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The Encounter, Ch. 4 - by Genna East and Mike Friedman

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the-encounter-ch-4-by-genna-east-and-mike-friedman

The Story Continues

Welcome to Chapter 4 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...

Chapter 4


"From the first, he loved Princeton...its lazy beauty, its half-grasped significance, the wild moonlight revel of the rushes."

--- F. Scott Fitzgerald, This Side of Paradise (1920)


For students, visitors and the hopeful outsider looking in, Princeton's main campus provided a revealing tour of humanity's past and present. Beautiful tree-lined streets showcased buildings with eclectic architectural styles -- from gargoyles and gothic spires, to sleek metal and glass -- in the silent, immovable cadence of a changing world.

Dr. Penelope Teller stood by the windows of her office on the top floor of Whitney Hall, an ivy covered, four-story building that stood at the north end of the campus. As chair of the Physics & Astrophysical Sciences Department, she had access to the facilities throughout the summer months. Staring at Hank's cryptic text on her mobile phone, the physicist tried to grasp the meaning behind the cipher that glared back from the screen. His message was brief...

"I'll be late for our conference at the Whit Lab today. Will be there at 1:00 pm. See you then."

There was no such laboratory at Princeton. The only possible connection had to be her office in the Whitney Building. Nor was any conference scheduled. Even more troubling, he wasn't answering his cell. She fixed an uneasy look on the other recipient of the text who was staring out the window, searching for any sign of their friend's vintage Ford pickup. "I can't make sense out of this. What do you think?" she asked.

Martin Teller ran his fingers through his thinning hair. A few years older than his sister, he was a professor of humanistic studies who tended to lean more toward his instincts. "I dunno, Penny. But I can't shake the feeling it's got something to do with what's goin' on upstairs," he replied, nodding at the sky. "He was secretive in that text -- as though he was paranoid about hiding something from prying eyes. Doesn't sound at all like the guy we know."

The Tellers first met Kelly a few years earlier when they each boarded the same university bus, bound for a Global Earth Day Celebration at the Boston Common. A close friendship soon began that bridged the cultural divide between biologist, physicist and humanist in their concern for the environment.

Hearing noises in the hallway, they turned their attention to the door of the room that had been left ajar. The clicking echoes of a dog's paws grew louder as Hank's Brittany spaniel slipped through the opening and scooted over to Penny.

"Noah! Hey darlin'," she said, petting the base of his neck. She sighed in relief when her friend walked into the office. His companion was a stranger to her. "Hank -- what the hell's going on? And who is this?" she asked of the tall figure.

The alien removed his fishing hat and sunglasses. "Good day to you," he answered, smiling. My name is Ezra."

Closing the door behind them, Hank placed his hand gently on the Jatite's shoulder and said, “This is a friend who probably needs no introduction. I don't think I have to tell you he's from the alien craft."

Martin froze, his limbs seeming to fail him. The words, "Holy shit," caught in the back of his throat before escaping into the air.

Ezra stepped closer to Penny. His Lincolnesque frame towered over the petite physicist. "A female. Lovely. I am pleased to make acquaintance with you."

Penny felt as though her feet were rooted in the floor -- not out of fear, but in wonder. She liked the Jatite instantly...the impossible innocence in his gaze combined with a deep intelligence, and his smile that seemed to lighten the room. She took his hand in greeting. His pale skin was warm to the touch. "Hello, Ezra, my name is Penny, and this is my brother, Marty," she said, gesturing toward him. "Marty... Martin!"

"Huh...what?"

"You're staring."

"Oh...hey, I'm sorry." He leaned forward to grasp the alien's hand with a quick shake, his face flushed, his eyes, round with awe. "Your...your name," he began, his voice shaking. "In our language it has a biblical reference -- the ancient scribe and poet hero. It's a pleasure to meet you."

At a loss of what to say or do next, the Tellers turned to Hank for answers to the questions flooding through their minds.

"I'm sorry to spring this on you," he said. But I didn't dare text you about it, or call you. Couldn't risk it. We haven't much time and there's a lot to tell you -- and to show you."

Hank guided them to the conference table. They sat down and listened, open-mouthed, to his story of the alien's arrival at his home on the Kittatinny, and the Jatites' proposal for saving both of their planets. Ezra's long, tapered fingers reached into his pocket to pull out the hologram device.

The Tellers watched, enthralled, as the images splayed across the table surface. It was impossible not to envy the Jatite world, a civilization unremoved from every natural thing before it succumbed to global devastation. "We are the last of our kind," he told them.

At Penny' request, Ezra explained how their flight through time and light-speed barriers had been achieved. Using her decades of training in quantum physics and thermodynamics, she processed the alien's rationale that by using exotic matter as a stabilizing factor, it was possible to traverse safely through the mouth of a wormhole without the risk of its collapse. Even more astounding was the ability to close the loop of Bootstrap Paradox, thereby preventing the past from repeating itself. Penny realized with absolute clarity, what was previously considered grist for science fiction novels and the imaginative theory of physicists had finally reached the realm of authenticity. The proof of it was sitting across from her, and orbiting the earth aboard a vessel so massive it could span the width of Manhattan.

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"Of course," she murmured in astonishment, looking at Hank. "Despite everything we've learned about the universe, we're practically toddlers stumbling around in the dark. But Einstein was close to the answers that were there all along."

"All things exist in relationship," he replied with a knowing smile. "As for Ezra's journey...I can't believe that I'm deciding this very second." Penny saw the lines of weariness on her friend's face begin to ease and knew the meaning of it. The purpose of their meeting at the Whitney was more than her confirmation that such a journey was possible. Hannaford Kelly needed to say goodbye.

"My God," she half whispered. "You're going with them."

Hank nodded. "It's a chance, Pen, to change things -- and a lot more. You know as well as I, they won't do anything about it until it's too late. Time wears at us and we're running out of it. We have to do something before climate change and its affect on natural resources reaches the point of no return. After that, humanity's baser survival instincts will eventually kick in when people realize there's no place left to go."

A look of surprise came over Ezra. "Are you certain, Hannaford?"

"Yes."

Penny shook her head in disbelief. "What about hope for awareness? Martin...tell him..."

"That kind of hope doesn't live here, Sis. Not where it counts."

There was silence for a few moments, interrupted by the sharp, scraping sound of Penny's chair on the tile floor as she pushed herself away from the conference table. She crossed her arms against her chest and walked to the windows on the other side of the room. Hank excused himself and went over to her.

"My sister doesn't mean to be rude," Marty confided to Ezra. "She's carried an unrequited torch for Hank for nearly a year, albeit from a respectful distance. He doesn't know it of course. We humans can't choose the ones we love. And even the brightest of our species can be a little slow when it comes to recognizing matters of the heart." He glanced over at Penny. "The knowledge you can offer her is overwhelming."

Marty knew that his sister would likely want to accompany Hank. She had lost her husband in a car accident several years before, and his own marriage had failed. The three friends were the only family they had left. His eyes moistening, he realized that he was at the precipice of a deep personal loss, and began to feel the stirrings of an inner longing to redefine who he was. I'm middle-aged and still an assistant professor, he thought. In this ivied sanctuary of academia, that's the bottom of the pit. He looked into the face of the Jatite, an alien soul who seemed to sense the brooding thoughts he kept hidden behind the shadows of words.

"We will be honored for you to journey with us home. There is room for you all, and more," Ezra assured him. "Do not be afraid, Martin. Your freedom rests not in the saying...it is in the doing."

Pulling the wind jacket closer about his torso, the Jatite jolted still as though a sudden pain had seared throughout his body. A whistling trill sounded from the back of his throat. With eyes half closed, he pressed the heel of his hand to his forehead, sensing a hostile energy that was soon to overtake them. He stood up from the table and called out to his friend: "Hannaford...the men of the letters of power. They are coming."

Marty grabbed his mobile, switched it on and checked his news sources. "The military found Ezra's pod," he said tightly. "His movements must have been traced to your house, Hank. Government Intel agencies have created a task force to hunt for you. Photos of you and your pickup are all over the damn media."

"Your ship, Ezra -- how do we reach them?" asked Kelly. They don't know where you are."

"They have known exactly where I am, each of your earth minutes of my presence here," he replied, gesturing to the hologram. "The roof. We must move to the roof. Now, please."

The trio of friends stared at each other, seized of the moment in an unspoken alliance. They realized with certainty the bond that had developed between them was deeper than chance...that destiny had somehow intervened in the architecture of time and linked their futures to an odyssey that was impossible to deny.

With little time to plan, the urgency in the alien's tone pushed them into action. Hank scooped Noah up into his arms as Penny snatched a few things from her desk and tossed them into her tote bag. Marty's eyes darted around the room until he spotted a copy of his favorite Fitzgerald novel about a man's search for his place in a tumultuous world on the other side of paradise. He pulled the paperback from the bookcase and stuffed it into one of his pockets.

Hank and Ezra moved quickly to the office door. The Tellers were directly behind them. The Jatite hesitated, then reached down and pressed the handle release to open the door.

Standing in the hallway was Army Sergeant Katharine Arness, poised with her gun drawn and aimed squarely at the alien's chest.

To be continued...

Injection (Lisa Gerrard & Hans Zimmer)

Written by Genna Eastman and Mike Friedman. All rights reserved.

Comments

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

Well now, you've got me rooting for alien & co and hoping their lettered pursuers get caught in rush hour traffic.

WillStarr from Phoenix, Arizona on February 02, 2019:

This is very well written and a great story!

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on October 19, 2018:

Genna

This was great, I must have missed some of the other parts of the story, but I think I'll be going back and reading them.

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

Hi Shyon. It's a pleasure to see you. Thanks for staying with the story. (Hang in there...all is not lost. :-) ) Hope you are enjoying your weekend.

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

Good morning Shy - Thanks for staying with the story. The last episode is published, so we will soon touch down again from our exploration of space.

Thanks for the blessings

Shyron E Shenko from Texas on August 26, 2018:

Oh my, I was hoping they would make up on the roof. Now it does not look good.

Blessings my friends

Genna East (author) from Massachusetts, USA on August 18, 2018:

Thank you, Ann. We had to introduce familiar elements about our two new characters, their relationship with Hank, and their reactions in meeting Ezra. After all, meeting an alien life form is not like meeting the guy next door. And we had to include Kate and her mysterious agenda. Thanks so much for staying with the story. We hope you continue to enjoy the journey.

mckbirdbks from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on August 18, 2018:

Hello Ann - Do we know how to hold your attention or what? haha Glad that you stayed with the story and hope you continue as we race for the finish line.

Ann Carr from SW England on August 18, 2018:

Ooooh! I don't think I took breath in the last two paragraphs. Brilliant. Off to read no.5.

Ann

mckbirdbks from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on August 12, 2018:

Hello Pamela - It is an intriguing question. Could any of us leave it all behind? I am not sure what the real answer would be. Thanks for staying with our story.

mckbirdbks from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on August 12, 2018:

Hi Peg - I went and looked it up. Yes, a movie from a long time ago. Thanks. Funny how one thing reminds you of the past.

Genna East (author) from Massachusetts, USA on August 12, 2018:

Hello Verlie...

I love your cool comments. Thank you!

Hi Paula and Pamela...

What generous comments. Thank you. And I understand your indecision completely. Because of my family, I probably would have chosen not to go. Then again, this wasn't some escapist joy ride across the cosmos...the journey planned was to save the earth. Even so, Mike and I knew other factors had to play into our trio's decision. For example, "the three friends were the only family they had left." That was important. They made their choices accordingly, along with destiny. And so did Ezra.

Good morning, Linda...

Thank you, Linda. Good question. What will Katharine do next, and what is her true agenda? Look forward to seeing you at the next installment.

Peg Cole -- Thanks for the info. I now remember this film...old but a classic. Gort was an immense robot that stood, dutifully, near the spaceship awaiting direction from the visiting alien -- Michael Rennie's character.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on August 12, 2018:

i am enjoying this story very much. This part of the story made me think about leaving earth with an alien creature, not knowing exactly what to expect. I think I might chicken out, but what an adventure!

I am looking forward to the next chapter to see what is next.

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on August 12, 2018:

Hi Mike, It's from one of the first Science Fiction movies I ever saw, (probably at a two-for matinee) "The Day the Earth Stood Still," 1951, about an alien and a robot on a diplomatic mission to Earth. There are great photos of Gort (the robot) on Wikimedia Commons Images.

mckbirdbks from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on August 12, 2018:

Hello Paula – Thank you. I am surprised that after careful deliberation, you think you would remain behind. Once in a lifetime offers do not come around that often. Talk about being brought out of your comfort zone! This chapter had a nice feel to it. Where else would an alien be brought but to Princeton?

Hello Linda – Even I was surprised at Katharine’s next move. Let me tell you exactly what happens next…… Oh, I am getting a message, "There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. If we wish to make it....."

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on August 11, 2018:

I love the fact that new characters have been introduced and that Ezra is making friends. The ending is exciting. I'm very interested in discovering Katharine's next reactions to the situation.

Suzie from Carson City on August 11, 2018:

OK, Genna & Mike....I've gone from not being a fan of this genre, to barely holding my breath between chapters. I'm impressed you have cast a spell, however not surprised. Your talents are irresistible. Once again, music selection, excellent.

Would I go? Too much pressure! I take forever to make a decision. As usual, I'd be left in the dust. I related to Marty in this chapter....."Huh? What?" is pretty much my signature response!! Very fascinating tale, you two! P

mckbirdbks from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on August 11, 2018:

Hello Peggy W. – Thank you. That door opening is such an interesting metaphor. It also pretty much grabs everyone’s attention.

Hi Peg – The military functions in a dysfunctional world. I like your comment about the directions that faced us as the writers. Of course I voted for laser blasters and F35-Fighter squadrons, but Martin and Penny refused. Thanks for staying with the story. I will have to do some research to see what I can find out about "Klaatu barata nickto."

Hello Verlie – Dynamic collaborators, do you think they have their own Halloween costumes. Thanks for staying with the story. Uncharted ground lies ahead, the map says, ‘Here be dragons.’

Verlie Burroughs from Canada on August 11, 2018:

Oh! This is so good. Fine write from the dynamic collaborators. Can't see a missing loop, um wormhole, magic in the making.

Genna East (author) from Massachusetts, USA on August 11, 2018:

Hi Peg...

What an astute comment. Thank you. Mike and I appreciate your staying with the story. I think I saw that film -- an old black and white picture with an extraordinary message. And the military reacted in a way that is not unexpected, sad to say. Fear creates more fear and often leads to violence, and worse. All I can reveal about what happens next is to repeat what I wrote below: "Fasten your seatbelts."

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on August 11, 2018:

What a treat to find this chapter waiting for me after a short trip out into the summer rain. I'm delighted to see that these scholars are willing to venture into unknown worlds and disappointed that the representative military immediately considers the alien as dangerous. My mind drifts to early sci-fi films with Michael Rennie and Gort and those infamous words, "Klaatu barata nickto."

You've taken this story to a new level of excitement that could go in many directions - escape, cooperation, or destruction. I'm eager to see where the next two chapters take things and already hoping this gets extended into a longer series.

Genna East (author) from Massachusetts, USA on August 11, 2018:

Hi Mike. Your comment was grayed out for some weird reason. It's odd because I don't have pre-approvals set up for this. I clicked on the Not Spam button, and it now appears. Ezra must be fooling around with that hologram of his again. :-)

Genna East (author) from Massachusetts, USA on August 11, 2018:

Hi Peggy...

Thank you. And what an adventure they have planned. This chapter reveals that they know what Ezra's clever plan is to save Jate and the earth. So they knew and agreed as to its feasibility and possibilities before making the decision to leave with him. All I can say is that I wished I'd been there. :-) Look forward to seeing you in Chapter 5.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on August 11, 2018:

You certainly ended this chapter with a cliffhanger! Nice that they will all be able to go on that adventure together. I cannot wait to see how this evolves.

mckbirdbks from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on August 11, 2018:

Hi Bill - Good point, if we were unable to figure out earth, how do we suspect we can figure out space. I do not share your thoughts that the inhabitants here are fascinating. Though some of them make me curious.

mckbirdbks from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on August 11, 2018:

Hello Maria - It appears that my reply to you has had a fourth encounter of the third kind, lost in space, epicenter issue. I don't remember what I said, but there was a hint, that I would board the alien ship in a Flash Gordon minute.

Genna East (author) from Massachusetts, USA on August 11, 2018:

@Flourish; John; Maria and Bill:

Thank you for your wonderful and generous thoughts, and for staying with the story. Mike and I so appreciate your company during this journey. As Mike stated, we had to bring in two new characters in ways they can relate to the reader, and to make believable the reason behind their choices. Also, it was not only their decision to go with the Jatites, but Ezra's decision to invite them as well. And that the primary reason for their journey is a chance to save the earth they so love.

Would I go? If it were not for my family, the answer for me would be, "Yes." :-)

As for what happens next, all we can say is "fasten your seatbelts."

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on August 11, 2018:

Great nail-biter at the end, you two! Would I go? I honestly don't know if I would or not. I've never been terribly curious about space or other universes or other civilizations. I find Earth and its inhabitants fascinating, and all the lessons about life are here waiting for my willingness to learn. :)

mckbirdbks from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on August 11, 2018:

Hello mar - At one time I would have thought going on such a journey would be a betrayal. These days such an invitation would indeed be tempting. I am happy with the music selections - they are a good accompaniment to the story. Now, to grab a few books, throw them in a bag and catch my flight on Intergalactic Air.

Maria Jordan from Jeffersonville PA on August 11, 2018:

Good morning, Genna and Mike,

This was a 'hold my breath' chapter - I have quickly grown fond of this foursome of friends.

In answer to your question in the last comment ...'yes, I'd go in a heartbeat'.

I am beyond curious as to how this journey will play out. Once again, this musical accompaniment is perfection.

Wishing you both a lovely weekend. Hugs, Maria

mckbirdbks from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on August 11, 2018:

Hello FlourishAnyway - Thanks so much. This chapter was thought provoking for me. Would you go?

Hello John - We added new characters which took much debate during the writing. For as few words that we used, I get a picture of both Penny and Martin.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on August 10, 2018:

Hey you two, this is the best chapter yet (in my opinion). Gripping way to end it too with a gun pointed at the Jatite. Can't wait for the next one.

FlourishAnyway from USA on August 10, 2018:

I was delighted to see this a bit early. You have me entirely hooked and the writing is superb.

Genna East (author) from Massachusetts, USA on August 10, 2018:

Hi there, Mike. Thank you, but it's your work as well.

I pressed the publish button instead of finish edit button...and here we are a day early.

I love that quotation; it is perfect. As you know F. Scott, is a favorite author and one of Princeton's most famous and celebrated graduates. "It was always the becoming he dreamed of, never the being." (From This Side of Paradise, and fits what's in Ch. 4 and, as you know, what's coming in the final chapter.)

I guess we're good to go. :-)

mckbirdbks from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on August 10, 2018:

Hello Genna - "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past." F. Scott Fitzgerald

F. Scott Fitzgerald is given credit for writing some of the best prose in literature. It is why he remains famous. If we had named the individual chapters, I would have suggested "Martin's Choice" for Chapter four. as "This Side of Paradise" has been taken.

You did a great job with this Chapter.

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