Art Adkins
Author & Leadership Instructor
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Mindwalkers - Chapter 13

Chapter Thirteen

Machu Picchu.  The Lost City of the Incas.  Juan Domingo stared out at the Peruvian landscape from the Temple of the Sun.  Spared destruction by the Spanish Conquistadors, the historical site still held the imagination and awe of all who visited.  At over eight thousand feet above sea level and situated on a mountain ridge, the site had remained unknown to the modern world until 1911.  Luckily, it had been left intact and history, the past, surrounded him.

The Incas had been a visionary people, building a stronghold accessible by only two routes which ensured the safety of its occupants.  The buildings themselves were masterpieces, left to stand the test of time and thrill the throngs of tourists who visited annually.  The Incas had been master craftsmen, cutting and placing the stones in place without the aid of mortar, yet so close a blade of grass could not be slipped between them.  The fact that the walls and buildings were still standing were a testament to their building expertise.

Juan Domingo turned his attention back to his comrades and nodded reassuringly.  Like all organizations the bond holding the Group of Nine together was fragile at best.  They had been born in secrecy, developed clandestinely.  Their mission was known to only a few within their own governments.  Knowledge was power, but the pursuit of wisdom could frazzle nerves, drain the spirit.  Reassurance was a needed companion to strengthen their resolve. 

“When is he supposed to arrive?” asked Brian Adelain, impatience lacing each word of the Australian. 

“He will be here soon,” replied Juan Domingo, drinking in the landscape as he scanned the ruins and mountains.

Before another word could be uttered, Lance Young walked briskly into the open area of the Temple of the Sun, accompanied by Sheila Graft.  The American was none too pleased and wasted no time in expressing his displeasure.

“A little melodramatic isn’t it, Juan?  We could’ve met a lot closer at a far more convenient site,” said Lance, swinging his gaze around the assembled men. 

“Perhaps.  But sometimes history is a good reminder that no matter how strong we may construct something, it can be left in ruins if not properly managed and cared for.”  Juan Domingo turned on his younger counterpart.  Arrogance had been the downfall of many a man and Lance Young was as arrogant as they came.  “Besides, I thought Ms. Graft would enjoy the trip.” Without another word Juan stepped forward, took Sheila’s hand and kissed the back of it lightly.  Sheila beamed in appreciation.

“Thank you. I’ve always wanted to come here. It’s beautiful.”

“I knew you would enjoy it.”  Juan turned to Frederick Salvatore and gestured.

“Let us get down to business.”  Frederick moved toward Lance and the others closed in. “Gunter is out of control.  Three deaths in less than two weeks.  The young doctor that was killed in St. Augustine had left the Island and Gunter was afraid he would expose what they were working on.  Then he kills the man’s parents…”  Before Frederick could continue, Lance held up his hand.

“Is Oracle safe?  Is there any danger of it being exposed?” asked Lance.

“No.  Oracle is safe for now.  But we don’t know how far Gunter has explored the concept.  If Oracle was turned loose in his hands, it could be used to topple governments or create economic chaos.  We’ve always known it could be corrupted, which is why your government abandoned it in the first place,” said Frederick.

Lance paced to and fro for several seconds, but finally stopped and addressed Juan Domingo.  “To make Oracle work, Gunter needs Mind Walkers.  How many does he have?”

“We don’t know,” answered Juan.  “We do know one died.  An allergic reaction to the compound.  He has solicited another to take her place.  He could have several at this juncture.”

“Do we have anyone inside the Island who is feeding us information?  We can’t operate in the dark, Juan.  Too much is at stake.”  Lance wrung his hands in nervous anticipation. 

“We get fragments of information.  Gunter has not yet viewed us as competitors.  Don’t forget, we know more about him than he does us at this juncture.  He is, however, rapidly moving past us in certain areas.  The development of the Mind Walkers for instance.  Every government on Earth would intervene if they knew the true secret of the Island.”  Juan watched his counterpart closely.  There was something Lance was not telling him.

“We have other news.”  Brian moved closer.  “The experimental drug tested on the soldiers had some of the desired effects we had hoped for, but there were…..were unforeseen complications.”

“I know.  Most turned up dead.”  Lance sat down on a low wall and stared at the ground.  “What do you want us to do with Gunter?  The man is expanding his base of operations into America.  If he starts testing the formula on patients in the hospitals he’s acquiring and if it becomes public, it could ruin us all.”

“Who else inside your government know of his plans?” asked Frederick.  He had a strong dislike of the American and had always viewed their role as a minor interference.

“Cody Garrett from the FBI has been assigned to check on all secret initiatives by the President.  I’ve been putting him off for some time until I could meet with all of you.  The man is persistent and could put a stop to Oracle.”  Lance let his words fall on them softly. 

“Perhaps not.”  Juan Domingo extracted a cigar from his breast pocket and smelled the pleasant aroma before touching a match to the end.  Wafts of smoke billowed around him.  “Why don’t we use him as an ally?”

“Have you lost your mind?  Did you not hear what I just said?  Cody will shut us down!”  Lance’s voice had risen and the others shuffled in place, pent up energy seeking a release.  Tourists would be arriving to the site soon and they could not be overheard.

“Calm yourself, Lance.  Cody is not a man devoid of reason.  His interests are to protect the welfare of the United States.  He shares the same dream as you, albeit perhaps from a different vantage point.  Change his perspective and you alter his belief, his goal.  Turn a potential adversary into a colleague, intent on the same outcome and you bolster your chance for success.  It’s an age old tactic and one used effectively in the diplomatic arena.”  Juan smiled between puffs.

“I don’t follow you, Juan.  Sometimes you talk in half truths and hidden meanings,” snapped Lance, his irritation once again flooding his voice.

“Don’t we all?  It’s the nature of the game we play.”  Juan lowered his voice to just above a whisper.  “Let me handle Cody Garrett.  You focus on Gunter.  Find out what he’s up to in your country.  What moves he’s about to make.  We believe he may be involved in the hostile acquisition of a pharmaceutical company to bolster his position for distribution of his drugs.  That coupled with the hospitals he’s acquiring would give him a considerable channel to expand in plain sight.  Marvelous concept really.”  Juan smiled at Lance, which only irritated the American that much more.

“Which pharmaceutical company?” asked Lance.

“Akron Pharmaceuticals.  The stock was falling, but is now rising.  Someone else must have joined the chase.  Gunter will not take that well.  Perhaps you can find out who and why.”

“I’ll see what I can dig up.  By the way, we’re still very interested in the success you are having with the Mind Walkers.  They hold the key to several…ideals we’re interested in.  We had to disband the program, but some of us still feel we need a strong presence in this area.”

“We’ll keep you informed.  Not much to report right now.  When we have more, we’ll enlighten you,” said Frederick Salvatore.  He had kept quiet and watched Lance during his conversation with Juan.  The American did not have a good grasp on Gunter and that was alarming.  He did not view the German as a legitimate threat and that was a mistake.

“Till next time.  I’ll call when I have something.”  Without another word, Lance turned and walked away, trailed by Sheila Graft. 

Juan waited until the American had disappeared before addressing the others.  “We must step up our efforts.  We cannot expect help from Lance.  He does not recognize the gravity of the problem the way we do.  We must act now.”

Silently, each man nodded their head in approval just as a golden ray of sunshine bathed the Temple of the Sun in a bright light. 

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Katherine had opted for dinner at Slade’s instead of going out.  She kept glancing at her ring, extending her hand to let the diamonds catch the candle light.  Several times she had heard Slade chuckle and she had rewarded him with a kiss.  She had never been happier in her life.

“So when do we plan the big day?” asked Slade, sliding down next to her and handing her a glass of wine.

“I don’t know.  I spoke to my mom and dad this morning.  That was nice of you to tell them you were going to ask me to marry you.  That was so romantic.”  Katherine giggled when she saw the red hit Slade’s cheeks.  He was so cumbersome when they spoke of such matters.

“I thought it was the right thing to do.”

“It was.  More than you will ever know.”

“So when are we going to set a date?”

“Well since you are so bad at keeping a secret and you know Shirley and company are going to want to be involved, we better make sure all of our calendars coincide.” 

“I thought we could get married here in Cedar Key.  I grow fonder of this place every day.”  Slade turned to stare out the second floor window.  Old Clacker had found his way onto the porch and was fast asleep.

“So do I.  I think that’s an excellent choice.”  Katherine paused.  “So who is going to be your best man?”  She was curious who he would choose.  Bubba and June were both his friends and he had grown very close to them.

“I don’t know.  Bubba and June have become like the brothers I never had.  Both have been there when I need them and I know will be there in the future.”  Slade looked lovingly at the woman he was going to spend the rest of his life with.  “I just don’t have a clue.”

“Why not ask them both?  Might be a little unusual, but we lead lives outside the norm.”

Slade smile and leaned over and kissed her gently on the lips, pulling her close to him.  “An excellent idea.  Wish I had thought of it.”

“Ummm….what are you doing?” asked the artist, letting her robe slip off her shoulder.

Old Clacker raised his head and stared inside the house.  Looked like it was going to be a long night. 

Read Chapter Fourteen