Cessna Pilot Encounter
“Cessna Alpha 267, Tower 42. You need to divert to 96. Please copy. Over.”
“Tower 42, Cessna Alpha 267. Copy 96. We’re on our flight plan. Please clarify. Over.”
“Cessna Alpha 267, Tower 42. Military training has strayed into your flight path. Please divert to 96. Over.”
“I don’t see anything.” Josh leaned forward and squinted at the horizon. “Do you?”
“There. Going fast.” Keith pointed as he adjusted his camera. “And that thing is huge!”
“Tower 42, Cessna Alpha 267. We have journalist clearance. Please advise. Over.” Josh sat back as he watched two large vessels come into view. One of them suddenly exploded, and Josh had to bank the aircraft to avoid debris that narrowly missed him. “What was that?” Josh watched the rest of the wreckage plummet to the ground below. “Did you get that?”
“Yep,” Keith said. “And Josh, you’re not going to believe it. Streaming copy back to base now.”
“What was it?” Josh repeated as he restored his course towards the other aircraft that appeared to be damaged and sparking. “Tower 42, Cessna Alpha 267. I’d like to report an aircraft down. I repeat, aircraft down. The…” He looked at the navigational computer. “My nav is down. Read my location and bearing, about ten kilometers out. Over.”
“What?” Keith looked at the camera. “I know I changed the batteries.”
“You didn’t lose it, did you?” Josh looked at him as he fiddled with the navigational computer.
“I think it streamed back to base. But I’m done.” Keith looked at the viewfinder as he jiggled the replacement battery. “Nothing.”
“Tower 42, Cessna Alpha 267, do you read? Over.” Josh looked at the aircraft they were following. “Um, I think I’m going to turn to 96 now.”
Keith nodded as Josh banked the aircraft. Suddenly everything went quiet. “Tower 42, Cessna Alpha 267. I have lost power in both engines, and power to the console. Over.” Josh looked at Keith. “Get the satphone. Behind my seat.”
“Are we going down?”
“There’s a highway over there. I think I can…” The aircraft suddenly jolted, interrupting Josh. The horizon tilted sharply and spun around, then the aircraft seemed to accelerate. Keith was half out of his seat, reaching behind Josh when he froze, gaping. Josh followed his gaze then flinched. Something huge had grabbed the aircraft from above.
“Josh, what’s going on?” Keith sat back in his seat.
Josh shook his head, still staring at the underside of the aircraft that was now carrying them. “That’s not one of ours.” He looked down as they descended towards a small ranch. Before he could say anything, the ranch and landscape seemed to vanish, giving way to darkness. Keith screamed involuntarily and Josh flinched at a strong jolt that shook the aircraft. He felt the aircraft bump a few times and come to a rolling halt.
“Where are we?” Keith was frantic. He peered outside but it was dark.
Keith’s door opened and something yanked him out as he flailed in terror. Josh reached for the handle on his door to hold it closed, but it was ripped from his grasp and a set of impossibly strong hands bodily pulled him from the aircraft and he found himself sprawled on a grassy field looking up at the stars. Before he could formulate a thought or response, blackness enveloped him into unconsciousness.
~ ~ ~
“How much got through?” Lohet scowled as Sirel worked frantically on the data that hung in the air around her.
“Enough. They encrypted and obfuscated their stream,” the childlike Faerie grumbled. “It hit that node and split up.” She looked down at Lohet from her perch on the ceiling. “We’ve been discovered.”
“Let Eyes Open know. Perhaps they can do some damage control.” Lohet pointed.
“Look.” Sirel waved her hands in distress as more screens popped up around her. “Four news channels are already reporting it.”
“Eyes Open needs to be in the loop,” Lohet insisted.
“Incoming!” Migalo yelled. “We can’t shut the Gate down without Steven.” He glanced at Lohet. “Haven’t they found a way to get him out of the Maelstrom yet?”
The question was rhetorical.
Lohet looked out the window as a couple of F-22 Raptors buzzed the homestead, then promptly vanished through the invisible gate. He flinched when an image of his commanding officer appeared in front of him. “Have you lost control of the Gate?”
“We’re down two gunships, Aradia,” Lohet said quietly.
“The incursion has been dealt with. Replacement gunships should be coming through momentarily.”
Lohet sighed and looked at Migalo. He was heavily armed and ready for combat. “We’re not shooting at Terrans, Migalo.”
The enormous wolfman almost looked disappointed. “The Sadari are still in the area.”
“And our ground defenses are keeping them covered.” Lohet looked out the window. Ever since Steven had left, the Gate had been a massive liability, as useful as having a connection back to the Cooperative had been.
“Bob has contacted us,” Sirel piped up as she moved components of her computer interface around her. “He’s diverting any other jets away from the Homestead.” She looked at Lohet. “But he’s not happy at all.”
“Let us hope Mr. Esperanza can put a lid on this.” Lohet sighed, rubbing his temples. “Exploding golem-ships on the news is a bit over the top.”
“We need to implement First Contact policies.” Sirel crossed her arms. “It was going to happen sooner or later. We were lucky we got this far.”