51 Shuffle

by dm gillis

based on actual events in the disturbed mind of  Michael Valois

Part 1

July 4 1947, Roswell Army Air Field Radar Facility 

“What the hell is it?” said Air Force Major Cam Middleton. He sipped his fifth cup of coffee that night and puffed on a drug store cigar. The room was dark and occupied by Specialist Airmen monitoring glowing screens.

“Unidentified, Sir,” said the Radar Specialist.

Middleton sipped more of his coffee and blew smoke as he leaned over and took a closer look. Then he said, “Whatever the hell it is, it’s got the whole damn world ready for World War 3.”

“It’s losing altitude, Sir,” said the Radar Spec. “We know that much.”

“Meaning what, exactly?”

“Meaning that if it follows its current trajectory, it will land in New Mexico.”

“Bullshit.”

“If you say so, Sir. But I’ve checked the numbers three times. And though it’s true that it could change course at any time, it’s worth noting that there are thunder storms in the area.”

“What happens when it falls on New Mexico?”

“We don’t know what it is, Sir. So, we can’t say. But it’s coming in over the Pacific, not the Pole.”

“So it ain’t Ruskie.”

The Radar Spec didn’t speculate.

“Well hell and goddamit,” Middleton said. “We’ve gotta scramble fighters. We’ve gotta get the bombers airborne.”

“That won’t be necessary, Sir.”

It was the voice of a man standing behind Major Cam Middleton. Middleton turned round and the man stood to attention and saluted.

“Lieutenant Walter Haut reporting, Sir.”

“Who the hell are you?” Middleton half saluted back.

“Base Public Information Officer, Sir,” Haut said. “What’s unfolding on the screen won’t require Air Force intervention. It’s just a weather balloon.”

“Perhaps I should excuse myself,” said the Radar Spec.

“The hell you say, Airman,” Middleton said. “You just stay where you are and watch that damn screen.”

“Yessir.”

“Now, Base goddam Public Information Officer Lieutenant Walter Haut, how is it that a radar blip that entered the atmosphere like an asteroid over the Sea of Japan, travelling at near supersonic speed, over the Pacific for the last ten minutes, headed directly for New Mexico and fixin’ to land there, is a goddam weather balloon?”

“With respect, Sir,” said Haut, handing Middleton an official looking envelope, “it’s because Strategic Air Command says so. I was ordered to deliver this ahead of the arrival of Colonel Forbes of SAC, Sir.”

“Why you?” said Middleton. “You’re a goddam First Lieutenant. I’ve swatted mosquitoes with more significance in the world than you.”

“Because, as you’ve pointed out, Sir, convincing the world that what’s on your radar screen right now is a mere weather balloon will be a work of communications prowess.”

“And you’re the goddam mosquito with the prowess.”

“Yes, Sir. Myself and a team of others.”

“Bull fucking shit,” said Middleton, as he opened the envelope. He read the document inside, furiously puffing his cigar. The red ember was getting close to the end.

Then he said, “This makes about as much sense as a cat in a duck blind, Lieutenant. And what’s this shit about my boys being relieved and debriefed? They’re on duty for another three hours.”

Just then a group of Airmen strode in. They were dressed in regular Air Force uniforms but sported black berets and .45 calibre side arms. Two took position guarding the entrance to the room, and the rest took up position, standing at attention, next to each radar screen station where Airman Specialists were already seated.

“What the hell…,” said Middleton.

“The object has just passed over Sacramento, Sir,” said the Radar Specialist, taking a moment to look up at the menacing black hatted man standing next to him.

“That’s enough, Airman,” said Lieutenant Haut. “You’re relieved. Muster in the base cafeteria, and talk to no one. That goes for everyone on this watch, understand?”

“Whoa, whoa!” Middleton said, stepping on his cigar end. “That’s a big goddam negative, Airman. You stay at your screen. As for you Lieutenant, you take yourself and your pretty boys and get the hell outta here, before I….”

“That’ll do, Major,” came a voice from the doorway two of Haut’s pretty boys now guarded. It was Colonel Forbes from SAC.

“Colonel,” Middleton said. He stood to attention and saluted.

“At ease, Major,” Forbes said. Send your men to the cafeteria.

“Sir? I….”

“Please, Major,” Forbes said. “We can talk about this like gentlemen later. Right now, however, I need you to obey.”

“Yes, Sir,” Middleton said. “Alright,” he said, now addressing his crew, “you all head directly to the cafeteria, and don’t stop to talk to anyone on the way. Move yer goddam American asses.”

As the Airmen filed out of the Roswell Radar Room, a few miles away, over Mack Brazel’s ranch, a large metallic object descended out of the sky at speed. From a distance, it appeared to be an Independence Day rocket. Some who witnessed it were warmed by its celebratory arc across the sky.

Others set into action. A number of military vehicles were dispatched and rumbled onto the Brazel ranch. Mack Brazel stood on the porch of his house, roused from a deep sleep. An Air Force staff car stopped in Brazel’s front yard, and an officer stepped out. The officer greeted Brazel with his hand extended.

“Hello Mr Brazel,” said the officer. “I’m Colonel Forbes of Strategic Air Command.”

“What the hell?” said Brazel.

“There’s an Air Force weather balloon that’s come down on your ranch. We’ve come to retrieve it.”

“I guess you know yer business, Colonel. But that’s a lot of trucks ‘n’ other just for one weather balloon.”

“We like to do a thorough job, Mr Brazel.”

The military vehicles lined up in ranks and waited in Brazel’s front yard while a jeep with stretchers drove out onto the prairie of the Brazel ranch. It disappeared beyond the roll of a hill. In the front seats were an Air Force Captain and Master Sergeant. In the rear passenger seats were Flight Surgeon, Major Benjamin Powell of the 509th Bomb Group and Army Counterintelligence Agent, Lieutenant Tully Huxtable.

“Why do you think I’m here, Lieutenant,” said Benjamin Powell, looking up, hoping to see stars but only seeing dark thunder clouds. He’d done his best to don his uniform under the frantic late night circumstances, but was aware, that if called upon, he’d fail inspection. In his lap was his medical bag. Powell hadn’t needed it in over five years. He clung to it tightly and winced as the jeep bumped across the uneven terrain.

“Don’t know, Sir,” said Huxtable. “Maybe there’s been injuries.”

“Then wouldn’t a team of medics be more appropriate?”

“I guess, but I’ve been doing this a while now, Sir, and I’ve learned to let a situation unfold as it will and contemplate its peculiarities later.”

“I suppose that’s what the Army would call insightful,” said Benjamin Powell.

“Damn straight, Sir.”

A debris trail appeared five minutes into the ride. It was a trail of metallic wreckage, some of which glowed strangely in the dark. Huxtable began jot notes in a scratch pad he took from his breast pocket.

“It’s a plane crash,” said Powell.

“You’ll need to brace yourself, Sir,” said Huxtable.

“What for? What’s going on?”

Huxtable didn’t reply.

In a few more minutes the jeep arrived at a crash site. The Master Sergeant positioned the jeep so that its headlights shone on the strange wreckage and engaged the emergency brake. Then he jumped out with a camera in his hands. The Captain turned round and addressed Benjamin Powell.

“You’re here because of your rank, Sir,” the Captain said. “We figured a Major could be trusted with classified information better than a non-commissioned medical officer. And we weren’t sure, still aren’t, whether we’d need a medical man. But whatever you see is top secret. You’ll be debriefed later. But for the time being, what you’re about to see, never happened. Can we trust you with this, Sir?”

Dr Powell said, “It’s a little late to be asking me this now, don’t you think, Captain?”

“It all happened very quickly, Sir.”

“What happened very quickly, Captain?”

“The thing that never happened, Sir.”

A flash bulb popped and was ejected onto the prairie, then another.

“Shall we?” said Huxtable.

The three officers got out of the jeep and moved round the debris.

“Greys,” said the Captain.

“Agreed,” said Huxtable. He took more notes in the light of the jeep’s headlights.

“Captain,” the Sergeant shouted. “We got bodies.”

“Okay, Major,” said Huxtable, “this is where you come in.”

“What’s a grey?” said Benjamin Powell.

“You’re about to find out,” the Captain said.

The three officers walked over to where the Sergeant now stood, pointing to a spot in the wreckage. Two pale bodies lay there, entwined, seemingly dead in the moonlight. They were clothed in torn drab clothing, perhaps uniforms.

Huxtable produced a flashlight and shone it down on the pair.

“Greys, darn tootin’,” he said. He struggled with the flashlight and his scratch pad to take more notes.

“Confirmed,” said the Captain.

The Sergeant popped another flash bulb.

“What is this?” said Powell.

“A weather balloon,” said Huxtable with a grin.

“Aliens,” said the Captain. “The wreckage is their space craft.”

“It’s a joke,” said Powell. “What are you three up to?”

“Not a joke,” said Huxtable. “Sir, you’ve just joined a very exclusive club. Very few people have seen what you’re seeing right now.”

“But what we need from you now,” said the Captain, “is to tell us whether they’re alive or dead.”

Powell stood dumbstruck for a moment. Then he said, “I can’t. I won’t. I’m not playing along with this fraternity gag. Drive me back to the base.”

“It’s not a gag, Sir,” Huxtable said. “It’s a matter of national security.”

“I’m a doctor, not a circus clown. Take me home.”

It was an impasse. Powell couldn’t be compelled by lower ranking officers to do what he refused to do.

Then one of the bodies moved.

“Movement,” said the Sergeant, pulling his sidearm. “Just like in Yosemite.”

The creature in the wreckage opened its eyes. Its mouth seemed to be forming words. Benjamin Powell was stunned.

“Sergeant,” the Captain said, “get the stretchers. We’ll bring them both in. But at least this one is still kickin’.”

“Well, doc…?” Huxtable said.

“It’s Sir or Major, Lieutenant. Not doc.”

“Will you at least check for broken bones, wounds you can bandage? See if the other one has a pulse?”

“Where does one check for a pulse on a grey?” Said Powell.

“Bringing him was a mistake,” said the Captain.

Powell thought about the Captain’s comment; it was a challenge. Then there was the Hippocratic Oath – how far did it extend? Despite his disbelief, he knelt next to the living grey to do a body check. He tried to extinguish all feelings of compassion as he looked into its bulging eyes. Then he used his stethoscope to listen for a heartbeat. He was surprised at what he heard. He did the same with the non-responsive alien. There was nothing.

“This one’s dead,” he said. “Oh hell, I don’t know. And this other one has a fractured left humerus and femur and several cracked ribs. Heart rate is remarkably slow. Who the hell knows why? But what does it all mean? What can possibly be done for him — it?”

Huxtable went to the jeep and retrieved a two way radio. He walked away from the others before he spoke into it.

*  *  *  *  *

One hour later, Roswell Base…

Powell found himself scrubbing next to a physician he’d never seen on base before.

“Your first pixie?” the physician said.

“Pixie?”

“That’s just my word,” said the physician. “Everyone’s got their own word for ’em. I hear they’re calling this species greys now, semi-officially.”

“Your first?” said Powell.

“Second.”

“Well if it’s just your second and my first, what do we do to heal it. How can we know what to do for it when we know so little?”

“Same as human medicine. We keep trying until we don’t kill them anymore.”

The surviving alien lay on a gurney in the surgery. It was now on a respirator. Its chest rose and fell rhythmically. The two doctors looked it over from either side. A nurse stood nearby.

Powell observed as the physician lifted the sheet and looked under.

“Male,” the physician said.

Powell listened to the heart.

“It’s speeding up,” he said. “That’s good isn’t it? It seemed way too slow at the crash site.”

“Speeding up?” The physician put on a stethoscope and listened. “This may not be good.”

“Why.”

“Their hearts, their metabolism runs slow. Heart rate has really increasing. Way too fast. Tachycardia. I think we’re losing him.”

“No!” Powell listened. The heart rate had increased three times in less than a minute. “What the hell?”

“Heart’s stopped,” said the physician. “Cardiac arrest.” He looked up at the nurse. “Defibrillator,” he said. “Hustle.”

The nurse wheeled the unwieldy apparatus to the gurney.

“Ever use one of these?” said the physician. He held two paddles in his hands. The nurse applied conductive gel.

“Never,” said Powell. “I’m a surgeon.”

“Then stand back, because it’s the first time I’ve ever used one on a pixie. The little bugger might explode.”

There was a high pitch whine and the physician shouted, “Clear.” He applied the paddles and the alien convulsed.

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