Episode 53 - The king likes the treachery, but not the traitor

At some point or another in our lives, we are all new at something: a new school, a new job or even in a military unit. Normally there’s time to get acquainted, learn how things work. However, when you are a fugitive, let’s just say there’s really no time to settle in. With the computers down at Arcadia Public Library on Friday, I ended up spending the weekend at my motel room, laying low, trying not to make a lot of contact with the locals. It gave me a lot of time to think about my situation. I was also feeling guilty. Lying on a motel bed wasn’t exactly what I expected from someone trying to prove his innocence. According to the front desk clerk at the library, the computers should be online by no later than Monday morning. So when Monday came, I checked out of my room and headed downtown. The library didn’t open till 10:00 am. In order to kill some time, I stopped at a burger joint close by and got me something to eat. After finishing my “breakfast”, I lingered around the Downtown Park, up to the time the church bells announced 10 am. The library was small. Old encyclopedias and Christian books filled most of the shelves inside. It smelled like our garage back in Buffalo NY, where my dad used to keep his Reader’s Digest collection. I walked through a narrow corridor of paperbacks ‘til I finally found an unoccupied computer. I tried to check my e-mails first. But my account was cancelled for lack of use. I then typed Dr. Adrian Ivanov’s name into the search engine box. Most of the results linked back to a Bulgarian soccer player. I had to narrow my search down. I typed “biologist Adrian Ivanov”. A series of Bulgarian sites came as a result. But as I scrolled down to the bottom of the screen I found something that called my attention: -“NASA TEAM GALLERY ™ - Profile - National Aeronautics and Space Administration - Space Reactor Program - Under supervision of Dr. Louis Kawamoto - 1978 - profile: Name: Adrian Ivanov. Member ID: 19023. Sex: Male. Age: 06.02 .1954 (17) Country: Bulgaria”- I could not believe my eyes. I followed the link. It took me to a NASA webpage about the old Mulberry Ridge Laboratories Project back in 1978. Back then, NASA and the US Army were working together to create a Nuclear Thermal Propulsion System that would take man to Mars. A lot of young scientists and engineers followed Dr. Kawamoto to be part of his research team at the Mulberry Ridge. But the project failed to impress the Department of Energy Safety Committee and it was shut down before they could even test any rockets. I was confused. It couldn’t be the same Adrian Ivanov. But it was too much of a coincidence. I went back to the search engine and moved to the next page of results. I almost swallowed the straw in my soda cup. The headline read: “March of Dimes awards Dr. Adrian Ivanov $250,000 Prize to Pioneers in Genetic Research. Development of powerful DNA technology allows creation of models for human hibernation”. While reading the article my hands started to sweat. - Oh, my God! They are crossing genes! Reptiles with Humans! And the Pond Patrol Mission is the test tube! - I said out loud pushing myself away from the table. If anything made sense, Dr. Johnson and Dr. Ivanov were working together to develop a human (or humanoid) that could withstand a space trip to Mars. It all made sense. Unfortunately, my dearest friend Ben was their latest experiment. I was shaking nervously and I felt like throwing up. I sat in front of the computer, now staring at the screen not believing in what I read. I heard a knock on the window but I chose to ignore it. Then the knocking got louder and more violent. I reached for my pistol and looked over the window. It was Steve! The kid Ben and I found sleeping in one of our tents back in April. He was smiling and waving, happy to see me. I put my pistol away; I shut off the computer and stepped outside. - Hey there Captain! I didn’t know you lived in town - said Steve Hayes while shaking my hand. I was annoyed. He would soon tell all his friends the soldier he met in the woods was hanging out downtown. - I’m not a Captain Steve. And no, I don’t live in Arcadia. I’m just passing by. What’s with the cowboy hat? - I asked him. He tried to explain that he was now working at a farm; that the ice-cream shop didn’t pay as much… But something attached to a telephone poll in front of us caught my eyes. Without letting Steve finished his sentence, I walked towards the flyer taped to the metal poll. - He looks like you, Captain - said Steve laughing while looking at the photograph on the paper. The kid wasn’t too bright but he sure was right this time. It looked like me for sure. In fact, it was a FBI Wanted Poster with my name on it!!! I yanked the flyer off the telephone poll. - God knows how many more there are - I thought to myself. Steve kept talking, mostly none sense. Pretending not to care, I threw away my soda cup, along with the FBI poster. I had to get out of town, fast. - How much do you want for the hat, Steve? - I asked him. - What hat? You mean, eh… my cowboy hat? - he asked confused. - Do you see any other hats around here? Yeah! Your cowboy hat Steve! How much? - I asked again. He seemed unsure but then gave me a price: - Twenty-five bucks!!! - said Steve confidently. I reached inside my pocket and realized I only had $22.00 dollars left. - How about twenty-two? - I replied. He looked like he was thinking hard but almost immediately he agreed on the price. I gave him the rest of my money and grabbed the hat. It was a little big on my head but it would fit its purpose: hide my face from people on my way out of Arcadia. - See you later, cowboy! - I said to Steve while tipping the hat to the side. He smile and waved his hand. I kept a moderate pace and made a left on Belmar Street to avoid Main Street traffic. I had been wearing the same clothes for over a week now. The hat alone wasn’t a good disguise. Someone could recognize me from quite a distance. When I finally reached Hudson Blvd, I noticed a little white house at the left corner. It had a cloth’s line full of men’s shirts. I walked across the street and looked around. - That’s just great! I’m wanted by the FBI, and now I’m stealing someone else’s clothes! I should’ve beaten Steve up for his hat too. What am I doing? - I said it out loud. But unfortunately, there was nothing else I could’ve done. I walked through the little white fence and took down one of the shirts. I looked around again. A car passed by, making me hurry up. I put the blue plaid shirt on and headed down County Road 6. The aspen trees were turning yellow and the wind blew dead leaves onto the road. I was going back to the Mulberry Ridge. Dr. Ivanov’s face was stuck in my mind and I couldn’t wait to put my hands on Dr. Johnson’s neck. This time around I’m coming for you, doctors.

by Corporal John Harris, October 12, 2006