Title of Story: Sacrifices to a Worthy Cause

Author: Joel T. Kant

Date Written: August 2000, heavily modified March 2, 2019

Chapter Title: The Morrow Farm

Chapter Number: Nineteen

Copyright: (c) March 2, 2019


The wind tugged on John's brown cloth jacket as he rode his motorcycle. In the fields beside the road, he saw and smelled cows. He continued on, going past empty, harvested fields. He used to travel this road frequently, but not during the past three years.

Ahead, he saw Conrad standing at the mailbox marked Morrow that was atop a wood post. Conrad was in the act of reaching inside it. He heard the approaching motorcycle. He looked up, pulled out a stack of mail, and waited. John drove up and shut off the engine. He pulled off his helmet.

"Hey, Conrad. Is Iris home?"

Conrad choked up, then managed to say, "That sounded like such a normal thing to say! You better not let my parents see you. They blame you and Fritz for the past three years. That you've been gone the last several days and supposedly dead for one day when my parents had so many questions for you and your brother made things much worse."

"I came as soon as I could," John insisted.

Conrad wondered, "Despite Mom and Dad's disapproval, Iris wants to see you badly. Where's Fritz?"

"Car shopping with Christine. Winter's coming, we cannot just keep using the motorcycles. Thanks for getting mine fixed."

Conrad said, "My car is still in the shop getting fixed, so Iris and I have felt trapped on the farm."

John reached inside his coat and took out an envelop. He handed it over to Conrad and said, "Those are instructions on where to send the repair bill for your car. It will be covered. Tack on what you paid to fix my motorcycle."

Conrad glanced at the envelop, then stuck it with the others as if not that surprised the repair for his car was going to be handled this way, then said, "John, I have to know. What has my sister been doing the past three years?"

"I don't know," John replied.

Conrad's expression clearly indicated strong disbelief in this answer. Yet, James had spoken the truth. Entangle had a strict policy of allowing agents only to know secrets that they had some obvious need to know. He had guesses, probably very good guesses, but he was not allowed to state those either.

Conrad explained, "She's supposed to have amnesia from hitting her head when your car blew up, then only got her memory back only recently. When that happened, she then lost memory of the past three years! I certainly don't believe any of that!"

"I'm not a brain doctor, so I don't know how amnesia works. However, I had truly believed she had died in the explosion," John remarked, privately thinking about how dumb he thought the amnesia idea was.

John climbed off the motorcycle. He stretched, arching his back. He smiled as he did that because he felt no pain. The cut in his back had healed completely.

Conrad complained, "You obviously know far more than you are telling me."

John thoughtfully suggested, "I cannot stop you from pondering the facts you do know. What did you accomplished by impersonating Gordon Snuff."

"I helped rescue my sister," Conrad answered.

John persisted, "Anything else?"

Conrad thought back, then added, "I helped stop some kind of bomb by letting your brother use my car, even though my car did get banged up. The newspaper said it was a bomb about the same as destroyed your SUV. Vicky had the map of where the bomb would be placed, so she helped more than I did. The President was speaking at the convention center that day. Vicky's map indicated a corner about two miles away from there. I'd think it'd take a nuclear explosion to hurt the President that far away. Were we dealing with a nuke?"

John shook his head unconsciously, but Conrad picked that up.

Conrad responded, "A nuke doesn't seem plausible. A conventional bomb like used in your SUV makes no sense at all for where the map had it being placed. The President likely was the target, though, but how could that work from so far away?"

John kept a poker face as Conrad looked at him.

Conrad looked over the harvested fields. A breeze kicked some chaff and loose dirt around, then he thoughtfully said, "I know from living on the farm and watching the corn fields sway that Port City mainly gets winds from the west. The security team would have looked for snipers or bombs. A toxic gas might drift in this wind farther away from where the security team might consider a threat existing for the President. I think that device was not a normal bomb at all, and was a threat to him! That was a chemical weapon, John!"

John noncommittally said, "This is only your guessing from the facts you know."

Conrad dropped the mail on the ground. He leaned hard against the mailbox, and took some deep breaths. For a moment, it looked like he might be having a heart attack despite his young age, but then he perked back up.

John put an arm around Conrad, but Conrad shook the arm off.

Conrad gazed deep into John's eyes and said, "I'm okay. Well, not okay mentally, but my health is fine. Until now, I really thought it was just a small bomb like the two car bombs. Thus, the President was in no danger that far away, and well protected. If that was what I now think it was, that was an act of war! Thousands would have died! Is it right to keep that a secret?"

"I never said if your guessing was correct. Whether it is or not, I do not get to decide what should be kept secret," John replied.

Conrad said as if this was an incontestable fact, "So that's the world Iris has been in for the past three years! No wonder she came home after three years looking so stressed out!"

John replied, "While I honestly have no idea what Iris has been doing the past three years...I really don't...what she has been doing may have had this kind of importance."

Conrad picked up the dropped mail. Color had returned to his face.

Conrad said, "I may have post-traumatic stress disorder myself after this conversation."

John admitted, "Welcome to the club. Not meant as a joke, if it gets too bad, I can tell you were to get help."

Conrad declared, "I'd rather know things like that are happening then not know. Before Iris reappeared, my parents refused to believe she had died. That's why they bought Suzy the Horse as if she would somehow learn a horse was waiting for her at our farm and come home. I tried to believe Iris was still alive, but I really believed she had died. I thought it was crazy for my parents to believe what they did. I am so glad that I was wrong, and my parents were right."

John confessed, "Until very recently, I thought she was dead too."

Conrad remarked, "I helped save the city and the President's life, but I don't feel heroic. Just stunned by the magnitude of the threat. If Iris was saving people from threats like that, perhaps it is understandable that she let us think she was dead for three years. Even though it hurt our parents so much. Even though it hurt me so much! Maybe she thought of our pain and anguish was a sacrifice for a worthy cause."

John asked, "Is Iris in the house?"

Conrad replied, "No, she's riding Suzy along a path in those woods that form a windbreak at the far end of the fields. Our parents are in the house, so perhaps you can go out to see her. She does want to see you."

John asked, "Can I ride my motorcycle across the fields?"

"The crops are harvested already, so go right ahead."

John eagerly remounted the bike, started it up, and cut straight across the field. He peered into the trees, which cast dark and mysterious shadows. He vaguely saw the form of a woman riding a horse, almost like a ghostly apparition flitting between the trees, but obviously on some path that he could not see at this distance.

Iris heard the motorcycle, a sound that did not seem to bother Suzy. Iris and the horse emerged from the shadows cast by closely packed trees into the bright sunlight. Iris's hair, no longer garishly red, flowed behind her. John stopped and turned off the motorcycle. She pulled Suzy to a stop. John felt three years of intense stress that had made her appear considerably older than her actual age seemed to fade away from her as she smiled at him while climbing down from Suzy. He did not know that she felt the same about his face as he looked up at her.

That mutual relaxing lasted a moment when Conrad shouted as loud as he could from the edge of the field, "John, I've got your brother on the phone. He says its very important."

By motorcycle for John and horse for Iris, they quickly reached Conrad.

John took Conrad's cell phone, "Fritz, you're on Christine's cell phone? Yes, we have to get some cell phones ourselves again. What is it? The car dealer? Trunk size in a nondescript sedan? No, you're not being paranoid! Contact Dr. Ruby right now! Check if the car dealer has surveillance footage! I'll get the Morrows out of here immediately! I'm on it. Bye."

Ending the call, John said, "We've got to leave this farm right now. Your parents too! Maybe your neighbors as well, but we'll bring in help for that!"

Iris asked, "Why the sudden bug out?"

John replied, "When car shopping, the dealer told Fritz he just sold a car in pure cash to two guys who seemed mostly interested in it having a large trunk. The dealer found it strange when the two men argued about how easily air passed in and out of the trunk. He thought maybe they were going to kidnap somebody and throw them in there, but didn't want the victim to suffocate. However, then other guy said they'd just leave the trunk open so it wouldn't matter. That wouldn't work with tossing a kidnap victim in a trunk, so the dealer let it go. However, he'd seen Fritz's name on the news involving solving some crime cases, so asked him what it could mean. The car dealer also said that he heard the two men mention the name Iris, and that stuck in his head because of the news."

Iris replied, "Let's get Dad and Mom out of here right now!"

Conrad pointed toward the road, "Looks like Fritz got in touch with somebody important! It looks like half the Army is coming down the county highway!"

John remarked, “Even Dr. Ruby can’t act that fast!"

Three days later, John, Fritz, and Iris sat inside a large, fully enclosed truck parked inside the Morrow barn. It had a robot arm on the top, giving it a look like a military truck or perhaps an extremely sophisticated garbage truck. The truck had barely fit through the large barn doors. Inside the truck was somewhat like a crowded RV. Electric fans blew stale air around. Making it even more uncomfortable, all wore plastic suits. They had to fully suit up and go through an airlock for certain tasks generally involving three cows. However, they were all in the sealed truck at this time, so their head and hands were uncovered. Although out of the windshield and through the open barn door was very limited visibility, glowing video screens filling the back of the truck showed a clear view of the farm and the road leading to it from hidden cameras at various vantage points.

Iris remarked, "Staying out of Entangle didn't last long. So, Jason spilled the beans that Joyce got word secretly passed out of what was supposed to be a maximum-security prison to attack me even before you heard about the same plan from the car dealer, Fritz. That's why the caravan way even as we learned of the plan. I'm glad Jason survived to do that."

Fritz said, "I talked to Dr. Ruby. Your brother and parents, Vicky, Christine, and even Gordon Fink are safely hidden away."

John asked, "Gordon Fink?"

Iris sheepishly said, "I played him up as being a private detective to get Jason and Joyce off your scent. He might be targeted."

Fritz added, "Even the neighbors are gone, replaced by agents with chemical warfare gear kept at close range. If we do have to draw out an attack by the Obliterators, it is better out here than in Port City itself."

Iris said, "At least my family isn't here if there is a chemical attack, and actions have been taken to protect others as much as reasonably can be done."

John remarked, "When, not if."

Iris raised an eyebrow and said, "After three days of nothing, you still think that?"

John nodded.

Fritz said, "It'd more convincing that this place was occupied if your horse was still here."

Iris remarked, "We've got three cows roaming around. That should be enough. I hope John's wrong. Two of those cows have been here since before I disappeared."

John said, "I don't think I ever saw anybody stand up to Dr. Ruby on anything like you did on Suzy the Horse!"

Iris remarked, "Mom and Dad got her as a special present so I'd come back. I came back. Suzy has to be kept safe."

Fritz said, "A couple years ago, we spent a month training in this vehicle. It's not something that'd fit on a college transcript, even if Dr. Ruby decided that we could tell others about it."

Fritz then glanced at various instruments, then perked up and announced, "Hey, there's a little camera drone circling the house! It's not one of ours."

Iris ran some instruments and said, "It's a common commercial model. I've linked its video feed."

John started calling in warnings over his headset radio as he climbed into the driver's seat. Iris and Fritz peered at the intercepted video feed.

Iris said, "Those gadgets put in our house work. From this view, it looks occupied. That curtain is moving, shadows are shifting, and that electric light just turned off. Hey, it's leaving."

Fritz said both into a microphone, "The drone is heading off south. Somebody is bringing it home."

John started the big diesel engine, listened in his headset, then called to the other two, "We're ordered to wait."

Looking at images from the strategically placed cameras, Fritz said, "Two cars are coming from the south, the same direction the drone went. They're both moving very slowly. Strange for a county highway. A gray sedan is tailgating red sports car. That's the sedan bought from that dealer."

Both cars pulled to a stop near the post at the road on which was nailed the Morrow mailbox.

Even though all images from the hidden video cameras around the farm went to many others besides the big truck as other agencies besides Entangle were involved, Fritz narrated for the record as he had been trained to do, "A man got out of the driver's side of the sedan. Lanky, deeply tanned. Long brown hair. Maybe twenty. Normal clothes, jeans and sweatshirt. He's wearing nothing to protect against chemicals."

Iris broke in, "That's Andrew! I know him from the camp in Nevada. Same guy I spotted in the car dealer surveillance videos! This is it!"

John on his own headset asked somebody in authority, "Shall I pull out of the barn?"

Iris and Fritz assumed John was told to hold off because the truck stayed still, even though the engine kept rumbling.

Fritz continued to narrate, "The man from the sedan just opened the trunk. He's running to the passenger side of the sports car. He left the trunk of the parked gray car open."

Iris instructed from what she heard in her own earphones, "We're to put on gloves and helmets. Just in case the truck's not sealed perfectly."

All three hurried did so. Outside, the sports car with the driver and passenger took off at full speed.

Listening a moment in his earphones, James put the big truck in gear and pulled out of the barn. He drove toward the parked sedan. It was awkward driving in the helmet, gloves, and suit.

Despite John trying to make the big, heavy vehicle move quickly, they were only halfway from the barn to the parked car when Iris said in horror, "Look at the birds!"

Wild birds fell out of the sky, laying still where they hit.

Fritz said into a radio, "We have confirmation of release of a chemical weapon from the car trunk!"

A cow collapsed.

The big truck pulled to the trunk of the sedan, then stopped. John pulled a lever. Spray nozzles tossed a liquid substance at the car. It was supposed to go on before the device activated, not afterward.

The other two cows in the field went down.

Iris moved to the passenger seat. She ran the robot arm from the top of the truck stretched out over the car. What looked like a parachute came out to drape over the car.

Nearby, a squirrel fell from a tree.

John remarked, "Look way the road. The red sports car is in the ditch, and nobody's getting out. Andrew and the other guy didn't make it. We're too late."

Iris responded, "I was told to use the robot arm anyway. This still might contain some of it."

The radio and video was full of traffic. The three took various actions required of them. A military plane flew low, dropping a coating of some white dust that covered the truck and the cloth covered car. None in the truck knew what the powder was supposed to accomplish.

Fritz scanned video images. Only birds in the far distance showed life.

Iris worriedly called into her radio, "The wind is strong. If this drifts further than expected, the Sieglers are in danger. You've got them out? Good."

Iris looked relieved.

In a rare lull in what they were told to do, John said, "Conrad told me the attack on the President despite its failure should have been publicized as an act of war."

Fritz declared, "This seems an act of war to me."

John speculated, "There are cover stories that could handle even this."

Sounding distorted through her suit and helmet, Iris wondered aloud, "Will it be a war the public knows about or a continuation of the secret war we've been in the last three years?"


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