Visitors and old friends return.
[Watching and Waiting \\ The Moody Blues]
Intermezzo – Madness and the Desperate Flight of aquaTarkus
Part V: Implosion
His dreams came in numbers, only now the dream never relented.
He found driving uncomfortable, a dizzying rush of kaleidoscopic information he had trouble sorting through. A semi passed his rental and the space around the tractor filled with equations: mass and velocity vectors flowed into linear momentum calculations and as he passed a school bus his mind reeled as dozens of interacting data sets assaulted his senses. He squinted and looked away, trying to staunch the flow in information, but it was useless now…
Because even as he tried to close his eyes to the world crowding in all around him, his mind leapt to the other cascade of terminal datapoints he was still trying to process – as images of the stricken airliner plummeting to earth returned to fill his consciousness. So…driving into the night now he was left to face the prospect that there was no safe place left for his mind to go in order to simply rest. Painful and unwanted information once again began filling his mind after the brief respite during the flight down from San Francisco, only now the inrushing data was coming-on so fast he feared it might soon reach an incapacitating velocity. Then what? Would he reach a breaking point? And what might wait on the other side? He felt alone now, lost inside cascades of incessant numerical solutions to unwanted problems, and for the first time in his life he grew afraid of the numbers flowing through his mind. He felt lonely now, like maybe God had forsaken him. And suddenly he was forced to consider the nature of God. Does God even exist, he wondered. He had always had faith in numbers because life was nothing more or less than problems in search of a solution. Could God, he wondered, be a solution in search of problems? He laughed at that, perhaps because he’d never considered that fear and faith always seemed to be the solutions humans clung to.
He could see the Vincent Thomas Bridge rising ahead, and yet the air seemed heavy – almost like moisture was about to coalesce over the harbor – and surely fog would soon follow – but then he saw something that made his heart lurch as pure fear returned…
Because another blue sphere had appeared, and it was falling through the fog and settling on the bridge. And then the moisture-laden air seemed to ripple under the weight of a massive shock wave, causing his little Toyota to skip sideways – like a flat rock skimming across a pond.
And this was something new, something completely unexpected. Nothing he’d solved for had indicated the possibility of anything like this happening, so there had to be a discontinuity, some new variable involved.
Perhaps, he thought, this new variable was intuition. Something outside the bounds of statistical relevance.
Because, in his mind’s eye, and even as he struggled to regain control of the skipping Toyota, he rewatched the helicopter vaulting up and slamming into the airliner – and as he analyzed the replay he saw dozens of new, interconnecting variables sliding into place. Waiting. To be. Rearranged?
Or. Simply. To Be.
To be? Being? Or Becoming? ‘Which do I solve for…?’
“But how do you account for transubstantiation?” a faraway voice chided.
The little car seemed to spin and spin and he saw new variables form like planets out of dust and he struggled to come to terms with all these new variables.
The little car came to rest on the right shoulder – only the engine wasn’t running now, and when he looked up he saw that the power was out almost everywhere he looked – and even the streetlights were out. “Was this an EMP event?” he wondered aloud…so he tried the ignition and the motor sprang to life. He slipped the car back into Drive and took off up the first incline that lead to the summit of the bridge – and even from a quarter mile away he could see the sphere up ahead, hovering above the roadway, only now the settling fog had turned the night an eerie translucent blue. Then he saw the…lightning.
Jagged blue sprites danced in the air around the sphere, and as he approached the top of the bridge the suspension cables produced a strobing effect that instantly made his head ache. As he came to the top of the bridge he saw a police car of some sort was on its side, and an ambulance had been blown through the center divider. Stranger still was a network news van, which had, apparently, been knocked about viciously and had crashed through the suicide fencing and was now dangling out over the water, the front wheels jutting precariously out over the edge of the bridge – as if the van was going to jump.
Yet he saw a cameraman moving around the sphere, and what looked like reporters or technicians trailing the cameraman with microphones and clipboards at the ready. And then he saw what at first glance appeared to be a cop of some kind; at least the heavy brown belt Brendan could just see was adorned with a firearm and handcuffs, so that seemed…logical. Yet the cop was holding an infant in his arms, and the cop’s uniform was scorched and smoldering – and that just didn’t seem to fit…at all…
Brendan got out of his rental and dashed over to the scene, thinking that, perhaps, because he had a working car he might be able to help out…
But then who did he see?
Debra. Sorensen. The girl next door. She was with the cameraman, and her skin appeared scorched and abraded, too. So was the skin of the man next to her.
Then Debra saw Brendan and she stopped in her tracks.
“Brendan?” she asked. “What are you doing here?”
“I’m not sure yet,” Geddes replied. “Can I help?”
“Uh, we need to get going,” the man with her said. He was pointing to the sky behind Geddes so her turned and looked…
And Geddes saw a black triangular opening in the sky, and then he could just make out the shape of a craft coming out of the opening. Triangular. No sound. Very slow.
“We’ve got to go!” Debra screamed. “Now!”
“What?” Brendan said, mesmerized by the sight. “But…why? Shouldn’t we…”
“They’re here to take the baby!” Debra cried as she ran up to the cop. “Come on!” she yelled at the dazed and confused man, who appeared to be locked inside a trance and seemed unable to break free. “We’ve got to get out of here!”
Brendan looked at the ship then at the baby, and, as he didn’t like the problem shaping up, he began to scowl. “You can’t run from a ship like that,” he said to himself, but just then he saw the cop turn to face the presumed danger. The cop carefully handed the infant to Debra and she ran for Brendan’s Toyota.
“Open the hatch!” she yelled at Brendan. “Now!”
And that broke him free of his own trance. He turned and ran to the little SUV and found the lever just inside the driver’s door and he popped the hatch just as Debra reached the opening. The cop and the man with the clipboard ran up to the Toyota, and the man with the clipboard pushed Brendan into the back seat.
“I’ll drive,” Henry Taggart said as he looked at the descending ship over his shoulder.
“What the fuck is that thing,” the cop cried.
“ARV,” Taggart said, “probably Russian, maybe Chinese.”
“What’s an ARV?” Brendan asked.
“Alien Reproduction, reverse engineered technology.”
“How do you know it’s not aliens,” Brendan sighed, “in one of their ships?”
Taggart nodded. “Because, Slick, we’re still fucking alive.”
“Oh,” Brendan Geddes nodded. That seemed a logical deduction.
“Who are you?” Taggart asked the cop, getting the Toyota started and flooring the accelerator.
“Sumner Bacon, and where the hell are we going?”
Taggart swerved to avoid damaged and destroyed vehicles – and more than a few bodies – before he made it to the one-ten and turned onto the northbound lanes. “The marina. We’re going to get out to sea.”
“Why out there?” Bacon asked.
“Because I’ve called for backup,” Taggart said, grinning like a madman, “but we need to keep this shit out of sight. UFOs over LA? That’s a shit-show. No way,” Taggart said, thinking out loud as he pulled a charred bit of skin off his cheek. “Once that’s done, well, then we can get the fuck out of Dodge and figure out what to do with the kid.”
“The kid?” Brendan sighed. “What’s with the kid?”
“Yeah,” Taggart growled at the cop, “what’s with the kid?”
“You got me,” Bacon said. “I was trying to get a jumper off the fence and the next thing I know I’m flat on my ass with a kid in my hands…”
Brendan leaned forward, his face now inches from the cops – then he could see, and smell, all the singed hair on Bacon’s face and arms. “What do you remember about the time in between?”
The cop shrugged and shook his head. “I’m not sure.” He seemed to try and focus, then he turned to Taggart. “I had a rookie with me,” he said, his voice now full of concern; “Did you see another cop out there?”
“Down, yes,” Taggart replied.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Bacon asked.
“I don’t think he made it. There are a bunch of bodies out there.”
“Goddamn, no…” Bacon muttered.
“Deb?” Taggart called out. “You see that ship?”
“Yup. They’re up in the clouds but they are definitely following us.”
“How’s the kid?”
“Strange? Like how?”
“She’s just studying everything. My face, the car…everything… It’s kind of surreal, really. Do you have any idea who might be following us?”
“No, but if I had to guess I’d say it probably has something to do with your father…”
The ship in the clouds following the Toyota was indeed shaped like an equilateral triangle; each side was a hundred meters long, and the bottom was flat and black and almost smooth. The top of the craft was smooth and white and studded with a wide variety of sensor arrays and particle weapons. There were two occupants inside the craft, and neither was human, not even remotely. The liquid atmosphere inside the ship was similar to seawater but was rich in ammonia and would kill a Terran organism after an exposure measured in milliseconds. The occupants were low level military-scientists; they had been sent to observe the child but had orders to remain out of sight and to not provoke any kind of confrontation, military or otherwise.
They spoke in clicks and whistles, in a language similar in linguistic structure to those employed by mammalian sea creatures commonly found on this planet, and in fact one of the occupants of this ship could understand the language of the large black and whites. One of these occupants, the sensor operator, was studying various EM readouts, while the other followed the child as best as he could.
“Three aircraft approaching; their profile is military.”
“Deploy three drones.”
White oblate forms formed outside of the hull and took off towards the Terran aircraft, and once the military aircraft saw and responded to their presence, the drones turned out to sea. Two aircraft followed the drones, but one did not.
“One is not following. This unit is closing in.”
“I see it. Fire a pulse, warn him off.”
The sensor operator fired off a focused beam similar in effect to an electro-magnetic pulse, but the US Air Force F-22 was hardened against such interference; the Air Force pilot now had the UAV in sight and his radar was locked-on. The pilot did not have permission to engage, and as the UAV slowed to a dead stop her F-22 shot by – not fifty meters off to the right, so the F-22’s pilot reefed her jet into a vectored turn, the pilot never taking her eyes off the unusual looking craft as her F-22 circled around to come in for a closer look.
“I have lost the child,” the pilot said.
“Abort. Return to orbit,” the copilot-sensor operator advised.
And as the F-22 pilot looked on helplessly, the triangle shaped UAV simply accelerated straight up and out of the atmosphere; her companions reported that the capsule shaped objects disappeared under the surface of the sea out past Catalina Island. And though perhaps ‘only’ a quarter million people had watched as the encounter played out in the skies above Long Beach and Torrance, hardly anyone knew or could quite comprehend what they’d just witnessed. And while the Air Force pilots dutifully filled out their contact reports – which were duly read before being classified and filed away – no one at their base in Nevada or at the Pentagon had the slightest idea what had happened.
But Henry Taggart thought he knew exactly what had just gone down. He had no idea, however, just how far off his understanding of events really was.
Debra and Brendan wrapped the baby in a windbreaker and hustled it out to aquaTarkus, while Taggart and Sumner Bacon cleaned out the car, taking care to wipe away fingerprints before they sprinted down the pier to Debra’s sailboat. Spheres hovered in the clouds overhead, and an Old Man watched from a nearby park bench.
In the same approximate timeframe, the triangular shaped UAV made the ninety seven million mile sprint out past the sun – where it docked with a much larger ship. After the crew boarded their base ship they reported what had transpired on the planet’s surface to the task force commander.
The commander nodded and sighed. He knew the mission was high risk and would almost certainly fail, but it had been worth a try. He suited-up and went to speak with his superiors.
He spoke through translating devices, explaining what had transpired in Los Angeles a half hour ago.
“Was there any contact between your ship and ours?” President Franklin Roosevelt asked the task force commander.
“Incidental visual contact only between the responding aircraft and our scout ship, and an unknown number of inhabitants on the ground more than likely witnessed the encounter.”
Roosevelt turned to Claire Aubuchon. “Well?” he asked. “Do we risk another intervention?”
“My opinion is unchanged, Mr. President,” Claire replied. “If she reaches maturity and reproduces, there will be no way to stop the next phase.”
“And you still think we should?”
“I don’t know, sir. I really don’t. Maybe it was going to happen anyway. Maybe the Blues are just helping the process along.”
Roosevelt sighed. “Then as far as the child goes, we move from containment to isolate and protect?”
Aubuchon nodded. “The Adler Group is isolated in Argentina now, but they won’t stay there very long. They’re moving their assets into place right now, so we should expect them to move on the child any time now.”
“Do you think we should warn the Israelis now?”
“My assumption, sir, is they already know. If we tell them now at least they’ll understand we won’t stand in their way.”
Roosevelt made up his mind and he turned to the task force commander. “Protect the child,” he told the alien.
The commander turned and returned to the comfort of his atmosphere, and once out of his suit he gave new orders to his team of scouts, then he turned and looked at Roosevelt through one of the viewing ports. “We have to keep him alive,” he said to the fleet physician.
“He is very ill.”
“You fully understand the biological processes?”
“Have you discussed genetic manipulation with him?”
“Yes. He is very reluctant.”
“On my responsibility, begin the process now. We cannot afford to lose him.”
It was still dark out when aquaTarkus slipped her lines and motored out of the marina and into the Pacific. Henry Taggart laid out a great circle course for Honolulu and engaged the autopilot. He flipped off the A.I.S. then went to speak to the cop, needing to know if he’d ever been on a sailboat before.
And of course he hadn’t. The cop had military experience, in the Navy, so not all was lost. The other guy, the Geddes kid, looked like a lost cause, a total geek.
Geddes was standing at the aft rail just above the swim platform, and he was staring at Los Angeles as the city disappeared in the haze surrounding the rising sun. When Taggart walked up to the kid he appeared lost inside a deep trance, staring at the sky above the city.
“We’re being followed,” Geddes sighed uneasily.
“Oh? Did you see something?”
But the boy just shook his head in answer to the question.
“Okay, so how do you know?”
“It’s inevitable, given the circumstances.”
“The circumstances? And what might those be?”
“The child isn’t human, and we’ve stolen it. Someone will come for it.”
“And? What else aren’t you telling me?” Taggart asked.
But Geddes turned away from Taggart and looked at the sea ahead, then the boy turned again and looked down into the sea – and his hands began trembling.
© 2016-22 adrian leverkühn | abw | and as always, thanks for stopping by for a look around the memory warehouse…[but wait, there’s more…how about a word or two on sources: I typically don’t post all a story’s acknowledgments until I’ve finished, if only because I’m not sure how many I’ll need before work is finalized. Yet with current circumstances waiting to list said sources might not be the best way to proceed, and this listing will grow over time – until the story is complete. To begin, the ‘primary source’ material in this case – so far, at least – derives from two seminal Hollywood ‘cop’ films: Dirty Harry and Bullitt. The first Harry film was penned by Harry Julian Fink, R.M. Fink, Dean Riesner, John Milius, Terrence Malick, and Jo Heims. Bullitt came primarily from the author of the screenplay for The Thomas Crown Affair, Alan R Trustman, with help from Harry Kleiner, as well Robert L Fish, whose short story Mute Witness formed the basis of Trustman’s brilliant screenplay. Steve McQueen’s grin was never trade-marked, though perhaps it should have been. John Milius (Red Dawn) penned Magnum Force, and the ‘Briggs’/vigilante storyline derives from characters and plot elements originally found in that rich screenplay, as does the Captain McKay character. The Jennifer Spencer/Threlkis crime family storyline was first introduced in Sudden Impact, screenplay by Joseph Stinson, original story by Earl Smith and Charles Pierce. The Samantha Walker television reporter is found in The Dead Pool, screenplay by Steve Sharon, story by Steve Sharon, Durk Pearson, and Sandy Shaw. I have to credit the Jim Parish, M.D., character first seen in the Vietnam segments to John A. Parrish, M.D., author of the most fascinating account of an American physician’s tour of duty in Vietnam – and as found in his autobiographical 12, 20, and 5: A Doctor’s Year in Vietnam, a book worth noting as one of the most stirring accounts of modern warfare I’ve ever read (think Richard Hooker’s M*A*S*H, only featuring a blazing sense of irony conjoined within a searing non-fiction narrative). Denton Cooley, M.D. founded the Texas Heart Institute, as mentioned. Of course, James Clavell’s Shōgun forms a principle backdrop in later chapters. The teahouse and hotel of spires in Ch. 42 is a product of the imagination; so-sorry. The UH-1Y image used from Pt VI on taken by Jodson Graves. The snippets of lyrics from Lucy in the Sky are publicly available as ‘open-sourced.’ Many of the other figures in this story derive from characters developed within the works cited above, but keep in mind that, as always, the rest of this story is in all other respects a work of fiction woven into a pre-existing cinematic-historical fabric. Using the established characters referenced above, as well as the few new characters I’ve managed to come up with here and there, I hoped to create something new – perhaps a running commentary on the times we’ve shared with these fictional characters? And the standard disclaimer also here applies: the central characters in this tale should not be mistaken for persons living or dead. This was, in other words, just a little walk down a road more or less imagined, and nothing more than that should be inferred. I’d be remiss not to mention Clint Eastwood’s Harry Callahan, and Steve McQueen’s Frank Bullitt. Talk about the roles of a lifetime…and what a gift.]