A Bridge to Earth
by Richard Merlin Smith
Chapter 6 : Aftermath
Jake Gilbert was alone in his office. It was eleven-thirty in the evening of the day of the confrontation in California. He was on the phone with an NSA operative in Houston who informed him that a stolen spacesuit had just been discovered on the receiving dock outside of astronaut storage.
Jake immediately called the NSA monitoring service and was told that they had not recorded any transmissions since that morning. He requested that they look specifically for the peculiar transmissions and report to him immediately if any were detected.
Jake placed the phone back in its cradle and turned away from his desk. He was brought up short by the presence of Ris and the Guardian. For a brief moment, he caught a glimpse of a bright yellow spindle shape immediately behind the visitors.
Jake and Ris stood unmoving and silent for several seconds, Jake in a cold sweat, Ris staring, no telling what the Guardian was doing.
Jake started to stammer something and Ris spoke. “You can record this conversation?”
“It’s already running.”
“Can your radio... detection... equipment survey this... location?”
“That is good. What time is it?”
Jake looked at his wall clock, frowning, “It’s eleven thirty-three. What are you...” he started to continue.
“You will listen... carefully. We have created... much trouble for Frredarrt... and much... consternation... for your... organization.”
Jake’s attention was abruptly diverted as the Guardian oozed away from Ris. It flattened its body slightly and then raised itself on four pseudo-legs, mimicking the upholstered side chair near Jake’s desk.
Ris paid no attention to the Guardian’s activity, and continued. “We must leave this... place... for a time,” she went on, “but we will... remain in contact with... our friends.”
Jake shifted uneasily, finding it difficult to concentrate on what Ris was saying and still keep an eye on the shape-changing blob to his right.
The Guardian had moved farther along the near wall of the room and was slowly assuming the shape and color of the mahogany book shelf, complete with colorfully jacketed books.
Jake heard Ris continuing. “We are interested in their... well-being since they have... proven themselves... to be our... friends.”
Jake shifted uneasily again. The monitors must have alerted our people by now, he thought. Someone ought to be rushing in here at any moment. What’s that THING doing?
Ris brought her hands to chest-level placing the tips of her eight fingers together. Jake couldn’t help staring.
She continued, “However... we are not so... convinced of your benevolence... and we will be... displeased... if you... continue your present... treatment... of our... friends.”
It was a second or two before Jake realized that Ris had paused. He stared into her strange blue eyes, unable to read her emotions.
Ris spread her hands in a questioning gesture, “Do you... understand... what I am saying?”
“Uh, yes,” Jake stammered, “I do understand.” He glanced nervously at the Guardian who had assumed the shape and color of the small couch, pillows and all, in front of Jake’s desk. “But I don’t know what you expect me to do about it.” He was stalling.
“We have... urgent... business... elsewhere and we do not wish to return for... some time. But we will do so if it is necessary... to protect our friends.”
“But I still don’t...”
“I believe that you... understand... what I... require of you.”
Jake glanced nervously at the door.
“Your... friends... are not coming.”
Jake swallowed hard. He didn’t know what these two were capable of doing.
“Review your... recording of this conversation,” Ris gestured to the air, “and question your... monitor... technicians.” She took a step backward and spoke an unintelligible word to the Guardian, who had finished a circuit of the room.
Suddenly a bright yellow spindle appeared, directly behind the two. It expanded slightly as they moved into it.
“What time is it?” Ris asked again.
Automatically, Jake looked at the clock, “It’s eleven forty. What does that matter?”
The light brightened slightly and Ris spoke again. “You know what to do.” The words echoed hollowly, and then the last phrase seemed to come from everywhere in the room. “Do not... force us to return.”
The light blinked out as though someone had closed a door. Jake had been holding his breath and exhaled explosively as he spun around to the telephone. He dialed the night supervisor of the Communications Monitoring Group. The phone rang once and was answered curtly. “Evans here.”
“What have you guys been doing?” he said shrilly, “Didn’t you pick up the transmission from my office?”
“Yes, dammit,” he said, testily, “you were supposed to inform me immediately when you detected any more of those transmissions.”
“Yes, Jake, I know. But I told you, there haven’t been any transmissions since before the confrontation in California.”
“What do you mean,” he said only slightly more calmly, “they were just here in my office.”
“Jake, we haven’t gotten a thing since this morning. Who was in your office?”
Jake thought desperately for a moment. “Check right now for two transmissions from this location, one at,” he paused, remembering the Martian’s question about the time, “eleven thirty-three and one at eleven-forty.”
“Don’t argue, just do it. I’ll wait.”
Thirty seconds passed before Evans picked up the phone at the monitor console. “Okay, I’m calling up the records now. It’ll take a few seconds.”
There was a short space of silence during which Jake could hear Evans breathing into the mouthpiece of the phone, then, “Well, it’s like I said, there’s nothing here for those specific times. Nothing since this morning.”
“Nothing at all?”
“Not a thing Jake, except for a lot of regular traffic. Nothing remotely like what you’re looking for.”
“And there was no transmission when the space suit was returned today either?”
“That’s right. Jake. I was briefed on this stuff by the day crew supervisor. We were watching for it but it just hasn’t reoccurred.”
Jake was completely deflated. “Okay Harve, thanks.”
“Jake, are you all right?”
“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine. Just fine.”
“Do we keep on with this special watch?”
“No,” he sighed, “you’re not going to see any more. You can drop it.”
“Okay, Jake. Anything else?”
“Okay, Jake. Good night.”
“Yeah, good night.”
Woodenly, Jake replaced the receiver back in its cradle and then slumped back in his chair, staring absently at his hands cradled in his lap.
Then, with great effort, he picked up the phone again and slowly dialed the home of the Deputy Director of Operations. The DDO listened intently to Jake’s explanation and then to the recording of his conversation with Ris.
“Jake,” he said, “I assume that you’ve terminated your special monitoring activity on this case.”
“Yes, sir,” said Jake, “we know that the alien’s transport process no longer produces detectable radiation. So there’s no point in wasting time on it.”
“You’re right, of course. Also, we need to maintain a low profile, which may be somewhat difficult in light of the way the L. A. FBI agent conducted himself.”
“What do you mean?” Jake asked.
“Just after the confrontation,” the DDO explained, “I received a call from Paula Garrison. She said that the FBI agent-in-charge lost his cool during the confrontation. To make matters worse he dragged the Harts downtown to the L.A. office and tried to bully them with the threat of prosecution for espionage.”
“He can’t do that,” Jake exclaimed. “He has no case.”
“I know,” the DDO said with disgust, “and you can imagine the effect on the Bureau’s credibility if they accused the Harts of consorting with Martians.”
“Also,” Jake added, “the media would have a field day with us and we can’t afford the publicity.”
“Exactly right,” said the DDO. “Jake, you did a good job, but it’s over now and I want you to go home and get some rest. Just before you called, I spoke with the Bureau’s director. By now he’ll have contacted the Los Angeles field office and the Harts should soon be released.”
Minutes later, in the Los Angeles office of the FBI, where Fred, Margie and Sam had been taken for “interviewing,” they were approached by a very serious-faced man who delivered a perfunctory apology on behalf of the government, advised them of the importance of their silence to national security and then loaded them back into a limousine and drove them home. There was no way that Fred, Margie or Sam could be prosecuted and nothing could be gained by opening up the whole affair to public scrutiny. So political paranoia prevailed.
October 25, 7:30 p.m. PDT — Glendora, California
Several days later, returning home from dinner at a local restaurant, Fred and Margie found two small sealed glass vials on their kitchen table. One contained a small amount of brown-red dust. The other contained a like amount of dark, rich-looking organic soil.
Copyright © 2011 by Richard Merlin Smith