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XXXX physicist would meet me at a Panera's in Amergosa Valley, a XXXX on highway 95. He told me XXXX a purple shirt, order something to drink, and lay a copy of the Wall Street Journal on the table in front of me. This seemed so much XXXX nonsense, but I went along with it.
Well, I was there at the appointed time, but he didn't show. I waited for about an hour, then XXXX to my car. He was waiting for me when I got to it. I guess he wanted to spook me or something.
The physicist was maybe six foot three and scarecrow-thin, his skin weathered like he spent a lot of time out in the desert. He wore jeans, T-shirt, cowboy boots, and sunglasses, and had greying brown hair in a crew cut – he looked like an aging cowboy, not a scientist. He smiled – not a friendly smile – and said to leave my cell phone, laptop, anything electronic in my car. I was going to object, but I remembered what my friend had said, so I did what he told me to do. He frisked me, then waved some kind of wand over me, which I guess was to XXXX bugs. We got in his truck – it was a Ford pickup, grey – and he put a blindfold on me. Then we drove.
We must have driven for at least an hour. I only tried to talk once, and he shushed me. Finally we stopped, and he told me I could take the blindfold off. We were in the middle of the desert, with nothing in sight for miles. The physicist got out of the car and walked maybe twenty meters away from the road, and I ran after him.
First words out of his mouth: “Where do your loyalties lie?” I'm paraphrasing here, because it's been a few years.
Well, that wasn't a question I was expecting, so I kind of spluttered for a bit. Then I told him I just wanted to understand what I'd seen, maybe write a story about it for the newspaper.
He waved that away. “No, I mean what are you loyal to? When the balloon goes up, who's side are you on?”
I figured he was testing me – the guy had designed nukes for the government, so I thought I knew what answer he was looking for. I was long past being irritated by this point, and I'd always been a bit of a lefty, so I told him I was loyal to humanity.
Apparently that was actually the right answer, as he smiled in response. “What do you know about the future?”
Not much, I told him, which was true.
“There's a war going on,” the physicist told me. “Most people can't see it, but there is. You just caught sight of one of the skirmishes. Now, if I were you, I'd go home and forget all about it. Stay out of this fight as long as you can; you'll be happier that way.”
I pressed him. “That's not good enough. I need to know what I saw.”
“You said your loyalty is to humanity. Just how true is that? If the stakes are human survival, just how far would you go for the cause?”
“All the way,” I said, and to my surprise I realized I meant it.
“If you won't stay home, your other option is to pick a side and sign up. You do that, you have to be willing to sacrifice everything. Everything. And in all likelihood you still won't learn what you want to know. But you might do some good.”
“I'll do it.”
“Go home. I'll be in touch when I need you.”
And that was how I XXXX the XXXX