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Matt
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Re: Need to Know
Reply #15 - Jan 30th, 2013 at 2:39am
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As night began to fall, the temperature inside the crippled Learjet had fallen close to the freezing mark. Outside, although the snow had stopped, the sky was still overcast and the wind chill was thirty below zero.

Unable to take his own advice, Straker had torn into the cabin ceiling in an attempt to gain access to the strobe light atop the fuselage. Snuggled in her blanket, Virginia watched with, what appeared to him to be, amused interest. Each time he cursed under his breath she would give him a quirky grin. As much has he pretended to dislike it, Ed found himself captivated by her playful mannerisms. If only we had met… Ed stopped himself in the middle of his thought. I hardly know this woman, he reasoned.

Ed’s courtship with his ex-wife had been a whirlwind affair, but he never intended to propose to her so soon, firm in his belief that lasting relationships take time to nurture. He considered love at first sight something out of fairy tales, but his close brush with death in the Rolls Royce incident caused him to reevaluate that belief. Ed proposed to Mary the night he was released from the hospital.

Straker truly loved his wife, of that he was certain, but he never experienced the magnetism with her nearly as strong as the connection he felt with Virginia.

He pushed those thoughts from his mind and concentrated on the task at hand.

“Are you having any luck, Ed,” she asked in her low sultry voice, further distracting him from his work.

“I found the wiring for the strobe light. Now if I can find a power wire, I can tie it directly to the light, bypassing the switch.”

Earlier, Straker had inspected the wiring in the cockpit and found most of it had been melted. None of the avionics or the lighting worked in the aircraft. The emergency locator transmitter or ELT had been reduced to a fried mass of charred components.

Using an automotive style test lamp, Ed probed each of the wires, looking for one which might provide the voltage needed for the strobe.

“You are assuming that the battery is still intact,” she remarked.

“Yes, I am. But, to borrow a line from the movies, what have we got to lose?”

She answered him with another quirky grin, bringing an involuntary smile to his lips. He turned back to his task just in time to see the test lamp illuminate. Bingo!

Straker separated the wire from the bundle and cut it, giving himself enough slack to connect to the terminal strip. Loosening the screw, he slipped the wire underneath and retightened it, capturing the power lead.

Through the windows, they could both see the flashing of the strobe light against the snowy background.

“Ed, you did it!” Virginia said, unable to contain her excitement.

“Yes, hopefully the batteries are still in good shape.”

Straker pushed the ceiling panel back into place and secured it with the hardware he had saved. The panel material would provide some insulation against the elements. He let out an involuntary shiver at the thought of the cold. He hadn’t realized how stiff his hands had become.

When he sat down, Virginia grabbed his hand, “My God, Ed, you’re freezing.” Before he could protest, she slid next to him with the blanket open to wrap both of them.

“Give me a hand with this,” she said, having trouble with only one good arm.

“No, I’m fine…” he began to say but she cut him off with a sharp tone and gave him an icy blue glare colder than the wind outside.

“Don’t argue with me.”

Straker reluctantly complied, not having the energy left to resist. He pulled the blankets around both of them secretly grateful to be back under the relatively warm blankets.

He also found himself being allured by the low note of her perfume.


“The weather is starting to clear from the west, Doctor Jackson. As soon as they refuel my bird, I’m going back up.”

While Captain James was spouting his intentions, Jackson was carefully studying the search map giving the illusion that he was not paying attention. He circled an area while rubbing his chin.

“Doctor Jackson, did you hear me?” asked an impatient James.

“Yes, Captain, every word,” replied the Slavic man. He was still contemplating the map in front of him. “I think you should concentrate your efforts here,” he finally said, pointing to the circle.

James looked down at the map for the first time. The area marked by Jackson was a significant distance from the initial datum point.

“That’s quite a ways off the beaten path, Doc. Their flight plan was well to the south.”

“Yes, it is,” replied Jackson, picking up a copy of the document. “If they went down in the area where they encountered the UFO, I would expect to find nothing but wreckage. You stated that you did not observe an explosion when the alien craft fired its weapon.”

“That’s right. Somehow they must have missed. A direct hit would have exploded the fuel tanks.”

“So it is safe to assume that the aircraft stayed airborne after it was fired on, at least for some period of time.”

James nodded, “Yeah, it makes sense. But what makes you think they traveled so far…”

James stopped mid sentence as he seemed to realize where Jackson was going.

“You think they were flying away from the storm center,” he said.

“Indeed, Captain James, as a pilot yourself, I’m sure you understand the logic in this course of action.”

Jackson pointed down to the larger circle on the map.

“This line represents the maximum distance a Lear 24 could travel without power. Assuming they took a northerly heading, away from the storm, this is where they should have set down.”

Jackson was now pointing to the smaller circle which still covered a large area.

“I don’t see many runways down there, Doc,” replied James. “It will be a damned miracle if they survived.”

As the gruff pilot walked out of the briefing room, Jackson pondered his words. The man they were looking for had cheated death before, and the IAC security man was not ready to write him off.
  

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Re: Need to Know
Reply #16 - Feb 1st, 2013 at 1:56am
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There must be a crack in the airframe, she thought. Virginia could feel the draft on her face each time the wind kicked up and she knew the cabin temperature had to be close to whatever it was outside. At least it’s sheltering us from the wind.

Sharing the blanket with Ed had helped, but she soon started to shiver again, so much that the chivalrous Air Force Colonel had wrapped his arms around her to keep her warm. The day before, she would have dreamed of being held by him, but the precarious nature of their situation dampened any pleasure she might have derived.

They hadn’t spoken much, except for him telling her a bit more about the aliens. “Truthfully,” he said. “I’ve told you…almost all we know about them.” The cold had started to affect their speech.

Virginia assumed that the military was devising some type of planetary defense, but he didn’t offer any details, and she had the good grace not to ask. She already knew more than she needed to know.

“Ed…tell me about…yourself,” she asked, in an effort to break the silence as well as keeping her mind off the cold. “Are you married…any kids?”

She winced inside when she felt him tense up and she was going to withdraw the question when finally he spoke.

“I’m…divorced,” he offered. “I have a…four year old son.”

“Me too,” she replied. “Divorced…that is. Do you have…a picture…of your son?”

Straker reached into his pocket for his wallet, flipped open the photo holder and handed it to her. In the picture, the young boy was playing with a toy train set and looking up at the camera with a huge grin.

“Last Christmas,” offered Ed. “Mary said…the train set was…a big hit.”

In the child’s face, she could see the features and lines of his father.

“He’s…adorable,” she replied. “Do you…get to see him often?”

Once again, she felt him tense up and when she looked up, he had turned away.

“I’m…sorry,” she said, hoping he knew that she meant it. A few moments later he turned back to face her and she returned his wallet.

“What…about you…Virginia…any children?”

“No…it just…wasn’t in…the cards.” Her voice was colored despite her best efforts to prevent it. Quickly, she changed the subject.

“Why did that…alien craft…attack us? I mean…if they are looking to…abduct people wouldn’t it be…easier to…get someone on the ground?”

“I don’t…think it was their…intention to abduct…us. The energy…weapon…had hit us dead on…would have…exploded this aircraft. We were caught…in the blast nimbus…sort of like…bullet graze.”

“Were they…after…you?” she pressed.

“Unlikely. Nobody…knew I was on this aircraft…except for Kurt Mahler…and his secretary. They were probably…after the XI module…”

“That’s…crazy,” she interjected. “I told you…the module is nothing…more than a brick without the…firmware…loaded.”

“Or…they were…after the designer,” Ed finished.

Virginia allowed those words to sink in. If what he said was true, a sentient species, from who knows how many light years away, had somehow managed to commit an attempt on her life.

“How…would they know…”

“We believe…the aliens have a presence on the planet…or at least in the solar system. There…have been…several cases of sabotage…committed against other…contractors and installations. This is one of the reasons…that…security has to…be so tight.”

Involuntarily she shuddered as the thought of never again being safe in her own bed crossed her mind.

“Of course…now…that you…know…and now that you…seem to be a target…we are going to have…to arrange for…additional security…for you.”

“I guess I…should say…thank you,” quipped Virginia. Again she shuddered, this time because of the temperature. They were both quiet for a while.

“Ed…it’s getting…colder…in here. And I’m…getting…sleepy.”

“No…you don’t,” he chided. “We both…have to stay…awake.”

She heard him, but his own voice sounded if it was filled with fatigue and she felt herself being slowly dragged into unconsciousness. “Just a little catnap…if…that’s…”


Virginia faded off despite Ed’s feeble attempt to rouse her. A few minutes later he joined her in the cold induced slumber, still cradling her in his arms.


Captain James had flown out to the farthest point before dropping below the clouds to conduct his search. The cloud cover was broken instead of overcast and James reasoned that this would give him a chance to overlook most of the search area on the way back.

He was only a few hundred feet above one of the highest peaks when a flicker of light to the east caught his eye. The light was not intense and James realized it was a reflection off the clouds. But it was pulsing at the same rate as an aircraft beacon would.

“Sky-Alpha to base,” radioed James. “I’m going to check the area just to the east of my position. I thought I saw a flash in the clouds.”

“Roger, Sky-Alpha, deviation approved.”

I’m glad they approve, Beaver thought, I was going to do it anyway.

Beaver pulled the stick to the left, banking his jet to an easterly course. As he passed over the ridge, the light seemed to fade from the clouds.

James reduced his airspeed as much as he could and started a reversing turn that would bring him back over the spot from the opposite direction. As the jet came around, Captain James spotted the flashing light on the cliff edge.

Unlike its newer twin, Beaver’s prototype aircraft lacked VTOL, or vertical takeoff and landing capability.

“Sky-Alpha to base, I found something. I’m transmitting my coordinates now.”

“Acknowledged, Sky-Alpha, coordinates received.”

While he was transmitting, he made a low pass over the crash site, followed by several more. On the third pass, he got a good enough look for a positive ID of the aircraft. A few minutes later, Jackson came on the radio.

“Captain James, what is the condition of the crash site.”

“It’s definitely a Lear, Doc,” replied James. “The aircraft appears to be intact.”

“Is there any sign of life?”

“I made a few passes over the crash site. Other than the strobe light, the rest of the aircraft is dark. No signal flares, no radio transmissions…Doc, I’ve made another low pass over the site as we have been speaking. If anyone is still alive, they’re not able to respond.”

“I concur, Captain. The rescue choppers are in the air and their ETA is twenty five minutes. Please loiter in the area as long as fuel permits. Jackson, out.”

Beaver brought the jet around for another low pass. This time he came within a hundred feet of the crash site.

If that doesn’t wake them up, nothing will.
  

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Re: Need to Know
Reply #17 - Feb 2nd, 2013 at 7:15pm
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When Virginia awoke, her ears were being assailed with a drone she knew she recognized but could not yet identify. Added to her confusion was the fact that she was warm.

“Miss Lake, how do you feel?”

The voice of the medic brought her back to reality and she realized that she was on board a rescue chopper.

“Where’s Ed,” she offered trying to sit up against the safety restraints.

“Just relax, Miss Lake. He’s alright and we’re bringing him up now. Both of you suffered from exposure.”

Virginia had forgotten about her injured left wrist. She winced in pain when she tried to use it.”

“Miss Lake, I’m going to give you something for the pain.”

She laid back on the stretcher succumbing to the fatigue. She reasoned that if she had survived than Ed should be fine too. Absently she watched the medic prepare an injection and she hardly felt the pinch as the needle entered her forearm.

Within a handful of seconds she began to feel strange as if she was being pulled down into a deep trance. As the last fragments of conscious thought left her, she overheard the medic saying, “Yes, Doctor Jackson. We followed standard procedure…”


As soon as he was hoisted into the chopper, Ed Straker grabbed the headset from the medic.

“The UFO, did we get it?”

“Not precisely, Commander,” replied Jackson. “Captain James did intercept the craft, but only damaged it. It was able to make orbit before it exploded.”

“Meaning they were able to tell their friends that they missed,” said the Commander, unable to mask the sarcasm.

“Perhaps, and perhaps they assumed the aircraft would crash and their objective was accomplished. It is difficult to say.”

Straker had to concede the point. They just did not know.

“Tell Captain James I want to see him when this thing lands.”

“I will have him report to you at the hospital.”

Before Straker could object, Jackson cut him off.

“This order comes straight from General Henderson.”

Begrudgingly, Straker was forced to concede. He turned his attention to the young woman beside him.

“Virginia?”

“I’m sorry, Commander. You won’t be able to speak to her for at least twelve hours.”

Straker looked confused and the medic elaborated, “The amnesia drug, sir. She’ll be out for at least that long…”

“The amnesia drug?” barked Straker. “By whose order?”

“Doctor Jackson. It is standard procedure.”

Straker said nothing as he contemplated the event with mixed emotions. Maybe it’s better this way.


When she awoke, Virginia was disoriented and surprised to find herself in a hospital bed. The last thing I remember was setting the autopilot…

“Doctor Lake, how do you feel?” asked the man she assumed was her attending physician.

“Strange,” she began. “I…I seem to have lost something here.”

“You were involved in a plane crash. What is the last thing you remember?”

“I…I’m not sure. I remember taking off and reaching cruising altitude, but, after that…nothing I’m afraid.”

“Yes, I’m not surprised. You appear to be suffering from retrograde amnesia. It could have been brought on by a physical trauma or psychological trauma. In your case, since I can find no evidence of injury, I have to assume the latter.”

She was suddenly hit by a bout of vertigo and she was forced to lie back against the bed.

“Colonel Straker,” she cried out, as she remembered that he was with her.

“He survived, Doctor Lake. In fact, he is waiting to see you, if you think you are up to it.”

Virginia nodded her head, “I think I would like that.”


When he walked into the room, she greeted him with a warm smile and for a fleeting moment he thought she might still remember some of what they shared. That hope quickly faded when she spoke.

“Hello, Colonel Straker,” said Virginia, as formally as the day they first met.

“Hi, how are you?”

It was then that he noticed her blushing and her formal tone took on a new meaning.

“You’re probably wishing that you had stayed with Pan-Am. I suppose that you’ll never want to fly with me again,” she replied. It was now clear to him that she was deeply embarrassed over the incident. “I’ve never lost an aircraft before…”

“It wasn’t your fault,” offered Ed. “Something happened to the engines and we couldn’t get them restarted. You glided the aircraft down in the middle of the storm. I don’t think I could have done any better.”

The last statement was total honesty on his part as he had not expected to survive the crash. She rewarded him with another warm smile.

“You are a gentleman, Colonel Straker.”

“Don’t tell anyone, it will ruin my reputation as a hard ass.”

They both shared a laugh for a few moments before the silence started to get awkward.

“Well, I just wanted to make sure you were okay before I leave for Houston. My plane is fueled up and waiting on the tarmac.”

“Not Pan-Am?” she asked, with the same quirky grin he had become fond of.

“Not this time. NASA just happened to have a T-38 available. The XI module is being loaded now.”

“I see,” she said, the disappointment evident in her voice.

“I know you wanted to install it yourself, but Doctor Jackson says he’s holding you a few more days for observation.”

“I know, he already told me.”

“I’ll be in touch as soon as I hear from the commission,” he added, as he turned to leave.

“Wait a minute,” she said. “Where is my flight bag?”

Straker looked around the room until he spotted the leather case she had brought on board. He walked over to the wardrobe and retrieved the item for her. Quickly, she rummaged through it until she produced a dog-eared steno pad.

“I made some calibration notes and corrections to the install procedure. The factory documentation hasn’t been updated yet. Your technicians will this to complete the checkout procedure.”

Ed accepted the notebook and thumbed through it.

“There is more than just the calibration procedure here. Are you sure…”

“I trust that you will return it when you are finished,” she said.

“I’ll see to it personally,” he replied. “Take care, Doctor Lake.”

As he started for the door, she called, “Colonel?”

He turned to see a pensive expression carved into her face as if she was having second thoughts about something. She finally found her voice.

“Be safe, okay?”

“I promise.”

Ed quickly made his exit before she could notice the warmth rising in his face. As he walked down the corridor he came to a set of double doors. As he opened the door, an older couple just happened to be on the other side.

“After you,” said Straker, as he held the door open for them.

“You’re most kind,” said the woman in a thick German accent.

After they passed, Ed pressed on, intent on speaking to Jackson before he departed for Houston.
  

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Re: Need to Know
Reply #18 - Feb 3rd, 2013 at 10:43pm
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In his office, Jackson had watched the exchange between Straker and Lake, looking for some clue that she might remember the ordeal she suffered. Right away, he noticed an air of familiarity between to two people. He made a few notes and put her chart aside.

“All right, Doctor Jackson,” said Straker, as he walked into the office. “Let’s get this over with.”

“Commander,” said Jackson, offering a chair to his agitated guest.

Straker sat down in the chair provided and launched into his tirade.

“I’ve already filed a protest with General Henderson, in regard to the incident,” began Straker.

“Yes, Commander, I have a copy of your objections right here. Let me be the first to reassure you, the drug has been tested at least a dozen times in the lab and twice under field conditions. Doctor Lake will suffer no ill effects from its administration.”

“It was still an unnecessary risk. You know as well as I do, that Doctor Lake is being considered for a Security Clearance…”

“For which she has yet to be granted,” countered Jackson. “Commander Straker, you above all people know what is at stake here. No single person, nor group of people, can be allowed to compromise the security of our operation. We are all expendable.”

Straker seemed to deflate, and Jackson knew he had persuaded him.

“Forgive me, Doctor Jackson, you are right, of course,” said Ed. He paused a moment before continuing.

“Do you think she remembers anything based on your observations?”

Jackson reached for Lake’s chart.

“I see no indication that she recalls anything about the alien attack, but I did note a much higher than expected trace of intimacy between the two of you…”

“Doctor Jackson, I hardly think…”

“Perhaps intimacy is too strong a word,” interrupted Jackson. “Let’s say fondness instead. Her pulse rate increased by almost twenty percent and there was a marked increase in her electro-dermal activity. Persons who suffer a shared traumatic event often form a close bond with each other. If Doctor Lake remembers this bond, she may start to recall the event itself.”

Straker was silent for a moment, as if he were weighing a decision. His response caught Jackson by surprise.

“The response you saw had nothing to do with the attack,” he began. “Virginia Lake and I formed a bond the day we met.”

“I see,” said Jackson, leaning back in his chair. “I know this is difficult for you, Commander, but please, elaborate.”

Obviously uncomfortable, Straker told the psychiatrist of the moment of recognition they shared when first meeting as well as the details of their interaction prior to the attack.

“So, you and Miss Lake were on a first name basis before the UFO sighting?”

“Yes,” replied Straker.

“Interesting,” offered Jackson contemplatively. “In her room, she called you by title so she obviously doesn’t remember the conversation in the cockpit. Tell me, Commander; is it your intention to pursue a relationship with this woman?”

Again, Straker paused, seeming to weigh the question.

“No,” he replied.

“But by your own admission, you find her attractive…”

“It’s irrelevant, Doctor Jackson. If Doctor Lake passes muster with the commission, there is a good chance she will become a member of our research staff. I don’t think I need to discuss the complications we both know such a relationship would entail.”

“Yes, of course,” replied Jackson.

Making a few more notes in Lake’s chart, Jackson added, “I think I would still like to keep her a few more days for observation, but based what you have told me, I believe she will not require additional therapy.”

Straker seemed satisfied with that. Jackson followed his gaze to the monitor showing Doctor Lake’s room. He addressed the unspoken question on the Commander’s face.

“Close friends of Doctor Lake, or so I’m told. The gentleman is the Professor of Physics at Stanford University.”

“I met them in the corridor,” replied Ed. “Has the final version of the cover story been decided on?”

“Yes, it is right here,” said Jackson, handing over the document. “It just requires your signature for approval.”

As Jackson watched, the Commander quickly read through the document. He looked to be almost finished when he suddenly looked up and spoke.

“Pilot error?”

“It seemed to be the safest explanation,” offered Jackson. “The aircraft was relatively new and the mechanical inspection records are impeccable. The likelihood of…”

“Change it,” ordered Straker, his voice indicating he would not take no for an answer. “I wasn’t just trying to ease her mind in there, Doctor. Virginia Lake’s piloting skills were exceptional. I meant every word when I told her I couldn’t have done any better.”

“I suppose we could cite a short circuit in the electrical system,” replied Jackson.

Straker nodded his approval. 

“Well, there is a plane waiting for me, Doctor Jackson.”

“Of course, Commander, let us hope your journey is without incident.”

When the Commander had left, Jackson pulled out the file he had on the Straker and reviewed it. His psych profile indicated a very private man, who had few close friends. His willingness to discuss his feelings regarding Virginia Lake had intrigued Jackson.

Straker’s profile also indicated a very strong degree of loyalty to his duty, and to anyone he considered to be a friend. Jackson was well aware that Straker knew the methods he would be required to use should anyone show resistance to the amnesia drug which led him to believe that the emotional bond between him and Virginia Lake was deeper than he was willing to admit.

He made a few notes in the Commander’s file and placed the document back in his briefcase.

It will be most interesting to see how this plays out, he thought.


“Virginia, we were so relieved to hear that you were all right,” said Gretchen Reinhardt, as she hugged her friend tightly.

“Seeing you alive and well brings joy to my heart,” added the Professor.

Virginia was both surprised and elated to see her friends.

“You just missed Ed,” she said. “He left not thirty seconds before you arrived.”

We passed in the hallway,” said Gretchen. “Virginia, you were right. He is gorgeous. How in the name of heaven were you able to control yourself?”

“It wasn’t easy, Gretchen. Did you see his eyes?”

“Oh, I know it, Virginia…”

“Well, the two of you sure know how to make a man feel inadequate,” said the Professor, in a serious vain. It wasn’t until they both looked at him that he allowed himself to smile, punctuated by his deep laughter.

“Oh, Manfred,” said his wife. “You know you are my everything. Virginia and I are just engaging in girl talk.”

“Oh, is that what it’s called,” quipped the Professor. “So, Virginia, tell us, what happened?”

Her expression transformed from one of joy to one of contemplation.

“I still can’t remember much past the point when we reached cruising altitude,” she said. “After that, it’s all a blur. The next thing I remember clearly is waking up here. Ed said that I was at the controls when we crashed, but I don’t remember it.”

“I see you are on a first name basis,” observed Gretchen.

“No, at least I don’t think we are.”

The Reinhardt’s visited with her for over an hour before they had to leave. In that time, she learned that she had been brought to a military hospital, although she couldn’t complain about the care she received.

Soon after her guests had left, Doctor Jackson came in to check her vitals. He reiterated the need for her to stay at least another day or two so he could monitor her recovery. He told her that her wrist had not been broken but suffered a bad sprain and would heal in a few weeks.

Later that evening, she received several calls with one of them being from her mother who had just learned of her whereabouts. Virginia spent the next few minutes assuring her mother she was all right and that she didn’t need to take the next flight out. Virginia was looking forward to seeing her the following week. Although she didn’t expect it, she was disappointed not to hear from Ed Straker. It would be another six weeks before she would see him again.
  

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Re: Need to Know
Reply #19 - Mar 10th, 2013 at 8:53pm
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“Well, Ed,” quipped Craig Collins, as he assumed a professional slouch in one of Ed’s office chairs, “I’d say that was a finely executed mission. SID is humming along just fine at the Lagrange point, keeping an eye out for hostiles, we made it back without any of the interference that Alec was so worried about, it doesn’t get any better than this.”

Straker was forced to stifle a laugh as the image of Alec Freeman doing his best imitation of a mother hen came to mind.

“The problem is, Craig, one of these days, he is going to be right,” he replied.

“If you spend your life worrying about what might happen, you’ll live a boring life, Ed.”

“Is that why you always push the envelope?”

“Of course,” said Craig. “I learned a long time ago that life is not a dress rehearsal.”

Collins suddenly became all business and leaned forward in his chair. “Tell me, Ed, how well do you think this new FTL tracking system is going to work? I got a chance to look over some of the code while we were installing the modules. I’ve been an engineer for almost twenty years and I could only understand a fraction of what I was seeing. It’s radically advanced stuff.”

“The theory is sound,” said Straker. “Doctor Lake believes that once the system is fully implemented, we should be able to detect objects moving at superluminal velocity beyond the orbit of Mars, and be able to triangulate their position within thirty million miles of Earth.”

“That’s quite impressive. So, how is this going to work, I mean, a civilian having access to our tracking network?”

“Well, technically Doctor Lake isn’t a civilian anymore. General Henderson called just before you arrived. The commission has given their approval to bring Doctor Lake and several members of her team into SHADO.”

“Her team?” questioned Collins. “Why, Ed, I do believe you’ve been holding out on me. Tell me, what’s she like?”

Straker handed his friend Lake’s bio, and watched as Collins scanned the paper.

“Pretty,” said Craig, when he glanced at her file photo. He continued to read.

“Stanford, graduated summa cum laude, finished her doctorate in six years,” said Craig, rattling off her credentials. “Advanced applied physics, quantum mechanics and inter-dimensional theory, is she as impressive in person?”

“Her bio doesn’t do her justice,” admitted Ed.

“I think I would like to meet this lady, someday. So, when is she coming over?”

“Not until the Utronic project is completed. Doctor Lake will continue to be employed by Westbrook until SHADO signs off on the final system configuration. After that, she’ll be assigned to our new facility in New York.”

“You mean the new research section?”

“Yes, but she’s going to oversee the tracking facility as well. SID and the tracking system are going to be her baby now. Besides, I need your engineering expertise supervising the lunar construction project. The surface domes are completed and pressurized and excavation for the interceptor bays begins next week.”

“What kind of shape are we in with the project?”

“As of right now, we are still on target to have the base fully operational by March 1980, but the substrata where the launch bays are to be located is unstable. There was a mix up in the initial core samples and it wasn’t found until the team geologist ordered an additional survey.”

“Smart man,” agreed Collins. “How bad is it?”

“We may have to excavate an additional thirty feet to get to solid bedrock.”

Craig thought about this for a moment. “This shouldn’t be a problem,” he said. “We can reinforce the subflooring and use the extra space for storage or workshops. Of course, this means that the piston lifts for the interceptor launch pads will need to be larger than the original design called for. And we’ll have to add additional reinforcement struts.”

“Henderson will be livid when he sees the cost overrun,” replied Straker. “I’ve already had to sacrifice two satellites to fund additional staff.”

“It looks like I’ve got the easy job. But, you’re much better at finagling money from the General than I would be. When do I leave for the moon?”

“As soon as I return from the states,” replied Ed. “Alec is still tied up at Electric Boat with the Skydiver issue and I have to give Doctor Lake and her team the news, as well as their first briefing. I’ll need you to mind the store for a few days.”

“Not a problem. It will give me time to set some things in order before I take my lunar sabbatical.”

“Do you ever take anything serious?”

“Not if I can help it, Ed. But, I am being serious now, you take care, okay?”

Craig extended his hand which his friend took firmly.
“I will.”

When Straker left, Craig looked over Virginia Lake’s bio again. While he found her attractive, in more ways than one, another thought came to his mind. She’d be a good match for Ed, that is, if the old dinosaur would open his eyes to see it.


Virginia was engrossed in her work when a knock at her door drew her attention. She felt her heart start to double time when she saw his face.

Ea…a…Colonel Straker, I’m sorry, I wasn’t told you were here,” she said. She could feel herself flushing as she took his hand in greeting.

“Hello, Doctor Lake.  Forgive me, I asked Mr. Mahler not to say anything until I saw you myself. I believe I promised to return this,” he said, handing her a steno pad.

Virginia looked at the notebook. It was the same one she had given him six weeks ago.

“You didn’t have to fly out here for this,” she said, pleasantly. But I’m glad you did. “Can I get you some coffee?”

“Please,” he replied, taking a seat at her conference table while she prepared the beverages.

“The data we have been getting from your satellite is incredible,” she said, her voice conveying her enthusiasm. “The entire area between the moon and Earth is inundated with superluminal particles. I could spend years just studying the data we’ve collected already. I assume that is why you are here.”

“To be honest, he replied. “I have a more important reason for coming today. While the subspace particles you are seeing do hold great scientific value, they are not the phenomenon that SID is designed to track.”

Virginia stopped what she was doing and strode over to close the office door. She retrieved the two coffee mugs and sat across from him at the table.

“Thank you,” he said, accepting the drink.

She leaned back in her chair, “Please, Colonel, by all means, continue.”

“The commission finally gave approval.”

Straker lowered his voice and proceeded, “What I’m about to tell you is classified at the highest levels.”

He reached into his briefcase and produced a photograph.
Virginia studied the image intently. Inside, she felt an unexplainable feeling of dread, and she knew that this craft was not only extraterrestrial, but hostile.

“How long…?”

“The picture was taken in 1970,” he said. “It was a wooded area in southern England, and even though there have been other confirmed sightings in other parts of the world, this was the first.”

“Alien?”

“Yes, and hostile, Ed said. “Two of the three people who took this film are dead or missing. One of them was mutilated, almost beyond recognition. The second was severely wounded in the attack.”

Virginia felt her blood run cold as she stared at the spacecraft. An image flashed through her mind of the craft in flight. She suppressed a shudder.

“You’ve seen this before,” he said, not in the form of a question.

“I…I don’t know. Until now, I would have said no, but…” She put her hand to her head, trying to jog her no longer to be trusted memory.

“When we were flying to Houston, we were attacked by one of these craft.”

Over the next hour, Straker detailed the ordeal they had shared, the attack, the crash, and the circumstances surrounding their eventual rescue. He continued on about the formation of SHADO, as well as the extraordinary security measures in place.

“So this amnesia drug prevents a person from remembering the events of the past twelve hours?”

“Yes, although we have had cases where people have been able to recall fragments of their experience. Security decided this was an acceptable risk as most people would dismiss the images as nightmares.”

Virginia considered this in silence for a moment. She finally asked the obvious question.

“What happens to those people who have this information, but aren’t asked to sign on to your organization?”

“It depends on the circumstance in which they are given the classified data. In your case, we need your expertise, regardless of whether you are asked to sign on or not. You will be required to sign a non-disclosure agreement. Violation of that agreement is dealt with very directly. I don’t think you want me to go into the details."

“No, I think I get the picture,” she said. “The very cost of all this…”

“That is only part of the equation,” added Ed. “Can you imagine the social upheaval such knowledge could cause, not to mention the fact that these aliens are hostile.”

Virginia hadn’t considered that. All her life, she believed it was possible that life did exist on other worlds but having solid evidence of their existence caused her to question her own spiritual beliefs. And she was a well educated woman of science, with an open mind to such knowledge. She tried to envision a population suddenly saddled with the realization that they were no longer supreme in their corner of the universe and in constant danger from an unknown extraterrestrial enemy. The picture wasn’t a pretty one.

“I think I understand,” she answered. “The general public can never know.”

“That’s correct.”

Virginia stood and walked over to her window, contemplating her world, a world she would now always see in a different light. As grave as the situation seemed, Colonel Straker had offered her a vision of hope. An organization, dedicated to defending the planet which she called her home. He hadn’t asked her, yet, but she already knew she wanted to be a part of this.

“Tell me, Colonel Straker,” she began, as she returned to her seat. “This SHADO that you spoke of, do they have room for a theoretical physicist?”
  

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Matt
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Re: Need to Know
Reply #20 - Apr 6th, 2013 at 7:17pm
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“… don’t blame you at all. If I was the one getting married, I would be as nervous as a cat on a hot tin roof.”

Alec paused when it was evident to him that his friend wasn’t listening.

“Ed, are you still with us?”

Freeman’s voice brought Straker out of his reverie and back to the here and now. He turned to his friend and smiled.

“I almost let her go, Alec,” he said, in a serious vein. “We had been seeing each other for almost six weeks the morning Miss Frasier awoke from the coma. I was having second thoughts about the two of us.”

“Really?” questioned Alec. “Did you tell her?”

“Not in so many words, but I was deliberately formal with her in my office that day. Then, things got crazy, as they always do and we didn’t have time to talk.”

Straker paused for a moment and Freeman knew better than to press. Ed continued, “When Catherine died, Virginia was down in the lobby waiting for me. I looked at her, we didn’t say anything and I just walked away. I know I hurt her by doing that.”

“Ed, sometimes we walk away because we really want to be alone and sometimes we do it to see if someone cares enough to follow us into hell.”

“I suppose you’re right. As you said earlier, Virginia doesn’t give in once she has made her mind up.”

“This, from someone who should know,” quipped Alec.

Before he could respond, Ed’s attention was drawn down the aisle, where Professor Reinhardt had just signaled they were ready. Keeping with tradition, he hadn’t seen her wearing her wedding gown and he felt his breath catch when she finally appeared.

Ever the analyst, Straker had worried about the ramifications that their union would cause. The aliens had made several attempts on his life and at least three on hers. And even though the security at their new home was state of the art, Ed worried about the safety of the family they planned to build together.

Then there was the inherent complication of being married to his second in command and even with the blessing of the commission, he knew they would need to be extra diligent in their efforts to keep the relationships in balance.

All of those concerns seemed to fade in significance as he gazed on his wife to be. His only regret was not revealing his feelings sooner than he did. Ed remembered a quote he had heard as a younger man. Give me today, and I will be happy. Joining hands with Virginia, he made himself a promise to love her without reservation and live each day as if it were his last. As he took her eyes with his, he was certain she was thinking the same thing.

END
  

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