The pilot of the F-16 Fighting Falcon radioed the base. He had spotted lights moving over Fox Island County Park. He was going in for a closer look.
The plane swooped lower, and the lights rose higher. The pilot passed by them 700 feet above the ground.
They were similar to what witnesses had described in that they formed a circle. But they were red, not blue, and the object projecting them appeared to be larger than reported. It wasn't yet dusk; the pilot could see the object was black and likely metallic.
The jet circled back. No sign of the lights – except on the ground, where flashbulbs went off. A crowd of people had gathered this evening, as they had on recent nights, at the spot where Zach, the Indiana Tech student, had told the two radio shows he'd seen the lights. They brought cameras, binoculars and telescopes.
The F-16 pilot saw a blur of red darting to his left – and a bigger, silver object dropping from the sky on his right. He flew between the two.
The plane banked and went for another pass over the park. The red lights appeared again, near the ground but climbing fast. The pilot looked around his plane's cockpit for the second, larger object. And then it appeared on his right, slightly behind him, almost as if it were chasing his plane.
He felt a collision – something struck the bottom of his left wing hard enough to make his jet wobble.
The pilot quickly corrected, flew higher and swept over the park. No lights or objects were in the sky. He told the base he was heading back to see whether his plane had been damaged. The F-16 seemed to be flying all right, but he didn't want to take any chances.
On the ground at Fox Island, people ran to where they saw the ring of red lights fall. But patrolling police instructed them to leave or be arrested. If anything had landed there, police said, the proper authorities would be notified. The disappointed crowd dispersed.
The 122nd Fighter Wing maintenance crew found little wrong with the F-16. They inspected what seemed like black paint on a dented wing – the object had just missed striking an air-to-surface missile – then notified their supervisors, who informed various agencies.
Cindy would want to examine the plane and take samples of the black material back to the ITT lab. She'd also want to know that the pilot had seen two unidentified flying objects at the same time.
Cindy was going through her notes on the town-hall meeting when her daughter arrived home from marching band practice. Chelsea said a lot of kids hadn't shown up. Those who had were freaked out about the flying saucers.
Chelsea showered, put on pajamas and sat down to the computer in the den. A few moments later, she yelled to her mother.
There were video clips on YouTube showing a ring of red lights ricocheting off a plane in a dusky sky. The clips purported to be from Fox Island in Fort Wayne. None lasted more than half a minute, and the lights were visible for less than 10 seconds. The videos were all grainy.
But except for the different hue, the lights looked and acted much like those Chelsea had seen and Chelsea's father had said he'd seen.
"And now you've seen them, too," Chelsea told Cindy.
"It's time for the news," Cindy said. "Turn on the TV."
After waiting through a Blackburn & Green commercial, they flipped back and forth among the local channels, seeing the YouTube videos and others like them played and replayed and analyzed by each station.
"Now everybody's seen them," Cindy said.