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This book has been added to my website
in commemoration of
Donald R. Todd, UFO Researcher.
The reason for placing it here is that, firstly, I feel it is necessary to preserve it for posterity, secondly, that it is an appropriate place for it, given the number of other water related cases posted here, and lastly, that it contains information that helps us to understand the operation of the craft that many of us are trying to comprehend.
This book was copyrighted by the author, Donald R. Todd, in 1977, who died several years ago. I have tried to contact the author’s estate, and received a signature card of receipt, but no reply to my request for rights to this book and his records of other water related cases. I have also e-mailed the publisher, but again received no reply.
I have therefore elected to place the book on this site with the understanding that if a legitimate owner of the copyright to the book wishes, I will remove it as soon as possible. Note that the highlighting on page 106 was done by me.
Donald R. Todd
The Antilles Incident
A Blue Star Production Publication
A true story.
The names have been changed to protect all those involved.
Copyright © 1997 by Donald R. Todd
An Original Paperback
Blue Star Productions,
a Division of Book World, Inc.
9666 E Riggs Rd. #194 Sun Lakes AZ 85248
Printed in the United States of America
All rights reserved, including the right
of reproduction in any form.
Visit us at our web site: http://www.bkworld.com
The UFO/Maritime narrative herein described actually happened. It is one of several similar case histories in my files of occurrences between UFOs and Naval vessels on both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. In this particular incident, I'm grateful to the executive officer of the specified destroyer escort for the number of sessions together and for his generous detailed information. Owing to sustained military tentativeness re: the UFO enigma, the exec of the vessel here involved with a protracted UFO confrontation, expressed that he, the skipper and the ship, should remain out of the public domain. Stressing anonymity for the ship and crew, the exec and captain's wishes for confidentiality have been honored. All else is as it happened.
The Antilles Incident
FILE NO. 88-104
Summer. Tropical Atlantic northeast of the
0410. Zone Time
Tuesday. 23 August. 1988
Steaming eastwardly, USS Destroyer Escort DE-000 gathered for a hard lunge into a rogue swell. Guffing through, the ship settled on calmer water. On the bridge, Lieutenant Harley Clough, binoculars swaying from his collar, stood knees braced on Morning Watch. Through the subdued bridge lighting, he flicked a glance at the bulkhead clock. 0410. Then at the barometer. The glass was falling.
His eyes dropped to a clipboard lying on the Plotting Chart. A most recent dispatch was clenched in its jaws. He scanned it for the nth time.
Unspecified craft reported in your
vicinity. Proceed to grid square 41-
79, scan sea and air. Report on
While a closing ceiling obscured the stars, a pallid moon cast spooky glitters on a fussy sea. The DE's sleek gray silhouette was spectral in the shafts of moonlight. Her irregular bow wave parted in ghostly thresh beneath the prow.
By the binnacle, Clough sought the muzzy horizon. In the quiet, the steady thrust of engines was a subtle tremor beneath his boots. The air conditioning's soft whirr mixed with some low jabber of compartmental intercom traffic. Periodically, some coded di-di-di-dahs from down in CIC beeped through an open circuit. Except for this and the abrasive wash of water along the outer hull, the ship was silent.
Presently the navigator's voice droned behind. "Latitude 19-94 North, 61-66 West."
Clough acknowledged the latitude and longitude. By now they were well into the grid square. Bending to the voice pipe, he ordered, "Slow to one hundred-twenty revolutions." Checking the Plot reminded him that it was time to change attitude again on their zigzag course.
Dutifully DE-000 swerved, plunging eastward. Outside, her radar masts rotated monotonously. Glasses sweeping their respective sectors, the lookouts poised in silhouette. Inside, two chronometers were fixed to the bulkhead next to the radar repeater. One, the regulation ship's clock. The other, a timekeeper with spidery sweep arm. A strip of masking tape across the upper face read: "Submergence Time."
Behind Clough a telephone rasped in the silence. He depressed the lever. "Forebridge."
"Radar, we've got a spook. Small unidentified contact. Bearing zero-one-zero. Range, nine thousand yards."
Clough viewed the repeater alongside. A tiny ephemeral worm wriggled at the edge of the set.
Clough ran a finger down the adjacent ship's register. According to the log, the only other naval vessel nearby, hours earlier had limped home with a fouled oil line along the main bearing. No other ships in the area, so the contact couldn't be a back echo. "Set on the top line?" queried Clough.
"Yes, sir. Finer'n a frog hair."
After a minute of studying the strengthening and weakening contact, Clough brought his glasses up. Hardly expecting to glimpse anything ahead on the black foam, he was anxious. As a stall, he held the glasses to his eyes while he contemplated disturbing the skipper.
ln the captain's sea cabin, Orrin Meadows slept lightly but securely. With paneled walls, the cabin's one porthole was secured and draped. Above the bunk, two shelves were jammed with books. The skipper's desk was an organized clutter of papers, periodicals, tapes, and calipers. A radio was secured to the bulkhead along with two intercom speakers and several telephones.
One of the telephones buzzed urgently. Awakened, Meadows snatched it down. "Captain."
"Radar report." Clough, was tentative. "Small surface contact. Range, nine thousand."
"Right," breathed Meadows. "Get Plotting onto it just in case. I'll be up." Then, as an
afterthought, "Negative zigzag."
Plotting would be easier with a steady course.
Rolling over, Meadows squinted at his watch and thumped the pillow. 0420. The contact was over five miles distant. Head down, the Captain had barely gotten the pillow warm when the phone grated again. Annoyed, he cracked his eyeballs. "Yes!"
"Sorry, sir." came Clough. "Dispatch just in. Tropical depression approaching. Latitude, nineteen point five. Longitude, sixty-one point two. Path west northwest, eighteen knots. Wind, Force Four."
glared at his pillow. "Right." he exhaled irritably. "I'm
coming." For just a minute, the skipper collapsed onto his pillow and
cradled his nape with his palms. Then reluctantly slinging knees over the bunk,
he knuckled his eyeballs and reached for the shave kit. Shaving at the sink, he
scraped his chin with the blade and peered at his image in the mirror. An
attitude of humor, and years of searching skylines had etched age and laugh
crinkles beneath intense blue eyes. Black, close-cropped
hair. Stubborn jaw. Just under six feet, he was
solid, tough, and reliable. With seven years at sea, two bobbing the Indian
Ocean, three traversing the Pacific, and now a second pottering about the South
Atlantic, much of the time had been uneventful.
With the exception of two brushes with the Soviet Navy, one off Maui and the other near Guam, both obviously Soviet monitoring missions, there had been little to excite the ship's complement.
Skimming the razor along his jaw, he stared into the glass and reflected on the grid square dispatch received earlier, the message Clough had just read.
Proceed to grid-square 41-79.
Scan sea and air.
"Now, what the hell kind of a message is that?" he muttered. "Knocking around after some derelict, likely." He ran the razor down his throat. "Probably some erroneous report sent back to Brass."
Earlier, when Meadows had been on the bridge, spray lashed the windscreen. When the ship's bells jangled midnight, the bo'sun's pipe was a shrill whistle over the loudspeaker system followed by a brusk voice, "Relieve the watch!"
A double shadow darkened the doorway as Lieutenants Junior Grade Harney and Stegman stepped through and saluted. Meadows' nod was official acceptance of their arrival on duty.
Saluting the Captain, the Exec went off duty.
Meadows checked his watch. Time for him to turn in, as well. A long day, he'd been on the bridge since first light. Normally asleep at such an hour, the skipper allowed no fixed watch for himself until an established routine was set aboard.
Moving to the door, he repeated his standard order to Harney and Stegman. "Report any and all contacts." Pausing, he added, "Check your course regularly. Don't leave it to the Quartermaster. He could make a mistake."
While fresh enlisted men crowded into the bridge and relieved personnel brushed out, the Captain stepped over the coaming and strode toward his cabin.
In his sea cabin, Meadows slipped off his shoes and flopped onto his bunk. Relaxing, he considered his officer arrangements on board.
Clifford, the Exec, was on his own during daylight and First Watch; he was competent enough. Harney and Stegman added up to a dependable twosome of eyes and ears on Afternoon and Mid Watches. And with Clough covering the Morning and Dog Watches, Meadows could hardly expect more. Sliding palms up beneath his head, he'd gradually drifted into a soft slumber.
the head mirror now. Meadows mopped the last remnants of soap from his jaw and reviewed
the mysterious message.
Scan sea and air.
Shaking his head, he could puzzle
nothing from it.
Oilskin clad, those on duty on the bridge clustered in semi-darkness. The yellow-green reflection of the radar repeater cast etched shadows above cheekbones. Seemingly bodiless, dour faces hung eerily detached amid the glimmer.
Leaning with the ship's motion and gripping the bulkhead, Meadows swayed into the dark of the forebridge. Thrusting his strong countenance into the radar's glow, he became another mask in this luminous circle of sorcery. A distant small echo flickered and wriggled at the top of the screen. For a moment, the skipper studied it, then stepped away.
Glancing around at those in the compartment, he nodded to the O.O.D. "Morning, Clough. I have the Conn."
Crossing to the chart table, Meadows checked relative positions. Their own grid course due east. The Unspecified's growing plot marks. The storm's track marching west. All destined, it seemed, to converge just a few degrees eastward of them.
Checking the bulkhead clock, the Captain plucked a phone from its bracket.
"Captain here. What's our Unspecified doing?"
"Still bearing zero-one-zero. Range, seven thousand. Speed, fourteen knots. Steady."
"Who's on Plot?"
"Right. Thank you." He bent to the voice pipe. "Engine room, give me one-four-five revolutions."
"One-four-five revs. Aye, sir."
The ship leaped ahead under the increased speed. Meadows snatched another phone. "Radar, what do you make of the contact?"
"Hard to say. Bit small for a ship."
"Ever see a return like it before?"
"Not exactly. It's about the size we'd get from a buoy or raft, or something."
"Fishing smack?" offered Meadows.
"Even small for that, sir."
"Yawl? Yacht?" suggested Clough, alongside.
"Still too small," insisted Thatcher.
Foreboding crossed Meadows' brow.
"About the right size for a conning tower."
Meadows and Clough exchanged glances.
"Range, five thousand." echoed radar.
Suddenly, the lookout bawled out: "Visual contact! Port ahead!"
Steadying his glasses, Meadows scanned the lashing waves. Then he spotted it. On the horizon.
A rounded speck, globe-like. He studied it on a long swell. Disappearing in the intermittent trough, it rose again on the crest of the next. Eyeing it, Meadows was puzzled. The thing looked totally alien to him. Focusing on it for a concentrated minute, he turned to Clough. "What's it look like to you?"
Fascinated, Clough steadied on. "Like a dome of some sort. A glass dome."
"My sentiment exactly," expressed Meadows. The thought presently crossing his mind was absurd. He twitched his head. "Can't be," he muttered inwardly. "We couldn't possibly be chasing over the ocean after one of those things. I've heard about ‘em, but don't believe in 'em."
Without diverting attention from the object, he muttered loudly. "Give me one-five-zero revolutions."
Hammering on, the destroyer bashed through some accumulating swells. The distance shortened. In half-light, the glistening bubble enlarged, gained in detail. Pulsing lights, red on port, green on starboard, were in stark contrast to the gathering storm's black emerald sea.
A long swell angrier than the others lifted the orb skyward. Hovering briefly, they got their first full glimpse of it. A glass or plastic cupola of sorts, awash, atop the shoulders of a larger whole barely beneath the surface.
Studying it, Meadows recalled the cryptic message received hours earlier. "Unspecified craft," he repeated, mentally eyeing it on the bare signal log. Scan sea and air. Why such ambiguity, he pondered. And why air? Was it aircraft, or vessel? Dispatching his ship on a seemingly wild goose chase didn't make sense unless it was compelling. The communiqué certainly hadn't a tone of urgency about it. And from what he could glimpse of the thing ahead, there seemed to be no emergency.
"Contact increasing speed," interrupted radar. "Fifteen, sixteen knots!" Thatcher's voice rose.
Meadows stared through the sectioned windscreen. The object was indeed receding and at unexpected speed. That was indeed surprising considering the lousy light and growing high chop to the water.
"She's moving at seventeen knots, sir!"
Thatcher was agitated.
"One-seventy revs," ordered Meadows into the voice pipe.
The ship vibrated as she picked up speed.
The hands of the bridge clock indicating 0500, there was the first faint lifting of darkness in the east. Losing some of its vagueness, the horizon took on a harder outline. Ruffled and rising, the surface of the ocean abandoned its gloomy neutrality and, by degrees, was resolving into a dimensional thing. Although the bow was still hardly more than a smudge, the strengthening light made it possible to distinguish details in the upperworks. The lookouts, less of a blur now, addressed each other with more recognition than guesswork.
Meadows trained his binoculars on the leaden horizon. Above, the mast raked sultry clouds. Below, flashes of phosphorescence splintered the impetuous sea. At this point, the contact on radar had again become a twisting fleck of light. Persistent. Moving. There all the time and needed to be accounted for.
Wind gusts became moans tugging at the rigging. Straining sea-stained plates, the ship punched through a series of forming swells.
Presently, radar buzzed.
"Bridge," responded Meadows.
"Contact coming around to zero-zero-five."
"Steer zero-zero-five, navigator." Meadows turned to Clough. "Damn thing's turning into the storm.
Glasses up and trained into the grayness, Clough was concerned. "Be hell to find if we don't nab it quick."
"If it is a sub and we should spook him into submerging ..." Meadows indicated the threatening weather, "he's liable to give our sonar the slip."
Glancing outside, he inhaled. "I'd dearly love to catch and identify it. But increasing speed any more in this murk wouldn't accomplish much."
Impatient to glimpse the Unspecified and mortally afraid of losing it, Meadows strained at the leash. Under gathering seas, more intense pursuit and overhaul might be increasingly unpleasant. Twice he moved to order more revs, but each time stayed his hand.
Gradually whipping the ocean into a whitish churn, shrieking wind tore at the surface.
The first hard waves slammed the hull. Sounding one minute like mortars, they were like cannon fire the next.
"What if it is a sub?" posed Clough through the subtle thunder.
"What if?" parroted Meadows. "Depends upon whose it is.
Stepping to the chart table his mind was troubled. If a submarine, whose? And why loiter in such a desolate patch of ocean? Its small size could hardly account for it being a derelict awash. Its motion belied it being flotsam. An unreported motorized craft, possibly from some foundered ship? Meadows' fingers drummed the chart. Perplexed, he recalled Sherlock Holmes: "Without sufficient material, the mind churns itself into pieces. "
He stared ahead. At an increased seventeen knots, according to radar, the Unspecified's speed suggested a certain urgency. Impatient, he glimpsed his watch.
At the wheel, helmsman Cuddy followed the Captain's unhurried tread back and forth. He had his own ideas as to what the object was.
Ragged and dreary, dawn struggled. Under a smudged ceiling, the new day began. With the broadening dawn, Meadows increased speed. "Give me one-seven-five revolutions."
Forging ahead, the destroyer charged the lash of saw-toothed waves and trembled at each thrust into hammering combers. On one downward plunge, she poised as if not to come up. Pitching skyward again, she hovered as if to falter. At her stern, churning engines rammed her into seas exploding over her bow. The bell from the radar shack buzzed angrily.
"Forebridge," acknowledged Meadows.
"Jesus, sir! Shook hell out of the set that last one."
Meadows smirked. "Right, Thatcher. I'll ease her down. Still holding contact?"
Thatcher's response was much happier. "Crabbed right
onto his tail, sir.
"Check." Meadows bent to the voice pipe. "Ease her down to one-six-five, Chief."
Meadows stared ahead. At thirty-seven, he was the eldest of the crew. Not yet born during World War II, he'd been much too young for Korea. He'd been a college cadet during Vietnam; and the slightest hint of Desert Storm hadn't yet materialized.
Between sprays drenching the windscreen, Meadows stared out as if in a trance. A definite inner anxiety scratched at him, a premonition of sorts, of being totally alone in combat with an unknown foe on a lonely stretch of sea.
The bell from the radar shack shattered his reverie. "Yes."
The lookout's report confirmed radar. "Contact ahead! Crossing to port."
Meadows' brain ciphered automatically. The contact was crossing their bow on a nearly seven-degree turn to port. "Come to new course three-four-four."
Glimpsing his watch, it was now past seven in the morning. 0714. While sunlight attempted to forge through persistent gray, light rain and leaden clouds fought desperately to suppress it.
In synch with the throb of fresh power from the starboard engine, Meadows leaned with the ship's abrupt healing.
Presently in the forebridge dimness, a fresh sou'wester glinted wetly. The Executive Officer. Turning, Meadows met Clifford's gray eyes. "What's this?" he smiled affably. "Have we rousted you out early?"
"Yes, sir." Clifford nodded sleepily. "With the ship continuing to alter course, I knew something was up. Thought I might be needed." Although indiscernible beneath the slicker and headgear, Clifford's blond hair was crew-cut. With half-back shoulders, he was clean shaven.
Meadows pursed. "We've a radar contact ahead, possibly a submarine, and a storm brewing." He jerked his head toward the bow. "We're chasing the contact right into it."
Appraising the situation, the three officers hunched in a clump.
Knowing he'd be rekindling Thatcher's wrath, Meadows again bent to the voice pipe. "Chief. Give me one-seven-zero revs." Straightening, he muttered, "We must maintain his same speed."
"If he doesn't spot us." Clough was negative.
"Good chance he might," added Clifford. "He'll have a radar aft, of course."
"If he hasn't already tabbed us," offered Clough. "He's jumped ahead of us once."
"He'll have oscillators and baffles aft as well. If he doesn't swing the craft to get a bearing, though ..." Meadows was more certain. "His operator may have suspected that we're merely a radar shimmer."
There was silence while everyone contemplated the possibility. Then Meadows posed what seemed concluding logic. "If we don't drift to either side, but keep station within his baffles . . ."he shrugged hopefully. "We can only stay behind his propulsion wash and hope he's deaf as a post there."
A hesitant murmur of assent followed.
Meadows reached for an intercom switch. "Cease sonar transmission. Listen only."
Turning, Meadows glanced at his Third Officer. "Mr. Clough. As long as Clifford's on duty, why don't you turn in?"
Lithe and gaunt, Clough nodded wearily and slanted gratefully toward the door. "Thank you, sir."
As the destroyer crept after the quarry, time seemed interminable.
Presently, radar piped up. "Contact bearing three-four-four. Range, four thousand."
Meadows and Clifford swept glasses up.
In the strengthening light, Meadows caught another long glimpse of the same glassy, bowl-shaped object.
Clifford jerked his glasses down. "My God, sir! It's a..."
Glasses pressed to his cheekbones, Meadows' scowl was intense. "It can't be," he breathed. "But if all they say is true, then they do exist!"
As another sea crested toward the destroyer, the globe slid into the intervening trough. Waiting, Meadows scanned the next bleak swell. Up the slatey side where the object should be climbing, all was blank. Jerking his glasses around under the ship's heave, he was staggered. Right before him, the strange gizmo had disappeared!
On the point of utterance, radar crashed in on him. "Contact diving, sir." Similar reports were barked from other stations.
Suddenly, a clutter of decisions peppered him from a dozen directions like a swarm of biting gnats. Mind and voice in synch, he snapped. "Sonar. Commence extended bow sweep. Navigator. Steer three-four-four. Mr. Clifford. Note the time." The bulkhead clock read 0820. "Yeoman. Get a position from the navigator. And get this message off... Belay. Belay that last." His brain double-clutched. Naval regulations required that an object not merely be sighted, but clearly identified. Reports based on flimsy data, and unconfirmed, only aroused official indignation.
Radar buzzed. "Echo's faded, sir."
Meadows acknowledged. "Thank you, Thatcher."
Sonar crowded in. "Starting to get hydrophone effect off port bow," responded Rollins.
Meadows wasn't taking chances. "CIC. Mark the course.
Mr. Clifford. Sound General Quarters!" To Yeoman Cartwright, "Start
his submergence time."
Clifford's bellow followed. "General Quarters! General Quarters! All hands, man your Battle Stations! Check all watertight doors!"
The shrill clang of alarm bells affected a stir throughout the vessel. The sudden clump of boots. Crewmen hastily donning helmets and life jackets. Mystical chatter over ship's circuitry. And the rattle and clatter of hatches being slammed and dogged.
A flood of reports became the ship's pulse.
"Cox'n on the helm, sir."
"Damage control manned and ready, sir."
"Depth charge crews on station."
"Plot closed up."
"Third boiler on line."
Meadows spoke into a phone. "Sonar. All around sweep. Maximum range."
Almost immediately, sonar responded. "Captain, I have a contact."
"Hard?" breathed Meadows.
"No fixed signature yet, sir. But slight down doppler.
"Okay, Rollins. Try to fix and hold."
Meadows' breast beat to the ship's nerves and sinews responding to sudden urgency. Any number of times at sea, they had drilled for an emergency. With no adversary, of course, there was no real pressure. No anxiety. Different now; everyone aboard felt it. Raw crisis in its tenseness made actions swifter and smoother, feet lighter in quiet alarm.
Loath to submit, but circumstantially satisfied, Meadows was grudgingly convinced. The Unspecified, now specified. A legitimate UFO had startlingly dissolved virtually beneath their keel.
Meadows was puzzled. "Hell!" he mumbled. "According to what little I've heard, UFOs don't sit on the ocean's surface. Nor dive beneath it. They fly through the sky!" Suddenly, the communiqué scan sea and air made sense.
Huge rudder clutching the ocean on helm orders, the DE heeled over. Slicing at an angle, thick froth creamed from starboard. Gray seas slammed to port. In the rigging, the wind rose to shriek at the ship's audacity.
Station reports tumbled from the phones. Below decks, scuttlebutt ran rampant. In pursuit of some bizarre craft, a sudden sense of the eerie pervaded the ship.
duty, Helmsman Cuddy knew full well what it was. "The
Old Hag Syndrome." Eyes fixed on the compass and fingers rigid at
the wheel, he'd experienced it.
"They come after you at night," he muttered. "Up the stairs. Into your bed. No matter your whereabouts, they find you."
Down in CIC, enlisted men bent to their assignments. Lights on, the computer board blinked crazily with data tapes moving erratically. Oscilloscopes glowed. Shadowy marks and dashes, like a latent outbreak of measles, blossomed on the lucite plotting panel.
Scanning the sonar, Rollins sounded off "Double hydrophone effect on port bow."
"Difficult to say, sir. Three-four-four, basically. First echo at four thousand. Second, just beyond. Phantom cavitation effect from near echo, but no audible blade rate."
Meadows flicked a glance at Clifford. "How's her head?"
To sonar. "Don't lose that farthermost echo." To the Navigator. "Bring her around to three-four-four. Port one third."
"Near echo fading," advised Rollins. "Far echo still strong."
"Some kind of dupe?" queried Clifford.
Meadows' smirk was wolfish. "Like the old Nazi U-boat Pillenwerfer ruse. Belch out a volume of air astern. Suspended in water, it gives a false echo while the U-boat slips away." Jaw grim, he turned to Clifford. "Learned that from a WWII Atlantic Naval skipper at the Academy. In this case, however ..." he shrugged, "... it may be some type of electronic subterfuge." He shrugged again. "A pulsating energy field, maybe." He spoke into the voice pipe. "Give me five more revs, Chief."
The Specified’s heading for cover beneath the approaching storm, the Captain addressed Clifford. "Once on three-four-four, advise me when eight minutes are up."
Perusing the Plot before him, Meadows' eyes traced the submerged object's progress. -Steering a course toward the storm center, the UFO was obviously intelligently directed. Unmanned vessels just didn't wander purposefully at seventeen knots.
Hurriedly, the captain did a mental sum. In approximately eight minutes at seventeen-and-a- half knots, they should be well abreast of the submerged. Once parallel with it, he'd try radio contact.
Failing that, he'd attempt to flush the bird; bring him to the surface.
The sky was a thunderstorm of clouds. Rain drummed against the windscreen. Exploding seas hammered the ship's plating.
Meadows stared out. It would be advantageous to know who or what his adversary was, and to understand the purpose and presence of this strange fellow below. Skeptical before regarding UFOs, his mind struggled to alter its thinking. The government and the Navy itself had adamantly stated officially that no such thing existed. Natural phenomena. Weather balloons. Hallucinations. Temperature inversions. These were the explanations. But the thing recently afloat before them, so exotic and totally un-maritime, could be nothing else but a UFO.
With a negative twitch of his head, his eyes attempted to penetrate the water pouring down the windscreen. That gut-scraping fear of a lone duet at sea returned. Knees uncertain, he stared more keenly into the water.
mind grappled with this new proposition. How would he handle a crisis should it
Would his mental reflexes equal his adversary's responses? And what would be the final outcome?
Truthfully, he had misgivings. Palms on the chart table, he mused. Should he have originally signaled base regarding the contact? Instinct said no. But was instinct misled . . . simply a refrain from signaling so that an answer wouldn't reach him until well engaged?
Sonar interrupted. "Contact bearing three-four-four. Strong hydrophone now on second echo."
"Eight minutes," echoed Clifford.
Misgivings to the wind, it was time to act. Practically even with the submerged, he was uncertain as to its depth. As if in answer, the Soundman fed him the information.
"Depth: one hundred fifty. Steady."
Meadows pressed another phone. "Sparks, anything audio?"
"No, sir," responded Petty Officer Liggy. "All bands quiet. No radio traffic."
Meadows nodded. "Check. Crank up the S/R. All frequencies. Let's see if we can raise a response from our submerged stranger."
"Aye, aye, sir!" Liggy was enthusiastic.
"All ahead standard," breathed Meadows, waiting.
Below, Liggy opened the standard short range radio frequency.
A naked click. Then, "Underwater speaker on, sir."
Meadows' voice was controlled. "To Captain of unidentified vessel from Commander of most immediate surface ship. Request you surface and identify self."
Below, Liggy listened in. Silence.
Meadows tried again. "To submerged vessel. Please identify self. You are in no immediate danger since you are in international waters."
Despite all of Liggy's fine tuning, nothing. Changing frequencies, he tried them all. Crisscrossing the bands, he covered everything. Desperately, he tried Secondary; even Emergency. Total silence. Exasperated, he reported.
Two decks above, Meadows acknowledged. "Bridge."
"Can't raise a thing, sir."
"What about Secondary?"
"No soap, sir."
"Tried the works."
"Not a hum, sir."
"Very good. Maintain a listening watch."
While the DE crept forward, Clifford peered toward the Captain. "I've been reading considerable material regarding UFOs, sir. Much of the literature states that the UFOs' circular design is optimum for travel in any medium, and that they have the ability to zap any threat to them as easily from below as from above."
"I've already surmised that," murmured Meadows. His mind slid back to an odd incident in the 60s written up in the Navy literature. During an oceanographic survey of deep water off Puerto Rico, the sound of high-speed screws was detected. All ship's engines were shut down and a listening watch ordered. The sound was traced to the incredible depth of 30,000 feet. The unknown was then tracked at better than 50 knots submerged speed! Could it have been a submerged UFO, he pondered?
Crowding the thought to the back of his mind, he was frustrated. Inwardly, he'd known there would be no response from the submerged craft. So what was the next phase? In his heart, he knew that, too. His mind struggled with this defiance of a radio signal. In order to drive the Specified to the surface, another avenue was available to him.
With the DE riding herd, Meadows turned to his First Officer. "Mr. Clifford, it's extremely difficult for me to accept that UFOs exist."
Clifford's brow rose. "Oh, they exist, all right," he confided. "Most of the literature is well documented." He jerked his head rearward. "Matter of fact, I've a couple of books on the subject in my cabin."
"Really." Meadows was interested. "Like what?"
Aliens From Space, by Marine Corps Major Keyhoe," chimed Clifford riding
the crest of Meadows' awakened curiosity. "It covers the Military and
Intelligence Agency's knowledge. Recent reports on what the government has
recorded over the last thirty-odd years from monitoring UFOs."
He cleared his throat. "Then, there's Encounters with UFO Occupants. Detailed interaction between UFOs, people, and vehicles."
Meadows was impressed. Impressed to the point that a further quiver in the form of that gut scraping fear trickled up his spine.
Lieutenants Harney and Stegman strode in on duty.
Acknowledging their arrival, Meadows probed Clifford. "Ever see one of these things?"
"Not 'til this one," parried Clifford.
"I'd like to read those UFO books of yours. How about loaning them to me?"
"My pleasure, sir. They're eye openers."
Meadows nodded. "How about trotting down to your quarters and bringing one up?"
"Sure thing. I'm going off duty anyway."
Glancing at the clock, Meadows realized that it was just past Noon. For the last half hour his stomach had been reminding him, but he had ignored it. On impulse, he flicked the lever to the wardroom. "Steward. Bring me up some lunch. I'm going to remain on the bridge." He peered toward Clifford.
"Be sure and bring up one of those books."
Pivoting away, Clifford nodded. "Right, sir."
Meadows shook his head with a measure of credibility. "We certainly can't ignore the physical evidence of the object that bobbed ahead of us on the surface, and is now below," he murmured. Realizing reluctantly that the submerged must be a UFO, what was it doing in the sea, he mused? Such a target represented too much of an alien's potential enterprise to be just cruising the ocean. His brows knit hard. It had to have an objective.
Just then, Krissler, the steward, entered balancing a heavy china plate and napkin in one hand and gripping a porcelain mug in the other. "Lunch, sir." He handed Meadows the plate with the napkin. "Corned beef sandwich, cole slaw, sliced tomato, and coffee."
"Looks great," grinned Meadows.
Retrieving Encounters with UFO Occupants from his cabin, Clifford stopped in at the wardroom and laid the book on the table.
Several officers seated around and having whatever meal suitable to their off-duty schedule, eyeballed the book. Drawing a coffee from the dispenser, Clifford sat down to the corned beef sandwich placed before him by the steward.
Seated next to him, sonar man Garrison tackled him. "Sir. What's this bilge that we're chasing a submerged UFO?"
Tapping the book, Clifford nodded. "It's all in here." He jerked his eyes topside. "The Old Man and I saw it."
Across from Clifford, Clough pounded the table. "Dammit, I knew it." He thumped the table again. “I knew the damn things existed."
Depth Charge Officer Bishop, mug halfway to his mouth, was questioning. "But what are they doing here? What does this one want with us?"
Clifford shrugged. "All I can tell you is that we got a dispatch to locate the thing. We've made contact." He spread his palms. "Beyond that..." he shrugged again.
As the destroyer plunged on, Meadows ordered, "Start Sonar."
He did some leisurely math. With thirty-six depth charges on deck and twenty-four below, the lot gave him a total of sixty. With four in each pattern, two rolled off the fantail and one each from the port and starboard K-guns, he had charges enough for fifteen attack patterns. Such would seemingly be enough to convince anything submerged to rise to the friendlier environs of the surface.
As if confirming these thoughts, sonar reported. "Getting a new response from the target, sir. A pulse."
"Somewhat like our own sonar probe."
"Pipe it up," urged Meadows. "Maybe our attempts at communication are about to elicit some results after all."
Presently, the sound came over the intercom. All hands listened.
"Beep . . . Beep-eep . . . Beep . .. Eep . . . Eep-eep ..."
And then they felt it. At each audio pulse, they could physically sense the grainy lash of an impulse along their keel, like the lightest lick of an electric fence.
"Kill the sonar," uttered Meadows suddenly. "Just listen."
"Could be their form of sonar." suggested Stegman.
"Undoubtedly a surveillance beacon of sorts," agreed Meadows.
The voice from sonar was subdued. "He's silent, too," breathed Garrison. "No normal sonar of sorts. No engine sound. Nothing."
Absorbed, everyone on the bridge fell silent. Those deep in the nerve center stood j stone still. As minutes passed, the entire ship became as if in suspended animation.
Eerie and unnerving, it was as if each subtle throb of the strange pulse was a portent of something sinister to follow. The thready beats were reflected and recorded in the sonar room.
After stressful minutes of listening, the impulse suddenly ceased.
"Sonar! Start transmission." A pause, Then, "Still in contact?" murmured Meadows.
"Aye, sir. Solid return."
"Hmph! Strange, but then, everything about this situation is strange."
Just then, Clifford swung into the bridge.
Peering around at the sudden silence — the eerie pulse had been felt in the wardroom as well — he tossed his UFO book onto the windscreen counter. "What's happening, sir?"
Meadows shrugged. "The pulse has stopped.
Nodding, Clifford pointed to the book. "Interesting reading." And he promptly left the bridge.
Anything but satisfied, Meadows prepared for action. "It's time we tried coaxing our intruder to surface. Apparently unwilling to cooperate, a tin can or two should stir him up."
A curt nod toward Stegman presaged the order for the depth crew on the fantail
At the point of Meadows' utterance, sonar broke in. "Contact coming shallow. Definite up doppler. Possibly surfacing."
Meadows whipped the glasses to his cheekbones. Puzzled and irritated, he stared ahead. What was the confounded thing up to now?
Radar cut in. "Surface contact. Object appears to be . . ." Halmstead was uncertain, "conning tower . . . sub's sail ..." A report from one of the lookouts came in on of the heels of the radar report. "Target: thousand yards. Five degrees left."
Rising a thousand yards ahead of them, the UFO broke the surface in an off-handed, take-it-or-leave-it attitude. Training his binoculars between the rolling swells, Meadows glimpsed the same glass-like cupola he'd observed before it submerged. He snatched a phone. "Sparks."
"Get on the S/R again. The contact has risen. I want to try and induce sonic response while he's on the surface."
"Harney. How long was it submerged?"
Harney eyed the submergence chronometer on the bulkhead. "Five hours and twenty minutes, sir."
Again, Meadows hailed the submerged Specified with the same result. Silence.
Between quartering waves, the DE pitched and corkscrewed. Mouth tight, the cox'n struggled with the wheel. Braced on the shifting deck, Meadows and Stegman waited for the radioman's report.
It finally came. The same as before. "No response, Captain." intoned Mathias.
"What frequencies?" probed Meadows.
"Every frequency known to the Navy, sir. Nothing."
Meadows nodded. "Thank you, Mathias."
Bobbing and dipping amid the churning sea, the UFO seemed abruptly to vanish. Searching to port, Meadows suddenly couldn't find it. He barked down the voice pipe. "Radar! Where the hell did it go?"
Simultaneously, radar and a lookout reported. "Target left, fifteen. Port fifteen."
Through his glasses Meadows barely discerned the glassy dome riding the waves. At this distance the object was too far for loud hailing.
Wind and sea were too rough for readable semaphore or flag hoist. Blinker light would be too incomplete with the ship's pitching.
Twice within minutes, the UFO shifted position. In the twisting sea, its glass crown all but disappeared as it blended against an opaque horizon. Each time the UFO plunged between black valleys, Meadows bellowed frantically. "Where the hell is it now, radar?" And each time radar obliged with a fresh position.
Beginning to heel and roll vigorously, the DE careened around like a despairing basset attempting to snatch an elusive hare. Convinced at one point they'd lost the UFO amid the foam blown crests, Meadows cursed the radar report of port ten. "Read your screen properly, for Chrissakes! It's not at Port Ten!" When indeed it was at that position when Meadows eventually found it, he came as close to an apology as he could bring himself after his impulsive outburst. "I've found it, radar. At ten degrees to Port."
The UFO, suddenly having become an irksome thing, Meadows turned to Harney.
"All right. If he won't respond to us, we'll rebut in a different style to him. Let's see what five inches of steel will do." He nodded toward the pitching object.. "Put a round across his bow, Mr. Stegman. As close as you like."
Snatching a phone, Meadows raised Mathias. "Get this message down for immediate transmission. Code, Double-A. Most urgent and immediate to CINCLANT. 'Am in visual contact with surface Unspecified. Am pursuing while attempting radio contact. Request immediate authority to challenge and interdict.' Signed: C.O. Meadows."
"Yes, sir. Get it right off," responded Mathias.
Stegman plucked a phone from its bracket. "Fire Control! For'ad gun."
"Surface target. Port Ten. Thousand yards. One round. Over the bow. Fire!"
On the heels of Stegman's orders, the number one bow five-incher belched. The spurt of orange was brilliant in the near dark. A grayish plume beyond the glass turret was an indication as to how close the shot came! It had, however, no apparent effect.
Glasses up, Meadows fumed. "That should damn near have parted his hair. Treat him to another."
"One round," barked Stegman. "Across the bow. Fire!"
The radio room telephone buzzed as the forward gun thundered another shell toward the target. Watching the shell raise a spume just short of the object this time, with phone to his head, Meadows couldn't believe his ears. "What... ?"
"I said all external communications are out, sir. Useless."
The scene down in Communications was one of confusion. With banks of lights dead, technicians were flipping switches, fumbling with dials and cursing.
Meadows was stunned. "What about Emergency?"
"Deader'n a mackerel, sir. Can't raise a kilohertz. And not a tick on the code key, either. We can listen, but we can't send."
"Did you get the message off?"
think so, but I can't be sure. Our external communications went out right about
Staring across the water, Meadows was incredulous. "That damned alien craft is jamming our communications!"
Even as the Captain spoke, the UFO was again on the move.
"Target moving left," came the lookout's report.
As the radar report came in, the UFO moved away and then seemed to settle at a specific point. "Target bearing three-two-zero," confirmed radar.
Meadows jerked his glasses. "Come left to three-two-zero."
Sheering to port, the destroyer churned hopelessly after it. Seemingly to toy with the ship, the UFO's actions indicated that it could evade pursuit readily enough, whenever it chose.
Watching in utter frustration, Meadows was acutely aware that he was dealing with a technology which he couldn't possibly match. With such ease of facility in the roughest of seas, quelling such an alien object would be much like luring lightning into ajar.
Below deck, a discussion about UFOs began. An odd book or two on the subject surfaced from a locker or mattress.
A few souls on board with possibly a touch of precognition, and thinking to bone up, had ventured more than one purchase in that direction. Encounters with UFO Occupants broke out. The Startling Evidence of the Invasion from Outer Space slid from a mattress. The discussion was pro and con. Arguments erupted.
Topside, reflecting those earlier distressing circumstances and glimpsing the chart under his fist, a further disturbing thought leaped out at Meadows. Staring at the grid lines, he recoiled at the fact. Their present position was now well within the lower leg of the Bermuda Triangle! That lozenge-shaped tract of sea, referred to by early sailors as the "Sea of Fear," was the origin from whence the Coast Guard received 10,000 rescue calls a year. Although considerably fewer were confirmed emergencies, the striking number of ships and plane disappearances was highly suspicious.
Consciously trying to dismiss the idea, Meadows' subconscious clung to it. Despite the Navy's public poo-poohing of the existence of the Triangle, recalling what he had read, he couldn't reject all of the official data.
Missing ships. Aircraft disappearances. Green mists. Blue holes. Whirling vortices. UFO activity above and below, although he'd never really subscribed to this UFO portion. Was there a connection between the two entities — UFOs and this strange sweep of ocean? It was apparent each existed. How much hidden information did the Navy actually have about the Triangle? Covertly, how well informed was it regarding UFOS? Overtly, how much data was it revealing? For the first time, uncertainties troubled Meadows as to the veracity and frankness of his own Navy. The definite possibility that the Navy knew all along what it was ordering his ship to pursue and report disturbed him. The very nature of the message, Scan sea and air, certainly pointed in that direction.
While his mind juggled such troublesome likelihoods, the leading edge of the storm engulfed them. The bulkhead clock read 1533.
Steaming straight into a northeasterly gale, they were suddenly buffeted by hurricane force winds and mountainous water. Whipped and screamed at by the storm, DE-000 lurched heavily.
Suddenly, difficult to establish appreciable forward speed, each shrieking gust seemed to hammer the destroyer with a personal spite.
Maneuvering the ship in a zigzag pattern, Meadows altered engine revolutions, decreasing when stern up, the churning screws were bared. Increasing when counter down, the blades bit in and thrust forward, and always he kept the bow to the gusts in order that she keep from battering herself to pieces. DE-000 rolled furiously. With mountainous seas thundering onto her bow and plunging over her gun'ls, everything became saturated. Flushing into the ventilators, water flooded below.
The ward room became a shambles. In a corner, loose chairs were hastily lashed together in a bundle. Fixed furniture creaked with every strain of the bulkheads. Water sloshing idly about the deck; ripples crisscrossed with every roll of the ship.
In the mess compartment, sodden aprons and towels lay clumped on the deck. Water swirled past them like tiny islands beset. The galley fire abruptly unusable, cooking was impossible.
On change of watch, most of the day's staples were reduced to cold beans and Spam. Coffee was brewed in the engine room.
Everything took on the taste of salt. The pungency of foul water clung everywhere. Deep in the engine room there was an essence of mold. Sweating pipes contributed dankness and stagnation.
Growing in ferocity, the storm shook the destroyer like some huge fist shivering her seams and straining her rivets. Staring at the constantly drenched windscreen, Meadows summoned radar. "Any sign of our strange companion?" he inquired, hopefully.
"We get glimpses of him now and then," murmured Halmstead. "But he vanishes more than he's visible." There was a pause. "Don't know why the hell he stays on the surface."
Meadows smirked. "Stay with him. This storm won't last forever."
But as Meadows' luck would have it, the storm slowed. It paused to gather momentum and strength before eventually howling toward Grand Bahamas Bank.
and struggling forward, DE-000 moved no closer to the target. Radar, the
lookouts, and those on the bridge strained to maintain the slender contact.
By 1600, under shrieking winds and slashing rain, the light weakened. On change of watch there was the flow of personnel to and from their duty stations.
Meadows gave the word to darken ship. “The smoking lamp is out on all weather decks," he announced.
Staggering into the bridge on a sudden lurch of the ship, Clough gripped the counter alongside Meadows. "Are we still in contact sir?"
"Just barely." Meadows shrugged. "He's still on the surface at any rate."
Page 50 Blank
Amid towering swells, the UFO vanished!
"Underwater sound," rasped sonar. "Target diving. Moving left, twenty-five degrees and turning to port."
The alien object had been on the surface twice, and for the second time it was submerging without acknowledging Meadows' efforts to communicate with it.
The thing fast becoming more than just an annoyance, Meadows' patience finally tore. "Chee-rist!" he cursed. "This is like playing blind man's buff with a damned yo-yo!" He turned to Clough. "All right. Start the time clock on him again. We know he was under for five hours before. Let's see how long he's good for this time."
Why the devil wouldn't he acknowledge, Clough wondered. Apprehensively, he turned to Meadows. "What about torpedoes, sir?"
Meadows glanced back quizzically. "Whose?"
"I don't believe we need worry on that score from that kind of craft."
"Going to give him another hail?" probed Clough.
Fists on hips, Meadows' growl was ominous. "One last chance!" he snorted. "This time he won't mistake my meaning. I'll drive the underwater sound right through his damned hull!" Reaching up, he flipped a switch. "Turn on the underwater speaker."
There was the now-familiar click. "Speaker on."
Meadows inhaled. "To Captain of submerged vessel. This is Commander of the surface ship. Cannot understand your refusal to acknowledge previous attempt at communication. Request you surface and identify self."
Down in CIC, Larski turned up the volume and fiddled with his headphones. Only static and some vague distant echo came to him.
made one more attempt. "Repeat request. Surface and identify self.
We mean you no harm. You will not be harassed in any manner.
Anxiously, Larski traversed the official channels. Only on one did he hear a stuttering, code-like signal, obviously not associated with the submerged. "Sorry, sir," he submitted.
Fuming, Meadows growled into the speaker. "This is my final overture! Unless I receive an immediate answer, I disdain any responsibility for further adverse actions."
Twirling his dials, Larski shook his head in disgust. Only the distant coded gibberish was audible. "No soap, sir. Sorry."
Meadows acknowledged. "Thank you, Larski."
For just a second the captain paused to reflect. "All right. We'll play it his
way! We'll respond by tossing him a pattern of cans."
He turned to the phone. "Soundman. Give me a fathometer reading."
"Bottom: two-twenty. Target: sixty-five and holding."
"Set depth charge patterns at. . ."
bawl from the port lookout was sudden and raucous. "Torpedo!
Twenty degrees left!"
Incredulous, Meadows and Clough leaped to the side panels, glasses up. Through the high chop and barely visible under the surface, a luminous trail was clearly aimed just beyond the destroyer's bow. Apparently plotted to converge with the ship at an anticipated point in a matter of the next minute, it came on.
"Hard a-port! Left full rudder! Full ahead starb'rd! All back port!" Meadows bellowed desperately. He could hardly bring himself to resolve that such an advanced technology would cling to such armor as torpedoes. White knuckles clutching his binoculars and cursing helplessly, he followed the watery path drawing closer. A blurred blue-green shaft plowing along just under the surface, it had an eerie glow. An instant image flashed into Meadows' mind, that of the Argo and Captain Nemo. "All hands. We are about to take a torpedo hit. Stand by and hang on!"
response to the helm, the destroyer's bow plunged left with agonizing slowness.
Steadily, the spectral shaft closed. Sweeping further, at a right angle to the
torpedo's track, the DE momentarily appeared to avoid imminent collision.
Watching, sweat blistered Meadows' brow. Then horrified, he observed the shimmering track suddenly bend to realign itself with the swerving bow.
"My God!" exploded Meadows in amazement.
As the curving trail extended forward reaching the ship, those on the bridge braced for impact and explosion. When it didn't come, Meadows and Clough gaped at each other.
The port lookout's bark was one of astonishment. "Light ray in the water! Left. Extending back abeam. Hundred and thirty degrees!"
Followed by Clough, Meadows surged onto the signal bridge. Gripping the rail as the ship heaved and plunged, he eyed the luminous beam. Trailing from the destroyer, it angled back under water and downward. Transfixed, Meadows stared at it. Obviously what had appeared as a torpedo's wake to the lookout was indeed a light shaft seemingly emanating snake-like from the submerged UFO.
even more startling, the sinewy light shaft withdrew.
Rather than blinking off like a normal light, it receded quickly like a lizard's tongue snapping back.
Alongside, Clough's grasp on the rail was steel. Astonished, he shook his head. "I didn't see that."
"Target diving," came sonar.
Ducking quickly inside, Meadows ordered, "Come left." He snatched a phone. "Sonar."
"What's the fix?"
"One-thirty left and moving."
Meadows turned to Clough. "Set those charges at two hundred."
Clough relayed the message to the fantail.
Bent to the voice pipe, Meadows said, "Give me one-four-zero revolutions."
The nearly immediate response to the change of speed was an abrupt increase in engine thrust. Churning the water, the DE heeled around plunging through the seas to pass over the spot where the UFO was apparently submerged.
Clough turned to Meadows. "Charges set, sir."
"Pattern of four," basked Meadows. "Let him have it!"
Acknowledging, Clough gripped his phone. "Fantail! Fire a pattern of four!"
Depth charge rating, Feeney bellowed cavernously! "Pattern of four! Fire one! Fire two!"
A pair of explosive drums, one each from the starboard and port K-guns, catapulted into the sky. While they arced through the air and began their downward descent, Feeney was barking again. "Roll one! Roll two!" Abruptly, two more canisters pitched from the stern Along with the two from the air, all four plunged below to their predetermined settings.
Boots planted, Meadows ticked off the seconds and braced for the detonations. Like underground thunder, they came. Concussions rocked the stern. Ripping outward, TNT blew cavernous chasms in the ocean. Walls of water hammered sledge-like against anything nearby. Erupting in founts, the sea burst upward to plunge back soiled and disturbed.
As the DE pitched ahead, the water again merged with the surrounding turbulence. All eyes strained beyond the stern. In expectant awe, all hands searched the explosion point.
The bulkhead clock read 1650. Meadows flicked his eyes to the chronometer alongside. Elapsed submergence time for the Specified was now thirty-five minutes.
Without waiting for the UFO to rise and break surface, Meadows had the destroyer turning under full helm and racing in for a second attack. Clough was angered. "But godammit, we must have hammered it. It was there!"
Meadows' order was gruff. "Bring her back on three-three-four."
Hardly had they come up on course when sonar responded. "Contact left, ten. Hard echo."
"Left, ten." ordered Meadows. "Ready another pattern."
"Pattern of four," presaged Feeney the depth charge rating.
While the DE swerved in to the attack, on the fantail Feeney danced along the depth charge rails. Lurching inelegantly as the ship veered, he tongue-lashed his depth charge crew to ready the next charges.
Thumb hovering over the firing bell, Clough pressed it.
Even while the canisters from the K-guns were in the air, the destroyer began heeling over.
Blind as to how the Specified would respond under more depth-charging, Meadows was busy. "Hard a-port! Bring her back on one-six seven. Sweep from one-three-five to one-nine-five."
"One-three-five to One-nine-five," repeated sonar.
There was a full minute's silence. "No contact."
Meadows was grim. "Carry out all-around sweep."
"All-around sweep. Aye, sir."
"Coming up on course one-six-seven." murmured Clough.
The maneuver of bringing the ship back to the former position of attack had taken precious minutes. Expecting the Specified’s echo to manifest out of the confusion of bursting charges, Meadows was concerned. He mustn't lose the submerged object.
"Too bad we don't have ASROC aboard." prompted Clough.
"Ah, yes," agreed Meadows. "Rocket boosted torpedoes. The Navy's number one anti-sub device these days." He waxed philosophic. "However, being one of the Navy's fossil ships, we're hardly in line for such technical modifications."
Sweeping along their predetermined course, there was still no contact. Meadows' jaw stiffened. "Reduce speed to one-two-zero."
Steaming back through the settling turbulence, the DE groped blindly. Sonar probed an apparently empty sea. "No contact." reported Larski.
"Sweep again," said Meadows crossing to the plot. Bending over the table, he thumped his fist on the chart. "We couldn't have sunk him," he argued audibly. "There would have been evidence . . . Oil slick . . . debris . . . something."
Musing at the Plot, Meadows summoned Clough and Chief Engineer Marsden to the chart table. With Evans from Plotting, he explained. "Gentlemen. We're in pursuit of a submerged UFO."
Eyes wide, Marsden and Evans were fascinated.
"It's weird," nodded Meadows. "Weird as hell. No matter. We're going to execute a search in accordance with two possibilities. First, the UFO may have dived deep, remaining there in hope of eluding our probe. Alternatively, it might have been at the fringe of the attack area, in which case it could right now be making off in any of four directions."
Of the two, Meadows elected for a patient but monotonous box search above the area where the Specified ought to be. With no contact at all, even at the extreme edge of full sonar sweep, Meadows was skeptical. Not ready to believe the UFO could have slipped away so cleanly, he was convinced it was loitering deep within the sphere of recent hammering.
As darkness descended, watch bells rang.
Clough left the bridge to be replaced by Clifford.
Acknowledging Clifford's appearance, there was a light flutter in the fore part of Meadows' brain. Except for the short sleep in his cabin prior to the initial contact, he'd been on the bridge for thirty-two straight hours.
Page 62 Blank
Back on a one-six-seven course, DE-000 sliced through the sea adjacent to the depth charged area. At reduced speed, the destroyer continued to pitch and roll.
"Still no contact."
"Continue all-around sweep," responded Meadows.
At one end of the run, he ordered, frustrated: "Hard a-starb'rd. Continue sweep."
Dutifully, DE-000 retraced its opposite course weaving the systematic box search. Each agonizing run was the same. Blank. And so the tedious search stretched on toward Mid-watch.
night at midnight, Helmsman Trowbridge was free to go below and sleep
undisturbed until breakfast time. Normally, on previous cruises, he had slept
On this Atlantic voyage, even before DE-000 made first contact with the Unspecified, an unfounded fear nagged at him. With the report of something unearthly loitering nearby, his fear amplified.
Earlier, down on his bunk below the waterline, the thought tortured his imagination. It was an anxiety that he could share with no one. There were things that he could go up to the bridge with, but this was not one of them. Sweating, he stared at the moist rivets in the bulkhead while the ship rolled and creaked. With the black Atlantic sluicing past a few inches from his shoulder, he was certain that the alien thing was searching him out personally.
convinced, when coming off watch now, he couldn't bring himself to go below.
Instead, he'd wander the deck aimlessly. Dead tired, eventually he'd huddle up
at the base of a stanchion at the rear of the bridge. Or in an
alleyway by the wheelhouse. Here, he felt more secure than cloistered
below. Fidgeting with his flashlight and bundled in his inflated life jacket,
he would nap fitfully until dawn.
Tonight, clutching the lifeline and dodging the torrents of water thundering on board, he couldn't even sleep on deck. Finally, in desperation, he climbed up behind the bridge where it was relatively dry and wedged himself down against the halyard box.
Mid morning came grudgingly. The storm kept daylight at half gloom. With the DE's incessant plunges, men and equipment were flung about. Meadows gradually reduced speed, again.
lunchtime, Harney and Stegman appeared for duty. Saluting the Captain, Clifford
left the deck. Back in his quarters, he slid his copy of Aliens from Space from
a ' drawer and strode to the captain's cabin. Stepping in, he tossed the book
onto the skipper's bunk. Wheeling around, he balanced precariously along the
to the wardroom for some lunch and coffee.
Noon, the sky was no lighter than past dawn, and the ocean, blacker. Shrieking
over the foredeck, wind-blown seas lashed the 'hatches and bulwarks.
By late afternoon, the destroyer had laboriously crisscrossed a hundred square miles of ocean. Although the search grew in dimension, the sea beneath remained silent.
Impatient and anxious, Meadows struggled out onto the elevated and protected wing of the bridge. Clad in oilskins, he was irritable. Under slashing rain he glimpsed his watch — 1620 — then stared toward an invisible horizon. Under ominous skies, he didn't expect to see anything from his drenched and wind-swept perch. It was just that somehow he felt more actively involved out here than merely marking time inside next to the Plot, blank radar repeater, and inert speakers.
A sudden squelch of boots beside him in the dark made him turn. Seemingly too short in the shadow to be Clifford, he questioned. "Who is it?"
"Ah, Downs. Up to see some excitement?"
"Just for some air, sir. Brought you a bite to eat. You had a light lunch." He pressed something wrapped bulkily in tinfoil into Meadows' hand. "Couple of steamed corned beef sandwiches. And hot coffee."
Clutching the warm tinfoil to his chest, Meadows was impressed. "How did you manage that?"
"Engine room, sir."
Meadows grinned. "Thanks, Steward. I can use this." Gripping the mug in his fist, he shouted against the wind. "Rough weather."
"Could be worse!" roared Downs. "Not quite hurricane force yet!"
Meadows sipped coffee. "What's it like below?"
"Starting to look like a dump."
"Well, this can't last forever."
"No, sir." Unconvinced,
Shifting gales screamed at bulkheads and ports. Tons of water flooded the gunnels. Running off, it barely subsided before swamped scuppers were inundated with a following horrendous tide.
storm pitching them about, below some early sea-sickness, varying states of
grayness and nausea erupted. Nearly everyone persevered, however, and carried
Braced in a corner, Meadows clutched his coffee and wolfed down corned beef. Only now was he conscious of being ravenous. Wedged there, he rolled with the ship and drank.
Aware of watch bells inside, he glimpsed his watch: 2000. He stared sullenly at the horizon. Consuming his sandwiches, he gradually slouched lower in his corner. Only the violent pitch of the ship, and coffee, kept him alert.
No idea how much later, a voice stirred him. "Contact!"
Coming erect and crumpling empty tinfoil, his brain roused. He wheeled into the bridge. "Yes. Where?"
Meadows fiddled with his binoculars. "Come right to zero-four-zero."
Churning right, the ship shouldered heavily into the seas. The destroyer porpoising on its new heading, Meadows flipped the flap on the voice pipe. "Engine room. Give me One-three-zero revolutions." To the helmsman: "I want to stay a point to his starb'rd.
Let him think we've missed him and are going to pass by." While Meadows contemplated his alternatives, the destroyer charged the marbled sea.
Tight and becoming less flexible every passing minute where the submerged was concerned, Meadows definitely wanted that alien target on the surface.
Sonar broke in. "Steady hydrophone ..." Larski suddenly broke off.
"What is it?" probed Meadows.
"The signal's not our target, sir. It's a hard transmission coming from the bottom. Dead ahead but not directed at us." Larski elaborated. "It's steady, like a relay beacon or something."
Meadows stiffened. "What kind of transmission?"
"Electronic Instrumentation's picking it up"
"Let's hear it"
"Aye, sir. Piping it up in Position Two."
As the sound was transmitted through to the bridge, Meadows and Clough turned into it. Difficult to describe, one could only characterize it as a thin, shrieking whistle. Steady in tone, it never varied. Fixed in position, it appeared directed toward the surface.
"Seems to be emanating from some sort of anomaly down there," injected Larski.
"How to you mean, anomaly?" queried Meadows.
"Echo sounder's picking up the source," explained Larski. "It appears solid . . . structural."
"You're sure it's not a water-scattering layer, or some such?"
"No, sir. Scattering-layer return is entirely different. Flat. Mushy. This is sharp. Focused. From a sizeable metallic object."
"What's the configuration of the source?"
"Graphic plot profiles it as appearing vertical, tapering to a broader base."
"No, sir. Stationary. The type of thing a homing beacon would come from."
Meadows was intrigued, but concerned. "Size?"
"Can't really say, sir. Because of the thermal layers and our movement, the graphics are distorted. No clear outline, but it seems considerable."
"Well, gimme a guess!"
There was a pregnant pause. "Could be whaleboat size... twenty feet, say. It appears fixed on the bottom."
As the destroyer slowly skewered forward, the strange signal, like the agonized screech from a sinking ship's funnel, grew in volume.
Meadows bent to the voice pipe. "Decrease speed to one hundred revolutions." At the ring of the telegraphs, the destroyer slowed. "How's that, sonar?"
"Better, sir." responded Larski. "Graphics can get a clearer outline now."
Palms braced on the Plot chart with the penetrating skirl assailing his hearing, Meadows waited.
Positioned by the compass binnacle, Clough rocked a finger in his ear. "God, that's penetrating!"
Nodding, Meadows reached for the rasping sonar phone. "Yes."
Larski was anxious: "Sir. We got a shoal coming up!"
Abruptly the starboard lookout confirmed the fact. "Shoal dead ahead! Sand ... seagrass... coral!"
Even with the storm's turbulence, there was relative clarity in these West Indian waters. The craggy, sandy shoal was readily visible below.
"Two degrees left rudder!" barked Meadows. "Sonar. Gimme a profile."
Larski responded into his chest mike. "Shallow mesa top. Looks to be about twenty-five fathoms. Steep slope. Triple peaked."
Meadows was startled. "Triple peaked?"
"Yes, sir. One to port extending left, second dead ahead. And third to starb'rd."
"Seven hundred yards, Cap'n."
Meadows was suddenly panicky. He'd given a helm order of two degrees to port, which meant they were presently turning into the left shoal. Hurriedly he pressured Larski. "Depth and amplitude between mesas!"
"It varies," droned Larski. "As the slopes extend between, they become shallow. Echo location determines depth and amplitude between left and center mesa best for passing.
Cleft depth begins at forty fathoms. Amplitude 400 feet. Passage between center and right mesa shallower and more narrow."
Hastily Meadows countermanded his earlier helm order. "Ten degrees right rudder. Flank!" Then quickly back to Larski. "Where's the anomaly in relation to the mesas?"
"Seems to be find fixed at the base of the enter one, sir."
With the ship's slow turning capability, its forward motion could devour five hundred yards in no time. Meadows continued issuing helm orders. Within minutes, the ship repoised to nose deftly into the sand and coral passage. Entering the shallow defile, graphics down in CIC kept a running commentary.
"Depth: thirty fathoms. Amplitude: three-eight-zero feet."
While the ship inched ahead, the anomaly's scree battered their ears.
"We got a pretty clear
profile on that anomaly now," announced Larski. "Roughly
torpedo-shaped. Twenty-five feet long and just under
twelve in diameter.
It's wedged into the sand at an upward angle and seems positioned toward the sou'west."
"Thank you, Larski."
Meadows ran a quick picture of the anomaly through his mind. Up to now, he was not aware of any maritime device of the sort developed by nor established upon the floor of the sea anywhere by the Navy.
"Twenty fathoms. Amplitude: three-zero-zero feet."
Meadows turned to Clough. "How's her head?"
"Zero-four-zero, sir. Double shoal amidships."
Meadows snatched a phone. "Sparks!"
"Picking up anything more from that anomaly?"
“No radio traffic, if that's what you mean, sir."
Meadows' frustration grew. He couldn't try radio contact himself with whatever the thing was because of the external power outage.
"Fifteen fathoms," advised CIC. "Amplitude: two-seven-zero feet."
Shifting from one side of the bridge to the other and peering through the windscreen, Clough bored into the storm. Through the rough water there was still enough clarity to discern the shoulders of shoal to the right and left. Draughting twenty feet, the DE had diminishing clearance beneath the keel. Maneuvering four hundred feet of steel ship with a forty-seven foot beam within a confined three hundred feet between craggy walls of a coral sea was risky business. At nearly six p.m., under storm conditions and quickly darkening skies, it was definitely touch and go.
Creeping through the channel, the destroyer neared the epicenter of the screech. Over the intercom, its intensity was ear-splitting. Leaning on the Plot and farthest from the control, Meadows flashed a glare in dough's Direction. "Kill that damned thing!"
Immensely grateful, Clough flipped the lever, and for just an instant the sudden silence was nearly as piercing.
CIC's repetitions were tedious but crucial, 'Ten fathoms. Amplitude: two-two-zero."
At this last, Clough flicked Meadows a lance. "Barely forty feet keel clearance, sir,"
aware of that." Meadows' eyes darted along the bank of instrument
"Keep alert for any proximity
warning lights." In order to maintain the ship's neutrality in the chancy
channel, Meadows murmured subtle orders. "Left two
degrees rudder. Keep an eye on that
As they crept forward gradually clearing the channel, Meadows checked with CIC. "Still receiving the signal?"
"Yes, sir. Softer, and directed away from us now. No change in tone or continuity."
Nodding, Meadows remained intent on locating the submerged UFO.
Clearing the shoal in darkness, the destroyer increased speed, while the anomaly's signal faded. Like enraged jackals nipping at an elusive prey, wind gusts howled the ship's plating. By eight that evening, the ship was re-crossing water they had searched before noon.
As a new relay of personnel reported, Executive Officer Clifford came on duty. The way the shifts had been organized under normal conditions, Meadows could relax a bit; nap whenever he wanted and be available, comparatively rested, at any time he was needed. Under these conditions, however . . . Leaning against the chart table, his eyes were scratchy. Lack of sleep and long hours of straining had produced a subtle fluttering in his forehead.
a final check of the bridge instruments at 2200, Meadows glanced at Clifford.
"I'm going below for a nap. My head's in a whirl. I want to be on the bridge again later. Inform me immediately of any changes."
"Aye, sir," acknowledged the Exec. And Meadows trudged away to his bunk.
Shouldering off the southeaster in his cabin, Meadows draped it over a hook, kicked off his shoes and collapsed onto the bunk. Although his eyes seemed like they were spinning in their sockets, he grasped Clifford's copy, of Aliens from Space. Skimming the back dust jacket regarding Major Keyhoe's official connection regarding the UFO, his brain was fluttery and his skull felt numb. But the opening sentence of the main text was enough to reawaken him.
Behind a new curtain of secrecy, the U.S. Air Force is
engaged in a dangerous gamble involving attacks on UFOS.
Despite Air Force denials, unidentified flying objects
are still operating in our skies.
Meadows' brain was suddenly afire. There it was, he thought. An official statement by a Marine Corps Major about the Air Force. That being the case then, the Navy had to know something substantial.
Dead tired and chilled, his head sank onto the pillow. The cushiony warmth was subduing and reassuring.
Although physically exhausted, his mind refused to relax. He had begun to have misgivings about this unrelenting probe. It was possible, of course, that he could be wrong, that the Specified had eluded him. He nestled his head deeper into the pillow. In which case, he thought, he had been wasting time, fuel, and human energies. Conflicting thoughts confused his thinking. As drowsiness crept over him, however, he was resolved. No! The damn thing was there! The Specified was in the immediate depths somewhere.
the bridge, Clifford scanned the blank instruments with monotonous regularity. He
had long since come to his own conclusion; the Specified had slipped away. With its advance technology such an
object had easy means of escape.
Behind him, Yeoman Cartwright pressed his headset closer. The voice of Radioman Liggy came to him from down in CIC.
"Still picking up anomaly signal."
Cartwright relayed the ongoing message to Clifford. "Range and volume seem to have increased, sir. And tone has dropped sharply in pitch."
Now what, Clifford wondered. Quickly checking the blank sonar repeater, he murmured silently. "Something damned queer is going on under these waters!" Musing, he wondered if there was any connection between the anomaly's signal and the Specified.
By midnight, DE-000 had crisscrossed the better portion of grid-square 41-79. Slowly struggling back and forth amid the unrelenting storm on alternate courses of one-six-seven and three-three-four, they methodically covered the tormented ocean. Even with its all-around sweepings, sonar detected nothing.
on duty, Harney and Stegman checked with Clifford. He just shrugged.
"Not a damned thing," he muttered prior to leaving the bridge. "Just maintain the sweep and course advance."
On a three-three-four course, DE-000 was retracing the same water it had crossed and recrossed. Except for the rolling and pitching against the wind shrieks and lashing waves, inside, the ship settled to a nocturnal relative quiet. The ship's clock clicked off 0200.
Scanning the blank instruments, Harney and Stegman just glanced at each other and shrugged.
The sudden crackle of sonar stiffened Stegman. He snatched a glance at the clock. 0211. "Contact," reported Garrison from below. "Bearing: three-five-zero. Range: eight thousand. Depth: two hundred."
Stegman and Harney leaped to the repeater. A squiggly yellow worm twisted at the edge of the set. Harney snatched a phone.
On his bunk, dead tired, Meadows snored. The rasp of the phone overrode his snorts. Cracking one eye, he fumbled for the phone. "Skipper..."
"Sir. We've got a contact." announced Harney. "Range, eight thousand."
It took Meadows a second to clear his brain. Struggling through to clarity, he acknowledged. "Check. Coming right up." Fatigue still overwhelming him, he wrestled against it. Weary, he rolled off the bunk.
The Captain swayed onto the bridge, gray and bristly. Eyes still red-rimmed, he lurched across the slanting deck. Bracing himself alongside Stegman at the repeater counter, he had just enough time to get a glimpse of the grainy echo at the edge of the screen before it gradually dissolved.
He gripped a phone. "Sonar! Where the hell did it go?"
Garrison took a second to respond. "Can't really say, sir. It just faded, like it had a cloaking effect." He seemed confused.
Meadows' breathing was ragged. "Do you think it was our Specified?"
Garrison was adamant. "Yes, sir. Same size, configuration, and porpoising action."
acknowledged Meadows. "Give me a series of maximum sonar sweeps."
Sleepless, irritable, definitely less flexible, Meadows was becoming obsessed by the UFO. Jaws clamped, fist clenched on the Plotting chart, he growled. "I want that dammed craft on the surface!"
"Getting an ephemeral contact, Captain. Keeps fading in and out. Still bearing three-four-zero. Steady."
Meadows studied the repeater. "Range?"
"Sixty-five hundred. Seems like his forward progress has stopped." Garrison's voice heightened suddenly. "Coming shallow! Definite up doppler."
"All ahead full on three-five-zero. Close to a thousand yards." Meadows' enthusiasm was, at best, tentative. "You think he's going to surface, Soundman?"
"Hard to say, sir. He's coming awfully shallow."
"Right. If he's surfacing, we'll challenge him nose to nose." He turned to Stegman. "Note the: time."
Stegman flashed a glance at the bulkhead ;clock. 0229.
Meadows shot a glance at Harney. Range?"
Meadows nodded. "Let me know when we're within a thousand yards of the target."
Heavy spray exploded against their naked bow. Vibrating, the ship plunged across watery cliffs and valleys. In a desperate attempt to close on the submerged, Meadows kept at 200 revs — 20 knots.
A telephone buzzed harshly.
Meadows gripped it. "Yes."
"Shaking the electronics up, sir," pleaded Garrison.
Meadows frowned. "Sorry. You'll have to bear with it for the next twenty minutes or so."
"Range, four thousand," reported Harney, pressing the phones to his head.
Meadows acknowledged. "Slow to one-forty revs."
The telegraphs relayed the message to the engine room
As the wind buffeted and the cross seas hammered DE-000, she crawled closer to the Specified.
"Two thousand," advised Hamy.
"What's it doing, now, sonar?"
"Sitting motionless, just under the surface."
Enduring arduous forward motion, DE-000 rolled and rocked heavily.
"One thousand yards," announced Harney.
"Slow to one-third."
On the clatter of the telegraphs, the destroyer eased down.
Fully expecting the Specified to submerge or accelerate, everyone on the bridge stood silent.
"Still stationary, sir," reported sonar.
"Close another five hundred," murmured Meadows.
"Bugger's just toying with us," blurted Stegman.
"Sure as hell, he'll break and run again," offered Harney.
Stiff-jawed, Meadows turned to Stegman. "Have Ralston get a crew ready for firing magnesium flares. If he's surfacing for air, we'll give him light... plenty of light . . . enough to hang out his skivvies!"
the destroyer moved awkwardly, those on deck waited apprehensively.
"Sonar. What's he doing?"
"Just sitting. Barely awash."
"Close to one hundred yards," urged Meadows.
Barely making steerage way in rough seas, the destroyer pitched and tossed.
"One hundred, sir."
Within three hundred feet they were closer to the Specified than ever before.
"Stop all engines. Rig for silent ship," barked Meadows. "Kill the sonar. Just listen."
As the ship went quiet, Meadows peered into the black through the spray-washed windscreen. Knocked around by the seas, the destroyer rolled and bobbed like a cork.
Meadows gripped a phone. "Anything, Mathias?"
"No radio traffic, sir."
"Stegman. Have Plot give Ralston the range from our last echo. And have the flare crew stand by to fire four shells."
Before stepping onto the wing of the bridge, Meadows ordered, "Alert all lookouts for a complete visual sweep in fifteen seconds."
"Mortars loaded and ready, sir," reported Stegman.
Meadows checked his watch against the bulkhead clock. Ten seconds to go. Binoculars swaying from his collar, he stepped out onto the wing. Bracing, he squinted against the tropical spray and slanting rain. Glimpsing the luminous dial at his wrist, he counted down. "Three . . . two . . . one ..." and peered in to Stegman. "Fire!"
Stegman barked into the phone.
Mortars thundered their rockets skyward into the foul night. On the heels of each other the shells exploded into a blossom of expanding sparks. In seconds, ahead of the ship, the surface of the sea was bathed in dazzling light.
Staring through the windscreen, Stegman and Harney were impressed. "Jeez," murmured Harney. "It's like mid-day."
Glasses up, Meadows scanned the saw-toothed sea ahead. Seeing nothing, he ordered, "Load and fire to port and starboard."
The mortars hammered twice as four more flares hissed into the sky and burst into a gaudy array of brilliant white and yellow sparks.
"By God, if he's up,"
murmured Meadows to no one in particular, "that ought to show him to
Panning slowly a hundred and eighty degrees from port to starboard, the lookouts observed only ragged seas.
"All clear, starb'rd!"
"All clear, port!"
"Damn!" growled Meadows, barging into the bridge and snatching a phone. "Sonar! What's Specified doing? Any sound?"
"Re-establish contact. See if he's still there."
Establishing contact again, Garrison reported. "Hasn't budged an inch, Cap'n. Just treading water, sir."
Meadows breathed into the voice pipe. "Chief. Gimme one-hundred-twenty revs. Helmsman. All ahead standard. Let's run right over the top of him and see what that does."
As the flashy shower of flare sparks died and darkness again engulfed than, the ship gathered momentum.
"Seventy yards," advised sonar.
"No radio traffic," offered Mathias
"Fifty yards," intoned sonar.
Gripping the windscreen counter, sweat beaded above Meadows' brow. Was this finally going to be the expected confrontation? He reviewed his weapons. Depth charges. Five incher...
"Target diving!" blared sonar. "Straight down! Man, look at sucker drop."
As they slashed over the spot where the craft had been hovering, Barker on the fathometer, read out the numbers. "Seventy feet. . . one hundred . . . one thirty ..."
Down in front of his sonar, Garrison's I squawk was like a strangled chicken. "He's gone! Right off the goddam screen!"
Listening above, Meadows demanded clarification. "Whatta you mean, gone?"
"The son of a . . . he's disappeared, sir. Dissolved right in front of me. No return."
Down in CIC the sonar graphics were a spectacular series of broken-line course changes and maneuverings by the Specified.
out an all-around sweep," ordered Meadows. And Garrison once again sent
out the signal around the ship that, in growing circles, probed the equatorial
and anticipating another lengthy pursuit, Meadows headed for his bunk.
"I'm going down for another quick nap. My ass is beat. Inform me of any
At the height of the storm, hard driven and laboring, DE-000 battled ever gigantic waves and furious attacks of wind. Stalling over the grid-square and spiraling, the storm gradually infused itself with more energy. When the third night in succession found the ship still struggling, the crew were convinced they'd engaged the worst weather in the world. The violence of the northeast gale seemed to harbor a private malice toward the destroyer. Mountainous waves a half-mile from crest to crest roared down. Tons of green sea crashed over the decks and thundered the length of the ship. Between hammerings and screaming winds clawing at the rigging, fear struck at the hardiest of men. On deck, canvas and gear were torn to ribbons, then ripped free. Only the securest of lashings kept the lookouts from being swept away.
Below, Wharton Breed, the doctor, was frenzied with a rash of contusions, lacerations, cracked ribs, and sea sickness due to the ship's drunken thrashings,
Littlelane, the navigator, was near helpless. With no sun to shoot, no visible stars, and no set speed to give him a rough position, where the destroyer turned next was mere guesswork. Still, somewhere within the ragged limits of the grid-square, DE-000 rocked and bucked against the elements and struggled to and fro on their supposed course.
Stegman and Harney recently on duty, the ship's organization was their responsibility. Even with the mess compartments in shambles, galley stove out, deck gear astray and boats loose from chocks, somehow they kept it in hand to a degree.
Long after midnight, Meadows came on deck, surly. Tossed about in his bunk, he hadn't a wink of sleep. Checking instruments, his questions and remarks were gruff.
Presently he thrust his way outside. On the wing of the bridge, he wedged himself into the fixed bridge chair.
Nighttime at sea, and particularly in a storm, adds the terrible unknown. Impenetrable to the eye, the pitch black conjures sudden surprises, fearful noises, and seas that crash down from nowhere choking a man. Before one can close the eyes and mouth, and duck defensively, he's swamped and half crushed.
Stubborn to the last rivet of the platting Meadows hunched and squinted against the stinging spray and salt. Mumbling inwardly, his thoughts became vocal. "If I'm the last man to stay awake on this ship, I’ll continue this drive." His fists clenched the arms of the chair. "I'm convinced." His curse was ripped away by the wind. "That goddamned Specified is underneath us somewhere. And he's controlling the weather."
Satisfied that the Specified was beneath somewhere, he was resolute. Aside from official orders, and inflexible now, he was adamant. Like Ahab's White Whale, he wanted that disc. Damp and irritable, Meadows hunched in his chair while the destroyer quartered the area at half speed.
The hours produced nothing but deadly monotony.
Drugged by that sameness at their stations, ever so gradually the men lost their edge. Sonar blank, radar inert, deck plates subtly translated the humdrum churning of the engines from within.
As the sonar pinged away like a persistent gnat, the tick of the Plotting table motor trickled up the voice pipe to Meadows. It was like an infernal metronome reminding him that nothing was happening. Squirming in his chair, watch bells rang and personnel changed. The hours crept past. Intermittently, reports flowed up the voice pipe.
Garrison on sonar. "No contact."
Stegman announced the time. "Zero four-twenty."
Later, Stalley broke the silence with a weather report. "Wind force Five. Ousting to seventy."
Entrenching himself more firmly in his seat, Meadows was defiant. Facing the slashing salt, he was aware how tired he was. Not only was his brain aflutter, but a persistent throb stabbed at his shoulders and an ache had begun in one hip.
Giving endless helm orders and drinking successive mugs of coffee, at times Meadows' brain wandered so far to more pleasant things that it was an effort to drag it back. In the present reality however, this search could go on for hours; forever. His mind was in conflict. Maybe he was doing the wrong thing, probably guessing wrong in every respect, right from the beginning. The Specified was probably miles from them, enjoying a good laugh at his expense.
Chagrined, he listened to the nagging ping of the sonar. Blank, as if mocking him, its penetrating signal could be heard everywhere on the bridge. Having persisted in its same vain note for hours on end, now it produced an abrupt deviation, a solid ping-ong return. A metallic contact from a seemingly vacant sea
Meadows stiffened to it, as did everyone within earshot: the bridge sprang to action; CIC came alive.
"Sir!" began Littlelane.
"Bridge!" called Garrison.
"All right," answered Meadows glimpsing his watch. 0305. "I heard it." Slipping off his chair, he dashed into the bridge. He loved that sound! Only an iron vessel sounded like that, only the Specified produced that splendid metallic ring.
Having lain hidden for so long, it must now be finally corralled.
The sonar echo sharpened. Garrison on the set, sang out. "Target moving slowly right." Seaman Lowe from aft reported his depth charges ready. Meadows ordered more speed. As the revolutions mounted, DE-000 began to tremble and the range shortened.
Moving right then left, the Specified, like a hare before a hound, kept an appreciable distance between. Only once in its turning, either by accident or by design, did the destroyer come within striking distance. Meadows immediately loosed eight tin cans in the area of the contact, without apparent effect.
Twisting and turning back, the Specified easily avoided the detonations. One of Lowe's depth charge crew on the afterdeck was guttural. "We may as well be bouncing fuzz balls off a nursery room floor for all the effect we're having!"
As the Specified made its turns, the DE heeled desperately trying to sweep in for an assault. Left rocking between monstrous swells, the Specified repeatedly moved away at ease.
Exasperated, Meadows called a halt. "Ease her down to one-twenty revs, Chief."
Slowing to fourteen knots, the destroyer porpoised and bounced in the churning sea. Scuffing out onto the bridge wing, Meadows slid onto his chair again. Beside him, Stegman gripped the rail. Suddenly, Meadows lifted his head, sniffed, and barked out against the storm. "Stegman!"
After a pause, Stegman nodded. "Yes. Scorching smell. Like an overheated dynamo."
Meadows nodded. "That's about the way I would have described it." He mused for a moment. "You don’t suppose all of these hours of submergence are putting a strain on our Specified, do you?"
Stegman shrugged. "Let's see how long he's been down this time." Moving into the bridge, he glanced at the submergence clock. Noting the hours, he pressed out onto the wing again.
"Eighty-four hours and eleven minutes." he blurted to Meadows.
Shaking his head, Meadows detected the scorched air between gusts. He ordered the searchlights to be trained on the water ahead in the area where they had dropped their last charges. As the beam panned back and forth, the only thing visible was the ocean, thick curling foam at the crest of the combers; marbled and gray where the waves curved under; and a slate green monster when it broke over the bows.
With watch bells ringing 0400, Stegman and Harney left to be replaced by Clough. Yeoman Frizzle indicated to Clough that the Captain was on the Wing. Nodding, Clough leaned into the gusting wind and brine.
Secure in his chair, Meadows' face was moist. Tropical winds buffeting him, he was unyielding. After nearly four days of chasing, the expenditure of sixteen depth charges, exhaustion ate into the last of his nerves. Gripping the rail, he eyed Clough as he approached. If we don't apprehend this bastard soon . . ."he began. "I'm so numb now, you could toss me over and I’d float like a stopper."
Little consolation to Meadows that the Specified was there — he'd been right all along.
The bell rang from Sonar. "Target moving dead ahead, zero-zero-zero, sir. Seems to be slowly coming shallow again."
A shaft of anger penetrated Meadows' fatigue. "Keep a tail on him, uh . . ." his tired mind tried to recall who was manning the set on this watch. "Who's on the set?" he inquired.
"Oh yes. Thank you." Meadows' breathing was heavy. "Just don't let him get away again."
Moving slowly, almost leisurely just ahead of them, the Specified crept up from the depths. The steady pine-ong from sonar was reassuring.
"Three hundred feet and rising," sang out Klapes, the soundman.
"Sonar reports it five thousand yards," advised Clough, alongside Meadows.
Within three miles of the Specified, Meadows considered what his next move ought to be. Depth charging had no appreciable effect.
the rail, Clough echoed his own thoughts. "What if he surfaces again,
"At this point, I don't know "
"Two hundred feet. He's coming up, sir." Klapes was excited.
Once again, the cat and mouse game appeared to be imminent.
"Increase speed to one-hundred-fifty revs," breathed Meadows wearily.
As the destroyer punched through the quartering waves, the Specified continued to near the surface at nominal speed.
"One hundred," exclaimed Klapes. "And rising."
Both Meadows and Clough wheeled into the bridge.
"By God. I believe he's going to surface." insisted Clough.
"If he does ..." Meadows exploded. "I'll throw every damn thing I've got at him!"
"Fifty feet!" clamored Klapes. "He's gonna surface."
At 0435, radar erupted. "Target breaking surface."
Clutching the counter before the windscreen, Meadows stared out.
Exploding from the ocean, the UFO rose steeply. Salt water sluicing heavily from its trailing edge, it rose into the murky sky, emitting a mellow green glow.
The bawl from the drenched lookout was emotional. "Sky for'ard! Airborne target! Bearing zero-three-zero! Position angle, fifty."
Encased in granular fog, the craft climbed phantom-like through the murk. Rising silently to several hundred feet, the UFO leveled off, then hovered just forward of the starb'rd bow.
Topside, all hands struggled to glimpse the object through the slashing squall. A strange green fog encased the Specified, the destroyer and the surrounding sea.
Clough was stupefied!
As if on signal, the storm appeared to assuage. Strangely, it seemed suddenly to drift. Although gusts still shrieked and stubborn rain flooded the windscreen, it was all considerably softer.
Hovering roughly three hundred feet above then just off the bow, like a living heart, the craft pulsed softly with its greenish glow.
Yeoman Frizzle and Helmsman Cuddy crowded the two officers at the windscreens. Crouching, they managed to get an upward angle on the motionless craft.
Meadows murmured into the voice pipe. "All stop." Then to the Bosun's mate. "Post a fog watch."
From below, as engines disengaged, the throb of machinery ceased and vibrations up through the deck plates stopped as the ship hove-to.
Above, the fog-ensconced UFO sat ghostly and stationary. Below, the DE in comparative silence, rocked cork-like and waited.
Meadows gripped the phone. "Who's on Communications?"
"What's our outgoing status?"
"Everything still out except on board and local transmissions."
Meadows jammed the phone back. "Damn!"
Leaning toward the windscreen, he peered upward. As the wind gusts eased from shrieks to sighs, he stepped out onto the wing. Glasses up, he peered at the shimmering image. With a transparent cupola of sorts above, it looked like a round glassy cockpit atop the craft. The main body was convexly shaped and there were lighted portholes around the perimeter, with a soft yellow light emanating from within. And the entire craft was surrounded by a rich green glow.
Standing there, Meadows mused. Was this, then, the manifestation of that confrontational bat that had been fluttering around in his gut all this time?
He dropped the glasses onto his chest. "Sound General Quarters!"
Inside, Clough depressed a lever. "General Quarters! General Quarters! All hands man your battle stations!"
At the clang of alarm bells, boots thudded.
Like a fencer, fist at the hilt, Meadows faced the Specified contemplating its probable move. He flung a glance at Frizzle. "How long was he under this time?"
Frizzle read off the submergence clock. "Eighty-five hours and twenty-one minutes, sir."
Irritated, but reluctantly impressed, Meadows frowned. "Must have one hell of an oxygenation system."
For a long fifteen minutes in eerie silence, the destroyer confronted the Specified. Then, seeming to melt its surrounding fog, the UFO intensified its green glow. Taking on gradual dimension in the mist; round, revolving rim, domed, and silent; the Specified began to move. Transfixed, those on deck watched. Transmutation-like, it slipped from its misty green cocoon and glided forward.
Breaking his trance, Meadows addressed Clough. "Have the number one gun stand by."
Nodding, Clough snatched at his chest phone and alerted the bow gun crew.
The DE's men were a crew who had gradually become dedicated to a single naval theme, career; had quickly become expert in their particular specialties; and who humorously and at times roughly cajoled but instantly defended the comradeship of shipmates.
They were men who with a core of fear, and in a few cases terror, were still collectively stalwart, with neither time nor room for interference or disruption from aliens in any form. But now for the first time they were thoroughly scared; scared as hell!
With a sudden thrust of speed the UFO bored in, rushed across them at masthead level, and then swept up in a rising curve. Rolling severely from the Specified's magnetic wash, the destroyer's crew was flung about like dolls. The UFO banked around in a circle to stop and hover in its original disposition off the bow.
Gripping the counter, Meadows was furious. "Now what the hell was that for?"
Hardly had the words passed from his lips when the Specified dipped toward them again.
"Hang on!" barked Meadows. He clutched the counter and observed the thing dart low over their foretop.
the Specified swept up and around to
hover once again off the bow, Meadows growled. "Clough! Tell the gun crew
to tickle his testicles with a five-incher."
"Aye sir." Clough grasped his phone. "Number One gun."
"One round. Airborne target. Fire!"
The hammer of the forward gun barely preceded the green-orange belch from the muzzle as a projectile hurled upward. Within seconds a visible splatter of sparks, combined with a harsh crunch as the shell exploded, short of its target, and seemingly against some invisible field surrounding the craft.
Meadows stared. "What the hell?" He turned to Clough. "Try another!"
Clough passed the order. "One round. Fire."
Vomiting violent flame, the five-incher spewed another shell upward with the same result; premature sparks and explosion; collision with the same invisible barrier.
Meadows was incredulous. "I'll be damned."
The Specified intensified its greenish glow again.
Meadows leapt to the voice pipe. "All engines ahead flank!"
To Cuddy. "Hard a-Starb'rd!"
Under a violent head of steam the destroyer heeled sharply right. Dipping its leading edge toward the ship, the Specified glided forward. As it swept overhead along the port side, those on the bridge stood momentarily frozen. Passing abeam of the fantail, the Specified arced a blue electronic bolt from its underside. Zapping the water at the destroyer's stem, the sea erupted. The huge fount, with its ear-splitting crack was like several depth charges detonating together.
On the bridge an abrupt tremor ran through the ship. Four decks below in Damage Control, Schritzer experienced a definite shudder, as if the ship had been jolted backward. In the engine room, Wheaton felt the jolt along with a sudden electrical impulse. Then for a second he witnessed a section of the ship's outer plating literally glow!
Turning to starboard at high speed as the flash came against them, Meadows ordered the wheel to be centered.
"She's refusing to answer," responded Cuddy anxiously.
In the engine room, Seaman Alfredo saw on the indicator that the ship was doing eighteen knots, while the compass repeater showed she was circling. The wheel apparently jammed at fifteen degrees to starb'rd, he too noted they were steaming in a circle. He reported to the skipper. "Rudder repeaters shows consistent fifteen degrees to starboard, sir."
"Check," breathed Meadows. He ordered, "All stop "
"Clough. Have damage control report."
As the ship hove to once again, all eyes looked up into the night sky. Drifting soundlessly, the green-glowing craft came to a halt off the starboard bow. Remaining motionless, it just pulsed with its soft, neon-like glow intensifying and subsiding.
Countenance tight, Meadows mumbled, "Dammed thing's more of a problem above the water than it was below."
this was Meadows' personal confrontation, it was a silent one. Even the storm
in its weakening fury seemed to pause and take note. Sighs in the rigging were
farther apart. With the slackening rain, it was now possible to see through the
The seas, no longer mountainous, only thumped at the bows and lapped at the decks.
At 0500 Damage Control reported. Seaman Bellenger's voice was tremulous. "All lower compartments intact, sir. No extensive inboard damage. Slight electrical malfunction in the after rudder control box." Ballenger drew a breath. "This seems to indicate some external rudder damage."
Mildly surprised, but thankful, Meadows had expected more in the way of impairment.
Frightening enough to have the UFO just sitting above them, it was even more terrifying to realize that the thing was like an electronic eye in the sky. Watching their every move and gauging their subsequent responses, the DE's crew was naked to direct observation, so to speak.
"Wonder what the bastard's conjuring up next?" mused Meadows aloud.
Speaking into the phone, he hailed the engine room. "Chief. Take a couple men and find out what the problem is in the after rudder compartment."
He turned to Clough. "Put a boat with crew over the side. I want an external assessment of the rudder damage."
Clough began to assemble some off-duty personnel as a damage evaluation team. He picked six men, with Able Seaman Trowbridge in charge.
Down in the engine room, chunky Chief Marsden, sweat and smudged, picked two of the slimmest of his ham-handed stokers. "You, Stubbs and Chorney." He bellowed above the clatter. "Come with me." And Marsden led them aft toward the jammed rudder mechanism.
Topside, five seamen gathered at the portside whaleboat secured in its chocks. Seaman Trowbridge was absent.
"Now where the frig did he run off to?" demanded Minarski.
"He ain't in the mess, either," confirmed Vellini.
"Jee-sus Christ!" griped Pellingham, trudging away to report.
On PellinghanYs report, Clough turned on the loudspeakers. "Helmsman Trowbridge! Report to the portside whaleboat station. On the double!"
Trowbridge, again up behind the bridge and wedged against the halyard box, had finally dozed off. His subconscious relayed the speaker message to his conscious.
As the message was repeated through the speakers, he came awake. Clattering away to the portside station, he was greeted with a chorus of jeers.
With considerable cursing and occasional jibes at Trowbridge, the men slung the boat over the side. Lowering away, they stood inside the boat's gunnels and peered up at the UFO hovering above and just beyond the bow.
"Hope that bastard don't decide to come down," shuddered Vellini
"Wish to hell it would just go away," uttered Salvadore.
In the stem by the tiller, Trowbridge just stared. He knew why the dang was up there. His early-on premonition was still with him.
More frightening than even the airborne UFO was the misty green fog enveloping everything. Lowered by the boat falls the whaleboat thumped onto the water. Swells subdued now, they were merely chop and low waves. Like oil, the fog on the surface seemed to temper the sea. Squeezing the tiller, Trowbridge peered into the inscrutable gloom and was suddenly racked by an uncontrollable shudder. That damned space craft had come for him. He knew it!
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With the whaleboat's engine gutturally churning the water, Trowbridge put over the tiller and they bobbed toward the stern of the ship.
Down to the rear of the engine room, a small door opened to the tunnel that led to the propeller shafts. Handing Chomey the battle lantern, the Chief directed Stubbs and him to squeeze through the tunnel. "Try to establish what the trouble is," he exhorted. "See if we can free up the propellers, somehow."
Slithering through the short tunnel, Chorney and Stubbs wriggled into the compartment housing the shafts in question. Glancing critically about, they shrugged. There was no apparent damage nor reason that the shafts couldn't turn freely. Crawling back through the tunnel, they reported to Marsden. Shrugging, he led them to a similar door.
This led to the rudder shafts and screw aperture." Maybe the trouble's in there somewhere," he directed. A larger door, Marsden squeezed through himself. Checking both shafts, the glands, the sleeves, and the aperture packings, he shrugged once more. "Not a thing wrong that I can see."
Out on the water down along the port side Trowbridge cut the engine, allowing the boat to ease choppily toward the stern. As they eddied toward the rudders, all eyes widened and peered along the hull. A twenty-foot scorchline, a foot wide, had charred the plating all the way to the stem waterline.
"Holy shit!" blurted Hughes, following the black slash. "How the hell you figure he did that?" He gazed up as if expecting the craft to descend.
Bouncing and swaying astern, Trowbridge did his best to hold the beat relatively steady under the counter. With nothing for the boat to tie up to, it was tricky. There were no apparent projections nor hooks for a seaman to grab.
Maneuvering the boat close under one side of the fantail and then the other, they all tried to penetrate the water for a glimpse of the port and starboard rudders and the screws beneath.
At long last, his arms weary from working the tiller, and after only able to view the undamaged outboard propeller struts, Trowbridge gave it up and steered along the port side again. "It'll take a couple of divers to see anything down there," he breathed.
Clambering aboard the destroyer and reporting to the Captain, Meadows had Trowbridge stand by as he tried endless combinations of telegraph orders in attempts to free the rudders: Half ahead port; half ahead starb'rd; stop center; slow astern stab'rd; full ahead port; half ahead center; whatever he tried, the result was the same.
Exasperated, he finally agreed with Trowbridge. Put a diver over the side. Hughes, the veteran hard-hat diver was summoned on board and prepared for a submerged look at the ship's screws and rudders.
Lowered awkwardly into the whaleboat within his canvas suit and iron helmet, he was helped to maneuver, thumping heavily onto a thwart.
With all of the cumbersome equipment — air hose, generator, guide line, weights — stowed aboard, Trowbridge steered the boat aft again.
Once more under the counter, Trowbridge steadied the boat as Hughes prepared to go over. The external rudders positioned right under the stem counter, there was nothing substantial for a diver to cling to except the enormous screws themselves. And even though the sea had abated considerably, one could easily be sucked away; straight down, or dashed dangerously against the barnacled keel. Ready with an anchor line in the clenched fists of his shipmates, Hughes stepped over the gunwale. With a subdued splash, he sank into the depths.
Below decks, Marsden opened the armored hatch to the steering compartment. Entering with his two seamen, he thought to unclutch the motors. Then in the adjacent hand steering compartment, they could couple up the maneuvering that way. Rummaging around the connections and machinery, Marsden could find nothing out of order. Methodically checking with Briggs in After Control, Alfred at the Compass Repeater, and Ballenger in Damage Control he was stumped.
Save for an eccentric electrical impulse in the After Rudder Control box, all of the other circuitry involved was in working order.
Under the water, Hughes paddled around heavily between the huge rudders and screws. Feeling here and there, he bumped his way around the keel. Investigating the rudder posts, propeller shafts and struts, with the exception of some odd discoloration on some of the propeller faces, he could find nothing amiss. Signaling by way of his anchor line, he felt himself being hauled to the surface.
Iron helmet bobbing by the boat, he was hauled inboard, his helmet unscrewed and carefully lifted off. He shook his head. "Nothing wrong down there. Must be electrical somewheres." He wriggled out of his suit.
On deck, Meadows received the reports. Not a thing wrong with the outboard steering gear, nor with the inboard engines or armaments. Meadows was frustrated. One lone abnormality, it seemed, was enough to render the ship as helpless as a babe. He ordered Trowbridge to leave the stem, approach amidships and come aboard.
Feeling oddly queasy, Clough glanced at the bulkhead clock — 0630. Hove-to, the ship rode more easily now, with the wind less vicious and the seas flatter. Peering through the windscreen, Clough tried to penetrate the green fog encompassing everything. He imagined he could see through to the outer edge, like looking through a thin balloon, but doing so only made him more queasy.
The sun was up obviously, but you couldn't tell because of the lingering storminess. The odd gust and rogue swell still buffeted them off and on.
In the whaleboat, Trowbridge steered them from under the ship's counter and out along the hull. As they were approaching midships, that crawling, gnawing feeling grabbed at him. Fist clutching the tiller, in reflexive fear, it tightened and squeezed. Looking up, he saw the UFO heighten its glow and edge slowly from the ship's starboard bow to its port bow. The others aboard the boat observed the movement as well.
Trowbridge fell back against the tiller mount. Aside from being damp from the spray, his skin was clammy with sweat, his face ashen.
Staring up, he froze to the tiller. The thing was coming for him, he knew it!
On the bridge, Clough and Meadows' voices melded together. "He's moving."
Radar chimed in on top of them. "Target moving from ten degrees right to ten degrees left!"
"I see it," acknowledged Meadows. He turned to Clough. "Have the forward gun stand by."
Then into a phone. "What's our communications status now?"
"Still out, sir. Only local circuits."
Irate, Meadows stamped out onto the port wing of the bridge. Glaring up, he watched the silent creepy thing with its accompanying green glow drifting slowly a-port of them. Not more than three hundred feet above, and with their own general communications out and the ship practically immobile, there was hardly an aggressive or defensive thing he could do about the situation.
the whaleboat, the crew shrank back on the thwarts. Immobile, Trowbridge clung
to the tiller.
Aloft and edging along the port side of the ship, the UFO glided over the whaleboat. Eyes stark and staring, the crewmen crowded each other. At the, tiller Trowbridge was in panic. When the craft stopped and hovered directly over them two of the men, life-jacketed and a-quiver, sprang to the gunwale. Terror-stricken, they leaped overboard.
Almost immediately, a blue light shaft descended onto the boat. Just before it touched down, another of the crew, Pellingham, went over the side. The others, Minarski, Salvador, and Trowbridge, were frozen to the boat. As the light shaft encompassed and seemingly overpowered them, they stiffened like an electric current had coursed through their bodies.
Meadows raced onto the port side signal bridge so that he could see over the side. Tossing a glance up to the glowing craft, he followed the blue shaft down to the whaleboat. Joining him, Clough just stared. Leaning against the rail both officers were stunned.
There, engulfed in the light beam, Seaman Minarski was slowly ascending the blue shaft as if rising in an elevator.
Just beneath, Seaman Salvadore had begun his involuntary rise. Clutching the tiller, a sudden stark memory flashed in Trowbridge's mind. He was twelve in his small punt on the pond behind his house. The circular object hovered over him. A blue beam flashed down; then sudden levitation up into the craft.
One fist frozen to the tiller now, reflexively Trowbridge's other fingers slid down to the tell-tale scoop mark just below his knee. Struggling to maintain his sanity, he realized that the thing was here for him again. Then, like the two crewmen rising above, he too, was plucked away. Obviously helpless and paralyzed, and being deliberately levitated up toward a waiting alien craft, was the worst kind of scenario any earthly man could devise.
Squeezing the rail, Meadows gaped at the three men being drawn up the beam toward the craft. The wind moaning in the rigging gave him the shivers, not the shivers of cold, nor fear of the storm, but the cold clammy terror of the unknown.
Gliding silently upward within the craft's green glow, the seamen were lost to sight. Then, the blue shaft of light snapped out.
The only thing remaining below was the abandoned whaleboat rocking and bobbing alongside. Its rudder and tiller rattled and clattered aimlessly at the mercy of the unpredictable sea.
Dashing inside, Meadows tossed an order at the yeoman. "Frizzle! Get a crew into that whaleboat and search for those men who jumped into the water."
He snatched a phone. "Communications. Open all local circuits. I want to try and contact that alien craft again."
"Aye, sir," responded Osborne.
On the heels of Osborne's voice, radar and the lookout's call came as one. "Target moving left and rising."
Meadows wheeled outside to the wing.
With the storm clouds thinning, some morning light tried to shine feebly behind them. The glowing overhead object was now moving up and farther a-port. As the craft eventually disappeared into the clouds toward mid-ocean, the surrounding green fogbank dissipated behind it. Just then, the first glint of sunlight pierced the clouds while the tranquil Atlantic lay glistening and choppy.
Suddenly, the phone from down in CIC erupted. It was Osborne. "Sir! Our communications are back."
Too late to try and contact the Specified now, thought Meadows. It's gone, and with three of my men abducted aboard it. Snatching a glance at the clock — 0711 — he gazed through the windscreen. A splinter of sun was penetrating the ragged clouds. Hard pressed to accept what had recently happened, the whole affair seemed one of fantasy. Never in his wildest imagination could he ever have conjured up such an outlandish adventure.
The communications phone buzzed. It was Osborne again. "Message coming through, sir. Typed dispatch in answer to your earlier message. It reads: 'Have intercepted your TACREP — 1305 ZT to CINCLANT. Commend excellent work but regret must forbid any action without confirmation this hqts due to critical assessment your situation.
Suggest passive shadow until further orders. Signed, CINCLANT '"
"Lovely!" growled Meadows. "Thank you, Osborne." Typical out-of-synch timing. Glancing at the blank radar repeater alongside, he shrugged. Nothing to do now except wait for the whaleboat crew to locate and rescue those crewmen in the sea.
Strolling out to the signed bridge, he panned his glasses across the water. At some distance off to port and astern of them, the whaleboat bobbed on the waves. Through the glasses he observed only three men aboard; the whaleboat crew. From the signal bridge the shadowy waves made it difficult to spot anyone in the water.
Once more the phone from CIC rang. Meadows stepped to the bulkhead. "Yes."
message from CINCLANT, sir. 'Upon reappraisal of
situation by senior staff, we grant permission to challenge and interdict Unspecified craft
your vicinity. Expect prompt action and prudent force with any trespass in
Have dispatched DMS to your immediate ssistance.' Signed, CINCLANT.'"
Meadows replaced the phone. For a moment he stood there, his present thoughts regarding Naval High Command not repeatable among ship's company.
Presently, Clough joined Meadows by the rail. Glasses up, he searched the sea. "Any luck?"
"Not yet," exhaled Meadows. "But they'll find them. They can't have drifted far."
While the destroyer gradually returned to normal sea routine, Clough and Meadows continued to observe the whaleboat from the rail. The whaleboat's systematic quest in a sense was a mini scene of the mammoth box search done earlier by the destroyer.
Nearly and hour later, on change of Watch, the sun chased the storm and gradually dissolved the lingering clouds. The bulkhead phone buzzed. Meadows strode over to it. "Yes."
was Chief Engineer Marsden. "Sir.
We've located and corrected the trouble in the after rudder control box. The
rudders are now clear and operational."
"Good, Chief. We'll get moving shortly."
Raising his glasses again and scanning the distant sea, Meadows was joined by Clifford. Panning his glasses along the skyline, he tapped Clifford on the shoulder and pointed. "Look there."
Shifting his glasses, Clifford spotted it. A soft trailing smudge low on the horizon; familiar smoke from the short stack of an approaching minesweeper.
As the distant destroyer's bow and upper works hove into view, one of the crew in the nearby whaleboat raised his fist and signaled exultantly. Through his glasses Meadows observed two of the crewmen haul someone from the water.
"Well, that's one," he breathed. "Keep an eye on them," he directed Clifford. “I’m going to turn the ship."
The distant minesweeper, a ship of considerably younger vintage, cleaved the water smartly. Clean and sleek, like a whippet on a scent, the DMS altered course and charged on. With a hard starboard rudder Meadows had DE-000 heeling around and headed slowly toward the whaleboat and the closing DMS.
"Message from DMS, sir." The signalman handed it over.
Meadows scanned it. "How may I be of assistance?"
Meadows glanced at the waiting signalman. "Make to DMS. 'Appreciate your offer. Have two men in water. May be drifting your sector. Please retrieve."
The signalman strode away.
On the bridge, Meadows nosed the destroyer south-westward. Creeping forward, DE-OOO's lookouts scoured the surface for the two missing men. Across the water, the DMS searched on an opposite tack.
Little by little, the two ships methodically covered the mini grid-square between them. The minutes mounted into the best part of an hour. Then abruptly the DMS flickered a hasty message via her shutter lamp. "Two men recovered. Request permission to come alongside for transfer."
Cheerfully, Meadows read the message handed him. He nodded. "Take this down. 'Am grateful for recovery. Permission granted to come alongside!'"
Shortly, the DMS eased a-starboard and hove-to. With a ragged chop to the sea around the ships, the water separating them became choked and sullen.
"Have those men report to me as soon as they're aboard," ordered Meadows.
Almost immediately a line was fired over from the DMS1 gun, to the DE, and the high line transfer cable attached was hauled aboard and secured. First one, then the other of the crewmen, via a dangling breeches buoy, was transferred across the intervening water and helped onto the deck.
Leaning on his signal bridge rail, the skipper of the DMS shouted over. "What happened, Captain?"
Similarly slung over his own rail, Meadows shrugged. How could he tell the DMS1 skipper the truth? Cupping his hands to his mouth, he bellowed back. "You wouldn't believe it if I told you, Captain!" He paused to inhale. "We had to put a boat and crew over the side to assess some damage aft. In the storm, three of our crew were tossed over!"
Nodding his head, the DMS1 Captain appeared satisfied. Obligingly, he barked across. "Are you navigable? Need any service in that area?"
To which Meadows loudly replied. "Appreciate your inquiries. Presently navigable after slight rudder control repairs. Will return to base shortly."
Again the DMS' skipper nodded.
The high line and breeches buoy now back on board the DMS, the two ships' engines throttled up and they gradually drew apart.
As soon as the DMS pulled away, the DE's whaleboat came alongside. Tethering the boat to the davit cables, boat and crew were hauled aboard. Inboard, the whaleboat being secured in its chocks, the ship's loudspeakers blared: "Seamen Vellini, Pellingham, and Hughes, report to the bridge."
While the DE altered direction to port, a message flickered across from the DMS' stem blinker. "Will see you anon, back in port."
Humorously, Meadows had the signalman flash a parting message to the receding DMS. "Obliged for your assistance. Tally-ho, youthful sister."
DE-000 finally got underway toward port.
With the sun now streaming down on her upper works and a soft breeze drafting over her deck, the destroyer rode the shallow swells with a certain buoyancy. The storm now well to the west of them, was a distant wall of gray squall swirling toward the Bahamas. Its trailing edge seemed to have swept the recent UFO encounter and the abductions along with it. Somehow the whole recent episode seemed unreal.
On the bridge, three seamen shoulder to shoulder, stood alongside Whittaker on the wheel. Coming in from the signal bridge, Meadows appraised the bridge complement, all at their proper stations, then eyed the three crewmen.
Striding toward them, he flung over his shoulder: "Clifford. Take the Conn." Then to the three seamen, "Come with me."
Followed by the rescued men, Meadows nipped lightly down the ladders to the Officers' Wardroom. Approaching the door he beckoned to the Chief Steward. "Steward. I want a man posted at this door. Let no one enter. And bring us some fresh coffee."
Saluting, the steward spun away.
Motioning the sailors to chairs at the table, Meadows seated himself opposite them. "I want to go over the details regarding the flying object while you were in the whaleboat," he began.
The men, Vellini, Pellingham, and Hughes looked pale and glanced across at Meadows nervously.
"We'll start with you, Pellingham," suggested Meadows.
Just then Chief Steward Appey shoved open the door, set a coffee pot on the sideboard and poured four mugs of coffee. Placing them before the men at the table, he passed out spoons and shoved the creamer and sugar bowl toward the Captain. "Side arms, sir."
Nodding, Meadows reached for the sugar cubes.
As soon as Appey had disappeared through the door, Meadows creamed his coffee and stirred.
"Okay, Pellingham. Describe what happened from your position in the whaleboat."
lengthily at the Captain, Pellingham tried recalling the details of the incident.
"Well, sir, when that thing came over the port side and stood over us, I knew something no good was going to happen." Pellingham's breathing became rapid. "About the time that blue bolt started down toward the whaleboat, I got scared as hell, sir and I jumped over the side."
Meadows' gaze was tolerant. In Bellingham's place he might have done the same thing. "Was there any sound associated with the light? I mean, when it drew the other men up out of the boat?"
Pellingham reflected. "No, sir. I didn't hear no sound."
Meadows glanced at Vellini. "What about you?"
Vellini just shrugged. "Same with me, sir. When that thing slid over the top of us and sent down that blue light shaft, I just went over, sir."
"Did you note any details about the craft itself?"
Vellini shook his head. "No, sir. I was too damned scared, sir. I just started swimming away from the ship."
could see that the men were agitated and afraid. He turned to Hughes.
"Hughes. What did you see?"
Twiddling his thumbs nervously, Hughes glanced from the Captain to the bulkhead and back again. "Well, sir, I went over the side like the others." Hesitating.
Meadows noted it. "Yes. What else? Go ahead, Hughes. It's all strictly confidential."
Hughes nibbled at his lower lip. "Well, sir..." He squeezed his fingers. "When I got in the water, I did the backstroke so's I could get another look at that thing." Hesitating again, he inhaled deeply. "It was in one of the thing's portholes It looked like a head..." he stared hard at Meadows, "a. female head, sir... long hair, I mean." Suddenly mute, it was like he'd said too much.
With all of the unearthly aspect involved in the episode, Meadows marveled at himself that this added facet didn't dismay him that much. He gradually come to realize that now anything was possible.
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Shortly before noon, Meadows finished his questioning in the wardroom. He could get nothing more out of the men. Possibly their residual fear overrode anything more that they may have noticed. Smiling, he released them.
Back on the bridge, Meadows peered through a side panel of the windscreen. Splintered shards of sunlight glinted off the ocean's faceted surface. It was nearly four hundred miles back to port, but with clear blue skies above and friendly seas beneath, he could breathe easily once more. He bent to the voice pipe. "One-seventy revs, Chief"
The engineer's acknowledgment was the ring of the annunciator, followed by the telegraph's black indicator shifting to seventeen knots.
Boots apart and planted on the deck, Meadows meditated.
With twenty-four hours steaming to get back to port, he had time to resolve some details in his mind preceding his appearance before higher command. He still harbored the conviction that somewhere within the hierarchy there was prior knowledge as to what he was sent out to contact and pursue.
Would they believe his report then, he wondered? Of course, they would. They knew beforehand what his ship probably was going to encounter. But then, upon facing him, would they concede any knowledge of such a phenomenon?
Spotting a pod of something surfacing and blowing, away off to port, he raised his glasses. Whales most likely, enjoying the tranquility of the sea after the storm.
He lowered his binoculars. The more he ruminated over his upcoming report, the more he was convinced of his latest premise. If the Navy hadn't trusted him with specific information before the fact, then why indeed would they validate any evidence produced by him after the fact?
The nagging bat that had earlier scaled the walls of his gut had dissipated. The protracted confrontation with the UFO had wrung all of the apprehension out of that anxiety.
But now he was accosted by another abdominal sensation that clawed annoyingly at him with equal agitation, facing upstairs with his report. And part of that report was the three missing men. How was he to account for three sailors plucked up from a boat right before his eyes? How was Brass going to accept this?
As the afternoon wore on, DE-000 bucked and plunged against the gentle swells. The sweltering sun slid lower into a purplish haze, a haze that welled at the horizon like a gathering cloud of steam. Sliding into it, the sun waxed furnace red and fiery. But its anger was tempered by the denseness of the haze. With the ship's night bells clanging, the bosun's whistle piped fresh hands to stations.
Out on the starb'rd wing of the bridge, Meadows stood binoculars up scanning the sky. Not simply curious as to whether the UFO was still lingering in the area, he wasn't convinced it wouldn't be back.
Lieutenant Clifford newly on duty joined the Captain. Observing the first stars, he scanned the heavens. "Nice clear night, sir."
Admiring the summer constellations winking in the spreading velvet of dark, Meadows agreed and pointed. "There's Scorpio."
High up and to the right was Bootes. Only an occasional cloud marred the beauty of the accumulating diamonds overhead. Turning, Clifford pointed to Ursa Major, then to the extreme edge of the northern horizon, Pleiades, the seven sisters, which was barely visible.
Meadows took note. A stay wisp of cloud floated across the constellation. "I can see only six of the sisters."
"According to some of the UFO reports," began Clifford, "some of the UFO occupants claim to be from Pleiades."
Meadows gazed up. "Maybe our visitor was the missing sister." There was a pause. "And to think, we're returning to base short three of our crew!"
There was another pause. Then Clifford's voice was guarded. "About that, sir. Trowbridge was convinced that the spacecraft was after him."
"What makes you say that?"
Clifford continued in low tones. "He'd mentioned it to one of the crew.
And he confided it to me after the incident."
Staring out toward an invisible horizon,
Meadows shook his head compassionately.
"What a hell of a thing to happen to anyone."
Behind him, Clifford stood in silent agreement.
Four bells into the Midwatch — 0200 — Meadows was snoring soundly. He'd been asleep for four hours and was comfortably in a deep trance. Within the darkened ship, sailors manned their stations and the night duty settled to routine.
Stegman and Harney were on the bridge and under a working quiet, DE-000 plowed sou'west through tranquil water. A bank of cloud floated off to port. Otherwise a three-quarter moon shone down on the ocean. Some of the earlier phosphorescent forms returned to the surface to glimmer like jewels.
Suddenly the Telephone Talker next to Stegman pressed the phone to his ear. "Sir. Radar report. Sky for'ad. Airborne object. Bearing three-six-six, about four miles. Altitude 7,000 feet. Moving right, toward the bow."
On standing orders, Harney near the wheel, leaned and pressed the G.Q. bell. The boson's voice through the speaker system was brusque. "General Quarters! General Quarters! Man your Battle Stations!"
Again the ship came alive.
Stegman was on the phone. It rasped in the Captain's cabin. It took a second for his fogged brain to react. He snatched at the phone. "Yes..."
"Radar reports airborne object approaching, sir."
Meadows did a half-gainer out of the bunk. "Coming!"
Streaking up the ladder, he lurched into the bridge.
Stegman and Harney, with binoculars on the windscreen, followed the object as it popped into view from the cloud bank and advanced toward them.
Meadows jerked his glasses up and zeroed in on it. As the object cleared the last wisps of cloud, a familiar green starb'rd navigational light was displayed on what appeared to be a wing tip.
The radar bell rang.
Meadows gripped it. "Yes."
"Aircraft, sir." Bent over the radar screea, Halmstead studied the moving blip. "I'm afraid I was a little premature, sir. The blip was unidentifiable while it was in the clouds Sorry, sir."
"It's all right." Meadows breathed easier. "I'd rather have an early alert than that damned UFO unexpectedly on top of us again. As the aircraft roared overhead and flew on, Meadows switched phones. "Lookouts. Can you make it out?"
A voice came back. "It's Navy, sir. In the black it appears to be an F-4."
Nodding, Meadows breathed easier. "Very good. Secure from General Quarters." Then stepping over the coaming, he tramped the ladder back down to his bunk.
Riding the easy swells and under a waning moon, DE-000 steamed her way sou-sou-west toward Roosevelt Roads. Only an indistinct silhouette and the occasional smudge puffing from her short stack gave any trace at all that a vessel was on the water.
Several officers stood conversing nonchalantly on the quay.
Their attention turned seaward as the destroyer nosed into the harbor.
On the wing of the bridge, Meadows spotted them through his glasses. He couldn't tell if they were the reception committee awaiting his arrival.
The ship moved up the turbulent waters of the harbor toward the open quay between several other ships tied up there. The DMS that had assisted them lay bow-on alongside the opposite dock.
As to the observing brass on the dock, Meadows was presently preoccupied with bringing DE-000 alongside against a breeze blowing her offshore and a brisk tide churning foam under her stem.
"Dead slow." muttered Meadows.
As the DE sidled up to the quay, Meadows ordered, "Stop port. Step it up with those lines or the tide will have us out into the stream again." Presently, "Slow ahead port."
Then from aft. "Stern wire ashore, sir."
water between the dock and the ship began to roil and rise as it was squeezed
outward. The surge from the screws sluiced and sucked at the oily, discolored
The windless on the fo'c'sle began clanking as it wound the head rope in. Then subtly, as DE-000 brushed the wooden timbers of the quay, her straining ropes held and she came to a complete standstill.
Taking a moment to make certain she was securely berthed, Meadows rang off engines.
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nearly military precision, parallel shadows from a row of Royal palms slashed
across the concrete sidewalk. A stucco and stone naval
building shouldered up two stories behind them. Just below the
building's cornice stones was some definitive
Inside, on a glass door of an upper office complex, stark lettering announced: "CINCLANT CMDR SO ATLANTIC FLEET. COMMODORE HARRISON E. DUTTON"
Late sun slanted through the spit'n polish upper panes of Commodore Dutton's office window. A slight breeze whispered through the open lower half.
Newly transferred from a brief Stateside office command, Dutton was chunky, balding and ever increasingly morose. He was at odds with humid weather. After sixteen years at sea, he was now considered more skillful behind a desk than before a binnacle.
On his desk at arms' length stood an Atlantic Tarpon paperweight mounted on Cherrywood. Its arched spine bespoke the fish's vigor. Protruding jaw, bony throat plates and heavy silver scales, it was a handsome thing, rod and reel-wise.
In starched whites, elbow on the desk, Dutton supported his forehead with his palm. His concentration was marked by the puckered wrinkle at his brow. Absently caressing the tarpon's dimpled scales with the fingers of his left hand, he perused a report flattened on his executive blotter. From Captain Meadows regarding the UFO episode in the 41-79 grid-square, it had been earlier handed to him by Vice Admiral Shears, presently entrenched in a leather chair across the desk.
Finishing the report, Dutton leaned back and peered across the corner of his desk. Admiral Shears chisel-chinned and severe, a spiral of blue smoke curling from the cigar in his fist, scowled back. "So?" he glowered.
Dutton's eyebrows were raised. "Well, JANAP-146 is still in effect. Joint Army-Navy-Air Publication. 'Communications Instructions for reporting vital Intelligence Sightings from Airborne and/or Waterborne Sources. Unidentified Flying Objects. Chapter II. Paragraph 201 (1). Security. Section III. Paragraph 208. Providing stiff penalties for divulging information about such sightings once reported.' We could hit him with that."
with a silver cigar-end clipper in his trousers' pocket, Shears' fingertips
traced the engraving on the flat face. "Presented to
Lieutenant Commander W. (Bill) Gregory Shears on relinquishing command of
Mentally reflecting the inscribed markings on the clipper was a reminder that he'd been beached and shortly due for retirement. Fingers busy, Shears; attention shifted to Dutton caressing the Tarpon. "It's not just a case of could," he growled. "We're obliged to enforce the directive." His scowl deepened. "We cannot permit Meadows to consider the UFO thing at length. Nor let the incident rattle around in the minds of his crew.
As you're aware..." A surge of smoke from Shears' cigar twined upward like an Indian war signal. "Allowing anyone to disseminate information concerning the subject is strictly verboten!"
He clenched the cigar in his teeth. "What time is Meadows due?"
Dutton glimpsed his watch. "Ten minutes."
Shears' face was a mask. "Of course, we know the discs are here. We know they're on active surveillance. And until we know how and when they plan to make their final move, we have to keep this UFO thing bottled up.
Dutton agreed. The orders were specific. "Can't let it leak out. Such would seriously mar our military image, weaken our power structure, not to mention panic the public."
Shears' nod was aggressive. "Damn right. What about Meadows' crew?"
Dutton jerked his head rearward. "Presently under confinement pending re-indoctrination."
"Good! Then we'll only have Meadows to deal with. We'll use the standard MM (Military Menticide) on him." He drew on the cigar.
"Interrogate and undermine."
At the sharp rap on the glass, Dutton beckoned. "Come."
Stepping through the opened door, Captain Meadows strode to the desk. Peaked cap under his arm, he popped a salute.
Returning it, Dutton indicated Shears in the chair. "Admiral Shears. Have a seat, Captain."
Meadows lowered himself into a twin of the chair Shears was entrenched in. Glancing across, Shears' physiognomy was concrete.
with the Tarpon, Dutton quickly reviewed the pages before him. "We've read
your report, Captain.
Prepared for a measure of disbelief, Meadows swallowed. He had, however, assured himself the backing of a hundred and sixty crewmen aboard ... a hundred and fifty-seven actually, minus the abductees.
"I can't, sir." he began. "Nothing this bizarre has ever happened to me or my ship." He peered sharply at Shears. "In its infinite wisdom, the Navy never apprized me that such a phenomenon might exist."
Shears appraised him. "Couldn't you possibly be confusing flawed reactions to the severity of the storm with some attending anomalies of the night sky, Captain?"
Expecting a certain resistance, Meadows should have been prepared for strong rejection by an admiral bound to the beach. Despite the flutter of bats scaling his gut, he was adamant. "No, sir," he glared back. "The two sets of circumstances were clearly separate. The storm had the usual meteorological features. But the object with its visible and detectable manifestations, was distinctly alien."
"I suggest, Captain..." rumbled Shears, "that maybe the ship's detecting gear may not have been top line. When was your last refit?"
The bat claws clutched Meadows' giblets. "Had a refit only last month, sir, with particular attention to radar, sonar, and telecommunications. There is nothing amiss with our ranging equipment, nor with our technicians."
Elbows pyramided on the desk with hands clasped, Dutton peered across them.. "How long have you been in the Navy, Captain?"
Meadows' attention switched to Dutton. "Seven years."
"How many at sea?" pursued the Commodore
"And you've never experienced anything remotely similar while on the high seas?"
"No, sir. Nothing even close."
Pressing chin contemplatively to his fists, Dutton hiked his brows. "Odd, that with all of the years and sea miles logged by hundreds of naval ships captains, you're the single one to report such a bizarre incident."
"No, not just me, sir," Meadows parried. "My entire crew of a hundred sixty men witnessed the phenomenon directly or indirectly."
"You're sure of that?" prodded Shears.
"Sure of my men?" Meadows looked quizzically at Shears. "Absolutely, sir."
"I wouldn't be too certain, Captain." Shears' face was impassive. "Seamen sometimes have a tendency to recant earlier implicative statements."
"I think, considering the exotic nature of the incident, sir, you'll find that the men will be only too willing to unencumber themselves of it."
"That's something we hope to ascertain shortly, Captain," began Dutton, "but let's get into some details regarding this startling occurrence. You say it first appeared as a bubble... glass globe or something afloat"
"Yes, sir. Sort of like an inverted glass or plastic bowl."
"And it was moving away from you," interrupted Shears.
"Yes, sir. Fourteen knots, increasing to seventeen."
"In rough seas," pressed Shears.
"That's right, sir."
"And then suddenly submerged..."
"As I've related, sir. Yes."
"Sounds like shades of Captain Nemo and the Nautilus," remarked Shears.
"I presume you had adequate sleep and rest during this recent cruise and commission," inquired Dutton.
"Yes, sir" ,
"And the crew?"
"All assignments and duties carried out satisfactorily according to orders," retorted Meadows.
"No disharmony aboard. . . mental fatigue . . . excessive drinking . . . that sort of thing?" queried Shears.
"Absolutely not, sir! I don't tolerate that kind of atmosphere aboard my ship."
"When was your last fitness exam, Meadows?" Shears eyed him closely.
"Nearly a year ago. Four-Oh, sir. Fit for sea."
"Headaches?" continued Dutton. "Your eyes?"
"Eat anything, sir."
Dutton nodded. "Personal Problems? Anything of domestic concern ashore?"
"No, sir. Stateside's fine."
"No personal, organic, nor medical, stress.
No career afflictions." Shears shook his head slowly. "With no apparent adversities, it's difficult to understand, Captain, how or why you would conjure up such an outrageous set of circumstances." Shears' jaw was grim.
Responding to further detailed accounts of the UFO episode, Meadows became increasingly angry. To Shears' continued badgering, he retorted, "As I've said, sir. I've a hundred and fifty-seven men who'll back me up on the details of the incident."
"We'll see in that respect," nodded Shears. "Presently your crew is being debriefed regarding the whole situation. As soon as we have a more complete intercommunicational picture, we'll want to talk with you again."
Standing, Dutton nodded toward Meadows. "Thank you, Captain. We'll inform you as to our next inquiry."
Rising, Meadows saluted. "Yes, sir." Striding toward the door, he flicked a hard glance at Shears. Something here just isn't gelling properly.
Two days later, Meadows reported to Fleet Headquarters Office again. As he entered, Dutton sat barricaded behind his desk, with Shears lodged in the same leather chair. Saluting, he seated himself. "Sirs."
Nodding, they appraised him as solemnly as before. Tapping fingers on some forms on the desk, Dutton was not optimistic. "Well, Captain. We have statements here from some of your crewmen." He glanced over. "Not very supportive."
Meadows was incredulous. "That's hard to believe, sir."
Dutton slid the sheaf of papers across the desk. "See for yourself."
Scooping them up, Meadows scanned the top one.
USS DE-OOO — August 23-27
Lieutenant Forrester, Interrogation Officer
Seaman MacAndrews, Plotting
Forrester: Did you at any time visually
observe the object you were plotting?
MacAndrews: No, sir.
Forrester: Had you, therefore, any idea
that the object you were plotting was
anything other than some type of
MacAndrews: No, sir. Its surface
maneuverings appeared to be those of a
Meadows glanced at the second page.
Seaman Rybicki, Bow Lookout Forrester: Were you able at any time to clearly resolve what the object ahead of you was?
Rybicki: No, sir. Under the poor light and storm conditions, it looked sort of like a sub's sail, sir.
Meadows scanned the third sheet.
Seaman Burcy, Radar
Forrester: Could you at any time, by means of your radar screen, resolve the exact delineation of the object?
Seaman Burcy: Radar sets being what they are, and the storm being what it was, no, sir. At best, the target was ephemeral and indistinct.
Meadows flipped the pages. Rollins, Sonar. Einkhorn, CIC. Steppins, Meteorology. He tossed them back. "But, sir. These are all men buried in the guts of the ship. With the exception of Rybicki, the lookout, none had the opportunity to view the object first hand."
Shears' stiff smirk was insufferable. "Those are just a few representative samples of many of the crew who were interrogated. There is nothing in any of the testimonies to indicate anything outrageous on that naval assignment.
threw his palms out. "But what about Abair, the Gunnery
He actually fired on the target."
Dutton shuffled through the forms before him. "Ah, yes, Abair. We have his deposition here, too." Shaking a form loose, he read from it.
Lt. Abair, Gunnery Officer
Forrester: As I understand, Lieutenant,your gunnery crew fired several live rounds toward the target.
Abair: Five, sir.
Forrester: And. . .
Abair: No effect, sir. The shells exploded short of the target.
Forrester: You didn’t 't hit it?
Abair: No, sir. Seems like the shells detonated before they hit anything solid; exploded prematurely.
Forrester: Did you actually observe the object. Lieutenant?
Abair: Yes, sir.
Forrester: Describe it.
Abair: I can't really, sir. Low clouds, rain and fog were cloaking it. It looked like the smooth underbelly of a bomber, sir.
Dutton looked up. "Not to mention obviously having some short shot or preemie shells aboard Captain, you seem to have fired upon some unidentified conventional aircraft."
Meadows was incredulous. "But, there was the curved light shaft. What about that?"
"Phosphorescent distortion in turbulent seas."
"The anomaly and its signal? The piercing screech?"
"Whales... porpoises communicating with each other," responded Dutton.
"What about the craft, the Unspecified itself? The submerging, surfacing, and becoming airborne?" pressed Meadows.
Shears tossed this last off easily enough. "Nothing more than a nighttime figment of your imagination in the throes of a windswept storm, Captain." His scowl remained rigid.
For a long minute Meadows was speechless. Then the thought hit him. "What about the missing men, then, the abducted crew? How do you account for them?" he insisted.
Dutton's smile was tinged with sarcasm. "Lost overboard. Vanished in the storm."
For an instant Meadows studied the two officers. Suddenly the hairy bat scuffling around in his gut became the cold, clammy corpse of collusion. Stomach icy, the sudden chill of truth frosted his brain. He was being officially sandbagged!
"We've been reviewing Officers' Fitness Reports, the Admiral and 1." Dutton indicated Shears. "How do you think such recent actions and deportment should affect yours?"
Absorbing the obvious implications, Meadows paused. "Well, sir... I've carried through with my mission to the utmost of my commission." Meadows rotated his cap with his fingers. "Therefore, I don't see that it should affect my report in the slightest."
"We agree," nodded Shears. "We don't think there's a single justification for besmirching an otherwise spotless seven year naval career."
"Yes, Captain." added Dutton. "As an easement, we're giving you a change of assignment. West coast." Dutton leaned forward benevolently. "We're transferring you to the beach. You'll carry out new duties at an appropriate station."
Meadows' gut seized up on him. The sand-was complete. Absorbing the fixed expressions opposing him — Shears' stern and vacant; Dutton's sullen — Meadows read the message clearly. He was merely a scrambling quarterback bucking a pair of charging tackles with the entire Navy line behind them. For him the goal line might just as well be in Timbuktu!
"Of course," added Dutton smiling grimly, "we’ll be allowing you some leave before transferring you to the west coast."
Rising slowly, Meadows saluted. "Thank you, sirs," he snarled. Pivoting, he strode past Shears. Trust now thoroughly shaken, he shoved his way through the glass door. Crossing to the elevator, he was smoldering. There were other avenues to follow with this thing.
Punching the 'down' button, he glanced up at the numbers. Smirking, he bobbed his head in chagrin. The Navy: everything done by the numbers, through proper channels, all according to regulations. As the elevator door opened to an empty cage, he shook his head humorously and stepped in.
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Downstairs in Ship's Service, Meadows dawdled over a second cup of coffee. His eyes trailed through the window to the swaying palms. Like the palms, he conjectured, as a result of the interrogation, it was bend or snap. The military, the government per se, indeed, the powers of the earth had it all their own way. He held the cup to his lips. It was upsetting enough to realize that the comfortable old world he had previously known, had changed, changed in dramatic fashion for him at sea in a remote naval grid-square.
Sipping more coffee, he peered past the palms to the sky. It was hard to believe that the authorities seriously think they can conceal such a gigantic thing as the UFO enigma.
Whether they truly understand it or not, is immaterial. Something indeed is going on. But to be effectively sandbagged as well regarding such a high-priority happening, just possibly the most paramount event of the ages, and by the very institution that he trusted and was sworn to serve and uphold. The whole thing is demoralizing. Finishing his coffee, he mopped his mouth with his napkin, slid some coins under the saucer, and strode to the door.
Outside, the setting sun was aflame, the western sky ablaze with its fire. Pensive after the interrogation and attempted brain washing, he was more fully convinced of alien presence than ever.
Gazing up, a wisp of greasy, dark cloud trailed across the sun. A metallic glint caught his eye. The silvery flash of a Navy plane sent a ripple down his spine. Recalling the recent episode at sea, it reminded him too, of the definite presence of others over the world's continents and oceans.
jostled each other in his mind as he scuffed along the cement.
The enormity of and ramifications of outer space possibilities demanded answers. With such an advanced technology abroad, of what significance was farther naval service? If my own High Command would blatantly lie to me, then why should I, in turn, honor an organization that won't defend me ? What's the point?
Proceeding down the sidewalk, he considered his next move. Apply for leave, then Washington. Due to such official secrecy and ridicule that I’ve just been exposed to, the general public is led to believe that flying objects are nonsense. For me, at least, he concluded, the time has come to interrupt that official deception and the discrediting of honest witnesses.
Flashing coppery overhead, Meadows followed the Navy plane into the reddening sky. His mind was firm. With such universal significance, the presence of aliens is obviously going to change the course of earth's history. Whatever happens to me, the truth is far too important to be kept concealed.
Meadows paused on the corner. Glancing up, like an exhorting beacon, the last fiery glint of the fading plane stiffened his resolve.
his official orders transferred him to the west coast, he planned an unofficial
visit to Washington. Crossing the road, his mind flashed back into history. General MacArthur's comments about the
proceedings at the end of World War II aboard the USS Missouri in
During a subsequent conversation with the ship's Executive Officer, I learned of the fate of Captain Meadows. He did indeed proceed to Washington. However, word from Roosevelt Roads preceded him. Received coolly at the Pentagon, he was further stonewalled. At the end of his leave, he was shifted to the west coast. Reassigned, he was passed over for any further advancement. Quietly and covertly, Captain Meadows was forced into the Military's subtle world of obscurity.