The train eased slowly out of the blackness of the desert night into the spotlights. As the three locomotives hissed steam, soldiers piled off the train and rushed away to form a perimeter.
Newton Chadwick stood with the small knot of civilians under the lights looking up at the giant black shroud that covered the flatbed car behind the engines. It was huge, rising over seventy feet in the air.
A dozen workers in hard hats stripped the protective shroud off the large, circular object on the flatcar. Then they began the task of rigging a harness so that the crane permanently mounted beside the track-one normally used to handle steel girders used to construct towers to test nuclear weapons-could off-load the object onto a waiting lowboy.
The senior civilian turned and solemnly shook hands with each of his colleagues. Newton Chadwick was the youngest of the group, just twenty-two. A child prodigy, genius and physics superstar, he had been thrown out of four universities for drunkenness, antisocial behavior, lewd and lascivious conduct and, at the last institution, burning down his dormitory when an unattended still in the attic caught fire.
Newton was tall, pencil-thin and gawky, with flaming red hair and an awesome collection of freckles. His father, a wealthy distributor of soda fountain equipment, had been unable to overlook the obvious fact that the youngster bore no physical resemblance to him or any of his relatives. Blaming the boy's mother, the soda fountain magnate dumped several million in a trust fund and booted young Newton out into the unsuspecting world.
Newton's odyssey after his traumatic emancipation is beyond the scope of this work. Suffice it to say that after many and diverse adventures, he was recruited by a former professor who knew the quality of the boy's mind to assist in the examination and testing of captured German rockets and the development of American ones. The professor told a variety of well-intentioned lies to the authorities, who granted Newton an interim security clearance.
Tonight, as he stood in the Nevada desert surrounded by his colleagues, all of whom possessed a breathtaking collection of academic degrees, young Newton ignored the senior scientist's comments and stared at the flying saucer being off-loaded onto the lowboy.
A flying saucer! Who would have suspected that such a thing really existed?
"It was recovered in New Mexico, I heard," one man, a Harvard Ph.D., said. "Near Roswell, after one of these things crashed during an electrical storm."
"You don't believe that, do you?" another responded. "That's just a cover story."
"But where are the people who flew it?"
"They'll never tell us."
"They're probably locked up somewhere, being interrogated."
"It's a Nazi bomber. That's the only logical explanation."
Even at his tender age, Newton Chadwick understood that the government was perfectly capable of lying to the public, and probably had.
How the saucer came to earth and into the government's possession was immaterial. The reality was that it was right there before his eyes, a massive physical presence straight out of a Buck Rogers comic book.
The color was dark, almost as black as the night that surrounded them. The spotlights reflected from the smooth, polished surface in little pinpoints of brilliant light. The saucer was, Newton estimated, about ninety feet in diameter, perhaps a dozen feet thick in the middle, feathered toward the edges into a perfectly round, smooth leading edge. The three massive struts upon which it sat jutted from the belly. On the bottom of the struts were pads, not wheels. Protruding from the saucer's edge, covering an area of about fifteen degrees of its circumference, were four rocket nozzles, each perhaps fifteen inches in diameter. The landing gear struts and rocket nozzles were the only imperfections in the perfect oval shape that Newton could see from his vantage point.
"It's German, no doubt about it," one of the scientists insisted. "The government is trying to keep it under wraps. They don't want Uncle Joe Stalin to hear about it."
Newton thought that hypothesis highly unlikely, but he held his tongue. The German rockets that he had spent the last six months examining were much cruder in appearance than this … this sleek, ominous, perfectly round black shape. Neither Soviet nor German industry was capable of manufacturing anything like this. Nor was American industry-or any industrial establishment on the planet. On this planet.
The saucer wasn't from this planet! That realization crystallized in Newton's mind.
But if it wasn't made on earth, then where?
It must have been flown here. By whom?
" … An opportunity of a lifetime," the senior man was saying. He rubbed his hands in excited anticipation.