By R. John Quisenberry
It was cold and rainy as Lt. Colonel Andre Anatov strode the two blocks from his hotel to the museum. The doorman had given him his spare umbrella to keep dry. A nice guy, if he would just stop calling Andre “HERO”. The special treatment was beginning to get on his nerves even if it was handy.
The vendor at the corner saluted from a nest of front pages depicting different headshots of Andre. The old middle eastern man was as excited as a raw recruit as he passed.
Dodging through the sparse traffic, Andre quickly reached the museum. As he entered the foyer, he could not help but notice the security conditions. Three ill-shaven guards in well-worn polyester uniforms that almost fit, drifting in a loose orbit around the area between the door and a scuffed magnetometer. To the left of the worn arch of the magnetometer was the dark tunnel of the x-ray machine. The quiet of the museum was corrupted only by the fitful squeak and rattle of the conveyor belt as it passed through the x-ray. Standing in a bad imitation of parade rest, with a metal detecting wand hanging from his belt, was the slightly twitchy sergeant. He seemed crestfallen when the Colonel failed to forget to remove all metal and send it through the x-ray. The man recovered his hope when the Colonel stepped towards the recessed “STAFF” entrance, tastefully camouflaged in a wood-paneled alcove, to the left.
“A-hem! Sir! That door is not for visitors to the museum!” was blurted out from behind him.
“I’m expected by Dr. Theo Alans,” he responded. ‘At least I don’t have to worry about hero worship here’ he thought to himself.
“Sir, no matter who you are, you have to check in with security and be escorted in when visiting the administrative areas.” said the sergeant, the faded gold tone chevrons on his collar flashing in the florescent light and reflecting the stubble of a ragged five o’clock shadow.
“I’ll take it from here officer Johns.” said a statuesque woman from the newly opened staff entrance. Andre could tell from her stance that the ebony flesh beneath her modest office pantsuit was toned to a condition that would be the envy of most female kickboxers. Her six-foot frame was topped with long, black hair tied back sensibly, leaving bangs to soften an animated and intelligent face. “Colonel, if you will follow me, we will go meet with Dr. Alans,” she said as she stepped back through the doorway.
Following the young woman, Andre entered a hallway with dark wood panels halfway up the walls. The remainder of the wall was eggshell white. “Just this way Colonel. The doctor’s office is down this hall.” said the striking woman.
She led him to the last door on the left. Opening the door, she threaded her way carefully through the maze of books and papers in piles on the floor. In fact, almost every surface in the large office was covered with such debris. The sole exceptions were the desk, the chair behind the desk, and the two chairs in front of the desk. She took one of the chairs in front of the desk while indicating with a gesture that Andre was to take the other.
“Dr. Alans should be in soon. Would you like something to drink while we wait?
“Green tea would be nice if you have any,” he responded as he sat.
“By the way, if I may pry a little. What led to your retirement? I mean, thirty is a bit young to retire even in the Army. Especially with five purple hearts.”
“Some of the circumstances of my decorations were deemed, embarrassing by important people. My career hit a dead end.”
“Saved somebody who should not have needed it, or somebody they didn’t want to be saved?”
“A little of both… I was the only guy to survive a mission to ‘rescue’ a senator’s son from a middle eastern terrorist group. We were told that he was kidnapped while visiting Turkey. It turned out that he had joined them and was pretending to be a hostage to help them get money. When we broke in to get him, two of our five-man team were shot from behind by the little shit. We tied him so all he could do was walk and took him with us. The other two were killed by guards on the way out of the compound.”
“So, how did you get wounded on that one? Did the ‘little shit’ shoot you?”
“No, one of his new buddies tried to shoot him to keep me from taking him back to ‘Daddy’. I took the shot on the right side of my chest and got lucky.”
“Didn’t that make the father grateful?”
“‘Daddy’ had already written the boy off as dead and was using it in a political power play. I ruined his whole plan by bringing back his poor ‘Martyred’ son. What made it worse was when the son denounced him and the U.S. in public and went back and openly joined the terrorists.”
“So, you became unpopular because the senator was embarrassed. They had to treat you like a hero while the senator made sure your career was over. Not exactly fair.”
“Fairness is not something I expect from the government. If the mission had not been exposed by a security leak, worse could have happened to me.”
With a smile he continued, “Of course, Special Operative Mawu Simms, Secret Service, retired, you already knew all of this.”
She answered, “Even outside of the service, you seem to have excellent information. Tell me, how deep is your information?”
“Well, I know the last mission you were on involved protecting a lobbyist who had a habit of sleeping with Congressmen. You took two small caliber, sniper rounds to the abdomen to save the girl. She went on to create that nasty scandal last year. You resigned for ‘Personal Reasons’ two days after you were released from the hospital.”
Taking a deep breath she looked him in the eyes, “Pretty good. There seem to be some security holes in the Secret Service records system. Good job doing your homework. What, may I ask did you discover about Dr. Alans?”
“Almost nothing. National Security came up every time I asked. What have you found?”
“I started yesterday. I was issued an ID and keys and informed that I was to evaluate the security setup and make plans for his protection. I have yet to meet him.”
Just then, there was a muffled thump from under the desk followed by a mild stream of half-hearted curses. “Would you like to keep speculating about me, or would you like to help me up from here?” said a muffled, musing voice.
On the other side of the desk, Mawu and Andre found a rumpled little man crouched under the desk. “I developed a cramp a while ago and now I can’t quite get back out of here.”
Mawu reached down and eased the man’s legs out of the cramped space. At the same time, Andre offered a hand for the man to grasp and pull himself up. The five-foot-four man stood with a groan and began to stretch, trying to get the kinks out. The man’s white shirt and brown striped tie were both wrinkled and crooked and somehow seemed to emphasize his moderate paunch.
“Sorry. I should not have eavesdropped. I just could not resist hearing your first interaction! Such open behavior in such an awkward and new environment. I think our work together will be very successful!”
The guy was almost beside himself when Andre and Mawu simultaneously looked each other in the eyes and shrugged.
“See! You have already developed a rapport that will only grow with time,” said Dr. Alans as he seated himself behind the desk and began to aimlessly shuffle some of the piled papers.
Andre was the first to speak. “Doctor, what sort of work are we going to be helping with? So far you have an ex-military officer and an ex-Secret Service special agent who are both out of favor with the government.”
“You two are going to help me prove my latest theory. I have reason to think you both may be descended from an ancient secret society of protectors. You do not have to believe my theory, but I hope you will help me prove it.”
“How do you intend us to prove these theories?” responded Mawu.
“You will help by finding the ancient base of the protectors. they worked from a central control area. my evidence suggests that they protected the entire planet.”
“Protected the planet from what?” asked Andre.
“My research indicates that they helped enforce peace. There are also indications that they provided some large-scale protective services.”
“If they were so great, why haven’t we heard of them before?” asked Mawu.
“They were wiped out by the ones who made them and almost all records were destroyed. The only way the genes could have been passed to you is if some of the protectors escaped. They probably went into hiding. Their secrets could have been lost in the intervening generations.”
“So, what makes you think that we are related to these prehistoric guardians?” queried Andre.
“It’s simple. You both have led lives filled with honor and duty. You have both survived many dangerous events in your lives that should have killed you. You have both made %100 recoveries from wounds that should have proven fatal multiple times. Just observing you shows how you both scan your environment for danger at all times. If you need more evidence, I will be glad to provide it.
”Why does it actually matter to you if I am out of my mind? Just take the money I pay you and humor me. If I’m successful, you get paid and discover something new about yourselves. If I prove to be wrong, you get paid and you get to laugh about it later.”
“How do you propose to prove this theory to us?” replied Mawu.
“Simple, you two will help me find the central control center that the enforcers used.”
“Where would we start such a search?” asked Andre.