The Distant Future
The tropical rain fell in torrents, beating and drumming loudly against the corrugated roofed buildings with the sound of a thousand hammer blows. The steady deluge of water ran off the ends of the sheet metal in streaming waterfalls, their continuous cascades further adding to the already lake sized mud puddles waiting below. This wasn’t just a dinging and pinging rain that beat against the roofs and ground. This was biblical rain. It had been coming down like this for weeks, turning what had once been bone dry, brown grass two months ago into a wet, green swimming hole today.
Standing out in that driving downpour and all its misery, four drenched men in dark raincoats with matching dripping, broad-brimmed southwestern hats, huddled around the center of the compound with all eyes squinting upwards, peering intently into the very source of the flood. The sky they searched was a solid, stark, stormy grey, all blurred together into a watery haze. They stood ankle-deep in the mush and mire of it as the wind whipped up yet another gust of rain even harder than the last to drive against their upturned faces like so much sleet. It ran off their hats and down their backs in rivulets while the rain drops ricocheted like bullets off the searchlights they manned. Yet not a man moved as they maintained their silent vigil.
They had been enduring this squalor for some time now, standing outside around a raised rectangle of flat ground that had once been of short, trimmed grass but now was as much mud as anything else around here and which formed the ranch’s landing pad, one man to each corner with his landing light ready and waiting to turn it on.
Finally, one of them raised a hand upwards against the pounding rain and the wind wildly flapping their coats to point towards a distant, dark, birdlike object against the threatening sky.
“I see it!” an old codger’s voice called out in recognition to the others in the downpour.
There was a clicking sound, more of a “chink” really, as he switched on his searchlight and tilted it back to aim it up at the clouds. The other three did the same; turning on the lights that they stood by, one by one, such that a battery of four beams now searched and illuminated the gloomy, overcast sky.
“Can anyone fly in weather like this?” One of the other men shouted above the din of their flapping gear for the rest to hear.
“They say he can!” the older voice answered back. “They say he’s the best!”
“He’d have to be! Either that or he’s just plain loco to try!”
“Let’s bring him in, boys!”
There! There it was! They could all see it clearly now, flying overhead. It had found them even without them turning their lights on. Its black shape was slowly making its way towards them and descending. They peered up at its outline that looked like that of an approaching hawk or eagle with wings spread wide outwards as it steadily bucked the gale and made its way towards them across the hurricane covered sky.
There was another rumbling blast of wind to buffet them, and the rain thumped down even harder. Yet all eyes remained vigilantly turned upward, ignoring the relentless torrent and wind that now more than ever whipped them in their gear.
“Give it up!” cried a third at what approached. “Ain’t nobody can land in this wind!”
“They say he can,” repeated the old codger, his voice rock steady.
“Who is they?!”
Whatever it was, it was still drawing nearer, gradually coming down closer, getting bigger… closer... and bigger still. As the distance narrowed, its color wasn’t black at all but a metallic bronze as it banked slightly, soundlessly, to circle back overhead, virtually rotating in midair like some great demon bird looking to land between their four searchlights as the rain continued to pelt down. Most expertly handled, it held itself perfectly steady in midair against the violent wind without making a sound as its landing struts now extended downwards. The downpour eased up some then, but not nearly enough. They could still hear the rain pattering not only off the surface of the mud puddles and metal roofs but even off the ship’s hull itself—as the now unmistakable sleek and deadly design of a Klingon bird of prey settled down over them without so much as a whisper.
Dead quiet it was as it hovered just above them in the pouring rain.
And then a light came on from beneath the ship, pointed downwards at the ground, blazing bright, and all four men were running to get out of the way.