It's a great night. We've just finished up the steak and veggie dinner out underneath millions of visible stars. I'm already reclined into a lying position in my camping chair, for all intents and purposes I am completely detached from the conversation. Millie might give me shit later, I wonder, then glance in her direction. Nah, she's good, she's in her element, my presence isn't required.
We're camping with Tony and Elizabeth. Elizabeth's a long-time friend of ours, and Tony is her current boyfriend. They've been together since Christmas, so about eight months now. I give them another four, but can't see Elizabeth settling down with this guy. They're too dissimilar. Which can be exciting. But I've seen her with a few different types, and this seems pretty obvious.
Tony's discussing some mildly-political topic, one which is passingly-interesting to Millie and very important to Elizabeth (judging from their postures), so I tune out once again.
I hold up a large focus disc and look through it. The distant planets are enlarged and stabilized by the internal system of lenses. The disc is a cylinder, about half an inch thick and about three feet across, two hand-holds sit opposite each other. I hold it a bit over my head and pan around. It's like looking up through a lifesaver, one of those circular red-and-white life-saving device.
A flick of a finger turns on the labels, and now I'm looking through the ecliptic, the plane of the solar system that holds most of the matter within it. It's very obvious, once you see it all laid out. Of course the Earth orbits the Sun! Just look at it!
I pan around and find Jupiter, admire its rings, watch as the dark shadow some moon- (click) watch as the dark shadow of Io transitions in front of the gas giant.
There is a blue glow to the sky. I pan the focus disc towards the strange illumination, which seems to be coming from behind this cloud. The moon, no doubt, I think.
"Holy shit! Babe, Millie, look!"
We all look up at the duo of neon-blue jellyfish that float hundreds of feet above us. It looks like they are floating over Mount Archibald, a small range that sits halfway between us and the state highway. They are about two miles away, the focus ring tells me.
"Are we seeing the same thing?" Tony asks. I think he's looking around, from person to person, trying to get our attention, but no one wants to look away from the strange phenomenon. "What the hell was in that beer?"
"I don't think it's anything we ate, or drank," I say, slowly. Thoughts are having a hard time moving through my head.
The jellyfish float around each other, in great big circles, reaching up to the cloud layer, and down again almost to the ground. They approach us, then back away, then approach again. We're mesmerized, dumbstruck.
A strange noise breaks me out of my reverie. I check my watch and note that it's been close to half an hour since I started looking at the stars. The jellyfish are now closer to our campsite.
The noise gets louder and I finally figure it out. Drones!
As if on cue, a quad of heavy-duty US Army drones appears overhead. They have been running dark, but now they fire up the powerful lights and shine them toward the jellyfish.
The neon monstrosities don't notice, or care. They undulate and float on the night breeze.
Three of the Army drones form a sort of equilateral triangle at a distance of about mile around the jellyfish, while the fourth approaches, slowly, cautiously. The jellyfish pay no heed, continue their frolic.
The investigating drone gets a bit too close and a bright jellyfish tentacle sweeps through it. At first nothing happens as the jellyfish just sort of floats away from the drone, having so blessed the drone with its noodly appendage. But then the drone explodes and rains fire upon the forest.
There's screaming, and then there's wailing, and then there's whatever the hell we're doing now. We run through dim-lit forest the quarter mile to the parking lot.
I'm the least in shape, so I get there last. In between gasps for breath, I look up at my wife and she's crying. She's devastated. I look into the parking lot.
Holo text scrawls over our cars. Buying an extended warranty is important before first contact, the text reminds us.