Freedom Force: The Price of Freedom, Chapter 3: The Sound of Laughter

by Philip-Todd Franklin

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A secure military air base near Washington, D.C., September 13, 11:45 P.M.:

A long black stretch limousine drove in from the main road and stopped in front of a tall fence topped with razor wire. From a building attached to the fence strolled a man in black combat fatigues. Approaching the car with a pistol drawn, he walked up to the driver side door of the car. After he made a motion with his free hand, the window began to lower. Looking at the person behind the wheel, he smiled slightly before saying, “Ah, Jen. Who do we have with us this time?” His voice carried a slight Southern drawl as he spoke.

“Got Senator Wellington with me this time, Roger,” said Jen, flashing him a perfect toothy smile as she handed him a small folder of papers with a picture.

Roger nodded a moment, looking over the papers and picture before handing it back to her. “Well, I hope the senator has an enjoyable flight. Maybe the stewardess will be more cheerful this time.” Grinning and chuckling at his own joke, he placed his pistol back in its holster as he motioned for the fence to be opened.

Jen rolled the window back up and drove the car through the fence on toward the airstrip. The limousine pulled up within a few feet of a small, twelve-seat airplane, where a few more men in black could be seen scrambling over it. Two were standing at the steps of the plane, each holding a rifle at the ready.

Getting out of the car, Jen walked back to the rear passenger side and opened the door. “Well, Senator, is there anything else I can do for you?”

Jack Wellington looked up at her and he slowly stepped out of the limousine, smiling at her as he said, “No, not really. Didn’t bring much of a bag with me this time, Jen. But thanks just the same.”

She nodded for a second and returned his smile. “Oh, believe me, this has been a pleasure, sir. Don’t get many war heroes as it is.”

Jack nodded and, grabbing his black briefcase, began to approach the airplane. As he reached the steps, two men in black suits blocked his way. They both had buzz-cuts, and the only thing that really distinguished one from the other was that one had graying hair.

“Sorry, sir, but I must check your ID.” He held out his free hand to Jack.

Reaching into the breast pocket of his three-piece suit, Jack drew out an ID badge that Jenkins had given him before he left California.

The man took it and gave it a quick, hard glance before returning it to Jack and motioning for the other man to step aside said. “Thank you, Senator.”

Jack nodded and said to them, “As you were, boys.” He then boarded the plane.

Jen stood pensively beside the limousine, watching the situation with a slight frown and a small smile as she watched Jack. She’d driven for Senator Wellington several times over the years since he’d first been elected into office, but something was different about him ever since his return from California. She just couldn’t put her finger on what it was. Not sure what happened to him out there, but I do believe I like it, she thought to herself as she returned to the limousine and began driving back home.

Jack took a good look at the interior of the airplane before setting his briefcase onto a table and grabbing a phone. Keying in his personal number to access an outside line, Jack then dialed his home phone number.

After a moment, Jack glanced around and said in a hushed voice, “Jenkins, get all my files on Amos Fortune that you can find and have it ready for Macy and me when we arrive. Yes, that would be nice, too. Yes, tell Tony and Casey that their uncle will see them soon.” He smiled as he thought of them.

After a moment a voice came over the speakers. “This is your captain speaking. Please strap yourself in, and place all trays upright, as we will be taking off momentarily. Thank you.”

Jack said a few more hushed words into the phone before hanging it up; he strapped himself in his seat a few moments before the plane began to move. “I never did like flying,” he muttered to himself, and closed his eyes tightly. The plane roared down the airstrip and soon tore into the sky.


Naval Station Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, Hawaii, September 14, 0900 hours:

“What do you mean no one knows what happened aboard the Sun Tzu?” demanded the base commander, a small, ancient-looking little man.

The chief medical officer, a man with scraggly black hair, stood in the base commander’s office as he replied, “Sir, we’ve tried all the tests we know, and even tried new experiments. Nothing seems to have any effect on whatever that substance is. All I can tell you is that, if left exposed to open air for too long, it appears to evaporate.” His words were interrupted by the base commander’s anger.

Eying the doctor hard, he said, “What kind of joke are you trying to feed me to cover the inadequacy of your medical staff and yourself, Doctor?”

Not expecting such a harsh response, the doctor was taken aback for a moment, stammering as he searched for a way to respond, even as his boss continued speaking.

“I could very easily have you replaced for such lies. Now, Doctor, I offer you a chance to redeem yourself. Find out what has happened and give me a report I can understand within the hour, or else you are dismissed.” Nodding to one of the guards, the base commander ordered sarcastically, “You! Help the doctor, here, back to his labs. A cat seems to have got his tongue.”

“Sir, yes, sir!” said a young woman with short chopped hair in a a shore patrol uniform. Grabbing the doctor’s arm harder than necessary, she began dragging him from the room.

After they left his office, the base commander smiled slightly in an attempt to relieve some of the tension from earlier that the morning. The loss of Captain Suto is going to be hard to explain to the emperor, he thought. He was known to be one of his favorites. The base commander shook his head as he felt genuine fear, unlike any he’d known in a long time.


A torture chamber in the aircraft Yamato, five hours earlier:

Captain Juno Suto awoke to find himself still chained to the wall, and although he tried to open his eyes, move his head, or even just yank an arm, he found that he couldn’t get his body to respond to any of his commands. After a few moments of trying but failing each time, he finally gave up and tried to relax. When he did so, it felt as if weights had been lifted from his eyes, as he could finally see — though the first thing he saw was enough to give him a shock.

Across the room, he saw his own body still chained to the wall, hanging there and completely limp. “What?!” he said aloud in a voice that didn’t seem to create any echo from the cold metal walls.

At that moment, the only door into the room opened. Turning to face the door, Suto saw the doctor who had earlier tortured him reenter the room, chuckling to himself as he approached Suto’s body, not even noticing as he walked right through him to get there.

Suto realized in shock that the doctor neither noticed him, nor was barred from passing right through him. “I-I must have died!” he said to himself. “But if I have, why have I not passed on to my ancestors?” Figuring out how to move his non-corporeal body to any position within the room, the spirit continued to watch the doctor as he inspected Suto’s body.

After a few moments, the doctor left the room, then quickly returned with a young man pushing a large cart with a machine containing both buttons and cables.

The doctor nodded as the young man left the room, then rather quickly began to attach the cables one by one to many areas upon Suto’s body.

“What in the world does he think that’s going to do?” Suto said to himself as he continued watching.

Slowly, the doctor began to push buttons and flip switches, watching the monitor for each little spike or drop.

“Ouch! That actually hurt!” Suto said as the doctor reached the third switch.

“Hmmm… yes, yes. Nicely done,” the doctor muttered to himself. “Wonder what would happen if I added more power?” Reaching for a knob, he slowly began to turn it.

The doctor was interrupted by the sound of someone knocking and opening the door. A moment later, in walked a young man dressed in the uniform of the emperor’s personal guard. Raising his gun at the doctor, he said, “By order of His Majesty the Emperor, you have been found guilty of murder, and will be executed as ordered!”

Too shocked to be aware of what he was doing, the doctor ended up turning the knob all the way up to full power as he spun around to face the soldier.

Suto could feel each arc of power flowing through his body, even as his spirit started rushing back to its home. The manacles holding him to the wall began to melt, and almost as an afterthought, his arms both flung out before him as he started to fall toward the floor.

From each fingertip shot a bolt of electrical energy, striking the doctor squarely in the back and the soldier just below his heart, incinerating both men. Within seconds, the machine feeding him the power caused the outlet to blow, leaving him on the floor to moan incoherently as little electric bolts played between himself and the metal floor just as he passed out once more.


Aboard the escort ship San So, heading west on the Pacific Ocean toward Japan at 40 knots, September 14, 1300 hours:

“Sir!” called a young sailor to the officer in charge of the day watch in the pilothouse; she looked young, barely seventeen years old. “We are getting strange reports and calls for help from the other ships in our fleet.”

Standing rigid at his post, the commander thought again how hard he’d worked to reach his position before he said disdainfully, “Well, what seems to be the problem, sailor?”

Taking a moment to listen once again to the radio, the sailor replied, “It’s almost as if they are under attack, sir! No idea where from, and we’ve just lost complete contact with the carrier Tokyo, sir.”

“Have you reported this to the captain?” the commander asked quickly. The young sailor shook his to indicate a negative response. “Then I think you should do so now, and I mean quickly,” he said in an urgent tone.

“Yes, sir!” the sailor replied, giving a salute before running from the pilothouse.

As the young sailor ran through the body of the ship, she started hearing others screaming out warnings accompanied by the sounds of gunfire as she headed to the captain’s quarters. What in the world is happening? she thought as she caught the sound of laughter coming from several directions after each call. I sure hope the captain can solve it!


On the bridge, the internal radio began to squawk as the alarm for battle stations started ringing throughout the ship. At that moment, the young sailor came running onto the bridge with wide, fear-filled eyes. “Commander, help me!”

The commander turned to look at the young woman just as he saw something darker than night itself begin to cover her body from head to toe, suffocating her.

Without another thought, he grabbed the radio and began to record an SOS message for the rest of the fleet. Hitting the repeat button to set it to broadcast on a loop, he ran toward the other door through the portal right into a wall of darkness, just as saw the remains of the young woman fall to the ground, dead. Several shots of gunfire rang out as the bridge crew expended their bullets in a futile attempt to save themselves from the unknown menace.

The sounds of laughter, continuing as long as an hour and a half later, were the only sounds that could be heard aboard any ship in the fleet.


Radio receiving post, Pearl Harbor Naval Base:

Sitting at his post, the young lieutenant could barely keep his eyes open. He’d had a long night of partying too much last night, not getting enough sleep. But that usually didn’t bother him much, since this duty station never seemed to be very busy or even required much of him but wait and occasionally take down notes. He sat there sipping on his coffee and thumbed through the morning newspaper.

None of the news was very hopeful, but he figured it would help him stay awake anyway. Yawning and stretching for a moment, he thought he’d heard something strange over the radio, and that brought him to full attention.

“This is the carrier Tokyo! We are under attack by an unknown enemy. Heavy losses and sporadic contact with both fleet and decks of ship,” a voice said, and the message repeated after a slight pause over and over again. The faint sound of laughter could be heard in the background.

“What the heck is going on there?” the lieutenant said to no one. Soon, a second and then a third message could be heard, each one coming from the same fleet with the same basic message.

“This is the escort ship Sun Tzu. We have been attacked and boarded by something unknown. The captain cannot be located, and contact has been lost, with most… Oh, my God — what is that?” The same sounds of laughter could be heard in the background of this recording, and after a moment all that remained was the laughter. These messages continued one after another.

Within a few seconds of the first message, six planes went screaming by his location in a westward direction, and the phone on the wall started ringing off the hook. Reaching for the receiver, he spoke quickly. “Radio receiving. Yes, sir, I am getting the same message. Yes, it’s being recorded. Have a copy sent shortly, sir. Yes, sir.”

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