Gloria Shefly and Anna-Marie Durrant were looking through intel briefs from the listening posts when Anna-Marie’s eyebrows lifted. “We get some weird stuff through here sometimes. I swear, Gloria, there are more nuts and fruits out there than in a bowl of granola.” Gloria put her stack of reading briefs down and looked across the partners desk at her friend and coworker of four years. Anna-Marie was a skeptic, not just hard to convince, but she truly believed that the Lord only blessed one planet with life and created only one species in his image and that all the ballyhoo about space aliens was either information planted by the Russians to distract the American people or just plain whackos feeding on each other’s hysteria. She hadn’t seen or heard anything in four years at the base that shook her set of beliefs. She liked Gloria, but felt she was almost dreamy enough to believe some of the storylines they came across. 

     Anna-Marie shook her head in disbelief as her eyes scanned the copy on one of the new facsimile message tracers they had recently begun monitoring. 

       Gloria put out her hand for her turn to read. They had developed their own system of backing each other when something came up in the dailies that might warrant field action. With a grin and arched eyebrows that said, “Here’s another good one,” Anna-Marie handed over the briefing sheet. Below the intercepted fax’s phone address line the message read:

To:   Dr. Jason Walters, Dir. Analytical Services, General Motors Corporation

30003 Van Dyke Ave 2-7, Warren, MI 48093

From:  William Chang, Spec. Projects ofc.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Dept of Energy, National Nuclear Security Administration

7000 East Avenue—Livermore, CA 94550
Re: Materials Test on Metallic Sample Submitted 6/24/85

 Dr. Walters:

  Sample size insufficient for advanced electro-magnetic analysis. In preliminary testing, irradiation of the subject demonstrated a  high degree of stability of the material substrate. Chromatography results are not conclusive however carbon is a sub-component noted in the sample, but not related to substrate matrix.
   Matrix materials are rare earths with chromium admixture. Noted enhanced magnetic properties when chilled below minus 80d C.  Apparent major component technetium isotope 99 not previously produced in quantities.
    X-ray laser attempts to separate components resulted in extreme damage to laboratory test equipment and operator injuries.
Review of bombardment analysis demonstrated heavy particle tracers indicative of heavy metallic (99Tc)components in admixture with stabilizing common chromium in unknown structure.
    Staff agreement on post investigation evaluation conclusions:
1) Further  testing  is  not  indicated  in  a non-secured installation.
2) High gauss magnetic test  equipment  should  be  considered expendable as  current  methodologies  may result in loss of test bed.
3) Recommend cessation of any high energy testing at other test locations.
4) Recommend collaborative approach to materials testing.
5) Recommend top-secret clearance for team members. Minor sample supplied represents 700% more than known technetium produced to date as documented in the radiological research literature
6) Due to analysis of crystalline matrix structure and component materials, sample is not likely of terrestrial origin.

Will submit results to moderator as scheduled.
Regards, Bill

      Gloria said just loud enough to ensure that Anna-Marie heard, “‘Six, Donor material not likely of terrestrial origin’!” She stared at the words, puckering her lips in an airless whistle.
     Anna-Marie looked back with a disgusted smirk. “Some people just have to explain what they don’t understand by laying it on space aliens. Seems to me like a need to have an explanation when reality doesn’t fit what they think they should know.”
     “For real?” Gloria was truly curious. She knew her partner was decidedly unimaginative, but this was Lawrence Livermore, not a backyard video of a pie plate.  Her tone had been neutral enough to hide both her excitement about the note’s contents and her disdain for Anna-Marie’s parochial outlook.
     "Yeah, for real,” Anna-Marie said. “So, imagine you are an Indian tripping through the western plains, never seen a white man, and you look down and see a thing on the ground that you can’t understand. You go back to your chief and tell him the gods have left you a silver talisman with a golden eye but you need to do a smoke tent or something to figure it out. Meanwhile, somewhere farther down the trail, a buffalo hunter is looking all through his kit for the lid to his coffeepot.” She paused and let the superior smirk firmly settle on her mouth. “The two men in our example are from different cultures and places. For guy number one, a mystery of the universe has been dropped in his lap. For guy number two, a trivial piece of his kit is lost, not found.”
     “But, Anna-Marie, you just made the counterpoint to your own point of view. A man in his own genuine world of experience is introduced to a far advanced culture. Even though it’s a trivial component of that culture, it has no significance or reference in the finder’s experience. He knows his people didn’t make it and couldn’t make it.” She shook her head in disbelief at her friend’s narrow world view. “To him, he found an alien artifact, from an alien land.”
     “Yes,” Anna-Marie said, her black eyes flashing, “but that alien land was on the other side of this planet.” She punctuated the last two words by smacking the table with the heel of her palm.
     "Still,” Gloria said, “this letter more than triggers our protocols. This here is from Lawrence Livermore. I’m taking it to Col. H.”
     Anne-Marie adopted a denigrating smirk. “Okay, but not on me. It’s prob’ly just a of coupla profs trying to put one over on a colleague!”

     Occasionally, the wheels of government did turn quickly. The letter made it to Colonel Henderson just before 1000 hours. By 1500 hours the following day, a pickup team was contracted to be on the ground in Boston for the intercept. 

Copyright Bruce Ballister. All Rights Reserved.