Saturday, September 29, 2007

Story 24

[NOTE: This is part of a progressive story. The first entry is here. Check the blog label 2007Story for all entries]

The silence was as intense as the darkness. A sliver of light inched under the door behind him, but otherwise Tony was in complete blackness. He strained to make out the table he knew was only a dozen feet ahead of him. As he had entered, he made out two silhouettes. He waited patiently for one of them to speak. He heard faint shuffling ahead of him but still no words. Finally, a voice came from across the room.

“Anthony Jacobs. I was wondering if you would ever use this note.”

The voice was male, but otherwise nondescript. It was neither overly high or prepubescent nor overly deep or even solidly baritone. There was no hint of accent or dialect. The voice was purely average.

Silence again.

Tony waited.

“After eighteen months away from our family, you have come to beg us to let you come home. After being formally removed from the organization with the understanding that you could never return, here you are, asking to be reinstated.”

Metal scraped against the floor and Tony realized that the speaker had just stood.

“You must understand the confusion this creates Tony. You know that I am compelled to ask you the obvious question. WHY?”

Tony waited in silence for a few moments to be sure that the question was not purely rhetorical and did in fact demand an answer. Placing his hands palm down on the table in front of him, Tony took a calming breath and replied.

“With all due respect sir, my reasons are more self-centered than I care to admit. I have recently learned that my older brother Mark was a high ranking officer within the organization. I have always felt inadequate in his eyes. I believe that if I can take up a strong and well established place within the group I will be able to relate better to him and perhaps have him look at me with the pride that I have always desired from him.”

Tony strained his eyes and ears, trying desperately to place the location of his interrogator, to get some idea how his response was being received.

“So you’re saying that we should allow you back into the fold simply to obtain the pride of an older brother who claims to have been a follower of the Commander in years past? That hardly seems like a compelling reason to risk the sanctity of our happy home. Wouldn’t you agree?”

“Understand that I will devote myself entirely to the Commander. For that is the only way to accomplish what I desire. I will put the needs and ideals of the group forward even though my initial motives may seem superficial. I am already familiar with your basic workings and needs and already know well how to undertake many core objectives. I proved myself early on as a powerful asset to a prior Commander and I am desirous to prove myself anew to the current Commander.”

After a few seconds in silence, Tony began to count the time, trying to keep a realistic sense of what was happening. It felt much longer than two minutes when the voice spoke again.

“Suppose you are reinstated Tony. Suppose you are allowed to flourish within our ranks once again. Then suppose the Commander enjoys a Christmas break with his family on the warm beaches of Hawaii. Do you suppose he will return to find his life crumbling beneath him? Do you suppose you will be able to protect him from the shaky embarrassment of such an event?”

The sarcasm was thick and the accusation only thinly veiled. Tony wondered if the speaker had true knowledge of his actions or if he was merely trying to unearth the truth. Did the current Commander know what Tony had done? Was that perhaps the reason for the notes in the first place? Did this Commander have something against the previous Commander? Was he grateful to Tony for his actions? Tony shook his head. Far too much speculation. He couldn’t guess what the Commander was thinking or fishing for.

“As a member of the Commander’s service, I will most certainly do all within my power to maintain the power and reputation of the Commander and his office.”
It was a safe answer. One that admitted nothing. Tony waited to see if it would satisfy or if his actions would be further questioned. A soft chuckle across the room left him uncertain of the Commander’s motives in asking about the Christmas actions.

“Tony, I believe you have an ulterior motive to coming to me today. I do truly believe that you want to join the Commander’s ranks. But I do not believe it is for the reasons you would have me believe.

“I know all about your older brother and his position of power within the group. Few people are privy to that kind of knowledge. That is the sort of information that can bring suspicion down upon you. Knowing details about the makeup of the Commander’s organization gives you a sort of power that makes some of us nervous.

“Despite your revelation about your brother and your sympathetic tale of brotherly pride, I believe there is a deeper reason for your desire to serve with us again. So I will ask you once again. Why do you want to rejoin our family Anthony?”

Tony leaned back in his chair and considered the question. He was certain now that the speaker must know of Tony’s actions two years ago. He must be testing Tony’s loyalty, trying to determine if Tony was joining back up solely to undermine and destroy the organization.

It was strange though that the Commander would want to talk with Tony if he suspected him of wanting to crush his empire. Wouldn’t it be easier to just ignore him? To deny request for a meeting? What was it the Commander hoped to learn by speaking with Tony?

“Tony? That was a request for an answer. Why do you want to come back?”

Tony cleared his throat, unsure of what to say.

“In all honesty and with all due respect sir, the admiration of a brother is a powerful motivator. However, I must acknowledge your insight and admit that my brother’s pride is not my sole reason for meeting with you.”

He paused, still unsure which direction he wanted to take the conversation. He finally decided that something close to the truth might be enough to turn the conversation and suspicion away from his previous actions and also perhaps give him some of the information he needed.

“As you likely know, I am friends with Arnold Johnson. The whole school is buzzing with rumors and ideas of where his family may be. As more and more days go by without their return or even any contact, I worry more and more about my friend.

“While I was sitting in my room yesterday, I came upon the note from someone within the Commander’s organization. And I realized that if anyone in the school had any legitimate idea as to the whereabouts of the Johnson family, it would be the Commander. So I decided to contact you. To attempt to rejoin the organization and see what I could find out about their disappearance. To perhaps convince the group that we should take some action to see them safely returned home.

“Obviously I have no idea how much help you can provide, if any. But I promised myself that simply for the opportunity to find information I would devote myself to the Commander and his group once again.”

Tony was anxious. Had he revealed too much? If the Commander was involved in their disappearance, as many thought he was, then this statement could prove hazardous.

“That’s a very interesting story Tony. Very altruistic. I need to discuss this matter with some key members. I must ask you to step outside. Tell Bradley to come in for a moment. I will ask Bradley will escort you back to someplace comfortable while we come to a decision.”

Tony heard the chair across the room slide along the floor again. He waited in silence a moment longer, then stood, turned around and opened the door. Brad was waiting just outside, standing at attention, smug and serious. Tony nodded towards the door and Brad stepped inside. A moment later he emerged.

“Follow me. Don’t wander off.”

They started walking down the hall, back towards the science wing.
As they rounded a corner, Tony heard footsteps racing down the hall behind them. He turned to see who was running after them. Before anyone rounded the corner after them, a sharp pain exploded at the back of his head just above his neck.

Then everything went black.

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