Title of Story: Sacrifices to a Worthy Cause
Author: Joel T. Kant
Date Written: August 2000, heavily modified March 2, 2019
Chapter Title: Nerve Gas
Chapter Number: Seven
Copyright: (c) March 2, 2019
Still wearing the earphones attached to the electronic stethoscope, John said to Dr. Ruby, "They're discussing a nerve gas. It's supposed to be extremely potent."
Dr. Ruby took off his loosely knotted tie, then stretched on the bed while still in the rest of his clothes, shut his eyes, and calmly said, "I know. They said all that before when Joyce was still here. Keep listening while I rest. Don't worry if you miss anything as it's also being recorded and transmitted to others."
After some time, John said, "They're not talking anymore. Iris is taking a shower."
Eyes still closed, Dr. Ruby responded, "So you discovered Karen's really Iris by finding her fingerprints on a payphone. We might make a decent detective of you, after all. I thought only your older brother showed that kind of promise."
John asked, "What's somebody of your rank doing out here with field work?"
"Desperation. We've called in all our active agents, but still didn't have enough. Thus, here I am, doing field work again at my age."
John complained, "Fritz and I weren't called in, and we're active agents. At least, I thought we were."
"You two are sort of active agents. You impressed me so far tonight. See if you can do it again," replied Dr. Ruby, opening his eyes and raising his head a little.
John was silent for a few minutes as Dr. Ruby continued to look at him, then answered, "Fritz and I have no anonymity. Never did. Maybe never will."
"Good start. Go on."
John said, "Three and a half years ago, the president was only a candidate. Fritz was finishing his first year at Port City U. He went to a meeting with a college group who opposed the guy. Fritz heard a rumor there that a few who opposed the candidate hated him so much they wanted him assassinated. I was still in high school, so Fritz suggested I check out a high school political group. I thought studying Criminal Justice at college was going to his head, but I did as he asked. It turned out the high schoolers knew more than the college kids. It was the Obliterators behind it, but they were using disgruntled high school and college students as a distraction. We went to the press with what we knew."
Dr. Ruby said, "I wish you hadn't gone to the press. Then again, you two were pretty young and foolish at that age."
"We were correct, though," John said.
"Partially correct," Dr. Ruby admitted.
John said, "Iris and I graduated high school before anything more happened. The press attention Fritz and I got is why the Obliterators targeted our car as the bad press pretty much destroyed the groups that wanted the candidate dead at both the high school and Port City U. A car bomb is a public and showy way of killing somebody, generally to send a message. I assume it was to get those groups back in line that we were getting treated to one. Your group clearly figured out the bomb plan, perhaps putting in a removable floor or some other method to get Iris out while seeming to die. Iris was in on all this, recruited to help save the President and the country and all that, even if it took letting her parents, her brother, and me think she had died."
Dr. Ruby said, "Some speculation there, but mostly correct. Keep going."
John sighed, then said, "Fritz and I were trying to find Iris's killer for the rest of the summer and then still at it as the school year started. I put off starting college, and Fritz didn't return for his Sophomore year. Around mid-September, the candidate himself came to visit Port City, Maine. We had gotten solid evidence who the bomb planter was. Tracking him down, we found out he was in the process of setting up a rifle to kill the candidate. Not a normal rifle, but some massive thing strapped down with steel clamps. We fought him, and between the two of us, took him down before he could use the rifle. Fritz and I had never heard of the suicide pills back then so had no idea that he had to be stopped from taking one. The guy took one. It did what it was supposed to do. Fritz and I ended up the media faces used for explaining the one of the three men with rifles that the media were allowed to learn about had been stopped."
Dr. Ruby sat up in surprise, and suspiciously asked, "One of three assassins?"
John answered, "All three were to use long-range rifles. Aimed beforehand and bolted to heavy beams. Tremendous range doing that. While the one Fritz and I fought with and stopped managed to take his suicide pill, I don't know whether the other two Obliterators with rifles that your other agents...real adults and not kids like we were back then...managed to take their suicide pills or not. What Fritz and I saw was genuine, but only a piece of a puzzle. A third of it, in this case. The third the public was allowed to learn about, with our names as part of what the public got to learn as we unknowingly became part of the distraction, even back then. We were portrayed as Wunderkinder who saved the candidate's life, successfully getting revenge for Iris's death and our destroyed car."
"You might be learning some wisdom as you get older," Dr. Ruby said.
John ignored the backhanded complement and asked, "How great is this nerve gas threat?"
Dr. Ruby answered, "Very real."
John said, "And I suppose there is some two-thirds or so of what is going on that you won't tell me that would explain why despite knowing all this, the President is still coming and a hundred F.B.I. agents aren't already swarming into the room behind this wall?"
Dr. Ruby said, "We've got to find out where the Obliterators got access to such a potent nerve gas. We have to let this play out a little more to learn that."
John asked, "With the possible assassination of the U.S. President himself and dozens also at risk, just as bait for this larger goal?"
Dr. Ruby indicated some papers on the night stand and said, "You're starting to see a much bigger picture, John. Iris knew I was going to be in this room. She passed off those papers for what she's learned so far about the source of the nerve gas."
John went over and flipped through them, and remarked with concern, "If this speculation by Iris is correct, then this could lead to a major war."
"It might, John."
The sound of the shower stopped, so John put the stethoscope earphones back on and listened. His mouth fell open.
"What's going on?" Dr. Ruby asked as he saw this reaction.
John swallowed, then said, "Tomlin phoned on a cell phone and spoke to Iris. Jason was asking why Tomlin was using a cell phone now when he required Iris use a pay phone earlier. She blew that off. She then passed on that the Obliterators have an inside source at the Port City Police. They've learned about a new two-mile-radius security zone for the President. Even those massive bolted-to-beams used three years ago don't have that kind of range."
"Are you sure with the Port City police and not some other government agency? There are lots of agencies involved in this."
"The Port City Police were specifically mentioned."
Dr. Ruby responded, "I believe we can trust Chief Clymer and Officer McCormick because I've worked with them for many years, and they've always been reliable. Until we find the leak, other than those two, we'll have to keep the Port City Police out of the loop. Did the Obliterators call off the plan?"
John answered, "No. From what I heard, Tomlin has enough nerve gas for it to be effective from more than two miles away, if the prevailing wind is used properly. The buildings form an artificial valley, and the wind comes off the bay in a predictable way."
Dr. Ruby said, "If have that much gas, they could take out much of the city with it. Not just dozens, but thousands."
John said, "Not the million or so that were at risk in D.C. last year, but pretty major just the same!"
John listened some more at the earphones, then related, "Iris told Jason about what Tomlin said. Jason's bragging about how he'll not just kill the President, but turn Port City into a giant ghost town, making himself the greatest Obliterator of all time. He's delighted with the idea."
Dr. Ruby came over to the wall. John took off the stethoscope and handed it to him. He put it on and listened for himself.
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