-Friend and Foe-

In the wooded foothills fringing the valley, quiet preparations have taken place. In the swirling mist rising from the ground after a recent shower, construction is going on. A large silver dome is being erected, cranes lifting a section as orders are barked. The military, it seems, were not taken by surprise. They prepared for this day with construction supplies, and have quickly completed the construction of a dome with military hands assigned to the duty. The dome design is one fashioned after the remnants of sites on the Moon and Mars, scientifically studied to withstand high winds, earthquakes, and large enough to enclose their own atmosphere with comfort to the inhabitants. It is also a design coerced from a contactee, a type the Zetas inhabit. However, to their surprise and as we later learn, a second dome has been constructed in the locale, one not inhabited strictly by humans, much less the military.

General Flood, a vein in his bull neck throbbing, is impatient.

I want this done yesterday! We can expect stragglers to start arriving, and I'll be damned if they'll find us out in the open!

His non-commissioned companion, Sergeant Hammond, is hurrying to catch up to the general. Shorter and slight of build, he looks up at the general, his voice full of worry.

Sir, I still haven't been able to get through to my wife and kids. None of us have.

General Flood snaps back.

I told you that'd have to wait! We've got bigger worries than that right now.

As General Flood and Sergeant Hammond continue walking toward the construction site, another couple steps out from the tree bank. Jonah is wearing jeans and a white shirt worn thin by many washings, his dusty boots and ruffled hair attesting to his careless attitude toward appearances. He is standing next to a tall Zeta whose post thin body and stick arms are almost shocking when seen side by side next to the slender Jonah. The Zeta is gesturing toward the receding military men, his face turning toward Jonah, silently communicating. In response to this telepathic conversation, Jonah replies.

I know. They stole it from a contactee. But they don't have much besides the shape. It's not like our domes.

The Zeta puts his hand on Jonah's shoulder, and glancing up, Jonah replies in agreement.

Yeah, I know, before we're spotted.

At this both, of them rise in the air a few feet and float off, backwards and away from the scene before them, then dissolving into another dimension.

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Jonah and his Zeta companion walk up through the mist in the direction of the camera, out of the trees that are surrounding a natural clearing. Jonah says,

The injured you brought in have been getting restless and want to help with the work, they've been asking for a role.

They are walking toward a large silver dome, toward the entry port at the ground level. Off to this side there are several thin Zetas, transporting injured people or assisting those too weak to walk into the domed city from a dull gray saucer shaped craft suspended a couple feet off the ground. Those who can't walk are being transported by levitation, their prone bodies floating alongside a walking Zeta who is apparently in charge of the levitation and transport.

 

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Billy is out digging for potatoes in a field behind the tent city. It is gloomy as though early dawn, the trees along the creek starkly outlined against the gray sky. Their leaves have fallen off, not as they do in fall when they color and then drop, but because about half have turned a sickly yellow and dropped while the remaining leaves are still green. Billy is scrapping and chopping at the soil with a short hoe and digging tool, turning the earth, looking for potatoes. He has a cloth sack lying on the ground beside him, lumpy with the few potatoes he has found. He is dusty and frankly dirty in places, as much from his work as from infrequent baths. Billy looks solemn and forlorn, with a slight frown on this face. Billy drops to his knees to dig by hand, failing to notice that he is no longer alone.

Suddenly Billy notices a thick gray Zeta foot, developed over eons to deal with a heavy gravity draw, and the thin leg above it. The foot appears to be booted in a seamless gray material. Billy sees the foot and freezes, but does not look concerned. He eases back into a sitting position, putting his legs out in front of him a bit, and looks up, squinting. The Zeta holds a capped vial of smoky colored glass. The long slender fingers in the Zeta hand are wrapped around the vial, held in place by just a hint of a thumb, a bump where the thumb should be. Billy starts talking to the Zeta as though he has been doing this all his life, as though there were nothing unusual about the scene. He blurts out, in a natural and relaxed voice, as though talking to a family member he trusts, speaking quickly and with fervor.

She just won't talk to any of us.

At this tears well up in his eyes. Billy continues, with a quiver in his voice.

She stares at me like she doesn't see me.

His breath quickening as though he were about to start crying in earnest, tears starting to stream down his face.

I asked her to come with me, digging, so we could skip stones like we used to, and she didn't even say nothing. Nothing!

Billy wipes the tears away with the palm of his hand against one cheek, suddenly jerking his head up and looking clear faced at the Zeta, whose face we never see. There is a moment of silence as he is obviously listening to something intently. He glances at the vial and raises his hand to take it from the Zeta. He smiles slightly through his dusty tears, glancing at the Zeta briefly during this, by way of thanks.

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Though it is mid-day, it is still gloomy, as though a very overcast day during early dawn at the ranch city. Martha is sorting laundry, looking for items to be mended, seated on a chair in an open area, the laundry scattered about her in little piles on the ground. Her two children are behind her on the grass, Billy bringing Tammy what appears to be a glass of water. Billy sits down beside her, holding the glass up near her face. Tammy weakly raises a hand, and Billy uses his own hand in addition to her hand to steady the glass as she raises it.

Issues around the food shortage and what to eat have come up continually lately, with creative meal-making resulting. Martha cooks what she and Red decide is good to eat, and the others are told not to ask. This has included atypical menu items such as earthworms picked up off the damp grass after the last rain and some slow moving possums Red has caught, as well as edible weeds. Big Tom strides in to talk to his wife, squatting before her so they can talk face to face. He looks up into her face.

We're out, plumb out, and the canned goods are going fast too.

Martha is unperturbed, as she and Red noticed this long before the others. She keeps on mending through all of this without missing a stitch, though looks up and into her husbands eyes a lot, letting him know she has heard him. She smiles.

Red is bringing some possum back, and I've got some special soup tonight, you'll see, it'll be all right.

Big Tom pauses, then rises to his feet.

Special soup?

Martha starts picking the laundry up off a pile, folding it on her lap as though getting ready to go.

Never you mind, it'll be good for you.

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It is supper time in the tent city, where the group has gathered around a glowing camp fire in the center of the makeshift tents. Martha is ladling out soup, handing bowl after bowl to the group as they come up one at a time. Some members of the group eat heartily, others sniff and hesitate. Herman says,

What's in this?

He receives no answer nor even a nod from Martha. All eventually start eating. Billy and Tammy who are sitting in the grass behind and somewhat to the side of Martha as she stands next to the fire and soup pot. Billy takes a bowl to his sister Tammy, sitting without motion or expression at the perimeter. Tammy says,

Thanks.

Tammy starts eating matter of factly in a casual manner. Martha has stopped ladling, her ladle frozen in the air, tears forming in her eyes. She catches herself, taking a deep breath and tries to disguise the emotion in her voice.

Anyone for more?

Tammy glances at her brother and giggles, sharing a joke, both of them unaware of the waves of emotion buffeting their placid and reliable mother.

Len and Big Tom sitting at a table. Len says,

There are a lot of stories going around about these camps. Trucks were seen going in on a regular basis just ahead of the upheavals.

Big Tom is intrigued.

Maybe we should get together a scouting party and find out what's what?

Always loving a good gossip line, Len continues.

Repeatedly, repeatedly and sometimes on a daily basis! Jed ain't the only one who seed it either, plenty others seed it too.

Len scoops some soup up with a piece of bread and after biting a piece off continues with great seriousness.

I'm telling you, they've got a camp there, they got supplies, and that's where we should be heading.

What they find is not a warm welcome, but interrogation.

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Crossing an open field, Big Tom, Len, Herman, and Jane who has insisted that the woman's touch was needed, are trudging through the overcast day, backpacks or cloth sacks thrown over shoulders, boots on and jackets open, wearing their clothing supplies rather than carrying them in suitcases. Jane brings up the rear, though she is following Len who is actually the slow one. Jane is doing this out of consideration, steadying him now and then if he loses his balance by putting a hand up against his back pack, unbeknownst to him. A kind hearted person, she can see this veteran is a weakened man, struggling not to show it. Len is pointing toward a cleft in the hills looming up ahead.

Over there, they drove up and just plumb disappeared between those hills. Ain't nothing in there that anyone knows, and the signs say 'Private Property'.

A lookout on the hilltop is watching the four-some trudging toward him. He picks up a portable phone and talks into it, softly.

Incoming, 4 o'clock.

The group is approaching a cleft in the hills, trees on both sides. Len is talking animatedly, waving his arm in this direction or that while he describes what he or others have seen from a distance. Jane is glancing slowly from side to side, scanning the skimpy forest they are approaching with a half-curious look on her face. Suddenly Jane freezes, her hand raising in the direction of the woods they are fast approaching, her warning frozen in her throat as a military warning booms out.

Halt! Halt or be fired upon! Identify yourselves.

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A single table is furnished in the large bare room, the lights dim everywhere but in the center of the room over the table. The foursome come stumbling into the room, glancing over their shoulders, more worried about what is behind them than in front of them. General Flood comes walking out of the shadows opposite their entry.

Who led you here? This installation isn't on the map! Who led you here!

His voice is firm and his questions posed as though he didn't expect any resistance. Len is almost squirming, and the others glance at him.

Well Sir, I was formerly in the military and ..

At which point Len gets rudely interrupted by General Flood.

Stick to the point! Who led you here!

Len gulps.

I did.

Big Tom and Jane have been taken aside to another interrogation room by a group of military interrogators in shirt sleeves with their sleeves rolled up past their elbows, ties off and shirt collars open. This room is small and close, so the interrogators are literally in the faces of those they are questioning. Big Tom and Jane are being questioned relentlessly with staccato questions meant to rattle them. The questions are broadly based. Colonel Cage asks,

How many in your group?

Big Tom responds.

My family? Are you including the townsfolk?

Another interrogator asks,

Where did you say you were when it happened?

Big Tom starts to respond.

I was at the ranch, but ..

But is interrupted by a second interrogator.

Herman, who?

Still struggling to answer the questions put to him, Big Tom says,

He's, he's the major of the town.

Big Tom is trying to answer the question as though they are factual, not understanding, as Jane does intuitively, that they are intended to rattle them. She is composed, and finally confronts them in a clear calm voice.

How long do you think it will be before the whole town arrives? What will you do with them?

Her question silences the interrogators, as she has seen past their bravado to their point of panic.

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Finally allowed out into the camp yard, Big Tom and Jane come out a door to join Herman and Len. They are all standing close together, waiting, in the center of a complex of bland colored huts. General Flood and his ever present attaché, Sergeant Hammond, are to the side, being briefed by the interrogators, Colonel Cage among them. Colonel Cage is shaking his head slightly as he walks up to the group, indicating their lack of success. General Flood reports.

It doesn't matter, the little rat broke. They came from the Shaw ranch just north of here.

The General pauses, then says:

Make sure they aren't followed.

General Flood turns abruptly and walks off, leaving his orders ambiguous.

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A despondent Big Tom and Jane and their guards are returning to the farm, backtracking along the path taken to reach the camp. The path is going along a narrow valley between rolling hills. All are walking single file. The half dozen military men are holding weapons, casually pointed down and to the side as they walk but nevertheless at the ready. Big Tom is in the lead, and is walking slowly, trying to think of escape and stalling, not wanting to lead them back to his family. The soldier behind him gives him a shove, making him stumble slightly. Colonel Cage, who has been walking behind Jane, comes forward quickly, reprimanding the soldier in a quick aside, and begins walking side by side with Big Tom. Colonel Cage picks up the pace to put a little distance between themselves and the others, and begins to talk to Big Tom quietly.

Is there a break up ahead where we can take a stand?

Big Tom doesn't miss a beat, having sized up the colonel as a good man, and after a moment of mulling it over, answers.

At the creek up ahead. It gets rough ..

The conversation is interrupted, Colonel Cage jerking his head around, hearing a slight but familiar sound, and immediately bolts back along the line. He says,

Where is she!

His question is met with a cold stare, but as Jane and two of the soldiers have disappeared, the Colonel has his answer. Colonel Cage continues back along the trail, picking up his pace, and soon finds what he feared. Behind a group of trees, Jane is struggling with one of the men who is trying to tear her pants down, while the other holds the automatic weapon in a relaxed manner, watching and leaning back against a tree. The soldier with the gun jerks his head around, seeing Colonel Cage running up to them. The rapist shoves Jane away and quickly adjusts his pants at the fly, trying to conceal what he was up to. The soldier with the gun raises his gun and shoots Jane, who has staggered back, in the face with a short burst from the automatic. Colonel Cage wrenches the gun away from the soldier. The soldier says,

She was trying to escape.

Without missing a beat, Colonel Cage lowers the weapon and shoots this soldier in the stomach, swinging it quickly to do the same to the rapist. While the two of them are writhing on the ground, in agony, Colonel Cage walks over to Jane, determining at a glance that she is solidly dead as her head is essentially blown off. He turns on his heels and strides back the way he came, his face full of tension and a film of sweat on his pale face. He is breathing heavily, from the run and adrenaline, and runs his fingers thought his hair, front to back, combing it as he strides back to the waiting line of men.

Lets go.

He walks to the front to rejoin Big Tom who is waiting with an anxious look on his face.

They're all dead, it's over.

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The women are washing clothes on some rocks along the creek. Netty is snappish with Daisy, who is sitting back and barely dipping her batch of laundry into the water, as though she expects to be rescued. Netty snaps at her.

I'm not going to do it for you this time. Wake up to it, it's this or living grungie.

Clara is washing vigorously, a worried look on her face. Finally she sits back on her haunches, facing Martha.

Do you think we'll ever see them again?

Martha glances quickly over her shoulder, seeing her children playing along the creek bed behind them, out of ear shot.

Big Tom knows this area and Len knows how to talk to them.

Martha hasn't answered the question, but it is apparent by her face that she too is worried and just trying to keep a calm front. Suddenly Tammy shouts.

Dad!

Tammy is running and Billy jumps to his feet to follow her. Big Tom and Colonel Cage walk out of the woods, followed by the three remaining soldiers. The women have risen to their feet as Big Tom walks up to Martha with a grim look in his face. Martha is anxious, glancing over his shoulder and flitting her eyes back to meet his quickly.

Where's the others?

The grim look on his face is her answer, and she flutters a hand quickly to her mouth, and utters quietly.

Oh, no!

Clara is next, standing just behind Martha where we can see her anxious face.

Where's Len? Where are they! In God's name tell me what happened!

Big Tom puts his left hand on her shoulder.

They're fine, fine, don't get excited. They stayed behind and they're all fine.

Martha is leaning her face into her husband's shoulder, biting her trembling lower lip and fighting tears, trying to use an embrace and joy over seeing her husband again to disguise her grief from the rest of the women and her children.