Chapter 5: The Reporter
Mandy Mimoto was getting arrested by a fake park ranger up in Hatcher’s Pass where she’d been trespassing outside Hatcher Pass Ski Resort when the G-man’s walkie-talkie’s chatter suddenly went dead on his waist with a weird sizzle. The ranger frowned and grabbed his walkie-talkie, giving Mandy a chance to dance backwards out of the corner, away from the imminent chance of getting cuffed.
“Look, I know you’re not a park ranger,” she insisted, as she scooted out of range. “You guys flew eighteen Chinooks overhead in the last two hours. Park Rangers don’t use Chinooks.”
“Fuck,” the ranger muttered, shaking his walkie-talkie and sticking it to his ear. “Mother—!” He glared at her as if this was her fault. “Look. You’re meddling. Stop meddling.”
“All I want to know is what you guys are hiding up here,” Mandy insisted, inching around as he was distracted so that she could surreptitiously get a good look inside his truck. “Why’d you clear out all the snow-machiners, huh? Why the fake avalanche…Special Agent Charles Davidson?” The last she read off a Status Report he had been filling out on his front seat when he caught her taking pictures of the line of black SUVs parked outside the Hatcher’s Pass Ski Resort—which was really just a ramshackle cluster of small, fifty-year-old cabins that looked like they would be swept down the hill with a good wind. She pulled out her phone to snap a quick picture, but her phone was dead.
Weird. She’d charged it on the drive up here.
The man quickly put his body between her and the report, shoving her bodily away from his truck.
“Hey!” Mandy cried. “That’s assault!”
“Yeah, assault this,” the man growled, pulling a gun and pointing it at the ground between them. “Look, I don’t have time to deal with your nosy chink bullshit right now,” he said.
“Chink?” Mandy said, “that’s nice. I’m Japanese, you inbred cracker.”
He pointed the gun at her face. “Get in the truck.”
Mandy got a good look at the darkened barrel of the gun, determined that it was real, that it was government-issue, and that it was loaded and cocked, then glanced back at him. “You don’t scare me. Thirteen different people back at the office know I went up here for a scoop this morning. Everyone at the Anchorage Daily News is gonna be crawling up your ass if anything happens to me, and Dayze’s an even better investigative reporter than I am. You do anything to me, she’ll have your ass nailed to the wall in like two seconds.” In truth, she’d told her friend Dayze that she was heading out for coffee so that nobody could tell her not to pursue another report of aliens, but this bigoted white turd didn’t need to know that.
At mention of Alaska’s biggest reporting agency, first the man went pale, then his face reddened until he looked purple. “All right,” he said. “New plan. Start walking.” He gestured at the snowy hillside.
Mandy laughed. “I don’t think so. I know my rights.” She did, too, and had registered them all under the mental category of How To Terrify The Authorities Into Doing What You Want. “In fact, I know that you’re committing assault, and that I am fully within my rights to sue you for mental anguish and sue the federal government and the ‘park service’ for emotional distress.”
It didn’t scare him. If anything, it seemed to piss him off. The man’s voice was utterly cold when he said, “You wanna know what we’re dealing with, Mandy? Aliens. A ship’s landing. Big one. Trajectory is here, Bumfuck Alaska, and you’re gonna start walking out over that mountainside right there or I’m going to shoot you and drive over your dead body because the world’s going to shit and I don’t get paid enough to die up here, babysitting the vehicles of some guys playing welcoming party to an alien species we know is bad mojo.”
The smooth, calculated way he said it made Mandy believe him, and her mind gave a little stutter of surprise. Aliens? So they were real… That one all-encompassing thought was making it hard for her to concentrate on anything else.
Her mouth, however, had never been completely engaged with her brain. “Aliens, huh? So, what, the world’s under attack and you’re running like a chickenshit?”
The fake ranger gave her a very real, very cold stare down the barrel of his gun, then holstered it, walked to his truck, started it, and drove off.
“Douche,” Mandy said triumphantly. She went back to continue taking pictures of the fourteen different black SUVs that were lined up outside the tiny blue cabins of Hatcher Pass Ski Resort, locked and empty. A semi was parked nearby, along with three green Humvees, and snow machine tracks ran from the now-locked back of the semi disappeared out into the mountains towards Archangel Valley.
Could it really be some sort of staging area for an alien landing? That would be, like, the biggest scoop she had ever landed in her life. The AP would want her name afterwards. She’d have interview requests, bigger stories, maybe get picked up by a major newspaper down in the Lower 48…
Maybe even the Pulitzer for investigative journalism. She could so use an extra $15,000 right now. Her car needed a new engine, her sink was leaking, her fridge was on the fritz…
Calm down, Mandy thought. Just do it right, think of the bennies later.
They had cleared out all other recreational vehicles last night, claiming ‘maximum avalanche danger’ throughout the entirety of Hatcher Pass—which had been her first clue something was amiss, because the whole pass was not capable of producing avalanches—and put up multiple barricades and chains warning people off down at the bottom of the pass—which had been her second clue, since nobody gave that much of a shit about a couple of drunk idiots who ignored the signs and snowmachined themselves into an avalanche.
The third piece of evidence was that it was sunny mid-March and it hadn’t snowed in the mountains for weeks. It had been snowing that morning, but not yet more than four inches. No where near enough to create hazardous conditions in the mountains, since most of the snowpack had already melted away under the warm march sun after a year of minimal overall snow.
But the fourth, and the most important, piece of evidence that this was some kind of alien landing was that the park service had bypassed news sources entirely and had used the cell phone network to warn the entirety of Alaska that avalanche conditions in Hatcher’s Pass were extreme and the pass would be shut down until further notice. When Mandy had been given the story to follow-up with a handful of avalanche experts, they had told her they had no fuckin’ idea what the government was talking about, that there weren’t no damned avalanches imminent.
One guy who caretook a mine up in the pass had even started talking about fancy black military helicopters flying in squadrons overhead before a group of men in suits had shown up and hustled him out of the Pass under the auspices of ‘avalanche zone restrictions.’ The guy had sent her a picture. It was fuzzy and dark from the early-morning shot, but she’d clearly made out the double-rotors of Chinook helicopters, flanked by dozens of Blackhawks.
So she’d ignored the AVALANCHE IMMINENT, RESTRICTED AREA warning signs, clipped the chain they’d padlocked between a couple of trees across the main road and headed up anyway. Because that was her job, and she hated government lies.
Now, all alone and unmolested by a six-foot white boy with a gun fetish, she was free to take as many pictures as she wanted, write down as many license plates, peer in as many windows, note the number of boot prints.
This is gold, Mandy thought. She pulled out her phone to start taking photos.
The phone was dead. Thinking it was the battery getting cold, she unzipped her coat and pressed it under her armpit for a few minutes. Still wouldn’t turn on.
Frowning, she took it back to her car and turned the ignition to charge it there.
Her piece of shit car wouldn’t turn over. Not even a grumble.
Houston, we have a problem. With a startled thump of her heart, Mandy looked around her at all the evidence of a big secret military operation to hide alien contact, saw her own lonely little white Subaru parked behind the hulking black SUVs, and just knew the guys on snow machines would come back, see what she’d done, and take all her evidence from her, maybe incarcerate her in a dark prison for the next fifty years, without so much as a phone call.
So, because she was desperate and she wasn’t going to let this scoop get away from her, she put her broke-ass-piece-of-shit car in neutral, pushed it down the gentle slope to the main road, and got it rolling down the pass at approximately eighty miles an hour before jumping out and letting it careen off the cliff overlooking the Pass.
Then, determined to get her phone working and get some evidence, she climbed back up to the Hatcher Pass Ski Resort, went around to an unobtrusive back side of the building, and broke in through a rear window hidden by a mound of snow that had slid from the steeply-slanted roof.
All right, she thought, excitement keeping her revved on adrenaline as she looked around in the dark for a light switch. Just gotta find a plug.
She found a switch, flipped it, and flipped it again when the lights didn’t come on.
“Oh come on!” Mandy shouted, flipping the switch a few hundred more times.
They must be on a generator, she thought, forcibly bringing some calm into the equation, chill out, sister, before you burst a bubble in your brain like aunt Kotoe and end up watching endless replays of Seinfeld and drooling on your pretty blue bib.
She crawled back out through the broken window—conveniently hidden from sight by a seven foot snow berm on the back side of the lodge—and went looking for whatever ramshackle shed these bozos were using to create electricity. Thus, she was outside, jogging across the parking lot, when the foggy sky lit up neon purple in the direction of Archangel Valley and she heard the sound of machine gun fire and screaming.
Mandy stopped, mid-jog, and blinked up at the eerie light. It seemed to be moving, getting brighter, coming closer down the valley. Behind it, back in Archangel Valley, the screaming and gunfire had stopped.
It’s an alien ship, Mandy thought, instinctive panic kicking in as she remembered the screaming. And it’s coming right at me.
And she was right out in the open.
She ran back to the broken window and crawled back inside just in time to watch a big, crescent-shaped object easily as tall as a skyscraper come sliding down out of the mountains vertically, maintaining an easy hover of about 300 feet above ground level. It did so with an eerie silence, no engine noise whatsoever. Had she not been facing the ship, she wouldn’t have known it was there, though the purple light illuminating the sky made it hard to miss.
Then the eerie purple spotlight broke through the clouds and hit the snow directly under the ship. It immediately started to bubble and melt, erasing the snow beneath it in a steamy thousand-foot swath…
What is that, radiation?
Not a good thought.
Still, as far as she could tell, it wasn’t heading towards her unless it changed its trajectory. The still shots, though… The shots would be glorious. Pulitzer glorious. What she wouldn’t give for a phone!
Mandy watched the thing slide down the mountain—passing only a few thousand feet from where she huddled in the back of the lodge—all the while scorching a swath in the snow as wide as a baseball field. Here and there, clouds would pass under it, diffusing the beam and reducing the snowmelt temporarily, but for the most part, there was no doubt it was frying to a crisp whatever was getting underneath it.
This is the biggest scoop of my life and I don’t even have a working camera, Mandy thought, horrified by her own lack of preparedness. First her car chose that moment to die, then the phone wouldn’t even turn on long enough to show her a charge symbol…
Wait. Aliens. EMP.
It’s attacking us, Mandy realized. Just like that park ranger said. This is an attack.
Thrilled by that, she unlocked the front door and stepped outside onto the porch to watch the ship glide down into the Mat-Su Valley. It swung hard to the right, heading towards Eagle River, then spun back out over the Cook Inlet, circling almost like a big shark in a bowl.
Realizing that the world wouldn’t be able to hide extraterrestrial life ever again—and that her exclusive scoop had been blown by the thousands of sightings people would be making down there in the Valley, Mandy circled the parking lot, searching the government vehicles for keys. The semi and one of the Humvees was unlocked, but only the semi had keys stashed under the shade, and Mandy knew her chances of getting a tractor trailer off the mountain safely on small, windy, icy roads was approximately the same as if she decided to go skydiving with a parachute made of rice paper.
Instead, since she didn’t have much else she could do until someone showed up with a working vehicle or a set of keys, she went back inside the building, closed the door, and kicked back in a lounge chair to watch the chaos from the relative comfort of the ski lodge’s massive prow windows. Maybe tomorrow, she’d hike up that burned-out swath of hillside back to Archangel Valley and see if any of those G-men were still alive…or if they had their car keys on them. Until then, she decided to relax and watch the world explode.