STRATAGEM Chapter 32

STRATAGEM by Joshua Graham THIRTY-TWO PREVIOUS CHAPTER   THE MORNING OF THE WHITE HOUSE WASHINGTON, DC   PRIMARY STOOD ALONE in the situation room surrounded by a fleet of television screens on the wall and multiple computer monitors below them. Inhabiting the body of President Mercer felt more and more natural, though the neuropathway latency […]

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STRATAGEM Chapter 27


HOW LONG HAD IT BEEN? Connor sat dazed on the edge of his cot. The cell in which he’d been detained felt antisceptic—no discernible scents, not a hint of dust or grim, just white wall, smooth surfaces and white LED lights above him. Nothing remarkable. So why did his head ache as though gripped in a vice, the hollow sound of his breathing bouncing inside his ears?

A painful mental fog.

Somewhere between a dream and a hangover.

Thoughts, memories…of speaking to people over Zoom—jetsam and flotsam floating about his torpedoed mind. He blinked, swallowed, nearly choked on the dry itch.

An empty glass stood on the small table. Felt like days since he’d had anything to drink.

At the edge of his cot…the laptop.

The one from the conference call dreams…or memories?

Memories, yes!

So many conference calls, faint images of which fought their way to the forefront.

Screens with increasing numbers of participants: ICOMM brass, the Secretary of Defense, President Mercer?

A sharp pain pierced Connor’s eyes directly into the center of his skull.

He winced.

Reached for the laptop.

Another agonizing internal blow to the head stopped him.

Gasping, he steadied himself and looked away from the laptop. Somewhere in the recesses of his brain, he understood what was happening. He just couldn’t articulate it.

More images burrowed through the razor wire of his mind. But each time they came close to materializing that same cranial assault forced them away.


The pain backed off, as though startled.

Made no difference, no one around to hear him shout. But it did feel good to get aggressive and fight whatever it was that didn’t want him to remember.

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STRATAGEM Chapter 25

LYNDA STORM NEVER THOUGHT THIS DAY WOULD ACTUALLY COME. But with everything Roger had prepared her for, what was happening with Derek must be the kind of situation her late husband had anticipated.

Roger had concealed his life and career as a covert operative from the children and the rest of the civilian and much of the intelligence world. Perhaps had Sabine suspected, but Derek? Well, he had always been trusting with his dad and most likely had no clue.

It had been more difficult for Lynda to conceal her knowledge and training from the kids, though. Maintaining the guise of a highly educated artist who’d given it all up for the domestic life, while secretly learning how to handle firearms, emergency protocols, and contingencies such as her husband’s death (sudden or otherwise) had been harder than anyone (including Roger) could appreciate.

The fuel pump gurgled as she walked toward the Quick Stop’s mini-mart, reminiscent of an old country store. Hopefully, she’d be able to buy some supplies there before going off the grid.

She opened the screen door and it protested with a rusty groan. Fighting the corroded hinges, she pulled it fully opened and glanced back at the car where Derek remained with Paige and Hulk, the entire setting evoking scenes from a late-night horror movie. The flickering fluorescent lights above did little to counteract that impression. Situated in the middle of nowhere on a tiny rural road to the same, it was a wonder this alleged gas station was even open for business.

“Hey!” a gruff voice inside the store said. “Come in or get out. You’re lettin’ the flies out.”

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STRATAGEM Chapter 20

“WE’VE GOT TO GO,” Derek said to Paige. As soon as Mom’s friend drove away, he went back to the living room.
“It’s all right, Derek,” Mom said, “That was just—”
“Is Dad’s car still in the garage?”
“It’s not registered. Derek, what’s going on?”
“There’s something about your friend Maggie. Something in her eyes I think I saw back in New York with all the bizarre events. Can’t explain right now, please just trust me. Is there room to park the Ford I drove here in the third garage space?”
“Ok, can you open it so I can park it inside?”
“I’m pretty sure all the toll both cameras and facial recognition software will have connected me to that car. We have to keep it out of sight.”
“Paige,” Mom said, already heading for the garage, “You stay here with Hulk. I’ll be right back, okay?”
She nodded and sat on the couch.
“Hurry,” Derek said as he and Mom both went their respective ways. He stepped outside and looked around to make sure no one was watching. The garage door went up just as he got into the Fusion and powered it up.

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STRATAGEM Chapter 18

IT FELT LIKE BEING A TEENAGER at summer camp, sneaking out of the cabin in the middle of the night after curfew to just hang out. Sabine stood by the door inside the communal laundry room down in the basement. A dryer thumped in a steady beat, filling the room with a warm vapor and did nothing to help ease her tension. With each click and clack from jeans buttons rattling inside the dryer, her heart pounded, lungs struggled to fully inflate.
She wiped her clammy hands on her pant legs.
This was crazy. What were they going to do, arrest her, put her in prison?
Why had Blake insisted on breaking quarantine just to talk in person?
12:00 AM, where was he? He’s thirty seconds late, she muttered under her breath. One more minute and she was out of there. She shut her eyes, leaned back against the wall, and counted to ten.
Never made it past six.

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