A PROJECT GAUNTLET MISSION
Copyright © 2017
This story within
is a work of fiction. All events, institutions, themes, persons,
characters, and plots are completely fictional inventions of the
author. Any resemblance to people living or deceased, actual places,
or events is purely coincidental and entirely unintentional.
No part of this
book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means,
graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying,
recording, taping, or by any information storage retrieval system,
without the permission in writing from the author.
Roswell, New Mexico
Raymond Lloyd turned the wheel of his blue 1947 Chevrolet Aerosedan
over in his callused hands and drove off the empty highway onto a
dirt track. A brown-haired coyote running alongside the trail saw the
car coming, and stopped to watch as it passed by. Lloyd rubbed the
back of his neck with his right hand. The muscles were as tight as
steel. He grimaced. If Lloyd didn’t get some good news, a
full-blown tension headache was only minutes away. Lloyd looked out
over the desolate landscape and wondered how everything had gotten
out of hand so quickly. Since the end of the war things in his office
had been relatively quiet, and that was just the way he liked it.
Colonel Lloyd was a
career soldier who had served as a pilot in the U.S. Army Air Force
in the skies over Europe. Under a pair of dark sunglasses, his weary
brown eyes were bloodshot. Lloyd’s chestnut hair was almost all
gone from the top of his head. His round face was well-tanned, from
having been outside under the hot New Mexico sun for the past couple
of days. Lloyd wasn’t wearing his usual army uniform. Instead, he
wore a pair of brown slacks and a tan-colored shirt.
Just up ahead, he could
see a farm. Lloyd slowed down and approached the front gate, where a
couple of military policemen stood guard dressed as farm hands. Lloyd
fished out his identification and flashed it to one of the MPs. The
man quickly checked his ID and opened the gate. Lloyd drove toward an
old, white-painted wooden house with three vehicles out front of it.
He parked his car and got out. Right away, the dry, scorching,
late-afternoon heat struck him. It was like walking into an oven.
The front door to the
house opened. A man in his early thirties with thick, blond hair
waved at Lloyd. “Good afternoon, sir,” said the man. “How was
“Long and hot,”
Lloyd replied gruffly. He had been on the road for close to eight
hours, and was looking forward to a shower and a cool beer or two
after he concluded his business at the farm. “Is the rest of the
“Yes, sir. Major
Gordon and Captain Thurman arrived a couple of hours ago.”
Lloyd followed the man
inside and smiled when he saw a full pitcher of iced lemonade sitting
on the dining table.
“Here, let me pour
you a glass,” said the blond-haired man.
Lloyd took the glass
and drained it in one long drink. “Another one, please, Captain
Besides Lloyd and
Jones, there were two other men sitting at a round table in the small
kitchen. Although there was a fan in the corner running at full
power, the temperature inside the house was stifling. Both were
dressed in casual attire. Major Gordon had thinning, black hair,
while Captain Thurman was bald and wore silver-rimmed glasses on his
“Okay, gents, fill me
in on what we know,” said Lloyd, as he took a seat.
Major Gordon spoke
first. “Sir, as you are aware, yesterday, the public affairs
officer at the Roswell Army Airfield issued a statement to the press
indicating that a flying disc had been found and recovered by
personnel from the base.”
“Yes, the damn fool
caused quite an unneeded panic in the Pentagon,” said Lloyd, wiping
his sweat-covered brow with a red-and-white checkered handkerchief.
“He’ll be lucky to find work as a janitor after that monumental
screw-up. Wasn’t he aware of the Fallen Star Protocols?”
“Apparently not. The
orders were locked away in the base commander’s safe, and by the
looks of things had yet to be read by anyone on the base.”
“Goddammit. It’s a
priority-one document. It should have been read the day it was
received.” Lloyd shook his head. “When I get back home I’ll
speak with the ops staff at the Army Air Corps Headquarters, and make
sure the word gets out for everyone to read the protocols
immediately, before we have another one of these incidents.”
“Yes, sir,” said
Captain Thurman. “A new statement was given by the base’s
commanding officer to the press earlier today, refuting the initial
claim of a flying disc being discovered.”
“What was the new
cover story?” asked Lloyd.
“A weather balloon,
“Inventive, yet highly plausible. Has this gone out on the
“Have they done
anything to reinforce their story?”
“Yes, sir,” said
Gordon. “An old weather balloon that crashed in the desert late
last year was shown to the press. Afterward, it was loaded up into a
C-54 transport plane and flown to Los Alamos for further examination.
Once the crash team at Los Alamos sees the wreckage, they’ll issue
another press release confirming the weather balloon narrative.”
“Very good. This
should put this incident to bed quite nicely.” Lloyd emptied his
glass and wiped his parched lips with the back of his hand. He looked
around the cluttered farmhouse. “Say, who owns this place?”
“It belongs to a man
called Fred Deckard,” replied Jones.
“Is he trustworthy? I
don’t want this all falling apart because someone couldn’t keep
their damned lips shut.”
“Sir, don’t worry,
Mister Deckard is very reliable. He fought in the First World War
with the Marines, and is a true patriot. When we asked him if we
could rent the place for a week to test some equipment, he never
batted an eye. He refused to take any money from me, and insisted it
was his national duty to help us out.”
“Where is he now?”
“In town with his
only daughter and her three kids.”
“He died during the
war. At Okinawa, I think.”
Lloyd turned his head
away for a moment before standing up. He had lost a younger brother
and two cousins in the war. He knew the pain of dealing with the loss
of a loved one all too well. Lloyd looked at the men in the room with
him. “Okay, let’s not drag this out any longer than we have to.
Where is it?”
“It’s in the barn
behind the house,” explained Gordon.
Together, the four men
walked to the barn. A man with an army-issue M1 rifle stood guard
outside. Thurman opened a side door and held it while everyone else
Lloyd had barely
stepped inside when he stopped in his tracks. His eyes widened the
second he saw the large, silver, metallic disc sitting on the back of
a vehicle trailer. It was about twenty meters in circumference, with
what looked like a cockpit for two pilots in the middle of the craft.
The front of the ship was damaged, from where the disc had struck the
ground. He walked toward the ship and placed his hand on the outer
shell. It was smooth and cool to the touch.
Lloyd shook his head.
“Can you believe it? This is the third one of these to crash in as
“Sir, when it gets
dark we’re going to cover the craft with a tarp and drive it to Los
Alamos where it will be flown to Wright-Patterson Air Base in
Dayton,” explained Jones.
“Will you three be
accompanying it all the way to Ohio?”
Lloyd let out a tired
sigh and ran a hand over his unshaven chin. “I suppose there’s
only one thing left to do. Where are they being held?”
“I can show you. If
you’ll follow me, sir,” said Gordon, motioning back to the door.
The two men walked out
of the barn and to a silver trailer parked next to a decrepit-looking
Lloyd stopped at the
door and looked at his colleague. “How are they doing?”
“Fine, sir. They
haven’t said a word, but seem to be in remarkably good health
considering how hard the disc hit the ground when it crashed.”
“Okay, wait outside
while I talk to them.” Lloyd opened the door and stepped into the
air-conditioned trailer. The instant he saw the two occupants sitting
at a table, sipping water, he shook his head. “For the love of God,
I should have known it would be you two!”
One of the pilots
flashed a pearly-white smile at Lloyd and said, “Guten tag, Herr
– present day
Forces Training Camp – North of Al Kut
Captain David Grant
walked out of his tent, heading to the showers, when something made
him glance upward. With almost no local population located anywhere
near the secret training establishment to create light pollution, it
was easy to see the beauty of the night sky. Millions of stars
twinkled overhead. He stood and watched as a shooting star streaked
above the base before burning out. Grant had just come from the gym,
where he and a friend had pumped iron for over an hour. With some
reluctance, he turned back toward the showers. His recent
weightlifting session had turned into an hour long bench-press
competition with one of his friends. Now, he was tired and sore. And
to rub salt in the wound, he’d lost by just one kilo.
They’d have to see
what happened in the rematch, scheduled later in the week.
Grant pulled open the
door to the shower tent and walked in. The place was deserted. He
removed his sweat-stained clothes and hung them up, before stepping
under a shower faucet. Grant turned the water on, lowered his head,
and let the hot water massage his tired and aching shoulder muscles.
After soaping and washing himself off, he reached over and turned off
the taps. Grant ran a hand over his face to wipe away the water,
before grabbing his towel and drying off his taut body.
His mind drifted back
to the last conversation he’d had with his father. Grant had just
turned thirty, and was facing what his grandfather used to call ‘that
inevitable fork in the road.’ Grant’s ailing father had once more
asked him to leave the army and move back home to take over the
family business. Grant had joined the army to get away from home in
the first place. As far back as he could remember, he had always
wanted to see the world and serve his country. He hoped to have at
least a twenty-year career in the army, before moving back home to
run his family’s vineyard. To further muddy the waters, Grant was
waiting on word from his commanding officer to see if he was going to
be promoted to major later in the year. The only thing Grant knew for
certain was that he didn’t know what to tell his father the next
time they spoke.
After pulling on some
clean shorts and a tan army T-shirt, Grant walked over to a row of
sinks along the wall of the tent and stopped to look in a mirror.
Although his hair was already cut short, Grant couldn’t decide if
he should get a trim in the morning. What little hair he had on his
head was a light-brown color, and his sharp eyes were a medium
sky-blue. He stood just under two meters tall, and was, without a
doubt in the best shape of his life. After one last look at himself,
Grant grabbed his laundry, pushed open the door, and stepped outside
into the cool night air.
Camp Bayonet was a
coalition Special Forces training establishment, where American,
British, Canadian, and Australian soldiers taught Iraqi special
operators how to be squad and platoon leaders. Normally, the camp
would be home to over three hundred Iraqi soldiers and civilians, but
now was almost empty. The last batch of recruits had graduated two
days ago, and the next crew wouldn’t arrive for another week. The
quiet time allowed the coalition staff to conduct a personnel
rotation of their own. Half of the training staff assigned for the
year would soon be replaced by fresh instructors.
Grant welcomed the
peace and quiet. It gave him a chance to catch up on the mountains of
paperwork, which seemed to pile up on his desk on a daily basis. His
job in the camp was that of a company mentor, who helped guide his
Iraqi counterpart through the training of his new squad leaders.
After ten months in theater, Grant was looking forward to rotating
back home to the States. Where he was going to next was still up in
the air, but he had asked to be posted back home to the 82nd Airborne
Division. Grant walked back to his tent, dropped off his dirty
clothes, put a pair of old runners on his feet, and then retrieved
his M4 carbine which he slung over his back.
Outside, the Muslim
nighttime call to prayer came over the camp’s speakers. Grant had
heard the pre-recorded calls five times a day for months, and was now
mostly oblivious to them. He stepped out of his tent and watched as a
handful of Iraqi security personnel accompanied by some of the camp’s
civilian staff made their way to a small mosque built at the other
end of the base. Grant was of two minds. He wanted to forget the last
conversation he had with his dad and watch a movie on his computer,
but a nagging voice in the back of his mind told him to do an hour of
work at his desk before calling it a night.
He was halfway between
his quarters and his office when, without warning, the camp plunged
into darkness. Grant stopped in his tracks and looked around. Every
light in the camp was out. An uneasy feeling swept over him when he
couldn’t hear the base’s power generators running. He brought his
watch up to check the time. Like everything else, it had ceased to
work. The only light came from the full moon high above the camp.
“Hey, does anyone
know what the hell is going on?” called out a man with a strong
Grant turned toward a
shadowed figure standing outside of a tent. He walked over and
recognized Sergeant James Maclean from the Australian training team.
Maclean held up a
satellite phone. “I was chatting with my sister back home in Sydney
when the bloody phone died on me.”
“Odd, isn’t it?”
said Grant. “Everything in the camp with an electrical circuit
switched off all at once. Even my watch has stopped working.”
Maclean checked his
wristwatch and swore. “Mine’s not working, either.”
Several more men walked
out of their tents and looked around the darkened camp.
“Someone must have
forgotten to pay the bills,” called out a man in the night,
eliciting a few nervous laughs.
“I wonder how far
this blackout extends?” said Grant to Maclean.
“Only a small portion
of the camp is on the Iraqi electrical grid,” explained Maclean.
“Most of our power comes from our portable generators. Besides,
what could have caused our watches to stop working?”
“I once read that an
electromagnetic pulse could cause everything using electricity to
stop working. But it would take a fair bit of power to knock out all
of the electrical circuits in the camp.”
“Okay, I’ll buy
that, Captain. But what could have caused an EMP out here in the
middle of nowhere?”
“Perhaps it was from a massive solar flare striking the atmosphere
somewhere above us?”
“Maybe, but I’m not
sure that’s the answer. I’ve never read about something happening
quite like this anyplace else in the world.”
“There’s got to be
a first time for everything, Sergeant. Come on, let’s climb the
nearest tower and see if the local villages are affected, as well.”
At the top of the
tower, they found two Iraqi security guards, sitting on the floor,
“On your bloody
feet,” said Maclean, grabbing one of the men by the collar and
hauling him up.
Grant looked out toward
the horizon. It was the same everywhere he looked. The countryside
was pitch black. “Whatever happened, it’s big. It knocked out
everything around us for kilometers.”
“Sir, we should let
Colonel Rodriguez know what has happened, so he can organize some
form of security with the local Iraqi police until the power comes
back on,” suggested Maclean.
“Yeah, good idea.”
They had taken fewer
than half a dozen steps from the bottom of the tower, when a dark
shadow flew across the base.
Grant looked up and
blinked. He was sure he had just seen something resembling a
helicopter, but this one didn’t make a sound. A fraction of a
second later, the ground where the other allied soldiers had
congregated to see what was going on seemed to boil, as thousands of
tiny projectiles tore the hapless soldiers to shreds.
Maclean grabbed Grant’s
arm. “Come on, sir, we’ve got to take cover.”
Grant, watching the last of the doomed soldiers drop to the ground.
Maclean, pointing at one of the camp’s mobile generators.
With his heart pounding
away in his ears, Grant followed Maclean. They ran toward a nearby
generator bolted onto on the back of a vehicle trailer. The two
soldiers came to a sliding halt underneath the trailer.
“Why the hell did we
take cover under here?” whispered Grant.
“Don’t say another
word or move a muscle, sir,” warned Maclean.
Grant glanced over and
saw his colleague staring at the Hesco bastion wall just off to their
right. He froze in place and watched as a couple of figures crawled
over the wall and down onto the ground. In the silvery light of the
moon, Grant could see the two intruders were wearing skintight
outfits that covered their entire bodies. Even their faces were
hidden behind a blackened glass faceplate. Each one carried a short
rifle, with what looked to be a silencer built onto the muzzle. The
two men moved with cat-like stealth from body to body, checking to
see if they were still alive.
Throughout the camp,
the flimsy tents and office trailers were systematically shot to
pieces by the circling helicopter. Anyone caught out in the open,
running for their lives, was killed within seconds.
Maclean, when the intruders shot and killed a wounded man trying to
crawl away from them.
The attackers took one
last look for survivors before moving out of sight.
understand; why didn’t they see us?” whispered Grant.
“Because whoever is
attacking the camp is undoubtedly using thermal imaging to target our
people,” replied Maclean. “If we had stayed out in the open, it
wouldn’t take them long to see the heat coming from our bodies and
pump a couple of hundred rounds into us. I was praying that the heat
from the generator would mask our bodies from observation. Anyone
looking in the direction of the generator would only have seen a
glowing, white-hot blob, and not us.”
Grant slid his M4 from
his back and flipped off the safety. His mouth was dry with fear. He
had been in combat on a number of occasions in Afghanistan, but
nothing he had done in the past compared to what he had just
witnessed. Grant took a couple of deep breaths to calm his speeding
heart and shifted his weight, intending to poke his head out from
under the generator and take a look around.
Maclean whispered harshly. “We don’t know how many of them there
are in the camp. If you fire your rifle, they’ll hear it, and come
running. No matter what, we need to stay alive to report what
happened here tonight.”
Grant lowered his rifle
and looked over at Maclean. “Who the hell were those bastards? I
didn’t recognize a single piece of equipment on either of them.”
“I don’t know, sir,
but we can eliminate ISIS as the attacker. They don’t have that
kind of equipment or training. One thing’s for sure; whoever they
are, they mean business.”
“But why attack us?
We’re just a training establishment. We’re not a threat to
“Captain, someone out
there doesn’t agree with you.”
Grant clenched his
carbine tight in his hands and listened to the absolute silence
surrounding them. “Well, I don’t hear them anymore, and I, for
one, am not going to sit here and wait for someone to come and help
us. There were over one hundred people in the camp before we were
attacked. I need to know why we were targeted for extermination.”
“Okay, but I need a
weapon,” said Maclean. “Mine’s still in my quarters.”
said Grant, pointing at a dead Iraqi’s AKM lying on the ground.
Maclean crawled out
from underneath the trailer, crept over to the dead body, and picked
up the assault rifle. He made sure it was loaded before making his
way back to Grant. “I say we climb back up in the tower and see
what we can see.”
As silently as
possible, the two men made their way to the tower. At the top, they
found the guards’ bodies. Both had been shot with a single round to
the side of the head.
Grant got up on his
knees and peered out into the darkness but couldn’t see a thing.
“Here, try using
these,” said Maclean, handing him a pair of binoculars taken from
one of the dead guards.
Grant brought the
binoculars up to his eyes and looked around. Although nowhere as good
as a pair of night vision goggles, at night, binoculars were the next
best thing. The camp was deathly quiet. Grant ground his teeth
together when he saw the unknown attackers had not only murdered
every human being in the vicinity, but also the camp’s guard dogs.
“Sir, I thought I saw
something,” whispered Maclean. “Take a look out to the
Grant turned around and
adjusted his binoculars. In the silvery light of the moon, he saw a
group of men dressed like the intruders standing out in the open. One
of the men pointed at a dry riverbed which ran behind the camp. As
one, the assailants nodded and ran toward the wadi.
“Sir, you gotta take
a look at this,” said Maclean.
Grant lowered his
glasses and turned around. He froze as a large, dark shape flew over
the camp. Like the other craft, it had been modified to barely make a
noise. Instead of a thunderous sound from the rotor blades slicing
through the air, the helicopter was no louder than a finely-tuned
car’s engine. It slowed down and then began to descend to the
ground. Dust and debris kicked up by the helicopter’s powerful
rotor blades’ down blast swirled up and around the ship as it
“That looks like a
Russian Mi-26 heavy transport helicopter to me,” said Grant. “But
I’ve never heard of one that can fly nearly silent.” He handed
back the binoculars. “Here, take a look.”
Maclean adjusted the
eyepieces. “Yeah, it’s a Mi-26. But why the hell would the
Russians attack us?”
“I don’t know. Lots
of other countries own Mi-26s, so it might not be the Russians.”
“Hey, sir, look!
They’re off-loading a couple of backhoes.”
Grant shook his head.
“Whoever they are,
they’re going to dig something up.”
Grant took back the
binoculars and watched, as the two digging machines were led over to
the top of the riverbed before driving out of sight.
“None of this makes
any sense,” said Grant. “I have to see what they’re after.”
“Yeah, me too,”
agreed Maclean. “There’s an old goat path that runs by the
eastern wall. We should be able to use that to sneak our way over to
the wadi without being seen.”
Grant nodded. “Lead
Like a pair of ghosts
in the night, the two soldiers used the shadows to hide in as they
crept through the camp. Everywhere they looked, there were dead
bodies. Most had died right outside of their tents. Grant fought to
block the images of his friends lying facedown on the sand from his
mind. He silently swore when they had to step over the dead body of
their commanding officer. Payback is going to be a bitch, he
thought to himself.
They slipped outside of
the camp and waited a moment to make sure they weren’t being
followed before pushing on. Maclean pointed at a trail which led past
an old abandoned home. Grant trailed behind the Aussie. It was when
he stepped on a sharp rock that he remembered he was dressed in
shorts, runners, and a T-shirt; hardly the best attire to wear when
sneaking around in the dark, but he didn’t have much of a choice in
Maclean stopped in his
tracks and raised a hand.
Grant froze and held
his breath. Had they been spotted?
A couple of seconds
later, Maclean lowered his hand and carried on to the edge of the
Grant let out his
breath. Both men climbed down onto the rock-strewn, dry riverbed. The
sound of the backhoes’ excavators clawing at the ground filled the
noise will drown out everything else,” said Maclean over his
shoulder. “It should help us get real close to whoever these
Grant nodded. “I
agree. Let’s see what they’re up to.”
Just as they were about
to move, an ear-shattering explosion tore through the night. Less
than fifty meters away, rocks and dirt shot straight up into the
night sky. Grant and Maclean dove for cover as the debris began to
rain back down onto the ground. A rock as large as a volleyball
struck the sand right next to Grant’s head, startling him.
“I guess they’re in
a bit of a hurry,” said Maclean, standing up from behind a tall
boulder. He brushed the dirt off his uniform and looked down the
riverbed. “The coast looks clear.”
With the sound of the
blast still ringing in his ears, Grant flipped his weapon’s safety
off and brought it up to his shoulder. As quiet as a pair of mice,
they crept forward until they could see the backhoes. The two
soldiers took cover behind a jagged boulder that jutted out from the
To Grant, it looked
like the intruders were busy digging out what looked to be a crashed
airplane. He could only see half of it sticking up out of the sand,
but it was unlike any plane he had seen before. Instead of being long
and narrow, like most craft, this one appeared to be circular and had
what Grant took to be its cockpit in the center of the craft. Grant’s
fear subsided somewhat and gave way to curiosity. As the backhoes
removed more earth from the craft, it was clear the plane, or
whatever it was, was still in fairly good condition.
“Ever see anything
like that before in your life?” Grant whispered.
“No, sir, not unless
you include the movies,” replied Maclean. “Looks like they’re
going to lift it out of here using the chopper.”
Grant brought up the
binos and examined the craft. The backhoes pulled back as several men
crawled up onto the ship and attached steel cables to it. The heavy
transport chopper took off and maneuvered itself over the top of the
craft, and slowly descended until one of the men fed a heavy metal
hook attached to the cables into a sturdy shackle on the belly of the
helicopter. The man jumped down and waved over at another man,
standing at the top of the wadi. Right away, the chopper began to
take up the slack. As soon as the line went taut, the helicopter
pilot applied more power to help lift the craft out of the ground.
For a few seconds, nothing happened, and then ever so slowly, the
ship began to move. It didn’t take long for the rest of the craft
to escape its resting place. The pilot brought the helicopter and its
cargo high in the sky before banking over silently and heading east
toward the Iranian border.
Grant popped his head
up and watched as the rest of the intruders crawled up out of the
wadi and ran to a smaller helicopter waiting for them in the open
field. Within seconds, the darkened craft lifted up into the air and
flew after the larger helicopter.
“If I hadn’t seen
with my own eyes what had just happened, I wouldn’t have believed
it,” said Maclean.
Grant nodded. “I
doubt those bastards will be back. It looks like they’ve got what
they came for. Sergeant, we’ve got to get back to the camp and look
“Yes, sir. I’m with
you. The scent of blood carried on these winds will bring the wild
dogs down from the hills, and I’ll be damned if any of them are
getting near any of our mates. We can build a couple of really big
bonfires near the camps’ entrances. That should keep them at bay
until the sun comes up, or help arrives.”
With that, the two
soldiers jogged back to their devastated camp, lost in their thoughts
about what had just happened and what was to follow.
Al Salem Air Base – Kuwait
Grant pushed the
plate of food away from himself, stared up at the clock on the wall,
and saw that time was creeping by slowly. He let out a dejected sigh
and drummed his fingers on the table. The thought of yet another
pointless interview with some nameless individual in a dark suit had
driven away his meager appetite.
It had been a week
since the attack. They had been found the next day by a U.S. Army
Special Forces team, who arrived to look for survivors. The two
soldiers had been flown directly from Iraq to the sprawling allied
air base in Kuwait, where they were summarily locked up in an old
maintenance hangar far away from the rest of the station’s
personnel. All of their dirty clothes had been taken from them the
moment they landed at the base, by soldiers in full decontamination
gear. After showering, they were examined by a team of doctors before
being separated and interviewed by a seemingly never-ending stream of
experts. Some of them were in uniform, and some not, but all of them
asked the same question: what happened that night out in the desert?
Grant had not seen or heard from Sergeant Maclean for over four days,
and was beginning to wonder if he had been released to the Australian
authorities on the base.
The door to the room
opened, and Maclean stepped inside. Like Grant, he was wearing a set
of tan coveralls. The man didn’t look any worse for wear. He stood
as tall as Grant but had broad muscular shoulders. His blond hair was
cut short on his head. He had bluish-green eyes, and a nose slightly
askew, likely from the numerous fights he’d had in his youth as a
private in Australian Army.
sir,” said Maclean, after looking for his watch, which he’d
forgotten wasn’t on his wrist, then checking the time on the clock.
Sergeant,” replied Grant, nodding.
Maclean took a seat at
the table. “I don’t know why, but I always feel naked without my
Grant chuckled. “I
know how you feel. I thought they’d let you go.”
“No such luck. I
guess they’re tired of talking to us separately. You gonna eat
that?” said Maclean, pointing at Grant’s uneaten BLT sandwich.
“No. Help yourself.”
Maclean picked up the
sandwich and took a bite. “Have you been interviewed yet by the
slender woman with short, black hair and pale, white skin?”
“Yes. She came in
dressed in a dark suit, so I asked to see her ID.”
“She smiled and said
I didn’t need to see it.”
“Same thing happened
to me. I don’t know why, but that woman creeped me out.” Maclean
devoured the rest of the sandwich.
“Sergeant, I was
wondering, have you been in contact with anyone from your armed
Maclean shook his head.
“No, not a one.”
“Don’t you think
that’s a bit odd? There were over a dozen Australian officers and
NCOs in the camp when it was attacked. You’d think your government
would want to hear what happened there. Especially from one of its
“Yeah, I thought
about that, too. But I assumed your government was keeping mine in
the loop. At least, I hope they are.”
The door swung open. A
military policeman stood to one side as a small man with curly red
hair walked in, carrying a stack of file folders in his arms. He
looked to be in his mid-thirties, and wore a rumpled blue suit with a
white shirt and a red bowtie. Freckles covered his round face. He
placed his folders down on the table and removed his glasses so he
could clean them with a handkerchief.
gentlemen,” said the man with a strong English accent. “My name
is Doctor Jeremy Hayes, and I work for the British Ministry of
“Have they run out of
Americans to interview us?” quipped Maclean.
Hayes shook his head.
“Sorry? I don’t follow what you’re saying. I’m here as a
representative of Her Majesty’s government. To save time, I’m
going to debrief the two of you together.”
Maclean let an
exasperated sigh. “For the love of God! Haven’t the Americans
shared the information we’ve already provided with you people?”
“Oh yes, very much
so,” replied Hayes, lifting up his pile of folders. “That’s why
I’m here. May I sit down?”
Grant smiled and
pointed to the nearest chair. “If it’ll speed things along,
please join us at the table.”
Hayes sat. “I’ve
read all of your testimonial evidence and only have one or two
questions for the two of you.”
“What would you like
Hayes opened two files,
pulled out two pieces of paper, and placed both down on the table.
“These are the drawings you both made of the object that was
extracted from the riverbed in Iraq.”
Grant glanced down at
his picture and nodded, as did Maclean.
similar,” said Hayes. “You both captured the scale of the
unidentified object with impressive detail.”
“It was hard to miss,
when it was hanging from the underneath a modified Mi-26 helicopter,”
“Yes, of course. Now,
when asked to identify the type of craft you think you saw, you had
startlingly different answers. Captain Grant, you wrote that you
believed it was either a Russian or Iranian experimental stealth UAV
which had inadvertently crossed into Iraqi airspace before crashing.
Sergeant Maclean, however, wrote that he thought it could possibly be
Grant looked at his
colleague and shook his head. “Really, Sergeant, a UFO?”
“Hey, why not?”
replied Maclean. “I’ve never seen a UAV that’s disc-shaped.
Have you, Captain?”
“Just because you
haven’t seen one doesn’t mean they don’t exist,” said Hayes.
“There are dozens of highly experimental prototypes of aircraft and
drones being flown and tested by the NATO powers that the public has
no knowledge of. It only stands to reason if we’re doing it, so are
the Russians, Iranians, Chinese…etc.”
“Yeah, but they had
to dig it out of the ground,” countered Maclean. “If it were some
type of experimental drone it would have crashed recently, and would
surely have been found by the farmers living around the base. No,
sir, this plane, or whatever you want people to call it, crashed
there a long time ago. A bloody long time ago.”
Grant saw the logic in
Maclean’s argument and began to re-evaluate his opinion. He decided
to push Hayes a little. “I have to agree; Sergeant Maclean could be
“Gentlemen, I feared
this might happen,” said Hayes, putting the two pictures away. “In
the MOD, I work for the advanced propulsion workshop, and I can
assure you that the craft you saw was a drone, and not some kind of
UFO from outer space.”
“Then why did the
locals never spot it, and more importantly, why did the people who
slaughtered our friends have to blast it out of the ground?” said
“I can’t say why
the Iraqi farmers never came across the drone,” said Hayes. “There
was a powerful sandstorm in your region a week before the attack.
Perhaps that’s when the UAV was lost. The blowing sand could have
easily covered the drone lying at the bottom of the riverbed. And the
reason they had to use explosives to free it was because when it
crashed it jammed itself tightly into the rocks.”
Grant and Maclean
looked at one another and shook their heads. They weren’t buying
The professor placed
his hands palm down on the table and smiled patronizingly.
“Gentlemen, just because you can’t identify something doesn’t
make it an extraterrestrial craft. For that to occur, you would need
some form of proof, and you have none. In fact, there has never been
an alleged alien crash site that has ever held up to scientific
scrutiny. Trust me when I say that there are no UFOs or alien bodies
being held by anyone inside or outside of the U.S., nor any other
allied nations’ governments. No extraterrestrial culture or
technology has ever been uncovered by anyone anywhere in the world.
You have to face facts. To date, there has been no irrefutable
evidence found connecting UFOs to extraterrestrials. If you want the
truth, you have to realize that what you saw was a manmade craft and
not some downed alien disc.”
“Well, if you put it
that way, I guess I may have been mistaken,” said Maclean.
“It happens. A few
years back I thought I saw a UFO, but it turned out just to be some
flares dropped by a C-130 during a training exercise on the Brecon
Beacons in Wales.”
“Is there anything
else you would like to discuss, Doc?” asked Grant.
“No, I think I’m
done,” replied Hayes, scooping up his folders and standing. “Good
day to you two gentlemen.” He turned and exited the room.
The second the door
closed, Maclean jumped out of his seat. “That man’s full of crap.
His job was to come in here and convince us that we didn’t see what
we both saw.”
Grant sat back and
linked his hands behind his head. “Agreed, but we’re not really
sure what we saw. Now are we?”
Maclean shrugged. “No,
I suppose not, but I’m not convinced that what I saw was a UAV.
Doesn’t it strike you as odd that since the first day we arrived
here, these so-called experts haven’t asked us a question about our
“Yeah, but I thought
they had all they needed from us.”
Maclean grew agitated.
“The craft is all these bloody people care about. Not you, not me,
not our dead friends.”
The door opened, and a
tall, African-American U.S. Air Force Colonel with a shaved head
walked inside and closed the door behind him. He had a black leather
briefcase in his right hand, which he placed on the floor by his
respectfully came to attention.
“Please take a seat,
gentlemen,” said the colonel, pulling out a chair at the other end
of the table.
Grant and Maclean
“I’m sure by now
you’re both sick and tired of talking to people, so I’ll keep
this short. My name is Colonel Oliver Andrews, and I have been
brought in to conduct this investigation.”
Grant raised a hand.
“Sir, I’m not trying to be disrespectful, but why is the Air
Force investigating the attack of Camp Bayonet? Shouldn’t the army
be doing that?”
is already over, Captain,” replied Andrews. “It has been
determined that ISIS sympathizers infiltrated the camp dressed as
Iraqi security personnel, and waited until it was quiet before
attacking and killing everyone there.”
“That’s a load of
bull, and you know it, sir,” said Maclean. His voice grew loud. “It
wasn’t ISIS. It was someone else who killed all of my mates. I was
supposed to be going home on leave in a month with Sergeant Adams. He
was going to get married, and I was supposed to be his best man.
Someone’s going to answer for his death.”
“That may be so,
Sergeant, but as far as the U.S. and Australian forces are concerned,
what I told you is the official story.”
Grant leaned forward in
his chair. “What about the two stealth helicopters that we saw? How
do you explain those, Colonel?”
Andrews fixed his
dark-brown eyes on Grant. “They weren’t there. In fact, it would
be in both of your best interests to never say a word to anyone about
what you believe you saw one week ago.”
Grant shook his head.
“Colonel, over the past few days, we’ve told more than a dozen
people about what happened in Iraq. They have our sworn statements,
and now you want us to pretend that it never went down the way it
Grant sat back and
crossed his arms. “May I ask why, sir?”
Andrews reached down
and lifted his briefcase onto the table. He opened it and placed a
photograph in front of the two soldiers. It showed the burnt hulk of
an Mi-26 helicopter sitting in the desert. “This was taken by a
military surveillance satellite over Iran the day after the attack on
the camp. As you can see, whoever was behind the attack flew north of
the City of Dehloran and landed. They then transferred the craft you
saw dug out of the ground onto a waiting plane. Since they didn’t
have any further need of the Mi-26 anymore, they set it on fire.
Intelligence analysts believe the tire marks on the ground next to
the wreckage belong to a Russian-built An-12 transport aircraft.”
“Damn. So, it was
the Russians who did this,” said Maclean. “Those bastards! Why
would they do something so stupid as to risk a war with NATO to
retrieve a crashed experimental drone?”
“First off, there is
no direct evidence connecting this to the Russian government or their
armed forces,” said Andrews. “Secondly, the craft you believe you
saw doesn’t correspond with any known Russian aircraft or drones.”
“So whose was it,
then?” asked Grant.
“We don’t know.
That’s why I’ve been brought in.” Andrews reached into his case
and brought out two pieces of paper, which he slid across the table
to Grant and Maclean. “Gents, before I say another word, these are
your non-disclosure agreements. If you wish to leave this base before
you grow old and die, I suggest that you sign them without delay.”
Grant picked his up and
read it. He raised an eyebrow and looked over at Andrews. “This
non-disclosure form is for the rest of our natural lives.”
“Yes, I know,”
replied Andrews, as he placed a fountain pen on the table.
“Hey, I don’t work
for you or your armed forces,” protested Maclean. “Before I sign
this, I want to speak with one of my own officers.”
“I thought you’d
say that.” Andrews stood and opened the door. A Royal Australian
Air Force officer got out of a chair in the hallway and nodded at
Andrews. “Wing Commander Wallace will be more than happy to fill
you in on your government’s position regarding this investigation,
“Yes, sir,” said
Maclean, getting to his feet.
When they were alone,
Grant placed his paper down on the table. “Colonel, if I sign this,
then what? Are we free to go?”
Andrews shook his head.
“Not yet. As you two are the only people to have seen the crashed
craft, and the men who took it, I need your help with my
Maclean strode back in
the room, picked up the pen and signed his name. His face was pale.
He looked at Grant. “I’d sign it if I were you, Captain.”
“Have you ever heard
of a place called Diyarbakir prison?”
“I’m not surprised.
It’s in Turkey, and I’ve been reliably told that it’s a nasty
place to be locked up for the rest of your life.”
“So? What does that
have to do with us?”
“Because, sir, I’ve
been told that Amnesty International declared it one of the most
brutal prisons in the world. My people told me to sign on the dotted
line, or we’d both end up in a secret military installation
somewhere in the Indian Ocean that makes Diyarbakir look like a
Grant looked at Andrews
and saw he was smiling. A shiver ran down his spine. He was being
boxed into a corner with no recourse. Grant pursed his lips, took the
pen, and wrote his name on the paper.
Andrews took both forms
and slid them into his briefcase. “Now that that’s out of the
way, there are a couple more people you will need to see before we
Grant’s head was
swimming. “Leave? Where are we going, Colonel?”
“To Batumi, Georgia,”
replied Andrews. “That’s where the An-12 landed.”
“Sir, before we have
any more discussions or board a plane to Georgia, can we at least
speak with our families to let them know we’re still alive?”
asked Grant, knowing his parents would be worried sick, wondering if
he was still alive or not.
Andrews sat back and
ran a hand over his smooth head. “Unfortunately, no.”
“Because both of your
families have been told that you were severely injured in the attack
and are in hospital recuperating from your wounds. You have my word
that you can speak with them when this is all tidied up.”
“Sir, you won’t be
able to keep this a secret forever. The truth is bound to get out.”
“You’d be surprised
what has been kept secret from the public over the past few decades.
Besides, if the truth somehow leaked out about what happened, it
would only be because one of you two said something you shouldn’t
have. Any breach of the non-disclosure agreements that you both
signed will result in hard jail time for the rest of your lives. As
for Camp Bayonet, the world’s media is already reporting this as
the worst incident of ISIS infiltration into the Iraqi security
forces since we re-deployed our forces into Iraq. Trust me; the
message is being carefully controlled. Hell, even ISIS has gleefully
taken responsibility for the attack, even though they had nothing to
do with it.”
“I see you’ve
thought of everything, sir,” said Grant.
“That’s why I work
in the Special Investigations Branch in the Pentagon. Now if you’ll
excuse me, I need to make a few calls before we depart.”
“And when might that
be?” asked Maclean.
Andrews looked at his
watch. “In precisely two hours and thirty-one minutes.”
Both men stood as
Andrews left without saying another word.
“What a bunch of
horse crap,” said Maclean. “My God, they’re laying it on pretty
thick. I can see it in his eyes. That Colonel is deliberately not
telling us the whole story.” He stood and pushed his chair across
the room with his right foot. “I honestly don’t give a damn about
that alleged UAV. All I want to know is who killed my mates, and how
I get my hands on them.”
“In a matter of
hours, Sergeant, I think you’re going to get your chance,” said
Grant. “If there is a secret drone sitting in the back of a plane
in Batumi, you know it’s going to be guarded, and I’m willing to
bet it’ll be the same bastards who attacked our camp.”
Maclean clenched his
right hand into a fist until his knuckles turned white. “God, I
hope so. It’s high time somebody paid for what happened.”
An all-white Learjet
entered Georgian airspace at an altitude of ten thousand meters, and
flew straight toward the coastal city. Built on the shores of the
Black Sea on the remains of an ancient Greek colony, the picturesque
Batumi was the second largest city in Georgia.
Grant and Maclean sat
in the passenger compartment, accompanied by Colonel Andrews and
Professor Hayes. The two soldiers had traded their coveralls for some
of their civilian clothes recovered from the camp, and some new ones
bought on the base in Kuwait.
Hayes opened his
briefcase and produced a handful of photographs which he handed to
Grant. “Captain, this is the An-12 we believe was used to transport
the downed UAV from Iran to Georgia.”