Ripped from the Headlines (up to 1000 words per chapter)

Written by: Ray Stone

Hubert Franshaw was sure he hadn’t seen things. After all, a couple in front of him had stopped, looked up and exchanged words before moving on. He took one last look up at the dark sky between the skyscrapers along Main Avenue and dug his cold hands into his jacket pockets. He stepped off the sidewalk and was about to cross the road when a harsh bright light accompanied by the loud noise of an engine and the dull whooshing of helicopter blades made him look up again. With a hand to shield his eyes, he squinted and watched amazed as the helicopter dived to within feet of the ground before rising with earsplitting noise back up between the buildings. Before it disappeared, Hubert noticed military markings and a figure sitting on the cabin floor with both legs hanging over the side.

After walking another block, three helicopters flew across the sky at rooftop level as Hubert pushed his way through a crowd standing outside Rosie’s Diner. Above the hubbub, he found a corner table and sat with eyes fixed onto the TV screen above the counter. A news reporter was making the most of the “unusual military and police force anti-terrorism exercises.”

“Bullshit if you ask me,” snorted Miranda, a large black waitress. “They’re sayin’ this goes on around the country at all big cities all the time. Bullshit…they ain't foolin’ me. This all goes back to Roswell if ya ask me.”

Miranda placed a mug on the table and poured coffee. Hubert nodded. The last thing he wanted to do was disagree with Miranda. She had a way of explaining how she was right and why at great length without drawing breath. This was not the time. He needed to think.

“Okay, honeybunch, you want your usual or tonight’s special. We got meatloaf and mash with a pile of fried onion…mmm-mmm.” Her big red lips then puckered into a wide grin.

Hubert nodded again, trying to listen to the newscaster. Whatever was happening was obviously being covered up. If this had been going on around the country for some time as suggested then why had there never been other news stories before that evening?

“Hi, Hubert.” Penny Stuart, a fellow student, slid into the seat opposite Hubert and removed her gloves. “You look a little down. What’s up?” Removing her jacket over her shoulders, she flicked long blonde hair out of her eyes.

Both at nineteen, the pair had studied for three years together under Professor Long and were hoping for qualifications that would lead to a career in meteorology for Hubert and astronomy for Penny. Although there was no romantic connection, it was Penny who hinted now and again that friendship was not the only thing on her mind.

“My work was rejected by Professor Long,” he replied glumly. “He said it wasn’t good enough and needed more meat on the bone. Ever since his book was published, his head has been in the clouds.”

They both laughed as Hubert realized he had absent-mindedly caused a pun. Professor Long was a distinguished Meteorologist.

“Have you been listening to the news?” Hubert pointed to the TV. “I was buzzed by one of those helicopters tonight, right down the highway.”

“That’s not the only strange thing going on,” answered Penny. “It would appear that there are strange underground vibrations in various parts of the country too That is accompanied by subterranean booms. They have not said anything about that on the news. It certainly has nothing to do with earthquakes.”

“Maybe we should speak to the professor tomorrow and see what he thinks,” suggested Hubert. “I might get back onto his good side.”

***

The tall figure of Quinton Long strode along the university corridor towards his laboratory with a bundle of folders under one arm, and his raincoat slung over the other. His lined face was creased in a pained and concerned expression as he ignored several greetings from staff and students. He stepped into the lift and stabbed the button for the observatory on the top floor.

As the doors opened a moment later, Long was greeted by Hubert and Penny.

“Morning Professor, we wonder if you can spare us a minute?”

Without answering, Long looked past the pair. His face dropped and turned pale. Two men in military uniform elbowed past Hubert and stood in front of Long.

Long sighed. “Good morning General. I’m afraid my calculations were a little out yesterday but today we should-”

“We need you to come with us, Professor Long. The Director at Ground 29 is calling an urgent meeting.”

“I have work today. I can’t just drop everything.”

The General’s adjutant turned to Hubert. “On your way, you two.” He waved them away and handed Long an envelope.

“Orders, Professor.” He noticed the files in the professor’s hand. “I’ll take those. Are they reports on last night’s fiasco? Our side of things went well,” he said sarcastically. “Yours didn’t.”

Frustrated, the general tugged Long’s arm. “This can’t wait. We have three days before the lockdown, and we still haven’t perfected the line-up between the satellites and your damn climate exchanger. Our new government in wai…” He suddenly realized Hubert and Penny were within earshot. “Get out,” he barked.

Hubert pulled Penny to the top of the stairs with a finger over his lips. He whispered, “The news, Penny. The General was talking about last night’s exercise.”

She nodded. “What was he referring to…Ground 29? And what about a climate exchanger? Sounds like something funny is going on.”

“There are over 40 huge underground military installations across the country, all connected. Whatever is going on it involves the Pentagon at the highest level. He began to say there was a government in waiting. Would this be a military coup?”

Penny shook her head. “What would the professor’s invention and satellites have to do with a coup?”

“An invasion of some sorts.” Hubert thought for a moment. “We have to find out more about the exchanger and then find out where Ground 29 is.”

 

Writers: Leif Rennes (Scotland), Joe Labrum (USA), Anna Zhigareva (Scotland), Ray Stone (Cyprus), Hemali Ajmera (India), Linda Alley (Australia), Suraya Dewing (NZ), Donna McTavish (NZ), Sumanda Maritz (S.Africa)

Comments

Oh! What a line-up. Looks as though this serial will be a great success and the first, I hope, of more to come. Now all that's needed is another starter. This is a great move forward by The Story Mint. I love being a "MINTER"
Loved this starter Ray. Really well written. Heaps of action and energy. The characters are great and the possibilities many.