Collective Minds

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Chapter 2

Looking out the window at the New Mexico landscape was miserably depressing. It was barren wasteland as far as the eye could see, with rocky desert terrain in every direction. Kat had seen it a thousand times before. The twilight made it a bit more appealing, but still couldn’t enhance the blankness of the scorching heat, sand, and sagebrush.

The engines of the plane began to roar, as the aircraft cleared the Sandia mountains, bringing the desert metropolis of Albuquerque into view. Lights illuminated the huge city, as cars and headlights streaked on the freeways. The captain came on the overhead speaker in the cabin and gave the official welcome in both Spanish and English, as the descent began.

Moments later, Kat fumbled through her handbag, finally plucking her cell phone out. The screen had roughly a dozen different tabs on it, one of which, the ‘messages’ icon, with a red push notification. She clicked on it, and saw the sender’s name, ’Jack’.

‘Welcome home. Hope you had a safe trip. Get back as soon as you can. We had a few ideas while you were away that we need to bounce off you.’

There was a separate, shorter message after that, comprised of just two words: ’Love you.’

Kat smiled, then tucked her phone back into her bag and began the slow trot up the aisle. As if things weren’t sandbagging enough, the lights suddenly flickered and went down, causing everyone to stop momentarily in confusion. Scattered groans mumbled out, as emergency lighting came on, which spurred the line to move again. Peeking out the window as she walked, Kat noticed the runway lights had gone out for a moment too, then came back on.

The moonlight was bright that evening. One of the only redeeming qualities to the wasteland between cities in New Mexico was that on clear nights with a full moon a person could read a book without anything but nature to light the pages. The huge white rock in the sky looked awesome, and lit the two lane highway like a cosmic street lamp. Kat’s was the only car on the road, and was cruising much faster than the law allowed. But that was another perk of the two hundred mile trip to Roswell. There were hardly any cops at all, except for the occasional State Police cruiser, most of whom Kat had come to know on a first name basis in her time there.

The sky was clear, but far in the distance there were dim flashes of lightning. Thunderstorms were rare in the desert, but spectacular when they materialized. Tired, and ready for some shut eye, the weary traveler sipped on an energy drink and tried to stay focused.

Suddenly, and from nowhere, a gigantic lightning strike arced into the highway roughly a hundred feet in front of her. The force of the huge bolt shot fragments of asphalt in different directions with a deafening explosion. Kat screamed, then swerved, dumping anti-freeze colored liquid all over her pants. The car screeched to a halt, as the startled physicist stared momentarily at the smoldering wreckage on the road ahead.

Cautiously, she opened her door and stepped out. It was late spring, so the air was warm but still crisp. The charred smell of burning asphalt permeated the area, as Kat looked around, then to the sky. Slowly and curiously, the confounded scientist approached the impact zone. The smoking hole in the highway was the size of a manhole cover, all the way down to the dirt sixteen inches below. Still in disbelief, she knelt and pinched a small sample of the tarry remains in her fingers, then smelled it.

No sooner than the scent hit her nose, another gigantic strike erupted from the sky above, hitting the ground roughly three hundred feet from her. The flash from the arc caused her to instinctively shield her eyes, as another huge explosion belted out over the desert.

Kat felt her chest tighten, but before she could acknowledge the terror she felt, three more huge lightning strikes rained down. All in succession in random areas around her perimeter, the massive surges hit the ground with incredible force and tenacity. Panicked, and too scared to move, the terrified scientist sat in awe as nature put on a show in every direction. Dozens upon dozens of huge electromagnetic strikes pummeled the earth, some close by, some miles away. Those singular moments were like something out of a science fiction film, with the crackling of energy resonating from every discharge. It was incredible, awe inspiring, confounding, and frightening all at the same time.

Finally, the lightning stopped, and the only sound was the heavy breathing heaving out of Kat’s chest as she sprinted back to her small sedan. Throwing herself in the drivers seat, she immediately went for her phone. Before she could dial, it rang, with the screen flashing ’Jack’. A quick swipe, and the call came on speaker.

Kat answered frantically. “Jack, you’re not gonna believe this! I just saw some kind of EM disturbance in the desert that was like nothing I’ve ever seen before. There must’ve been at least thirty or better, in less than sixty seconds. They were everywhere!”

Stammering for the right words, Jack interjected before his flabbergasted girlfriend could come up with anything else.

“Are you okay? Are you hurt?,” he asked.

Kat composed herself for a moment, then finally managed to answer. “I’m okay. But this wasn’t a natural phenomena. It couldn’t have been. The sky’s clear, not a cloud in sight. It’s almost like they came from orbit.”

The line went quiet for a moment, as she waited for an answer. The lag time spurred her to rattle the cage some. “Jack...are you there?,” she begged. “What’s wrong? Is everything okay?” This time the answer came quickly, with a sense of urgency in Jack’s voice. “No, everything is notokay,” he answered. “Put the pedal on the floor and get back here as fast as you can. I’ll meet you at the gate. Whatever you do, don’t stop. If you have to...” The phone crackled, then went quiet, as the screen flashed the words ’call dropped’. Looking at her signal bars, she noticed they’d gone from full to zero. Panicking and confused, Kat started the engine and screeched away, roasting the tires around the huge hole in the highway.

Miles away, Major Marty McKenzie sat in a tiny guard shack on his nightly watch. He was a middle-aged solider, with a beat up lunch box and coffee thermos, transfixed on a crappy black and white television. The old TV was hooked to a VCR, playing an episode of ’The Incredible Hulk’ from the early eighties. The grainy screen lit up, causing the soldier to stand and glance outside. A set of Jeep headlights pulled up, as the driver jumped out and jogged towards the door.

The soldier came in through the entrance on the double step, prompting Marty to stand and salute. “Evening Colonel Briggs,” he offered. “What brings you out tonight?” Marty and Jack had been friends for decades, so the formality of rank was just for show. Jack was muscular, dressed in an army green tank top, black tactical pants, with a high and tight buzz cut. A far cry from the unkempt Marty, who was portly, unshaven, and redneck to the core.

Jack spoke frantically, scanning the horizon at the same time. “Gather your things, Marty, we need to get inside.” Having a good rapport with Jack, and trusting him intently, Marty began to gather up his belongings and stow them in a faded gear bag. He could read Jack well, and knew that something wasn’t right. Quickly and symmetrically his army duffel was packed, as he zipped it shut. All that remained was a pair of binoculars that were upright on the table, and his rifle, a standard issue M-16.

Jack continued to scan the horizon, as Marty pulled the binoculars up and asked, “Beggin’ your pardon, sir. But what’re we looking for?” The colonel squinted for a minute, then pointed.

“That.”

Kat’s tan sedan crested a hill in the distance, then started down the backside. It was racing at well over a hundred miles per hour, covering the last mile in less than sixty seconds. It slowed as it approached the perimeter of the fence, then screeched to a stop just short of the gate. All four tires were smoking.

The car idled forward toward the guard shack, as the rolling fence panel that blocked the way began to shift sideways. Old, creaky metal noises resonated as the roadway opened. Kat slowly rolled through, as Jack stepped out. His boots clomped on the pavement noisily as he walked towards the driver’s side door. She shut off the engine as the gate closed behind her, then stepped out.

The two embraced and kissed lightly, as Marty made his way toward the jeep with his gear. His bag plunked in the back of the rig, as he secured his weapon on a gun mount next to the passenger seat. His urgency spurred Kat. “Jack, what’s wrong, what’s happening?,” she pried. Briggs looked to the horizon again, then back to his girlfriend. “Get your things,” he instructed. “We need to get inside. We’ll talk there. Don’t worry about moving the car.”

Kat hesitated for a moment, but like Marty, could read her lover like a book. She knew something was a muck, and made haste in gathering her things. Moments later all three people were situated in the Jeep, which sped off toward the main hangar.

The route was direct, roughly half a mile. Kat had seen it all before, but tonight looked around in awe like a kid on Christmas morning. It was an old decommissioned base, dimly lit and run down. There was an old cracked runway, a control tower that looked like it’d been built in the sixties, a good sized satellite dish that looked much newer, and two dusty hangars. The doors on the larger one were open enough for a vehicle to get through, with the Jeep slipping comfortably between them. Seconds later, the massive doors closed. As they rolled shut, a small yellow strobe lit momentarily above them, briefly illuminating the hangar’s designation: ’18’.

Inside the enormous structure were dozens of old air crafts, some from the pre-World War Two era. Fighters and bombers were parked like puzzle pieces, all covered with dust. It was an aviation historian’s wet dream, and a somber reminder on the reality of warfare throughout history.

In the back of the hangar was an old C-5 Galaxy, one of the largest cargo planes ever to fly in the military. The tail cone was up, and the storage bay inside was enormous and empty. A steel ramp laid open to it, as the Jeep sped inside then came to a halt. The engine shut down, as Jack plucked a small remote from his pocket. One push of a button, and the Jeep began to descend on a small platform cleverly designed as a floor panel. The tail cone came down simultaneously, and the ramp retracted, sealing the aircraft as the rig and its occupants sank out of sight.

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