The tiny town of West Ridge in southern New Mexico (of the United States) had never held any importance. It had never been the place of a great battle (or even a small skirmish), nothing had been discovered there, and no important people were born there. It was just another town in the middle of nowhere. Not much of a town, either. Around seven streets, a couple of stores, a McDonalds, and a small group of houses were it. And no other big cities were nearby.
The perfect place for a top secret operation.
The US Government, a few years before, had secretly sent in construction crews under the guise of a construction crew building a mini mall. The few people of West Ridge were told, three months later, that construction had shut down due to the construction costing too much money. The public, what little there were, believed it. It was just what they figured would happen. Why would anyone want to build a mall in the middle of nowhere?
In fact, the crew built a top-secret underground research facility. Of course, the US and other Allied governments had no idea that Premier Romanov was not their puppet, but the US government wanted to further research the first war's technologies.
That's what the US research station, codenamed "Storm Control", had done. Under conditions of extreme secrecy, the best scientists the US could recruit tested and examined and researched everything they knew about weather, wind, sunlight, precipitation, and everything else you could name. Using newly developed electronics and data storage and manipulation devices called computers, the scientists eventually developed a theory on a way to create a light sprinkle.
They just needed a place to test it. Unfortunately, they were in the middle of the desert. An unexpected rain would surely look suspicious. The scientists and meteorologists, excited at the prospect of having some degree of control over weather, debated with the government, which insisted on extreme secrecy. In the end, with the agreement that the government would have the local meteorologists predict some rain, the scientists were granted a test.
The week before the test, Premier Romanov of the World Socialist Alliance moved troops in to settle an uprising in Mexico, a fellow WSA country. Unawares, Storm Control went along with their test.
Unexpectedly, the device did not function as planned. Instead of a light sprinkle over West Ridge, a giant black mass of clouds began to form. To the amazement of the people of West Ridge, a storm seemed to be forming for the first time in over fifty years. Suddenly, the heavens seemed to burst open and torrents of rain began to fall. The shocked people standing below were completely soaked.
On 5th St., old widow Hesfarthing was walking with her cane back to her house. She was old, 83, but still moved liked to stay on her feet. Her husband had died when she was 72 of cancer. Now she lived alone. Suddenly, a bolt of lightning shot from the sky and hit the old widow and struck her dead. No one knew until the next morning.
In the small town triangle (there was no town square), a tall tree was struck by lighting. It caught fire, which began to slowly spread downward and toward the other trees. Then its trunk cracked and, slowly at first but gaining momentum, it began to fall. When it hit the ground with a large thud, no one noticed in the already ensuing chaos. When the fire caught on the ground and began to spread rapidly all over the park, no one noticed. The general store across the street was a grocery, hardware, and toy store. In the back room was an auxiliary generator and a couple tanks of gasoline. When the general store caught fire, people noticed.
The general store became a giant, two hundred foot flame for a couple of seconds. Then, the remaining walls crumbled and the fire spread to the rest of the town.
Christopher Davies, a scientist sworn to absolute secrecy from the Storm Control research station, frowned as he looked down at the report from West Ridge.
Davies had been one of the leaders in the debate over whether to test the Storm Control device or continue researching until a better test location could be found.
The US government was having its own problems. The storm over West Ridge had instantly become national news. Not only was it a storm in the middle of a desert, but a storm more destructive than any seen in the past ten years in the entire US. The high death toll made it even more of a story.
Of course, it was only a matter of time before someone got close to the truth. People have to have someone or something to blame- it's human nature. So, first with crackpot magazines full of fakes and eventually encompassing most news shows and newspapers, the US government began to gain the blame. The government tried to suppress it, of course, and denied everything.
Then K7 News came to West Ridge. K7 was a special news channel, available to satellite and some cable viewers. It was a relatively new company, only a year old, and was looking for something to boost viewers. When K7 found out about West Ridge, the top executives saw two things- a story and ratings. K7 launched a special news crew to the scene, and came in secretly and quietly. They didn't announce their arrival, and it was a long time before anyone knew they were even there.
The K7 team, led by Trevor Jones, set up a small station using their mobile connection to K7 HQ. From there, they used GPS and other, K7-owned satellites to pinpoint an area of activity not marked on any maps. Although their GPS did not register anything, the other satellites, equipped with special, new technology, found an area of activity not marked on any map. K7 assumed that, even if the government had nothing to do with the West Ridge "incident", something was hidden there.
Jones sent Nancy Westing along with cameraman Luke Carson to the spot after several attempts to find the entrance. The two had worked together in the news business for such giants as HBC and UBO, and were well respected in their profession. Westing and Carson crept up to the point, on foot so as to avoid noise, and finally came to rest at the tip of a hill overlooking the research station.
When they reached it, they were shocked. Of course, they had expected some sort of military operation, and some scientific junk. They were somewhat right, but there was hardly anything above ground. Guards, wearing sandy camouflage uniforms, were stationed everywhere throughout, and in the center a giant structure was erected with a rotating part on top. Some sort of electric current seems to course through the structure, and held the reporters' gaze. There were so in awe, they didn't hear footsteps coming up behind them, or the cocking of guns.
Carson, the cameraman, got up slowly, feeling the muzzle of the soldier's rifle against his neck. He glanced over at Westing, who was also accompanied by a soldier. In front of them stood a man dressed in uniform who looked somewhat superior to the two guards. "Who are you?" asked the man.
From actually inside Storm Control, the two reporters were even more amazed. The device in the center seemed even larger and more intimidating than from above. But their thoughts were soon led elsewhere when, seeming out of nowhere, an opening appeared in the dry, cracked ground. Although soldiers followed the reporters from behind and in front, none noticed the tiny device Westing dropped on the cold, concrete steps.
At the bottom of the long flight of stairs, the two looked onto an enormous open area, lit by artificial lights high above. Spread around the area were drab buildings, but in the center was a structure which held their gaze even more than the rotating structure on the surface. At its center was a tall pole, topped with a metal sphere, which was surrounded by three more metal spheres that were connected by special plates. The two did not have long to look, however, because they were pushed, uncomfortably, to a large building that looked somewhat cheerier than the others in the area. It was still quite dull compared to civilian buildings, although.
In the building, they were taken down a long hallway to a door. They were taken inside, and two of the soldiers stationed themselves on opposite sides of the door, while the others went off to other duties.
In the room, Westing quickly glanced at her surroundings. In front of her was a man, dressed in uniform and with grayed hair, sitting at a high, cherry desk. On top was a pile of papers, but nothing more. Behind the man was a metal file cabinet. The rest of the room was bare. The man at the desk introduced himself, with cheeriness almost completely opposite of the 2nd Lt., as Major William McKenzie.
Each startled sufficiently, but perhaps Westing more so, the two reporters tried to stammer a dozen questions at once. It finally came out as a mixture of "What?", "Yes!", "Are you serious?", and "Huh?".
McKenzie started the jeep, stepped on the gas pedal, and exited the garage. He started an elliptical ride around the outskirts of the station, explaining some of the buildings as he went. They passed a gas facility, a radar station with special equipment to connect to an above ground receiver, a barracks, and several scientific buildings that the Major did not explain in much detail.
Inside the building, McKenzie led them along a short hallway to a door. He opened it, and entered the room inside. The two reporters were amazed when they too entered. As they glanced around the room, they saw computers everywhere. At many were men and women, obviously scientists, working away. Only one turned when the three entered, and quickly went back to his work.
"At the end of the war," McKenzie continued, "the Allies had begun to research other possibly weaponry. Most of the research was halted at the end of the war, but research into weather and controlling it continued."
Westing and Carson quickly recovered from their small shock, as the idea of weather control was why they had come here in the first place. Westing was about to ask a question, but the Major continued, the cheeriness gone from his face. "Now, I have a dilemma. You see, you already knew too much when you entered the area and saw the generator. Although you didn't know what it was, someone would have. Then the 2nd Lt. brought you down here, to me, to decide what to do with you. Although Krell would have you killed, I have to make the decision. I cannot kill you, because it would eventually be uncovered and the government would have to deal with it. I cannot send you back. So the only option left is to keep you here, alive. I still hesitate to do that, although, because further teams will be sent out to find you. Still, I must make a decision." The Major sat down on a chair, and looked up to the reporters.
Westing was furious with herself. She should have known something was up when they were caught, and then taken on a tour of the base. Of course, she would have known, except when she realized they really could control weather, she had forgotten her previous thoughts. Now she was going to pay for it.
As Carson looked around his room, he noticed it remarkably resembled a jail cell. The room was bare except for a low bed with a flat pillow and a thin sheet. A small window looked out into the hallway, but with special glass that allowed people outside to see in, but people inside to not.
Westing found herself in a similar room. She paced back and forth, trying to think, for what seemed like hours. She tried to think through everything that had happened, tried to find something to help her escape.
Trevor Jones looked up at the clock- it was one in the morning. Jones was exhausted; he had been up all day waiting for Westing and Carlson to report in, but he had seen nothing of either of him. He yawned, and decided to get some rest. Jones walked over to check the radar screen once more, and froze. A small dot had appeared on the screen. He quickly walked to the radio, and turned a dial. A small "bleep" sounded. A second later, the bleep came again. Jones smiled. He had found them.
Jones was wide awake now. He walked to another tent, and shook a man lying asleep on the floor. "Wha.. What is it?" he mumbled.
Westing woke up suddenly to a tap on the window. She sat up and looked around; it was pitch-black. She heard the tap again, and tried to get over to it. After hitting the wall, she found the window and looked out, but she couldn't see anything. Then Westing heard a small click and she felt a slight breeze for a second. Then she heard footsteps and a soft thud.
The rope went limp suddenly, and Westing realized they must be at Carson's cell. A light came on from behind the glass, and she saw Carson and the man. The light went off again, and she heard another click as the man and Carson came out. Westing felt another tug on the rope, and she began walking again.
It was a long walk. The man led Westing and Carson through the building, turning many times, until what seemed like hours had gone by and Westing and Carson were both extremely confused. Westing heard a jingling, and then another click and the floor changed. She assumed they had exited the building, but could not tell because of the blackness.
The man put a finger to his lips to signal silence, and motioned for them to follow him. He closed the door after they were both out and started off towards the hills. Carson stopped and looked toward the Gap Generator in the center of the plain, then hurried back to the others.
Jones drove forward into the plain and parked the jeep. He nudged Phillips, who had fallen asleep again, and pointed toward the rotating structure in the center of the plain. "Haha!" he said smiling, "You know what that is?" When Phillips answered with a snore, Jones shoved him. "It's a Gap Generator, that's what it is! They used those in the Second World War. Ingenious things, really... they create an area of blindness around themselves, called a shroud, which enemy units couldn't see through. You know what this means, don't you Phillips? The government's hiding something here, and we get to tell the world!" Jones was smiling broadly now. "C'mon. Let's try to find what they're hiding."
Jones got out, pulling Phillips behind him, and walked up to the Generator. He put his hands out, examining it, touching it, and overall staring at it like it were the most beautiful thing in the world. Phillips, who seemed to have finally woken up and realized what the device was, repeated what Jones had said earlier, "You know what this means, Jones?!"
"It means," came a voice behind them, "that some people have been caught where they don't belong." The two turned, shocked looks on their faces, to face 2nd Lieutenant James Krell. Krell smiled at the looks on their faces. "We'll take them down to the others," he said to the group of soldiers with him, who pushed the muzzles of their rifles into the reporters' backs and led them to the building where Westing and Carson were being held. Krell, still smiling, headed off to his office after climbing back down to Storm Control.
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