0920 HOURS

She stared vacantly up at one of the four security cameras trained on her, her mind miles away, atop a snowy peak stained with blood and ash. Despite trying to keep them open, her eyes closed and she rubbed them. The endless assault of the fluorescent lamps overhead was taking its toll. The jittery light hammered down on her, making her eyes burn like a pair of sizzling meatballs sunken into her skull.
This su-ucks! How’d I survive this before?
She looked down at her hands.
At least they’ve stopped shaking. Finally.
A streak of dried blood on her wrist peeked out from beneath the cuff of her shirt. Somehow she’d missed washing it off in the shower and during all the medical exams. Tears stung her eyes, but the door opened at that moment and she hurried to hide her emotion. She caught a glimpse of a stark hallway and military police officers flanking the door.
An Air Force officer stepped in, looking almost absurdly clean in his light blue shirt, dark pants, and rows of colorful ribbons on his chest. The name placard on his breast read “Tarver.” He was dark-skinned, tall, muscular and exotically handsome with a broad nose and strong jawline. His hair was little more than black fuzz beneath his dopey flat-sided cap. The poster child for Air Force recruitment.
Blinking her unshed tears away, she snuck her hand into her pocket. She groped blindly for the button to start the app recording and felt a tiny buzz beneath her finger as she found it.
I hope this works.
Tarver sat down across from her, the silver leaf insignia on his collar flashing.
What is that? Major? Colonel? Something like that.
The officer paged through a blue leather folio thick with papers. Cl-click! went the silver pen in his hand. The officer looked up and gave a brief smile. It was thin, tense, an apology.
“I’m Lieutenant Colonel Tarver with US Northern Command. I’m here to debrief you.”
“Am I under arrest?”
“No, miss,” he said. “As I said, I’m here to debrief you.”
“So the guards outside aren’t meant to keep me here?”
Tarver’s gaze flicked to the door. “They’re here for our safety.”
“Right,” she said, drawing out the word sarcastically. “Look, Lieutenant Colonel Whatever, I didn’t ask to talk to anyone from Northern Command. I asked to see my sister.”
“I’m aware. And we’ll let you, just as soon as you’re debriefed. Let’s start at the beginning of all this, shall we?”
Tarver licked his lips, a quick nervous movement that suddenly made him seem less confident. He looked back down at the documents in front of him. “The events leading up to the incident,” he said.
“What are you talking about?” she asked, rolling her eyes. Military jargon was so annoying. “Do you mean blowing up everything? Or the alien invasion? Or something else?”
Tarver licked his lips again. “The invasion.” The Air Force officer seemed uncomfortable with the word.
She sighed. Gotta be careful. Can’t give him too much, but I can’t give him too little either. She tried to think back to find some point in time that would require the least explanation. Ugh! This is going to take a lot of lying.
“I suppose it started at the mall.”

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