The two men sat on opposite sides of a well-worn conference table in a room on the first floor of a nondescript, slightly rundown, hotel clinging to the edge of northern California’s Pacific coast and overlooking the rather grandly named Moonstone County Park; in reality a wooded area bordering the ocean with an unremarkable, little-known beach at its southern end just behind the hotel. Somewhere a radio could be heard faintly; the strains of Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” echoing through dilapidated corridors. The muffled sound of voices downstairs reached the two men, competing with Grace Slick’s soaring vocal. Swann and the Englishman were waiting to be joined by a further six men, travelling from a variety of points around the country to attend this secret rendezvous. The voices could be heard coming closer, accompanied by the sound of footsteps on uncarpeted stairs. The door opened and the guests entered in an unintentional single file. Swann stood and shook the hand of each man before indicating their seat at the table. The new arrivals were amongst the most powerful men in the United States, representing key areas of its social and political fabric. There was a media mogul, a high profile politician with presidential ambitions, the owner of a television network, a Hollywood director, a prominent research scientist and a senior executive from NASA.
Sparse February sunlight filtered through the windows of the first-floor room illuminating the conference table and the haphazard scattering of rickety-looking chairs that surrounded it. The Englishman, who had risen as the men entered the room, was the first to sit followed by everyone else, their collective movement causing fibrous clouds of dust to catch the sunbeams. No artificial light brightened proceedings and no one bothered to hit the light switch.
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