Return Engagements: Book Three (Part Seven)

By late June I was getting anxious. I had spent days at a time writing out everything I could remember and cross-checking with then-available information as best I could, but there were large gaps, especially concerning the timing of the crash… and apparently the crashes.

I had identified two nice places to hide our big delivery truck so it couldn’t be seen from the road, and there was scarcely a place anywhere along the route where we’d have difficulty cutting through the fencing. This was a very remote area.

Still, I knew that the actual impacts happened in early July, but whether it was the first, second or third, I didn’t know. And there were apparently two crash sites. I knew more or less where each was, but not precisely; that’s why I brought a small motorcycle, as well as a couple of walkie-talkies, which were big, clunky things in those days.

The thing that bothered me most, I think, was that I’d be spending time again with Renn. That’s odd to say, since I considered time with him one of the greater gifts I’ve been given. But being with such as advanced person is not easy: not only do you become hyper-observant (which is tiring), but the things they surprise you with upset your interior universe. To put it into simple (and I think quite accurate) terms: they make you rewire your brain, on the fly, and while needing to run that brain at top speed all the while. I know that sounds odd, but it is odd… odd and deeply taxing.

And so, through the second to last week of June I exercised unusually hard, and through the last week I did my best to recover and relax. A season of “weirdly draining” was about to hit me, and I needed to be ready. I expanded my anti-homesick routine over that last week also.

* * * * *

The US government was, at this time, in a state of flux. Truman had taken over from Roosevelt, the war was over, thousands of soldiers were coming home, and whole departments were closing. But at the same time, new departments like the CIA were being created. Vannevar Bush was flying in and out of Albuquerque while shutting down a war agency called the Office of Scientific Research and Development.

It didn’t take me long to realize this state of flux once I was immersed in 1947. Even though I avoided most “news,” the fact was everywhere to be seen. It was, I think, as good a situation as I could have asked for.

One near certainty I faced in my planning was that the US government would, before long, be searching for me and hoping to eliminate me. I was as sure as I could be that Renn and I would succeed in recovering one of the spacecrafts, and I was certain that I wanted the world to understand that we were not alone in the universe, and that others in the galactic area had noticed our nuclear weapons.

And so, if they wanted to eliminate all evidence from Roswell, I had to plan on them wanting to eliminate me, along with all the evidence I would possess. For that reason, a US government in flux was most welcome.

* * * * *

On cue, Renn showed up in my Flamingo suite the morning of June 28th. It was good to see him again. I was ready for him this time, and so being with him didn’t drain me as much as it had in March.

We enjoyed a nice breakfast at the Flamingo, then drove to the local driver’s license facility. Getting me a license would eliminate a pesky risk, and Renn wanted it out of the way. (It was a good thing we went early since the facility was taking applicants only until noon.) I sat with Renn in the waiting area and explained the process. Then, when our number was called, he went rather than me. I couldn’t see precisely what he did, but he played the same type of mind tricks that Robert and James had used on my first trip to a past world. In any event, I walked out with a drivers license. After that we drove by my rented building. But, Renn was tired and we didn’t stay long.

The next morning we began working. We went back to 20th Century Photo, where I handed Renn a folder containing our complete plan, and where we spent the rest of the day going over it, manually testing all the equipment, and loading everything for departure the next morning.

As we got back to the hotel, I made a point of telling my concierge that I’d be gone for several days, so they didn’t worry.

On June 30th, we left the hotel very early, pulled our truck out, pulled the car in, and hit the road, headed for Albuquerque. That would be our base until this was over and we were on the road back to Vegas. But rather than staying at the nice hotel in town (where our rough delivery truck would stand out), we stayed at a “motor lodge” on Route 66, to the east of town; the kind of place where truck drivers stayed. Accordingly, we dressed-down for the mission.

Albuquerque was still some distance from the crash sites (150 miles, give or take), but there really weren’t suitable places any closer; as I said earlier, this was a very remote area. Still a 2-3 hour drive from the hotel to our roadside hiding place was manageable. What really mattered was getting away after finding and loading the spacecraft, and familiarity with the riskiest road was a good thing.

* * * * *

Renn and I didn’t get to our motor lodge till late morning on July 1st, a Tuesday. We drove intermittently on Monday, simply because we were going through a hot desert in the summer. We drove all morning, took a break when it got hot, took short drives from truck stop to truck stop, then drove a bit further as evening fell. We stopped early enough to get a long night of sleep. We wanted to reserve all our energy for the way back.

That evening we drove all the way to our hidden spot and waited. We sat in our truck with the windows open, swatting bugs, and scanning the northeastern skies with binoculars. Nothing happened, and only three cars passed us the whole time. At dawn we restarted the truck and drove back to Albuquerque.

We did accomplish one useful thing in the morning as we drove back: There was a hill just north of our spot that allowed us to overlook several miles of land; that allowed us to draw a reasonably good map of all the fence lines we could see. Our plan for the night of the 2nd/3rd was to take out the motorcycle and scout the area. Knowing where the fences were would be crucial for that.

Soon enough, however, we were on our way back to our motor lodge, where we slept as much as we could and ate as well as we could.

The next night, between Thursday and Friday, it happened. We were back in our hiding place not long after sunset, and about three hours later, the northwestern sky lit up. Merely seconds later we felt, then heard, an impact.

I was getting ready to pull out the motorcycle, drive to the crash site, then call for Renn and the truck. But when I looked to Renn for a head nod, he gave me an expression, telling me to wait.

A few seconds later (it seemed longer within the circumstances), he said “No. You drive south and I’ll watch the skies very carefully.”

Okay…” I said, rather pointedly requesting some elaboration.

With his eyes fixed on the sky to the west and north, he explained that the light we saw was from the probe’s propulsion system, akin to what we’d call retro-rockets. The way it became visible in out atmosphere told him that the probe (or, he thought, probably two probes) were coming in far too hot, and that there wouldn’t be much sizable debris left from such a crash. It also meant that the next crash was overwhelmingly likely to be to the south of us. (It was clear to us that the crashed probe or probes came from the north.)

Go as fast as you can,” he said. The road was dark and abandoned and the surface wasn’t too bad, but I had been driving slowly over concern for wildlife. “Okay,” I said, and sped up a as much as I thought I could.

Just seconds later, the sky lit up again, but this time less bright and longer. Renn followed it with rapt attention, then pulled the binoculars to his eyes without ever moving their focus from the crash area. The crash was less noticeable this time, but it didn’t matter, Renn was fully focused. Shortly I found out that he was memorizing landmarks – rises and trees here and there – so we could get to the crash site as expeditiously as possible.

We drove for almost an hour, with Renn’s attention entirely focused out his window. Then, he said, “Slow down a little.” I did.

A minute or two later, as I headed up a long, slow hill, he said, “Cut your lights after you crest the hill and pull off the road.”

I did as he asked, and as soon as we stopped, he handed me our pair of wire cutters and more or less pushed me out of the truck. “Cut me an opening,” he said.

I ran to the fence, cut all the strands, then pulled them out of his way. He drove the truck through and stopped just long enough for me to get back in. We weren’t wasting any time.

Scan forward and to the right,” he ordered, and so I did.

I pointed out a ridge that could have been a bluff. He routed to his left (more or less south) to get past it and we continued. I’d say we drove twenty miles in all. He stopped a few times to get his bearings (standing with one foot on his seat and the other on the opened door) and we had to cut three or four more fences along the way. But within an hour we found our spot, and there was no indication of anyone else about.

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Paul Rosenberg