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 The Crackstone Chronicles

 

 Extinction

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright 2010,  Bob Henneberger

 

 

Published by Tempt Press, 2010

 

 

 

 

This e-book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only.  This e-book may not be re-sold or given away to other people.  If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with.  Thank you for respecting the hard work of the author.

 

 

 

 

 

Contents

 

 

            Author’s notes           
  1. And so it begins         
  2. Requests from the underground        
  3. Follow the bouncing ball       
  4. Oh, the friends you will make           
  5. Do you see what I see?          
  6. This could be the start of something weird   
  7. That went well           
  8. What you don’t know won’t hurt me
  9. Best laid plans
  10. Three card Monty with a two card deck       
  11. The teller of tales       
  12. Some of the news that’s fit to print   
  13. Questions, questions, and yet more questions           
  14. Show of force
  15. What just happened? 
  16. No news is good news           
  17. Who’s that shooting at my door?      
  18. Marco!  Polo! 
  19. Did you miss me?      
  20. Can you dig it?          
  21. What doesn’t kill you makes you scared       
  22. Stick to the plan         
  23. This is not what I had in mind           
  24. Glad to meet you, again?       
  25. I didn’t even have time to pack         

            Finale 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author’s notes

 

 

 

 

            I’m an anomaly in the equation.   I’m here, but I’m not supposed to be here; I remember everything, really, everything.  I’m not Billy Pilgrim at all, I’m not unstuck in time; time does not even exist.  I will not live forever, and I do not know everything there is to be known.  My anomaly, however, allows me to remember everything connected with John Crackstone.  Whether the reader considers this story a humanitarian act, or an act of vanity, as best as I can recall, these events did happen, and will happen. 

            Time is a line, time is a circle, perhaps time is the space in which we live our lives.  Time could be a dimensional component of observed linear energy or maybe time is just a well told story.  This is the tale of  John Crackstone, or more specifically, the beginning of that story; to understand the whole, one must investigate why there is a John Crackstone in the first place.  This tale comes in three parts, love, realization and redemption.

            Since the primary audience for this story are humans, all references are geared towards the current level of human science and social custom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

And so it begins

 

 

 

August 14

 

 

            “Why am I wandering the wilderness with the unwashed weirdoes tonight?”  Matt asked, perched on the border between amusement and annoyance.

            “Nice alliteration,”  William answered. 

            Although William was Matt’s boss, he was only seven years older and looked as if he could be Matt’s brother since both men stood just over six feet tall, had the same brown hair, brown eyes and slightly olive skin coloring.  

            “Thanks,”  Matt raised his eyebrows in acknowledgement.  “But, I’d really like to know why I’m here, we never seemed to mind the throngs of marginalized individuals watching our test flights before.”

            “We never intercepted an encrypted transmission from them before.” 

            William sat back down in his desk chair with a somber expression on his face.

            “You seemed to neglect telling me about that when I was summoned.” 

            Matt looked around the room for a chair.  The office was hastily thrown together for William, and there was only the occupied chair behind the desk.  Perhaps he hadn’t planned it that way, but William enjoyed watching Matt look for a spot to sit down.  The office was small, perhaps a large storage closet; it implied intimacy, even if there were none.

            “I know, but we wanted that detail left very secret,”   William playfully grinned.

            “Okay,”  Matt paused.  “What was the encrypted message?”  

            Matt boldly stepped up to William’s desk and shoved the lamp aside as he perched his rear end on the corner.

            “An image of our Aurora II craft, and some technical specs on its acceleration and ceiling height.” 

            William opened a folder containing the transcript of the message, pushing it towards Matt.  

            “Before you read that, tell me what you know about the Aurora II project,”  William added.

            “I know that they should have let one of the engineers name it,”  Matt said.  “Something like Boreas, or even Enterprise would be a much better moniker; the name Aurora II comes from the mind of a tedious bureaucrat.”

            “I mean what it is,”  William scrunched is mouth into an annoyed contortion,  “you’re in the spy business, but you haven’t seen any of the specs on the mission, so what would be your guess?”

            “It’s probably a sub-orbital two or three man craft which should do mach fifteen or so,”  Matt thought for a second.  “And, it should be the first manned prototype for anti-gravity drive, at least the first safe version of it.”

            “What makes you say that?”  William asked.

            “Well, the Project gave the latest prototype to the Pentagon almost ten years ago and I can only assume this new platform would be the best chance to test it.”

            “Good guess, read what the UFO crowd sent to somebody after last night’s test,”  William nodded towards the folder Matt now held in his hand.

            “It’s a fully operational space craft, the next military shuttle replacement?”  Matt quickly read the two pages.  “It holds up to eleven men, and they fitted it with both pulse jets and magnetic drive.   I didn’t know all that was ready for lab testing let alone flight testing.”

            “No one, outside of two generals and the designers, were supposed to know that.”

            “And, mach twenty seven?”  Matt sounded astonished.  “How do the pilots stay alive?”  He paused as he thought.  “I guess if they can completely negate all mass, it could work.”

            “Forget you read that,”  William insisted. 

       “Okay then,”  Matt closed the folder.  “You say the message was intercepted late yesterday?”

      “Yeah,”  William shrugged his shoulders.  “We could easily trace which phone cell carried the data, but the destination is a mystery.”

      “How is that possible?”  Matt asked.

      “Not only that, but when we tried to access the cell phone, it was no longer there.”

      “Maybe they took the battery out?”  Matt guessed.

      “Less than five milliseconds after a transmission?”

      “Maybe not.”

      “Somehow they were able to bounce the data stream off two satellites and sixteen land locations in a seemingly random order and without a specific destination so we can’t unravel the thing,”   William sounded annoyed.  “We know damned well they sent it from here, but where it was supposed to go, and to whom it was sent, we can’t figure out.”

      “It sounds to me like whoever sent the message wanted you to know it came from here,”   Matt calmly said to his boss.  “Maybe that’s all they wanted.”

      “That’s the obvious aspect,”  William replied.  “The from and to whom is less obvious.”

      “So, you’re ready for answers today, and you want some eyes and ears on the ground to catch them in the act this time?”  Matt asked, thoughtfully.

      “Right,”  William agreed.  “If we can catch the sender, the rest of the puzzle will be easy.”

      “I guess I’ll dress eccentric before I join the masses,”  Matt said.

…………………………

 

 

 

           

      “We’ll keep you informed as to when and where any transmissions emanate from that crowd, sir.” 

      The sergeant nodded towards Matt as they parked next to a small gathering of casually dressed civilians nestled by a tall chain link fence topped with barbed wire.  It was late in the day, and what little shrubbery poked above the barren landscape cast long shadows.

      “Just let me know where to walk,”  Matt replied, becoming annoyed at this whole operation. 

            Matt Johnson was a major in the Air Force.  He was also a field agent for the National Security Agency.  He was thirty eight years old, just over six feet tall and weighed one eighty five.  Matt had short cropped light brown hair and brown eyes.

      Why couldn’t they just triangulate any signal from the hills overlooking the group and from inside the base?  This group of ex-hippies and UFO groupies didn’t look that dangerous. It was at least a ten mile dash to get to any good sized escape road, so why was he there?  Matt sort of knew why he was there, he just didn’t like it all that much.  Matt had the scientific training, along with the training as a field agent to be quite useful on missions such as this, but he felt that staying with these assignments might be a career limiting move.

      “Yes, sir,”  The sergeant replied as he exited the older sedan away from most of the other cars.  “I’ll be over there,”  He pointed to a small outcropping of crumbling rock to their west.

      “Just don’t answer when someone talks to you in your earwig,”  Matt grinned as he got out of the car.  “To spite what you think of these people, talking to yourself out loud will make them think you’re something other than one of them.”

…………………………

 

 

 

      “Are you here because of the lights?”  A woman asked.

            “I guess so,”  Matt shrugged his shoulders. 

            The woman who asked seemed to be in her late thirties or early forties, she was short, slightly built and had a mass of curly brown hair cascading from underneath the baseball cap, a Cubs baseball cap; Matt read all sorts of assumptions into that.

            “You sound like a skeptic,”  She turned and spoke directly to him.  “My name is Priscilla.”

            “Hi,”  Matt returned her smile,  “My name’s Matt and I was born a skeptic.”

            “So, why are you here?”  Priscilla asked.

            “Well,”  Matt answered quickly,  “A friend of mine at the Air Force base told me about the lights in the sky and I just thought I’d come out here and see for myself.”

            “So, you’ve never seen them before?” 

            Priscilla took Matt’s right hand in hers and stepped in front of him; she patted him with her other hand. 

            “I’ve been following the lights for ten years now, and I can tell you you’re in for a treat tonight,”  She added.

            “Why tonight?” 

            Matt couldn’t help smiling, he felt like laughing, but forced it back.

            “The first night or two, they just fly around in one section of the sky, but by the third night, they put on a show for everyone who has gathered.” 

            “So, you think the space men are putting on a show for this crowd?”  Matt couldn’t help himself.

            “No,”  She looked serious.  “I think the pilots, whoever they are, are more interested in testing the capabilities of what they’re flying than impressing their fan club down here.”

            “Oh.”

      Priscilla let go of Matt’s hand and gestured towards a crowd of about seventy people gathered outside the tall chain link fence surrounding the south east corner of Hill Air Force Range. 

      “I know a lot of these folks, we all travel to these places when they happen.”

            “All the time?”  Matt asked.

            He couldn’t quite shake his grin, he was hoping someone was at least taking her picture.

            “Only when they’re near enough, or when I have the time off from my projects.”

            “Projects?”  Matt looked down at her.

            “I’m an artist,”  She replied, looking carefully at him.  “I do commissioned art work for large corporations,”  She paused.  “You want to laugh at me, don’t you?”

            “I do and I don’t,”  Matt replied as he half lost his smirk.

            “Wait until you see them, you won’t laugh then,”  Priscilla’s voice trailed off as she  looked back up at the darkening skies.

            “Have you seen many UFOs?”  Matt asked. 

            The brightest stars were just barely visible and the moon wouldn’t rise until after midnight.

            “Oh, yes,”  She answered him cheerfully.  “Dozens of times.”

            “Have you been,”  Matt paused, he didn’t want to put her off, but he did want to know.  “Have you been abducted?”

            “Why?”  She asked mischievously.  “Have you?”

            “Well,”  That question stumbled his thought process for a second.  “Not really.”

            “Not really?”  Priscilla smiled more broadly.  “I think I’ve flapped the Air Force officer.”

            “What makes you think I’m in the military?”  Matt plastered his official look quickly across his face.

            “First,”  Priscilla began.  “You said a friend at the base told you about this.”

            “And?”  Matt was intrigued.

            “And, that gentleman who drove you here called you sir, not Matt,”  Priscilla continued.  “Add to that the fact that I’ve actually seen you at three other gatherings in the past six months, and I intuit that you’re an Air Force officer.”

            “I have been to a few of these get-togethers, but I don’t remember seeing you at any of them.” 

            Matt had a good memory but really didn’t recall this woman; she stood out enough that he would have remembered her.   She wasn’t exactly a hot babe, but she was striking enough to remember.

            “Well, I was in Minnesota, Oregon and New Mexico with you.  Most of the time I just wander off  by myself, but something made me want to meet this military officer who keeps coming to UFO light shows.”

            “Actually, I’m not a military officer,”  Matt tried to shake off  his official face.  “I’m just very interested in all this UFO phenomenon.”

            “You never did answer my question,”  She insisted.

            “You answer mine, first,”  Matt insisted.  “I’ll answer yours after.”

            “I have been contacted by aliens, but not abducted,”  Priscilla straightforwardly answered.

            “I have seen some very unexplainable things in the sky, but I’ve never actually seen something that could not have another, logical, explanation,”  Matt cautiously answered her question.  “And I certainly have never been abducted.”

            “You were born skeptical,”  Priscilla patted Matt’s shoulder.   “Do you usually observe these things alone?”

            “Usually.”

            “Well,”  Priscilla slipped her arm under Matt’s,  “this time we’ll observe together.”

            “Okay,”  Matt looked for a clear spot to sit down.

            As Priscilla and Matt sat on a dusty patch of ground strewn with fewer rocks than the surrounding area, a large gasp arose from the people around them.  Both of them looked up into the sky to the west.  The last of the direct sunlight had disappeared, now just a faint glow remained as if a far-off city lay in the distance.

            Slowly moving from north west to south east, a dark triangular shaped aircraft at least ten thousand feet up seemed to slowly creep across the sky.  It had six white lights outlining it, none of which were flashing.

            “That has to be an experimental aircraft of some kind,”  Priscilla whispered as she stared at the silent craft.  “It’s our own government at work, our tax dollars well spent, I’m sure.”

            “What makes you say that?”  Matt asked.

            “The steady running lights and the relative slow speed,”  Priscilla answered.

            “So, what’s the big deal then?”  Matt asked.

            He kept looking at the triangular airplane; he knew what it was, and she was right.

            “Just wait,”  She kept looking at the western sky.

            Darting toward the three sided craft, three bright blue lights took up station at all points of the triangle.   The lights moved into formation with the larger craft at speeds many times faster than the larger flying object, rapidly slowing down as they achieved their stations.

            “And, just what are those things?”  Priscilla looked at Matt.

            “Lights?” 

            Matt, still looking at the show in the sky, pulled a small pair of folding binoculars from his front pocket.  He wiped them with his tee shirt before he lifted them up to his eyes to look at the show in the sky.

            “Lights from what?”  Priscilla asked.

            “I can’t tell,”  He answered.

            He knew that they were remote control monitors which were built for speeds and maneuverability well beyond a human pilot, they were the first experimental class of craft to use anti-gravity.   The anti-gravity generator gave the craft a zero mass so even a simple jet engine could move it at tremendous speeds.  

            Matt wiped the binoculars again, then handed them to Priscilla,  “Can you see anything?”

            As she looked through the binoculars, the three lights shot quickly ahead of the larger craft, then formed a straight line ninety degrees to the direction of the larger, slower craft.  Still in a line, the three lights sped up even more.  The larger craft accelerated after them, but the three blue lights kept increasing the distance between them and the larger craft.  As the four flying objects approached the southern horizon, the three blue lights veered ninety degrees to the east, not slowing down at all.   The larger craft also turned east after them, but could not make the turn as sharply.  The large flying object also noticeably slowed down into the turn so that by the time it was headed east, the three blue flying lights had disappeared into the eastern horizon; the larger craft disappeared ten seconds later.

            “I wonder how fast all of them were going?”  Priscilla handed Matt back his binoculars.

            “I don’t know,”  Matt answered with a shrug.  “I guess it depends on how high they were as to perceived speed.”

            “I guess all that took place at thirty to forty thousand feet,”  Priscilla pursed her lips in thought.  “So, I guess the large UFO topped out at mach twenty five or so, and the blue lights at mach thirty.”

            “And no sonic boom?”  Matt asked with a grin.  “And how could something take that much g-force in the turns?”

            “You know better than that,”  Priscilla smiled back.  “Inertial dampers aren’t just on Star Trek.”

……………………….

 

 

 

 

 

August 15

 

 

 

 

            “There has to be more than my fingerprints on those binoculars,”  Matt insisted.

            “No, sir,”  The sergeant calmly replied,  “Just yours.”

            “Damn it,”  Matt muttered to himself.  “First the photos of me and that woman were so out of focus that I didn’t even recognize myself, and now this.”

            “Sir?”  The sergeant asked.

            “There was only one satellite tasked to take pictures of this area?”  Matt asked, refocusing on the images before him.

            “Yes, sir.”

            “It’s kind of like, ‘where’s Waldo’,”  Matt mumbled as he studied a large photograph on the computer screen in front of him, moving the viewable area with the mouse.”

            “It’s a damn mystery,”  The sergeant concurred as he looked over Matt’s shoulder.

            “In one shot she’s right there, sitting on that rock and in eight seconds, she’s nowhere to be seen,”  Matt paused.  “And, I still can’t see her face.”

            “How could she do that, sir?”  The sergeant stood up straight.  “I mean, there were more than a dozen of us looking at the entire area, and none of us saw her drive away, or run away, or anything.”

            “I suppose it could be nothing more than she gave us the slip,”  Matt said, still intently looking at the image on the screen.  “I guess I’ll run across her at the next show.”

            “Why did you stay with that woman and not walk around among all the other people?”  The sergeant asked.

            “Were there any transmissions?”  Matt asked.

            “No, sir.”

            “Along with everyone else, you heard what she was saying to me.”

            “Yes, sir.”

            “Don’t you think it was obvious why I stuck with her the whole time?”

            “I guess so, but how come no one could locate her after she went off to take a leak?”

            “Now, that’s a good question to which I don’t have an answer,”  Matt paused, then looked up at the sergeant.  “But I do find it curious that some mysterious message brings all of us there just in time to see some woman disappear into thin air.”

            “How so?”

            “What’s the more important event?”  Matt thought out loud.  “The errant message containing top secrets, or the mysterious woman?”

            “I’d say it was the top secrets being transmitted to who knows where,”  The sergeant answered.

            “I don’t know yet,”  Matt shook his head.