The idea to get Henderson drunk enough to start talking came from Reba, and I wondered if it was a good idea. He was clearly operating way below his pay grade at the moment, and I wondered how up the food chain he had been, before things had gone to hell, and gotten there in a hurry. But the rain had set in and the compound was secure. Henderson wasn’t wearing a uniform and there were no rules that said he couldn’t have a few beers, and then a few more, with friends.
“How much do you know?” Reba asked Henderson, after most everyone else had stopped drinking and gone back to their living spaces.
“What do you want to know?” Henderson finally replied. “You didn’t have to get drunk to ask me, you know.”
“Where are they from?” Ray asked and Dawn sat up and leaned forward, her hand on his back.
“We don’t know.” Henderson said. “We do know that the story that was told, that they were from space isn’t true, or the version of that story isn’t true. We simply don’t know.”
“Do they leave invisible, uh, poop. I’ve never seen or smelled anything of them.” Dawn asked and then she giggled and everyone laughed.
“You’ve notice they regurgitate clothes, rings, jewelry, and anything not carbon based. Cotton clothes disappear but all the blends get the organic matter dissolved and they regurgitate the rest, from what we could gather.” Henderson said.
“So how come we can’t see inside of them?” Ray asked. “And how come they can fit an entire person inside of them and not be bulged out a like a snake?”
“I saw one eat a horse once,” Henderson said, “and it never looked any bigger. I can’t go into detail as to where I was or what circumstances, but it’s a good theory that the Stubs aren’t confined to the same dimension we are. I think where they’re from is where the food goes. I think they’re basically mouths that feed and it gets sent back as energy. We were scanning every frequency we knew that had been created by any device we knew, and it took is a decade to figure out which one to jam to keep them from blinking out. What we didn’t realize until about that same time, that jamming of their frequency also kept any new ones from coming in. They can survive about two years without food, which is why you see them dying right now. We’ve got what’s left, and what’s
left may be in the millions, trapped. But we’re hunting them now, and while we think those that are here can still feed with the frequency jammed, they can’t send anything back to wherever it is they came from and they can’t leave, and no one else is coming in.” Henderson seemed oddly animated at this point and Reba pushed closer beside me. “We’ve made contact with about two dozen different camps in the states, but there’s no word from anyone else.” He said.
“Did you share the frequency information with everyone else?” Reba asked.
“Of course we did.” Henderson sounded defensive. “Why wouldn’t we?”
“The same reason nuclear weapons were top secret.” Reba replied. “You didn’t did you?”
“I was told we did.” Henderson said angrily. “It wasn’t my job to send out information, just collect it.”
“When did you realize they had the jamming technology and wasn’t letting anyone else know about it?” Reba asked.
“She’s right.” Berg hadn’t spoken until now. “You don’t have to say anything Leo, I know these people. They sit tight.”
“Leo?” I asked. “Henderson isn’t your first name?”
Everyone laughed again, but this time it sounded a little hollow.
“Is there any place safe?” Dawn asked. “Any place that didn’t get hit?” She sounded like a little girl asking if there was any ice cream left after a house fire.
“We don’t know, but we don’t think so.” Henderson popped the cap off another beer and drank half of it outright. “We figured out late, very late, in the game that shooting one, or hitting one hard causes it to blink out. Thousands were shot before we could get the word out to stop but by then there were everywhere. Worse, when one got popped, more blinked into to where that one was. That’s why it seemed like there were so many of them. We estimate there was never really more than a million or so in New York City before it fell. You see the videos of what seems to be waves of them, but there were never so many that we couldn’t have beaten them if we had just figured it out more quickly.” He killed the beer and picked up another one and popped the top.
“I’m sorry for what happened, but no one on this planet caused it, or made it worse.” He sighed. “All the damage we did, all the damage I did, was done after things had gone to hell. The president and half the senators were killed when a Stub blinked into the command bunker and the Secret Service opened fire. As far as we know, there are still a dozen live Stubs in there right now. We’ll check in two years.” Henderson looked down at the floor. “You have no idea. You will never have any idea at all, at how close we were to being wiped out, how close we came to not finding the right answer at the right time. You’ll never know what it feels like to see extinction.”
“We lived it.” Reba said.