Read Shadow Warrior: Destiny of a Mutant Online
Authors: Larry Townley
Shadow Warrior: Destiny of a Mutant
“Damn! It’s hotter than two foxes fuckin’ in a forest fire,” Karl Hauser bitched to Ruth, his wife of more than sixty years, as he mopped the cascading beads of sweat from the back of his neck with his old white handkerchief, “and it‘s not even noon yet!”
“Karl!” Ruth whispered, in that harsh, scolding tone of hers that would make a Marine D.I. proud. “Watch your language! There are children present, and in case you didn’t notice I’m your wife, not one of your beer drinking buddies.” Ruth looked around at the groups of families with small children nearby, horrified that one of them may have heard Karl’s profane, but quiet, outburst and been permanently traumatized.
“Sorry, dear,” Karl said sheepishly apologizing to Ruth while at the same time loosening his tie. Karl dearly loved his wife, but sometimes she got on his nerves. He rolled his eyes as he turned his head away from Ruth’s hard gaze, a small act of defiance he had repeated many times during their long marriage.
After his ass chewing, he finished wiping his sweaty neck, neatly folded the handkerchief and tucked it back inside of his right rear pocket of his dress pants. The summer-weight tan suit, white short-sleeve shirt, and red necktie he was wearing, all of which had been freshly dry cleaned, were stifling in the heat. Hauser tilted his head back and took a quick sip from the overpriced bottle of Dasani water he was carrying in his hand that he had bought from a Coke machine at the entrance of the cemetery.
The highly polished, dark brown dress shoes were starting to hurt his feet from all the walking they had been doing since their arrival at Arlington Cemetery. Despite the arthritis in his old back, he still managed to maintain the erect posture and bearing of a career military officer. Hauser had retired as a full-bird colonel from the U.S. Army many years ago, but old habits died hard.
At six feet, one-hundred ninety pounds, he still cut an imposing figure, despite the fact that he was in his late eighties, was a little soft around the middle, and his once
hick brown hair had vanished from the top of his head, leaving only a ring of hair.
It was a typical summer day in the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan area - hot, humid and sticky, with only a few high fluffy clouds to provide periodic relief from the blazing August sun. As they continued their walk, Hauser gazed out at the endless rows of white grave markers that lined the gently rolling landscape where more than 300,000 of America’s veterans and military casualties have lain to rest on the former family estate of the wife of General Robert E. Lee since the Civil War.
During World War II, Hauser and his team had volunteered for a top secret sabotage mission behind enemy lines due to their commando training and German language abilities. At least that was the official story. When questioned about the mission by his friends and family, due to the Congressional Medals of Honor and Bronze Stars that he and all of the members of his team had received, Hauser would simply reply that he could not talk about it with anyone due to its classified nature. This admonition was usually all that was needed to stop further questioning.
What made it worse was that he could not even tell his beloved Ruth the truth about what had really happened. Not that he hadn’t
to tell her many times, but
to talk about what had occurred during that mission except with the other members of his team for reasons known only to himself and his team.
A funeral had brought Hauser and the handful of remaining members of Hauser’s team of commandos and their wives, whom they had not seen in almost ten years, to Arlington on this brutally hot summer day. Hauser had recently been contacted by the Department of Defense and informed that one of his men, First Sergeant Jaime Serrano, was finally getting a headstone placed in Arlington Cemetery, along with a funeral with full military honors.
Serrano was the only member of Hauser’s team to be killed in action during the mission. It had taken so many years to get Serrano a grave marker at Arlington because, having been raised in an orphanage, he had no family to fight for him. Adding to this delay was the fact that there was no body to inter, and the details of the mission were still classified top secret.
The official version of the facts surrounding Serrano’s death that Hauser had presented to the military board of inquiry that convened afterwards was that Serrano had been killed in action by an enemy hand grenade; his body blown to bits. The only thing left of him was his faded old dog tags, which Hauser still kept with him after all of these years.
None of the mission’s details were listed anywhere in their service records, only a vague reference to a classified sabotage mission behind enemy lines and a cursory synopsis. When questioned by the military inquiry board regarding the mission’s details, Hauser respectfully refused to answer their questions, citing the top secret nature of the mission, and the ‘need to know‘ caveat it carried with it. When they threatened to court martial him, President Roosevelt himself stepped in, and the whole matter was dropped.
As Hauser got older, he often thought of the mission’s details and the ramifications it held for the human race. His own and his team’s participation in that mission put them in a very unique and special group: they were privy to information that no one else on Earth possessed.
There had been times over the years when he wished those memories had been taken from him as they were supposed to have been. He had known the consequences for keeping them intact, and he had learned to live with that knowledge. “
Be careful what you ask for, because you just might get it,”
his mother had told him many times as a child growing up.
He just never knew how right she was.
By two o’clock that afternoon, the remainder of Hauser’s team had finally arrived with their wives in tow, with the exception of Mark Robbins, the lone Australian in the group, whose wife Dana had died eleven years earlier after a courageous battle with breast cancer. He had never remarried.
As Hauser approached the group they snapped to attention, as best as a bunch of old men in their 80s and 90s could snap to anything, and gave Hauser their best salutes.
“Knock that bullshit off, boys,” Hauser said with a smile. The men all shook hands and greeted each other warmly; their wives did the same. After some idle chitchat the men moved away from their wives and began to catch up on each other’s lives while they had a few minutes before the ceremony started. Their wives did so as well.
A short time later the ceremony commenced and First Sergeant Jaime Serrano received a traditional military funeral with an honor guard, a three volley salute, and presentation of the flag. Since Serrano had no family, Hauser was to be presented with the coffin flag, a formality since there was no body to bury. Instead of a coffin, a simple grave marker that listed his name, rank, branch of service, dates of birth and death, and a Christian cross to denote his religious affiliation, marked his spot in the hallowed cemetery.
During the ceremony Hauser’s thoughts began drifting away from the solemn ritual as he started looking around at the endless array of white grave markers, each of which represented a member of the armed forces who had made the ultimate sacrifice for his or her country. Hauser took Serrano’s dog tags out of his pants pocket and stared at them for a few seconds. As he looked up and his old eyes scanned the area, Hauser saw a man standing approximately thirty yards to the west of their location, near a small group of two or three tall, spindly pine trees. Even from this distance, Hauser could discern that the man was tall, dressed in a well-tailored, expensive looking, dark-colored suit, and was powerfully built. A hint of recognition came to Hauser’s mind.
It can’t be
, Hauser thought to himself. Hauser blinked, refocused, and looked again where the man had been standing only a couple of seconds before. But he was no longer there. The few trees that were near where the man had been were not large enough to conceal anyone larger than a small child, and the two seconds that Hauser had looked away were not enough for anyone to have gotten very far. But no one was near the trees, or anywhere close to them; it was as if he had vanished into thin air.
Hauser’s attention was abruptly drawn back to the ceremony as the five-man honor guard fired its three volley salute with their modified M-4 rifles. He took one last look in the direction of the trees, and then watched as the coffin flag was folded into a triangle by the honor guard.
Less than a minute later, the NCO in charge of the honor detail was on his knee presenting Hauser with the American flag.
“As a representative of the United States Army,” he began, “it is my high privilege to present you this flag. Let it be a symbol of the grateful appreciation this nation feels for the distinguished service rendered to our country and our flag by your loved one.”
As he stood back up, he slowly and reverently saluted the flag Hauser held, turned on his heel and marched methodically back to his soldiers and completed the ritual.
After the service, their wives went and watched the changing of the guard ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns, so the men were alone again for a few minutes. Hauser was unusually quiet.
“Karl, what’s the matter with you? You haven’t said two words since we escaped from the wives,” said Henry Hess, a retired Navy captain.
“Yeah, usually we can’t get you to shut the hell up,” said Stan Becker with a smile. Stan had retired from the Marines as a sergeant major, and then served as a U.S. Appellate Court Judge for twenty-odd years.
“Nothin’, boys. Nothin’ is wrong,” said Hauser.
“Bullshit, Karl,” said Chuck Schechter. “What’s botherin’ you?”
Hauser sighed, “You assholes know me too well
.” Hauser hesitated for a moment before continuing. “Boys, during the funeral, I think I saw a ghost.”
With a look of confusion and concern on their faces, Hauser’s former teammates waited a few seconds for him to continue. When he didn’t, David Wakefield asked in his cultured British accent, “What do you mean? Who or what do you think you saw?”
Hauser looked away for a moment, shut his eyes briefly, sighed, and then answered them with two simple words: “The Colonel.”
World War II Memorial
After leaving Arlington Cemetery, Hauser and his former teammates took the Metro, D.C.’s subway system, and went to the National World War II Memorial, while their wives hailed a couple of cabs to take them back to the J.W. Marriot Hotel in downtown D.C. on Pennsylvania Avenue, where they were all staying, so they could freshen up for the evening’s dinner plans.
The Memorial was built in 2004 and was situated between the Lincoln and Washington Memorials, near the National Mall. Although the thermometer was pushing 95 degrees and the stifling humidity making it seem ten degrees higher, it was crowded with hundreds of people, both young and old.
Adorned with various symbols of their past service, from baseball caps to campaign ribbons and patches, some of the older tourists were obviously World War II veterans. Others were just as obviously the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the veterans. Some were simply curious onlookers, several of whom spoke the language of whatever country they called home. No matter their reason for being there or where they were from, all walked silently out of respect for the monuments that surrounded them and what they symbolized.
Hauser was wandering through the Memorial as well, marveling at the fifty-six, seventeen foot pillars that encircled the huge reflecting pool with its spraying fountains. Small rainbows appeared in the misting water spewing from the center fountain and the ones that encircled it. Each pillar was inscribed with the name of each of the forty-eight states that existed in 1945, as well as the
District of Columbia
Territory of Hawaii
Commonwealth of the Philippines
, and the
U.S. Virgin Islands
Hauser had just finished reading a quote by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and had walked to the east side of the Memorial, which was adorned by a stone archway commemorating the Pacific Theater of Operations. A similar archway commemorating those who had served in the Atlantic Theater sat majestically on the west side.
Hauser continued to find his thoughts drifting back to who he thought he had seen at Arlington.
Chuck Schechter, who had retired as an Air Force colonel, and had been one of the few astronauts to walk on the moon, walked up next to Hauser as he was admiring the Pacific Theater archway.
“Are you okay? You still seem a little preoccupied with who you think you saw back at Arlington. You know it‘s impossible, right?” asked Schechter, who had been a first lieutenant and Hauser’s second-in-command during the mission, as well as one of Hauser’s closest friends through the years.
“No, I just…” Hauser hesitated for a moment and then continued, “No, I’m fine. It just had to be the sun in my old eyes making me see things that weren’t there. That’s all.” Hauser turned away from Schechter and continued to look at the archway.
Schechter just smiled and looked at Hauser. “Bullshit, Karl.”
Hauser turned to confront Schechter, but as he turned he saw the man he had observed at Arlington Cemetery, only this time he was only twenty-five feet away, looking at one of the pillars that was inscribed with each state and U.S. territory.
Although the goatee on his face was new and his hair was styled a little differently, the man looked like the Colonel. By itself this would not be so unusual, except that the man in front of him looked
like the Colonel did the last time Hauser saw him…in 1943!
Schechter turned to see what Hauser was staring at. Schechter’s eyes opened wide. “Holy shit!” Schechter exclaimed quietly. “It can’t be him. It’s impossible.”
“A lot of things that happened on that mission were impossible,” Hauser reminded Schechter. “Well, only one way to find out for sure,” Hauser said, as he ambled towards the man. Schechter followed a couple of steps behind him. The rest of Hauser’s team saw the activity and headed towards Hauser and Schechter to see what was happening.
“Excuse me, young man,” Hauser said to the man without introduction, “but you look like someone my buddy and I knew a long time ago.”
The man slowly turned towards Hauser and Schechter, and they collectively let out a slight gasp upon seeing the man up close. Not only did he look like the Colonel, but if it wasn’t him it was his identical twin. Hauser noted the man’s appearance: short dark hair, goatee, late thirties, broad shoulders, large chest, narrow waist, over six feet tall, ruggedly handsome face - the spitting image of the Colonel, sans the goatee and the new hairstyle.
The man eyed Hauser and Schechter without any hint of recognition.
“And who would that be, sir?” inquired the man. Even the man’s deep commanding voice sounded the same. Hauser and Schechter looked nervously at each other before Hauser answered. “The commander of our unit back in World War Two.”
The man smiled and laughed lightly. “Well, I realize I may not look twenty-one anymore, but I’m pretty sure I don’t look quite that old either.”
Hauser and Schechter both gave a nervous laugh, but Hauser wouldn’t give up that easily. “I know it sounds crazy, but you’re the spittin’ image of our former colonel. Did your father or grandfather serve during World War Two? If so, you must look exactly like one of them.”
“My grandfather served in the Navy, but was killed at Pearl Harbor. My father was just a baby, and I do favor him now that you mention it, but his hair was blond when he was younger. He was killed in Vietnam in ‘74 when I was a toddler.” The man said, with no hint of deception in his voice or face. “Now, if you gentlemen will excuse me, I’m meeting someone in a few minutes.” The man turned to leave.
“Sorry to have disturbed you, son,” Schechter called out to the man as he turned to walk away, “Come on Karl let’s get out of here before they call the nut ward to come pick our old asses up.”
Everything about the man indicated he was being truthful, and although it didn’t make any sense, Hauser still had a feeling in his gut that he couldn’t let go. The man had only taken a couple of steps when Hauser, in desperation, spoke to him in German, as he took a couple of steps towards the man.
“With anyone else it would be impossible, but I know it’s you, Colonel. I knew it when I saw you at the Cemetery. So how about buying some old men who know your secret a beer? By the way, when was the last time you saw Serrano? How is he doing these days?”
Upon hearing Serrano’s name, the man stopped but did not turn around. He let out a slight sigh of resignation before he also replied in German, while keeping his back to Hauser and Schechter.
“I should have known I couldn’t fool you, Captain Hauser,” the man said, using Hauser’s rank during World War II. The man paused and continued. “Serrano is doing fine. I saw him about a month ago. Unfortunately, a beer is out of the question today.”
With that, the air around the man shimmered slightly, and he simply disappeared right in front of them. No one in the throng of people gathered around the Memorial seemed to notice his disappearing act.
Hauser and Schechter looked at each other in dismay,
“Holy shit!” exclaimed a startled Schechter.
The rest of Hauser’s men who had ambled over to see what was happening had arrived in time to see the man’s vanishing before their eyes and let out various expressions of surprise and shock.
“Son of a bitch!” said Schechter to Hauser. “Guess you were right after all.”
Ravenglass Village, England
March 1462 A.D.
The morning air was cold and the land was glazed over with a heavy fog, which was typical for the time of year. The sun was just cresting above the low hills behind the thatched roof, and in a couple of hours, most of the fog would burn off to be replaced by a mix of clouds and sun. The man paced anxiously in the outer room of the modest stone and wood farm house, which served as a kitchen and dining room, while his wife lay in the bedroom being tended by a mid-wife.
Their first child was about to be brought into the world, and the man prayed the baby would be healthy. The pregnancy had been uneventful to this point; his wife had not experienced the usual morning sickness or other maladies that often affected pregnant women.
Due to her stubborn streak she had insisted on helping her husband with the chores on their farm, which helped provide most of the people in their village with fresh vegetables and grain for bread, until three days before the impending birth of their child, despite his vehement protestations that she stay in bed. Finally, she agreed to some rest after he playfully threatened to tie her to the bed if she didn’t.
She had been in labor since just after midnight. Her water had finally broken just before her husband, David, had gotten out of bed to begin his day. Fortunately the mid-wife lived but a fifteen minute walk from their farm. David made it to her house in half the time. She had been expecting to be summoned to the house to tend to the birth for the last week. After being woken up by David, it took her only a few minutes to arrive at their house.
David Miles Essex was a large, muscular man whose body had been hardened by working the land of his birth since he was old enough to stand. His father had been a peasant farmer for most of his life. Although most peasant farmers worked the land for the lord of the manor, David’s father had been so successful at running the farm he had been allowed to purchase the farm and land to work as his own when the lord of the manor died.
David’s mother, Catherine, had died while giving birth to David’s brother, Paul, when David was three. Paul was born prematurely and had died within hours of his birth. David’s father had never remarried, and grieved for his wife and child until the day he died. David had inherited the farm after his father, William, had died from a fever brought on by blood poisoning after severely cutting his leg while plowing the fields when David was fifteen.
David’s thoughts drifted back to when at the age of twenty, he had been entranced by Emma Elizabeth Clarke while mending a neighbor’s fence. Emma was nineteen at the time, and was the most beautiful woman David had ever seen in his life. He was instantly smitten. Within a year they were married, and three years later she was pregnant with their first child. They planned to name the child William, after David’s father, if it was a boy, and Jane, after Emma’s mother, if it was a girl. David hoped this would be the first of many children.
David’s nervous pacing was interrupted by the muffled sounds of the mid-wife’s sharp smack on the baby’s bottom, which was followed by a loud, startled cry and the drawing of first breath. David said a silent thank you to God, and continued to pray that the child was healthy.
A few minutes later the mid-wife came to the door of the bedroom and said in a hushed tone, “You may come in and see your wife and baby now.”
David entered the bedroom, which now doubled as a birthing chamber, and approached his wife who was holding the baby to her breast as the child suckled her for its first meal outside of the womb.
“Come say hello to your new son,” Emma called to him softly, a warm, radiant smile shone from her face.
“New son?” David had not thought to ask the mid-wife if the child was a boy or girl.
“Aye,” Emma smiled, “your new son, William.”
mma Quadrant, Milky Way Galaxy
Portak, one of the senior Elders of the Altrusian High Council, was sleeping fitfully. He usually had no problems sleeping, but for some reason this night was different. As he drifted between periods of rest and restlessness he began having what he thought was a vivid dream, but soon realized that he was in the midst of one of his infrequent, but always prophetic, visions. He tried to wake himself up but the dream was so intense it held him firmly within its grasp.
Finally, by the end of the vision, Portak had regained control of himself, woke with a start and got out of bed. His pulse raced and his two hearts beat hard within his strong, slender chest. He paced slowly around his large room unable to return to sleep. After a few minutes, he laid back down and tried to fall sleep again but soon realized it was pointless. He finally got back up, got dressed and sat contemplating his vision. Although they were infrequent, he knew better than to ignore them. Soon he knew that preparations would need to be made; preparations that must be done in secret and without authorization from the Council.
Ravenglass Village, England
May 1465 A.D.
William sat quietly in a small wooden chair by the window watching the warm spring rain make glassy puddles on the ground. The chair had been built by his father as a birthday gift on his third birthday a couple of months earlier.
From a very early age, William had proven to be an exceptionally bright child. By the age of three, his vocabulary and grammar were on par with that of an educated adult.
Emma often had to remind herself that the child was only three years old. Not only was he tall and stocky for his age, but William was always asking questions that were beyond his years as well. His mother seldom had an answer for most of his questions; questions that usually centered around scientific matters, the sun and stars, weather phenomenon, mathematics and languages, that to his mother‘s surprise he intuitively answered on his own.