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The knock on the door startled Erin. Who on earth could be knocking at this hour? She tapped on the laptop screen, opening the app for her door camera. Two stern-looking men in dark suits stood outside.

 

Activating the screen on the door, she tried to sound cheerful, even though she hated interruptions when she wrote. "May I help you?"

 

"Ms. Warrington? I'm Agent Fitz and this is Agent Coleman." They flashed badges to the camera. Erin's security system scanned the codes on the corner of their badges and pulled up the validation credentials from the government server. OUP. What does that stand for? Erin tried searching for the acronym. Nothing.

 

"How can I help you?" she repeated.

 

"May we come in? I'm sure you've confirmed our ID's by now. We'd like to talk to you about your writing."

 

This made Erin's pulse quicken. She tinkered around with science fiction stories for fun and had published a few here and there. She had a brief moment of deja vu but shook it off.

 

"Ms. Warrington? Are you still there?"

 

"Yes, hold on. Give me just a moment." Erin jumped up from her couch and ran back to her bedroom to change from her pajamas into something that would feel more normal with two strange men in her apartment. She emerged wearing jeans and a fluffy sweater, her long black hair pulled up in a bun. She didn't want to give them the wrong impression.

 

When she opened the door, the men stepped inside. They looked around the front room of her apartment. A small table separated a smallish kitchen area from her living room. A couch faced a large wall-mounted TV and Erin's laptop sat on a coffee table.

 

"Umm. Do you want to sit down?" Erin pointed at the chairs surrounding the table. The men moved to the table. "Can I get you something to drink?"

 

"No, thank you." Erin nodded and moved to the kitchen to get herself a drink. Her hands shook a little as she filled a glass with water.

 

Agent Fitz noticed her agitation. "Ms. Warrington, you don't need to worry. We're just here to ask you a couple of questions. We're from a government organization called the Office of Unexplained Phenomena. We investigate weird things."

 

"I'm just a librarian, I don't do any weird things. I tell loud people to be quiet. I move books. That's about it." She tried to calm herself.

 

"That's just it," interjected Agent Coleman, "we've stumbled on something that we can't explain."

 

Agent Fitz picked up the story. "We operate a sophisticated AI system that takes in media from all over the globe. It sorts out the true from the false, the propaganda and marketing from actual events. It cross-references public reports with information from intelligence services from several participating nations. Your stories set off an alarm."

 

"You've published thirty-one short stories through various outlets since you graduated from college five years ago. In that time, nineteen of the stories have come true within three years of publication."

 

Erin was sipping her water when he said this, and surprise caused her to gasp and cough. Water shot out of her mouth and sprayed across the table. "Oh, I'm so sorry. I just… wait a minute." She leaped from her seat and grabbed a towel from the kitchen. "But I write science fiction stories. About robots that run amok and wormholes to other planets and AI that make burgers out of rats at fast food kiosks."

 

"Yes." The agents replied as they wiped themselves.

 

"Oh." She thought a moment and seemed to deflate a little. ""But I never heard any news stories that sounded anything like..."

 

"Yes, ma'am. That's what we do. We prevent unexplained phenomena from causing too much of a public nuisance. Your most recent story raised some red flags in the system. That's why we're here."

 

"Which one? Roboticus? I liked that one."

 

"No. It was called..." Agent Fitz checked his notes, "Sky Tyrants. It was about an…"

 

"Alien invasion," Erin finished breathlessly.

 

"Yes. It was flagged by the system and has a number of our superiors more than a little concerned. We want you to work for us. You appear to have an unexplained… ability… that could be very useful if this story is more than fiction. The agency is prepared to pay you handsomely, though you would need to relocate. You'll find our dormitories are much nicer than this place."

 

Erin stood and turned away from the table. Her back to the men, she asked, "What if I say no?"

 

The agents looked at one another and sighed. "There's a comfortable way to do this and an uncomfortable way. The comfortable way is for you to take a job offer that triples your salary. The uncomfortable way involves this warrant for your arrest. We can take you into custody tonight and transport you to a detention center where you will be interrogated. It's your choice."

 

Erin did not turn around. "That doesn't sound like much of a choice."

 

Agent Fitz nodded apologetically. "We very much prefer the easy way. But this is a matter of national security. We must have your help."

 

"What if there was a third way?" Her voice was shaking.

 

"There's no third way, Ms. Warrington." Agent Coleman replied.

 

Erin turned to face them. Her crystal blue eyes had turned jet black with glowing crimson lines. Black metallic tendrils with wickedly sharp tips poked through her sweater at the shoulders. The agents sprang backward and grabbed for their guns, but they were too slow. The tendrils shot out like iron scorpions and pierced their throats, severing their spinal cords and instantly paralyzing them both.

 

"I'll be leaving this place, but not with you. Your part in the story is over. You'd have known that if you'd waited for Sky Tyrants, Part 2."

Copyright 2023 - SFS Publishing LLC

Sky Tyrants, Part 2

Sometimes knowing the future isn't enough

Nathan Krupa

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