The Encounter, Ch. 3 - by Genna East and Mike Friedman
The Story Continues
Welcome to Chapter 3 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.
A link to Chapter 1 follows...
Hannaford Kelly didn't know what Ezra's plan to save the earth involved and wasn't sure he wanted to. The alien's revelation had numbed him into silence. Noah ambled over to his master and nudged a hand with a gentle push of his muzzle. As he looked down at the spaniel, a sudden realization jolted the professor like a waft of smelling salts. Grimacing, he sprang from his chair. "It won't be long before someone finds your capsule in the woods. When that happens, my friend, we'll be neck-deep in cops, the military, FBI, DHS, CIA, and more."
"All of the letters you mention, Hannaford; what do they mean?
"Trouble, Ezra...they mean trouble. We have to get you out of here."
Kelly grabbed a light-weight jacket from a bedroom closet. “Try this on. It might be snug in the shoulders, but it'll look more natural than what you're wearing."
The Jatite slipped on the jacket, carefully placing his hologram device in a side pocket. Hank gave him a pair of sunglasses and an old fishing hat, then stepped back to inspect his makeover. "It'll have to do, but if we're stopped for some reason, try not to speak."
The professor spent the next several minutes shutting down his home. Retrieving his IPhone, he texted a cryptic request to two trusted colleagues to meet him at a university lab at Princeton. Hank thought for a moment, turned off the mobile and tossed it into a kitchen drawer. He took one of his backpacks and stockpiled it with bottled water and protein bars, dog biscuits, a few books, some personal items and a picture of his late wife. Glancing at Ezra, he muttered, "I'm not promising anything."
The Jatite nodded. "I understand."
It was noon by the time Ezra, Hank and Noah climbed into the cab of Hank’s partially restored, 1958 green Ford pickup. Kelly checked the rearview mirror as he headed down US Route 31 toward Princeton. The two-lane highway was nearly vacant for a Saturday afternoon. Although the authorities encouraged people to stay in their homes, there was no standard protocol for the prospect of an alien invasion. International cooperation had failed to materialize, but so, too, had the forecasts of mass hysteria. Some doubted the media broadcasts, believing them to be part of an elaborate hoax in solidarity with conspiracy theorists who claimed the Apollo Moon landings were faked. Others congregated at local churches, synagogues and mosques to pray for guidance. Friends and families gathered at their homes, local taverns, truck stops or diners. Wherever the point of refuge, few ventured outside without first turning their eyes to the sky.
Between the daylight sun and Hank's jacket, Ezra was comfortable. He watched in awe as the forested landscape and summer hues streamed past his window. "Beautiful," he remarked. "So beautiful."
"Yes, but what you are seeing is diminishing." Hank glanced over at his passenger and felt a sting of guilt. He knew the innocence filling the Jatite's eyes would lessen as well if he stayed too long on earth.
"The letters you spoke of at your home; the FBI, DHS...they are your government, yes? Why are they trouble?"
“You said there are species more hostile than humans," Hank replied as he reached over to scratch Noah's neck. "The strongest emotion humans have is fear, and the sight of your vessel has, sadly and for those in power, brought that fear to a boiling point -- fear of the unknowable that separates you from us. To them, your presence is an invasion and challenges the underpinnings of our civilization.”
“We cannot undo what is done. Why then send your METI voices into a universe unbounded if you fear the answers you seek? Answers can be dangerous things, Hannaford."
"That's part of the paradox of humanity. The everyday mind doesn't grapple with the concept of an infinite universe. Answers can be dangerous when they intrude upon our realms of possibility. At the end of the day we are a species that prefers to imagine what our future may hold rather than see it."
Ezra looked at his companion with admiration. He was enjoying his encounter with the alien human. Regardless of Kelly's decision, the friendship born on that day was one he would long cherish.
Katharine Arness stood at the tree line bordering the southern tip of Hank's property. She shook her head in amazement. The gravel driveway leading away from the ranch house was about a quarter-mile long and ended less than two hundred yards from where she had parked her Jeep.
The sergeant approached the rear of the home with caution. Satisfied it wasn't occupied, she holstered her firearm, retrieved a credit card and slipped it between the backdoor jam and lock. Within seconds she was standing in Hank's living room, listening for sounds from the rooms beyond. In her early thirties, Katharine wasn't eager to lose her stripes. But the criminal act she had just committed -- as well as a possible court-martial -- jabbed briefly at her conscience. "All will be forgiven if I deliver the prize," she whispered to herself, smiling.
The first door off of the living room opened to a den. Bookcases filled with hundreds of volumes lined two of the ample walls. Mail had been left, unopened, on the desk. She caught her breath when she recognized the prominent name on an envelope: Dr. Hannaford Kelly. Several photographs sat on the desk; one had been removed from the frame. Using her cell phone she took a snapshot of what appeared to be a recent photo of the professor standing next to a vintage Ford pickup truck.
Quickening her pace, she moved on to the master bedroom where Hank had dropped Ezra's thick sweatshirt on the floor. Rather than the typical cotton-polyester blend, it was made from a strange synthetic with no identifying labels. Not very smart, Doc, she thought. I wonder...what else have you left behind? She tossed the shirt over her arm and made her way into the kitchen. The first two drawers she opened yielded nothing of importance. The third contained Hank's IPhone partially hidden under a dish towel.
Mindful to keep her fingerprints to herself, Katharine grabbed a plastic sandwich bag from atop the refrigerator to cover the mobile while scanning for recent texts and addresses. She forwarded the recent text Hank had written to his colleagues to her own cell, then deleted it from his mobile. Instincts sent the bagged IPhone into her pocket.
The Jatite's clothing tucked firmly under arm, she left the house and hurried back to her Jeep. As she left the mountain road to turn onto US 31, the loud, thrumping sound of helicopters flying low overhead filled the air. Military and police vehicles, followed by a row of black SUV’s, sped past her toward the pod's location on the Kittatinny. Sweat began to drip from the sergeant's face. Her mind raced. Biting her lip, she swerved onto the entrance ramp to Rt. 22 and drove across the grass median into the northbound lanes leading to Pennsylvania.
Minutes later, Katharine pulled into a small truck stop and shifted the gear into neutral. She didn't have long to wait. A Chevy 4x4 pickup turned into the station and coasted to a stop near one of the pumps. When the driver got out to prepay for the fuel inside, the sergeant darted out of her vehicle. The rutted asphalt nearly caused her to fall. She first made sure the location service on Hank's mobile was fully on before sliding it out of the plastic bag and under a tarp at the rear of the 4x4.
Returning to the safety of her Jeep filled her with a sense of deliverance. With a slight grin of victory, she placed her sidearm within easy reach before heading back to Rt. 31, southbound, and Princeton University.
On the Nature of Daylight (Max Richter - Arrival )
The Link to Chapter 4
Written by Genna Eastman and Mike Friedman. All rights reserved.