I surprised myself today. I did not think I would have the time to enter Judith Heartsong's Painting for an Essay Contest this month. I had forgotten that I had requested to take this day off from work. It was a case of use the time by my anniversary date or lose it. We can only carry over so many vaction hours from each year to the next and my anniversary date at work is tomorrow. I had to use six and a half hours or lose them. What the heck, I took a whole day! I got up and did my chores early then sat down to write an entry. Here it is:
"I can hear it, but I can’t see it!" Steve Ray said, as he made his was up the hill. Steve was tall for his age and muscular. He was a good athlete and was the first pick by either side in the weekly sandlot baseball games. His blond hair and dark tan made a striking contrast and, at the age of twelve, he was already attracting more than his share of attention from the girls in his school.
Wearing blue jeans, sneaks and a tee shirt, Steve felt warm and wished he had worn shorts. The sun bathed the lush, green grass on the hillside in a golden glow. It was an unseasonably warm spring day and He knew summer was fast approaching. Since he was planning on hiking that day in unknown territory, he had felt jeans would be safer if they ran into brushy terrain.
"Neither can I!" Pete Thomas, two months shy of twelve years old, was close now, just behind Steve and a little to his left. Pete was a skinny kid with short brown hair. Tall for his age, he was a bit awkward looking, but could hold his own on the ball field and Steve Ray was his best friend. Together, they loved to explore and spent most of their free time either hiking new ground or planning new adventures. Pete had followed Steve’s lead and waswearing blue jeans,a long sleeved blue checked shirt with the sleeves rolled up, and his brand new hiking shoes.
They had never been to this area before. Getting to the far side of town, away from the jumble of civilization and into the country was quite a hike itself. Open fields dotted the landscape, with small to medium stands of trees scattered here and there. Gentle sloping hills gave way, in the distance, to higher elevations. The boys were excited. They were breaking new ground here and could imagine future adventures this countryside might offer.
The boys crested the hill together and looked down at a long, sloping valley covered in tall grass accentuated by the purples, yellows, blues, and reds of wild flowers spread rampant across the unfolding vista. Movement caught both their eyes at the same time.
"Whoa! Hit the deck!" Steve shouted. They dove into the grass and lay there, slowly inching their way back over the hilltop on their belly, using the tall grass to keep from being detected. Once safely out of view on the other side, Pete looked up and exclaimed: "Did you see that?" What in the world is going on here? Do you think they spotted us?"
Steve answered, "I don’t know! I’m gonna take a quick peek." He inched back up and, careful to keep his head down, peered over the top of the hill.
Down in the valley a helicopter was on the ground with rotors whirling. Four men had just exited the chopper and were huddled close, apparently shouting over the noise, as the motors wound down. Steve could see one man pointing to a spot on the side of the slope, off to one side and away from the hilltop where he and Pete now lay.
"They seem to be interested in something down the side of this hill, over there! I can’t quite make it out, but it looks like some sort of blue ball, or sphere." Steve was pointing off to his right. Pete edged towards the top to take a peek. Just as he spotted the men and the chopper he heard a loud voice behind them. "Okay you two, freeze. Do not move! Put your hands behind your heads!
Steve and Pete froze in place, hearts beating rapidly. "I said hands behind your head. NOW!" the voice had the ring of authority and both boys complied. "What’s this about?" Pete finally managed to get out.
"Shut up! I’ll do the talking. Stand up slowly!"
As the boys stood up slowly they heard the voice saying into, what Steve assumed, was a two way radio, "Red Leader One, this is Dragon.I’ve got two kids up here on the hilltop. The rest of the perimeter is clear." Instantly a voice came back on the small speaker. "Okay, we’ve located the target! It’s half way down the hill to your right. We are moving up now, bring them down and meet us at the target."
"Okay, boys. Start moving down the hill. I’m right behind you." Steve half-turned and realized the stranger was not holding a gun.
"Why should we do as you say? You don’t even have a gun!" Steve said. At this, Pete swung around and faced the voice. The man he was looking at was medium height, solidly built and casually dressed. Tan trousers, polo style navy blue shirt and black belt. At first his shoes appeared to be a pair of nice loafers, but Pete realized they were custom made walking shoes in a natural leather finish.
The stranger didn’t miss a beat: "Do you really want me to take out a gun? You two are kids! We have no real beef with you, but you must do as I say for now. If you try to run, we out number you and have a helicopter ready to chase you down. Do as I say and you won’t get into trouble! Now! March!"
Steve stared at the man in disbelief! His fear was well concealed, but he knew that if the stranger looked close enough he would see the sweat beads breaking out on his forehead. He asked, "May we at least put our hands down? We are unarmed and I don’t care to fall while walking downhill."
The stranger came close and did a quick pat down on each boy. "Okay, put them down, but no sudden moves. Now, let’s go!"
They met with the group of men from the chopper on the hillside. There, on the ground, was a blue sphere with what looked like a tiled uneven surface. If you looked closely there were a couple of red and yellow spots of what at first appeared to be paint. In the distance behind the orb was a stand of trees with the fresh green color only an early spring could give.
The men were all dressed like the one who had surprised them on the hilltop. No names were mentioned in conversation and they were very businesslike. The one whom the boys took for the leader pulled them a little ways away from the group and started questioning them. Thirty minutes later, the boys felt drained from explaining who they were and describing their every move for the last six hours.
Finally the leader relaxed visibly. The boys were led back to where the group was standing by the round, blue object. The leader said to the group, "They’re okay guys,justa couple of kids hiking in the wrong place at the wrong time. Meet Steve and Pete." Silence.
After a moment or two, Pete spoke up. "What is this thing, and why are you here on this hillside?"
The inquisitor looked directly at him. "I guess we owe you a little explanation, so here it is, boys. This is all top secret and you can’t repeat it. Ever! Do you understand?" Both boys nodded. "We are a recovery team for a non existent military agency. If you try to research us later, you’ll find that we don’t exist either. Not officially, any way."
"This sphere is a fuel source for an aircraft that officially does not exist. Fortunately there are two of these in each engine, or that non-existent plane would have plowed into the ground right about where our chopper is sitting. For reason’s yet unknown, it fell out on a test flight. We are here to retrieve it. End of story. If you repeat this to anyone, and I mean anyone, The local sheriff will come to your house and arrest you on charges of grand theft. You won’t even know what you were supposed to have stolen, but the Sheriff’s Office will have proof and a solid case against you. Do you understand what I’m telling you?"
Both boys nodded vigorously. Steve blurted out without thinking: "This is some sort of sophisticated, futuristic fuel source? It looks as if it was stored in an artist’s loft! Look at the paint that has dripped on it."
The leader, the man who was their inquisitor, looked at Steve with steel like eyes. Finally he said: "I don’t owe you any explanation, but Heck, I don’t think this will hurt to tell you. The two yellow spots are actually a form of lithium grease used to keep moisture out of the contacts. The two red spots are used to line it up for placement into the engine. Now, that’s all! We have to get out of here! Do we have your solemn oath of secrecy about all this?
The boys agreed and the men loaded up the sphere and took off in the chopper. Exhausted from the excitement, Steve and Pete headed towards town. After walking for a while in silence, Pete asked Steve, "Are you going to tell anyone about this?"
Steve looked at his friend. "Pete my good man, I think this is going to have to stay just between us forever. I mean, you could tell someone and risk the Sheriff coming after you, but what’s the point? No one would ever believe this happened, anyway!" With that, the boys walked home.