The first report of a TV station being destroyed, KTUL, Tulsa Channel 8, took nearly an hour to reach the national news networks. The first images from that attack, blurred cameraphone pictures of smoke and fire and people running, were only just beginning to hit the air, with promises of video to come, when reports came in that KUSA, Denver Channel 9, had also been attacked.
The eyewitness reports were a confused jumble of disbelief and horror and shock. Stories of subsonic fighter planes with flame throwers mixed with accounts of alien’s in UFO’s. Tales of dragons and flying dinosaurs mixed with hooded and burka-ed terrorists with rocket launchers. Amateur video, shaking violently, showed flying shapes and fire and lightning.
KLRT, Little Rock Channel 16, went next. Then KNIN, Boise Channel 9. WXVT, Greenville Channel 15.
Mayors and city managers scrambled police and firefighters and EMT’s and put hospitals on alert. They made frantic calls to their state governors demanding National Guard protection. In the towns and cities where attacks had already come, people rushed to help survivors. Everywhere else, unsure where, when, or if an attack would occur, police chiefs and fire chiefs and hospital administrators took a wait and see attitude, poised to rush wherever they were needed.
Governors issued orders to activate the National Guard, triggering phone calls to those remaining Guard units that had not been already activated by previous emergencies, call-ups, and political posturings. Then the governors began yelling into phone lines that connected them to the various branches of the federal government, Presidential aides, prominent Senators and Congressmen, contacts at the FBI and CIA and DHS and anyone else near or around Washington, DC, that seemed like they might be useful.
Savir Agrata, awakened by aides and flown by armed and armored helicopter from his penthouse to the skyscraper from which he oversaw the world, then down into the sub-sub-basement bunker that had been built for exactly this kind of emergency, arrived in time to hear that the President of the United States had ordered the FAA to ground all flights and set fighter jets to patrol the airspace of Washington, DC, New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago.
Agrata rubbed his temples, not sure if the pounding in his head came from the impending merger he knew was coming or from the chaotic news Cyd was feeding him. Or maybe it was from Cyd herself. The woman’s presence conveyed an electric hum, and her eyes glowed the same bright green as the tracery of wires that ran down her skin. In the darkness of the War Room her movements left little red trails on the backs of his eyes. At least she was looking at him, though, focused on him, instead of staring off into the ether only she and her “grlz” seemed able to see. The excitement of the morning’s events kept her focused, engaged.
“And the other big cities?” Agrata asked.
Cyd’s eyes lost their focus for a second as she accessed that information. “Fighter units, all bases, on standby,” she said, “awaiting word.”
Agrata took in a deep breath, then let it out. This could get out of control. But that was why he was here: to make sure it did not. “And they’re still calling it terrorists?”
Cyd nodded. “The obvious story, neh? No sense fucking with the obvious.” She paused, the green points of her eyes constricted, then dilated back to normal size. “We’ve just intercepted more pictures, and video. Good shit. The vague shit, the crap that doesn’t show anything, we just pass that through, let the newsies have it.”
Nodding, Agrata said, “Show it to me.”
A wall that had been black blazed to life showing a wing of mounted dragons flying in the morning sky, silhouetted by the sun.
Agrata swore under his breath. This was going to be hard to cover up.
“That’s gonna be fucking im-possible to scam,” Cyd said, echoing his thoughts.
“Nothing’s impossible,” Agrata said, more out of habit than conviction.
The man behind the camera must have been a professional. He stayed on the flying dragons, widening the angle of his lens smoothly as they got closer, then keeping up with the beasts as they went into a steep dive. Agrata caught his breath when the attack commenced, two dozen dragons breathing in unison, fire and lighting erupting like an act of god made real and immediate.
Cyd looked at him from the side of her eye, the nearest corner of her mouth pulling up in a smirk. “Neh?” she asked.
Before Agrata could decide whether he should respond, one of the men monitoring the banks of displays and readouts shouted, “Fighter’s engaging over Omaha.” At the same instant, Cyd’s eyes lost their focus again.
The attacking dragons on the wall display disappeared, replaced by multiple feeds that had to be coming from jets. The landscape blurred into the horizon line. In the gray-white of the sky, the winged shapes of the dragons hurtled at the War Room, then disappeared as the jets did a flyby. The horizon line banked then disappeared.
The dragons swung back into view, small but growing larger. Several of the images were lost to flare, then resolved back, showing smoke trails. “Missiles fired,” Cyd said, her voice soft, distant, unlike the same words shouted by the man who had spoken before.
Explosions whited out three of the displays. Two of them remained dark. “Two jets are down,” the man yelled.
Agrata swore under his breath again. Dragons should not be that powerful, even if they had elves or whatever riding them. Not against jets.
“No fucking way,” Cyd said. “It’s eff-ing Fey.”
Agrata turned to look at Cyd, then looked back at the displays again. “Where?” he asked. “Show me.”
All but two of the displays disappeared. Those two expanded to fill the space. “Steady them for me,” Agrata said. Cyd complied, locking in on the image of the woman on the dragon’s back, zooming and cropping and switching cameras as necessary to keep the woman in view.
Even a seventy-foot dragon with a 150-foot wingspan could not overwhelm Fey. Nor could a grainy picture transmitted from a platform flying past at hundreds of miles per hour dim her ageless beauty. Her presence came through the image and pulled at Agrata’s heart. She looked so sad, so determined, and so goddamned beautiful. Exactly the same as the last time he had seen her, a millennium ago. They had been enemies then too…