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Made in us
Death-Dealing Devastator






Kravchuk grimaced. "I don't understand this ultimatum, but we should take full advantage of it. We can use the time to fortify Ovlast and our bases, accelerate the draft, and push the factories to full production. In three days, we'll have tripled our strength, which should be enough to make this alien reconsider invasion."

Although he debated giving a blunter answer, Chukhay said as he buttoned his coat, "Do what you will. I will be here in the morning." He took a step toward the door.

"Varlam."

Chukhay paused as he regarded the other thinner Director.

Wearing suspicion as a mask, Kravchuk whispered, "We're in this together, just as it was with Afanisy. Don't forget that."

"I won't."
   
Made in us
Death-Dealing Devastator






The door led to a short, plain hallway that ended at an elevator door. It was an elevator strictly reserved for the Directors and those they deemed trustworthy, being the sole elevator that had access to every secret floor beneath the Directorate. For now, Chukhay hit the only non-basement button as he returned to the ground floor.

Kravchuk's threat lingered in his mind. Although Kravchuk had the appearance of a scholar, it hid the nature of a serpent. To Chukhay's immense frustration, he would have to increase his protection. Perhaps secretly eliminate the Night Service members who had more loyalty to Kravchuk than the state. Worst of all, it would mean he would have to hire a taste-tester again. A small expense considering his pay as a Director, but there was something particularly offensive when Chukhay couldn't simply enjoy the taste of a dinner without fears of assassination.

With a ding, the elevator opened into a secret hallway that connected the three Director offices. Taking a short left, he inputted a code into the wall before it slid open to reveal his office's bathroom.
   
Made in us
Death-Dealing Devastator






He opened the bathroom door and almost crashed into a mop bucket.

The cleaning lady behind the bucket paled and immediately scurried away with her tools as she muttered, "I'm so sorry, Director. I-I was just-"

"Carry on," Chukhay curtly replied. He moved past the janitor at a brisk pace as his thoughts returned to more important matters.

The cleaning lady held her breath, until the Director closed the door behind him. It was only then that she breathed a sigh of relief. Anasya lifted a wrinkled hand to her heart. She was getting too old for surprises. Once her aged heart had calmed down, she pushed a grey strand of hair behind her ear before resuming her path to the Director's bathroom.
   
Made in us
Death-Dealing Devastator






As soon as she mopped the bathroom, she would be done for the day. The usual relief before the end of a shift was not with her today. Ever since the alien invasion, an undercurrent of panic and desperation had seized the Directorate. Aides were running around trying to do six different tasks, while supervisors snapped at people for the slightest mistakes. Anasya was sorely tempted to quit, but she had worked hard to gain this job for herself and her family. The sooner she was gone, the sooner she could relax.

With all of that weighing on her, she attacked the bathroom with a frenzy. Given how little use it saw, it didn't take long to clean the bathroom. The moment it was finished, she lumbered toward the janitorial center on the first floor. The few other janitors still here nodded to her. She frowned as she felt the air of melancholy that had silenced even her chatty coworkers but nodded back. She emptied out the mop bucket before returning the tools back to their places. It was only when she headed toward the supervising station did she remember that today was payday.
   
Made in us
Death-Dealing Devastator






The janitorial supervisor, Sam, was at the station.

But not alone.

Though she wore no badge or insignia, it only made the woman next to Sam stand out all the more. After cleaning the Directorate for over two decades, Anasya knew she saw a member of the Night Service speaking to her boss. Suddenly, Anasya had no desire to check out as she looked for something to distract her. She locked onto the state art pieces lining the wall, giving them more attention now than she had in ten years' of work. She was happy that she couldn't hear the conversation, but she Sam looked pale and his fingers fidgeted with a pen.

An eternity seemed to pass as Anasya awkwardly studied the paintings before the Night Service woman finally left. Eager to not attract the attention of less savory individuals, Anasya hurried over to the station.
   
Made in us
Death-Dealing Devastator






Sam nodded to her as she reached the desk but said nothing, instead busying himself with some forms. Anasya keyed in her worker's code that clocked her out before turning her attention back to her supervisor. Whatever the Night Service woman had said had rattled Sam because four long minutes passed before he realized Anasya was still here.

"Do you need something?"

"...my paycheck?" Anasya timidly replied.

"OH!" Colour rapidly filled the supervisor's cheeks as he scampered toward a locker within the supervisor's station. "It is payday, isn't it?" His fingers slipped as he pulled out his keys. "Whoops," he muttered as he recovered. "It doesn't feel real, does it? There's this entire alien invasion, but it's still payday. Still have to pay the bills, right? I mean it's not like any of us had anything to do with the aliens coming, right? Why would any of us have anything to do with aliens we've never heard about until today? It's crazy, right?"

The more Sam rambled, the more uncomfortable Anasya felt. She was under the impression that Sam was reaching out to her.
   
Made in us
Death-Dealing Devastator






But she wanted no part of this. All she wanted was to go home and rest. When Sam held out her paycheck, she took it. "Thank you," she said before turning away and heading straight for the exit. In the back of her mind, she hoped the colourful leaves would at least provide some relief on her walk.

Relief did not greet her as she stepped outside the building.

The Directorate was not only the home to the Directors, but to the Balovian Council. As such, it was home to the entire Balovian government. So, it wasn't unusual to see soldiers here. Yet, in the past there had only been a few dozen. Now, Anasya thought their numbers reached into the hundreds as the outer edges of the Directorate were fully manned, others building emplacements, and dozens patrolling the streets beyond the Directorate's fences. All of them moved with a nervous energy that unsettled Anasya.

She wanted nothing more than to break out into a run to the gate but feared that she would be shot. Doing everything she could not to attract any attention, she forced herself to calmly walk to the checkpoint that she had been walked through a thousand times before.
   
Made in us
Death-Dealing Devastator






Just yesterday, she had seen Luka and Kjetil manning the security checkpoint. The two soldiers had been stuck on gate duty for months and approached their jobs with a bored amicability. While important citizens and officers were given the full professional treatment, to everyone else, there had been a casual ease as they let them come and go, often with a joke.

The genial pair were nowhere to be found today.

Instead of two soldiers in standard uniforms, the main gate was now occupied by ten soldiers, all of them in full combat apparel. No more smiles as the new soldiers exuded an air of quiet hostility. As Anasya neared the gate, she fumbled for a moment before pulling her ID out of a pocket. The nearest soldier turned and stared at her as she walked the last few steps. She forced her hand not to shake, afraid that her fear would be mistaken for something worse. The soldier took her ID and studied it for a long moment. For a terrifying second, she thought the soldier would begin questioning her.
   
 
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