matapam (pamuphoff) wrote,

Mall Santa II-part 4

  “Compass readings were off anywhere within thirty feet of the target spot. Everything metal in the area had a slight residual magnetism. Tiny, mind you, but my instruments could pick it up. All of it aimed toward the spot the police indicated, not aligned with magnetic north, not random.” Dr. Stark was wiry and energetic, acting much younger than his thin gray hair made him look. “But the most interesting thing is right here, on the spot the police said the car disappeared. Look at this thin line in the pavement. It’s an arc, four centimeters deep in the center, two meters wide. The whole circle would have been roughly three meters in diameter. Positioning it with the bottom of the circle underground allows a large vehicle to pass through. The arc is wide enough for the wheelbase, but the circle is still tall and wide enough for the whole thing to fit through.”

         Chris snorted. “Wouldn’t want to try it with a Winnebago.”

         Stark sighed. “I don’t know whether to tell you to stop wasting my time with nonsense, or to hope all you sharp-eyed cops really did see something weird.” A tiny series of clicks brought his head around with a frown. He stalked over to his instruments. “They’re picking something up. They aren’t even turned on and the needles. . . there a strong electromagnetic field inducing current in their circuits.” he grabbed a compass and held it flat on his palm. He walked across the street, eyes glued on the compass.

         Chris darted out and waved down a car. The driver blew his horn and made a rude gesture.

         “It’s a little ways down the street, not exactly on the same spot.” Stark squinted down the street.

         Chris followed his gaze. In the bright sunlight it might have been a reflection off something in the street, however much it looked a snapping ball of lightening, opening up into a wide circle.

         The red convertible roared around Chris. “Moron! Get out of the street!” The driver turned his head back and hit the brakes.

         Chris bolted forward, to see uniformed figures leaping through the lightening edged hole. Helmets like a hokey SciFi story, brassy and complex, with antennae and monoculars and microphones. Nothing hokey about the rifles, they were black, sleek and efficient looking. The first soldier through took aim at the hood of the car. A brief, eye-searing flash of light. Something like a shockwave of electricity flashed down the car. The driver yelled and practically levitated out of the car. He bolted down the road. Chris reached into his jacket and pulled out his pistol. Out gunned, he at least managed to draw the soldier’s attention away from the panicked civilian.

         Chris dived for the cover of a parked car, jerked back as it flashed, rolled to his feet and ran, hunched over and hopefully hard to hit. Stark was retreating as well, but trotting backwards, his eyes taking in everything. Chris slowed as he got near the doctor, looked back. The soldiers had been content with their rout, and now spread out in a perimeter as men in white lab coats walked out of the circle, carrying instruments.

         Stark huddled down behind a square meter of brick that held a mail box, and stuck his head out. “They’re homing in on the spot. I’ll bet they’re hunting for Eldon.”

         Chris knelt down and peered out. “If not specifically for him, they may be investigating . . . phenomenon of this sort. Whatever it is.”

         “You must not read any science fiction. We’re clearly looking at cross-dimensional or time-travel portals. Two types, possibly two sides of a war. These guys are certainly geared up for one.”

         “The first one was made by a guy who spent four weeks working as a Mall Santa.”

         The doctor blinked at him. “You’re kidding!” He looked back at the soldiers. “Maybe a criminal? A dangerously insane Mad Scientist?”

         Chris didn’t answer. The soldiers were coming and going from the lightning portal, more coming than going. He could see people on the far side, they appeared to be installing a short ramp. A vehicle took aim at it, soared off the end of the ramp and crashed down on the convertible. The lightning circle shrunk down to a ball and disappeared with a snap of residual electricity. Alien soldiers and scientists piled into what looked like a World War Two cloth topped truck. With treads instead of wheels. The scientist who took the front had his head down over an instrument cuddled in his arms. He pointed and the truck turned and drove away. Over the remains of the convertible.

         Stark bolted for his stack of instruments. Chris headed for his car. It refused to start. His cell wasn’t working.

         “Some sort of EMP,” Stark yelled, jogging in the direction the truck had gone. Chris gave up and followed. I need a phone, or radio, something to sic the cops on that truck, but keep them far enough away to not get hit with that . . . “What kind of weapon is that?”

         “Probably a laser initiated electrical shock. The laser ionizes the air, so it can carry an electric current. I don’t know what energy source they’re using, it ought to not be practical at those apparent voltages.”

         “Hey, if they can time travel, they can have super batteries.” Chris veered into a Stop-and-Rob parking lot and grabbed the pay phone on the outside wall.

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