We’re back at it with more short stories. Today’s story is mine. But check back tomorrow for another one from one of my fellow authors: Paul Bennett, Robert Cely, Derek Elkins, Jamie D. Greening, Kathy Kexel, and Joe Shaw. As always, there’s no fee, we’re doing this to help you pass the time. We do ask that you buy our books/audio books to help pay the freight here. But that’s up to you! Mine are all on the right margin of the blog. And, keep your eyes peeled for the COVID Quarantine Cantina on Amazon any day now – Kindle, print, audio book. Makes for a great Christmas present for the lover of short stories – over 60 stories!
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NASA knew that there was a micro meteor cloud out there, they’d gotten glimpses of it on telescopes over the last few days. Now it was more clearly defined, and the imaging showed the size of the particles to be smaller than boulders. Not a problem for the planet about to pass through the swarm, for they’d burn up before hitting the ground.
However, the cloud was massive, and that puzzled the scientists. How did they miss this the last 150 times that the Earth passed this way? Did these creep in from another galaxy? Mad calculational Olympics ensued, and indeed that was the case. The swarm appeared to have originated outside the solar system and had threaded its way through the gravitational fields of several planets before winding up in the path of ours.
The fascination with the cloud, named Serling in honor of the television host known for unusual phenomena, grew over the short time before the encounter, as it was forecast to be the most beautiful light show in the history of modern times. The atmosphere might heat by a small amount with the friction of so many objects entering simultaneously, but the trails of the meteorites across the sky would be the largest optical event ever.
One day before the projected encounter, the Hubble telescope finally was able to get the extremely small objects in focus. The operators cut the live feed instantly and alerted the White House.
This was not a random cloud of small rocks. The Hubble was able to see that it was a fleet of ships flying in formation, and that there was a definite controlled nature to the movement. It was slight, but it defied a ballistic trajectory as the ships moved to one side as a mass.
All of the plans to deal with this eventuality, for it had been a consideration since the advent of nuclear weapons, were reviewed in the first hour. The conclusion was that all nuclear weapons being used would accomplish was wiping out a large chunk of the electronics on our own planet through EMP (Electro Magnetic Pulse) effects when the warheads detonated. There were too many for hypersonic weapons intercept. All that could be hoped for was an immense thinning of the fleet when it hit the atmosphere.
And that did happen, the estimated 57,000 objects that appeared in the swarm thinned down to 20,000 by the time they reached the planet’s surface. A large percentage hit the oceans and lakes, but some landed rather softly on land masses across the globe. Smoking from their entry through the atmosphere, the tiny ships, about 7 feet across, glowed and pulsed as they cooled. Observers waited for the next 47 hours until the ships began to emit electromagnetic energy. They were a large meshed network the NSA types said, and communicating in encrypted codes.
The world held it’s breath. This was eerily like way too many science fiction novels.
79.5 hours into the invasion the ships revealed a hatch. Small inhabitants emerged from the ships, more like Borg cubes than what you might imagine, and approached the first groups of humans they encountered. Because there were 9500 across the globe on dry land, they encountered a large cross section of societies and people. Immediately it became clear what they intended: they stunned the people and removed their brains with a laser powered surgical device, returning to their ships immediately.
Three days passed and this routine was repeated across the globe. But it wasn’t every ship. Some ships remained silent. The authorities had retrieved the bodies from which the brains had been stolen. The corpses revealed nothing special for the ships where the cycle repeated. But the dormant ships all had one thing in common: at least one of the victims tested positive for COVID-19.
On a hunch, Marine Corps units under quarantine for the disease were deployed to the ships in one sector. All of the Marines were volunteers, knowing they might never come back. But that didn’t bother them at all, Marines had been taking those missions for centuries.
Sure enough, the ships that “collected” the brains of infected people went dormant. Scientists theorized that the aliens were conducting neurological studies to perfect electronic weapons before fully deploying and conquering the planet. But that the Chinese virus was deadlier to them than it was to humans.
One elderly man in a Connecticut nursing home heard about this from his grandson, an active duty officer. The old man had been in Korea and didn’t have long to live, so he got an idea.
Gerald Fishbein worked his way through the home, collecting volunteers and explaining his plan. He had 73 people who were ready when he called his grandson. His grandson called his commanding officer. In less than an hour, it had made it up to the White House.
The next morning, CDC workers showed up at the home and gave each of the volunteers a massive dose of COVID-19 virus. Then, as each inoculation was completed, the volunteer was taken away to a distant part of the country where a ship was being watched.
The next day, one hour before the “collection crew” was scheduled to emerge from the ship, the volunteers were given a fine dinner and brought near the craft.
When the hatches were opened, the volunteers waved and smiled as they met their deaths. But not a single one of the ships ever opened again.
This was repeated until every alien ship had been destroyed by volunteers just like Gerald Fishbein. Except one.
And that, Charlie Brown, was the one that held the Great Pumpkin. It was finally Halloween. And each of the many volunteers that had given up their brains to kill off the alien force was immediately placed in a civil service job where they would get a paycheck for at least 10 years. And absolutely nobody was any the wiser.