Outward: Chapter 13: Conspiracy

Franklin Thomas squeezed the lectern and silently vowed revenge on the Boy Scouts for making today the worst day of his life.

Were a cooler head to prevail, he would have acknowledged that it really wasn’t their fault, and certainly not the fault of Troop Triple-Three to have booked the Quarterfield Holiday Inn Hotel and Conference Center for some jamboree or whatever it was Boy Scouts did when they weren’t camping on the date that the Quarterfield Ufologist and Extraterrestrialphile Society – Treesborough had originally planned to hold a conference to debate competing theories about what had really happened on the Mackinelly farm. But no, QUEST had had to settle for the following Saturday, which wouldn’t have been a problem ordinarily, except for the conference now was taking place a mere three days after the military had blown up Applied Optics Group Research and Development Headquarters.

He was taking a real beating up on the podium, and they had scarcely gotten past the opening remarks.

“Look,” he said, addressing the already-skeptical crowd seated before him, “we all acknowledge that the United States government has a history of covering up evidence of extraterrestrial activity on Earth. We may have our disagreements about which particular events they’ve been involved in,” he continued, trying to blunt his opponent’s observation that he himself had often sided with the official government position on most of those events, “but it’s unmistakable that there are things being kept from us, and for decades our voice has been clear, loud, and unwavering in its demand for the public release of the files we know sit buried in some bureaucrat’s desk drawer.”

Some murmurings of agreement came from the audience. Regardless of the topic, pandering to the crowd during a debate never hurt.

“But what I’m saying is,” Prof. Thomas continued, “is that in this particular instance, the government paid attention in its judo class, and decided to pretend to give us exactly what we’ve been clamoring for all this time, as part of a conspiracy to conceal a far greater truth from the American people!”

“What my esteemed colleague is trying to claim,” began his opponent, some basement dweller who insisted on going by his forum handle Gorlox74, allegedly because They would be able to find him if he used his real name in a public forum such as this, “is that the military’s unprecedented public response to yet another UFO landing was a premeditated act. This is absurd! The military got caught flat-footed, and failed to send the MIBs to make the problem disappear before a series of clear, focused photographs could be posted on the Internet and distributed worldwide. They had no choice in the matter when the UFO already had ten thousand fans on Facebook!”

“My opponent,” Prof. Thomas countered, privately cringing at the thought of using his ‘name’, “is claiming we witnessed a genuine response by the military when it recovered the UFO for ‘study’.”

“They knew full-well they could hardly call it swamp gas at that point. They merely needed to buy time to come up with a plan to make the problem go away.”

“The only problem here is that it’s not a UFO at all! As this image, taken the night before the crash, shows, an unidentified piece of space debris collided with a secret military satellite, causing its orbit to begin to decay uncontrollably. Furthermore, this computer simulation shows that that satellite, starting from its position at the time of the collision, would have landed within ten miles of its known crash site. The military rushed in to recover it once the crash site became known, using the cover story of an alien landing to hide the fact that it was one of their own satellites.”

“I can’t believe you expect us to buy any of that, considering how we all know the military bought you!” his opponent shouted, thrusting a finger in Prof. Thomas’s direction. The audience gasped. “That’s right, we all watched the news clips that show you having your ‘private discussions’ with the officer they sent to the landing site. Your whole crackpot theory about crashed satellites is precisely the cover story they were hoping to pass off on us! As though the military wouldn’t have just shot it down like the last one.”

“The simulation doesn’t lie!”

“It does if the person who wrote it does! Hell, they probably even gave you exactly the parameters to feed into it that would make their little fairy tale play itself out.”

“The satellite’s orbital parameters are public information!”

“Please. Who do you think publishes those, anyway?”

The crowd hadn’t exactly started with an open mind towards Prof. Thomas’s claims, and he could see the hinges working to close it the rest of the way.

“So how do you explain the photograph of the debris cloud, then?” Prof. Thomas asked.

“Photoshop, obviously. No one with their own photographs of the supposed collision has come forward. Your one photo could easily have been doctored.”

“Mr. Four,” Prof. Thomas sneered, addressing the audience, “seems to be forgetting that evidence — false as though it may be — against my position hardly counts as evidence supporting his own. Though I don’t recall him yet telling us what his explanation of events is.”

“It’s a case of two birds, one stone,” Gorlox74 smiled in reply. “And it’s really so self-evident that even I’m a little surprised that Mr. Ivory Tower over there needs it spelled out for him. But I would be happy to oblige.”

“Please do,” Prof. Thomas replied flatly.

“First, everyone knows Congress is trying to tighten its belt, and whose funding better to slash than an organization whose official mission is to deal with situations that the rest of the government claims not to exist? So they ‘slip up’ a bit, let Congress get a little taste of what happens if the cash doesn’t keep flowing, how they wouldn’t be able to keep coming up with new ways to hide alien activity. And it seems to have worked marvelously, too. I don’t suppose you’ve happened to check the latest draft appropriations bills?”

“I generally have better things to do. A job, for example.”

“Ha. Ha. Well, let’s just say the extra zero or two in their budget line will keep them in their jobs for quite some time.”

“Funny, I seem to recall just last month you claiming that funding for school lunch programs was cover for protection money being sent to the Grays.”

“There are many pies for their thumbs to be in. But no matter. The second point is strong enough to carry the day by itself.”

“Do tell.”

Gorlox74 nodded. “Child’s play. My Exhibit A is the crater left behind by the first public firing of the military’s until-a-few-days-ago-secret orbital ion cannon. Oh yes, priming the mainstream media with stories about alien devices breaching containment made sure they were all there to get it on film. A public demonstration of the military’s new toy, with a side of now the government’s saved you from the big bad aliens.”

“I don’t suppose you could enlighten me regarding any other times the military has demonstrated a new weapon system by leveling a civilian target.”

“Oh, I’m not claiming it’s standard practice. They just saw an opportunity and ran with it. They would’ve picked out some abandoned building otherwise. It’s not as though they were going to use it on al Qaeda right off the bat. Blowing up a cave doesn’t look nearly as impressive as leveling and vaporizing a seven-story building.

Prof. Thomas had to concede, though obviously not aloud, the aerial images that had been released were sobering. Where there had been a building, there simply wasn’t anymore. Instead there was a crater, filled with the melted and resolidified remnants of what hadn’t been simply obliterated by the blast, surrounded by the charred lumps of what had been trees incinerated by the sheer heat of the explosion.

What was scarier was how, according to the reports, the target being aimed at hadn’t even been the building itself; it was a point in the air above the being where the satellites had aimed their lasers — not ion cannons, but at this point there wasn’t much to be gained from correcting Gorlox74′s minor technical error — to superheat the air and trigger the fireball and shock wave.

And what was even scarier than that was the announcement that the defense contractor who had built the system in the first place had made the following day, but before Prof. Thomas had time to reflect on that, Gorlox74′s continued prattling regained his attention.

“But the most damning nail in the good professor’s coffin,” he was now saying, “is this. As I recall, your original forum announcement about your downed satellite ‘theory’ didn’t merely claim it was just a secret military satellite, did it?”

Prof. Thomas sighed. “No.”

“It had a name, didn’t it?”


“Do you remember what that name was?”


“And what was that name?”

He groaned. “MOJO-2.”

“MOJO-2. MOJO, MOJO, where I have heard that name before?” Gorlox74 said, pretending to search his memory. “Oh, that’s right. MOJO is the name of the orbital weapon the military used to destroy that building and, allegedly, the alien craft. Seemed like a pretty effective demonstration of a weapon that had supposedly crashed into the ground. Game, set, and match.”

Prof. Thomas slinked off the stage, accompanied by some jeers from the audience, and went straight for the door out of the conference room. His credibility in the ufologist community was pretty much dead and buried now. He had hoped he would’ve been able to leverage his initial cooperation with AFEXOCOM into some kind of inside access to get a glimpse of whatever the truth really was, but he burned that bridge by taking his findings to the ufologist community instead. Plus, the whole fiasco was hardly going to bolster his standing in the legitimate research community. Even with tenure, this latest foray into ufology wasn’t going to reflect particularly well on him.

Not unless he could find a lot of photographs to prove he was right after all.

Chapter word count: 1,698 (+31)
Total word count: 23,057 / 50,000 (46.114%)

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