Back in college, I held down two jobs. One was as a computer help desk guy for the university, and the other was as a freelance writer for a local weekly newspaper. Well, okay, the latter wasn’t really that big of a deal. I just wrote a 500 word article every week and pretended that I could never make the weekly meetings. My jobs, starting with both of those, molded who I was and what I’d become. When I graduated, I switched departments, but stayed working in IT for the university. And it was no longer for pay, but I kept writing. It was sporadic, but it was a part of me that I didn’t want to let go, so I posted it freely online and was okay that it had no following whatsoever. I wrote it for me, and I enjoyed it, so that’s all that mattered.
I published a novel a couple years later, but an ill-timed server reboot at my day job brought about more fanfare than my grand début into the eBook world. But again, that wasn’t really important to me. I wrote for me, I wrote because I enjoyed it. Slapping computers around used to provide that fulfillment for me, but it ended up just being a way to pay the bills.
When the war started, I was safe from being drafted because I held a professional-level job. No one wanted to fight, it seemed, but the unskilled workforce seemed to be slowly getting snapped up into the armed forces. My feelings were conflicted on the draft, because as happy as I was to have little chance at being drafted, I could only wonder how those draftees felt. Did they think it was fair? Did they wonder if their lives were worth less than mine?
A year after the war started, a private company contracted by the military completed and built a design for a combat enhancement exoskeleton for soldiers to wear. It wasn’t armor; it just made humans faster, stronger, and more precise. The media nicknamed them “battle suits,” which I didn’t find very fitting, but I didn’t have a say in the matter.
I wrote up my thoughts on the battle suits online, and in doing so, ended up with some fortunate side effects, the first of which was that my website traffic spiked and analytics showed that post was clearly the reason. The other side effect was that in researching data for my post, I learned a bit about the battle suits. They had originally begun development years before the war as a medical device – an aid to the disabled. Slap one of those exoskeletons on a person that was paralyzed from the waist down and they could walk again. The project in its medical form had taken years to get off of the ground and find funding, but once a use that involved slaughtering other humans became viable for the technology, funding become abundant.
Ugh, humanity. I swear.
My day job didn’t slow down, as I supported the university’s systems that allowed students to register for classes, check their grades, and a slew of other boring things I won’t go into detail about for now. The point here is that when the war took off, the draft was reinstated for the first time since 1973, which meant that some kids that didn’t plan on going to college suddenly changed their minds and quickly began applying for student loans in hopes they could avoid being shipped off to war. Our university had seen its highest enrollment rates in all of its history in the past year. So yeah, my day job was busy.
After my post on battle suits took off, I decided to use the momentum and the traffic to turn my website into a media hub about technology related to the war. I was conflicted on doing it at first, but even if I was against the war, there was no denying its existence or the existence of this amazing new technology that would hopefully help bring it to a close as quickly as possible.
I kept writing articles on the battle suits and kept gaining readership until I was seeing a steady 1,000 unique hits a day. Even if you’re not into website analytics, you can probably tell that’s an exciting number to hit. One thousand different IP addresses around the globe (and one IP from the International Space Station!) had found my content interesting enough to click on, and advertising analytics showed that most of them stayed on the site for at least 10 minutes. Holding attention like that wasn’t an easy task, and I was ecstatic at having managed to do so.
I didn’t actually know too much about the political motivations for the war, but neither did anyone else. One of our allies had some misguided attempt at policing a country in southeast Asia and ended up dragging us into their fight. Kind of ironic, actually, considering our own messy history with that kind of thing. But it was like a chain reaction at that point, involving more and more allies joining in on both sides, until we ended up where we were, no longer able to rely on an all-volunteer military. At the end of the day, I was sure that most people involved in the war were only fighting because they were being told to. They just wanted to go home. People were probably out there killing other people without even knowing why.
Like most, I wanted to believe that the government was keeping tight-lipped about the war for a good reason, but I was never much for believing in government, so I had my suspicions that this war was more than just an unfortunate mess that we begrudgingly got involved in. Something about the whole thing bothered me, and I sometimes hinted at that on my website, but I never directly came out and said it.
It’s weird to think of how a chain of events happening exactly as they happen can completely change your life. If one thing in that chain had been changed, I never would’ve been contacted that day. If I hadn’t gotten into writing, if I didn’t understand the technology enough to write about it, if my site hadn’t gotten that traffic spike, if I hadn’t taken it in the direction I did, if I hadn’t hinted at my distrust in the government’s motivations, I never would’ve gotten the email that changed everything.
If you want to understand this war for what it really is, you need only let me know. I can tear down the wall that’s been erected to prevent you from seeing the truth. ~VC
Imagine getting an email like that, being in the mindset that I was already in. Thanks to ROPA – the Restoration of Privacy Act – I was fairly certain that the government was no longer snooping on us, but even that I wasn’t 100% sure of. I guessed if they were still doing domestic spying, I’d find out soon enough. If some men in dark suits showed up with “questions” to ask me and directed me to their black, limo-tinted SUV, I’d kindly decline and run in the other direction. Until they tased me, or whatever it was they did to nonviolent people that posted unflattering things about them on the Internet.
I had very little idea what I was getting into, but I was compelled at that point to respond to the email. It was almost beyond my control. The curiosity would kill me if those men in black suits didn’t.
Almost as quickly as I could hit “send” to let them know I wanted in on their knowledge, whoever was on the other side of that email responded.
Your IP is authorized for one download of this file. It will be deleted afterward. Take care. ~VC
I clicked the link to download the file, which appeared to be a video of some kind. Probably harmless to download and watch. Well, harmless to my computer, at least. I watched the video in total silence, and then I watched it again.
Do you remember your first crush? Of course you do. Who could forget the first person they ever had feelings for? You might not remember why you liked them, you might not remember any conversations you had with them, but you remember their name.
Amanda, 5th grade. That’s all I remember.
But I will never forget a single second of the video I watched that night. Humans in battle suits, humans not in battle suits, weapons raised, weapons blasting, not at each other, but at something else. Monsters, creatures I’d never seen. Big hulking things that stood on legs that terminated at clawed toes, heads that resembled a mish-mash of dinosaur-like things from Earth’s history, skin that looked slimy but apparently tough enough to feel bullets as nothing but pinpricks.
I knew immediately that the video was real. If the poor quality and shakiness of a carefully hidden camera didn’t give it away, the screams of agony and anger certainly did – both the human ones, and the inhuman ones.
There was no war between countries in southeast Asia; it was a war between species. It was humanity versus…whatever those things were. Aliens? Some mutated life forms from Earth? Somehow, the world had been kept in the dark for over a year, and suddenly, my suspicions made sense. The government was keeping us in the dark so as to not cause widespread panic. And somehow, it had worked for this long. If the war was only raging in that one area of Asia, none of the troops were coming home, and no footage was allowed out, how would anyone know what was actually going on out there?
I didn’t sleep much that night thinking about it. It was the biggest coverup in the history of humanity, and it had worked except for seemingly this one video. Somehow, this video had escaped the war zone, and even more unbelievable, it had found its way to me, thanks to whoever “VC” was.
Why had they shared this with me? Were they expecting me to use my website to spread the truth? It didn’t seem like it would’ve been hard to publicize something like this without my still relatively small website. So what was VC’s angle, then? Were they just sharing information?
I had to take off of work the next day. It was too much to ask of me to try to process what I’d seen in the video and fix whatever systems broke on what amounted to forty minutes total of sleep. I kept watching the video, examining the creatures, trying to figure out what they were. I emailed VC multiple times asking for more information, but my inbox remained empty until that night.
I’ve shown you the truth. What you do with it is your own choice. You are one of less than 10 civilians that can claim this knowledge. Use it wisely. Do not expect further contact. ~VC
Not the answers I’d been looking for, but I had a strange feeling that VC was telling me all they knew, just in this very roundabout way. I wanted to know so much more, but it appeared as though I’d reached the end of that thread.
But the problem remained of what to do with the information I’d been given. Not wanting to make a rash decision, I kept it to myself for a while and weighed my options. The biggest problem I had with sharing this revelation with the world was that I had no way to prove it was true. I could share the video, but VC had made sure to share it with me and only me by giving access to my IP address just once. I had to theorize since VC had barely told me anything, but it felt as though he or she was scared of being tracked down.
And even if I shared the video, it wasn’t really undeniable proof of anything. My belief was that it was real, but my judgment wasn’t fact. I had to find out for sure, I had to gather 100% undeniable evidence. It was too important to ignore. I didn’t know how I’d do it, or how long it would take, but I’d find proof, and I’d share it with the world.