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Max_Writer

Superworld: Concord UFO Session One Part 2 - Flying Saucer and Men in Black

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* * *

The others had kept busy around the area but the spot they had initially found was the only one that Tinker’s device and Edward’s nose could find anything unusual. Tera had gotten pretty bored. José didn’t find anything else of interest and so video recorded what the others were doing. He recorded Edward and Tinker. When Tinker noticed, he was not terribly happy.

“I’m going to win some kind of award for this one,” José said. “That looked awesome.”

“What?” Tinker said. “I don’t want you videotaping me. Stop. I don’t want to be on film.”

“Oh, c’mon man!” José said.

“No,” Tinker said.

“These are some great looking−”

“I can’t!”

They had a discussion and José suggested that he put on his costume. Tinker noted he had a mask and José told him to put it on so he could film him then. He agreed not to put Tinker’s real face online anywhere. He understood that the secret identities were important, though wondered about Arclight.

“I’m expecting a missile to blow up our apartment any day now,” he said.

“What are you doing?” Tinker asked.

“I’m going to put this on the websites,” José said. “Our investigation.”

Tinker put his mask on and José got a few establishing shots. He said he hated faking it. He also got some footage of Tera.

“José, you realize that if people associate you with us, you’re going to become a target, right?” Tinker said.

“I got all kinds of stuff going on,” José said.

“All right, as long as you don’t care, man,” Tinker said.

“You think I want the crazy people who look at my conspiracy websites to know where I live?” José said.

Arclight flew down out of the sky and hit the ground solidly, sliding to a stop dramatically. He pulled out the money and flipped it into the air. Then he picked it up and gave them to the woman. She allowed him to take the good-sized microwave. It was probably six or seven years old and not terribly large.

“No way this is $100,” Edward said.

She closed the door.

Tinker got to work taking it apart and began reassembling it as an x-ray machine. It took him about a half hour to set it up and he used the door of the microwave as a large scanner. There were two handles on the door, with the door button being the power button. Edward suggested that he test it on him.

“Edward, can you help me out?” he asked the crocodile. “I want you to test it out on me to make sure it works.”

“Oh, on you?” Edward said.

“Yeah,” Tinker said.

He handed the device to Edward and showed him the button that turned the device on and the dial for intensity.

“Don’t mind the noise,” he said. “It’s okay. And when you’ll find something, you’ll know what to look for. You’re looking for something about the size of a head of a pin and it’ll be right here on the back of my neck.”

“Stoop down,” Edward told him.

The device hummed obnoxiously loudly like an MRI machine. Edward held it close to the man’s arm to start and was pleasantly surprised to see an outline of the arm in white on a blue background. He could also see the bones outlined in white and noticed what appeared to be a hairline crack on one of the bones of arm - probably a hairline fracture that Tinker might have had as a kid but then healed up.

Tinker gestured towards his neck. As Edward raised it up, the machine beeped three times, just as the original microwave had, and a little red dot appeared on the screen. It was apparently connected to the spine. It flashed and a small box surrounded the dot and then expanded, as did the device that was within it. The thing was strangely shaped to fit around the bone. From there, tendrils came out of the small device and then went to various portions of his body, including his optic nerves and his brain. As the device scanned it, the view pulled back out to show the tendrils that had invaded Tinker’s body.

“Wow,” Edward said. “The spidery thing.”

“Yeah, that,” Tinker said.

“Is that what we’re looking for?” Edward said.

“Yeah, that’s what we’re looking for,” Tinker said. “Awesome.”

“It works,” Edward said.

He started to randomly push buttons on the device. He was disappointed it wasn’t a touch screen.

They went to the door and knocked. The woman answered.

“What?” she said.

“Allow me, ma’am,” Edward said.

“Git!” Arclight said to him.

“If you wouldn’t mind, we’d like to check out your arm to see if there’s anything unusual that maybe we could help you out with,” Tinker said.

“Not him!” the woman said, pointing at Edward.

“That’s … that’s okay, I can … I’ll take it,” Tinker said. “I’ll take it, Edward, please.”

Edward looked downtrodden and then handed him the device.

“If you could hold out your arm?” Tinker said.

“Wait, this isn’t going to give me cancer, is it?” she asked.

“No, I just tried it on myself,” Tinker said, lighting a cigarette. “I feel fine.”

“It’s not gonna suntan my arm, is it?” she said. “I don’t like that.”

“No,” he said. “No ma’am. You’ll stay as pearly white as you are.”

He activated the device and it began to hum loudly. She pulled her arm back.

“No, it’s okay,” he said.

He scanned himself.

“You see?” he said.

“All right,” she said, holding out her arm.

He used the device and found the tiny sliver of metal in her arm. The device enhanced the image, as it had done for him. This one did not have the tendrils but was of a similar design and lodged in the muscle of her arm. He took a photo of it with his phone. He worried it would not turn out very well but when he looked at the photo, it was very precise. It looked almost as if the image on the device had transferred the image directly to the phone.

He showed her.

“You see this?” he asked her. “This thing right here is in your arm. This is causing the pain.”

She looked at her arm and poked it.

“Yeah, poking it is … awesome,” he said.

“What am I supposed to do about that?” she asked. “What is that thing?”

“Well, I have reason to suspect that is might have been implanted when you were … abducted,” he said.

“Take it out!” she said.

“Okay,” he said. “Happily.”

“Let me do it,” Edward said.

The woman glared at him.

Tinker began to think of what he might be able to construct to remove the thing from the woman. Edward suggested taking her to a hospital, but they realized there would be a cost, insurance companies to deal with, and other complications. Tinker asked Arclight if he thought he could get a surgeon to remove it and give it to them. Arclight was sure he could. The others had their doubts.

Tinker decided to build a machine to basically do some super high-tech surgery on the woman. He told them it might take him a couple of hours to put the thing together but he’d message them when it was ready. If they had anything else they wanted to do, they could go and do it.

“Someone made a pinkie promise,” Edward said.

“I’ve got no plans,” Tera said.

“Okay, fine, Edward, we’ll go look for Creepy Jim,” Arclight said.

“Scott the Creep,” Edward said.

“Yeah, Creepy Jim, whatever man,” Arclight said.

“I just want to go to where his clothes were,” Edward said.

“What?” Tera said.

“We need to go behind Papa Franchetti’s Pizzarios,” Edward said.

They flew back to Charlotte, Arclight carrying Edward and Tera flying beside them. They landed in the service driveway behind the pizza place. Papa Franchetti’s, in the Shops at Freedom off Freedom Boulevard, specialized in calzones and the place smelled like dough and pizza.

The service drive was abandoned. Dumpsters sat behind various stores of the Shops at Freedom and there was a overhang next to the dumpster behind Papa Franchetti’s Pizzarios. There was a discolored place on the ground in a wide circle under the overhang next to the dumpster.

Edward sniffed at the discolored area. It was a disturbing smell because it smelled like a person, though there was also the scent of some chemical with it. Nearby, he could also smell a metallic and oil smell, almost like a vehicle had been brought in close to the overhang. There were small concrete pillars blocking the overhang, however, and no way for a vehicle to get in where Edward stood. It was all quite strange.

“What are we looking for?” Arclight asked.

“We’re looking for Scott the Creep,” Edward said. “He was missing and his clothes were found here.”

He pointed to the discolored place on the ground.

“I smelled it,” he went on. “It smells like a person.”

“Did he melt?” Tera asked.

“Where’d his clothes go?” Edward said.

He followed the smell that resembled the discolored place on the ground to a nearby storm grate that had been partially bent open so that a person could crawl out. The scent was very thin but it was stronger there, where the weather probably hadn’t gotten to it.

“Guys, I smell him down here,” he said to the others. “Do you want to follow?”

The others followed him down into the storm sewers of Charlotte. After a short trek, they found themselves in a niche that smelled of Scott the Creep. The strange smell that was mixed with the human smell was not present anywhere. Most of the niche had been cleaned out and he didn’t find anything to identify it as the place that Scott the Creep had lived in.

He went to look for anyone else who lived nearby and found someone he knew: James the Beanstalk. The white Jamaican man was very tall, reaching nearly eight and half feet. His hair was covered with leaves and he was terribly skinny, nearly emaciated. His skin had kind of a greenish hue. He wore ragged clothing, several t-shirts of different sizes over each other, shoes with holes in the sides, and a long, heavy coat. His niche was warm and cozy though. It stank of marijuana. There were plants of all kinds growing in small pots or little wooden planters, including some vegetables and a lot of beans. Plant lights hung from the ceiling, filling the place with light.

“What the hell’s wrong with you Edward?” Arclight asked.

“What?” Edward said.

“What are we doing here?” Arclight asked.

“You’re helping me,” Edward said. “You’re not getting out of this.”

“I had my fingers crossed behind my back!”

“Well, then … leave! I don’t want no liar!”

“I gotta see James the Beanstalk.”

“How are ya doin’ mon!” James said.

His eyes were very red.

“Oh, it’s Edward,” James said. “Edward, hey.”

“Hey,” Edward said.

“You wanna hit?” James said.

“No, thanks,” Edward said.

“More for me, mon.”

“So, you know that niche that’s like … down that way …”

He described the niche they’d found as James took a toke and held the smoke in.

“Yeah, mon,” he said. “What about it?”

“Do you know who used to live there?” Edward asked.

James thought on that and then blew bluish green smoke out of his mouth with a contented smile.

“Was it Scott the Creep?” Edward asked.

“Yeah, yeah,” James said. “He disappeared, mon. Yeah, Scott the Creep, mon. He disappeared … a while ago.”

“How long ago?” Edward asked. “Do you know how long?”

“It was a couple weeks, mon,” James said.

“It reeks down here,” Tera said.

Arclight was starting to think that Edward was a druggie.

“You need sunlight for that tomato plant,” Edward said.

James merely shook his head and pointed to the numerous plant lights that were connected to the ceiling.

“Huh-uh,” Arclight said. “Catch it in your hand.”

He opened his hand and his palm glowed.

“Ooo,” James said with a smile. “Oh yeah. You should be livin’ down here, mon.”

“Can definitely see better,” Tera said, looking at Arclight’s glow.

“So, do you know of anyone else who’s gone missing lately?” Edward said.

James rattled off the names of a couple of other people but noted that one of them disappeared over a year ago and the other was about six months before. There didn’t seem to be any connection. Scott the Creep was the most recent, having disappeared a few weeks before. There hadn’t been any disappearances since.

“Once he was gone a week, you know the rules,” James said.

“Take his stuff,” Edward muttered.

Edward told them that there was a weird addition to the smell in the alley that he picked up and wasn’t present in the sewers. He described it as a disturbing smell. There was also a metallic smell, mixed with oil, like a machine of some kind. He was unsure what it was but said it was weird but not down in the sewers. Tera suggested he try to follow the source of the other smell.

“Unless, it’s James,” she said.

“What are y’ talkin’ about y’ giant dragon gargoyle *****?” James called.

“What?” Tera said.

“Y’ blamin’ me for something that happened?” James went on. “I get that all the time, ‘cause I’m Jamaican, ain’t it?”

“I’m just being hypothetical.”

“Maybe she did it!”

“Maybe it was me.”

“I don’t know you that well,” Edward said. “Don’t make me suspicious of you.”

He led them back to Papa Franchetti’s Pizzarios. Edward sniffed at the stuff again and again recognized the smell coming off the stuff as something he’d never smelled before. He also found the metallic and oily smell and followed it. It led to the street and then it just stopped. It didn’t fade, it just stopped cold. Edward got frustrated.

They were unsure what to do next, so they flew back out to the farm. It was late afternoon by then.

* * *

Tinker had asked the woman if they had any old farm equipment that they didn’t need any more. He asked José what he might have back at his apartment but the man didn’t really want to see any of his stuff cannibalized. He asked her where there was a nearby junk yard and she was able to give him the general location of one nearby. He and José drove over and he managed to find parts he could use to make a surgery machine that would actually create a claw that could become intangible to organics. He figured that he would be able to use it to grab the tiny piece of metal and pull it out of the woman’s arm. Parts filled the back seats, the trunk, the floorboards, and even his lap.

When they got back, he pulled all of the stuff apart. Then he got to work on the device.

When the others returned, they found he had built a large, but very delicate-looking machine about the size of an automobile. There was a place for a person to lie down inside of it. The main portion of the machine was built out of old laptop and computer cases with all kinds of machinery inside of it and outside of it. The main place where she was to put her arm was part of an old public blood pressure machine. He had made it to connect the x-ray machine he’d already made so that he could use it along with the other machine. It was quite delicate and he doubted that, with the energy requirements, it would last longer than a single surgery.

“It ain’t gonna take my arm off, is it?” the woman asked when he showed it to her.

“Hell, no,” Tinker said.

“Maybe,” Edward said.

“Shut up,” she said to him. “I don’t like you.”

“I don’t like you,” Edward told her.

“Well … go to hell,” she said.

“There’s a reason humans are in hell,” he replied.

“She probably doesn’t believe you have a soul,” Tinker said.

“He doesn’t,” she said. “He’s just an animal.”

“Don’t talk that way about my brother,” Arclight said.

“I don’t believe you, Arclight,” she said. “I think you’re full of ****.”

She lie down in the machine, which partially closed around her. She put her arm into the blood pressure cuff and Tinker activated the machine by inserting the x-ray device he’d built earlier into it. The x-ray device started humming loudly and the blood pressure cuff inflated as other parts of the machine started to move with what seemed like an intelligence. Tinker sat in front of two joysticks and controlled the tiny, insubstantial claw, sending it into the arm. He was able to watch its progress on the x-ray device as it grabbed the tiny device in her arm.

The machine started to smoke.

The claw pulled on the alien device. At first there seemed to be resistance, but then the thing moved easily and he pulled the claw out. It slid out of the side of the now-deflating blood pressure cuff and deposited the tiny piece of metal in a small, glass receptacle. The surgery machine was smoking and he pulled the x-ray device free as it caught fire. The woman was able to get safely out and Tinker quickly retrieved the alien piece of metal. He was not terribly concerned about the surgery machine. It had been a quick construction and he kind of expected it to destroy itself in the process.

The alien device looked like a sliver of metal.

A pickup truck pulled out in front of the farm and a man in coveralls and work boots got out.

“What the hell’s going on out here?” he yelled. “What the hell’s that thing?”

Edward ran.

“Who’s that Mexican on my property?” the man said.

“Bail bail bail!” Arclight said.

“Get José safe!” Edward said.

“Joshua, they pulled that thing out of my arm!” the woman said. “It feels much better so you shut the hell up!”

“Where’s my supper?” Joshua said.

“Oh god damn it,” she said.

“That’s them fruity superheroes,” Joshua said. “I hate them.”

“We got some sandwiches for you!” Edward called.

“What the hell is that thing!?!” Joshua said.

“That’s my brother,” Arclight said.

“I’m getting my gun,” Joshua said.

“Holy ****!” Arclight said as the man headed into the house.

“Who left this crap on my property?” the man shouted.

“I smelled your wife,” Edward called.

“What!?!” the man yelled.

He headed into the house. They quickly left. Tinker told him to go to his address. He also sent out a page to the others to meet there.

“Did you send this to everyone?” Edward, being carried by Arclight, sent back.

“Yes,” came the reply.

“Why?” came from Edward.

“Because it’s a hunch,” was the reply.

“There’s one person we don’t know that has beepers that get messages sent to everybody,” Edward paged him back.

He was referring to the beeper that Magic Man had lost.

“That’s the point,” Tinker paged back.

They arrived at around 6 p.m. The apartment building was only two stories high with a balcony that ran along the second floor. The apartment was a small with two bedrooms, a decent-sized living room, and a small kitchen and dining area. Tinker immediately started to examine the device they’d taken from the woman’s arm.

“Can you make something to follow it to its source?” Tera asked.

“If it’s sending out signals,” he replied.

“Excellent,” Tera said.

“That’s how we found the thing in my neck,” he said.

He soon found the device was putting off a signal, almost like a tag put on animals to track them. It was on a ultra high frequency, further than was humanly possible. He was able to modify the scanner he had made before to pick up the signals more clearly. He figured since he’d learned that, he would be able to locate other devices sending out a signal on the same frequency. However, he realized the signal strength from the device was very small, and he could only detect it a mile or so away. The signal didn’t appear to be directional. He told them everything he’d learned.

Edward tried to pick up the signals on his suit radio but got nothing. The technology of the suit, though advanced, was not advanced enough for that.

Tinker also found that the unit implanted in him was not sending the signal.

“The other abductees might have this as well,” Tera said.

“That’s true,” Tinker said. “But it took us a lot to get this one. I don’t know if I have it in me to get another one.”

“She wanted it out,” Edward said. “Imagine if we found someone who didn’t.”

“Imagine if we found someone who hated us,” Tinker said.

“Right?” Edward said. “What’s that like?”

“So, what do we do now?” Tinker asked.

They looked at each other.

Tera suggested they go out and look at night. Tinker wondered about using the thing as bait and noted the woman had not said anything about the abduction reoccurring. Arclight was of the opinion they didn’t want her once they figured out who she was. Tera said she didn’t think they would need bait so much as looking for more abductions in general. Tinker wondered if the movement of the tracker outside of its regular patter would get their attention. Tera thought it would.

“If this is somehow picking up conversations, they could hear us saying ‘We wanna find you,’” Edward said.

Tinker covered up the tiny tracker. José suggested if it was just a tag, they wouldn’t want to interfere. There was some talk about the aliens investigating the fact that the change of location of the signal might mean something was happening they need to document. Arclight noted perhaps he could fly with it and that would get the aliens’ interest. When Edward said they’d need to keep in touch with him, he told him he had his pager.

“There’s no way they could make that not work,” Tinker said sarcastically.

Edward thought Arclight should have someone flying with him who could radio information back to the others. He noted he had a radio. He also said he’d protect Arclight from the tractor beams, because tractors were scary.

“They’re loud,” he said.

“If this works, once they find you, we want to be able to follow them somehow,” Tinker said.

He noted if the aliens saw the superheroes, they might leave and never return. He wanted to know how they were going to track them. Arclight asked if he could make a tracker and Tinker said he could; he had done it before.

“Do it,” Arclight told him.

He noted they could put the tracker on the alien ship and then track it.

“How are we getting out of the ship?” Edward asked.

“We’ll figure it out later,” Tera said.

“We never think things through,” Edward said.

“We’ll fight our way out, man,” Arclight said.

“You want to fight our way … okay, what if they sedate us?” Edward asked. “What if we can’t breathe the atmosphere that’s in the ship?”

“Then they deserve to win, man,” Arclight said. “We got the dragon to back us up. We’ll be fine.”

“Is she coming with us?” Edward asked.

“No, but she’ll be around,” Arclight said.

“Aliens?” Tinker said. “You wanna …?”

“Yeah, I want to meet the people,” Tera said.

“You want to meet them, guys?” Tinker asked.

Edward nodded.

“So, you want to come with us?” Arclight asked Tera.

“Oh, definitely,” Tera said.

Arclight noticed Tera seemed pretty angry when she told them she wanted to meet the aliens.

They discussed Edward riding on Tera’s back and Arclight being the backup.

Tinker worked on the tracking device and rigged it and the tiny tracker, an almost exact duplicate of the one he had used when they had tracked the Gentleman. Arclight handed it to Edward and they headed out with Tera following behind. José and Tinker followed in José’s car. In the car, José handed Tinker a camera and asked him to film anything he might see.

Arclight flew over the roads so that José could follow them. They headed up to Concord and went into the country between that city and Mt. Pleasant. They flew around for several hours but saw no sign of the flying saucer. They decided to try again the next night.

* * *

It was Monday night, October 13, before they got a bite on their trap. It was nearly 11 p.m. and they were all starting to think that nothing was going to happen. Then, there was a flash in the sky. Literally out of nowhere, a silver flying saucer flew down out of the sky and stopped dead directly over their heads. The bottom of the saucer was shining metal with no apparent openings. The entire ship moved incredibly fast.

In the car, José shrieked.

“Get that!” he screamed. “Get that! Get that!”

He punched Tinker’s arm again and again and then slammed the brakes and brought the car to a screeching halt in the middle of the road. Tinker shoved the video recorder at José and the man dropped it to the floor of the car with a curse. Tinker drew his laser pistol and leapt out of the car, looking up in amazement.

What am I going to do against a spaceship!?! he thought.

* * *

Above their heads, the flying saucer hummed quietly. Arclight flew around the saucer and above it. He could see what appeared to be several black windows in the uppermost hull, as well as a tiny rod that might have been some kind of antenna. He floated a foot above the middle of the craft. Tera followed him up over the top of the saucer and she landed on top of the ship on one side and began to change, growing.

“Do I plant the tracker now?” Edward asked.

“Yes!” Arclight said.

“Okay,” Edward replied. “Let’s land.”

Arclight dropped a foot and stood on top of the ship. It felt solid though his feet felt like they were vibrating slightly. The humming that came from the craft seemed to change slightly and then a beam of light a good three meters across burst from the top of the saucer, directly under Arclight’s feet. Both of them felt suddenly constrained.

“I can’t move!” Arclight said.

“Neither can I!” Edward shouted.

More disturbing, Arclight suddenly noticed he was going down and looked down to see his feet disappearing right through the hull of the ship.

“We’re going right through the metal of the saucer’s roof!” Arclight said loudly.

“This is crazy!” Edward said.

“This is disturbing!” Arclight said.

“Hold me,” Edward said.

* * *

Tinker looked up at the saucer floating above.

“Where’d the camera go, man!?!” José yelled from inside the car.

Tinker thought he could hear yelling or screaming from up there somewhere. He was at a loss.

“Thank God!” José yelled. “Damn it! Turn on!”

* * *

Edward tried to grab the edges of the light beam and the edge of the saucer as they dropped through but his hands passed through everything like a ghost. He struggled against the beam of light without effect. Arclight also tried to break free of the beam of light without success.

They passed through a chamber made of the same silver material as the exterior of the ship. It was a round chamber with ports that looked outside but was otherwise unadorned. They spotted Tera outside, slowly growing and changing shape.

“Maybe she’ll save us,” Arclight said.

They passed through the floor and found themselves in a larger chamber. The wide room had a domed ceiling and three small black chairs that appeared to be melded to the floor towards the middle. There were also three black consoles without any kind of controls upon them, each of them next to one of the chairs. In each of the chairs was a small humanoid creature, probably about four feet tall. They appeared to be naked but had gray skin and large head with black eyes. In the center of the room was a silver stick coming up out of the floor.

The metal of the walls formed several arches. In one of them, in the direction the chairs faced, they could see an image of Tera on top of the flying saucer in one of the archways. Another showed José’s car from the saucer. Tinker stood beside it, looking up at the ship. A third showed a star field that they didn’t recognize whatsoever.

The beam that held Arclight and Edward came from beneath the deck. The grays looked at the two as they floated over to one side. The floors rose up on either side, almost like they were liquid, forming walls on either side of the area they were floating towards. Two long table-like pieces formed up out of the floor as well. One of the grays walked over to them and watched as they floated towards one side of the chamber, its face emotionless.

On the screen, Tera became a huge dragon that wrapped around the top of the flying saucer.

Arclight flexed his muscles again and found the grip of the light upon him gone. He flew at the gray that had walked towards him but missed the little man completely. He landed on the deck lightly and turned back towards the other two. Edward leapt from his arms and landed lightly beside him.

Arclight began to glow brightly.

“Do you know who I am?” he said.

* * *

Tera, transformed into a huge dragon, raked at the flying saucer but didn’t make so much as a scratch in the material of the hull.

* * *

On the ground below Tinker gaped at the huge creature that had appeared on the flying saucer.

There’s so much stuff going on that I don’t understand right now, he thought. It’s like the demon thing all over again.

He fired a shot at the saucer but the beam fell short.

* * *

“All according to plan!” Edward said.

He pulled his rifle from his back and held it ready.

The grays all looked at each other. Two of them were still in their seats.

Arclight didn’t see any central console where they were working at. The black consoles didn’t seem to have any lights or controls on them at all. He fired up his shield.

“Your move!” he said.

The standing gray touched one of the black consoles. Strange lights appeared on the top of it and part of the side. Then he reached behind it and took out what appeared to be a strangely shaped handgun. The gray in the center chair watched them but didn’t do anything else. Another gray moved from his chair to the panel behind the central chair.

* * *

Tera raked at the ship again but was still not able to damage it.

* * *

The gray in the middle chair looked at Arclight and Edward and then looked back at the front screen with Tera on it. Then he looked up and to his left.

* * *

“This is some ****!” Tinker grunted.

He remained at a loss as to what to do.

José got out of the car with his camera and fiddled with it. Then he pointed it at the flying saucer.

“Yes!” he said.

* * *

Edward pointed his laser rifle at the gray that had the weapon in his hand. Arclight held out a hand and pointed at the device, firing a beam of light at the weapon. The gray aimed at Arclight with the gun but Edward was ready and fired his laser rifle at the creature, the beam hissing as it burned the oxygen in the air around them. It struck the console and bounced off it, then struck the wall and floor, bouncing each time, and flew back towards Edward and Arclight from an angle. The beam missed Edward and struck Arclight in the side. There was a little smoke from the his armor but otherwise he was unharmed.

Edward let out a shriek.

The gray aimed the gun at Arclight but nothing apparently happened. The gray looked it.

“Let’s beat the crap out of them with our fists,” Edward said.

“Okay,” Arclight said.

The gray beside the panel behind the chairs touched it and more strange lights appeared upon it. He reached into the panel and drew forth a piece of twisted metal that looked like a rifle made of chrome. The gray in the middle looked at the other two grays and the two superheroes. He didn’t seem to press any buttons but lights began to appear intermittently on other panels. The humming below their feet suddenly grew in intensity.

* * *

Something suddenly slammed into Tera from the flying saucer but she managed to keep attached to the thing. She reared back to hit the saucer again with all her might.

* * *

“I guess I’ll go punch ‘em,” Arclight said.

“Punch them, Arclight!” Edward said. “Punch the rifle guy.”

Arclight gave the crocodile a high five and then flew across the room and punched the alien with the rifle-looking thing. He struck the gray in the face, which seemed solid, and knocked it back several meters where it crumpled to the deck. It dropped the rifle in front of Arclight.

* * *

Tinker jerked the hood of José’s car open. He ripped out some wires and tried to connect his laser pistol to the automobile to increase its power. He took a nasty shock as he worked on it.

* * *

Edward flung himself at the gray with the broken gun, launching himself over the panel between them, and then grabbing the gray’s shoulder in his jaws. The gray struggled against him ineffectually, dropping the pistol.

Suck it, little gray man, Edward thought.

The gray that Arclight hit stumbled to its feet, some kind of clear slime coming from the wound on its face.

* * *

As Tera prepared to strike the saucer, it suddenly flipped over, dropping her off, and flew up into the sky upside down. She flung out her wings to catch herself in the air.

The blast of air from her wings sent up dust and debris all around José’s car. Tinker, who’d had his head under the hood, looked up as the dragon beat its wings and stopped herself only a few dozen meters above the ground. José yelled and fell backwards. He struggled to get his camera back around.

* * *

The view on the main screen had changed. First, the background had shifted suddenly and apparently threw Tera away, her eyes going wide. Then the road that was now on the screen suddenly receded quickly. Neither Arclight nor Edward felt any change in the room at all. The other two images did not change.

Edward shoved his rifle into the gray’s chest.

“Arclight, are we killing these guys?” Edward asked.

“Not trying to!” Arclight said, grabbing the rifle the other gray had dropped.

He pointed it at the gray who merely looked at him. Then the creature said something in a language he didn’t understand. It moved to one of the consoles and put its hand upon it. The console lit up in strange lights and colors. The other gray struggled against Edward without any luck.

* * *

The ship flew directly upwards and vanished into the night’s sky. Tera breathed fire in the general direction that the saucer vanished.

* * *

Arclight noticed that the images on the two panels had vanished and they were only showing stars. He moved over to Edward while still pointing the weapon at the other two grays.

“Edward!” he said, motioning towards the screens. “Look!”

Edward was able to see the screen. As he looked, the screen pivoted slightly and he could see the horizon. It was not curved but he realized they were extremely high up. He wrapped his legs around the gray, pinning its arms to its side, and then released the gray’s shoulder. He looked around and saw that one gray had a hand on a console while the gray in the middle seat had not moved. The pistol was on the floor under Edward. He pointed his laser rifle at the gray’s head.

“Take us back!” Arclight said. “Take us back and we’ll let you live!”

Another screen lit up and words, television pictures, and other strange things appeared upon it in rapid succession. The view main screen showing the horizon seemed to indicate that they were getting closer to the ground. The gray continued to struggle in Edward’s grip. All three of them stared at the superheroes. There was a hiss and a door opened on one side of the saucer. The air pressure inside was obviously higher than outside. Air blew out of the ship.

The gray standing at the console pointed at the door.

“Let’s go!” Arclight said.

Edward put his rifle back onto the back of his armor and took the tracer out of his pocket. He picked up the pistol from the floor and shoved the tracer into it. Arclight came over and grabbed Edward, pulling him off the gray. He flew them both out of the flying saucer and down towards the ground as the saucer flew straight up and disappeared into the night’s sky.

* * *

Those on the ground saw the saucer fly down and then spotted Arclight and Edward fly out the side. The two flew down and Arclight landed solidly next to the car.

“Got ‘em!” he said.

“We kicked their asses,” Edward said. “What was the point of that?”

The headlights of another car came down the road towards them.

Arclight handed the rifle to Tinker. Tera had changed back to her original shape. She walked up to the two.

“Tell me at least that you killed some of them,” she said.

“We beat them up,” Edward said.

“Yeah, we threatened them to let us go or we’d kill ‘em,” Arclight said.

“And they did,” Edward said.

“They let us go because they were afraid of us,” Arclight said.

“I bit one of them,” Edward said.

“Edward placed the tracker,” Arclight said.

Then he saw the gun in Edward’s hand.

“Wait,” Arclight said. “What? You placed the tracker, right?”

Edward looked at him sheepishly.

“It’s reading pretty close,” Tinker said, looking at his tracking device.

“Wait, Edward, where’s the tracker?” Arclight asked.

“It’s on the pistol,” Edward said, holding up the alien pistol.

“What?” Arclight said.

“So wait, we don’t even know where they are?” Tera said.

“What was the plan?” Edward said.

“What?” Tera said.

A car pulled up and stopped on the road. The high beams were on. Car doors opened and two men walked towards them. They were little more than silhouettes in the bright lights shining at the heroes.

“We’ll have to try harder next time,” Tera said.

The two men stopped. Both of them were in black suits and wore sunglasses.

“Will Smith!” Arclight said.

“Don’t make me forget my memories!” Edward said.

“Gentlemen,” one of the men said.

“What?” Edward replied.

“We’re with the United States Government,” the man said. “We’d like you to come with us, please.”

“Will do,” Arclight said.

“No,” Edward said.

“Because …?” Tera said.

“Will do,” Arclight said.

“We have some questions for you,” the first man said.

“Okay!” Arclight said.

“We’d also like to look at that equipment that you’re carrying,” the man said.

“No,” Edward said.

“Is this going to be on TV?” Arclight asked.

“No,” the man said. “It will never be on TV.”

José had not said a word but at that moment he turned and ran down the road as fast as he could. The man in black who had been talking to them sighed.

“Whose car is this?” he asked.

“I think it’s that guy’s,” Tera said.

“It’s his,” Edward said.

“Fair enough,” the man in black said.

“I’ll come with you,” Arclight said. “But my friends remain.”

“We’ll need to talk to all of you,” the man said.

“Please just me,” Arclight said.

“We’ll need to talk to all of you,” the man said again.

“Would you be able to help us find these guys again?” Tera asked.

“You’re not in any position to do any bargaining, miss,” the man said.

Arclight laughed.

“There’s two of you,” Tera said.

“Yes,” the man said.

“And you want us to come with you but you don’t want to bargain?” Tera asked.

The man frowned.

“We could arrest you if you’d prefer,” he said.

“For being attacked?” Tera said.

“You’re defying a direct order from a U.S. Government official,” the man said.

Arclight walked over to the black SUV and climbed into the back.

“Well, I don’t think I’ll be able to fit in your car,” Tera said.

The man looked at her but didn’t say anything.

“I could come with y’all,” she said. “But, you know.”

“Agent Williams can drive this vehicle,” the first man said, pointing to José’s car. “Is it functional?”

“Is it still functional?” Tinker asked. “It could be.”

“You’ll fit,” he then said to Tera. “You’ll fit in the back.”

He gestured at his vehicle.

“I’d like to see if that’s true,” she said.

“Get in then,” he said.

“Well, obviously,” she said.

She walked over and got into the black SUV. Agent Williams walked over to José’s car. Tinker and Edward stood by the vehicle but otherwise didn’t move. Edward put the alien pistol on the ground and backed slowly away. Agent Williams picked it up and tucked it into his jacket pocket.

* * *

Arclight and Tera were alone in the back of the car. She had found it a bit of a tight squeeze but had managed to get in.

“Create a distraction,” Arclight said to her.

“We want to?” she replied.

“Get out of the car and create a distraction so Tinker can get away,” he said.

She looked at him.

“Why?” she said.

“Because he was tested on by the government,” Arclight said. “They might do something bad to him.”

“So, you want me to cause trouble with the government?” she said.

“No no no,” he said. “But we got to make sure he gets away. Then we’ll do what they want.”

“How are we going to do that? If we don’t want to cause a problem for ourselves.”

“Breathe some fire over there or something.”

“What?”

“Turn into that big dragon.”

“If you’re right beside me, you’re gonna die!”

“No, outside the car.”

“Why?”

“To create a distraction so Tinker can get away.

“But if he gets away …”

“That’s fine. They don’t know who he is.”

“Yeah, but … what about me?”

“Either do it or don’t!”

The agent who had talked to them came over and got into the SUV.

* * *

Agent Williams walked over to the car and looked in. It was still running. He looked at Tinker.

“Sir,” he said.

He closed the hood of the car and then stood by the driver’s side.

“Sir,” he said again.

He opened the back door of the car on the driver’s side for Edward.

Tinker reluctantly got into the car. The man waited for Edward.

“Sir, we just want to ask you a few questions,” Agent Williams said to Edward.

“No,” Edward said. “No.”

“You don’t have any choice sir,” Agent Williams said.

* * *

“Listen, I’ll take the fall for this one,” Arclight whispered to Tera. “They’re gonna get out of here because it’s bad for them.”

They heard a click as the doors of the SUV locked.

* * *

“Who sent you?” Edward asked.

“We’re a government agency, sir,” Agent Williams replied. “I’m not at liberty to say any more. But there’s somebody who’d like to talk to you. All of you.”

* * *

“Let me see if I can convince them!” Arclight said loudly.

The agent in the front seat suddenly seemed on guard, as if he was ready for anything.

Both Arclight and Tera tried to open their car doors and found them locked. Tera pushed with more strength and, with a crunch, the car door opened as it broke. The man in the front seat drew a sleek-looking silver weapon that was most definitely not a firearm but looked like something far more futuristic.

“Code Four!” he yelled.

Agent Williams immediately drew a weapon out of his jacket.

“Sir, you are under arrest!” he said to Edward.

“You are both under arrest!” the other man in black said to Arclight and Tera.

Arclight raised his hands as Tera slid out. The man in black in the SUV opened his own car door and slid out. He pointed the weapon at Tera. She didn’t recognize what it was. He ordered her back into the vehicle.

“Just get in the ****ing car!” Tinker said.

Edward slowly walked towards the car, making sure to keep the front of his body facing the man in black. Agent Williams closed the door behind him.

Tera climbed into the SUV and pulled the door closed as best she could.

“Are we going to have any more trouble?” the man in black asked.

“Uh, hopefully not,” Tera said.

“No no no,” the man said. “That is not an answer. Are we going to have any more trouble?”

“No,” she said.

“There’s some potholes on the road,” Arclight said.

“Are we going to have any more trouble, Mr. Arclight?” the man asked.

“No,” Arclight replied.

He looked at both of them and then turned around. He nodded to the other agent, who climbed into José’s car. The man turned the SUV around and Agent Williams followed him back down the road.

“He said there was no issue,” Tera whispered to Arclight.

“I’m just worried about Edward and Tinker,” Arclight whispered back. “They’re government experimentation.”

“Are they?”

“Yeah, it looks bad for them.”

“I could see Tinker, but why would they experiment on sentient crocodiles?”

Arclight shrugged.

The man driving talked into a radio as they drove, telling someone that they had some people to bring in for questioning.

“Exotics,” the man said.

“Copy,” came back over the radio.

He drove them to the Carolina Country Inn on Highway 49 near Mt. Pleasant. They were all escorted to a single hotel room and then asked to wait. Edward hugged his laser rifle, surprised that they hadn’t taken it away from him. Tinker lit a cigarette and then proceeded to chain smoke.

It was about 20 minutes before a man in a black suit and a blue tie entered the room. He appeared to be in his mid-thirties with black slicked-back hair and a cocky look on his face. His eyes were very blue. He looked them over.

“Good afternoon, gentlemen,” he said. “I’m Agent Smith.”

“And ladies,” Tera said.

“Ladies, my apologies,” Agent Smith said. “I’m Agent Smith. I’d like to ask you just a few questions about what happened tonight. And about the item there.”

He gestured at the rifle Tinker held.

“What’s your first name?” Arclight asked.

“You may call me John if it will make you more comfortable,” Agent Smith said.

“John Smith?” Arclight asked.

“That is correct,” Agent Smith said. “I am with an agency that … I’m not at liberty to divulge the name of.”

“John Smith Industries?” Arclight asked.

“It is not,” Agent Smith said.

“All right,” Arclight said.

“But that was a good guess, Mr. Arclight,” Agent Smith said.

Edward smiled at what Arclight had said.

“Perhaps you could introduce me to your friends,” Agent Smith said.

“My friends?” Arclight said. “Okay.”

“I assume they’re your friends,” Agent Smith said.

“Yeah,” Arclight said. “We’re a team of superheroes.”

“That’s what I’ve read,” Agent Smith said.

“This is Edward, the reptile,” Arclight said.

“Edward,” Agent Smith said with a nod.

“This is Tera, the gar-girl, but she prefers Tera,” Arclight said.

“Very well,” Agent Smith said.

“GarGirl’s so stupid,” Tera said.

“This is Tinker,” Arclight said. “He’s the newest addition to our team.”

“Interesting,” Agent Smith said. “Can you describe the contact that you had tonight with the, uh, well, call them grays.”

“We had a device made by Tinker that we were going to use to track the aliens,” Arclight said.

“Oh, very clever,” Agent Smith said.

“It took us three days to get their attention. And once we did get their attention, they attacked me and Edward and pulled us into their ship.”

“They’re very dangerous.”

“Uh-huh. We handled them.”

“Extremely dangerous. I’ve read your track record. I’ve been studying you people. You don’t catch many villains, do you?”

“Meh.”

“No offense is meant by that remark. Just noting it.”

“We strategically choose to let them go.”

“And you know Vanguard, don’t you?”

“I am aware of the man, yes.”

“Oh, that’s interesting. Because the news said that you worked with him.”

“We are acquaintances.”

“Could you take a message to him?”

“Sure.”

“I’d like to talk to him.”

“Okay.”

“He’s in possession of something that belongs to our agency.”

“Is that so?”

“Yes!”

“I was not aware of this.”

“And I have no intention of doing him any harm, but we would like to talk to him.”

“Duly noted.”

“I appreciate it. I also appreciate it, Edward, that you gave us back the weapon that the aliens had obviously given you as a gift, or you had taken from them. I notice that you’ve also got one of their rifles.”

He gestured towards Tinker.

“Which we would like to keep for our own purposes, I do believe,” Arclight said.

“I’m sure you would,” Agent Smith said.

“For testing purposes,” Arclight said.

“Ah, yes, but under certain Federal laws, any and all alien equipment belong to the agency,” Agent Smith said.

“Can you quote the exact law?” Arclight said.

Agent Smith did so. None of them had ever heard of it.

“I’d be willing to give it to you,” Agent Smith went on. “As a gift, say.”

“That would be very kind of you,” Arclight said.

“If you bring me Vanguard so I can talk to him,” Agent Smith said.

“Huh,” Arclight said. “I can’t force the man to come but I will deliver your message for the rifle.”

“Fair enough.”

“Okay.”

“Be careful of the tech. They can track it. They will know exactly where this weapon is on the planet.”

“They can track it?” Tera said.

“Oh yes,” Agent Smith said. “They’re quite advanced, I don’t know if you noticed or not.”

“I noticed they take punches better than we do,” Arclight said.

“They are very dangerous, very advanced,” Agent Smith said. “That pretty much covers them.”

“And are they a threat?” Arclight said.

“My agency is here to protect America from certain threats.”

“As are we.”

“Yes, we’re on the same team.”

“Yes. But not when guns are pointed at us.”

“Well, I debriefed Johnson and Williams and they did say Tera, here, ripped the door off the car. Uh … their guess was it was an attempted escape. You can understand why they were a little nervous.”

“Misunderstanding. It was stuffy inside.”

“Uh-huh.”

Agent Smith didn’t seem convinced.

“My agency was formed 67 years ago to protect America from Alien incursions,” Agent Smith said. “Or enemy incursions, let’s say.”

“You don’t look that old,” Arclight said.

“Oh, I wasn’t part of the original,” Agent Smith said.

“Huh,” Arclight said.

“I was hired much more recently. But in any case …”

“Definitely better at talking to people than the other two,” Tera said.

“Well, they were in a hostile situation,” Agent Smith said. “There’s been reports that you, yourself, burn people to death.”

“Uh … nobody’s died,” Tera said.

“We haven’t heard anything about this Edward, to date,” Agent Smith went on. “Which is interesting. Nor about Mr. Tinker here.”

“We’d like to keep it that way,” Arclight said.

“The only thing I’ve heard about Tinker is that he works for Protean?” Agent Smith said uncertainly.

Tinker frowned. Tera laughed.

“Just telling you what the news reports have told us,” Agent Smith said.

“Works for Protean,” Arclight said with a giggle.

Tinker sighed.

“Very well,” Agent Smith said. “I appreciate you talking to me. Please don’t destroy government property next time. You’re free to go. Oh, you can tell José? Is that his name? José Fuentes? You may tell him he can do whatever he wants to with that footage. It probably won’t come out very well anyway. I assume that you can see his vehicle home? You’re free to go gentlemen - and lady.”

“They’re weak physically,” Edward said.

“They’re not as weak as you would think,” Agent Smith said to him. “Trust me.”

“I held one down,” Edward said.

Agent Smith looked at the crocodile for a moment.

“But in any case, good luck,” Agent Smith said. “And be careful. They’ll want their technology back unless you know how to protect yourself from them.”

“Well, how do you plan on doing that?” Tinker said.

“Well, we’ve already captured quite a bit of their tech and we’ve figured out quite a bit from it,” Agent Smith said. “But I’ve said too much.”

“So, you can confiscate anything we take from them, though?” Tera said.

“Yes,” Agent Smith said. “It’s Federal law. And it’s made ever more powerful under the Patriot Act.”

They left the hotel room. Another man in a black suit and sunglasses stood in the hall. Arclight saluted him mockingly. The man merely nodded at him. Edward walked quickly by, his head down.

They returned to Charlotte. Tinker drove back to where he’d hidden his motorcycle and then Arclight drove José’s car back to their apartment. Tinker went home, taking the alien rifle with him.

* * *

José arrived back at the apartment the next morning. He was pretty freaked out about the encounter. The video he took was blurry and out of focus. He was surprised because it looked fine on the screen when he was originally taking it. He didn’t understand what happened to it.

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