It was truly a scene out of Close Encounters as…
… a swarm of aircraft, bulging with cadres of medical and mercenary personnel and masses of equipment, descended upon an undisclosed, deserted military installation deep in the Arizona desert. A flight of Apache, Blackhawk and Cobra firebirds led by the state-of-the-art Sikorsky high-speed X2 Coaxial helicopter touched down in front of the airport tower. The facility had been abandoned for twenty-seven years and due to the barren region’s creeping, physical encroachment, the flock of spinning rotor blades churned up a grainy haze of grit and grime through which scores of Barrgrave’s security forces spilled out onto the tarmac. Several C-17 cargo planes and a C-130J Hercules touched down on runway Two-Five Right and quickly disgorged their payloads of trucks; Humvees and other vehicles; advanced weaponry; meals ready to eat and high-tech generators that would pour new electric life into the weather-worn complex. The wheels of the last arrival, a special C-5A, gently squeaked onto and re-inaugurated Two–Five-Left, the longest landing strip which stretched out nearly three miles. The Lockheed Galaxy heavy airlift transport was laden with an additional assortment of vehicles, hospital equipment and an extraordinary hominid specimen. The autopsy was scheduled for early morning and so the base hospital hummed throughout the night in a hive-like cluster of activity connected with the rapid installation of the most advanced medical and laboratory apparatus available.
At 0700, the scene in the operating theater was reminiscent of a Roswellian publicity stunt except that there were no little gray aliens. Dax Wolf, in surgical garb, blended in with the dozen or so masked and scrubbed doctors and technicians buzzing around the surgical table. His ID badge identified him as Dr. Wolfson, M.D. Zack stood near the left corner of the head end of the operating table and the visitor’s name tag which adorned the left breast pocket of his white laboratory coat, read: Isaac Ludlow Carver, Ph.D. Having refused to go completely military, Zack was wearing standard desert fatigues under the lab coat which was partially open, revealing the ‘Archeology<>Dig it!’ belt buckle. Though he declined putting on the obligatory operating room scrubs, he did wear a surgical mask. Leslee, with the appropriate identification, was also wearing military fatigues and was observing from an adjacent viewing area as the procedure began.
Colonel Avery Thompson, the lead pathologist, prepared to zip the plastic morgue bag open. “There may be some foul odors,” the doctor cautioned as he slid the zipper down the length of the body bag. Unnoticed, the weightless rectangular alien device in Zack’s breast pocket behind the vinyl pen holder began to emit a barely discernible infra-red glow. Several of the medical personnel struggled to raise the corpse slightly so that the body bag could be slid out of the way. They ultimately had to accomplish the task in small increments and in spite of Dr. Thompson’s warning, there were no offensive smells. The five-foot nine-inch, 250-pound corpse of Ahneevah was now stretched out on the operating table. Her weight was puzzling because of the assumed absence of body fluids and also that her frame was rather willowy and did not seem to possess an ounce of fat. A human female of her proportions would weigh no more than 140 pounds. How could the additional 110 pounds be explained? The anxious, highly-paid Barrgrave team of pathologists was drooling at the prospect of cutting into the incredible assemblage of protoplasm that was spread in front of them.
A technician carefully detached the flight-helmet and lifted it. He was surprised to find that it took hardly any effort and at the precise moment he began to move it clear of the cadaver’s head, the opaque 270 degree wrap-around face-shield dematerialized and a cascade of translucent, honey-colored hair spilled out onto the subject’s shoulders and over her face. The procedure was halted for a moment so that everyone could catch their breath. Surprisingly, the exposed hair gave off a familiar sweet fragrance which seemed to counter the strong medicinal odors in the austere, antiseptic surroundings. The framework of the helmet, without the frozen plasma face-shield, folded itself into a single thin filament. When the technician gave it to Thompson, the doctor hefted it a few times and his face registered a curious surprise.
“It has mass but doesn’t seem to have any weight,” he reported and put the object on an instrument table. Zack eyed Leslee knowingly. Leslee raised one eyebrow and pointed back in a ‘got it’ gesture.
One of the nurses, Lieutenant Marla Fredericks, carefully brushed the amber strands aside and all in attendance stood in further amazement as the pilot’s face was revealed. They expected to see bone or perhaps a dried out, leathery, mummy-like visage. Incredibly, their eyes fell on a stunning combination of finely sculpted and smooth textured feminine features. The nose was small and seemed to almost melt into high cheekbones. Her skin tone resembled the pastel lavender hue of summer lilacs and her lips were full and approximately the shade of pale violets. Zack sniffed the air several times. It was a familiar aroma.
“I swear I can pick up a sweet honey-like scent,” he said as he leaned closer to the alien and then took a few sniffs. “Jeez … she smells like a … a vanilla bean.”
The flight suit had no discernible fastening system. No buttons, zippers or hooks of any sort. “Let’s get in there for a closer look,” Colonel Thompson ordered. “We’ll just cut the jump suit away.”
That step turned out to be more problematic than the colonel anticipated. Nothing that was attempted would completely penetrate the multi-layered material. The titanium scalpels, dissecting scissors and even a surgical bone-saw were not up to the task. The instant the blades touched the surface layer of the garment, the fabric separated and moved out of the way. Then the material recombined immediately after the cutting edge broke contact with it.
Zack shot a quick look at Leslee and motioned with his head and eyes for her to join him. When she got to her feet to do so, Dr. Thompson raised an objection but Leslee, nonetheless, glided toward Zack. As she approached, Zack could see that her segment of the dual rectangular mechanism in Leslee’s fatigue pants pocket also took on the barely perceptible infra-red glow.
“I think it might need a woman’s touch,” he whispered.
Leslee remembered the way the teardrop craft and the pair of mini-monolithic objects reacted to her presence and nodded her concurrence. She carefully placed her hand near the aviator’s chin and ran it down the front of the flight suit which to everyone’s surprise, peeled apart. Then a chorus of mild gasps was raised when the opened flying uniform revealed that the subject wore no underclothes whatsoever and her light-lavender body was strikingly perfect.
It took almost all of the OR supporting staff to actually raise the heavy corpse so that the garment could be removed. The doctor observed that the flight suit also had no discernible weight, and then everyone in the operating theater watched in amazement as the open flaps re-engaged.
When one of the support staff tried over and over to fold it, the unique article of clothing kept returning to the shape that it had when it was being worn. Finally the befuddled tech leaned the uniform against the MRI console where it initiated a self-cleaning process. Every vestige of heat damage quickly vanished, making the billion year old item appear brand-new. In the meantime, Leslee had already removed the gloves and boots from the remarkable specimen and all agreed that except for her unusual coloring the entity certainly could pass as a contemporary female. Along with the fine features were graceful arms and shoulders, hands with four long fingers and an opposable thumb, two legs with musculature and bone structure similar to their human counterpart and feet containing five toes. The subject also had mammary glands and a vaginal opening. An X-ray was attempted, but when it was switched on, the machine shut down instantly due to an inexplicable power malfunction. Despite the efforts by the group of well-trained technicians, the hi-tech device refused to light up again.
Next, an MRI examination was tried. At the outset, it revealed that Ahneevah was made of the same stardust that all humans were made of, albeit designed quite differently. Though female, this specimen bore striking differences to the physical make-up of contemporary women. She had no discernible uterus but there were some small, unrecognizable vestigial organs located where a reproductive system might have been. This led to the initial theory that the females of this alien race nursed their young but did not bear them. But that was it for the MRI.
Suddenly, the costly state-of-the-art piece of equipment shorted out and shut down along with all the lights, security cameras and the digital video cameras recording the procedure. The stand-by generator kicked in almost immediately and the emergency lighting system snapped on, but not one of the pieces of advanced medical apparatus issued another beep or blip. Nurse Fredericks turned to Colonel Thompson. “Colonel, I could swear that I saw a red, flashing glow on the skin surface of the subject’s left arm right before everything went dead.” Dr. Thompson quickly disabused her of that notion. “No,” he corrected her. “It was just a reflection of one of the various illuminated panels.” Zack and Leslee knew that something unusual definitely did occur on Ahneevah’s arm. “The only way we are certain to find out anything more about this alien creature is to start cutting,” Thompson declared.
“Doctor, I think you should consider the possibility that nothing pertaining to this creature can be certain,” Leslee cautioned.
“No, not a damned thing,” Zack added.
Had the MRI examination been able to continue, the entire medical team would have been astounded by the organic intricacies that were inherent within the extraordinary molecular miracle that was stretched out before them. She was an extremely efficient physical machine. Her respiration system required the absorption of oxy-nitrogen compounds only about once every ten minutes. Having no specific pulmonary organs, her entire upper body served as a storage reservoir where measured quantities of the required biological combustion elements passed osmotically through microscopic valve-like apertures in her torso. Pollutants and other extraneous gases were completely filtered out by these respiratory gateways as well as by a unique array of nasal passage barriers. The O2 and N2 permeated her chest area and dissolved in her plasmodic fluid through every organ and every cell within the wall of her chest. Her circulatory system was peristaltic and structured with muscled artery and vein-like vessels. These vascular channels were capable of thousands of micro-contractions per minute and efficiently moved blood throughout her system with minimal or no use of the central cardio-impeller. Unlike a human heart, Ahneevah’s main circulating pump had a standard rate of only three pulses per minute and was basically held in reserve except for extreme circumstances. Her brain, though smaller than a human brain, was twice as dense and protected from most traumas by a series of three inner skull structures. The cerebral mass was used mainly for thought but also served as a backup to her motor processes. She was not hard-wired and had no direct-connection neural-pathways. Messages that stimulated body motion and responses were sent at light speed via biologically induced nano-wave transmissions with billions of variable coded frequencies. They emanated from an auxiliary cerebral substation in the spinal area and skipped along a sequence of interspersed silicon flecks that served as relays which sent signals that induced action—that is, the chosen voluntary or automatic response. Each fleck served as part of micro-broadcast network. In the event that one or a number of these stand-alone beacons were damaged or ceased to function, others picked up and dispatched the neural signals until replacements were reproduced by her body. These nano-wave signals could also be transmitted in an extra-corporeal manner by electrostatic projection and touch. This allowed her to effect discharges of ambient electronic impulses within a limited range. Her hearing adjusted to the volume, tone and pitch of sounds and her visual receptors compensated for bright and reduced light conditions in milliseconds. The two concentric pupils in each of her emerald irises had distinct functions. One served as a zoom lens and the other took in the general landscape. Also her two extra-wide, almost wrap-around eye sockets allowed her to expand her angle of view through a panoramic arc encompassing three-quarters of a circumference, in excess of a 270-degree peripheral vision. Finally, due to her extensive conscious levels, she was able to override almost all of her involuntary bodily functions such as plasmodic flow, peristaltic rate and glandular secretion, and bring them under voluntary control.
When the scalpel was placed at the top of Ahneevah’s sternum and was about to bite into the Sharpie dotted line drawn down the center of her rib cage, her hand seemed to twitch. Nurse Fredericks dropped a bone cutter and shrieked.
The others tried to reassure the spooked nurse that nothing was amiss. However, that attempt went down in flames when the autopsy subject’s arm rose and her long and powerful fingers wrapped around the hand wielding the surgical tool and in one swift motion twisted it away from her breast bone, turned it up, and raised the cutting edge of the stainless steel blade to less than a centimeter from Colonel Thompson’s throat. The pathologist released the instrument and it clinked and clattered on the concrete floor after which the alien’s arm dropped back on to the table. The already highly-agitated Nurse Fredericks promptly fainted.
Zack pulled his mask down and shouted, “Get some new monitoring instruments and life support over here.” Like the proverbial deer caught in the headlights, almost everyone froze where they stood. Finally, Zack screamed out, “STAT!” This shook the medical group out of their iced-up state and they hurriedly scattered in all directions to comply with Zack’s order.
Dax Wolf used the commotion to snatch a strand of Ahneevah’s tawny tresses which was clinging to the table near her head. He slipped it in the thumb of a surgical glove while his mind was conjuring breakthrough theories about how to identify and categorize this alien female.
As quickly as the new battery of high-end medical electronics Zack had demanded were put in place, it became apparent that this second round of apparatus could survive no better than the first group. Every piece of radiological equipment within her aura suffered an instant meltdown and was reduced to a pile of electronic junk. No readouts were possible. Stethoscopes and manual examination revealed no discernible heartbeat, pulse, or breathing.
Then the debate began. General Mitchell asked stoically, “Is she alive?”
One of the doctors shrugged his shoulders, baffled and Mitchell continued, “If she isn’t living, how in the hell could she defend herself?”
“What caused her hand to move and stop the scalpel?” The still unsteady Nurse Fredericks said hazily as she was being helped to her feet. “It could have been an automatic response,” offered another doctor.
It was impossible for any of those present to suspect that Ahneevah’s self-defense action was totally disconnected from any kind of known consciousness. It had occurred on a secondary, quasi-cellular level, a level at which their current understanding of anatomical neural science did not reach. The two rectangular instruments in Leslee’s and Zack’s possession digitally stimulated one or more of Ahneevah’s multiple mind tracks to induce animation and then reversed the intruding particles from the X-ray and MRI and concentrated their force to short out the highly advanced medical equipment. Leslee sidled toward Zack. Without taking her eyes off Ahneevah’s inanimate form she cleared her throat and spoke in subdued tones out of the corner of her mouth.
“I have to tell you. I always wondered what it would feel like to be Alice … now I know.”
Zack inched over to her. “Alice?”
Leslee’s focus continued to remain locked on Ahneevah. “Yeah, you know—Alice … as in Wonderland. I mean the stuff that’s going on here makes the Mad Tea Party look like a milk and cookie minute at a nursery school.” Zack was still not completely on the page and Leslee motioned for him to lean in closer. “Did I ever mention that in my second year at Berkeley Law I got a summer job at the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office?” Leslee whispered. “I called it my season of the deceased. I saw nineteen dead bodies, and believe me; I know what a dead body looks like … and I have a nagging suspicion that this,” she said as she waved her arm down the length of the exquisite figure on the table, “isn’t one of them. I mean … look at her color. She’s light lavender for God’s sake. Now, if she were Barney the Dinosaur, I’d think she was a tad pale. But at this point in time she certainly doesn’t look like a corpse. And that bit with the hand coming up to put the kibosh on the autopsy—she definitely doesn’t act like a corpse. And corpses don’t usually smell like…” Leslee sniffed the air several times. “…like the Shalimar counter at Neiman’s. You do know where I’m going with this?”
Zack blew out some air. “Where no one has gone before,” he said.
At forty-five thousand feet above the desert floor the otherwise placid morning sky was traumatized by the shrill whine, brilliant flash and thunderous roar of the General Electric F414-GE 400 afterburners being sprayed with JP-10 jet fuel. An F/A-18F Hornet Trainer was carrying Dax Wolf as the back-seater to Columbus, Ohio. Wolf hated to leave the base but with the Hornet he knew he could get to Columbus, do his research and return within twenty-four hours. He was positive that only some solo time with the powerful Titan Transmission Electron microscope at Ohio State University would permit him to conduct a proper analysis of the honey-hued length of the female alien’s hair.