ATOMIC TALES #3 Bugged by Flying Saucers
“I didn’t get this job because of my dad,” the young blonde driving our Bureau car remarked out of the blue.
“I never said you did,” I replied.
“But you thought it,” she insisted. “Everybody at the agency does—just because my dad’s a general.”
“And the liaison to the US Science Bureau,” I noted—and immediately regretted doing so out loud.
Gloria “Gigi” Brock turned and glared at me in the back seat. “I’m not just a secretarial assistant, Agent One. I have a degree, you know! One day, I’m gonna be an agent!”
“I’m sure,” I replied. “But could you keep your eyes on the road while you drive, please?”
My chauffeur-cum-future-agent turned back to driving and laughed. “Afraid you’ll lose another Bureau car? What is it… Two, now, in less than a month?”
“The second one was Agent Seven’s. And this one would be on you, if you put us in a ditch.”
“But you were there when that second car got destroyed,” she continued, ignoring my dig.
I nodded. “Guilty as charged.”
“It was the bugs again, right?” she asked.
Gigi had passed all her security clearances, so even though she was a new hand at the Bureau, I felt safe being candid with her. “Yeah.”
She gave an impressed whistle. “Giant bugs! Who’d have thought? How’d all this start? I mean, I’ve read the files, but… You were there, too. Right?”
“So, tell me about it. If I’m going to be an agent, I need to know what it’s like in the field.”
I could see no polite way to weasel out of this conversation, so I settled into the back seat and resigned myself to filling her in. It would be a long drive to the airport for my rendezvous with Agent Two, anyway.
“Okay, here’s the deal… I have to admit, I wasn’t too impressed when Prof Teragon sent me out to investigate a series of flying saucer reports in the Rockies. People have been seeing unidentified objects in the sky since the Kenneth Arnold sightings back in ’47. Right?”
Gigi nodded enthusiastically as she drove. “You bet!”
“As with a lot of incidents,” I continued, “the center of these sightings was pretty remote. But I like any good agent, I quickly made my way—via the nearest airport and then picking up a bureau car—to the town of Moret, Colorado, Population 150…”
“How long have you been seeing these… lights, Mr. Jensen?” I asked.
“Oh, a few weeks now, I guess. But call me, Tim, stranger. Everybody does. And I didn’t quite catch your name, mister…?” The scrawny middle-aged man flashed me a gap-toothed smile. He was dressed in jeans, work boots, and a red and black flannel shirt, against the chill of the late-spring evening. He smelled of tobacco and stale beer.
“Agent Raymond,” I replied. It’s Bureau policy to give only first names when possible. Luckily, mine can pass for either, avoiding the need to elaborate.
“FBI?” Jensen inquired.
“Something like that,” I said, briefly flashing my Science Bureau shield. “USSB. Official government business.”
He nodded knowingly. “I figured some of you government types would want in on this. That’s why I called the Air Force. They didn’t seem too interested when I called, but…”
“But here I am. So, what made you contact us?”
“Well, it ain’t natural, is it—things buzzing about the sky like that, not making no sound? They ain’t airplanes, I can tell you that.”
“Oh? You certain about that?”
“You bet your boots I am. I worked a carrier back in the war, Pacific theater. Ain’t no planes of ours can move like that—none of the Japs’, neither. Silent as ghosts, they are. And one minute they’re flitting about over the trees and between the mountains, and then the next—VOOM!—vanished. Shoot right up into the sky, faster than you can see, I expect. I didn’t use to believe in flying saucers, but now…”
He trailed off, thoughtfully, gazing down from his mountain-side cabin into the wooded valleys stretching out below. The scent of the pine trees wafted to us on a gentle evening breeze.
The sun had set, and darkness was closing in. The first stars already blazed brightly in the cerulean sky overhead.
“So, they’re saucer shaped?” I asked.
Jensen scratched his balding head. “Well, not exactly. It’s hard to describe… They’re big lights, and they glow like a yellowish green. Sometimes they flash… sometimes they just burn bright.”
“How big, would you say?”
“Hard to tell, up on the mountainside with them so far away, but I’d say maybe five or ten yards across—maybe more. And like I say, they’re moving fast, and… There’s one now!”
He pointed down into the wooded valley below, and—sure enough—a bright green light flitted over the treetops. It moved erratically, sometimes looping or turning at obtuse angles, sometimes vanishing for a few moments before reappearing somewhere nearby.
“I told you!” Jensen enthused. “Silent as ghosts! Ain’t no aircraft can move like that!”
Reluctantly, I had to agree. I had no way to tell how big the thing was, but it was too persistent—and moved too strangely—to be fireworks or any kind of aircraft I knew.
“Let’s go check it out,” I suggested. “You know these woods better than I do, Tim.”
Jensen paled. “No thank you, Mr. Agent, sir. I don’t want to turn into no mindless alien slave! I seen that They Come from Outer Space movie. You go look if you like, but pardon me if I don’t put my neck in the same noose.”
Disagreeing would have been pointless. So, with a few grumbled words of thanks, I fetched my flashlight (and my pistol) from the glove compartment of my Studebaker and hiked downhill toward the phenomenon.
As I went, a second weird light joined the first, darting above the treetops in the valley, moving very fast, and changing direction frequently. Soon, it and the first light were circling each other, before veering off and streaking between the rocky mountainsides.
“Definitely not swamp gas,” I muttered to myself as the slope leveled off. I couldn’t help but feel that there was some kind of intelligence behind the movement of those uncanny glows.
And then, a third light appeared, and a fourth, joining the others in their weird aerial ballet. I squinted into the gathering darkness, still trying to determine how large the objects were, or what their true shape might be—to no avail.
The circle of illumination from my flashlight played across the bed of pine needles and low scrub ahead of me, but I still missed my footing on the uneven ground. I stumbled, and for a moment the beam careened wildly across the treetops and into the sky as I tried to both keep my footing and hang on to the light’s sturdy metal housing.
Just as I righted myself, one of the circling lights suddenly broke off from the rest and veered in my direction, its glow flashing brighter as it came.
I dropped the flashlight and caught my balance, drew my gun, and took aim.
“Don’t make me shoot, whatever you are,” I called, well aware that the thing might not hear me or even understand English.
I ducked as it zipped overhead, a drumbeat buzzing sound droning in my ears. The thing wasn’t nearly as large as I’d guessed from a distance, but moving at that speed, I figured it could still take my head off.
It looped around a tree trunk and came back at me.
“Halt! Or I’ll shoot!” I warned.
It didn’t stop. It streaked straight toward me.
BANG! BANG! BANG!
Three shots, dead center, just like they teach you in the service.
The light seemed to break up, the weird buzzing sputtered, and my oddball opponent tumbled to the ground.
Turned out, it wasn’t that big at all—only a bit larger than a dinner plate.
Its glow pulsed as it writhed on the ground, dying, its six spiky legs flailing.
“I’ll be damned… A firefly!”
Needless to say, it was a lot bigger than any firefly I’d ever seen before.
I felt kinda bad that I’d killed it.
I picked up my flashlight from the forest floor and kept the beam aimed at the ground. The rest of the oversized bugs—there were a half-dozen of them at the peak of their activity—left me alone.
Strangely, the body of the one I’d killed quickly disintegrated, decaying in mere moments into a pool of foul-smelling bug guts and glowing greenish goo. In a moment, even that small remainder disappeared, sinking into the soil or evaporating. It left not a single sample for me to take back to the Bureau—much to the disappointment of the doc and our other scientists.
When I reported to HQ, Professor Teragon informed me that the insects were harmless pollen eaters and shouldn’t be a threat to humans even at that freakish size.
The Bureau sent out Agents Seven and Nine to collect evidence and take pictures, but we were unable to lure the giant fireflies into coming anywhere near us after my initial encounter. Maybe they’d learned it was dangerous to mess with human beings.
I gazed out the Studebaker’s window, watching the last glow of sunset disappear behind the trees, as the car neared the small airfield.
“That might have been the end of it, if the incidents had stopped there. After all, what’s a few big fireflies putting on a light show in Colorado every spring?
“Jensen and the locals in Moret were pretty happy about the bugs—figured they had a new tourist attraction, one they didn’t even have to feed or maintain.”
I shook my head ruefully.
“How could any of us—even the Teragons or the other big brains in the Bureau—know those fireflies would just be the start.”
“What do you think is going on with all this weird stuff, Agent One?” Gigi asked.
“Who knows? At first, we thought the bugs were just a natural mutation. Later, Doc Teragon posited the outlandish growth might be related to atomic radiation; Moret is downwind from a few test sites. But now…? Giant bugs popping up, UFOs buzzing the skies, reports of unnatural creatures haunting the US…”
“Things used to be so normal,” my young chauffeur opined. “Now it’s almost like we’re caught in some kind of strange invasion!”
“Yeah… Almost,” I mused.
“So… You said that Colorado was only the start. What happened next? When did the Teragons decide there was more to it? When did the Bureau expand, and…?”
“I thought you said you’d read the files.”
“I did but… Hearing you talk about it really makes the whole thing come alive.”
For a moment, I almost thought she was flirting with me, but I quickly dismissed the idea. She was cute, I’ll admit, but she was also barely old enough to vote—and a general’s daughter, to boot.
“What happened after that will have to wait for our next ride,” I replied with a grin. “We’re here, and I’ve got a plane waiting. Keep your nose clean, ‘Agent’ Brock.”
“I will,” she assured me. “Don’t take any wooden nickels, Agent One.”
“And try not to crash Agent Two’s car,” she added laughingly. “The Bureau’s not made out of money, you know!”
ABOUT “BUGGED BY FLYING SAUCERS”
As you remember last time… Early in 2020, I had decided that I needed to continue writing my (newly christened) Atomic Tales flash sci-fi-monster tales, and was searching for a venue beyond my site to help put them in front of the public.
That proved a little tricker than I hoped, with several good leads drying up along the way.
I wanted to write an audio version, and even went so far as to re-write “A Sci-Ant-ific Problem” as a radio drama. But the production time to do that on a schedule seemed to be part of the reason I was having trouble “placing” the series.
So, I switched back to doing pure prose—in a hard-boiled style—which was easier for me, anyway. (I still hope that maybe someday, full radio dramas will be produced.)
Finally, near the end of October 2020, I contacted my friend, filmmaker Christopher R. Mihm, and asked if he might be interested in the project for his monthly audio podcast.
I hadn’t talked to Chris earlier, because I thought he was only interested in promoting Mihmiverse-related material on the show—and Atomic Tales was definitely not set there, but rather in the giant monster corner of the Sulliverse (a term that’s been on a folder in my files for more than 30 years now—unbeknownst to Chris—ha ha) For those of you who care about such things, the US Science Bureau occupies the same world as the Daikaiju Attack (a.k.a. Giant Monsters Attack) stories—though Atomic Tales takes place after the DA novel. (Though after the WWII DA stories, for those of you really keeping track!)
Imagine my delight when Chris said that the idea was just what he needed. It turned out, he’d actually been looking for new material to add variety to and round out his podcast.
So, after all these years… Perfect timing.
By the time I wrote “Bugged by Flying Saucers,” I’d secured that spot for the “radio” version of the series, and the first episode was already out. (You can find it on Christopher R. Mihm’s monthly podcast for November 2020 on SaintEuphoria.com.)
The series arc had really started clicking into place, and I decided that I should fill my readers/listeners in on the origin of the Strange Invaders storyline—especially considering what was coming next.
Thus, Agent One got a chauffeured car ride to his next assignment (which was originally to be the third episode, but is now the fourth), and my audience gets a bit more of a peek behind the Strange Invaders curtain.
In time, all will become clear…
You can listen to this story produced by Christopher R. Mihm from SaintEuphoria.com!
TM & © 2021 Stephen D. Sullivan