June 16, 2:20 pm
It’s going to be a beautiful evening for an apocalypse, Sutton Deary thought.
He was striding down the gravel road between the Ditto’s administrative buildings and its sprawling complex of laboratories. It was still early afternoon, but already he was anticipating the triumphant end of his play.
His plan was to unleash the ultimate horror upon Salt Lake City tonight, just as the sun just kissed the Oquirrh Mountains to the city’s west. That meant he had only a few hours left to do what needed to be done.
The gravel path was deserted. He could see his security guards in some of the lab reception areas, gazing out from their posts behind the glass doors. To them, it looked as if their commander had finally returned from wherever he had gone, and was now taking over the hourly rounds. They saluted him crisply when he caught their gaze. What they could not see, of course, was that on either side of Sutton Deary were his two Dark Angels, who hovered a step behind and to each side, like huge black wings.
He allowed himself a single brief glance back at the administrative center. It was quiet and still, with the curtains drawn.
When Sutton left the pilot, he was fully in control of Susan Jarvis. The dead man was so enthralled with being back in a body that he could do little other than touch himself and grovel at God’s feet in gratitude. And with Bradley now in control of Susan’s body, there was no need for the handcuffs. He had instructed Seward to sit quietly and wait for him and the Dark Ghosts to return, and as they left, he was doing just that—sitting in his chair, his hands roaming and exploring Susan’s body with fascination and pleasure.
And with Bradley’s role in his endgame firmly in place, Sutton was free to take the most critical, and most dangerous, step.
What Sutton now needed was stored in an underground facility that was accessible only to a few scientists and the very top military brass. As head of security, it was a lab Sutton knew existed, and he had developed protocols to ensure that it was the most secure on the base. But even he was not allowed inside, and he was not supposed to know the deep and dark nature of the work being done there.
Fortunately, very little could be kept secret from a man with invisible spies who could walk into any lab or any office on the base. He knew every deadly substance being studied in every secret lab throughout the Ditto. Some were just obscure biological agents with more research than destructive potential. Others were threats which the Ditto was studying in order to develop effective countermeasures. And a few—a select few—were deadly offensive weapons of staggering destructive power. Weapons that could level city blocks, or depopulate entire cities. Weapons that could decimate advancing armies like the hand of God. Biological agents that would eat away at flesh and stop up lungs and burn the eyes out of living skulls.
It never ceased to amaze him what horrors the human race was not only willing to study, but to inflict upon itself. And what a delightful toolbox that had given him for his final act.
His holy grail was in a lab called The Wheelbarrow.
He had first heard the code name for lab 15-C just over a year ago, through a slip of the tongue by his base commander. The general had been asking routine questions about various facilities and security protocols, and as he was going through inquires regarding some of the key labs, he had used the term “The Wheelbarrow.” The man had instantly gone pale at his slip of the tongue, and corrected himself.
“I’m sorry, I meant Lab 15-C…”
Sutton hadn’t missed a beat, and he was sure that the general hadn’t noticed how he had instantly filed the name away in his mind for further thought and contemplation. The moniker had confused Sutton for a time, until he had worked it out for himself. Of course, “Wheelbarrow” was based on an acronym. And the answer seemed obvious.
Weaponized Biological Agent Research Lab.
Sutton knew Lab 15-C, or “The Wheelbarrow,” very well; at least in terms of layout and logistics. But the one thing he did not know was the power and the scale of the weapons being stored and studied there. His spies helped him learn these secrets, and it did not surprise him to discover that The Wheelbarrow handled the most deadly of all the chemical and biological agents being researched at the Ditto. In fact, eventually he came to understand that the work being done there violated every weapons reduction treaty the United States had ever signed.
One biological agent in particular was under intense research and development, and if the scientists in The Wheelbarrow were allowed to complete that research, they would produce a report which would terrify even the most hawkish veterans of the cold war.
But the scientists would never complete their research. For what they had developed was exactly the tool that Sutton Deary needed to complete his Great Work. In fact, knowing it existed was what led him to finally begin the Cleansing.
What I will release at sundown will make the canisters we burned in Tooele seem as if they were full of cotton candy, Sutton thought.
Building C looked no different from any of the others. It was a nondescript cinder block building, with a glass door that led into a small reception area, presided over by two heavily armed young guards. Any visitor had to pass through this first security checkpoint, whether they were accessing any of the labs on the two floors above ground, or the elevator at the rear of the building.
Sutton knew both of the guards well, and they bolted to attention as he walked up the half dozen concrete steps leading to the glass door. He walked into the small room, and although he didn’t turn to look, he knew his dark companions faded through the walls, and stood at his back.
“Captain Deary!” the younger of the two guards said, snapping him a crisp salute. “Good to see you back, sir! We were all concerned.”
“Good to be back, private,” Deary said, returning the salute.
“Here to do a security check, sir?” asked the second guard.
“Absolutely. Just routine. Anything unusual here? Any signs of trouble?” Sutton asked, reaching into his breast pocket, as if for a pen or a pack of gum.
“No, sir,” the younger guard said. “In fact…”
But he got no further than that.
As Sutton watched, the bigger of the two Dark Ghosts slammed into the security guard, whose eyes rolled back as if he was having a stroke. It only took seconds, and before the other guard could even react, the younger guard turned and shot him in the throat with his sidearm.
Even before the soldier’s body hit the floor, Sutton had retrieved what he was reaching for in his pocket. It was a small but razor-sharp pocket knife. He folded open the blade, and handed it to the possessed guard, who instantly took the knife and slit his own throat from ear to ear in a huge, spouting red grin.
The Dark Ghost stepped free of the falling body, even as it collapsed on the top of the guard he had shot.
Sutton picked up the knife from the floor, took out a handkerchief, and cleaned the blade.
Only four more checkpoints to go, he thought, as they started down the hall toward the elevator. Four more, and then I’ll have what I’m after.
The Last Handful of Clover is a supernatural thriller by Wess Mongo Jolley. Thanks for reading! If you are enjoying this story, please consider supporting the author on Patreon.
For more information (including maps of the story’s world and a contact form) visit the author’s website.
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Copyright 2021, Wess Mongo Jolley. All rights reserved.