Love story in the cloud, p.1
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       Love Story: In The Cloud, p.1

           Ken Renshaw
Love Story: In The Cloud

  Love Story

  In The Cloud

  By Ken Renshaw

  Copyright © 2013 Ken Renshaw

  All rights reserved.

  ISBN 978-0-9852731-9-4

  This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, or locales or persons , living or dead is entirely coincidental. Cover design by Heather UpChurch

  Constellation Press

  1790 Ogden Dr.

  Cambria. CA 93428


  I would like to express my appreciation to Dr. J.K. Parker for her reviews, editing and encouragement. I am indebted to Dr. R. Targ and Dr. E. Rauscher developed the 8-space theory that provided the scientific basis for this book. Darlene Bowe's extensive and patient additions to story style were welcomed. David Strom contributions to the story structure were valued. Gayle Oksen's gave me encouragement with her review when needed most. I thank my fellow writers, and Paula Cizmar at Rough Writers for their support and comments. Midge Schulkin careful final editing amazed me. And special thanks to Heather UpChurch for her inspired cover design.






  And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.

  There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,

  Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.


  Act 1, Scene 5


  Wandering In The Desert

  Things were not going according to plan. On this fine spring soaring day, I planned a simple sailplane lying task. Fly from CrystalSky airport to another airport forty miles away and back across the Mojave desert. Now, on my return trip I struggled. Over Rosamond Dry Lake all the thermals vanished. I was down to a thousand feet, flying in tight circles in weak lift. The gravity force from flying tight circles pushed me down in my seat. I was sweating, gripping the control stick with a wet hand. The lift petered out, and I widened my circles to hunt for other weak lift. No such luck.

  I lost altitude. My attention turned to landing on Rosamond Dry Lake, an expanse of dry silt about five miles wide and five miles long. I would land near the western shore, within a couple of miles, walking distance of a highway, near scrub brush to tie my sailplane to if I had to abandon it and walk.

  I had landed away from the airport before. A sailplane pilot always has a potential landing spot in mind, another airport, a dry lake, or, sometimes, a farmer's field where you might be greeted with a pitcher of lemonade, a beer, or a shotgun depending on who lived there.

  Today, only dry silt greeting me.

  I dropped my landing gear, set the flaps, glided down to about ten feet above the lake, and stretched my glide until I approached the shore. I stopped about a hundred feet from the border of lake, opened the canopy, took a big breath of the eighty-degree desert and sat, disgusted with my planning.

  I was alarmed. The desert heat or dryness had done something to my vision. I had seen intense lashes of light, appearing first in my instruments dials, then on the canopy and along the wings.

  Pilots can't have their eyes playing tricks on them.

  There are only two real moving parts in a sailplane, the mind of the pilot and his eyes. The mind finds thermals and feels the joy of climbing at five hundred or, sometimes, a thousand feet per minute and then flying at a hundred miles per hour to the next thermal, ten or twenty miles away. The eyes have to see where to find that thermal.

  I picked up my radio microphone and called, "CrystalSky this is King Romeo."

  No answer! Out of radio range! Shit!

  I undid my shoulder harness and parachute and climbed out of the sailplane. I took a big swig out of my water bottle, and labored to push the sailplane over to a clear area on the shore. The dry silt of the lake was a little soft and it was hard to roll the sailplane. I was hot a sweaty when I reached the shore. I sat in the shade of the wing to rest and drink more water. I ran my tongue over my lips and noticed my face was salty from the sweat of the day.

  I picked up the microphone from the cockpit and tried again.

  "CrystalSky this is King Romeo."

  No answer!

  "Any pilot, requesting a relay."

  No answer. Damn!

  I would have to walk to where there is cell phone coverage. Shit!

  In the middle of summer, with a temperature of over a hundred degrees, walking would wait until the cool of the evening. Today, with the temperature in the eighties, it would be OK to walk if I drank lots of water.

  I reached behind into the compartment behind the cockpit, grabbed my land–out pack, and pulled out an energy bar and a can of Gatorade. I picked up the microphone from the cockpit and tried again.

  "CrystalSky this is King Romeo."

  Disappointing silence.

  "Any pilot, requesting a relay."

  Damnable quiet.

  My cell phone read, "No service."

  While cursing my luck, I shouldered the pack and began walking toward the highway to find cell phone coverage.

  It hadn't been a good day. I had left this morning with an unspoken disagreement with my new lady friend, Tina.

  I was getting ready to leave my mobile home, next to the end CrystalSky airport runway, a short walk from where I kept my sailplane. I was saying goodbye to Tina, who is about twenty-five years old, five feet four, with olive skin, reddish brown hair, and a modestly proportioned figure. She is four inches shorter than me. She doesn't make me feel short. I really like her, except for her irritating lapses into airy-fairy New Age thinking.

  "I should be back in early afternoon, about four at the latest. I have planned an easy practice flight." I told her.

  She studied me with that strange stare in her big light blue eyes and said, "Maybe not. I'll fix a dinner that we can eat any time if you get back late. We will need beer. There are only two cans in the fridge. Is there a store at the country club center?"

  Becoming irritated, I replied, "I don't really know–I am not a member. I didn't mix well with the wealthy, retired membership who live in condos on the golf course. Use my Porche to go to that service station down on the main highway."

  "OK," she beamed. "Have fun flying."

  I noticed I was stiff as she gave me a kiss goodbye.

  After about a quarter mile trek across the desert, I saw a hill topped by a big boulder. After climbing to the top of the boulder, I took out my cell phone and looked. Two bars! Hooray!

  I dialed CrystalSky airport operations. Celia, the high school girl who worked at the airport, answered.

  "Hi Celia. This is Dave Willard. I need a retrieve from Rosamond Dry Lake."

  "Hi Dave. Do you fly the plane with King Romeo on the tail?"

  "Yes, can you send a tow plane over here?"

  "The last student pilot has just started his lesson. He will probably make four short flights. Dan can come over to tow you back. He will be there in an hour or hour and a half. Exactly where are you?"

  I read her the GPS coordinates I had written down before I left my sailplane.

  "West end of Rosamond Dry Lake, I got it," acknowledged Celia.

  "Since you won't be back until after five thirty, I won't see you. The office will be closed. See you tomorrow."

  "Thanks, goodbye."

  I texted Tina, "I won't be back until about 5:30. :("

  I didn’t use the cell phone to talk to her. It would have been admitting she was right in her intuition about me getting back late and needing beer. I didn't want to encourage her in making prognostications about my flying ability.

  As I climbed down from
the boulder, I noticed another flash of light under the boulder. I'd better see my opthamologist and get that checked out. I mused and started to walk back toward the lake.

  The weekend had started very well, I thought. Tina and I were at a Black Tie reception at the Getty Villa antiquity museum in Malibu. She looked fantastic in her black evening dress, wearing just the right amount of make-up and her hair in a fashionable uplift bun.

  "I really want to look at the Cycladic and Greek vase display," she had said as we had cocktails and ate hors d'oeuvres in the atrium of the Villa. She steered me to one of the side galleries, filled with large, well lit display cases containing clay–fired jugs, bowls and other containers. She pointed to a large jar and said, "This is from the Cycladic civilization, about 3,000 BCE, in the Aegean Sea. Notice the geometric carving on the jug. No figures are carved here."

  I noticed Paul Jefferies, one of the senior partners in my law firm, and his young trophy wife, Elaine, had joined us.

  Interrupting Tina, I made introductions.

  "Please continue with your description," said Paul, "it is interesting."

  Tina moved over to another case, leaned over, pointed, and said, "By contrast, this jar is from Athens, about 500 BCE. Notice how the black figures portray Theseus battling the Minotaur in the labyrinth on the island of Crete. These figures over here are the youths that were to be human sacrifices. Most of the jars in this area are decorated with scenes from mythology."

  Paul seemed more interested in looking down the front of Tina’s dress than noticing the Minotaur.

  "This one, over here, depicts Hercules, wearing the skin of the lion he slew, delivering a mortal blow to Kyknos. These people standing around at the side are their relatives."

  Paul seemed very interested in skin.

  "Very interesting, thank you," said Elaine, looking very threatened by the interest Paul was giving to the lecture, and to Tina. She led Paul away.

  It had been a wonderful evening.

  A slight desert breeze came up as I continued to walk, nipping on my water.

  I continued to muse, Maybe contrast makes good relationships. I am a patent attorney dealing with hard scientific facts. She is a high school teacher, dealing with ideas. If only she would leave this New Age mumbo jumbo alone.

  Back at the sailplane, I looked out across the dry lake. There were still wavy mirages in the distance. It was mysterious that all thermal activity had stopped in this end of the lake.

  The air in the Mojave boils like water in a hot pan during still summer days. Streams of bubbles rise from the surface and form into columns of rising air called thermals. Sometimes they join to form dust devils, small dirty tornados that suck up everything smaller than a person, often rising to ten, sometimes, fourteen thousand feet. I have seen pages of newspapers floating at ten thousand feet, apparently migrating to wherever newspapers go to die. Somehow, this area of the Mojave was set on simmer today.

  I placed my emergency pack on the ground as a pillow in the shade under the wing, and lay down for a nap. I closed my eyes and started to drift off to sleep.

  Then, I heard a voice that startled me.

  It said, "Take me to your leader."

  I wondered if I was hallucinating and, if so, why did I have to do it in a cliché.

  I looked around and said, "Who is there?"

  "Over here," the voice said. "The speck of light."

  A few yards away, lying at the border between the dry lake and the shore was a broken clear glass bottle, maybe an old Mason jar, from the days when people canned their own food, and used bottles for rifle target on desert dry lakes. Inside the bottle was a very intense bright speck of light, like the spot a welder makes when he is arc welding two pieces of metal together. It was a brighter version of the flashes of light I had been seeing this afternoon while flying.

  Shocked, it took me a few moments to respond. "Am I supposed to let you out or something? Take you to what leader?"

  "No," it seemed to chuckle, "I was only making what we think you would call a joke. I thought a burning bush would be too cliché. I was afraid that if we spoke directly into your head I couldn't have what you call a conversation. This spark is only a convenient focal point."

  "A conversation?" I asked, wondering if the desert had dehydrated me and I was hallucinating.

  "Come over and sit in the shade of this bush and relax. I apologize for startling you," said the speck of light.

  I got up, wanted to run, but I walked over to the shade of a bush, sat down, took several long drags of water from my bottle, paused, and noticed that I felt a great sense of peace as I relaxed.

  "Now, lets start from the beginning." I said, "If you are not a hallucination or a mirage, who or what are you?"

  The speck of light shimmered, "I understand. With your scientific background and belief system, you will have difficulty understanding who we are and how it is that am communicating with you. I are communicating with you from another place outside space-time that you do not yet understand."

  I grew more uneasy and then asked, "Who are you?"

  The speck shimmered as it seemed to chuckle and said, "I have never had a body. I am un-incarnated intelligence who wants to have a conversation with you. "

  "Are you like an angel?" I asked.

  The speck of light replied, "That is sort of the right idea. However, in your civilization you have pictured angels as incarnated into bodies with wings and halos and draped them in flowing robes. I don't have a body to hang wings on. You have also made angels employees of your various, shall we say, tribal Gods. Think of me as a freelancer."

  "Freelancer? Are you some sort of bounty hunter? Am I going to abducted?"

  "No." The light blinked. "I come in love and peace to communicate with you."

  "What do I call you," I asked

  The spark of light replied,"I don't really have a name as you think of it. I perceive that there is some of what you call writing on the object you are holding. What is it?”

  I looked at the top of the broken bottle I was holding and read the word, “Mason,”

  The spark replied. “Then you may address me as ‘Mason.’”

  "OK Mason, but where are you?" I asked.

  "I have a very different view of reality than that earthlings hold." Said Mason. "I am outside space-time as you know it."

  "You say 'earthlings.' Does that mean you are from another planet?" I asked.

  "Not really, where I live we think of 'earthlings' as a viewpoint, not as a place. It is what you might call a state of mind."

  I wanted to run, call 911, or something. This must be a dream or a hallucination. Am I loosing it? Is this a desert madness of some sort?

  "Why are you talking to me? Am I supposed to become a prophet or something?" I inquired with some trepidation.

  "No, I don't want you to grow a beard and go around carrying a sign saying 'Repent! The End Is Near.' I want to explain some limitations of what you call science and expand your view of reality. I wish to communicate these ideas through ways you understand."

  "Carrying on a conversation with spirits about physical science seems a little inconsistent," I observed in a lawyerly way. "You are nonphysical and science deals with the physical."

  Mason replied, "I want to help you understand that much of what you consider outside your science really obeys the laws of your physics. That misunderstanding is constraining whole fields of endeavor, such as healing, interpersonal relationships, and even politics. But, that understanding is a goal and not the starting point. Let's start by discussing limitations on what your schools teach about physics. I can build on those ideas"

  "OK, but I am confused," I mumbled, thinking to myself, 'I really should run or something.'

  "First we will talk about what you already only partially understand, the ideas of space and time," said Mason.

  "Oh, I don't understand all that stuff about Einstein's Theory of Relativity. I really don't want to go through all of the m
ath and those weird concepts. One time, I had a patent case that involved Relativity and I had to search for a technical expert. I could never understand him, all I learned was that Relativity wasn't germane to the patent case," I said in a lawyerly voice.

  Mason replied, "Einstein's mystique is part of the problem. People on your planet are reluctant to think much about space-time because Einstein raised the mathematical hurdle so far. He had only part of the answer. His mathematics professor, Minkowski, was closer to the answer with his theory of eight dimensions."

  "I have never even heard of him," I replied. "If I don't understand Einstein's mathematics, how am I supposed to understand what his professor couldn't teach him?"

  "That is what I would ask for you to find out about," said Mason.

  I said to Mason, "I think you have the wrong person. I am a patent lawyer with a science background. I have no idea what you are talking about."

  Then, I heard the distant sound of the Pawnee tow plane engine, my rescue, guided by GPS satellites, buzzing out to tow me back to CrystalSky. I was using technology as an antidote to my indulgence in flying an airplane without a motor. He saw me, cut his engine, and passed over me in a wide circle to check the landing conditions. I took off my tee shirt; held it above my head, let it flap in the gentle breeze to show him the wind direction. He wiggled his wing in acknowledgement, added some throttle, flew a landing pattern, touched down, and taxied toward me.

  I turned to Mason. The speck of bright light had disappeared. I went over and picked up the broken bottle. It was only an old piece of glass. I dropped it thinking, No point in taking this with me.

  The pilot turned off the engine, opened the cockpit side window and stepped out onto the wing. It was Dan, a man in his thirties, wearing jeans, a white t-shirt, and a cowboy hat over ear protecting earmuffs. His face was wrinkled and dried like an old man, from years of living in the desert. He greeted me with a big smile but without a comment on my plight, pretending he couldn't converse with his ear protectors. He drew the tow cable from the reel in Pawnee out to its one hundred and fifty-foot length and then handed the end to me.

  I latched it in the tow hook on the bow of the glider, gave it a jerk to make sure it was latched. He gave me a silent thumbs up and walked back to the Pawnee.

  When we were both strapped into our cockpits, and I had gone through my brief checklist I gave him a thumbs–up. He started the engine, edged the tow plane forward until the tow lie was taut and waited for my signal. I moved the rudder from side–to–side, the signal that I was ready to go. We accelerated, and in about one–hundred feet I was airborne, flying. I pulled back on the stick and followed the Pawnee as we climbed a few hundred feet and started a gentle turn toward CrystalSky .

  I felt relieved. This little hot, sweaty, thirsty, and disappointing incident was over.

  At altitude, I relaxed a little bit and started to think about my contact, if that is the applicable term, with Mason. 'Maybe I am going to have to take some time off from flying until I get this sorted out. Light flashes and hallucinations may indicate some sort of neurological problem or a brain tumor. I'll make an appointment with a neurologist and maybe get an MRI to be sure. Flying is unforgiving of pilot error. I can't afford any lapses in judgment. What else was there to know about space and time? Hadn't all that been worked out by science?'

  After I landed and rolled to my sailplane's parking spot, I got out, stretched, and began tying the wings down. I heard a cheery voice say, "Welcome back."

  It was Tina who handed me a tall, cool can of Coors, walked over and, gave me a big hug and kiss. She was wearing tennis shoes, tan knee-length shorts, a white tank top, and a ball cap with her red ponytail sticking out above the back strap. I delighted in seeing she had nothing on under the tank top. She opened her piercing light blue eyes and said, "I heard the tow plane come in and knew you were back." She observed, "Is something the matter? Is landing in the desert that serious? I sense something else? A big disagreement? Are we OK?"

  "Something strange happened," I said, my arm around her waist. Having her near was making me feel better.

  We started to walk down the now deserted airfield to the country club trailer park. The airstrip is a mile long, paved for the middle half of its length, the rest is a sandstone colored swath bulldozed in the desert, strewn with small rocks, and bordered by desert chaparral and an occasional Joshua tree. My desert refuge is next to the airstrip, at the outer boundary of the country club.

  "Right after I texted you, I took a nap in the shade of the wing. I was startled by a speck of light in a broken mason jar that appeared to be talking to me," I said incredulously.

  "A what?" She replied.

  I stopped and faced her: "I was taking a nap and then I heard a voice. It appeared to come from a broken mason jar, the kind of garbage you find all over the desert where people have camped." I repeated, "There was a bright speck of light in the jar and a voice coming out of it!"

  "You must have been suffering from dehydration," she said with a laugh. "It takes forty days and forty nights wandering in the desert to get mystical visions." Then impishly added, "You have always been a quick study." She looked at me for a long time and then said, "You're serious. This is really upsetting you."

  "I'm a scientist, a patent attorney. I deal in hard factual physical things. Voices do not come from inanimate objects. Furthermore, I saw specks of light all over the place as I was landing. This all must be some kind of retinal problem coupled with a dream during my nap. I'd better see my eye doctor next week. It must be some kind of eyestrain–related thing exacerbated by flying and the desert heat."

  As we continued walking to the trailer, I explained, "But It seemed so real. It said its name was Mason." I repeated somewhat louder, "There it was, a voice coming from a speck of light. The voice said it was giving me a message from a consciousness that is not on this or any other planet. It said it wants me to study something about space and time. Why would I want to do that? It was a crazy experience! It must have been some kind of weird dream."

  We walked silently for a while. I kept my distance, while she glanced at me quizzically. After a very long silence, she moved beside me, took my hand.

  After a while she said, "Long before I knew you, I had a friend who took me to channeling sessions in North Hollywood. Have you ever been to one?" She asked, looking askance.

  Her big blue eyes were open wider than usual with her eyebrows raised. I knew she believed in all this metaphysical stuff, but I hesitated to talk to her about it. She had learned that it was not a popular topic of conversation with me. This was a no-no place we would not go.

  "No, can't say that I have," I said somewhat formally. "I think I need another beer."

  She linked her arm with mine and said, "OK."

  We walked the rest of the way to the park in silence. Coors therapy and the affection made me begin to feel better. We walked up onto the porch of the trailer, and she steered me to a deck chair.

  "Sit here big guy," she said, "Help is on the way."

  I drank the second Coors and looked at the desert while she made a salad for dinner.

  CrystalSky is at 3,500 feet on the upslope of the San Gabriel Mountains, about a hundred miles north of LA. From my trailer porch, I can see fifty-and sometimes a hundred-miles north, sometimes forever across the Mojave Desert. On a crystal-clear morning, I can see the blue outline of the southern end of the Sierra Range. Although it might be 105 degrees during the heat of the day, the evenings cool off into down parka weather. On this night, the desert breeze was stronger than normal. Thermals wouldn't amount to much tomorrow.

  Tina called, "let's have dinner on the back patio, sheltered by the mobile home, out of the wind."

  We ate our salads and had a glass of wine without too much conversation. I was still silently mulling over the event of the day. Tina was also deep in thought.

  As it grew dark we heard a pack of coyotes yipping as they pursued prey, probably a jackr
abbit running for his life. Then, it was quiet.

  I broke the awkward silence. "I love the evening sounds of the desert. Later, we may hear the sounds of the kangaroo rats shaking seeds off bushes. When I first came out here, I thought it was the sound of rattlesnakes, and was afraid to go outside at night."

  Tina eventually said in a somewhat serious tone, "If it is not good soaring weather tomorrow, lets go to Rosamond Dry Lake and you can introduce me to your new Mason jar friend."

  "I can't," I said. "It disappeared after the tow plane showed up."

  Tina paused a long time and observed my expression. Then, got up from the table, walked over, kissed me, and said, "I think we should forget about this in the shower."

  I woke the next morning seeing the sun brightly shown through the window, smelling coffee, and hearing Tina working in the kitchen. I walked in. She was wearing one of my tee shirts that came down to mid-thigh, and chopping vegetables at the sink. I hugged her from behind and kissed her on the cheek.

  She shrugged her shoulders and pushed me away with her head saying, "Careful, I'll cut my finger or drop this knife on your toe. Get yourself some coffee."

  I drew a cup of coffee, leaned my rear end against the counter, and glanced at Tina. She had her hair in a ponytail and had her usual mischievous expression on her face. I wondered if she was putting something unusual in the omelet. She glanced back at me with a questioning look in her eyes. "I was expecting a much bigger smile this morning after..."

  I interrupted, "I apologize, I was thinking about what happened on the dry lake as I was waking up." I walked over and gave her a big kiss.

  "That's more like it," she said. "Is it going to be a good soaring day?"

  I replied, "No I don't think so. There is already a little breeze. Those high cirrus clouds are a bad sign. Also, I am still a little distracted."

  "Good," she said, "One of the ladies at the pool spoke with me about the Devil's Punchbowl in the hills not far from here. It sounded interesting. It is supposed to have an interesting energy, er, rock formations. It is a State Park with trails and self-guided tours." She showed me the State Park page she had looked up on my iPad. "Pinyon Pines, chipmunks and California Ground Squirrels. It would be fun to go for a hike. They had a spot of rain up there last week and there may be some spring wildflowers in bloom."

  "Sounds good," I replied somewhat reluctantly.

  "I'll pack a lunch and clean up here and pack everything into the car while you go and put your little sailplane away. We can leave for LA from the park. I know a great place on the way home to have dinner," she added with some excitement.

  As we ate breakfast, I could sense her excitement. "I love the desert." She said. "Desert tortoises, snakes, kangaroo rats bouncing around at night, coyotes yipping and howling...and then there are the wildflowers."

  I was feeling better. "Snakes!" I exclaimed. I mused to myself, Talking to spirits, forget it.

  She thrust my hat and a bottle of water into my hand and practically pushed me off the porch to get me started to the runway.

  CrysalSky is nearly on the San Andreas Fault. The San Andreas Fault is like a big rattlesnake that has its tail in the Sea of Cortez between Baja California and the mainland, and makes a serpentine arc up California east of the various mountain ranges to Palm Springs, and then curves around the San Bernadinos and San Gabrials, which separate LA from the Mojave Desert. It turns north again and runs inland to Silicon Valley, San Francisco, across the Golden Gate, to it's head in Bodega Bay. Everyone fears this snake when it wakes up.

  The Pacific Oceanic plate slides against the Continental plate along the fault and pushes up the coastal ranges. The Devil's Punchbowl is near the fault, where the sandstone is crunched and pushed up into jagged sky–pointing layers. The park is in a three hundred foot deep valley in this contorted landscape.

  "This is really fun," she exclaimed, as we drove with the top down into the hills. She was wearing brief jeans shorts she called her "Daisy Dukes" and a yellow tank top and her ball cap. "Here, drink lots of water today," she said as she took a sip from a bottle of water and handed it to me.

  "I have often flown over here in my sailplane but have never seen it from the ground. The punchbowl is a good source of thermals," I said. "All that sandstone picks up heat in the sheltered valley and boils off into a thermal, sometimes the first of the day. See over there! That little wisp of a cloud must be over the Punchbowl."

  Before I cold entertain many thoughts about going back and breaking out my sailplane, she looked at the map in her lap and said with excitement, "Turn left on that road up there. That sign says Tumbleweed Road. This is the way; we must not be far."

  Soon, we were in the Park Visitors’ Center parking lot. We walked to the small weather worn visitors’ center, went in, spent some time looking at the exhibits of stuffed birds and animals and bought an area map. Outside, we began to walk down the loop trail into the Punchbowl. It was a spectacular site, a yellow sand, and gravel trail descending into a water worn valley in a jumble of broken sandstone layers pointing diagonally to the sky, with opportunistic small clumps of shrubs and bushes growing in the cracks. Tina was intent on stopping to examine the flora along the trail, reciting the name of each plant, and feeling the leaves and branches.

  Tina said, "I love these Pinon Pines. They tower above all the rest of the shrubs and brush and seem to say to me, 'You can rise above everyone else if you try.'"

  She turned to me and observed my far away look and said. "Are you OK? Are we OK? I feel as though you have gone away."

  "Oh, I'm sorry," I said. "I am still preoccupied with what happened yesterday. I am still trying to work out the logic of it all." I didn't tell her of my medical concerns.

  "You have told me stories of landing-out on other occasions. They don't seem to bother you much. I have many friends who wouldn't think it was so strange that you talked with an entity through a spark of light. One friend has a dog that channels advice to her."

  I resisted, "In your world it might be OK, but not in mine–I deal with scientific facts and logic."

  "Here, have some more water," she said handing me her water bottle. "Why don't you have a nap in the shade of that big overhang while I continue to explore the trail. It only goes on for about three quarters of a mile-I'll be back in no time-and then we can have our picnic. The ranger said there were some plants in bloom up there and I don't want to miss them. Just relax. Try meditating."

  "Deal!" I replied, not having any interest in desert blossoms at the time. I walked over to the shade of the big sandstone slab, which looked like a slice of tan layer cake that had been hollowed out underneath by eons of flash floods. I stretched out on the ground, put my hands behind my head, closed my eyes, and listened to the high desert silence. I started to doze off.

  "Hello there!" Said a voice. I sat up with a start and looked around, but saw no one. "Over here," said the voice.

  A few feet away I saw a round, tan sandstone boulder about the size of a beanbag chair. I saw the brilliant spark of light in a crack on the underside of the boulder.

  "It is Mason," came the voice from the rock. "We hate sandstone, it’s so scratchy."

  "Oh, no," I said under my breath. "Good day," I said diplomatically, wondering what was a proper greeting to intelligence from outside of space and time. I didn't add that I felt that this whole conversation might be a desert hallucination, or a neurological difficulty.

  Mason continued in a serious tone," You are having great concerns about your mental or physical health related to our conversation. Let us assure you that you do not need to see a Doctor of Medicine. You need to see someone with the title, Doctor of Mathematics.

  "I hate to tell you, but I have thought it over. I really know nothing about Einstein and Relativity. You have the wrong person."

  "No, you are perfect for what we would like to see happen. We would like you to prepare for something very important that will affect the lives of many, perhaps a goo
d part of your civilization. Think of us as a client with a mission to earth."

  "That's fine," I replied. "But, what would you like to see happen?" My lawyerly questioning strategy was kicking in. "And how could I put you on the witness stand? I can hear it now, 'My client in another reality is suing for infringement damages.'"

  "Let's start with incentives," Mason replied slightly mocking my lawyerly attitude. "In this case, you will prepare yourself to be on the leading edge of the thinking of the future and get yourself recognized as a source of knowledge. Since we do not trade in your dollars, we can promise you personal benefits to be paid in personal growth, exposure to exciting new ideas, and dreams-come-true."

  I was taken aback and realized Mason seemed to know my weaknesses. I was bored with my patent work, and had enough money to buy all the stuff I wanted, including a very expensive sailplane, but no real must-have dreams. I wished for something different in my life.

  Mason continued with a much lighter, almost comedic tone, "We can talk about all this later. Now, how about those Dodgers."

  I laughed and replied, "I'll think about it.'"

  Suddenly, I was being tickled and emerging from a deep sleep. "Wake up big boy," chuckled Tina. "You were snoring so loudly all the wildlife was fleeing the canyon."

  I shook my head, sat up and rubbed my eyes. I felt a surprising sense of peace.

  "He's back?" said Tina after looking quizzically into my eyes. She brightened. "I have been told there is something in this desert air called 'Funk-be-gone' that works every time. This is the guy I have been dating. Come on, let's go have our picnic."

  She grabbed my hand, pulled me to my feet, and began towing me up the path to the visitors’ center. We went to the car, retrieved the cooler and Tina's wicker picnic basket, and went to a picnic bench in the shade of a Cottonwood tree.

  "Isn't this great! Look at the view! Feel that gentle breeze! Smell the sage!" gushed Tina as she unpacked her wicker basket. She spread a red and white checkered tablecloth on the table, spread two blue plastic plates and silverware, produced two crystal flutes, which she filled with bottled water from the cooler, and, as a final touch, placed a cut crystal vase in the center. She produced a cluster of daisies from a bag in the cooler and said, "Don't worry Mr. Lawyer, I didn't pick these in the park. I picked these in the courtyard behind your mobile home."

  She then produced a bunch of grapes, some cheese and crackers, and sandwiches, as she smiled broadly.

  "I was expecting a bag lunch," I said

  "Not for a beautiful setting like this," she replied.

  I was struck by how beautiful she looked, even with little makeup, glowing with some inner exuberance. I seemed to see a yellow golden glow around her face, and feel a soft, beautiful vibration while I looked at her. I also felt a strange energy on my chest, right above my heart.

  We ate without saying much. She was taking in the view and the day, and I was watching her.

  After a while, I volunteered, "I had another visit from Mason today."

  Her beautiful pale–blue eyes grew wide, she smiled with an expression of delight, and said, "What did Mason say?"

  "Mason wants to be my client in some strange alien sort of way. My reward will be learning something valuable and having dreams-come-true." I said.

  "Dreams-come-true is not all that bad," She said as she seemed to blush a little bit. "What dreams do you have?"

  "I have to admit I don't have a big list now." I replied. "Everything seems good. Oh, win this big patent case I have been working on for a year and work the way up the letterhead of the firm. I have still to make that ultimate soaring flight. That kind of stuff. How about you?"

  She looked a little embarrassed or maybe disappointed and said, "I love to teach. That is my dream. Beverly Hills is a good, safe school."

  "Safe?" I asked.

  "In many schools in LA, women teachers are at risk. The only problem I have ever had was with a husky rich kid from a Middle Eastern country, where his family was the ruling class and don't think much of women's rights. He accosted me in a stairwell, before another teacher came along and broke up what the kid called a 'party.' I am more careful now, but anyway, that was three years ago, not the sort of thing that happens at that school."

  "I do love teaching. Also, I like to explore many new ideas, learn the secrets of life. There is a spiritual thing there. Maybe, there is a vine covered cottage with a picket fence and a golden retriever out there somewhere."

  I silently observed that neither one of us mentioned anything about a relationship.

  "I'm not too sure how a spiritual entity for a client fits in all that," I said. "I'm not ready to take that up with a Senior Partner yet."

  She seemed to sense my sudden shift in mood and said, "I saw an Antelope Jack Rabbit today. They're bigger than a regular Jack Rabbit and have giant ears."

  She looked at me inquisitively and said, "You want to talk about your Mason friend?"

  "I am a little shaken by the experience," I replied. "It doesn't seem as if I am hallucinating. It seems too real to be a dream. There is no logical or scientific explanation for it. Do you have any explanation for it?"

  She replied, "I have a metaphysical bent. You must suspect with my meditating. I have avoided talking about it because the subject seems to upset you, and I really enjoy being with you. But, I have been to channeling sessions and have a friend, Elise, who is doing a dissertation on the study of people who channel. Your contact with Mason seems to be some kind of channeling. Maybe you are the channel."

  "I guess I'm not ready for any of this yet, I'll have to find out about this later," I replied with kind of a stiff tone.

  "I thought so," she said looking away. "When you are ready...I know some people."

  "Thanks," I said glancing at my watch. I noticed she had lost that beautiful glow.

  After a long and somewhat awkward silence she said, "Maybe we could get back early. I really could use some more time to prepare for next week's teaching. Tomorrow is another school day," she said in a sort of stiff tone of voice.

  We finished our lunch, without much conversation, loaded the car a drove to LA. She slept most of the way.


  Being A Lawyer

  Monday traffic was normal on Santa Monica Boulevard, typical of LA, everyone hectically driving above the speed limit of 45 with only a few car lengths between them, while conducting important business on cell phones. I wanted silence this morning.

  I turned into the driveway of the Century City building, drove down two floors to my parking spot, took the elevator to the lobby, and joined the rush into the elevators to the upper floors. At my floor, I exited the elevator and walked down the hall to our office door. The spacious lobby had a modern feel, with large black leather and chrome chairs, large tan ceramic planters with well-tended plants, and a large mahogany faced counter, behind which sat Carolyn, a blond who wore makeup like a professional model, and today, a navy blue business suit and a crimson scarf tied loosely around her neck.

  "Good morning Mr. Willard!" said Carolyn cheerfully as she covertly buzzed my secretary's phone to warn of my arrival and gave me her "you're the most interesting person...and I'm available" smile.

  "Good morning!" I replied as I walked past her down the hall to my office. The mahogany–walled suite had two offices, in front of which the secretary, Zaza, sat at a chrome and ebony desk. Her desk, as usual, was clear except for a wireless keyboard and mouse, and display, and the single pile of papers she was typing from. She wore an almost invisible telephone headset.

  Zaza Green, whose real name was Zahavia, is in her late forties, plump in a post-menopausal way, with grey hair in a perm style that she was probably married in. Her skin is sallow and wrinkled as it would be for a formerly pack-a-day smoker who had almost quit. Her blouse exposed some of her abundant cleavage of the type I really don't want to see. Her manner ran from businesslike to covertly hostile, and I usually got the latter. She wouldn't ha
ve been my choice as a secretary, but she came with the office. Someone had informed me she had earned a special "in" with one of the partners a long time ago.

  "Good morning," she said in two descending tones. "How was your weekend in the desert? Did Flopsy go with you?"

  "Tina Quail," I corrected.

  "Flopsy, Popsy or Cotton Tail, I can't keep your desert rabbits straight," replied Zaza. "Are flowers in order?"

  I thought for a second and replied, "Yes that would be a good idea. Send her a bouquet of daisies or something cheerful like that. On the card say, 'for a delightful picnic.'"

  Zaza replied with slight scorn, "Popsy usually got roses. I have Tina's address."

  I went into my office, and started going through my email. After a while, Zaza buzzed my phone, and said, "George Downey has arrived and is in the conference room."

  "OK," I replied.

  I was grateful that scheduled visitors were charmed by Carolyn and then shown to the conference room. I didn't like Zaza representing me.

  George is one of the technical experts we often use in our patent trials. He has two PhDs that I know of and is an expert on electromagnetic devices. Today he was, as usual, dressed as a scientist would be expected to, with a tweed sport coat that he wore in all seasons, and did not quite match his slacks, with leather patches sewn on the elbows, and a plastic pocket protector with several pens in the inside pocket. He was tan with balding grey hair and intense blue eyes, and today, as usual, he looked very serious.

  We discussed some of the technical issues in the patent case I was working on, and talked about how we could present the information in lay terms in a trial. As he was getting ready to leave, we were chatting about cell phones and where they worked and where they didn't, when I thought I felt some sort of vibration from him.

  I started to think about Tina and how I seemed to sense her vibrations. I said to George, "Sometimes I feel vibrations from people. Do you have any kind of idea what it might be?"

  George looked incredulous, and I knew that I had just said something that was outside his scientific belief system. I got the same reaction that I would have if I said that I had been talking to a Mason jar.

  George said, "There is nothing in electromagnetic theory that would explain that."

  I thought I observed that his vibration had dropped.

  "What theory is that?" I asked.

  George grew stiff and said, "Anything like that is against the laws of Physics as expressed by Maxwell's equations."

  "Maxwell?" I inquired.

  "He was a nineteenth century mathematician who wrote the equations about how all electromagnetic waves and even light behave. For the cell phones we were talking about, Maxwell’s equations say that as you get farther from a cell tower, the signal, or number of bars you get goes down exponentially. If you are one mile from a cell tower and you move to two miles, the signal level drops by a factor of eight. If you move from one mile to three miles, the signal drops by a factor of twenty-eight.

  "The human nervous system generates very low frequency signals, which can be detected with electrodes when thousands of cells, such as heart cells, fire in synchronism. Signal levels are so low they can't be radiated from the body with any strength that is detectable by even the most sensitive electronic instrument. I am not a physiologist, but I am certain that no antennas or sensitive receivers have been dissected from bodies. Although two human bodies might be jammed together there could not be enough electrical energy transmitted to be observable," George lectured.

  I quickly thought of Tina, bodies jammed together, and then Mason. It was obvious George was getting upset so I tried to change the subject by saying, "How difficult would it be to learn about...?" I felt a kind of ragged feeling vibration coming from George.

  George interrupted and said, "That's why all that crazy stuff about ESP is pure ignorance, superstition, or the tricks of charlatans. It is all against the laws of physics. It doesn't happen except for people with limited critical thinking skills and a gullible imagination."

  I could see that George would make a great witness in a trial on this subject.

  "Thanks, George," I said, steering him toward the door. His eyes were beady, and it didn't look as though he knew where he was. I walked him out to Carolyn to make sure he got his parking ticket validated. Carolyn did her shy act with her eyes lowered and chin down and started chatting and attracted his attention. He seemed to be coming back to normal so I said goodbye, shook his hand, and went back to my office.

  I regretted that I had brought the subject of vibrations up with George. He got very upset. I'm sure he thinks less of me for broaching a metaphysical subject. Tina must be a bad influence on me. I am starting to talk like her.

  I spent the rest of the morning working on my case.

  After lunch, Zaza buzzed me and said, "Mr. Bracken wants to see you."

  "Right now?" I asked.

  "'Immediately' was what he said," replied Zaza with her sarcastic tone.

  When I arrived at Phil Bracken's office his secretary, Patty, gave me a look that said something wonderful has happened. I walked into Phil's office, and he met me with a big smile and left his chair to give be an enthusiastic handshake.

  "Congratulations! They settled! Have a seat," he said gesturing to a chair. "I guess after they saw your witness list and witness backgrounds they caved. They met with Paul in our Washington office and offered a settlement. Paul talked it over with his friend Robert Sampson, the CEO at Genstem and he said he would accept their offer. We won! Here is their offer."

  He pushed a copy of the email across the desk to me. As I read it, I was surprised. It was more than I had expected.

  "So, we don't have to trial." I said somewhat in a state of shock, feeling a letdown from having a whole year's work evaporate.

  "Don't worry," Phil said. "Paul and the Washington office will take it from here. Why don't you take a few days off. You like to spend time in the desert this time of year. If they need anything, we can call you there. Have Zaza keep Patty informed of where to contact you." He got up and shook my hand again and said, "Good work! Congratulations! We will talk more when I get back. I have to leave for Detroit in a couple of minutes."

  I walked back to my office still a little bit stunned.

  Zaza greeted me with, "Patty told me the news. You're unemployed!"

  That made me despair.

  "I am going to the desert for a couple of days. You can call me anytime out there," I said. "You forgot your briefcase," said Zaza as I walked to the entrance.

  When I walked into my apartment, I checked my phone for voicemail. I pressed the play code and heard Tina's voice:

  "Thanks for the flowers. I called to thank you on your cell phone with no answer, and then I tried at your office. Your secretary said you had just left, and she didn't know when you would be back. I asked whether you were on a business trip. All she said is 'No.' She sounded very abrupt. Is everything OK?"

  'That's Zaza,' I thought. I must have missed the cell call while I was in the parking garage. I knew that Tina was in class today, so I called her home phone and left a message, explaining that I had finished a case, was taking a few days off, and everything was fine.

  On the way to the desert, I felt very alone and uncertain. I wished Tina had come with me. Zaza was right, 'I am unemployed.' Fortunately, I still draw a salary. Settling a case is like landing on a dry lake, stopping short.

  It was just beginning to get dark when I got to CrystalSky. I parked the car and got my bag from the trunk. Glancing at the sky, I said to myself, 'Good evening, Hesperus!' Most people referred to the evening star as Venus. I like the Greek male version, Hesperus, because he is the leader of the stars as they march into the evening sky, obviously a great leader with that many followers, He has great organizational powers and gets everyone in place in the clear desert sky. I wondered if he was on Facebook.

  It was already chilly. I hurried into the mobile home, put my b
ag in the bedroom, and went to the closet to get a down jacket, choosing the lighter one of two. I kept the warmer down jacket in a plastic wardrobe bag, bathed in the aroma of cedar chips and sage in the bottom of the bag, placed there to hide the scent of whoever had worn the jacket last, lately Tina.

  I poured myself a brandy, went out onto the patio with the view of the desert, sat down in one of the white plastic chairs, put my feet up on a table, rocked back and looked at the zillions of stars in the clear desert sky. Despair was my only companion.

  "Space-time," I said to myself, "there is a lot of it out there. Spaces are measured in millions of light-years. Time is measured in billions of years." I remembered that Einstein's theory of relativity and space-time had first been supported by measuring the bending of light from a distant star as it passed the sun during an eclipse. 'I don't see how there is a patent law case in the subject,' I said to myself.

  I felt lonely.

  I called Tina on my cell phone. She answered, and I said, "Hi, Tina, I am calling you from the desert. How are you doing?"

  "Oh, thank you for the flowers. They are beautiful, my favorite kind; they were there when I got home from school."

  I wondered what Zaza had sent.

  Tina continued, "How is the weather out there? I got your message about taking a few days off. Is settling the case bad? You sound sort of down."

  "It is beautiful, cold, and clear." I replied. "Settling a case is good–at least for the client–but I won't get to go to trial. That's where I really have my fun. Now, I get to start all over with a new client."

  "More heavy scientific stuff?" Tina asked and then answered her own question, "Of course, that's what you do."

  I sensed the cold tone in her voice. I asked, "Any chance you might like to visit the desert again?"

  "I really can't right now; my end–of–school–year testing and grading, and my night school courses, will keep me buried until the end of the term," she replied stiffly. "There is someone at the door; I have to go now. Say hello to the kangaroo rats for me. Goodbye."

  I felt deflated. I would have to start over in that department also.

  "Too bad," I thought, 'Tina was fun to be with, unless she was talking nonsense about metaphysical things. No long-term future there.’

  I sat quietly for a few minutes, just Hesperus and me, and watched his followers deploy. 'Hesperus, does your life ever come apart,' I wondered.

  Then, I heard, "Good evening (as you believe time to exist), we are happy to be able to communicate with you again."

  I thought, 'Oh, no. I don't need this now.'

  It was Mason, I looked around and saw a sandstone boulder that the landscapers had placed near the patio. It had a bright spark of light on the side of it. "Congratulations on the settlement of your patent case," said Mason.

  "How do you know about that?" I asked, somewhat intimidated.

  "For now, we shall only say that we could see it coming when we last communicated. It was a probable future."

  "I believed winning the case was a certainty. I have to believe that when I am working on a case," I rebutted.

  "That's the way it works," Mason's sound continued, "Belief causes a probable future to manifest. We will get to that later."

  I was surprised. I was starting to feel that talking to a speck of light and an extra-dimensional intelligence was a natural thing to do. This time it couldn't be a dream.

  "I have been sitting here looking at the stars and thinking about space-time," I interrupted, "That subject is about black holes, the Big Bang, galaxies, mathematics that few understand, not anything I am trained or interested in. It is too abstract for my thinking."

  "You have correctly identified the problem," said Mason. "Space and time in the sense of the cosmos are incomprehensible to all but a few of your species. Let's talk about space and time in terms of what you call a movie film.

  "There is a story recorded on the frames of the film. Suppose that story starts with a man looking at the stars in a desert, then moves to a woman talking to him on the telephone, in Los Angeles, then moves back to the man in the desert, then to a restaurant, where he has dinner. The next day he travels back to his office, the story ends with the man returning to the same desert where he talks to a speck of light. When the movie film in on the reel, stored in the movie company's vault, there is no time or space in the movie. On the film, frames in the desert looking at the stars come first and the frames of the woman in LA are next, and the frames of the restaurant are next etc. There is no physical time, there is only a sequence of film frames: there is only timing; some things happen before others."

  "I can understand that," I replied. "When someone projects the film, there is the illusion of time."

  "Correct!" Said Mason. "The illusion of time is only in the story. The director might have shot the film out of sequence, shooting the office scene first then shooting all the desert scenes, shooting in the restaurant, and then shooting the woman on the telephone. The timing of scenes was made in the editing room."

  "OK," I said, "time is an illusion in movies. What has that to do with reality?"

  "Let's switch the metaphor," continued Mason, "On your planet, there is something that we are amazed by, it is called YouTube. People make videos of something of interest to them, then add keywords, and upload it to 'the cloud,' of all YouTube videos. 'The cloud' is a the world-wide network of computers. As in the movie I described before; the video may have had only the illusion of time. Anyone can search for the videos by keywords or by the address and watch them. YouTube is a space-time system where you can watch a video taken at a give place, such as a corner near the World Trade Center, which is the spatial dimension, and at a particular time, nine o'clock on September 11, 2001, the time dimension."

  "I understand about YouTube," I said, "and I guess it is a space-time system."

  "That is the way reality works!" Mason said. "Think of what you call reality as something like YouTube. Lets call it The Cloud. Information on everything that happened or happens is in The Cloud."

  I said to myself, I must be logical and scientific about this. I had a patent case involving the Internet one time.

  The videos on YouTube exist physically. They are data bits on servers distributed around the world in data centers.'

  "Mason." I said, "Where is The Cloud in physical reality?"

  "This is where the metaphor breaks down. Time does not really exist: it is only a coordinate in space-time. The physical things happening are not stored, they are all happening as what you would call 'at once' in the Cloud. For example, at the space coordinates you know on your planet as the New York location of the World Trade Center. At the earth time coordinate, nine o'clock on September 11, 2001, the building is being destroyed. Change the earth time coordinate to August 12, 1964, and the World Trade Center is under construction. At those coordinates, everything is going on according to what you understand as your four-dimensional scientific laws of physics–what you are taught in your universities.

  "Using the YouTube metaphor, one might say that the physical stuff in the video, as it is taken, obeys the laws of physics. If the video is of a cat doing something cute, everything in the scene obeys the laws of physics, for instance gravity, according to four-dimensional space-time. The video that is uploaded to the YouTube cloud is information. You can turn the picture upside–down and have the cat fall upward in that video. The video cat doesn't have to obey the laws of physics.

  "We realize this is all very new to you. You need to find out about eight-dimensional physics, known on your planet as 'complex eight–dimensional Minkowski space.' They explain how The Cloud works." Mason's voice trailed off. The spark of light on the boulder disappeared.

  "Wait!" I said. It was too late. Why is Mason telling me all this? I wondered.

  I was confused, bewildered. I went back into the kitchen and poured myself another brandy. Back out to the patio, Hesperus had everyone organized in space-time. I wasn't.

>   The first light of dawn was just breaking when I awoke, still musing about my contact with Mason, wondering why I was involved in this, pondering the scientific logic of the whole contact. I made a cup of coffee, put on my parka, and started a walk out into the desert to clear my head.

  It had been cold during the night, and all the cacti and sagebrush were covered by a fine coat of silvery frost, glittering in the first rays of the dawn sunlight. I scared up a long–eared rabbit that dashed away in jagged hops. The sun came up suddenly, and I felt the heat on my face. Frost evaporated. The new day was here. My head cleared as I viewed the hundred miles of desert to the North. Sunlight on the dark buttes and distant mountains spread down from the peaks to the valleys.

  California City is eighty miles to the North, at the southern foot of the Sierras. In land area it is the third largest city in California, a dream of a developer in the 1960s, and boom years for Southern California. During that time, developers were buying worthless tracks of desert land, subdividing them, grading grids of roads, advertising, and selling lots on the promised it was the site of the next land boom. California City was laid out with streets, cul-de-sacs, a lake, and 52,000 lots in its master plan. It didn't boom. Some bought lots and then sold them to other suckers. Many lots are now in estates of the departed, with the beneficiaries having no idea what to do with them. Today fewer than 15,000 people live there, mostly employed by the declining Edwards Air Force Base, or at the nearby privately–operated prison, which is having trouble making ends meet. California City should be considered a tourist spot, a modern wonder, a ruin of gigantic proportions, not of crumbling buildings, but a ruin of lost dreams, gullibility, and greed.

  These lost–dream developments are sometimes a glider pilot's salvation as a landing spot in an otherwise vegetation–covered landscape. One time, I landed in a one-mile long street, bulldozed out of the raw desert, fifty yards wide. A 747 could land there, but none ever have.

  I had no dream for the day. Soaring wouldn't be any good today; my recent love interest sounded as if she was dumping me because of my 'superior logic,' my legal career was on hold. I felt like a California City lot.

  Back from my walk, I had breakfast, read the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the LA Times on my iPad. The news didn't lift my spirits. I thought I would walk over to the office at the airport, find someone to talk to, and do some 'hangar flying,' reminiscing about past flights.

  Nobody was flying yet on this quiet day. I left my trailer and began walking down the edge of the empty unpaved section of the runway; the part used only in emergencies when pilots decided to abort takeoffs. Desert sand was mixed with limestone rocks, and along the edge of the runway, opportunistic yellow flowers, the size of a thumbnail, were taking advantage of the recent rain to flower, bloom, and seed while they had a chance. Mesquite bushes lined the edge of the runway, separated by a few paces from each other, taking advantage of all the space available in the desert.

  An open–air sun shelter, next to the airport office, had several wood tables and benches. It offered a shady place to sit while waiting for the thermals to begin.

  At one of the tables the tow pilot, Dan, who had rescued me from Rosamond Dry Lake a few days ago, sat, apparently deep in thought staring into the open desert. He was wearing hiking boots, khaki shorts, a wrinkled long sleeve shirt, and his cowboy hat.

  I said, "Hi Dan."

  He looked toward me and nodded, "Hi."

  "Doesn't look like much of a day," I observed.

  Dan said, "Every day in the desert is good. Some are better for soaring than others. We are supposed to have a student pilot coming out this morning. He will need about four tows to practice landings."

  I had often talked to Dan before. I knew he had a degree in something like English literature or philosophy and had decided the best way to put it to use was flying a tow plane and flying a water bomber when offered the chance. When there is a forest fire, the government contracts with independent companies to fly tanker aircraft, mostly obsolete military surplus carrier aircraft, many poorly maintained, to drop red flame retardant in the fire area. It is dangerous, high paying work, flying a few feet above the trees, through smoke, in unpredictable winds, and requiring exact flying skills. When I am on tow behind Dan in his Pawnee, I knew I am in good hands.

  "Going to fly today?" he asked.

  "No, it looks too weak to bother getting my bird out," I replied.

  Dan smiled, emphasizing the wrinkles around his mouth, in his sun-dried face. "I think it was before your time, but we used to have a pilot come out here who would go up on days like this and fly cross-country for hundreds of miles. His name was Charlie Krill, and he worked at the Lockheed skunk works, designing high–flying spy planes like the U-2. We used to say he made his own thermals. One time, I asked him how he could read the weather so well and he said, 'Trust the force!' referencing the old Star Wars movies."

  "I have never tried that," I joked. "Mostly, I trust my friend at the Weather Service at LAX who gives me my personal soaring forecast. Then, I plan my flights."

  Dan gave me a look that seemed to say, 'And how is that working out for you.'

  I suddenly had the feeling that my logical flight planning was like the California City urban planning, complete in detail but failing in practice.

  Dan confirmed my feelings: "Somehow, Charlie had special intuition. The intuitive approach positively worked for him."

  My cellphone rang. Tina, I hoped. I looked. It was Zaza.

  Zaza announced, "Vacation is over. Bracken wants to know whether you can meet with a new client tomorrow at 9:00."

  "Sure," I replied.

  "I hope this does not upset any of your social plans," said Zaza sarcastically.

  "I am alone. No problem, See you tomorrow."


  A New Beginning

  I was feeling better as I walked into the office lobby.

  "Good morning Mr. Willard!" Said Carolyn cheerfully as she gave me her usual 'How wonderful you are here...and I'm very available' smile.

  Zaza looked grumpy, as usual as she asked, "How was your long vacation?"

  "A pleasant respite," I replied as I walked into my office. I began to look through my mail and email.

  In a few minutes, Zaza's buzzer rang. "They are here," she said.

  I walked into the conference room and saw Phil Bracken and very attractive blond lady.

  "Dave Willard, meet Dore Hamilton," Phil said.

  Dore was about five–feet two, with a very compact athletic look, about thirty years old, with brown eyes. Her streaked blond hair, parted in the middle, was cut in a manner that suggested she spent time in an expensive hair salon. She had a wide nose like someone of northern European descent. Her tan face with white areas around the eyes suggested she had recently been skiing. She was wearing a dark blue suit with a red scarf.

  She smiled with a flash of recognition in her eyes as she shook hands, and said, "Pleased to meet you Mr. Willard," and immediately reset to an icy stare. I knew I had been 'made,' fully assessed, and judged.

  "Pleased to meet you, Ms. Hamilton," I replied without losing eye contact. I could tell this was one tough lady.

  Phil began, "Ms. Hamilton is an assistant to an old friend of mine, Vince Colson who has a venture capital firm in Palo Alto. Vince has funded a foundation, the Colson Foundation, to support investigation into paranormal phenomena and other pet projects. He wants us to take on a test case to try a county government for negligence in failing to utilize an available psychic resource to prevent the death of a lost child."

  I though to myself, Oh, no! More of this metaphysical nonsense, Why me?

  Ms. Hamilton sensed my reaction and said, "Mr. Willard, I expect that this is somewhat afield from your normal case and possibly makes you a little uncomfortable. Phil said that you are a master at presenting complicated scientific cases in terms that can be understood by lay juries. The Colson Foundation has sponsored scientific re
search that will provide the foundation for a scientific case that the psychic offered legitimate help. We believe the science is there to support the case. The science is esoteric enough that most people would never have heard of it. Phil says you may not be up on this realm of science. It is preferable that you can bring a fresh viewpoint, unbiased by many misconceptions shared by many who have a long involvement in metaphysical subjects, which might bring some biases or beliefs that would interfere with the scientific case. We want someone with a clean slate on the subject who can appreciate the skeptical viewpoint."

  "I think I meet your requirements for a lack of knowledge on the subject," I observed.

  Phil interrupted and added, "Dave has done this kind of thing before. Some of his patent cases involved subjects and technologies that were unknown a couple of years before."

  "Good!" said Dore. "Would you be available to come to Palo Alto today to meet with Mr. Colson? He is to leave town tomorrow and is anxious for you to get started. We can have you back later in the day."

  "Of course" I said, thinking of how I dread going through airport security twice in one day.

  "Thank you Phil," Said Dore as she shook Phil's hand, "I have confidence that we have made the right choice in asking your firm to represent us. Mr. Willard, the travel arrangements are all set."

  "Thank you for selecting Bracken and Stevens to represent you in this matter," added Phil.

  "I'll get my briefcase," I said.

  I waved at Zaza on the way out. "I am going to Palo Alto–be back tomorrow."

  Zaza couldn’t resist: "She is a hot one-I saw her when she came in. What is Flopsy going to think?"

  "I'll see you tomorrow," I replied, playing it straight as always.

  Dore was in the lobby texting. We took the elevator to the ground floor and got into a black chauffeured Towne Car, which was waiting at the building entrance.

  "Excuse me, I have to check in," Dore said, and began texting on her iPhone.

  I followed suit.

  I was surprised when the driver turned north on the 405 instead of south to LAX. I didn't say anything.

  In a while, we were at the Van Nuys airport, and the driver drove to a Lear Jet parked in front of a hanger. A lean uniformed pilot, surfer-length blond hair sticking out below his navy–blue pilot's cap, was standing by the steps into the airplane. He took the small suitcase of Dore's that the driver brought as we boarded the plane. I looked into the cockpit as we entered and saw a young blond lady, also in uniform with pilot's cap, apparently going through the preflight checklist.

  The jet had six brown leather seats, two in the back and two pairs facing each other separated by the aisle. The airplane smelled like leather with a slight hint of jet fumes from outside.

  Dore motioned to one of the two brown leather seats that faced each other with a small table between them.

  "Thanks, Ms. Hamilton," I said.

  I sat down, and we both fastened our seat belts as the jet began to taxi.

  She smiled and said, "Make it Dore. I think we are going to spending a lot of time together."

  "Dave," I replied with a nod.

  We both looked out the window as the jet paused before entering the runway and began the takeoff roll.

  "My parents gave me the name Doré, with the accent on the 'é' but I dropped it for everyone's convenience," she continued. "Dave, you have quite a spring tan for a person with your light completion. Are you a golfer?"

  "No," I replied, "I spend a lot of time on the desert. I have a sailplane."

  "One of those things where they tow you up in the air and then you glide down?" she asked.

  "Yes, but sometimes we stay up for hours and fly cross-country. It is quite a sport." I added.

  Dore stared at me for a second and then added, "I get that there is something competitive about that."

  "Not really, it is something you do alone," I replied.

  Dore stared at me again and then continued, "When you were in college there was something competitive. You are five–feet, seven–inches, and weighed something like one hundred sixty when you were in college. It was not football or any other team sport. Something competitive That is why you handle your briefcase the way you do."

  I was shocked and answered, "Right! I was a Varsity tennis player."

  "You will have to tell me about it sometime," she said without any indication of interest. "Please excuse my delving into your past. The energy was strong, hard to resist."

  "Your tan looks like someone who has just been skiing." I observed.

  "Right, very observant," she replied. "My partner and I were in Aspen for a week not long ago."

  My partner,'I thought, She might be gay.

  "Her company has a condo there so it is very convenient," she replied.

  I felt a sense of relief that she was setting some ground rules for our relationship, taking gender out of the equation.

  "Have you had any personal experience with psychic phenomena?" she asked.

  "My experiences are only from movies, TV, and Edgar Allen Poe reading assignments in school." I admitted.

  "Good!" She replied, "A good clean slate to work with. Here is a book, a good starting point, written by Steve Manteo who is the psychic who was ignored by the Sheriff in our case. We will get to the scientific case later after you understand the phenomenon involved." She produced a hardbound book with a bright red cover, and the title "The Psychic Spy Who Never Had To Leave His Office."

  What have I gotten into? I thought as I took the book. Good way to kill the flight time to Palo Alto.

  The uniformed pilot with the blond hair poking under his cap appeared from the cockpit, served us coffee, and a sandwich, and returned to the cockpit.

  "The pilots are a couple," confided Dore, "They are also writers who do screenplays in their spare time waiting for us and on layovers. I like the arrangement because I know they are not late hour partying when we overnight somewhere and are always fresh for our flights. I suspect that I am a character in some of their stories, but they have never have admitted it." Dore opened her laptop.

  I was incredulous as I scanned the book. Steve Manteo had been an undergraduate at Stanford taking a lower division psychology course. One of their lab sections had an ESP test to see who could perceive large printed numbers taped to the entrances of different buildings on campus as their lab instructor viewed them. For example, at the start of the lab session the instructor, without announcing his destination, would walk to the location of one of the numbers such as at the campus post office. Students are asked to meditate and perceive the number that the instructor viewed. Although few in the lab section had any success in perceiving the numbers, Steve perceived nearly all of them.

  The class did not know that the professor was doing both legitimate academic research and searching for candidates for a classified government sponsored research program at SRI, the Stanford Research Institute. Soon, Steve was interviewed by a researcher at SRI and asked whether he would like a part-time job. Since Steve was working his way through school, he accepted the offer. He filled out an employment form that he thought required an unusual amount of detail on his personal history and family background. A few weeks later he was called to a SRI office where he signed security pledge forms and was briefed on a highly classified psychic spy program under development for the CIA. He worked part-time until he graduated in architecture, after which he went to work for one of the CIA's classified contractors, known as Power Industry Consultants, or PIC.

  He worked on the CIA–sponsored program for twenty years, spending hours each day perceiving assigned cold-war psychic targets, the location and activity of people of interest, or the nature of activities in buildings or factories in the Soviet Union. In the book, he was only able to give two examples of his work, which had somehow escaped the classification process, to describe the process.

  I closed the book as I heard the jet's flaps go down in preparation for landing.

  Dore closed her laptop and said, "Amazing stuff isn't it. The psychic spy program went on for twenty years, and nobody ever heard of it. The contractor Steve worked for had annual incremental funding from the CIA, which meant every year someone had to justify the program's effectiveness for it to continue. Our company funds startups. We positively don't continue ventures that aren't panning out. Someone high in the Government must have valued the program."

  I nodded and looked out the window as we descended to the Palo Alto airport, trying not to reveal my skepticism about this whole turn of events in my life. I was still mulling over what I had just read.

  I saw another black Towne Car waiting by the hangar.

  Colson Associates was in a modern but unassuming building, on a slight rise, in an office park surrounded by trees that were leaving-out with spring foliage. One was in bloom with bright pink flowers. The building was finished in brown stained wood and had many windows.

  An attractive receptionist sitting at a modern glass-topped table with a laptop looked up and greeted Dore. "Dr. Colson said to send you right in."

  We walked into a glass enclosed room overlooking a large space, which looked like the waiting rooms in the private clubs that many airlines had at airport, where for an annual fee, or a first-class ticket, you could wait in luxury. Groups of overstuffed maroon chairs sat among carrels, and small tables filled the room. People sat around the room working on their laptops, clustered in quiet conversation, or talking on cellphones in semi-enclosed soundproofed cubicles. The color scheme of the room was maroon and grey, obviously the product of an interior design studio. There didn't seem to be any offices. It was a quiet but somehow busy place.

  As we entered the glass room, a man of about fifty years old, medium height, slightly balding, salt and pepper black hair, sitting in one of the overstuffed chairs, tapped a button on his laptop. He closed the lid, looked up, and walked over to us.

  Dore said, "David Willard meet Vince Colson." Vince Colson had a very relaxed demeanor, in a blue and white stripped button-down shirt with no tie, khaki pants, and black, leather-topped running shoes. As we shook hands, I felt as though I was going through a security scanner at the airport. With one piercing look he knew everything about me. I had been 'made' again.

  As we sat down at a glass topped table, Dore asked, "Latte, coffee anyone?"

  "Latte," I said, as Vince nodded "yes."

  Dore texted a message, smiled and said, "We have a 'den mother' who operates the coffee bar at the end of the building for everyone. As you can see, we don't have offices here. Everyone, including Vince and I, spends our days in what we call the 'uncommon area'."

  "Is this the Foundation or the VC building?" I asked.

  "Both," said Vince, "Mostly financial activity takes place here. The accountants keep track of which hat we are wearing by how we log into our laptops. You saw me switch my laptop identity as you came in. Right now, Dore and I are in the Foundation."

  "Could you tell me a little about the Foundation?" I asked.

  "I have enjoyed some business success because of what I, in my younger years, called 'intuition.' It was a skill I sharpened for evaluating ventures and people. With experience, I learned that somehow I could read a lot about people by simply concentrating on them and getting a feeling. I also seemed to be able to get a feeling about the probable future of a venture someone was pitching. As I investigated, I found there were many practitioners in other fields that used 'intuition,' such as a medical doctor who could mentally scan a person's body and sense pathologies. It was kind of my private secret for years.

  "Then, about a decade ago, a fellow appeared at my office, saying he was a former member of a highly classified CIA psychic spy program that had been declassified. He claimed he had recently been making a killing in the silver futures market: a fact I later verified from other sources. I learned about the Remote Sensing CIA spy program and how the ex-spies were offering consulting services in many areas. I have used him over time to assess people and evaluate ventures. I use him to produce 'data points' that I combine with other information: providing me with another dot when I am trying to connect the dots, so to speak.

  "I created the Foundation to further explore the general idea of remote sensing and other forms of unexplainable communication or foreknowledge of events. These ideas did not fit any known scientific paradigm. Most scientists would debunk the idea of any kind of ESP phenomena having any validity.

  "I have been funding academic research to get us a reputable scientific paradigm. The Foundation now has the pieces of one.

  "One of our consultants, Steve Manteo, the former participant of the CIA program I referred to, lives in the Sierra Mountains north of Sacramento. Last winter, he was driving home when he came upon a Rocky Butte Sheriff's Department search and rescue operation command post in a roadside diner, coordinating the search for a lost girl. He offered his help to find the girl, and the Sheriff just blew him off. He was about to leave, back in his car, when suddenly he sensed exactly where the girl was, that she was very cold, and crying. He took a copy of his book and a folder of credentials he had in the car, documenting his psychic spy CIA experience, including the picture of him and the President, and the letter of his citation for a Congressional Medal, signed by the Secretary of Defense, and showed it to the Sheriff."

  Dore interrupted, “That is the book I gave you on the plane."

  "Steve insisted in placing an 'X' on the map the Sheriff had spread out on a table and announcing that the 'X' marked the girl's location. The Sheriff got mad and said that the girl couldn't be in that area; they were concentrating the search where they were sure she had gone missing. The Sheriff ordered Steve off the premises and threatened him with arrest.

  "Later that night, they found the girl frozen to death in the place identified by Steve on the map."

  The 'den mother' appeared with the lattes, a bowl of fruit, and a bowl of healthy snack bars. Dore introduced her as though she was part of the family. "David, this is Maureen; she runs this place. David will be here working with us sometimes."

  Maureen was fiftyish, grey-haired, a little frumpy, wearing a navy blue polo shirt, starched khaki pants, and a glowing smile. I felt like a teenager being served dinner by my mother.

  Maureen smiled and said, "Pleased to meet you, David. Feel free to visit our coffee bar any time, and let me know if you need anything, anytime. That includes office supplies, secretarial support, travel arrangements, or someone to listen to you, or to bounce an idea off."

  "Thank you, Maureen," I said as her smile beamed.

  Dore added, "We try to keep an informal atmosphere around here and it is Maureen's job to inspire informality and enforce the policy."

  Vince sipped his drink and continued, "Our corporate counsel has filed a civil suit on behalf of the parents of the girl against Rocky Butte County. We are seeking damages for negligence, for not using all resources available to prevent the death of the girl. Our counsel suggested we get Bracken and Stevens to handle the case. That is where you come in."

  Dore nodded to Vince and said, "Here is the file on the suit. It is yours from here on out.

  "We have a starting point for you. We have sponsored mathematical research by a LA mathematician, Candice Montgomery, for a couple of years. She has come up with a theory that can explain how ESP works. Now, we are underwriting a movie she has written, which can explain that theory to people with only eight–grade mathematics training."

  "I know of her," I answered, "She delivers such interesting and entertaining lectures that students such as history majors who are not registered for her classes, sometimes crowd into her classrooms to hear some of her most famous lectures on subjects such as Statistics. I first heard of her at a professional seminar where she had the audience laughing uproariously while she explained Statistical Optics, not normally a very funny subject."

  "I'll call her to introduce you and tell her to contact you," said Dore.

"You should go up to visit Steve, get to know him, and visit the area where the girl was lost. Dore, can you let Steve know about that also?" Vince added. "Dore will be your contact at Colson." Vince got up and shook my hand. "I am delighted that you and Bracken and Stevens are handling this for us."

  Dore led the way out of the conference room, down the stairs, to one of the maroon chairs in the large room. She took a seat and motioned for me to sit down. Possibly responding to my puzzled expression, she said, "We all work here in the den." She paused, texted something on her iPhone, opened her laptop, pressed a key, and paused. "Your return transportation will be here in a few minutes. Are you comfortable with all this?"

  "Yes, but I must say I have only started on this learning curve."

  "Good," she replied. "We wanted a clean slate. But, I must warn you, the first time you discuss this subject with some scientists, you will run into what I call 'The Bigot's Protocol.' They will get incensed, maybe mad, turning red, and lecturing you on how any idea of psychic phenomena is pure gullibility. It is really a hot button with many scientists and other people. Don't be discouraged: they're wrong and we are right. It is like telling a southern tent-revival preacher there is no such thing as Salvation.

  "Now, if you will excuse me, I am working for the company." She tapped on her laptop.

  I thought briefly about telling her about Mason but thought better of it. As I opened my book I saw Vince walk into the other end of the room, sit down, and open his laptop.

  In a few minutes, Dore walked me out to a waiting Towne car.

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