Fifty years from today, whenever today might be, the country bustles in a new era. Within a loose gripped bureaucracy, society trudges forth. But each step forward is two steps back.
The night sky was clear for miles, with brilliant stars smeared in traces of cosmic dust that bore down on flat fields below. A small plane crossed the underbelly of the stratosphere. Its lights flashed; the path behind revealing aimless direction.
“You did say you’d been in this area before, correct?” Zimmerman asked, hovering behind the pilot’s seat. In the back, he could hear his ski bag clatter with the plane’s abrupt movements. He bit his lip. Surely, this kid had to know something.
Beneath them was a sprawling Idaho landscape. Miles upon miles of empty farmland, small towns, and just about as much excitement as anyone could get from either of those. Or so Zimmerman had been told. The remarkable Rocky Mountains were the only thing that could’ve lured him to such an area. Sure, he could’ve gone to the Alps for a fraction the travelling back home. But there was no adventure like the great West. And he’d be damned if such a fantastic spot had been left untreaded by him.
Zimmerman was a sturdy man with a distinctly English voice. The pilot, on the other hand, bore a perturbing gut and was young enough to be halfway through college. Even if he looked far younger than that.
“I said I have. I’m just… looking for a shortcut,” the pilot assured with a cracking voice. The trip between the Northern Rockies and Boise International seemed suitable enough for a rookie pilot. And he had repeatedly assured himself throughout the voyage that he wouldn’t have been hired if the client sensed he wasn’t as good as he claimed to be. The pilot had scarcely been this far upstate before, at least not from the air. When he’d been hired, he figured he could figure things out by takeoff. But now, it seemed, the seams were starting to burst.
“Need I remind you my next flight leaves in less than six hours? And unlike you, it doesn’t run on my watch.” Zimmerman emphasized with a glare that the pilot could feel bounce off the back of his neck.
Mentally, he sneered. Why don’t you take your tea and crumpets and shove it up your-
But before he could respond aloud, a continuous beep emitted from the plane’s console. Bold red letters flashed across the GPS monitor: TERRAIN WARNING.
Zimmerman squinted. “What’s wrong?”
“That can’t be right,” the pilot remarked, blinking to make sure he was looking at the screen correctly. The very one that was warning him of something impending also showed nothing in sight before him. Just smooth plains of grass. “According to this we’re approaching something very big.”
“How can that be? We’re in the middle of nowhere,” Zimmerman indicated out the black windshield. For the first time, the pilot was inclined to agree.
The beeping steadily grew faster, more incessant. If it wanted to warn them of the air so badly, it was doing too good a job of it. The pilot couldn’t help but be reminded of a small dog whining, almost whistling, for its master to hurry up and take it outside.
“It could be a bug in the system. Maybe it’ll sort itself out if I just-” The plane gently drifted to the left. Hopefully just enough to ‘avoid’ whatever false obstruction was out there.
But it didn’t. The one note beep continued, pushy as ever. Zimmerman swore the gaps between the sounds were getting far and few in between. Almost making it a monotonous sound.
Now the pilot was getting worried. He considered that an oncoming bird was being detected completely wrong until abandoning the idea. The computer would have to be several pieces before making an error that grievous. There really couldn’t have been anything out here, could there? Sure, the technology for invisibility was starting to find its footing, but surely someone would’ve warned him before he left, right? Maybe he had strayed farther from the route to Boise than he’d thought.
Before he could run through any other ideas, every question and concern answered itself in a heartbeat. Accompanied by a loud deep rumble, the plane was suddenly thrown into a rough fit of turbulence. Zimmerman lost balance, falling rear first onto the cabin floor. The pilot clutched the armrests, straining to keep from being forced from the seat. After a few seconds, the turbulence stopped. But to both occupants, it may as well have been five minutes. The pilot quickly regained his senses, reaffirming control as Zimmerman hobbled up on one knee. Both were just in time to see light dissolve upon what seemed to be the top of a tower of sorts. Gold reflected brilliantly back on them, momentarily making whatever shape it was into a mere blur of light.
Neither could take in the sight before the pilot swerved violently around it, narrowly missing the…whatever it was. Once again, the two were thrown about. Zimmerman able to balance this time, gripped the back of the pilot’s seat hard enough to penetrate the leather. The plane stayed cocked at nearly ninety degrees before abruptly dropping upwards.
Was that a cross?!? Zimmerman wondered as he came to his senses. But before he could question any further, a splotch of green dominated the windshield’s field of vision. The plane hurdled towards it faster than the pilot could react. In the microseconds before colliding, both pilot and passenger realized where they were and had the horrible clarity of what they’d stumbled onto.