CHAPTER XIII

 

Exodus from Space 

 

 

            The big question—the purpose of the saucer survey—was still unanswered. It was likely to remain a mystery until our unknown visitors chose to reveal it. But in a few days everybody would be clamoring for the most probable answer. What could they be told?

            1.  As a start I put down two suggestions that had been published since '47.

The unknown planet race—perhaps more than one-may fear an eventual invasion when we achieve space travel. Our success with atomic weapons may have increased this fear, and our high-altitude rocket tests would indicate that we are not far from journeys in space. This is one possibility suggested by Project Sign.

            2.  The spacemen may fear the effect of more powerful atomic explosions, especially if this race comes from a solar-system planet. Several atomic scientists have said that simultaneous H-bomb explosions might speed up the earth's rotation or even change its orbit. One of these was Dr. Paul Elliott, a nuclear physicist who worked on the first A bomb. Others have said that a mass explosion of H bombs might tear a large chunk out of the earth, or that a violent chain reaction might even destroy our planet.

            Any of these effects, particularly destruction of the 

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earth, might have serious results—or at least unpleasant reactions—on Mars, Venus, and other solar-system planets. According to some astronomers, including Dr. George Gamow of George Washington University, the earth's ice ages were caused by certain unknown changes on Saturn and Jupiter. A violent explosion which altered or destroyed the earth might have even more disastrous results. If some other solar-planet race knew this danger from its own atomic discoveries, it would have good reason for alarm.

            Using other suggestions I'd heard and ideas of my own, I added the following alternate motives:

            3.  If the unknown race uses atomic energy, it may be exhausting its supply of uranium. In this case our A-bomb explosions would reveal a new source of supply. This would explain the saucers' interest in our atomic plants and uranium mines. It would be simple for remote-control units to locate uranium deposits—our own Geological Survey has developed Geiger counters for planes used in such searches. It would also explain the saucers' concentration on the United States, the most advanced nation in this field.

            4.  The saucer race may intend to invade us as part of a program to conquer inhabited planets.

            5.  They may have some unknown plan for the earth beside plain conquest.

            6.  Our planet may not be considered a menace, and it may not hold any material interest leading to an invasion. The surveillance then could be for one of two reasons:

A.  To survey the earth with the intention of contact, once the saucer race has convinced us of its peaceful intentions and is sure we will not attack them.

B.  To catalogue the earth as just another inhabited planet, with no plans for immediate contact. The survey might then subside into a periodic check until we seemed far enough advanced for acceptance, unless meantime we developed into a threat to space nations.

            There was one factor which might have an important  

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bearing. For almost 200 years before the 1947 sightings, strange objects and lights had been reported all over the world. Many of the stories were undoubtedly old wives' tales. But a few reports, by astronomers, sea captains, and various reputable observers, sounded remarkably like the present sightings.

            This was especially true of the sightings within the last 80 years. On September 26, 1870, the London Times reported a strange elliptical object which was seen to cross the face of the moon. A year later, on August 1, 1871, citizens of Marseilles, France, sighted a large, round device moving slowly across the sky, apparently at a very high altitude. At Kattenau, Germany, on March 22, 1880, several bright, luminous objects were sighted just before dawn, moving westward as they climbed. (This report was published in the British Nature magazine, Vol. 22, p. 64.)

            In 1885 the Bermuda Royal Gazette described a mysterious round object which had flown over the islands, and that same year, on November 1, an astronomer and other witnesses reported sighting a huge, round machine over Adrianople, Turkey.

            On March 19, 1887, two unknown aerial objects were reported to have fallen into the sea near a Dutch barkentine. According to Captain C. D. Sweet, one object was dark, the other luminous. He was positive they were not meteors.

            About a year after this an oval-shaped disc was reported over New Zealand, speeding at a high altitude. And in 1890 several large aerial objects were sighted over the Dutch East Indies. Similar devices were later seen over England and Scotland. One report, which came from a British admiral, described a large disc with a projection like a tail.

            Since there were no airplanes or dirigibles at this time, it is difficult to explain away the sightings, unless they are all termed hallucinations. 

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            During this period there were similar sightings in the United States. One typical disc report came from Denison, Texas, where the observer compared the device with a large saucer. The story was carried in the Denison Daily News, January 25, 1878.

            In 1897 a strange aerial machine with red, green, and white lights was sighted by astronomers and thousands of Americans in several Midwest states. Newspaper accounts were published in Chicago and many other cities.

            On February 24, 1904, a mysterious "flying light" was seen above the Atlantic by crew members of the USS Supply. The report, attested by Lieutenant Frank H. Schofield, U.S.N., described the object as moving with great speed, apparently at a high altitude. (A detailed account appears in the March, 1904, issue of Weather Review, an official publication of the U.S. Weather Bureau.)

            Another sighting listed in the Weather Review, in 1907, occurred near Burlington, Vermont, where a weird torpedo-shaped machine was reported as circling the area. During this sighting a round, glowing object fell from the machine, exploding before it reached the ground. Still another Weather Review report described a peculiar shadow seen on some clouds at Forth Worth, April 8, 1913. The shadow appeared to be caused by a large machine hovering above the cloud layer. As the clouds moved, the shadow remained in the same position. Then it suddenly diminished in size, as if the machine had risen vertically, and quickly disappeared.

            If these reports were to be believed, I could see only one conclusion—that the earth had been observed periodically, in a systematic patrol of inhabited planets, but until recently had not been of great interest to advanced races.

            The present sightings, then, might be only a new phase of a long surveillance, though they could be observations  

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by some planet race which had discovered the earth in the last few years. It was even possible that both answers were right—there might be more than one race involved in the saucer survey.

            If it was an entirely new operation, it wasn't hard to see how the unknown race had discovered the earth. Though it could have been an accident, during a space exploration, there was a more likely explanation.

            For some years now, our radar and high-frequency radio messages had been traveling through space. Radio astronomers on some other planet undoubtedly must have heard them and set about deciphering the messages. Even if they hadn't learned their meaning, the unknown race would know they were intelligent symbols, coming from another world. Monitoring the wave lengths, locating their source, and following the signals to the earth would be a simple matter for a race that had conquered space travel . . .

            That evening, after dinner, I was trying to decide the most likely motive when Jim Riordan called me.

            "I'm in Alexandria," he said. "Been looking at one of the Hunting Towers apartments. If you're not busy, I thought I might grab a bus and come out—I'd like to hear what Smith had to say."

            I looked at the clock.

            "There's no bus for an hour—I’ll run in and pick you up."

            "All right," said Riordan. "I’ll be in the lobby of the George Mason Hotel. In fact we might as well talk here. It'll be easier for me to get a bus back to Washington."

            It was only a few minutes' drive into Alexandria. I went into the hotel and found Riordan smoking his pipe, watching the lobby television set. We sat down in a corner and I gave him the main points of my talk with Smith. Then I told him about the Utah pictures.

            "They're going to make that public?" Riordan said incredulously.

            "In about a week." 

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            "It’ll raise hell—people should have been gradually prepared."

            "They've heard the idea for five years."

            "The idea—yes. But how many have really figured out the angles? That piece in Gusto was right—nobody's ready for it"

            "I didn't see that," I said.

            "It's a pocket mag—they had an article called 'When the Saucers Land.' The guy who wrote it asked Civil Defense, the Red Cross, the Civil Air Patrol, and a lot of other outfits what they'd do if saucers suddenly landed. He certainly caught them with their pants down. Civil Defense and the CAP said they didn't know. The Red Cross said it would send out an alert. The mayor—it was Los Angeles, I think—said they didn't have any plan."

            "You've got something, Jim. A sudden landing could cause trouble."

            "Some retired Navy commander got all steamed up about it," said Riordan. "He fired letters at the White House, the Defense Department, even the FBI, blasting the Air Force for not preparing people."

            "It's easy to take cracks at the Air Force—I ought to know. But since July I've seen the spot they're in. If I'd been in Samford's shoes then, I'd have done just what he did."

            "I guess I would, too. But that debunking's going to make it tougher now, when they throw this Utah thing at the public. And they'll just have to tell people what they think's behind the saucer survey."

            "Unless they're holding back on me, all they could do would be to give out the possible answers."

            Riordan read over the list I'd written.

            "That last part is just wishful thinking," he said grimly. "If it's only a general survey, why the green missiles and the red-spray bombs?"

            "I’ll admit they're prepared for an attack. But I think  

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it's only if we don't listen to reason—probably about A-bomb explosions."

            "And that's your 'out'?" demanded Riordan.

            "I know it sounds pretty thin. But you can't ignore the time element—four years since those tests and no attack. Take Smith's 'lost civilization' idea. Suppose we discovered a lost race like that today. You think the United Nations-even Russia—would go down there hell-bent on wiping them out?"

            "Well—no. We'd check on them first."

            "And it might take a long time to figure them out. If it looked as if they were getting set for A bombs and jet bombers, we'd do something—but we'd give them a chance first. Meantime we might try out a few guided missiles where nobody'd get hurt—maybe as a warning or even a ranging test if they didn't accept our offers."

            "It could be the truth," Riordan said thoughtfully. "If you're right, it's up to us whether the saucers attack or not. I'm still not sold—but it's possible."

            He glanced at his watch, stood up. As we went outside the hotel, Riordan looked up into the night.

            "It's a queer feeling, knowing they're up there watching everything we do—and deciding whether they'll let us live or not"

            "If my hunch is right, Jim, it'll be up to us."

            Riordan slowly nodded.

            "Maybe it will I hope to God you're right."

            It was two days before I heard from the Pentagon. Then one morning an Air Force PIO phoned me.

            "Al told me to give you a message—he had to rush off to a meeting. He said to ask you to come in around 2 o'clock. He's got something to show you."

            When I saw Al, I noticed he had a worried look.

            "What's happened?" I said.

            "There's been a spurt in sightings. Only a few have gotten into the papers, but we've had 42 military reports alone, the first 17 days of February. I've got a few here for  

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you." He was silent for a moment, tapping his fingers on the desk. "It's not good, Don. If it keeps on, there may be a lot of public reports. We might have the July trouble all over again."

            "I can guess the rest," I said. "They're backing down on the Utah film showing."

            "Nobody's backing down," Al retorted. "Anyway, not the ones who think it should be made public. But it wasn't the Utah business I wanted to see you about."

            Reaching into a desk drawer, he brought out a manila folder. As he opened it, I saw several typed pages.

            "This script," he said carefully, "has been approved for publication—on one condition. I’ll tell you what it is after yon read it."

            He handed me the pages and I looked at the title: 

Planet Earth—Host to

Extraterrestrial life 

            I stared at Al, then read the beginning. The key paragraphs repeated a statement which several scientists had made: In some far-off future, when the earth cools or our sun expands, Man's only chance for survival will be escape to another planet. This situation, the script went on, can be expected on any inhabited planet.

            Then one line seemed to leap from the page:

            "Granted that super-intelligents in another solar system are looking for a suitable planet for a second home, why would earth be singled out . . .?"

            I looked at Al in amazement.

            "This is dynamite. You mean the Air Force wants this made public?"

            "It's not an official statement," he said quickly.

            "Then what is it?"

            "It's one person's opinion—a man named W. C. Odell."

            "Not Colonel Odell, in Intelligence?"

            "Well—yes. But his Air Force connection can't be used on the by-line." 

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            "You'll never keep it secret, if this gets into print. The boys in the press room are sure to dig it up. When that hits the wires, it'll raise holy hell."

            "The Air Force would say it was simply one man's opinion."

            "But an Intelligence colonel! Why take the risk—now of all times?"

            "Odell has the right to express a personal opinion, if it doesn't violate security."

            "For Heaven's sake, Al! You know what this means. If this invasion idea gets out after you show the Utah film—"

            "It won't be published then. No magazine could get it on the stands that soon."

            "You think they'd sit on it that long? The minute the Utah story breaks, they'd resell it to a wire service, with joint credit."

            Al was silent.

            "You want me to show this to True—is that it?"

            "Yes, or any other magazine you write for. But make it clear that Odells Air Force rank can't be used."

            "Look, AL I've got to know what's back of this. Does the Air Force want it out as one of the possible answers?"

            Al shook his head. "I told you it was just one man's idea. Security Review passed it. That's all I know."

            He put the script in an envelope, along with the February cases he'd cleared.

            "Show it to your editors, and let me know their reaction as soon as you can."

            I went out, still astonished. Even if Al were telling the truth, it was incredible that Colonel Odell’s suggestion should be made public now. On the face of it, the Air Force was throwing caution to the winds. But knowing the fight against even the film showing, I couldn't believe it. There must be some other answer.

            Stopping under a corridor fight, I read over the entire script. It was quietly written, the invasion suggestions sandwiched between discussions of space travel and astronomy. 

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There was no hint of a violent occupation of the earth. But nothing could reduce the impact of Odell's suggestion.

            If he were right, unknown beings from a dying planet were considering the earth as a possible haven—a new home in which to perpetuate their race. Possibly, as Odell said, the long survey would prove our world was not suitable. Otherwise, Planet Earth might become—willingly or not—a "host to extraterrestrial life."

            I went into a phone booth to call True. Then I realized that the editors would want to see the script and talk over all the angles. Calling the airport, I made a reservation on a 5 o'clock flight, then I drove home to get an overnight bag. Before I left, I phoned Riordan's hotel. Jim was out, but I left a message for him to meet me, if he could, at the airport. Maybe he'd have some idea of why the script had been cleared.

            On the way to the airport, I thought over Odell's suggestion. The mass migration idea wasn't new—it had been used in dozens of stories and plays. But I'd never taken it seriously; moving any large number of people from a distant planet seemed impossible.

            Of course it could be done gradually, over a period of years. Even then, the problems seemed enormous, though they might not be barriers to a race which had long ago mastered space travel.

            How would Man, in some far-distant age, go about migrating to another planet?

            It would depend, first, on the fate they faced on earth. There were two theories as to how the earth would die. According to the first, it would slowly cool, then become frigidly cold like Jupiter and Pluto. The opposite theory held that the earth will get unbearably hot and finally bum up. One scientist holding this belief is Dr. George Gamow, author of One-Two-Three—Infinity! and professor of theoretical physics at George Washington University. In Gamow's opinion the sun is producing more energy and  

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constantly expanding: at the last, our globe will be destroyed in a tremendous explosion.

            During the first stages of cooling or heating, our descendants might escape surface temperatures by building underground, air-conditioned cities, surviving on chemically produced foods. (This was the Project Sign suggestion regarding a possible race on Mars.) If the earth were cooling and not threatened by an expanding sun, the human race might exist indefinitely underground. But if there were a better alternative, the chance of a normal, outdoor life on another planet, some earthlings at least would undoubtedly try it.

            In that far-distant time, Man will certainly have mastered interstellar flight. Long before the earth becomes unbearably hot or cold; our descendants would begin to look for a new home in the universe.

            Since no solar-system planet has a climate like the earths, the nearest star system would be explored first. Perhaps a twin of the earth will be found; if not, the explorers would search farther.

            During a long exploration more than one earth "twin" might be found. If the nearest one were inhabited, our descendants might choose a more distant planet, especially if the planet race were strong enough to resist invasion.

            Once Earth II was selected, bases would be set up and an occupation force gradually brought in. On a planet similar to this, evolution probably would have produced fish and fowl, also animals which the colonists could domesticate. If not, small numbers could be brought to start such life. Fields would be cleared and earth-type crops planted.

            Even with giant space ships, moving most of the earth's population would be impossible. At first, probably, migration would be limited to technicians, builders, defense forces, and their families. It might take hundreds of years for Earth II to be fully occupied. Migration might be voluntary, but probably it would be restricted to younger  

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age-groups—except for key scientists and various experts.

            What would happen to the hundreds of millions necessarily left on earth? It would be impossible to move all of them underground. Perhaps some plan for gradual depopulation could be used—birth control enforced by sterilization. In this case, long before the earth freezes, or begins to roast under a blazing sun; it will in truth become a dead planet, abandoned to its fate.

            Fantastic as it sounded, this could well be the method of migration to an uninhabited planet.

            But if the selected planet were inhabited, a different plan would have to be used. The choice of such a planet might be forced on the earthlings; it might be the only one on which they could survive. Or it could be a cynically deliberate choice—the homes, industries, farms, and mineral supplies of the planet race might offer short cuts to colonization.

            Either way, the fate of the planets' inhabitants would depend on the character of future Man. By then, a wiser human race may have outlawed war, or they may have degenerated into scientific barbarians.

            If our descendants were peaceful, they could suggest a friendly coexistence to the planet race: the earth's scientific advances might be held out as an inducement. But if future Man is a cruel materialist, he would take one of two steps:

            First, he could destroy the inhabitants and take over their civilization. Second, he could conquer them, then use the captive race for forced labor.

            Even if the earthlings desired a peaceful occupation, it might not succeed. A race too weak to resist would be no problem, but an advanced race might fight. If the planet were the only possible choice for Earth II, our descendants would probably use force if reason failed. Once in control, they might persuade the inhabitants to cooperate in exchange for their freedom.

            It is possible that the earthlings would discover a highly  

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superior race, forcing them to renew their search for a second home. If none were found they might, in desperation, stage a sudden attack with their most deadly weapons, hoping surprise would overcome the inhabitants' defenses. Should this fail, then underground life on earth would be Man's last hope . . .

            To the world of '53, I knew the fate of future Man would be of little interest. But Colonel Odell’s suggestion brought the exodus idea grimly down to the present. His explanation might be mere speculation, without a shred of evidence. But somewhere in the universe there were bound to be planets far older than ours. If such an aging planet were inhabited, its race—providing they traveled in space—would certainly search for a twin to their dying world.

            And that twin could be the earth. 

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