3 of 4 | Chapter 6

 

In Arch's hands the little helicopter responded to every command, shooting out above the open area like lightening, then straight up, rapidly gaining altitude. On the monitor screen they could see the thicket—that they were hiding in—quickly recede into the distance. After a few minutes the helicopter was out of visual range and Arch was relying on the monitor screen for navigation.

Blue Thunder reached the target altitude and raced towards the target, blurred images of the ground moving underneath with sparse low-level mists breaking the monotony. After few minutes the sharp image of a skyscraper appeared on the screen so suddenly that all three of them jumped in surprise. Smiling at each other in satisfaction, they peered at the high-resolution images.

Arch recorded the coordinates and switched on the auto adjust, allowing the helicopter to keep its position, compensating for wind direction and up drafts. Pat picked up the lens controller. Moving the tiny joystick forward, she zoomed in on the structure. They stared at the extreme close ups of the platform surface, but despite the image stabilizing mechanism, the picture was still a little wobbly from such a big distance.

“No worries. I'll adjust the image in the workshop and everything will be crystal clear,” Arch told them.

“We don't really need such close up images, do we? It pretty unbelievable that we can see everything so clearly,” said Pat in amazement.

“Look! On the track! I can see some movement,” said Jeff. pointing to some small spots.

Pat carefully adjusted the lens, zooming in on the test tracks that were running near the towers. These tracks—carefully surrounded by the building units—had been cleverly camouflaged, hidden from unwanted eyes.

What seemed to be small bubbles were negotiating obstacles in a model city environment. A little further, on rougher terrain, figures in white coats were testing other bubbles.

“What do you think they could be?” asked Jeff.

“They're probably vehicles equipped with the new drive,” suggested Pat, “although from here we can't see what's underneath them. Let's go back.”

They were refocusing the camera towards the highest tower platform, when the picture was obscured by the blur of a huge helicopter. Pat changed the camera angle to get a better view. There was probably only one hundred meters between the two machines, and the drone helicopter was buffeted by the wash from the larger rotor.

They flew higher, too high.

“Oh, shit! This could be a trouble!” said Arch, with a worried frown. “I'm losing contact!”

“Then take it lower! But be careful …. Look! That helicopter's landing now so there won't be so much turbulence,” Jeff reassured him.

“I'll try to stabilize the image,” said Pat, adjusting the camera control. “I think I've got it.”

“Look, this really isn't good!” Arch was getting nervous.

“What's wrong?”

“We have to bring it back, now!!!” Arch was beginning to shout.

“No, not yet! We can't! Look, they're getting out!” Pat pointed to the screen. As the giant helicopter touched down on the platform a ramp slid out. A couple of guys, in what seemed to maintenance uniforms, pushed several huge boxes towards the building entrance. Then a man and woman got out and hurried after them. A few seconds later, large figures, dressed in hooded trench-coats that covered them completely, appeared on the platform at the loading doors. Two of them stood near the back of the helicopter, then three more spread out to stand in random order on the platform. The downdraft from the spinning rotors lashed the figures but they easily withstood it. However, there was something unusual, something indefinable in their movements, which were light and delicate, like a geisha's step.

Behind them appeared their real target. Sean Steersman was wearing clothes that seemed two sizes too big, as if he was cold, but then of course, he could have been wearing protective equipment underneath.

“Fuck!” exclaimed Arch, and stepped back.

“Dude! What's up?” Pat and Jeff asked in unison.

“We've lost connection. I can't control it anymore,” he told them, frantic.

“You what …?” all three of them stared at the monitor wide eyed.

The image stayed stable for a half second, and then they felt a giddy weightlessness as the helicopter lost control and began to fall. It fell incredibly fast, straight at the platform. It had enough momentum that its stabilizers prevented the helicopter from pitching, but it spun on its vertical axis, with the cameras still sending images that blurred into one. One thing was dead sure: the aircraft was going to hit the figures on the platform fairly shortly.

But it didn't. One of the trench coated figures saw it coming and reacted; one big bang, one lightening movement and the transmission stopped dead.

Jeff, Arch and Pat knew that Blue Thunder had been terminated. The three turned simultaneously towards the distant towers. Through the binoculars, Pat could see a smokey ball dissipating over the platforms.

“Let's get the fuck out of here!” Jeff hissed between his teeth.

All three of them packed their equipment and threw it in the back of the truck. Arch carefully wrapped the recording unit inside his sweater and held it like some sort of fragile treasure. They jumped into the truck and left the area, driving madly through a sea of mud. When they turned onto the road Jeff noticed the mess they'd left behind. The pickup's tire tracks were far more evidence than they should have left behind.

“I'll let you out near Staple Mall, get the car washed nearby and then get the tires changed as well,” said Jeff.

“Good idea,” Pat agreed.

“Come over to my place this afternoon. By then I should be ready with images. We can go over them together,” suggested Arch.

“All right. I'll be there at half past two,” said Jeff.

The truck turned onto a main street that wound its way out to the border of Excolopolis; it was a dead end that lead into nowhere, though the city was quickly expanding, no one went in that direction. Jeff let them out, then turned and headed out of the city by the most roundabout route he could devise. His thoughts raced as he tried to think of ways out of the situation. This is all going to lead to some bad shit. He was sure of it.

 

Fright

Someone was madly knocking at the door. Mrs Pineda opened it. The murmur of Jeff and Pat's voices could be heard talking to her in polite conversation. The stairs creaked, indicating their ascent, and a light knock on the door was followed by the creaking of hinges. They found Arch sitting at a table standing in front of a window with a light shield and he looked like was just about to connect a couple of devices together.

“Didn't hear your truck,” Arch grunted.

“I brought my mom's electric car,” said Jeff.

“Uuuh, exciting!” said Arch, sarcastically.

“I left my truck at a friend's place in a nearby town. Until I'm sure they are no longer looking for it, it'll have to stay there. I told my family that it needs servicing, which is kinda true,” Jeff's friend was a sort of back street mechanic, doing odd jobs in a garage that he had converted into a workshop.

“By the way, you didn't have any problems, did you?” Arch asked them.

“It's all cool,” answered Jeff.

“Yep, cool,” said Pat. “Did you get anywhere with the …?”

“I copied the images onto the flash drive and enhanced the image quality, but I didn't get around to looking at them,” said Arch.

 

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CHAPTER 1 | EXCOLOPOLIS
CHAPTER 2 | MACHINES
CHAPTER 3 | A NEW TECHNOLOGY
CHAPTER 4 | ATTACK
CHAPTER 5 | THE SOURCE
CHAPTER 7 | UNIVERSITY CITY
CHAPTER 8 | GLIDECRAFT
CHAPTER 9 | SECTOR TWO
CHAPTER 10 | THEY KNOW WE ARE HERE
CHAPTER 11 | GRAVITOR
CHAPTER 12 | INSTALLATION
CHAPTER 13 | ENERGY WAR
CHAPTER 14 | AFTERSHOCKS
CHAPTER 15 | INITIATION
CHAPTER 16 | PREPARATION
CHAPTER 17 | DEFENSE CORPS
CHAPTER 18 | TRUTH
CHAPTER 19 | BEYOND EARTH