Sackson turned his television off now that the attractive news reporter had finished. His eyes lingered out of the hotel window at the palm trees swaying in the wind before returning to straightening his fake mustache and beard. Seeing himself in the mirror with a different looking man in the reflection was nothing new. Still readying himself for the day, he allowed himself a quick scratch under his hairpiece while he pushed his false mustache to his face to ensure the adhesive would stick. Rounding his shoulders, he shifted his bodyweight suit that enlarged his waist and backside. Cursing the new girth around him in this climate always made him perspire more. He had to use the more expensive adhesive for his mustache and wig to stay in place. Leaning in closer, he examined every feature, pulling and pushing out his lips, straining every muscle from his forehead to his neck so nothing would be left to chance. Satisfied with the altered image staring back at him, he moved quickly to the bed. Pulling the comforter off revealed dozens of small weapons and dismantled guns. Circling around, he selected each weapon with care, trying to ignore the annoying swishing his suit pants made with each stride. Each weapon he chose was discretely secured on his person in perfect concealment. Every act that morning was made with distinction and purpose, until he retrieved a large briefcase by the hotel door. He paused with his hand resting on the doorknob. “Car, 5 minutes and 58 seconds. Guards, one minute, two seconds. Door, 11 minutes, 34 seconds, mark, 4 minutes 3 seconds, mark, 9 minutes’ decontamination and change, 14 minutes 1 second, mark, 17 minutes until accusations. No worries an she’ll be right with its ten million in me bum bag and all the esky from the bottle-o.”
His eyes turned from the door to his rather large, unusual watch. Behind its hands was a digital picture of six people of the Australian Special Ground Service Regiment. All of them were holding each other arm in arm, smiling, drinks in each hand. “Good onya, mates. Ta for all,” Sackson whispered. Feeling the buttons of his shirt stretch with a deep breath, his watch gave him two small electric taps that only he could feel. At that moment his persona changed as he opened the door with an amused goofy smile now showing on his face and the picture on his watch vanishing. Swaggering, he ventured into the hallway, securing the do not disturb sign on the hotel door. Behind the sound of the door shutting was the sound of a soft ‘pop’ of a can next to the bed, which spread an aerosol that would eliminate all evidence of his fingerprints and DNA. When he raised his hand to ring for the elevator, he flicked his wrist sharply triggering it to send the electrical pulse to blind the camera above him. The elevator was coming down just as it always did at this time, with Miss Ford, who dined in the hotel’s restaurant like clockwork. “Good day, Mr Morgan. What floor please?” The elevator attendant asked brightly. Sackson gave a large smile, baring his fake teeth at the short man and Miss Ford, who was sitting on one of the two fine brown leather chairs. “Take the lift to the lobby, if ya please,” Mr Sackson said smartly, tapping his right knuckle to his forehead in respect to Miss Ford as he positioned himself in the center of the elevator. “What a salivating accent, Mr Morgan,” Miss Ford said airily as she resituated her thin frame on her seat. “Whereabouts in England are you from?” “Manchester,” Sackson said briskly. “But across the pond we don’t have any quite as lovely as you.” Miss Ford giggled, running her hands down her skirt, smoothing it. She readjusted in her seat again, giving Sackson a flirty smile and raise of her overly plucked eyebrows. “I guess I let out a little secret there didn’t I?” Sackson blurted, slapping the elevator worker on the back with his free hand. Under the itch of his hairpiece he recalled that Miss Ford was staying in this hotel recovering from plastic surgery. She was from New York but told her
husband that she was on a cruise because she didn’t want him to know about all the work she’d had. Tightening his grip on his briefcase, he prided himself on the background checks he’d performed on everyone in the building. “The devil is in the detail,” he thought as his mind raced over all the preparation he had done for this job. “How are you doing today, Mr Morgan?” The attendant asked keenly and added. “It is a little warmer than yesterday and a slight breeze is coming in from the ocean.” “Same pleasure as always,” Sackson said smartly. “Have a good day, Mr Morgan,” the attendant said excitedly as the doors of the elevator opened, turning and waving an arm out of the doors. Sackson turned his back, hiding his face from the first camera in the lobby, blocking the door as he reached into his pocket. “Excuse me one moment as I get a biscuit from the tin,” Sackson said, turning to allow Miss Ford out of the elevator and showing his back now to camera number two. He leaned just right to block her way again as he handed the elevator attendant a hundred-dollar bill. He knew that if anyone was going to inquire about him, being a heavy tipper would make it difficult to be informed on and it also gave testimony that he didn’t know American money. “Thank you, sir, thank you,” the attendant said happily. Sackson didn’t wait for praise. He was already walking next to Miss Ford, using her as a human shield from the other cameras. Miss Ford was saying something that he paid no attention to as he marked all the people in the lobby. Waving to no one in particular to block the third security camera, he slowed his steps, as he was five seconds ahead of schedule on reaching the carpet adorning the center of the lobby. Through all the chatter he gave another salute to Miss Ford, not caring that she was still talking, and made his way to the front doors. “Mr Morgan, oh Mr Morgan!” came a horrible woman’s voice from behind him. He knew instantly who it was. Mrs Goodwin was in the apartment across from his. She had let herself into his room when room service was being delivered and spoke to him at length about her money,
her horrible driver who always made unwanted passes toward her, and the lack of restaurants left in the world that could make a decent foie gras. “Mr Morgan!” She called again as she bustled toward him pushing people out of her way. Every eye was on her, from her perfect tight shoes she could barely walk in, to her wonderful dress that was three sizes too small. For a moment he considered walking on, but with every eye on her, his leaving would bring more unwanted attention. Not turning, to ensure he didn’t show his face, he raised a hand in acknowledgment and waited for her. “Cheerio, Mrs Goodwin,” he called back. She didn’t see that he was tapping his foot to keep track of each second that he was behind schedule waiting for her. “Oh dear,” Mrs Goodwin said almost mournfully as she grabbed Sackson’s arm and wrapped it around her shoulder. “I have forgotten all my manners, Mr Morgan.” She said readjusting her handbag with difficulty under the strain of her dress, which appeared to be on the verge of exploding. “I wanted to talk to you about the abysmal cuisine they inflict on people here, and to ask if you were available to share dinner with me,” she added a long drooling laugh that made Sackson wish he could just move his arm back a quarter of an inch and break her neck. Helplessly Sackson tried to move her to the door but she only grabbed his waist to hold him back. “Oh, but you are stronger than you look,” she said, sounding like a cat meowing as she felt Sackson pulling her. “Not at all, Mrs Goodwin,” Sackson said, loud enough for others to hear as he counted 45, 46, 47 seconds behind schedule. “It has been such a long time since I have been accompanied by such a fine looking lady. But I must say, I am on my way out and…” “Oh, ho, but you are a sweet one and with such a nice accent. You must tell me which part of England you are from, Morgan.”
“All in good time,” Sackson said as he finally managed to get her out of the hotel. He tried in vain to free himself from her grip, but he couldn’t without causing an unwanted scene. “Car, sir?” another hotel employee was asking guests who were coming out of the hotel. His eyes found Sackson and his face broke into a full smile. He instantly stopped helping other guests and made his way toward Sackson. “Ah, Mr Laszio, how are you, sir? Your usual driver again, sir? He just pulled up a moment ago and is just around the corner. He is not in your usual car sir, but in a Humvee; congratulations, sir, on a fine purchase.” The doorman pointed a white gloved hand a few feet up the sidewalk and indicated a left around the corner. “Who is Mr Lase-zio?” Mrs Goodwin asked, looking and sounding like someone just told her they didn’t carry a dress for her size. Sackson smiled, clicking his shoe heels together. He jerked his arm away from Mrs Goodwin and pulled out another hundred-dollar bill as a tip to the door man. “Merci, au revoir,” Sackson said calmly, as if nothing was amiss. Sackson’s rueful smile only grew as he saw the confused look on Mrs Goodwin’s face as he waved and said, “Bonjour Monsieur, and how is your family?” “Well sir, my family is well. Thank you for asking,” the attendant said proudly, spacing his words as if he was talking to someone who couldn’t understand English. “I didn’t know you spoke French.” Mrs Goodwin said excitedly, looking at Sackson from top to bottom when the doorman took his tip. “This is Mrs Goodwin; she and I will take some time to see the city,” Sackson said, winking at the attendant and gently motioning Mrs Goodwin down the sidewalk. She moved excitedly now despite her wardrobe restrictions, until Sackson opened the door of the Humvee for her. “I am quivering to ask,” Mrs Goodwin said as she made her third attempt to get into the vehicle. “How do you say, ‘take this meal back and tell the chief to bring me something decent to eat’, in French?”
Sackson’s smile left his face as he lowered his shoulder and shoved her into the Humvee. She let out a sound like someone drove over a chicken and didn’t stop until he got into the Humvee and shut the door. “Put a sock in it!” Sackson yelled, dropping all charm and not sounding like he was from France or England. Mrs Goodwin’s face pruned like she had just sucked on a sour lemon. “How… how dare you!” she bellowed in disgust. “Oy, mate,” the driver called back as they slowly merged into traffic. “What did ya bring the old sow for, mate?” “SOW?!” Mrs Goodwin shouted. Lunging forward, she started to slap the back of the driver’s head clumsily, whimpering, “You stop this car, stop it at once. Do you hear? I will have your license revoked.” She was hitting him with each word. “Leave it love, if ya don’ cut that out we’ll be drivin’ unda a buildin’. Oy, mate, strap the heifer down will ya?” Sackson grabbed her, pulling her back in her seat. “Let go of me, you multi-lingual pervert, lustful, sinner!” she cried as she desperately pulled on the door handle, whimpering. “I think she likes you,” Sackson said laughing. “Aint the first time you had a sheila in the back seat who wanted me instead of ya.” “Let me out! You let me ou…” Before she could finish what, she was saying, Sackson struck her hard in the throat, crushing her windpipe. He was still looking at the driver, not even giving a glance to see her clutching at her neck, struggling to let air into her lungs. Blood begin to bead on her lower lip as her eyes rolled up in her head. Sackson rested the suitcase on the floor and pulled a plastic bag from under his seat, showing no sign that he had just murdered a woman next to him. “Ya never told me about her coming,” the driver called back as he turned left at a busy traffic light. “She was the banana kick in the game plan,” Sackson said smirking. He had taken off his suit coat and shirt and now was removing his bodysuit, asking, “How are we on time?”
“It’s this San Francisco yank traffic. They drive on the wrong side, steering wheels on the wrong side, a large sheila off the line. So we are going ta be late ta the game, mate.” Sackson said nothing as he finished changing his clothes. He took special care that all his weapons stayed in place as he adorned himself in his American officer’s uniform. Sackson finished changing and removed the last object from the plastic bag, pinning his fake military identification to his jacket. “Why are we pulling over ‘ere?” Sackson asked, looking around. “There’s nothing around ‘ere.” “Exactly,” the driver said. “Push the heffer off on the next block. Then I will get back on the highway.” “Hey wait,” the driver called out in protest as Sackson didn’t wait for the next block but opened his door and pushed her body out then and there. “I was going to slow a bit,” the driver said, checking to see if anyone had seen them. “Her perfume bothered me,” Sackson said, with the air of someone who just took the garbage out to the street. The driver changed his pants and donned a military hat and shirt showing the rank of sergeant while he waited for the traffic lights to change. Sackson’s mood did not change until his driver called back, “Arrival in two minutes,” as he turned by a sign which said, ‘Alameda Naval Base.’ “Car, 5 minutes and 58 seconds. Guards, one minute, two seconds. Door, 11 minutes, 34 seconds, mark, 4 minutes 3 seconds, mark, 9 minutes’ decontamination and change, 14 minutes one second, mark, 17 minutes until acquisitions. They slowed to a stop in front of the first security checkpoint. Showing his identification, he was waved through after a moment. They approached their destination, following the path shown to them. “Do you know why you’re after this guy? I mean, this is risky since in a few days the president of the United States himself is supposed to come here. This much trouble to get to this guy; why not just wait and
nick what we need at his home or something?” his driver asked, slowing down to insure they arrived perfectly on time. “You know what, the Americans watch all day with that guy who used to make you laugh enough ta make beer come out ya nose. If the price is right mate. We do what they pay us for when and where they giv’ the info about.” The late morning sun was climbing over the tops of the palm trees as they were coming to their second checkpoint. “Lieutenant Chisam,” the driver said loudly, turning his identification tag that hung from his uniform so the guard could see it. “Driving Major General Whinzer for security check before the presidential arrival.” The guard eyed the driver’s identity tag and then looked into the back seat, clearly impressed as he said, “Yes, sir. Sir, proud to have you, sir.” Once they passed the gate the driver said, “Coming up on the first mark in 2 minutes and 50 seconds.” “Understood,” Sackson said, taking the last explosive package that was on the floor and holding its timer button ready. He eyed his watch and waited till there was one minute to go before he pushed it and slid it under the driver’s seat with his foot. “See you at the rendezvous, Sergeant, as scheduled.” Sackson said, now sounding as if he was from Texas. “Sir, yes, sir, and good luck to you, sir.” the driver replied, slowing the Humvee by a curb. “Time and location in… mark,” the driver said as he stopped. Sackson pushed the button on his watch to start the timer. Sackson opened his door and walked with his head high and shoulders back, saluting those he walked by with his suitcase-free hand. His driver drove away, parked the vehicle, and was gone. Sackson approached the main entry of the largest building on the base, the only one that bore no signs. Two sentries stood guard on either side of the locked door. Sackson was most concerned about this part of the plan as he was a high-ranking officer without an attending staff. His contact had only given him one set of false identification.
“Sir,” the guard to Sackson’s right said with a salute. Sackson returned the salute and held his identification out for inspection. When the guard looked down, Sackson checked to ensure they were not being observed, when he felt two sharp taps from his watch. He had a tensecond window in security to act. The door lock clicked, and the security panel turned green. Both guards turned around in confusion. His programed watch released a small needle from its base. Sackson struck out, quick and precise, injecting both guards in the neck. The effects were instant as both guards went rigid. With only five seconds to spare Sackson moved the guards’ arms, hands and faces back to their sentry positions as they had stood before he arrived. He stepped through the door and, just before closing it, he reached back and forced the guard closest to him to show a smile. The door shut, leaving both guards as still and silent as statues as the security light turned red once more. The door locked behind him and the needle in his watch retracted. He walked on, giving no sign that anything was out of the ordinary. The injection he gave the guards would only last for two minutes in this climate. If someone approached them in their catatonic state before it wore off, he was dead. But if not, they would have no memory of him and be none the wiser for the rest of the day. “11 minutes, 34 seconds,” he whispered to himself, saluting a woman who sat behind a desk and security glass in front of him. “Sir, please place your hand on the panel and present your eye for retinal scan,” she said firmly, pointing her rifle at him. Sackson nodded and turned to his right where there was a flat panel and station to set his face in the wall. “Major General Calven R. Whinzer, security code Alpha 736-8987 Echo.” Sackons said authoritatively into the screen as he placed his hand on the pad while a red light shone in his eyes. Once completed, a green light shone above him. “Thank you, sir,” the guard said, lowering her weapon and turning her attention to the security screens in front of her. Everything went according to plan as he passed through the next two checkpoints, but he was behind schedule now. He quickened his pace until he came to the men’s room and entered the end stall. Once alone,
he opened his suitcase and set it on the toilet tank. He opened the false panel and removed dark pants, a white shirt and tie with a lab coat. He began to change, listening intently as someone entered the bathroom. It sounded like they were washing their hands as he finished and placed the uniform he was wearing in the briefcase. He put on a pair of glasses from his lab coat and checked his new identification. Confident in his new appearance he put his suitcase behind the toilet and pressed one of the number locks at its center. The leather case changed from a dark brown to an eggshell white, blending into the wall. Opening the stall door, he proceeded to wash his hands. The other person who was now drying their hands was a guard with his back to Sackson. “Warm today int it,” the guard said, disposing of his paper towel. “Sure is,” Sackson said nasally, using the soap. He was rinsing his hands when the guard turned toward him. “Funny thing was I saw a guy with your build just come in here who went through all the checkpoints but the first. Our monitor went out at the time that you must have gained entry,” the guard said, placing his hand on his weapon and radio receiver on his shoulder. Sackson moved like lightning, throwing a handful of soapy water into the guard’s face. Briefly stunned, the guard stepped back as Sackson struck, hitting the guard four times in the stomach and chest, forcing the air out of him and following with a sharp upper cut. Sackson swiftly threw him a left hook but it fell short when somehow the guard had taken out his legs on the slippery floor. Sackson would have hit the tile floor hard but he caught the counter with his left hand. Unable to breathe, the guard fought to say anything into his radio and reached for his sidearm. Sackson ripped off the sink faucet closest to him and threw it at the guard’s face. Water sprung out from it like a geyser as Sackson lunged at the guard, planting his shoulder into the guard’s gut. He lashed out, hitting him in the legs, aiming for the peroneal and femoral nerves. The guard slumped over Sackson now, hitting him in both sides of his ribs. The guard’s radio called out, “Come in, Yankee Seal 2159. Didn’t read your last, over.”
Sackson flipped his opponent over him, slamming him to the ground and turning sharply to kick him hard in the side. The guard caught his leg and twisted his foot, bringing him to his knees. Sackson hit the guard hard in the chest with his elbow and pulled the guard’s gun from his holster. He pointed it in the guard’s face as water pooled on the floor. “I will pull the trigger if you don’t stop now,” Sackson said, cocking the gun. “Come in again, Yankee Seal 2159, do you copy, over?” his radio called out again. “Give the all clear response or your Big Mac-eating days are over mate.” The guard slowly clicked the microphone ‘on’ switch and said roughly, “Yankee Seal 2159, all clear, just need a moment after bad shrimp, over.” “Roger that, Yankee Seal, good luck in there, out.” “Get up!” Sackson ordered, getting to his feet, still pointing the gun at him. “Sit down on the last loo and keep your hands where I can see them.” The guard moved gingerly and as soon as he sat down Sackson hit him hard over the head, knocking him out. His body went limp as Sackson emptied the bullets out of the gun and clip in the toilet next to him. Flushing them, he shut the stall doors and tried to clean himself up as much as possible. His watch gave him two more taps telling him he should be entering decontamination now. “Bugger!” Sackson said sliding on the wet floor in his hurry to get out of there. He left the bathroom looking as orderly as possible Nothing stopped him as he entered the last code he’d been given for the decontamination hall. As he walked out, he was thankful for the process as now his clothes were dry and showed no sign of his fight in the bathroom. “Sir,” a lovely young lady wearing a lab coat said as the last decontamination door opened, “please take your name, leave your cellular phone, and join the others in the press room.” Sackson smiled, “Thank yuh, and where is that? It’s my first time here.”
“Yes, sir,” she said turning to her left. “If you would follow the yellow line on the floor to your right, and pardon the noise, they are about to charge and fire the decelerator again.” Sackson took his false name badge given to him to wear and, pinning it to his chest said, “Hey, uh… when do yuh get off tonight? I just happen tuh have dis evenin' off and I know the best place tuh get lobstuh.” She glowered at Sackson and pointed at the floor to her left again. “Grill, girl,” Sackson said, walking down the hall which had eight different colored lines on the ground all leading down the hall to a single door. As soon as he came to the door and opened it, he was hit with a wave of bright light. Even though he had been training for this for months, nothing could prepare him for what he saw and heard. He was standing on a metal walkway eight stories high in a room home to an entire underground city. There was a buzz of activity everywhere, with a maze of metal walkways over massive machines humming in use. Shaking away the awe-inspiring sight, Sackson followed the yellow line as it wound its way up, down, and around the amazing city. Even with his training he started to lose track of all the turns he was making as other colored lines also appeared and disappeared until he came to a small closed office-type room. It was also guarded in the same fashion as the ones he had passed, and there were about 20 people all in lab coats milling around the closed doors. “Nathan Cassel,” a rather pasty looking man said, stepping toward Sackson with his hand outstretched, “from Ecole Nomale University?” Sackson shook his hand vigorously, saying, “Oui, Monsieur and ‘ow are you today?” “Glorious, just glorious!” the man said, still shaking Sackson’s hand. “You have a strong hand shake there. They must be keeping you at the board too long on a triple vector, following the x and y components of the males and females in your halls,” the man said, and finally let go of Sackson’s hand, smiling and laughing as if he’d just said the funniest thing in a pub. “Mmmm, yes,” Sackson said, not understanding what was wrong with this man. “How much longair?”
“Oh, any moment now,” the man said, putting a hand on Sackson’s shoulder and walking him into the crowd in front of them. It seemed that they all knew one another and no one wanted to be with the short, bald man with a huge mustache who had latched on to him. With each word Sackson was losing interest in the man and started picturing all the horrific ways he could silence him. From pushing him over the metal scaffolding handrails that separated them from an eightstory drop or waiting to see how long he could hold on if he just held him over the side. Thankfully, the doors burst open and for the first time he saw his target in the flesh. The room seemed packed beyond capacity as everyone spilled out, with those in the way parting before one strong man leading the pack. “General Powell, you are being unreasonable,” one woman said, trying to keep up next to him with two men hastening close behind her. “Just let our two team leaders John Holden and Kevin Ferney explain it and I am sure…” “Enough,” the general ordered. His hard-military boots reverberated on the metal walkway as he pulled the crowd deeper into the facility. “This just proves that some people can’t explain how to put cereal in a bowl,” the general said, taking out a cigar from his vest. Kevin Ferney caught the women’s pleading glance and hastily spoke, “Si, sir, we jus… just don’t have the proo… proof that you, you want for the Presi—” “I need someone who made it past a second-grade vocabulary,” General Powell interrupted, keeping his head straight as he walked. “Sir!” Mr Holden shouted, lunging forward to grab the general’s shoulder. The general stopped his march, causing everyone who followed to crash into each other. The general slowly turned to look him in the eye. Everyone else shrunk under his gaze except Mr Holden. He was not a strong man, but he stood tall. “You have my attention and you need to tell me, so I can tell the President and the American people, what you are doing here. The order is myself, the President, the people, God, and if you touch me again you will be seeing them in person in that order. Now speak up,” the general
finished by lighting his cigar and looked like he was waiting for an answer to what was one plus one. Mr Ferney seemed to disappear where Holden squared his shoulders and raised his hands as he explained. “What we are doing is taking the possibility of the theory an antiproton and an anit-atom can be bound together with enough to compare the spectrum of light and emit it with regular hydrogen on a new level, with not just the elements of matter but changing it into doing it with DNA coding.” “Don’t put a finger in my barrel,” General Powell barked as he started to march away again. “I need to understand what you are saying and be able to pass it on to my superiors while they are playing golf, and what you are telling me will definitely change their handicap. So, if you can’t tell me what is going on here in plain and simple terms, then find me someone who will.” “General, sir, you know what DNA is? What we have been doing is very complex. Deoxyribonucleic acid is the building block of everything and it was discovered and scanned as early as the 1860s. But it never made a huge impact on science until the 1980s.” “That is more like it, keep talking,” the general called, as Sackson tripped up someone in front of him so he could get closer to hear and stay by his target. “We can map something like you by your chromosomes, by dividing them in smaller fragments and then ordering them into different locations. Now, not only can we do that with you, we can do that with anything, by mapping it out into codes like, A, T, C, G or into numbers. Thymine, Cytosine, Guanine.” “You are starting to cost someone 20 yards on their drive swing Holden...” “All right, stop!” John shouted, coming to a halt and causing everyone as well as Sackson to bump into one another again. General Powell stopped as well, after taking three more steps, and turned slowly around. He fixed John with his penetrating eyes which made everyone’s blood run cold. No one moved or made a sound until Mr Powell took his cigar out of his mouth. He then smiled, dropped his cigar on the metal walkway and put it out.
“All right, Mr Holden, I’m listening,” the general said, folding his arms. John was breathing heavily as Sackson noticed that he looked pale, almost sick, and had lost some weight compared to the pictures his client had given him. “We know what makes us up and now we are finding differences. We have one of the oldest human fossils discovered in Ethiopia that is over 160,000 years old, found under two layers of volcanic ash. We have been mapping out dinosaur DNA, some that is 243 million years old. We have been studying and making a timeline from then up until now and we are seeing differences not only in evolution, but also finding the way that they have been changed.” “Jurassic Park?” the general asked, standing motionless. “Uh, kind of,” John said as he walked forward. “For things like that you need living bone composed of mineral components like calcium hydroxyapatite and organic components such as collagen, blood cells, and so on. Right now, that isn’t the main thing we want you to understand. What we want you to know is that we are learning the difference between everyone and everything’s DNA, from a dinosaur to the man who pressed your uniform. More importantly we are learning how they changed and how we could make them change. That is what we are discovering.” “That’s operation Red Thorn?” The general asked. “So, what is going on with operation Black Thorn?” “That is something else, in respect to temporal displacement fields, regarding displacing DNA out of its natural reality and part of the Arc Project. If you will just listen and give us the time we need to show you, I think what we have here will not only change this nation but the world.” Sackson was impressed at someone who looked so feeble speaking up to someone who looked like he ate the heads of nations for breakfast. Maybe he would let this man live after all this was over. “Doctor John Holden, please return to your office for a phone call, Doctor John Holden please return to your office for a phone call.” The loudspeakers rang out through the entire facility.
“Tell me this,” the general said, not blinking, “will project Red Thorn be the answer to our intel on the bio weapon we discovered a week ago?” “Sir, if we are right, this will be the answer to everything.” “All right, son, you got your funding,” the general said, taking out another cigar. “Thank you, sir,” Holden said. “Please excuse me.” Before he even turned, the general finished, “You got your funding if you are the one giving me and the President weekly reports.” Holden didn’t even look back as he made his way to his office, not answering the general. He walked quickly down endless turns until he reached the ground level, which had trucks, forklifts, carts, walkways, offices, endless machines, and vats of every chemical mixing and turning, and all around them large electrical cables, like the veins of a giant. John Holden slowed his long walk in front of a lone office in the center of the complex. After entering his security code and opening the door, the light came on, illuminating an office with a lone desk in the middle of the room. The walls were covered in hand-written equations and computer screens showing loading screens, power levels, and calculations still searching for a solution. “Computer, answer call,” John said weakly. He was thankful to be alone for a moment as he pushed the door shut. Before it closed, something stopped it. “There is no call waiting for you, John,” the computer’s voice responded. Just then, before the door could shut, something hit him hard in the head. Lights filled his closed eyes as he fell. Someone pushed him hard in the back and shut the door with a snap. “Who are you? How did you get—” John started to say but was stopped when Sackson kicked him in the gut. John coughed as he held his stomach. Sackson grabbed him by the collar and pulled him to sit in front of his computer. “You know, you are not as smart as I thought,” Sackson said, pulling a knife from under his lab coat. “If you were smarter, you would have
known that if someone wanted to get in touch with you, they would have called you on your mobile, and not have called you back to your office.” John started to laugh between his coughs and his struggle to breathe. “We are hundreds of feet below ground.” John choked. “You couldn’t get a call from anyone down here, not to mention all the interference from the equipment, so if knowing that makes me dumb, then you must be dumb too.” Slam! Sackson pushed John’s face down on his desk, causing him to become silent once more. Sackson grabbed John by the hair and moved over to stand behind him. He pressed the knife against the back of John’s skull. “Now, log on to your computer,” he ordered, sounding frustrated. With one hand ready to kill John, he started to take out parts of a gun he had hidden on his person and assembled it on Johns desk. John did not move his hands, he only sat there limp and dazed. Sackson didn’t hesitate for a minute as he hit John in the back of the head again with his elbow. John’s face flew forward and slammed against the keyboard on his dark brown desk. He didn’t even lift his head as cold blood started to drip down his chin as the back of his head throbbed with unbelievable pain. Sackson grabbed John’s hair and lifted his head while leaning over to speak into his ear. “Now login with your code and that will be all, and I will let you live,” Sackson ordered, pressing the barrel of the gun he’d just assembled into John’s neck. Weakly, John lifted his heavy hands above the desk and set them on the keyboard. Sackson let go of John’s head and with his free hand turned on the computer monitors, still holding the gun steady with his finger on the trigger. The monitors flickered with each key John entered of his login and password. John hesitated before hitting enter. “Do it!” Sackson shouted as he pushed John’s chair forward, pinning his chest against the sharp corner of the desk. John squirmed in pain and after a moment he hit enter. The computer screen changed to a startup screen showing John’s family in the background.
Sackson grabbed the back of John’s chair and pulled it out of the way with John still in it, pushing it hard into the corner. John fell, hitting the hard floor. He could hear nothing from outside the office except for a faint tapping noise. Sackson removed his watch and plugged it into an output on the center monitor. John struggled to lift his head to see what was happening as Sackson started to say, “Come on, come on,” over and over again to the computer display. “You will never remove any files from that computer without the access co… How did you?” John didn’t finish what he was saying as his computer showed files being copied. “Clean your face up!” Sackson bellowed. Sackson watched as John rubbed his face off with his sleeves. A ding from the computer told them the download was compete. Sackson removed his watch and put it back on his wrist. Still pointing a gun at John, he waved the barrel up. “Get up!” Sackson said calmly. “You are my ticket out of here.” John shakily stood. “Where are you from? Your inflection is off.” “Move,” Sackson called, lifting an eyebrow. “I cannot comprehend what you took or needed from my computer but there are only maybe five people who could even understand it. Where are you from?” John asked bravely as he walked, reaching for the door handle. “You won’t ever know what the weather outside is unless you do as I say. I said move. And remember, one false move and…” Sackson finished what he was saying by just waving his gun in John’s eye. “All right, all right,” John said shakily. Sackson checked his watch for the last time and clicked one more button on the side of it. This one was to start burning the briefcase that he had concealed on his way in. As it burned it would release a nerve gas that would paralyze anyone within a city block for one hour. That was more than enough time for him to make it out of the building, detonate the Humvee as a distraction, and escape. John opened the door slowly, not taking his eyes off his attacker. Sackson followed him closely behind and shut the door as soon as they were clear. Nothing appeared out of the ordinary from when he had come
in. John was taking Sackson back the way they had come. He was moving more slowly, his sore side giving him problems standing upright as they climbed the narrow stairs. They had made it up to the top level when Sackson could see the office room where he was first sent to when he came in. The nerve gas should have taken care of everyone in the hallways, and as soon as he got there it should be clear and safe to breathe. “You are doing a good job,” Sackson said, sounding once again like a lab nerd. “You might just live through this.” They had just passed the office room and turned the corner when John came to a stop. Sackson almost bumped into him. “That’s what you think,” John said lightly. Then he fell to the metal grating walkway. “Bang!” The office doors behind Sackson were thrown open and military guards poured out, all with rifles pointed right at Sackson. All of them were yelling at him, “Drop the gun, put up your hands and get on your knees!” The walkway shook as more guards blazed toward them. He was surrounded before he had a moment to think. Sackson slowly raised his hands, dropping his gun. As his hands reached his face, he removed the fake moustache and smiled. When his hands were up, John got to his feet. “See, if you were smarter, you would have known that it was Morse code being tapped in the hallway letting me know to bring you here and that they were ready for you, and that they found your briefcase before anything else happened. So the only way you are going to live is by cooperating with us,” John smirked, breathing out a sigh of relief. Sackson dropped his head and cracked a smile. He took a single step back which made every gun move and every trigger finger flinch. “Who are you? Who sent you?” John asked taking a step forward. “How did you get this far in here? Who sent you?” Sackson’s heart was pounding as he took another step back. He was now pushed up against the side handrail eight storeys up from a solid concrete floor. “You know, mate,” Sackson said in relief. “I need a rest, and this hairpiece really itches.”
“Who are you?” John shouted louder, inching closer to Sackson as each gun still tentatively pointed at him. Sackson snorted briskly and laughed, scratching his head. He seemed unconcerned with the fact that there was no way that he could escape alive. “You don’t want to know who I am. You don’t want to know your enemy, mate.” Sackson was blindly leaning on the hand rail that was just above his waist. He clasped his hands behind his head. “You Yankees only like ta put a face to your enemy after you kill them.” “Get down on your knees,” the closest security guard ordered, stepping forward. Sackson shrugged his shoulders and clinched his hands tightly, “Trying ta lighten the mood, mate. You don’t know who you can trust when the enemies are within your walls.” Before anyone could act, Sackson had dropped his watch over the side of the railing. Everyone was transfixed watching it fall, and it was lost. Sackson was put in restraints and taken away.