To Bestow his Heart
Thomas Calabrese — The USDA foreign landholdings report from 2020 shows Chinese investors own 266 parcels of United States land totaling 194,179 acres. Joint U.S-Chinese projects also combine for another 157,961 acres. The report for 2020 has been delayed several times and many concerned Americans believe that Chinese holdings are now somewhere near 1,000,000 acres. This growing accumulation of land by our most dangerous enemy posed a significant threat to the security of the United States. It was just one more example of illegal collusion in our government that could be considered treason. The political bureaucracy of this country operates under the philosophy of one step forward and four steps back unless it is in their own best interests of those making the policies. In that case then it is pedal to the metal and full speed ahead. Many Americans wondered how so many Congressmen and Senators who made less than $200,000 a year ended up as multi-millionaires by the time they left office. The Communist Chinese Party spent tens of millions of dollars to own massive parcels of land in our country. Some of it made its way into the pockets of individuals who swore to protect America and its citizens, but their greed superseded that solemn oath.
Skye McLane had been a CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear) officer with the active duty US Army for eleven years where she attained the rank of Colonel before transferring to the Reserves. Before that she attended Arizona State University where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in biology and a Master’s in immunology and infectious diseases. While in the military, she often collaborated with Special Operators tracking down and neutralizing chemical and biological weapons. Skye built some long lasting friendships with some of the bravest and most patriotic men and women in the country.
She was now working as an independent consultant and living in Encinitas, California with her husband, Jim, a corporate pilot working out of Carlsbad Airport and two children, Josh and Cali, who were attending Cathedral Catholic High School in Del Mar.
During her free time, Skye liked going to the fitness center or sky-diving and scuba diving with friends, some of which were former military and now working as civilian contractors. Despite having keen analytical skills and being meticulous in her research and investigation, there was a part of Skye that needed to ‘push the envelope.’
(To push the envelope means to surpass normal limits or attempt something viewed by many as being too risky.) Skye explained it as her way of clearing her head or getting a new perspective when a particular problem or case puzzled her.
It was after dinner and Skye and Jim were watching the new Top Gun movie in their home theater when a cellphone rang. Jim recognized the distinctive ring which was the tune of Good, Bad and the Ugly. “That’s you.”
Skye recognized the number, “Hi Claude, business or pleasure?”
“Business,” came the reply.
“Come by in two hours.” Skye said.
Claude Fontaine was a former French Legionnaire, in early forties, lean almost to the point of being gaunt and possessed mesmerizing blue eyes. He was a highly skilled professional with a unique skillset. It was exactly two hours to the very minute when Claude arrived at the house. Upon entering he greeted Jim with a smile. “Good to see you.”
Jim responded, “You too…it’s been a while. I’ve got things to do,” and gave his wife and her friend some space.
Skye suggested, “Let’s talk in my office.”
Claude followed Skye and walked down the hall to the other side of the house where she shut the soundproof door behind them, “Something to drink? If I remember right, your beer of choice is Stella Artois.” She opened the refrigerator, pulled out a bottle and handed it to Claude. He took a long swallow and sat down, “Very few things beat that first taste.”
“The last time we worked together was in the Congo. You usually don’t leave the African continent, what’s up?” Skye asked.
“Something very important, I’ve been in living in Mombasa, Kenya and running my operation against poachers from there. I’m being funded by a group of wildlife and animal rights groups.” Claude continued, “One of their most generous benefactors called me with a special assignment. I thought about you when I found out what it was.”
“You caught me to this point… please continue,” Skye said.
Claude handed Skye a flashdrive, “See for yourself.”
Skye put it into her computer, the video show a large building on an open parcel of land. As it progressed it showed thousands of dogs locked up in cages in deplorable condition on the property.
“What the hell is this?” Skye demanded.
Claude replied, “The Chinese and three American biomedical companies are illegally working on Gain-of- Function research at this location. (Gain-of-function research is medical research that genetically alters an organism in a way that may enhance the biological functions of gene products. This may include an altered pathogenesis, transmissibility, or host range, i.e. the types of hosts that a microorganism can infect.)
“They are experimenting on the dogs,” Skye guessed.
“The people that are funding my operation have made arrangements with animal rescue groups to take the dogs if we can get them out. We’ll have an IT guy in the team that will hack into their mainframe and get information about who is involved and what other locations around the world doing similar research. This is the first of many missions if we’re successful. I need you to evaluate the virus and safely transport it. You’re the best.”
“You touched a nerve, you know that I don’t like research being conducted on helpless animals so count me in. If the Chinese are doing illegal medical research on American soil, then this place is highly secretive and therefore heavily guarded…right?”
“Affirmative, every day that we delay means more animals being killed, “Claude said. “We got time for two practice jumps and a detailed briefing. We go day after tomorrow.”
“So we’re going to parachute in, engage the guards and escape with the virus…am I leaving anything out?”
Claude smiled, “Blow the place to hell when we’re finished.”
It was 1000 hours when the 15 person team jumped from 20,000 feet and landed into the small bulls-eye located near the Perris Valley Skydiving Center. They did one more jump and then met in a hangar to discuss the rest of the mission. Skye knew nine of the men from previous missions, but the others were strangers. Claude showed some satellite photos of the area and pointed to a clearing surrounded by trees. “We’re going to land here. It will be marked by green laser so keep your night vision goggles on during the entire descent. If one person misses the drop zone then we lose the element of surprise. That cannot happen. Stark and his team will take point, we’ll breach the roll-up garage door on the west end of the structure.”
Skye raised her hand, “Question?”
“Go ahead,” Claude said.
“Tell me more about their security…what can we expect?”
Claude answered, “They are highly skilled, highly paid and will fight to the death. These are not rent-a-cops and they will kill you if you don’t kill them first. You get a shot, you take it. No mercy for the merciless. This facility should not be in existence therefore they will do everything to protect its anonymity.”
The ranch was located in Riverside County between Beaumont and Moreno Valley so the flight from Perris Valley was only 15 minutes. The Cessna 182 took off at 0430 hours and reached an altitude of 20,000 feet. It circled the area for ten minutes and marked the drop zone. The assault team received the countdown and quickly exited the plane. There were using black parachutes so they were impossible to see on the way down, especially in the darkness. A high altitude jump is extremely dangerous, but it was successful. The hard part was still ahead of them.
There was a quick weapons check and the team moved out. Even though she was picked for the mission because of her expertise with viruses, Skye was also extremely adept in covert operations.
The sound of distressed animals moaning and yelping in pain was bone chilling and heartbreaking. It only increased the resolve of the team to succeed in freeing them. Several guards were taken out with kill-shots as the team made its way to the loading dock. One of the men took out a laser saw and cut a section of the door away so that he could crawl through. Once inside he opened it and the team went in. Three men went accompanied the information technology specialist and four more went with Skye to the testing area.
Inside the laboratory were a dozen computerized microscopes and several refrigerators to keep vaccines and viruses at the right temperatures. Skye quickly examined them and found what she needed then told Claude, “I got it.”
That was the go ahead to plant demolition charges in the room. Later, they rendezvoused with the other part of team that hacked into the computers. Claude ordered, “Eliminate the guards, we need to take control of this facility.”
The team began a methodical search and neutralized the security. They found a group of technicians and researchers hiding in the warehouse and brought them to the outside courtyard. Skye approached and gave the cold hard facts, “I guess by now, you realize that we’re going to kill you and that would be an accurate assessment so I won’t lie to you. In return for your cooperation, I can promise you a quick and painless death.” When no one accepted her offer Skye shot three men in their legs and they fell over.
“You would be surprised how many places on the human body that can be shot or stabbed without it being a lethal wound… extremely painful, but not deadly. I am a professional and know exactly how to inflict maximum discomfort. Which is it?”
The men accepted the inevitable and answered all of Skye’s questions without hesitation. Claude asked, “Did you get what you needed?”
Claude executed the men.
Skye protested, “I could have done that.”
“I know.” Claude smiled and turned to his team. “Get the dogs…be careful with them, most have had no socialization.” He made a phone a call, “We’re ready.”
Ten miles away, a convoy of five buses and ten specially equipped eighteen wheelers made their way to the research facility.
The buses contained dozens of volunteers and several veterinarians. Many of the dogs were fearful and nervous, but eventually their natural instincts kicked in and they came to realize that these people were there to help, not hurt them. Skye was touched by the love and compassion that these people showed these abused animals. It brought tears to her eyes and Claude walked over. “Are you alright?”
Skye responded, “All the years that we’ve been doing missions and it still amazes me the amount of cruelty that the human race possesses.”
“I can’t argue that point, but we’re in a better position than most, at least we can hold the demons accountable when we find them.” Claude reminded his friend.
A beagle got loose from one of the volunteers and ran over to Skye, who picked up the dog and embraced it. She said, “The only thing for the triumph of evil is for men to do nothing.”
“Nothing is not in your job description,” Claude said, “You’ll always rise to the challenge.”
The dogs were quickly evaluated and loaded on to the trucks. To minimize the stress on the animals, they were taken to Winchester, California, a distance of 25 miles where Mike Cameron offered the use of his ranch and winery to keep the dogs until they were ready to be sent to animal organizations around the country.
Mike was a former Marine and animal lover who owned land throughout the Inland Empire. He was on the board of several charitable organizations including the legendary Mighty Oaks Foundation. At his own expense, Mike set up fencing and had a dozen temporary structures brought on to the property for the animals and volunteers.
When the last of the beagles had left the research facility, Claude and his team detonated strategically placed explosive devices throughout the structures, rendering it useless for further research and abuse of animals. Even though the team was offered a large sum of money to rescue the dogs, not one person accepted payment, choosing to donate their fees for the care and re-location of the dogs. That was the kind of people they were. Everyone was a hero with a heart.
There was something of this mission that was different from the rest. Claude delayed his trip back to Africa to help with the animals and Skye drove up from Encinitas every morning to offer her services. There was another facility doing similar research in the state of Virginia so the team took a few days off to handle that situation. Luckily there were only a few dogs at this location. It was also destroyed and the staff was eliminated. It didn’t take long before the word got around that if you did illegal research on helpless animals that there was a good chance you would end up dead. That was a hell of a deterrent.
Skye and Claude eventually found out which politicians were getting wealthy from their collaboration with China. They discussed the issue of assassination, but knew any overt actions would bring too much heat. Skye commented. “I’m an expert at viruses if it comes to that.”
Claude suggested a more subtle approach, at least in the beginning, “Let’s do it my way first.”
They sent letters to individuals in the government with a stern warning. Most took the advice and severed their contacts in the illegal research operation, but a few let their insatiable greed overwhelm their common sense and sense of self-preservation.
One month later, the family of one of these stubborn and ruthless individuals who also happened to be a card carrying swamp dweller was in the office of Doctor William Assali in Alameda, California. The medical professional was baffled, “In my 15 years of practicing medicine, this is the first case that I’ve ever seen. The laboratory found it, I didn’t.
Senator Richard Weiner passed away from the Marburg virus. It is named after a small and idyllic town on the river Lahn, a tributary of the Rhine in Germany. It causes convulsions and bleeding of mucous membranes, skin and organs and has a fatality rate of 90 percent. Even though it is named after a place in Europe, it is usually found in Uganda, Zimbabwe, the Congo, Kenya, Angola and South Africa. Has your husband been to any of these places lately?”
Carol Weiner sighed, “He went to Africa about 10 years with a Congressional delegation. Could it have been dormant all these years?”
“That is an answer for The Center of Disease Control. They will do a complete investigation and hopefully have answers for you,” Doctor Assali replied, “I’m sorry I can’t tell you more.”
Jim knew that his wife was volunteering with the rescued dogs, but Skye kept her involvement in the mission secret from him for his own protection. Jim commented, “A dog has one aim in life … to bestow his heart.”
“They’re coming along pretty good, they’ve endured so much pain and suffering and yet still have so much love to give. It is an amazing thing to witness. Dog is God spelled backwards.” Skye added, “If I have to make a choice, I choose kindness over righteousness.
Jim kissed his wife on the cheek, “When I was growing up, my dad used to tell me, be the kind of person your dog thinks you are.”
“That’s a high bar that most people never reach, but a lofty and noble goal,” Skye quipped.
“I’ve got a few days off, need some help?”
“We’re burning daylight and the beagles are calling,” Skye said.