Chapter Two


“Check Fort Baskerville.”

The words had run in her ears the entire day, making it hard to concentrate on her work. Fort Baskerville. She had to find him and now, after six months of searching, she finally had a clue.

Chloe Madison walked into her small apartment and dumped her backpack unceremoniously on the floor by the door, dropping her winter coat on top of it. Her shoes were off in a second and she stretched her arms up over head, groaning with feeling the freedom of being home. As a graduate student of the prestigious Hudson University Genetics program, being home with her shoes off was a luxury.

She rolled her head from side to side, relaxing the tense muscles and letting her shoulders drop from their permanent position up around her ears. Chloe walked over to the refrigerator and opened up the heavy white door. There was a bowl of soup from the night before, a ridiculous amount of condiments and salad dressing, and what was left of half a gallon of milk. She closed the door and opened the pantry to find the selection there wasn't much better.

Between her graduate studies and the investigation that she had started, she hadn't had much of a social life. She hadn't had much in the way of healthy eating, either. With a sigh, she rummaged through the junk drawer to search for a pen and paper to start a grocery list.

The pen of course didn't work, so she chucked it in the trash, noting that she really should take the waste bin out. What a Friday night I have planned! she thought to herself. Trash and grocery shopping. Who knew grad school was going to be so much fun?

She stepped on the foot pedal to open the trash can lid, reaching inside and wrenching out the bag. The last thing she wanted to do was put her shoes back on and go back out into the late January weather, so instead she just set the trash bag on the porch to pick up and take out when she went out for the groceries. She immediately went and put a fresh bag into the trash can, thinking of what she was going to have for dinner.

Pizza. The idea came to her quickly and she grinned. Much better than grocery shopping. The healthy eating could wait until she had enough time to breathe. She only had a little bit of reading since she had managed to stay on top of it for the week. She grinned, thinking of the delicious toppings she would get. Maybe she would even splurge and get the cinnamon bread.

Chloe reached for the phone in her backpack to order from her favorite restaurant before remembering she had forgotten it in the charger that morning. Since she technically wasn't supposed to have it on in the lab or classes anyway, so she hadn't been too worried about it. She hurried to the bedroom, finding the little green light blinking with another missed call.

The missed call was her mother’s number. She didn't even have to listen to the message to know what she wanted. When are you coming home again? Chloe could almost hear her mother's worried tone in her head. She rolled her eyes and smiled as her mother's voice spilled into her ear, using the exact wording that Chloe had expected. Chloe hit delete knowing she would have to add a call to her mom to the night's plans.

Then there was the saved message, one that she had heard that morning before she had headed out the door. She had saved it because she wanted to make sure she hadn't misheard it, but as she played it again, she knew there was no mistaking what it said.

"Check Fort Baskerville."

It was barely a whisper, but the words were clear. Chloe stared at the phone in her hand, trying to make sense of the whispered message. She knew it wasn't a wrong number. It was a hint about her brother. With a shaking hand she hit delete, unwilling to take the chance of the wrong person finding it on her phone.

Weak in the knees, she sat down on the bed. A picture of her and her brother sat on the nightstand, the two of them forever captured in a happy summer squirt-gun fight. Her brother's green eyes twinkled out from the photo, forcing her to remember.

Blake was ten months younger than Chloe, almost to the day. Irish twins, her mother had called them. "You two should have been twins. You just got here first," her mother used to say with a wink.

Blake had been small and shy as a child, and Chloe had spent many recesses and summers protecting him from bullies and bigger kids. Despite the sudden growth spurt and muscle development in high school, Chloe still felt protective of her younger brother.

Blake had joined the Army almost immediately after graduating high school. After being the one who had been picked on for so long, he said it was his duty to give back and help protect others. Chloe and her mother had tried to dissuade him, but he had been determined. That was three years and a year-long tour-of-duty ago.

His first deployment to Iraq had been difficult for Chloe. She still felt the need to protect her younger brother, but that was difficult to do from a thousand miles away. She had been grateful that he had emailed every day when he could, and when he couldn't he would let her know not to worry. She had all of his emails stored in a file on her computer and every letter in a box in a drawer on her nightstand. She didn't need to take the letters out of the box to remember what they said. They were usually some funny story about his squad mates or something he had seen in the market. It was never anything terribly important but she had memorized every single one since he stopped writing.

Even when he was stateside, Blake made sure to talk to Chloe almost daily. It was a part of their routine. Then six months ago the letters stopped.

At first, she hadn't been too worried. He was supposed to be stateside at a base in Virginia. Nothing bad could have happened to him stateside, and if something had, her mom would have received notification. So, at first it just seemed weird. Then his cell phone number was disconnected. Not just transferred or unpaid. Completely turned off.

It was at that point that Chloe had really started to be concerned. It was completely out of character for her younger brother to shut her out. Even when he was at his most angry, he would still at least text. She started calling Army bases around where he was last stationed, talking to his old squad mates or anyone he had served with trying to find some answers. No one seemed to know where he had gone. No word for three weeks had her to panic mode.

Her mother had told her not to worry; Blake was in the military and things like this happen. Chloe didn't accept that. Blake wouldn't have left without at least a note. She called everyone she could think of again.

The base in Virginia had no record of him ever leaving, but his bunk had been occupied by another soldier for weeks. Every former Army buddy she could find hadn't heard from him, and a few even seemed skittish about her asking. She finally had called up Delly, his best friend from the tour in Iraq, asking him if he had heard anything.

"I haven't heard from him, okay?" the man had growled into the phone. "You really need to just drop it. He'll start writing again when he can."

"What do you mean, 'when he can?'" she had asked, trying to coax as much information out of him as she could.

"Listen, Chloe, when someone goes dark like this, it's best not to mess with it, do you understand? If he can't be found then there is probably a good reason for you not to go poking your nose in places it doesn't belong." He refused to say any more after that.

The day after that phone call a letter had arrived. That one was in the very front of the box of letters.

Dear Chloe,

I heard you were looking for me. I'm not really supposed to be sending any letters right now, but I need you to stop looking. I'm on a mission and I can't write you, so this is the best I can do. Know that I keep that picture of you and Scout on that camping trip with me always. Let Mom know not to worry.

Love, Blake

She knew he was in trouble the moment she opened it. Scout was their "duress code". When they were kids, if Blake was in trouble but didn't want Mom to know, he would ask her to please feed their dog, Scout. Since that was already one of her chores, it had been the perfect cover. To see Scout's name mentioned in the letter told her that something was terribly wrong.

She stopped calling the base and actually went there. The members of his unit pretended that he had just been shipped off to a different platoon, but every one of them seemed edgy and unwilling to talk. Someone mentioned Afghanistan and the others nodded, everyone jumping on the lie as though numbers would make it true. She had gone back to her motel room disappointed.

She had been packing her bags to leave when one of the men from his unit showed up at her motel door. She remembered him saying his name was Roberts. He was wearing a ball cap and had the collar of his jacket turned up. He nearly bowled her over to get inside when she opened the door, but then he hid behind it and out of sight of the windows as though he were afraid that someone might see him.

"I don't know much about it, but if it were my brother, I'd be looking too. They gave us all this genetic test. It was just a swab on the inside of our cheek. We all had it done, but he was the only one they came back for," he had said, his voice low and quiet.

"What was the test for?"

Roberts shook his head. "I don't know. But I do know they were super excited when he agreed to help them. The men in the unit were all junior officers or senior enlisted, but something about that didn't seem right to me. I got the feeling we were talking to a bunch of majors and colonels."

"I really appreciate you telling me this. Do you have any idea where I should start looking?" She bit her lip, hoping he had some idea to get her started.

The man glanced out the window and pulled his ball cap lower. "You need to know that Madison would have done anything if he thought it would help this country. He's a good soldier."

She nodded. "I know. That's just how he is. Loyal to almost a fault. Do you have any ideas?"

He suddenly looked very nervous. "I gotta go." He glanced out the window again, a sheen of sweat breaking out across his face. Her shoulders sunk slightly as she opened the door to let him out. He paused for a moment and then turned, wrapping his arms around her as though he were giving her a hug, despite only knowing her a couple of minutes.

"The Lycan Project," he whispered in her ear, letting her go and stepping out into the parking lot as quickly as he could. She stared out after him, playing with the words in her head, but they didn't make any sense. She shook her head and went back to packing, trying to figure out the puzzle.

Four months later, sitting on her bed and looking at a picture of her brother, she still didn't know what "The Lycan Project" meant, but she knew it was important. Two days after meeting with her, she had heard that a young Sergeant Roberts had been hit by a car. The driver hadn't stopped and witnesses said it looked as though the driver had actually sped up to hit him. The whole thing made her feel sick to her stomach.

Chloe flipped the phone over in her hands, playing with the hard plastic for a moment before getting up and grabbing her laptop. As it booted she ordered a single cheese pizza with mushrooms and olives. She opened up an Internet browser as she completed her order with the pizza company and began looking up information on Fort Baskerville.

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