At nightfall, a white-robed figure approached the White House fence, easily scaled it, alighted in the cool grass, then froze. He scanned the area and listened. No alarms, no reaction from the guards, all quiet.

He floated across the South Lawn and Portico. He gestured, and the locked, reinforced door creaked open.

Avoiding the main corridors, he slipped into a hidden passage near the Map Room, then wound his way up to the residence floor and past the West Sitting Hall. He approached the guard station at the entrance to the Living Room.

Rousing the conversing guards, he spread his arms. Smiling, he surrendered to the open-mouthed officers.

“I’ll only reveal my mission to the President, no one else,” he said. One officer handcuffed him to a chair, another activated a silent alarm.

Secret Service agents poured into the room, a few talking into their sleeve-microphones. Three set up a makeshift interrogation area in front of the fireplace.

A hush fell over them as a special agent entered with two plain-clothed hulkers. All three wore sunglasses, but as lead, one boasted a mirror finish. She strode forward. “All right, I’m in charge here. My name’s Trottel. Let’s see some ID.”

The captive raised one hand. “Just call me Gabe. You’re in charge? I’ll tell you just a bit. I’m here on a mission, an important one.”

Trottel whispered to her lieutenant, “Can you place his accent?”

“We’ll get it out of him.”

Gabe continued. “This seems to be the most powerful nation on Earth, at least militarily . . . “

This brought rapid conversation and some chuckles from the armed group. A few again muttered into their sleeve mics.

“I will show my item to your leader first. This is a matter of great importance, so . . . “

Agent Trottel raised a hand. “Just a minute! I run things here, including who says what, when and to whom. Got it?”

Gabe frowned. “I can understand your fear. I walked right into this—ahh—White House, you call it? Imaginative name. No guards challenged me, no alarms sounded, none of your automatic defenses activated, and your video shows nothing, right?”

“Yes, and that . . . ”

Gabe raised an index finger. “Doesn’t any of that seem extraordinary to you, Agent Trottel?”

“Why you . . . ” Trottel backhanded his smiling face, but the hand passed through with no effect. Her slack-jawed subordinates looked at one another, then at her, then at Gabe.

Unruffled, Gabe continued. “So, given all that, shouldn’t you attend to my words? Doesn’t it seem I’m something more than your run-of-the-mill intruder?”

“So? What? You’re some kind of space alien? We have top men who can . . . “

Again, Gabe’s gesture stilled Trottel’s attempt at control.

“Now, be a nice special agent and go fetch the President so I can give him my instructions, won’t you?”

“That’s impossible. As soon as we apprehended you, another team removed the President from the White House. He is on his way to a safe area.”

Gabe scowled. “Oh, Area Seven. You’ll just have to bring him back, then. Or, I could go to him.”

“I’ve had about enough of your bullshit, Gabe.” Trottel turned to the sergeant on duty, “Has this man been searched or at least scanned?”

“Yes ma’am. That is, he went through the scanners at the entrance and here on the residence floor without tripping an alarm.”

“He seems well able to bypass this lowest-bidder alarm system. Give him a wand scan, then a cavity search!”

Gabe complied with the wand routine, but balked when the guards reached to remove his robe.

“No, you’re not going to do that.”

“I call the shots here,” Trottel’s voice dripped with artificial confidence.

“You just think you do.” Gabe stood up. The handcuffs clanked to the floor. He turned toward the gaping agents. With a grandiose gesture, he reached inside the top of his robe.

The chorus of unholstering Glocks overwhelmed all other sounds in the room. Gabe hesitated, looked at the weapons around him, then removed an iridescent golden packet and began to gesture with it. “These instructions can only be opened . . . “

Gabe’s quick move was interrupted by a single shot, then a deafening staccato of 9mm handguns and MP5 automatic pistols. Several officers were hit and went down, some saved by their body armor, some not.

The magazines emptied. The echoes faded. The acrid smell of burned gunpowder remained.

As Gabe, unscathed, viewed the carnage, his expression turned to sadness. “I guess after all this time you folks still aren’t ready. Pity.” Gabe put the shimmering packet back inside his robe. He shook his head at the wounded Trottel.

Before the agent could draw her backup weapon, Gabe began to glow. He became enveloped by an intense white light, so bright all turned away, covering their eyes. He rose up, up, up, right through the ceiling.

Gabe stopped, hovering just above the White House. He spotted a black-robed figure moving through the south fence. He saw her dark aura suck energy out of the air as she glided across the South Lawn. His voice boomed out. “Ahh! it’s you, Tetrax!”

The demon looked up, her vile grin and fiery red eyes blazing. “Well, Gabriel, looks like you failed again. We’re going to really turn up the heat now.”

“Yes, your cohorts can bedevil the Earth for another hundred years. Maybe the humans will be ready by then.”

Tetrax laughed. “Until then, adios!“ She slithered through the dark air toward the White House. She gestured. Her black-robed followers zoomed toward key offices in D.C.

And all over the world.

Gabe continued his ascent. “See you again in 2120.”

DIRECTIONS by Judie Maré

DIRECTIONS by Judie Maré

THEN AND AGAIN by JoLynne Buehring

THEN AND AGAIN by JoLynne Buehring