Undisclosed, page 23
“—using a scalar wave-based targeting device, which can not only lock on to and track them, but with a bit more juice, it can also vaporize them … poof!” Ian crushed the copper ET in his fist, handing it to Jessica.
“Easy Ian,” Rachel said. “Maybe she didn’t know?”
Lukas held his guinea pig up to his ear. “Hmm … Mr. Nibbles says you’re a brilliant engineer but a bad liar. Any post-graduate physics major knows the only difference between a scalar tracking device and a scalar weapon is the strength of the wave. And … you … just … lobbied … Council … for … more … power,” he said, pretending his pet was speaking
Chris Mull nodded. “The ‘Rodent Whisperer’ speaks the truth. You and the douche bags at Lockheed conjured up that whole wobble story in order to justify equipping each SAT with a nano-crystal zero-point-energy generator. With a device that powerful, you could take down that big mothership parked out by Saturn.”
“Jupiter.” Lois Stern groaned, coming up from her yoga pose. “Anyway, I seriously doubt the Interstellars will allow anything that powerful in orbit.”
Ian retorted, “They won’t know, Lolly, until Zeus starts picking them off like a game of Asteroids. MAJI is setting us up for a war mankind is clearly instigating and can’t possibly win. This whole thing is insane.”
“Then quit!” Jessica snapped, silencing Ian, as well as several cross-conversations. “I’m serious, if you don’t want to be here—resign. That goes for any one of you. If MAJI’s politics don’t suit you, then come and speak to me in private and I’ll transfer you to a job designing widgets.”
She gazed around the break area, all eyes now locked on her. “As I said before, having never met any of these purported species, I have no reason to like or hate them, and the last thing I want is to start a war. But I’m an engineer and a physicist and I was hired to do a job. As far as jacking up the juice on the Zeus SATS … yes, Lockheed’s engineers made it clear that change was necessary. Does that mean I’m happy about placing a scalar device, powered by an advanced ZPE device, aboard these satellites? Hell, no. But no one asked me my opinion when I signed up for this gig and they’re not asking for it now. As for initiating a war, the Air Force has been using scalar waves to shoot down these interstellar craft since 1947. Maybe the array’s threat alone will be enough to convince our out-of-town guests to shut down their bases on the far side of our moon and go annoy some other Type-Zero civilization.
“But it’s not our job to question Council’s motives. My mother was a scientist working on a USAP back when the entity was still calling itself MJ-12. She taught me long ago never to discuss politics with anyone on the inside or outside because there’s always another perspective you can’t see from your limited scope in history. What if the American team working on the atomic bomb back in 1943 had taken the time to debate the ethics of killing tens of thousands of innocent Japanese men, women, and children? If they had, the delay might have allowed Hitler’s scientists to finish their bomb first and we’d all be speaking German. As scientists, it’s our job to provide our military with options; after that, all we can do is pray the powers that be know what the hell they are doing.”
Her fists clenched, Jessica waited for what she anticipated would be an in-her-face rebuttal.
Instead, her staff shocked her by applauding.
Ian Concannon was among the loudest. “None of us want a war with the Interstellars, Doc. To be honest, the whole thing freaks us out. But it’s like you said, each of us was recruited to do a job; now we just want to get it over with and go home to our families.”
Jeffrey nodded. “Your predecessor was a good guy, but he took his work home with him, if you know what I mean.”
She didn’t, until Sarah clarified the statement.
“In dealing with UFOs and ETs, the wonderment of working with cutting-edge science comes with a harsh price. Constantly having to lie about what we do to our loved ones can cause emotional stress. The suicide rate among subterranean techs working on interstellar-related USAPs is over thirty-five percent.”
Jessica turned to Sarah, “How do we requisition twenty of the advanced zero-point-energy devices?”
“That’s Ian’s department.”
“I’m on it. Ladybug. Has Jessica seen the chariots?”
“Not yet. Why don’t you get Dr. Marulli a vest and show her.”
“The chariots?” Jessica turned to the engineer who was sorting through a selection of anti-gravitics vests and helmets hanging from hooks along the partition.
“Trust me, you’ll enjoy this.” Estimating her size, he held out a small vest for Jessica to slip her arms through. “Have you ever worn one of these?”
“I didn’t know they existed until fifteen minutes ago.”
He snapped the three horizontal straps in place, pulling them snugly across her chest. “The Hive’s large enough, but as you’ll see in a moment, this entire Atlas launch facility spans miles, making these vests invaluable. Ah, who am I kidding; we love using them. Inside the back of the vest is a ZPE unit. When you want to go weightless turn this gauge here,” he pointed to the small knob by her left shoulder. “That will cause a high-voltage charge to strike the zero-point-energy field, creating an anti-gravity bubble around you and up you’ll go.”
“How do I steer?”
“That’s a little bizarre. Put this helmet on, then think the direction you want to go, and you’ll go in that direction.”
“That’s how the Interstellars do it.”
Her heart pounding with adrenaline, Jessica secured the helmet’s chin strap in place and then turned the gauge by her left shoulder to the ON position.
A vibration rose from the bottom of her feet and up through her spinal cord, the sensation tickling her nose as she shed the gravitational forces of Earth and rose off the floor, giggling.
“Oh wow … I could definitely get used to this.”
Securing his own vest and helmet in place, Ian joined her, the two engineers thirty feet above the group, Jessica banking from side to side to get used to sensation of being weightless.
“I love this! I feel like a bee in a hive.”
He held out his hand and she took it, allowing him to tow her to the west end of the lab. Picking up speed, they soared over the satellite stations, quickly approaching the curved wall of a dead end.
When it appeared that he had no intention of slowing down, Jessica tried to jerk her hand free. “Let go! What are you doing?”
Seconds from impact, a section of the honeycomb-shaped panels parted like an expanding ripple on a pond and they flew through the dark opening.
“Oh my …”
The tunnel was immense, its ceiling easily thirty stories.
Perched upright on mobile launch pads were twenty Atlas-V rockets, each unmanned craft towering 191 feet tall. The rockets and their vehicles ran the length of the subterranean facility, which disappeared in the distance.
“Impressive.” She realized Ian was still holding her hand. “You can let go now, Dr. Concannon. And I don’t appreciate you scaring me like you did. Next time tell me the walls are sensor-activated.”
“Anything else you think I should know?”
“I meant about this facility. I’m guessing the ceiling sections beneath each launch pad are retractable?”
“And where are they retractable to?”
“I meant the base location. Where the hell are we?”
“I don’t know. The consensus among the group is somewhere in the Mid-West.”
She continued on, flying over one Atlas rocket after the next, each launch station deserted, a series of blinking red lights framing the darkness ahead.
Ian caught up to her before she flew through the lit passage, grabbing the crook of her arm as she soared over the last ve
“Let me go!”
“You can’t go beyond the red lights!”
She stopped struggling. “Why not?”
“We’re not authorized.”
“Not in an anti-gravitics vest. See those red warning lights? Fly past that boundary while you’re inside a zero-point-energy bubble and you’ll be hit by an electromagnetic pulse. Before you know what happened, you’ll strike the concrete like a bug on a windshield.”
Jessica squinted, staring ahead into the pitch. “What’s out there?”
“I don’t know, and I’m not supposed to know.”
She hovered another thirty seconds, her eyes unable to pierce the darkness beyond the blinking red square of lights. “What happens if we land and try to walk past that boundary?”
“I’m not sure what they’ll do to you, but a bunch of nasty Delta Force commandoes armed with M-16s will have me lying spread-eagled on the ground, and it won’t be a pretty sight. Can we go back now?”
* * *
Jessica held on to her seat’s support pole as Elevator-7 zigged then zagged horizontally before plunging two stories to Level-5. As the doors thankfully opened and her anxiety eased, she recalled the fear in Ian Concannon’s voice as they had hovered in the darkness over the last Atlas rocket.
From that juncture on, the engineer had referred to her only as Dr. Marulli.
What was he so scared of? We weren’t going to fly beyond those lights—
She waved to Kirsty Brunt as she headed for the catwalk leading to her suite.
Maybe he was afraid we’d see something we weren’t supposed to see?
Jessica glanced to her left as Logan LaCombe shot past her on his hoverboard. “Hey, you. I thought you were afraid to speak to me?”
He circled back. “I’m not afraid.”
“Are you sure? After all, I am Cosmic Clearance.”
The teen smiled nervously. “I’m sure. I mean … it’s not like I did something wrong.”
“Well, I almost did something wrong. Are you familiar with Level-3?”
“No. But my Dad sometimes works there. “What’d you almost do?”
“I almost flew through a restricted area wearing an anti-gravitics vest. A coupla more seconds and I would have gone splat.”
“Geez. What part of Level-3 were you at?”
“The launch site.”
“Cool. Did you see any ARVs?”
“What’s an ARV?”
The teen’s complexion paled. “I don’t know. You’re the one with Cosmic Clearance … what is it?”
“Gotta go, Dad wanted me to pick up stuff at the mall for dinner. Laters …”
“Logan, wait … I’m just messing with you. I know what it is—”
She watched as he cut an S-pattern across the fastest section of the Maglev track, disappearing down the transit corridor.
Curiouser and curiouser …
Virginia Beach, Virginia
THE FOUR-BEDROOM TWO-STORY brick house with the candy-apple-red shutters was located on Broad Bay Island. It was not a huge property by any means, but the community was gated and every owner had their own private dock.
Adam arrived at his brother’s home just after six o’clock. He was greeted at the door by his sister-in-law, Melinda.
“Ah, come on … I was here for Christmas.” He leaned in for a kiss and entered the foyer. “Something smells good.”
“It’s called leftovers. Randy told me you were coming for dinner about an hour ago.”
“My fault; last minute change of plans.” He followed her to the family room where his niece and nephew were engaged in a video game.
“Jordan, Sean … look who’s here.”
“Hey, Uncle Adam.”
Neither teen looked up.
Adam smiled. “Adolescence, my favorite years. Where’s Randy?”
* * *
The boat was a 37-foot Post Sport Fisherman which legally held up to twelve passengers, though Adam recalled his brother squeezing twice that many on board at the Super Bowl-LI party. The captain was out on deck with a hose, cleaning out his fish holds.
“Permission to come aboard?”
Adam swung his right leg over the port rail, followed by his prosthesis, careful not to slip on the wet deck. “They biting?”
“Caught some Rockfish early this morning. Why don’t you grab us a few beers; I’ll finish up and join you inside.”
Adam entered the salon, heading forward past the L-shaped dinette to the galley. Reaching inside the refrigerator, he removed two cans of Budweiser—
—only to be yanked backwards by the collar of his windbreaker and pinned against the stove top, his metallic left foot fighting for balance.
“Easy, slick … that’s a new jacket.”
“Do I look like I give a fuck? A few months in office and you’re calling for an internal investigation of the Pentagon? Who do you think you are? Joe McCarthy?”
Adam pushed his older sibling back. “I found evidence of improprieties and presented it to my boss. Is that a problem?”
“When I get called out of a meeting on Capitol Hill to be told my younger brother’s accusing two of our biggest defense contractors of criminal activity—yeah, that’s a problem.”
“So is informing the Secretary of Defense that he doesn’t have a need-to-know about a defense-funded project when he makes an inquiry.”
“Just because a project is compartmentalized doesn’t make it illegal, Adam.”
“If the president, congress, and the Secretary of Defense have no clue they exist while billions of dollars are flowing through them to God-knows-where, I’d say they were illegal. And don’t tell me my fucking job! I need you to step up and do yours.”
“Okay, Mr. Under Secretary … present your case.”
Reaching into the interior jacket pocket of his windbreaker, Adam removed the folded copy of his report and handed it to his brother.
“Royal Ops … Cosmic Ops … Maj Ops? How would you even know what these projects are? Most of the stuff you handled at Kemp was way above your shitty little douche-bag clearance.”
“There still has to be a paper trail if funds are coming out of the U.S. Treasury.”
“Not if they’re being funded by the CIA.”
Adam felt his face flush. “Is that conjecture or fact, Senator?”
“Let’s just say I recognize a few acronyms.”
“Who told you about MAJI? Steven Greer?”
“You spying on me, Randy?”
“Just doin’ my job as big brother.”
“Boy, if that’s not a Freudian slip.” Adam pushed past him and flopped onto the wrap-around couch. “Are you a gatekeeper?”
“Fuck you and your conspiracy theories. I don’t have time for this bullshit.”
“Eighty to a hundred billion taxpayer dollars a year in Unacknowledged Special Access Projects? As Head of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I think you’d better make the time.”
“Is that a threat, Adam?”
“I don’t threaten family. But I’m also not going to shit in my pants like the Defense Secretary did this morning. That copy of my investigation you have in your hand—it’s addressed to Senator Hall, not Secretary Denny. Consider my report officially submitted.”
Randy glanced at the first page. “Son of a bitch …”
“So what happens now?”
“Now? Now you get the fuck off my boat.”
His heart pounding, Adam left the unopened beer on the coffee table and exited the salon to the stern. Climbing over the rail, he limped across the pier, following it around the two-story red brick house to his car.
“It’s me. I’d say we have a problem.”
* * *
Adam arrived at the five-story apartment building at 9:47 p.m. Parking in his reserved spot in the private lot, he turned off the engine, grabbed the still-hot pizza box, and exited the car. He hobbled to the front entrance and keyed in, never noticing the black Ford Mustang that had been following him over the past eight hours as the driver parked across the street.
* * *
Apartment 208 was a one-bedroom dwelling on the second floor, the view from its living room balcony overlooking the parking lot and the dumpster poised beneath the building’s garbage chute. While the view and its associated trash collection sound effects were less than desirable, Adam had signed the two-year lease because he liked the fake hardwood floors, affordable rent, and the building’s location, which was within walking distance of a 24-hour gym and the Metrorail’s Greenbelt Station. Having all but moved in with Jessica, it was rare that he ever used the apartment or the gym. He was only here tonight because the Skype call with his fiancée was scheduled for 10:00 p.m. EST and he didn’t want to miss it.
A musty scent greeted him as he opened the door and turned on the lights. The living room was just large enough to hold a couch, coffee table, and a recliner. Chocolate-brown drapes had been left drawn to cover the balcony’s sliding glass doors. To his left was a small kitchen, to his right a short hall which led to a bathroom and his bedroom.
Piled behind the sofa were cardboard boxes filled with his personal office belongings and two prosthetic devices he had been working on before he had resigned from Kemp Aerospace.
Tossing the pizza box onto the coffee table, he hurriedly relieved his bladder and washed his hands and face, the cool water reviving him a bit. He looked as tired as he felt, but he missed Jessica, and the call was important.
Duane Saylor, Steven Greer’s attorney, had explained it when the two had met in his Maryland office earlier that afternoon.
“A Dead-Man’s Trigger only works if the people who are a threat to kill you know it exists, and are convinced the information that will be released upon your death is far worse than anything you can deliver alive. When is the press conference scheduled?”
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