The Man on the Moon – Part 3

In the days following Grimes’ death, Harvey trawled through the events of the previous couple of weeks, trying to work out his best option.  The official explanation for the plane crash was that it was due to a ‘technical failure’; beyond that, the only information given was that the matter was ‘under investigation.’  Harvey thought about digging deeper, ringing Crawley’s office and asking for a more substantive explanation, but he decided against it.  Similarly, he shied away from raising the matter of the incident on the mountain with the Minister; there was something – a niggling residue of threat – from his earlier discussion with the Crawley that persuaded Harvey not to pursue it.  Still, the recollection of the event broke into his consciousness at unexpected moments: the image of the truck’s swinging tailgate and the shock of the impact triggering an instant cold sweat at odd times during his shift or jarring him awake in a panic from deep sleep.

The longer Harvey mulled over these events and the choices they left him, the more apparent it became that doing nothing – keeping his mouth shut and just going on with his work as if nothing had happened – was no longer one of them.  If Askin was right, if there was some kind of cloak and dagger stuff going on related to Harvey’s discovery, then he needed to do something to protect himself.  But what?  He’d ruled Crawley out.  Should he go to the police?  He’d already tried that once and drawn a blank, perhaps an intentional one.  It was quite possible, as Askin had pointed out, that the police could be in on it, covering the matter up in the interests of ‘national security’.

He met with Askin again and went over the affair with him, trying to work out a way forward.  In the end they agreed that Harvey’s best hope – perhaps his only one – was to get the information into the hands of someone who could get it into the public spotlight; create enough publicity to give Harvey and his family a measure of protection.  They talked about going straight to the media with the story, but neither of them had any contacts in the industry, and they agreed it was too fraught with risk to simply hand it to an editor: among the mainstream media there were sure to be referral protocols covering matters of national security.

Then Harvey remembered Natasha Vikorovska.  Natasha was a life-long friend, part of a Russian immigrant family who’d moved in a couple of doors from his place in Sydney when they were kids.  Their friendship began at primary school and went on through high school, surviving the traumas of a brief, exploratory romance and subsequent marriages to different partners.  When Harvey’s career had taken him away to various remote postings around the country, he’d lost regular contact with her; but they’d run into one another occasionally at family-and-friends’ gatherings, and the familiarity was still there.  Most of the news he’d heard about her recently came from the media, when she’d unexpectedly picked up a Senate seat as an Independent in the federal election.  She’d been elected based on what was, by current political standards, a fairly radical program.  It occurred to Harvey that her position might offer a possible avenue for exposure.

He rang her parliamentary office the following morning from a phone in the scope’s canteen, but had to satisfy himself with an assurance from her clerical assistant that his request for a return call would be passed on as soon as possible.  The mobile rang less than ten minutes later.  Natasha’s greeting was confident and familiar: “Hey, Harv, how’re things?”

Harvey wasted no time getting to the point of his call.  He told her everything – the intercepted military signal and its source, his suspicions about what might have happened to Grimes, his discussion with the Minister, the incident on the road.  He stated his conclusion emphatically: that the Americans were operating a military installation of some kind from the surface of the moon.

When he finished, there was a long pause before Natasha said: “Jesus Christ, Harvey.  Have you told anyone else about this?”

“Only Grimes and Crawley.” He thought of Askin, but let it pass. “I need to speak to someone who can help me deal with this, Tash.”  He tried to control the tremor in his voice.  “I thought of you.”

There was another moment’s silence.  “Okay,” Natasha said at last, “just let me think.” Another pause, longer.  “Look, the main thing I’m going to need is evidence.  What have you got?

“There’s a back-up CD of the transmission in the safe at the scope.”

“Can you get hold of it?”

Harvey grimaced.  “I can; but it’d be breaking every rule in the book, and god knows how many national security laws as well.”

“Sounds to me like you’re already doing that.  How soon can you get it to me?”

“To Canberra?” Harvey considered for a moment.  “I can bring it down.”

“Is there a flight from where you are?”

“No, only charters.  Anyway …” – he thought of Grimes – “…I’m not sure I want to take a chance on that after what’s happened.  I’d feel safer driving; I could be there in four or five hours.”

“You’d better come straight to my place.  I’ve got a flat, one of the perks of having to live away from home when the house is sitting.”

She gave him an address and a phone number. There was a slow release of tension.  Something of their old camaraderie flowed between them.  “Okay… well, take care, Harv.  It’ll be nice to see you again.  Just be careful.  If half of what you’ve told me is true, they could already be on to you.”

“Thanks,” Harvey replied grimly, and hung up.

 

He didn’t tell Angela much, only that he’d been called to Canberra on business, a term she knew covered everything confidential in the scope’s political orbit.  She didn’t consider the urgency of the trip particularly unusual; such interruptions were a familiar part of their lives, something that went with the territory of living with a highly-regarded astronomer.  He hoped, privately, that removing himself from his family’s proximity might reduce the immediate risk to them while he got things worked out.

He threw a couple of things into his overnight bag, said a hasty goodbye to Angela and drove out to the scope.  There were no problems; his pass still let him into the building as usual, and when he entered the dome, the only staff on duty were a couple of junior technicians, working on something on the lower floor. They merely nodded and went on with their work.

Harvey entered into the control room and slid into the seat in front of the console.  As soon as he felt comfortable that he could move around unnoticed, he went to the safe, extracted the disk he’d left there and slipped it into his jacket pocket.  Albright wasn’t rostered on until the afternoon, but Harvey rang him from the desk and asked him to fill in.

He got back in the car and drove several kilometres down the highway in the opposite direction to Canberra, then turned off onto one of the back roads and drove back the way he’d come.  The gravel surface was badly pot-holed, and the diversion took longer than he’d anticipated.  It was after ten when he reached the capital, the city gleaming under a frigid, late autumn sky. The desolate, leaf-bereft streets made him feel particularly conspicuous as he drove across the lake to Capitol Hill.  On one occasion, he was stopped at a set of traffic lights when a police car drifted to a stop alongside, causing his heart to flutter in panic; but the occupants of the cruiser didn’t appear to notice him.

A small light was burning on Natasha’s porch when he drove up to the address she’d given him.  It was a small, leafy place surrounded by high brick walls, one of a number of similar two-storied apartments occupying a stylish medium-density development.  Natasha didn’t approve of political featherbedding, but she’d accepted the apartment as a reasonable trade-off for the time she had to spend away from her family.

She met him on the steps, her body shivering as she gave him an affectionate hug.  The scent of her, the feel of her long, dark hair falling around his face, reminded him, uncomfortably, of times when they’d known each other more intimately.  It startled him to realise that, even after their long absence, he still missed her.

An open fire was burning in the small dining room, and Harvey hovered over it while Natasha made coffee.  They sat at the table, drinking.  After a brief period of banter and recollections, Harvey extracted the CD from his pocket and handed it across. “That’s it: the message, the coordinates, the tracking scans; everything’s there.”  Harvey groaned and arched his back, stretching.  “It’s great to have your help with this, Tash.  I’m really grateful.”

She shrugged.  “What are friends for?  The thing now is, what to do with this.”

Harvey studied her intently.  “What do you reckon?”

Natasha pursed her lips.  “I’ve already set up a meeting with Michaelson, the shadow Defence Minister, for nine tomorrow morning, just to feel him out.  It’s too soon to let him know exactly what we’ve got, but I’d like to test the water. After that I’ve teed up sessions with the Greens and a couple of the other Independents, to put them in the picture.   And then…” –she shrugged – “…well, I guess we’ll have to wait and see.  If there’s nothing from Michaelson by lunch-time tomorrow, I’ll take it directly to the floor of the Senate. Then the shit’ll hit the fan.”  She got up and gathered the empty cups from the coffee table, pausing to study him.  “So how are you, Harv?  It’s been a while.”

A thin smile wrinkled Harvey’s mouth.  “Pretty contented, I guess,” he replied, then nodded at the CD she was holding.  “…until this came along, anyway.”

She smiled.  “Maybe we can do lunch tomorrow, after the meetings; I can fill you in.  In the meantime, we’d better get some sleep.”  She nodded towards the hallway.  “The spare room’s down the hall, bathroom on the right.”

Harvey collected his bag from the car and brought it inside.  He fell asleep almost instantly, listening to the quiet sounds of Natasha’s movements in the room upstairs.

The insistent peep of his mobile awoke him.  Opening his eyes, he saw the bright cracks of daylight around the blinds.  Harvey checked his watch: it was a little after nine.

The call was from Natasha.  She sounded tense.  “How soon can you get in here, Harv?”

Harvey tumbled out of bed.  “I thought you had a meeting with the Defence people at nine?”

“I’ve had it,” she replied quickly.  “I think you need to get here,” she insisted, “as soon as you possibly can.”

He was alarmed by the tremor in her voice. “What’s going on, Tash?  Where are we up to?”

There was a lengthy pause.  “This thing’s bigger than we thought, Harv; much bigger.  Michaelson knows something about it, but he’s being a bit cagey.  He’s agreed to a full briefing to let us in on what he knows, but he wants you there.  He figures he might as well put you in the picture as well, save repeating himself.”  She seemed to sense his hesitancy.  “It’s okay, Harv.  Michaelson’s pretty pissed off – very pissed off, actually – that he didn’t know anything about it; he’s supposed to be told about anything involving national security.  He rang Crawley while I was there.  There’s apparently an announcement about the lunar station already in the pipeline; it’s going to be made public in a few days.   Michaelson’s demanded that Crawley give you a written guarantee of protection until then, on condition that we don’t let the cat out of the bag.  He’s also insisted that you and I be given a full briefing.  I said I thought you’d be agreeable to that.  What do you think?”

Harvey felt a surge of relief.  “Sounds fine.  When?”

“Now.”

“Where are you?”

“At the Department of Defence.  You know where it is?”

“I’ll find it.  Will they let me in?”

There was a brief, muffled aside on the other end of the line.  “Just tell them who you are,” Natasha said when she came back on the line.  “They’ll let you through.”

 

Before he left, Harvey made two calls, one to his wife and one to Askin Herbert.  He provided both with assurances of his well-being, and to Askin gave a quick update on his circumstances.  Askin still had reservations.  “It could be a trap,” he said.  “They might just be trying to lure you in.”

Harvey shook his head, forgetting the phone in his hand.  “I’ve known Tash a long time.  She wouldn’t sell me out.”

“How’d she sound?”

Harvey considered.  “I don’t know.  A little nervous; excited, I suppose.  Nothing to suggest a sell-out, if that’s what you mean.”  He moved the phone to his other hand. “Look, Ask, I’m going with my instincts here.   I think it’s okay. I know I’ve been a bit paranoid, but I’m not getting any warning bells with this.  Anyway, I’m going to send you a copy of the disk, just in case.  I’ll post it on my way across town.  If anything goes wrong, use it as best you can.”

There was a brief pause.  “Okay,” Askin said, “but remember to negotiate from strength.  Don’t let anyone talk you out of getting to the bottom of this.”

*



Categories: My Story, Stories

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