"Leeming Tower, this is Blue-One-Niner; Tower, this is Blue-One-Niner."
"This is RAF Leeming. Go, Blue-One-Niner."
"Tower, I have visual at one o'clock low, approaching coast along south-southeast heading; range, estimated twelve klicks. Request verification and possible change of altitude."
"Blue-One-Niner, this is Tower. Please repeat visual info."
"Tower, Blue-One-Niner. Visual at one o'clock low, estimated range ten klicks and closing."
"Blue-One-Niner, Tower. I thought you said twelve klicks."
"Tower, One-Niner. I did; it's incoming."
"Blue-One-Niner, radar shows no other aircraft in your vicinity."
"Leeming, better look again. It's right there, range now…HOLY SHIT! It just accelerated! Range now seven kilometres and closing fast! I am executing evasive manoeuvers! Climbing to twelve thousand metres! Bogey heading south-southeast, nearing coastline…"
"Copy, Blue-One-Niner. Evasive manoeuvers; you are cleared to twelve thousand. Be advised, radar still shows no—hold one! Where the bloody hell did THAT come from?! Contact Fylingdales—you did? They don't? Roger that! All other traffic on this channel, this is Leeming Tower; please move to Channel Four immediately. Blue-One-Niner, this is Tower! Do you still have visual on bogey?"
"Roger, Tower! Closing fast…"
"You are authorised to pursue and bring down, peaceful preferred. Scrambling backup."
"Copy, pursue and bring down. If peaceful refused?"
"You are authorised to use whatever means necessary. If peaceful refused, consider hostile."
"Roger that. It's passing below me now. Turning to pursue."
"Copy that. Blue-One-Niner, can you identify aircraft? Radar signature is…inconclusive."
"Uh…Tower, that visual is an inconclusive, too. It doesn't look like any bloody aircraft I've ever seen. In fact, it doesn't even look like an aircraft…"
"It's a…big fuzzy ball, glowing kind of…yellowish-orange. And moving like a bat out of hell."
"Blue-One-Niner, please repeat last transmission. It sounded like you said a big fuzzy ball?"
"Affirm, Tower, that's exactly what I said. Think…giant tennis ball, only more orange. Still approaching coastline near Scarborough… correction! Bogey has changed heading! Damn! Stand by, Tower…"
"Leeming Tower standing by."
"Tower, this is Blue-One-Niner. I don't know what the blazes they've got, but it's way the hell more manoeuvreable than my Typhoon. They just executed a sharp turn to port, and I do mean sharp! I overshot by several miles inland, trying to make the turn. They are now paralleling the coastline, bearing southeast."
"Roger that, Blue-One-Niner. We…saw the turn on radar…"
"Yeah, you probably see something else, too."
"Roger that. Bogey is…ACCELERATING?!"
"Like that bat out of hell—on warp drive. Punching 'burners…"
"Blue-One-Niner, this is Leeming Tower. Report."
"Leeming, this is Blue-One-Niner. Sorry, mates, she's outstripped me by a long shot. Keep 'er on radar as long as you can, and try to anticipate and scramble interceptors. I've already almost lost visual."
* * *
Inside the radar room at RAF Fylingdales, the Officer of the Day discussed the situation with his chief technician.
"Are you sure?" the OD pressed his radar tech.
"Positive, sir," the tech replied, grim. "We've been watching it for the last five minutes, ever since it showed on radar. The only thing I know of that can travel that fast is a blasted Space Shuttle, and even they couldn't make manoeuvres like this ruddy thing is making. We're gathering all the radar data on it we can, profiles and such, but so far, we've not been able to put a plane close. Blue-One-Niner got a good visual on it, but that was sheer dumb luck."
"What kind of craft was One-Niner in? Recon?"
"A Typhoon, sir. And the bogey left it in the dust, even on full afterburners."
"Bollocks!" the OD exclaimed, shocked and gawking. "Left in the DUST? A TYPHOON?!"
"Like it was sitting still, as near as I can tell from air-to-ground transmissions. Radar supported the assessment, too."
The OD thought hard for several moments.
"Any idea where it's headed?"
"Yeah." The techie scowled.
"You're not gonna like it."
"Tell me anyway."
"Bentwaters." The engineer gazed solemnly at his superior. The OD blanched.
"Bugger. Get the brass on the bloody horn!"
* * *
Deep beneath the seemingly abandoned RAF Bentwaters base, ciphered telephones were ringing off their hooks. Frantic officers and enlisted personnel scurried about, attempting to ascertain under what sort of threat they were operating.
The underground facility itself was under full lockdown, with absolutely no sign of life visible to the outside.
And that was precisely how they wanted it.
Far overhead, in the deepening twilight sky, a glowing golden sphere floated, searching.
* * *
In the Headquarters of Her Majesty's Secret Service, the Director General was in her office, reviewing the dispatches as soon as they arrived.
"Not again," she muttered under her breath, obviously deeply concerned. "I thought we were done with this decades ago."
"Doesn't look like it, madam," Captain Braeden Ryker noted, subdued, handing her another report. "All hell is breaking loose out there, by the sound of it. Some of the public reports are probably spurious, and some of it—seventy-five percent, I'd say—likely due to hoaxes and copycats and just plain power of suggestion. But that still leaves the remaining twenty-five percent as real. We've got jets scrambled all along the coast, and except for the initial intercept, which was accidental, not one of our aircraft could even get close enough to see the thing." He looked down at the paper in his hand. "We did luck out on one point. Our local field office got a heads-up from Fylingdales at the same time they notified Bentwaters, and Gregory got his ass in gear with record speed. He mobilised a field team in time to have a gander at the object. They're still in the field, so we don't have word yet."
"Is it still out there?"
Ryker glanced again at the communiqué in his hand.
"Not according to the latest information, no, madam."
"Get a detail out there and start looking into the situation." The director shook her head, obviously gravely concerned.
"What about…?" Ryker began, then added candidly, "Do you want me to override Gregory, madam?"
"No, I want you to work WITH him," the Director declared with a wave of her hand. "Get some of the Headquarters experts out there right alongside his team—specialists, to aid him in his assessment, not supersede him. I know Gregory. He's a good man, with a good team. I simply want all the data we can gather. I want to know what this thing is, where it's from, what it's after, and I want to know five minutes ago."
"Right away, madam," Ryker nodded, exiting swiftly.
* * *
The field excursion team filed into the back of the nondescript office building, entering an equally bland conference room. They appeared to be college students and young professionals, clad in jeans or chinos and shirts, carrying attaché cases or backpacks, as appropriate. When the last of them arrived and the conference room door closed, they turned to the man in the corner.
"Here we go again, Gregory," the field team lead sighed, shaking his head. "It's the Halt transcript all over again, right down to the imagery in the night vision goggles."
"Any feeling of intent?"
"Definite intent," another remarked. "It was…looking…for something. A natural phenom doesn't sweep a grid pattern. This bugger did. Nice and precise, too."
"Blast and damnation," Gregory sighed. "What was it looking for? Any ideas?"
"That's the prize question, isn't it, boss?" the second field investigator shrugged. "If we could answer that, problem solved, and on to the next issue—which is, what to do about it?"
"Yeah," Gregory muttered. "Well, boys and girls, get your reports together fast. Headquarters is breathing down our necks. Word has it the Director General herself is involved, and you know to whom SHE reports. We're likely to have help soon. In fact, some experts are supposed to be coming down from London as we speak, to work alongside."
There was a collective groan from the room.
"All right, boss," the team lead noted. "Everyone, laptops out, reports in half an hour. Type fast."
* * *
Ryker came into the Director's office at speed, bearing the collected dispatches from the field office.
"Here you go, madam," he noted, handing them to the Secret Service director. "The latest on the phaenomenon. I can't say I'm pleased with the way this is headed."
The scowling director scanned through the reports, speed-reading. "Ah, I see your point. Are the subject matter experts on their way?"
"Very good. Dismissed." As Ryker turned to leave, she changed her mind. "Ryker, wait a moment."
"Yes, madam?" He stopped, pivoting smartly on his heel to face her once more.
"Your…friends…in America…" She pondered briefly.
"No, the scientist and a certain detective." She threw a small grin at the agent.
"Ah," Ryker grinned back at her, "Dr. Skye Chadwick and Mr. Sherlock Holmes."
"The very ones. What are they doing at the present time?"
"I don't know offhand, madam, but I can contact Williams and find out," Ryker said. "I have strong reason to believe they may be coming across the Pond for a visit after the first of the year, however. Are you considering calling them in on this?"
"Possibly," the director confessed, looking over one of the dispatches. "Certainly they possess the specific expertise necessary to look into so abstruse a problem as this. They…" she paused, staring at the paper in her hand. "The night vision goggles showed a HOLE in the middle of the object?" She raised her head, gazing at Ryker in astonishment.
"Yes, ma'am. It makes no sense, I know, but that's just like it happened back in 1980."
"And you have every confidence in Chadwick and Holmes." She eyed Ryker sternly.
"Yes, ma'am," Ryker responded smartly, with confident emphasis.
"And this is really THE Sherlock Holmes?"
"Without doubt," Ryker smiled. His certainty was almost palpable. Despite this fact, the Director sighed without enthusiasm.
"Very well. Yes, Captain Ryker. Contact Captain Williams and have him ascertain their availability. Provide Williams with a detailed abstract of events through appropriately secure channels, and see to it he briefs Holmes and Chadwick on the matter as soon as possible. Ensure they are instructed to stand by in the event they are called in on the case."
"Consider it done." Ryker snapped off a salute before spinning and exiting the office.
For more, or to purchase this and more books in the series, go to my website, www.stephanie-osborn.com.