Art Adkins
Author & Leadership Instructor
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Mindwalkers-Chapter 28

Chapter 28

Professor Johansen had come in early and had a stack of papers in front of him.  The information had disturbed him and he had been up late last night mulling over the information.  Why did Slade always have to become involved in things that were so dangerous with so much at stake?  What happened to finding a lost dog or cat for someone?  Professor Johansen started to laugh at the absurd thought and almost spilled his precious cup of coffee.

Angela had come to work early as well and when she heard the Professor laughing she walked up to his office door.  A glistening can of Coca Cola was in her right hand. 

“How do you drink that stuff so early in the morning?” asked Professor Johansen.

“I was about to ask you the same thing.”  Angela sipped from her frosty can before continuing.  “What’s so funny this morning?”

“I was wondering why Slade couldn’t get involved in finding lost pets, rather than the mysteries he delves into.”

“Wouldn’t be near as exciting.  Besides, we learn a great deal due to our resident sleuth exploring the realms outside of science.”

“Seems like science always gets pulled back into the mix though.”

“So why are you are here so early, Professor?  What is troubling you?”

“Probably the same thing that’s bothering you.”  Professor Johansen paused before continuing, taking a moment to collect his thoughts as he stared at the ceiling.  “Most of what we uncovered yesterday was innuendo, conspiracy theories and speculation.  But if there is one thing Slade has taught me since I’ve met him, where there’s smoke there’s fire.”

“You think some of the information could be based in fact?  Remember a lot of stuff on the Internet is fabricated by pranksters.”

“True, but we have to do a comparative analysis.  Examine Slade’s information in relationship to the data we gleaned from our inquiry yesterday.  Already I can see where some of the information overlaps.  There could be a common thread weaving the data together.”  Professor Johansen looked over at Angela for support.

“If what you’re saying is true, the American government is involved in one of the biggest cover-ups in our history.  I shudder to think our own leaders would embark upon such a path.”  Angela slipped into a chair in front of the Professor’s desk, a blank expression on her face. 

“I know.  But please remember, very seldom does the initial thrust into an area yield the desired results.  In all probability the government could have explored this concept from a purely benign perspective only to have it morph and grow in an unexpected direction.  It happens in science all the time.”

“Professor!” shouted Angela.  “We’re talking about people!  American people.  How can you say that?”

Professor Johansen motioned for Angela to sit back down.  “Remember Angela, science often involves human beings as test subjects.  We can think no worse or better for those who conduct the initial experiments.  Only after it is determined that the research is detrimental or should be abandoned can we apply fault and find blame.  Science marches forward at all costs.”

“Then we have to tell Slade.”

“I’ve tried to call him this morning and his phone has been turned off.  It seems Mr. Lockwood is incommunicado at the moment.”

“What about Bubba and June?”

“My thought exactly.  Care to join me for an early morning walk?  Those two can usually be found at Whiskers and Wings reading the paper over breakfast this time of the morning.”

“I would love to.”  Angela bounded out of her chair and followed Professor Johansen as he left the complex.

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“I told you to route all sanctions through me on this!  I don’t care what you think you know, Lance, but it’s not what you believe.  There’s more at stake than meets the eye or you could ever imagine.  Gunter is the tip of the ice berg.  Don’t you understand that?”  Cody was in a private jet hustling back to Washington, D.C. to brief the President on the crisis.  He had found Lance in his office and learned a removal order had been implemented for Gunter.  Much to his dismay he discovered interdiction teams had been activated and sent in search of the German.

“With the two missing subjects, we thought it best to protect the others.  If Gunter was to come into focus, I thought it best to eliminate him.”  Lance wrung his hands in nervous anticipation.  He was seated behind his desk and Sheila was opposite him. 

“Stop the elimination order immediately.  We need to know what Gunter knows.  Besides you can’t get to him.  Trust me on that.  I’ve already seen how he works.”

“What do we do about the others?  Do I cancel protection or leave it in place?  We need to take some measures of protection.” 

“Leave the protection in place for the little it will do.  I can’t believe Gunter would move again so soon.  He has what he wants and he knows we’re aware of that.  Maybe that will buy us some time.”

“Buy us some time for what?” asked Lance.

“To clean up your mess.”  Cody was staring out the window of the jet and mechanically rubbed his brow in frustration.  Why did he always feel like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders?  “I’ll call you when I have more.  You and I need to go to the research lab in Colombia when I get done briefing the President.  I’m making that my base of operations until this is over.”

“Why there?  Wouldn’t it be best to stay here where we have more resources?  Cody, please think this through before you act,” replied Lance.

“I have thought it through, Lance.  The assets I need are in Colombia, not here and they are the same resources you need – you just don’t know it yet.  Wait till you see what I’m talking about.”

“When do we go to Colombia?”

“Probably tomorrow evening, but not later than that.  Timing is crucial.  Be ready.”

“I will, and Cody.”  Lance paused before continuing.  “Thanks.”

Cody sat silent for several seconds.  At least the NSA Director knew he was in deep water and needed a friend.  For a fleeting second Cody felt sorry for him and then it quickly vanished.  Lance should have been more careful with the deals he cut and the alliances he made.  Others had to clean up his mess.

“Don’t mention it.  Just be ready.”  Cody snapped the phone shut.

The rest of the plane ride was done in silence and Cody tried to catch as much sleep as possible.  Once the plane landed and taxied to the hanger, a waiting limousine ferried Cody to the White House.  The President was waiting in the Oval Office and Cody was ushered inside.

“Are you back from your jungle adventures?” asked the President, stepping forward and shaking Cody’s hand.

“Yes, sir, I am, but I’m returning as soon as I brief you and catch up on a few things in the office.  Let me bring you up to speed.”

Cody slipped into a seat to face the President and methodically moved through the maze of information.  The President never interrupted him and nodded his head from time to time to indicate he was keeping up with him and the progression of events. 

When Cody was finished, he leaned back in his chair and stared at his boss.  The man had been elected on a strong economic platform and had brought the country out of a severe depression, creating jobs and stimulating the economy.  The President had ‘circled the wagons’ so to speak and was intent on domestic reform.  His intolerance for international affairs that threatened the safety and security of the United States was widely publicized and most foreign leaders were giving him a wide berth lest they rouse his ire.

“Unfortunately I’m familiar with Operation Stargate, Cody.  Not one of our more glamorous scientific forays.”

“You’re familiar with it, sir.  How?” Cody was stunned.

“You forget that I sat on a number of boards as a Senator.  One of those was an oversight committee designed as a watchdog group to ensure we did not venture into areas like Operation Stargate. The American people deserve better, Cody.  It was brought to our attention and we conducted enough research to halt the project and eliminate the funding.  Or so we thought,” added the President.

“What about the Nine?  Were you aware of them?  They have renamed the operation.  They call it Oracle now.”

“No.  They must have been formed after the dismantling of Stargate. You must remember this was not a popular move with the military.  They were convinced Operation Stargate, or Oracle as you said they call it now, was a futuristic weapon holding promise to thwart our enemies on faraway lands.  It was all science fiction to me.  There was never any substantial success with the program to warrant the expenditure.  They experimented with remote viewing and other paranormal activities that I personally believe to be hogwash.”  The president smiled at Cody.

“Sir, what I’ve been allowed to see convinces me that it’s not as much science fiction as you may believe.  There are some that feel you are in danger of assassins using some of this new mind technology.  Sir, with all due respect, I believe they may be accurate.”  Cody shuffled uncomfortably in his chair.

“Cody, I am not prone to running scared or panicking just because a group of scientists speculate I may be in danger due to some form of mind control.  I’m aware of the successes and failures of Operation Stargate and nothing in the research data indicated the capability to implement a mission as you describe.  I appreciate your concern, but I am inclined to dismiss it.”  The President moved around behind his desk before continuing.  “Cody you were allowed to see what they wanted you to see.  The Nine as you call them are relying on a heavy stream of American currency to keep this operation in place.  They create panic and concern and it stimulates their income stream.  It’s a nice setup for them.  I need you focusing on how much money is being channeled to them and severing those ties.  Let someone else chase this science fiction debacle.”

Cody leaned forward in his chair and looked directly at his superior, his eyes locking onto his.  “Sir, you have tasked me with protecting you at all cost and protecting this country.  I’m asking you to believe me on this and let me pursue it to a conclusion that I’m satisfied with.  If nothing comes of it, then you can ridicule me for the rest of my career.  If I’m right, then we’ll have averted a major incident from occurring.”

The President stared at his subordinate before answering.  “Okay.  Take the time to investigate, but please be expeditious.  I have more important matters that require your attention.  And don’t be upset when I accuse you of pursuing the proverbial ‘wild goose’.”  The President chuckled as he rose from his chair, indicating the meeting was over.  “And Cody, don’t forget the public scandal this will create if the information leaks out.  The American people were told this research was abandoned for financial and humanitarian reasons.  I want it abandoned and I want our name removed from it.  Make sure that occurs and post haste.”

“Yes, sir, I will and thank you, sir.  I’ll keep you informed as more information develops.”  Cody shook the President’s hand and walked briskly out the door. 

The walk to his office was done in silence.  Cody knew the President was a pragmatic man and operated within the realm of hard core facts.  But this was the first time he had to disagree with his superior.  If Juan Domingo was right, the President could be in jeopardy and his very life could hang in the balance.  If Gunter could produce the proper cocktail stimulant for a Mind Walker, the President could have a brain hemorrhage and it would be chalked up to a medical mystery, not murder.  Cody froze in his tracks in the middle of the sidewalk and a woman behind him bumped into him.

“Sorry,” said the older lady, side-stepping Cody.

“Beg your pardon, maam.”  Cody moved to a bench and slumped down.

When he viewed the information from a cold, dispassionate perspective perhaps the President was right.  An assassin capable of transmitting a message to create a medical condition resulting in death?  Sounded like something for the movies.  Perhaps he had become so engrossed in the details provided by Juan Domingo that he had failed to analyze the situation from the proper angle and evaluate the consequences that really existed.  Was it all about money?  Were the Nine nothing more than an opportunistic organization intent on milking as much money as possible from the American government as they could?

Cody reached for his phone, a brief flush of anger crossing his face.  Had he been played as a fool by the Colombian?  The thought infuriated him.  When the phone was answered he went straight to business.

“Lance please.  Cody Garrett calling.”  The wait was not long.

“Cody?”

“Yeah.  I need all of your financial records chronicling how much money has been given to the Nine to fund the Colombian project.  I need to know when the funding started, who authorized it and where it came from.  I also want hard data on how much we’ve spent this year.”  Cody paused to let his mind catch up with what he was saying.  “And I want to know about any success Juan and his friends have had with the program.  I’m not talking about speculation, but hard verifiable data.  I want to know everything and I want to know it now.”

“Are we still going to Colombia?” asked Lance.

“Yes, but not until I have all the information you can provide and I ask a few questions.  Get moving, Lance, cause you’re going to be my assistant.  Bring the files to my office within the hour.  Have Sheila come with you.  I have a feeling she knows as much about this case as you do.”

“What has changed your mind?  Did you brief the President?” asked Lance, busily scribbling notes on a piece paper.

“Nothing has changed my mind, but I want to make sure we have all the data.”  Cody let his voice trail to a whisper.  “Tell me something, Lance.  In all the times you’ve worked with and met the Nine have you ever seen, I mean witnessed, the results of their experiments or research?  Something that would withstand empirical scrutiny.”

“You’re talking about results that are tangible,” replied Lance.

“Yes.  I’m speaking about an outcome you could prove and provide as testimony to the success of the operation.”

For several minutes Cody thought the phone had gone dead and he moved it away from his ear to look at the face.  The connection was still intact and when he placed it back against his head he could hear Lance breathing.  Cody remained silent and waited.

“Now that you mention it, I haven’t seen anything like that.  All of my data has been confined to reports or verbal communication.  Nothing I could touch or verify.”  Lance was rubbing his head with his left palm as the realization of Cody’s line of questioning hit home.  “Do you think this is an elaborate hoax?”

“The attack on Shirley Waterbury was no hoax – that was real.  The death of Stanley Watchman was real.  But I’m not sure about what has been fabricated at this time.  I do know I haven’t seen anything I could use as evidence to support or refute the possibility of Oracle being a real program with potential to benefit the American government.  Maybe it’s all one big chess game where we are being robbed of funds for their own scientific experiments for reasons we haven’t been shown.   I just don’t know.”

“Then let me get the information you requested and maybe we can wade through it.”

“Thanks.”

Cody closed his phone and rose slowly from the bus bench.  Nothing was ever straight forward in his world.  Had he been misled and deceived by Juan Domingo?  It was a possibility and an angle he should have considered from the very beginning. It had taken the President to point out the possible flaws and he was embarrassed by the admission.  He knew he was a better investigator than he had displayed, but at the present, he felt woefully inadequate.

Cody tucked his hands in his jacket pockets, bowed his head and ambled down the sidewalk toward his office.  From all appearances he looked like a man defeated and humbled.

Read Chapter Twenty-nine