Strawman: ch2, Minuteman

previous: Strawman: ch1, Tale of a Pig

-Log #-redacted-001 Authored by Special Agent Liaison Grace McCallum. The clearance level is to be set at medium, pending investigation.

-I don’t even know what that means. All I know is the military doesn’t want me here. All the so-called leaders, people with access to the media seem to want to pin this on a foreign terror group.

Bullshit if you ask me, but then again, I’m just a southern rookie with a fancy college degree.

-note to future readers: I’m leaving this in. If I’m wrong I’ll be long retired from this gig. You can laugh all you want, while I’m sipping a martini at a resort in Cabo.

However, If I’m right, and this is an act of domestic terrorism perpetrated by a white female local to South Dakota, I think I deserve the right to flaunt my story.

-Medical records were recovered for a forty-six-year-old farmer by the name of James ‘Jamie’ Maxwell Ryan.

Three years prior to the events of the attack, Mr. Ryan presented at the local emergency room, with injuries consistent with a vicious (multi-animal) mauling. An individual identified (by the patient) as his adult son had driven him from their remote home location.

Their vehicle appeared to be an old tractor with a noticeably adjusted motor. Further notes described the sound as a ‘broken roar,’ or a ‘series of never-ending car crashes.’ It was odd to see these details listed on medical documents, but there was something about the pair that had the in-take staff spooked.

Upon being checked in, his traveling companion was asked about possible insurance information. Mr. Ryan was listed as an independent landowner, with no actual insurance information available. Further details list his profession as ‘farmer,’ with no specifics given to the nature of his product or livelihood. Odd to say the least. Mr. Ryan was admitted as a Medicare patient, pending further investigation into his finances.

At the time Mr. Ryan was treated for broken bones, open wounds and potential rabies. He was hospitalized at an unknown military location due to -redacted-, and the possibility of mass casualties.

(I assume this was why the military was in possession of a local civilian’s medical records.)

During an attempt to separate Mr. Ryan from his traveling partner, the younger individual became extremely aggressive. Tranquilizers worked, long enough to sedate the individual, however instead of immediately putting the subject on a mental health hold, the individual was placed under arrest by the ill-equipped local police.

Upon arrival at the intake station, the subject was placed in a multi-person cell. Why this, clearly deranged, person was not immediately placed in isolation was not known, but if I was to theorize it was due to lack of space.

I could only assume the cowboy cops did not anticipate the subject waking up almost immediately.

The subject displayed abnormally violent levels of rage, resulting in damage to the walls and furniture. Thankfully the other two inmates awaiting processing were safely removed before suffering significant injury.

-No details of their injuries were recorded, at least not in relation to this case file.

Regardless, this act prompted the authorization for a strip search. Upon the removal of her clothing, the subject was identified as a female in her late teens or early twenties.

The subject refused to cooperate with the police, acting in a manner similar to someone high on Meth, PCP, or possibly bath salts. After being sedated (for a second time,) the onsite medical personnel, (with the aid of the military police) were able to secure a blood sample. To the surprise and shock of everyone present; the woman was completely clean, not even drunk. There was a possibility of error due to how long it had taken to get the sample, but with nothing to hold her on they had no choice but to release her on her own recognizance.

Two days into Mr. Ryan’s hospital stay, the unnamed female was found in bed by her father’s side. She had access to the paper copies of the patient’s medical records, allowing her to view updates for that particular day. When the police arrived, she was in the process of drawing and writing, hugging the clipboard to her chest. They were instructed to leave her be until such time as she released the clipboard of her own free will.

(Again, I can only assume, since not specified, this decision was to ensure she did not have a weapon in her possession.)

The following is a transcript of the woman’s writing, recovered after re-arresting her (and subsequently securing her in the mental health ward.)

‘Daddy is sick again, but now it’s so much worse.

So much worse.

So much.

Why?’ The question mark was drawn over and over, resulting in a tear in the page. ‘I can’t do this, not on my own.’

There were noticeable holes in the paper where she had pinched and crumpled the surface but overall it appeared like the destruction of the document was not the intention.

‘Can’t let mama know. Not that she even gives a shit.’ This was accompanied by a scratchy image of a partial face.

‘He can’t go to the hospital. I mean we can, we’ll just be paying the bills for the next twenty years. Not that I’d want him to die here. No, not here.’

The Jane Doe was assigned a guard for the entirety of the 24-hour watch. This role was taken by SSgt Michael Haden, a male in his early thirties with experience as a hostage negotiator. His backup was a young military police recruit by the name of Coraline Kenndel. Both were instructed to attempt to get the subject to speak. (Possibly to aid in identification.)

The following is a transcript of the security footage. SSgt Haden was stationed at the door, overlooking the small room. The patient (known only as Jane Doe) is firmly secured to a weighted bed with no access to her arms or legs. The two individuals existed in silence until 01:02:03 when the patient decided to test the waters.

Jane Doe: ‘Hey. Sir?’

Her voice was a noticeably high, child-like sound. This was likely an effort to gain the sympathy of the male presence in the room.

SSgt Haden: ‘Are you takin to me?’

Jane Doe: ‘Can I tell you about my daddy?’

SSgt Haden: ‘Well, we can start with your name, sweetheart.’

The addition of the term of affection did not seem to go over well. The subject appears angered and visually distressed.

Jane Doe: ‘You can call me Eli.’

Her tone of voice was still hopeful, but this would not last long.

SSgt Haden: ‘Elaine? Is that what you said, sweetheart?’

He took a step closer, as if to possibly engage her further. He repeated his assumption, further inquiring about the name, ‘Elaine.’

This resulted in the subject turning away. She thrashed about like a fish in a net, muttering profanity until she went eerily quiet. No sobs, not even breathing could be heard. (The oxygen and heartrate monitors confirmed that she was, in fact still alive.)

The patient refused to speak or even receive meals for the next four hours until A1C Kenndel (a first-year Air Force police recruit came to relive him.)

A1C Kenndel: ‘Hi, can I get you anything?’

Jane Doe: ‘My dad.’

(There was a long pause as if she expected A1C Kenndel to offer a response.)

He’s not a viable candidate for chemo.

A1C Kenndel: ‘Your father has had chemo before?’

The young airman spoke in a way that was nervous, somewhat shy. Typical for a nineteen-year-old female straight out of tech school.

Jane Doe: ‘No!’

Her voice was one of anger, but upon turning her head to see the young female her emotions became noticeably calm.

A1C Kenndel: ‘I’m sorry?’

Jane Doe: ‘He does not qualify for chemo.’

A1C Kenndel: ‘You’re saying he was sick before?’

Jane Doe: ‘The pain never went away. Soon it was followed by weakness, sickness, an eventual diagnosis of leukemia.’

A1C Kenndel: ‘Leukemia?’

She had reason to question the statement, given that there was no mention of a prior diagnosis on Mr. Ryan’s available records. It is possible he had been treated in a different state or even country.

Jane Doe: ‘I don’t know about medicine; stage one, two, or three. Four is the highest right?

A1C Kenndel: ‘Yeah, as far as I know.’

Jane Doe: ‘Maybe there was a form of cancer that had its own mind body and soul. What stage would that be? Or is that just what happens when someone loses their battle with cancer?’

A1C Kenndel: ‘Final boss stage?’

The patient started to laugh, her face appearing calm, relaxed, even joyful.

Jane Doe: ‘I like you, you’re cool.’

A1C Kenndel: ‘Thanks. Will you tell me your name?’

Jane Doe: ‘Will you let us go home?’

A1C Kenndel: ‘It’s not really up to me.’

There was a long pause. The subject appeared to be calm, accepting of the fact that the young guard was not in a position of power.

Jane Doe: ‘Any ideas on how to get us out of here?’

A1C Kenndel: ‘Maybe he can sign an AMA; against medical advice? As far as I know, neither of you are under arrest.’

Jane Doe: ‘Then why was my pa taken here?’

A1C Kenndel: ‘Something about polio or radiation poisoning. I’m actually not too sure. I think he’s being held in isolation but once the condition stabilizes, he’ll probably move to the ICU.’

That information was correct as far as her security clearance was concerned.

Jane Doe: ‘Thank you.’

The patient nodded. Her voice cracked with emotion. Tears could be seen, even on the low-quality video feed.

At a later date, there is an entry regarding a discontinued single round of chemotherapy. Apparently, this was a requirement for Mr. Ryan’s possible release. There were more scribbles, clearly made by the same individual as before.

‘Daddy is coughing, he can’t breathe. He’s shivering. They don’t care.’ Each statement appeared to have been written on top of each other.

The next page has the following statement, ‘He’s bleeding. No one cares. Doctors don’t care. They say it’s part of the process.’

This prompted me to search for any record of abnormal bleeding. There was a deformity present in the patient’s lung. This may have formed a clot, which was documented later as the result of a partial stroke. His brain had been deprived of oxygen for well over sixty seconds before a code-blue was called.

While I am still of the belief that the patient’s adult daughter was mentally unwell, there was a very real possibility of an assassination attempt. (Or, at the very least, a malpractice suit.)

Curious, I went to see the dosage of chemo but that amount had been redacted. This leads me to believe Mr. Ryan was being treated for something other than cancer. Strangely, upon completion of the chemo, Mr. Ryan was permitted to be discharged AMA. (The question was why?) This policy seemed like more of a trap than anything else; a guarantee that he would not be taken seriously if and/or when he tried to seek medical attention elsewhere.

Why only one round of chemo? Why was this enough to satisfy the military hospital? It made no sense. Unless that is not the organization that caused the redactions. There was one last page, an amendment containing the result of several blood samples. All redacted. Except for one: Mr. Ryan apparently suffered from an unspecified autoimmune disease.

At the very bottom, there was a single line of text, ‘not a viable transplant.’ The sentence was strange, more of an afterthought than anything else. What did that even mean? I assumed it was a response to a question of some kind. But why would the question itself be omitted?

I closed the folder, holding it in my hands. There was nothing on the cover, besides the filing information. The inside cover contained patient identification codes. I checked the back cover. Here, there seemed to be a series of lines. The marks were presented in a unique pattern, creating a mountain-like shape. The silhouette vaguely resembled Mt. Rushmore.

Among the lines, I could make out letters. ‘T-H-E,’ that was fairly obvious. ‘O-N-L-Y,’ again, that made sense. Then the puzzle became much more difficult. Letters were reused, the most obvious one being the ‘o’ in ‘only’ also being the start of the word ‘option.’

After much trial and error, I eventually solved the statement: ‘The only option is to make a new vessel.’

“A new vessel?” Upon stating those words, my attention was drawn to a single box of items recovered from a nearby hotel. It was a series of children’s toys.

No, they were dog toys. More specifically they were rubber chew toys in the shape of various animals. Some were burned but others seemed to be completely intact. One even appeared to be brand new.

The item in question was the warthog character from the Lion King. It also didn’t squeak. I donned a pair of gloves and surgical tools. With a scalpel, I cut along the line. The inside was filled with a thick red substance, and within it, a long rolled-up note. I carefully unraveled the paper using a pair of tweezers. Although it was soaked, the paper held enough stability to allow me to reveal the pen marks.

‘My daddy says we have to do this while he’s still strong enough. I’m not sure what.’ The writing was a shaky, painful cry for help. ‘If he wants to give me a baby, there’s no way for the child to save his life. I don’t know what he’s thinking, but I guess I’ll find out.’

At the top of the page was a hotel logo; The Rusted Penny, a simple smiling buffalo inside a coin. Was this an actual place? (I was not familiar with the area enough to know off the top of my head.)

I looked through the evidence computer to see if there were any documented connections. Nothing came up under rusted penny, but upon searching for images of cartoon buffalo, I found a menu and a to-go box with a similar logo. The items were photographed along with other trash but strangely this photo had been taken from closer to the top of the mountain, possibly near Abe Lincoln’s head.

I searched for more images from that area of the mountain. The majority were rubble, bodies, broken trees, carnage, and a yellow notebook. I wondered out loud if the notebook was in police possession.

I turned around, somehow managing to step on another dog toy. However, instead of a squeak, I was greeted by a crunch. It was another pig. This one was round, cute, seemingly Japanese in origin. Almost too cute to cut open. I searched for a seam in the silicon rubber with the goal of making a clean incision. Laying the figure on its back I made an incision from the chin to just below the tail, to reveal a severely crumpled piece of paper.

I devoted the next two hours to carefully unfolding the shape. Without the presence of liquid (or any other contaminant) the origami design was relatively easy to recreate. It was a four-sided origami star, typically known as a fortune-teller. This one felt substantially more solid. Clearly, created from multiple pieces of paper, carefully placed together to form an elaborate puzzle. These pages also contained handwritten notes.

The following was removed from the four distinct pieces:

‘Tomorrow we’re leaving the hospital, heading out to Mt. Rushmore.’ This piece had a rough sketch of the famous faces. The ability and skill level of the artist was notably impressive. As were the next two pieces.

‘There’s a touristy area we can hang out, lay low, and get a little drunk on free beers.’ This was highlighted by a sketch of the formerly mentioned penny

‘I just need to find a ride.’ This statement was accompanied by a sketch that appeared to be of a parking lot. The series of rectangles seemed to imply she was looking out a window at possible targets.

‘Papa and I stole a car from the hospital parking lot. It was actually kind of fun.’ This piece had no drawing, but rather a map that she had apparently committed to memory.

I needed an overlay of the Mt Rushmore monument, prior to the collapse. There were plenty of campgrounds and even resorts in the immediate area, but where they managed to hike to was deep into the forbidden, classified part of the national park. But how? This was not something just anyone could do. She had to know someone in the park service, or maybe law enforcement? Now I understood why the VIPs wanted to keep the narrative as a ‘foreign’ act of terror.

I knew from US history class that monument creator Gutzon Borglum had added the maintenance tunnels and an area known as the Vault. I think it held the declaration of independence at one time. If there was one location that would have survived the implosion it would be that.

I pulled up the satellite feed to get an idea of where the vault was and how much of it remained. What I found was a little different and entirely unexpected. Given this was primarily an image file, I didn’t think to put in headphones or turned off the sound on the military issued computer.

“Hello? Can anyone hear me? Maybe this is being recorded. Whatever. It’s better if it’s not.” Her voice was terrified, whispering as if she was being held against her will.

“I know we need to perform the ritual at the sacred space; the temple of legends, I think that’s what it was called. Around here that really only left one place; Mt. Rushmore, the temple of souls, modern day Knights and Kings. Is that who I’m talking to, the spirit of Abraham Lincoln? Maybe Teddy Roosevelt? I wouldn’t want to speak to the other two.’

The subject could be heard breathing into her hands. ‘It’s damn cold in here. I can’t do this. I can’t fucking do this.’ The voice went silent for a few seconds, allowing me time to locate what exactly I was hearing. Was this live? No, that was crazy. (About as crazy as a dog toy full of blood and a squishy toy with an elaborately folded fortune teller puzzle?)

According to the properties tab, the sound was coming from the pre-attack satellite footage. It was just there, attached to a file that had no reason to have sound. My thoughts were paused as the voice continued.

“Daddy says this place is like the pyramids of Egypt, filled with gold, treasures and human sacrifices. I guess that’s why it’s so cold.” Her voice seemed less nervous, possibly accepting her fate. “Everyone knows it’s illegal to camp here, on the mountain. So, what daddy and I, what we’ve done.” She laughed nervously. “I guess it would have been triple, illegal to the billionth power.” The subject was forcing herself to laugh to keep from crying.

The question was why. I called over the nearest guard, to inquire about the nature of this frequency. I had the details pulled up, maximized on my screen. The man’s face went pale. “That can’t be right.”

“What can’t be right?”

He nervously ignored my question. “Look, I’m not a logistics expert but I’ve heard of this frequency.”

“Well, what is it? If it’s something classified,” I was about to continue when he cut me off midsentence.

“It’s very, VERY classified, little girl.” He was trying hard not to laugh at the absurdity of whatever he was seeing. “I need to tell my commander. He might have a better explanation.”

“Ok, sure.” Left alone to my own devices, I decided to listen to the rest of the file.

‘You’re probably wondering why. Why am I here? Why now? Yeah, me too.’ The sound of crumpled paper could be heard. ‘Daddy, he was starting to go blind. Soon he’d be too sick to work.’

There was a pause, followed by footsteps. “What are you doing, boy?” I assumed the voice belonged to Mr. Ryan.

“Nothing Daddy, just killing time.”

“Did I ever beat you?

“No, Daddy.” Her voice is trembling. She’s crying.

“Did I ever hurt you? Ever in your life?” Mr. Ryan did not seem drunk, but the presence of alcohol would explain his peculiar motives.

“No, Daddy.”

“Do you love me?”

“Yes, Daddy.” The fear in her voice sent shivers down my spine. “I’m just cold.”

“We can build a fire when it’s all over,” he said in a voice that sounded like an erotic moan. “What we came here to do,” his voice paused, as he took a deep, creepy breath, “is not a sin.”

I felt the bile rising in my throat. I was about to locate a sink or trash can to vomit in, when the door opened. The commander returned to the room walking in with a noticeable look of annoyance. I got to my feet, offering him my work space. “I’m agent McCallum.”

“I know who you are,” he grumbled. His deep Texas accent was reminiscent of my grandpa; a man who lived long enough to have seen more than his share of bullshit.

Apparently, it was up to me to discern his name via the name tape on his uniform: Lt Col. Brett Thomas. “So, Col Thomas?”

He lifted his hand, instructing me to shut up while he zoomed in on the sound data.

This was becoming annoying and I quickly feared missing out on critical information. “What frequency is this?”

He shook his head in disbelief. His hands were frozen on the keyboard as he stared at the screen with a look of terror. “This is a highly classified urban legend.”

“Urban legend? Like Slenderman?” That was unfortunately the first example that came to mind; not Jason Vorhees or Freddy Kruger. No, I had to go an namedrop the one monster who would brand me as a typical dumb millennial.

“This is an unknown, frequency that should not. Does not. exist.”

“What is it?”

The United States has over 400 Minuteman missiles in classified silos in North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska. There used to be a good amount in South Dakota as well, but when the silo locations were downgraded to historical sites, it was assumed that all connection to the network was lost.

“Are you saying she’s speaking on a frequency reserved for the president in the event of nuclear war?” I immediately regretted stating the obvious.

As the guard closed the door and locked it, i couldn’t help but notice him training his weapon on me. “Awaiting orders, Commander.”

The older man shook his head. “I don’t even know what to say. Was there any radiation present in the aftermath?”

“If there was, there was no mention of it. Of course, that might have been downplayed as a way to keep up the morale of the frontline rescue workers.”

“You have a point; first responders getting cancer is a problem for a future generation. I think I’ll take a look at the other side; check in with some contacts. If I can find any evidence of tampering with the functioning silos, I’ll let you know. Until then, you keep on your hunt for Alice in Wonderland. I want her in custody, dead or alive.”

“Yes, sir.”

The commander stood up to leave, but in doing so, knocked the remains of the cute silicon pig toy to the floor.

“I can get that.” I rushed to see where the toy had fallen, only to find a perfectly flat piece of pink silicon. someone had removed the head, arms and legs, leaving behind two words, carved into the soft material. ‘Yes, sir.’

I believe my next step will be to visit the location myself, to see if there are any clues present that have not been previously documented.

-end log-

next: Strawman ch3: Strong Souls

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