Collective Minds

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Chapter 8

Washington D.C. was a city that always made Kat uneasy. Combined with the fact that she’d seen it in ruins not two days before made this trip even more unnerving. The military had always been a necessary evil in her research at Roswell, but she still detested the bureaucracy and the demands put in place by people with agendas that were bent on dominance. She’d always been about the science, and nothing more, so the thought of time travel capability in the hands of the Army made her sick to her stomach.

She and Jack made their way down the sidewalk toward the Pentagon, passing uniformed officers and troops from every branch. Colonel Briggs was decked in his dress uniform, with various decorations and medals on the front. Slung over his shoulder was a laptop bag, stuffed full of documents and his computer. Kat was dressed professionally in a modest blouse, skirt, and matching shoes.

Jack watched as the soldiers passed him by. “Look at them,” he whispered. “So oblivious to what’s on the horizon.” She and her partner both glanced around, keen to what he was saying. “Let me do the talking when we get inside,” Jack insisted. “I’m pretty sure I know how to get what we need with minimal resistance.”

Kat was uneasy about the whole plan, vocalizing her concerns. “Are you sure about this?,” she pried. “This is an awfully big risk you’re taking.” Jack knew she was right, but also knew the military. He’d been planning his sales pitch since the attack, and had rehearsed it enough times that he could do it in his sleep. “I cleared this with my superiors,” he assured her. “We’re ghosts out there in the desert. No one knows what we’re up to, for good reason. It’s best that way and these people know that. Trust me, Kat.”

Both walked up the steps of the fabled five sided building, then inside. They endured the standard screening protocols, moved through the detectors, and scanned their ID badges. After gathering their belongings, both headed down the hall. The walk seemed long to Kat, until they finally came to a door with foggy glass and the name ’General James Irons’ stenciled on it. Both stopped, as Jack knocked twice. “C’mon in,” a voice answered from inside.

The timid scientist opened the door, letting her boyfriend take the lead. Jack stepped in first, with Kat tailing, who closed the door behind them. There at his desk sat General Irons. It was unnerving for Kat to see him, having watched him disintegrate not long ago.

The General smiled big, and stood up. Jack smiled warmly too, popped a quick salute, then professionally shook hands with his old friend. It’d seemed like forever since the two had been face to face, and their enthusiasm spoke volumes.

General Irons opened a cedar box on his desk filled with expensive cigars, and offered to Jack, who plucked one from the box and sniffed it. “Cuban,” Jack touted, “I’m impressed.” Irons smiled. “Working here has a few perks,” he replied with a Southern drawl. “Have a seat, Jack, and Miss...”

“Westmorland, sir,” Kat replied, extending her hand. “Katherine Westmorland. It’s a pleasure. Jack speaks very highly of you.”

All three sat down, as Jack and Irons each bit off the end of their stogies. The general struck a wooden match, lit his, then his friend’s. Both took a deep drag and exhaled, as the four star host struck up conversation.

“So what brings you all the way out here to the land of the beautiful people, Jack?,” the General inquired. “Gettin’ sunburned out there in the desert?”

The Colonel and the General both chuckled, as Kat smiled nervously. “I need to talk to you, Jim,” Jack said straightly, “About some classified information. Is this office clean?” General Irons sat up in his chair. “Clean as whistle,” he promised. “What’s this all about?”

Jack took a deep breath, and geared up. “Have you heard any chatter about what we’re doing out there in Roswell?,” he asked. “Just rumors, really,” replied Irons. “Something about cataloging old decommissioned warplanes. Sounded like hooey to me.”

“It is,” Jack answered. “What I’m about to divulge is classified. I got clearance to tell you because I need your help. It’s a lot to swallow, so brace yourself.” General Irons took another drag off his cigar, sitting forward in his chair as he exhaled. “Lay it on me, Colonel,” he beckoned. “Tell me what I can do to help.”

Jack went for it. “About sixty years ago an alien craft crashed in the desert in New Mexico. The US government recovered it, and stashed it in the air base there at Hangar 18. The ship was made of some indestructible alloy that the aliens must’ve fabricated or found somewhere else than earth.”

General Irons laughed out loud. “Aliens? HA! How do you know it was an alien ship, Jack? It was probably a damn Soviet prototype. Are you seri...”

Jack interrupted his comrade, which was uncommon. “We know, because they were inside, at the controls.” Colonel Briggs unzipped his bag and slapped four photos on the table. All were close-ups of the fabled Roswell Grays from sci-fi folklore. General Irons looked at the pictures, a little more convinced, but still far from believing. “Okay,” he replied, “You got my attention. Go on.”

Briggs continued. “The armor on the ship was the subject of a great deal of study for the first twenty or thirty years of the project. They gave up on it when they couldn’t reproduce it because of its unknown origin and unavailability here on earth. That objective was one of two.”

“One of two? What was the other?,” Irons inquired.

Jack took another breath, knowing things were about to get thick. “The researchers found some technology in the ship they believed was designed for time travel. It’s been kept under lock and key. Yesterday we tested it, and it worked. We sent two people back in time.”

The General was in complete disbelief. “What?,” he uttered. “You gotta be kidding me, Jack. Did you eat some damn peyote out in the sand or something?” Briggs composed himself. “It’s true,” he answered. “I can prove it. You know one of the volunteers who went through. Would you believe it if he told you himself?”

“Maybe,” the sceptical General answered. “Depends on who it was. There aren’t a whole lot of guys I’ve known long enough to believe this nonsense from.”

“What about me?,” asked Jack. “Would you believe it from me?” Irons took another drag from his stogie. “You?,” he replied. “You went back in time?”

“I did,” answered Colonel Briggs, pointing to Kat, “And so did she.” Kat, mortified, finally put her chips on the table and got in on the conversation. “We weren’t quite ready yet,” she added, “But circumstances forced our hand. We tested it on ourselves, successfully.”

“What circumstances?,” prodded General Irons.

Jack took another drag of his cigar, the exhaled. “One year from now there’s going to be an invasion on earth, Jim. Alien forces are on the way, and they’re going to decimate the planet.”

Irons laughed again, louder this time, and began to get impatient. “This is getting out of control, Jack. I can’t listen to this anym...”

Jack cut him off again, yelling this time. “LISTEN TO ME, JIM!”, he shouted. The general was stunned that Jack interrupted him for a second time, and even more so that he raised his voice. Briggs calmed his tone some, and continued. “Please,” he asked, “I’ve known you a long time. I wouldn’t have come to you if I couldn’t prove the things I’m saying.”

“Prove them, then,” insisted the General.

Jack reached in his bag again, and produced a laptop computer. He flipped open the screen and booted everything up, as General Irons chomped on his cigar impatiently. Finally the program initialized, and the media player ran the video of the General being vaporized and killed. The news broadcasts followed, with screen after screen of carnage and destruction. “I watched you die,” Jack reported, “Trying to fight off the invasion force here in DC.”

General Irons was transfixed on the screen, then shut it slowly and leaned back in his chair. “Lets just say for a minute this was true, which I’m still debating. We need to alert the Joint Chiefs, and prepare a counter offensive. We have to...”

Jack cut him off, again. “No,” Colonel Briggs insisted, “We have a plan, Jim. We don’t want to cause a panic, and we don’t want to compromise the cover story for the base. We need you to help organize, and procure men and equipment. Come to the base, and I’ll show you everything so you can see it with your own eyes.”

For the first time in his life, Jack saw a look of complete loss on the face of his friend. General Irons had been in heavy combat in Vietnam, was a decorated vet, and was cool as cucumber under fire. To see him so bewildered was rare. “Fine,” answered the General, “I’ll be on the next plane out. But you’d better not be wasting my time Jack. Friends or not, I’ll kick your ass and take your brass.”

“I know,” Jack answered. “Meet me at the base in forty eight hours. I’ll see you then and brief you on the project. And remember: this is all classified information and needs to be treated as such.” General Irons extinguished his cigar in an ashtray on his desk. “Don’t lecture me, Colonel,” he said sarcastically. “I’ve been in this business since your mama was changing your diaper.”

“I know,” Jack retorted with a smile. “That’s why I need you.” The Colonel stood, saluted, shook his friend’s hand, then headed out the door with Kat. As it banged shut behind them, General Irons stood at his desk in awe.

Back outside, Kat badgered Jack on the way down the steps toward the sidewalk. “Are you sure that was the right thing to do?,” she asked. “This could really compromise our operation. The last thing we need is a thousand reporters and Trekkies standing at the front gate. What if he tells someone?”

“I’ve known Jim a long time,” Jack assured her, “And I’m positive he won’t do anything unpredictable. He’ll show up like he said, I guarantee. It’ll be easy to get him on board from there.” Kat was still apprehensive. “Okay,” she replied, “But what then? Will he run the show? He outranks you.”

“No,” answered Jack. “I’ve already arranged that through my superiors. He’ll be an adviser. Someone who can get us whatever and whoever we need. Troops, firepower, equipment...you name it.”

Kat was beginning to see the reasoning behind Jack’s decision, but remained uneasy about it all. Furthermore, she was still upset about having to come to Washington to begin with. “Why’d you bring me here, Jack?,” she asked. “You could’ve handled this without me. I barely even said ‘hello’ in that entire exchange.”

“This was my fish to reel in,” Jack answered. “Time for you to reel in yours.”

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