The Gray Machine by Ronald Heath

(Chapter 3)


“have a good weekend ?” asked Dave as he opened the walk through door in the chain link fence.

“Yea. Did a bit of camping.” replied Robert.

“Say, you know, This lady at the restaurant this morning said that there was a UFO sighting at the same lake that you go to. Did you see anything ?”

“No. I usually sleep in a small cave, so there could have been one, but I didn’t see anything.” lied Robert.


Robert flashed back to the time when he was walking down the covered walkway at the side of the school building while he was in third grade. This other kid was walking towards him and walked so that he would pass a bit too near to Robert. Robert’s thoughts were off in the clouds as usual, so he was quite unprepared when the other kid socked him in the stomach. Robert had doubled over in pain and fell onto the concrete walkway, while the other kid had just continued walking as if nothing had happened.

No, thought Robert, it did not pay to be different. No one must know of his sightings.

“Ok. Have a good shift.”

“Thanks, see you later.” replied Robert.

Robert poured a quarter cup of coffee into his stained cup that had the chip in the handle, then took a seat at the scarred wooden desk. He scanned the six monitors and began to relax as he continued his normal routine of guard duty.

On the way back home from work, Robert stopped at the grocery store and bought five rolls of aluminum foil and a box of paper clips. He then stopped at the hardware store and bought a few rolls of double sided carpet tape.


When he arrived home, Robert walked over to a spot of desert and swept the sand away from the buried hatch that led to the bomb shelter that had come with the property. The shelter had not been opened since he had purchased the place ten years ago. Robert used a crow bar to pry open the hatch and pointed a flashlight down into the tunnel.

Encouraged by the lack of any webs or scurrying bugs, Robert climbed down the ladder and opened the door at the bottom of the 20 foot deep shaft. There was not even very much dust on the small table or the chairs. The blower motor in the ventilation shaft did not spin, but this was not a very expensive item.

Robert went back up the entrance shaft and into his double wide trailer where he collected his purchases from the store. He also retrieved the alien device from the trunk of his car.

Back in the bomb shelter, Robert covered all of the interior walls with the aluminum foil. This was held to the walls and ceiling of the shelter with the carpet tape. All of the seams were scrunched together and held with the paper clips. Robert used a file to make a clean spot on the water pipe to the sink and connected a length of lamp cord to the pipe with a hose clamp. The other end of the wire was connected to the aluminum foil. This formed a faraday cage that radio waves would have a difficult time escaping from. Radio waves also would have a difficult time going through the 12 feet of layered concrete and sand that formed the roof of the shelter. Robert reasoned that any radio beacon or tracking device would be made less effective by these measures.

Robert spent the next few days repairing the ventilation and sanitary systems of the shelter. The phone lines were connected to his newly purchased laptop computer in the shelter. The electric lighting was improved. He also installed a padlock on the entrance hatch. This was more for his own peace of mind than anything else because anyone who actually found the entrance hatch would not be put off for long by a simple padlock.

His first night of actual study was spent downloading some language cracking software. The alarm for his four hour limit rang just as he had installed an interesting one.

True to his word with himself, Robert turned everything off. He also disconnected his laptop from the internet and decided to leave it that way unless he was actually downloading something. Robert went up the ladder and closed the hatch, covering it with a layer of sand.

The next night was spent making drawings of each of the different symbols that appeared as text on the machine. These were entered into his programs as well as into a document with notes on each letter. By the following night he was not finding any new symbols. This was a good sign. It meant that the symbols were like an alphabet, rather than pictures that represented whole words. This was really close to what Robert used to do for a living, accept that the language was what needed to be learned instead of the translation algorithms. He was actually beginning to enjoy the time that he spent in the bomb shelter.

The alien device was designed to teach an alien child about the language of the Grays, it was not really a code to be broken, but a language to be learned.

The books on translating unknown languages that Robert had began reading while he was at work were also helpful. After a couple of weeks, Robert had found tutorials on the basics of the alien language in the machine. From this time on, he used his laptop for note taking only, because the cracking of the language was done.

Within six months Robert had learned enough of the language so that he could really use the training device. The device contained training courses on all aspects of the culture and technology of the Grays. He began with the basic language courses, and went on to some classes on the alien culture. The grays considered their culture important enough that they taught many classes about the rules and methods of verbal and mental interaction to their children. This was most likely because of the amount of time that might be spent on board the UFOs without seeing any other Grays, reasoned Robert. Everything was described in great detail, usually with animated examples. The proper method of sharing your opinions, and the methods of giving orders to fellow crew members were all discussed. Robert became totally absorbed in these classes and was really sorry when he had taken the last one. Robert had began to receive more mental communication from the machine. Once he began to really understand the language, images would form in his mind while he operated the machine. These were in addition to the projections that appeared above the machine and they supplied additional instruction with subtleties that would have been otherwise missed.

Robert looked at the list of training courses that were recommended before taking the first course about how the engines of the UFOs functioned. The information was in no way restricted, just totally incomprehensible at first glance. He had to start at a really low level, taking introductory math and science courses. Robert was a really intelligent man and by spending four hours a day, including a bit more on some weekends, he was moving through the material with great speed.

Within four years Robert had learned how the UFO propulsion system worked. The day after he finally understood the basic principal of the drive, he spent in the bar down the road from work. He got himself a table, ordered a stiff bourbon on the rocks. After a couple of these, He contemplated selling some minor parts of the knowledge, or just giving it away.

Robert thought to himself that it was time to think about this seriously. He could no longer argue that all this social stuff that he was learning was of no value to society. The drive technology was terribly important to every other human being on the planet. So Robert turned the idea over in his mind while sipping his second bourbon.

The idea of letting slip the information that the machine existed and that Robert possessed it was totally out. The military would find out, take the machine away from Robert and give it to a hand picked team of the powerful leader’s family members. Robert would be committed to a mental institution and given a lobotomy. The hand picked team would discover nothing and keep the machine under high security forever. The slight possibility that the military would also want to keep Robert, also crossed his mind with not a little revulsion. Visions of his old cube at work began to filter up through his mind, but a healthy pull on his bourbon sent the thoughts back where they belonged.

Over his forth bourbon, Robert thought about the UFO groups. Maybe he could write up his story and send it to them anonymously. This would be pretty safe so long as there were no fingerprints on the letters or anything. It would require months of work though. This might actually be a successful way to transfer the knowledge. It’s success would depend on his writing ability and would also require a genius to understand the principles that he had been learning over the past three years.

Society had always treated him poorly, reflected Robert. He had always run his life with the goal of caring about himself enough to make up for the lack of caring from others. His wife and kid had worked out for many years, but that was over now. He had only survived this long because people had been willing to trade their money for things that Robert did for them that made those people more money. Sometimes those people would loose faith, and out the door would go Robert. He remembered the months that he had spent with no home or money a few years before his marriage. He sipped a bit more bourbon and swirled the ice around in his glass. This experience really brought home to Robert that there really was no kindness in mankind.

So why should Robert risk his comfortable lifestyle just so that those people could go to the stars. He would never get to go anyway, because he was too old.

There really was no positive incentive. Reasoned Robert while sipping at his sixth bourbon in the three and a half hours that he had been sitting at the table in the bar. Suppose that he tried to patent a prototype of the drive ? This was out because he did not have enough money to get a patent. Besides, Robert had no need for any more money. He was fairly happy right now.

Robert still had this nagging feeling that as a member of the human race, he had certain obligations to them. He decided that these feelings could be gotten rid of by writing an anonymous paper that he would mail from a different state so that the post mark would not be in the same town as he was. Weather or not anyone would read this description of the drive technology was not important to Robert because this was the most that he could feel comfortable with giving to the world. This He would do for the five percent of the population who were actually good enough to deserve such good treatment from Robert.

Robert staggered out of the bar and walked the two miles back to his double wide trailer. He had not driven because he did not want to risk driving his car off into the ditch.


One week later and five years after he had found the device, he was sleeping in his double wide trailer when he awoke to find the whole trailer vibrating. There was a bright light streaming in from all of the windows.

Robert was now paralyzed and could not even lift his head. He could see a couple of Grays come over to his bed. His last thoughts before his mind was wiped were “I guess that the gravity wave based communications aren't blocked well enough by a few feet of earth and some aluminum foil. too bad that I didn’t quite finish that letter”

When he awoke to the sound of his digital alarm clock the next morning, all memory of the device and of his research had left him. His laptop had developed a hard disk failure, and there were no unfinished letters laying around. The aluminum foil had even been removed from the bomb shelter so that it would not key any undesired memories.

Robert went out onto his wooden porch and walked to his aging celica. He sat in it’s bucket seat with the torn vinyl seat cover. The car started on the first turn of the key, as usual. Sam, at the guard shack, asked about Robert’s health, noticing that the last remaining sparkle in his eyes had now grown dim.

Ron Heath
rheath@rhwebco.com
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