The Doomsday Conspiracy

Chapter Ten


Hangar 17 at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia was locked in complete and rigid security. Outside, four armed marines guarded the perimeters of the building, and inside, three high-ranking Army officers stayed on alternate watches of eight hours each, guarding a sealed room inside the hangar. None of the officers knew what he was guarding. Besides the scientists and doctors who were working inside, there had been only three visitors permitted in the sealed chamber.
The fourth visitor was just arriving. He was greeted by Brigadier General Paxton, the officer in charge of security. "Welcome to our menagerie."
"I've been looking forward to this."
"You won't be disappointed. Come this way, please."
Outside the door of the sealed room was a rack containing four white, sterile suits that completely covered the body.
"Would you please put one on?" the General asked.
"Certainly." Janus slipped into the suit. Only his face was visible through the glass mask. He put large white slippers over his shoes, and the General led him to the entrance of the sealed room. The marine guard stepped aside, and the General opened the door. "In here."
Janus entered the chamber and looked around. In the centre of the room was the spaceship. On white autopsy tables at the other side lay the bodies of the two aliens. A pathologist was performing an autopsy on one of them.
General Paxton directed the visitor's attention to the spaceship.
"We're dealing here with what we believe to be a scout ship," General Paxton explained. "We're sure it has some way of communicating directly with the mothership."
The two men moved closer to examine the spacecraft. It was approximately thirty-five feet in diameter. The interior was shaped like a pearl, with an expandable ceiling, and contained three couches, resembling recliner chairs. The walls were covered with panels containing vibrating metal discs.
"There's a lot here we haven't been able to figure out yet," General Paxton admitted. "But what we've already learned is amazing." He pointed to an array of equipment in small panels. "There's an integrated wide-field-of-view optical system, what appears to be a life-scan system, a communication system with voice-synthesis capability, and a navigational system that, frankly, has us stumped. We think it works on some kind of electromagnetic pulse."
"Any weapons aboard?" Janus asked.
General Paxton spread out his hands in a gesture of defeat. "We're not sure. There's a lot of hardware here we don't begin to understand."
"What is its source of energy?"
"Our best guess is that it uses monoatomic hydrogen in a closed loop so its waste product is water that can be continually recycled into hydrogen for power. With all that perpetual energy, it has a free ride in interplanetary space. It may be years before we solve all the secrets here. And there's something else that's puzzling. The bodies of the two aliens were strapped into their couches. But the indentations in the third couch indicate that it was occupied."
"Are you saying," Janus asked slowly, "that one may be missing?"
"It certainly looks that way."
Janus stood there a moment frowning. "Let's have a look at our trespassers."
The two men walked over to the tables where the two aliens lay. Janus stood there, staring at the strange figures. It was incredible that things so foreign to humanity could exist as sentient beings. The foreheads of the aliens were larger than he had expected. The creatures were completely bald, with no eyelids or eyebrows. The eyes resembled ping-pong balls.
The doctor performing the autopsy looked up as the men approached. "It's fascinating," he said. "A hand has been severed from one of the aliens. There's no sign of blood, but there are what appear to be veins that contain a green liquid. Most of it has drained out."
"A green liquid?" Janus asked.
"Yes." The doctor hesitated. "We believe these creatures are a form of vegetable life."
"A thinking vegetable? Are you serious?"
"Watch this." The doctor picked up a watering can and sprinkled water over the arm of the alien with a missing hand. For a moment, nothing happened. And then suddenly at the end of the arm, green matter oozed out and slowly began to form a hand.
The two men stared, shocked. "Jesus! Are these things dead or not?"
"That's an interesting question. These two figures are not alive in the human sense, but neither do they fit our definition of death. I would say they're dormant."
Janus was still staring at the newly formed hand.
"Many plants show various forms of intelligence."
"Oh, yes. There are plants that disguise themselves, protect themselves. At this moment, we're doing some amazing experiments on plant life."
Janus said, "I would like to see those experiments."
"Certainly. I'll be happy to arrange it."
The huge greenhouse laboratory was in a complex of government buildings thirty miles outside of Washington, DC. Hanging on the wall was an inscription that read:
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Nature, 1836
Professor Rachman, who was in charge of the complex, was an earnest gnome of a man, filled with enthusiasm for his profession. "It was Charles Darwin who was the first to perceive the ability of plants to think. Luther Burbank followed up by communicating with them."
"You really believe that is possible?"
"We know it is. George Washington Carver communed with plants and they gave him hundreds of new products. Carver said, 'When I touch a flower, I am touching Infinity. Flowers existed long before there were human beings on this earth, and they will continue to exist for millions of years after. Through the flower, I talk to Infinity' ..."
Janus looked around the enormous greenhouse they were standing in. It was filled with plants and exotic flowers that rainbowed the room. The mixture of perfumes was overpowering.
"Everything in this room is alive," Professor Rachman said. "These plants can feel love, hate, pain, excitement ... just as animals do. Sir Jagadis Chandra Bose proved that they respond to a tone of voice."
"How does one prove something like that?" Janus asked.
"I will be happy to demonstrate." Rachman walked over to a table covered with plants. Beside the table was a polygraph machine. Rachman lifted one of the electrodes and attached it to a plant. The needle on the face of the polygraph was at rest. "Watch," he said.
He leaned closer to the plant and whispered, "I think you are very beautiful. You are more beautiful than all the other plants here ..."
Janus watched the needle move ever so slightly.
Suddenly Professor Rachman screamed at the plant, "You are ugly! You are going to die! Do you hear me? You are going to die!"
The needle began to quiver, then it moved sharply upward.
"My God," Janus said. "I can't believe it."
"What you see," Rachman said, "is the equivalent of a human being screaming. National magazines have published articles about these experiments. One of the most interesting was a blind experiment conducted by six students. One of them, unknown to the others, was chosen to walk into a room with two plants, one of them wired to a polygraph. He completely destroyed the other plant. Later, one by one, the students were sent into the room to pass by the plants. When the innocent students walked in, the polygraph registered nothing. But the moment the guilty one appeared, the needle on the polygraph shot up."
"That's incredible."
"But true. We've also learned that plants respond to different kinds of music."
"Different kinds?"
"Yes. They did an experiment at Temple Buell College in Denver where healthy flowers were put in three separate glass cases. Acid rock music was piped into one case, soft East Indian sitar music was piped into the second case, and the third had no music. A CBS camera crew recorded the experiment, using time-lapse photography. At the end of two weeks, the flowers exposed to the rock music were dead, the group with no music was growing normally, and the ones that heard the sitar music had turned into beautiful blooms, with stems and flowers reaching toward the source of the sound. Walter Cronkite ran the film on his news show. If you wish to check it, it was on October 26, 1970."
"Are you saying plants have an intelligence?"
"They breathe, and eat, and reproduce. They can feel pain, and they can utilize defences against their enemies. For example, ter-penes are used by certain plants to poison the soil around them and to discourage competitors. Other plants exude alkaloids to make them unpalatable to insects. We've proved that plants communicate with one another by pheromones."
"Yes, I've heard of that," Janus said.
"Some plants are meat eaters. The Venus flytrap, for example. Certain orchids look and smell like female bees, to decoy male bees. Others resemble female wasps to attract the males to visit them and pick up pollen. Another type of orchid has an aroma like rotting meat to coax carrion flies in the neighbourhood to come to them."
Janus was listening to every word.
"The Pink Lady's-Slipper has a hinged upper lip that closes when a bee lands, and traps it. The only escape is through a narrow passageway out the rear, and as the bee fights its way to freedom, it picks up a cap of pollen. There are five thousand flowering plants that grow in the northeast, and each species has its own characteristics. There is no doubt about it. It's been proven over and over that living plants have an intelligence."
Janus was thinking: And the missing alien is at large somewhere.