May 29, 1977
The Arizona Desert
The government-issued, 1973 Chevrolet Caprice traveled on Highway 85 about fifty miles southwest of Phoenix. The color of the Caprice had once been Army-green, but thanks to four years of desert heat and billions of grains of sand, it was now closer to gray.
Despite a lack of traffic, the vehicle cruised at a steady fifty-five miles per hour. The lone passenger had explained to the youthful driver shortly after departing Sky Harbor International Airport that he would not tolerate high speeds. He also said he would not sit in the back seat like ‘some dignitary’ while being escorted by this ‘wet behind the ears’ private. He insisted on sitting in the front passenger seat with his attaché case in his lap. The radio remained off and the air conditioner was on high. The dry air of the Arizona desert was a blissful 113 degrees.
The driver was PFC Ryan Farnall of Kayenta, Arizona and his passenger was General Vance Lockwood of Townsend, Massachusetts. Both men served their roles for the United States Army.
Upon exiting the airport terminal, the visitor from the mild Northeast had visibly flinched and asked his guide, ‘Is it always this goddamn hot, Son?’ The private, still in his first tour of duty, had hesitated and then responded to his superior, ‘Sir, this is nuthin’. Wait ‘til July n’ August’.
Private Farnall had placed the general’s luggage in the trunk of the sand-blasted car as Lockwood helped himself into the front seat. It was not long after departing that the general reprimanded the private for driving too fast.
Half an hour later, Private Farnall had relaxed enough to attempt small talk with General Lockwood. However, his attempts were met with a simple ‘Just drive, Son’. After an embarrassed ‘Yes, sir’, he just drove.
Farnall was nervous at the beginning of the journey due to the fact that his mission had been described by his superiors as classified. Farnall would have never imagined that he would be involved in anything classified, much less escorting a general on a secret mission. He was ordered to attend to his task in civilian clothes and address his superior as ‘Mister Lockwood’. No saluting would be permitted. The car, although government-issued, had no markings on it, and the plates were simple Arizona ones. To any passersby, the two Army personnel were supposed to look like a characteristic entrepreneur and his chaperon involved in a typical business matter. The private had been instructed to deliver his passenger safely to his destination and return to his base in Phoenix.
Just prior to 1830 hours, the Caprice approached its destination: A large, three-story block mansion, sitting on over five acres of unexpected lush landscaping with a gondola, a pond and what appeared to be a mini-fairway for one simple hole of golf. In the middle of the Arizona desert? thought General Lockwood. He was pleasantly surprised. He had been a golf novice for over a decade. Despite the unbearable heat, he may have to convince his host to let him have a go at the fairway.
As the car progressed along the driveway to the large residence, the general noted many of the features of the structure. A deep balcony on the middle story winding around the entire house; multiple trellises around the building supporting plant life that he could never identify; deep shadows throughout the structure created by the many appendages of the beautiful construction before them. The ex-senator must have really squirreled away his salaries throughout the years to afford such luxury. Lockwood did not recall having read or heard about any prior or post-government endeavors by his host that would provide him with such amenities. Could the salaries of such a post be so extravagant? The thought brought about a bit of resentment by the general. A public servant who served his entire adult life, dodged enemy fire in Korea and the hellhole known as Vietnam and put his life on the line multiple times in multiple locales could not be allowed such luxuries?
All such thoughts were swept aside as the private pulled the car parallel to the entrance and killed the engine. He exited the vehicle and, nearly forgetting all prior protocols, attempted to open the senior officer’s door. But General Lockwood, despite his sixty-two years, was still agile enough to have exited the vehicle and attended to himself, leaving Farnall to retrieve his luggage from the trunk. The private regarded the general from the corner of his eye, waiting for orders.
After studying the massive structure from side to side, top to bottom, General Lockwood put his feet in motion, with the younger man in tow. As they approached the front entrance, the double doors were opened and a uniformed-gentleman, apparently a butler or servant of some kind, descended the front steps. He met his guests before they reached the stairs and addressed the general. “General Lockwood, I presume?”
Apparently the charade was not being carried out for the benefit of the staff. Lockwood studied the man for a moment and replied, “Yep, that’d be me”.
“If you would, please follow me”, the man countered, as he extended his right arm to retrieve the one piece of luggage from Private Farnall. He then led the pair out of the blazing Arizona sun and into the foyer of the cool, air-conditioned mansion.
Another uniformed gentleman was waiting within. Their original greeter again addressed the two soldiers. “Gentlemen, my name is Thomas. I have been instructed to attend to Mr. Lockwood and present him to Senator Fannin. My partner, Stephen, has been instructed to attend to Mr. Farnall, offer restoratives, and see him back off to his point of origin.”
The general nodded and responded, “Sounds good. You can start by showin’ me to the john”.
The man seemed taken aback by Mr. Lockwood’s brashness, but smiled and responded, “Very well, sir”, and led him on his way.
Farnall watched the men disappear into the mansion. The butler known as Stephen turned to the private. “Mr. Farnall, if you will follow me, please.”
The private was allowed to freshen up in a restroom off the galley, enjoy a sandwich and a cold Pepsi, and then was sent back to his base in Phoenix.
After relieving himself, rinsing and drying his sweat-soaked face and neck in a well-adorned restroom in the main hall, General Lockwood was led to a door just several yards away by Thomas.
“Are you able to navigate stairs well, General?”
Lockwood turned to face him, his eyebrows and one corner of his mouth turned upward. “I may be old but I ain’t crippled, Son. The senator couldn’t a met me up here on his own, huh?” he asked with more than a little annoyance in his voice.
The butler quickly recovered from his guest’s remarks and smiled, trying to remain hospitable. “I think you will appreciate the situation when all comes to light, sir”.
After opening the door, he led General Lockwood down a steep, winding set of stairs. When they reached the landing, the general observed that the basement area of the mansion was more casually-furnished than the rest of the house, yet still elegant and spacious. Apparently a recreation and entertainment area, the main room was adorned with several sofas and wooden chairs, a large television and two pool tables. A full bar was set off to the side. Several open doors on both sides suggested storage or living quarters. He could see the corner of an unmade bed in one of the rooms.
Two men and a woman were standing behind the nearest sofa and facing the approaching guest and his escort. The gentleman in the center, and by far the eldest of the trio, was the ex-Senator, Paul Fannin. Lockwood did not know either the younger man or woman. Both appeared to be in their early twenties.
As the butler reached the bottom of the stairs, he presented General Vance Lockwood to the trio. The senator then initiated conversation. “Good evening, General.”
“Evenin’, Senator”. The officer stepped forward to shake hands with his colleague of many years.
“How was your trip?”
“Hopefully we have suitably met all your accommodation requirements?” the senator inquired, while glancing at Thomas.
“Senator, all due respect and all, I su’gest we skip the pleasantries an’ cut to the chase”.
“Very well, General”, the senator replied with a faint smile, as he was quite used to the man’s directness. Again glancing at his employee, he said, “That will be all, Thomas. Please ring me before eight to let me know the status of dinner.”
After the butler departed, Senator Fannin spoke to Lockwood again.
“General, I would like to introduce you to two of my- colleagues, shall we say?”
The descriptive that the ex-senator used for these two young people made the mystery of Lockwood’s visit all that much deeper.
Fannin turned first to his left. “This is Loretta Agostina, from Providence, Rhode Island.”
Lockwood shook hands with the pretty, young woman. “Nice to meet you, General Lockwood. Welcome to Arizona.” The general observed that this girl who could have been his granddaughter was not only very cordial, but also very confidant. She maintained eye contact with him while also maintaining a very pleasant smile. The fact that she was from his corner of the world was a plus in the general’s book. He guessed that with her dark hair and olive complexion that she was of Italian descent. He was impressed with her immediately.
Then Fannin turned to his right and Lockwood moved over to meet the male half of the young couple. “And this is Mr. Adam Duke from Wichita, Kansas.” It didn’t take long for the general to observe that this young man was the complete opposite of his female counterpart. Whereas she exhibited confidence and sincerity, this Adam Duke was very light-spoken with his nearly silent ‘Nice to meet you’, limp handshake and inability to hold eye contact with his elder. Lockwood was not impressed with him. He stepped back and again looked at Paul, expecting his host to hurry along and get to his point.
“Adam and Loretta are both very bright students, helping me with the project I am about to introduce you to.” Paul took a deep breath and seemed to steel himself for his next statement. Lockwood knew he was getting to the point. “To cut to the chase, as you put it, my colleagues here and I have been working on a project that we feel could help the government finally put an end to the Cold War, and ultimately bring about world peace.”
Lockwood was not completely shocked, as he assumed the three of them thought he would be. If he had earned a dollar every time a government official was sure that he had the means to world peace, he would have retired a decade ago. “Okay.” This was his only response as he crossed his arms over his still muscular chest. He noticed that the young Mr. Duke seemed to be resigned that the conversation from this point was going to be a waste of time. He was shuffling his hands and feet and would not look towards the general. Ms. Agostina, on the other hand, continued to smile and seemed to remain optimistic. She kept her small hands clasped in front of her.
The senator forced a smile and a small chuckle. “General, I know this may seem a little bit crazy, but after our brief demonstration, I know you’ll be convinced.”
Lockwood noticed that the quiet Mr. Duke flinched at the word ‘demonstration’. He seemed to choke on whatever words were fighting to escape his mouth. He finally got them out. “Paul, I don’t…” He was unable to complete the thought. He stole a glance at Lockwood, then turned back to Fannin.
Paul turned towards him and placed a hand on the younger man’s arm. “Adam, it’ll be alright. Trust me”.
General Lockwood had not failed to notice that the young Mr. Duke had addressed the ex-senator by his first name. Could they possibly be that close?
“General, my young colleague may be a bit apprehensive, as you can see”. Duke continued to fidget and stare at the floor, now holding his hands behind him. “But you can rest assured that we have previously determined that sharing his and the others’ talents is the best for our country. And our planet”.
This conversation was heading in a direction that made the general not only more curious, but also mildly annoyed. The prospect of world peace had been discussed more times than he cared to remember and the idea that two children had the means to bring about such was frustrating. He was beginning to regret his long trip to this place. He decided to remain patient for only a short while longer. He asked his friend and colleague, “Senator, what exactly are we talkin’ about here?”
Fannin seemed to consider his answer. “Why don’t we go into the labs and get more comfortable. Then I can spell it all out for you.”
Labs? More mystery. Despite his annoyance with the situation, the general agreed and the quartet advanced past the nearest open door and into another furnished room. This one appeared to be more of another, smaller living room than any lab. However, there were at least two spaces beyond this one that could be labs. There was also a small kitchenette with a seating area only partially concealed to the living area they had just departed. Sitting in easy chairs in this living area were two more young men, around the same age as Agostina and Duke. They rose as the senator and his guests entered the room.
Fannin offered General Lockwood a chair facing the others, with a table in between, which he accepted, and refreshments, which he declined. The senator’s young colleagues chose seats opposite the general and the other two were introduced.
“General, this is Randolf Colman”. Handshakes were again exchanged. Colman appeared to be a bit older than the others. He was as confident and courteous as Loretta, holding eye contact and showing respect for the elder officer. “And this is Michael Killian”. Lockwood thought this young man was a slob. He made an effort to give the general a confident and courteous greeting, but Lockwood was not impressed. This kid’s hair was unkempt, his thick glasses were smudged and his shirt was hanging from the left side, untucked. He sensed that the young man knew he was not making a good impression, as he departed to his chair as soon as he had released the general’s hand. Lockwood wondered why these two had not been present in the other room, along with Agostina and Duke. He thought he understood with the last one, but the Colman kid seemed alright.
As Lockwood sat down, Fannin continued the discussion, taking his own seat between the four students. “General, have you ever heard of Noetic Science?”
Lockwood tilted his head. “What science?”
“Noetic. It is a fairly new discovery in this country. It’s essentially the study of the link between a human’s thoughts and feelings and their effects on the physical world. Noetic Philosophers have also studied man’s ability to use up to one hundred percent of his brain for centuries. Now, it has been proven by neuroscience that humans actually do use one hundred percent of their brains, but the fact remains that with natural evolution, we could certainly do more.” Lockwood was lost. He had no idea what this man was talking about.
Fannin continued. “The theory of Noetic Science is that any one person who has the ability to use this much brain-power can do extraordinary things.” Here the ex-senator paused for effect. Lockwood noticed that he was getting more excited by the second. He had really emphasized the words extraordinary and things. This was getting more annoying. Not only did the young Mr. Duke continue to fidget and look uncomfortable, but Colman and the other boy, whatever his name was, were beginning to show the same signs of doubt in sharing this supposedly sacred information with an outsider. Lockwood looked towards Agostina. She still held his eye contact and smiled. He realized that nothing that transpired here would change her opinion that they were on to something real and true. This gave him at least a bit of confidence that he had not fully wasted his time in coming here.
“About four years ago, Edgar Mitchell founded the Institute of Noetic Sciences in California. He and his team are investigating the effects that their research can have on humanity and the well-being of society. But, as a well-known public figure, having accompanied his fellow astronauts to the moon and back on the Apollo 14, his exploits will soon become very public and therefore way too diluted. Although a fairly well-known public figure myself, my desire is to relinquish leadership of our little organization to one of my pupils in the coming months, and stay in the background as an adviser, as well as a means of financial support.
“The reason I have involved you, General; at great risk to our objectives, I might add; is because my colleagues and I believe we cannot accomplish the goals we have set forth without the support of someone currently in the service of our country; someone who is highly respected and has much influence over the military and its operations.”
After a brief silence, Lockwood finally leaned forward and gave voice to his queries. “Senator… first and foremost”, the general shook his head and wondered if he could state his opinion without completely offending his friend, “I just don’t see how anyone using one hunert’ percent of their brain, as you put it, can end the Cold War. Second, how does a man like me, despite his influence, utilize the……just what do you call these abilities, anyway?”
Glancing towards the students, the senator responded,
“Well, General, we haven’t really named these talents. Or abilities, if you will. We definitely do not want to use the name Noetic, as we don’t really want to be associated with IONS. I guess for now we can just refer to them as simply talents, or maybe gifts.”
“Well, Senator, how do I, this close to retirement, put these talents to use in service to our country?” The general once again raised his eyebrows and continued to look skeptical.
Fannin answered, relaxing in his chair. “My hope is that, with the help of the military, my pupils, along with others of their character that they will recruit and train throughout the coming months and years, will be able to enter enemy territory during a conflict or war, and, from a distance, use their abilities to end any and all aggression and desire for power and violence.”
As the general’s feelings of doubt and uncertainty appropriated new depths, and before he was able to voice another disbelief in the senator’s discussion, Fannin rose from his chair.
“General Lockwood, I do believe it has come time for our little demonstration. Randy, if you would be so kind…”
As the senator addressed Mr. Colman, who rose from the couch and departed their presence, Mr. Duke stood up and faced the senator, away from the general. Lockwood could hear the young man reiterate his reluctance to continue. “Paul, are you sure about this?” he asked in a hushed tone.
“Yes, Adam. We are hereby fully immersed in our deliberations.” In a confident voice, with no apparent apprehension, the senator turned to General Lockwood and continued. “There is no turning back now. After you display your talents, the general will hence either completely support our cause, (here, he paused for effect) or he will completely extinguish us.” The senator smirked as he turned away from the general, but Lockwood continued to sit in his chair, absorbing everything with continued disbelief. Duke had returned to his own seat. He stole a look at Agostina. The young woman placed a hand on his arm, as if to assure him that everything would be well.
Mr. Colman had concluded his preparations for the demonstration. He had gathered a clear carafe of water from the sink in the kitchenette. He brought the carafe into the main room and placed it on the table in between the general and the other participants. Then he resumed his seat. Senator Fannin remained standing and placed himself behind his pupils, facing the general.
“Alright, my friends, whenever you are ready...”
Agostina, Duke, Colman and Killian lowered their gazes to the carafe on the table. General Lockwood was even more confused.
“General, I can assure you that what you are about to see is no trick or hoax. As I implied, these young scholars have abilities- gifts- talents- whatever we wish to classify them as, and can and will do extraordinary things with their lives, hopefully to the benefit of humanity.”
As the senator spoke, the general’s gaze shifted to the carafe. To his astonishment, the water in the carafe had begun to swirl, although the carafe itself remained stationary. He gasped. “What the…?”
Apparently satisfied with his guest’s bewilderment, and sporting a content smile, the senator continued. “Although just a small illustration, with repetition, training and aid from others, we feel these talents can be magnified and used in ways that result in what I spoke of earlier; peace, harmony, and an end to aggression and violence.”
The water had finished swirling clockwise and was now doing so counter-clockwise. This was a shock to General Lockwood. The water was moving at such a rapid rate that the carafe began to rock back and forth.
“Steady, guys”, the senator said. “As you can see, despite the lessons of the past and the view of many a great scientist, matter can be manipulated with the untapped brainpower of a few select individuals. It will certainly be a challenge to locate more of their kind in the numbers we will need to bring about something on such a grand scale as world peace, but we already have a few names and some methods of discovering more of these exclusive individuals.”
The carafe had steadied, the water had stopped spinning faster than was naturally possible, and was now beginning to steam. The general continued to watch in disbelief.
“And I truly believe that with my tutelage and financial backing, combined with your resources, we can accomplish our goals. I have received commitment from these four individuals that they will use their talents for the objectives we have discussed and not for personal gain. All the while, we will remain in secrecy, not seeking fame, fortune or recognition for the unlimited deeds we will perform. All for the benefit of humanity, of course.“
The steaming water had now coalesced into rapidly boiling water, and as if that was not enough to bewilder General Lockwood, the carafe had also begun to float. At first, barely off the table, but now rising to several feet above it. Also rising was the general himself, as if he could not contain his surprise while sitting down.
“General, I do believe, and hope, that we have proven our point here. These young prodigies have used their evolved minds to change the molecules of the water, the carafe, and the air around the car…”
At this point, the carafe, still levitating above the table, with the water contained still at a rapid boil, exploded. Glass and hot water flew in every direction. The general was hit below the waist with some of the boiling water and the glass. If still sitting, he may have been worse off. Luckily, most of the water and glass shrapnel fell harmlessly to the floor and table. All four participants in the act recoiled with surprise and seemed to suddenly lose concentration and composure.
“Whoa, looks like we overdid it again”, said Michael Killian. All four began to smile a bit and Colman began to laugh. Then they all seemed to realize at once that Lockwood had taken the brunt of the explosion and the smiles disappeared. Fannin, once more moving to the front of the couch, voiced concern for the general but was waved away. Once it was ascertained that he was alright, if slightly burned and frazzled, the senator offered towels, a change of clothes and his apologies.
“As you can see, General, although their skills are advancing, they still need to be refined. In fact, Mr. Killian, it would appear that your nose is bleeding again.”
“Oh, shit”, Michael let slip. He had been retrieving towels for their guest along with Randolf. He felt and tasted the blood just as the senator spoke. One of the towels meant for the general went to him instead.
“An unfortunate side effect, I’m afraid”, the senator once again addressed Lockwood, as Adam and Loretta turned their attention from Michael to the task of cleaning up the glass and water. “It seems to happen to Mr. Killian, only. Thankfully, not after every event. Well, General, hopefully we’ve proven our point so far. After I phone Thomas for a fresh set of clothes for you, I will inquire on dinner.”
The general, previously outspoken in his reservations and doubt, seemed to have calmed down. The effect that the boiling, levitating and shattering water and carafe had on him seemed to have made him quite complacent. He resumed his seat, having accepted the towels from Colman, and simply replied “uhh…sure.” But he was not sure what to make of all this.
Dinner was served promptly at 8:00. Quite an elaborate dinner for a military leader and four college-aged students, thought General Lockwood. He assumed the senator was used to these luxuries, however, and was also trying his hardest to impress his guest. He needed the general’s backing after all, and no expenses were spared. Several imported wines were served alongside the multiple courses. An appetizer of Lobster in Phyllo Dough was followed by Artichoke Soup, separate fish and meat courses, a cheese selection and a Chocolate Soufflé.
The food was astonishing and the general ate with vigor. The presentation seemed to have whetted his appetite. He was not impressed by the Sea Bass that Paul assured him was flown into Phoenix that very morning from South America -he never had been much of a fish-eater -but the Pork Tenderloin had been amazing. It was smothered in something called Shallot and Cabernet Reduction. Lockwood had not the slightest idea what that was, but it was delicious. He remained very quiet throughout the dinner and focused more on his food than on the conversation around the table, which was dominated by the four students.
Most of the discussion centered on politics and world issues. The Taksim Square Massacre was a highly-debated topic, as were the ‘Son of Sam’ killings. In addition, the two bits of news everyone had received two days prior were highly debated; the one-hundred-and-five schoolchildren being held hostage on the hijacked train in Neth had been released and two planes had collided in the Canary Islands, killing over five-hundred people. The main deliberation over these topics was that with help from others like them, some of these catastrophes could be averted.
The general did listen somewhat, as most of the debate was obviously for his benefit. Paul had offered his opinions and insights on occasion but mostly absorbed the conversation while stealing glances at the general. Lockwood wondered what Paul was thinking as he shifted his attention from his students to his colleague. Lockwood didn’t know if Paul could tell how confused he still felt. He turned his attention back to the young people as the scruffy-looking kid, whatever his name was, lightened the serious conversation and debate with the reviews he had been reading on a recently-released science fiction film titled Star Wars. He was trying to convince the other students to fly to LA so they could see it, while begging Paul to finance the trip. Lockwood had no idea what this joker was talking about, but the others seemed interested, and he was getting drunk off the amazing French wine he was sucking down. He had always been more of a beer man, but this Burgundy stuff was pretty damn good.
After dinner, Paul led the general and the students to his spacious study. Thomas wheeled in a cart of freshly-brewed coffee, along with cognac, port wine and biscotti. Lockwood declined the food and drink, remarking that he couldn’t eat another bite or drink another drop. His head was swimming after drinking such a large quantity of wine. Thomas then offered him a selection of cigars and he accepted one with gratitude.
With the debates of world issues and what to do about them floored, Paul got down to business. He already had strategies worked out as to how the general could best implant his protégés into situations and utilize their services without the notice of other higher-ranking officials that would ask too many questions. Lockwood once again listened and absorbed, without contributing much. He was impressed that Paul had everything worked out and most of the ideas seemed valid. All of the students contributed opinions of their future plans moving forward. Even Adam Duke had come around a bit. He didn’t seem so nervous around the general and it appeared that he felt this might actually work out.
After about an hour and a half of discussion, and two excellent cigars smoked to the nubs, everything was calculated and put to rest. Lockwood was shown to his quarters and offered gratitude by all for his presence. He ended the evening by commending the ex-senator for his ambitions and actually challenged him to a round of golf the following morning. Fannin smiled, accepted and wished the general a good night.
Lockwood, still fairly drunk and overwhelmed by everything he had seen and heard, was soon fast asleep, having barely removed any of the clothes he had worn in or borrowed from the senator after his were doused by hot water and exploding glass.
His final thought as he drifted away were that the water and glass in question had been heated and shattered by the minds of four young people.
Young, yet scary people.
As the house was quieting down and the prodigies were retiring to their quarters in the basement for the night, Paul locked himself into his study, poured himself a snifter of Armagnac, and made a phone call to Long Island, New York. He opened discussions about the events of the evening with a colleague there.
“General Lockwood was skeptical and doubtful at first, but our demonstration, along with my influence, helped to shift his opinion. I hope that he will leave here with these same feelings and we will be able to set this ball in motion.”
A voice from half a continent away responded. “I have faith, Paul, that you and your team will accomplish our goals. The general is a weak-minded fool in a position of power and influence in a likewise weak-minded country that has failed its citizens. We will bring this country back to a position of superiority and we will send our opposition back to the Stone Age should they refuse to conform. And we will bring peace to this world.”
The senator hesitated, at a loss for words. He could never get over the commanding dictation of his friend and mentor, who often sounded like a madman. He finally found his tongue. “Yes, Mr. Turner, you’re correct. World peace, it is.”