t was a beautiful spring day on the riverfront. Pleasant temperatures, white puffy clouds floating in a bright blue sky, and the bright sunshine gleaming off of the enormous arch made it seem the perfect day and spot for a picnic. There were a lot of people there, enjoying the weather, walking, having picnics.
Everything changed in an instant. An automobile leaped off the ground and came crashing down on another car, narrowly missing the Smiths, who were on their way from Indianapolis to enjoy their honeymoon in Vegas.
Another car went flying, and of course everyone was running and screaming in panic—but the cause of all the bent metal and broken glass was a mystery.
Bob Capone, a sergeant in the St. Louis police force, was there on duty, talking with his friend John Jennings of the National Parks Service. Both whipped out their radios, calling for help.
Another car leaped into the air and crashed down on a different one, and both burned when the sparks from the collision ignited the gasoline that had spilled out of several.
The cars then stopped pretending to be frogs. Five minutes later a car driving north on interstate 44 stopped suddenly in front of the Old Cathedral Museum and bounced back, the front of the auto smashed, as if it had struck an invisible and immobile object.
The destruction continued down Market Street for an hour, and stopped abruptly at Seventh as National Guard helicopters swooped in.
The aircraft hovered for an hour or two, but there was no further damage.
The local news media had a field day. This was Big, big with a capital B. The national and world news would be covering this, and the local news men and women all thought “This is it! My career is going to skyrocket!”
The next day, General Ferguson (whose name was uncomfortably the same as a town in the greater metropolitan area) was in an incredibly bad mood, so of course all of his underlings were, as well.
“Well, Colonel? What happened? Who has it and how did he get it?”
“Well, sir, the investigation is underway. We’re not sure what happened but... well, sir, we believe a unit was stolen. We don’t know who stole it, but it was probably an inside job.”
“Unknown, sir, but improbable. It appears that there was no loss of life and few injuries, the worst being broken bones. It’s mostly property damage.”
“Do we know who has it and where it is?”
“No, sir, not yet. Should I alert the civilian authorities to what they’re up against?”
“Under no circumstances will that happen unless the President himself orders it. This is top secret and will remain that way.”
“What are we doing about the situation?”
“We’re loading firefighting helicopters with paint. When it strikes again we’ll have an idea where it is, and when it’s painted we’ll be able to see it. We have men manning the two other units, they should be able to stop it.”
“Very well, Colonel. Make sure no one without a top secret clearance sees it when it’s painted. Dismissed.” The Colonel saluted and left.
The next day, Sergeant Capone was back down by the waterfront. The entire metropolitan area was on alert, and the President had declared martial law in Missouri and Illinois. People were ordered to stay in their homes, as if their homes would protect them from something that could throw cars.
His radio came on?he was being ordered back to the station. Curious. As he walked towards his squad car it suddenly left the ground and was hurling straight at him, barely missing.
Helicopters swooped down, and the invisible monster disappeared. Sergeant Capone radioed that his squad car had been totaled, and was informed that another car would come to pick him up. A couple of hours later the helicopters departed.
“We’re pretty sure we know who it is, sir. Corporal George Smith is AWOL, called in sick yesterday and didn’t show up for work this morning. We checked his quarters, he wasn’t home and his car was on-base.
“And we think we know what made him snap—his brother was an undercover narcotics officer and was accidentally killed in a gun battle with an off-duty St. Louis police officer. Neither knew the other was a law enforcement officer.
“We think he’s out for revenge, sir. Twice he’s struck the same area, an area where the other law enforcement officer has his beat. So we have helicopters standing by at LaClede’s Landing, camouflaged, of course.
“Unfortunately, we had a fatality yesterday. A police officer got in a gun battle with troops clearing the street and was killed.”
“Unfortunate, indeed. How long until Smith runs out of food or water, or the unit runs out of power?”
“Power will last about a week, food and water longer.”
“I want you to get with engineering, when we get it back we need to find a way to keep this from happening again. Is that all, Colonel?”
“Okay, you’re dismissed.”
Things were quiet the next two days, and social media started to grumble.
The General got a missive from the President himself, he was to meet with one of the President’s people.
eneral Ferguson called the St. Louis Chief of Police. “We need your help. We know what it is, but we can’t tell you. I’d like to have Sergeant Capone on the waterfront today.”
“I’m sorry, General, but I don’t think you have the authority to give me that order. You’re going to have to speak to the mayor.”
gt. Capone, can I see you in my office?” “Of course.”
“Close the door, would you?”
“What’s this about, Lieutenant?”
“Damn it, Bob, don’t give me that ‘Lieutenant’ crap, we’ve been friends since high school. What the hell is going on?”
Capone was puzzled. “Joe, I have no idea what you’re talking about. What the hell are you talking about?”
“Damn it, Bob, what the hell did you do? Why does the mayor want to talk to you?”
“What? Why would he want to talk to me? Come on, Joe, tell me what this is all about.”
“His assistant wouldn’t say. Anyway, you need to get down there right now, the guy from the mayor’s office sounded scared. Let me know what’s going on. I hope you‘re not in trouble.”
“Me, too, but I don’t know what I would be in trouble for. I’ll let you know.”
“Okay, get your ass down there!”
an I help you, Sergeant?
“I was told the mayor wanted to see me. I...”
“Oh, please follow me, he’s waiting for you.”
The mayor was with an Army general in uniform. He stood quietly as the mayor spoke. “Sergeant, the president called me.”
Bob was puzzled but silent. The mayor continued hesitantly. “Sergeant, all I know is it’s vital for national security that you do whatever General Ferguson asks. Will you do that, Sergeant?”
Of course he said “yes”. Only an idiot would answer otherwise. The general looked at the mayor. The mayor said “Excuse me” and left.
“You were in the service?” the general asked.
“Yes, sir. Air Force.”
“Why didn’t you re-up?”
“I didn’t want to be a bubble chaser, I wanted to be a cop.”
“A bubble chaser? What’s that?”
“A hydraulics technician. We were ‘bubble chasers’, electricians were ‘spark chasers’, the...”
“Did you have any kind of clearance?”
“Oh, yes, sir. I worked on some of the stealth aircraft. I thought you fellows would have looked that up.”
“What kind of aircraft?”
“I’m sorry, sir, I can’t discuss them.”
The general grinned broadly. “Excellent. Yes, we did look it up. All of this is on a ‘need to know’ basis. We’re dealing with some top secret gear.
“I can’t tell you what’s going on, of course, but you need to know we need you as bait.”
“Bait? For what, sir?”
“I can’t tell you. All you need to know is that we’re going down to the riverfront and you need to stick as close to me as possible.”
A knock came from the door and the general answered it, and was given a sheet of printed paper. He glanced at it, and said “Please wait here, Sergeant. I’ll be back shortly.”
He walked down the hall, where an aide told him “The units are ready, sir.”
“Thank you, Lieutenant.” He changed into a police officer’s uniform and collected Sgt. Capone. They drove to the riverfront in a police cruiser, got out, walked a few yards and stopped.
Capone noticed the general’s strange weaponry, but knew better than to ask about it. It looked to him like a paintball gun. Laser? Maybe. This whole experience was very strange, he thought.
The day was uneventfully boring.
It was far from boring at the police station; all hell was breaking loose. Several squad cars were destroyed, and the police were close to panic. It lasted for maybe twenty minutes, and the destruction stopped when the helicopters showed up.
The mayor appeared on the television news that night, assuring residents that the next day the police would all be on their normal assigned duties but the curfew was still in place until the president ordered otherwise.
he next morning General Ferguson and Sgt. Capone were back down by the riverfront. An hour later a car became animated, hurling itself through the air at the general and the policeman. Capone ran and the general kept firing his paint gun.
His fourth shot splattered in the air, becoming an animated blob the general could see flying through the air. He kept firing until his gun was out of paint.
There was an awful racket coming from the flying blobs, the sound of heavy steel on heavy steel.
“Capone!” the general ordered. “Back to the station, I’ll take it from here.”
he Sergeant mulled over what he had seen as he was driving back to the station. It looked to him after it was splattered with paint like it was some kind of giant headless humanoid robot. He wondered what it was, but knew he would never know for sure, but the military seemed to have found a way to make objects invisible in visible light.
He went to see the lieutenant as soon as he got back. The lieutenant had him close the door. “So what’s going on, Bob?”
“Sorry, Joe, it’s a military secret and I’m not allowed to talk about it.”
“Well, at least I know you’re not in trouble. The mayor called, you’re getting some kind of medal or award or something, so I guess I should say ‘good work’.”
own by the riverfront an Army tech sergeant was unlocking the paint spattered, otherwise invisible machine, pistol drawn and at the ready. After looking inside he holstered his pistol and called down to the general. “He’s dead, sir. Apparently shot himself, there’s a hell of a bloody mess inside the unit.”
The general ordered that the two invisible units put all three units in a semitrailer to be shipped back to the base.
That evening the president was on the television news, praising the Army and police Sergeant Bob Capone, and informing everyone that the danger was passed and the curfew was lifted. The mayor came on and praised the city police force in general and Bob Capone in particular.
“Re-enlist...” Bob thought. “Nonsense, I’d far rather chase criminals than bubbles. I hate working on hydraulics!”