Return Engagements: Book Three (Part Eighteen)

The Air Force brass went apoplectic over Dorothy’s column, with the rest of officialdom following. In the column, Dorothy condemned them for lying to the American people, of treating them like minor children, and demanded answers. She went so far as to say they were destroying the credibility they had gained in the war.

The next day, the Chicago Tribune published five photos of the crash site, along with a report on the authenticity of the photo negative they had and a promise of scientific documentation the next day.

The New York World-Telegram followed. It was now a race among them, and all would want more material: both written and physical.

A flock of agents at CIA were thrown at the case, and Admiral Hillenkoetter found the best man he could, pulled him away from his other work, and assigned him to run the search for the missing spacecraft. That man was Vannevar Bush, my acquaintance from the hotel lobby in Albuquerque.

Bush had read the stories, examined the photos in them, and was enthralled. But when he asked Hillenkoetter precisely this was such a security threat, all he got was double-talk. Hillenkoetter and the others were most certainly afraid of it, but he didn’t understand precisely why. Were they afraid that the populace would panic into mass suicide? Were they afraid that the USSR might get it first?

Bush got no clear answer, and he very definitely didn’t want another big job; he was now 57 years old, which was a fairly old man in that era, made all the worse because he he had spent nearly the whole of World War II running around at top speed. Then, in quick succession, Bush had to wind down an agency and setup a new agency. In fact, his new Research And Development Board had opened literally days before. He had spent what felt to him like the last of his energies.

Nonetheless, he showed up where and when requested, and got to work on the problem.

* * * * *

Over the next several days there was as much commotion over this as you might imagine. I wasn’t worried about the searchers finding me or the probe yet, but everyone who broke the story would now be under tight surveillance and quite likely interrogated. And in fact I never heard or saw anything more from the New York World-Telegram. Dorothy, on the other hand, was a pit bull, and so were the team of Mencken, Flynn and McCormick.

As all this was happening, I was enjoying daily conversations with Martin, discussing our world, his world, and other worlds he had known. The truth is that over this period the “saucer crisis,” as it was called, nearly vanished from my mind. Typically we’d get up in the morning, walk to a couple of newsstands (where we picked up papers but didn’t read them), then walk slowly back, getting breakfast somewhere along the way. We never discussed my handling of the probe during those walks.

We were now into October and autumn was in the air. It felt fitting in some way.

Then, as we were in the middle of our morning walk one day, Martin turned to me and said, “I’ll be leaving you shortly,” followed swiftly by, “you’ve been feeling that coming, haven’t you?”

And the truth was that I had. Even though the concept hadn’t reached my conscious mind, I had felt it treading water somewhere behind my thoughts, just a little, and I could somehow recognize the message it contained. I just hadn’t admitted it to myself.

I hope the description above doesn’t sound too obtuse, but that’s how it felt to me. I’ve thought about it quite a bit since then, and I’m convinced that this is terribly common to us, even though we may not quite grasp it. More than likely Martin’s presence helped me recognize it, but I’ve been seeing it since as well. This, I believe, is one of the primary lines of development we have before us. In other words, that’s one of the things that advanced people do routinely, making their lives better and richer.

But I didn’t dig deeply into that for some time. My immediate concern was losing Martin. I wasn’t going to try to change his mind – it was a right and necessary decision on his part – but I’d have to work around it.

How long?” I asked.

Two days or so, I think. But I do have an exit plan that I think will help you a good deal. Would you like to hear it?”

I took a deep breath in order to center myself a bit, then said, “Yes, please.”

All right, then… today I’m going to ride your trains and wander around your city one more time. You’ll go back to your place and write an article to be published by your contacts. I’ll be back around sunset and we’ll have a nice evening. Tomorrow we’ll type out duplicates and go on our morning constitutional. Then I’ll deliver one copy to the Tribune and get on your favorite train to New York… by myself.”

I had the impulse to go with him, of course, but time spent with him had helped me to sort my impulses better and I allowed it to pass.

You’re confident that you can evade the watchers at the Tribune?”

Yes. I’ll have time to recognize them and distract them.”

I muttered an “okay,” and he went on.

Once in New York, I’ll find Mrs. Kilgallen and escort her to her newspaper and be sure the letter makes it into print. That will be a bit harder, since my distraction tricks won’t last terribly long, and so the watchers are likely to understand that something has gone wrong. I expect them to grab me upon leaving the newspaper.”

I noticed my eyes tearing up a little, and Martin noticed, but let it pass without comment.

I’d like to include one more message to them if you approve.”

What’s that?”

I think it would be a good idea to tell them where and when you’ll unveil the probe. This may be the last direct communication you have with them.”

It was perfect strategy, and so I agreed. I had already picked my spot, near Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park, but I needed a specific time. And so I went to my calendar and picked October 17th, giving me six days to get ready. And I chose 8:45 AM, placing the unveiling in a hectic place and moment for Chicago… also one I could get away from effectively.

* * * * *

What Colonel McCormick got a scientific report on was a piece of optical fiber. He had taken it to the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) and ordered a rushed analysis. It showed “a novel arrangement of concentrically layered glass of differing densities, the effect of which is to restrict a beam of light to the core and exhibiting total internal reflection, even when the arrangement is substantially bent.” It went on to say that this was an unexpected and major advance in signal transmission.

The report from IIT (which McCormick commented upon at some length) ran the same day that Martin delivered my article.

Two days later, the Tribune ran the entirety of my article, beginning on the front page, as did Dorothy’s paper, the New York Journal-American. From there, many others picked it up, worldwide, and as well as many radio broadcasts. And, surprisingly to me, the newspapers and radio stations stuck with the story.

The article stated that I, a US citizen having no affiliations with any other governments, fell into this story accidentally, and that I want not only Americans, but all men and women of good faith, to know the truth of this, because it will help us understand our place in the universe.

I went on to say that as outlandish as it sounded, I had met people – and I stressed that they were “people” and not “aliens” – from another world… the world that created the crashed spacecraft. I especially noted that the man I knew wept upon learning that his planet’s probes were making us think our galaxy was a disturbing and threatening place.

The article probably wasn’t much over a thousand words (you had to count manually in those days, and I didn’t). In it, I tried to make a just few central points very clearly. I twice mentioned what Jim and Robert told me on my very first visit, that we and the other worlds are all one big family. I promised to write more and even to answer questions, provided that I wasn’t abducted by the US government. Finally, I said that I was donating the probe in my possession to the American people, and that I would do so soon. It would be their job to not let it be stolen from them by officialdom.

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Paul Rosenberg