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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...

Chapter 3

Hannaford Kelly didn't ask Ezra what his plan to save the earth involved. He wasn't sure he wanted to know. 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 into action. 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, for Pete's sake, try not to speak," he added with a smile.

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 deserted 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 had the forecasts of mass hysteria. Some doubted the media broadcasts and believed 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 slowly receding." Hank glanced over at his passenger and felt a sting of guilt. He knew the innocence filling the Jatite's eyes would fade 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 -- the 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. Katharine was in her early thirties and not eager to lose her stripes. But the criminal act she had just committed -- as well as a possible court-martial -- jabbed only briefly at her conscience. "All will be forgiven if I deliver the prize," she whispered to herself.

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 one of the envelopes: 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 revealed 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. 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.


Genna East (author) from Massachusetts, USA on March 23, 2019:

Hi Chris...

I smiled when I read your comment because it's one of my favorite sentences in the entire chapter. (Mike's "fear of the unknowable" is another.) My father said this to me many years ago. He was a research biologist and environmental scientist who taught graduate students at Rutgers. On climate change, he said, "They won't do anything about it until it's too late." Perhaps if we wrote more stories about this, it would call attention to the dire situation in which we are soon to find ourselves. Thanks so much for reading our story, Chris. Mike and I are grateful for your time and thoughtful comments. Enjoy your weekend. :-)

Chris Mills from Traverse City, MI on March 22, 2019:

"...a species that prefers to imagine what our future may hold rather than see it." That phrase could lead to quite a conversation. Well done. Onward.

WillStarr from Phoenix, Arizona on February 02, 2019:

I like the intrigue of the military involvement.

mckbirdbks from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on August 29, 2018:

Hello Lawrence - You asked the exact right question in regards to this chapter. Thanks for joining in on the chase as we have reached the half way mark.

Genna East (author) from Massachusetts, USA on August 29, 2018:

Lawrence - thank you for your interest in our story. Welcome aboard; we hope you enjoy the journey.

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on August 28, 2018:


So, the Sergeant is sending the rest of the government on a wild goose chase?

The suspense is building.


Genna East (author) from Massachusetts, USA on August 26, 2018:

Thank you, Shyron. We're happy to see you and love your poetic footnotes. :-)

mckbirdbks from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on August 26, 2018:

Hello Shy

If we'd lost you I'd cry

We did not want to say goodbye

so climb on board and we will try

to get it in gear and learn to fly

Thanks for the blessings

Shyron E Shenko from Texas on August 26, 2018:

Genna/Mike, I am still with you, only not as often, but still enjoying the ride.

The suspense is building

My senses are reeling

A sense of adventure

I hope no one will censure

Blessings my friends

mckbirdbks from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on August 13, 2018:

Hello Audrey. What a nice thing to say. Thanks for your support of this collaboration. We are now racing toward the finish line.

Genna East (author) from Massachusetts, USA on August 13, 2018:

Hello Audrey. Thanks so much for joining us and for that thoughtful comment.

Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on August 12, 2018:

Genna and Mike. You two like to hold me spellbound 'cause this is exactly how I feel as I partake of this exciting story. I'm eager to read what comes next. Thank you for the excellent choice of music!

mckbirdbks from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on August 08, 2018:

Hello John - I have been busy on the Mother ship, otherwise I would have been here sooner. Glad you made it. If I recall correctly, we are reaching a pivot point.

Genna East (author) from Massachusetts, USA on August 08, 2018:

Thank you, John. I couldn't ask for a better co-author than our talented Mike. Plus, he has the patience of Job. Glad you are enjoying the ride. :-)

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on August 08, 2018:

Oh, I am enjoying this, always looking forward expectantly to what will happen next. So well-written by the two of you. What a team.

mckbirdbks from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on August 05, 2018:

Hello FlourishAnyway - What a nice comment. Timing was a critical issue the entire process. I guess having an alien on the planet made me want to speed the process up, but staying on a steady course was more important to the story. Thanks for reading.

Hello Paula - Thanks. The story details became very tricky to manage. There was not much time for secondary characters or subplots. I want to credit Genna for not letting me go to the dark side, which would have been too easy.

Genna East (author) from Massachusetts, USA on August 05, 2018:

@Verlie, Linda, Maria, Flourish Anyway, and Paula

Good morning! It is so good to see you and read your generous comments. Thank you!

Mike and I had hoped to pull the reader in and become invested in the characters, right out of the gate. Not an easy task for six chapters. Although the plot is alluded to in the first three chapters, it becomes more defined in chapter four during the rendezvous with two of Hank's colleagues and trusted friends at Princeton, whom he texted before he and his alien friend, Ezra, left the Kittatinny. There is chance and there is destiny afoot. We hope you continue to enjoy the journey.

Happy Sunday. :-)

Suzie from Carson City on August 05, 2018:

Mike & Genna..."The Encounter becomes more and more fascinating. Your selections of music.....perfect! You know how to hold your readers & guide them to precisely where they should go. That's not easy, unless your talents are amazing. .......I needn't say more.

BTW, Katherine is my kind of woman! Paula

FlourishAnyway from USA on August 04, 2018:

So well written. I am enjoying this quick paced story that has the perfect amount of action and character development to entertain. Wonderful writing team. Waiting for the next installment is difficult.

mckbirdbks from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on August 04, 2018:

Hello Maria - Thank you. Ezra and Kelly formed a quick bond. Katharine, well what can I say about Katharine? A convergence is in the making. One of the toughest problems we had to resolve in the story is coming up. The chess pieces seemed to gridlock, at least in my mind. Thanks for sticking with the story. The music is compelling.

mckbirdbks from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on August 04, 2018:

Hello Linda - Thank you. Developing the characters took lots of planning. There was even some upgrading of names, as new ideas dawned on us. Seriously, several 'people' tried to break into the story but were repealed at the moat.

Maria Jordan from Jeffersonville PA on August 04, 2018:

Dear Genna and Mike,

The friendship that's developing between Ezra and Kelly is endearing.

Katharine is clever, quick thinking and instinctive.

I'm impressed with the pace and attention to detail of each installment - this 'might' be my favorite musical selection.

Wishing you both a peaceful evening. Hugs, Maria

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on August 04, 2018:

I'm looking forward to seeing how Katharine's role in the story develops. The characters and the plot in this tale are interesting.

mckbirdbks from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on August 04, 2018:

Hello Verlie - Thanks for that comment. This is a sculpture of words; like clay, we pressed, kneaded and scraped it into its present shape.

Verlie Burroughs from Canada on August 04, 2018:

Wow, this sure moves along fast! Cut to the chase guys, brilliant! I like how you wove the philosophical questions subtly into the storyline. Thanks so much for this entertaining Sci-Fi- experience. It doesn't seem improbable at all.

Genna East on August 04, 2018:

I never saw the film, Mike. Lol. But now I get the joke.

mckbirdbks from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on August 04, 2018:

Hello all those that commented. Genna has addressed your comments nicely. Thanks for staying with us as the story weaves itself to ever higher levels.

mckbirdbks from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on August 04, 2018:

Hi Genna - Oh, come on.

Armageddon is a 1998 American science fiction disaster film directed by Michael Bay. The film follows a group of blue-collar deep-core drillers sent by NASA to stop a gigantic asteroid on a collision course with Earth. It stars Bruce Willis and an ensemble cast comprising, Ben Affleck, Billy Bob Thornton, Liv Tyler, Owen Wilson, Will Patton, Peter Stormare, William Fichtner, Michael Clarke Duncan, Keith David, and Steve Buscemi. - Wikipedia


Genna East (author) from Massachusetts, USA on August 04, 2018:

@Pamela Oglesby

Hi Pam. Katharine plays a pivotal role, but not one that the reader may anticipate so early on. I don't want to give too much away. Thanks for staying with us. We so appreciate your interest in the story and comments.

@Ann Carr

Your initial instincts are absolutely correct. Here are some more hints: She volunteered for tower duty on the Kittatinny, and she recognized Hannaford Kelly's name on an unopened envelope on Hank's desk. As I wrote in the comment to Pamela above, I don't want to give too much away. (Mike will shoot me.:-) The rest will unfold as the story progresses.

Genna East (author) from Massachusetts, USA on August 04, 2018:


Good morning, Mike. Thanks for the comment about the music. I'm so sorry but I'm afraid I didn't get the Bruce joke. Hope you are enjoying the weekend. Hugs.

@Peg Cole

Yup -- you are spot on. I think a confrontation is pretty much a given at this point. And you bring up such an interesting point about the naiveté of the Jatite.

My favorite lines in this chapter are...

“We cannot undo what is done. Why then send your 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."

It's not only the naiveté of the Jatite, but that of humanity. And we see that both human and Jatite are having the encounter.

@Peggy Woods

Excellent comment, Peg! And very astute. Her initial agenda was to "deliver the prize," meaning the alien, singlehandedly. We're enjoying your comments and hope you continue to enjoy the journey.

@Bill Holland

Hi there. Good to see you. The ride gets a bit bumpy from here on in, my friend. Thank you for staying with the story. Blessings to you.

Ann Carr from SW England on August 04, 2018:

I don't know whether Katherine is good or bad; my first instinct was that she's bad news!


Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on August 04, 2018:

The plot continues to thincken, and Katherine's actions are sure interesting. I am looking forward to seeing the results of her actions. This story is so interesting!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on August 04, 2018:

I don't know where you are going with this, but it's one hell of a ride getting there.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on August 04, 2018:

It would appear that Katharine's instincts are to protect the professor and what she accurately assumes is the alien. This is getting exciting!

mckbirdbks from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on August 04, 2018:

Hello Peg - What an astute comment. Care must be taken with a short story of this length. Lots of details, or loose ends to tend to. You are right about the tricky technology, and GPS. Remember the old westerns where a guy would be standing in the street and pointing in the direction the bank robbers went?

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on August 04, 2018:

Well, well, well, see how the plot thickens. I love the naivety of the alien and his reactions are well played. I'm thinking that why the sergeant deleted the text will be further explained as the story continues. She's pretty tricky with the GPS going on. Looks like you're building up to a confrontation, I think. Well done. Funny comment, Mike. I liked that movie, too!

mckbirdbks from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on August 04, 2018:

Hello Genna -

“I wonder...what else have you left behind?” What a poignant sentence to read while listening to the music.

Oh, oh, oh, Bruce can be driving the 4x4 and when the authorities track him down, and see who it is, they can recruit him to assemble a team of oil well drillers… Oh wait, that has been done.

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