Chapter Six – The Hagg Lake Incident

the watermelon has landedFollowing a hunch, Crank Case sits in a coffee shop, after changing into civilian clothes to blend in, across from the building his team searched earlier in the day. His cell phone vibrates. It’s the tech from the lab reporting on the samples taken from the circles on the roof deck. “Go ahead,” he says.

“Sir, the samples read the same as the soil taken from the Hagg Lake incident.”

He’s referring to an incident where an object on radar entered the atmosphere and they tracked it to Oregon where it slowed considerably and put down west of Portland in the forest by Henry Hagg Lake. Case’s team were already in the area investigating an unrelated case and were wheels up in the helicopter in minutes. They flew into the forest and arrived on the scene in time to see the craft land. The craft was shaped like a large globe the size of a garbage truck. They put down, approached the craft on foot and had it surrounded within minutes. Case remembers thinking, finally some proof to show his superiors that he’s been right all these years and that he’s not the nut job his superiors think he is. But before they got close enough to board the craft, it disappeared right in front of them and all that was left were a pack of feral dogs that must’ve been drawn to the craft’s landing. Continue reading “Chapter Six – The Hagg Lake Incident”

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Chapter Five – The Astronaut

the watermelon has landedIt’s so quiet in the boys’ bedroom, the city street life outside the thick windows eighteen stories below can even be heard. A car horn. A shout. A distant siren.

Peanut hits Otto hard in the shoulder. “That was so cool, dude. I totally believed it was the dog talking. Do it again,” he says and shoves him.

The dog growls. “You shouldn’t hit Otto like that.”

Peanut hits him again, even harder. “Dang, that’s good. When did you learn the ventriloquist dummy routine?”

Walt leans toward the dog. “Umm, I don’t think he has.”

Peanut looks at Walt, then at Otto. “Of course he has. Do it again, but this time I’ll watch your mouth to see if I can spot your lips moving.”

The dog stares at Peanut staring at Otto. “Maybe he learned the dummy part from growing up with you.” Continue reading “Chapter Five – The Astronaut”

Chapter Four – The Nuts

the watermelon has landedOtto slides the key into the lock, turns and pushes open the apartment door, then leads the dog down the hall to the bedroom he shares with his brothers. He hears the video games they’re playing before he pushes open the bedroom door. Both of the nuts are so transfixed battling it out on the latest release of Cyclops Massacre that they don’t notice Otto and the dog come in. This isn’t unusual. Otto is quiet and floats under the radar, avoiding detection and torment.

The dog sits at his side, watching the screen quietly until a gruesome Cyclops appears onscreen and roars, then he starts his quiet growl like he did in the elevator.

Without looking away from the screen at Otto, Peanut says, “Oddo, go growl somewhere else, you’re distracting me from finally taking the Cyclops crown from Walt.”

“Growl as much and as loud as you want, Otto,” Walt says. “Peter, half of winning is staying focused.”

An even bigger Cyclops jumps on screen, causing the dog to bark. Game play stops as both nuts turn to look. Continue reading “Chapter Four – The Nuts”

Chapter Three – Lock Down

the watermelon has landedWhen Otto and the astro-dog get back from their walk, Otto’s building looks like it’s on a terror alert. A really loud helicopter circles above and two soldiers in dark blue fatigues, holding automatic weapons across their chests, stand guard at the entrance. One checks who goes in and the other checks who comes out. The nuts must’ve done something really bad this time, Otto thinks. It’ll be the last straw and off to military boarding school they’ll go. Otto will get a bedroom all to himself, but it’ll be way too quiet with them gone.

The top of Otto’s head comes to the soldier’s hip as he blocks Otto’s way to the building entrance. “Are you a resident of this building?”

Otto nods. “Yep.”

The soldier cradles his gun, rocking it like it’s a crying baby. “I need to see some identification.”

Otto looks down at the dog. “I sure hope you have some identification because I don’t.” He looks up at the gun. He’s never seen one up this close. It’s shiny and oily, like Billy Thorton’s hair who sits in front of him in math class. “Will dog tags do?” Continue reading “Chapter Three – Lock Down”

Chapter Two – Big Bird

the watermelon has landedCaptain 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

Chapter Three – Lock Down

Chapter One ~ Smokejumpers

the watermelon has landedOtto stretches out on the recliner, hands behind his head with a book on dogs flipped over on his chest, and gazes up into the sky. This is Portland, he thinks, it should be raining, overcast at the very least. But the sky is a vast expanse of blue except for one lone cloud drifting overhead that holds Otto’s attention. A black speck emerges from the cloud, probably a bird, a hawk maybe, though he’s never seen a bird that high up in the sky before.

Otto has the whole rooftop deck of the building where he and his family lives to himself. He’s not supposed to be up here on his own, high above the downtown city streets of the Pearl District, but he comes up here to get away from his two older brothers, Walnut and Peanut, when he wants to read. They’ve grown too cool for reading and tease him whenever they see a book in his lap. They’re all about video games. He like those too, but it gets old losing to the nuts all the time. They hate it when he calls them that. Their actual names are Walter and Peter, and they get back at him by calling him Oddo instead of Otto, but it doesn’t bother him. It’s just a breath over lips, an exhale. It might as well be a couple of birds chirping.

One of the photos in the dog book on his chest is of an army dog parachuting out of an airplane. The dog has on a camo vest like the soldier he’s strapped to and they’re jumping into someplace in Afghanistan. Who said dressing up your dog was silly? Otto thinks it’s the best photo in the book, a dog trusting you enough to jump out of an airplane with you, you can’t beat that. Maybe some dogs are thrill seekers just like some people are. Continue reading “Chapter One ~ Smokejumpers”