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The Challenge of Contact

 

Chapter 1
A Walk in the Park

On April 2, 1999, a Good Friday--some 22 months after my first encounter with the Verdant race--I awoke about 6:30 a.m. in a very odd state of mind. I could feel myself lying in bed in my physical body, yet I knew that I was inhabiting another plane of existence beyond my normal senses. Strangely enough, this was a place where I felt completely at home, as if I truly belonged there. My mind was crystal clear, and in that clarity I understood with a purity of thought unlike anything I'd experienced before that I was in an exotic space, pulled over from my ordinary state of consciousness by some unknown force.

I didn't sense any spoken words. I don't believe that I even cognitively thought of the idea on my own. A specific thought was just suddenly there in my mind:

"Seek out the angel and you will be sought in return."

I knew instinctively, perhaps even intellectually--certainly emotionally--that I had received a message, and its meaning mystified me. But a series of events soon occurred that convinced me I had a mission to perform, a mission that would lead me on a strange and enigmatic journey. It would take me the very next day to the San Francisco Bay Area--for an encounter with an angel and an Ambassador--and eventually back into outer space aboard an extraterrestrial starship.

Almost instinctively--at least it felt instinctive--I knew what I had to do. I telephoned my wife at work and told her that we would be driving up to San Francisco for the Easter weekend.

"Well, that's pretty sudden," she said. "What brought this on?"

"Just an impulse," I responded. In fact I was possessed by an urgent beckoning telling me I was supposed to be there. It came from that same unknown force that had invaded my consciousness with thoughts that needed no words to direct me.

On Saturday morning we were on the road by 7 a.m. During the drive, she barraged me with questions over this sudden impulse. I was noncommittal, saying only that I thought it would be nice for us to get away for a few days. Secretly I was seeking out the angel, though I didn't know where I was going or what I would do once I got there--if I ever did. I just obeyed my instincts, sensing that some vague but powerful force was guiding me.

Five hours later we swung across the Oakland Bay Bridge into San Francisco, met a friend downtown, and spent an enjoyable afternoon talking, lunching, driving and walking.

Suddenly, as we were driving around the city, a word popped into my mind, seemingly unattached to any existing train of thought--"pinhole."

I didn't have a clue as to its meaning.

Catching the eye of our friend in the rearview mirror, I asked, "What does 'pinhole' refer to?"

"Manhole?"

"No, pinhole," I repeated. "Is there an area of the city known as pinhole?"

"Pinhole. Pinhole. No, that's a new one on me."

"Isn't there a Presidio?" my wife asked.

"No, that's not what I was thinking of. I don't think so, anyway."

Our friend then rattled off a slew of districts in the city: Noe Valley, the Castro, the Haight, the Marina, Pacific Heights, Nob Hill, Russian Hill, North Beach, Cole Valley, the Tenderloin. None of them struck a chord, so I decided to drop the subject. I wasn't getting anywhere and it was just frustrating me.

After a moment, though, she casually mentioned that there is a town on the East Bay called Pinole.

Eureka! That felt right, that was the place I wanted to go. But the day was late, so I forced myself to wait until morning.

The next day, after dropping my wife off at her friend's house, I headed north, and by 11a.m. I was in the town of Pinole. I found a municipal parking lot, got out of my car, and started walking.

It was Easter morning, not an especially important day to an atheist, but at this stage, having come in contact with aliens--and ones who spoke of God, of all things--I wasn't sure what I believed anymore. In fact, I can say honestly that deep in my soul--whose existence I was now willing to consider--I realized that I had changed. I knew that I would never look upon the universe, and my own place in it, in the same way again. I had been so sure of my place in the world and now I was filled with doubts, with questions for which I had no easy answers.

Almost overnight I had gone from being an outspoken skeptic on matters of UFOs and alien abductions to becoming not only a believer in such phenomena but an actual participant in an extraterrestrial adventure. And that's on top of having my belief system--or, nonbelief, to be more precise--shaken to the core with respect to things metaphysical. I longed to find some structure, some purpose, some meaning that would explain the extraordinary events of the last two years.

Pinole felt virtually deserted, perhaps because of the religious holiday. Most of the shops I saw appeared closed. I'm sure the churches were full. At first, Pinole struck me as a blue-collar town, but as I looked deeper while driving around I realized that while many of the houses appeared old, they were not neglected. I thought that because of its superb location and enviable weather, many commuters with upscale jobs in the bigger Bay Area cities would find it an attractive place of refuge.

I roamed aimlessly for awhile, then returned to my car and drove around. Still seeking out the angel, I passed a number of parks and finally pulled the car to a curb and walked into one, taking a seat on a bench in the shade of a tree. I don't know why I picked this particular park; it just felt right to me. There were a handful of people, some of them with small children. I sat back and enjoyed the cool serenity and sylvan peacefulness. The pace was just right--slow and relaxing. Five minutes passed.

At first, I took little notice of the man who approached and sat down next to me. When he spoke, I was startled and reflexively flinched.

"Beautiful day," he said.

Terrific," I responded.

He was dressed casually in jeans, with a plaid shirt under his windbreaker and white athletic shoes. Although he looked vaguely familiar, I was pretty sure we had never met. He looked to be in his forties, with a chiseled face and a full head of brown hair that stirred in the breeze. His eyes were an undistinguished, everyday blue.

"How was your drive?" he asked.

"Not bad," I answered before giving any thought to the question.

Then suddenly I turned to look at him. I was certain at that moment that my quest had been fulfilled. I stared mutely and waited for him to speak further.

"Another person will join us shortly." He lowered his voice as a young couple strolled by hand-in-hand. "I should fill you in on him. He's an Ambassador and he has information for you."

"And you are . . . ?" I asked, my voice trailing off.

"I go by the name of Paul." He reached out his hand, which I shook firmly.

I didn't see any point in mincing words. I wanted solid, understandable, uncomplicated answers. I had been operating for two days on feelings, hunches, and irresolute beckonings. Suddenly feeling feisty, the words spilled out of me in a torrent. I wanted to know who he was and what his purpose was for meeting me. I asked if I had received some sort of telepathic communication that had steered me to this place hundreds of miles from my home and, if so, for what reason. I went on and on, and it wasn't until I had finished, as I reflected upon my outburst, that I realized I had been acting like a whiny schoolchild.

Naturally, I wasn't taking notes, so I can't quote extensively. But I do remember proclaiming at various points that "I hate being jacked around," and "I'm getting tired of the games." At one point I also complained in frustration that "sometimes I wish that I had never gotten mixed up in this business," or words very similar to that.

Mixed into the equation, I have to admit, is an inherent and abiding dislike of getting the runaround by people from whom I am trying to extract information. That goes back to my reporting days when I was trying to sniff out a story and had to constantly battle to cut through the evasions, the temporizing, the half-truths, and the misinformation that the spin doctors tried to feed me. Actually, I got pretty good at cutting through the rubbish--in the interest of civility, I won't use the scatological vulgarity that is commonly used in such cases--that some interviewees throw at reporters. I learned to recognize the snow job, blow it off, and ask the kind of penetrating questions that yielded the hard information that I was after.

Paul bided his time while I vented my frustration. When he spoke, his tone was understanding, and at one point he put a sympathetic hand on my shoulder while he talked. At the same time, he made it very clear that, yes, he was there for a purpose, I was there for a purpose, he would decide what information I was to receive, and no amount of adolescent petulance on my part was going to change that.

Despite all of my probing questions, he supplied me with only the scantiest personal information, referring to himself as only "an intermediary." I never did figure out in this meeting if he was an Ambassador himself or what other role he might be playing in this cosmic drama. During our time together, though, it was clear that he was well versed in the area of spirituality. If I had to guess about his vocation, I would have said that he was a man of the cloth or perhaps a religious scholar.

I had an urge to ask him for proof of his connection with the Verdants. I didn't know who he was or whether I was being manipulated or tricked into talking to someone I shouldn't be and revealing confidential information. Then I realized how absurd this idea was. It would be impossible for an impostor to know where to find me, to know so much about me, and to be aware of the forces that had led me to this place. After all, he had approached me right out of the blue.

No, he was authentic, all right. He was also a mystery. Yet despite his refusal to answer many of my questions, I couldn't help feeling--not thinking, but feeling--that he was a most remarkable and fascinating individual. He radiated a quality that I couldn't quite put my finger on: a certain exceptional presence.

Paul talked and I listened. I learned that every effort was being made to keep all Ambassadors and Deputy Envoys posted on developments that had a direct bearing on their roles. In my case, this briefing was apparently a matter of courtesy to keep me apprised in general on the progress of the plan, or so I thought at the time.

Paul did confirm that I had been contacted telepathically and led to this park. When I asked him why the message and the process had been so cloaked in ambiguity, he said something to the effect that telepathic messages sometimes do not translate as literally as they are transmitted, especially when being received by those with little or no experience with that medium. The messages are often received by the intended recipient in the form of metaphors and symbols, such as those that are found in dreams. The ability to translate them varies with the individual.

He touched on a dozen topics during a discourse that went on for several hours, waxing at times philosophical about the condition of the world and humankind's future. The turn of the century was just around the corner and he made several predictions that in hindsight turned out to be true. There would be no Second Coming, no Rapture, no Armageddon, and no Y2K calamity, he declared. At one point, after musing about rumors of planned mass suicides when the clock ticked 2000, he clasped his hands behind his head, stretched out his long legs, and as though he were discussing nothing more important than the weather, said, "The ways of humans are so very strange."

It wasn't the meaning behind the words that struck me but rather his detached manner in saying them. It was as though he were speaking as a mere observer of the human race, not as a part of it. It was an intensely eerie feeling.

Eventually, a man whom I had noticed walking in the park earlier stopped in front of us. He was wearing a suit and tie, certainly appropriate attire for an Easter Sunday. Paul and I stood up.

"This is John," he said to me, and the man extended a hand.

"Let me guess. John Doe," I said.

"Or Smith, or Jones, but you can call me Chip if you prefer," the man said as we exchanged a handshake.

"And you're an Ambassador," I said.

I studied his face carefully, and although he did look slightly familiar, I couldn't place it with any of the pictures that I had seen in the ambassadorial roster. That didn't surprise me; there were only a handful of faces that I could conjure up from the roster, and that was only because I had been familiar with them prior to my journey to the starship.

"I'll leave you two to talk," Paul said as Chip took his place on the bench. "We'll meet another time at another place." He began to walk away.

"Wait a minute," I called after him. He turned and waved, but kept walking. I had a million more questions for him. I looked helplessly at Chip, who beckoned me to sit down.

I took off my glasses and rubbed a palm across my closed eyes, massaging my temples as well. I don't see much without my specs. The world turns into a fuzzy, unfocused kaleidoscope of shapes, forms, and smears of colors. I don't even have depth perception and have never experienced that phenomenon; my left eye is crossed and both eyes don't work together to form a stereoscopic image. I have had this condition for a lifetime.

But suddenly, as I watched Paul walk away, the scene in front of me sharpened into crystal clear focus. I was experiencing depth perception for the first time in all of its breathtaking glory! The image was nothing short of miraculous. Looking out upon this simple earthly landscape--seeing the image as three-dimensional in which objects projected themselves into space so that I could judge size, thickness, form, and distance--was mesmerizing. My world normally passes before me as a flat field, much as one would see life on a movie screen. But to see the images jump out of that screen was more breathtaking than I could ever have imagined. The experience stirred in me emotions that were every bit as strong and moving as those I felt when I first gazed upon the full grandeur of the universe from the observation bubble of the Verdant ship. My knees had literally buckled when I was confronted by the billions of stars and galaxies that studded the infinite blackness of space like gemstones. They would have given way now as well if I weren't sitting down.

And then, just as suddenly, my vision returned to normal--blurry, flat, unfocused. I put my glasses back on. Mysteriously, Paul had disappeared from sight. Yet I should have been able to see him: He still had some way to go before the path took him out of view. I was totally bewildered. The event had occurred so suddenly and unexpectedly and was over so quickly--no more than three to five seconds--that I thought I might have been hallucinating.

I became annoyed with myself: always the rational mind, always seeking a logical explanation for the unexplainable. But this was no hallucination.

This was nothing short of a miracle.

It was Easter Sunday, and I had literally seen the light. I can't say that I "got religion." It was more like a spiritual awakening to some of the wonders that had been missing from my life. I wasn't resurrected, but I was convinced that I had been touched, by . . . something.

I wanted to talk about the incident to Chip, but I found myself incapable of doing so. If any experience called for sharing, this one certainly had to qualify. And yet, though reeling psychologically and emotionally from the impact, I was overwhelmed with the conviction that to analyze what happened would somehow violate the sacredness of it. So I kept it to myself.

Chip and I spent hours together, occasionally getting up to stroll leisurely through the park. He did most of the talking, although he was more inclined to address my questions than Paul had been, and slightly more willing to reveal personal information about himself. He also delved into areas that had a significant, and even worrisome, bearing on me in my capacity as a minor spokesman, of sorts, for the Verdants. That is, even though I am merely a secondary player in the program, I had stuck my neck out while the major players still remained shrouded in the security blanket of anonymity.

While there was nothing specifically said that I could point to as reasons for my moments of unease, there was a tone that had me on edge at times. Perhaps I was overreacting.

Chip told me he was an official at a Silicon Valley computer firm (I am trying to say as little about him as possible) and was deeply engrossed in projects that essentially commanded his full attention. He didn't come right out and say so, but I got the impression that he was recruited for his professional expertise and his respectable standing in the field of science and technology. That's why I believed him when he informed me that, thanks to briefings of key Ambassadors by the Verdants, human scientists and technicians had been provided the necessary information to forestall most major disruptions as a result of the so-called Y2K problem. And indeed, the remarkably anticlimactic turn of the century, especially following the urgent warnings of potential chaos that preceded it, suggests such plausibility.

Over the next several hours, our dialogue touched on a host of subjects, including reincarnation, telepathy, crop circles, and cattle mutilations. Paul claimed that the cattle mutilations are the handiwork of humans and that the authorities would soon reveal incontrovertible evidence to that effect; there may even be some arrests, he said.

During the afternoon I also learned that some opponents of the contact, both foreign and domestic, have compiled enemies lists containing the names of many prominent UFO activists, and that I have the dubious honor of being included on some of those rosters. Ironically, some of those who oppose the contact actually belong to UFO groups, he told me. He called them infiltrators, whose purpose is to cause disruption within the community. This revelation led me to remember several incidents of people at conferences who pressed too hard, who seemed motivated by more than curiosity to extract information from me. Could some of them have been so-called plants?

Somewhere along the line, Chip mentioned X and asked if he and I were still in contact. I replied that I hadn't seen or heard from him since April 1998.

In The Contact Has Begun, I mentioned that a person from the Los Angeles Times who had been chosen as an Ambassador had been instrumental in persuading the Verdants to recruit me to write the white paper publicly announcing their presence in Earth's neighborhood. In addition, I also mentioned that I had met aboard the ship another human, a very important figure, whom I recognized immediately as we both were taking a tour of the craft during an informal period. I also wrote that I had been shown a roster of many of the important people who had been recruited as Ambassadors, which was a virtual Who's Who of the World.

After I returned from the ship, the Ambassador from the Times, whom I referred to as X, contacted me to arrange a luncheon meeting and compare notes. This occurred in September 1997. I also had several other conversations with X subsequent to that. Let me pause here and relate the most important of these.

***

In mid-April of 1998, I answered the doorbell one morning and found myself facing X along with another man. This was unusual because our previous meetings had all been arranged beforehand. There was a sense of urgency about his manner as I invited him in. He introduced me to "John," and we exchanged handshakes. I put on the kettle for tea, and soon we were seated at the kitchen table.

"John what?" I asked casually, taking note of the nervousness that was evident in a slight trembling of his hand that rattled the teacup against the saucer as he drank.

Before he could answer, X replied. "John Doe."

"Ah, a mystery," I said with a good-natured smile. X eyed me with a slight smile of his own. John, whom I am not at liberty to describe other than to say he is not American, was quiet while X and I chatted amiably about nothing consequential. Then he got around to the reason for their visit, and his demeanor took a more serious turn.

"It is imperative," X said in a firm voice, "that you recognize how important it is for you to exercise extreme caution when discussing me, the Ambassador you met on the ship, the ambassadorial roster, and the timetable."

The words came across almost as a warning, and caught me totally off guard. He said I could talk only on those subjects about which I had already written, but that I was not to elaborate or expand upon them.

I asked him timidly if I had done something wrong, spoken out of turn, broken any confidences, or revealed any secrets. He softened his tone and assured me that I had committed no violations of protocol and that the purpose of his visit was preemptive. Nevertheless, while X appeared reasonably calm, John was less so, certainly nervous, possibly even agitated.

X told me that John was--or, at least had been--an Ambassador. I had already guessed that; indeed, I couldn't imagine his being here talking so frankly and openly with someone who was not intimately involved in the adventure. The primary message, repeated by X and boiled down to its essentials, was simply to reinforce the need to be discreet and avoid revealing certain material that was still considered confidential, which I thought I had been doing all along.

X sipped his tea and eyed me over the rim of the cup.

"We just wanted to make sure you understood," he said. "Have you had any strange visitors, noticed anybody watching you or following you? Anything suspicious going on like late-night phone calls, anonymous mail, strangers approaching you to strike up conversations, people pumping you for information?"

"Nothing out of the ordinary that I'm aware of," I said tentatively. "You mean like 'Men in Black'?"

My attempt at frivolity was met with grim looks; they weren't in a whimsical mood. Actually, there had been a few minor incidents and communications that caused me some concern at the time, such as vague warnings that no one could be trusted. But no problems ever developed as a result, so I didn't bother mentioning them.

"Why? Should I be expecting something? What's going on?" I wasn't really alarmed, but a slight edge had crept into my voice.

"Oh, there's a lot going on, much more than you realize," X replied. "If I had a couple of days, I still couldn't fill you in completely. And even I don't know everything that's happening."

It turned out that the two men were part of a network of small teams who were calling on a select number of recruits to assess, advise, and update, on a need-to-know basis, developments surrounding the program and the rate at which the plan was going forward. I learned that some emissaries had been harassed and had run into other unspecified problems. I was strongly advised to be cautious when picking up mail from my post office box, to make sure I wasn't being watched. The bottom-line message I was getting was to be vigilant, and I vowed to be more careful, although at that moment I couldn't imagine why anyone would want to tail me.

I really got the point, though, when X told me that John, in his own country, was nearly forced into a car that had pulled up beside him on the street. Fortunately, he was able to make a run for it and escape. Certainly the incident could be viewed as an attempted kidnapping, but John couldn't imagine what the purpose was or what the end result would have been. Perhaps he was merely going to be questioned, but he also had to consider the possibility that he might never have been heard from again.

This revelation disturbed me. When I pressed them for details, my questions were brushed off. What they did volunteer was that word about John's association with the Verdants had gotten out. John admitted that it probably was his own fault; his tongue had become loose one evening with a close friend over drinks. Two weeks later the kidnapping attempt was made.

John believed that he had been "outed." The attempt to force him into the car, he said, was not merely a random street crime. He felt he had lost his effectiveness to continue serving as an Ambassador and decided to go into hiding.

"There aren't many nations where at least one copy of your book isn't available," John said. "Any government leader who wished to see it could easily get hold of it. There are some very powerful forces who do not want this contact to take place, and they will resort to extreme measures to stop it."

Major opposition to contact comes from, among others, leaders of rogue nations who see it as a threat to their power base. But there also are domestic groups and individuals, X said, who don't welcome the idea of extraterrestrial contact. Some are conspiracy theorists who see secret agents under every bed. There are others who believe that the aliens are intent on setting up a one-world government whose human leaders would do the bidding of their alien puppet masters. Other resistance comes from more "mainstream" people who have certain religious, economic, or political agendas and beliefs that would be threatened by an extraterrestrial presence and all it implied.

Still others aren't convinced that the aliens have the best interests of humans at heart, or they simply have reservations--very real personal concerns--that motivate them to proceed with extreme caution. And there are those who are firmly convinced that the aliens are in fact diabolical. These people could be described as planetary isolationists who fear contact of any kind and who want no part of it. In fact, I was told, this group actually poses more of a threat than the former because it is highly effective at working within the system to achieve its ends.

I asked if I was in any danger, but both men assured me that they had no knowledge of any plot against me. They emphasized that the primary purpose of their visit was simply to let me know that loose talk on my part, while not necessarily putting me in danger, could compromise the missions of others, particularly foreigners, and possibly even put those people in jeopardy. I assured my guests again that I would be a model of discretion in my talks and interviews, and would be constantly on the alert for suspicious activity.

But what in the world do I know about questionable activity, I wondered. Should I be suspicious if a new postal carrier begins delivering my mail? And what should I do if I do notice such a change? Call the FBI or the CIA? File a police report? Go into hiding whenever the mail truck comes up the street? Despite the gravity of the situation, there was a part of me that saw the whole thing as a third-rate Hollywood melodrama.

Both men rose, and it was clear that our meeting had ended--amicably, I had thought. But as I walked them to the door, I casually asked X why I had to be so careful in talking about the timetable.

His demeanor suddenly shifted, and a kind of cold-bloodedness entered his eyes. He responded with a forced calm that it was no accident that I had come away from the ship with only a hazy notion of the timetable leading up to contact.

"You got the timetable from me," he said. "There's nothing that can be done about that. Just do me a favor and try to avoid talking about it."

I was confused. There was no rational reason for his sudden turn in mood.

"How can I do that?" I asked. "It's in the book, it's no secret."

"Humor me." He stared silently at me for several seconds, appearing to fight for control.

"This isn't about you," he went on in a measured tone. "There are some very important people who have more on the line than you do. Some of them are already confiding in colleagues and government officials. A few others will be going public in the months and years to come. They will be staking their reputations on this enterprise and they have a lot to lose if things don't go forward as expected."

I asked him if I could at least explain to audiences why I had to tiptoe around these certain subjects.

"No!" he snapped. "How can you? You don't know the reason because I haven't told you."

"No, you misunderstand," I said lamely. "I know I don't know why, but, I mean, is it okay to tell people that I've been told not to talk?"

"Someday. Not now. I need at least a year. Just generalize. I'm sure you'll figure something out."

I was completely mystified by his reaction. Obviously I had touched a nerve. I felt as though I should apologize, but I didn't know for what. Even so, I made a half-hearted attempt, but he quickly brushed off my effort. I didn't want to make an enemy of him, and I didn't want him to leave on this sour note. But he strode toward his car with John on his heels, and then they were gone.

***

I had been silent for several moments as I thought about the dramatic last conversation I had had with X, but I was brought back to the present as Chip's voice broke through to my consciousness.

"We're having a little bit of a problem with X," Chip explained. "To be brutally frank, there are complications as well with several other key Ambassadors."

His answer piqued my interest. Apparently X was suffering from a condition common to journalists who are relentlessly exposed to a diet of bleak events that expose the darker side of the human character. The symptoms can take several forms. Sometimes the journalists simply burn out and quit the business. Other times they become calloused and cynical, encasing themselves in a protective shell that prevents them from feeling anything. Some become so over-sensitized to the daily barrage of cruel events that they turn moody, angry, cynical, or despondent. Chip confirmed that this latter condition described X, who felt certain that he had witnessed more evil and human stupidity in the last several years than at any other time during his career. "He has lost the ability to maintain the necessary detachment," Chip said.

Chip then recited a litany of major news events in the last several years that reflected serious problems facing the world. They ranged from bloody terrorism in the name of many causes to economic terrorism in the pursuit of wealth, among others. He said he shared X's concerns about many of these "missteps," as he called them. Other Ambassadors concurred with Chip that these missteps--what I inferred were the unfortunate results of the behaviors of that notorious 20 percent--could actually affect the timetable.

That statement certainly shocked me, but when he told me that X was actually lobbying the Verdants to delay the event, I was absolutely stunned.

When the Cold War ended early in the last decade, it appeared that humanity had arrived at a point where the possibility and dream of world peace was finally within reach. The Verdants and many humans shared this feeling, Chip said. The Verdants' optimism played a key role in their decision to go ahead with the planned contact and thus begin the recruitment program. Sure, Earth was still a troubled place, but the future looked promising. It was anticipated that problems would be resolved at an escalating rate and that humankind would march into the 21st century to the beat of a different drummer.

But the headlines since then have told a different story, a tale of opportunities lost and hopes unfulfilled.

"Is it possible that the human race simply is incapable of getting along?" he asked rhetorically. "Will the ancient tribal mentalities always predominate? It's almost as if there were an organized, deliberate attempt to create worldwide turmoil, to put our worst foot forward, as though this insanity is being orchestrated."

There was more. He said that some government leaders had already been briefed by Ambassadors and that one or more of them may secretly oppose the contact because of hidden personal agendas. Creating international strife, opening old wounds, instigating economic and social turmoil would be acceptable tactics that could have the desired effect of disrupting the plan, he said.

I brought the conversation back to X. Chip said that X was furious over what he perceived as a societal relapse and wanted a postponement because he believed that humans had failed to live up to expectations of the Verdants. He was very vocal in his opposition, and--because he also wielded considerable influence in certain quarters--he had gained some support from other Ambassadors.

"What we have is a small rebellion on our hands," Chip said.

That single statement alarmed me more than any other I had heard since I returned from the ship. I questioned him about the implications, about its possible effect upon the timetable. He assured me that nothing had substantially changed, although the Verdants had been listening very closely to X and reevaluating world conditions.

In my view this opposition in and of itself wasn't enough to scuttle the program, and I believe Chip tended to agree with me. But he did add the caveat ". . . if we don't blow ourselves up first. It would be a tragedy of unparalleled proportions to miss such a golden opportunity," he said wistfully.

"So if we don't blow ourselves up, they'll be coming according to plan, according to the timetable?"

He paused and gave me a tired smile.

"What do you think?" he asked sincerely.

I was optimistic and told him so.

"So what's the bottom line?" I asked.

"The bottom line? Pray," he answered simply.

The hour was getting late, the sun was beginning to settle low in the west, and it seemed like a good time to end our conversation.

"Will I be seeing you again?" I asked.

"Let's hope that all goes according to plan, and if it does, we can share a toast sometime soon in the company of the many dedicated men and women who believe in the future," he replied. "Perhaps it will be in Genesis."

He extended his hand to me. "Goodbye, my friend." And with that he walked away.

Contents  |  Publisher's Preface  |  Preface  |  Recap  |  Chapter 1  |  Chapter 2


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Origin Press
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