Most countries on Earth seem to be involved in the revolutionary space project. Roy Blain, reporter for Worldwide Newsgroup and his friend, Professor William ‘Wild Bill’ Taylor, suspect the low earth ion powered orbiter tagged ‘VIP’ is much more than advertised. Their investigation leads to more questions than answers. Could an Earth at last united in cause be looking for an enhanced pathway to the stars? Or is the entire Project VIP a fraud for a much more sinister purpose? The notion of a Rosolite influence cannot be discarded. The return of Seron and her cousin Quillian of the revered House of Ti, more than 70 years after Seron’s last visit to Earth, prompts Blain, Taylor, Seron and Quillian to embark on a dangerous race to stop an experiment that could disrupt the entire Solar System.
Professor Taylor’s Office
Case Western Reserve University
“Am I talking to Roy my old buddy, or Blain, reporter extraordinaire of Worldwide News?” Taylor asked the man seated across from him at his desk.
“C’mon, Bill. You know me better. What you say goes into print, will. What you say doesn’t, doesn’t.”
“Well, what we discuss now, doesn’t.”
Taylor looked away from Blain and began. “I’m in a sensitive position this time, Roy. Oh, I’ve dealt with the govs on projects before, but this is different. It . . . feels different. Some of the data needed for VIP has come through us here at Case. I, myself, have furnished schematics for one of the onboard computer systems for the command module. Some of what I hear makes me feel this project has had a little special . . . help. I’ve felt this for a while.”
“Ever since our little trip to Hawaii a couple of years ago?” Blain interjected.
“It truly sucks to be one of only two people in this world who had proof positive of visitation by extraterrestrials and couldn’t convince anyone because the evidence . . . disappeared. I tried so hard to find proof, something the Dahrens overlooked when they eradicated the equipment and thoughts of those involved.”
“As has the other person who knows about the extraterrestrials, and is a reporter, to boot,” Blain said. “I’ve tried to jog Megan’s memory—what she knew, what she saw. All she says is that you and I were on a fishing trip in Hawaii during that period. They completely cleared everyone’s memory of those events, except for yours and mine, but we’ve been through all this crap before. What do you feel VIP really is?”
Taylor sat back down behind his desk, looked at Blain as if he were debating a decision within himself, then opened a drawer and withdrew an artist’s rendering of a spacecraft. He handed it to Blain. At the top of the rendering were the words: VIP, Vulkan Ion Propulsion. Restricted Use.
He studied it a while and said, “Yeah, okay, Bill. This is what the VIP is supposed to look like when it’s built. VIP is supposed to test a new concept in ion propulsion, once it has established orbit around Earth. It’s been in several papers and in all the tech journals. I’ve seen it before. It’s what the Russian rocket is blasting into space.”
The picture was of a round, tubular-shaped craft with four immense exhaust nozzles toward the rear, and eight engine blocks affixed in a circular pattern around the main tube. A rectangular-shaped projection located nearly in the center of the main tube shape had small windows/ports on it, and appeared to be the actual command module. On the front of the command module was another nozzle, octagonal in shape with the open end facing the front, or bow, of the craft.
“That octagonal object on the front of the command module. What is it, why is it there?” Taylor asked.
“An air scoop? A collector of some kind? A mail slot? Look, Bill, if you’re asking me . . .”
“Certainly not an air scoop and there’s nothing in space to collect, at least not with a clumsy scoop.”
“You know, I don’t remember that nozzle or scoop in the press releases,” Blain said as he studied the picture.
“That’s because it’s not in the press releases. This rendering is for those of us involved in the project. This picture is designated Ultra Secret. Just showing you could get us both locked away in a cold, dark dungeon.”
“What do you say it is?”
“It’s called a Projector, which denotes matter being projected and not collected. What it will project is a matter I am not privy to and am pondering.”
“Well, whatever it is, does it matter?”
“There are other things that don’t add up. The Russian Vulkan booster seems an overkill. A spacecraft the size of VIP should be able to be launched from a much smaller platform. The actual VIP craft must be of extreme weight.”
Taylor began slowly to swirl a finger around an empty drinking glass on the table.
The pause became lengthy, and finally Blain said, “Look Bill, I’ve known you long enough to read between the lines. If you’re worried about me running to Megan with a hot story . . .”
“I think we’re about to embark on a path that is irreversible—” Taylor said to the glass on the table, “—and extremely perilous. What bothers me isn’t just the experimental ion drive. This is not purely a NASA project. It’s unprecedented in scope. The security is phenomenal. The ESA has a hand in it. Security is shared with the Russian FSB, Chinese MSS, German BND, Japanese PSIA and the English MI-6.”
“A lot of letters.”
“And three more: CIA.”
“Sounds like everyone is keeping an eye on everyone else.”
“I have taken extreme precautions in this very room just to talk with you.” He gestured toward various devices around his office. “Sound interrupters, maskers and low-level white noise to muffle our conversation. Projectors aimed at the windows so prying devices can’t peer in at us. If you, old buddy, had entered my office with any sort of sound or visual recording device, I would have known.”
“My cell phone . . .”
“Has been rendered inoperative.”
Blain looked at the screen on his phone. He tried to activate it. The screen fluttered and slowly, letters appeared. The screen soon read, YOU’RE FUCKED.
“Nice touch,” Blain said.
Taylor stood up and turned toward Blain. His facial expression changed to a look of concern mingled with fear. What he said next was blurted out as if unloading a heavy burden. “There are other elements of this craft that have nothing to do with testing a new generation space-drive, elements that point toward serious experimentation in quantum physics. If what I suspect is true, we, the inhabitants of Earth, are about to explore an intergalactic jumpgate—a wormhole through space and time—near Jupiter. And the public, hell, ninety-nine percent of the inhabitants of Earth, are not in on this little endeavor.”