The Story Continues
Welcome to Chapter 2 of the continuing story in response to "The Encounter, a Writing Challenge."
Mike (Mckbirdbks) and I teamed together and have written a fast-paced, six-part story in answer to that challenge. Installments were published weekly, every Sunday.
The music videos accompanying each chapter convey elements of the story. Links to subsequent chapters appear at the end of each installment.
We hope you enjoy the journey.
The link to Chapter 1 follows...
Ezra gazed fondly at the spaniel still snuggled on his lap. A soft trilling sound purred from his mouth. Although curious to learn how the professor had penetrated his disguise so quickly, the Jatite had to first reassure him that he was in no danger.
"I am traveling alone, Dr. Kelly," he said. "I...we....mean you no harm. You need not have any fear." He looked up, tipped his head oddly to the side and asked, "Do I not look human?"
Hank's jaw slacked. He glanced over at the shotgun on the counter. Suspicion was one thing. It was quite another to experience the serene bluntness of an alien life form sitting calmly on his living room couch. Several seconds passed before he could find his voice, before curiosity took charge over emotion.
"Yes, you look human. Yet your sensitivity to cold is telling. Your choice of clothing is all wrong for our summer heat and humidity. Trying to grasp that glass of iced tea caused you pain. You're no hiker, Ezra. Your gait is as purposeful and measured as your use of our language. But your speech is flat-pitched, with gentle but oddly enunciated words devoid of any accent, slang or abbreviation. And your eyes -- they hold much but have the innocence of a child. By the way, had you intended me any harm, Noah would have gone for your gullet before you got within three feet of me."
Hank fell silent and stared at the Jatite with the frank, tight-lipped question Ezra was waiting for.
"You want to know why we have come."
"I'd say that's a good place to begin...and why you sought me out," replied his host, clearing his throat.
At the alien's request, Hank followed him into the kitchen, cleared the table in the center of the room and stepped back. Ezra took from his jacket a device the size of a smart phone, set it on the table and emitted a high-pitched clicking sound. Sculptures of light radiated across the hard surface, displaying a hologram of a location like none the professor had ever witnessed. Male and female Jatites, over seven feet tall, gathered proteous fruit the size of cannonballs from the bark of trees. Four-legged beasts with long, spiraling necks crouched alongside them and picked the same pods, devouring the delicacies as they went. The lush foliage of their strange rain forests looked cool and inviting.
Neither beast nor Jatite seemed disturbed by the other's presence. The humanoid creatures tossed their harvest into baskets suspended from floating air drones. Once full, the drones delivered the containers of produce to their cities -- a labyrinth of layered mesas and domes carved from volcanic rock by a innovative mastery of laser technology.
“This was our planet,” Ezra confided.
Awestruck by the tranquil beauty of the Jatite world, Hank managed to look up. "Was...?"
"Yes. This is our planet now."
The clicking noise sounded again, and the light fields grayed into a terrestrial epitaph. The Eden that had once been Jate resembled a necropolis. Over time, the order of nature, with all of its wondrous truths and indifferences, had taken a destructive path as the Jatites' C02 emissions reached critical mass. Their remaining cities were swarmed by giant sea walls. Oceans became so acidic, marine life was destroyed, giving way to smaller, poisonous creatures that fed on massive beds of burnish ocean algae throughout the natural selection process. Slowly, rain forests took hold in once frigid zones as new species of trees evolved before decomposing on a rapidly dying world. Natural food sources became scarce; synthetic alternatives were no longer capable of sustaining life. Jatite skin -- once caramel-colored and sleek -- evolved into a dense, scale-like casing as protection against the excessive heat.
Feeling a sudden weakness in his knees, Hank slid onto a kitchen chair and stared at the images, vaguely aware that Noah had stood up on his hind legs and pawed at the table to get a closer view. "Our METI signals," he muttered. "They brought you to our planet."
Hank knew the intricate METI ciphers sent into space utilized a combination of mathematical and scientific concepts to create signals of greetings that revealed life on earth and its inhabitants. Included were samplings of contributions by some of the leading scientists and their respective fields. He was among those chosen.
“I have a lifetime of questions to discuss with you,” he said to the visitor.
Over the next several hours and a hastily prepared brunch of fruit, salmon and warm tea, both human and Jatite developed a rapport bolstered by mutual trust and respect. The professor learned that over the centuries, the Jatites reached a sociological plateau -- an enlightenment wherein aggression between all living things was overcome. Their species had also developed a telepathy that took the form of a collective hive consciousness.
Discoveries in physics and technology accelerated beyond imagination. In their flight from Jate, by using exotic matter and quantum tunneling, they were able to alter the speed of light surrounding the spacecraft, thereby avoiding light-speed barriers. What they didn't anticipate was stumbling upon a way to manipulate the single fabric of the space-time continuum. In fear of such power falling into the unpredictable hands of humanity, it was decided to send only one envoy to earth, to impose upon man as little as possible.
Astonished, Hank said, "I can't believe I'm asking this, but why haven't you returned to your planet in an earlier point in its history to warn of what was coming?"
"Would they believe? Listen? Have mankind listened? We need more proof...what you call 'evidence'."
The irony in Ezra's words stunned the professor. "I understand the desperation behind the escape from your planet. I get its honesty and the courage it took to leave everything behind. But aside from our bio-fingerprint, why drop anchor here on earth? Given your existence, it's not exactly taking a giant leap into the unknown to assume other civilizations are out there."
"There are, Hannaford -- highly sentient beings but savage. You are a loud species. Your scientists must use discretion in sending out your METI voices. Humanity is regarded as bacteria to certain life forms."
"So Stephen Hawking was right about the possibility of attracting the wrong kind of attention. I'm curious, Ezra -- why me? Why not, instead, make initial contact with someone like Hawking? You must have known about his crippling disease, ALS, and confinement to a wheelchair through METI. But you couldn't have known that we lost Stephen several years ago."
The alien explained how the entourage involved in the physicist's daily care would have made a discreet visit impossible. "There is more," he said, fixing his crystalline eyes on Hank's. "He would not have survived the journey home."
"Journey." Kelly felt his muscles slip into gridlock. His heart rate quickened. "Jesus. You want me to go with you. I'm part of that proof you need."
The Jatite smiled. "Yes. If all things continue as planned, we believe we can save our planet. And your earth as well."
Army Sgt. Katharine Arness was working night duty as a volunteer at one of the Kittatinny observation towers when she thought she witnessed something metallic streak toward a large tract of privately-owned land. Using her binoculars, she marked the downward trajectory.
Rather than report the incident, on impulse she set out to investigate when her replacement arrived at 8:00 am. She climbed into her jeep and drove in the direction of the landing site. Turning onto an old timber road, she followed the trail until it ended in a wall of trees, then proceeded on foot. It was mid-morning before she stumbled upon the oblong pod resting on the bank of a stream.
Shaken by the discovery, Arness pulled out her sidearm and wondered what good it would be against an alien invasion. She knelt down at the base of the pod and spotted a set of large footprints leading away from the capsule. Taking a deep breath, she placed the pistol on the ground to wipe the perspiration from her forehead. Exhaling, she emptied the first chamber, then gripped the gun with both hands and began to follow the strange imprints the interstellar traveler had left behind.
Cathedral (Thomas Newman)
The Link to Chapter 3 ...
Written by Genna Eastman and Mike Friedman. All rights reserved.