The Graveyard Project is a suspense thriller set in Iraq during the year 2009....
|The overhead light panels illuminated the entire room, reminding David of a hospital. The walls were similarly painted white, the floor was tiled. As he slowly sipped his cup of coffee and swallowed the pills given to him, Dr. Keith took Harold Cooper aside. The man was a six foot tall, slender Army officer, dressed in a crisp white shirt and navy blue pants. Most people referred to him as Mr. Henry.
"So what do you think, Doctor?" Henry asked, eying David carefully.
"I cant be sure of it, but it looks like he's suffering from temporary amnesia. Which isn't surprising. The dosage we gave him is quite strong. And who knows what kind of side effects it has. I'd say he'll remember everything within a few hours."
Henry nodded his head, and signaled for the Doctor to leave. "Mr. Webber," he said loudly, "if you think you're capable enough, please follow me. There's a lot to explain, and I'm sure you'll want to hear what I have to say."
They came out of the room, and began walking through, what looked to David, like a never ending corridor. Every few meters, the walls were covered with mirrors. And the temperature was unnaturally low.
"Are you happy with the way the Iraq War is going, Mr. Webber?" Henry asked.
"There's nothing happy about wars sir. But I think we're doing the best we can."
Odd, thought Henry. Most recruits rave about how sick and tired they are of the War.
"Well, then you're an exception, Mr. Webber. Now I'm going to tell you many things that may sound new to you. But within a few hours, hopefully, you'll get back your memory, and we can get down to work."
They reached a metal door, and Henry swung it open. "Two years after the Iraq War began, a special request was given to President George W. Bush. It was a request to start a top secret research division within the Army. The request was granted, and a separate chain of command, right from General to the lowest ranking soldier, was formed."
By now they'd reached a larger door, this one controlled by a access key. As soon as he swiped his card, the doors slide open, and Henry lead David into a large, football field size hall.
"What was the research about?" David asked.
Henry smiled. He'd expected the question. "Before I tell you What, I need to explain How. Forming a secret research division in Iraq isn't easy. Between the Sunnis, Shiites, and Al Qaeda, we hardly have space to walk. So we did the obvious. We built an underground structure."
Henry gestured in front of him, and David's eyes followed. It was as though he'd walked into a clean, sleek version of a subway station, except without the trains. Instead, there were people walking around, carrying food trays. Tables were laid out spaciously. If he hadn't woken up from a coffin, David would've thought he was in High School. "Wow, you guys built all this...underground?"
"Yes," Henry nodded, "and it wasn't as tough as it looks. We had a cover. The United States Army Memorial. We could dig and tunnel as much as we wanted, and everybody just thought we were digging graves. It took around four months to complete the whole structure. That was the easy part."
The two of them exited the Canteen, and were now walking through another long corridor. There were doors on either side, with different name plates on them. David tried to catch a glimpse, but Henry's strides were too big.
"What's the tough part then?" he asked.
"The tough part?" Henry smiled slyly. "Recruitment."
"Obviously, since we were running a top secret facility, we couldn't place an Ad on T.V. Besides, the facility was in Iraq. Hiring people from back home would raise suspicion. Of course, we did find an easy way out. We hired soldiers instead."
"For the past three years, there's been a covert recruitment drive within the Army. The objective is simple. We wanted men with background in Mechanical, Electronic and Electrical Engineering. As well as Medical officers. Heck, we even needed a few cooks and catering staff. So right now, there are men within the U.S. Army Recruitment Office, who ensure that the men with sufficient backgrounds, are enlisted to serve in Baghdad."
This is like the Men in Black, David thought.
Henry stopped in front of a door that read, Laboratory D - Wing. "If you think all of this is impressive, Mr. Webber," he said as he held the door open, "Wait till you hear the truly impossible part: Killing the recruited officers, and then bringing them back to life."
As expected, the interiors of the room looked just like any other hi-tech science lab. Three men were busy at work, and one of them stopped to salute them. "Good Evening Mr. Henry," he said, smiling pleasantly.
"Mr. Webber, this is Mr. Simmons. He's our chief biology scientist. Simmons, could you give Mr. Webber one of your "Undertaker" demonstrations?"
The bespectacled scientist's smile widened, and he nodded promptly. "Please, Mr. Webber, take a seat next to the counter."
He brought out a cage from one of the metal cabinets and placed it on top of the counter. David noticed a large rat inside.
"As you can see, this is your normal, run-of-the-mill rat. Nothing special about it. Now, I'm going to give it some of this," he took out a sugar cube from his pocket, and dripped a few drops from a small metallic bottle.
David watched as the sugar cube was placed in the cage. Within seconds, the rat nibbled the sugar and dropped dead. "I know what you're thinking right now. Typical Cyanide, what's the catch? Well, just wait for a while."
The three of them stood still, watching the dead rat expectantly. At least two minutes would've passed by, before Simmons grabbed a spray can, and pointed it towards the rat. "Abracadabra," he said theatrically.
As soon as the fumes hit it, the rat wriggled. Within a few moments, it was back to acting rat like. Simmons saw the stunned look on David's face.
"It's a pretty old technique, actually. Toxin from the nectar of Queen bees. Causes an almost fatal paralysis. Once the toxin enters the blood stream, the cardiovascular system is paralysed. The heart stops 90% of it's pumping."
"90%?" David asked.
"Well, that depends on the dosage. It needs to be high enough to hide a pulse, yet low enough to let you live. Pretty tricky actually. Had to kill about three dozens rats before I got it right!" Simmons said cheerfully.
"So that's what happened with me?" David said, more to himself than to the others.
"We have men within the Medic Corps. The bullet wounds you received were actually plastic capsules filled with the toxin. Once you were paralysed, one of our doctors proclaimed you dead, and you were carried off the battlefield."
"Of course, we had to give you a continuous supply of oxygen. Which was why we repeatedly paralyzed you for the three days till you were buried."
David shook his head in amazement. The thought of men standing over his still body, faking his death, seemed too hard to believe.
"But there's something I don't understand. Why would you have to go to all this trouble of faking deaths? Why not simply let us work underground?"
"You think it's so easy to run an underground facility, Mr. Webber? This project is so secret, that not even our own countrymen know about it. They cannot. So how would it look like if a few dozen men disappeared underground every day from 9 to 5? We need men to stay hidden the whole time, until the research here is complete. Think about it this way. Who's going to search for dead people?"
David nodded his head slowly. He still had so many questions to ask. What was the research all about? Why did it need to be so secretive? And most importantly, why was he recruited. But David knew that his questions would have to wait for a while.
Henry observed David closely. He had a good feeling about the new recruit. The fellow was sharp, and quite capable of grasping things quickly. He would fit in well, Henry thought.
The lab door swung open suddenly, and an Officer dashed in, searching for somebody.
"Ah, Sir, could I have a word with you? In private?" He said to Mr. Henry.
Once they were outside the lab, the Officer, still panting from his run, explained his problem.
"Sir, I think we have a bogey."
"A fake sir." He handed over the two pages to Henry. One was a bio data on Private David Webber. Henry recognized the smart looking man in the photo. He took a look at the other page. It was a bio data on Private David Weber. And Henry did not recognize the man.
"You mean there are two of them?" He asked, his tone showing his alarm.
"Yes sir. And we were supposed to recruit the second Private. I'm not sure where the mix up happened. But the fellow inside isn't who we wanted."
It made sense now. David Webber wasn't suffering from temporary Amnesia. He never did know about The Graveyard Project. He wasn't supposed to either.
"What do you want me to do, sir?" The Officer asked.
Henry thought for a moment. Then, his fingers relaxing, he walked towards the door. "Nothing," he replied. "I'll take care of it."
He entered the lab and saw Simmons explain something to David. The Graveyard Project was a multimillion dollar, world class research project. It had taken several years to get the whole thing running. And today, it had all been compromised by Private David Webber.
With his eyes carefully resting on David, Henry casually pocketed a few metal bottles of the deadly toxin.
David Webber had been killed once before, he thought. It could be done again if needed....permanently.