Art Adkins
Author & Leadership Instructor
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Mindwalkers- Chapter 37

Chapter 37

            Gunter has stolen the array and was back on the Island.  Intelligence indicated he had captured the three psychics Juan had recruited to stop Gunter.  And Juan.  He was dead and the compound was destroyed.  The computer hard drives had been wiped clean so there was some consolation in that.

How had they misinterpreted Gunter’s time line so drastically?  The data had indicated he would not move against the Colombian research facility for weeks.  What had altered his plans?  And who was going to be the target of the array?  They already knew what he was going to do with it.  But who was he trying to kill?

Hal Prince rubbed his head.  It seemed everything concerning Gunter was in chaos.  The original analysis of the man had been swept aside and discarded when Gunter had been recruited for research on the Island.  He was a brilliant doctor, specializing in synaptic connections within the brain and the transfer of information by neurons when it occurred.  But his psych test had indicated a tendency toward aggression and expansion.  Slight character flaws they had overlooked.  Thought they did not appear to be ‘slight’ now, thought Hal.

Tossing the latest report onto his desk, Hal rose from his chair and headed for the door.  No need to dwell on what had happened.  They needed to fix the problem at hand.  The others were waiting on him.

Hal entered the conference room and saw his peers were already seated.  Once he was in his chair he immediately addressed the reason for their concern.

“It has been confirmed: Gunter has the array and has taken it to the Island.  Juan Domingo is dead and the three psychics he recruited have been kidnapped by Gunter.”

“What about Lance and Sheila of the NSA?  Are they alive?” asked a senior member.

“No.  Their bodies were found in the lobby area.  A grenade blast killed them.”

“Slade and Cody?”

“Not found on the premises and we don’t believe Gunter has them.  Patrols were left in place for a couple of days and they left, disappearing into the jungle.  We don’t know where they went or what they’re up to.”  Hal stared at the men seated around the table.  They were the most powerful men in the country and no one knew they existed.  The only woman member spoke for the first time.

“I was told there are two civilians being held on board a Navy Cruiser in the Gulf of Mexico.  A retired Navy fighter pilot and a security Chief for Waterbury Enterprises.  I believe they’re friends of Slade Lockwood?”  Though posed as a question it was a statement of fact.

“That is correct.  The decision was made to keep them out of the fray and let the Colombians handle the issue with Gunter’s mercenaries.” 

“That does not appear to be having the desired effect,” responded the woman.

“Mistakes have been made with the handling of this.  It seems Gunter has been one step ahead of us the entire time.” 

“We think Gunter cut a deal with the Colombian government.  They would hold off on sending in their military when we requested so he could acquire what he needed in exchange for damaging information against the government.  A form of blackmail to neuter us and solidify his partnership with a government that views us as an annoyance.”  The senior member spoke again, but consulted some notes in front of him to verify the information.

“It would make sense and would explain why their military response was so slow.  If Cody and Slade are alive there are two possible scenarios:  they are running for their lives in the jungle or they are captives of the Colombian military.”  Hal made some notes on a piece of paper as he spoke.

“Then perhaps we need to up the ante with our Colombian friends.  Some much needed pressure by DEA and our Black Ops Military Drug Interdiction Unit may need to pay their cocaine distribution centers a visit.  Even though the government officially denies knowledge of their existence, we all know about the enormous kickbacks the political officials receive.  Maybe it can remind them of who the real power is.”  The woman looked directly at Hal as she spoke.  She had been selected for her position because of her keen intellectual and tactical ability to turn a losing situation into a winning proposition. 

“Not a bad idea.  Could buy us some time and would allow us to put people on the ground inside their country to find Slade and Cody if they haven’t been captured.”  The senior member turned to Hal for agreement.

Before any of them could speak another member spoke up.  New to the council, he reserved his comments and seldom spoke, relying on the wisdom of those seated around him.

“We have another matter to consider.  I received a report this morning from the Secret Service.  They are concerned about two people, a man and a woman, who have taken up surveillance of the White House for the last five days.  Yesterday they recorded some interesting conversation between them.  The young man was heard talking about a ‘Mind Walker’ and refers to himself in the third person.  They are from Fairbanks, Alaska.  The young man suffers from….”  The man was cut off by Hal.

“He suffers from autism.  He is an autistic savant and was on the Island for several months before his mother and father asked to have him returned.  Gunter was doing experiments on him.  Slade met with him several weeks ago in Fairbanks.”  Hal stared off into space.  “Why is he here?  Is there a threat against the President?”

“Even if he is here, how does that affect us?  He’s not in any position to aid us.”  The minute he had spoken, the new member to the council wished he had remained silent.

“You have much to learn, my friend.  There are no such things as unrelated events in our work.  Everyone can assume a vital role from time to time.  This young man, Ralph, is gifted beyond belief.  He’s the only natural Mind Walker we know of.  He does not need any type of narcotic enhancement to channel his thought pattern.  Gunter was beside himself when Ralph’s parents wanted him returned.  Gunter stalled for as long as he could, but had to return Ralph lest he suffer exposure at the time.  Gunter was not ready to act back then.”

“Why not abduct Ralph?  Gunter abducted the two original psychics with Operation Stargate.  Why not Ralph?” asked the senior member.

“How?  Ralph is more powerful than anyone Gunter has, with or without the mind cocktail.  Ralph does not know how powerful he is.  It may be that Ralph senses something concerning Gunter’s next move….”  Hal left his voice trail off.

“So what is the recommendation?” asked the woman.

“We move on multiple fronts like always.  Have the DEA and their drug associates hit the cocaine labs and use it as cover to find Slade and Cody.  Let June and Dustin Zane accompany them.  Don’t forget that Shirley Waterbury is the richest woman in the world and can stir up more trouble than most governments.  I’m sure she’s asking questions as we speak.”  Hal was busy writing as he spoke.

“And Ralph?  Do we leave him be?” asked the young member.

“Yes.  Tell the Secret Service to monitor, but take no action.  We need to know what he is thinking, what he’s going to do.  As a matter of fact, I want twenty-four surveillance on them.  Where they go, what they’re doing.”  Hal stopped when the young member held up his hand.

“Already in place.  The Secret Service instituted that protocol yesterday.  I will make sure they are monitored and we receive updated reports.”

“Thank you.  There is one last major piece of the puzzle we need to consider.”  Hal waited to see if anyone would speak and was not surprised when the woman answered him.

“The taking of the Island.  We should have done it months ago.  Now it will be infinitely more difficult.”

“It is going to be a tremendous hurdle to overcome.  I need solutions and variables for the assault.  We’ll reconvene in the strategy room in three hours.  In the meantime, enact the protocols we just agreed upon.  Anything else?”

“What about the President?  Should we inform him?” asked the senior member.

“Not yet.  Best to keep some things close to our vest.” 

Hal rose and led them out of the room.

                                       ************************

“Have we heard from Slade, June or Dustin Zane?  I’ll take any of the three,” said Shirley, placing her hands on her hips and facing Bubba and Professor Johansen.

“I spoke to Dustin Zane and June five days ago and haven’t heard from them since.  They were going to land the Tross near Panama and rendezvous with one of June’s old Navy friends.  The information they got from Taylor in Morocco suggested Gunter was going to strike at a Colombian research lab deep within the Amazon jungle.  That’s the last I’ve heard.’’  Bubba leaned back in his chair. 

The marine conference Professor Johansen had brought to Cedar Key was in full swing.  Students from universities all across America and their professors had descended on the tiny island community to witness first-hand the pristine conditions of the marine environment and the outlying islands.  Hotels and motels were at capacity and there were waiting lines at every restaurant in town.  Every fishing boat charter was booked and running late into the night.  It was like a boom town during the gold rush era. 

It was also an incredible boon to the local economy.  The latest Gulf of Mexico oil spill had curtailed tourists coming to the hidden enclave, despite the fact their shores had been spared from the sludge.  The media had neglected to mention that. From business owner to city officials, the conference had been a blessing and an economic boost. 

Shirley was thankful the conference was going well, but was more concerned about her friends and where they were.  So was everyone in the room.

“Slade hasn’t called me either and I can’t get through to his cell phone.  I keep getting a busy signal.”  Katherine had looked at her phone as she spoke.

“Maybe we can triangulate his coordinates from the cell phone?  Didn’t you do that before, Professor?” asked Shirley.

“I tried but had no luck.  Where ever Slade is there must not be a cell tower.  I cannot get a lock on his phone.”  Professor Johansen held his hands up in frustration.

“What about any additional information with regards to research?  This Mind Walker stuff you were looking into?” asked Shirley

“Nothing new.  There are the conspiracy theories out there about our government being involved in mind control studies, but there is no direct evidence to link them to it.  Other countries have been involved as well, but nothing concrete.  If there is a connection we have yet to find it.  I still have Angela on the research team, but nothing has transpired.  I’ll let you know if there are any positive results.”

“What about security?  Any issues?” asked Shirley.

“None.  The locals are working with us and they hired some additional staff to assist.  The police department has everyone on duty, but they are small to begin with.  The private security company hired by the Chamber of Commerce is doing an adequate job.  Aside from a few parties where the participants got drunk, there is nothing to report.  Seems like your conference is quite the success, Professor,” replied Bubba.

“Thank you.  There is already talk about holding it here next year.”  Professor Johansen beamed like a proud parent.

“Splendid.  I know the business owners are appreciative.”  Shirley walked back around and sat down at her desk.

“So we just wait?” asked Katherine.  It was obvious she missed Slade and made no effort to hide it.

“For now.  We have no choice.  I’m sure Dustin Zane or June will call us shortly and let us know what’s going on.  I’m certain of it.  In the meantime, we stay focused on what we need to do here and do it.”  Shirley smiled reassuringly at Katherine but failed to hide the concern on her face.  She was as worried as everyone else.

               **********************************

“So you’re turning us loose?  How nice of you, Jeremiah,” said June, squarely facing the captain of the Cruiser.  The malice in his voice was evident.

“June, I have my orders just like you.  I was told to hold you and I had to do that.  Sorry.”  Captain Richardson stepped forward and offered his hand as a conciliatory gesture but June refused to offer his.

“Just let me get off your boat, Jeremiah.  I’ll never bother you again.”  June stepped back.

“There’s something else.  The research lab your friend went to has been attacked.  Your friend is missing.  I’ve been told to launch a mission with the DEA on some cocaine labs inside Colombia.  The military has a drug interdiction team that assists DEA.  I was told to offer to let both of you accompany them.”

“I have no interest in cocaine labs.  I could care less.  I’m interested in finding Slade.  Was he injured?” asked Dustin Zane.

“The assault on the cocaine labs is a ruse to look for Slade and an FBI Director.  Both are missing and their bodies were not found in the debris.  We think they have either been taken hostage by the Colombian military or are on the run.  We don’t know which, but we are sending in our men to find out.”  Captain Richardson walked closer to the two men.  “Are you interested?”

“Count us in.”  Dustin Zane inched forward until he was staring down at the Captain.  Though Captain Richardson was a large man, he could not look the security Chief in the eye.  “If anything has happened to our friend because you wouldn’t let us go and save him, I’ll be back to see you.” 

“Make that two of us,” said June.  “Now where do we go to meet this special force of yours?”

“You’ll be escorted to them.  They may need to use your flying boat.  She’s a beauty.”  Captain Richardson turned and gazed at the Tross that was anchored off the bow of his Cruiser.

“We can use her.  Can we get going?” asked June, dispensing with any more pleasantries.

Captain Richardson motioned to a petty officer who escorted them off the ship and used a dingy to get them to the Tross.  When they went inside they found six Navy Seal Team members sitting in the flying boat.

“Been waiting.  Ready to go and get your friend?”  A lieutenant who was obviously in charge stood up and shook both their hands.

“Yup.  Where we going?” asked June.

“We need to go to Costa Rica first and hook up with the DEA and some other members.  I went over the plan last night.  We’re gonna hit three targets simultaneously.  Ours is on the bank of a river that feeds the upper Amazon.  It might be tricky landing this thing.  Think you can manage?” asked the Lieutenant.

“Just show me the spot.”

“Flight instructions to Panama are on your pilot’s seat.  We’re ready whenever you are.”

“Can you guys stow the anchor?”

“On it.”

June slipped into the pilot’s seat and watched the props turn as the engines coughed to life.  Soon she was purring and kicking up spray.

Captain Jeremiah Richardson watched as the Tross climbed into the sky.  He had lost a friend and he knew it.  June Stenger was as hard-headed and stubborn as they came, but was also a good man.  June did not know it, but Captain Richardson and the US Navy were destined to meet him again.  Turning to his junior officers he addressed them.

“Make top speed for the Panama Canal and obtain clearance to proceed through.  We’re heading to the Pacific.”

“Sir?”

“You have your orders.  The Secretary of the Navy has decided we need to change theaters.”

“Right away, sir.  What about our support.  Are they to go with us?”

“Negative.  This is our show.  We go alone on this one.”

“Yes, sir.  Setting course and getting under way.

The bridge crew scurried to carry out the orders of the ship’s master.  Captain Richardson felt his boat quiver as the massive engines were engaged and she picked up speed.  They would have to travel as fast as they could to get there in time.

Read Chapter 38