Tyler Memorial Hospital, Tyler TX.
Lorraine strained her stomach muscles. Her heart pounded, her feet struggled against the stirrups. “Push!” the doctor yelled again, louder this time. Tom looked down at his wife and rubbed his hand softly across her hair. Sweat poured down Lorraine’s face. She breathed, in out in out, it didn’t help. The doctor said that this would be a difficult birth owing to the baby’s size, but she hadn’t expected so much pain. The Lamaze lessons were useless. She was about to rip apart.
“Just a little more honey,” said Tom quietly, trying to sound reassuring. He wished that he could make it better somehow, help things along, but all he could do was stand there and squeeze Lorraine’s hand. With childbirth, men are just impotent bystanders. “I see the head,” said the doctor, all crouched down beneath Lorraine like a catcher waiting for a pitch. “Give me one more big push Lorraine, just one more.” The doctor had his hands on the baby’s bald skull. Lorraine let out a moan. The doctor guided the newborn out of the birth canal. Tom heard a tiny cough, then another, then a child’s cry. He was a father at last. A nurse dropped a tool on the floor. It clattered loudly as Tom rushed over to see his child for the first time.
The doctor looked down at the small bloody creature he cradled in his arms. The most apparent thing that you could see wrong was the color. The child’s skin wasn’t the traditional peachy-pink, but instead a cold, dull gray. Its head was big, far larger than normal. The rest of its body seemed thin and underdeveloped in comparison. The thing looked up at him with its two large, insect-like, black eyes. A cry came from its tiny mouth, familiar sounding at first, but it grew more and more inhuman the longer you listened to it. “Let me see, let me see,” Lorraine called, still in a bit of a stupor from the drugs and the strain. Tom looked over the doctor’s shoulder and got his first glimpse of his child as it reached out and squeezed the doctor’s thumb with its tiny hand.
“What the hell is that?” exclaimed Tom.
6 months earlier, in Mercury, NV.
Ray Johnston walked past the rows of empty newspaper boxes that line the path to the cafeteria. It was early morning in the secret city and the air was fresh and clean. He lit a cigarette and crossed the parking lot, his steps falling heavily against the worn asphalt. Under his arm was a package, an orange diplomatic pouch, with the seal still intact. Ray wasn’t normally a man to worry. He had spent almost twenty years of his life on the inside. He had seen all sorts of bizarre and dangerous things. He had come across everything from ricin-filled darts hidden in umbrellas to blueprints for matchbook-sized nuclear weapons, but nothing scared him as much as the thing in the pouch. He had spent twenty years as a spook, moving closer and closer to the inner circle, having more and more secrets revealed to him. He had always been ready to accept what they had told him. He had always been able to conceive of how all the schemes, all the betrayals, all the gadgets had been put together. Nothing they had revealed to him had truly surprised him. That was before his introduction to the Majestic-12 project. Now nothing made sense, especially the thing in the pouch.
But Johnston was a company man, and he wouldn’t let a little thing like abject terror stop him from doing what needed to be done. He couldn’t let his feelings show on his face. He had gotten so used to that attitude that his bravado came naturally. He spit out the remains of his cigarette and moved purposefully towards his car, parked near the dormitory. He walked past the dreary, yellow-shingled buildings that make up the secret city of Mercury, Nevada. Outdated signs hand-painted in 1950s style letters warned him to look out for radiological safety and to report all suspicious activity. He walked past the rusted spools of wire and the dilapidated Mobile Radiation Lab van. Mercury was a dinosaur, a last pathetic remnant of the Cold War. It was built in the 1950s as part of the Nevada Test Site, and it was used to house the thousands of workers that spent the later half of the Twentieth Century making bigger and bigger holes in the Nevada desert with nuclear bombs. After the US stopped testing, there wasn’t much use for all the miners, geologists, and other workers, so they all left the secret city. It was mostly abandoned now. Just a few scientists scattered about, doing research on the environment, and of course the black projects. Johnston got in his car and turned on the ignition. He turned the air conditioner up to full. It would soon be very hot here in the desert.
The Nevada Test Site is larger than Rhode Island and was built to maintain secrets. They lie scattered out there, in the barren Nevada desert. Johnston drove north on the main road. As you pass over the initial ridge into the central valley, you can see small buildings, dirt roads leading to nowhere, esoteric arrays of pipes and wires. Johnston ignores them as he drives. What goes on in those buildings? Who works there? Those questions are not easily answered. Each place has its own secrets and its own cadre of workers. None of them know what the others are doing. That is the point of the site. It provides the isolation, the secrecy, the privacy that these groups need to accomplish their mission. The question of whether or not the missions are in the public interest never occurs to Johnston. He knows that they are. He’s a company man.
An hour’s drive north of Mercury is a mesa. You can recognize it easily; it’s the only flat-topped mountain around. Beyond that mesa lies Johnston’s destination. In the prospector days of the old west it was named Groom Lake. Today it is known by the more generic title: Area 51.