Today, the Circle of Champions, the winners of my monthly writing contests, wrap up a great Sci Fi story collaboration. This week, Jim Hamilton gives us the thrilling conclusion to . . .
Part 1 by Jim Hamilton
At 2:27 p.m., on an otherwise unremarkable Friday afternoon, The Pyramid shimmered into being only 17.2 miles northwest of downtown Las Vegas. Fully a mile on a side and rising 4,000 feet above the desert landscape, it was impossible to miss.
By 2:37 p.m., hundreds of videos of it were already trending on every social media platform and two local news stations were transmitting raw footage as their helicopters flew towards it. Already, millions of people around the globe were beginning to endlessly speculate—each wanting to be the first to successfully guess the whys and wherefores of The Pyramid.
Two thousand miles to the east–2,095 miles to be exact–the U.S. president was holding a meeting in the Oval Office when the head of her security detail opened the door and said, “Madame President, I need for you to come with me right now. Protocol seven.”
Surprised at the sudden interruption, she immediately arose while apologizing, “Gentlemen, I’m afraid that you’ll have to excuse me.” She quickly followed the Secret Service agent out of the room and down the hall to the elevator.
As the car made its descent deep underground, the agent handed her a tablet. “You need to see this, ma’am.”
“What am I looking at?” she asked, as she watched the news video.
The chyron was too small to make out.
“It’s a giant pyramid, ma’am. It appeared about fifteen minutes ago outside Las Vegas.”
The elevator bell dinged and the doors parted. The President strode into the Situation Room and stood for a moment, studying the displays before addressing the Officer of the Day. “Status report!”
“Yes, ma’am. As you can see from the various video feeds, a large pyramid has suddenly appeared outside of Las Vegas.”
“Yes, yes. I’ve already got that part.”
Unfazed, he continued. “It covers about a square mile and is of unknown origin. We’ve got an AWAC en route to the site and two F-35s from Groom Lake are already orbiting five miles out. All air traffic in and out of McCarran International has been halted or diverted elsewhere. Local police and Homeland Security are currently working to cordon off the area on the ground.” He pointed at one of the screens. “That feed is from one of our military satellites that was fortunate enough to be watching at the time.”
“Any hostile activity?”
“None yet, ma’am. The relevant personnel have all been contacted and are on their way. The Secretary of Defense should be here at any moment.”
“Very good, Leroy,” she said, as she took her seat at the head of the long oval table. As she waited for the others to arrive, she contemplated the scenes on the ever-changing screens, frustrated with the lack of information at her disposal. She had seen the UFO files and knew that Earth had been visited before. She knew that this could only be another visit, but for what purpose? She crossed her fingers and hoped that they had come in peace.
Part 2 by Glenn R. Frank
“Osiris Flight, be advised, telemetry and comms are on live-feed to the White House Sit-Room.”
Maj. Holder knew this was as much a jab at his frequent use of profanity as it was critical information. He could feel his wingman’s silent laughter, in spite of the radio silence that followed.
“Osiris One. Acknowledged,” Holder responded.
Holder looked down to his left toward the Pyramid. His F-35’s helmet visor displayed the view as if he were looking through the side of his aircraft. It accented the huge object with infrared and data overlays.
“The structure has no radar return but is visible as solid material on all other wavelengths. Request permission for close approach.”
“Granted, Osiris One.”
“Osiris Two, maintain five-mile orbit,” Holder instructed his wingman.
“Acknowledged,” came Capt. Anderson’s reply.
Holder rolled his plane left and pointed it at the Pyramid. He approached and engaged the hover ability of his aircraft, slowing to a standstill half a mile from the structure.
“Surface still appears solid . . . Zero radar reflection . . . No signs of electronic emissions . . . .”
A point of light blazed on the surface of the Pyramid, from which a dark object zipped over Holder’s head and accelerated toward Las Vegas. His heart pounded. He hesitated for just an instant before he spun his plane and punched the throttle in pursuit.
“Shit! Bogie deployment from the structure. Osiris flight in pursuit!”
Anderson’s F-35 zipped past him, chasing the unknown object as Holder boosted up to maximum afterburner speed. The dark, winged object flew over the Las Vegas Strip at an altitude of 1,000 feet, made two abrupt ninety degree turns, and sped straight back toward the Pyramid. Anderson and Holder banked hard but couldn’t hold the turn as tight as the alien craft.
“Holy Cra . . . ” Holder caught himself mid-phrase.
“Object has doubled back to the Pyramid – we’re in pursuit.”
Flight control cut in. “Weapons release is not authorized, NOT authorized, pursue only.”
The object accelerated away from them and re-entered the side of the Pyramid at full speed in a flash of light.
“I’m going through,” shouted Anderson.
“Veer off,” Holder ordered.
Anderson’s plane flew right into the side of the Pyramid with a flash, just as the UFO had. He vanished from sight and radar.
“Osiris Two entered the Pyramid. I’m following him.”
“Negative, Osiris One . . .”
But Holder had already plunged into the Pyramid.
Complete darkness enveloped his view. A shrill sound attacked his ears and a metallic taste filled his mouth, making him sick.
“Osiris Two . . . respond,” he managed to choke out. There was no reply.
The darkness cleared with another flash of light. It was replaced by a dim, blue landscape of hills and an enormous white disk dominating the sky.
Alarms blared – engine flameout.
Holder attempted a restart. No good. The engine was O2 starved and dead.
Wherever I am, there‘s not enough oxygen in this atmosphere!
The ground came up fast. He yanked the ejection trigger and the seat shot him through the canopy. He blacked out.
Part 3 by Jim Hamilton
As the two planes disappeared into the side of the giant Pyramid, an audible gasp went up around the table in the Situation Room at the White House. The President turned to face the monitor that displayed General Hemington, seated at his own console two miles away underneath the Pentagon.
The President’s eyes widened, glancing back at the other monitors, then again at the General’s image. “What just happened to our fighter jets?” she asked. “Are the pilots okay?”
Hemington put his hand over his microphone and looked to the side, apparently asking someone a question. He removed his hand and looked back at the President. “We don’t know, ma’am. The AWAC tracked the F-35s with both FLIR and RADAR, but they disappeared when they passed through the wall of the Pyramid. According to the AWAC operator, she says that the Pyramid isn’t there at all. Or the planes. Just the flat desert terrain that we would expect. It appears to somehow be shielding itself from everything but the visible spectrum.”
“What about the unknown object that they were chasing?”
“Both pilots automatically turned on their high-speed cameras before giving pursuit,” Hemington said.
“Like the Pyramid itself, the object seems to be transparent to almost everything, only reflecting light in the visible spectrum. Even at 500 frames per second, almost all of the video is blurry.” He smiled a bit. “However, we’ve managed to isolate several frames that show the object clearly. If you’ll look at Screens 3 and 4, you can see that it’s a small, delta-winged craft, about three feet across.”
“Do you think that it’s a drone or a probe of some sort?” asked the President, as she studied the photos.
“Could be, ma’am.”
She turned to her science advisor, seated to her left. “Carl? What’s your take on this? Does that look at all familiar?”
Carl glanced over to the communications operator and drew his hand across his throat. The com-op acknowledged his request and tapped on his keyboard before looking up and announcing, “All mikes are off, Madame President.”
“Sorry, Madam President,” Carl said, a bit apologetically. “You know the protocol regarding all things ENIGMA.”
She nodded. Pointing to screen three, she said, “It’s the same thing that hit that weather balloon in Roswell, isn’t it?”
“It would appear to be the same, ma’am. But we don’t want to make that assumption quite yet.”
“So, what do we do now?” She indicated a screen. “Hemington will want to attack it with everything he has handy, but I think that we should hold up until we know more.”
Carl nodded vigorously. “Oh, I quite agree. While the planes quit transmitting once they passed through the Pyramid’s shield, we might be able to send in a tethered robot that would only be linked by fiber.”
“Do you think that will work?”
Carl shrugged. “Maybe. We won’t know for sure until we try it.”
The President smiled for the first time since the Pyramid appeared. She turned to the com-op. “Connect us to General Hemington.” She turned back to her science advisor. “And you tell him what we need to make it happen.”
Part 4 by Jeremy Wilson
As the great disk ascended on rotation 702, Larry began preparations on the scout ship.
Of course, Larry wasn’t her actual designation, but she found that it facilitated communication with the carbon-based beings of Earth during routine probings (for information, of course).
For eons, her brood had been monitoring the progression of the humans, though Larry could never understand why. They were primitive creatures; prone to violence and self-destruction.
As Larry reviewed the day’s mission, she warmed up the refraction engine, having verified the accumulator was at capacity.
The engine sputtered. She slammed her claw down onto the engine chamber in frustration and the resonators fell back into place, humming as they should.
Aside from actually propelling the craft, the engine created a connection point at the coordinates Larry set and was supposed to camouflage said connection point by manipulating the local ambient spectrum.
Many orbits ago, camouflaging the connection point wasn’t a concern. It could appear as anything and the early humans would welcome her like she was a great creator. But now that the humans had discovered the power of the atom (which any broodling could have figured out, by the way), she was expected to be more cautious.
Unfortunately, ever since the “incident” with the humans’ gas-filled atmospheric monitoring apparatus, Larry had been forced to share this ship with Jerry, whose excretions frequently caused malfunctions.
At least this was to be a night mission, so any malfunctions should go unnoticed.
Larry entered the craft and engaged the engines. The craft hovered while she tapped out the coordinates. All at once, she shot forward into darkness, the pleasant sensation of heavy metals greeted her mandibles.
As she exited the portal, she was blinded by bright light. Pain shot through her ocular sensors as she realized it was the middle of the day cycle.
In terror, she rotated her rear ocular stock to look back at the connection point. She panicked when she observed that the connection point was appearing as a large polyhedron.
At the velocity she was traveling, Larry was already over the human’s habitable zone before she could react. She immediately changed course and headed back to the portal, but it was too late. The primitive human ships were already giving chase.
She re-entered the portal, but before she could disengage the engine, both craft followed her. The first was so close that the disturbance from her engine sent it almost immediately back through the portal, though Larry guessed it might take some time to reappear on Earth.
The second craft also made it through but failed immediately, ejecting the soft human held within.
Larry went over and examined the unconscious jelly bag of a creature. Its soft outer shell had the symbol “‘Hang-On’ Holder” emblazoned on it. It was beginning to twitch and sputter.
Larry knew that if this thing died in here, she’d never get the stench out, so she gingerly shoved the jelly bag back through the portal.
She turned to close the portal, but a massive metal contraption floated through with a long filament connected to it.
She slammed the portal shut, severing the filament protruding from the metal monstrosity . . .
Part 5 by Jim Hamilton
In the Situation Room beneath the White House, the President, the Secretary of State, and the President’s Science Advisor were wearing virtual headgear and being fed the eight-channel stream from the UAV drone. Six separate video views seamlessly overlapped and provided the perception of being able to see in any direction while two audio channels provided stereo sound to the headsets.
They watched as they drew closer to the Pyramid and then suddenly passed through the wall and into utter darkness.
“What happened?” asked the President.
“I’m not sure, ma’am. We’re still getting data.”
Carl spoke up. “I think we’re seeing the absence of light.”
For ten long seconds, the visors remained dark. Suddenly, they passed through a black curtain and they had their first view of the alien landscape. A movement to the side drew their attention, and they glimpsed Holder’s body being dragged into the curtain. A moment later, they got their first look at the alien. It walked erect on two spindly legs and had two arms that ended in giant claws. The upper end, where a head would be, sported several dozen eyeballs, each on a separate stalk. It mostly resembled a lobster on steroids wearing a pincushion hat.
The Secretary of State started laughing. “It’s only about three inches tall!”
At that moment, the alien saw the probe. There was a high-pitched shriek and its eyes bugged out in all directions. It fumbled at its belt with its claw and, in the next second that followed, three unexpected events happened at once. The first was the sudden appearance of Capt. Anderson’s F-35 as it came cart-wheeling out of the Pyramid. The second was the sudden disappearance of the Pyramid itself. And the third, while not immediately noticed, was the appearance of Maj. Ken Holder’s body on the ground at the center of the space which the Pyramid had previously been occupying.
They sat in stunned silence until the President broke the ice. “Well, I must say, I didn’t see that coming!”
Larry stomped back to her craft and climbed aboard. She turned to her navigator and shook her mandibles. “Do you know what that was, Jerry?”
His eyestalks all retracted in fear. “Which ‘that’ was that?”
“All of it! This whole mission was an unmitigated disaster. We’re lucky to get away with as little exposure as we did.” She pondered a moment. “What are we going to do about it, Jerry?”
He turned a lavender shade of blue. He knew what was coming.
“I’m cutting you off from all heavy metals until you can get your digestive tract under control.”
“Even the Zolium?”
“Yes, especially the Zolium. It makes you bloat.” She collapsed her mandibles. “When we’ve got you fully purged, we’re coming back and finishing what we set out to do, okay?”
Jerry’s eyes all bobbled together.
“These humans are very simple and have a very short attention span.” She wagged her head in amusement. “It won’t be long before most of them will have forgotten we were here.”
General Hemington spoke up. “We have confirmation that Osiris Two is okay and returning to base. One of our helos is in voice contact with Major Holder over his suit radio. He’s shaken up a bit, but says that he’s alright.”
“That’s great news, General!” said the President. “I want Protocol Seven clean-up immediately. All videos, all cloud sources, all social media. Wiped.” She looked him in the eye. “This time tomorrow, I want everyone to think that it never happened.”
“Understood, Madame President.”
Wow! Like the President, I have to say “I didn’t see that coming!”
Jim wrapped up this pass-the-baton story with action, drama and some humor. Great job!
If you enjoyed the story, please leave a kind comment for Jim, Jeremy, and Glenn below.
Soon, my Champions will be bringing to you a large collection of free stories in Act 2 of our Globe serial. If you have not read any of those stories, start with the drama-filled Pillars of Smoke from Act 1.
Also, my September Contest has just begun. Readers are really enjoying the beginning of the story. Take a read and then see if you’d like to finish the story and enter my contest. For September, I’ve increased the cash prize to $50. All you have to do is write 500 words (or less).