Chapter 1 - The Pod
A bomb of some sort was the collective first thought as the ringing wore off and people took account of their surroundings. But bombs don’t leave things behind in their wake, and that notion was quickly dismissed as people regained their senses.
It was about six stories high, oval, oblong, a single tone of dark grey with no apparent seams, textures or artifacts on it’s exterior. At quick glance, circumstances aside, one could easily have mistaken it for a giant boulder or massive meteorite. Closer inspection however, would reveal a completely smooth, metallic surface. An object of synthetic fabrication, not of natural creation (at least not of any natural processes native to Earth). A giant metallic egg for all intents and purposes. It made no noise, made no movement as it lay there towering in a slightly askew fashion.
It had arrived so suddenly no government agencies or militaries were alerted; In an orbit littered with numerous observation and detection satellites, this fact alone was extremely disheartening. The ramifications of which would only be fully understood much later.
First contact to humanity had arrived like the drop of a hammer onto a small South Carolinian city. There was no fanfare, no media circus, no emergency announcements, no anything... One moment things were status quo, a second later the world would be forever changed.
Mankind’s official, and unfortunate, ambassadors to the event, a pair of local police officers driving by on their way to pickup morning coffee. The witnesses to the historic event, a handful of southern locals.
The police car was tossed into the air like a toy car, miraculously, it landed right side up. The windows shattered, the vehicle dented and bruised, sirens blaring in an unsteady whine, and two of the lights swirling in sporadic fashion.
Officer William Conner was a NYC transplant. He was born and raised in Brooklyn NY, and came from a long line that bled blue. After twenty years on the force he had become crucial officer in breaking up a major drug trafficking ring. When the death threats moved to his family, he finally made the decision to move south and settle for a quieter pace of life. Funny how life never plays out as expected.
Officer Jim Hutson was a native to South Carolina. He had an unimpressive run of the mill career history. His police profile had him listed as low ambition for command decisions. His career was never likely to grow beyond the scope of duty officer, and Hutson was fine with that. He was single, in his early thirties, and had an old style ethic about him - he believed in serving and protecting the public, and upholding his oath. A man of true southern charm and etiquette. His life would be considered ordinary and small to many. To those officer Hutson would encounter this day, his life would be appreciated in epic proportions. From little acorns do mighty oaks grow.
Conner came to shaking his head violently, superficial blood splattered about the car. “What the hell just...” Was all he managed to mumble before the pain cut him off mid sentence.
Hutson had remained conscious during the blast, he was coughing hard. Seated in the passenger seat, facing the direction of the concussion, Hutson had taken a lot of glass to the right side of his face. Amazingly his eyes were relatively unharmed. He instinctively opened the door, with considerable difficulty as it was badly misshapen and staggered to his feet. Fanning the dust away from his face he squinted and tried to surmise the situation.
As Hutson’s eyes made contact with the enormous object less then a couple hundred feet away, Conner rolled out of the squad car and braced himself on the roof. Catching his labored breath and regaining his composure Conner looked on, wide eyed in disbelief.
“Bill, that wasn’t any bomb.” Hutson muttered quietly.
Climbing clumsily over debris Conner moved alongside Hutson. He grabbed his collar microphone and clicked it on in an effort to call dispatch. He was greeted with squealing static. Without word, Hutson tried his mic as well and was greeted with a similar response.
Through the settling dust, shadowy shapes were seen moving about as the citizens of Rock Hill were getting back on their feet.
Hutson started moving in the direction of the alien object and called out to Conner, his voice distressed. “I’m out in left field on this one. No idea what the hell it is, but we’ve got to get these people out of here.”
Perhaps out of an innate human curiosity or still in shock by the event, most of those who survived the impact lingered in the area. Many even began gathering around the object.
As the officers approached a crowd of about fifty had gathered. Everyone was bruised and battered looking worse for wear, but their attention was locked on the object of unknown origin. Those standing before the alien craft knew, if only at a subconscious level, they were witnessing a historic event. The officers immediately began calling out for everyone to get back and clear the area. No one listened.
Only a couple of minutes had passed when one of the townsfolk pointed to the giant egg and yelled at everyone to look. In a classic late night Sci-Fi movie fashion, a thin beam of light broke along the side of the structure. It appeared small at first, extended quickly horizontally, then dropped down and enlarged vertically. A bright, large doorway had opened up.
The crowd instinctively withdraw a few steps. Their instincts were spot on, although too little, too late. Both officers reflexively put their hands on their firearms. Screams of pain waned, calls for help quieted, silence fell. Only the estranged sound of distant alarms, small fires and falling debris lingered.
Within the bright light a number of silhouettes emerged. They were disembodied round shapes that seemed to float in midair. They jockeyed for position within the ship in a hectic almost frenzied fashion. Few turned into many, which quickly in turn grew to even more. They moved fast, fluidly, with an obvious artificial manner about them. Without warning the deluge came, spilling out of the ship like a massive spider egg hatching dozens of tiny offspring.
Effortlessly they hovered in midair by unknown propulsion. The only subtle clue to their artificial power source, a slight hum and bluish glow from their underside. They were metallic in nature, apparently made of a similar, if not identical substance to the craft they emerged from. The constructs were formed of two main sections, a lower and upper body. Both pieces appeared in the shape of a compressed sphere, a connecting joint just barely visible through a small gap between the two.
The lower bodies were a bit larger then the upper with a slightly angular tapered form. The lower segment had texture and was obviously machined with seams and rivets. The top body segment, rounder, completely smooth, revealed no signs of assembly. A thin black mirror like strip ran the entire perimeter of the top segment. Intermittent patterns of red scrolled along the strip in a digital sine wave fashion. Above the black band, a series of black orbs the size of grapefruits sat embedded in the machine. These orbs were all uniform in size, spaced almost equidistant in a horizontal row.
The machines made no attempts at communication. As the crowd stared on in awe at what they were witnessing, the visitors simply opened fire.
“Vawwooooommm” a deep unmistakable sucking sound, with a slight tin sounding reverberation at its conclusion rang out as the first beam was fired. The mechanical visitors spun their tops with uncanny speed and precision. Their design and function allowed them to target multiple targets - people - at once, in virtually any direction at any vantage point. The black orbs exploded with discharges of white particle energy, firing in every direction simultaneously.
The beams would last a brief moment, searing a sizeable hole in whatever stood in it’s path. People fell to the floor in groups. Their bodies broken with cauterized gaping wounds.
Conner pulled his 9mm and began shooting the closest invader. It wasn’t rational thinking, it was purely instinctual. The bullets deflected off his target robot without leaving a single mark. “Get outta here!” Conner screamed as five particle beams from three different machines hit him at once. His badge, number three fifty two fell to the gutter, two of the star points melted off.
Hutson had already been running. Not for his own safety, but for the lives of a woman and her daughter he was corralling back towards the corner of a local credit union. The heavy stone work was the best solid cover available he thought. The three huddled together as they ducked under beams intended for other nearby victims.
The echoing sounds of energy blasts were relentless. They shot through cars, walls, lamp posts and other obstructions with deadly precision. The cities infrastructure began to crumble as it was punched apart piece by piece. With geometric symmetry, the machines methodically spread out laying waste to everything and everyone in their path.
It was amid a backdrop of falling streetlights and exploding cars Hutson and a growing group of survivors made their way from the carnage. The old adage had proved true, there was indeed safety in numbers. The machines took their time, not just firing upon people at ground level, but shooting into buildings at targets trying to hide. The sheer volume of human targets granted precious seconds to Hutson and his band allowing them to put some distance from the alien onslaught. It was about a mile away from the pod when the first police cars and emergency crews arrived. Hutson ran out in front of them waving frantically.
As the vehicles screeched to a halt, the survivors desperately tried to gain access. They started pounding on the windows, screaming, crying, with a feral sense of urgency. “Turn it around, turn it around right now!” screamed Hutson, as he helped a couple of the survivors into the back of an ambulance. The ambulance driver jumped out and ran to the back with a medical bag. Hutson threw his hand up so hard into the young mans chest, he practically knocked the wind out of him.
“Get back inside and drive south, don’t stop until you get to the State Trooper station. No questions!” Hutson snapped, as he helped the driver back into the ambulance and slammed the door.
While Hutson was dealing with the ambulance, a young rookie police officer had been helping the other survivors into the back of one of the squad cars. He was trying to calm everyone down as Hutson raced over to the car and jumped into the passenger seat. “Get in!” he yelled without waiting for a response.
The driver of the police car sat chewing on a plastic straw looking on intensely. He recognized Hutson and with a somewhat confused look and aggravated tone barked out “Jim what the hell is going on, the boards gone off the wire with emergency calls. I’m not going anywhere until...”
Hutson grabbed the microphone from the dashboard and looked squarely into the eyes of the driver. Hutson was so frantic, so hopped up on adrenaline, he didn’t even recognize officer Michaels, a long time colleague. Cutting Michaels off in mid sentence Hutson said calmly and clearly, “Get us out of here now, or we’re all dead”.
Officer Michaels wasn’t used to blindly following orders, he had a lot of years on the job. His logical mind said, he was a police officer in the presence of other officers, he was there to restore safety not flee from danger. Police training never posed such a dire threat that the approved tactic was to turn tail and run, it just wasn’t in the books. But something in Hutson’s eyes sent a chill down Michael’s spine. Forcefully turning the steering wheel with all his effort, Michaels slammed the gas and sped off. Lifting his gaze to the rear view mirror, Michaels caught glance of a handful of people running into view in the distance. One of the machines followed slowly behind, all of its weapons ports firing. Some shooting high into windows above, others shooting at the people running for their lives.
Michaels mouth slowly dropped open allowing the plastic straw to tumble to his lap. He tried to talk but no words came out. Hutson clicked on the police microphone, a woman’s voice mumbled some barely audible police jargon. Hutson looking out through the back window, clicked through and spoke; “This is officer Jim Hutson. Darlene this is not a joke, I may not be able to contact you again. We need the national guard here immediately. I repeat down town Rock Hill needs the national guard NOW!...”.
To be continued...