The sleek spacecraft was still miles above the field, traveling at many times the speed of sound. Finished passing through the upper atmosphere, its shell glowed deep red from the residual friction. Even in darkest night, it left glowing white contrails in its wake.
“12-25 to Nazareth Control, copy approach. We see a glideslope of 7.013, vector 250.258. Advise on local conditions, please.” The replying voice sounded old and tired from the long journey.
A second man, monitoring the flight on a 3D video display, noted that while the field conditions were secure, there had been localized disturbances in many of the nearby communities. He spoke into his microphone, “12-25, your approach is nominal, with an option to increase slope to twelve degrees, if situation changes. Update in three minutes.”
The man keyed off his microphone and spun around his chair to face the tall one. “Hey, Balt? What’s the point of this incoming? I mean, we’ve been on alert for the past month, it seems like. We can’t move around the field without three separate clearances and a note from Mother Mary. And then there’s that secret shipment sitting in hanger two – half of security is guarding something that reeks so bad, the sewage plant smells like a rose garden. And all I can get out of anybody is the same thing I can give. Nuthin.”
“Mel. Mel, Mel, Mel, Mel, Mel. “, the third man, younger than the others, spoke up. “Some things are not to be known by mere mortals like us.” He smacked Balt’s thigh. “Off the gear. You’ll screw up the calibration.”
Balt slid off with a mock squeak of indignity. “Right you are Gaspy! Mere mortals indeed. But in this case, I suppose I can share what little more I think I know.”
The younger man snapped back, “Stop trying to nickname me! My name’s Gaspar.”
Mel tried to shut the complaint down before it built up a head of steam. “Gas, everybody here gets a nickname at some point. The more you bitch about it, the worse it’ll get. I stopped pretty quick when they dubbed me ‘Mel the Choir Boy’. Balt here had it worse until he made Chief. What was it again Chief? ‘Balthucker’ or something like that?” Mel grinned at Gas, knowing the response coming.
“All you’ve got to remember Mel, is what my nickname is now!” Balt’s voice was threatening but not loud. “Go on, tell Gas was it is now.”
Mel intoned the sentence with mock dramatics. “They call him, da-dum-da-dum; the Ballbreaker.”
“And don’t either of you forget it. But, in the spirit of magnanimity, I’ll tell you what little I know. The stuff in the hangar is an assortment of rare metals and chemicals. Gifts from us mediators here on planet. As to who for? The rumor is, some Special Mediator is being sent from the home system. Rumor has it, it’s the Son.”
Just then, alarms went off on several systems in the control room. Balt took three steps to land in the command seat, status panels and safety straps positioning themselves around him. Mel’s 3D was an orb of white noise. Gaspar had numerous indications of perimeter breaches, an emergency signal from the inbound craft, and medium-to-critical warnings coming from the antimatter plant.
Balt was trying for audio to the incoming flight, but Gas yelled to him that external comma were down except for the beacon receiver on the roof above them. Mel simply said, ‘I’m blind’, then went back to talking to field technicians.
Balt pulled up Gas’ info onto his own screens and was impressed with the effort the enemy was making. He didn’t know why the power station was trying to go critical, but it was obvious it was no coincidence. He was readying to send out orders to the field sections, when his screens we’re overridden by a new display showing incoming missiles. Balt’s hand automatically reached under the edge of the seat to activate the field’s Moebius Shield. It was only a split second later that his last thought was that the antimatter plant wouldn’t handle the load in its present state.
Aboard 12-25, still some hundreds of miles out, but now at much lower altitude, Joe saw the beginnings of the möbius’ green grid before an even brighter blue-white surge blanketed the horizon.
Joe immediately got strapped into the pilot seat and reconfigured for an escape maneuver. Starting the climb exposed a weak link in the spacecraft’s shielding pattern. One of the dozens of incoming missiles exploded near enough to shatter both the shielding and the star drive linkage.
Cursing the bad luck, he set a northern course and went back to secure his charge. The infant was secure in the escape pod, seemingly unbothered by the noises and buffeting. Joe climbed into the main seat of the pod and got a reading of the nearby terrain.
Nazareth was gone, along with anything within a hundred miles. He saw a number of cities of assorted sizes, but needed to pick one where he could both land safely, and connect with his species. Avoiding local entanglements would be of primary importance.
Joe remotely banked the spacecraft to circle back to Nazareth. Crashing into that plasma mix and adding another antimatter explosion would eliminate all traces of his existence. At the high point of the arc, he launched the pod toward his town choice: Bethlehem.
It was one of his better landings, if he did say so himself. He put down near a large neighborhood of caves, where he buried the entrance with a small explosion. Making his way to the trail that led into town, he intercepted a young woman on a mule, named Mary. They decided to share the costs of lodging when they arrived.