No indication existed on the outside of the building as to its purpose. Once inside, however, a small bronze plaque displayed the letters GERD 9. On his way into the building, Colonel Winthrop noticed the plaque and wondered if it stood for Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disorder. That’s what GERD normally meant. He knew, because he had it. However, considering the nature of the orders that had brought him to this place, he had his doubts that the work performed here had anything to do with heart burn.
You didn’t GET orders from Four Star Generals that you didn’t pay attention to. And, in particular, you didn’t get orders from Four Star Generals that told you not to inform anyone else in your command about where you were going or what you were up to. Over the edge, that’s what this looked like to him. Colonel Winthrop was outside of normal channels at this point, and in uncharted territory. He’d been dumb enough to mention it to his superior, General Lias, who had told him point blank, “I don’t know anyone named General Rithidge, I didn’t hear your question, I wasn’t here with you today. Now get out of my office and go follow your orders, and I never want to hear about this again.”
Whomever General Rithidge was, he had power. Deep dark under the ocean kind of power. The kind of power that made the CIA run for cover and the KGB look clueless. General Lias was a tough son of a bitch. It took a lot to scare him, and it hinted at secrets that were kept in shadows. Those were just the kind of secrets Colonel Winthrop loved the most. He loved secrets. Knowing them made him feel important – a sensation he craved most of the time.
GERD 9 was most definitely a lab. Everyone the Colonel passed was wearing a lab coat. In his uniform, he stood out like a piñata in an ice cream factory. People were staring when he approached the receptionist in the lobby. Conversations stopped as soon as he was noticed.
“I’m here to see a Doctor Strange,” he said.
The woman didn’t even giggle, she just looked at her computer. “Colonel Winthrop?” she asked.
“Doctor Strange is on the tenth floor. I just need you to sign this release form.”
She handed him a clip board and he started reading the form. Blah blah blah. It was the usual nondisclosure statement along with a notice that he was entering an area with a Top Secret security clearance requirements. Keep your mouth shut under threat of prosecution. Talking about anything you see or hear in this location constitutes and act of treason. Yadda yadda. After signing the form and handing it back to her, the secretary summoned a security officer who then escorted Winthrop to an elevator.
The guard wasn’t military, which seemed odd. He did have some strange scars on his neck though. Maybe ex-military? The Colonel did his best to try and engage the guard in conversation, but the young man had been drilled pretty hard by someone. He kept his answers to “Yes Sir, No Sir,” and one “I’m not allowed to talk about that Sir.” By the time Colonel Winthrop had exhausted all attempts to get the guard talking; they had reached the office of Doctor Strange.
“Say hi to the wife and kids for me,” he told the guard with a wave. There wasn’t even a chuckle. There was no sense of humor around here at all. This entire building needed an enema.
Doctor Strange turned out to be a short balding round man with glasses and a cheerful demeanor, who popped up from his desk when the Colonel came in, and immediately offered him a drink from a well stocked bar. Winthrop raised an eyebrow and accepted some fine scotch. No one who kept a bar in his office could be too bad.
“Have a seat Colonel,” said Strange, after he’d handed over the scotch. “I hope you didn’t have any trouble finding the building.”
“I had directions,” said Winthrop. “Good thing too. You don’t exactly appear on the map. On any map for that matter. I looked. Where this building is, there’s supposed to be a warehouse owned by Addidas. I half expected to find this was a secret sneaker research facility.”
Doctor Strange threw back his head and laughed long and hard. Too long and too hard. Then he wiped a tear from his eye and slammed down the scotch before pouring himself another one. “Very good Colonel. Very good. No, we don’t make sneakers. GERD stands for Government Extranormal Research Division. We are Division Nine of GERD. Our purpose is primarily genetic research. There are a great number of historical mysteries and such that have been placed in our care.”
Strange shrugged and sipped the scotch this time. “Oh… Hitler’s body, for one thing. You know all of the conspiracy theories surrounding that. And Einstein’s clones. They all need to be accounted for. And, as I’m sure you can imagine, they’ve had children themselves. By God that man’s genes get around.”
Winthrop raised an eyebrow. “Clones…” he repeated, shaking his head. “What are you talking about?”
“Oh, dear,” muttered Doctor Strange. He let out a big sigh. “Sorry, I guess I shouldn’t have said anything about that. I spend most of my time in here. I forget who knows what, you know. I’m not normally ever put into contact with someone who hasn’t been fully briefed already. It’s like meeting someone for the first time who still thinks we’re the only intelligent life in the universe.”
Colonel Winthrop felt the hair on the back of his neck start to stand up. “Is this a joke?” he asked. “Are you serious?” Without thinking, he emptied his glass, and Doctor Strange immediately refilled it.
“Yes,” said the Doctor, “This is a joke. HA! No, I’m just kidding. It’s not a joke. I’m dead serious. Listen, we brought you in for a reason, and I should probably get to that. It has to do with the blood of Christ. We’ve finished our analysis of all the dried blood recovered from the Spear of Longinus and we’ve identified one clear bloodline with strange anomalies in the DNA. It’s in the genes, you see. You’re probably aware that the Human genes are filled with junk segments. There are tens of thousands of broken bits in there that are left over from various points in evolution where a protein was no longer needed, or mutated, or made nonfunctional. Some of them come from viruses and bacteria that made their way into gametes prior to being passed on. In this case, however; the anomalies were obviously intentionally placed into the genome, and actually comprise binary data.”
Colonel Winthrop shook his head. He had only a little idea of what Strange was talking about, and the scotch was starting to give him a buzz. “Say what now?” he snapped. “You tested a spear and found some weird DNA in the blood on the spear?”
Doctor Strange looked excited by this. “Yes! I’m so glad you understand. It was a mathematical formula in a binary format, so we sent it to cryptography right away. They’ve been working on it for the last several months, and presented us with the results last week. Turns out they’re coordinates to a location outside of our solar system. There was nothing there. At first this was confusing until we rolled back the clock about two thousand years, and then it made more sense. Do you know what a hyperstar is Colonel?”
“No,” grunted Winthrop.
“Neither did I,” admitted Doctor Strange, “until the astronomers told us. That’s what was there, two thousand years ago. A hyperstar is a star that has been accelerated to incredible velocities due to its exposure to a black hole. They’re slingshotted through the galaxy when their orbit is broken. They’re usually the result of a galactic merger – when the black hole of one galaxy is consumed by the black hole of another.”
“Jesus was an Alien?” exclaimed Winthrop.
“Apparently, yes. Sort of. Well, actually, we’re not sure. We’re not sure how many times the hyperstar has been by our planet, or how long ago it started. There’s always the possibility that, erm… well… that it seeded Earth and guided our evolution.”
“Okay,” sniffed the Colonel. He noted the bar behind the Doctor had some ice and asked for some. Scotch was much better on the rocks. Once he had the ice in his glass, he held the coldness in his hand. It was comforting. He put it against his cheek, and then he rattled it in his glass. “You know,” he told Doctor Strange, “I’m not a Christian. I don’t believe in religion at all. I’m not sure why I’ve been selected for this.”
“Oh, for that very reason!” said the Doctor. “You don’t think we’d put a believer in charge of any of this do you? The person running this operation needs to be objective. The motive must be impersonal. The goal must be the pursuit of knowledge, not an agenda to spread faith one way or the other.”
Winthrop winced. “Hold on. Running what operation?” he demanded. At least they were starting to get somewhere, although he wasn’t at all sure he wanted anything to do with this. There were mysteries, and then there were… well Hell, there had never been ANYTHING like this before.
“The hyperstar pointed to by Christ’s DNA won’t be back for another eight thousand years,” said Strange. “But, by our current estimates, we believe we’ll be able to obtain the technology required to send a ship out that will catch up with the star in roughly two hundred years. Our goal – or YOUR goal I should say – is to devise a program that will promote the construction of a starship capable of reaching Christ’s hyperstar. Now, obviously, you’re not going to be alive in two hundred years. So whatever organization you create must be stable enough to survive two centuries of human development and social evolution. That’s why you were selected Colonel Winthrop. Your background in social psychology indicates you’re the perfect fit for this type of task. Do you feel up to it?”
“What if I don’t?” asked Winthrop. “It’s not exactly like you can just erase my memory.”
Doctor Strange smiled. “Oh, it’s actually a lot like that. The scotch you’ve been drinking contains nano-markers that have been integrated with your most active neurons. They’ve created a mesh network by now, one that will allow us to terminate only those key superclusters involved with this specific memory. Don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt. It doesn’t even work right away. It just prevents the hippocampus from allow the solidification of permanent memories during sleep. You go to bed knowing everything, you wake up knowing nothing. It’s not unlike blacking out from a drinking binge.”
Colonel Winthrop put the glass down, staring at it. “I see…” he muttered. There was no way he was giving up a secret this incredible. That was probably another reason he’d been selected. They knew he’d want this. “Well, in that case, this does actually sound like a challenge that I might be interested in. Can you tell me what my resources will be, and what is it that we expect to find on this hyperstar? I assume there’s a reason we’re going to all of this trouble.”
Doctor Strange nodded. “Oh yes. But all in good time, Colonel. We have a LOT of time.”