Description: This is Major Charlie Nash, age thirty-one, and where some men leave a mark of their lives as a record of their fragmentary existence on Earth, this man leaves a blot, a dirty, discolored blemish to document a cheap and undistinguished sojourn amongst his so-called betters. What you're about to watch in this room is a strange mortal combat between a man and himself, for in just a moment, Major Charlie Nash, whose life has been given over to fighting adversaries, will find his most formidable opponent in a cheap hotel room that is in reality the outskirts of The Goldlewis Zone.
"Marrakesh... shit, still in Marrakesh..."
The words are spoken in an almost disbelieving tone by Major Charlie Nash, as he stares through a set of half-closed blinds - the window of his hotel room offering a view of the main thoroughfare in the Moroccan capital. Scents waft up, even through the glass; spices, opium, meat from the nearby market practically baking under the scorching sun. The assorted citizens of the Islamic city go about their business, as Nash watches from above. Shirtless, his dog tags dangling around his neck - the only item on his body other than an olive-drab pair of combat pants... and those are stained, looking like they haven't see the inside of a washing machine in some time.
It's been a long few months, ever since his mission in Lebanon went sideways. He's used to losing men while on the job, that's never been a problem before - they knew what they signed up for, just like he did. It's not the memory of his soldiers splattered all over the sand that has been keeping him up lately; it's remembering how helpless he was in the face of Shadaloo's most feared enforcer, Juri Han. For a man like the Major, who'd been through countless battles and never once felt like he was out of his depth, being trapped underneath a young girl - utterly unable to fight back, just waiting for the end - was something he'd never experienced before... and although he wouldn't mention it to anyone, it's stuck with him.
Of course, anyone who knows Nash would be able to take one look at him in his current state, and tell without a doubt that he is still carrying the trauma with him. Beyond his physical body, which has healed quite nicely, the mental scars linger... the girl's casual, mocking tone... the disgusting, sadistic teasing... the attempts of that Psycho Power to break down his defenses, to make him question himself...
He'd been up for what feels like days, maybe weeks, the lack of a clock within his room meaning he was only able to tell time by the day/night cycle peeking through the blinds - and the calls to prayer, acting as a steady rhythm in this devout land. And as another one begins, Charlie grimaces and shuts the blinds tightly - encompassing the room in almost complete darkness.
1:38PM, on the dot - the Duhur.
It'd been months since he'd been out in the field, months of rest, recuperating, healing... but he'd been physically up to snuff for some time, now - and still nothing from Command. No new missions. No call back to the States for training and regular duties. Just left here, in Morocco - first, at a hospital used almost exclusively by the American Government, and then this cheap hotel room. He's been ready for some time, ready to get back into the fight... but no word has come back from his superiors.
The thought has crossed his mind; maybe they've cut him loose. Maybe he fucked up that badly in Lebanon, losing 2/3rds of his squad, forced to kill the Russian virologist he'd gone there to rescue - just to keep him out of Shadaloo's hands.
He walks across the dingy, unkempt room - empty cups, stained black with strong Moroccan coffee, a glass ashtray overflowing with cigarette butts, an empty wood bedframe, the mattress thrown across the room and laying in a heap in the corner - towards a mirror, illuminated slightly by a dim floorlamp nearby. Lifting his forearm above his brow and leaning against the mirrored surface, he stares into his lidded, bloodshot eyes...
"Goddamnit... every second I stay here, I get weaker... every second Shadaloo is out there, they get stronger..."
His voice is low, grave, almost depressed... this is not the Major Nash that his men and superiors know - and have put so much trust in. He's different. Sullen. Angry.
Without another word, he moves a half-step back from the mirror and lashes out with his right hand - his clenched fist smashing into the surface. It shatters with such immense force that shards are thrown back towards Charlie, who turns his head as one of the pieces nicks his cheek - just enough to draw blood. Stumbling back towards the bedframe, he sits down on the wire netting which would usually rest underneath the mattress. Blank, unfocused eyes stare through his glasses at the blood that leaks from the cuts in his hand... he feels nothing.
He wants a mission... no, he needs one. A man like Charlie Nash is nothing without a purpose - his present condition should make that much evident.
"Well then, son, we better get you out."
Those are the calm, measured words that come from across from Charlie. Sitting perpendicular to the major is a massive man. He wears a brown military-style jacket laden with badges on the arms, a pale shirt with three stars on the collar, a deer skull necklace, brown cowboy-style chaps, a yellow tie, brown gloves with horseshoes on the tops and thick boots. The stout man has white hair and a thick beard. He is wearing a pair of glasses with the left side blacked out with a lipstick mark, silver bolts and small text on it. He is seated, bow-legged, on top of a massive coffin. He had arrived in this room unannounced, silently, underneath the calculating notice of the one Charlie Nash.
"At ease, soldier."
His hands are folded in front him, a set of letters are placed at his side, near a portion of a coiled up chain that is connected to the coffin. The man keeps his gaze lowered, bowing his head slightly from Charlie. General Goldlewis states firmly, but with a gentle air to it. "You've been suffering long enough, hard enough. Take your time. I'm not here to cause any trouble. Forgive my arupt intrusion, and lack of introductions." He continues steadily, unfolding his hands a moment to take out a handkerchief, and wiping the sweat from his brow. "I'm Lieutenant General Goldlewis Dickinson, the Secretary of Defense of the United States. I'm from the government, hoss." He states, with faint smirk as he tucks his handkerchief back away.
"And I'm here to help."
Sitting there, watching the crimson slowly drip from his wounded hand - falling to stain the already-filthy carpet underfoot - Charlie seems to be in something of a daze... he loses track of time, as though the violent outburst had drained him... more than it should have. His face, a stern mask. His eyes, dark and without their usual keen, all-seeing glint.
If he were in tip-top shape, he might have sensed something earlier - but at present, he only gets the faintest hint of another presence in the room before...
The calm, steady words cut through the stale, stuffy, dry air of the third-floor hotel room - snapping the Major out of his trance in a split-second. In a sudden flash of movement, Charlie's hands disappear under the bed-frame and come up holding a 1911 MC Operator .45 pistol; the weapon is lifted up, barrel snapping through the dimness of the room by sheer instinct.
It is fortunate for everyone involved, then, that Major Nash - although jumpier than he might usually be - has preserved some semblance of his training... he doesn't pull the trigger, until he gets sight of the target.
And when he does see the man seated calmly near him, his massive frame looking even larger in the tight confines of the room, Charlie suddenly lowers the barrel - pointing it at the floor for a moment, before placing it calmly on the wire netting beside him. It's lucky that Goldlewis possesses such a unique silhouette - to say nothing of his apparel... and that large, mysterious coffin he's seated underneath. Had it been some random grunt dressed in standard-issue gear, Nash might have been too slow to stop himself from firing a shot.
But there's no mistaking the Secretary of Defense for anyone else - even Shadaloo's largest agents can hardly match the sheer bulk and girth of Lieutenant General Dickinson.
Once the initial shock passes - a matter of milliseconds before Nash's surprise gives way to his training and sense of decorum - the Major swiftly stands on his feet, snapping to attention with a firm, by-the-books salute offered towards his superior. He remains in this position, even as his bleary eyes focus in the darkness, the ceiling fan circulating smoky air from a still-burning cigarette sitting in the ashtray... he stares at Goldlewis through the short distance between the two of them.
"Mr. Secretary, Sir!" he belts out, his voice hard and professional - betraying none of the fatigue and stress that is so very evident in his features.
He maintains his stance for a brief time, until the hulking man tells him to be at ease - Charlie visibly slackening at those words, lowering his hand from his brow to rest at his side. Still, he stands tall - not wanting to give a bad impression to the man who sits at the President's right hand, controlling the sprawling war machine of the United States government. The man was a legend, and rightly so - a decorated Air Force officer, one of the few active-duty members of the military who had ascended to the highest rank that any could hope to achieve.
After all, the current state of Nash - and the room he's been stewing in for weeks - doesn't speak too highly of his current state... he doesn't want to add to that embarassment.
Listening to Goldlewis' words with absolute attention even in his sleep-deprived frame of mind, a small glimmer of hope returns to Charlie's sullen, dark eyes at SecDef's words... could this be it? Could they be putting him back to work?
But first, there is a more pressing matter nagging at the back of the Major's clouded head... and after a brief pause, he gives voice to it.
"Pardon the language, Secretary Dickinson, but... how the /hell/ did you get in?"
A brief glance away from the man to the door confirms things - it's still locked. A mystery, then... but one Charlie desperately wants the answer to; if only to better defend himself from future incursions.
Goldlewis doesn't look upset in the least at the Major's state.
There is a concern in his eye, a reverence gentleness knowing of the symptoms of PTSD. He returns the salute briefly, before he tries to keep things from being too formal now. "It's alright, Major, I could have been an assassin. ON a worse day, you'd have tried to take my head out." He looks to the broken glass, the shattered mirror, the sorry state of Charlie Nash. He takes a moment, and leans forward, sweat coming over him as he looks at Charlie. "As to how the hell did I get in, well, let me ask you something."
"Have you ever heard of Carl M. Allen, and the story of a Philadelphia Experiment?"
Goldlewis doesn't wait for the answer. Not many people knew about it. "In October 28, 1943, Mr. Allen alleged that an experiment took place at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. The original intention was for the U.S. Navy destroyer escort USS Eldridge was to have been rendered invisible, that is, cloaked to enemy devices, using unpublished and dangerous scientific theories put forward by an unnamed scientist, a self-proclaimed alchemist. But Mr. Allen stated that something went wrong, and for a few minutes it was teleported the Naval Shipyard in Norfolk, Virginia, before returning to Philidelphia. The ship's crew was supposed to have suffered various side effects; including insanity, intangibility, and being "frozen" in place. And that those who survived, had their memories wiped clean of the incident." Subtly, Goldlewis begins to move towards Charlie, very slightly.
The lid of the coffin was shifting.
Undeterred, the general continues. "Imagine. Teleportation. Time Travel. And Invisibility. 80 years ago, these would have been considered totally absurd. And it was, of course; the Philidelphia Experiment was merely a misunderstanding on experiments in counter-illumination systems for aircraft. Hardly anyone was hurt, outside of a bit of eye strain." For a moment, it seems a blue hand was beginning to curl its fingers around the edge of the lid. Goldlewis digs his feet down. "At the time, it was impossible to think anybody could break the fundamental and natural laws of physics like that." Goldlewis slams his fist firmly across the lid of the coffin, shoving it back into place.
"It's not those good old days anymore now, is it?"
The general reaches over for the letters. He picks one up. "When I came on board in this administration, I was a bit surprised that I had gotten a report on the Special Warfare & InFiltration Team. Apparently, some of the boys in the Department of Defense had reason to believe that you and your boys needed to be court-martialed. It was a long list of charges, Charlie." He tosses the letter over to the Major. "Dead civilians. War crimes. Means justified by ends. And an constant, endless obsession with a so-called Shadaloo." Goldlewis cocks his head slightly, transfixing his exposed eye as he reaches for another letter. "Do you want me to read to you about what the Department of Defense feels about our... well..." Goldlewis frowns slightly, averting his gaze.
"Or do you already know what the official position of the Department of Defense is with the Shadaloo Organization?"
Charlie offers a stiff nod to the suggestion; confirming the exact nature of his concern... truthfully, it is a major part of what has kept him operating on little-to-no sleep these past few weeks. Although Juri herself neglected to finish him off herself, he knew that Lord Vega would be displeased with that turn of events. The chance to take out one of Shadaloo's major enemies while he was weak is one that Major Nash highly doubts the insane dictator would pass up. He only hopes the girl who bested him had some serious explaining to do when she spoke to the man who ruled Shadaloo - why she left him alive, why she let Dr. Sokolov die before they were able to drain him of his secrets and expertise.
The thought is some small comfort, after the torture she had put him through. But it brings him no joy; the idea that he had to rely on one of his country's greatest enemies to punish the enforcer who had defeated him so easily...
Even as these thoughts run through his head, Charlie keeps his attention on Secretary Dickinson - and his mention of the infamous 'Philadelphia Experiment' causes a visible reaction on the Major's face. One eyebrow arches up, though not in surprise - he'd heard of the incident, after all... one of the many mysterious events which were whispered of, in hushed tones, among the men serving their country.
Before he can reply to Dickinson's question, the man carries on - explaining the unofficial story which had made the rounds among the conspiracy-minded circles, both military and civilian. A horrible experiment. Men fused to the hull. A terrible mistake that came from men of science's reach exceeding their grasp. On par with the rumours of aliens at Area 51, unknown creatures stalking the forests of the continental United States, brainwashing and mind-control carried out by The Company... how much of it was fact? How much of it was the fevered imaginings of men who had long ago abandoned their grip on reality?
And then, Goldlewis carries on - giving the 'official' line; that it was simply an attempt at an advanced 'cloaking' system of sorts... in theory, similar to the defense mechanisms of several marine animals. Charlie had heard that, too. He'd heard a lot of official stories coming from the DoD and other Government agencies. Hell, there was a time when even the existence of Shadaloo was nothing more than a rumour - until Lord Vega's actions became too overt to deny.
As if to punctuate the gulf between the official and unofficial versions of these events, there is a flash of movement from within the coffin - a brief gap between lid and body revealing what appears to be luminescent, blue-tinted... fingers? Only visible for the briefest moment, before Goldlewis slams his fist down and seals the coffin once more under his massive weight - cloudy as his mind and tired as his eyes are, Charlie can't be sure /what/ he saw... but he'd heard /other/ rumours, as well. Rumours that this man sitting in front of him had hobbies that went beyond the mundane workings of the Armed Forces and the politics of Washington, DC. Stories about an interest SecDef had in more... unusual matters.
The only sign that Charlie had noticed anything is his lingering gaze on the now-shut lid of the coffin, maintaining his attention on it even as he speaks.
"I'd heard the rumours, sir," he states plainly - leaving aside the fact that he had attempted to look into the affair himself. After being promoted to Major and commanding officer of his own unit, the additional security clearance he'd been given had offered a rare opportunity for Nash to try and research several mysterious events surrounding the US MIlitary. The files were redacted beyond all comprehension, however - not even the bare minimum of information left by the CIA or... whoever was controlling the flow of intel regarding the incident.
"Of course, I had always assumed they were just that - rumours," he lies with a straight face, moving his arms behind his back to clasp his wrist as he remains standing. Though this man was in the highest position within the Military, Major Nash had reason to remain guarded in his words - he knew the Government had been infiltrated at high levels... and by more than Shadaloo spies. The enemies arrayed against his country were numerous, their methods darker and more fearful than any America could hope to employ against them. Put plainly, he didn't know /who/ to trust... even his own men, those he trained and served with for years now, were not immune to such concerns.
It was the unfortunate reality of the current situation. Compartmentalization was the best ticket to survival in these troubling, uncertain times. Keeping ones cards close to the chest, as it were.
He doesn't continue that line of thought, though - some things were above him, even with his relative autonomy within the hierarchy of the Military. It never did any good to do too much digging, particular when he was unaware of who could be trusted within the Government - all it would do is paint a target on his back, if the wrong people heard him questioning the narrative.
The news that some members of the DoD had wanted Charlie and his team brought in to face charges might be surprising to some, who were only aware of the prestigious position which Major Nash held within the Military - and the eyes of the public. But he knew better; although concrete facts and evidence escaped him, he trusted his intuition as a soldier. The Government was comprimised. There could be no doubt.
"I wish I could say I was shocked to hear it, Mr. Secretary," he says, after considering his words carefully, "I only hope cooler heads prevailed in Washington. Everything me and my unit has done, we've done with the interests of the United States in mind - you know better than anyone what we're dealing with. Monsters. Human and otherwise. We won't win this shadow conflict without casualties. Without bending the rules. The straight path ends in defeat, as it always has... as it always will."
He lets those words hang in the smoky air of the cramped and dingy hotel room for a moment, before he finishes his thought with a question - his eyes finally moving from that strange coffin to the massive individual sitting atop it, staring Goldlewis right in his one visible eye as he speaks.
"I hope you agree, sir, that our methods are justified - if not ideal. But I've been out of the loop for some time, stuck in this place. Perhaps you can enlighten me as to any... changes in policy. I'd love to hear the official stance of the Department."
The pistol remains in its spot on the bed. Could it be, that Charlie has his doubts about even SecDef? Not that he would ever give voice to such thoughts, of course, but his keen gaze remains unfaltering... and he remains stiff, only relaxing slightly, so as to not overly concern the Secretary.
"The official stance of the Department?"
"You shouldn't ask questions you already know the answers too. But heck. Maybe you don't know." Goldlewis casts a quick glance to the gun on the bed. Charlie didn't have to say it. He knew how these meetings would go. But there was a very, very important reason why Goldlewis was here, and not Charlie being carted off by MPs. He holds up a letter, and looks down at it.
"For whom it may concern."
"We have completed our research and analysis on the Special Warfare & InFiltration Team, and their allegations on the international terrorist organization known as Shadalooo. We have identified that the Mexican government is in fact nearly completely compromised by Shadaloo contacts and operatives. While the SWIFT has recommended to immediately begin a liberation effort to break the cartels control of the Mexican government, we have rejected this decision. We have found that the national security risk of antagonizing Shadaloo resources will almost certainly lead to outright war. While any wars with Mexico would ultimately be favorable for us, the cost of human life would be significant, and the economic and political damage, both domestically and internationally would take generations to recover from. For matters of domestic and international security and stability, we have identified a significant danger, and one we can act directly on."
"Major Charlie Nash, and his Special Warfare & InFiltration Team."
"Major Charlie Nash's unhinged efforts to stop Shadaloo has greatly undermined the international community. Because of his influence and toxic influence on morale, countless invaluable operatives in both Interpol and Special Forces have defected into independent organizations. See Delta Red's and Chun-Li's defection to far-right terrorist organization Ikari Warriors. We have found evidence that Special Forces operatives have been compromised by Shadaloo as well, making there a real risk of Charlie only magnifying the problem in his actions. With the rise of paramilitary NGOs operating through the guise of 'mercenaries,' there is a serious concern of these rogue agents committing international war crimes, and provoking wars. Major Nash shares the profile of many of these rogue NGOs, and has even demonstrated sympathy for them in the past. With the recent actions in Lebanon where Major Nash not only disobeyed orders, resulting in the death of many members -we- have identified as being unsympathetic to Charlie's ambitions, but also the murder of a valuable Russian asset under the delusions of keeping him out of Mexican hands." Goldlewis takes a moment to aside from the letter. "Oh, before you get concerned, I want to make something clear, Major." He makes a small chopping motion with his hand.
"This is absolute bullshit."
He gives a wink to Charlie, before he continues. "It is our recommendation that we disband the Special Warfare & InFiltration Team, and proceed to arrest and investigate all participating members of the organization. Major Nash's rising instability and monomania has made us reach the conclusion that if we were to recall and discharge him, he would promptly proceed to go rogue, and independently act to undermine Shadaloo operations in spite of the intense risk of global stability. We thus recommend that for Major Nash himself to ensure he is imprisoned, or if unable to arrest him, that he is to be terminated with extreme prejudice." Goldlewis looks up from the letter, and shaking his head as he repeats. "Terminated With Extreme Prejudice. Murdering a war hero, one of this country's finest soldiers in all of history. For the greater good, and a more stable world order, that keeps Shadaloo right at the table, acting like a normal, functioning government. And they can justify it too! They have charts and tables, Major, have a look." Goldlewis crumples it up, and tosses the letter at Charlie's thigh. "I just have one question for you."
"How long have these assholes been after your balls, Major?"
Up for weeks, too much nicotine and coffee, too many long hours spent running over the events of the past year in his head... Charlie might be rusty, but he's not so blind as to miss Dickinson's eyes settling, briefly, on the loaded pistol. It's only expected; Major Nash is certain that many of his superiors view him as overly paranoid, particularly after one too many queries about the possibility of Shadaloo infiltration into the Government. Naturally, the Secretary of Defense would have heard the whispers about him; that Charlie has 'lost it', that he's started to doubt the very men he takes his orders from.
As Dickinson reads off the contents of the letter, Charlie grits his teeth with every word - hands held behind his back clenching into angry fists... it's all he can do to keep from visibly shaking with righteous fury, as the accusations get worse and worse. Rogue element? Toxic influence? Trying to impugn his name, trying to minimize the sacrifices he'd made for his country, trying to paint a true patriot as some kind of villain?
War is coming, whether Washington would risk it or not. Hell, as far as Charlie is concerned, they've /been/ at war - even if the bureaucrats back in the capital were too blind, or afraid, or corrupt to admit it.
Goldlewis' brief aside - giving voice to Charlie's own feelings about these lies and accusations - brings a brief, forced smirk to the tense soldier... and then, it's gone, as the Secretary of Defense continues. When the balled-up letter is tosses at him, Charlie's right hand - the one covered in blood and minor cuts - flies through the air to grab it before it strikes his thigh... but he doesn't speak, for several long seconds.
"Jesus Christ" he finally states, voice low and serious once Dickinson has finished speaking. He'd never expected that the situation back home had deteriorated /this/ much. Terminated? With extreme prejudice? For doing his job?! He's visibly taken aback by this revelation - eyes wide, jaw tight, veins in his arms bulging as he clenches his fists as though Vega's throat were in his hands.
"Imprisoned? Terminated?! And what about my /men/?! After all we've /DONE/?! I've bled for these sons of bitches! Killed for them!!"
His voice rises in volume, as his right hand clenches into a fist, crumpling the already balled-up letter even further - blood continuing to trickle from his mirror-inflicted cuts, red bleeding into the white of the paper.
As if suddenly realizing what he's doing, Major Nash lets out a sudden, deep exhalation of breath. Unclenching his fist, he turns his body slightly to let the letter drop onto the bedframe - right beside his pistol. Angry as he is, he still knows that there might be some valuable information hidden amidst all the bullshit and lies printed on that piece of paper. No doubt he'll be poring over those words later, looking for something, anything to guide his next actions... or assist him in his off-the-books investigation of his superiors.
Finally, he lifts his gaze up to meet Goldlewis' once more - and opens his mouth to answer the man's question.
"It seems they've been playing me like a damn fiddle for some time, Secretary Dickinson. Maybe since the start... setting me up, so they can pull the rug out from under me when it best suits their interests.."
It seems the SecDef has managed to put Charlie's tense nerves at ease somewhat, as the words keep pouring out of him - the usually taciturn and stoic CO of the SWIFT unit being unusually frank and open in his response.
"Something must have changed, someone must have got to them. Why the hell would they hesitate in the face of these terrorists? 'Global stability?' Not even the bureaucrats in Washington can be /that/ blind..."
He lets those words hang in the air, before shaking his head and lifting his hand to rub the bridge of his nose - pushing aside his glasses as he does so. He's starting to ramble, starting to sound like the very maniac the DoD is - evidently - trying to paint him as. A few deep breaths, as he steadies himself, before letting his glasses fall back into place as he moves his hand back to his side. Suddenly, he slackens visibly - bending his knees as he takes a seat back on the creaking bed-frame, elbows rested on his knees as he stares blankly at the large man atop the mysterious coffin.
"I suppose a trip back to Washington is out of the question, then," he says dryly, no hint of humour in his voice.
"You know POTUS as well as anyone, sir. Tell me /he's/ still a good man. Tell me /he/ doesn't buy this garbage. He /can't/."
His tone is just short of desperate, but it's obvious he still needs to believe in something... that there is still someone with the best interests of the country in charge back home.
"Oh, I want you back to Washington."
Goldlewis can sense the despair. He can read it. He sensed it since he saw the gun. He knew what these long stress detox sessions often ended in. And after what that Korean Psychopath did to him... The general rises up into a stand, with a great heft. He was sweating heavily. The Morrocan heat was hitting him hard. Gripping a letter, he tucks it into his shift a bit, before he turns back to Charlie. "Major, I've gone through the chain of command. Before you, I've spoken to your commander. And before him, I spoke to his commander. And I've gone through the channels, and I've asked for explainations. See, these bean counters and paper pushes lack a certain perspective on the big picture. They imagine that they have a perfect system for the world, and all they have to do is cut you out of it." He waddles slowly towards the Major, a deep rumbling surging through the building with every step. "I'll never quite get how you jarheads run things, hoss. But you're a good man, Major. A good man, and a good soldier. And in the Air Force, a good man and a good soldier is held accountable for himself, and others. And just like how you are accountable for every man serving under you, the same for every officer up that chain. Every Colonel and General between you and me, Major, has answer that report." Standing by Charlie, knocks aside the paper on it. Then, he takes a seat on the bed. The frame bends with a groan, as it tips inwards. "And I've learned something very important, that you've forgotten."
"You're not alone in this, Major."
General Dickerson places a tender, empathetic hand on Charlie's shoulder, rubbing it briefly. "Lord almighty, you are not alone in this. You feel alone, and you have every right to feel alone. But I've talked through the chain of command. I've listened. And I found out, there are dozen of men and women just like you, Major. They feel like they are the only ones acting as a bulwark against the greatest evil descending against our country. Except one of them is after Darkstalkers. Another, on some secret society that controls the media. Another on extradimensional cryptids set on invading the planet. I got this one nutcase who believes the NOL is run by evil demigods set on resetting the universe to their own twisted will. And some of these nutjobs, Major..." He looks at the paper under his foot.
"Some of them are the very same people who helped write this report."
"I'm breaking this fever, Major." Goldlewis stomps on the crumpled up paper. "Because you ask a good question. Why. Why would they hesitate? Are all of them compromised? So. I talked. I listened. I've gone across these men in this report. And I can tell, Major, that you are right. There are mealy-mouthed cronies who explicitly or implicitly are in bed with Shadaloo, or Shadaloo affiliates, or even worse. And they've weaved their webs where I can't touch them. Yet. But not all of them. Some of them truly believe that what you are doing is the wrong thing to do, and have evidence to prove it. Because their buggaboo is a real, tangible, and existential threat. And they can't imagine yours is any bigger than there's. Oh, there are scum-sucking liars eager to have Shadaloo sitting at the table. But they aren't just after you. Because these jaded bueracrats, who are so set in their belief that they are going to save the world?"
"Those are the people Shadaloo are trying to go rogue too."
"It's a war, Charlie. You've known that longer than any of us have. I've chosen whose side I want in this war. And I'm setting the battle lines. I'm not going to have everyone chasing their own boogymen at the cost of their allies; I'm not going to have crabs in the bucket, pulling each other down before they get into that... mmm... that steamy pot." Goldlewis groans, rising to a stand. The bed doesn't spring back into shape. "I've accepted the report, I've given my statement of it to my boss, the President of the United States. On my recommendation, he has accepted the report as well. Here." He tosses the letter into Charlie's lap. "You, and every single one of your soldiers Major, explicit pardons from the Commander in Chief, hand delivered personally by the Secretary of Defense." Goldlewis nods.
"I made it clear that you are the future of this country, hoss."
It's in Charlie's nature to be analytical and calculating at all times. It's part of what makes him so good at planning missions, leading men in the field, and poring over intel to find that one bit of information - hidden amongst meaningless facts and numbers - which would give him a slight advantage over an opposing force. His tactical mind moves as soon as there is even one data point to work with; adapting on the fly with every new bit of information he learns. It's helped him stay alive, and prevented enemies from catching him off-guard... most of the time.
So even before Goldlewis has a chance to respond, the Major is already thinking ahead - envisioning escape routes out of the country, ways to stay off the radar, methods by which he might work to clear his name and get back in the Government's good graces.
When SecDef speaks, those first words come as some surprise to Charlie; he's wanted back in Washington? Despite the letter that Dickinson just read off, stating that many in the upper echelons of the DoD consider him to be a threat to morale and stability? The only evidence that he is shocked by this news, however, is another quirk of his eyebrow - looking up at the Secretary with a small glimmer of hope in his otherwise blank, brown eyes.
As much as he was prepared to make a run for it, to try and escape the sick 'justice' that some of his superiors clearly wanted to enact against him, Major Charlie Nash still loves his country. If he didn't, he never would have thrown himself into the fray as zealously as he has; America is something worth defending. Its tenets, its founding principles, the good men and women who still salute the flag and have pride in what their nation has given them... he might have been willing to walk away from it, to protect himself and the men serving under them - but it would have haunted the patriotic soldier for the rest of his life.
And now... it seems he doesn't need to flee. Doesn't need to abandon the oath he had given to his country. Finally, he has an ally in Washington - and even better, one in the White House who has earned the full faith and trust of POTUS. A man, like Charlie himself, who wants to unite the country and drive out the vipers who have subverted their great nation.
If he were a more emotional sort, it might be enough to bring a tear to his eye.
As Goldlewis approaches, his massive weight almost shaking the very foundations of the old, run-down hotel, the words coming out of his mouth remind Charlie of another man who gave everything in service of the United States. Major Nash's father, the man who once commanded operations at the Yokohama Air Base in Japan - where he spent the formative years of his youth.
Yes. There are still good men running things in the Armed Forces, despite the best efforts of Shadaloo and countless other shadowy organizations.
As the giant takes a seat on the bed beside him, Charlie shuffles over slightly - both to give the man more room, and also to prevent himself from being catapulted into the air from the sudden shift in the bedframe. Turning his head to the side slightly, Nash nods as SecDef continues to speak - allowing the older man's huge hand to fall upon his shoulder. Though he would never admit it, Charlie desperately needed some confirmation of his hopes; that he wasn't fighting this war alone... and Goldlewis gives that to him, as though he knew precisely what the Major needed to hear. He tells Charlie of his plans, his goals to bring the dissonant elements of the Government back together, to curl the seperate fingers into one fist which would finally be able to present a united front against the forces attempting to tear the country apart.
And though Goldlewis does confirm Charlie's fears - that there /are/ those who are in Shadaloo's pocket - he also gives the man hope. Hope that there are others like him, who simply have their own priorities aside from Lord Vega and his twisted organization. Why not work together with them? Has his personal crusade against the dictator blinded Charlie? The words coming from the Secretary do lend credence to the possibility... and that opens the Major's eyes, that maybe he /does/ need to take a step back. Objectivity; had he really abandoned that principle? Seeing things in the shadow where there was nothing, but other patriots wrapped up in their own wars...
And then another letter is dropped in his lap, after Dickinson rises back to his feet... he's already opening it to read the contents before the girthy individual informs him of what is contained within. A pardon, for himself and everyone in his unit, from the Secretary of Defense himself. There was no greater shield for the accusations leveled against him.
Finally. A true ally. The revelation is enough to elicit an actual chuckle from the typically stoic officer. Looking up from the letter, which he still holds open at stomach level, Charlie takes a moment to compose himself before he speaks.
"You know, me and my men had high hopes when you were made Secretary of Defense... the first active-duty member of the military to get approval from Congress, it was a big deal to all of us. I hoped it was a sign that the country was starting to unite. 'A house divided against itself cannot stand', like the man said. Back to the good old days, before everyone started looking over their shoulder, wondering if they could trust the people on the other side of the aisle."
Rising to his own feet, his head only reaches chest level on the behemoth Lieutenant General - forced to incline his head up to make eye contact with him. One hand is raised up, holding it towards Dickinson and offering a handshake should the man wish to reciprocate.
"I appreciate it, sir. Maybe more than you might think. I'm ready to come home, to follow whatever orders you might have for me and my unit. To get back in the fight. To defend those who cannot defend themselves."
Goldlewis returns that handshake, once again placing a hand on Charlie's shoulder.
"If you need more time to rest and recover, take as much time as you need. But hard work can be the best medicine sometimes, heck, I know how that is." Goldlewis releases the hand, and pats him on the other shoulder. ANd then, he comes back over to the coffin. "Now where the- where the hell is that last letter." He grumbles a bit, before finally, the coffin opens up a tand. An alien blue hand comes out, holding a letter. "Oh!" He states, taking it neatly. "Thank you." He says, looking at it. The coffin shuts again, and he turns. "This is going to be your first mission, when you are ready to take it. Those allies?"
"I want you to start getting those allies."
Goldlewis tucks his arms behind his back, puffing out his, uh, well his chest as best he can. It doesn't go anywhere near past the gut. "There's trouble going down in Japan again. When the United Nations leveraged the Gears against Southtown, they caused a whole kind of mess. Justice, their Command Gear, did untold damage to the spiritual network across the whole island. Nuked Mt. Fuji, before she was put down by the Ikari Warriors and Sol Badguy. I've been overseeing the fallout on it, figuratively and literally, and there's something real bad going down there. Something's broken in nature. The Japanese government isn't telling us everything. But they are finding animals there, Cryptids, that have not ever seen before, up in the mountains. We need to start investigating it, once Japan gives us the clearance. But we have word Shadaloo's investigating it too. And other organizations." He lowers his voice gravely. "And there's somebody new, we haven't got much information on. Some kind of Hakkeshu group. We don't know if its Black Dragon or Sector Seven but... We need allies. THat letter identifies several persons and groups of interest that we believe would be important in organizing something I want. I have seen first hand what are the strengths and limitations of a government body in solving these problems. Japan rightfully doesn't trust anything outside of itself. ANd the NOL... well. The NOL is too political. What I want, is a new organization. I don't want it reporting under the UN, or the UNited States, or anything. Reporting to, sure. But not answering to them. I want a worldwide, independent organization dedicated to stopping Shadaloo, stopping R, stopping the bad guys of the world. Where honest men and women can come together, with all their buggaboos, and work together. I want you to lead it, as a representative of the UNited States, Major." He brings his hands around, and touches on the first name on the list. "And this guy, here?"
"I want Heidern there too, to command it."
He brings his hands back around his back, moving with a waddle, a deep thump with every step. "Heidern was the man who lead the effort to take down that metal Gear. He's a principled man. We don't have any records of his real name. What we do know is that he is known as the General of the Soldiers of Fortune, and he is the leader of the Ikari Warriors. One of those rogue paramilitary NGOs that has the DoD all flustered like. He's dedicated his entire life battling an organization named 'R' who killed his family." Goldlewis gives a gentle nod. "Sounds a bit familiar, doesn't he Major? Since then, he's been operating a team of elite special forces that answer to no country, no government. He's been impressively effective in combating terrorist organizations around the world, most dramatically in rescuing a number of other figures on that list from Shadaloo custody, breaking their mind control and liberating them. He's one of the good men in the world."
"And I want to protect him."
There is a crunch of glass, as he steps on the broken shards. "Aw hell. You can feel free to recruit other people on that list as you see fit; some are real easy to reach, and are very social. But try and get to Heidern. I want you to go into the heart of darkness, up the Amazon, to his base of mercenaries near the Cove Valley Village." He shakes his foot a bit. "And I want you to do what you can to convince him to work together. And if he refuses?" Goldlewis comes over to the coffin, hooking the chain around his arm. "You can push the matter, but don't push too hard. We might have to prove ourselves first. If we are going to do this, Major."
"We have to make sure we do it right."
The handshake returned, Charlie ensures its a firm one as that heavy mitt once again clasps him by the shoulder... for an old guy, Dickinson seems to be as physically strong as anyone that the Major had ever encountered. There's a might present underneath the friendly, accomodating exterior of the Secretary; and that fact only serves to boost his spirits more. Seems that his time in Washington hasn't turned Goldlewis soft, as it had so many others in the past.
Secretary of Defense or not, the man still seems every bit a soldier.
And that, in Charlie's mind, is exactly what the position has always called for. What the country has always needed, to strengthen its resolve and secure a peaceful future. There's a newfound respect in his eyes as he stares up at the man addressing him, like every hope he'd held in SecDef's character has been confirmed and validated over the course of this talk.
"I've had enough R&R for a lifetime, Secretary Dickinson," states Charlie emphatically - these past few months holed up in Morocco have been anything but pleasant, considering his own work ethic and zealousness. In a way, it's been torture being cooped up here, knowing the war carried on without him - he needs to take an active part, for his own sense of worth, if nothing else. For a man who is defined by the battle he fights, time away from the conflict only serves to weaken him.
As Goldlewis ponders the location of yet another letter, Nash stands firm - waiting patiently, expecting another piece of crucial intel to be handed to him...
...what happens, though, is enough to widen the man's bleary, sleepy eyes. This time, he's sure he saw it - unless he actually /is/ as insane as some DoD staff believes he is. A blue hand, most certainly not belonging to any form of human that he's aware of... he'd heard plenty of rumours about Goldlewis' personal interests in the bizarre, but he always put the majority of them down to campfire stories from the men, tales told to pass the time and create myths in their own ranks. Could the rumours be true, though? It wouldn't be the first time the fantastic turned out to be reality, after all...
All the same, he doesn't broach the subject at the moment. He knows his place, like any good soldier does, and so he allows Goldlewis to carry on after grabbing the paper from that bizarre appendage. The words confirm the revelation Charlie had moments before; this man is the one who can bring the forces of good together, who has the authority, the reach, and the strength of will to do the right thing. To build a machine capable of truly fighting the evil that has spread its tendrils around the globe.
Then, the first name on the list is shown to him. And Major Charlie Nash knows it well, like any soldier around the globe would.
Codename: Heidern. A legend in the eyes of those who live on the field of battle. A man who lost everything, but not his resolve. Who rebuilt the Ikari Warriors after the devastation wrought by Rugal Bernstein. Who had his family stolen from him, but did not falter for even a second.
Ironically, the man was the first name to pop into Charlie's head just moments ago, when he was under the impression he'd have to spend the foreseeable future ducking arrest from the United States Government. And now that he no longer needs to worry about /that/, it seems that fate is still pointing him towards the same individual.
All roads end in Heidern, it seems.
Charlie wanted a mission. And for his sins, they gave him one. Goldlewis brought it up to him, just like room service.
"I can't think of anyone more capable, or reliable," he states firmly - no doubt in his mind that the Mercenary General of Legend is one of the greatest forces for good on the planet, no matter what the United Nations' official stance on his organization might be.
"I'll find him, sir. And I'll do what I can to bring the legend back to life. God knows we need him now, working with us instead of apart from us."
Offering a salute as Goldlewis steps towards the coffin and wraps the thick chain around his arm, clearly ready to head off to his next stop along the path to unite the world against the shadows threatening it. But there's just one last thing that's bugging the Major, and he can't let SecDef walk away just yet...
"I just have one question, sir..." says Charlie, trailing off slightly as he considers his next words. He doesn't want to push the issue more than he should; he knows some things are well above his pay grade, and that the concept of 'plausible deniability' grows more important the higher one ascends up the chain of command. Even so, his curiosity is overwhelming...
He casts his eyes downwards, nodding slightly to indicate his interest in the heavy coffin, still resting on the floor.
"What are you lugging around in that thing?"
Goldlewis returns that salute.
He was glad Major Nash was cooperating. If he didn't, then he would have had him take a proper R&R to recover. Proper medical support. Mental health. Goldlewis knew how traumatic it could be to be dry-humped by a sadomasochistic Korean teen in a 3rd World Country. Well, he had done the research on it at least. As he tugs his beard, ready to escort his Major out of the hotel, he thinks about what do to next. Obviously, he had to take Charlie out to eat. Would they have a proper buffet style feast, with the exotic dishes of Morocco? Or would they detour into something simpler, maybe a shawarma place. Mouth watering, Charlie does the thing. He asks, the question. And Goldlewis snaps out of his daze, and looks at Charlie, back straightening. "What's that?"
"You wanna know what's in this coffin?"
Goldlewis smirks, hefting up the coffin like it was a handbag. Holding it up level to his head, he chuckles. "Had a congresswoman from New York City ask me the same damned thing. I just tell them to read the label. Here, it's uh... Area 51... United States... Warning... Extra-Terrestrial?!" Goldlewis scratches his head, squinting his eye. He lifts his eyepatch, squinting both eyes at it as he murmurs softly. "Well, that ain't right..." He drops his eyepatch back into place, and looks at Major Nash, jaw a little slack. "Major, I'm going to have to get back to you on that. The insides is TOP Secret, black ops, skunkworks stuff. But uh." He scratches his head again, jerking it up so Charlie can read it. "I think they mislabeled the damned thing."
There is a moment of quiet.
"Have you had shawarma before, Major?" Goldlewis asks calmly.
Charlie's eyes follow the coffin as the Secretary hefts it up off the ground, lifting the massive object as though it were light as a feather. He can't rightly estimate the weight of the thing, but based upon it's dimensions and the solidness of its construction, he's guessing it's a hell of a lot heavier than Goldlewis makes it seem.
He listens to the story about the Congresswoman, then the words his superior reads off of the coffin's labels, and then finally... the official story. Some kind of top-secret, highly classified... thing. A weapon? A creature? A power source?
Whatever is really in there, Nash is almost certain that it isn't as innocuous as Secretary Dickinson makes it out to be. The Major knows what he saw reaching out from under that thick, reinforced lid. And he can see the warning labels plastered on the front of that heavy object.
Yet, he knows better than to ask again, or to give voice to his own skepticism on the matter. If he's meant to know, then he will... in due time. If he's not? Then file it under a long list of Government secrets that he's willing to leave a mystery; it doesn't have a damn thing to do with his own mission, and he's got enough on his plate without overly prying into matters that aren't his concern.
"They must have made a mistake," he says, voice even and calm - nodding along at Goldlewis' suggestion that the Area 51 and 'extraterrestrial' labels must have been a simple bureaucratic mix-up. "These things happen, after all."
Taking a look around the dingy, dark room one last time, Nash reaches down to the bedframe and grabs his pistol. A quick circuit around the interior sees him grabbing a plain white t-shirt, unwashed, and a pair of boots. Securing the weapon in a shoulder holster, he turns his attention back to the massive man holding the coffin aloft.
"You don't spend as much time in the desert as I have without trying it at least once, sir. I've developed something of a taste for the cuisine in this part of the world... comes with the job, I suppose."
Well, Goldlewis had to keep both of their faces.
The general didn't want their new friendship to open up with an 'well I can tell you, but I would have to kill you' conversation. It was true. It was the wrong label. ANd it would continue to be the wrong label, until those dorks at Lockheed get their act together. And Goldlewis had the plausable deniability that it was the wrong label. After all, there was no such things as aliens.
What was in there was much more different.
As Charlie follows his lead, though, the general is a patient man. A sweaty, but patient, man. By the time the Major had cleaned himself up for civilian wear, the portly commander was drenched. Dabbing himself down with an equally soak hankerchief, he groans. "I thought with all my years in the Nevada heat, I could take on West Africa." He admits, nearly defeated. "Major, I can't bear this any longer. I'm going to request that you handle not only the dining arrangements together..." He gives a shuddering moan, nearly tipping over before he drives the coffin down... nearly shaking the whole hotel off the foundations.
"... Is there any place I can get out of this uniform, and into someone more seasonable?"
Log created on 10:57:55 08/04/2021 by Goldlewis, and last modified on 22:08:10 08/05/2021.