This free sample of Invasion of the Orb Men by Paul Lagasse is provided with the compliments of Channel 37. If you enjoy it, please support the author by purchasing the e-book using the links at the end of the sample.
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Day One: Monday
From the June 13, 1952 issue of Flying Saucer Weekly, p. 15:
“A Mysterious Visitor from the Orb”
by Charles Neville
Flying Saucer Weekly Field Correspondent
USUALLY, THE EYEWITNESSES OF the strange objects spinning through our skies are the subjects of this magazine’s articles. However, this time it is your faithful correspondent who finds himself enmeshed in the enigma of the saucers — in a most thrilling and terrifying way!
Regular readers of Flying Saucer Weekly will remember our coverage of the Southwest Saucer Flap two months ago (“Dozens See Giant Object Cross Southwest,” in the April 10th number), in which was described a series of reports by many credible eyewitnesses — including a police officer and a flying instructor and his student — of a large silver-white cone-shaped object that blazed a trail high above Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas on Wednesday, January 18, 1952. The article generated much reader response, both from others who had seen the mysterious giant silver sphere but had been afraid to speak up for fear of ridicule, and from people offering their opinions and theories as to the nature of the object. But all of these responses paled in comparison to the visit your correspondent received from a terrifying stranger who threatened him to be silent about flying saucers!
It was a bright Monday morning two weeks ago when a knock on the door revealed a black-suited and -hatted agent from a mysterious and unknown organization called ‘The Orb.’ The agent, who was alone, beckoned your correspondent outside, toward his black Cadillac. Fearing he might be preparing to abduct me, I wisely chose not to approach but rather to stand in the middle of the yard. There, we spoke — or, more precisely, the mysterious man in black did all the talking, and warned me in the most threatening tones about the consequences of revealing the secrets of the Southwest Saucer to the unsuspecting public.
To make his point, the mystery visitor revealed factual details about the giant sphere that I had uncovered but did not include in the article!
The agent refused to divulge either his name or the nature of the organization for which he claimed to be working, though he wore a badge with the name “Orb” in English letters. From this clumsy maneuver, I surmised, perhaps the visitor had accidentally let slip his true nature — could he in fact have been a representative of an alien organization, imperfectly briefed on how to hide information from humans?
In these perilous times, threats can either turn away the cowardly or they can entice the brave to continue seeking answers. Your correspondent has opted for the latter course . . .
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Marian Mackenzie looked up from her typewriter as the outer office door creaked open. “Good Morning, Captain.”
Len Creeger removed his crush cap as he entered, then looked back through the door’s frosted pane . “Miss Mackenzie, I give up.”
“I’ve varied my arrival times, changed the way I walk, tried opening the door faster and slower. Yet you always know it’s me before I even make it through the door.” He looked again. The half-pane window was just as opaque as ever — except, apparently, to Miss Mackenzie. “How do you do it?”
Miss Mackenzie shrugged. “Isn’t that what a good secretary is supposed to do, sir? Know everything?” She picked up a stack of mail and news clippings from her desk and stood up to hand it to him. “At least some people make it easy. General Horn’s pipe is a dead giveaway.”
Creeger flipped through the stack of interoffice envelopes. “Your reputation as Project Grudge’s greatest tactical asset remains secure, Miss Mackenzie. Anything interesting in here?”
“No, sir, routine paperwork, along with last week’s newspaper clippings and the latest magazines.”
Creeger looked at the cover sheet accompanying the clippings. “Miss Mackenzie, it’s enough to just clip these stories for me and the analysts. You don’t need to type up summaries of each one, you know.” He waved the stack.
She shrugged again, more coyly this time. “I’m a fast typist, sir.”
Creeger nodded. “A skill our chronically tardy team has come to rely on.” Leave it to me to complain about someone doing a good job, he thought. “Anything else?”
She handed Creeger a fresh pack of Wrigley’s Spearmint.
“Thirty seconds in the door and you’re already saving my life.” Creeger stuck the pack in his breast pocket.
Miss Mackenzie’s smile hinted at a wisdom beyond her 21 years. “Mister Langford is in your office already.”
Creeger glanced around the work area overlooked by Miss Mackenzie’s desk, his smile fading fast. The six desks were still empty; the rest of the team had yet to arrive. “He’s curious about how Friday’s meeting went, I’ll bet.”
“Yes, sir.” She hesitated as Creeger turned toward his office. “How are you feeling this morning, Captain?”
“Oh, the same as every Monday lately,” Creeger called back as he walked toward his door. “Disappointed to find the world just where I left it Friday night.”
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Creeger rapped on the doorframe as he walked into his office. “Morning, Carl.”
Carl Langford unfolded his tall frame from his chair and straightened his tie. “Hi, Len. Slept badly too, I take it?”
Creeger grunted as he dropped the mail on the filing cabinet by the door and tossed his cap onto the coat rack. “I was staring at the empty fireplace until about three and then fell asleep face down on the coffee table.”
Miss Mackenzie appeared in the doorway with two fresh cups of coffee.
“Thank you. You’re a lifesaver. Again.” Creeger took his cup with him as he moved behind his desk and sat down. Langford thanked Miss Mackenzie as he took his cup in turn and sat back down in front of Creeger’s desk.
“Well, boss, what’s the damage report?”
Creeger took a healthy swallow of the coffee, letting the burning liquid clear his throat for him. “According to General Horn, several senior officers from the Pentagon have scheduled a meeting on Wednesday morning to discuss the future of Project Grudge with me. He explained,” Creeger emphasized the word, “that, while no formal decisions have been made yet, there is a strong possibility — this is a direct quote by the way — Project Grudge will be reorganized to serve the much less staff- and budget-intensive function of a clearinghouse for distributing debunked flying saucer reports to the press. No more field investigations by intelligence analysts of eyewitness reports. No more detailed case studies. I was strongly encouraged to inform the team of the likely outcome prior to Wednesday’s meeting.”
Langford whistled softly. “That doesn’t leave us with much, does it?”
Creeger massaged his temples, which were already throbbing. His eyes drifted across his desk to the Toby jug where he stashed his fountain pens — a ceramic rendition of a pugnacious Winston Churchill, a gift from an English farmer into whose field Creeger had belly-landed his B-17 after a bombing mission to Germany, with two engines aflame and half a tail missing. That was already six years, and another war, ago.
When he had been recalled to active duty two years earlier, in the rush immediately following the North Korean army’s crossing of the 38th parallel, Creeger had expected to be assigned to Davis-Monthan or maybe even MacDill — the sprawling air bases constituting the front lines of Strategic Air Command. That was where the thundering herds of B-36 intercontinental bombers grazed, and where the latest gleaming silver swept-wing Boeing Stratojets would soon be roosting.
Where, in other words, modern bomber pilots went to war.
Instead, Creeger had been surprised to find himself assigned to a desk job at the Air Technical Intelligence Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, in suburban southwest Ohio — about as far from a front-line base as if he had been assigned to a radar picket station in Nome. He had been even more surprised to find his new commander was General John Horn, who had commanded the bomb group that included Creeger’s squadron. After V-E Day, “Black Jack” Horn had stayed in the service and earned his second star while Creeger had gone back to his old job at West Central Airways. Horn had admitted to Creeger that he pulled some strings to get him assigned to take over the Air Force’s investigation of the then-new flying saucer phenomenon.
At their first meeting Horn had poured on the charm, praising Creeger’s analytical skills. Things like speed, distance, and altitude, are easy to misinterpret even for an expert. You look up and see something roar overhead at high speed, you don’t have time to make precise calculations. You get an impression, and afterwards your imagination fills in the blanks. That’s why I need you, Len. You know the difference. You know when to trust what you’re seeing, and when to suspect it. You’d be surprised how many people can’t do that.
It was a masterful sales pitch, and Creeger found he couldn’t say no to his old boss. So he pulled together an excellent team of civilian analysts, found Miss Mackenzie to keep the paperwork in order, and for two years they had been doing good work against some long odds. Creeger was proud of his team, which over time had become as tightly knit and reliable as his old bomber squadron.
That’s why Friday’s meeting had felt like more than just a change of assignment. It had hit Creeger like a personal betrayal.
“At the meeting, I reminded General Horn that he had brought me in here to conduct a systematic investigation of flying saucer sightings in order to provide the Air Force with intelligence assessments so they could figure out how the hell to respond to them,” Creeger continued. “But he keeps reminding me flying saucers are getting too much attention in the newspapers, on the radio, in movies about bug-eyed monsters from outer space, people being disintegrated by death rays, spaceships landing in corn fields. So now he wants regular press releases showing how many sightings we’ve debunked every week, not detailed analyses and investigations.”
Langford pondered for a moment. “I’m missing the good general’s logic. Wouldn’t the press and everyone else pay less attention to flying saucers if we could identify what they really are?”
“You civilian types keep forgetting we’re dealing with the military mind here.” Creeger sighed. “Besides, two years into this and we still don’t have a clue what they are, or even if they are. Maybe Horn is right.”
Langford conceded the point and took a sip of coffee. “But I thought he took flying saucers seriously?”
Creeger waved his cup in disgust. “He did, at first. You remember how much discretion we used to have. Budget. Staffing. Hell, even more filing cabinets on demand. But apparently the Pentagon didn’t think we were returning the favor, and now they’re turning the screws on him. And so now you’ll have to go and find yourself a real job. As for me, I still have a year before I can get back to West Central Airways.” He put down his cup hard enough to splash the last dregs. Langford wiped an eye.
Langford dismissed the apology with a shake of his head. “The staffing situation is easy enough to solve. We’ll simply inform General Horn we’re letting Cranston, Hollings, and Martin go.”
Creeger looked up from wiping the spilled coffee. “They work upstairs in Soviet propulsion.”
Langford’s face expressed puzzlement. “Really? Well then, by the time Miss Mackenzie clears up the paperwork confusion …”
“Clears up?” Creeger was smiling despite himself.
Langford’s hand dismissed the point with a wave. “Creates it, clears it up, it’s a pedant’s distinction anyway.”
“You want to recruit dear Miss Mackenzie into your nefarious little scheme?”
“For such an innocent young lady, she has developed quite a thorough grasp of the ins and especially the outs of the ATIC paperwork system. You should consider making use of her surprisingly vast knowledge from time to time, Len. As I have.”
“I won’t ask.” Creeger’s laughter was interrupted by the sound of tapping on his office doorframe. Both men looked up. Miss Mackenzie stood in the doorway.
“Speak of the devil.”
Miss Mackenzie wrinkled her nose playfully at Langford’s comment. “Sorry to disturb you, sir, but there’s a Tom Kiley from the Office of Research Balloons on the phone. He’s hoping he can come up and have a minute of your time.”
Creeger’s smile immediately turned to a frown. “The morning just keeps getting better, doesn’t it?” He threw the coffee-soaked napkin into the trash can next to his desk. “Did he say what it’s about?”
“No sir, he said it was a classified matter and he needed to speak to you privately.”
Creeger sighed, then nodded. “Tell him I can squeeze him in between meetings if he can get over here right now, will you, Miss Mackenzie?”
“Certainly, sir.” She closed the door behind her.
Creeger scowled at his desk. “You know Kiley?”
“Only by reputation. Civilian head of security for the Air Force’s high-altitude research balloons. Zealous. I think some would even say paranoid.”
“The whole lot of them are. I can’t stand them.”
“I didn’t know you’ve dealt with them.”
Creeger nodded slowly. “Ever hear of John Blakely? Your predecessor. Project Grudge’s first senior analyst.”
Langford thought for a moment. “Only that he had to retire early.”
“Something like that. He was investigating some flying saucer sightings in the desert Southwest. He had suspected they were Air Force balloons, so naturally he contacted the O.R.B. to see if the could confirm his hunch. But they raised a stink, threw up all kinds of bureaucratic barriers, even went running to General Horn saying we were putting national security at risk.”
Langford’s eyebrows went up. “That’s quite an overreaction.”
Creeger nodded again. “I told Blakely to just classify it as a ‘probable weather balloon’ and file his report away and forget about it. Solved everything until six months later, when we issued a press release summarizing our latest batch of closed investigations. Purely routine, just like we always do.”
Creeger refilled his coffee and took a long swig to wash away the taste of the memory. “Of course, one of the cases was Blakely’s probable weather balloon. No one here, including me, thought much of it. But when O.R.B. found out, they went running back to General Horn and insisted he be reassigned. Accused him of divulging classified information. I went to Horn, but the decision had already been made. Blakely was out a week later. I couldn’t do anything to save the man.”
“Poor John. A nicer, kinder man you will never meet. It just broke him. Ended up having a nervous breakdown. Started imagining he was being followed wherever he went. Called me up one night, almost crying, going on about a black Buick that had followed him home and was parked across the street. I drove right over but of course there wasn’t anything there.”
“Where is he now?”
Creeger drained the rest of the scalding brew in a single draft. “Died of a heart attack about three months later. Wife, two kids. Bastards.” The memory of Carolyn Blakely’s blank expression during the graveside service caused Creeger to shiver. She had been so heavily sedated she couldn’t comfort her two sobbing boys.
Langford was silent for a long time. “I’m sorry, Len.”
“No one here likes to talk about it.” Creeger shrugged. “Things have never been the same between Horn and me since then.” Suddenly remembering the day’s more immediate concern, Creeger tried again to massage the misery out of his temples. “Horn.”
Creeger’s headache didn’t go away, so he stood and poured the rest of the coffee into Langford’s proffered cup and his own. The two men sipped in silence.
Several minutes later, Miss Mackenzie knocked and opened the door. “Mister Kiley, sir.”
Langford stood up to leave. “Lunch?”
Creeger shrugged. “Maybe.”
“I’m buying this time.”
Creeger feigned shock, and Langford chuckled on his way out the door.
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