Chapter 5: Investigation
PDF lead agent Alex Cross stood on top of a small rock that gave him a good view of the crashed starship before him. He crossed his arms and sighed loudly at the spectacle unfolding as he overlooked the area while trying not to shiver from the cold morning air. His office trench coat did very little against the cold to the point he could hardly control his shivers. On top of that he hated being in the middle of a thick forest in the middle of nowhere. There was very little he hated more than the outdoors, especially compared to the city. Alex hadn’t been out in the woods for even an hour and already his expensive coat and shoes were covered in dirt and who-knows-what. The sooner he was out of the woods the better but that was not going to happen any time soon. If it wasn’t for the dozens of PDF security personnel, investigators, and other technicians he wouldn’t have bothered trying to hide it. As the lead agent on site he had an image to keep so he toughened it out and kept his complaints to himself.
Before Alex was a scenario he had seen played out so many times during his career in the PDF that the awe-inspiring effect it did when he was recruited into the organization nearly fifteen years ago. Lying along a path of torn earth was the crashed Starfighter of an alien race the PDF had identified as Zordon. The long, triangular shape with diagonal wings and powerful engine was a dead giveaway. The only difference from other Zordon fighters Alex had come across in the past was the one in front of him was mostly painted black with red wings while the others had been fully dark blue. Even from his location on top of the knoll he could spot out severe damage from the crash, particularly along the front of the nose. But he could also see what appeared to be burn-like damage that clearly was not caused by the crash; by his guess it probably happened in a dogfight. He couldn’t help but be impressed at how well the pilot had landed, noting he or she managed to land it so that it dragged across the ground in a manner that significantly lessened the damage.
Alex smiled as he thought. Hm, whoever landed it must’ve been skilled. Too bad they are probably long gone.
From his position on top of the small knoll Alex watched as his subordinates worked passionately examining the crashed starship. The entire area was surrounded by armed security personnel at checkpoints preventing anyone from getting close and discovering what was going on, and why the national park was shut down. All around the crash site were tents and shade/rain coverings stocked with top of the line research and examination equipment. Most of it Alex didn’t understand how it worked, having spent most of his career as a direct action agent, but the technicians certainly did. The technicians operated most of the equipment, examining every part of the Starfighter but most likely not getting much due to Zordon ships being exceedingly hard to get information from. Despite that they seemed determined to get something and Alex admired them for that. The ones working the hardest, or at least appeared to be, were the investigators in their long, white cloaks. The ten of them were either running around trying to find something or closely studying a specific feature on the Starfighter. PDF investigators were known for being thorough; if there was something there Alex was certain they’d find it. Seeing all the personnel working together in what appeared to be an effective manner gave him a lot of hope in finding something and ending the investigation as soon as possible, assuming they did their job.
Despite the personnel effectively performing their duties Alex’s only true disappoint so far was the amount of time it had taken for them to arrive on the scene. Though search and security teams had secured the crash site within eight hours it took nearly twenty four for the site to be fully operational; WAY too long for a professional PDF unit. Alex was a little lenient since the local unit was mostly staffed with inexperienced personnel he was definitely not going to give them any slack. They had a job to do and he was going to make sure it was done by the book.
At least they seemed determined and professional in carrying out their tasks. Alex thought as he looked around at the personnel working to what he hoped was to the best of their abilities. I just hope they are inquisitive enough to actually find himself.
Alex was snapped out of his train of thought by footprints coming from his left. He turned his head as an investigator approached carrying an object that appeared to be similar to the black box in airplanes. The young investigator appeared to have trouble carrying the so-called black box as it was nearly as big as his head. The object was indeed black and shaped like a large cube with connections that had been severed due to the crash and on top had a data recording and collection port. Alex guessed it weighed at least fifty pounds which compared to the young investigator carrying it and their small stature explained why they were struggling to carry it. The investigator carried the “black box” as best he could to Alex, sweating and puffing from carrying it to him. He did feel slightly sorry for the young man since he did have to carry it uphill but not enough to be sympathetic.
The investigator let out aloud huff as he sat the “black box” on the ground before Alex. “Here you go sir. Protocol dictates that when a Zordon ship is discovered the on-site lead agent must have the data box as soon as possible.”
“I know protocol; at least one of you is familiar with it to.” Alex replied as he knelt down to examine the data box. “Unfortunately, this one looks too damaged to give us much information.” Alex softly spoke, spotting several dents and a large hole burned into the side. “If I had to guess the pilot used a plasma pistol to burn that hole, but not before they sent out a distress signal.”
The investigator looked at Alex amazed. “How do you know that sir?”
Alex quickly looked up at the investigator. “This is not my first investigation into a Zordon crash site.” He turned his attention back to the data box. “We believe it’s protocol for them to destroy their data boxes after a crash so the intel doesn’t fall into our hands.”
The investigator gave Alex a confused look. “But if their data box records their flight data then destroying it seemed to be counterproductive to me.”
“Well, it’s believed their data boxes are connected to whoever their commander or some data recording center. That makes it easier and safer for them to recover data without concern of it being compromised.” Alex answered with a shrug. “But that is only an educated guess though it comes from our lead researchers. Even after all the incidents with the Zordons our knowledge of them is still minimal at best.” Alex looked up at investigator. “I know you’re new to the PDF so I don’t expect you to understand . . .”
“I actually do understand sir.” The investigator spoke up, getting Alex’s attention. “Learning about the Zordons is required for recruits. The recruiters put you through a comprehensive course of all the aliens we’ve come into contact with.”
“Really, they didn’t do that when I was recruited. I had to learn on the fly.” Alex replied while hiding a smirk. “So you understand how little we know about the Zordons?”
The investigator nodded as Alex stood up leaving the data box on the ground for the time being. He was done examining it anyway; without the proper equipment there was only so much he could do. The only thing he could do with it on site was give it a visual examination. It wouldn’t be till they got it back to local headquarters that it’d be properly studied; though in the state it was then Alex was certain they wouldn’t get far just like all the other incidents.
“I do sir and I hope with this crash we can change that with this incident but given the state of the crash I doubt it.” The investigator nodded. “I have studied reports of previous Zordon crashes . . .”
“Incidences, the PDF is adamant about calling them incidences.” Alex interrupted. “The PDF loves protocol and procedures. So in the future, and for your career, remember to use the right reference. I’ve seen people fired for that.”
“Ah, thank you sir. I’ll make sure to not make that mistake in the presence of a superior.” The investigator replied with a smiling nod. “I have studied reports of previous Zordon INCIDENCES and this one really appears to follow the others. Even though this incident is a slightly different scenario than most of the others but it plays out the same.”
Alex looked at the investigator intrigued at his response and dedication to learning about the different alien species the PDF had encountered, which wasn’t as high as many believed but still was more than a few. He could see the other investigators distracted by their work, though dedicated they had a one-track mind. They were moving around quite quickly, recording every detail of the crash and the starship. Alex knew they wouldn’t miss anything, recording everything down to the little dents in the starship. They didn’t need him for any reason other than observing them. That allowed Alex to focus on the investigator before him, curious as to his statement and how well he understood the Zordons. He liked to test out new members to his sector of the PDF to see how competent they were and he currently had the perfect opportunity.
Alex curiously smiled at the young investigator who starred smiling back at him. “Alright, I’m curious, how is this incident differences from the other incidents you’ve studied?”
The investigator lit up like a Christmas light. “Really, you want to hear it?”
“I don’t see why not.” Alex shrugged. “I’m curious to see a rookie’s thought process. You have kind of impressed me so far.”
“Ah, okay’ I’ll try not to disappoint.” The investigator quickly looked at the starship before turning back towards Alex. “From the reports I’ve read over three quarters of the Zordon ships we recovered were shot down by us or some other human force. At least ninety percent of the time the pilot died in the crash and eight percent that were recovered died shortly afterwards. Only two percent were able to escape and get off world.”
Alex smiled slightly. “Huh, you have done your research. But how is this one different?”
“Well sir, this one, though it clearly suffered damage in a dogfight, it was NOT with human forces.” The investigator pointed towards the starship’s damaged engines. “That was clearly not done by a rare with weapons far surpassing our own.”
“Hm, very good. Then who do think shot it down? That kind of damage is not caused by the plasma weapons Zordons’ use and the list of races with weapons capable we know that are capable of causing damage like that is only a couple.” Alex spoke.
The investigator looked down at the ground for a moment before replying. “I hate to admit but I honestly cannot be certain. The only race I can think of that uses weapons capable of that kind of damage I don’t know what we call them. I know incidents with them are among the rarest but not much more than that other than they have multiple arms, six I think, with horse like faces.”
Alex raised his hand to another the investigator. “Xulons, we know that they are called Xulons and that they are the major enemies of the Zordons.”
“Huh, that actually explains my theory perfectly.” The investigator replied as he turned around towards the starship. “The pilot must’ve been in a dogfight these Xulon people. I wish I knew why.”
“To the PDF the reasons do not matter. What does is that we now have a Zordon ship here and its occupants are nowhere in sight.” Alex blurted out but quickly smiled. “But still, pretty good thought process for a rookie. Keep this up and you may be going places in the PDF.” Alex let out a loud sigh. “I suppose you already figured out what happened with the dead guys over there.”
The investigator looked towards the four bodies lying in a pile near the Starfighter. Alex noticed the horror in his eyes and didn’t blame him. He would’ve been surprised if the young man had been around dead bodies before beyond a funeral, particularly those that had been killed in a firefight. Though for Alex it wasn’t that bad having seen far worse he was willing to give the investigator some leniency due to his lack of experience. Thankfully, when they arrived on the scene the security team and investigators were quick to examine the bodies and move them out of sight for the time being.
The investigator reluctantly nodded as he turned back towards Alex. “Well that is pretty obvious sir. They were killed by the pilot for some reason.” The investigator paused and appeared to think for a moment before replying. “But if I had to guess they tried to assault the pilot and he or she killed them.”
“Hm, and what makes you think that?” Alex questioned, wanting to test the investigator’s deductive reasoning.
“I just took the area into consideration and the fact that they were, or at least looked like, hillbillies. A quick examination of the scene confirmed that. I doubt it was their first time assaulting someone so in my opinion they got what they deserved.”
“Very good, and yeah, I would agree with you, the human race is better off without them.” Alex replied with an assured nod. “So, what about the other humans who were here as well?” Alex asked the investigator who only starred back at him blankly.
“Uh other humans? The only humans that were here are dead.” The investigator nervously replied.
Alex nearly face palmed his forehead. “Please tell me you’re not serious in that response.”
The investigator scratched the back of his head as a few others behind him looked back and forth at each other. “Uh yes sir that is the conclusion we all reached. We have their bodies here and it is clear to us that the pilot of the starship killed them before disappearing.”
Alex couldn’t control his response as he face palmed himself so hard it left a red print on his face. Any competency he thought the investigator had nearly all flew out the window. From the response he had to assume all the other investigators came to the same conclusion. The amount of incompetence in the investigator’s response made him seriously question all of their investigative abilities. Though most of them were young, quite a few being only a year or two out of college, he was not about to let their inexperience be an excuse. It took everything he had to restrain himself from shooting insults at them. Despite that he still wanted to be sympathetic to their lack of experience and hope they learned, or were at least willing to learn, from someone who was experienced.
Alex took a deep breath to calm his nerves before speaking to the investigator. “Then tell me, how come only one of the bodies was killed by a plasma weapon while the other three were clearly shot by bullets.” Alex spoke in a sarcastic tone. “Last time I checked the Zordons do not use bullets. That is just one example that another human was here. So tell me, what is your explanation to that?”
The investigator stared blankly back at Alex clearly trying to think of an answer. Glancing at nearby investigators they were in the same state of confusion and it didn’t name him feel uncomfortable at all. The investigation all but come to a halt as they stared at Alex. A quick glare from him was enough to get them back to doing their tasks. If those were the personnel he had to work with, individuals who couldn’t come up with a response, let alone perform an adequate investigation, he didn’t have much hope for them to accomplish their task. At the very least they were dedicated to their job, something Alex had seen a lack of in recent years.
“Okay, let him explain it to you.” Alex stated trying his best to hide his frustration. “It’s actually quite simple, there was another human here who killed the others, possibly helping the pilot.” Alex lowered his head for a moment deep in thought. “Even rookies should have been able to finish that out. Given the situation it is clear to me whoever that person was is a professional.” Alex let out a quick sigh. “That should lower our list of suspects, assuming they are still in the area.”
“Still in the area sir?”
“That would be my guess since the Zordonians are nowhere in sight. They couldn’t have gotten far without a vehicle or we would have found them already. That lead me to believe they either got a vehicle or whoever the other human was drove them away. If that is the case they could be long gone.”
The investigator’s jaw dropped. “Are you saying that a human is helping the Zordon?”
Alex hung his head. “It definitely seems that way judging how three of the four bodies have bullet wounds, fired with expert precision while only one was killed by a plasma weapon. Now, I’ve never heard of Zordons using weapons that fire bullets, heck, no alien race the PDF has ever encountered has used bullets.” Alex paused then addressed a semi-serious question towards the investigator. “So, does that tell you enough to guess why happened?”
“Uh, yes sir. That when those hillbillies assaulted the Zordon pilot another human jumped in and stopped it, killing most of them in the process. Then he or she assisted the Zordon in escaping. Pretty much what you said sir.”
“Good, but I want to know everything that happened. Every step, shot, and action that unfolded here.” Alex looked down at the Starfighter. “By examining every little detail of the scene we can not only figure out exactly what happened but it’ll give us information to finding them and the human who helped them.”
“Yes sir, I understand.”
“Alright, then get to work and do not disappoint me the young man. Show me that you are a good investigator.”
“YES SIR!” The investigator turned around and started to take off towards the starship before Alex quickly grabbed his shoulder.
“Before you go, tell me your name.”
“It’s IV 3rd Rank Damion West.”
Alex smiled as he nodded towards the young man. “Well then, good luck Mr. West.”
The investigator nodded as he took off towards the Starfighter with Alex slightly smiling. As much as he was disappointed with Damion’s somewhat lack of competence, which could be attributed to his inexperience he had high hopes for the young man. If he applied himself than he was certain to climb up the ladder quickly. Alex would make sure of it as he liked Damion’s dedication and deductive reasoning, breaking him into how the PDF operates would take time but well worth it.
Seeing Damion return to his work, heading straight towards the Starfighter’s cockpit, Alex decided it was time he did the same. With the data box at his feet there was a protocol that needed to be followed and he had been breaking it talking to Damion. Though he knew high command would understand he had to follow protocol as soon as possible to avoid getting reprimanded. So, quickly glancing across the incident scene to make sure everyone was doing their jobs, Alex picked up to the data box and headed towards the nearby tent with the radio. Thanks to his strength Alex didn’t struggle much carrying the data box and carrying it the short distance to the tent to set it down at the table and begin working on the radio. Much to his surprise the radio instantly turned on and began connecting to the network. It was a minor relief that something was effectively working for once but didn’t put it ease his tension too much.
Oh man, command is not going to like this. Alex thought as he began operating the radio. Unfortunately, this is probably going to designated at least and Beta priority due to a human being involved.
Alex quickly worked the dials on the radio, tuning into a secure line with ease. Though the radios were state of the art the newer models had some difficulty coming clearly through a secure line, often making it difficult for the receiving end to hear clearly. That’s why Alex preferred the older models even though the newer ones were more secure, especially against alien communications. Thankfully, all it took was some quick turns and skillful handling of the dials for him to operate the radio with clarity and open up a clear frequency. Within moments he was hearing the static signal that informed him the call was clear and the frequency was stable to PDF high command. Once he was secured Alex had to work the dials again to get a direct line to local Commander Fredrick Esglave; a privilege only lead agents on incidents have. Doing so was significantly easier than the original connection since Commander Esglave was expecting his report and no doubt waiting for it.
“Commander Esglave, this is Lead Agent Cross covering incident ZC25-03.” Alex stated with authority. “I am reporting to give my incident clarification.”
Alex didn’t have to wait more than a moment before hearing Commander Esglave’s deep voice coming through. “Go ahead lead agent. What is the situation? Have you recovered the data box?”
“Yes Commander, I have the data box at my feet but I would classify it as condition black. The alien involved is no doubt race Zordon with two occupants and vehicle class is SF. So nothing unusual there. However, the crash I would clarify it as Cause Alien DF. Condition of the pilot I would clarify, at the moment, as Unknown.”
“Really? That is not good Lead Agent. We had a rare crash cause and yet the pilot is classified as unknown.” Alex heard Commander Esglave sigh. “Any other classification? Do we at least know who they were engaged with?”
“Yes Commander, I believe we can classify the enemy as Xulon. The damage on the vehicle matches the weapons they use.”
“Xulons, we haven’t had an incident involving them in years. That will greatly affect the classification of this incident.”
“That is my thought to sir. Even more so when there are two human involvements, though I would say it was really one by protocol it has to classified as two.”
“Two human involvements?” Commander Esglave took a moment to reply, possibly to attempt to comprehend what Alex told him. “What would you classify them as?”
“The first one as involvement: Assault and Rape but with result Attempt and Failed. The second I would classify as Assist and Rescue with result Successful and . . . Traitor.”
The line went silent for a few moments before Commander Esglave shouted loudly, hurting Alex’s ears. “Are you saying we got a human-assistance scenario?”
“It certainly looks that way Commander. Just from the brief investigation we’ve managed to do so far that appears to be the case. But we will perform a full investigation on the crash site to be certain. I will inform you of more when our investigation on the crash site is complete.”
“Good but that it’s quite disturbing. One of our own species assisting Zordonians is a horrifying thought and must be addressed if true.” Commander Esglave replied, taking a moment to calm down. “So, getting straight to the point, what would you suggest classifying this incident as?”
Alex hesitated in replying but eventually spoke. “In my opinion I would classify it as priority silver due to there being a human involved.”
“Hm, that’s a pretty high suggestion though I don’t think it’s high enough.”
“But Commander, PRIOITY silver is the second highest classification. I don’t see the reason to go any higher.”
“That’s because this is an incredibly rare instance. In all my years in the PDF I do not recall anything like that ever happening before.” Commander Esglave. “For that reason I am designating the incident as priority gold, for the time being at least.”
Alex resisted the urge to sigh as he looked down at the ground. He only remembered once incident in his entire career that was classified as priority gold. From his knowledge it didn’t end well with an entire village in Africa being wiped out, at least according to the rumors. Though he did not participate in the incident from what he heard it went way overboard. He just hoped that wouldn’t unfold in the current incident.
“Yes Commander, I will inform the team and report back as soon as possible.” Alex eventually replied.
“Good, I’ll be waiting for you after examination report.” Commander Esglave responded then ended the secure connection.
Alex shut off the radio and hung his head in frustration as his tried to process the Commander’s words. The weight of the incident’s priority classification hanging on his shoulders was almost enough to make him drop. If it wasn’t for the image he had to keep Alex would have started cussing on the spot. Being the lead agent on a priority gold case was an incredibly rare opportunity but also a huge risk. If he was successful in the investigation than it was certain that he and everyone involved would get a major promotion; Alex would probably become a Commander. However, failure could result in him being dismissed from the PDF, assuming he survived. Instead of panicking, Alex gathered what determination he had and decided to focus solely on the investigation, not the possible results. He had the most important task in his career to focus on and he was determined to succeed at any cost, but first he had to motivate his personnel.
Alex took a deep breath, spun around towards the crash site looking towards all the personnel working, and exclaimed loudly for them all to hear. “MEN, WE GOT THE AUTHORIZATION TO CONDUCT A PRIOITY GOLD INVESTIGATION! LET’S FINDS OURSELVES A ZORDON INVADER!”