The spaceship Sojourner glided through the blackness of space, at times
the periodic flash of a light the only thing picking it out from shadow.
Past the inner planets, through the outer planets, toward a new object just
now visible after an unknown time. Astrophysicists, having just recently
seen for the first time the object through several telescopes, immediately
began planning a trip. Larger than a moon, but smaller than one of the
massive Jovian planets that are typical. And certainly larger than the
Pluto, that once was considered a planet. It was just there as though Pluto
had grown in the time that it is unable to be seen from any means visible to
earth. A previous mission was all but scrapped, and reworked to include a
swing around [##new planet name##] and take photos before returning to earth.
Oblivious to the mission, the spaceship flew on. Single white light
blipping every thirty seconds, while a smaller red light flashes every ten.
Jupiter's gigantic red eye watched as Sojourner passed silently in its
night. The spacecraft skipped Saturn completely in its trip, and would skip
the rest until reaching the new planet, swinging by Saturn on its return
voyage before eventually soaring past earth in its twenty-five year voyage
one last time before the systems die and it eventually soars beyond the edge
of our solar system. All the while, taking photographs of the moons,
planets, and kuiper belt objects
The Sojourner, having traveled for eight months and three hundred
million miles thus far with no deviations or problems along the path that the
astrophysics at NASA had planned for it. A fraction of the roughly seven
billion mile trip it was planned to make before leaving our solar system.
Along the trip so far, the sojourner had snapped picture after picture,
hundreds of thousands of images, sending them back to earth when their
positions lined up correctly. As the earth turned so that NASA was able to
receive transmissions from Sojourner, the spaceship sent a stream of data, a
lifeline of images that told the tale of how well the machine was performing
and of where it had been. During this brief time each day, NASA would also
send course corrections, run diagnostics, and any other changes that might be
necessary. It was during the daily stream transfer, high definition images
of Jupiter, this time taken from the northern pole looking downward, when the
feed went dead.
Had Sojourner been able to realize such things, it would have easily
seen the large object directly in its path. Large, metal, and egg shaped,
oval but flatter on the bottom than an egg usually is, flat enough to hold it
upright should it land on that side. Dwarfed by the object directly in its
path, almost as though those who sent it knew of its mission, Sojourner and
the egg shaped pod slammed into one another with a combined speed in excess
of ninety thousand kilometers an hour. The hardened base of the pod suffered
no damage, while the Sojourners life had been cut short. The impact left
little recognizable of the small earthen craft. So hard was the impact and
at such a velocity, that little or no debris was produced. The spaceship
Sojourner born XX earth years previous, died on impact and became a molded
piece of metal, plastic, fiberglass, and ceramic that would burn off during
entry into the earth's atmosphere as the pod plummeted toward Sojourner's
At eighty thousand feet the pod broke apart, separating into the main
pod and four separate smaller escape pods. As the main sequence crashed
downward, ultimately landing in north America.
After a continued then thousand feet descent, stubby wings popped free
on four sides of the escape pods. A small engine, ignited in the base and
minor adjustments made from the small wings guided them to their eventual
The reentry was uneventful, the pod got very hot, and cooled by the
time it impacted with the earth. For the most part it went unnoticed save
for military radar that tracked the tiny blip from entry into the earth's
atmosphere to its approximant landing in Clackamas county. Five miles out of
Oregon City, near the edge of a field where at one time, years ago, a farmer
tended crops of corn, now turned to tall grass.
The pod screamed to earth like the shell from a World War II Howitzer.
It slammed into the field shortly after noon shaking the earth, the epicenter
that could be felt a mile in any direction. The few small animals within a
hundred yards first froze in alert positions then skittered away from the
impact. That the large metal object did not remold itself into a lump of
metal or end up deep in the dirt is a testament to the level of engineering
and whatever mechanism was used to slow its descent. the pod did not create
a long trough as it plowed into the ground, leaving a runway-like path of
destruction in its wake. The pod's impact created a small crater about a
half a foot into the earth, it sat at a seventy-five degree angle to one
side, top pointed toward the sun as though it would give praise to the giver
The military had already dispatched several M1042 HMMWVs loaded with
troops and trucks with enough equipment to keep the general public at bay
once they found out. And it was a certainty that they would find out.
Somehow they always did. Usually it was the press that found out first, then
proceeded to broadcast it to the general public who for some reason needed to
search out the scene and stand around looking. When in most cases little
activity could be seen.
The HMMWV, High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle or Hummer in
civilian sector is the military version of the sport utility vehicle. After
drinking a case of Mt. Dew. It will get a soldier anywhere through any
terrain. And as long at the driver keeps his head straight, with little
problem it can be extracted from anything that bogs it down.
"Sergeant Irving," barked lieutenant Meyers to a soldier passing by.
The man came to attention in front of the superior officer. "I want you to
take Barker, Laugherty, and Sigler take two HMMWVs and place block off this
road about a mile in each direction. Let's keep this from becoming a media
"Yes sir," the sergeant snapped a quick salute and ran off looking for
the three that were to accompany him.
After the militaries arrival, Blackhawk circling at a distance, the
first news alert team arrived. Keeping at a discreet distance without being
told, the local channel 8 van arrived, small team of reporter, tech, and
cameraman climbed out and began setting up the equipment. The aerial rose to
the sky like a mechanical erection awaiting consummation.
"Shit," Meyers said under his breath. Trudging through the tall grass,
he walked toward the news van. Seeing a mass of camouflage walking toward
her, the reporter tapped the cameraman on the shoulder and motioned him to
follow her, a list of questions spilling from her lips as she walked.
Meyers held up a hand, palm outstretched and said, "I'm going to need
you to move this vehicle, we are going to cordon this area off."
Chris ignored him, and directly went to the questions. "Do you have
any ideas about what this is? Is it made by terrorists?"
"I am not going to do this right now," Meyers said. "Now, you can move
your equipment yourselves, or my men will move you and leave your equipment."
"You can't keep us from reporting the news," one of the camera men
"That I can't. I can however, keep it from happening within a half a
mile radius of the object in question. Now I'll give you ten minutes to move
this and then I am sending my men to escort you from this area."
The camera man swung this camera toward the collection of military
vehicles where men were putting on HAZMAT suits. Some still carried, M-16
assault rifles, while others carried radiation detecting equipment, swinging
it back and forth in an arc.
"Meyers, what is the hazard?" the reporter had also noticed the
soldiers. "Why are they putting on the HAZMAT suits?"
"Is that something that you really want to find out this close to the
object in question? Now I can't guarantee this, I have yet to get final
confirmation from the base, but I will plan to hold some sort of press
conference at 0930 hours. That's in an hour and a half . . . pending
approval. Now your ten minutes have started one minute ago. You best get
this all packed up and move it."
Without another word, he turned on his heel and walked away. Ignoring
the questions she spoke after him. when he got near the line of parked
HMMWVs he called to a private and set him with instructions to ensure the
news team made it on their way within eight minutes.
Eight minutes later, the private, along with a group of three other
soldiers, approached the news team. M-16s either slung over their shoulders,
or held at the ready, though not pointing directly at any one person. From a
distance, Meyers leaned against a HMMWV, arms crossed and watched. Ready to
call more soldiers into action should the news team offer much resistance.
"Ok, times up. I am going to have to ask you to leave," he said.
Adding quickly when he saw the newscaster open her mouth in protest, "I know
you have rights as a reporter. We need you to move for safety reasons. To
be honest, and off the record, we have no idea what this is or where it came
from. Lt. Meyers is attempting to get a press conference lined up. But we
need to figure out how safe it is before anything else. Now I believe you
can take this down the road, just past the soldiers and be far enough away."
"Private . . . Jackson? . . . Pvt. Jackson can I ask one question, just
a quick question?" the young news caster asked, waiting a moment before
plodding on, "How do you know it is not ours?"
"Lt. Meyers told me. And that is all I need to know. He says it, I
don't ask questions about it. Now time to be moving along." He stepped
three steps backward, in line with his comrades, now all of them holding
their guns at the ready. One hand at the trigger, the other clasping the
hand guard. Safety switch flicked to off.
The newscaster took a step forward, her lips pursed, ready to ask
another question. However when she looked at Pvt. Jackson in the eyes, the
far off look, as though he were being dressed down by a drill sergeant or he
was staring at a single dot on the horizon, told her all that she needed to
know. There would be no more questions answered by Pvt. Jackson or anyone
else in the platoon at this time.
As the climbed into the van, she turned around and looked at him one
last time. Once again, a question on her lips. "Which direction should we
Without looking away from that tiny dot on the horizon, his voice
lifeless, Pvt. Jackson said, "It does not matter, just follow the road until
you pass a soldiers parked with a HMMWV. Feel free to stop somewhere on the
other side of them. They have been ordered to not speak of what is
transpiring here." With that, he closed his mouth, and no other questions
from the reporter would elicit a response from him.
The baby was crying again. One of the babies that is. Jeremy sat
content to watch the bright colors flash by on the television. Sesame Street
was on, a skit where several monsters extolled the virtues of a good
chocolate chip cookie, led by Cookie Monster. While Jennifer, almost as
though scared by any monster that could love a cookie that much, shoved a
hand into her mouth and began to cry around the balled up fist.
"Oh sweetie," Elizabeth said pulling up a chair beside her daughter.
Both children were in their highchairs, waiting breakfast. Taking the little
red spoon, she dipped it into the baby jar of peas. Scooping a glob of the
olive drab green paste, she held it out to entice Jenifer. The child just
looked at it a moment, briefly opened her mouth, then as the spoon neared,
she snapped her mouth closed and turned her had away, before resuming her
Elizabeth reached over and took Jennifer's hand in hers. A thing coat
of slobber covered her fingers, and Elizabeth made a face. Sticking out her
tongue and squinting her eyes. She looked like the old Mr. Yuck sticker,
minus the green. Her daughters wails ceased, and after a surprised moment,
she began to laugh. In that moment, Elizabeth saw the tiny white cap poking
through the front of her daughters gums. The tiniest corner of a tooth that
signaled rough times ahead.
Leaning closer to get a better look, she stuck a finger in her
daughters still open mouth and ran it along the white enamel.
"When we go out, I'll get some stuff to make it better," she said,
knowing the child would understand the words or the sympathy. Saying it more
for to comfort herself.
Having graduated university with a Bachelors in psychology and she knew
that she was just placating herself. Her daughter responded to the soft tone
in her voice. however the comfort she felt as a mother was equally important
to her. Whether she directly thought about it or not.
As she dunked the spoon back into the jar of baby food, and spooned out
a glob, holding it out to Jeremy, images of Sesame Street flicked off the
screen, replaced by an announcement from the news. A serious voice said, "We
interrupt the program already in progress, to bring you this special
announcement." At first, Elizabeth paid little attention to it since over
the last few years, several commercials used that tactic to grab viewers
attention. Once she recognized the channels news team, she started paying
"At approximately 7:30 this morning," the newscaster said in a barely
contained voice. "An object of unknown origin fell from the sky to land in a
field just east of Oregon City. The military was first on the screen,
barricading off the road and restricting access to the object." The desk
anchor, a perky blond in her late twenties, was visibly shaken. Her words
passing her lips in stunted bursts as she struggled to read the teleprompter.
"A press conference is scheduled to begin at any time, we will switch to that
when it happens. In the mean time, we are receiving video from the
After a moment of the reporter staring at the camera before a tech in
the booth flipped the correct switch, the image changed to a downward looking
view of the object as the chopper circled it from a great distance.
The audio finally clicked over and the location reporter was cut in mid
word. "-ee the military are not letting us get closer than this to the . . .
the . . . well truly Angela, I can't say what it is. If pressed, I would
compare it to a mechanical egg, with a flatter bottom. I assume to keep it
upright. It is at about a forty-five degree angle."
The camera switched from pointing directly at the news caster, to the
object she talked about. Several people in HAZMAT suits stood a discreet
distance from it, some held equipment, others stood taking photographs.
Stationed farther away a ring of soldiers patrolled a set perimeter, each
wore a field protective mask and carried a M-16 clasped in their hands.
After the camera panned around taking in all the landscape had to
offer, the collection of HMMWVs, larger transport vehicles, several large
canvas tents had been erected, and lastly more troops than was rightly needed
for the situation. The camera panned to follow the road, coming to a stop on
the HMMWV stationed at a ways from the collection of equipment.
After a moment the news caster riding in the helicopter said, " As you
can see, the military is not taking any chances here, back to you Angela."
"Moments ago News Channel 12 received an anonymous call indicating that
several telescopes have been tracking the object over the last few days and
even went on to say that NASA watched it enter the earth's atmosphere. The
caller even hinted that the object impacted with the Sojourner, a deep space
craft sent to investigate the strange appearance of a new planet at the edge
of our solar system. We will have more on that in a special update later in
Elizabeth clicked the television off, and in the ensuing silence it
seemed as though the world had stopped. For a brief instant, even the
children were quiet. Each of the children sat in their highchairs, Elizabeth
at the table, opened jars of fruit in front of her, looking at one another,
eyes flicking back and forth. In the distance, the small whine of a siren
creased the air. A moment later, a wet belch slipped from Jennifer's mouth,
her tiny lips spread across her face in surprise at the pressure relief that
she would not understand for a few years still.
She picked up her phone to call Geoff, sudden filled with the desire to
tell him about what was transpiring. After punching the numbers, her thumb
hovered over the send button a moment, trying to decide if it would be better
to just send a text message. At the last moment, she pushed the End button.
Opting for a quick text message instead.
She was interrupted halfway through, a grunt from Jeremy called for her
attention. The children's revelry was interrupted first by a tense look on
Jeremy's pink face, followed by the same look on Jennifer's.
"I know twins are supposed to have a connection, but this also?"
Elizabeth asked them. The tense look stayed that way, and while they
finished what they had started, she completed the text she had begun writing
before Jeremy's grunt interrupeted her.
After pressing the send button, she dropped the phone on the table top,
looked at the children, and asked, "So which one gets to go first?" The two
children just looked at her, a droplet of drool hung perilously from
Jennifer's bottom lip a moment before slowly separating and plopping onto the
tray of her highchair.
"Well, you called it," she said to Jennifer. "Sorry J my little man,
she drooled first." Looking closer at his dry bottom lip she added, "It looks
as though you aren't in that much of a hurry."
Geoff almost left his cell phone on plugged in at his desk when he
headed off to the break room to fill the now dry coffee mug. Moments after
he grabbed the three year old phone, it buzzed to life, startling him, he
almost dropped it from his hand.
"That would not be good," he said. The phone was certainly on its last
legs. Tiny bubbles spread across the display, tension damage from Geoff
squeezing the phone in anger after poking the End button. And after three
years the battery would hold a charge for less than a day, forcing him to
remember to plug it in every day as he went to bed.
If it hit the ground once again, who knew if it would continue to work.
Geoff knew he had dragged the life of this phone out long enough and he
should just go to the store and renew his contract, new phone included. He
just had poor luck with cell phones. He had spent an inordinate amount of
time researching his last phone, the one before this phone. It lasted three
months before having to be replaced.
As he walked into the break room, looking down at the message displayed
on his phone. Walking through the door, he almost slammed into someone that
had stopped just past the door frame.
"Excuse me Bill," he said, pushing past, not really looking up from the
phones small display. The message from Elizabeth said in plain black
letters: Check out the news. Something big is happening.
His hand stopped inches from the coffee pot, as he realized just how
many people were standing in front of the television in the other room. He
quickly filled his mug and poured a few sugar packets into the liquid so
black it looked like used motor oil and grabbed a few extra packets to fine
tune the taste.
An empty seat beckoned to him from across the room. He stopped at the
vending machines and dropped two quarters and a dime into the machine and
received a bag of Famous Amos cookies. As he slid into the seat, a girl at
the table looked away from the television over to him. She offered him a
weak smile and a shake of the head when he held out the now open bag of
cookies before returning her attention to the television.
Geoff dropped the remaining packets onto the table and took a sip of
the coffee before systematically tearing open sugar packets and dumping them
into the mug. "Mmmm, sweet as a maidens heart," he said.
The view on the television was once again from the helicopter, looking
down on the large metal object.
"The military is keeping us from getting too close," he said. "As you
can see, the crowd of onlookers is beginning to grow." The camera panned
around to point directly at a group of people held at bay by military in gas
masks. "As you can see, the military are wearing protective respirators,"
the reporter said. After a moment, the camera returned to pointing at the
center of attention.
"You can tell from the soldiers walking around the immense size. I
would estimate it to be thirty feet tall at least, probably a little more."
After watching for a while, Geoff leaned over toward the girl and
whispered, "Hey Kari," after a moment the girl tore her gaze away from the
television as though it were held by magnates.
"Yeah," she said. Fear dripped from her eyes like tears. He wanted to
hold out his hand to her, comfort her in that one small way, but knew this
was the wrong time and place for such a show of affection.
"Where is this happening?"
"I'm not sure exactly, somewhere a little ways away from Oregon City."
He had been about to reply when her words caught in his mind. Oregon
City was not ten miles away. "You--you mean just over the river Oregon
city?" His shock as apparent as the look of fear in her eyes.
"Yeah," she said as she turned her gaze back to the television.
Something dawned on him then, "I have to go visit a customer today that
is just over there."
She looked back at him, "When are you supposed to be there?"
"Not until this afternoon, but I could swing by there and check it
"Don't," she said the look of fear returning, giving her blue eyes a
sparkly quality. "What if something happens. They are saying it is from
space. Even the scientists they have been talking to, don't know anything
"Come on Kari, you really believe that? Most likely it is something of
ours, and the military just hasn't fessed up to it yet. I mean really, if
that thing came through the atmosphere, it would not look that good still. I
mean have you seen those space shuttles? That thing has to sit on the runway
for a long time before anyone can get close to it. that's how hot it is.
And we are supposed to believe this came down here, and landed in a field and
did not set all that grass on fire? I'm calling bullshit on this one." He
looked around the room meeting the eyes off all those present since his
speech called the attention of everyone present.
In the ensuing silence, the reporter said, "We just got a message that
Major Brach of the Air Force will hold a press conference in thirty minutes
"And at that time, they will own up to it," Geoff said. "I imagine if
it was really that serious, it would be the president instead of some Major."
He looked around at everyone staring at him. It even seemed that the
reporters were looking in his direction. The television was silent, the
reporter staring at the camera, not saying anything.
After a moment, people seemed to notice the silence, and one by one
eyes flicked back toward the television. Finally, the newscaster began
talking again, and the only eyes on Geoff belonged to Stephanie.
"You really believe that?" Kari asked.
"How could you not believe it." There is so many things going on the
government covers up and civilians never find out about. I mean, every time
they begin showing the newest jet, or other piece of hardware, you know there
has to be something better already in use. They aren't going to give away
the best, or knowledge of it."
She just looked at him, her eyes wide. The slightest glint of fear
adding a little excitement to them. She had grown up believing in the
government, believing that everything the government does is for the best of
the citizens. She had been born into an all American family. The thought of
the government keeping something from the people that supported it shocked
her, unsettled her almost more than the thought of that object dropping from
the sky being a gift from an alien civilization.
"Anyway," he said, leaning forward and lowering his voice. He motioned
her to lean closer to him. "I have an appointment with a customer in Oregon
City today. I am going to go early, and stop there," he pointed toward the
television, "and have a look in person."
As the words left his mouth, he could tell it was the wrong thing to
say. Her eyes widened in horror at the thought, the expressed desire, of
being near that thing.
Geoff had always been a daredevil. Cliff diving, jumping from a plane,
anything that got his heart moving faster, and he would not only do it once,
but ask to do it again. The "extreme" phase of advertising spoke to him.
Once he had gotten his degree and started work, he begun to feel old in a way
that he was not ready for. Like a hippie selling the Mini-bus and getting a
Mercedes. It was the little things that he did now that kept him feeling
"Oh Geoff don't, oh god don’t," her hand slid out and unconsciously
grabbed his, pleading with its own gesture. He looked around without moving
his head, hoping no one else saw her gesture, but everyone that he could see
had already returned their attention to the television. Understanding his
fear, she slid her hand back toward her mug of coffee and nonchalantly took a
sip. "What good can come of that?" she asked.
"I have to see it," he said.
"Are you going to tell Elizabeth?" she asked.
"What? Are you crazy? Her response would be ten times worse than
yours. Everyone would hear it from here."
"Maybe I should tell her, maybe that will keep you from going," she
said. The worried look from when he sat down had never really left her eyes,
it had lessened as he reassured her and those around them. Now, with the
revelation of what he planned to do, the look returned. A wide eyed frantic
look filled them, a tiny gleam brimmed the bottom where a tear was forming in
each. "This can't be a good thing. We don't know what it is, even if it is
from the government, it could radiate something fierce. Do you want cancer?"
her voice raised with the stress of each word, she spoke the question with
such ferocity their coworkers at neighboring tables began to look around at
"Ok, Ok, just chill out a little. Take it down a notch or two. Holy
shit. Don't turn this into a scene." He looked around to ensure everyone
else had looked back at the television. "Remember, we still have to work
here after this is all though."
"I know that," she said in a tight whisper. "This just scares me, you
know? I believe you. The government is fucked up, and not above keeping
shit from us, it's probably better that they do. There are things that the
only way we ever really want to know about, is when the news makes a big deal
and scares the civies." She looked around now, saw a few people return their
gaze from out of the corner of their eyes to the television again. "Just
don't do anything stupid and get killed. I don't want to have to tell
Elizabeth how you went off your already fucked rocker and over the deep end."
"It's not like I could get that close, I mean look at those guys with
guns, do you think they'll just let me saunter over to it and place my hands
all over their little toy?"
"Oh yeah, you want to talk about the soldiers? How about the ones
covered in HAZMAT suits?" her voice had begun to get tense again. Geoff
looked over and noticed a tear finally broach the lower lid of one of her
eyes. "I wouldn't think they would go through all that trouble."
"If they wanted the cover-up bad enough they would."
Tired of the argument, she pushed back from the table and stormed from
the room, leaving her coffee mug and the wrapper from her candy bar for
someone else to take care of.
The room was silent except for the droning of the reporter, now
switched back to the studio and away from the field where the pod crashed to
earth. The reporters had moved on to different stories. Car bombings in
the middle east, bank robberies closer to home, the newest economic and
health scares, however periodic reports from the field continued to fill the
Geoff continued to watch for a few more minutes, his skepticism growing
until he decided he should call Elizabeth. Rising to his feet, he gathered
up all the garbage and headed toward his desk and the phone that waited.
All was not well at the landing site. Lt. Meyers was at his wits end
with civilians. They either pushed the fence over, encroaching on an
established safe zone, or just walked around snapping photographs with their
cell phones like tourists on vacation.
"How much longer until that fence is erected, private Jackson?" his
voice boomed across the field even though Jackson stood at attention directly
in front of him.
"Sir, we are having trouble with civilian intervention. They keep
knocking it down and pushing past it as we move down the line." Once again,
he focused on the point along the horizon.
"Jackson, take enough men to secure the fence at each joint and hold it
until it is completed. I will get more soldiers out here. Hell son, I will
get the whole army if that is what it takes." He turned to head back to the
temporary tent that had been setup. He had calls to make.
"Damn, these HAZMAT suits suck," Cleaver said, not really talking to
anyone. His comment was directed to the other soldier in a HAZMAT suit that
walked beside him. the suits muffled sound to a degree so making
conversation barely possible.
"What's that beave?"
"Stop calling me that," Nathaniel Cleaver hated his nickname, which
made it a surefire guarantee that everyone that could get away with it, would
call him that. Fortunately, he had the upper hand in this situation. "Don't
make me pull rank on you."
"You are one grade above me, that's not much rank to pull, Beave."
"You are and E-1 and I am an E-3, last time I counted that is two."
Nathaniel tried to hide the smug tone in his voice, thanking the lord for
once that the Level-A suits did that little for him.
They had lost count of the number of times they had walked around the
pod as it was now being labeled. Keeping a discreet distance of
approximately twenty yards from it at all times, their M-16s clutched in
hands and at the ready at all times.
"How much longer you think we got?" Nathaniel asked, more just to talk
and change the subject than really feeling the desire to know how long until
they were done.
"Don-no. Don't care. I just walk and protect."
"And harass," Nathaniel added.
"Yep, and harass. That particular skill is one thing the good Lord put
me on this planet for . . . to harass," his companion who would not live out
the day replied.
Twenty yards away, a mere sixty feet, just under a quarter of the
length of a football field, the pod came to life. An internal thump started
the machine vibrating and humming. As of yet, no external change could be
seen, however inside the machine prepared to disseminate, with far reaching
fingers, a poison that would change several lives.
The two soldiers, Nate a.k.a. the Beave and his unknown companion took
no notice of the machine coming to life. The HAZMAT suits compressors
creating clean oxygen worked at a low level that still drowned out the sounds
of creation from the pod.
"Please don't do this Geoff." Kari pleaded, her eyes wide and
glistening again with the hint of tears to come. "You don't know what could
happen, hell or what is really happening."
"Don't worry sweetie," he reached out and held her by the shoulders,
his voice a whisper to avoid listeners from other cubicles from overhearing.
"I am not going to get that close, just close enough to maybe snap a few
pictures, and you've seen my camera." He pointed to the leather camera bag
that hung from a hook. His Cannon EOS-1Ds Mark III with 400mm telephoto lens
was the envy of several of the office photographers. "With that, I won't
even have to get close. Think about some of the photographs I have taken.
The mountain lion. The crocodile. Need I mention the carrion birds?" That
last photograph still one of his favorites, not only for the content, but
also the for the clarity of the birds feathers, the detail in each of the
feathers. If one looked close enough, even the rachis could be seen on
several and, wishful thinking or not, he thought he could even make out each
strand that made up the barb on a few of the feathers.
"If I could get a few good pictures, I will be happy. That's all . . .
and I kind of just want to see it ya know?" In truth he did not really have
any desire to take any photos. Lately using his camera had not been as much
of an interest, he just kept up the charade since he had piled such a large
amount of money into the hobby. "You saw the news feed, there are already a
lot of people there. And I am sure more are coming all the time. I will
just be one more."
"Yeah, one more to get in the way," she said, her voice sulky and
sullen. "If something happens to you, I'm going to say I told you so."
"Yeah, I know you will."
Geoff had just left, and Kari's heart just broke a little. She feared
she would never see him again, unfortunately for her, this fear was
Turning to the only other person she was very close with, she reached
down and snatched the headset from its cradle. With leaden arms she hoisted
the plastic piece and held it to her ear. Her weak hands clasped at the
phone, barely able to hold on to it as she tapped out the seven numbers that
she knew by heart. The process took less time than it should have. There
should be a need to flip through her rolodex to find this number. A few
moments later where she desperately hoped the phone would not be answered
slipped by almost as though she were asleep.
Moment after moment, her heart clenched tighter with each beat. Fear
for Geoff, anguish for the thought of losing him even though their on-again-
off-again fling amounted to little more than a few otherwise sleepless nights
of sex either in town or on the few occasions where the company had sent him
away on business in which she tagged along on business of her own that only
paid in sex.
Her hand grew sweaty from clasping the receiver and she realized her
weak grasp had turned into a death grip. She forced herself to relax her
hand, and hope that the phone on the other end was not answered. It was too
late to hang up now, her number would be on the caller ID. She had left a
stamp that she had been there.
"Maybe she's not ho--."
Her words were cut off midstream with a click from the ear piece. A
moment later a ragged female's voice said, "Hello?"
The phone jangled a second burst followed by a second of silence
before the harsh bell rang again. Why Geoff had decided on this phone, this
loud, irritating, antique rotary phone, she could never get used to. Sure it
was a beautiful piece, ornate while not too overbearing. Her grandparents
had one almost exactly like it. The style was a little different, but for
the most part, it could be an twin of theirs. She did not even mind the
rotary dial. It was a little slow, but taken that you were not in a hurry to
dial anyone's number, there was a little nostalgia there that tugged at her
The ringer was the only thing that she really could not handle. Even
though there was a little dial on the bottom, the word volume imprinted in
the metal base, she could tell little difference when she ran her thumb along
it, tightening or loosening whatever it was attached to. Whenever the twins
were sleeping and someone called the bell chimed so loud they would wake with
no possible way for them to return to sleep. And half the time they were in
the room together, Jenny would most be startled by the phone which was an
implication that Jeremy should begin to cry also. An obligation he eagerly
Every time the phone rang was a new test of her acrobatic skills.
Within the first two seconds of a call, she hurdled over furniture, swam
through a litter of toys or piles of clothes waiting to be folded, or dodged
children or small animals to ease Jennifer's stress.
This time was no exception. Fortunately though, she only had to turn
to her left and snatch the phone from the cradle. In later reflection it
would seem to her that she had already been in motion when the first resonant
rings broke the relative still of the dining room. This thought would lead
her to the conclusion that she had begun to develop a seventh sense about the
"Hello?" she said to a momentary silence. she was about to repeat it
when the weak warbly voice from the other end responded.
"Hi," the word was barely audible and she pressed the phone harder
against her ear, the back of the stud earring pressed into her flesh.
"Hi, Kar . . . Kari? Is that you, I can barely hear you." From the
floor at her feet Jeremy looked up at her, his infant forehead creased with
concern. The tone in his mother's voice causing him concern. "Speak up a
little, ok sweetie."
"It's Geoff," she said, now Elizabeth's forehead was creased with
concern. "He's going to go to that place. That, that field where the thing
"Why would he do that." the sharp spike in her voice caught Jennifer's
attention. The child's mouth turned downward in a grimace that would look
comical under other circumstances. A small whimper escaped her lips that
caught Elizabeth's attention.
Looking down at her daughter and seeing Jennifer's unhappiness, she
said, "Aww sweetie, it's ok." And sat down on the floor beside her taking
her hand for reassurance. After a moment, the lines that creased the child's
forehead smoothes and her mouth became less and less contorted. She began to
bang the plastic mallet she held in her other hand on the floor again.
"No, Jenny was just getting a little worried look on her face. I
didn't want her to start wailing. Take a moment to gather your thoughts, you
were beginning to sound a little frantic again." Elizabeth had flashed back
to their college days when Kari would become so overwhelmed with the demands
of school, she came very close to a breakdown of nuclear proportions. "You
had me worried. It can't be as bad as all that, can it?"
"It could," she paused a moment, over the hiss from the phone Jennifer
could hear the sounds of Kari taking several deep breaths. A pause. And
finally Kari returned to the phone. "Ok, Geoff has to make a trip to meet
with a customer. He said their facility is somewhere over in that area and
he has left early so he can stop by that thing and check it out."
"Why did he tell you, he must have known you would tell me?"
"I don't know. He was really excited, acting like a schoolboy. I
tried to stop him, but of course he would not listen."
"That does sound like him. Did he say not to tell me?"
"That's his way of letting me know without actually telling me himself.
This way, I won't yell at him, not now at least." Elizabeth's eyes flicked
around the room, back and forth between her two children, not wanting to
think of the possibility that they could be fatherless this time tomorrow.
"In reality though, most likely nothing will come of it. It's probably just
an old satellite or something."
"I think those usually burn up when they reenter the atmosphere. And
if it crashed to the ground, it seems like it would not survive very well.
From the news, it looks to be in one piece, as far as I can tell."
"You are not helping me take this well, you know." She had been
battling her fears fairly well, but the arguments Kari was making did little
to keep them at bay. "I am going to have to call him. I get a little tired
of these games sometimes. If he wanted me to know, he should have just
called and told me."
"We don't know that was part of some plan he had," Kari said, trying to
backpedal and not get him in too deep of water. Trying to change the subject
she invited Elizabeth to lunch, "Do you want meet for lunch?"
She was working up a full head of steam, getting ready to blow and that
derailed her. "Yeah, lunch sounds good. I'm not busy. What time do you
want to meet?"
"How does one work for you?"
"It sounds good."
Just when he expected the phone to ring, it didn't. and it continued
to not ring the whole drive to the field just to the east of Oregon City.
The lack of noise from the small device disturbed him a little. Moments
before he left the office, he had sent out the obligatory OOO email, out of
office. Throwing in his cell number at the bottom, just in case anyone
needed him. he expected a call from Elizabeth. And either Kari had not ran
and called her as soon as he left, or she was just pissed enough that he was
going to get the cold shoulder for a few days.
Once he had hit Oregon City, he followed the stream of cars toward the
field, expecting to be turned back at any moment. So far, as he drove
through the small town, he had seen a few HMMVVs parked here and there, a
guard or two standing around watching vehicles as they passed. none of the
soldiers carried any weapons other than a holstered sidearm. But, Geoff was
fairly sure there would be an M-16A2 for each soldier, one of which would be
fitted with M203 40mm grenade launcher.
And yet no one stopped the loosely formed line of cars. They came upon
no roadblocks. He was not out far enough to have reached the one HMMVV that
the news had shown.
"I wonder if there is a quicker way," he said glancing down at his
phone again. At a stoplight, he picked it up and after hitting a few
buttons, the mini GPS application showed right his location. Using the touch
screen to move the map around, he quickly found the landing site. The news
service had updated the GPS map by adding an "Attraction" icon where the pod
"All the better to find you with," he said, "Along with everyone else."
At a stop light, he looked over the map again, not wanting to follow the turn
by turn directions the GPS gave him, tracing a path to get closer while
avoiding the pack he currently followed.
the high and whiny blast from a car horn alerted him of the color of
the light. Shooting his hand through the window, he fought the urge to flip
the guy off, instead he waved his hand while speeding off.
During the drive, the sky overhead had turned from a light blue,
speckled with misty grey clouds to a chaotic cream soup of clouds ranging
from snow white, to the black of her mother's heart. The black as envious as
her mother, spreading and growing smothering snow white in her greed to
abolish purity. Periodic flashes of light lit the clouds from inside as
negative and positive ions clashed setting off a stream of electricity.
"There's no other way to get there," he said. Once again talking to
himself. "I guess I could go around and come back around from the other
side. But that way probably has just as many people."
Frustration clouded his thinking for a moment and on the verge of
turning around he glanced over at the GPS unit again. It had just updated.
Pixels moved and revealed a small road that cut away from the main road at a
forty-five degree angle.
"What's this?" he said. He took a moment and hit the zoom in button
three times, bringing the little line closer and making it more visible.
Following the line, he traced it around to a neighborhood where the yards led
out into the large field where the pod landed.
If I can sneak through someone's yard, maybe I can get close, he
The GPS display showed the icon of his little car near the turnoff.
Just as he looked up he saw he had only a moment before he passed the street.
The tires of his Accord screamed in protest as he careened toward the side
street. Followed by a cacophony of horns as he dodged traffic, nearly
missing an oncoming car.
For a brief instant, he felt the passenger side tires slide through the
gravel and the car inch closer to the ditch on that side of the road.
Fighting the urge to yank the wheel in the opposite direction, he coaxed it
back onto the road and let out a breath he had not known he was holding in.
The small six cylinder, screamed at him as he sped down the nearly
deserted road. His eyes flicked back and forth between the GPS unit and the
road ahead trying to keep track of where he needed to turn off the road.
For the second time since Geoff left, Kari's phone rang. She snatched
the headset off the base by the second ring. She looked at the small
display, one word flashed twice before holding steady reception. Kari's
heart sunk a little in her chest. There was only one word that she had
wanted to see in that spot and that it was most defiantly not reception.
"Hello?" she said.
"Hi Kari, this is Joanne at the front desk," her voice came across the
receiver tinny. "You have a visitor waiting for you." Quieter and away from
the phone Kari could hear her say, "What was your name again sweetie?" Then
back into the headset she said, "She says her name is Elizabeth Pittman,
should I send her back."
"Yeah, she's been here before Joanne, she can find me. I'm expecting
her." Normally she would be irritated by a interruption like this, however
this being Joanne's second week Kari let it slide.
The keys of her computer clicked with each letter she typed. She
signed off at the end and went back, rereading for grammatical errors. She
was surprised at how well the email was, considering how far away her mind
was. Her mind had mentally followed Geoff progress for the last few hours,
trying to keep a mental picture of where he would be.
Kari stuck her head out the cubicle looking into the corridor waiting
for Elizabeth to come around the corner, most likely lead by Jeremy and
Jennifer in the two seat stroller.
Moments later, she could make out the distinctive squeak from the front
left wheel as the stroller rolled down the hall. Jennifer was the first twin
to notice Kari. Her eyes widened and her grin spread her lips, her hands
began slapping the tray on the stroller, knocking cheerios across the tray
and onto the floor.
Kari walked over to the children and squatting down in front of the
stroller and taking each of their hands while making cooing baby noises.
After a moment she stood up and walked around to the back of the stroller and
gave Elizabeth a hug in greeting.
"Are you ready to eat," she asked. "If not, we can go in a little
"We should probably go before too long. Who knows how long the natives
will keep from becoming restless."
From a cubicle a few feet away, a bass voice said, "I heard that. Some
people might take offense to such a casual reference to natives and become
uncomfortable with the working conditions and go home for to de-stress."
"Sorry Gerald," Elizabeth said as the large black man stepped from his
cubicle and gave her a hug also.
"Hi Beth, haven't see you for a while. How have you been?" he
squatted down and looked the children in the eyes speaking soft words that
all but vibrated the cheerios from the tray.
"We are good," she said looking down at her former boss. "I'm not sure
I miss work though."
"I understand that," he said.
"We are on our way out for lunch," Kari said looking at Gerald. "Want
"I'd love too," he said as he turned and stepped back into his cubicle.
"Unfortunately, I am swamped and must work." After a moment, he stepped out
from his cubicle again to give Elizabeth a hug again, this time he pressed a
fifty into her hand before turning away.
She looked at the folded up money, and started to protest but was cut
short by the bass rumble from his desk. "Don't pull that stuff on me, take
the money and enjoy lunch. Or try to while not worrying too much about that
fool boyfriend of yours."
"My husband actually," Elizabeth started to protest.
"Either way, he is a pain in my ass."
The GPS displayed that it was a straight shot east to the pod. He
stopped the car where he saw a walkway that led between two houses to the
field behind the two properties.
The horn chirped in agreement as he walked away and pressed the button
on the key fob. The parking lights flicked on and off twice.
Geoff Walked as though he owned the property that the path was on. One
sure way to raise suspicion, was to act as though there was a reason to be
suspicious. Walk forward like you own the place and there should be no
The path lead out past the fenced in yards on either side and finally
stopped abruptly ending at a discreet edge followed by a thin trail of gravel
that lasted about six yards before growing thin and fading away to a bed of
lush green grass that led down a rolling hill onto a plain where in the
distance he could make out the pod. The rest of the cavalcade that went
along with the pod called his attention more than the pod itself. The
collection of military vehicles, olive green tents, and large groups of
people called vastly more attention than the pod itself did.
He stood at the top of the hill. For a time looking down on the chaos
that lie before him and the path he needed to take to get there without
bumping into the military. he estimated the distance to be about half a mile
to the closest soldier walking the perimeter clad in a neon orange HAZMAT
As he got farther down the hill, the grass began to grow taller.
Reaching a height of about three and a half feet. he crouched low to try and
keep hidden, though he recognized it to be a futile effort unless he wanted
to get on hands and knees to keep below the grass level.
"I'd rather not get grass stains on my knees," he said pushing his
glasses farter up on his nose. "Especially if I am going to go back to work
He crept down the hill, taking one careful step after another.
Watching out for anything that might trip him. he tried to avoid any sudden
movements. Anything that would call attention to himself.
A small stand of trees marked the hill. It was not very large, about
eight to ten medium sized trees clumped close enough to give him a little
cover. He made his way, crouched as low as he reasonably could, to the
trees. Once hidden in the darkness, he stood and stretched his legs and
back. Looking the rest of the way to his objective, he saw a few more stands
of trees that had previously gone unnoticed. Going from one of these to the
next would lead him around to the opposite side of the pod, with military and
civilians on the other side.
He saw no movements from the military that would suggest they had seen
him. they kept their patrols around the pod and no one broke away from the
group in his direction. He waited and watched, wondering on how time seemed
to slow and how minutes can magically turn into hours while waiting.
He moved through the trees in preparation of another dash to the next
stand, keeping an eye on the patrols around the pod. Timing his movements,
even among the trees, to lessen the likelihood anyone took notice of him.
the grass at the opposite end of the stand seemed taller to him. he
would be hidden better than previously, and even though the strain on his
back and knees would not be lessened, at least his cover would be increased.
"Had I thought ahead enough today, I would have brought something else
to wear." He took a quick glance at his watch, still three hours until he
met with the customer. "Perfect," he said.
He looked over to the patrol that had just passed his location in
relation to the pod. Soon their backs would be toward him. He squatted down
in preparation of the next dash. He counted to thirty. He counted to thirty
again before moving with steady steps to the next stand of trees.
"Hey, you see dat, or am I still high?"
"What's that Davie?"
"First of all Ashley. You got yo finger on dat trigger again boy?" He
turned his head sideways a little, not that he could see much with it turned.
The mask of the HAZMAT suit blocked everything in your peripheral vision.
"Lt. Meyers gave me permission to bust that shit off next time I see you do
it. He even gave me a pro-mo-tion to ensure I had the correct power over
your sorry ass. Just think little man, I can punish you."
As Davie spoke, Ashley slid his finger off the metal flange that
constantly called out to him and rested it on the trigger guard. Ashley knew
he wasn't supposed to walk around with his finger actually on the trigger,
but he just could not help it. the trigger called out to him and it
comforted him to rest his finger there.
"No Davie, no I-I don't--I don't do that no more." His gaze darted to
where the man walking next to him, hoping he had not seen anything. "You
wouldn't really do that? Would you?" a leaded ball began to form in this
pit of his stomach for fear of what Davie might or might not have seen. And
he did not want to come right out and ask, that would almost be an admission
"So answer me then. Did you see movement in that stand of trees?"
"Nuh-uh. no Davie sir. I didn't see nothing. I mean anything."
Ashley had been proud of himself lately. He had actively been trying to
improve the way he talked. Liking how people looked at him differently.
"Over there?" He pointed to one of the stands that pockmarked the hillside.
"No, not there. Over th--" he stopped, hearing the disturbance well
before he saw the cause.
Just as he put his right foot out to take a crouching step forward the
sounds of yelling, giggling and general merriment called his attention to his
right. A group of three teenage males broke from a stand of trees to his
right, walking in a semi crouch toward the pod, putting little effort into
hiding their movements. Geoff could hear the sound of their drunken laughter
and he quickly stepped back into the midst of the trees, crouching lower so
he could just barely see the unfolding action before him.
They moved forward in some semblance of a crouch. the leader, tall
with long wavy blond hair, took a few steps forward on unsteady feet, not
crouching at all, wobbling and off balance, his chest thrust forward as
though to challenge the guards, before one of his compañeros grabbed his arm
and motioned him to crouch. At first he did not get what they were motioning
him to do, but with quick realization, and possibly a quite word, he dropped
down face contorted in laughter that Geoff could almost hear. The
carelessness of their laughter might as well have hung a neon sign over their
heads or launched a salvo of fireworks over the field. Within moments the
guards heard the noise, turned and pointed their guns directly at the teens.
They began yelling. From where he watched, Geoff could barely hear the
muffled commands, let alone understand what was being said. The intent was
clear though. the guards were angry and wanted the teens on the ground.
The patrol walked toward the teens their M-16s pointed directly at the
males who in turn had their hands pointed directly at the sky. Slowly, one
by one, they lay prostrate on the ground, until only the blond stood. The
guards advanced on the belligerent teen, who continued to stand, index finger
pointing directly at the guards. His actions, stupid as though they may be,
were funny in pantomime.
At the last moment he remembered the digital camera he brought. He had
decided not to bring the large Cannon, not wanting to take a chance of
damaging the expensive piece of equipment. Bringing instead, the smaller,
lighter, digital. He snapped off several photographs of the altercation in
process before turning the camera toward the pod and the crowds that were
standing around wanting to get a look at it.
Geoff fought a game of tug-o-war with his eyes, knowing he should be
moving and not staring at the situation that was in progress. But using this
chance to make his next move. In the end, he pulled his eyes away and began
to move toward the next stand of trees, this time keeping even lower to the
ground. After a few short strides, a pain began brewing in his lower back.
Starting in his lower back and slowly edging toward the center. Eventually
drawing a line somewhere among the middle vertebrae.
He resisted all desires for self preservation, and kept his head down
well below the grass line. Every now and then he would stop and listen.
Trying to pinpoint what sounds there were and from what direction they came.
Once he heard rustling from his left, where he judged the beginnings of the
stand of trees was. He stopped and remained quiet for a time. Listening to
anything that he could strain to hear. Even going so far as to open his
mouth to lessen the sounds reverberating between his ears.
The crack of a twig snapping called his attention. He lowered himself
to the ground, refraining from any unnecessary movement. He waited, craning
his head upward to catch a glimpse of anything over the tops of the grass.
Directly in front of him, he saw the silver foil top of a HAZMAT suit pass
directly in front of him not more than three yards away. The muffled murmurs
of their conversation barely audible even in the silence on the hillside.
He waited a moment and slowly lifted his head. the two soldiers had
walked far enough away that their conversation had blended in with the gentle
breeze that moved the tall grass. he scanned the hillside around him,
looking for any more soldiers before he moved. He did not think they would
be able to move very quickly in those HAZMAT suits, he was not sure he wanted
to find out how dedicated to using the M-16s they were.
The next stand of trees was about five yards down the hill and a little
ways to his left. Scanning the hillside, he did not see any more of the
flashes of silver coming in his direction that would signify the soldiers.
"Keep low, or balls out." He began moving in the direction of the
stand of trees, moving in a crouch as though he were running toward the
helicopter. "This talking to myself thing is starting to worry me," he said
knowing that if he ever made it out and away from here, none of his
acquaintances would really notice anything strange about him talking to
He burst through the tree line like a receiver busting through a string
of linebackers and stood up, standing to work out the kink in his back that
had developed and started to grow, a tight bunch of cords tied in knots.
A muffled buzzing from his pocket called his attention and he thrust
his hand deep into his pocket and pulled out his cell phone. The tiny image
of Jennifer and Jeremy with the words "My baby" superimposed across the
display. He pushed the Send button and pressed the phone to his ear.
"Hello?" he whispered.
"Why so quiet?" Elizabeth said, a mischievous grin turning the corners
of her mouth upward. "You don't normally have to be so quiet at work."
"I am in a meeting at the moment," he said even though he suspected she
knew about his field trip already.
"Yeah," the sarcasm sludged through the phone like the blob escaping
the movie theater in the classic movie. "You do know your meeting is being
televised by the news helicopters right? And if I am privileged enough to
see your meeting, it is likely the military is privileged to it also."
Without moving from the stand of trees, he looked upward toward the
hovering helicopter. Still kept at bay by two olive green Blackhawks,
currently three Jetranger helicopters employed by the news stations moving
around the landing site not getting too close. The nearest had a large
number eight painted on the side in white over a blue and yellow backdrop
with the call letters stenciled below.
Geoff shot them the finger as he turned and pressed his back against
the rough bark of the pine. "Can you actually see me?"
"Yeah, they had a fairly decent close up of you, crawling around while
those soldiers passed you by. They even made jokes about it. Just so you
know, I am recording this to show our children when they grow up. I already
have the disk labeled. I called it, The last time we saw your father, catchy
"Funny. You know, if they do get me, you can sue the television
stations since they are the ones that alerted the military. You could be
rich. What am I saying, would be rich." He looked around, keeping an eye
out for any soldiers. Before too long, they would most likely take those
bulky HAZMAT suits off and be able to chase him if they so chose.
"Yeah, then I will be able to find me a husband that is not insane."
She uttered an unsteady laugh that pulled briefly at his heart. She started
to say something but before she could get too far, he cut her off.
"So I take it Kari talked to you."
"Kari who? No it is just me and our two soon to be fatherless
"You know I had to Geoff," Kari said.
"Tell her I said hi," he told Elizabeth. "Listen, I just want to get a
little closer. I want to get a few good pictures then I'll truck on out of
"Yeah." A dubious tone that slid off her tongue like molten lava over a
rock bed. "Yeah, just don't get killed and if you get caught, I am not going
to come spring you. You will sit there and rot until they judge you sane
enough to be let free." Her voice grew tense anger twisting her words. She
glanced over at the two children, hoping they had not recognized the tone her
"Wow, you almost convinced me to leave and get away as fast as I can.
Thanks for the vote of confidence though." With those words the line went
She slowly pulled the phone away from her ear and just looked at it a
moment. His name and the length of the call flashed a handful of times
before the display shut off. she continued to stare at it for just over
thirty seconds before dropping in onto the table. The clatter alerted the
two children to their mothers distress for a moment before they turned their
attention back to the bright colorful show on television.
"He'll be ok," Kari said, putting her hand on top of Elizabeth's. Even
if he does get caught, the whole thing is being televised live. There's
proof. They couldn't hide it."
"I know. He's taking a stupid chance, just to get close to that thing.
He's not eighteen anymore. He's a father for God sakes. Why won't he grow
up and act like it."
"Maybe this is his second childhood."
"what, trying to get himself killed. He always does this, stupid
things like this. I remember one time we went to this concert, I don't
remember who at the moment, but we walked all around the auditorium looking
for a way to slip backstage. We missed the whole first act and the closest
we got was somewhere in the service area. And even that almost got us kicked
out of the show."
"But nowhere back stage."
"Not even close." She wiped furiously at her eyes, not letting the
tears begin to form there. "One day he will take this too far, and get into
some serious trouble. Trouble that he won't be able to talk his way out of."
She looked down at her hand as though noticing for the first time
Kari's hand gently rubbing hers. "If I ever suggest we take a trip to D.C.,
you need to smack me straight. He would be arrested trying to find the Oval
They were back keeping patrol around the pod. David had no feelings
either way about it. Ashley even seemed to like the busy work. Ashley was
fit for this sort of monotony. His lot was bread for the sort of repetitive
mind numbing work.
"Git yo damn finger off that damn trigger," David said without looking
over at Ashley. He did not need to look anymore, he just knew it was there.
Ashley was slow that way. David's left hand snaked out of its own accord and
smacked Ashley upside the back of his head.
"Oww, Sorry Davie sir," Ashley said before pulling his finger from the
trigger and resting it on the guard yet again. As before, and several times
before that, the finger slipped unconsciously back onto the trigger moments
later. It was as though the finger held a mind of its own.
"You keepin a eye out in those trees like I tolt you to," David said.
"Yessir. But I aint seen nothing."
"That's cuz you bout as dumb as a brick." David peered toward the trees
as well as he could from the corner of his eyes, trying to see without
staring. "If I am seeing this correctly. There is someone there. It might
be the one HQ was talking about. You remember dat? What HQ was talking
"Yeah, a little I guess. Things don't stick in my mind well." Was all
Ashley could say, all he wanted to say. He did not want to anger Davie
again, never wanted to anger Davie, so he tended to keep his mouth shut.
"It's cus you got all that crap in there." He continued to move along
the same path they had beaten down each pass flattening the grass more and
more. "All right now listen and remember this ok? The next time we get on
the other side of this thing, I am going to take this damn suit off an--"
"But davie that space stuff," Ashley started, pointing toward the pod.
"The space stuff." Was all he could say, as if it was all the argument he
needed to give.
"Don't you worry none about me and that space stuff," David said. "I
can kick that space stuff's ass for a light workout. As I was saying, I'm
gonna take this suit off and loop around those trees, sneak up behind whoever
is standing right there and take him down. An don't you go looking up there
as you come around and alert dat guy."
"I'll try my best."
"Don't try, just forget what I am gonna do. You keep walking and dohn
worry bout me none."
They had just entered the shadow of the pod when David started to strip
off the suit. They were far enough away from the crowd that he did not think
most were paying attention to them anyway and after a moment the loose silver
suit lie on the ground in a pile of foil fabric.
"Ok Ash, now you just keep walking just as normal. Just keep on as if
I was there with you. Got dat?" David took Ashley’s head in his hands and
stared deeply into his face through the thick plastic of the face guard.
"remember, don't look up there. Just keep walking as though I am with you.
You do anything that pisses me off, I WILL KNOW AND YOU WILL BE PUNISHED."
He pushed Ashley away in the direction they had been walking previously.
"Now get on soldier."
As Ashley walked away, David heard a muffled, "Yes sir."
"Ok, what to do, what to do," Geoff said. He had not moved from the
stand of trees, staying in one place at the moment to watch the movements of
the military in the event they came for him. through the thin canopy above,
he kept eye on the movements of the helicopters, knowing they were watching
After moving back away from the edge of the small stand of trees, he
stood more in the open, not worrying about keeping a hidden profile as much
until he actually saw the silver balloon clad figures and then he would stand
mostly behind a tree, just peaking out his head from behind the woods.
Looking at his watch, thinking it about time the two soldiers came back
around the opposite side of the pod. However, no one emerged. And after a
minute or so, just when he was beginning to get worried, not that he relied
on them for anything, it was just the monotony of the patrol, the
militaristic repetitiveness of it that gave him a sort of assurance that
everything was normal. A single soldier emerged from behind the pod. He
walked with jerky hesitant steps, as though his self assurance was gone.
"Where is your friend?" Geoff squatted down, keeping an eye on the
single soldier while he began to search for the other solder anywhere other
than where he should be. "Maybe it is time for me to move." His talking to
himself became quieter, his left knee popped like a snapped twig as he
squatted down. Instinct made him move to the opposite side of the tree as he
looked for a different place to hide.
His eye caught movement from the other side of the pod as he looked to
his right. Out across the field, the tall grass swayed in the light breeze.
All except one patch that moved in a decidedly different manner. It did not
sway lightly as the other grass did. And it was not just a single patch, it
was an area about the size of a person that inched toward him.
"That is not so subtle. I take this guy is not a S.E.A.L. material."
He turned and took a few slow steps in the opposite direction, eyes
continually scanning the landscape, not just the stand of trees, for a place
to hide and watch this clown emerge expecting to take Geoff into custody.
"This is something I definitely won't tell either Elizabeth or Kari."
As he neared the periphery of the shadow he looked over at the soldier
that continued to wear the HAZMAT suit. He was not being very subtle about
his search for either Geoff or the other soldier. Geoff could only guess who
he was looking for, however he suspected it was not him. judging by the
soldiers jerky movements and lack of subtlety in his search, he guessed this
man to be the subordinate, and not a very smart one at that.
Geoff ducked down as he left the confines of the stand of trees. Once
again working his way through the grass toward another such stand. He was
about halfway to the next stand of trees when he stepped forward while
looking around to keep track on his quarry, his foot caught on a stick and he
stumbled forward. He caught himself at the last moment before thudding to
the ground and snapping the stick, calling attention to himself.
"Shit," he said, his words barely a breath over his lips. Looking
around him, he realized tall grass surrounded him on all sides, other than
the trail he had just created getting to this place. He wanted to pick up
the stick and throw it or snap it into two pieces, even went to far as to
snatch it from the ground and grab it with both hands a snarl twisting his
lips, his jaw a clenched grimace. The rough bark of the branch bit into his
palms as he fought the anger that rose in him. he gave the piece of wood one
last squeeze, picturing it crushing to splinters in his hands and forced
himself to set it down, making a mental note to come back after this pod
thing had been dealt with and ceremoniously destroying the stick.
Geoff realized at that moment, not only was there no sounds from down
the hill, no whomp whomp whomp of helicopter blades, no burbling rumble from
diesel engines, no rustle of grass under his feet. it was as though when he
tripped over the stick, he knocked his head and temporarily deafened himself.
He risked a peak over the grass, hoping there was some other
explanation for the unnatural silence. raising his head so just the top half
peeked over the tips of the wild grass, he saw the one soldier in the HAZMAT
suit repeatedly hitting the side of his head as though trying to bang a
malfunctioning headset to work. At the last moment he noticed movement from
the corner of his right eye. In one movement, he twisted in that direction,
his head leading the twist of his body and saw the other soldier sprinting in
his direction, M-16 clasped between his two hands.
Without looking away from the charging soldier, he reached down and
started feeling around for something to defend himself. His hand clasped on
the first sizeable solid item it came across. His hand came up with the
stick that had nearly tripped him and some voice in the back of his head
thanked the lord that he had not thrown the piece of wood. it appeared the
soldier was not even going to slow, but continue to charge and body check him
as a hockey player would.
Geoff set one foot back behind him to steady himself, and swung for the
bleachers, as his grandfather would have said. The swing was timed
perfectly, the leading edge spiking home on the soldiers jaw, twisting his
head. A gash from the ragged end of the stick, slashed a three inch cut
along the David's jaw. A spray of blood briefly tinted the air crimson
before splattering the ground in red droplets. The piece of wood broke into
three large fragments, and several splinters that landed among the crimson,
making a tableau of gore and nature that would be at home in any gallery.
He twisted, knocked off balance by the attack and his jaw leading the
way, the soldier's feet tangled together and he fell to the ground, dropping
his rifle in the process. He landed without making a sound, the M-16 slammed
into a rather large boulder and Geoff's brain interpreted it as though making
a sound, even though no sound vibrations ever occurred. The sound that he
would expect it to make.
his titanic swing for the bleachers attack on the soldier threatened to
twist him off his feet, but he took a single step backwards to steady
himself, dropping the stick piece still clutched in his hand in the process.
The soldier lie two steps away from him, writhing on the ground
apparently in pain, though Geoff did not have any audible clue of how he
fared. Sound still escaped him, and he took the two steps to the soldier,
grabbed him by the front of his camouflage shirt and pulled him into a
He thought he was yelling into the soldiers face, what he said was,
"Can you hear me!" he wanted to shake the man, but feared collateral damage
from getting slammed with the stick. Even he could not hear himself. There
was a void where sound should have been. Like watching old 8mm reel to reel
film. The main difference being there was not even the sound of the world
around him as he watched.
Turning from the soldier, he looked around him, trying to find the
other man. "Where is the other guy," Geoff said, the words made no impact to
the world around him, "He has to be around here somewhere." He expected to
be blindsided by the other soldier, but could not see him anywhere. Not even
a trace of his fleeing. "He wouldn't run around the pod if he was trying to
escape." It did not occur to him at that moment, that the other soldier
might be fleeing to get some help, that just maybe he has lost his hearing
also. That maybe it was not him that
HE SHOULD NOT THINK EVERYONE IS DEAF. HE SHOULD THINK HE LOST HIS
HEARING. AND THERE NEEDS TO BE SOME INDICATION OF JUST HOW CLOSE HE IS TO
"Oh god," he said, shaking his head. He pictured hitting the side of
his head like some cartoon character trying to regain his hearing. "Why
can't I hear?" he stuck his index finger in his ear and wiggled it around as
though that action would magically get his hearing to return.
Out of the corner of his eye, for the second time, the soldier caught
his attention. The guy started to move around a little, and Geoff was
distantly relieved knowing the guy was not dead, or incapacitated so much
that he was down for the count permanently.
The air grew denser and in an instant it was a lot harder to breath.
Not impossible, not as though he were underwater, but as though he were
trying to breathe through several layers of thick fabric. Within moments,
the world around him began to fade, blackness clouding his vision. A
lightness fogged his head, and without warning, his legs buckled and he fell
to one knee, propped up with his left hand. Through that hand he felt strong
vibrations through the earth accented by thumping and thudding of heavy
machinery. As though several pieces of equipment were hard at work just a
few feet underground.
Almost without him realizing it, even though it should have stood out
in the silence, a high pitched whine slowly inserted itself into his
consciousness. He realized he was actually hearing something once the sound
began to warble and pulse in time with the heavy machinery.
Once again, movement caught his attention. Not from the downed
soldier, or his companion emerging from wherever he had taken flight to. But
the pod was doing something. Previously it had been canted at a forty-three
degree angle. Now as though it was tired of sitting like that, three legs
unfolded one from each of the pods main three sides, two of which pressed
against the ground within moments, the third extending almost all the way
without finding ground then retracting a quarter of the way while the other
two worked the machine upright. Geoff could envision the whine of hydraulics
straining under the pressure.
After a time it pointed more or less with the point aimed directly
towards the sky. It had crashed to the ground on the edge of a hill, so to
get the hydraulics had to hold it unevenly to keep it pointed toward upwards.
To Geoff it looked like the unopened blossom of a rose plant, a mechanical
teardrop moments before splashing to the ground.
With a burst and roar that sent his heart stuttering even faster than
previous he was able to hear again. A cacophony of mechanical clangs,
screeches and grinding tore through his head as though a naval ship had
slammed into an office building. The volume pounded into his eardrums, and
he feared for an instant, his eardrums would burst. He pressed his palms
against the sides of his head, covering his ears. Muting the sound.
"Shit," he said. His voice barely carried over the noise of the
machine. By now he noticed the sound had a rhythm, a vein of chunks and
thuds kept reoccurring and noticed for the first time heavy vibrations
through the soles of his feet. pounding shook the ground in time with the
sounds from the pod.
He also noticed just audible over the roar, the sound of the soldier's
pain, and he felt bad again for hitting him with the stick. He looked down,
realizing the extent of the man's injuries and felt a pang of regret for
coming here today. It did not seem at that moment, important that the soldier
was rushing him, presumably with the intent of incapacitating and hauling him
away, most likely to where he had taken the jokers.
The vibrations had grown in intensity to an almost painful extent.
Feet numb, he took several shaky steps forward, fighting the rising feeling
he would fall at any moment, tripping over unsteady legs. As he stumbled
forward, towards the pod, no doubt the source of the shaky ground, he could
picture he looked as though he were acting in an old Star Trek episode where
the enterprise had just been struck by a fusillade from a Klingon Bird of
Prey. As the ship reeled from the attack, everyone on the bridge was thrown
around, on the verge of losing their footing, clinging to one piece of
equipment or another. A smile spread across his face as the image floated
through his head in spite of the gravity of the situation and he tried not to
wobble around like a drunkard.
"Don't . . . no . . . what are you doing?" Elizabeth yelled at the
television, catching herself at the last moment, assuring Jen and Jer that
everything was alright. "Don't cry sweeties," she said, rubbing first the
side of one down soft face, then the other, "Mom is just yelling at dad for
being stupid." The looking at Kari, she added, "They better get used to
"Yeah, however, not likely that much longer as long as he keeps acting
They watched the television, rapt attention, as though in the last act
of a suspense film. The antagonist is slowly searching through the house,
large knife clutched in hand. The viewers, clutching with no less strength
than death will put on the life that flows through our veins, the hand of the
person next to them, be it a prospective suitor, spouse, or just a friend.
Every action, reaction, and choice Geoff made critiqued no less critically
than by every armchair quarterback during the height of football season.
"Don't joke like that." the serious words belied the grin that crossed
her face. "This isn't really funny. He is going to get himself killed if he
doesn't try to get away."
Jennifer's whimper did not even call enough attention to Elizabeth to
snap her attention away from the television. She slowly reached down and
picked up the child at her feet and sat her on her lap.
"It's alright sweetie," she said as she kissed the top of the toddlers
On the television, Geoff had just stepped past the prostrate soldier
toward the pod. The image shot from the FLIR camera mounted on the nose of
the news helicopter, panned and swiveled around, zoomed in to as close as the
mechanics allowed, while still keeping pointed at the intruder. For a moment
the both the pod and Geoff were included in the frame. for in instant
movement from the pod was clearly visible. Several flaps lined along top
were opening, the hinged part at the lower end of the machine.
So intent on each of Geoff movements, Elizabeth had not noticed any
change in the pod. Kari on the other hand had seen everything.
"Look, look, look," she said in rapid succession pointing at the pod.
"Look its changing."
Reluctantly, Elizabeth drug her eyes away from Geoff, fearing in the
back of her head that she would not see him again, and turned her eyes to the
spacecraft. For a moment she could not understand why Kari had been so
excited. "What . . ." the word slipped from her mouth a moment before she
realized the change and a moment later, ". . . happened."
"The thing." The words tasted bland in Kari's mouth, sitting on her
tongue like a piece of boiled chicken. She wanted to spit even though it
would do no good. "It ope . . ." her words trailed off, falling on deaf
Moments before the camera swung around, losing the pod from the screen,
a thin smoke had begun wafting from where the flaps had just opened. Great
sickly green gouts wafting on the wind, with barely any time to gather before
the wind took and moved it away. Then the camera jittered and it was gone
from the frame, the cameraman apparently had not noticed since the camera
continued to focus on the altercation and had slipped away from the pod and
"Oh come on," Kari said. Her trying to keep her voice from gaining too
much volume, but the stress was there. Fortunately the twins could not yet
discern the tension in a person's voice. More than once, Elizabeth and Geoff
held heated fights that no one would ever have guessed was a fight. At best
it would seem like a married couple teasing each other. The anger and
negative words were there, however spoken in gentle tones as though
discussing a Van Gogh in the Louvre.
Neither had really paid much attention to the running commentary from
the studio, mostly since they had little good to say about Elizabeth's
husband. now, a comment caught her attention. "did you hear that," she
Elizabeth asked. "Did you catch that?"
"What? I hadn't really been paying attention."
"I think they said something about what that thing was doing."
They stopped talking and began to listen to the newscasters discussion
in the studio. ". . . I do not know what Greg is doing. He's does not seem
to be paying attention to what the pod is doing."
"I think he must have money down on the fight." This joke was not too
far from the truth. Not that many of the audience would know who controlled
the camera, but Greg's gambling addiction was well discussed around the
office. So when Stephanie made joke, she was expression disgust toward the
cameraman she had just broken off a long running relationship with. after
losing several thousand dollars she had loaned him to work on his nineteen
sixty nine Firebird project car on an escape trip to the casino located on
Native American soil along the Oregon coast. An insider that knew the story
would have noticed the nervous laughter from the co-anchor who did not want
to get in the middle of that situation.
"Yeah," the other news caster said, his voice had a little bit of a
distracted tone to it. "Uh, yeah. Hey Greg, Greg? Hello Greg."
The other news caster picked up on this mild taunting and added her
unhappy, post break up two cents worth, "Earth to Greg. End that call with
your bookie and get back to the news."
The male news caster began to feel nervous again, "Hey Greg, this is
Dick back at the studio, can you hear me?" to no response from the
helicopter and the man controlling the camera.
"Yoo-hoo Greg!" the words became a little more stressed. "Are you
there Greg? Have you fallen asleep? Like in bed."
"Whoa Stephanie. We might want to tone it down a little." Dick said to
her, his tone became weary as he tried to keep this line of taunting from
escalating even farther. If his voice could sound like he was looking toward
his producers to pull the plug on the show for the time being, the tone in
his voice would be saying it at that moment.
"I'm here," broke in a new voice. "Did you say that on television?"
"Yes," her tone had taken on that of a petulant child. "I said it."
"Hey Greg, are you looking at what the pod is doing at the moment? We
were just able to see some smoke coming out, but then the camera followed
that guy down there."
"No I did not notice that . . . one moment." With jerky movements, the
camera panned back toward the pod. By this time, quite a bit of smoke filled
the area, and what had once been a thin smog, barely visible to the naked
eye, had thickened in the few moments the camera was away to a thick pea
green soup that obscured everything between it stood between.
"Geoff must not see it," Kari said as a little Geoff appeared on the
edge of the screen, apparently having tripped over some obstruction in the
grass and not lay sprawled on the ground. After a moment he worked his way
back toward one of the stands of trees. The two women could not tell if he
knew that is where his direction was aimed toward, they could only sit hoping
he was at least trying to escape the scene however both feared that not to be
To those viewers watching the news that day, the cloud that poured from
the pod was thick, obscuring almost the whole pod from view. The vaporous
color and consistency of pea soup with a smell of sewage and the swamp,
decayed flesh, and the ward of a hospital that interred the deceased victims
of the Black Plague. As seen from the news copter, the cloud was thick
enough to obscure all but the brightest rays from the sun, the thickness of
the cloud resembled something that could never be seen in real life, only in
a cartoon. The reality of the matter was almost totally different. The
optics of the video camera were coated with an anti-glare agent that bent
light in such a way that never intended by the lens manufacturers. Though it
never had any effect on the video quality, there were certain unearthly
things that it revealed. Take this cloud for example. On camera it appeared
thick and murky, almost a wall of vapor, while no one on the scene could see
it at all. At best it would appear as heat waves flowing from the top of the
pod. A distortion in the air making everything seen through it to appear
warbly. So even though the cloud obscured almost the entirety of the sun's
rays on camera, it cast no shadow. Geoff or anyone else at the site would
cry foul if told the truth as seen on film.
Chunks of broken sticks bit into Geoff's palms and knees as he made a
mad dash away from the soldiers, crawling frantically on all fours. Unless
he lifted his head and looked around, he could not be sure where they were.
the noise from the pod had reached such an ear splitting volume drowning out
all sounds of his movement. Occasionally the snap of a twig under hand or
knee was barely audible, even the sounds of the labored breathing in his head
had been all but washed away by the screeching of mechanics and the rusty
mechanisms that labored away inside the metal shell.
Chancing a look around, he slowly raised his head, once again just
above the level of the grass, and swiveled his head as far as it would turn
in either direction. A brief mental thought of what the news chopper and
ultimately those viewing the news would think about his ground-hogging the
grass. He could not see anyone around. Even the civilians had retreated to
a presumably safer distance, opting for safety over the novelty of being on
the scene. They were still visible, just at a farther distance from where
they had been previously.
"You rethinking your wise choice to come out and gawk at the new
novelty?" he asked even though the words were barely audible to him, let
alone anyone that might be around.
I wonder if there is any other soldiers around, he thought. I'm sure
that one still is. He cautiously stood up, continuing to look around for
signs of someone coming toward him, and took two steps toward where he had
knocked down the soldier that had attacked him only to find an empty spot,
grass flattened out where his body had landed, and a few drops of blood
fanned across the grass.
With a final thump and what sounded like a person screaming in agony,
the cacophony from the pod stopped, as though some mechanism inside ground to
a halt with a slow dying screech. The silence was so complete, the rumor of
his breath the only sound as he stepped forward.
The crowd had scrambled in the opposite direction when the pod had
begun making noise. He could see the encampment in the distance, most of the
soldiers still milled about; some stood watching the pod, a select few talked
on portable radios. Very few civilians could be seen near the line the
soldiers had drawn. Squinting, he could just barely make out that one had a
large apparatus on his shoulder; Geoff assumed it was a video camera.
He returned his attention to the pod and took a few hesitant steps
toward it. The skin gave off a sheen that didn’t seem right to him. It
glowed in such a way that was not right and after a few moments of staring at
it, he realized what bothered him about it. It was as though light slid off
it like water will slide off smooth metal. The pod was between him and the
sun, so the side he was staring at should have been in shadow yet even when
clouds drifted in front of the sun, the pod stayed the same. No shadow
appeared when the sun came out; the skin stayed the same tone regardless.
Where there should have been shadow, it was just as bright as though it was
in direct sunlight.
The thrumming stopped after a moment though it took time for his feet
to acknowledge the fact. Just looking at the machine, it called to him and
the desire to reach over and touch it. his left hand slid from his side,
grasping toward the machine. Each inch it crept closer, the head given off
form the machine intensified, and his hand felt as though more and more
pressure was pushing downward on it.
His arm had snaked outward eighteen inches before the pressure finally
became unbearable and he came to realizing he had been in a fog. His mind
had drifted away from him.
With a creek and screeching that began low and fluctuated intensely,
three flaps along the top point opened as a humming began again. This time
it felt different, sounded different and an electric crackling raised the
hair on his forearms. A buzzing ache pulsed at the back of his head while a
small patch of garbled color low in his field of view, growing in intensity
every moment signaled the onset of a migraine.
He grew lightheaded, and as he looked up toward the tip of the pod
where the flaps had opened, he lost his balance and took an unsteady step
backwards. The heel of his foot fetched up against a fallen log, and world
swimming around him, he collapsed back onto his butt.
As he looked up at the pod, it seemed to grow in intensity. Even
though he had not been that close, it now loomed over him like one of the
fallen towers. A monstrous mechanical construction taken on a life of its
own. The logical part of his mind screamed it could not, while it loomed
ever taller in his field of view.
After a moment of staring at the machine he tried to get to his feet,
staring at the pod, watching for some new development. Even though he
expected something to happen, seeing the smoke begin to billow from the newly
formed openings was a shock and his feet slipped out from under him. He
collapsed backward, eyes agape at the pale green smoke. Caught by the light
breeze, the smoke flapped back and forth like a flag caught in the wind. It
did not dissipate, but hung around the opening, tethered like a weak soul
moments before dying.
In focusing on the openings at the top, and the strange vapor that it
emitted, Geoff failed to notice the opening along the bottom of the pod.
Small slits, approximately two inches tall and two feet in length that ran
along the base with five inches of gap between each slit, had opened along
with the large flaps at the top. Out of these slits, a fine watery mist
wafted. It was this mist that would cause the worst of the disaster, and
even though there were only a few people near enough to get the full effect,
the collateral damage from those few infections would be enough.
After watching the civilian attack David with a stick, gashing his
cheek and knocking him to hell and back, Ashley dove to the nearest tall
stand of grass, landing on a large stone that sliced neatly through his
HAZMAT suit, leaving the left side tattered ribbons, and scraping a long gash
up his side.
“Oh no, Davies gonna be mad ta me,” Ashley said, his voice quavered on
the verge of tears. “He’s gonna hit me again.”
Ashley wasn’t a smart man, he had not even graduated high school. Had
it not been for David, his long time school buddy, he would never have gotten
into the military. Ashley did not know what David did to get him into the
military, was not even positive he was ineligible to be there in the first
place. He just knew that the first time him and Davie went into the
recruiters office, the soldier behind the desk had told him, he could not
join the Army and as broken hearted as he was, Davie seemed ten times worse.
He left that office, cussing and cursing the day that soldier had been born.
And he let everyone know about it. it had not been until they arrived back
at Ashley’s house, and Davie thought about it some that he had gotten an
“Just stay here,” Davie told Ashley and left in a hurry, snatching
Ashley’s keys from the table.
“But Davie,” Ashley yelled out the front door, “You aint sposed to
drive. You lost your license Davie.”
“You just stay here, I won’t be gone long. Just have a beer and watch
And sure enough, Davie had returned not one hour later with the proper
paperwork to sign Ashley up. Ever since then, they had been on assignment
together. When other people they had known had been assigned all over the
place, they had always been on assignment together. It was as though, Davie
had been placed in charge of Ashley. They went to the same boot camp, they
were both assigned to the same base after. In the deep recesses of Ashley’s
mind, the subconscious where the gears turned and the magician setup his
magic, he had a feeling Davie had made some deal to keep Ash by his side
through their military career. Keep him close to keep an eye on him.
He looked around, searching for Davie, the fear of being alone a hard
lump in his stomach. “D-Davie . . . ?” he began to rise from the ground,
stopped a moment, considering, then rose to his feet, hunkered over in a
slight crouch. “D . . .” the word hung in his mouth, even that being
difficult to release. “Don’t panic, don’t panic, what did Davie say about
panicking?” he could not remember anything at the moment, he just knew there
was no one around. Had he looked past the pod he would have seen what was
left of the civilians and the soldiers.
He wanted to yell Davies’s name, but could not. Fear and anxiety
clenched his throat tighter than Fort Knox. For the first time in his brief
military career, he was alone. Davie was gone, just up and vanished, not
even any other soldiers were around to give him orders. His feet lead the
way, one unsteady step after another, randomly turning right to left, left to
right, random directions. The only conscious decision he made was when he
realized his proximity to the pod was a whole lot closer than he desired, and
he beat a frantic retreat, tripping twice. The second time he tripped, his
knee landed on a stony outcropping. Sparks of fire shot in each direction
and before he caught it, a scream escaped his lips. Trying to get to his
feet, his knee collapsed, and he fell to the ground again. This time
narrowly missing the rock.
“Oh shit,” he groaned looking down at the knee of his pants, at the
three inch tear and the blood that flowed from the cut in his knee. “Oh no,
please don’t be broken. Oh no.” for once his fear of being alone with no
one to tell him what to do swarmed him. All his energy drained from him, a
ice cold flood and he slumped forward, head inches from the ground as tears
formed along the bottom of his caramel brown eyes.
Distantly he heard a rustling noise, as though someone walking through
the grass. So collapsed with fear, he did not realize the sound until it the
sound was right upon him. He felt the need to look up, wanted to look up,
but feared what would be waiting for him. He closed his eyes, clenched them
as tight as they would go, squeezing the tears out onto the grass.
Dread filled him. A dread with the knowledge that the person was dead.
He did not know where this thought came from, but in an instant, he was
filled with a certainty that Davie was dead and had come to take Ashley into
the afterlife with him. he started shaking his head back and forth in
negation. “Don’t take me, don’t take me, oh please don’t take me.” Visions
of a handful of zombie movies coursed through his head, each one more
violently painful than the last. “Lord help me . . . protect me,” the words
were barely audible, would have been even without the humming from the pod.
“Well, at least you ain’t dead, good lord knows I expected you would
be,” Davie said. “Get up off yo lazy ass, and do something for fucks sake.”
“D--Davie? Davie is that you?" Ashley said, his head swiveling around
and twisting in the same motion. He clambered to his feet, arms outstretched
reaching for a hug that would almost certainly bring the flood of tears that
he had been fighting. For the moment he had forgotten about his wounded
knee, for the moment that is until he took a step forward, leading with the
bad leg and the leg nearly collapsed under the weight. with the collapsed
leg, he lunged forward, a surprised Davie caught him in an awkward hold
before pushing him aside in revulsion as though he had just picked up a slug
moments before realizing just what he had in his hand.
"Guh--get away. What are you gay? I know, don't ask don't tell. But
I thought I knew you a little better en'dat." With one shove, Ashley was on
the ground yet again. His scream of pain shattered the calm.
Moments later, the pod came to life, eventually the flaps opened along
the top edge. By that time, Davie had returned to berating Ashley. "Come on
stupid. Let's get the fuck away from this thing, it sounds like it's about
to explode. My head's feels about to split."
They turned their backs on the machine and in doing so, were not privy
to the plumes of vapor spouting from the newly opened vents along the top and
bottom. The same watery mist that Geoff failed to notice also, and in doing
so, breathing deeply, ingested the molecules that will tear them apart from
Oh God, Elizabeth thought as she watched the vapor cloud plume from the
pod. Why doesn't he do something. "Get away from it," she said, the words
soft, so as to not upset the children. The camera mounted on the nose of the
helicopter jostled a little and for a brief moment, Geoff, the two soldiers
on the other side of the pod, and the pod itself were taken off screen. She
had just opened her mouth to command the cameraman to fix the problem when
the camera twisted and returned to the subject.
"You should call him again," Kari said, eyes wide her left hand had
taken up residence in front of her mouth, covering it but not obscuring the
words that came out, her other hand held firmly onto Beth's hand. "Maybe he
was just ignoring it before."
"No, it went straight to voicemail," her words were tight and had an
edge to them as though she spoke to an uncomprehending child. She dimly
noticed the look Kari gave her. After calling Geoff's phone twice already,
Elizabeth had given up on contacting him directly. "Either his phone is off,
or the service is out in that area. That thing must be interfering with the
signal." She did not know how possible that was, but if her explanation was
enough to keep Kari from urging her to call yet again, then so be it.
They watched as Geoff, struggled to his feet and made a shaky retreat
toward the nearest stand of trees. The camera mounted on the front of the
helicopter followed his movements toward the grove. It did not appear as
though the cloud had gotten near enough for him to breath it, but who knew
what else there might have been coming from that thing. They held their
breath, as an apparent gust of wind pushed the cloud in a different
direction. Moments later, it began to break up and dissipate. Soon the
large cloud had all but vanished, the only evidence it ever was, a slow
steady stream that continued to waft from the top of the pod.
Sadly, their fears about the pod and the vapor would not only be
confirmed, but would have a horribly negative impact on their lives and the
lives of those around them.
The first few moments when the vapor drifted up from the vents along
the top of the pod struck Geoff with a wave of momentary terror. He stared,
unable to move as though is feet had been frozen in blocks of ice. He just
stared at the sickly greenish vapor as it wafted out from the top of the pod.
Finally the steady hiss from the open vents broke his paralysis and he took a
step forward on legs that threatened to fold at any moment. Each step felt
as though he were in the middle of an earthquake, and before his foot could
come down again, the world would move away from him.
After a handful of steps, his legs felt like they were going to
continue to support him,
Geoff had never felt this bad, as he struggled toward the stand of
trees, two noticeable things happened. First, a few heavy drops of rain
splattered the top of his head. In moments fat rivulets of rain trickled
down the back of his shirt. The rain felt like icy spikes being drug down
his spine. The second, a dim fog covered his vision as his head began to
feel blurry and heavy.
Interlude: Stage One
The ingested (inhaled) spore begins its journey. Starting in the nose
and working its way downward into to the lungs. Leaving tracks and particles
from the first layer along the way. The off cast particles burrow in and
begin to deaden the flesh, spreading slowly at first but with ever increasing
rapidity; drying and hardening the flesh of the throat and lungs as it goes.
The tracks create scoring marks that enable the dried lung to split during
the final stages.
A few hearty fragments of the spores actually make it into the blood
system through the lungs, the rest circulate through the lungs searching for
entrance into the blood system. Shedding another layer, the spore absorbs
the white blood cells lessening the body’s ability to fight the infection
that will ultimately kill it and increasing the dead cells while still
carrying away the debris. The spores crumble into millions of bits that mix
with the blood adding its own form of blood cells that necrotize the
remaining white cells and absorb into the dead whites creating a pus like
substance that eats away at the artery lining, drying and cracking the
already brittle arteries. The spore particles also absorb a percentage of
the Serum Globulin doing irreparable damage to the body’s immune system.
Hindering its ability to stave off the infecting invader even further.
At the core of the spore particle resides the catalyst that begins a
chain reaction back along the path the spore has taken to arrive at that
point. Retreating its course back through arteries like a spawning salmon,
liters of blood, through the previously necrotized flesh into the lungs and
upward to the sinus’ where it began the trip that will ultimately kill the
host. Along the trip it triggers the final step in its destructive life, the
flipping of the switch that triples the progress of the damage it started.
Once in the sinus’ the particles bond together with the ever increasing
buildup of phlegm until the body is unable to properly breath through the
nose causing an increase of the spread of particles from the mouth into the
air in effect turning each infected host into bellows to spread the disease.
As each of the organs receives the infection from the tainted blood,
mutation and ultimate destruction begins. The liver, last point in the cycle
to attempt scrubbing the blood clean, starts off filtering the bad from the
good. This is short lived and as time progresses the blood becomes more and
more dirty, the liver is eventually so overloaded in its job, there is little
to do but let tainted cells pass through. Once that happens the liver begins
to physically break down, letting through large coagulated globs of dirty
white cells and tainted red cells, increasing the rate of infection
throughout the rest of the system.
Once the infection reaches the kidneys the digestive tract is
The spores have a life of their own. In their way they are sentient
beings. The ones that infect Jackson/Meyers are more aggressive, which is
why they are more aggressive zombies.
Marasmus - wasting away