Prologue

Date:  2nd of February 2017

Location: 28° 15’ 17.6148’’ N 80° 36’ 35.9064’’ W

Time: 11.36pm


John always considered himself a rebel.

That’s why he was smoking, and not in the designated smoking area at Patrick Air Force Base either. Rather he was in his favorite spot. Nestled under the eaves of the restrooms, leaning up against the still warm brick, while the cool soft breeze wafted across the lagoon to the night chorus of frogs and crickets. His brief respite from the boredom of walking the perimeter of the base every couple of hours where he couldn’t be seen slacking off.


Wonder what my chances of scoring those Beck tickets are.  He’s only playing in Orlando.


John looked up into the night sky where the clouds shrouded the full moon, laying a partial white glow on everything. He inhaled the warm, fragrant smoke deep into his lungs. Holding it in for a moment, he attempted a smoke ring. The delicate breeze was too strong, mocking his efforts with little zephyrs that gleefully tore his attempt into scattered strips towards the center of the athletics field.


Giving up on the notion of creating the perfect smoke ring, he sighed and shuffled back to his perimeter walk. He flicked the glowing ember towards the metal drain where he usually disposed of the evidence and pulled his heavy flashlight out, clicking it on. Only a dozen paces down the concrete pathway towards the training center, he heard an unfamiliar sound. He paused; it sounded artificial. He stopped next to a palm tree, its fronds making a gentle rustle as he tried to identify what disturbed him.


The high pitched hum danced at the edge of his hearing. It came from the center of the track or nearby. It wasn’t an organic sound, reminding him of a mosquito, but with a distinct metallic undertone. He swept the beam of his flashlight across the grass, searching for the source of the sound.


Not seeing anything immediately, he unclipped his radio mike and thumbed the button. “This is unit four in the north quadrant. I’m approaching the training center. Anyone in the track field? Over.”


A burst of static spewed from the radio, raising the hairs on his neck as he continued sweeping the flashlight beam across the field. The sound grew louder while descending in tone. In the few seconds it took to send his message, the mosquito hum became a metal hummingbird.


“Negati- -nit four. A - other per - ter uni - are in own -drants. Over.”


“Damn.” The response from Command was incomprehensible. John mashed the button hard as the sound increased and the hum took on the squeal of nails down a blackboard. Unable to cover his ears, John shrugged his shoulders up instinctively, wincing.


“This is unit four, I can hear…something strange in the athletics field. No visual on what’s causing it. Can you hear it through the radio? Over,” he shouted, trying to talk over the unnatural screech around him.


Another angry burst of static came through the device as the tone dropped rapidly. John winced again as he felt the vibration in the hollow of his chest, loud enough to make his dog tags vibrate and ominously silencing the night chorus of frogs in nearby marshes. As he looked out over the grass, his trusty and ever reliable flashlight flickered rapidly.


Near the center of the field, a faint glimmer of blue light winked into existence.  It drew the wind inwards, claiming a few empty wrappers that flitted along the ground like cellophane butterflies with it.


“Re- t Un- four. Me - ge not re - ed. Re – mess- not re - d, Over.” Static and his ringing ears garbled the voice into gibberish.


Despite the cool night air, John broke into a nervous sweat, goosebumps prickling along his arms. A now basketball-sized glow lit the area. Bright snakes of lightning crackled across its surface. The sharp, acrid smell of ozone, escaped the breeze travelling towards the disturbance.  


“God damn it!” Dropping the radio to hang from its cord, John drew his sidearm and flicked the safety off. His flashlight fell into the grass and continued its frenetic strobing. At the edges of the playing field, the big tower lights used for night games flared erratically, creating a surreal sight.


John dropped to one knee and steadied his shaking weapon, feeling sick to his stomach. The globe of lightning burgeoned out to the size of an elephant in a split second and he screamed, expecting to be engulfed in lightning.


Before he could react, it flashed like a thousand cameras at once. As the sound rose to a crescendo, the stadium lights blasted into a brief, searing waterfall. John yelled incoherently. His eyes burned from the blinding flash. Thrumming pain filled his ears, but when he brushed his fingers over them, they did not appear to be bleeding.


Surprisingly, in the silence that followed, John could hear a faint tinkling over the ringing of his ears, as shattered windows in nearby buildings fell from their frames. The silent ball of light, with its now frozen lightning, quickly dissipated. His flashlight ceased its flickering and a single floodlight remained drunkenly illuminating the scene. John blinked rapidly, trying to restore his sight as spots swam in his vision. In the wake of the brilliant storm, faint figures appeared.


The five humanoid silhouettes cringed in the epicentre of the field as faint residual sparks, like static, discharged around them. John froze in realization, his mouth opening and closing in a soundless exclamation of surprise as his vision finally cleared.


They looked human. Their faces were visible beneath clear visors in headgear that still smoked.

As the last of the electricity grounded, four of the people crumpled to the grass. The remaining person stood on visibly shaking legs. Some kind of large and strange object dangled from his arms.


What the hell? Is that a guitar?


It had the right shape, but glowing dials and buttons covered the lower third. It hummed liked an electric dynamo slowing down.


The person jerked his head from side to side, speaking to himself with an unmistakable broad Australian accent. “That could have gone better. Still, any landing you can walk away from is a goo -.”


His sentence unfinished, the man crumpled into a senseless heap beside the rest of his companions. The strange instrument beneath him chimed and a stately, mechanical, female voice issued forth.  To John, it sounded like a smartphone or a GPS giving directions.


“Dimensional transfer complete. Alert. Only three percent charge remains. Recharge time approximately one hundred and sixty unassisted hours to regain full battery power.”   


John jumped as his radio squawked into life, squeezing the trigger of his sidearm and firing a shot into the grass. “Unit four! John!”  Dan’s voice crackled with urgency. “Respond. What the hell was that boom? What’s happening? Over.”


John scrambled for the mike dangling down near his feet, fumbling it before he grasped it firmly in hand. With what had just happened, base command predictably and urgently clamored  for answers.


Hands shaking, his breathing ragged, John holstered his sidearm and tried to find the words to report. “U-Unit four here. Er . . . Dan. There’s, ah there’s . . . just no code for this. Just send some vehicles and…and medics to the track field. Hurry.”


He clicked off his radio and stared at the sight. In that moment, Sergeant Jonathan Kevin Stillson, veteran of four tours in the Middle East, two seasons as varsity quarterback at Michigan State University and once-hopeful for the Minnesota Vikings, tried not to freak out.


What the fuck just happened?

Next Chapter: Date:  3rd of February 2017 Location: 28° 14’ 5.9496’’ N 80° 36’ 14.8896’’ W Time: 10.21am