The Encounter, Ch. 5 - by Genna East and Mike Friedman
The Story Continues
Welcome to Chapter 5 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...
Hank had been careful to park his Ford pickup in a commuter lot, far from the Whitney Building. It was spotted by a passerby who reported the sighting to the authorities. News of the discovery created a social media frenzy. Militarized police were summoned to control the growing crowd of onlookers gathering near his vehicle. Pandemonium erupted when several students were pulled from the bed of the truck, thrown to the ground and handcuffed. The campus went on lockdown as officers and vehicles belonging to SWAT Teams, the FBI, the DHS and the National Guard converged on Princeton. Moving like swarms of antibodies sent to neutralize an invading virus, they searched, building by building, closing in from different angles.
Katharine Arness knew it wouldn't take them long to reach the Whitney. Lowering her gun a few inches, she shifted her gaze to Hank, a man whose work she had followed and admired since first hearing him speak at the Global Earth Day celebration in Boston several years earlier.
"You okay, Doc?" she asked. "I had to make sure you weren't in any danger."
Stunned speechless, the trio of friends gaped at the attractive stranger in camouflage fatigues -- tense, owl-eyed, resolute. Noah slipped from Hank's arms to the floor as the Jatite took a few steps toward her. She raised her gun to meet his chest.
"I am called Ezra," he said. "What is your name please?"
The sergeant stared into his eyes; docile, gelatinous orbs with a deep intelligence and the purity of a child's internal life before the woundedness of humanity had breached the depths of his soul. Whatever malevolent images she harbored for the alien intruder vanished in the presence of the gentle creature standing before her.
"Ka, Kath...," she stuttered. "Kate...my name is Kate."
Marty sidled over to them, placed his hand over the muzzle of the gun and pressed it downward. "Right now, Kate, the only danger is you," he said quietly.
"I'm the least of your worries," replied the sergeant. "Right now there's a tsunami of trouble headed this way." Holstering her weapon, she told them what was taking place throughout the campus.
"Is there any way we can talk to them...reason with them?" asked Penny.
"They aren't scientists or diplomats, Ma'am. The ones on point will be military or SWAT, armed to the teeth and scared of whatever their fears of the unknown can conjure. Ezra's covert visit threatens an invasion of some kind. My guess is they'll react with the same response SEAL Team Six carried out when they hunted down Bin Laden. You need to get away from Princeton and fast," she said, motioning toward the elevators.
Hank shook his head. "We're not going down, Kate...we're going up -- to the roof. Can you help us?"
Startled, she looked at the alien, then smiled and nodded, knowing intuitively that what they had planned and the why of it was more than she needed to know. She also sensed in that singular moment of time, achievement of their goal was more than vital. It was profoundly irreplaceable.
Hank, Ezra and Kate retrieved four conference chairs from Penny's office and positioned them along the grooves in the sills of the opened elevator doors. Marty ran to the south stairwell, yanked a fire ax from the wall and wedged it into the door handle. Penny opened the door to the opposite stairwell where Noah stood guard -- his head and small, docked tail raised, his feet planted firmly in place.
"That elevator alarm will sound pretty quick," warned Kate. "When it does you've got about two minutes. It won't take 'em long to climb four flights."
Hank called to Noah as they pushed up the stairs and through the door to the roof with Ezra in the lead. The sergeant knew she had only seconds to begin her own escape by trying to blend in with the uniforms swirling about the campus grounds. As she started down the stairwell, one of the elevator alarms went off with a single shriek that pierced the air. She froze, then took a few steps backwards when Noah raced past her and down the steps before she could stop him.
From the lower floors, Kate heard the sounds of fierce growling and men shouting, followed by two gunshots and Noah's sharp yelp of pain. Then silence. Pulling out her gun, she swore in anger at the concrete walls: "You bastards!" She fired blindly down the stairwell as a warning to slow the approaching assault team, then bolted up the stairs and through the steel door leading to the roof. She slammed it shut and locked it from the outside. Turning, Kate gasped. Her legs nearly collapsed beneath her.
The shuttle sent to deliver Ezra and his companions to the Jatite ship, an immense, oval-shaped pod, hovered above the roof's surface. Its skin, the color of elephant gray, glistened with a synthesis of infinite types of atoms that seemed to vibrate with a sentient energy. Partially hidden by giant evergreens, sections of the hull exposed to view changed colors with the skill of a chameleon to reflect the surrounding light. The sphere emitted a sudden whirring sound, causing a flush of birds to burst from the trees and flee into the sky.
Suspended beneath the pod, a wide platform stretched nearly the length of the shuttle where Ezra, Kelly and the Tellers stood, each knowing that they had walked on the surface of the earth for the last time. Kate felt a rush of envy pulse thru her veins for the unimaginable shift in destiny that awaited them.
Hank leaned forward, his eyes searching for Noah. He shouted his name. Kate looked at Marty and shook her head. Hank cried out as Penny clung to him, fighting to control her tears. Ezra encircled his arms about them, gently pushed upward, and the three ascended, weightless, into the heart of the sphere.
The droning sound intensified. Feeling his body begin to rise, Marty dropped to his knees and gripped the webbed platform with one hand while extending the other to Kate. "The only thing waiting for you back there is a court-martial!" he yelled. Her eyes meeting his, she threw her pistol and cell phone to the roof, and grabbed hold. As he drew her toward him, the hull curved around and beneath them, enclosing the shuttle as though sealing off its passengers in a seamless embrace.
Chaos broke out on the ground below as members of the military, US Intel and the curious ran toward the building. Onlookers screamed when an explosion ripped the roof door from its hinges. The SWAT leader barely made it through the opening when he dropped his ballistic shield and stumbled to the ground. He watched in amazement as the giant pod tilted into a horizontal position, then thrust upward to cut through the sky, leaving a shimmering chasm in its wake.
As it left earth's atmosphere, NORAD and NASA tracked the shuttle -- a pin-sized streak of light across the eternal darkness of space. The Jatite mother ship appeared to absorb the pod, both travelling at immense speeds while evading pieces of debris that were once part of Chinese, Russian, and American satellites.
Probing eyes from the planet surface would see little else. Within an hour, the Jatite vessel had vanished from orbit.
To be continued...
Interstellar (1) (Hans Zimmer)
---------------- There is a brief pause before the music begins. -----------------
Interstellar (2) (Hans Zimmer)
A note on the two music videos: This was a difficult chapter for Mike and I to write in light of Noah's passing. (He will not be forgotten.) As such, I couldn't leave our readers with the dissonance of Interstellar (1) for an entire week. Interstellar (2): There is no sound in space; we cannot hear what follows in the shimmering wake of the Jatite ship as it hurtles into the past, leaving our readers to reflect on not only what happened in previous episodes, but of the possibilities yet to come.
Chapter 6 (the final chapter)
Written by Genna Eastman and Mike Friedman. All rights reserved.