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Song Title: Lights Out
Genre: Rock/Psychedelic M usic: St Paul, Colab and Chris Bailey Remix : Scomber Lyrics: Scomber/KCentric Vocals: Scomber/KCentric = Download song
Chapter Five Lights Out
Ray Phillips. One look at his furrowed brow and craggy features should have placed him as a cattle farmer. His hands were large and coarse. His eyes were a faded blue, dazzling in his youth, but now dissolving with the years. He lay in his bed, giggling to himself like a child with a big secret, his wife Hazel asleep on one side, and a printed image of the orb stretched out on the floor the other side. "So this is Charlie's Manhattan" he whispered. "Fifteen miles long and weighing a quarter of our moon." "We've made it Hazel. We've bloody well made it." His thoughts were interrupted by the ring of the telephone down the hallway. He leapt out of bed, faster than he had ever done before and picked up the phone. It was Pat from the Parkes telescope, out of breath and clearly distressed. "Ray get back to your telescope right now and call the police." Ray interrupted. "What's happened?" They’ve taken all the computers. I managed to get in the car and ....... burrrrrrrrrrr. The line went dead. He tapped the hang up button. No dial tone. Ok Ray. Take a few deep breaths… he said to himself.
He grabbed his keys, checked on Hazel and jumped into his car. He was only at the end of the street when he saw all the lights go out. No street lights or lights in houses. Bang! Ray flinched, wrenching the wheel to the opposite side of the road. He swerved clear of a fiery ball of flames and sparks and stopped the car. "Jesus". He slumped over the wheel his heart beating a drum through his rib cage. A completely burnt out electricity transformer, about the size of a fridge lay prostate in the middle of the road. The pole from where it had launched was still on fire. By the time he had got out towards the bridge through town he saw at least half a dozen transformers, one on the roof of a car looking like a fallen piece of Skylab. He passed the police on the bridge and soon a couple of fire engines all heading back into town. It was an incredibly dark night. Even though he was well clear of the town, it seemed impossibly dark. He concentrated on the road and the beam of light that stretched in front of him. It's probably always this dark out here with no moon and a blackout in town. He thought about Pat from Parkes and how the last thing he said was something about managing to get into his car. Why would use the word "manage" unless it was a difficult assignment to reach his vehicle and flee. Who are "they".?. The road entered the national park and narrowed as it twisted up the mountain. There is something on the road ahead. Startled, Ray jumps on the brakes, locking up and expecting a kangaroo through the windscreen, stopped just short of Charlie. "Jump in you flam'n lunatic". Charlie was still in his paint and total naked.
"Gee thanks Mr. Phillips for the lift to work, but why are you dressed in your pajamas? Ray gave a wry smile looking Charlie up and down. "Well I think you’re just in time, Pocahontas, to see who else is interested in your Mars work. The road reached the top of the first escarpment and Ray pulled the car over to the side. They both got out and looked towards town. Not a single light. Ray turned to Charlie. "I'm figuring it's some sort of power surge or a particularly vicious magnetic storm. The transformers were flying off the poles in town like flaming grenades. You know you were right about your Manhattan object. We set up an array last night with Parkes and Stromlo and even got a radio image of the son of a bitch. Why didn’t you fill me in earlier Charlie? Charlie's gaze was skyward his face all white teeth and eyes. "You know Boss, I saw the object in a dream I had on walkabout. It's a peanut shaped orb that flows and shimmers as if it was made of quicksilver. It gave me a sense of warmth but cut with a biting cold that I could feel in my bones. Kamilaroi have a word for it – coloata – the fire of the gods. It’s the force that separates the living from the afterlife and it has been here before. The older blackfellas say that it perched itself high above the treetops of the Grand Tor near the end of the Dreamtime. You go up there even now and your compass spins like a top”. Ray looked up towards the observatory anxiously. "I reckon we park the car at the first bend and walk up the stairs rather than driving up.” They got into the car and drove another five hundred metres. Ray peeled off to the right at the first corner concealing the car from the road in a small excavation cut when the road was built.
"Just take it really quiet as we reach the depot. I think someone is in the process of pinching our gear, but I don't think they’re Martians." As they climbed the stairs the refracted glow from the compound flood lights seemed to dull the intolerable darkness. Stopping at the last flight of stairs, Charlie took a look at Ray, struggling about fifty metres back, feeling the climb. Even in the low light, his black and white striped pajamas shone in the darkness like some kind of incandescent zebra. "I can see you a mile away with that clobber Boss. You stay here or take your bloody clothes off like me. I think I better take a quick look around. The backup generator is running. The lights are on.” Ray didn't have time to argue as Charlie sprung over the last flight of stairs and into the cover of the bushes that lined the car park. He looked towards the main building and saw a light turn on at the rear of the control room. He ran towards the utilities shed in the center of the compound. The keys were in their usual place and he opened the door and stepped inside. He knew that he would have a huge advantage by turning the emergency generator off. He disconnected the battery backup and pulled the ignition leads off the petrol generator. Darkness again. He could see a couple of torches a lot easier on a dark night. He slinked out of the shed and saw the flash of a couple of torches in the control room and bolted towards them, heading for the external fire escape stairs. Charlie knew every nook and cranny of the observatory better than anyone else – after all, he cleaned the place for ten years. Reaching the top floor he shimmied along the narrow ledge that ran just below the control room. There was a gap in the wall about half a metre square where an old air conditioner used to sit before the building was ducted. He squeezed through, accessing a narrow space between the wall and the interior lining. As quietly as he
could he crabbed his way along the wall until he reached a couple of holes in the plaster where some old mainframes used to be bolted to the wall. There was just enough space to see into the control room. There appeared to be three men, working efficiently to remove one of the main servers that stores temporary data acquired by the main dish for positioning the optical telescopes. They were definitely slowed down by the lack of light, relying on their torches. “What happened to the backup power?” one figure asked the other. Charlie noticed that the accents were American as one left the room and headed for the fire stairs. They were dressed in black combat fatigues, probably armed he thought. Charlie then shuffled his way in the confining space towards the other fire exit that served the other wing. There was nothing this warrior, forget about his war paint, was going to do with his boss in the carpark in his pajamas. He reached the end of the cavity and remembered that he would have to climb twelve feet over the mesh at the fire escape. The mesh was surprisingly quiet as he lifted his frame over the edge. The only problem about this exit was that he would have to open the fire escape door blind, taking the risk that someone might be guarding outside at the top of the stairs. His heart beat through his chest as he pushed the bar and slipped through the door. No one there. But he could now see the person who left the other exit loading some equipment into the back of a dark coloured van. “I’ve got to get back to Ray.” He mouthed to himself. He was just about to start down the stairs when he heard the door behind him click. “All clear west exit”. An American voice said quietly into a two way radio. The figure walked past Charlie, down the stairs
in front of him, fortunately not noticing him pinned against the building wall, not game to take a breath. Charlie saw his opportunity. He took a couple of swift strides towards the figure at the first landing and shouldered him over the railing for a deadly fifteen metre fall to the carpark below. The starlight was just enough for Charlie to make out the prostrate form not moving at the base of the stairs. He bolted down, rolled the man over onto his back and took his pistol from the body holster. His radio was blaring; “Alpha. Respond. Respond.” He could still hear the radio as he dashed back towards the bushes and stairs where he had left Ray. He wasn’t there but Charlie instinctively used his bush tracking skills and noticed some long grass trodden in the direction of the top lookout. He found Ray beyond the safety railing, butt naked, trailing a long electrical wire up the grassy slope, back towards the viewing platform. “They’re American boss, and I don’t think they are very friendly.” Charlie said waving the pistol towards him. “I pushed one off the back stairs.” “Put that bloody thing away.” He responded. Ray was a man on a mission. “How many did you see?” he asked “I only saw three, well, make that two now.” They were removing the data arrays and loading them into a van.” Ray turned to Charlie, twisting a couple of wires together. “Are you sure there was only one van.” He asked, his mind clearly preoccupied with the task at hand. The penny dropped. Charlie began to realize what his naked boss had in mind. The lookout was closed to the public a couple of years ago after a series of rock falls that had landed on the road below. Ray had been to the utility shed soon after Charlie had cut the backup power and retrieved a small quantity of explosives and
detonators that had been left behind by the crew that cleared the debris from the road below. They had only just reached the viewing platform when they heard the van start up. They stood up, peering down at the set of headlights as they snaked their way down the grade around the first couple of bends. Ray produced a nine volt battery and prepared to touch the twisted copper wire against the terminals. Now! Charlie urged as the van slowed to negotiate the hairpin immediately below. The blast was loud, but nothing as big as Ray had imagined. To both of their surprise a large piece of the cliff face and topsoil below them sheared off the side of the slope, dragging a couple of trees with it. It was a direct hit. They ran to the other side of the viewing platform and scaled the safety rail so they could see the road below. Not a sound or even a flash of headlights. Just a large chunk of mountain on the road beneath. Ray tuned to Charlie. “Public visiting hours are between 9 and 5 pm and these guys obviously didn’t see the “falling rocks” sign as they left the carpark.” He suddenly looked more serious and his was voice somber, “You know Charlie that this is only going to buy us a couple of hours.” Whoever these guys are, they already have the data from Parkes. Just as well I took the backup tapes home with me when I left this evening...” A look of horror transformed his face in the weak moonlight. “Oh my god! Hazel. I left her at home sound asleep. The tapes are on the dresser in our bedroom.” They bolted back to the carpark and down the stairs to the car. End of chapter 5