Discussion in 'Survival Reading Room' started by ChrisNuttall, Feb 24, 2011.
New story starts here
Or it would, if I could upload the first two chapters. It keeps throwing 503 errors at me.
Chapter One<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-comfficeffice" />
...If there is one thing clear about abduction events, it is that they take place at the whim of the aliens, rather than the abductees. Whatever their target is doing at the time is a matter of no concern to the alien. We have reports of abductions carried out while the targeted victim was on a field trip or safely at home in bed...
-William Sonnenleiter, Accounts of Abduction, 2015
<?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-comffice:smarttags" /><st1lace w:st="on"><st1:City w:st="on">Allendale</st1:City>, <st1:State w:st="on">New Jersey</st1:State>, <st1:country-region w:st="on">USA</st1:country-region></st1lace>
<st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Sharon</st1lace></st1:City>’s eyes snapped open.
They were coming. She always knew when they were coming, even though she could never have put a name to the feeling. It was a strange unease, combined with fear, fear of the unknown. Her mind might have forgotten everything that had happened to her, ever since they had picked her out of the herd and tagged her for their research program, but she knew, at some level, what was happening to her. They were coming.
She sat up and reached for her husband. Keith Mack was a good man – an investment banker who took good care of his wife and kids – but he was helpless against them. He didn’t move when she poked him, even when she shook him as hard as she could. He felt more like a wax doll than a man, for they had switched him off. Whatever happened, <st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Sharon</st1lace></st1:City> knew, he would just remain unconscious until it was all over. It was hard to avoid feeling resentment and anger at her partner, for failing to protect her, but it wasn't his fault. Who could stand against them?
Her body suddenly felt tired and she collapsed back on the bed. She couldn’t move anything below her neck and even moving her head was a struggle. <st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Sharon</st1lace></st1:City> fought hard for some control and finally managed to turn her head to look at the wall, just in time to see three small grey creatures stepping right through it. She opened her mouth and tried to scream, but the scream died in her throat. No one could come and help her, no one. What would happen if they ever took an interest in her children? What would happen if she woke the kids and they came to investigate?
The three creatures moved towards her with calm deliberate footsteps. Her memories unlocked themselves as they advanced, reminding her of the first day she’d met them, back when she’d been seven years old. How could she have forgotten? They’d made her forget, even though she’d tried to remember. The memories had just slipped away into the shadows and faded from her mind. She’d wandered away from the group – pulled, she now realised, by a compulsion that had proven impossible to resist – and found herself confronted by the small grey humanoids. They’d taken the small child onto their ship, performed a series of experiments on her and then released her, without explanation or even comfort. It had been the first encounter of so many, more than she could count. There seemed to be no place safe from them, even the arms of her husband.
They were tiny, barely coming up to <st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Sharon</st1lace></st1:City>’s chest, but she knew better than to assume they were weak and fragile. They had massive oversized heads, dominated by two black eyes that seemed to suck all the light out of the room, and thin spindly bodies. Their grey skin showed no sign of aging – she sometimes wondered if the creatures who met her every time were the same ones as had taken her the first time – and their touch, when they touched her, felt leathery and old. She tried to pull back as the lead alien reached the bed, but she had lost all control over her body. She couldn’t even look away.
The creatures reached for her and slowly pulled her out of bed, as one might manipulate a rag doll. <st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Sharon</st1lace></st1:City> had, in the past, tried to tell them that she could do it for herself, but they had ignored her. It seemed impossible to communicate with the tiny grey aliens on any meaningful level. They refused to be balked by human opposition and, as she’d learned to her cost, they were surprisingly strong. She couldn’t hope to resist them as one of them pulled her to her feet and left her swaying silently, as the other two came up behind her. A moment later, she shivered as unpleasant fingers started to work at her nightdress. The tiny creatures seemed to be having problems manipulating the knots.
<st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Sharon</st1lace></st1:City> tried to smile, cherishing the small victory. It was clear, now, that she hadn’t been denying her husband anything when she’d chosen the nightdress, even though it required a great deal of care before it could be removed from her body. She’d known, deep inside, that it wasn't her husband who would be stripping her naked and she’d chosen a garment that would make that task difficult. It didn’t deter the creatures, though; nothing ever balked them for long. They pulled and prodded the knot and eventually it came undone, allowing her nightdress to fall to the ground. <st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Sharon</st1lace></st1:City> stood, naked, in front of her tiny tormenters.
They showed no interest in her body. Instead, two of them took her arms and they floated into the air. <st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Sharon</st1lace></st1:City> shivered as terror flared through her mind, even though it was hardly the first time she’d been held in midair by an invisible force. She couldn’t turn her head to see the third creature, but somehow she knew that it was poking around the room, looking for anything that might be out of place. She forgot it as she was jerked forward and pulled towards the wall. <st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Sharon</st1lace></st1:City> wanted to object, to offer to open a window and allow them to float her out that way, but she couldn’t speak. She couldn’t even close her eyes as the wall came towards her and then, in a sudden indescribable sensation, she passed right through it. The feeling was terrifying, yet the creatures didn’t care. They seemed utterly unconcerned by the experience.
She struggled not to look down as the invisible force carried her further into the air, towards something she could see, vaguely, in the distance. <st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Sharon</st1lace></st1:City> had never liked flying, or high buildings, yet it had been years before she had understood why. Every time the creatures floated her into the air, she had been terrified that one day their technology would fail and she would fall to the ground, breaking every bone in her body. They had never dropped her, at least as far as she could tell, but the fear was always within her. It was something of a relief when their craft loomed up in front of her and – with another indescribable sensation – she found herself inside. The feeling of something under her feet almost made her collapse. Only the presence of the two grey creatures at her arms kept her upright.
The interior of the craft was eerie. It was cold, cold enough to make the naked <st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Sharon</st1lace></st1:City> shiver, and oddly-proportioned. At times, she recalled now, she had seen other people – other abductees – in the craft, but this time she seemed to be alone. The lights brightened as the creatures pulled her along a metallic corridor and into a room she knew far too well. A moan of fear escaped her lips as she suddenly found that she had some control back and tried to escape. The grey creatures simply held her in place. <st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Sharon</st1lace></st1:City> struggled, even kicking out at one of them, but they showed no reaction. They never showed any reaction to anything she did. She had the oddest feeling that she could kill one of them and the other two would just carry on, without caring about their dead comrade.
They marched her over to the table and lifted her up, pushing her onto the table. The moment her head hit the cold metallic surface, the strength drained away from her body, leaving her helpless and terrified. They poked and prodded at her body until she was lying flat on the table, completely exposed to their researchers. <st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Sharon</st1lace></st1:City> knew, now, that her lifelong fear of doctors came from early experiences with the creatures. Even merely human doctors made her panic, even though there seemed no logical grounds for such fear.
A light shone down from overhead, sending an unpleasant tingling sensation through her body. A moment later, the first needle emerged from somewhere above her head, extending down towards her chest. <st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Sharon</st1lace></st1:City> struggled against her mental restraints, but nothing worked, even when the needle penetrated her chest. There was a brief spark of pain, as if something was being jabbed into her heart, and then the pain faded away. Other needles followed the first, each one sending another burst of pain into her mind. <st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Sharon</st1lace></st1:City> mentally curled up in a ball and prayed for it to be over. A final burst of pain almost overwhelmed her and she screamed, just before the needles retracted. It felt like mercy, but she knew better. The creatures didn’t know the meaning of the word.
She felt cold hands pulling her legs apart and, somehow, managed to look down towards the end of the table. Two of the tiny creatures were exposing her vagina as another device came down from high above. This one looked like a suction tube and <st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Sharon</st1lace></st1:City> recoiled, memories that had been buried for the sake of her own sanity flooding back into her mind. They’d carried out that procedure every time they’d taken her onboard their craft, at least once she’d started her first period. She recalled, now, that they’d been pleased with her in some way, although she hadn’t understood why. Now, years later, she wondered if she was any closer to understanding what was happening to her.
A hand touched her cheek and she turned, looking up into the eyes of another alien. This one was different. He – she was sure the creature was male, although she couldn’t have explained why she felt that way – was tall, inhumanly tall. Unlike the tiny creatures, he seemed to be aging, his grey skin turning darker, mottled with strange markings and bruises. Her massive dark eyes absorbed her, as if he were staring into her very soul, somehow transporting her out of her body. Memories overcame her…
…She was sitting in the back of Ray Palmer’s car, feeling his fingers slowly slipping inside her panties to stoke between her legs for the first time. She had never been so excited in her life and her entire body seemed to be pulsating with desire. His fingers had already excited her breasts, as his lips had played over her mouth, and now he was bringing her to the boil. She pulled him closer as the first wave of orgasm began to flow over her…
The memories vanished. <st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Sharon</st1lace></st1:City> recoiled, feeling dirty and used. The tube that had pressed against her vagina was retracting now, leaving her aware of just what had happened to her. The taller alien, to make her responsive to the probe, had somehow triggered an orgasm in her mind, using her memories as the key. Ray was long gone – they’d had fun together, but they’d fallen out of love and had ended up cheating on each other – and all that remained was the memories, the memories the creatures had tarnished. The remaining needles had vanished as well, leaving her able to move. She sat up and swung her legs over the side of the table, knowing that even if she couldn’t run she could at least make life harder for them.
“You bastards,” she said, wondering if they could understand. “Why don’t you just leave me alone?”
The smaller aliens showed no reaction to her voice. Abruptly, another memory flashed into her mind. When she’d started work herself, she’d moved into a small apartment and bought a large dog, telling her friends and family that it was for security. Inside, she'd known about the creatures and hoped that the dog would deter them. She should have known better. When they’d visited her again, the dog had barked loudly, until the creatures did something to him. He’d sickened and died over the next week and, somehow, <st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Sharon</st1lace></st1:City> had never bought a second dog. And, after that, it had slipped out of her mind completely.
A touch bought her back to the taller creature. It is necessary, he thought at her. The first time she had heard voices in her head she had been shocked. Now, she was almost used to them. We must not abandon the project.
“What project?” <st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Sharon</st1lace></st1:City> demanded. They rarely talked to her, let alone answered her questions, and she wanted to push it as far as she could. “I never asked to be involved in your project! I want to be left alone!”
You did ask, the creature said. You chose to be involved.
Before <st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Sharon</st1lace></st1:City> could come up with a reply to that outrageous suggestion, the three smaller beings pulled at her arms, pulling her to her feet and along a second corridor, the taller alien following behind her. <st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Sharon</st1lace></st1:City> tried to struggle, but it was useless, as always. She had never even managed to make the slightest impression on then, even once when she’d been drunk and they’d transported her onto her craft. Instead, she tried to peer into the smaller rooms as they passed the entrances, sighting a handful of other humans going through medical procedures. She recoiled in shock as she saw a heavily-pregnant woman being tested for something, a young boy and girl staring at an invisible screen and, finally, a teenage boy having something done to his penis. His eyes were blank and she realised that the aliens had simply switched him off while they carried out their research. <st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Sharon</st1lace></st1:City> felt an odd flicker of envy. She’d never managed to irritate the aliens to the point where they turned her off before carrying out their experiments.
The room at the end of the corridor was warm, so warm that she suddenly felt as if she were in a steam bath. Ahead of her, there were hundreds of cells in the wall, each one glowing with a sickly yellow light. The aliens pushed her forward so she could see into one of the cells, despite her struggles. She already knew what she was going to see. The babies, eerie inhuman babies with oversized heads, were floating within a liquid that seemed to nurture and feed them. She wanted to cry out in rage and horror – no one human could do that to babies – but there was no point. They didn’t care.
Behold the children of the future, a voice said in her head. <st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Sharon</st1lace></st1:City> turned to see the taller alien behind her. As she watched, he extended an oddly-inhuman hand and pressed it against one of the cells. The baby inside seemed to reach back towards the alien, as if it was aware, on some level, of the contact. Behold the hope of two worlds.
<st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Sharon</st1lace></st1:City> wanted to say something cutting, but the words died in her throat. What could she say? She wasn't a doctor or a nurse, yet she could tell that the children looked sickly, as if they weren't going to live much longer. Or perhaps that was their normal colouring. There was no way to know.
The creatures pulled at her again, pushing her through a network of small corridors and passageways until they were in another room. This one held living children, all far more human-seeming than the babies, although there was something indefinably odd about their appearance. They wore white uniforms that clung to their bodies and revealed that some of them, at least, had weird proportions. A handful of taller aliens were working with the children, gravely playing with them. It didn’t take an expert in childrearing – and <st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Sharon</st1lace></st1:City> had raised three children – to know that something was wrong. The children were too sober, too serious. None of them were even smiling.
<st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Sharon</st1lace></st1:City>’s escorts let go of her arms as one of the other taller aliens picked up one of the children, a weak-looking girl of around five years old. <st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Sharon</st1lace></st1:City> recoiled as the alien – she had the vague sense that the alien was female, although there seemed to be no difference between the male and female taller aliens – held the child out to her. <st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Sharon</st1lace></st1:City> didn’t want to touch the child at all, but she knew that there was no choice. The aliens would simply compel her to take the child if she refused. Grimly, she held the child in her arms, feeling repelled by the touch of the child’s skin. She might look human, but she didn’t feel human.
The female alien stepped in front of her and looked up into <st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Sharon</st1lace></st1:City>’s eyes. <st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Sharon</st1lace></st1:City> felt a sudden wave of love and tenderness overcoming her, turning the child from an inhuman monster to a little girl who needed love. <st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Sharon</st1lace></st1:City> held her close and kissed her forehead, despite her struggles to resist the mental commands. The girl smiled for the first time, a smile that somehow melted <st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Sharon</st1lace></st1:City>’s heart. The aliens seemed pleased with her. It dawned on <st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Sharon</st1lace></st1:City>, suddenly, that the aliens couldn’t give the children the love and comfort they needed. For that, they needed humans.
She pulled the girl closer, visions of running for her life with the child passing through her mind. She could run, but where could she hide? There was no way back to her house without their help – besides, they’d never let her take the child away. The taller alien took the child out of her arms and returned her to the playpen, where the others greeted her solemnly. <st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Sharon</st1lace></st1:City> thought, just for a moment, that her heart would break.
The child is yours, the taller alien said.
<st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Sharon</st1lace></st1:City> stared at him, but couldn’t doubt his word. They’d taken an egg from her body, matched it with sperm from a stranger and then…done something to it to produce the little girl. Her child would grow up among inhuman monsters and never know her mother.
Why doesn’t someone stop this? She screamed inside her mind. The answer came back immediately. No one can stop this.
Chapter Two<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-comfficeffice" />
…All attempts to prevent the abductions, or even gain hard evidence of their physical existence, have failed. It is clear that the aliens, intent on maintaining their secrecy, are willing to work around any human security measures. Their control over the abductees allows them to circumvent any recording devices – we have placed cameras in various homes, only to watch in dismay as the victim turns them off before abduction…
-William Sonnenleiter, Accounts of Abduction, 2015
<?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-comffice:smarttags" /><st1lace w:st="on"><st1:City w:st="on">Allendale</st1:City>, <st1:State w:st="on">New Jersey</st1:State>, <st1:country-region w:st="on">USA</st1:country-region></st1lace>
“…Reports of Senator Van Allan’s death have been confirmed,” the radio said. Jon Sonnenleiter yawned loudly, trying to keep himself awake. It had been a boring stakeout so far and only the fact that his brother had asked him to do it – and had been willing to pay top dollar – kept him from driving off and finding a place to sleep for the night. “Van Allan, known in <st1:State w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Washington</st1lace></st1:State> for his zeal in spending cuts, was gunned down by a sniper near his residence this afternoon. A statement has been issued by a group calling itself the Sons of the Prophet claiming responsibility for the assassination and warning of further attacks to come...”
Jon hit the switch and the radio fell silent. William – his brother – had warned him that the stakeout would be boring, even though Jon had also been asked to do a complete profile on the target. It was a comedown after the work he’d done as an Army Ranger, but at least it was interesting. The movies made Private Investigators look like dashing and glamorous people who lived lives of adventure and excitement, something that was far from the truth. The only excitement in Jon’s life since he had been discharged from the Rangers had been knocking down a would-be mugger who had had no idea who he was trying to mug.
He leaned back in the driving seat and stared towards the house. Sharon Mack lived there, the woman he had been hired to profile and then watch. Jon had called in a few favours from his old contacts and discovered nothing of great interest. Sharon had been born in Yonkers to reasonably wealthy parents, gone to a private school, qualified as a stockbroker, met her husband Keith while working at Wall Street and eventually retired from the business to bring up her three children. She was boring; the only black mark on her record was a speeding ticket and a fine, which had been paid at once. The data miner hadn’t been able to find anything more incriminating, apart from a handful of pictures that had been taken years ago, during an initiation into a college society.
Jon rolled his eyes. At twenty-nine, he was fit and rugged, although his nose – broken by a Taliban fighter during an unexpected meeting in a ruined hovel in <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Afghanistan</st1lace></st1:country-region> – looked as if the doctors had never quite finished work on repairing it. William had been the intellectual of the family, studying psychology and eventually qualifying as a psychologist, but Jon had been the fighter. Even at seven, he had defended his elder – and nerdy – brother against bullies in the playground. It had been natural after leaving school that he would seek to join the army and, eventually, qualify as a Ranger. Jon had served in <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Iraq</st1lace></st1:country-region>, <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Afghanistan</st1lace></st1:country-region> and a handful of places that most civilians would be surprised to discover that American troops had served at all. And then he’d been discharged. He could have fought it, he could have made a fuss that would have been a political nightmare for the army, but instead…he’d just accepted it. It still gnawed at him, sometimes, that his final service to the army had been leaving it without a fight.
He looked back at the house and tried to recall the patience he’d learned while going through advanced training. By 2007, the military had learned a great deal about how its new crop of enemies thought and fought; Jon had been trained to be patient, to lie in wait for his target, and then to strike with the minimum necessary force. Perhaps if <st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Sharon</st1lace></st1:City> had been cheating on her husband, he would have had some excitement, but he’d watched her for over two weeks and he’d seen no sign of anything out of the ordinary. She seemed, even, to have retired completely from her former business. Her only concern was bringing up her kids and taking care of her husband.
A very old fashioned wife, Jon had thought at the time, yet everything he’d seen suggested that that was accurate. <st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Sharon</st1lace></st1:City> seemed to be nothing special, which raised the question of why his brother would be interested in her, interested enough to pay top rates for Jon’s services. It crossed his mind that perhaps William had merely wanted to help Jon out a little, but it wasn't as if the PI business was slow. There were plenty of jobs and commissions out there for the good ones.
He looked down at the dashboard and then up at the house – and froze. Senses that had been developed on <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Afghanistan</st1lace></st1:country-region>’s frozen plains or <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Iraq</st1lace></st1:country-region>’s boiling deserts were screaming at him, telling him that something was very wrong. He reached down and picked up the pistol he’d stashed in the glove compartment, before he caught himself and glanced around. There was no sign of danger, not like the time he’d been conducting surveillance in one of <st1:State w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">New York</st1lace></st1:State>’s less prestigious areas and a gang of youths had tried to break into the van. There was just…a sense that something was very wrong. A moment later…
A naked woman floated through the wall of her house. Just for a moment, Jon was sure that he was seeing things, that he’d finally gone mad and started to hallucinate, before he saw her companions. Three tiny grey aliens were accompanying her, floating through the air as if the experience didn’t bother them at all. Jon couldn’t believe his eyes and glanced at the cameras, realising suddenly that William must have had some idea of what was going to happen. He’d paid Jon to ensure that there was a complete video record of what happened, whatever it was. Jon had used several terabytes of hard drive space to store two weeks worth of nothing, but now – now he had something interesting.
He shivered as the woman drifted up higher, watching her buttocks swaying in the air, seconds before she vanished completely. Jon wondered, just for a second, if she’d been beamed onto the mothership or something like it, before he reached for his night-vision goggles and pulled them on. There was something there, hanging in the air, but he couldn’t make out any details. Whatever it was, it seemed to bend light around it, rendering it nearly invisible. If it was making any sound, Jon couldn’t hear it, which meant that it would probably be able to operate anywhere in the world without being detected. Jon realised some of the staggering implications and his jaw dropped. Aliens were real!
Without deactivating the camera, he started to check what it had observed and smiled in relief when he realised that it had observed and recorded everything. It had seen the tiny aliens, the naked woman – who was clearly recognisable as Sharon Mack – and her passage through the air to the alien craft. It occurred to him that it could have been a joke of some kind, a trick intended to snare the gullible, but all of his combat senses were insisting that it was real. Besides, he’d seen no sign of anyone setting up a trick. They would have to know that he was there, that he was watching them and, out of habit, he’d kept an eye out for people watching him. There had been no one there.
He glanced down at another device and frowned. It was a well-known spy trick that one could, by using a laser beam pointed at a window, listen in to what was being said inside the room. The <st1:stockticker w:st="on">CIA</st1:stockticker> had developed several techniques for countering the laser beam – vibrating the window worked fairly well – but <st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Sharon</st1lace></st1:City> had not been deploying any counter-surveillance systems, or even taking basic precautions. Jon knew that he could have robbed her and her family blind, easily. There was no sound coming from the house, not even snores. It was as dark and silent as the grave.
The alien craft – the UFO, he decided, reluctantly – seemed unwilling to move. Jon watched it carefully, but it was impossible to make out any more details. He wasn't even sure how large it was, although his estimates ranged from fairly small to the size of a naval destroyer. It occurred to him that it could crash and destroy most of the surrounding area, or worse. Jon had never had any real interest in UFOs, but even he had heard of <st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Roswell</st1lace></st1:City>, although he had believed it to be a fraud. Perhaps <st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Roswell</st1lace></st1:City> had been real after all.
He caught himself hyperventilating and shivered. In <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Afghanistan</st1lace></st1:country-region>, he had known what he was doing, but now…the entire world had turned upside down. It would be easy to believe that he’d seen nothing, that there was nothing floating in the air above the houses, yet he couldn’t just turn his back and walk away. How could he? Jon had meant every word of the oath he’d sworn the day he’d enlisted in the army and the aliens were a definite threat. The knowledge burned away at him, reminding him that, in the alien craft, there was a helpless woman who had been abducted from her bed by aliens, presumably against her will. He wanted to help her, yet what could he do? He doubted that his pistol would make much impression on the alien craft.
All he could do was watch and wait.
***The aliens escorted <st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Sharon</st1lace></st1:City> through the corridors of their craft, still holding her arms. This time, they were passing through sealed corridors, with no sign of any other humans or aliens. <st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Sharon</st1lace></st1:City> felt tired and worn as they half-carried her onwards, as if she was reaching the end of her tether. Or perhaps, she reminded herself savagely, they were doing it to her on purpose. Every other time she’d been taken, she’d promised herself that she would remember and recall the truth, but she had always forgotten. This time, she swore, would be different.
They stopped in a large open chamber, where a handful of human males were waiting for her. Or maybe they weren't human at all. <st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Sharon</st1lace></st1:City> could feel something…odd surrounding them, a very primal sense that all was not right. It didn’t seem to bother her that she was naked in front of them, or that they were naked in front of her, even though she doubted that her escorts were there for her benefit. The taller alien came in behind her and the humanoids backed away, as if they were scared of the taller alien. Perhaps they were; <st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Sharon</st1lace></st1:City> recalled, suddenly, one of the taller aliens dealing with a humanoid who had done something bad…she couldn’t recall what, or why. Her memories had been buried far deeper than usual. Her escorts posed her for a long moment, as if they were slavers displaying a female slave to prospective buyers, and then marched her away from the chamber. <st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Sharon</st1lace></st1:City> was confused, yet aware that she had been lucky. Worse things had happened in that chamber…
Her escorts pulled her back into the receiving room and, before she had any time to realise what was about to happen, pulled her through the wall. She was standing helplessly in the air and nearly panicked, before she realised that she was held safely by the unseen force. <st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Sharon</st1lace></st1:City> found herself floating back towards her house, followed by her three escorts and, before she knew it, she was back in her bedroom. Keith was still lying in bed, unmoving. He wouldn't move until it was all over.
The aliens held her in the centre of the room as one of them picked up the nightdress and started to pull it over her shoulders. <st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Sharon</st1lace></st1:City> wondered if they would try to retie the knots, but it seemed that they’d made the decision to risk leaving the nightdress undone, once they’d pulled it over her. <st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Sharon</st1lace></st1:City> wanted to smile, but didn’t quite dare. For most of her life, she had woken up in odd positions or with her clothes on backwards…and now she knew why. The aliens were powerful, but they made mistakes. It was all she had to give her hope.
One of the aliens walked around until it was standing in front of her and gazed into her eyes. <st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Sharon</st1lace></st1:City> tried desperately to close hers, but it was too late to avoid the mental influence. Her strength drained away and she found herself walking over to the bed and climbing in besides Keith, her mind seeming to spin away into the darkness. She tried to tell herself that she would remember, that she would know what had happened to her when she opened her eyes; that she would remember…
The next thing she knew was the sun pouring in through the bedroom windows. <st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Sharon</st1lace></st1:City> pulled herself out of bed and glanced down at her nightgown, puzzled. She had put it on properly the night before, hadn’t she? Yes, she had, and yet…it wasn’t tied and it was the wrong way around. Even if Keith had started to untie it while she was asleep, how could he have turned it around? He would have preferred to leave her naked…
“Morning, love,” Keith said. He smiled at her and she dismissed the mystery of her nightgown. Somehow, she never thought about it again. “How are you today?”
<st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Sharon</st1lace></st1:City> smiled and leaned forward to kiss him. She wanted to do much more, but she could already hear the sounds of the children getting up and demanding their breakfast. It seemed a shame that they couldn’t enjoy each other as much as they wanted to, now they had kids, but there wasn't much choice. They’d been planning a holiday for the coming summer that would give them plenty of time alone, by sending the kids to summer camp.
“I’m fine,” she said. It wasn't quite accurate. Her chest hurt badly, yet the pain was fading away. “I love you.”
“I love you too,” Keith said. “You’d better go get in the shower before the kids get there first.”
<st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Sharon</st1lace></st1:City> nodded and left her husband alone. She pulled on a dressing gown – she wasn't going to show herself naked to the kids – and stepped into the shower. There, she studied herself in the mirror…and stopped. On her chest, right where she had been hurting, were strange marks, reddish and unpleasant. <st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Sharon</st1lace></st1:City> stared down at them in disbelief. Where had they come from? If she had been hurt that badly, surely she would have remembered, yet her memory refused to focus. What had happened to her?
She heard the sound of her children calling for her and pushed the mystery aside. It was time to play mom for a while. The mystery could wait until later.
“Mom,” Callie said, as she served cereal and toast to her children, “I had the strangest dream.”
<st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Sharon</st1lace></st1:City>, for reasons she couldn’t have put into words, felt a chill running down the back of her spine. “You did?”
“Yes,” Callie said. She was as cute as a button, her father’s pride and joy. Her three daughters had learned quickly that nothing could deny them their father’s love. “I dreamed I was flying, escorted by fairies.”
<st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Sharon</st1lace></st1:City> shivered again. As a child, she’d had similar dreams.
“I’m sure it was nothing,” she lied. She would have to go see Doctor Sonnenleiter again. He had been helping her cope with her bad dreams through hypnotic regression. <st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Sharon</st1lace></st1:City> had her doubts, but it seemed to be working at some level. She just wished that she could remember what he said about them. It just kept falling out of her mind. “I’m sure you’ll forget it all by the evening.”
***Jon had watched in disbelief as <st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Sharon</st1lace></st1:City> was returned to her house. Ten minutes later, her three escorts returned to their craft and it vanished, somewhere into the darkness. It left no trace of its passage. Jon was tempted to run into the house and check on <st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Sharon</st1lace></st1:City>, but the laser was reporting that everyone was snoring, suggesting that they wouldn't appreciate being disturbed. Besides, it seemed to him that risking discovery would be dangerous, at least until he got the footage back to William and demanded answers.
He picked up the camera and replayed the scene again, shaking his head in disbelief. He wanted to dismiss it all as a dream, but he knew better. It had been real – besides, the proof was right in front of him. He'd obtained the camera set through one of his more dubious contacts and faking anything using that sort of system was tricky, although it could be done. The level of resources required to do it would be considerable, even for the NSA.
Technically, he’d agreed to watch <st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Sharon</st1lace></st1:City>’s house for the rest of the night, but he suspected that it wouldn't be a good idea to stick around. He wanted to get home, get drunk and then go see his brother. Perhaps William would know what to do next. He checked around, out of habit, and then started the car.
As he drove, he caught himself looking up towards the stars. They twinkled in the atmosphere, a mocking reminder of when he had wanted to be an astronaut, before NASA had killed any hope of an early return to the moon. He’d learned how to navigate by the stars in <st1lace w:st="on"><st1laceName w:st="on">Ranger</st1laceName> <st1laceType w:st="on">School</st1laceType></st1lace> and they’d been his friends in <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Afghanistan</st1lace></st1:country-region>. Now…for the first time in his life, he was afraid of the night sky. Who knew what was up there, looking down towards Earth? The world had turned upside down.
Chapter Three<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-comfficeffice" />
…In most cases, the aliens somehow induce amnesia in abductees, making it difficult for them to recall what has happened to them. The only key we have to unlock those memories is hypnotic regression, but that carries its own dangers. A careless hypnotist can cause a hypnotic subject to ‘recall’ a scenario and become convinced of its reality – in effect, creating a lie so powerful that the teller genuinely believes what he or she is saying.
-William Sonnenleiter, Accounts of Abduction, 2015
New York, <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-comffice:smarttags" /><st1:country-region w:st="on">USA</st1:country-region>
“I still think you should have kept the blonde with the big melons,” Jon said, once the door was closed and he was sitting alone with his brother. “Your current secretary isn’t exactly as easy on the eye.”
“I thought you had no eye for the ladies,” William countered. If he was curious as to why Jon had requested the appointment so urgently, he showed no sign of it. “I’m afraid that Mary was not so sold on Rita’s charms and so Rita had to be sent elsewhere and replaced by Mrs Kale.”
Jon had to smile. William Sonnenleiter and his brother were as different as chalk and cheese. While Jon had gone into the Army and served as a Ranger before the unfortunate incident had prompted his discharge, William had remained firmly civilian in mind and body. Jon was tall, rugged and bore the scars from close encounters in Afghanistan and Iraq. William was short, bespectacled and putting on weight. He was also a decent man, although his wife – Mary Sonnenleiter – had been known to disapprove of her husband’s brother. She thought that people like Jon should be neither seen nor heard.
“At least I can appreciate beauty when I see it,” Jon said. He knew that William – a trained psychologist – would know that he was keyed up, but he doubted that he would understand why. After leaving Sharon Mack’s house, the vital recording concealed in his camera, he’d drunk enough beer to dull the shock and fear that had threatened to overcome him. In the morning, in the cold light of day, everything that had happened seemed unbelievable, until he had watched the recording again. Somehow, that made it all real. “Why did you send me to watch Sharon Mack?”
William, no fool, gazed back at his brother. “What did you see?”
Jon pulled out the USB stick and placed it into his brother’s computer. He’d converted the CIA’s preferred format to a standard AVI file, as well as making several copies and distributing them around his apartment. The CIA-issue camera had recorded several terabytes worth of data, enough to prove that the whole scene wasn't a hoax or a piece of computer-generated special effects. He watched William’s face as the whole event, from the first sighting of the little grey aliens to Sharon’s return to her house, played out in front of him. His brother hadn't looked so bad since the day he’d fallen out of a tree and landed face down on the hard ground.
“My God,” William said, finally. “I...I never dreamed that it would be so easy...”
Jon, who had spent two weeks following Sharon around, shrugged. “I took the footage and copied it onto several discs,” he explained. “I think I understand, now, what you wanted me to watch out for. So tell me...what made you insist that I watched Sharon without her knowledge and consent?”
“It’s a long story,” William said. He shook his head slowly. “I first got into alien abduction reports a few years ago, after one of my other patients came to me and started complaining about missing time in her life. I was reluctant to believe anything she said under hypnosis, but it made a change from the usual procession of rich bitches through my officer, so I looked into it. Over the next few months, I uncovered a handful of other reports and started to correspond with other researchers. The reports weren't fragmented, as they could have been if they were delusions; they shared a number of similar points.”
He reached out and tapped the computer screen, which had frozen on the two aliens returning to their craft. “Those little bastards keep popping up in reports,” William explained. “There were so many points in common that I started to wonder if the accounts were actually genuine. I didn’t believe them at first.”
Jon smiled. “And if you’d told me about this a day ago, I would have laughed in your face,” he admitted. “How did you discover Sharon Mack? Coming to think of it, what made you choose her as your surveillance target?”
William hesitated. “We’re getting into Doctor-Patient confidentiality territory here,” he said, slowly, and then shook his head. “You have a need to know. Sharon was referred to me by one of my other patients, a woman who was suffering from odd unexplained fears and phobias, none of which seemed particularly logical or understandable. I regressed her back in time – mentally, of course – and discovered that she believed, deep inside, that she had been abducted by aliens. I was more inclined to believe her because someone – or something – had done a real mind-**** on her. She doesn't have any memory of what happened to her outside an actual abduction and while I have tried to help her recover her memory, she remembers nothing of what she recalls during a hypnotic session. It made me wonder if she was the most likely to be telling the truth.”
“Right,” Jon said dryly. He studied his brother for a long moment. “Did you expect to discover that they were all telling the truth?”
“That some of them are telling the truth,” his brother corrected. “I’m afraid that some people try to convince us that they have been abducted, when in fact they made the whole thing up. A handful of others suffered sexual abuse as children and invented an alien scenario to cover their memories, although their memories rarely bore any relationship to reality. And I didn't think that they were experiencing something real and physical. I didn't realise...”
He stared down at his hands. Jon realised, suddenly, that his brother had had a very nasty shock. The whole issue had been an academic study for him. If Jon had watched Sharon and proved that nothing had happened to her – even if she had been regressed and claimed to have been abducted – it would have made William’s reputation as the man who exposed alien abduction as a self-inflicted delusion. And why not? Alien abduction was so far outside most people’s mentalities that they would be delighted to have an understandable, and normal, explanation. William had never seriously considered that it might be real, or what he would do if it was real.
“Take a deep breath,” Jon advised. His brother was smart, even though – in Jon’s considered opinion – he lacked the decisiveness of the natural soldier. But then, William had never even considered joining the army. His little brother had been the fighter in the family. “What happens to her on the ship?”
“They carry out medical procedures,” William said, flatly. His voice sound hollow, stunned. Jon briefly considered informing Mrs Kale that her boss would be taking the rest of the day off, but the formidable – and ancient – secretary would be unlikely to accept any orders from him. “Some of the procedures are understandable, even though we cannot understand why the aliens choose to perform them; some of the procedures make no sense to us. I don’t even know why she was chosen...”
He looked up suddenly. “Do you realise that she’s one of the lucky ones? There are victims out there who know what is happening to them and they can't do anything about it. They have tried hiding guns under their pillows or sleeping with knives under their beds and the aliens just prevent them from even trying to fight. Men and women are taken from their beds and from their cars and wherever else they happen to be and experimented on, without any regard for what they want. They’re being raped up on those ships and we can't do anything to stop it!”
Jon closed his eyes for a moment. “Hasn't anyone tried bringing it to the attention of the military?”
William snorted. “It’s been tried,” he admitted. “You know what happens? The people who try to report it are patted on the head, told not to make up stupid stories, and then roundly dismissed back to their normal lives. No one gives a damn about the victims of alien abduction. No politician wants to be made a laughing stock by pretending to take this seriously.”
“We have proof now,” Jon said, quietly. He nodded towards the computer screen. “I recorded it with a verifiable camera, one the CIA designed a few years ago. They won’t be able to dismiss it easily. I could take it in to my...handler and he could forward it up the chain to someone who could actually do something about it.”
His voice rose in excitement as he outlined the possibilities. “We get a proper SF team out to Sharon Mack’s house and wait,” he continued, grinning. “The next time the aliens visit, we slam a MANPAD into their hull and see how they like that. Even if they have invincible force fields and other weapons of doom, I’m sure they will feel it.”
William frowned at his brother. “That’s an act of war,” he pointed out. “If they’re here, they have clearly crossed thousands of light years to get to us. Do we really want to make them angry at us?”
“It may be an act of war,” Jon conceded. “On the other hand, kidnapping our citizens and subjecting them to strange medical procedures is also an act of war. I don't think that they can complain if we put a missile into their hull.”
“I’m sure they will anyway,” William said, dryly. “Jon - are you sure you want to take it to the government?”
Jon frowned. “Do you think we have a choice?” He asked. “What do you suggest instead? We could take the footage to a UFO conference, but everyone with an interest in debunking reports would try to tear the footage to shreds.”
“You just said that they couldn’t dismiss it,” William protested.
“The CIA or another government agency wouldn't be able to dismiss it, not if they were given the original recordings for analysis,” Jon confirmed. “I doubt that a bunch of geeks at Sci-Fi Bi-Mon Convention would be able to do it. We could take the copy, but that wouldn't have the underlying code that they would need to verify the footage.” He shrugged. “And really, what is the alternative? Put the footage on the internet and see who bites?”
He shook his head dismissively. “I think we need to treat this as a covert operation,” he said, firmly. “I’ll get people to look at the footage and verify it. We can then move into counter-action, without alerting the general public – which would also alert the aliens. If I was in their shoes, I’d be monitoring Earth’s news broadcasts for signs that I had been detected. “
William nodded, unhappily. “I see your point,” he said. He grinned, suddenly. “And Mary was saying that it was an interest that wouldn't bring me anything, but infamy.”
Jon smiled. “And what happens if it turns out that we can't stop the abductions?”
“Mary wants me to take more rich clients,” William continued, as if he hadn't heard the response. “She says that I should expand my practice, perhaps take a partner or two and solicit more patients. I keep trying to tell her...”
Jon nodded in understanding. Unlike many other professional psychologists that Jon had met – and he’d seen a few as he struggled to come to terms with himself, after his discharge from the Rangers – his brother genuinely cared about his patients. He might have earned more by giving comfort to rich celebrities and New York’s stockbrokers and investment bankers, but it wasn't as fulfilling as helping a person who genuinely needed help. Jon would take a patient who couldn't afford a high fee just for the challenge – and the need to help someone who needed help.
Mary, of course, disapproved and had made her feelings very clear. She wanted to keep up appearances with the neighbours and her social set, even if it meant her husband working himself into an early grave. William had bought her a nice house in Yonkers, a holiday cabin in the mountains and three cars, but nothing was ever good enough. It didn't help that while William was a wealthy man by the standards of most of the population, her neighbours were all wives and relatives of bankers and stockbrokers, women whose husbands earned millions of dollars each year.
Jon had heard about a visit from a very wealthy woman who had a single seven-year-old son. The mother had been convinced that something was wrong with her son; William had interviewed him and reported, after an hour, that there was nothing wrong with him, apart from a perfectly natural and healthy desire not to be tied to his mother’s apron strings. He had given the woman some good advice on parenting, but the woman, refusing to believe him, had taken her custom elsewhere. Jon had heard from Mary, at one of their Thanksgiving Dinners, that the woman was currently paying top dollar for the services of a less scrupulous psychologist.
“I think she is in for a surprise,” Jon said. “Think about how wealthy and famous you are going to be once they start making movies and writing books about you.”
William shook his head. “I almost wish that you hadn’t seen anything,” he said, staring at the computer. “Do you understand what this means? The entire world is going to discover that aliens are real. The world is going to turn upside down. We will have panic, and riots, and economic crashes, and people taking pot-shots at every light in the sky...Jon, don’t you understand? I thought that it was a mass delusion...”
“That’s what they used to say about the threat from the Soviet Union,” Jon said, dryly. William had always been the intellectual one in the family. Having learned that the threat was real, he promptly started to over-analyse it. Jon was less encumbered with an active imagination. “William...we have to take this higher up the food chain.”
He stood up. “I want you to cancel your appointments for the rest of the day,” he continued, smoothly. At least his brother had the habit of listening to him, most of the time. He’d advised William not to marry Mary and his brother had ignored him then – of course, with two lovely daughters, maybe the marriage wasn't that bad. Karen and Kimberly were growing up into young women and they loved their Uncle Jon. Perversely, he remembered that Karen’s birthday was coming up and he had to get her a present. It seemed so unimportant now. “Gather all your documents about alien abductions – everything from patient records to information and books you’ve collected personally – and get it organised. If we need to come for it, we will.”
Jon hesitated. “And I think that you had better pack an overnight bag as well,” he added. “You may have to leave your house and go into protective custody.”
“Mary’s going to love that,” William said. Jon rolled his eyes. Personally, he always had a bag ready with a change of clothes, a small amount of money, a pair of pistols and some ready-made snacks. One never knew when one might have to leave one’s apartment without prior warning. It was a habit that had served him well over the years. “You don’t think that you can leave me out of it?”
Jon shrugged. “You know I’ll have to give a full account,” he said dryly. “And besides, don’t you want some of the credit?”
William looked up at him suddenly. “Jon,” he said slowly, “do you see this as your ticket back into the military?”
Jon hesitated. With anyone else, he would have given a gibe answer, but William was his brother. He’d been fourteen when he had realised that he felt little or no sexual attraction to girls – perversely, he’d had girls throwing themselves at him at that time – and fifteen when he finally admitted to himself that he was attracted to other boys. He wasn't effeminate, he wasn't inclined to wear make-up and perfume, but he was homosexual. After a brief relationship with another equally uncertain teenage boy, Jon was convinced. He’d only remained in the closet because the military, which he wanted to join, took a dim view of homosexuality. Jon understood why. Unit cohesion had been weakened, even destroyed, by the wrong homosexual in the wrong place.
But he’d ignored the dangers, enlisted anyway and gone on to join the Rangers. There had been no need to discuss his sexuality with anyone and he certainly hadn't molested any of his fellow soldiers. While they’d been off chasing girls on leave, Jon had chased men instead in the West, or kept himself to himself when in the East. He knew that a handful of his buddies had known the truth, but none of them had said anything to higher authority. Why should they have? Jon had saved their lives in combat and they had saved him.
And then the army had found out anyway. Jon knew he could have fought, could have made a political issue of it, but it would have damaged the army. He’d been discharged, with a promise of further work in exchange for not pushing the issue, yet it still hurt. Part of him had to admit that William was right. The thought of reenlisting was tempting, particularly on his terms, but...
He shook his head. “No,” he said, finally. “I see this as a threat to the entire world.”
It was, he admitted to himself, only half-true.
Chapter Four<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-comfficeffice" />
...Why does the Government refuse to act? There are many theories within the UFO community. Some believe that the aliens have made a deal with the government, one that allows them to abduct humans at will in exchange for higher technology. Some believe that the aliens have cowed the government into submission. Some believe, even, that there are no aliens and the abductions are actually carried out by the government! The simplest answer, however, is that the Government does not believe in alien abductions. There are no votes to gain in tackling the issue.
-William Sonnenleiter, Accounts of Abduction, 2015
New York, USA
The office building had been designed and constructed by a front company that belonged to the CIA, or so Jon had been told. Once they’d started work on the building, it had been easy to bury security systems within the walls that would allow the CIA to monitor and control everything that took place within the building, as well as making eavesdropping impossible. Most of the businesses in the building were legitimate – they served as unknowing cover for the CIA’s activities – but none of them realised that the thirteenth floor was completely missing. The elevators, which required an ID card to operate, never allowed anyone access to other floors, apart from their own. The CIA’s offices in New York were hidden in plain sight.
Jon entered the building with mixed feelings, nodded to the security guard at his desk, and then waited for the private elevator. The building’s inhabitants were not encouraged to socialise with people outside their own company, making it harder for them to realise that part of the building was hidden from them. Elevators went up to the selected floor and then back down to the first floor, ensuring that the different companies used different elevators. Jon stepped inside, pressed his ID card into the scanner, and then smiled as the elevator started upwards. The security staff on the thirteenth floor would be looking at him now through the elevator’s hidden sensors. If they didn't like what they saw, he would be greeted by a team of armed men when the elevator reached its destination.
It had been four years since he had first set foot in the CIA’s covert operations centre. He’d been told that, after his discharge, that he would be paid a small stipend in exchange for joining the CIA’s pool of covert operatives, the Army of Northern Virginia. Over the years, he had performed a handful of tasks for the CIA, but none of them had ever been very interesting or even challenging. He was mildly surprised that his handler had agreed to see him so quickly, yet Jon wasn't in the habit of challenging luck. He would have a chance to make his case directly to a senior operative.
The elevator doors opened, revealing a nondescript lobby and an unmarked door at the far end. Jon walked forward, waited until the elevator had started heading back to the ground floor, and then pressed his hand against a hidden scanner. There was a flash of red light as a laser beam scanned his hand, checked his fingerprints and cleared him for entry. The door opened a moment later, allowing him access to the interior of the complex. Another door was opening ahead of him. The remaining doors would be locked. Feeling like a rat in a maze, Jon kept walking and found that he was in a small waiting room. Shaking his head, he took a seat and picked up a magazine someone had left on the table. It took nearly thirty minutes before another door opened and he was invited into a small office. Charlie Sheen was waiting for him.
Like the other CIA officers Jon had met while serving with the Rangers, Sheen was a tall man who extruded a sense of confidence and entitlement, something that wouldn't have annoyed Jon so badly if it had been deserved. The CIA had a nasty habit of making false pronouncements, refusing to consider that they might be wrong...and then denying everything when the **** hit the fan. Jon had been on the scene when a building – which the CIA officers had claimed was deserted – had turned out to be full of Taliban fighters itching for a fight. After that, he’d learned to take the intelligence agency’s pronouncements with a grain of salt. The only real difference between Sheen and his co-workers in Afghanistan was that Sheen was starting to put on weight and was often rude and dismissive to his subordinates.
“Well,” Sheen said. He didn't offer to shake hands. “I trust that this is important. I delayed a very important videoconference with the Director to meet with you.”
Jon concealed his annoyance at Sheen’s nasal voice. There was no denying that Sheen had a brain inside his head, but he seemed unwilling to use it half the time. Besides, Jon knew better than to believe him, not when missing a videoconference with a highly-placed individual – like the Director of the CIA – could have serious repercussions for one’s career.
“I’m afraid it is, sir,” Jon said. There were greenie lieutenants out of West Point that were more deserving of the honorific, but he needed to keep Sheen buttered up. He produced the USB stick and held it out to Sheen. “I’m afraid you need to see this.”
Sheen took the stick, frowned at it, and then produced a small secure laptop from a desk drawer. The CIA was understandably paranoid about computer hackers and a surprising amount of work was done on computers that were never connected to the secure network, let alone the internet. The really secret files were printed out and stored at Langley, isolated beyond any hope of being infiltrated by hackers. Rumour had it that there was another storage site somewhere out in Nevada, but Jon knew nothing for certain. He had no need to know.
“Really,” Sheen said, as he popped it into the laptop. “I trust that this isn't just your homemade porn...”
He stopped, staring at the video. “You have got to be joking,” he said, sharply. “Anyone can tell that it’s faked!”
“It isn't a fake, sir,” Jon said, quietly. “I took the recordings last night with a standard IV45-issue camera.” He reached into his pocket and produced a secure datachip. “These are the full recordings.”
Sheen stared at him for a long moment. “If you are wasting my time,” he began, “I swear to you that you will never get another assignment for as long as you live...”
“I wish it was a joke, sir,” Jon said. He passed Sheen the datachip. The civilian market would have loved it – it could hold over a thousand terabytes worth of information – but for the moment it was only used by the government. “Take the files, run them through an analysis program and then you’ll know the truth.”
Sheen looked back at the computer screen. “It looks like something from The X-Files,” he said, shaking his head. He sounded as if he didn't believe Jon, yet Jon’s willingness to have the recordings analysed had shaken him. If it had been a hoax – and there was no motive for a hoax – it would have been quickly discovered. “It can't be real.”
Jon spoke quietly, but firmly, outlining everything that had happened since he had accepted his brother’s commission to carry out covert surveillance on Sharon Mack. He knew that, at some level, he had committed several felonies in carrying out the commission. He’d certainly invaded her privacy and, if she ever found out, she would have excellent grounds for a lawsuit. If William was right about her memory problems, she would never realise that he’d acted in her best interests. How could she? He avoided mentioning a handful of details – he didn't trust Sheen not to throw him to the wolves if necessary – but kept the rest of the statement accurate.
“You have...I can't believe this,” Sheen said, finally. He pulled the USB stick out of the laptop and shut it down, before picking up the datachip and placing it in a secure lockbox. “I’ll take this to the analysis office and they’ll check it. Are there any other copies?”
“No,” Jon lied. The CIA sometimes ‘lost’ intelligence the army forwarded to them and then swore blind that they had never received it. “Do you know who to contact with the data, once it is verified?”
“I believe so,” Sheen said. He stood up, signalling that the interview was over. “Keep your cell phone with you at all times. I’ll contact you once the analysis lab has finished its work and confirmed your crazy story.”
Jon smiled, without humour. “It isn't a crazy story,” he said, slowly. “Whatever happens, it is vitally important that you take it as high up the ladder as you can.”
He held Sheen’s eyes until the overweight man nodded, reluctantly. Any large organisation – and the CIA was no exception – had problems when it came to forwarding information up the chain. Every link in the chain – every person who saw the information – asked themselves if the information benefited them in any way. Sometimes – if the information made them look bad, or incompetent, or even boosted the careers of their subordinates – they would hold back or alter the data. It accounted for more than a few spectacular disasters in the history of the world.
“I will,” Sheen promised. “And Jon - if this is a fake...”
“It isn't,” Jon said. “Good luck.”
***Getting out of the CIA’s building was harder than getting in, at least on some level. The security guard – with others waiting unseen in the wings – insisted on carrying out a basic search before Jon left, even though no one had searched him when he came into the building. Jon had pointed out, more than once, that the security was flawed, but then there was nothing worth stealing in the rooms he’d been allowed to enter. Sheen’s office was the only important room and there was very little within reach – and besides, unseen eyes would have been watching him ever since he entered the secure complex.
Once he was outside in the sun, Jon walked along to a small cafe and ordered pizza and coke while watching to see if he was being tailed. Perhaps it was paranoia, but he’d been tailed before when he’d left the building, although he had never been sure who was behind the watchers. Was it Sheen, trying to see if Jon still had it, or a foreign intelligence agency? This time, he appeared to be alone, but he still took precautions after finishing his lunch. No one seemed to be following him as he hailed a taxi and ordered the driver to take him into the suburbs. He had a private mission of his own.
He hadn’t mentioned it to William – his brother would have disapproved – but he had privately decided to check up on Sharon Mack from time to time. Retrieving his own car from where he’d parked it, he drove back towards Allendale, arriving in time for Sharon’s daily trip to school to pick up her children. Her eyes looked haunted, Jon decided as he studied her through enhancement spectacles, but she appeared to be physically unharmed. It was something of a relief. He hadn't told William – his brother psychoanalysed him enough as it was – that he felt guilty over not going into her house to check up on her after the event. It was good to know that she was unharmed.
Jon drove away from her house, parked several blocks away and settled down to think. If Sheen did manage to rally the troops, they would have to convince Sharon to allow them to place a small team inside her house, where they could intercept the grey aliens as soon as they arrived. Or would that blow the surprise? He glanced around at the surrounding buildings and knew that no one in their right mind would allow a team with MANPAD launchers to risk engaging the alien craft. If they succeeded, the craft would crash and cause havoc, the kind of havoc that wouldn't fail to be shown on the nightly news. Innocent civilians would be hurt.
He stroked his chin as he thought. Perhaps they could convince Sharon to spend a few nights somewhere well away from anyone else. An isolated holiday cabin would make an excellent place for an ambush, done properly. Or would that blow the surprise again? He scowled, wishing that he knew more about how the aliens did what they did. William had loaned him a handful of books and he’d skimmed through one of them while waiting for Sheen to confirm the time and place of their meeting. The aliens seemed to exert a mental influence over their targets. If they could read minds, and if Sharon knew that the ambush was in place, they’d know that the team was waiting. And yet, how could they convince Sharon to be somewhere alone without tipping their hand?
Jon was still thinking when the sun started to slide down below the horizon. He considered, briefly, driving back to Sharon’s house and watching to see if there was a second abduction, before dismissing the idea. They had the video footage they needed to prove that abductions were real. There was no point in pushing his luck. His drill sergeant had told him that there was a point where courage became foolhardiness and he knew that he was reaching that point. Turning the key in the ignition, he started the car and drove back towards the lights of New York. Knowing what he knew, it was easy to imagine a malign influence reaching down from high overhead, trying to stop him as he drive away. It was almost a relief to slip back into New York and reach his apartment.
Just for a moment, as he parked his car, he looked up into the night sky and wondered, almost despite himself, if the aliens were looking back at him. The world no longer felt safe.
***Charlie Sheen liked to think of himself as a person of influence. As the CIA’s station chief for New York City – an unofficial post, as the CIA was not technically supposed to operate on American soil – he did have vast powers, all the vaster for not having any public oversight, but he also had certain responsibilities. One of them was to report to his superior officers if events took place that matched a certain set of criteria. He hadn't been told why, yet he knew that failure was not an option. Heads – including his – would roll.
His station had two main responsibilities. One involved monitoring and handling the New York section of the Army of Northern Virginia, ensuring that the CIA kept a close eye on its pool of covert operations personnel. The second involved a listening post, a section that covertly monitored the city and surrounding countryside for anything that might interest the CIA. When he had been promoted into his current position, his superiors had given him clear instructions. There was a covert watch list of ‘persons and items of interest’ and anything – anything at all – involving them was to be reported at once. UFO sightings were top of the list. Even terrorism wasn't considered as important.
Charlie stared down at the datachip in his hand. He’d run the names he’d been given by Jon Sonnenleiter through the secret database and two of them had popped up flagged for further attention. Sharon Mack was, for no reason that he could gather, on the watch list, as was William Sonnenleiter. The former was just a housewife, as far as he could tell, while the latter was just a psychologist. And yet they were both on the watch list, which tended to suggest that Sonnenleiter had stumbled across something important.
And, if the datachip recording confirmed Jon Sonnenleiter’s crazy story, he had to alert his superiors at once.
Slowly, he picked up the phone and dialled a number he had memorised long ago. It was the direct line to one of his superiors, a man who held a high-ranking position in the CIA. He had been told that if any of the tripwires were crossed, he was to call the number, whatever the time or date. He wouldn't have wanted to call such a senior personage at midnight, but the orders were clear. His superiors seemed to consider it important.
The phone rang once before it was answered. “This is Sheen,” Charlie said, feeling his heart starting to race. If his superior didn't appreciate the call, or felt that he had been called without a good reason, Charlie might find himself transferred to Alaska. “We have a situation.”
“Understood,” the voice said. Charlie didn't even know the man’s name. He was a twilight person, his name and identity hidden from everyone who had no need to know. That, Charlie knew, meant that he worked for Operations, undertaking covert actions across the globe. “What has happened?”
Charlie ran through a brief explanation. “I thought that you should know at once, sir,” he concluded. “I think that...”
“This is well above your pay grade,” the voice said, coldly. “I am dispatching a retrieval team to collect the information from your office. Do not discuss it with anyone until the team arrives.”
“Yes, sir,” Charlie stammered. It had to be important, which meant that the recording had to be real. And that meant...what? “What do you want me to do about Sonnenleiter?”
“You will do nothing,” the voice ordered. There was no hint of compromise in the cold, dispassionate voice. “We will deal with Sonnenleiter.”
“Yes, sir,” Charlie said. He hesitated. Asking further questions could be dangerous, but he wanted to know. “Do you...?”
There was a click and he found himself listening to the dial tone. Charlie shivered, despite himself; he was no longer sure of his place in the world. He had a feeling that he had just made a very big mistake.
Chapter Five<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-comfficeffice" />
...As yet, there is no sign of any danger involved in investigating alien abductions. No investigator has been threatened with anything worse than academic disgrace and the laughter of his colleges. And yet, there are rumours – all unverified – of witnesses and researchers being threatened by Men in Black. The rumours are so prevalent that a quite successful movie franchise has been based on them!
-William Sonnenleiter, Accounts of Abduction, 2015
New York, USA
Whatever else could be said about William, Jon decided, he wasn't a good writer. Accounts of Abduction, William’s book about research into alien abductions, was not a good read. Jon had read after-action reports from US Army officers – written to be as dry and factual as possible – that made better reading. On the other hand, the content was alarming enough, even without the proof that he’d secured that alien abductions really took place. It was easy to see why most people dismissed the possibility; it was just...out of this world. He shook his head, put the book down and ambled back into the kitchen for another mug of coffee. He’d resolved to stay sober until Sheen called him back into the office.
He checked his watch as the kettle boiled and frowned. Sheen hadn't called, which meant that the video had to be making its way up the CIA’s food chain. The longer the delay, he knew from his army service, the higher it was going. How long would it take before it reached the Director of the CIA, or someone even higher? And what if Sheen had decided to bury the video instead, fearing the consequences to his career if it became known that he had anything to do with the affair? Jon found it hard to believe that anyone would be so treacherous – whatever else could be said about alien abduction, it was clearly a matter of national, if not planetary, security – but the iron law of bureaucracy always applied. There were two types of people in every organisation; the ones who cared about the goals of the organisation and the ones who cared about their own personal power. And, in any organisation, it was always the former who started it and the latter who took control. The CIA had had enough embarrassments over the years to prove that the latter type were in firm control. Jon tossed ideas around in his head as he poured hot water into a cup. Sheen wasn’t the only person he knew with government contacts.
His lights dimmed suddenly and Jon looked up, sharply. He hadn't been too impressed with the apartment block’s security when he’d moved in, because he hadn't been able to afford the rent in a wealthier part of the city. William had offered to help fund his move somewhere else, but Jon had refused, not wanting to be a parasite on his brother. Besides, most of his clients would be happier with a PI who lived in a low-rent area. He’d rigged up a hidden security system and keyed it to the lights. If someone stepped into the apartment’s antechamber without permission, the lights would dim automatically.
Jon walked quickly back to his coat and found the pistol he’d concealed within the jacket’s fold. One of the benefits of working for the Army of Northern Virginia was an all-states concealed carry licence that applied everywhere, even in the least gun-friendly states in America. Jon had always thought that that was silly – the people who shouldn't be allowed to use guns were the ones who wouldn't care about laws and regulations – but it didn't matter to him. He’d been able to build up a small arsenal since he’d been discharged from the army, including several items that weren't available to the public anywhere. He walked back into the bedroom and braced himself. Maybe it was a false alarm, but the last time it had been triggered, a pair of young thieves had been trying to break into his apartment. Jon had given them the surprise of their lives.
He frowned as he heard scratching at the door. It hadn’t been a very secure lock when Jon had moved in, so he’d replaced it with a more complex design that would have taken a professional lock-cracker some time to unlock. He’d been tempted to rig up other security systems – or perhaps even a small explosive charge – but that would have been pushing the rules to the limit. Besides, it might have been the police with a search warrant. The NYPD didn't approve of Private Investigators and sometimes harassed them for various reasons. There was a cracking noise and the lock broke, sharply. Jon tensed. It had to be thieves.
Two sets of footsteps entered the apartment, pushing the door closed behind them. Jon listened carefully, controlling his breathing, and scowled. They didn't sound hesitate, which would have suggested inexperienced thieves, but confident, as if they were sure that they could rob his apartment and be away long before anyone came to stop them. Jon smiled to himself as the footsteps started heading towards the kitchen. If they were professional thieves, he could do his adopted city a vast favour by putting them away. It was a shame he couldn't shoot them down, but that would have raised far too many questions. A moment later, he stepped out from behind the door and trained his pistol on their backs.
“Hands up,” he barked. “Get your hands in the air now!”
The pair weren't what he’d been expecting. They wore black suits and hats, rather like Secret Service agents wore when they wanted to be conspicuous. They appeared to be big beefy men, moving as if they had some kind of combat training, rather than the common thieves he’d expected to face. They froze, just for a second, and then jumped apart with inhuman speed. One of them dived for cover behind the sofa; the other swung around, revealing a pistol in his hand and opened fire. Jon jumped back as the shots flashed past him and returned fire, putting a shot through the man’s head. His partner had found cover and was shooting back at Jon, without regard for conserving bullets. There was a pause as he reloaded and then continued to fire.
Jon threw himself on the floor and started to crawl towards his hidden opponent, wishing that he had a grenade within easy reach. The gunshots wouldn't attract much notice in some parts of, but someone else in the apartment block might well call the police, if only out of fear for their lives. Jon had the uneasy sensation that something was very wrong – quite apart from two men trying to kill him. He braced himself and lunged at the sofa. It slammed back against the man hiding behind it, before it was pushed back at him with extraordinary strength. The man came over the top of the sofa, weapon raised and ready; Jon shot him in the chest and swore as the bullet pinged off body armour hidden under the suit. He rolled back and fired again, this time aiming for the head. His target collapsed onto the floor and Jon breathed a sigh of relief. Reloading – there was no way to know if his opponents had been alone – he pulled himself to his feet and stared down at his dead enemies. They were...odd.
He searched their pockets quickly and efficiently, finding several weapons, a device he couldn't identify despite years in the Special Forces, body armour that was superior to anything he’d seen in the army and a black wallet containing an identification card. Jon swore aloud when he realised what it was. Blue Cards were very rare, not least because they granted the bearer vast authority over law enforcement and the military. Jon had never been issued one, even when working for Sheen; the only person he knew who had been issued a Blue Card was an ex-SEAL who had been ordered to hunt down and capture a domestic terrorist. He’d told Jon later that he’d had the power to bind and loose. A mere flash of the card and federal authorities had genuflected in front of him.
The conclusion was inescapable. The two men had been sent to capture him- no, given how trigger-happy they’d been, they had been sent to kill him and then transport his body somewhere. They’d left a small box outside and Jon checked it, finding a body-bag and a handful of small tools. Jon felt a chill run down his spine that had nothing to do with the cold air blowing in from the hallway. They’d had federal authority, effectively a licence to kill.
He swore, suddenly, and pulled himself to his feet, grabbing his coat and overnight bag. If Sheen had sent them after him, Jon wouldn't be the only target. William would be targeted as well. Cursing, Jon took a final glance at the dead bodies, pocketed their Blue Cards – they might work for him if he was lucky – and ran down the stairs. He would probably never be able to return to the apartment, but he’d never liked the place very much anyway. Running outside, he jumped into his car and drove off, leaving the dead bodies behind.
Jon had been a demon driver even before going to a specialised course in dangerous driving while in the Rangers. A car could be as dangerous as a pistol in the wrong hands and Jon had been a natural. He ignored traffic lights and took insane chances, praying that the NYPD wasn't on alert for him. If Sheen had mustered the entire power of the federal law enforcement department against him, he could be being tracked already. It seemed unlikely – the attempted hit hadn't been carried out by the NYPD – but there was no way to be sure. And his brother might already be dead. Jon had never managed to convince him to have a weapon in the house.
He abandoned the car at the bottom of the road, checked his weapons, and then ran up towards the townhouse William had bought for his wife and family. Mary’s hand could be seen in the purchase, and in the small garden that she tended, with the help of a handful of hired gardeners. Jon had never seen the point of spending so much money on useless plants – they might have come from exotic places around the world, but they were no damn good as food – but it kept Mary happy. He slowed down as he reached the gate and scowled. A black car was parked outside, empty. A quick check revealed federal licence plates. No cop would stop them, even if they were racing through a residential area at ninety miles an hour.
Jon slipped up to the house and checked the doorway. It was ajar. He wanted to walk right in, but a sense of caution kept him from taking the easy way in. If they knew that their two friends had been killed, they’d be expecting him. He walked around the back of the house, carefully noting which windows were ablaze with light, until he reached the rear door. Jon had suggested, more than once, that William should get a better lock, but his brother had refused to listen to his arguments. Jon had to smile. A more complex lock would have been harder to pick. Clutching his pistol in one hand, he stepped into the building, listening carefully. Ahead of him, someone was pleading. It was Karen.
Her voice – pleading with her captors – made Jon see red, but somehow he forced it down. William’s house was large enough to hide an entire company of enemy fighters, whoever they were, and Jon needed to be careful. He slipped into the hallway – Mary had been very proud of it, for it looked like something out of Buckingham Palace – and froze as he saw one of the men in black descending the stairs. He was carrying a pile of books in his arms. Jon placed his pistol back in the holster, drew a length of cord from one pocket and lunged forward, wrapping it around his target’s throat like a makeshift garrotte. They’d taught him how to kill swiftly and silently at Ranger School, yet his target seemed to resist. Jon kept pulling until the man finally collapsed to the ground and then took the precaution of using a knife to make the damage worse.
Karen’s voice was growing louder, more fearful, and Jon realised what had to be happening. Drawing his pistol, he threw caution to the winds and peered in through the door. Mary, Karen and Kimberly lay face down on the ground, their hands secured behind their backs with plastic cuffs. William sat on a stool, blood pouring from a wound to the head, with his hands also secured. Three men – wearing the same black suits - were in the room, two of them poking and prodding at William. The third was holding a gun to Karen’s head. Jon hesitated and then cleared his throat, loudly enough to be heard.
The man threatening Karen moved with astonishing speed, bringing his gun up to cover Jon, but Jon had taken aim first and shot him through the head. The other two knocked William to the ground and dived for cover, firing random shots back towards Jon. Jon cursed his own mistake and moved away from the light, ignoring screams from the girls. One of the men jumped forward – moving with inhuman speed – and came right at him. Jon fired twice, hitting him in the head, but the other was right behind him. Jon had no time to take aim before he was knocked to the ground by the third man. The third man wasn't a standard federal agent, whatever else he was; he had fighting training that Jon could barely match, fighting with a strange mixture of fury and calculated discipline. Jon fought back with his own training, but he could barely hold his own. He produced the knife he’d hidden up his sleeve and stabbed the third man in the chest. The knife went through the body armour and blood spilled out over his hand. The man didn't seem worried by the wound; he just kept fighting, knocking Jon backwards in his rage. Jon brought up his knife and stabbed him in the neck. The man shuddered violently and then collapsed on top of Jon.
“Bastard,” Jon said, as he pulled himself out from under his victim. The man hadn't made a sound, even when he’d been stabbed. What the hell was he? And then his garrotte victim had been unusually resistant to being strangled. Jon remembered William and pulled himself to his feet. “Are you all right?”
William looked up at him through a damaged face, although Jon could tell that most of the damage was purely superficial. “I’ve been better,” he said. “Never mind them – what about the girls?”
Jon ignored him, used his knife to cut the plastic cuffs, and then pulled his brother to his feet. “Tell me what happened,” he ordered, as he started to work on Karen’s cuffs. The eighteen-year-old looked pathetically grateful to have been rescued by her uncle. Jon winked at her and turned to work on her sister. It was just coincidence that he left Mary for last. “What did they do to you?”
“They came in an hour ago and grabbed me,” William said, bitterly. Jon shrugged. He hadn't expected his brother to fight. “Tied my hands; searched the house and brought the girls down as well. They never said a word....”
He broke off, looking down at the bodies. “They’re Men in Black!”
“We have to call the police,” Mary said, firmly. She didn't thank Jon for rescuing them, but Jon hadn't expected anything from her. Mary wasn’t exactly pretty, not in a conventional way; her face was more patrician than anything else. And she disliked homosexuals on principle. Jon had once annoyed her by asking cheerfully if he could bring his boyfriend to Thanksgiving dinner. “They can't be allowed to get away with this.”
Jon shook his head. “That's not a possibility,” he said, and explained briefly about the Blue Cards. The four men he’d killed at William’s house had Blue Cards as well. Jon pocketed them as he pulled himself back to his feet. “These people have backing from the federal government. The police will take us into custody and hold us until whoever was behind these guys comes looking for us. They won’t let use leave.”
Mary seemed stunned. “But...”
“But nothing,” Jon snapped. “What did they want from the house?”
William stared down at the pile of paper and books. “My files on abduction victims,” he said, in disbelief. “They wanted everything I had, I think. They...”
He shook his head. “What the hell do we do?”
Jon didn't blame him for feeling stunned, but there wasn't any time. “For a start, we get the hell out of here and drop off the grid completely,” he said. Whatever else this was, it was personal now. Sheen had set out to kill his family and while he wouldn't have willingly called Mary part of his family, he did love the girls and his brother. “Did you pack overnight bags?”
“Yes,” William said. Jon smiled. It was the first lucky break he’d had. “Do you want us to get them in the car?”
“Yep,” Jon said. He hesitated. “Grab your books and papers as well.”
He looked back at the girls. “You can each take a book or a toy with you,” he said, sharply. “Do not bring any cell phones or radios with you, nothing electronic. Leave your laptops and other junk here. Do you understand me?”
Karen looked as if she wanted to protest, but the red marks on her hands reminded her of what could go wrong.
“If you have cash lying around, bring that with you too,” Jon added. “We’d better get moving, now. Someone is going to notice that these guys are missing soon and come looking for them. There isn't any time to waste.”
Chapter Six<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-comfficeffice" />
...As yet, it seems impossible to determine any purpose behind some of the procedures that are employed by the aliens, but certain traits do stand out. The aliens are not interested in the abductees personally; they never enquire about government or politics or anything else that might be expected to interest aliens visiting our world. Their priority seems to be focused on one issue - reproduction. It is this that encourages some researchers to dismiss alien abductions as taking place in the mind alone.
-William Sonnenleiter, Accounts of Abduction, 2015
New York/Near Mannington, Virginia, USA
“Uncle Jon,” a voice said, “what are you doing?”
Jon looked up from one of the bodies. “Taking samples,” he said. It hadn't occurred to him until just before they left that if there was something weird about the ‘Men in Black,’ it would be a useful thing to have samples of their blood. William had loaned him a set of surgical jars that were normally used to take and hold urine samples and he was filling them with blood. “You should be in the car.”
Kimberly shrugged expressively. Despite entering her teenage years, she was still clinging to the stuffed rabbit Jon had given her on her fifth birthday. Unlike her older sister, Kimberly had been fascinated by some of the tales Jon had told her of adventure and excitement in the army – leaving out some of the more gory details – and had declared her intention to enlist as soon as she was old enough. Jon doubted that it would last – Karen had gone through phases where she’d decided to be a doctor, a lawyer, a driver and several other things – but it was a nice thought.
“Mom is in a state,” she said, confidentially. “She’s in shock.”
“Probably,” Jon agreed, sealing up the last sample and placing it within his bag. “Come on, let’s go.”
They met up with William outside and walked down to the family car. Jon hadn’t told them that they would have to dump it soon, but he suspected that William already knew that. The people behind the Men in Black had Blue Cards. They would have no difficulty tracking William’s car through the NYPD, once they convinced the police to help. Jon scowled as he took the wheel and drove out, away from his brother’s home. It hadn't occurred to Mary, yet, that they could never return – at least not until the current situation was resolved. When it did, she was going to be screaming at her husband and her husband’s brother.
He drove for thirty minutes, feeling sweat trickling down his back as they passed an NYPD patrol car, before pulling into a parking space and climbing out. “Stay here,” he said. He passed William one of his pistols and several clips, even though he doubted that William would be able to use it. “I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
Leaving the family behind, he strolled around the corner and up towards an internet cafe he knew to be open at all hours. Pausing, he pulled on a hat and did up his coat, hiding his face as much as possible. The owners of the internet cafe were not known for being willing to assist the police with their enquiries, but Jon suspected that they would knuckle under quickly when the feds started threatening them with a lifetime in jail. He paid in cash for a fifteen-minute session, sent a pair of quick emails to friends using a civilian account he'd set up two years ago, then carefully deleted all traces of his work. Even the NSA would have problems locating the emails he’d sent and they would make absolutely no sense to someone who didn't know what they were. Waving goodbye to the owners, he stepped back out into the darkness and walked up towards the other shop. The car hire service was still open. New York was the city that never slept, after all.
He’d prepared the false identification papers years ago, back when he'd been inducted into the Army of Northern Virginia. Out of paranoia, and suspicion of Sheen’s motives and the CIA’s willingness to sacrifice its people when threatened with embarrassment, he’d not shared any of the details with the CIA. They might be looking for him, but they wouldn't be looking for Jack West, a building manager who worked for Howard Roark Industries. West had a clean record and an even cleaner driving licence. It only took twenty minutes to hire a big car for two weeks, paid in cash. He took the car, drove back to where William and his family were waiting, and then started to transfer everything over to the new car. Once they were done, the old car would have to be disposed of and then they could be on their way.
“But we don’t have anywhere to go,” William protested, when he’d finished outlining the plan. “They will know about our holiday home...”
“Leave that to me,” Jon said. He'd sent an email to someone who might be willing to take them in. “I have a cunning plan.”
***David Crawford woke up, as he always did, when the first rays of sunlight began to shine through the window. He kissed Mariko – his girlfriend of seven years – on the lips and pulled himself out of bed, heading for the shower. There was always something to do on the small farm and David preferred to do as much as possible on his own rather than hire help. Hiring workers meant having to pay wages, which meant reminding the local government of his existence. David preferred to remain unnoticed. The less that government had to do with him, the better. He washed himself down quickly and efficiently and then smiled as the shower door opened and Mariko joined him. She had learned to first tolerate, and then enjoy, his little quirks.
He was mildly surprised that Mariko was still with him, but he knew better than to question his good fortune. David himself was big and beefy, a legacy of twelve years in the Marine Corps, while Mariko was small and elfin, with tiny – almost non-existent – breasts. Her family had originally come from Japan and blended into American culture, but Mariko had wanted something different. Life as a farmwife – even if they weren’t properly married – suited her. And David had to admit that having company made the time go quicker. She made him feel like a young man again.
Afterwards, he kissed her again and headed out to get dressed, before heading downstairs to the cattle. The cows were demanding to be milked before breakfast and David was happy to oblige, knowing that it meant rich creamy milk for his tiny family. He couldn't sell it outside the farm, not when it would have meant inspectors wandering through his farm and asking questions, but he didn't care. He grew most of the food he needed on the farm and the rest of the world could go to hell. Mariko was frying bacon and eggs when he returned to the kitchen and placed them in front of him with a flourish. There was always something to do on a farm.
Once he had eaten, he wandered back into the living room to check his email, opening up the small computer and keying in his password. He had once dared to hope that the Corps would be recalling him to service – he missed the military life – but no one had ever called him back. Instead, there were emails from old comrades and friends who were part of the survivalist network, people who planned to ride out any disasters and then emerge to rebuild the country. David wasn't as earnest as some – there were survivalists who believed that the end of the world was imminent - but it kept him occupied. Besides, what if the world did come to an end?
He opened the first email and frowned. It was from someone he didn't recognise, but the wording in the subject line told him that it wasn't spam. It looked like nonsense, yet David could silently translate it; Jon Sonnenleiter and his family were coming to visit, today. David blinked in surprise. He had tried to convince Jon Sonnenleiter to join him permanently, but the ex-Ranger had preferred to remain in New York City, pretending to be a Private Investigator. The coding at the end of the email, though, was worrying. It was the emergency code.
“We have visitors coming,” David called, as he read through the second email. It was an update on proposed changes to gun laws from one of the more enthusiastic defenders of the Second Amendment mailing lists. David cared little for gun control laws and had a private stockpile that would have interested any investigator from the federal government. But then, he'd always been a firm believer in Heinlein’s maxim to find out what laws one was going to break before breaking them. “Can you get the upper bedrooms ready?”
He opened the third email and blinked in surprise. It was from one of his contacts in New York, a former Delta Force commando who had signed up with the CIA’s Army of Northern Virginia. It made stark reading. Jon Sonnenleiter had been declared rogue. There was no further information, but then there wouldn't be, not when a rogue Special Forces operative was the military’s worst nightmare. His contact had known that David knew Jon and had merely forwarded the warning. And Jon was coming to visit.
David did some mental calculations in his head. It took around seven hours to drive from New York to Mannington, unless the driver wanted to avoid tolls, in which case it would take longer. In fact, Jon should have been at the farm before David had even opened the email, unless he’d stopped at a roadside motel for a rest. David hesitated, unsure for the first time in years, and then started calling a different contact. If Jon had been declared rogue – as odd as they seemed – they should know why. And then David could decide what to do.
Mariko came back into the living room. “How many beds, honey?”
“Five, it would seem,” David said. He looked up at her and felt worried. He’d taught Mariko how to use some of his guns personally, but she wouldn't be any match for an ex-Ranger. “When they turn up, I may have to give them the old search routine. I want you to stay well out of the way, understand?”
Mariko nodded. David had insisted on rehearsing some possible ‘end of the world’ scenarios with her and one of them involved searching uninvited guests. He’d told her to stay back and, if things went to hell, to get the hell out of the farm. Perhaps it wouldn't be that bad; if there was one thing he knew about Jon Sonnenleiter, it was that he wouldn’t be interested in Mariko. There was definitely that to be said for homosexual friends.
Smiling to himself he dialled a number and waited for his contact to pick up. “Hi,” he said, once the contact had answered. “I was wondering if you could tell me...”
The senior ranks of any military force didn't like their rivals, but their juniors often shared information with their counterparts from different sections of the military. David had commanded a mixed force of Force Recon Marines, SEALS, Delta Force, Rangers and British SAS in Iraq and after some teething problems they’d managed to learn to work together fairly well. It was helped by the fact that very few permanently left the military, let alone the Special Forces; they still shared information, regardless of security regulations. Besides, a rogue officer was a threat to everyone.
David frowned. According to his contact, Jon Sonnenleiter had murdered his brother, and then raped his sister-in-law and both of his nieces, before murdering them as well. It was precisely the kind of story that would galvanise the other Special Forces operatives and leave them burning with rage at the man who had disgraced their brotherhood. And, when a rogue was involved, there was an automatic licence to kill. There was just one problem. David and Jon had me and bonded - and he knew that Jon was as bent as a three-dollar bill. Maybe he would murder his family, but he wouldn't rape them.
He stood up as the bell rang. There was a car at the gates, waiting for him. “Stay here,” he ordered Mariko, and checked his Combat Commander. If Jon had come alone, he would have to take him into custody. “I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
David had designed the gate to make it difficult for anyone to walk up to the farmhouse without being seen. Now, he walked down, holding his pistol in one hand. At the bottom of the lane, beyond the gate, there was a car, loaded with people. He recognised Jon, a man who had to be Jon’s brother, and three women. The older woman was wrinkling her nose, which marked her out as a city-born woman, but the younger girls were staring around them, fascinated. David allowed himself a moment of relief. If Jon’s family were alive, he knew, the basis for Jon being declared rogue was false.
“Hi, Jon,” he said, as casually as possible. “I think we need to talk.”
***“And that’s the entire story,” Jon finished. He’d noticed that David was armed when he’d been coming to meet them – and the retired Marine had clearly been ready to draw his pistol and open fire. Jon hadn't understood why until David had explained that Jon had been declared rogue. “We didn't have anywhere else to go.”
“You are welcome here,” David assured him. The Marine looked stunned, first at the whole story about alien abductions and then at how Jon had been declared rogue. For himself, Jon had to admire the cunning behind the plan. No one would listen to him if they thought he was a rogue. They’d been lucky that David hadn't greeted them with a hail of fire. “Someone clearly thought that you’d stumbled across something you weren't meant to see.”
“Sheen must have known,” Jon said, angrily. He had thought that he was used to CIA incompetence, but outright malice was something else. He wanted to drive back to New York, break into Sheen’s apartments and hurt him until he confessed. “The bastard sent a kill-team after us.”
“They wanted information first,” David said. He ticked off points on his fingers. “One, you gain hard evidence of alien abduction.” He shook his head. “I still can't believe it. Two, you take the evidence to the CIA. Three, they send a team after you to take you into custody...”
“They wanted to kill us,” William said, hotly.
“If they had wanted to kill you, they would have done so at once, before Jon could rescue you,” David pointed out. “Fourth, after Jon does rescue you and you escape, someone very high up declares Jon rogue – on the grounds that he murdered his family. Whoever these people are, they are soundly entrenched in the government...”
“Perhaps the entire CIA is controlled by aliens,” Jon said, bitterly. “That would certainly explain some of their blunders. I suppose the entire government might be controlled by the aliens. Who knows who makes the decisions these days?”
He stared down at his hands. He’d never been a very analytical person, but then he’d never aspired to become a military intellectual. David Crawford, on the other hand, had commanded companies in battle before transferring to Force Recon. He’d be able to see the big picture in ways Jon couldn't match. Jon just wanted someone to hit. Going back to New York and beating Sheen up was starting to look like the only real option. But wherever Sheen was, he would be guarded, probably by others from the Army of Northern Virginia. They wouldn’t know that Jon had been framed...
“Go back to the important point,” David said. “You filmed an alien abduction taking place, didn't you? And that was what triggered an attempt to silence you...”
The retired Marine broke off. “I need to think about this,” David said, finally. “Who the hell do we trust?”
“No one,” Jon said. It was a bitter pill to swallow, but it was clear that at least some branches of the government had been badly compromised. “We can’t trust anyone.”
“We can trust the Clan,” David said. He stood up. “I’m going to call a general meeting in a week – it’ll take that long to get a sizable gathering up here anyway. You need to remain out of sight for a while, as do your family. You’re supposed to be rogue and they’re supposed to be dead.”
“But we’re not dead,” Mary protested. “Why don’t we just take this to the police?”
Jon opened his mouth to make a sarcastic remark, but David beat him to it. “Because the police would report it up the chain and someone would come to take you into custody,” he said. “They wouldn't stop them from taking you; they’d just stop you if you tried to leave. And then they’d find out that you knew nothing and transfer you to a secret black prison somewhere off the coast of America – or perhaps put a bullet in the back of your head and use your remains for organ transplants. You’ll be safe here, for the moment.”
He grinned. “Besides, there’s always work to do on a farm,” he added. “We could use the help.”
Jon had to grin at Mary’s look of horror. She had never worked a day in her life. Besides, Mary was a prude and a bigot; if she had been horrified by Jon’s homosexuality, what would she say when she was forced to work with a Japanese girl?
“I think I will have to go back to New York,” Jon said, firmly. “I have someone I need to see. Is Anderson still working at the People’s Republic?”
“Yep,” David said. “I don’t know why they haven’t fired him yet, but he’s still there.”
Jon grinned. “I’ll take the blood samples with me and leave them with him,” he said. “We might just have more proof that something very weird is going on.”
Chapter Seven<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-comfficeffice" />
Do the aliens ever take anyone away permanently? The truth is that we don't know – but then, if they did, we wouldn't know about it. How many people go missing every year and are never seen again? If thousands are reported missing...is it impossible that they have been taken by the aliens and never returned?
-William Sonnenleiter, Accounts of Abduction, 2015
New York, USA
“Goodnight, honey,” Keith Mack said, as he snuggled down under the covers. “Don’t let the bedbugs bite.”
Sharon smiled, trying to disguise the uneasy feeling in her stomach. The nightmares were back with a vengeance, ever since Callie had told her about her dreams. Sharon had tried to call Doctor Sonnenleiter in hopes of talking about them – even though the sessions never seemed to do any good, either at banishing the nightmares or allowing her to remember them properly – but his receptionist had told her that he’d been murdered by his own brother! Sharon had been shocked – she’d liked Doctor Sonnenleiter – and had put the phone down after stammering out her regrets. She’d need to find another doctor soon, she knew, perhaps one who could do something for Callie. It didn’t seem fair that the daughter should suffer from the same nightmares as the mother.
She closed her eyes as she settled down into bed, but sleep refused to come. Ever since the night terrors had begun, Sharon had often had difficulty sleeping, and when she had difficulty sleeping she always had one of the forgotten nightmares. She had the vague feeling that she’d had nightmares she didn't remember at all, but she was almost grateful for that. At least she didn't wake up sweaty and shivering in the night. She curled up and tried to count sheep. It sometimes worked, but this time her body remained on edge, unwilling to relax. Her mind seemed to become convinced that she and Keith were no longer alone in the room. She told herself not to be silly, that the girls were long past the stage when they’d come creeping into their parent’s bedroom for comfort in the night, but somehow she couldn't escape the chilling feeling. Absurdly, laughing at herself, she pulled back the covers and froze. The room was illuminated by a shimmering light that seemed to come out of nowhere and nine small grey figures were gathered around her bead, looking down at her.
Sharon opened her mouth to scream, but the paralysis overcame her and she froze, helpless. Her memories unlocked and she remembered, suddenly, that the night terrors were real. She wanted to scream again, in fear and rage, as it occurred to her that the grey aliens might have come for her daughter as well, perhaps all of her daughters. They’d started coming for Sharon more frequently when she’d started her menses. Beside her, Keith sat up and stared in disbelief. His movement jolted Sharon out of her paralysis – he’d never even been able to see the aliens before – but it reasserted itself before she could move.
“What?” Keith said, aloud. “What are you...?”
One of the aliens placed a grey hand on his forehead and he sank back, as helpless as his wife. Remain calm, the alien said, or thought. Sharon heard its voice in her head. We mean you no harm.
Sharon winced, feeling anger flowing though her, only to be dampened by the alien’s mental presence. She’d heard that statement before, only to have it disproven when they hurt her or pushed her into performing unnatural acts for their experiments. A sudden wave of guilt flashed through her mind. They’d made her have sex with another of their abductees, she recalled suddenly; she’d cheated on her husband and she hadn’t even been allowed to remember it! It hadn't been her fault – they had both been raped, in effect – but she still felt guilty. It was a bitter feeling.
The aliens pulled her out of bed and pushed her against the wall, as if she was nothing more than a useless wooden plank, placed out of the way. A moment later, Keith, now gripped in the same mental field as held her, was put next to her. The aliens swarmed over their room, poking and prodding at anything and everything that attracted their interest, without any sign of concern about their feelings. One of them opened a drawer, pulled out the small selection of sex toys they’d assembled when they’d been younger and sex was still mysterious and fun, and examined them. Sharon knew that the aliens had sometimes expressed interest in anything out of the ordinary, or in any change to her and her surroundings, but this was different. Her entire life was being torn apart in front of her. She wanted to take Keith’s hand and hold him, but she couldn't move. Two of the aliens remained with their human captives, while the rest went out into the hallway. Sharon knew where they were going before a piecing scream echoed in the air. They were visiting her children and she could do nothing!
She tried to stare at one of the remaining aliens, thinking angry bloodthirsty thoughts. It flinched, to her immense pleasure, but showed no other reaction, even when she concentrated on a mental image of popping the creature’s oversized head as if it were a grape. She’d never been sure if the aliens could read minds directly – although they had pulled images out of her mind for study before – but they could clearly sense her emotions, even if they didn't care about her. If they cared, they would have known how horrified she was by their visitations and stopped coming to visit her. There were people in the world who wanted to be visited by aliens. Why pick on her?
The door opened again and the aliens returned, escorting her three daughters into the room. Callie was clearly terrified – her entire body was shaken, despite the warmth in the room – and the other two walked as if they were in a trance. They might well have been, Sharon knew; the aliens hadn't hesitated to take direct control of her when she’d been a child. She had been locked away inside her own body while the aliens had moved her like a puppet. So many things made sense now. Her panic attack when she’d visited her first gynaecologist had been caused by a repressed memory of undergoing a similar procedure at alien hands.
My children, she thought desperately, trying to reach one of the aliens. She knew that she was begging and that she had nothing to bargain with. Anything she had that they wanted they could just take. Please don’t harm my children. I’ll do anything...
They will not be harmed, the alien thought back at her. As always, the thoughts flowing through her head were cold and unemotional. She’d thought, the first time the aliens had spoken to her, that she’d imagined it, before realising that no one could imagine such...alien thoughts. We mean you no harm.
Before Sharon could say or think anything else, she felt her body gripped by an invisible force, rising up into the air. She heard Callie start to cry quietly as she followed, but again there was nothing she could do. The younger girls would probably enjoy the experience – they’d loved Disneyworld even when Sharon had been unable to tolerate even the mildest rides – but Sharon knew what was coming. The entire family was being abducted. Her memories were unreliable, even simulated by the presence of the aliens, yet she knew that they’d never taken Keith before. Why were they taking him now?
The wall seemed to loom in front of them and then they passed through, feeling the indescribable sense of violation as, for a handful of seconds, their atoms co-existed with the atoms in the wall. Sharon wasn't even sure how she knew that – perhaps the aliens had explained it to her once, although it would have been out of character for them – but she heard the girls cry out in shock and horror. Keith made no sound, not even a grunt. Sharon would have been happier if he had made a noise, not out of any desire to see her husband hurt, but out of a fervent wish to know that he was still alive. The aliens might have killed him, or pushed him into a deep trance, just to keep him harmless.
She caught a glimpse of the yard, far below, before there was a jerk and she was suddenly rising up into the air. A cold wind seemed to blow through her nightdress as they rose higher, staring down at the neighbourhood as it receded below them. There was no sign of life, but then there never was, not while she was being taken from her home and kidnapped. No one could see the aliens, or interfere with them. No one would believe her, she knew, even if they allowed her to remember...
There was a second indescribable sensation and then they found themselves onboard the alien craft. The waiting room – or so Sharon thought of it, trying to tag the unfamiliar with the familiar, in the hopes that it would become more understandable – wasn't empty. A handful of naked men and women were waiting there, their bodies held by alien control. Sharon flushed suddenly as she saw that one of the abductees had a massive erection, before remembering that the girls were with her, along with her husband. She found herself able to move again and turned to her daughters. They were terrified, but at least they were alive; Keith was so far out of it that even a pinch couldn't pull any reaction from him.
The small grey aliens returned, followed by one of the taller beings. Sharon couldn't hear any communication between the two different types of alien, but she had the impression that the taller being was unhappy with the smaller beings. She strained with her mind, unsure what she was doing or even if she was doing it properly, in the hopes that she might pick up an impression of mental communication. The taller being seemed to be insisting that she wasn't ready – that none of them were ready – and, in a flicker of sudden insight, Sharon understood what he meant. The smaller aliens had been in a hurry and they’d neglected to strip their victims! Oddly, even though she knew it presaged a terrifying ordeal, it made her laugh inwardly. It wasn't the first time the aliens had made that mistake.
Callie started to scream as two of the smaller aliens started to work on her nightdress. Sharon tried to move forward to help her daughter, but one of the smaller aliens caught her and effortlessly held her back, just before her mind dulled as the mental field pressed down on her, holding her helpless. The taller being walked towards Callie, bent down and stared into the child’s eyes. Sharon knew what Callie was feeling now, an irresistible urge to please – even to love – the taller being. When Sharon had been growing into a woman, she had constructed an imaginary man to love. She realised now that she had been describing the taller being – or, rather, a cross between him and a human being.
I’m sorry, she tried to think at Callie, as the taller being stepped away from her daughter. Callie offered no resistance as she was stripped and escorted away from her mother, followed rapidly by the other two girls. Sharon prayed that they would be spared some of the more humiliating procedures – neither of them had started their periods – but the aliens seemed unresponsive to her mental pleas. A moment later, she felt a jerk and found herself being pressed towards a different corridor, in the opposite direction to the girls. Sharon struggled and tried to resist, but it was useless. The aliens just kept pushing at her. She found that she could look around again and discovered, to her surprise, that Keith was being brought along behind them. Her husband was still completely out of it.
They were pushed into a small examination room with a silver table and – surprisingly – restraints. She understood why when the aliens pushed her to one side and brought Keith over to the table, pushing him down and securing his arms and legs with silver bracelets. Keith, she realised in dismay, had never been abducted before and the aliens would never have had a chance to ensure that he learned proper behaviour, so they were restraining him in case they lost control. Sharon allowed herself to entertain a fantasy of Keith breaking loose, freeing her from their control and escaping back to the surface, but she knew that it was impossible. The aliens would simply reassert control and that would be that. Sickened, she watched as the aliens began their work.
Some of their experiments seemed to make sense, she knew; they took blood, urine and stool samples, conveying them to somewhere else within their vast craft. Others made no sense at all, at least as far as she could tell; the aliens seemed to gain nothing by poking a silver tool into his chest several times, or by tickling his feet. A blue light shone down from high above and focused on Keith’s head, causing him to cry out in pain and fear. His entire body seemed to shake, as if he was on the verge of snapping his own bones, before he was finally allowed to relax. Sharon struggled against the mental bonds that held her, wanting to run to her husband and help him, but it was useless. She couldn't move at all.
Stop this, she thought. She wanted to scream. What are you doing to him?
The taller being turned to stare at her, peering at her with his big dark eyes, sending chills down her spine. There was something utterly inhuman about that gaze, a sense of profound wrongness that chilled her to the bone. Sharon had seen more alien aliens on television and movies – Keith was a big Doctor Who fan – but none of them had the impact of a genuine alien. The sense of being confronted with something extraordinary refused to fade.
We are testing him, the alien thought. It was like everything else they told her, when they told her anything at all. A cryptic answer that meant nothing to her followed by a useless platitude that she knew to be a lie. We mean him no harm.
It inclined one hand towards a glowing square of light, hanging in the air behind where they’d left her to stand uselessly. Sharon found that she could move and turned to look, realising that the square of light was a holographic display right out of science-fiction. Her face was prominently displayed on the screen, gasping and moaning as she pressed down hard on her husband’s penis. She realised, with a flash of embarrassment, that the aliens were pulling Keith’s memories out of his mind. They’d gone on honeymoon to Goa and spent most of it discovering one another’s bodies. Being married meant they no longer needed to be careful and it had been wonderful. She liked to think that Callie had been conceived then, on the beach.
And the aliens had violated her husband’s mind. Sharon turned back to the alien, trying to project her anger and revulsion at him, but he showed no reaction. She heard Keith gasp and looked up at him, just in time to see a tube being removed from his penis. They’d taken a sperm sample from him. One of the aliens used a cloth to clean him, and then pull him to his feet and escort him out of the examination room. Sharon discovered that her body was allowed to follow him. The taller alien brought up the rear.
There was a second set of chambers just beyond the examination chamber, one that reminded her of the room where the gestating children were kept, floating in liquid. This time, there were columns of an amber-like material, each one holding a naked human male. Sharon realised what was about to happen just before the aliens pushed Keith into an open tube, turning him to face outwards. There was a rush of golden light, so bright that Sharon had to turn her head and look away, and when she looked back, Keith was frozen like a fly in amber. Sharon broke free of their control – the horror somehow boosted her mind – and ran forward, banging her fists against the solid material. It did no good. Keith was trapped, held in suspension until the aliens needed him again.
A hand – a human hand – fell on her shoulder. Sharon looked up to see a young man – barely eighteen, if she was any judge – looking down at her. He was handsome, in a bland kind of way, with dark eyes and short blonde hair. He was also wearing a uniform that looked military. Sharon had little knowledge of the military, but surely the military should have been trying to stop the aliens...it dawned on her, suddenly, that the military might have made a deal with the aliens. Keith had loved watching an old television show featuring two FBI agents who had investigated such claims. Sharon had never been able to bear watching it, even though she hadn't understood why – until now.
The aliens led her to a small room and pushed her inside. Their control faded, although it wasn't gone completely, not when she found it hard to work up any concern about her missing children. She knew, intellectually, that she should have been panicking and screaming, demanding their return, but it seemed impossible to get angry. There was a small bed in the room and she lay down on it, trying to think and wondering when the aliens would return her home. They’d never made her stay longer than a few hours before...
It dawned on her, slowly, that the aliens had no intention of returning her, ever.
Why else would they have kidnapped her entire family?
Chapter Eight<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-comfficeffice" />
...The aliens are not gods. They can do things we can’t, but few of their abilities are truly inexplicable. Given time, is it not likely that we would learn to duplicate their abilities for ourselves? This must pose a challenge to the aliens, as their plan seems to hinge on secrecy – after all, if they wanted to take over the world, they could have done it by now.
-William Sonnenleiter, Accounts of Abduction, 2015
New York, USA
Jon Sonnenleiter drove down into New York, watching carefully for any spot-checks or roadblocks that might have been looking for more than dangerously drunk drivers. The local websites had reported that the NYPD didn't seem to be more active than usual, but Jon knew that they should have been informed if a rogue Special Forces trooper was loose in their area. Their entire surveillance network should have been devoted to catching him before he committed any more crimes. If whoever was behind the frame-up happened to have access to Blue Cards and the authority to declare a person rogue, they wouldn't have any difficulty in convincing the NYPD to cooperate.
He scratched his head before angrily pulling his hand back to the wheel. After his discharge, he’d let his hair grow out a little; now, Mariko had cut it short again, before dying it black, rather than the blonde he’d been before the whole affair had begun. A handful of other tricks should convince any facial recognition software that it hadn't recognised him at all, but Jon knew better than to relax. An alert policeman, with a policeman’s instincts, might realise that there was more to Jon than shameless, almost effeminate, vanity. Jon had even considered, for once, dressing to match the homosexual stereotype, before deciding that that might attract too much attention. The reason for his discharge was in his personal file, after all.
There were no roadblocks or checkpoints and the handful of NYPD cars he saw paid no attention to him. David had made a few calls to a friend and secured the loan of another car, allowing Jon to return the rental car – a stolen rental car might attract attention – and vanish within New York’s teeming population. David had warned him – not that Jon had needed the warning – not to go anywhere near his apartment, let alone William’s house. The NYPD would have secured them for whoever was behind the Blue Cards. If Jon recalled correctly, a federal retrieval team would be dispatched to recover the bodies and any evidence of their presence. He smiled, despite himself. Before driving to New York he’d paid a visit to Massachusetts and handed over the blood samples to an old friend. It might help provide evidence that something was rotten in the state of America.
Jon stopped off outside the rental car business, parked the car and put the keys in the letterbox. The office had looked busy; besides, Jon doubted they’d chase him up too much. The car was in good condition, he’d refuelled the gas tank and they would owe him a refund of nearly a hundred dollars. He’d paid for two weeks and had only used the car for four days. It should make them hesitate to involve the police, if someone had traced him to the rental car facility. It was alarmingly possible. Walking through New York, he reached a small cafe and ordered lunch, while using their phone to make a quick call. He had to visit an old friend who absolutely hated it when people turned up without calling first.
The Pizza was excellent, good enough to almost convince him that the world was normal, but he took the standard precautions anyway as he left the cafe behind. Taking a circular path to avoid any NYPD stations, he walked to David’s friend, exchanged code-words and picked up the car. David’s friend had a sideline in what he called disaster-proof cars – ones that would still function after an EMP – and he often hired them out to his friends. There was no need to exchange papers or money, leaving no paper trail behind. Jon drove back into the outskirts of New York and parked outside an old housing block. It was not a particularly good area, even though it wasn't the worst in New York. The people who lived here were either claiming money off the government or dealing drugs. A handful made it out every year.
Jon smiled as he locked the car – David’s friend had made it harder to break into, as well as his other modification – and turned to be building. The last time he’d been here, a street thug had come up to him and demanded his wallet. Jon had snapped his wrist and told him to run for his life. He’d never heard anything about the incident since, although he was sure that the would-be thug had sought medical attention as soon as possible. Jon found it hard to care, not after the thug had probably robbed hundreds of people who couldn't afford to lose anything, even a single cent.
He keyed a code into the apartment block’s doorway and waited for it to unlock. When it did, he stepped into an inner chamber and waited patiently for the building’s sole occupant to study him through hidden cameras, before allowing him through the inner door and up a flight of depilated stairs. Jon walked up calmly, knocked on a single unmarked door, and then stepped inside. Madiha Shafi was waiting for him.
“Hey, Jon,” she said, stepping forward to give him a hug. “It's good to see you again.”
“You too,” Jon agreed, returning the hug. “I hope that life is treating you well?”
Madiha shrugged. She was a tall dark-skinned woman, dressed in Pakistani clothes and wearing a single golden necklace around her neck. Her hair, naturally dark, hung down to her thighs, its unkempt appearance suggesting that she hadn't been bothering to take care of it properly. She was pretty, Jon knew, but her intelligence was daunting to most men, even the most liberal-minded. She was the smartest person he knew, if not the most practical.
They’d met just after Jon had started his Private Investigator business. Madiha’s family hadn't cared much about their daughter and had turned her over to the care of a set of unsuitable nannies, while bringing up her two elder brothers with all the care and attention they could possibly desire. Madiha had been introduced to computers and rapidly proven herself a natural, graduating from simple programming to far more advanced work, gaining an uncanny insight into how computers actually thought. Her parents had given her a small allowance and she’d used it to buy old computers, which she had converted into a single vast machine of her own. At fourteen years old, she was enrolled in a computer studies program that honed her talent, while allowing her to make contact with the fringes of the computer community. Madiha, at eighteen, had learned how to hack with the best of them.
Her family hadn't cared about computers, but they had cared about marriage alliances and so they’d arranged her marriage to a cousin she barely knew from Pakistan. He might have been a nice guy – she had only met him once, as a child – yet she already knew that she didn't want to spend her life as nothing more than a wife. And besides, if her parents had wanted her to love and honour them, they could have treated her as more than an unwanted burden. She’d deserted them, using the money she’d earned as a computer expert to set herself up in New York, and when her family had started sending people after her, hired Jon to deal with them. It had been the start of a lifelong friendship.
“It comes and goes,” Madiha said, gravely. She took his arm and pulled him into the next room. “What can I do for you? Another work-up on a person you have been hired to investigate?”
“It's a long story,” Jon said. “It appears that I have been declared rogue.”
“I see,” Madiha said when Jon had finished explaining. “And you want me to hack into the CIA’s databases and remove the declaration?”
Jon snorted. “I think someone would probably notice that,” he said. Madiha gave him a vaguely insulted look that broke down into giggles. “I need you to tell me who issued the declaration and why.”
“Right,” Madiha said. She stared down at her hands for a long moment and then looked up brightly. “It seems odd that they would have branded you a rapist when you couldn't get it up for a girl, no matter how many times she flashed herself at you.”
“Not everyone in the community knows me,” Jon pointed out, mildly. “They picked a charge that would encourage the hunters not to try to take me alive. The person who guns me down will receive a promotion, rather than a court martial and a long spell in Leavenworth. I need to know who issued the order and be careful. They already tried to kill me once.”
Madiha grinned as she turned to her computer. “I’ll make sure that it looks like I’m hacking in from my brother’s computers,” she said, with a chuckle. “The IRS audited him only last year because I used them for money transfers and they were watching for large sums of money going to Pakistan from here.”
“Use somewhere that isn’t even remotely linked to me,” Jon cautioned. “You won’t believe how many resources the federal government has at its disposal for tracing someone if they’re really desperate to find him.”
“I know what I’m doing,” Madiha said, crossly. “I’ll cover my tracks perfectly.”
Jon frowned. “Are you sure you know what you’re doing?”
“Does a bear **** in the woods? Is the Pope catholic?” Madiha countered. “I know what I’m doing. You just sit down and wait.”
Jon rolled his eyes, but obeyed, watching as Madiha went to work. Her hands danced over the computer, occasionally muttering commands into a microphone or chuckling to herself as she slipped into the internet’s darkest regions. Jon was far from computer-illiterate, but he couldn't have hoped to match her skill in convincing a computer to open up and share its data with her. Back when he’d been in the army, they’d carried out a war game that assumed that the enemy had hacked the battalion’s computer network and was using it against its rightful owners. The result had been a disaster. Jon had been very junior at the time, but he’d heard rumours that several senior officers had been forced to take early retirement or had been transferred to somewhere out of the way.
“You know what?” Madiha asked, as she looked up from her work. “We could design a really good computer security system – a really perfect one – if we didn't have humans in the matrix. You put in all kind of firewalls, you work in as many emergency flags as you can, you issue strict orders to your computers that certain files are never to be accessed...and then some idiot comes along, makes a totally predicable password, and undoes all of your work.”
She snorted. “I was given a contact to design a secure system for a banking system in New York and I mean secure,” she commented. “I was promised a vast payment if I succeeded and ****-all if I failed. So I worked and created a system that would have kept me out – me! And you know what happened? Some complete idiot connected his computer to the internal phone network, which wasn't within my security system, and a hacker was able to break in and gloat about it afterwards!”
Jon smiled. “And you didn't get paid?”
“Oh, they had to pay me, once I explained what had happened and why,” Madiha said. “I think the dumb bastard who opened up the network was fired. Or probably promoted; it’s hard to tell with banks these days.”
She turned and looked up at him. “I’m in the Pentagon’s secure database,” she said, calmly. Jon felt a chill running down his spine at her matter-of-fact tone. “We can’t alter data – that would set off a hundred alarms – but we can peer into some of the files. Some jerk of a Lieutenant-General set his password as ‘password’ and we slipped in easily. I’m offended. I ought to write an email to them warning them about the danger...”
“Focus,” Jon said. “Who declared me rogue?”
Madiha frowned. “That’s the odd thing,” she said. “Your file is tagged as rogue, yes, but there’s no name attached to the order.”
“That’s absurd,” Jon said. “There’s always a paper trail. They were having nightmares about Special Forces soldiers going rogue, or being tricked into following orders that end with the assassination of the President. There has to be a name on that order.”
“There isn't,” Madiha said, shortly. “There’s just a codename. Whoever did this attached the codename TEACAKE to the order.”
“Teacake,” Jon said, shaking his head in disbelief. A codename meant a committee of intelligence officers, probably a bilateral committee with representatives from several different intelligence agencies. That, at least, made sense. If there was a covert group within the government charged with monitoring alien abductions and carrying out acts designed to keep alien abductions secret, they’d probably have influence everywhere. “And you can't take it any further?”
“Teacake, whoever they are, has full clearance,” Madiha said. She shook her head. “We can’t go any further from here, but we can go somewhere else.” She tapped her keyboard again. “All Blue Cards have to be registered as well, my dear, and those databases have to be open to the cops.”
Jon grinned. “Or anyone could claim to be holding a Blue Card,” he said. “What did you find?”
Madiha worked the computer for another few minutes before answering. “All Blue Cards have a unique ID code,” she said. “The ones you recovered from your dead friends were registered to...that’s interesting.” She paused for a long moment. “They’re valid cards, all right, but the files that should be attached have been removed. And that took place two days ago.”
“After they were killed,” Jon said. He felt a sudden flush of excitement, the sense that they were getting closer to an answer. “And who ordered that...?”
Madiha grinned in triumph. “Our old friend TEACAKE,” she said, “but this time the order had to be sent up to a more senior committee, one that has a different name. MAJESTIC.”
Jon blinked. The name ‘Majestic’ was familiar, yet he couldn't quite place it. “And who or what is MAJESTIC?”
“Another intelligence committee,” Madiha said, thoughtfully. “Interesting...most of the files are references to hard-copy files stored within the Pentagon, or one of a handful of secure facilities out in flyover country. There’s very little on MAJESTIC even within the secure network.” She grinned. “They’re paranoid about people like me, with good reason. A set of hard-copy files couldn’t be accessed without going in person...”
“And walking right into their arms,” Jon agreed. “Is there nothing else you can tell me?”
“I’m still working on it,” Madiha said. She frowned. “That can’t be right.” Jon looked up, sharply. “According to this, the Majestic Committee was founded in 1947 and has existed in some form up to the present day. What the hell lasts that long?”
“I think I have a very good idea,” Jon admitted. He frowned. “Can you continue researching the issue, carefully?”
“I am always careful,” Madiha admitted. “It’s why I don’t have a husband or boyfriend now.”
She stood up and paced over to the fridge – Jon was amused to see that she’d worked the fridge’s control circuits into the vast computer network – and pulled out a bottle of coke. “I had something else I meant to mention to you,” she said, slowly. “A couple of weeks ago you asked me to do a complete data search for Sharon Mack, remember?”
Jon felt an icy sensation trickling down the back of his neck. “I remember,” he said slowly. “What’s happened?”
“She appears to have vanished,” Madiha said. Jon stared at her in horror. “Her children should have gone to school three days ago, but they never showed up. Her husband didn't show up for work. A friend went around checking if they were all right; he found the house deserted. He calls the cops and the NYPD confirms that they have apparently vanished. It’s a total mystery.”
Jon shivered, feeling a sudden surge of guilt. He’d taken Sharon’s name to Charlie Sheen and revealed that she was a known abductee. He might have well have drawn a targeting cross on her back for the aliens. It didn't take much imagination to realise what had happened. Knowing that Sharon had been filmed being abducted, the aliens had taken her for good – and her family as well. And it was all Jon’s fault.
“Right,” he said, coldly. “Is anyone else looking into the business?”
“Not as far as I can tell,” Madiha admitted. “The NYPD has reluctantly concluded that the disappearance doesn't seem to be suspicious. I can’t see how they came to this conclusion, which suggests that someone put pressure on them to close the case as quickly as possible. I doubt there will be any more answers from them.”
Jon nodded. “Are you sure that you can't be traced back here?” Madiha nodded, offended. “Right – I want you to do a full work-up on someone else, someone who might lead us to Majestic. His name is Charlie Sheen and he works for the CIA.”
“Your old boss,” Madiha confirmed. “What do you want to know about him?”
“Everything,” Jon said. “I want to know where he lives, what he does when he’s not bossing us around, what porn he watches...everything.” He grinned. “You never know – we might get lucky and he will lead us to Majestic.”
Chapter Nine<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-comfficeffice" />
Is there anything that seems to determine who will be an abductee and who won’t be taken more than once, if at all? The short answer is no. Researchers used to believe that mixed-race couples and children were more likely to be taken – Betty and Barney Hill were a mixed-race couple – but it seems likely that that trend was a statistical quirk. On average, a woman is more likely to be abducted regularly than a man; we have more examples of one-shot male abductions than female abductions. This has disturbing implications.
-William Sonnenleiter, Accounts of Abduction, 2015
Near <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-comffice:smarttags" /><st1lace><st1:City>Mannington</st1:City>, <st1:State>Virginia</st1:State>, <st1:country-region>USA</st1:country-region></st1lace>
David looked around with satisfaction as the living room was turned into a military mess. Two of his neighbours – young men who were always willing to help out for a few dollars – had gone into Mannington and bought over two hundred cans of beer. For those who didn’t drink, there was coffee and coke, along with plenty of food. A single computer monitor had been placed at the end of the table, in a position that could be seen by everyone in the room. It wasn't quite up to the standards of a proper military mess, but it should suffice.
The Clan had been trickling in all day. Mariko had shown them to guest rooms and then roped most of the former soldiers into assisting on the farm. David had warned Jon to stay out of the way – some of the Clan would have heard that he’d been declared rogue – but the others in his family had had a chance to meet the Clan. David had issued dire warnings to two of the Clan for trying to flirt with the girls – Kimberly was jailbait, definitely – and threatened murder if any of them tried to push their luck. Karen would probably wind up hating him for it. David found it hard to care; Kimberly might have adapted well to the farm, but Karen clearly hated it, as did her mother. He shook his head in disgust. City folk had no business on farms, either running them or trying to tell the farmers how to run them.
Precisely at nine in the evening, the Clan started to enter the mess. David waved to them as they entered, pointed them to seats and the beer, waiting for everyone to arrive before they begun. The others would know not to drink too much, at least not at first; they’d been warned that Clan business had to be discussed. David suspected, privately, that not all of them would agree that alien abductions were Clan business, but it wasn't as if there was anyone else. The whole situation bred paranoia. Who could be trusted?
The Clan had been David’s brainchild, back when he’d become a survivalist. It was an association of survivalists, mostly former military personnel, which would band together in case of disaster. David believed that it wouldn't be long before the world changed – an economic crash or a nuclear war – and if that happened, the Clan would be well-positioned to ride it out and start rebuilding the country. Locally, there were over forty members of the Clan; nationally, there were over five hundred. It wasn't that impressive, not compared to some of the pressure groups out there, but David hadn’t intended the Clan to be a political organisation. They didn’t need the ATF on their backs.
“Thank you all for coming,” David said, when the final member entered the room. “I’d like to start by introducing you to my friend Jon.”
He smiled as Jon stepped into the room. Several members of the Clan reached for their guns, clearly suspecting trouble. David wasn’t surprised to see how many people had heard the news; the world of covert intelligence was a closed one, but many former soldiers shared information and rumours with their peers. Anyone who knew Jon wouldn't believe that he had raped anyone, at least anyone female, yet very few in the Clan knew Jon personally. He had always been on the outer edge of the Clan.
“I have one question,” Luis Crisco said, sharply. “What is that...murdering asshole rapist doing here?”
David smiled inwardly. He’d expected Crisco to be the first to object. Crisco was a light assault specialist from the Army’s Military Police Special Response Team, the force that handled criminal cases involving the toughest soldiers in the <st1:country-region><st1lace>United States</st1lace></st1:country-region>. Crisco regularly had to arrest trained Special Forces soldiers, a task that daunted both the civilian and military police. He would definitely have been informed if there were rogue operatives anywhere near his patch.
“The people he was supposed to have murdered and raped are the people you were talking with today,” David said, calmly. He grinned, savagely. “Or didn’t you catch the blonde girl’s name when you were trying to pick her up today?”
Crisco scowled. His darkly handsome features – his parents had come over the <st1:City><st1lace>Rio Grande</st1lace></st1:City> and settled in <st1:country-region><st1lace>America</st1lace></st1:country-region> before he was born – flushed. He was known for his womanising habits and – according to rumour – one reason he’d never been promoted was that he had a habit of sleeping with the wives and girlfriends of his commanding officers. David privately doubted it – Crisco loved his job and took rogue Special Forces personal personally – but Crisco certainly doubted the competence of his superior officers.
“So,” Crisco said, slowly, “you’re saying that it’s a frame-up?”
“Yes,” David said. He reached over to the monitor. “And I know why. I’d like you all to watch this very carefully. I shall want your opinions afterwards.”
He nodded to Jon, who sat down at the edge of the room, and keyed the monitor. The entire abduction event, from the moment <st1:City><st1lace>Sharon</st1lace></st1:City> was pulled through the wall of her house and through the air, to the moment when the grey aliens returned to their craft, played itself out in front of them. He smiled at their disbelief and shock, unwilling to accept that it could be real. David himself hadn’t wanted to believe it, at least until <st1:City><st1lace>Anderson</st1lace></st1:City> had briefed him. He looked over at the former Royal Engineer and winced. It would be much easier to believe that Jon and his brother had gone mad and concocted the story to create havoc.
“It looks like a bad version of The X-Files,” Bruno Lombardi said. The retired SEAL – who’d been pushed into retirement for reasons that remained a deep dark secret from everyone else – looked disbelieving. “I’m sure that you could come up with better special effects if you tried.”
There was a murmur of agreement. It had been a long time since the human race could trust what the camera saw and these men knew it better than most. A single event taken out of context could be turned into a propaganda weapon, directed against the <st1:country-region><st1lace>United States</st1lace></st1:country-region> and its allies. And that didn’t include the footage – often faked outright – of atrocities committed by American soldiers. By the time the harassed army debunked it, the lie was already spreading around the world. And besides, David had to admit that the footage wasn't all that impressive. The worst modern-day science-fiction movie had better special effects than that. Oddly, it gave the recording an air of reality.
“It isn’t faked,” Victoria Santini said. Her quiet voice silenced the entire crowd. <st1:State><st1lace>Victoria</st1lace></st1:State> had served as a front-line intelligence specialist in <st1:country-region><st1lace>Iraq</st1lace></st1:country-region> and <st1:country-region><st1lace>Afghanistan</st1lace></st1:country-region>, earning respect that was often denied to intelligence operatives, the ones who turned Military Intelligence into an oxymoron. “I took the original recordings and ran the footage through a dozen analysis programs. The recording was genuine.”
The group stared at her. “The camera was designed to record everything,” <st1:State><st1lace>Victoria</st1lace></st1:State> said. “I took the recordings apart savagely, trying to debunk them. They passed every test in the book. An invisible UFO, around fifty feet in size, beamed a helpless woman onboard and then returned her, forty minutes later.”
Jon frowned. “How could you determine the craft’s size?”
“The UFO was hidden behind an invisibility field that, I think, bent light around it,” <st1:State><st1lace>Victoria</st1lace></st1:State> said, grimly. “The stars in the recording, once the craft arrived, were slightly out of place. It would pass unnoticed by the naked eye unless one knew the sky perfectly, but it is easy to study an analysis of the recordings and determine what proportion of the sky was affected. Incidentally, once it had returned the woman, it left at roughly mach five, without causing a sonic boom. The craft isn’t a product of human technology.”
“I took the recording to my handler in <st1:State><st1lace>New York</st1lace></st1:State>,” Jon explained. “That evening, my family and I were attacked by federal agents carrying Blue Cards. We escaped from them and, moments later, I was declared rogue. Something is rotten in the state of <st1:country-region><st1lace>America</st1lace></st1:country-region>.”
“Did it occur to you,” Crisco said, with heavy sarcasm, “that they might have been trying to take you and your family into protective custody?”
“No it didn’t,” Jon countered dryly, “because they came creeping in and mishandled my family. If they’d been legit government agents, they should have called out, identified themselves, and everything would have been fine. Instead…they tried to take us by force.”
“It seems as if speed was of the essence,” <st1:State><st1lace>Victoria</st1lace></st1:State> mused. “Are you sure that it was connected with the…alien kidnapping?”
“It couldn’t have been anything else,” Jon said. “The trumped-up charges were only filed after we’d escaped from the men in black.”
Crisco chuckled. “And I’m sure that you are about to claim that they were aliens in human form…”
“Yes,” Thomas Anderson said, grimly. “That is exactly what they were.”
David winced inwardly. He had hoped to break that part of the story gently. Thomas Anderson was a former Royal Engineer from the <st1:country-region><st1lace>United Kingdom</st1lace></st1:country-region>, a man who had been respected as a demolitions expert and a chemist, who had been pushed out of the British Army and told to leave the country. Recruiting him for the Clan had been a stroke of luck; <st1:City><st1lace>Anderson</st1lace></st1:City> could make explosives from scratch, if necessary. David had learned similar skills in the Marines, but <st1:City><st1lace>Anderson</st1lace></st1:City> knew far more than anyone else in the Clan. There had been no one else they dared trust with the precious blood samples from the men in black.
“I took the blood samples Jon gave me and subjected them to every test I could think of,” <st1:City><st1lace>Anderson</st1lace></st1:City> said. “The first test I used was a portable <st1:stockticker>DNA</st1:stockticker> reader. You’ve used them yourselves in combat and you know how reliable they are. The blood samples were abnormal, so badly so that at first I thought that Jon had somehow buggered them up. I started running more complex tests and I eventually discovered that…”
“Laymen’s terms, please,” David said, quickly. Given half a chance, <st1:City><st1lace>Anderson</st1lace></st1:City> would devolve into a mixture of jargon and technobabble that would confuse everyone in the room, convincing them of nothing. “Please.”
<st1:City><st1lace>Anderson</st1lace></st1:City> snorted. “Basically, the blood samples showed a mixture of human and alien <st1:stockticker>DNA</st1:stockticker>,” he said, flatly. “I have never seen anything like it. I checked again and again and confirmed my results. Someone took a human <st1:stockticker>DNA</st1:stockticker> sample and somehow twinned it with alien <st1:stockticker>DNA</st1:stockticker> to create a living hybrid. The technology required to do that on such a scale is well beyond anything we might have developed, at least as far as I know.”
Lombardi frowned. “I was under the impression that the chances of aliens looking anything like us are billions to one against,” he said. “And yet the aliens” – he nodded towards the monitor – “are not only humanoid, but close enough to us that they can interbreed with us. How is that even possible?”
“We actually have no data on what life looks like on other planets,” <st1:City><st1lace>Anderson</st1lace></st1:City> pointed out. “The theory that aliens won’t be humanoid is just that - a theory. My old genetics professor was fond of pointing out that humanoid life represents the apex of evolution on this planet and unless other planets were very different, humanoid life would likely be the mainstream throughout the universe. We just didn’t have any hard evidence until now.
“However, I doubt that the aliens interbred with us to produce the hybrids,” he added. “I suspect that the <st1:stockticker>DNA</st1:stockticker> was combined in a genetic tank and then used to create a child. Anyone hoping to take a green-skinned woman to bed is likely to be disappointed.”
There were some chuckles. “I trust that you understand the implications,” <st1:City><st1lace>Anderson</st1lace></st1:City> concluded. “The aliens might have their people in place at all levels of government. If they were prepared to issue kill-orders for a person who gained hard evidence of their existence, what are they likely to do once they discover that we have more evidence?”
Crisco spoke into the silence. “Is there any way of detecting these…alien infiltrators?”
“A simple blood test would suffice,” <st1:City><st1lace>Anderson</st1lace></st1:City> said. “The portable <st1:stockticker>DNA</st1:stockticker> readers had fits when I tried to analyse the blood, but reprogramming them to carry out tests for alien genetic markers in the blood would be a simple matter.”
“Which, by the way,” David injected sharply, “is why no one is leaving here without a blood test, just in case.”
“No arguments,” Crisco said. He frowned down at <st1:City><st1lace>Anderson</st1lace></st1:City>. “So if they can pass for human on the surface, but they can’t fool a <st1:stockticker>DNA</st1:stockticker> reader, how the hell did they get into the country in the first place? We take a <st1:stockticker>DNA</st1:stockticker> reading from everyone who enlists in the army these days…”
“They’ve got a Moran,” <st1:State><st1lace>Victoria</st1lace></st1:State> concluded. She smiled at their blank looks. “Thaddeus Moran was a secret communist when he was at college. He converted to communism and made contact with the Russians, hoping that they could help him harm his country and aid the cause of world communism. They told him to keep his beliefs a secret and join the <st1:stockticker>CIA</st1:stockticker>, working his way up the ranks until he entered their personnel department. He never stole any secrets directly. All he did was slant the vetting process a little so the Russians could get their people into all branches of government. The <st1:stockticker>CIA</st1:stockticker>, the State Department…even the FBI; Moran saw to it that the Russian candidates were never challenged.”
She scowled. “He was only caught at the end of the Cold War, when a Russian defector sold him out for the price of a plane ticket to <st1:country-region><st1lace>America</st1lace></st1:country-region>,” she added. “The <st1:stockticker>CIA</st1:stockticker>’s internal security division never even got close to him. Hundreds of genuinely loyal agents had their careers terminated because Moran had smeared his **** all over their files. They just didn’t know who to trust.”
“I see what you mean,” David said, flatly. “Someone within the government might be smoothing the path for them.”
“And if they have Blue Cards, no one is going to waste time insisting that they go through a <st1:stockticker>DNA</st1:stockticker> reader test,” Crisco added. “I recall an officer who was reduced to the ranks for insisting that someone with a Blue Card go through the standard procedure and…”
“All right, all right,” Gabrielle Yvonne Grunier said. She held up a hand to interrupt Crisco, something that few people would dare to do. Crisco was one of the army’s foremost fighting experts – after all, he had to be tougher than the men he had to subdue without killing them. “I believe your story; aliens are here and are abducting men and women from the civilian world. Now…what do we do about it?”
There was a long pause. Gabrielle – Gaby – had a fair claim to being the most dangerous woman in the world. With short blonde hair, cut short to keep it out of her eyes, and a muscular body, she looked striking…and dangerous. Gaby was a USMC sniper who had served in both <st1:country-region><st1lace>Iraq</st1lace></st1:country-region> and <st1:country-region><st1lace>Afghanistan</st1lace></st1:country-region>, taking risks that male soldiers rarely faced. Her list of kills was impressive, including a number of terrorists who would have been horrified at the thought of a woman holding a gun, let alone shooting them. A number of high-ranking terrorists had met their deaths at her hands. Rumour had it that she’d shot their peckers before shooting them through the head.
“That’s what we’re here to decide,” David said, flatly. “We need to come up with an operations plan.”
“I hate to rain on your parade,” Patrick Kent said sharply, “but I was unaware that we were intended to fight a war. The Clan wasn't designed to be a militia…”
Jon leaned forward angrily. “When I enlisted,” he said, “I took an oath to defend the <st1:country-region><st1lace>United States</st1lace></st1:country-region> against all enemies, foreign and domestic. I meant every word. This threat seems to combine both aspects, but it is a threat and we have a duty to fight it. How is taking our citizens from their homes, carrying out strange medical procedures and then returning them with wiped memories not an act of war?
“I don’t know what’s really going on, but it looks hostile and I intend to fight,” he added. “If you don’t want to help us, get the hell out of the way.”
There was an angry silence. “There’s a point that needs to be considered,” <st1:City><st1lace>Anderson</st1lace></st1:City> said, before anyone else could speak. “Whoever created those hybrid creatures has access to technology far beyond anything we have, even in the most advanced countries in the world. If they can create viable hybrids, they won’t have any problems creating something else, like a genetically-engineered virus that could wipe out the entire human race. They could create a completely new virus, one that would make smallpox look like a joke; one that we would have absolutely no resistance to, or have any hope of finding a cure.
“You’ve all been thinking that the government isn’t trustworthy – God knows, that’s why you founded the Clan in the first place – but it’s possible that they’re terrified. The aliens could destroy us all. And that might be why they were so determined to shut you and your family up, whatever the cost.”
Chapter Ten<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-comfficeffice" />
That the aliens make mistakes is not in doubt. Some of their victims are returned without their clothes, or with their clothes in a mess; others have been returned to the wrong location, although sadly the aliens have not confused two abduction targets and returned them to the wrong homes.
-William Sonnenleiter, Accounts of Abduction, 2015
Near <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-comffice:smarttags" /><st1lace><st1:City>Mannington</st1:City>, <st1:State>Virginia</st1:State>, <st1:country-region>USA</st1:country-region></st1lace>
The meeting reconvened the following morning.
Jon, pleasantly full, listened as the debating session ran around the room. Mariko had cooked them all a massive breakfast – with some help from Mary and Kimberly – and it was simulating discussion. At least they’d accepted that he’d been framed, thankfully; inviting Crisco had been a calculated risk. Jon had invited William to join the discussion and, nervously, his brother had accepted. He wasn't used to spending so much time with human wolves and it showed. At least some of them were trying to make him feel welcome.
David tapped the table for attention and they all straightened up. The Clan wasn't run alone purely military lines – with so many different services represented, it would provoke fights and ill-feeling – but they all agreed that David was the nominal General. Jon was amused that David had taken over command of the operation, yet he didn’t really mind too much. David could handle command while Jon could go kill aliens and try to rescue <st1:City><st1lace>Sharon</st1lace></st1:City>, if they ever worked out where the aliens had taken her. An email he’d received from <st1:State><st1lace>New York</st1lace></st1:State> had confirmed that <st1:City><st1lace>Sharon</st1lace></st1:City> hadn’t been returned to her house and her family was still missing.
“We need to decide on a plan of action,” David said, firmly. “Our first problem lies in the fact that we don’t know who we can trust. We might have all passed through the blood screening process, but we can’t insist that everyone in the military gets tested. We’re mostly retired soldiers and I doubt that the senior officers will listen to us.”
“I could reprogram the <st1:stockticker>DNA</st1:stockticker> readers on my base,” Crisco said. “If I had a little help, I could uncover any hybrids that pass through the scanners…”
“Except we wouldn't have anyone in place to deal with it,” David countered. There was a brief discussion about ways to identify hybrids and then capture one later, but the plan had to be shelved for lack of data. Jon suspected that that plan had the greatest chance of success. “The second problem is that we have to locate the people in the government who issued the kill-order, the Majestic Committee.”
William cleared his throat nervously. “The…ah, Majestic-12 Committee is well-known in UFO lore,” he said. “Depending on whom you believe, the Majestic Committee took responsibility for recovering the UFO that was supposed to have crashed at <st1:City><st1lace>Roswell</st1lace></st1:City>. There was a leak in 1984 when documents supposed to belong to the Majestic Committee were sent to a UFO investigator, but it was generally concluded that the documents were hoaxes. No such committee existed.”
“Odd of them to keep the name, if they do exist,” Crisco pointed out.
“Maybe not,” Jon said, thoughtfully. “The internal codenames are rarely shared outside the Pentagon. Someone might have decided that continuity was more important than security – it wouldn't be the first time someone made a dumb decision to avoid having to change the paperwork – and gambled that it would remain secret. And besides, apart from the name, what else do we know?”
“Nothing,” Lombardi growled. “We need a membership list.”
“We could probably put together a list of suspects,” <st1:State><st1lace>Victoria</st1lace></st1:State> said. “If the Majestic Committee has been around since…”
“1947,” Jon supplied.
“…They’re probably an important committee and will have many high-ranking people serving on it,” she continued. “The problem would be tying together the data without alerting the Pentagon’s security teams. Anyone at that rank…the details of their daily lives and routines are automatically classified.”
“That’s definitely something to work on,” David agreed. “And we really need to make contact with someone who has greater access than we do. How many Generals do we know?”
Jon had to smile at the ensuring discussion. Most of the Clan hadn’t risen to high rank, either through choice or through being discharged for one reason or another. They all had ideas on which senior officers could be considered trustworthy and most of those ideas tended to be similar. The problem was that war-fighting Generals, who were respected if not loved by their men, weren't likely to thrive in <st1:State><st1lace>Washington</st1lace></st1:State>. No one wanted to risk approaching a bureaucratic-minded General.
“And finally, we have to intercept an abduction mission,” David concluded. “The main defence the aliens and their allies have is secrecy. If we can bring down an alien craft, we will tear that secrecy away.”
“Which may not be a good thing,” <st1:City><st1lace>Anderson</st1lace></st1:City> warned. “The aliens may be forced to take overt action, like invading the planet.”
William frowned. “Based on what we know,” he said, “if they’d wanted to invade and take over Earth, they could have done so years ago.”
“Except they seem to want human genetic material rather than loot and plunder, or even conquest for its own sake,” <st1:City><st1lace>Anderson</st1lace></st1:City> said. “What happens if we force them into the open? They may back off…or they may invade.”
“Maybe,” <st1:State><st1lace>Victoria</st1lace></st1:State> said. She smiled. “Answer me a question; the aliens have done a deal with the government, so…why do they need to abduct people in the first place?”
Jon stared at her. “If the government made contact with the aliens in 1947, it was back during the height of the cold war,” she pointed out. “Why would the aliens bother with an abduction program when they could trade technology for genetic material? No one in Cold War <st1:State><st1lace>Washington</st1lace></st1:State> would balk at giving the aliens as much genetic material as they could possibly want. And even if <st1:State><st1lace>Washington</st1lace></st1:State> balked, the Russians wouldn't hesitate for a second. Who wouldn't deal with the devil to win the Cold War?”
David frowned. “What are you saying?”
“I’m saying that we don’t know anything for sure,” <st1:State><st1lace>Victoria</st1lace></st1:State> said. “Look; we know that the aliens are abducting people; we also know that they have infiltrators within our government. It doesn’t follow that they control the entire government, because if they did, they wouldn't need the abductions in the first place.”
“Maybe,” Crisco said, grudgingly. “Why was this abduction recorded? Surely, if there were so many other abductions, someone else must have obtained evidence before now…”
“There was a report that someone had been abducted right in front of the UN Secretary-General,” William said. “It was never proven. Researchers have been trying to catch the aliens in the act for years, but it never worked. We placed cameras in bedrooms; the victims turned the cameras off, or were simply taken when they were elsewhere. The aliens seem to exert a kind of influence over their targets, even to the point of reading their minds. Every time they knew that they were being watched, the aliens circumvented it. As far as I know, Jon was the first person sent to watch an abduction victim without their knowledge.”
<st1:State><st1lace>Victoria</st1lace></st1:State> smiled. “Interesting,” she said. “If they go to all that trouble to avoid being detected, it suggests that they think that there is something we can do to stop them.”
“Or maybe its part of their deal with the government,” <st1:City><st1lace>Anderson</st1lace></st1:City> said. “David...I understand your feelings here, but I think that we need to be very careful. What happens if we blow the lid off the whole thing?”
Jon scowled. Truthfully, he hadn’t had time to think about the possibility that the government might be on the side of the angels. The aliens certainly possessed vast powers, which did support the theory that the government might be cowed into unwillingly allowing the abductions to take place, even to the point of harassing or killing witnesses. On the other hand, there was no way he was going to take it lying down. A life in hiding wouldn't be very satisfying.
“All the more reason to keep us away from the government,” he said, finally. “If they have been forced into dealing with the aliens, they can deny everything and blame it all on us.”
He looked up at William. “Where would be the best place to intercept a UFO?”
William, who had been thinking about it, scowled. “I assume you want somewhere fairly isolated,” he said. “There is a woman called Charlotte Gains – one of my clients – who suffers from fairly frequent abductions and a virgin birth.”
Jon blinked. “She had a virgin birth?”
“She got pregnant somehow,” William explained, grimly. “I thought at first that she’d just had sex and forgotten about it, or that she’d been raped and somehow blotted the memory from her mind, but nothing quite seemed to explain it until I hypnotised her and unlocked the hidden memories. The aliens took her onto their ship, made her have sex with one of their male victims and – somehow – they got careless. I was never able to identify the father.”
“**** me,” Crisco said, in awe. “Hey, Professor; can you hypnotise a girl into sleeping with you?”
“It doesn’t quite work that way,” William said, flushing. “You cannot hypnotise someone into doing something they don’t want to do. You can slowly use hypnosis to undo their inhibitions and suchlike, but it’s hardly a guaranteed procedure…”
“I could help someone overcome her inhibitions and sleep with me,” Crisco said, in delight. “There was this girl in <st1:country-region><st1lace>Iraq</st1lace></st1:country-region>…”
“If we could kindly return to the matter at hand,” David said dryly, “why should we stake out her place first?”
“She lives on an isolated farm,” William explained. “If you bring the craft down, there will be fewer civilians in the area to get hurt – or infected if there is a biohazard. It doesn’t seem likely, but all contact with the aliens normally takes place while the abductee is firmly under their control. What would happen if you brought down a craft?”
“Good question,” Jon said. “We’d better take a full NBC kit along – everything we might need to detect a biohazard.”
“I think we need to think this out a little more carefully,” <st1:City><st1lace>Anderson</st1lace></st1:City> said, shortly. “You’re talking about taking a live alien prisoner, perhaps more than one. Where do we take them? I don’t think that we could call in at <st1:City><st1lace>Leavenworth</st1lace></st1:City> and ask them to take custody of a little grey alien.”
“We’ll plan it all out, step by step,” Crisco assured him. “We’d need to find a base in Kanes as a first step, and then move in to watch her property and decide how to take the craft when the time comes.” He shrugged. “And we have to do it without risking exposure.” He nodded toward Jon. “Hiding a wanted fugitive will be difficult to explain.”
“Maybe not,” David said. “No one outside the community has been informed. The NYPD wasn't alerted and, as far as I know, no other state police force has been alerted. Interesting, don’t you think?”
“They don’t want to make too many waves,” Cisco agreed. “Still, we will have to be very careful. A single mistake could doom us all.”
***There was always something to do on a farm, Jon knew, and working in the afternoon helped take his mind off his problems. It didn’t seem to do the same for Karen; the teenager complained loudly about missing her planned birthday party with her friends, and then the lack of her cell phone or internet. David, at Jon’s suggestion, had put a security lock on his computer, forbidding anyone to use it without his permission. Karen had whined and moaned about it, then stormed off to the bedroom she shared with her sister and thrown herself onto the bed to sulk.
Jon shrugged as William finally told the sulky girl to get back to work or to forget about eating at night. David had set up the Clan with an eye to keeping out people who were unwilling to work on the farm and he refused to make exceptions, even for Mary. At least William’s wife could help in the kitchen, although she was hardly an expert and kept breaking things. She had never worked a proper day in her life. Jon wondered how she would have coped if the **** really hit the fan. Badly, he suspected.
“You’re not doing badly,” he assured William, after Karen had finally started to work again. Kimberly, at least, seemed to love the farm and had taken over looking after the dogs. David owned nine dogs, seven of them mongrels. The thought reminded him of the hybrids, somehow. “How are you coping otherwise?”
“Feeling freer, oddly,” William confessed. “And at the same time I am scared. What happens if they swoop down on us tonight?”
Jon nodded in sympathy. A soldier who claimed never to have felt fear was a liar; Jon had been terrified more times than he could count. He’d learned to cope with the prospect of sudden death, however, and to take control, something that few civilians ever learned to master. A person who grew up on the streets might wind up helpless, or part of the problem. A civilian who lived in a safe area would never learn to cope when his life turned upside down.
“There’s no reason to believe that they will,” Jon assured him. If the aliens were that powerful and capable, he thought privately, there was no hope of winning anyway. He was more worried about the government. The Clan was hardly a far-right militia – something that alarmed government agents – but that might not matter. If they were prepared to frame Jon, they wouldn't hesitate to frame the entire clan. “You’ll be safe here as long as Karen or your wife doesn’t do anything stupid.”
William snorted, tiredly. “Where did I go wrong with her?”
“You gave her an easy life,” Jon said, dryly. It was a wry thought. Any father would want to take care of his children – daughters in particular – but it was possible to overdo it. Spoiling children rotten only turned them rotten. “And now she actually has to work and she doesn’t like it. Still, not much cause for prom queens as cosmetic assistants around here.”
He looked over at Gaby, who was carrying a sack back towards the house. Sweat stained the shirt she wore, causing it to cling provocatively to her breasts. The sight did nothing for Jon, but he was aware of William’s stare, and then his swift motion as he looked away.
“Ah, heterosexuals,” he murmured, too low for anyone, but William to hear. “I support you guys politically, but the act…yuck!”
William started to reply, but broke off into giggles. “Damn you,” he managed to say, finally. “Do you always have to turn everything into a joke?”
“Mostly,” Jon agreed. He stood up and looked over the field. It would soon be time to bring the cows in for the night. “If Karen should leave the farm, the chances are good that she’ll be picked up by the cops. If they identify her, they’ll know that she’s supposed to be dead.”
“Won’t that prove you innocent?” William asked. “If they think you murdered us…”
“If it has a chance to get into their heads, yes,” Jon agreed. “How much do you want to bet that they’ll just take me into custody – just in case, they will say – and then lop off my head before I can say anything unfortunate?”
“No bet,” William agreed. “And what is your point?”
“If Karen gives you trouble, do whatever it takes to make sure she stays here,” Jon warned. “This may be the safest place in the country for her.”
He scowled. He’d been thinking about trying to sneak William’s family out of the country to <st1:country-region><st1lace>Canada</st1lace></st1:country-region>, or perhaps further away. Mary had loved <st1:City><st1lace>Paris</st1lace></st1:City>, William had said, and smuggling them to <st1:country-region><st1lace>France</st1lace></st1:country-region> wouldn’t be that difficult. Once they were out of the way…but it would only take one <st1:stockticker>DNA</st1:stockticker> test to reveal their true identities and blow the whole thing wide open. There was no reason to believe that the aliens – and their allies – were confined to <st1:country-region><st1lace>America</st1lace></st1:country-region>.
“There are reports of abductions from all over the world,” William confirmed, when he asked. “<st1:country-region><st1lace>Britain</st1lace></st1:country-region>, <st1:country-region><st1lace>France</st1lace></st1:country-region>, <st1:country-region><st1lace>Germany</st1lace></st1:country-region> and <st1:country-region><st1lace>Spain</st1lace></st1:country-region> have high rates of abduction; <st1:country-region><st1lace>Japan</st1lace></st1:country-region>, oddly, seems to have relatively few. We don’t really have figures for the <st1lace>Middle East</st1lace>, or <st1:country-region><st1lace>Russia</st1lace></st1:country-region>, or <st1:country-region><st1lace>China</st1lace></st1:country-region>. I’d hate to be someone trying to report being abducted in the <st1lace>Middle East</st1lace>.”
Jon nodded. He’d served in the region and had left it with a certain amount of respect for the past, but little for the local culture. He’d known individual Iraqis or even Iranians who were brave and loyal, yet the overall culture seemed to press down on them, crippling their development. What could a person, raised in a tradition of freedom, make of a region that crushed minorities and forced women to remain second-class citizens?
“Perhaps we should try to stage our battle elsewhere,” Jon said, reluctantly. If the aliens operated on a global scale, they might be well out of their depth. The thought of bringing a UFO down in <st1:country-region><st1lace>France</st1lace></st1:country-region> had a certain appeal, but there was no reason to believe that the alien retaliation – if any materialised – would be confined to <st1:country-region><st1lace>France</st1lace></st1:country-region>. “Or maybe…”
“Hey, Jon,” David called. Jon looked up sharply. “You have an email.”
Jon walked back into the farmhouse, sighing in relief as he stepped into the air conditioned room, and bent over the computer. The email had been sent to a false account by Madiha. She wanted a meeting.
“I’m going to have to go back to <st1:State><st1lace>New York</st1lace></st1:State>,” Jon said, grimly. There was little actual data in the message, but the code signified urgency. “There have been…developments.”
“Take a couple of others with you,” David ordered. Jon wanted to argue, but David overrode him. “We can’t risk you being caught on your own.”
Chapter Eleven<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-comfficeffice" />
Why don’t most people believe in alien abduction? Answer; because it smacks of the insane, of a story that is – quite literally – out of this world. People who have been abducted by aliens learn quickly to keep their mouths shut, fearing the laughter of their friends and family…
-William Sonnenleiter, Accounts of Abduction, 2015
<?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-comffice:smarttags" /><st1lace w:st="on"><st1:City w:st="on">New York</st1:City>, <st1:country-region w:st="on">USA</st1:country-region></st1lace>
Charlie Sheen parked his car in Allendale and sat back in the driver’s seat, breathing hard. No one had told him not to go to Sharon Mack’s house, but he had the uneasy feeling that his superiors would be less than happy with him if they found out. After all, their order – to declare Jon Sonnenleiter rogue – had been carried out without explanation or recourse. Charlie was uneasily aware that many of the operatives who reported to him were distrustful of such vague orders, all the more so as the ones who knew Jon Sonnenleiter personally knew that he wouldn't commit rape. He’d asked for explanations, only to be told to shut up and follow orders.
The vague sense of unease in his mind grew stronger as he studied the Mack house. The NYPD had established a police line around the building and were carrying out a half-hearted investigation, half-hearted – Charlie knew – because someone up the line had been putting pressure on the cops to close the case and forget about it. At least a handful of rumours had gotten out to the media, but so far few reporters seemed inclined to investigate further. The story was sensational enough – an entire family just vanishes – to suggest that someone had been putting pressure on the media as well. Charlie knew that that kind of clout didn't come easily. It suggested that his orders came from somewhere high up in Washington, perhaps the NSC itself.
He scowled as he climbed out of the car and locked the vehicle behind him. He’d quietly run Sharon Mack’s name through the National Database and had been surprised at the results. The government had collected and collated a vast amount of data on unsuspecting citizens over the years and anyone with access to the database and enough processing power could build up a comprehensive picture of a person’s life. As far as Charlie could tell, there was nothing particularly special about Sharon Mack, or her husband. They were a fairly wealthy family in good circumstances.
His lips twitched. Only ten days ago, Jon Sonnenleiter had recorded a video of Sharon being abducted from her home by little grey aliens. Charlie had reported it up the chain and had been astonished by the speed and force of the reaction. Someone had insisted that Jon Sonnenleiter be declared rogue and silenced, by any means necessary. Charlie hadn't believed the recording at first, but analysis had indicated that it was genuine, as did the speed of the reaction. No one would waste so much time and effort on a hoax.
“This is a police line,” the NYPD officer said, when Charlie approached. He was a young man, almost too young to shave, with the indefinable air of a rookie cop; nervous, but determined to do his head. “I’m afraid you’ll have to...”
Charlie held up his ID card and the rookie frowned. “My superior will have to clear you for access,” he said. He keyed his radio and, a moment later, a NYPD Detective appeared. “Sir, we have a visitor from the CIA...”
“I can see that,” the Detective snarled. He glared at Charlie, angrily. “Are you the one who has been blocking my investigation?”
“No,” Charlie said, flatly. He’d prepared a cover story, but he wasn't sure how will it would hold up under the detective’s cold grey eyes. “We’re wondering if there might have been connections between this case and international terrorist money-laundering and I have been told to check out the site. Sometimes it helps us build up a picture of what goes through their minds.”
The Detective didn't look impressed, but allowed Charlie access without further argument. He did insist on following Charlie around, reminding him not to touch anything, as Charlie went through the house. While watching, he chatted about what the NYPD had found so far, which amounted to almost nothing. There seemed to be no irregularities in Keith Mack’s accounts that might suggest crime family connections, let alone the involvement of international terrorism. It took Charlie nearly forty minutes before he realised that he was wasting his time. Whatever connection Sharon and her family had had with aliens, he wasn't going to find any clues in their house.
“Thank you for your help,” he said, finally. “I’ll...”
“The family was quite well respected in this area,” the Detective said. “The locals aren't too happy that the investigation is being pressured by certain figures. Some of them are already getting in touch with their congressman and demanding action.”
“Right,” Charlie said. He had the uneasy feeling that the congressman wouldn't be able to help his constituents. “I’ll take that into consideration.”
He put it out of his mind as he got back into his car and drove back to his office. There had been no answers in the building and, as he admitted to himself ruefully, he’d been a fool to think that he would learn anything there. Instead...he’d just have to see what happened; perhaps, with a little bit of luck, Jon Sonnenleiter would fall into his hands instead of his mysterious superiors. There’d be a chance to interrogate him personally and find out just what was going on.
Or perhaps that wouldn't be wise, he told himself. Whoever had acted to suppress all recordings of the abduction event – and scoop up all the witnesses – clearly had vast political power and no scruples about using it. Charlie himself might be targeted if he overstepped his limits, or he might even be targeted anyway, as an accidental witness.
He shook his head. It might be time for considering drastic action.
***The drive into New York passed uneventfully, much to Jon’s relief. A car with four males in it, statistically speaking, was much more likely to be stopped by the police than one with a mixed set of passengers. Jon had insisted on keeping Crisco with him, knowing that Crisco’s authority would get them through any checkpoints without having the car searched or their identity’s checked. Any cop who searched the car would be horrified at the small arsenal they’d carefully hidden in the vehicle.
“Wait here,” he ordered, as they pulled up outside Madiha’s apartment block. There was no sign of an ambush, but he took the precaution of running around the block pretending to be a jogger, while watching for anything suspicious. The chances were good that any surveillance would be carried out through sensor nodes and surveillance devices, yet Jon knew that it paid to be careful. “I’ll be back as soon as possible.”
Madiha welcomed him as soon as he entered the apartment block and invited him into her living room. Jon had never seen it before and he was pleasantly surprised by its decor, a mixture of comfortable and shabby. Madiha had bought several soft sofas and chairs, a large coffee table and a handful of weird paintings Jon didn't recognise. It was sad, in a way; it was a room meant for company when the owner rarely needed or sought company. Unsurprisingly, there was a pair of laptops at the side of the room and a palmtop sitting on the table. Madiha couldn't leave her computers alone for long.
“I rigged this room to make surveillance impossible,” Madiha assured him, as she passed him a cup of coffee. “The entire room is surrounded by several different layers of protective shielding, a jammer is operating to disrupt any radio signal capable of penetrating the shielding and a white noise generator will **** up any recorders on your person. I’m sorry about the paranoia, but I think you’ve stumbled into a nightmare.”
Jon’s eyes narrowed. “What have you done?” He asked. “What’s happened to you?”
“To me, nothing,” Madiha said. “I’m afraid that one of the computers I was using as a proxy may have been damaged beyond repair by a cyber-attack. Luckily, it wasn't sophisticated enough to follow my track back here, but it rammed its way into the host computer and tore it apart. That's a little extreme; I didn't even recognise the technique. You seem to be fishing in shark-infested waters.”
“I already knew that,” Jon said, patiently. “What were you doing when you were booted out?”
“All in good time,” Madiha said. She took a sip of her coffee and grimaced. “I really should hire a maid. I can't make good coffee for toffee.” She grinned at her rhyme and then looked up at him. “I was searching for information on Majestic by combining and comparing records from a hundred different databases. It wasn't exactly easy. The bastards have covered their tracks well over the years. I think I may have overlooked quite a bit because they used alternate codenames where possible, or perhaps they had subcommittees that had different identities. That’s one of the problems with so much secrecy. No one is ever completely sure what is going on and no one tries to demand an accounting.”
She smiled, rather wanly. “The original Majestic Committee was apparently founded in 1947, as I said,” she said. “It had a remarkable group of members, including prominent military officers, scientists and intelligence experts. Many of them were people with considerable power, but not so public that their absence would be noted by the media. I’m not sure who chaired it – it may have had a rotating chair, or the chairman might simply never have been listed. One person who is only mentioned on a handful of documents was Charlie Ross, President Truman’s Press Secretary. I can't prove it, but I suspect that Ross was the liaison officer between Majestic and the President.”
Jon had to smile. He’d heard of Charlie Ross, but not through anything as mundane as a Presidential biography. “I thought he died while in office,” Jon said. “Was there anything suspicious about his death?”
“You mean; did Majestic murder him?” Madiha asked. “I don’t think so. He died of a heart attack after giving a press conference.”
She shrugged. “As far as I can tell, Majestic continued to exist in the background as a secret committee, one of many at the time,” she continued. “The membership lists don’t change as often as you would expect, even when new Presidents were elected or a different political party took control of Congress or the Senate. I could be wrong – I’m cross-referencing a lot of data here – but it looks as if most of the original committee remained in the committee until they retired or died while in office.”
Jon frowned. He knew very little about government committees, but he doubted that a committee could remain stable for so long, not when the government changed every four years. There had to be something extraordinary about Majestic to keep it in place – and if William was right, Majestic was involved in alien contact. That might explain the committee’s unusual political longevity.
“I think Majestic reported directly to the President at first,” Madiha said. “The records aren't particularly clear, but it seems at some point in the 1970s someone in Majestic received White House clearance – that’s the authority to speak to the President at any time, regardless of what else is going on – and the remainder of the committee remained shrouded in secrecy. It becomes much harder to trace the membership at that time. It seems likely that the Director of the CIA, the Director of the NSA and probably some very senior members of the military are on the current committee, but I can't prove it.”
Jon stared down at his hands. “So they have vast power,” he said, finally. “What did they actually do?”
Madiha grinned. “Well, the urban myth is that they had something to do with UFOs,” she said. “According to the records in the Pentagon...they did nothing. There’s no list of priorities or responsibilities, no financial data, nothing that might be helpful in tracing them. I suspect that they draw their funds from the Black Budget and probably don’t submit anything for outside oversight. However, we can put together a very odd picture.
“They had six members originally who were from the military and intelligence communities. The military men were all involved with cutting-edge projects, like rocketry and jet engine projects. The other six members were all scientists on the edge of their field. They were respected men with a background of solid competence and they were all thoroughly vetted. If I had a crashed alien ship, they’re the people I would want to evaluate it.
“Some other details make the mystery deepen,” she added. “One of the people mentioned as working for Majestic – I'm betting he wasn't on the committee itself – was Doctor Joseph Vogelbaum – have you ever heard of him?”
Jon shook his head. “He sounds German,” he said slowly. A connection formed in his mind. “Was he one of the ex-Nazi scientists?”
“In one,” Madiha confirmed. “He used to work in one of the Nazi research centres trying to create human-animal hybrids. The Nazis appeared to believe that they could create genuine werewolves by twinning human and wolf DNA together. Needless to say, their experiments produced nothing more than a few hundred dead victims and the discovery that if you try to transplant animal organs into humans, the patient dies. I could have told them that for nothing.”
Jon blinked. “They managed to achieve nothing?”
“Not as far as I can tell,” Madiha said. “The Doctor was lucky enough to fall into our hands in 1945 and was shipped over to the US as part of Operation Paper Clip. I don't know what he was doing here until 1949, but at that point he gets recruited by Majestic and put to work doing something. Allah alone knows what.”
Jon shivered, remembering the hybrids that had attacked him and his family. If the German had been working on human-animal hybrids, might he not have been secretly working on human-alien hybrids? It seemed fantastic, completely unbelievable, yet someone had definitely succeeded in creating viable hybrids.
“What happened to him?” He asked finally. “I'm betting he isn't alive...”
“I very much doubt it,” Madiha said, sardonically. “He was in his fifties when he was brought over here and my guess is that they weren't taking very good care of him. The last reference I have to him is a file dated in the seventies that mentions that the Chrysalis Project had been terminated. I wasn't able to find any other references to Chrysalis in the database. I have no idea what it was or why it was terminated.”
Perhaps they succeeded, Jon thought, coldly.
“All right,” he said, with a sigh. “We need to find someone from Majestic who might be willing to talk to us.”
“That might be difficult,” Madiha said. “I wasn't able to find a current membership list anywhere on the Pentagon’s servers. I was poking into a secure – more secure, I suppose – database when my host computer was attacked. I don't know who’s in charge of Majestic and I don't know who serves as their link to the President, or even if there is a link to the President.”
“They might have gone completely black,” Jon said. It should have been impossible, but he’d seen enough in the Army of Northern Virginia to know that sometimes people, even entire units, went black, or rogue. The thought of a cell hidden away in the bowels of the Pentagon, accountable to no one, was chilling. “Can’t you find an ex-member?”
“Maybe,” Madiha said, slowly. “I'm going to have to make another try at that database. The problem is that they will have recorded my attempted access and will be waiting for another probe. I do have some leads, however, so I may be able to find someone.”
She paused. “Majestic was meant to be completely secret,” she added, “but in the 1980s a number of documents leaked out to the UFO community. The documents are generally believed to be fakes, yet I was able to verify much of the data. I suspect that most of them were copies of original documents. I have no idea why they were leaked, but it might be a good place to start investigating.”
“Thank you,” Jon said. If there was anyone who could track down a former member of Majestic, Madiha could do it. “What about my dear old boss?”
“He guards himself well,” Madiha confirmed. “I think he actually lives in that building he uses as a base. I’ve managed to obtain proof that he flies to Washington every three or so weeks – my guess is that he consults with his superiors face to face before returning to New York – and” – she leered – “he has a considerable porn habit. I think he spends upwards of a hundred dollars a month on pay sites.”
She shook her head. “Stupid idiot,” she added. “Any fool knows that you can download enough porn to keep even a serial masturbator happy for free.”
“Hah,” Jon said. He rolled his eyes. Somehow, it seemed perfectly in character. “Does he have any special kinks?”
“All of them,” Madiha said. “I’ve traced payments to all kinds of sites, from basic straight sex to outright violence and brutality.” She hesitated. “There is another thing; did you know that he has a bastard son?”
“No,” Jon said. He hadn’t thought that Sheen had the ability to father children. “Are you sure that the boy really is his son?”
“As far as I can tell,” Madiha said. “Do you want the details?”
Jon nodded. A plan was already forming in his mind. “Yes,” he said. “Perhaps we should go pay a call on the little brat.”
“Jon,” Madiha said slowly, “what is this all about?”
“You don’t want to know,” Jon said. He saw her expression and sighed. “Believe me, you really don’t want to know.”
Chapter Twelve<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-comfficeffice" />
Among the most mysterious of alien procedures are their attempts to encourage relationships between human abductees and hybrids. Hybrids have been known to form links to abductees, who have often returned the affection; they have also been known to torment the abductees in a manner more befitting a sociopath than the alien greys. At times, the taller beings have been known to step in to prevent abuse; at other times, they have chosen to allow it to proceed. The only theory that seems to fit the facts is that the aliens are preparing the hybrids for life on Earth,
-William Sonnenleiter, Accounts of Abduction, 2015
Unknown Location, Alien Craft
Sharon opened her eyes.
She had hoped that she’d been returned to her home – while she’d kept her eyes closed, she’d been able to believe it – but her clear memories mandated against it. The aliens would have wiped her memories, or caused her to forget what they’d done to her...what they’d done to her many times before. She looked up from where she was lying, on a bed with neither sheets nor covering, and winced. The small room looked no more inviting now than it had looked when they’d pushed her into it and left her alone.
The walls seemed to be glowing with a strange, almost eerie light. She reached out with her hand and felt a strange vibration shimmering through the walls – or were they bulkheads, she wondered to herself – and a faint sensation of warmth. The aliens hadn't given her any clothes to wear, but at least she would be warm. Memory surfaced of a series of experiments they’d performed when she was a child, testing her tolerance of heat and cold, and she shivered. The room was warm enough without causing her to sweat or to seek relief.
It took only a few more seconds to search the tiny room. Apart from the bed, there was nothing, not even a toilet or a table for food. There was no sign of food either, which suggested that the aliens had probably injected her with something while she slept, for she didn't feel particularly hungry. She just felt as if she were going to go mad in the tiny room. It occurred to her that she might have been onboard the alien craft for days, or weeks, or years; her mind closed down by the aliens until they needed her again. It was chilling to think that her children might have grown up by the time she was returned to Earth, if she was ever returned to Earth...
She stopped in horror as she remembered. The aliens had taken her children as well – and her husband! They’d trapped him in a shell of amber and taken the children somewhere else. Sharon started to beat on the side of the room – she wasn't even sure where the door was – and tried to scream for her children, but all her anger and rage slowly drained away, leaving her feeling dead inside. She knew that she should be furious and desperate, willing to do anything for the safe return of her kids, yet she couldn't muster the energy. Whatever the aliens had done to her had dampened her emotions.
Sharon sat back on the bed and started to cry. She’d screamed as loudly as she could and no one had come. The aliens had put her in her room and forgotten about her, or perhaps they were watching her now, using her as the subject in another of their damnable experiments. They seemed as interested in human emotion as they were in human sexuality and no doubt they were wondering how she would react to being deprived of her children. Sharon felt her entire body shaking with rage, which – slowly – drained away and left her feeling empty and alone. When the door appeared in the side of the bulkhead and three tiny aliens appeared, Sharon was almost relieved. At least she had company, of a sort.
The aliens examined her eyes thoughtfully, one of them holding her head firmly still so that the other two could study her tears. She had the strangest feeling that they’d never seen a crying human before, although that seemed impossible. Perhaps they were newborn aliens – if aliens were born in human fashion – and they’d just started work today. The thought was silly, as she knew deep inside, but someone it made the aliens seem more human. Or perhaps she was just trying to bond with them because there was no one else in the chamber. When they tugged at her hands, pulling her to her feet, she went with them quite willingly.
She almost stumbled as she stepped out of the door, because there was a strange vibration running through the craft. The aliens steadied her and escorted her along a corridor and into a small chamber. She had been expecting yet another medical examination room, but instead the room was empty, apart from an opening that looked out onto space. Sharon thought, for a single terrified moment, that the aliens intended to throw her naked body out into space, before realising that there was a transparent covering holding in the craft’s atmosphere. Sharon stepped forward. She was suddenly no longer aware of the aliens holding her, as the unblinking stars caught and held her attention. She couldn't look away.
Below her – or perhaps it was above her – Earth glowed in the darkness of space. It looked astonishingly perfect to her eyes, a welcoming sphere of green and blue, with white flecks that she slowly realised were clouds. It took her a moment to place herself and realise that the craft was flying high over India – the shape of the subcontinent was unmistakable – and orbiting the Earth. The sight stunned her. She'd used to joke with Keith about buying a slot on a Russian space tourism trip, but it had only ever been a dream. Now she’d seen Earth from outer space...just for a moment, she was almost grateful to the aliens.
A hand tugged at her bare shoulder and turned her around. Before she could react, she was staring straight into the eyes of a taller being. Sharon went limp at the knees as the alien peered into her mind – thoughts and feelings flashing in front of her mind’s eye – before the alien backed off and allowed the smaller beings to escort her back into the craft’s network of corridors. Sharon rapidly became disorientated as the aliens pushed her onwards, yet – when she caught sight of another taller being – she found herself able to ask a question.
“Where are you taking me?” She asked. “What are you going to do to me?”
We mean you no harm, the alien sent. Her – she was somehow sure that the alien was female – had a cold, dispassionate mental voice. You need not fear.
Sharon gritted her teeth. She’d had enough of mental platitudes. “I need to see my children,” she said, desperately. “I’ll do anything as long as you let me see my children.”
If the alien understood her desperation, she gave no sign. Destiny awaits, the alien sent. It was such an odd response that Sharon found herself astonished. You will assist us in preparing your destiny.
“I’ll help you if you show me my children,” Sharon said. Even mustering that much mental resistance was hard. The smaller aliens were still pushing her forward. “Please – just let me know that they are alive.”
Your children are alive and well, the alien sent back. Sharon felt a sudden burst of reassurance and realised in surprise that it came from the female alien. They will be treated well.
Sharon was so surprised that she couldn't muster any other questions. She concentrated, instead, on studying the alien as she walked in front of the human and her three small escorts. There was no obvious reason to believe that the alien was female. Her back seemed to be devoid of human shapeliness – the alien looked anorexic, although she had to remind herself that that might be perfectly normal for the aliens – and there were no signs of any muscles moving under the body. The oversized grey head was completely bald – there was no sign that the aliens had ever had hair – yet there was a strange mottled pattern that looked as if it marked slow decay. Was she looking at the alien version of wrinkles? How old was the alien? She couldn't tell from looking at her.
The corridor came to an end suddenly and her escorts pushed her into the strangest room yet. Ahead of her, there was a small table, with two chairs and a set of cutlery. It reminded her of a table in a fancy restaurant, a thought that almost made her giggle. The giggle died in her throat as two of her escorts picked up a selection of clothes and started trying to dress her, as if she was a little girl’s doll. They didn't know what they were doing, she realised; one of them tried to put a bra on by wrapping it around her legs. The taller alien seemed to send a message to the smaller aliens and they stepped back, dropping the clothes on the deck.
Dress yourself, the taller alien ordered. Make yourself look pretty.
Sharon stared at the alien in disbelief, but slowly began to comply, stretching out the process as long as she could. The aliens had somehow obtained clothes in her size, but she didn't recognize them, particularly the light blue dress that they seemed to expect her to wear. If they hadn't taken them from her house, where had they obtained them? She had a sudden mental image of a pair of grey aliens visiting the nearest clothes shop and ordering clothes. The thought was so absurd that she started to giggle. The aliens ignored her giggling, waited until she was dressed, and then examined her so minutely that she started to wonder if she had been wrong about the smaller aliens being sexless.
Come, the taller alien sent. She started to walk towards the table, pulled out a chair, and urged Sharon to sit down. The chair seemed to mould itself to her body. Your partner will be with you soon.
Sharon found herself staring at the cutlery. It was so fascinating that she just stared and stared and stared until the control abruptly terminated. Shock and horror galvanised her as she realised what the aliens had done. They’d done it before, somehow caused her to focus on something so strongly that she had literally no awareness of what was going on around her. She looked up and blinked in surprise. A man was sitting opposite her. Two more tiny aliens had appeared from nowhere, carrying two plates of food towards the table.
You will develop a relationship with your partner, the taller alien ordered. Sharon couldn't help herself. She broke out into another fit of giggles. The aliens had kidnapped her and taken her to orbit for a blind date? The very thought was absurd.
“Good afternoon,” the other man said. There was something odd about his voice. It took her a moment to realise that he spoke as if he had rarely spoken before, even as a child, as if he was still learning how to do it. “My name is Sven...”
Sharon studied him thoughtfully. He was tall and almost perfectly handsome. Indeed, his face was inhumanly perfect, without even a single blemish to mar his smooth skin. His short blond hair was cut in a military-style; his body, from what she could see under his tight-fitting clothes, was firm and muscular. The only odd point was his eyes. They looked larger than average, with wider dark pupils. If she’d just had a single glance, she would have wondered if his eyes were completely black, just like the aliens...
She understood in a flash of insight. “You’re a hybrid,” she said. She was looking at a grown-up baby, one of the babies the aliens had tried to force her to play with, or even just admire from a distance. He could easily pass for human as long as he hid his eyes. She didn't want to ask, but who knew what the aliens could do? “Are you my child?”
The hybrid seemed taken aback by the question and sent a plaintive glance towards the taller being, who was watching from the sidelines. He is not your child, the taller being sent. There was a hint of irritation in the mental voice. Social interaction will commence.
Sharon smiled inwardly as the tiny grey aliens placed a plate in front of her before whipping off the cover. The smell reached her nostrils and she was suddenly very hungry. She felt her mouth watering and looked up, to see Sven regarding her expectantly. It dawned on her that she was waiting for her to show him what to do. She remembered the tiny babies she’d been shown and realised that Sven had no idea of what it meant to be human, or even how to be human. If the aliens wanted to send him down to Earth, he would have to be able to do more than just look like a native...
“You eat like this,” Sharon said, and demonstrated. The food tasted odd, a strange combination of beef and pork, served with potatoes and vegetables. It didn’t taste quite right, but it was edible. Besides, she had a feeling that if she didn't eat, the aliens would simply play a mental trick on her and forceher to eat. “Tell me about yourself?”
The blind date, if that was what the aliens wanted, felt surreal, but after a few more bites of food that almost slipped out of her mind. The smaller aliens played waiter, carrying in different kinds of food and expecting her to taste at least a tiny portion of each, while the taller being had just stepped into the background and vanished. Sharon wasn't even sure if the alien was still there, although she was certain that they were being watched. She wondered how many aliens were watching them through hidden sensors and dissecting their every move.
Sven couldn't tell her much, even though she asked probing questions and tried to build on his answers. She couldn’t tell if he had a poor memory or if he’d spent all of his life on an alien craft, trapped in a single room. Apparently, he'd had no friends, although he might not have understood the question. Every time Sharon fell into the trap of assuming that he was human – at least on an unconscious level – something happened to remind her that he wasn't a pure human at all. The drink the aliens had given them – which tasted vaguely of sherry – seemed to loosen his inhibitions somehow, leaving him staring at her breasts without embarrassment. No one had ever taught him that such behaviour was wrong.
She tried to get him to talk about his early life, but there seemed to be only a handful of memories. Sven had been born as part of a class of hybrid children and had grown up with his class, overseen by the grey aliens. No one had attempted to socialise them directly, at least as far as Sharon could tell, although surely someone must have done something. It dawned on her that the aliens might well have been prodding their hybrids with their mental powers, pushing thoughts and suggestions into their heads. Sven’s discussion of a classroom – he called it a Learning Centre – fascinated and repelled her. The hybrids were tested constantly and those who failed the test were simply removed. Sharon suspected that the aliens simply eliminated them as failures.
He bounced questions back at her about her life with a frankness that surprised and somewhat unnerved her. Maybe it was the drink, maybe it was a complete lack of mental inhibitions, but he asked her all kinds of things. How had she met her husband? How did she have children? He didn't seem to understand the facts of life at all, which she decided made a certain kind of sense. The grey aliens had birthed the hybrids in their birthing chambers, with minimal human involvement. The hybrids might have grown to adolescence without ever knowing that they could have sex, or even why they might want to have sex.
The dinner ended finally and Sven offered her his arm, something so courtly that she took it without thinking. He led her through another door – one that had just appeared in the grey bulkhead – and out into a second chamber. It had a massive porthole that opened out onto space, allowing her to see the Earth in all its glory. Sven pointed a finger towards the planet and smiled at her.
“I will be living there soon,” he said. He leaned forward. “Perhaps you will live there with me?”
“Perhaps,” Sharon said, shocked. Somehow, even thinking of her husband was difficult. His proximity was doing all kinds of interesting things to her hormones. She felt her heartbeat racing as he came closer, as if he was fighting to keep himself under control. Sharon didn't want to make love to him, or so she told herself, yet her body seemed to think that that was an excellent idea. She felt her nipples harden as he moved in for a kiss. “I...”
He kissed her roughly. Just for a moment, she wondered if he planned to hurt her, perhaps to rape her, before she realised that he’d never learned how to kiss. It felt as if she was being kissed by an oversized adolescent, simply rancid with hormones. And then it occurred to her that if he’d never had sex before, he’d grow to associate it with her. The aliens might never have realised that a woman could use sex to control a man.
She smiled as he started to undo her clothes, his hands trembling with excitement. The aliens would never understand what she was doing until it was too late. She was going to make him hers.
How about some comments?
Chapter Thirteen<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-comfficeffice" />
Although the aliens seem able to abduct anyone from any place, they do seem to prefer abducting targets who live in isolated areas. It allows them to take and keep their victims for longer without arousing comment or suspicion in the surrounding area. The aliens, as always, try to keep their activities a total secret.
-William Sonnenleiter, Accounts of Abduction, 2015
“But I’m telling you that we do have a permit for these guns,” Patrick Kent pointed out. “It’s called the Second Amendment.”
“And I'm telling you that any copper who sees a Stinger missile launcher and two reloads in the back of the vehicle is going to scream for Homeland Security the second he sees them,” Gaby said, tartly. The two of them had been arguing throughout the trip from New York to Kansas. “I don’t think that you can legally buy them on the open market.”
Jon rolled his eyes. The trip down to Kansas had taken five days and they’d been hacking away at each other for most of it. He couldn't blame Gaby really; very few policemen would just let them go after spying the missiles, even if they waved a Blue Card under his nose. At the very least, the policeman would want to check with the FBI and that would be disastrous. They’d been careful to remain within the speed limit and do nothing that would attract attention. He would have preferred to fly, but with the latest rules on airport safety, his ID would have been shared with a number of different agencies. Majestic would certainly still be looking for him.
He brooded on the thought as the GPS guided them onwards towards their destination. It galled him to be fighting a subset of his own government, even if it had seemingly sold out the country. Anderson was right; they knew very little about Majestic and what little they did know was suspect. Jon had been reading through some of the UFO books he’d pulled out of a library and most of them seemed to believe in the most outlandish conspiracy theories. If Jon hadn't witnessed an alien abduction with his own eyes, he would have laughed at them.
According to William – and the GPS system - Charlotte Gains lived on an isolated farm, with no one apart from her fatherless son. The area was apparently under threat by developers and what David had called yuppie farmers – city folk who thought that they were qualified to own a farm – and Charlotte had been offered plenty of money for her land. So far, she had refused to sell and had remained living there, despite the alien presence above her. Unlike Sharon, she had near-complete memories of the alien visitations and Jon was surprised she hadn't moved. Or perhaps it wouldn’t have mattered. Once the grey aliens seemed to have picked out someone as a worthy target, they never let them go. They hadn’t hesitated to abduct Sharon from the middle of a town, after all.
He smiled as he reached a set of gates and stopped the car. David had spoken to a friend of his who lived in Kansas and had been put in touch with a farmer who was on the verge of selling up. David had explained, with a grim chuckle, that the farmer was yet another Yuppie, who had discovered that running a farm was actually hard work. They’d been on the verge of quitting when David had called them up and made them an offer they couldn't refuse. Jon had questioned David as to where he’d gotten the money to buy the farm outright – and the clout to smooth all the legal issues in buying land so quickly – but David had just shrugged and mentioned a rich uncle who had passed away some time ago. Money, it seemed, could buy everything – including a reasonable facsimile of love.
“Deliverance country,” Kent said, peering out of the window. “I think we’d better keep our eyes open for inbred freaks and gun-toting rednecks.”
“That’s further south,” Anderson pointed out. The chemist opened his eyes and looked around blearily. “The thing we have to watch for in Kansas is communist elephants from outer space.”
“City-boys,” Gaby said, snorting. “I was born on a farm and knew that I wanted to leave before I was five. Daddy taught me to shoot and hunt and the rest is history.”
Jon smiled as he saw the man walking down the lane towards them. Even to his unpractised eye, the farm looked to be in a poor state. Fields that should have been growing crops looked barren, while the sound of various animals could be heard in the distance, desperate to be milked. David’s contact had been quite incensed about how the yuppies had treated their animals and had insisted that most of them be sent over to his farm, where they would be treated humanely. Jon had promised that he’d speak in favour of that idea, but David – as the new owner – would have to make the final decision.
“Hey there,” the man called, when he reached the gate. He had a thick accent that threatened to obscure his words, the accent of a man who had never left the land to live in a big city. “Are you folks the West Party?”
“Yes, sir,” Jon said. A little respect never hurt anyone. “Are you Ted Mottelson?”
“Guilty as charged,” Mottelson said, as he unhooked the gate. “Drive up to the farm and I will be with you in a minute.”
Jon nodded as he gunned the engine and the vehicle moved into the farm. They’d travelled under false papers of course, as Jon knew that his name would still raise red flags when the land agent entered it into the computer. Jon himself was travelling under the name Jack West, with Gaby playing his wife and the other two playing two friends who had agreed to help the West Family settle down in their new home. Gaby had laughed at the thought of playing his wife and warned him to keep his hands to himself, at least in private. The other two had thought that it was hilarious.
The interior of the farm was cooler than Jon had expected. It seemed that the yuppies had installed expensive air conditioning and a generator to keep it running when the main power cut off. Blackouts, it seemed, were common in this part of the country, much to Jon’s surprise. It reminded him of one of the UFO books, which had claimed that UFOs had caused blackouts across the United States back in the sixties. It struck Jon as one hell of a weapon. Turn out the lights and then move in while everyone was disorientated. It put simple electromagnetic pulses in the shade.
They checked the remainder of the farmhouse quickly, confirming what they’d already been told. The yuppies had simply abandoned the farm. If they hadn't been confirmed to have returned to New York, Jon would have wondered if they’d been abducted as well. There was an eerie abandoned air to the whole building; they’d even left the bedclothes and some of their furniture in the house. It reminded him of the homes they’d searched in Afghanistan, homes that had been abandoned by their owner seconds before the American forces had arrived.
“You folks shouldn't have any problems getting settled in,” Mottelson assured them. “I think that you will have a lot of work ahead of you, but if you ask people for help, they will be willing to assist you to some extent. We’re very proud of our neighbourhood and we all help each other out.”
“Thank you, sir,” Jon said, as Gaby returned from the bedroom. She’d shucked her tunic and replaced it with a tight shirt and a straw hat. He was aware of Mottelson staring and then trying to pretend that he hadn't, while the other two tried to hide their own reactions. Jon hid a smile as he shook Mottelson’s hand. Gaby would probably distract him from noticing any irregularities in the proceedings. “Will the former owners be wanting any of their supplies back?”
“Ah, I doubt it,” Mottelson said. “The bastards – pardon my French – just up and abandoned the place. Everyone shook their heads and decided that we were better off without them. They left most of the animals as well, so the local sheriff filed charges against them on the grounds that they were cruel to their beasts. I don’t think we’ll see them in town again.”
He paused. “You’re young and I'm sure you don't know how much you don’t know,” he added. “I’d suggest letting the neighbours take some of the beasts until you’re ready to deal with them properly. Their former owners bought more animals than they could feed or milk.”
Jon escorted Mottelson to the front door and watched him stride away into the distance. It brought home to him just how far they were from the nearest city, and how different the countryside was to city life. The average New Yorker would probably hesitate before walking five miles, but Mottelson had started to walk back to his own farm without a second thought. It was a nice day for it, Jon conceded. The sun beating down on the wheat fields made the air pleasantly warm.
“We’ll get set up here,” Jon said, once Mottelson was out of sight. “Get the weapons out of the car and stow them somewhere secure. We may have to go into town and we won’t want the weapons seen when we do.”
“I’m keeping my rifle with me,” Gaby said, flatly.
“God, Gaby,” Kent said, dryly. “Do you sleep with that thing?”
“You’ll never find out,” Gaby countered. She favoured him with a brilliant smile and picked up her bag. “Besides, a gun is a girl’s best friend.”
“I thought that was diamonds,” Anderson said, puzzled. “My ex always used to insist that I buy her diamond rings.”
“Ah, but with a gun, I can take a diamond necklace,” Gaby said. “Did I ever tell you about the time I broke up a gang of looters with nothing, but my sniper rifle and good intentions?”
“Later,” Jon said, as he heard a dull rumble in the distance. It sounded like thunder, yet it came out of a clear blue sky. Perhaps it was a military training flight, or perhaps it was the aliens. They weren’t that far from Charlotte’s farm. A moment later, the truck they’d bought to move their supplies to the farm appeared at the end of the road and started to inch its way up to the farm. “We have some work to do.”
The truck – driven Bruno Lombardi – staggered to a halt outside the farm. Jon had been worried about Lombardi driving the brute of a vehicle on his own, but there hadn't been any other choice, not without attracting suspicion. As they came outside to meet him, the truck’s side-panels started to open up, revealing various items wrapped up securely. Sorting them out was going to be a bitch.
“I nearly got lost off the interstate,” Lombardi said, once they’d exchanged greetings. “It turned out that the GPS wanted me to take a road that the truck couldn't have taken without toppling over. I had to take the long route around and I couldn't call you to tell you that I would be late.”
“No problem,” Jon said. It had been the right decision. If the truck had tipped over, the highway police would have insisted on having a look at the contents and that would have raised a few eyebrows. Strictly speaking, nothing in the van was actually illegal, but someone with an imaginative and suspicious mind would have had no trouble in coming up with a variety of worrying possibilities. It wouldn't be the first time terrorists had attempted to set up a biological research lab on American soil. “We have some cold beer inside and then we can start unloading.”
“Tell me something,” Kent said, as they returned inside. “Who’s paying for all the equipment anyway?”
“I...ah, borrowed it from my employers,” Anderson said. “They won’t miss it, at least for a few months. If we succeed and become heroes, they won’t care about losing it; if we fail, we may have worse problems than accounting for a few million dollars worth of equipment.”
Kent blinked. “And they just let you take it?”
“I talked really fast and called in every favour I was owed,” Anderson said. “I told them that I had a very promising angle of research to follow and that I needed to work in privacy, in the security of my own home. They won’t be too happy if they ever discover just how far I’ve taken their equipment, but they’ll tolerate it. Besides, every other researcher in the college does the same from time to time.”
Jon smiled. Anderson, once he’d reluctantly agreed to help set up precautions for when they trapped an alien or two, had brought everything he could think of to help. There was a portable biological research lab, a set of NBC suits that would protect them from alien germs and infections, a freezer to preserve the dead bodies and a multitude of other devices. Jon suspected that Anderson was being unduly paranoid, but it was well to be careful. If they succeeded in bringing a UFO down, the craft’s hull would be broken and any alien biological material inside the craft might be scattered to the four winds.
Anderson hadn’t just brought safety equipment. He’d brought a set of cameras, remote sensing apparatus and several other devices that might – or might not – come in handy. Jon had warned him to be careful not to bring anything that might emit betraying radiation – after he’d seen the aliens at work, they would surely be more careful when visiting human houses – and to choose devices that were easy to operate. Anderson might not be the one operating them.
It took nearly three hours to unload the truck and move the supplies into the farmhouse. Three rooms were eventually filled with devices and carefully sealed off from the outside world. If Mottelson was any indication, the folk here were friendly and someone might come by to see them, both to meet the newcomers and to learn about them. A single glimpse of some of the items in the sealed rooms would give the neighbours something to chat about for years. They’d also call the authorities. The folk here might be anti-government – Washington made life difficult for smallholders – but they would be staunchly patriotic. If they suspected that terrorists had taken up residence in the farm, they would call the police.
“What a freaking relief,” Kent said, finally. “I hope that someone remembered to bring dinner...”
“Not a chance,” Jon said, dryly. “We have MREs in the car and they will do for us...”
“Bastard,” Anderson said. “What did we do to deserve that?”
“You need to be in the proper mood for dealing with the aliens,” Jon said, as he stood up. “I’ll bring them back in with me. Anyone want anything special?”
Ignoring the shouted suggestions, most of which were biologically impossible, he walked out to the car, picked up the box containing the MREs and carried it back inside. Kent had sorted out the table and pulled out the benches, while Gaby had found the spare cans of beer and was putting them out on the table. It all looked surprisingly homely and Jon found himself missing the days when he and a few army buddies had set off on a private trip somewhere, leaving the cares and troubles of the world behind. He could almost delude himself that the world was normal, yet he knew better. The image of the grey aliens haunted his dreams.
He listened quietly as Gaby told a complex and dirty story involving her experiences in basic training as both a woman and a sniper. Female soldiers were, in Jon’s experience, a mixed bunch. So were male soldiers, of course, but the average male soldier couldn't make a fuss and claim that he had been discriminated against by the army. He could have made such a fuss, yet his final service had been to accept his discharge and leave without fanfare. It seemed harder for women sometimes; a woman who was prepared to use her sex as a weapon could have an easy time in the army, while smearing the reputation of every other female soldier in the unit.
“And you never saw a man look so shocked in his life,” she finished. “In the bucket were a bunch of condoms and in every condom there was a fired cartridge. I guess the safety must have been on.”
Jon had to laugh. Kent chimed in with a story about discovering how many Green Berets could fit into an oversized yacht in the Bahamas. He claimed that the answer was seven. When Anderson pointed out that it was possible to fit more people in a boat, Kent explained that they’d only had seven Green Berets and that they’d had to make up the number with the locals, who had apparently been happy to share the boat.
“You paid them,” Gaby said, snidely. “How else could you have gotten them into the boat with you?”
“I’ll have you know that I have never had any complaints,” Kent said, dryly.
“Yeah,” Gaby countered. “My right hand doesn’t say much to me either.”
Jon started to speak and then stopped. There was an eerie noise in the air, something so quiet that he could barely hear it, yet it was wrong. He stood up and ran over to the window, peering into the darkening sky. To the north, towards Charlotte’s farm, there was...something moving through the air. It moved so swiftly that it vanished before Jon had quite realised that it was there.
“Laugh it up tonight,” he said, grimly. “Tomorrow the real work will begin.”
Chapter Fourteen<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-comfficeffice" />
There are a number of groups that attempt to pressure the government into revealing what it knows about UFOs and alien abductions. So far, the results have been minimal. Believers claim that that is proof that the government knows something that it isn't telling; sceptics claim that the government wouldn't waste its time on fantasies and self-delusion. The silence of the government is, however, worrying. Even if the whole alien abduction belief was self-delusion, it has implications for humanity.
-William Sonnenleiter, Accounts of Abduction, 2015
Washington DC, USA
The Pentagon was the nerve centre of the American military machine – in public – at least; a massive building housing thousands of men and women who directed the military, subject to the orders of the democratic government and the commander-in-chief. Somewhere within its walls – or the hidden layers under the surface – there were thousands of files stored, concealing secrets from the American public and their enemies. David Crawford regarded the building with dubious eyes. He had nothing, but the greatest respect for the Pentagon itself, but he had too much experience with operations that had been wrecked or cancelled because of interference from the uniformed politicians who resided inside the building’s walls. The Pentagon, like the White House, like government buildings around the world, isolated its people from the realities of modern life – and modern war.
It had been two years since he’d last been in the Pentagon, back when he’d been recalled briefly to serve as a consultant on a committee. He hadn't regarded it as a great success. He’d been the only man with actual military experience at the table and the others had thought that they knew much more than they actually did. David had attempted to bring his concerns to their attention, but they’d dismissed him as not having the rank or status needed to force through change. David had given up and walked away in disgust. The only man who’d listened to him was the man he'd come to Washington to visit.
The security guards checked his ID carefully, and then insisted on checking fingerprints and retina patterns before allowing him access to the Pentagon. The Sig Sauer he'd concealed in a holster was confiscated and placed in storage for when he left the building. He might have had clearance for the Pentagon’s outer levels, but he wasn't allowed to go any further until an escort arrived, a Marine Corporal who was limping in one knee. David guessed his story; wounded on active duty, he would have been invited to serve his ultimate superior, the Commandant of the United States Marine Corps. They shook hands, his ID was checked yet again, and then he was escorted through a twisting network of corridors. David had always prided himself on his good sense of situational awareness, but the Pentagon always threatened to defeat him. He was never quite sure where he was going.
He looked down at the tag he’d been given and frowned. The Pentagon might have been staffed by weenies, but at least they took security seriously. Removing the tag would have sounded an alarm, as would trying to enter a high-security area or attempting to escape his escort. It made a certain kind of sense, yet David had no idea how it would work out in practice. Too much security could be as bad as too little.
The Commandant of the United States Marine Corps was normally housed in the Marine Barracks, with his office at Arlington, Virginia. David had expected to meet him there and had been surprised when General Nicolas had invited him to the Pentagon. The General rose to his feet when David entered, reaching out a hand for David to shake. David took it gratefully. Years ago, General Nicolas had commanded David’s unit in combat and the two men had learned to respect one another. It had been Nicolas who had invited David to serve as a consultant after David had retired from the service.
“Sir,” David said, saluting. General Nicolas was short, wiry and as black as the ace of spades. Back in the Iraqi desert, he'd grown a beard and looked quite fearsome; now, he'd shaved his face in accordance with regulations. His hair, which had never been controllable, looked as if it was permanently on the verge of bursting out. “Thank you for seeing me at such short notice.”
“Well, I had a choice between meeting with you and dinner with the Ambassador from Afghanistan,” the General said, as he waved David to a chair. His office was surprisingly bare for a General, although the chances were good that it had just been placed aside for him on his rare visits to the Pentagon. The only decoration was a picture of his wife and twin daughters, with their baby brother in their arms. “I decided that I would sooner shoot the **** with you than spend an hour listening to promises of everything and nothing from the raghead mother****er.”
David decided that he was joking and held up the card he’d printed earlier. It read SECURE ROOM? Nicolas blinked, but nodded, confirming what David had thought. The Pentagon was already fairly secure, yet they would insist on giving the Joint Chiefs of Staff the most secure offices that human ingenuity could design. The only safer rooms would be the black rooms deep underground, isolated from everything.
“I wish I came on personal business,” David said, once he’d returned the card to his pocket. “I need to speak to someone senior and you’re the highest-ranking – and most reliable – person I know.”
“Can the flattery, son,” Nicolas said, sharply. The request for a secure room had stunned him, clearly. “What did you want to talk to me about?”
David pulled out the copy of the video-recording and held it out to Nicolas. “You need to see this,” he said. “I think that it will explain everything.”
He watched Nicolas carefully as the Commandant inserted the datachip into his computer – after isolating it from the Pentagon network – and played it on the monitor. The scene, recorded three weeks ago, played out in front of them. Nicolas watched in disbelief and then looked up at David, surprised. He clearly thought that it was a joke.
“It isn't a joke, sir,” David said, grimly. He ran through a brief explanation of what had happened, leaving out a handful of details. The General didn’t need to know that the Pentagon computers had been hacked, or that a team was in Kansas watching for an alien craft. “I suggest that you take it to someone you trust – someone who can keep a secret – and get it analysed. And, while you’re at it, analyse this.”
He pulled one of the few remaining blood samples from the alien hybrids out of a pocket and placed it on the desk. He’d been surprised that the security guards hadn't insisted on explanations before allowing him to take it into the building, unless – of course – they knew what it was and the entire building was a trap. The situation just bred paranoia. David only trusted General Nicolas because he'd known him for years. If he was an alien hybrid, or part of Majestic, it was hopeless anyway.
“I will,” Nicolas growled, standing up. “You can wait here – my bookshelves are over there, at your disposal. If this is a joke, I swear to you that you will regret it.”
He departed, closing the door behind him. There was no sound of a lock, but David was sure that there would be guards outside, ready to prevent him from leaving. He pulled himself to his feet, walked over to the bookshelves and studied the small collection of books. Nicolas had a surprisingly good collection of paperbacks, mainly detective fiction. It was an odd insight into the man's character and David had to smile. Perhaps Nicolas would help them solve this riddle.
It was nearly an hour before the General returned, by which time David had read through the adventures of Dick Deadeye and started reading a story about Constance Holmes, who claimed to be a descendent of Sherlock Holmes. David guessed, from the General’s face, that the results had been convincing. He just hoped that the General had been careful. If Majestic found out that the blood samples had been analysed in the Pentagon, it would lead them right to Nicolas and then to David himself.
“All right, you bastard,” Nicolas said. “You seem to have landed me with something I can’t explain. What the hell is going on?”
David smiled. “Am I to assume that my samples proved that I was telling the truth?”
“They certainly seem to be out of this world,” Nicolas agreed. He opened a locked drawer and produced an unmarked bottle, filled with a strange yellow liquid. The General poured himself a generous portion and looked a question at David. David nodded and took the drink when it was offered. “I had to tell the analysts that it was a test of their credulity, but I don't think they believed me.”
Nicolas took a swig and looked over at David, who was examining his drink suspiciously. It smelled strong and not entirely pleasant. “My brother’s very own produce,” Nicolas explained. “It will put hairs on your chest.”
David took a sip and winced. “And everywhere else too, I’d bet,” he said. “Do you believe me now?”
“I’ll say that the evidence tends to support your story,” Nicolas agreed. He still sounded shocked, a far cry from the young officer who had to be talked out of leading a charge at the enemy position. “Who took these images?”
“A friend of mine,” David said, evasively. He shook his head and explained. “And now he’s been declared rogue, sir. Whoever is behind these abductions has friends and influence in high places.”
“Like in the Pentagon,” Nicolas concluded. “Who do you suspect? Not me, I assume?”
“No, sir,” David said. If he’d doubted that Nicolas was trustworthy, he would never have risked approaching him. “We believe that it was someone within the National Intelligence Community.”
“Those assholes have been busy lately,” Nicolas said, slowly. “You heard about Van Allan?”
David nodded. Senator Van Allan had been one of the Tea Party candidates for the Senate, elected with a sizable majority and a mandate to cut government spending as much as possible. He’d been staunchly patriotic, clean as a whistle and pro-firearms ownership, which had annoyed someone so much that the Senator had been gunned down from a distance. David had mourned his death, not least because it almost certainly heralded another series of harsh gun control laws and regulations. And Van Allan had been a good politician in a world where few remained untainted by power.
“Yes, sir,” he said.
“Officially, Van Allan was killed by an Islamic terrorist group,” Nicolas said. “The Sons of the Prophet, if you can imagine anyone serving under such a name, were supposed to have claimed responsibility. Unofficially...there are a lot of question marks surrounding him and his activities in Washington. Certain elements from the NIC have been briefing against him, claiming that Van Allan was poking into things he shouldn't have been when he was killed. There are far too many rumours and innuendo; too few hard facts.”
David felt his eyes narrow. “What was Van Allan doing before he was killed?”
“I’m not sure,” Nicolas admitted. “He was a bullish sort of personality and he had a hell of a following, so he managed to get seats on several Senate committees despite being a new representative. I actually briefed him and his committee on Marine deployments to Afghanistan last year and he seemed to grasp the subject matter fairly well, unlike the idiot who asked if we could launch an amphibious attack on Afghanistan.”
“Wonderful,” David said. “We have the finest army, the finest navy and the finest air force in the world and what do we have for political leadership? We have an idiot who doesn't know the meaning of the word amphibious. Didn't anyone tell him that Afghanistan is a landlocked country?”
“Probably someone mentioned it in a briefing once,” Nicolas said. He cleared his throat. “Never mind that for the moment, David; you came here to brief me about this, so I assume you have an idea in mind. What do you want to do about this?”
David winced inwardly. What he was about to propose verged on treason, particularly if they were wrong. He’d been reluctant to approach anyone still on active duty – Crisco had been a necessary exception – because of the conflict it would cause them. Nicolas might just decide that the correct course of action was to arrest the entire Clan and sort it out afterwards. On the other hand, while he’d created the Clan, he had no illusions about the outcome if they had to fight both the aliens and the government. The Clan would be crushed like bugs.
“We believe that the aliens have been operating on Earth for years,” he said, slowly. “They were able to insert their operatives into the intelligence community – operatives who could pass for human – and use them on Earth without arousing suspicion. That’s not a small feat, sir; the Russians had enough problems slipping people into the nation and the Russians are human too. The aliens...are very alien. Logically, they have a number of people within the National Intelligence Community, perhaps within the elected government itself. We have to find those people and root them out before they bring down the entire country.”
Nicolas considered. He hadn't taken his eyes off David’s face. “That leaves us with one interesting point,” he said. “If we do move sharply to expose the aliens, and remove their people on Earth, what’s to stop them invading the world?”
David had considered that question while brainstorming with the remainder of the Clan. “If the aliens wanted to take over, sir, they could have done so easily,” he said. “It strikes me that if they need to be subtle and use infiltrators to take over, they don't have the power to take us by force. We might be able to talk to them and make an agreement, rather than have them abducting our citizens. Perhaps, if we could find Majestic, we might have some idea of what is really going on.”
“Majestic,” Nicolas said, slowly. He frowned thoughtfully. “I’ve never heard of them and I am one of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I wonder how many others in the Pentagon have never heard of them.”
“The original members were largely people who could vanish at a moment’s notice,” David said, slowly. “At least, if we believe the membership logs that leaked out in the eighties. Your fellow Joint Chiefs may be in command of far less than they think.”
“Ouch,” Nicolas commented. “And that leads us to the President. Do you think that he might be an alien infiltrator?”
“I have no way of knowing at the moment,” David admitted. He reached into his briefcase and produced a set of printouts. “Anderson worked these out from the blood samples. We should be able to test everyone once we rework the DNA readers – which should, at least, allow us to freeze out the aliens from the humans. You could gain access to the President and check his blood using the reader...”
“The Secret Service would never let me take it inside the White House,” Nicolas said. He shook his head angrily. “Let me work on that. I’ll come up with a solution – at least, we can test the Marines here and at the barracks. Testing everyone in the Pentagon may take longer, if they’ll let us do it.”
“It might be interesting to see who blocks it,” David agreed. “And, perhaps, you may be able to locate and identify a member of Majestic. And then we can ask him a whole bunch of unpleasant questions.”
Nicolas stood up. “I can't spend more time with you at the moment without arousing suspicion,” he said, slowly. “I’ll drop you an email when I know something...”
David nodded. “I’ll give you the details,” he said. A thought had just occurred to him. “I’ll be back in Washington soon enough.”
***Once he was out of the Pentagon, he hailed a taxi and ordered the driver to take him to a public library, where he accessed the internet and looked up Senator Van Allan’s Washington address. As he had suspected, Van Allan had owned a home in Washington that he’d shared with his family, one that would probably be passed on to his successor. He hailed another taxi and told the driver to take him to the Senator’s house, where he flashed his ID at the maid and explained that he’d been ordered to inspect the Senator’s papers.
“I hope you’re not going to make a fuss about taking them away,” an older voice said. David turned to see Janet Van Allan, the Senator’s widow. She was tall, but bent over by grief, her brown hair tied into a bun. “I had to have the others evicted from the house after they started trying to threaten me.”
“No, definitely not,” David assured her. “I’m working on a theory that the Senator might have been targeted by organised crime and his papers may contain leads to his murderer...”
It was enough for the widow, who showed him to the Senator’s study and opened the safe for him. David started to read through the papers quickly, knowing that the federal officers who had tried to confiscate them might come back at any moment. They’d been safe enough in the safe, but if they knew that a person was reading them...
David had never claimed to be a researcher, yet Van Allan had written in a neat precise hand, without any of the extra verbiage that most politicians seemed to need. The Senator had been bullish, all right, and more than a little objectionable. He’d forced his way onto a dozen committees and turned them upside down. David had to smile, until he reached the final line. It was simple, yet damning. The Senator had, somehow, stumbled over a committee that seemed to do nothing, but absorb vast sums of money and governmental resources.
And the name of the committee was Majestic.
And that, David realised, was why he had been killed.
I am enjoying the stories that you write. Please keep it up.
"Moar!" as they say on other sites. Excellent story.
Might want to change the name of the group from the clan to something else if this is going to go to a wider audience because of the negative view of that term here. People might read the wrong thing into it...
Chapter Fifteen<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-comfficeffice" />
It is not clear why the aliens sometimes show themselves to outside observers and why they sometimes hide. It is quite possible that UFO sightings are accidents, or hoaxes, or sightings of secret military aircraft. It is also possible that UFO sightings are in fact abduction reports, with the witnesses unaware that they had been abducted.
-William Sonnenleiter, Accounts of Abduction, 2015
“I could live here,” Gaby murmured. “I could grow to love it.”
Jon had to agree that she had a point. Charlotte Gains lived in a small, but fairly functional fair. A single house, built for an entire family, dominated a handful of fields, some of which held cattle and sheep. The team had made a stealthy reconnaissance through her fields at night and discovered that most of them were growing barely enough to feed her and her son, while the animals were growing thinner, as if she was unable to feed them. It suggested that Charlotte’s farm was slowly dying; indeed, according to one of the local people Gaby had chatted up, Charlotte’s farm was under threat from bankers who wished to recall the loans and sell the farm to another bunch of yuppie farmers.
It had been several years since he’d set up a covert observation point in enemy territory – and he had to assume that anywhere marked by the aliens was effectively enemy territory – but few of his old skills had deserted him. It was made easier by the fact that Charlotte had no dogs, creatures that might have sniffed out unwanted in intruders, and that her son was kept near the farm house. Jon had spied him from a distance and realised that he was a gravely-contemplative young man, with a demeanour that seemed beyond his years. It wasn't hard to recognise someone who was socially-excluded, even though he was also strong and willing to fight. Out in the countryside, being a bastard son of an unmarried mother still carried a stigma.
Gaby shrugged as she shifted position. The OP was tiny, dug into a small hill and hidden from easy view, but it confined both of the observers to brushing against one another every time they moved. If he’d been heterosexual, Jon was sure that he would have been thoroughly distracted every time Gaby touched him; as it was, Gaby’s insistence on sharing the watch with him wasn't exactly a compliment. Or perhaps it was. The remainder of the team had remained at their base, waiting for something to happen.
“So tell me,” Gaby muttered, as the light started to dim for the fourth day. It had been impossible to predict when the aliens would arrive and the abduction would take place, or even if one would take place. The aliens must have learned that he’d recorded their present in New Jersey and they would be taking extra precautions against observers, particularly ones who might be connected to William. Indeed, it had occurred to Jon that all of his brother’s clients might have been abducted permanently, although it was clear that Charlotte still occupied her farm. “When are the bastards supposed to show up again?”
Jon sighed. Four days was nothing to a Ranger team in the bowels of Afghanistan, the Desert of Death, but to people who had been retired for years the pace was punishing, even though they’d been practicing exercises and building up their strength. It was just a shame that they didn’t dare run proper training routines in the open air. Someone might see them and start to wonder. It hadn’t been that long ago that an American-based farm had been discovered to be hosting an entire terrorist attack cell. And then, none of the others had even seen the aliens. The longer they waited and nothing happened, the more impatient they would become. Perhaps they would even start wondering if someone was playing an elaborate prank and refuse to take it seriously.
“I wish I knew,” Jon said. William had gone through his notes and reported that Charlotte’s abductions seemed to proceed in accordance with her menstrual cycle – which made sense, if the aliens were harvesting her eggs or using her to birth a hybrid child – but there was no way for them to know where she was on her cycle. Walking up and asking her, Jon suspected, would be more likely to lead to a shotgun being waved in his face than in him obtaining any useful information. He’d been forced to consider a data raid on the local doctor’s clinic, but he doubted it would do any good. Charlotte clearly kept herself to herself. He was mildly surprised that she had even managed to consult William. “I’m afraid that the enemy seems to have a mind of his own. That’s why he’s called the enemy.”
“Of course,” Gaby agreed, as she stretched, and then turned back to the monitor. They’d used their nightly visitations to plant a handful of passive sensors around the farm, sensors that were connected to the terminal by monofilament wires. They were extremely difficult to see with the naked eye and surprisingly hard to cut. Perhaps, Jon decided, not all of the CIA’s bright ideas were so bad. The invisible sensors had saved a lot of lives in Afghanistan. “Has it occurred to you that we’re technically breaking and entering? We’re certainly invading her privacy.”
Jon looked up at her, surprised. He wouldn't have expected a sniper to have legal objections to covert observation. “I think it doesn’t matter,” he said, slowly. “I’m already branded a murderer and a rapist. Murder, rape and invasion of privacy…how will I ever get a job with a record like that?”
Gaby giggled, very quietly. “And you don’t wonder if we’re doing the right thing?”
“I think that we have no choice,” Jon said, flatly. “We know that the threat is real, which leaves us with the obligation to do something about it. If we succeed, any small irregularities will be overlooked; if we fail, we will have worse problems than minor criminal charges.”
“Maybe,” Gaby agreed. “How long do you think they’ve been doing it?”
“The aliens,” Gaby explained. “We know they’ve been here since 1947, right?” Jon nodded. “But who’s to say that they haven’t been here for longer? We have plenty of legends of people being abducted by small creatures – we used to call them fairies. The aliens might have been here for years…”
“There’s no way to know,” Jon said, quietly. It struck him as unlikely. If the aliens had been drawing up their plans for centuries, why hadn’t they taken over by now? Or perhaps they had and the entire government was controlled by the aliens, the development of political dynasties a result of alien manipulation. David had been right. The entire situation lent itself to paranoia. “Perhaps we’ll get some answers soon.”
The sun kept sliding down beyond the horizon, casting the final rays of sunlight over the scene. Jon shifted uncomfortably as he heard shuffling noises outside the hide, just before he saw Patrick outside, with two of David’s survivalist friends behind him. Mick and Mack – they’d dared him to laugh when they’d introduced themselves – had been briefed on what the team was doing in the area and had agreed to share the watch and take part in watching Charlotte, from a distance. Jon suspected that they also had ulterior motives. Charlotte was tall, with faded blonde hair and a strong figure kept healthy by hard outdoor work. Perhaps they dreamed of rescuing her from the aliens and convincing her to fall in love with them.
He snorted at the thought. According to the locals, Charlotte lived alone and spurned most attempts at friendship from her neighbours. Gaby, who had admitted to spending time as an unwilling assistant to a Civil Affairs unit in Iraq, had proven surprisingly good at extracting information from anyone who showed the slightest willingness to talk. Apparently, one of the more distant locals had long dreamed of uniting his land and Charlotte’s through marriage and had attempted to win her hand, only to be unceremoniously rejected. Jon could understand why. Unlike Sharon, Charlotte recalled her abductions with startling clarity. If she had a husband, he would be unable to protect her and even being close to her would endanger him.
“Stay quiet,” he hissed. Charlotte’s farm had no inner toilet, just an outside privy. She had a habit of using it when the light started to fade, as if she lived in the eighteenth century. It was a sobering thought. Charlotte could have gone elsewhere, but farmers in Afghanistan or Iraq had no choice, but to remain on the land. Without development, there could be no stability, and without stability, there could be no development. Whatever his differences with the political regulations handed down to the military, he was grateful for having been born in America. The United States was a comfortable and stable place to live. “Where did you park the truck?”
“Same place,” Mack confirmed. “Anderson is watching it now.”
Jon nodded. The countryside was reasonably safe, certainly compared to the inner cities, but the last thing they needed was someone getting interested in what was inside the truck. Discovering the weapons – and medical supplies – would blow their cover completely.
“Pass up some food,” Gaby said, more practically. “I want to eat before we start sneaking back to the farm…”
Jon barely heard her. Somehow – he was never sure how – he was sure that something was dreadfully wrong. He pulled himself up to the slot and peered out again, towards the farmhouse. At first sight, nothing was wrong, and then he looked up. High overhead, the stars were coming out, yet they were twinkling in a strangely familiar pattern. If he hadn’t been watching for anything out of the ordinary, he wouldn't have noticed. There was something up in the air, coming down towards the farm. He felt a strange pressure in his ears and rubbed them as he reached for the binoculars, hissing for the others to remain silent. The aliens were coming.
Carefully, he peered through the scope, trying to get a lock on the alien craft. It was invisible to the naked eye – light just seemed to flow around it, causing the distortion effect – but it showed up clearly when he looked through the modified scope. It manifested as a cold shape in the warm air, a shape that seemed vaguely triangular. He was reminded, helplessly, of the first stealth fighters, but the alien craft was far larger than any of them had been. It was about the size of the largest Jumbo Jet that Jon had ever seen.
“My God,” Gaby said, in disbelief. The invisibility effect was fading away as the craft descended. It was a massive black triangle, moving soundlessly through the night. Even without the invisibility, Jon realised, it would be terrifyingly hard to spot at night, for it betrayed few outward signs of its presence. So low, it wouldn't register on a radar screen even without the alien hybrids that had been inserted into the military. Jon frowned and made a mental note to remember that NORAD’s air defence network would be a good place to start hunting for any infiltrators. “I thought…”
Jon smiled, bleakly. “Do you believe me now?”
The craft didn’t land on the ground. Rather, it hung about a metre from the ground, undaunted by the fences or the sounds of terrified animals. Jon was unwillingly impressed. The British-designed Harrier Jump Jet could hover above the ground, as could various helicopters and tilt-rotor designs, but they required vast amounts of power and made a terrifying noise. The alien craft remained perfectly silent. With such power, Jon asked himself, why would they bother with the abduction program at all? It would be easy to demand that human governments give them abductees at gunpoint.
“Keep filming,” he ordered, sharply. They’d set up additional cameras around the farm, recording the whole scene from a number of different angles. The hidden cable would carry the recording back to a hidden terminal, which could be recovered in the unlikely event of the entire team being captured or killed by the aliens. “Don’t let anything they do take place off-camera.”
“Yes, boss,” Patrick said. Mick and Mack were just staring at the alien craft, shocked beyond measure. This had been taking place in their backyard and they hadn’t known anything about it. “When do you plan to intervene?”
“Soon,” Jon said. “In fact…”
He broke off as orange light flared over the alien craft. A moment later, a stream of light seemed to flow out of the craft towards the farmhouse. It was weird; it moved rather like luminous oil, rather than a laser beam or a gunshot. The house seemed to glow with light, as if it was burning to the ground, but there was no sign of any fire. Jon tensed as a square of white light appeared on the side of the craft, revealing – a moment later – tiny alien figures. They seemed to float down to the ground.
Jon smiled as Patrick broke off. The aliens were advancing now, moving forward in fits and starts, as if they were puppets who’d lost their strings. He’d seen them before, but only when floating through the air; on the ground, he couldn’t help, but notice how differently they moved to humans. Their oversized heads bobbled in the air, leaving him wondering if they ever snapped their necks under the pressure of their heads. It seemed an odd design for evolution, but perhaps it made a certain kind of sense. If the aliens had achieved a level of control of their surroundings that far outmatched what humanity had accomplished, perhaps their physical forms had weakened accordingly.
It reminded him, suddenly, of The War of the Worlds. He’d read the book as a child – he’d hated both of the movies based around the book, mainly because they had very little in common with the book – and the description of the Martians had struck an uneasy chord with him. They’d evolved to the point where they were helpless without their machines – and had died when they drank human blood, catching human diseases, to which they had had no resistance. Perhaps that explained the alien hybrid program. They wanted to colonise Earth, but without preparing themselves first, how could they live on Earth for long? It struck him as odd – he doubted that humans would want to change their physical forms to live on an alien world – yet the aliens were very alien. Who knew what they considered reasonable?
The aliens had reached the farmhouse and paused, studying the door as if they were balked by it. A moment later, the door unlocked and the aliens walked into the house, untroubled by any human resistance. Jon ground his teeth as the orange light seemed to grow brighter, just before the aliens re-emerged, escorting a naked Charlotte Gains with them. The farmwoman looked as if she was in a trance, but the aliens took no chances and held her as she watched. The whole scene was sickening and surreal. The wave of orange light just added an extra air of unreality to the scene.
Patrick poked Jon in the side. “What the hell are they going to do to her?”
Jon shook his head. He’d read William's notes, but few of them made any sense. Charlotte had been put through all kinds of tests, some of which were understandable and others that were beyond his comprehension. What was the point, he’d asked his brother, of making her watch scenes from human experience and then staring into her eyes? William hadn’t been able to answer the question.
“Get the missile ready,” he ordered, as he started to crawl backwards out of the hide. They’d hidden most of their weapons nearby, choosing to carry their pistols alone while in the hide. “Once they return her to her house, we’ll open fire and bring the craft down.”
He hadn’t had a chance to make a thorough study of the craft he’d seen the first time, but now he could see it clearly in the eerie light. It still looked like a fire, leaving him wondering why no one ever saw the light and came to investigate. Or perhaps the light couldn't be seen outside the farm. The aliens seemed to do things that humans couldn’t do, but also things that humans couldn’t understand why they’d want to do them.
The craft was black and featureless. There were no markings on its hull that he could see; indeed, it was smooth, not like a military helicopter or fighter jet. He found himself trying to calculate how many aliens were inside and decided, a moment later, that it was impossible. There was simply no way to know. The flickering light seemed to fade for a moment, and then grew brighter, as if the aliens were playing with them. Jon clenched his teeth as the light seemed to rise to unbearable levels, then faded rapidly – surely someone would see it and come investigate the fire. But no one came. Had the aliens drawn an invisible circle around Charlotte and discouraged investigation or friendship from her neighbours?
He glanced down at his watch as the team slipped into position. Charlotte had been onboard the alien craft for just under an hour. Unlike someone from more populated areas, there would be no time pressure for the aliens, no time when her disappearance might result in uncomfortable questions being asked. He was tempted to open fire when the aliens had her, but that might have resulted in her death. The light changed again and he braced himself. They were transporting her back to her home…
“When they take her inside the house, open fire,” he muttered to Patrick. Apart from the Stinger missiles – they had two, with launchers – there were assault rifles and machine guns. “Gaby; try and trap the bastards inside the house until we bring down the craft…”
“Understood,” Gaby said, shortly. “You want them alive if possible.”
“Yes,” Jon said. Live aliens would be a proof that no one could deny. “Only shoot them if they pose a clear and present danger to us or to her.”
He braced himself as the light shaded back to white, a blinding light that was difficult to face, even with military-issue goggles. “Here they come…”
Separate names with a comma.