The Intruder

Remy Serbinenko

THE INTRUDER           . 

Alfonso turned on the television and sat back in his chair. Large words ran across the shimmering screen and a loud, male voice rang out as the newscaster appeared.


The Scientific American, now on TV!

Scientists have discovered a new planet in the Solar System!

“Recently, scientists at the Vermont Space Research and Development Center have identified a small singularity within the boundaries of our solar system. It appears, as they say, to be a small, round body, roughly half the diameter of our own Moon, orbiting in a hyper-elongated orbit, slanted at forty-five degrees parallel to the horizontal axis, around Jupiter. Dubbed ‘the intruder’, here’s what the team members themselves have to say about it.”


On screen appeared a bald man, dressed smartly in a white waistcoat. He held a notebook in one hand.


“‘We,’ said Howard Clyde, director of the Center, ‘have stumbled upon a most puzzling anomaly. The mass of the planetoid is approximately equal to at least the mass of Neptune. We are doing our best to continue the research efforts. Only two weeks ago we have acquired access from NASA to the central antenna of the Deep Space Communication Center and we have aimed it at the planetoid, and the results have shown us that Jupiter is no longer in a heliocentrastationary orbit and slight deviations have appeared along its path around the sun. However, further research is required to prove that point.’”


Howard Clyde vanished from the screen and the newscaster reappeared. 

“According to further study, Clint Westfield, ex-NASA director, has been monitoring the antennas in their use.” 

A mustachioed man dressed in green with a green tie appeared on the screen.


“‘In addition,’ says Clint Westfield, leader of the team assigned to work at the antenna, ‘the antenna picks up a high pitched “whistle”, as we have named it, precisely at twelve o’clock am and pm. When the antenna receives the whistle, it starts to rotate away from it. We have a repair crew on site to correct the rotation when necessary, but we fear the worst. We too have noticed the apparent “wobble” of Jupiter, and as a matter of fact, it almost exactly coincides with the whistles. We are currently sending agents over to NASA to ask them for permission to utilize the other antennas. No more from this end. Further research will have to be completed in order to gain a better understanding of this object.’”


Clint Westfield disappeared from the screen, and the newscaster strode on again.

“Meanwhile,” he said, “across the globe, in the vast fields outside the walls of Beijing, the Chinese government also studies the object. In fact, as they say, they have even begun work on a probe designed to venture through the vastness of space to land on its surface. Here is Director Zhāng Wěi, manager of the effort, to speak with us today.” 

A not so much bald but more suited by ‘hairless’ man appeared. He had a thin nose and a slightly mouse-like face. He wore gold-rimmed glasses and had on a light blue suit.


你看到的… [As you can see],” he said, “我們發現…[we have discovered]…物體…[the object, floating in space]…在木星表面…[over the surface of Jupiter. We too have found]…口哨聲…[the whistle, and efforts to build the probe are underway.]…正在進行中. 我們相信…[We believe that]…小行星將…[the planetoid will]…提供必要的…[provide the necessary knowledge to]…了解宇宙…[understand the universe and everything in it.]…以及其中的一切.”


Zhāng Wěi disappeared and the face of the newscaster appeared once more upon the screen.

“And there you have it, folks. All around the world, the scientific communities are racing to be the first to find out the true nature of this mysterious object. Deep in the frozen heart of Russia, a small team of government-funded researchers is firing a series of high-power ion beams, nicknamed ‘Shpaga’, meaning spear, into the sky at the ‘intruder’. In Brazil, weather-balloon-borne antennas are sent into the sky. In Africa, following the end of the civil war in the Congo, the African states have joined together to create the African Scientific Confederation which has begun to fund a scientific research effort of its own, the details of which are still not known. The entire world has been stirred by this event. The excitement is in the air. The storm is about to break. Delegates from round the world are coming to NASA to help build and succeed in the mission to reach The Intruder.

“Speaking of storms, here is the weather broadcast for next week brought to you by–”   


– T-minus 20 –


The telephone rang. Dalton West sighed and reached over to press talk.

“Yes?” he said, in a voice flooded with boredom. The voice that came through the telephone was sharp and hard. He recognized that voice.

“Hello? Hello! This is Howard Clyde speaking. Are you busy?” Dalton yawned and stretched his limbs, sloppily readjusting his glasses. How I hate that guy. Him and his effortlessly spotless shoes. And his sharp, querying, prying voice. And his perfect haircut. He runs this place like a factory. Now, if I were in charge— He said none of this.

What he said was, “No, Howie. I’m not busy, at least not at this time in the morning. But in about two hours, I’ll be as busy as the demons in hell! Have you got any idea how many–”

“Not now, not now!” said Howard insistently. “And don’t you dare call me Howie! Ever again! You’ve not been employed long enough!”

“Well, sure, Mr. Clyde, sir, if that suits you.”

“It does. So, not busy, you say. Well then, do you think that you might be able to contact General Edrikson in an hour? If he asks, tell him that I told you to call him for me. I’ll try myself, just as soon as I get my papers straightened. Lousy clerks, good-for-nothing bast–”

“Hey, whoa whoa whoa, Ward. I’m a clerk, and I can hear everything you’re sa–”

“What did you call me?” thundered Clyde.

“Nothing, Mr. Clyde. I mean sir, Mr. Clyde sir.” Howard Clyde’s voice was barely above a whisper, and was filled to the brim with boiling suspicion.

Good.” The line clicked and went dead. 

Dalton West sat silent for several moments, before suddenly standing up with a cry of “Whoopie!” Dalton shook his fist at the sky, yelling, “Yes! Yes!” A man from the neighboring office pushed open the door a smidge and peeped inside.

“Um, Dalton? Is everything o-” he broke off, seeing the expression on Dalton’s face.


– 19 –


The President of the Republic of China stood on the podium, and addressed the superiors of his secret service. On the podium stood a large book which he glanced into occasionally. 

“[Brothers of the Holy Empire],” he said. “[Today, we gather here at this time to address the growing problem. I don’t deny that I long have closed my eyes, ignored it, and even welcomed it, because it is also my greatest ally. But the crutches are gone! Yes, I’m talking about the so-called United States of America!]”

Thunderous applause.

“[Little do these Americans know how they’ve beaten us and tortured us! We all know that America is Britain reincarnated, and the British have beaten us too, like poor little lambs in a pen].”

Slightly less applause, and a few puzzled faces. The guards standing beside the doors shifted from foot to foot, fitting and refitting the stocks to their semi-automatic rifles. 

“[But no more, and never again!]” yelled the President. Thunderous applause. “[Secret Service Commander Liao Ming! Bring me the letters!]” 

A member of the audience tentatively detached himself from the mass of black suits and hurried to the President’s side, passing a small parcel to the aide by the podium and hurrying back to his seat. One of the guards placed a hand on the man’s shoulder and the man stopped, standing with his back to the guard.

“ [Here],” said the President, holding up the parcel, “[are letters and messages detailing the building of a new rocket to reach this new heavenly body so-called ‘the intruder’!]”


“[In here, is every schematic of their rocket, and every diagram of the flight path!]”

Some clapping.

“[But out of the sake of friendship, we will not create our own expedition, but rather, we will partner with them! Yes, the Enemy!]”

An even deeper silence. Somebody coughed.

“[But],” said the President, holding up a heavily gold-ringed finger, “[It will not be their mission!]”

Many puzzled looks.

“[We will use the Americans! I have instructed our ‘resident rocket scientist’ to create a piece of the puzzle for them, that is, the rocket to the station! We will make sure that it is absolutely safe, for we wouldn’t want any unnecessary suspicion! We will have them fly the ship, and when the chance arises, we will pounce upon them and take the glory for ourselves! Yes, we will have Glory!]”

Thunderous applause rang out once more through the crowded hall. Slowly, a chant arose as all members of the audience rose to their feet, and punched the air with their fists in triumph:







– 18 –


Adrian Barlowe sat at the mess table at Hickam Air Force Base, which was currently housing the 34th wing of the US Air Force. He twisted the stripped chicken bone in his fingers before dropping it back into his plate and turning to the man beside him, a dark, suntanned, swarthy man of approximately sixty.

“‘ey, Hassan. Busy day, yesterday, wasn’t it?” Hassan turned slowly and grunted in reply, his mouth full. His black military-buzz-cut hair stood up like a tightly clustered set of pins along the ridges of his scalp. Hassan hated it, and always wore his Navy cap, which he refused to remove under, as he said, his ‘code of honor’. “Yeah, at least we managed to fight them off! They’ll never be able to take us!” Adrian punched the air. The commandant, who was leaning against the door at the far end, happened to look up and saw him.

“Hey you!” he barked. “Hands down and eat quietly! This ain’t playtime for nobody!” Adrian’s blood was hot, and he was looking for a fight to pick. He leapt upon the chance.

“Says who?” 


“I said, says who?”

“Says your enlistment papers, that’s who!” the commandant roared back with a glare and a scowl. Adrian reluctantly backed down. 

“Well, ain’t that just beautiful…” he mumbled to himself. Just as he was turning again to Hassan, the alarm blared.




 The word rolled across the mess hall. The sirens flashed. The ringing of the alarms thundered through the base. Men rushed to their feet. Hassan stood up and ran for the door. Adrian did likewise, clutching his cap beneath his arm. Footsteps clattered along the concrete ground. Jets were being fired up. Adrian ran up to his and heaved himself inside. He pulled on the helmet and engaged the gas-mask and compression suit. He flipped on several toggle switches. The canopy slid down. He buckled himself in and pulled the throttle. The idling engine began to roar and the intakes dilated. The jet started to move, and Adrian slipped into the line of waiting jets. The air was thick with fumes and exhaust. One by one the jets took off. Suddenly, it was Adrian’s turn. He slowly maneuvered the jet onto the runway.

He said, “Takeoff clearance requested on runway 215. Code is 011629875.” He glanced at the control tower. A voice came in through his headset.


Adrian leaned back and pushed the throttle in. He breathed heavily as the jet began to accelerate. The dashed runway line started to flash like a strobe light, flaring in and out as he sped over them. He pulled back on the yoke and suddenly he was airborne. He pulled up sharply and started to climb. His afterburner thundered through the air, spewing red fire. Beside him pulled up a second jet. It was Hassan’s, and Adrian saw Hassan staring intently at the controls, his dark, brooding eyes transfixed with absolute concentration.


It was a clear day, but still some clouds were present as the jets continued to scramble, taking off one by one and turning to fly over the Pacific. 


From those clouds there suddenly came missiles, flying out over the jets and plunging into the water. Then, emerging from the clouds there came more jets, Chinese jets. Adrian held onto the trigger as if for dear life and bullets sprayed from the front of his jet. His yellings of rage, hate, and glory were smothered by the roar of the fight. All around him, jets swerved and tilted, deploying missiles and firing, the iridescent blue paint of the Chinese jets shimmering in stark contrast to the plain gray of the American jets. Suddenly, the first casualty. An American, hit by an errant missile, his wing burning and an engine blown out, plummeted into the deep waters below. Out of the corner of his eye Adrian saw Hassan look up, and he did too. Above the Wing, the commander flew in a larger aircraft, which was outfitted with a large, black dish on a raised leg. The White Dragon, as it was known at the base. Above the Chinese squadron, a similar plane flew. Suddenly, two more casualties. Two jets, an American and a Chinese, collided in midair and also plunged into the ocean. Beside Adrian, Hassan suddenly swerved as a Chinese jet flew between them. Hassan tilted and dipped away. Adrian’s blood roared in his ears as he spun around and was about to return fire when suddenly, the voice of the Commander came on over the radio. 

“Stand down! Stand down! I repeat, stand down. Cease fire! This is no attack, but an errant scouting party. Cease fire. Stand down!” The bullets ceased flying, and the last missile crashed into the surface of the water. The two sides slowly disentangled and sped away from each other. The Wing quickly returned back to the Base. Adrian maneuvered his jet off of the runway and into the parking area, where he disengaged the engine, pulled off his helmet and mask, opened the canopy, and dismounted, fuming.

“Would you believe it?” he said, to nobody in particular. “He called a ceasefire! And just when we had them in our grasp! The fight could’ve been ours! Ours! But we’re nothing but lazy cowards, not willing to spill our own blood to win! So what if it was a scouting party? They could’ve been lying! And we let them go! We still let them go!” The other pilots began to stare as he shook his fist at the sky from where the jets were still landing. Just as Adrian was about to return to the barracks and doze for several hours to cool off his temper, the acting sergeant ran up to him.

“The general wishes to see you immediately. The commander’s on his way, and he will escort you to him.” The sergeant pointed to the White Dragon, which was circling above, beginning its landing approach. Then, he pointed to the officers’ quarters. Adrian inclined his head stiffly, and the acting sergeant ran back to his post. 

Adrian slowly trudged towards the building, a large, squat structure of concrete, featureless all except for the high windows set into its sides. Suddenly, Adrian was buffeted by a large gust of wind as the White Dragon touched down and rolled to a halt at the foot of the runway. Adrian did not turn to look as the commander and several other black-uniformed men stepped out of the plane and started to walk towards him. He tensed. A headache started to pound in his head and he touched his hand to his temple. The men were almost about him. This was it, he thought. I’m in big trouble. However, the men only stepped around him and walked into the officers’ quarters, not even glancing in his direction. Adrian stood still, not knowing what to expect, and suddenly relaxed. Huh. 

Then, the door of the building opened, and the commander strode out, accompanied by the prior black-siuted men. He clicked his heels together and saluted Adrian.

“Adrian Barlowe, Private 124 of the 34th Wing of the United States Air Force, come with me.” Adrian saluted instinctively and followed the commander into the building.

The room was a concrete box. It was completely unadorned and unfurnished, all except for a large filing cabinet in the far corner and a large solid desk, behind which sat a low, cheap plastic chair. The general was sitting in the chair, his head bowed in thought. Just before Adrian passed through the door, the commander held him back, and placed a heavy hand on his chest.

“Stay here. After your prior antics, he may not wish to be bothered by the likes and behaviors of people like you.” So saying, the commander strode through the door.

The commander walked up to the desk and rapped on it, saying, “General Edrikson, Private 124 is here, at your request. Should we let him in?” The general did not move.

“Let him in,” said Edrikson in a low, gravelly voice. The commander beckoned to his men and Adrian was led through the door. The commander placed a packet of loose papers on the general’s desk. The general picked them up, but did not turn to look at Adrian. 

“You are…?” he asked,

“Adrian, sir. Adrian Barlowe.” General Edrikson flipped through the papers.

“And you have served in the Air Force, hm, let me see now, sixteen years so far?”

“Twenty, sir.”

“And you have how many hours in the cockpit, exactly?”

“Sixteen hundred hours, sir.”

“Mhm,” said the general, looking up. His eyes were bloodshot and set deep into his head. His skin was pallid and dry. His brows were thick, and his nose was crooked from being broken two times. He wore an old, battered general’s uniform and over his right chest pocket hung a tattered ribbon. 

“So,” he said, and paused for a while. He tapped the side of his head. “Ah, yes. I remember. Have you ever heard of Howard Clyde? Oh, no, of course you haven’t, I’m getting ahead of myself– Private!”

“Sir!” Adrian saluted sharply and pompously. The commander winced.

“I do not like to say this, but it is my solemn duty to relieve you of your post in the ranks of the Air Force–”


“–and to transfer you to the South Branch of NASA.”

“Si–” Adrian stopped midshout as the words of the general sank in.

“NASA?” he asked in a timid voice. The general nodded tiredly. “Why them? Aren’t they the space-guys? Why am I being transferred to them? What did I do to deserve–”



“Shut up.”



– 18 – 


The television buzzed and crackled when suddenly, the static cleared and the face of the newscaster appeared.


“In a recent turn of events, President William Fleming has declared that he refuses to fund the expedition and decides to instead relegate resources to, as he put it, ‘other fields of interest.’ NASA has turned to the military to find help for the mission. Air Force pilot Adrian Barlowe has been recruited to be captain of the mission, for reasons unknown. Further developments are awaited…

“In addition, according to various sources, rumor has it that China has rescinded funding for their space project. In a further study…”


 – 17 – 

Howard Clyde led the entourage down a long corridor. Huge vents opened up like gaping maws in the ceiling, and the floor was tiled in marble. Their footsteps clicked metallically off of its surface. Behind him walked a pair of men, black-suited and their hands hanging by their holsters, and between them walked Adrian Barlowe, who was wearing his Air Force Uniform, which consisted of a single-full-body suit and a helmet under one arm and a gas mask under the other.

“And here,” said Clyde, gesturing to yet another open door as Adrian shook his head in bewilderment, “is the Conference Room. You will find several vacant chairs within. They will fill shortly. Come.” Clyde stepped aside and allowed the black men and Adrian to pass before stepping inside himself and sitting down in a vacant chair. Adrian hesitated by the door while the two men sat down on either side of Clyde before finally making up his mind and walking around the contour of the table and sitting down, facing the door.

The man sitting directly across from Adrian was a swarthy man of approximately fifty, similar in appearance to Hassan but different, slightly broader, in a sense. He spoke in a low, rough voice.

“Moiy nayme is Kronos. Kronos Aléxandros. Me mudder decided to nayme me after de Greek Goddof tiyme. Oiy dunno why, but shay did,” he said coarsely. His ruddy face, which was already quite red to begin with, turned a slightly darker shade of red with the effort. Adrian was silent, and, though there was a small amount of talk from several other people around the table, the mood of the room was generally subdued. Kronos muttered something under his breath. 

Suddenly, the door slammed open as several people entered the room. The first one introduced himself as Clint Westfield, and he wore a red suit-jacket. He immediately walked over to Clyde and shook his hand heartily and said something, though Adrian did not hear it. 

The second person was akin to a brick in his build. He was bald and his cheekbones were prominent. He muttered something before looking up from under heavy brows and then sitting down solidly, every so often furtively glancing across the table at where Clyde sat. After several seconds he made eye contact with Adrian, and the expression in his dark eyes changed from covert distrust to open suspicion before turning his gaze away. 

The third man was thin, lanky, and with a pallid sheen to his skin. He introduced himself as Stephen Porter, and he sat down across from Clyde, steepling his fingers and looking down at the table where there were several papers stacked. Adrian noticed his lips move silently as he read them.

The fourth man, the last of the group, did not speak, and only closed the door behind himself before standing in the far corner of the room. From the corner of his eye, Adrian saw Clyde, wearing a puzzled expression, make a gesture akin to ‘sit down, please,’ but the man ignored him, and only scribbled something in a notebook. 

Howard said, “who are you? I don’t believe we’ve met. Please sit down” and the scribbling man, after meticulously stowing away his notebook, bolted out of the room.

Howard leaned over to Clint and said something. Clint reached below the table and presumably pressed a button of some sort. 

For several moments, nothing happened.

And then, there was a sound like a muffled shout and through the doorway, which had been left ajar, Adrian saw two burly security guards leading away the scribbler.

“A spy,” Clint announced. “We get them around here sometimes though our work, as they fail to realize, is highly classified to a point that only the highest ranking staff can decipher it reliably. Anyway, we have gathered here to discuss the—”

“—intruder,” finished Clyde.

The man named Stephen stood up, spreading his hands on the table.

“Gentlemen and colleagues and acquaintances and–” he glanced at Adrian for several moments– “–fellow soldiers,” he began. Adrian winced at the memory of his ‘firing’ from the military. Stephen’s high reedy voice intruded into his thoughts. “We have gathered here today to discuss the mission to ‘the intruder’.”

“What mission?” called out somebody.

“The government has withdrawn funding! What shall we do?” cried another. The bald man stirred. 

“Quiet!” the lion roared, his cheeks, although already quite sunburned, flaring red. The talk subsided. Stephen looked at him and gave him a cool nod.

“Gentlemen,” he began again. “I have compiled a list. This list.” He held up his papers. “A list of what, you may ask? Why, a list of what we have to do and need to do. First off. I have contacted our vehicle manufacturers in southeast Georgia, Washington, and Texas, and they have agreed to help produce the parts. Now–”

“What about the rocket? That costs a billion US dollars at least!” shouted somebody.

“Hold on, I’m getting to that. I have contacted several other international space agencies to help us achieve the necessary funding, and China seems anxious to help.” Howard stood up.

“The bargain was settled between their director, Zhāng Wěi, and myself, and we have agreed that they would construct the journeyman rocket to the space station and that we would construct the actual voyager to the Intruder.”