The Chronicle of Belthaeous
by John W. Steele
Chapter 19: Colonel William Falkenhorst
Morning arrived like the last day of a prison sentence. When I awakened, a platoon of heavily armed Chinese commandos stood by the container that housed the Archon. Evidently they had arrived sometime before sunrise. I knew nothing about these men, but I now understood that whatever we were up to was far bigger in scope than I had imagined. The mystery of Belthaeous was international in its design.
Nacroanus waved his arms and ranted. He appeared to be instructing the new soldiers about how the cube would be transported.
We broke camp at six a.m. Dr. Nacroanus ordered three of the porters to throw Jigme’s body into the abyss. Before we left, I saw Adrian piss into the crevasse.
On a broad plateau seven thousand feet below, our sojourn in this land of miracles and misery would come to an end. The environmental cube now sat on a double-tracked platform I can only describe as a snow tractor. The sled must have been propelled by electricity, because it made not a sound.
I had managed to garner but a few hours of sleep, and I remained bone-tired and disoriented. For a while, no one spoke, and a comfortable silence filled the mountains. When the meticulous preparations for our departure met Adrian’s approval, he signaled to the Chinese captain, and we inched our way further down the mountain.
My body felt like a worn-out rag, and each step required concentrated effort. With every breath, a gnawing pain shot through my ribs and coursed into my spine and sternum.
Several times the voice of the Avatar attempted to bypass the psychological defense mechanisms I’d developed to prevent it from entering my awareness. Even in my weakened condition, Belthaeous could not completely overcome my will. I found if I concentrated on what he said, rather than the voice itself, I could block out some of his annoying diatribe. The angel remained in a state of suspended hypothermia. I shuddered to think what magic he could muster if he had a pulse and brainwaves.
The vast tableland appeared at ten thousand feet. In the distance, a Chinook helicopter rested on a tarmac. The rotor blades spun in a smooth, balanced gyration, and waves of transparent energy hissed from the afterburners. The turbojets whined in a canorous baritone, and the green giant looked impatient and eager to fly.
With unparalleled precision, the soldiers secured Belthaeous in the cargo bay. One of the commandos tossed an attaché case to the Burmese “boss man,” and the tribe melted into the distance.
The aircraft trembled beneath the force of the rotors. Then, like a horse barn drawn into the vortex of a tornado, the behemoth groaned and soared into the sky. I thought about levitation and feats of magic I had witnessed in the Cave of the Ancients. The memory seemed like a dream a thousand years in future compared to this primitive mechanical technology.
The helicopter journey unfolded without a hitch. Every time I nodded off, Adrian tapped my forehead and reminded me to remain alert. He said we still had a great deal ahead of us.
Three hours later, we arrived in Bonri. A well-equipped security force met us on the airstrip. The men wore digital camo BDU’s and were armed with automatic rifles. Several armored personnel carriers mounted with dual-feed cannons surrounded the aircraft.
I had not yet fully realized the magnitude of our endeavor. This project had become a military effort. M.P.’s circled the freighter and quickly led us to the cargo ramp.
We were ushered into the cavernous fuselage of a C-130 Hercules. Dr. Nacroanus saluted the soldiers when he entered the bay. I thought he must be growing senile, or perhaps the fatigue had affected him as well. He rarely spoke unless spoken to, and saluting did not seem consistent with his nature.
The flying warehouse had been well equipped for the transfer of the Avatar. Its modified cargo bay had been refitted with a laboratory and a refrigerated magnetic protein bath.
When we arrived on board, a tall, muscular, scarecrow-like character met us at the threshold. He looked at Adrian and made the sign of the fist. Adrian returned the gesture, and the muscle-bound freak stuck out his hand.
“Splendid job, Dr. Nacroanus, splendid job indeed,” the man said, and they shook hands.
“William, it’s good to see you again my old friend. I’d like you to meet my colleague, Dr. Neumann.”
The hypertrophied corpse eyed me coolly. “I’m so glad to finally meet you, sir,” he said. He grabbed my hand with an exaggerated grip and shook it vigorously. The corners of his frown flattened in a feeble attempt to smile. “So you’re Dr. Neumann.” The creature stared in my eyes like a mindless python.
“Pleasure to meet you, sir,” I replied.
We shared a long, sustained look. The man’s eyes were devoid of light, like two orbs made of clay. Though my perceptions were dulled, something about his eyes sent a shiver down my spine. When I understood the distortion, I recoiled. His pupils were elliptical, like the eyes of a lizard. When the colonel sensed I “saw” him, he blinked, and his pupils rounded.
“This is our flight surgeon, Colonel William Falkenhorst,” Adrian said. “He’ll be accompanying us on our journey back home.” They looked at each other and laughed, as if sharing a private joke.
My hand remained locked in the colonel’s icy grip. He looked deep in my eyes searching for a reaction. I’d dealt with this type of mentality before. I drew in my energy, shielding it from his ravenous probe.
“Dr. Nacroanus tells me you’re holding on to your Light. Is it true you have not pledged your soul to Mammon?”
I cringed and yanked my arm from his grasp. I didn’t like the fact that I’d been exposed. I started to speak, but the colonel cut me off. “You’re the only person on the planet who fascinates Adrian. Did you know that?”
I wanted to get away from this breathing cadaver; he seemed to draw on my depleted energy reserves and his presence was too overwhelming to ignore. I looked away from his eyes... so cold, so dead.
“If you’ll excuse us,” Adrian said, “we must attend to the Avatar.”
“Yes, of course, Adrian. I’ll provide you with a post-mission physical once the entity is secured,” the zombie replied.
We entered a spacious compartment deep in the hold of the aircraft. We removed our parkas, and a pungent scent assaulted my nostrils. After three weeks on the mountain, we smelled like rotten meat.
“Can’t this wait until later, Adrian? I’m exhausted, and I need a shower.”
Adrian motioned me to sit down. “Strap in,” he said. The engines whined, and in no time we were sailing twenty thousand feet over the mountains of Kham.
Dr. Nacroanus got up from his seat and walked over to a pharmacy cabinet. He unlocked the door and removed two pre-filled syringes.
“I know this is difficult, Rodney, but we did not labor so intensively on the mountain to quit now. You have a superior mind, but you give up too easily. A wealth of knowledge belongs to those who can endure great struggle. Most people have the attention span of a child, and that is why they are born slaves. The time of the Übermench has arrived. Just a while longer, and the Shadow of Life will be out of danger.”
He held the syringe before me. “Here, I want you to inject this. It will make the rest of our mission less prone to error.”
“What is it?” I asked.
“I don’t want it.”
Nacroanus fixed me with a cold eye. “Look, Dr. Neumann, this is no time to pretend you’re a martyr. I need you awake and functioning at peak performance now. This is a critical period for those of us destined to reign as Mammon’s elite. How do you think paid mercenaries perform their superhuman feats? There will be time to shower and clean up after Belthaeous is secured. Now inject the stimulant, or I’ll inject it for you.”
He laid one of the syringes on a stainless steel table and booted the contents of the other one into his quadricep. Reluctantly, I picked up the needle and shot the drug into my thigh. In a short time, a bolt of energy surged through my body. My weariness vanished, and I felt ready to take on the world.
“This is awesome!” I exclaimed
“Good. Now let’s get to work,” Adrian said. He pressed the button on the intercom. “Send in the technicians.”
With the aid of several military interns, we housed the Archon in an electro-magnetic shroud fitted with Doppler probes. We lowered the cadaver into a solution of butylated hydroxytoluene cooled to negative three degrees Centigrade.
When the telemetry performed to Adrian’s satisfaction, he said, “Go get cleaned up, Rodney. There’s a shower in the forward cabin. Dr. Falkenhorst will complete your post-mission exam when you’re finished.”
Like hell he will.
Hot water and liquid soap felt exquisite on my skin. The spray dripped in a cloudy mist to the floor, removing nearly a month of accumulated crud that had formed a crust over my body.
Through the curtain of the vestibule, I saw a blurred shadow enter the tiny compartment. I removed the eye from around my neck and stuck it in the drawer of a small cabinet near the top of the stall.
When I stepped from the shower, Falkenhorst stood staring at me, a look of fascination etched in his chiseled features. His eyes fixed on my genitals, and his gaze gave me the creeps.
“I need to complete your physical assessment, Dr. Neumann. Bend over; I want to feel your prostate gland.”
A feeling of nausea churned in my stomach. “You’re not sticking anything up my ass, you pervert. Get out of here!”
“It’s not a request, Dr. Neumann. It’s an order,” he said dryly.
“Look, Falkenhorst. I’m not one of your brainwashed mind-bots.” I crouched down and grabbed a fixed blade I’d found and secured to my ankle. Light reflected from the honed edge of the surgical steel tine. Through the power of the stimulant I felt super-human, and I was in a dirty mood.
This ghoul made my skin crawl. I didn’t like his mottled-gray hide or the tiny scales in the corners of his eyes. I didn’t like the smell of stale tobacco smoke that surrounded him like a rancid aura of filth. I didn’t like the way his tongue flicked side to side when he spoke. And I certainly didn’t like the idea he wanted to penetrate my rectum.
“You’ve got two choices, Doctor Frankenstein or whoever the hell you are. You can walk out of here and punch my ticket, or you can step three paces closer so I can bury this toad stabber deep inside the sockets of your skull. What’s it going to be?”
The colonel’s face remained expressionless. Without a word, he turned and walked out of the cabin.
When I returned to the flight lab, Dr. Nacroanus sat gazing at the monitors. He hadn’t moved, nor would he take his eyes off the telemetry for the rest of our flight.
“How’d the exam go? Are you fit for duty?” he asked.
“Falkenhorst has a great bedside manner.”
“Yes,” Nacroanus replied, “he’s part of the inner circle of illumined ones. I’ve known him for years.”
“I’d like to call Lydia,” I said.
“There’s a military cell in the passenger cabin. But don’t take too long. I need you here.”
“I’ll be right back.”
I dialed my home number. The phone rang twice, and I ended the call. I didn’t have the strength to deal with her.
The prison of my life had not changed by even an idea. The predicament I left behind welcomed me with open arms. Somehow, being marked for death made the whole dilemma easier. Dead men feel nothing in the face of adversity.
I’d taped the Eye of Mammon to the inside my thigh. I thought about the burden of its significance and the impossible odds I was up against. I thought about Heidi, and punched her number on the keypad. No one answered. I didn’t leave a message.
The flight progressed with impeccable precision. Seventeen hours later, around three a.m. we landed at Ottawa International Airport. The glorious sensation of raw energy began to fade, and in its place, an aching cloud of depression unfurled like a mudslide inside.
Outside the window rain fell in a steady downpour. I stared at the yellow streaks of light reflected on the glossy surface of the tarmac.
A barrage of soldiers dressed in full body armor surrounded the aircraft. The lasers on their weapons penetrated the darkness with shafts of ruby colored light.
I felt broken, outnumbered, and helpless. I had made my choices, and, like a paranoid psychotic surrounded by “imaginary” enemies, I gazed into the cold and heartless night.
Copyright © 2014 by John W. Steele