So I will be kicking off this blog with my debut to march of war fiction. Project Duplicity is somewhat of a spy thriller mini-series that takes place through three opposing viewpoints. Feedback is encouraged, trolls shall be smited, and so I shall begin this tale of deception and intrigue.
I entered the commanding officer’s lounge. The smell of the finest cask aged brandy hit my nose followed by a nostalgic tickle of the lips. I had heard the camaraderie from outside but I knew I did not have the time for booze nor banter today, make my entrance and keep up appearances, but now, the company of other people was the last thing I wanted.
“They say one cannot be both blind and stupid, well thank goodness I’m blind, I’d hate to be stupid”, I quip as I enter. The rupturing bark of the gregarious Lord Admiral Ingesson, commander of the Atlantic Navy, was the first sound to batter my eardrums. He was Norwegian, such was apparent from his accent, his ancestors were apparently Vikings, and his nature certainly couldn’t disprove it. His thunderous laugh was supported by the aggressive hoot of manly Field Marshal Mckinsley, commander of the eastern front. She was Scottish, but it was uncertain whether her upbringing was the contributing factor towards her manliness or whether she was the product of a masculine system. Her laugh was particular forthcoming; strangers would find it indecipherable between a chuckle and a battle cry. Her counterpart on the African front was the Italian Field Marshal Adrianna, she had fought the system every step to earn her position, an untrusting and guarded individual, and her unassuming snigger marked a person not entirely comfortable. Then there was the classy titter of Lord Admiral Vilheim, commander of the arctic navy, a commander through birthright, born in a prominent German family and taught at the most prestigious institutions, we never knew whether he thought of us as his equals, then again he was Lord Admiral Vilheim lest we forget. And lastly an out of place burp-gurgle from Field Marshal Oberon of the Arabic front, the noise he had made could have been the sound of him drowning in alcohol or laughing, possibly both, his fondness for the fluid was legendary as he was perpetually drunk off duty. His redeeming factors were both an unrivalled mental capacity and an invaluable knowledge of the Middle East which has helped keep the frontline stoic and ensure continued oil supplies from the area.
I exit asking, “Why on earth invite a blind man to an intelligence briefing, maybe they want to me read the minutes”, leaving an orchestra of applause behind me. I roll my wheelchair towards the nearby elevator, remembering the engraved floor plan I learned by touch and following the ceiling lights, each one just a harsh haze of white with my malfunctioning vision. Things are quiet at this hour, the city outside, Paris, would be in blackout, Union air raids were constant threat sweeping in off the Atlantic. I hear my breathing, a rattled rasp, I am unsurprisingly nervous. My oiled wheels glide silently along beneath me, the rare squeak of metal frame belying the mechanical crutch that keeps me mobile. I hear the ruffling of papers and a lone clerk tapping away at a brass keyboard, klak-klak-klak-klak ting, klak-klaklak-klaklaklak ting. I’m envious of the simplicity of the task, the lack of responsibility, well almost envious.
I reach the hoist lift, the expected attendant ready to take me even deeper into the earth. He says nothing, he knows what he has to do but he can’t help himself from staring, I feel his gaze constantly upon me. The hoist descends with the speed of a snail; the trip is uneventful filled with the sound of hissing pressurised hydraulics. I continue onward without a word, towards the high command sanctum, even for me this is hallowed ground. There is little to see or hear, the walls are made of layers reinforced concrete paired with titanium, there are three chambers between the hoist and the sanctum, each chamber is sealed off by a vault door. The chamber and its connecting corridor is impervious to above ground aerial and artillery attacks as well as listening devices. It also nullifies thermal imaging devices and reaching the sanctum would take an estimated year through drilling. Such was the price of security for the highest echelons of command.
More uniform ceiling lights guide me along, vague illuminating blurs that even without perfect vision manage to make the same shapes. Each vault door is guarded by a pair of the interior honour guard, disciplined like statues; they do not react as I pass. I struggle to read anything from them. Anticipation rises in my gullet with each push of my wheelchair, the decisions don’t get easier at the top and even when you’re only being summoned to consult, the words you give still have unimaginable weight. The final vault door is guarded by triple the amount; as the door opens they simultaneously make a swift movement which I assume to be salutes, an undoubtedly crisp one, they’re like highly trained monkeys that are also very proficient at killing. They smell of fine cologne.
I am greeted at the high command sanctum by a wall of light so intense that it pervades my perpetual fogginess, for one brief moment I believe this is some divine glory, and then my eyes adjust. Light practically bled from the walls and ceiling, there was so much I could not disseminate one light source from another, it was well lit for a reason though, the documentation that was drafted and arranged here had to be easily readable, it feels extremely ironic, its usefulness was equal to it being pitch black in here to me. I am aware of two people in the room, the creak-flex of starched military dress marked the attire of my superior, adorned with medals that clinked softly together. The other was an unreadable character, he smelled of nothing and made not a sound, nothing is undetectable, the lights buzz or crackle, the rustle of loose papers, the ornate wooden table groans with age, smelling of polish, and the walls, solid and unmovable, cast rebounding echoes. But there stood this man, so obvious and out of place like a rift in existence, if all our spies stood out like this in the field, either the world is filled with imbeciles or I’m an expert spy hunter. I can’t decide which is more likely.
“Well I’m glad you made it, now your here, we can begin”, was the greeting from commander-in-chief Vaderson in a booming yet contained voice, he spoke perfect English yet his accent was much more foreign, which was a rather confusing combination on my ears. “Now let me introduce you to The Condottiere, our chief field agent of our intelligence forces”. “Your reputation precedes you sir”, I greet in all honesty. He is indeed an unacknowledged hero, “As does yours”, he replies coolly, his voice is faintly Spanish, but barely so, only the most perceptive ears would’ve detected it, but otherwise he had the most bland and unique voice, all the better for disappearing without a trace. “Greetings aside, I would like to begin with due haste”. A brief objection lacking silence. “Good. We having on good authority from multiple enemy defectors that large assaults are expected imminently on several key targets of strategic importance, our forces cannot expect to hold them successfully nor will our reserves stretch far enough. We need to employ more unexpected strategies. Sir, I would like to protocol Richter enforced.” “NO, I WILL NOT ALLOW-“, the furiousness in my superior voices was extremely unexpected, never had I heard him raise his voice to such a degree, nor had I ever heard him slam his fist against anything before, but both my beliefs had been contradicted but I would soon realise why. “With all due respect sir, I am well aware of your opinion, which is why I requested the presence of your comrade, he is our primary expert on military infrastructure”. Even though I am blind, I feel all attention turn to me, the expectant hope of the spy and the determinedly defiant stare of my superior. I reluctantly step into the firing line. “Correct me if I’m wrong but wasn’t protocol Richter the reactivation of the cancelled quake bomb scheme. Devices so powerful that they could cause a large enough seismic event to decimate entire cities. But such devices are so large and unsubtle that they are impossible to smuggle into enemy lines. If the scheme remains cancelled, what has changed to warrant their usage?” I am pleased that I managed to walk fine line between personal loyalties and practical strategy. “A plan has been devised that we evacuate one of the supposed targets and leave an armed quake bomb ready for the enemy forces who would hopefully jump at the lack of resistance. It would completely reap the opposing forces and allow the evacuated elements to be sent to reinforce other targets, but at the ultimate cost of the geographical damage sustained in the vicinity, permanently reducing its usefulness to us”. “May I ask what the supposed targets are?” “I’m afraid that is classified, even to you sir”. “Well, then the possibility of such cost to our infrastructure is something that I cannot necessarily support”. I immediately sense the relief of my superior, mainly because of his unhindered sigh, but I also sense the spy’s suddenly disgruntled demeanour, not necessarily someone I would have wanted to upset.
Then the sudden thunk of a case hitting table. I barely fathom what is happening around me as vague blurry movements are all that I can depict. And then there is the explosive orchestra of the sound of a gunshot, followed by the quiet slump of my superior’s corpse. No gurgling or moaning, a perfect kill shot from the aim of a marksman. Despite having commanded vast armies that have covered dozens of miles of ground, there is still nothing quite as shocking as the moment where an individual takes the life of another.
I expect a second gunshot but it doesn’t come. Coincidentally I realise that the overindulgent lighting and the place where the traitorous spy was standing, just so, that it caused his buttons to shine bright enough that even I could make them out. It was almost a perfect target; I just had to buy myself enough time.
“So if this was your grand plan, I’m really impressed. Didn’t you know, generals are like many headed serpents, there are always more to take his place”, I taunt. “In that case I would need to destroy the nest. But here we are. How could someone blind witness a murder where the one that committed it could vanish from the sight of the most visually healthy? But anyway I’ve achieved all that I need to.” He takes a step forward. Perfect. Before he can do another thing I reach round to the handlebars of my wheelchair, releasing the secret catch and pulling loose the loaded musket that was disguised as a handlebar.
A perfect kill shot. Not bad for a blind man.
“Oh bugger”, I say out loud, realising what two dead bodies and a smoking musket looked like in a secure bunker as alarms begin to rumble nearby.