The following is a recounting of my first meeting with the United States of America’s Federal Bureau of Investigation. My name at the time was Francis Heart . . .
On an old, rickety porch rocking chair I sat, swinging back and forth as a cool breeze blew up my forearms and continued to my shoulders. Besides endless fields and the barn off to the side of this lonesome house, the setting sun was the only thing to look at–but oh, what a sight it was to see. It amazed me how such vibrant, colorful warmth of color filled farmlands so desolate. As the hooting of an owl welcomed the coming night, I felt I could never get tired of it, though I knew we’d have to leave soon.
As my sense of calm reached its peak that eve though, a dust cloud trailed something far off in the distance: a car. “Eva,” I called back toward the house, a ring of urgency in my voice.
The door snapped open beside me and my first companion, Eva, stood in its frame, peering out at what was coming toward us. “Do you think they know?”
“I don’t see how they could yet. But we can’t be sure.”
“I’ll get everyone to the bedroom.” She took a nervous deep breath as she went to turn back inside.
“Oh and Eva,” She was quick to emerge again before having had the chance to clear the door, “we’ll get through this, okay? We’ve proven we can.”
Another breath, this one steadied. “For the Five Futures.”
“For the Five Futures,” I said with a smile and a nod.
Eva scurried inside and after about five minutes the car pulled up. As the sun had disappeared from the sky, two men emerged from the vehicle.
“Mr. Francis Heart?” the larger in stature and darker in skin color of the two said.
“I’m Agent Landry. This here is my partner, Agent Collins,”
The second finished a loud sip of a steaming coffee, right as the first spat out his name. “We’re with the FBI and will appreciate you taking the time to answer a few questions we have about something you might have seen.”
“Yea, sure. I’d be–”
Before I could finish, they approached and led me into “my” own home. It was a massive relief to see Eva had succeeded in clearing everyone from the first floor and keeping things quiet. The living room lights flashed on as the agents sat me down on the nearest couch. On the other side of a coffee table they pulled up chairs. While my eyes adjusted to the light, I took a second note of their puffy “FBI” jackets, short haircuts, and opposite complexions. Despite their unwelcome intrusion, some part of me was still excited they were here.
“Thanks again for welcoming us into your home, Mr. Heart.”
“Thanks again? You haven’t–I mean . . . of course.” My voice trailed off mid-reply as I had seen the youngest of my two surviving companions peak out from the stairs behind the agents. “I’d be happy to answer any question y’all might have.” In a controlled panic, I remembered she also didn’t have her disguise available. With wide eyes I shot up to my feet for a distraction–I couldn’t allow them to be discovered. Who knew how they’d be handled if they were, especially with the hostages they were supposed to be watching up there in the bedroom? “I noticed you have coffee already, Agent Collins, but is there anything else I can get for either of you in the meantime? Agent Landry?” The men reacted in kind to sit me back down as I spotted Eva silently pulling the youngster up the stairs.
Landry ushered me back into my seat. “No, sir. Please, sit down. We’re okay.”
Once I was planted on the couch again, Landry returned to his place. Collins, on the other hand, leaned back with a leg folded over and his nose pointed up. A curious smile extended across his face. “A place like this must be great for keeping light pollution to a minimum, huh?”
“Light pollution . . . yes, looking up to the stars is a great passion of mine.” The steps of my comrades on the floorboards above me were ever so faint. I could hear them returning to their post and it made me sweat, but the agents didn’t react. I presumed my hearing to have been more acute than theirs.
“Oh, I imagined so. Bet you’re out there on your porch every night.”
“I try to be. I find it makes me feel free.”
Landry exchanged a brief look with Collins, before turning his attention back toward me. “There must be a lot you see on a given night.”
I shifted in my seat, scratching the back of my neck as the sound of crickets started picking up outside. It felt as if they were screaming into my ears. I realized I needed to focus. “I bet there’s a lot y’all see on a given night as well.”
Collins laughed, Landry’s lip turned up in only the slightest way. “Let’s keep the conversation about you. What do you say?”
“No, Landry, I’m intrigued. Tell me, what is it you think we see, sir?”
“Oh, I didn’t mean any offense and wouldn’t claim to know past what they show on the TV,” I said, looking to Landry, who seemed to be the more collected one, for support. It seemed I was right, as his arm raised to tame his partner. “I’m just somewhat confused as to why y’all are here is all.”
A thud sounded from above, which this time they heard as we all jumped and my heart sunk. The agents ended up in a defensive ready position, which revealed their weapons. WHO HOOO, an owl could be heard calling through an open window. An immense relief swept over me.
“Mother fucking birds, man.” Collins stormed over and slammed the window shut before returning to his seat.
“So you asked why we’re here,” Landry said after straightening himself out. “A week ago, an asteroid landed not a mile north east of your farm. Is that right?”
“Yes it is. And I already spoke to the local police about it. Their teams were here within the hour of the incident and had the site of the crash cleaned up before I even had the chance to look.”
“Crash? Who said anything about a crash?” Collins asked.
“Would ‘impact’ be better? I only saw it fall from the sky I didn’t get to see what it was.”
Landry nodded. “Your property extends to the location of this impact, correct?”
They were probing me now, so I started taking my time with my answers. “It does but I half figured it for a bomb at first so I wasn’t gonna go investigate. I got a family to protect.”
Collins looked up. “And where are they?”
“Upstairs asleep. Was an early night tonight.”
“Any chance they saw anything?”
“I’m confident of the contrary.”
“But not certain? Mind if we go ask then,” Collins said as he stood up and pointed toward the stairs.
“Look, I’ll answer any questions you have for me but let them get their rest, please.”
“You mean your wife, Eva, and daughter, Anne?” Collins hissed. “How old is little Annie-girl now anyway?”
I looked at Landry for help. “What is this?”
“Did you see them, Mr. Heart?” Landry asked. Something in his voice changed.
“Did I see who?”
“Are you hiding them?” Now he stood up as well, leaning over with his hands down on the coffee table.
They had me read. I didn’t know how, perhaps my system was reading the communication dynamics wrong, but I knew they did. “Why are you doing this?”
“They’re upstairs, aren’t they?” Collins asked, with a hand on the gun at his waist. “We can only ensure the safety of your loved ones if you cooperate and hand the others over to us.”
I couldn’t help but hesitate as my mind raced.
“We’ve monitored your house,” Landry said. “We know there are more than three in it. Take us to them now, Mr. Heart, do it slowly.”
“And you won’t hurt them either? They haven’t come to hurt anyone.”
With my confirmation of the presence they were looking for, their guns came drawn and my own question was answered. “What becomes of them is no concern of yours,” Collins said.
“It will be decided by those equipped to make such decisions.”
I sighed. “Very well. Follow me.”
Up the stairs we went. They flanked me with their guns drawn. When I came to the door at the end of the hall, I gestured to them and stood to the side. They readied and threw the door open. Before them, sitting on the bed in each others’ arms, were Eva, Anne, and Francis Heart–the real Heart family. Behind the Hearts were my two comrades, both without their holographic disguises and each a sight alien enough on their own to stun Collins and Landry. The agents then turned back toward me, my disguise now down as well, and I raised two gloved hands to their shoulders. With a zap, I really did stun them now, their bodies falling limp and paralyzed to the ground.
I looked at the others with a frown. “We need to prepare. More will come soon.”
This isn’t how any of this mission I had devised for so many years ago was supposed to unfold. Despite the impossible odds of even making it here through countless light-years at a moment in time when the people of Earth were advanced enough to comprehend our existence; despite all that could have and did go wrong on our long journey; somehow I held onto hope we wouldn’t face the issues we had to this point. While logic suggested this possibility in countless simulations, I never fully considered that the people of Earth would shoot down our ship, killing almost all on board. Perhaps we approached too fast. Perhaps I didn’t prepare enough. I only hoped the other four Future missions could find greater success.
While agents of the FBI were out cold and being tied up by my companions, I was thankful the Hearts were as nice and sympathetic to us under the circumstances as they had been. They would understandably get a little shaken by the sight of our natural appearance though, so I activated my disguise again for their sake.
My name at that time became Agent Landry of the United States of America’s Federal Bureau of Investigation.
QOTD: this concept one I’ve been toying around with for my next series. It’s also inspired by real-life people like Elon Musk and Neil Degrasse Tyson. Who inspires you?
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Copyright (c) 2017 by N.B. Austin
Published in the U.S. by Moore Bell Productions, Austin.
All Rights Reserved.