The Destroyers 2
Aaron’s mind was spinning at the import of those numbers. They could not be right and he also couldn’t let anyone else see them. They made him into a freak.
He would study the results more thoroughly when he had the time. He stored everything in a locked file on his personal hard drive and then carefully wiped every trace of the data from the computers. He didn’t want the military or the government intruding in his life. He was his own subject. His heart beat with excitement.
Aaron came into his office slightly late the next morning.
Something seemed amiss. The room had a different feeling as though someone had just been in there. Nothing was out of place.
Aaron switched on his computer. The discreet security functions he had installed had been tripped. Someone had logged on and gone through his files. Feeling his own pulse pounding in his ears he moved quickly to the locked and hidden file. It was undisturbed.
He would have to leave the research team—someone knew or suspected too much.
Sylvester, Aaron’s disapproving lab assistant, came in, his eyes sliding around the room not meeting Aaron’s eyes.
“Good morning, sir,” Sylvester said in his usual unctuous manner, “You must have had quite a night to be so late this morning.” His tone dripped his usual self righteous disapproval.
“Yes,” Aaron returned, eyeing Sylvester closely, taking in the furtive, delicate gestures of his pasty hands, his careful expression, “I was here late last night working on research. Blind alley though. It happens often in our field.”
“We must try to honor the taxpayer in all we do, sir. No disrespect but we can not afford to waste their resources,” Sylvester announced in a prim voice.
It had always seemed as if Aaron had intimidated the frail assistant with his muscular presence but things were different today. Aaron felt like he was being subtly probed and dissected by his lab assistant. Now he felt a prickling menace in the room he did not understand.
Sylvester continued, his voice rising a bit, “I noticed some data had been erased from the computers last night. Surely you know that all the fruits of our labor are to be reported. It would be unfortunate if some foul play has been taking place, sir.”
Aaron allowed his usual annoyance with Sylvester to surface in his voice, “I’m not sure what you’re alluding to Sylvester. There was a crash in the system and some data was lost. Fortunately, it was not really germane to the main study. You can see all the relevant information is intact. Now I must get back to work. As you say, we should not waste the taxpayers’ money with purposeless talk”
Sylvester’s expression did not change and he did not reply, he soundlessly left the room as Aaron bent over his papers.
The base was quieter. Most of the men were gone on a brief leave. Aaron went about his normal work, checking data adding things up. He also managed to transfer the hidden file to his USB drive and erase it from his computer. He didn’t breathe a word of his pending departure from the program. He was the model employee, nothing to suspect here.
The day ended usually enough. He punched out and went through the usual security checks and sighed with relief as he and his hidden USB were leaving the lights of the base behind in the evening darkness.
He drove into the small town and into the first bar he saw on the main street. He needed something strong to blank out the fear he could feel creeping over his mind. “Two shots Old Potrero whiskey,” he growled sitting at the bar and hunching over.
The first shot fired through his body and his mind suddenly felt clearer, calmer. He sat up straighter and looked around. There were some middle aged types nursing their beers and yelling at the television screens and Ben staring straight at him. When Aaron looked up, Ben sauntered over.
“What happened sir? You look like you saw a ghost when you came in.”
“Just shook up, Ben,” Aaron smiled weakly, “Almost hit a deer. Getting careless, thinking too much about work.”
Aaron noticed that Ben had, had a few. He was almost openly leering at Aaron. “I gotta say, you been the only decent person in all this mess I’m in. Ever’ one jus’—I can’t jus’ be myself with no one,” Ben suddenly looked teary, “You know what I mean, sir?”
A deep, deep sigh came up from Aaron’s chest. He felt a deeper reaction than he expected and found himself saying, “Oh I definitely know what you mean, Ben.”
Ben looked at Aaron right in the eye, “I know this is a way I can get ahead for me, for my mom and dad, but—but I don’t know if I can make it. Things get worse every day for me.”
Aaron sipped on the second shot, savoring the hot liquid burning his throat, the strong rye taste in the liquor. “Ben, there might be another way for you. I’m leaving this program soon. There is little more I can contribute or learn. I have money, a lot of it and more coming in all the time. Your test results are very interesting. I would pay you well if you would agree to join my program. I promise the results will not hurt you. Rather the opposite.”
Ben’s wide smile burst across his face, “You’d do that for me? I knew you were a good guy not just someone I---I---I can’t thank you—is this a dream?”
Tears were standing out in Ben’s eyes. He wiped them with the sleeve of his shirt. Aaron felt himself staring at the well built Marine’s chest, he forced his eyes to meet the man’s face. Ben gave him a knowing wink, “Let’s get outta here. There’s better places to celebrate.”
Aaron threw some money down on the bar as Ben staggered eagerly towards the door.
The air was cool. The streetlights threw spotlights down marking out the parking lot from the surrounding darkness. Aaron could hear crickets and animal rustlings in the bushes around the perimeter.
Ben was standing next to Aaron’s truck, smiling as Aaron approached steadily. Aaron pressed up to Ben, his hands fumbling along the heavy muscles of his chest. Ben was stroking the veins standing up along Aaron’s muscular arms. Ben pushed his mouth clumsily against Aaron’s. Aaron felt the roughness of Ben’s skin and surrendered himself to the sweet sensation of Ben’s kiss.
“Faggots!” bellowed a voice out the darkness and a blunt object plowed into the back of Aaron’s neck.
The world was pounding with pain. Rocks were digging into his back He had instinctively rolled into a protective position. Savage blows were raining down on his stomach and legs as someone kicked him hard. He heard a crack and a stifled scream of pain. Ben’s voice. He started to croak out a reply and was slapped hard in the face with an open hand. “I’m being too gentle. This one’s looking around.” A voice roared through the redness of pain around him. Again he was struck hard and again the world went black.
His head was lifted was jerked off the ground. Points of light---pain ricocheted through him. He smelled sour, beer breath, sweat and aftershave blasting him in the face. He tried hard to focus his eyes. Close cropped blonde hair. Gray eyes. A tattoo of an angel with a sword on a forearm. “You will never fucking come back.” A voice in his ear.
He could feel warm liquid splashing on his mouth. He sputtered blowing the salty liquid out and gasping. The blonde and a dark guy were pissing on him and laughing.
Distantly a police siren was screeching nearer. Shadowed figures looked up startled. Aaron recognized seven of them from the program. Fleeting glimpses he allowed them to sear into his mind. He was struck again in the face by the blonde, the name Bryce floated through his mind, as he again fell into darkness.
Aaron awoke again tasting blood in his mouth. His teeth were okay. Panic filled his mind as he saw Ben’s broken body next to his open vandalized truck. The sirens had stopped. Not for them after all. He crawled across gravel. He could feel the rock scraping his abused body.
He lay his head against Ben. Ben was still breathing. Aaron continued his painful progress to the truck. He pulled himself inside his car and pushed the Emergency call on his rearview mirror. An operator’s voice blared out of the speaker. Aaron couldn’t recognize the words. “Help,” he croaked, “get help.”
He saw the USB lying on one of the seat cushions. He pushed it under the carpet of the truck as he once again heard sirens in the distance.
Once again there was darkness.