Once a promising student of genetics, Carson Downs now finds himself expelled from college only to be sucked into a clandestine government project that defies his experiences and challenges his beliefs.
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S. Bryant Poss
Following a humiliating expulsion from graduate school for leading unethical experimentation practices, Carson Downs finds himself back in the rural North Georgia town where he grew up. However, his peaceful isolation is brought to an abrupt halt when he is forced to join a clandestine team working on a government funded experiment. Not only is he forced to overcome his own ethical and emotional boundaries dealing with the study, but he becomes caught up in a game of cat and mouse with a very select few government agency officials who want to possess the products of the experiments. Carson finds himself in more than one secured government location, working to protect his new-found colleagues and the experiment on which they work.
That protection is required against far more than the government threat as Carson and his colleagues bear witness to the evolution of a man who becomes obsessed with living beyond the limitations set forth by culture and the history of man. Carson and his team must evade the government's attempts at taking the products of the experiment, and they must do this without getting in the way of the Overman.
The wind picked up slowly at first, and the tops of the pines began to sway then the thundering sound of the helicopter broke apart the peaceful twilight and the treetops danced sporadically at its approach. Normally, the surrounding wildlife would have scurried away from the commotion, but this area of the mountain region was all but devoid of animals. There was usually too much activity here for nature to settle in.
As the Huey touched down, clashing against the rugged landscape of Appalachia, a tall, military-clad man got out and touched the ground almost before the machine did. He stepped with hasty authority, passing by the uniformed guard who was saluting him and proceeded down the rough path that snaked along the ancient mountaintop.
General Rainesford was pushing his thirty-second year in the U.S. Army, and his seventh as one of its highest-ranking officials. The waistline of his uniform had extended over the years while his hairline receded, but he held up remarkably well considering the fearsome information he had accumulated in recent years, information that had come to bring him nearly unlimited authority and decision-making finality among the few men above him.
The handling of this evening’s situation was another testimony of his power, another situation that had arisen, requiring his immediate and personal attention. Such a situation aggravated his already bitter disposition, but given his knowledge of such classified information, he was forced to handle many dilemmas himself.
He reached the end of the beaten path and stopped in front of what appeared to be nothing more than an embankment residing peacefully among the trees. He approached the hillside and gave three sharp knocks on the brown metal door that resided in the earth.
Almost immediately, a voice came from the other side of the door.
The general pulled a card from his belt pouch and held it to the small eyehole at the door. After holding it in place a moment, he then stepped back from the door and presented his face plainly at the level of the eye hole. Within a few seconds, there were several clicks from within as the door slowly swung open.
The general brushed past the two uniforms at the door without a return salute, and the senior military man stormed with clout down a series of concrete corridors and metal doors until he came to a door guarded from the outside by two uniformed men, each armed with an M-1014 shotgun and Glock sidearm. Their faces showed indifferent expressions, even as the general approached the door.
The general did not break stride as the two soldiers saluted and quickly opened the door, allowing him passage through. The door snapped shut behind him, and the general assessed the situation.
Bound to a metal folding chair in the middle of the room was a young man of medium build and shaggy blonde hair. He looked unharmed except for the small trickle of blood coming from the side of his mouth. His eyes looked around wildly, and his breathing was rapid and deep. There was another uniformed guard standing in the corner of the small room. The general returned his salute.
General Rainesford watched the young man closely for a few seconds, waiting to see if he would speak first, but the man only continued to look at the senior military official wildly. He was too afraid to speak, so the general decided to break the silence.
“You’ve been up here before.” The statement was final, not a question at all.
The young man shook his head and then he began nodding. His eyes revealed that he had been crying before the general entered the room, whether genuinely or out of desperation, the general did not care, and now the young man began to do so again.
“Ye—Yes sir.” His hands were taped to his thighs and he gripped them hard in order to control his sobs. “I’ve been in this area se—several times but only for bird watching. I’m a graduate student of ornithology, and I’m do—doing my thesis on the mating habits of the re—red tailed hawk.”
He looked pleadingly at the stone face of his captor and waited for a response. The general stared at the young man for several seconds, weighing his options carefully. He had the authority to do with the man as he pleased, but he often liked to exercise restraint. It was always easier to plow around a stump rather than dig it up for a straight row.
“There is very little wildlife in this area.” Rainesford responded dryly. “There is running equipment here that doesn’t agree with their sensitive nature.” He exhaled loudly. It seemed to give the tension in the room the opportunity to thin out. “Have you always come here alone?”
“Yes sir.” The young man’s posture slumped slightly and he exhaled as well, feeling the tension lifting. “I’ve never brought anyone with me, and I’m very sorry. “
Rainesford waved his hand in front of his face and shook his head.
“No need to apologize, young man.” He motioned to the guard to untie the prisoner. “We just have to take extra precautions because of the sensitive nature of our business up here.” He leaned forward and winked in the young man’s face. “Anti-terrorism stuff, you know.”
The general smiled, and the young man laughed audibly in return as General Rainesford patted him on the back and led him out of the room. The solider was walking at his side.
“Don’t worry, son.” He stopped walking and let the soldier lead him out. “This officer is going to take care of you.” And with that, the soldier and the young man turned out of the general’s sight.
Rainesford did an about face and walked deeper into the complex. He came to a room dimly lit with computer and surveillance monitors. The two soldiers seated at the equipment turned and acknowledged the higher ranking official’s entrance, but neither got up to salute, such an action would become too repetitive in this environment. Everyone was doing a job, not performing a duty.
General Rainesford pulled a rolling chair from the corner and seated himself between the working soldiers.
“Any activity?” He asked, leaning forward and putting on a headset.
“Things have been quiet for awhile now. When is the next scheduled transmission?” Rainesford asked.
“Three days, sir.” One of the officers replied blandly.
“Well, it won’t be long before the last transmission comes and we are forced to comply with their demands, oh, excuse me, ‘requests’.” He ran his hands roughly over his cheeks and then rubbed his eyes.
One of the soldiers ran his hand along a roller, bringing the picture up on one of the monitors and focusing it. The general glanced at the screen and shook his head.
The young man, who had been bound to a chair only minutes before, was being escorted outside by two uniformed men. The young civilian seemed to be laughing and shaking his head at the entire matter. The volume was turned down, but it was obvious that he was thanking the uniformed men for letting him go. He turned and walked away. The view zoomed closer. General Rainesford shot a scolding glance at the officer who was controlling the monitor.
The young civilian walked only a few steps when one of the soldiers grabbed him from behind and forced him to the edge of the steep mountain. The man gained his footing and began to push back violently, forcing the second soldier to joined in the struggle.
The camera zoomed closer on the young man’s horror-stricken face as the two soldiers gave a final heaving shove, sending him head first over the edge.
General Rainesford cupped his face in his hand and yawned. A soldier entered the door behind them carrying a white foam cup of coffee. The general nodded his head and sipped the soothing drink slowly, then smiled in approval of the taste.
“Get our man in Washington on the line.” He said, turning to the soldier to his right. “I want to know as much as he can tell me about how things are progressing in Virginia. In fact, don’t even bother. I’m heading back to Washington now.”