Where strange fact and stranger fiction collide
Sleepwalker, don’t be shy
Now don’t open your eyes tonight
You’ll be the one that defends my life
While I’m dead asleep dreaming’
Sleepwalker – The Wallflowers.
One Week Ago.
The panic was covered on Dr Redshaw’s face with a mask of displeasure “Where is your father?” He snapped at Hitomi Soto “everything is turning pear shaped.”
“He is in Building B with Annie” The younger Dr, Soto snapped back. The girl was known for her almost Zen like calm, but the Britt’s attitude and the impending crisis was taking its toll. The only reason Redshaw wanted her father there, was so that he would have someone else to blame if things really did turn bad.
“We are going to loose the dreamers, we need his ass here!” The scientist demanded
“If they really are under attack, then they are all being attacked. They will need him in B, just as badly.” Though a competent physician, and as knowledgeable, as anyone in what The Morpheus Foundation was trying to do, she too also wished her father was there with them, if for no other reason than moral support.
“I am getting slight variance in brain wave activity” Mr. Kim the Korean med-tech announced. His sound of his voice was calm, almost robotic.
Redshaw began to run his finger’s through his already thinning hair Like almost everyone else on the island, when on duty, he wore the brown unmarked overalls of the Morpheus Foundation, but over his he wore a white lab coat. Like a bishop’s vestment it was more an indication of rank, than something to keep his overalls clean.
He looked at the two occupied isolation tanks. On the white pod’s lids were real-time video displays of the pod’s occupants. An old man, and a woman with a shaved head slept inside the chambers. Naked they were floating in some form of liquid, their limp bodies seemingly oblivious to the impending crisis. The medical sensors on the pods began to beep a warning.
“Pull them, pull the plug!” Redshaw yelled
“Oliver, don’t be a fool, they have survived attacks before” Hitomi snapped,
Redshaw began to seethe, his natural Manchester accent began seeping through his poised Cambridge one. “I am in charge here and I say pull them out!” He demanded, rushing over to the consul he pushed the Korean away and began to power the system down. “I am evoking emergencies procedures, I am waking them up.”
“No.” Kim said loudly, there was a sense of urgency in his tone but not stress or panic.
Redshaw ignored the technician, and focused on the controls. The pods began to shutter, slowly at first then more violently. The oval shaped isolating chambers began to shake back and forth…making a loud sound as they trembled against the ground. “They are starting to seizure.” Redshaw gasped,
It can’t be, Hitomi thought, those chambers weigh over a ton they can’t be moving them from inside She glanced over and saw the pods inhabitants on the screen, they looked serene and peaceful despite being sloshed around in the chamber. Liquid waves cresting over their faces. The chambers begin to spark. From the closest pod Soto saw what looked like a skeletal hand made of electricity rise and slowly move towards her. The doctor froze in shock.
Mr. Kim rushed forward and slammed Hitome to the ground. The phantom hand flew over them crashing into a server. Sparks cascaded from the computer,
Dumbstruck, Redshaw stared like a deer caught in an oncoming car’s headlights. A second electrical hand came forth from the other chamber. He gasped “Msdr kl alashya’a!” The hand wrapped around him like an anaconda made of plasma. It lifted him off the ground; the helpless man began to seizure Blood began to trickle out his mouth and eye sockets.
Dr, Cobb wheeled Jack Mora in to the lab. Like all the other wheelchair enhancements, Jack assumed they had been added during the last week or so, but they were so superbly built into the building’s Fung Shui it was like it had been designed that way form the beginning. On the surface Cobb seemed to be the affable, anarchist hippie academic that he portrayed himself as. However Jack had sensed something else, something that verged on the edge of sinister It could have been Mora’s training of how to read people he gotten form the CIA, or the paranoia he also picked up at the agency. Or more than likely if it was really anything it was his natural ability to sense things about people that they tried to hide from the world.
The lab like every thing else on Sanduerlearan Island, was Spartan and utilitarian. No personal photographs on computer monitors, no dog-eared paperbacks left on desks, no colored pictures drawn by kindergarteners on cubicle walls. All the people living on the island could just get on a transport and leave, and except for their living quarters there would be nothing left on the damned island to indicate the individuality of those who had once lived there.
There was one glaring exception. On a table in the foyer going in to the main lab, was a papier-mâché cat. It had large googley eyes and its right hand seemed to wave people in. It would look more in place in a Chinese buffet, than a top secret laboratory, To Jack it was a welcome relief in a sea of uniformity. He wondered the iconoclast Cobb had left it there for some reason.
Cobb rolled Jack into a room that was bustling with activity. Despite its stark white walls, it reminded jack of the op-centers the CIA used. The academic took him to three men who seemed to be praying at a shrine to technology. “Mr. Mora, let me introduce you to the Morpheus Foundations version of the three stooges, well they would be if, Larry, Moe and Curley were the top of their fields.”
The first man working on a keyboard was a Caucasian, stocky and wearing thick glasses, he reminded Jack of any number of nameless IT drones, he had known in the past The second man sitting on the table fiddling with some wirings was a dark skinned black man with dreadlocks The third man was a no nonsense looking Asian, with a crew cut, he barely looked up from his computer tablet to acknowledge Jack’s presence,
Jack stretched out his hand “Hello.” he said. Mora was being more than just polite there was a tactical reason for his actions, he was on an island full of strangers with unknown motives and he had no idea of his employer’s true identity. Though the Morpheus Foundation seemed to be benign he didn’t know that for certain, and the more allies he could obtain from within its ranks the better. Especially with Helen lying in a coma back in their quarters.
The black man laid down his wiring, and pushed of his table, taking Jacks hand, he said in a thick Patois accent, “Nice meeting you Mora call me Toadie?”
“Toadie” Jack repeated not sure he caught it with the deep Jamaican accent.
“Ya,” explained the dreadlocked man, “See when I in college me cousin Malcolm, he play the drums for this boss reggae band mon, called themselves The Mayor of Portland Ever hear of dem.”
“No, he prosily listens to real music.” Quipped the computer tech.
The Jamaican gave his counterpart a snide look then went back to Jack, “Well anyhow, the summer my junior year, he and the boys were touring all over US and Canada, so he get me this sweet gig as their roadie, and well every one call me Toadie the Roadie, when I get back to school, the Roadie part dropped and the Toadie part stick.”
“The part I can’t believe about that story is that you went to college,” Joked the man in front of the computer.
Jack thought that Toadie was going to hall off and hit the other man, but instead he just broke into a deep baritone laugh “That the strange thing about this island, even the dude who picks up the trash on de ground has a PhD in electrical engineering.”
The man in front of the computer didn’t get up but nodded his greeting to Mora. “I’m Wedge”
“Mr. Wedge.” Jack replied
“No, just Wedge” The man on the computer explained, as if everyone only had one name “And this silent brute is Mr. Kim, Nurse Chappell, to the many Bones McCoy’s we have here”
Jack vaguely got that was a Star Trek reference but wasn’t sure what it meant.
“It is a pleasure to meet you, I will do my best to assist you during your duration on the island” The Asian said with out looking up from the tablet. His words were welcoming but his tone was professional.
“Now that you have met the people who actually do the work here, let’s meet the management.” Cobb said with a chuckle. He pushed Jack to a desk at the corner. “Someone will be here monetarily, I wish I could say they won’t bite but I hate to lie.” This time there was no joking laughter. Cobb then left leaving Jack in front of an empty desk.
The myriad of workers went about there business ignoring jack. This continued for about five minutes, Mora assumed this was some kind of test, someone somewhere was watching him, maybe on close circuit TV, to see how he would react He had dealt with enough of this BS in the military and agency, to comprehend it and let it go. He needed to appear to be the picture of professionalism, if for no other reason for Helen’s sake.
Finally a woman sat down in the chair on the other side of the desk. She didn’t even attempt to apologize about having Jack left there all alone. “Mr. Mora my name is Rachel Sondheim, I will be assisting you with the tactical aspects of your missions.”
Jack had worked with enough Israeli Special Forces and Mossad agents to recognize her accent. Like every one except Dr, Cobb she wore the brown utilitarian over alls. In her youth Rachel Sondheim, must have been a stone fox. Now apparently in her fifties, he body was trying desperately to hold on to the beauty of youth. Her dark skin was beginning to wrinkle, probably to much combination of sun and smoking. Her hair was beginning to turn to a frosty gray. Her dark eyes reelected a past of someone who had lived through war and strife
“Ma’am, I have not been completely informed, about a tactical nature of my assignment on the island.” Jack replied, in military fashion.
“Does it bother you that there might be a military aspect of our research here?” She asked leaning back in her chair
“No.” Jack replied honestly and without hesitation. He was a decorated combat veteran, and an ex-covert op. He was completely comfortable with the idea of using technology in the battlefield. The only questions here, how could dream research be used to gain a tactical advantage? And who exactly was this research going to?
“Are you familiar with an organization called Al Azif?” The woman asked
“I have just heard rumors about them, I know they are the only thing that the Taliban is afraid of”
The woman pulled out a package of Cleopatra cigarettes and a lighter, she paused to light her cigarette and nodded. Despite being what he assumed was a ‘clean’ lab, no one in the room seemed to take issue with her smoking. In fact every one working here seemed to be actively trying to ignore Rachel and Jack’s conversation. After the pause she nodded and continued. “They have reason to be afraid. More fanatical than Al-Qaida, they practice a religion older than Islam, Christianity, and Judaidism, older than even what the Sumerian’s practiced. They are planning an attack much greater than Nine-Eleven, and they are light years ahead of us when it comes to The Dreaming.”
As the woman pulled an ash tray from the desk, Jack took her words in. Were these people part of The Defense Department? The Agency? Since he been here he had seen Americans, Australians, Indians, Ghurkas from Nepal, a Jamaican, several different types of Asians and now an Israeli, Dr, Cobb had said the island was a United Nations protectorate, was this a UN operation of some kind?
But whoever they were, Sondheim was now saying they were here to thwart some kind of attack from a group of fanatical terrorist. Jack’s purpose, his only interest in the Morpheus Foundation really had been that they said they could reunite him with Helen. But jack had spent most of his adult life fighting the enemies of America, something he thought he could never do again after the accident, and the possibility of an offer for a chance to get back into the action, intrigued him “You are saying that Arabic terrorist are planning to use this dreaming as a weapon?”
The Israeli woman smiled. “Don’t be fooled Mr. Mora, the typical Al Azif member is more likely now a days to be a Wall Street banker than Dumascan acetic, And its isn’t a matter of ‘going to’ they are doing it now”
Off all things on this strange island, nothing had shocked Jack like this news. “How do you want me to stop it?”
The woman snuffed out her cigarette and placed the ashtray back in the drawer Other than a faint smell of smoke there was now no evidence that anyone had smoked at the desk. “I am afraid that some things you can only understand by experiencing.” Sondheim stood up, “Mr. Mora there is one more person you must meet before you start your…journey. But I am curious have you ever studied Nietzsche?”
“Not particularly?” Jack admitted
“There is something in Beyond Good and Evil; you may want to look up. A warning to those who fight monsters, least monsters you become: You stare to long in to the abyss and it begins to stare back into you.” The woman smiled again, but this time it was tinged with years of experience, a warning of sorts “As soon as Mr. Arcady is finished with you, we will start your initial training.”
The entire conversation had lasted just over two minutes, but Jack felt that he had just passed some kind of interview. He didn’t have to wait long for this Arcady person. The man was six, two of pure muscle, shaved head and a firm jaw. “My name is Anton Arcady,” The man said offering Jack a firm handshake. His accent placed him from somewhere around St. Petersburg. If Jack was feeling vibes of dishonesty from Dr, Cobb, this man was a bright beacon of deceit and lethality. “I trust that we have not scared you off.”
Jack shook his head to him this man seemed to be the opposite side of the same coin. At least before his accident. Ramrod strait posture, lean muscles, always checking his environment for threats. Obviously the man had special forces training, possibly Russian Spetznats.
The bald man looked down at the files in his hand “John Fitzgerald Mora. Honorably discharged US Special Forces, Bronze Star in Iraq, Silver Star in Afghanistan. In two years with the CIA, you obtained Hostile Service Medal and The Distinguished Service Cross I must say very impressive”
“Those last two were supposed to be classified” Mora interjected
A sly smile came across the Russian’s lips. “Not form us, it isn’t”
“And exactly who is ‘us’?” Mora demanded. That was the million dollar question, who was pulling the strings of The Morpheus Foundation?
The Russian laughed snidely, like he was talking to a child who demanded to know if Santa Clause was real or not “Before I answer that you will answer something for us.” The man demanded. “My understanding is that you came into contact with a certain feminine entity yesterday on your trip here.”
“Cobb tell you that?” Jack snapped, he knew his instincts were right not to trust the old hippie.
Arcady laughed, if it was meant to be disarming it failed, it was far more menacing that diplomatic. “We do not keep secrets here,” Jack new that was a lie, this whole palce was nothing but a temple to secrecy. The Russian continued. “Also do not feel betrayed by Tobias, this specific entity is practically a hobby of his.”
“Yes.” Jack replied flatly, he couldn’t see a practical advantage of lying about this. “I saw her in a dream on my flight in.”
“Beware that one, she seeks to compromise you, and destroy you.” The Russian warned.
“I will be on my guard.” Jack said flatly. If there was some kind of conspiracy meaning to compromise him, then a woman even a non-earthly beautiful one was not the way to do it. He was loyal to Helen. He traveled to literally the far side of the world for her. He wouldn’t give up on her for any other woman.
“Good enough for now.” Arcady said in his condescending demeanor, As for who we are, we are humble explorers of the new frontier…I know Miss Sondheim filled your mind with stories about fighting some great enemy…Al Azif, but we are here to explore, and if an enemy places themselves in our paths…” He shrugged and laid the dossier down on the table. The same table Rachel had once placed her ashtray.
“And what is your role here, in this great scientific exploration?” Jack asked, trying to temper his sarcasm and growing anger about not getting a strait answer.
“Why me? I am your mission control.” The man rose and walked around the table to the back of Jack’s wheel chair. “Come if you are the new Gagarin, let’s see your Vostok.”
It was all some kind of cryptic code and tests, Jack had no choice but hold his tongue and wait for the Russian to throw out the next piece of the puzzle. Mora by his nature wanted to do things for himself, and had been that way since he was a little kid, but he allowed others to push him in his wheelchair He had discovered early on that it had a strange bonding effect on people, it brought him closer to them if they thought they could help him And right now he needed everyone he could get in to his and Helen’s corner.
Arcady stopped in front of a white oval. It was an isolation chamber Jack had used one in the lab in Sydney in an attempt to get him use to the procedure, but he had not tried to reach out to the other world then.
“Allow me to introduce you to the Doctors Soto, Kenji and Hitomi.” The Russian said. Before the chamber was a Japanese male and female both wearing the brown overalls of the Morpheus Foundation. From the twenty plus age difference and obvious similarities around the face, Jack guessed father and daughter as opposed to husband and wife.
“We are pleased that you will be here with us, Mr. Mora.” The male Soto, said in a tone both formal yet some how sincerely friendly.
“I am looking forward to getting to work.” Jack replied honestly.
“Good,” The elder Soto explained. “Now normally the subject enters the chamber naked. If this will be a problem for you…”
“The army drilled out modesty from me a long time ago.” Jack said with a laugh. Hitomi actually blushed and looked down when he said this.
“Then Mr. Kim, will take you to the changing room. And we will begin the next stage of your adventure.”
With in half an hour Jack was naked, floating in a skin temperature liquid, catheter secured and monitor leads attacked to his skin. In the darkness, unsure what would come next?