Return Engagements: Book Three (Part Twenty Five)

By the time we arrived in Salt Lake City, Admiral Hillenkoetter was being replaced. He wasn’t a particularly bad man; rather, he was run-over by circumstances and didn’t have the guts to walk away from a bad decision. He was, like Bush, worn out and aging ahead of his years. Both of them should have turned down their post-war jobs, but at least Bush walked away from his.

I don’t recall who Hillenkoetter’s replacement was, I heard the name only in passing and didn’t care to focus upon it. And I’m just as glad: the names of those who blindly order and apply violence should be forgotten. (And he did order such things.)

What I do know is that half of the ruling class in the United States, through the Department of State and CIA, wanted to take out Stalin and neutralize the USSR. In fact, they now regretted the elimination of General Patton at the end of the war, when he wanted to go after Stalin immediately. They did get their hands on his plans for the venture, but running it without Patton wasn’t really feasible.

What they failed to appreciate, however, was that another major segment of the powerful were committed to the gigantic, enforced monopolies the Soviet empire could give them. This, in addition to a surprising number of true believers and agents embedded in Washington, provided powerful opposition to the first group.

And so massive in-fighting broke out in Washington DC, complete with a couple of assassinations. Several significant companies were bankrupted in one way or another, and the American populace was falling back into fear. Given that the rebuilding of Europe was being reduced by diverting its money to the construction of alien-type spacecrafts, the post-war boom that I knew was in danger of sputtering out.

At the same time, Stalin was becoming even more unhinged than usual. Moscow was awash in theories of what America and the West were doing. Their agents were calling in the gravest threats, but they did not agree with one another. In typical fashion, Stalin started executing agents whose reports proved false. And so the agents stopped reporting anything significant.

* * * * *

To my deep surprise, our little flotilla pulled into the Latter Day Saints Temple. I’m still no expert on Mormonism, but I knew even then that the temple was restricted not just to Mormons, but to Mormons who had shown themselves worthy.

Nonetheless, we pulled directly in, and were shown to a sort of apartment, complete with our own housekeeper, a lovely middle-aged woman named Mary Smith. Half an hour later a doctor came to examine Vannevar. He pronounced what we all had guessed, that he was simply exhausted.

Once we had slept and were settled in the temple, Bush started talking about his wife. At first I was a bit worried that he was considering illness and death, but that wasn’t it. He was done with his covert mission to find and extract me, and if he couldn’t go home, he wanted to bring his wife to where he was.

I had Mary contact the right people, and within a week, Mrs. Bush… Phoebe… walked into our apartment.

Extracting Mrs. Bush from her house in Massachusetts was a fun story, involving two terrified young missionaries going to nearly every house in her town, arranging for her to meet them at a small airfield, and a very fine plane taking them all back to Salt Lake City. It was her chance to have her own covert mission, and she jumped at it.

Phoebe stayed with us a few days, then she and Vannevar were provided with a small house nearby, under a different set of names. Bush grew a mustache so he wouldn’t be recognized. He wasn’t famous like a ball player or a movie star, but he was famous in several slices of the populace… enough that it could present a problem.

Vannevar and Phoebe settled in to their house for a week or two, and then we started meeting for lunch 3-4 times per week. Eventually I told them nearly all of my story. I was able to evade telling them that they were temporary copies of the original Vannevar and Phoebe, which was the one piece I very much wanted to hold back. In younger and stronger days, I have no doubt than Vannevar could have handled it, but I didn’t want to drop it on him in his present state.

* * * * *

The two apostles called upon me a few mornings later and asked me some very direct questions. The first of them was about the people of other worlds. I told them the basics first, that they were good and benevolent people, with much cleaner and stronger internal lives than our own.

That interested them, but they were more interested in the state of the cosmos.

What,” one of the apostles asked, “did they tell you about the characteristics of the universe?”

I was unsure of what he meant, and so I explained that they had come to help me on my mission, and that most of our conversations were directed toward that end. But I added that they had said nothing about bad or dangerous planets, nor did they seem to be worried that bad beings might interfere with my missions. That bit of information seemed very, very important to the apostles.

So, they described a friendly universe?”

I nodded. “Not in detail, but I’d have to say yes, and they certainly said nothing to indicate otherwise. But they did indicate, repeatedly, that they were all terribly far apart; that travel and communication between them could take centuries.

Then they were immortal?” They both looked at me with wide eyes.

Well…” I was trying to collect my thoughts and explain it as best I could, as best I understood, but they were breathless, literally breathless, in anticipation.

They very certainly enjoy unlimited lifespans.” They started breathing again. “And they had, as best I could tell, absolutely no fear of death, even though they were physical beings like you and I…

They have babies and they can feel all the things we can feel, including pain. Now, they feel the negative things far less than we do, but they are capable of feeling them.”

I went on to note what James told me on my first trip: that while there are some minor differences between us, we could successfully procreate with them.

That sent them almost into orbit, and they closed off the meeting, saying that they’d like me to address their central council in a few days. I said that would be fine, so long as they would please give me some notice; that I needed rest too.

They happily agreed and walked away as sprightly as I’ve ever seen two old men walk.

* * * * *

My second meeting was with the entire Quorum of Apostles, again a very big thing in the Latter Day Saints church. They treated me as a treasured visitor. That was nice, but I couldn’t help thinking that those who overly laud you will also overly hate you, if you step on their dogmas.

Still, I was a living witness, the first living witness, to some of their most cherished beliefs. So long as I could be non-dogmatic about everything else, I’d be fine.

We discussed the concept of a friendly universe, and that we were all one large and massively dispersed family of God’s children.

This meeting, however, lasted nearly all day. Because of their many and pointed questions, I couldn’t avoid explaining that I was from seventy years in their future. That, again, threw them into a crisis, whether or not they should record it all, and whether I thought it would be sacrilegious to do so. I explained that I really didn’t know, and that my mere presence might alter that future anyway.

We ended the meeting and agreed to meet again. Every one of them thanked me very sincerely on their way out of the chamber.

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Paul Rosenberg