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Tesseract, Part Three
A Four Visitors Story
Start at the beginning of the Four Visitors series
Nick lowers Tina to the wet grass. His arm is around her waist and the palm of his hand is pressed uselessly on the hole in the middle of her chest. Her blood is oozing out all around where he holds her and she is dead weight when he sets her down. He thinks he should say something to her, even just goodbye, but Alex is still aiming a pistol at him and Nick has to decide whether to shoot his brother.
Nick sees the possibilities stretched out in every direction, the infinite reflections you see when you're standing between two mirrors.
He shoots Alex dead as Alex hesitates.
They shoot each other. Nick's blood drips over Tina's body and he holds her hand while his brother dies alone across the grass.
They put down the guns and embrace. Alex kisses his cheek and calls him brother before he breaks Nick's neck.
Or he doesn't. Nick punches him and Alex cries because he knows he deserves worse.
They work together to try to save Tina.
Tina lives. She dies.
The Colonel gives the order to fire.
"The problem with these sons of bitches is that they're not in the right synch with solid matter. At least that’s what the MIT guys tell us. Fire a missile at one of these ships… You know they're not really ships, right? Okay, we still call them that. Anyway, the missile's probably gonna go right through like the goddamned thing isn't even there. And then, we've got a loose missile over southern Rhode Island, and that makes things messy from a public relations standpoint. Besides, it's hard to even take a shot at them. We can't get a lock. Back in the Fifties people thought it was some kind of radar invisibility. Gave us some good ideas to get us started on stealth aircraft, but we were barking up the wrong tree. Turns out they've got their own personal Heisenberg uncertainty principle. If you can see them, they don't exist on radar. If you can pick them up on radar, they're invisible. So weapons don't lock. And despite repeated requests, we've never gotten the authorization to proximity-detonate a nuke on one of them."
"If I might ask, sir, then why the F-15's?" Lieutenant Evans, the Colonel's assistant, didn't miss much. She was going to run this operation someday, and the Colonel had decided he was okay with that. Not today, though. Today was his show. Today they were finally going to bring one down.
"For show, mostly," the Colonel admitted. "I've got Air National Guard on the line and as soon as the fun starts, we're gonna pull the fighters back to a patrol pattern. They'll escort the strike in when it happens. We have a report on that, Evans?"
"Good. I'm going to check on our prisoners. Carry on."
The Colonel's command center was located in the Dansmouth, Rhode Island police headquarters. Chief Collins was loyal. That was one of the reasons they could use Dansmouth. It was also why the whole thing was infuriating to the Colonel. Dansmouth had turned into a magnet for all the insanity they were fighting against, and they had no way of knowing how much of it was connected to these visitors and how much was just the usual nutcases that always showed up when the weirdness started.
The Chief was pacing outside the remote viewing room, an empty closet-sized space that was used for interrogating suspects. There were no one-way mirrors, no hidden mics (well, none that any of the cops knew about). Just a room with a couple of folding chairs and a desk. The Colonel walked past Chief Collins with barely a nod and opened the door.
"Still nothing?" He didn't really need to ask. The team was sweating it out with puzzled expressions and random doodles on their pads.
The Colonel shut the door. He didn't need a report.
They'd emptied the holding cells in preparation for arresting the contactees. The arrests had gone like clockwork. The Colonel pulled out his phone and checked the notes he'd written.
Nicholas Lorem, arrested at his home this afternoon.
Christina Cronin, picked up in Boston this morning.
Lindsey Vinson, arrested at her dorm at Roger Williams University last night.
Edith Franz, arrested at the Main Street band stand a couple of blocks from Police Headquarters three hours ago. She'd been involved in setting up the outdoor hippie party that was planned for tonight. This was the only arrest that had involved any trouble. A couple of idiots had tried to get in the way of the arresting officers and it had looked like it might turn ugly. But Franz got them to settle down and she came quietly.
So now the Colonel had all four. He had the time and the place of the landing, and he had all the contactees.
And his best remote viewing team, guys and gals who could read a fucking license plate in Beijing from the other side of the world, and they couldn't get a bead on these four prisoners who were two rooms over.
The Colonel nodded to the cop standing by the door to the holding cells and he fiddled with his keys. There were only trustworthy cops in the station tonight. Cover story was a Federal/local joint anti-terrorism drill.
The cop pulled the door handle and white light filled the hall. The cop just stood there rooted to the spot trying to decide what to yell.
The Colonel was already on his way back to the command center.
The bastards had shown up early. Wasn't gonna save their asses.
Tina steps into the light and she's on the lawn by the bandstand, and there's light all around them. She knows what's coming. They all have an idea of what's coming, but Tina understands it. Nick would understand it too, but he doesn't want to believe. He will, but it isn't time yet.
Which doesn't seem right to Tina because time isn't flowing in a line anymore. Tina is majoring in physics, and she doesn't have all the mathematics yet to explore the implications of what happens when you fold time and space into something that Tina likes to think of as a Christmas bow sitting on top of the town of Dansmouth. But Tina knows enough to pick out her part.
She's not crying.
She's had all the time in the world to come to terms with what is happening.
They walk on the grass into the light to meet the fourth visitor, and then Alex Lorem is standing on the steps of the Bandstand with a gun in his hand.
Tina takes Nick's hand in his and tells him everything she has ever wanted to tell him all at once in the time it takes the bullet to reach her.
Nick makes a decision, but Tina is dead by that point, so the possibilities are invisible to her.
In the command center, the Colonel gets on the radio. Two hundred miles east and thirty thousand feet over Block Island Sound, the crew of a modified 747 begins receiving targeting data.
The Colonel gives the order to fire.
Alex Lorem had an easy time getting to Dansmouth. He only had to kill one man on the way, and that was just because he'd let his guard down at the bus station in Providence and one of the Colonel's teams spotted him and he had to improvise. He got out a side door in the bus terminal before they could close the net, but that meant he wouldn't be able to take a bus down to Cumberland like he'd planned.
He shot a delivery driver and made straight for Dansmouth with the body behind the seat of the truck for most of the trip until he finally got off the highway and dumped it in some woods.
Alex was driving with a blind spot dead center in his field of vision and his head felt like someone had put the boots to him, but he was used to remote viewing migraines. Came with the territory, and if he was exceeding some recommendations about frequency of use of his talents, well he figured he could always take a nice vacation as soon as he dealt with whatever was happening with his brother in Dansmouth.
And the Colonel. Alex reminded himself that he needed to kill that bastard. Motherfucker had tried to freeze Alex out of the action. Remote view the event from fucking Sarah Palin's Alaska. Fuck that.
So Alex had taken out the remote-viewing team he was supposed to be babysitting and he'd slipped out of the setup they'd had for him, and he should be a dead man by now except he'd clairvoyanced his way out of every attempt to put a team on him.
Alex ditched the truck in a church parking lot at the edge of town and followed the power lines in on foot. He took his time. The fun wouldn't start until after dark anyway. By the time he got to Main Street, there were orbs of light streaking around in the sky and the streetlights and store window lamps were flickering. It looked like the whole town was teetering on the edge of a blackout, and Alex knew this was going to be a big one. The enemy was here in force. Fine. Alex figured the Colonel would deal with that.
He was going to deal with the Colonel. And his brother.
With everyone looking up at the lightshow, Alex didn't have any trouble getting over to the Bandstand. He passed a bunch of new age stargazer types who were running around like headless chickens because they were getting exactly the close encounter they'd come out in the hopes of seeing. Fucking morons.
There were probably a couple of undercover operatives in there too, but they'd caught the same case of the stupid. Alex strolled through the crowd and walked into the light that was shining down on the bandstand.
And there they were. The old woman. He'd seen her file before the Colonel tried to cut him off the case. That girl Nick had taken to the prom. Alex recognized her from Nick's Facebook page. Then he saw Nick, holding hands with that bitch Tina Cronin. The one who started all of this. The one who'd led Nick right off the path and into the hands of the enemy.
Alex went ahead and shot her first.
Lindsey is frozen in awe even as she watches the bullets rip into Tina, into Nick, into Edith, and into her own body. Lindsey is hit in the shoulder and the impact of the bullet knocks her off her feet and she is shot two more times before she hits the ground.
She is seeing the possibilities and wondering if this is really how God perceives the universe.
Lindsey can do mazes without a pencil. She's practiced since childhood, sitting at Denny's or IHoP with a children's menu and staring at the pathways and choices, sifting through the consequences of each decision.
Lindsey is in a maze and all of the pathways lead to the same place.
Edith is the first to sense the other presence.
"You're the fourth." She speaks out loud. She doesn't need to.
Nick has a gun. He's making the decision to shoot his brother while he kneels over Tina's body and Alex is taking aim at Lindsey.
His name is Mathias. He tells Edith his story in less time than it takes a finger to squeeze a trigger. His people could manipulate time and space. Now they exist outside of it. They've been imprisoned for a moment, an eternity, and they want to come home. They want to live as flesh and blood.
A moment is coming. Mathias doesn't speak out loud. Mathias is light and consciousness, but not sound.
Edith understands. A point of no return. They can change the possibilities, but not forever.
"How long to we have?" she asks.
The time it takes light to travel two hundred miles. All the time in the world.
Aboard the ABL aircraft hydrogen peroxide and chlorine gas react in six massive generating modules, each the size of a pickup truck and lined up end-to-end. The chemical reactions power COIL, a chemical oxygen iodine laser. The weapon is designed to take out a nuclear missile in flight.
The Colonel gives the order to fire.
We don't all live, Lindsey tells them. I'm sorry. It isn’t fair.
It's making us choose that isn't fair. Edith says.
Me. I wasn't invited. Tina reaches into the maze, working out her path. She can't see as far ahead as Lindsey can, but she moves quickly testing turns and corridors.
Una was my friend, but she came for Nick. Gem came for Edith. Father Salzi for Lindsey. I've never belonged here.
No, Tina! Nick is trying to pull her back from her path. Mathias! Mathias was here to contact you. You're the fourth. There's no one else.
Tina reaches out to Nick. Mathias isn't here for me. He's here for your brother, Nick. Alex has always been the fourth.
The others have slipped away. The possibilities have narrowed now and there are fewer paths out of the maze.
Alex stares at Nick and Tina and he blames Tina for everything that has gone wrong. He aims, fires.
In the maze, Nick breaks free of Tina and plunges ahead at a run.
In the wet grass by the bandstand, Nick tackles Tina to the ground. He presses his hand down on Tina's back, pushing himself to his knees as his blood drips over Tina.
Nick grips his own gun and decides whether to shoot his brother. He lets the gun drop to the grass.
Alex can't see the possibilities in the way that his brother can, but he looks out over the ocean two hundred miles away and he can see what is coming. The blind spot is blocking most of his vision now, and he knows that the Cronin bitch would be dead if he could see clearly. But Alex can't see clearly, and Alex just shot his brother. And if he'd meant to shoot his brother, he could live with that. If he'd been ordered to shoot his brother he could live with that.
"Get him away! Get my brother out of here!" Alex yells at Tina and turns away. He climbs up the side of the bandstand to stand on the roof.
In the command center, Evans informs the Colonel that they have a civilian at ground zero.
The Colonel moves to the surveillance camera feed and orders a soldier to zoom the image in.
The Colonel gives the order to fire.
All around Nick and Tina and Lindsey and Edith, the lights go bright. Then the lights go out.
"The research guys are gonna want to see this," Evans says.
No one has ever examined the effect of the COIL laser beam on a human body before. The colonel figured that someone in a lab somewhere would soon be describing Alex Lorem's remains as a "unique opportunity."
And the effect on the UFO? It had been pretty crude thinking. The target behaves like pure energy, try hitting it with pure energy. It had taken a while to develop the technology to make a few hundred megawatts portable and projectable. It still had a way to go. It wasn't like you could scramble the airborne laser. They only had one working plane and it took days of preparation to have it ready to fire a single shot. They'd only managed this one because they knew the time and the place.
And they didn't even know if it worked. The lights over Dansmouth had blinked out of existence, taking down most of the southern Rhode Island power grid with them. Did that mean they'd killed it? The Colonel figured the MIT guys would be arguing over that for years.
The Colonel had more important things to worry about. There was one hell of a mess to clean up; an awful lot of plausible deniability that needed to be put together.
In a church parking lot outside of Dansmouth, Edith was applying gauze patches from Father Salzi's first aid kit to Nick's shoulder.
When the lights went dark Tina, Nick, Edith, and Lindsey had found themselves here on the hill where Dansmouth's first encounter had started.
Father Salzi was waiting for them, with Richard Gem and Una Blanco.
"We need to go," Gem said. "They're starting the cleanup. They'll be securing the roads out of town until they can get enough disinformation planted."
Tina knelt beside Nick and held him.
"Is Mathias dead?" Lindsey asked. "Is it even possible for something like that to be dead?"
"We don't know." Father Salzi sounded tired as he closed up the first aid kit and tossed it into the back of his van. "There's not much we know. We just keep trying."
"What about us?" Tina asked.
"We can help you. We can set you up so you can't be found if you choose to walk away from this. You've done so much already without really understanding all of it. We can't ask for more."
"And if we want more?" Tina helped Nick up and they stood together with Lindsey and Edith. "If we want to keep helping?"
"Then there's a town in Alaska that's in the hands of the enemy, and next year that town is going to receive four visitors."
Story and image by Rick Silva, Copyright 2010