Chapter One: UFO Conference
Gavin followed his brother-in-law’s car along the familiar Leeds ring road. Terry was driving steadily so the two cars could keep together. The sun was low in the early autumn morning sky and he squinted against the glare in his rear-view mirror. His wife Helen was in the passenger seat, with their daughter, Courtney, and the retired newspaper editor, Vince, behind. Helen’s parents, George and Mary travelled with Terry and Helen’s sister, Janine, in their car. They had travelled the same way the previous weekend, though that journey had been considerably longer.
Helen’s past, so long a mystery to Gavin, now dominated his life. Whenever the family met, and it was often these days, they discussed at length the various aspects of the alien abductions. Every waking moment seemed crowded by words, thoughts and images of the experiences related to them by Helen, Janine and the others who had told their stories during the weekend at the Brewers Rest. The implications for Courtney became even more evident as the days passed. She could be taken at any time, from anywhere and there was nothing they could think of to stop it from happening. Gavin had no control whatsoever over the fate of his daughter and it terrified him to think she could disappear without trace.
Three weeks had passed since the gathering of abductees and their families arranged by Mary, and there had been no time to think about anything else since then. Some of the new friends they made at that meeting were hoping the family could discover more about the gateway that Terry, Janine and Courtney had witnessed the previous weekend in the Lake District. Gavin hoped he could ring them with some good news soon, but didn’t expect much to come out of the conference they were heading for.
He and Terry had continued going to work as usual throughout the last weeks because bills still had to be paid. Ordinary life carried on around them, with the everyday practicalities needing to be attended to, though the two men wanted nothing more than to stay with Courtney and try to protect her as best they could.
Helen and Janine found it easier to stay home with the teenager, who was finding the attention claustrophobic. Vince had become a houseguest of Helen’s parents and the three elderly friends had spent their days speaking to various organisations on the phone in the last couple of weeks, or discussing the next steps they should take in their efforts to enlist help from any suitable contact they found.
The government bodies were no help at all. When approached by Vince, the Ministry of Defence referred him to the Home Office, who in turn ignored the repeated e-mails he sent requesting help to investigate the disappearance of all the children.
It seemed there was nowhere to turn as every official avenue they tried resulted in a dead end. They met so many stone walls that they didn’t bother to report their latest discovery of the gateway. It seemed futile to try to enlist help from either the police or armed forces as these people just didn’t seem to want to know. They had told the other abductees, though. It seemed only fair to keep them in the loop,
Gavin had been bitterly disappointed at missing the sight of the gateway to the other dimension and listened with envy as Terry, Janine and Courtney described what they had witnessed that night at the lake. They felt a surge of hope to know that they had found a way through to the alien world but they still had to work out how they could open it and cross through it.
He felt they were making some headway but it was a slow process. Gavin wanted to shout from the rooftops, to tell everyone what was happening. He wanted to provide proof of the existence of these beings and the alternative dimension they came from. He wanted to warn other parents to keep a close watch on their children but he knew he would be met with ridicule if he attempted any of those things. He feared he would meet that ridicule again today.
They were heading for the university. The UFO conference began on Friday, but he and Terry each had to work that day. Gavin had dropped the old folks at the conference auditorium on his way in to the university where he was employed as a technician.
They were full of news when they finally arrived home by taxi later that evening. They couldn’t stop talking about the many interesting and informed people they had spoken to. The retired editor, Vince, felt certain that help could be expected from the new friends they were making. He enthused late into the evening about how much the rest of them would enjoy the friendly atmosphere and feeling of camaraderie that he, George, and Mary, had enjoyed on the first day of the conference. Mary had spent hours on the telephone talking to the other friends they had made at their small gathering, keeping them informed of all the interesting information they were hearing from the speakers.
The girls had accompanied the old folks on the Saturday, while Gavin and Terry worked. Terry usually drove for the bus company on the busiest shopping day of the week. Gavin had some extra time to make up, having taken so many days off work with Courtney’s disappearing act and the resulting family agitation.
He was glad of an excuse to miss the event, being less than confident about what could be achieved by attending a venue, which in his own opinion, was designed to attract the worst kinds of eccentric people. He expected to find the place swarming with nutcases, dressed up in ET outfits at the very least. When Sunday arrived, he finally ran out of excuses and had to agree to go to the auditorium with the rest of the family.
Gavin couldn’t help feeling apprehensive, despite reassurances from the others. He still didn’t know what to expect. Far in the past when Helen and Janine were first abducted, George had encountered apathy, ignorance and ridicule whenever he approached outsiders for help. In recent weeks Gavin had experienced first-hand, the same lack of interest or discourteous reception when he tried to enlist the police and the local media to support them. It seemed they were met with derision from everywhere, which is why he supposed Helen’s parents had pinned so much hope on this conference. They were convinced they would meet people of a like mind here, people with a genuine interest in the phenomena of other worlds and other existences but Gavin still worried that he might just end up meeting a load of fanatics wearing anoraks and carrying notebooks and cameras.
The car park outside the conference hall was full but they managed to squeeze in by parking the two cars on the grass verge. A few people were standing around outside, enjoying a last cigarette before entering the no smoking interior. Huddling close to Vince, as the elderly retired editor flashed his special pass at the young man on the door, the family walked through into the foyer, where dim lighting enhanced the atmosphere of suspense.
The walls were lined with photographic evidence of UFO’s and artist’s impressions of aliens. Tables were set around the room and were laden with magazines, books, trinkets and souvenirs for sale. The milling crowd filled the room and gathered in groups around the various attractions. Gavin was drawn to a vivid photograph of a bright-yellow blob of light on a dark ground. He read the text and was surprised to learn the photographer was one of the speakers they had come to hear.
Helen joined him as he continued to stare at the many photographs lining the walls. The variety of shapes and colours of these weird, unidentified flying crafts impressed them both. Moving on, they followed the general flow of people moving to the double doors that led through into the auditorium, glancing at more pictures on the wall as they passed. Helen pointed out to Gavin the familiar grey faces with large black eyes portrayed so widely in popular alien stories and he wondered what more he would learn about these beings.
Gavin noted that Courtney stayed close to Vince. The old man had become a firm friend and a trusted ally to his daughter throughout the difficult weeks since the first gathering. She was supposed to start her college course the previous week but her mind was in such turmoil that she still didn’t know what to do. Vince listened to her fears without trying to influence her. He seemed to understand that she couldn’t work towards a future when she didn’t know what that future would be, or where it would be spent. Gavin knew his daughter was finding it difficult to concentrate on normal, ordinary life, when hers was so extraordinary and could become even more so at any moment.
Vince ushered Courtney and her family through the double doors and up the stairs leading to the higher entrance. Entering the auditorium, with seating for up to six-hundred people, they headed for their seats at the back, looking down into the small screen that had been set at the front. Terry exchanged a conspiratorial glance with Gavin and shrugged. They were here at last to hear for themselves what the rest of the UFO world could tell them.
The auditorium was half full and Gavin was a little disappointed, he’d expected more people to be there. Then the lights at the back were dimmed and more people began to stream in. Within a few minutes, the rest of the seats were taken and the auditorium was full. The lights continued to dim and the audience waited in silence, broken only by a few shuffles and coughs.
An ordinary looking man stepped up to a spotlighted lectern and gave a falteringly nervous introductory speech before announcing the first speaker, an American researcher, who pointed out that he had dedicated his life to the search for truth.
This speaker delivered his talk confidently and firmly, detailing his documentary proof of many hidden, secret underground installations throughout the world. He showed how millions of USA government dollars and British pounds had been siphoned away by various companies and asked, ‘where have these funds gone?’ implying some secret agenda by the world’s top governments.
He referred to his people on the inside, searching for data in a never-never land of make-believe and dishonesty. He talked of conspiracy and cover-up by military and civilian organisations and he described in detail, the many underground installations he had visited and investigated.
Gavin almost fell asleep during the monotonous detailing of one airshaft after another sticking up from the desert floor. The monotonous voice continued to detail many facilities and listed all the ways that present technology could create them. The speaker didn’t offer any explanation to why they had been built, or by whom. He left that to the imagination of the audience and left the auditorium with an enigmatic self-satisfied smile. Gavin looked across at Terry who was shaking his head slowly as he shrugged at Gavin.
A short break was announced before the next speaker and the family wandered outside to the car park for some air. The bright warm autumn sunshine was welcome after the stuffy confines of the dark hall. Mary led them back to their parked cars and brought out a large Thermos. After pouring them all a drink, she asked Terry and Gavin what they thought.
‘Isn’t it exciting?’ she began. ‘I told you it would be fascinating, what do you think?’
‘Well to be honest, Mary,’ Terry rubbed his chin. ‘I’ve got to say I wasn’t impressed with that chap in there. His heart is in the right place I suppose, but he didn’t have any answers did he?’
‘I have to agree with Terry.’ Gavin shook his head slowly. ‘I could have told you about half the stuff he spoke about. Funds go missing from university departments regularly and they just write them off as accounting errors, it must be the same in governments. Some of those underground tunnels and caves he spoke about are well known. The Germans used some in Holland during the war, and as far as I know they’re still used by NATO today, it’s a well-known fact.’
‘Well I didn’t know that!’ Courtney jumped to defend the speaker.
‘That’s because you didn’t have a friend in the Royal Air Force who was attached to NATO a few years ago.’ Gavin smiled indulgently at her indignant pose. ‘All I’m saying is that I wasn’t impressed by what he had to say. He didn’t even mention a UFO or an extraterrestrial, so what was he doing here?’
‘He’s a much respected researcher who has done vast amounts of work to uncover government secrets.’ Vince said quietly. ‘He’s not at liberty to reveal all his discoveries, he is watched constantly and has had his life threatened on more than one occasion. That man, Gavin, has done more to further our cause than you could know.’
‘What do you mean?’ Terry’s eyes narrowed.
‘He has friends inside of almost every intelligence organisation in the Western world. He has a large network of information gatherers. Information is the key. The more we know, the better armed we will be.’ Vince explained patiently.
‘But underground installations?’ Terry groaned. ‘Who needs to know every detail about them? It was so boring!’
‘Was it boring to know that there is a file on every person in the world held in one of these places just outside Salt Lake City? Was it boring to know that some of these places that have sign-posts outside saying they are military units, are not even listed by the government?’ George pointed out; clearly impressed by the information he had just learned.
‘We’d better get back to our seats, that physicist is speaking next.’ Janine urged them to move back inside.
‘Well he might be a bit more interesting.’ Gavin smiled at Terry.
The auditorium was already full as they went to their seats, pushing past the knees of already seated members of the audience
Alan Bainbridge was introduced and the large American entertained the full auditorium for more than an hour using a ventriloquist dummy to accentuate the pompous voice of authority.
He captured the attention of the audience straight away by saying, ‘the truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.’
He went on to explain that almost every scientific discovery made, was met with derision and scorn until it had been proved beyond any doubt. He cited the case of the journalist sacked for reporting the story of the Wright brothers’ first flight because his editor wouldn’t believe him. The editor insisted that heavier-than-air flight was impossible and that the journalist must have been mistaken in what he claimed he had witnessed. He pointed out that the same mindset is still in evidence among ordinary people who won’t open their eyes to what is staring them in the face.
Gavin began to warm to the American who had summed up the attitude that the family had come to expect from people not directly involved with their dilemma. However, he began to lose interest again when the physicist began to use his speaking platform to introduce the idea of a new free energy source. He described Quantum Foam, an all-pervasive background field of energy that can be tapped into. He began to use scientific terms that Gavin failed to understand completely, with his limited knowledge of physics and as his attention wandered, he began to look around at the audience.
A cross-section of the population was represented in the auditorium. Most were in middle age but a lot were younger. A few children accompanied their parents, making Gavin wonder at the suitability of having youngsters present at such an event. A few older men and one or two grey-haired old ladies were in the crowd. Some listened intently, sitting forward in their seats, hanging on every word.
Some took notes and Gavin smiled to himself as he noticed one such man wearing thick rimmed glasses, corduroy jeans and a tank top sweater, a typical anorak if ever he saw one.
One or two well-dressed people were dotted around, who seemed alone, which struck Gavin as odd. Most of the others were in groups or at least in couples. A familiar looking blond man sitting alone near the exit caught Gavin’s attention. He squinted into the gloom to try to focus on the man’s face. He was sure he should know the man but couldn’t quite remember where he’d seen him before.
Alan Bainbridge was winding up at last, advising that the listeners should be aware of the exciting times ahead. The physicist left a smiling and applauding audience, though Gavin thought that some were probably a little confused about what they were smiling about. He was sure the scientific theories went over most heads there, including his own.
The family went out into the bright sunshine. Being unseasonably hot for late September, they were thankful of Mary’s foresight in packing a refreshing picnic with lots of cold fruit juice. They spread a blanket on the grassed area between the parked cars and feasted, talking about the interesting theories they had listened to and wondering what it meant for them.
Gavin searched the faces of people milling around the car park, but failed to find the one he was looking for. The blond man had been one of the first to leave the auditorium when the lecture ended and Gavin still tried to remember where he had seen him before, feeling it was important, but not knowing why.