Last seriously updated probably 1996, 1997 or so. Boy did they have me in a state at the time... Copyright (c) (copr) all rights reserved by TJH Internet SP and Earth Operations Central. All comments are strictly my unsupported opinion and probably in this instance quite fictional, at least after a certain point in time. Some historic background is true, and use is made of this to provide a platform for the development of a storyline that everyone should hope is pure fiction.
Underground Federal Base Captured by Invaders?
I grew up here, and know whereof I speak.

I moved here in 1963, with my parents. I had just turned six. Aspen Hill, at that time, was a very new neighborhood, at the very edge of civilization. There was, at the intersection of Aspen Hill Road and Georgia Avenue, both two lanes wide at the time, a smallish shopping center called Northgate, located across the street from the Gate of Heaven Cemetary. Northgate contained as tenants a Grants' Department Store, at that time a chain of stores which was J.C. Penney's main competitor; a Safeway, a Drug Fair; and a Citizen's Bank of Maryland. There was very little to do in the neighborhood, and almost no employment prospect in the immediate vicinity, unless you worked for Vitro Laboratories.

At the time, Vitro Labs had one building, not surprisingly named Building One. There was also an annex in the basement of the Grants' department store, which remained long after the Grants' chain of stores folded, taking with it its Bradford House line of appliances, causing something of an economic collapse in Alabama, as I recall. To this day, long-timers in the area and in Vitro employ referred to the annex as "Grant's Tomb".

Vitro used to be surrounded by woods. It was a fairly secure facility. Vitro Laboratories, now a division of Tracor, Inc., was once a fairly small concern located in rural Colorado, where they mined and processed pitchblende, with most of their sales going to the theater-production industry. Uranium salts in stage-light filter-gels were, at the time, the only way to get that warm sunny light on the set. When the Manhattan Project was cranked up, Vitro had remote facilities, most of the working and proven uranium mines and refining facilities in the United States (until the Manhattan Project, there simply wasn't much of an industry), and a willingness to give all and keep a zipped lip in service of the War Effort. Their resources proved invaluable in the race to develop the A-Bomb, and after the final victory in Japan, they went into full-scale production, but were finally edged out of the market by Kerr-McGee. They concentrated on weapons systems, eventually securing contracts with NASA, the Navy, several other outfits that I won't mention, and eventually developed, among other things, the terrain-contour guidance system for the Navy's Tomahawk Cruise Missiles, and the Polaris/Poseidon/Trident nuclear-attack SSBN (submarines).

Vitro grew rapidly during the late sixties and early seventies, at one time becoming Montgomery County, Maryland's largest employer, a position now held by Lockheed/Martin-Marietta Corporation. When I was in about fourth grade, I went off to summer vacation, a remote summer camp where I stayed for about two months, and while I was gone, the woods which surrounded Vitro were cut, and the original two-wing building had additional wings added. The small stream, the Oakvale sub-branch of the Turkey Branch of Rock Creek, which had flowed through the property as the centerpiece of a lovely little park in the middle of a plopped-down chunk of recently-added suburbia, was enclosed and laid underground, for the most part. As there were plans to eventually extend Connecticut Avenue (which then terminated just north of Randolph Road, two miles to the south) beyond Georgia Avenue, a tunnel was laid underground from Building One to Grant's Tomb. Theretofore, anyone going to the Safeway to get lunch simply walked aboveground.

The process of subterranean construction at Aspen Hill had begun.

Shortly after the woods around Vitro were cut, amid very tight security, massive construction was begun at Vitro. They build Building Four. A massive white-brick building in the squat megalithic style popular in the late sixties, the construction of Building Four was accompanied by the upgrading of Aspen Hill Road at the new intersection with Connecticut Avenue. Sometime around this time, there was another annex built, across Aspen Hill Road from Building Four. For a few days, all traffic along Aspen Hill was blocked as the road was torn up to rebuild the underground tunnel which carried the underground creek.

I missed my woods. There had been some relatively old and rather huge trees in this little patch of enclosed second-growth forest, which had been growing undisturbed since about the time of the Civil War. I missed the little creek in Vitro Woods. There was a small buffer of woods along the edge of the immense and oversized flat blacktop of the outer parking area of Vitro, and I and my friends used to play sadly in these remnants.

There was one period of time when we all found these holes in the area. They were about four to six inches in diameter, and had appeared mysteriously, overnight. If you dropped rocks into them, it took a good three or four seconds for them to hit bottom. We just assumed it was a cave at the time, and in our childish manner, searched briefly for an entrance, dreaming Tom Sawyer dreams.

Once the new intersection and the new annex were completed, Connecticut and Aspen Hill had three lanes in either direction, with a left-turn pull-out, and this was for a time the largest-acreage intersection in Montgomery County. Few locals could see the point, for mostly the short triangular leg of Connecticut Avenue which cut the hypotenuse between the newly-upgraded Georgia Avenue and Aspen Hill, between Vitro Building One and Grant's Tomb, served as the only thoroughfare, and a mighty short one at that, doing nothing but directing traffic away from the local merchants at Northgate. Across Aspen Hill Road from the Northgate, the small shopping center of Aspen Hill proper, which had contained a small Giant Food store and a drycleaners and a barbershop entered a new construction phase. Due to some sort of regulatory delay, and wrangling in the Maryland National Park and Planning Commission over a proposed freeway intended to run the length of Turkey Branch deep into Rockville and out to the proposed Intercounty Connector, it would be another few years before Connecticut Avenue was connected (via a strange bridge over Turkey Branch) to its more southerly segments, which led through Kensington and Chevy Chase into Northwest Washington, the District of Columbia.

The bridge is still there, with its cloverleaf-style exits that lead nowhere.

I finished high-school, and left town for a few years, and came back, to find that the neighborhood had grown considerably. Among other things, Vitro had added a new building, midway between Building One and Building Four. Building Twelve, I seem to recall. I worked there, from 1980 to 1982, doing work I flatly decline to discuss.

I will discuss neighborhood apocrypha, from remote childhood, and recent observations though. But first take a look at Aspen Hill as it was in about 1977 or so. North is to the top of your screen.

At the left side of the image, occupying the upper half of the image, is the sprawling Vitro Labs complex. Near the top center of your screen in Building One, which was replaced in summer 1995 by a Home Depot store, which opened around mid-January of 1996. This is one of the larger Home Depot stores, which as far as I can tell has merely gutted the existing Building One facility. Building Twelve is the rhomboid-shaped building immediately to the south. Building Four is the large rectangular building to the south of that. Building Twelve was gutted, and now has the loading dock of the Home Depot located precisely atop its foundations. It must be noted that sometime during the period of the construction of the Home Depot, the parking lot at the upper left corner of the stream was replaced by a catchbasin, an urban-runoff collector pond which is almost exactly three stories deep. Oddly, the bottom of the pond lies above the level of the subterranean stream which used to locally known as Vitro Creek. There is almost no runoff directed towards that pond, and so I can only assume that there indeed was once an underground facility located there, which has been decomissioned and had the top removed and has been turned into this lake, which is incidentally, surrounded with a fence.

The large open area in the upper right of the image is the Gate of Heaven Cemetary, which would make a superior paratroop landing area. Just to the north of this area is a vast and sprawling complex of mostly low-cost housing, with an almost completely-immigrant population, divided roughly evenly between latinos and middle-easterners. Across Georgia Avenue from the northernmost entrance of the Vitro (now Home Depot) complex is the notorious Aspen Hill 7-11, which in my opinion is the local Safe Store for Iraqi Spies. Some kind of spies, anyway, it's the first place I encountered the Taser Katana.

Connecticut Avenue is the road running diagonally through the center of the image. Running diagonally at the right of the image is Georgia Avenue. Crossing horizontally through the bottom of the image is Aspen Hill Road. The large building located just to the east of Connecticut on the north side of Aspen Hill is the building housing Grant's Tomb. This group of buildings is known as the Northgate Shopping Center. At the other end of the "L"-shaped block of buildings is Rite-Aid Drugs. Midway along the buildings are, among other things, a small bank, a bakery, Aspen Hill Hardware, which has been around since the place was built, and in the recessed corner of the "L", is a collection of knick-knack shops, a beer store run by the scariest bunch of people I have ever seen selling alcohol (okay, I've seen two other scarier places, one scarier, across the street in the main Aspen Hill Center), and a Brothers' Pet Stores outlet. Immediately to the north of Grant's Tomb is a stairway from the front to the back of the place, which cannot be seen in this photo due to the covering. Note that the rear of the facility is a story lower than is the front of the facility. The oddly shaped corner building has a parking garage beneath it, which is rarely if ever used. All in all, the whole shopping center does not seem to get enough business to stay in business, with the exception of the SuperFresh.

There were known connecting tunnels between Grant's Tomb and the southeast corner of Building One, now the Home Depot. There was a known tunnel between Building Twelve and Building Four (which is still owned by Tracor and operated as Vitro, although Vitro has removed most of their facilities to the government/defense/medical complex off of I-270 and Shady Grove Road in Gaithersburg, Maryland). There is a presumed and indeed very likely tunnel between Building Four and the annex directly across Aspen Hill Road.

Further Apocrypha:

There has long been a rumor circulating in the neighborhood that a certain house located two houses east of Parkland Drive, on the south side of Aspen Hill (just a little out of sight on the left side of your screen) was a telephone house. It was a nice tidy little house, with the lawns carefully kept, with a four-car parking lot in the back yard, carefully shaded with trees, which never had any visitors, and no residents. The only visitors always came during regular office hours, in a phone company truck. At least this is the rumor. I don't know for sure, myself. One guy told me that he heard the rumor and broke in, and that there was a huge basement full of telephone switching equipment, and an immense locked vault-door in one of the walls. Sounded like pretty imaginative storytelling at the time. Now I am less certain.

Recent observations:

[ a note at a later saner date - the following observatsion, as far as I can presently tell, document some sort of insurgency, or perhaps a mass-psychosis - I was at the time reporting it as I "understood" it the time, while I was clearly under the effects of some sort of madness, possibly induced by the application of psychotogenic chemicals. It's very embarassing to me, but I will leave it mounted here in case something similar happens to someone else, and they may read it and possibly "forewarned is forearmed". ]

Grant's Tomb:
Grant's Tomb is the name of the basement of the building which is now, upstairs, a SuperFresh Supermarket. This is possibly the most unpleasant place to shop in the entire Wheaton-Glenmont region. I have been in there exactly once. Even the Bauer Stores Safeway is not quite as bad.

Downstairs, the facility has been converted to a storage warehouse, one of those you-rent-it places. One corner of the facility has been taken over by a printing and copy shop that seems to do no business whatsoever. I recently walked into the place and walked right out again as fast as I could go. I am not easily frightened, but I do not do business with people who are, as near as I can tell (judging from the stalking behavior and body-language), Arabic vampires.

It must be noted that this U-Stor-It (whatever the real name) facility has a full-semi-rig-sized loading gate downstairs, of the drive-in type. The loading dock for the grocery store is upstairs on the Aspen Hill Road side of the building.

Since I am a complete idiot who does not learn from previous abuses, I continue to shop at the Northgate Rite-Aid, as I have gotten my prescriptions filled there since I was a child, back when the place was a Drug Fair. Drug Fair was bought out by Grey's Drugs in the mid-80s. I remember walking in there once shortly after the new management had taken over, and noticed that despite the Christmas season, the place was practically empty. I said something about it to the clerk, a guy who might have been 19 or so, and he said, very sarcastically, "I wonder why?" I do not wonder why the present incarnation, Rite-Aid, has relatively few customers, and those seem to be either strangers in town, or very old people from the neighborhood who shop there only out of habit or perhaps forgetfulness. I have not ever been to the place and not been harassed, either by employees, or less frequently by customers. The staff and customers, with one or two rather glaring exceptions, are all odd people who tend to have no necks. Every time I walk into the store, I hear someone call out "ninety-eight point six" over the intercom, interestingly enough, this is human body temperature. I occasionally wonder what the average body temperature of the staffers might be. I've heard the largely-foreign staff occasionally say things on the phone like "hold the drop, the man is here". I guess I must be quite the character. Now would that be the paratroop drop into the lovely fields of Gate of Heaven Cemetary (immediately across Georgia Avenue, or a freight drop at the storage place out back? Munitions or contraband?

In any case, there may be a change in staff in order at this store. It seems that their competition, CVS, has bought them out.

Northgate Deli and beer store:
Possibly one of the most obvious "repulsor stores" of the complex. As near as I can tell, one would, as an American, get better treatment in the residents-only shopping areas of the old Soviet Embassy Compound off of Wisconsin Avenue in downtown DC. I've been hit with pins fired from miniature crossbows, to turn and stare in amazement as the female cashier deftly yanked the pin out of my neck by a monofilament tether, and wound it speedily around her fingers, and dropped the whole mess into a drop-safe. I've been dusted liberally with odd psychoactives that were probably ketamine or possibly Burundanga, and investigation showed that many of the beer-store employees are also employed next door at a place that specializes in veterinary supplies. Ketamine is a veterinary anesthetic. This all starts to make sense in an insane and twisted way.

Here's some examples of recent events there.

Date unknown, mid February.

Stab in back of neck, chemical reaction about ten minutes later, occured in Northgate Deli @ approximately 4:10 or so this date.

Assailant, manager/owner, none other possible, I don't think. Lightning fast strike to back of neck. Chemical feels almost insecticidal, possible ketamine. Definite asshole rating this individual.

Sun 23 FEB 1997 about 1640 or 1650 hours.

walked in, walked towards beer, got beer, while walking back, tall black woman (youngish) behind deli counter struck overhand at me as I walked towards checkout. Female, (dyed red hair) asked me how I was, I said I was miserable, as she gave me change, she used her right hand to slide something very thin and hard to see into the left side of my neck.

Psychochemical effect began about 1700 hours, characterized by inability to concentrate, rage (might be from being assaulted), contractions of muscles in left side of neck, slight flickering around edges of vision, etc.

14:20 Wed 26 Feb 1997

Red-haired female stuck a nearly-transparent piece of very thin plastic, could be optical fiber, into rotator cuff of right shoulder. Juncture of deltoid and biceps, used left hand while reaching for bag for my purchase.

I watched her play her little trick on all of the previous people in line as well. (a much later thought - some sort of injector for a psychotripic? maybe dissolves?)

16:00 sunday 9 march 1997

Walked into Northgate Deli, fairly crowded. Went to get a six-pack, every person I turned my back on slid a needle into my neck. youngish black female behind counter got me twice. first when I turned away from her once, once while in line. When picking up the laser-scanner, she beamed me in the eyes, and when passing me back my change, tried to reach through the blindspot she'd just created by etching holes in the retina of my right eye. while waiting in line, blond haired blue eyed guy serving sandwiches evidently passed a needly to some kid who couldn't have been more than 10 or so (too young to know right from wrong) and this little kid evidently stalked me and needled me. at any rate, I felt a needle slide home into my neck and when I turned, this kid was running away from me and tried to hide behind a black gal waiting for her sandwich. As I left I cursed them all as spies and vampires.

definitely some sort of sick cult at the very least.

signed and I will attest before any court of law -

[ a note at a later saner date. ] - As best I can tell, all of this silliness has been done basically to make and keep me nuts. Researches into pharmacology leads me to believe that the mentation and attitude displayed in the above paragraphs were due to an abreaction to chemicals and this was doubtless by design. The above entries were all made under the effects of those chemicals. I do note that having finally learned to avoid the place, I think lots better. So I have to ask the question, who would it benefit to drive a local into a delusional psychotic state?

Answer that question and things may becme much clearer. For some totally inexplicable reason, suddenly I am hit with a flash from the recent news: seems that a group called the YACS (yugoslav-albanian-croatian-serbs) have been involved nationwide in a string of ATM burglaries which have been carried off with military precision. Are these persons part of the former soviet-satellite state military, carrying The War against the capitalists to the capitalists? Lord knows there's a lot of out-of-work spies who used to be in control of large parts of Europe - perhaps they, like so many others, decided to go to America to see if the streets were really paved with godl, and instead found that most people here wouldn't recognize an insurgency even if it followed them around and injected them with psychotogenic chemicals, for the use of which the societs and their satellites were infamous.

SuperFresh Grocery Store:
This is an amazingly horrid place to buy groceries. I went in there once, and was run out quite speedily and in practiced style by both the staff and the customers, who acted as if I had intruded on their private domain. This was when I first returned to this area after an extended absence travelling the country writing my last book. Perhaps while I was gone they did indeed set up their private domain, and I was the only person in the neighborhood who didn't know it. At any rate, I didn't feel like giving the occupation any of my money, and so do not shop there.

Across the Street: Aspen Hill Stores
Giant Food: (Aspen Hill Branch)
Giant here seems to have been taken over by the Latinos and the Arabs. I went in there one night to shop there for the first time in months (they rousted me too) and when someone tried to do the traditional stick-a-pin-in-my-neck routine (it has the benefit, to the assailant, of being unbelievable if you try to call a cop about it), I knocked it out of his hand. This person was dressed in butcher's whites and I assume he was an employee of Giant. As I left, the middle-eastern-seeming clerk said aloud to his equally swarthy friend, "Must be Airborne." More than a bit odd. I do not recommend shopping there. Many of the recent immigrants who frequent the area evidently feel that they are in sufficient control so as to roust any Americans who foolishly visit (I basically agree with their assessment), and don't speak enough English for you to argue them out of their assaultiveness.

Roy Rogers:
I have extreme problems with Roy Rogers Restaurants anyway. Some of their recent advertisements were practically in Russian anyway, with one ad from the winter of '95-'96) being a complete hodgepodge of phrases which made little sense in English, but which phrases, when mumbled, are easily understood in Russian, in the same way that if you mutter "don't touch the moustache" to a Japanese, they will hear "Dom' Tozeimashita" or 'thank you'. "Roy's" in the nearby Randolph Hills neighborhood (Randolph Road and Viers Mill Road) was my first encounter with juveniles carrying the "headcrushing machine". Evidently there is a mania or mass-psychosis circulating in certain local subcultures, and if you are not well known to any particular group, they assume you are a vampire. The headcrusher is not something you want to experience. Avoid "Roy's" at any rate. Fast food places seem to be obvious prime targets for infiltration in the area. The "Roy's" in Aspen Hill is not a good place to eat, unless of course you are a recent-immigrant Latino and want to hang out with other recent-immigrant Latinos.

Aspen Hill Beer & Wine:
Scariest Beer and Wine I've found, with the exception of the completely horrific Beer and Wine in the Bauer Enclave. Full of Video-Keno Addicts in some sort of zombi-like trance, odd customers, and weird cashiers with pointed heads and pointed ears. They have the cashier's booth set up like a fortress. Beware, if they think you're there alone, they have this little sliding door that can spring out of the woodwork to block your way out, and their setup is desighned to leave your back exposed to anyone who wants to whack you as they pass behind you on the way out. Note also that most of the windows have been blocked to prevent obvservation of ativities in the interior.

In summation, stay away from the Aspen Hill area, unless you are the US Military, coming to free us from the abominations that appear to have taken over the local stores. I think it is high time that some very well-equipped military personnel made damned sure that any left-over underground bases remnant from the Cold War haven't been discovered and recommissioned by hostile forces, and if they've been re-opened and are being used as bases of operations for hostile insurgencies, it's time they were decomissioned the hard way.

That is all from Earth Operations Central. Feel free to regard this as a trailer from an upcoming film. Short story or novel, or hey! I got it! a mini-series...

Here's a sample of how I might be writing it... and let's just hope that this is only fiction, and will never be the news.

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