67, 94

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67, 94

Postby evana » Mon Feb 13, 2017 10:30 am

@image http://media.rivalcastmedia.com/staff/w ... 6-evee.jpg

The cold Siberian wind whistled softly through the cliffside. It flicked off snowcaps and grey-bristled rocks, swirling tufts of snow around and around and around in lazy circles, before finally diving in a whoosh down the mountain. On its descent it lifted the blonde hairs of a traveler pushing her black boots forward against the snowdrifts. She was completely alone in the expanse of white. The wind paused around this figure, gently pushing against her thick snow jacket but finding every crevice tightly packed against the cold. The wind moved on. Nature does not often care one way or another about anything, and this was no exception. To the wind, the woman was just another speck against the snow. It flowed one last time by her cheek before disappearing into the winter.

The woman shivered. Her breath collected out into wisps of steam in the freezing air as she trudged through the snow. In one gloved hand she clutched a curious black instrument with a circular face, which she would look down to glance at every so often. At her hip, a small radio sputtered and spit. She ignored it and casted her eyes forward in a determined stare. She had been trekking through the Siberian snow all day, but showed no sign of slowing now. “67, 94. 67, 94. 67, 94,” she whispered, repeating the numbers over and over to herself.

Miles away, two men on black ATV’s split through the snow. The drone of their engines bounced off the mountains.

The woman stopped. She tilted her ear up, listening to the sound reverberating across the landscape. From so far away, only a thin reverberation reached her, nothing more than a low whistle on the wind. Her eyebrows pinched together, and she started walking again. Slightly faster, hustling through the bleached landscape. “67, 94. 67, 94,” she chanted to herself. She was glancing down at the black instrument more and more often now.

The black ATV’s halted, their riders surveying the horizon. Their eyes found nothing but white in sight. Revving their engines, the men raced on.

The woman rubbed her thumb over the black instrument, the information displayed on its face burned into her mind. Ahead of her, a large bulge of snow appeared over the hilltop. The wind zipped down and flowed over the bulge, revealing tan wood underneath. The woman picked up her pace at the sight of the snow pile. She looked one final time at her electronic compass, which read 55°"N, 83°"E. Triumphant, she grinned as she headed steadily towards her destination.

Far behind her, the men whizzed like bullets in her direction. One ATV paused, signaling to his partner. He pointed at the speck of the woman’s white coat. Though almost invisible against the snowy terrain, the men still spotted her bulky frame bobbing through the snow drifts. They sped up their ATV’s, headed straight for the woman. They were closing in on her now. In the desolate tundra, escape would be impossible. Hypothermia would set in long before the woman would see civilization again; it was a miracle she had made it this far.

The woman stopped as she heard the ATV engines behind her. Her heart beat once as she spied the sight of the two men coming towards her before she broke out into a full sprint towards the snow-covered wooden structure. She reached it just as the men zeroed in on her, slamming her body into the wood to jostle the snow off. Clouds of snow drifted to the ground, revealing a thick wooden door to a small cabin. The woman felt around for the doorknob, jiggling it hard once her hand landed on the cold metal.

The drone of the ATV engines created a wall of sound behind the cabin. “There’s nowhere for you to go.” yelled one of the men. His voice, made gruff and heavy by his Russian accent , dripped with unmistakeable malice.

The woman ignored him, pushing open the door and disappearing inside the cabin. Outside, the men got off their ATV’s and headed towards the small cedar door.

The woman slammed the door shut and bolted it with desperate force. Her hand swept left to flick a switch just to the side of the door. A small ceiling lamp flickered on, throwing light over the sparse space. A dusty shelf, half-stocked with cans of food, lay against the opposite wall. A space heater not much larger than a toaster oven rested next to it. Pushed against the opposite wall were a cot and some blankets, right next to a ladder that lead to a hatch in the ceiling. The cabin had no windows, which made the lamp cast mottled shadows over the bare wood.

The woman crossed the cabin, grabbed the cot, and pushed it against the door. The chilled gray metal was heavier than it looked, and it sunk deep against the entryway. The men outside started to yell and bang on the door, but the woman acted as if she didn’t hear them. Quickly, she moved to stand in front of the shelf. Bending down to the bottom shelf, she felt for a rut in the old wood. Removing her gloves, she stuck her finger into the rut and felt it make contact with freezing glass. The woman held her finger there for a moment, until a whirring noise make a soft click and she stepped back. The shelf gently slid to the side, exposing steps that lead down to a room under the cabin’s flooring.

The woman didn’t hesitate in taking the stairs two at a time, practically running into the metallic room. A large computer lay at the forefront of the room, surrounded by whirring machines and shelves containing supplies of all kinds: more food, signal flares, medical supplies, and even fuel canisters. A door was wide open at the end of the room, showing entry into a long, dark tunnel. The woman stared at it longingly.

Up above, the banging on the door got louder.

The woman snapped out of her stare and set her sights on the computer. She flicked a switch, and the black screen lit up. A box prompted her for a password.

“Special Agent Sibilo, Code Red, Access Delta-Quad-Sigma-Five-Two-Eight” she blurted aloud. The box disappeared, and data portals popped open. She typed into the computer and then reached deep into a pocket of her coat, pulling out a thumb-sized dark gray flash drive. She stuck it into a port on the computer and opened the file, adding more to it. Then she began to upload all of the flash drive's contents, sending them off though the maze of the dark internet. Upstairs, she could hear shots being fired into the door. The thunk of the bullets in the wood imprinted in her mind. She took a step back from the computer while the flash drive uploaded.

Their guns ineffective, the men resumed banging once more.

The woman turned around and hunted through one of the boxes of medical supplies. Fishing out alcohol wipes, she stuffed a fistful into her pocket. On a bottom shelf hidden behind a bag of rice were some dusty beer bottles. The woman grabbed one, opened it, and took a swig. Then she poured the rest of the contents on the floor and stuck the bottle in another recess of her jacket. The computer made a beep, and the woman swung around to see that the flash drive had succeeded in uploading itself to its intended location. The woman let out a small sigh of relief. Then she was moving again, typing a code into the computer that sent the room into lockdown. The ceiling lights turned flashing reds, though they made no sound. Grabbing two large canisters of fuel, the woman lugged them up the stairs and made it past just before a thick metal hinge swung out to cut off the underground room from the outside world. The woman walked into the middle of the cabin and began to pour gasoline from the fuel canisters all over the floor and walls. The shelf shut with a hard thunk behind her, its secrets sealed inside.

The radio at the woman’s hip spit again. She looked down at it like an old friend, and picked it up. Holding a button down, she spoke into it.

“All receiving channels, all receiving channels,” she said. “This is Luna, repeat. This is Luna. The moon is setting over the desert, and the Nile river has been polluted. Over.”

She tossed the radio to the side, and pulled out the glass bottle she’d stuffed in her jacket earlier. A drop of beer remained. She tipped the bottle up, letting the tiny amount of liquid fall into her open mouth. Then, she hoisted up one fuel canister and poured its last contents into the clear glass. Holding the bottle in one hand, she set the fuel canister down by the second one, then swiftly kicked them both over to make sure every last bit of gasoline inside had been emptied out.

The banging had stopped now, but the woman didn’t notice. She walked over to the ladder that lay against the far wall, and climbed up it. Reaching the top, she pushed open the hatch and exited onto the snow-covered roof. The wind was soft across the winter landscape, pushing gently against the woman’s face as she stood equal to the trees. She closed her eyes and just for a moment stood still, letting herself feel the cold collecting in clouds on her face. Then, she blinked her eyes open and took out the alcohol wipes she’d pocketed away. She quickly stuffed them into the bottle so that some parts were sticking out of the top. She then dug through her jacket, and wrapped her fingers around a small zippo lighter. She flicked it open with one hand and held it just above the wipes, her thumb tight against the sparkwheel. Her hand shook slightly, but her eyes hardened until the lighter steadied.

The alcohol-soaked wipes caught fire fast. They burned gently, red and yellow dancing a waltz through the cold air. The wind and the ice-covered world stood still.

The woman let out a breath. Then she dropped the bottle down into the cabin, and ran.

She managed to jump off the cabin’s roof just in time. The explosion threw her forward. Her shoulder hit something sharp when she hit the ground, but her cry of pain was lost in the roar of flames. Half covered in snow, she rolled to look at the cabin. It was burning up, torrents of black smoke pouring into the sky. She breathed out a sigh of relief, and then winced at the pain radiating through her back. Her mission was successful; the United States would know about the disturbing things she had discovered. The cost may be a long sleep with the snow, but at least she had managed to take those devils with her.

Or had she? The men had gone back to their ATV’s to radio their base. The explosion had shocked them, throwing them back and searing the eyebrows of one. But apart from pounding hearts and minor burns, they were unharmed. The woman realized this when she saw their dark figures emerge from the smoke towards her. She tried to stand up, but the snow and pain pushing out from her shoulder in waves made her unable to even crawl away from the black shadows coming for her. The pain was getting stronger by the minute, and her head started to feel light.

“Damnit,” she whispered, watching them approach through snow stained by charred wood and gasoline fumes, before her vision faded to black.

…………...


“Anastasia Sibilo.”

The woman blinked her eyes open. She became aware that she was seated in cold, unyielding metal. Her head swam with curls of sleep and her shoulder was sore, but she was alive. She blinked again. She hadn’t been expecting that.

“Anastasia Sibilio. Can you understand me?” the voice snapped, lilted by a slight Russian accent.

Anastasia turned her head to look around the room. It was all unappealing, depressing gray concrete floors and walls, with an equally bleak metal door being the sole exit. One hanging lamp shone from the center of the ceiling, and was the only source of any heat or light. A metal table was in front of her. It looked like it had once resembled shiny silver, but years of heavy use and human hands had dulled and put dents in it so much that now it blended with the rest of the room. Behind the table stood two human-shaped figures. The light in the room was positioned towards Anastasia such that it cast them into darkness.

“Where am I?” she asked.

“You’re back in Novosibirsk, Miss Sibilo.” the shadow to her right said.

Right where I began, Anastasia thought to herself. Her face toughened towards the shrouded figures. She looked down at herself, and realized her wrists were handcuffed to the chair she sat in. She struggled against her restraints, pulling against the sharp alloy. Mistake. Her shoulder seared with pain. Black spots flickered at the edges of her eyesight.

“I would not suggest moving. That is ill advised, given your...confinement.” the shape on the left sneered.

The hurt had helped Anastasia see better, as the rush of adrenaline heightened her senses. She could make out the figures as her pursuers from earlier, now clad in crisp black business suits. She straightened her body and stared silently at them.

“What did you do with it, Miss Sibilo?” the figure on the right spoke again, smoothing down his jacket as he cooly questioned her.

Anastasia tipped her head to contemplate her interrogators. She narrowed her eyes, taking in their smooth, blemishless skin. She stayed silent.

“Sibilo,” the other one was speaking now. The two figures seemed to enjoy going back-and-forth, from one to the other. “We know you copied the files to a flashdrive. Where is it?” He leaned forward as he spoke.

It was the eyebrows that confirmed her suspicions. One of the last things she remembered was his face, eyebrows smoldering, coming towards her through the dregs of black smoke. They were both the same men who had captured her; there was no doubt in her mind. And yet his eyebrows didn’t look burned now. They should have been wiped clean from his face, but there he stood with immaculate eyebrows. In fact, both of them look spotless. Too perfect for ones who had come so close to flame. She knew not enough time had passed for his hair to grow back; her shoulder was still unhealed. She doubted it had been more than a few hours since the fire had thrown her into snow, since it had singed the figures’ smooth skin.

“You look good for someone who survived a gas explosion,” Anastasia retorted.

The left one’s cheek twitched, throbbing violent purple for half a second. Anastasia also noticed his fingernails grow slightly and then shrink. They were subtle signs; but still damning ones.

“We’re not here to talk aesthetics,” the one on the right said, looking bored. “You can either tell us where the flash drive is, or you can starve. You’ll receive your next meal when you confess its whereabouts. Do you understand?” he asked, swiveling his faded blue eyes to look at her.

“Does it feel strange to wear a stranger’s body?” Anastasia said the words like she was swinging a knife through the air. “I’m human, and we can’t change our looks like you can––so I don’t know. But I’ve got to imagine it’s like putting on a costume. Does it thrill you to pretend to be like something that you’re not?” Her eyes met his defiantly.

“You think you know everything, but you know nothing,” the left one growled, slamming his hand on the table. His eyes turned from brown to vibrant red before fading back again. Anastasia wondered why they had sent such a volatile one after her, before realizing that his instability was likely exactly why he was given the task. His difficulty keeping in character would be troublesome for a more high-profile official––the one imitating Putin had to be a master at the skill––but a mission to track down someone that already knew his secret? It was a strategist’s dream.

“Miss Sibilo,” the left one punctured Anastasia’s thoughts, his tone neutral yet chilling. “I would like to assure you that we will find the flash drive whether you assist us or not. We have tracked you from the moment you left Moscow, and there are only so many places a flash drive can be. You are only making this harder on yourself.” He brushed the cuffs of his suit gently, seemingly disinterested in the conversation.

“Exactly,” his partner chortled. “We have you, soon we will have the flash drive. You have failed.”

“It doesn’t matter now,” Anastasia replied, mouth opening into a sharp smile. Her eyes widened, reflecting the hot light of the lamp back into her interrogator’s faces. “The whole world is going to know about you. You can’t hide any more.”

The two figures looked at each other. “Do you care to explain what you mean, Miss Sibilo?” the one on the left asked, his uncaring front cracked open to reveal a tinge of nervousness.

Anastasia laughed. She was grinning from ear to ear now. “It doesn’t matter, you can’t hide. You can’t, you can’t––” she dissolved into a fit of cackling, the laughter interrupting her ability to speak.

The left figure scoffed, straightened his jacket, and headed for the door. The second one followed him, glancing back at her a few times before exiting behind his partner.

Anastasia was still laughing as the door thudded solidly closed, tears gliding down her cheeks. The sound bounced off the concrete walls until it became an echo of itself.

……………


The Director flipped through another pile of reports. New day, new paperwork. Communications from agents in Russia had been dwindling as of late, and reports that did come through were detailing less and less intel. It was concerning everyone in the department, the tension leaking out from the offices of senior staff onto the whole floor. Conversations in the break room were more curt and serious, cigarette breaks among even the most health-conscious employees more and more frequent. Even more worrisome to upper-level officials was the disappearance of several undercover agents in Russia, despite that Putin had been pushing for increased diplomatic relations with the United States. Things just weren’t adding up.

“Sir.”

The Director glanced up at the aide interrupting him. “What can I do ya for?” he asked. His coffee cup was full and he was buried in sheets of paper, so whatever the aide had for him better be damn important.

“Sir, we’ve just received Code Red-level intel that requires your immediate attention.”

The Director closed the folder he was holding and shuffled his body out of his seat. “Well, let’s get to it then.”

When the Director and his associates were seated in the conference room, an aide debriefed them.

“Sirs and Madams,” the young-looking aide began, fidgeting slightly with his suit jacket. He was hesitant about what he was about to say. “This is an emergency Code-Red broadcast from Outpost 086, Codename Nile River, located in Siberia, Russia. That’s a sanctuary and emergency outpost we have outside of Novosibirsk that has been used for reconnaissance in the past, but which currently has no agents stationed to it. The broadcast was sent approximately two hours ago by Special Agent Anastasia Sibilo. It contains a video among other documents.”

“Then let’s watch it,” the Director said, gesturing to screens at the front of the room.

The aide nodded, and pulled up the video. It began to play.

Anastasia Sibilo’s face appeared suddenly on the screen, shrouded by darkness. The lack of illumination made it impossible to discern her location, the light from the camera the only brightness in the dark room. Her face was unsmiling, gazing stoically into the camera.

“This is Special Agent Anastasia Sibilo. The Russian government has been compromised.” she began. All the people in the roomed leaned forward, anxious to hear her speak. “The next few things I’m going to say are not going to immediately make sense, so I urge you all to examine the attached documentation I have provided.” She looked away from the camera for a moment, glancing behind her. Then she sighed, lowering her eyes to the floor before returning to confront the camera. “I have confirmed reports of plans of a hostile takeover of the US government by forces which have infiltrated and usurped control of Russian leadership. These forces are foreign not just to the United States, but to all of Earth as well.”

Her words came out careful, like she had practiced them over and over again. “They are a race of extra-terrestrial shapeshifters called the Hostem, who have impersonated members of the Russian government and completely taken over.” The room was silent, taking in their shock and confusion at what Agent Sibilo was saying.

In the video, Anastasia remained calm and resolute. “It is likely the same fate may have befallen other countries, but I do not have enough intel yet to be sure. I know this sounds unbelievable. But it has happened, and the Hostem are planning to do the same thing to the United States government. They may already have infiltrated us. We must act swiftly to ensure that their plans do not come to fruition. If you examine the contents of this flash drive, you will find documentation of their plans, recordings of talks where they discuss Hostem affairs, and accounts of how their shape-shifting works. I also have the location of a spaceship crash, which appears to be where their base of operations is located out of. It is at coordin––” Static flashed across the video, and banging could be heard in the background. Agent Sibilo looked behind her, and when her face turned back to the camera, there was a wild look in her eyes. “My cover has been blown. Do not trust further transmissions with my face. Do not trust anyone. Damnit––” The screen went black.

“That’s where the video ends,” the aide said.

The Director just stared. “Is this some kind of joke?” The other officials in the room were looking around. The disbelief and suspicion in the room were palpable, thick enough to press against everyone’s skin.

“There’s a final note after this communication, sir.” the aide continued. He cleared his throat. “It contains GPS coordinates for the supposed spaceship of the so-called Hostem, at approximately 67° North, 94° East, which is located near Lake Vivi in Siberia. Our satellites examined the location, and there does seem to be foreign activity there. We have also captured photos of soldiers changing their faces to those of the people around them, which I have here. Our experts have been unable to find evidence of tampering or editing on them. This appears to be the real deal, sir” he said, turning to play a video behind him. There was no sound, but it showed shaky footage of Russian soldiers changing skin color, growing hair, and moving muscle mass around to look thicker or slimmer, in what appeared to be practice exercises. The officials watched as the video showed the soldiers become different people right before their eyes.

The aide looked hesitantly at the men and women clustered in the room. “Given the evidence collected, we believe this is proof of concerning hostile activity, and possibly a widescale takeover of Russia, just as Agent Sibilo described.”

“Well I’ll be damned,” the Director said. Under his jacket, the skin on his arms rippled blue. It shifted and twisted in little waves beneath his clothes as he leaned forward, the movement unseen by the members of the room.

********

Elizabeth Vana (Eevee) is a member of RCM's Summer Writing program. Have a question? Just want to say hi? Feel free to leave comments in the thread, tweet her @EeeVeeWrites, or email her at elizabethnvana@gmail.com!
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