Captain Case rides up in the cockpit of the Sikorsky Super Stallion with the pilot and copilot, one of those big helicopters the size of a city bus favored by the US Marines. He loves these big birds and the loud whop-whop they make when they fly. The cityscape passes quickly below, the pale faces of Portlanders—the little people—turn skyward at the thunder of Case’s approach and wonder if the president is in town for more fundraising.
Case chuckles at the thought of the little people, those who go to work everyday, pay their taxes, vote for the sanitized candidates. They’ll never know about the Agency for Unidentified Intelligence team inside the helicopter. The Central Intelligence Agency used to be secret but after one too many screw ups, they got dragged through televised congressional hearings for all to see what shenanigans they’d been up to. None of that will ever happen to the UIA, Case thinks The UIA are far more important than the CIA with a bigger and blacker black budget, the part of the US budget that is so secret even those in congress who pass the bills that fund it don’t know what’s in it. And that’s even if they read it.
Case thinks the CIA’s mission is small fry compared to the AUI. The CIA protects the American people from the crazies wearing bomb vests, where as he and the AUI defend the planet against the crazies lurking out there in the dark of space. Case knows it sounds half mad, but the galaxy is vast and far from sane. There are pockets of sanity, like in the average citizen’s shower where they can sing The Battle Hymn of the Republic as loud as they want to their heart’s content like he does, but once they turn off the taps and reach for their towel, all sorts of craziness can happen.
The pilot’s voice crackles over the intercom in Case’s helmet speakers, the helmet being the only thing saving his hearing from the whirlybird’s deafening whop-whop. “Captain Case, we’re nearing the target coordinates. The object should be right ahead.”
“Good,” Case says and checks his watch. It has been an hour since the object’s first radar contact. It popped up on the NORAD screens from nowhere in high altitude and went nowhere, except down to the surface. There was no lateral transit whatsoever and that’s very strange. Comets, asteroids, they go sideways and burn up, never straight down. And then there was that cloud, the only one for hundreds of miles in all directions and it just happens to block the satellite view of whatever it was that was falling. Unless it wasn’t falling, but descending.
The pilot pulls back on the controls, slowing the Super Stallion by raising her nose, then levels her into a stationary hover above the Pearl District of downtown Portland. “The telemetry of the descent of the object puts its landing location directly below us.”
They’re dead center over a building rooftop and there’s no sign of the impact crater Case is expecting. NORAD said it dropped fast and that they should expect damage and panic, but there’s nothing but an empty roof deck with a dozen recliners in two nicely ordered rows.
Since there’s no place to set down a big bird like the Stallion, Case says, “Bring us in close to the roof. My team and I will use the ropes to repel down. I’ll radio when we’re on deck, then I want you to circle the area and stay alert. We might need a quick extraction. Who knows what this object is, could be unexploded ordinance for all we know.”
“Yes, sir,” the pilot’s voice crackles over the helmet intercom.
Case unbuckles his harness and steps into the back of the Stallion to get his team up to speed on the situation. Case addresses his ten man team, buckled up in seats along either side of the helicopter. “All of our intel says the object, something about the size of a Volkswagen, should’ve impacted on the rooftop below us, but there’s nothing there, no impact crater or anything. But something has to be there becasue we don’t know for certain nothing is there. We’ll use the ropes to get down, secure the building exits, then search it floor by floor. Use your usual charm to appease the civil rights whiners. Any questions?”
“Sir, why the building search for an object the size of a Volkswagon?”
“Because it’s not where it should be, which means it’s more than a piece of commie space junk that fell out of the sky. Have you ever dropped an egg, soldier?”
“Of course, sir.”
“And what happened?”
“The yolk got all over the floor and there was splatter on the cabinets that I was still finding a week later. It was everywhere. Absolutely the worst thing to drop.”
“Exactly.” Case scans their faces. They’re ready to go, they’re always ready. “Unless you have a dog. Then there’s no sign of that egg. It’s been devoured and scrubbed clean with his fat tongue. We’re that dog, men, so strap on your tinfoil hats and let’s find that egg.”
Case isn’t joking about the tinfoil. They wear hats under their protective helmets lined with Velostat, a metallic fiber mesh that protects them from electronic impulses, in other words, mind control. The brain works on electronic impulses and it doesn’t take much to redirect those impulses. The agency is paranoid about mind control. Case even sleeps with a skullcap on because that’s when he figures he’s most vulnerable.
No more waiting, no more inaction. It’s time to find out what those crazies in space have sent them this time. Captain Case presses the red button that opens the doors of the helicopter and he and his team repel down on the ropes.
This is chapter two of The Watermelon Has Landed, a novel in progress. Chapter one can be found here: Chapter One – Smokejumpers