Undisclosed, page 2
Michael knew the caterpillar was blind; his tutor had told him that when the exercise had commenced almost an hour before. He rapped his knuckles against the inside of the thick glass jar, a sense of claustrophobia building.
Sensing the disturbance, the caterpillar’s head rose to investigate. For several seconds it blindly searched along the inside of the lid before dropping again to circle.
What do blind caterpillars want?
How does a blind caterpillar even know it’s blind?
And then it came to him, sparked by his reading assignment.
“It’s a metaphor.”
The hologram of Amy Shau joined him inside the jar. “Elaborate please.”
“It’s a metaphor for humanity, prior to the D.E.”
The attractive Asian woman smiled. “And how is a blind caterpillar sealed in a jar a metaphor for humanity prior to the Disclosure Event of 2017?”
“The caterpillar’s blind, so it doesn’t know it’s sealed inside its jar, therefore it must keep searching.”
“And what is it searching for?”
“A branch to spin its cocoon from; without it, it can never fulfill its destiny.”
“And what is its destiny, Mr. Sutterfield?”
“Its destiny is to become a butterfly. See, that’s the metaphor. Humanity’s destiny was to sprout our wings as a species—you know—live in peace … explore the galaxy. Only we didn’t, we just blindly walked around in circles for over a century until the D.E. finally occurred … at least that’s what I read in my history book.”
“Very good. And who placed humanity in the jar?”
“Uh … I don’t know.”
“The answer, Mr. Sutterfield, are the ones who profited from keeping humanity sealed in the jar. There was an old expression used before the Monetary Reforms of 2022: Always follow the money.”
“I don’t get it.”
The jar disappeared, Michael once more finding himself seated across from his tutor.
“The seventh grade curriculum is quite different from Grammar school. In addition to an introduction to the new sciences, there is a great deal of focus on consciousness and spirituality. You will be taught the most effective ways to meditate. Assuming you pass all of your prerequisites, you will join twenty-four other classmates on three week-long CE-5 training retreats.”
Michael smiled. “I am so ready for that.”
“Not yet. Before any student can begin CE-5 training, they must understand the circumstances that led to humanity being trapped in a jar during the 20th and 21st centuries.”
“Why is that so important, Ms. Shau?”
“Because Michael, if the Disclosure Event had not happened when it did, the entire human race would have become extinct.”
Before the Disclosure Event …
January 20, 2017
THE PLATFORM MEASURED over ten thousand square feet and had been built from scratch, its construction “officially” initiated when a single nail was ceremoniously hammered into a plank back on September 11, 2016.
Two thousand VIPs were seated on the riser, huddling beneath scarves and umbrellas … anything to stay dry in the cold rain. Another hundred thousand visitors encircled the Capitol Building beneath a smoke-gray winter sky as the forty-fifth American ever to be elected to the highest office of the land took the oath:
“I, Donald John Trump, do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
The new President of the United States accepted the congratulations of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court before kissing his wife, Melania, to a loud cheer from the partisan crowd—
—while millions of demonstrators protested the event across the country and around the globe.
* * *
Adam Shariak located the TV controller beneath a stack of folders and muted the flat screen television mounted on his office wall. Politics had never interested the former Apache helicopter pilot and decorated Iraqi war vet until he had become managing director of Kemp Aerospace Industries. With billions in defense contracts at stake, Adam’s CEO, Dr. Michael Kemp, had made it clear which politicians he expected his staff to support. Of course, that gesture paled in comparison to the seven-figure donation Kemp Aerospace made to the Super PAC which forwarded the defense contractor’s agenda.
A history buff, Adam could only imagine how America’s founding fathers would have reacted had they known about the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling which allowed corporate interests to dwarf the rights of the individual. Given a rewrite today, he imagined the authors of the Constitution would have imposed some serious limitations on D.C.’s “professional politicians,” no doubt beginning with term limits.
Adam reached for the Levitron Anti-Gravity Top—a gift from his girlfriend, Jessica, on his thirty-ninth birthday. With an expertise born from a thousand twists, he pinched the tip of the device between his thumb and index finger and gave it a sharp spin, the torque causing the top to lift away from its magnetic pad like a flying saucer.
Watching the anti-gravitic device caused his thoughts to wander.
What had ever happened to the promise of flying cars … or the exploration of our galaxy? Forty-five years had passed since man had last set foot on the moon—a full eight years before he was born. By now mankind should have had thriving lunar communities with space travel having become as common to humans as commercial air travel. We certainly had the ingenuity; Kemp’s teams were providing technology to the Defense Department that far exceeded anything NASA had contributed in the last twenty years. Even the new laptops and PCs possessed more computational power than anything on board the space shuttle.
Had we simply lost interest in our own evolution?
Adam glanced up at the TV set, the split screen showing the new president’s supporters on one side, the demonstrators on the other. Fifty years ago America had found itself in a similar tug-of-war over its own morality. Five decades after Vietnam, a different kind of war dominated the news.
Fifty years. No space travel, no cures for cancer, same old gasoline-fueled combustion engines … same old hatreds—only now the venom could be shared more efficiently and impersonally by email and Twitter, the country hopelessly split down the middle by two political parties that refused to compromise.
He had found himself in a similar conversation two nights earlier at a Defense Department dinner.
“Don’t fret it, Shariak. What’s important to us is that the new president knows war is good for the economy.”
* * *
Adam Shariak was born into the life of a nomad. The only child successfully conceived by Air Force Colonel William Shariak and First Lieutenant Sara Jernigan-Shariak (there were two prior miscarriages), the boy had “redeployed” seven times in three different countries before he had entered kindergarten. By the time he was given the standard military ID card issued to children with parents in the Armed Forces, Adam had forgotten half the places he had lived.
Being raised on a military base can be especially challenging for a child. Friendships are short-term with moves frequent, forcing one to become resilient to change. Conversely, the military life encompasses rigid routines, with family members often treated as soldiers, forced to accept a code of honor and self-discipline foreign to their peers. While these traits are valued in the work force, a “military brat” often feels like an outsider in the non-military world.
Sara Jernigan-Shariak had been the glue that held the family together. Whether it was Kansas, Texas, or the military base in Turkey, the moment Adam’s mother unpacked the apartment or duplex or hotel room, it not only functioned as a family unit, but as the boy’s home-school and his personal training center.
If Colonel Shariak had to rise at 4:30 a.m., then so did his family. After feeding her “men” breakfas
When he was thirteen, Adam attended class at the local middle school. If the coach was lucky, they’d have the gifted athlete for an uninterrupted season of football and track. Unfortunately, Colonel Shariak was kept on the move as the United States Armed Forces prepared for the first Iraq war, and his son’s social and athletic life suffered as a result.
Things changed when Adam turned fifteen and made the Ayer Shirley Regional High School varsity football team as a sophomore. When his father was ordered to report to Frankfurt, Germany a month into the season, the starting fullback made it clear to his parents that he was not leaving Fort Evens. And so the Shariaks split up—the colonel and his wife heading overseas; Adam moving in with Head Coach Adrian Reeves and his family.
It was in Germany that Sara noticed a small lump in her left breast. A biopsy revealed the tumor; blood tests that it was malignant. Surgery was performed, the colonel and his wife deciding not to tell their son about it. Weeks of chemo followed. Unfortunately, the cancer had metastasized to Sara’s lymph nodes.
Sara’s physician informed the colonel that it was just matter of time. Complicating matters was that his wife was too weak to handle the trip back to the states to see Adam, whose high school football team was competing for a division playoff spot.
And so Adam never knew that his mother was sick until after she passed away.
Adam was devastated. His mother had been his most trusted friend; now the colonel had not only kept the teen from her when she was sick, he had also robbed him of his only chance to say good-bye.
The anger the sixteen-year-old directed toward his father only escalated when the colonel returned to Massachusetts the following October with his new bride.
Marilyn Hall worked as a nurse at the base hospital in Frankfurt. Sara had been her patient; upon her death she had become the stabilizing force in Bill Shariak’s life. A widow herself, Marilyn also had a son, Randy, who was in his first year at Harvard Law School.
Adam was furious; his mother’s body was still warm in the grave, and now his father had married her nurse? The teen refused to talk to the couple, let alone move in with them. As far as he was concerned, Coach Reeves was his father now.
That became a problem when his surrogate parent accepted the offensive coordinator position at Indiana University in February of Adam’s junior year. If the teen had any hope of earning a football scholarship, he had to compete his next two seasons at Ayer Shirley Regional High School—and that meant moving in with the colonel and his new wife.
The situation quickly became toxic.
Twice-a-week mandatory counseling sessions gradually eased Adam’s anger toward his stepmother, but the wall he had erected between himself and the colonel would not come down. Despite focusing his rage on the football field, the season was a disappointment as the new head coach ran an offense without a fullback, forcing Adam to learn a new position—tight end.
Relegated to the bench, Adam lost his motivation. His grades suffered and he contemplated dropping out of school, his only enjoyment coming from playing video games.
When Marilyn noticed these games were military-oriented contests featuring combat helicopters, she convinced William to teach his son to fly.
A flight aboard one of the base’s Sikorsky helicopters led to private lessons with the colonel and hundreds of hours of practice on a flight simulator, which quickly replaced the teen’s video games as his favorite activity. Adam worked hard to impress his father, and it wasn’t long before the colonel allowed his son to take the co-pilot’s controls while in the air.
A relationship slowly matriculated, aided by Marilyn, whose loving personality was similar to that of Adam’s mother. Stepbrother Randy drove in for Adam’s football games his senior year, solidifying the family unit. By the time he graduated high school, Adam Shariak could pilot a chopper better than most adults could drive a car.
The teen received one offer to play Division-I football, and that was from his old high school coach who was now installed as the offensive coordinator at Indiana University. Adam rarely played, and when he did, his role was relegated to blocking. And then, on a nationally televised game on Thanksgiving weekend against perennial powerhouse Ohio State, Indiana’s starting tailback suffered a concussion and Coach Reeves decided to give his adopted son a shot.
Adam started the second half as the team’s halfback. He ran for 126 yards and scored two touchdowns before tearing the ACL in his left knee. The injury officially ended his playing career. It was a bittersweet tale—a taste of success … only to be yanked away, and the pattern would repeat itself throughout his adult life.
Adam spent the rest of his senior year rehabbing his knee. Upon graduating Indiana with a degree in engineering, he promptly enlisted. Upon completing officer’s training, “Captain” Shariak was assigned to the Army’s 1st Battalion, 4th Aviation Regiment where he would spend the next two years training to pilot the AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopter.
It took incredible dexterity and coordination to fly the warship. It wasn’t enough that his four limbs were responsible for four completely different tasks, his eyes also had to function independently as well. A monocle positioned over his right iris immersed him in a virtual world of fluctuating instrument readings while the eyepiece covering his left eye maintained a real world view.
For most of the first year he suffered terrible headaches as his two eyes competed for dominance.
It took Adam six months just to learn how to fly the air machine, six more to master its weapons system, and another half a year to put everything together until he finally felt combat-ready.
Two months later, his battalion deployed to the Middle East to join Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The city of Karbala had initially been bypassed by American forces in favor of a direct advance on Baghdad. Adam’s team arrived in time to provide air cover for the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division which had engaged Saddam’s Republican Guard just southeast of the city.
Captain Shariak and his co-pilot, Chief Warrant Officer Jared Betz, were flying their third combat mission over Karbala when a rocket-propelled grenade struck their Apache, sending their helicopter slicing sideways through the hot desert air. Somehow Captain Shariak was able to aim the plunging airship between two buildings, tearing off the rotors while funneling the crash into a semi-controlled landing, avoiding thousands of Iraqi civilians.
The impact collapsed the cockpit like a steel accordion, shattering Adam’s left femur. Pinned beneath the wreckage, the captain ordered his co-pilot to abandon him in order to evade capture. By the time Betz returned with help, Captain Shariak was gone; eyewitnesses claiming the American pilot had been taken prisoner by Saddam’s forces.
* * *
Gravity recaptured the spinning top, slowing its inertia. Adam allowed it to die on the magnetic pad, checking the time on his vintage Three Stooges desk clock, a graduation gift from his stepbrother, Randy.
Five-twenty. Dinner reservations are at seven-thirty. If we leave here by six we should get to the restaurant with about ten minutes to spare.
Timing was everything in D.C. On normal days the traffic was merely horrendous; with the inauguration it would be impossible. For someone who considered himself a shut-in, downtown was the last place you’d find Adam Shariak on a night like tonight … but tonight was “special.”
Considering all he had been through, he was amazed
* * *
The Iraqis that had captured Captain Adam Shariak were members of Saddam’s elite Republican Guard, led by a sadistic commander named Abu Anas al-Baghdadi. Adam’s injuries were serious—his broken femur became infected and swelled to twice its size, gangrene quickly setting in. Al-Baghdadi needed his injured American prisoner kept alive, so he assigned the pilot’s health to one of the young girls who he had kidnapped and turned into a sex slave.
Nadia Kalaf was fourteen. Her mother had been a nurse before the Fedayeen had gunned her down; therefore Al-Baghdadi assumed her daughter had to know something about first aid. The commander made it clear—if the American died before the Fedayeen could acquire Intel from the pilot then the girl would join him, only her death would be far more gruesome.
What the Iraqi sociopath didn’t know was that the girl wanted to die. And so she allowed gangrene to set into Adam’s wounds … only to reverse course days later once she got to know the American pilot.
By week’s end, she had decided to help him escape.
* * *
Captain Shariak awoke in a hospital bed at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. The infection that had nearly killed him was gone; so too was his left leg, amputated above the knee.
Losing a limb had a devastating impact on Adam’s psyche. Flying helicopters was far more than his occupation; it had become everything to him.
Without a left leg, he was permanently grounded.
Two months later he found himself back in the states at Walter Reed Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland suffering from extreme depression.
Eight months of physical therapy enabled him to get along with a prosthetic leg; but it would take several years of counseling before Adam finally accepted his fate and could move on.
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