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The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country….

In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons...who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses.

It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.

Edward Bernays



The room was six by twelve feet. There were no windows and no bars, just concrete walls and floors and a concrete ceiling. The bed was a simple concrete slab poured with the wall, three feet wide and two feet thick, with a four-inch thick mattress on it. The bed had a half-inch edge to keep the mattress from sliding off. The one-piece, metal, combination sink and toilet was at the end of the cell. As no prisoner was ever really awake, there was no need for a desk or table or chair. A prisoner slept on the bed at night and sat on it, or the floor, when awake.  All food was served into the cells through a closeable door slot.

Other than being taken to the infirmary or exam rooms, all prisoners were in their cells, drugged, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. No breaks; no time out; no exercise; just permanently in the cells. There was no exercise yard or rec or weight room for the prisoners.

There were the cells, the infirmary, the examination rooms—and the furnace.

The lights automatically came on at 6 A.M. and gradually brightened over a few minutes, then gradually dimmed and went out at 10 P.M. In between, there was no indication of time. There was no window, so the lights were the only source of illumination. One prisoner had been caught standing near the sink when the lights went out; he really didn’t know what he was supposed to do and was still standing there when the lights came back on eight hours later.

If a prisoner didn’t take their food when it was delivered, that was okay, too. There was always the furnace.

The only door was solid, thick metal, but painted to match the color scheme in the room. Light green. Everything was light green, institutional for everything’s wonderful. The prisoners could be watched through the small, glassed viewing slot in the door.

Food, usually just a protein and vitamin drink in a plastic jug, was passed through the door when the slide was opened. Some prisoners were still capable of stumbling from the bed to the door to get it. In addition, it was where they stood and put their hands through the slot to be handcuffed any time they were led out of the room. If the prisoners couldn’t get to the door, that was all right. There was still the furnace.

The only time they were out of the room was when they were taken to one of the medication or examination rooms. Eating, sleeping, exercising (if any)—it was all done in the room. No one ever went out for anything except medication or mental or physical exams. Other than that, no one outside the room cared. No legal people or social workers were ever involved. No advocates or supporters. In fact, only a couple of people even knew anyone was kept there. Or that there even was such a place.

No prisoner would likely ever leave the place.

There were maximum-security prisons in the United States, of course, and certainly in the rest of the world. There was a super-max in Colorado at Florence, about one hundred miles south of Denver, and a few others. However, this prison was simply not known.

Other than at the warden’s desk, there were no phone or computer lines in or out of the prison. There were internal lines throughout the place so employees could communicate, but nothing ever came in from the outside, or went out. No phone, TV or Internet; no mail; no news. Nothing except through the warden. There wasn’t even a real name for the place.

It was located in North Dakota, just west of Minot, and was inaccessible to anyone but the guards and administrators. You could see the prison from certain places, but it looked just like a large, concrete warehouse, so no one ever looked close. It didn’t need razor fences, guard towers, gates or dogs. It had a single road in to a solid concrete building without openings except for a couple of solid, metal man-size doors. No other way in and certainly no way out for any prisoners. No windows. It wasn’t pretty. No one had designed it to be pretty. It was just one big cell.

Because the land was of little value except to some grain farmers, and the area was, in fact, so isolated, the area had never been really claimed or acknowledged by anyone.

Until certain persons in the government decided they needed a super-super-max prison that no one else would even know about. Now it was filling with a few Mafia dons, a few possible terrorists and, mainly, ex-government agents. None likely to be seen again.

The criminals or terrorists? Well, they were one thing, and someone had finally decided to just hide some of them away forever. Just do away with them.

The agents? And a few civilians? Someone had decided to simply shut them away, also. Easier to bury them than to ever explain them.

In order to identify the place, it came to be known simply as No-Name. There had been an original name, but now no one even remembered it. No one ever used it; No-Name was good enough. The prison was located on the edge of Shell Lake, just south of Highway 2. Few people even knew it existed.

Since the prisoners were heavily drugged, there were few guards. The guards were helicoptered to the prison for three-month tours. They had nice, single-person rooms, about the size of a motel room, with all the conveniences, plus a good cafeteria and vending machines, a library and relaxation places. Exercise was either in the guard’s rooms or outside on the track or at the guard’s weight lifting and gymnasium areas. No one left except for serious emergencies.

Prisoners almost never left except in boxes, and then just to the prison crematorium. The guards were paid well, were well trained and disciplined, and treated the prisoners decently. That was because the prisoners were so heavily drugged that they were never any problem. There were now 1,003 men and 128 women who generally just stayed in their rooms until a medical team carried them out for the trip to the furnace.

John Stockman just sat on the bed, looking at the wall.


Jameson Smitt sat at his luxury desk in his luxury home in Chicago and watched the computer screen as the powerful rocket lifted off the pad and quickly disappeared into the clouds downrange. The satellite that would be released in a few days was the culmination of Smitt’s plans to dominate the Internet, the airwaves and most anything floating around in them. He had leased the majority of the satellite, and, by using the powers of his data systems through the satellite, even the control of rockets, earth vehicles, bombs and so on would be his if he chose. He would be able to direct radio, TV or Internet broadcasts anywhere he wanted, so messages in the ether would be his for the capturing, or sending, to study them, learn from them and even to change them for his own purposes.

This satellite system could link with many of the other satellites up there, commercial, even military. He could analyze the messages sent and received, and, most importantly, bounce the signals of this satellite off the others so he could reach anywhere in the world.

The best part of all this was that no one else knew what he was doing, or what he would be able to control. Some people knew he had helped shoot a satellite into the heavens, but they didn’t know the ultimate purpose of it. All anyone knew was the satellite was planned to give Jameson Smitt maximum control of the businesses he had and to direct those businesses as he wished. Walmart controlled all their stores by satellites and computers linked to their main location in Bentonville; it was understood Smitt was simply doing the same for his many holdings.

The satellite would have a geostationary orbit that would keep it many miles above the earth and in the same position at all times. As it rotated with the earth, above the equator, the satellite could always see the United States, and Smitt’s enterprises there would be covered all the time. No one knew, though, that with the tie-in to other satellites in the skies, Smitt could effectively monitor and respond to anything going on anywhere on earth. By being able to send signals to receiving stations around the globe, Smitt would now be able to make things happen, not just watch them happen.

He had experimented, over the years, with controlling electronic systems all over the world. He had locked all the traffic lights in the San Francisco area so they were either red or green. The traffic jam it caused all over the Bay Area was horrendous. He had changed the messages on electronic billboards all across the country from Amber Alerts to ‘Vote the Bums Out.’

One thing he made happen was major power outages around the earth that followed the time zones. That satellite had been stationary as the earth turned beneath it, so as England passed under it, then Atlantic locations, the U.S. and so on, it hooked into countrywide power stations and shut them down for the hours the satellite pinpointed them. Again, the chaos was horrendous and it caused politicians, as well as the general populations of each place, to become frantic.

Now, Smitt’s control and power could extend around the world whenever he wished, over governments and even militaries, as well as general commercial activities.

As he watched the magnificent rocket fly out, carrying its package where he could use it best, he sat back in quiet satisfaction. No one else knew all the details. No one could stop him—except the agent.

There was a new currency in the world that was worth much more than money. That currency was information. Whoever controlled the airwaves, the news, the sources of information, decided what people learned. What they came to believe. That's where the true power was. He had decided that he was about to become the most powerful man in the world because he would control all the real information sources. Mainly through the media. Through radio and TV stations, through newspapers, through all those insidious devices everyone constantly carried with them and doted on.

I will control what billions of people watch and read and think. And, therefore, I will control what they do. I will control the governments. And this is not science fiction. This is reality. I can, and will, control everything.

The world couldn’t even conceive of what he had achieved. The brilliance it took to engineer it. No one has ever done what I've done. No one else could do it.

He had the best of everything. The finest materials from around the world. It was his due. He had worked hard. The drudges had no idea how much hard work it took to build a fortune. And the even harder work to keep it. It was his job, his life, to keep it. And it was their job to be sure he kept it.

The supply of the world's treasures was finite, even the supply of workers. Until the world ran out of drudges, though, he would have his source of workers, people who would help him keep his fortune and power. And the world would never run out of the drudges. There was only so much room at the top, and he would never relinquish his position.

He was meant for the biggest and best. And no one could take any of it from him.

Most people didn't understand that it was the elite, the risk takers, who made everything right. The elite had captured nearly all the wealth around—and they should. They deserved it. They had created it and they should enjoy it.

The 99.9 percent of the masses were sheep, the drudges, and were stuck right where they belonged. Someone had called them ‘deplorables.’ There were billions of them, and they deserved to be the workers for the rich. That was to be their place in life.

The elites deserved everything they had because they were the elite. They were special. They were the ones who moved the world. Most of them had been groomed since childhood to move into their positions of power. He was at the top of that group and there was no one who would take away what was rightly his. He had worked for it and no one could take it. He controlled things now, and would soon control almost everything. His satellites and programs, and his relentless broadcasts, would tell everyone what to think and do. Not even the governments could change the minds of the masses once he caught them, and taught them.

And they would all respond to what he taught them. And they would then turn what he taught them back to achieving for him. It was what he deserved. It was his right. And it was what he would get.

But first, the agent.


No-Name prison was built in the ‘90s when a president had been convinced there were certain people who were so dangerous to the management of the country that they needed to be incarcerated until they were no longer threats. No one ever explained just what that no longer a threat condition would be or how long it would take to get the people to that stage.

There were a few hardcore criminals and terrorists, sure, but most of the inmates were former intelligence agents or high-placed government employees who had knowledge of highly classified information and whose psychological mindsets made them supposed security risks to their own government. Their willingness to talk about their hidden secrets might prove to be dangerous or inconvenient to powerful people. The ex-agents were occupying most of the cells.

The president signed off on the ambiguous orders, construction only took about a year, and the whole project was, and remained, completely secret. The president was never told that the prisoners would be massively drugged and would likely never leave the place—or maybe he had been. No one knew. The prison was built mainly with concrete and steel by military laborers and the soldiers were then re-stationed in places around the world far away from No-Name. All records of the place were buried, the president didn’t remember to even ask about the place again, and the people in charge of the place quietly started filling it. Presidents and the government changed, but No-Name prison simply continued gathering inmates.

Since the prisoners were always in their rooms, no other spaces were necessary. The construction, and then the guarding of the place, was simple, and within months close to a hundred inmates were on the site. No-Name was designed to hold a couple  thousand prisoners, but management knew it would be easy to increase the housing units if needed. Five thousand; more; since the prisoners didn’t need anything except a room, almost any number could be accommodated. From the streets to a cell to the furnace.


The guards only needed a small kitchen and cafeteria, a social room and bedrooms. The prisoners were fed mostly a liquid, bottled, protein drink and lots of pills. The mantra was, “Keep them fed, keep them drugged, then make them disappear.”


The inmates had no trials. There were no warrants, judges, or lawyers. The prisoners were identified by government people who complained about them in some way; they were surreptitiously picked up from homes, offices or the streets, heavily drugged on the spot and transported to No-Name.


Death squads would have been easier, but the idea, in the U.S., of outright killing the individuals didn’t sit well with a few of the politicians in the know. Cleanup and disposal of the bodies would have always been a factor, plus having to deal with law enforcement agencies, lawyers and courts. Trials. Publicity. So they just went to six-by-twelve cells until the furnace called. In the face of millions and billions of dollars of government expenditures, a few handfuls of pills and a little building maintenance was nothing. A few military people could be brought in for the maintenance and then shipped back out somewhere. The guards were few and comparatively cheap.


The inmates were assigned numbers and, after a short time, they simply became that number. Names were of no use. Actually, they tended to remind some of previous lives—and that was something to be discarded. There were no previous lives. A life here started when an inmate came in the delivery door. That life ended when the inmate was carried out to the furnace.



As John went through his first couple of years of doing analysis for the CIA, he had had many situations that were undercover and often confusing. He saw, over and over again, situations that displayed the uncaring attitudes, the demand by leaders, politicians, judges, that things be done that bypassed the citizens and only benefitted the elite. He saw what he could only describe as harmful and immoral, even evil, actions taken by people, so-called leaders, worldwide, that overruled the stated will of the people. Money ruled.

Elections and petitions no longer meant anything. The people were to pay their taxes to support more political pork. They were to vote and then get out of the way. The people were just dregs on the leaders who loudly proclaimed how they knew what the country needed. Just keep out of our way and we’ll take care of it.

And he saw his own Agency, his own government, turn blind eyes to the beliefs and concepts the country had grown up under. Constitution? What Constitution?

In fact, he saw his own people seemingly applaud the actions of many countries and turn away from supposed friends around the world. All for the sake of another tank of gas, another steak on a barbeque, another dollar in another politician’s pocket, another mass of power placed in another demanding elitist’s hands.

Stockman had been with the CIA for about three years before he was sent overseas to begin his field agent work. He was a deeply buried analyst and he had penetrated several countries, and even the U.S. government itself. While he was mainly an analyst, he had been set up in a position as a businessman, so he mingled with the powers at parties and through social contacts around the world. He had friends in the White House. He was very quiet and was, therefore, allowed to get close to several senators, House members, and bureaucrats in high places. When you acted as though you belonged somewhere, most people accepted you after a while and took you into their confidence. When you also paid for most of the meals and drinks, you became that much more valuable to those used to sponging. And most of them loved to talk and to express their importance.

After his initial years of training and activity, he had been quietly set up in the business of buying and selling expensive and, usually, restricted materials and chemicals. Therefore he was able to travel worldwide and had handled his behind-the-scenes activities for more than seven years now. He was credited with moving large amounts of materials, even though no one ever saw the materials go through his hands. They just arrived. He would talk about buying certain weapons, and someone always did get them, but no one ever saw Stockman get them himself. He made the deals, money arrived from somewhere, the materials moved, and John showed up somewhere else. Eventually many of the sellers or receivers of the materials also disappeared, but that was always long after John had made the deals and moved on. When one of his jobs was finished, he often retired back to headquarters and became an analyst for a while.

Certain people within the U.S. government were involved in these intricate deals. Sometimes it was a senator with his hand in many different pockets who was seen at different parties, a glass of his favorite mash in hand, usually of a very high proof and well aged, and escorted by men and women known for climbing ladders with the best of them. Sometimes it was the CEO of a weapons or chemical manufacturing firm trying to find a path to move extra material for his own pocket.

And sometimes it was a different kind of party. One with hard men and women drinking and drugging heavily, but with their minds on someone who seemed to have sources for the materials they wanted. If someone could talk with them about topics of interest, they were willing to listen. And that turned into buying and selling, usually involving large amounts of money.

Cocaine that cost between $500-800 per kilogram to produce into base, would increase to $5,000-7,000 at a port and easily reach $15-30,000 wholesale at its destination. In Australia, cocaine could wholesale for upwards of $200,000 per kilo. Then the retail value went stratospheric from there, when cocaine got sold by the gram and at prices often in excess of $500 per gram.

Weapons had the same step-up in valuation. What could be purchased for a few thousands of dollars had to then be hidden from authorities, transported perhaps around the world and finally put into the hands of the users. The latest jet planes, stockpiles of uranium, deadly chemicals such as Sarin; there were markets for all of them. Simple rifles such as the AK-74 would run about $700-1,000 retail, so a truckload could easily be half-a-million to a million dollars. The amounts of cash for these purchases would immediately turn heads, and with the purchases being under the table and without duties and taxes, those heads could belong to people in multi-thousand dollar suits as well as street rags.

John Stockman knew many people in both camps and arranged deals with all of them. A lot of those people took large falls some time after making their deals. Others were followed to the higher-ups, and large groups of dealers and moneymen would eventually be rolled up. However, those people never doubted him. He walked carefully, did his jobs well and then moved on. He was always long gone when anything came down on the purchasers or dealers.

Invariably, though, it was someone who sat in an air-conditioned room, wearing an expensive suit, in an expensive government building, who thought they knew how to take care of the world’s problems. They controlled everything, usually to their own benefit. Greedy kings who controlled the black gold; drug lords whose purpose was to trade death for wealth; indescribably violent terrorists who hated anyone not like themselves and simply wanted to kill everyone. Greedy politicians who proclaimed themselves above everyone else. Simple. Just spread the money around and they would all be our friends. Problem solved.

And despite the supposed educations and political statuses, the fancy clothes and expense accounts, the exalted titles and positions of power, the geniuses couldn’t be convinced that there could be any other way of thinking than their own. They were simply right and everyone around should just bow or salute on their way out the door to take care of the mission they had been given. The fact that the experts sat five to ten thousand miles away from the hot spots and often couldn’t even spell the names of the countries or the people involved meant nothing. They were right; they could shout louder; they sat in the power positions; and don’t you forget it.

And they had their wealth. Most of the politicians and bureaucrats were wealthy.

Finally, after three years of analysis work, Stockman got the opportunity to move into fieldwork that would enhance the projects he had worked on. He took advanced training at The Farm to prepare him for what he would need to face, and got his first posting—Algeria. He was provided with cover as a representative of an American software and materials company and began to dig into the lives and backgrounds of people and companies there, and to begin his dark, covert work for his government. His cover name would be Donald Chastain for all work outside the U.S. office.

Algeria was a North African country with its north boundary being the Mediterranean and with the Sahara Desert to the south. Its capital was Algiers, and Stockman roamed the streets there and attended many parties and conferences in order to dig out more information. Out of almost forty million people, many were drawn to the American with deep pockets, a perennial favorite of those always on the lookout for large expense accounts. The official language was Arabic and John quickly jumped into learning it and Darja, the colloquial Algerian dialect, quite well.

Algeria had the 16th largest oil reserves in the world and the second largest in Africa, and had the largest defense budget of the African countries. Most of their weapons were imported from their close ally, Russia. John noted facts like these and kept careful track of the people associated with the huge and secretive industries and those who roamed through the corridors of power.

After spending two years in Algeria, Stockman was transferred to several other hot spots. Taiwan was lovely, but was always under the thumb of China and he didn’t have much freedom there. He moved a few hundred miles to the Philippines, but the big U.S. military bases had closed long ago, so there wasn’t much worth him being there and he was gone before long. Then he was sent to Germany for a few months, and finally down to Israel.

Although he found, from his perspective, parts of Israel appeared to be slums, especially throughout Jerusalem, he also recognized the beauty of the country. The majority of the Jewish people were friendly. His job there was mainly in non-government circles, but often he was invited by government workers to private parties, occasionally a Friday night Shabbat, and once, even a Hanukkah celebration. While he didn’t participate as a Jew, he was able to join in some of the eating and dancing.

What he felt devastating, though, were the almost constant attacks by Arabs and others living in the area and from across the borders. People were injured and killed, public buildings were heavily damaged, transportation facilities were destroyed, even little school children suffered—often greatly. He couldn’t help but notice the armed police and soldiers everywhere.

And it seemed that nobody could do anything to stop the attacks. Everything was politicized and the Israeli leaders didn’t dare take care of the problems in any dramatic manner. While most of them at least talked about the country always having belonged to the Jews and, likely, that it always would, few of them had enough courage to stand up and fight the world powers for the ability to live their own way. With so many of their own people having tasted the joys of wealth and carefree lives, especially those living in America and other parts of the civilized world, and having become almost completely liberalized, those willing to fight for the freedom of their country didn’t have much chance. The world, which was, for the most part, anti-anything-Israel, had turned so strongly against them they couldn’t see their way to solving problems.

John always wondered why the world at large didn’t get involved and help bring peace to the area, but he knew that most of the world either ignored Israel or was involved in condemning anything the country did.

The same thing took place against any other country or people group that just tried to live in peace and take care of themselves. It seemed as if the whole world had gone down the chute and was living with an unspoken motto of, “Leave me alone to do what I want.” It didn’t matter that the attitude was against any kind of old-fashioned morality or sense of decency. Now it was just whatever the people determined, in their own minds, was right or what they wanted. If a country didn’t have strength of its own and a determination to live its own way, they were always under the thumb of arrogant nations around the world that wanted things done their way.

John remembered an old phrase from his young days that his Grammy used to quote, from when the ancient Hebrew nation was living without local authority: …everyone did what was right in his own eyes. The primary message, he remembered, was that those were times of anarchy and confusion because the people didn’t live according to the laws that had been given to them. And now, John thought, remembering the past and living according to the best lessons that have been carried forward, the people should know how to live today. But they didn’t. Most people couldn’t even state what the past was, much less learn from it.

Finally, after being with the Agency for ten years, he was transferred back to Algeria, and the work of buying and selling restricted materials in that area began again. Some of the same people he had dealt with were still in place. Most of them welcomed him back into their webs and seemingly took up where they had left off. Some were gone, rolled up in secretive sweeps or eliminated by competitors.

John had received his latest job in Algeria in a very direct, but completely secretive, manner: “Get to Algiers and Oran—you know where they are, right?”

“Of course. I’m already in Algiers. Up on the Med coast. Oran is about 250 miles west of here, also on the Med.”

“Yeah, right. There are two major towns over there, Chettia and Relizane. Along that highway, the A1, most of the killings are taking place and you need to find out who’s directing them and how to stop them.”


“And what?”

“What do I do when I find out?”

“Uh… Get back to me and we’ll determine that. Until then, keep everything under cover and don’t get in any trouble. We have truckloads of materials ready to go over there, but we have to scope the place out first. If it needs money, we have that, too. If the leader needs to go, we need to make that happen. Uh… What is the exchange rate now?”

“Roughly 60 dinar to the US dollar.”

“So it’s pretty cheap.”


“So a million dollars would be…?”

“About 60 million dinars.”

“Would the ruler take a million dinars?”

“Sure, but not in exchange for anything heavy-duty. That would really be less than $20,000 U.S. Anyone here would want services, especially the underground type, paid in a lot of U.S. dollars.”

“So they’d want an actual million American dollars?”

“I don’t know what the services would be worth to us, but they’d want the payoff to be U.S., or maybe sterling. Something solid that they could hide away and that would keep the value for a long time. And yes, they’d want a large amount.”

“Okay. So who’s the power we’d be dealing with?”

“Do you mean the Algerian president, someone like that? Or the warlord? That power?”

“Whoever is running the show out in the desert. The government just fights them, right? There’s the power-by-name and then the real power out in the desert?”

“Sure. Probably the main guy out there is Khalil Kateb. He is, as I said, a warlord. Might go by the title of governor, or bey, I’m not sure. He doesn’t have any official position, but he runs the show. He’s probably about fifty years old and has a large staff to do the work, but he’s the boss.”

“And if he wasn’t around?”

“There’re lots of guys wanting to step into his shoes, but nobody strong enough right now. Several would try, but I don’t think anyone could really take over. It would take a few years of developing a base before they’d be accepted. Even then, they’d have a lot of trouble taking over from the Algerian president. While the president’s struggling, he is firmly entrenched. The government, the army, may not look like much, but they are in power and no warlord is going to just step in and take it all over. Besides, the warlords and the president share a lot of the wealth, so it would be pretty difficult separating them.”

“John, if we wanted to get a big load of dollars to someone over there, is there a way to do that? Would you be able to deliver it for us?”

“There are ways to move things around in-country without getting caught. I mean, a person can always get caught, and if so, the consequences can be bad. These people might talk about being our friends, but the realities are that they run their own shows and anyone who gets in their way gets put down—hard. It can be done, though.”

“Okay, well, get in there and see what you can find. See if you can determine what they might want to come over to our side. I guess a few million isn’t going to hurt us. Or a truckload of guns. We’ve done it before, but do try to make a deal. Okay?”

“Sure. It shouldn’t take me too long to get after him. I’ll start some people looking for him and see if I can meet with him.”

Within a week, Stockman had found Kateb. His home was in Oran but he was rarely there. He had a dozen different places to sleep and roamed from one place to another. Right now, he was directing the slaughter, and the gathering of wealth, from his place in Chettia, but he was likely to be gone before long.

John left messages through three of his contacts, hoping at least one would work its way to Kateb.


John had been sitting on his bed for hours, just staring at the wall. He didn't know what time it was, even the day, only that it was time to be awake. And he only knew that because the lights had come on.

This time, though, he seemed to realize what was happening to him. Usually, his mind didn’t function in so-called normal ways and he sank deeper into the prescribed brain-dead scenario the prison wanted. However, today it took all his remaining mental strength to not scream out in agony. It was one of those days.

Though still sitting on the bed, he had gripped the base of the mattress and almost felt it tear as he strained to both hold himself in place and to rip himself out of the mental cage he was in. He did manage to occasionally let go of the bed and pull himself back out of the mental chaos he was going through. He somehow realized he definitely didn’t need a guard to see he was struggling while supposedly under the control of the drugs.

While he had been able to somewhat control himself at times and relax the strain he was going through, it was only a moment later that he had thrown himself down on the floor and felt himself pulling into a fetal position so tight that he was almost causing his muscles to rip. He held on to himself with every measure of strength he had left, though he didn’t consciously realize what he was doing, and he screamed out in silent agony.

Twenty-five minutes passed and his body convulsed over and over without relenting until, finally, the spasms passed and he was able to pull himself back up onto the bed. He slumped back against the wall, his lungs straining against the pain he had gone through, and he struggled to regain some semblance of composure. The sweat had been pouring off him.

Yet, through it all, he really didn’t realize what he was doing. He just acted with the forcefulness his muscles encouraged and from the pain flooding his body and mind. Right now, his skin was wet from the strain he had been under, and overall, he ached. There was actual pain coursing through him, and it kept him shaking.

Anyone seeing John Stockman outside these walls would consider him to be a studious, harmless, but physically fit, middle-aged man who helped people and minded his own business. One would have to know his background to really understand him. Most studious, harmless, middle-aged men didn’t have the skills in intelligence and the military training he had. They didn’t have the multiple passports and ID sets. They didn’t have the large bank accounts around the world with access to instant traveling and escape money. They hadn’t been locked in a super-super-max prison without even knowing why. And most of them didn’t have these moments of agony rip through them.

He had been attending college in 1995, training for a place in government work, when fanatical extremists in Saudi Arabia killed a close friend. A car bomb killed five US citizens and two Arabs at the offices of the Saudi National Guard in Riyadh. Sondra Evans had been a quiet, dedicated woman who was only trying to help starving people and she should not have been killed. While the place was basically a military building, Sondra had only been there to get better maps of an area she was going to with a goal of setting up camps for destitute Saudis. She had been part of a neutral group that simply helped people and had never been associated with radicals or extremists of any kind.

John was both incensed and almost insanely enraged when he got the news—and helpless. He walked away from the university, his family and friends, even his job at a brokerage firm. He drank himself into many a blur and woke up in many gutters over the next months. Friends finally caught up with him and dragged him back to life. A police officer friend knew someone who knew someone, made a phone call or two and, a couple of weeks later, a mild looking, innocent gentleman, Paul, knocked on his door. He wore casual clothes and hiking boots, his hair was longish, and all he did was say he had known Sondra in years past and wanted to express his sorrow. They had a meal and talked generalities.

Over the course of the next couple of months, Paul presented Stockman with the possibility of avenging Sondra, and John jumped at the chance. He eventually ended up in basic training at Camp Peary, a 9,000-acre military reservation in Virginia where the CIA had their covert training facility, The Farm.

John had been an athlete in college and thought he was in good shape, but he never expected the intensity of training, mental as well as physical, as he received at The Farm. The training included covert surveillance, lying, cheating and stealing, camouflage and evasion, use of a variety of weapons, self-defense, and hours and hours of running and other physical training. Spy technology of every type was drilled into the recruits. Lock picking, code breaking, trailing suspects; even such covert activities as assassinations, use of explosives and the destruction of enemy facilities were taught. And, of course, how to do any of the necessary work and escape undetected.

John hadn’t expected the intense training, as he was slated to simply be an analyst. He knew that Ranger and Recon and SEAL training and the other Special Forces was beyond tough, but he hadn’t expected the kind of hammering he got in the CIA camp. The training was something, as was said regarding Marine boot camp, that he was pleased and proud to have gone through, but would never want to go through again. The refresher training he regularly went through was difficult enough, but nothing could come close to the physically intense, mind altering, even ugly training of CIA basics at The Farm.

When the convulsions were finally over, he remained sitting on a bed he hardly felt, in a room he had no knowledge of, not even knowing why he was in the place or what he was supposed to be doing.

But someone wanted him out of the way, dead—or at least brain-dead.


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