cause you looked so sad.” She grinned and held a finger to her lips. “Don’t tell a soul, okay?”

He was nodding his agreement when suddenly the lighting in the hallway changed. What was once flickering fluorescents in vague yellow became all at once green. Sharp, neon green, flooding in from the windows and bathing them in the unnatural color.

For a moment, it struck Kathy how strange it was that she didn’t think this was strange.

“Transition?” she asked Nathan, who was staring out the window at the city and the bright green skyline.

“Could be a power surge,” Nathan responded, shaking his head and taking a few steps back. “I’ve gotta make some calls.” He was sprinting down the hall back toward his office before Kathy even noticed he’d left her side.

“Good luck,” she mumbled, more to herself than to him before heading into the lounge where most of the floor had already started to gather to watch the events unfold on the 55” flatscreen. It wasn’t an uncommon sight these days to find the lounge packed with people listening all too intently to a news broadcast. Strange occurrences usually meant powers and for the Covenant offices, powers meant work. Keeping up-to-date was practically part of the job.

This time, Kathy had arrived early enough to nab a seat on the couch in the back and settled in as more people started to file into the room.

The television anchors on the big-screen weren’t quite caught up. The blonde woman was still describing an after-school program that had invented a new water filter for a good long minute before the ‘Breaking News’ graphic flew across the screen. Someone up front called out, “68:35,” and someone else exclaimed, “Yes! Hand over that twenty.” Kathy rolled her eyes. Betting on response times now? These guys were relentless.

“–York City has been overtaken by an unidentified green light. As you can see from the footage on the screen, it appears to be coming from the sky itself. As of this moment, the source is unknown as are the effects. We’re being told, however, that response teams are mobilizing as we speak. Police recommend staying inside until further information is available.”

The footage was clearly from a camera haphazardly set up on the roof of the news studio. The view was much the same as from the Covenant office’s own windows, although on-screen it almost just looked like bad color correction.

“We’re getting reports now from across the country,” the news anchor went on. “The light is not isolated to New York. Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, Seattle, Miami, all reporting the same phenomenon. The–sorry, I have an addition, London, Berlin, Dubai, Shanghai, the list goes on.”

The man sitting next to Kathy let out a thoughtful ‘hm’. “Can’t be an isolated power then, can it? No one’s ever had a range that big.”

Across the room, Kathy heard someone mumble, “Antithesis,” before someone else shushed them.

“The EPA has released a statement that no additional radiation is being detected in the atmosphere. There appears to be no adverse reactions, however, it is still advised to remain indoors until further notice.”

Kathy’s eyes were fixed on the screen, even though nothing on it had changed. Someone had panned the camera across the skyline to show another part of the city, but the green sky was still green, no more, no less. Suddenly, she felt someone sit down next to her.

“Kathy, you seeing this?”

It was Laura. Kathy glanced at her and raised her hand indicatively. “Yeah. Everyone is.”

Laura raised her brows pointedly. “But you know what it is, don’t you?”

It took her a moment, but when she realized what she was implying, her eyes snapped to a sharp glare and she growled under her breath, “Don’t you start that again.”

“Seriously? You still don’t believe it? Not even with the mysterious light in the sky as if it’s from–” Laura glanced around her suspiciously and then whispered, “Space.”

“Stop it,” Kathy ordered. “Nathan said it’s probably a power surge.”

“Yeah, maybe it is,” Laura agreed and then leaned back against the couch, pinching her chin between her thumb and forefinger. “Gosh, I wonder whose surge might look like this.” She threw one hand towards the screen. When Kathy looked over at her, she just stared back dully. “It’s connected. I’m telling ya, Kath. It’s all connected. You’ll see.”

Kathy was not interested in what connection Laura was so convinced of. It was nonsense, the lot of it. She was about to tell her as much, when she suddenly became aware of a noise she knew too well. “Hang on, that one’s me,” she said instead, vaulting from the couch and hurrying out of the lounge to her cubicle across the hall where her phone was flashing orange and ringing its usual obnoxious tone.

Really? Now? she couldn’t help but think. The world turns green and someone needs IT? Probably one of those poor fools down in archiving in the basement. Still, she put on her best chipper tone when she held the phone to her ear and recited, “You’ve reached Covenant Systems Management, this is Kathy speaking, how may I help you?”

“Kathy?”

Suddenly, she heard a gasp break out from the lounge. Kathy’s eyes whipped back to the room, but the screen inside was blocked by a mass of people. Something must have happened. And here she was, on the phone, missing it.

“That’s what I said, yes,” she replied, snappier than she should have been.

“Kathy, it’s Andrey.”

“Andrey?” All at once, what was happening in the lounge couldn’t have been further from her mind. It was as if the heavens had heard her prayers. Laura was wrong. Her guilt dissipated. She was absolved. Sure, the sky was green, but it wasn’t anything to do with her. It had all just been some stupid coincidence, like she knew it had been. All was right with the world.

“Oh god, it is you,” she exclaimed, unable to hold back her flood of relief.

“Yes, I–” he began, but Kathy’s excitement hadn’t finished yet.

“I thought you were missing,” she went on, “Or dead. Sorry, is that insensitive? I’m glad you’re not dead. You wouldn’t believe what my friend was saying happened. I can’t even tell you, it’s that ridiculous. Are you seeing this green thing where you are?”

“Green thing? What–”

“It’s just this bright light, probably a surge. Doesn’t your helmet tell you about these kinds of things? Is it broken again? Need me to fix it?”

“Wha–no, that’s not–”

Finally, she got a hold of herself. “Where have you been lately anyway?”

“That’s actually why I’m calling,” was his answer and for the first time since she’d answered the phone, Kathy realized his voice didn’t sound right. It was Andrey, certainly, but different. Not as–confident maybe? He sounded worried. Confused, even. Especially when he asked, “I was hoping you might be able to tell me.”

Kathy was momentarily stunned into silence. Only momentarily. “Me? Why would I know where you’ve been?” she asked through what was undoubtedly a nervous laugh. She didn’t feel like laughing much though when she heard his answer.

“Because calling this number is the last thing I remember.”

Now, the uneasy feeling that had lifted minutes ago was settling back into her stomach, double its weight. “Honey, that was–that was over a month ago.”

On the other end of the line, she heard him mutter something in Russian, a curse by the sounds of it. “I remember getting a drink,” he explained, though Kathy stopped herself from pointing out it probably should have been plural. “And I called this number. And then — then this morning, I woke up in a field in the middle of Syria.”

Internally, Kathy scoured through as many explanations as she could conjure. Certainly there were powered beings out there that could affect memory, right? Villains who had something against Radiant? Plenty of those. The Syrian field was a bit of a curveball, but who knew what psychos were thinking half the time? And villain inventory wasn’t Kathy’s area of expertise anyway. There was a sensible meaning behind all this, she knew it and someone else, someone qualified, would be able to figure out what that was.

But something within her, something she didn’t want to listen to, something that bore a remarkable resemblance to Laura, disagreed.

“Hell of a blackout,” was all she could mutter in the end with a shrug of her shoulders. Hesitantly, she glanced back at the lounge which was now overflowing with people trying to peer inside to catch a glimpse at whatever was happening on-screen.

“Something like that,” Andrey mumbled in agreement. “I was just hoping you might have some insight, since I spoke to you last apparently. Did I say anything strange? Maybe some clue as to what happened next?”

The words caught in Kathy’s throat. Across the hall, the entire floor was leaning over one another to try and see the screen. What the hell was going on in there?

“Uh–well you were drunk,” she managed weakly. “So it was all kind of nonsense.”

“You don’t know what I intended to do after we hung up?”

“No,” she said honestly. No, she didn’t know. And certainly what he’d said he intended wasn’t true anyway.

“Nothing at all?”

She felt a pang of guilt. She wasn’t used to the great Radiant, hero of the world, sounding so lost and desperate. It wasn’t right. And yet, when she opened her mouth to tell him the absolute ludicrous amount of nothing that she knew (and it was nothing. Definite nothing), she found herself hesitating. Just long enough for him to cut in.

“So you have no idea why I woke up in a standard issue Russian spacesuit?”

Kathy swore her heart stopped in her chest. No. No no no, no way.

“Andrey, I’m gonna have to call you back,” she mumbled hurriedly before slamming the phone down and stalking back across the hall full of purpose to join the mass outside the lounge.

“What’s happening?” she demanded of the man nearest her.

“There’s stuff falling from the sky. These big black rock things,” he explained. “Twenty so far, all over the world.”

Kathy ducked behind someone’s arm to try and get a glimpse of the screen and then pushed up to her tiptoes to peer around someone’s head instead. Finally, after much shuffling around and a little bit of nudging, she found her view.

A young man was running down a street backwards. The camera fixed on him jostled violently as the cameraman struggled to keep up. All around them, people were running in the opposite direction, dodging to get out of the way of the intrepid reporter. Cars were being abandoned where they sat, others honked uselessly, masses flooded out of the neighboring buildings. “–saw the object fall and heard the impact,” he was shouting into the microphone. “The streets, as you can see, are in chaos. People are fleeing the area. I’m not sure what to expect here, but we’re going to see what we can find out.”

Behind him was what looked like a huge black rock sticking out of street, taller than it was wide and pointed at the end facing the sky. There was something eerie about it though. Like the shape wasn’t quite natural. Like it didn’t quite belong. The camera panned over it while the young man continued to narrate.

“As you can see, it appears to be–it appears to be perhaps a meteorite.” He strode around the shape as the camera followed him.

“Damn genius, this guy,” mumbled someone from the crowd. “Hand him a Pulitzer.”

“–dark color, very tall in stature, it feels, standing next to it, pretty imposing, I’ve got to say.”

The rest of the room had devolved into whispers and chuckles at the reporter’s less than stellar improv, but Kathy didn’t find it funny. Kathy couldn’t tear her eyes from the screen.

“I’m going to attempt to touch it, it doesn’t seem to be hot,” the reporter went on, reaching out his hand.

Just then, the television emitted a terrible shriek. All eyes snapped back to the screen just in time to see the black rock split down the middle and a gangling tangle of black limbs and teeth rip out of it. The shriek belonged to the reporter who, in an instant, was engulfed in a flurry of smooth, shining appendages. The second shriek was the cameraman who dropped the camera and fled the scene, but by the sounds that followed, it didn’t seem like he got far.

The scene switched back to the newsroom where the blonde anchorwoman, looking horrified, tried to string a sentence together. “Oh god–we’re–the objects that fell from the sky across the globe appear to be–jesus, capsules? Creatures–creatures are emerging from them. They are dangerous. Very. Very dangerous. Do not approach the capsules.”

The image switched again, back to the camera on the roof which now showed more and more black rocks — capsules — plummeting from the clouds above. And in those clouds was something else. Something bigger. A great dark shining shape just peeking out at the world below.

“Heroes are arriving on the scene,” Janice went on, her voice shaking. “Which scene? All scenes? The Covenant is mobilizing against the–the creatures. The Wardens, also, in San Francisco. We’ll keep updating as information becomes available.”

Well, Andrey had mentioned the possibility of finding new life, Kathy remembered, finding it hard not to simply laugh at the irony of everything that was unfolding before her eye. Powers are only needed to solve the problems powers cause, huh?

Feeling a sharp spike of mania and unable to watch the tv any longer, Kathy looked over at the man beside her, only just now realizing who he was. “Oh, Bart. You sent me a ticket about a Silverlight update last month, I totally forgot about it.” The man looked at her with one brow cocked and his mouth slightly open as though she’d gone mad. She just smiled back. “Something good you wanna watch on Netflix?”

 

APRIL FOOLS!

The crazy, zany, and completely NOT CANON! interlude you’ve just read is part of the Serial Fiction April Fool’s Day Swap, 2015 Edition.  The mindblowing gag post you’ve just read was written by Hayley Greenhalgh, who normally writes the story Caelum Lex,   found at http://www.caelum-lex.com/ .

Chrysalis,  who normally writes this story, today has created their own piece of tomfoolery for The Monster They Deserve found at http://cmh-fiction.com/original-stories/the-monster-they-deserve/ . It hasn’t been posted yet, but should be up later today.

For a full list of all our April Fool’s Swappers and their stories, as well as dozens of other serial novels that will tickle your fancy, check out The Web Fiction Guide at

http://forums.webfictionguide.com/topic/2015-april-fools-master-list

Thanks for reading and remember, the best way to support your favorite serial novelist is to tell all your friends about them.

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4 thoughts on “7.9 Interlude

  1. A little later than the usual updates, sorry about that. WordPress kept doing strange things with the formatting. A lot of them.

    I don’t have anything else to add today, except… I love you, Hayley. 😉

  2. The cackling hyena laughter started about paragraph 5 and continued for the entire rest of the story. Well played, well played.

  3. I guess that explains the lack of a time stamp for this chapter. And here I thought we were going to have aliens in this story ( which while common in superhero comicbooks, are rear in the superhero web serials I’ve read).

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