The Craft by Amber Leach

In the still and dark of the night the phone rang persistently. It rang with such persistent urgency that Dr. Carter was rendered with nothing but reluctant obedience but to answer.

"Hello." came the deep gruff voice of a man who was pulled from an apparently deep and restful sleep.

"Sir," Came the exasperated voice from the other end. "It is happening sir."

Dr. Carter sat up instantly, his attention caught like a deer in the headlights.

"Radar detected?" asked Dr. Carter.

"Sir, we aren't exactly sure what it is, you had better come down here. I'm not sure how to proceed. Anderson has called twice in the past ten minutes. He wants me to call him back and report to him even with the slightest change of information."

"I'm on my way. Don't worry, I'll deal with Anderson. Oh and uh Martin, don't call anyone until we are exactly sure of what we've got here."

"Just a heads up sir, I think that he may be on his way here already."

"Stall him. Do whatever you have to until I get there, understand?"

"Ten four sir."

Dr. Carter got up from the bed with his heart pounding full of excitement, knees shaking. He asked himself could this really be it? Could this be what he has waited his whole life to see? Could this finally be his day of redemption?

He slid into his green United States Army uniform which was draped across the chair next to his nightstand and ready at a moments notice- especially for occasions such as these. He forced on his army issued boots and didn't even bother to lace or tie them. He grabbed his briefcase from under the bed and quickly left for the observatory.

Dr. Carter drove in a mad and hurried rush thankful that the base's MP's were nowhere in sight. It was after all 2am. He knew from his own past experience that they were near by, on their endless patrol. He drove on, blowing silently through stop signs. He just couldn't get there fast enough.

A brief memory of embarrassment and humiliation flashed across his mind. A sort of sick nauseated feeling fueled by disappointment when he and his exploration unit of about forty men celebrated next to what was believed to be the wreckage of an unidentified flying object. Ultimately it turned out to be a well orchestrated prank perpetrated by three college kids. The plastic parts they dug up from the site marked Made in Japan gave it all away.

He was the laughing stock of the scientific community for quite some time after that one. He thought he would never survive the snickers and the jokes. He thought he'd never live it down. Please God, don't let this turn out like that again.

When Dr. Carter reached the observatory not only did he park cockeyed, he tripped over his own feet getting out of the car. The anticipation of getting inside was killing him. When he entered the building he saw his team on the go, beaming gloriously with excitement. Martin, the shift director came around from the radars and tracking equipment thrilled that the team was making so much progress.

Martin was a young kid- no more than 22 at Dr. Carter's best guess. He was what would be considered a nerd by any social standard, but he was brilliant and accomplished at his young and tender age. He turned out to be one of the best assistants that Dr. Carter ever had. He had to smile when he saw Martin's eyes popped open wide and his trembling hands. Dr. Carter figured that the excitement ( not to mention the three empty cans of jolt cola on his desk and a fourth one in his hand.) was getting to him.

"Sir, we began tracking it from the very top of the north pole." said Martin who was out of breath trotting alongside Dr. Carter and trying to keep up.

"And?" asked Dr. Carter.

"And sir, it seems to be moving south over the Atlantic. We are beginning to speculate..."

The doctor stopped dead in his tracks, removed his glasses and looked Martin square in the eye.

"Do not ever speculate Martin. Not in this business, and never in my lab."

"Sorry sir. It wont happen again sir. The craft appears to be moving toward the eastern coast of the United States." said Martin.

"Have we identified the craft yet?"

"Well...No. This craft creates odd signature patterns unlike anything we have ever encountered before."

"So Martin, do we have a UFO or not?" asked Dr. Carter still marching full speed to operations.

Martin paused and smiled. "UFO has not been ruled out sir."

Exhilaration rushed over Dr. Carter, igniting his hope, although his reluctance for embarrassment kept his desires at bay, he knew that he was wishing for it. He was praying that this was his day of vindication at last.

"OK. You all know what to do. Have you made an attempt to contact the craft yet?"

"No sir, not yet. We were awaiting next orders from you. We thought you might want to be here to direct that personally."

Dr. Carter was pleased at the work that his team had accomplished before he had arrived. Martin was right. He would want to direct that personally. He made his way up to the operations room on the top floor of the old building.

He watched his team perfectly execute their procedures with a satisfied gaze. It seemed as if everyone in the room were riding the same wave, the same sort of natural high permeated about. Each person connected by an unspoken word- Hope. Each one of them had hoped that this would be the most momentous occasions through out the history of man. A time that we knew without a doubt that we weren't alone in the universe.

Everything was running smoothly to begin the communication sequences to attempt to make the greatest discovery in history; first contact. No sooner than the system came on line, General Anderson and his minions strode through the doors, pulling rank as usual.

"When no one called I got a little worried, So I decided that maybe I should get over here to check things out. We will take it from here." announced General Anderson.

"The hell you will." grumbled Dr. Carter.

"How are you Carter. Nice to see you too. Been a long time."

"Not long enough sir."

"Oh come on Carter, are you still holding that little grudge? We used to be such good friends, now you have a discovery such as this and you forget to call us; too busy looking for ET were you?"

"Sorry sir. Seemed to have slipped my mind. You know, all of my years away from the pentagon and all."

"Well it was that forgetfulness, you know- forgetting to cover all the bases that got you such a drastic reassignment was it not?"

"You know damn well that I requested reassignment on my own Anderson. By the way, how did you know about this anyway?"

"Carter... you aren't the only one who watches the sky. Frankly, we are a little disappointed that you didn't call us. You know things like this are a matter of national security. Remember Carter, you are still a government funded project, one I think we could do without."

"Well lucky for my team and I you aren't in charge of the budget."

The rotten stink of tension between the two men through out the room was so intense that everyone stood in silence and stared at the floor while Dr. Carter and General Anderson faced off like two caged and rabid dogs about to tear each other's throat out.

"Sirs," interrupted Martin. "I hate to break up this happy reunion, but we do have more important matters at hand. The craft has just entered United States airspace over the Atlantic."

The two men turned and began barking orders to their teams trying to out do the other. The General over ran the entire situation, without any regard for Dr. Carter, his team or his lab.

"Alert the Air Force and have fighter pilots standing by." ordered General Anderson.

"With all due respect sir, we don't know if that is necessary. The craft may not be hostile. We haven't been on this long enough to make that determination." objected Dr. Carter.

"For one thing Carter, no contact has been made on either side. Furthermore no permission has been granted to enter our airspace. Now Doctor, do we assume the craft is not hostile and leave ourselves open to attack? Do you remember 9-11: How about Labor Day 2010? Need I say more? I am not about to let the American people be caught off guard again, sure as hell not on my watch."

"Sir, this may or may not even be an earthly craft." said Dr. Carter.

"Even more reason for caution. How do we know that it isn't some other country that has some new, nifty form of technology able to blow New York or DC off the face of the map. Look Carter, stay here in exile living out your dreams of first contact. I'm sorry, resident of earth or not, he is still trespassing. Now if you excuse me."

"Do we have communication yet people?" inquired Anderson.

"Negative sir. No response from foreign craft as of yet."

"Keep trying. If we do not receive response then the craft is to be considered hostile. Therefore people- blow their asses clean out of the sky should they come within ten miles of the coast."

"Sir!" interjected Dr. Carter. His plea went ignored.

"How about a visual chopper one, over." stated Anderson.

"Small sir." came the voice back on the radio. "No bigger than our own choppers sir. Solid, no apparent windows or openings. Silver-blue tones, hard to tell for sure out here with the lack of light sir, over."

General Anderson repeatedly sent out warnings for the craft to respond using radio waves and by loud speaker from the two choppers that were perched on the shoulders of the craft.

As the craft got closer to land, Dr. Carter's team began to pick up strange frequencies over the wire network system. The craft was trying to communicate while General Anderson continued to issue warnings.

"Sir please let us establish contact! This may be the most important contact in history! Give us a chance!" begged Dr. Carter.

"Carter, that craft has ignored our instructions! Now stand down!"

"Maybe they don't understand! They are trying to communicate. The wire frequencies are getting stronger the closer they get! Please for the love of God just hold your fire!"

"Yeah, let them get a little closer so they have a better aim. Carter, I am under specific orders from the President of the United States to protect our land at all cost. If that means shoot first ask later, so be it!" shouted Anderson.

Both teams watched in anticipation as the craft drew near while the constant order by General Anderson was repeated over and over from the choppers that were escorting the craft. As the craft approached even closer, the signals over the wire became stronger and stronger. Dr, Carter was dumbfounded when he realized that what he was hearing in the signal was old Morse-code. Morse-code? Why the remedial means of communication.

Suddenly the reality of what was really happening hit him hard. Without further warning the General's staff opened fire on the craft. Dr. Carter and his team watched in silence and horror as the potentially most important discovery in history plunged into the Atlantic. General Anderson's team cheered, the General grinned with arrogance as if he were a five year old who just won some petty game.

"You see my friend. That is how you get things done." boasted Anderson.

"You know sir, evolution obviously passed you by. You had no idea what was on that craft. " said Dr. Carter as he hung his head low and felt the bile stir within the pit of his stomach.

"Neither did you Carter. That in itself is where the danger was."

The next afternoon Dr. Carter's phone rang. It was an anonymous caller asking to meet privately at the Ferry Docks that evening at 9pm. He said that he had information that would shed light on the events from the night before. To Dr. Carter, it would be an eternity until then.

When it was time to go he left his home carefully to be sure that he wasn't followed. As he drove, paranoia gripped him fiercely and curiosity clawed at his mind. He arrived at the docks 10 minutes early, parked away from any lights and slinked his was to under the pier to find the stranger already waiting for him.

"Doctor this meeting never happened."

"Of course. They never do." replied the Doctor.

"I believe what the General did was wrong and I just thought you should know." The stranger continued while removing a large black duffle bag from his shoulder. "Sir, the wire from the craft was in plain English. Morse code to be exact."

"I know. I realized it before the craft was shot down." said Dr. Carter.

The stranger unzipped the large black canvass bag and removed a few pages with a solemn and grief stricken look in his eyes. "We deciphered what we could before we lost the transmission." said the stranger regretfully.

"Dr. Carter took the report and read it with his eyes growing full of tears. The report read: Beware... Military experiment Fails... Tests will backfire... Half the world's population will die... This tragedy can be prevented. Someone must stop the approval of wep..... End of message.

"We can only assume that the craft was shot down before the message was complete, and that is not the worst of it sir." said the stranger.

"I managed to liberate this from evidence. It came from the crash site this morning. General Anderson is going to have one hell of a time trying to keep this one covered up." The stranger handed the black bag over to Dr. Carter. He took the bag slowly and removed a large metal panel.

Reading what was written on it forced him to his knees clenching the sand in his fists as he cried. The magnitude of what came from the bag collided with every fiber of his humanity and crushed him in a way that recovery not only for himself, but for all of mankind seemed doubtful. For one brief second his heart skipped a beat as he forgot to breathe. There, printed on the strange metal panel written in plain English was the following:

United States Air Force.
Special Time Travel Unit.
June, 2116.

"Oh my dear God!" gasped Dr. Carter. "What have we done?"

The Craft ©
Amber Leach