Undisclosed, page 27
She hovered in the semi-darkness, thirty-three-feet above the nose of an Atlas-V rocket, the only sound coming from her heaving chest.
Despite her sprint, the ARV was still a good distance ahead.
If you’re going to do this, you’ll need an explanation as to why you’re buzzing around the Atlas launch site.
“I was working in the lab when the ceiling started to rumble and panels started falling from the ceiling … hell, I thought it was an earthquake. My Cosmic Clearance gives me access to everything, so I left the lab to check it out … is there a problem, marine?”
Satisfied with her story, she flew another quarter mile before spotting the outline of red warning lights which separated the Atlas rockets launch sites from the rest of the tunnel. Ian Concannon had warned her about the boundary being armed with an electromagnetic pulse that would disable her anti-gravitics and she had no interest in crashing twice in one evening.
Jessica landed feet-first in the shadows of the second-to-last gantry. Removing her tool belt and anti-gravity gear, she stowed everything behind a four-foot-thick concrete pillar before speed walking the rest of the way—keeping to the tunnel’s darker periphery.
Detecting movement, she hid behind a vertical steel buttress.
A hatch was opening beneath the saucer section of the ARV, summoning four men in black uniforms from an interior complex out of her line of sight. They were pushing what looked like an extremely large laundry cart. Positioning it as close as they could to the hatch, the men formed a receiving line.
Another man wearing headgear and a black jumpsuit leaned out of the craft—Jessica took him to be the pilot. He quickly became engaged in a heated argument with one of the four worker bees as the ARV’s co-pilot began tossing cinderblock-size parcels wrapped in dark plastic out of the craft to the first loader in line.
“We’re light twenty kilos, and before you start in on your shit, this is the third time in the last two months the fucking FAC had Kfir Fighter Jets waiting for us as we entered Colombian air space. Plus there were another dozen of whatever they call their UH-60 Blackhawks—”
“—Arpia,” said the co-pilot as he tossed another plastic-wrapped cinderblock out of the ARV.
“Right, Arpia. How do you expect us to set down in a fucking jungle patrolled by armed Arpia helicopters?”
“We went over this. You pull a bunch of Mach-30 zig-zags across their radar screens and they won’t know where you’ll set down.”
FAC … he’s talking about the Fuerza Aerea Colombiana … the Colombian Air Force. Jesus, they’re using goddam Alien Reproduction Vehicles to smuggle cocaine into the states!
“You! Hands where I can see them … nice and slow.”
She turned, confronted by a brilliant white light, its 500 Lumens occupying her entire field of vision.
“My name is Dr. Jessica Marulli …” she held up her I.D. “As you can see, I’m Cosmic Clearance. Now get that goddam light out of my eyes before I have you demoted to parking lot attendant.”
She never saw the taser nor felt the sting of its two needle-like prongs as they struck her in the chest and left thigh. By then her mind was already surfing a blinding, deafening 60,000 volt wave of pain which slammed her into unconsciousness.
THE WHITE STUCCO DWELLING was set high on a knoll overlooking the Arizona Biltmore Hotel and the city of Phoenix, its orange Spanish roof tile matching the sunset-drenched backdrop of desert mountainside which rose behind the property. Built during the Great Depression by gum magnate and Chicago Cubs owner William Wrigley Jr., the 16,000-square-foot mansion had changed hands several times before eventually being restored as a historic landmark. A popular tourist destination, with an on-site restaurant open to the public, the mansion nevertheless remained a private club that served as a favorite meeting venue for one very well-to-do client.
Former Tech Sergeant Eugene Evans drove the Cadillac limousine up the winding path to the valet station, the vehicle’s tinted rear windows too dark to see the passenger riding in back. The usually open iron gate guarding the main entrance was closed, a posted sign explaining the circumstances:
PRIVATE PARTY TONIGHT
By Invitation Only
A man dressed in a black suit and sunglasses rapped on the tinted driver’s side window with his knuckles, his ear piece intended to give away his presence as security.
Eugene Evans rolled down his window. “Under Secretary Adam Shariak.”
“This is as far as you go, pal. We’ll escort Mr. Shariak inside; you can park down below in the Biltmore’s lot.”
A second “valet” opened the rear driver’s side door. “Good evening, Mr. Under Secretary. If you’ll come with me …”
Adam exited the limo, his escort leading him on a long walk to the front of the mansion. He was perspiring by the time they reached the main entrance which was accessible from two parallel flights of steps which framed a decorative mini-garden.
Adam followed the security guard up the staircase on the right, noticing the telltale bulge of the handgun pressing against the back of the man’s jacket. “So, I guess everyone on staff must be excited about the Cubs’ ninth inning rally last night to beat the Dodgers. Think they’ll make it back to the World Series?”
“This is Diamondback territory; no one here gives a damn about the Cubs. The main entrance is through that portal, they’re waiting for you inside.” He smirked. “Try to blend in.”
Thanks, douche bag. Try not to blow your ass off with your 9mm.
Adam made his way to the double doors set inside the alcove entrance, the roof of which served as the bottom of a Juliet balcony. Entering the mansion, he was greeted by a cold blast from an air conditioning vent. Before him was a grand staircase and a dazzling chandelier hanging from a high dome ceiling. As he took in the guests, he quickly realized that everyone was dressed for a black-tie affair … except him.
Michael, you bastard … you could have told me.
A cluster of women in evening gowns and men in custom-fitted tuxedos toasted him from across the room. Adam bowed in his navy-blue blazer and tan slacks and entered the main foyer.
Pretending to be interested in the mansion’s history, he stared at a series of framed black and white photos—using the reflection to track the two Caucasian males in dark suits approaching him from across the room.
“Mr. Shariak, if you’ll come with us, your party is waiting for you upstairs.”
He followed them back out of the foyer and up the winding steps of the grand staircase, his sciatic nerve on full meltdown by the time he reached the second floor. They proceeded down a narrow hallway to a closed door, distinguished from the others by a plaque indicating that Elvis Presley had once slept there.
“She’s waiting for you inside.”
Adam entered, anxious to see his fiancée. The bedroom was empty, but he could see Jessica standing outside on the balcony, her back to him, her shapely figure filling out the topaz evening dress.
He caught a whiff of her favorite perfume as he stepped outside and wrapped his arms around the blonde’s narrow waist from behind. He nuzzled her neck—his groin responding as her hand reached between his legs to playfully squeeze his crotch as she turned to face him—
—revealing herself to be another woman.
Adam backed away, his pulse racing. “Who the hell are you?”
“Kelly Kishel, counter-intelligence. I was sent by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations to brief you.”
“Were you also sent here to grope me?”
“Let the record show, Mr. Under Secretary, that you initiated the physical contact. I was just rolling with the punches.”
“Dr. Marulli apologizes, but she could not afford to leave her work at this time. She said you would understand.”
“Get her on the phone; let me speak with her.”
“I’m not authorized to do that. However, I can ask someone to arrange a call the moment your meeting concludes.”
“My terms of this meeting were simple, Agent Kishel. The fact that the Air Force just happened to select you—a blonde look-alike wearing Jessica’s perfume, sure reeks of a CIA set-up to me.”
He glanced over her shoulder at the flower pot hanging from the ceiling—the lens of a miniature video camera reflecting the sunset. “I am so out of here—”
She reached out and grabbed the crook of his arm as he turned to leave. “Wait. I’ve been authorized to offer you a small sum to call off your investigation … $75 million to be exact. That figure represents the amount of money you’d be saving the American taxpayer for cancelling these hearings.”
“What about the $100 billion in taxpayer monies spent annually on these so-called Unacknowledged Special Access Projects? How do you propose we save them that chunk of change?”
She forced a smile. “You have no idea what you’re dealing with, do you?”
“Let me take a guess … UFOs, ETs, and the advanced technologies uncovered by these illegal USAPs for the commercial gain of a group of defense contractors whose CEOs will be receiving subpoenas from my office—that sound about right to you?”
She was about to reply when she received a communiqué over her earpiece. “They want to meet you.”
“It’s important you do this … for Jessica’s sake.” Without waiting for a reply she led him out of the bedroom and down the hall to a set of double doors guarded by the two security bookends. Turning to face him, Agent Kishel brushed lint from his lapel with one hand, slipping a folded business card into his jacket pocket with the other. “These are nasty people. Don’t try to be a hero, hero … or things will turn out bad.”
Opening the door, she motioned for him to enter.
The chamber had been originally designed as a game room. Mixed in with the antique Cubs’ baseball paraphernalia, dart boards, two pool tables and three green-felt octagonal card tables, was a large flat screen television and six smaller monitors which occupied one entire wall. The high ceiling was buttressed in a dark-stained oak which matched the bar; the remaining three walls were covered in expensive oil paintings of plump nude women which dated back to the sixteenth century. The rest of the furnishings were ornate, the arched windows curtained in cherry-red drapes, the scent of cigar smoke and age embedded in the heavy fabric.
The caterer had set up eight rectangular aluminum serving dishes which held hot entrees on two long folding tables. A third table displayed the remains of what had been an assortment of desserts.
Seated around a white linen-covered dining table were a dozen Council members representing the inner circle of the group formerly known as Majestic-12. All were Caucasian and male; the youngest was in his mid-forties, the oldest pushing eighty-five. Half had served in either the Armed Forces or the intelligence community; a few had crossed into politics. Of the six businessmen, two were American, one was English. The Scandinavian owned a private bank; the Australian was an engineer; the Russian an industrialist with ties to the KGB. Though they hailed from different backgrounds and countries, they were all billionaires who preferred to operate their empires from the shadows.
Four of the men were hardliners who were convinced that the only sensible solution to the planet’s diminishing resources was to eliminate the middle class while systematically reducing the world’s population.
The youngest member of the group—an American CEO—looked up at Adam Shariak with a Cheshire-cat smile. “Under Secretary Shariak … so nice of you to join us. You must be hungry; make yourself a plate.”
“I’m good, thank you.”
“You seem a bit uptight. How about a drink … or perhaps a lady of the evening? Our clients downstairs are enjoying the local talent but I’ve got a few Asian delights stashed in one of the upstairs bedrooms for our VIPs.”
“I think I’ll pass, but it’s nice to see you’re in such good spirits, Mr. Laskowski. I look forward to questioning you before Congress.”
“And I look forward to pleading the fifth.”
A few of the men laughed.
The Russian stomped out his cigar. “There is reason we wished to meet you. We have heard you are man of strong character, da?”
“You’d have to define character to me, Comrade.”
“For me this means family-first.”
Adam felt a sweat bead trickle down his armpit. “Whose family?”
“Yours, of course,” said the lanky white-haired Englishman. “There’s your stepbrother, Senator Hall, and of course … your fiancée. She’s lobbied hard for us to bring you in.”
They’re lying …
“Oh, and just to clarify … the $75 million Agent Kishel mentioned on the balcony is merely a fee for ending your witch hunt. The starting salary is $36 million a year, plus perks—one of which is that you would be able to work with Dr. Marulli.”
“So that’s a $75 million signing bonus and $3 million a month for selling my soul. Just one quick question before I exercise my strong character and tell you to go fuck yourselves—what exactly is it that you people do?”
“We provide … balance,” the tan, fit-looking Scandinavian replied. “Think of us as a western-leaning think tank possessing extraordinary influence. When the world slips off-kilter, we have the means to right the ship.”
“Provided the ship runs on diesel fuel … yes?”
The younger American stood and applauded. “Bravo. In one short sentence you’ve managed to demonstrate your complete ignorance of world affairs. Gentlemen, I give you our new Under Secretary of Peace and Love. I’m sure we’ll all sleep better with Mr. Shariak installed as our newest non-voting member of Council.”
“Actually Mr. Laskowski, it’s Captain Shariak. And while you and your rich pals have apparently been manipulating dictators and armies like pieces on a chessboard, grunts like me have witnessed first-hand the death and destruction your narcissistic decisions have wrought upon the masses.”
“Save that lecture for the obstructionists occupying Capitol Hill. And for the record, our interests do serve the masses.”
“If that’s true, gentlemen, then prove it to me right now, and I’ll reconsider your offer.”
“How can we prove it,” the Australian asked.
“Climate change is destroying Mother Earth like a metastatic cancer. Take a vote right now on phasing out fossil fuels over the next three years by introducing zero-point-energy into the public domain. Leave a legacy that saves our planet … do the right thing, and I’ll do whatever I can to support you.”
A heavy silence fell over the chamber. The six men in favor of Adam’s proposal quickly identified themselves by leaning back in their chairs and offering supportive glances while the three individuals who opposed his request—the Russian, the older American businessman, and the Brit seemed clearly perturbed by the Under Secretary’s audacity even to ask.
And yet the other three men appeared unsure. The Aussie was clearly mulling it over, his hazel eyes intensely focused on the table top, while the gray-haired former National Security Advisor seated directly across the table from him was embattled in his own internal struggle.
And then there was Laskowski. The youngest member of the billionaires’ boys club seemed like a deer caught in headlights—the headlights being the hawkish gray eyes of the older American staring down at him from the opposite end of the table.
He was frail and pale and in his eighties, his receding hairline covered in liver spots. Stooped over from scoliosis, the old man’s aura nevertheless weighed heavily in the chamber like a black hole, his presence clearly affecting Laskowski, who circled the dessert table, helping himself to a slice of chocolate cake as he attempted to regain his composure. “Upending the free markets would cause chaos, Mr. Shariak, and chaos is not in the best interests of the masses.”
“Did the personal computer cause ch
“One day, perhaps. Not today.”
“Not today?” Adam glanced around the room. “How many todays do you think we have left? Surely some of you have children and grandchildren? Don’t they deserve a planet where the air can actually be breathed? Step up to the plate, gentlemen … do the right thing. Or is it more important to allow your oil oligarch pals downstairs to suck every last drop of oil out of the ground? For God’s sake, how many billions of dollars do you people need?”
The Aussie looked up … he was about to speak—
—when the old man slammed both palms on the table. “How dare you insult the Eternal Father and His Son—our Lord and Savior—by speaking of money! It is only through the atonement of Christ than mankind shall be saved and not by employing an energy device invented by the devil. This man—this heathen—is not a member of Council; nor should he ever be. He has not accepted Jesus Christ into his heart; he does not believe in the restoration of the ten tribes or that Zion, the New Jerusalem shall be erected on American soil. When the minions of Satan are vanquished from the skies, then Christ shall reign. Then and only then shall Mother Earth be renewed and mankind shall bask in all His glory.”
The man stood, his face a mask of hatred as he pointed a calloused index finger at the Under Secretary of Defense. “Leave our sanctuary … now!”
Adam glanced around the table, tallying the averted expressions. Exiting through the double doors, he pushed his way past the two security goons and Agent Kishel as he retrieved his iPhone from his jacket pocket. Gripping the rail of the grand staircase with his right hand, he speed-dialed with his left, the heel of the shoe of his prosthetic leg nearly twisting off as he hurriedly descended the narrow steps.
“Meet me out front in thirty seconds; I’m done here.”