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Old 03-01-2015, 09:13 PM   #191
Join Date: Feb 2007
Default Re: The First Interbellum (1918-1939)


Nathan pondered what he had just been told, taking his time to
think about the many implications as he sipped his tea. He was
aware that Barrington-Shaw was watching and waiting, but
saying nothing as he sipped his own herbal brew and waited for
his guest to finish his cogitation.

Nathan was not at all offended by the admission of ulterior motives
on the part of his host, that came with the territory. Intelligence
work was not about altruism, there were always hidden agendas
and ulterior motives in play, on all sides and by every player.

That the British, and Barrington-Shaw himself, had such hidden
agendas certainly came as no surprise to Nathan, it was not as if
he and his were any different.

It was also not a surprise to Nathan that his British counterparts
had held back such a considerable amount of information for so
long. Again, self-interest was the name of the game in their line
of work, and information was a valuable commodity.

Besides, Nathan thought to himself in a certain amount of wry
if they had told us about a man over a century old
running around today, still young and strong, we’d probably have
thought they were insane if we hadn’t already found evidence of
it ourselves. Even with all the weirdness we already knew, about
Atlantis and the rest, that one would be hard to take on faith!

“So why are you telling us this now?” Nathan finally asked aloud.
“What’s changed?”

“Among other things,” Barrington-Shaw said, after a long sip of
his own ‘tea’, “you’ve had your own encounter with the man now,
and learned enough on your own to believe the things we’re ready
to tell you. For another, I personally have wanted to reveal some
of this for a while now, but I had to get approval from...certain
people...before I could do so.”

Nathan made a mental note about that, suspecting that Barrington-
Shaw would say nothing else about those ‘other people’.

“When you analyze the papers and materials I’m sending back to
the States with you,” Barrington-Shaw went on, “I believe that
you’ll see why I say that I think that our mutual ‘acquaintance’
is preparing for something relatively large in the not-too-distant
future. I don’t pretend to know what that is, but I’m fairly sure it’s
coming, and I’m reasonably confidence that whatever it is, it’ll be
bad for the United Kingdom, and bad for your United States. I’m
also of the opinion that of stopping whatever he’s planning, or at
least mitigating the harm it will do, are better if we work together.”

“I can’t commit to anything like that,” Nathan warned.

“I know that,” Barrington-Shaw replied. “I’m not asking that of
you today, I just want you to know what I’m doing, and why, and
give your best advice to Robert McLaird when he asks for it.

“My guess,” Barrington-Shaw went on, “is that you’ll agree
with me about my worries after you have made yourself familiar
with the information I’m sending back with you. You’ve
this bastard now.”

“Not socially,” Nathan replied. “But...”

“Exactly my point,” Barrington-Shaw went on. “He does make an
impression, doesn’t he?”

Nathan could not argue with that. There was something about the
man in question, something that left an impression that, for lack of
a less melodramatic term, simply had to be called sheer evil.

Let us take our momentary leave of Nathaniel Conners and his host, and turn our
attention westward across the vast Atlantic Ocean. We need now focus upon a
town in upper New York State, and a warehouse on the outskirts of said town.

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Old 03-04-2015, 09:25 PM   #192
Join Date: Feb 2007
Default Re: The First Interbellum (1918-1939)


The city was called Harrystown, so named after a local notable in the Seventeenth
Century. Harrystown had a population of 14,853 in the Census of 1920, and was
the site of some local industry and a market town for the surrounding farmlands of
upstate New York. On the northern side of the city, facing a small river, were some
warehouses and other storage facilities, originally placed to serve the docks and now
conveniently located with regard to the rail line that ran through the town as well.

It was near sunset at the time we take a closer look at one of these buildings, and the
employees of the business district have mostly headed for home. A closer look at
one building, though, past the locked outside doors, would revealed the lights were
on inside, and several men were unloading a truck that had been brought inside the
warehouse during business hours.

“Careful," a tall, heavily built man said, as he directed a group
of men in lifting a panel out of what appeared to be the bed of the
truck. “We don’t need to damage that lid, it has to fit back inside.”

The truck itself sat in a back chamber of the warehouse, behind a
concealed garage-style door inside the building. The truck had
carried a public cargo into the building earlier in the day, but
that had merely been a cover, the real cargo lay in the compact
hidden compartment in the floor of the truck bed.

“It’s open, sir!”

“Good,” the leader said. “There should be ropes under it holding
it in place.”

“Check,” another of the men said.

“Then lift it out using the ropes,” their chief directed, “and put
it on the pallet, and need I emphasize do it very carefully? It
would be a shame to blow our payment after this thing has
come so far and by such a roundabout route.”

The four men in the truck bed untied the ropes that had held the
cargo secure, and lifted the ropes, bringing the cargo to visibility.
A two meter long, glittering glassine ovoid, with a web of heavy
ropes around it. It was clearly somewhat heavy for its size,
because the four men had to strain to lift it and move it from the
truck to the wheeled pallet.

The leader contemplated the object once they had it on the pallet
and the ropes secured. It was a peculiar thing, apparently made
of what looked like lemon-yellow faceted glass. Even in the dim
artificial light of the windowless chamber, it shimmered. It was
beautiful in its own way, he had to admit.

They pushed the pallet across the room to one wall, and there it
went onto a metal plate in the concrete floor. This metal plate
proved to be a platform elevator, which lowered the group and
the pallet into a basement chamber below the warehouse.

This chamber was easily as large in area as the warehouse over
it, though the ceiling was no more than three meters above the
floor. The chamber contained many boxes, shelves, and some
platforms on which various objects rested. On one wall was a
small but heavily-constructed wooden bookcase, housing only a
few books behind a locked glass front. Beside it was a sealed
container that held a volume of nitrogen and some further books.

The men rolled the pallet off the elevator and across the floor to
a free-standing vault structure, the door open and waiting. Into
the vault they slid the pallet, then locked the door and set the
complex combination locks.

“Well done, Mr. Davis,” a voice said from across the room, as a
man emerged from a door on the southern wall.

“Thank you, Mr. McCord,” the leader of the work team said, in
a respectful but hardly obsequious tone. “It took quite a bit of
effort to get it here quietly.”

“I’m sure,” Henry Sheridan McCord said. “Did you manage to
lose those private cops that’ve been shadowing our people?”

“We manage to give them the slip,” the leader replied. “But I
have to admit we haven’t been able to find out much about who
hired them or why.”

“I’m not surprised,” McCord, a heavy-set, cold-eyed man said
in reply. “I did a little checking on my own, and those men
work for an outfit called the Bingham-Jones Group. Very high
end, expensive, and known for being effective and careful and
knowing how to keep quiet when need be.”

“Somebody had to hire them,” Davis replied. “Maybe we should
ask a few questions of one of their men, instead of just dodging

“Not yet,” McCord replied. “It’s too soon for that and I’d just
as soon not add to our opponents just now. But we’ll keep the
option in mind if things change.”

There was a reason we were privileged to observe the above scene, though just why
can not yet be revealed. The reason will be revealed in due time, though.


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Old 03-04-2015, 10:48 PM   #193
Join Date: Feb 2007
Default Re: The First Interbellum (1918-1939)


Now we must step forward in time slightly. After his meeting with Barrington-
Shaw in England, Nathaniel Conners returned to the United States, in possession
of a great deal of information gifted to him by Barrington-Shaw and the secret SG-7
organization. There were many boxes of documents and files, all of them written
in a cipher to which the Seven Aces had the key. The reason for this was security,
if the documents fell into unauthorized hands they would be of little use to anyone
unable to decipher the contents.

Still, it also meant that the Seven Aces had to take the time to decipher the files
and papers themselves, before they could actually use them. Having the necessary
keys to do so made this operation merely a time-consuming nuisance, but even so
it was the middle of August of 1927 before they began to really absorb the huge
amount of new information and assemble it into a coherent whole.

In the meantime, the regular work of the Aces continued. Conners was working to
supervise men operating across the United States and in various places around the
world, while working with Robert McLaird to recruit, very carefully, new personnel.

The Aces lost one potential recruit during this period because he had been visiting
relatives in Nova Scotia, when a large hurricane slammed into that region and did
a great deal of damage, killing a number of people. The Aces lost another recruit
because, when they dug deep into his background, they discovered that he had ties
to various pro-German groups during the Great War. It was always difficult to find
people with the right skills, the right background, and the right attitude.

Meanwhile, as the Aces went forward with their own work, the man who was the
subject of the enormous trove of information that Conners had brought back from
England was himself active and engaged in the world.

It was in early September of 1927 that we would find Karl Jurgensen aboard a very
small motorized boat, traveling across the flat, calm waters of the Baltic Sea with
a destination in mind that he had not personally visited in many years. A tiny and
little-visited islet, his personal property through several layers of blinds and shells,
covered in pine and other evergreen trees and significant mostly because of a cave.

Jurgensen wished he could have brought someone along to take
the rudder, because he would have liked to be free to think and
ponder his situation without distractions. On balance, though, he
had concluded that it was best that he made this trip alone, for a
variety of good and sufficient reasons. If that meant he had to
steer his own craft, then so be it.

His mind drifted back to the last few times he had come this way,
over the course of several years. He had paid about one visit a
year simply to check on the site, but the last time had spent any
time there or done anything had been in 1919, in the winter on a
cold windy night of freezing rain and snow.

In contrast to the biting wind and cold of that night, this day was
unseasonably warm even for September, the sky was a deep early
autumnal blue and the sea was almost mirror-flat.

Jurgensen had all of his espersenses at work, looking for even the
slightest trace of other people within his range. He could sense
no such traces, nor did he detect any trace of the observing senses
of his strange collective master.

Of course, one could not prove the negative, he mused. Still, on
balance Jurgensen suspected that he was undetected and alone
on the local sea, which suited him perfectly.

He had taken steps that he hoped would be sufficient to lead his
master and most of his organization (what was left of it, he mused
bitterly) believe that he was currently in Warsaw. The
deception would not be likely to stand up for long, but he hoped
it would last for the day or two he needed for his personal errand,
for his visit to his personal hidden cache.

Eventually, his private island came into sight, and with one last
search for traces of watching eyes ands minds, a search that found
nothing, he steered his small launch around to the southern side
of the island. There he entered a small and unobtrusive cove,
between two high standing wooded ridges.

Within the cove, on the eastern side, a water-level cave was to
be found, opening into a hollow within the eastern ridge. The
boat slipped into the cave and up beside a small wooden pier,
constructed mostly within the cave, and extending out under the
cover of a rocky overhang.

From above, even from an observer standing atop the ridge, the
pier would be invisible within its stony cover. Only a viewer on
the water, looking directly into the cave, would be able to make
out the small pier and docked launch.

Jurgensen stopped the motor and stepped out on the dock, which
connected to a shelf of dry ground, some distance above the water
line. He climbed a set of steps cut into the rock to reach the dry
shelf on the south side of the cave, and looked around at the boxes
and containers that had been sitting there, safe and protected, since
1919. He had hidden them there against the possibility that their
contents, smuggled out of a collapsing Germany at the end of the
Great War, might prove useful in some future time.

Now, he mused, that time might just be in sight.

Not that it won’t take a lot of work, he thought to himself as
he walked over to a water-tight box that he knew contained some
rather esoteric and unusual electronic equipment.
I’ll have to
be compiling lists of people, lists of candidates, the people I’ll
need if this machine is going to be of any use. I’ll need help, and
money, and I’ll have to hide my own projects within the ones I’m
doing for the Unity.

But if this works... Jurgensen thought to himself savagely as
he went over to another container, and removed a thick sheaf of
old genealogical records,
if this works, let’s just see you hide
from me then, you American bastard!

Jurgensen picked up his records, went around to the back of the
cave, opened a door that concealed a small further chamber, and
protected it from the moisture, and within that chamber found as
he had left them: a desk, a chair, and a kerosene lantern.

He lit the lantern, sat down at the desk, and began to pour over
the genealogies that he had assembled with such difficulty, so
many years before.

Why is Karl Jurgensen so interested in genealogical information dating back to
the middle of the previous century? This, too, shall be revealed in due time.


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Old 03-05-2015, 08:29 PM   #194
Join Date: Feb 2007
Default Re: The First Interbellum (1918-1939)


In September of 1927, news came to Miami of a new development that would mark
an important event in the history of the Seven Aces, though this was not immediately
obvious. Conners received the news in the middle of a fine morning, while involved
in a discussion with Howard Lake at their headquarters.

“It’s turning into a big business,” Lake said, as he and his chief
listened to the sound of the announcer on the radio. “Used to be
it was just local stations and local people, but now it’s turning
into a nation-wide thing. There’s a new outfit, Columbia Broad-
casting, that just announced themselves this week. They’ve got
dozens of stations under a single system.”

“But will it pay off on that scale?” Conners asked.

“I dunno, but apparently
they think it will,” Lake replied. “Anyway,
that’s not why I asked you to come down here, I had something
to show you that I think you’ll find interesting.”

‘Here’ was the private area where Lake did much of his academic
work within the headquarters complex. To Conners, it always had
the feel of a cross between a very old library and a small factory.
The shelves of books and papers the covered many of the walls
contributed to the first perception, the small but well-equipped set
of chemical laboratory apparatus in one part of the area supplied
much of the other.

“I’ve discovered something interesting about one the items we
brought back from Brazil a couple of years ago,” Lake said, as
he led his chief through the maze of bookshelves, past the small
lab setup, and into a small room that initially appeared to contain
but a single item of furniture: a flat-topped oak table, stained and
scratched from innumerable and little-documented abuses.

Looking around, Conners saw that his initial impression had not
been accurate, there was a long shelf along one wall, with an
odd and diverse set of everyday items resting along its length.

Resting atop the three-legged table was a peculiar-looking item,
appearing to be a cone of some silvery metal, with a sharp tip.
The item was ridged along its length from tip to ‘base’, and an
odd opening was visible on the large end. From tip to back the
object was perhaps half a meter in length.

Lake shut the door behind them, and Conners saw that it was a
heavy slab of oak, as thick as the top of the table.

“We don’t want to be interrupted, this is dangerous,” Lake said
to his chief as he walked over to the table.

“I don’t remember seeing that one before,” Conners commented.

“When everything went to Hell,” Lake explained, “I grabbed up
everything I could get my hands on and threw it in a sack, or
three sacks actually, and I managed to hand onto two of ‘em
when it was all over. Most what I got was various books, papers,
and scrolls, of course, most of which I still can’t read.

“But I got a few other items, most of which I still don’t have a
clue about, either,” Lake went on. “But I finally managed to get
a working translation on a scroll that gave me a clue about this
little item. Took me six months to figure it out, because it was a
lead I had to follow through other sources, some of ‘em from
some pretty out of the way places, before I got all the pieces
put together. But I finally did it, and when I put it to the test,
it worked. Maybe too well, it worked.”

What worked, Howie?” Conners demanded. “You’ve yet
to tell me what exactly you’ve found.”

“Let me just show you,” Lake replied. “Notice this hole in the
back of it? It fits a hand, you slide you arm in, like so, and the
opening curves inside for your fingers to wrap around.”

Lake slid his arm into the opening as he explained, then pointed
his arm at the shelf on the far side of the room. He lined up the
sharp pointed tip of the metal cone with what Conners recognized
as an ordinary red construction brick.

Lake closed his eyes, apparently concentrating, and then, without
warning and without any visible change to the metal cone, the

One moment, there was a brick sitting on the wooden shelf, the
next moment, with a sharp cracking sound, the brick was in a
mass of tiny shards and pieces, spread out over half a meter or so
of shelf, with some pieces sliding to the floor.

Conners stared wide-eyed.

“This little item,” Lake said calmly, “is a weapon. It’s a very
potent and very strange weapon, and in the hands of someone
who really knew how to use it, I’m pretty sure it would be a damned
effective weapon.”

Conners licked suddenly dry lips, as he walked over to examine
the remnants of the brick. The shattered bits of masonry did not
look as if they had been struck by anything. Instead, it was as if
a tiny explosive charge had detonated from
within the brick.

“H-how did it do that?” Conners asked. “I didn’t see or hear anything!”

“Wanna see some more?” Lake asked. “Stand back, and watch.”

Conners did as he was bid, and Lake pointed the cone at a block
of concrete. Again he closed his eyes and again he seemed to be
concentrating, and then a large fracture appeared in the concrete
block, and the corner broke away.

“Try touching that block,” Lake suggested.

“Is it hot?” Conners asked, as he walked over and put out a hand
to gingerly touch the item. To his surprise, it was completely cool,
whatever had enabled the weapon to crack the concrete had done
so without any indication of heat.

“Now let’s try that Colt,” Lake suggested, pointing to a Colt. 45 on
the table a short distance from the cracked concrete.

“Is that thing loaded?” Conners demanded.

“No,” Lake assured him. “It’s got a slightly bent barrel anyway,
that’s why I don’t mind sacrificing it for this little demonstration.”

Conners stepped back, and Lake pointed the cone at the pistol on
the table, closed his eyes again, and after a moment, a longer and
tenser moment than with the previous two instances, the pistol
suddenly seemed to
twist in place, rotating slightly and then
the barrel and grip visibly

“This is exhausting,” Lake said, opening his eyes. “But take a look
at the results, Chief.”

Conners picked up what had been a Colt. 45, and was now bent
and twisted in a bizarre way. The barrel was bent at about twenty
degrees to the right of the line of the gun, and the grip looked as if
it had been put into a metal press and squeezed out of shape!

“What the Hell
is that thing, Howie?!”


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Old 03-08-2015, 10:34 PM   #195
Join Date: Feb 2007
Default Re: The First Interbellum (1918-1939)


"That's a very good question," Lake replied, "and I wish I had a
simple answer for you.

"It's a weapon, like I said. There are references to weapons that
fit the description of this thing, in some of the very few records
left over from Atlantean times that we can read."

“I didn’t see it do anything, and I didn’t hear a thing,” Conners
said. “Except for the sounds the targets made when they broke
or bent, that is!”

“That fits the descriptions too,” Lake said. He put the cone on
the table, and led his chief into the main room of his laboratory/
library complex. There, he took a seat on an old wooden chair.

“Using that thing is tiring,” Lake said. “But like I said, there
are descriptions of weapons like that in some of the old stories
and records we’ve been able to read, but they don’t give much
in the way of details. The things are taken for granted, just like
we talk about guns today without describing them in detail. I
mean why would we, or they, spend time describing something
that’s a commonplace for the writer?

“As for what it doesn’t need any ammunition, of any
sort. It takes its...well, its life or its power or whatever you
want to call it, from the user. That’s why it’s so tiring for me to
demonstrate the way I just did, I feel as if I just ran a long race
from those few test shots.”

“I take it that it’s not supposed to work that way?”

“I can’t imagine that it would be,” Lake replied. “If every use of
it left the user as exhausted as I am right now, it would be pretty
useless as a weapon. It might do for an initial attack force but
then they’d be out of the fight.

“But that’s not how the old writings describe them, and I don’t
think that’s how it would be for somebody that really knew how
to use one. I’m like a man who’s found...say a flute, or maybe
a sax, and never saw one before and only read about them. I’ve
taught myself how to play a crude little tune on it, but that’s no
comparison to someone who really knows how to play one.”

“So if somebody really knew how to use it, they could do what,
exactly?” Conners asked.

“Well, from what records we’ve got that refer to them, and what
I’ve found out from playing with that one, I think in the hands of
a skilled user it would be deadly. I mean seriously effective.

“I don’t think it would quite match the
range of a modern rifle,”
Lake went on, regaining his breath as he rested from the effort
of the demonstration, “but I believe it could have the destructive
power of something like a small cannon.”

“What about the exhaustion factor?” Conners asked.

“I think that’s because I really don’t know how to use it right, and
further that I’m not really trained for it or practiced at it. Like a
man running a race who’s out of shape and untrained, he can’t
run very fast and he gets tired fast. But someone trained in the
use of that thing would be another matter.

“It would probably always be more tiring to use than a pistol or
a rifle, since the user is the source of the action,” Lake went on,
“but nothing like as hard or needing as much training as being
good with a sword or a bow. I think.”

“As powerful as a small cannon...and that’s a one-person, very
portable weapon,” Conners said thoughtfully, his mind working
over the implications of that combination.

“Yes,” Lake said. “Picture an infantry force, where every man
is in effect carrying his own cannon, with unlimited ammunition
and as light and easy to carry and move a rifle. Picture an
of men armed that way.”

Conners licked suddenly dry lips as he looked toward the locked
door behind which the ancient weapon rested.

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Old 03-29-2015, 10:17 PM   #196
Join Date: Feb 2007
Default Re: The First Interbellum (1918-1939)


Conners was still pondering the implications of what Lake had
just told him and shown him, when one of the younger Aces
appeared at the doorway of the lab/library area, and called out
his name.

"Sir," the young man added, "there is a phone call for you. It's
the King of Aces, and it's urgent."

“When is it not?” Lake said dryly to Conners as his chief left
the room to go answer the telephone call.

“Never yet,” Conners replied with a smile. “But there’s urgent
and there’s urgent. We’ll see which it is.”

Conners made his way to his private office, wondering what the
‘King of Aces’, as the group unofficially called Robert McLaird,
had on his mind this time. He had not spoken with McLaird in
weeks, because his superior was wrapped up in some very quiet
talks with other members of the military intelligence community
leadership, about matters above even his own pay grade.

Conners reached his office, locked the door, and picked up the
phone with the special private line that linked him with his
superior in Washington. It had been a considerable chore to
install that line, bypassing the telephone company for the sake
of privacy, but it was necessary in their line of work.

“Hello, Conners speaking,” he said.

A few terse sentences were exchanged, and had anyone been in
the room to see, they would have noted that his face went blank,
utterly controlled, as Conners listened to McLaird.

The discussion went on for over an hour, with Conners doing
more listening than talking, except for the occasional question.

“I understand, Bob,” he finally said. “We’ll be ready as soon
as you get here.”

He hung up, and called his main lieutenants to his office, those
that were in the headquarters facility. They included some of the
original seven of the Seven Aces, and some of the recruits since
who had been with the team for a while, and who had proven
themselves in various ways.

“Robert McLaird is on his way to Miami,” Conners told his men
when they had assembled. “He should be arriving by tomorrow
morning, and he’ll brief us in more detail then.”

“That’s good time,” Brady Joneson said.

“He’s already halfway here,” Conners told him. “He used one
of the intermediate stations on our private line, he’s on the train
right now with some his men and more detailed information.

“In the meantime,” Conners went on, “I’ll tell you what I know
already so we can be ready tomorrow. Make sure you all get a
good night’s sleep tonight, it may be a while before we get any
another chance for one.”

Conners rose, walked over to a stand where he had set a large map
of part of upstate New York, and pointed out a city.

“This is Harrystown, New York,” Conners said, “a little burg in
the northern part of New York State. Anybody here ever hear
of it?”

None of them had.

“I’m not surprised,” Conners went on. “I never had either until
today, apparently it’s a quiet little place, a little over ten thousand
people, surrounded by farmland, not much else going on most
of the time. You know the sort of place, nice place to live but no
reason to visit it.

“Well, apparently about ten days ago there was a fire, or maybe
an explosion, of some kind in a warehouse in the business district
there. What brought it to Bob McLaird’s attention was reports of
the presence of known agents of the Bolshevik state in Russia in
Harrystown after the fire, poking into the matter.

“There seemed to be no reason for
that, so it caught the boss’
attention and he looked more closely, and a bit of digging informed
him that not only were there Russian operatives in Harrystown, but
also Italian and French intelligence personnel as well, along with
some private players known to Army Intelligence.

“Bob is bringing details dossiers and information with him on the
train,” Conners went on. “But obviously either something very
interesting was going on in Harrystown, or somebody somewhere
thought there was. But there’s nothing about the place that would
seem to fill the bill for that.”

“I take it,” Lake said dryly, “that at least a few of us can expect
to be paying a visit to the Empire State.”

“Bank on it,” Conners told him.

At about the same time that Conners was engaged in this preliminary briefing, in
a small village in northern France, a young man was walking through the fields on
his way back to his home after a day of work as a laborer for a local farmer. As he
was approaching the edge of town, however, a car came racing along the narrow
rural road, coming to a sudden stop in front of the startled man. Before he could
do more than let out a startled exclamation, four large men emerged, grabbed and
overpowered the young man, and forced him into the car.

The entire incident required no more than a few moments, and the victim had not
the slightest chance to either escape or defend himself. Moments later, the car was
racing away through the usually quiet fields, their victim helpless within.

Why does this matter to us? We shall see.

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Old 01-22-2016, 10:31 PM   #197
Join Date: Feb 2007
Default Re: The First Interbellum (1918-1939)


Some days after the meeting in Miami, Nathan Conners arrived in Harrystown, New York, to find a city still dazed by the unaccustomed excitement of the previous weeks. A quiet town, Harrystown had first seen a large explosion tear through the warehouse district in the early hours before dawn, starting a massive fire that had damaged structures up and down the riverfront. Miraculously, no lives had been lost, mostly because the uproar had occurred in the wee hours before dawn when that part of town was mostly empty of people, other than a handful of night watchmen, and partly because of the pure luck that a rain had been falling when the fire erupted, limiting the spread and making it much easier for the harried firemen to eventually extinguish.

All that would have been excitement enough for the small community, but within days it became clear that the strange explosion was much more mysterious than it had first appeared. The first assumption on the part of the authorities and most of the residents had been that some unstable or dangerous material stored in one of the warehouses had detonated, setting the entire disaster into motion. Unfortunately, as manifests were checked and the rubble, ruins, and half-standing structures were investigated, it became clear that nothing had been in those warehouses that should have been even capable of, much less likely to, produce such a detonation. Tools, engine components for tractors and other agricultural machines, bulk groceries and iron ingots, the listed contents of the warehouses had been various, but for the most part not such as to represent any threat of explosion.

Of course, it was hardly unheard of for formal manifests and actual contents to be different. Almost immediately, the suspicion arose that the actual contents of at least one warehouse might have been alcoholic in nature. This theory was widely held in the days immediately after the explosions, by both the authorities and the locals. It was known, as far as that went, that alcoholic beverages meant for New York City and Albany and other cities had at times passed through Harrystown, though Prohibition enforcers had closed down that link some years earlier.

The suspicion of renewed bootlegging, however, did not seem to fit the reality of the explosion. Alcohol was of course flammable and could be explosive, but such volatility was not the norm. The explosion was not such as would be expected from an alcohol fuel, and the damage done by the blast had been strange, peculiar, not at all the sort of effects commonly seen from sudden combustion explosions.

Though the subsequent fires had destroyed much of the evidence, it was still clear that the initial explosion had not expanded spherically, but rather laterally, as if all the force had somehow been directed horizontally, leaving only a secondary component pressing against floor and ceiling. Further, there was little sign of intense heat damage other than that caused by the subsequent fires. Girders and concrete blocks and other structures had been bent, twisted, broken, even shattered, but there was little sign that the explosion had involved much thermal energy in itself.

Further, the authorities charged with enforcing the ban on alcoholic drink continued to insist that there was no sign that the former Harrystown link in the bootleg chain had been reconnected. The current flow of illicit drink was running through other towns, and there was good evidence that this was the case.

Thus, the ‘bootleg alcohol’ theory was already in the descendant when the next oddity happened. Strangers were seen in town, strangers who appeared to have legitimate interests in the recent explosions, but not all of whom could fully validate this claim. Some claimed to be working for insurance companies, some claimed to have had property in the warehouses, most had paperwork to back this up, but within a few days, discrepancies appeared. Other people showed up making claims to the same things, others delved into matters not apparently relevant to their business. In a small town like Harrystown, oddities were noticed and rumors circulated quickly. [1]

Some of these men were already of interest to men in such places as Washington, D.C. Others were interested in each other. When it was realized that they were in Harrystown, this drew other eyes to the obscure town as well.

Even as this was unfolding, however, yet more unwanted and unwelcome developments were befalling the small and happily obscure community. The first such was an outbreak of what was initially thought to be a new strain of influenza among the townspeople. It spread quickly through the local school and town, and within a few days it was clear that whatever this was, it was mostly definitely not ordinary influenza.

The initial symptoms were flu-like, to be sure. The familiar muscle aches, fever, coughing and sneezing and lethargy and headache, all were familiar enough.

The emergence of a mild narcolepsy in over half the cases, however, was mostly definitely not a typical symptom.


[1] The problem was that some of these people, professional agents and operatives though many were, had too little time to manufacture really solid covers and legends, because the events in Harrystown caught them by surprise. Hurried work is often bad work in espionage.
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Old 01-24-2016, 10:52 PM   #198
Join Date: Feb 2007
Default Re: The First Interbellum (1918-1939)


The narcoleptic tendency was mild, and passed with the rest of the symptoms of the apparent 'flu', but it was still disturbing and strange. The victims often slept for as much as thirty-six hours straight, long enough for dehydration and waste disposal to become issues. Still, when they awakened, they tended to recover quickly and with little sign of lasting problems.

The public health authorities managed to keep this strangeness mostly out of the news, with some effort. Still, the locals knew about it, and rumors did fly. If the strange symptoms had lasted any longer than they did, panic might well have begun to spread. As it was, there was a puzzlement on the part of doctors and anxiety among civilians.

As strange as these events were, something else had been discovered to be occurring only days before Conners reached Harrystown, this last development only came to light after the Seven Aces were first informed of the emerging strange situation. Conners was briefed on this by a contact from Army Intelligence shortly after he got off the train at the Harrystown station.

“On top of personnel we know to either be directly employed by or in the pay of the Russians,
the Italians, the Brits, the Germans, and the Dutch,” the contact man, still wearing the suit and
tie appropriate to his cover as an insurance man, “there are strange rumors flying about some
kind of grave robbing going on.”

“Grave robbing?” Nathan asked, feeling a sense of disbelief as he said it.

“Well, that’s what people assume it was,” ‘Smith’ said. “I’ve confirmed that the rumors are at
least partly true. Somebody has been digging into some old graves in two different cemeteries
in town. It’s recent, too, the soil is freshly turned and there are reliable witnesses who all say
that those graves were intact no more than a few days ago.

“But if it was grave robbery,” ‘Smith’ went on, ‘why did they dig up those particular graves?
They were the graves of ordinary people, nothing elaborate. At most you might find a nice
watch or something like that in one, probably not even that. And to make it worse…”

“Yes?” Nathan pressed.

Smith hesitated. “I can’t confirm this part of the rumor. I know for a fact that the graves were
violated. I’ve seen a couple of them myself. But with my cover I couldn’t get past the local
police and coroner to find out if the rest is true.

“But the rumors say,” ‘Smith’ went on, “that somebody took the corpses
themselves out of the graves.”

Nathan blinked. “You’re serious? They took the bodies?!”

“That’s the rumor I keep hearing,” ‘Smith’ said. “Keep in mind that I said I can’t
it. I’ve heard it from four different people, including a woman who is married to a Sheriff’s Deputy,
so I can’t dismiss it out of hand. I guarantee you half the town, or more, has also heard the rumor,
things are getting strange and people are on edge. The Sheriff is going to have make some kind
of announcement or other soon, or I think people will start taking matters into their own hands.”

Even as Conners was being brought up to speed by his Intelligence contact, something of significance was unfolding some distance away. Let us momentarily turn out attention thousands of kilometers to the northeast, to a small town in Scotland, where we find a young couple, in their early twenties, walking through the unseasonably warm air toward a small restaurant, where they plan to take their evening meal.

Even a casual observer would note that the two are wrapped up in each other, and the new wedding rings on their fingers might not surprise such an observer. In fact, our couple has only been husband and wife for about three months, and they are still very much in the romantic stage of a new marriage.

Little would be gained by dwelling on their meal, though we might observe that one of their waiters is new to the business, and looks rather muscular and ‘rough’ for his role. Still, no more than some others, there many men with scars from the Great War, after all, the memory of that conflagration is all too fresh even after a decade.

The first thing we might note that was odd was that both husband and wife began to seem distracted and unfocused as the meal continued. Perhaps an observer might attribute that to the wine both had imbibed. Such an observer would not be entirely wrong, but he would not be altogether right, either.

Our hypothetical observer might notice that it was odd, too, that once they both finally left the restaurant, they seemed unsteady on their feet, more so than could really be explained by a few glasses of mild wine. What would really seem odd to our observer would be the way both sat down to rest on the sidewalk in the dark of the early evening, trying to speak to each other in a disjointed, confused way, and seemingly not really aware of the lack of coherence in the words of the other.

Moments later our observer would have seen two very unusual things: both husband and wife lay unconscious on the sidewalk, and a car was pulling up. Several men emerged, took the unconscious woman into the car, and then the man as well, though the latter was handled considerably less gently. If our observer could have followed the car, he would have seen it drive quickly to an airfield, where the two were transferred to a waiting plane.

If our observer could follow the plane, he would have seen a body drop from it shortly after it cleared the rocky coast, as the drugged figure of the husband, now dead of two bullets through the brain, was dropped into the sea.

The airplane flew on, carrying the drugged and unaware, and newly widowed, young woman to an unknown destination.

Why was this abduction of relevance to our tale? We shall see.

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Old 01-25-2016, 09:32 PM   #199
Join Date: Feb 2007
Default Re: The First Interbellum (1918-1939)


Four days after the abduction in Scotland, minutes before dawn, Nathan Conners and Howard Lake were making their way through a wooded area west of the city of Harrystown. It was a chilly morning, winter was approaching quickly and there was a hint of rain in the early morning wind. Conners, who had spent much of his life in New York State, albeit in New York City, had a suspicion that there was snow waiting in the near future.

Conners and his men had hardly had time to learn much about what was going on in Harrystown, but was already clear that it was complicated and much stranger than it had seemed at first glance. Quiet checks by Army Intelligence had revealed that the warehouse in which the explosion had occurred belonged to a man who did not actually exist. They had traced the line of ownership through several such blinds, and the probe was still ongoing, the need for secrecy slowing the process down considerably.

They still had not managed to gain direct access to the site, because they had to work in deep secret, which meant that they could not bring Federal pressure directly to bear on the local authorities or the owners of record. They had learned, though, from talking to people in Harrystown, that a few people had thought there was something odd about that warehouse even before the explosion had happened.

Nathan was not sure just how much to credit these stories, the more so because they were hearing them after the event, when it was easy to retroactively have noticed something. Still, the whole business was odd enough that Nathan did not dare disregard the stories, either.

One story had it that people living in the cheap working-class houses near the warehouse district had, at odd times in the late hours, seen strange lights moving in the streets, lights clearly not headlights, flashlights, or lanterns. Some claimed to have heard odd sounds as well, sounds that were not quite like those of any familiar creature, but which had still seemed more like the cry of some animal than anything else.

There was a story that the ground occasionally seemed the vibrate in that area, as if some huge machinery was at work in one of the warehouses across the street. Again, this was usually reported to happen in the late night hours, especially on stormy nights.

One tale reported that a man coming home late had seen a faint light, like St. Elmo’s Fire, flickering around the particular warehouse in question, but that the light seemed to cast no shadows.

More prosaically, and in some ways more interestingly, to Nathan, was a report about gunshots being heard in the hours just before dawn near that warehouse, about a year before the explosion. This particular story, anyway, was confirmed, the Aces had seen the police report associated with the incident. Apparently the shots had been heard by quite a few people, though the police were never able to find any sign of who fired them or why.

The local sheriff had made an announcement three days before, to the effect that contemptible vandals had been digging in the local cemeteries and disturbing the contents. He had vowed to deal harshly with whoever was responsible, and he played down how extensive the damage had been. Nathan had learned, over the previous four days, that more than a dozen graves had been violated, ranging from an elaborate mausoleum to the corner area of the town cemetery where the county buried indigents and paupers.

This aspect of the entire matter was particularly disturbing to Nathan, not merely because of the obvious but also because it was so very out of the usual ways of secret work. All aspects of espionage tended to involve illegal activities, but that did not mean that there were no rules at all. Quite a few unwritten but generally observed rules tended to apply, rules about how one went about the work and rules about how one interacted with other players.

If it had been just one grave, Nathan might have assumed that someone had concealed something in it, perhaps inadvertently. Hiding things in graves was not a normal practice, both because it was pragmatically difficult and dangerous, and because people were people. Most agents were no more eager to engage in such things than anyone else, a grave would rarely be a first choice for a drop or a hiding place.

Had it been two, or three graves, Nathan might have still thought that, perhaps someone was looking for something specific but did not know which precise grave it had been hidden within.

But twelve? Twelve graves at least had been violated, and not only opened, but corpses removed, coffins torn apart, Nathan knew that the public statements from the sheriff had only touched on how strange the crimes had been.

In some cases, the corpses had been found dismembered near the opened graves. In other cases, the bodies were simply gone, taken away for purposes unknown. In one particularly disturbing instance, the body was gone except for the head, which had been found impaled on a metal rod near the opened grave.

The sheriff had definitely left that detail out of his public statements. Nathan had learned of it because the Aces had managed to get a back channel through the State Police.

Nothing about that added up. It was not just out of normal procedures, it was insane from a professional point of view. The last thing any agent, of any sort, wanted to do was draw untoward attention. Tearing up the cemeteries, desecrating the corpses, was certain to increase official attention on the whole area, once the full truth leaked there would be newspapermen swarming all over the area as well. The damaged cemeteries would make a far more sensational and popular story than the explosion in the warehouse, which was superficially a mundane sort of event.

Nor could it be kept quiet indefinitely, Nathan was already impressed at how well the police had managed to keep things contained so far, but soon such a sensational story would have to break. Too many people already knew.

Nathan had considered, and considered again, the possibility that whatever was going on with the cemeteries was not connected to the explosion in the warehouse, or the presence of so many foreign agents. But Occam’s Razor sliced that idea apart. It was far too large a coincidence, the explosion, the agents, and sudden strange ‘flu’ outbreak, and the cemetery desecrations, all happening at once. It defied all probability that it could be coincidental.


Last edited by Johnny1A.2; 02-29-2016 at 10:01 PM.
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Old 02-02-2016, 11:09 PM   #200
Join Date: Feb 2007
Default Re: The First Interbellum (1918-1939)


Amid all this, Nathan Conners and Howard Lake were now making their way along a wooded hillside west of Harrystown because of an acquaintance doing the same thing. The acquaintance in question was Phillipe LeMoine, or at least that was the name by which he was known to the Seven Aces. Whether that was actually what his mother had named him was open to question.

Among the known agents mysteriously present in remote Harrystown were several men known to be employed by, or at least associated with, the French spy services. One of those men was Phillipe LeMoine, and the Seven Aces had encountered him in the course of their own activities on more than one occasion. Sometimes they had worked with him, sometimes against him, depending on what their mission might be and what his business might involve.

When the Seven Aces had realized the LeMoine was in Harrystown, Nathan had assigned men to ‘tail’ him, and they had discovered that he had been visiting local cemeteries, for no obvious reason. Which brought Nathan and Lake out to this area in the early morning hours. They already knew that LeMoine had come out this way that morning, they were hoping to get ahead of him by cutting through the woods to the cemetery they suspected him to be making toward. Nathan had some more men following LeMoine, but he hoped to get into position to observe him before they took any precipitate action.

At just about that same time, as Nathan and Lake were taking their short cut through the scrub woods, someone else was checking into a local hotel. He was fairly non-descript, other than perhaps for a shock of red hair, touched with a hint of gray here and there. He was about six feet in height, and heavily built for his height without seeming to be particularly overweight. Only someone experienced in reading people would likely recognize the slight signs that showed him to be carrying a concealed pistol.

“Good morning, Mr. Shaw,” the clerk for the Bradford
Arms Hotel said, with practiced courtesy.

“Good morning,” the redhead said. “I have reservations
for myself and my wife.”

“Of course, sir,” the clerk replied. A few minutes sufficed
for the redhead to sign himself into the registry as ‘John
Shaw’, and for the bellhop to carry his single suitcase up
to Room Number 34, on the northeast corner of the third
floor of the five-story hotel. This was not the room he had
reserved, a small problem had let to a last-minute change.

A few minutes later, Shaw was joined by a blond woman
who would have introduced herself as “Mrs. Susan Shaw’.

In actual fact, of course, neither of these two were named
what they claimed to me, nor were they married.

“Is the room secure?” ‘Susan’ asked.

“As much as it can be,” replied her ‘husband’. “I haven’t
had time to do a really thorough job of checking it, but we
\used the old ‘reservation trick’ to get a room we weren’t
originally supposed to be in. I think we’re probably all right.”

"I'll call us all right when we get the item and get out of
town," the blonde said. "Which isn't going to be easy, this
town is turning into a madhouse. I was listening to some
girls talking in the café across the street, apparently some
freak has been digging up graves!"

"Just what we needed," the redhead sighed. "Let's just
see if we can get our job done and get out as soon as we
can. Assuming the grave robber isn't connected to our
business, that is. This has gotten strange enough that I
wouldn't rule anything out."

While 'Mr. and Mrs. Shaw' were having their discussion in the hotel room, across the small city another conversation was taking place, aboard a small boat that was coming up the river.


Last edited by Johnny1A.2; 02-29-2016 at 02:26 AM.
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