There is a bunker somewhere, filled with a
very special scrap metal. A bunker that is constructed of reinforced high
density concrete surrounded by a thirty foot electric fence, with an extensive
minefield, tripwire system and armed guard coverage.
All this for a load of oversized ball
bearings, all neatly stacked in shockproof containers on vibration resistant
shelving; in an environmentally controlled storage room three hundred feet
below the bunker. There might even be a skip out the back with a load of cone
shaped aluminium alloy containers, also going for scrap.
The 318th FIS are based at McChord Air
Force Base in Washington State,
USA. They fly
F-15 Eagles. They like flying F-15 Eagles, one might presume. Its a fast
plane, good for blowing things up. Sometimes they blow things up more
discreetly that most planes. This is a consideration for the 318th FIS right
Captain Roy Hammond is a flight
instructor, an advanced flight instructor. You have to be to teach a
rookie pilot to fly an Eagle. Eagles are very expensive machines, and the Air
Force doesnt like losing them much. Captain Hammond sits behind and slightly
above the fledgling pilot of this two-seat F-15B trainer. He is quite nervous;
and this is most unusual.
What do I do, Sir? said the rookie
through the mouthpiece of his respiration mask. He sounded a lot more nervous
Bear with me, son. Hammond replied, trying to remain calm in the
light of the strange occurrence.
What was he to do? They had a pair of
sure; but were they live? No sir. They had a quad pack of 25lb training bombs.
They were no use either. Only the 20mm M-61A1 six-barrel rotary cannon had live
ammunition, but that didnt seem anywhere near enough.
They had been circling it now for forty
minutes. The tower refused to believe what they were telling the staff there. Hammond didnt much care
what they believed. He believed it. In addition, he was recording the sight on
the training camera mounted on a wing pylon. He had the lens turret fixed
firmly on the object. He could barely believe his eyes, so it was reasonable
for Control to doubt his garbled, static diffused messages.
Im takin us back. Hammond decided. I have control.
You have control sir. the rookie duly
replied, and nothing more was said.
The debrief had some unusual characters
present. The rookie pilots and their instructors were there, still dressed in
their olive drab G-suits with helmets tucked formally under their arms. The
chief instructor, a surly, bulky man with more flying hours than eating hours
under his belt glowered at the video screen.
This some kinda joke, Hammond? the chief instructor growled,
glaring hard at the man.
Nossir. Defnitely notsir. he said
flatly, standing to attention and staring directly ahead of him. He was all too
aware that all present were looking at him.
One of the unusual characters stepped
forward. He was dressed all in black except for his white shirt. Dark
sunglasses were removed slowly to reveal harsh grey eyes set in an angular
all-American face. He could have been a younger, more refined Clint Eastwood
without the perpetual squint; but the Texan drawl shattered the illusion.
He pointed at Hammond and the rookie with
one arm of his glasses, his gaze steady. I tell yer this, Captain Hammond. He
lowered his voice. You aint seen nothin. An you aint heard nothin. Ya
Hammond was not an unintelligent man. His job required a high level of
intelligence, and he did not miss the double negative of the other. Exactly as
you say. he responded with not even a slight air of insubordination in his
The Chief spoke again after a lengthy
pause filled only by the hum from the rooms computers and cooling fans. These
gentlemen are from ERASED. Thats the Extra-terrestrial Recover And Study
Evaluation Department for those of you who dont know. He glanced at the
previous speaker, and gestured for him to continue. Mister Nash.
Mister Nash stepped forward, behind the
dais from where the chief spoke. He carefully folded his glasses into the
breast pocket of his jacket and looked up and then down at the rank and file of
instructors and rookies.
Genlemen. he said dryly. What we have
here, is purely for the attention of ERASED. You need not trouble yourselves
with wonderin what that thing out there is. I promise you it aint from outer
space or nothin, but we have to evaluate. The FBI reckon its some new russkie
contraption. Mister Nash was one of the many US government agents who still
refused to accept that the Cold War was over. In their eyes, the Cold War would
never be over until every damn russkie was dead and gone. There is also the
possibility that it is a new test aircraft we know Northrop to be working on.
Whatever, you will all keep schtum about
this. Do I make myself clear?
The assembly nodded and murmured in the
Good. Are there any questions?
An instructor raised his hand. He was
granted permission to speak. What do we do about flying whilst the U., Aah, I
mean the thing is still there?
You dont. said Mister Nash.
Murmurs went up across the room, but Hammond still stared straight
ahead. All had been granted permission to sit down, and he sat tapping gently
on his helmet. So they were going to stop him from flying were they? Goddammit.
By ten the following morning, McChord was
a flying station again. All crew were being shipped out on the fleet of C-5
Galaxys that arrived at dawn. The pilots flew out the Eagles and the assorted
other aircraft of less majesty. Civilian staff had been removed in early
evening, with ground crews departing with haste as soon as the last of the
flyboys had left the nest. McChord only remained a flying station after ten
a.m. because of the helicopters. Apache gunships and Blackhawk transporters
Captain Hammond was one of the last to
leave. He saw the choppers. He noticed how they were all painted black, and
wore no insignia. He surmised that they were ERASED equipment. There were CIA
and FBI officials all over the place, but it was the ERASED team that seemed to
be issuing the orders. He wondered where ERASED fitted in the hierarchy of the USA. To judge
by the mannerisms of Mister Nash and his assistants, they ranked a couple of
notches higher than the President; probably closer to Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ! What the hell is he doin
here still? Hammond
had heard Mister Nash say.
The look he had been given by the mirrored
shades of Mister Horne and Mister Shultz, the assistants, told him to get out
of McChord real quickly.
It was a relatively short hop to Fairchild
AFB, and one that Hammond
had made before. He was rather disappointed not to make it, or would have been
disappointed had he been in any position to be. He lost an engine after barely
leaving McChord. The oil pressure of the second engine dropped. He asked for
permission to return to base. It was refused. He asked again. He was met with
silence. He tried to eject. The charges had been removed. Mechanics were never
He hadnt seen nothin.
They were just ordinary fields. A few
trees dotted the scenery here or there. Long straight roads were free of
traffic except for slow moving green jeeps and the occasional sleek black
limousine. Over the fields the Apache gunships wheeled about, manoeuvring
around the object their guns were trained on. Blackhawks came and went,
ferrying important looking people around.
There was a fifteen mile exclusion zone
around the area. They had had to rehouse a small town and close down a
backwater gas station. A media blackout had been enforced, roadblocks were
manned by armed guards unsure of their purpose, and the skies were kept free of
traffic by the Apaches. All in all, the word cover-up was in effect.
There was need for one. Sitting in the
middle of a large cornfield was a flying saucer. It had already made an
interesting circular pattern in another field, many many miles away in Suffolk, England.
Now it just sat there; everything you would expect from a flying saucer, right
down to the dull silvery surface and seamless appearance. On its underside,
three legs extended down to the ground, ending in broad flat pads (Good for
making corn circles). Around it, missile launchers, command centres, operations
centres, operation support centres, and operation command support centres had
been set up. Most unnoticeably, but most importantly, a single portacabin for
ERASED had been set up.
They were all waiting to see what was
inside the saucer. A variety of tests had been applied on the saucers hull, and
in true Hollywood fashion, all had lacked
Then something bizarre happened.
The day had not been going well for Mister
Nash. He had had to express his remorse to some guy who was in charge at
McChord. Apparently some pilot had died in a crash. That was strange, because
he had only been meant to be completely paralyzed. Obviously Mister Shultz had
done his job too well, Mister Nash reflected.
It was as he placed the phone back on its
receiver and sipped again at his mineral water that he noticed the little man
in the flat cap walking by his office, with a carrier bag. He walked to the
window and watched the man progress towards the observation area, turning his
head this way and that, taking in his surroundings.
Mister Horne saw the slightly irritated
expression on Mister Nashs face. Wassup, Joe? he asked.
That guy. Mister Nash said slowly. Who
the hell is he?
Horne got up and looked out of the window.
He watched the little man walk around the corner, switching the bulging carrier
bag from one hand to the other. In addition to the flat tweed cap, he wore an
I Heart New York
tee-shirt, garishly bright Bermuda shorts, grey socks and brown plastic
sandals. It might not have looked so bad if it wasnt for the fact that the
little man was obviously getting on a bit. Horne judged him to be in his
Neither man expected an eighty year old
tourist to be wandering the area. They hurried out of the cabin and followed
the route the man was taking at a respectful distance. Surveillance was their
business, they knew the rules.
They were surprised by the man's progress.
No-one challenged him. They wondered why, but curious, they carried on
following stealthily. He sat down on the step of a jeep and pulled a
shrink-wrapped sandwich out of the carrier bag and ate it. He opened a can of
Bud and drank it. He lit a Marlboro and smoked it. He looked just like a
tourist trying not to look like a tourist.
The saucer loomed over them. The Apaches
whirled around it like angry wasps, with a deadlier sting. The little old man
waddled right up to the saucer. Mister Nash could take no more.
Hey! Hey you! he shouted. The little old
man ignored him.
HEY! Mister Horne shouted more loudly.
YOU IN THE BLUE TEESHIRT! IM TALKIN TO YA!
The old man turned around to face them. He
pointed at the red heart that translated as love on his tee-shirt, and
mouthed the words Who? Me? as he stood beneath the massive saucer.
Yeah, you! Mister Nash said, rushing up
to the man. What the hell are you doin?
There was quite a crowd of onlookers now.
Itchy trigger fingers were much in evidence as armed men from various sources
appeared to notice the old man for the first time. There was much scratching of
heads, puzzled looks, and mutters of Whos he? All onlookers were well aware
that you dont let just anyone in when ERASED were about.
Mister Nash and Mister Horne were soon
joined by Mister Shultz. The three men stood in front of the little old man
with their jackets pulled slightly to one side, just so he could see that the leather
holster and regulation issue Desert Eagle really did mean they meant business.
Have I done something wrong? said the
Mister Nash recognized the accent, and his
dislike for the man grew with his next thought: great, a Limey.
This is a restricted area. Mister Nash
said angrily, waving an arm to indicate the scene around him. Who let you in
The old man looked around. The crowd were
wisely dispersing. Best not to be around when ERASED want explanations. He
looked back at Mister Nash and shrugged.
No-one let me in. I came back by meself.
Back? Shultz and Horne echoed Mister
Yeah. the man nodded, indicating the
flying saucer. I dont like leaving er for too long. Just nipped out for some
Nipped out for some groceries, Nash
repeated dourly. You sayin this is yours?"
The old man lit up another Marlboro,
offering them to the three men, who declined. The he chuckled to himself. No
way. he said happily. This is me bosss. Crikey no, I wish it was!
They looked at him with varying
expressions of perplexity. None asked further, so the man went on, wondering at
their disapproving looks. Err... sorry, but am I in trouble for parking here?
No-one seemed to be using it. I mean, Ive got a licence and everything.
Huh? said Mister Nash.
The old man grinned sheepishly, and then
pulled a battered piece of paper from his shorts pocket. See. Hanka Pternus, licensed
scrap dealer. See?
Nash, Shultz and Horne took off their shades to inspect the paper. The angular writing looked much like any other official type from a licence of any kind. A poor quality passport type photograph of the man was fixed to it. An unrecognizable stamp over the edge of the picture confirmed its authenticity. None of the men recognized the address; or, for that matter, the name of the planet of the addresss origin.
Nash regarded Hanka Pternus with a suspicious frown. So youre an extraterrestrial?
Unless Ive got a day off, yes.
I stay at home on me days off.
Mister Nash felt that all this idle chat was somehow way above his head. He had met aliens before. Some he had killed, some he had communicated with before killing them, and some he had sent to Mister Shultz and Mister Horne; to be killed. Chatting with them about scrap metal and arent you having lovely hot weather, I suppose thats cause of the hole in your ozone layer, isnt it? was definitely uncharted territory.
He also found it hard to accept that any
alien could look like an English tourist. The accent sounded Australian though
(it seems that all Americans assume that the only English accents are a Cockney
one, or the apper clarse of the Royals). The man neither looked like an
alien, nor acted like an alien.
When he got back around to the subject of
scrap metal, Mister Nash found himself on slightly more familiar ground. The
man was talking about nuclear weapons.
Course, I can take yer waste. I do a
line in weapons grade plutonium; thats always a good market. Uranium I can
always shift. Popular stuff, uranium. Basically matey, if its nuclear
material, I can shift it. Cash in hand, know what I mean? He winked, touching
his red nose. Say no more, ekcetera. So, if yer top mans about, maybe we can,
you know, talk reddies, like?
Huh? Top man? Nash said, still reading
the scrap dealers licence.
Yeah, yknow. Your President. This is Washington, isnt it?
Shultz said promptly. He was less disoriented by the alien. In his experience
there was only one way to deal with an alien, and that was to shoot it; often
Well blow me! Never was good at
geography. said Hanka Pternus.
Nevertheless, the President was duly
informed. When he heard the news, he had been scanning through some notes he
had written for his memoirs, and had run off a few bound copies for friends and
family to peruse. When the telephone rang, he was giving his secretary one.
He could not believe quite what the man on
the other end was saying. Nash? From ERASED? What the hell was ERASED? Oh
sure, yeah. The E.T. guys, yeah. I know who you mean. You want me to what? A
what? Really? A real one? Hey, thats cool! In a real flying saucer and
everything? Cool! He what? Sounds like a limey? You sure? Not Australian? Gee,
that sure is weird. And he what? Scrap nuclear stuff? Uh-huh. Uh-huh. You dont
say? The President bit at his lip, frowned, and then continued. Say, Nash.
You takin the piss or what? Nash went through the whole thing again.
Uh-huh. Uh-huh. Cool. Thats cool, uh-huh.
So this guys for real. Cool.
The president arranged with his secretary
to cancel all appointments. These included golf, the sauna, his family, and
that funny sounding guy from England,
News like this does not travel fast, but
does travel. It travels in a very select manner, carefully filtering through to
only those folk who talk about things on a need-to-know basis. The news does
this by a very simple system: it is called Bugging The Presidents Phone. The
CIA, FBI, ATF, KGB, MI5, and CNN all do this, safe in the knowledge that no-one
would dream of bugging the phone belonging to the President of the USA. Of course
The President arrived at McChord AFB at
dawn the next morning. To make the meeting easier, Hanka Pternus had
conscientiously moved the flying saucer the twenty miles to the airbase. He had
upset rather a lot of Apache pilots. They had attempted an escort, but the
journey only took Hanka two seconds. One trigger-happy pilot had accidentally
loosed off a few rounds at the target, sorry, spaceship. Even the twenty
millimetre bullets couldnt keep up.
The saucer had settled in front of a
deserted hangar. The Presidents personal airliner taxied in across from it.
His debarking was an informal one. No-one knew quite what was going to happen,
or for that matter what on Earth was going on. The informal theme was carried
further by Hanka Pternus, who had changed back into his work-clothes.
He was now dressed in grey overalls. Oil
stains and flecks of paint broke up the overall greyness. A pair of boots with
external steel toecaps showed evidence of both long wear and dropped heavy
objects. On his head he wore a crumpled yellow hat with CAT Diesel barely
visible under the thick grime. Now he looked
like a scrap dealer. He still didnt carry any of the traditional imagery
associated with aliens though.
The President was sure this was some kind
of set-up. Nash had introduced him to a short old man who smelt like a disused
oil refinery. He had half a Marlboro tucked behind one ear. Apparently this was
an alien? said the President.
No mate, Im a Virgo. said Hanka Pternus.
Someone laughed. The person was led away
by more serious looking men. The President frowned.
Okay then. These guys say, and he
indicated the bowstring tensed figures of the ERASED officials, that you wanna
buy our warheads. Is that right?
Sbout right, guv. Got room fer a few
The President looked shocked. You mean
you got some already?
Yeah. Bought a job lot off a Russian
bloke. Said he needed the cash. Somethin about Vodka, or summat.
Nash felt his palms itching. He was
starting to sweat profusely. So the commies had no nukes, huh? Thats good.
Thats real good.
Hanka Pternus continued. I got a load off
of the Europeans as well. Good stock too. It were them as put me on to you.
Seems like you lot are the only ones as need some shiftin. He noticed the
puzzled look of the President, and interpreted it all wrong. I pay good money.
Wouldnt rip you off or anythin. Got clients all over the universell tell yer
Im an onest dealer. Onest Anka they call me.
There were a great deal of confused
thoughts thereafter. Nash thought it might be a good idea to get rid of the
nuclear warheads. He wanted to get rid of them in the sense of shipping them
off to Russia
on a Cruise or two. The President thought getting rid of them in exchange for
some hard cash would be cool. His advisors thought the world had obviously gone
mad. They put forth the arguments for and against scrapping an entire nuclear
Onest Anka listened intently, injecting
the words Onest, Cash, and Good deal quite more than was necessary.
Most werent too happy with what was going on. The very worst thing, and probably the most petty; was the fact that the Russians had done something innovative before they had. Or had they? Where was the proof?
The proof was in the saucer. The
President, a few select military officials, advisors, and ERASED were allowed
onto the ship to inspect all that Onest Anka had purchased. There were
complete warheads, barrels of waste, and boxes of already stripped material.
Shelves were full of nuclear material. Robots stripped missiles down, whistling
whilst they worked. They even fitted the Fifties image of a robot from a flying
saucer. All worked at the weapons of destruction as though they were car parts.
It seemed that America had been the last port of
call. Anyone who had nuclear weapons now had weapons onboard the ship. Britain, France,
and Germany, all the ex
Soviet states, China, and Iraq:
all their stocks were here. It was like a dream come true for the anti-nuclear
A deal was struck later that day. The
President reluctantly shook the hand of Hanka Pternus. Big dollar signs were
whirring through his mind.
Within a week, Hanka Pternus was off home
again. He had got himself a regular bargain.
Of course, none of this ever happened.
Its a work of pure fiction. Everyone knows that. The whole world selling its
nukes to an alien scrap dealer? Come off it! Pull the other one!
But the bells did not jingle. No-one ever
mentioned the flying saucer ever again, simply because the whole thing had been
so unbelievable. Life went on as normal. Soon enough, everyone was absolutely
sure that the whole thing was fiction. Occasional threats of nuclear deliveries
were made, occasional underground testing was protested against, and CND went
The public never found out what had gone on, and never wondered why the worlds nations seemed to be coming out of recession rather more quickly than economists had predicted. International instability came and went as it always had, and soon enough everyone forgot what had happened in the summer of 1994.
ERASED made sure of that. They werent too happy about having no nukes. In truth, they didnt want the Russians to find out, just in case they had some left. The Russians felt this way too. All sides were very tactful whenever the subject of nuclear armaments was broached. They talked mostly of cutting back, only not for very long.
© 1994 Ian "Ed" Henderson