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“These ‘waived SAPs’ [Special Access Programs] are the blackest of black programs. How many of the SAPs are unacknowledged, and how many are waived, is a question which only a few people can answer: eight members of Congress, the members of SAPOC (including the Deputy Secretary of Defense), and the Secretary of Defense.”

“In Search of the Pentagon’s Hidden Budgets,” International Defense Review, 5-18-01


Admiral Stark stood next to Apol Leon with a puzzled look on his face. The Nibiruan Key—as the Martian image was called at Montero—was on a table in front of them while across the room the extraterrestrial vehicle (ETV) hovered silently between the lab’s ceiling and floor.

This was a new development, and Stark wondered if the ETV was somehow reacting to the image.

Previously the seventy-five-foot-wide vehicle had nested on a titanium cradle, which in turn was mounted to a crawler similar to the two-tracked transporter built by NASA to move the space shuttle and mobile launcher platform, but on a smaller scale. The disc had been airlifted to Montero at night by a giant military freighter and lowered into the bunker using an express Otis cargo elevator with a concealed trap. Once positioned with the crawler transporter, it had remained motionless, until now. Floating spectrally above the hangar’s floor like this was an unexpected and astonishing event, even to a man like Admiral Stark.

He observed how the ship glistened with a greenish hue, as if the air around it was being cooled to a misty fog. It made no noise other than the crack of static electricity on his hair and skin. The hull, a ring-shaped dome defined by a crest, had a transparent section circumventing the entire midsection at the rim. The translucent panel itself measured fifty inches from top to bottom, providing a window through which the ship’s crew originally looked out. Admiral Stark considered it, and thought how terrifying the reptilians and grays must have appeared staring from that portal. It took his mind back to his childhood, to a time when he was just a boy on the farm.

It was Halloween night, October 31, 1938, and young John Stark had just come in from playing in the wheat field when his mother held her hand up to shush him. His parents were beside the radio, faces blanched, listening to an animated reporter talking about a UFO in a field near Grovers Mill, New Jersey.

At first the reporter thought it was a meteorite. Then the top of the crashed object began rotating like a screw. The reporter moved in for a closer look as the threaded section pushed off from the top.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” he had exclaimed, “this is the most terrifying thing I have ever witnessed.… Wait a minute! Someone’s crawling out of the hollow top. Someone or…something. I can see peering out of that black hole two luminous disks.… Are they eyes? It might be a face. It might be.… Good heavens, something’s wriggling out of the shadow like a gray snake. Now it’s another one, and another. They look like tentacles to me. There, I can see the thing’s body. It’s large, large as a bear and it glistens like wet leather. But that face, it…ladies and gentlemen, it’s indescribable. I can hardly force myself to keep looking at it. The eyes are black and gleam like a serpent. The mouth is V-shaped with saliva dripping from its rimless lips.…”

Stark remembered how frightened he had been that night. Seeing his parents disconcerted for the first time, watching them hold hands and stare at the radio while the announcer described the malevolent scene. Of course, neither Orson Wells nor the Mercury Theatre actor who played the reporter was aware of the public’s misconception. The radio dramatization of H. G. Well’s classic The War of the Worlds had been meant as a Halloween stunt. It created mass hysteria. Now Stark couldn’t help wondering if Wells had based his fiction on an unknown record or source. Perhaps he was just a visionary, but portions of his description had been uncanny.

As he reminisced, Apol stepped toward him and introduced the Montero engineer that had been on duty when the Nibiruan Key was first brought to the hangar.

Stark harnessed his thoughts and said, “Yes…hello, now let me get this straight. I understand the ship moved to its current location of its own accord…the moment you carried the key into the room? Does that sound about right?”

“Yes, sir. Just as you see it, without warning.”

“Has it done anything else? Any signals, transmissions, anything?”

“Not to my knowledge, Admiral. It simply lifted off the pedestal and stopped in midair.”

“What about the key, notice anything different about that?”

“Yes. Both it and the ETV seem to be interacting in some way with the baseline energy field.”

“Explain,” Stark demanded.

“I cannot, sir, not yet anyway, but the ETV’s propulsion system seems to be functioning as a result of the ambient electromagnetic and quantum energy field, the baseline energy state from which all matter is alternating. It appears the ship is tapped into mother nature somehow.”



The engineer paused, perhaps to see if the Admiral understood. When Stark didn’t indicate one way or the other, he said, “What I can say is that the vessel is airborne by generating its own gravitational field.”

“You mean the propulsion is based on antigravity?”

“Of course, gravity is the least understood of all forces of nature, but I’d say that’s correct. It also seems to function in proximity to the key. Whenever the key is moved beyond sixty-six feet of the ship, the propulsion system shuts down and the ETV returns to the cradle. When the key is returned to within sixty-six feet of the ship, it immediately taxies to this default location.”

“How accurate are the movements, assuming you’ve tried it more than once. Does it return to the same place? Any variations?”

“No variations whatsoever, sir, it’s an exact positioning each time. Even the rate of ascent and descent are duplicated perfectly. Would the admiral care to see a demonstration?”

“Not now,” he said decidedly. “Can you speculate what will happen when we actually insert this key into its slot inside the ship?”

“It would be pure hypothesis, sir. Of course we hope to learn something about the Enigma. Perhaps an answer to the superstring and M-Brane theories too…the idea that we live in one of many dimensional membranes, surrounded by other unseen universes.”

Stark pulled his cap off and ran his hand through his hair. “Yes, I’m familiar with the theory about parallel universes. Supposedly we can’t see them because their light photons stick to their dimensional membranes, just as ours do. Beyond such conjectures, what do you believe is happening to the ship itself?”

“We’re assuming the onboard systems have come online. Of course, we can’t be certain, can we?” the engineer questioned.

Either this response was not the kind Apol wanted from a supervisory member of his team or he was worried it would fuel the Admiral’s pessimism. In either case he raised his scaly finger and began pointing out the environmental benefits such free energy systems could provide to the New World Order. He didn’t get the chance to finish. A sultry African-American approached them from behind and articulately informed the Admiral that a call was waiting for him in the Blue Room. It was Air Force One, and the president of the United States was on hold. Admiral Stark didn’t need to be reminded that a person doesn’t keep the leader of the free world waiting. He gave Apol and the engineer a look as if to say wait here, and turned on his heels to follow the assistant. As he moved toward the office, he could hear Apol in the background scolding the man for his inappropriate answer.

“Mr. President,” Stark said after closing the door and picking up the receiver, “this is John Stark.”

The president responded pleasantly through the phone, “Admiral Stark, how are you doing. How’s the wife and daughter?”

“They’re fine, sir, and you?”

“Fine, Admiral, just fine.”

The president seemed to make a calculated pause, then the tone of his voice changed. “Listen, John, General Layton received a call from agent Leon earlier today. Seems the two of you are having some kind of disagreement over the launch date for Santa’s Reindeer.”



Stark wondered why the president was using coded language. Air Force One and Montero both employed unbreakable communication systems. Maybe it’s just a habit or good discipline, he thought. Either way, he’d play along. “I’m not convinced the Reindeer is in good health, sir. Could be diseased.”

“General Layton disagrees, John. He assures me that Apol is correct, everything is healthy and there’s no need to stall.”

“Sir, with all respect, General Layton is echoing his advisors. They all see budget cuts on the horizon, and they’re feeling the pressure to produce something spectacular. You know how it works, sir, the right breakthrough or technological discovery could renew public support for the space program and make it difficult for budget cutbacks during appropriations. This equals dollars for Pentagonees like Layton to siphon into their Special Access Programs. Layton’s reaching, sir, he’s reaching. As for Apol, well, that man’s a megalomaniac. He could care less if he blew the whole world up as long as he gets what he wants.”

“Now, John, let’s not get carried away here. The Reindeer is in the stable,” the president said, meaning the disc was bunkered below ground in an impenetrable fortress. “The animal can’t go anywhere until we’re ready for it to, you know that. So let’s not worry about the beast escaping. For Pete’s sake, a dozen hydrogen bombs wrapped in cobalt couldn’t blast that thing out of the barn.”

“I’m not worried about that, sir, I’m worried about the unknown, the things we haven’t contemplated. This is an exotic animal, and I have a feeling we haven’t begun to comprehend it. In my opinion, we should order a full and thorough review. Who’s to say what Hell this thing will unleash?”

“Or Heaven, John, it could unleash utopia!”

“Okay, maybe utopia, but I don’t think we should be so foolish as to jump from the plane and then check for a chute.”

Stark immediately regretted that comment. A man of his position didn’t speak condescendingly to the president of the United States. Quickly he added, “It’s just that I fear for the community, sir, that’s all, the beast could be rabid.”

The president continued on an even keel. “John, you’re a vice admiral, you can’t afford to make decisions based on fear, and you certainly can’t afford to second-guess me. The flight of the Reindeer has been reviewed and approved at every level. Everybody is signed off, including General Layton, and he is the secretary of defense. Now if you’ve got credible reasons to delay, let’s have it. Otherwise, I’m afraid we’re on course for the holidays.”

“I don’t have the evidence yet, sir, but remember, this SAP was waived,” Stark pressed, meaning that the project was so sensitive that the Senate and House management oversight protocols had been waived. “If I can just have a few months to report back to SAPOC, I might be able to get the status of the project changed.”

He heard the president sigh. “It’ll never happen, John. All you’re doing is forcing me to make you stand down. You understand? I’m trying to be civil here. I appreciate your heart, really I do. But I think you’re overreacting. What I need from you is a firm commitment to expedite matters at Montero. All right, John?”

Knowing he would get nowhere by exasperating the president, Stark finally said, “All right, Mr. President, I understand your position.”

“Good, John. I knew I could count on you. You’re a good man. Remember to say hello to the wife and daughter, will you? Give ’em my love.”

As the President hung up, Stark knew what he had to do, even though it would represent incalculable cost. Otherwise, the War of the Worlds might play itself out after all. He set the receiver down and rejoined his thoughts to that Sunday night in 1938, trying to recall the chilling words of the actor and hoping they would not prove to be prophetic.

“Ladies and gentlemen. I have a grave announcement to make. Incredible as it may seem, both the observation of science and the evidence of our eyes lead to the inescapable assumption that those strange beings who landed in the Jersey farmlands tonight are the vanguard of an invading army from the planet Mars.”



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