Return Engagements: Book Three (Part Twenty)

I was blissful as I drove past and away from Downtown. I felt light and free. My letter had been published, I had delivered the probe to the people of Chicago, and it had become an event. The important things had been done. I had money, knowledge, and 18 months to spend as I wished.

It wouldn’t be quite as simple as that, of course. I still had follow-up work to do and I knew the Feds would be after me, but the heavy lifting had been done and I felt great about it. Truth be told, I felt like I had as a teenager, taking my mom’s car out for the first time, going wherever I pleased and seeing whatever I liked.

I went west all the way to Route 83, then north. The road was vastly less built up than it had been even in the 1970s, but that was nice too. I didn’t even turn on the radio to hear the events I had caused. I wanted to prolong my “young and free” feeling as long as it naturally lasted.

* * * * *

I stopped at a roadside place in Antioch (in northernmost Illinois) for lunch, as my teenage feelings subsided. After lunch I continued north into Wisconsin, then west to Lake Geneva. My energy was fading and Lake Geneva had long been a vacation spot for the rich of Chicago; it was a fitting place for a prosperous businessman to stop for the evening.

I took a nice room at a nice hotel, then walked through town, ending up on a bench next to the lake as the sun declined. I felt tired but happy… satisfied, really. I also felt that Martin’s influence was substantially to thank for it, and so I said a sort of thanksgiving prayer.

I slept comfortably that night, but I couldn’t escape the feeling that someone looking for me was intelligent, and that he’d be relentless. It was the next morning that I saw in a newspaper that the man was Vannevar Bush. I smiled, knowing that my opponent was a worthy one. Come what may, this man was not a maniac, he was an engineer down to his core.

* * * * *

And so, as I sat at breakfast, I wrote a letter to Vannavar Bush, care of the Central Intelligence Agency. I found myself using nice block letters, the kind draftsmen use on blueprints. (Which were still actually blue in those days.) I told him that I appreciated having an honest man chasing me, and that if there were any questions he’d like to ask me directly, he should place them in a New York Times classified ad, addressing “Mr. Nakamoto.”

After that I checked out of the hotel, filled my car with gas, then drove back to the lake and parked in a quiet spot. I had absolutely no plan on where to go next. Fairly quickly, I decided to wander westward toward Minneapolis. It was a pleasant part of the country, pretty in the fall, and generally quiet. I finally turned on the car’s radio as I drove, bouncing between whatever stations I could find.

What surprised me was the quality of radio coverage “the saucer” was receiving. There were interviews with theologians, some of them excellent, others with science professors, and even a quote from Einstein, who expressed his desire to examine the craft. There were no reports of people freaking out, War of The Worlds style, and a lot of serious inquiry. What remained uncertain that day was the status of the spacecraft itself. Chicagoans, en masse, had flooded Grant Park to see it. First, hundreds of cars simply pulled over and parked to see what all the commotion was. Then the news reached one of the office buildings on Michigan Avenue; telephone calls were made, and within minutes nearly all the downtown office buildings emptied into the park.

The Feds never really had a chance to get their prize out quickly. A handful of agents tried to keep people away, but people kept disgorging from their cars and squeezing in. In the face of that, the agents were powerless. Policing is always a bluff, of course, and this one was overcome by simple curiosity.

Then, when police wagons were called in, they couldn’t get within a few blocks, and by that time there were probably five or ten thousand office workers pushing toward the craft. All the cops could do was to maintain order, and the crowds were willing to let them do that much.

Everyone with a camera wanted a photo, of course – this was a real flying saucer, after all – and the crowd barely thinned at night.

The third day, after endless calls for everyone to go home were ignored, the Mayor announced that if the crowd pulled back, the saucer would be taken down the street to the Museum of Science And Industry in Hyde Park, where it could be examined by scientists and where it could afterward be viewed by the public. To that people agreed, and despite a crowd that kept coming (from other states and even other countries), several days later the craft was moved, with a large “citizen’s convoy” following.

* * * * *

I tried to let my mind float on the meaning of people’s reactions to the probe as I drove on quiet roads toward Minneapolis. The people of my world, regardless of their many unfortunate inheritances and weaknesses, handled a real alien artifact like champs. Something about the concept seemed to draw them up rather than down. That warmed me. After a while I went looking for classical music rather than news on my radio and found a bit. I felt almost transported as I drove.

Later in the day, I made it to Minneapolis and checked into the Radisson for an uncertain stay. I got a nice room, had dinner, and walked around the block before turning in. It had been a nourishing day.

* * * * *

The agents working for Vannevar Bush had, two days after the unveiling, found my apartment and my garage. They examined everything, of course, but the only thing of value they came away with was that I was driving a Buick Super with Illinois plates. That was significant. Agents were dispatched to Springfield to find the records on the car and track me that way.

When buying the car I was able to avoid having the details of my drivers license recorded (I wrote them in myself, incorrectly). Nonetheless, these people were serious and capable; I bought myself time with my misinformation, but them finding the car (and me if I was still in it) was a matter of when, not if.

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Paul Rosenberg