[This is part of an ongoing series. See my ‘Half-Life Story‘ page for more information.]
During this highly political week the aliens spread quickly across the globe. There were sentient and insentient creatures roaming about, devastating the global population. From our perspective, however, there was no discernible distinction, as they all rolled together as one massive alien army for all we could tell.
In lieu of a universal threat that needed to be met with a unified force, all branches of the U.S. military were merged, accepting the standing armies of surrounding countries as well. Since this was a combination of special forces, the new military was named the Universal Union. Thus there was without distinction between privately owned and public business, nor between the Army or the Navy, nor the United States or Canada. In one fell swoop, in a single dire grasp, a North American totalitarian state was born. Many aliens were hunted down and eradicated.
Unfortunately, even this part of Dr. Breen’s promise was incomplete. While he did establish barriers around the cities, and did his best to weed out any wild aliens there, he largely ignored the rural areas. This had the similar effect of ignoring raiding Vikings. Many people were panic stricken and traveled to the cities for protection, still convinced Dr. Breen merely lacked the resources to conquer those wide regions as of yet; it was nothing more than a ploy to gather the remaining population into contained zones where they could be controlled. That’s when advertisements asking for more recruits with evangelistic zeal were produced. This proved too good an opportunity to neglect. Men and women flooded to recruiting stations, for the sake of the human race, if not for the country.
It was only toward the end of the Seven Day War that we discovered the intelligence of these intruders. A large horde of the aliens waltzed right up to Dr. Breen’s doorstep, as if by appointment, unperturbed by any military resistance. They had one clear message to give Dr. Breen: surrender. Surrender he did, though advertised as a compromise. As if on cue, the alien attacks stopped. Or rather, attacks from the sentient creatures stopped. There were still innumerable wild things roaming about the globe.
In a matter of weeks the government launched a new private campaign, with drastic consequences throughout the world. A new technology was introduced and implemented. Strange technology far beyond anything known to man. It felt like science fiction when citizens found their paths in the street were limited by force fields and thick metal gates. The internet disappeared. Whether it was taken down by the new government or rendered inoperative by the war no one could tell. This alone struck a heavy blow to world economies. Stock markets became ghost towns. Banks were ineffective. All said, currency as the world knew it became obsolete and useless. Even factories were overtaken, and production switched solely to the purposes of the Universal Union. Military presence grew heavily in the cities; typified by black jump suits and gas mask helmets. To give their presence in the cities a positive spin, the name Civil Protection was coined.
A town was attacked every now and then and military presence swept in to save the day. Government news, as it was the only news now, reported these incidental victories with pomp and favor. They would praise the military’s success, also thanking the citizens for helping make this beneficial system a success. The widespread destruction and high death toll caused by the fighting were never reported. Rumors spread of disappearances. Many who spoke out against the Universal Union were never heard from again. Those who refused to obey Civil Protection were beaten. Morale diminished at an alarming rate, stricken by this instant totalitarian situation.
Things had changed so drastically, so quickly, that living everyday life was out of the question. Most of the surviving population was jobless, trapped within the cities, and often homeless. People had stocked up on essentials because of doomsday chatter, but it did little to mitigate the desperation of a defeated populace now controlled by a prevailing and unfriendly government.
When other countries noticed that America successfully reestablished its government and incorporated new advanced technology that was somehow obtained from the alien world, they pleaded with America to help, to be the world’s ally and leader. What commenced from that point forward is nothing less than global domination. The Times, one of the last American newspapers in circulation, published the famous ‘Earth Surrenders!’ headline. An alien force, from who knows where, had invaded and conquered North America within a week, and had the entire world within another, Dr. Breen presiding as the Combine’s interim administrator over the Earth. For the first time in history, the entire Earth was a conquered colony.
Dr. Breen: He is known as a traitor of the world by the Resistance. The Resistance knew that Dr. Breen and his newfound militia were not to be trusted. From day one I fought alongside those who resisted, confident in whose side I was on. Yet an itch nagged at me as we fought against the Universal Union and their rural Civil Protection police forces. Something that bothered me to no end. How did Dr. Breen convince an entire hodgepodge of disciplined military personnel to betray freedom and country to serve him without question? How could they carry out such brutal tactics? It took five years before I found out.
By this time the Resistance had become an official entity, and an official nuisance to Dr. Breen and his Universal Union; though members of the Resistance called them the Combine. Partially because it made sense, being the combined forces of world military and alien technology, and partially out of rebellion because we refused to acknowledge their authority. We raided outposts, rescued citizens, destroyed production centers for their weaponry and technology, and were constantly on the lookout for information on weaknesses in the new government’s infrastructure.
One particular raid brought a small band of Resistance fighters to a hospital, with intel that hostages were inside. Defenses were stronger than anticipated, but once inside the resistance fighters found an ugly scene. Dozens of bodies lay on operating tables. Some were alive, many were dead. The hospital had apparently been converted to an alternate purpose. There was no guessing that purpose. It was where Combine soldiers were created. That place was no longer a hospital, but a factory. They found mechanisms for various implants. Some mechanisms replaced eyes sockets with who knows what. Some played with the brain, erasing the conscience of the subject. Some enhanced muscle tissue. By the end of this cybernetic surgery these Combine soldiers were as alien as the invaders. The hospital felt like a Borg ship.
We concluded that the standing armies of major world powers were secretly rounded up by the aliens and given these implants. By the results I would say that these implants blocked all human inhibitions and controlled their loyalty. These automated soldiers were the beginning of the Combine Trans-Human Overwatch, commandeered by the very aliens those armies were thought to be fighting against. As we discovered more of these converted hospitals, it became apparent that they were initially experimental centers, to the detriment of the original occupants, while a successful assimilation of alien technology and human hosts was fervently sought. All the while Dr. Breen lauded praise upon praise upon new discoveries made in science and human evolution. His speeches were heard on every media source: televisions, radio, speakerphones, jumbo-trons, everything. These speeches informed the newly captivated world about our new ‘guests’ in the most positive light possible. He encouraged us not to think of them as our captors, but as our ‘Benefactors.’
As Dr. Breen’s praise of our new Benefactors echoed in every town square, kidnappings and beatings continued to be commonplace. Everyone lived in fear and subjection. Everyone still does.
I could tell Brice was simply watching me with a patience only he could muster. I took a moment to glance at a map of Beacon Hill. It was another resistance hideout, much bigger than this one. Only the big ones are usually named, I thought. The smaller underground groups are simply called Stations. We were Station 08. Beacon Hill was about 100 miles northeast. Or is it kilometers? I haven’t transitioned well to European measurements. Nevertheless, its distance from the main city helps to seclude it from the Combine. It is to this waypoint that refugees constantly escape when fleeing from City 14. Our station is the eighth and last in that journey toward freedom. Every remaining city has some sort of underground smuggling system. None compare to City 17, however, the home base of the Combine on earth, and the headquarters of Dr. Breen himself; which also serves as the base of operations for the Resistance. Then my thoughts flickered into wondering if I would ever have a need to go there. I tossed the map on top of the others.
“I brought him to a vacant room.”
“Swell. That’s good.” I mumbled back while checking the radio. Radio waves were one of the few fail-save methods to communicate. It was too outdated for the Combine to understand or care about. A fuzzy noise filled the room as I fiddled with the volume.
I think Brice said something, but I tried to focus on the radio instead.
“You should show him around some more.”
I stopped to look at him. “You suppose it would help him feel like he belongs?”
“Our dorms are modest. Hopefully to our addition’s liking. Though this place could barely compete with a one star hotel.” I turned back to the radio.
Then Brice reminded me that Elliott was not just some addition, as if he were a spare tire in the trunk. He was right, but I suppose I was a little bitter that Brice had rescued an inert slump of a man. With the human population dwindling, I considered every individual who chose inactivity over resistance a waste. A darn waste.
I decided to turn off the radio, because Brice decided to keep talking.
“When you found me, I saw you as a hero. Not that I would admit it at the time. But you were also stressed, on edge. The tension was strong.”
I turned around despite myself. When Brice started talking this way, I have learned to do everything I can to encourage it, even if it meant criticism.
“You are not that way now. You are calmer, for the most part. You have gathered yourself together, decided on the way in which you should go, and are confident in it.” He paused, looking at the gun on my desk, struggling to find the right words. “Confidence is good. But don’t let it disrupt your compassion.”
We sat there for a moment in silence. I didn’t feel like responding.
“Here is my report,” he said as he plopped a folder titled ‘Extradition 42’ on my desk. He stood up straight, nodded, and left the room. I turned the radio back on, mechanically dialing for any rebel station reports, deep in thought.