PREVIOUSLY: During the Nineteen Eighties and Nineties the most brutal global conflict to date, the war against the Australia, was waged. Beneath the radar of the conventional armies was a secretive war of amazing science and discovery. It was this war that Professor Herbert Ludlum fought. Earning the nickname “the Shotgun Professor”, Ludlum and his colleagues Keith and Judith Bradford, and young Danny Colt, all part of a secret scientific organization called ODESI, lived lives of action and adventure. But when peace came they found their lives empty. They saw ODESI for the immoral group it was, and in time they went their separate ways. But now, reunited after years apart, the four brilliant heroes return to the ODESI compound, where Danny recently witnessed an ODESI leader’s brutal rampage that left the majority of the research staff dead.
There was a loud crack as sparks shot from the broken device on the ground. Bradford, who had been leaning toward it, jumped back.
“That was my force field generator,” Danny said. “I used it to keep Atkins trapped inside when we escaped. It wasn’t broken then.”
“Obviously,” said Bradford as he regained composure and adjusted his glasses. His wife leaned in and examined the ruined object. She said, “It looks like it’s been shot. I’d say probably automatic weapons.”
“So Atkins escaped,” said the Professor as he walked through the lobby grimacing at the lifeless, mangled bodies strewn sporadically about. Sissy-Mary, the Professor’s large mastiff, walked at his heel.
“Well, I guess he did,” said Danny. “But he couldn’t have done it alone. He was on the other side of the force field. Couldn’t have shot the thing from where he was.”
Judith rubbed her hand over a bullet hole. “You’re right. These came from somewhere near the door. I’d say two shooters.”
“Someone set Atkins free?” the Professor asked rhetorically.
“Or went in to get him,” Bradford suggested.
The four of them were silent for a time. The Professor stood over a headless corpse in a pool of congealed blood. He recognized Matt Warsaw. Though they’d had their differences, Matt and the Professor had played poker at least twice a month for several years.
Judith turned to Danny. “What was it that Atkins told you? That new blood was coming?”
“Yeah.” Danny said after a moment. “He said all the scientists here had outlived their usefulness and he killed us all to make room. Or some shit like that.”
“I’d say it was probably his ‘new blood’ that set him free, then, right?”
“It might be,” said the Professor, still looking at headless Matt Warsaw. “But my instinct is with your husband. I think someone went in after him.”
“One of the survivors, maybe?” Bradford wondered. “Danny said the Beals Brothers made it out. Maybe they went back for revenge.”
“I don’t think they’re stupid enough to do that,” said the Professor. “But someone went into the building knowing that Atkins was in there. Seeing all these bodies on the ground. Made no effort to clean it up. They went right in.”
“Hey guys,” Danny said. “Are we ever gonna stop wondering what the fuck happened and just go look?”
A moment later, the four of them were on the elevator.
General Orson sat in his office. The only light came from the computer monitor in front before him. It made his face glow an unearthly blue-green. His glasses became vibrant squares of reflected light that showed no motion as the door opened and Jenkins entered.
“Sir. The boys are in. Mission objectives Alpha through Gamma have been met and they continue as we speak. Also, recon reports that four persons, possibly ODESI employees have entered the building. The boys will keep hidden until you request otherwise.”
“Very good,” was General Orson’s response. Jenkins left.
Images flashed across the computer screen. Planes. World War Two era. A P-38 Lightning firing it’s weapons into a Luftwaffe plane that Orson couldn’t identify from the grainy footage. He tapped a button and the image changed. It was a bi-plane now. A Swordfish. Outdated by the Second World War, but one had sunk the Bismark all the same. Orson tapped the button again.
Since the defeat of Australia, there had very nearly been world peace. Sure conflicts had happened, but things were different now. All of the nations of the world were united by that war. Then they realized what they can accomplish by working together. Since then, any country that causes problems, like Oman did in Ninety-Nine or Niger last year, is met with the force of an entire globe intent on keeping itself at peace. And it is rarely a military force. They use words. They make the upstart country realize that the entire world is against them. Australia proved that no matter how strong one country is, they can not go against a United Earth. So the upstart has to choose between continuing their petty fighting and having no ally in the world, or giving in and accepting the terms of other countries who really do want the best for them and for everyone.
Orson tapped the button again. The Enola Gay.
He pressed another button on his desk. “Jenkins,” he said, “capture the four visitors.”
Jenkins voice immediately replied. “Yes, sir.”
Judith had suggested going floor by floor, so that’s what they did. Danny noted how this mirrored his search for survivors as he fled the building only days ago. As far as he could tell, nothing had changed. The silence was thick in the stale air. Dark rooms, empty save for the occasional corpse, greeted every curious eye. The first movement was on the medicinal research floor. In one of the labs they found Dr. Rhinold’s body being picked apart by a blind chimp. Bradford tranquilized it and caged it. Judith determined that had escaped from the floor above and crawled through the air vent.
It was in the aquatic research lab that Bradford was shot.
“Aaaahhhhh! Owwwwwwww! What–?”
“Get down,” shouted the Professor as he dove for cover behind a desk. Danny and Judith followed his lead, the Judith grabbed her husband, he was clutching his wounded arm, and pulled him down with her.
“Are you okay?”
“I think I may be. I’ll have to take a look at this arm, though. The bullet is still inside.”
“Where’d it come from?” Danny asked.
“That way,” said the Professor, his shotgun in his hand.
“Is it Atkins?” Judith asked as she tried to peer in the direction the Professor had indicated.
“Nah,” said Danny. “If it was that bastard he’d be smiling in our faces and talking to us as he mowed us down. Not taking cover in a dark lab.
The Professor looked over the desk. In the direction the shot came from he saw two places to hide. One behind a large aquarium filled with marine plant-life. The other a closet with the door open so that someone could be within. Judith had said there were at least two shooters in the lobby. “I suspect they’re trying to pin us down,” he said. “I’d wager there’s two back there and probably more in the lab across the hall that are going to try to flank us. If we–”
Danny stood up. He was holding a section of metal pipe. “Heads up!”
He threw the pipe. It shattered the glass of the aquarium and water poured out. A man dressed in black military costuming dove away from it and into the open. Danny lunged at him. Both fell to the floor. “Move it people! Back exit!”
Judith and Bradford got to their feet. The Professor spun towards the hallway entrance. A shadow moved. He fired at it. Danny rose. Another military man jumped from the closet. Danny slammed the door into his face and stood on him. Judith and Bradford passed and the Professor backed up, firing once more at the door. As he passed the first gunman, the Professor hit him with the butt of his gun. Soon all of them were through a back door. Judith closed and locked it.
In another hallway, this one narrower and unclean.
“What now?” Bradford asked.
“Let’s mess with them,” said the Professor. “We’ll split up.”
NEXT TIME: Split Up.
Patrick D Ryall, the D is for Weekly
Originally posted on Contains2 Thursday 31 March 2005