Emily woke up in the dark to an electronic beeping coming from her backyard. Tossing the blankets off her body, she quickly ran to the window and peered into the expansive garden. Among the rose and honeysuckle bushes, she could see two small spheres glistening softly in the moonlight. Each of the metallic balls had a small light, blinking in time with the strange noise. The lights were so bright that Emily could distinguish them from her bedroom window one hundred yards away.
She was seven years old and much too curious about these strange objects to go back to sleep. She squinted at the garden, listened carefully to the high-pitched beeps, and took a deep breath. Shoving her feet into slippers, she thought about the thousands of possible explanations behind their appearance. Five minutes later, she was skipping across the backyard, hardly able to contain her excitement. She neared the honeysuckle bush and noticed the beeping noise getting louder and louder. She finally found one of the spheres, which had gotten caught in a tangle of branches and leaves, and picked it up, cradling it in her hands. It was about the size of a cantaloupe, and had begun blinking faster, lights appearing all over the exterior. Emily examined the flashing ball, which was now whirling and beeping loudly. Worried but too curious to resist, she tapped the ball timidly. A portion of the sphere separated from the rest and a small door opened. Emily peered inside the ball and coughed as a puff of thick gas escaped from the opening. The smoke shimmered and flickered around her body, licking at her face and tasting the nerves on her skin. Goosebumps rose on her arms as the smooth air slithered between her ankles and curled around her neck. She swatted the air, backing away to escape the veil of iridescent gas. Disoriented, she stumbled further into the crowd of bushes and fell into the dewy grass. The air began to crackle with a tense...