Greetings friends and truth seekers. I am writing this with a heavy heart, and I believe this will be my last account before the government catches up with me. I’ve had too many close calls already and I know my luck will run out. And to be honest, I’m tired of running. This is no way to live.
To recap, I am a whistle-blower and former participant in a top-secret, government-run experiment. Its objective? To open portals to alternate universes, deploy survey teams, and seek out a world fit for a seed colony. If you haven’t read my previous accounts, I suggest you do so now.
Once you’ve learnt the true extent of the horrors on Earths 217 and 312, I hope you’ll understand why I’ve done this…why I’ve effectively sacrificed my own life to tell the world the truth.
The bloodbath on Earth 312 really fucked me up. I don’t think there’s any way to describe what it’s like to see the woman you love brutally murdered in front of your eyes, all while being powerless to prevent it. That horrifying memory will haunt me to my dying day.
The Earth 312 mission was a disaster, and once again our bosses; government officials, senior military officers and tech billionaires…they all wanted answers. Weeks of investigations and recriminations inevitably followed. We never discovered the history of Earth 312 or the truth behind the brutal society which inhabits it. Our anthropology team has various theories based upon our findings. Perhaps a civilisation where Satanism became the dominant world religion, or a death cult who’d somehow formed a functioning global government? Naturally, nobody’s in a rush to go back there and start asking those psychopaths questions.
Unfortunately, they know all about us thanks to the traitor on our team. The Doc, our medical attendant on the 312 mission, defected and joined the enemy, jumping at the opportunity to perform his twisted experiments on live human subjects. In exchange, he will tell his sadistic new masters everything he knows about trans-dimensional portal travel, no doubt helping them to develop their own technology.
The heavy losses on 312 didn’t deter the powers-that-be, however. Once again, they made a few cosmetic changes to our personnel and operating procedures before giving the go ahead for new missions. By this point I’d barely survived two disastrous operations upon hellish alternate worlds. I’d been bitten, beaten, tortured and shot, and had seen friends and colleagues slaughtered in horrific circumstances. I was betrayed by a once trusted team member and worse yet, I watched the woman I loved get brutally murdered, and in an instant my entire future was wiped out.
I should’ve left the project of course. Why didn’t I? That’s a question for my psychiatrist I suppose. Call it a death wish or an unhealthy desire for revenge. Either way, I was operating like a zombie, going from mission to mission whilst taking reckless risks.
It seems unbelievable, but the bosses actually promoted me to team leader around this time. I don’t know why they did something so stupid, but if I had to guess I’d say it was for two reasons. Firstly, I was one of the few team members to have survived from the early days of the project. Most of my contemporaries were either dead or had quit. The other reason was their decision to transfer the leadership of the project from the military to civilian personnel.
The 217 and 312 missions were both under military command, and both had ended in bloody disaster. Kaz had taken the blame for the deaths on 312, even though it wasn’t really her fault. Still, our bosses needed a scapegoat and Kaz was the team leader. They would have canned Kaz if I hadn’t interceded on her behalf. It was the least I could do. After all, she’d come back to rescue me from that damn torture chamber on 312. I just wish she’d arrived in time to save Helen.
The next few missions were largely uneventful. We had a few cakewalks and a couple of close shaves. Nevertheless, we didn’t encounter anything on the scale of 217 or 312 – no Aryan super soldiers, genetically-modified werewolves, or Satanic death cults. Even so, I always sensed that it was only a matter of time before we ran into another disaster.
The multiverse is populated by monsters. I don’t think the bosses ever realised the full extent of the threats we face from the evil regimes on the other side of these portals. That was until we crossed over to Earth 537. After that cluster fuck of a mission, all bets were off.
The atmosphere on the morning of our crossing was undeniably tense, although this had in fact become the norm. Gone were the days of idealistic scientists and researchers eager to explore and discover the secrets of these new worlds. Those naïve types were long gone – either dead, retired, or turned into world-weary cynics like me.
Other than Kaz and myself, the rest of my team were a combination of trigger-happy mercenaries and washed-up academics, lacking the proper training and field experience. The quality of our recruits had gone down hill since the early days of the project. I was the leader of this rag-tag band of misfits and renegades, on paper at least. Yes, they followed my orders on base, but if the shit hit the fan on the other side, I didn’t know what would happen.
In the moments before the crossover, I stood at the front of the line in the bunker, a crate full of equipment at my feet, ready to push down the rail once the portal opened. I watched on as the machinery was activated and power surged. The initialisation process had begun. This part used to scare the shit out of me, as I imagined all the horrific things which could go wrong, but now I hardly cared.
I glanced across to my long-suffering companion Kaz, who stood beside me in her body armor and with a M-4 carbine slung over her shoulder. She met my gaze briefly, showing just the slightest glint of vulnerability in her eyes, a chink in her armor which only lasted for a moment. I thought she might say something, but instead she regained her rock-hard composure, nodding curtly before turning her attentions back to the operation.
Kaz was the toughest person I’d ever met, and she’d saved my ass more times than I could remember, but all this horror had taken a toll on her too. Suddenly, the room filled with light and a wave of heat hit us. The portal opened as it had done a hundred times before, creating an impossible passageway to another world.
I looked with despair at the fluid membrane before me, not wanting to step through but knowing I ultimately would do. Kaz’s shout brought me back to reality, as she screamed instructions to the team, ordering them forwards and making sure they got all our equipment through before the portal closed. The deployment wasn’t the best, not nearly as smooth as back in the day, but we just about made it.
I remember little about my crossing on that occasion. It used to be the most terrifying experience imaginable for me – to cross over into the abyss and face the emptiness between the two universes. The darkness used to frighten me, but no more. An eternity trapped in limbo seemed preferable to the living hell my existence had become.
Now, the crossings were easy compared to what they had been. I walked out on the other side of the portal and managed to keep the contents of my stomach. But, as soon as I took my first breath of air, I knew something was wrong.
“Respirators on now!” came the cry, “This is not a drill!”
My brain was racing and lungs burning as I almost succumbed to panic. Thankfully, I remembered my training, dropping my backpack and reaching inside with shaking hands. I quickly withdrew my respirator mask, clumsily placing it over my eyes, face and mouth before securing the strap and breathing purified air, struggling to adjust to a situation that had deteriorated so quickly.
I looked around for the first time and was relieved to see all of my team members had applied their masks and appeared to be uninjured. This was something at least. However, as I surveyed the scene around me, I soon realised we were in trouble. The sky above us was an unnatural shade of red, and the soil below our feet was dead. In fact, the whole landscape was barren, without a living creature or plant to be seen. If I hadn’t known better, I would have thought we’d been transported to the surface of Mars.
But this was Earth, or rather a hellish version of it. My team members were still hanging around the insertion point, all appearing confused and frightened. Kaz was shouting out orders through her mask’s communicator. She commanded the security team to establish a defensive perimeter and for the technicians to set up their equipment and begin their analysis. My team members reluctantly complied, knowing they had no real choice but to follow protocol.
I switched on my communicator and approached my lead technician – a young man named Tyler who was in fairness one of the more competent members of my ragtag team.
“What the hell happened?” I demanded.
I could see the look of shock and surprise through the visor on his mask.
“I don’t know boss. It’s not my fault! The initial readings detected toxins in the air. It might be safe to breathe, but I’m just following protocol!”
“Okay.” I said, backing down somewhat.
To be fair, Tyler was just doing his job. But obviously someone had fucked up. Situations like this weren’t meant to happen, and we all knew it.
“Looks like the probe malfunctioned.” Kaz suggested, as she joined our conversation.
“I guess.” I replied with some cynicism.
It was standard procedure to send in a robot to check out the atmosphere and conditions before a team was sent in to explore a new world. If the probe detected dangerous toxins in the air or soil, or significant levels of background radiation, the manned mission was supposed to be aborted. Clearly, this hadn’t happened on this occasion. In my mind, there were two possible reasons why.
The first was that the probe had indeed malfunctioned, or the data it sent back to Earth 1 had been corrupted or misinterpreted. The alternative was a more cynical explanation – that our bosses had known Earth 537 wasn’t safe but decided to send us in anyway. The project leadership had already shown a total disregard for human life, and no doubt they considered us all expendable.
I experienced a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach – one of utter despair. But I decided not to communicate my fears to my team members. Morale was low enough already, and frankly I feared a mutiny. I tried to compose myself and remain calm as I continued to press Tyler for information.
“Are we in immediate danger?” I asked sternly.
“I don’t know yet.” he replied sheepishly, “I’ll need to run more tests to find out what we’re dealing with.”
“Well, get to it please.” I ordered, watching as Tyler reached for his equipment and laptop.
I’d give him space to complete his analysis, but we all knew it wouldn’t make much difference either way. The portal was closed and our colleagues on the other side wouldn’t reopen the passageway for another 24 hours. If our respirators failed or provided inadequate protection against the hostile atmosphere…well, frankly we were fucked.
All we could do was sit here in this lifeless wasteland, waiting to see whether we’d die from exposure to this unfriendly environment whilst simultaneously praying that some other disaster didn’t befall us within the next 24 hours. Words can’t describe how much I hated our bosses in that moment.
Time passed as we waited for the results of Tyler’s analysis. We sat cross legged, looking across the dead landscape, staring in dread-filled awe at the blood red sky, as a cold wind blew over our exposed hillside. Our respirators didn’t give out, so the chances of us all suffocating to death were getting slimer. However, this didn’t mean we hadn’t been exposed to a lethal dose of radiation which would result in a slow and painful death, even if we did make it back to our Earth.
To say the situation was tense would be an immense understatement. It took the combined efforts of Kaz and me to keep the team calm. After some time, I approached Tyler’s makeshift workstation, looking over his shoulder as he frowned at the data appearing on his laptop screen.
“The atmosphere is unlike anything we’ve seen before on any world we’ve visited. It’s like someone is deliberately trying to modify the atmosphere and ecology…” Tyler muttered.
“What do you mean?” I demanded.
This conversation certainly wasn’t filling me with confidence. Tyler looked up from his laptop to meet my gaze, his wide eyes visible through his visor.
“You ever heard of terraforming, boss?”
Terraforming. This term conjured images of science fiction in my mind, of missions to Mars and plans to make alien planets habitable for human colonists. But why the hell would anyone do that here on Earth? I was about to ask Tyler that very question before I got interrupted.
“What the fuck is that?” screamed Martinez, one of our security personnel.
He pointed to the far horizon. I looked to the sky and was horrified to see three small dots appearing, some type of aircraft, quickly approaching our position.
“We’ve got incoming!” screamed Kaz, “Take up defensive positions people!”
Our security personnel reacted slowly, prompting Kaz to shout a fresh set of orders, while she simultaneously ran to one of the steel containers to withdraw a weapon.
I watched on in awe and horror as the trio of aircraft descended from the crimson skies. As they sped ever closer, I was able to identify their features, but this only added to my terror. The three aircraft appeared similar to unmanned drones, but their design was ugly and alien to my eyes – saucer shaped, jet black robots adorned with an array of unfamiliar but deadly-looking weapons.
The three aerial drones were headed straight for our location, and we had nowhere to run or hide. Suddenly, there was an almighty blast, followed by a streak of white as a missile tore through the air. A second later, the projectile hit the lead drone, causing a huge explosion and turning the aircraft into a ball of flames. I watched the wrecked drone fall to earth and then turned in astonishment to see Kaz holding a Stinger missile launcher. She’d acted fast, taking out the lead drone, but the other two kept on coming.
The second drone opened fire with some sort of projectile. Luckily, Kaz saw the attack coming, dropping the launcher and jumping out of the way just in time. The rocket hit a second later, causing a mighty blast and leaving a small crater in the ground. And, in that moment, all hell broke loose.
Both surviving drones opened up indiscriminately with rockets and explosive rounds, causing utter carnage. I heard shouts and screams, saw men and women running in a blind panic, but there was nowhere for them to go. I watched in shocked awe as my team members were cut down one-by-one.
In an instant, Tyler’s head was blown clean off by a high-velocity round, his limp body collapsing into the dirt like a lifeless ragdoll. Some of the security men tried to fight back, dropping down to one knee and opening fire with their M-4s, but they didn’t last long. Martinez was hit square in the chest by a rocket, his body literally exploding, covering everything in blood, flesh and bone fragments.
It was horrific, but there was nothing I could do. With nowhere to run and no way to defend myself, I simply stood there and waited for death. But it didn’t come. A moment later, I felt a firm hand on my shoulder, pulling me back from the brink. It was Kaz – my savior once again.
“Let’s get the hell out of here!” she screamed.
We jumped on one of the quad bikes that had survived the onslaught, Kaz driving and me riding pillion. She put her foot on the accelerator and we sped off, leaving the carnage behind us. One of the drones continued the slaughter of our team members and destruction of our equipment. The second broke off to pursue us.
Kaz zig-zagged through the dirt as high velocity rounds exploded all around us. Our bike wasn’t fast enough and there was no cover. It seemed like we’d only delayed the inevitable and we’d be blown to smithereens within seconds. But then, a powerful shot rang out above our heads.
I looked back over my shoulder and saw the killer drone had taken a hit; its navigation system apparently damaged as it swayed over to one side. BANG. A second shot rang out, and the drone fell from the sky, crashing down heavily into the dirt.
I hadn’t seen where the shots came from, but a moment later there was a gruff cry from our left-hand side.
“Over here! Quickly! They’ll send more.”
I saw a figure emerge from behind a rock – a man dressed in combat fatigues and a gas mask, carrying what looked like a Barrett sniper rifle. He motioned us towards his position, and we abandoned our quad bike to follow him. Initially I couldn’t see where he was leading us, but then he opened a hidden trapdoor concealed within the ground. We followed him down the ladder into an underground bunker, slamming the door shut behind us. We were safe, for the time being at least, although our troubles were far from over.
The bunker looked like it had been recently installed but was also oddly familiar. Our saviour turned on the lights to reveal a seemingly comfortable living space, although I noted the bunker was filled to the brim with weaponry. He laid down his sniper rifle and began to remove his mask.
“You don’t need those in here. The air is clean.” he said.
Kaz and I were relieved to be able to remove our respirators and breathe normally. I’d hoped for some respite after the shock of the massacre we’d just escaped from, but instead I was in for the biggest shock of my life. Because, when I looked up at our savior, I saw my own face staring back at me.
True, the man was battle-scarred, worn-out and looked like he’d been to hell and back, but it was definitely me. My exact double. To be fair, my doppelganger was also in a state of shock, as he stared back at me with his jaw ajar. Neither of us were able to speak in that bizarre moment, so it was left to Kaz to bring some levity to the tense situation.
“Well, this is a first!” she exclaimed with a laugh.
She was right of course. We’d never seen anything like this before. This scenario had been discussed by our planners back on Earth 1 but was written off as highly unlikely. It was of course possible that another version of you would exist on an alternate version of Earth, but the chances of running into your double during a 24-hour mission were extremely remote. And yet it had happened here, on Earth 537.
“I know who you are, and why you’re here.” said the other me, after he’d recovered from his initial shock. “The project, right? They got it up and running on your world?”
Kaz frowned before replying. “How do you know about the project?” she asked.
“Because I was recruited for it.” my double replied, before nodding towards me. “The same as you were, I’m guessing. I moved out here a couple of years ago, back when the project was starting up. This bunker was part of the complex they built to accommodate us. But we didn’t have enough time to construct a functioning TDP…And now, I’m all that’s left…”
There was a sorrow in his eyes as he looked down at the concrete floor. I couldn’t begin to imagine what he’d been through. My mind was racing at this point. It seems crazy, but we hadn’t anticipated the scenario where the project would also exist on an alternate Earth, but of course this had always been a possibility. But as my double said, the project on Earth 537 had never gotten off the ground. Clearly, something horrific had occurred on this world.
“What the hell happened here?” I asked, part of me not wishing to know the answer.
My double seemed angered by the very question.
“We got fucking invaded, that’s what!” he screamed, before composing himself. “The squids are what we call them. An aquatic, highly evolved and technologically advanced species, originating from a water world on the far side of the galaxy. They showed up in our solar system two years ago and unleashed hell – attacking every nation on the planet simultaneously, wiping out cities and crushing armies. We fought back fiercely but didn’t stand a chance. It was a fucking genocide!”
He paused briefly, wiping sweat from his brow before continuing. “I’m sorry, I haven’t spoken to another human being in months. There’s very few of us left now. Those drones that attacked you, they’re the lower end of the squid’s technology, but very effective at tracking down and killing survivors…But of course, it won’t matter in another year or two. You’ve seen what they’re doing on the surface?”
I nodded my head grimly.
“Terraforming.” he confirmed, “We assume they’re preparing the earth for colonisation. Plants and animal life are virtually extinct. The atmosphere is quickly turning toxic. In time the hunter drones will find our remaining bunkers and holdouts, and the human race will cease to exist. On this world at least…”
I shook my head, now unable to meet my double’s gaze. I thought my own life had been hell, but what I’d been through was nothing compared to the suffering this alternate version of me had endured. It was strange feeling, to feel pity for a man who is you, but also not you. It was a hell of a lot to process, and frankly beyond what my brain could comprehend in that moment.
Kaz seemed unfazed however, taking this bizarre new development in her stride.
“We appreciate your help.” she said, speaking to the other me. “But we’re still in the shit. Our team has been wiped out, and our equipment destroyed.” She glanced at her watch before continuing. “In 20 hours, our people on the other side will reopen the portal for our extraction. If we’re not there, we’ll be stuck here for the rest of our lives, which I’m guessing won’t be very long…”
My double nodded in acknowledgement, frowning in the same way I’d do when I was trying to think.
“It’s possible, but it won’t be easy.” he eventually replied, “I can draw the drones away from your extraction point. Buy you some time. It will be tight and very dangerous, but if we time it well, you might just make it.”
I shook my head in disbelief. “You would risk your life for us?” I asked incredulously.
The question prompted my doppelganger to smile for the first time in our conversation.
“Technically speaking, I’m risking my life to save me, or at least a version of me who has a chance for survival…Besides, what the hell else am I going to do? I won’t survive for much longer down here. If I’m going to die, I might as well die for something meaningful.”
My heart sunk at his poignant words.
“Come with us.” I muttered tearfully, knowing deep down that this wasn’t possible.
He shook his head in the negative. “I can’t do that buddy. This is my world and it’s where I belong. I was born here, and I’ll die here. That’s all there is to say…Now, let’s get our plan straight and make our preparations.”
I was still in a state of shock, but Kaz spoke with my double, formulating the plan for our escape. For better or worse, we’d make our break for it at dawn.
I was tempted to engage my double in conversation during that long interlude down in the bunker, to learn about his life and confirm whether it corresponded with my own. But he wasn’t interested in talking with me. Instead, he fed us with canned food and suggested we get some rest. I don’t know how he was able to sleep when we could all die the next morning, but I guess this had been my double’s reality for some time.
I did talk with Kaz throughout the long night. Oddly, in spite of everything we’d been through together, we’d never actually had a real conversation. Kaz was a good soldier, and she maintained a tough exterior, but there was a vulnerability underneath all that. We spoke about Helen and how much I missed her. As it turned out, Kaz had suffered a similar tragedy, having lost a lover during a combat mission back on Earth 1. We bonded over our mutual grief. I’m glad we had that time to talk – it meant a lot to me.
When morning came, the tension inside the bunker was palpable. My double retained a hard demeanor as he explained his plan without emotion.
“I’ll take the service tunnel and exit through the trapdoor a mile to the north. Once I’m in position, I’ll cause a ruckus and draw the hunter drones out to my location. Once the diversion is in place, I’ll radio through to you guys. After that, you’re on your own.”
“Promise me you won’t take any unnecessary risks.” I pleaded. “Once you make the call, you need to get back to safety.”
“Sure.” he replied, without much conviction. “Don’t worry about me. I know how to look after myself.”
I didn’t doubt it. It surprised me that this version of me was so much braver than I was.
My double wasn’t one for long goodbyes. After his briefing, he put on his respirator mask, grabbed his rifle and set off down the subterranean tunnel.
“Keep your radio on.” were his parting words.
I looked to Kaz in disbelief before we masked up.
“Do you think he’ll be okay?” I asked.
“What’s the matter, don’t you trust yourself?” she said with a smile.
Understandably, I didn’t see the funny side.
We waited for what seemed like an eternity for the call, with Kaz calmly speaking into the radio when it finally came through.
“We read you. Over.” she said.
“I’m out of the tunnel. The plan is working. I’ve got a half dozen drones converging on my location. I can hold them off, but not for long. You need to move quickly. Over.”
I angrily grabbed hold of the radio and shouted at my double. “Don’t be a hero! Get the hell out of there!”
“Move it, damn you!” came the furious reply.
After that, all I heard was gunfire, explosions and screaming. My blood froze as history repeated itself.
“The fuckers killed him!” I cried.
“Fucking move!” Kaz roared, as she physically forced me up the ladder.
With no other choice, I opened the hatch and emerged in the wasteland. We had to move quickly, not only because the drones would be hunting us, but also because the portal would be opening in a matter of minutes, and the Earth 1 team wouldn’t wait for us.
We ran for our lives across the barren landscape, struggling to breath through our respirators. The land was cloaked in darkness, but the sun was slowly rising on the far horizon. Our extraction was at dawn, and we were fast running out of time.
We got about halfway to the hillside when I heard the ominous buzzing sound. I glanced over my shoulder in time to see a single hunter killer drone approaching. The deadly UAV was still a distance off but moving rapidly in our direction.
“Shit!” I swore.
“Keep moving!” Kaz ordered, as she cast aside her rifle and backpack. I ran as quickly as I could, suddenly realising that I didn’t wish to die in this hellish place.
Somehow, we reached the hillside intact, but now the drone was in range, and explosive rounds struck all around us. I saw a burst of light, indicating that the portal was being opened from the other side. For the first time I believed we would actually make it, but the drone was right on top of us now, tearing the ground up around our feet.
The portal opened – a fluid membrane leading back to our home dimension. That passageway had never looked so welcoming. I noticed the drone had stopped shooting at us but didn’t have time to consider why, not before Kaz pushed me forwards, literally shoving me through the portal.
I fell into the dark abyss, temporarily existing only in limbo, before spilling out onto the metal gangway. For a second, I dared to think I was safe, but then I heard an almighty crashing sound, the awful din of metal striking metal. Instinctively, I rolled off the gangway just in time to save my life.
When I turned my head, I was sickened by what I witnessed. Kaz, my long-term comrade-in-arms, had been crushed, with virtually every bone in her body broken. She stared at me with fading eyes, blood pouring from her mouth as she took her last breath. I realised later that she’d sacrificed her life to save me, pushing me through the portal just seconds before impact.
And on top of her broken body was the heavy frame of the killer drone. It had crossed over, following us back to Earth 1 and breaking into our underground fortress. This was a living nightmare, but it got worse. To my horror, I realised the drone was still active, as the saucer hovered over Kaz’s body, its weapon’s systems coming to life as it scanned its new environment.
The technicians and staff inside the bunker had never seen anything like this before, and they reacted with blind panic.
“Holy shit!” somebody cried. “What the hell is that?”
“Security, get the fuck in here!” shouted another.
They hardly had time to react before the drone opened fire, filling the room with deadly rounds and rockets. In a matter of seconds, the once pristine and hi-tech control room was transformed into a slaughterhouse, with computer terminals, equipment and human bodies all torn to pieces.
I heard screams and explosions and witnessed the bloody carnage, but I didn’t want to join the victims, instead ripping off my mask and darting for the exit at the far end of the bunker, pushing my way past a couple of burly security men armed with MP-5s. They bravely but foolishly opened fire on the killer drone, but predictably didn’t last two seconds before being cut down.
But at least they bought me some time, allowing me to reach the bunker exit which led to the service tunnels beyond. I slammed my fist on the emergency button in a desperate attempt to close the shutter door, but it did nothing, as the mechanism had apparently been damaged by gunfire.
“Shit!” I swore, as I fled down the corridor in a desperate attempt to escape.
By now the whole base was on full alert, with sirens blaring and red lights flashing.
Technicians and scientists ran for cover, while security troops tried in vain to stop the robot’s murderous rampage. I glanced over my shoulder as I ran, horrified to see the saucer-shaped drone squeezing down the tight corridor, chasing after me whilst slaughtering everyone in its path. It seemed like the AI was homing in on me, fulfilling its deadly mission by hunting me down in a parallel universe.
I kept running, turning a sharp corner at breakneck speed and crashing into a heavy figure running in the opposite direction. I fell, hitting the hard concrete floor and looking up to see a large soldier armed with a M-4 and wearing full body armour. He screamed at me, shouting – “Get the fuck out…”
But he never got the chance to finish his sentence, as a second later his head was blown clean off. I winced at the carnage, hearing the ominous din of the murderous drone scrapping its way down the corridor, it weapons recalibrating as it closed in for the kill.
I looked to the body of the decapitated soldier, seeing what was surely my last chance attached to his belt…a hand grenade. I reached for the explosive device with my shaking hand, grabbing it firmly and pulling the pin. In an instant I tossed the grenade in the direction of my attacker before tearing down the corridor and diving into cover.
A couple of seconds passed before I heard the explosion, followed by the terrible whining sound of a machine slowly dying. When I eventually emerged from my hiding place, I saw the wreckage of the drone, its life force finally extinguished. I’d managed to stop the murderous machine and save my own skin, but the cost had been horrific.
The Earth 537 massacre proved a watershed moment for the TDP project. The casualties on the 217 and 312 worlds had been written off as acceptable losses, but we’d lost all but one of our team members on 537, and an entity had followed us back to our world, breaking into our previously secure base and slaughtering a dozen of our Earth-based staff.
The powers-that-be weren’t able to cover up this disaster, and before long the base was on lockdown, not to mention crawling with government inspectors and corporate lawyers. They placed an indefinite ban on new missions.
As for me, my medical examination established I wasn’t dying from radiation sickness, but they did diagnose me with PTSD, and I got placed on furlough pending a full psychological evaluation.
And that pretty much brings me up to date. Earth 537 was my final mission and I have no intention of ever stepping through a TDP again. For a while I considered trying to live a normal life, but how could I, after all the horrors I’d witnessed? My hopes for the future had died with Helen, and the guilt I carried was too much to bear.
Earth 537 had broken me, but the massacre I’d lived through had also given me a new purpose. Both my 537 double and my friend Kaz had died to save my life, so it wasn’t an option to simply give up. I realised I needed to do something to atone for my part in all this, and so I decided to tell my story to the world.
Before I went on the run, I made discrete enquiries with a few of my former colleagues who still work on the project. They’ve informed me that the ban on visiting new worlds has been made permanent, but the portal technology and infrastructure is still very much intact and operational.
My former employers have identified several viable worlds, all deemed fit for colonisation. They’ll go ahead with their insane escape plan and think nothing of those who died to make it happen.
But I remember everything. I’ll never forget Helen, Kaz and all the others, and I believe their stories need to be told. And we cannot ignore the threats posed by the monsters of Earths 217, 312 and 537, and God knows how many other parallel dimensions – those evil and ruthless regimes who would think nothing of conquering our world and wiping us out.
The people in charge – the government and super wealthy – they don’t give a shit. If you want to survive what’s coming, you need to prepare. But for me, it’s already too late. This will be my last entry. I know they’ll get me, and I’m okay with that. I need to face the consequences of my choices.
So, what are my parting words? Stand and fight, because the monsters are coming, and they’ll show you no mercy. Godspeed my friends.
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