The Conspiracy is a sequel to The Sacrifice and The Signal.
Everette Samson followed his boss, former CIA director Allen Dulles, down a hallway. Their footsteps echoed across its cement floors. His hair stood on edge, and his breathing quickened. Everette tried to hide his unease. Usually, that proved no challenge. He was used to danger, having had more than a few close calls with death, but this was different.
He was not about to face an enemy in combat. He’d been trained for that. Nor was he about to undergo an interrogation, at least not the kind that resulted in your bones being shattered or your fingernails being torn off. He’d been taught to ignore pain. No, he was about to confront the most powerful men of his order. They had the divine sight, the power to peer into other’s soul.
Would he be found wanting? A voice in the back of his head, drifting up from the dept of his earliest memories, said no. It was his father. It told Everette that he was weak and stupid, and as he heard the voice, recalled the lashes he got whenever his dad was drunk or angry.
Everette closed his eyes and willed the voice silent. He was no longer that whimpering boy. He was a warrior of Christ. He would fear no evil, accept nothing but success. He removed a pendant from underneath his robes: an eye encapsulated within a triangle. Then he clenched the Eye of Providence against his chest, whispering a prayer to drive away his insecurities.
The dread that nearly consumed him past as quickly as it came, and Everette was himself again: calm, collective, and analytical, focused only on his surroundings.
They reached a steel door, and Allen turned and said, “Speak only when spoken to.”
Everette nodded. “Yes, my lord.”
“Good,” Allen said, then he turned and knocked on the door twice.
A voice emitted from a speaker built into the door. “Then I saw the Lamb open one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures call—”
“The white hoarse said come,” Allen said. “Now let me in.”
The door parted, and a gaurd escorted them to a table. Eleven men sat around it, including General Jeffery di Conti, J. Edgar Hoover, Charles P. Cabell, William King Harvey, Senator James Oliver Eastland, and Santo Trafficante Jr.
Allen took a seat at the table, while Everette stood behind him.
Di Conti greeted them with a scowl. “I’m glad you’ve finally decided to join us.”
“Apologies, master, but our flight was delayed by bad weather,” Allen said.
Di Conti tapped his fingers on the table. “I see… Well, before you interrupted, Grand Inquisitor Harvey was informing us about Operation Mongoose.”
Harvey turned. “Yes, as you all know, the CIA has been working hard to undermine the Castro government, bombing schools, hospitals, daycares, and other soft targets,” he said. "The loss of civilian life has been considerable, and we expect an uprising in six to seven months. If we are lucky, Castro will retaliate, and we can use it to justify an invasion.”
“I thought the plan was to have Castro and his brother assassinated,” Allen said.
Harvey cringed. “The exploding cigars didn’t work. This is Plan B.”
“Has Director McCone given you much trouble?” Allen asked.
“Despite the President’s purge, we still control the CIA,” Harvey said. “We have been able to keep the director ignorant of much.”
“Six to seven months you say?” Allen asked. “And you’ve kept this all out of the newspapers?”
Charles Coughlin coughed. “The American public doesn’t care about the Cubans. Those newspapers that do… well, we have dirt on them, and they know it.”
“If Castro retaliates, it will look to the public as an unprovoked attack,” di Conti said.
Allen sighed. Everette eyed his boss, curious as to what was going through his head. It must sting that he had to learn this from a third party, but after the Bay of Pigs fiasco, Kennedy had him deposed, along with several key members of his staff. The President likely thought that he’d got them all, but Everette and countless others had slipped under the radar.
Di Conti leaned forward. “Castro is the least of our concerns right now. I imagine that you’ve all heard of the President’s most recent speech.”
“The one he made at the UN General Assembly?” Hoover asked.
Di Conti sneered, his hands crumpling the tablecloth beneath him. “Yes.”
“The Soviets are the enemies of Jesus Christ,” Everette said. “The President is insane to think that a joint space mission with them could possibly—”
Allen raised a finger. “Our true enemy is not the Soviets, but their master, Lucifer.”
Everette lowered his gaze. “I’m sorry, my lord, I’m just—”
“Speaking out of turn,” di Conti said with a hiss. “Grand Inquisitor Dulles is correct. But the danger is greater than any of you know. Word has reached me that the President has informed Premier Khrushchev of the true purpose behind Project Apollo.”
Everette cocked his head. Project Apollo had a secret purpose?
Hoover growled. “That reckless, Nigger-loving, peacenik—”
Di Conti waved a hand. “Spare us the theatrics, Grand Inquisitor Hoover.”
“What was Khrushchev’s reaction?” Coughlin asked.
“Shocked at first, though I am clueless as to why. He’s a Satanist after all,” di Conti said. “Khrushchev has agreed. They plan to make a joint announcement together after the presidential election. I can’t overemphasize what might happen if they place that hyperdrive pulse transmitter on the moon. Satan cannot be permitted to gain a foothold on Earth.”
A hyperdrive pulse transmitter? Satan getting a foothold on Earth? What was going on?
“As the commander of Area 51, can you not destroy it?” Hoover asked.
Everette shifted his gaze back to di Conti. The older man seemed weary, even apprehensive. "Ever since the Incident of 47, I have been walking on eggshells," he said. "Besides, the transmitter has been shipped to Cape Canaveral. It is out of my reach.”
“Do we have any operatives inside NASA?” Cabell asked.
“No.” Allen looked up at Everette. “But I believe I can get someone in.”
Hundreds of miles away, in an animal shelter in the city of Roswell, New Mexico, Hannah Marshall picked up a twelve-month-old Golden Retriever and placed him on an examination table. The puppy whimpered and squirmed in her arms and tried to lick her face.
Hannah was gentle as she stretched the canine’s front legs and examined the damage. “Poor fellow,” she said. “What did you get yourself into?”
“He’s suffered a hairline fracture to the right ulna. The right radius is fine, however."
Hannah turned to see a man in his early twenties hovering over her shoulder.
She wagged a finger. “Un, how many times have I told you not to teleproject behind me?”
“Seventy-four if you want an exact count.” Engineer Un’s human avatar walked through Hannah, the dog, and the table like he was a hologram, or in this case, an astral projection. The alien was likely thousands of miles away. He submerged his index finger into the dog’s cranium. “Our canine friend here got into a nasty fight with a bull terrier.”
Hannah gave Un a look. “I thought you were reframing from probing other people’s minds?”
“I am with humans, but my telepathy is my only means to communicate with animals.” Un twisted his finger, and the dog yawned and fell asleep. "That should make it easier for you.”
Hannah pinched the dog’s right ulna and felt a bony protrusion. “Yeah, he’ll need a leg cast.”
Hannah reached for a box of plaster of Paris bandages from a nearby cabinet. She cleaned off the blood before removing one and dressing the dog’s leg. Hannah took care not to wrap it too tightly. The last thing she wanted was to cut off circulation. “So, how have you been enjoying yourself at Cape Canaveral? It must be nice to get away from General di Conti.”
“The good general gives me a clear birth these days," Un said. "Still upset about us stealing his car. Talk about holding a grudge. You would think he was a Retikkee.”
Hannah snorted, recalling when she had first met Un in the summer of 47. The Retikkee’s spacecraft had crashed landed on a farm just outside of Roswell. He was one of two survivors. The other, Scientist Li, died later from her injuries, but not before helping Un rescue Hannah from Area 51, during which they had hitched the general’s car to a tow truck and drove off.
“Yeah, well, I haven’t forgiven him for kidnapping me,” Hannah said. “He should be in prison.”
Un frowned. “That was Truman’s call. Besides, the general’s been behaving himself since.”
Hannah finished wrapping the bandage and grabbed another. “He better.”
“So, how are things progressing between you and Rick?”
Hannah showed him her engagement ring. “He proposed to me the other night.”
“That’s wonderful. How do his kids feel about it?”
“Sam and Emily? They couldn’t be happier.”
“Good to hear. I feared they might resent you for trying to replace their mother.”
“Jill passed away years ago. Besides, I think they’re glad to have a woman in their lives again.”
“So, when is the wedding going to take…” Un stopped and looked right. He nodded before turning to Hannah. “I’m sorry, but I can’t keep the President waiting.”
Hannah pursed her lips. "The President? You like to rub that in."
“Well, if you want, I can ask Kennedy to invite you and Rick over for dinner.”
“And give you the chance to boast to Rick. No, I think not.”
Un gave her an innocent look. “Me? Boast? I would never do such a thing.”
Hannah rolled her eyes. “Don’t you have a President to see?”
“Yes, well, I’ll see you later.” Un faded from sight, like a light on a wall going out.
Hannah resumed her work mending the Golden Retriever’s broken leg. She cut off the excess bandaging before saying, “There. Now, I just need to let it set."
Outside the Oval Office, Engineer Un sat on a padded chair, his large oval-shaped eyes closed. With his telepathic senses, he detected people were passing him, some guests like himself, others White House employees, and all oblivious to the fact that he was an extraterrestrial. Even as he remotely conversed with Hannah, he made sure to project an illusion into the minds of everyone in line of sight that he was a young and handsome Caucasian male.
After terminating communications with Hannah, Un opened his eyes and levitated off his chair and beamed an image of his human avatar standing up.
A Special Service agent approached him. “Mister Un, if you would please follow me.”
“Of course, Franklin,” Un said and traversed down the hallway and into the Oval Office. President Kennedy got up and greeted Un with a firm handshake.
“How is my favorite Retikkee?” Kennedy asked. “Did you enjoy the trip?”
"Yes, though it was unnecessary. I’m capable of atmospheric flight, remember?”
“We had this discussion before. You almost started World War Three the last time you visited.”
“How was I supposed to know your radar officer would mistake me for an ICBM?” Un asked.
Kennedy walked back and sat down at his desk. “Given that nothing but an ICBM can reach such speeds, plenty.” Kennedy leaned forward, his playful expression turning serious. “Un, I know you’re unhappy with our security arrangements, but understand, we’re trying to keep your existence a secret. Other than a handful of people in my government and now Khrushchev and whoever he’s told, the world still believes that we humans are alone in the universe.”
Un took a seat beside Kennedy. “I’m aware of that, and remember, it was I who suggested the need for secrecy, but I’m a guest, not a prisoner. You cannot hold me.”
“I’m fully aware of that,” Kennedy said, “but my people are jittery these days.”
Un scoffed. “Stalin is dead. Most of Moscow’s behavior is purely reactionary.”
“They have a global agenda.”
“As do you Americans,” Un snapped. He paused and considered his next words, his eyes glued to his fingers as he examined them for imperfections, a habit he’d developed since becoming an individual. “Look. The Soviets are convinced that the society they’ve created is right for humanity, and like you Americans, they often use warfare to achieve their ends.”
“You’re no doubt referring to the Bay of Pigs,” Kennedy said. “I’ll be the first to admit that I screwed up, but Castro is a cruel and petty despot. He needs to go.”
“So was his predecessor, Batista, but that didn’t stop you from being his buddy.”
“We Americans respect human rights, at least at home. The Soviets don’t.”
“I would imagine Martin Luther King could make a strong case against that.”
Kennedy sighed and knocked the top of his desk. “I imagine he could.”
Un drew closer. “Mister President, we Retikkees came to realize long ago the folly of trying to mold others into our image. Like the Soviets, we are collectivists, but we don’t expect others to be. Furthermore, imposing one’s values only breeds rebellion. Instead, we Retikkees focus on practical goals like fostering cooperation and stability among the younger races.”
Kennedy got up, turned to the window, and stared out. Un watched, wondering what was going through his mind. He initially thought the human was a little green behind the gills, not to mention brash and too sure of himself, all qualities Un felt were unbecoming of a leader, but he’d since been impressed by how quickly Kennedy adapted and matured into the role.
Yes, it took the Cuban Missile Crisis to show Kennedy the errors of his ways, but he was starting to come around to Un’s position. If the human could win another term in office, peace between the United States and the Soviet Union might become a reality.
Kennedy swiveled and faced Un. “You’re right. Trying to change the Soviets will only prolong this Cold War. We need to engage them, not push them away.”
“There’s an Earth saying: you can get more with honey than you can with vinegar.”
“Is that why you Retikkees offer to advance other races?”
Un chuckled. “Now you’re learning, Mister President.”
Kennedy went to the globe to the right of his desk and spun it. “It was a calculated risk informing Khrushchev about you, but I figured that the thought of America allying with an alien species millions of years more advanced would make him open to persuasion, if only so he could ensure his government a place at the negotiation table.”
“Not everyone is going to be for an alliance, either between the Soviets or my people.” Un was thinking of di Conti as he said that. The religious nut job thought him a demon, an absurd notion to be sure. His people didn’t even believe in gods or demons, but that didn’t stop the general from trying to kill him or kidnapping Hannah when he first arrived.
Un sometimes wondered if he should have killed di Conti all those years back, but what kind of message would he have sent humanity? Obey me or die?
No, humanity shouldn’t fear him or his people, just respect their power.
Kennedy nodded solemnly. “Yeah, many of my generals and admirals, and a few in my cabinet, are against my joint moon mission with the Soviets. Think me insane.”
“They say that because most don’t know the true reason behind Apollo. Once my people arrive, you’ll have no reason ever to fear the Soviets again."
“You’re right. My people might become more concern about you.”
Un thought of di Conti again. “True, but I have faith that you will reassure them. Besides, you humans have nothing that we Retikkees want.”
“Not true. You want to turn us humans into an Elder Race.”
“As we do with all sentient life in the galaxy. Besides, don’t you want to be immortal?”
Kennedy walked away from the globe. “Even if we remove the Soviets as a physical threat, I fear some might still desire war. I was not that long ago among them."
“A war with the Soviets could trigger a nuclear winter. Kill all life on Earth.”
“Better dead than red, they would say.”
“We’ll all be dead if they keep holding to such juvenile notions.”
Kennedy frowned. “I know. The Cuban Missile Crisis made that painfully clear to me. Still can’t believe we got out of that without blowing up half the world. I swore never to let such a thing happen again, but I fear not everyone learned the same lesson. Some felt I showed weakness by not punishing the Soviets. I fear I will become a martyr if I pursue peace.”
Un shook his head. “It’ll never come to that. I can stop bullets with my mind, remember?”
“True, my friend, but even you have limits. Nor can you be everywhere at once. Besides, I need you at Cape Canaveral working on the rockets.” He returned to his seat. “But we’ve dwelled on such matters long enough. Jackie got you a date for this evening: Elizabeth Swan.”
Un gave Kennedy a dubious look. “Really? Another date? After the last fiasco.”
Kennedy grinned. “You and Rachel weren’t right. Trust me. Elizabeth’s different.”
“You said that about Emily. And Heather before her. And Jane before that.”
“And I was right. They weren’t right for you. I see that now.”
“And then there was Marilyn Monroe. Let’s not forget her.”
Kennedy cringed. “Yes, setting you two up was a big mistake.”
“Tell me about it. I had to mindwipe her memories. Now she’s convinced she dated you instead. I’m not exactly sure how she came up with that silly notion.”
Kennedy became uncharacteristically withdrawn. “Yes. Yes. I have no idea why she would assume that.” He waved a hand. “Forgetting about Marilyn… I mean Miss Monroe. We’ll find someone for you, though if you’d heeded my advice and asked Miss Marshal before—”
“Hannah’s my best friend. I could never do that. Besides, she’s engaged to Rick.”
“Really? Well, this is news. How long ago did he pop the question?”
“Just the other day, believe it or not.”
Kennedy removed a cigar from his desk and lit it. “You don’t say. Come. Let’s go for a walk.”
The two headed out of the Oval Office and strolled down the hallway. Kennedy went about the difficult task of convincing Un that Miss Swan was perfect for him.
A week later, Everette Samson took the morning flight from Langley to Orlando. He rented a jeep and drove it down the Five Twenty-Eight, reaching the East Coast two hours later. Everette faced little traffic into Cape Canaveral. He brought his vehicle to a stop at the main gates of a massive construction site, the sounds of high power machines going off in the distance.
A guard walked up to him and asked for his papers. Everette handed them and waited for the guard to study them before being waved through.
Everette pressed on the accelerator and continued down the road. He passed partly-built hangers and office buildings. Construction crews worked on them like army ants. Giant cranes hosted steel beams and held them in place as workers bolted them together.
Everette’s eyes shifted, and he admired their work before slamming down on the breaks. He exited the jeep, in shock, and fumbled to remove his sunglasses.
“Lord Almighty,” he said, his mouth dangling. “What in heaven’s name is that?”
A multi-story platform rolled by him on tank-like treads. It was monstrous. A skeletal umbilical tower, nearly four hundred feet tall, rose from its base.
“Mobile Launcher Platform One or MLP 1 for short. Impressive, no?”
A young man in a yellow jumpsuit strolled up to Everette and offered him a hand. “I’m Engineer Un, though people around here just call me Un.”
“Engineer Un?” Everette asked. “What kind of name is that?”
“It’s how my people refer to ourselves. We don’t have last names, just our caste and first name.” Un gazed down at his badge. “Agent Samson. CIA?”
“Yes,” Everette said. “Who are your people by the way?”
Un blinked. “Ah, so you haven’t been informed.”
“Informed of what?”
“I’m sorry, Agent Samson, but that information is classified.” Un pointed to MLP 1. “We plan to build two more of her. They will be able to support several different types of rockets, all of which will use liquid hydrogen as fuel. Not the ideal reactive, but you humans have yet to figure out how to create antimatter. Even that’s primitive, though more effective.”
Everette frowned. Humans? Engineer Un referred to himself as being something other than human. Could he be the demon his superiors warned him about?
Everette nodded. “And these rockets will take us to the moon?”
“If everything goes as plan, hopefully by the end of the decade.”
“Ah, so you two have already met.” Both Everette and Un panned right. A man in a business suit walked up to them. His name tag read Administer Jame