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Sam had a very important job for a nine-year-old. It wasn’t a job that paid like his parent’s jobs, but that was just fine for Sam, he felt like it was his trusted responsibility to the world and that was enough. Sam had a very strong imagination and sometimes he would spend all day up in his room, staring out of his window, picturing scenes in his backyard that, on any normal day in any normal yard, would never occur. Sam would watch the trees sway back and forth as a storm slowly crept through his neighborhood, clouds tumbling towards him like gigantic ships in the sky. Sometimes he could swear he saw metallic fins, exhaust ports, and colored lights behind the clouds, hidden just enough to not raise suspicion from the weatherman. Sam was convinced the local weatherman, Stan Johnston, was this town’s first line of defense in case of an alien invasion and because of this, Sam never missed the evening news. His parents even took him out to the station one-day to meet Stan and he was able to explain his theories on the visitors in the sky. It was a day he’ll never forget. “Keep watching those clouds, kid,” Stan told him with a little wink, “you never know what you might see.” Sam had his mission from that day forward. It must have struck his parents as odd, Sam sitting intently in front of the t.v. during the 6 o’clock forecast, eyeing a newly formed low pressure system like most nine year olds ogle a new video game. His parents were very supportive of his interest in the weather and bought him all sorts of gadgets to enrich his development as a budding meteorological whiz kid. Each Christmas he got a new device to measure and observe
the weather, this past year it was a very nice telescope to spot incoming clouds on the horizon. Sam had the telescope set up in his bedroom looking out a window facing the backyard. His room was on the second floor of the house and the window gave him a clear view over the tops of the trees. On a nice day he could see all the way to the coast, where the Atlantic Ocean fills the horizon and the Earth seems to stop after, Sam estimates, four to five football field lengths. But clear days are boring for Sam. There’s really nothing to discover out there over the treetops, on the horizon where the world ends. Roads, beaches, buildings, boats, and jet-skis, things everyone’s seen before. No, the real excitement comes when those clouds start to roll. When the wind blows through the trees Sam throws open his windows and stares at the sky. It starts as a thin black line on the horizon. Puffy cumulous clouds start to darken and the sun peeks out from behind them. Sam can smell the ocean as the winds pickup and the air gets electric. He grabs his telescope and stares through the lens, desperately searching the sky for hard angular shapes in the plump globular clouds. The wind blows through the trees below him as he adjusts the knobs on his scope, trying hard to focus on ever changing shapes in the clouds. Taking his head away from the scope for a moment to get a full view of the storm, Sam watches the ocean slowly disappear from view, overtaken by the rain’s approach inland. A wall of black churns closer to the house, sending out rumbles of warning to anyone still outside. The nightlight plugged into the wall of Sam’s bedroom switches itself on as the sun slips behind the raging black mass. Sam peers through the scope again into the belly of the beast, frantically following bolts of lightning to the ground and
back up to their origin, searching for some weapon’s bay or lightning gun protruding, briefly, to take the shot, before being retracted back into the mother-ship. His room, blue walled and book-lined, transforms around him into a laboratory of cloud studies, slowly detaching itself from the rest of the house. Scattered toy soldiers and teddy bears become pacing scientists studying charts. The closet in the corner converts into a super computer capable of tracking the storm, and his bed morphs into a sky chart with possible locations of the hidden spacecraft marked by mutated buttons from his grandmother’s quilt. Captain Sam, dressed in full naval regalia, turns briefly to check the latest reports from the sky charts before making a slight adjustment in course towards a curious grouping of clouds that are reflecting a struggling beam of sunlight in a peculiar manner. Perched at the edge of the bow viewport, Sam struggles to focus the images from his telescope to assess the possible discovery. “Its no use, I need to get closer!” Sam shouts to his crew. “Engage the boosters! I think I can see it!” Sam yells with excitement from the possibility of contact with the ship. As the clouds begin to fill more and more of Sam’s view a series of shapes begin to emerge. Rectangles and squares, triangles and circles float within the cloud formations along with faint bursts of colored lights, which disappear before he can study them carefully. Loud rumbles vibrate Sam’s ship and the cold, upper-atmospheric air seems to float through the steel reinforced hull of the vessel and send goosebumps down his arms. “Steady captain,” Sam whispers to himself, “we’re close to a major discovery here.”
The ship draws close to the bank of clouds and Sam calls for quiet on the bridge. The teddy bear scientists and toy soldier flight crew stop their excited chatter and stare intently out of the viewing port along with the captain. Sam reaches down to tweak a few knobs on the bridge control panel, making sure to keep one eye on the shifting cloud cover as he adjusts the spectrum views. Sam’s eyes widen with anticipation as the ship’s visual enhancements begin to clear the view before him. The clouds become translucent under the power of Sam’s advanced visual technology onboard and a gigantic ship reveals itself. The scientists and flight crew gasp in unison as Sam takes a step back from the telescope in order to see a full view of his discovery. A magnificent space ship fills the viewport completely. Like the tip of an iceberg, the edge of the ship that had caught Sam’s eye initially reveals itself to be but a fraction of the beast in view before them. Monstrous metallic motors spin in silence, somehow keeping the alien craft aloft. Huge circular exhaust ports seem to be creating the cloud cover around the ship in order to disguise its presence, just as Sam had predicted. “This one must be the Mother Ship,” Sam thought. If only he could get this news to the weatherman in time he could save the world from possible invasion! “Communications, I need a link to the weather station! We’ve got to get this message out!” Sam ordered his wide-eyed crew still mesmerized by the ship. After a moment they shook themselves back to reality and scrambled to their stations. “What?! All communications are being jammed?” Sam responded in consternation, “ok this is more serious than I thought…REVERSE THRUSTERS! We need to get back to the com-link at the home base!”
The vessel rumbled away from the mighty ship and headed back toward Earth. Sam watched the ship become enclosed in clouds again as they moved out of range of the visual enhancements. His mind raced with the task ahead of him but he took a moment to congratulate himself on finally making contact. He felt a tinge of sadness as he watched the black clouds tumble in on themselves completely masking the spacecraft. He would never feel the joy of first discovery again; but that feeling was fleeting and was replaced by a sense of urgency as he felt his ship dock back with the home base. Sam turned one last time to the viewport but the storm seemed to be moving over the house and he could see blue skies now over the ocean. He would have to hurry in order to alert Stan in time. Sam threw open the door to his room and ran down the stairs to find his mother and father watching the news. ‘Perfect’ he thought, ‘the weather should be coming up in just a minute or two.’ “Mom, Dad we’ve gotta call Stan! I was just watching the clouds and I saw it!” “Yeah,” Dad said, “that was quite a storm that just rolled through but I’m sure Stan Johnston already knows about that one son.” “Yea but I saw a ship in the clouds, we’ve gotta call and tell him so he can tell everybody!” Sam yelled and dug through the newspapers on the table to look for the phone. “Look,” Dad pointed, “there he is now…oh looks like the storm’s cleared out already son, …boy that was a fast mover. Sorry Sam, these summer storms never last very long. You might be able to catch a few more shapes in those before the wind blows them off the coast.”
Sam stood looking at the radar image over his town, watching as the red blotches over his house turned to green, and the green blotches disappeared. It was too late, the ship must have gotten spooked when it saw Sam and decided to postpone the invasion. Sam was crushed when he thought of how close he had come to saving the world, and of how impressed Stan Johnston would be when he got the call and verified it on his radar. He stopped shuffling the loose newspaper around the table and headed back up the stairs thinking about how his press conference would have gone. But then he realized something as he got to the top of the steps. If it hadn’t been for him, the mother ship would have probably kept going with the invasion and everyone would have been caught surprised. He had saved the world, but no one would ever know it. Sam opened the door to his room and stepped over his toy soldiers and teddy bears to get to the open window. As he surveyed the bright blue sky, out there over the treetops, on the horizon where the world ends, he vowed to ‘keep watching those clouds’ and maybe one-day the whole world would know him as: CAPTAIN SAM, DEFENDER OF THE EARTH
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