Anthropomorphic Foxes In Space….

Book 2 Chapter 1

Our story so far…. Dave and Marie have been abducted by a race of intelligent foxes, the Diyim'yi. After a freak accident kills Marie, her memory and brain activity is copied into a clone of Chessec, one of her abductors. Chessec and Marie then develop an involuntary telepathic link. Dave and Marie visit their home planet, and agree to return to earth and help pave the way for future peaceful human-d'yimyi relations, accompanied by Chessec.


AFIS 2.11 Red Fox Orchestra

Dave:

When you start a home-based business, all the self-help books say it is important to have an alternate source of income. So I went back to my regular job during the week while Chessec and Marie worked out of the home, preparing earth for contact with D'yimyi. Staying with the company had some side benefits: A health plan, 401k, free Internet, email, and more important for us, my continued security clearance and access.

I quickly caught up on details of the various world crisis that keep me employed. My formal job title is utterly unrelated to what I do, and I've completely forgotten it besides. When anybody asks, I tell them I'm a 'researcher.' What I and my compatriots really do for a living is provide a 'Red Team' perspective in case of a military conflict: If you wanted to design a campaign to fight Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard (my favorite perennial cash cow, always good for a paycheck), we would study how they would fight, then simulate them using computer wargames. The whole office is made up of former military folks. Since we don't have to do all the 'make work' that makes up the daily life of people who are still in the military, we have time to really study our craft. If something gets written about a new weapon, or a new use for an old one, we find that information. One thing, though, it's a job where it is easy to goof off, and still get paid.

That's what I did for the rest of the afternoon, I sat at my PC and outlined what I thought we wanted to do for our project, especially the kind of people I wanted to recruit. I wanted some people to send to the university on Diyim'yi as we'd planned, of course, but even more so, I needed an agent network that would establish the contacts we needed to operate here on earth. This would require careful thought.

Fortunately, I had some practical experience in this. I began to make a list. People I knew, people who they knew, people I'd heard about. I considered the organizations that could unwittingly help. Things we could do to gain their loyalty. Possible enemies and obstacles. By that point, I saw it was 3:00, and that's quitting time in the 'ol research department.

When I got home, Chessec was sitting on the deck in an adirondack chair, holding an iced tea and peering up into a nearby tree. Hobo was sitting on his haunches at the base of the tree, looking up and whining. I followed their gaze upward.

"He's jumped to another branch! No, the other way," Chessec suddenly called out. A loud scrabbling-on-bark sound came from inside the leaves. A squirrel chattered angrily.

"I can't go any farther out on this limb. The little bastard's mocking me!" These unlovely words came from the mouth of my dear wife. "I ought to just saw the limb off."

A mass of red and white fur became briefly visible through the leaves. I turned back to Chessec, "Should I ask what's going on?"

"Better not." She pointed to the other chair and the pitcher. "This probably won't last much longer. He started teasing her while she was weeding the garden, and it kind of escalated from there."

"But how…? Wait a minute. Foxes can't climb trees."

"That's what the squirrel thought, too. Not only can foxes, but foxes with opposable thumbs can especially well." More bark cascaded down onto Hobo. A few small branches snapped.

"But still not as well as a squirrel, apparently."

"I wouldn't tell her that when she comes down." I'll just mention that dinner was late, and squirrel was not on the menu.


AFIS 2.12

Marie:

The next morning I shoved my husband out of bed, stretched and started to get up, when I remembered I did not have to go to work. So I went back to sleep. When I woke again several hours later, I wandered around the house until I found Chessec. She said Dave had gone to work, but had left a list of names to check out as candidates to send to Diyim'yi. We called them posing as telemarketers, and asked as many personal questions as possible. The goal was to see how discrete they were. Based on their responses, we would contact them further. We were looking for engineering students, programmers and mathematicians, who had shown an interest in some sort of outdoor activity, and who were unmarried, or were married to another student. I protested that sounded like a dull bunch, and she reminded me that if I screened for sense of humor, too, Dave wouldn't be the wiser. I screened the undergraduates:

"Hello?" A young female voice answered.

"This is Pinky from Acme Labs. Is this the Laurence Fuller residence?"

"Laaarrrry! Phone call!" I quickly pulled the phone away from my ear, lest I go deaf. Eventually a young man picked up.

"Hello Mr. Fuller, this is Pinky from Acme Labs…." If I didn't get a smart remark or at least a snort at this point, I hung up. I demand a certain level of essential cultural knowledge from my interview subjects.

Chessec selected the names of some graduate students by cross-referencing academic papers published in topics that she thought would be useful, with a nationwide phone directory. She hoped that our phone interviews would determine if she had picked the right 'John Smith." We worked at it for most of the afternoon, with some success. We emailed the most promising candidates, announcing that they were under consideration for a merit scholarship, and asking for a resume to evaluate their qualifications.

By the time Dave got home from work, we had a list of half a dozen possible, plus two others who had been wrong numbers, but sounded interesting enough to interview. He said he would start in-person interviews the next week. He also said that he had found a professor to lead our gaggle of students.

"Marie, do you remember Chris, from the Guard?" I did, slightly, as we had let him sleep on our couch one drill weekend.

"A man in his late-fifties, balding? I remember he told me that he was some kind of college professor."

"Right. He's teaching history out at Northeastern Nebraska State Teacher's College right now, and he's bored out of his mind. I think he'd be good for this job."

"I thought you were just recruiting scientist-types?"

"He works cheap. Seriously, his Ph.D. was in Math, he just prefers teaching history."

"Well, bring him out. We'll put him up in a motel this time, though." I tried to remember anything else about him, but drew a blank.


AFIS 2.13

Dave:

I met Chris at the airport alone. During the drive out to the house, I primed him to meet the girls.

"Chris, I've come across an opportunity of a lifetime, something truly extraordinary…"

"You'd better not have called me out here to sell Amway, Dave.

"No, this is more in line with your particular talents. I need an academic, someone who can deal with collegiate bureaucracy, somebody with an ability for languages. Somebody who--works cheap."

"Oh, joy. When did you start headhunting? Let me guess, Northwest Colorado, no, maybe North Central Missouri? I won't turn you down till I hear an offer. God knows it will probably be better than what I'm doing now."

"I also want somebody who is good at keeping secrets. As well as investigating them. That narrows the field considerably." Chris had been my counterintelligence assistant before he retired from the service.

"Ahh. A light goes on. And would any particular three-lettered agency be involved in this little adventure? What can you tell me?"

It's all a matter of knowing what bait to use. Chris, like many ex-spooks of Reagan's 'holy war against the evil empire' vintage, was thoroughly bored as well as disgusted with the current administration's choices of enemies and the techniques used to deal with them. I felt sure that my assignment for him would satisfy his deep seated desire to secretly fight for a good cause. Plus, I was offering tenure. I could probably have sold him on the job without meeting the girls, but I also wanted someone I trusted to know about them in case something happened to me.

We entered the house. "Uh, Dave…" he said quietly. "Those are the biggest damn foxes I've ever seen." The girls were waiting on the living room couch.

"Hi, Chris," said Marie. "Join us here on the couch." She patted the seat between them. He sat, glancing quickly between the two of them. I sat across the room.

"I didn't say the teaching job was on Earth, Chris. Meet Marie and Chessec, aliens from another planet." We made introductions and small talk. I reacquainted him with Marie, and briefly explained her changed appearance, but did not stress the details of the unusual relationship the three of us had so recently entered. He adjusted well, and kept his questions general while we ate. Afterwards, he and I adjourned to my office to talk.

"So. What do you think, Chris?" I waited while he put his thoughts together.

"They are pretty well behaved aliens, I'll say that. Shame they look like foxes. Not that I don't like foxes, mind you, but it makes it harder to think of them as people. But I can do that. My main concern is this: Do you trust them and why? I know Marie and Chessec are good people, but what about their government? What are their plans for earth?"

"I've though about that too. The main thing is, they are in fact people. They seem to have the same range of response to us that we would to any strangers. I've met some paranoid types among them, too. But I have decided to support their program with almost no reservations. Not just because of Marie, but because of the good people among them that we've met, the ones that are currently running their space program." I paused, and lowered my voice. "Besides, you are going to be working on the inside. What better place to find out if they do indeed have ulterior motives."

That sold him. All that was left were details.


AFIS 2.14 Close Encounters of the Staged Kind

Chessec

During the five months until our ship was scheduled to make its next trip for Diyim'yi, Dave, Marie, myself, and later Chris worked on screening humans to work as either agents in place, or to send back home as students. The rest of our time was divided between my efforts to contact responsible humans, and Dave's efforts to conceal my presence from irresponsible ones. I learned a great deal about techniques to insure anonymity when using three distinct media: letters, phone calls, and email. Along the way, I made some minor mistakes, for example: I discovered the importance of not admitting being female on the Internet.

To locate a receptive audience, I used a two-fold technique: a mass market approach, trolling the newsgroups for people who might be sympathetic to alien contact, and a more targeted attempt to steer discussion on some of the more academically oriented SETI and UFO mailing lists. My highest hope was the SETI groups. We thought about sending a few messages from the ship by radio, but we didn't have a transmitter capable of sending in the supposed galactic universal 'hydrogen line.' Nobody was monitoring the ham bands we were actually using, apparently. Most of the time, we were lucky to get through to our ship's own receiver, and then only because we knew when and where to listen. The scientists and serious amateurs I spoke with mostly responded to my raising the possibility of contact by declaring 'not in our lifetimes.'

Once I was familiar with the flavor of the UFO newsgroups and mailing lists, we laid some bait: With Mitzep and the shuttle, we staged a few typical UFO incidents, and screened the responses we received for sanity. One sighting over central Illinois produced 1200 responses: twenty calm descriptions of the event, over 100 attacks on their credibility, and the rest either 'Me too,' 'Yes it is!,' or 'No, it's not!.'

A month after our UFO 'sightings,' I had read about a dozen reasonably lucid postings to the listserv, and maybe forty not obviously wacky ones. Dave started performing background checks on those individuals, while I corresponded with them, assuming the persona of Bob, a retired high school science teacher who had taken a roll of film of the incident, as well as time and distance measurements. I corresponded through two anonymous forwarders. One was an ISP serving the local college, who agreed to tell Dave if anyone contacted him about my identity. As a further cut-out, my actual dial-up access was through an pool-side phone jack at one of our neighbors' house. Dave bought an old panel van, and set up a surveillance post a half-mile away, where he could watch their house for any unusual visitors. We took turns watching for about four hours after each modem connection. No obvious attempt was made to contact the neighbors, but they had two telephone service trucks at the house that month.

Dave was able to verify the identities of eight prospective candidates to participate in a staged 'close encounter'. We found an assortment of calm, thinking individuals, who, while interested in UFOs as a hobby, did not either participate in the UFO craze for profit, or have any obvious blemishes in their backgrounds which would make them appear as less than credible witnesses. The plan was simple, and obviously stolen from a movie script, although Dave would not reveal which one, even under tickle-torture.

In my online persona, I announced that I had determined a pattern to the latest series of contacts. I revealed that, after contacting a friend in government service, I had been told confidentially that there were absolutely no secret alien landings taking place at an abandoned Navy training field which was reasonably close to several of our prospects' homes. I proposed that we meet nearby during the next scheduled landing, and see if we could see anything. I said that my friend had also said that one of the aliens' (who positively did not exist) conditions for landing was that absolutely no security be within sight of the landing field. I suggested that, if nothing else, we might get some good pictures of the non-existent security to tease the Area 51 buffs. Interestingly enough, all eight promised to be there.

For the event, we set a time 72 hours later. Dave and Marie left a day early, and drove the van around the area, looking for unusual activity. He had scanners set for assorted law enforcement, military and air traffic control frequencies, plus an old cell phone converted into a scanner. They wrote down license numbers of all the new model unmarked cars at the local hotels and police stations. Chris played 'Bob.' He drove up one day early, and met with our contactees at one of the local ones' home. They picked a viewing spot that overlooked the old runway, and made plans for the next night. When the rest of the group arrived, they all drove to the site in three cars. Our group was skeptical, but hopeful, and more concerned about embarrassment than anything else.

Mitzep and I played the aliens. We put on our pressure suits, and turned the sun visors full on. Our landing was scheduled for EECT, or; after sunset but before the full onset of darkness. There was no moon. We brought the shuttle down back at the house the night before, and Mitzep flew it at low altitude to the landing site, then popped up into the stratosphere fifty miles out, and descended rapidly onto the old airfield. Thirty minutes before our landing, Dave called in a false UFO report to the local sheriff and the FAA regional center, describing an airplane crash twelve miles away from our actual landing, where Marie set a pile of tires under some crumpled scrap aluminum siding, and the surrounding hay field on fire. Dave then waited until twenty minutes before, and left a message with the answering service at the nearest FBI office, describing strange activity at the airfield, 'black helicopters and drug dealers, just like Mena.' His last call was to a local TV news crew, describing a crash, but giving the correct location.

We had a busy night. As we landed, I could see our UFOologists in a semicircle on a small knob about a quarter mile from the runway, just outside the perimeter chain link fence, which Dave had conveniently removed from its staples immediately in front of them. They had a video camera and several still cameras on tripods, and were busy shooting pictures of our descent. Mitzep flared the attitude thrusters dramatically just as we landed, scorching the old asphalt slightly. We popped the hatch, and sat back and waited. Dave and Marie were in contact with us using out-of-band amateur radios, and Marie reported the arrival of the sheriff's patrol followed by the local volunteer fire department. Dave reported that the scanner had the local airport tower diverting traffic around the supposed crash, and that a search helicopter had been canceled, since local law enforcement was on the scene. He heard one radio check in the clear on the treasury common frequency, then the 'dead air' sound of secure communications. We decided it was time to move to phase 2. I motioned to Mitzep, and we climbed out of the shuttle onto the runway. He got a box out of the cargo area and set it down about fifty feet from the ship. We stood there for the next five minutes, trying to look like we were waiting for something to happen. Right on cue, 'Bob' said to the others,

"I can't pass this up, I'm going down there." There was a large amount of indecision, but two brave souls agreed to accompany him. They jogged down the hill toward us. We both moved close to the door of the ship, and turned to face them. 'Bob' was puffing a bit by the time he got there. He and his friends slowed to a walk, stopping about 10 feet away.

"You not supposed to come for box until we leave," I said in broken English.

'Bob' replied, "We are not the ones you were to meet. We just want to talk to you."

"They say your people not want to talk, be afraid. Deal with government men only." I had to suppress a giggle. I thought to my self: Must use more articles. Grammar Bad.

"Where are you from?" One of the others said. "Why are you here?"

"We come from across space, a long way. We already tell others this. They not tell you?"

"No," 'Bob' replied. "Many would talk with you, if we knew where and how to reach you. Can you tell the world, maybe talk on radio?

Mitzep made a sign. Dave had called to say that the TV news crew was setting up outside the entrance gate, and that an unmarked car had arrived, and a man in a suit was trying to cut the chain on the gate with bolt cutters. He reported that the Sheriff had told his patrol to leave the fire scene and proceed to our location with lights and siren.

"We cannot stay longer here tonight. Will you two," I pointed to 'Bob' and the other speaker, "Come with us. We not hurt, we bring back later to your home place. We talk to you." I think our guest (Jim, I learned later) went about three shades paler, but he nodded. I turned to the third man. "You tell them. These two go with us." I pointed up the hill where the other five waited. Mitzep started herding the two of them through the hatch.

Bob said to the other. "Get up there quick! The Feds will probably be here any minute. Get the group away from here now, before they get 'disappeared' or something. If we don't show in a few days, that's plenty of time to raise a fuss." Then it was his turn to enter the hatch.

I entered last, saying, "You must be away from the ship, to avoid the blast. Run now!" He took off at a sprint. Mitzep had strapped Bob and Jim in and was preparing for launch.

I heard Dave say over the radio, " Go, guys! The Feds have the gate open, and one of them is trying to keep the news crew out, while the other is driving down the taxiway toward you."

We lifted off nearly straight up, in a 1.5g climb. We were on thrusters, to avoid irradiating anybody. It was a highly visible, flaming launch. Mitzep went to main engines at 30,000 feet, executed a 6g hard right turn, and took us out of the atmosphere, keeping 3g on for almost six minutes. We matched course with the ship relatively near earth, two hundred miles up. As we had previously arranged, only Chopka was in the shuttle bay to greet us, and he was in another suit. He escorted our guests into a cabin from which we had removed any evidence of previous human contact. He closed the door, and we left them to stew for about fifteen minutes. The plan was for 'Bob' to encourage Jim to examine everything, and decide on his own that we were genuine extraterrestrial. I had asked Dave why we needed to do that, and he had reminded me that I looked like an earth fox, and he wanted them thinking 'technology and spaceships', not 'magic and talking animals'. Finally, now out of my costume, I opened the door, walked in, and spilled the beans to a by now fully convinced Jim.

He was surprised by my appearance, and I think more surprised by the sudden improvement to my grammar. I explained that our little play had been designed to both convince him and our other new acquaintances, and to give the government something to think about, to see what their response would be. Chris abandoned the Bob persona, and explained to him the details of what we wanted them all to do. We needed people who knew we were real, whom we could trust to keep us abreast of what was happening on earth. People who would spread the word that there was alien life out there, but who were aware of the problems of UFO hoaxes and kooks. Chris showed him the different means of communication they could use to contact us, as well as how to authenticate a legitimate message from us. I told him that I would probably be the only alien that he would see face to face in the near future. I told him that we had picked him, based on an evaluation of his character, and hoped he would be able to help us. He agreed to help, so I guess it worked.

The ship was in a 7 hour highly eccentric polar orbit. After a nap, I took him on a tour of the ship, fed him a hot meal (Spam and eggs), and took him up to the navigators office, where Lossp let him play with the telescope until it was time to return to the shuttle. Chris and I climbed into the back, and Jim sat in the seat nearest the door, since he would be dropped off first. We approached from the south, dropping down to follow a northbound commuter flight, and peeled off to land on a ball field near his house. Clutching the envelopes with instructions for the others, he stepped out of the ship and walked home. We took off immediately, and flew back to Dave's place.

Dave and Marie returned home with the van the next day. He described the events that occurred after we lifted off.

"It was great. Two carloads of Feds, probably FBI and DEA, one genuine black helicopter, identity unknown. The news crew had to shoot the scene over the shoulder of one of the Feds. Our crew got away in the confusion, while the Feds watched your takeoff. I had scattered tacks on the perimeter road, so the sheriff didn't get to the hilltop until everybody was gone. I went and picked up Marie, and by the time I got back, there was a two mile perimeter around the field, with local and federal cops manning checkpoints. I turned around, and drove out of sight, then dropped off Marie. She went in on all fours."

Marie picked up the narrative. "I was able to get within about two hundred yards of the box you left, by staying in a drainage ditch. There were three unmarked helicopters, plus one with army markings. They had white tape around the landing site, and two soldiers in vests, with helmets and face shields were examining the box. I settled in to watch just as they finally opened it. I couldn't see what you put inside, but one of them held up some kind of fabric with a smaller box attached. What was it?"

"A weather balloon," Mitzep laughed.

"Dave, you are corrupting that boy," she continued, saying, "Anyway, they were bundling everything up, taking samples from the asphalt you melted, things like that. I spotted a patrol behind my hiding place, so I had to run across the runway and between the hangar and another building. I hid behind a station wagon, which unfortunately contained some kind of police working dog. He had a barking fit, and I had to run again. His handler released him before I'd gone a hundred yards, and he caught up to me as I was trying to crawl under the fence. Huge German Shepherd. I almost didn't make it."

"What happened?"

"I sprayed him with mace, the good girl's friend. Surprised him, and pretty much took the fight out of him. After that, I went to the van, and we drove back to our motel."


AFIS 2.15 I See A Green Door And I Want To Paint It Black

Dave:

After our close encounter, I put my counterintelligence hat on, and took a peek at who nibbled at the bait. While we were driving around the countryside, I had left two high dollar Watkins-Johnson broadband receivers scanning back at the hotel room, connected through my laptop to a VCR recorder. While I was listening to the audio playback, I noted and compared the list of frequencies captured to my database of known federal frequencies. The traffic initially matched known Treasury and Justice common frequencies, then, after the time the shuttle lifted off, more military FM and AM. First, they were talking about a possible drug raid, then confusion, then calls for a bomb squad, then somebody mentioned radiation, and everybody either shut up or went secure. Fortunately, nobody told the local sheriff, so his traffic checkpoint relayed updates in the clear, describing each vehicle license either stopped, or passed through the checkpoint. I wrote down the plate numbers.

About ninety minutes after we picked up Marie, I started getting two different new nets active. One was an HF channel previously identified as a NEST (Nuclear Emergency Security Team) channel, and the other was unknown, and was operating out of the federal band plan, right in the middle of the railroad frequencies. This was a popular hangout for Federal agencies who didn't want to use their own radio channels. The NEST was out of the area in under two hours (We only left about five times background radiation where the drive melted the asphalt.) One team of the unknown organization was involved with setting up a room to interrogate the military and law enforcement who had been first on the scene, while at least three other individuals were canvassing nearby houses for information. My tapes ran out after six hours, but I had what I wanted. Time for step two.

I called the national offices of the major rental car agencies, posing as a property owner who had suffered damage from a rental car. Each time, I gave one of the license numbers I had written down. Most came up as private individuals, but three were rented with a GSA credit card. I asked what agency, and was told the information was not available, but the GSA garage in Denver could be contacted for a claim. I thanked him and hung up. Two of the license numbers that had been private individuals who had been passed through the checkpoint were not local. I made a note of them for later.

Chessec surfed late into the night, checking the newsgroups and bulletin boards for accounts of our little event. I told her to be on the watch for descriptions of anything beyond that which could be seen from a distance, since only us, our picked watchers, and the local police had been closer than two miles. She reported the first account appeared to be from the TV news crew (Who that night, had only aired a 'drug courier airplane escapes' story, with about five seconds of film of the gate.) The posting described the shuttle's fiery takeoff, and the tight government cordon. Another witness described the aerial display, and a third claimed that Air Force jets had shot down an alien craft. All three accounts had the time and location right, though. The other dozen were obvious fakes, with key items wrong.

Exactly 36 hours after the event, the final piece of the puzzle arrived. Buried in the lid of the packing crate we had left on the runway was a stripped down cell phone, slaved to a cheap, similarly stripped down GPS receiver. When the timer I set activated, the phone called a number, and sent the coordinate from the GPS. The number was another cell phone belonging to the Kansas City Police Department. I used them since their 30 million dollar radio system will autopatch phone calls in the clear. Knowing the exact time of the call, I captured the data with my scanner. When the phone deactivated itself, a cherry bomb taped to the memory chip exploded, hopefully making it more difficult to know what number had been called. Digging out my map, I looked up the coordinate: The northwest side of Colorado Springs, Colorado. I double-checked on a larger scale map, but I already knew where. Somewhere either in the Kaman Sciences building, or across the street at the Arrows West complex. Any number of agencies or contractors could be operating from those two buildings, but at least we knew where they lived. I announced to the empty room, "Roadtrip!"

It took several days to arrange time off and set up some appointments, but we were on the road by the following Thursday night.


AFIS 2.16 CONvergence

Marie:

It was the first Friday evening of the month, and we were at the Courtyard Marriott in Colorado Springs. Tomorrow, Dave would attend a convention on the paranormal, and participate in a roundtable discussion on UFOs. Across town, at the Four Seasons, there was a costume ball being held as part of a mixed sci-fi/fantasy convention, and Chessec and I would meet Dave there after the session. These served as both cover and entertainment. Our real purpose for being in town was to meet three potential agents, and to take a look at the Arrows West Complex, the place the government had sent our 'weather balloon' bait.

I was sprawled in front of the room air conditioner, and Dave and Chessec were working on his notes for the roundtable. Dave was going to present his 'theory' that the UFO encounters of the past four years represented a new and different type of alien, namely us. Not too great a stretch, since it was true.

"Do you know if any Jaguar ships visited earth before you came?" Dave asked Chessec, who was sprawled across a cushion on the bed holding a glass of ice water against her forehead.

"It's possible. The solar system is marked on their navigation charts as having at least one habitable planet. We don't know, however."

"What's the time frame for a possible visit?"

"They first left their own system about ninety years ago, using sub-light speed craft. They invented the hyperdrive twenty-five years ago. Since their home planet is only thirty-seven light years away, they could have sent a probe here as early as the mid 1940's but most probably not a manned ship until 1972 at the earliest. The last jaguar-manned ship was accounted for by 1984, so there is a twelve-year window of opportunity."

"Is there any evidence of another space-traveling race?"

"Just the unknown race that scattered earth-like life around the neighborhood back more than a million years ago. We know where the eight known races are, but there could easily be twelve, fifty or a thousand. There might be giant, intelligent squirrels or possums visiting your solar system, and we've just never met them."

"Last question. What evidence do we want to present tomorrow? I figured I would only use the stuff we've already put out on the Internet about the Illinois encounter. Maybe talk about Gulf Breeze as a possible, and dismiss Roswell as cold war hysteria." Dave gathered his file cards.

"Why don't you bring up that saucer formation in Mexico City. We know it wasn't us, and it is a good red herring. Hey, isn't this is a paranormal conference? How about a vision of anthropomorphic foxes in your motel room?"

"That's just silly! Nobody would believe that story. Next thing, you'll tell me that aliens could be driving around the countryside in blacked out panel vans."

I reminded the two of them that we had agreed were all going for a walk once it got dark, and that it was time to go. Dave put on his hiking shoes and a dark shirt, and went and got the dog leashes. He snapped one to Hobo's collar, and handed the other two to Chessec and me. Hobo was thrilled to be going, and charged out the door toward the elevator, dragging Dave out of the room. We both followed close behind, our leads coiled on our collars with Velcro. We arrived at the elevator at the same time as an elderly couple. Dave deferred to them, but they insisted we share the ride. The woman complimented Dave on how well the two of us 'heeled', and admired our attractive red and white coloration. Hobo about trampled her when the door opened, and we were outside.

We piled into the van and drove about a mile and a half to the Garden of the Gods visitor center parking lot. Instead of walking into the park, though, we took an immediate right as we crossed the stream bed and followed it up past The Navigators to the old Rohm/IBM plant. There we crossed the road again, and worked our way steadily up into the underbrush on the ridge behind the Arrows West complex. It was a blue-green glass windowed campus-type office complex, with several windowless storage buildings behind it. There was no fence, but each corner had a low light TV camera, and the parking lot was well lit. The lights were on inside much of the building, and I could see several cleaning crews working. There were about twelve cars in the lot. Dave pulled out his binoculars and started reading off license numbers and descriptions. Glancing across the side of the building, I saw a light go out on the top floor. A bluish glowing rectangle lit the room, and I pointed it out to Dave. He looked over with his binoculars.

"Looks like somebody's showing slides or viewgraphs," he said. "I can't quite tell, but it looks like snapshots of groups of people. Wait a minute! That last photo had the logo of the paranormal group that's sponsoring the seminar on a lectern in front of the speaker. I think we've found who we're looking for." We watched them for another thirty minutes, until the meeting broke up.

The adjacent office was still lit, and I could see three men exiting the darkened conference room. Two of them were wearing dark suits and ties and the other had a short sleeved shirt and a bolo tie. A woman turned on the light in the conference room and began to pack up the slide trays. The men left the office and started down the hall.

I said, "Why don't you watch her, while Chessec and I go down the hill and see if we can hear anything when they come outside." We took off down the hill at a run. At the edge of the grass, we stopped and waited. The man with the bolo tie led the other two past the guard station, and held the front door open for them. Our sharp hearing made it easy to eavesdrop.

"Always a pleasure to have a visit from the bureau. Come again soon, guys." He was friendly, but sarcastic.

"Hansen, I can't believe you kept us until ten o'clock on a Friday, then don't even offer to buy us a drink. That's why we prefer working with the Treasury guys, or even the agency. You're still a cheap bastard. Tell your partner we'll be at the hotel bar, if she wants to come over later. You, we'll see tomorrow." They climbed into a white rental car and drove off. Hansen went back inside.

I left Chessec to watch the door and climbed back up the hill to Dave. I told him about the conversation. He decided to take Hobo back to the van, and see if he could bring it back here before the other two left, so that we could follow them. I told him that if he could catch them in time, Chessec and I would walk back to the hotel. He gave me the room key, and took off up the ridge.

The lights were still on in the upstairs office, and the man and woman were having a conversation. After about thirty minutes, they shut off the lights and left the office. I sent Chessec around to the street side of the building, and ran up to the trash can corral next to the parking lot. I did my best imitation of a coyote checking it out, while watching the guard booth in the lobby. The two of them came out of the building and each got into separate cars. Other than "Good night," they did not say anything. She drove off in an old Honda wagon, while he spent some time starting a primer gray vintage Toyota Landcruiser with much rust and Bondo. Finally it started, and he drove out of the lot. I ran around to join Chessec. She was laying beside the road in the shadow of an electric transformer.

"They both turned east. Dave came by about three minutes before they did, and pulled into a parking lot about two blocks away. He just took off after that one." She pointed to the Landcruiser. "I guess we walk home."

"We could always go out and get something to eat. I smell lots of rabbits out eating this manicured grass." She agreed that we didn't have to go right home. We spent the next two hours cruising through the industrial complex and the surrounding subdivisions. With my sister and I working as a team, we were both full of rabbit by the time we got back to the hotel, and more than a few cats would be spending the rest of the night in trees. I opened the electro-lock on the back door to the hotel with the plastic key, and we rode the elevator back to our room. Dave was asleep. Hobo woke up when we came in, and whined when he smelled the fresh blood on our fur. He jumped up and started licking my muzzle.

"That's enough of that! Sorry you didn't get to come hunt with us, boy," I said. "I hope Dave remembered to feed you tonight." I gave him a treat, checked his water bowl, then joined Chessec in the shower. As usual, the bathroom was pretty trashed by the time we were done shaking off, toweling off, then using both of our hair blowers. We inevitably woke Dave with the noise, so we both worked hard for the next hour to make sure he got his aerobic exercise for the day, too.


AFIS 2.17 It's better than a room full of Trekkies

Dave:

Next morning, I ordered a full breakfast for myself from room service, and some grapefruit for the girls, since it was apparent from their bad breath that they had been successful while hunting the night before. I had to be at the conference at nine, so we discussed the results of our surveillance over breakfast.

"I followed the Toyota to an apartment building in Skyway, on the southeast edge of town. Mr. Hanson's name was on the letter slot for room 503B. I could see into his balcony from a city soccer field about a half mile away. He doesn't have much furniture, but he appears to be an amateur astronomer, judging by the telescope."

"Or a pervert," Marie interrupted.

"Anyway, I searched his car, and found parking passes for several secure buildings in town and up in Denver. Including USSPACECOM headquarters, I might add. His full name is Dennis Hansen, and he works for a DOD contractor, R&D Associates. Which is interesting, since as you may recall, I work for another company whose parent company owns RDA. So it appears that my own employer has the contract to investigate UFO's. I smell an opportunity here."

"You have seniority. You could always request a transfer. Then you'd be paid to investigate yourself. I think you have the qualifications, since we know Mr. Hansen sure as heck hasn't ridden in any UFO's lately." Chessec snatched a piece of bacon off my plate, gave a third of it to Hobo, and gulped the rest.

"Maybe we could offer him a ride," I mused.

"Did you find out anything about his partner?" Marie asked as she slapped down Chessec's hand reaching for the last bacon strip. "Hobo doesn't need any more, and neither do you!"

"No. She got on the freeway heading north, I think."

It was time to go. I called the front desk and told them to be sure to tell the maid about my dogs, that I wanted the bathroom cleaned, and would lock the door to keep the dogs in one room of the suite. The girls would leave the hotel by cab that evening in 'costume' to go to the ball. I would meet them after the evening session ended.

The fourth annual 'Objective Conference on the Paranormal' was an attempt to get a variety of believers and skeptics together in a setting free of the intramural disputes that plagued the various other conferences and conventions, but without the high dollar, highbrow atmosphere of the Santa Fe conference series. Criteria for attendees at the roundtable discussion groups such as the one I was in was to have published a well reasoned article, but not be dependent on the field for a living. I wrote, "UFO's and Photogrametry, or Supersonic Pie Plate Recognition", for a skeptic-oriented e-zine, which got me the invitation.

After signing in, getting my name tag and looking over the audiovisual equipment, I wandered around the conference. The psychics and similar folks dominated the main hall, but there were probably a dozen UFO-related booths as well. I cruised the room, checking the crowd out, looking for any of the folks we saw last night. There were several obvious Feds (nobody else wears a suit and tie to one of these), but they seemed more interested in the mind-enhancing pharmacy at one booth. Just before our scheduled start, I went back to the conference room and checked in with the event sponsor's representative.

"We're just about ready to start. There will be two other speakers using the computer connection to the projector, so if you just plug this cable into your serial port, we have an A/B box to switch between you. The others brought slides or overheads. I still have you scheduled right after Mr. Thomas, the alien autopsy debunker. If the crowd is too rowdy for you to start, I'll raise the house lights for a minute."

I thanked him, and took my place at the table. There were eight chairs arranged in a semi-circle, facing a small conference room with about sixty folding chairs. About half the speakers were settled in their chairs, and I introduced myself to the gentlemen on either side of me. Both bristled when they heard who I was, having seen the name of my article in the program. They were surprised when I told them I was not here as a debunker, but firmly believed in extraterrestrial. Neither, it turns out, had actually read it. The other speakers filed in, and the crowd began to take their seats. The last speaker, at the far end of the table, was a woman. It was Mr. Hansen's partner. Looking at the program, I saw that her name was Ms. Cindy Kruchensky, and she was speaking on "Brazilian and Mexican UFO's and the Media Circus."

The master of ceremonies made a few brief announcements, and explained the ground rules of the forum. Four speakers would talk before lunch, and four after. Each presenter would be given twenty minutes, followed by ten minutes for audience questions. Once all the presenters finished, the panel would discuss whichever issues raised the most audience interest. The first speaker talked about the latest big UFO sighting in Illinois. I listened with interest. It seemed that he believed the aerial sightings were real, but that the 'drug bust' at the airport was just a coincidental event. I watched Ms. Kruchensky's response more than I listened to him. She was interested, but seemed to be mentally checking off a list of events as he recounted them.

The second speaker was the alien autopsy guy. He didn't add much to the material I had seen on a TV show several years before. The crowd were almost entirely true believers, and they were muttering quite a bit before he finished.

When my turn came up, I started out showing a series of MPEG videos of UFO's. I had taken the videos of two famous historical UFO sightings, digitized them, and compared them to both our recent staged event, and to footage of an F-18 performing combat maneuvers. I described the math involved in the turn rates, speeds and the g-forces the pilot would have taken. My thesis was: Except for the speed advantage, none of he current UFO sightings had exhibited greater g-forces than the fighter, compared to the older craft which seemingly turned at right angles. I ended with a plea to photographers of UFO's to include a scaling object of known size in the film, and to write down what kind of camera and lens they used. The crowd took my theme well, and the questions were softball throws.

I was followed by another debunker, this time of our same Illinois sighting. He claimed that the fake airplane crash and the drug bust were real events, and that the rest was imagined by people who mistook the various police and Air Force aircraft for UFOs. He had photos of the airfield that I had not seen before. They showed the burned wreckage of an Aero Commando on the spot where we had scorched the runway, and various law enforcement on the scene. I said nothing, but decided check into his background a little once we got home. I observed Ms. Kruchensky, but she seemed uninterested in his presentation.

The rest of the morning went slowly. The panel was interesting, but nobody budged from their prepared statements. I asked Ms. Kruchensky if she wanted to go to lunch, but she claimed a prior engagement. The afternoon was slower paced. She was the second speaker, and talked about the dangers of relying on a single news outlet for foreign saucer reports, and suggested contacting the local news sources directly. She was not overtly anti, but managed to convey the opinion that a lot of ignorant, sensationalist reporters tended to obscure the scientific value of any materials they gathered. I couldn't agree more. The open forum portion of the conference tapered off to an end about six o'clock. There was a snack buffet dinner afterwards where the sponsors and contributors could mingle with the speakers, myself included. I cornered Ms. Kruchensky and a contributor, (surprise) Mr. Hansen. They were polite, but uninterested, until I managed to slip into the conversation that I, too had seen the Illinois UFO. I described Mitzep's launch into orbit as it would have appeared from a car driving down the highway toward Chicago.

I concluded by saying, "I wish I'd had a camera that night."

"That must have been amazing. I wish I had seen it." Mr. Hansen said.

"And you are convinced it was a UFO?" she asked.

"Oh, I know it was unidentified. The question is, what was it. I saw a classic disc. I don't know of anything we've got that has that kind of speed that isn't jet airplane shaped. I saw the Saturn-V in '68, the SR-71 back in '73, and the shuttle, and nothing manned I've seen has ever climbed like that." I looked at the two of them. "What about yourselves? Any close encounters?"

She laughed. "Plenty at these conventions. None as vivid as yours. I thought I saw one, but it turned out to be a weather balloon."

"I'm a skeptic," he stated. "There are too many UFO's. They can't all be real, and maybe none of them are. I think it's 99% hysteria. Not that I doubt what you saw, but I would think that we would pick them up with proper instrumentation by now."

I looked at my watch, and discovered it was time to go. I thanked them for their conversation, thanked my host, and gathered my equipment and left. Back at the hotel, I took Hobo out for a few minutes, fed him and put on my costume. I was dressed as Colin Baker as Dr. Who, and had a heck of a time driving wearing the scarf. By nine, I was at the Four Seasons, and looking across a room of Trekkies, medieval characters, aliens from a dozen movies. I found my two sitting on a bench by the fountain.

They were dressed as Robin Hood and Maid Marian from the Disney cartoon, and looked wonderful, although to me, Robin seemed slightly effeminate. Their fur was brushed to a copper gleam and it was clear that they were relying mainly on the strangeness of the other guests for disguise. It was working, but they did have three guests sitting with them. Two male, one was a black unicorn, and another was a wolf. The third was a mundane female, and she was looking daggers at the wolf as he engaged 'Marian' in conversation. I walked over and did a sweeping bow, introducing myself as 'The Doctor.'

"Doctor who?," quipped Chessec/Robin.

"Of course you are," said both the unicorn and the wolf. Marie/Marian and the girl looked uncertain, but gamely chuckled.

Marie said, "Movie reference, right?"

"You got it in one, dear." I kissed her. "Who are your friends?"

"Unhand that princess, first!" said Chessec. I did, and kissed her as well.

"These two are furrys. They have regular conventions where they dress like that. I think we ought to join, and so does 'Robin.' They say they have groups all over the country."

We talked with them for quite a while. It seems that the two young men had been roommates in college and had developed their alter egos originally in role playing games, but now socialized either with other furrys, or occasionally with the SCA folks. The girl had met the wolf two weeks previously, and while she knew he would be in costume, it was clear she did not realize the extent his authenticity took. She liked the outfit, but was becoming unsure about his grip on reality.

Between conversations, we went out on the dance floor. The thing Marie had missed the most as a fox was going dancing, and she was making up for lost time. She danced every dance, either with me, or our new friends. I took the girl, Sue, out for one dance, and tried to reassure her that her date was not going to dump her for Marie, although he might howl at the moon a little. I offered to give her a ride home if she was truly uncomfortable. She said no, but thanked me.

During one dance, while Marie was dragging the unicorn around the floor, the wolf and I were both sitting one out, since his date and Chessec had gone to the bathroom together. He stared nervously at me for a while, then finally steeled himself to ask me:

"You know they're both real foxes, don't you? Vixen, I mean like, actual talking animals."

"I'll assume you meant that in the literal sense, although they are both beautiful women, too. If I were to say, yes, what would your response be?"

"Wow! No, you're kidding, right? Where are they from?"

"We're invaders from another planet. Where do you think they're from, Sheboygan, Wisconsin? Now what do you plan to do? Think carefully, or I might have to suck your brains out."

"No. Dude? Wow!" He had reached his maximum amazement factor, and couldn't speak.

I continued, "Robert, I know you can keep a secret, so I won't have to kill you. If you keep quiet, I have some work you can help us with. I want you to come to a meeting tomorrow, here at this address. Bring Alan if you want to, but don't tell anyone else." He nodded. "Oh, and another thing. They're both married, and not interested in you. But if you quit freaking out your date, she might be more forthcoming. Trust The Doctor on this one."

The girls returned, and I led Chessec out to dance. She wasn't as comfortable dancing on her hind legs, but she didn't mind leaning into me on the slow ones. I told her that the boy had seen through her disguise.

"It's the shape of our mouths. No matter how much they believe the rest might be a costume, the teeth and tongue are definitely not human. I think several people in the crowd have suspicions, but nobody has dared confront us. Needless to say, we need to watch out while we leave tonight. It's been worth it. You made Marie very happy by taking her out in public, and as you know, when she's happy, I'm happy." She licked the underside of my jawline, and I bent down and kissed her. When the song ended, we went back to our bench.

I gathered up my two Disney characters, said our goodnights to our new friends, and we headed for the van. I drove a roundabout route back to the hotel, looking for a tail. This time, I had the scanner on, listening for signs of unusual police activity. We walked into the lobby, gathering a few strange expressions from the night clerk, but no comments. When we got to the room, Marie said,

"That was the best time I've had in months. Dave, from now on, we go to every costume party we can find. It was good to be 'people' again." She leaned on my arm.

"I agree with my sister. I haven't had a face to face conversation with any earth people, not since I met you two. Look at that young wolf, if he could have wagged his fake tail, he would have done it every time I spoke to him. A girl likes to feel appreciated." She took my other arm. They both dragged me into the bedroom, and added some positive reinforcement. I would have wagged my tail too, if I had one.


AFIS 2.18 Like an Extraterrestrial Amway Sales Meeting

Bob:

I think that a costume ball at a fantasy convention is probably not where I should have taken Sue for our second date. I had made a good, conventional first impression, but she just wasn't ready for me in my fursuit. I took her home, and while she didn't run screaming through her front door, she made it clear she would think long and hard before she accepted another date with me. I was so bummed by that, and replaying my words and actions, trying to see what I could salvage, that I really didn't think about the vixens until I was almost back to my apartment.

When I finally did, I just stopped and sat in my car in the parking lot, key in hand. I kept thinking over and over: I just spent the evening dancing with two vixens from outer space! While I have always had a very active fantasy life, nothing the slightest bit unconventional has ever happened to me, not once. Now, not only do I meet aliens, but the had asked me to work for them. As I walked to my apartment door, I began to consider that it might have been a hallucination. So, naturally, I called Alan.

"Dammit Bob, its three A.M.. Maybe they were talking dogs! I don't know. I don't do much dancing with humans, so I'm not the best judge of what species they were. I know they were female, and Chessec made it clear she just wanted a dance partner, so we didn't talk much." Alan, my closest friend and former roommate, associates with computers almost exclusively. I could believe he hadn't spoken much that night. I was the one who originally made his unicorn costume, hoping he would fit into our local fur group. He had worn it three times now in the two years since we graduated from UCCS.

"Alan, the human, Dave, asked me to come meet with them tomorrow. Do you want to come?"

"Sure. Whatever. Just let me sleep." He hung up.

I set my alarm for noon and racked out. Lots of dreams involving foxes, but that was nothing new to me. I woke to the insistent ringing of my alarm, and ate some breakfast cereal. I woke up Alan, and told him I would pick him up in an hour. He reminded me he started work at eight that evening. The car still had gas in it (miracle) and started on the first crank. Not bad for a twenty-five year-old Datsun B210 with at over 250,000 miles. I whipped over Austin Bluffs through T-Gap and stopped at Alan's place. He came downstairs wearing shorts and a T-shirt, looking rough. We drove to the address I'd been given. It was a second floor apartment in Manitou, above some gift shops. A hand-lettered sign said to come upstairs, so we did. Dave, the vixens and two other humans were waiting in the room, which was furnished with a few chairs and a couch, but otherwise empty.

"Ah, I'm glad you both came!" Dave motioned us onto the couch. "I'll ask you all to use only first names. It won't be hard to figure out who everybody is, but this way, you won't accidentally compromise somebody else." He made introductions. Brad and Janet (they were pseudonyms, I truly, truly hope) had met Chessec through a UFO forum, and had corresponded with her and with each other for about three months. Both were thrilled to meet Marie and Chessec in person, and seemed very glad to finally meet each other as well. I sensed the culmination of some major online dating was occurring.

Dave gave a brief background sketch of each of us, without mentioning any specific details. Brad and Alan were described as 'computer software engineers', Janet was a real estate agent, while I was a 'telecommunications engineer.' Which was true, I did have the degree, and assuming eight more senior people in my division died, I would get to do more than run the Xerox machine and make coffee. Alan's real job title was more like 'night shift system backup and really bad printer paper jam fixer.' I assumed some similar exaggeration had take place elsewhere. He mentioned some online articles that Janet had written on UFO phenomena, and that she was an amateur astronomer.

"What we have recruited you for are two different things," Chessec took up the presentation, "Once we make our presence known to the population at large, we would like to have a cadre of people who can tell anyone who asks what we're really like, 'Oh, I met one, and she was just ordinary folks!', or words to that effect. The second reason is more crass and commercial. My people would like to buy goods and services from earth, and we are looking for business contacts. Maybe you don't have the position in your present job, but you were all picked because you have the skills that ensure that in a few years you will have those qualifications. Meantime, we might have some consulting work for you to do."

Dave continued. "I hope you work with us for the very altruistic desire to help relations between the two races, but I will say, they pay cash also. Nobody needs to bankrupt themselves doing a good deed."

After that brief introduction, we spent about ninety minutes talking to each other, mainly with Marie and Chessec, asking questions about their people, their home world, and the similarities and differences between us. Dave pulled each of us aside, and talked privately for a minute or two. With me, he asked a little about the kinds of work I was doing, and asked a few basic network design questions. He said that he expected to need some consulting work concerning a radio relay network next year, and if I couldn't do it all myself, could I think about who he might hire who could do the work quietly. I don't know what he talked to the others about.

Alan was warming up to the people in the room, getting pretty enthused about the whole alien thing. I knew that he had had his suspicions last night while he was dancing, but he had subconsciously decided not to believe them. Now, after sitting next to Marie on the couch talking to her, he finally decided to believe she was real. Finally, I could see the relays clicking over in his mind as he reached a point of decision. He leaned over to say something to her, and after a surprised tilt of her head, she agreed and opened her mouth. He reached out his hand and ran his fingers across the teeth along her lower jaw, feeling the sharp points.

"Wow, no way to fake that. Take a lot of creative dentistry."

"I could bite you if that would help." She said after removing his hand with her paw. "But I'm no werewolf, so you would just bleed."

"That's fine. I almost believed you weren't just wearing a suit already, I just had to convince myself. Cool stuff. I'm glad Bob made me come today."

She held Alan's hand for a moment, turning it over in her paw to look at it. "I'm amazed. Let me get this straight. We danced to five different songs last night and you thought I might be wearing a costume? You need to get out more. I think I'll make you one of my projects." This last was cryptic, but she was looking at him with concentration. "We'll talk again later."

Dave was making some wrapping up noises. "I think we better wrap this up now. One last word of warning: Nothing you have done is illegal, but there does seem to be a lot of government interest in aliens and UFO's. Please be discrete, and please tell me if anyone contacts you. Next time, I promise to order some pizza."

Brad and Janet left first, and I reminded Alan he had to go to work. We drove home without saying much. My thoughts were confused and fragmented. On the one hand, I admit my fascination for furs and the furry lifestyle long ago exceeded even fetish status. On the other hand, too much hard reality in the form of actual anthropomorphic animals made me think-where did I go now? Reality bites, sometimes.


AFIS 2.19 Be Vewwwy Qwiet…We're hunting rabbits…

Chuck:

The parking lot at Space Command was entirely filled with cars by the time we drove across town. The security policeman directed us to the overflow parking half a mile away, but I drove across the street and parked behind the 7-11 instead. As the local boy, I have a few tricks. As a result, it was still two minutes early when we took our seats in the conference room. In front of my chair was a folder with the USSPACECOM logo and the title: Uncorrelated Tracks, Sensor Anomalies and Kindred Phenomena Working Group. Inside was a list of action officers and points of contact. I checked to see if they had spelled my name wrong, again. Nope. Charles Hansen, Researcher/Analyst (Contractor).

I scanned the list. Representatives from NORAD, AFSPACECOM, NASA and NOAA, a junior functionary from State, and our local FBI third deputy ASAC. Major Baugher, USAF, and my nominal boss, was seated to the right of the head chair, which meant the general would grace us with a few words. The Major called us to order and made a few administrative announcements:

"Welcome back, everybody. This conference is classified SECRET, with a caveat ILLUMINATE. Everyone here has been confirmed cleared for this special access, and you all know the classification guidelines. Chuck asked me to promise to smack anybody who starts discussing no-contract stuff today. With that note, here's our schedule." At that point the general stuck his head into the room.

"Don't get up folks, I've been called to another meeting. Major, I'll have my secretary let you know when I can reschedule. Have a good conference." He left. Major Baugher moved to the head of the table.

"OK. This is the quarterly update meeting of the UCT/SA Working Group. If you are in the wrong room, I'll have to shoot you. It's been a busy quarter, so let's get going. We should be out of here by two-thirty" He bent over and spoke into the microphone to the audiovisual operator, the lights dimmed and a slide identical to the folder cover was projected on the screen.

"During this period, there have been seven major events which produced UCT radar tracks or optical camera anomalies. One of those was detected by simultaneous, multiple sensors, and left physical evidence. Three, including that event, also resulted in "kindred phenomena," namely civilian eyewitnesses. Based on analysis of these seven events, our preliminary determination is there is a ninety percent chance that at least two of the events are real, artificial phenomena."

He paused.

"In other words, it is nearly certain we saw one of three possible things: A domestic black program, a foreign aircraft beyond our technology, or a flying saucer." The group had varied reaction to this statement, ranging from wary concern among the military members, to amusement from the FBI. I snorted. The Major continued, "I know there is some disagreement, but let's review the details of incident four, since not all of you have seen the complete record. Why don't we start with Cheyenne Mountain's version first."

The NORAD representative, a Canadian Air Force Captain, began his description of the incident, describing a series of slides depicting the radar and sensor tracks.

"This is a tape from the Chicago regional ATC center's secondary surveillance system. The craft entered their coverage at a range of 180 miles, traveling at 960 knots. They did not detect a transponder on the aircraft, so this is skin paint only. The radar in question is a two-dimensional setup, so we have no altitude data for the first six minutes of the 'incident.' At that point, the target passed into range of the 3-D radar at Goose Bay, with speeds ranging from 1000 knots to mach 3.5, and eventually reaching an altitude of in excess of 120,000 feet. The USS Nancy, an Aegis cruiser operating in the Greenland-Iceland Gap made a brief contact with it's own radar, but was not able to track for more than twenty seconds. The target had exited the atmosphere at that point, and was assumed to achieve orbit. SPACTRAK was able to photograph it, but the image only captured a solar reflection off of it's hull. The craft either changed or left orbit on the far side of the earth, and was not re-acquired."

"Analysis," prompted the Major.

"Speed, acceleration and rate of climb were not significantly greater than the YF-12A, back in the sixties, which if one had strapped an auxiliary rocket engine beneath it, could have made the final detected altitude. Nothing else on earth could have done it. The only problem is, this was a reported vertical take-off. Nothing in our known or near-term extrapolated technology could have done all that maneuvering, and still had fuel to achieve orbit."

"Thank you. Any questions of NORAD?" Several radar-heads asked questions, trying for cheese points. I grabbed a donut off the plate.

"OK, let's talk about the ground contact." The FBI rep shuffled his papers and began reading.

"Reliable local witnesses, members of a multi-agency law enforcement anti-drug team and members of the media who arrived at the airfield first witnessed a saucer-shaped craft lift straight upwards on a plume of visible flame. The craft was lost to sight within twenty seconds. One member of the press claims he saw a figure running from the craft prior to take-off, and at least two cars left by the airport perimeter road. The Sheriff was unable to pursue them. Our team arrived from Chicago within the hour, surveyed the site, and, upon detecting radiation, called in NEST. They found only low levels of radiation and we then took possession of the physical evidence. There was a possible attempt to penetrate our perimeter by an unknown person, who escaped by maceing a police working dog. We completed our examination of the site by morning, and shipped the evidence to the lab here."

"Let's follow that evidence next. What was it?" My cue. I looked around to see who was still paying attention.

"The contamination folks finished with the materials by breakfast time. No signs of anything other than terrestrial dirt, picked up off the runway surface. EOD and NEST had both opened it, so it was already disturbed. Simply put, we had a wooden crate, nailed together from six-inch wide planks, reinforced with a steel packing strap. Inside was a latex weather balloon, complete with a radiosonde. All the materials are apparently of terrestrial origin. There were two unusual items, however. One, the chemistry of the balloon seems to indicate it was manufactured in a former Warsaw Pact state, prior to 1990. Two, there was the device in the lid. A combination radio and locator device, attached to a small explosive destruct device, which later detonated. The electronics were all made in the far east, which of course means nothing."

"Since you wrote the dissenting part of the report, why don't you repeat your conclusions?"

"My opinion is that we've been hoaxed. A complex hoax, but a hoax nevertheless. I think this one is a counterintelligence problem, not an extraterrestrial one."

"Thank you." He turned to the group. "There you have it. We have evidence of a craft capable of takeoff from an unprepared field, as fast and maneuverable as anything we can conceive of yet nothing other than terrestrial artifacts."

I sat down and gradually tuned out. I had been working on extraterrestrial contact evidence for longer than I had held any other job now, almost ten years, and I was sick of it. Anything which seemed plausible got buried in classification, and anything that looked faked, or muddied the water was leaked immediately to the tabloids. And this had been going on since long before I arrived. My personal opinion: The very survival of the post-war military industrial and intelligence establishments depended almost entirely on UFO cover-ups. I no longer cared if we found aliens or not-It was just a job.

The package we had just examined was the last straw for me. Here was a classic hoax, which someone had spent good money to perpetrate, and it happened simultaneously with the most convincing UFO sighting ever. Therefore, It had to be some engineer at yet another 'Skunk Works' style project's idea of a joke. Another victory for compartmentalization.

I coasted through the rest of the meeting, then went back across town to meet with my partner, Cindy. She was just finishing typing up her notes from the paranormal conference she had attended that weekend. I stopped by briefly for the free food, but had decided not to stay. While she typed, I checked my messages. The usual, reports of strange lights by small town law officers, 'my wife is an alien' accusations, a dragon, two vampires, and similar drivel. I picked one out and read it aloud.

"This one's from here in town: Says they overheard a talking animal in the rest room of the Four Seasons this weekend."

Cindy looked up, "I'd have been surprised if they hadn't! There were furrys all over that place. I had an invitation myself, but didn't feel like putting on my costume after spending all day at the conference."

"I thought you just changed with the full moon."

"Very funny. Just for that, you get to do the phone interviews today. I'm going over to Arnold Hall to the library." With all the military installations in town available to us, she preferred to do research over at the Academy. I accused her of trolling for cadets. She didn't disagree.

"What else happened while I was at the meeting this morning? Anything I should know about?"

"Nothing. Corporate says our expense reports are due by Friday, and they're changing our HMO again." I was office manager of our two person office, as well. "Call California before they go to lunch."

"I'd rather face an unnamed alien menace."


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