Doherty, Robert. Area 51


It came alive into darkness, wondering what had caused it
to wake and aware at the same time that it was much
weaker than ever before. The first priority was time. How
long had it been asleep? The weakness gave the answer.
Dividing half-lives of its power source, it calculated that
almost fifty revolutions of this planet around the system
star had passed since last it had been conscious.
  The data from sensors was examined and found to be
indeterminate. Whatever signal had tripped the alarms and
kicked in the emergency power had to have been strong
and vital but was now gone. Its sleep level had been so
deep that all the recorded data showed was that there had
been a signal. The nature of the signal, the source of the
signal, both had been lost.
  The Makers had not anticipated such a long time before
resupply of the power source. It knew there was not much
time left to its already very long life before the power sup-
ply slipped below the absolute minimum to keep it func-
tioning even in hibernation.
  A decision needed to be made. Should it divert power to
sensors in case the signal were repeated, or should it go
back to deep sleep, conserving power for time? But if the
signal had been vital, and the sensor log said it was indeed
so, then there might not be much time left.
  The decision was made as quickly as the question had

                                          P R O L O C U E

been posed. Power was allocated. The sensors were given                                                                  1
more power to stay at a higher alert status in order to catch
a repeat of the signal. A time limit of one planetary orbit
about the system star was put on the sensors, at which time
they would automatically awaken it and the decision could
be reconsidered.
  It went back to a lighter sleep, knowing that the decision
to divert power to sensors for an orbit would cost it almost
ten orbits of sleep when the power got lower, but it ac-
cepted that. That was its job.

                                                                 NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE
                                                                 T-147  HOURS

                                                                 The grocery bag Kelly Reynolds was holding ripped open
                                                                 as she unlocked her mailbox and a twelve-pack of Diet
                                                                 Coke burst open on impact with the ground, sending cans
                                                                 everywhere. It had been that kind of day, she reflected as
                                                                 she gathered in the errant cans. She'd spent it interviewing
                                                                 local bar owners on Second Avenue for an article she was
                                                                 writing, and two of her five appointments had failed to
                                                                   She stuffed the mail into the remnants of the bag and
                                                                 made her way to her apartment, dropping the entire mess
                                                                 on the table in her tiny kitchen. She filled a mug with water
                                                                 and pushed it into the microwave, setting the timer, then
                                                                 leaned back against the counter, giving herself the two
                                                                 minutes before the beeper sounded to relax. She studied
                                                                 her reflection in the kitchen window, which looked out
                                                                 onto a back alley in Nashville's West End. Kelly was short,
                                                                 just over five feet, but big boned. She carried her weight
                                                                 well thanks to her morning routine of sit-ups and push-ups,
                                                                 but the combination of bulk and lack of height made her
                                                                 look like a compressed version of a person who should be
                                                                 four inches taller. Her hair was thick and brown, streaked
                                                                 with gray for the last ten years. Kelly had made the effort

                                ROBERT DOHERTY                   AREA 51
2                                                                                                                                 3

to keep the original color for a year or so, then had given      audiocassette fall out along with several pages. She picked
up, accepting what time had dealt her after forty-two years      up the cover letter and read.
on the planet.
     The microwave dinged and she removed the mug and              Hey Kelly,                                       3 Nov 96

placed a tea bag into it, allowing the water to soak through.
While she was waiting for that, she pulled out the mail,             I was trying to think of who to send a copy of this
interested most in the thick brown envelope that she'd no-         tape to, and you were the first name that popped into
ticed as the cans had fallen. The return address made her          my head--especially after what happened to you eight
smile: Phoenix, Arizona. It had to be from Johnny Sim-             years ago with that joker from Nellis Air Force Base in
mons, an old friend from her graduate days at Vanderbilt.          Nevada.
Actually, more than an old friend, Kelly reminded herself            I got a package in the mail last week that included a
as her mind focused on those years a decade and a half             letter and an audiotape--no return address and post-
ago.                                                               marked Las Vegas. I think I know who sent it, though.
     Johnny had caught her on the rebound after her first          He wouldn't be hard to find. I want you to listen to it.
husband had dumped her. She'd anchored her psyche in               So go find a Walkman or go over to your stereo now.
his emotional harbor for several months. When she'd fi-            Don't pass go, don't collect two hundred dollars, and
nally felt like something of a whole human being again,            take this letter with you. I mean NOW! I knew you
she'd discovered that while she truly cared for Johnny, she        were still standing there. Put the tape in, but don't
didn't have that special spark for him that she felt was           start it yet.
necessary for an intimate relationship. Johnny had been
very nice about it and they'd backed off, not speaking to          Kelly smiled as she walked over to her stereo system
each other for a while, then slowly reentered each other's       precariously perched on a bookcase made up of cinder
lives, testing the waters of friendship.                         blocks and planks of wood. Johnny knew her and he had a
     Kelly felt they had cemented that friendship after three    good sense of humor, but even the humor couldn't erase
years when Johnny had returned from a photojournalist            the instant bad feeling the Nellis Air Force Base reference
assignment into El Salvador, where he had been docu-             had evoked. That Air Force intelligence officer had de-
menting right-wing death squads. He'd holed up in her            stroyed her career in filmmaking.
apartment for two months, decompressing from that                  Pushing away the negative thoughts, Kelly put the tape
ordeal. One or the other would call every month or so and        in, then continued reading.
they would catch up on their lives and know there was
someone out there who cared. Last she'd heard, he was              Okay. I'll give you the same information that was in
also working freelance, doing articles for whichever maga-         the letter I received with the tape. In fact, I'll give you
zine was willing to cough up some money.                           a copy of the letter that came with it. Next page, if you
     She slit the envelope open and was surprised to see an        please.

4                                    ROBERT DOHERTY               AREA 51                                                            5

     Kelly turned the page to find a Xerox copy of a typewrit-    wasn't someone holding a tape recorder up to a radio
ten letter.                                                       speaker. There was a clear hiss of static at the end of each
                                                                  transmission and three distinct voices, as the letter had
     Mister Simmons,

     In this package you will find a tape recording I made               "Victor Two Three, this is Dreamland Control. You
     on the evening of 23 October of this year. I was scan-              are violating restricted airspace. You will immediately
     ning the UHF wavelength. I often listen in to the                   turn on a heading of one-eight-zero.
     pilots out of Nellis Air Force Base conducting opera-                 "Victor Two Three, this is Dreamland Control. Re-
     tions. It was while doing just that, that I picked up the           peat, you are violating restricted airspace. Turn imme-
     exchange you will listen to.                                        diately on a heading of one-eight-zero. Over."
       As near as I can tell, it is between the pilot of an
     F-15 (Victor Two Three), the control tower at Nellis,               A new voice cut in, this one with the muted roar of jet
     which uses the call sign Dreamland, and the flight           engines in the background.
     commander of the F-15 pilot (Victor Six).
       The pilot was taking part in the Red Flag, force on               "Victor Two Three, this is Victor Six. Comply immedi-
     force, exercises at Nellis. These exercises are where               ately with Dreamland Control. Over."
     the Air Force trains its fighter pilots in simulated com-
     bat. They have a whole squadron of Soviet-style air-                "Six, this is Two Three. I'll be out of here in a flash.
     craft at the Groom Lake complex on the Nellis                       Over."
     Reservation to use in this training.
       I'll let you draw your own conclusions from the                   "Negative, Two Three. This is Dreamland Control.
     tape.                                                          You will comply with our instructions ASAP. Over."
       You want to talk to me, come to Vegas. Go to the
     "mailbox." You don't know what that is, ask around             The commander came back on.
     and you'll find it. I'll come to you.
     The Captain                                                         "They got you, Slick. Comply. You know we can't mess
                                                                    with restricted airspace. Over."
     Kelly turned the page. She smiled as she read.
                                                                    "This is Two Three, I will-- What the fuck! I've got--
     Listen to the tape now.                                        Christ, I don't know what the hell it is. A bogey at
                                                                    three o'clock and climbing. I've never--"
     Using her remote, she turned the stereo on and pushed
play. The voices were surprisingly clear, which made Kelly          The quiet, implacable voice of Dreamland Control cut
wonder at the machinery used to make the tape. This               in.

6                                   ROBERT DOHERTY              AREA 51                                                       7

     "Two Three, you will immediately cease transmitting,         The tape ended. Kelly sat still for a few seconds, consid-
     turn on a heading of one-eight-zero and descend for a      ering what she had heard. She knew the name Dreamland
     landing at Groom Lake. That is a direct order. Over."      well. She picked up Simmons's letter.

     The pilot of the F-15 was growing more agitated.             Yeah, I know exactly what you're thinking, Kelly. It
                                                                  could be a hoax or a setup like they did on you. But I
     "This thing has no wings! And, man, it's moving. It's        talked to a friend of mine over at the local Air Force
     closing on me. We got a live one! I'm--"                      base. He said that some of that sky out there near
                                                                  Nellis is the most restricted airspace in the country,
     There was a hiss of static.                                  even more so than that over the White House in D.C.
                                                                  He also said that pilots in the Red Flag exercises
     "--was close!" Static. "On top of--" Static. "--my              sometimes try to skate the edges of their aerial playing
     God! It's turning--" Static. "Jesus! It's--" The voice         field on the regular Nellis Range and gain a tactical
     was suddenly cut off.                                        advantage by cutting across the restricted airspace. If
                                                                  that pilot did wander over the Groom Lake/Area 51
     "Two Three! This is Six. What's your status, Slick?          complex or try to cut a corner, he might have seen
     Over."                                                      something he wasn't supposed to. Obviously he ran
                                                                  into something.
     Silence.                                                       You know me. I'm heading out there to take a look.
                                                                 There's enough interest in all of this that even if I get
     "Break, Dreamland Control, this is Victor Six. Do you       nothing about the pilot, I ought to at least be able to
     have Two Three on scope? Over."                             write a couple of articles about the Groom Lake com-
                                                                 plex. Maybe Technical or some other science-type
     "Victor Six, this is Dreamland Control. You will return     magazine will buy.
     to Nellis Airfield immediately. The exercise is can-           So I'll be out there on the night of the ninth. Now, I
     celed. All aircraft are ordered grounded immediately.       plan on being back home the tenth. I don't want to
     You will remain in your plane until cleared by security     hang around there any longer than I have to. I'll give
     personnel. Over."                                           you a call, regardless, on the tenth by nine in the
                                                                 morning. At the absolute least if I can't quite make it
     "I want to know the status of Two Three. Over."             home by then I'll change the message on my answer-
                                                                 ing machine by remote before 9:00 A.M. on the tenth.
     "We've lost Two Three from our scope. We are initiat-         I know all this sounds melodramatic,.but when I
     ing search and rescue. Comply with orders. There are        went down to El Salvador--a place no one remembers
     to be no more transmissions. Out."                          nowadays--it stood me in good stead to have some-

8 ROBERT DOHERTY                                                 AREA 51 9

 one waiting on a call. Held the assholes off from beat-          NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE RANGE,
  ing me too bad or keeping me forever when I got                VICINITY GROOM LAKE
  caught in places I wasn't supposed to be. So if you            T-144 HOURS
  don't hear from me by 9:00 A.M. on the tenth, it means         "Wait here," Franklin ordered as he braked the battered
  I got caught. Then I trust you to figure out what to do.       Bronco II to a halt. There was no flash of brake lights. He
  You owe me, bud!
    Wish me luck. By the way, if by chance--da-da-de-             had pulled the fuse for them prior to turning onto this dirt
  dum--drumroll, please, I get scarfed up by the author-          road. Johnny Simmons leaned forward in the passenger
  ities, you have a copy of the tape and the letter, and         seat and squinted into the darkness. He had to assume that
  also I've enclosed a key to my apartment.                      Franklin was so familiar with the road that he was able to
    Thanks.                                                      drive it without headlights. Although the road did stand
    All of my love, all of my kisses!                            out as a lighter straight line on the otherwise dark ground,
                                                                 the trip through the dark was unnerving.
                                                                   Simmons rubbed his forehead. They were up several
  Kelly didn't need to check the calendar. The ninth was         thousand feet in altitude and he felt a bit of a headache
this evening. She gathered the tape out of her stereo and        from the thinner air. He was a tall, thin man, his pale skin
took it, along with the letters, to her desk. Then she used      liberally sprinkled with freckles. Simmons appeared to be
the key around her neck to open the file drawer. She with-       much younger than his thirty-eight years and his disheveled
drew a file labeled "Nellis" and laid it on the desktop.         mane of bright red hair only added to the youthful image.
  Flipping it open, she saw that the first document inside         Franklin walked to one side of the road and disappeared
was a typed letter on official Air Force stationery. The sig-    into the darker countryside for a few minutes, then his
nature block at the bottom indicated it was from the Public      shadow crossed the road and was gone for a few more
Affairs Officer at the base: Major Prague.                       minutes. When he returned, he was holding four short
  "Asshole," Kelly muttered as she remembered the man.           green plastic rods in his hands.
She place Johnny Simmons's letter and the tape inside,             "Antennas for the sensors," he explained. "I found the
then replaced the folder in the drawer and locked it. The        sensors last month. I wondered why the camo dudes were
surface of the desk was clear, except for a silver-framed        always onto me so quick. They'd show up within twenty
black-and-white photo of a young man dressed in khaki.           minutes of me hitting this road. Then they'd call in the
He wore a black beret, and a Sten gun was slung over his         sheriff and it was just a plain hassle."
shoulder.                                                          "How'd you find the detectors?" Simmons asked, co-
  She was thoughtful as she kicked back in her chair and         vertly making sure the voice-activated microcassette re-
considered the photo. "Sounds like Johnny has nibbled at         corder in his jacket pocket was turned on.
the hook, Dad." She tapped a pencil against her lip, then          "I used a receiver that scanned the band lengths. I drove
sighed. "Damn you, Johnny. You're always causing trouble,        around and stopped when I picked up something transmit-
but this time I think you may have gone too far."                ting," Franklin said. "Right at 495.45 megahertz."

1                             ROBERT DOHERTY
                                                                 AREA 51                                                     11

  "Why four antennas?" Simmons asked. "Wouldn't two              him. They'd passed the "mailbox" farther back on the dirt
do?"                                                             road about twenty minutes ago and there had been two
  Franklin shook his head. "They're deployed in pairs on         cars and a van parked there. UFO watchers had waved at
either side of the road. That way they can tell which way        the Bronco as they drove by. The mailbox, which was an
you're going by the order they're tripped in." Franklin          actual small battered metal mailbox on the side of the
talked quickly, eager to impress Simmons with his knowl-         road, was the last safe place to observe the sky over the
edge.                                                            Groom Lake/Area 51 complex. To Johnny it was obvious
  The simple logic quieted Simmons for a few moments.            that the watchers there weren't surprised to see Franklin's
For the first time he wondered if he was biting off more         truck drive by.
than he could chew here. Since Area 51 wasn't listed on            Franklin threw the truck in gear and rolled forward
any topographic maps, and all roads leading onto the Nellis      about a hundred feet. "The sensors pick up ground vibes
Reservation were posted with no trespassing signs with om-       from passing vehicles, but they don't trip on people walk-
inous threats printed in red, Simmons had sought help.           ing or animals. Then they transmit that information back
He'd met Franklin in Rachel, a small town on Route 375           to whoever is in charge of security for this place. Without
that ran along the northeast side of the Nellis Reservation.     the antennas they can't transmit. We're out of range now.
Franklin was the person he'd been pointed to by "experts"        Back in a second." He stepped out and was gone for sev-
in the UFO field as the man to see about getting a look at       eral more minutes as he screwed the antennas back into
Area 51, the place the Air Force pilot had been overflying       the sensors.

when he'd been accosted by Dreamland Control and what-             They went another two miles down the road, then Frank-
ever unknown object the pilot had seen.                          lin pulled off into the lee of a large ridge that rose up to
  Simmons hadn't been too surprised to find Franklin a           the west like a solid, sloping black wall: White Sides Moun-
young bearded man who looked more like he ought to be            tain. Simmons stepped out, following Franklin's lead.
doing poetry reading at a college than leading people to           "It's going to get colder," Franklin said in a low voice as
look at a classified government facility. Franklin worked        he pulled a small backpack out of the rear of his truck.
out of a small, dilapidated house where he self-published a        Simmons was glad he had packed the extra sweater. He
monthly newsletter for UFO enthusiasts. He'd been                pulled it over his head, then put his jacket back on over it.
thrilled when he'd seen Simmons's credentials and publish-       It had been reasonably warm in Rachel, but with the de-
ing history. At last someone with a little bit of credibility    parture of the sun, the temperature had plummeted.
and pull, had been the way Franklin had put it, and he'd           They both turned as they heard a low roar coming in
promised to put Simmons as close to Area 51, the code            from the eastern horizon. The sound grew louder, then
name for the Groom Lake complex, as he possibly could.           Franklin pointed. "There. See the running lights?" He
  Simmons wondered if Franklin might not be the "Cap-            snorted. "Some of the people who camp out at the mailbox
tain" who had sent him the tape and letter, but he didn't        mistake aircraft running lights for UFOs. When a plane's
think so. There didn't seem to be any need for the subter-       in its final flight path the lights seem to just hover, espe-
fuge, and Franklin had seemed genuinely surprised to see         cially since it comes in almost straight over the mailbox."

12                             ROBERT DOHERTY
                                                                    AREA 51                                                    13

  "Is that the 737 you told me about?" Simmons asked.                "Ready," Simmons acknowledged.
  Franklin giggled nervously. "No, that's not her." The air-         "Let's do it." Franklin took a few deep breaths, then
plane banked over their heads and disappeared over White           headed for a cut in the steep mountainside and began
Sides Mountain, descending for a landing on the other              striding up. Simmons followed, his boots making a surpris-
side. A second one, just like the first, came by less than         ingly loud clatter in the darkness as he scrambled up the
thirty seconds later. "Those are Air Force transports. Me-         loose rock.
dium-sized ones, probably C-130 Hercules. You can hear               "Think we were spotted?" Simmons asked.
the turboprop engines. Must be bringing in something.                Franklin shrugged, the gesture lost in the dark. "Well, we
They haul in pretty much all their equipment and supplies          know the sensors didn't pick us up. If there was a camo
to Area 51 by plane."                                             dude out there in the dark and he saw my truck going down
  They heard the abrupt increase in the whine of engines          the road, then the sheriff will be here in about a half hour.
and the sound lasted for a few minutes, then silence              We'll see the lights from above. The camo dudes, who are
reigned again.                                                    the outer perimeter security people for the complex, will
  He held out his hand. "Camera."                                 drive by on this side of the ridge, maybe even come up
  Simmons hesitated. The Minolta with long-range lens             prior to showtime if they saw we had cameras, another
hanging around his neck was as much a part of his clothing        good reason not to bring them. The fact we haven't seen
as the sweater.                                                   anyone yet means there's a good chance we weren't spot-
  "We agreed," Franklin said. "A whole lot less hassle all        ted. If we weren't spotted, then we can spend the whole
around if the sheriff shows. You saw the negatives and            night up top without getting hassled."
prints back at the office that I've already taken of the com-       "Doesn't the Air Force get pissed at you for messing
plex. They were taken in daylight, too, with a better camera      with their equipment?" Simmons asked as Franklin led the
than you have. Much better than you could get at night            way.
even with special film and long exposure."                          "Don't know." Franklin giggled again, the sound irritat-
  Simmons removed the camera, the loss of the weight             ing Simmons. "I imagine they would if they knew it was
around his neck an irritant. He also didn't like the idea of     me. But they don't, so screw 'em. We're still on public land
having to pay Franklin for photos he could take himself.         and will be the whole way," Franklin explained, slowing a
Plus what if they spotted something happening? He had            bit when he recognized his paying guest's more modest
noted Franklin stuffing a camera into his backpack when          pace. "But if the sheriff comes here, he'll confiscate the
they were leaving earlier in the day. Simmons understood         film anyway, so it's easier to simply not haul the weight up.
Franklin's scam: he wanted exclusive footage if anything         Plus, we got us sort of a gentleman's agreement. This is the
happened and he wanted to make extra money selling his           only spot left in the public domain that you can see the
own photos. Simmons handed his camera to the younger             runway from since the Air Force purchased most of
man, who locked it in the back of the truck. Franklin            the northeast section last year. Most people stay back at
grinned, his teeth reflecting the bright moon hanging over-      the mailbox because they don't want to get hassled, but we
head. "Ready?"                                                   aren't doing anything illegal by climbing this mountain.

 14                             ROBERT DOHERTY                       AREA 51                                                    15

   "But soon it won't be legal to come here," Franklin con-          the men watching a bank of computer screens announced.
 tinued. "The Air Force is trying to get this land too. Once         There were three rows of consoles with computers lining
 they get it you won't be able to see into the lake bed from         the floor of the room, facing forward. On the front wall a
 anywhere in the public domain. And you sure as hell can't           twenty-foot-wide by ten-high screen dominated the room.
overfly this place.                                                  It was capable of displaying virtually any information that
   "Earlier this year they seized a bunch of the land over          was desired, from maps of the world to satellite imagery.
that way Franklin pointed to the north from the Bu-                    The Cube operations chief, Major Quinn, looked over
reau of Land Management, which had control of it. I used            his man's shoulder. Quinn was of medium height and build.
to watch from there occasionally."                                  He had thinning blond hair and wore large tortoiseshell
   Franklin gave Simmons a hand as they made it over the            glasses to accommodate the split lenses for both distance
lip of the cut onto the side of the ridge proper. "They             and close up. He ran his tongue nervously over his lips,
wanted it all, but the law says that over a certain acreage,        then glanced at the back of the room at a figure sitting at
there have to be hearings, so the Air Force seized up to            the main control console.
their limit the last couple of years and they'll probably do it       Quinn was perturbed to have intruders nosing around
again this year, until they get all they want, piece by piece."     tonight. There was too much planned, and most impor-
  Simmons would have liked to ask a few more questions              tantly, General Gullick, the project commander, was here,
but he was too winded to do anything but grunt.                     and the general made everyone nervous. The general's seat
  "We have another eight hundred feet of altitude to                was on a raised dais that could oversee all that went on
make," Franklin said.                                               below. Directly behind it a door led to a corridor, off of
                                                                   which branched a conference room, Gullick's office and
                                                                   sleeping quarters, rest rooms, and a small galley. The
THE CUBE, AREA 51                                                  freight elevator opened on the right side of the main gal-
T-143 HOURS, 37 MINUTES                                            lery. There was the quiet hum of machinery in the room
                                                                   along with the slight hiss of filtered air being pushed into
The underground room measured eighty by a hundred fee              the room by large fans in the hangar above.
and could only be reached from the massive hangars cu                "What happened to the sensors?" Quinn asked as he
into the side of Groom Mountain above via a large freigh           checked his own laptop computer terminal. "I've got a
elevator. It was called the Cube by those who worked it            blank on the road."
it-the only ones who actually knew of its existence other            "I don't know about the road," the operator reported.
than the members of Majic-12, the oversight committee for           But there they are," he added, pointing at his screen.
the whole project at Dreamland. Cube was easier on the              They might have walked in, skirting the sensors."
tongue than the room's formal designation, Command anc               The glowing outlines of two men could clearly be seen.
Control Central, or even the official shortened form: C3, or       The thermal scope mounted on top of a mountain six miles
C cubed.                                                           to the east of White Sides Mountain was feeding a perfect
  "We've got two hot ones in sector alpha four," one of            image to this room, two hundred feet underneath Groom

16                             ROBERT DOHERTY                    AREA 51                                                    17

Mountain, twelve miles to the west of where the two men          Force Academy thirty years ago. His broad shoulders filled
were. Thermal was extremely efficient in this terrain at         out his blue uniform and his stomach was as flat as when he
spotting people at night. The sudden drop from daylight          had played linebacker for the Academy team. The only
temperature made the heat difference between living crea-        obvious differences the years had made were the lines in
tures and the surrounding terrain a large one.                   his black face and the totally smooth-shaven skull--a final
  Quinn took a deep breath. This was not good. It meant          assault on the hair that had started to turn gray a decade
the men were past the outer security, known to locals as         ago.
the "camo dudes," but known in here as Air Force security          It was as if he could sniff trouble, Quinn thought. "We
police, with low-level clearances, who could turn them           have two intruders, sir," he reported, pointing at the
away or could bring in the sheriff to run them off. Since the    screen. Then he added the bad news. "They're already in
Air Force security police didn't know what was really going      sector alpha four."
on at Area 51, their use was restricted to the outer perime-       The general didn't ask about the road sensors. That ex-
ter. Quinn did not want to alert the inner security person-      planation would have to come later and wouldn't change
nel yet because that would require informing the general of      the present situation in the slightest. The general had
the penetration. Also, he was getting more and more con-         earned a reputation as a hard-nosed squadron leader in the
cerned about some of the methods the inner security peo-         Vietnam war, flying F-6 Phantoms in close support of
ple used.                                                        ground troops. Quinn had heard rumors about Gullick, the
  Quinn decided to handle it as quietly as he could. "Get        usual scuttlebutt that went around in even the most secret
in the security police."                                         military unit, that the general, as a young captain, had been
  "The intruders are inside the outer perimeter," the op-        known for dropping his ordnance "danger close"--inside
erator protested.                                                the safety distances to friendly ground units--in his zeal to
  "I know that," Quinn said in a low voice. "But let's try to    kill the enemy. If some friendlies got injured in the process,
keep this low key. We can pull a couple of the security          Gullick figured they would have been hurt in the ground
police in as long as the intruders stay on that side of the      fight anyway.
mountain."                                                         "Alert Landscape," Gullick snapped.
  The operator turned and spoke into his mike, giving or-          "I've got the air police moving in--" Quinn began.
ders.                                                              "Negative," Gullick said. "There's too much going on
  Quinn straightened as General Gullick turned from the          tonight. I want those people gone before Nightscape
massive screen. It was currently displaying the world's sur-     launches." Gullick turned away and walked over to another
face in the form of an electronic Mercator conformal map.        officer.
  "Status?" the general snapped, his voice a deep bass that        Quinn reluctantly gave the orders for Landscape to
reminded Quinn of James Earl Jones. Gullick walked               move. He glanced up at the main screen. Just above it a
down the metal steps from his area toward Quinn. The             small digital display read T-143 HOURS, 34 MINUTES. Quinn bit
general was over six and a half feet tall and still carried      the inside of his lower lip. He didn't understand why they
himself as erect as he had when he was a cadet at the Air        were launching a Nightscape mission this evening with the

18                             ROBERT DOHERTY                     AREA 51                                              19

mothership test flight only a little under six nights away. It     "The C-130's in?" Gullick asked, this time focusing on
was just one of several things that had been occurring over       Quinn.
the past year that didn't make sense to Quinn. But the             "Landed thirty minutes ago, sir," Quinn replied.
general brooked no discussion and had gotten even mood-            "The Osprey?"
ier than usual as the countdown got closer.                        "Ready to go."
  Quinn had worked in the Cube for four years now. He              "Start the recall."
was the senior ranking man not on the panel--Majic-12--              Quinn hastened to do as he was ordered.
that ran the Cube and all its assorted activities. As such he
was the link between all the military and contract person-
nel and Majic-12. When Majic staff was gone, as they often
were, it was Quinn who was responsible for the day-to-day
operation of the Cube and the entire Area 51 complex.
Those below Quinn knew only what they needed in order
to do their specific jobs. Those on Majic-12 knew every-
thing. Quinn was somewhere in the middle. He was privy
to much information, but he was also aware there was
quite a bit that he wasn't given access to. But even he had
been able to tell that things were changing now. The rush
on the mothership, the Nightscape missions, and various,
other events were all out of the norm that had been estab-
lished his first three years assigned here. The Cube and all
it controlled was abnormal enough; Quinn didn't appreci-
tate Gullick and Majic-12 adding to the stress.
  General Gullick crooked a finger and Quinn hastened
over to stand with him behind another operator whose
screen showed a live satellite downlink, also with thermal
imaging. "Anything at the mission support site?" Gullick
  "MSS is clear, sir."
  Gullick glanced over at a third officer whose screens
showed multiple video feeds of large hangars with rock
walls--the view of what was right above them. "Bouncer
Three's status?"
  "Ready, sir."

                                                               AREA 51                                                 21

                                                               sity of Maine at Orono. That dream had been crunched
                                                   2           during a game his sophomore year by a pair of defensive
                                                               backs from the University of New Hampshire. His knee
                                                               had been reconstructed, then his scholarship terminated.
                                                                 Faced with the prospect of going back to the logging
                                                               camps, Turcotte had enlisted the aid of the lieutenant colo-
                                                               nel in charge of the small army ROTC program at the
                                                               university. They'd found a friendly doctor to fudge on the
                                                               physical and the army had picked up where the football
                                                               team had fallen off.
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA                                                Turcotte had graduated with a degree in forestry and
T-143 HOURS                                                    received a commission in the army. His first assignment
                                                               had been with the infantry in the Tenth Mountain Division.
"Sprechen Sie Deutsch?"                                        The pace at Fort Drum had proved too slow and first
  Mike Turcotte turned with a blank expression to the man      chance he had, Turcotte had volunteered for Special
who had spoken. "Excuse me?"                                   Forces training. The warrant officer giving him his Special
  The other man chuckled. "I heard you came here from          Forces physical had looked at the scars on his knee and
those high-speed counterterrorist boys in Germany, but I       signed off on the paperwork with a wink, figuring anyone
like that response. Don't know nothing, didn't come from       crazy enough to try Special Forces wasn't going to let a
nowhere. That's good. You'll fit in well here."                little thing like a reconstructed knee stop him.
  The man's name was Prague, at least that was how he            But it almost had. During the intense selection and as-
had introduced himself to Turcotte earlier in the evening      sessment training the knee had stayed swollen, causing
when they'd met at McCarren Airport. Upon meeting him          Turcotte intense pain. He'd walked on it nonetheless, fin-
Turcotte had immediately sized up the other man physi-         ishing the long overland movements with heavy rucksack as
cally. Prague was a tall, lean man, with black eyes and a      quickly as he could, as his classmates fell by the wayside.
smooth, expressionless face. His build contrasted with         After starting with two hundred and forty men, at the end
Turcotte's, which was average height, just shy of five feet    of training there were slightly over a hundred left and
ten inches. Turcotte's physique was not one of bulging mus-    Turcotte was one of them.
cles but rather the solid, thick muscular physique some          Turcotte had loved the Special Forces and served in vari-
people are born with, not that he hadn't maintained it over    ous assignments up until his last one, which had not turned
the years with a constant physical regime. His skin was        out well in his view. Now he had been handpicked to be
dark, natural for his half-Canuck, half-Indian background      assigned to this unit, of which he knew nothing except it
He'd grown up in the forests of northern Maine, where the      was highly classified and went by the designation of Delta
major industries were lumber and hard drinking. His shot       Operations, which made Turcotte wonder if the name had
out of town had been a football scholarship to the Univer-     been deliberately chosen to be confused with Delta Force,

22                            ROBERT DOHERTY                    AREA 51                                                    23

the elite counterterrorist force at Fort Bragg with whom he     of work in Special Operations had cultivated, wondered if
had worked occasionally when stationed with Detachment          Lisa Duncan was who she said she was, regardless of her
A in Berlin--a classified Special Forces unit responsible        fancy ID card. This might be some sort of test of his loyalty
for terrorism control in Europe.                                set up by Delta Operations itself.
  There wasn't even any scuttlebutt about Delta Opera-            Duncan had told him he was not to inform anyone of his
tions, which was rather amazing among the close-knit Spe-       meeting with her, but that had immediately put him in a
cial Operations community. It meant one of two things:          bind the minute he had met Prague at the Las Vegas air-
Either no one was ever reassigned out of Delta Operations       port. Withholding that information meant he was already
and therefore no stories could be told, or those reassigned     in subtle conflict with his new organization, not a good way
out of it kept their mouths completely sealed, which was        to start an assignment. What was real and what wasn't,
more likely. Turcotte knew civilians found it difficult to      Turcotte didn't know. He'd decided on the plane from
credit, but most military men he had worked with believed       Washington to Las Vegas to do what Duncan had said,
in the oaths of secrecy they swore.                             keep his eyes and ears open, his mouth shut, and ride what-
  But the thing that concerned Turcotte was that there          ever roller coaster he had been put onto until he could
were two levels to this assignment. As far as Prague and        make up his own mind.
Delta Operations knew he was just another new man with            Turcotte had expected to be driven straight out to Nellis
a security clearance and a background in Special Opera-         Air Force Base from the airfield. That was the destination
tions. But Turcotte had been been verbally ordered by the       listed on his orders. To his surprise they had taken a cab
DET-A commander to stop in Washington on his way from           downtown and checked into a hotel. Actually they hadn't
Europe to Nevada. He'd been met at the airport by a pair        checked in, they'd walked right past the desk and taken an
of Secret Service agents and escorted to a private room in      elevator directly up to the room, which had a numerical
the terminal. With the agents standing guard outside the        keypad instead of a traditional lock. Prague punched in the
door he'd been briefed by a woman who'd identified her-         code.
self as the presidential science adviser to something called      Prague had shrugged at Turcotte's concern about report-
Majic-12, Dr. Lisa Duncan. She'd told him that his real job     ing in to Nellis, as they entered the lavishly furnished suite.
was to infiltrate Delta Operations, which provided security       "Don't sweat it. We'll get you in tomorrow. And you're
for Majic-12, and observe what was going on. He was given       not going to Nellis. You'll find out, meat."
a phone number to call and relay what he saw.                     "What's with this room?" Turcotte asked, noting the
  To all of Turcotte's questions Duncan had been evasive.       meat comment. It was a term used for new replacements to
She couldn't tell him what he was supposed to be looking        combat units that had suffered high casualties. Certainly
for. Since she was on the Majic-12 council, that made him       not the situation he was in now, at least he hoped not.
suspicious. She had not even told him why he was being          There was only one other way to decipher the phrase, as a
selected. Turcotte wondered if it had anything to do with       slam. Turcotte didn't know why Prague would do that ex-
what had just happened in Germany. Beyond that wonder-          cept to test his tolerance levels, which was an accepted
ing, the naturally suspicious part of his mind, which years     practice in elite units. Except it usually involved profes-

24                              ROBERT DOHERTY                     AREA 51

sional tests of physical or mental capabilities, not insults.      hangars, towers, and antennas all laid out alongside the
Of course, Turcotte knew there might be another reason             extremely long runway.
for Prague's attitude: maybe he knew about the meeting in            "Looks like you might have come on a good night,"
Washington and it had been a test. Or, that Duncan was for         Franklin commented, sitting down with his back against a
real and Prague knew Turcotte was a plant. All this think-         boulder. They'd arrived at the top of White Sides Moun-
ing about plots within plots gave Turcotte a headache.             tain ten minutes earlier and settled in on the edge of the
  Prague threw himself down on the sofa. "We have all              mountaintop, overlooking the lake bed.
these rooms on a permanent basis for R and R when we                 "Might just be for the C-130's," Simmons commented.
come into town. We get taken care of real well, as long as           The transport planes were parked near a particularly
we don't screw up. And no drinking. Even on R and R. We            large hangar and there was some activity going on around
always have to be ready."                                          them. He focused the glasses. "They're not unloading," he
  "For what?" Turcotte asked, dropping his large kit bag           said. "They're loading something onto the planes. Looks
and walking over to the window to look out at the neon             like a couple of helicopters."
display of Las Vegas.                                                "Helicopters?" Franklin repeated. "Let me see." He
  "For whatever, meat," Prague returned easily. "We fly            took the binoculars and looked for a few minutes. "I've
out of McCarren on Janet tomorrow morning."                        seen one of those type of choppers before. Painted all
  "Janet?" Turcotte asked.                                         black. The big one is a UH-60 Blackhawk. The two little
  "A 737. Goes out every morning to the Area with the              ones I don't know. They fly UH-60's around here for secu-
contract workers and us."                                          rity. I had one buzz my truck one day down on the mailbox
  "What exactly is my job and-- ' Turcotte paused as a              road."
loud chirping filled the air and Prague pulled a beeper off
his belt. He turned off the noise and checked the small              "Where do you think they're taking them?" Simmons
LED screen.                                                        asked, taking the binoculars back.
  "Looks like you're about to find out," Prague said,                "I don't know."
standing. "Grab your gear. We're going back to the airport           "Something's going on," Simmons said.
now. Recall."

                                                                   MCCARREN FIELD, LAS VEGAS
NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE RESERVATION                                  T-142 HOURS, 45 MINUTES
T-143 HOURS                                                        The 737 had no markings on it other than a broad red band
"I wonder what their electric bill is?" Simmons muttered,          painted down the outside. It was parked behind a Cyclone
staring out across the dry lake bed at the brilliantly lit com-    fence with green stripping run through the chain links to
plex nestled up against the base of the Groom Mountain             discourage observers. Turcotte carried his kit bag right on
Range. He put his binoculars to his eyes and took in the           board after Prague joked that they could carry any damn

26                            ROBERT DOHERTY                    AREA 51                                                 27

thing they wanted onto this flight--there was no baggage         Well, actually it's on Air Force land, but it's run by an
check.                                                          organization called the National Reconnaissance Organi-
  Instead of a stewardess a hard-faced man in a three-          zation or NRO, which is responsible for all overhead im-
piece suit was waiting inside the plane door, checking off      agery."
personnel as they came in. "Who's this?" he demanded,             Turcotte knew that the NRO was an extensive operation,
looking at Turcotte.                                            overseeing all satellite and spy-plane operations with a
  "Fresh meat," Prague replied. "I picked him up this eve-      budget in the billions. He'd been on several missions where
ning."                                                          he'd received support from the NRO.
  "Let me see your ID," the man demanded.                         "What exactly do we do?" Turcotte asked, pressing his
  Turcotte pulled out his military ID card and the man          hands against the seat back in front of him and pushing,
scanned the picture. "Wait here." He stepped back into          relieving the tension in his shoulders.
what had been the forward galley and flipped open a small         "Security," Prague answered. "Air Force handles the
portable phone. He spoke into it for a minute, then flipped     outer perimeter but we do the inside stuff, since we all
it shut. He came out. "Your orders check out. You're            have the clearances. Actually," he amended, "Delta Ops
cleared."                                                       consists of two units. One is called Landscape and the
  Although his face showed no change of expression,             other Nightscape. Landscape is responsible for on-the-
Turcotte slowly relaxed his right hand and rubbed the fin-      ground security of the facilities at Area 51 and for keeping
gers lightly over the scar tissue that was knotted over the     tabs on the people there. Nightscape, which you are now
palm of that hand.                                              part of . . ." Prague paused. "Well, you'll find out soon
  The man held up a small device. "Blow."                       enough, meat."
  Turcotte glanced at Prague, who took the device and             Turcotte had been in enough covert units to know when
blew into it. The man checked the readout, quickly              to stop asking questions, so he shut up and listened to the
switched out the tube, and handed it to Turcotte, who did       engines rumble as they made their way north toward his
the same. After looking at the readout the man gestured         new assignment.
with the phone toward the back of the plane.
  Prague slapped Turcotte on the back and led him down
the aisle. Turcotte glanced at the other men gathered on
board. They all had the same look: hard, professional, and      WHITE SIDES MOUNTAIN
competent. It was the demeanor that all the men Turcotte        T--142 HOURS, 26 MINUTES
had served with over the years in Special Operations had.       Simmons reached into his backpack and pulled out a
  As Prague settled down next to him and the door to the        plastic case and unsnapped it.
plane shut, Turcotte decided to try to find out what was          "What's that?" Franklin asked.
going on, especially since it now seemed they were on alert.      "They're night vision goggles," Simmons replied.
"Where are we headed?" he asked.                                  "Really?" Franklin said. "I've seen pictures of them. The
  "Area 51," Prague replied. "It's an Air Force facility.       camo dudes here use them. They drive around wearing

28                             ROBERT DOHERTY                     AREA 51                                                 29

them, with all their lights out. They can scare the shit out      goggles. "You've never played with the sensors before,
of you when they roll up on you in the dark like that when        right?"
you think you're all alone on the road."                            Franklin reluctantly nodded. "Usually we get stopped
  Simmons turned the on-switch and the inside of the lens         down below by the outer security guys. The sheriff comes,
glowed bright green. He began scanning, keeping the gog-          confiscates our film. Then most of the time he lets us climb
gles away from the bright lights of the facility itself, which    up."
would overload the computer enhancer built into them. He            "Most of the time?" Simmons asked.
checked out the long landing strip. It was over fifteen thou-       "Yeah. Sometimes, maybe three or four times, he told us
sand feet long and reputed to be the longest in the world,        to go home."
yet its very existence was denied by the government. Then           "I thought you said this was public land," Simmons said.
he looked over the rest of the lake bed, trying to see if           "It is."
there was anything else of interest.                                "So why did you leave those times?"
  A small spark flickered in the eyepiece and Simmons               Franklin looked very uncomfortable. "The sheriff told us
twisted his head, trying to catch what had caused it. He          he couldn't be responsible for our safety if we continued
looked down and to the right and was rewarded by another          on. It was like a code between him and me, man. I knew
                                                                  that was when I was supposed to go back to the mailbox
brief spark. A pair of four-wheel all-terrain vehicles were
                                                                  and watch."
making their way along a switchback about four miles
                                                                    "And what happened those nights?" Simmons asked.
away. The spark was the reflection of moonlight off the             Franklin didn't answer.
darkened headlights. Each of the drivers had goggles                "Those are the nights you spotted strange lights doing
strapped over the front of his helmet.                            unexplainable maneuvers in the air on the other side of the
  Simmons tapped Franklin and handed him the goggles.             mountaintop. This mountaintop," Simmons said with a bit
"There. You see those two guys on the ATVs?"                      of heat in his voice.
  Franklin looked and nodded. "Yeah, I see 'em."                    "Yeah."
  "Are they the 'camo dudes' you were telling me about?"            "So this is the first time you've ever been up here and
  "I've never seen them on ATVs before," Franklin said,           they didn't know you were up here. This might be a night
"but, yeah, those are camo dudes. And, actually, I've never       you were supposed to go back to the mailbox."
seen them on the inside of the mountain before. They al-            "Yeah."
ways came up on us on the other side." He handed the                That explained why Franklin was carrying the only cam-
goggles back. "They can't get up here on those things any-        era, Simmons realized. Franklin was using him as a cover in
way. The closest they can get is maybe a mile away."              case they were caught, probably hoping that Simmons's
  "Have you ever pulled the road sensors before?" Sim-            status would help him with the authorities. Simmons took a
mons asked suddenly.                                              deep breath as he considered the possibilities. It was dan-
  Franklin didn't answer and Simmons took one more look           gerous, but there was a chance here for a big story. "I guess
at the two ATVs coming toward them, then turned off the           we'll just have to see what happens, then."

30                             ROBERT DOHERTY                    AREA    51                                                31

  They both turned their heads as they again heard the             "It's zeroed in on the laser out to one hundred meters,
whine of jet engines in the distance.                            flat trajectory," Prague informed him. "Out from there you
  "That's Janet," Franklin said as the 737 descended over-       raise about an inch per fifty meters." Prague looked at him.
head to a landing on the airstrip. He sounded concerned.         "I assume you have your own personal sidearm?"
"It's early. It usually doesn't come until five forty-five in      Turcotte nodded. "Browning High Power."
the morning."                                                      "You can carry that, but only use it as a last resort. We
  Simmons looked through the goggles. The two ATVs               like to stay silenced." Prague also handed him a headset
had turned around and were now heading away. He                  with boom mike. "Voice activated, it's preset to my com-
thought that even more strange than the 737 coming early.        mand frequency. Always have it on and powered," he or-
                                                                 dered. "If I can't talk to you, you'd better be fucking dead,
                                                                 because you don't want to see or hear me again."
                                                                   Turcotte nodded and slipped it over his head, sliding the
GROOM LAKE AIRSTRIP, AREA 51                                     main battery pack on a cord around his neck.
T-142 HOURS, 13 MINUTES                                            Prague slapped him on the shoulder, much harder than
The 737 came to a halt a quarter mile away from the two          necessary. "Get changed and let's roll."
C-130's. Turcotte followed Prague off and into a small             Turcotte zipped up the coveralls and tugged on the com-
building next to a hangar. Up against the base of a large        bat vest, filling the empty pockets with extra magazines for
mountain there was a cluster of buildings, several hangars,      the Calico. He also appropriated a few flash-bang gre-
and what appeared to be a couple of barracks buildings,          nades, two high-explosive minigrenades, two CS grenades,
along with a control tower for the runway.                       and placed them in pockets. He took his Browning out of
  "Stow your kit bag there, meat," Prague ordered.               his kit bag and slid it into the thigh holster rigged below the
  The other men were opening wall lockers and pulling            vest. For good measure he added a few more items from
out black jumpsuits and putting them on. Prague led              his kit bag: a leather sheath holding three perfectly bal-
Turcotte over to a supply room and began tossing him             anced and highly honed throwing knives handmade for him
pieces of equipment, a similar jumpsuit leading the way,         by a knifesmith back in Maine went inside the jumpsuit,
followed by a combat vest, black balaclava, black aviator        strapped over his right shoulder; a coiled steel wire garotte
gloves, and a set of AN-PVS-9 night vision goggles--the           fitted inside one of the suit's pockets; and a slim, double-
hottest technology in the field.                                 edged commando knife with sheath slid down the outside
  Prague unlocked a large bin and pulled out a sophisti-         of the top of his right boot.
cated-looking weapon. Turcotte nodded in appreciation.             Feeling fully dressed for whatever might occur, Turcotte
The NRO was supplying these guys with top-of-the-line            joined the other men by the doors to the hangar. There
gear. Turcotte took the weapon and checked it out. The           were twenty-two men and Prague was apparently in charge.
gun was a 9mm Calico, with telescoping butt stock, built-        He spotted Turcotte.
in silencer, hundred-round cylindrical magazine, and               "You stay with me tonight, meat. Do what I tell you to
mounted laser sight.                                             do. Don't do nothing you aren't told to. You're going to see

32                                ROBERT DOHERTY                  AREA    51                                                    33

some strange things. Don't worry about anything. We got it        turboprop engines reverbrated through the interior with a
all under control."                                               teeth-rattling drone. Several chest-height, small round
  If we have it all under control, Turcotte wondered, why do      portholes were the only windows to the outside world.
we need the guns? But he kept his mouth shut and looked           Turcotte noted several other pallets of gear strapped down
out at what the other men were watching. A UH-60                  along the center of the cargo bay. There were other groups
Blackhawk helicopter, blades folded, had already been             of men already on board, some dressed in gray jumpsuits,
placed inside the first C-130. Two AH-6 attack helicop-           others in traditional army green.
ters--"little birds," as the pilots referred to them--were            "The ones in gray are the eggheads!" Prague yelled in
also being loaded onto the second one. The AH-6 was a             his ear. "We baby-sit them while they do their stuff. The
small, four-man helicopter with a minigun mounted on the          green ones are the pilots for the choppers."
right skid. The only unit that Turcotte knew of that flew the       The ramp of the C-130 slowly lifted and closed and the
AH-6 was Task Force 160, the army's classified helicopter         interior lights glowed red, allowing the people inside to
unit.                                                             maintain their natural night vision. Turcotte glanced out
  "Alpha team, move out!" Prague ordered.                         one of the small portholes at the airfield. He noted that the
  Four men with parachutes casually slung over their              V-22 was out of sight. He wondered where the four men
shoulders walked onto the tarmac toward a waiting V-22            were jumping. Out of the corner of his eye something large
Osprey that had been sitting in the dark, unnoticed until         and round was moving about thirty feet above the flight
now in the lee of the large hangar. Another surprise.             strip, between them and the mountain. Turcotte blinked.
Turcotte had heard that the government contract for the           "What the--"
Osprey had been canceled, but this one looked very opera-           "Keep your attention inboard," Prague ordered, grab-
tional as each of its massive propellers began turning. They      bing his shoulder. "Your gear good to go?"
were on the end of the wings, which were rotated up--a               Turcotte looked at his leader, then closed his eyes. The
position that allowed the plane to take off like a helicopter,
then fly like a plane as the wings rotated forward. The           image of what he had just seen was still clear in his mem-
Osprey was moving even before the back ramp finished              ory, but his mind was already beginning to question itself.
closing, lifting into the sky.                                    "Yes, sir."
  Turcotte felt a surge of adrenaline. The smell of JP-4            "All right. Like I said, just stick with me for this first one.
fuel, the exhaust from the aircraft engines, the sounds, the      And don't let nothing you see surprise you."
weaponry, all touched his senses and brought back memo-             The plane shuddered as it began to slowly move.
ries--some good, most bad, but all exciting.                       Turcotte took the Calico submachine gun and placed it in
  "Let's go!" Prague ordered, and Turcotte followed the           his lap. He swiftly fieldstripped it down to its component
other men on board the lead C-130. The interior could             parts, balancing them on his thighs. He lifted up the firing
easily fit four cars end to end. Along each side of the plane     pin and checked to make sure the tip wasn't filed down. He
facing inward was a row of red canvas jump seats. The skin        put the gun back together, carefully checking each part to
of the aircraft wasn't insulated and the roar of the four         make sure it was functional. When he was done, he slid the

34                             ROBERT DOHERTY                     AREA    51                                             35

bolt back and put a round in the chamber, making sure the         when they got there, he'd find out when they told him. It
select lever was on safe.                                         was a hell of a way to run an operation. Either Prague was
                                                                  incompetent or he was deliberately keeping Turcotte in the
"What do you think is going on?" Simmons asked ner-               dark. Turcotte knew it wasn't the former.
vously, wishing he had his camera. The first C-130 was
moving ponderously toward the end of the runway. The
other smaller plane had taken off like a helicopter and           VICINITY NEBRASKA/SOUTH DAKOTA BORDER
disappeared to the north.                                         T-141 HOURS, 15 MINUTES
  "Holy shit!" Franklin exclaimed. "Do you see that!"
  Simmons twisted and froze at the sight that greeted him.        The V-22 Osprey circled the south shore of Lewis and
Franklin was up and running, stumbling over the rocks,            Clark Lake at ten thousand feet. In the rear the team
heading back the way they had come. Simmons reached for           leader listened on the headset of the satellite radio as he
the small Instamatic camera he had secreted inside his            was fed the latest from the Cube.
shirt when the night sky was brilliantly lit for a few seconds      "Phoenix Advance, this is Nightscape Six. Thermals read
and then Simmons saw and felt no more.                            clear of humans in MSS. Proceed. Out."
                                                                    The team leader took off the headset and turned to the
Turcotte held on to the web seating along the inside skin of      three members of his team. "Let's go." He gave a thumbs-
the aircraft as the nose lifted, and then they were airborne.     up to the crew chief.
He caught a glimpse of a bright light somewhere out in the          The back ramp slowly opened to the chill night sky.
mountains through the far portal. He glanced over at              When it was completely open, the crew chief gestured. The
Prague, and the man was staring at him, his eyes black and        team leader walked to the edge and stepped off, followed
flat.                                                             closely by the other men. He got stable, aims and legs
  Turcotte calmly met the gaze. He knew the type. Prague          akimbo, then quickly pulled his ripcord. The square chute
was a hard man among men who prided themselves on                 blossomed above his head and he checked his canopy to
being tough. Turcotte imagined Prague's stare intimidated         make sure it was functioning properly. Then he slid the
less-experienced men, but Turcotte knew something that            night vision goggles down over his crash helmet and
Prague knew: he knew the power of death. He knew the              switched them on.
feeling of having that power in the crook of the finger,            Glancing above, beyond his chute, he could see the other
exercising it with a three-pound pull, and how easy it was.       three members of his team hanging up above him, in per-
It didn't matter how tough you pretended to be at that            fect formation. Satisfied, the team leader looked down and
point.                                                            oriented himself. The target area was easy to see. There
   Turcotte closed his eyes and tried to relax. It didn't take    was a long section of shoreline with no lights. As he de-
a genius to figure out that he wasn't going to get anything       scended, he checked the terrain through the glow of the
up front here. Wherever they were going, he'd find out            goggles and started picking up more details. The aban-
when they got there. And whatever he was supposed to do           doned ski lift was the most prominent feature he was look-

36                              ROBERT DOHERTY                     AREA    51                                               37

ing for, and once he spotted it, he pulled on his toggles,         scended. A glance out the window showed water, then
aiming for the high terminus of the lift. There was a small        shoreline. The wheels of the 130 touched earth and the
open field there, where years ago beginning skiers had             plane began rolling. It stopped in an amazingly short dis-
stumbled off as the chairs deposited them.                         tance for such a large aircraft and the back ramp opened,
  Pulling in on both toggles less than twenty feet above the       as the plane turned around, facing back down the runway.
ground, the team leader slowed his descent to the point              "Let's go!" Prague yelled. "Off-load everything."
that when his boots touched down it was no more of a jar             Turcotte lent a hand as they rolled the helicopter off and
than if he had stepped off a curb. The chute crumpled              into the shelter of the nearby trees. He was impressed with
behind him as he unfastened his submachine gun. The                the ability of the pilots. The runway was little more than a
other men landed, all within twenty feet. They secured             flat expanse of rough grass between dangerously close lines
their chutes, then took position underneath the top pylon          of trees on either side.
of the ski lift, on the highest bit of ground within ten miles.      As soon as they had the helicopter and equipment out,
From there they could oversee the jumbled two miles of             the plane was heading back down the strip, the ramp not
terrain lying between them and the lake.                           even fully closed as the plane lifted off into the night sky.
  The area was called Devil's Nest and it was rumored that         Less than a minute later the second plane was landing and
Jesse James had used it as a hideout over a century ago.           the process was repeated. In a few minutes they had all
The rolling plain of Nebraska abruptly dropped off into            three helicopters and personnel on the ground.
sharp hills and ridgelines, starting right where the men             As the sound of the second plane faded into the dis-
were and running up to the edge of the man-made lake--              tance, Prague was all business. "I want camo nets up and
the result of the damming of the Missouri River ten miles          everything under cover, ASAP. Let's move, people!"
downstream. A developer had tried to turn it into a resort
area a decade ago--hence the ski lift--but the idea had
failed miserably. The men weren't interested in the rusting
machinery, though. Their concern lay in the center of the
area, running along the top of a ridgeline pointed directly
at the lake.
  The team leader took the handset his commo man of-
fered him. "Nightscape Six Two, this is Phoenix Advance.
Landing strip is clear. Area is clear. Over."
  "This is Six Two. Roger. Phoenix main due in five mikes.

In the air Turcotte watched Prague speak into the satellite
radio, the words lost in the loud roar of the engines. He
could feel the change in air pressure as the C-130 de-

                                                                  AREA    51                                               39

                                                                  Nile were the only one still standing, and even in ancient
                                                 3                times they were considered the greatest of the seven. The
                                                                  Colossus at Rhodes--which most archaeologists doubted
                                                                  had even existed as reported--the hanging gardens of Bab-
                                                                  ylon, the Tower of Babel, the Tower of Pharos at Alexan-
                                                                  dria, and other reported marvels of early engineering had
                                                                  all disappeared over the centuries. All but the pyramids,
                                                                  built between 2685 and 2180 B.C. They were weathered by
                                                                  the sand long before the Roman Empire even rose, were
                                                                  still there when it fell, centuries later, and were standing
CAIRO, EGYPT                                                      strong as the second millennium after Christ's birth ap-
T-137 HOURS                                                       proached.
                                                                    Their original face of hand-smoothed limestone had
"I don't know what's wrong with this thing," the graduate         long ago been plundered--except for the very top of the
student said, twisting knobs and adjusting controls on the        middle pyramid--but their bulk was so great that they had
machinery in front of him. The sound of his shrill voice          escaped most of the ravages of the wars that had swirled
echoed off the stone walls and slowly died out, leaving still-    around them. From the Hyksos invasions from the north in
ness in the air.                                                  the sixteenth century B.C. to Napoleon, to the British
  "Why are you so sure there's something wrong with the           Eighth Army in World War II, the pyramids had survived
machine?" Professor Nabinger asked in a quieter voice.            them all.
  "What else could be causing these negative readings?"             There were over eighty pyramids still standing in Egypt,
The student let go of the controls of the magnetic                and Nabinger had seen most of them and explored their
resonance imager that they had carried down here, with            mysteries, but he was always drawn back to the famous trio
great effort, into the bowels of the Great Pyramid.               at Giza. As one came up on them and viewed the three, the
  The effort had taken two forms: in the past twenty-four         middle pyramid of Khafre appeared to be the largest, but
hours the actual physical effort of carrying the machine          only because it was built on higher ground. The Pharaoh
through the narrow tunnels of the Great Pyramid of Giza           Khufu, more popularly known as Cheops, was responsible
down to the bottom chamber and, for a year prior, complex         for the building of the greatest pyramid, farthest to the
diplomatic effort to be granted permission to bring the           northeast. Over four hundred feet tall and covering eighty
modern equipment into the greatest of Egypt's ancient             acres, it was by far the largest stone building in the world.
monuments and turn it on.                                         The smallest of the three was that of Menkaure, measuring
  Nabinger knew enough about the politics of archaeology          over two hundred feet in altitude. The sides of all three
to appreciate the opportunity he was being given to use           were aligned with the four cardinal directions and they
this equipment here. Of the original seven wonders of the         went from northeast to southwest, from largest to smallest.
ancient world the three pyramids on the West Bank of the          The Great Sphinx lay at the foot of the middle pyramid--

4O                                   ROBERT DOHERTY             AREA    51 41

far enough to the east to also be out in front of the Great     There were those who postulated that, to the Egyptians,
Pyramid, off the Sphinx's left shoulder.                        the finished pyramid was not so important as the process of
                                                                building; that the purpose of their construction was a de-
                                                                sire by ancient pharaohs to employ and draw together their
                         Great Pyramid                          people during the annual three months the Nile flooded
             North                                              and agricultural work came to a standstill. Idle hands led to
                                                                idle minds that could possibly think thoughts the pharaohs
                                                Great Sphinx    would not have approved of. So, this theory went, the pha-
          Pyramid of Khafre
                                                                raohs placed ten-ton blocks of stones in those idle hands.
                                                                  Another theory favored by the more optimistic tradition-
                         Pyramid of Menkaure                    alists was that the final resting place of the pharaohs in the
                                                                pyramids had not been discovered yet. It was perhaps hid-
                                                                den deep in the bedrock underneath the massive stone
  The pyramids drew tourists and archeologists and scien-       structures.
tists and evoked awe among all. For the tourist the size and      There were many theories, but none had yet been
age were enough. For the scientist the exact engineering        proven. It was a search to discover and prove the purpose
defied the technology of the time in which they were built.     of the pyramids that drew Peter Nabinger to them every
For the archaeologist not only was the architecture amaz-       year for six months. The leading Egyptian expert at the
ing, but there was the unsettling question of the purpose of    Brooklyn Museum, he had been coming here for twelve
the buildings. That was the question Nabinger had strug-        years.
gled with for years, not content with the answers offered up      Nabinger's area of expertise was hieroglyphics: a form of
by his colleagues.                                              writing using figures or objects to represent words or
  They were commonly assumed to have been tombs for             sounds. His philosophy was that the best way to understand
the pharaohs. But the problem with that theory was that         the past was to read what people of the time had to say
the sarcophagus discovered inside of each of the pyramids       about their own existence, rather than what someone dig-
had been found empty. For years that had been blamed on         ging up ruins thousands of years later had to say.
the plundering of grave robbers, until sarcophagi with the        One thing Nabinger found most fascinating about the
lids still on and the seals on those lids still intact were     pyramids was that if they had not been there now, in the
found, and they were empty also.                                present, for everyone to see, it was doubtful anyone would
  The next best theory, and one that logically followed the     believe they had ever existed, because of the almost total
previous one, was that perhaps the pyramids were ceno-          lack of reference to them in ancient Egyptian writings. It
taphs, funeral memorials, and the bodies had secretly been      was almost as if Egyptian historians of years gone past had
buried elsewhere to prevent the graves from being plun-         assumed everyone would know about the pyramids and
dered.                                                          therefore there was no need to talk about them. Or, Nab-
  A more recent theory took a totally different approach.       inger sometimes suspected, maybe even the people of the

42                             ROBERT DOHERTY
                                                                 AREA    51                                              43

time of the pyramids' building weren't quite clued in them-        Schliemann might have been convinced that Troy actu-
selves as to the reason they were being built. Or maybe,         ally existed and thus spent his life searching for it, but
Nabinger also wondered, maybe it had been forbidden to           Nabinger had no such convictions. Nabinger's work on the
write about them?                                                pyramids was one of detailing what was there and search-
  This year he was trying something different, in addition       ing for its explanation, an area that was perhaps one of the
to his main project of recording all the writing and draw-       most heavily studied in the field of archaeology. He had
ings on the interior walls of the Great Pyramid. He was          hopes that perhaps he might find something with the MRI,
using the magnetic resonance imager, the MRIr to probe           something that others had missed, but he didn't have a clue
deep underneath the structures where the eye could not go        as to what. Hopefully, it might be a new chamber with not
and physical excavation was prohibited. The waves emitted        only whatever was in it, but also new, unseen writings.
by the imager could safely invade the depths and tell him if       Welcher was looking at the readouts. "If I didn't know
there were more buried wonders. At least that was the            better, I'd say we're getting interference from some sort of
theory. The practice, as his graduate assistant Mike             residual radiation."
Welcher was pointing out to him, was not living up to the          Nabinger had been afraid of this. "Radiation?" He
anticipation.                                                    glanced across the chamber at the group of Egyptian labor-
  "It's like"--Welcher paused and scratched his head--             ers who had helped haul the MRI down here. The head
"it's like we're being blocked by some other emission            man, Kaji, was watching them carefully, his wrinkled face
source. It's not particularly powerful, but it is there."        not betraying a thought. The last thing Nabinger needed
  "For example?" Nabinger asked, leaning back against            was the laborers walking out on them because of the threat
the cool stone walls of the chamber. Despite all the time        of radiation.
he'd spent inside the pyramid over the years, there was still      "Yeah," Welcher said. "To prepare for this I worked with
a feeling of oppression in here, as if one could sense the       the MRI in the hospital and we saw readings like this once
immense weight of stone pressing down overhead.                  in a while. They came up when the reading was affected by
  Nabinger was a tall, heavyset man, sporting a thick black      X-rays. In fact, the technician told me they finally had to
beard and wire-rimmed glasses. He wore faded khaki, the          write up a schedule for the machines so they wouldn't be
uniform of the desert explorer. At thirty-six he was consid-     on at the same time, even though they were on different
ered young in the field of archaeology and he had no major       floors of the hospital and both heavily shielded."
finds to stake his reputation upon. Part of his problem, he        It was information not widely known, but Nabinger had
would readily acknowledge to his friends back in Brooklyn,       read reports from earlier expeditions that had used cosmic
was that he had no pet theory that he desired to pursue.         ray bombardment to search for hidden chambers and pas-
He only had his pet method, searching for new writings           sages in the Great Pyramid and their reports had been
and trying to decipher the volumes of hieroglyphics that         similar: there was some sort of residual radiation inside the
still remained untranslated. He was willing to accept what-      pyramid that blocked such attempts. The information had
ever they yielded, but so far his efforts had not turned up      not been widely disseminated because there was no expla-
much.                                                            nation for it, and scientists didn't write journal articles

44                             ROBERT DOHERTY
                                                                 AREA    51                                              45

about things they couldn't explain. Nabinger often won-          tion--enough had been found to cause some interest.
dered how many unexplained phenomena went unreported             What Nabinger had stumbled across were pictures of simi-
because those who discovered them didn't want to risk ridi-      lar high runes from a site in South America. After a year of
cule since there was no rational explanation for their find-     very hard work over the few samples available--combining
ings.                                                            them with those from Egypt--he believed he had manage
  Nabinger had hoped to have better luck with the MRI            to decode a couple of dozen words and symbols. He
because it worked on a different band-width from the cos-        needed more samples, though, in order to feel comfortable
mic-ray emitters. The exact nature of the radiation had          that the little he had achieved was valid. For all he knew,
never been detailed, so he had not been able to determine        his translation could be totally false and he had been work-
if the MRI would be blocked also.                                ing with gibberish.
  "Have you tried the entire spectrum on the machine?"             Kaji snapped some commands in Arabic and the labor-
he asked. They'd been down here for four hours already,          ers rose to their feet and disappeared back up the corridor.
Nabinger allowing Welcher to handle the machine, which           Nabinger cursed and put his notebook down. "Listen here,
was his specialty. Nabinger had spent the time painstak-         Kaji, I've paid--"
ingly photographing the walls of the chamber, the bottom           "It is all right, Professor," Kaji said, holding up a hand
of the three in the Great Pyramid. Although extensively          roughened by a lifetime of manual labor. He spoke almost
documented, some of the hieroglyphics on the wall had            perfect English with a slight British accent--a surprise to
never been deciphered.                                           Nabinger, who was often exasperated by the Egyptian tac-
  The notebook in his lap was covered with his scribblings,      tic of retreating behind a pretended ignorance of English
and he had been centered totally on his work, excited by         to avoid work. "I have given them a break outside. They
the possibility that there might be some linguistic connec-      will be back in an hour." He looked at the MRI machine
tion between some of the panels of hieroglyphics here and        and smiled, a gold tooth gleaming in the front of his
newly found panels in Mexico. Nabinger did not concern           mouth. "We are not having much luck, yes?"
himself with how such a connection could be, he just               "No, we're not," Nabinger said, used to the strange syn-
wanted to decipher what he had. And so far, a very strange       tax.
message was being revealed to him, word by laborious               "Professor Hammond did not have much luck with his
word. The importance of the MRI was diminishing with             machines, either, in 1976," Kaji noted.
every minute he studied the writings.                              "You were with Hammond?" Nabinger asked. He had
  A year ago Nabinger had made some startling discover-          read Hammond's report in the archives of the Royal Mu-
ies that he had kept to himself. It had always been accepted     seum in London. It had not been published due to the
that there were certain panels or tablets of markings at         failure to discover anything. Of course, Nabinger had
Egyptian sites that were not classical hieroglyphics but ap-     noted at the time, Hammond had discovered something.
peared to be some earlier picture language called "high          He had discovered that there was residual radiation inside
runes." While such sites were few--too few to provide a           the pyramids that shouldn't be there.
database sufficient to allow a scientific attempt at transla-      "I have been here many times," Kaji said. "In all the

46                              ROBERT DOHERTY                     AREA    51                                                        47

pyramids. Also many times in the Valley of the Kings. I            below that by a caliph in later centuries. Both linked up
spent years in the desert to the south before the waters           with a tunnel that descended through the masonry and into
from the dam covered it. I have led many parties of labor-         the rock beneath the pyramid. That tunnel ended in an
ers and watched many strange things at sites."                     intersection hewn out of the rock where two tunnels
  "Did Hammond have any guesses why his machine                    branched off. One headed up to the middle chamber and
didn't work?" Nabinger asked.                                      the Grand Gallery, which led to the upper chamber. The
  "Alas, no." Kaji sighed dramatically and ran his hand            other, more recently discovered tunnel headed down into
lightly over the control panel of the MRI, getting Welcher's       the bedrock to the lower chamber. It was the lower cham-
attention. "Such a machine is expensive, is it not?"               ber that Nabinger and his crew were presently working in.
  "Yes, it--" Welcher halted as Nabinger shook his head,
now partially seeing where this was leading.                                                     THE GREAT PYRAMID
  Kaji smiled. "Ah, Hammond, he had no readings. His
man on the machine, he, too, said radiation. Hammond did                          The Upper Chamber
                                                                                  or "King's" Chamber           The Grand Gallery
not believe it. But the machine, it would not lie, would it?"
He looked at Welcher. "Your machine, it would not lie,                          The Middle or
                                                                           "Queen's" Chambei
would it?"
  Welcher remained quiet.
  "If the machine does not lie," Nabinger said, "then
something must be causing the readings."
  "Or something was once here that still causes the read-                                  The Lower Chamber

ings," Kaji said. He turned and headed back toward the
other side of the chamber, where a large stone sarcophagus            "I was here in 1951," Kaji said. "Yes, the sarcophagus
rested.                                                            was empty then."
  "The sarcophagus was intact but empty when they broke               "Then?" Nabinger repeated. He'd worked with Kaji be-
the seals," Nabinger said sharply, referring to the first ex-      fore at other sites and the man had always been honest.
pedition into this chamber in 1951. There had been great           When he'd first hired the old man years ago, Nabinger had
excitement over the discovery of the chamber and particu-           checked with several others in the field and Kaji had come
larly of the sarcophagus found inside with its lid still intact     highly recommended.
and sealed. The mystery of the pyramids was about to be               "Hammond, he thought me an old fool, and I was young
solved, it was thought at the time. One could imagine the           then," Kaji said. "I am older now. I tried to talk to him, but
dismay when the seals were broken and the lid was opened,           he did not wish to talk." Kaji rubbed the fingers of one
and there was nothing in the stone box.                             hand lightly in the palm of the other.
  The interior of the Great Pyramid contained three                   Nabinger knew what that meant. Kaji wanted to be paid
chambers. One entered the pyramid either through the de-            for his information, as Nabinger had suspected, but that
signed polar entrance on the north side, or one blasted just       was only natural. The professor thought furiously. He had

48                             ROBERT DOHERTY                    AREA 51

rented the portable MRI. The contract was billed by day of       just wasted quite a bit of the museum's money and wonder-
use, and he had enough funds from the museum for eight           ing if he could make it up by skimping elsewhere on the
days of use. If he air-shipped it back tomorrow, he would        expedition fund. His mind automatically began figuring the
save five days of billing. That was a substantial amount of      exchange rate on the pound to dollar.
money, at least from an Egyptian standpoint. The only              Kaji seemed satisfied. "It was nine years before Martin's
problem was explaining his receipts and billing forms to the     expedition, during the Second World War. In 1942 the Brit-
accountant back at the university. But there was no sense        ish ruled here in Cairo, but many were not happy with that.
in continuing to use a machine in a place where it yielded       The Egyptian nationalists were willing to trade one set of
no information. He also considered the runes he was deci-        rulers for another, hoping that somehow the Germans
phering in this chamber. Those alone would make the ex-          would be better than the British and grant us our freedom.
pedition worthwhile. The MRI had been a long shot                In reality we did not have much say in the process. Rom-
anyway.                                                          mel and the Afrika Korps were out to the west in the des-
  Nabinger looked at Welcher. "Take a break."                    ert and many expected him to be here in the city before the
  Welcher left the chamber, leaving the two men alone.           end of the year.
  "Ten thousand pounds," Nabinger said.                            "It all began in January of 1942 when Rommel began his
  Kaji's face was expressionless.                                offensive. By June, Tobruk had fallen and the British were
  "Twelve thousand and that is all I have." Nabinger knew        in retreat. They were burning papers in the Eighth Army
that was over a year's salary to the average Egyptian.           headquarters here in Cairo in preparation to run. They
  Kaji held out his hand. Nabinger reached into his pocket       were all afraid. And Rommel kept coming. The British
and pulled out a wad of bills, the week's wages for the          army fell back on El Alamein.
laborers. He would have to go to the bank and draw on the          "I was working in Cairo," Kaji said, waving his hand
expedition account to pay them now.                              above his head. "Even in the middle of war there were
  Kaji sat down cross-legged on the floor, the money dis-        those who wished to view the ancient sights. The pyramids
appearing into his long robe. "I was here in 1951 with Mar-      have seen many wars. There were many people for whom
tin's expedition when they opened this chamber, but it was       the war was a fine opportunity to travel and make money. I
not the first time I was in this chamber."                       gave tours above. And sometimes, if the person paid
  "Impossible!" Nabinger said sharply. "Professor Martin         enough so I could bribe the Egyptian guards, I took them
broke through three walls to get into here in 1951. Walls        inside. Many wanted to see the Grand Gallery," he said,
that were intact and dated. The seals on the sarcophagus         referring to the massive passageway hundreds of feet above
were the originals with four dynasties marked--"                  their heads that had twenty-eight-foot ceilings and led up
  "You can speak impossible all you like," Kaji continued        to the center of the pyramid and the uppermost chamber.
in the same quiet voice, "but I tell you I was in here before      Kaji spread his hands. "I cared not who ruled Cairo. The
1951. You have paid for my story. You may listen or you          pyramids have seen many rulers and they will see many in
may argue, it matters not to me."                                the future. And the pyramids and the other sites, they are
  "I'll listen," Nabinger said, beginning to think he had        my life.

50                               ROBERT DOHERTY                    AREA 51                                                51

  "The Germans were only a hundred and fifty miles away            who were spying on Italians and around and around." Kaji
and it looked as if they could not be stopped. In early July,      chuckled.
General Auchinleck was relieved and Churchill sent a gen-             "There were fortunes made on the black market. It was
eral named Montgomery to relieve him. No one thought               no trouble for the Germans to send these men into Cairo.
much of it here. It was assumed the British would fall back         Especially that July when everyone was more concerned
to Palestine, where they would block the canal with sunken          about preparing to flee or how to ingratiate themselves
ships, and the Germans would get Cairo.                            with the invaders than about strange groups of men moving
  "That was when I was approached by a party wanting to             in the dark."
go inside this pyramid. They spoke strangely, but they paid           "Where did the Germans get their drawings from?"
well, which was all that counted. I bribed the guards and           Nabinger asked.
we entered, using the caliph's entranceway late at night,             "I do not know. They used me to get inside only. From
which was also strange.                                             there they took charge."
  "We moved through the descending corridor until we                  Nabinger asked the question closest to his heart. "Did
linked up with the original ascending tunnel leading to the         they know how to read what they had?"
Grand Gallery. But they did not want to go up, nor did                "I do not know," Kaji repeated, "but they had someone
they want to go to what we now call the middle chamber,             with them who could understand it in some manner, that
but was then called the lower chamber. They had paper               was for certain. There were twelve of them. We went to the
with them with drawings on it." Kaji pointed at the walls.          dip, where the tunnel turns and heads up toward the
"I did not get to look at it for very long, but the writing was     Grand Gallery, and halted. They searched and then began
very much like that on these walls. The symbols that cannot         digging. I became frightened and upset then. I would be
be read." His eyes turned to the notepad in Nabinger's lap.         blamed, because the guards knew me and knew that I was
"Perhaps you are starting to understand those symbols?"             leading this party in. They were destroying my livelihood
  "Who were these men?" Nabinger asked, flipping the                with their picks and shovels.
notepad shut.                                                         "The German in charge"--Kaji paused and his eyes lost
  "They were Germans," Kaji replied.                                their focus--"he was an evil man. I could see it all about
  "Germans? How could they have gotten into Cairo? The              him and especially in his eyes. When I complained he
British still held the city."                                       looked at me, and I knew I was dead if I opened my mouth
  "Ah, that was the easy part," Kaji replied. "Throughout           again. So I stayed silent.
the war Cairo was one of the major centers for espionage,             "They worked quickly, digging. They knew exactly what
and all sorts of people came and went freely."                      they were doing because inside of an hour they broke
  Kaji's voice became excited as he remembered. "Cairo              through. Another passageway! Even through my fear I was
was the place to be in World War II. All the whores worked          excited. Nothing like this had happened in my lifetime or
for one side or the other or many times both. Every bar             many lifetimes before me. This passageway led downward,
had its spies, most also working for both sides. There were         toward the ground beneath the pyramid. No one had ever
British spying on Germans who were spying on Americans              thought of that before. No one had ever considered if there

52                             ROBERT DOHERTY
                                                                 AREA    51                                              53

was a passage into the ground. They had always searched            "No." Kaji sighed and all the energy seemed to drain out
for ways to go up.                                               of his body. "I don't know what it was that they found.
  "They went into it and I followed. I did not understand        There was a box inside the stone. A box of black metal.
what they were saying but it was easy to see they were           Metal such as I had never seen before nor have seen
excited also. We came down the tunnel"--Kaji pointed be-          since." He gestured with his hands, indicating a rectangle
hind him--"as you and I did earlier today. There were             about four feet high by two in breadth and width. "It was
three blockages set up in the passageway. I could see the        this size."
original writings on the walls and knew we were entering           Nabinger shook his head. "This is all a story, Kaji. I
parts that had not been seen by a living man in over four        think you have taken my money for a story that is a lie."
thousand years. They tore through the blocking walls as            Kaji's voice was calm. "It is not a lie."
quickly as possible, leaving the rubble behind.                    "I've seen the pictures Martin took. All the walls were
  "The tunnel ended in stone, but the Germans didn't let         intact. The seals on the sarcophagus were intact and the
that stop them as they had not let the three other walls         original ones. How do you explain that if these Germans
stop them. They used their picks and broke through. And          did what you said? How did the walls get put back up? The
then we were in here. And the sarcophagus was there just         seals put back on? Magic? The pharaoh's ghost?" Nab-
like you see it in the pictures of Martin's expedition, with     inger was disgusted.
the lid on and the seals intact. In the air I could feel the       "I am not sure," Kaji admitted. "I do know, though, that
presence of--                                                     the Americans and the British sealed off the Great Pyra-
  Kaji paused and Nabinger blinked. The old man's voice          mid for eight months in 1945, while the war was ending. No
had drawn him in, the effect magnified by being in the very      one could go in. Maybe they put everything back. It would
room he was talking about.                                       have been difficult but possible. When I went down with
  Kaji looked at the center of the floor where the sarcoph-      Martin all the walls were back up as you say. It made me
agus had once been. "The Germans were not archaeolo-             wonder, but I knew I had seen them broken through ear-
gists. That was certain. The way they broke through the          lier."
walls showed that. And the fact that they broke the seals          "Why didn't you tell Martin?" Nabinger asked.
and lifted the lid. In 1951 Martin took six months before          "I was just a laborer then. And he would not have be-
his men opened the lid, carefully detailing every step of the    lieved me, as you do not believe me now."
operation. The Germans were into it in less than five min-         "Why are you telling me?"
utes after entering. They were interested in nothing but the       Kaji pointed at Nabinger's notebook. "Because you are
sarcophagus. Not the writings on the walls here, not the         interested in the special writings that no one can read. The
seals. Nothing but the stone box."                               Germans had those writings. That is how they found the
  "Was it empty?" Nabinger asked.                                chamber."
  "No."                                                            "This makes no sense," Nabinger exclaimed. "If the
  Nabinger waited, then could wait no longer. "Did they          Germans came in here and ransacked the chamber, then
find the pharaoh's body?"                                        why would the Americans and British cover it up?"

54                             ROBERT DOHERTY

                                                                  AREA    51                                               55

  Kaji remained silent.                                           were different. One was the man who read the symbols and
  "Ah!" Nabinger threw his hands up in disgust. "There            pointed the way. Two of the killers guarded him always. As
were no Germans in here in the first place. How many              if he was not there of his own free will.
times have you sold this story, Kaji? How many others have          "The second man: Von Seeckt--which is why I stole only
you stolen from? I tell you, I will not allow you to get away     from him--he was different also. He was not one of the
with it."                                                         killers but he wanted to be there. He was very excited when
  "I have not lied. I was here." He reached inside his robe       they found the black box. That was when I was able to take
and pulled out a dagger.                                          the knife. They gave him the box and he put it in a
  Nabinger started, thinking for a second he had pushed           backpack. He carried it with him when they left. It looked
the old man too far, but Kaji held it by the blade, offering      heavy, but he was a strong man."
the handle. Nabinger carefully took it.                             "That is all they wanted?" Nabinger asked. "Just that
  "I stole that off one of the Germans. They all wore             black box?"
them."                                                              "Yes. As soon as they had it we went back out. They had
  Nabinger felt a chill as he looked at the handle. A minia-      a truck waiting and drove away to the north. I ran and hid.
ture, very realistic ivory skull was at the end, and swastikas    I knew the guards would look for me when they found the
were carved into the bone handle along with the lightning         broken walls and the empty chamber. But they never came
bolts that indicated the infamous SS. He wondered what            for me. I never heard a word, which was strange also."
animal the bone had come from, then decided that was                Nabinger held on to the dagger. "How do I know you
information he was better without. The gleaming steel was         didn't get this on the black market? It does not prove your
intricately detailed. Nabinger squinted--there was some-           story."
thing written there. There was a word on the one side:              Kaji shrugged. "I know it is true. I do not care if you
                                                                  believe it is true. I am at peace with Allah. I have told the
      THULE                                                       truth." He pointed at the MRI. "I was reminded to tell you
                                                                  this story because when the Germans opened the sarcopha-
and on the other side a name:                                     gus and pulled out the box, the man I stole the dagger from
                                                                  had one of those"--Kaji paused as he searched for the
      Von Seeckt                                                  word--"a small machine that made noise when he pointed
                                                                  it at the big black box. It chattered like a locust."
  Nabinger had heard of Thule. A place of legend, written           "A Geiger counter?" Nabinger asked.
about by Ptolemy and other ancient geographers as the               "Yes. That is what I have heard it called."
northernmost inhabitable land, north of Britain. He had no          "The black box was radioactive?" Nabinger said, more
idea what that had to do with the Nazis or the pyramids.          to himself than Kaji. Nabinger looked at the Egyptian, who
  "Who was Von Seeckt?" Nabinger asked.                           returned his gaze levelly. Although there was no logical
  "He was the strange one in the group," Kaji said. "Ten          reason to believe the old man, for some reason Nabinger
of the twelve were killers. I could tell by their eyes. Two       did. What had been sealed in the sarcophagus? What had

56                               ROBERT DOHERTY

the ancient Egyptians possessed that was radioactive?
There was no doubting that the MRI was picking up some
form of residual radiation.
  Nabinger sorted the story out in his mind. There was
only one clue to pursue: the name on the dagger. Von
Seeckt. Who was--or probably more appropriately--who
had he been?
  "What are you doing?" Kaji asked, as Nabinger tucked
the dagger into his waistband.
  "I am keeping this," Nabinger said. "I paid for your
story and this is the only proof."                                  NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE
  "I did not agree to that," Kaji said.                             T-134 HOURS, 45 MINUTES
  "Do you wish me to tell your men of your deal? Of the
money I just gave you?" Nabinger asked. "They would                 "This is Johnny. I'm out of town for a bit. Back on the
want their share."                                                  tenth. Talk to you then. Leave a message at the beep. Bye."
  Kaji eyes narrowed. Then he stood and shrugged. "You                Kelly slowly put the receiver down, not bothering to
may keep it. It is an evil thing. I should have gotten rid of it    leave a message. It was after nine in the morning on the
long ago."                                                          tenth. "Oh, Johnny, you've done it now," she whispered to
                                                                      There was no doubt in her mind that Johnny Simmons
                                                                    was in trouble. He had a strange sense of humor, but he
                                                                    wouldn't have sent her that tape and letter as a joke. She
                                                                    knew he was dead serious when he went on an assignment.
                                                                    After the little he had related to her about what had hap-
                                                                    pened in El Salvador, she could well understand his seri-
                                                                    ousness. He had listed nine in the morning three times in
                                                                    his letter. He would not have forgotten or blown it off. At
                                                                    the absolute minimum he would have changed his message
                                                                    by remote as he had said he would.
                                                                      She turned on her computer and accessed her on-line
                                                                    service. To find out where Johnny was, she would have to
                                                                    follow him, and information was the way to start.
                                                                      There were two avenues of investigation to pursue, and
                                                                    she knew they were the same two areas that Johnny would
                                                                    have looked into before he went on assignment. The first

58                            ROBERT DOHERTY
                                                               AREA 51                                                    59

would be to get background information about Area 51                        F-15 Crashes, Pilot Killed
and Nellis Air Force Base. The second would be to get
more specific and look into the UFO phenomenon as it             Officials at Davis-Montham Air Force Base confirmed
related to Area 51.                                              last night that an F-15 fighter jet from the 355th Tacti-
  Kelly had more than a glancing background in the field         cal Training Wing crashed during training yesterday on
of UFOs, which was why, in addition to their friendship,         the Luke Air Force Base reservation.
Johnny had sent her the package in the first place. Her            The pilot, whose identity is being withheld pending
trouble eight years ago with the Air Force at Nellis Air         notification of next of kin, was killed in the crash.
Force Base had had to do with that subject and had for all         The aircraft went down in rough terrain and recov-
practical purposes destroyed a promising career in the doc-      ery operations are under way.
umentary filmmaking field. What had appeared at the time           (No further information was available at press
to Kelly as an excellent opportunity had turned into a di-
saster.                                                          time.)
  Kelly took the package Johnny had sent her and went
through it one more time, this go-around making notes of         Kelly checked, but there was nothing on the crash in the
key words on a legal pad. When she was done, she looked        following day's paper, which was unusual. Kelly flipped
at what she had:                                               open her atlas. Luke Air Force Base was in Arizona, hun-
                                                               dreds of miles from the Nellis Air Force Base Range. She
  Las Vegas Postmark                                           hit the delete key. This had nothing to do with what she
  The Captain                                                  was looking for.
  23 Oct. transmissions, Nellis AFB                              Then she paused. Or did it? How often did F-15's crash?
        Red Flag                                               Not exactly every day of the year. Was it just coincidence?
        F-15                                                   Kelly did not believe much in coincidence. She felt her gut
  "Mailbox"                                                    tighten further. What had Johnny stumbled upon? If this
  Dreamland                                                    F-15 was the F-15 on the tape, the Air Force had gone
  Groom Lake                                                   through a lot of trouble to point the finger in a different
                                                               direction from Nellis and Area 51. And not only was the
  Kelly accessed her on-line data base and set up a            plane reported as having crashed, the pilot was dead. He
Boolean keyword search. She started with the date in ques-     had been very much alive on that tape.
tion, combining it with Nellis Air Force Base, and drew a        Next, Kelly tried mailbox in conjunction with UFOs. This
blank. Then she switched to both the twenty-third and          produced three hits, all of which identified the mailbox as
twenty-fourth of October and accessed any news about           an actual mailbox along a dirt road outside of the Groom
F-15's. This time she got a hit. She drew up the article,      Lake complex where UFO enthusiasts gathered to watch
from the Tucson Citizen, dated the twenty-fourth of Octo-      for strange craft over the mountains. Obviously the man
ber:                                                           who had sent Johnny the tape--the Captain--was one of

      60                             ROBERT DOHERTY                   AREA 51                                                61

      those people. At least she now knew where she could find        knew that Johnny must have done the same search, in fact,
      that link in the puzzle if she needed it.                       a much more in-depth one. And after completing that
        Trying Dreamland and Groom Lake brought her a wealth          search he had felt it was worth going out there and taking
      of stories about the site there. They were both cross-refer-    the chance that the tape he had been sent was a fake or,
      enced to Area 51, which was another one of the many             given that Johnny knew about her own Nellis experience, a
      names for a place whose purpose was unknown and whose           setup.
      existence was officially denied.                                  Shifting through several of the articles, two names kept
        There were many theories, and Kelly was familiar with         popping up: Mike Franklin, a self-styled Area 51 expert
      most of them. There were some who claimed the govern-           living in the town of Rachel, just outside the Nellis Air
      ment had contact with aliens at the site, and they were         Force Base range complex; and Steve Jarvis, a scientist who
      trading for information and technology. The more radical        claimed to have worked in the Groom Lake/Area 51 com-
      theorists stated that, on their side of the barter, the hu-     plex and actually seen alien craft that the government was
      mans were allowing the aliens to conduct mutilations on         test-flying. Johnny would have seen the same names.
      cattle and other livestock and also--from the truly radical        Kelly picked up the phone and got Franklin's number
      fringe--to abduct humans for various nefarious experi-           from information. She dialed and waited as it cycled
      ments. There were some who even claimed that the aliens         through five rings. Just as she was about to hang up, some-
      were interbreeding with the humans. Kelly shook her head.       body came on the line. The voice on the other end was a
      These were the sorts of stories that made headlines on the      woman's and she sounded upset. "Yes?"
      tabloid rags at the checkout counter, not something that          "I'd like to speak to Mike Franklin. This is Kelly Reyn-
      legitimate journalists pursued.                                 olds."
        Another theory was that Area 51 was the place where             "Mike's not here," the woman said.
      the government was testing its own supersecret aircraft and       "Do you know when he'll be back?"
      that the F-117 Stealth fighter had been test-flown out            "He's not here," the woman repeated.
      there. The latest "secret" plane that was supposedly being        "I'm doing an article on UFOs for a major magazine,"
      tested was called Aurora and guesstimates had the plane--        Kelly said, used to occasionally getting the cold shoulder,
      no one quite knew what it looked like--flying anywhere           "and I'd like to talk to--"
      from Mach 4 to Mach 20 and being capable of going high            "I said he's not here-." the woman snapped. Just as
      enough to place satellites into orbit.                          quickly the voice on the other end started sobbing. "Mike's
        The official government line was that the Groom Lake/         dead. He was killed in a car wreck last night."
      Area 51 complex didn't exist, which was a most interesting        Kelly's hand tightened on the phone. "Where did the
      position considering the fact that the Air Force had been       wreck occur?"
      gobbling the terrain around the area for the past five years      "On Route 375, about fifteen miles outside of town."
      as quickly as it could.                                           "Was he alone?"
        Obviously, something was going on at Area 51, Kelly de-         "What?"
i cided from all the information in front of her. And she "Was he alone in the car?"

62                             ROBERT DOHERTY                                                                            63
                                                                 AREA  5 1

  "Yes. The state police say he must have run off the road,        Jarvis cut in. "My fee for a print interview is five hun-
maybe trying to avoid hitting a deer. They acted like he         dred dollars. That gets you one hour."
must have been drunk. But Mike never drank that much.              "Mr. Jarvis, I'm just trying to find--"
He didn't like it. And someone went through all his stuff          "Five hundred dollars, one hour. Cash or a money order.
here at the house. When I got here this morning I could          No checks. No free questions."
tell, even though they tried to put it all back in place. I'm      Kelly paused and gathered in her emotions. "Can I see
scared they're going to come back here."                         you this evening?"
  "Who are they?" Kelly asked.                                     "The elephant bar at the Zanzibar. Be there at seven on
  The woman gave a high-pitched laugh. "Them. You                the dot."
                                                                   "How will I recognize you?" Kelly asked.
                                                                   "I'll recognize you," Jarvis replied. "Wear red. Some-
  "No, I don't," Kelly said. "Who are you talking about?"        thing sexy. Order a slow, comfortable screw from the bar-
  "Forget it," the woman said. "Mike shouldn't have been         tender."
doing whatever he was doing. I told him."                          Kelly clenched her teeth. "Listen, I'm a professional and
  "What's your name?" Kelly asked.                               I'm coming out to Las Vegas to do a legitimate job. I don't
  "I'm not talking to no one. I'm getting out of here. I         need--
don't know what Mike was doing and I don't want to know            "Obviously," Jarvis cut in again, "you don't need to in-
no more." The phone went dead and Kelly slowly lowered           terview me, then. It was nice talking to you, Miss Reyn-
the receiver.                                                    olds."
  "Oh, Johnny, Johnny," she said softly. "You hit the nail         Kelly waited. He didn't hang up; she didn't either. Elec-
on the head, I think, but it looks like the nail was harder      tronic Mexican standoff.
than you thought."                                                 Finally Jarvis spoke. "Do you have the money? Five hun-
  Kelly stood and looked at the dry-erase board where she        dred? Cash?"
kept all her appointments and job assignments for the next         "Yes."
several weeks. There was nothing that couldn't be put off          "All right. Just ask the bartender for me. He'll point you
for a while with a few phone calls.                              in the right direction. I'll be there at seven."
  After making her work calls she dialed a travel agency           As Kelly hung up the phone, a flicker of doubt crossed
and booked a flight out of Nashville into Las Vegas, de-         her mind. Was she overreacting to the situation?
parting at noon. Then she called information and got the           She reached down and pulled the Nellis file out of her
number for a Steve Jarvis in Las Vegas. A male voice an-         desk and stared at it for a few minutes while she thought.
swered. "Hello?"                                                 Once before she'd been down this path. But this time was
  "Is this Steve Jarvis?"                                        different. She wasn't just after a story. There was Johnny,
  "Who's calling?"                                               out there somewhere, hopefully still alive.
  "This is Kelly Reynolds. I'm a freelance writer doing an         But that didn't mean she had to walk in blind. She
article for--                                                     looked up the article on Jarvis again and checked some-

64                            ROBERT DOHERTY                    AREA    51                                               65

thing. Then she picked up the phone and made another            In many ways the stone had been the key that opened up
call.                                                           study of ancient Egypt, because when Champollion finally
                                                                broke the code to the traditional Egyptian hieroglyphics
                                                                and deciphered it, a wealth of information was unleashed.
                                                                  Despite his having studied the history of archaeology in
CAIRO, EGYPT                                                    college and graduate school, the information Nabinger was
T-134 HOURS, 4O MINUTES                                         now reading was new to him. What Nabinger had never
Peter Nabinger was also trying to answer questions, but he      been told was that in 1842 the King of Prussia had led an
didn't understand the information that was appearing on         expedition to Egypt that had done further work on deci-
the computer screen in front of him. He was in the re-          phering ancient Egyptian texts and markings. A German
search section of the University of Cairo, using their data-    Egyptologist named Richard Lepsius had accompanied the
base to check on Kaji's story. He was glad he had access to     king and remained there for three years, producing draw-
such a sophisticated system as the university's computer,       ings and measurements of all three pyramids.
because much of what he was looking for had been re-               Over the years that followed, the Germans had invested
ported only in academic and scientific journals or out-of-      quite a bit of time and energy in the study of the pyramids,
print books, and the computer held hundreds of thousands        hieroglyphics, and high runes. Obviously--if Kaji's story
of such abstracts. The system also had the advantage of         was true--that effort had borne some fruit.
holding practically every bit of information about Egypt           In the decade just prior to World War I various German
and Cairo that had ever been recorded.                          groups had used myths and archaeology to weave a strange
   There was no record of Germans in the Great Pyramid           and convoluted web of doctrine to support their racial and
during World War II; not that he had expected to find any.       anti-Semitic philosophies. The swastika, a symbol that had
But, sorting through bits and pieces of local newspaper          been used by several ancient peoples, was resurrected. List,
articles from 1945, it did appear that access to the Great       an early influence on Hitler, used his own false deciphering
Pyramid had been restricted for several months during that       of high runes to justify his beliefs.
year and that some strange Allied military activity had cen-       Nabinger stopped scrolling the computer for a second
tered around the building, as Kaji had said.                     and stroked his beard. Although the deciphering of the
   Cross-referencing the word Tliuie with the Nazis brought      Rossetta stone had greatly increased understanding of hi-
a surprising result. Nabinger had been familiar with the         eroglyphics, it had been of no help in the deciphering of
word Thule in the traditional sense from ancient mythol-         the high runes. Nabinger's own feeling was that the high
ogy: a northern, inhabited region. The Nazis, however, had       runes were older than hieroglyphics.
perverted that concept--and many other myths and leg-               Nabinger remembered Kaji's comments about the Ger-
ends--for their own purposes and they had used the sci-           mans using some sort of map with markings on it to find
ence of archaeology to try to support their claims.              their way. What had the Germans uncovered? Had they
   Even nonarchaeologists knew about the Rosetta stone,          discovered a way to decipher high rune text that still re-
found in 1799 when Napoleon's army had invaded Egypt.            mained unknown to the rest of the world? Were they using

                                                               AREA 51
66                              ROBERT DOHERTY

                                                               once been the center of a great civilization, but was subse-
some ancient document or perhaps something drawn by            quently destroyed by a great flood. This concept was based
Lepsius in the nineteenth century? Or had they simply          on an earlier theory postulated by the Theosophical Soci-
used a map, copied from someplace, and still been unable       ety. Nabinger said a brief prayer for the computer that
to read the high runes?
                                                               gave him the ability to cross-reference so quickly as he
   Nabinger had heard about the German fascination with        requested information on this latest piece of information.
the myth of the Holy Grail and the search for the lance          The Theosophical Society was founded in 1875 in New
supposedly used on Jesus after his crucifixion, but his in-    York City by a woman named Madame Helena Blavatsky.
structors in school had laughed away the Nazis as amateurs     Her theory had the inhabitants of Atlantis--or Thule, as
in the scientific field of archaeology, more interested in     the Nazis had named it--representing the Fourth Race,
propaganda than science. But perhaps, Nabinger won-            the only true line of man, which of course, the Nazis found
dered, there had been other searches with better results?      very convenient to use in their Aryan-race theory. Accord-
Nabinger thought of his own hypothesis connecting the          ing to the abstract the inhabitants of Thule looked very
high runes in South and Central America with those in the      much like the figures carved into stone on Easter Island.
pyramid. He knew he would be laughed at also if he tried       Nabinger ran a hand through his beard. How the hell had
to publish his results.
                                                               she made that connection?
  Nabinger read on. At the end of World War I many of            Nabinger started to feel like he was getting off base, but
the occult groups that had been born in Germany prior to       he read further. The fall of the true line of man--the
the war grew in strength, feeding off the deep and bitter      Atlanteans or Thulians--had come about because they had
dissatisfaction of the people with the defeat and peace im-    mated with lesser beings. Voila, the master race needed
posed on their country. The name Thule was appropriated        purity, which also worked quite well into the master-race
as a cover for these groups.
                                                               theory of the Nazis.
  Nabinger straightened. In 1933 a book had been pub-            So the Nazis had been interested in Atlantis? What did
lished in Germany called Bevor Hitler Kam (Before Hitler       that have to do with Egypt? He sat back in the chair and
Came). It was apparently about the connection between          closed his eyes. Unsettling thoughts floated through his
Hitler's National Socialist movement and the Thule move-       brain as he reviewed what he knew and what he had just
ment. The interesting thing was that after publication, the    learned. Why had the Nazis destroyed the book and what
author disappeared under mysterious circumstances and all      had happened to Sebottendorff? There didn't appear to be
copies of the book that could be found in Germany were         any direct connection here with Kaji's story other than the
collected and destroyed by the Nazis. The author of the        word Thule inscribed on the dagger, but Nabinger was used
book was named Baron Rudolf von Sebottendorff.                 to having to dig intellectually as well as in the dirt. Perhaps
  Checking, Nabinger was surprised to see that the com-        there was more here than was readily apparent.
puter had an abstract on the book. Sebottendorff had              Nabinger opened his eyes and went back to the abstract
taken the ancient myth of Atlantis and the myth of Thule       on the book. Apparently the book had been destroyed and
and reinvented them with his own sick motivations.             information about it suppressed because Hitler wanted
  According to Sebottendorff, Thule was reported to have

     68                             ROBERT DOHERTY                    AREA  5 1                                              69

    people to think all his ideas had begun with him and were         formation that he always carried with him when he went
    not borrowed from other sources.                                  overseas to work. In the back were several pages of docu-
       Nabinger decided to press on for a bit along the present       ment protectors, each sized to hold twelve business cards.
    avenue of research. A search on Atlantis brought a large          He found the card of Helen Slater, the woman from Bimini
    number of references--over three thousand. Obviously the           who had spoken at the conference. He removed it and put
    Germans had not been alone in their interest. Nabinger            it in his breast pocket.
    searched the titles until he found one that seemed to give          Nabinger hit the F-3 key to print out the article and
    an overview of the history of the fabled continent.               moved on to another article. This one described a nine-
      Atlantis was often regarded as a myth mentioned in orig-        teenth century American congressman, Ignatius Donnelly,
    inal source only by Plato. Most historians thought Plato          who had published a book called Atlantis: The Antediluvian
    had made the tale of Atlantis up to stress a point and that       World, which had been a best-seller in its own time. Don-
    it was only a literary tool. For those who did think it repre-    nelly's hypothesis was based on similarities between pre-
    sented an actual place, the fingers pointed to various loca-      Columbian civilizations in America and Egypt. Nabinger
    tions. Some believe it to be the island of Thera in the           felt like he was reading the beginning of his own unpub-
    Mediterranean, which was destroyed by a volcanic erup-            lished paper on the high runes. Both cultures had had
    tion. The crater of the volcano Santorini had been investi-       pyramids, embalming, a 365-day calendar, and a mythology
    gated by leading oceanographers, searching for clues.             about an ancient flood. Donnelly's theories had been torn
    Others placed it in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The         apart by scientists of his own day, which didn't surprise
    Azores were mentioned--the Lake of the Seven Cities on             Nabinger. The same connection had been made by people
    the island of Sao Miguel was a body of water in a volcanic        in this century and received the same chilly reception,
    crater. The main city of Atlantis was supposed to lie be-         which was the major reason Nabinger's paper was still un-
    neath that lake, or so the supporters of that site claimed.       published.
      Nabinger scanned down, skipping most of the middle of             Done with that article, he decided to get back to what
    the article, looking to see what the latest theories were.        had led him here: the cross-reference with the Nazis and
    Recent discoveries of large stones closely fitted together        Atlantis. The Nazis had launched expeditions during World
    off the islands of Bimini in the Bahamas had caused quite a       War II to the cold wastelands on both ends of the earth, in
    bit of excitement several years previously and the enigma         search of both Atlantis/Thule and relics such as the Holy
    of their creation and location had never really been ade-         Grail. And also to Central America, where there were
    quately explained. That struck a bell with Nabinger. A            pyramids, not quite as large or of the exact same design as
    speaker at an archeological conference he had attended            those in Egypt, but with high runes also.
    the previous year had been from Bimini and had spoken of            Nabinger stroked his beard. What had the Nazis found
    the site. And, if he remembered rightly, there were high          that had led them back to the Great Pyramid and to a
    runes there, too, that couldn't be deciphered.                    chamber that had been undisturbed for over four thousand
      Nabinger put his briefcase on the table next to the com-        years? Had they broken the code on the runes and found
   puter and dug through. He had a binder in there with in-           out important information? Was there something written


7O                             ROBERT DOHERTY                    AREA   51                                               71

in these other locations about the pyramids? If Kaji's story        Curses against interlopers in the monuments of ancient
was true, at' the very least they had found information that     Egypt were not unknown. Did this curse relate to what Von
had told them of the lower chamber.                              Seeckt had taken out of the pyramid? And why had the
  Nabinger cleared the screen and went back to the word          Allies hidden all record of the invasion of the pyramid and
search. He slowly typed in the name Kaji had given him:          the discovery of the lower chamber? It had to be something
                                                                 much more important than some simple archeological find.
                                                                    There was a way to find out. The end of the article stated
      Von Seeckt.                                                that Von Seeckt was still alive and living in Las Vegas.
                                                                 Nabinger turned off the computer and stood. Budget be
  One hit. Nabinger accessed the article. It was a fifty-year    damned, there was a mystery here, and he was the only one
anniversary article about the atomic bomb being dropped          who was on its trail. He left the university library and
on Hiroshima. It detailed the development of the atomic          walked into the nearest travel agency to book a return
bomb during World War II. Nabinger scanned down. Von              flight to the States that evening, with one stop en route to
Seeckt's name was listed as one of the physicists who had         see Slater in Bimini.
worked on development and testing of the bomb.                      Once he knew when he would be arriving, he rang
  But Von Seeckt had been with Germans, according to              through the long-distance operator to information in Ne-
Kaji. How had he ended up in America in the middle of             vada. There was a Werner Von Seeckt listed and Nabinger
the war? And why had the Germans brought a nuclear                copied down the number. After he'd dialed it, he found
physicist into the Great Pyramid? And, most importantly,          himself talking to voice mail. As the beep sounded, Nab-
what had Von Seeckt discovered and carried out of the             inger quickly composed his message:
lower chamber in 1942?                                              "Professor Von Seeckt, my name is Peter Nabinger. I
                                                                  work with the Egyptology Department at the Brooklyn
  Nabinger's fingers halted over the keyboard as some-
                                                                  Museum. I would like to talk to you about the Great Pyra-
thing he had written earlier in the day came back to him.         mid, which I believe we have a mutual interest in. I just
He reached into his backpack and pulled out his                   deciphered some of the writing in the lower chamber,
sketchpad. He'd been working on the panels in the lower           which I believe you visited once upon a time and it says:
chamber that stood at the head of where the sarcophagus           Power, sun. Forbidden. Home place, chariot, never again.
had once been. The partially deciphered rune text was             Death to all living things. Perhaps you could help shed some
there in pencil:                                                  light on my translation. Leave me a message how I can get
                                                                  hold of you at my voice-mail box," and Nabinger left his
  POWER SUN                                                       number.

                                                                   AREA 51                                                    73

                                                                   immediately flanked by two men wearing black wind-
                                                                   breakers and khaki slacks, their eyes hidden behind wrap-
                                                                   around sunglasses.
                                                                     They hustled him into a waiting car and headed to the
                                                                   airstrip at Nellis Air Force Base, where a small black heli-
                                                                   copter waited to whisk him back to the northwest. As the
                                                                   helicopter lifted off, Von Seeckt leaned back in the thinly
                                                                   padded seat and contemplated the terrain flitting by under-
                                                                   neath. The American desert had been his home for over
                                                                   fifty years now, but his heart still longed for the tree-cov-
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA                                                  ered slopes of the Bavarian Alps, where he had grown up.
T-133 HOURS                                                        He had always hoped he would see his homeland before he
                                                                   died, but now, today, he knew he wouldn't. They would
"About a year, give or take six months, without treatment.
                                                                   never let him go, even after so many years had passed.
With treatment you can add perhaps another half a year."
                                                                     He unfolded the piece of paper on which he had written
  The old man didn't blink at Dr. Cruise's pronounce-
                                                                   the message he had taken off his answering service while
ment. He nodded and rose to his feet, a black cane with a
                                                                   waiting in Cruise's office. Power, sun. Forbidden. Home
wide silver handle grasped in his withered left hand.
"Thank you, Doctor."                                               place, chariot, never again. Death to all living things. He re-
  "We can start the treatments tomorrow morning, Profes-           membered the Great Pyramid.
sor Von Seeckt," Dr. Cruise hastily added, as if to cushion          Von Seeckt leaned back in the seat. It was all coming
his earlier words.                                                 around again, like a large circle. His life was back where it
  "That is fine."                                                  had been over fifty years ago. The question he had to ask
  "Would you like something--" Cruise paused as the old             himself was whether he had learned anything and whether
man held up his hand.                                              he was willing to act differently this time.
  "I will be fine. This is not a surprise. I was informed this
would most likely be the case when I was hospitalized ear-
lier this year. I just wanted to confirm it, and I also believe    THE DEVIL'S NEST, NEBRASKA
I was owed the respect of your telling me yourself. My             T--132 HOURS
security will take me home."
  "I'll see you at the meeting later this morning," Cruise         Underneath the camouflage netting that Turcotte had
said, stiffening at the implied rebuke in Von Seeckt's             helped rig during darkness, the mechanics made the three
words.                                                             helicopters ready for flight, folding the rotors out and lock-
  "Good day, Doctor." With that Werner Von Seeckt                  ing them in place. The pilots walked around, making their
made his way out into the hallway of the hospital and was          preflight checks.

74                            ROBERT DOHERTY
                                                               AREA 51            75

  On the perimeter of the primitive airstrip Turcotte was      was good news. The old man had long ago outlived his
lying on his stomach in the middle of a four-hour guard        usefulness.
shift, looking down the one asphalt road that led up to the      Gullick shifted his attention to the youngest person in
airstrip. The road was in bad shape. Plants and weeds had      the room, who was sitting to his immediate right. She was a
sprouted up through cracks, and it seemed obvious this         small, dark-haired woman with a thin face, dressed severely
place had been abandoned for quite a while. That didn't        in a sharply cut gray suit. This was Dr. Lisa Duncan's first
mean, of course, that someone in a four-wheel-drive vehi-      meeting, and while inbriefing her on the project was one of
cle couldn't come wandering up and stumble over their          the two priorities on the meeting schedule, it was not the
mission support site. Thus Turcotte's orders to apprehend      primary one in Gullick's mind. In fact, he resented having
anyone coming up the road.                                     to take time out at such a critical juncture in the project to
  The question that still had not been answered--albeit         get a new person up to speed.
Turcotte had not asked it out loud--was what mission this         There was also the fact that Dr. Duncan was the first
site was set up to support. Prague had given orders through    woman ever allowed in this room. But, since Duncan was
the night, but they had been immediate ones, directed          filling the chair reserved for the presidential adviser, it paid
to the security of this location, not shedding any light on    at least to give the appearance of respect. The fingers of
what they would be doing once the sun went down this           Gullick's left hand lightly traced over his smooth skull, ca-
evening.                                                       ressing the skin as if soothing the brain underneath. There
                                                               was so much to do and so little time! Why had the previous
                                                               adviser been reassigned? Duncan's predecessor had been
                                                               an old physics professor who had been so enraptured by
THE CUBE, AREA 51                                              what they were doing upstairs in the hangar that he had
T-13O HOURS, 3O MINUTES                                        been no trouble.
The conference room was to the left of the control center        A week ago Kennedy, the CIA representative, had been
as one got off the elevator. It was soundproofed and swept     the first to notify Gullick of Duncan's assignment and this
daily for bugs. The Cube had never had a security compro-      visit. Gullick had ordered the CIA man to look into
mise and General Gullick was going to insure that the rec-     Duncan's background. She was a threat; Gullick was con-
ord remained intact.                                           vinced of that. The timing of her sudden assignment and
  A large, rectangular mahogany table filled the middle of     this first visit couldn't be coincidental.
the room with twelve deep leather chairs lining the edges.       "Good afternoon, gentlemen--and lady," Gullick added
                                                               with a nod across the table. "Welcome to this meeting of
Gullick sat at the head of the table and waited silently as
                                                               Majic-12." Built into the arm rest of his chair was a series
the other chairs were filled. He watched as Von Seeckt         of buttons and Gullick hit one of them, lighting up the wall
limped in and took the chair at the other end of the table.    behind him with a large-scale computer image. The same
Gullick had already been briefed by Dr. Cruise on the con-     image was displayed on the horizontal console set into the
firmation of Von Seeckt's terminal condition. To Gullick it    tabletop just in front of Gullick for his eyes only:

76                             ROBERT DOHERTY                  AREA 51                                                   77

         INBRIEF PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER                          Reconaissance Organization. The NRO is the agency
                                                               through which our funding is directed.
         CURRENT STATUS OF BOUNCERS                              "Dr. Ferrel, professor of physics, New York Institute of
                                                               Technology. Our chief scientific counsel and in charge of
      CURRENT STATUS OF THE MOTHERSHIP                         our reverse engineeering work.
                                                                 "Dr. Slayden, project psychologist, Majic-12.
      PROJECTED TEST OF THE MOTHERSHIP                           "Dr. Underbill, aeronautics, Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
                                                               Our expert at flight.
  "This is today's schedule." Gullick looked around the          "Dr. Cruise, MD."
table. "First, since we have a new member, introductions         Gullick wasted no further time on the people. "I would
are in order. I will begin from my left and go around the      like to welcome Dr. Duncan to our group for the first
table clockwise.                                               time." He looked down the table at her. "I know you have
  "Mr. Kennedy, deputy director of operations, the Cen         been given the classified inbriefing papers on the history of
tral Intelligence Agency. Our liaison to the intelligence      the Majic-12 project, so I won't bore you with that informa-
community." Kennedy was the youngest man in the room.          tion, but I would like to run through some of the highlights
He wore an expensive three-piece suit. If they weren't a       of our operation as it currently stands.
quarter mile underground he'd probably have been wear-           "First, everything and anything to do with the project is
ing sunglasses, Gullick thought. He didn't like Kennedy        classified Top Secret, Q Clearance, Level 5. That is the
because of his age and his aggressive attitude, but he most    highest classification level possible. Majic-12, which is the
certainly needed him. Kennedy had thick blond hair and a       official designation for the people around this table, has
dark tan that looked out of place with the other men at the    been in existence for fifty-four years. Not once in all those
conference table.                                              years have we had a security breach.
  "Major General Brown, deputy chief of staff, Air Force.        "Our primary mission is twofold. First is to master flying
The Air Force has overall administration and logistics re-     the bouncer disks and reverse-engineer their propulsion
sponsibility for the project and for external security.        system." He flicked a button and an image of nine silvery
  "Major General Mosley, deputy chief of staff, Army.          disks appeared, lined up in a massive hangar. It was hard to
The Army supplies personnel for security support.              tell details from the photo, but five of the disks appeared to
  "Rear Admiral Coakley, assistant director, Naval intelli-    be identical to one another, while the other four all dif-
gence. The Navy is responsible for counterintelligence.        fered slightly.
  "Dr. Von Seeckt, chief scientific counsel, Majic-12. Dr.       "We have been flying bouncers for thirty-three years and
Von Seeckt is the only man in this room who has been with      keep double flight crews current on their operation. But we
the project from the beginning.                                have not had as much success discerning their method of
  "Dr. Duncan, our latest member, presidential adviser to      propulsion." He glanced down the table and arched an
Majic-12 on science and technology.                            eyebrow.
  "Mr. Davis, special projects coordinator, National             "I'm current on that research," Duncan said.

78                              ROBERT DOHERTY                     AREA    51                                               79

  Gullick nodded. "We are continuing flights of the bounc-           "And we still don't understand the bouncers' propulsion
ers to keep the flight crews current and also to continue          systems!" Von Seeckt threw in.
tests on the propulsion system and their flight characteris-         "But we're flying the bouncers and using them," Doctor
tics. We have several prototypes of the bouncer engine, but        Ferrell, the physicist, said. "And we are getting closer every
have not yet succeeded in engineering one that functions           day to figuring them out."
adequately," he said, understating the massive problems              "It is dangerous to play with tools we don't understand!"
they had encountered over the years and eager to get past          Von Seeckt cried out.
the failures of the past and on to the future.                       "Is this test dangerous?" Duncan asked, calm in contrast
  "Our second purpose--the mothership--is a different                to Von Seeckt's wavering and excited voice.
story altogether." An elongated black cigar shape ap-                Gullick looked across the table at her. Just before this
peared on the screen, again nestled inside a hangar with           meeting he had studied the classified file Kennedy had
rock walls. It was impossible to tell the scale of the ship        amassed on her. He knew more about her than she proba-
from the photo, but even in the two-dimensional projection         bly remembered about herself. Thirty-seven, twice di-
it gave the impression of being massive.                           vorced, a son in private high school back in Washington, a
                                                                   doctorate in medical biology from Stanford, a successful
  "For all these years the mothership has defied our best
                                                                   career in business, and now, due to her friendship with the
scientific minds, but we finally believe we have gained
                                                                   First Lady, a political appointee to perhaps the most sensi-
enough knowledge of the control system to activate the             tive post in the administration. Of course, Gullick knew,
propulsion system. That is currently our number-one prior-         the President didn't fully comprehend the importance of
ity in the project. It will--                                       Majic-12. And that was one of the Catch-22's of the secrecy
  "It will be a disaster if we activate the mothership," Von       surrounding the project. Because they couldn't really tell
Seeckt cut in, looking at Duncan. "We have no clue how it          anyone what was going on, they were often neglected in the
operates. Oh, these fools will tell you we understand the          big scheme. But there were ways around that and the mem-
control system, but that has nothing to do with the me-            bers of Majic-12 had long ago perfected those ways.
chanics and the physics of the engine itself. It is like invit-      "Ma'am," Gullick said, reverting to the military form of
ing a man into the cockpit of an advanced nuclear bomber           addressing a woman, "everything is dangerous, but test-
and believing that the man can operate the bomber be-              flying is probably the most dangerous occupation in the
cause he can drive his car and the yoke of the bomber is           world. I flew experimental aircraft early in my career. Over
very much like the steering wheel of the car. It is mad-           the course of a year at Edwards Air Force Base, eight of
ness."                                                             the twelve men in my squadron were killed working out the
  Gullick's left eyebrow twitched but his voice was calm.          bugs in a new airframe. And here we are dealing with alien
"Thank you, Dr. Von Seeckt, but we have been over all              technology. We didn't design these craft. But we do have
that ground already. We will never understand the mother-          an advantage," Gullick added. "We are dealing with tech-
ship if we do not attempt to investigate it. That is the           nology that works. The largest danger I faced as a test pilot
method we have used on the bouncers and--"                          was getting the technology up to speed so it would work.

80                             ROBERT DOHERTY                                                                           81
                                                                AREA 51

Here we know these craft fly. It is a matter of figuring out      "There's quite a bit that I don't understand," Lisa
how they fly."                                                  Duncan said as soon as the room was clear.
  Gullick turned his chair slightly and pointed at the            "There's quite a bit we don't understand," General Gul-
mothership sitting in its cradle of steel beams. "We are        lick amended. "The technology we are working with here is
currently slightly over one hundred and thirty hours from       overwhelming at times."
the first test flight. But before we attempt that, we simply      "I'm not talking about the technology," Duncan said.
are going to start it up and see what happens. That is the      "I'm talking about the administration of this program."
reason this meeting is scheduled for today: so you can see        "Is there a problem?" Gullick asked, his voice chilling
for yourself in a few hours that there is no danger. To use     the room.
Dr. Von Seeckt's analogy--but in the proper perspective--           Duncan was blunt. "Why the secrecy? Why are we hid-
we are simply going to put our man in the pilot's seat and      ing all this?"
have him turn the engines on and then off. The craft won't        Gullick relaxed slightly. "Numerous reasons."
go anywhere. And our man is not a child. We have the best         "Please enumerate them," Duncan said.
minds in the country assembled here working on this proj-         Gullick lit a cigar, ignoring the NO SMOKING signs that
ect."                                                           adorned the walls of the Cube conference room. Govern-
  Von Seeckt snorted. "We had the best minds back in            ment bureaucracy found itself into even the most secret of
eighty-nine when--"                                              locations. "This program began during World War II, and
  "That's enough, Doctor," Gullick snapped. "The deci-          that was the reason it was initially classified. Then there
sion has been made. This is an information briefing, not a      was the Cold War and the requirement to keep this tech-
decision briefing. At thirteen hundred hours local time to-     nology--what we did understand of it--out of the hands of
day the mothership's engines will be turned on for ten sec-     the Russians. One study by our staff even found a high
onds and then immediately turned off. The decision has          possibility that if the Russians ever discovered that we had
been made," he repeated. "Now, shall we move on with the        this technology it would upset the balance of power and
briefing?" It was not a question designed to be answered        they might launch a preemptive nuclear strike. I would say
with anything but assent.                                       that's a damn good reason to keep this secret."
  For the next thirty minutes the meeting went as sched-          Duncan pulled a cigarette out of her purse. She pointed
uled with no further interruptions. Gullick formally            at the ashtray for Gullick's cigar. "Do you mind?" She
brought it to a close. "Dr. Duncan, if you would like, you      didn't wait for an answer as she lit up. "The Cold War has
might want to take a tour of the hangar and our other           been over for over half a decade, General. Keep counting
facilities and be present when we conduct the test on the       the reasons."
mothership."                                                      A muscle twitched on the right side of Gullick's jaw.
  "I would like that very much," she replied, "but first I'd    "The Cold War may be over, but there are still nuclear
like a moment alone with you."                                  missiles pointed at this country by foreign countries. We
  "If you would excuse us, gentlemen," Gullick said. "Des-      are dealing with technology here that might totally change
ignated personnel, please wait outside," he added.              the course of civilization. That is sufficient--'

                                                                  AREA    51                                               83
82                              ROBERT DOHERTY

                                                                  money has been poured into this project and the return has
  "Could it be," Duncan cut in, "that all this is classified      been minimal."
simply because it's always been classified?"                        "If we fly the mothership," Gullick said, "it will all be
  "I understand what you're saying." Gullick attempted a          worth it."
disarming smile that didn't work. He ran a finger over the          Duncan stubbed out her cigarette and stood. "I hope so.
file folder that held Kennedy's report on Duncan and re-          Good day, sir." She turned on her high heels and walked
strained an impulse to throw it at her. "It would be easy to      out the door.
see the secrecy surrounding Majic-12 as simply a leftover           As soon as she was gone, the Majic-12 men in uniform
from the Cold War, but there are deeper implications              and the representatives from the CIA and NRO came back
here."                                                            in. All attempt at being cordial slipped from Gullick's de-
  "Such as?" Duncan didn't wait for an answer. "Could             meanor. "Duncan's fishing. She knows there something
part of those deeper implications be that this project had        more going on."
been founded illegally? That the importation of people              "We need to have Slayden give her the data on the im-
such as Von Seeckt to work in it--in direct violation of law       plications of revealing the project," Kennedy said.
and a presidential order in force at the time--and other             "I told her about Slayden's briefing and she's got his
activities since then would open up personnel involved in         written report already," Gullick said. "No, she's looking for
this program to criminal prosecution?"                            something more."
  The glowing red numbers set into the desktop next to              "Do you think she has something on Dulce?" Kennedy
the computer screen read T-130H/16M. That was all that con-       asked.
cerned Gullick. He'd talked to a few of the others about            "No. If there was any suspicion about that, we'd know
how to handle Duncan and now it was time to start with            about it. We're wired into every intelligence apparatus this
what they had come up with.                                       country has. It has to be something else."
  "Whatever happened fifty years ago is not our concern,"           "Operation Paperclip?" Kennedy asked.
he said. "We are worried about the impact publicizing this          Gullick nodded. "She made a point of mentioning that
program will have on the general population.                      Von Seeckt and others were recruited illegally. She knows
  "Dr. Slayden, the program psychologist," Gullick said,          too much. If they pull on that thread too hard, this whole
"is on our staff for this very reason. As a matter of fact, we    thing might unravel."
will have a briefing from Dr. Slayden at eight A.M. on the           Kennedy pointed at the folder. "We can go hard with her
twelfth. He'll be able to explain things better then, but         if we need to."
suffice it to say that the social and economic implications          "She's the President's representative," General Brown
of revealing what we have here at Area 51 to the public are       warned.
staggering. So staggering that every president since World           "We just need time," Gullick said. "I think Slayden's
War II has agreed that the utmost secrecy should surround         psychobabble will keep her occupied. If not"--Gullick
this project."                                                    shrugged--"then we go hard." He looked down at the
  "Well, this president," Duncan said, "may think differ-         computer screen and changed the subject. "What's the
ently. The times are changing. An immense amount of

84                             ROBERT DOHERTY                                                                          85
                                                                AREA 51

status of Nightscape 96-7?" Gullick asked the director of       THE DEVIL'S NEST, NEBRASKA
Naval intelligence.                                             T-13O HOURS
  "Everything looks good," Admiral Coakley answered.            "What's that?" Turcotte asked.
"The MSS is secure and all elements are in place."                The man in the gray flight suit looked up. "Laser firing
  "What about the infiltration by that reporter and the         system," he said shortly, snapping shut the metal case on
other person last night?" Gullick asked.                        the sophisticated machinery that had drawn Turcotte 's at-
  "We've cleaned it all up and there's an added benefit to      tention.
that situation," Coakley said. "That other fellow's name          Turcotte had never seen a laser that was packed suitcase
was Franklin. A UFO freak. He's been a pain in the ass for      size, but the technician did not seem amenable to discuss-
a long time working out of his house in Rachel. We no           ing the technology. Another question to add to all the oth-
longer have to worry about him. He's dead and we have an        ers.
adequate cover story in place."                                   "Get some sleep. You'll need the rest," Prague said, ap-
  "How did they get inside the outer perimeter?" Gullick        pearing suddenly at his shoulder. "We'll be ready to move
demanded, not appeased at all.                                  after dark and you won't get any sleep for a while." Prague
  "Franklin unscrewed the antennas from the sensors on          smiled. "Sleep good, meat, " he added in German.
either side of the road," Coakley replied. "We got that off       Turcotte stared at him for a second, then walked over to
a cassette recorder we found on the reporter."                  where the other off-shift security men were dozing in the
  "I want that system replaced. It's outdated. Go with laser    shade offered by several trees. He grabbed a Gore-Tex bivy
sensors on all the roads."                                      sack and slid into it, zipping it up around his chin. He
  "Yes, sir."                                                   thought about everything he had seen so far for about five
  "And the reporter?"                                           minutes, wondering what Prague had been told about him.
  "He's been transferred to Dulce. He was a freelancer.         He finally decided he didn't have a clue what was going on
We're working on a back story for his disappearance."           or what Prague knew, and switched his brain off.
  "It won't happen again," Gullick said, his tone of voice         As he fell asleep, his mind shifted to other scenes.
indicating it was not a question.                               Prague's final words in German echoed through his brain
  "Yes, sir."                                                   and Turcotte fell into an uneasy slumber with the echo of
  "What about Von Seeckt?" Kennedy asked. "If he                gunfire and German voices screaming in fear and pain.
makes any more trouble, Duncan might start asking more
  Gullick rubbed the side of his temple. "He's become a         THE HANGAR, AREA 51
liability. We'll just have to move up his medical timetable.    T-129 HOURS, 4O MINUTES
We'll take care of the good doctor and insure he won't
cause any more problems. He outlived his usefulness to          Lisa Duncan had read the figures and studied the classified
this program a long time ago. I'll talk to Dr. Cruise."         photos, but they had not prepared her for the sheer size of

86                            ROBERT DOHERTY                    AREA    51                                            87

this operation. Flying into Area 51 on board one of their       in the political winds. Majic-12 was another one, albeit
black helicopters, she had been impressed with the long         much more secretive. The issue, though, was why were
runway and the aboveground base facilities, but that im-        Gullick and the others in such a rush to fly the mothership?
pression had been dwarfed by what was hidden out of             That issue and other disturbing rumors about Majic-12 op-
sight.                                                          erations that had sifted their way back to Washington was
  Taking the elevator up from the Cube, she and her scien-      the reason Duncan was here. She already had some dirt on
tific escorts entered a large room carved out of the rock of    the program, as she'd indicated to Gullick; but that was
Groom Mountain. This was the hangar, over three quarters        past dirt, as he'd indicated in return. Most of the men in-
of a mile long and a quarter mile wide. Three of the walls,     volved in Paperclip were long dead. She had to find out
the floor, and roof--one hundred feet above their heads--         what was presently happening. To do that she had to pay
were rock. The last side was a series of camouflaged sliding    attention, so when her guide spoke up, she put away her
doors that opened up onto the north end of the runway.          worries.
  The true size of the hangar could only be seen on the           "This is the hangar we built in 1951," Professor Un-
rare occasions, like now, when all the dividers between the     derbill, the aeronautics expert, explained. "We've added to
various bays were unfolded and a person could look              it over the years." He pointed at the nine silvery craft
straight through from one end to the other. Duncan won-         parked in their cradles. "You have all the information on
dered if they had done that to impress her. If they had, it     how and where we found the bouncers. Currently, six are
was working.                                                    operational."
  She was still bothered by her confrontation with General        "What about the other three?" she asked.
Gullick. She'd been briefed for the job by the President's        "Those are the ones we're working on. Taking apart the
national security adviser, but even he had seemed uncer-        engines to see if we can reverse-engineer them. Trying to
tain about what was going on with Majic-12. It actually         understand the control and flight system along with other
wasn't that surprising to Duncan. In her work with medical      technology."
companies she'd often had to deal with government bu-             She nodded and followed as they walked along the back
reaucracy and found it to be a formidable maze of self-         of the hangar. There were workers on each of the craft,
propagating, self-serving structures to negotiate. As Gul-      doing things whose purpose was unclear. She had indeed
lick had made very clear: Majic-12 had been around for          studied the history of these craft, which seemed simply to
fifty-four years. The unspoken parallel was that the Presi-     have been abandoned in various places some time in the
dent whom Duncan was working for had been around for            past. From the conditions of the locations they were found
only three. She knew that meant that the members of             in, the best guess had been about ten thousand years ago.
Majic-12 implicitly believed they had a greater legitimacy      The craft themselves seemed not to have aged at all.
than the elected officials who were supposed to oversee the       There had been very few answers about the origin or
project.                                                        purpose or original owners of the craft in the briefing pa-
  The CIA, NSA, the Pentagon--all were bureaucracies             pers. Something that didn't seem to concern the people out
that had weathered numerous administrations and changes         here very much. That bothered Duncan, because she liked

88                              ROBERT DOHERTY                    AREA    51                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                89

thinking in analogies and she wondered how she would feel         be the site of the first atomic tests early in World War II,
if she had left her car parked somewhere and came back            when the surveyors found that the readings on some of
later to find that it had been appropriated and someone           their instruments were being affected by a large metallic
was taking the engine apart. Even though the bouncers had         object. They pinpointed the location, dug, and found what
been abandoned long ago, centuries might be just a day or         we now call the mothership in Hangar Two. Whoever left
two in the relative time scale of the original owners.            the ship here had the technology to blast out a place big
  "Why does everyone out here call them 'bouncers'?" she          enough to leave it and then cover it over."
asked. "In the briefing papers they were called 'magnetic-                          Duncan let out an involuntary gasp as the train exited
drive atmospheric craft' or 'MDAC' or simply 'disks'.             the tunnel and entered a large cavern, a mile and a half
  Underbill laughed. "We use the 'MDAC for scientific             long. The ceiling was over a half mile above her head and
people who need a fancy title. We all call them 'disks' or        made of perfectly smooth stone. It was dotted with bright
'bouncers.' The reason for the latter, well, wait till you see    stadium lights. What caught her attention, though, was the
one in flight. They can change directions on a dime. Most         cylindrical black object that took up most of the space. The
people who watch them think we call them 'bouncers' be-           mothership was just over a mile long and a quarter mile in
cause they do seem to suddenly bounce off an invisible wall       beam at the center. What made the scale so strange was
when they change direction--that's how quick they can do           that the skin of the ship was totally smooth, made up of a
it. But if you talk to the original test pilots who flew them,    black, shiny metal that had defied analysis for decades.
they called them 'bouncers' because of the way they got                             "It took us forty-five years before we were able to break
thrown around on the inside during those abrupt maneu-            down the composition of the skin," Ferrel, the physicist
vers. It took us quite a while to come up with the technol-       said, as they exited the tram. "We still can't replicate it, but
ogy and flight parameters so that the pilots wouldn't be          we finally knew enough about it to at least be able to cut
injured when they had the aircraft at speed."
                                                                  through it."
  Underbill pointed at a metal door along the back wall.
"This way, please."                                                                 Duncan could now see scaffolding near the front--if it
  The door slid open as they approached, and inside was           was the front and not the rear--of the mothership. The
an eight-passenger train on an electric monorail. Duncan           ship itself rested on a complex platform of struts made of
stepped into the car along with Underbill, Von Seeckt,             the same black material as the skin. The rock sides of the
Slayden, Ferrel, and Cruise. The car immediately started           cavern were also smooth, and the floor totally flat.
up and they were whisked into a brightly lit tunnel.                                They walked alongside the struts, dwarfed by the sheer
  Underbill continued to play tour guide. "It's a little over      mass of the ship above them. Underhill pointed at the cen-
four miles to Hangar Two, where we found the mothership.           ter as they passed it. "We call it the mothership not just
In fact, that's the reason this base is here. Most people          because of its size, but also because there's space in the
think we picked this site because of the isolation, but that       center hold to contain all the bouncers and about a dozen
was simply an added benefit.                                       more. There are cradles in there that are the exact dimen-
  "This part of Nevada was originally being looked over to         sions to hold every bouncer. We believe this is the way the

90  ROBERT DOHERTY                                                 AREA          51                                           91

bouncers got here to Earth, as they are not capable of
                                                                   small doorway in a concrete wall. A metal hatch closed
leaving the atmosphere on their own power."
                                                                   behind them and they were inside a blast bunker. "We have
  "But we still can't even open the external cargo bay
                                                                   two men on board in the control room. They are simply
doors." Von Seeckt spoke for the first time. "And you want
                                                                   going to turn on the engine, leave it on for ten seconds,
to start the engine," he added accusingly, glaring at Un-
                                                                   and turn it off. They are not going to engage the drive. It's
                                                                   sort of like starting a car engine but leaving the transmis-
  "Now, Werner, we've been through all that before," Un-
                                                                   sion in neutral."
derhill said.
                                                                     "We hope," Von Seeckt muttered.
  "It took us forty-five years to simply get in," Von Seeckt
                                                                     "FIVE MINUTES."
said. "I was here for all forty-five of those years. Now in the
                                                                     "You are witnessing history," Underbill said to Duncan.
space of a few months, you want to try and fly this!"
                                                                     "We have every possible monitoring device set up here,"
  "What are you so worried about?" Duncan asked. She'd
                                                                   Ferrel added. "This should give us what we need to under-
read the file on Von Seeckt and personally, given the man's
                                                                   stand the engine."
background, she did not much care for him. His constant
                                                                     Duncan glanced over at Von Seeckt, who was sitting in
complaining did little to ameliorate that impression.
                                                                   one of the folding chairs along the back wall of the bunker.
  "If I knew what I was worried about, I'd be even more
                                                                   He seemed uninterested in what was going on.
worried," Von Seeckt answered. "We don't understand at
                                                                     "ONE MINUTE."
all how this ship works." He stopped to catch his breath
                                                                     The countdown now started by the second, reminding
and the other members of the party paused also, over three
                                                                   Duncan of the space shots she had watched as a youngster.
quarters of the way to the nose.
  Von Seeckt continued. "I believe part of the propulsion
system of this craft works using gravity. In this case it
would be the gravity of our planet. Who knows what it
would do if it got turned on? Do you want to be responsi-
ble for affecting our gravity?"
  "That's my area of expertise," Ferrel said, "and I can
assure you there are no problems."
  "I feel so much better," Von Seeckt snapped back.
  A voice on a sound system echoed through the cavern:
                                                                     Duncan felt a wave of nausea sweep through her. She
                                                                   staggered, then leaned over, feeling the contents of her
  "Gentlemen, enough," Underbill ordered. They were at
                                                                   breakfast in Las Vegas come up. She fell to her knees and
the base of the scaffolding. "We can see the inside later,
                                                                   vomited on the concrete floor. Then, just as quickly, it was
but for now, let's go over here." He led the way toward a

92                              ROBERT DOHERTY

  "ALL CLEAR. ALL CLEAR. PERSONNEL MAY                                                                                 6
  Duncan stood, feeling the taste of acid in the back of her
mouth. The men all looked pale and shaken also, but none
of them had thrown up.
  "What happened?" Duncan asked.
  "Nothing happened," Ferrel replied.
  "Goddammit," Duncan snapped. "I felt it. Something
  "The engine was turned on and then off," Ferrel said.
"As far as what the effect we felt was, we'll have to analyze     The data was being read before it was fully cognizant. The
our data." He pointed at a television screen. "You can see        signal came from the northeast. The power reading was not
from the replay that nothing happened." And indeed, on            accurate enough to give distance to the disturbance. A
the screen, the mothership sat completely still as the digital    quick time check showed that it had not been long since
readout in the lower right hand corner went through the           the last time it had been awakened.
countdown.                                                          This time, though, it knew what had caused the distur-
  Duncan wiped a hand across her mouth and looked back            bance. The data from the sensors matched information in
at Von Seeckt, who was still in his seat. She felt embar-         its memory. The nature of the signal was clear and it knew
rassed to have thrown up, but Ferrel's response to her brief      the source.
illness seemed a bit nonchalant. For the first time she won-        Action had to be taken. Valuable energy would have to
dered if the old man might not be as crazy as he sounded.         be expended. As quickly as the decision had been made,
                                                                  execution was begun. The order was given. The next time
In the conference room Gullick and the inner circle of            this occurred, it would be ready and have forces in place.
Majic-12 had watched the test on video, although there had
been nothing to really see. The mothership had simply sat
there, but the data links indicated that the power had in-
deed been turned on and the ship seemed to function
  Gullick smiled, momentarily erasing all the stress lines
on his face and scalp. "Gentlemen, the countdown contin-
ues as planned."

                                                                 AREA             51                                                                                                                                                                                                           95

                                                                          "What do you want to know?" Jarvis asked as he fin-
                                                   7             ished off the drink he had in front of him in one gulp.

                                                                          "Area 51," Kelly said.

                                                                          Jarvis laughed again. "And? There's a whole lot going

                                                                 on out there. Anything in specific?"

                                                                          "Why don't you just start and I'll get specific as you go

                                                                 along," Kelly replied.

                                                                          Jarvis nodded. "Okay. The usual, then. First, of course,

                                                                 you want to know how I know anything about Area 51,

                                                                 right?" He didn't wait for an answer. "I worked there from

                                                                 May 1991 to March 1992. I was a contract employee hired
                                                                 by the NRO, the National Reconnaissance Office. I
T-121  HOURS                                                     worked on propulsion systems, trying to reverse-engi-

"Steve Jarvis?"                                                  neer . . ." He paused. "Well, let me back up slightly. You

  The bartender grimaced and pointed toward a booth at            know what they have out at Groom Lake, right?"

the rear. As Kelly walked toward it, she studied the man                   "Why don't you tell me?"
sitting there. She hated to admit it, but he didn't look like              "Nine alien spacecraft," Jarvis said. "They're in a hangar
                                                                  cut into the side of the mountain. The government can fly
the flake she had expected. Jarvis had straight black hair
                                                                  some of them, but they don't know how the engines work.
and wore wire-rim glasses. He was well dressed in a sport
                                                                  Thus they can't replicate them. That's why I was called in."
coat and tie. Not at all what she had expected from both
                                                                           "Where'd the government get these craft?" Kelly asked.
the subject matter and the discussion on the phone. He was
                                                                           Jarvis shrugged. "Got me. I don't know. Some say we
eyeing her as she approached and she could see his disap-
                                                                  traded for them, kind of like an interstellar used-car lot,
pointment. He must have had hopes for someone taller
                                                                  but I don't believe that. Maybe we just found them. Maybe
and with more curves, she assumed.
                                                                  they crashed, but the ones I saw seemed intact and showed
  He stood. "You have the money?"                                 no sign of having crashed."
  So much for second impressions, Kelly thought. She                       "Why'd they bring you in?"
pulled out an envelope and handed it to him. Johnny really                 "To figure out the engines. I did my dissertation at MIT
owed her now, she thought. Jarvis looked in the envelope,         on the possibility of magnetic propulsion. We already use
thumbed through the bills, and then sat back down, signal-        magnets on things such as high-speed trains, and the mili-

ing for the waitress. "Would you like a drink?"                   tary has been working on a magnetic gun for a long time.

  "My tab or yours?" Kelly responded.                              But all those systems generate a magnetic field of their

  Jarvis laughed. "Yours, of course."                             own, which requires a lot of energy. My theory was that

  "11 have a Coke," she told the waitress while Jarvis or-        since the planet already has a magnetic field, if there was

dered his "usual."                                                 some way we could manipulate and control that field with

96                                 ROBERT DOHERTY                AREA    51                                                 97

an engine we would have an unlimited source of energy for          "Every workday. It's an unmarked 737 with a red stripe
an atmospheric craft."                                           down the side."
  "So the government just hired you out of the blue and            "Get back to Area 51," Kelly said, flipping a page.
took you to a top-secret installation?"                          "What was it like?"
  "No, they didn't hire me out of the blue. I had worked           "Like I said, tight security. Everything out of sight. The
for the government before down at White Sands. A joint           saucers were inside a big hangar. They had three of them
contract with JPL working on the possibility of using a          partially disassembled. Those are the ones I got to work
long, sloping magnetic track on a mountainside to launch         on.
satellites into orbit."                                            "They were about thirty feet in diameter. Silver metal
  "Not many mountainsides at White Sands," Kelly said.           for skin. Flat bottom. About ten feet in from the edges on
  Jarvis smiled, but it didn't quite reach his eyes. "Are you    top the saucer becomes hemispherical to a flat semicircle
trying to test my credibility?"                                  top, about five to eight feet around."
                                                                   Jarvis finished his drink and ordered another before con-
  "I paid you five hundred dollars," Kelly said. "I get to       tinuing. "The bitch of working on the engines was that
ask the questions."                                              there really weren't any. That really threw the military guys
  "Okay, you're right," Jarvis agreed. "There aren't any         for a loop. You know how a jet fighter is designed: basically
mountainsides at White Sands. We were simply working on          a large engine with a small place for the pilot to sit. Well,
the theory on a small scale. Best we ever got up to was a        the disks were mostly empty on the inside. There were
one-to-thirty model. You can do that using a sand dune."         these sort of man-sized depressions in the center. I guess
  "So they brought you up to Area 51," Kelly prompted,           where the crew sat.
making a notation in a small notebook.                             "Anyway. Getting back to the engines that weren't. I
  "Yeah. It was weird. I reported to McCarren Field here         told you my theory: magnetic propulsion working off a field
in Vegas and they put us on this 737 and flew us out there.      of energy that is already there. Most conventional engines
I had a Q clearance already from my previous work, so that       take up a lot of space because they have to produce energy.
was okay. But, boy, they had the tightest security I've ever     The disk engines simply had to redirect energy. There were
seen. You couldn't fart without someone looking over your        coils around the edge of the disk, built into the edge and
shoulder. Those security people were scary, walking              the floor." Jarvis smiled. "That also explains why they are
around in these black windbreakers, wearing shades and           saucer or disk shaped. The coils are circular and need to be
carrying submachine guns."                                       in order to be able to redirect the energy in any direction."
  "Did you stay out there at Area 51?"                             Kelly found herself falling under Jarvis's spell. His words
  "No. They shuttled us back and forth every day on the          made sense, which was her second surprise of the day. She
737. The only people who live out there are the military         had to remind herself what she had learned on her last
people, as far as I could tell. All the scientific people and    phone call earlier today before heading to the airport.
the worker bees--they were on that plane."                          "The setup of the coils was relatively simple. The prob-
  "That plane flies every day?"                                  lem was that we couldn't replicate; hell, we couldn't even

                                                                  AREA 51                                                    99
98                             ROBERT DOHERTY

                                                                  more valid. But they have blackballed me. I can't get a
describe the metal that made up the coils. It actually wasn't     research job anywhere, so I make my living as best I can."
a metal. It was more of a . . ." Jarvis paused. "Suffice it to      "I thought it might simply be because you never gradu-
say it was different and the best minds we had there              ated from MIT," Kelly said.
couldn't figure it out."                                            Jarvis carefully put his drink down. "Our hour is almost
  "Why did they terminate your contract?" Kelly asked.            up."
  "Like I just said, we couldn't figure it out so there was no      Kelly looked at her watch. "Not even close. You did
need to keep us around. I assume they brought other peo-          work at White Sands, but the records show it was on the
ple in."                                                          basic construction of a new research facility, not in the
  "What do you know about a man named Mike Frank-                 facility itself. In fact, there is no record of you receiving a
lin?"                                                             degree any higher than a BS from the State University of
  "The nut who lives up in Rachel?"                               New York at Albany in 1978."
  "He's dead," Kelly said, watching Jarvis carefully.               "If you have any more questions you'd better ask them
  "Took them long enough" was his only reply as he took           before your time is up," Jarvis said.
another drink.                                                      "Did you talk to a man named Johnny Simmons?"
  "Took who long enough?" Kelly asked.                              "I don't recognize the name."
  "The government." Jarvis leaned forward. "From what I             Kelly described Johnny, but Jarvis maintained ignorance.
heard Franklin was a jerk. He led people up there on              She decided to go back on the attack.
White Sides Mountain to look down at the Groom Lake                 "I checked with Lori Turner, who interviewed you last
complex. They would catch him and tell him not to come            year for cable TV. She says most of your background
back but he kept coming back. What did he expect?"                doesn't check out. That makes me doubt your story. That
  "You don't seem very interested in how he died," Kelly          means either you're a liar or a plant to feed false informa-
said. "You just seem to assume it was the government that         tion. In either case it tells me your story about Area 51 is
killed him."                                                      bullshit."
  "Maybe he had a heart attack." Jarvis shrugged. "I don't          Jarvis stood. "Time's up. Been a pleasure." He turned
really give a shit."                                              and walked out of the bar.
  "Aren't you worried about the government coming after             "Great," Kelly muttered to herself. She needed a way
you? You seem to be more of a threat than Franklin was."          into Area 51 and Jarvis obviously was not the way. She'd
  "That's why I'm talking to you," Jarvis replied. "That's        just pissed away five hundred dollars and gotten nowhere.
why I went on that talk show last year. That's why I keep         Her hope had been that Johnny had contacted Jarvis.
myself in the public eye."                                          She looked down at the notes she had made during the
  "I thought it was the five hundred dollars," Kelly replied      interview. What would her dad do in this situation? He'd
dryly.                                                            always said the best way to overcome an obstacle was to
  "Yeah, the money helps. But I really do it to keep the          approach it in a manner that was least expected. He'd also
spooks off my ass. The government won't kill me because it        said that in the case of getting into a place that was
would raise too many questions and actually make my story

100                           ROBERT DOHERTY

guarded, approach it not at the weakest place, but at the                                                               8
strongest because that was the least-expected avenue.
  What was the strongest thing about Area 51, from what
Jarvis and the research said? "Security," Kelly muttered to
herself, still looking at her notes. They had to have people
employed to do their security. Driving out to the Groom
Lake area would certainly bring her into contact with the
security people, but Johnny had done that and he was
  She circled 757 on her pad. That was it. Tomorrow morn-
ing she would go out to the airfield and see if anyone got      DEVIL'S NEST, NEBRASKA
off the plane. If they did, she'd follow them and see what
                                                                T-119 HOURS
she could turn up. And if tomorrow morning didn't work,
then there was always tomorrow evening.                         "We're green," Prague announced to the men gathered
                                                                around him in the dark. "Our eye in the sky says the objec-
                                                                tive is clear. I want all three birds airborne in two mikes.
                                                                Move out." Prague headed toward one of the small AH-6
                                                                helicopters and gestured at Turcotte. "You're with me,
                                                                meat. Backseat."
                                                                  Turcotte grimaced. The meat comment was getting real
                                                                old, but now was not the time to face it down. He followed
                                                                Prague and joined him in the helicopter. Prague took the
                                                                seat up front next to the pilot, while Turcotte had the entire
                                                                backseat to himself. The doors were off and the cold night
                                                                air swirled inside, making Turcotte regret he had not put
                                                                on long underwear. He wished he had been better briefed
                                                                on what was going to happen. He zipped his black Gore-
                                                                Tex jacket up tight over his coveralls and took the headset
                                                                that was hanging on the roof and placed it on, over the
                                                                small plug already in his ear for the FM radio on the team
                                                                  Because he was on the same bird as Prague--the mission
                                                                commander--Turcotte was immediately plugged into the
                                                                mission's secure satellite communications traffic as they

 102                           ROBERT DOHERTY                                                                            103
                                                                 AREA  51

winged their way to the southwest over the fields of Ne-         ground positioning receiver (GPR). Prague gave a hold sig-

braska.                                                          nal to the pilot.

  "Nightscape Six, this is Cube Six. Status. Over." The            "Cube Six, this is Nightscape Six. At Oscar Papa Romeo.

voice on the other end sounded familiar to Turcotte, but he      Request final clearance. Over."

couldn't quite place who Cube Six was.                             "This is Cube Six. Eye in the sky still shows you are clear

  Prague replied from the front seat. "This is Nightscape        for a twelve-kilometer radius. No traffic within eighteen

Six. En route to Oscar Romeo Papa. Will hold there.              klicks. Proceed. I say again, proceed. Out."

Over."                                                             "Roger. Out." Prague pointed out the windshield and

  Turcotte followed the military terminology easily--ORP          they were swooping across the dark sky again. "Phase one
stood for "objective rally point," the last place friendly       initiated. Start the watch."

forces held before hitting an objective. Except in this case,

Turcotte still didn't have a clue what the objective was, nor

was he impressed with how friendly the forces around him         THE CUBE, AREA 51
were, if Prague was to serve as the example.                     T - 1 1 8  HOURS, 3O MINUTES

  The other, deep voice continued. "Roger, this is Cube
                                                                 "Sir, we've got a shadow on Bouncer Three."
Six. Break. Bouncer Three, status? Over."
                                                                   "A what?" Gullick spun around in his command chair.
  A new voice came on the air. "This is Bouncer Three.
                                                                 "What do you mean a shadow?"
Airborne and en route. Over."
                                                                   Major Quinn pointed at the screen. "There's a bogey
  "Roger. Wait for my command. Cube Six out."
                                                                 right behind Three. We didn't pick it up before because it's
  The pilot of the AH-6 swept even lower over the                so small, but something's following Bouncer Three. I've
cornfields, the UH-60 Blackhawk following just to the rear       checked the tapes and it's been there ever since Three left
and above. The other AH-6 flew trail. The corn gave way          the hangar. Must have been somewhere in the vicinity
briefly to pasture with cattle breaking in all directions as     when Three took off."
the helicopters came over, then the terrain turned back to         "What is it?" Gullick demanded.
corn. Turcotte had never seen this many fields, even in            "I don't know, sir. We were only able to catch it by track-
Germany. It seemed like all of Nebraska was one big              ing satellite and infrared signature."
checkerboard of cultivation and ranching. Through his              The Cube was hooked in to the U.S. Space Command's
night vision goggles he could see an occasional patch of         Missile Warning Center, located inside Cheyenne Moun-
trees off in the distance, sometimes with lights peeking         tain outside Colorado Springs. The Space Command was
through the trees, indicating that was where the farmers         responsible for the Defense Support Program (DSP) satel-

and ranchers lived. What are we going after out here?            lite system. DSP satellites blanketed the entire surface of
Turcotte wondered.                                               the earth from an altitude of over twenty thousand miles

  The pilot pulled back on the cyclic and reduced throttle.      up in geosynchronous orbits. The system had originally

Turcotte could see Prague checking their location on a           been developed to detect ICBM launches during the Cold

 104                            ROBERT DOHERTY                    AREA                        51                                                                                                                                                           105

War. During the Gulf War it had picked up every SCUD                     Gullick spoke into the boom mike just in front of his lips,
launch and proved so effective that the military had further      keying the send button strapped to his belt. "Bouncer
refined the entire system to be effective enough to give          Three, this is Cube Six. Do you have a visual on the bogey?
real-time warnings to local commanders at the tactical            Over."
level--a valuable system that those in the Cube could tap                 "This is Three. Negative. We see nothing. Whatever it is,
into. Through the other members of Majic-12 Gullick had           it's too far back. Over."
access to systems like DSP and many others.                              "This is Six. Give me some evasive maneuvers. Over."
   Every three seconds the DSP system downloaded an in-                  The pilot of Three answered. "Wilco. Wait one. Over."
frared map of the earth's surface and surrounding airspace.               On the screen the dot representing Bouncer Three sud-
Most of the data was simply stored on tape in the Warning         denly darted to the right just north of Salt Lake City. The
Center, unless, of course, the computer detected a missile        smaller dot just as quickly followed. A quick series of
launch, or, as in this case, an authorized agency requested       zigzags didn't faze the bogey.
a direct line and keyed in a specific target area to be for-              "Should I order an abort, sir?" Quinn asked.
warded on a real-time basis.                                              "No," Gullick said. "Let's ride this out. Get Aurora on
  "Is it a Fast Walker?" Gullick asked, referring to the          alert. I want to be on top of this bogey." He keyed the
code name for unidentified valid IR sources that the sys-         radio. "Three, this is Six. Forget about it. Just continue the
tem occasionally picked up and could not be explained.            mission. I'll take care of the situation from this end. Out."
  "It's definitely a bogey, sir. It doesn't match anything on             Quinn's worry showed through and it irritated Gullick.
record. It's too small to be even a jet aircraft."                 "Should I inform Nightscape Six?"
  The unspoken question was, what was that small yet fast                 "Negative, Major. Let these people do their job and let
enough to stay on the tail of Bouncer Three, which was             me worry about the bogey. You let me do the thinking and
moving at over thirty-five hundred miles an hour toward            informing around here. You got that?" Gullick glared at
Nebraska?                                                          the junior officer.
  "Put it on up front," Gullick ordered, turning his seat                 "Yes, sir!"
back to the main screen. He briefly touched the right side
of his skull, then looked at the hand as he pulled it away. It
was shaking slightly. Gullick gripped the edge of his chair        VICINITY BLOOMFIELD, NEBRASKA
to stop that.                                                      T - 1 1 8 HOURS, 15 MINUTES
  Quinn transferred the information to the large screen in
the front of the room. There was a small glowing dot just          "We have multiple heat signatures to the left," the pilot of
behind the larger dot indicating Bouncer Three.                    the AH-6 announced, immediately swooping in that direc-
  "How far behind Three is it?"                                    tion.
  "Hard to tell, sir. Probably about ten miles or so."                     "Go get 'em, cowboy," Prague yelled into the intercom
  "Have you told Three?"                                           as he flipped up his goggles. He reached into the backseat,
  "Yes, sir."                                                      across Turcotte's lap, and grabbed a rifle that had been

 106                           ROBERT DOHERTY                                                                          107
                                                               AREA 51

 strapped down there. Hooking his arm into the sling,          turbing. No one can explain it so no one really looks into it
 Prague leaned out of the helicopter, his safety harness       too hard, but it serves its purpose."
keeping him from falling out to the ground below. Turcotte       Which is what? Turcotte wondered. He had heard about
leaned forward and watched the same scene that Prague          cattle mutilations. It was in the paper every so often. Why
was following--cattle scattering in all directions from the     was such a sophisticated operation being run just to do
sound of the helicopters.                                      this? Was this why Duncan had sent him out here? To find
   Prague put the rifle to his shoulder and looked through     out that the government people at Area 51 were behind
the night scope mounted on top. He fired twice and two of      cattle mutilations?
the cows collapsed immediately. "Nerve agent," he said,          The Blackhawk had moved away while the men worked.
glancing over his shoulder at Turcotte. "Knocks 'em down,      Now it came back in, letting down two harnesses on
but leaves no trace. We recover the dart."                     winches--one on either side. The first two men were up
   The AH-6 pulled up and assumed a stationary position a      with their gory load in thirty seconds. Then the next two.
hundred meters away from the two animals. The UH-60              "Initiate phase two," Prague ordered and they were
Blackhawk came to a hover directly over the two bodies         heading farther to the southwest.
and Turcotte watched as ropes were thrown out of the
Blackhawk and four men with rucksacks fast-roped down.         "You hear that?" Billy Peters asked.
   The four men gathered around the bodies and there was         "Huh?" Susie replied, her mind on other matters--in
an occasional flash of light as they worked on the cows.       this case Billy's arm around her shoulders and her head on
   "Time hack?" Prague asked.                                  his broad chest. She could hear his heart beating, that was
   "Six minutes, thirty seconds until Bouncer Three is on      for sure.
station."                                                        "Sounds like helicopters or something," Billy muttered.
   "Okay," Prague said. "We're all right."                     He reached out with his free hand and wiped some of the
   "What are they doing?" Turcotte finally asked.              fog off the front windshield of his '77 Ford pickup and tried
   Prague turned to the rear, looking like a mechanical de-    to look out. They'd been parked here for a long time--
mon with a wide grin beneath the protruding bulk of his        since just before it had gotten dark, but there'd been a lot
night vision goggles. "They're getting some prime filet        to say. Susie was leaving her folks and Billy was on the
down there. You like heart? Or maybe eyeballs? How             spot, not quite sure whether to go for it and invite her to
about cow ovaries? We come back with all sorts of good         live in his trailer down in Columbus or punt and go along
stuff.                                                         with her plan to move to her sister's in Omaha.
  "They have top-of-the-line surgical lasers to make clean        He'd picked this spot because he was sure there'd be no
                                                               one to interrupt them, but now he was almost glad there
cuts. They also have suction to clean the blood up. What       might be an interruption because he sure couldn't make his
the locals are left with is a couple of dead cows with spe-    mind up tonight, not with her pushing up against him like
cific body parts surgically removed, yet no sign of vehicle    she was: how was a man supposed to think clearly under
traffic in the area. Also no blood, which is kind of dis-      those circumstances?

 108                                                                                                                         1O9
                                ROBERT DOHERTY                     AREA 51

   "Something's coming this way," Billy said, looking out        up into the air and accelerated  w h i l e climbing at a seventy-

 the window into the night sky.                                  degree angle, swiftly turning toward the northeast and dis-

                                                                 appearing from the screen.


T-118 HOURS, 4 MINUTES                                           VICINITY BLOOMFIELD, NEBRASKA

Gullick was watching the large map. The bogey was still          Turcotte's AH-6 was holding at two hundred feet while the

behind Three. Both dots were currently near the conjunc-         Blackhawk passed them by and came to its own hover over

tion of the Wyoming, Colorado, and Nebraska borders.             a cornfield in front of Turcotte and to his left. The other

   "Aurora's status?" Gullick asked.                             AH-6 slid over and took up security four hundred meters

   "On the runway, ready to take off."                           in the opposite direction. The Blackhawk slowly lowered

   "Give her the go."                                            until it was about eighty feet above the ground, just above

  "Yes, sir."                                                    the point where the rotor wash would permanently disturb

  "TOT for phase two?"                                           the stalks of corn.

  "Eighty-six seconds," Quinn answered.                            A bright light flashed out of the cargo bay of the

  Gullick flicked a switch on the console in front of him        Blackhawk, the beam angling to a terminus in the field

and watched the video feed from the control tower on the         below, cutting through the corn and burning into the

surface. A curiously shaped plane began rolling forward.         ground.

Shaped like a rounded manta ray, the most significant fea-          "The laser's computer aimed," Prague explained

tures of the two-man reconnaissance plane were its huge          through the intercom, proud of his men and their toys.

intakes under the front cockpit and large exhausts behind        "Makes a perfect circle. Confuses the shit out of those

the engines. Capable of Mach 7, over five thousand miles         eggheads who come and scratch their heads over it in day-

an hour, or almost a mile and a half a second at maximum         light. Dumb fucks. They figure it's related to the dead cows

speed, it could get to a target in a hurry.                      in the next field, which it is," he said with a laugh, "but they

  The successor to the famous SR-71 Blackbird, Aurora            don't know how and they'll never figure it out."

had made its maiden flight in 1986. At a billion dollars a          And? Turcotte thought. Why did Prague want to confuse

plane there were only five in the inventory, and they were       people?

used only when all other systems were exhausted. To the             "Nightscape Six, this is Bouncer Three. ETA forty-five

public that had financed it, the plane didn't exist. It was      seconds. Over."

one of the most closely guarded secrets in the Air Force            "Roger. Out." Prague turned to Turcotte. "You're going

and Gullick had one at his disposal around the clock, an         to love the last act of this play. Watch to the south."

indication of the importance of this project to the Air             Turcotte checked the Calico one more time. This was all

Force.                                                            so strange, but the thing that disturbed him the most was

  W i t h sufficient thrust built up, Aurora suddenly bounded     the way Prague was showing him everything now, but

110                            ROBERT DOHERTY                    AREA    51                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    111

hadn't explained it before. What did Prague know about           on, it was clear to Turcotte that it wasn't going according to
him? Turcotte wondered.                                          Prague's plan.

"Jesus, Susie, you see that!" Billy furiously wiped the wind-
shield as the beam of light played down a quarter mile to
their left into the field.                                        THE CUBE, AREA 51
  "What is it?" Susie asked, her living problems forgotten        "Pass complete. Three's coming home," Quinn announced.
for the moment.                                                                     All eyes were on the screen. The bogey was still behind
  "I don't know, but I'm getting the hell out of here." He        Three. It continued that way for about a minute, then sud-
turned the key and the Ford's engine started up.                   denly the second dot broke away, heading back to the
                                                                   northeast, where it had just come from.
"I've got a heat source in the trees to the southwest!" the                          "Get Aurora on that bogey!" Gullick ordered.
pilot of the other AH-6 announced. "It's a car engine!"
  "Shit!" Prague exclaimed.
  A bright glow came flying in from the south, low on the          VICINITY BLOOMFIELD, NEBRASKA
horizon, moving faster than anything Turcotte had ever
seen. It swept by silently, followed closely by another,            "We've got to get these people," Prague ordered as the
smaller glowing dot.                                                helicopter banked toward the rapidly fleeing pickup truck.
  "What was behind Bouncer Three?" Prague asked out                                   "They're civilians," Turcotte protested, leaning through
loud, his composure cracking for the first time since               the door and checking out the truck.
Turcotte had met him. Turcotte was surprised by both craft                            "They saw too much. We can't have them talking about
that sped by. This whole scenario was getting weirder by             seeing helicopters here. Fire across the front of the truck,"
the second.                                                          Prague ordered the pilot, who expertly sideslipped his heli-
  Turcotte watched as the large disk that Prague had called          copter so that they were now flying sideways, with the nose
Bouncer Three made an abrupt jump move to the right,                 of the aircraft--and the chain gun hung off the skid-
changed directions just short of 180 degrees in a split sec-          pointed toward the pickup. A stream of tracers arced out,
ond, and did a pass over the small town of Bloomfield on              right across the headlights of the pickup, and the brake-
the horizon before heading back toward the southwest.                 lights flared.
  "Get me to that heat source!" Prague ordered. The pilot                               "Goddamn!" Turcotte yelled. "Are you crazy?"
of the AH-6 complied, pointing the nose toward the stand                                "Put us down on the road in front of them," Prague
of trees. "You other guys, head for the MSS," he added.               ordered, ignoring Turcotte.
  The Blackhawk banked right and headed back to the
northj, to the secure area of Devil's Nest, the other AH-6             "Who are these people, Billy?" Susie screamed. "Why are
flying escort. Turcotte flipped off the safety on the Calico           they shooting at us?"
as they headed toward the treeline. Whatever was going                                   Billy didn't waste time trying to explain. He slammed the

 112                               ROBERT DOHERTY                                                                         113
                                                                  AREA 51

 truck into reverse as the helicopter settled down in front of    We'll get this sorted once we get back to base. There's been
 him in the glow of the headlights, blowing dirt and debris       an accident," he added lamely. "I'm Mike," he said, tap-
 up into the air, blinding him.                                   ping the man on the shoulder and pointing at the helicop-
   The pickup's rear tires slipped into the drainage ditch on     ter, the sudden human gesture momentarily disorienting
the side of the road. Dirt flew as Billy threw the gear into      the couple.
first, but they didn't move.                                        The man looked at Turcotte. "Billy. This here's Susie."
                                                                    Turcotte nudged them toward the helicopter. "Well, Billy
The skids touched ground and Prague was out the door,             and Susie, looks like the man wants you to go for a ride."
leaving the dart rifle behind in favor of his Calico. Turcotte      "Shut up, meat," Prague snarled, gesturing with the
followed, right on his heels. Turcotte's mind was trying to       weapon.
sort out all that had happened and was happening.                   They got into the helicopter and the pilot lifted.
   "Hands up and out of the truck!" Prague yelled.
   The doors opened and a man stepped out, a woman
following, hiding herself behind the man's bulk.
   "Who are you people?" the man asked.                           THE CUBE, AREA 51
   "Cuff them!" Prague ordered Turcotte.                          A third dot was now on the screen, popping on the screen
   "They're civilians." He stood still.                           over eastern Nevada and heading almost directly toward
  Prague shifted the muzzle of his Calico in Turcotte's di-       Bouncer Three, which was returning to base. Gullick knew
rection. "Cuff them."                                             that was Aurora on its way to intercept the bogey.
  Turcotte looked at the weapon, looked at Prague, then             "The bogey is dropping off the chase, sir," Quinn re-
pulled out two plastic cinches from his vest and secured the      ported. The bogey was circling, heading back in toward the
couple's hands behind their backs.                                Nightscape objective.
  "Let me see your ID," the man demanded. "You can't                "Redirect Aurora toward Nebraska," Gullick ordered.
be doing this. We didn't do nothing wrong. You ain't cops."         Quinn complied.
  "Get in the helicopter," Prague ordered. He herded the            "Aurora ETA at the objective?" Gullick immediately de-
procession toward the AH-6.                                       manded.
  "Where are you taking us?" the man asked, standing                "Ten minutes," Quinn announced.
stubbornly in the middle of the road just short of the heli-        Not bad time to cover almost twelve hundred miles. But
copter, the girl still cowering at his side.                      in this case it might be about nine minutes too late, Gullick
  Turcotte looked at Prague and saw the way the man's             reflected as he watched the symbol that represented the
body was set, saw his finger shifting from outside the trig-      bogey close on the target site. He briefly considered order-
ger guard to inside, a sure sign he was about to fire.            ing Bouncer Three to turn around, but that was beyond the
Turcotte had been trained just like Prague: the only safety       present scope of his authority. Gullick smashed his fist
was the finger off the trigger.                                   down onto the desk in front of him, startling those in the
  Turcotte quickly stepped in between. "Just do as he says.       Cube.

                                                                   AREA 5 1                                                 115
114                              ROBERT DOHERTY

                                                                   in evasive reaction, but the glow dipped right down with
                                                                   them and crashed into the front of the helicopter. There

The AH-6 cleared the trees at the edge of a field and              was a shattering of Plexiglas and Turcotte ducked his head.

turned to the north. Turcotte had strapped the man and               "Prepare for crash!" the pilot yelled into the intercom.

woman into the backseat and squeezed in next to them.              "We're going--" The rest of his sentence was cut off as the

Prague was twisted around in the right front seat, the bar-        nose of the chopper impacted with the ground. The blades

rel of his Calico pointed rearward, his finger caressing the       cartwheeled into the soft dirt and exploded off, miracu-

outside of the trigger guard.                                      lously pinwheeling away and not slashing through the body

  Turcotte looked at the muzzle, then at Prague. "I'd ap-          of the aircraft.

preciate it if you didn't point that thing at me," he said into      Turcotte felt a sharp rip in his right side, then everything

the boom mike. Turcotte was scared. Not so much because            became still. He lifted his head. The only sound was a high-

of the gun pointed at him, although that was a problem,            pitched scream. He turned to his left. Susie's mouth was a

but more because the man holding the gun was acting so             wide-open  and the sound was emanating from it. Billy's
irrationally. What did Prague think he was going to do with        eyes were open and he was blinking, trying to see in the

these two civilians?                                               dark.
  "I don't give a fuck what you'd appreciate," Prague an-            Turcotte reached down and unbuckled Billy's seat belt,
swered over the intercom. "You questioned me in the mid-           then whipped out his commando knife and cut the couple's
dle of a mission. That's a no-go, meat. I'm going to have          hands free. "Get out," he said, nudging them toward the
your ass."                                                         left door, before turning his attention to the front seat.
                                                                     The pilot was hanging limp in his harness, his right arm
  "These people are civilians," Turcotte said. The couple
                                                                   twisted at an unnatural angle. Prague was beginning to stir.
were ignorant of the conversation because they weren't
                                                                   His Calico was gone, thrown from the aircraft on impact.
wearing headsets.
                                                                     The smell of JP-4 aviation fuel was strong in the air. As
  "They're fucking dead meat now, as far as I'm con-
                                                                   soon as it hit a hot metal surface such as the engine ex-
cerned," Prague said. "They saw too much. They'll have to
                                                                   haust, the helicopter would be an inferno.
go to the facility at Dulce and get clipped."
                                                                     Prague appeared to be fumbling with his seat belt.
  "I don't know what the hell you're doing, or what you're
                                                                   Turcotte leaned over between the two front seats, ignoring
talking about," Turcotte said, "but they're--" He halted as
                                                                   the explosion of pain that movement ignited on his right
the helicopter suddenly jerked hard right, then dropped
                                                                   side. Prague's right hand was flipping open the cover to his
                                                                   holster. "Don't let them get away," he rasped at Turcotte.
  "What are you doing?" Prague yelled at the pilot, keep-
                                                                   He had the gun out and pointed it back toward Billy, who
ing his attention on the backseat.
                                                                   was helping Susie out of the door.
  "We got company!" the pilot screamed in return. A
                                                                     Turcotte reacted, slamming the inside edge of his left
brightly glowing orb--about three feet in diameter--ap-
                                                                   hand across Prague's throat, feeling cartilage give way,
peared directly in front of the windshield. The pilot
                                                                   while with his right hand he hammered down on Prague's
slammed the collective down and pushed the cyclic forward

116                             ROBERT DOHERTY

gun hand, hearing the forearm bone crack against the edge                                                            9
of the seat. Prague's eyes bulged, and he gasped through
his mangled throat.
  Turcotte followed Billy and Susie out the left rear door.
"Keep moving," he ordered, pushing them away. A flame
flickered somewhere in the rear of the helicopter. Staying
with the aircraft, Turcotte reached in the front seat and
unbuckled the pilot. Prague's left hand suddenly moved,
slashing across his body at Turcotte with his knife. The
blade cut through the Gore-Tex jacket and inflicted a gash
on Turcotte's right forearm.                                      THE CUBE, AREA 51
  Pinning Prague's left hand with his right, Turcotte leaned      T - 1 1 7 HOURS, 45 MINUTES
over the pilot and hit Prague again in the throat with his
left, this time not holding back as he had the first time. The    "Nightscape Six is down, sir," Quinn announced. "I have a
cartilage completely gave way and Prague's airway was             transponder location. No communication by radio."
blocked.                                                            "Launch a conventional crash recovery to the transpon-
  Turcotte threw the pilot over his shoulder. He jogged           der location," General Gullick ordered. He continued to
away from the helicopter as it burst into flames.                 watch the dot representing the bogey. It was slowly moving
                                                                  about in the vicinity of Nightscape Six's transponder signal.
                                                                  Aurora was now approaching the Nebraska-Colorado bor-

                                                                  VICINITY BLOOMFIELD, NEBRASKA
                                                                  T-117 HOURS, 42 MINUTES

                                                                  "Get out of here," Turcotte said to Susie and Billy, who
                                                                  were staring at the burning helicopter. Turcotte had the
                                                                  pilot's flight suit ripped open and was going over the man's
                                                                  vital signs, doing a primary survey--for breathing first, then
                                                                  bleeding, then checking for broken bones. The pilot was
                                                                  good to go on the first two other than some scrapes and
                                                                  cuts. There was an obvious broken arm.
                                                                    Turcotte couldn't tell for sure, but based on the large
                                                                  dent on the man's helmet and his unconscious condition,

                                                                   AREA 51
118                             ROBERT DOHERTY

                                                                   soon. And then? That was the burning question. He'd
he felt the pilot had some sort of head injury, and he was         killed Prague on reflex. He didn't regret it, given what he'd
not trained or equipped to deal with that. All he could do         seen Prague do this evening, but the situation was very
was leave the helmet on and hope that it contained the             confusing and Turcotte wasn't sure what his next move
injury until he could get the man some professional medi-          should be.
cal help. The pilot was unconscious, and from his condition          Had Prague known he was a plant? That would explain
it did not appear that he would be gaining consciousness           some of his actions, but not all of them. And if Prague
anytime soon, which was fine with Turcotte. He immobi-             hadn't known he was a plant, then the man had been bor-
lized the broken arm as well as he could.                          derline nuts; unless, Turcotte reminded himself, there was
  "But--" Billy said, confused. "What--"                             another layer to everything that he had just witnessed. He
  "No buts; no questions; no memory," Turcotte snapped,            knew the actions, he just didn't know the motivation.
looking up from the pilot's body. "Forget everything that            None of that was going to do him any good, Turcotte
happened tonight. Don't ever tell anyone, because if you           knew, unless he could get back to Duncan with what he
do they won't believe you and then people who don't want           had just seen, and to do that he was going to have to get
you talking will come looking for you. Leave it here and           away from these Nightscape people. The pilot's uncon-
go-"                                                               scious condition would buy him some time once they were
  Billy didn't need any further urging. He took Susie by           picked up. It would simply be Turcotte's story, and he be-
the arm and quickly walked away in the darkness toward             gan working on what he would tell them.
the nearest road.
  He looked down at himself. Blood was seeping out the
right side of his Gore-Tex jacket and his right sleeve. He
delt with the forearm first, wrapping a bandage from his           THE CUBE
combat vest over the sliced skin and stopping the bleeding.        Gullick had complete telemetry feedback from Aurora and
Carefully probing with his fingers, he reached in through          he could listen in on the pilot and reconnaissance systems
the jacket and gasped when he touched torn skin. Turcotte          officer (RSO) talking to each other.
carefully unzipped his Gore-Tex jacket and jumpsuit. An              "All systems on. We'll be in range of target in seventy-
eight-inch-long gash was just over the outside of his ribs.        five seconds," the RSO announced.
As best he could, he bandaged the wound.                             Gullick keyed his mike. "Aurora, this is Cube Six. I want
  Turcotte looked up into the sky. He could see the small          a good shot of this target. Get it on the first pass. You
glowing object, about a thousand feet overhead. It was la-         probably won't have an opportunity for a second. Over."
zily moving about, as if to view the results of its actions. He      "Roger that, Cube Six," the RSO said. "Fifty seconds."
watched for a few moments, but there did not appear to be            "Descending through ten thousand," the pilot an-
any immediate threat. Although from the way that thing             nounced. "Slowing through two point five. The look will be
had been moving, Turcotte didn't think he would have               right," he told the RSO, giving a direction to orient all the
much time to react if there were.                                  sophisticated reconnaissance systems on board the aircraft.
  Turcotte scanned the horizon. The others would be here

120                           ROBERT DOHERTY                    AREA 51                                                 121

  "Pod deploying," the RSO said as the speed gauge con-         radar it will be gone in a blink and there's nothing they can

tinued to go down. Gullick knew that now that the plane         do about it anyway. Damn right it's to pursue."

was under two thousand miles an hour the surveillance pod         The length of Mexico was traversed in less than twelve

could be extended. Doing it at higher speeds would have         minutes, Aurora now less than a thousand miles behind the

destroyed the necessary aerodynamics of the plane and           bogey and closing rapidly.

caused the plane to break and burn. Even now, according           "Intercept in eight minutes," Quinn announced.

to the telemetry, the skin temperature of the aircraft was

eight hundred degrees Fahrenheit. "Twenty seconds. All

green."                                                         VICINITY BLOOMFIELD, NEBRASKA
  "Leveling at five thousand. Steady at Mach two."
  "All systems on."                                             Turcotte heard the choppers long before they arrived. The
                                                                Blackhawk landed on the opposite side of the crash and
  Gullick looked up to the large screen at the front of the
                                                                discharged a squad of men with fire extinguishers. Turcotte
room. The red triangle representing Aurora closed on and
                                                                knew that by daylight there would be nothing in the field
passed the small dot indicating the bogey. Then the bogey
                                                                other than some charred cornstalks. The other AH-6
darted away.
                                                                landed right next to his location.
  Gullick keyed the mike, "This is Cube Six. The bogey is
                                                                  "Where's Major Prague?" the man who ran off the heli-
running! Vector one nine zero degrees. Pursue!"
                                                                copter asked.
  Aurora was fast, but maneuverable it wasn't. Gullick
                                                                  Turcotte pointed at the crash site. "Killed on impact."
watched as the red triangle began a long turn that would
                                                                  The man knelt down next to the pilot. "What's his
encompass most of Nebraska and part of Iowa before it
was through. The small dot was heading southwest, cur-
                                                                  "Broken arm. I think he has a concussion. I haven't
rently over Kansas.
                                                                taken his helmet off, to keep the pressure on in case his
  "What's the bogey's speed?" General Gullick asked.            skull is fractured."
  "Computer estimates it's moving at Mach three point             The man signaled for the pilot to be place on board the
six," Major Quinn replied.                                      Blackhawk. He pointed to Turcotte. "You come with me.
  As the bogey crossed the panhandle of Oklahoma, Au-           They want you back at the Cube."
rora completed its turn over southern Nebraska. "She'll

catch up," Gullick said.

  The two dots continued, Aurora steadily closing the gap.
                                                                THE CUBE
  "Bogey's over Mexican airspace," Quinn reported. He

hesitated, but duty required that he speak. "Are you au-        "Sir, Aurora already has a photo of the bogey," Quinn said.

thorizing Aurora to continue pursuit?"                          "What do you want it to do when it catches up?"

  "Shit," Gullick said. "The Mexicans won't even know it's        The Aurora was purely a reconnaissance plane. Mount-

there. Too high and too fast. And even if they get a blip on    ing any sort of weapon system, even missiles, would have

122                              ROBERT DOHERTY                 AREA    51                                           123

destroyed its aerodynamic form and reduced its speed              "Eighty miles," the pilot announced.
drastically.                                                      "Sixty."
   "I want to find out where this bogey comes from," Gul-         "I've got it!" the RSO yelled.
lick said. "Then I can send other people to take care of the      In the small television screen Gullick could see a small
problem."                                                       dot. As if on cue the dot suddenly jerked to the right, a
   Both indicators were now over the eastern beginning of       splash of water shot up, and it was gone.
the Pacific Ocean.                                                Gullick leaned back in his seat and closed his eyes, his
   The RSO's voice hissed in Gullick's ear. "Cube Six, this     forehead furrowed in pain.
is Aurora. Request you lay on some fuel for us on the             "Cube Six, this is Aurora. Bogey is down. I say again.
return flight. We will be past the point of no return in        Bogey is down. Transmitting grid location."
fifteen minutes. Over."
   "This is Cube Six. Roger. We're scrambling some tankers
for you. Keep on its tail. Out." Gullick pointed at Quinn,
who was also monitoring the radio.
   "I'll take care of it, sir," Quinn said.
   The Mexican coastline was now long gone. Gullick knew
that the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Central and South
America--other than Canal traffic--was a very desolate
place. They were still heading almost due south.
   "We're close," the pilot announced. "It's about two hun-
dred miles ahead of us. I'm throttling back to ease up on
   Gullick watched the telemetry. It reminded him of being
ground support when he was a test pilot. Reading the same
gauges that the pilot overhead did, but not having hands on
the controls. As the plane passed through Mach 2.5 the
RSO extended the surveillance pod and activated his low-
level light television (LLLTV) camera. Gullick immediately
had the image relayed through a satellite onto the screen in
front of him. The LLLTV was no ordinary television. The
camera enhanced both the light and image, giving it the
ability to display an image at night, while at the same time
carrying a magnification of over one hundred. The RSO
began scanning ahead, using the information fed to him
from the satellites above to pinpoint the bogey.

                                                               A R E A         5 1

                                                 11            but it was very hard for him to think clearly. "What's the
                                                               status at the crash site? '

                                                                  Quinn was ready, the earplug in his right ear giving him

                                                               a live feed from the man in charge on the ground in Ne-

                                                               braska. "Fire is out. Recovery team is en route and will be

                                                               on site in twenty minutes. Those present on the scene from

                                                               Nightscape are cleaning up the pieces and providing secu-

                                                               rity. Still no response from locals. I think we'll make it


                                                                  Gullick nodded. If they got the remains of the helicopter

THE CUBE, AREA 51                                              out of there before daylight without being spotted, the

T-114 HOURS                                                    Nightscape mission would be a success. The bogey was a
                                                               whole different question. One he hoped he could answer
General Gullick poured himself a cup of coffee, then took
his chair at the head of the conference table. He took a
                                                                  "What about the survivors of the helicopter crash? They
pair of painkiller pills out of his pocket and swallowed
                                                               here yet?" General Gullick asked.
them, washing them down with a swig of scalding coffee.
                                                                  Quinn checked his computer. 'The pilot is in the clinic
Slowly the reports started coming back.
                                                               in Vegas being worked on. Major Prague was killed in the
  "Aurora is returning," Major Quinn reported. "ETA in
                                                               crash. The third man, a Captain Mike Turcotte, was slightly
twenty-two minutes. We have the exact location where the
bogey went down into the ocean."                               injured but is here, sir."
  Gullick looked at the inner circle of Majic-12, who were        "Send him in."

in the room. Each man knew his area of responsibility, and
as the orders were issued, each took the appropriate ac-       A quarter mile up a bedraggled and hurting Turcotte had
tion. "Admiral Coakley, the bogey is in your area of opera-    been waiting for a half hour now. His Gore-Tex jacket was

tions now. I want whatever you have floating closest to the    partly melted and he was black from soot and dirt. The

spot on top of it ASAP! I want you to be ready to go down      bandage he had hurriedly put on his arm in Nebraska was

and recover that thing.                                        soaked with blood, but he thought the bleeding was

  "Mr. Davis, I want the information from Aurora               stopped. He wasn't ready to peel the bandage off to check

downloaded to Major Quinn and I want to know what that         until he was someplace where he could get proper medical

thing is."                                                     care.

  "Already working on the digital relay," Davis replied.          The helicopter had swung by the airstrip outside, drop-

"I'll have the hard copy from the pod as soon as it touches    ping him off before continuing on with the pilot to Las

down."                                                         Vegas, where the program maintained its medical clinic

  Gullick was mentally ticking off all that had happened,      close by the hospital facilities at Nellis Air Force Base.

126                              ROBERT DOHERTY                  AREA 51                                                127

Turcotte had been met by two security men who had hus-           knew that the reaction of those in charge when they found
tled him inside the hangar.                                      out he had let the two civilians go might be more than a
  The interior doors were shut, but there was a bouncer in       letter of reprimand in his official files. These people were
the portion next to the elevator doors. Turcotte studied the     playing hardball, and by killing Prague he had entered their
craft, recognizing it as the sister of the one that had flown    playing field. He just hoped he could get out of here and
by earlier in Nebraska. For all he knew it could be the          that then Duncan would cover his butt.
same one. It didn't take a genius to put together the cattle       The elevator doors slid open, and the guard inside ges-
mutilations, the false landing signature lasered into the        tured for him to come in. Turcotte walked in and the floor
cornfield, and these craft to recognize that there was a         seemed to fall out from under him as they hurtled down.
cover-up operation of major proportion being operated            The doors opened again, and Turcotte stepped out into the
here. Turcotte just didn't understand how the pieces fit to-     control room of the Cube. He looked about but the guards
gether. The mission he had just been on in Nebraska              hustled him through the room to a corridor in the back. He
seemed very high risk and he could see no clear-cut pur-         entered a conference room where the lights were turned
pose to it. Unless it was to draw attention away from this       down low. There were several people sitting in shadows
site, but that didn't quite click.                               near the end of the table. Turcotte walked up to the rank-
  One thing was for certain, Turcotte knew. He certainly         ing general.
had something to report on now. It would be someone                Turcotte made no attempt to salute; his arm wouldn't
else's job to put the pieces together. He was glad to have       allow it. "Captain Turcotte reporting, sir." He noted the
gotten out with his ass in one piece. He looked down at his      nameplate on the man's chest--Gullick.
right hand. The fingers were shaking. Killing Prague, al-          Gullick saluted smartly. "What happened?"
though not the first time he had killed, weighed heavily on
                                                                   That voice--the same one that had been giving the or-
him. He turned his hand over and stared at the scar tissue
                                                                 ders to Prague over the radio--Turcotte remembered now
there for a little while.
  With great effort Turcotte brought his mind back to his        where he had heard it before: the board of inquiry that had
present situation. He wasn't in the clear yet. He was confi-     investigated what had happened in Germany. That voice
dent that Prague's burned body would raise no questions.         had been one of six that had questioned him via
He knew that the other helicopter aircrews would return          speakerphone in the secure holding area in Berlin.
later this morning or maybe even the following morning           Turcotte took a deep breath and cleared his mind of every-
once they had finished sterilizing the crash site in Ne-         thing but the story he now had to tell. There would be time
braska. And as soon as they were debriefed, the detection        later to deal with the other issues.
of the two civilians by the other AH-6 crew would surface.         Turcotte proceeded to describe the events of the previ-
Then there would be questions asked that he couldn't ade-        ous night, leaving out the important facts about inter-
quately answer. The clock on his career was already tick-        cepting the truck with the two civilians and killing Prague,
ing, but looking at the alien craft told Turcotte that there     of course. Gullick was most interested in the attack by the
were larger issues than his pension involved here. He also       small sphere, but there was nothing Turcotte could really

128                            ROBERT DOHERTY                                                                             129
                                                                AREA 51

say about that as he had not been looking out the front           "The composition of its skin was resistant to all attempts
when it had hit the helicopter.                                 to--
  Gullick listened to his account, then pointed back at the       "Unknown, then." Gullick slapped his hand on the ta-
elevator doors. "They'll take you in to the clinic in the       bletop, glaring at the picture as if he could penetrate it with
morning. You're dismissed."                                     his eyes. "What the hell do we know about it?"
  So much for thank you, Turcotte thought as he left the          "Uh . . ." Quinn paused and took a deep breath. "Well,
room. Gullick had been the most outspoken in his praise of      sir, we've got it in our records."
Turcotte's actions in Germany, praise that had confused           "What?"
and sickened Turcotte. But obviously, the events of the pre-      In response Quinn split the screen, the photo taken by
vious evening were not in the same league. Turcotte had no      Aurora of the bogey sliding to the left and an identical
doubt that if he had killed the two civilians and presented     object appearing on the right in grainy black and white.
their bodies like trophies, he would have received a hearty       "Talk to me, Quinn," Gullick growled. "Talk to me."
slap on the back.                                                 "The photo on the right was"--Quinn paused again and
  The elevator doors closed off the control room to             cleared his throat with a nervous cough--"the photo on
Turcotte, and he began his return trip to the surface. He       the right was taken by a gun camera in a P-47 Thunderbolt
should be able to get clear now.                                on February twenty-third, 1945, over the Rhine River in
General Gullick waited until the elevator doors had closed        There was a nervous rustle from the other men in the
behind the Army captain. Then he returned his attention         inner circle of Majic-12 who were at the table.
to Major Quinn. "That was no help. I want all the other           "A foo fighter," Gullick said.
personnel completely debriefed when they return from the          "Yes, sir."
                                                                  "What's a foo fighter?" Kennedy asked.
MSS. Have you analyzed the data from Aurora?"                     Gullick remained silent, digesting the revelation. Quinn
  "Yes, sir. We've got several good shots of the bogey."        looked at the information he had dredged up on his com-
  "Put one on the screen," General Gullick ordered.             puter screen and continued for the others in the room who
  A small glowing ball appeared on Gullick's computer           didn't know their aviation history. "The object on the right
screen.                                                         was called a 'foo fighter.' There were numerous sightings of
  "Scale?" Gullick asked.                                       these objects made by aircrews during World War II. Be-
  Around the edges of the screen rulers appeared. "It's         cause they were initially suspected to be Japanese and Ger-
three feet in diameter, sir," Quinn said.                       man secret weapons, all information concerning them was
  "Propulsion system?"                                          classified.
  "Unknown."                                                      "The foo fighter reports started in late 1944. They were
  "Flight dynamics?"                                            described as metallic spheres or balls of light, about three
  "Unknown."                                                    feet in diameter. Since the bomber aircrews that reported
  "Spectral analysis?"                                          them were usually veterans and gun cameras on board es-

                                                                     AREA 51                                                 131
130                              ROBERT DOHERTY

cort fighters occasionally recorded them also, giving factual        fighters. The mission was almost scrapped when the
                                                                     spheres appeared, but the commander on the ground at
support to those accounts, the reports were taken seri-
ously."                                                              the departure airfield at Tinian decided to continue it.
  Quinn was in his element. Before being assigned to the             There was no hostile action by the foo fighters and the
                                                                     situation was repeated several days later during the mission
project he had worked in Project Blue Book, the Air
Force's classified study group on UFOs--reports of un-                to Nagasaki."
                                                                       Kennedy leaned forward. "Von Seeckt was on the air-
identified craft other than the ones kept at Area 51. Blue
Book has also been a smokescreen for the Area 51 project             field there at Tinian back when they launched the Enola
and a purveyor of disinformation to mislead serious re-                        carrying that bomb, wasn't he?"
searchers. The foo fighters were in the Blue Book files and            "Yes, sir. Von Seeckt was there," Quinn replied.
                                                                       "And we still don't know anything about these foo fight-
most aviators had heard of them.
  "The lid could not be kept on such a widespread occur-             ers, do we?" Gullick asked.
rence, and reports of foo fighters did leak out to the gen-            "No, sir."
eral press, and they are even mentioned in some modern                 "Russian?" Kennedy asked.
                                                                       Quinn stared at him. "Excuse me, sir?"
books about UFOs. What didn't leak out, though, is that                "They couldn't have been Russian, could they? The sons
we lost twelve aircraft to the foo fighters. Every time one of       of bitches did beat us with Sputnik. Maybe they made these
our fighters or bombers would try to get close to one or fire
on them--they were bogies, after all--the foo fighters                 things."
                                                                       "Uh, no, sir, I don't believe there was any indication they
would turn and ram the attacker, leaving our aircraft the            were Russian," Quinn replied. "Once the war was over,
worse for the encounter. Just like what happened to Night-
scape Six. Because of these encounters, classified standing          reports about the foo fighters ended for a while."
orders were issued by Army Air Corps high command to                    "For a while?" Kennedy repeated.
                                                                        "In 1986 a bogey was picked up in the atmosphere by
leave the foo fighters alone. Apparently that worked, be-            space surveillance and tracked," Quinn said. "The object
cause there were no further reports of attacks.
  "After the war, when intelligence went through Japanese            did not fit any known aircraft parameters."
                                                                        Quinn pressed a key and a new picture appeared on the
and German records, it was discovered that they, too, had            screen. It looked as if a child had gone crazy with a bright
run into foo fighters and experienced the same results. We           green pen. A line zigzagged across the screen and looped
know they weren't behind them from what we found. In                 back on itself several times. "This is the flight path of a
fact, the records showed they thought the spheres were our           bogey they picked up back in eighty-six flying at altitudes
secret weapons.                                                      ranging from four to one hundred and eighty thousand
  "Of particular interest is an incident that is still classified    feet." Quinn hit another button. "This is the flight pattern
Q, level five." Quinn hesitated, but Gullick gestured for            of our bogey tonight superimposed on the one from eighty-
him to go on and tell the others. "On August sixth, 1945,            six." The two were very similar. "There's something else,
when the Enola Gay flew the first atomic mission toward              sir."
Hiroshima, it was accompanied the entire way by three foo

132                              ROBERT DOHERTY                  AREA 51                                             133

  "And that is?" Gullick asked.                                    As the men filed out, Kennedy stopped by General Gul-
  "There was another series of unexplained sightings right       lick and sat down next to him. "Maybe we should check
after this one. The Navy along with the DIA were running         with Hemstadt at Dulce about these foo fighters," he said.
an operation called Project Aquarius. It was, um, well,          "There might be some information about them in the Ma-
what they were doing--                                            chine."
  "Spit it out, man!" Gullick ordered.                             Gullick looked up from the tabletop and stared into
  "They were experimenting using psychics to try to locate       Kennedy's eyes. "Do you want to go to Dulce to hook up
submarines."                                                     to the Machine?"
  "Oh, Christ," Gullick muttered. "And?" he wearily                Kennedy swallowed. "I thought we could just call him
asked.                                                           and ask. It's possible that the Machine might be control-
  "The psychics were doing reasonably well. About a sixty-       ling--
percent success rate on getting the approximate longitude          "You think too much," Gullick cut him off, ending the
and latitude of submerged submarines simply by sitting in a      conversation.
room in the Pentagon and using mental imaging of a pho-
tograph of each specific submarine.
  "There was an unexpected thing that occurred every
once in a while, though. One of the psychics would pick up
the image of something else at the same coordinates as the
submarines. Something hovering above the location of the
  "And, let me guess," Gullick said. "We don't know what
that something was, correct?"
  "Space surveillance picked up . . ." Quinn hit his key-
board and let the flight-path schematic speak for itself: an-
other radical flight pattern.
  "Did anyone ever explain any of these sightings?" Gul-
lick asked.
  "No, sir."
  "So we have a real UFO on our hands now, don't we?"
Gullick said.
  "Uh, yes, sir."
  "Well, that's just fucking fine!" Gullick snapped. "That's
all I need right now." He glared at Admiral Coakley. "I
want that thing recovered and I want to know what the hell
it is!"

                                                    11                                                                 12

VICINITY DULCE, NEW MEXICO                                         LAS VEGAS, NEVADA
T - 113 HOURS, 3O MINUTES                                          T - 112 HOURS, 3O MINUTES

Johnny Simmons awoke to darkness. At least he thought              Las Vegas slowed down slightly at five-thirty in the morn-
he was awake. He could see nothing, hear nothing. When             ing. The neon still glowed, and there were people on the
he tried to move, panic set in. His limbs didn't respond. He       streets, most heading to their rooms for a few hours of
had a horrible feeling of being awake but asleep, unable to        sleep before starting over again on the games of chance.
connect the conscious mind with the nervous system to              Kelly Reynolds was doing the opposite, starting her day
produce action. He felt detached from his body and reality.        after catching three hours of sleep in her motel room. The
A mind floating in a black void.                                   first thing she had done when the alarm went off was call
  Then came the pain. Without sight or sound it exploded           Johnny's apartment on the slim chance that he might be
into his brain, becoming all his mind, all of his world. It was    there or have changed the message.
coming from every nerve ending in jagged, climbing spikes,           She looked up as a red-eye flight roared in toward the
far beyond anything he had thought possible.                       horizon. Walk to the sounds of the planes, she thought to
  Johnny screamed, and the worst of it all was that he             herself, paraphrasing Napoleon. She'd rent a car at the
couldn't hear his own voice.                                       airport. Right now she needed the fresh air and the time to
                                                                     This is what dad would have done, go for the strongest link.
                                                                   The thought brought a sad smile to her face. Her father
                                                                   and his stories. The best time of his life had been over
                                                                   before he was twenty. What a horrible way to spend the
                                                                   rest of one's life, Kelly thought.
                                                                     World War II. The last good war. Her dad had served in
                                                                   the OSS, the Office of Strategic Services, the precursor to
                                                                   the CIA. He'd jumped into Italy during the last year of the

136                              ROBERT DOHERTY                      AREA 51                                                    137

war and worked with the partisans. Running the hills with a          ing shift of workers. He was glad that he was going to be
band of renegades licensed to kill Germans and take what             able to get out of here. First thing he would do in Las
they needed by force. Then he'd worked in Europe as the              Vegas after getting his arm sewn up was call Duncan on the
war closed out, helping with the war crimes trials. Much of          number he had memorized. He wanted to get everything
what he saw there had soured him on mankind.                         off his chest. Then hopefully he could leave all this behind.
  Peace had never been the same. He'd turned to the slow               He noticed an old man come on board, accompanied by
death of the bottle and lived with his memories and his              two younger men whose demeanor suggested they were
nightmares. Kelly's mom had retreated into her own brain             bodyguards for the first man. Despite the fact that they
and shut out the outside world. And because of them Kelly            were the only other passengers on board, the old man took
had grown up fast. She wondered if her dad had still been            the front row of seats on the other side of the plane from
alive, if his liver had lasted a little longer, how the affair at    Turcotte. The bodyguards, apparently satisfied there were
Nellis would have turned out. She might have been able to            no immediate threats, sat down a few rows back as the
go to him for help. At the very least, she would have con-           plane's door was shut by the same hard-faced man who had
sidered what he would have done instead of blazing her               greeted Turcotte with the breathalyzer a little less than
own path to destruction. He certainly would not have                 forty hours ago. That man disappeared into the cockpit.
bought into Prague's line so naively. He would have told               "They are fools," the old man muttered in German, his
her to approach the bait very slowly and to watch out for            gnarled hands wrapped around a cane with a silver handle.
the hook.                                                              Turcotte ignored him, looking out the window at the
  The only legacy she had from her dad was his stories.              base of Groom Mountain. Even this close--less than two
But she was his legacy and that was more than she could              hundred meters away--it was almost impossible to tell that
say for herself at forty-two. No children and not much of a          there was a hangar built into the side of the mountain.
career to counterweight that. As she walked to the airport,
Kelly felt an overwhelming depression. The only thing that           Turcotte wondered how much money had been poured into
kept her going was Johnny. He needed her.                            this facility. Several billion dollars at least. Of course, with
  She stopped in an all-night market and bought two packs            the U.S. government having a covert black budget some-
of cigarettes and a lighter.                                         where between thirty-four and fifty billion dollars a year,
                                                                     he knew that was just a drop in the bucket.
                                                                       "They will all die, just like they did last time," the old man
                                                                     said in perfect German, shaking his head.
AREA 51                                                                Turcotte looked over his shoulder. One of the body-
Turcotte strapped himself into the plane seat and tried to           guards was asleep. The other was engrossed in a paper-
get comfortable. He'd spent the last two hours, since leav-          back.
ing the underground control room, alone, waiting in a                  "Who will die?" Turcotte asked in the same language.
small room off of the hangar, until they rolled out the stairs         The old man started and then looked at Turcotte. "Are
to load the 737 to fly into Las Vegas and pick up the morn-          you one of Gullick's men?"

138                            ROBERT DOHERTY
                                                                   AREA 51                                                 139

  Turcotte lifted his right hand, exposing the blood-soaked        that we can bridge centuries of normal development by
fabric. "/ was."                                                   simply flying the mothership. They think we can have the
  "And now who are you?"                                           stars right away without having to make the technological
  At first Turcotte thought he had translated poorly, but          breakthroughs to do it." Von Seeckt sighed. "Or, perhaps
then he realized he had it right, and he understood. It was        more importantly, without the societal development."
a question he had struggled with all through the dark hours          Turcotte had seen enough the past couple of days to
of the morning. "/ don't know, but I am done here."                accept what Von Seeckt was saying at face value. "What's
  The old man switched to English. "That is good. This is          so bad about just flying the thing? Why are you saying it's a
not a place to be. Not with what they plan, but I am not           threat to the planet?"
sure any distance will be enough."                                   "We don't know how it works!" Von Seeckt said, stamp-
  "Who are you?"                                                   ing the head of his cane down on the carpet. "The engine is
  The old man inclined his head. "Werner Von Seeckt.               incomprehensible. They are not even sure which of the
And you?"                                                          many machines inside is the engine.
  "Mike Turcotte."                                                   "Or there may be two engines! Two modes of propul-
  "I have worked here since 1943."                                 sions. One for use inside of a solar system or inside a
  "This is my second day," Turcotte said.                          planet's atmosphere and the other once the ship is outside
  Von Seeckt found that amusing. "It did not take you              significant effect of gravity from planets and stars. We sim-
long to get in trouble," he said. "You are going to the            ply don't know, and what if we turn the wrong one on?
hospital with me?"                                                   "Does the interstellar drive create its own wormhole and
  Turcotte nodded. "What were you talking about earlier?           the ship is pulled through? Maybe. So, maybe we make a
About everyone dying?"                                             wormhole on earth--not good! Or does it ride the gravita-
   The engine noise increased as the plane taxied toward           tional waves? But in riding, does it disturb them? Imagine
the end of the runway. "Those fools," Von Seeckt said,             what that could do. And what will it do if we lose control?
gesturing out the window. "They are playing with forces              "And who is to say the engine will still work properly? It
they don't understand."                                            is a flaw of inductive logic to say that just because the
   "The flying saucers?" Turcotte asked.                           bouncers still work that the mothership will work. In fact,
   "Yes, the saucers. We call them bouncers," Von Seeckt           what if it is broken and turning it on makes it self-de-
said. "But even more, there is another ship. You have not          struct?"
seen the large one, have you?"                                       Von Seeckt leaned over and spoke in a lower voice. "In
   "No. I've only seen the ones here in this hangar."              1989 we were working on one of the engines from the
   "There is a bigger one. Much bigger. They are trying to         bouncers. We had removed it from the craft and placed it
figure out how to fly it. They believe if they can get it to       in a cradle. The men working on it were testing tolerances
work they can take it into orbit and then back. Then there         and operating parameters.
will no longer be any need for the space shuttles, but more          "They found out about tolerances! They turned it on and
 importantly they believe that it is an interstellar transport,    it ripped out of the cradle holding it. They had not repli-

14                                                                A R E A  5 1
      0                        ROBERT DOHERTY                                                                              141

cated the control system adequately and lost the ability to       knowledge I brought with me. His chain-reaction experi-

turn it off. It tore through the retaining wall, killing five     ment gave them the raw material. I gave them the technol-

men. When it finally came to a stop it was buried sixty-five      ogy."

feet into solid rock. It took over two weeks to drill into the      "You did?" Turcotte asked. The plane was gaining alti-

rock and remove it. It wasn't damaged at all.                     tude. "How did you know--

  "I have seen it before. They never learn. I understood            Von Seeckt raised his cane. "Another time for that story,

the first time. There was a war. Extreme measures were            maybe. We worked nonstop until 1945. We thought we had

called for then. But there is no war now. And all the se-         it right, just like they think they understand the mother-

crecy! Why? What are we hiding all this for? General Gul-         ship. The difference was that there was a war then. And

lick says it is because the public will not understand, and       even so, there were many who argued we should not test

his cronies produce all sorts of psychological studies to         the bomb, but everyone in power was tired. Then Roose-

back that up, but I do not believe it. They hide it because       velt died. They hadn't even briefed Vice President Truman.

they have hidden it for so long that they can no longer           Their great secrecy almost cost them there. The secretary

reveal what they have been doing without saying that the          of state had to go and tell him about the bomb the day

government has lied for so many years. And they hide it           after the President died.

because knowledge is power and the bouncers and the                 "After understanding the significance of what he was

mothership represent the ultimate power."                         told, Truman gave the go-ahead to test. But I don't think

  The plane was gathering speed and moving down the               they fully informed him of the potential for disaster, just as

runway. "It all used to make sense," Von Seeckt said. "But        they keep the President in the dark now. We took a chance

this year something changed. They are all acting very             then."

strangely."                                                         Von Seeckt muttered something in German that

  Turcotte had cued into something Von Seeckt had said.           Turcotte didn't catch, then he continued in English. "They

"What do you mean the 'first time'?"                              have a presidential adviser on the Majic committee, but

  "I have worked for the government of the United States          there is much they do not tell her. I know they have not

a very long time," Von Seeckt said. "I had a certain"--Von         told her about the Nightscape missions. They believe this

Seeckt paused--"knowledge and expertise that they                  operation here, and much else that is secret in the govern-

needed so they, ah, recruited me in mid-1942. I came out          ment, is beyond the scope of the politicians who can be

here to the West. To Los Alamos, in New Mexico."                  gone in four years."

  "The bomb," Turcotte said.                                        Turcotte didn't respond to that. He had long ago decided

  Von Seeckt nodded. "Yes. The bomb. But in 1943 I                that the country was run by bureaucrats who stayed in their

moved to Dulce, New Mexico. That is where the real work           slots for decades--not by politicians who came and went.

went on. Los Alamos, they worked off of the information           At least he was beginning to understand why Duncan had

we gave them.                                                     sent him in to infiltrate Nightscape.

  "It was all very, very secret. They pieced it all out. Fermi      "On the sixteenth of July, in the year of our Lord 1945,

had already done the first piece even before they had the         at five-thirty in the morning, the first atomic weapon made

142                               ROBERT DOHERTY                                                                            143
                                                                  AREA    51

by man was detonated. We placed it on a steel tower in the        God down there below us and someone has to stop them.
desert outside of Alamogordo Air Base. No one quite               There are four days before they try to run up the mother-
knew what was going to happen. There were some--some               ship to full power. Four days. Four days until Armaged-
of the finest minds mankind has ever produced--who be-             don."
lieved the world would end. That the bomb would start a             Turcotte asked several questions but Von Seeckt
chain reaction that would not stop until it consumed the          wouldn't answer. The rest of the trip was made in silence.
planet. Others thought nothing would happen. Because it
was even riskier than history thinks. We were playing with
technology we had not developed!"                                 McCARREN AIRPORT, LAS VEGAS
  That confused Turcotte. He had always understood that
the U.S. had developed the A-bomb from scratch. He                It was still dark. Kelly waited in the terminal, staring out at
didn't have time to focus on that because Von Seeckt was          the runway. A plane roared overhead, and in the runway
still talking.                                                    lights she could see the red stripe painted down the side.
  "It was children playing with something we hoped we             The plane touched down but didn't turn toward the termi-
understood. What if a simple mistake had been made?               nal. It pulled off to an area about a quarter mile away,
What if we had connected the red wire where the blue wire         behind a fence with green slats. Show time.
was supposed to go? And even if it did work we weren't              Kelly ran through the main terminal dodging tourists
quite sure of the limitations!                                    and burst outside. She slid into the rental car she'd left at
  "Do you know what Oppenheimer said he was thinking              the curb, stuffing the ticket that had been placed on the
about that morning?" Von Seeckt didn't wait for an an-            windshield into her pocket. Following the airport service
swer. "He was thinking of the Hindu saying: 'I am become          road, she paralleled the green fence, stopping as she
death, the shatterer of worlds.' And we had. It went just as      neared a gate in it. She shut down the engine and turned
planned. We had death under our control--because it did            off the lights. There was the faintest glow of dawn on the
not start a chain reaction and it didn't just sit there on the    horizon.
tower and do nothing. It worked."                                   "What now?" she asked herself. She opened one of the
  "Why are you telling me this?" Turcotte asked.                  packs she had bought and lit up. The first breath in was
  "Because I think you are done here, as you say. And I           awful, tearing down her throat. She felt lightheaded and
am dying. And there is nothing left for me."                      nauseated. The second was better. "Three years down the
  Von Seeckt was silent for a few minutes, the plane rising       tube," she muttered.
up into the early-morning darkness. "Because I have lived           A bus pulled up to the gate and it swung open, admitting
in ignorance and fear for all my years but now I have noth-       the vehicle. Kelly opened the door, stubbing out the ciga-
ing to fear. I am dead even as you see me, but it is only now     rette. Just before the gate shut, a van with darkened win-
in looking back with a different perspective that I know I        dows pulled out.
was dead all those years." He turned. "Because you are              "Shit," Kelly said, jumping back in the car. As it turned
young and have a life ahead of you. And they are playing          the corner she got the car started and followed. The van

144                             ROBERT DOHERTY                    AREA    51                                                  145

turned onto Las Vegas Boulevard and headed north. They            styled silver hair and expensive glasses. He appeared to be
passed the Mirage, Caesars Palace, and other famous casi-         in good shape and was coldly efficient in bedside manner.
nos that lined the street. At the edge of town the van made         "Strip down to the waist," Cruise ordered.
a right into the main gate for Nellis Air Force Base.               Turcotte remembered Prague's nickname for him--
  Kelly made a quick decision and followed, merging into          meat. He was beginning to feel more and more like that
the flow of early-morning work traffic entering the post.         was apropos. Hell, Turcotte thought as he watched Dr.
The air policeman waved her to a halt as she had expected,        Cruise prepare a needle with painkiller, he'd have sewn the
because she had no access sticker on her rent-a-car, but she      wound up himself if he'd had access to the proper medical
was prepared.                                                     equipment. He'd been hurt worse on training exercises.
  "Could you tell me how to get to the public affairs of-           "Have you seen the pilot who was injured?" Turcotte
ficer?" she asked, holding up her press card as the line of       asked as Cruise slid the needle into his side.
cars piled up behind her. She could see the van still ahead.        "Yes."
  The air policeman hurriedly gave her directions and               Turcotte waited a few seconds but there was nothing fur-
waved her through, keeping the flow of traffic going. Kelly       ther. "How is he?"
had watched the van and followed in the direction it had            "Fractured skull. Some bleeding on the brain. He was
gone.                                                             lucky whoever was with him didn't take his helmet off, or
  She was surprised to see it parked outside a building           he wouldn't have made it here alive."
next to the post hospital. Kelly drove past, looped around,         Luck had nothing to do with it,
then parked in the lot outside a dental clinic across the                                               Turcotte thought to him-
street.                                                           self. "Has he regained consciousness?"
  The side door of the van slid open and two men in black           "No." Cruise put the needle down and picked up a
windbreakers stepped out, then an old man leaning on a            charged surgical needle. He seemed quite preoccupied
cane, followed by a fourth man wearing a dirty and torn           with some other thoughts.
black parka.                                                        Turcotte watched with detachment as Cruise began to
  The four disappeared into a door. Kelly leaned back and         sew the edges of the tear on his side together. He consid-
exercised what her dad had told her was the most impor-           ered his situation. If Prague had suspected him, then the
tant trait a person could have--patience.                          word hadn't been passed along, because the two guards
                                                                  were obviously for Von Seeckt. That meant he was home
Inside the hospital annex the man in the white coat was           free as soon as he was done here.
curt and to the point. "I'm Dr. Cruise. Please take a seat in       "Wait here," Doctor Cruise ordered after he'd finished
examining room two, Professor Von Seeckt. You," he said,          putting a bandage on the arm. He went into the office next
pointing at Turcotte, "follow me." They left the watchdogs        door. The door swung shut but the latch didn't catch and it
in the waiting room.                                              was left slightly ajar. Looking at the mirror above the ex-
  Turcotte followed the doctor into examining room one.           amining table, Turcotte could see into the office. Cruise
Turcotte estimated Cruise to be in his fifties, with carefully    was at the sink, washing his hands. Then the doctor placed

                                                                AREA    51                                              147
146                            ROBERT DOHERTY

both hands on the edge of the sink and stared in the mir-         "This wouldn't happen to be something that causes pul-
ror, saying something to himself.                               monary failure, would it?"
  Turcotte thought that quite odd. Then Cruise reached            "No," Cruise said, his eyes wide and staring down at the
into a pocket inside his coat and pulled out a needle with a    gleaming metal and glass tube.
plastic protective cover over the tip. He stared at the nee-      "Then there's no problem if you get a dose," Turcotte
dle, removed the cover, then took a deep breath and             said, pushing the point into Cruise's neck.
headed out of the office, through the far door, handling the      Sweat was pouring down Cruise's face as Turcotte's
needle very gingerly.                                           thumb poised over the plunger.
  Turcotte hopped off the examining table and slowly              "No problem, right, Doctor?"
opened the door to Cruise's office. He looked about. There        "Don't. Please. Don't," Cruise whispered.
was some paperwork on the desk. Turcotte noticed a folder         Von Seeckt didn't seem too surprised by any of these
with Von Seeckt's name neatly printed on the label. He          events. He was putting his shirt back on. "What is in it, Dr.
flipped it open.                                                Cruise? My friend with the needle, he has had a hard night.
  The top document was a certificate of death signed by         I would not provoke him into doing anything rash."
Cruise with today's date in the top right block. Cause of         "It's insulin."
death: pulmonary failure.                                         "And please tell me what that would have done to me?"
  Turcotte twisted the knob and threw open the door to          Von Seeckt asked.
examining room two. Cruise froze, the needle a few inches         "An overdose would cause your heart to stop," Cruise
away from the old man's arm. "Don't move!" Turcotte or-         said.
dered, drawing his 9mm Browning High Power from his               "Your death certificate is filled out on the good doctor's
hip holster.                                                    desk," Turcotte said, looking at Von Seeckt. "He already
  "What do you think you're doing?" Cruise blustered.           signed it. The only thing blank was your time of death, but
  "Put the needle down," Turcotte said.                         it was dated today."
  "I'll report you to General Gullick," Cruise said, care-        "Ah, after all these years." Von Seeckt shook his head.
fully putting the syringe down on the countertop.               "And you are a doctor," he added, shaking his head at
  "What is going on?" Von Seeckt asked in German.               Cruise. "I knew General Gullick was evil, but you should
  "We'll find out in a second," Turcotte said, keeping the      know better. You swore an oath to preserve life."
muzzle of his pistol on Cruise as he walked over and              "Gullick ordered this?" Turcotte asked.
picked up the needle.                                             Cruise almost shook his head, but thought better of it
  "What's in it?" he asked.                                     given the steel needle in his throat. "Yes."
  "His treatment," Cruise said, his eyes on the syringe.          Turcotte slid the needle out, but before Cruise could
  "It won't harm you, then, will it?" Turcotte asked with a     even draw a deep breath, he slammed his elbow up against
nasty smile, turning the point toward Cruise's neck.            the doctor's temple. Cruise crumpled to the ground uncon-
  "I'm--I--no, but--" Cruise froze as the tip touched his          scious.


148                             ROBERT DOHERTY                 AREA                       51                            149

  "Thank you, my friend," Von Seeckt said. He pulled his            Von Seeckt leaned over and pointed at a small device
jacket on and picked up his cane. "And now?"                   under the steering column. "Electronic theft protection,"
  "And now we get the hell out of here," Turcotte said.        he explained. "There's a small conductor that is placed
"Follow me."                                                   there. Without it, no electrical power. They have begun
  He opened the door and stepped out into the waiting          installing--"
room, pistol first. There was only one guard there, reading         "All right, all right," Turcotte cut in. He hadn't seen the
a magazine. He looked up and kept very still.                  driver take it out and it wasn't on the key ring. He looked
  "Keys to the van," Turcotte ordered. "With your left         back at the front door of the clinic. A shadow crossed his
hand."                                                         peripheral vision--the other guard coming around the cor-
  The guard slowly took the keys out of his pocket.            ner of the building.
  "Put them on the table, then get on your knees, face to           Then it all fell apart. The front door opened and the
the wall." The man complied.                                   other guard staggered out, pistol waving about, firing,
  "Get them, Professor," Turcotte said. He edged toward        blinking blood out of his eyes.
the door, keeping his weapon on the guard. "Where's your            Turcotte kicked open the driver side door. "Get out!" he
partner?"                                                      yelled to Von Seeckt. He fired three rounds quickly, delib-
  The man kept silent, which is what Turcotte would have       erately high, causing both guards to drop to the ground.
done in his position. Turcotte slammed the barrel of his
pistol down on the back of the man's head and he dropped       "Jesus!" Kelly flicked her cigarette out the window and
to the floor.                                                  started the car's engine. The man who had just fired swung
  "Let's go." Turcotte carefully opened the outside door       around and looked at her, his eyes piercing right through
and looked out. Because of the tinted windows he couldn't      the windshield from twenty feet away, then he spun about
tell if the other guard was inside the van, which was          and fired again at the black-jacketed men. Too high, Kelly
parked. Turcotte stuck the hand with the gun inside his        thought, and that decided her.
parka pocket. He walked out with Von Seeckt, straight up            With a squeal of rubber she peeled out of the parking
to the van, and slid the side door open. Empty. "Get in."      lot. She drove to the near side of the van, slamming on the
                                                               brakes and skidding to a halt. "Get in!" she yelled, leaning
On the other side of the street Kelly watched the two men      over and throwing open the passenger door.
get into the van, the younger of the two holding a gun in           The man with the gun shoved the old man in, following
his hand. She shifted her eyes and watched the other man,      right behind. "Go! Go! Go!" he exhorted her.
the guard who had come outside to smoke a few minutes               Kelly didn't need the advice. She fishtailed out of the
ago, turn around and start walking toward the front of the     parking lot. The two men ran out into the road behind,
building.                                                      firing. A group of airmen waiting outside the dental clinic
                                                               ran for cover.
Turcotte turned the key and nothing happened. He tried              There were a few plinks as bullets hit the trunk. Kelly
again. "Fuck," he muttered.                                    took the next corner with her foot still pushing down on

150                         ROBERT DOHERTY

the accelerator. They were out of sight of the two gunmen.                                                      13
The main gate to the base was four blocks directly ahead.

  "Steady through the gate," the man with the pistol said.

"We don't want to attract attention."

  "No shit, Sherlock," Kelly replied.

                                                              LAS VEGAS, NEVADA

                                                              T-11O HOURS, 2O  MINUTES

                                                              "So, Mr. Mike Turcotte and Professor Werner Von Seeckt,

                                                              are you the bad guys or the good guys?" Kelly asked. Her

                                                              hand shook as she lit a cigarette. "You don't mind, do

                                                              you?" she asked, indicating the cigarette.

                                                                "If I was younger, I'd have one myself," Von Seeckt said.

                                                              They were seated in her hotel room, belated introductions

                                                              having just been made.

                                                                "Why were you following us?" Turcotte demanded. "You

                                                              didn't just happen to be in that parking lot."

                                                                "I'm not telling you a thing, until you tell me who you

                                                              are and why those guys were shooting at you," Kelly said.

                                                                Von Seeckt was looking at a piece of paper he'd pulled

                                                              out of his coat. "To answer your first question, as you

                                                              Americans say, we are the men in the white hats."

                                                                "And the guys back at Nellis," Kelly asked, "--the men

                                                              in the black hats? Who are they?"

                                                                "The government," Turcotte said. "Or part of the gov-


                                                                "Let's try this one more time," Kelly said. "Why were

                                                              they shooting at you?"

                                                                Turcotte gave a concise explanation of the events of the

                                                              previous twenty-four hours, from Area 51 to Devil's Nest,

152                           ROBERT DOHERTY                     AREA 51                                                 153

back to the Cube, to the hospital annex and Doctor                 "Yes. And I've got a place in Phoenix that we can stop at
Cruise's attempt to kill Von Seeckt.                             on the way," Kelly said.
  "Whoa!" Kelly said when he came to a halt. "You expect           Turcotte sat down on the couch and rubbed his forehead.
me to believe that?"                                             He had a massive headache and it was getting worse. His
  "I don't give a shit what you believe," Turcotte said.         side ached and he was tired. "No. We don't go anywhere,"
  "Hey, don't get smart with me," Kelly said. "I saved your      he said.
ass back there."                                                   "You can stay here," Kelly said. "I'm going after
  "You only saved our ass if what I just told you was the        Johnny."
truth," Turcotte replied. To his surprise Kelly laughed.           "We need to stay together," Von Seeckt said in German.
  "Good point."                                                    "Why?" Turcotte asked.
  "So, I've told you our story," Turcotte said. "Why were          "Hey!" Kelly yelled. "None of this talking around me."
you there?"                                                        "I was just telling my friend that we need to stick to-
  "I'm looking for a friend of mine who has disappeared          gether," Von Seeckt said.
trying to infiltrate Area 51, and you got off the shuttle          "No," Turcotte said. "I'm done with this. I've done my
plane from that place. I didn't plan on getting caught in a      duty and now it's time for someone else to deal with this."
gun battle. Have you heard about a reporter named Johnny         He grabbed the phone.
Simmons getting picked up trying to get into Area 51 two           "Who are you calling?"
nights ago?"                                                       "None of your business," Turcotte said. He began to dial
  "There was a lot going on that night," Turcotte said. He       the number that Duncan had given him. On the eighth
glanced at Von Seeckt.                                           digit the phone went dead. He looked up to see Kelly hold-
  "If he disappeared trying to get into Area 51," Von            ing the cord, which she had unplugged from the wall.
Seeckt said, "he is either dead or he has been taken to a          "It's my phone," she said.
government facility at Dulce, New Mexico."                         "This isn't a game!" Turcotte slammed the phone down.
  Turcotte remembered Prague mentioning that place.                "I know it isn't a game," Kelly replied just as loudly. "I
  "I don't think he's dead," Kelly said. "The man who was        just got shot at. My best friend has disappeared. He"--she
with him--a guy named Franklin--he was reported killed             pointed at Von Seeckt--"almost was murdered. I don't
in a car crash that night. If they were going to kill Johnny,    think anyone in this room thinks it's a game!"
it would have been just as easy for them to put him in the         "Plug the phone back in." Turcotte spaced the words
car with Franklin. I think he's still alive and that means we    out.
have to go to New Mexico."                                         "No."
  "Wait a second . . ." Turcotte began, but Von Seeckt             As Turcotte began to stand, Kelly held up a hand. "Lis-
was nodding his head.                                            ten to me. Before any of us does anything, let's get on the
   "Yes, we must go to New Mexico. There is something            same sheet of music."
there at Dulce we will need. Can you take us there in your         "I agree," Von Seeckt said.
car?"                                                              "Who said we were voting?" Turcotte asked. He walked

154                            ROBERT DOHERTY
                                                               AREA                       51                           155

over to the room door and opened it. Screw these people, he        "And if you run it, your friend is dead," Turcotte
thought. He was tired and hurting and wanted nothing           couldn't help throwing in.
more than to forget all about Area 51 and this entire mess.        "Your phone call doesn't appear to have cheered you
He'd done his job and it had almost cost him his life. They    up," Kelly said.
couldn't ask any more of him.                                      Turcotte didn't reply.
  He went down to the lobby and over to the first phone            "We must do this ourselves," Von Seeckt said.
booth. Using his own phone credit card he dialed Duncan's          "Do what?" Turcotte snapped.
number. It rang three times, then it was picked up, but the        Von Seeckt looked at the piece of paper in his hand and
answer wasn't at all what he'd expected.                       read. " 'Power, sun. Forbidden. Home place, chariot, never
  A mechanical voice came on. "You have dialed a num-          again. Death to all living things.' "
ber that has been disconnected. Please check the number            "What?" Turcotte was totally confused.
and dial again."                                                   "May I please use your phone?" Von Seeckt asked Kelly.
  Turcotte punched in the ten numbers again. He was cer-           "Certainly," Kelly said.
tain he had them right. And received the same response.            "How come you're letting him call?" Turcotte asked.
"Fuck!" he hissed as he slammed the phone down, earning            "He said please," Kelly replied.
himself a dirty look from a woman two phones over.                 "Wait one," Turcotte said to Von Seeckt, holding up his
  He went to the elevator. Had the number been bogus to        hand. "I'm pretty much in the dark here, like she is. But
start with? Or had he been cut off after going in? What the    we're all in the same shit pile. I know what happened in
hell was going on?                                             Nebraska. And I saw what they tried to do to you at the
  He opened the door. Kelly barely looked up. She was          medical annex. And I saw what they have in those hangars
grilling Von Seeckt. "But how did the government get the       back there at Area 51, but I don't know what the hell is
bouncers? And why are they hiding them and pulling all         going on. Before you make any phone calls, tell us what is
this deception shit? And what was the small sphere that        going on."
made Turcotte's helicopter crash? And why were they try-           "They are going to try to engage the propulsion unit of
ing to kill you if you were one of them--one of Majic-12?"      the mothership on the fifteenth of this month. I fear that
  "Because they have gone too far," Von Seeckt said. "Are      when the engine is engaged there will be disaster."
going to go too far," he amended. "In four days they will          "I know that--" Turcotte began.
cross the line."                                                   "Mothership?" Kelly cut in, which necessitated a brief
                                                               description by Von Seeckt.
  "What line?" Kelly asked.
  "Welcome back, my young friend," Von Seeckt said.                "How will engaging the engine be a disaster?" Kelly
"Have you decided to stay with us?"                                "I do not know exactly," Von Seeckt said. "But there is
  "I haven't decided anything," Turcotte muttered. He          someone who might. Which is why I need to use the
slumped down in one of the chairs by the window.               phone." He looked at Kelly. "Let me have the address of
   "This is the biggest story in years," Kelly said.           this place we will be stopping at in Phoenix." Kelly gave it

156                            ROBERT DOHERTY                  AREA    51                                              157

to him and Von Seeckt dragged the phone into the bed-             Gullick moved on. "Two. This 'foo fighter.' Admiral
room suite and closed the door behind him.                     Coakley?"
  Turcotte frowned but bowed to the situation. "Thanks           "I have three ships en route to the location where it went
for the ride."                                                 down. One is the USS Pigeon, a submarine rescue ship. It
  "Better late than never," she said.                          has the capability to send a minisub down to the bottom at
  "What?"                                                      that location."
  "Forget it." She pointed at the closed bedroom door. "Is       "ETA and time to recover?" Gullick asked.
he on the level?"                                                "ETA in six hours. Recovery--if they find it and it is
  "Your guess is as good as mine," Turcotte said.              intact--inside of twenty-four," Coakley responded.
  "Great."                                                       "What do you mean if they find it?"
                                                                 "It's a small object, General," Coakley explained. "It dis-
                                                               appeared in deep water and we're not even sure it's still
THE CUBE, AREA 51                                                "You will find it," Gullick said.
General Gullick steepled his fingers and looked around the       "Yes, sir."
conference table. Dr. Cruise was holding an ice pack to his      "Sir . . ." Quinn paused.
temple. The other members of the inner circle were also          "What?" Gullick snapped.
there. Dr. Duncan, naturally, had not been informed of the       "What if this foo fighter wasn't the only one? The re-
meeting.                                                       ports we have from World War II indicate multiple sight-
  "Priorities," Gullick said. "One. Mothership run-up and      ings. There were three flying with the Enola Gay."
propulsion engagement. Ferrel?"                                  "What if it isn't the only one?" Gullick repeated.
  "On schedule," Doctor Ferrel said. "We're analyzing the        "The pattern we observed with this one that went down
data from the run-up."                                         in the Pacific indicated that it was waiting somewhere in
  "What about the physical effect that Dr. Duncan com-         the vicinity here and picked up Bouncer Three departing
plained about?"                                                the Area."
  Ferrel shook his head. "I don't know. She was the only         "So?" Gullick said.
one affected. The only change in variables was that she is       "Well, sir, then there might be another one of these foo
female."                                                       fighters in the vicinity here and it might interfere when we
  "What?" Gullick said.                                        run the mothership test flight. Obviously, the foo fighters
  "Maybe the wave effect of the engine affects females         are clued in to our operation here in some manner."
differently."                                                    General Gullick considered this. He had spent a lot of
   "Is it significant?" Gullick asked.                         time worrying about the test flight. This was a new wrinkle,
   "No, sir."                                                  and he struggled to deal with it. "Do you have any sugges-
   "Any foreseeable problems?"                                 tions, Major?"
   "No, sir."                                                    "I think we ought to check and see if there is another

158                            ROBERT DOHERTY                     AREA                         51                          159

one around. The last one reacted to a bouncer flight. If          surviving members of the Nightscape mission debriefed at
there is another one about, maybe it would react to an-           the MSS via SATCOM. It appears that there was a civilian
other bouncer flight, except this time we would be more           contact just as Bouncer Three arrived at the objective in
prepared."                                                        Nebraska and the foo fighter interfered. Captain Turcotte
  Gullick nodded. "All right. We can't afford to have any-        was on board Major Prague's helicopter. Prague's bird
thing go wrong on the fifteenth. Let's prepare a mission for      stayed behind to deal with the civilians."
tonight. Except have two bouncers ready. One as bait, the             "There was no report of civilians. No report at all," Gul-
other to follow and intercept. We'll also prepare some kill       lick said. "I debriefed Turcotte personally about the mis-
zones if there's one of those things about and it takes the       sion and he didn't say anything about that." He was
bait."                                                            shocked. "Turcotte lied to me."
  "Yes, sir."                                                         "We don't know who the civilians were, but there has
  "Three," Gullick said. He looked at Dr. Cruise, then            been no report filed with local authorities about the night's
General Brown, who was responsible for overall security.          activities," Brown said.
The right side of Gullick's face twitched. "The fuck-up this          "Of course not," Gullick said. "Turcotte would have told
morning."                                                         them to keep their mouths shut." He looked down again at
  "Von Seeckt is gone," Brown said. "We have his apart-           the computer screen. "What's his background?"
ment in Las Vegas covered in case he shows up there.                  "Infantry. Then Special Forces. We recruited him out of
We--"                                                              DET-A in Berlin."
  "Von Seeckt is old and a pain in the ass, but one thing             Gullick slapped the conference tabletop. "I remember
the man is not, is stupid," Gullick said. "If I'd have known      him now. He was involved in that incident in Dusseldorf
you were going to fuck up a simple termination I'd have let       with the IRA. I never saw him. We did the after-action
nature take its course and listened to his shit for five more     inquiry by secure conference call, but I recognize the name
months, then let him die. Now we have him on the loose            now. He was there. So why is he lying to us and helping
with his big mouth and his knowledge."                            Von Seeckt flee? Is he a plant?"
  "He can't have gotten too far," General Brown said.                 General Brown shook his head. "I don't know, sir."
  "The term that comes to mind," Gullick said, glaring at             "He might be," Kennedy said. The others at the table all
Cruise, "is anal retentive. You had to have the death certifi-    turned to look at the CIA man.
cate typed up before you actually killed him?"                        "Clarify," Gullick ordered.
   "Sir, I--"                                                          "When we did our background on Dr. Duncan, my peo-
   Gullick silenced the doctor with a wave of his hand.           ple picked up some information that she was working with
"What about this"--Gullick looked down at his computer             someone inside our organization or was sending someone
screen--"this Captain Turcotte?"                                   in to infiltrate us. The NSA had supplied her with a phone
   "He was new, sir." Brown had a file open. "He just ar-         cutout to talk to this agent. That cutout was activated forty
rived in time for the Nightscape mission last night." Brown       minutes ago. My people disconnected it."
paused. "Since the events this morning, I had the other               "Could you find out who was calling?"

160                             ROBERT DOHERTY                    AREA    51

  "Not without attracting the NSA's attention," Kennedy             "I wonder why she helped Turcotte and Von Seeckt,"

said. "But whoever was calling on that line, and I do be-         Quinn said.

lieve it was Turcotte, given all that has happened, didn't get      Gullick stood. "Find her. Then you'll know. While you're

through."                                                         at it, find Turcotte and find Von Seeckt and terminate

  "Why wasn't I informed of all this?" Gullick demanded.          them. Then we won't have to worry about the whys."

  "I thought I could take care of it," Kennedy said. "I

warned Major Prague to be on the lookout and to check

any new personnel extra carefully."

  "Obviously that worked damn well!" Gullick exploded.

He threw a file folder across the room. "Does anyone in

here believe in letting me know what's going on before we

fuck things up any further?"

  The men of the inner circle of Majic-12 exchanged wor-

ried glances, not quite sure what to make of the question.

Just as swiftly as he had exploded, Gullick calmed down. "I

want everything you have on Turcotte." He checked the

computer screen. "And who's this woman in the rent-a-


  "We've run the plates the guards copied. The woman

renting the car is Kelly Reynolds. She's a freelance maga-

zine writer."

  "Just great." Gullick threw up his hands. "That's all we


  "I'm working on getting a photo ID of her and her back-


  "Track them down. Put out a classified alert through

CIA channels into the police networks. No one should ap-

proach them. We have to get them ourselves. Quickly!"

  "We also have a report from Jarvis," Kennedy contin-

ued. "This Reynolds woman interviewed him yesterday

evening. Jarvis gave her the usual story, but she was better

prepared than most and penetrated his backstop cover. She

specifically asked about that reporter that we picked up the

other night on White Sides Mountain."

                                                                AREA    51                                                163

                                                                   "We are not going back into Area 51," Turcotte said
                                                  14            flatly. "Gullick will have our heads if we go back in there.
                                                                And they'll find us here soon enough too."
                                                                   "The tablets aren't there," Von Seeckt said. "They're
                                                                being held at the Majic-12 facility in Dulce, New Mexico.
                                                                That is why / said we must go there."
                                                                  Turcotte sat down in an easy chair and rubbed his fore-
                                                                head. "So you're agreeing with Kelly and say that we
                                                                should go to Dulce. I assume whatever facility is there is
                                                                highly classified also. So we're just going to break in, rescue
                                                                this reporter Johnny Simmons, get these tablets, decipher
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA                                               them, and then what?"
T-1O9 HOURS, 2O MINUTES                                           "We make public the threat," Von Seeckt said. He
"Who did you call?" Turcotte asked, as he toweled his hair.     looked at Kelly. "That's your job."
  While Von Seeckt had been on the phone, Turcotte had            "Oh, I've been hired?" Kelly asked.
taken a shower and cleaned himself up. Kelly had run out          "No, sounds to me like you volunteered like I did,"
and gone to a Wal-Mart to buy him a loose-fitting pair of       Turcotte said with a sarcastic laugh. "Sort of like people
pants and a shirt to replace his torn and sooty jumpsuit. He    used to volunteer to charge across no-man's-land in World
felt more human now. The stitches that Cruise had put in        War I. Didn't your mother ever tell you not to pick up
his arm were holding up well.                                   hitchhikers?"
  "I left a message for a Professor Nabinger." Von Seeckt         Von Seeckt's voice was grim. "None of us in this room
held up the crumpled piece of paper he had in his hand. "I      has any choice. We either expose what they are planning to
believe he may hold the key to understanding the mother-        do at Area 51 in four days and stop it or we--and many
ship."                                                          others--die."
  "Who is Nabinger?" Kelly asked.                                 "I'm not sure I buy into the danger this mothership
  "An archaeologist with the Brooklyn Museum."                  holds," Turcotte said.
  "Okay, time out," Turcotte said. "I thought I was half-         Von Seeckt shook the piece of paper with the message
way up to speed with all this, but now you've lost me."         from Nabinger on it. "This confirms my suspicions!"
  "When they discovered the mothership," Von Seeckt               Turcotte glanced at Kelly and she returned the look. For
said, "they also found tablets with what are called high        all they knew Von Seeckt could be a total crackpot. The
runes on them. We have never been able to decipher the          only reason Turcotte even began to believe the old man
tablets, but it appears that Professor Nabinger might be        was the fact that Cruise had tried to kill him. That meant
able to." Von Seeckt's fingers ran over the head of his         someone took him seriously enough to want to get rid of
cane. "The only problem is that we have to get access to        him. Of course, they might want to kill him because he was
the tablets to show them to the professor."                     a crackpot, but Turcotte thought it best to keep that

164                            ROBERT DOHERTY                     AREA    51

thought to himself. He didn't feel on very firm ground;          proposed had gone against the prevailing winds of the
after all, his phone call had been to a number that was          world of academic archaeology.
disconnected, so his story didn't hold up much better than         What had fascinated Nabinger was that a few of Slater's
those of the other two people in the room.                       slides showed forms of high runes etched into the under-
  Von Seeckt had told him about Duncan being in the              water stonework. He'd gotten copies of the slides and
Cube. She might be legitimate, she might not. Turcotte's         they'd helped him decipher a few more high rune symbols.
training told him that when he didn't have enough infor-         However, the chilly, in fact hostile, reception her presenta-
mation he had to make the best possible choice. Going to         tion had received had convinced Nabinger to keep his own
Dulce seemed like a good way to at least accumulate more         studies quiet.
information from both Von Seeckt and Kelly on the way              Nabinger wiped the sweat from his brow and adjusted
there.                                                           his backpack. At the conference Slater had not seemed
  "All right," Turcotte said. "Let's stop yacking and get        particularly perturbed at the attacks on her theories. She
going."                                                          had smiled, packed her bags, and gone back to her island.
                                                                 Her attitude had seemed to suggest that they could take it
                                                                 or leave it. Until someone came up with some better ideas
BIMINI, THE BAHAMAS                                              and supported them, she was sticking to hers. Nabinger
T-1O8 HOURS, 5O MINUTES                                          had been impressed with that self-confident attitude. Of
Less than a hundred miles east of Miami, the islands that        course, she didn't have a museum board of directors or an
made up Bimini were scattered across the ocean like small        academic review board for tenure looking over her shoul-
green dots. It was in the sparkling blue water around those      der, either, so she could afford to be aloof.
dots that massive stone blocks had been found that had             He looked down at the card she had given him at the
fueled speculation that Atlantis had once been there.            conference--a small map photocopied on the back pointed
  Peter Nabinger didn't have the time to dive to see the         the way to her house. She'd given it to him when he'd
blocks. Besides, he'd already seen pictures of them. He was      asked for copies of the slides. "We don't have street names
here to see the woman who had taken the pictures and             on my island," she had told him. "If you don't know where
then stayed to study them further.                               you're going, you won't get there. But don't worry, you can
  As he walked the short distance from the tiny dirt-strip       walk everywhere from the airfield or the dock."
airport to the village where Slater lived, Nabinger reflected      Nabinger spotted a shock of white hair above a garden
on the only other time he'd seen the woman. It had been at       of green surrounding a small cottage. As the woman
an. archaeological convention in Charleston, South Caro-         turned around, he recognized Slater. She put a hand over
lina. Slater had presented a paper on the stones in the          her eyes and watched him approach. Slater was in her late
shallow waters off her island home. It had not been re-          sixties and had come to archaeology late in life, after retir-
ceived well. Not because her groundwork and research had         ing from a career as a mineral- and geologic-rights lawyer
been faulty, but because some of the conclusions she had         representing various environmental groups--the reason


166                            ROBERT DOHERTY                      AREA    51                                           167

she could afford to go her own way and another reason she            Nabinger nodded. "Are you familiar with the Nazi cult
irritated the archaeological old guard.                            of Thule?"
  "Good day, young man," she called out as he turned into            Slater slowly put down her glass. "Yes." She was
her drive.                                                         thoughtful for a moment. "Do you know that about ten
  "Ms. Slater, I'm--                                                years ago there was a great controversy in the medical
  "Peter Nabinger, Brooklyn Museum," she said. "I may              community about using certain historical data to study hy-
be old and getting a little long in the tooth, but I still have    pothermia?" She didn't wait for an answer. "The best data
my mind. Did you take a wrong turn on the Nile? If I               ever documented on hypothermia was developed by Nazi
remember rightly, that was your area of expertise."                doctors immersing concentration camp inmates in freezing
  "I just flew in here from Cairo, via the puddle jumper           vats of water and recording their decreasing bodily func-
from Miami," Nabinger said.                                        tions until they died. They also took some out of the water
  "Iced tea?" Slater asked, extending her hand toward the          before they died and tried to resuscitate them by warming
                                                                   them up in various ways--which invariably failed to work.
door and leading him in.
                                                                   Not exactly something your typical medical researcher can
  "Thank you."                                                     do, but entirely realistic if you're looking for accuracy.
  They walked into the cool shadows of the house. It was a           "The decision the American medical community made
small bungalow, nicely furnished, with books and papers            was that data gathered in such a brutal and inhuman man-
piled everywhere. She cleared a stack of papers from a             ner should not be used, even if it advanced current medical
folding chair. "Sit down, please."                                 science and eventually saved lives. I do not know how you
  Nabinger settled down and accepted the glass she gave            would feel about that issue. I don't even know how I feel
him. Slater sat down on the floor, leaning her back against        about it."
a couch covered with photographs. "So what brings you                Slater paused, then smiled. "Now I am the one circling
here, Mr. Egypt? Do you want more photos of the mark-              the subject. But you must understand the situation. Of
ings on the stones?"                                               course, I have read the papers and documents available on
  "I was thinking about the paper you presented in                 the cult of Thule and on the Nazis' fascination with Atlan-
Charleston last year," Nabinger began, not quite sure how          tis. It is part of my area of study. But there are those who
to get to what he wanted to know.                                  would violently oppose any use of that information, so, as
  "That was eleven months and six days ago," Slater said.          eccentric as some of my theories do seem, I have had to
"I would like to think your brain works a little quicker than      keep that particular piece of information out of my own
that, or we might have a long day here. Please, Mr. Nab-           papers and presentations."
inger, you are here for a reason. I am not your professor at         Nabinger leaned forward. "What have you found?"
school. You can ask questions even if they seem silly. I've          "Why do you want to know?" Slater asked.
asked many silly questions in my life and I never regretted          Nabinger reached into his backpack and pulled out his
a one, but I have some regrets about the times I kept my           sketchbook. He handed her the drawing and rough transla-
mouth shut when I should have spoken up."                          tion. "That's from the wall in the lower chamber of the

168                           ROBERT DOHERTY                    AREA 51                                                  169

Great Pyramid." He checked his watch. He had to catch             Slater talked as Nabinger looked at the photos. "They
his return flight to Miami in an hour and a half. He pro-       might have been part of the outer wall of a city or part of a
ceeded to quickly relate Kaji's story of Germans opening        quay. There is no way of knowing, with large portions cov-
up the chamber in 1942, ending it by showing her Von            ered with coral and other underwater life and the sea bot-
Seeckt's dagger. He then described his efforts at deci-         tom close by sloping off into unexplored depths. This
phering the high runes and the message he had taken off         section with the stones might be just a tiny part of a larger
the wall of the chamber.                                        ancient site, or may be the only site, built there thousands
  Slater heard him out. "This reference to a home place.        of years ago when that area was above water. Built by a
Do you think that is reference to a place on the far side of    people we don't know about, for a reason we can't yet
the Atlantic?"                                                  figure out.
  "Yes. And that's why I'm here. Because the Germans--if           "The major pattern of the stones is a long J or more
they did go into that chamber in 1942, which I'm not abso-      accurately a horseshoe with the open end to the northeast.
lutely convinced of yet despite the dagger--had to have          All told it's about a third of a mile long in about fifty feet
gotten their information about the chamber from some-           of water. Some of the stones are estimated to weigh almost
where. Perhaps the Germans found writing somewhere              fifteen tons, so they didn't get there by accident and who-
that got them to that chamber, if you follow my logic."         ever did put them in place had a very advanced engineer-
  "I follow your logic." Slater handed the drawing back.        ing capability. You can barely get a knife point in the joints
"In the early days of World War II, German U-boats oper-        between some of those stones."
ated extensively along the East Coast of the United States        Slater stood up and leaned over Nabinger's shoulder and
and here in the islands. They sank quite a bit of shipping.     pointed. "There."
But they also conducted some other missions.                      There was a large, ragged gouge in one of the blocks.
  "As you have talked with this Kaji fellow in Egypt, I have    "And this is?" Nabinger asked.
talked to some of the old fishermen here in the islands,          Slater shuffled through the photos. "Here," she said,
who know the waters and the history. They say that in 1941      handing him a close-up of the scar on the block.
there were numerous sightings of German submarines                Nabinger peered at it. There were other, very faint, older
moving here among the islands. And that the submarines          marks--writing around the edges of the gouge! Very simi-
did not seem interested in hunting ships--since we are off       lar to what was in his notebook, but the gouge had de-
the main shipping lanes here--but rather to be looking for       stroyed any chance of deciphering it!
something in the waters around the islands."                      "What happened to this stone?" Nabinger asked.
  Slater reached behind her and gathered some photos. "I          "As near as I can tell," Slater said, "it was hit by a tor-
think this is what they found."                                 pedo." She touched the picture, running her fingers over
  She handed them over. They appeared to be the same            the high runes. "I've seen others like these. Ancient mark-
photos that she had presented at the conference. Large          ings destroyed sometime in the last century by modern
stone blocks, closely fitted together in about fifty feet of    weapons."
water.                                                            Nabinger nodded. "They're just like the ones I deci-

170                           ROBERT DOHERTY
                                                                AREA 51                                                    171

phered from the lower chamber. Not traditional hiero-           bothers me--and why I have never made public my find-
glyphics, but the older, high rune language."                   ings--is how can the same ancient writing have been found
  Slater walked over to a desk buried under stacks of fold-     in such vastly separated places?"
ers and books. She rummaged through, then found what              Slater sat back down. "Are you familiar with the diffu-
she was looking for. "Here," she said, handing Nabinger a       sionist theory of civilization?"
folder. "You are not the only one interested in the high          "Yes, I am," Nabinger said. He knew what Slater was
rune language."                                                 referring to despite the ,,fact that the prevailing winds of
  He opened it. It was full of photos of high runes. Written    thought this decade blew in favor of the isolationist theory
on walls, on mud slabs, carved into rock--in just about          of civilization. Isolationists believed that the ancient civili-
every possible way by which ancient cultures had recorded       zations all developed independent of one another. Meso-
their affairs. "Where did you take these photos?" Nabinger      potamia, the Indus Valley, China, Egypt--all crossed a
asked, his heart pounding with the thought of the potential     threshold into civilization about the same time: around the
information he held in his hands. He recognized several of      third or fourth century before the birth of Christ.
the shots--the Central American site that had helped him           Nabinger had heard the argument many times. Isolation-
begin his breaking of the rune code.                            ists cite natural evolution to explain this curious bit of syn-
  "There's an index in the folder detailing where each          chronicity. They also explain many common points in the
photo was shot--they're numbered. But, basically, several        archaeological finds of these civilizations as due to man's
locations. Here, under the waves. In Mexico, near Vera-         genetic commonality. Thus the fact that there are pyramids
cruz. In Peru, at Tucume. On Easter Island. On some of          in Peru, in Egypt, in Indochina, in North America--some
the islands in Polynesia. Some from your neck of the woods      made of stone, some of earth, some of mud, but remark-
in the Middle East--Egypt and Mesopotamia."                      ably similar to one another given the distances between
  "The same symbols?" Nabinger asked, thumbing                  those sites--all that is just because each society as it devel-
through the photos. He had seen many of the same ones           oped had a natural tendency to do the same thing.
before, but there were a few new ones in there to add to his      Nabinger himself found this a bit of a leap. It would have
high rune database.                                             been quite a genetic coup if all these civilizations should
  "Some differences. In fact, many differences," Slater an-     also have developed this same ancient high rune writing
swered. "But, yes, I believe they all stem from the same        and then abandoned it, well before the first hieroglyphics
root language and are connected. A written language that        were being etched on papyrus.
predates the oldest recorded language that is generally ac-       The diffusionists argued the other side of the civilization
cepted by historians."                                          coin, and Nabinger felt more affinity for their stance. They
  Nabinger closed the binder. "I have been studying these       believed that those civilizations rose at approximately the
runes for many years. I've seen a lot of what you have in       same time on the cosmic scale--and exhibited all those
here before--in fact I was able to decipher what I did of        similarities, including the high runes--because those civili-
the wall of the chamber in the Great Pyramid using sym-         zations had all been started by people from a single earlier
bols from a South American site. But the question that          civilization.

172                           ROBERT DOHERTY                      AREA    51                                              173

  There were problems with the diffusionist theory,             in South America. Stonework very similar to that at other
though--serious problems--and that is why Nabinger kept           sites, some on the other side of the Pacific in Oceania. He
his views on the subject to himself. The strongest argument     has in his possession hard evidence of a certain degree of
against the diffusionist theory was that there was no way       interaction among widely spread peoples many centuries
for people from these different locations to have communi-      ago, but he is basically being ignored by the mainstream
cated with one another or have had any social or cultural       scientific community because they simply do not believe it
intercourse. Those early people would have had to cross         is possible."
the Atlantic and the Pacific, according to diffusionist the-      Nabinger was aware of the find, but he didn't want to
ory. They had a hard enough time even sailing around on         offend Slater. After all, he'd come to her. "How does Jor-
the Mediterranean at that epoch, never mind crossing the        genson think civilization originated?"
oceans.                                                           "He believes that there was an original culture of white-
  Slater's face wrinkled as she smiled. "And you know who       skinned, long-eared, pyramid-building, rune-writing people
the number-one spokesperson for the diffusionists is, don't     living and flourishing at what he calls the 'zero point,'"
you?" She didn't wait for an answer. "Leif Jorgenson. The       Slater replied. "And that civilization spread out from that
man who sailed the Atlantic in a Viking ship to prove that      zero point at what he calls a 'zero time'--just prior to civili-
Europeans were in North America long before Christo-            zation developing simultaneously at all those other places
pher Columbus. And who floated from Indonesia to the            that we are now studying. Civilization came from the zero
Hawaiian islands on a wood raft to support his theory that      point."
the islands were colonized from the west.                         "And where is the zero point?" Nabinger asked, even
  "But he's taken all that--and more--a step further in           though he had a very good idea of what the answer would
the last ten years. He's currently working the recently dis-    be.
covered ruins in Mesoamerica, looking at pyramids and the         "It is the place so many legends call Atlantis."
Mayan calendar and--guess what?--new high runes dis-                "And that is why you are so familiar with his theories,"
covered there.                                                  Nabinger said.
  "Four years ago Jorgenson uncovered a massive site in           "Yes. Because there are connections that have not been
Mexico near Jamiltepec. Over twenty large earthen and           adequately explained." She paused. "Let me put it this
stone pyramids covering almost seven hundred acres on           way. Most people dismiss Jorgenson's zero-point theory
the west coast of Mexico, less than two miles from the          based on physical impracticality. They say that there is no
Pacific Ocean. It had been covered by the jungle and be-        way man at that time--somewhere around four thousand
cause of the mountains around it was accessible only by         B.C.--could have made it from the zero point to the other
sea.                                                            locations around the globe, regardless of where you place
  "At the site he found further evidence of cross-cultural      the zero point. They would have had to cross the oceans.
communication at a time earlier than traditional historians       "Jorgenson's reply is that while there is not enough sci-
say is possible. There was jewelry made with gems that          entific evidence to convincingly support his theory, there is
could only have been mined over two thousand miles away         also not enough to refute it. // you assume there was a way

174                              ROBERT DOHERTY                    AREA    51

ancient man could have crossed the oceans and spread,            the stroke of their pens, moved Lemuria to the Pacific,

then the evidence falls into place. Thus all the sea journeys    tying the legend in with the statues on Easter Island, which

Jorgenson has undertaken in replicas of old sailing ves-         loops us back to Jorgenson's large-eared race. The statues

sels."                                                           on Easter Island are of, as you also know, a large-eared
  She tapped the translation Nabinger had given her. "I          people."

must give you credit, young man, for pursuing your study of         Slater laughed. "I can tell you even better myths and
the commonalities among the high runes, in defiance of the       stories. In 1922 another German published a book about
common theories. Obviously it has brought you success            Atlantis and claimed it had originally been occupied by a
that many other scientists and investigators have failed to      genetically perfect people. But the perfection was marred
find because they accepted the standard theories and could       when an outside woman arrived and taught them how to
not see the greater possibilities in thinking differently. I
                                                                 ferment alcohol. So much for the perfect society. Because
have tried my own hand at translating the high runes, but it
                                                                 of this imperfection Atlantis was then destroyed by the tail
is not my area of expertise."
                                                                 of a comet! The continent burned and only a handful of
  "Let's get back to the Atlantis idea," Nabinger said,
                                                                 people escaped."
checking his watch again.
                                                                   "Where do these people get their ideas from?" Nabinger
  "Jorgenson believes--and as you know there is scientific
data to support this--that there was a major geological
                                                                   "Ah, ever the scientist," Slater said. "You want source
event in the Atlantic Ocean somewhere around 3400 B.C.
                                                                 material?" She went to her crowded desk and searched for
Pretty much every culture around the globe refers to a
                                                                 a minute, before pulling out a dog-eared hardcover book.
great flood at about that time. Even the Tibetan Book of
the Dead talks of a large land mass sinking into the sea at      "This is the original mention of Atlantis from the Timaeus,
that time, and they are on the other side of the world from      a treatise on Pythagorean philosophy written by Plato. I
the Atlantic.                                                    have it here in the original Greek. Allow a little bit of
   "And there are so many legends referring to the same          leeway for my translation, as I don't often converse in the
thing: a great civilization in the middle of an ocean, de-       language."

stroyed by fire or flood! The Mayans called Atlantis Mu.           She turned several pages and ran her finger down the

The northern Europeans called it Thule. There was also           writing. "As is traditional with the Greeks, this manuscript

the land called Lemuria--which a Madame Blavatsky                 takes the form of a dialogue among several persons, Socra-

picked up for her own cult of Thule--which is the question        tes being one of them. In this passage Solon is telling the

you started this meeting with.                                   story of some of the Greek legends--for example the flood

   "Lemuria was a land that scientists in the nineteenth         of Deukalion and Pyrrha. He is rebuked by an older priest:

century postulated must have existed because of the pres-

ence on Madagascar of a certain type of monkey, the le-             Solon, you Greeks are children. There have been

mur, that was also found in India. They believed Lemuria           and will be many destructors of mankind, of which the

had been in the Indian Ocean. Blavatsky's followers, with          greatest are by fire and water."

176                             ROBERT DOHERTY                       AREA           51                                      177

  She turned a few pages.                                            floods, and on one grievous day the entire island of
                                                                     Atlantis was swallowed up by the sea and disappeared.
  Many are the truths and great are the achievements of
  the Greeks. But there is one that stands out above all             "And now for an especially interesting detail," Slater
  the rest. It is in our history that a long time ago our          said.
  state stopped a mighty host which started from a dis-
  tant point in a distant ocean and came to attack the               Atlantis disappeared and the ocean at that spot has
  whole of Europe and Asia. For the ocean in that long               now been made impassable, being blocked up by mud
  ago day was navigable outside of what we call the Pil-             which the island made as it settled into the ocean.
  lars of Hercules--there, there was an island which was
  larger than North Africa and Asia Minor put together               Slater smiled. "You know, of course, about the Sargasso
  and it was possible for travelers to cross from it to our        Sea to the east of here. And the water around the islands
  land.                                                            here is relatively shallow in many places. If the ocean level
                                                                   were a bit lower, it would be almost impassable to most
  Slater looked up from the book. "There are many who
believe Plato is referring to North and South America, but           "So you believe you are sitting on the site of Atlantis?"
                                                                   Nabinger asked.
then those people run into the same problem that Jorgen-             "I don't know," Slater said candidly. She pulled a vol-
son has. The technology of the day rules out an ocean              ume off her bookshelf. "Take this with you, along with pho-
voyage across the Atlantic, so whatever Plato is referring         tographs of the runes. It has more about the legend of
to, if it is real, had to be closer to Europe. Of course, Plato    Atlantis that you might want to look at. I hope I have given
is also saying something that goes against conventional            you the information you wanted."
thought: that the ocean outside the Pillars of Hercules, the         "That and more," Nabinger assured her, although there
Strait of Gibraltar, was navigable to people at that time."        was little she had told him that he didn't know and he
She turned another page.                                           already had most of the high rune images on file. He had
                                                                   just enough time to get to the airport and catch the hop
  On this island of Atlantis there was a confederation of          back to Miami and continue with his trip. He hoped Von
  very powerful kings who ruled the island and many                Seeckt had more.
  other islands and lands. Here, through the Pillars of              "One thing," Slater said as they walked to the door.
  Hercules, they ruled North Africa as far as Egypt and            "What do you think was in the black box that was taken out
  over Europe as far as Tuscany.                                   of the pyramid?"
       The kings of Atlantis at one time tried to enslave            Nabinger paused. "I don't have a clue."
  both the people of Greece and Egypt, but the Greeks,               Slater nodded. "My reference earlier to the use of data
  in a noble fight, stopped the invaders.                          from the concentration camps: I did not make that idly.
       At a later time there occurred earthquakes and              This man you are after, this German, Von Seeckt. If he is

178                            ROBERT DOHERTY                      AREA    51                                        179

part of what I think he is part of, then you might be getting    that Americans were seen working the site after Jorgen-
into something that you need to be very careful of."             son's people had to clear out. He made a stink, but once
  "And that is?" Nabinger felt the minutes to his flight tick    the Mexican government pulled his authorization there
down.                                                            was little he could do."
  "Ask him when you see him," Slater said. "If he evades           "Any idea what was down there?"
answering, ask him specifically about Operation Paper-             "Not a clue, my son. Not a clue. But you might want to
clip."                                                           ask Von Seeckt."
  "What was that?"
  "Something I heard whispers about when I worked in
Washington." Slater stepped back toward her house.
  "Is there anything else I should know?" Nabinger asked,
poised at her gate.
  "I know you were humoring me," Slater said. "You knew
nearly everything I told you, but you stopped by anyway.
  "It was on the way," Nabinger answered honestly. "But
also, I hoped you might have some new information, since
you keep up with this area of research. Your information
on Von Seeckt might prove helpful."
  Slater was standing in the shadow cast by the peaked
roof of the house. "They found something unusual at the
Jamiltepec site in Mexico about eight months ago."
  That was news to Nabinger. "What did Jorgenson find?"
  "Jorgenson didn't find it," Slater said. "I have only heard
rumors. Jorgenson was away lecturing. His people were
deep under the main pyramid when they found a passage-
way leading down. They were getting ready to open it when
they were shut down. The Mexican army came in claiming
that it was an historical site, but anyone with enough cash
could have had them do that."
  "What happened?" Nabinger asked.
  "From the whispers I've heard, it appears that Jorgen-
son's team had been infiltrated. Some say by the Mexican
government, since it was their army that shut the dig down;
others say it was the CIA. That's because there are rumors

                                                                AREA    51                                              181

                                                                  Kelly met Turcotte's glance across the front seat, then
                                                                returned to the backseat. "Another location? Where is

                                                                that? Remember, you hired me, and my currency for pay-

                                                                ment is information."

                                                                  Von Seeckt finally turned his attention inside the car. "I

                                                                thought your payment was finding your friend."

                                                                  "Johnny Simmons is not here in this car," Kelly said. "I

                                                                hope and pray that we find Johnny at Dulce and can get

                                                                him out safely. But you are here in this car and the more

                                                                information we have, the better our chances are of getting

OUTSIDE OF KINGMAN, ARIZONA                                     Johnny out of there."

                                                                  "The bouncers are back in Area 51," Von Seeckt coun-
                                                                tered. "Why are you concerned with their history?"
Turcotte drove, Kelly navigated, and Von Seeckt sat in the        "You said we're going to Dulce to find tablets that re-
backseat, watching the countryside. They were in Kelly's        lated to them," Kelly argued.
rent-a-car heading southwest out of Las Vegas in the ap-          Kelly was startled when Turcotte slammed a fist on the
proximate direction of Dulce, New Mexico, via Phoenix.          steering wheel. "Listen, Von Seeckt, I don't want to be
  Since there was only one road that went in that direction     here. I didn't want this damn assignment from the start.
out of Las Vegas--Highway 93 to Kingman Arizona--                 But I'm here and I'm helping you people. So you help
Kelly's mind was not much preoccupied with the map on           back. Clear?"
her lap. It was over eighty miles to Kingman with no turns        "Your assignment?" Kelly asked, her reporter instincts
in between. "You told me they found the mothership in its       still working. The two men ignored her question.
hangar, but you never said if they found the bouncers there       "I took an oath of secrecy," Von Seeckt said to Turcotte.
too," she said, turning in the seat and glancing back at Von    "I am only violating that oath to prevent disaster."
Seeckt.                                                           "It's a little damn late for that now," Turcotte said. "And
  "Ah, the bouncers," Von Seeckt said. "Yes, the mother-        we're helping you. I took a few oaths of my own, and I
ship was the first find the Americans made. There were          violated one of those when I saved your life and the lives of

also two bouncers found near the mothership in the same         that couple up in Nebraska. You've crossed a line and you

chamber."                                                       can't go back. Understand that. We're in this now. All

  "And the other bouncers?" Kelly asked.                        three of us. Whether you like it or not, and personally I can

  "They were not found there," Von Seeckt said. "They           tell you I ain't too fucking thrilled, but I'm here and I

were recovered and transported to Area 51."                     accept what that means."

  "Recovered from where?" Kelly asked.                            Von Seeckt pondered that for a few moments. "I know I

  "From another location." Von Seeckt's attention was on        crossed a line. I suppose much of what I feel is just habit. I

the desert flowing by.                                          have been so used to being quiet and not speaking. I have

182                            ROBERT DOHERTY

                                                                  AREA    51                                              183

never talked to anyone outside of the program in all my life      the information they were working with was highly com-
since being recruited in 1942. It is quite strange to speak       partmentalized. They didn't have access to all the data that
openly about this.                                                was available."
  "There are nine atmospheric bouncers. We know they                 "Where else were these runes found?" Turcotte asked.
are linked to the mothership because of their technology             "I will go into that at another time," Von Seeckt said.
and the material they are constructed of and because there        "When Professor Nabinger is with us tomorrow."
were two buried with the mothership--Bouncer One and                 Turcotte gripped the wheel tighter until the whites of his
Bouncer Two, as they are so elegantly called.                     knuckles showed. Kelly noticed that and quickly tried to
  "We also know the others are related to the mothership          keep the flow of information going. "But even though they
because it is through material discovered in the mothership       couldn't decipher the runes," Kelly said, "they were able to
hangar that we were able to track down the other seven            find other bouncers?"
bouncers. When they found the mothership in 1942 they               "Yes," Von Seeckt replied. "As I said, there were draw-
also not only found the first two bouncers, but several of        ings and maps. There seemed to be no doubt that much
the tablets we have already talked about. Although the            attention was being paid to Antarctica, although the spe-
people in the program could not decipher the symbols on           cific location was not given. Just a general vicinity on the
the tablets, there were drawings and maps that could be           continent. We eventually broke it down to an eight-hun-
understood."                                                      dred-square-kilometer area.
  "Wait a second," Kelly said. "You're telling me that the          "Unfortunately, the few expeditions that were mounted
best minds the government could gather together couldn't          during the war years to Antarctica could not be fully
decipher these high runes? We've got computers that can           equipped, due to other, more pressing requirements for
break codes in seconds."                                          the men and ships required for such an operation--such as
  "First," Von Seeckt said, "you must remember that it is         defeating Germany and Japan.
extremely difficult to decipher a language or system of             "In 1946, as soon as the material and men were avail-
writing with so little material to look upon. That rules out      able, the United States government mounted what was
effective use of computers--not enough data. Second, we            called Operation High Jump. You can look the mission up.
did not necessarily have the 'best' minds, as you put it,         It was well documented. However, what no one seemed to
working on this. We had those who could be recruited and          wonder was why the government was so interested in Ant-
pass a security check and also sign an oath of secrecy. In        arctica in 1946. And why did they dispatch dozens of ships
reality that left many of the best minds out of the field. And    and airplanes to the southernmost continent so quickly af-
because of the secrecy of the program, those minds never          ter the end of the war?
got access to the data. Third, those who did work on the            "It was a very extensive operation. The largest launched
problem of deciphering the runes were limited by the con-         in the history of mankind up to that point. High Jump took
ventions of their discipline. They did not understand that        so many pictures of Antarctica that they haven't all even
these runes found near the mothership could be related to         been looked at yet, fifty years later! The expedition sur-
runes elsewhere. Fourth, because of security requirements,        veyed over sixty percent of the coastline and looked at over

184                           ROBERT DOHERTY                     AREA    51

half a million square miles of land that had never before        from the symbols on the tablets it looked like there would
been seen by man.                                                be more bouncers, so the priority of the recovery effort was
  "But the real success of High Jump occurred when they          not as high as it might have been otherwise."
picked up signs of metal buried under the ice in that eight-       "You mean there were other sites and other symbols and
hundred-square-mile box that special attention was paid to,      other priority levels?" Kelly asked.
which is what they were secretly after in the first place."        Von Seeckt looked at her. "Very astute, young lady, but
  Von Seeckt leaned forward. "Do you know how thick the          let us stay with the subject at hand. In 1955 the Navy
ice is down there? At some places it is three miles deep!        launched Operation Deep Freeze, under the leadership of
The current altitude of the land underneath the ice is actu-     Admiral Byrd, the foremost expert on Antarctica. The op-
ally below sea level, but that is only because the weight of     eration established five stations along the coast and three
the ice on top depresses the continent. If the ice were re-      in the interior. At least that is what was announced to the
moved, the land would rise up miles and miles! Even with         press and recorded in the history books.
all the expeditions--High Jump included--only about one              "A ninth, secret station was also established. One that
percent of the surface area of Antarctica has been tra-          has never been listed on any map. In 1956 I flew there in
versed by man.                                                   the beginning of what passes for summer in the Antarctic.
  "Antarctica contains ninety percent of the world's ice         Scorpion Station, as it was called, was over eight hundred
and snow and it is a most formidable foe, as those men who       miles in from the coast in the middle of--Von Seeckt
were operating secretly under the cover of Operation High        searched for the words, then shrugged--"in the middle of
Jump found out. A plane with skis landed at the site where       nowhere, actually. Just ice for miles and miles, which is
their instruments had picked up the metal signal--which,          why the spot was so hard to find in the first place. I was
despite the aid of the drawings on the tablets, was found        shown the location on the map, but what does it matter?
only after five months of searching by thousands and thou-       The ice sheet was two and a half miles thick at that point.
sands of men.                                                      "They had taken the entire summer of 1955 to simply
  "But the weather down there is unpredictable and brutal        move in the equipment they needed. They began drilling in
at best. A storm moved in and the plane was destroyed, the       1956. It took four months to get down the mile and a half
crew frozen to death before they could be rescued. A sec-        to the target. They finally punched through to a cavity in
ond mission was mounted to the site. It was determined           the ice, which was very fortunate. We had been afraid that
that the reflected signal was coming from over a mile and a      perhaps the bouncers--if that was what was down there--
half down in the ice. We did not have the technology at the      had been covered over with ice and were frozen into the
time to do either of the two things required to explore          ice cap. If that had been the case we would have had no
further: to survive on the ice at that point long enough, and    hope of recovery. But no, the drill bit broke through to
to drill down far enough.                                        open air. They sent down cameras and looked around. Yes,
  "So, for nine years we bided our time and prepared.            there were more bouncers in the cavity.
Besides, we had the two bouncers in Nevada to work on.             "Then they had to widen the shaft, make it big enough
We weren't sure what was down there in Antarctica, but           for a person to go down and look. It was amazing! There

                                                                    AREA    51                                                 187
186                            ROBERT DOHERTY

was a chamber hollowed out of the ice. Not quite as big as             "I don't know," Von Seeckt said. "We would have to ask
                                                                    whoever left them."
Hangar Two, but very big. There were the other seven
bouncers. Lined up in a row. Perfectly preserved--every-                "Go on with what happened in Antarctica," Turcotte
thing left in Antarctica is perfectly preserved," Von Seeckt
added. "Did you know that they found food at camps along              "It took us three years to bring the bouncers up. First
the coast that had been left over a hundred years, and it           the engineers had to widen the shaft to forty feet circum-
                                                                    ference--and remember, they could only work six months
was still edible?"
  "Is that why those bouncers were left in that location?"          out of the year. Then they had to dig out eight intermedi-
Kelly asked. "So they would be so well preserved?"                  ate stopping points on the way up, in order to bring them
  "I do not believe so," Von Seeckt said. "The two left             up in stages. Then, it was necessary to tractor the bouncers
here in Nevada were functional. The desert air is very good         to the coast and load them onto a Navy ship for transport
at preserving things also, and they were out of the elements        back to the States. All in all it was a fantastic engineering
inside the cavern with the mothership."
  "Then why Antarctica?" she asked.                                   "Then we began the real work back at Area 51 trying to
                                                                    figure out how they flew. We had been working on the first
  "I do not know for sure."
  "A guess, perhaps?" Turcotte threw in. "Surely you must           two, but with nine, we could afford to disassemble a few.
                                                                    After all these years we can fly them, but we still don't
have an idea or two?"
  "I think they were left there because it is perhaps the           know how the engines work. And even though they can be
most inaccessible place on Earth to leave something."               flown, I do not believe we are able to use them to anywhere
  "So whoever left them didn't want them found?"                    near the limits of their capabilities. There is still equipment
                                                                    on board the craft that we don't know how to operate and
Turcotte asked.
  "It appears that way. Or at least they only wanted them           in fact whose purpose we're ignorant of." Von Seeckt then
found when the finders had adequate technology to brave             told Kelly the story about the engineering mishap on the
the Antarctic conditions," Von Seeckt said.                         bouncer engine. She found all this fascinating. If it wasn't
  "But they left the mothership and two bouncers back in            for Johnny she'd be on the wire right now, breaking the
Nevada," Kelly noted. "And that was more accessible than            story. But she knew this is what Johnny would do for her if
                                                                    she had disppeared.
   "The terrain and climate in Nevada is more accessible to           "What else did the tablets show?" Turcotte asked.
man," Von Seeckt agreed. "But the cavern the mothership               "Some other locations. Other symbols. It was all very
                                                                    incomplete," Von Seeckt said.
was hidden in wasn't. We were very fortunate to stumble               "For instance?" Kelly said.
across it, and it required an effort to blast into the site. No,
I believe the ships were hidden with the intention they not           "I do not remember it all. The work was compartmental-
                                                                    ized very early on. I was not allowed complete access to the
be found."
   "Why seven in Antarctica and two in Nevada?" Kelly               tablets, which were moved down to the facility at Dulce
                                                                    early on in the project. Nor was I allowed to see the results
wondered out loud.

188                           ROBERT DOHERTY

of the research at Dulce. The last time I was in Dulce was                                                         16
1946. I do not remember it very well. I do not believe they

have had much success with the tablets, otherwise we

would have seen the results at Area 51."

  Kelly thought that was odd. Her reporter's instincts were

tingling. Had they cut Von Seeckt out of the inner circle

years ago? Or was Von Seeckt holding something back?

  "That is why we need to link up with this Nabinger fel-

low," Von Seeckt continued. "If he can decipher the high

runes, then the mystery may be solved not only of how the

equipment works, but also of who left the equipment and        MIAMI, FLORIDA

why."                                                          T-107 HOURS, 15 MINUTES
  Kelly caught herself before the words came out of her

mouth. This was not what Von Seeckt had said back in the       With only fifteen minutes before his flight was scheduled to

hotel room. Just a few hours ago he was focused on stop-       depart, Peter Nabinger debated whether he should check

ping the mothership. Damn Johnny. She was stuck in this        his answering machine, but impatience won out. He

car with these two because of him. Kelly slumped down in       punched in his long-distance code and then his number.

the passenger seat and the miles passed in silence.            Two rings and the machine kicked in. After the greeting he

                                                               hit his access code, then the message retrieval.

                                                                 "Professor Nabinger, this is Werner Von Seeckt re-

                                                               turning your call. Your message was most interesting. I do

                                                               know of the power of the sun, but I need to know about the

                                                               rest of the message. Both what you have and what I have. I

                                                               am going to a place where there are more runes. Join me.

                                                               Phoenix. Twenty-seven sixty-five Twenty-fourth street.

                                                               Apartment B-twelve. The twelfth. In the morning."

                                                                 The message ended. Nabinger stared at the handset for a

                                                               few moments, then headed toward the gate with a bounce

                                                               in his step.

                                                               LAS VEGAS, NEVADA

                                                               Lisa Duncan was in her hotel room in Las Vegas. Gullick's

                                                               reasoning about the accommodation was that there were

190                             ROBERT DOHERTY                    AREA    51

no suitable quarters available at Area 51 for her. She           who had left the equipment, or why the box had been

thought that was a bunch of bullshit, just like a lot of what    placed in the pyramid and the ships left out here in the

she had seen and heard so far about Majestic-12, more            desert. The other bouncers had been discovered in Antarc-

commonly known as Majic-12.                                      tica from maps found in Hangar Two. And they had been
  Lisa Duncan had everything that was available in the           able to piece together that the Germans had most likely
official files about Majestic-12, and it was a pretty slim       been led to the hidden chamber under the Great Pyramid
reading file. Majestic-12 had been started in 1942 when          by maps they had discovered elsewhere.
President Roosevelt signed a classified presidential order         The MJ-12 program had remained the most highly clas-
initiating the project. At first, no one had quite understood    sified project in the United States for the past fifty-five
the strange facts that were being uncovered with the trans-      years, at first because of the atomic information. Then,
fer by the British in the fall of 1942 of a German physicist,    after the Soviets had finally detonated their own bomb--
Werner Von Seeckt, and a piece of sophisticated machinery
                                                                 using information stolen from the United States--the exis-
in a black box.
                                                                 tence of the mothership and the bouncers was kept secret
  The British had not known what exactly was in the box,
                                                                 for several reasons.
since they couldn't open it, except that it was radioactive.
                                                                   Duncan turned the page in the briefing book and looked
Since, in those days of the Manhattan Project, nuclear mat-
                                                                 at the official reasons. One was the uncertainty of the pub-
ters were the province of the United States, Von Seeckt
                                                                 lic's reaction should the information be released--a topic
and the box were sent over the ocean.
                                                                 Dr. Slayden was supposed to cover in his briefing.
  At first, it had been thought that the box was of German
                                                                   A second reason was that once flying the bouncers had
development. But Von Seeckt was clearly ignorant, and the
                                                                 been mastered, in the mid-fifties, the craft were incorpo-
contents of the box, once it was opened, raised a whole
                                                                 rated into the Strategic Air Command on an emergency-
new set of questions. If it had been German, then most
certainly they would already have won the war. There were        use-only basis. All of the bouncers were fitted with external
symbols on the inside of the box--which they now knew             racks for nuclear payloads to be used in case of national
belonged to a language called high rune--that the early           emergency. It was felt that because of their speed, maneu-
Majestic-12 scientists puzzled over. One thing was clear,        verability, and nonexistent radar signature, the bouncers

though: there was a map outline of North America on              would be a last-ditch method to get to the heartland of the

which a location had been marked--somewhere in south-             Soviet Union to deliver a fatal blow in case of all-out war.

ern Nevada, they determined.                                       Another reason, spawned by the Cold War, was simply

  An expedition armed with detecting equipment was sent          security. The Russians had been able to develop their own

out, and after several months of searching they discovered       atomic weapons off of plans stolen from the U.S. It was

the mothership cavern. The men of Majestic-12 had                feared that, even though the American scientists couldn't

quickly identified the black metal of the box container with     figure out the propulsion system of the bouncers or even,

the metal used in the struts of the mothership. They now         for so many years, how to get into the mothership, the

had more information, but were no closer to figuring out         Russians might do a better job. That fear was especially

192                           ROBERT DOHERTY                    AREA    51                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          193

heightened after the Russians lobbed Sputnik up into            some of the former Germans working on the NASA space
space, beating the United States to the punch.                  project were highly publicized, the vast majority of the
  One thing the report didn't mention, though, Duncan           work covered by Paperclip went on unobserved. When
knew, was the existence of Operation Paperclip and its ef-      news of the project became public, the government
fect on the MJ-12 project. Paperclip was officially launched    claimed that Paperclip had been discontinued in 1947. Yet
in 1944 as the war in Europe was winding down, but              Duncan had affidavits from an interested senator's office
Duncan felt that Paperclip really began the day Von Seeckt      that the project had continued for decades beyond that
was shipped over from England to the United States.             date.
  Paperclip--a rather innocuous name for a very deceitful                        One of the things that disturbed Duncan the most about
operation. As the war in Europe was ending, the United          the present state of affairs was not so much the work being
States government was already looking ahead. There was a        done at Area 51 with the mothership and the bouncers.
treasure trove of German scientists waiting to be plun-         What bothered her was what General Gullick was hiding.
dered in the ashes of the Third Reich. That most of those       She was convinced he was holding something back. And
scientists were Nazis mattered little to those who had in-      she had a strong feeling it had something to do with other
vented Paperclip.                                               aspects of the MJ-12 program that they weren't showing
  When Duncan had first read of Paperclip, she'd been           her.
shocked by the blatant incongruity of the situation. The                       The senator who had provided Duncan with information
end justifies the means was the motto of those who re-          on Paperclip was under pressure from several Jewish
cruited and illegally allowed the scientists into the United    groups to disclose the history of the project, with the possi-
States. Yet at the same time, colleagues of those same sci-     bility in mind of prosecuting some of those involved.
entists were being tried for war crimes where the defense       Duncan was concerned about the past, but she was more
of the end justifying the means had been ruled immoral. In      worried about the future.
many cases intelligence officers from the JIOA, Joint Intel-                   While the German physicists had gone to MJ-12 and the
ligence Objectives Agency, were snatching Nazi scientists       German rocket scientists had gone to NASA, the largest
away from army war-crimes units. Both groups were hunt-         group of Nazi scientists involved in Paperclip had yet to be
ing the same men but with very different goals in mind.         uncovered: the biological and chemical warfare specialists.
  Despite the fact that President Truman had signed an          As advanced as German rocketry had been at the end of
executive order banning the immigration of Nazis into the       the war with the V-2 and jet aircraft, their advancements in
United States, the practice continued unabated, all in the      the field of biological and chemical warfare had been chill-
name of national security.                                      ing.
  Majestic-12 had started with Werner Von Seeckt--an                           With plenty of human beings to experiment on, the Ger-
undisputed Nazi--and it had continued over the years, us-        mans had gone far beyond what the Allies had even begun
ing whatever means were required. Several of the scientists     to fear. While the Americans were still stockpiling mustard
used in the early work on the bouncers and mothership           gas as their primary chemical weapon, the Germans had
were Nazis, recruited by Paperclip. While the names of          three much more efficient and deadly gases by war's end:

194                            ROBERT DOHERTY
                                                                AREA    51                                               195

tabun, soman, and sarin--the latter of which the American             larly the mothership--is beyond what you can
military immediately appropriated for its own use after the          imagine from reading the papers and viewing the
war.                                                                 video briefing.
  Where were all these biological and chemical scientists         2. Security at the facility is excessive in light of the
whom Paperclip had saved from prosecution? Duncan                    present world situation.
wondered. What had they been working on all these years?          3. The President's concerns about the psychological
  She put the briefing book down in aggravation. There               and sociological effects of revealing the project are
were too many questions and everything was going too rap-            to be addressed at a meeting tomorrow morning.
idly. Not only was this whole Paperclip issue a problem, but      4. As for the upcoming test flight of the mothership, I
she also wondered about the Mothership test itself. Was              request that the President withhold authorization
Gullick moving ahead quickly with the flight for reasons             pending further investigation. There is some dis-
that weren't apparent, and in doing so was he overlooking            sension on the Majic-12 staff about the testing, and
problems with the mothership and its propulsion system?              while it may turn out to be nothing, I believe more
She most definitely remembered the feeling of nausea                 time is needed.
she'd had in the hangar during the test.                          5. As expected, General Gullick and the other staff
  She'd been sent here by the President's advisers to check          members are very evasive about the early days of
on the situation and look into the potential problems that           the program and any links to Operation Paperclip.
revealing the existence of the MJ-12 project might create.           The one who would know the most is Werner Von
After all, the President had been in office three years al-          Seeckt, but I have not been able to meet him since
ready and his administration by default would be impli-              my initial inbriefing. He has not returned my calls. I
cated in any cover-up.                                               will try to corner him tomorrow after the psycho-
  She flipped open the lid on her laptop and went to work,           logical briefing.
typing out her findings so far.                                   6. I have not received any communication from Cap-
                                                                     tain Turcotte. I assume he has not found anything
  CLASSIFICATION: TOP SECRET, Q                                      to report of significance.
  CLEARANCE, ADDRESSEE ONLY                                       END
  TO: Chief of Staff, White House                                 CLASSIFICATION: TOP SECRET, Q
  FROM: Dr. Lisa Duncan, Presidential Observer                    CLEARANCE, ADDRESSEE ONLY
  SUBJECT: AREA 51 Inquiry.                                       She attached a cable from her laptop into a breadloaf-
                                                                sized black box that she'd been given by a Secret Service
  I have studied the official inbriefing, toured the facili-    man when she'd been inbriefed for her new job in Wash-
  ties at Area 51, and attended one meeting of Majic-12.        ington. All she knew was that the box was supposed to
  Based on these initial inputs my impressions are:             encrypt her message so that only the addressee could read
  1. The technology that is present at Area 51--particu-         it. She plugged the cord coming out of the box into her

196                              ROBERT DOHERTY                     AREA    51                                            197

phone socket and waited until a green light glowed on the          THE CUBE, AREA 51
side--apparently it did its own dialing.                            Major Quinn noted the alert signal blinking in the upper
  Duncan waited until the green light went out, then she           right-hand corner of his computer screen. He finished the
unplugged all the machinery. She walked to the window of           order he was working on and transmitted it, then accessed
her hotel room and looked out, watching the people scur-           the signal that had caused the alert.
rying about, going into and out of casinos. How would they           Since the Cube had access to every piece of top-of-the-
react if what was hidden in the desert beyond the buildings        line equipment the government possessed--and access to
were revealed to them? If they learned that, at least once         all codes and encryption techniques--Dr. Duncan's mes-
upon a time, mankind had not been alone in the universe?           sage to the White House chief of staff had taken less than
If it was shown that while their ancestors were still living in    six seconds for the Cube computer to decrypt. Quinn read
caves and struggling to make arrowheads, aliens were visit-        the text. He connected the name "Turcotte" to the man
ing the Earth in craft we still couldn't understand?               injured on the Nightscape mission into Nebraska. Another
  Those were the large, theoretical questions. Of more im-         complication he didn't understand. This was Gullick's terri-
mediate concern to Duncan was to follow through on the             tory.
instruction she'd received from the White House chief of             He printed out a hard copy and walked to the rear corri-
staff. The President was concerned about what he had not           dor, taking the message with him. Gullick wasn't in his
been getting briefed on in the twice-yearly status reports         office. The code above the handle to Gullick's private
from Majic-12. Because the organization had been around            quarters read DO NOT DISTURB. Quinn stood for a few sec-
so long and had members from almost every major govern-            onds in thought, hand poised to knock. Then he turned
ment agency of significance, he didn't trust using normal          and went back to Gullick's office. He clipped a top-secret
channels to check it out; thus Duncan's assignment. She'd          cover on the message and placed it in General Gullick's
had Turcotte assigned to her based on the recommenda-              reading file.
tion of the President's national security adviser. Apparently
Turcotte was some kind of hero for actions on a classified
mission overseas. She'd briefed him personally, but he had
not yet called with anything.
  Duncan rubbed her forehead, walked over to the bed,
and lay down. She sincerely hoped the people out at Area
51 would give her some good answers tomorrow and that
they'd be of a higher quality than the ones she'd been given
so far.

                                                                 AREA    51                                                 199

                                                                 mation they were after; and he held the expertise to keep
                                                                 them safe and acquire more information.

                                                                   "My story will have to wait until tomorrow," Von Seeckt

                                                                 said. He was seated near the window, looking down two

                                                                 stories at the parking lot. "Professor Nabinger will have the

                                                                 same questions, and I do not wish to tell it twice. It is

                                                                 difficult to tell and covers many years."

                                                                   Kelly looked over at Turcotte. "Well?"

                                                                   "I've already told you what happened. I just arrived in

                                                                 time for the Nightscape mission."

PHOENIX, ARIZONA                                                   "Yeah, but you didn't come out of a hole in the ground

                                                                 prior to that," Kelly said. "How did you get sucked into
                                                                 working at that place? You said something earlier today
"I've told you my reasons for being here and helping you.        about an assignment."
How about telling me your reasons?" Kelly asked.                   "I was in the army, and they cut orders assigning me
  They were holed up in Johnny Simmons's apartment.              there." Turcotte stood up. "I'm going out to the store. Any-
Turcotte was less than thrilled about being there, given that    one want anything?"
it looked as if Simmons had been picked up by Gullick's            Without waiting for an answer he walked out and
people. But Kelly had argued that no one knew about their        headed for the stairs. Kelly was two steps behind him.
connection with Johnny, so there was no reason for some-         "You're not getting away that easy. There's something you
one to come looking for them here in Phoenix. Besides,           aren't telling. Why'd you help Von Seeckt? You were one
they needed to stay somewhere en route to Dulce, and a           of the bad guys. Why'd you change sides?"

motel was out of the question. The apartment was on the            Turcotte went down the stairs, Kelly at his side. "I told
second floor of a modern complex, and it did not appear          you. My commander wanted me to apprehend some civil-

that anyone had been inside for several days.                    ians in Nebraska. I didn't like that. Also, they tried to  k i l l

  Turcotte had expressed misgivings about stopping at all.       Von Seeckt. I don't approve of kidnapping or murder, even

He wanted to push on to Dulce and try to infiltrate it this      if the government is the one sanctioning it."

evening. But Von Seeckt had told them of the planned               "Yeah and pigs have wings," Kelly said. "I don't buy it.

rendezvous with Professor Nabinger the next morning at           You--"

this location, and Kelly had agreed that they ought to wait.       Turcotte whirled and faced her, the action so swift that

Turcotte had reluctantly accepted their decision.                Kelly stepped back, startled. "I don't give a damn what you

  Turcotte was slowly accepting that they all needed each        buy or don't buy, lady," he said. "You ask too many ques-

other: Von Seeckt held the knowledge to get them out of          tions. You let Von Seeckt have his secrets. How about let-

their predicament; Kelly was to be the voice to the public       ting me have mine?"

that would ensure their safety once they acquired the infor-       "Von Seeckt is going to tell us his when Nabinger gets

200                            ROBERT DOHERTY                      A R E A         5 1

here," Kelly countered, stepping in closer to Turcotte.           getting held hostage by every two-bit terrorist or wacko
"Come on. You didn't just abitrarily decide to go against         with a bomb, someone high up in the workings of NATO
your orders and your training. You must have had a reason.        got the bright idea that instead of sitting around and letting
And I do have a reason for asking. I've been set up before        the terrorists hit us, we'd seek them out and hit them first.
by the government and I'm not going to naturally assume           The only problem was that it wasn't quite legal." He
that you're telling me the truth. We only have your word          looked down the street and spotted a cafe. "Let's get some
about what took place in Nebraska. For all I know it never        coffee."
happened."                                                          They walked over and took a corner booth. Turcotte sat
  Turcotte looked off past her toward the western horizon,        with his back to the wall, watching the street outside. There
where the sun was balanced on the edge of the planet. "All        was a constant clatter of dishes and utensils overlaid with
right. You want to know about me? I got nothing to lose           the murmur of conversation from the other patrons. After
anymore and maybe if we survive this mess, you can print it       the waitress had brought them a cup each, he continued,
somewhere and people can know the truth.                          speaking in a low voice.
  "I was involved in an incident at my last assignment be-          "So, anyway, we fought fire with fire. To stop the law-
fore coming back to the States," Turcotte said. "That's           breakers we broke the law. I was on a joint U.S.-German
what they called it: an incident. But people died in this         team. Handpicked men from the U.S. Special Forces
incident."                                                        DET-A out of Berlin and the Germans' GSG-9 counterter-
  He shifted his eyes back to her and the look was not            rorist force." Turcotte poured a load of sugar into his cof-
kind. "You're a reporter. You'll like it. It's a good story. I    fee and stirred. "Ever hear that slogan: We kill for peace?"
was assigned to a CT--counterterrorist--unit in Berlin              Kelly nodded. "Well, that's what we did.
when it happened. Everyone thinks it's all great over there         "I didn't mind doing it either. We were wasting people
since the wall went down, but they still have a terrorist         who'd put a bomb in a train station and didn't care who got
problem. Same as it was in the seventies and early eighties.      caught in the blast. We pretty much broke the back of the
In some ways worse because there's bigger and better              remnants of the Baader-Meinhof gang in less than six
weapons available to the bad guys from all the old Warsaw         months. I was in on six operations." Turcotte's voice was
Pact stockpiles, and there're a lot of people in those coun-      flat. "I killed four people on those ops.
tries who'd sell anything to get their hands on Western             "Then we got word that some IRA fellows were in town,
currency.                                                         trying to buy surplus East German armament that some
  "The only difference between now and back in the eight-         former members of the army had stashed away for a rainy
ies is that we learned our lessons from those old days and        day when the wall came down. The word was these Irish
now we preempt terrorism. And that's why you don't hear           guys were trying to get some SAM-7 shoulder-fired antiair-
about it so much anymore--not because the assholes have            craft missiles.
gone away. People are so naive."                                    "We don't know what they were going to do with them,
  "Preempt?" Kelly asked.                                         although the best guess was they'd sit outside Heathrow
  Turcotte gave a short, nasty laugh. "Yeah. When we were         and take out a Concorde just after takeoff. That would

                                                                  AREA    51                                             2O3
202                              ROBERT DOHERTY

make the news, which is all those scumbags want. I know           the way they would have to leave. We had a good spot on a
they signed a peace accord and ceasefire and all that happy       curve in the road.
shit, but that don't stop the guys who pull the trigger. They       "When the car didn't show after an hour, my CO--let's
have to be on the edge. A lot of those people do what they        call him Rolf--got spooked. Surveillance told us they'd
do because they like it. They couldn't give a shit about the      stopped in town. But maybe they'd left by another way.
so-called goals they shout at the cameras. It's just an excuse    Rolf asked me what I thought. How the fuck was I to
to be a sociopath."                                               know?
  He paused when the waitress came by to take their or-             "So Rolf and I went into the village and spotted the car
der. Kelly ordered a bagel, Turcotte a glass of orange juice.     outside a bar. We'd been told there were three of them. So
  "Anyway, everything about the mission was rushed be-            old Rolf he decides, hey, fuck it, let's take them out right
cause the intel was late. The IRA had already purchased           now and right here. You and me. He was still worried that
the missiles and had them loaded in a car and were head-          they might have spotted the surveillance team that had
ing for France when we were alerted. We were airlifted            been following them and that they might take a different
ahead of them and picked up some cars. The terrorists             route out of town to lose the tail and bypass the ambush
were taking back roads--staying away from the auto-                our team had set up. Or that they might even be doing a
bahn--which played right into our hands."                          dead drop with the missiles in the town and we might lose
  The angry undercurrent in Turcotte's voice grew. "We            track of the ordnance.
should have just stopped them and taken them into cus-              "So I said, hey, yeah, sounds good to me. We had MP-5
tody. But we couldn't do that, you see. Because that would        silenced subs slung inside our long coats and pistols in our
have caused too much controversy--the trial and all. And           shoulder holsters. Rolf ordered surveillance to close up
it just compounds the problem to put them in jail, 'cause         tight around the bar to make sure no one escaped and to
that gives every blood relative they have a reason to grab        pick us up when we were done."
some hostages and demand their release. And the whole               The waitress brought the bagel and orange juice.
cycle starts again. So instead we were supposed to kill           Turcotte took a deep breath, then slowly exhaled as she
them. Make it look like we were terrorists ourselves, and         walked away.
that way no one looks bad except the local cops.                    "We walked right in the front fucking door. The place is
  "So." Turcotte took a deep breath to steady his voice.          packed, people eating dinner and drinking. Must have
"We were all set to hit them outside a small town in central      been twenty, twenty-five people in there. But we spot our
Germany. They were heading up to Kiel to load the weap-           suspects right away and guess what? There's only two of
ons on a freighter for transshipment to England. But the          these bozos seated in a booth, drinking. So Rolf looked at
IRA guys--they were Irish after all--they had to stop in a          me like, hey where's number three? So again, like how the
Gasthaus for a few brews and lunch before making it to            fuck do I know? Probably taking a piss. I started to the bar
their rendezvous at the port.                                     to order a brew, scanning the room as I went, but Rolf
  "I was the team XO--executive officer. The commander             hesitated.
was a German. We set up on the north side of the town--              "I can't blame him too much. Shit, we had silenced sub-

204                            ROBERT DOHERTY                      A R E A         5 1                                    2O5

machine guns under our coats and we were there to kill."            "The only good thing was he just had fifteen rounds in

Turcotte gave Kelly a twisted grin. "Contrary to popular          the mag. He got the IRA guy, but he also hit some civilians.

fiction and what they show on the movies, we weren't stone        I didn't know how many at the time. There was just this

cold killers. We were good at our job, but we were also           pile of bodies; at the very least the three that had been

scared. Most people are in that situation. If you aren't,         around the IRA man, plus some others who'd been in the

you're crazy--and I have met some of those crazies. Any-           line of fire. Rolf was even flipping his taped-together maga-

way, one of the IRA guys in the booth he looks at Rolf            zines, putting a fresh one in when I grabbed the gun out of

standing there with his thumb up his ass and you could just       his hand." Turcotte pulled out his right hand and put it in

tell that the Irish guy knew who we were. Rolf wasn't ex-         front of Kelly's face. The skin on his palm was knotted with

actly the greatest actor in the world, and I'm sure I wasn't      scar tissue. "You can still see where the suppressor on the

giving off the best vibes either.                                 barrel of Rolfs sub burned my hand. At the time I didn't

  "So the guy reached under his coat, and Rolf and I              feel a thing, I was so freaked.

hosed the two of them down lickety-split. We each fired             "So I took his weapon and grabbed him by the collar and

half a magazine--fifteen rounds each--and there was                 made for the door. One thing for sure--people really got

nothing left' in that booth but chewed-up meat. And the           the hell out of our way now. Surveillance had a car waiting

most amazing thing was that after the first shot there            for us and I threw Rolf in and we split."

wasn't a single sound other than the sound of our brass             Turcotte took a drink of coffee. "I found out later that

falling to the floor. Everyone in the place just fucking froze    night that Rolf had killed four civilians, including a preg-

and looked at us, wondering who was next. Then someone            nant eighteen-year-old girl, and wounded three. The news

had to scream, and everything went to hell."                      was playing it up like an internal IRA hit and the whole

  Turcotte's eyes had taken on a distant look as he went          country was in an uproar to catch the killers. But they

back into that room. "The smart ones just hit the deck.           couldn't catch the killers, could they? Because the country

That's what Rolf and I yelled at them in German to do             was the killers.

after the scream. But about half the people rushed for the          "For a while I even thought they might give Rolf and me

doors, and that's when we spotted the third guy. He was in        up as sacrificial lambs, but then common sense kicked in. I

the middle of a group of four people, running for it. He          was stupid for even thinking that. If they gave us up, the

might have been taking a leak. He might have been around          whole counterterrorist operation would be out in the open

the corner at the bar. I don't know. But there he was."           and those in power certainly didn't want that. Might lose a

  Turcotte shook his head. "And Rolf--fucking Rolf--he              few votes at the polling booth. So you know what they

just fired them all up. I don't know what short-circuited in      did?" Turcotte looked at Kelly with red-rimmed eyes.

his head. Hell, the third guy couldn't have gone anywhere.          Kelly slowly shook her head.

Surveillance had to have been sitting on top of his car out-        "They held an inquest, of course. That's proper form in

side by now and could have taken him out once they got an         the military. As a matter of fact the head man I met down

open shot outside the Gasthaus. But Rolf just lost it."           in the Cube, General Gullick, he was one of those ap-

Turcotte's voice briefly broke.                                   pointed to look into the whole thing. For security reasons

206                             ROBERT DOHERTY                  A R E A         5 1                                  2O7

we never saw those who questioned us, nor did we know           Von Seeckt and I don't give a shit whether you believe me
their names. They talked to us and then talked to each          or not. Because it's between me and all these high-speed
other, and guess what they decided? They gave us fucking        assholes who pull strings and cause people to die. Fuck me
medals. Yeah, Rolf and me. Ain't that great? A medal for        once, shame on me--fuck me twice, I fuck back."
killing a pregnant woman."
  "You didn't kill her," Kelly quietly remarked.
  "Does it matter? I was part of it. I could have told Rolf
to wait. I could have done a lot of things."
  "He was the commander. It was his responsibility," Kelly
argued, remembering what her father had told her about
the army and covert operations.
  "Yeah. I know. I was just following orders, right?"
  Kelly had no answer for that.
  "So that's how my career in the regular army and Special
Forces ended. I went to my American commander and told
him where he could shove his medal, and they had me on
the next thing smoking back to the States. But I had to stop
in D.C. first. To meet someone." He proceeded to tell her
about meeting Dr. Duncan, her orders to him, and the
phone line out of commission.
  "Why were you chosen?"
  "Right person, right time," Turcotte said with a shrug.
"There aren't that many high-speed dudes like me who
have top-level clearances and can fire a gun."
  Kelly shook her head. "You were chosen because you
told them to shove the medal. It showed somebody, some-
place, that you had integrity. That's even rarer than a top-
level security clearance." Kelly reached across the table
and squeezed his hand, feeling the rough flesh in the palm.
"You got screwed, Turcotte."
  "No." Turcotte shook his head. "I screwed myself the
minute I started playing God with a gun. I thought I was in
control, but I was just a pawn, and they used me up like
one. And now you know why I turned on my commander
out there in Nebraska and killed him and why I rescued


                                                   1 8            The hangar doors slowly slid open. Inside Bouncer Three,
                                                                  Major Paul Terrent checked the control panel, which was a
                                                                  mixture of the original fixtures and added-on human tech-
                                                                  nology, including a satellite communications link with Gen-
                                                                  eral Gullick in the Cube.
                                                                    "All set," he announced.
                                                                    "I don't like being the bait," his copilot, Captain Kevin
                                                                  Scheuler, remarked. They were both reclined in depres-
                                                                  sions in the floor of the disk. The cockpit was an oval,
                                                                  twelve feet in diameter. They could see out in all direc-
                                                                  tions, the inner walls displaying what was outside of them
                                                                  as if the walls themselves were not there--another piece of
T-96 HOURS                                                        technology they could use but still didn't understand.
"Give me a status," Gullick ordered.                                The effect, while useful, was extremely disorienting, and
  "Bouncer Three is ready for flight," Quinn reported.            perhaps the second greatest hurdle Bouncer test pilots had
"Bouncer Eight is also prepped and ready. Aurora is on            to overcome. Most particularly, the view straight down
standby status. Our link to Cheyenne Mountain is live and         when the craft was at altitude, as if the pilot were floating
secure. Anything moves, we'll be able to track it, sir."          in the air, was quite a shock to the system until one got
  "General Brown?" Gullick asked.                                 used to it. For this night's mission both men were wearing
  The Air Force deputy chief of staff frowned. His conver-        night vision goggles on their flight helmets and the interior
sation with his boss in Washington had been anything but          of the hangar was lit in red lights, meaning there was little
                                                                  difference in illumination for them between there and the
fun. "I talked to the chief of staff and he okayed the alerts,    outside night sky.
but he was not happy about it."                                     However, the greatest hurdle to flying the machine was
  "I don't care if he was happy or not," Gullick said. "I         the physical limitations of the pilots. The Bouncer was ca-
just care that the mission is a go."                              pable of maneuvers that the pilot's physiology could not
  Brown looked down at his own computer screen. "We've            handle. In the early days of the program there had been
got every base alerted and planes on standby for pursuit.         blackouts, broken bones, and various other injuries, includ-
The primary and alternate kill zones are a go."                   ing one fatal crash--the disk staying intact, the uncon-
  "Admiral Coakley?"                                              scious pilots inside being turned into crushed protoplasm
  "The carrier Abraham Lincoln is steaming toward the             on impact with the earth. The disk had been recovered,
sight where the foo fighter went down. It's got planes on         cleaned out, and was still capable of flight. The two pilots
alert."                                                           had been buried with honors; their widows told they had
  "We're all set, then," Gullick said. "Let's roll."              died flying an experimental aircraft and given their posthu-
                                                                  mous medals at the funeral.

210                            ROBERT DOHERTY
                                                                  AREA    51                                               211

  There was machinery surrounding the depressions that              The airstrip outside was dark. Terrent pulled up on a
the scientists had yet to figure out. The project's scientists    lever to his side with his left hand and the disk lifted. The
believed that there was a built-in way for the pilot depres-      control system was simplicity itself. Pull up on the lever
sions/seats to be shielded from the effect of G-forces, but       and the disk went up. Let go of it and the lever returned to
they had yet to discover it. It was as if a child who was         center and the disk stayed at that altitude. Push down on it
capable of riding a tricycle were allowed into a car. He          and the disk descended.
might understand what the steering wheel did, but he                Terrent pushed the yoke forward with his right hand and
wouldn't understand what the small opening on the steer-          they moved forward. The yoke worked in the same manner
ing wheel column was for, especially if the child had not         as the altitude lever. Letting go brought the disk to a halt.
been given the keys.                                              Constant pressure equaled constant speed in whichever di-
  The best that they had been able to come up with was            rection the yoke was pushed.
allowing the test pilots enough flight time so that they un-        Scheuler was looking at the navigation display--a human
derstood their own limitations and did not push the ma-           device tied in to a satellite positioning system. A computer
chine past what they could handle. Beyond that, the               display with a black rectangular outline to separate it from
shoulder and waist harnesses bolted around the depres-            the surrounding view showed their present position as a
sions would have to do.                                           small red glowing dot with state borders shown in light
  "There's nothing that can catch us," Major Terrent said.        green lines. It was the easiest way to orient the pilots as to
  "Nothing human," Scheuler noted. "But if this foo               their location.
fighter thing was made by the same people who made this,            "Let's roll," Terrent said. He pressed forward and they
or people like the people who made this, then--                    were out of the hangar.
  "Then nothing," Terrent cut in. "This ship is at least ten        Behind them, still in the hangar, Bouncer Eight rose to a
thousand years old. The eggheads know that, at least. Who-        hover and waited. On the airstrip Aurora stood at the end,
ever left it behind has been long gone. And they probably         engines on, prepared for flight. On airstrips across the
weren't people."                                                  United States and down into Panama, and on board the
  "Then why are we flying this mission, trying to bait this       Abraham Lincoln at sea, pilots sat in their cockpits and
foo fighter? Who made it?" Scheuler asked.                        waited--for what, they had not been told. But they knew
  "Because General Gullick ordered it," Terrent said. He          whatever it was, this was no game. The planes' wings had
looked at Scheuler. "You have any further questions, I sug-       live missiles slung underneath and the Galling guns were
gest you talk to him."                                            loaded with bullets.
  Scheuler shook his head. "No, thanks."
  Terrent pressed a small red button added on top of the           All clear," Quinn said, a rather unnecessary statement
Y-shaped yoke in front of him, keying the SATCOM radio.           since everyone in the room could see the small red dot
"Cube Six, this is Bouncer Three. All systems ready. Over."       indicating Bouncer Three moving northwest out of the
  Gullick's deep voice answered. "This is Cube Six. Go.           state. The computer had already screened out all commer-
Out."                                                             cial aircraft flights.

212                           ROBERT DOHERTY                    AREA    51                                            213

  "Contact!" Quinn announced. A small green dot had             "That's the lake," Terrent said. He pressed the yoke to the
suddenly appeared on the screen, well behind Bouncer            right a bit more.
Three. "Same reading as the first one!"                           "On course," Scheuler said, checking their projected di-
  "Three, this is Six," Gullick spoke into his headset.         rection.
"Head for Checkpoint Alpha. Over."                                "Is the bogey turning yet?"
                                                                  "Yes," Scheuler said. "It's taken the bait. Right on our
On board Bouncer Three, Major Terrent slowly pressed            trail, about one hundred and fifty miles behind."
the yoke to the right and the disk began a long curve over        Terrent keyed his mike. "Six, this is Three. Kill Zone
southern Idaho, turning toward the Great Salt Lake. What        Alpha in one minute, forty-seven seconds. Over."
was different about the turn from one made by an ordinary
aircraft was the fact that there was no banking. The disk       "Roger," Gullick answered. There were several more dots
simply changed directions, staying flat and level. The bod-     on the screen now. The red one indicated Bouncer Three
ies of the two men inside strained against their restraining    heading directly toward a small orange rectangle--Kill
harnesses during the turn, then settled back in the depres-     Zone Alpha--a point directly over the center of the Hill
sions.                                                          Air Force Base Range. On the ground out there a helicop-
  "Give me a reading," Terrent said.                            ter and recovery crew from Nightscape waited. The green
                                                                dot was the bogey, following Bouncer Three. Two red
  "The bogey's about three hundred miles behind us,"            plane silhouettes showed the F-16's on an intercept course.
Captain Scheuler responded. He was watching the same            A red triangle represented Aurora, en route directly from
information on his small screen that the people in the          Area 51.
Cube had displayed on their large one.                            "Intercept in forty-five seconds," Quinn announced.
  "Is it turning with us?" Terrent asked.                         Bouncer Three went through the orange rectangle.
  "Not yet."

                                                                "What the fuck was that?" the pilot of the lead F-16 called
"Get Aurora in the air," Gullick ordered. "Alert Kill Zone      out as Bouncer Three flashed by.
Alpha reaction forces and get them up too. Have you fed           "Wolfhound One, this is Six. Stay on target!" General
coordinates of the bogey to Teal Amber?"                        Gullick's voice in the pilot's helmet was a cold slap in the
  Quinn was working quickly. "Yes, sir."                        face. "Have you got a lock on the target?"
                                                                  The pilot checked his instruments. "Roger, Six."
At Hill Air Force Base, just outside Salt Lake City, two          "Arm your missiles."
F-16 Fighting Falcons roared down the runway and up into          The pilot armed the air-to-air missiles under his wings.
the night sky. As soon as they had reached sufficient alti-     Still shaken by the image of Bouncer Three, he also armed
tude, they turned west, over the flat surface of the lake,      his 20mm multibarrel cannon. His wingman did the same.
heading for the desolate land on the far side.                    "This son of a bitch is moving fast," the wingman said
                                                                over the secure link between the two planes.

214                           ROBERT DOHERTY
                                                                AREA    51                                               215

  "Not fast enough," the pilot said.
  General Gullick was concerned about the same thing in         Gullick reacted first. "Get Aurora after it. Launch Bouncer
the Cube. "What's the speed of the bogey?"                      Eight." He keyed his radio. "Bouncer Three, this is Six.
  "Computer estimates twelve hundred miles an hour,"            Head for Kill Zone Bravo. Over."
Quinn replied. "It's pacing Bouncer Three." Which was             "This is Three. Roger."
the reason the disk was flying so slowly, trying to draw the      Gullick switched frequencies. "Wolfhound One, this is
bogey in to the kill zone at a slow enough speed to be hit      Six. Return to base for debriefing. Out."
by the conventional jets. Gullick was intimately familiar
with the weapon systems on board the F-16's--he was              As the two F-16's turned back toward Salt Lake City and
checked out on the aircraft. They could handle that speed.      Hill Air Force Base, the pilot of the lead aircraft looked
                                                                across the night sky to his wingman.
"Six, this is Wolfhound One. Target will be in range in ten       "We're in for a long night," he said on their secure chan-
seconds. Request final authorization. Over."                    nel. "I don't know what it was we just saw--or didn't see--
  "This is Six. Fire as soon as target is in range. Over."      but one thing for sure, the security dinks are going to be all
  The pilot took a deep breath.                                 over us on the ground."
  "Is this guy for real?" his wingman asked.
  "No time for questions," the pilot snapped. The heads-        Major Terrent lined up Bouncer Three on an azimuth that
up display indicated the target was in range. "Fire!" he        would take them directly over the four corners--where
yelled.                                                         Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico met--the only
  A Sidewinder missile leapt out from underneath the            place in the United States contiguous to four states.
wings of both planes.                                             Kill Zone Bravo was several hundred miles beyond that
                                                                in the same direction. White Sands Missile Range.
Even though they conceptually knew what the bouncers              "Where's the bogey?" Terrent asked.
were capable of--and therefore could conceptualize what            "Holding, about fifty miles behind us," Scheuler re-
the foo fighters might be able to do--there was complete         ported.
shock as the bogey simply left the orange square behind           "Let's hope they're better prepared at Bravo," Terrent
and was over fifty miles away by the time the Sidewinders       said.
had crossed the two miles from where the F-16's were to
where the bogey had been.                                       General Gullick was directing the situation to insure just
                                                                that. He had Aurora and Bouncer Eight heading directly
"What the fuck was that?" the F-16 pilot said for the sec-      toward the kill zone. They would beat Three there by four
ond time in less than two minutes. His heads-up display         minutes.
was clear. The Sidewinder he'd fired was an arc disappear-        Four F-15's from the 49th Tactical Fighter Wing at Hol-
ing over the base range, running out of fuel and descend-       loman Air Force Base were already in the air. He didn't
ing. Whatever he'd fired at was gone.                           expect them to have any more luck than the two F-16's

216                            ROBERT DOHERTY                                                                             217
                                                                   AREA    51

had--except now he had the ace card of having Bouncer               From Bouncer Three, Captain Scheuler could see the wait-
Eight in the air. Gullick planned on using both it and             ing F-15's on his display. "ETA thirty seconds," he said.
Bouncer Three to corral the bogey into a position where              "Slowing." Major Terrent let up on the yoke.
the F-15's could get a good shot at it. Aurora was to be on
standby to chase, just in case it did get away again and           "That's the first one," Eagle Flight Leader called out as
moved outside the continental United States. It was a rule         Bouncer Three buzzed through, slowing as it went. His
that even General Gullick could not break on his own ini-          men were disciplined. No one questioned what it was. That
tiative--the bouncers could not fly over the ocean or for-          would have to wait until the ready room after the mission.
eign territory on the remote chance they might go down.            Even then, they all knew they could never speak openly of
  The wall display was crowded now. Bouncer Three                  tonight's mission.
straight shot from Salt Lake to White Sands, the bogey just          "Lock on," Eagle Leader confirmed.
behind. Bouncer Eight and Aurora on line from Nevada.                 "Locked," Eagle Two echoed, as did the other two pi-
Four small airplane silhouettes lying in wait over White           lots.
Sands.                                                                "Fire!"
  "Amber Teal has the bogey," Quinn announced. "We're
getting some imagery."                                             On the display at the front of the Cube the foo fighter
  Gullick wasn't impressed or interested. They already had         appeared to suddenly become motionless as a thin red line
photos of the foo fighters. He wanted the real thing. He           extended from each fighter toward the green dot.
keyed his SATCOM link to the F-15 commander. "Eagle
Leader, this is Cube Six. Target ETA in five minutes,              "Jesus Christ!" Eagle Flight Leader swore. The bogey had
twenty seconds. You're only going to get one shot at this.         disappeared--straight up! Then reality set in hard. "Eva-
Make it good. Over."                                               sive maneuvers!" he screamed as the Sidewinder missile
"This is Eagle Leader. Roger. Over." Eagle Flight Leader           from the F-15 opposite him locked onto his plane.
glanced out of his cockpit at the other three planes. "Eagle          For four seconds there was absolute confusion as pilots
Flight, take up positions. Get a fix on the first craft as it      and planes scrambled to escape friendly fire.
goes through. It will come to a halt on the far side of the
kill zone. A second craft similar to the first is also en route    General Gullick didn't even watch the self-induced melee.
from the west and will also hold on the western side of the        "Bouncer Three, go! Direct angle of intercept. Break.
kill zone. Launch on the bogey as soon as it crosses Phase         Eight, loop to the south and catch it if it goes the way the
Line Happy. Over."                                                 other did! Aurora, get some altitude. Move, people! Move!
  The four planes broke into a cloverleaf pattern, the kill        Over."
zone a large pocket of empty sky, crisscrossed with elec-             "Seventy thousand feet and climbing," Quinn reported.
tronic energy as the planes turned on their targeting radar.       "Seventy-five thousand."

                                                                  AREA       51                       219
218                            ROBERT DOHERTY

"Please, Lord," Eagle Flight Leader whispered as he                 "Southwest," Scheuler said. "Heading, two-one-zero de-
pulled out of the steep dive he'd gone into. A Sidewinder         grees."
roared past to his left. He keyed his radio. "Eagle Flight
report. Over."                                                    "What's it doing?" Gullick asked.
  "One. Roger. Over."                                               "Bogey heading two-one-zero degrees," Quinn said.
  "Two. Roger. Over."                                             "Descending on a glide path, going down through one hun-
  "Three. Took a licking, but I'm still kicking. Over."           dred and ten thousand. Three is in close pursuit. Eight
  Eagle Flight Leader looked up. Not to where the bogey           is--" Quinn paused. "The bogey's turning!"
had gone but farther. "Thank you, Lord."

                                                                  "Uh-oh," Captain Scheuler said as things changed on his
"Ninety thousand and still climbing," Scheuler informed           display.
Major Terrent. His fingers hit the keyboard in front of him,        "What?" The controls were getting firmer in Major Ter-
his arms struggling against the G-forces pushing him down         rent's hands. They were just about down to one hundred
into his cutout seat.                                             thousand feet.
                                                                    Scheuler snapped into action. "Collision alert!"
"One hundred ten thousand and still climbing," Major                "Give me a direction!" Terrent yelled.
Quinn said. "The F-15's are all secure and returning to
Holloman," he added. "One hundred and twenty thou-                  "Break right," Scheuler guessed.
sand." Well over twenty miles up and still going vertical.
                                                                  On the large screen the red and green dots both curved in
"One hundred and twenty-five thousand. It's peaking               the same direction and merged. Gullick stood, his teeth
over," Scheuler said.                                             biting through the forgotten cigar.
  Major Terrent let out his breath. The controls had
started to get slightly sluggish. The record for altitude in a    Scheuler watched the foo fighter tear by directly overhead,
bouncer was one hundred and sixty-five thousand feet, and         less than ten feet away. A beam of white light was flashing
that had been a wild ride four years ago. For some reason,        out of the small glowing ball and raking over and through
due to the magnetic propulsion system, which had not yet          their disk.
been figured out, at over a hundred thousand feet the disk          "Engine failure. Loss of all control," Terrent reported.
started losing power.                                             They both felt their weight lighten, then they were peaking
  The crew of the disk that had made the record flight had        over and heading down.
had the unnerving experience of peaking out while still             Scheuler looked at his display. "Ninety thousand and in
trying to climb and gone into an uncontrolled descent be-         free fall."
fore the disk had regained power.                                   The lever and yoke moved freely in Terrent's hands.
  "Heading?" Terrent asked, concentrating on keeping
control.                                                          "Nothing. No power." He looked over at Scheuler. Both

220                             ROBERT DOHERTY                  AREA    51                                              221

men were maintaining their external discipline but their        the bogey and Bouncer Eight was increasing rather than
voices displayed their fear.                                    decreasing, despite the crew of the disk pushing it to the
  "Eighty-five thousand," Scheuler said.                        limits of human endurance.
                                                                  Gullick spit out the mangled remains of his cigar.
"Bouncer Three is in uncontrolled descent," Quinn re-           "Bouncer Eight, this is Cube Six. Break off. I say again,
ported. "No power. Bouncer Eight and Aurora are still in        break off and return home. Aurora, continue pursuit.
pursuit."                                                       Over."
  The green dot representing the foo fighter was moving           "This is Bouncer Eight. Roger. Over."
swiftly to the southwest.                                         "This is Aurora. Roger. Over."
                                                                  On the screen Bouncer Eight rapidly decelerated and
"Sixty thousand," Scheuler reported.                            curved back into airspace above the United States. Aurora
  Terrent let go of the useless controls.                       continued following the bogey.
  "Fifty-five thousand."                                          "Alert the Abraham Lincoln to launch pursuit," Gullick
                                                                ordered Admiral Coakley. The general finally shifted his
"The bogey will hit the Mexican border in two minutes,"         gaze to the upper part of the screen. The green dot repre-
Quinn reported.                                                 senting Bouncer Three was still motionless. "Altitude?" he
  "Bouncer Eight, this is Cube Six," Gullick said into his      asked.
boom mike. "Get that son of a bitch!"                             Quinn knew what he was referring to. "Thirty thousand.
                                                                Still no power. Uncontrolled descent."
With no power other than the Earth's gravity, Bouncer             "Nightscape recovery status?" Gullick asked.
Three was going down at terminal velocity. They had               "In the air toward projected impact area," Quinn said.
tipped over and the edge to both men's right was leading
the way down.                                                   "I'm going to initiate at twenty thousand," Terrent said.
  They were actually descending more slowly than they           His right hand rested on a red lever. "Clear."
had gone up, Scheuler reflected, watching the digital dis-        Scheuler pushed aside the keyboard and display from his
play count down in front of him. He felt strangely de-          lap as Terrent did the same. "Clear."
tached, his years of pilot training keeping the fear at bay.      "Cable up," Terrent ordered.
At least they weren't tumbling.                                   Scheuler hit a button on the side of his seat. Anchored
  Scheuler glanced over questioningly at Terrent. "Forty-       to the ceiling above and behind the two of them, a cable
five thousand."                                                 tightened, its near anchor point sliding along a track bolted
  Terrent tried the controls again. "Still nothing," he re-     onto the floor until it stopped right between the two de-
ported.                                                         pressions the men were seated in.
                                                                  "Hook up," Terrent instructed.
"Thirty seconds to the border," Quinn said. He confirmed          Scheuler reached into the waist pocket of his flight suit
the bad news the screen was displaying. The gap between         and pulled out a locking carabiner and slipped it onto the

222                            ROBERT DOHERTY
                                                                 AREA    51                                              223

steel cable, just above where Terrent put his. He made sure      "Ten thousand feet," Quinn said. He looked at his com-
it was on and screwed tight the lock. He then traced the         puter screen and hit a few keys. "We're getting a slight
nylon webbing back from it to the harness strapped around        change in downward velocity on Bouncer Three."
his torso, making sure it was clear and not wrapped around         "I thought you said the readout said the hatch was blown
anything.                                                        and they had initiated escape." Gullick said.
  "Hooked up," he confirmed. He glanced over at his dis-           "Yes, sir, the hatch is gone, but"--Quinn checked the
play. "Twenty-two thousand five hundred."                        data being sent in from the satellites and Bouncer Three
  Terrent grabbed the controls one last time and tried           itself--"but it's slowing, sir!"
them. They moved freely. No response. He looked at                 Gullick nodded, but turned his attention back toward
Scheuler. "Ready, Kevin?"                                        the screen and the green dot of the bogey, now over the
  "Ready."                                                       Pacific far west of Panama.
  "Blowing hatch on three. One. Two. Three." Terrent
slammed down the red lever and the exploding bolts on the        Without Scheuler, Terrent had no idea what his altitude
hatch at the other end of the cable blew. The hatch spun         was. He'd pushed aside his own heads-up display when
away and cold night air whistled in.                             he'd hooked up. The power was coming back, but very
  "Go!" Terrent screamed.                                        slowly.
  Captain Scheuler unbuckled his shoulder straps and
pushed, sliding up the cable, slamming against the roof of       "Five thousand feet, continuing to decelerate," Quinn said.
the disk. He got oriented and looked down at Terrent, still        "How come I don't see the F-14's from the Abraham
in his seat. Then he let go and was sucked out of the hatch,     Lincoln on the display?" General Gullick asked.
the nylon strap reaching its end and deploying the para-           "I--uh--" Quinn's fingers flew over the keyboard and a
                                                                 cluster of small plane silhouettes appeared on the screen.
chute that he had been sitting on. The disk was already          They were heading toward an orange circle representing
gone into the darkness below by the time the chute finished      the spot where the previous foo fighter had gone into the
opening.                                                         ocean. The symbols for the bogey and Aurora were also
  He watched but there was no other blossoming of white          heading there.
canopy below.

                                                                 'I think I've got it!" Terrent yelled to himself. He had the
Major Terrenes hands were on the releases for his shoulder       altitude lever pulled up as high as it would go and could
straps when his pilot's instincts took over one last time. He    continue to feel power returning. "We'll make it, we'll--"
reached down and grabbed the controls. There was some-
thing--the slightest response. His focus came back inside          She's down," Quinn said in a quiet voice. "Bouncer Three
the craft as he wrestled with the controls.                      is down. All telemetry is cut."
                                                                   "Make sure Nightscape recovery has the exact position

224                            ROBERT DOHERTY

from the last readout," Gullick ordered. "Time to bogey                                                            19
intercept for the Tomcats?"
  Quinn looked at General Gullick for a few seconds, then
turned back to his terminal. "Six minutes."
  "I don't see what good intercept will do," Admiral
Coakley protested. "We've already tried twice. It's over the
ocean. Even if we down the bogey it won't--"
  "I am in charge here," General Gullick hissed. "Don't
  "Bogey's gone, sir," Quinn said. "She's gone under."
                                                                The data was complex and much of it was not in the histor-
                                                                ical record. It counted at least six different types of atmo-
                                                                spheric craft, only two of which were listed. And it was not
                                                                action of this type that had awoken it twice before. Never-
                                                                theless, this new event was a threat because it was tied in to
                                                                the place where the mothership was.
                                                                  Valuable energy was diverted, and the main processor
                                                                was brought up to forty-percent capacity to ponder the
                                                                bursts of input that had occurred in this past cycle of the
                                                                planet around its star. There had been conflict, but that did
                                                                not concern it. There were larger issues at stake here.

                                                   20                                                           21

                                                                  T-93 HOURS, 30 MINUTES
There was something stuck in both his arms and on the             The first thing Colonel Dickerson did as his command-and-
inside of each thigh. Johnny Simmons also sensed tubes            control helicopter zeroed in on the personnel beacon from
between his legs--a catheter, both fore and aft. There was         Bouncer Three was have his aide, Captain Travers, remove
also some sort of device hooked in the right side of his
                                                                  the silver eagles on his collar and replace them with two
mouth, giving off a very light mist of moisture. Another
                                                                  stars. That was for any military personnel they might run
tube ran into the left side of his mouth and that was how he
                                                                  into. The typical military mentality viewed generals as
was breathing. There was something over his face, covering
                                                                  gods, and that was the way Dickerson wanted people re-
it, pressing his eyes shut and blocking off his nose. Beyond
that Simmons didn't have a clue as to his condition. And          sponding to his orders this night.
those discoveries had been made only in those few breaks            "ETA to beacon two minutes," the pilot of the UH-60
between periods of excruciating pain.                             Blackhawk announced over the intercom.
  He assumed that at least one of whatever was stuck in             Dickerson glanced out the window. Three other
him was a nutritional IV. He had no clue as to the passage        Blackhawks followed, spread out against the night sky,
of time, but it felt as if his entire existence had been spent    their running lights darkened. He hit the transmit button
in this darkness.                                                 for his radio. "Roller, this is Hawk. Give me some good
  If it had not been for the needles and catheters, Johnny        news. Over."
believed he would have thought himself dead and his soul            The response from his second-in-command at the main
exiled to hell. But this was a living hell, a physical one.       White Sands complex was immediate. "This is Roller. I've
  He felt a coppery taste in his mouth. He didn't even wait       got people awake here. The duty officer is rounding us up
for the pain now. His mouth contorted open and he silently        some transport. They've got two lowboys we can use and a
screamed.                                                         crane rated for what we need for recovery. Over."
                                                                    "How long before you can get them out to the range?

228                             ROBERT DOHERTY                      AREA 51                                                 229

  "An hour and a half max. Over."                                   son calculated that it was buried at least twenty feet into
  "Roger. Out."                                                     the countryside.
  The pilot came on the intercom as soon as Dickerson                 "What about the beacon on the hatch?" he asked Cap-
was finished. "There he is, sir."                                   tain Travers.
  Dickerson leaned forward and looked out. "Pick him                  "Nightscape Two has it on screen and is closing on it.
up," he ordered.                                                    About four miles to the southwest of our location," Travers
  The Blackhawk descended and landed. The man on the                responded.
ground sat on his parachute to prevent it from being in-              They had to clean up every single piece of gear and
flated by the groundwash of the rotor blades. Two men               equipment. There was always the chance that someone
jumped off the rear of Dickerson's aircraft, ran over to            they had to recruit to help with the recovery--such as the
Captain Scheuler, and escorted him back to the bird, secur-         drivers of the lowboys or the bulldozer or crane operator--
ing the parachute.                                                  might talk, but as long as there was no physical evidence,
  Scheuler put on a headset as soon as he was on board.             they were good to go.
"Have you picked up Major Terrent's signal?" he asked.                "Let's land," Dickerson ordered.
  Dickerson indicated for the pilot to take off. "No. We're
going to the disk transponder."
  "Maybe his equipment got damaged when he was getting              THE CUBE, AREA 51
out of the disk," Scheuler said.
  Dickerson glanced across at the pilot, who met the look           General Gullick scanned the haggard faces around the
briefly, then went back to flying. There wasn't time to tell        conference table. There were two empty seats. Dr. Duncan
Scheuler about the slight slowing in descent of Bouncer             had not been informed of, or invited to, the night's activi-
Three just before impact.                                           ties, and Von Seeckt was, of course, absent. As recorder
  "ETA to disk transponder?" Dickerson asked.                       and data retriever, Major Quinn was seated away from the
  "Thirty seconds."                                                 table, at a computer console to Gullick's left.
  The pilot pointed. "There it is, sir."                              "Gentlemen," Gullick began, "we have a problem occur-
  "Shit," Dickerson heard the copilot mutter. And that              ring at a most critical time. We have Bouncer Three down
was a rather appropriate comment on the current condi-              with one casualty at White Sands. We also have six aircrews
tion of Bouncer Three. He keyed his radio. "Roller, we're           currently being debriefed on the night's events. And all we
going to need a dozer and probably a backhoe too. Over."            have gained against those potential security breaches is a
  His aide back at main base was ready. "Roger."                    replay of the events of the other night. We have more pic-
  The pilot brought the aircraft to a hover, the searchlight        tures of this foo fighter to add to our records and we have
on the belly of the helicopter trained down and forward on          almost the exact same location in the Pacific Ocean that it
the crash site. Bouncer Three had hit at an angle. Only the         disappeared into."
trail edge was visible, sticking up out of the dirt ridge it had      Gullick paused and leaned back in his chair, steepling his
impacted into. Knowing the dimension of the disk, Dicker-           fingers. "This thing, this craft, has beaten the best we could

230                            ROBERT DOHERTY                    AREA   51

throw against it, including our appropriated technology            Ten heads swiveled and looked at the one man who
here." He looked at Dr. Underbill. "Any idea what it did         didn't rate a leather seat. Major Quinn seemed to sink
to Bouncer Three?"                                               lower behind his portable computer.
  The representative from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory            "Say again?" Gullick said in his deep voice.
held a roll of telemetry paper in his hands. "Not until I get      "Perhaps they are aliens, sir," Quinn said.
a chance to look at the flight recorder and talk to the crew-      "You mean the foo fighters are UFOs?" General Brown
man who survived. All I can determine from this," he said,       sniffed.
shaking the paper, "is that there was a complete loss of           "Of course they're UFOs," General Gullick cut in, sur-
power on board Bouncer Three in conjunction with a near          prising everyone in the room with the harshness of his
collision with the foo fighter. The power loss lasted for one    tone. "We don't know what the fuck they are, do we? That
minute and forty-six seconds, then some power began re-          makes them unidentified, right? And they fly, right? And
turning, but too late for the pilot to compensate for the        they're real objects, aren't they?" He slapped a palm down
craft's terminal velocity."                                      on the table top. "Gentlemen, as far as the rest of the
  Dr. Ferrel, the physicist, cleared his throat. "Since we       world is concerned we're flying UFOs here every week. The
don't understand the exact workings of the propulsion sys-       question I want an answer to is who is flying the UFOs that
tem of the disks, it makes it doubly hard for us to try to       we aren't?" He swiveled his head to Quinn. "And you
figure out what the foo fighter did to Bouncer Three to          think it's aliens?"
cause the crash."                                                  "We have no hint that anyone on Earth possesses the
  "What about something we do understand?" Gullick               technology needed for these foo fighters, sir," Quinn said.
asked. "We certainly understand how helicopters fly."              "Yes, Major, but the Russians sure as shit don't think we
  Underhill nodded. "I've gone over the wreckage of the          possess the technology to make the bouncers either. And
AH-6 that crashed in Nebraska, and the only thing I have         we don't," Gullick hissed. "My point is, has someone else
been able to determine is that it suffered complete engine       dug up some technology like we have here?"
failure. There was no problem with either the transmission         Kennedy, from CIA, leaned forward. "If I remember
or hydraulics or else no one would have survived the crash.      rightly from my inbriefing, there were other sites listed on
The engine simply ceased functioning. Perhaps some sort          the tablets that we never had a chance to look at."
of electrical or magnetic interference.                            "Most of those sites were ancient ruins," Quinn said
  "The pilot is still in a coma and I have not been able to      quickly, "but the thing is, there are more high runes at
interview him. I have some theories, but until I can work        those sites. Who knows what might be written there? We
on them, I have no idea how the foo fighter caused the           haven't been able to decipher the writing. We do know that
engine on that aircraft to cease functioning."                       Germans deciphered some of the high runes, but that
  "Does anyone," Gullick said, with emphasis, "have any          was lost in World War II."
idea what these foo fighters are or who is behind them?"            Lost to us," Gullick amended. "And it's not certain that
  A long silence descended on the conference table.                 Germans were able to read the high runes. They might
  "Aliens?"                                                      nave been working off of a map like we did when we went

232                           ROBERT DOHERTY                     AREA 51                                                   233

down to Antarctica and picked up the other seven bounc-            Gullick turned to Kennedy. "Do you have any informa-
ers. Remember," Gullick added, "that we just uncovered           tion that might be connected to this?"
what was at Jamiltepec eight months ago."                          Kennedy stroked his chin. "There's several things that
  That caught Major Quinn's attention. He had never              might be of significance. We know they have been carrying
heard of Jamiltepec or of a discovery having been made           out secret test flights at their facility at Tyuratam in south-
there related to the Majic-12 project. Now, though, was not      ern Siberia for decades, and we've never been able to pen-
the time to bring it up.                                         etrate the security there. They do everything at night and
  Kennedy leaned forward. "We do have to remember that           even with infrared overhead satellite imagery, we haven't
the Russians picked up quite a bit of information at the         been able to figure out what they've got. So they could be
                                                                 flying foo fighters."
end of World War II. After all, they had a chance to go            "But these things went down into the Pacific," General
through all the records in Berlin. They also knew what they      Brown noted.
were doing when they conquered Germany. If people only             "They could be launching and recovering off a subma-
knew the fight that went on over the scientific corpse of the    rine," Admiral Coakley said. "Hell, their Delta-class subs
Third Reich between us and the Russians."                        are the largest submarines in the world. I'm sure they could
  The last comment earned the CIA representative a hard          have modified one to handle this sort of thing."
look from General Gullick, and Kennedy quickly moved               "Any sign of Russian submarine activity from your peo-
on.                                                              ple at the site?" General Gullick asked.
  "My point is," Kennedy said quickly, "that maybe the             "Nothing so far. Last report I had was that our ships
Russians found their own technology in the form of these         were in position and they were preparing to send a sub-
foo fighters. After all, we have no reports of Russian air-      mersible down," Coakley replied.
craft running into them during the war. And it is pretty           Major Quinn had to grip the edge of his computer to
suspicious that the Enola Gay was escorted on its way to         remind himself that he was awake. He couldn't believe the
Hiroshima. Truman did inform Stalin that the bomb was            way the men around the conference table were talking. It
going to be dropped. Maybe they wanted to see what was           was as if they had all halved their IQ and added in a dose
going on and try to learn as much as they could about the        of paranoia.
bomb."                                                             Gullick turned his attention back to Kennedy and indi-
  "And remember, they put Sputnik up in 1957." General           cated for him to continue. "This might not have anything
Brown was caught up in Kennedy's theory. "While we were          to do with this situation, but it's the latest thing we've
dicking around with the bouncers and not pursuing our            picked up," Kennedy said. "We know the Russians are do-
own space program as aggressively as we should have,             ing work with linking human brains directly into computer
maybe they were working on these foo fighters and re-            hardware. We don't know where they got the technology
verse-engineering them with a bit more success than we            for that. It's way beyond anything worked on in the West.
had. Hell, those damn Sputniks looked like these foo fight-        These foo fighters are obviously too small to carry a per-
ers."                                                             son, but perhaps the Russians might have put one of these

                                                                AREA 51
234                           ROBERT DOHERTY                                                                            235

biocomputers on board while using magnetic flight tech-           Gullick gestured for him to continue.
nology such as we have in the disks. Or they simply might         "Surveillance in Phoenix has picked up Von Seeckt,
be remotely controlled from a room such as we have here."       Turcotte, and this female reporter, Reynolds."
  "We've picked up no discernible broadcast link to the           "Phoenix?" Gullick asked.
foo fighter," Major Quinn said, trying to edge the discus-        "Yes, sir. I ordered surveillance on the apartment of the
sion back to a commonsense footing. "Unless it was a very       reporter who tried to infiltrate the other night once I found
narrow-beam satellite laser link we would have caught it,       out that Reynolds was asking about him. The surveillance
and such a narrow beam would have been difficult to keep        just settled in place this evening and they've spotted all
on the foo fighter, given its speed and how quickly it ma-      three targets at the apartment and are requesting further
neuvered."                                                      instructions."
  "Could Von Seeckt have been turned?" Gullick suddenly           "Have them pick up all three and take them to Dulce,"
asked. "I know he's been here from the very beginning, but      Gullick ordered.
remember where he came from. Maybe the Russians finally           Quinn paused in sending the order. "There's something
got to him, or maybe he's been working for them all             else, sir. The men we sent to check out Von Seeckt's quar-
along."                                                         ters have found a message on his answering service that
  Kennedy frowned. "I doubt that. We've had the tightest        might be important. It was from a Professor Nabinger."
security on all Majic-12 personnel."                              "What was the message?" General Gullick asked.
  "Well, what about this Turcotte fellow or this female re-       Quinn read from the screen. " 'Professor Von Seeckt, my
porter? Could either of them be working for the other           name is Peter Nabinger. I work with the Egyptology De-
side?"                                                          partment at the Brooklyn Museum. I would like to talk to
  Quinn started, remembering the intercept of Duncan's          you about the Great Pyramid, which I believe we have a
message to the White House chief of staff. Gullick mustn't      mutual interest in. I just deciphered some of the writing in
have gotten to it yet. Again, he decided to keep his peace,     the lower chamber, which I believe you visited once upon a
this time to avoid an ass-chewing.                              time, and it says: 'Power, sun. Forbidden. Home place,
  "I have my people checking on it," Kennedy said. "Noth-       chariot, never again. Death to all living things.' Perhaps
ing has turned up so far."                                      you could help shed some light on my translation. Leave
  "Let's see what Admiral Coakley finds us in the Pacific.      me a message how I can get hold of you at my voice-mail
Maybe that will solve this mystery," Gullick said. "For now,    box. My number is 212-555-1474.' "
our priorities are sterilizing the crash site at White Sands      "If this Nabinger knows about Von Seeckt and the pyra-
and continuing our countdown for the mothership."               mid-- " began Kennedy, but a wave of Gullick's hand
  Major Quinn had been working at his computer, reading         stopped him.
data from the various components of the project spread
out across the United States and the globe. He was re-            "I agree that is dangerous"--Gullick was excited--"but
lieved when information began scrolling up. "Sir, we've got     of more importance is the fact that it seems Nabinger can
some news on Von Seeckt."                                       decipher the high runes. If he can do that, then maybe we

236                            ROBERT DOHERTY                    AREA   51                                                 237

can . . ." Gullick paused. "Did our people check to see if          "Oh, my God," Scheuler muttered.
Von Seeckt has contacted Nabinger?"                                 Blood and pieces of Major Terrent were scattered about
  Quinn nodded. "Yes, sir. Von Seeckt called Nabinger's          everywhere inside. Dickerson sat down with his back to the
service at eight twenty-six and left a message giving a loca-    hatch, trying to control his breathing while Scheuler vom-
tion for them to meet tomorrow, or actually this morning,"       ited. Dickerson had been a forward air controller during
he amended, looking at the digital clock on the wall.            Desert Storm and had seen the destruction wrought on the
  "The location?"                                                highway north out of Kuwait near the end of the war. But
  "The apartment in Phoenix," Quinn answered.                    that was war and the bodies had been those of the enemy.
  Gullick smiled for the first time in twenty-four hours.        Goddamn Gullick, he thought. Dickerson grabbed the
"So we can bag all our little birds in one nest in a few         edges of the hatch, and lowered himself in. "Let's go," he
hours. Excellent. Get me a direct line to the Nightscape         ordered Scheuler, who gingerly followed.
leader on the ground in Phoenix."                                   "See if it still works," Dickerson ordered. He'd sure as
                                                                 hell rather fly it back to Nevada than have to cover it up
                                                                 and take back roads by night.
WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE, NEW MEXICO                              Scheuler looked at the blood- and viscera-covered de-
                                                                 pression that Terrent had occupied.
The engine on the crane whined in protest, but the earth           "You can take a shower later," Dickerson forced himself
gave before the cable, and inch by inch Bouncer Three was        to say. "Right now I need to know whether we have power,
pulled up out of its hole. As soon as it was clear, the crane    and we don't have time to dean this thing up."
operator rotated right, bringing the disk toward the flatbed       "Sir, I--"
that was waiting. In the glow of the hastily erected arc           "Captain!" Dickerson snapped.
lights, Colonel Dickerson could see that the outer skin of
                                                                   "Yes, sir." Scheuler slid into the seat, a grimace on his
the disk appeared to be unscathed.
  As soon as Bouncer Three was down on the truck, Dick-          face. His hands went over the control panel. Lights came
erson grabbed hold of the side of the flatbed and clam-          on briefly, then faded as the skin of the craft went clear and
bered up onto the wood deck and then onto the sloping            they could see by the arc lights set up outside.
side of the craft itself. His aide and Captain Scheuler were       "We have power." Scheuler stated the obvious. He
right behind him. Balancing carefully, Dickerson edged up        looked down at the altitude-control level and froze. Ter-
until he was at the hatch that Scheuler had thrown himself       rent's hand was still gripped tightly around it, the stub of
out of two miles above their heads.                              his forearm ending in shattered bone and flesh. He cried
  The interior was dark with the power off. Taking a halo-       out and turned away.
gen flashlight off his belt, Dickerson shone it down on the        Colonel Dickerson knelt down and gently pried the dead
inside. Despite having fought in two wars and seen more          object loose. Goddamn Gullick, Goddamn Gullick; it was a
than his share of carnage, Dickerson flinched at the scene       chant his brain was using to hold on to sanity. "See if you
within. He sensed Scheuler coming up next to him.                have flight control," he ordered in a softer voice.

238                            ROBERT DOHERTY                      AREA  51                                           239

  Scheuler grabbed the lever. Space appeared below their             "But if they found out about Paperclip--" began Ken-
feet. "We have flight control," he said in a rote voice.           nedy.
  "All right," Dickerson said. "Captain Travers will fly with        "We inherited Paperclip," Gullick cut in. "Just as we
you back to Groom Lake. We'll have pursuit aircraft flying         inherited Majic. And people know about Paperclip. It's not
escort. Got that, Captain?"                                        that big of a secret anymore."
  There was no answer.                                               "Yeah, but we kept it going," Kennedy pointed out.
  "Do you understand?"                                             "And what most people know is only the tip of the ice-
  "Yes, sir," Scheuler weakly said.                                berg."
  Dickerson climbed back out of the disk and gave the                "Von Seeckt doesn't know Paperclip is still running, and
appropriate orders. Finally done, he walked away from the          he was only on the periphery of it all back in the forties."
lights and behind the sandy ridge that the disk had crashed          "He knows about Dulce," Kennedy countered.
into. He knelt down in the sand and vomited.                         "He knows Dulce exists and that it's connected somehow
                                                                   with us here. But he was never given access to what has
                                                                   been going on there," Gullick said. "He doesn't have a clue
                                                                   what's going on there." The right side of Gullick's face
THE CUBE, AREA 51                                                  twitched and he put a hand up, pressing on the pain he felt
The lights were dim in the conference room and Gullick             in his skull. Even thinking about Dulce hurt. He didn't
was completely in the shadows. The other members of                want to speak about it anymore. There were more impor-
Majic-12 were gone, trying to get some long-overdue sleep          tant things to deal with. Gullick ticked off the problems on
or checking in with their own agencies--except for Ken-             his fingers.
nedy, the deputy director of operations for the CIA. He              "Tomorrow, or more accurately this morning, we take
had waited as the others filed out.                                care of Von Seeckt and the others there in Phoenix. That
   "We're sitting on a fucking powder keg here," Kennedy           will close that leak down.
began.                                                               "By dawn we'll have the mess at White Sands all cleaned
   "I know that," Gullick said. He had the briefing book           up and the aircrews involved debriefed and cleared.
with Duncan's intercepted message in it. It confirmed that           "We have the eight o'clock briefing by Slayden, which
Turcotte had been a plant, but of more import was the              should help get Duncan off our back for a little while.
threat that Duncan would get the President to delay the            Long enough.
test flight. That simply couldn't be allowed.                        "Admiral Coakley should be giving us something on
   "The others--they don't know what Von Seeckt knows,              these foo fighters soon.
what you and I know, about the history of this project,"             "And last but not least, in ninety-three hours we fly the
Kennedy said.                                                      mothership. That is the most important thing." General
   "They're in it too far now. Even if they knew, it's too late    Gullick turned, facing away from Kennedy to end the dis-
for all of them," Gullick said. "Just the Majestic-12 stuff is     cussion. He heard Kennedy leave, then reached into his
enough to sink every damn one of them."                            pocket and pulled out two more of the special pills Dr.

240                            ROBERT DOHERTY
                                                                 AREA  51                                               241

Cruise had given him. He needed something to reduce the          It was the way language worked. It also fit the diffusionist
throbbing in his brain.                                          theory of the evolution of civilization.
                                                                   The real problem for Nabinger--beyond the fact that
                                                                 the dialect made translation difficult--was that the content
AIRSPACE, SOUTHERN UNITED STATES                                 of the messages, once translated, was hard to comprehend.
                                                                 Most of the words and partial sentences he was translating
Checking the few photos that he had not seen before              referred to mythology or religion, gods and death and great
helped Professor Nabinger's fledgling high rune vocabulary       calamities. But there was very little specific information.
grow by a phrase or two. The seats on either side of him         Most of the high runes in the pictures seemed related to
were empty and there were photos spread out all over the         whatever form of worship existed in the locale they were
row. He drank the third cup of coffee the stewardess had         found in.
brought him and smiled contentedly. The smile disap-               There was no further information about the pyramids or
peared just as quickly, though, when his mind came back to       the existence or location of Atlantis. There were several
the same problem.                                                references to a great natural disaster sometime several
  How had the high rune language been distributed world-         centuries before the birth of Christ, but that was nothing
wide at such an early date in man's history, when even           new. There was much emphasis on looking to the sky, but
negotiating the Mediterranean Sea was an adventure               Nabinger also knew that most religions looked to the sky,
fraught with great hazard? Nabinger didn't know, but he          whether to the sun, the stars, or the moon. People tended
hoped that somewhere in the pictures an answer might be          to look up when they thought of God.
forthcoming. There were two problems, though. One was              What was the connection? How had the high rune lan-
that many of the pictures showed sites that had been dam-        guage been spread? What had Von Seeckt found in the
                                                                 lower chamber of the Great Pyramid? Nabinger gathered
aged in some way. Often the damage appeared to have
                                                                 up the photos and returned them to his battered backpack.
been done deliberately, as in the water off Bimini. The          Too many pieces with no connection. With no why. And
second, and greater, problem was that many of the pictures       Nabinger wanted the why.
were of high runes that were, for lack of a better word,
dialects. It was a problem that had frustrated Nabinger for
  There were enough subtle, and sometimes not-so-subtle,
differences in the high rune writing from site to site to
show that although they had very definitely grown from the
same base, they had evolved differently in separate locales.
It was as if the root language emerged in one place, been
taken at a certain point to other locales, then evolved sepa-
rately at each place. Which made sense, Nabinger allowed.

                                                                 AREA 51                                                  243

                                                 22                "Don't do that." Turcotte's voice froze her hand on the



                                                                   Turcotte turned his gaze into the room. "If I have to

                                                                 explain everything I say, we're going to get our shit wasted

                                                                 when there's no time to explain. I'd appreciate it if you just

                                                                 do what I say when I say it."

                                                                   Kelly's clothes were wrinkled and she had not had the

                                                                 most comfortable night's sleep in the chair. "Are we in the

                                                                 middle of a crisis that you don't have time to explain?"
PHOENIX, ARIZONA                                                   "Not this minute," Turcotte said. "But I'm preparing you

T-87 HOURS, 15 MINUTES                                           both for the minute when that's going to happen. Which,"

"You gave Nabinger this address?" Turcotte asked for the         he said, jerking his thumb at the window, "is going to be
third time.                                                      sometime this morning."
  "Yes," Von Seeckt replied from the comfort of the                "Who's out there?" Von Seeckt asked, sitting up on the
couch. The living room of the apartment was dark.                couch and trying to pull his beard into some semblance of
  "You left it on his voice mail?"
                                                                   "Less than an hour ago a van pulled in across the street
                                                                 and down that way"--Turcotte pointed to the left--"about
  "And he left the first message on your voice mail?"
                                                                 two hundred feet. For fifteen minutes no one got out. Then
Turcotte persisted.
                                                                 a man exited, went over to our rent-a-car, and placed
                                                                 something under the right rear quarter panel. He went
  "For God's sake," Kelly muttered from underneath a
                                                                 back and got in the van, and there's been no movement
blanket on a large easy chair, "you sound like a cross-ex-
                                                                 since then. I assume they have surveillance on the back of
amining attorney. We went through all that earlier today in
                                                                 this building also."
the car. Is there a problem?"
                                                                   "What are they waiting for?" Kelly tossed aside the blan-
  Turcotte peered out the two-inch gap between the cur-
                                                                 ket, stood, and began gathering her few belongings.
tain and the edge of the window. He'd been standing there
                                                                   "If they got the messages off Von Seeckt's answering
for the past hour, unmoving while the other two slept, the
                                                                 service, probably the same thing we are. Waiting for Nab-
only sign that he was conscious his eyeballs flickering as he    inger to show."
took in the view.
                                                                   Kelly paused, seeing that Turcotte was standing still.
  He had awakened them both a few minutes ago. It was
                                                                 'Couldn't they just have had this place under surveillance
still dark out and in the glow of the streetlights there was     after kidnapping Johnny?"
nothing moving on the street. "Yeah, there's a problem."           "Maybe," Turcotte said. "But that van wasn't there when
  Kelly threw the blanket aside and reached for the lamp.        we pulled in last night, and when you and I were out for

244                            ROBERT DOHERTY
                                                                 AREA     51                                            245

our little walk I did a sweep of the area and didn't spot any    scrambled and deciphered by the machines. "Out here."
surveillance. I think they only came on the scene this morn-     The radio went dead.
ing. Which makes me think they got around to checking              The major pushed the ceiling mike out of the way and
the good professor's answering service."                         looked at the other men. "We wait until the other target
  Von Seeckt nodded. "Yes. They would do that. I made a          links up at the apartment. They have to be taken alive. All
mistake, did I not?"                                             of them."
  "Yes. And by the way, next time, you tell me what you're         "It'll be daylight by the time the other guy gets here,"
doing before you do it." Turcotte reached inside his coat.       one of the men said in protest.
He pulled out a pistol, pulled out the magazine, checked it,       "I know that," the major said in a tone that was not
put it back, and pushed the slide back, chambering a             conducive to discussion. "I'll clear it with the locals and
round.                                                           keep them out of the way." He lifted a sophisticated-look-
  "What's the plan?" Kelly asked.                                ing gunlike object. "Remember--they are all to be taken
  "You ever read the book Killer Angels'?" Turcotte asked,       alive, so use your stunners only."
shifting over and looking back out the thin crack.                 "What about Turcotte?" one of the men asked. "He's
  "About the Battle of Gettysburg?" Kelly asked.                 going to be trouble."
  Turcotte spared a glance back at her. "Very good. Do             "He's the priority target when we go in the door. The
you remember what Chamberlain of the Twentieth Maine             others will be easy," the major said.
did when he was on the far left of the Union line and about        "I don't think Turcotte's going to worry about keeping us
out of ammunition after continuous attacks by the Confed-        alive," one of the men muttered.
  "He ordered a charge," Kelly said.                             Despite a long night with an extended layover at Dallas-
  "Right."                                                       Fort Worth International, Professor Nabinger felt thor-
  "So we're going to charge?"                                    oughly alive and alert as the taxi turned the corner and the
  Turcotte smiled. "Just when they do. They'll be overcon-       apartment building appeared. There was just the slightest
fident and think they have the initiative. Timing is every-      hint of dawn in the air in the east.
thing."                                                            After removing his bags Nabinger paid the driver. He
                                                                 left the suitcase on the curb and tucked his leather case
"Ah, fuck," the major muttered to the other men crowded          with the photos Slader had given him under his arm as he
into the van. He glared at the sophisticated communica-          searched for the appropriate apartment. He knocked on
tions rig bolted to the left rear wall of the van, then keyed    the door and waited. It swung open, but no one was there.
the mike hanging from the ceiling. "Roger that, sir. Any-          "Hello?" Nabinger called out.
thing else? Over."                                                 "Step in," a woman's voice came from inside the dark
  "Don't screw it up." General Gullick's voice was unmis-        room.
takable, even after being digitized and scrambled, then un-        Nabinger took a step forward and a man's arm reached

246                            ROBERT DOHERTY                    AREA 51                                                  247

around the door and grabbed his collar, pulling him into            The major pulled open the side door and stepped out
the room. The door slammed shut behind him.                      into the street, a silenced submachine gun at the ready.
  "What is going--" Nabinger started.
  "Quiet," Turcotte said. "We're going to be attacked in a       Turcotte froze, the other three members of his group stack-
few seconds. Go with her." He had one of the flash-bang          ing up behind him. The officer with the submachine gun
grenades he'd kept from the Nightscape mission in his            was joined by a man from the front seat, both pointing
hand. He pulled the pin and leaned against the door, lis-        their weapons directly at Turcotte.
tening.                                                            "Don't move an inch!" the officer ordered.
  Kelly took Nabinger's arm and led him to the far corner          "What're you going to do? Shoot me?" Turcotte said,
of the room, where Von Seeckt also waited. She handed            hefting the stun gun. "Then why'd you use these? You're
him a strip of dark cloth cut from the curtain. "Hold this       supposed to take us alive, aren't you?" He took another
over your eyes."                                                 step toward the two men. "Those are your orders, aren't
  "What for?" Nabinger asked.                                    they?"
  "Just do it!" Kelly said.                                        "Freeze right where you are." The officer settled the
  The door exploded in under the impact of a hand-held           stock of the gun into his shoulder.
battering ram and men tumbled in, their eyes searching for         "General Gullick will be mighty pissed if you put holes
targets. They were greeted with a bright bang and flash of       in us," Turcotte said.
white light, immediately blinding all of them.                     "He might be pissed, but you'll be dead," the major re-
  Turcotte dropped the dark cloth he'd held to protect his       turned, centering his sights on Turcotte's chest. "I'll make
vision and stepped among the four men, his arms moving           damn--' The major's mouth froze in midsentence and a
in a flurry of strikes, sending two of them down uncon-          surprised look ran across his features.
scious in less than a second. He scooped up one of the stun        Turcotte fired at the driver and the stun round caught
guns from an inert hand and finished off the other two with      the man in the chest, and he collapsed next to his leader.
it as they tried to regain their senses.                         Turcotte glanced over his shoulder. Kelly slowly lowered
  "Let's move!" Turcotte yelled.                                 the stun gun she'd picked up on the way out. "Took you
  Kelly grabbed hold of Nabinger and they headed out the         long enough," he said, gesturing for them to get into the
                                                                   'The conversation was interesting," Kelly said. "So very
In the van the major tore the headset off and bounced it         macho." They helped Von Seeckt and a thoroughly con-
off the wall, his ears still ringing from the transmission of    fused Nabinger into the back of the van. The street was still
the flash-bang grenade going off in the apartment across
the street.                                                        'You drive," Turcotte said, standing in the opening be-
  "They're coming out!" the lookout man in the front seat        tween the two front seats. "I want to play with the toys in
                                                                 the back."
of the van yelled.

248                            ROBERT DOHERTY
                                                                  AREA     51                                         249

  "Next stop, Dulce," Kelly said, throwing the van in gear        played. "I want to know where they're heading. We've got
and pulling away with a squeal of tires.                          to prevent them from going to the media. Alert Mr. Ken-
                                                                  nedy to have his domestic people monitor the wires. We
                                                                  get a peep that Von Seeckt has gone to anyone, I want
THE CUBE                                                          Nightscape there." Gullick's eyes flickered across the map.
                                                                  "Tell those in Phoenix to stay there. I also want Tucson and
"Sir, the team leader in Arizona reports that they've lost        Albuquerque covered. They'll stay away from the airports,
the targets." Quinn carefully kept his eyes down, looking at      so we have them on the ground. The longer they're out
his computer screen.                                              there the bigger the circle grows."
  Three hours of sleep were all that General Gullick                Quinn plunged on. "There's something else, sir."
seemed to need to operate on. He wore a freshly pressed             "Yes?"
uniform and the starched edge of the light blue shirt under         "The Abraham Lincoln task force is reporting negative
his dark blue coat pressed into his neck as he turned his         on any sign of the foo fighters. They've scanned the ocean
attention from reading reports on the mothership. "Lost?"         bottom for a twenty-kilometer circle around where the first
  "Professor Nabinger showed up and the Nightscape                one went down and they've found nothing. The minisub off
team moved in to secure all the targets." Quinn recited the       the USS Pigeon has combed the bottom and--"
facts in a monotone. "Apparently, Turcotte was prepared.            "They stay there and they keep looking," Gullick or-
He used a flash-bang grenade to disorient the entry team.         dered.
Then, using the stun guns from the entry team, he and the           "Yes, sir." Quinn shut the lid on his laptop computer,
others subdued the van team and took off, driving the             then nervously flipped it open again. "Sir, uh . . ." He
van."                                                             licked his lips.
  "They have the van?" General Gullick leaned back in his           "What?" Gullick growled.
chair. "Can we trace it?"                                           "Sir, it's my duty to, uh, well . . ." Quinn rubbed his
  Quinn closed his eyes briefly. This day was starting out        hands together, feeling the knob of his West Point ring on
very badly and it wasn't going to get better as the new           his right hand. The questions had been building for too
information scrolling up on his screen told him. "No, sir."       long. His voice became firmer. "Sir, this mission is going in
  "You mean we don't have a tracer on our own vehicles?"          a direction that I don't understand. Our job is to work on
Gullick asked.                                                    the alien equipment. I don't see how Nightscape and--"
  "No, sir."                                                        General Gullick slammed his fist into the tabletop. "Ma-
  "Why not?" Gullick raised his hand. "Forget it. We'll           jor Quinn!"
deal with that later. Put out a 'sight and report only' to the      Quinn swallowed. "Yes, sir?"
local authorities. Give them a description of the van and           Gulhck stood. "I'm going to get some breakfast and then
the people."                                                      I have to attend a meeting. I want you to relay a message to
  He looked up at the large display at the front of the           all our people in the field and everyone working for us."
room. An outline of the United States was currently dis-          Gullick leaned over the table and put his face a foot away

250                             ROBERT DOHERTY

from Quinn's. "We have three goddamn days before we fly                                                             23
the mothership. I'm tired of being told of failures and mis-
takes and fuckups. I want answers and I want results. I've
dedicated my life and my career to this project. I will not
see it be tarnished or destroyed by the incompetence of
others. You don't ask questions of me. No one asks ques-
tions of me. Is that clear?"
  "Yes, sir."

                                                                FORT APACHE INDIAN RESERVATION, ARIZONA

                                                                T-87 HOURS, 15 MINUTES

                                                                "I think I'll just stay here," Nabinger said. They were
                                                                stopped at a small rest area off Highway 60 on the Natanes
                                                                Plateau. There was a brisk wind blowing out of the north-
                                                                west and Turcotte was making instant cups of coffee for all
                                                                of them, using the microwave inside the van and supplies
                                                                he'd found in a cabinet there. They were seated in the
                                                                captain's chairs inside with the side door open.
                                                                  "We can't let you do that," Turcotte said.
                                                                  "This is a free country!" Nabinger said. "I can do what-
                                                                ever I want. I didn't plan on being in the middle of a fight."
                                                                  "We didn't plan it either," Kelly said. "But we're stuck.
                                                                There's more going on here than any of us know."
                                                                  "I just wanted some answers," Nabinger said.
                                                                  "You'll get them," Kelly said. "But if you want them, you
                                                                have to stick with us." Nabinger had not reacted too badly
                                                                to being basically kidnapped and taken away in the van.
                                                                But Kelly knew his type, as she'd interviewed scientists just
                                                                like him. Many times the quest for knowledge became
                                                                more important than everything else around them, includ-
                                                                ing their own personal safety.

                                                                   This is all so incredible," Nabinger said. He looked at

252                            ROBERT DOHERTY                                                                                253

                                                                     AREA      51

Von Seeckt. "So you believe this message refers to the               over the way the war to end all wars had ended. Do you
mothership?"                                                         know that at the end of the First World War no foreign
  Von Seeckt nodded. "I believe it is a warning that we              troops had yet set foot on German soil? That we were still
must not fly the mothership. I believe the chariot obviously         occupying French soil when the government surrendered?"
refers to the mothership and I would take very seriously               "Spare us the history lesson," Turcotte said. He had
the never again and death to all living things writings."            picked up the dagger and was looking at the symbols
  "If this is true," Nabinger said, "it means that the an-           carved into the handle. He knew about the SS. "We've
cient humans were influenced by the aliens that left these           heard it all before."
craft behind. It would help explain so many of the com-                "But you asked," Von Seeckt said. "As I said, in the
monalities in mythology and archeology."                             twenties we were poor and angry. In the thirties everyone
  "Let's hold on here a second," Kelly said. "If these writ-         was crazy from having been poor and angry for so long. As
ings in the Great Pyramid in Egypt refer to the mother-              Captain Turcotte says, you all know what happened. I was
ship--which was abandoned on this continent--then it had               in the university in Munich studying physics when Czecho-
to have been flying once upon a time."                               slovakia fell. I was young then and I had that--ah, what are
  "Of course it flew at one time," Von Seeckt said. "The             the words--myopic, self-centered vision that the young
real question is: Why did they stop flying it? What is the           have. It was more important to me that I pass my compre-
threat?"                                                             hensive exams and be awarded my degree than that the
  "I've got a better question for right now." Turcotte               world was unraveling around me.
handed a mug of steaming coffee to Von Seeckt. "You told               "While I was at the university, I did not know that I was
me on the plane out of Area 51 that you were recruited by            being watched. The SS had established early on a special
the U.S. military during the Second World War. Yet Profes-           section to oversee scientific matters. Their commander re-
sor Nabinger tells us that you were with the Nazis in the            ported directly to Himmler. They put together a list of
pyramid. I'd like an explanation. Now."                              scientists and technicians that could be of use to the party,
  "I second that," Kelly said.                                       and my name was on the list.
  "I do not think-- ' Von Seeckt paused as Nabinger                     "They approached me in the summer of 1941. There was
reached into his backpack and pulled out a dagger.                   special work being done, they told me, and I must help."
  "I was given this by the Arab who guided you into the              For the first time Von Seeckt brought his gaze out of the
pyramid back then."                                                  desert. He looked at each person in turn. "One of the
  Von Seeckt took the dagger and grimaced, then placed it            advantages of being an old man who is dying is that I can
down on the table. He cradled his wrinkled hands around              tell the truth. I will not pretend and whine as so many of
the mug and looked out over the bleak terrain of the In-             my colleagues did at the end of the war that I worked
dian reservation. "I was born in Freiburg in 1918. It is a           against my will. Germany was my country and we were at
town in southwest Germany, not far from the border with              war. I did what I considered my duty to my country and I
France. The times I grew up in were not good years in                worked willingly.
Germany. In the twenties everyone was poor and angry                   "The question that is always asked is 'What about the


254                           ROBERT DOHERTY                    AREA      51                                           255

camps?'" Von Seeckt shrugged. "The first truth is that I        him," she added, thrusting her chin toward Von Seeckt's
did not really know about them. The higher truth is that I      back. "My father was with the OSS, and he was there at
did not care to know. There were rumors, but I did not          Dora. He was sent in to find information on what had hap-
care to pursue rumors. Again my focus was with myself and       pened to some OSS and SOE people who had tried to
my work. That does not excuse what happened or my role          infiltrate Peenemunde during the war to stop the produc-
in the war effort. It is simply what happened.                  tion of the V-2's.
  "I was working near Peenemunde. The top men--they                "He told me what it was like at the camp and the way the
were working on the rockets. I was with another group,          Allies acted when they arrived--the intelligence people
doing theoretical work that we hoped would have future          and the war-crimes people showing up and fighting over
application. Some of it touched on the potential of an          the German prisoners and how some of the worst were
atomic weapon. You can find out what you need to know           scooped up by the intelligence people and never came to
about that from other sources.                                  trial. The intelligence people treated the German scientists
  "The problem was that our work was mainly theoretical,        better than they did the survivors of the camps, because of
laying the groundwork, and those in command did not             the knowledge those men possessed. They just stepped
have much patience. Germany was fighting a war on two           over the bodies, I guess."
fronts and the feeling was that the war had better be over        As Kelly paused to catch her breath, Von Seeckt spoke.
sooner rather than later, and we needed weapons now, not        "I know now what happened at Dora. But I did not know
theory."                                                        then. I left Peenemunde in spring of 1942. That was be-
  "You say you worked at Peenemunde?" Kelly cut in. Her         fore"--his voice broke--"before it got bad."
voice was harsh.                                                  He held up a hand, forestalling Kelly, who had begun to
  "Yes."                                                        speak. "But over the years I have asked myself the ques-
  "But you also say you didn't try to find out about the        tion: What if I had not been ordered away? What would I
camps?"                                                         have done?"
  Von Seeckt remained quiet.                                      He turned back to the other three. "I would like to be-
  "Don't bullshit us," Kelly said. "What about the Dora         lieve I would have acted differently than the majority of my
concentration camp?"                                            colleagues. But I spoke earlier of the honesty an old man
  The wind blew in the door from the desert floor, chilling     should have. The honesty to come to peace with oneself
the group.                                                      and one's God--if one believes in a God. And the honest
  "What was Dora?" Turcotte asked.                              answer I came up with after many years was no, I would
  "A camp that supplied workers to Peenemunde," Kelly           not have acted differently. I would not have stood up and
said. "The inmates were treated as terribly as the people at    spoken out against the evil.
the other, better-known camps. When the American                  "I know that for certain because I did not do so here, in
liberated it--the day before Roosevelt died, as a matter         this country, when I saw things happen out at Area 51.
fact--they found over six thousand dead. The survivors           When I heard rumors of what was going on at Dulce."
weren't far from dead. And they worked for people like            Von Seeckt slapped his palm on the tabletop. "But now I

256                           ROBERT DOHERTY
                                                                AREA      51

am trying to make my peace and be honest. That is why I         did not share with me. There was no mistaking the serious-
am here."                                                       ness with which they set out to pursue the mission."
  "We're all trying to make our own peace," Turcotte said.        Von Seeckt smiled. "I myself got very serious when I
"Go on with your story. You say you left Peenemumde in          found out where our mission was taking us: Cairo, behind
the spring of 1942?"                                            enemy lines. All I was told was to be prepared to find and
  Von Seeckt nodded. "Spring 1942 I remember it well. It        secure something that might be radioactive.
was the last spring I spent in Germany. My section chief          "We traveled by train south to Italy. Then we were taken
came to me with orders, reassigning me. I was a very junior     by submarine across the Mediterranean to Tobruk, where
member of the research staff and would not be missed.           we were put on trucks and given local guides. The British
That is why I was selected. When I asked my chief what I        Eighth Army was in disarray and in retreat so it was not as
would be doing and where I would be going, he laughed           difficult as I had feared for us to infiltrate their lines and
and said I was going wherever the Black Jesuit's vision         make it to Cairo, although there were a few adventures
said."                                                          along the way."
  Seeing the uncomprehending looks, Von Seeckt ex-                Turcotte took a sip of his now cold coffee. The story was
plained. "That is what those on the inside called Himmler:      interesting but he didn't see how it helped them much with
the Black Jesuit." He paused and closed his eyes. "The SS       their present situation. And he could tell Kelly was very
was very much a religious order. They had their own cere-       disturbed by Von Seeckt's revelations about his past.
monies and secret rites and sayings. If I was asked by an SS    Turcotte himself wasn't happy about the SS connection.
officer why I obeyed, my verbatim answer must be: 'From         Von Seeckt could admit whatever he wanted, but that
inner conviction, from my belief in Germany, the Fuhrer,        didn't make it clean as far as Turcotte was concerned. Con-
the Movement, and in the SS." That was our catechism.           fession didn't make the crime go away.
  "There was much whispered talk of Himmler and the               "A Major Klein was in charge," Von Seeckt continued.
others at the top. Of how they believed in things most did      "He did not share his information with us. We went to the
not believe in. Did you know that in the winter of 1941 our     west bank of the Nile and then I saw our destination: the
troops were sent into Russia without an adequate supply of      Great Pyramid. I was very much confused as I carried my
cold weather equipment? But not because we didn't have          radioactivity detector into the tunnel in the side of the pyr-
cold weather gear sitting in supply depots in Germany, but      amid in the dead of night. Why were we here?
rather because a seer told Hitler that the winter would be        "We went down, and Klein kept turning to a man who
very mild and he believed that. It turned out to be one of      had a piece of paper he consulted. The man pointed and
the most brutal on record, so tens of thousands of soldiers     Klein ordered his men, a squad of SS storm troopers, to
froze and died because of a vision.                             break through a wall. We went through the opening into
  "So my colleagues in the scientific community saw a ri-       another tunnel that sloped down. We went through two
diculous task and they sent the junior man. Ah, but the         more walls before we entered a room."
men I linked up with to carry out this mission, they did not      "The bottom chamber," Nabinger said. "Where I found
think it a ridiculous task. They had information that they      the words."

258                            ROBERT DOHERTY

                                                                AREA 51

  "Where you found the words," Von Seeckt repeated as a         out a grenade, but he must have been shot before he could
tractor trailer loaded with cattle roared past.
  "What did you find in the chamber?" Nabinger asked.           throw it because he dropped it and it fell next to me. I
  "We went down and broke through the final walls into          pushed it away--out of the back onto the sand, where it
the chamber. There was a sarcophagus there--intact. Klein        exploded. Then there were British Tommies everywhere.
indicated for me to use my machine. I did and was sur-          Klein was still alive. He tried to fight, but they shot him
prised to see a high level of radiation in the chamber. Not     many times. They took me and they took the box."
dangerous to humans, but still, it should not have been           Turcotte interrupted. "Klein didn't drop that grenade."
there. It was much higher than what would be normal               "Excuse me?" Von Seeckt was out of his story momen-
background radiation. Klein didn't hesitate. He took a pick     tarily.
and levered off the lid.                                          Turcotte was looking out the door down the road, where
  "I was stunned when I looked over his shoulder. There         the cattle truck was a disappearing spot on the horizon.
was a black metal box in there. I could tell the metal had      "Klein was under orders to kill you and destroy the box."
been carefully tooled and was not the work of ancient             "How do you know that?" Von Seeckt asked.
Egyptians. How, then, could this have gotten in here? I           "It might have been fifty years ago, but many things
asked myself.                                                   don't change. If they couldn't get the box home safely, then
  "I had no time to think on it. Klein ordered me to take       they most certainly didn't want the other side to get it or
up the box and I did, putting it in a backpack. It was bulky    the knowledge you possessed. That's the way any mission
but not overly heavy. Perhaps forty pounds. I was much          like yours would have worked. The British did the same
stronger in those days.                                         thing when they sent specialists over to look at German
  "We left the pyramid the same way we had come in. We          radar sites along the French Coast during the war. Their
linked up with our two trucks and headed west while we          security men had orders to kill the specialists rather than
still had darkness to cover our movement. At daylight we        allow them to be captured because of their knowledge of
hid in the dunes. We had the two Arab guides that had           British radar systems."
stayed with the trucks to show us the way and they took us        Von Seeckt nodded. "After all these years, do you know,
west.                                                           that never occurred to me? It should have, after all I have
  "On the third night they led us right into an ambush."        seen since."
Von Seeckt shrugged. "I do not know if it was deliberate.         "All that is fine and well," Nabinger said impatiently,
The Arabs--they always worked for whoever would pay              "but not important right now. What is important is--what
them the most. It was not uncommon for the same guides          was in the box?"
to be working for both sides. It does not really matter.           'The box was sealed when we found it and Klein refused
  "The lead truck took a direct hit from a British tank.        to allow me to open it. As my friend Captain Turcotte so
There were bullets tearing through the canvas sides of the      aptly has noted, Klein was a stickler for following orders.
truckbed I was in. I dived down next to the box. That was          The British took me, and the box, and I was hustled
my job--protect the box. Klein was next to me. He pulled         away. First back to Cairo. Then on a plane. . . ." Von

260                            ROBERT DOHERTY                                                                             261
                                                                  AREA 51

Seeckt paused. "Suffice it to say I eventually ended up in          "There was a small nuclear weapon in the box," Von
England in the hands of the SOE."                                 Seeckt said.
  "SOE?" Nabinger asked.                                            "Oh fuck," Turcotte said. "What have we gotten into
  "Special Operations Executive," Kelly said.                     here?"
  Von Seeckt nodded. "Quite correct, as the English                 Nabinger slowly sat back in his seat. "Buried under the
would say. They interrogated me, and I told them what I           Great Pyramid for ten thousand years?"
knew. Which wasn't much. They also checked the box for              "Buried under the pyramid for approximately ten thou-
radioactivity. And got a positive reading." He looked at          sand years," Von Seeckt confirmed. "Of course, we only
Kelly, sensing her change in mood. "You know something            guessed in the beginning that that was what it was. The
of the SOE?"                                                      Americans were just at the start of the Manhattan Project
  "As I said earlier, my father was in the OSS. The Ameri-        at the time, so our knowledge was rather primitive by to-
can counterpart to the SOE."                                      day's standards. Ten years earlier and we probably would
  Von Seeckt stroked his beard. "That is most intriguing.         not have had a clue what was in the box.
The SOE turned me over to the OSS. Apparently radioac-              "We took the bomb apart. Very carefully." Von Seeckt
tivity was the Americans' province."                              chuckled. "The Americans always thought I knew more
  "The British didn't open the box either?" Nabinger was          than I knew. After all, I had been found with the damn
trying very hard to control his patience.                         thing. But the longer I was there, the more I did know as
  "They couldn't open the box," Von Seeckt corrected. "So         we worked. Even with today's technology, though, I do not
they shipped me off to the United States. The box was on          believe they are able to make a bomb as small and light-
the same plane. After all, the British did have a war to fight    weight and efficient as that one we worked on. It was
and apparently more important things to attend to. Also,          amazing. There were parts that I still don't understand. But
as I was to find out, radioactivity was the province of the       we were able to learn enough from it--along with the work
Americans."                                                       being done in other places--to put together the bombs we
  "Did the box ever get opened?" Nabinger almost                  did use to end that war."
groaned the question.                                               "So this bomb from the pyramid--it was from the same
  "Yes, yes, it did," Von Seeckt said. "The Americans did         people who built these disks and the mothership?" Nab-
that. They kept me in a place outside of Washington, some-        inger's question was rhetorical. "That raises so many ques-
where out in the country. To this day I could not tell you        tions and issues about the pyramid and why it was built.
where it was. The box went somewhere else and I was in-           Perhaps--"
terrogated. Then they seemed to forget about me for sev-            "Professor." Turcotte's voice cut through like the cold
eral weeks. One day two men showed up at my jail cell.            wind that was blowing in the door. "Those questions can
One was a lieutenant colonel and the other a civilian. They       wait. Right now we need to get a little farther up the road.
took me to a new place." Von Seeckt pointed to the north-         It's not that far to Dulce, and we have to wait until dark to
east, along the road. "To Dulce."                                 try anything, but I'd like to take a look around during day-
  "The box?" Nabinger's patience was exhausted.                   light. You can discuss this on the way."

     262                            ROBERT DOHERTY                                                                            263

                                                                      AREA      51

       As Von Seeckt and Nabinger climbed into the back of              General Gullick had always thought Slayden a worthless
     the van, Kelly tapped Turcotte on the arm and leaned             member of Majic-12, but Duncan's visit had forced him to
     close. "Did you ever see this mothership that Von Seeckt is      search for ways to gain time. The psychologist had been the
     so worried about?"                                               answer.
       "No. I only saw the smaller bouncers." Turcotte looked           Slayden began. "There have been numerous movies and
     at her. "Why?"                                                   books published in the field of science fiction about the
       "Because we only have Von Seeckt's word that it exists.        reaction of people on Earth to alien contact--either here
     And his story about what he admits to doing during World         on Earth if the aliens come to us or in the future when we
     War II doesn't thrill me. What if there's more that he's not     expand to the stars. There have, in fact, been several gov-
     telling us? He was SS, for Christ's sake."                       ernment work groups over the last several decades dedi-
       "Is there anything specific that makes you doubt his           cated to projecting possible reactions to contact with
     story about what is going on now?" Turcotte asked.               extraterrestrial life forms.
       "I've learned to question things, and my question is, if         "While Project Blue Book was the Air Force's official
     the mothership doesn't exist, then maybe this whole thing        watchdog for unidentified flying objects, there were classi-
     is a setup. And even if it does exist, maybe this whole thing    fied study groups composed of social psychologists and mil-
     is a setup."                                                     itary representatives, whose purpose was to prepare
       "A setup for what?" Turcotte asked.                            contingency plans for alien contact. These projects fell un-
       "If I knew that, I'd know if it was a setup," Kelly said.      der the province of DARPA--the Defense Advanced Re-
       A small smile crept along Turcotte's lips. "I like that.       search Projects Agency. I was one of the original members
     Paranoid thinking. Makes me feel almost sane."                   of DARPA's contact committee.
       "Next chance we get, I'll tell you my story, and you'll          "The problem we were given was initially a theoretical
     understand why I'm paranoid."                                    one." Slayden smiled. "Of course, at the time, we on the
                                                                      committee did not know of the existence of this facility. We
                                                                      were also severely restricted by ethical and security consid-
                                                                      erations. We were working with the subject of large-group
     THE CUBE, AREA 51                                                dynamics: how the people of Earth would respond to an
     "General." Dr. Slayden inclined his head toward Gullick,         outside entity. The ability to conduct realistic experimenta-
     then took in the other people in the room. "Gentlemen            tion was almost nil. In fact our most valid research data
     and lady."                                                       base was the public reaction to the broadcast of The War of
       Slayden was an old man, formerly the second oldest on          the Worlds by Orson Welles in 1938.
     the committee after Von Seeckt, now the oldest with the            "The major result of that broadcast was mass hysteria
     one empty chair on the right side of the table. Slayden was      and fear. As this chart shows . . ."
     bald and his forehead was wrinkled. His major distinguish-         As Slayden went through his repertoire, General Gullick
     ing feature was his bushy white eyebrows, quite startling        shifted his attention to the computer screen built into the
     given his naked skull.                                           desktop in front of him. Everyone around the table already


264                               ROBERT DOHERTY                                                                           265
                                                                  AREA 51

knew that what Slayden was saying was unimportant. Ev-              "Contrary to what the press has reported, our security
eryone, that is, except Dr. Duncan--that was the whole             here has been designed not to keep observers out, but to
purpose of this briefing.                                         actually allow observers to see what we want them to see.
  There was nothing new from the Lincoln task force on            We could have easily blocked access to all vantage points
the foo fighters and nothing on Von Seeckt and the other          into the Groom Lake area. Instead we put holes in our
three targets. Gullick reluctantly returned his attention to      security net at certain times and places and allowed desig-
the briefing.                                                     nated visual and auditory stimuli to be observed and re-
  "However, no one had ever really considered the possi-          corded.
bility of our exposure to alien life coming in the form of the      "We also used agents of misinformation. One noted ex-
discovery of the bouncers and mothership--a sort of                ample is a man called Steve Jarvis, who has claimed for
archaeological discovery of extraterrestrial life. There have     years to have worked out here at Area 51. In reality, Jarvis
been people, most labeled crackpots, who have pointed to          is an agent of ours who reveals information to media peo-
various artifacts and symbols on the planet as signs that we      ple. Some of the information he gives is actually true, some
have been visited in the past by alien life forms. The            is false. All of it is specifically designed to prepare people
bouncers and mothership are incontrovertible proof that           to accept without fear what we have here.
this has happened. This presents us with several challenges         "We actually even ran a small test of disclosure several
but also a great opportunity."                                    years ago when the Air Force rolled out the F-117 Stealth
  Slayden had forgotten that this was mainly a propaganda         fighter and displayed it publicly. There was no valid mili-
briefing for Duncan, and he was totally immersed in his           tary or security reason to reveal the existence of the Stealth
material. "You see, one of the greatest uncontrolled vari-        fighter. In fact, the Air Force vigorously fought the disclo-
ables in contact theory was that the contact would occur at       sure. However, the operation was done to test media and
the discretion of the extraterrestrials. That they would          popular reaction to a government revelation of something
come to us. Or that the discovery of evidence that the            the government had previously kept secret from the popu-
planet had been visited in the past by aliens would hit the       lace.
news in an uncontrolled manner. Here at Area 51, though,            "As you can see from my data on that . . ."
we control that variable. We have the evidence and it is at         Gullick remembered that event well. The Air Force had
our discretion that the information be revealed. Because          screamed bloody murder about publicizing the F-117. But
we control that variable, we can also prepare both our-           the interesting thing to Gullick was that Slayden and his
selves and the public for the moment of disclosure."              spin doctors had turned the tables on the Air Force Gen-
  Slayden looked at Duncan. "You may have noticed over            eral Staff, pointing out to them the beneficial possibilities
the course of the last several years an increasing number of      disclosure would bring in the arena of budgeting with Con-
reports in the news media about Area 51. These reports            gress. In the end the Air Force had been enthusiastic about
did not start in a vacuum. We have done many things to            the event. Gullick wasn't foolish enough to believe, though,
deliberately lay the groundwork for the public to accept the      that the F-117 disclosure was anything like announcing the
revelation of what we have here.                                  existence of the mothership. It sure sounded good, though.

266                             ROBERT DOHERTY

  Of course, Slayden was only giving Duncan the tip of the                                                             25
iceberg. Slayden and his people had early on presented one
of the truths of psychological preparation: overstimulation.
And making people believe the truth to be much worse
than it really was, was one of the major purposes of the
Nightscape missions.
  Nightscape had conducted numerous animal mutilations,
rural overflights by the disks, and even human abductions.
There was no way they would let Duncan know about that.
And even Slayden didn't know the extent of Nightscape; he
didn't know of the need at Dulce for the people who were            ROUTE 666, NORTHWEST NEW MEXICO
abducted or the animal parts that were brought back. Gul-           T-81 HOURS
lick rubbed the right side of his skull, irritated at the timbre    They still had the same van. Kelly had argued to ditch it,
of Slayden's voice. Goddamn academic assholes. Gullick              but Turcotte insisted they might need the equipment.
checked his screen one more time, looking for an update             They'd compromised by switching the government license
on the search for both the foo fighters and Von Seeckt's            plate for a private one.
group.                                                                Kelly had assumed driving chores and watched in the
  Gullick looked across the conference table at Duncan.             rearview mirror as Turcotte sat in one of the four captain's
He was disgusted with outsiders whining and complaining             chairs in the back, beside the communication and com-
about government secrecy and security. He thought it the            puter console that took up most of the left side. They both
most amazing paradox and could not understand why oth-              were listening as Von Seeckt and Nabinger put together
ers didn't see it the way he did: If the public could handle        what they had shared and tried to postulate some reason-
knowing everything, then there wouldn't be any need for             able theories to explain what they had.
the secrecy because the world would be living in harmony.             "We have to assume that the bomb you found in the
It was the same people who decried the government that              pyramid was of the same technology as the disk and
made the government necessary. If they all had the self-            mothership," Nabinger said.
discipline that he and other military people had, the world           Von Seeckt nodded. "Yes, that is reasonable."
would be a hell of a better place, Gullick thought as he              "Going beyond that, I think that many of the commonal-
waited impatiently for the briefing to be over so he could          ities among ancient civilizations can now be explained."
get back to real work.                                              Nabinger took out of his backpack the papers Slater had
                                                                    given him. "The high rune language that has been found at
                                                                    various spots across the world must have originated with
                                                                    these aliens. In fact, I would say that these aliens must have
                                                                    affected the natural progression of mankind's develop-

268                                 ROBERT DOHERTY               AREA      51                                              269

ment." He then proceeded to explain the diffusionest the-        were still capable of flight. Hell, we're flying them now.
ory of the rise of civilization.                                 Surely they wouldn't have hidden them like that."
  When he'd finished Von Seeckt was deep in thought. "I            "And why the bomb hidden in the pyramid?" Kelly
have thought about this often over the years, wondering          asked.
who left this marvelous technology behind and why. About           That question was one Nabinger must have been
ten thousand years ago there was an alien outpost on this        pondering. "No one has ever really determined why the
planet. It was--                                                  pyramids were built. Originally they were assumed to be
  "Why aliens?" Turcotte asked suddenly, echoing the             burial monuments, but that theory was debunked when no
question that had popped up in Kelly's head.                     bodies were found in the chambers inside. Then it was
  "Excuse me?" Von Seeckt said.                                  assumed they were cenotaphs--monuments to dead pha-
  "Why does it have to be aliens? All along everyone is          raohs whose actual burial place was hidden to guard
assuming that these craft were left by another species, but      against future grave robbers.
why couldn't they have been developed by some ancient              "But with this new information there's another theory
civilization of man that perished, and we're the recycles?"      we ought to consider. It is a bit strange, but as Doctor Von
  Nabinger smiled. "I have considered that, but the facts        Seeckt has said, we must consider all possibilities. Let me
argue against it's being even a remote possibility. The level    give you a little information about the construction of the
of civilization needed to develop craft such as they have        Great Pyramid.
out at Area 51 would have left much more of a trace than           "There are two small tunnels coming out of the upper-
simply those craft and the bomb found under the Great            most chamber, also known as the king's chamber. The ex-
Pyramid. We have been scouring the surface of the planet         act purpose of these tunnels is not clear, as they are too
for a long time. Certainly an advanced human civilization        small for people to go through. An interesting fact, though,
would have left more of a trace. No, these things had to         is that if you follow their exact azimuth out to the stars, one
have come from an alien culture."                                is aligned with Alpha Centauri and the other with Alpha
  In the rearview mirror Kelly could see Turcotte raise his      Draconis, two nearby star systems."
hands, ceding the point.                                           "Maybe our aliens came from one of those systems,"
  "However, it is good that we not close our minds to            Von Seeckt said.
other possibilities," Von Seeckt said. "As I was saying, it        "Another interesting theory, but one previously consid-
appears that we are back at the original problem. We are         ered outrageous," Nabinger said, "is that the pyramids are
not any closer to understanding why the ships were aban-         space beacons. Originally, the entire exterior of all three in
doned by the aliens."                                            the Giza group was covered with very finely crafted flat
  "Maybe they had no place to go," Kelly offered. "Maybe         limestone." He looked at the other two men in the back of
their home world was destroyed and they came here on a           the van. "Can you visualize what they must have looked
one-way colonizing mission, and that is why the mothership       like then?"
was hidden in that cave--so they couldn't go back."                 Turcotte nodded. "I imagine you would probably have
  "But what about the bouncers?" Turcotte asked. "They           been able to see them from space."

270                           ROBERT DOHERTY                                                                            271
                                                                AREA      51

  "Visually, yes, when they reflected sunlight," Nabinger       some of the equipment stored there. He glanced up at Von
said. "But even more importantly, given the angle of the        Seeckt. "Mind telling us what's at Dulce?"
sides of the pyramid, if they are viewed above thirty-eight       Kelly nodded slightly to herself. She was beginning to
degrees from the horizon--i.e., from space--they would            like Turcotte more and more. There was a lot of fog
have painted a radar picture with a directivity factor of       swirling about this situation: different agendas by the four
over six hundred million for a two-centimeter wavelength."      people in this van, unclear government objectives, secrets
  "Not exactly the Stealth bomber," Turcotte noted.             piled on top of secrets. She just wanted Johnny and then
  "No. Such a radar picture could be seen from a long way       she was going to break this wide open. To get Johnny,
away from the planet, to say the least." Nabinger leaned        though, she was going to have to trust Turcotte's skills. She
forward. "The first question I asked myself when I origi-       knew that Turcotte was going to have to trust Von Seeckt
nally saw the pyramids many years ago was the most basic.       to the same degree--and he didn't. She didn't either. Her
Why did the ancient Egyptians choose that form? No one          reporter's sixth sense told her the old man was holding
has ever been able to give an adequate reason. If, given the    back.
building capability of the time, you wanted to build a mas-       "I told you," Von Seeckt said. "It is another government
sive structure that could be detected from space, the pyra-     installation, an offshoot of the installation at Area 51."
mid is the best choice."                                          "Have you ever been there?" Turcotte asked.
  The archeologist was warming to his subject matter.             "I told you. Once. Just after the end of World War II. It
"Hell, think about all the other symbols that have been         was very long ago and my memories are not that good."
etched into the surface of the Earth by the ancients! The         "I know you said that," Turcotte said. "And I asked you
giant bird symbols on plateaus in South America. Symbols        again because I don't understand why you never went there
in chalk in England. We've always wondered why early man        again if this place was such an important part of Majic-12
was so intent on drawing symbols that could only be seen        and you were one of the founding members of the board,
from above when they themselves would never have been           so to speak."
able to see it from that perspective."                            The sound of the van engine and the tires rolling
  "That still doesn't answer any of the questions that we       sounded abnormally loud in the silence. Kelly decided to
need answers to," Turcotte said. "If we don't come up with      see if she could keep the ball rolling. "Want to hear what is
something to support Von Seeckt's contention that the           suspected to go on there?" she called out.
mothership mustn't be flown, all we've done is put our-           "I'd appreciate any information, even rumors, at this
selves in a deep shit-pile with no way out."                    point," Turcotte said.
  "That is what we will find at Dulce," Von Seeckt said.          Kelly brought her research to the forefront of her brain.
  "Well, we're just about there," Kelly said. "I hope some-     "Among the UFO community it's said that Dulce is the site
one's got a plan."                                              of a bioengineering lab. That it's a place where our govern-
  "I'll have one by the time we get there," Turcotte said,      ment turns over people to the aliens whose craft we are
looking in the drawers below the console and checking out       flying at Area 51. We know the first part is true."

272                            ROBERT DOHERTY                                                                             273
                                                                  AREA     51

  "And we know the part about turning people over to              could not stand to see what they were doing." Von Seeckt
aliens isn't true," Turcotte noted.                               told them about Paperclip.
  "Are you sure?" Kelly asked.                                      "Surely most of these people are dead now," Kelly said
  "No, it cannot be!" Von Seeckt cried out. "I would have         when he was done. "But I imagine that the work is still
known if we'd had contact with whoever left the bouncers          continuing there and that explains a lot of the Nightscape
and mothership. We would not have had to struggle so              stuff and why everything is classified. But what's the con-
hard for so many years. We just got into the mothership           nection with the mothership?"
this past year. It sat for so long, a puzzle we couldn't            "I have not been there, true," Von Seeckt said, "but
break."                                                           Gullick and the others he trusted--they traveled to Dulce
  "Maybe something changed this year," Kelly suggested.           often. Something changed this year. They changed."
She had Von Seeckt off balance and she knew from experi-            Kelly sensed blood in the water. "Changed? Changed
ence that she had to keep up the pressure. "I have heard          how?"
that the government is doing testing on mind control at             "They began acting irrationally," Von Seeckt said. "We
Dulce. They are supposedly working with memory-affect-            always had secrecy in Majic-12. And Dulce has existed for
ing drugs and EDOM."                                              many years, as Captain Turcotte says. But something is dif-
  "What's EDOM?" Turcotte asked.                                  ferent now. The urgency to fly the mothership. What is the
  "Electronic dissolution of memory," Kelly said. "I did an       rush? Even getting into it. For so many years we could not
article on it a few years back. Of course, the people I inter-    penetrate the skin, then suddenly they pick a certain spot
viewed were only talking about it theoretically, but it al-       and try a new technique, and they succeed after decades of
ways seems that our government likes to take theory and           trying.
see if it can work. EDOM is used to cause selective amne-           "Even how quickly they have mastered the controls and
sia. It creates acidic croline, which blocks the transmission     the instruments. It is as if they know much more than they
of nerve impulses, which in the brain stops the transmis-         should."
sion of thought in the affected area."                              "Could they have broken the code on the high runes?"
  "Ever hear of that?" Turcotte asked Von Seeckt.                 Nabinger asked. "That would explain some of it."
  "I have heard . . ." Von Seeckt began, then he paused.            "Some of it, yes," Von Seeckt agreed. "But I do not
When he spoke again, his voice was hesitant. "I will tell         think they have broken the code, or if they have, it does not
you the truth. I will tell you why I never went back to Dulce     explain why they are acting so strangely and in such a
after my visit in 1946."                                          rush." Von Seeckt threw his hands up in the air. "I do not
  They all waited.                                                understand."
  "Because I knew who was working there." Von Seeckt's              "Do you know where the facility is?" Turcotte asked.
voice dripped disgust. "I met them. My fellow Germans.              "Not exactly. Just somewhere on the outside of the town
The biological and chemical warfare experts. And they             of Dulce. I do remember a large mountain behind the town
were continuing their experimental work that they had             and that we went around the mountain on a dirt road.
started in the concentration camps. I could not go there. I       Then we went into a tunnel and it was all underground."

274                           ROBERT DOHERTY

                                                                AREA  51
  Turcotte rubbed his forehead. "So you don't exactly
know where it is and you don't exactly know what goes on          The copper taste flooded Johnny's mouth and his world
there?"                                                         went black again. But this time he could hear his own
  "No."                                                         screams, sounding as if it were some other person a long
  Kelly looked up in the rearview mirror. Turcotte met her      way away. But the pain was close.
eyes, then spoke. "Well, we'll be there shortly. And we'll
find out what's going on and get Johnny Simmons out of
  Kelly opened her mouth to say something, then shut it.
She turned her eyes back to the road and drove.


Johnny Simmons could see. He didn't know how long ago
it had started, but it had begun with the slightest tinge of
gray infiltrating the blackness surrounding him. Then the
difference between light and dark grew, and he was able to
make out some forms moving around on the periphery of
his vision. He couldn't move his head, nor could he move
his eyes.
  But as time went by, he wished the slight improvement
that had occurred had not. Because there was something
wrong about the forms he caught glimpses of. They were
human shaped, but they weren't human and that is what
scared him. The silhouetted forms were all wrong--heads
too large; arms too long; torsos too short. Once he thought
he saw the outline of a hand, but there were six fingers
instead of five and the fingers were much too long.
  Johnny was concentrating so hard on his eyes that it was
a while before he noticed other changes in his environ-
ment. There was a scent in the air. A very unpleasant scent.
And he could hear sound, albeit as if from a long distance
away. It was a clicking sound, but not mechanical. More
like insect clicking.

                                                                  AREA   51

                                                                  Route 64 passed along the south side of the community,
                                                  25              and Kelly carefully kept to the speed limit as they drove
                                                                  through. As the town slipped behind them, Turcotte told
                                                                  her to pull off on a dirt road and stop.
                                                                    "You say the facility is behind that mountain?" he asked
                                                                  Von Seeckt.
                                                                    "Yes. It was night when I came here and over fifty years
                                                                  ago, though. There wasn't much here in those days. I don't
                                                                  remember all these buildings."
                                                                    Turcotte looked to the north. "All right. We have about
ROUTE 64, NORTHWEST NEW MEXICO                                    two hours of daylight left. Let's check out what we can see
T-79 HOURS                                                        from the van." He pointed back toward town and Kelly
                                                                  turned them around.
The road curved around a small lake to the left and passed          They cruised in past the sign marking the city limits and
between tree-covered hills. Turcotte checked the map.             took a right, going past the local elementary school. The
They were close to Dulce. According to Rand McNally the           road slowly sloped up. Within a quarter mile they were at
town was just south of the border with Colorado, nestled          the base of the ridge. Turcotte kept Kelly taking turns that
between the Carson National Forest and the Rio Grande             directed them to the right. It was the only way he could see
National Forest. The terrain was rocky and mountainous,           around the mountain. Left would only run along the south
with occasional clusters of pine trees adorning the hillsides.    side of the ridgeline.
It was the sort of relatively unpopulated area the govern-          An arrowhead with a 2 inside it marked a road leading
ment liked to build secret facilities in.                         to the northeast. The other roads all appeared to be local
  They hit a straight section of road and a long-distance         residential streets. Kelly turned onto the arrowhead road
view opened up directly ahead. Von Seeckt leaned forward          and they began climbing the shoulder of the mountain. A
between the seats. "There. That mountain to the left. I           sign indicated they were now on the Jicarilla Apache In-
remember that. The facility is behind it."                        dian Reservation. A white Ford Bronco rolled past with
  A long ridge extended from left to right about ten miles        two men seated inside and Turcotte twisted his head and
ahead, culminating in a peak slightly separated from the          watched it go by.
main body of the ridge.                                             "Government plates," he noted.
  "Where should I go?" Kelly asked.                                 "Yeah," Kelly said.
  "Stay on this road," Turcotte said. "I'll tell you where to       "Probably from the facility."
stop."                                                              "I don't want to burst your bubble," Kelly said, "but you
  As they got closer, the town of Dulce appeared at the           see a lot of U.S. government plates out here. We're on
base of the ridgeline, a scattering of buildings along the        ederal land, actually Indian land, but the Bureau of Indian
valley floor running up to the base of the large mountain.        Affairs, which helps run the reservations, is federal."

278                               ROBERT DOHERTY
                                                                 A R E A  5 1                                              279

  "But it could be from the base," Turcotte said.                guarded facilities. The goal of a lot of the security is not, as
  "Ah, optimism," Kelly said, mimicking his Canuck ac-           you would think, to prevent someone from actually break-
cent. "I like that."                                             ing in. The goal is deterrence: to keep someone from con-
  "There." Turcotte pointed to the right shoulder. "Stop         sidering breaking in."
there."                                                            "I don't understand," Nabinger said from the rear.
  The road split. To the right it went down into a valley. To      "Think of the security cameras in banks," Turcotte ex-
the left a wide, well-maintained gravel road curved along        plained. "They work through deterrence. They keep most
the back of the ridgeline and disappeared.                       people from robbing the bank because those people know
  "It's around there," Turcotte announced firmly.                their picture will get taken and the police will eventually
  "Why not to the right?" she asked.                             catch them. The same with most security. For example, if I
  "Von Seeckt said it was behind the mountain. To the            wanted to kill the President, I could most definitely kill
right is not behind the mountain." He looked to the back.        him. The problem lies with killing him and getting away
"Correct?"                                                       afterward."
  Von Seeckt concurred. "I believe to the left."                   "So, you're saying we can get in to this facility but we
  Turcotte continued. "Also, since we left Phoenix that's        can't get out?" Kelly asked.
the best maintained and widest gravel road I've seen." He          "Oh, I think we should be able to get out. It's just that
smiled. "But mostly, the thing that convinces me that the        they'll know we did it."
facility is down that road--besides Von Seeckt's opinion, of        Kelly shrugged. "Hell, that ain't a problem. They're al-
course--are those little lines of what appears to be smoke        ready after us. We get Johnny, we go public. That's the only
hanging above the road." He pointed to the gravel road.          way we'll make it."
"See them? There and there?"                                       "Right," Turcotte said.
  "Yes. What are they?"                                            "So, back to my original question," Kelly said. "What
  "That's dust caught in a laser beam. A car goes down           now?"
that road, the beam gets broken and a signal is sent.              "Back to town," Turcotte said. "We need a ticket to get
There's two of them, so they can tell if a vehicle is coming     us in. Once inside I'll get us to Johnny."
or going depending on the order the beams get broken. I            "And the high rune tablets," Nabinger added. "Von
don't think the Bureau of Indian Affairs guards the reser-       Seeckt told me that Dulce is where they keep all the ones
vations that tightly, do you?"                                   the government has."
  "What now?" Kelly asked, glancing over her shoulder at           "And the high rune tablets," Turcotte amended. "What-
the other two men in the rear.                                   ever you can find."
  "I don't think this place will be as well guarded as Area        "Anyplace in particular in town?" Kelly asked as she
51," Turcotte said. "All the work here must be done inside,      turned them around and headed to the south.
so it obviously doesn't attract as much attention as the           "Know how cops always hang out at the local doughnut
other facility. So that's to our advantage.                      shop?" Turcotte said.
  "The other thing to remember is a basic fact about most          "Yes."

28O                            ROBERT DOHERTY
                                                                 AREA     51

  "We need to find where the workers from the base get           met him halfway between the two vehicles, caught in the
their doughnuts."                                                glow of the headlights.
                                                                   "You an idiot or what?" the driver demanded. "You pass

                                                                 me and--
                                                                   Without a word Turcotte fired the stun gun, dropping the
T-73 HOURS, 15 MINUTES                                           man immediately. He cuffed him with plastic cinches from
"That one," Turcotte said. They'd watched a dozen or so          his vest and dragged the body into the back of the van.
cars with small green stickers on the front center of the        "Get into the truck," he ordered Von Seeckt and Nabinger.
windshield pull in and out of the convenience-store parking      The two men scuttled over into the backseat of the Subur-
lot over the course of the past several hours. Turcotte had      ban.
pointed out the stickers and explained that they were de-          Kelly drove the van a hundred meters down the tar road,
cals used to identify cars that had access to government         where the turn concealed them from the intersection.
installations. As night had fallen, the lights had come on,      There was no place to conceal the van, so she just pulled
illuminating the parking and leaving their van in the dark-      off to the shoulder. Turcotte made sure the man was secure
ness across the street.                                          and quickly frisked him.
  "I've got him." Kelly started the engine to the van and          "This isn't much of a plan," Kelly muttered as she locked
followed the Suburban out of the parking lot of the Minit        the van and pocketed the keys. "And I'm not sure I buy
Mart.                                                            your easy-to-get-in-and-out theory."
                                                                   "One of my commanders in the infantry used to say any
  They followed the truck as it went north through town
                                                                 plan was better than having Rommel stick it up your ass on
and then turned onto Reservation Route 2. They were a            the drop zone," Turcotte said as they jogged up the road
quarter mile from the split in the road.                         toward the truck.
  "Now," Turcotte ordered.                                         "I don't get it," Kelly said.
  Kelly flashed her high beams and accelerated until they          "I never did, either, but it sounded good. What's really
were right on the bumper of the Suburban. She swung out          interesting," he said, pausing for a second and looking at
and passed, Turcotte leaning out the window and giving the       her in the starlight, "is that you're the first person who ever
finger to the driver of the truck as he screamed obscenities.    said that about that quote. I never told my commander I
  Kelly slammed on the brakes and they skidded to a halt         didn't get it."
at the intersection with the gravel road. The driver of the        "And?" Kelly said.
Suburban came to a stop on the gravel road, headlights             He began jogging again. "It means you listen and you
pointing at the van.                                             think."
  "What the fuck is your problem, asshole?" the burly              Turcotte took the wheel this time. He scanned the inte-
driver of the truck demanded as he stepped out and started       rior and reached above the visor; an electronic card key
walking toward the van.                                          was there, such as those used in hotels to open doors. He
  Turcotte jumped out of the passenger side of the van and       checked the name: Spencer. "The plan is getting better by

282                                                             AREA   51
                              ROBERT DOHERTY

                                                                also to allow people to begin getting their night sight when
the minute." He tucked the card between his legs next to
the stun gun. "Everyone down. We're going to be on cam-         departing.
                                                                  The slots were numbered, but Turcotte took his chances
era in a second."                                               and went to the far end, out of sight of the guard, and
  Throwing the engine into gear, he rolled down the gravel      parked. There were about ten other cars in the garage.
road, past the laser sensors. There was no way he could see     Over fifty spaces were empty, which meant that the night
it, but he had no doubt that the vehicle was being surveyed     shift was a skeleton crew, for which Turcotte was grateful.
by infrared cameras to check for the decal and insure it was      There was a pair of sliding doors set in the rock twenty
authorized. He knew the decal was covered with a fluores-       feet from where he had parked. "Let's go."
cent coating that could easily be seen through such a de-         Turcotte glanced over his shoulder at the three people
vice. He watched the road carefully, hoping that there          following him--Kelly short and compact, Von Seeckt lean-
would be no more forks where a decision had to be made.         ing on his cane, and Nabinger bringing up the rear. Kelly
  A sign appeared in the headlights warning that they were      smiled at him. "Lead on, fearless one."
now entering a federal restricted area and the fine print         He slid the card key into the slot on the side of the
listed all the dire consequences unauthorized personnel         elevator. The doors slid open. They crowded inside and
would face and all the constitutional rights that they no       Turcotte examined the buttons. They ranged from HP, Ga-
longer had. Four hundred meters past the sign a steel bar       rage, down through sublevels 4 to 1. "I'd say HP stands for
stretched across the road. A machine such as those used at      'helipad.' They probably have one cut into the side of the
airports to give out parking tickets was on the left side.      mountain or maybe even on the top of the mountain above
Turcotte pulled up and inserted the card key into the slot.     us. Any idea what floor we should go to?" he asked Von
The steel bar lifted.                                           Seeckt.
  He continued on, then the road split. Turcotte had less         The old man shrugged. "They had stairs when I was here
than three seconds to make a decision. To the left loomed       last, but we did go down."
the mountain. To the right the valley floor. He turned left       "I'd say bottom level," Kelly suggested. "The greater the
and immediately was in a narrow valley. The sides closed in     secret, the deeper you go."
and camouflage netting covered the road, staked down on           "Real scientific," Turcotte muttered. He hit sublevel 1.
the rock walls on either side, confirming his decision. A       The elevator dropped, the lights on the wall flashed, then
thirty-foot-wide opening in the base of the mountain ap-        halted at sublevel 2. A message appeared on the digital
peared directly ahead, carved into the side of the moun-        display above the number lights:
tain. A dull red glow came out of the opening.
  A bored security guard in a booth just inside the cave               ACCESS TO SUBLEVEL 1 LIMITED TO
opening hardly looked up, waving the Suburban in. A large                  AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY.
parking garage was off to the right and Turcotte turned         TOP SECRET Q LEVEL CLEARANCE REQUIRED.
that way. The man-made cave was dimly lit by red lights.                      DUAL ACCESS MANDATORY.
That was both to defeat detection from the outside by not                     INSERT ACCESS KEYS NOW.
having bright white light coming out of the entrance, and

284                            ROBERT DOHERTY
                                                                  AREA    51

  Turcotte looked at the two small openings--made for              ster when Turcotte jumped into the air, feet leading, and
small round objects--one just below the digital display and        flew over the desk. The bottom of his boots caught the
the other on the far wall. They were far enough apart that        guard in the chest, knocking him back against the wall.
one person could not operate both keys--just like the                Turcotte was back on his feet first and he slammed a turn
launch systems of ICBM. "I don't have the keys for that,          kick into the side of the guard's skull, knocking him out.
and our Mr. Spencer didn't have them on him either."              He turned to the desktop and looked at the computer
  "Let's try this level," Kelly suggested.                        screen that was built into it. It showed a schematic, with
  Turcotte pressed the open button and the doors slid             rooms labeled and green lights in each little box. The oth-
apart, revealing a small foyer and another door and an-           ers quickly gathered around.
other warning sign:                                                 "Archives," Turcotte said, resting a finger on a room. He
                                                                  looked up at Nabinger and Von Seeckt. "That's yours." He
                       SUBLEVEL 2                                 reached into his pocket and pulled out the stun gun. "You
         AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY.                               meet anyone, use this. Just aim and pull the trigger, the
           RED CLEARANCE REQUIRED.                                gun does the rest. You've got five minutes. Then be back
                                                                  here whether you found what you're looking for or not."
  An opening for a card key to be passed through was just           Nabinger oriented himself with the diagram and looked
below the sign. Turcotte held up the card key he'd appro-         down the corridor. "Right. Let's go." He headed off with
priated from the Suburban. It was orange. "We're still out        Von Seeckt.
of the depth of Mr. Spencer's security range." He stepped           Turcotte pointed. "I'd say your friend is in one of these
forward and shrugged off the small backpack he had on.            two places." One was labeled HOLDING AREA and the other
"But I think I can handle this little roadblock." He re-          BIOLAB.
moved a small black box.                                            "Biolab," Kelly said.
  "What's that?" Kelly asked.                                       They sprinted in the opposite direction from the one
  "Something I found in the van. They had all sorts of            Von Seeckt and Nabinger had taken. The hall was quiet
goodies back there." A card key was attached to the box by        and they passed several doors with nameplates on the out-
several wires. Turcotte slid it into the slot in the direction    side--obviously offices for the people who worked here in
opposite that indicated by the arrow. "It reads the door          the daytime.
code backward, memorizes it, and then reverses the code.            "Left," Kelly said. A set of swinging double doors waited
I've used similar devices in some of my other assignments."       at the end of a short corridor. They halted and Kelly
He slid it down in the proper direction and the two doors         arched her eyebrows at Turcotte in question as they heard
slip open to reveal a guard seated at a desk ten feet away.       someone cough on the other side.
  "Hey!" the guard yelled, bounding to his feet.                    "We charge," Turcotte whispered.
  Turcotte dropped the box and reached for the stun gun.            "You don't have much of a tactical repertoire," Kelly
It got caught in his pocket and he abandoned the effort,          replied quietly.
sprinting forward. The guard's gun had just cleared his hol-        Turcotte pushed the doors open and stepped in. A mid-

286                             ROBERT DOHERTY                                                                         287
                                                                AREA   51

die-aged woman in a white coat was bent over a large           "But I can't just open it. The shock will kill the obj--" She
chest-high rectangular black object. Her hair was pulled       caught herself. "The patient. I have to do this in proper
back tight in a bun and she peered up over a pair of           procedure."
glasses.                                                         "How long?" Turcotte asked.
   "Who are you?" she demanded.                                  "Fifteen minutes to--"
   "Johnny Simmons?" Turcotte asked.                             "Make it five."
   "What?" the woman replied, but Turcotte caught the
shift of her eyes to the black object.                         At the other end of this level of the facility Von Seeckt and
   He walked past her and looked down. It reminded him         Professor Nabinger were staring at an intellectual treasure
of an oversized coffin. There was a panel on the top--what      trove. The archives had been dark when they opened the
the woman had been looking at. "What is this?" he asked.       doors. When Nabinger hit the lights, a room full of large
   "Who are you people?" The woman looked past them at         filing cabinets had come into view. Opening drawers, they
the door. "What are you doing here?"                           found photos. The drawers were labeled with numbers that
  There were a number of cables coming out of the ceiling,     meant nothing to the two men. At the far end of the room
going into the black top. Some of the cables were clear and    there was a vault door with a small glass window. Von
there was fluid in them. He turned on the woman. "Get          Seeckt peered through. "The original stone tablets from
him out of there."                                             the mothership cavern are in there," he said. "But they
   "Johnny's in there?" Kelly stared at the casing. She        must have photographs of them in these cabinets."
walked over and picked up a clipboard hanging on a hook.         Nabinger was already opening drawers. "Here's the
She checked the papers on it.                                  same high runes from the site in Mexico that Slader
   "Someone's in there," Turcotte said. "Those are IV          showed me," Nabinger said, holding up large ten-by-fif-
tubes. I don't know what they're carrying, but someone's in    teen-inch glossies.
there on the receiving end."                                     "Yes, yes," Von Seeckt said absently, throwing open
   "It's Johnny," Kelly said, holding up the clipboard.        drawer after drawer. "We need to find ones she didn't
   "Get him out of there," Turcotte repeated.                  show you--the ones from the mothership cavern. I do not
   "I don't know who you are," the woman began, "but--          believe our Captain Turcotte will have much patience once
  Turcotte slid his Browning High Power out of its holster.    his five-minute limit is up."
He pulled the hammer back with his thumb. "You got five          Nabinger started going through drawers more quickly.
seconds or I put a round through your left thigh."
  The woman glared at him. "You wouldn't dare!"                The woman's hands shook as she worked on the panel.
   "He would," Kelly said. "And if he didn't, I would. Open    Most of the cables had been disconnected and she was
it!"                                                           checking some readings.
   "One. Two. Three." Turcotte dropped the barrel and            "What did you people do to him?" Kelly asked.
aimed at the woman's leg.                                        "It's complicated," the woman said.
   "All right. All right!" The woman held up her hands.          "E-D-O-M?" Kelly spelled out the letters.

288                              ROBERT DOHERTY                                                                             289
                                                                 AREA  51

  The woman stiffened. "How do you know of that?"                  Kelly looked at the woman.
  "Finish the job," Turcotte said.                                 "Please don't," the woman begged.
  The woman hit a key and the box began beeping. "It will          "The change starts here," Kelly said. She shot the
be safe to open in thirty seconds."                              woman with the stun gun, then hurried after the others.
                                                                 They piled into the elevator. Turcotte leaned Johnny up
Von Seeckt had paused at one drawer, looking at the              against the wall and Kelly kneeled to support him.
photos more carefully. At the end of the aisle Nabinger            Turcotte punched in the button labeled G and the eleva-
was moving on to the next cabinet when he noticed some-          tor rose. He poked Nabinger in the chest. "You and Kelly
thing in a glass cabinet on the wall. He moved over and          carry him out to the van."
stared at the object inside.                                       "What are you doing?" Kelly asked.
  Von Seeckt held up a handful of pictures. "These are the         "My job," Turcotte said. "I'll link up with you in Utah.
photos from the mothership cavern! Let us rejoin the good        Capitol Reef National Park. It's small. I'll find you."
captain."                                                          "Why aren't you going with us?" Kelly demanded.
                                                                   "I'm going to see what's on sublevel one," Turcotte said.
The beeping stopped and the woman pointed at a lever on          "Plus, I'll create a diversion so you can get away." He hus-
the side of the box. "Lift that."                                tled them out into the garage, then stepped back into the
  Turcotte grabbed the red handle and pulled it up. With a       elevator.
hiss the lid came up, revealing a naked Johnny Simmons             "But--" The shutting doors cut off the rest of her words.
submerged inside a pool of dark-colored liquid. Needles            Turcotte punched in sublevel 2 and the elevator went
were stuck in both arms and tubes led to his lower body. A       back down to where he had just left. The doors opened on
tube was inserted in his mouth, a clear plastic-type material    the unconscious guard. Turcotte ran out and grabbed the
wrapped around the tube and molded to his face, ensuring         guard's body. He dragged the body back, wedging it in the
a seal to keep the fluid out.                                    doorway to keep the doors from shutting. Then he
  "I have to remove the oxygen tube and the catheters and        shrugged off the backpack of gear he had appropriated
IVs," the woman said.                                            from the van. He knew it was only a matter of time before
  "Do it." Turcotte said. He turned as Von Seeckt and            some alarm was raised. They had to have some sort of
Nabinger appeared in the doorway. Nabinger's hands were          internal checks with the guards, and when the sublevel 2
bleeding and he held something wrapped in his jacket.            guard didn't respond . . . well, then things would get ex-
  "You were not at--" Von Seeckt halted in midsentence            citing.
when he saw the body inside the black box. "Ah, these              He laid out two one-pound charges of C-6 explosive he'd
people! They never stopped. They never stopped."                 found in the van on the carpeted floor of the elevator. He
  "Enough," Turcotte ordered. The woman was done. He             molded the puttylike material into two foot-long half cir-
leaned over and scooped Johnny up. "Let's go."                   cles, placing them about two and a half feet apart in the
  "What do I do with her?" Kelly asked.                          center of the floor. He pushed a nonelectric blasting cap
  "Kill her," Turcotte snapped as he headed out the door.        into each charge. He'd crimped detonating cord into each

290                             ROBERT DOHERTY                                                                            291
                                                                  AREA 51

fuse in the van, so all he had to do was tie the loose ends of      pulled the pin, and tossed it toward the sound of the guns.
the det cord together with a square knot, leaving enough to         He squeezed his eyes shut and put his hands over his ears.
put on the M60 fuse igniter. The igniter was about six              As soon as he felt the concussion, he sprang up. In his
inches long by an inch in diameter with a metal ring at the       last assignment Turcotte had fired thousands of rounds
opposite end from the det cord.                                   from the pistol every day. It was an extension of his body
  The det cord was just long enough for him to step out-          and he could put a round into a quarter-sized circle at
side the elevator doors. He pulled the unconscious guard
out of the way and held one of the doors open with his left       twenty-five feet.
                                                                    One guard was kneeling, submachine gun dangling on
hand. Then he checked his watch. It had been almost five          the end of its sling, his hands rubbing his eyes. The other
minutes since he'd let the others out in the garage. They         still had his weapon ready but was disoriented, facing
ought to be getting near the metal gate. He'd give them           toward the wall, blinking and shaking his head. Turcotte
another two minutes, then showtime. The seconds dragged           fired twice, hitting the first man in the center of his fore-
by slowly.                                                        head, throwing the body back. The next round hit the sec-
  Time. Turcotte put the M60 in his mouth, clamping               ond man in the temple. As he keeled over, his dead finger
down on it with his teeth. He pulled the metal ring with his      jerked back on the trigger, sending a stream of bullets into
right hand.
  The detonating cord burned at twenty thousand feet per          the wall.
                                                                    Turcotte slowly slid on his belly up into the corridor. He
second. The result was that Turcotte was still pulling when       got to his feet, staying low in a crouch. The hall extended
the charges exploded. He threw down the igniter and               about sixty feet, to a dead end. There were several doors to
stepped into the elevator. A three-foot hole was in the           the left and another corridor turning to the right. There
floor. Turcotte jumped in, falling ten feet, landing on the       were red lights flashing and a teeth-jarring low-frequency
concrete bottom of the elevator shaft. He heard alarms            siren wailing. One of the doors to the left opened and
screaming in the distance.                                        Turcotte snapped a shot in that direction, causing whoever
  The sublevel elevator doors were at waist level. Turcotte       it was to slam the door shut. There were name plaques next
reached up and jammed his fingers between them and                to each door on the left and Turcotte surmised that those
pulled. He felt some of the stitches Cruise had put in his        rooms were quarters for sublevel 1 staff.
side pop. The doors grudgingly gave six inches, then the            He abandoned his cautious approach and ran forward,
emergency program kicked in and they began opening of             turning the corner to the right. The hall he faced was ten
their own accord.                                                 feet long, ending in a double set of doors with more dire
  Turcotte had his Browning out in his right hand as he           warnings in red posted on them. Turcotte pushed the doors
peeked up over the lip. There were two guards standing in         open and stepped in. The rough concrete floor angled
the corridor and they were ready, the explosion having            down to a large cavern carved out of the mountain. The
alerted them. Bullets ripped in above Turcotte's head. He         ceiling was twenty feet high and the far wall a hundred
ducked and heard the rounds thump into the wall above his         meters away. What caught Turcotte's attention first were
head. He removed a flash-bang grenade from his pocket,            several dozen large vertical vats that were full of some am-

292                            ROBERT DOHERTY                                                                              293
                                                                  AREA     51

ber-colored liquid and each one holding something in it.          t'me of night he didn't think there was a platoon of men
Turcotte stepped up to the nearest one and peered in. He          hanging around "just in case."
recoiled as he recognized what was a human being. There             A humming noise drew his attention back to the pyra-
were tubes coming in and out of the body and the entire           mid A golden glow was flowing out of the apex, forming a
head was encased in a black bulb with numerous wires              three-foot-diameter circle in the air above. Turcotte stag-
going into it. It reminded Turcotte of what had been done         gered back. His head felt as if an ax had split his brain from
to Johnny Simmons, except on a more sophisticated level.          ear to ear. He turned and ran, heading away from the cor-
  A golden glow to the right caught Turcotte's attention.         ridor he'd come down. When he'd first come into the room
He ran in that direction and stopped in surprise as he            he'd realized they hadn't gotten all this equipment in here
cleared the last vat. The glow came from the surface of a         through the elevator he'd destroyed. There had to be an-
small pyramid, about eight feet high and four feet across         other way. He fought to keep his concentration against the
each base side.                                                   tidal wave of pain that surged through his skull.
  Several cables hanging from the ceiling were hooked               The floor began sloping up again. A large vertical door
into it, but it was the texture of the surface that caught and    beckoned. Turcotte grabbed the strap on the bottom of it
held Turcotte's attention. It was perfectly smooth and solid      and pulled up. It lifted to reveal a large freight elevator.
appearing. The surface seemed to be some sort of metal            Stepping in, he pulled the door back down and checked the
and when Turcotte touched it, it was cool and as unyielding       control panel. It had the same two-key system, but the keys
as the hardest steel. Yet the glow seemed to come right out       were only needed to go down. He punched in HP and the
of the material.                                                  floor jerked.
  There were markings all over it. Turcotte recognized the          The pain in his head slowly subsided as he got farther
high rune writing from the photos Nabinger had shown              away from sublevel 1. He went up past 2, 3, then 4. The
him.                                                              parking garage passed by, then almost ten seconds of
  There was a noise. Turcotte spun and fired. A guard             movement passed until the light came on for HP. The ele-
racing through the double doors returned fire with a sub-         vator came to a halt. Turcotte pulled up on the inside strap
machine gun, his rounds hitting several of the vats, shatter-     and the door opened onto a large bay carved into the side
ing glass, the liquid pouring out. The man was disoriented        of the mountain. Camouflage netting overhung the open
by the layout of the room and had fired instinctively at the      end and the place was dimly lit with red night-lights. Crates
sound of Turcotte's gun.                                          and boxes were stacked about. If there had been a guard
  Turcotte fired again, more carefully, and hit the man           up here he must have responded to the alarm on the lower
twice, killing him. He felt nothing. He was in action mode,       level, because the place was deserted. Turcotte ran across
taking care of what needed to be done. He needed infor-           to the netting and peered out. A steel platform large
mation and he had plenty from what he had seen in this            enough to take the biggest helicopter in the inventory had
room. He didn't expect any more guards soon. One of the           been erected out there. He walked out onto it. The side of
Catch-22's of a place like this was that the more guards you        e mountain was very steep here. Turcotte looked down.
had, the more people you had who were security risks. This        The valley below was in darkness, giving no idea how far

     294                             ROBERT DOHERTY                                                                            295
                                                                     AREA    51

     down it went. Eight hundred feet above, the top of the          disconnecting. Then he dialed a new number with a 910
     mountain was silhouetted against the light of the moon.         area code. Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
     Turcotte slid over the edge of the platform onto the rock-        A sleepy voice answered. "Colonel Mickell."
     and-dirt mountainside and began climbing.                         "It's Mike Turcotte, sir."
       After a few minutes he could see lights moving in the           The voice woke up. "Jesus, Turc, what the fuck have you
     valley below. Reinforcements. It would take them a while        done?"
     to get air assets in--he hoped. Having been in Special Op-         Turcotte leaned against the phone booth, energy drain-
     erations for years, Turcotte knew that there just weren't       ing out of his body. "I don't know, sir. I don't know what's
     packs of men sitting around with high-speed helicopters         going on. What have you heard?"
     waiting around every corner.                                      "I haven't heard shit except somebody wants your ass
       He moved from rock to rock, clinging to bushes at times.      bad. One of those agencies with a whole bunch of letters
     He'd learned mountain climbing during a tour in Germany         has put out a classified 'grab and hold' on you. I about shit
     and this slope wasn't technically very difficult. The dark-     when I saw it come through in my reading file."
     ness was a bit of a problem, but his eyes were adjusting.         Mickell was the deputy commander of the Special
       He reached the top of the mountain after forty-five min-      Forces Training Command at Fort Bragg and an old friend.
     utes. He turned to the west, following the ridgeline that he      "Can you help me, sir?"
     had seen coming into town during the day. He moved                "What do you need?"
     quicker now that he was gradually descending. His head            "I need to find out if someone is for real and, if she is,
     still hurt, feeling as if a massive headache was worming its    how to contact her."
     way around his head, moving from section to section. What         "Give me her name."
     had that pyramid been? It definitely wasn't man-made. He          "Duncan. Dr. Lisa Duncan. She told me she was the
     knew it was connected to the bouncers and mothership.           President's adviser to a thing called Majic-12."
     But how was it connected to the bodies in the vats? What          Mickell whistled. "Oh, man, you're in some deep stuff.
     the hell was going on down there?                               How do I reach you?"
       He saw the lights of Dulce to his left and he curved            "You don't, sir. I'll get back in contact with you."
     downslope in that direction, heading for the western edge         "Watch your butt, Turc."
     of town. As the ridgeline leveled out to valley floor he          "Yes, sir."
     passed the first houses. An occasional dog barked, but            Turcotte slowly hung up the phone. He wasn't one hun-
     Turcotte moved swiftly, not worried right now about the         dred percent certain that Mickell would back him up. He
     locals.                                                         didn't know why Duncan's number didn't work. The only
       He spotted a pay phone outside a closed bowling area          means of communication she'd given him as he went un-
     and jogged up to it. He picked up the receiver and dialed       dercover and it had been out now for a couple of days. Not
     the number Dr. Duncan had given him. After the second           good. Not good at all. He'd just killed three men this eve-
     ring a mechanical device informed that the number was no        ning. "Fuck," Turcotte muttered. What the hell was that
     longer in service. Turcotte pushed down the metal lever,        pyramid?


296                           ROBERT DOHERTY

  Turcotte rubbed his forehead. He'd played his last cards.                                                     26
When it got down to it, he had to admit that the only
people he could trust right now were heading for Utah and
the rendezvous he had planned. He didn't want to go
there, but it was the only place he could go.
  He looked about. There was a pickup truck parked on
the street. Goddamn, his head hurt. Turcotte drew deep
inside, relying on years of harsh training. He drew up
strength where most would find nothing. And headed for
the pickup truck.

                                                               ROUTE 64, NORTHWEST NEW MEXICO
                                                               T-7O HOURS, 4O MINUTES

                                                               Johnny Simmons started screaming and Kelly's best efforts
                                                               couldn't stop it. She wrapped her arms around him and
                                                               held him tight, whispering words of comfort in his ear.
                                                                 Getting out of the facility had been even easier than
                                                               getting in. They'd piled into the Suburban, driven out past
                                                               the unsuspecting guard, and linked back up with the van.
                                                               Returning the still-unconscious driver to his own truck,
                                                               they'd jumped into the van and driven back down through
                                                               town and turned left on Route 64.
                                                                 "Can't you keep him quiet?" Von Seeckt asked from the
                                                               driver's seat, checking the rearview mirror.
                                                                 "I'd be screaming too," Kelly answered, "if I'd been
                                                               locked in that thing for four days. You just drive. No one
                                                               can hear him except us."
                                                                 Johnny quieted down and appeared to fall asleep or,
                                                               Kelly thought, slip into unconsciousness. She turned to
                                                               Nabinger, who had his hands wrapped in a bloodstained
                                                               towel. Kelly pulled out the first-aid kit. "What happened to
                                                               you, Professor?"

                                                                 "There was something I had to get and it was in a glass
                                                               case. I couldn't find a key so I broke the glass," Nabinger

                                                               AREA       51
298                           ROBERT DOHERTY

                                                               ing this latest escapade, you mean. I think we'll be okay. I
  "Couldn't you have used something other than your            just hope Turcotte made it out all right."
hand to break the glass?" Kelly asked as she pulled out the      "I am not concerned about them being after us," Von
gauze and tape.                                                Seeckt said. "I am concerned that we only have seventy-
  "I was in a hurry," Nabinger replied. After a moment's       two hours before the mothership flies."
silence he added, "I wasn't thinking about my hands."
  "What was so important?" Kelly inquired.
  Nabinger carefully unwrapped something from his
jacket. He held a piece of wood, slightly curved, about two    THE CUBE, AREA 51
feet long by one foot high and an inch thick. Even in the      General Gullick did not look like a man who had just been
dim light in the back of the van she could see that it was     awakened five minutes ago. His uniform was well pressed
covered with small carved characters.                          and his face clean shaven. Major Quinn had to wonder if
  "It's a rongorongo tablet from Easter Island," Nabinger      Gullick shaved his face and skull before he went to bed
said. "Do you know how rare these are? Only twenty-one         every night for just such an occurrence as this--always
are known to be in existence. This must be one that was        ready for action. It suddenly occurred to Quinn that maybe
secreted away."                                                the general never slept. Maybe he just lay there in the dark,
  Kelly pointed at the eight-by-ten glossies that the two      wide-awake, waiting for the next crisis.
men had gathered. "What are those?"                              "Let me hear it from the beginning," Gullick ordered as
  Nabinger reluctantly looked from the tablet to the table,    the other members of Majic-12, minus Dr. Duncan, strag-
where the photos were piled. "Von Seeckt told me those         gled in.
are the photographs taken by the first team to enter the         There wasn't much to tell. Quinn summarized the infor-
mothership cavern. They found flat stones with high            mation an excited security chief had called in from Dulce.
runes."                                                        In reality, Quinn realized, as he recited the brief list of
  "What do they say?" Kelly asked as she finished one          facts concerning the break-in and the abduction of the re-
hand and began working on the other.                           porter Simmons and the theft of photos from the archives,
  Nabinger looked at the photos. "Well, it's not like read-    they knew more here at the Cube, because it was obvious
ing the newspaper, you know. This will take time."             from the description from the guards and the female scien-
  "Well, you've got some time, so get to work," Kelly said     tist who'd been on shift that it had been Von Seeckt,
as she finished the second hand, then picked up a road         Turcotte, Reynolds, and Nabinger acting in concert.
map. She found where they had to meet Turcotte. "You've          "I underestimated all of them," Gullick said when Quinn
got all night," she announced. "I think we should get off      was done. "Especially Von Seeckt and Turcotte."
this main road and take back roads through the mountains,        Kennedy leaned forward. "We're in trouble. They're go-
heading west until we get to the linkup spot."                 ing to go to the media with this Simmons fellow."
  "How soon do you think they'll be after us?" Nabinger          "How far into conditioning was Simmons?" Gullick
asked.                                                         asked.
  "They're already after us," Kelly said. "After us follow-

300                            ROBERT DOHERTY                                                                                       301
                                                                  AREA                                                       5 1

  Quinn was puzzled. What were they talking about?                snapped. "Prepare everything to move up twenty-four
  Kennedy consulted his notepad. "They were sixty per-            hours."
cent into phase four."                                                     "But-" Quinn began. The general cut him off again
  Gullick looked at Doctor Slayden. "What do you think?"          with a glare.
  Slayden considered it. "I can't say for sure."                          "I want the hangar opened tomorrow," Gullick said,
  "Goddammit!" Gullick's fist smashed into the desktop.           "and I want the flight to be tomorrow night." Gullick
"I'm tired of people bullshitting me when I ask them a            looked around the table. "I think everyone has a lot of
question."                                                        work to do, so I suggest you get moving." As they all got
  The room was silent for several moments, then Slayden           up, his voice halted them. "By the way. I want the orders
spoke. "They disconnected Simmons before treatment was            on capturing Von Seeckt and his crew changed. It's no
complete. That had to be a shock to his system, and the           longer capture at any cost. It is terminate with highest
way his mind will react to that, nobody knows. If nothing         sanction."
else happens, the sixty percent he did have will be enough
to assure that Simmons will be discredited if he speaks
publicly. He'll fit in with all the other wackos, to use a
rather unscientific term."
  "What about the photos they stole?" General Brown
  "They were of the high rune tablets," Gullick said.
"Even if Nabinger can decipher the language, it will be
quite a while before other scientists can verify his transla-
tion. The tablets are not a problem. Even if they go to the
media, it will take a little time before anyone starts believ-
ing their story. They really don't have any proof."
  Gullick's voice was void of emotion, but a vein throbbed
in his forehead. "All right. Then we're still back at the
original problem--Von Seeckt and Turcotte. They're the
threat, but I think at this point we can handle them for a
little while. Long enough, at least, for us to finish the
countdown. That's all that matters."
  Quinn found that a little hard to believe. What about
afterward? he wanted to ask, but he kept his mouth shut.
He knew that question would only earn him grief, so he
chose another one. "What about the foo fighters?"
  "We'll deal with that and this new problem too," Gullick

                                                               AREA 51

                                                               him but it's bad. Von Seeckt's sleeping inside. Nabinger is
                                                               looking at photos from the mothership hangar."
                                                                 "Has he gotten anything?" Turcotte asked.
                                                                 "What about you?" Kelly asked in response. "What hap-
                                                               pened? What was done on sublevel one?"
                                                                 "I don't really know," Turcotte answered honestly and
                                                               vaguely. He walked to the side door and slipped in, Kelly
                                                                 "What have you got?" he asked the archaeologist.
                                                                 "Better wake up Von Seeckt," Nabinger said. "He'll
CAPITOL REEF NATIONAL PARK, UTAH                               want to hear this."
ADJUSTED  T - 4 4 HOURS                                          It took Von Seeckt a few minutes to get fully awake and
                                                               then they all gathered around Professor Nabinger. He held
Just north of Monument Valley, Capitol Reef National           a legal pad covered with pencil marks.
Park was right in the middle of the Rocky Mountains. This        "First you have to understand that my knowledge of the
time of year it was virtually deserted. In fact, in a few      high rune language is very rudimentary. I have a very small
weeks the gates would be locked for the winter snows. The      working vocabulary, and to compound that fact, there are
lack of people, and out-of-the-way location, were two rea-     symbols here that--although I believe they mean the same
sons Turcotte had selected it as their meeting point. The      as similar symbols from other sources--have slight differ-
location put a lot of distance between themselves and          ences in the way they are marked.
Dulce.                                                           "The other problem is that the symbols that represent
  He drove in past the empty Ranger station and followed       what we could call verbs are most difficult to make out
the road around. At the first campsite he spotted the van.     because of the variations in tense, which change the basic
Kelly was standing outside, stun gun in hand, watching his     symbol.
truck. She relaxed when she saw him step out. There was a        "Beyond the simple deciphering of the symbols and the
concrete walkway at the end of the campsite, going along       words they might mean," Nabinger continued, "there is an
the top of the cliff on which the site was located. It af-     additional problem to working with a picture language.
forded a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains--or        The ancient Egyptians called hieroglyphics 'medu metcher.'
would have if the sun was up.                                  That means 'the gods' words.' The word hieroglyphs, which
  "Good to see you," Kelly said.                               is Greek, refers specifically to the drawings in temples. It is
  "How is everyone?" Turcotte asked, stretching his arms       difficult for us in the modern day to understand a language
out.                                                           that was developed to explain the religious and mythi-
  "Johnny's semiconscious. Whenever he gains conscious-        cal--"
ness, he's delirious. I don't know what those people did to      "Wait a second." Turcotte was tired and had had a long

304                              ROBERT DOHERTY                      AREA    51

night. "You're talking about hieroglyphics now. Let's stick        THE CHIEF(?) SHIP/CRAFT NEGATIVE(?) FLY
with the high runes and what they say."                            ENGINE/POWER(?) DANGEROUS
  Nabinger was tired also. "I'm trying to explain all this to      ALL SIGNS NEGATIVE/BAD(?) AND MUST BE
you so that you can take my few translations in the proper            NEGATIVE/STOPPED(?)
context. It would be wrong of us to superimpose our own            MUST BE SOON
culture and ideas upon what was written by a culture with a
totally different set of values and ideas." He tapped the          "That must refer to the mothership," Von Seeckt said.
photos. "And here we are dealing with what appears to be         "The negative with the question mark in the first sen-
an alien culture. We don't have a clue if their perception of    tence- you don't know for sure what that word is?"
reality is the same as ours."                                      "A verb," Nabinger said. "It might be cannot or should
  "We're flying their ships," Turcotte noted. "It couldn't       not or will not. "
be that far off." He thought of the pyramid and the golden         "Makes a bit of difference," Turcotte noted. "I mean,
glow above it and mentally reconsidered his last statement.      what if the damn thing just broke? That would cover the
  "And not only that," Kelly added, "but didn't you tell us      old won 't, wouldn't it? What if these aliens got stuck and
earlier that it appears this high rune language was the pre-     their triple A plan didn't cover Earth? And maybe that's
cursor to all of mankind's written languages and probably        why that thing shouldn't get cranked."
served as the starting point for those languages? So if the        Kelly put an arm on Turcotte 's shoulder. "See? You said
roots are common, we must be able to understand it better        'shouldn't.' "
than if they were totally alien."                                  "Hard, isn't it?" Nabinger said.
  "Yes, yes," Nabinger said. "But there is just enough of a        Turcotte rubbed the stubble of his beard. "Yeah, I get it.
common root for me to decipher some of this text. This           All right, go on."
  Turcotte placed a large hand on Nabinger's shoulder.             THE OTHER (A)???? NOT WANT TO STAY
"Professor. It's late. We all need to get some sleep. But          BE GONE BEFORE ARRIVAL OF (B)????
before we sleep we need to decide what we're going to do           (C)???? STANDS FIRM
next. To do that we need to know what you have, as good as         NO CONTAMINATION/INTERFERENCE(?)
you have been able to get it."                                        WITH (WORD EQUALING HUMANS)
  Nabinger nodded. "All right. There were two main                 NATURAL COURSE MUST BE ALLOWED
stones set up in the cavern. Those are the two I have spent
all my time on. There are others I will have to get to to-         "No idea what was arriving?" Kelly asked. Her hand was
morrow. But here is what I do have.                              still on Turcotte's shoulder.
  "Please note where I have question marks after certain            "It was a special symbol. One that I had never seen be-
parts. That means that I am not quite certain of what--           fore," Nabinger said. "From the basic set of the symbol I
  "Just show it to us!" Turcotte said.                           would say it represented a proper noun: a specific name.
  Nabinger slid the first page under the small dome light.       I've designated each unidentified symbol by a different let-

3O6                             ROBERT DOHERTY
                                                                  AREA     51
ter before the question marks to show that they aren't the
same. As you will see on the next page, one of the noun           Hell evolution is not what we think. Do you know how that
symbols does repeat."                                             will affect people? Think about religion? About--
                                                                    "No " Von Seeckt disagreed. "It is not bigger than what
  "So they decided to leave us alone?" Kelly said.                . happening at Area 51. That is the first problem. Because
  "But obviously that didn't happen," Von Seeckt said.            in just under three days they are going to try to fly the
"That bomb had to get into the pyramid somehow."                  mothership, and the marker left by the people who aban-
  "Yes," Nabinger agreed. "And the high runes all over            doned the mothership says don't do it. We've got to stop
the planet. Somehow humans picked up some of that."
  "Probably because it didn't work out the way they had           it.""I've got another stupid question," Turcotte said.
planned. Apparently everyone didn't go along so easily              The other three waited.
with getting stuck on Earth." Nabinger turned over the last         "Why is Gullick in such a goddamn rush to fly the
page.                                                             mothership? That's bugged me from the very beginning."
                                                                    "I do not know," Von Seeckt said. "It troubled me ever
  DECISION MADE BY MEETING                                        since he came up with the countdown to fly it. It was ridicu-
  (C)???? PREPARES TO IMPLEMENT                                   lous. He wanted to to fly it before we even ran a basic
  DISAGREEMENT                                                    series of tests on it."
  BATTLE                                                            Turcotte felt a pounding on the right side of his head.
  OTHERS (D)???? FLEE FIGHT                                       "Something isn't right about all this."
  CHANGE HAS ARRIVED                                                "Ever since they went to Dulce early this year," Von
  IT IS OVER                                                      Seeckt said, "it all changed."
  DUTY IS (E)????                                                   Turcotte thought of the pyramid, the vats, the golden
                                                                  glow. The small orb that had destroyed the helicopter he
  "So they fought among themselves?" Kelly said.                  was on in Nebraska. Too many pieces that didn't fit. The
  "Looks like it," Nabinger said.                                 only thing he knew for sure was that this was bigger than
  "And in the end they did their duty," Turcotte said.            him right now.
  "But not perfectly," Von Seeckt said. "We are still deal-         "Let's get a little sleep first," Turcotte suggested. "We're
ing with the repercussions."                                      all tired and we'll be able to think better with a couple of
  "I've got a stupid question," Turcotte said. "Why would         hours of rest. We'll decide what to do in the morning. We
the people who built the mothership leave their messages          still have forty-eight hours."
on stone tablets?"
  "Because that's what whoever was left there had to work
with," Nabinger said.
  "This is big," Kelly said. "Bigger than what they have at
Area 51. This means history is not at all what we think it is.

                                                                 AREA     51

                                                                     was tight: no unwanted watchers on White Sides Mountain
                                                  28             this evening. And the skies were being carefully watched
                                                                 with the invisible fingers of radar to keep out unwanted
                                                                 overflights. Helicopter gunships were ready on the flight
                                                                 line outside Hangar One.
                                                                   Still, Gullick wanted to take no chances. He braked as a
                                                                 figure stepped out of the darkness. The man walked up to
                                                                 the humvee, weapon at the ready. The man snapped to
                                                                 attention when he recognized General Gullick. Despite the
                                                                 night vision goggles there was no mistaking the general's
HANGAR Two, AREA 51                                              presence.
ADJUSTED T-42 HOURS                                                "Sir! The engineers are just ahead, under that camou-
                                                                 flage net."
Major Quinn blinked hard, trying to keep his eyes open             Gullick accelerated. Quinn was grateful when they fi-
against the lack of sleep. He pulled the collar of his Gore-     nally stopped near several trucks parked under a desert
Tex parka tighter around his neck and shivered. It was cold      camouflage net. An officer walked up to the humvee and
in the desert at night, and the wind whipping in the open        smartly saluted.
windows of the humvee did not help. They had left Hangar           "Sir, Captain Henson, Forty-Fifth Engineers."
One ten minutes ago and were racing around the base of             Gullick returned the salute and stepped out, Quinn fol-
Groom Mountain, General Gullick at the wheel and Quinn           lowing. "What's your status?" Gullick asked.
in the passenger seat. He wondered why the general had             "All charges are in place. We're completing the final wir-
had to choose the single vehicle from the motor pool that        ing now. We'll be all set by dawn." He held up a remote
had no top to it, instead of one of the others, but he knew      detonator the size of a cellular phone. "Then all it will take
better than to ask.                                              is a simple command on this. It's linked into the computer
  There was no road. There never had been one. Roads             that controls the sequence of firing." Henson led the way
showed up in satellite photos. They had stayed on the run-       to a humvee parked under the camouflage net and showed
way most of the distance, until they turned off and headed       the general a laptop. "The sequence is critical to get the
directly for the mountainside. Now they rolled across the        rock in the outside wall to come down in a controlled man-
desert floor, the suspension of the vehicle easily handling      ner. Very similar to what happens when they demolish tall
the rough terrain. Gullick leaned over and checked their         buildings in a built-up area--making the rubble come
GPS, ground positioning system, linked in to satellites          down on itself but not hit the ship."
overhead. It gave their location to within five feet, even on      The general took the remote and turned it around in his
the move. The headlights on the jeeplike vehicle were off,       hands, almost caressing it.
and Gullick was using night vision goggles, allowing them          "Be careful, sir," Captain Henson said.
to travel unseen to the naked eye. The outer security net          Gullick reached down and pulled out his pistol. He

310                            ROBERT DOHERTY                                                                             311
                                                                  AREA     51

pushed the barrel into the underside of Henson's jaw.               "It's Kelly, Johnny! It's Kelly! I'm here."
"Don't you ever dare speak to me like that, mister. Do you          For the first time since they'd picked him up, Johnny
understand?" His thumb cocked the hammer back, the                showed some awareness of his surroundings. "Kelly." He
sound very loud in the clear night air.                           blinked, trying to focus on her. "Kelly."
  "Yes, sir," Henson managed to get out.                            "It's okay, Johnny. I came and got you like you wanted. I
  Gullick's voice rose. "I have had to take shit from civil-      came and got you."
ian pukes for thirty years! I'll be goddamned if I will accept      "Kelly--they're real. I saw them. They took me. They
even the slightest disrespect from a man in uniform. Is that      did things to me."
clear?"                                                             "It's okay, Johnny. You're safe now. You're safe."
  "Yes, sir!"                                                       Johnny turned away and curled into a ball and Kelly held
  Quinn froze, stunned at the outburst.                           on to him. Turcotte looked at Von Seeckt and Nabinger.
  "You fucking people." Gullick's voice had dropped to a          "Get some sleep. We'll be leaving shortly." He turned and
mutter, and although the gun was still pressing into Hen-         walked back outside, sliding the door shut behind him.
son's skin, his eyes had become unfocused. "I've given my           Turcotte walked out into the darkness. The stars glis-
life for you people," Gullick whispered. "I've done               tened above the mountains that surrounded him on all
all . . ." The general's eyes refocused.                          sides. It would be dawn soon. He could sense it in the
  He quickly bolstered the gun and turned to the moun-            slightest change in the sky to the east. Most people would
tainside, behind which the mothership rested. "Show me            have not been able to tell, but Turcotte had spent many
the charges," he said in a normal voice.                          dark nights waiting for the dawn to come.
                                                                    He thought of the people in the van. Von Seeckt with his
                                                                  demons from the past and fears for the future. Johnny
                                                                  Simmons and the demons that had been forced on him.
CAPITOL REEF NATIONAL PARK, UTAH                                  Nabinger with his questions from the past and his quest for
A voice yelled out shrilly. "They're here! They're here!"         answers. Kelly--Turcotte paused--Kelly had her own
  Turcotte had his gun out, hammer cocked, as he kicked           ghosts, it seemed.
open the driver's door of the van and went down into                He turned as the van door opened. Kelly slipped out and
squat, peering around in the dark for a target. The scream-       walked over. "Johnny's asleep. Or passed out. I can't tell
ing continued and Turcotte slowly relaxed and stood up            which it is."
he recognized the voice. He walked around to the right              "What do you think they did to him?"
side and opened the door.                                           "Screwed with his brain," Kelly said bitterly. "Made him
  Kelly held Johnny, gripping him tightly around the              think he got picked up by aliens and taken aboard a space-
shoulders. "It's not real Johnny. It's not real."                 ship and had all sorts of experiments run on him."
  Simmons was pressed up in the left rear corner, staring            Think he'll get over it?" Turcotte asked.
wide-eyed straight ahead. "I can see them! I can see them?          "Why should he? He did get picked up by aliens," Kelly
I'm not going to let them take me again! I won't go back!"

312                            ROBERT DOHERTY
                                                                  AREA  51                                                 313

  "What?"                                                           "Then, of course, he showed me the film. That removed
  "Whatever they did to his brain is real. So for him it's all    all doubt. It was shot in black and white. He told me it had
real. So, no, I don't think he'll ever get over it. You never     been taken in 1970. They had picked up a bogey on radar
get over reality. You just get on with your life."                at Nellis. At first they thought it might be a stray civilian
  "What reality happened to you?"                                 aircraft. They scrambled a pair of F-16's to check it out.
  Kelly just looked at him.                                       The first half of the film they showed me was from the
  "You said that you'd tell me, first chance you got,"            aircraft's gun cameras. It starts out with blank sky, then you
Turcotte said. He waited.                                         catch a glimpse of something moving fast across the sky.
  After a minute Kelly spoke. "I was working for an inde-         The camera centers in and there's a saucer-shaped object.
pendent film company. Actually, I was part of an indepen-         It's hard to tell the size because there's no reference scale.
dent film company. I owned a piece. We were doing well.           But I could see the desert and mountains in the back-
We did documentaries and freelance work. National Geo-            ground, moving. The disk cut across a lot of terrain. If it
graphic in its early TV days had us work a couple of their        had just been against sky I might have questioned it more.
pieces. It was before all these cable channels--Discovery          The disk looked to be about thirty feet in diameter and
and the like. Hell, we were before our time. We were on           silvery. It moved in abrupt jerks back and forth.
the right path.                                                     "If it was a fake, it was a very good fake--not someone
  "Then I got a letter. I still have the damn thing. Eight        hanging a hubcap out the window of their car and taping it
years ago. From a captain in the Air Force at Nellis Air          with a videocamera as they drove. Believe me, I've actually
Force Base. The letter stated that the Air Force was inter-       seen a couple of those." She walked a little farther along
ested in making a series of documentaries. Some on the            the edge of the overlook and Turcotte followed.
space program, some on their work in high-altitude medi-            "So the camera tracks this saucer and it descends. I can
cine and other things.                                            see an airstrip at the base of some mountains come into
  "It sounded interesting, so I went to Nellis and met this       view. At the time I thought it was Nellis Air Force Base,
captain. We talked about the various subjects he had men-         but now I know it must have been the airstrip at Groom
tioned in the letter, then, almost as an aside, he mentioned      Lake. The saucer goes down, almost to the ground, and the
that they had some interesting footage in the public affairs      F-16 goes by and that's it for the gun camera. There's a
office there.                                                     splice in the film and then I get it in color from the ground.
  "So I say, 'Of what?' And he says, 'Of a UFO landing at         Shot from the control tower, Prague tells me."
the air base here.'                                                 "Wait a second," Turcotte interrupted. "Give me that
  "I about choked on my coffee. He said it like you would         name again."
mention the sun came up this morning. Very calm and al-             "Prague. That was the Air Force captain who I met and
most uninterested. I should have known from that, that  i t       who sent me the letter. Why?"
was a setup. But like I said, I was hungry. We were still              1 tell you when you're done," Turcotte said. "Go on."
struggling and this was the biggest thing ever thrown our            So the saucer comes to a hover over the runway and
way.                                                              stays there for a few minutes. I could see emergency vehi-

314                           ROBERT DOHERTY                                                                             315
                                                                  AREA     51

cles being deployed--fire trucks with their lights on. I         there in Area 51. It is real, but they set up the people who
could see the reflection of the lights off the skin of the      could truly expose it as frauds or kooks."
saucer--a very difficult effect to fake. Pretty much impossi-      Kelly pointed at the van, which was fifty feet away.
ble to do, given the technology of the time. Then Air Force      They destroyed Johnny the same way. In his mind, after
police vehicles being deployed. Then the saucer starts to go     hat they did to him in that tank, he thinks he was really
straight up and it just outraces the ability of the camera      abducted by aliens. And the fact is that he was abducted.
operator to track it and it's gone.                             That he probably did see things they didn't want him to
  "I asked Prague why he wanted to give me this film, and       see But if he goes public with it, he's laughed at. Yet in his
he said the Air Force was trying to get people off its back     mind it is real. That's about the worst thing you can do to a
concerning Project Blue Book. That they wanted to show          person next to physically killing him. It can drive you in-
that the Air Force wasn't covering things up and that there     sane."
wasn't this great conspiracy that many UFO enthusiasts            She turned back to face Turcotte. "So now you know why
claim.                                                          I'm not too trusting."
  "So I left Nellis and went straight to two major distribu-      "I can understand that."
tion companies and told them what I had just seen. Of             "What was on sublevel one?" Kelly asked.
course they didn't believe me and of course, Prague hadn't        Turcotte succintly told her, leaving out his two phone
given me a copy of the film. He had to clear release with       calls after escaping.
his superiors, he told me, and for that he needed to know         Kelly shuddered. "These people have to be stopped."
who I was going to distribute it through.                         "I agree," Turcotte said. "We've made a start on that.
  "So when these companies call Nellis and try to get hold      You might be pleased to know that Prague was--" He
of Prague, they're told that such a person doesn't exist.       paused as there was a thumping sound inside the van.
When they mention the film, they get laughed at, which            They both turned as the door to the van shot open and
doesn't do their disposition much good. I got trashed. I was    Johnny appeared, holding the arm of one of the captain's
labeled a nut and nobody wanted to deal with me. I was          chairs in his hands and swinging it about wildly. "You won't
bankrupt within three months."                                  get me!" he screamed.
  "Describe the saucer you saw again," Turcotte said.             Turcotte and Kelly ran forward, but Johnny turned from
  Kelly did.                                                    them and sprinted along the path.
  "The film was real," Turcotte said. "That sounds like ones      "Johnny, stop!" Kelly yelled.
of the bouncers in the hangar. They really set you up             "You won't get me!" Johnny screeched. He halted, bran-
good."                                                          dishing the chair arm. "You won't get me."
  "I know," Kelly replied. "I wouldn't have gone to the           "Johnny, it's Kelly," she said, slowly taking a step for-
distributors for financing if I didn't believe the film was     ward. The others were piling out of the van, Nabinger rub-
real. That's what really pissed me off about the whole          bing the side of his head.
thing." The sky was getting noticeably brighter in the east.      "I won't let you get me!" Johnny turned and climbed up
                                                                on the railing.
"That's what's so cunning about what they've been doing

316                           ROBERT DOHERTY                                                                            317
                                                               AREA     51

  "Get down, Johnny," Kelly said. "Please get down."             She reluctantly nodded, her eyes red rimmed from cry-
  "I won't let them get me," Johnny said, and he stepped       ing.
out into the darkness and disappeared.                           "All right," Turcotte said. "If that's our primary goal, the
  "Oh, God!" Kelly cried out as she ran up to the edge         way I see it, we got two choices. One is to go public with
and looked over. Turcotte was right behind her. In the         this. Head to the nearest big town--maybe Salt Lake
early-morning light they could just make out Johnny's body     city and try to get the attention of someone in the media.
lying on the rock, two hundred feet below.                     That way we use public opinion to stop the test. The other
  "We have to get him!" Kelly cried out.                       option is to take matters into our own hands, go back to
  Turcotte knew there was no way down into the gulley          Area 51, and try to stop the test ourselves."
without climbing equipment. He also knew Johnny was              Turcotte turned to Kelly. "I know it's hard, but we need
dead; not only could no one could have survived that fall,     your input on this. Will going to the media work?"
the twisted and still way the body was lying confirmed it.       She closed her eyes for a few moments, then opened
  He wrapped his arms around Kelly and held her.               them. "To be blunt, going public is the way you would think
                                                               we should go. It's the way I would like to go. The problem
Fifteen minutes later a very somber group was seated in-       is that going to the media does not guarantee that your
side the van. Nabinger had a bump on his head where            story will get to the public. We have no proof of--
Johnny had hit him with the arm of the chair before bolting
from the van. It had taken ten of the past fifteen minutes       "We have the photos of the tablets," Nabinger cut in.
for Turcotte to convince Kelly that they couldn't get to         "Yes, Professor," Kelly said, "but you're the only one
Johnny and that he would have to stay where he had fallen.     who can translate them. And since you're with us, I think
  "All right," Turcotte began. "We have to decide what to      people are going to look at that a bit skeptically. There was
do. The first thing is to agree on our goal. I think--          a stone found in America--I think in New England--that
  "We get these bastards," Kelly said. "We get them and        the finder claimed showed that ancient Greeks were in the
we finish them. I want to see every one of them--every          New World a millennium before the Vikings. Unfortu-
single one out at Area 51 and in Dulce--be brought to           nately, the man's proof rested on his translation of the
justice."                                                      markings on the stone. Other scholars, once they had a
  "We have to stop the mothership from flying first," Von      chance to study the stone, disagreed. Even if we find schol-
Seeckt cut in. "That must be our primary goal. I under-        ars who would agree with your translations, it would take
stand your desire for vengeance, but the mothership is a       too long. Certainly more than two days."
danger to the planet. We know that now from the transla-         Kelly looked around the circle. "The same is true of all
tion of the tablets. We must stop that first."                 of us. Von Seeckt could tell his story but no one would
  "It's the one with the shortest fuse," Turcotte said. "We    believe it for a while, if ever, without proof. People in the
have to stop what they're doing there and in Dulce, but        media don't report or print everything that comes to them,
that can come after we stop the mothership test flight." He     ecause a lot of what comes to them is bogus and our
looked at Kelly. "Do you agree?"                               stories are, to say the least, somewhat outrageous." She

318                           ROBERT DOHERTY

looked out the window. "Johnny's dead now. We don't                                                             29
even have him."
  "Another thing we must keep in mind," Turcotte said,
remembering the conversation he'd had earlier that morn-
ing with Colonel Mickell, "is that we have committed
crimes. I've killed people. We all entered the facility at
Dulce illegally. We might not get much of a chance to tell
our story before we're hauled off to jail, and once that
happens we'll be under the control of the government."
  "Then we must do it ourselves," Von Seeckt announced.
"It is what I said must happen all along."                     ROUTE 375, NEVADA
  "This isn't going to be as easy as Dulce," Turcotte said.    ADJUSTED T-33 HOURS
"Not only do they have better security at Area 51, but they
are going to be prepared. You can be sure that General         "I've got to make a phone call," Turcotte said. Things had
Gullick is going to tighten things down the closer the test    been quiet for the past hour as they got closer to Area 51.
gets."                                                         Nabinger and Von Seeckt were in the back, napping.
  "You know the area and the facility," Nabinger said,           "To whom?" Kelly asked.
turning to Von Seeckt. "What do you think?"                      The dark pavement went by under their wheels with a
  "I think Captain Turcotte is correct. It will be next to     soothing, rhythmic thump. Turcotte had been thinking
impossible, but I also believe that we must try."              things through for the past couple of hours and he'd made
  "Then let's start planning," Turcotte said.                  a decision. He quickly told Kelly about Dr. Duncan and the
                                                               reason he'd been sent into Area 51. He told her about
                                                               trying to call twice and the line being disconnected and
                                                               calling Colonel Mickell at Fort Bragg.
                                                                 "So are you going to try her number again or are you
                                                               trying Mickell?" Kelly asked when he was done.
                                                                 "Mickell. We're going to need Duncan if she's legiti-
                                                                 "If she's legitimate, why is your line to her dead?" Kelly
                                                                 "That might be something out of her control and aware-
                                                               ness," Turcotte said. He spotted an all-night gas station. He
                                                               pulled over and left the engine running while he went to
                                                               the phone booth. When he was done, he hopped back in
                                                               the driver's seat, handing Kelly a slip of paper. "Duncan's

32O                            ROBERT DOHERTY                                                                           321
                                                                 AREA     51

phone number in Vegas," he said. "Mickell says that as far       THE CUBE, AREA 51
as he can find out, Duncan's legitimate."                        ADJUSTED T-31 HOURS
  "Do you trust Mickell?" Kelly asked.
  "I'm not sure I trust anyone anymore," Turcotte re-            "Utah State Police found Simmons's body thirty minutes
sponded.                                                         ago " Quinn announced. He had been working in the con-
  Several miles went by, then Kelly spoke softly. "This is       ference room, away from the hustle of the control center,
the road on which Franklin was reported to have been             when General Gullick had walked in.
killed."                                                           "Where?" Gullick asked.
  Turcotte glanced over from the driver's seat. "It's not          "Capitol Reef National Park. It's in the south-central
your fault."                                                     part of the state."
  Kelly returned his glance. "Maybe we should have left            "Any sign of the others?"
him there. He wouldn't be dead at least."                          "No, sir."
  "He'd be worse than dead if he was still in that damn            "How did he die?"
coffin they had him in," Turcotte said. "We didn't kidnap          "It appears he fell off a cliff."
him, we didn't take him to Dulce, and we certainly didn't          Gullick thought about it for a few moments. "They're
mess with his mind. Gullick's people did that. Remember          heading to Salt Lake City. Send some Nightscape people
it. Don't start what-iffing. We did the right thing."            there. Have them watch all media outlets."
  "I'm going to miss him," Kelly said. "He was a good              "If we send people out, we'll have to cut back on some of
friend."                                                         our security here, sir."
  "You'll have to save that for later," Turcotte said. "Right      Gullick glared at his subordinate.
now we have a job to do." The road was a long black                "I'll get right on it, sir."
ribbon in front of them, the headlights punching a cone of         "I want the body policed up, also," Gullick said.
brightness down the center. "This might help. Remember             "Yes, sir."
that guy Prague? The one who set you up?"                          "One less loose end to deal with," Gullick muttered. He
  "He was my commander in Nebraska."                             turned back to his computer and the after-action report
  Kelly sat up straighten "The one you killed."                  from Dulce, which he had been reading. "What's this
  "The very same."                                               rongorongo thing they took?"
  "Good."                                                          "From Easter Island, sir," Quinn replied. "It's one of the
                                                                 rune sources."
                                                                   "So they can read the damn thing and we were never
                                                                 able to?" Gullick asked.
                                                                   "If Nabinger is legitimate, yes, sir, they can." Quinn had
                                                                 brought up the same file the general was reading. "They
                                                                 also took the photos of the tablets from Hangar Two."

322                               ROBERT DOHERTY

  Gullick tapped his large forefinger on the desktop.                                                              3O
"Nothing in the media?"
  "No, sir."
  "Nothing from any of our sources?"
  "No, sir."
  "They just disappeared and left Simmons's body there?"
  The tone indicated it was a rhetorical question and Ma-
jor Quinn remained silent.
  "Where's Jarvis? Is he out of town?"
  The question caught Quinn off guard. His fingers flew
over the keyboard. "Uh, he's in Las Vegas, sir."
  "I want him nearby. Tell him to monitor the kooks at the      MELLIS AIR FORCE BASE RANGE, NEVADA
mailbox. We're too close to have some flake on the perime-      ADJUSTED T-26 HOURS, 2 MINUTES
ter like we had during the last Nightscape mission--the          "Do you think this will work?" Kelly asked.
one that helped start all this shit."                             Turcotte was applying burnt cork to his face, turning the
  "Yes, sir. I'll relay that."                                  already dark skin black. "It's a good plan. The best one
  Gullick stood. "Stay on top of everything. Let me know        we've had so far."
the second there's a peep from those people or from any of        Kelly stared at him. "Hell, we barely had any plans be-
our media sources."
  "Yes, sir." Quinn waited until General Gullick had left
the room. Then he left his side chair and sat down in the         "That's why it's the best," Turcotte said. "I think we've
seat at the end of the table: Gullick's chair. He pulled out    got a chance. That's all you can ask for. We've got two
the keyboard that was stashed underneath the tabletop and       chances at this. One of them should work. I don't think
turned the general's computer on.                               they'll be expecting us, which, as I've explained before, is to
  He began searching, going through files, looking for          our advantage." He looked out at the darkening sky. "It's
some clue as to why things were happening here the way          strange--General Gullick should be expecting us, but he
they were. What was the rush for the mothership flight?         won't be."
Why had the Nightscape missions changed from being rela-          "Why should he be and why isn't he?" Kelly asked, con-
tively benign to now including abductions and mutilations?      fused.
Was there a national security objective involved here that        "He should be because it's what he would do," Turcotte
Quinn had not been included on?                                 said, checking the magazine in his pistol. "He won't be
  Quinn gave himself ten minutes, knowing that Gullick          because he's had his ass down in that underground bunker
was a creature of habit, then he shut the computer down.        too long. He's forgotten the feel of being out in the field
He hadn't found anything, but the next time the general         and in action."
came in and left, he'd go back to looking.                        He slammed the magazine home, chambered a round,

324                              ROBERT DOHERTY                                                                       325
                                                                AREA      51

and put it back in the shoulder holster on his combat vest.     school so many years ago. The only sound he heard was his
"Ready?"                                                        own breath.
   "Ready," Kelly said. She looked at the others. Von             The knee was holding up so far, and he was careful to
Seeckt was in the passenger seat up front. Nabinger was in      keep his stride shortened to reduce strain. He was pres-
the rear. The van was parked off the shoulder of a dirt road    ently moving along the base of the mountain he had ini-
on the edge of the perimeter of the base range. Large signs     tially set out for. He was scanning the slope with the off-
were spaced along the west side of the road, warning that       center portion of his retina. He finally spotted what he'd
the land that lay beyond was restricted. A large mountain       been looking for. A thin animal trail headed up and
about four miles away was silhouetted against the setting       Turcotte turned onto it. After a quarter mile it switched
sun to their direct west.                                       back on itself. Turcotte halted and caught his breath. He
   "You all take care of each other," Turcotte said.            looked up. There was a long way to go. He started running.
   "Shouldn't we be synchronizing watches or something?"
Kelly asked. "It's what they do in the movies, and timing is
rather important to this plan--at least what I've caught of
it."                                                            TEMPIUTE, NEVADA
   "Good idea." Turcotte peeled back the Velcro cover on        There was a phone on the outside of the Alelnn, the local
his watch. "I've got eight on the dot in two minutes."          bar in the town of Tempiute. The same town where Johnny
   Kelly checked her watch. "Okay or check, or whatever         Simmons had met Franklin the previous week. The town's
you're supposed to say." She reached out and put her hand       main claim to fame was its proximity to Area 51, and the
on Turcotte's shoulder. "You can count on us. We'll be          Inn was a watering hole for the itinerant UFO watchers
there."                                                         who passed through continuously.
   Turcotte smiled. "I know. Good luck." He turned and            Kelly parked the van next to the phone, and she and Von
was gone, loping off into the darkness, lost in the shadow      Seeckt got out and ambled over, he leaning on his cane. He
of the mountain.                                                patted his pockets, then looked at Kelly. She shook her
   "Let's go," Kelly ordered.                                   head. "Use my phone card." She rattled off instructions
   Nabinger turned the van around and they headed north.        and the number Turcotte had given her earlier.

                                                                LAS VEGAS, NEVADA
The rhythm of the run had settled in to Turcotte's muscles
a half hour ago. The various weapons and other equipment        It was just before ten in the evening local time and Lisa
attached to the combat vest had required a bit of cinching      Duncan was seated by the small desk in her hotel suite,
down shortly after he'd left the van, and now everything on     watching CNN, when the phone rang. She picked it up on
him was silent--just as he had been taught in Ranger             the third ring, expecting to hear her son's voice on the

326                             ROBERT DOHERTY                                                                        327
                                                                AREA 51

other end. Instead a heavily accented voice that she imme-      chemical warfare branch. Hemstadt was taken in by Paper-
diately recognized began speaking.                              clip. I saw him in 1946 in Dulce. During the war he was
  "Dr. Duncan, this is Werner Von Seeckt. General Gul-          responsible for supplying the death camps with gas. He
lick has been lying to you about what is going on at Area 51    also participated in much experimentation with new
and at the facility in Dulce, New Mexico."                      gases of course, such experimentation had to be done on
  "Professor Von Seeckt, I--                                     living humans to be truly valid.
  "Listen. We don't have much time! Have you ever heard           "Since 1946 I have not been allowed into Dulce nor have
of Nightscape in conjunction with Area 51?"                     I heard a word about Hemstadt again. However, I do not
  "Yes. They run psychological prep--                            believe he just vanished. Such a man was notorious, and
  "They do much more than that," Von Seeckt cut in.             such people don't disappear without much help from pow-
"They kidnap people and brainwash them, and I am sure           erful people--government people.
even much worse than that. They conduct cattle mutila-            "There is someone else you must speak to," Von Seeckt
tions. They do much more."                                      said, and there was a brief pause, then a woman's voice
  "Like what?"                                                  came on the line.
  Von Seeckt didn't reply to that. "How about Operation           "Dr. Duncan, my name is Kelly Reynolds. I was given
Paperclip?"                                                     your name by Captain Mike Turcotte. He has tried twice to
  Duncan picked up her pen and pulled the small pad of          contact you using the number you gave him. Both times the
hotel stationery close. "What do you know about Paper-          number was reported to be out of order. He says that you
clip?"                                                          must trust no one."
  "Do you know what's going on at the lab in Dulce? The           "Where is Captain Turcotte now?" Duncan asked.
experiments with implanted memories?"                             "He's on his way into Area 51."
  Duncan wrote the word DULCE on her notepad. "Back               "Why are you telling me all this?" Duncan asked.
up to Paperclip. I'm interested in that. Is there a connec-       "Because we want to meet you at the Cube in Area 51
tion between Paperclip and what is going on at Dulce?"          tonight. You must not inform General Gullick or any of the
  "I do not know exactly what is going on at Dulce," Von        other members of Majic-12 that you are coming."
Seeckt said, "but I just rescued a reporter who was being         "What is going on?" Duncan demanded.
held prisoner there, and he killed himself in response to         "Be at the Cube tonight. No later than midnight local
what they did to him there."                                    time. We'll explain everything then." The phone went
  "I don't--" Duncan began, but Von Seeckt cut her off           dead.
again.                                                            Duncan slowly put the receiver down. She picked up an-
  "To reply to your question, does the name General Karl        other binder. This one had a cover identifying it as coming
Hemstadt mean anything to you?"                                 from the Justice Department and indicating that it was
  Duncan wrote the name down. "I seem to remember               copy two of two copies made. She flipped it open and
hearing that name somewhere."                                    lumbed through, rapidly scanning. On page seventy-eight
  "Hemstadt was the head of Wa Pruf 9, the Wehrmacht's          she found what she was looking for: General Karl Hem-

328                            ROBERT DOHERTY                                                                            329
                                                                  AREA      51

stadt was indeed listed as having likely been taken in by the      especially the heat rising from his head--but he hoped that
Paperclip operation.                                              the signature would be so much smaller than man shaped,
  She gathered together her binders and threw them in a           that the monitors might assume it was a rabbit or other
briefcase, then headed for the door. She had a taxi to            small creature and ignore it.
catch.                                                              What he could not ignore any longer was the pain from
                                                                  his knee. He reached down and felt the swelling. Not good.
                                                                  But he also knew he had no choice. He checked his watch.
TEMPIUTE, NEVADA                                                  He was ahead of schedule, so he could move more slowly.
                                                                  It would not do him any good to go over the mountain
Von Seeckt walked back to the van with Kelly. "What do            early, thermal blanket or no blanket. He continued on his
you think?" she asked.                                            way up the mountain, at a pace that kept the pain to a
  "She finally bit when I mentioned Paperclip," Von               minimum.
Seeckt said.
  "Do you think she'll alert Gullick?" Kelly asked as she
got in the driver's seat. Von Seeckt sat to her right. Nab-
inger was in the back, looking at the rongorongo tablet.          NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, NEVADA
  "No," Von Seeckt said. "She's not one of them. The              "I want to see the duty officer," Lisa Duncan said to the
presidential adviser was usually on the outside. After all,       sergeant seated behind the counter at the flight operations
the slot was a political appointment that could change ev-        center at the base of the Nellis Air Force Base tower.
ery four years. I know for certain she was not fully in-            "And you are?" the sergeant asked without much inter-
briefed."                                                         est.
  "Well, we'll find out soon enough," Kelly said, throwing          Duncan pulled out her wallet and flipped open the spe-
the van into gear and leaving the parking lot.                    cial ID she'd been given upon getting her appointment. "I
                                                                  am the President's chief scientific adviser."
                                                                    "The president of  . . . ?" the sergeant began, then he
AREA 51                                                           halted as he saw the seal on the laminated card. "Excuse
                                                                  me, ma'am! I'll get the major right away!"
Turcotte cut a hole for his head in the center of the thin          The major wasn't quite as impressed with the ID card
silver survival blanket and pulled it down over his shoul-        when he heard what she wanted. "I'm sorry, ma'am, but
ders. He wrapped the blanket around his torso and cinched         the Groom Lake area is completely off limits to all flights.
it tight with cord. It hung down to his knees and fit him like    Even if I could get you a helicopter at this time of the
a poncho. Designed to keep heat in during an emergency,           evening, they would not be authorized to fly into that air-
Turcotte was counting on it to keep him from being identi-        space."
fied by the thermal sights that were part of the outer secu-         "Major," Duncan said, "it is imperative that I get flown
rity perimeter of Area 51. He would still show up--                out to Groom Lake this evening."

330                                                                                                                   331
                                ROBERT DOHERTY                 AREA     51

   The duty officer reached for the phone. "I can call out     THE MAILBOX, VICINITY AREA 51
there and see if they will authorize a flight and then--        "That's it," Von Seeckt said. "The mailbox."
   "No," Duncan cut in. "I don't want them to know I'm           There were a half-dozen vehicles parked off the side of
coming."                                                       the dirt road and a group of people scattered about. Some
   The major shook his head. "I'm sorry, then. There's         were well prepared, seated in recliners, while others stood,
nothing I can do."                                             scanning the horizon with a variety of binoculars and night
   "Who do you work for?" Duncan asked, her voice cold.        vision devices.
   "Uh, well, I work in the ops section for Colonel              "Dim your lights," Von Seeckt said.
Thomas."                                                         Kelly pushed the button in and with their parking lights
   Duncan shook her head. "Higher."                            on they pulled off to the side of the road. She put the
   "The base commander is--                                     parking brake on, then stepped out. Von Seeckt joined her,
   "Higher."                                                   while Nabinger remained in the back of the van.
   The duty officer glanced nervously at the sergeant who        Kelly walked up to an old couple who were comfortably
had first talked to Duncan. "This base falls under the com-    seated in front of a pair of telescopes, with a cooler be-
mand of--"                                                      tween their chairs. "Excuse me," Kelly began.
                                                                 "Yes, dear?" the old woman replied.
   "Who's your commander-in-chief?" Duncan asked.                "Do you know a man named the Captain?"
   "The President, ma'am."                                       She chuckled. "Everyone here does." She pointed to a
   Duncan leaned over the counter and picked up a phone.       van parked about twenty feet away. "He's there."
"Do you want to talk to him?"                                    Kelly led Von Seeckt over. The van was parked so that
   "Do I want to talk . . ." the major repeated dumbly.        the rear end pointed toward the mountains that marked
"No, ma'am."                                                   the edge of Area 51. The back doors were wide open and a
   "Then I suggest you get me a helicopter right away to       very large scope was sticking out. Behind it a man in a
take me where I want to go."                                   wheelchair had his face pressed up against the eyepiece.
   The major looked at the ID card lying on the counter        He pulled back as Kelly stepped up. He was a black man,
one more time, then turned to the sergeant. "Get me the        his lower half covered by a blanket draped over his lap. His
PR on duty."                                                   hair was white and he looked to be about sixty years old.
   "PR?" Duncan asked.                                           "I'm Kelly Reynolds."
   "Pararescue," the major explained. "We always have one        The man simply looked at them.
crew of pararescue men on call for emergencies."                 "I'm a friend of Johnny Simmons," she continued.
   "They have a helicopter?"                                     "So he got the tape," the man growled.
   "Yes, ma'am, they have a helicopter." The major glanced       "Yes," Kelly said.
at the sergeant on the phone. "And they know how to fly          "Took you long enough. Where's Simmons?"
it."                                                             "He's dead." She pointed to the west. "He tried to infil-

332                            ROBERT DOHERTY                                                                          333
                                                                  AREA     51

trate Area 51 and got caught. They took him to Dulce,               u want." Haverstaw put her flight helmet on. "My ass is
New Mexico. We broke him out but he killed himself."              overed." She opened the door on the pilot's side. "Be-
  The old man didn't seem too surprised. "I heard they do         sides, I hate seeing those big no-fly areas on the flight
strange things to people down at Dulce."                          maps. Kind of view them as a challenge. Hell, I'm looking
  Kelly stepped closer. "I'll tell you the full story real        forward to this." She extended her hand toward the rear.
quick. Then we need your help."                                   "Climb on board."

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, NEVADA                                     VICINITY AREA 51

The officer in the flight suit stuck out a hand. "Lieutenant      Taking a deep breath, Kelly called out. "Excuse me, every-
Haverstaw at your service, ma'am."                                one! I have something to say that you all might be inter-
  "Call me Lisa," Duncan said.                                    ested in."
  The officer smiled. "I'm Debbie." She pointed at the              The UFO watchers all turned and looked at her, but no
other people in flight suits. "That's my copilot, Lieutenant      one moved until the Captain's voice boomed out behind
Pete Jefferson; our PRs are Sergeant Hancock and Ser-             her. "Get over here!"
geant Murphy." The two men were stowing gear on the                 They gathered round, a loose circle of figures in the
back of the UH-60 Blackhawk.
  "What are they loading?" Duncan asked.                          dark.
                                                                    "These people need our help," the Captain said. "You
  "Our standard rescue gear," Haverstraw said.                    all know I been here a long time watching. Twenty-two
  "I just need you to fly me out to Groom Lake," Duncan
said.                                                             years, to be exact. Tonight we're going to be doing more
  "SOP--standing operating procedures," Haverstraw                 than just watch."
said. "We always carry our rescue gear when we fly. Our             As the Captain spoke, outlining what Kelly had asked, a
primary mission, other than flying presidential scientific ad-    figure at the back separated from the group and slipped
visers around, is to rescue downed aircrews. You never            away into the darkness. When the car drove away, lights
know if we might get diverted to a mission." She smiled.          out, no one noticed, so caught up were they in what the
"Besides, from what the duty officer briefed me, we're fly-       Captain was saying.
ing an unfiled mission into Area 51 airspace. Who knows
what we'll run into? I've heard some strange stories about
that place."                                                      AREA 51
  "Do you have a problem with running this mission?"
Duncan asked, slipping her professional mask back on.             The glow from the aboveground Groom Lake complex was
  "No problem. I've been ordered by the post duty officer,        off to Turcotte's right as he finished descending the moun-
who represents the post commander, to fly you wherever            tain he had just crossed. The runway cut across his front,

334                                ROBERT DOHERTY                                                                         335
                                                                    AREA 51

and beyond that, the mountainside under which the                     She pulled onto the dirt road and turned west, the Cap-
mothership rested, according to Von Seeckt's directions.            tain's van next, then the rest of the UFO watchers' vehi-
       So far, so good, Turcotte thought to himself. But for the    cles. They rolled down the road, past the warning signs and
rest of the way he was going to need help. He checked his           past the first set of laser detectors.
watch. Fifteen minutes. Gritting his teeth, Turcotte set to
work on his knee, keeping the tendons from tightening up
by jabbing his fingers into the swollen flesh and massaging


Sergeant Hancock showed Lisa Duncan how to put on the
helmet and talk on the built-in radio.
       "We're clear to lift," Lieutenant Haverstraw announced
from the front. "You all set back there?"
       "All set," Duncan said.
       "We're going to fly at one thousand feet until we get
close to the boundary. Then I'm going down low. It'll get a
little rough then, but I want to stay off their screens as long
as possible. Give us a better chance of getting you to
Groom Lake."
       With a shudder the Blackhawk lifted and then banked to
the north.


"I've got something here," Nabinger said, holding up the
wooden tablet he'd taken out of the Dulce archives.
Through all the phone calls and driving he'd never stopped
working on the translation.
       "We don't have time for that right now," Kelly replied.
She tapped her wristwatch. "Show time."

                                                              AREA      51

                                                31            ot inside and Quinn reached out and touched the man on
                                                              the shoulder. "Sir, we've got multiple penetrations on the
                                                              mailbox road. Looks like our UFO watchers are coming in
                                                              for a closer look. Jarvis just called and said that Von Seeckt
                                                              and that female reporter are with them, so this may be
                                                              more than it appears."
                                                                Gullick swung his legs onto the floor. He was already
                                                              dressed for action in camouflage fatigues. "Alert Night-
                                                              scape and get the choppers ready," he ordered. As soon as
                                                              Quinn was gone, he reached into his pocket and popped
THE CUBE, AREA 51                                             another pill. His heart rate immediately accelerated and he
ADJUSTED T-22 HOURS, 9 MINUTES                                was ready for action. Then he followed Quinn into the
"What do you have?" Major Quinn had been alerted by           control room.
the duty officer and he'd quickly shut down Gullick's com-      "They're turning off the road!" the operator announced.
puter and gone out to the main control center in the Cube.    "Or at least a couple of them are," he amended as he tried
  "Multiple vehicles in sector three," the operator an-       to keep up with the vehicles. "They're spreading out over
nounced, pointing at his computer screen. "Moving west        the desert and still coming this way." He pressed a finger
along the road."                                              over an earpiece in his right ear. "The air police don't have
  "Give me IR and thermal from the mountain," Quinn           enough vehicles in that area to get them all in time. Some
ordered.                                                      of them are going to breach the outer perimeter."
  The operator hit the proper command. A line of vehicles       Gullick looked over the man's shoulder at the tactical
showed up rolling down the road.                              display. "I want Nightscape airborne in one mike. Also get
  "What does the mailbox look like?" Quinn asked.             the standby bouncer crew ready."
  Another scene came on screen: a lone mailbox, nothing         "Yes, sir."
around it, which confirmed to Quinn where the vehicles
had come from.                                                Twenty miles to the south Lieutenant Haverstraw keyed
  "What the hell are they doing?" Quinn muttered to him-      the intercom. "We're going down to the carpet now. Hold
self as the camera shifted back to the line of vehicles.      on."
"Alert the air police and have them stop these people."         The Blackhawk swooped down toward the desert floor
  "I've got Jarvis on the phone," another man called out.     and Lisa Duncan looked out the right side window and up
  Quinn picked up the phone and listened for a minute.        at a rocky ridgeline less than forty feet away. Her fingers
He grimaced as he put the phone down. He turned and           dug into the webbing strapped across her chest and she did
quickly walked over to a wooden door and knocked. He          exactly as Haverstraw had suggested--she hung on.
opened it without waiting for an answer. A figure lay on a

338                             ROBERT DOHERTY

                                                               AREA 51                                                 339

"We've got a hot IR source coming in sector six," Quinn          "We're going to make it," Nabinger said from the seat
announced. "Low and fast."                                     next to her.
  "What is it?" Gullick demanded.                                Flashing lights were separating from the steady lights
  "Helicopter. It's below radar but we're picking it up        marking the buildings. The lights were going up.
from above."                                                     "You spoke too soon. We're going to have company."
  "Check FFI," Gullick ordered, referring to the friend or       "I'll see what I can do to help," Von Seeckt called out
foe transponder every military aircraft carried.               from the back. He was working on the computer keyboard
  "It's one of ours," Quinn said. He hit the keys rapidly.     attached to the communications console, his fingers flash-
"A Blackhawk assigned to the 325th Pararescue unit at          ing over the keys.
  "Tell them to get the fuck out of my airspace," Gullick      Turcotte's boots touched hardtop and he began sprinting
snapped. He turned back to the ground tactical display,        across the runway. He felt naked, and he instinctively
watching as the air police stopped seven of the thirteen       tucked his chin into his chest and bent forward, half ex-
vehicles coming in. The remaining six were inside the outer    pecting a shot to come out of the dark. On the far side of
perimeter now. Past the air police cordon and spread out       the runway, about a half mile away, at the base of the
across two security sectors.                                   mountainside, he could make out a dark mass against the
                                                               rocks--camouflage netting covering something. He felt a
"They're calling us," Haverstraw announced. "We're being       bit of hope seeing that. At least it appeared Von Seeckt's
ordered to turn back."                                         guess wasn't wrong.
  "Ignore them," Duncan ordered.
  "Yes, ma'am."                                                "We've got someone on the runway," Quinn announced.
                                                                 "Put it on the main screen," General Gullick said.
"No response from the Blackhawk, sir," Quinn reported.           The IR scope mounted on top of the nearby mountain
  General Gullick rubbed his forehead.                         had a resolution of 300 power and it clearly showed a man
  "Should I authorize Landscape to engage when in              running.
range?" Quinn asked.                                             "How come we didn't catch his thermal signature ear-
  "Tell them to track but hold on firing until I give the      lier?" Gullick asked.
order," Gullick said.                                            Quinn hit a few keys and the picture changed. The man's
  "Nightscape is airborne," Quinn said.                        figure disappeared and there was only a small blob of red
                                                               moving on the screen. "That's thermal imaging of the tar-
Kelly spun the wheel of the van violently and a plume of           He's wearing some sort of thermal protection." Quinn
sand spun out from beneath the rear wheels. She could see      hanged the view and a map overlay of Area 51 came up.
the lights of the Groom Lake complex less than two miles        He's heading for the engineer site outside Hangar Two,"
ahead.                                                         Quinn added.

34O                             ROBERT DOHERTY                                                                           341
                                                                 AREA      51

  "Divert one of the Nightscape aircraft," Gullick ordered.      sive maneuvers. Hancock and Murphy, watch our rear and
"Stop that man, number one priority."                            get ready if it's a heat seeker!"
  "Yes, sir." Quinn began speaking into his microphone,            The Blackhawk turned on its left side and then jerked
then suddenly turned back to the general. "We've got inter-      back right. Duncan watched as the two crewmen in the rear
ference, sir! I can't talk to Nightscape. Someone's cutting      slid open the cargo doors and cold air swirled in. They
in and out on the radio."                                        were wearing harnesses around their bodies and leaned out
                                                                 the aircraft, looking down.
In the back of the van Von Seeckt smiled as he heard the           "I see a launch!" Murphy yelled. "Four o'clock. Climb-
excited voices of the Nightscape pilots trying to communi-       ing fast!" He was holding a flare and he fired it out and up,
cate back to the Cube and with each other to coordinate          hoping the heat of the flare would divert the missile. At the
their actions. He pressed down on the transmit button for        same time Haverstraw slammed the cyclic forward and
                                                                 they rapidly began losing what little altitude they had left.
the van's HF radio again, then let it up after a few seconds.
                                                                   The missile roared by the right side of the helicopter,
Then again.
                                                                 missing the outer edge of their rotor blades by less than ten
                                                                 feet. "That was close," Haverstraw said over the intercom,
Gullick looked at the overlay of Area 51 and tried to make       understating the obvious, as she reeled in collective and
sense of the various symbols. He had three threats: the          cyclic and stopped their descent barely above the desert
man nearing the engineer site, the inbound helicopter, and       floor.
the vehicles coming in over the desert. This had to be a           "That was close," Duncan said, looking out at the
highly coordinated infiltration, and he could take no fur-       ground less than twenty feet below.
ther chances. Even without radio he could still control            "I don't think they want us here," Haverstraw said dryly.
things. He called out his orders.                                  "Put me on the radio to their headquarters," Duncan
  "Alert the Landscape antiair sites by land line that they      said.
are in weapons-free status."                                       "No can do," Haverstraw replied. "The frequency listed
  "Yes, sir."                                                    for Groom Lake is filled with interference."
  "Warn the engineer site of the man infiltrating their po-
sition. He is to be stopped with extreme sanction."              "Halt!" a voice called out in the dark to Turcotte's right.
  "We have no land line to the engineer site," Quinn re-         He could make out a figure wearing night vision goggles
ported. "Their guard net is the Nightscape frequency. We         and carrying a submachine gun moving toward him.
can't get through to them."                                        In reply Turcotte fired twice, both rounds low, hitting the
  "Goddammit!" Gullick yelled in frustration.                    man in the legs and dropping him. There was no need for
                                                                 another death. He regretted what had happened in the lab.
A tone screeched in Duncan's headset. Up front in the             Circumstances and anger had forced his hand there. He
cockpit a red light flashed on the control panel.                dashed forward and kicked the Calico submachine gun out
  "Missile lock!" Lieutenant Haverstaw called out. "Eva-            the man's hands and ripped the goggles off his head.

342                            ROBERT DOHERTY
                                                               AREA 51

  "Fuck!" the man cursed, reaching for his sidearm,              Lisa Duncan twisted in her seat and looked forward as
Turcotte rapped him upside the head with the barrel of the     Jefferson spoke again. "Uh, Deb, he's--oh, Christ!" the
Calico and the man was out. Turcotte checked the               copilot screamed out as the AH-6 filled up the entire for-
wounds--no arteries hit. He quickly wrapped a bandage           ward view. At the last moment the other chopper suddenly
from the man's own combat vest around each thigh to stop       veered, averting the midair collision.
the bleeding, then continued on his way.                         "Chicken," Haverstraw muttered. She raised her voice.
                                                               "We'll be there in thirty seconds."
An AH-6 Little Bird gunship flashed by just overhead.
Kelly pressed down on the accelerator. The lights of the       "The hangar doors are opening!" Nabinger called out as a
complex were less than a half mile away.                       sliver of red light appeared ahead.
  "The doors to the hangar are closed," Nabinger said.           "I'm heading for it," Kelly said.
"What are you going to do?"
  "I just want to get there in one piece. Then I'll figure     "Hey!" the sergeant seated inside the humvee called out as
something out," Kelly replied.                                 the muzzle of a submachine gun appeared in the door.
                                                               "Watch that thing!"
"The helicopter is still inbound," Quinn reported. "Who-         "No, you watch it," Turcotte said, edging into the vehi-
ever is flying it is damn good. They're below tracking by      cle. He looked at the computer system and the wires lead-
ground radar. We can't relay from satellite tracking to the
                                                               ing out of the black box hooked up to it. "This is to blow
AA sites because of the jamming."                              the charges to open up Hangar Two?"
  "Launch the alert bouncer," Gullick ordered. "Have it
bring down the helicopter."                                      The sergeant was most definitely watching the end of the
                                                               muzzle, the black hole seeming to grow larger every second
Haverstraw looked out her windshield. There was a lot go-      it was fixed between his eyes. "Yes."
ing on. She could see vehicles down below in a circus of         "Turn it on and bring up the firing sequence program."
headlights running about. There were several helicopters
flitting about also. One of those turned toward her.           "Geez, look at that," Haverstraw said as she set the
  "We've got company," Lieutenant Jefferson said.              Blackhawk down two hundred meters away from the large
  Haverstraw didn't reply. She watched the AH-6 come           door that was sliding open in the side of the mountain. Red
straight toward them from a half mile away.                    light spilled out onto the concrete and a disk was hovering
  "Uh, we're on a collision course," Jefferson said.           there. It moved forward when the door was wide enough.
  There was a quarter mile between the two aircraft,           "What the hell is that thing?"
pilot of the AH-6 was flashing his spotlight at them.            "Thanks for the ride," Duncan said. "You'd better shut
  "I think he wants us to land," Jefferson said.               down and wait here until things get cleared up."
  Haverstraw remained silent, her hands tight on the con-         'Roger that," Haverstraw said. "And you're welcome."
trols.                                                           Duncan took off her headset and got out of the helicop-

344                              ROBERT DOHERTY
                                                                  AREA      51

ter. She turned her head as a van came to a screeching halt       why I'm here. We're going to get to the bottom of this."
between her and the disk.                                         She turned back to the guard. "Your prisoners are not go-
                                                                  ing anywhere. None of us are. Get General Gullick up here
Turcotte looked at the screen. The charges were listed            now."
along with order and timing of initiation. He quickly began
typing.                                                           "Sir," Quinn said tentatively, putting down the phone.
                                                                    General Gullick's eyes were transfixed on the main
Armed guards ran out of the hangar as the bouncer                 screen, which showed the overlay of Area 51. All the vehi-
hovered overhead, shining a light down on the scene being         cles had finally been corralled and the UFO watchers
played out.                                                       placed under arrest.
  "Get out of the vehicle with your hands up!" one of the           "Yes?"
men ordered, pointing his weapon at the windshield of the           "Dr. Duncan was on board that Blackhawk. She's up at
van.                                                              Hangar One right now demanding to see you. Von Seeckt,
  "Let's go," Kelly said. "We did all we can do. Let's hope       Nabinger, and the reporter are there too."
we gave Turcotte enough time to do his end."                        A nerve began twitching on the side of Gullick's face.
  She opened the driver's door and stepped out along with         "Do we have commo yet?" Gullick demanded.
Nabinger, the latter still holding the rongorongo tablet and        Quinn checked. "Yes, sir. The interference has stopped."
wearing his backpack. Von Seeckt got out of the rear.               "Do you have contact with the engineer site?"
  "Face down on the ground!" the man ordered.                       "No response, sir."
  "Wait a second!" a woman's voice called out. All eyes             "Order Bouncer Four to check it out, ASAP!"
turned to the figure walking over from the Blackhawk heli-          Gullick spun away from the screen and walked to the
copter. "I'm Dr. Duncan." She held out an ID card. "Presi-        elevator. Quinn relaxed slightly as the doors shut behind
dential adviser to Majic-12."                                     the general and he relayed the orders.
  The senior Nightscape man paused, confused at this sud-
den apparition and wrinkle in the chain of command. The           The bouncer suddenly darted away to the west, leaving the
three groups were all gathered in a thirty-foot circle just in    tableau outside the hangar frozen in a standoff between
front of the doors to Hangar One.                                 the weapons of the Nightscape men and the tentative
  "I want General Gullick and I want him here now!"               shield of Duncan's position.
Duncan demanded.                                                    A large figure walked out of the hangar, casting a long
  "We have to secure these prisoners first," the guard said.      shadow from the backdrop of red light. General Gullick
  "I'm Kelly Reynolds," Kelly said, stepping forward, mak-        walked up and looked about. "Very nice. Very nice." He
ing sure her hands were away from her sides. "You know            stared at Duncan. "I'm sure you have an explanation for
Dr. Von Seeckt, and the other man is Professor Nabinger           this circus you've orchestrated?"
of the Brooklyn Museum. We called you earlier."                      I'm sure you have an answer for attempting to shoot
  Duncan nodded. "I know you called me earlier. That's            down my helicopter," she returned.

346                           ROBERT DOHERTY                   AREA     51                                             347

  "I am authorized by law to use deadly force to safeguard       Turcotte saw Gullick raise the muzzle of the submachine
this facility," Gullick said. "You are the one who violated    gun in his direction. "Do it and I fire the charges!"
law by coming into restricted airspace and failing to re-      Turcotte called out, holding up the remote detonator for
spond when challenged."                                        Hangar Two.
  "What about Dulce, General?" Duncan retorted. "What            Gullick froze. "What did you do?"
about General Hemstadt--formerly of the Werhmacht?                "I did a little resequencing. I don't think it will quite
What about Paperclip? Where is Captain Turcotte?"              work the way you'd like," Turcotte said, keeping an eye on
  Kelly saw the change come over Gullick and she reached       his people as they moved in his direction and climbed the
out to stop Duncan's harangue.                                 slope of the disk.
                                                                 "You can't do that!" Gullick cried out.
As he finished typing, Turcotte saw a bright light coming        "I won't if you let us get out of here," Turcotte promised.
out of the east through the camouflage netting. The same         "Back off," General Gullick ordered, waving to his secu-
bright light he had seen his first night out here. The         rity men.
bouncer came to a halt forty feet away and landed. A man         Turcotte stepped aside, allowing the others to climb in
came out of the hatch on top, weapon in hand.                  the hatch. When all were on board, he slipped down inside,
                                                               shutting the hatch behind him. "Take off!" he yelled at the
Duncan and Gullick both stopped their arguing and turned       pilot.
as a new voice called out. "You both don't understand!"
Nabinger yelled. He looked about wildly, holding up the        On the ground Gullick whirled. "I want Aurora ready for
rongorongo tablet. "None of you do." He pointed at the         flight now!" He didn't trust this alien technology anymore.
hangar. "You don't understand what you have in there and         "Yes, sir!"
where it came from. You don't understand any of it."
  Gullick snatched a submachine gun from one of the            "Where do you want to go?" Captain Scheuler asked from
Nightscape guards. "No, I don't understand, but you never      the depression in the center of the disk. He'd put up no
will either." He pointed the muzzle at Duncan.                 argument at the engineer site when Turcotte had dropped
  "You've gone too far," Duncan said.                          through the hatch, weapon in hand, and ordered him to fly
  "You signed your own death warrant, lady. You said too       back to Hangar One. The others were sitting gingerly on
much and you know too much." His finger had already            the floor of the bouncer, gathered around the center. Von
closed over the trigger when he was blinded by the searing     Seeckt had his eyes closed, trying to keep from being dis-
                                                               oriented by the view out.
glow of a bright searchlight. Without a noise Bouncer Four
settled down behind Duncan's group.                              Turcotte still held a submachine gun pointed in the gen-
  "Get over here!" Turcotte yelled from the hatch on top       eral direction of the pilot. "Turn right," he ordered the
of the saucer.
  "Let's go," Kelly said, grabbing Duncan by the shoulders       "What are you doing?" Kelly asked.
and pushing her toward the bouncer. The others followe           Turcotte was looking out the clear skin of the bouncer as

348                            ROBERT DOHERTY

they went around the mountain that hid the hangar com-                                                            32
plexes. He flipped open the cover on the firing button on
the remote, then pressed the trigger.
  "You told Gullick you wouldn't do that!" Lisa Duncan
  "I lied."

Hangar Two was deserted, which was fortunate. The outer
wall caved in, not in the orderly manner that had been
planned, but in a cascade of rock and rubble crashing down
onto the mothership, burying it under tons of debris.             AIRSPACE, NEVADA

In the Cube, Major Quinn felt the rumble of the explosions        "What now?" Kelly asked. The others were gathered
and watched the first rocks begin falling in Hangar Two on        around, now standing on the floor of the bouncer, trying to
the remote video screens before the cameras were con-             get used to the eerie view straight through the skin of the
sumed by the man-made earthquake. "Oh, fuck," he mut-             craft. It was a bit tight with everyone inside. They were
tered.                                                            currently heading south out of Area 51 at two hundred
                                                                  miles an hour and slowly gaining altitude.
Gullick knew what had happened even as the last of the              "I don't know." Turcotte turned to the others. "I got you
aftershocks of the explosions settled away. He staggered,         out of there and the Mothership won't be flying for several
then sank to his knees. He pressed his hands to the side of       weeks at least. So I did my part. Where to?"
his head as pain reverbrated back and forth from one side           "Nellis," Duncan said. "I can--"
to the other, searing through his brain. A moan escaped his
lips. "I'm sorry," he whispered. "I'm sorry."                       "Las Vegas has got a good media hook-in," Kelly said,
  "Sir, Aurora is ready for flight," a young officer said with    excited. "We fly this damn thing right downtown! Land in
much trepidation.                                                 the fountain at Caesars Palace. That'll wake them up."
  Maybe it could be salvaged, Gullick thought, seizing              "This isn't a media circus," Duncan said. "I'm in--"
upon that single idea. He slowly got to his feet. The manta         "No!" Nabinger held out the wooden tablet that he'd
ray of the high-speed plane was silhouetted against the           been hauling with him throughout the entire adventure at
runway lights. Yes, there was still a way to salvage things       Area 51. "You're all wrong. We have to go to the place
                                                                  where the answers are."
                                                                    "And that is?" Turcotte asked.
                                                                    Nabinger pointed with his free hand at the tablet in the
                                                                  other. "Easter Island."
                                                                    "Easter Island?" Duncan asked.

350                             ROBERT DOHERTY
                                                               AREA 51                                                 351

  "Easter Island," Nabinger repeated. "From what I've de-      could track it. Eventually it would land. He ordered tank-
coded on this, the answers are there."                         ers along their projected flight path for inflight refueling.
  "No way," Kelly said. "We have to go public."
  "Agreed," Duncan said. "As soon as we land, I can con-       Kelly knelt down next to the pilot. "Do you have a map of
tact the President and we can stop this insanity." She         the world?"
tapped Scheuler on the shoulder. "Land us at Las Vegas."         Scheuler nodded. He swung in the laptop control and
  The pilot laughed with a manic edge as his hands worked      brought up a world overlay on the screen.
at the controls. "Lady, you can shoot me if you want, but I      "Show me where Easter Island is," Kelly said.
don't think we're going to land in Las Vegas."                   Scheuler tapped a few keys. "Easter Island is in the Pa-
  Turcotte still had his submachine gun ready for use.         cific. Off the coast of Chile. I'd say about five thousand
"Why not?"                                                     miles from where we are right now."
  The pilot held up his hands. "Because I'm no longer            "And on what azimuth from us?" Kelly asked.
flying this thing."                                              Scheuler checked, then looked up. "Eighty-four de-
  "Who is?" Turcotte asked.                                    grees."
  "It's flying itself," Scheuler said.                           "It appears we're going to Easter Island whether we
  "Where are we going, then?" Turcotte demanded.               want to or not," Kelly announced. "How long until we get
  "Just east of south right now on a heading of eighty-four    there?"
                                                                 Scheuler did some calculations. "We're not maxed out
degrees," the pilot said. "More than that I can't tell you     but we're going fast enough. I estimate we'll be there in
until we get there."                                           about an hour and a half."
  "Does the radio work?" Duncan asked. "I can call and           "Well, now that we have time," Kelly said, "and we know
get us help."                                                  where we're going, let's find out as much as we can. Talk to
   Scheuler tried it. "No, ma'am."                             me, Professor. What does the tablet say is on Easter Is-
"Give me a direction, Quinn," Gullick growled into the           Nabinger was sitting cross-legged on the floor, the rongo-
radio as Aurora powered up.                                    rongo tablet in his lap. "I've only managed to decipher part
   Quinn's voice came back through the headset. "South,        of this, but what I have . . ." He looked at a small notepad
sir."                                                          in his lap.
   "You heard him," Gullick said to the pilot as he settled      "Wait one," Turcotte said. "Let's not go through this
into the RSO's seat. "Due south."                              guessing game again. Just tell us what you think it says
   The plane hurtled forward and lifted. Out of the small      rather than the literal translation."
window Gullick could just make out the silhouette of the         Nabinger obviously wasn't happy about that unscientific
mountain that hid the mothership. He felt the pain inten-      approach, but he nodded. "All right. First, the tablet makes
sify in his head. "Stay busy," he whispered to himself. He     reference to powerful beings from the sky. People with hair
knew they couldn't catch the bouncer, but at least they        of fire--red hair, I assume. They--the red-haired people--

352                            ROBERT DOHERTY                                                                            353
                                                                 AREA     51

came and lived for a while at the place of eyes-looking-at-        "They may have," Von Seeckt said, "but I believe I
heaven. That's how they describe it. From there they ruled       would have heard if they had discovered anything."
after the month of the dark sky.                                   "What do you know about Easter Island?" Kelly asked.
  "Long after the month of the dark sky, the people with           "It is the most isolated island on the face of the planet,"
hair of fire went up in the great ship of the sky and left,      Nabinger said, remembering what was in Slater's notes. "It
never to return. But their . . ." Nabinger paused. "I am         is the place that is farthest from any other landfall. It
not quite sure what the next word is. It could mean 'par-        wasn't discovered by Europeans until 1722, on Easter Sun-
ent,' but it doesn't seem to fit in context. Perhaps 'guard-     day that's how it got its name. The islanders themselves
ian' or 'protector'--remained and ruled.                          call their island Rapa Nui."
  "Even after the people with fire hair were gone,                 "That remote location also helps explain why these
though," Nabinger continued, "the little suns carried the        aliens might have wanted to use it as a base camp," Von
word of the, hmm, let's use the word guardian."                  Seeckt added. "Remember the part of the tablet from
  " 'Little suns'?" Von Seeckt asked.                            Hangar Two about not interfering with the local inhabit-
  Turcotte remembered the foo fighter up in Nebraska and         ants?"
reminded the others. "So these things most definitely are          "What is the island like?" Turcotte asked, more focused
connected to the bouncers and the mothership?"                   on the immediate future as always.
  "I'm certain of it," Nabinger said. "There is more here,         For that Nabinger did have to consult the notes he'd
but it has to do with the worship of the guardian. I have        carried in his backpack through all their adventures. "The
only the one tablet. If I had the others I might know            island is shaped like a triangle with a volcano at each cor-
more."                                                           ner. Land mass is about sixty-two square miles. It doesn't
  "How many are there?" Kelly asked.                             really have any beaches, one reason early visitors had a
  "There used to be thousands on the island," Nabinger           hard time getting ashore. It is very rocky. Almost no trees
answered, "but most were eventually used up as firewood          were left on the island when it was discovered. There are
or destroyed by missionaries who thought they were part of       some now that have been planted.
old pagan rites. There are just twenty-one in existence            "And, of course," Nabinger said, "there are the statues,
now--or at least there were only twenty-one suspected to          carved out of solid rock in a quarry on the slopes of one of
be in existence. I don't believe that counted this one, since    the volcanoes. The largest is over thirty-two feet tall and
it was hidden in Dulce."                                         weighs over ninety tons. There are over a thousand of them
  "How did it get to Dulce?" Kelly asked.                        scattered all about the island."
  "Majic-12 has studied the high runes for years," Von             "I've seen pictures of those things," Kelly said. "How did
Seeckt said. "They never had as much luck as our good            those ancient people move such large and heavy objects?"
professor here has in translating them, but they have con-         "Good question," Nabinger said. "There are several the-
tinued to collect whatever they can."                            ories, none of which quite work."
  "So maybe people for MJ-12 already have checked out              "Ah," Von Seeckt said, "but perhaps our red-haired
Easter Island?" Kelly ventured.                                  ancients might have had something to do with that. Or

354                           ROBERT DOHERTY

maybe left something lying around that the natives used to
move the statues. Perhaps an antigravity sled or mag-                                                              33
  "Is there any evidence of this guardian?" Turcotte cut in.
"Anything like the bouncers or the mothership or even
what was found in the pyramid?"
  Nabinger shook his head. "No, but not as much is known
about the island as people would like to think. We don't
know why the statues were built, never mind how they got
to their locations around the coast. There is much that is
hidden about the history of the island. Archaeologists are      AIRSPACE, PACIFIC OCEAN
still making new finds as they explore. The island is vol-
canic and honeycombed with caves."                              "It's going to get worse before it gets better," Turcotte said.
  That caught Turcotte's interest. "So maybe there is             "What now?" Kelly asked.
something there?"                                                 "Our satellite link shows we've got company up ahead
  "Perhaps this guardian still exists," Kelly suggested.        too. Looks like a bunch of interceptors waiting for us to hit
  "I hope something's down there," Turcotte noted, look-        their kill zone."
ing over Scheuler's shoulder at the tactical display. "Be-        "So what's the get-better part?" Kelly asked.
cause we've got someone hot on our tail. I don't believe          "Well, it always gets better after it gets worse," Turcotte
General Gullick has given up yet."                              said. "Either that or you're dead."
                                                                  "Great philosophy," she muttered.

                                                                A covey of F-16's from the Abraham Lincoln waited over
                                                                the Pacific, circling on the flight path the target was pro-
                                                                jected to follow. That is, until small glowing orbs suddenly
                                                                appeared and all craft lost engine power.

                                                                General Gullick closed his eyes, hearing the panicked re-
                                                                ports from the pilots as their engines flamed out. He took
                                                                the headset off and looked at the pilot. "Where are we

                                                                  "I've projected out the flight path of Bouncer Four," the
                                                                pilot reported. He nodded his head at the screen. A line
                                                                went straight from their present location over a thousand
                                                                miles west of Colombia, due south.

356                               ROBERT DOHERTY                   AREA     51                                             357

  "Antarctica?" Gullick asked. "There's nothing out                pie put a tremendous, almost unbelievable, amount of re-
here."                                                             sources into the creation and moving of those statues. It
  "Uh, actually, sir, I checked. There is an island along this     had to severely strain the economy of the island, and the
route. Easter Island."                                             theory is that eventually the common people revolted."
  "Easter Island?" General Gullick repeated. "What the               "So Raraku is the place to look?" Turcotte cut in.
fuck is on Easter Island?" He didn't wait for an answer. He          "Maybe." Nabinger shrugged. "But on the rim of the
immediately got on the radio with the admiral in charge of         other significant volcano, Rano Kao, over a thousand feet
the Abraham Lincoln task force. That resulted in a five-           high, is where the ancient people built the village of
minute argument, as the admiral's priorities were some-            Orongo--their sacred village. The lake inside the crater is
what different from Gullick's. He wanted to recover the            almost a mile in diameter. Offshore of Kao lies a small
downed aircrews. A compromise was reached and the ma-              island called Moto Nui, where birds--terns--nest. In an-
jority of the task force turned to the south and steamed at        cient times the cult of the Birdman occurred every year in
flank speed for Easter Island, while several destroyers            September, when young men would go from the volcano
stayed behind to pick up the crews.                                rim, climb down the cliffs to the sea, swim to Moto Nui,
                                                                   recover a tern egg, and the first man back was birdman for
Turcotte watched the dots of the waiting aircraft disappear        the year."
off the screen. He felt the anxiety level in his gut kick up a       Turcotte rubbed his forehead. "Okay, okay. They have
notch higher despite this apparently positive development.         birdmen. They have volcanoes. They got big statues. They
"Talk to me, Professor. Tell me more about Easter Island."         got strange writings on wood tablets. But what the hell are
  "There are two major volcanoes on the island," Nab-              we looking for? Has anything strange been found there
inger said. "Rano Raraku in the southeast and Rano Kao.            that might suggest this guardian?"
Both have lakes inside the crater. On the slopes of Raraku           "No."
are the quarries where the stone statues were cut and fash-          "Then what are we-- ' Turcotte paused as the pilot
ioned out of solid rock. Quite a few statues have been             called out.
found there in various stages of creation. The inhabitants           "We've got company!"
shaped each statue lying on its back, then cut down on the           They looked out as six foo fighters bracketed their craft.
spine until it was free. Then they hauled it to its site, where      "I don't like this," Scheuler muttered. The foo fighters
it was raised onto a platform.                                     were making no threatening movements, hanging in posi-
  "It is interesting to note," he continued, "that the main        tion as they flew south.
road leading away from Raraku is lined with statues and
there are some who think this was a processional route."             "How far out are we?" Turcotte asked.
  "To worship the fire-heads?" Kelly asked.                          "ETA at Easter Island in two minutes."
  "Maybe. There are some who think the statues were sim-             The foo fighters were slowing and closing in around their
ply abandoned there when the people rose up against the            craft, forming a box on all sides.
priests who oversaw the making of the statues. Those peo-             I don't think we're going to have any choice about

358                            ROBERT DOHERTY                                                                               359
                                                                  AREA  51

where to look on the island," Kelly said. "I think the guard-     a lot of things that aren't going to be secret come daybreak
ian has decided all of that for us."                              if I don't get on top of all of this, and I can't do it up here.
  "We're going down," Captain Scheuler announced un-              Land."
necessarily, since all inside Bouncer Four could see the            "Yes, sir."
island below growing closer. The bouncer was being slowed
by whatever force had taken over the controls.                    "Let's see what we have," Turcotte said, heading for the
  "We're heading for Rano Kao's crater," Nabinger said,           ladder leading to the top hatch. He climbed up and unfas-
pointing at the moonlit surface of the lake in the center of      tened the seal, flipping the hatch open. He climbed out
the large volcano.                                                onto the upper deck of the bouncer and looked about as
  "This thing waterproof?" Turcotte asked Scheuler.               the others gathered around him.
  "I hope so," was the optimistic reply.                            "I'd say go that way." He pointed toward a tunnel on the
  "Everyone hold on to something," Turcotte called out as         land end.
they descended below the edge of the crater's rim. They             "After you," Kelly said, with a sweep of her hand.
splashed into the lake without much of a jar and then were          Turcotte led the way with Nabinger at his side, the others
enclosed in total darkness. For half a minute there was           following, with Kelly bringing up the rear. The tunnel was
silence, and it was impossible to tell which way they were        lit by lines of light that seemed to be part of the ceiling.
moving. A point of light appeared ahead and slightly above        The floor sloped up at first, raising faint hopes that it might
them, growing closer.                                             go up to the surface, but then it leveled out and turned to
  The light grew brighter, filtered through water, then sud-
                                                                  the right.
denly they broke out into air again, into a large cavern. The
bouncer lifted up above the surface of the water, which             They entered a cave, somewhat larger than the Cube.
filled one half of the floor, and settled down on dry rock on     Three walls were rock, but the far wall was metal. On it was
the other half.                                                   a series of complex control panels with many levers and
  "We're shut down," Scheuler announced as the skin of            buttons. What caught everyone's attention, though, was the
the disk grew opaque. He tried the controls. "It won't            large golden pyramid, twenty feet high, that sat in the cen-
power up."                                                        ter of the cave. Turcotte paused. It was similar to the one at
                                                                  Dulce, but larger. There was no glow above it, and Turcotte
Four thousand feet above Easter Island, General Gullick           didn't pick up any of the negative feelings he'd experienced
watched helplessly as the bouncer disappeared into the wa-        in Dulce.
ters of the crater.                                                 He reluctantly followed the others as they walked in si-
  "Can you set us down on the airfield on the island?" he         lence up to the base of the pyramid, staring at its smooth
asked the pilot.                                                  surface in awe. Faintly etched in the metal were high runes.
  "Sir, that's a public airstrip. If we land there, the secret      "What do you think?" Turcotte asked of no one in par-
about this aircraft will be out."                                  icular. "I'm sure this thing controls whatever took over the
  Gullick's laugh had a edge of mania to it. "Major, there's      bouncer and is keeping us from getting out of here."

36O                            ROBERT DOHERTY
                                                                AREA 51                                                   361

  "Why are you in such a rush to get out of here?" Kelly           The fact that the island was Chilean and they were vio-
asked. "This is the whole reason we came."                      lating international law didn't overly bother General Gul-
  "I was trained to always have a way out ready," Turcotte      lick either. He ignored the agitated requests from the
said, staring at the pyramid suspiciously.                      admiral in charge of the Lincoln task force and the relays
  "Well, cool your spurs," Kelly replied.                       from Washington as people in charge woke up to the fact
  "My spurs are cool," Turcotte replied. "I have the feel-      that something unusual was going on.
ing the only thing waiting for us outside of this cave is          "I want an airstrike prepared," Gullick ordered. "Target
going to be a lot of big guns."                                 is the Rano Kao volcano. Everything you have. The target
  "This must be the guardian," Kelly said.                      is under the water in the crater."
  They all held their place as Nabinger ran his hands over         The admiral would have ignored Gullick except for one
the high runes. "Amazing. This is the greatest find in          very important thing: the general had the proper code
archeological history."                                         words to authorize such a mission. On the deck of the
  "This isn't history, Professor," Turcotte said as he          Abraham Lincoln smart bombs were rolled out and crew-
walked forward into the room. "This is here and now, and        men began attaching them to the wings of aircraft.
we need to figure this thing out."
  "Can you read it?" Kelly asked.                               Two hours after beginning, Nabinger had a dazed look on
  "I can read some of them, yes."                               his face as the tendril unwrapped itself and flowed back
  "Get to work, then," Turcotte said.                           into the golden globe.
  Five minutes after Nabinger began, they were all startled       "What have you learned?" Kelly asked as they all gath-
when a golden glow appeared above the apex of the pyra-         ered around.
mid. Turcotte was pleased to note that he didn't get the          Nabinger shook his head, his eyes slowly focusing back
sick feeling that the other pyramid had produced. He was        to his surroundings. "Unbelievable! It's unbelievable! It
disturbed, though, when a gaseous golden tendril from the       spoke to me in a way I couldn't explain to you. So much
globe reached out and wrapped itself around Nabinger's          information. So much that we never understood. It all fits
head.                                                           now. All the ruins and discoveries, all the runes, all the
  "Take it easy," Kelly said as Turcotte started forward.       myths. I don't know where to start."
"This thing, whatever it is, is in charge. Let Nabinger find      "At the beginning," Von Seeckt suggested. "How did all
out what it wants."                                             this get here? Where did the mothership come from?"
                                                                  Nabinger closed his eyes briefly, then began. "There was
The first helicopter from the Abraham Lincoln came in at        an alien colony--more an outpost than a colony as far as I
one hour and twenty minutes after Gullick had landed at         can gather--on Earth. The aliens called themselves the
the Easter Island international airport. Given that there       Airlia.
were only four flights into the airport every week--and            "As best I can determine, the Airlia arrived here about
today was one of the off days--they had no trouble taking             ten housand years ago. They settled on an island." The
over the airfield.                                                  professor held up a hand as Turcotte started to ask a ques-

362                           ROBERT DOHERTY                      AREA 51

tion. "Not this island. An island in the other ocean. In the      would be a race through space. There was an additional
Atlantic. An island that in human legend has been called          factor too. One that the Airlia commander apparently con-
                                                                  sidered very important. He was the one who programmed
  "From there they explored the planet. There was a spe-          the guardian, so most of what I learned is from his perspec-
cies native to this planet very much like them." Nabinger         tive. His name was Aspasia.
                                                                    "Aspasia knew that even if they got away, the trace of
smiled. "Us.
  "They tried to avoid contact with humans. I'm not totally       their engine would be examined by the enemy and back-
sure why they were here. I would have to have more con-           tracked, and Earth would then be discovered by the others.
tact. I get the impression it might simply have been a scien-     He pretty much considered that equivalent to sentencing
tific expedition, but there is also no doubt that there was a     the planet to destruction. He felt that factor by itself ruled
                                                                  out leaving. The regulations he worked under also said that
military aspect to it."
  "They were taking over the Earth?" Turcotte asked.              he could not endanger this planet and the life on it.
  "No. We weren't exactly an interstellar threat ten thou-          "But there were others among the Airlia who weren't so
sand years ago. The Airlia were at war with some other            noble or so entranced by the regulations. They wanted to
species, or perhaps their own species. I can't quite figure       go back and not be stuck on this primitive planet for the
that out from what it told me, but I think it is the former.      rest of their lives. The Airlia fought among themselves.
The word it used for the enemy was different. And if the          Aspasia's side won, but he knew that as long as they had
enemy had been some of their own I think I would be able          the capability to return, it would always be a threat. He
to tell because . . ." Nabinger paused. "I'm getting ahead        also knew that even their enclave on the island, Atlantis,
                                                                  would eventually violate their noninterference regulation.
of myself here.
   "The Airlia were here for several millennia, rotating per-       "So he moved the mothership and hid it. He scattered
sonnel in and out for tours of duty. Then something hap-          his people. Some--the rebels--had already dispersed to
pened--not here on Earth, but in their interstellar battle."       other parts of the planet. Aspasia hid the seven bouncers
                                                                  down in Antarctica and"--Nabinger pointed over his
Nabinger ran his hand through his beard.
   "The war was not going well and some disaster hap-             shoulder--"he moved their central computer, the guard-
                                                                  ian, here to Easter Island. It was uninhabited then. He
pened and the Airlia here were cut off. It seems that the
                                                                  took the last two bouncers back to rest with the mother-
enemy could find the Airlia by detecting their interstellar
                                                                  ship." Nabinger took a deep breath. "That is, he did that
drives." He looked at Von Seeckt. "Now we know the se-
                                                                  after he did one last thing. He destroyed their outpost on
cret of the mothership. The commander of the colony had
                                                                  Atlantis so that if the enemy did come through this solar
to make a decision: pack up and try to make a run for it
                                                                  system, they would not discover that the fire-heads had
back to safety in their home system or stay. Naturally, the       ever been here. He completely wiped out that trace of their
majority of the Airlia wanted to go back. Even if they            existence here on Earth and hid the rest."
 stayed and weren't spotted, there was always the chance            Nabinger looked at the screen. "Aspasia left the guard-
 the enemy would find them anyway.                                ian on with the foo fighters under its control in case the
   "Of course, if they left, they would be spotted and then it

364                           ROBERT DOHERTY
                                                                  AREA  51                                               365

way of the war changed and his own people came back to            puter was in control of him. It wanted the mothership.
this sector of space. Obviously, they never did."                 That was the thing the rebels wanted more than anything
  The professor turned from the computer. "Others                else: the only way to get home."
among the Airlia, those who did not agree with Aspasia,             Von Seeckt turned to Duncan. "I told you we must not
must have tried to leave their own message to their people,      try to fly the mothership. General Gullick and his people
knowing the guardian had been left on.                           might have brought the wrath of this enemy down upon
  "Now I know the why and how of the pyramids. They              our planet!"
were space beacons, built by rebels using the limited tech-         "I don't think Gullick really knew what he was doing,"
nology they found and the human labor they could exploit         Turcotte said, rubbing the right side of his head.
to try to reach out to their own people if they ever came          "The threat the Airlia faced was thousands of years
close enough.                                                    ago," Duncan noted. "Certainly--
  "And the bomb the rebels took. Aspasia knew about                "Certainly, nothing!" Von Seeckt cut her off. He pointed
that, but he couldn't go in and take it away, not without        at the screen behind him. "This thing still works. The foo
letting the humans know of his power and existence or            fighters this computer controls still fly. The bouncers still
without having the rebels set it off.                            fly. What makes you think the enemy's equipment isn't still
   "You see, the rebels, there weren't many of them. There       functioning out there somewhere, waiting to pick up a sig-
were never more than a few thousand of the Airlia on the         nal and go in and destroy Earth? The Airlia turned the
planet at any one time. And they went other places and           mothership off because they were obviously losing their
worked their way in among the humans. Jorgenson's diffu-         war!"
sionist theory is correct. There are many connections be-          Lisa Duncan nodded. "This is beyond us. We have to
tween all those ancient civilizations, and there is a reason     bring the President here."
 they all started at roughly the same time, but it wasn't be-      The golden glow suddenly went white, then a three-di-
 cause man crossed the ocean. It was because Atlantis was        mensional picture appeared. It showed the early-morning
 destroyed and the Airlia spread out across the planet."         sky and a phalanx of small dots moving across.
   "I saw a pyramid just like the guardian but smaller, down       "What's that?" Duncan asked.
 on the lowest level in Dulce," Turcotte said.                     "You might not get the chance to talk to the President,"
   "Yes, that was the computer the rebels hid," Nabinger         Turcotte said. "Those are F-16's coming this way."
 said. "Not as powerful as the guardian but still far more
 advanced than anything we could comprehend. Gullick and
 his people must have just recovered that this year when the
 find was made at Jamiltepec in Mexico."
   "And Gullick turned it on," Turcotte said, all the pieces
 falling into place.
   "Yes," Nabinger said. "And it didn't work the way Gul-
 lick thought. He was no longer in control--the rebel com-

                                                                 AREA  51                367

                                                                 In the guardian cavern everyone relaxed as they watched
                                                 3 4             the warplanes turn away, followed by the foo fighters.
                                                                   "Seems like this guardian can take care of itself,"
                                                                 Turcotte said.
                                                                   "Is there any way we can get hold of Washington?"
                                                                 Duncan asked. "I need to get this madman Gullick re-
                                                                   "Can you ask the guardian to let us use the SATCOM
                                                                 radio in the bouncer?" Turcotte asked Nabinger.
                                                                   "I'll try," Nabinger replied.
                                                                 Gullick had one last card up his sleeve. He knew there was
Gullick sat in the-back of the large Navy helicopter parked      an Aegis-class cruiser in the Lincoln battle group. He
on the runway and listened in on the command frequency           grabbed the microphone and called the admiral.
as the strike force moved in. There was enough ordnance
on those planes to reduce the volcano to rubble. After           The three-dimensional glow suddenly shifted perspective
that--Gullick shook his head, trying to get rid of a pound-       and showed four trails of flame coming off a warship.
ing headache and think clearly. They would have to dig           "What the hell are those?" Kelly asked, freezing Turcotte
down to the mothership again. And then, then--                    and Duncan in their tracks.
  "Are you all right, sir?" The navy lieutenant was wor-           Turcotte spun around. "Tomahawk cruise missiles."
ried. He didn't know what was going on, but one thing for          "He's going nuclear?" Duncan was shocked.
sure, the shit was hitting the fan.                                "No, those probably aren't nuclear, but they carry a hell
  "I'm fine," Gullick snapped.                                   of a wallop," Turcotte said.
  "We've got bogeys!" the radar man called out. "Coming            "Do you think the foo fighters can stop them?
up out of the volcano."                                            "No time. The foo fighters are chasing away the jets,"
                                                                 Turcotte said. "They're out of position."
The flight leader saw the foo fighters rising up to greet his      They watched, mesmerized, as the four missiles hit su-
planes. He'd been in the wardroom when the flight that           personic speed and crossed the shoreline of Easter Island,
had been dispatched to set the trap had gone down, their         less than three miles away.
engines shut down by these very same craft.                        "We've got maybe four seconds," Turcotte said.
  "Eagle Flight, this is Eagle Six. Abort! Abort!"                 The image blanked out, then returned, showing the is-
  The F-16's banked hard and kicked in afterburners, the         land unchanged.
foo fighters in hot pursuit.                                       "What happened?" Kelly asked.

368                          ROBERT DOHERTY                     AREA  51                                                 369

On the Lincoln the admiral was asking the same question
of his staff on the battle bridge. He ignored General Gul-      On Easter Island, Gullick was still yelling into the radio in
lick's screamed demands as he talked to the officers work-      the back of the helicopter when the navy lieutenant took
ing there.                                                      off his headset and looked at the general. "Sir, I'm under
  "Near as I can tell, sir, there's some sort of force field    orders to take you into custody."
around the volcano. The Tomahawks were destroyed when              Gullick's face twitched and he ripped off his own head-
they hit it."                                                   set. "What? Who the hell do you think you are?"
  The admiral rubbed his forehead. He didn't have a clue          "I have orders to take you into custody," the lieutenant
what was going on. He'd already lost six multimillion-dollar    repeated. He laid a hand on Gullick's arm and Gullick
fighters, and now four Tomahawks.
  "I demand you launch another strike!" Gullick was yell-       ripped it away.
ing on one frequency.                                             "Don't you dare! I had served my country for over thirty
  "Sir, I've got communication with someone claiming            years. This can not happen. We must succeed. We must fly
they are inside that volcano," one of the men said.             the ship."
  "Give me that frequency," the admiral said, ignoring            The lieutenant had almost lost friends on the previous
Gullick. He picked up a mike. "This is Admiral Spring-          night's F-16 mission and he had his orders. He drew his
field."                                                         pistol. "Sir, we can do this the easy way or we can do this
  "Admiral, this is Lisa Duncan, the President's science        the hard way."
adviser. You'd better listen up and listen good. Who autho-       Gullick drew his pistol. The lieutenant froze, stunned
rized you to attack this place?"                                that his bluff had been called.
  "General Gullick, ma'am."
  "General Gullick is insane."
  "He had the proper authorization codes and--
  "Admiral, I want you to get me a direct line to the Presi-    AIRSPACE, DULCE, NEW MEXICO
dent. I'll give you my authorization codes to get that call
through, and we'll get this all sorted out. Clear?"             From its perch watching the mothership hangar the foo
  The admiral gave a relieved sigh. "Clear, ma'am."             fighter came out of the north at over five thousand miles an
                                                                hour. It stopped abruptly and hovered, three miles over the
The golden tendril unwrapped itself from around Nab-            mountain housing the Dulce facility. A tightly focused
inger's head and returned to the orb. The orb pulsed and        beam of golden light came out of it, aimed straight down.
seemed to grow larger.                                          It passed through the mountain as if it didn't exist.
  "What's happening?" Kelly asked.                              On the bottommost level the small pyramid was touched by
  "I don't know," Nabinger replied. "As much as I'm get-         the beam and instantly imploded. The layers of the facil-
ting information from the guardian, it's getting information    ity pancaked on top of each other and the entire facility
from me."                                                       was destroyed in less than two seconds.

370                              ROBERT DOHERTY

Gullick turned to the north and his mouth opened wide. A                                                          35
high-pitched scream came out. He fell to the floor of the
helicopter, dropping the pistol and pressing both hands
against the side of his head. Dark red blood flowed out his
ears and nose.
  The lieutenant stepped back, shocked by what he was
watching. Gullick reached a hand up, the fingers twisted in
pain, in a gesture of supplication. Then he collapsed in a
fetal position and was still.
  The lieutenant stepped forward and rolled the body           RAPA Nui (EASTER ISLAND)
over. Lifeless eyes stared up at the morning sun.
                                                               The view from the rim of Rano Kao was spectacular.
                                                               Waves roared into the rocks a thousand feet below and the
                                                               sea stretched out to the horizon, the setting sun creating
                                                               hundreds of sparkles in the wave crests. The only thing
                                                               marring the view was the silhouette of an aircraft carrier six
                                                               miles off the coast.
                                                                 A jet roared past, carrying another load of politicians.
                                                               The Abraham Lincoln task force was spread out around the
                                                               island and the local airfield was packed with incoming air-
                                                               craft. Turcotte squatted and picked up a rock, tossing it up
                                                               and down in his hand. Kelly was standing nearby.
                                                                 Von Seeckt and Nabinger were still down in the cavern,
                                                               studying the guardian computer. Nabinger had found the
                                                               control that opened a shaft to the rim of the crater shortly
                                                               after briefing them about the history. Then the others had
                                                               begun to arrive, Duncan taking them down to see what had
                                                               been found.

                                                                 Nabinger had communicated with the guardian again.
                                                               There was so much information. Medical theory; physics;
                                                               the universe; even the instructions on how to fly the
                                                               mothership. It was all there.
                                                                 'So what now?" Turcotte asked.

                                                                 "We're sitting on the biggest story of the century," Kelly

372                            ROBERT DOHERTY

said. "Hell, it's the biggest story of the last two thousand
years."                                                                                         EPILOGUE
  She and Turcotte had seen Gullick's body. He told her
his theory that Gullick had been controlled by the pyramid
uncovered in Mexico. That Gullick had turned it on and
powered it up, but then it had taken over. It all fit together
now, and Kelly would very shortly have to leave to do her
job and tell the rest of the world the story.
  "I miss Johnny," she said. "This is his story more than
  "His death wasn't in vain," Turcotte said.                      RAPA Nui (EASTER ISLAND)
  "He helped bring to light the greatest story in history,"
Kelly agreed.                                                     It felt the power come in like a shot of adrenaline. For the
  Turcotte threw the rock out toward the ocean and                first time in over five thousand years it was able to bring all
watched it disappear. "I think about that alien commander         systems on line. Immediately it put into effect the last pro-
so many years ago. Aspasia. The decision he had to make."         gram it had been loaded with in case of full power-up.
  "And?" Kelly asked.                                               It reached out and linked with sensors pointed outward
  "And it took a lot of guts." Turcotte stood. "And he            from the planet. Then it began transmitting, back in the
made the right decision. It was what was meant to be."            direction it had come from over ten millennia ago, calling
                                                                  out: "Come. Come and get us."
  "I didn't know you had this philosophical side to you,"
Kelly said.                                                         And there were other machines out there and they were
  "This all had to happen. I grant you that. But"-
Turcotte looked out to sea--"but I don't know if we're
making the right decision to continue down there with the
guardian. I don't know if this is meant for us, this knowl-
edge, this technology ahead of our time. I talked to Von
Seeckt. He said they're already giving the guardian more
power, putting it totally on line."
  "You sound . . ." Kelly hesitated.
  Turcotte looked at her. "Scared?"
  She nodded.
  "I am."

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