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 James Webb.
“Yeah, James, I was showing the boy here MLP 1,” Un said.
“Boy?” Everette asked. “I’m older than you.”
The head of NASA laughed. “Agent Samson, no one on Earth is as old as Un.” Webb’s expression hardened. “Don’t take this the wrong way, but I don’t understand why you’re here. NASA is a civilian agency. We don’t answer to the CIA or the military.”
“My bosses at Langley are worried about the hyperdrive pulse transmitter,” Everette said.
“Oh, and why is that?" Webb asked.
“Well, as I understand it, President Kennedy has just told the Soviets about it.”
“That was my idea,” Un said. “The Soviets have a lot of technical expertise, and their help would greatly accelerate Project Apollo’s timetable.”
“What right do you have to make such a suggestion?” Everette asked.
“Agent Samson, what exactly has your masters told you about the transmitter?” Webb asked.
Everette squinted. Did Webb suspect? “That it’s some advanced radio.”
Webb turned to Un. “Un, would you care to enlighten our friend here?”
“I would love to. Boy, I hope you brought an extra pair of underwear.” Un vanished, like he had been an illusion or a mirage. What hovered in his place – yes, the creature floated two feet off the ground – was about three foot nine, with a head more than twice the size of a man’s and black alum-shaped eyes. A cloak covered his body, held up by a metal crest that fanned out at the back to form a decorative thrill. A silver crown levitated over his head.
The creature extended a three-digit hand from his cloak. “Please to meet you, Agent Samson.”
Everette jumped back, startled. “What happened? What did you do with Engineer Un?”
“The young man you saw wasn’t real,” Webb said. “Retikkees are powerful psionics. His mental powers allow him to project images or keep himself afloat.”
Everette eyed the Retikkee. “Wait. You can use thought waves to fly.”
Un nodded. “I can outfly your fastest jets. I could even give Superman a run for his money.”
“That’s incredible,” Everette said. “I guess you have no need for airplanes."
“Not in an atmosphere. But my powers don’t work in outer space. And that’s not all I can do.” Un snapped his fingers and a nearby bush burst into flames. “Extra crispy."
Everette gasped. Fire. The creature could summon fire. It was a demon.
“The Retikkees are one of the three Elder Races, the oldest and most powerful civilizations in the Milky Way Galaxy,” Webb said. “He has been our guest since 1947.”
“The Roswell Incident,” Everette said. “That was your spacecraft that crashed in New Mexico?”
“Yeah, Navigator Zi exited hyperspace prematurely,” Un said. “Did a real number to the ship’s systems. I feel bad for the farmer. We totaled his prize cornfield.”
“Engineer Un came to us,” Webb said. “Walked up to President Truman in the Oval Office.”
Everette imagined Un confronting the President of the United States. “So, you said you're a psionic. Does that mean you’re also a telepath? Can you read other people’s thoughts?”
“You have nothing to fear,” Web said. “Engineer Un would never violate your privacy.”
Everette put on his best poker face, pretending all was cool. He didn’t believe that Un wasn’t peeking inside his head. He was a demon after all. Summoning fire and peering into other people’s souls. Those were the things demons were known for. What else could he be?
An alien? No. If aliens were real and part of God’s plan, the Bible would have made mention of them. It didn’t, so the only possibility was that Un was a demon.
“So, what is this hyperdrive pulse transmitter?” Everette asked. “Your ship’s radio.”
“Let me show you.” Un floated away and guided him to a newly constructed hanger. The wreckage of a flying saucer rested inside. Everette ogled. Even dented and torn, the craft looked like a work of art, with highly decorative walls that glinted in the sunlight.
Everette placed a hand on the ship’s silver hull, and electricity danced over his fingertips, causing a tingling sensation that traveled up his arm and down his spine.
“She once could do seven thousand times the speed of light,’ Un said. “Now she’s little more than an oversized paperweight. Several key components broke off when we entered Earth’s atmosphere, including the tachyon transmitter, her original radio.”
“So, this hyperdrive pulse transmitter isn’t standard issue,” Everette said.
“Not by a long shot,” Un said. “It’s part of the ship’s faster-than-light drive. I modified it so it could generate a virtual tachyon pulse.”
“But for it to work, we need to get it on the moon,” Webb said.
Everette traced strange symbols on the hull, a series of circles, semi-circles, dots, and squares connected by lines. “Why haven’t your people returned for you?”
“If you knew my people better, you wouldn’t be asking that,” Un grumbled.
“Is that frustration I hear in your voice?” Everette asked.
Un gave a long sigh. “My people aren’t… oh, how would I put it? We Retikkees tend to act slowly and only after great deliberation. Years, even decades, can past before we make a decision. The by-product of being immortal. Still, my people should have sent a probe to find out what became of me. I’ve been helping your government to re-establish contact.”
Webb placed a hand on Un’s shoulder. “The Soviets launched Sputnik into orbit in 1957. If it weren't for Un, we would still be struggling to get our birds in the air.”
“And the Soviets would have won the space race,” Everette said.
“But there’s only so much I can show you,” Un said. “My knowledge of biology is limited.”
“So, the real purpose behind Project Apollo is contacting your people,” Everette said. He visualized the transmitter on the moon, beaming a signal into the very depths of Hell. That was what di Conti meant when he said Satan desired a foothold on Earth.
“That was the original reason behind NASA,” Webb said. “Think of the things his people could teach us. We humans could live to 150, maybe even longer.”
“In the distant future, when you're ready, we'll help you become immortal like us," Un said.
Everette pictured winged demons descending on the Earth, slaughtering countless millions. He redrew his hand, fearful that his soul might’ve been tainted.
"You're lucky that my people came across you humans first," Un said.
Everette turned. “Oh, and why is that?”
“Not all aliens are nice like we Retikkees. There’s one that’s particularly nasty. The Vijics.”
Webb chuckled. “Yeah, well, let’s not mention the Vijics. We might give poor Agent Samson here nightmares. We wouldn't want that, now would we?”
“You make these Vijics out to be worse than the Nazis or the Soviets,” Everette said.
“Oh, they are. A lot worse,” Un said. “Thankfully, you have us Retikkees to protect -you.”
A few days had passed, and Everette Samson had returned from his venture to Cape Canaveral.
The visit had left him deeply disturbed. He had gotten to see the hyperspace pulse transmitter, as well as the demon’s craft’s AI: Nun. Artificial intelligence. A machine that thought it was a person. Was Lucifer so arrogant that he was now making fake people?
Everette stood before the twelve individuals that made up Majestic 12’s high council. He removed photographs from his briefcase and placed them on the table.
“The spacecraft and the transmitter are being housed in the only fully constructed hanger on the base,” Everette said “As you can see, security around the construction site and the UFO is substantial. I suggest a thirty-man strike team at a minimum.”
Hoover leaned back in his seat. “Destroying the transmitter is not enough.”
“You’re thinking of assassinating Un,” Allen said.
“Un could rebuild it if we don’t,” Hoover said.
“The demon is a powerful psionic,” another councilman said. “I doubt any strike force we throw at him will do. Perhaps we should nuke the site?”
“No, the Heavenly Benefactors have forbidden us from harming him,” di Conti said. “Besides, they’ve given us a gas that can neutralize his powers.”
Everette grimaced. Who or what were the Heavenly Benefactors?
“A gas that can make Un as weak as a human,” Hoover said. “That might work.”
“What about Kennedy?” Allen asked. “He wouldn’t rest until the demon was freed. We need to neutralize him before we can make a move against Un.”
“I’ve been talking with several of my colleagues in Congress,” Eastland said. “Many are worried that Kennedy’s planned moon mission with the Soviets will eventually lead to peace talks. They would back any action we took, even assassination.”
“Could you get me onto the committee that will be set up to investigate Kennedy’s murder?” Allen asked. “No offense, but I don’t trust them to cover up our tracks.”
Eastland scratched his chin. “I don’t see that as a problem.”
“The Pentagon is also of the opinion that the President needs to go,” di Conti said. “As I understand it, he’s scheduled to visit Dallas next month.”
“We have a sleeper agent living in that city,” Allen said.
Di Conti turned to Everette. “Agent Samson, activate the sleeper agent.”
The sun shined over the treelines on a Wednesday’s afternoon. Everette brushed the sweat from his brow with a gloved hand, then raised his rifle: a 6.5x52mm Carcano Model 91/38 carbine with a telescopic sight. He aimed and squeezed the trigger.
Nine hundred yards away, a beer bottle shattered into a hundred pieces.
“Nice shot,” Lee Harvey Oswald said.
Everette hit the next beer bottle, then lowered his carbine, and turned his hat forward again. “Reminds me of the time we were stuck in Siberia,” he said. “All we had were two sniper rifles, a dozen or so bullets, and about fifty crazed Russians chasing us.”
Oswald grabbed the sniper rifle from Everette and fired off a round. “Still into exaggerations, I see. I only recalled seventeen heavily armed men.”
Everette laughed. “So, how is married life treating you?”
“I’m happy to be home, and not living the life of a double agent.”
Everette grabbed his beer and took a sip. "Have you ever thought of rejoining the service?"
“I’m done with the CIA. My family already thinks of me as a traitor.”
Everette handed him a beer. “Are you sure? A mission’s come up. It’s a month from now.”
“I’m surprised you would come to me after I botched the Walker hit.”
“Yeah, well, we’ll deal with Edwin Walker in due time.” Everette shook his head. “It’s a pity. I respect the man’s views, but he’s a loose cannon. We can’t have that.”
“So, what’s the hit?” Oswald asked, then waved a hand. “Forget it. I don’t want to know.”
“Are you sure? This one’s going to be in the history books.”
“I’m sure. I’m out of the cloak and dagger business.”
“A shame.” Everette borrowed the carbine and took another shot. “Well, I better get going.” He offered the weapon to Oswald. “Keep the rifle.”
Oswald frowned as he took it. “Are you sure? This is a nice rifle.”
Everette smiled. "Think of it as a retirement gift from the CIA.”
A month later, Everette looked out the window of the Texas School Book Depository. Kennedy’s motorcade drove down Dealey Plaza. Crowds of people gathered on the sidewalks, eager to catch a glimpse of the President and his lovely wife. They waved.
Everette put on latex gloves before unwrapping a blanket and removing a rifle from it, the same military carbine he had lent Oswald a few weeks back, which he had retrieved the night before while Oswald and his wife slept.
A sliver of guilt cut at Everette, then he remembered a familiar voice. “Only faggots cry over a dead puppy. Are you a faggot?” His father had asked him that after putting a round in his dog. Everette recalled screaming, which earned him a slap across the face. It had been a lesson, to teach him that nothing mattered saved victory, and that friendship was a liability.
Everette grimaced. His father was right. Oswald was no different than that puppy: a weakness. He needed to discard him, just as Dad had with Rover. Christ demanded it. With his resolved restored, he looked down the sight and brought the crosshair over Kennedy’s scalp.
Everette held his breath, readjusted for the wind, and pulled the trigger. Bang. Bang. Bang.
Screams filled the air, as well as police sirens. Everette wrapped the blanket around the rifle and hid it among cartons on the sixth floor. The cops should have no trouble finding it.
Then Everette stuffed his gloves in a coat pocket and exited the building, a skip in his step.
The next evening, Everette sat before the owner of a Dallas nightclub, a brown paper bag sitting on the stool beside him. Things had gone splendidly. Everette had called Lee Harvey Oswald just after shooting Kennedy and asked him to join him at the theater. Then FBI agents, who were working for Grand Inquisitor J. Edger Hoover, put out a bulletin describing Oswald and someone id him and called the cops, who promptly arrived and arrested him.
Oswald was likely in an interrogation room, being grilled by FBI agents who answered to Hoover, while Everette was enjoying a cold beer.
The club owner stood in front of him and rinsed glass mugs. He had a tapered nose and a short crop of hair. Jack Ruby, the owner of not just this nightclub, but several strip clubs as well. Grand Inquisitor Trafficante had suggested him as the mark for this assignment.
Jack eyed Everette’s empty glass and asked, “Would you like another?”
“Sure,” Everette said as he pushed the glass closer, a sly smile on his lip. “So, were you there yesterday? You know… when Kennedy was assassinated?”
“Nay,” Jack said. “I was a few blocks away delivering flyers. What about you?”
“You could say I had a bird’s eye view. Saw the bullets hit. Nasty.”
“I heard they caught the guy. A communist. Can you believe that?”
“Not surprising. He’s probably sitting in a comfy cell and dining on steak.”
Jack handed him back his drink. “Someone should put a bullet in his head.”
Everette nodded and enjoyed his beverage. Hours passed. When closing hour neared, Everette got up and headed for the back of the establishment. He found Jack putting two garbage bags in the dumpster outside, oblivious that Everette was approaching him.
He removed a needle from the paper bag and inserted it into Jack’s neck. The club owner went limp, and Everette gently lowered him to the ground.
“A gift from our Heavenly Benefactors,” he said. “I’ve never used it before, but I’m told it makes someone highly susceptible to mental suggestion.”
Jack stared up at him, dazed, confused, and seemingly unable to fight back.
Everette kneeled and laid the paper bag beside Jack. “Supposedly, it also acts as a selective memory blocker. You won’t remember this conversation. Now, I must admit I have my reservations about using it. That’s why I opted to kill Kennedy myself.”
With a cloth wrapped around his hand, Everette reached into the bag and took out an empty revolver. “Let’s think of this as a science experiment, and you’re going to be my little lab assistant. If it works it works, and if it doesn’t… well, you won’t remember this encounter.”
Everette placed the revolver in Jack’s hand and monitored his response. If the drug were defective, Jack would attempt to shoot him with it. “Now, Oswald knows me. He knows I gave him the gun used to kill Kennedy. My associates have people inside the FBI, but the Attorney General happens to be Kennedy's brother. He can't be allowed to speak with Oswald.”
Everette examined Jack’s eyes. His pupils were fully dilated. “Ah, the drug has taken full effect. I’m going to ask you a series of questions. Do you mind?”
Jack bit his lip, apparently in pain. What was causing that? “I’ll try.”
Everette patted him on the shoulder. “That’s the spirit. So, what’s your full name?”
“Jacob Leonard Rubenstein, but people know me as Jack Ruby.”
“Why did you change your name, Jack? Is it to hide the fact that you’re a Jew?”
"No. I find Rubenstein too long. Also, Jack Ruby is a catchier name.”
“I see. Do you have any nicknames I should know about?”
“Yes. My sister calls me Sparky because I remind her of a racehorse named Spark Plug."
“Interesting. So, Jack, may I call you Sparky?”
“No. I hate it when people call me that.”
Everette grinned, recollecting that Jack’s profile said he would fight anyone who addressed him by that name. The drug was apparently working, though he still didn’t know how. Whoever these Heavenly Benefactors were, their understanding of the human brain went far beyond his own.
"Good to know. We are bonding.” Everette removed an ammunition box from the paper bag. “Now, here are your instructions. Tomorrow at 11:21 am, Oswald is going to be transferred from the Dallas police headquarters to a more secure facility. The door to the basement will be open. You will take this gun, and you will kill Oswald. Is that understood?”
“Yes,” Jack said. “I am to confront Oswald at 11:21 am in the basement of the Dallas police headquarters and shoot him with this revolver.”.
Everette loaded the weapon and handed it back to Jack, then put the needle in the paper bag. “That you are. Now, when the investigators ask you why you did it, you’ll tell them that your motivation was to spare Mrs. Kennedy the discomfort of coming to trial.”
“I’ll tell them I’m doing this to spare Mrs. Kennedy any discomfort.”
“Good. Oh, and we never had this conversation, right? Right?”
Jack blinked three times. “Oh, my head. Where am I?”
“You had a nasty fall, my friend. You also dropped your revolver.”
Jack gazed down at the gun. “My revolver? Oh, yeah. I forgot about that.”
Everette helped Jack up. “You should be more careful when carrying a loaded gun.”
Jack scratched his head and laughed. “Yeah, you’re right. I could get someone killed.”
“Or yourself. Enjoy the rest of the weekend, Jack,” Everette said and turned down the alleyway. He never looked back as he entered his car and drove off.
The following Monday, Engineer Un walked behind Jacqueline Kennedy and Robert Kennedy as they marched from the White House to St. Mathew’s Cathedral. President Kennedy’s flag-draped casket was hauled in front of them by a horse-drawn caisson. Un’s Retikkee cloak projected a hologram over his body, so his real form didn't show up on the cameras.
Hundreds of thousands of people lined the sidewalks. Military officers dotted the crowd, and more soldiers in ceremonial uniforms escorted the procession.
Un gazed forward, still in shock. He had failed Kennedy. He could have stopped the bullet if he had been there, and his killer, Lee Harvey Oswald, was dead, assassinated by a nightclub owner from Dallas. Now they might never know if Oswald had been working with others.
When they reached St. Mathew’s, Un had been allowed to sit alongside the Kennedys. Dignitaries from over ninety nations attended the funeral, yet only Un had been invited to grieve with the family. People behind him murmured why he had been shown such an honor. Was he a close friend of the family, an unknown cousin or something else?
Un ignored them as he struggled to rain in his grief, which could easily level mountains.
Jacqueline sat a few feet away. A black veil hid her face, and her stance was composed and dignified. Her courage and grace would move most, but Un was a telepath. Her expression might not betray her, but he could feel a black tsunami of emotions irradiating from her, violent ripples in the ether, fighting to get out. Sooner or later, she would crack.
Un leaned towards Robert and whispered, “Is it possible I can speak with this Jack fellow?”
Robert frowned. “Jack Ruby? Whatever for?”
“Oswald’s death seemed… well, staged. For example, how did Jack get inside?”
“Good question. Do you think Oswald was assassinated to conceal my brother’s true killers?”
“I won’t know until I start digging. If Oswald was killed to put us off, waiting would only give the true conspirators more time to cover their tracks.”
“I’m afraid I won’t be able to authorize that. We have laws.”
"No laws forbid a mind probe," Un objected.
“A technicality. We would if we humans were telepaths.”
Un grumbled. “I should have been there. He would still be alive if I had.”
“Don’t beat yourself up. My brother didn’t expect you to guard him twenty-four seven.”
Un faced forward. President Lyndon Johnson got up and placed a wreath on Kennedy’s casket before returning to his seat and grabbing his wife’s hand.
“Johnson isn’t going to do the Soviet deal,” Un said. “He might even expand the Cold War. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a conflict in the future. Vietnam perhaps.”
“Vietnam? Vietnam? If I recall, we have military advisors stationed there.”
“Since the 1950s, but your brother increased their numbers by sixteen-fold.”
“And you think Johnson is itching to expand the conflict there?”
“No, but his generals are, and I don’t see him standing up to them, not given the political realities here. Your brother could because he was loved. Johnson isn’t.”
“I think you’re right. What about the hyperspace transmitter?”
“Johnson never much cared for me. I’m being sent back to Area 51.”
“I’m so sorry. I know how much making contact with your people means to you.”
“We Retikkees are the only ones who can protect you humans from the Vijics. In the long run, the people Johnson is hurting are the American people.”
The two went silent when Jacqueline gave them a disapproving glare, and for the rest of the funeral, they listened attentively. The Archbishop of Boston, Richard Cardinal Crushing, presided over the event. No formal eulogy was given, but Reverend Philip M. Hannan read from selections of Kennedy’s speeches and finished by reciting Kennedy’s inaugural address.
The mass ended with Luigi Vena singing Georges Bizet’s “Agnus Dei.” It was at that point that Jacqueline broke down in tears and wailed.
Seven days later, Everette sat in the belly of a captured Mil Mi-4 helicopter. He held an AK-47 at his side and a map of Area 51 on his lap. "The demon and the transmitter were sent to Area 51 after Kennedy's death," he said. "Now, the demon has already been knocked out. All we have to do is pick him up and leave evidence pointing to the Soviets."
“What is our orders if we confront friendly soldiers,” a man said.
“The second we get off this chopper we’re Soviets.” Everette pointed his AK-47 at him. “There are no friendly forces. Do you understand, comrade?”
The young man stared at the rifle’s barrel. He bobbed his head.
“The general is the one exception,” Everette said. “Leave him to me. Okay?”
Everyone gave him the thumbs up. Everette removed his pendant and prayed to God.
Five minutes later, missiles wailed. Explosions boomed beyond the helicopter’s walls, and it wobbled. Everette grabbed the bulkhead when his transport banked.
"Touching down in five, four, three, two, and one,” the pilot said.
The side door slid open, and Everette got out. He shot at three airmen near a guard post. More soldiers stormed Area 51 from neighboring helicopters. They moved forward, while a dozen Mil Mi-4s provided them air cover. Rockets and anti-tank missiles flew from their wings, lighting up the darken landscape as they hurled towards their targets and exploded.
Everette used the cover of night to his advantage and stayed out of the glare of spotlights. He shot a few, as well as the guards manning them. A hundred yards later, he and his men reached the administration building and fought their way to the top floor.
Two airmen stood outside di Conti’s office. Everette down them, then burst in to find the general sitting at his desk, his expression one of outrage. “What’s the meaning—”
Bang. Bang. Lowering his rifle, Everette ran up to the general, kneeled, and checked his wounds. “The bullets shattered your shoulder, but you should be fine.”
“What matters is: are they believable?” Di Conti reached for his pistol with his other hand and unloaded it at the door. “There. That should suffice.”
Everette got up. “I’m sorry, master, but I’ve got to leave you here.”
Di Conti waved him off. “Give Engineer Un my regards.”
Everette depart the office and scurried down the stairs. A massive fireball greeted him as he exited the building, consuming a distant hanger in oranges and reds. “The transmitter. Good.” He gestured to his men. "Now we need to get the demon. This way."
Everette and his men reached another structure and threw a flashbang through a doorway. It detonated. He stepped inside and downed anyone still standing.
“Put your gas masks on, people.” Everette donned his. “The lower levels should be flooded with the yeta gas the Heavenly Benefactors bequeathed us. Grand Templar Hilton, you need to recover the canister the general used to transport the gas here. Okay?”
Hilton nodded, and he and two other men traveled down a different corridor.
A third soldier approached Everette. “Sir, what do we do if the demon is still conscious?”
Everette frowned. He had already seen the creature levitate himself in the air, make others see him as human, and light a bush on fire. He was said to have even more fantastic abilities. Yeta gas was his only known weakness. “In that scenario, pray to God for a quick death.”
Everette headed deeper into the facility, mindful that he might be leading his men to their doom.
They encountered the green gas once they reached subbasement two. Army men rested on the ground or at their seats, knocked out not by the green gas, but by methoxyflurane, a powerful anesthetic that had been mixed in with it. They navigated around the bodies.
They descended five more floors before reaching the door to Un’s room.
“High Inquisitor Hicks, plant C4 on the door, will yah,” Everette said.
Hicks nodded and blew the vault door off its hinges.
Everette went in first, his assault rifle aimed forward. The Retikkee laid on the floor and drooled yellow slime. He wheezed, and his chest contracted.
Was that a reflex or had the methoxyflurane not taken full effect? Everette crept closer.