The sleek mag-lev car glided silently to a stop at the driveway to a massive mansion. Three stories tall with sprawling colonnaded wings, the gleaming white building dominated the carefully manicured grounds it was so artfully nestled in. As the pneumatic door hissed open a liveried footman approaced. God damn, this place reeks of wealth.
“Dr. Trant invites you to join him on the driving range Lieutenant Hauk,” the footman said, his eyes politely avoiding the obvious bandage wrapped around Nathan’s eye. “If you would be so kind as to follow me…”
Nathan trailed a couple steps behind the man as they walked through the grounds. He craned his neck this way and that, attempting to take in all of the sights. The most central of the columns flanking the entrance to the mansion were delicate double helices. The entablature above depicted Man’s evolutionary ascent all the way from microbe to homo sapien. Nathan thought the features of the final figure in the ascending line resembled the pictures of Dr. Trant he had seen in the tabloids. Even the greenery bore evidence that it belonged to the CEO of Transgene. Hedges were trimmed in the shape of different virus coats, and various statues of early Transgene experiments dotted the grounds. As they passed a snarling marble hippogriff, Nathan’s hand unconsciously felt the bandage over his eye.
Eventually they made it to the driving range where Dr. Trant was sitting quietly, his tablet scrolling through the morning news. The footman made an elocutionary cough and announced “Lieutenant Hauk, sir.” Dr. Trant set the tablet on the table beside him and stood to face Nathan. His warm tan smile seemed to slip easily across his face as he reached out to grip Nathan’s proffered hand.
“Nathan. I’ve heard so much about you. All good of course.” He glanced at the bandage covering half of Nathan’s face. “I heard about that too. Nasty business. How is the recovery?”
Nathan was taken aback. This fatherly figure with his steely-brown hair and easy-going manner hardly seemed to be one of the most powerful and influential people on the planet. “They say the new eye should grow within the month and I’ll have full vision again in two. Thank you, by the way, for paying for the procedures.”
“It was the least I could do. You were protecting my facility after all. I would be remiss not to help you when you were injured helping me.” Looking into Trant’s green eyes, Nathan believed that the man actually meant what he said.
They stood silently for a second, simply regarding one another, then Trant gestured towards the range, “you any good?”
Nathan cringed. “As a kid I broke my brother’s window trying to golf. Twice. I don’t think the sport is for me.”
Trant laughed, then leaned in as if to reveal a great secret “you know, I don’t much like the sport myself, but it’s the only way to get board members to talk to you out of the office.” He leaned back, turned towards the open green before them and gestured expansively. “But it sure is fun to smack a ball as hard as you can on a beautiful day like today. It doesn’t even matter where it goes!”
It was indeed a beautiful day, with clouds painting puffy streaks across the azure horizon. “Come, let us enjoy the ancient manly tradition of hitting things very hard.”
Trant handed Nathan a club and they both stepped up to the green.
Thwack. “So Nathan, you’re probably wondering why I asked you here.”
“I figured it was for my charming company.” Thwack.
Trant laughed. “Well yes, but I also wanted to ask you about the incident.” He dropped another ball onto the green. “I’ve been hearing some rather peculiar reports from that night.” Thwack.
Nathan watched Trant’s ball sail into the distance and thought about how to articulate what happened that wild night. “It was a very peculiar evening,” he carefully replied, setting a ball down. Thunk. “Dammit.” The ball dribbled several yards then stopped petulantly.
“Take a deep breath before you hit, it helps you focus.”
“Just like at the shooting range.”
“Exactly! Did you do any shooting that night?” Trant asked. Thwack.
What is he getting at?
“The weapons were malfunctioning sir. The Epistles used an EMP and we weren’t equipped with ballistic weapons due to the restrictions Trangene placed on us for operating in the facility.” Nathan took a deep breath. Thwack. He grinned as the ball sailed cleanly away.
“Nice one! Yes, of course you understand the reasoning behind those restrictions what with the methane chambers feeding our precious bacteria. But you still managed to incapacitate one of their members, yes? How did you accomplish that without any guns?” Trant stopped and turned to look at Nathan, his eyes inquisitive.
“I’m sure you could read my report sir, it’s all there.” Nathan replied, still unsure as to why this powerful man had him here just smacking golf balls.
“But I want to hear it from you. Please, humor an old man.”
Nathan scoffed, “Old man, you don’t look a day over 40, that’s hardly old.”
Trant smiled, but his eyes didn’t. They seemed to fade into the past for an instant, as he said “you’d be surprised…” His eyes returned and he smiled again, fully in the now. “Please, regale me.”
“Well,” said Nathan, placing another ball at his feet. “I still had the venom sacs from the snake-stim I took for a training session.” Nathan shrugged. Thwack. “I tackled the perp and injected her with the venom. She was paralyzed in under thirty seconds. Worked like a charm.”
“Ah, alpha-bungarotoxin from the elapid snake. Quite effective at blocking acetylcholine receptors at the neuromuscular junction. The DOD was happy to issue a grant weaponizing that one.” Trant idly dropped a ball at his feet. “This perp. What did she look like?”
“She was beautiful.” Nathan said, recalling her elfin features, stark in the glow of the fluorescent globes. Trant lifted his club for the swing and Nathan said, “she had this interesting scar on her forehead, a line with two perpindicular lines going through it.”
Thunk. Trant’s ball dribbled several inches. “Interesting.”
Nathan looked at him as he reset the ball. “Why do you ask?”
Trant shrugged. “The Epistles are a growing yet ever-elusive group. They want to bring down Transgene and I have a strong desire for that not to happen. I would like to know more about them.”
Nathan nodded, but it seemed like Trant wasn’t telling the whole truth. “Doctor…” he began.
“Please, call me Isaac. Anyone who has lost an eye for me should call me by my first name. Are you thirsty? How about a nice cold beer. Nothing like a cold one after the driving range on a sunny day, eh?” Nathan smiled and nodded, but thought to himself There is more to this man than meets the eye.