Part 4 - Final

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Ishmael

Chapter 1 – Fifth West Corporation

"The first contact had been decades before, but everyone had ignored it. An object which had speeded up and changed course to come closer to planet Earth obviously wasn't just another passing asteroid. The public thought it was nothing more than a passing anomaly. Later it became obvious that something had found us............"

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Matthew Newman was a member of His Majesty's armed forces. His rank and unit were both secret, even his wife Deborah wasn't aware of half the things he'd been involved in. There had been covert operations in the Middle East, assassinations in South America and a little mayhem in the Baltic States. All under orders from the Ministry of Defence and all top secret. As Matt had once joked with his wife.

"The only thing we'll never be asked to do is peace keeping."

Their base was near Heslington in the area on England just north of York. The base didn't look impressive, just lots of grubby looking buildings in need of a fresh coat of paint. The perimeter chain link fence was rusty and the front gate was usually just guarded by a solitary soldier. All for show of course, all to convince the locals that nothing much happened at Heslington camp. In reality there were pressure pads, heat sensors, big ear listening devices and even quiet drones at night.

"We'll know if a gnat farts anywhere within a mile of the base."

A proud base commander had once told a visiting MOD inspection team. At only twenty seven, Matt had seen a lot of action and faced a lot of enemies. Nothing had prepared him for the briefing that morning, or the threat it implied.

"Nothing you hear goes beyond this room." Said the man from the ministry.

A mystery official who'd arrived with a well-known member of UK special forces, or at least as well-known as they can ever be. Matt had seen him before, running a training course in the Cairngorms. The idea was probably to add credibility to their unknown guest and the briefing Matt was never likely to forget.

"I mean no one, not even your wives, children or mistresses. You tell no one."

There was a little polite laughter, visitors from the MOD seemed to appreciate it. Their visitor used a remote control and a map of the night sky appeared on the screen, the big screen usually used to plan raids into places the other side of the world.

"You all know about the asteroid with the silly name. You will also realise it wasn't the first to change course and come closer to our planet."

Matt relaxed and went into a semi-sleep state he'd perfect for nonsense briefings. Some fool at the MOD had decided the space rocks needed to be included in a briefing, so another fool could tick a box on a list. He'd sat through them all, from bird flu to terrorists smearing ricin on buttons in elevators. He didn't remain half asleep for long.

"What has never become public knowledge is the close passing asteroid of twenty forty one. It came so close that it skimmed the atmosphere, before accelerating away at about three times the speed of sound. It was that incident which led to the conclusion that these aren't natural occurrences. Not to be too dramatic about it, but these asteroids are being controlled by an extra-terrestrial intelligence, for purposes we don't understand."

A lot of hands went up, all ignored.

"Questions at the end please..... Moving on, this picture shows the best resolution the Chinese can get from their Yi Xing space telescope."

It was nothing really, just light coloured blobs against what looked like the rings of Saturn.

"There are over a dozen moving objects, all moving towards Earth. Some are quite small, but most are about the size of one of our aircraft carriers. They were only spotted a few weeks ago and are still a long way from the inner planets. At their present speed, it will be eighteen months before they're anywhere near planet Earth."

Matt's hand went up and stayed up. The guest speaker glared at him, but he was determined to ask his question. He was annoyed rather than curious, annoyed that the MOD were giving him a headache for which there was no cure. Eventually the expert from the ministry stopped ignoring him.

"I do admire your persistence.... What is your question ?"

"So we've some aliens doing a fly-by, what are we supposed to do about it ? If the Americans and the Chinese get competitive about it, there might be a handful of unarmed drones arriving at these asteroids..... In about... Let's say a few months after next Christmas. There is nothing we can do. Now if there was an alien running amok in the Brazilian rain forest. That would be something we could help you with."

There was silence for a few moments, as the unnamed man from the ministry muttered at his colleague.

"Actually call it Australia rather than Brazil and you've just described why I'm here. A small asteroid hit the atmosphere hard and slowed down enough to land somewhere near Kakadu National Park in the northern territories. Survey teams investigated the area and..... There have been fatalities. The Australians have asked for our assistance."

Synchronicity was at work again, though Matt was completely unaware of it. He might not have recognised Ishmael McGrath if he'd passed him in the street, but his wife might have. Deborah Newman was a nurse and worked in a busy A&E department in York. The previous summer she'd treated a nineteen year old Ishmael for a nosebleed that refused to stop. Ish had been in York visiting relatives.

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© Ed Cowling - May 2019

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