Splashdown, by Chad A. Clark
He powered up the motor and throttled away from the dock, under cover of darkness. It was a new moon that night and the only source of illumination was the occasional solar lights of the privately owned piers that he passed. As he steered clear of the no-wake zone, he opened up the engine, cutting through water and speeding out towards the middle of the lake. There was no other traffic out this late as he cut between the twin lighthouses, no sign of midnight fishing, no running lights from shipping traffic. Even the ferry that took cars back and forth across the lake was shut down for the day.
The latest weather report had been the final sign that he had been waiting for, for over twenty years. The time was now. Triple digit highs for two straight days, followed by twenty four hours of uninterrupted rain which ended in an early morning frost.
His people were returning to Earth. And they were doing so in exactly the manner foretold in all the texts, books and writings that were almost older than time itself. He would be there for their arrival and offer himself up for the taking. Once gone, he would reclaim his rightful place among his true brethren.
The beacon was rolled up inside an old tarp that was stowed under the port side bench seat. He pulled it out and unrolled it across the deck, glancing up at the sky to make sure the signal was aligned properly. All he could hear over the light breeze was the kiss of the water against the hull. He attached a long wire with a bell at the end, to the railing. When the ships drew closer to Earth, the massive gravity drives powering up for orbital descent would cause the water level of the lake to actually rise. The sound of the bell would indicate that the time was at hand.
He had contemplated bringing along a few keepsakes, reminders of his time spent on Earth, but what would be the point? Once he transcended this physical shell, what need would there be for the objects of a life wasted?
The water grew louder as the boat began to rock back and forth in the increasing wind. He saw sporadic pulses of light off on the horizon and felt the ominous growling of distant thunder, or maybe explosions, possibly even the pulsing of stardrives.
Off in the far distance, he spotted a bright, white sphere skimming the water as it rapidly approached his boat. The light moved from side to side, illuminating the water below, before settling into a straight line, heading straight for him. His elation was short lived as, moments later, he heard the pulsing sound of rotors.
These weren’t the ships.
These people were going to disrupt his signal, ruin everything. There were no more choices left for him to make, nothing else he could think to do. These were the ones who had come uninvited. They were the ones threatening his very being. He would defend his birthright.
This was a test.
Scrambling to act before it was too late, he ripped the tarp from the other bin and pulled out the AR-15. He slapped a fresh magazine home and flipped off the safety.
He would earn his return home.