/ Day 9. Groom Lake

“Area 51!? Did you just say we’re going to land in Area 51!?” Mark was panicking. They’d taken off from McCarran in Vegas in a Cessna Skycatcher heading north in favorable weather. About a hundred miles into their flight, the low fuel alarm went off. The gauge had shown a full tank when they’d departed. Something was wrong and the safest thing to do was find a place to land. The trouble was, the ground below was largely mountainous desert. What they needed was a stretch of highway or a dry lakebed. Sure enough, there was a dry lakebed nearby, it just happened to belong to the U.S. Government. It also happened to be where they developed the U-2, SR-71 and F-117 Nighthawk. Yes, it was Area 51.

“Relax! It’s gonna be fine,” replied Kyle. Kyle Johnson was the charismatic type who was confident in any situation. Unlike most people though, he usually had reason to be. A prodigy who loved to party, he’d played a pivotal role in the founding of numerous well-known tech companies. As a result, he belonged to that highly exclusive club of thirty-something billionaires.

Mark was a reporter for Forbes doing a cover story on Kyle when the latter suggested taking a joyride in his new Cessna. Of course Mark agreed, which brought them to their current predicament. “You know, I’m gonna give the dealer hell about this fuel gauge thing,” laughed Kyle. He reached over and tuned the plane’s radio to the guard frequency which was reserved for emergencies.

Just as he’d switched the radio over, “Cessna 162CE, if you read, squawk ident.” How the hell did they know his tail number? Then it occurred to him that there might be a fighter shadowing them. He looked out to the side of the plane and sure enough, there was an F-16. He reached over to the plane’s transponder and hit the “ident” button which caused their blip on the tower’s radar screen to blossom. Being asked to “ident” themselves was a way for the tower to confirm that their message was being heard–in case of a broken radio. It was then that the tower cut in, “162CE, squawk 0363.” Kyle complied and switched to 0363.

“Uhhh, tower, we’re out of McCarran. We’re out of fuel and need to put down. Possible busted fuel gauge being the cause.”

“Negative, 162CE. This is a restricted military airbase. You can’t land here.”

“Tower, get your base commander and tell him Kyle Johnson needs to land his crippled Cessna. Like I said, we’re out of station nine.”

“Standby, 162.” Station nine was code that they normally used to identify McCarran. If this guy knew it, maybe he wasn’t some crackpot looking to land his Cessna in “Area 51.”

“162, standing by. Roger,” he said smiling at Mark. What Mark didn’t know was that Kyle had headed a classified project on that very base a while back. Among other things, he’d written the fly by wire software for one of their experimental aircraft. The kind that normally gets mistaken for a UFO when being tested in civilian airspace. Plus, being the charismatic sort, he’d made fast friends with the base commander. It was highly unorthodox, but then, that was Kyle.

“Uhhh, 162, this is Groom Lake tower. You’re clear to land runway one left.”

“Runway one left. Roger,” smiled Kyle. “Listen, Mark, you should know. They’re going to put a black bag over your head and throw you in the back of a van then drive you off base. Who knows, they might do it to me too. But hey, we’ll be alive. I promise, I’ll make it up to you.”

Continued in, Day 19. The Billionaire, the Colonel and the Inventor


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