Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer
The sign on the small shack reads ‘Booth 7’. The gate next to it is a long steel pole with heavy chains hanging down.
The uniformed man looks unimpressed, in the way that gate guards have honed to perfection in the many centuries since guarding gates became a vocation.
“Department 51. Fifty… One? Like Area 51?”
The man sitting in the car blinks sweat from his eyes and sighs.
“Something like that.”
“So you’re here to see what the boys and girls brought in last night?”
The man in the car stops blinking. Sweat rolls across his glassy eyeballs as he stares at the guard.
“I wasn’t aware of anything of significance being discovered where that aircraft came down, soldier.”
The guard salutes. Another trait honed by gate guards since time immemorial is the ability to know, without question, when an odd-looking stranger trying to get in is actually so powerful he or she could bring all sorts of trouble down upon them.
“Sorry, sir. I’ll still have to call it in, sir.”
The man in the car nods.
The guard picks up the handset and punches a button.
“Colonel Edwards? Sayers, Booth Seven. I have someone from Department 51 demanding entry, sir.”
He listens for a moment, then puts the phone down, steps out, and walks the gate open. The driver goes by without acknowledging him.
After closing the gate, he re-enters the booth. His partner looks up from the screen she’d been pretending to work at so as not to get involved.
“Sounds like you dodged that right.”
He heaves a sigh of relief, then raises a finger.
“Funny how the Colonel didn’t ask for the bloke’s name.”
His partner pauses, then snatches the handset from the cradle.
They look at each other, grab their rifles, and dart round to the back of the booth.
“Where’s the line go?”
“We’re at the end of the spur that strings the booths together. It runs from Booth 1 to the base along the side of the main access road.”
“You stay here.”
He watches as she grubs in the earth until she pulls a cable into view. With a grin, she heads off along the fence, dirt spraying as the cable comes up. She disappears into the distance.
A fair while later, she comes sprinting back.
“The wire’s been cut! Our end is spliced into a line that runs out towards the woods beyond the fence. Our radios are dead, too.”
He grips his rifle tighter and looks about.
“What in tarnation is going on?”
The orange and blue flash of the base disappearing in a sphere of crackling energy is all the warning they get. She dives behind a weed-covered concrete divider left behind after resurfacing work on the road. He stands there and watches.
The blast tears him from his feet. His flailing form disappears over a low hill. She braces her back against the divider, willing it to hold. Heat sears exposed skin and chars clothing.
After what seems an age, she rolls to her knees and looks towards the base. A cigar-shaped turquoise object rises from the pall of smoke that shrouds what remains. It hovers, swings about, then accelerates away towards Edgewood.
She lifts her radio and switches it to a general military channel. It clicks and hisses reassuringly.
“Break-break. This is Private Mally Clarke at Camp Fitzgerald. Lone survivor, declaring security breach and disaster state. Emergency, emergency.”
While waiting for the helicopters to arrive, she decides on what will be left out of any reports she makes.