The Gift (A Soldier's Tale)
Written by conceptfan :: [Friday, 04 March 2005 12:22] Last updated by :: [Friday, 28 December 2012 14:18]
The Gift (A Soldier's Tale)
WRITTEN FOR SGI WORKSHOP 1.2
It was, of course, the day that marked the conclusive end of the debate over the existence of extraterrestrial life. We'd spent decades scanning the galaxies for the smallest possible crumb of proof that we were not alone in the vast universe. We'd trained our most sensitive telescopes and scanners on even the most distant regions of space without finding anything. And now that proof – that irrefutable, mind-blowing proof – had come right to us. This is my account of the day it happened. In compiling this record, I have drawn heavily on my own memories to give a personal account. However, I have also made use of several other testimonies, including official histories, to provide a fuller impression of events …
It was first "spotted" by long-range radar; a small object, travelling at near light speed through space. Its presence was logged and its trajectory was calculated and noted. Up to this point, there was nothing to excite even the most enthusiastic astronomer. We got the first indication that the object was not just another bit of space-rock a few hours later. The first report might have been dismissed as an error – an incorrect reading or a miscalibration of some kind – but it was quickly followed by a series of confirmations from other observation centres. It was clear: the object had changed course.
The teams at each radar telescope location began the process of re-evaluating the object's new trajectory. Unanimously they announced the startling result: it was now on a collision course with our planet. Emergency meetings were called in which respected astronomers were questioned by government leaders. Mathematicians and computer operators were hastily summoned to begin the job of calculating both the object's exact mass and velocity. Others worked on predicting the precise location of the threatened impact and still others were charged with guessing the consequences of it.
As the object hurtled ever nearer to us, more and more data became available. Our technology allowed us to make fairly accurate assessments. We knew that it weighed about two thousand kilograms and was travelling at 150,000 kilometres a second. The experts believed it was likely to crash down into the middle of a landmass, possibly causing terrible damage.
Given the speed of the thing, our leaders knew that they could not send a manned mission to intercept it. Such an expedition requires too much time to prepare. The best defence they could offer on our behalf was to wait until the object neared and then bombard it with long-range nuclear missiles. These weapons were built and maintained by individual countries to deter each other from hostile acts. Now they were to be used by every country that possessed them against a common threat.
It was decided that the various militarises involved would co-ordinate their strikes, so that they could detonate every available missile as near simultaneously as possible. There was not much time and no margin for error. Once the object was within range, it would be just minutes from hitting the surface of our world. The combined explosions would have to succeed. There was no back-up plan and no time to evacuate the huge populations that might be affected. The missiles were programmed and launched.
Moments later, our leaders and scientists were able to view the object through conventional telescopes. Immediately it was clear that this was no ordinary meteorite. It looked manufactured. A smooth sphere that reflected sunlight, and had no comet-style tail. Those watching saw the multitudinous explosions as the great strike took place. Enough weaponry was detonated to have destroyed every single city on our planet. Even with the naked eye alone, those in the right part of the planet saw the series of nuclear blasts in space lighting up the night sky.
A few seconds later, as the last of the missiles was still exploding with tremendous force, confirmation was received that the object had, somehow, survived. More terrifyingly still, its course had not been altered in the slightest by all the forces it had been subjected to. Another series of meetings were called. This time, world leaders were asking their most senior scientists a different question: Is it possible for relatively small meteorite to survive a plethora of atomic blasts undamaged without even being blown off-course? The answer was, according to everything we know, no – it's not possible. The obvious follow-up inquiry must have been "Is it possible that this object is not a natural phenomenon?" and its answer "Yes, it is possible." At this point, the leaders might well have turned to their military advisers to ask "Would sort of threat could such an object present?"
Of course, the general public were informed of none of this at the time. Panic was the last thing the authorities needed to be dealing with. The object's unrelenting progress continued to be carefully monitored, and the leaders braced themselves for whatever its impact would bring. Then, they received the clinching proof of its non-natural origin. Less than a second before it was expected to plunge into the ground, with the object only about a kilometre from the surface and well within our atmosphere, it stopped. Amazingly, it just suddenly ceased moving. It seemed to decelerate from a third of the speed of light to stationary in a micro-second.
The stunned decision-makers had only a few moments to come to terms with the fact that this bizarre thing was hovering under its own power in our atmosphere. Then, it started to move again. But not downwards. Instead, it moved parallel to the surface, following the planet's curve so that it remained a constant distance from the ground. It travelled so fast that even our most advanced equipment found it difficult to track. In mere milliseconds it had circumnavigated a third of the globe before once again coming to a complete halt.
Its new location was a mile above my country. It held its place for quite a while. Long enough, in fact, for a squadron of aircraft to be scrambled. They approached the hovering object from every angle, photographing it, relaying live images, probing it with sonar and radiation. Our leader was told the results of this investigation. That the thing looked like a five-metre diameter sphere of polished steel. No matter how hard the pictures were studied, no trace of a flaw or a seam could be sound in its surface. There was no sign of any sort of fixing or fastening. The other tests showed only that the thing was utterly impervious to all kinds of radiation. To our sensors, it appeared to be a solid metal ball.
But solid metal balls cannot travel across space, resist nuclear blasts and change course apparently at will. Neither can they hover silently in our atmosphere. It was clear that some unknown intelligence lay behind the object and our leader, charged with the responsibility of protecting his population, reacted with justified caution to its presence by ordering his military to be fully prepared.
Around a quarter of an hour later, the object moved once again. It came down. To the surface. One moment it was a kilometre up, the next it was completely still, apparently floating a few centimetres from the ground.
Within minutes, our military was on the scene. They set up guard in a wide circle around the object. As the minutes became hours, more and more men arrived. They brought equipment. Equipment for measuring. Equipment for testing. And equipment for fighting. Our leader and his advisors were cautious. And they were right to be so.
At first, the scientists were the only ones allowed to approach the object. They touched it, and felt it. They studied it. They used their instruments to take dozens and dozens of readings. But they could not find a single marking on its smooth exterior. Nor could they determine whether or not it was hollow; no beam or wave could penetrate even a micron beneath its surface. They could not take a sample for analysis, so they could not speculate on its composition. There was also no detectable trace of any known kind of radiation in the vicinity of the sphere; it had to have some kind of propulsion mechanism for it to move and hover the way it did, but the experts could find no evidence of it. After consultation with those in power, the scientists were permitted to try and disturb the metal for research purposes. But after a few minutes struggling with various tools, culminating in a diamond drill, they had to admit defeat. Nothing they had tried had left even a tiny scratch on the flawless object.
Half-an-hour passed until a van arrived on the scene and two scientists, aided by four soldiers, carefully unloaded a cylindrical-shaped device. It was a laser-beam generator, capable of producing, at the tip of its beam, a level of heat comparable to that found on the surface of our sun. The device was set up and powered and switched on. All those present could see the red spot it produced on the surface of the sphere and there were many observers who saw that red spot passing over a wide area of the mystery metal. But it did not melt the strange substance. Like the drill, in fact, it completely failed to leave any kind of mark.
Those in charge decided to allow a very small explosive charge to be detonated against the sphere. A tiny "bomb" was prepared and exploded with the same lack of effect as the drill or the laser. Someone – perhaps the leader himself – was becoming nervous. The military were instructed to set off a grenade in the tiny space between the ground and the bottom of the alien ball. The charge exploded; it's fragments clanging against the smooth steel-like metal as it blew a two-meter wide, one-meter deep crater in the earth directly below the sphere. But the object did not move even a hairsbreadth despite the explosion that had occurred right next to it. When the first scientist climbed into the new pit to examine the area of metal that had withstood the brunt of the blast, his report was depressingly predictable: no sign of any damage whatsoever.
It was my unit that received the next instruction; namely to fire an armour-piercing rocket targeted on the exact centre of the sphere. We had to wait whilst the area around the object was cleared and all the scientists and closest soldiers were moved away. Then we inputted the location and initiated the launch sequence. I watched the flight of the rocket through binoculars. There was no doubt we managed to achieve a direct hit. Those missiles were designed to neutralise an enemy tank with a single strike. The tip is especially dense in order to allow it to penetrate even the thickest, most resilient armour. It also contains a charge which detonates on impact. This is supposed to breech any partition so that the rocket's main explosive blows only once it has penetrated its target, thus doing maximum damage inside.
But our rocket had no noticeable effect on the sphere. It didn't even dull the shine of the metal. My commander relayed the news by radio. He paused whilst the person on the other end of the line asked him a question and answered. "No. It's survived nuclear strikes, diamond drilling, lasers and armour-tipped warheads. There's nothing more we can try. As far as we are concerned, the object is completely impenetrable and definitely indestructible. Nothing can pierce that material. Nothing at-" He never finished the sentence.
My commander, like all of us, had been distracted by a sound. A loud, creaking, almost groaning sound that seemed to be coming from the object itself. Everyone fell silent. That stillness was quickly broken by a cry from one of the men near to the object: "It's moving." I immediately grabbed my binoculars and looked. It was undeniable. A small (about twenty centimetres across) bulge seemed to have appeared in the previously perfect sphere. A moment later, the creaking noise was heard again and, even as I looked, another similar swelling appeared about a meter apart from the first.
"There's something inside!" the man next to me whispered, sounding terrified. "It's trying to bust out!"
"Nothing can get through that metal," our commander reassured us in equally hushed tones. I kept my eyes glued to the strange lumps that had appeared on the sphere. The strange noise was heard again, quieter than before, but enough to make all of us feel nervous. I suddenly noticed that a number of smaller sub-bulges were appearing around one edge of the existing protuberances. Each of these secondary lumps was about two centimetres in diameter. There was a symmetrical pattern to them too; in the left "big" bulge, four smaller bumps appeared in a line near the top of the bulge and a fifth little bump was visible slightly apart from the others, towards the side. That pattern of four plus one was repeated in a mirrored variation inside the second large lump.
Despite the unexplained, alien nature of the hovering sphere, there was something very familiar about the arrangement of the small bulges. It was only when the creaking noise grew in loudness and the lumps began to grow that I recognised what the pattern reminded me of. The bulges were arranged exactly like the fingers of a human hand. As if there was someone pushing against the metal from the inside. But everything I had seen up to that point made that idea seem ridiculous. I tried to shake the thought from my head. The bulges continues to grow and become more defined, The groaning sound rose in volume too. Then, someone shouted "Look! It's two hands!" and I knew there could be no more denying the shapes that were forming in the alien material.
Before anyone could reply or even react to the cry, there was a tremendously loud squeal from the object. The small bumps ruptured in quick succession. There, poking through what had been bulges and were now roughly torn holes, were ten small, delicate-looking human fingers. With long, apparently manicured nails. The fingers curled, as if their owner was taking a grip on the material. Then the air was filled with a scream-like sound as if the strange metal were crying out in protest.
Through my binoculars, I could clearly see that the fingers were moving downwards. The terrible noise was coming from the "space-steel" as it was being torn apart. The holes where the fingers had burst through were becoming wide channels as those digits carved their way down one side of the sphere. Still, we couldn't see anything of the owner of those hands. However, those of us with binoculars were now able to discover that the object was indeed hollow and that the "impenetrable" metal casing was about five centimetres thick. Five centimetres of a substance that could withstand dozens of nuclear missiles, and whatever was behind those fingers was ripping it open like wet cardboard! No wonder we were all shifting about nervously.
I was still trying to comprehend it all. I searched for a simple explanation that would fit the information my eyes were sending to my brain. It had to be some kind of trick. Maybe the material was somehow weak on one side and indestructible on the other so that someone could poke their fingers through from inside the giant ball, but a rocket would have no effect against the outside. I knew that theory contravened all our acquired knowledge of physics. But the alternative – that each of the ten fingers I had caught a glimpse of was more powerful than a nuclear missile – was too mind-boggling to entertain.
I was still wrestling with the implications of what I was watching when the screaming sound stopped abruptly and the fingers disappeared back inside the sphere. The two parallel channels were now each a meter and a half long, stretching towards the bottom of the object. The relative silence added to the tension all around me as we waited to see what might happen next. One of the scientists at the very inner edge of the circle that was being maintained at a healthy distance from the thing, took a step towards it and was hauled back by a man in a colonel's uniform. "Nobody moves unless ordered otherwise!" he barked. Everyone, including the curious boffin, obeyed.
Although it seemed that everything was happening very slowly, in reality only a few seconds passed before the fingers reappeared. Most of us saw them immediately, gripping the inside of each of the two channels about halfway down. We didn't have time to alert our colleagues though. An instant later, with a screech that sounded like the amplified cry of a tortured animal, the two hands moved together. The thick, mysterious material that was caught between the two palms was crushed, folding up on itself more like paper than undamageable metal. In a moment those hands had reduced a large section of it to little more than a pillar that was flared at the top and bottom like a giant apple core. At the centre between the sets of fingers, the pillar was only a few centimetres wide.
Once again, and not for the first time, I was left without time to fully digest what I had just seen. As I continued to watch, transfixed, through my eye-glasses, the mysterious palms that had been held flat to compress the metal now started to close. Fingers bent around the front of the new-formed pillar. I couldn't be sure, but I thought I saw the material dimple slightly beneath them. Before I could try and confirm what I believed I'd observed, the hands moved swiftly backwards. Once more, the sound of tortured metal accosted our ears. For a brief second, the pillar seemed to bend back like an archer's bow. The noise grew even more desperate in pitch before with a terrific Clang! it yielded to silence – just as the material stretched at its ends and finally yielded to the hands pulling on it. The pillar had been torn free and was now, presumably, being held by those hands inside the sphere.
I spent a few seconds studying the two points where the metal had finally given in. They looked like icicles; as if the thick, remarkable substance had been stretched until it had become too thin to be stable. What kind of force must have been exerted through those hands? And what kind of being owned them? A loud, metallic clash from within the sphere derailed my train of thought. It was probably caused by the detached pillar being dropped, but we'll never know. The inside of that bizarre object was completely hidden by darkness; even the large hole that had been ripped through its casing seemed to permit no light to enter.
Moments later, from that darkness, a foot emerged. It was human, like the hand, and in proportion. We gasped in collective, anxious excitement as an ankle and then a leg extended out of the black interior, as though materialising from thin air. The ankle was delicate, the lower leg hairless, long and slender with a pleasingly familiar shape. I somehow felt more relaxed; what I had seen so far led me to believe that the sphere's mystery, alien passenger was a young woman. A young woman who was turning out to be more and more beautiful the more we saw of her. And more and more naked.
Her thigh was visible now, its smooth roundness enough of a distraction for a soldier without needing what happened next. She was simply stepping out of the sphere and that action meant she was revealed to us in this particular way: after she'd put one leg through the hole she'd torn in the "unmanageable" metal case, she leant forward. Her face suddenly appeared. Her features were those of a young woman, maybe about nineteen years old in our terms. A girl! The first thing I noticed was her strong, almost luminescent, dark brown eyes. Her cheekbones were high, but not too prominent. Her lips, a vibrant shade of deep red, were lusciously thick. At first, they sat sealed expressionlessly. Then the eyes moved from left to right, scanning the scene before them. Something – or perhaps everything – that she saw clearly pleased her for slowly the lips began to curl upwards into a half-smile. The stunning eyes betrayed no hint as to the cause or meaning of the partial grin.
After that, she stepped completely out of the sphere. Her hair came into view, an electric dark brown colour that matched her eyes. It cascaded down past her neck, straight, shiny and thick. Suddenly her shoulders appeared, smooth and round, then an arm which like the leg we had already seen, was long and slim and free of any marks or blemishes. The arm swung back and the torso became visible, emerging from the darkness. Her skin was perfect; her complexion without fault. Her belly was smooth and flat, boasting an inviting deep navel at its centre. Her hips were curved and enticing. Then, I heard the sharp intakes of breath all around me as we saw her chest. Her breasts were big, especially considering the smallness of her waist, but it was their remarkably rounded shape that really struck me. They seemed to thrust out from her body as if held in place by an invisible force. As uncovered as the rest of her, her two pink nipples sat arrogantly on each fantastic mound, seemingly defying me not to lose myself in their beauty.
Her second leg was the last part of her to emerge. As it swung out into the light, we caught a glimpse of her pelvic region with its neat strip of hair. She wasn't wearing so much as a stitch of clothing! I could sense the sexual tension of the other men, even as I was forced to acknowledge my own. How could any heterosexual man not be affected by this vision of perfect femininity? Through my binoculars I watched as she took a further step away from the sphere. Her body moved with a grace and confidence that matched its appearance. I saw her casting her gaze around once more, the half-smile on her stunning face growing very slightly. I think she was pleased by the effect her beauty on us. She stood still, her shapely arms hanging free by her sides, as if pausing to savour the moment. We, in turn, stared at her in awe.
As we stared, the colonel moved away from the cluster of men he had been with and stepped into the empty space between the encircling crowd and the sphere. I've been told since that he was acting under strict instructions as he slowly approached the naked figure. He walked with his hands out in front of his body, palms open and turned upwards, perhaps to demonstrate a lack of hostile intent. He stopped about two yards from the stunning strange girl and spoke. From my vantage point, about fifty meters away, I could only just make out his words; "On behalf of all the people and governments of this planet, welcome!" He thrust out his right hand to offer it for shaking and took a single stride, halving the distance between himself and the new arrival. It was clear that he was waiting for her to match his step and take his hand.
She did step closer. I saw her looking down at the proffered hand, her eyebrows rising for a moment as if she were curious about what to do. Then, I saw her stretching her own, smaller hand towards the colonel's. Any indecision appeared to have been banished as she took his palm in her own. Even from that distance, I swear I could clearly hear the sound of bones crunching as the colonel suddenly dropped to his knees, his hand still clasped by the alien, who stood unmoving all the while. The prostrate man's scream of agony was definitely audible and it confirmed what we all suspected. She was crushing his hand with her delicate looking fingers. Through my binoculars, I could clearly see a spurt of red liquid rising between those digits.
There was confusion and a rush of movement amongst the men, particular those in the group that had included the colonel. Somehow, he managed to recover enough composure to raise his free hand and hoarsely yell "No! Stay back!" The girl responded to all this by opening her fingers. As she did, I saw that her palm was covered in thick blood, as was the colonel's arm. Where his hand had been, I saw nothing but a messy stump. She had amputated him. An awkward hush descended over us as she lifted her fingers to her face and studied them for a brief moment. I saw a lush, pink tongue extend from her mouth. Then, sickeningly, she licked her bloody palm slowly, almost seductively.
She looked down at the colonel, still on his knees in front of her and for the first time smiled fully. I caught a glimpse of her bright, pure white straight teeth as she beamed. It was as if she was pleased to have drawn his blood. A moment later, we knew that terrible assumption was correct. She brought her hand down from her mouth and swiped it lazily at the colonel's head. And that was it. The moment we all knew the alien girl's intentions. Her small hand hit his head with enough deceptive force to remove it from his shoulders in that single blow. The headless corpse at her feet spurted blood as it collapsed to the ground, even as the detached head sailed high into the air. My binoculars were not powerful enough to see where it landed, but I had stopped looking anyway. Like my colleagues, I was busy reaching for my weapon.
My attention had been so completely captivated by the scene in front of me, that I hadn't paid much notice to the noises and activity taking place behind my back. A constant stream of men had been arriving on the scene in a whole range of military vehicles. I suppose every single soldier in the country was being directed to the area. Where there had been an empty valley, there was now a mass of uniformed men. Dozens of camouflage trucks were parked around. There were a number of jeeps and I even saw a group of tanks rolling into view. A pair of army helicopters hummed overhead and every few seconds planes roared past. Everyone seemed to be focussing on the alien girl. Those who had not witnessed the colonel's death had heard about it and we were all nervous. Very nervous. But we had received no orders since the colonel's yelled “Stay back!” Since then, the alien had murdered him.
I trained my eye-glasses on her once more. She was so beautiful, it was hard to believe she had been responsible for the cold-blooded killing I had just witnessed. And even more difficult to accept the fact that the slender-framed young woman possessed sufficient strength to decapitate a man with a sweep of her hand. I studied her exquisite face. The smile was fixed on it, a satisfied grin that, I sensed, told more about the way she herself was feeling than about her intentions towards her growing audience. She took a step over the body of the colonel. The men nearest too her began shuffling, checking their weapons. Before she could move again, we were all distracted by an amplified voice from one of the two overhead helicopters. At last! An order: "Everybody down! Now!"
We were all well enough trained to hit the dirt immediately. I think we had a fairly good idea what was coming. I didn't see it, but I'm told that the girl's reaction to the barked instruction was to glance up at the chopper, roll her eyes with boredom and then cock her head to one side as if to say "Well? I'm waiting." Once I was on the ground, it took me a few moments to get my binoculars to my eyes, so I missed that. But I did hear the whoosh of a rocket being fired from the launching tube mounted on the helicopter's underside. Someone in charge – maybe our leader himself – had obviously decided that the extraterrestrial was a threat; a threat that needed to be eliminated.
The rocket exploded with a mighty boom, throwing huge amounts of dirt into the air. A ball of bright orange flames covered the area where the girl was standing, completely obscuring her and the sphere behind her for a few moments. The displaced earth began to rain down all around as the flames gave way to thick black smoke. Gradually, it began to clear. The first thing that became visible was the giant alien ball. We had already seen it to be resistant to most of our arsenal, and it was no surprise to see that it had survived the blast. A moment later, I saw the shape of the large new pit that the explosion had created. And after a few seconds more, standing at the edge of that pit, I saw her. She hadn't moved. She was still standing, hands relaxed by her sides, looking up at the helicopter that had just launched an air-to-ground missile at her. The intense heat of the detonation hadn't even made her lovely skin go a little red. In truth, the only sign that she had been right in the middle of the deadly blast was a sprinkling of earth that had fallen onto her bare shoulders. That and the fact that her smile had grown slightly bigger.
"Oh fuck, she didn't even-" the man lying next to me began to mumble, but his words were cut off by the sound of a second rocket being fired. I kept my gaze fixed on the alien the whole time and, although it was only about a second before she disappeared inside another ball of fire, I'm certain that I saw her start to laugh. Again, the explosion tore up the ground and tossed it into the air for it to eventually sprinkle down over the entire area. The flames were as bright as the sun for an instant, the boom as loud as any I have ever heard. But when the dark smoke cleared sufficiently, I could still see the girl. Once again, she had remained motionless, unmoved and apparently unaffected by being blown up with a powerful explosive. Unaffected in every way bar one; she was, undeniably, laughing.
She was also turning her head slowly, as if studying the scene in front of her. Her laughter subsided and became an excited smile. She looked like she was at a funfair, trying to decide which attraction she wanted to visit first. After a brief moment, she seemed to come to a decision. She bent over, her body moving with a fluid grace as her long arm swept over the ground, her fingers closing on an object near her feet. Through my binoculars I could just about make out that she was picking up a plum-sized pebble. She stood up straight again, the little stone enclosed in her palm, and glanced up at the circling choppers. Even as I saw her grin widen, I knew what she was intending. But I was powerless to do anything about it.
Her arm cocked back and became a blur for a moment. It all happened too fast for me to see, but I understood perfectly what was happening. Almost simultaneously, I heard an explosion overhead. I looked up, in time to see a helicopter disappear inside a billowing, orange and yellow mass of flames. She'd thrown the pebble at the chopper with such force that it had ruptured the fuel tank, creating sparks as it did so. Or maybe the stone had penetrated the engine. All I know is that the girl threw the rock and it made the whole craft explode. Pieces of it began to fall over a wide area, making us duck our heads. Flaming chunks of metal crashed out of the sky, wounding, maybe even killing some of the men.
I was lucky – not for the last time that day – that nothing fell near me. I was able to keep watch on her the whole time. To see her beaming with smug satisfaction at the destruction she had wrought. Even when a large section of the chopper's tail, still burning, smashed down directly onto her head. She didn't blink and her smile did not flicker as the metal broke in half on impact and fell at her feet. Her expression still did not change when, a few seconds later, a burst of machine gun fire brought us all back to attention. Someone much nearer to her had decided to open fire with or without orders. The air around the alien seemed to be full of darting insects until I realised that what I could see was actually a hail of ricocheting bullets. They were bouncing like raindrops off her lovely, naked body!
She turned slowly, leisurely it seemed, towards the shooter. The grin on her face undimmed, she began to walk, very calmly, towards him. At this point, all hell broke loose. Everyone started making up their own orders. A load of guys started shooting. There was yelling and running everywhere; some of the men were charging towards her, others were sprinting to take up new positions. I just decided to lie still where I was. My gun was ready, but I was holding my binoculars to my eyes. I couldn't help myself, I was so completely fascinated by the girl, I could not bear to move. I think it was the way she was strolling, so unperturbed, through a hail of bullets, her stunning body like a fashion model on a catwalk.
As she approached the nearest group of men, I saw a couple of them fall. It took a moment for me to realise that they had been cut down by bullets bouncing off her. Then, with each graceful step, the number of ricochet casualties increased. She stretched out her long arm and snatched the gun from a soldier just as he fell. The constant stream of fire continued unabated as she stopped and began studying the weapon, turning it round in her hands. A circle had cleared around her where no man could survive the deadly rebounding lead and steel, the bodies encircling her ankles testimony to that.
I guess she was looking for the trigger on the gun, because that's what she found. She raised the weapon in her right hand, pointing it in the direction of a group of soldiers firing at her. She squeezed off a few rounds and the men went down. The smile on her face brightened again as she casually turned and selected another target. All the while, countless dozens of bullets slammed uselessly against her. She fired a burst from the gun in her hand once more and another three soldiers collapsed. I then saw her laugh for a moment, utterly oblivious to the barrage she was under. Then, she turned the weapon around in her grasp and aimed it directly at her own face. She held the trigger for quite a while, blasting herself in the front of her head from point-blank range, her eyes open the whole time. After maybe a quarter of a minute of this, the gun ran out of ammo. She chuckled and then, looking about, chose a soldier and threw the empty weapon so hard it passed right through his chest.
A grenade landed at her feet and she bent down and scooped it up in her hand. She brought it up to her face to examine it just as it detonated. I lost sight of her for a second in the flames and smoke but when they cleared, she was standing in exactly the same position as before, her now empty hand still stretched out in front of her. There were a couple of bloody corpses on the ground nearby that hadn't been there before the explosion, but the girl was unmarked. Another grenade flew her way. She caught it and then cupped it in both hands. I saw a flash of light from her palms and smoke rising between her fingers – the only clue that the thing had gone off. She'd contained the blast in her hands!
More grenades appeared. Some, she simply punted back into the crowd with her toes, each one blowing with deadly force and creating horrendous carnage. Others she stepped on, allowing them to explode under her bare feet without so much as raising her eyebrows. A few she ignored completely, letting them detonate against her legs. Fire and shrapnel attacked her lower body time and again and yet she walked on whilst men much further from the blasts fell in bloodied, burnt heaps. Still, the guns continued their relentless hailing on her.
I heard the sound of rocket-propelled grenades being launched and saw one of them strike her square on the belly. She vanished in the resulting eruption of flame, only to reappear without so much as a bruise on her flawless, flat stomach. I could smell the flesh of men who had been standing five meters away and had succumbed to the heat. Her arm flashed out and suddenly she was holding one of the RPGs. She must have snatched it from the air! She glanced up. I had forgotten the second helicopter, but she hadn't. Five seconds later, flaming chunks of it were raining down over us, taking yet more lives. Above the fire and the guns and the rockets and the explosions and the shouts and the screams, I could also hear laughter. A girl's laughter.
Two guys ran at her from behind, leaping onto her back. The first fell immediately, killed by cross-fire intended for the girl. The other managed to get his arms around her head. He was trying to break her neck, or perhaps strangle her. She reached up and pulled his arm and he screamed as the limb tore from his body. She used the detached arm as a disposable club, a single blow destroying both her improvised weapon and the head of a man in front of her. Then she stretched her arm over her shoulder, grabbing the man on her back by the neck. If he hadn't been killed by her crushing grip, he would have died as she swung his entire body around in front of her, holding his corpse by a single hand, his feet dangling well above the ground. She waded into another group of men, employing the body in her grasp, thrashing it about with such force it smashed faces and bodies before it she finally tossed what was left of it at another random victim.
Men were actively running from her now. She gleefully chased after some as if she were in the midst of some playground game. Her long, shapely legs moved with a ballerina's grace, but they were deceptively fast. She seemed to be able to outrun anyone she chose to, even when the men had a ten meter head-start on her. Whoever she caught up with was doomed. Her arm flashed out, passing right through some men's chests. Or she would kick them, sending them flying up to twenty meters into the air. Some she decapitated with a wave of her hand. Once or twice, she would let a man break free of her grasp after she had caught him, only to recapture him a moment later and, smiling at her sport, kill him.
She weaved about, confusing the men fleeing from her until one of them ran straight into her. She put her arm around his waist and pulled him to her until, with a horrific crunch, his bones and organs were crushed against her body. This clearly amused her, because she did the same thing with another soldier soon after. When she trapped a third in similar fashion, he screamed at her for mercy. She grinned broadly for him and lifted her face to him. It looked for all the world as though she were kissing him on his lips. Perhaps she was. Whilst their faces were still locked together, she squeezed his middle against hers and then stepped away as he dropped at her feet. She'd almost cut him in half with her slender arms.
All this time, I remained frozen in place, lying on the ground. As I stared in awe and partial disbelief, I saw a lone man, not in military uniform, charging towards the girl from some distance away. He yelled as he ran, his arm held high above his head, a small while object clasped in it. He wasn't a soldier – he was certainly behaving like a man who'd never had a day's combat training – so I guessed he must've been one of the government scientists who had been rushed to the scene. His battle-cry increased in ferocity as he came closer to the alien, and I realised, with a chill, that amidst all the desperate and futile military action, amidst the carnage of professional fighting men, I was watching a civilian on a suicide mission.
I had no idea about the nature of the thing the guy was holding, but I was fairly certain he intended to use it against the girl. I found myself praying that it was some kind of new invention, some amazing weapon that could succeed where all our hardware had so far failed. By then, most of us knew that conventional explosives were completely ineffective against her. I clung to the hope that this man held in his hand an alternative that would end the ongoing nightmare unfolding before my eyes. I looked at the alien. She seemed oblivious to the man noisily running towards her. Maybe, I thought, she hasn't realised the threat he posed …
The screaming civilian got within ten yards of her and hurled the white thing at her. As it left his grasp, I saw that it was cylindrical in shape, but I couldn't make out any other details. The throw was good. The object hit the girl square on her back. But it didn't explode. It just bounced off her naked skin the same way all our munitions had done – and continued to do. I was distracted for a moment as the heroic scientist suddenly collapsed to the ground, hit, I assumed, by a bullet intended for the alien or perhaps one that had rebounded from her beautiful, indestructible body. Either way he didn't move again.
Something else caught my eye. A wisp of orange smoke. I followed it to its source and saw the white cylinder lying between the girl and the body of the man who had thrown it. It wasn't an explosive. It was some kind of chemical weapon. I felt a rush of hope as well as admiration and gratitude for the scientist's heroics. This was the one thing we hadn't yet tried. Surely, she had to be vulnerable to biological attack.
The girl turned around. There was nothing hurried about her movement, almost as though she were investigating the latest development purely on a whim. She started to walk leisurely towards the white thing as it exuded more and more of the brightly-coloured gas. Soon, a small but dense cloud of it had formed. When she was only a couple of paces from the outer edges of the orange fog, she stopped. My heart skipped a beat. Had she felt something? A twinge maybe, that was enough to make her hesitate? Was she afraid to get any closer?
My optimism started to evaporate slowly as I saw a familiar, if sickening in the context, grin spreading across her perfect face. It was as if she had been perplexed for only the briefest moment by the gas, but was now sure of her actions once again. The glint that the smile brought to her eyes remained as she opened her mouth, both of her full lips pouting very slightly. Her two rows of flawless teeth seemed set in arrogant defiance, a pose I could help but recognise – even at that moment – as one of the sexiest I have ever beheld. But such thoughts had to be pushed to the back of my mind.
Suddenly, I saw the previously ball-like orange cloud change shape. It was stretching, elongating, as though it were reaching out with a finger. Reaching out towards the girl's inviting, open mouth. It took me a moment to work it out. But when the finger of smoke became a stream of gas and the cloud itself began to shrink I started to understand. The alien's already prominent chest was swelling too. Once again, I found myself battling to suppress thoughts of sex as my brain and body responded to the erotically-charged sight of her large, proud breasts standing out even more on her slender frame. She was inhaling the gas! Pulling the entire cloud of it into her lungs! I felt my hopes sinking in my guts. The orange chemical wasn't harming her. If anything, her twinkling eyes, and her lustily opened mouth suggested she was enjoying the experience.
Soon – too soon – no trace of the gas remained. She slowly closed her mouth. Her cheeks were not puffed out, and it was clear that the whole cloud had been sucked into her lungs. The scientist's sacrifice had been in vain. I began to feel the weight of the moment's significance. Another of our weapons had failed. The girl was as invulnerable to poison as she was to conventional firearms. As I lay there, the full realisation of what I was witnessing still growing within me, I saw the blur of bullets and shrapnel that still surrounded her. The sound of constant gunfire and explosions all around had not diminished for a moment and neither had the unending stream of hot lead and steel striking the alien's body. And now she had swallowed the orange fog that I had presumed to be deadly.
Worse followed soon afterwards. The girl took a moment to look around herself. The obvious, mischievous glint in her eye genuinely terrified me. She seemed to be admiring the chaos all around that she had created. Perhaps she was, but I quickly learnt that her primary goal was to select a target. She stopped mid-head-turn. I'd seen her do that on a number of occasions already. Each time she located her next victim that way, she would immediately set off in relaxed pursuit. But on this occasion, she did not move. A moment passed during which I found myself waiting in dread for her next action.
Suddenly, her luscious lips parted. She pushed them out, the beauty and aggressive femininity of the sight distracting me, yet again. Sexual yearning burned in my mind, even as, to my horror, an orange coloured jet shot out from between those desirable lips. She had not swallowed the gas, merely held it in her lungs. Now she was exhaling it, in a premeditated manner; directing it through a gap in her devastatingly sexy mouth. I watched as the highly visible jet stretched from the girl's face. She appeared to be simply blowing, yet the power of it was such that the orange stream reached a group of men thirty yards from her. I could hear the roaring rush of air, even above the never-ending battle sounds, a testament to the incalculable power of this girl's exhalation.
The men near the far end of the jet collapsed a moment after the remarkable gust first reached them. It was immediately clear to me that the poison which had so totally failed to harm her was instantly deadly to our men. She began to turn her head, using the jet of her gas-laden breath as a riot-policeman would use a high-pressure water-hose. Whenever the stream passed near a soldier, he fell to ground. She continued to exhale, spreading death over a wide arc in front of her until, after what felt an age but was probably mere seconds, the orange colour began to fade. The hurricane-like noise ceased. She had closed her lips.
In front of where she stood, there was a forty-five meter deep area that had been full of men a few moments before. Now it contained nothing but bodies; soldiers and civilians who had succumbed to the fatal effects of a few cubic millimetres of the gas. I turned my binoculars from the horrendous scene of strewn corpses back to the alien. She was laughing once again, as though the mass-murder – or perhaps the style in which she had committed it – had been great sport to her. She was enjoying herself! The more we fought in vain against her, the more numbers of us she killed, the better her fun.
She turned around slowly, so that she was now in profile to me. The level of gunfire had diminished slightly with the latest massacre, but I could still see a hail of ricocheting metal surrounding the dramatic curves of her body. I saw her lips come together in a kiss-like fashion once more and froze in horror, fearing that she had not yet exhausted the store of poison gas in her respiratory system. But as she blew, and the noise of blasting wind reached me once again, I saw no trace of orange. This was simply her own breath now. But for the men within reach of her amazing lungs, the lack of man-made toxins was no consolation for being targeted. The sheer force of her blowing lifted men off the ground as far away as fifty meters from her, sending them tumbling helplessly through the air like grains of sand in a hurricane, smashing into one another and the men and equipment behind them.
She cut the exhalation short after a few moments having doubled the size of the cleared area around her. Now the number of surviving guys remaining within shooting distance of her had been reduced to just a handful. When she finished haughtily surveying the effects of her latest effortless, deadly attack, the girl threw her head back and roared with hysterical laughter. There were so few guys still firing their guns that, between the explosions of longer-range munitions, I could clearly hear the peals of hilarity from where I was, and they chilled me to the core. She was unstoppable. Just by blowing at us, she had cruelly cut so many men down. The scale of her superiority over us boggled my mind. The fact that she appeared to be enjoying herself enormously as she causally massacred us made the scene seem even more hellish still.
As her laughter died down, I became aware of the sound of approaching aircraft and my thoughts were split in two. Part of me was relived to hear that aerial reinforcements were coming to our aid. And if planes were coming, so land vehicles would also be on their way. More units, more weapons and more men were coming to join the battle. And that idea also formed the basis for the other side of my thoughts. Try as I did to salvage every possible glimmer of hope, I could see no reason to believe that those planes or vehicles would be bringing anything with them that might change the course of the fight. All I envisaged being carried to the scene were further victims of the lone, beautiful, naked alien girl.
I could see the planes overhead, flying in a column, one behind the next. The whine of jet engines rose until I had to cover my ears as the lead plane went into a steep dive. For a few seconds, I thought it was about to plough right into the ground where I was lying, but at the last moment, the pilot skilfully pulled out of his plunge to fly parallel with the earth at a height of less than thirty meters. The dirt just a few steps from me suddenly began to erupt in small bursts as the lead jet spat out a deadly rain of heavy automatic gun-fire. I watched as a curtain of falling bullets moved away from me, the lethal line passing right over the girl, spraying her with uncountable shots which simply bounced off her as everything else we'd tried had already done.
When the jet was already beyond her, the girl drew her hand back, and I noticed that her fist was closed. It was only when she thrust her arm upwards, opening her fingers, that I realised she had caught a handful of bullets in her palm – just like a child might catch snowflakes. I heard the tone of the plane's engines suddenly change as the pieces of metal tore into them. The jet did not explode immediately. It descended sharply, a billow of black smoke pouring from its fuselage. A frantic, almost scream-like noise accompanied its rapid fall until, with a boom that shook the ground, it hit and dissolved into fire. Large pieces of burnt plane crash down all around me. I heard a yell to my right and looked over just in time to see two more of my colleagues vanish beneath a charred piece of wing. The girl, meanwhile, had turned slowly to see the explosion she had caused. When she, equally unhurriedly, turned back, a broad smile was fixed to her face once more.
Despite the fate of the lead plane, the second jet in the column went into a similar dive moments later. I ducked my head, pressing my face into the dirt as it pulled up and began strafing the ground with machine-gun fire. I raised my chin just in time to see this latest burst of metallic death splashing like raindrops from the top of the alien's head, her long shiny hair hardly disturbed by the armour-piercing onslaught. I checked her hand, but saw that it was open, hanging by her side. I felt a sense of relief. It looked to me as if this second jet might be spared. Certainly, the girl had caught no bullets to toss at it.
But I hadn't seen her foot. I noticed it a moment later. Her knee was bent and her toes pointed. They seemed to be buried underneath a small piece of jagged, burnt steel. No doubt it had once been a section of the first jet's fuselage. I knew what was about to happen even before she moved her delicate-looking ankle. Yet I found myself unable to tear my eyes away as the horror I'd predicted unfurled. She flicked the front of her foot upwards and the chunk of metal was launched by her pretty toes like a surface-to-air missile. It travelled with such force and speed that I never saw it in flight. One second her foot moved and the next a deafening explosion filled the sky above her. The fire and smoke blocked everything else from view for a moment before falling debris forced me to protect my head once more.
The earth shook as a big piece of jet crashed down near me. When I finally looked up, the girl was grinning, and nothing but a few small piles of twisted, burning junk remained of the plane. I looked around. Whereas the area where I was lying had been crowded a few minutes before, now there was no-one within thirty yards of me. I realised with an increasing feeling of emptiness that somewhere amidst all the smoke and flames were the remains of the rest of my unit. And still, I didn't move. And still, I continued to watch.
The third jet in the group entered into its dive. As it neared the moment when I knew it would level out to pepper the ground with arms-fire, the fourth plane dipped its nose, following the path of its predecessor considerably more closely that the others had done. I wasn't sure if I admired the bravery of the pilots or despaired at their stupidity. Surely, everyone could now see the pointlessness of attacking the girl. But I could not look away as jets number three and four swooped low to strike at her. Number three opened fire, and I ducked for a moment, but instead of holding my head down, I looked up as soon as I felt I could. I was unable to take my eyes off the girl. I watched, even though I knew that I would have to witness the sickening sight of her destroying the two planes. I was hypnotised; morbidly transfixed to the scene in front of me.
There was no flash of her hand throwing bullets at the jet and no flick of her foot to send a chunk of steel hurtling towards it. Instead, she waited calmly until jet number three was almost on top of her, ignoring entirely the high-calibre ammunition pouring down on her. She tilted back her head, her face an arrogant study in indifference as she pouted and blew. I heard the sound of the wind she produced even above the roar of the jets. Channelled though her mouth, that wind was strong enough to knock the on-rushing plane out of its flight-path, its nose tipping back as her breath blasted it with a force far in excess of what its engines could generate. The plane turned in the air until its nose was pointing straight at the sky. At the same time it began to decelerate until, astoundingly, its bearing was completely reversed.
I nearly lost my mind trying to come to terms with the scene I was observing. The girl was pushing the plane back in the direction it had come from. A military jet, at top speed, utterly overpowered by a young woman's exhalation! I looked from plane to girl. She continued to blow and her sexy lips were still extended but no trace of any strain showed on her features. She was making it look easy! At the same time, the jet was picking up speed as it was forced ever further from her, ever higher into the air. It was then that I understood her intention. Maybe the two jet pilots realised it too. If they did, it was too late.
Jet number three rocketed under the power of the girl's lungs straight at jet number four. The farther away of the two planes swerved violently to the left in an attempt to avoid a collision. The alien moved her head a few millimetres to the side, re-aligning the stream of her breath which, in turn, steered the plane under its control into the new path of the other jet. There was no time for any further evasive action. She had won. Her will had dictated the passage of events. The two jets collided. As the orange and yellow and white ball of fire swallowed them whole, the boom finally reached me. I felt sick. Brightly glowing fingers of smoke curled outwards from the mass of flames and turned in the air, stretching towards the ground. I pushed my nose into the dirt beneath me and held my arms over the back of my head as objects of all sizes from tiny to nearly as big as me began to crash down all around. I felt a shudder and smelt burning and when I looked, a still burning piece of jet engine lay just ten meters from me. The fire had disappeared from the sky. So too had the two planes.
I was certain that there had been further jets in the squadron. I looked up through the smoke-filled air and could just about make out the shape of a couple of retreating jets. Maybe their pilots were disobeying orders. Maybe their superiors had stopped short of sending more airmen to their deaths. It made no difference. The girl clearly saw them too and decided that they would not be allowed to flee. She bent at the waist, leaning slightly to the right so that she could scoop up a large piece of twisted metal debris with that hand. I saw her hold the strip out in front of herself, adjusting her grip so that she held it with one hand at either end. Then she just tore it in half as though it were nothing more than a sheet of paper – two centimetre thick metal, ripped in her bare hands!
She let her hands come down by her waist, each holding its own half of the original chunk. She didn't raise her arms as I expected. Instead, she merely flicked her wrists, tossing the two pieces of metal underarm at the escaping aircraft. I couldn't see the improvised missiles in flight, nor did I hear the distant impacts as they hit their targets. But I did see the twin trails of black smoke from the stricken planes and I did hear the far-off crescendo of their engines as they plummeted earthwards. For once, I managed to close my eyes so I didn't have to see the double explosion as the two jets smashed down. That was small consolation as the sound of the girl's unchecked laughter reached my horrified ears, denying me the escape I craved from the unceasing horror.
If those in command had sought to spare their pilots, they did not appear to have equal concern for the rest of us. My radio crackled into life just moments after the last two jets were downed with orders for all first wave ground troops to leave their positions and attack the target. Normally, such instructions would have come from my immediate superior. But my immediate superior and most of my colleagues were probably dead by then. Command must've been aware of the situation and were issuing a blanket order for any remaining infantry on the scene, knowing that the usual chains had been not so much broken as shattered to dust.
I raised my head and looked around. I saw a man standing up from being a small ridge in the ground. Another soldier arose to my left, shaking off the dirt he had been lying beneath. Two men appeared almost directly in front of me, crawling out from beneath a pile of the bodies of their comrades. One half of this pair could barely walk, let alone run. His partner broke into a run, his machine gun spitting out streams of useless bullets long before he even came within range of the girl. The two others I had seen also charged at her. One fired his weapon indiscriminately in her direction as he sprinted. The other had probably lost his gun, or else he'd run out of ammo. Why else would he have chosen to attack the apparently invulnerable alien with nothing but his knife?
The full implication of the one-sided battle was finally brought home to me when I saw this ragged, hopeless four man army. It should have been five men, I know, but between my fear and the strange fascination I had with watching every gut-wrenching act the girl committed I just couldn't move. I was cowardly. I disobeyed orders. But when the order for all of us to attack went out, and only four others appeared from amongst the debris and the bodies, I knew that, as far as this particular command was concerned, obedience equalled death. How many of us had there been when the alien first tore her way out of her "indestructible" craft? At least two hundred. Plus two dozen or so scientists and other civilians. Countless more fighting men had joined the raging battle as they arrived on the scene. Behind me, in the distance, I could see the haphazardly parked trucks they had arrived in. And now, only five of us remained!
Even as I watched, frozen to the ground, I knew that four of those five were not going to be long amongst the ranks of the living. The first man fell when he was still fifteen yards from the girl. I couldn't see if he was felled by one his own bullets ricocheting from that stunning body or by a shot from his colleague who was charging in at an angle. Seconds later, this second soldier was dead too. There was no doubt in my mind that he was killed by his own fire bouncing back towards him as he neared to within five meters of her. She showed no reaction to either man's fate, but remained still, standing defiantly with her arms by her sides. She wasn't laughing now, just grinning smugly. I wanted to scream out to the two remaining attackers, tell them to turn around and get the hell away from her, but they were both doomed already and nothing I could have done would have made any difference to that tragic fact.
There were no ricocheting bullets to cut down the man brandishing his blade. He got close enough to the girl to draw back his arm in preparation for slashing his weapon at her. But the sharpened steel never met her perfect skin. Her arm flashed out for a moment. Less than a second later it was hanging by her side once more as the knifeman's body slumped at her feet. Only then did I see that his head had been destroyed completely by her lightning-fast strike, and that the blood on her hand and forearm was now all that remained of his skull and its one-time contents.
She raised that arm in front of her face, moving her feet at a casual pace as she positioned herself to stand looking towards the only other being on its feet within forty meters of her. The last attacker continued to limp heavily as he followed his orders. The deaths of so many others didn't seem to be deterring him as he held his gun out in shaking hands. I saw the girl beaming broadly at him. She brought her blood-splattered forearm to her mouth. Slowly, erotically, she thrust out her long pink tongue and used it to lick a long, wide strip of her limb clean of gore. She drew it back into her mouth, and closed her lips as if savouring the taste. Then, she smiled once more at her next victim. I think, but cannot be totally sure, that I spotted her winking at him at that point.
He was still about fifteen meters from her, each slow step clearly causing him great pain. I saw him raising up his gun, the weapon vibrating in his unsteady grip as he prepared to fire. The girl began to stride towards him. She moved so gracefully, her remarkable body the epitome of feminine beauty as her long, shapely legs closed the gap between them. Her perfect chest was thrust out, the two large lust-inducing mounds bouncing very slightly with each step. Her arms were swinging freely at her sides, her whole comportment one of relaxed ease. In direct contrast, the wounded soldier struggled in clumsy panic to fire his weapon in time.
He never did manage to shoot at her. Before he could, the girl's sexy stroll carried her within a long, slender arm's reach of the end of his gun. She grabbed it with a single hand and yanked it out of his grasp. In a single, fluid movement, she tossed it over her head. I did not see where the weapon landed; wherever it was, it was far out of the range of my binoculars. By then my eye-glasses were pointed once again at the mismatched duo of big, muscular soldier and petite, naked alien girl. I knew something horrible was about to happen to him, but for the life of me, I simply could not look away.
Her right hand moved between them. She kept it low and I saw the wounded man's own hands being brushed aside as he tried to push it away. Her fingers opened as they stretched towards him and then closed. There was no noise of gunfire to disguise his terrible scream an instant later. A cry of pure pain rang across the battlefield, chilling me to the core. It took a moment for me to see how the girl had caused such an extreme reaction. When her arm bent at the elbow and her victim's feet rose from the ground, his body folding double over her fist so that his hands hung by his feet and his entire weight was being supported by her feminine arm, I understood. She had grabbed him, tightly enough to lift him, by his reproductive organs.
I shuddered to think of the agony the poor man had to be suffering at that moment. For an instant, I considered leaving my hiding place and charging in, my gun firing. I knew I wouldn't cause so much as a scratch to appear on the alien's perfect body, but at least I would end my colleague's pain. I would also, I realised, be sacrificing my own life. In the end, the same combination of cowardice and morbid fascination that had rooted me to the spot throughout the carnage I'd witnessed continued to keep me where I was. To my eternal shame, I just stared, despite the horrors taking place and despite the horrors I knew were yet to come.
The girl began to raise her hand upwards, lifting the screaming man as she did so until her arm was fully stretched above her head, the wounded soldier's hands and feet dangling by her face. She held him like that as if in a demonstration of her strength, her one arm supporting his considerable bulk with no visible sign of any strain. His yells of agony continued all the while, and I can only guess that she was still squeezing him between her fingers with crushing force. I noticed that he was beginning to shake slightly. I thought at first that he was convulsing in pain and perhaps he was. But the main reason his body was jiggling about was that the girl holding him above her head was laughing. Her head was thrown back so that she was looking directly up at her latest victim as he screamed in her cruel grasp. And she was, beyond any doubt, rocking with mirth as she observed his torture.
To my great relief, the man's torment did not last too much longer. Given the cold-blooded, gleeful way the alien had spilled so much blood, I doubt that she ended his ordeal out of mercy. It seemed more likely at the time, given the manner in which her laughter subsided and then her smile yielded to a sneer, that the girl simply became bored with her latest amusement. Her arm which had been holding the soldier aloft, bent, causing his helpless body to lower about half a meter, his limbs flailing about. Then that arm shot up straight again, her fingers releasing their emasculating, humiliating grip on him. Although her hand could go no further, its rapid movement had transferred its momentum to the man she lifted. No longer held by her, there was no limit to how far he could travel. His dying scream faded to inaudible as his frame rocketed into the sky. I never saw where it landed. All I know is that it was far – very far – from where she had thrown him.
There was a moment of relative calm after that. The hellish racket of earlier had been silenced. Now there were no small arms fire, no machine guns, no grenade launchers, no planes overhead. And no screaming. These noises had ceased because the alien girl had made them stop. She had killed the shooters and destroyed the aircraft. She had caused the screaming with her violence. And she had silenced it with her violence too. The comparative quiet was a terrifying statement of her effectiveness in the battle up to that point. I observed her through my binoculars. She seemed to be surveying the destruction all around her. Her chin was slightly raised, her expression a blend of smug satisfaction and contemptuous superiority.
I stared at her stunning face and body. Contrasting it with the devastation that bore witness to her power, I realised that I was looking at a physically perfect being. Our weapons, it seemed, could not harm her. But her body, with its slender frame, elegant limbs and erotic curves hid unfathomable strength. Sufficient strength to tear apart an alien metal that our hottest lasers and hardest diamonds could not so much as scratch. Sufficient strength, I reminded myself, to kill men with a wave of her petite, feminine hand. Even her breath was powerful enough to knock a jet plane completely off course! There was nothing I thought; nothing at all that we could do against such a being.
A distant boom ended my reflecting. Someone in command obviously disagreed with my belief that the girl was unopposable. I turned to the source of the sound and saw a line of distant tanks. These had obviously arrived late on the scene, summoned from every base in the area. I realised that more and more of them had come during the chaos earlier, when I had been distracted by the carnage all around me. In the sky above them, I spotted an object in flight, speeding towards where I lay. I know immediately that it had to be a shell of some kind. The battle vehicles – I saw more and more as I trained my binoculars – had been held back as they arrived, away from the immediate vicinity of the fighting, to be used in a co-ordinated assault.
I suddenly understood why the blanket order for all ground troops to attack had been given. Command knew that the men holding positions in that area would stand no chance under a tank barrage. Our fate already sealed, the battle planners wanted us to try one last time to harm the girl. Now that Command believed there was no-one but the alien left alive, they had given the order for heavy ammunition to be used. There was no longer any need for caution. Another boom reached my ears followed by a third and then a fourth. I could see the distant flashes of light as each shell was fired from the tanks' cannons. The nearest mortar had already begun to descend towards its target. The next three were close behind. Suddenly, my hiding place had become completely insecure.
I didn't know what to do. To get up and run would have attracted the attention of the girl, surely tantamount to suicide. But to stay there and wait for a shell to blow me to bits was an equally unattractive prospect. I glanced around, desperately searching for some kind of shelter. About twenty meters to my right, I spotted a large piece of the wing of a jet-fighter. It was longer than my height and almost as wide as my body. I knew it could not offer much protection, but it was my only chance. Sticking out from beneath it, I could clearly see a boot. I didn't know if it was attached to anything, but I reasoned that even if it was, I needed shelter more than the owner of that footwear. I made a snap decision. I couldn't stand up and sprint over there as the alien would surely notice me. Instead, I started to squirm over the ground on my belly.
I left my gun behind, because I knew it wouldn't save me. My only strategy was survival. To hide and let the battle rage on without me. My hope was to remain alive until the girl, for whatever reason, was gone. In my heart I did not believe that we could kill her or even force her to leave. I clung to the slim possibility that she might go of her own accord. Where she would go, and to do what, I did not try and guess. I just prayed that she would somehow disappear. But before I could think of that, I had to get myself under the flimsy cover offered by the bit of airplane debris I was crawling towards. Anxiously, I checked the girl. There was no indication that she had seen me and so I moved on.
It was just at that moment that the first shell landed. It fell behind the alien from my perspective, at least sixty meters from me but the force of its explosion still bumped me onto my side. I saw the girl briefly silhouetted against a flash of flames, the blast lifting up her long hair for a moment but otherwise having no other effect on her. As I frantically righted myself, clumps of displaced earth rained down over me and a couple of pebbles fell onto my head, one knocking my face into the ground. I suppressed a yell of pain. My hand instinctively went to the point of impact. It felt wet. When I examined my fingers, they were stained with my blood. I put the wound out of my mind and concentrated on making it to shelter.
I didn't see where the second mortar hit, but it must've been considerably closer to me. I had almost reached my goal, but the shockwaves rolled me sideways, over and over. The ground and sky flashed past me alternatively for a moment before I finally brought myself to a halt. It took a moment for me to get my bearings. Now the broken wing was ten meters away, positioned between me and the alien. Over the tip of it, I could see the upper half of her body. Wherever that mortar had come down, it had clearly been as ineffective as the first. She was smiling once again, but otherwise nothing about her had changed. Under the wing, I noticed the protruding soldier's boot once again. I knew I had to get in there myself before the next shell hit.
I slithered for all I was worth towards the relative safety offered, but a scream overhead told me I wouldn't make it in time. I glanced up and saw the latest shell descending towards the girl. I knew I should dive for the wing, or at least protect my face and head with my arms, but that peculiar fascination she inspired in me took over once more for an instant and I actually kept my head up to watch as the mortar fell. It was well-aimed and it came to ground only a couple of meters from where she stood. For her part, the alien barely seemed to notice it fall from the sky. Even as my ears were assaulted by the explosion and the heat of it scorched my face; even as my view of her was obscured by flames; even as the ground beside her was ferociously torn up and thrown into the air, I knew. I knew she was unharmed.
As the debris poured down, I scrambled the last two meters to the sanctuary promised by the piece of jet. I noticed then that the boot I had seen was still attached to its owner. He was lying, pinned beneath the chunk of plane wing, his clothes soaked with his blood, long since dead. I had to crawl over him to get as much of my body as I could under the shelter. I pulled my legs over the corpse with seconds to spare as the fourth shell crashed to ground just a few meters away. It exploded. The noise hurt my ears, rattling my skull and the heat slightly burnt my legs through my combat trousers. Something big, hard and heavy smashed into the metal above me, pushing it down onto my back and I whispered my gratitude to the section of wing for undoubtedly saving my life. A hail of displaced ground rattled on to the makeshift roof above me in response.
There was a small gap between two sections of the broken wing and it afforded me an excellent view of the alien. Behind me, over my shoulder, I could see the row of tanks, more clearly than before. They were on the move! All along the line of cannons, I saw the flashes of light that announced the firing of another shell. In a moment of complete panic, I realised that I was trapped in a field of death. The few explosions that I'd endured so far were nothing compared to the hell-fire that was about to descend. Behind that, twenty or more tanks were tearing across the ground right towards where I was cowering. I was caught between the on-rushing war machines and an alien who had already torn apart half an army with her hands! Unable to do anything but trust in fate, I turned from the tanks to peer at the girl – this extraterrestrial mass-murderer with god-like powers who happened to have the appearance of a sexy, young, naked female girl. This physically perfect being. This cruel killer of men.
She was smiling once more, gazing up at the waves of incoming mortars as if they were nothing more than a flock of birds. To her, perhaps they were even less significant. I held no hope that the shells would succeed in harming her, only fear that, seventy meters away, I would be the one who perished. As the first mortars came in, I buried myself under the wing, my face pressed into the dirt, my arms over my head, covering my ears. The ground shook over and over again. That, and the muffled sounds of explosions and things hitting the metal above me, were all I experienced of the onslaught. I dared not move or raise my head whilst it lasted. The account of the barrage that follows comes from official reports as I didn't witness any of it.
“The tanks fired off rounds in rapid succession as they sped towards their target. Any attempts at observing the extraterrestrial quickly became futile as the area for fifty meters around her filled with flames, smoke, flying earth and debris. This situation lasted for the full two-and-a-half minute duration of the barrage. According to munitions experts, there was enough destructive power in that assault to raze a small town to the ground. Concentrated over a relatively small zone, there is absolutely no possibility that any known material or object could withstand such a devastating bombardment. The depleted-uranium tipped shells deployed have been successfully tested against every kind of man-made armour. The volume of high-grade military explosives employed was greater than that used in any single action on any previous occasion in history."
"Using various specialist viewing systems, such as infra-red and sonar, we were able to determine that a high proportion of shells landed on target (that is to say, within five or less meters of the extraterrestrial). All indications are that a number between eight and fourteen shells impacted directly with the target itself. Our data revealed that the temperature in the immediate vicinity reached over one thousand degrees Celsius and did not fall below two hundred throughout the assault."
"At no point could we discern any sign that the extraterrestrial was knocked down or otherwise disturbed and this is borne out by subsequent events and observations.”
Throughout the one hundred and fifty seconds of the mortar barrage, I did not, could not move. If the report had said it lasted two days, I would not have been surprised, such was the way that time seemed to stretch out to infinity for me. The constant shaking of the earth beneath me and the terrible rumblings in my covered ears prevented me from distinguishing one explosion from the next. I expected the thin metal protection above me to fail at any moment. I don't know how I survived. The only serviceable explanation that I have found is pure luck. Why I was so blessed is a mystery. I should have been killed a hundred times on that day.
Eventually though, the booms ceased. The ground was still vibrating as I cautiously raised my head. The air was so thick with smoke and charred chemicals that breathing was almost impossible. My eyes stung and filled with water in contact with it. I blinked my vision as clear as I could and looked first through the tiny gap towards where I had last seen the alien. Visibility was poor as dust saturated the scene and I couldn't make anything out at all. Turning to look behind me, I saw why the earth continued to shake. The line of tanks was almost upon me!
Having survived the shell assault against the odds, I found myself in imminent danger of being run over by the massive treads of a fast approaching battle tank. Its massive cannon loomed almost directly above me. It took a while for my survival instincts to take over, but at the last possible moment, I dived out from under the wing, rolling over uncontrollably. I came to a stop just in time to see my former shelter crumpling like paper beneath the enormous weight of the tank's left treads. The dead body I'd been sharing it with burst as though it were an over-ripe piece of fruit someone was stepping on – a chilling example of the fate I'd narrowly avoided.
I checked my bearings and discovered that I was lying on the ground between two advancing tanks. As they passed, I twisted my head to look over my shoulder. The entire row of vehicles was continuing to advance towards where the girl had been. The dust over there was slowly clearing but it was still too thick for me to see anything. The tanks passed me completely and I was left exposed once again. I briefly considered running in the direction the vehicles had come from, but I decided against it. Lying still on the ground had served me well as a tactic up until then. I hoped it would continue to do so.
I rolled onto my belly, primarily so that I could watch what was happening. I looked up at the back of the tanks as they moved away from me. The dust cloud was still heavy ahead of them and for a moment, I wondered if I would lose sight of them in there. Suddenly, one of the tanks jerked to a halt. Then the one beside it stopped just as abruptly. All along the line, the armoured machines were pulling up sharply, the closest one about thirty meters from where I was. My attention was caught by a tank near the far end of the line which hadn't yet stopped. The back end of it suddenly tipped up into the air, rocking for a moment before disappearing from view. It had fallen over the edge of something.
I realised pretty quickly what that something had to be. All those shells had blasted a deep crater into the ground. The tank drivers hadn't been able to see the huge hole for the dust until very late, which was why they braked so suddenly. The tank that vanished must not have stopped in time. It had toppled over the steep edge of the hollow. A few moments' partial quiet followed. I could begin to make out the lip of the crater as the particles of dirt and debris in the air slowly began to settle.
And then I saw it. The tank that had fallen just reappeared. Flying. It just rose rapidly from inside the massive hole in the ground as if it had rockets attached to its underside. It continued to gain height until its treads were at least ten meters above the edge of the crater. Then it started to descend. It landed with a mighty clang directly onto the roof of another tank, snapping off the gun-barrel. The frame of the lower machine groaned as it gave way to the weight that had dropped onto it, crumpling up like an empty cigarette packet for a second or two before its fuel stores ignited. A ball of orange flames rose up, consuming both tanks. Black smoke poured into the sky from the upper reaches of the fire.
The two vehicles on either side of the inferno went into reverse, the one nearest me backing to within twenty meters of where I was lying. From my viewpoint, the space between them was filled with the burning wreckage of another two tanks I thought I could see something moving amongst the flames. A moment later and I was sure. Someone was in there, walking about in the raging fire. I wondered if it was one of the crew, but quickly dismissed the thought. A man ablaze does not walk calmly. He runs. A hollow feeling grew in my belly as realisation dawned on me.
I already knew who was strolling through those flames. I should have worked it out when I saw the fallen tank shooting out of the crater. There was only one way that could have happened. Something in the hole had thrown the huge machine back out. Not something but someone. I racked my brain, trying to remember how much those things weigh. Was it fifty tonnes? Sixty? The not-so-mystery figure was emerging from the continuing blaze. The sight of her slim, nubile body, even though it was expected, shocked me. The facts were difficult to digest. But facts they were. This petite girl had lifted sixty tonnes and tossed it thirty meters into the air. This delicate-looking young female had survived two-and-a-half minutes of sustained mortar attack.
She had walked clear of the flames now, her stunning appearance set so dramatically against a background of fierce fire. I could smell the flesh burning inside the wreckage of the two tanks. The girl continued to advance, her arms free at her sides. I could not see her face from that distance until I remembered my binoculars. Amazingly, they were still hung by their strap from around my neck. Even more remarkably, they were intact. I brought them up to my eyes and looked at her. Reacquainting myself with her stunning appearance in such detail shocked me all over again. She was so beautiful! I watched her striding so gracefully. Try as I might, I could not see a single trace of any blemish anywhere on her lovely skin. All those shells hadn't even bruised her!
She was only fifteen meters away from the two backed-off tanks. I saw the two turrets turning in opposite directions, their cannons both converging on the slow-moving target. They fired one after the other. I actually saw the first shell just about to strike her dead-centre on her flat stomach. Then it exploded, shortly followed by the other tank's blast and she disappeared into a fireball again. Seconds later, the smoke cleared. The girl had advanced about ten meters in the meantime. The twin strike had failed to break so much as her stride. All the two depleted uranium-tipped shells had achieved was to make her laugh once more.
A couple more languid, easy strides and then she paused for a moment. She looked up at the tank on her left and then the one on her right and then pulled down her pouty lower lip with a single dainty finger, making a show of choosing between the two vehicles like a child asked which flavour of ice-cream she would prefer. Eventually, she selected the one on her right. She took four more steps towards it so that she was standing directly beneath the end of its barrel, the long metal cylinder about thirty centimetres above the crown of her head.
Her long arm reached up, her fingers closing around the metal. With my eye-glasses I could see the two-centimetre thick steel yielding to her touch, the tube actually compressing beneath her fingers. In a second, she had rendered the cannon useless. Seeing the way she crushed the cylinder I could not help but think of the soldier she had lifted over her head by his groin. I shuddered involuntarily as she yanked her arm back, tearing the entire barrel clean away from the top of the tank. It had to weigh nearly a tonne and yet she held it, unbalanced, in a single small hand without any difficulty.
She adjusted her grip on the tube, holding it out in front of her with two hands. With an easy swing of her wrists, she wielded the massive thing like a baseball bat, slamming the end of it into the side of the tank in front of her hard enough to make a deafening noise and briefly lift the entire vehicle off the ground and knock it a meter or so sideways. The cannon was bent almost at right-angles by the impact, and I saw a deep dent in the side of the tank's armour.
She tossed the now banana-shaped tube to the side. I watched in awe as it flew, spinning through the air until it was too distant to see, even with my binoculars. The girl stepped up to the side her bat had dented, balled up her fingers and punched the metal. She didn't even draw her arm back, yet her little fist had enough power to do what the cannon couldn't. It penetrated the thick armour as if it were damp cardboard. With her arm inside the tank, she used it like a letter-opener to cut a meter-long, ten centimetre-high slit in the side of the vehicle, moving so casually that she made the feat look effortless. Perhaps it was.
The slender arm withdrew from the tank and she placed her hands on the two sides of the slit it had carved. Then, she just moved those little hands apart, as if opening a slatted window blind. With a metallic scream, huge sheets of heavily reinforced thick steel tank tore and wadded up against her palms as she ripped a massive hole in the tank. I could see the men inside, frantically getting out of their seats and trying to move away from the new door that was being roughly installed in their vehicle. They disappeared from my sight as the girl leaned her upper body through the massive breach for a moment. When she stood up straight again next to the tank, her hands and forearms were dripping with blood. Over her shoulder, I could see the horrific remains of at least two of the crew.
She turned to the tank to her left – the one she'd passed up before ripping the other open. The men inside must've seen her because as she started walking towards them, they fired the cannon. She was too close to be hit, however, and the shell was destined to pass half a meter over her head had she not reached up with one hand and caught it in mid-flight. Her arm moved so fast, it became a blur for a moment, before re-solidifying, clutching the shell. She brought it down, carrying it at her side as she strolled up to the side of the tank. Her free hand formed a fist and, just she had done with the previous armoured vehicle, she slammed it right through the metal, her arm ending up buried beyond her elbow.
The sight of the girl's little feminine fist carving through thick armour-plating that had cost millions to develop was breath-taking. And then, afterwards, she bent back that steel-based material and enlarged the hole she'd made merely by moving her slender arm around. When she pulled her hand out of the tank, she had created an opening about twenty centimetres in diameter. Smiling, she drew back her other hand – the one gripping the shell. I knew what she was about to do, but I was powerless to do anything but watch as she tossed the unexploded mortar at phenomenal speed through the rough hole she'd made in the side of the tank.
There was a terrible boom as the tip of the shell finally impacted with something and exploded as it had been designed to do. The blast was too powerful to be contained inside the tank. The turret was torn from its hinges and flung skyward, lifted at rocket-speed on a column of fire. Another jet of flame and thick smoke shot out of the cannon, briefly wrapping the girl in what should have been a deadly inferno. When it cleared, she was standing exactly as she had been, untouched by the extreme heat. My stomach turned as the whiff of charred bodies from within the tank reached my nostrils. I looked in hope but nothing other than thick black smoke came out of the ruined war machine. A couple of moments passed and the sound of fire died down slightly. I could hear the alien's evil, satisfied chuckling once again.
She turned and ran towards the nearest operational tank. As she charged she accelerated until she was barely visible as a blur to me. I couldn't see how she attacked the vehicle. Whether she kicked its flank or punched it, her movement was way too quick for my brain to register. All I can explain is that I heard a tremendous metallic clank and immediately saw that the entire machine – all sixty tonnes of it – was sailing through the air. It soared as quickly as a missile until it was so high and so distant that it disappeared from view altogether.
When I turned my gaze from the sky to look at the girl, her head was bent back, her eyes perhaps still able to see the ascending tank where my binoculars were no longer powerful enough to track it. She stopped looking up a few seconds later and turned towards the next armoured vehicle. It was only then that I noticed that all the surviving tanks where readjusting their cannon towards her current position. The huge guns were turning so slowly. I shuddered at the contrast between the ponderous movements of our best military technology and the young woman's lightning-quick body. Studying her, I observed her gleefully licking her lips before she suddenly vanished.
She didn't actually vanish, I learnt a second later. She had merely broken into a run at such a pace that my eyes simply didn't spot her moving. One instant she was standing still the next there was a massive bang fifty meters away and she was gone. I tuned as fast as I could to try and identify the source of the noise. I saw a tank. It took me a second or so to realise that there was a rough hole about two meters high and a meter and a half wide in the side of it. And another hole, the same size, on the other side. There was nothing between the two apertures. I was looking right through the machine. The girl had run through it, her naked body destroying the armoured steel – not to mention the men – it encountered as if they hadn't been there.
As the idea sunk in to my shocked brain, another deafening clang drew my attention to a different tank. This time, I knew what to expect. Sure enough, I found I could now suddenly see a rough passage right through the middle of it. At least the crew had not suffered any pain. The shock waves of her impacting against the outside of their vehicle would have killed them all instantly, before they were showered in supersonic shrapnel as she burst through the steel wall. Any of the already dead men she actually touched at that speed would have then been completely disintegrated. All that in the tiniest fraction of a second!
I tried to find the young woman who had caused the carnage and saw her standing directly in front of one of the remaining war machines. The end of the barrel of its cannon was about fifteen meters from her and aimed squarely at her. She had placed her hands arrogantly on her perfect hips and her head was cocked to one side. One of her legs was slightly bent at the knee and she was tapping her toes as if she were waiting impatiently for it to fire at her. A second later, a flash of light from the cannon and the accompanying boom announced that the big gun had, indeed, been fired.
Not for the first time, she vanished from my sight inside a raging fiery explosion. I could feel the blast from where I lay, some distance away. The shell had hit her directly, I assume in the head or the torso, at – in tank cannon terms – point-blank range. But when the flames died away and the smoke and the dust cleared sufficiently, I saw her exactly as she had been ten seconds before. Her cocky, defiant stance was unchanged. Even her foot was still tapping, as if she was disappointed. In response, the crew put their engines into reverse gear, backing away from her.
She started to walk towards the retreating vehicle. As it began to pick up speed, she broke into a jog. Her long legs moved so gracefully as she quickly closed the gap between herself and the tank. She reached up and grabbed its cannon, bringing herself to a halt. The tank also came to a stop. Its treads continued to work furiously at its sides, but now they only threw up dirt and pebbles from the ground. They did not carry the rest of the massive machine away from the stationary girl. Her single hand, clasped around the giant barrel tightly enough to deform the thick steel tube, held the entire thing in place.
Slowly, she drew her arm back. I watched in awe as that slender limb proved more powerful than a tank's mighty engine and the body of the armoured vehicle was pulled towards its captor. The petite, feminine frame of the alien girl was dwarfed by the giant steel beast and yet she displayed a complete dominance over it as she manipulated it with apparent ease in direct opposition to its huge motors. Furious eruptions of earth were spat up by the frantic, futile spinning of the treads but she casually continued to drag the tank closer to herself. The engines whined more and more desperately as if appealing to the forces of the universe for help in their losing battle.
The suffering of the tank's motor was short-lived. As soon as she had dragged the vehicle close enough to herself, she let go of the cannon and thrust out one of her long legs, planting her delicate foot square on the front of the machine. That single kick was enough to send the entire tank spinning end over end through the air. The girl placed her hands on her hips, and threw her head back to roar with laughter as she watched the huge war machine's enormous arc. It soared hundreds of yards on its improbable flight, finally crashing back to earth almost too far away for me to see it land.
Turning back to the alien, I saw her walking towards yet another tank. I felt a sinking feeling deep in the pit of my stomach. The fate of the crew of this latest machine seemed already to have been decided. Their destruction, I believed, was now inevitable. Would she now continue to systematically eradicate every single tank out there? What would she do with any survivors of the ridiculously one-sided battle? Would she make her way through the debris, casually executing those of us who were still alive?
A sudden darkness, as if someone had somehow found a dimmer switch that controlled the sun, made me tear my eyes from the exquisite beauty of our destroyer and look up. After all I had witnessed that day, I would have thought myself immune to shock, but I still recoiled in surprise when I saw the strange, rectangular object which is now commonly known as the “Mother-ship.” Its dimensions are well documented elsewhere; suffice to say the presence of a thing, apparently made of metal, hovering in the air is shocking. When that thing is nearly a kilometre long, and blots out the sun with its sheer mass, it is quite simply awesome.
Everyone knows what happened next. I'm told that the sensuous female voice that emanated from the object was loud enough to be heard ten kilometres away. Down on the ground beneath it, I had to clasp my hands over my ears and bury my head under my arms to protect my eardrums from bursting. Still, despite that padding, I heard every syllable. At the time, I wondered why the voice was speaking in English. I have read a theory that might explain this: the aliens wanted us to understand their conversation. Perhaps they thought our humiliation was not yet complete enough. It was definitely complete a minute later though.
I'll never forget those words. “My daughter, I'm afraid the time has come for us to leave this solar system. I trust you have enjoyed your coming-of-age gift. We can return soon, with your sisters, as they reach maturity. There is enough of this planet to share between all four hundred of you.”
I was so horrified by the implication of those words, I didn't look up to see, as others have reported, the beam of green light that shot out of the huge ship, illuminating our former tormentor. Seconds later, she and the Mother-ship had vanished, leaving nothing but destruction and death where, an hour before there had been a mighty army. I do not know why or how I survived those sixty minutes, but I was alive when they ended, and this has been my story. Like the rest of you, everyday for the rest of my life, I will wake wondering if the Day of Return has come.