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Into the Looking Glass: Chapter Four

       Last updated: Thursday, December 23, 2004 00:59 EST



    “Oh, this is so truly good,” Glasser said.

    “My thoughts exactly,” Weaver agreed. McBain had already compared the ichor found at the site to the other two biologies and come up blank. All three appeared to come from different evolutionary backgrounds. “Any ideas? Other than digging in?”

    A platoon of combat engineers were felling the hummock, violating numerous environmental regulations if anyone was interested at the moment, while a company of National Guardsmen were attempting to dig in. Like much of Florida the water table in the area was high.

    “Find out what’s on the other side,” Glasser said.

    “If they’re hostile, and I have to admit that appears to be the case, that might not be too healthy,” Weaver pointed out.

    “Toss a couple of satchel charges through first, sir?” the command master chief said. Command Master Chief Miller was about six feet tall and just about as broad with a bald head and a wad of chew bulging out the left cheek. He pushed the wad across and then spat on the ground, never letting his M-4 carbine track away from the glittering mirror. “Then go in tactical, get a look around and get back out?”

    “What about blow-back through the gate?” Glasser asked.

    “Well, the back side doesn’t appear to be functional as a gate, sir,” Miller answered. “I’d say we toss ‘em, duck around back and hunker down then go back around and through.”

    “Works for me,” Glasser said. “Make it so. Oh, and chief?”

    “Yes, sir?”

    “You are not the first guy through the gate.”

    “Yes, sir,” Miller said, his face unreadable.

    “Neither am I. But I am going to be on the team.”



    First the environment suits. The SEALs had been using them on the other side of the Orlando gate so much they were used to them now. Then the mask, then the hood, then the body armor. Then the air-tank, then the ammo harness. Last of all the weapon and the helmet.

    “Wish these face-masks were ballistic protective,” Glasser said as Weaver helped him get adjusted.

    “Have fun,” Weaver said.

    “Don’t I always?”

    The five man team had assembled by the gate, two of them swinging satchel charges in their hands. The satchel charge was a nylon bag filled with explosives. A timed fuse was connected to a detonator. Hit the timer, toss the bag and when the time’s up big explosion.

    “Just remember,” Miller growled, over the radio. “Once you ignite the fuse, Mister Satchel Charge is not your friend.

    Glasser, Miller and Sanson crouched behind the gate as the other two tossed the charges through and then ducked around with them. All three clamped their hands over their ears and then waited a moment. There was a tremendous crash that was at the same time oddly muted. Then the team went in.

    Each SEAL had a number and a mission. The point, Howse, would enter, scan left and right and then concentrate on forward. Number two, Woodard, would scan as he entered then concentrate on left. Three, Sanson, had right. Four, Command Master Chief Miller, had up and back. Five, Glasser, was in command.

    They formed, fast, on the near side then, putting their left hand on left shoulder and holding their weapons out and down, went through the gate at a run.

    This time there was no vertical discontinuity. The far side was at the same level as the world they had left. But it was an entirely different environment than either earth or the other, still unnamed, planet. They appeared to be in a large room, but the walls and floors seemed oddly organic. The light was low and either everything was green or the light was. It appeared to be vaguely oval but the most distant walls were beyond sight in the gloom.

    Glasser switched on his gun-light and swept the beam around the room. It was large enough that the light didn’t hit the far wall or the ceiling. The gate was in the middle of it, apparently. The floor, at least, was green and the diffuse light seemed to be coming up from it and the walls. The spot where the satchel charges had hit was dark as if whatever generated the light had been damaged. That was all the time he had to look, though, when Howse screamed.

    Something like a giant mosquito was attached to his neck and more were flying through the air. Sanson shot at one and missed then Glasser realized they were in an untenable situation. This was a place for Raid and shotguns, not M-4s.

    “Back, back!” he shouted, backing into the gate and out.

    The chief grabbed Howse and threw him over his back then bolted out the door as the rest of the team filled the room with lead. Howse, however, was the only one hit as the mosquitoes stopped well away from the gate.

    Howse was on the ground with a local paramedic bent over him when Glasser, who may have been last in but was also last out, came through the gate. The thing that looked like a mosquito on the far side was, in the decent light of a normal sky, anything but. It had long wings shot through with veins and was colored light green. But the body was nothing but a blocky box and there was no apparent head, thorax or legs. It was attached to Howse’s neck, though, and pulsed oddly in the light.

    “What’s it doing?” Sanson asked, stepping back.

    There were tendrils extending out of its body and, as they watched, they burrowed into the environment suit and, presumably, into Howse. Howse’s face was distended, his tongue sticking out, and he appeared to be dead.

    “Okay, we have a real biological hazard, here,” Weaver said. “Get him in a body bag. He needs to be in a level four bio-containment room, stat.”

    “He needs a hospital,” Glasser objected.

    “He looks pretty dead to me,” Weaver said. “And I’d rather that we not contaminate the whole world with whatever that is. We need a way to stop them, for that matter, if they come through the gate.”

    “They stopped short,” Miller said, walking over to the ambulance and coming back with a body-bag. “Sanson, help me get him zipped.”

    “What the hell do we do?” Glasser said, shaking his head. “If those ‘demons’ come back, we can shoot them. But those things…they’re too small. Too quick. Maybe with shotguns.”

    “Big cans of bug-spray,” Woodard said as the chief and the seaman slid the late SEAL into a body-bag and hastily zipped it over the flier. “One of those sprayer trucks.”

    “We don’t know that bug spray will kill them,” Weaver pointed out. “But we can catch them if they come through. We need to get some of those light-weight nets for catching birds over this gate. Those things don’t, apparently, have any way to cut. What do they call them? Gossamer nets or something.”

    “Where?” Glasser asked.

    “University of Florida will probably be closest,” Weaver said, shrugging. “In the meantime…”

    “Down!” Sanson yelled, triggering his M-4 into the first of the things through the gate.

    Weaver understood why the, apparently late, Mrs. Edderbrook had called them demons. The thing stood about a meter and a half at the shoulder and was quadripedal. It had small eyes that were overshadowed by heavy bone ridges and more bone ridges graced its chest and back. The head, which was about the size of a dog’s, ended in a beak like a bird of prey. The color was overall green with a mottling of an ugly purple. It was quadripedal and had talons on front and rear legs. It had spikes sticking out of its shoulders and chest and a collar of them around its short neck. And it was fast.

    The first of the things through the gate caught Woodard by the leg and threw him to the ground, worrying at the leg like a terrier, the beak crunching effortlessly through flesh and there was a brittle crack as it severed the bone. But there was more than one, they seemed to be pouring through the gate in a limitless stream.

    Weaver took one look and decided that this was clearly not a place for a physicist. He turned tail and headed for the building line of entrenchments, hoping like hell that none of whatever those things were caught him nor that he would get killed in the crossfire. Already the National Guardsmen had opened fire and he heard bullets fly by as he sprinted for the lines. He also heard screams behind him and hoped like hell that the SEALs had had the sense to beat feet.



    “Sanson, Miller,” Glasser shouted, dropping to one knee and opening fire on the beast that had Woodard by the leg. “On me!”

    The three of them formed a triangle, firing at the beasts as they piled through the gate. They would have been overrun in a second if it hadn’t been for the National Guard, though. The Guardsmen had kept all of their machine-guns, both the platoon level MG-240s and Squad Automatic Weapons (SAWs) pointed at the gate and manned. So when the first of the beasts came through all they had to do was flick them off safe and open fire.

    The result was a madhouse as six MG-240s and fifteen SAWs filled the gateway with lead. The beasts were heavily armored but enough rounds pouring into them would kill them and they started to mound up in the gate, green ichor splashing in a wide circle, as the SEAL team backed away. As soon as they were clear of the immediate threat, and it was apparent that the infantry was piling up the enemy, the three turned their back on the gate and ran for the entrenchments. Weaver was waving from a hole behind the main defenses and they made a beeline for him, passing between a shallow hasty fighting position where one of the National Guardsman lay, firing careful bursts from an M-16A2 and crying, and a slightly deeper position where a SAW gunner was laying down three and five round bursts between what sounded like half-mad cackles.

    Glasser, Miller and Sanson dove into the largish hole head-first then the three SEALs turned around and began adding their own fire to the din.



    Sanson drew a bead on one of the things and fired carefully, watching the placement of his shot. When they had first been retreating it had been a matter of laying down fire as fast as possible and he wasn’t sure but he thought most of it was bouncing of the damned things. Sure enough, when he shot one in the head it didn’t even seem to notice it. The things had overlapping scaly plates as well as the bone underneath. More shots in its side seemed to be effective, though, punching through the scales in a flash of green ichor. He wasn’t sure whether it would have been a killing shot because even as he fired one of the MG-240s hit it and it went down. The ambulance that had supplied the body bag for Howse was in the way of fire from one side of the semi-circle of National Guardsmen and the things were trying to use it for cover. But the other side of the positions covered the dead ground and they were filling up the space with bodies of the things.

    However, they were clearly spreading out from the gate, despite the fire.

    “We need more firepower,” Glasser shouted through his mask. Even as he said it mortar rounds started dropping in the clearing around the gate. The mortars, however, didn’t kill the things unless they dropped right on them and the shrapnel from the mortars didn’t seem to effect them at all. Weaver heard a truck engine revving behind them and turned around to see one of the support trucks, a big five ton, pull up behind the entrenchments. There was a big machine gun in a circular mount on the top and it started hammering away, adding its fire to that of the company.

    “Ma Deuce,” Glasser said, sighting carefully and firing a short burst. “Fifty caliber. And it’s doing a job, too.”

    The big machine gun’s bullets weren’t stopped by the armor of the monsters. Head, chest, side, legs, the massive rounds punched right through. The gunner knew what he was doing, too, working his way from the outside in, pushing back the tidal wave of monsters until they were hemmed in around the gate again. But then he stopped firing.

    “Has to change barrels,” Glasser said when he saw Weaver flinch. “You want a weapon?”

    “I wouldn’t know how to use one,” Weaver admitted. “But I’ll be glad to learn if we get out of this.”

    “I need to go find the company commander,” Glasser said. “Miller, Sanson, stay on the doctor. If it goes to shit, get him out.” With that he stood up and sprinted off behind the line.

    “What did it look like on the other side?” Weaver asked.

    “Like being in a big, green, stomach,” Miller responded. He had pulled off his mask and now had a chew in again. “I think it was the inside of some big organism. Big. The room we were in was at least a hundred meters long.”

    “Shit,” Sanson said, dropping out his magazine and slapping in a new one. The reason for his exclamation was clear. A new type of creature was pouring through the gate. These were bipedal and large but otherwise similar in general appearance to the earlier attackers. The big difference was in their armament. The tops of their beaks appeared to be hollow and as Weaver watched they stitched the line of defenders with projectiles. Two of them concentrated on the big machine gun, which had been gotten back into action, and the two man crew was riddled with the projectiles, their blood splashing all over the truck which was still painted in desert camouflage.

    The beasts were, also, heavily armored and seemed to shrug off most of the rounds coming their way. Only the heavy rounds of the MG-240s seemed able to penetrate their armor and the things were now concentrating on taking out the machine guns one by one.

    “Joy,” Weaver said, turning over and pulling out his cell phone. He noticed that a news crew had set up behind the line of firing. Alien invasion, live. Joy.

    He pulled out his PDA and found the number he had been given then dialed it.

    “White House, National Security Advisor’s office.”

    “This is Doctor William Weaver,” he said. “I’d like to speak to the NSA if she’s available.”

    “I’m sorry, doctor, she’s in a meeting at the moment,” the operator said. “Is that firing I hear?”

    “Yes,” he replied. “You might want to get a message to her that we’re being invaded by aliens and the National Guard company trying to hold them off is about to be overrun. It should be on CNN by now. That was really all I called to say, anyway. Thanks. Bye.” With that he cut the connection.



    Lieutenant VanGelder’s SWAT team had been more than happy to let the National Guard secure the site. But, on the other hand, this was Lake County and the gate was a clear and present danger. So he’d had them stick around and taken over one of the upstairs rooms of the Edderbrook residence as his headquarters. When the firing broke out most of the team had been in the room and they had immediately stepped to the window to watch the growing fire-fight.

    Most of the team was armed with MP-5s, which was not going to do much good in this battle. But in the team vehicle were heavier weapons. Some of them so heavy that the SWAT team got a good bit of ribbing for having them.

    “Jenson, Knapp,” he snapped as the smaller beasts started pouring out of the gate and the SEAL team retreated. “Go get the Barretts.”



    Weaver had stuck his head back up over the side of the hole just in time to see one of the big monsters go pitching back with a hole in its breast. From the rear there was a loud BOOM that was audible even over the sound of the firing around him.

    “Barrett,” Command Master Chief Miller said, spitting out a line of tobacco juice. “Probably them SWAT boys. Doctor, I think it’s time for us to get out of here.”

    “Agreed,” Weaver said, just as one of the things turned and sent a stream of projectiles their way. He ducked down and looked behind them where some of them had embedded in a tree. They looked like thorns about two inches long, glittering black against the grayish-brown trunk. “How?”

    “Low,” the chief said. “Crawl out the back. Keep your butt down and your head down. There’s enough of a parapet in the front that if you stay low and go you’ll be covered by it. We’ll be right behind you.”



    VanGelder tracked right until the rifle was lined on another then squinted through the scope. At this range it would have been better to use iron sights but there hadn’t been time to take the scopes off much less rezero the sights. So he used what he had. He lined up the next beast through the crosshairs, stroked the trigger and then worked the bolt.

    “Got him,” Knapp said. He was standing by with another magazine and spotting for the lieutenant. “Left, monster in the open.”

    VanGelder tried not to laugh in near hysteria as he tracked left and shot another of the things. Unfortunately, it was like spitting in the ocean. The right flank of the National Guard company had been rolled up and most of their medium machine guns had been taken out. And more of the little monsters were pouring through now.

    He shot another, changed magazines and then looked at the overall situation. Most of the National guardsmen were trying to scurry out of their holes and run. He didn’t think anything against them for it, the situation was clearly out of control.

    On the other hand, be damned if they were going to invade through Lake County if he had anything to say about it.

    “Get on the horn. Call dispatch. Tell them to send everything we’ve got. If we can hold them by the gate we can hold them. Hell, send out a general call, anybody with big guns. Even a hunting rifle. Get your ass down here. We’ve got to hold them, here.”

    “I’m on it,” Jenson said. “There’s a news crew down there, I’ll tell them, too.”

    VanGelder nodded and looked back through the scope. Monster in open.



    Sanson squatted by a window, firing single shots in rapid fire. Miller had scooped up one of the abandoned MG-240s, its two man crew dead, and was laying down fire from another window.

    Dr. Weaver had settled on the couch in the front room and was contemplating gate activity. So far there had been one gate caused by man and one that appeared, apparently as the result of a hostile alien force. The first one sort of made sense. The Higgs boson had caused some sort of wormhole effect, either to another planet in this universe or to another universe. The second one did not. And then there was the hypothetical gate through which Tuffy had appeared. Would there be more? And why were they occurring.

    He dialed his phone again.


    “Have the detectors arrived?”

    “About an hour ago, and you were right. There’s a fairly continuous stream of sub-atomic particles coming out of it. I think it’s degrading.”

    “Okay, good,” Weaver said.

    “Is that firing I hear?” Garcia asked.

    “Yeah, we’re being invaded,” Weaver replied and yawned. “Monsters from the eighth dimension or something. I think we’re about to get overrun.”

    “Jesus! Get out of there!”

    “Well, we’re sort of cut off,” Weaver admitted. “Look, what sort of particles?”

    “Muons and something else,” Garcia said. “Do you really want to talk about this now?”


    “Okay, there’s some muons, like I said, but we’re getting readings on others. They’re not anything I recognize, not mesons, not quarks, very high mass. I’d guess they might be bosons.”

    “That doesn’t make sense,” Weaver said, squinting his brow as the machine gun set up an almost continuous clatter. “Not the big particles, the muons. I’d have expected neutrinos.”

    “I don’t happen to have a neutrino detector on me at the moment,” Garcia said, sarcastically. Neutrino detection required very large tanks of chemicals, usually in the tens of thousands of gallons. When the neutrinos hit the chemicals they were accelerated to faster than light speed, creating Cherenkov radiation detectable as purplish-blue flashes of light.

    “The Japanese have one down to, oh, the size of a container car or so,” Weaver said, yawning again. “Maybe we can borrow it. But the rest makes sense. If it’s degrading into the universe it’s probably going to increase the charge of each of the released particles. That means you get small gates at first and larger ones as it continues to degrade. Or maybe they’ll go further and further away. And the first gates that would open would be nearby. Finally things are starting to make sense.”

    Sanson walked over and slapped a pistol into the scientist’s empty hand.

    “You know how to use one of those?” Sanson asked.

    “Point and click?” Weaver said, looking puzzled.

    “Yeah, more or less,” the SEAL laughed. “Round up the spout, cocked, not on safe. Touch the trigger and it fires. Just remember to point it at the bad guys.”

    “Look, one of the SEALs just handed me a pistol,” Weaver said, keeping his finger away from the trigger. “I think that’s a bad sign. We’ll talk about this later, okay?”

    “Okay,” Garcia said. “Decaying, releasing particles, particles open gates.”

    “Something like that. And increasing charge, larger gates or further away as time goes by.” Tuffy was small. Small gate? But large enough to take Mimi? The front door burst open and one of the smaller monsters came into the room, howling its terrible cry. Sanson turned and fired a burst which bounced off the armor but as it turned towards the SEAL Weaver lined up the pistol on it and shot. The first round was high, kicking dust out of the wall, but he lowered the pistol slightly and was rewarded with a green blotch on the second round. Two more bullets into it, and one in the floor, and it was kicking and twitching on the ground, spilling green ichor into the blue rug.

    “Well, gotta go,” Weaver said.


    “See you later, Garcia.”

    Another of the beasts sprang into the room and Weaver shot at it, missing, then two more times and hit. The second round hit it in the hindquarters and its back legs dropped, limp. But it continued to crawl forward on its front legs and his next two rounds missed, poking holes in the far wall and shattering a picture of a sailboat against the backdrop of a tropical island. That was his last round and the slide of the H&K locked back on the empty magazine.

    “I think I’m out of bullets,” he yelled, standing up and stepping back over the couch.

    “Here!” Sanson yelled, tossing a magazine through the air.

    Weaver caught it but had no idea what to do with it. However, he was an engineer, it should be easy enough to figure out. The thing had crawled up to him and he backed away, into the room, hoping to draw it away from the two SEALs as he attempted to determine how to reload. Let’s see, two levers on the handle of the gun, one blocked by the slide. Lever near the trigger. He fiddled with the lever and was rewarded by having the empty magazine drop out onto the floor. Point bullets forward, insert magazine. Eureka! But the slide didn’t go forward and pulling the trigger didn’t work. He grabbed the slide and pulled back and was again rewarded by having it slide forward. By this time the thing had nearly crawled up to him again and he jumped backwards then pointed the gun at it and shot several times.

    “Watch it!” Miller snarled as one of the rounds hammered into his body armor.

    “Save your rounds!”

    “Hey, I got it, didn’t I?” Weaver asked as his phone rang.

    “William Weaver,” he said, holding the smoking barrel of the pistol upwards where he wouldn’t tend to shoot one of the SEALs.

    “This is the NSA, we’re watching the news, where are you?”

    “In the Edderbrook house,” he replied. “I think we’re sort of cut off.”

    “Jesus! Get out of there!”

    “I don’t think that’s possible,” he noted as another of the damned things just strolled in the door. He aimed carefully this time and managed to hit it on the first shot. But the round only ticked it off and it turned and charged him.

    “Hold please,” he said, jumping to the back of the couch and over and then coming up with the pistol and shooting it in the back as it tried to make the turn. One of the bullets must have hit its spine because its back legs went out just like the other one. He aimed carefully and fired rounds into its neck until it stopped moving. He realized he’d gotten out of control when the slide locked back again. “I’m out of bullets again!” he yelled. “I’m sorry, I’m a little busy at the moment. Could we talk later?”

    “Sure,” the NSA said, bemusedly.

    “I told Garcia what I think is going on, based on the evidence,” he said, catching another magazine from Sanson and missing the toss from Miller. He reloaded and picked up the magazine he’d missed as he talked. Multi-tasking, that’s the key.

    “We’ll talk later,” the NSA said.

    “Yeah, later,” he replied as two more came through the door and one crashed through a window. “Guys! I don’t think I can hold them this time!” Sanson turned and shot the one under the window as Miller fired and killed one of the ones by the door. But that had emptied his belt and it was left for Weaver to finish off the last.

    “Up the stairs,” Miller said, pushing the scientist ahead of him. At the top of the stairs, though, was a large barricade constructed from a bed.

    “Hey!” Miller yelled. “Let us through!”

    “Catch,” a voice said from the other side of the barricade and a knotted rope came flying through the air.

    The command master chief started to hand it to the physicist and then stopped, taking the pistol and manipulating a lever. “Safety.”

    “Right,” Weaver said. “Thanks for the tip.” He dropped his cellphone in one pocket and tucked the pistol in the other then climbed up the rope, with a push from the chief, and tumbled to the ground on the top landing. The two SEALs followed him up the barricade and then spread out through the top floors.

    “VanGelder,” a voice said behind him. “Lake County SWAT. Who are you?” Weaver tilted his head backwards and looked up at a blonde mountain of a man.

    “Doctor William Weaver,” he answered. “I’m a physicist studying the gates.”

    “Come to any conclusions?” VanGelder asked.

    “Yes, I wish Ray Chen had never been born,” Weaver said.

    VanGelder chuckled and pointed at the pistol. “You know how to use that?”

    “I killed four or five of them downstairs,” Weaver answered. “But the honest answer is no. And I’m pretty much out of bullets.”

    “Knapp carries an H&K,” VanGelder said. “I’ll get you some magazines. You want a shotgun?”

    “I’d love a shotgun,” Weaver admitted.

    “Okay, you stay by the barricade and make sure none of them come up,” VanGelder said, walking away. “And I’ll get you a shotgun.”

    Weaver peered out through a gap in the barricade but none of the things seemed to be coming up the stairs. There was a crashing from downstairs and their weird ululation but they didn’t seem to be interested in the upper stories. There was firing from all around the house, now and he heard the sound of some of the thorn projectiles hitting the sides along with a curse from someone in one of the rooms.

    VanGelder stopped by and dropped four magazines on the floor then handed him a shotgun.

    “Four rounds in the tube and one up the spout,” VanGelder said. “You know how to use it?”

    “You pull the handle back,” Weaver said, guessing. Sure enough when he did a shotgun round flew out the side. “I’ve watched television.”

    “You reload here,” VanGelder said, dryly, pointing to the slot on the underside and handing him the ejected round. “I’ll let you figure out the sights.” He dropped a box of ammunition on the floor and then walked back into one of the rooms.

    Weaver slid the round back into the shotgun and poked the barrel through the hole just in time to see one of the dog-like creatures creeping up the stairs. It seemed to have trouble with the concept, raising its feet too high and missing the steps. He gave it a blast from the shotgun which knocked it off its feet. As it tumbled to the ground, howling, he shot it in the side. The load of double ought buck put a hole in its side he could put two fists through. It twitched and then was still but by that time another was ascending the stairs. He shot it and this time it didn’t fall but just kept climbing, belly down on the stairs. He shot twice more and the last round apparently found something vital because it stopped and rolled into a ball, biting at its belly. He shot it again and then the shotgun clicked on an empty chamber.

    He loaded more rounds feverishly but no more were on the stairs when he looked. He leaned his head on the barricade and, just for a second, contemplated that this was a really stupid place for a physicist to die. When he opened his eyes again there were three of the things on the stairs, nosing at the dead monsters.

    He shot one that was broadside, dropping it, then the other two clumsily charged upwards. He got one, somehow, but the third was scrabbling at the barricade and he was out of rounds. He dropped the shotgun and picked up the pistol, emptying it at point blank range into the belly of the monster. That stopped it, but its claws pulled the barricade partially down. More were on the steps now and he dropped out the magazine and started firing at them as fast as he could.

    He was pretty sure he was done for when there came a burst of firing from outside the house. Shotguns, rifles, a heavy “BLAM-BLAM-BLAM” that sounded sort of like the big machine-gun that had been on the truck and another louder boom that he couldn’t place. The monsters were clawing at the barricade, though, so he kept reloading and firing. Then, suddenly, Sanson was at his side. He had a different rifle and he picked his shots, dropping the monsters one by one.

    “What’s happening outside?” Weaver shouted. All the firing had made him half deaf he realized.

    “I think the cavalry got here,” Sanson said.



    Jim Holley had never had what most people called “a real job” in his life. After getting out of the Army he’d moved back to his hometown of Eustis and drifted from one job to another. He’d sold magazines, headed up a couple of charities, played at politics and spent a good bit of time working in retail. But what he mostly did was play with guns.

    All of his limited free money went to his gun collection and it had, over the years, become quite extensive. He was well known to all the gun stores in the Eustis area and could be found every weekend that there wasn’t a local gun show on one range or another firing a wide variety of weapons.

    He’d been hanging out in Big Bob’s Bait, Tackle and Armaments, wrangling amiably about the difference in quality between the British .303 and the .30-06, when they both heard the call from the SWAT team for any available unit to respond. If the National Guard couldn’t handle it and the SWAT team couldn’t handle it it had to be bad.

    Big Bob had rolled his cigar from one side of his mouth to another and shook his head.

    “I think it’s time to break out the big guns, Jimbo, what say you?” Jim had just nodded and they both walked into the back room of the store. Now, Jim had quite a collection but Bob Taylor was in the business of supplying whatever a customer might desire. And his idea of what customers might desire was pretty eclectic. The back room of his store, which was only open to the right sort of individual, was the gun collector’s dream. He had two Barretts, M-82A1 and M-95, semi-automatic and bolt respectively. There were Armalites, MP-5s, Garands, Thompsons, Sten, Steyn AUGs and hanging in pride of place a .477 Tyrannosaur. On the floor was a huge gun with a stock and a bipod that was a Finnish Lahti m/39 20mm “man portable” engine of destruction.

    By the time they had the back door open and were loading ammunition the shop had started to fill up. Some of them were “help me” customers who, hearing what was happening had decided that this was the day to come in and purchase a weapon. But the vast majority were the usual crowd of hangers on. The latter filed into the back room and set to work unloading the room and loading the weapons.

    In no more than fifteen minutes they had two pick-ups filled with enough weapons and ammo to arm a very eclectic company of infantry and a convoy of half a dozen battered pickups, cars and SUVs was headed down the road to Jules Court.

    They ran into the first monster nearly a block away. It was savaging a little girl’s bike, said little girl being up a tree, screaming.

    Jim was in the back of Bob’s pickup truck and he let the monster have it in the side with a burst of 185 grain rounds from the vintage BAR he had laid across the roof. Even driving along at fifteen miles an hour he managed to put three rounds in the side of the thing which dropped in its tracks.

    “Time to unass,” Bob yelled.

    “No,” Jim yelled back. “Drive closer. Less distance to hump this shit!”

    But by the time Jules Court was in view, they could see that they were going to have to go tactical. Monsters were spilling onto the street. Some of them were like the first, the size of large dogs and covered in spikes. Others were bipedal and seemed to be firing something out of their snouts. Jim shot one of them with the BAR and then held on as Bob slammed to a stop.

    “I’ve got just the thing for those bastards,” Jim said, clambering over the tailgate and picking up the 20mm. He managed to get it set up on the roof and then slid in a magazine. “Eat Finnish hot-lead you alien freaks!”

    The rounds from the 20mm were not, in fact, lead bullets but exploding shells. As each of them punched into one of the larger beasts it exploded sending bits of the monsters in every direction and covering the area in green gore.

    The rest of the ad hoc militiamen had unloaded from the trucks and were laying down a base of fire, engaging the smaller beasts and letting the heavy weapons handle the larger ones. One of the requirements to be a “regular” at Big Bob’s Bait, Tackle and Armaments was that you had to “know what you were doing.” That meant you couldn’t just argue the relative merits of a Sharps Buffalo gun but you had to know what it was used for. Bob preferred people like Jim, somebody with real military experience. Cops were okay, but only if they knew how to shoot for shit and most cops, in Bob’s experience, didn’t measure up to his criterion.

    Most of the regulars, therefore, had a more than adequate idea of what to do in a situation where demons were invading the earth through a gate into hell. That is: lay down as much lead as necessary to push them back.

    Jim emptied the BAR magazine and reached back only to have another shoved into his hand. He slipped that one in and engaged another of the bipedal beasts, ripping a three round burst into its torso that nearly severed it. There seemed to be about one of them for every ten or twenty of the smaller beasts. And the guys on either side with rifles and shotguns were clearing up the smaller ones. It was only when the last of the bipedal beasts in view were down that he noticed there was firing from the second story of one of the houses. And at the far end of the road there was a group of soldiers in desert camouflage who had been holding a fall-back line.

    “Bob, we got to move it in,” he said. “Push them back to that gate, wherever it is.”

    “Yeah,” the gunship owner said, reflectively. He waved at an arm that had been thrust out of the second story window. There was firing from inside the house, too. “Everybody head for the house!” he yelled. “Get in and drive, I’m going to stay on the 20mm.”

    Jim got in and put the truck in gear, slowly rolling it forward as the infantry on either side kept pace. Twice he stopped as more waves of the monsters came out, one time ducking down as a line of something like thorns stitched the truck. They were tough and hard, though, he noticed, prodding at one that was shoved through the driver’s side door. Sharp, too. He pricked a finger and hoped like hell they weren’t poisoned.

    Finally they made it up to the house and Bob called a halt. They’d left two bodies behind, both of them from getting hit by the thorn throwers. As they pulled to a halt in the driveway the Lake County SWAT team came barrel assing out of the house and Guardsmen started filtering out from other houses in the area.

    “Glad you could make it,” VanGelder said.

    “Where’s this gate?” Bob answered, sliding off the side of the pickup then taking the 20mm that was handed down to him. The weapon was nearly two meters long and weighed right at fifty pounds, so it wasn’t like you could fire it off-hand. But he slung it over one shoulder and grabbed a box of ammunition for it.

    “Behind the house,” the SWAT lieutenant replied. “The backyard is crawling with these things.”

    “I’ll get up in the house and cover the advance,” the gunship owner said.

    “Right,” VanGelder nodded. “Get the thorn-throwers, we’ll handle the dogs.”



    “Our cavalry is a group of rednecks in pickup trucks,” Sanson said, dryly.

    “Don’t knock it,” the command master chief said, spitting on the floor. “That’s more firepower than I’ve seen outside Ashkanistan.”

    More of the locals had moved into the downstairs and a big man carrying an absolutely huge gun shouldered past Weaver into a back bedroom. Another of the locals wearing a Lynyrd Skynyrd t-shirt was following him carrying three large boxes of ammunition. More flooded up carrying a motley assortment of only very large guns. The last was carrying the largest “normal” rifle Weaver had ever seen. It had a bolt action and looked like what his friends back home used for deer hunting, but it was about twice as large.

    “What’s that?” he asked Miller.

    “Is that what I think it is?” the chief said to the local at the same time.

    “If you think it’s a Tyrannosaur, it is,” the local said, smiling.

    “Damn,” the SEAL muttered. “I’ve got to move to Central Florida. They’re death on those things in Virginia.”

    Firing had started up again from the back of the house and rose to a crescendo that was unbelievably loud. There was an occasional scream but the progress of the attack seemed to be steady. He could hear the firing from downstairs moving forward and thought about the gate. They couldn’t stop the things by just shooting at them; they had to close the gate somehow.

    “We gotta close the gate,” Miller said, looking at him as if reading his mind.

    “I don’t know how to turn it off,” Weaver said. “But what if we took one of the bulldozers and parked it in front of it? At the very least it would give us some warning that they’re coming through.”

    “Well, I don’t know how to drive a bulldozer,” the command master chief admitted, sounding ashamed. “Do you?”

    “No,” Weaver said. “But I bet one of these locals will.”

    Sanson came back a moment later with the guy who carrying the big “Tyrannosaur” rifle.

    “We want to block the gate with a bulldozer,” Weaver said.

    “So he told me,” the local replied. “Makes sense. Where’s the dozer?”

    “There was one over to the left,” the physicist noted. “But it’s more or less behind the gate. I don’t know if the monsters have spread that way or not.”

    “They seem to be heading for the houses,” Miller pointed out. “They don’t seem to be going behind the gate at all, yet.”

    “We could drive around back,” the local said. “Try to drive right up to it.”

    “That might attract their attention,” the chief pointed out. “So far we have a one axis threat. That would make it multi-axis. And that would really suck.”

    “Hey, you’re a SEAL, right?” the local replied, chuckling through his beard.

    “You wanna live forever?”

    “Preferably,” Miller answered. “But let’s go see if you know what you’re doing.”

    By the time they got to the pickup truck the locals and what was left of the National Guard company had retaken the fighting positions and, with the support of heavy weapons in the houses overlooking the gate, were holding the monsters in a small perimeter right at the gate itself. The monsters were still attempting to pour through but the additional firepower of the locals had them pinned at the entrance. As they crowded into the front seat of the pickup Weaver noticed some things that looked like the alien “mosquitoes” hovering near the gate now. He dreaded those more than the thorn throwers or the “dogs” but it turned out that these were not the semi-parasitic mosquitoes. What they were became apparent as a television helicopter drifted too close to the battle.

    One of the things flapped its wings harder and began to ascend. When it got to about ten meters above the ground the wings dropped off and a jet of fire shot out of its rear. It accelerated fast on what appeared to be a rocket engine and then slammed into the helicopter. The helicopter exploded in mid-air sending flaming pieces far and wide.

    “Jesus,” the local said, putting the pickup in gear and backing out of the driveway.

    “Great,” the chief said. “They’ve got anti-air capability. What next? Anti-tank? Organic tanks?”

    “That room you were in,” Weaver said. “It looked like a giant organism, right? So it’s conceivable that they could grow something as large as a tank.”

    “That won’t be good,” Miller noted.

    “No,” Weaver said with a chuckle.

    “Where are they, then?” Sanson asked.

    “Probably the same place ours are,” Weaver replied in a distracted tone. “Not near the gate. Okay, they form a gate. And maybe they’re getting ready for an invasion. But that room was more or less empty, right?”

    “Right,” Miller replied.

    “So…the mosquito thing that got your SEAL was something like a sentry, maybe an antibody. It was designed just to defend the hole and maybe send out an alarm. Although I’d guess getting a couple of satchel charges in the gut probably sent enough of an alarm through that thing anyway.”

    “Ouch,” Miller said. “You’re saying we caused this?”

    “No,” Weaver replied. “But you might have sped up their timetable. So they’re throwing everything they have nearby into the gate. And, presumably, their real heavies aren’t right there. Or, maybe, they haven’t even produced them yet but will soon. Or are producing them now and they’ll be here momentarily.”

    “We’d better block the gate pretty quick, then,” the local noted, putting the truck in gear.

    “Oh, yeah,” Weaver said as his phone rang. He fished it out of his pocket and turned it on distractedly. “William Weaver.”

    “Doctor Weaver, this is the NSA. SOCOM reports they’ve lost contact with their SEAL team, the National Guard is out of contact with their company and the last news chopper to get into the area was shot down by something. I presume you’ve moved out of the area? I wasn’t sure if you’d be there to answer, frankly.”

    “No, I’m still in the area,” Weaver replied as the pickup took a corner on two wheels. “We’re going to try to block the gate with a bulldozer. And I don’t know what happened to Lieutenant Glasser but the last two members of the team are with me in the pickup truck.”

    “Pickup truck?”

    “Some of the locals have rendered assistance,” Weaver said. “I’d make a redneck joke but I are one. Anyway, they’ve got the monsters pushed back to the gate and we’re going to try to close it, or at least block it, with one of the bulldozers that was clearing the area. But we’ve been discussing it and we think there are probably heavier monsters that haven’t arrived yet. I think you need to get some really heavy forces down here.”

    “We will,” the NSA answered. “There’s a battalion on the way from Benning at the moment but they can’t be there until tomorrow at the earliest.”

    “Well, in that case I suggest that you get whatever you can get here as fast as possible,” Weaver said. “these guys seem to mean business. And so far I think we’ve only seen their equivalent of infantry. I don’t want to think about what might be on the way. I’d say, ma’am, that it’s a race to see who can…” he paused. He’d heard the term before. Oh, yeah. “who can get here the fustest with the mostest.”

    There was a pause and he could almost see the NSA nod. “I see. I’ll point that out, with underlining, to the Pentagon.”

    “Yes, ma’am,” Weaver said as the pickup braked to a stop by the bulldozer.

    “I’ve got to go now. Talk to you later. Bye.”

    “You know,” Weaver said to the air. “This is almost as exciting as defending a scientific paper.”

    “You’re joking,” the chief replied, climbing out of the truck and scanning for monsters. There was one of the dogs on the bulldozer and he shot it off but that seemed to be the only one in the area.

    “Sort of,” Weaver said. “But you’d be surprised how brutal it can get.” He hefted the shotgun and felt in his pocket for the remaining rounds. The pistol, on safe as he’d been shown, was shoved in the front of his pants, his last magazine shoved in his back pocket. “And they don’t let you shoot people who are attacking you for no reason.”

    The four of them clambered on the bulldozer and the local got it started. It lurched into motion and headed right for the gate.

    “I’m gonna pull it up to the side and pivot it,” the local said. “That’s gonna be the bad time; nobody will be able to fire because we’ll be in the way.”

    “Well, I’ll do what I can,” Miller said. He had grabbed the Tyrannosaur and had his M-4 slung over his back. “Sanson, take the dogs, I’ll handle the thorns, Doc, you handle anything that gets on the dozer.”

    The local picked up the dozer blade as one of the thorn throwers that had just exited the gate fired at them. Most of the thorns were caught by the blade but a few pinged onto the canopy over the driver’s seat.

    Miller leaned against the support of the canopy and fired the Tyrannosaur, the recoil almost knocking him off his feet.

    “Yowza!” he yelled, working the bolt and then rotating his shoulder.

    “Got a kick, don’t it?” the local said.

    Sanson was picking off dogs on either side and Doc realized he should be watching for threats, not watching the chief. He looked around and, sure enough, one of the dogs had managed to jump up on the back of the dozer. He gave it a mouthful of buckshot which, if it didn’t kill it, certainly knocked it off the dozer. Another was trying to get past the spinning treads on his side and he shot it in the back. It lost the use of its back legs but still tried to crawl forward.

    Just then the local pivoted the dozer, incidentally crushing the wounded dog monster, and lowered the blade slightly, lining it up with the hole. There was a mound of injured and dead monsters by the gate and the dozer pushed them back into the hole along with a thorn thrower that had just come through. The mound shrank as it was pushed back and then the dozer blades, which were wider than the opening, reached the gate. And stopped.

    All four of them were thrown forward as the bulldozer lurched to a halt. The local geared down, but the treads just spun in place.

    “Damn,” Miller said. “That’s weird.”

    “Very,” Weaver admitted. He hadn’t been certain what would happen since the blade was wider than the opening but if he had been willing to make a guess is was that the dozer would have gone forward as if the gate didn’t exist, leaving the gate in the middle of the dozer. However, it appeared that the gate had a very real physical presence. It was, however, at least partially blocked. As he watched, though, a dog monster crawled out from under the blade, only to be shot by Sanson.

    “Lower the blade a little,” the chief said.

    The local lowered it to the ground leaving the top half of the gate open. A thorn thrower clambered over the obstacle but was hit by fire from three separate machine guns and fell back into the gate.

    “Let’s dig a berm,” Sanson said. “Push dirt up to cover it completely.”

    “They’d just dig through it,” Miller said. “No, leave it this way. We’ll realign the machine guns to cover it. I’m sure they’ll figure out a way through but it will do for now.”

    The four of them clambered off the dozer and headed for the lines at a weary trot. They were half way there when an explosion behind them threw them off their feet.

    Weaver rolled onto his back and looked towards the gate where the smoking bulldozer still lay, half its blade blown off.

    “I thought they’d think of something,” Miller said, angrily. “But not that fast!”

    “Come on!” Weaver shouted, springing to his feet and hurrying back to the hole they had occupied at the first attack. Behind them there was another explosion and then another.

    He jumped into the hole, realized that he’d left his shotgun behind, and started to go back for it just as the smoking bulldozer shuddered and was shoved out of the way.

    What came through the hole was impossible, a beast about the size of a rhinoceros, covered in scaly plates and strong enough, apparently, to move a D-9 by shoving with six stumpy legs. It let out a high-pitched bellow that shook the ground then turned its head and launched a ball of green lightning from between two horns. The lightning seemed to float through the air but it must have been going fast because at almost the same instant it was fired it hit the trench line and exploded, blowing one of the machine gun posts into the air.

    “Holy fucking shit,” Sanson muttered, pumping rounds into the thing. Or at least at it, they were sparking on its plate and clearly not penetrating.

    “Well, now we know what their tanks look like,” the chief said. He still had the Tyrannosaur and was aiming at the thing but not firing. “Come on, you bastard,” he muttered.

    The monster fired another ball of lightning and one of the houses behind them exploded in fire. Then it stopped and roared again.

    As it did the chief fired one round.

    Weaver had thought the world had exploded when the first round had been fired by the creature but he now had a new perspective. The air turned white and he found himself flung through the air by a tremendous force like a giant, ungentle, hand. He didn’t even notice when he slammed into the back of the hole. He knew he passed out but it couldn’t have been for long because the rumble from the explosion was still resounding when he shook his head and opened his eyes. For a moment he thought he was blind but realized that it was just an after image of the explosion; everything looked milky-white. He felt something liquid on his face and reached up. His nose and ears were both bleeding.

    Sanson was lying in the bottom of the hole, unmoving. He was breathing but out cold. The local was in the bottom next to him, his head tilted at an odd and clearly unsurvivable angle. The chief was lying next to him up against the side of the hole, and sat up with what appeared to be a groan. That was when Weaver realized that all he could hear was a ringing in his ears.

    He sat up and looked at the gate. There was a large crater in front of it. The bulldozer was over on its side. And there was nothing coming through. The chief was looking at him and saying something. Weaver realized he could hear it, if barely. He was asking if he was okay.

    “No,” he said, shaking his head and pointing at his ears. “I can’t hear!” He suddenly noticed that he had the world’s worst headache.

    The chief nodded and pointed at his own, mouthing “Neither can I.” He opened the bolt of the Tyrannosaur, wearily pulled some rounds out of his fatigues and thumbed them into the action. Then he shot the bolt forward, leaned back, closed his eyes and shook his head, clearly spent beyond human endurance, clutching the gun to his chest. After a moment he set his jaw, leaned forward and pointed the gun at the gate. He looked over his shoulder at Weaver and reached into his pocket. What he held out was a large goldish coin. He pointed to one side. It had a human figure on it and the motto: “The only easy day was yesterday.”

    Doctor Weaver looked at the SEAL, who was also bleeding from the nose and ears but clearly prepared to do battle, shook his own head and passed out.

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