lay there staring at the ceiling, listening to my wife's breathing as I conjured shapes in the darkness. No amount of effort could force the excitement from my mind; it was as if a fluorescent light burned just behind my eyes each time I closed them. My mind reeled at the idea of what I was becoming.
Three months had passed since I had been recruited; I could hardly bear, let alone comprehend, the physical and emotional transformation taking place. Grinning in the darkness I mumbled, “I'm becoming a time traveler.” Even
struggled to believe it. Everything I was destined to become was changing before my eyes. I didn't know who or what I was anymore; my very essence had been torn apart and pieced together again by modern-day seers, travelers in time and space. But they were only ordinary men, I kept telling myself. How could they know these things? How could they be sure that what they were doing was right? What if we weren't supposed to do this â¦ this thing we do?
The alarm shocked me into the world of consciousness and I slapped groggily at it until it fell off the nightstand, ringing and clanking the room awake. Patting Debbie back to sleep, I dragged myself into the morning's routine and continued my deliberations during the drive to the office. It was strange going to work in civilian clothing and with
long hair. For the past twelve years I had been an infantry officer, short hair and all. Now I looked and felt like a civilian, so as not to attract attention to the unit.
I pulled into the parking lot of the ramshackle buildings, the highly classified special-access program where I was now undergoing my metamorphosis. I was to spend over two years here, and every day I chuckled at the worn-out structures that had seen better days as a bakers' school during World War II. Now, the two wooden buildings sheltered a group of soldiers and Defense Department employees.
This was the home of an espionage program that skirted the limits of imagination and spirituality. It was the haunt of a clan of spies, hand-picked from the tens of thousands who filled the ranks of the army and Department of Defense. A well-kept secret, the unit's existence and location were known only by a few members of the Defense Intelligence Agency, of which it was a part. Ironically, some of the DIA's more conservative members came to think of the members of this unit as evil, even satanic, because of what we learned and practiced here. And now I was part of it â¦ this aberrant crew of eight that the DIA code-named Sun Streak.
I was never first into the officeâseveral of the others always managed to earn that honorâwhich was good, because that meant the much-needed coffee was always ready. Grabbing a cup, I made my way to the vault and withdrew my notes from yesterday's sessions. Well into my training by now, I had enjoyed strong successes on my early missions; in fact, the program manager, Bill Levy, had accelerated my indoctrination into this new world. It was this acceleration that had prompted yesterday's excursion into the unknown.
I swallowed the coffee while staring at the strange drawings and data I had scribbled the day before. Among my sketches, one mysterious figure stood outâfaceless, cloaked, hooded, and pointing a gnarled hand toward someone or something unseen. The pages that followed contained
descriptions of another world, perhaps another dimension â¦ things that just now were incomprehensible. I pored over them, trying to grasp their significance, when
a firm hand clamped down hard on my shoulder. “Not bad for the new guy in town.”
“Christ, Mel, you scared the hell out of me.”
He grinned. “You shouldn't be so shaky. You haven't seen anything yet.” He took a swig of his coffee and walked back to his cubicle. I followed.
Mel Riley was an army master sergeant; a thin, gray-haired man with pale eyes and the forgiving disposition of a grandfather. He smoked cigarettes like a madman and drank coffee strong enough to etch glass. He was my trainer and coach along my two-year journey of self-discovery. He was the first military remote viewerâthe first man to transcend time and space for the purpose of viewing selected targets and collecting intelligence information. I learned early to rely on his counsel. What he said was always true: no lies, no exaggerations, no betrayal, and no ego.
“Mel, what in the world is this place you sent me to yesterday? I'm comfortable with the training targets I've worked so far, but I'm struggling with this one. This was â¦ what did you call it?”
“An open search. We all do it from time to timeâit keeps us humble.”
“Humble? Ever since I walked in here I've been humbled daily. I don't think I need to float aimlessly into the ether, landing on God knows what, to be humble.”
Riley looked at me with fatherly eyes and smiled. “Maybe you don't need humility now, but trust me, you will.” He paused for another sip of coffee, but his eyes never left mine. “When you get your wings in a few more months, walk into that viewing room alone, and jump into the etherâwhen you've soared into time and space and returnedâyou'll start to think you're a god, a fucking
. But you're not. What you are is a very mortal tool â¦ an instrument of the government. Staying humble and realizing how insignificant you are in the spectrum of things is
critical to surviving as a remote viewer. Without that thread connecting you to reality, you'll forget who you are, and you won't last out there â¦ or back here.”
“Out where?” I asked.
He drew a large circle in the air with both hands. “Out there â¦ in the ether. Where we work.” He smiled. “But now, I think Bill wants to see you. Don't worry about that stuff.” He pointed at the papers in my hand. “That will all become clear soon enough.”
Bill briefly glanced at me over the tops of his glasses and then refocused on the papers in front of him. “Sun Streak” 's director, an olive-skinned man with dark hair and dark eyes, had an intensity about him that rarely broke. He was intolerant of many things, and I was careful not to get on his bad side. “Mel said you wanted to see me.”
Bill continued to scratch away at the papers. “Yes, I do. I have another target for you to work â¦ a training target.” He paused long enough to look up at me. “Not an open search. This is a standard mission. I want to get you through Stage Four of training as soon as possible. We'll be losing a viewer in another week or so, and I want you to take his place. Operationally, that is.”
“Well, that's wonderful, I guess. I want to move along as fast as I can â¦ I find this stuff fascinating.”
“Good! Do you have any questions so far?”
I assumed he was expecting some sort of intellectual query on the theory or practice of remote viewing, but I couldn't think of a damned thing. I sat there biting my lip like a third-grader. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a ghost from my past came into my thoughts. “There is one thing,” I began. “I hate to bring this up because it's personal, but it's important to me.” Levy said nothing, simply stared into the wall behind me as I talked. “I've been wondering if I could workâor have some other viewers workâa special project.”
“What sort of project?”
“I had a friend some time ago, in Panama. A chopper
pilot. He was flying a classified mission with another pilot and a crew chief, monitoring the border wars between Ecuador and Colombia.”
“They never returned from the mission. And they were never found.”
“And now you want to see if you can find thisâ”
“His name is Mike Foley. Chief Warrant Officer Foley. I know this is unusual, but he was like a brother â¦ I mean, I loved this guy. We did everything together, our wives did everything together, and I never got to say good-bye. One day he was suddenly listed as missing in action, and the next thing I knew Debbie and I were helping Sharon Foley pack for the States. It still seems like a nightmare, and it happened eight years ago.”
Like radar, Levy keyed in on the word “nightmare.” He sat forward in the chair and laced his fingers under his chin. “Does he come to see you, in nightmares?”
“Yeah. Sometimes he does.”
“How? Tell me about them.”
“Oh, I don't know. It's nothing morbid or horrifying. It's just that I see him, you know â¦ . I don't talk to him; he doesn't talk to me.” A knot began to swell in my throat, and I fought back tears. “I'm sorry, I don't mean to be emotional. I thought by now I was over it.”
“You'll find that the more closely you embrace the art of viewing, the less you'll be able to escape all that makes us human. You'll eventually learn to live beyond sorrow and anguish, and countless other emotions. Of course you'll always feel them, but you'll understand them unconditionally, and that understanding will give you the wisdom you need to survive. So don't be ashamed of your emotions. Release them freely. We all do around here; it's healthy.” He was briefly silent. “Now tell me more about your friend Foley.”
“I don't know much. I was a general's aide at the time, and we were participating in a training exercise when it happened. The general had just gotten a briefing in the tactical
operations center when the aviation battalion commander approached him quietly. Right away I sensed something was wrong with MikeâI just knew it. The battalion commander filled my boss in, and the general left for the office. I stayed behind and asked if Foley was okay.
“The battalion chief looked at me strangely; it was obvious he was wondering who might have told me. I said I didn't know anything particular, but I just sensed something was wrong with Mike. Reluctantly, he told me Mike's chopper had gone down somewhere in the mountains and hadn't been found. That's all he'd say.”
“What about the nightmares? Tell me about Foley's visits to you.”
“Well, like I said, it's not like he jumps out of the ground and grabs my ankles or anything. It's actually very tranquil, almost like he's trying to comfort me. Sharon says he's come to her as well.”
“When did this occur? In 19â”
“He went down in 1980. The last words anyone heard from the chopper came from Mike. He said, âWait a minute â¦ I have a problem.' And then there was nothing but static. They mounted several searches for the aircraft, but nothing was ever found.”
“That's because it was never Americans looking for Americans.”
“What?” I sat bolt upright. “What do you mean?”
Levy stood up, flipping his pencil onto the papers. “Wait here.”
Five minutes later he returned with a stack of blue folders and dropped them in my lap. “I think you'll find these very interesting. Look them over carefully, and we'll talk after lunch.”
He sat back down at the desk and picked up his work as though I'd never been there. I sat there stunned for a few seconds; finally, he looked at me again over the top of his glasses.
“Okay.” I replied awkwardly. “Okay â¦ thanks.”
I stepped out of the door and hurried back to my desk. There were about twenty-eight folders, each with the words “TOP SECRETâPROJECT: GRILL FLAME” in inch-high red letters front and back. I'd seen these markings before, when I was being recruited for the unit. Inside each folder was a copy of some teletype message traffic: “MISSINGâARMY helicopter (UH-1H) tail number November Seven Nine, with crew: CW4 David Suitter (Pilot in Command), CWO Michael Foley (Co-Pilot) and Sergeant First Class William Staub (Crew Chief).” The remainder of the message dealt with the area in which they were presumed to have gone down, along with reports from locals about seeing or hearing the copter before the crash. I tore through all the official message traffic, straining to read as fast as I could, but I couldn't move fast enough. I began flipping through the folders, until finally I stumbled on what Levy had wanted me to see.
I was looking at the results of eight-year-old remote viewing sessions that had begun hours after Mike and the rest of the crew were reported missing. Twenty-eight sessions had been conducted by five different remote viewers, each session describing the crash in detail. I read graphic accounts by remote viewers who were psychically clutching the tail of the chopper as it rolled off axis and plunged into the jungle. I could hardly believe it; the viewers described, as if seeing through the eyes of the crew members, what each one experienced in his final moments. I read two viewers' descriptions of how Mike watched CW4 Suitter die. Illustrations showed the chopper separated from its tail and resting on its left side. Mike was still strapped in, looking at Suitter, who had been thrown forward about twenty feet out of the aircraft. “Foley winced in pain,” the viewers wrote, “while CW4 Suitter crawled along the jungle floor several feet away. Suitter died several minutes after impact with Foley watching. The crew chief died within seconds of making contact with the jungle canopy. Foley expired last, perhaps twenty-five or thirty minutes after going down.”
I pressed my sleeve into my eyes to absorb the tears. For the next several hours I turned the pages detailing the final hour of Mike's life. The sketches were uncanny, almost photographic in quality. Reference points were given; the viewers described the surrounding terrain and landmarks. There were even sketches showing the aircraft's location in relation to the Ecuadorean search teams. In every sketch there was a phantom, a transparent body: sort of a self portrait of the viewer in the target area. I could sense the frustration of the viewers in their written messages to the different agencies controlling the search. “They were so close,” I mumbled. “Why couldn't they find them?”