In 2003, shortly after training at Fort Meade, I was sent to Wright Patterson Air Force base in Dayton, Ohio where I was given what amounted to the most unexpected first assignment I’d ever received.
I’d previously thought getting into secret work for the government would mean disclosure for secrets would be slow and level of trust based, where they might test me with little secrets before introducing me to something big..
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Roswell. 1947. UFO Crash in New Mexico.
Happened. Wreckage of a large craft easily the size of a football field was spread over a two mile area of remote desert in New Mexico. When it was first publicly released, there was no pulling punches as the military announced what happened. Three days later, an eternity in terms of press announcements, the brass spun the event to make it sound like a Weather Balloon had caused the incident.
If you believe that farce, then I have some ocean front property in Arizona to sell you.
90% of the material from that crash was sent to Dayton, where I was sent, and introduced my first assignment.
Which was – to decrypt a database – from what had been determined to be the equivalent of a flight recorder that had been on board the crashed alien spacecraft.
When I arrived in Dayton, Wright Patterson’s main gate was easy to find, and I was immediately directed without escort to enter the facility, and to report to Hangar 18.
It was weird. I didn’t know what I was being sent to do. I knew this was a Top Secret installation. But security was nearly non existent and I wasn’t being told who I was reporting to.
So I inquired at the gate, to which the gate guard said “I don’t know anything other than what I’m told”
I drove up to the hangar, which resembled an old 1940s style hangar, but it had clearly long since been sealed as a man wearing civilian clothes walked up to greet me.
“Agent Q?,” he said, as I responded affirmatively, “M here, Nice to meet you. Please come with me.”
The one thing I’d learned while in training with the NSA was whether you were Military or Civilian Intelligence, you always wore civilian clothing and never wore a rank. The rationale was simple: it made it harder to single out leadership and/or hierarchy in the case of attack.
Which is among the reasons Edward Snowden’s full of shit, and never made it into the NSA.
Being sincere. What I saw mentally fucked with me. Have you ever had moments you felt like you were dreaming? That’s about how this was. Like parts of my memory were edited out, spotty at best.
For instance, the main hangar area I think I saw what looked like a smaller vessel about half the size of an 18 wheeler. It was long, cylindrical, and had what looked like burn marks on the outside of it. It did have two pad on the bottom corners much like a helicopter would only more attached, but it didn’t have a rotor or any external mechanical parts on it whatsoever. The whole thing was elevated about 5 feet off the ground, and looked more advanced than anything I’d ever seen – and unlike movies – it looked like it might actually have flown at one time.
It’s weird, but it feels like it’s from a movie but I can’t think of any movie that looked like this.
About that time I saw a table – about 10 feet long by 5 feet wide, that looked like it was straight out of Star Wars, you know the scene where Lando Calrissian freezes Han Solo in Star Wars? Similar material.
That’s when M stopped the man and said “Z, this is Q, let him try the lifter.”
The table like thing slowly drifted to the ground as the man then reached out, shook my hand, and then said:
“You touch the edge, like this, and raise your hand. The lifter will follow”
He demonstrated. And I was amazed when I touched my fingers to the lifter, and elevated my hand as this table full of seven heavy computer monitors lifted effortlessly off the ground – with nothing to support it.
He took control as I got down on my hands and knees and looked underneath it.
I remember not being able to believe my own eyes, as I walked around it.
“This is amazing. How the hell is it doing that?,” I asked
M started walking.
“Roswell. 1947. You’ve heard about it?,” he said.
I had. And answered affirmatively.
“It’s all real. This facility received 90% of the debris that was scattered over a two mile crash site. We just started going through it 5 years ago and are still trying to understand it.”
I scratched my head as we kept walking down three flights of stairs.
This building was beginning to seem huge. I had too many questions, but I was trying hard to present an image of support rather than interrogation.
“So wait. What? You only started going through the material 5 years ago?,” I said.
We took a right turn into a large area. There was a technician off to the side with a welding torch applied to a large aluminum looking cylindrical object that was about 7 feet in diameter.
“Jake? Meet Q,” he said.
Jake dropped his welding torch, and flipped his hood up.
“Good to meet ya. You the database guy?,” he said.
I was genuinely confused.
“Wait wait wait a moment. Can I ask some questions first?,” I said.
Jake smiled and looked at M.
“Shoot,” Jake said.
I walked up and looked at the fairing.
“What the hell is this? I mean. 1947. 1997. None of this makes sense. “ I said. “An alien spaceship crash lands on our planet and you’re saying the United States took 50 years to getting around to investigating it.”
Jake looked at M with a cynical look and said “This ones FOB, isn’t he?”
Before I could respond M smirked and said “You’ve got a little more to understand about how intel functions with respect to time, which I can’t get into now, but yes, it took us 50 years to begin the process of dismantling it,”
He walked over to to the faring, as he slapped it hard with his hand, and it didn’t make a noise.
And I mean nothing.
“Altogether there was 729,000 metric tons of material recovered from the crash landing at Roswell. We’ve spent the greater part of three years simply finding a way to understand the craft let alone dismantle sections of it to analyze.”
He continued “Now Jake here’s a material scientist who’s been tasked with reverse engineering what is effectively a material used which has the unique properties of absorbing all sound waves.”
He looked at Jake “We’ve placed this puppy in an air chamber with speeds exceeding mach 10 and there’s no sonic boom. We get this figured out and reproduce it, we have hypersonic travel without the sonic boom.”
“Jesus, “ I said
“Has nothing to do with it, “ Jake said as he walked over to the work desk and pulled a sheet of aluminum foil off of it and then reached over and grabbed a screwdriver.
Here, take this, as she scrunched up the aluminum foil in his hand and handed it to me.
I did. I wasn’t expecting it to weigh much, but it was lighter than I had anticipated.
“Now drop it,” he said.
I looked at my hand and him, briefly “Yeah, drop the damn ball,” he said irritated.
I was beyond overwhelmed and my reactions were slow as I dropped it.
To my amazement, the ball slowly unfolded on the floor in front of me to its shape wrinkle free shape.
He reached down, grabbed it, and then took the screwdriver to it trying to poke a hole through it.
Nothing. It wouldn’t be pierced.
M returned. I hadn’t even noticed he’d left.
“So Jake here is one of – what – 100 material scientists on staff who is simply trying to reverse engineer the material processes used to form things like the lifter, that fairing, and the foil. “
I was speechless.
“And your job is to decrypt the flight recorder. We want to know why the vessel crashed. And you, my dear, are the first database programmer who’s made it through. “
In hindsight it all feels like a dream.
Why had he called me dear?
Made it through to where?
I vaguely remember discovering information the crash was intentional.
I remember presenting that information and being scolded for such a preposterous conclusion.
Because who in their right mind would crash such a huge and costly vessel intentionally?
None of it made a lick of sense.