November 4, 2127
Darcy's mind backtracked over her past year's behaviour. As far as she knew, her demeanour was proper for a newly minted Second Lieutenant. Sure, there had been a few wild parties, but nothing that embarrassed her or the Canadian Air Force. Still, she sat outside the Brigadier's office with no one saying a word to her.
The office door opened. A sergeant stepped out and said, "Lieutenant Kincaid, the General will see you now."
Darcy stood up. She adjusted her uniform one last time then followed the sergeant into the office. Inside, various paintings of the history of flight adorned three of the walls; the third was blocked by a tall cabinet. Darcy stopped in front of the Brigadier's desk, came to attention, and saluted. "Second Lieutenant Darcy Kincaid, reporting, sir!"
Without looking up from his display, the Brigadier said, "At east, Lieutenant, and have a seat. Sergeant, hold all my calls. We're not to be interrupted."
"Yes, sir." The sergeant grabbed paperwork from the outbox before leaving, closing the door behind him.
Once seated, Darcy held still as she waited for the Brigadier to acknowledge her. She felt a cool droplet of sweat run down the side of her face. Darcy tried to ignore it, but the drop hung from her jaw. She swiped the back of her hand across her cheek.
"Would you like something to drink, Lieutenant?" the Brigadier offered.
"I'm good, sir." Darcy felt her throat tighten as she spoke.
"Relax, Lieutenant." The Brigadier turned to face his subordinate. "You're here because of your skills and potential. Your country needs you for an important mission, but you are free to decline if you so choose. First, what do you remember about the lunar base?"
Darcy blinked at the change of topic. "It was a multinational effort, like last century's International Space Station. As far as I knew, everything was fine until contact was lost a few years ago. Since then, there's been some attempts at going back, but not much hit the news sites."
The Brigadier sat forward in his chair. "Anything you hear in this room as of right now stays in the room. Nothing can get out. Understand?"
"Understood, sir. Nothing leaves your office."
"Good." The Brigadier sat back. "There's a reason why nothing hit the news sites. After the loss of contact, the Russians sent a mission to find out what happened. They lost contact several hours after touchdown, but some video was sent back. During the time they were in communication, they explored the central command core of the lunar base. Everything was intact, except there wasn't a soul to be found."
"No one, sir? That seems unlikely. What about the emergency suits and rescue balls?"
"Completely untouched. However, while the Russian team was investigating, they had unexpected visitors."
Darcy cocked her head at the news. "Visitors? On the moon?"
The Brigadier nodded. "No one did until the Russians released the video to the Americans. Even then, the file was examined for telltales of doctoring."
"But . . . but how?"
"No one knows." The Brigadier shrugged. "The Russians showed the video to the Americans. After the analysis, the Americans sent a squad of Marines with a squad of Russian Space Troopers. Don't laugh, Lieutenant. The Russians were ready long before the lunar base was even bandied about."
"Not laughing, sir. What did they find?"
"Nothing. No bodies, no alien traces. Everything just like in the video before the attack."
"I see." Darcy shook her head. "No, sir, I don't see. That's two teams that have disappeared completely. What does that have to do with us? Canada supported the lunar mission but didn't have anyone up there."
"There was a third attack. The aliens returned. The two squads defended themselves, but were overwhelmed."
Darcy's eyes widened. "And they were disappeared, too?"
"Not all of them. Junior Sergeant Yulya Emelin survived the attack despite being wounded. She reported in several hours after the attack, dazed and semi-coherent."
"How did Sergeant Emelin return to Earth?"
"Another rescue mission, this one to just land, get the sergeant, and return. Her suit's camera kept recording even when she was unconscious. The invaders took the rest of her team and their own wounded. Took them several trips, too."
Darcy sat back in her chair. "So why leave her? They've left nothing behind before, correct, sir?"
"And they were willing to take the time needed to get everyone else. So, why . . . Sir, were there any other women on either squad?"
The Brigadier smiled. "Good observation, Lieutenant. Emelin was the only woman sent up."
"And the prior team was composed of just men, too, correct, sir?"
"Now you get it, Lieutenant."
Darcy grimaced. "I'm here because I'm a woman, not because of any other qualification."
"Lieutenant, you'd be here even if men were being recruited. You scored the highest in your qualifications on the Heron helicopter, have held your own during difficult search and rescues, and are a damn fine officer from all reports. And, right now, we need the best."
"I see, sir."
"So, the question is, do you want to take the fight into space against these invaders? You'll be promoted one grade upon entering training and will be able to choose your next assignment. In return, though, you will be out of touch with friends and family, will be in a hostile environment, and will see regular combat. The choice is yours, and a refusal will not affect any subsequent postings."
Darcy looked down at the floor as she thought over her options. Time crawled by, the Brigadier's stare feeling like it bored into her. Finally, she raised her head again. "Sir, yes, I want this assignment."
The Brigadier unlocked his desk drawer and pulled out three file folders. "Good." He handed the folders to Darcy. "Read over these files. Each one tells you about your new squad."
Darcy flipped through the pages, glancing at the information. "Sir, these people are civilians."
"Were civilians. Congratulations on your new command, Lieutenant. Make sure your charges know the chain of command."
"How much time do I have?"
"Sir, that's an impossible time line. These women are barely raw recruits. Boot camp takes several months."
The Brigadier nodded. "I know, Lieutenant, but these are unusual times. Each of your squad has other knowledge that will be useful. Renée Lalonde is a linguistics expert, having done a master's thesis in deciphering dead languages. Dominique Pearson is an engineer. And Victoria Grieg is a physicist specializing in sub-atomic structures. You, Lieutenant, will be the glue that brings them together and keeps them going in the right direction."
Next week: Chapter 1, Arrival
"Try not to trip up. We want to make a good first impression here."
"We've been expecting Beaver Flight since you launched."