Chapter 4

Written by: Ray Stone

The man in the green suit picked up a radio phone off the table as Professor Long left the room, accompanied by a black suit, and pushed the speech button. “This is Driscol, get a hold of ‘Capricorn.’ Tell Commander Brent I will be on visual in ten minutes.”

He dropped the phone onto the table and turned to a figure sitting in the shadows at the far end of the room. 

“General, this has got to work next attempt or all our efforts will be down the drain. We can’t hide our real purpose from the European Space Station Command Center for long. Commander Brent will only have a few hours to program the new co-ordinates into the guidance system.”

“Don’t worry. Brent has spent the last two years training for this mission.” General Grojean stood and walked toward Driscol. “You should be more concerned about what’s happening down here on Earth.”

“What do you mean?” answered Driscol with a worried look on his face. “We only have to be concerned about the Professor. No-one else knows what we are doing.”

Grojean pursed his lips. “NASA has a watching brief. They are looking over our shoulder. Correct, they don’t know about Long yet but they might put two and two together when we launch successfully.”

“I have that covered,” said Driscol, “with a press release. The so-called weather satellite is going to orbit Mars sending back climate reports in preparation for a Mars landing - so what? No one will know any difference until we are on the way and claiming mineral mining rights.” He rubbed his hands together enthusiastically. “And once that happens our ‘all talk and no action’ President will be replaced by the military. He told us America First - well, we’ll make it happen.”

They both smiled.

It had been three years since the President gave the General and his team the go-ahead to start plans for the first mission to Mars. Probes confirmed the planet was rich in silicon, iron, magnesium, aluminium, calcium, and potassium. The stumbling block was twofold. Sharing the minerals with the Europeans, and building a satellite, Capricorn II, that would be launched from the US Space Lab on a journey to an orbit around Mars. If successful, the satellite with its sophisticated guidance program would hook up with the approaching ship, ‘Capricorn’ and keep it on course for two years while the crew hibernated. It took a lot of persuasion to have the work funded by ‘Black Ops’ without Congress approval, and therefore the whole operation was kept secret from the Europeans under the guise of a weather satellite system operating from an orbiting American lab. SolarShield, Driscol’s company, was funded and promised a thirty percent share of mining proceeds. The biggest problem was headhunting Long. The man was a genius astronomer and mathematician but anti Pentagon. His work on a solar guidance system was essential to the project. The promise of funding for his lab work at the university had secured his recruitment. 

The two men left the room and stepped into the lift. 

“The professor wouldn’t be trying to put one over on us, would he?” asked Grojean. “He has a lot of highly intelligent students he meets every day. Do you think he might share?”

Driscol shook his head, although he remembered the General telling him about two students who were present when Professor Long had been collected for the two-day emergency meeting. 

Thinking of those particular students, Driscol nodded. “Leave it to me. I’ll have my security look at the ones you encountered the other day. In the meantime it might be an idea to tell the Commander to get ready for a second launch.”

***

Penny looked over Hubert’s shoulder at the configuration he had worked out.

“This is strange,” he said. “According to this we are standing in ground 29. As far as I know there are forty floors above ground and two below.”

“What about the emails?” asked Penny.

Hubert shook his head. “Quite honestly I don’t know whether to believe what I’ve found or not. It might be deliberate misinformation or, if it’s for real, something very frightening. Either way, we have to find out and then warn the authorities.”

“What on earth have you found?” Penny looked down at the file of printed messages in front of Hubert. 

“If this wasn’t so serious,” said Hubert scratching his head, “I’d say this looked like a film script.”

He pointed to the top message.

All chopper crews and Special Ops teams to be on standby immediately there is news of a successful launch. A curfew will be announced across the country until Military is in place and General Mason is in the Whitehouse. 

Hubert tapped the file. “There are a lot of other messages, and they all indicate that we are on the verge of a military coup.”

“That explains the strange behaviour of the helicopters the other night,” said Penny excitedly.

“Something else,” explained Hubert. “I took a ride down in the elevator early this morning and got out at the basement. Behind a large metal door opposite the elevator, I found stairs leading down. I heard someone coming up and got out quick. I think it’s Area 29.” He took a deep breath. “Come on, let’s go.”

 

***

 The door pulled open smoothly and silently, revealing a grey steel stairway leading down to a landing and then more stairs. At the bottom another door was locked, secured by a keypad. Too late, Hubert spotted a small camera half-hidden behind the stairway. Before they could move, the door opened, and the muzzle of a pistol jerked in their direction.

Behind the figure in military uniform was a brightly lit area that buzzed and chattered with communication equipment. Military personnel were everywhere.

“Thank you for saving me the trouble of looking for you,” sneered Driscol, stepping into view.

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

This is very good dialogue. It's not telling us what is happening we are hearing what someone thinks/believes. I can hear Hubert's voice. Hubert shook his head. “Quite honestly I don’t know whether to believe what I’ve found or not. It might be a deliberate misinformation message or, if it’s for real, something very frightening. Either way, we have to find out and then warn the authorities.” The chapter moves the story along and reveals people's true motives. Great!