Wight

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ISLE OF WIGHT

Late in June 1947 a US Marine C-46 transport plane crashed on the remote western side of Mount Rainier, the highest peak in the Cascade Range, and when word got around, a private pilot named Ken Arnold volunteered to aid with the search.

While he was circling the mountain on June 24 he spotted a cluster of nine brightly glowing meteors rushing past his plane toward remote Mt. Adams in the south. Because they were pieces of a fireball in the process of breaking up, they seemed to be flying in formation, so Arnold assumed they were aircraft, and he interpreted their intermittent bursts of brightness to be the sun glinting off of polished metal.

The pieces were of irregular shape and tumbling and this made them appear to hop up and down in the airstream. Ken told the press they flew like "a saucer skipping over water." This was the first modern sighting of Unidentified Flying Objects and it sparked a national obsession with "Flying Saucers" that bordered on mass hysteria because people insisted on identifying them as spacecraft operated by aliens.

By July 7 there had been many more UFO sightings. Some were ordinary mistakes but most were outright copycat hoaxes. The reporters had garbled Arnold's description. He was trying to convey that the objects moved like saucers, not that they looked like saucers. But it was too late, the erroneous quote was already in print, so everyone was seeing saucers.

Jerry Shy Bear was adapting the phantomizer to allow powered flight by constantly sucking in air from an intake manifold on the roof of the vehicle, and making the air "go away" and leaving the central chamber ready for more. It would move much like a helicopter, but with an ability to stay aloft indefinitely. Jerry was, however, stumped on a final body design.

The first thing that came to Robyn's mind was the big national flying saucer craze. She said, If we make it in the shape of a flying saucer, then even if people see us and report it, they won't be believed. If they photograph us in flight, they will be accused of taking a snapshot of a hub cap.

Jerry thought it was a brilliant idea and he built three flying saucers powered by the phantom process. He spent a week teaching Robyn, Hunky, Dory, and Inge to use them. Some of the UFO reports mixed in with the recent public hysteria, therefore, were genuine sightings.

The saucers had two means of propulsion. One was the new hover mode, using air, and it had unlimited time on station. The second method used the phantomizer core as a simple rocket.

It was simplicity itself. Water was the propellant, steam was the only by-product. There was nothing flammable involved, the steam came out in an invisible hot column that quickly condenses into great clouds but no fire lit the clouds from within. The amount of total power was almost unlimited, depending only on how much water was simultaneously crammed into the combustion chamber to overlap in the phantom state.

Most of the interior of the saucer consisted of water tanks. When it was fully loaded, it was far too heavy for hover mode. So the procedure was to use the rocket mode to get to an area of interest, and then hover. Depending on the distance, returning home would require tanking back up on water from somewhere near the destination.

The pilot entered the saucer from a hatch on the top, and climbed down through the central core to a round cockpit with glass windows which was slung underneath, providing a 360 degree view. While resting on the ground, the saucer was elevated slightly on three legs with footpads.

At the end of Training Week, satisfied the saucer had air-tight integrity and was capable of supporting human life with some degree of comfort, Robyn took one saucer, kissed her husband goodbye, and said she was off to cash in her one same-sex "freebie" that Jerry owed her.

Robyn wore a skin-tight gray nylon flight suit that looked much better on her now than it would have in her high school days. When Binah took possession of her, it was accompanied by a greater discipline when it came to eating the right kinds of foods, in the proper amounts, and despite her recently pregnancy she was now attractively slender. Jerry was loath to see her go, even for a short time.

Robyn loaded baby Joy into her saucer and launched at night. There was an unavoidable and ungodly roar, but nothing at all for the good folks of Wiley to see.

Jerry watched her depart high into the sky, arcing to the east, and he assumed Robyn was going to fly off to somewhere else relatively nearby, perhaps just over the Cascade Range, but she in fact was doing a ballistic suborbital flight that would take her not only over the whole United States but over the Atlantic as well. She was not afraid. Four thousand years prior to this she often did the same sort of thing with her avatar. It felt good to be back in the saddle.

Robyn had gotten it into her head that she wanted to see Europe. But when she reached the top of her parabolic arc thousands of miles above the Earth, and was weightless for four minute, she looked down and saw much of Europe was shrouded in white clouds. Only the islands of Great Britain and Ireland were visible through partial clearing. She shrugged and made her orbital plane change accordingly.

Besides, she only knew English and a handful of other languages that Binah were familiar with, which did not include any of the Germanic or Romance languages of the Continent.

Her descent burn consumed the last of her water as she aimed for Land's End, which was easily discerned. After that, Robyn switched her saucer to hover mode and flew over the moors to visit Stonehenge, where she landed inside the circle of stones, directly over the central altar stone.

Briefly, Robyn got out of the saucer and walked around inside Stonehenge in her skin tight gray flight suit, while still wearing her bulbous grey crash helmet. Baby Joy remained inside the saucer all bundled up.

Her sightseeing, unfortunately, attracted a lot of attention from the other tourists, so Robyn decided to cut her visit short. She took to the skies again. And from that time forward, aliens would be depicted in the popular media as having girlish gray bodies and giant heads.

Robyn was banking on the authorities being too skeptical about reports of aliens and flying saucers to do anything, but she made a simple miscalculation. Britain still had Radio Direction Finding from the War, except now it had been refined and was now called RADAR. Two fighters were sortied from a Cornwall airfield to check her out.

The first pass was a close one to check her out. Robyn didn't wait for a second pass. She opened the phantomizer to full and did a climb straight up to thirty thousand feet, far beyond the abililty of the propeller-driven fighters to reach.

After that, the safety of her daughter Joy began to weigh in her mind much more than her desire to have a mini-vacation, and it shamed Robyn to realize it had not been so, no matter how briefly. So she resolved to tank back up on water and return home. The trick was to do it without being seen.

She found what she thought was the perfect place, at the extreme southern extension of the Isle of Wight, where a seacoast cliff and some hills would hide her. There was only a lighthouse there, and the nearest settlement was a sleepy one a mile away up a ravine which indented the cliff.

Robyn landed on the beach and began to unfurl the hose to siphon sea water into the saucer's tanks. Saltwater would work just fine, but Jerry would need to flush it with fresh water when she got home to prevent corrosion of the aluminum.

It did not occur to Robyn that her nighttime intrusion here at the lighthouse was exactly the same thing an SS U-Boat commando squad did in 1944.

It also did not occur to her that one Lilith Gervasi, an English Jew and eighteen year old survivor of the Holocaust, did not sleep nights anymore, but stayed awake, watching the coast with her war surplus Lee-Enfield bolt-action rifle for Nazis who would never come. For she suffered terribly from something 21st Century doctors would call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Robyn was not a Nazi, but she was a flying saucer driver and Lilith wasn't taking chances. She fired a round from fifty yards to get Robyn's attention, then advanced closer. This would prove to be a historic meeting.

Robyn had her hands over her head, palms forward to show she had no weapon. When Lilith drew close enough, Robyn told her, Please don't shoot again, I have a baby in the cockpit. Glass won't protect her.

Who are you? Lilith demanded. You sound like a bloody Yank.

My name is Robyn Shy Bear, she said. And you are correct, I am American. Just a tourist, but I got something less than a warm welcome from your Royal Air Force.

Lilith's rifle dropped a bit from its sight-line on Robyn's head. It was now aimed at her heart. Lilith said, What are you doing here?

Filling the tanks of my. . .airplane.

With seawater? I'm sorry, I don't believe you, Miss Robyn. Airplanes do not run on water!

A sled doesn't run on bricks, either, Robyn said, but if you throw them fast enough, your sled will start to move the other way. So who are you, if I may ask?

Lilith Gervasi, she said. Her rifle dropped a bit more, but Robyn was still wary. A gut shot would still kill her, but just take a bit longer, and be far more painful.

I have enough water to go home now, Robyn told her. If you will put your gun away, I'll leave, and you will never see me again.

Lilith lowered the rifle to point at the ground between them. Do you really have a baby in that thing?

Robyn retrieved Joy (after waking her up) and set her down on the sandy beach. She was old enough to walk by herself now. Lilith saw Robyn standing there, holding the toddler's hand, and that was enough. She unchambered the round and slung her rifle over her back.

It was pre-dawn, and in the gloomy light that was beginning to gather, Robyn could take a better look at Lilith. The girl was three years younger than herself, but there was an aged look in her hollow eyes, as though she had already lived four lifetimes, and it haunted Robyn. A kind of Darwinian process in the camps had produced a girl who was able to outwit, bribe, or intimidate anyone to get what she needed to survive.

Robyn knew nothing of this yet, but somehow she saw the results right on Lilith's surface, and suddenly, more than anything in the world, she wanted the girl on her team.

Do you live here, at the lighthouse? Robyn asked her.

Lilith nodded. Robyn didn't know anything else about her, other than her name. The work camps had emaciated her body, and when she returned home to the Isle of Wight and was fed by her father, the weight came back in the form of strong, wiry muscles. She was eighteen but looked twice that. Robyn assumed she was married, and asked, Is your husband here?

My father is here, she said. He operates the lighthouse and runs a weather outstation.

I should like to meet him, Robyn said.

Lilith spat at the ground. He has sold his life to the Goy and betrayed the destiny of my nation to rule Palestine.

The Goy? Goyim. You're Jewish!

Lilith nodded. I am a member of a people whose very right to exist is always being questioned.

And when you say your nation, I presume you are not speaking of England.

My father rendered a service to the Crown that went far beyond the sacrifices that any other Britons were asked to make. No doubt you have heard of the cross-Channel invasion of France. I believe you American's refer to it by 'D-Day'. My father provided the weather forecast that made it possible. But beyond that, he was used by the government to help deceive Hitler as to exactly where the invasion was going to take place. A British admiral came here and told my father we were going to land at Calais on June the 20th, 1944, and not at Normandy on June the 6th. He was told this knowing there was a strong possibility that a team of Nazis could storm the lighthouse from a submarine and force my father to talk.

The cynicism of such a thing is breathtaking, Robyn said.

They planted false information on my father, Lilith continued, and the Nazis did indeed arrive, and not only did my father talk, but he was kept silent about his talking by the simple device of taking myself and my mother to occupied Europe as insurance. We ended up in camps, and I watched my mother die in a most horrible way.

And Lilith showed Robyn the six numbers tattooed to her arm by the SS at Ohrdruf. Robyn gasped, knowing that Lilith had come through such suffering and human degradation and evil that she could never begin to understand the mere periphery of it, let alone sympathize with the core of the girl's ordeal and her memories of it.

So you see, the Crown owes a very large marker to my father, but he will not cash it in to obtain a thing, a concession of such little import it could not possibly disconcert the government in the smallest way. The Foreign Secretary refuses to allow Jews to immigrate to the British Mandate in Palestine. Not even Jews who are already British subjects.

Why not, Lilith?

Oil.

One word, but it explained everything. The Middle-East was awash in petroleum, but if the Arabs could not be assured that the Jews would never have an independent state there, they would attack the wells owned and operated by the British. So the Balfour Declaration and the Churchill White Paper were torn up for the worthless pieces of paper they always were, and all bets were off in the Holy Land.

The admiral who deceived my father is dead. My father is willing to let the whole matter go.

Joy started to cry. It was cold, dawn was just breaking, and she wanted to crawl back into the warm saucer and go back to sleep. Robyn picked her up and said to Lilith, What would you do if I said you could come with us, and be in Palestine within the hour?

What would I do?

Lilith did not hesitate at all. She went into the grounds of the lighthouse complex, and returned ten minutes later carrying a small tote bag with clothing and her personal effects. She also carried her rifle, but now she also had several boxes of .303 caliber cartridges, carried on little straps. But she had not taken the time to wake her father and notify him that she was leaving, and Robyn had an intuition that Lilith could never be persuaded to do so.

In the saucer, Robyn took Lilith directly from the shore of the Isle of Wight to a coastal village in Palestine. The flight took only about thirty minutes.

Somewhere over the Alps they topped out, and enjoyed two minutes of free fall. Joy giggled as she bounced around the inner core of the saucer. Lilith found the hem of her dress flying up, as though she was immersed in water. She gathered Joy to herself and held her in her arms when gravity slowly returned to them. Astonished, she stared hard at Robyn, who remained in her seat, and said, Who are you really?

Hopefully, Lilith, I will be your lifetime friend.

Holding Joy in her arms had an effect that Lilith could never put into words.

After they landed Lilith was whisked away by a number of Jewish farmers who lived a few miles inland from the Mediterranean, at a kibbutz founded by Polish immigrants in 1943 named Yad Mordechai. The settlement lay on the coast highway only eight miles north of the city of Gaza and today lies only two and a half miles outside of the border of the Gaza Strip.

Lilith spoke no Polish, nor at that point had she learned Hebrew (which had been revived from extinction to become the tongue of Eretz Yisrael). But all she had to do was brandish the tattoo on her forearm, and it was enough for the pioneers. They did not even question her unusual mode of transportation.

In the weeks and months that followed, Lilith began to suspect she had been taken to her new home by an angel of God. That morning began to seem like a dream. But much fighting lay ahead, and none of that was a dream. She didn't see Robyn again until after the armistice agreements of 1949, when the new state of Israel had won the War of Independence.

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