‘That first domino began an endless chain of events that cannot be escaped …
not by the limitlessness of space,
nor even by the end of time itself …’
637th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron
Long Beach, Southern California
1710 hours – July 3, 1947.
‘Warning to unidentified aircraft, you have entered United States airspace. Please identify … over.’
Half a dozen crew sat at dimly lit workstations; their facial features accentuated by the soft glows coming from radar screens. Nobody had noticed Betty’s withdrawal from the conversation that had turned to the following day’s Fourth of July celebrations and planned holiday weekend activities.
‘We’re taking the kids to Coronado … sort of a tradition.’
‘Ahhh, that explains why there’s no fish.’
Hunched over a screen with hands clasped tightly over her headphones in a vain attempt to block out their chatter, Lieutenant Betty Fielding struggled to hear over static that washed like waves onto a shore. Could it mask a response? She lifted her head above the screen partitions to address the other team members through a thick haze of cigarette smoke being dispersed by the rhythmic pulse of an overhead fan.
‘Shut up will you, please? I can’t hear.’
The high-tech radar installation’s crew abandoned their stations and rushed over. An aircraft had entered the United States at extreme velocity and altitude. Crossing the US/Mexico border about fifty miles inland from the western coastline, the contact was heading north at an altitude greater than 70,000 feet.
‘… please identify,’ Betty repeated, more forcefully this time. She tweaked the radar’s settings with unsteady fingers, acutely aware of her actions being scrutinized from behind. ‘Over.’
‘Go find the CO,’ someone ordered. Outside daylight burst into the murky room as the youngest member of the team rushed out the door.
Just seven weeks operational, the 637th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron boasted the highest signal-processing radar detection technology operating anywhere in the world. Rumors that the Soviet Union possessed captured Nazi Germany’s advanced military technology meant that the facility was on permanent high alert securing the southwestern United States border.
An additional assignment that day was to monitor air traffic that might compromise top-secret aircraft and missile testing being undertaken by the Air Force Flight Test Centre based at Muroc Army Airfield, about a hundred miles to the north. Actual testing only took place in restricted airspace around the Nevada Test and Training Range. Betty suspected that the intruder’s purpose had something to do with the tests, but …
‘Some sort of surveillance aircraft?’
‘It’s heading away from densely populated regions … a nuclear demonstration maybe?’
‘Quiet,’ warned Betty. ‘I need to concentrate.’
‘You’re right. The isolated destination … it can only mean one thing.’
‘Minimal collateral damage.’
‘That’s it!’ Betty ripped off her headphones and swung around. ‘If you don’t shut up, I swear …’
The entrance burst open to announce the Commanding Officer who forced his way through to stand behind and to Betty’s right.
‘Colonel, an unidentified aircraft isn’t responding to my broadcasts.’
‘Jesus H. Christ! Do we have anything that fast?’ It was meant as a rhetorical question.
‘It was much faster when I first detected it, sir … more than Mach 2. It’s steadied now to a little under Mach 1.’
‘Descending. It crossed the border at 72,000 feet, but it’ll drop through 50,000 any moment. Sir, it’s heading directly towards the Nevada no-fly zone and today’s testing. Maintaining current speed, it’ll enter restricted airspace in about fifteen minutes.’ She swiveled her chair to look up at her CO. ‘Could this be an attack, sir?’
‘Get me the officer in charge of testing over at Muroc. Pronto!’
Muroc Army Airfield
(Later to be known as Edwards Air Force Base)
Kern County, Southern California
Air Force Flight Test Centre Commanding Officer, Colonel James “Raffy” Rafter, stood alone on the control tower outside viewing platform to witness the spectacular display of man defying nature. The potent sweet scent of high-octane fuel added to his sense of awe and rush of adrenalin as thunderous reverberations from aircraft taking off, landing, and racing across the skies disturbed the air. Wearing thick-framed black sunglasses and smoking his favorite “MacArthur” pipe, the decorated war-time hero sometimes imagined himself looking a bit like the famous general himself.
‘Make your move, damnit.’
Rafter’s heart skipped momentarily as a heavily laden B-29 Superfortress hesitated before conceding to flight; its wheels breaking free from the tarmac with nothing to spare. I love this shit.
Rafter commanded an operation intrinsic to the integration of captured Nazi aerial warfare technologies. Groom Lake Airfield and its infrastructure situated at the isolated Nevada Testing Range were undergoing major upgrades in readiness to become the new home for the Air Force Flight Test Centre’s top-secret operations. The next major test exercise would be based there, solely under his command, with testing in full view of the Groom Lake flight tower. Thinking about that approaching day brought him immense pride. In preparation for the move, he’d insisted on clear demarcations for authority to act in all matters of security. His command now conferred exceptional autonomy and personal authority to defend the Groom Lake project … power that was the envy of many of his superiors.
‘… urgent call, Colonel Rafter.’
Lost in thought, taking in the “awesomeness” of his command, he barely caught his name being paged from the loudspeaker above. Rushing inside to the nearest telephone, he took the call from the 637th Commanding Officer. That’s it then … the rumors are true. The Soviets are well ahead of us.
The attempt to spy on his testing program, would not go unanswered. Time was short, too short to launch an intercept from Muroc. Several propeller-driven aircraft were in the area to monitor the tests, but they were slow and not armed. The B-29 that had just taken off for the Nevada testing range presented his best and only option. Inside the massive B-29’s bowel ready for launch was a missile-equipped experimental Bell X-1 jet. By chance, this aircraft had been chosen to carry new top-secret experimental Aim-4 Falcon air-to-air heat-seeking missiles. Rafter didn’t hesitate; the X-1 would make a stand.
The Bell Aircraft Corporation X-1 wasn’t designed to carry weapons. However, this highly modified X-1 had been prepared for transonic testing in simulated battle conditions to understand the altered aerodynamics of carrying underwing-mounted missiles. Never previously fired from any aircraft, the missiles were deemed to be functional, if not proven.
Rafter pondered the incredible audacity of the attempt to infiltrate his top-secret testing … some sort of demonstration of Soviet superiority? It was a dangerous, hostile, and unprovoked intrusion, and the exceptional level of technology on display was concerning … his worst fears of the enemy’s capabilities. We can’t afford to show weakness. His determination … bring the bogey down before it entered the restricted zone.
As an aircraft specifically designed for development and testing, the X-1 didn’t carry on-board radar. Back at the 637th, Betty set about the task of calculating an intercept solution. The behavior of this mysterious intruder wasn’t what might be expected from a hostile enemy. The aircraft descended steadily and predictably as if unconcerned about anything the US military might throw up against it. The B-29 would need to steer a course towards the Nevada Testing Range until gaining an altitude of 10,000 feet at which point it would drop-launch the X-1. Projected intercept would take place in approximately eight minutes, forty miles northwest of Las Vegas.
Check out the blurb for this project on my homepage.
Interest is building …
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About the first book:
For most of his adult life, Evan Armstrong has been afflicted by strange dreams that warn of an apocalyptic future. A traumatic incident ends the dreams, to be replaced by fractured memories of something he was never meant to remember.
With his time drawing near, Evan reaches out as he realizes that back in Roswell, 1947 … they made a huge mistake!
“We should never have trusted the aliens”
Julius “Caesar” Romeo, has a secret passion … he loves to chase aliens. A world-famous lateral thinking entrepreneur, Julius considers his meeting with Evan to be a coincidence, but as their time together forges a powerful friendship, Julius realizes that Evan is in fact handing him a terrifying legacy.
Melanie “Mel” Stuart works for Caesar. She’s his strength and his keeper, and she’s the real power behind the rise of the Romeo business empire. Mel also has a secret … she’s in love with her boss. Evan’s “story” doesn’t sit well with her beliefs or her plans.
Julius and Mel are polar opposites in almost every way … it’s what makes them such an effective team. They find an unexpected new common purpose … to unravel the events of 1947 that threaten our future survival.