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The Challenge of Contact

 

Recap of the Initial Contact

The Challenge of Contact is the sequel to The Contact Has Begun, the story of my initial three-day encounter aboard a starship with a very advanced race of extraterrestrial beings who come from a planet whose name would translate into English as "Verdant." For those who are new to this story, I will use this introduction to provide a synopsis of my original contact with this species that I call, naturally, Verdants. Beginning then in chapter 1, I will launch into the continuing story of the unusual series of contacts that led up to my second visit to their ship, which they call the Goodwill, in 1999. The Challenge of Contact describes my new experiences as reporter for the Verdants' contact project. It also gives an update on the Verdants' timetable for formal and public contact with the people of our planet, which will initially occur through disclosure of contact with the Verdants by hundreds of world leaders they have recruited to act as interplanetary ambassadors. Again, I am simply the reporter for this unfolding drama -- indeed, one whose role was to come into question, as you will see when you read this book.

It all began in June 1997 when I awoke in the middle of the night and found myself encased in a luminous shaft of light, then involuntarily beamed aboard an alien spacecraft. Within a matter of seconds I was standing before the strangest creatures I had ever seen, though not so different from depictions of alien beings that others have given. They were just over five feet tall, with dark, narrow eyes, nearly imperceptible noses, no visible body hair, and skin tones from grayish white to slightly tan. They were wearing satiny robes of varying muted colors. They even spoke to me in English, though their thin lips didn't move. What a stunning scene it was -- or at least, one would have thought so. As a lifelong skeptic and nonbeliever in UFOs and alien-abduction tales, this experience should have struck me with shocking force, but it wasn't shock that I felt. Oddly, I simply felt at peace, and fully alert.

Deep down, I suppose I knew in that instant what had happened to me -- no amount of denial could alter the fact that I had apparently been abducted, I was on a spacecraft, and I was among extraterrestrials -- but my psyche just wasn't responding as one might expect. As I wrote in the first book, "whenever I had given even passing attention to these stories, I thought that such an experience would not be survivable, that the human mind would simply snap at the shock and immediately plunge into an abyss of insanity."

Previous to this extraordinary experience, I had virtually no knowledge of UFO phenomenon. The limited information that I did have came from the mainstream press. I did know that physical examinations of some sort was one thread that tied many abduction stories together (and in fact the room I was first in had scores of tables with humans on most of them, attended by white-garbed aliens), and so I quickly concluded that I had been taken aboard for that same purpose.

Nevertheless, the fact that I was completely at peace, barren of any fear, seemed to belie the reality. The strongest emotion I felt at the time was rather one of intense curiosity. It then occurred to me that my sensibilities, my consciousness, must have been altered. Otherwise, how could I reconcile my actual demeanor with the uncontrolled reaction that, by all human standards, would be normal under such circumstances? Why was I accepting this unimaginable scenario with such equanimity? As I would learn later, the beam of light through which I had I traveled to the ship had somehow triggered a calming effect that prepared my psyche to accept the initial contact.

Unlike those on the tables before me, however, I quickly found out that I was on board this strange ship for another reason. The Verdants, who claim to have come from a planet some 14 million light-years from Earth (the name of their planet apparently translates into "Verdant" in English, which I interpreted to mean something akin to "garden planet"), said that they had been recruiting hundreds of humans to serve as liaisons for an impending summit conference between representatives of our two species. People from all walks of life, from every area of human endeavor -- many of them leaders in their fields -- were being enlisted to help lay the groundwork for the contact between the two species.

Those being recruited for liaison purposes as interplanetary diplomats, as it were, will perform essential tasks to help prepare Earth for contact; they were given the title of Ambassador. A similar number of more anonymous individuals have been invited to play supporting or secondary roles in the planned contact. They were given the title of Deputy Envoy. I am a part of this second group, apparently chosen on the basis of a personal recommendation from a staff person at the Los Angeles Times who had been recruited as an Ambassador (referred to in my first book as "X"). The Times is where the bulk of my newspaper career took place before I retired in 1993.

I spent most of my waking hours on the ship being briefed by the Verdants in orientation sessions. During my stay, I had a personal tour guide and attendant who went by the name of Gina. The other key figure among the Verdants with whom I had contact was using the name Gus. These names were adopted for my benefit because I was incapable of addressing them by their real names in their native tongue.

I learned in the orientation sessions that the Verdants have been space explorers for millions of years. In the beginning, they didn't know if they were alone in the universe until they began coming across other civilizations. Eventually, they joined with a handful of these other advanced species to form the Intergalactic Federation of Sovereign Planets (IFSP). Over the eons, as new civilizations were discovered and brought into the fold, the organization continued to grow until it reached its current membership of approximately 27,000 different species on as many different planets. The Verdants, however, told me that they have "colonized" a great number of formerly uninhabited planets. ("Colonize" is actually my word for what I think was closer to something like "terraformed" -- making uninhabited and uninhabitable planets more habitable or more hospitable.)

The Verdants and a number of other species have developed the technology and the ability to engage in a constant search for life in the universe, exploring, mapping, and cataloguing as they go. Planets that contain higher forms of life are classified according to the inhabitants' level of development; those species with high intelligence, especially if they have developed complex civilizations, receive the most scrutiny. Once a planet with higher life forms is discovered, the Verdants take up positions in that particular solar system and begin a period of observation and study that can last anywhere from several weeks to hundreds of years.

The ones requiring the shortest period of study are those that are still considered to be at least 10,000 years away from developing the capabilities of space flight. The planet is catalogued and the exploration party moves on; several thousand years may pass before it's revisited. Those civilizations that have progressed to the point where they are within 1,000 years of developing the technology for space flight are assigned a permanent observation party. The purpose is to ensure that the species under study does not pose a threat to any other cosmic civilization once it embarks into space. (Species that are aggressive and hostile are kept isolated on their home planets until such time as they may evolve into a peaceful race and pose no threat to their neighbors. One cardinal, universal rule is that no weapons are allowed into space.) The observation team will then study and chronicle the history, the cultures, the technology, the languages, the environment, and the psychological, physiological and anatomical makeup of the inhabitants.

When a civilization is on the verge of taking its first preliminary steps into space, the Verdants determine whether it's suitable for admission to the IFSP. By this time, of course, the explorers will have learned everything there is to know about the planet and its people. If admission is granted, preparations are made for contact. Each ship monitoring a planet has an ad hoc committee to coordinate this effort. The observation party will then guide the species through the final critical stages to ensure a smooth transition into its new interstellar reality.

To the best of my knowledge, Earth is under the Verdants' jurisdiction -- strictly as an object of observation -- since it was a Verdant ship and crew that first discovered it. The Verdants, however, are not the only ones monitoring emerging civilizations. Other species are engaged in the same pursuit, a routine part of the IFSP organizational structure and mission. I do not know if any of these other species are in Earth's neighborhood because this was never discussed with me.

In the last decade of the 20th Century, the Verdants concluded that humankind, having advanced to the point where it was rapidly developing the technology for entering deep space, was qualified for membership in the federation. There was, however, one primary sticking point. For the crossover to be successful, it was necessary for the 80% of the human population who have tried to lead decent, thoughtful, creative lives to gain control over the 20% who are largely responsible for the planet's ills because of their greed, lack of ethics, or whatever else makes them a threat to a just and loving world. They didn't provide tactics or strategies on just how to achieve this, asserting instead that our destiny is in our own hands and they have no intention of interfering. Observation thus continued through the end of the '90s to monitor the progress of this expected transformation and plans were laid for contact to take place in the first decade of the 21st Century.

The Timetable

In preparation, each Ambassador has been assigned a specific duty and will be required to draw up and submit to the Verdants a detailed blueprint that they would use to carry out their varied assignments. These proposals will form a basic component of the groundwork upon which the whole operation rests, involving monumental logistical and planning challenges because of the importance and critical nature of each step leading up to contact. Many of the Ambassadors must continue to hold down their full-time jobs while taking on this arduous and time-consuming task. As a consequence, the Verdants are allowing as much time as the Ambassadors need to compile their reports.

(I should mention that initially each Ambassador was going to be expected to complete his or her report within three years, according to the person who spelled out the timetable in more detail upon my return from the ship. However, I have reason to believe that either that figure was in error or has been revised.)

The Verdants will then spend about six months, perhaps more, processing and modifying the plans as necessary. The plans will then be returned to each individual Ambassador for actual implementation. Over the following year or so, all Ambassadors worldwide will begin revealing their roles in the planning of the impending summit meeting and contact with the extraterrestrials. They will also begin meeting with and briefing their various Earth contacts: government officials, leaders in science, technology, law, communications, education, the arts, medicine, politics, commerce, manufacturing, and a host of others.

They will be speaking out, granting interviews, explaining their experiences and employing their credibility and influence to persuade the masses of Earth inhabitants of the legitimacy of the story. In the years following, if all goes according to schedule, a new city, tentatively referred to as Genesis, will be constructed somewhere in the American Southwest. The compound will contain living quarters, recreation areas, meeting rooms, educational laboratories, public schools for the children of human inhabitants, libraries, a university, a landing site for alien shuttle craft, a traditional international airport, commercial establishments, maintenance facilities, a government center. No need will go unmet. It will be a completely self-contained community.

It is here that the first formal contact between the two species will take place as the emissaries of all the nations on Earth and the delegates of the star travelers convene. After formal introductions and opening ceremonies, the representatives of both worlds will interact in both business and social settings, after which the heads of government will return to their duties in their respective capitals while their hand-picked emissaries will stay behind to continue negotiations and planning. The total process will take at least a year to complete.

As the temporary residents depart, permanent residents will take their place and Genesis will continue to function as a modern international center and the planet's first interstellar city. Each government will select a number of volunteer representatives from every imaginable field of human endeavor to participate in an intensive orientation program. They will live in Genesis for the duration of the program, which will last for one to three years depending upon their specialties and field of study. Each morning, from Monday to Friday, they will board a shuttlecraft and spend the day in classrooms aboard the Goodwill, the ship I was on. These are the people who will lead the human race through the transition from isolated earthling to member of the intergalactic community of star travelers.

Once humankind's training is complete, the human species will be formerly inducted into the Intergalactic Federation of Sovereign Planets. All new members of the IFSP are subject to a probationary period of 10 Verdant years -- about 27 Earth years -- under tight supervision. During this time the initiates must operate under a specific set of restrictions. One of those, for example, is a limitation on access to other star travelers' technology such as what the Verdants propulsion system -- which I call the Flicker Drive for lack of a technological name -- which allows them to maneuver around space faster than the speed of light. The reason for such a restriction is probably due to security concerns. If we fail to pass probation and must remain confined to our home planet, we would in effect be classified as unsuitable for the time being for space travel. Access to certain "secret technologies" would clearly violate such a condition.

All of this information was shared over three days of intense meetings during which the Verdants told me who they are, where they come from, why they are here, and what the people of Earth can expect to experience during the next decade or so leading up to the official meeting between the two species. I was asked to write a "white paper" outlining in general terms the details of these developments. I agreed, and the white paper was released as a book in early 1998 -- The Contact Has Begun. (A revised edition featuring an extensive new Epilogue came out in mid-1999.)

I never expected to write a sequel, of course, but as improbable as it seems, I was taken up to the ship again. I am compelled to tell this story because I feel it's important; there is new information to share, and much is at stake. I was not prompted by the Verdants to do this, and in fact I wrote it with mixed feelings.

Even as I was writing the first book, I knew I would pay a price for going public. It was easy to visualize what my reaction would have been if someone I knew had written such a book during that part of my life when I openly scoffed at such tales. But where I expected to be subjected to some good-natured ribbing, I got a bit of a bloody nose instead. It really stung, but that's to be expected. I smiled wryly through it all.

There were severed and strained friendships and relationships. The local newspaper had a jolly good time lampooning me. Both UFO and mainstream media, including some book reviewers, threw a few jabs at my chin and tender nose.

The wildest and most outrageous material -- the bulk of it sheer nonsense -- emanated from the internet, which is not surprising considering the chaotic nature of that medium. It is a fount of misinformation and disinformation. I was taken aback when I discovered that the UFO-alien/abduction community is rife with strident dissension and personal feuding -- where lies, rumors both founded and unfounded, character assaults, charges and countercharges, calumny, slander are routinely thrown around.

Compared to how some others in the community are subjected to a constant pummeling, I have been treated gently.

Before the advent of the internet, a person who believed that he had been unfairly portrayed could contact the offending publication and demand satisfaction in the form of a retraction or correction. Lacking that, he or she could turn to the courts for redress. But while most major publications are staffed by professionals who abide by certain standards of decorum and responsibility, the internet is so uncontrolled, so accessible to every malcontent with an ax to grind that there is no way for a damaged person to fight back. Add the element of anonymity and the worldwide nature of the beast -- in which false information picked up and spread by hundreds of others of like mind can circle the globe in a matter of seconds -- and it is evident that any effort to try to find and hold someone accountable is an extremely difficult exercise.

Whenever the subject comes up, I tell people to be very judicious and discriminating in assessing any information they find on the internet. To be sure, there are legitimate professional news organizations that have web sites, and the material on those sites can be regarded as just as reliable as the information that appears in the sponsor's publication. But anything that doesn't emanate from a reputable and reliable news source -- such as a major metropolitan newspaper, prestigious news magazines, respectable and respected TV and radio news departments -- I view with skepticism. The information could be true but it also could be as totally unreliable as the gossip that is created, transmuted, and wantonly spread by the most scandalous and uninformed elements of society.

Imagine a newspaper or magazine staffed by professional journalists in which any malcontent or moron were allowed to waltz in off the street and post any story he wanted in the publication. The reader wouldn't know what to believe. That is the sorry state of the internet today. To be on the safe side, I don't believe a word I read on it unless it comes from a reliable, reputable source and/or until I can independently verify the information or find reputable corroboration for it.

I don't think it's any secret that certain special interests opposed to public scrutiny of the UFO phenomenon have planted moles inside the community to spy, construct dossiers, disrupt, and engage in other practices that would discredit the entire phenomenon. The internet is a great way to do this.

Although I knew I carried a burden of responsibility for standing up to the criticism, I would be less than forthright if I didn't admit that there were periods when the negative reaction raised grave doubts in my mind about the nature of my experience. It was at those times that I entertained the possibility that perhaps it was all a delusion. But almost miraculously, whenever I was feeling at my lowest, someone who had lived through a similar experience would contact me and my spirits would soar. Just knowing that I was not alone -- and being reminded of it -- had an invigorating effect and helped to erase my doubts.

Dozens of people have used the word "courage" to describe my decision to come forward, but I still take exception to that characterization. After all, I'm retired and don't have to subject myself to daily ridicule from colleagues. Nor do I have to worry about being denied pay increases or promotions. The truth is, if I were still employed at the time of my first experience, I don't know that I would have had the courage to do what I did.

But I stand by my story, and am comforted by the hope that I have played even a small part in bringing our world closer to a future that will have more good in it for everyone.

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


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