Sunday, April 6, 2014
On The Run
(Author's note: This qualifies as my first adventure story. Any resemblance to any person living or dead is purely coincidental, I swear! As usual, excuse the typos, I can't sit down for more than five minutes without someone calling my name so proofreading is impossible.)
From the moment I told her about the possible expedition Mira said it was a bad idea. Things got even worse when the two guys who showed up at our beach cottage. To her, despite being dressed in thousand dollar suits they somehow still reeked of government involvement. “Simon Powell,” she whispered to me as we both sat on our porch watching the two walk from their parked car, “turn them down and send them away. We don't need the money that bad.”
“My love, you have obviously forgotten about what happened in Zimbabwe and then Albania last year.” I whispered back. “We're living off television residuals and our good looks. Let's just listen to what they have to say, this could all be innocent and above board.”
When the two reached the porch it started out all pleasant and friendly. The two guys introduced themselves to my wife claiming to be representatives of a group wanting to make a documentary proving the Nazis had in fact developed a working anti-gravity device. That they wanted to hire us to go spelunking through a long abandoned underground research facility in eastern Germany and locate either evidence or, if possible, one of the prototype devices.
For Mira and I this was old hat after starring on an archeological show that attempted to be both exciting and educational. When we were first approached it seemed a no brainer, Mira holds a PhD in geology specializing in volcanoes and cave formation and while I am a regular Indiana Jones with a degrees in ancient history and archeology. We had first entered the public eye six years before after discovering a new set of ancient cave paintings in Spain that predated the believed arrival of Homo sapiens in Europe. The most obvious conclusion at the time was that the artists had to have been our Neanderthal cousins. Despite fits of outrage from the anthropologist and overtly religious types the paintings were verified genuine which launched Mira and I into the world of pop culture.
The eventual result was a show on one of the supposed educational cable channels. We succeeded in keeping our show truly based in science which of course destined it to a total ratings disaster. Halfway through our second season we were abruptly replaced with a reality program showcasing the life of a southern American family running a chain of garages in South Carolina. Needless to say, it was a huge hit with all the talk of family, a righteous God, weapons, and cars the producers cram into every episode.
All that, as they say, is water under a ruined bridge, and as the two gave their presentation I endeavored to prevent my hot-blooded Latin wife from chasing them off with a machete. The leader of the two called himself Wilson Teeter and had all the polished appearance, proper speech, and obvious social refinement of an Ivy League grad purposefully breed by ultra rich parents for political life. The trouble was that despite the expensive dental work and wide smile, the guy had the charm of an eel. Which to me meant he was the perfect television producer.
The second guy who went by the name Thomas Smith, did indeed smell of government. He was obviously ex-military and if I could read minds I'd say he had a constant, almost unconscious, thought underlying everything else he did during his average day that he wished he was still in uniform. Having served myself I knew the type, they generally regarded civilians with disdain and had this belief that debate and discussion were weaknesses. To them decisive action in everything were what was called for and anything less promoted failure or defeat resulting in the destruction of civilization. Useful types when confined to a military profession but outside you can easily begin to picture them in brown shirts and goosestepping during holiday parades.
“The idea,” Teeter said wildly gesturing with his hands, “is to have you two lead the expedition into the ruins. The main purpose, or course, is to locate information on the device, but during filming we can easily accommodate changes to the main objective if anything of interest is found.”
“Gentlemen,” my wife said as if it was more a question than statement, “you know such a device is totally impossible in this day and age, what gives you the idea the damn Nazis invented one back in the 1940's?”
Her question stymied Teeter for several second forcing him to come clean. “Yes Mrs. Powell, but in this day and age you need something extraordinary to get the attention of the viewing public. You should know that from how your husband and you kept creative control over your archeology show. Your adherence to real science only accomplished one thing and that was the creation of “Garage Dynasty. Look at it another way, you have a chance to explore an underground Nazi-era research facility that has been untouched since it was abandoned. I'm sure you can find some real science tucked away someplace.”
It didn't matter that Teeter's statement was not the least bit sarcastic, I saw the rage begin to build in her eyes and I had only one way to prevent it from exploding. “Never mind the examination of America's declining cultural and education standards how much are you going to pay us to play along with your little sensationalistic crap?”
Mr. Teeter's answer to that question was exceptionally good, so much that even Mira decided that science could take a temporary backseat to the needs of the unwashed and ignorant masses. Even with a monetary payoff large enough to secure Mira and mine's future as well as allow us to purchase enough equipment to get back into the field Teeter's was strangely insistent that we had to leave within the week.
Except for our cottage Mira and I don't have much to tie us down so it only took three days for us to be standing outside the ruins that was once the entrance to one of Nazi Germany's ultra secret research facilities. On the surface there wasn't much to see except for some crumbling pillars of concrete and a massive steel door in the side of a hill largely overgrown with weeds.
Within eyeshot of the Second World War underground base was a ramshackle collection of building that had been a Soviet Army base during the Cold War. That to me gave a possible answer as to why the Nazi facility had sat untouched for so long. To those who ran the former Soviet Union, Hitler was the boogeyman and while they controlled eastern Europe in a purely superstitious way avoided most everything they felt might resurrect the evil he represented. Just as I accepted my own elaborate explanation it was my wife who pointed out that a nearby sign in German proclaimed that within a month construction on a huge new shopping center covering this entire area would begin.
Joining us for the mission was just Wilson Teeter, acting as the director of the documentary and the mysterious Thomas Smith doing the actual filming. “What about a local guide inside or a support team here on the surface?” I asked Teeter who smiled and responded that they didn't need any extra people because he already had the best. Of course that was a no-go for both Mira and I but Teeter did a little song and dance reminding us about how we did something similar in Zimbabwe and Albania for a lot less money. Having to run from local authorities for not being exactly where our digging permits said we should was bad enough. The fact that in both cases we had to shoot our way past a disgruntled warlord in the former and a corrupt militia officer in the latter had pretty much ruined our reputations. Then Teeter reminded us that we had both signed a contract and had already received half of our substantial paycheck deposited in our account.
It was Thomas Smith who, with a set of massive keys unlocked the vault-like door to the facility and swung it open as if the thing was brand new. I stared into the entrance which opened up into medium-sized room taking stock of the junk that had been left behind. Several wood desks were in a late stage of decay. Beside them were a collection of chairs and even a couple of rusty old cots suggesting a couple of unlucky fools had to play guard duty here. Mira and I easily dealt with the dust covering everything, although Teeter and even Smith to a lesser degree started coughing from it.
We were all wearing one piece jumpsuits, hardhats with a combination LED light and digital video camera attached, as well as seriously bulky and slightly geeky utility belts that for me brought up memories of the old Adam West “Batman” series. “Well, lets go have an adventure.” I said in a tongue a cheek manner making fun of the catch phrase from the canceled show Mira and I created.
“As we step through the entrance there is an air of fear and trepidation treading into a place that has sat empty and unexplored for so long...” my wife said beginning the narration of our journey. Mira had a natural flare for verbally painting a scene and I let her run with it. Her tight and shapely jumpsuit, a cheap and blatantly sexist trick was added in an attempt to appeal to the baser instincts of our supposed audience. The way Teeter was smiling and following her around while Smith did the filming on the big high definition camera did worry me a little.
The main tunnel was still in relatively good condition for the first kilometer or so until it branched off like a tree. The secondary tunnels were in various stages of collapse forcing everyone of crawl through small openings and even use the entrenching tools attached to our belts to make them bigger. What struck me as odd was how through experience I could tell we were not steeply descending as you would have expected for such a high-valued research facility. The Nazis dug their redoubts deep to protect them from Allied bombing raids. Another thing that bothered me was that after six hours inside the bunker looked more like a secondary command and control facility than anything else.
“Hey Teeter,” I yelled, “we should have long since stumbled on something akin to laboratories and work shops. Are you sure you weren’t sold a bill of goods on what this place really was back during the war?”
The hairs on the back of my neck began to stand at attention when I saw Teeter and Smith exchange some knowing glance. “Yeah Simon,” Teeter yelled back, “we're on the right track.”
Not an hour later, with both Mira and I beginning to get very nervous we finally hit pay dirt. The especially difficult tunnel we were crawling through opened up into a huge room. Large boxes took up just about all available space with things like “art”, “gold”, and even “top secret” stenciled in German on the sides. Neither Teeter nor Smith had guessed that I learned how to read German from my time being stationed in Germany during the late 1990's while serving in the army. They were too busy obviously looking a particular box with a certain series of numbers painted on the side.
The one thing I have learned in my short forty-two years on this planet is that the Universe is not without a sense of irony or humor. Just as Teeter and Smith became excited about finding their box a chunk of cement took that moment to fall from the ceiling. Smith was able to jump out of the way but it hit Teeter squarely on the head. As I ran towards the two the beam of my flashlight caught the reflection of blood seeping from under Teeter's smashed hardhat.
“Well that is unfortunate,” Teeter said in a manner that would have chilled the blood of both Darth Vader and a platoon of Klingon warriors. “I guess that means you two will live a little longer just to help me find the papers I'm looking for.”
In hindsight, I guess Smith felt he had to show who was the alpha dog of our remaining group because he then attacked me. I admit he got the first few blows in but I surprised his sorry ass when I quickly recovered and counterattacked. Yeah, this had been a setup from the beginning but neither the now dead Teeter nor Smith had researched me enough to know I was a black belt in Aikido. To my surprise though, a minute of two into our fight I saw Smith smiling, he was actually enjoying this little dance while I had realized we were at a relative stalemate. Thank God for my intelligent and lovely wife.
“Muere hijo de puta!” She screamed from a couple of meters away while pointing the business end of her Sig Sauer nine-millimeter at Smith. Despite the fact Smith never really had a chance he did try to jump out of the way. But that only caused Mira's bullet to strike him in the neck. The look of utter surprise on Smith's face as lay on the dirt covered floor with blood bubbled up from his destroyed air way was , as they say, priceless. Yes, Mira and I had gone rogue and long since been disowned by our colleagues in our respective fields of study but experience had taught my wife to always go armed in the field.
It took the rest of the night to find out why were were played as patsies. The box that Teeter and Smith had been so happy to find turned out contain files listing the names of over twenty still distinguished American families who had secretly been Nazi sympathizers. Reading even further I found out one of these traitors back in the late 1930's had even tried to organize a coup on President Franklin Roosevelt. This was all relevant since another grandson of that particular Prescott was planing on a presidential run in 2016 and didn't need something as ridiculous as the construction of a German shopping mall to unearth information that would clearly destroy his chances and his family.
The remaining question for Mira and I is how to get this information out into the public. Realizing our lives were pretty much worthless we spent the next day loading up on the gold coins the Nazis had stored in the facility and went underground. I hated setting fire to all that stolen art work but we needed to cover our tracks to give us a bit of a head start before the bad guys realized we're still alive.
Yeah, we're on the run while building a network of allies so we can reveal what we know to the world. But truthfully I believe I'm actually enjoying it.