On the Right Track
Chapter 16: On the Right Track
Alex took a sip of coffee as he pushed his office door open to the main area of the building and the warm, heated air of the room hit him. If he hadn’t been wearing a loose, lightweight shirt he would’ve started swearing almost immediately. He regretted allowing his men to set up heaters in the building they currently occupied; which was essentially a rundown school building that was no longer used. It was the only building that fit their needs for the incident investigation in the area they could obtain without displacing anyone. Given the condition of the building, and that it was essentially an old gymnasium with smaller rooms and locker rooms, it was certainly not Alex’s ideal location and made him hope they would be leaving quickly.
“Why couldn’t High Command arrange a better building for us to work in?” Alex spoke softly to himself as he rubbed his eyes and he quickly adjusted to the blast of heat, which was better than being outside in the cold. “At least they set us up in a better hotel than last time.”
Alex let out a soft yawn as he looked down at the main investigative area where most of the team was gathered and consisted of mainly computers. The buzzing noise combined with all the typing and low chatter was hard to miss for Alex as he took another sip of his coffee. Since the main area was mostly a makeshift office space they managed to make into a temporarily commander center for them it was where most of the team gathered. They managed to set up a couple roles of desks to set their powerful computers up, that made government agency computers look weak by comparison, so the technicians and other personnel could work. In front of them were three massive TV screens that displayed information for all to see, mostly who was tasked to do what as well as to manage information gathered; essentially serving as displays for the entire team to view.
Since it was still early in the morning the room Intel area wasn’t as populated as usual, with most personnel getting situated from breakfast or preparing to start the day from where they left off last night. Those that were at their desk were hard at work with what information of the Zordon incident they had, which to Alex’s knowledge wasn’t much beyond the details they already gathered from the crash. Much to Alex’s surprise, nearly everyone appeared to be in a good mood that morning, with a few exceptions from the older, more experienced personnel, him being one of them though he hid it well. Since most of the personnel were on the young side, and hadn’t been working for the PDF for very, were quite excited in their work and it brightened Alex’s morning to an extent.
At least everyone seems to be dedicated to their job this morning. Alex muttered to himself as he tried to push the annoyance of work out of his mind.
Over in the main room was all the wreckage of the Zordon crash they had gathered stored nearly where it could be easily examined and analyzed. Thankfully the main arena room was large enough to fight every bit of the wreckage with room to spare for the analysts, investigators, and engineers to work. Even at that time of day Alex could see the team swarming around the wreckage like flies on a turd pile. At least the wreckage was mostly in pieces so it was easy to work with, minus a few small parts that had broken off. What had broken off were mostly pieces of the wings and outer shell, nothing significant to the ship. If it wasn’t for PDF protocol to recover EVERY piece of a wreckage most of the broken off pieces would have been left behind, instead they were seated well organized and numbered so the analysts could record and examine everything.
At the moment, Alex could count at least six analysts gathered around the Zordon craft still working on gathering whatever data they could or taking careful details of it. Given it was at least the sixth time Alex had seen them go over the craft he doubted there was much left they would find. Since the pilot completely fried the ship’s logs when she crashed he knew they wouldn’t get any information about the Zordons or what they’re up to by digging into its database. The technicians had tried at least twice to dig into its computers and got absolutely nothing out of it. Still, that didn’t stop the analysts from taking detailed measurements of it for research purposes or whatever other reason they needed.
Other than retrieving zero data from its terminals the ship was a PDF analyst’s and dream come true as it was quite rare for an alien ship to crash and be recovered in such condition. All they would need is a couple Zordon mechanical tools and Alex was certain they could have the ship put back together and flying in no time. However, what made it an even more enjoyable find for their team were the modifications the craft clearly had. Though Alex was by no means an expert on alien ships even he spotted a few modifications that were quite unusual for a Zordon ship. One of the biggest examples Alex spotted was what appeared to be acceleration and g-force diffuser that made the ship able to turn sharper at top speeds, making the extremely maneuverable at high speeds that would be impossible for any other craft. For those examining the craft half the fun had become finding all the ways the pilots had modified her craft.
At least someone around here is having fun. Alex thought with an internal chuckle.
After taking a few moments of looking around Alex headed to the main computer area where most of the experienced team members were gathered. From the location of his office he was able to walk directly behind them without hardly anyone noticing his presence. Though that did give him a quick nod while their continuing their work or sipping their morning brew. He was glad that was their only response as he didn’t want to interrupt their work. He was able to make it to the coffee machine in the break area they had set up behind the Intel area where he refilled his coffee mug.
“Good morning sir.” Lead Analyst Frank Tulse spoke to Alex as he sat the coffee pot back down.
“Good morning Frank, I see things are going well this morning.”
“Indeed sir, we finished fully analyzing the ship last night so we are excited to see what we can discover today.”
Alex softly chuckled. “Of course, you want to see if it’s possible to put the ship back together?”
“No, that is unfortunately impossible with our limited resources.” Frank replied, shaking his head. “But maybe someday that will be a possibility.”
“Maybe, but not right now, we need to find the pilots first.” Alex responded, than turned to the main area and asked. “So, any progress on the investigation?”
Frank looked at Alex nervously. “Uh, my answer will depend on your definition of progress.” Frank looked at the technicians working on their computers. “At the moment we are working on the tire tracks we found while trying to gain access to local satellites.”
Alex let out an encouraging nod knowing those were both major parts of their investigation when he left to go to bed the previous night. Though he wasn’t happy with the lack of leads they had it was better than nothing. The only lead they had to where the occupants of the Zordons had gone were a set of tracks that took very little evidence to determine they were human but that was already a certainty. It proved to be incredibly difficult to follow the tracks due to the ground being heard from the cold other than some minor prints in mud. It took some serious tracking to determine they led to a dirt road where a truck had been parked. That proved to be a difficult lead as the road was well traveled so it was difficult to get a solid sample of the truck, and even then it wasn’t clear. To compensate for that the lab had been working hard yesterday to determine the exact tires that were on the vehicle so they could track if. Since Alex preferred to cover all his basses, and they had no other big leads, he made contacts to get access into the local satellites so they could view recordings and the area itself so they could monitor the area. That hadn’t gone smoothly as High Command gave them limited authority to local assets and resources. As a result Alex was left having to rely on his own subordinates to get access to the satellites, which was slow going and as of the previous night was still unresolved.
“Huh, starts with the tires, how is that going?” Alex stated, pausing to take a sip of coffee. “Do we at least know the vehicle that made the tracks?”
Frank sighed loudly and shook his head. “No more progress than last night, sir. We have narrowed it down to truck as the vehicle type but that was already known.”
“Yeah, that was pretty obvious, it would have been a surprise if it was anything but truck, and this is redneck country after all. Nearly everyone around here has a track. Until we know the make of the tire tracking down the driver, and our targets will be like trying to find a needle in haystack, and even then it could be a long shot.”
“I know sir, but the area was well traveled and the ground far from perfect to get a good sample. Our teams are doing the best they can with what they have so patience is important right now.”
Alex reluctantly nodded while letting out a loud, annoyed sigh. “That is why we need the access to the local satellites. With this we would make some major headway to tracking them down.” Alex looked over at the Intel area where several workers were busy with the monitors. “So, what about the satellites . . .” Alex started asking only for a young technician to come running up.
“Sir, we just got a call from command that is quite discerning.” The technician shouted as he ran towards Alex causing all of the work around them to come to halt.
Alex spun in the direction of the voice to see a young technician, probably not even twenty-five, running excitedly and nervously towards him. The smile he had from talking to Frank immediately disappeared when he got a good look at the expression of the technician which was borderline straight fear. Just from the look the young man had told Alex that whatever message he received was almost certainly a nightmare. Everyone he ran past seemed to notice and drop their tasks to hear what he had to say. Despite the curiosity of everyone in the building, as they tried to subtly get closer to Alex to overhear the message, combined with the concern the young technician emitted Alex kept his smile up, he had to as the senior officer, and thankfully his experience made it easy.
“Apparently subtly is lost on some people.” Alex sarcastically exclaimed as he turned to the young technician. “What the hell is so important that High Command needs to interrupt our work?”
“Xulons sir . . . a Xulon squadron was encountered just a short distance away from our position.” The technician blurted out.
Alex fought back a gasp while Frank and nearly everyone else around him did not. The technician’s worst echoed throughout the building, allowing everyone around to clearly hear and gasp as well. From what Alex noticed only a few didn’t gasp but no one was immune to the shock. Given mentioning Xulons was often considered taboo in the PDF, due to the destruction they caused during their visits, everyone’s response was not a surprise. Even the newer members were aware of it and everyone seemed to have trouble accepting it.
“Please tell me this is a joke young man.” Alex stated, hiding his shock. “The Xulons haven’t been seen on Earth in three decades.”
“And if I remember correctly they nearly wiped out an entire country, despite having such a small force.” Frank added.
“From my research that is probably an understatement, a mere Xulon squad was able to wipe out not just an entire country’s military but a massive PDF response force that was essentially an army of itself.” Alex turned to the young technician. “Did the message say anything specific about the incident? PDF message as are always quite detailed when it comes to such incidences.”
“It was sir. The message detailed the entire incident that is still ongoing.” The technician nervously nodded. “It began when a Xulon squadron, around twenty Starfighters, was detected entering Earth’s atmosphere and of course the PDF immediately responded.”
“Oh, that was probably a bad idea.” Alex stated. “Knowing High Command they sent a large force to try and face them.”
“And failed poorly no doubt.” Frank added. “The Xulons rival the Zordons when it comes to technology and fighting power, our best technology would stand no chance so it’s almost a certainty they were thrashed.”
The technician sighed. “Unfortunately sir, even though the message said the PDF outnumbered the Xulons three to one they were completely annihilated and the Xulons were completely fine.”
The room fell deathly silent as the technician’s words echoed throughout the building. That time there were no gasps as the words were too much for even that. It became so silent that Alex could hear the water dripping on the floor across the building. No one said a word or even moved as the thought of an entire PDF response squadron being wiped out was unheard of. The silence continued for what felt like minutes with barely anyone moving to the point that Alex knew something needed to be said; he just needed to push it in the right direction.
“So, where are they now?” Alex asked, breaking the silence to change the subject.
“The Xulons sir?” The technician asked.
“Yes, where did they go?”
“Nearby unfortunately, sir. They were tracked leaving the battle area immediately and headed this way before stopping near the state capital. They haven’t moved since and High Command believes they are setting up an area of operation.”
“Hm, essentially creating an FOB (Forward Operating Base), but for what?” Alex pondered, glancing down at the floor for a moment to think. “This could be quite problematic not just for Earth but for our assignment here as well. None of this is good in the slightest for us.” Alex looked back up at the technician. “Did High Command give us any orders specifically?”
The technician shook his head. “No specific orders, sir. They just stated that all teams are to remain on alert as a response to the Xulon presence is made.”
Alex tilted his head confusedly. “Really, that was their orders?”
“Yes sir, after the failed Quick Reaction Response squadron failed they want to approach the situation carefully and not risk any more lives than necessary.” The technician answered. “They also stated that each team stationed is to remain on notice and be ready to respond at the moment’s notice. They will be passing out orders to individual units as strategy demands.”
“Huh, that’s weird for the organization.” Frank stated, looking down at the floor to think. “Usually high command is quick on the responses to an alien presence.”
“That’s because there is no procedure for dealing with Xulons since they have only been detected on Earth twice. They’re the race we know the least about, to my knowledge we know next to nothing about them compared to other races, hence makes them the hardest to prepare again.” Alex quickly responded. “Still, command taking their time against a real threat is quite unusual. They’re practically leaving us to our whims.”
“And it doesn’t help that the Xulons are almost right in our backyard.” Frank added. “That leaves us with a very important question.” Frank stated with a loud sigh. “What are we going to do while waiting for the High Command to give orders?”
Alex looked around him as every one of his subordinates gave him curious and nervous expressions. They awaited his answer like sheep waiting on their shepherd. He could see that even Frank was nervous and anxious for his answer through his peripheral. Given the situation he didn’t blame them but it did not make the situation any easier for him. Having everyone stare at him, awaiting his response, was essentially the one of the VERY few things Alex hated about being a unit leader, along with having to remained composed in stressful situations. That moment was easily one of the more stressful times he had experienced through his entire PDF career, but he was able to remain relatively composed. Alex was able to come up with a response pretty quickly and appear confident while he did so.
“Then we follow our orders and completely what we were sent to this hick place to complete.” Alex stated before turning to the nearest tech operator. “How long before we have access to satellites in the area?”
“Uh, at least twelve hours sir.” The operator nervously replied.
“TWELVE HOURS!?” Can’t you get access any sooner?”
The operator shook his head. “No sir, High Command has ordered most satellites to monitor the Xulon incident. Apparently that has taken priority.”
Alex internally growled but remained composed on the outside. “Great, just what I need, an Xulon invasion.”
Alex shook his head as he looked around him. As much as he hated protocol he understood that an invasion, especially when it was by Xulons, took significant priority over a simple crash landing incident. If what the technicians told him were true, the Xulons destroyed an entire response force with relative is, than High Command probably didn’t care at all about his investigation. They were probably completely on their own to investigate as all resources were shipped to face the Xulons. Still Alex suspected they probably wanted his team to compete their assignment; otherwise they would’ve been given an order already to join the response against the Xulons, which Alex would prefer to avoid.
“Alright, then how many satellites will we be able to access once we got clearance?” Alex asked, determined to find out what resources his team could get.
The technicians gathered around the table proceeded to type away and the lead technician responses after a few moments. “We will only have access to two sir and neither seem to have too recorded much at the time of the Zordon crash.”
Alex sighed loudly. “At least it’s better than nothing. Frankly, I’m surprised High Command has left that many for us to use.” Alex turned out the primary screen behind him. “Still, we can work with that. The lab will be done analyzing the tire tracks by then so at least we will have a place to start.”
“Agreed sir.” The lead investigator replied as he sat down his coffee mug. “So, what do we do in the mean time?”
Alex turned his head towards the main investigator. “Have you finished analyzing the Zordon ship?”
“Yes sir, I made sure the analysts covered every inch of the ship and the wreckage multiple times. If there was anything to find they would have found it by now and you would have heard about it.”
Alex gave the investigator a slight smile. “Good, but that means we really can’t do anything besides wait.” Alex looked over everyone and ordered. “For now everyone, just relax and get ready till we have access to the satellites.”
Alex grabbed his coffee mug and headed back to his office to get some paperwork done while he overhears everyone else mumbling or trying to figure out what to do while they wait. The only ones who didn’t move where the technicians who continued their work in an attempt to get access to the satellites quicker. Alex hardly paid attention to them as he had his own assignments to take care of. At least it was just a short walk till Alex was alone and no one really wanted to bother him.
Damn it all. Alex growled in his head as he shut the office door. This is the last thing I need for my investigation. Alex thought as he crossed his arms. However, this cannot be just a coincidence, perhaps the Zordons did something to piss off these Xulons.