John sat blindfolded with a military guard on each side of him. The diesel truck shuddered to a stop. The transporter's engine suddenly died. Its echo took a little longer to fade.
The dark drive had given him plenty of time to contemplate what he was volunteering for. Flight training complete, he was top of his class. No human should be able to withstand the G-forces he inflicted on himself. Rated at just nine G, his Typhoon regularly topped eleven. John's mechanics would berate him every time he landed, knowing they would have to check every nut, bolt and panel on the aircraft before it could fly again.
A little bald man in a creased brown suit had approached him after his passing out parade. He had a lisp which made him difficult to understand. He waffled on about John's test results, marveled at his flight agility. Would he be interested in flying new aircraft? He wouldn't be deployed to any war zones. Excellent salary and pension, of course. Money meant little to John, but adventure? That was another thing entirely.
Footsteps approached and the catches on the tailgate were released with a couple of clicks. The heavies to either side of him shuffled out of the truck without a word.
'Flight Officer Harrison. You may take off your blindfold.'
He recognized the lisp. John lifted the cloth from his eyes, blinking until he adjusted to the bright lights intruding into the back of the truck.
'Come, Mister Harrison.' The little man walked off, expecting him to follow.
Dropping the blindfold on the bench beside him, John grabbed his kit bag and jumped from the back of the transport. The truck had driven through a tunnel at least ten meters wide before entering this huge natural-looking cavern.
The little man tapped his watch impatiently.
'Yes, of course.' He rushed to catch up to him.
'Please, don't speak.'
Entering a thinner tunnel, they passed other personnel. Some wore suits, the majority sported white overalls. No name tags nor insignia. Nobody spoke. John was ushered into an office. Its grey door had the number eleven etched onto a small black plaque. The room was entirely white. The floor and walls were tiled, a suspended ceiling held four banks of fluorescent lights. In the center of the room was a grey metal desk, a chair on either side.
John took the nearest seat, watching as Mr Lisp circled the table before sitting. Regarding him from across the table, the bald man drew a slow breath and reached up to remove his black-framed glasses.
'Everything you are about to learn is above top secret. If you utter one word about our project, you will be killed. I will explain our mission to you and you will decide whether to join us or not. However, I must warn that if you decline our offer, you will never leave this base alive.'
There was no lisp this time. The bumbling buffoon was suddenly very matter-of-fact and deadly serious.
'You may call me Mister G. Are you a religious man, John?'
The question threw him. 'Not particularly. I mean, I went to Sunday school as a child but that's about the extent of it.'
'Good. What you are about to see would test the faith of any believer.'
Mister G. reached inside his breast pocket and retrieved a remote control. He clicked a button and the wall behind him shimmered then completely disappeared. In the room beyond, the lighting was more subdued, casting a warm orange glow that caught a swirling mist.
'That's a cool party trick. Can I ask the purpose of a disappearing wall?'
'Mr Harrison, the wall is not what I am showing you.'
He clicked another button on his remote and John heard a fan start up. As it picked up speed, the mist was sucked from the room, revealing the interior. In the center of the room stood a table. There was only one chair, occupied by a slouched figure.
'Prepare yourself, John. This may come as a shock.'
After another button press, bright fluorescent lights flickered to life. The figure at the table, screeching, kicked the chair away and scrambled under the table.
'What … is that?' Its head was too big for its body. Damp grey skin covered spindly limbs. The creature tried to shield its huge jet black eyes with its hands, three clawed fingers on each.
'Yes, extraterrestrial beings do exist. This one was recovered in 1982 in Wales. Along with its craft.'
'This is a test, isn't it?' John laughed nervously. 'Some kind of initiation prank, yes?'
Mister G stood up, and slammed his palms on the desk. He took a deep breath before continuing in a fierce whisper.
'Do you think I would go through all of this cloak and dagger stuff as a prank? That is an alien. It's from another world. But that is not why you are here.'
John looked from Mister G to the alien.
'OK, let's say I believe you. What is my role in this? I know hardly anything about biology, and sod all about alien biology.'
Mister G sat back down. 'How did it get here John? That's your focus.'
'You mean … flying saucers?'
'You could call them that, yes.'
As the alien started to splutter, Mister G pressed a series of buttons. The lights in the next room were shut off, along with the fan. Mist slowly hissed back into the room. 'It needs a specific atmosphere.'
‘You have heard of Area 51? This is our equivalent.' Mr G clicked the first button again, and the wall behind him reappeared.
'I thought that was a wild conspiracy theory, peddled by crazies. So aliens are real and they are coming here?'
'Not any more. As far as we know, this was the only alien craft to land on British soil. We presume whoever sent them believed it was a lost mission.'
'OK, so why am I here, if not to fly and shoot these things down with experimental aircraft?'
A smile crept across Mister G's face. 'So close, yet so far, Mr Harrison. We don't want you to shoot them down. We want you to fly them.'
'Fly alien spacecraft? For what purpose?'
'Firstly, they’re not alien spacecraft. We reverse engineered their technology and built our own versions. The UFO reports in the media? They are all true. However, they are not alien. They are ours.'
'I'm a test pilot then? You want me to see what they can do?'
'Again, wrong. We need the British public on the verge of hysteria. Sightings are to increase a hundredfold. Our craft will buzz airliners, be seen in the skies above all major cities, day and night. Our pilots will transport special teams to farms and mutilate cattle in the dead of night. Random citizens will be kidnapped and made to believe aliens have abducted them. This is why you are here.'
The longer he spoke the more horrified John became. 'Why?'
'We need war. A valid reason for war. First came the Russian menace, then Islamic terrorists. A meteor strike was an option, but our final card? The threat of alien invasion. Just imagine what the British public will demand in the name of defense and protection? Civil liberties surrendered. Enormous taxes levied. Martial law enacted. So, John. Are you in?'
'Even if I believed half of what you have told me, no. I am not in. How can you think this is in any way right?'
‘Right or wrong is irrelevant. It will happen with or without you. You are a talented pilot. Skills such as yours are highly desirable. Even so, remember my warning, John.` He in leaned closer. ‘Join us, or die.’
This is madness. Con the public into believing an alien invasion is taking place? I couldn’t live with myself. What’s the alternative? Die? He can’t be serious … can he?
‘I … I can’t do it. I won’t do it. I joined the R.A.F. to protect Britain, not to bring it to its knees.’
'A pity.’ Mister G sighed, replaced his glasses, and left the room.
John heard the door lock behind him, followed by a low hiss. Small vents in each corner pumped gas into the room. John coughed and spluttered, throwing himself to the floor. Over a loudspeaker he heard Mister G's voice.
'I'm sad it has come to this John, I really am. You held promise. What you are breathing is a mixture of methane and carbon dioxide, the exact atmospheric gases needed to keep our alien friend alive. Unfortunately for you, it's deadly to humans. But I am truly doing you a favour. Shortly, I will lift the barrier between the rooms, and trust me, you really do want to be dead before our friend gets to you.'