Chapter One

Five Years Later…

"Fuck! It’s that damn dream again…" A tanned hand reached up to scrib through the man’s hair, sitting up in the bed. He’d woken up with a gasp, that kiss always waking him out of the dream he had, stealing his breath. After the first time, he wasn’t entirely sure if what he saw was real.

But that first time, he honestly had believed the woman’s words. But it’d been a few years now, after seeing the evidence of his computer’s screens left unlocked, with a document opened and left for him to read. It was a story that he’d dreamed up and later wrote as a child. It started out with simple descriptions of what he’d seen in his dreams before eventually building into larger and larger scenes. Before he knew it, he had a story, spun from the weaves of his dreams.

Every so often, the dream recurred, tantalizing him with the promise of meeting the woman that he knew intimately. It didn’t make sense to him, but there was a sense of a missing connection. It was impossible not to miss the building link for what it was. It left him bereft of life, or so it seemed, allowing him to make the motions required of him. Until now.

On the TV mounted on a wall a few feet away, the caption scrolled across the screen with a woman holding her hand to ear, fear and puzzlement warring for control on her face. "We’re getting uncomfirmed reports of ships in space…" She looked up at the camera. "We go now to the Office for more details. Tony?"

The scene switched to the Oval Office, where President Kitterling was holding his hands up, gesturing for quiet before he spoke, "People of the United States, I can confirm that there are ships in space. We do not know who they are, or wha–" The man’s words were cut off by a new feed, showing the background of a woman sitting regally in a Captain’s chair.

"This is the Lysharia Federation. I am Vice Admiral Kaiya Daystar. We are here to help you." She said nothing further, her voice that of a warm contralto, a smile on her face, and heterochromia eyes, blue and green that glinted with mischief and warmth, with a head that of a wolf with large, almost satellite-like ears and curly brown hair pulled back in a bun, alien to the world as the signal was blasted out. She wore the light blue uniform of a military officer, with the bars of a Vice-Admiral, it seemed to those that knew how the military worked. Her name tag agreed, a simple sewn on tag in what appeared to be space-rated uniform.

In the background, to her left and right were seated several more officers at their own consoles. Some were of the same species as the woman that had spoken. Others, not so. To the woman’s right, a man with the face of a stag was looking down at the console before him, antlers a few inches high with the tips dulled, murmuring, "Captain, we’re receiving hails from Russia, China, Japan, and the United States demanding to know who we are and to retreat to 1.5 million kilometers from Earth."

How are they speaking English? the man wondered, watching the screen for a few moments. The way they spoke and gestured on the feed contradicted what he heard. The longer they spoke, he realized that there was simultaneous translation happening from an unseen voice, the original voices speaking in a language that wasn’t really that recognizable despite some English words interspersed awkwardly, as if the invaders were intentionally speaking English in a way that was easily understood for what seemed like equivalent words that weren’t available in their language. Almost at the same time, the translation specialist or software picked up in an almost emotionless voice, sounding very much like a machine.

The implications of a new people appearing in their universe was world-changing. It was difficult to predict, but he had a feeling lots of chaos was in order until the invaders, for that is what they were, proved themselves.

Little did he know just how right he’d be.

The feed from the invaders cut out, showing President Kitterling standing at the podium. Secret Service agents reached him and took him away from the podium, but not before the President’s shocked expression was caught on camera. Then the camera feed to the newsroom cut out with a squeal.

Moments later, the anchor came back on with an equally shocked express. "We’re working on verifying the details. This has been Maya Heartsong with CNN." The screen switched away to a commercial, something about medicine that merely put off the symptoms of the real issue. He never particularly cared for those and thought they outright lied.

Still, though… this time, it seems to be real. News station after news station replayed the same feed and President Kitterling’s reaction. It seemed that there wasn’t any consensus about how exactly to react to this world-altering event; indeed, universe-altering event. And as the videos continued to replay, the woman’s voice dug further into his mind.

Where have I heard that voice before? It was maddeningly familiar, that warm contralto voice. It drew him closer and closer to the TV, until he was almost nose-to-nose with the woman on the TV. That she was of an entirely different species didn’t seem to matter in that moment as the words reverberated through him.

Then his phone rang, snapping him out of his reverie.

"When are you available?" In the distance but quickly approaching were sirens. Somebody’s about to have a bad day… was the man’s thought. Caller ID was blocked, but the voice on the other end was calm and authoritative. Almost soothing.

"I’ve got work in…" Glancing at the clock display on his computer’s screens, it showed that it was 4:45PM at that moment. "an hour and a half, why?" The sirens came closer, until it seemed like they were outside his house, or relatively close by. The proximity of the sirens induced a sense of dread in the pit of his stomach as he clenched the phone.

"Not now you don’t." the voice replied. Moments after that, loud knocks sounded on his door, not quite at the level of breaking through, but it was close. He hesitated a moment too long and the sound of his door being smashed open came.

Several men soon showed up in his bedroom, two in business suits, the rest in military fatigue. Instead of holding their guns at him, oddly they went to windows and positioned themselves facing outwardly loosely surrounding him. As he was still not far from his bed, they had no choice but to leave his rear unprotected.

"Mr. Sokenchov?" one of the suits asked, the man wearing a navy blue suit, with a face lined with experience and curious eyes. The other was in a charcoal suit, younger and seemingly overly eager to be helpful. This one signed what the man spoke, evidently an agent that knew sign language. The man that had spoken flipped up a badge wallet with ease and long experience, "I’m with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. We need you to come with us, sir." The man tried for a soothing smile, but failed.

"You don’t get to call me Mr. Sokenchov. Call me Litomo, please." Then, remembering that he had an open line on his phone, he raised the phone back up to his ear, "Who are you, and why do I have the FBI in my bedroom?"

"We can’t answer that until you come in with us. Please join them and you’ll understand why shortly." Then the line clicked and he was left staring at the group.

"Well?" replied Blue Suit. Gray Suit repeated the question with a question mark sign, a quick curve of fingers in the shape of a ? with a punctuation of the period, a few times, each more urgent and impatient.

Seeing that he had no choice, he sighed. "Fine, fine. Let me get dressed, then." He made a move to do just that, but Blue Suit intervened.

"No, you’ll come as you are. We don’t have time for that. But someone will be by to pick up your things."

Sighing in defeat, he took a moment to get his shoes on and went along, diverting just long enough to get his dog. At first, the group balked but his steadfast stubborn look convinced them to impatiently wait as he grabbed a harness and dressed up his dog after Blue Suit held up a hand and shook his head. It seemed Blue Suit was expecting it.

Do they have a file on me or something? He’d long suspected that was the case, after revelations in the 2020s that the U.S. Government kept such dossiers on those that operated in the field of information technology.

Soon enough they were in an armored convoy, Litomo, his dog and the Suits in the middle, though his dog clearly picking up on the tension half whined, half growled at the Suits. "Where are we going?" Litomo asked.

The Suits glanced at each other, communicating via that infernal silent glances that spoke volumes. "That’s classified." they responded. "You’ll find out when we get there. I can’t say more." said Blue Suit.

In the armored convoy, it was quiet. A little too quiet, in fact. The driver up front was screened off from the two suits, himself and his dog. Picking up on the tension from Litomo, his dog nosed at him, seeking reassurance that things were okay. Are we actually okay, though? Then quite a few police cars joined the convoy, thickening the mass of cars until they got to the highway; at that point state trooper SUVs replaced the cars.

The convoy rumbled on, implying that things were in fact not okay. An hour or two later, they arrived at the airport and bypassed the usual security theatre that was the TSA and headed directly onto the airfield to a waiting plane with its ramp down. Only the middle car boarded the plane, the one he was in. The humvees and their complement of soldiers, visible weaponry all peeled off to either side of the plane as it prepped for take-off.

"Are you sure you can’t tell me anything?" he asked of the Suits.

Blue Suit glanced up at him from the phone he was actively using, "It’s way above our pay grade, sorry." Then he sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose and grimaced, "We… ah, don’t normally have this sort of situation. It’s all very fluid, but again, I can’t tell you the details other than the basics." Then he glanced at Gray Suit, "… But I suppose I can tell you that we’re going to Washington D.C."

So we’re seeing the President? Why? "Washington D.C.? Does that mean I’ll be talking to the President?"

"We don’t know. You’ll know more when we get there." Then they lasped into silence, leaving the man and his dog to come up with wild conclusions.

Three hours later

The plane landed and as before, another convoy was present to meet them, a similar complement of humvees, soldiers and very visible weaponry. Then city and state police following and guiding them to Joint Base Andrews. The level of security and paranoia was really getting to him then.

It wasn’t long before they passed through the customary check-points for Joint Base Andrews and came to a stop at one of the buildings. Blue Suit motioned for Litomo to get out and follow him. It didn’t take a genius to realize that he had no option but to follow as he saw that they were once more surrounded by a loose protective ring of soldiers. They followed until they got into the building and needed to pass yet another security check.

This time, though, the guard at the checkpoint refused to let Litomo and his dog pass, becoming loud and aggressive when it became clear that Litomo wasn’t about to leave the dog behind. Blue Suit intervened and spoke into his phone urgently to someone else on the line.

The reason why became clear when a senior officer speed-walked into view, not quite at a jog but close. "At ease, soldier! Let them through."

At the sound of the senior officer’s voice, the guard on duty immediately snapped to attention before relaxing and giving Litomo a glare then stepping aside to let them through, as ordered.

"Please follow me." The officer’s nametag read Lt. Colonel Briggs. The man waited just long enough for Litomo to get the hint and turned, speed-walking his way back to what turned out to be a Situation Room filled with officers from various branches of the military, the Joint Chief of Staff and lastly, President Kitterling. To the President’s right, a woman with an FBI badge interpreted for the President each time he spoke, as well as for the staff in the room, pointing to each one that spoke when needed.

The President was rubbing his temples with eyes closed so he didn’t see the group come in until Litomo was announced, at which point the President glanced up and nodded to Litomo, "Please, come and sit. Can someone look after your dog while you’re here?"

"No. I’d prefer not to be separated from him, thanks." Litomo replied, taking a seat as suggested and settling his dog next to him and spending a moment to reward him with a treat for being a trooper. "Now… why am I here and why so much fucking security?"

It didn’t take long to figure out that this wasn’t the way to go forward with such high-level muckety-mucks, but he was past the point of caring. "I was rudely taken out of my home and not told of any details and not allowed to get dressed or call my boss and you expect me to be nice?" A harsh humorless laugh then, "Fuck that. You get what you get."

"About that–" The President grimaced then nodded, "We apologize for how you were treated, but it was a matter of national security and… well, secrecy. We’ve made arrangements with your boss. It was necessary."

"We needed to have you here because you apparently have some sort of value to them." Behind the President lay several large TVs displaying various things that he didn’t understand, but one, he definitely did understand.

On one of the monitors, there was one large starship and several different designs of the orbiting fleet in Earth’s atmosphere. Each time the Sun limned their presence in its light, they appeared to be something out of a dream. The largest one seemed to be a dreadnought or something that deserved that name, a sleek but elongated arrow-headed design with cutouts for windows here and there, though currently the bridge window was covered by blast shielding. There was a hump in the back that flared out to large bulbous wings with gentle curves, containing engines that had a light blue glow of emissions easily tracked by the satellites. How this worked in space was a mystery, at least for the moment.

The skin of the ship seemed to flip between copper and a deep black that absorbed light and likely other signals. Here, the satellites didn’t have to struggle in keeping track of the fleet, as the fleet appeared to be deliberately keeping an orbit that allowed them to be observed freely. Not to mention that the orbit also made it easy for a counter-strike to be made but it was clear the Lysharia Federation didn’t fear anything Earth had to throw at the fleet.

"Say what?" Litomo asked, as if he heard right. "What do they have to do with me?"

"We’re here to–" The President was interrupted by that familiar voice, the woman’s warm contralto. What was her name? She appeared on the screen with the fleet. It seemed she was still on the bridge but she was more visible now, standing.

"Hello. This is Kaiya Daystar." She smiled to the camera and, it seemed, to Litomo. Then she glanced around, as if she was in the room. "I see you’ve found Litomo. Good…" the woman practically purred. "Then we can get started."

Everyone in the room was spell-bound until that last statement, the words bringing the sense of reality back into focus. Then chaos broke out as several of the men in the room shouted refusals and threats. The President tried to regain control of the room but didn’t have much luck as the shouting matches continued.

The woman on the screen allowed the chaos to continue for a few moments longer to go on, her smile becoming apologetic as she signed to Litomo, I’m sorry for the chaos I’ve brought you… but I’ll make this right. I promise. Then after a moment or two, she barked loudly, causing feedback to squeal as the audio system in the room struggled to attenuate her voice.

Silence, blissful silence reigned for a few precious seconds before she spoke further, "Fighting amongst yourself isn’t going to help you. Can we start over again with introductions, please?"

"President Kitterling." replied the President after he got over the shock of having the Situation Room’s systems abruptly co-opted by the woman on the screen. The room quieted down as well and named themselves one after the other, until all was known in the room.

"LItomo Sokenchov and Leon." At his name and seeing him gesture down to his dog that had perked up his head at the mention of his name, the woman on the screen smiled warmly and… somehow seemed to become brighter? It seemed as if in some way, shape or form that Kaiya had become more life-like, as if the fidelity of the TV wasn’t enough to demonstrate the clarity of the connection. He couldn’t tell for sure, as it might be a trick of the light or TV. But he could also feel a faint tickling at the back of his mind, like a memory that was being a slippery fish on the verge of being caught.

"For a start, why don’t you tell us how you got in?" President Kitterling asked of Kaiya, looking rather pissed but struggling to keep a calm facade.

"Your systems and networks have a decent amount of security but cannot stand up to anything of ours, I’m sad to say." She smiled apologetically to the President, "It was imperative that we get started on this dialogue. We needed to have Litomo’s presence."

She looked at him with another warm smile, "Your presence is needed because of what you represent. That is why we encouraged your government to secure your safety and presence."

Litomo stared back, confusion marring his face, "What do I have to do with you and this?"

"Ah… you’ll understand, in time. Suffice it to say that you are not ready to know. But I can say that working with you is important to the survival of the Universe as we know it." This was signed, but verbally, Kaiya spoke, with a glare at the interpreter, daring her to interpret, "I can’t say further until you agree to certain expectations, President Kitterling."

"Such as?" the President growled.

NEXT: Chapter Two