December 17th, 1963
Powell did his best to keep his face impassive as the staff car slowed to a stop at the checkpoint. He had heard rumors of this facility, but had never anticipated visiting it. Doing a tour in Vietnam? Yes. If he wanted to advance, that was a must. This place, no. Rumors and whispers were all he had heard of the base and most of the whispers were clear that it was not a place to be asked about.
The guard, a sergeant with no name tag, opened the back door of the car and motioned for him to get out. "I need to see your identification, Captain." The request was stated politely enough, but Powell knew it was a request backed with potentially deadly force if he didn't produce his ID, not that he had ever intended to resist.
The guard looked it over closely, looked the Captain over carefully, stepped back and picked up the phone mounted to the wall just inside the guard post. Powell only had to endure the brutal sun for only a few moments before the guard hung up and handed his ID back to him.
The sergeant nodded to the driver of the car, who was assigned to the base, who had handed his ID over when they arrived, but had not been subjected to the identity check Powell had. "You're cleared to proceed." Looking back to Powell, he simply said, "Welcome to the Groom Lake Facility, Captain."
The drive to the facility from the guard post took another forty-five minutes before they pulled into a large parking area. Powell had been requested for reasons he didn't know, but he wasn't important enough to be dropped off directly in front of the building. He did rate an escort, his driver, a white airman second class who, from the few times he had spoken, came from southwestern Mississippi and didn't seem to care for black men, especially those who had somehow become an officer. The noncom was polite enough, but Powell had been around the block enough times to recognize the subtle, and sometimes not-so-subtle, signs of racial hatred. He had also been around long enough to ignore it when he could. Like now.
They entered a non-descript building and then walked down non-descript halls until they came to what was apparently his destination. The corporal knocked and a muffled voice called out, "Send him in." The corporal gestured and the Lieutenant entered.
He stopped in front of the desk of a full-bird colonel. Powell snapped to attention. "Captain Colin Powell, reporting as ordered, Sir!"
The colonel, a white man in his mid-fifties, with graying hair and a craggy face, gave Powell a half-smile and gestured towards a chair in front of his desk. "At ease, Captain, have a seat." Powell looked around the room, a brief gesture that allowed him to see three pictures: an X-15 in flight, an old P-51 Mustang with ten swastikas painted on the engine cowling and a younger version of the Colonel in front of him and an F-86 with three North Korean flags painted on it, with a slightly younger version of the officer. There was a mid-sized bookcase and three filing cabinets and he could smell a faint hint of scotch from somewhere.