Excerpt from Arrival - an Embarkment 2577 prequel

Alexandra squinted up at the bright sky. Taking a day off from work to go to the beach had seemed an extravagant luxury, especially since it was March and the beach was a two-hour drive from her house, but it was the best idea she’d had for a while.

“So totally worth it.”

The weather gods favored her. The water was probably freezing, but the sand under her feet was hot and soft, and the sun made a splendid imitation of July. At times like this, living in the south was good.

An added bonus of going on a weekday in early spring: the place was deserted. It wouldn’t be once spring break started. She had lucked out.

Imma go around the bend over there, and come back this way. It’s about time to go on a quest for coffee.

Normal people might go look for a Starbucks, but going on a quest no matter how small had a much better ring to it. Knights and wizards went on quests while the mundane stayed at home. The search for coffee might not be as grand and romantic as Frodo bringing the ring to Mordor, but it would do.

A thundering noise from above forced its way into her thoughts. She had probably heard it all along and written it off as a plane, but it couldn’t be a plane. If it were, it was about to crash.

Hopefully, it would crash somewhere else.

She scolded herself for the thought. Disasters should not be taken lightly.

Looking up at the sky, she still couldn’t see anything but fluffy clouds and seagulls.

Unless… What was that bright dot? A noisy shooting star in the middle of the day? Was today the day when the Earth would collide with a giant asteroid, ending life as she knew it?

She grabbed her cell phone and attempted to use the camera as binoculars. The object was too far away. It went from a tiny bright dot to a somewhat larger and blurry bright dot.

At least there’s only one.

Should she move away from the water?

The asteroid, or whatever it was, probably wouldn’t come down anywhere near her, but if it did, it might cause a giant wave or something.

The idea of drowning on the beach seemed absurd, but it could happen. It wouldn’t take a wave the size of a tsunami to best her.

She turned and backtracked her own steps towards the car.

Should I call someone?

No, air traffic control must be on top of whatever it was. Or NASA. Or the airforce. Some authority would deal with the situation with force and send fighter jets and stuff.

Right?

By the time she crossed about half the distance to her car, the sound had grown loud enough to make her slap her hands over her ears. She had kept her eyes away from the sky, not wanting to send herself into panic, but now she stopped and looked up.

The object was close.

Too close.

It looked like a large metal box, red hot and licked by flames. It certainly wasn’t an asteroid, but it wasn’t a plane either. This thing wasn’t flying; it was falling.

That whatever-it-is will come down just a few hundred yards from here. What do I do?

She had no time to react or make a decision. The thing hit the ground with a sound near a thunderclap and skidded over the sand. It came to rest at the edge of the water, sending up pillars of steam as the scorching metal hit the cool liquid.

Thank God it fell down here and not on someone’s house.

She was too far away to make out any details, but the thing was definitely not a natural occurrence.

Could it have fallen from a plane? Not likely, unless the plane was a space shuttle.

Maybe it was a satellite? Didn’t they come down from time to time? And the news reported that no one could predict where?

Or, it could be a piece of the international space station. There were probably all sorts of debris in orbit, and everything that went up must come down at some point in time.

Could there be someone in it? Like in that movie with Sandra Bullock where she destroyed everything in space?

Alex’s feet re-found the ability to move and she jogged towards it. A hatch in the side of the craft opened, and a person jumped out. He ran too, but towards her, waving his arms.

“Explosion… antimatter…”

She only heard a few words, but it was enough to make her stop and stare. He must be joking. Wasn’t antimatter theoretical? Or something people worked on in Switzerland, in that long tunnel thingy?

Maybe she had stumbled onto a movie set. That would make sense.

The man was fast. She didn’t have time to sort through her thoughts before he grabbed her arm and pulled her along, away from the burning box on the beach.

He tugged her along over a large dune, pushed her down, and threw himself over her, shielding her with his body.

She didn’t have time to protest. The ground shook under them, there was a noise so loud she wanted to scream to make it stop, and heat so intense it must be a matter of seconds before her skin would catch fire.

Then, the world fell quiet.

The man got to his feet in one fluid motion. He was sooty, but handsome, with hazel eyes and dark brown hair. He offered a hand, and pulled her up when she took it.

“Sorry about that. The antimatter pod was damaged during my descent.”

“Antimatter.”

“I’m Adam. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“Alex.” She looked at her hand, still engulfed in his. What a peculiar day. Was life outside the office always this interesting and she missed out?

“Antimatter?”

“Yes. The containment field failed. Luckily the shuttle only had a speck, or this side of the continent would be gone.”

“Okay…”

He didn’t seem dangerous and he had protected her from the blast, but it was still probably safest to assume he was crazy and play along.

In this day and age, it was safest to assume everyone were crazy, until they proved not to be.

She pulled her hand back. “I was going to my car, to go get some coffee. If you just stay here I’m sure the authorities will…”

Up until now he had seemed void of emotion, almost in shock, but her words made him frown. “Oh no, encountering them would be bad. I am happy to have met you, Alex, but I think I need to leave.”

He winked at her and jogged off towards the road.

What the hell just happened?

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