by Pamela McCaughey (2001)
based on UFO, created by
Gerry & Sylvia Anderson, Reg Hill
Author's Home Page
Warning: no adult situations, some naughty words
Apologies for the usage of real person President Harry Truman.
July 8, 1947
"And, that's the situation as it stands to this minute, Mr. President," said Brigadier-General Anthony Straker, as he handed Harry Truman a "for your eyes only" file. The President and some of his top military brass were en route on a fleet Air Force transport to New Mexico,
"Judas Priest," the President commented, staring down at the photos in Straker's file, "They look a lot like us!"
"With some differences, of course - their skin is tinged green from the breathing liquid they use to travel in space. Autopsies are being done on the deceased aliens as we speak. But, two of them have survived. And, they want to see you, sir."
"Was there any wreckage recovered from the crash site? How is this being handled in the press?"
"Well, you're covered as vacationing. General Eisenhower is flying in secretly, and the members of Majestic-12. And, as for the story itself, well, we've warned the air force base commander to shut things up with a cover story about a weather balloon. You'll be seeing the alien wreckage tonight for yourself."
Harry Truman sat back and rested his eyes for a moment, handing the closed file back to General Straker, "We just finished a six year world war, Tony. I don't think the world is ready to learn we may have an interstellar war on our hands - one which we could never win, given the aliens' technological superiority."
"I couldn't agree more, sir. That's why Majestic-12 has reconvened. This isn't just a Communist threat. We've got the fate of the whole world hinging on how this meeting is handled. And, secrecy is of the highest order."
"Y'know, the day I made the decision to drop the bomb on Hiroshima, I slept like a baby. Not because I wanted to order something which was going to be responsible for the deaths of thousands, but because every day we stalled, we had to face the idea of invading mainland Japan - and that would mean the loss of thousands of Americans. It seemed the more sensible decision was to bring the Japanese to their knees and end the war in the Pacific once and for all," Harry took off his glasses and passed a hand over his tired eyes, "It's one thing to make decisions for your own countrymen, who voted you into office, Tony. It's quite another thing to make a decision which will affect people in countries around the world who never even heard of me - or of Roswell."
"With any luck, sir, Roswell will be just a blip on the radar and forgotten as soon as some other crazy story gets into the public eye."
"I sure hope you're right!"
* * *
Exterior activity at the local Air Force Base had been kept to a minimum, but inside, it was a different story. An alien autopsy was in session. Air force personnel were busy at tasks aimed to prevent national hysteria and keep the story under wraps. President Truman stood in at the autopsy for a few minutes before his tour of the alien craft wreckage and a further briefing on the upcoming meeting with the two aliens who'd survived the crash. The whole scenario left him shaking his head.
The Majestic 12 people had also arrived at the air force base and were ready to meet with the President. A briefing room was set up for their talks, complete with large scale maps of the crash area, blown up photos from the crash site, and preliminary pictures of the dead aliens clothed and unclothed. Their personal gear had been of considerable interest - strange orange fabric suits with silver attachments, breathing apparatus, and protective helmets.
"How do these alien beings communicate? Do they speak English?" asked Truman, as they sat down to their seats and fresh cups of steaming coffee. It was going to be a long night.
"They do not speak, as such, Mr. President. Their form of communication is telepathy. If they have their own verbal language, they haven't used it with us, nor do they appear to have a handle on verbal English or any other earth language. We've had some of the air force people here who are expert in Russian, French and German give them a try, but they didn't respond."
"Telepathy? So how does it work?" the President wanted to know.
"They seem to be able to...directly access our thoughts...to get certain concepts across without words. Their ability to communicate this way seems restricted to close contact. For instance, they can't seem to pick up on thoughts or project thoughts out of the room. We've run a few tests in this manner. After all, we don't want them to be able to know what we're thinking, do we?"
One of the other MJ-12 members spoke up, "We're keeping them behind a sterile plate glass partition for the time being. All those who've come in direct contact with them have been quarantined. We have no idea what kind of "space bugs" these aliens might have brought with them from their own planet. After all, nobody wants to permit some sort of "space plague" to get loose on Earth. Their own clothing and equipment has been removed and they're dressed in plain cotton jumpsuits."
"Can anyone tell if they're male or female?"
"All four aliens are male. They do have human-like genitalia. In fact their bodies are very much like ours - very humanoid. But, the autopsies, as you saw, are revealing some interesting facts - like the evidence of transplanted organs - and double organs. Our medical science doesn't have the technology with which to effect organ replacements as yet. They're obviously way ahead of us in this area as well as technologically."
"What do you mean by 'double organs'?"
"Just that - one body had two hearts, the other had two gall bladders."
"I wouldn't have thought there'd be much space inside the thoracic cavity for extras."
"One organ is regular sized, the second slightly smaller. We're still awaiting the final reports."
"What is their demeanor at present?"
"Well, Mr. President, they don't seem to be afraid. In fact, they've been remarkably calm about everything, including the medical testing we did on them. They struggled quite a bit when we unhooked their green breathing liquid - in fact we were afraid we were going to lose them - but their struggles were not violence against us, but fear of breathing our atmosphere. We finally reached a deal in which they got to keep their helmets and liquid, and we managed to find some of the spare stuff in the wreckage of their ship. But, time is against them, sir. They need to be able to return home within a very few days or else their supply here will be used up and they'll die."
"And just how are they going to get home? We don't have the capability to get off this planet, let alone send them home in a few days!"
"One of their contentions is that we should permit them to utilize some of our 'primitive' technology so they can send a message to their confederates to return to Earth and take them back with them."
"I see. So we're just supposed to allow an alien space craft to land on United States soil!"
"That's what they want, sir."
"So what else do they want? Do they think we're just going to let them waltz out of here like good Samaritans? Don't they realize that our government has never before had contact with extra terrestrials? What's in this for us?"
"We don't know if the aliens have had contact with other Earth governments before, but they've said they would only give their demands to the President of the United States. Beyond that we haven't succeeded in getting much. We do know they want to go home. That much seems obvious."
"Why us? Why not the British or the Russians?"
"Their desire to negotiate with you has apparently come as a result of landing here in New Mexico. The impression is that they'd deal with whatever government jurisdiction they fell into."
"Did they give any reasons for being in this area when they crashed? After all, Los Alamos is just up the road," Truman asked, referring to the home of the Manhattan Project, the atomic bomb development installation.
"They haven't given any indication of what their interest was here - at least not specifically. They did comment that their race has been 'monitoring' us for some time, and they're aware of the fact we just concluded a long term world war. Apparently we're some sort of curiosity to them - they've been studying us much the same way we study animals in the wild."
"Have they said or intimated anything threatening?"
"You mean like interstellar war? No, sir. Nothing like that. But, I'd exercise great caution when you're negotiating with them. If they can project thoughts and images mentally, there's no way of knowing what else they can do with telepathy. They might be able to gain thought control of you, cause you to attack the Russians, who knows? The bottom line, sir, is that they cannot and must not be trusted."
Truman shook his head again, as though it was all too difficult to comprehend. His silence was taken for tacit approval, and the remainder of the briefing was devoted to what information was available on the downed craft and its site, the preliminaries from the autopsies, and the aliens' personal gear.
August 8th, 1987
"How is he?"
"Very weak. He's been asking for you."
Straker stared at the closed bedroom door and sighed. Alec was holding the fort back at SHADO headquarters in Britain, and had almost bodily thrown him on the SHADO transport to Boston, saying, "Your father is dying! He wants to see you one last time. You owe him that much."
The relationship between General Anthony Straker and his son had never been easy. First of all, there was the ghost of Emily Straker between them - Ed's mother died giving birth to him. And, then there was the natural reticence of both Straker men to talk about issues. They never seemed to have much to say to each other. It had been easier for the older Straker to escape into the bottle than communicate with his only child. The General never remarried; theirs was a completely masculine household, with no feminine touches or encouragement of emotion. General Straker was a tough-minded career military man, and he didn't understand his son's apparent defection from the military to the soft, seemingly useless life of a film executive in England. Ed's change in profession pissed the old man off to no end, and it was at that point their real estrangement occurred, "No son of mine would leave the United States Air Force for a pansy job like that!"
Now General Anthony Straker was on his deathbed. And he'd summoned his son to his side in much the same way a military commander would order in a subordinate. It was an edict, not a request. And not an edict to be ignored, either.
The silver-haired SHADO commander now paused to gather himself before marching into his father's bedroom. What kind of reception would he get? He nodded to the nurse and opened the door...
Lying back on a stack of pillows, General Straker's eyes were closed. His thick shock of silver hair had been neatly combed and he was attired in pressed pajamas. The clean white sheets were pulled up tightly and smartly around him with almost military precision. His big hands laid on the sheets, one wearing a heavy crested military signet ring, the other wearing the simple wedding band he'd never taken off, despite the fact Mrs. Straker had been dead for decades. He appeared to be dozing.
Closing the door silently, Commander Straker turned and sat down in the seat placed close to the bedside. He watched his father open his eyes, saw the pursed lips and the sardonic expression he knew so well.
"So. You've come," the old man said.
"As soon as I could, Dad, I had some business to take care of," Straker always felt like a seven year old making excuses in front of his father.
"Hmmp. Your movie business, I suppose," General Straker said, with just enough sarcasm to intimate his disapproval.
"Yes, my movie business," Ed replied, knowing that keeping up the fiction of Harlington-Straker Film Studios was an unpleasant, but necessary, part of his role as SHADO's commander.
"You fly in?"
"I arrived at Logan Airport a short time ago."
"I figured you were taking that slow boat from China," the General commented, using a phrase the younger Straker hadn't heard since he was a child.
"I had to get a connection from JFK in New York."
"You want a drink? There's some brandy over there on the dresser and some glasses."
"I don't drink Dad, remember?"
"You're gonna want a drink when I get through with you," Straker Senior muttered, "And, get me one too while you're about it."
Ed got up from his seat and poured two snifters half full of the amber liquid. He had no intention of touching his own, but figured it might make the interview go a little more smoothly if he pretended to drink. He handed one of the glasses to his father and watched him take a big swallow. The older man grimaced, as though the brandy burned on the way down.
"How have you been feeling, Dad?" Straker sat down again.
"How do you think? I'm dying!"
"Do you have everything you need? Does the doctor come every day?"
"I don't need any damn doctors at this point. Just lots of brandy. It cuts the pain."
"The nurse told me you'd refused morphine. You should take it, you should have something for the pain that really works."
"No. That stuff just turns you into an idiot. I want my wits about me, boy. Because you and I have to have a talk now."
"Dad...," Straker started, but his father cut him off.
"You'll find my will and my finances all in order! The house is to be sold of course and don't worry, you'll get the lot. You're still my son. Just make sure you plant me next to your mother. That's all I really care about now. Seeing your mother..."
"That wasn't what I was going to ask about. I know you probably have everything taken care of. I'm just concerned about you."
"Well, don't be. My time is almost up and I'd glad of it. This being sick business is hard on a man. I was never sick a day in my life...till this...," even now he couldn't talk about the disease which was eating up his liver. The younger Straker had learned of his father's illness through the nurse.
There was silence for a moment. Finally the elder Straker sipped his brandy and said, "I don't have much time left, and there's something I've been living with all these years, something I could never tell anyone. I want to get it off my chest."
"I think if you want absolution you should see a priest."
The old man laughed, a hollow cackle, "This isn't something you'd tell a priest. But, I can tell you because you were once a military man like me. Only a military man could understand. Sometimes we all have to do things we don't like in the service of our country. I always figured that's why you left the service. Something stuck in your craw. Maybe I resented you for getting out rather than do something you'd regret. Like I did. "
"Dad, you don't have to confess anything to me..."
"I'm not confessing anything, boy! I'm just gonna tell you how it was and what it was and why it was! I never even told your mother."
"So why do you have to tell it now?"
"Because it needs to be told. You need to know how it happened and what part I had to play in it," the older Straker leaned forward, "Y'ever hear of an organization called Majestic 12?"
Straker considered the question carefully, "Isn't it supposed to be some mythical secret U.S. government think tank?"
"It's no myth. But, you already knew that, didn't you?" There was something in those cold blue eyes that told the younger Straker he couldn't feign ignorance, "Hell, I was a member of Majestic myself. Back in the '40's - just after the war." The General paused and took another swig of his brandy, "And, once a member of Majestic - always a member of Majestic."
A police siren passed by in the street below. The ormolu clock by the bedside ticked loudly and chimed the half hour.
"Yes, Majestic had its fingers in a lot of pies over the years. We managed the governmental black budget, deciding how much funding to devote to different top secret projects, and who would work on them. We managed to bring together the best brains in the world, we supported people like Albert Einstein and Werner von Braun and others - and even former Nazi scientists we brought over here to work for us after the war. Some of them were war criminals, but we just sneaked them right out past the Nuremburg Trials and right into American labs with American passports and identities. We figured their knowledge working for us was worth the deception and the denied judgment for their crimes."
"Von Braun was instrumental in rocket science - everyone knows about his vital contributions. Einstein was a genius."
"All true, boy. All true. We negotiated with these people for their services, and in return we protected and funded them. We figured the ends justified the means. It was all for America's benefit, right? Well, World War Two ended, and the Cold War sprang up. The Red Menace and all that. Majestic turned its interests to...other concerns," he held out his snifter for more brandy with an expression that brooked no refusal, and gave the younger Straker the "hairy eyeball" when he didn't fill it to the brim, "And, sometimes we didn't have a choice." The General contemplated his booze for a moment, his eyes misted over.
"Are you ok, Dad?"
"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine," he took a hasty pull of his brandy and continued, "I started out as the Majestic liaison for old Harry Truman himself when he was President. 'The buck stops here' that's what he used to say. That was at the end of '45. I got the job of briefing Harry in July 1947 when all hell could have broken loose. At least with the Nazis, we always knew what we were up against, y'know? But, this was different."
"What was so special about 1947?" Commander Straker asked.
"That was the year we made contact. Not like in the movies. Not some Hollywood special effects crap like Harlington-Straker would produce. The real thing. And, I was assigned to work with the President, his Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Majestic to negotiate the biggest deal this planet ever had."
Both Straker men sat in silence, regarding each other with a new awareness. The younger Straker ventured to say, "Made contact?"
The older Straker snorted in derision, "Don't pretend to me that you don't know what I'm talking about. You never could get away with lying to your old man, now, could you? But, you did a good job of it for awhile. I didn't know myself until about 1975 what you'd really gotten yourself into when you left the Air Force. An old Majestic friend of mine, who was still in the inner circle, told me - told me about SHADO."
Ed suppressed a gasp, "Why didn't you say anything? Why didn't you...?"
"Why didn't I 'forgive' you? Forgive you for becoming a so-called film exec?" the general swallowed more brandy, "Once a member of Majestic, always a member. It was top secret at the highest levels - he could have been executed for even telling me. It wasn't worth his death to change things between you and me. I figured I'd eventually get around to it. And, now I'm going to die. It doesn't matter anymore."
"So this is what you brought me across the Atlantic Ocean for!" the younger Straker spat out, bitterness in his eyes and in voice.
"Not quite. I wanted you to know that I had a hand in starting your war. Inadvertently, but I helped, nonetheless. Helped the other side, but we didn't know that at the time."
"What are you talking about?"
"In the summer of 1947, an alien spacecraft crash landed outside Roswell, New Mexico - a little dot on the map called Corona. As a member of Majestic 12, I accompanied President Harry Truman out there, along with the other Majestic members, and then General Ike Eisenhower. There had been four occupants of that alien ship - two were dead, two were still alive. And, they had demands. Demands they insisted had to be given directly to the President of the United States - or else."
"Or else? 'Or else' what?"
"Look, boy, we'd just finished a six year war with the Japs and the Nazis - we didn't have the military power to find out. Sure, we had the atomic bomb, but it was obvious from that downed alien craft that they had us outgunned and outclassed, technologically. We couldn't afford the security breach and we couldn't afford risking an interstellar war with an advanced enemy who already knew all our flaws. Harry decided to talk to them."
"My God! They talked? They actually spoke English?" SHADO's commander was shocked by this.
"No, they didn't actually vocalize - they used...a form of telepathy to get their points across. I remember this big briefing session we had before Harry even saw them..."
"Who knew about this, Dad? I mean, in all these years, I've NEVER heard..."
"Only the President, Majestic and the Joint Chiefs of Staff were in on it. We knew if the FBI or the CIA found out we'd all be dead meat for even considering a parlay with aliens. Especially making a deal that would end up costing this planet so much in the long run."
"Old Harry listened to their demands. They were on this...green breathing liquid and they didn't have much of it left - they couldn't breathe our atmosphere. They needed to use our radio waves to broadcast a message in space to bring a rescue ship for them ASAP. They were stranded here and didn't want to die."
"What else did they want?"
"They wanted to deal with us. And, they said if we Americans didn't deal with them, maybe some other government would. They intimated to Harry that maybe the Russians would be interested in what they had to offer...well, it was the Cold War, after all...nobody wanted to see the Russians getting advanced alien technology or assistance. So, Harry agreed to their terms."
"Terms? What terms? They dared to dictate terms to President Truman..."
"Yeah, we all thought they had a lot of brass for aliens who were thousands of light years from home with only enough breathing liquid left for a few days. But, they acted like they had us over a barrel...like Truman was their prisoner, not the other way around. Anyway, Harry decided to deal with them when they'd laid out their cards," General Straker gulped more brandy, "In the end, Harry figured we didn't have a choice."
"The aliens told us they were a dying race of people from another area of our galaxy. They wouldn't tell us where. Not like it mattered. We couldn't even get off planet Earth, let alone seek out their home world. But, they wouldn't tell us where they were from. They said they needed to regenerate, and since our bodies were so much like theirs, they wanted human organs and tissues for the purposes of transplants for themselves, to stay alive. Harry explained we didn't have that medical capability here, but they said they did and could perform these delicate surgeries on their home world. The President also explained there was no way he could morally or ethically sanction such a deal, and the aliens told him he didn't have to. They would continue to take as many humans as they wanted for their needs, with no obstruction from us. And, in return for our compliance, they would share some of their advanced technology with us, to improve things here. They offered to start some of our medical people on transplant procedures, to give us electronic and military blueprints for advanced items and weaponry. They offered to help us move beyond the atomic bomb."
"And, if you didn't comply? What then?"
"They assured us they could destroy our planet - they were that much more advanced than we were. They could subject this world to a war which would make the Nazis look like amateurs. The final consensus was that we couldn't risk calling their bluff. We weren't strong enough to say no. And, nobody wanted to say yes. Least of all, Harry."
"So, what happened?"
"Harry hammered out a deal with the aliens. Had to be the only time this country ever made a deal in which we got the dirty end of the stick. But, at the time, it didn't seem that bad. After all, what was the sacrifice of a few people we'd never know about for the aliens' purposes against the advanced technological assistance they were offering us? And, we sure as hell couldn't afford to say no. The aliens were prepared to make "The War of the Worlds" a reality, instead of a radio show. Harry figured we were staring down the business end of the gun, or whatever the aliens used for weapons of mass destruction. They said compared to their weaponry, our atomic bomb was just a fire cracker."
"How did the aliens get home? How did they transfer any of their technology to earth?"
The General waved his brandy snifter, "We sent out a distress call for them and in less than 24 hours, one of their ships landed at a specified set of co-ordinates in the Nevada desert to pick them up."
"What about the technology?"
"Where do you think the first computers, much of our electronics, and some of our rocket science came from? And, that wasn't all. The aliens got our medical people started on a dozen different procedures from transplants through to cancer treatments. They suggested areas of research to get us working in a number of vital cures or controls, and a pile of post-war pharmaceuticals using natural products right here from planet earth. Our scientists came to the conclusion that the aliens knew a lot more about us and about our planet than they were willing to admit."
Commander Straker sat back in his chair, stunned, "I had no idea..."
"It wasn't common knowledge, boy. How could we ever let it be known we traded technology and medical advancements for human lives? We knew what the deal was. Morally and ethically it was wrong." The General took another big quaff of his brandy.
"So how come this never came to light when SHADO was being set up?"
"You mean, why weren't you told?"
"Majestic has long arms and long memories. And, don't kid yourself. If they knew I was telling you all this, I'd be dead before you could say Jack Robinson. That's why I waited so long," he looked over at his son, "You're not new to the world of military secrets. You know you can't confirm or deny what I've said anyway. Not without leaving yourself open to assassination." The older Straker laid back on his pillows, closing his eyes.
"So, you people just opened the door for the aliens to come in here and take anyone they wanted?"
"I didn't say it was right, boy! I just said how it was! We didn't have a choice. It was an ugly deal - made uglier by the fact that those people the aliens took paid for our advancements with their lives and never even knew it. They were the only heroes of this war..."
The younger Straker cut him off, "They weren't heroes - they were victims! And, you let their killers in the front door!"
"We didn't have a choice, God dammit!" General Straker sat up abruptly, spilling his brandy all over the bed sheets, "It was going to mean war - a war we couldn't possibly win! And, we were already overtaxed from six years of war with the Nazis! We had the choice of letting the aliens take a few human lives, or killing off the entire species!"
"The aliens were bluffing! They needed us humans and earth's natural resources too much to kill us off or destroy our planet!"
"You weren't there, boy. You didn't make the decision. You didn't see a president struggling with it," the older man handed his empty glass over to his son, "At the time, it seemed the only decision possible."
"There must have been some other way to handle this..."
"Not the way we saw it in '47. Harry said it was harder to deal with the aliens than it had been to drop the bomb on Japan. I believed him. He had the fate of the entire word resting on his shoulders."
August 10th, 1987
Ed Straker watched the clods of earth being dropped onto his father's casket. Thump, thump thump, they landed on the pewter-colored stainless steel coffin. The tombstone already bore Emily Straker's birth and death dates; General Straker's would be added after.
The priest intoned the final words as the earth was filled in, "Dust to dust...," by this time, Ed wasn't listening anymore - his thoughts were running inward to that last conversation he'd had with his father.
God Almighty! Straker felt the words as a prayer. How had it come to this? That the aliens Straker had been spending his life to battle were given carte blanche by the very leader who governed his own country of birth! And, that his own father was part of that group of men responsible for bringing down this alien curse upon the world!
Straker was getting into the limousine when the priest stopped him, "I'm sorry I wasn't able to see your father in time to give him the Last Rites, my son. If I'd been called in time..."
"That's alright, Father. It couldn't be helped. Thank you for handling the funeral service," and SHADO's commander got in the back of the long black car and pushed the button on the console to slide the passenger window up electronically. The limo drove out of the cemetery, past the flowering shrubs and bushes, out onto the street. Straker sat back in the plush passenger area of the limo, remembering his father's dying words, "I can't confess this to a priest...there'll be no absolution..."
* * *
Alec Freeman strode into Straker's office, "You're back awfully soon!"
Straker looked up from a sheaf of papers on his desk, "Yes. My father is dead."
Freeman took out a cigarette, lit it and sat back, exhaling a cloud of smoke, "I'm sorry to hear that, Ed."
"Don't be. He wasn't," Freeman could read the bitterness in Straker's eyes and voice, in every line of his slim body.
"I was hoping you and your father might..."
"Might what? Reach a rapprochement, a detente? Have one of those 'I always loved you anyway' chats? You didn't know my father."
"Only by reputation. I heard he was a hard-nosed son of a bitch."
"You didn't know the half of it," Straker added.
"Did he leave you anything or write you out of his will?"
"Oh, no, he left the lot to me, alright. He had everything perfectly arranged - the house to be sold, the finances - he even had his funeral pre-paid."
"So, I take it you must have concluded all the business to be back so soon."
Straker gestured to the paperwork on his desk, "I'm just filling out some forms. I'm turning over my father's estate to the Catholic Church."
Freeman raised an eyebrow, "Really? Why?"
The silver-haired SHADO commander's expression was grim as he said, "Sometimes you have to pay for absolution."
The Works of Pamela McCaughey
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