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The Zeta Directive

[The next section of this story can be found here.]


There is no faster way to ruin a perfect hair day than by casing a mark through the windswept torrent of the fierce ongoing rainstorm. A river flowed from her vogue pink highlights, ruining any remnants of the product keeping her hair in shape.

River grunted and pushed a soaking lock of hair away from her face for what seemed to be the trillionth time and looked back through the lens of her trusty binoculars. The flooded rocky asphalt she lied upon was, in all likelihood, going to absolutely scratch up and ruin her crimson Armani trenchcoat. But for this? This was worth it.


River's phone buzzed with a new notification as the SUV she was driving rolled to a halt at the traffic light. Rental car; her old Lexus was in the shop, broken down again. Hopefully she could convince her parents to get her a new one if their trashy hand-me-down beater kept shitting the bed on her. Maybe even one with heated seats like this rental. The leather squeecked a little as River shifted her weight around in her seat and grabbed her phone out of the cupholder.

<TWITTER: New unread notifications. Unlock your iPhone to view.>

She fumbled with her phone, typing in her passcode to unlock. Ugh, FaceID seemed to always have problems when she changed her look around, and it seems like this time it was having some trouble properly recognising her freshly dyed pink bangs. Several taps later and she was scrolling through her Twitter news feed.

She quickly scanned through the lines of absurd memes and unsubstantiated claims until her eyes locked onto a mysteriously enticing tweet from the trending posts bot of an obscure internet forum she frequented.

Underground51 Community · @Underground51 · 4m

Trending: Huge smoke trail south of Remington, VA. No reports of fires or anything in the area. Something weird here? At work, though. Someone check it out?

Attached was a set of GPS coordinates and a picture of a black pyre of smoke against, still somewhat visible despite the overcast sky. Holy shit, this one is in driving distance!

HONNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNK

River's eyes jumped up from her phone to see that the light in front of her was green. Going to class could wait. She looked to up ahead to make sure there was no oncoming traffic and turned into the intersection. "No U-Turn", my ass.


The raindrops were frigid as they streamed down River's face. It wasn't so bad when she had pulled to the side of the country road and first stepped out of her car, but she had spent the past half an hour trudging through the muddy foresting to get to the specified coordinates and was thoroughly soaked to the bone.

The cryptic tweet from earlier was definitely onto something; it had been a little over an hour coming down all this way from Fairfax, yet a stream of black smoke was still visible in the sky against the raging storm to help guide River here to this exact location. Wherever 'here' was, that is.

Right at this very moment, River lay upon what seemed to be a cracked and overgrown bike path in the woods in the middle of nowhere. Did they even have bike paths out here? Maybe it was an old since-replaced country road. She wasn't really sure, but it was mostly solid despite being surrounded by enough covering vegetation to hopefully not stand out too much while having a decent if somewhat obscured view of the farmstead in the clearing up ahead.

River peered into the lenses of her binoculars and wiped the rain and condensate from the outer lenses as best as she could to prevent the watery onslaught from distorting her view. Just up ahead stood a stereotypical dilapidated red barn with the remains of what looked to be two large grain bins standing beside it. River took the binoculars from her face and wiped them off again in disbelief at what she was seeing. The truth was out there, right in front of her eyes. She refocused the lenses and resumed her gaze.

Embedded in the sides of both grain bins was something out of a science fiction story. A giant matte black metallic disk roughly fifty meters in diameter dwarfed the remains of the smashed grain bins. One could describe it as being a flying saucer, but the edges were rounded to the point of it looking more like a giant bald metal car tire than a true saucer in the traditional sense. A deep black smoke was still spewing from an intense but isolated fire in the front where it had made impact.

Even more interesting than the saucer itself, in the path leading up to the barn there were three identical black SUVs parked outside. Each one was parked in an organised line, one after another. River could make out that there were DC federal plates on all of them. Men in suits were spread out walking around the scene, doing who knows what they were doing. Some appeared to be conversing on their phones, and others appeared to be patrolling the area. Did they know about this? Surely if they weren't already aware of the existence of....... whatever this was.... then there would be tanks and helicopters here instead of civilian government vehicles, right?

River's eyes darted over to two unmistakable individuals walking out from around the corner, behind the far side of the saucer. Just like in any tabloid article, they were grey-skinned, had wide bulging black eyes, thin lips, and at this distance seemed to have no discernable nose. Compared to the men in suits, River guessed the figures to each be roughly seven feet tall, despite being wirey thin. River only weighed 127 pounds, but she was willing to bet that the greys were even lighter than she was. Most notably, though, was how they walked. Their gait was spectacularly fluid as their highly elongated limbs swayed gently through their stride; River had never seen anything quite so gracious before.

River pulled out her phone and snapped a picture of the downed saucer, making sure to get the greys in frame. Struggling to operate the touchscreen in the harsh rain, she managed to open Twitter back up once more and posted a tweet with the image attached. Surely someone else knew something about this, right?

River Mullins · @AnEtherealRiver · 1m

What the fuck @Underground51... Definitely something weird out here. #RemingtonUFO #ufo #aliens #conspiracy

She refreshed her feed several times, until several minutes later a new notification appeared on her phone. River's eyes widened and she covered her mouth in shock.

Your account was permanently suspended due to multiple or repeat violations of the Twitter Rules. This account will not be restored.

The fuck? "Repeat violations"? River's account was immaculate, never previously suspended. River could only fume over her suspended account for but a moment before being startled to attention by shouting from the men up ahead. She couldn't hear what they were saying at this distance over the sound of the gusty wind and pouring rain, so she continued looking through her binoculars.

Two of the men who had been talking on their phones both put their phones back into their suit jackets and rushed over to the greys. Each of them came to the side of one of the two grays and wrapped arms around them, gesturing them to lean down into a crouched posture. They pointed to the SUVs and swiftly started to escort the two greys toward the vehicles. Four other men sprinted from around from the barn and from the far side of the UFO and rushed over to the two men helping the greys, all with handguns drawn.

Then one of the two escorts raised a hand..... pointing in River's direction, and shouted something inaudible over the weather. Not that the exact words mattered; the intent was rather clear.

Shit!

River dropped her binoculars and scrambled from her prone position onto all fours and then picked herself up from the ground as quickly as she could to bolt. She scraped her palms on the rocky asphalt and nearly tripped on the slippery dead leaves as she vigorously shuffled upright and spun herself around to dash further into the brush.

whoosh... CRACK

Splinters of bark flew off from the tree to River's right as a bullet whizzed past her. River let out an uncontrolled scream in terror and raised her hands to cover the the top of her head, staying low to the ground as possible but still running.

What the fuck what the fuck what the fuck....

They're really shooting at me. With real bullets. I'm getting shot at. What the fuck what the fuck...

She pushed through the leafy shrubs and snapped through branches and twigs of the low-growing trees, desperately running, faster than she ever had before, driven by the primal need to get away from here.

She heard shouting voices and the crack of branches behind her. They were still coming. And she kept running. Branches smacked her in the face and her eyes stung with dirt and water from the leaves that kept getting in her way. Tears mixed with the dusty raindrops and watery mucous oozed from her nostrils as she ran.

BANG

Another gunshot soared through the air and gave a deathly crack as it ripped the bark off of another nearby tree, this one much closer. River tripped and stumbled face first into the muddy ground, startled and shaken from the piercing sounds of gunfire.

She grunted and threw her palms into the ground to pick herself up only to find herself falling right back into the ground, her legs refusing to obey her command to get back up. Completely out of breath and spent of its energy, her body shivered in shock. She dug her manicured red fingernails into the soil and dragged herself forward, weakly crawling through the underbrush with her strength failing her.

River grasped at the mud but found herself floundering in place and let her arms and head fall into the mud. She could go no further. The earthy stench of the wet ground permeated her nostrils and she swung her head to the side to be able to breathe, and then she lay there motionless and stared out of one eye at the roots of the tree by her side.

The bushes behind her rustled and River heard the slosh of several sets of shoes trudging through the mud.

"Nice shot, agent. Looks like we got ourselves a doe here," A gratingly smooth voice chuckled. River let out another grunt as an excrutiating pain struck into her ribcage from the firm kick of a boot in the side. She closed her eyes and winced from the pain.

"Not so good at playing dead, are you now?" He kicked her again. Harder. She coughed from the mud getting into her mouth, but otherwise was too exhausted to make a sound. There was this burning itch in her left leg. She wanted to reach down and scratch it but she could barely muster the energy to twitch her fingers.

A knee cut into River's side and pinned her down from the weight of a heavy man. A large set of groping hands ran up and down her sides, switly frisking her from head to toe.

The knee came off her back and then one of the large hands gripped the back of River's sullied coat collar and yanked her up onto her knees, painfully stretching her coat and wrenching at her shoulders. She kept her head down, and her long hair blocked out her face, preventing her from seeing anything but the muddy ground and several strands of slimy spit dripping from her mouth.

The man behind her barked into her ear, "Get up. Don't try anything stupid". There was an audible mechanical click of several guns being primed around her.

River summoned all of her strength to try to say something defiant, but all she could muster was a meek whisper, "I can't...".

The hand behind her let go of her collar and as she began to fall back down to the ground a thick boot rammed into her back, slamming her back into the ground, making a loud splash as she landed. The itch in her leg now was burning up with the feeling as if a thousand fire ants were taking turns biting into her leg. She shivered again and weekly tried to pull herself up, to no avail.

"What a fucking mess. Someone give me a gun. Looks like we'll have to carry the body in for disposal."

River felt another momentary rush of adrenaline screamed with all the last of her energy, "No, please don't.... please don't..."

A much more gruff but level voice interjected, "Might want to hold off on that, C.J. She reads high enough for the quota. Just throw her in with the others, since we already have her here."

River winced as she got another sharp kick to the side and she felt herself drifting off.

Grab the.... Yeah, that's..... Make sure... Doesn't bleed out...

The voices all started to flow together into a garbled mess as her consciousness faded.



Art sourced under free to use license. Minor edits made by me in GIMP. Source assets are listed below.

https://pixabay.com/photos/wood-forest-light-tree-darkness-3072434/