September 22 1897, 100 Kilometers Northwest of Svalbard
Travelling to the heart of the Arctic Circle was by no means a small feat. A whole host of broken glaciers, icebergs, floes, and other oceanic hazards littered the approach to the North Pole and the Arctic Shelf that surrounded it. Despite the treacherous conditions, many nations connected, or near, the Arctic Circle wanted to explore its reaches and uncover what mysteries remain along both poles of the world.
It was this drive to fill in the map that led to the commissioning of the National Arctic Circle Expedition in early summer of 1897, a point in time where the perpetual winters have receded the most, allowing for easier traversal. 42 Sailors aboard the USS Samuel James made way from Boston, hoping to beat the ice and traverse the top of the world. Such hope was short-lived, as numerous icebergs during that summer had forced the ship to alter course on numerous occasions. Because of these course corrections, their window was narrowing by the day. The crew of the Samuel James had believed they had plenty of time to get as much distance in as they could, but after sailing through several ice floes, many of them began to coalesce around the sailing ship's hull, freezing it in place.
With the Samuel James stuck upon the massive ice flow, Captain Archibald Witwicky ordered his men to disembark and proceed in breaking apart the ice flow with whatever implements they had onboard.
"Chop faster!" The first mate - Reginald Danco - cried out from the bow of the ship. "The ice is freezing faster than it's melting!"
The crew knew how dangerous it would be to be stuck upon this ice flow. They would be fortunate if it drifted south and melted away, freeing the ship, but their window of opportunity of reaching the Arctic Shelf would be wasted for another year, and to return empty-handed after such toils did not sit well with them, and so they suffered through the cold, chipping away at the ice using tools that were meant to traverse the ice shelf when they got there.
"How much fuel do we have?" Reginald cried out to one of the few men currently onboard.
"We don't have enough to melt this ice and keep ourselves warm, sir!" An ensign responded as he clamored up from below deck.
"How much fabric do we have?" A bold voice called out, as Captain Witwicky climbed back aboard, his facial hair completely coated in snow, and a creeping of frost invading his glasses.
"Erm…" The ensign took a moment to check the stores below deck. "We have plenty of wool, sir, but-"
"Distribute wool to the crew to help keep them insulated, and get a portion of oil for the ice!" Archibald declared as he proceeded to climb back down to the ice flow to aid his crew in clearing the ice. "No sacrifice, no victory! We'll get to the Arctic Shelf, lads!"
The crew spurred on, reassured by their captain's words. The only ones that still seemed tense were the Siberian Huskies brought along for the journey, intended to be used as sled dogs for when they reached the shelf. The dogs soon bolted away, either something gaining their attention, or worse, something scaring them away.
"Hey! Come back here!" Reginald cried out as he clamored down from the ship and set off to bring back the dogs. Several crewmen followed, and even Captain Witwicky followed, wondering what had gotten the huskies so riled up. The First Mate then noticed the dogs suddenly stopped and began digging in a single spot. "Sir? I think the dogs've found something."
"Good noses on those dogs," Captain Witwicky nodded, but was still perplexed. "But what'd they find though?"
As if fate deigned to answer his question, the ice began to crack under everyone's feet. Several sailors immediately backed away, and more cleared away as the ice beneath Archibald and the sailors and dogs around him buckled downward. Everyone in the sudden depression tried to climb out before the ice could collapse any further. Standing at its center, Captain Witwicky fell through the ice with a yelp, followed by one of the huskies.
"CAPTAIN!" Reginald cried out as their leader fell into whatever glacial crevice was beneath them.
Captain Witwicky continued to slide down, but eventually came to a stop. Sore from the rough edges of the ice tunnel he slid down, he slowly stood up and did a quick once over of himself and found he was intact.
"I'm alright, lads!" Captain Witwicky called out, fairly certain his voice would reach his crew through the tunnel he fell in.
"Thank god!" Reginald exclaimed in relief at the surface, his sigh echoing down the tunnel. "Do you need a rope, Captain?"
"Hang on, lads!" Archibald exclaimed as he began to take in his surroundings. "Lemme just…"
All the words left the explorer's throat as he saw what would haunt his memories for the rest of his life. Right before him, entombed within the ice, was what looked like a metal giant, its face obscured by some type of helmet or mask, the only way for it to see being through a narrow slit where the eyes would be. Upon further inspection of his surroundings, Archibald Witwicky realized that he was standing atop the giant's open palm, which held 3 clawed fingers, one of which was clearly a thumb.
"Men!" The Captain called out, absolutely excited and terrified with what he was seeing. "We've made a discovery!"
The loud call of his voice accidentally loosened a few icicles in the ceiling - fortunately none that were over the Captain or the hand he was standing on - and a few of the frozen stalactites to rain down upon the giant's head. A large chunk of ice bounced off the head and impacted one of the frozen metal digits of the hand. A moment of silence passed before Captain Witwicky let loose a breath he was holding.
"Hoo, that was close," He sighed.
The captain gasped in surprise when the impacted clawed finger began to slightly curl, shakily scraping inward as it seemed to be fighting the ice that had been encrusted around its joints. He even saw what looked like a static current running along the circumference of the joint. A sudden rumbling noise drew his attention back to the face of the giant and for a moment, it looked as if the visor began to glow a blood red before swiftly brightening to intolerable levels and flashing light directly through his glasses and burning his eyes, causing him to fall back and cry out in pain.
"Captain Witwicky!" Reginald cried out as he grabbed a rope and immediately slid down the hole. By the time he reached the cave at the end of the tunnel, he saw the husky huddled next to the captain, who was lying on the ground, his glasses to the side, cracked in one lens. Reginald then saw Archibald's eyes were completely filled with cataract and the captain was shaking. Reginald then saw the giant and, in reflex, crossed himself in an attempt to ward off whatever this… demon had done to his leader. "Lord help me… Come on, sir! We gotta get you outta here!"
May 7 2007, Qatar, 30 Kilometers from SOCCENT Airbase
2 CV-22 Ospreys casually hovered over the vast deserts that comprised Qatar's landscape. Each carried an Army Ranger team who were both weary from an extended infiltration mission behind enemy lines. After the operation was declared a success, the higher ups deemed the squads earned some much needed rest and relaxation.
"Oh God, 5 months of this…" One of the squadmates sighed in exasperation, enjoying the breeze let in by the open hatch. "Can't wait to get a little taste of home. A plate of Mama's alligator étouffée…"
The man in question - Jorge Figueroa, or 'Fig' for short, hummed at the thought of his mother's cooking, while his sergeant, Robert Epps, who sat across from him, grimaced at the thought of eating alligator.
"You've been talkin' about barbecued gators and crickets for the last 2 weeks," Epps sharply pointed out with the tiniest hint of disgust. "I'm never going to your mama's house, fig, I promise."
"Bobby, Bobby, gators are known to have the most succulent meat," Fig immediately countered. "You just haven't tried it is all."
Fig then slipped into speaking Spanish, to which Epps merely rolled his eyes before mocking the Spanish. "English, please. English," Epps requested with a sigh.
"Fig, How many times, We don't speak Spanish," The Captain of the group tiredly requested, though William Lennox had a feeling that was not gonna cut it.
"Why do ya gotta ruin it for me man?" Fig protested. "That's my heritage!" Before transitioning right back into Spanish to make his point to which Lennox just raised a hand.
"Alright, Go with the Spanish. Whatever," Lennox relented as he leaned back.
"Hey, you guys remember weekends?" Corporal Patrick Donnelly spoke up to break up the argument. "The Sox at Fenway? Cold hot dog and a flat beer?"
"Perfect day," Fig sighed, knowing exactly what Donnelly was rambling on about. Having mentioned a good portion of his own perfect day, he wondered what the others' idea was. "What about you, Captain? Got a perfect day?"
"Ah, that'll happen when I see my baby girl for the first time," Lennox answered quietly. The entire team began teasing their superior officer, calling him adorable for such a sappy statement. Lennox found it embarrassing, but also amusing at the time. "Shut up."
Soon they saw the familiar tarmac of the airbase come into view from the opening. Their transport slowly descended before finally making contact with the ground, to which one of the airmen aboard gave the okay for the team to disembark. They, along with the other team, climbed aboard a transport truck and rode off to the residential section of the airbase.
"Alright, have fun and play nice with the other kids," Lennox playfully ordered as he tossed his luggage over on a nearby mat to pick up once off the truck.
"Already being a responsible papa, ain't he?" Donnelly joked as he descended one of the steps of the truck, only for Lennox to lightly shove the man down, fortunately landing on his feet. "Sheesh, tough crowd."
"If any of y'all grow some balls, come see me by the court," Epps declared as he put away his gear and immediately went over to the makeshift basketball court. Fig headed out to see if he recieved any mail from home, while Lennox took a casual seat to file out the report for his mission.
The team captain looked up and saw a local boy approach with something in hand. Having saved the lad and his family from a hostage situation some time ago, he recognized the boy and smiled.
"Hey, Mahfouz!" Lennox greeted. "How're you doing?"
The boy's smile gave him the answer and then held up a pouch to him. "Water?" He offered.
"Oh, thank you," Lennox accepted, very much appreciating the kind gesture. SOCCENT Airbase had earned a good reputation with him and his village thanks to Lennox and his team, and it seemed they were eager to repay the kindness. "You wanna help me with the gear?"
"Sure!" Mahfouz eagerly nodded as he helped pick up a share of Lennox's equipment to store away. "So you will go to your family soon?"
"Yep," Lennox answered as he finished writing his report and tucked away his pen. "I'll be seeing my daughter for the first time."
"I wish good fortune for you!" Mahfouz exclaimed with some rudimentary English, which Lennox found endearing.
"Thanks, Mahfouz," Lennox thanked. "We'll try and keep in touch, yeah?"
SOCCENT Airbase, Radar Station
Colonel Cecil Sharp was an airman who ran a tight ship at the airbase he was in charge of. Any and all munitions were to be accounted for and logged, along with relevant missions. Any blips on the radar that lasted for more than 3 passes demanded investigation. Gauges on all aircraft are to be documented before their respective pilots fasten their seatbelts. Coupled with the garrison of U.S. Marines that efficiently rotated patrols between squads, he saw to it that any and all threats to his charge would be identified and dealt with the best way possible. If the need arises, deadly force is authorized.
Observing from the ATC tower, he observed 2 CV-22 Ospreys landing in VTOL, comfortably within their expected arrival window. Using his binoculars, he took notes of the tail numbers: 0164A and 0164B. Precisely the same numbers sent out to retrieve 2 Army Ranger teams and bring them back for much needed rest. Content that those with him in the tower could process the arriving vehicles, he descended the tower and returned to the radar station where several officers monitored the scan for anything and everything. Things seemed quiet for the most part.
"Colonel Sharp," One officer called out from his desk. "We have an inbound unidentified infiltrator 20 kliks out."
This was enough to perk the colonel's attention as he looked over at the screen. At the edge of the radar's field of view, there was indeed an unauthorized blip on the screen. He waited for the radar to pass the blip 2 more times, and from what he could see, the blip was on an offset course with the airbase. This certainly would not do, and he did not want to have to resort to violence just yet. Taking a spare earpiece, he opened a communications channel the bogey was likely using.
"Unidentified aircraft, you are in restricted U.S. Military airspace," The colonel declared over his earpiece. "Squawk ident and proceed east out of the area."
Silence rang for well over 30 seconds. This was 25 seconds far too long for the colonel's liking. Taking a peek at the radar again, the bogey held its heading.
"I say again, you are in restricted U.S. Military airspace," Sharp repeated with more sharpness. "Squawk ident and proceed east out of the area now."
The unknown craft still gave no response and maintained heading at a rate of 100 knots. This was enough to prompt Sharp to take action. He walked over to an assortment of radios on a rack and tuned it to a specific frequency before holding the corded microphone up to his face.
"Raptors 1 and 2, snap to heading 250 to intercept," Sharp ordered. "Bogey's in the weeds 20 kliks out, not squawking."
Judging by the speed of the bogey on the radar, it had to have been either a chopper or a small civilian aircraft. As for the lack of response, it could be a communications fault, or, given where he was in the world, an issue with translation. Regardless, this unknown had overstayed its welcome and was now considered a trespasser, and had to be dealt with accordingly.
"Unidentified aircraft, we will escort you to U.S. SOCCENT Airbase," Sharp declared on the frequency once more. "If you do not comply, we will use deadly force." Language barriers be damned, if the bogey saw 2 state-of-the-art F-22 Raptors guide it somewhere, the wise decision would be to follow the guide.
Minutes passed before the two jets were airborne and were approaching the bogey in question.
"Raptors 1 and 2, copy the bogey and any details of the vehicle," Cecil ordered over the comm link.
"Roger that, sir," The pilot of Raptor 1 acknowledged. The radar screen showed that the raptors should be within visual range of the bogey. "Bogey is a Sikorsky MH-53 Pave Low, Tail: 4500-X-ray."
For the first time in his career, Cecil Sharp was confused. The bogey was not a civilian aircraft, but was a Super Jolly Green Giant chopper. He knew that only the United States Air Force fielded such craft. His thoughts were brought back to reality when a corporal, whose shirt tagged him as "Darby" came up.
"Sir, according to this report, it says 4500X was shot down 3 months ago. Afghanistan," Darby explained as he handed his superior officer the report in question.
"It's gotta be a mistake," Sharp muttered as he quickly looked through the report for anything out of place. He saw no faults, but a second opinion never hurt. "Check again then re-check."
"I quadruple-checked, sir," Darby responded. "A friend of mine was on that chopper."
Sharp could tell that Darby was speaking the truth and was now more confused than ever, as well as unsettled. The raptor dispatch had confirmed the tail number and model of the bogey as well, but Cecil was not a superstitious man. He had no belief in ghosts or apparitions of the sort, but a bogey with the same markings as one that was long gone was too much of a coincidence. Sharp headed back up the tower and waited for the bogey's arrival, which was now 15 kliks away. Unbeknownst to anyone involved in the operation, the bogey was accompanied, at a distance, by a traditional navy blue F-117 Nighthawk. Despite the blue hue of the craft, its paneling was just as efficient at absorbing radar bounces, and thus was completely invisible to any and all instrumentation.
"Is my wife on call?"
"Yes, Captain," One soldier answered Lennox as he walked in and approached a laptop with a webcam mounted on top. There on the screen he saw the animated face of his wife Sarah Lennox and their daughter, both smiling wide.
"Ah, my ladies!" Lennox greeted with his arms spread out before doting over the newborn. "Oh my goodness she's getting so big!" William returned his attention back to Sarah. "We made a great looking kid. I know people say that all the time, but, wow we made one great looking kid. Nice work."
"She has your laugh," Sarah said with a big smile.
"She laughed?!" William exclaimed with joy. "You sure she didn't just fart?"
"No, she's a lady," Sarah chuckled at her husband's joke. The child soon began to whimper to which Sarah cooed her and gently rocked her to help calm her down. "She doesn't know you yet, but she will."
The moment was broken up when all of a sudden the stream began to break apart. The window began to tear in places and other program icons began to bleed through the stream.
"Wi-ill?" Sarah asked as the quickly degrading stream garbled her voice as well.
"Sarah?" William quickly feared what was going on and did his best to adjust the webcam, in a vain attempt to keep his stream stable. "Hey, Sarah, if you can hear me, I love you and I'll be home soon!"
The stream ended right as Lennox got his message out. Quietly cursing the sudden service outage, he steeled himself and headed out to find out what was going on.
"4500X… Something's not right…" Colonel Sharp muttered aloud as the bogey approached the airbase after the sun fell below the horizon. The chopper was definitely an MH-53, and as it found an open spot to land, several humvees and troops surrounded the intruder. In the sky, Raptors 1 and 2 orbited the base in the event the bogey would try to take off again.
"Bogey's on the deck," An airman in the tower called out on the loudspeaker as the landing gear touched the pavement.
"Whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa…" Darby muttered as he took his hands well away from the keyboard and the radar screen. "Radar's jammed."
Colonel Sharp took a quick glance at the screen and saw that a large amount of interference was obscuring the radar image. Not only that, but the screen itself was flickering and tearing in places. Even more disturbing was that the lights in the radar tower began to flicker, suggesting there was something wrong with the power grid.
"Source of the interference?" Sharp inquired as he tried to take in what he could from the flickering screen.
"Same direction the chopper came in," Darby answered, just as bewildered.
"Tell Raptors 1 and 2 to keep a bead on any suspicious activity in the sky," Sharp ordered. "Hopefully you can get through this interference."
Sharp immediately returned his attention to the bogey in the airbase. A dozen humvees armed with high caliber turrets surrounded the rogue helicopter, and several squads used the humvees as cover as they took aim. Sharp had enough surprises from this ghost and wanted answers immediately.
"MH-53 pilot, power down now!" Sharp demanded over the loudspeaker. He would not bother with radio contact if there was no response up to this point. Fortunately, the helicopter responded as the engine whir died down and the rotors began to slow down. "Have your crew step out, or we will kill you!"
The rotors of the chopper continued to drop in RPM before abruptly stopping. The soldiers surrounding the chopper did not know, but the airmen observing were stunned. Helicopter rotors could not stop so suddenly lest they risk losing most or all of the blades attached. Even more bewildering was that the top rotors quickly folded back as if for the purposes of storage, but they did so all on their own. Nothing could have prepared the men and women of any branch of the U.S. Military for what would happen next.
Several panels on the helicopter broke off and shifted. As the vehicle rearranged itself, it, for lack of a better word, stood up, propped up on 2 large legs with a pair of arms on either side of the cockpit, which was split right down the middle. Near the top was what looked like a metal face with blood red glowing eyes that glared daggers into the hearts of the humans surrounding it, who immediately opened fire as the helicopter essentially transformed into a giant.
"My God…" Colonel Sharp muttered in pure disbelief. Several soldiers opened fire, only for the bullets to merely crumple up or ricochet off the plating.
And then it opened fire.
Gesturing its arms at the humvees around it, several high density projectiles let loose from wrist-mounted gatling guns, doing far more than the machine gun turrets atop the humvees ever did. Before any form of retaliation could be mounted, the giant pointed one arm directly towards the ground, and a bright blue sphere launched forth, impacting the ground and exploding outward, incinerating several troops, blasting away the humvees, but the bogey itself was unharmed. The explosive shockwave reached the radar tower's windows, and everyone inside ducked to the floor as the windows shattered under the sheer force of the explosion. Even several computer terminals were knocked out as the blue fire from the explosion scalded the equipment.
Sharp immediately reached for a handheld radio and tuned it to the specific frequency and held the mouthpiece to his face. "Raptors 1 and 2 we are under attack! Intercept bogey at-"
Sharp could not finish his sentence as he saw 2 explosions pop in the air. Despite the darkness of night, due to the fire illuminating the wreckage, he could see that Raptors 1 and 2 were shot down and crashed in a massive explosion. What bewildered the already shaken colonel even more was that the former helicopter did not launch any missiles. His blood ran cold as he saw what looked like an F-117 Nighthawk approach the base before it too broke apart and rearranged itself in a similar manner to the Pave Low. The only differences were that this one was more lean and evenly built, and had what looked like a visor on its face, if there was even a face to begin with.
Sharp immediately raced downstairs to the radar room, only to have the roof torn off by the same faceless aircraft. From one of its sides, a long tentacle-like cable emerged and latched onto one of the server cabinets serving as their local data center. Several electric tendrils wormed their way into the chassis and sparked as they interfaced with the computers inside. As the tendrils tugged upon the server cabinet, they hissed a terrible metallic screech that reverberated throughout all of the electronics. To his horror, Sharp then saw on several computer screens what looked like documents switching over in rapid succession. Some looked like common knowledge, others looked like classified documents that he had no clearance to lay eyes upon. He then looked up at the rogue aircraft's visor and saw the same information was being displayed on its visor.
"It's going after the files!" Sharp exclaimed in horror. "Darby! Cut the hardlines!"
"I need a key! It's locked!" Darby screamed as he tried to force the hardlines shut but to no avail.
Cecil Sharp, knowing that he could not let any more data be stolen than there already was, grabbed an emergency axe and tossed it over to Darby, who caught it deftly. The corporal immediately recognized what needed to be done and proceeded to hack at the hardlines connected to the switch. The solution was not the most elegant, but it had proven effective. The computer screens shut off, and the display on the giant's visor turned black as well. It then turned its head as if annoyed by the cut off.
"Download this!" Darby roared as he proceeded to charge the tendril hooked up to the server farm, only for the tendril to pick up the cabinet and bring it down upon the poor soldier, ending his life instantly.
Sharp winced at the sight. He had seen fellow soldiers killed in the line of duty before, but to see one lost so brutally was new to him. The titan then backed away as the original one - the helicopter loomed over the roofless building. Sharp thought he was seeing things, but the giant looked angry. It raised an arm and unleashed a bright blue flash. Sharp then knew nothing more.
Lennox immediately raced out when he heard gunfire and a large explosion which shook everything present at the base.
"We lost the antenna farm!" Epps cried out as he ran to who knows where. "We're under attack!"
Lennox did his damndest to try and rally his team together while getting supplies. Fortunately for the captain, it was not far, and he quickly got his vest and jacket back on before rushing for the armory. By the time he got there, he was pleased to see that everyone else on his team had the same idea. Once they made sure that they had plenty of ammunition, they charged out, only to see 2 metal giants. One unleashed a giant blue-white shockwave that incinerated anyone caught in its path, and pushed aside several buildings and tents like a plastic bag in the wind.
"What do we do, boss?!" Fig cried out as he saw another shockwave carve a path of destruction from one giant, while the other extended what looked like tentacles into the radar station. "This is straight up War of the Worlds, man!"
"Keep it together, Fig!" Lennox ordered. "Comms are dead, so our best bet is to evacuate!"
"Evacuate?!" Donnelly exclaimed. "Isn't it, like, treason to leave without orders?!"
"HEY!" Lennox shouted as he turned Donnelly's head towards the radar station and the 2 metal giants tearing it apart. "See that thing?! It took out our command hub! Colonel Sharp's gone! We stay, we're cooked!"
"The tank garage ain't too far from here!" Epps suggested. "If we leavin', we'd better do it now!"
The captain turned to see a very panicked and distressed Mahfouz run towards them. "What is happening?!"
"We gotta go, buddy!" Lennox told the boy, somewhat understanding the situation was dire.
The team marched over to the tank garage, which was more of a parking lot, but to call it that meant more words, and the military was about efficiency. Before a tank could be picked from the lot, several tanks came flying from where the radar station was, all of them burning and damaged beyond repair.
"Dios mio!" Fig cried out as a tank nearly crushed him. The team saw one of the giants approach before they hid between a pair of Abrams tanks.
Epps tried to get to the hiding spot, but a massive metal foot had cut him off, the tremor knocking him down. As if on instinct, the sergeant pulled out an imager and took several pictures of the monster before him. The monster then looked down at Epps with a look of bewilderment before its face hardened. A new weapon emerged from the giant's torso, what looked like the barrel for a large gun. Epps took this as his cue to run the Hell out of there. Fortunately for him, Fig, from his hiding spot, fired a sabot grenade from his rifle, striking the giant and staggering it a bit. The stagger did not last long as it looked for the assailant. Right before it could spot the ranger team, a flare exploded in its face, temporarily blinding it and staggering it back even more.
Seizing the opportunity, the team boarded the tank and drove off as quickly as it would carry them. The faceless giant noticed this, and its torso opened up. From it sprung what looked like a mechanical jaguar with 2 weapons attached to its hips and raced towards the runaway tank. The former MH-53 Pave Low then proceeded to lay waste to any and all equipment within its sights, as well as erase whatever soldiers remained, leaving no other survivors.