HEART OF EVIL: DARKWORLD
by Wesley Robert Hollfelder/Trilkin
...based on original concept by Nathan Ruck
...with special thanks to the team members of HLC (Mindfuck Entertainment A.K.A. Exploding Dog Entertainment) for inspiration and "moral" support
...with special guest appearances by Harrison Ford and Dennis Hopper (not really)
1: Through the Motions
Night had fallen long before, but the driver to the present moment to switch on the lights. Until presently, the parish lantern had favored him so greatly that he had not needed them. The truck slipped through the jungle, its lamps cutting twin swords through the darkness. Even with the lights on, darkness still intimately embraced the truck.
Trees soared on all sides, restricting the moon’s gaze. The driver could only see a few meters of path before him. Cautious, he lowered the truck’s speed.
There was not much to be heard; very little sound from night creatures. An eerie near-silence seem to blanket the jungle.
The driver listened carefully. A few moments later, he heard what he was seeking: rushing water. Rushing water mean the river was close and, by extension, so was the bridge spanning it. As the sound of the rushing river grew stronger, the driver began to throttle down further.
He had little faith in the bridge’s integrity. It was old and dilapidated, at least a few decades old and constructed mostly of wood with a metal skeleton of dubious strength.
After passing under a small portico resembling a pagoda, the driver came to a stop on a weathered concrete abutment, but did not switch off the engine. Instead, he left the truck idling.
He peered through the windshield, out into the night. He stared hard, almost squinting, as if sheer will power could push aside the curtains of night. He suddenly felt unnerved, anticipant. He felt that something was wrong with the scene, but he could not grasp what this problem could be.
Then, a few seconds later, it hit him and he silently cursed himself for not noticing it before. By his rough estimate, the base couldn’t be more than a 120 feet from him. Yet he could not see any lights on the other side of the river. He had made drop-offs to Raccoon several times before and on every trip, the base glowed like a star. This time however, no lighting could be seen.
Concrete walls embraced the base. The security gate closing off the entrance was a formidable barred section of fencing. None of the spaces between the ribs of the gate allowed ingress; not even the world’s premier contortionists could pass through. Still, there should have been some light visible through the sluices. No illumination whatsoever and almost absolute silence. What was going on? Where was everybody?
He opened the door, got out, but did not jump to the ground.
A voice suddenly spoke, “What did we stop for, Hansen? There any trouble up there?” Warrant Officer Hansen Garber, the driver, was not startled by the voice, for it belonged to one of his passengers. “I’m not entirely sure, sir. But what I see has me worried…” Hansen answered. “What do you see then?” The officer called back.
“I thought they were expecting us. Doesn’t seem like anyone’s home, sir.” Hansen said.
“Oh yeah, we’re going through the motions a bit differently this time. I guess I forgot to tell you. Drive on up to the gate, like you normally would.” The officer responded. “Fine, I want to check something first.” Hansen called back.
Balancing on the running board outside, he reached up toward the roof of the cab.
He switched on a swiveling searchlight attached to the cab roof directly above the driver’s seat. The lamp was powerful, cutting many times the distance the headlights could.
After waiting for his eyes to adjust to the sudden change in light, Hansen scanned the landscape ahead. In seconds he spotted a mass of jagged tentacles.
Half a second later, he mentally slapped himself for allowing his mind to run away with him. The light landed on a tall section of perimeter. The beam had centered on copious spirals of wickedly serrated razor wire ringing the apex of the stone barrier. A host of thick shadows cast from the wiring had backwashed against a far wall, their forms warped into shapes much like a mass of tentacles.
He laughed under his breath then returned to the matter at hand. He swept the beam from left to right and back again. He found an engraved metal plate attached to the perimeter that read: “Raccoon Military Base and Training Facility.”
He played the lamp over the gate several times, using his binoculars to peer through the sluices. He could not see any trance of the hangar doors, so he assumed they were shut.
He could not see the guardhouse from his position, but was able to catch vague glimpses of the sandbag wall that flanked it. No sign of life.
Hansen then played the beam over the bridge. Over the last few minutes, his confidence in the structure had not grown. Indeed, it may very well have slipped further. He checked every part of the bridge several times, looking for hazardous flaws. While the condition of the bridge would never win awards, no fatal deterioration was visible. Hansen’s apprehensions were not completely allayed, though; he wasn’t able to satisfactorily to check the supports beneath the bridge from his position.
Resigning from the search, he returned the lenses to his coat pocket and switched off the searchlight. He slipped back into his seat, pulling the door closed as he went. He throttled up and cautiously brought the rig onto the bridge. Hansen winced when an obscene creaking arose from the structure as the new burden descended upon it. He hoped the damn thing was not preparing to give way. He reached the base-side abutment and halted the rig. He turned around in his seat and leaned toward the window linking the cab and the truck bed. “General--” he started. “Call me Mike, please.” The officer answered. Hansen hesitated; he was not very comfortable talking with a superior officer on a first-name basis. He did not want to upset the General by refusing, however.
“Um…Mike, I’ve pulled up to the gate like you told me. What now?” Hansen asked.
“First of all, let me out. You’ll need me for this part.” The General answered.
“Roger that, sir.” said Hansen and complied. He opened his door and stepped out on to the bridge. He lit his flashlight and cautiously edged to the back. He unlatched the tailgate and lowered it, creating a makeshift ramp. Seven passengers sat in the back. One was the General, one was a government agent, and the remaining five were a team of military guards serving as security detail. The General stood up and walked out. He was a fairly tall man wearing a combat uniform, a beret, and a flak jacket with Kevlar epaulets. His right eye was light blue. His left eye was hidden behind a patch with the skull and bones of MIKE Force etched on it. He calmly walked to the right front side of truck, as if oblivious of the creaking emitted by his footsteps. Hansen walked back to the driver’s side.
The General looked over the hood toward him and said, “Turn your searchlight back on. Train it on the flag and hold it there.” Hansen knew he was referring to the mast flanking the hangar. He pocketed his flashlight then re-manned the big lamp. He quickly located Old Glory. Hansen turned to the General and saw that he had drawn what looked like a pistol. The General walked over to the gate, aimed the weapon downward through one of the sluices, and fired. A glowing missile shot from the barrel. It hit the ground and bounced a few times before coming to rest, hissing all the way. A starburst of psychedelic color erupted from the projectile, randomly pulsing between intensities.
Hansen shut off the searchlight and returned to the front of the truck.
There was a shrieking and a slam of metal against stone. A soldier leapt over the guardhouse’s sandbag wall. Squinting, he look down and rather unceremoniously booted the flare, sending it spinning away into a far corner. The flare wrought havoc with light and shadows as it disappeared, giving the soldier’s face a mad and rather otherworldly appearance. He had a service pistol one hand as well as a rifle slung from his back by its field strap.
The guard lit a flashlight, training it on Hansen and then at the General. He looked cranky and sleep-deprived, dark blue circles ringing his eyes. “Good evening, gentlemen. What can I do for you?” Despite his unfriendly appearance, the young soldier had a calm, polite voice that had a slight southern slant. The accent made “I” sound like “ah” instead of “eye.”
Hansen recognized the man as Bryce Dickinson. Bryce was fairly new on the base usually manned the front desk for this section. Shifts for night watch were rotated; apparently Bryce was currently clocked in.
“Requesting entry. Special cargo.” Said Hansen. “Names, please.” Said Bryce.
Hansen was a bit stymied by the request. He and the General had come to Raccoon on several previous occasions and had passed through this very gate many times. Nearly all of the base’s personnel knew his face and almost certainly knew that of the General. Despite his confusion, Hansen did not hesitate, “Warrant Officer Hansen Garber, Special Forces.”
The General spoke next, “General Mike Godwin, Mobile Strike Force Command.” Unexpectedly, a third voice spoke up, “Special Agent Darius Revenaugh, Central Intelligence Agency.” Hansen almost jumped since the voice had come from directly beside him. The government agent had climbed out of the truck and joined them. Hansen had not heard him approach.
Apparently in his thirties, Revenaugh was a tall, thin man with crew-cut sandy hair and piercing blue eyes. He wore a black suit with a white shirt and a black tie. A pair of black leather gloves covered his hands. Worn under his black slacks and cladding his feet were what appeared to be a pair of well-polished black equestrian boots.
In spite of his highly inappropriate garb, the agent did not seem at all bothered by the humid weather. He did not even appear to be sweating. His patrician face had a cool, confident expression - one that displayed self-confidence but not necessarily arrogance. His voice was smooth, clear, and markedly unaccented.
Bryce spent a considerably longer amount of time gazing at Revenaugh than he had with Garber and Godwin. Bryce had been transferred to Raccoon less that a month previous. This was his first encounter with Darius Revenaugh and the unfamiliar agent was clearly making him uneasy.
Bryce’s grip tightened on his pistol. He had no clue why he was suddenly so suspicious, but was consumed by the feeling anyhow. He heard himself ask, rather sharply, “What’s going on? What’s your business here?”
He saw Garber look at him with a confused expression; apparently the driver was as surprised with this sudden mood shift as he was.
Agent Revenaugh calmly responded, “My business is similar to yours. I serve the people of the United States, though certainly not in as brave a capacity as you. As for my presence here and now, I am overseeing shipment of important cargo on behalf of the government.” His tone did not sound superior or condescending, but quite sincere.
For some reason, Bryce found the man’s simple words reassuring. He felt his anger and paranoia slipping away. He took a deep breath and tried to regain composure.
He asked, “May I ask what your cargo is?”
Revenaugh answered, “Provisions for base security and something special for personnel in general.”
Bryce said, “What exactly are the provisions for the base’s security?”
Revenaugh answered again, “I cannot say. That information is classified. ”
Bryce asked, “What is the ‘special something’ you mentioned?”
Revenaugh responded again, “I wanted it to be a surprise, but oh well. We have movies from the states for the facility’s cinema and wine for the commissary. Naturally, the latter is to be used responsibly.”
“You couldn’t fit all that into the truck in addition to your guys.” Bryce observed.
Revenaugh explained, “Of course not. Mr. Garber’s truck is carrying the General, our security team, and myself. We are heading up a small convoy.”
Dickinson looked past them to the other side of the river. Hansen turned and saw another pair of headlights in the distance.
“Acknowledged.” said Bryce. He hesitated, apparently uncomfortable with what he was about to say, then continued. “Code phrase?”
This time, Godwin responded, “‘April is the cruelest month.’”
Although Hansen could not grasp the words’ importance, he was all but certain they had some measure of profundity.
Bryce Dickinson stared blankly, as if the words had been delivered in a tongue not of this earth. Then, he walked away from the gate and back to the guard shack. For a few moments, Hansen though Dickinson was turning them away. Then, he heard the gate mechanism spring to life.
The gate was specially designed to resist forced entry. The portcullis lifted slightly, then slid back a short distance. Finally, it retreated horizontally and disappeared into one of the stone barriers.
Revenaugh and Godwin returned to the back of the truck. After securing the tailgate, Hansen returned to the cab and drove the truck in. As he crossed the threshold, Hansen heard a mechanical roar and turned his head in time to see the hangar doors sliding open. At that same moment, lights began to activate all across the yard, quickly dispelling the oppressive darkness.
Hansen pulled up to the mouth of the hanger as an officer emerged. The man had sour countenance, which did not come as much of a surprise to Hansen.
The officer was Lieutenant Milton Heller, the base’s deputy commanding officer. Heller was an unpleasant man with a bad temper and almost no decorum. He was hostile and verbally combatively as well as notorious for his reputation as a harsh disciplinarian. Heller was so devoted to regulations that it bordered on obsessive compulsion. Except for his superior, C/O Colonel Wally Fish, he absolutely would not stand for anyone contradicting him and came down hard on anyone who tried. Even the most minor infractions drew his wrath.
It was said that he was once so enraged with a group of allegedly unruly soldiers that he had them parade around the base for a week with only their weapons and skivvies.
Most ironically, Heller was probably not setting the most auspicious example himself. Soldiers in Raccoon widely alleged that he was a chronic sex addict and often brought hookers into his quarters several times a week. He was also said to have a serious addiction to painkillers. Dr. Bernard Lewis, Raccoon’s chief medical officer, suspected that Heller was stealing drugs from storage areas in the medical unit. However, no one had been able to obtain hard evidence against him. Additionally, Heller had a prominent relative on his side, his cousin, Senator John Gillnitz. Senator Gillnitz headed a key advisory committee that was closely tied with the Joint Chiefs. A skilled orator and a thaumaturge among spin doctors, Gillnitz was always able to have all accusations against his cousin discredited. Thus, Heller remained on active duty.
Not surprisingly, the base’s personnel almost unanimously despised him.
Heller stared up at Hansen with mute venom, then walked past the truck. Dickinson had emerged from the guard shack and was making his way toward the hangar. Heller met him half way and proceeded to box his subordinate’s ears without any apparent provocation. Hansen could not hear what Heller was bitching about and, frankly, was glad he could not. He hated even having to look at the man and felt sorry for Bryce Dickinson. Another soldier emerged from the hangar. He stared toward Heller with visible disgust and then hollered for Hansen to pull the truck into the hangar. Once parked, Hansen turned off the engine and hopped out of the vehicle, then went to the back and lowered the tailgate. All six men clambered out. Revenaugh and two guards joined Hansen near the welcoming soldier, who introduced himself as Sergeant Paul Silvek. Everyone’s attention was draw back to the yard, from which a new wave of shouting had erupted. Godwin and the other two guards had gone straight to Heller and Dickinson’s position. Godwin had to raise his voice considerably to be heard by the inflamed Deputy C/O. He gave his name then stated that Heller was causing a disturbance and generally wasting everyone’s time by attacking a man who had not done anything wrong. Apparently failing to notice the symbols of rank on Godwin’s uniform, Heller shrieked back a foul-mouthed reply.
Dickinson quietly stated that Godwin was a General and this brought an almost immediate end to Heller’s ravings. Heller at once became sycophantic, trying to put a positive spin on his behavior and justify himself. Godwin was unreceptive to the man’s weaseling, “You have the situational awareness of a fucking rock.”
Heller, now clearly afraid, immediately fell silent.
“Apologize to Mr. Dickinson.” Godwin said. Heller’s face momentarily twisted in outrage. He caught himself, though, and the expression vanished quickly.
“Now.” Said Godwin plainly, his tone unchanged. Heller apologized, though his tone lacked sincerity.
After a very uncomfortable pause, Godwin calmly ordered, “Get out of my sight now or I’ll have you camping outside with Charlie.”
The threat sent Heller running. He went back into the hangar and disappeared.
Bryce Dickinson and Mike Godwin joined the others by the truck. Bryce spoke up, “Thank you, sir.”
The General nodded and said, “It was nothing, son. There’s no excuse for that kind of behavior.” His expression hardened. “What’s wrong, Mike?” Revenaugh asked. Unlike Hansen, he seemed very comfortable using the General’s fist name. “The son of a bitch had liquor on his breath.” Said Godwin.
Sergeant Silvek urged the others to follow him and they all headed toward the front office.
2: Precious Cargo
In truth, the “front desk” was a Spartan office accessed through the back of the hangar.
Over the loudspeakers, a musical loop of “Theme from A Summer Place” could be heard.
The only furniture in the room was one single desk, one chair, three file cabinets, and two tool chests.
Sgt. Silvek sat in the chair and opened a logbook. He and Hansen Garber began discussing details concerning the convoy and its cargo.
Bryce Dickinson removed a walkie-talkie from one of the desk’s drawers, selected a channel, and identified himself. After receiving acknowledgment from the soldier on the other end of the line, Dickinson explained that a transport had entered the base and that several more were close behind. After speaking trading words for another minutes, Bryce turned off the radio and placed it back in the drawer. He then went back to hangar, not closing the connecting door behind him. The office’s door to the main building opened moments later. A team of security officers traversed the room and headed through the open door to the hangar. Agent Revenaugh leaned and whispered something to Godwin. Revenaugh headed back to the hangar. As Silvek and Garber finished their discussion, Godwin approached the desk. Hansen sensed that the General wanted privacy to speak with Silvek, so he joined the others at the other end of the room.
Shortly thereafter, Revenaugh returned carrying a briefcase. He went to the desk and joined Godwin and Silvek’s conversation. After about fifteen minutes, Silvek closed the logbook and declared that the group was clear to pass on into the main building.
Hansen stayed behind and returned to the yard with Silvek. They arrived just in time to observe the rest of the convoy arriving along the other side of the river. The yard did not have sufficient space to accommodate four additional transports. The security team allowed only one vehicle to enter and ordered the remaining three to alternate gates around the base. He spent the next hour helping personnel offload material.
When finished, all that he was interested in was a shower and some sleep. He would have to pass through one of the rec rooms then take a long, indirect route around the main facility to get to the berths. Entering the rec room, he thought, “I guess getting a quick drink while I’m here won’t hurt too much.” He turned and walked toward the bar.
In the cinema, Revenaugh discussed the incoming shipment of films with a few of the staff then headed to the building’s third floor. Strange as one might find it, the offices of the C/O, the deputy C/O, and security chief were located two floors above the cinema.
From the stairwell, he entered a neatly decorated chamber that served as Colonel Fish’s bedroom. At the far side of the room he turned left into a small hallway. Turning again, he traversed the hall and crossed a doorless threshold into another small hallway. This one turned sharply to the right in the shape of a capital “L.” Presently, he was on the arm of the L. To the left were two doors, the farther one right at the L’s juncture lead to Fish’s main office. The longer arm of the L held doors, one on the right, two widely spaced ones on the left. The left room nearer to the juncture was Milton Heller’s office. Behind the farther left door was a restroom with a window that faced base’s main supply warehouse.
The single door on the right led to the base’s security office.
He came upon Lieutenant Tomlinson Craddock just as the security chief was about to lock up his office. Tomlin was a well-groomed, ruggedly handsome man with prematurely silvering hair. He was a relatively distinguished man who kept everything he possessed in impeccable order from his uniform to his personal quarters.
Revenaugh neared Craddock from the man’s right. The Lieutenant did not give any indication that he knew he was being approached; in fact he did not even seem to know he was alone. He seemed intently, almost religiously, focused on sealing his office and ignorant to the clacking of Revenaugh’s boots on the linoleum tiling. He tilted his head to one side and then the other, glaring at the lock and knob. Although they had met several times before, Revenaugh stated his name and profession as a matter of protocol. He then gestured by holding up his briefcase and said, “Asked our uncle about adopting pets. Also, I’ve brought a new lock for your door.” Craddock gave him a peripheral glance for only a second then proceeded to unlock the door. Craddock pushed open the door and walked across the threshold without saying a word. Revenaugh quickly followed suit.
Raccoon’s security department valued both its work and appearance and it certainly showed. The office was arranged with high precision, virtually no detail missed. The floor was tiled with dark gray ceramic and was so well polished that it did more than gleam. Revenaugh’s eyes were drawn to the floor for a few moments. He was able to discern vague reflections of himself and the security chief in the surface. On closer examination, the mirroring was dull and imperfect. Their outlines and forms were visible for certain, but their faces were obscured. Revenaugh was struck by the idea that he was peering through an unfocused looking glass into an inverse world of shadows and chaos dominated by a bizarre race of faceless men.
He brought his gaze back up.
Dextrally, twenty cabinets were evenly spaced from each other and flush with the wall. These cabinets were not the garden variety. Each was heavy and solidly-build from thick metal.
Sinistrally, three well-kept desks sat equally flush with the wall, all facing the entrance. The desks served Tomlin Craddock’s three subordinates, all of whom were Master Sergeants. At the moment, all three were off duty.
Craddock’s fastidiously ordered desk was pressed against the back wall.
Upon many of the walls hung important figures of the Free World. Robert McNamara?, William C. Westmoreland, LBJ, Hubert Humphrey.
On a small shelf flanking the right of Craddock’s desk sat more pictures. Each frame was minute, the pictures in them no more than about few inch squared. They were all pictures of famous people from all spans of history. Rommel, Zhukov, Hannibal, Porus. Craddock had once explained that each of the men managed to meet formidable offensives and turn the tide of the campaigns in their favor. He also started that they were examples of why a commander should not become overconfident.
Revenaugh had been in Craddock’s office on many previous occasions. He was impressed but also curious. Curious if Craddock’s fanatical disciple was an attempt by the man to counter a subconscious paranoia or disorder within the mind.
Revenaugh knew this was not his place to judge. His superiors were no different; the same excesses fueled the organization and its governing body.
Obsession was the central dogma, the deadly mind and the primary weapon, the lethal dagger.
Malice was a bottomless vat of poison from which the dagger’s blade drank deep.
Paranoia was the hand wielding the dagger and its quick guiding eyes.
Deceit was the ensorcelled cloak, expertly crafted to conceal the dagger from all unbidden eyes.
Their compulsion was one even Craddock could never comprehend let alone hope to match.
If one were to consider the people to whom Revenaugh had sworn loyalty, a definite irony was perceivable. There was substantive evidence to confirm or refute this and Revenaugh knew it. The entire concept ran wholly on assumption, a dangerous and volatile fuel. -Running on fumes-, Revenaugh mused.
Revenaugh closed the door behind them. A whispery brushing sound emitted as the door slipped against the jamb. Craddock re-engaged its numerous locks. Per Revenaugh’s request, security had modified the doorway. The agent’s superiors had provided the needed materials. Synthetic foam padding rimmed the jamb and threshold. The walls of the room had been similarly modified. When the door was full shut, virtually no sound could be heard from the outside. The padding had been tested extensively beforehand. Even if a lengthy gun battle ensued within, no one but room’s occupants would pick up the sounds.
In the center of the room was a small octagonal table. Craddock sat down in one of the eight chairs and motioned for the agent to sit as well.
Revenaugh obliged, placing the briefcase on the floor beside him. Craddock softly said, “So you have a new specimen. Do you have it with you?”
“On my person, you mean?” asked the agent.
“Yes.” Craddock responded.
“No. It’s in a container in one of the convoy trucks. Godwin is having security bring up here. He’ll be joining us in due time.” Revenaugh answered.
“Well, what do you have?” Craddock asked.
“A series of keys and locks. Color-coded.”
One of Craddock’s eyebrows shot up. In response, he said, “So, the Initiative -has- approved our motion to research the creatures?”
“I assume the locks are correlative to this specimen.” Craddock said.
Revenaugh nodded and said, “Yes. The main reason is to improve security and regulation. Of course, if something were to go wrong with the research…”
Craddock finished, “…the situation would be better controlled. Problems areas would be locked down faster.”
“Precisely.” Revenaugh responded.
“So far, only Wally and I are privy to the proposed research. Do we keep Heller out of the loop? And Dr. Lewis will want be curious. Since we’ll probably put him in charge of research, he’ll probably want some explanation as to what the creatures are and where they came from.” Craddock pressed.
At the mention of Heller’s name, Revenaugh’s placid composure swiftly hardened.
He responded icily, “Heller. That horse’s ass has no value to our interests. Keep him out of the picture completely.”
Craddock quickly responded,
“I don’t like the idea of him being in on this, either. But, he -is- the deputy C/O. It’d be nearly impossible to keep anything from him without trouble.”
“On top of other things, Heller simply cannot keep his mouth shut. If you bring him aboard he could do a great deal of harm.” Revenaugh stated.
Craddock’s eyes narrowed, “As if the shit he pulled an hour ago wasn’t proof enough.”
“I am surprised Mike and him have not had an incident like this before. Come to think of it, I cannot recall them actually meeting face to face before this.” Revenaugh said.
“Milton had more important matters to attend to. He’s been too smashed to greet you on any previous occasion.” Craddock elucidated.
“Ah. Very courteous of him. He would have done well to stay that way.”
“I’m with you on that, he’s too volatile. We’ll have to sidestep him. He puts us at a disadvantage, though…”
Revenaugh cut across, “…seeing as how he is the deputy C/O.” Revenaugh’s delivery was smooth and dynamic. It was more of an addendum that an interruption.
“Right.” Craddock agreed.
“Well, if there’s a will-“ Revenaugh started, but stopped abruptly. Craddock had raised a hand in request for silence.
Revenaugh waited. Within a few minutes, Craddock had a solution,
“I think I know just the thing. I’ll bring my three deputy chiefs aboard; they can be trusted with this knowledge. There are some soldiers around the base that can be trusted too; I’ll bring them aboard as well. I’ll have them all keep an eye on Heller. We’ll feed Heller the information as long as he keeps his act straight. If Heller causes too much trouble, we could arrange to have him eliminated. Don’t worry, everybody I mentioned is former Special Forces, former Green Beret, or similar. They’d know exactly what they were doing. We could arrange things so he mysteriously ‘disappears’ while off-duty outside the base; say that maybe Charlie got him. After the research begins, maybe we could have a specimen ‘accidentally’ escape. Heller turns up dead and we blame it on a ‘crazed lab animal.’ That sort of thing.”
Revenaugh’s eyes widened slightly. He replied, “You certainly think fast. A simple plan, yet an effective one. But, will it not raise red flags if he suddenly vanishes? Like you said, he -is- the deputy C/O.”
Craddock laughed, “Raise suspicions? Hell no. Unless you couldn’t tell from his behavior this evening, no one can stand him. I doubt anyone would miss him. I don’t think it would surprise anyone either. After all, he –does- live dangerously.”
Revenaugh was silent for a moment, then said,
“A decent plan, as I said before. However, I am not authorized to grant such privileges. I’ll take the issue up with the Council and get back to you. I’m sure they’ll agree to allow it.”
“As for Dr. Lewis, tell him that the specimens were found in the countryside, killing livestock and such. Also, you can tell him that strange phenomena occurred in the vicinity of where they were recovered; such as strange lights and shapes in the sky.”
Craddock gave a faint sneer. “I see where you’re going: you want to make him think they’re aliens, right?” he guessed.
Revenaugh shrugged and said, “If it helps.”
Craddock stared directly into Revenaugh’s eyes and posed another question, “They’re not really aliens, are they?”
“They are but they are not. It is…complicated.” The agent replied noncommittally.
Craddock, annoyed, pressed onward, “Oh, gimme a break. That’s no answer. You can do better than that.”
“Can I, now?” The agent was not budging.
“What are they?” Craddock asked again.
Once again, Revenaugh dodged, “What would you like them to be, Lieutenant?”
Craddock was losing his patience, but restrained himself from shouting. Not that anyone passing his door would hear him anyway. “What the Hell’s your problem? Can’t you answer a simple question? Are they aliens or what?”
Revenaugh remained unshaken, “I see, you think I derive pleasure from angering you, from evading you. Evasion is my job, have I not said so before? Yet, right now, I am barely evading at all. I am answering as well as I am allowed. I want to assist, not detract.”
“Well, what are they, then?” Craddock asked.
“Actually, I gave you an answer. I said ‘they are but they are not.’”
Craddock was not finding any of this particularly helpful, “And what I am suppose to pull from that?”
“I am comfortable explaining it all just yet. Anyhow, I doubt you would believe me if I told you.” said Revenaugh cryptically.
“Enough games, try me.” Craddock challenged.
Revenaugh sighed, then said flatly,
“They are not alien in the purest sense. They are alien in one respect, but not so in another; thus they are, but they are not. They come from Beneath. When the seals are broken, they will follow.”
Craddock was incredulous, “What??”
For a few moments, Craddock stared into space, apparently deep in thought.
Revenaugh stayed quiet. He sensed Craddock was cooking up something that could be of great value. Revenaugh followed his instincts more times than not. In his line of work, instincts were of indispensable worth.
Craddock voiced his thoughts,
“Maybe Lewis won’t have to brought aboard after all. It’s going be hard enough for my constituents and I to keep low profiles. Keeping the information within the military is one thing. Since Lewis is in charge of Raccoon’s medical unit, a greater risk could result therein. His reports are sent back to the States. If he were to slip up, vital information could reach the public.”
Revenaugh responded, “Even if someone tried to expose the projects, who would believe them? Considering the mindset of the public at large, the claims would almost certainly produce little more than laughs at the claimer’s suspense.”
Craddock was swift to counter Revenaugh’s supposition, “Unless you’ve forgotten, it wasn’t too long ago that Kennedy was assassinated. Wild stories abounded. The sheep were willing to believe anything. I doubt that has changed much. I don’t care how unlikely the chances are, I don’t want to run the risk period! Too much will be at stake.”
Revenaugh smiled serenely. “That, Mr. Craddock, is exactly the response I was hoping for. Men and women who think everything over beforehand, those are the people the Initiative values the most.”
Craddock blinked and shifted awkwardly in his seat, unsure of how to respond. He settled on the simplest response available. “Well, thanks…I guess.”
The agent and the security chief locked eyes. Craddock found himself unable to break eye contact. Craddock tried focusing on only one of the agent’s eyes. He found the iris was like the toroid of a Tesla coil, charged and ready to unleash a salvo of lightning. Craddock perceived an aura not unlike the tension preceding a thunderstorm. The air felt heavy and thick, like a layered canopy was drawn over the table and was encapsulating the two men.
Wait a minute, what the Hell? Craddock snapped out his trance and attempted to determine the source of the strange sensations. However, whenever he hardened his focus, the sensation became so weak, he found himself wondering whether he had perceived anything at all. When he relaxed, the feeling quickly returned to its original strength. Maintaining his appearance as best he could, Craddock continued his pursuit the aberration.
Lieutenant Tomlinson Craddock sees, yet does not perceive. His immediate environment has retreated past the threshold, as lost to his perception as the surface of an alien planet. He has dropped all receipt of external stimuli, his focus reversed, fleeing inward. The recesses of his mind are his all and only, his universe. The preceding events of the day - all the words traded, arguments, burdens, stresses, abstractions and even the imminent and ever-important meeting of minds set to his very office – all have swum away as surely as rain washes blood from besmirched altars of stranger gods.
He is bound unbidden on a fixed voyage propelled by an unclassified momentum. The image of being snagged upon an errant strand of an orb-spinner immediately occurs to him. Yet this thread is not merely an unseen tether, but a command. Yes, a command whispered sensuously to forgotten places within the self. But this microfilament will not lead to the nexus of a silken web, but to something beyond understanding. A woven path shooting above and through the dimensions of sight and taste, over sound and impression, transcending order and knowledge. In assuming this journey has limits and boundaries, whereupon will Tomlin lie at the final destination? The shadows of shadows? The edge of the mindscape, end of sanity? The face of Oblivion, him staring down the Eye of Eternity?
“Lieutenant, is something the matter?” a familiar soft voice glides through the black. Familiar, yet unrecognized and unheeded. This lost realm bars all memories, for this continent of nonexistence abandoned those strange rites forever ago.
The known-yet-unknown voice is perseverant, mimicking its previous utterance over and over, becoming ever more effusive with each calling. The words reach Tomlin, yet hold no meaning.
Closer now. Closer now. Ever closer. The Core of It All is just within reach. The Everything and Nothing of All of Everything draws nigh. The Lock and the Key, the Meaning Unlocked.
World to World, Universe to Universe, All to All.
He sees a door - a door defying rational design, yet somehow still a door.
The door opens painfully slowly. Finally, given enough clearance, something creeps out. Too late, Tomlin recognizes the being as a nightmare materialized, the very essence of fear and impossibility. Its very appearance begins to corrode the layers of his very sanity.
His mind is under such heavy assault that no meaningful description of the Nightmare can be garnered. No detail, with great exception to the eyes. At least, they seem to be eyes. In direct opposition to the apparition’s insane, meaningless morphology, two identical monstrous immobile glowing orbs firmly roost at the epicenter of the chaos.
Depth and spacial perception are useless by this point. As far as Tomlin is concerned, the superbeast has enough biomass to cover several constellations and the eyes large enough to dwarf the Sun.
The sclerae are a sickly yellow. The irises burn bright as nuclear plasma and gleam as red as iron-rich blood. The pupils constantly wax and wane in a vaguely iambic pattern. Pinprick, full dilation, and back again.
Horrid truths are singular and vital to the Nightmare as is flesh to bone and breath to life.
The Nightmare has not moved closer, yet Tomlin knows it is seeking him.
Suddenly, with no apparent transition, he is right in front of one of the great eyes. Insanity prevailing, his proportion to the eye is indiscernible. He sees his own colorless, terror-gripped visage in the reflective blackness of the Nightmare’s pupil. The Nightmare’s gaze pierces and consumes him, transmitting the sensations of lethal cold and obliterating fire though his very being.
Tomlin is driven instinctually to scream, but no sound escapes his lips. Mouth open, all reason bleeding out as though through a rent vein. No sound. Absolute silence, as though he is sailing through the cold, dead reaches of outer space, his lips and ears nothing more than useless fleshy decoration.
He puts everything he has into his scream. Still no sound. No sound. No goddamn sound.
Blackness erupts from the edges of his vision and spreads as virulently as seawater marshalling though a crippled ocean liner. The blackness overtakes him and, without warning, an explosion of sound. Loud and purposeful, yet he is still too far from the shore to grasp any meaning.
Two bright eyes stared Craddock down.
Craddock was about to scream, although he did not have the faintest clue why. Some impulse, perhaps in his subconscious, was driving him towards the scream.
He somehow stopped himself. Darius Revenaugh was looming over him, wearing expression of great relief.
Craddock felt something cold and wet. He smelled a faint, fragrant smell.
Craddock realized he was lying face up on the floor. Revenaugh had apparently taken a cushion from one of the chairs and used it to elevate Craddock’s head. The chair Craddock had occupied was toppled on its side.
Revenaugh, relieved, though still looking very concerned was kneeling beside the fallen officer. His gloved hand was pressing a cold compress to Craddock’s forehead. Revenaugh apparently noticed his patient sniffing the air and calmly stated, “A mentholated salve. I occasionally get these headaches, real killers. A wet rag with this salve applied always fixes me right up. I always keep a can in my briefcase just in case.”
“What the Hell happened to me?” Craddock asked.
“You suddenly fainted. I managed to get to you before you struck your head.” Revenaugh answered.
“What? How?” Craddock was unnerved by the panicked tone in his voice.
“What happened after I fainted?” Craddock asked.
“You just laid there almost completely motionless, breathing very shallowly.” Revenaugh responded, then added, “Are you feeling any better? Should I find a medic?”
Craddock was not in any pain, just unsettled. He had never fainted or blacked out before. Having it happen now made him feel vulnerable. He was struck by the feeling that he had forgotten something. Something important. Try as he might, he could not grasp what that Something could have been.
“No, I’m fine. Help me up.” Craddock said.
Revenaugh took Craddock’s wrist and, with unusual swiftness, jerked him to his feet.
After steadying himself, Craddock thanked Revenaugh. The agent nodded in response.
There was a knock on the door. Craddock righted his chair and went over to the door and slid aside a panel. A small window beneath allowed him to scope out those seeking ingress. As the window was also a two-way mirror, he stood no risk of revealing himself. Craddock slid the panel closed again. The covering panel on the other side was completely flush with the door when closed. The panel camouflaged so well that, unless you carefully studied aspect of the door, you would not even realize the aperture and viewport existed at all.
The door opened and Mike Godwin walked in, trailed closely by Colonel Wally Fish.
“Welcome, gentlemen. Colonel Fish, please be seated.” Revenaugh said, then glanced back at Craddock,
“Are you certain you are alright?”
“Yeah, I’m good.” Craddock responded.
“I am glad to here it.” Revenaugh said.
Fish cut in, “What’re you talking about?”
Revenaugh was about to answer, but Craddock met him at the pass.
“I collapsed a few moments before you came in.” Craddock answered.
Had he not wanted the agent to answer? Had he thought the agent would lie?
The agent was a trained deceiver and had admitted as much on previous occasions. Yet the man seemed to wear a coat of verity as well.
The shadowy man was the architect of this strange alliance. He had been the one to bring Craddock and Fish into his secret fold.
He had first visited during the early days of U.S. deployment. Raccoon had been one of the first permanent American installations. It was renowned as one of the most cutting edge facilities in the business, as it remained to the current day.
Wally Fish had just been selected as the base’s chief administrator. Additional selections included Craddock himself as head of security, Bernard Lewis as medical wing admin and G. House as head of surgery. Lt. D. P. Oswald, who Fish had recommended as deputy C/O, was never able to assume his position. He was killed on the battlefield shortly after he was recommended.
In this face of this vacancy, Senator John Gillnitz, newly appointed as the leader of a powerful military advisory commission, stepped onto the scene.
In a highly controversial move, Gillnitz recommended his cousin, Milton Heller, for the position of Raccoon’s deputy C/O.
Despite heavy disapproval, Gillnitz somehow emerged successful. In the time since, Heller’s glaring hypocrisy, dismal conduct, and web of addictions quickly earned him the hatred of almost everyone around him.
On his premier visit, Special Agent Revenaugh met several officers individually presented a sketchy offer to “to serve the greater good.” After narrowing his range, Revenaugh focused his efforts on Craddock and Fish. His offer went over their heads repeatedly.
His visits were erratically scheduled. Sometimes he visited only once a month. Sometimes he bunked up at the base for several weeks at a time.
All in all, Revenaugh was pleasant and humble. When not dripping mysteries into the ears of Craddock and Fish, he freely conducted himself around the base, mingling with locals. He treated all personnel he met with equal respect, often eating with the regular soldiers and accompanying guards on patrol, having long conversations with them while on the move. At first, the men were uncomfortable with this, but eventually they warmed up to him. If he were not dressed in such contrast, he might have been mistaken for one of them.
Eventually, it was Craddock who realized the agent pitching might for an operation of questionable ethics and suggested as much to Fish. Not long afterward, Revenaugh confirmed – in his own way – that the assumption was correct.
Fish and Craddock spent along time trying the operative’s trust. Observing Revenaugh carefully, the two officers surmised this was exactly what the agent wanted them to do.
They finally earned the agent’s trust and Revenaugh again confirmed that the endeavor he represented operated within perilous territory. He expanded on this later, telling them that the work would be accompanied by great consequences both positive and negative.
This was interpreted to mean that, should the project be made public, the fallout would be disastrous. Perhaps disastrous enough to incur trials for war crimes or even crimes against humanity. Revenaugh confirmed this stealthily.
Fish glanced at Craddock, then at Revenaugh. Craddock knew why. Fish was suspicious. Craddock
Hansen Garber spotted a familiar face in the recreation room, though not one he was ecstatic to see. Milton Heller was sitting at one of the tables, dutifully attending to glass of hard cola. Hansen did not slow his pace. He was not eager to greet Heller after the man had been publicly humbled. Hopefully he would be able to cross the room and leave before Heller recognized him. No such luck. Heller caught sight of him within moments. Heller sent a glare of quiet rage his way, looking ready to spring at any time.
Hansen could not understand what the man’s problem was. He had done nothing to warrant the Lieutenant’s antagonism. Heller either did not comprehend this or he simply did not care.
Hansen tried his best to ignore the man. He bought a beer from the bar and sat down several tables away from Heller.
He had been enjoying his mission for a few minutes when a voice spoke up from behind him, “So, Special Forces, what’s the cargo?”
Hansen was startled and jumped out his seat, accidentally knocking over his beer. Spinning around he met the gaze of Milton Heller. Somehow, he had not heard the man approach.
Heller was apparently irritated when Hansen did not answer immediately. With a slight slur in his speech, he demanded, “Hey, I asked you a question, Special Forces. What was your cargo?”
Heller was apparently using Hansen’s branch of the military as a pet name. That or a taunt; his intention was not very clear.
“I don’t understand what you’re saying.” said Hansen.
“Oh come off it! You must have something big for that grab-ass general to have tagged along with you.” Heller said.
“I don’t know what the cargo was.” Hansen answered. For the most part he was telling the truth; Revenaugh’s description was too vague to be of any use.
Heller either did not hear him or was not satisfied with his answer. He pressed on and repeated his question.
“Lieutenant, please. I honestly don’t know what the cargo was. It wasn’t my job to know.”
Perhaps unsure of how to respond, Heller stared vacantly. See this as an opportunity, Hansen quickly made his way to the door and exited the rec room. Heller did not follow.
Heading off to the barracks, Hansen sighed in relief, “Thank God that’s over.”
His journey to the barracks was fairly uneventful. He did not meet anyone else while en route.
Even so, when he had gone half way, he had the curious feeling that he was not alone. He turned and looked back the way he had come. No one was there. He shrugged and continued on. Nothing unusual happened.
Yet, he could not shake the conviction that something had been watching him. Something inhuman.
Godwin handed Craddock a slip of paper and said, “A naming scheme of sorts for the keys was decided upon beforehand.”
Craddock accepted the paper. When he finished reading, he stated, in a disbelieving tone, “This is idiotic.”
“I don’t claim to understand the Council’s reasons for it either, but please try to roll with it.” Revenaugh said.
Colonel Fish turned answer. He was stocky man with coppery hair and a neatly trimmed mustache.
“Not just the names, Darius; the places where the keys are supposed to be installed. All things considered, it seems a bit extreme. People will get red flags when they have to go through so many channels, especially when they have to bypass the main thoroughfares.”
Revenaugh quietly answered,
“Curiosities will be piqued, no question, but I highly doubt much alarm will be sparked, if any. After all, one can never be too careful.”
Fish was irritated by the agent’s simple answer. To him, the agent’s words were childishly assumptive and idealistic. He gruffly spat,
“Is that right? What the Hell makes you so sure? You’re CIA, that supposed to make you an expert on the human condition, right?”
Craddock’s gaze became downcast, discomfited by his superior’s outburst. Then perhaps he was pondering whether the table’s regal polish met his exceptional standards.
Revenaugh merely stared back, wearing a bored look. Then, the agent smiled and coolly replied,
“Trying to get a rise out of me, Wally? Don’t waste your time.”
The statement had its desired effect. Fish recognized his overreaction. He glanced around the room, looking embarrassed. Sighing, looking dreadfully fatigued, the C/O collapsed back into his chair. Shutting his eyes, he gently massaged his eyelids with a thumb and forefinger.
“Goddamn.” Fish groaned. His voice before had been strong and full. He now sounded weak and fragile.
Fish was an exceptionally devoted officer, often putting in many extra hours even when not necessary. His compulsive dedication had come to a head. The strain had caught up with him.
Revenaugh reached a hand under his jacket, quickly bringing it back clenching something shiny. A long slender chain hung from one end of the object. Revenaugh turned his palm up and loosened his grip. With a depression of his thumb, the agent raised a panel from the trinket’s face.
The agent slipped his pocket watch back inside his jacket.
“Gentlemen, it is quite late. It has been a long day – or night – for all us, I’m sure. No need to force things. I suggest we keep this meeting brief and pickup things up tomorrow.”
Craddock and Fish’s somber moods seemed to improve considerably upon hearing this.
Revenaugh resumed, “Gentlemen, before you arrived, the Lieutenant stated that he had an idea as to whole should assume control of medical operations. He said that bringing Dr. Lewis aboard could be problematic.”
Craddock, rubbing his eyes, “No, I might cause complications. I never meant he couldn’t be helpful.”
Revenaugh nodded, “My mistake, Lieutenant. Now, who do you believe should be put in charge of the labs?”
“Sergeant Carl Worthy.”
The agent had apparently fished in another pocket while talked. He now held what resembled a small tuning fork. However the item had three prongs instead of two. He was no longer facing Craddock and gave no sign that he had heard. Began to spin the fork lazily with his gloved fingertips. The fierce white glare of the overhead lights cascaded along the instrument’s highly reflective surface.
The gleaming was strongest at the very tips of the prongs. The reflective throwback was irritating to Craddock’s eyes; black and white phantom spots were flaring up behind his eyelids. Craddock averted his gaze when he realized the gleam had the same mesmeric pull that had ensnared him when he had locked eyes with Revenaugh for too long. He seemed to recall hearing a faint hum during the quasi-trance. He was letting his tired mind run away with him again.
Craddock continued, “Worthy is Lewis’ right hand man. He is just the man for the job.”
Revenaugh turned his eyes back to Craddock, but did not move his head remain downcast.
“I see then. The order will test your claims in short order, gentlemen. Not that I do not trust your words, it is simply standard procedure.”
Revenaugh rose and picked up his case. Godwin followed suit. “Well, that should be enough for today. You are dismissed, gentlemen.” the agent said.
“What about the specimen?” Fish asked.
“The specimen can wait until tomorrow. Until then, you and the Lieutenant should get some rest.”
“What about you and Godwin?” Fish crankily asked.
“Oh, we’re permitted to sleep.” Godwin answered.
Fish scoffed, not quite under his breath, at the General’s crappy joke.
Craddock rose and unlocked the door.
Revenaugh and Godwin bid the officers good night and left the chamber.
Craddock watched them slip away. Before the two vanished from sight, he saw Revenaugh turn to Godwin and mutter something but was only able to discern,
“…fevered dance with fate...”
The General apparently understood his companion’s odd musing and nodded.
“The Hell was that all about?” Craddock muttered and went back into the office.
4: Destined for Greater Things
Inside the barracks, Hansen was greeted almost immediately by Bobby Davis. Davis was twenty, quite tall, and muscular, though by no means overbuilt.
Davis was sharp, crafty, and precise. His warm and easygoing personality made him very easy to like. He was quite accomplished, having proved his worth and exceeded expectations many times over. He held the rank of Lance Corporal. Were it not for the fickle hand of fate, he would have already risen to Sergeant, then perhaps Sergeant Major or perhaps even Lieutenant.
Had fate been kind, he would have ascended the ranks faster than any Army officer in the past decade.
But fate was the pit boss. Aces were high and fate was caught in a foul mood.
The mercurial hand swung the hammer of circumstance hard and sure.
Before Raccoon began to turn its gears, Fish and D. P. Oswald had taken notice of Davis and the great potential he held.
Through their guidance, Davis could have leaped the ladder.
As it would tuen out, he might as well have tried leaping Jacob’s Ladder.
Oswald was killed in action and, through the whims of the sweet-voiced Senator Gillnitz, Heller was installed.
Heller was the archetypal polished turd. His record was dubious at best and a howling nightmare at worst. Aside from his even-then prolific vices, Heller was hardly a warrior.
As qualifications were concerned, he met the bare minimum to use a weapon and none whatsoever to wear a uniform. Craddock became so concerned about the former that he eventually snuck into Heller’s quarters and froze the firing pins on the deputy C/O’s pistol and carbine. Heller never made mention of the adjustments. Well, better to be safe than sorry.
He was crude with a childish sense of humor rife with bad innuendo and scatology. A comedic titan in his own mind.
He was also a blusterer and hopelessly delusional, believing himself to be the greatest thing to happen to Raccoon.
A cousin in the Senate or not, Fish and a number of senior officers and even some members of Central Command banded together to rattle Heller’s cage. They had given up on trying to throw Heller out; Gillnitz was too good at his game for that to be possible. If in doubt, raise as much Hell as you can.
The possibility of Heller becoming a line commander was too disastrous to entertain. The group was determined to prevent Heller from rising any further in the ranks. They were successful.
Unfortunately, Heller eventually realized something was up and was furious when he discovered the ensnarement. The group knew Heller was a guy who liked to get mad –and- get even, so they tried to head him off at the pass. The last thing they needed was Senator Gillnitz (Fish preferred calling him “that candy-assed armchairing fucknut”) reentering the picture.
Craddock was the only officer (it could have been argued that he was the only
–man-) on speaking terms with Heller, though it was only out of necessity. Craddock, hating every minute of the stupid game, managed to gain Heller’s confidence.
Heller, in his usual element, was hopping mad. He threw tantrums at the slightest provocation, as if someone had shoved a lit firecracker up his ass. He was determined to make whoever was blocking his glorious ascent pay.
“How dare they?! The bastards don’t get it. Don’t realize what talent their wasting! Don’t they see?! Don’t they see I’m destined?!” He screeched in one of his meltdowns.
“Destined…?” Craddock put in curtly but politely. He wished Heller would shut the bloody loving Hell up.
“Destined, yeah! Destined for greater things!” Heller spat back. He sounded fervent, almost religious. “And the fucking nerve of them! After all my blood and sweat--”
“And tears.” Craddock put in, though Heller didn’t seem to hear him.
Heller preached on, his own god for his own faith in his own temple, on and on, “--this is how I’m repaid!”
Craddock rubbed his eyes with well-concealed frustration while Heller continued to build his tower of babble.
“This is how they repay me! They shove my work under the rug and piss in my face! Stabbing me in the back for raising the bar, shit-eaters.”
Or razing the bar.
There was really no sense in trying to confront Heller verbally. The man was infinitely self-righteous. He had no imagination, no capacity to understand let alone comprehend anything pertinent. So it came as no surprise that he could not understand why so many people despised him.
Craddock eventually managed to garner the bastard’s intentions, but only after fording the many rivers of delusional bullshit that poured forth from Heller’s maw.
He found out that the deputy C/O suspected someone on the base was favored by CentCom; enough to be promoted to a command position.
Heller’s basic plan was to dig up dirt and smear the guy’s name, then rub his victory in the face of his wrongdoers, his oppressors, when their setup went south.
Heller set his sights on Bobby Davis. Though luck most stupid, Heller turned out to be right on the money.
He secretly enlisted a slew of ne’er-do-wells to carry out his plan. It became less of a secret as time went on, to the point of him flat-out bragging. Darius Revenaugh approached Heller and suggested calling the erstwhile warband “the Zebels.”
Heller loved the ring of the name and took to it right away, shortening it to just “the Zebs.”
True to his vacuous imagination, Heller never gave any thought to the intention behind Revenaugh’s suggestion.
When asked by the Oppressors, Revenaugh explained that “zebel” was an archaic Aramaic word for “dung.”
Word eventually spread to the rank and file.
Behind their backs, staff began calling the motley crew “the Scatmen” and sometimes “ Mr. Scat and the Deuces.”
Neither epithet clued the oblivious Heller in. The Scatmen eventually dug up the proverbial dirt on their target.
Turned out Davis liked guys. Although the Oppresors and Fish could care less about Davis’ orientation, they knew they were in the minority. Try as they might, Fish and company could no more evade the incoming fiasco than they could evade gravity.
The ensuing hellstorm from the yellow press near destroyed Davis. The Oppressors managed to keep Davis’ name from being leaked, but rumors abounded for months, a PR terror. Though the outcome was relatively favorable, they wanted to be prepared should their be any more trouble.
Davis had a fiancée back home. This was a time bomb waiting to go off. Not that she was the problem.
Craddock hailed from the same hometown as the two. He was privy to important information.
The two had been platonic friends since childhood; the relationship had never changed. Additionally, Craddock was certain the fiancée suspected the truth as well.
The problem was the parents. Both Davis and the fiancée’s parents were high-strung, xenophobic and so conservative they thought Joe McCarthy was a Communist.