"The combination isnt working," I said, rattling the padlock in frustration. "Its been changed."
"I thought you said no one ever came up here."
"No. I said I didnt think any one came here. Cant you shoot the lock?" I smiled, hopefully.
She didnt figure that deserved a response.
I shrugged, and looked up at the ten foot gate. The gate was shorter than the fence that disappeared in the distance, in both directions. It also had the least amount of barb wire. I reached up to start the climb over.
"I can shoot you, sir. Thats trespassing." She had a very strong grip for a small woman.
"Dont you want to see it?"
"The top-secret laboratory."
"Oh, Lord. Thats why my partner said to meet you here." Though her foot didnt move, I could tell she was mentally tapping it. "Despite what you may have heard," she said with hard learned patience, "entering, would require a federal warrant or probable cause that a crime has been committed, or that a danger "
"Ah-ha," I shouted. "Danger to the public."
The infamous raised eyebrow. "Convince me."
"Its a long story."
She pulled a bottle of water from her voluminous dark coat and sat on a rock. "Convince me."
Though it was only May, El Nino had turned the Hill Country of Texas into an inferno. I had no desire to sit on this side of the gate, when I knew there was shade on the other side. Add to that, we were standing on the same granite formation that included Enchanted Rock: arguably the largest heat-sink in the galaxy. I had to intrigue her quickly.
"Have you ever heard of Kenneth Shoulders?"
"Sounds familiar, actually."
"How about Harold Puthoff?
Eyebrows up. "Physicist! I have a textbook of his on lasers oh, Lord."
"Dr. Puthoff also did some work for the government on ESP. My partner should be here soon, I guess. Thats his field of interest."
"Well, thats not what this is about. Its about producing usable electricity from lightning."
"Was Ben Franklin here, too?"Here, I know, was the rub. As one stands in an incredibly remote and harsh terrain, with only the occasional contrail to tell you that you havent fallen off the ends of the earth, it is difficult to bring up quantum mechanics and sell it.
One must build a stairway, each step taking you further from the rugged, spiritual; yet solid reality of Central Texas granite, to the more visionary and unseeable world of physics.
Yet, the facility perched atop Bullhead Mountain, was just that. A vision. An incomplete dream of some very smart and powerful people.
If you come upon ancient ruins, like Chaco Canyon or the pyramid complex at Giza, you instantly ask: Who did this, how did they do it and why did they stop. The same is true of the more modern ruins at Bullhead. With the help of my two friends from the basement of the FBI building, I knew I could find out.
It began in the late 1980s, when Kenneth Shoulders, with a million dollar grant from the Jupiter Toy Company, (huh? You ask. Ill come back to that) went looking for a secure and remote location to look into the feasibility of condensed charge technology.
In brief, (I am physics-ly impaired, but Ill try) condensed charge theoreticists believe that lightning is composed of particles, called by Dr. Shoulders; "EVs". These EVs, when compressed into clusters a millionth of a meter in diameter would contain an incredible amount of electric energy which could power many incredibly small devices, or, I guess, one incredibly big one.
If you were a "gear head", as a teenager, there was a great little trick you could play on your un-gear headed friends. There was, in the ignition systems of most pre-1970s cars, a tiny device called a condenser which sent an instant, powerful charge through the spark plugs that would ignite the gasoline in the cylinders; blah, blah, blah. If you held this thing with insulated pliers you could charge it from a working spark plug wire and toss it to the unsuspecting. They would see God in their pain, but be really unharmed because it had volts, but no amps. EV clusters are a similar theory.
The problem comes when you try to keep these like-charged EVs in a cluster. As we should all know from high school science (if you didnt spend all your time in auto shop) like electrical charges repel each other, so theoretically EV clusters are impossible.
So here comes Dr. Puthoff and a little seen quantum event called the Casimir Effect. To whit: If EVs, from saylightningwere injected between two dense metal plates and subjected to a powerful electromagnetic vacuum, the pressure of the vacuum would overcome the natural electric reaction to repel. You would have within these clusters, millions of particles vibrating at nearly the speed of light. Just what sort of box one would put these scary little dudes in, I do not know, but that was their plan and installation of the equipment was begun.
She stood up quickly, and tossed me the water bottle. Looking somewhat like "The Shadow" in her coat she lithely scampered up one side of the gate and down the other. Looking somewhat like "The Incredible Hulk", I followed.
The gravel road quickly deteriorated into a rutted track as it tilted upward. There were scars of bulldozers and demolition in the surrounding granite, but erosive wear was beginning to smooth all the wounded surfaces.
She pointed to our right. "Whats all that?"
"Building material. Adobe brick and clay roofing tile." I sauntered that way. There were stacks of the stuff.
"That clay tile is very popular all over the southwest."
"Yes, it is, except " I flipped over one of the tiles. Printed in raised letters was the device, Tuile de France. "These were imported from France."
Her lips puckered to saywhy would they import them to the terra cotta center of the worldbut she was not about to deign to ask me a question. We continued up the road.
It widened a little, more construction scar evident.
"This was the Helipad." Rock and debris had been cleared to about a thirty yard circle. Gravel base material had been brought in to level it all, but grasses and wildflowers had elegantly begun to take it back.
"Dr. Shoulders was a helicopter pilot, too," I offered.
The road tilted further and running water had rutted it unusable to all but foot traffic. After another few minutes of huffing we reached an intersection.
She looked at me, and raised the eyebrow again.
"Well," I answered, "to the left is the machine shop. Up that grade to the right are the labs."
While she decided on our route, I absently kicked a stone. It thudded hollowly against its target. It had once been buried under the road, but the infrequent, though heavy, rains had exposed it.
"EMT electrical conduit. Non-metallic."
She scanned the surrounding rocks and began to pick out the light grey tubing from the darker grey of the granite. It wove over, under, and around the great boulders that surrounded us. It was everywhere, like threads of a web. She began to follow it toward the machine shop.
"Whats the white pipe?"
I gestured at a series of man-made depressions that bordered the road.
"These seem to be some sort of storage ponds. See how the supply pipes seem to end, or start, at them." She nodded, nibbling.
"Up there," I pointed up the face of the mountain itself, where the conduit darted among the boulders. "Those little sheds are full of electrical transformers."
We had reached the shop. She peeked through a window. It was disappointedly empty. One almost might say immaculately empty.
"Wheres the equipment?"
"Auctioned off, when they shut down. The locals got most of it. Like new condition.."
She turned abruptly and headed down the road toward the labs. I found myself hard pressed to keep up with her, but I had to see her next reaction. The piping that went up the steep grade was the only thing that might suggest that a road had been there. It had been blasted out of the granite. At times the edges were so tall that it was almost like a tunnel. Finally she saw the tile roof, the adobe-like concrete block, and, as we crested the top, the solid granite outcropping into which it was built.
The building was about forty by sixty and sixteen or so feet at the peak. Its straight eaves and square edges seemed incongruent with the smoothness of the mountain around it.
"It looks like a Howard Johnsons restaurant," she said lowly.
"If it looks like any restaurant, it better be Churchs Chicken, because they paid for it."
"Way." She was hooked in the story now.
George W. Church founded his chicken empire in San Antonio in 1952. By 1968, George Jr. (Bill, to his friends) had expanded it nationally. In 1969 the Churchs were bought out.
Now Bill, was an amateur scientist and interested in science in general. He wasnt so much interested in marketing products of technology, but more in seeing what technology could do. He formed a company called Jupiter Toy in 1974. (Just what little inside joke that name is about would be interesting to know. I dont.)
Jupiter Toy still exists in a corporate way (according to the Attorney General of the State of Texas). They have officers and addresses, etc., but nobodys answering the phones.
A subsidiary of Jupiter Toy, was Jupiter Technology, under which the Bullhead project fell. They were based in Austin in the late 80s and early 90s, but their corporate stuff has expired.
They got their grant of a million dollars, and promptly began to spend it. Several fellows in Llano and the surrounding area worked up at Bullhead for several years, building the roads and structures that remain. Beside the machine shop and the main lab, there is an incomplete lab building. In all, it seems quite surreal, as if a construction crew would be arriving soon to finish up. The materials are there, reinforcing rods jut from the walls, empty conduit waits for wire to be snaked through it
"Some one takes care of this place on a regular basis." Her breath fogged up the lab window she was peering through.
"What makes you say that?"
"This place is spotless. There isnt even dust on the floor. Its the same with the machine shop."
This really hadnt occurred to me, and the thought of the sort of person who would mop floors in limbo (named Igor, of course) didnt really appeal to me.
A shadow leered over us where we stood at the front of the building. I remained motionless, but readied myself for the imminent death blow.
"There you are," she said petulantly. "Have you seen all this?
He nodded. "The coolest thing is up here, though." He gestured over his shoulder, up the mountain.
How those two could walk around in trenchcoats and suits in this heat was beyond me.
He led the way up the dome of Bullheads "back". We passed more conduit and transformer sheds, but gradually they ended in anticlimactic empty tubes.
We wended our way through crevices and caves of boulders to a cramped defile [ed. note: any narrow valley or mountain pass]. A stairway of massive beamwork began at the far end and disappeared upwards. Though stoutly built, it had been there for some time, and the weather had been working as it had all over the complex. Nevertheless, we began the climb. It shivered and creaked under our weight. At intervals it was cabled into the rock itself.
A few steps from the top of the stairway, the Hill Country unfolded itself in front of us. Buzzards watched the interlopers from their roost only yards away. Seemingly touchable, Enchanted Rock loomed to the south. Though 200 feet shorter than the Rock, at 1625 feet, Bullhead Mountain seemed to tower over everything in sight. But for the haze of Mexican smoke, one might see a dozen Texas counties. A one million dollar stairway. Fitting for a vision.
"What do you have there? He asked me.
"A compass," I said innocently.
He walked over to look at it, as did she. It pointed firmly north.
He smiled and nodded to me.
"What?" she asked, clearly fed up with me.
He took the podium. "Llano County is almost all iron ore. You cant really get a compass to do much more than spin around here. Except on top of this rock, and that one over there."
They turned to go.
"Funny you should mention that, Mulder." I said. Did you ever hear about the Department of Defenses plan to turn Enchanted Rock into a sonar beacon for U. S. Navy submarines:"
"Oh, Lord," she said