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Sarah Baethge

Sarah Baethge

Temple, Texas

Sarah was born in 1982 and grew up in Houston, Texas and Shreveport, Louisiana. She has written and self-published short fantasy and science-fiction stories for Kindle on Amazon and Smashwords.

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About the author

I am Sarah Baethge. I was born in Houston in 1982, and grew up in Texas and Louisiana. I was an intern for Lockheed-Martin fresh out of high school I graduated with a national merit scholarship in 2000. I got to work on the software of computers at NASA in Houston in the summer before I headed to college in Dallas. 

In November of 2000 when I was driving to school, I was in a car wreck that left me in a coma for 6 months. After waking, I began writing and self-publishing short fantasy and science-fiction stories, starting with the original The Speed of Darkness book. Soon after I had it out I greatly expanded the story in my notes. I took the book down from Amazon and Smashwords because it begins a bit abruptly, and I thought I could improve it with a prequel or two.

I do have two paperbacks on Amazon called Radiant Shadows and Right Now. As I have spent more time on writing my own worlds than acting as a bookseller, they have never gained much notice. I did get a vampire poem I wrote called ‘And I Was Hungry’ published in an online magazine called What the Dickens in March of 2014.

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$5 eBook of The Illumination Query

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If you're like me- reading by something like a Kindle is the way to go. I have only maybe 2-3 physical books in my apartment.
The original Speed of Darkness book I wrote isn't published anymore, but I'm happy to offer you a PDF of it. The story actually occurs after The Illumination Query as part of what I intend to include as the beginning of the third book in the series, so you can get some idea of what I plan as the future for both Nigel Hunter and Ronald Carpenter and it also has my character Bart Meyers who will be a big part of the second book.
And I'll throw in my Speed of Darkness story called 'If You Believe in Love at First Sight', it is a quite short scene or so involving Nigel Hunter, Joel Shine, and a couple of the folk that Joel quickly mentions at the beginning of The Illumination Query. I plan to include this short at the beginning of the 4th book in the series. I can get it to you as a kindle book(99cents at Amazon).

Ebook included

$20 Print Copy

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Get the print copy of The Illumination Query for those of you that like to hold actual books that are tangible when you are reading.
I do understand that some of you may want to read the original eBooks even if you do want to have a physical copy for your library.
I can give you it all.

1 copy + ebook included

$5 shipping

$25 Protect the Wolves eBook

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A copy of the eBooks with $20 donated to Protect the Wolves, a Native American 501c3 dedicated to protecting North American wildlife. (

Werewolves may be able to speak out for themselves, but most wolves in our world can't. Nigel would go for this option because he comes to realize how important it is to watch out for the folk that the quick observer wrongly sees as evil or useless animals.

Ebook included

$40 Print copy with Donation to Protect the Wolves

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A print copy with the eBooks and $20 donated to Protect the Wolves, that Native American 501c3 dedicated to protecting North American wildlife. (

Werewolves may be able to speak out for themselves, but most wolves in our world can't. Ronald would go for this option. Hey, he's a zookeeper, of course the safety of animals matters to him!

1 copy + ebook included

$5 shipping

$50 Thank You name in back of book + $30 to Protect the Wolves + eBooks

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I do have a list of people who I thank in the back of the book, and I'm more than happy to add your name to a special list in the back if you can help me land a publisher by pre-ordering a special print version that comes with a donation to Protect the Wolves.
And of course you get the little eBook Speed of Darkness stories.

1 copy + ebook included

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The Illumination Query

The Speed of Darkness, Book 1

Having signed with Total Recall Press, I won't be reopening this.
Book description:
Ronald Carpenter and Dr. Hunter get caught within the Eclipse's imprisoning of fantasy creatures in their labs.

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Science Fiction & Fantasy Fantasy
44,422 words
100% complete
1 publisher interested


Ronald Carpenter (the narrator) is a zookeeper that gets help from a company called The Eclipse when he needs to recapture some escaped animals. The company takes a shine to him and lures him into working for them. They are keeping a zoo of animals that they use for medical testing and are happy to have his expertise in accommodating them. To prove his loyalty they have him come along to take the scientist Nigel hunter captive.

Ronald and Nigel come to find out that the creatures kept by The Eclipse are supernatural animals that the average person would not consider real. The Eclipse is keeping ‘fantasy’ creatures for testing because they have no legal protections and many of them, like werewolves, are nearly human. 

Now the story is from Nigel’s point of view and the time is set back to a little before he was taken captive. Nigel Hunter was working for a lab owned by The Eclipse, but his test animals were rats and he is unaware of the supernatural testing. After an accident, he decides to test a procedure that allows great speed on himself. The rats with the increased speed begin to die off. The Eclipse higher ups decide that Nigel is as good as a test animal and get Ronald to take him captive.

Being held with the test creatures, Nigel becomes friends with the beings he is kept among as he is basically tortured by Eclipse folk who want to see the impossible speed. He and friend creatures decide that he is fast enough to possibly escape and get help to stand against The Eclipse. After a tense encounter with Ronald and the death of one of his new companions, Nigel uses the super speed to get away.

The story ends with Nigel hiding in a hotel room. He is making plans on how he can help the other prisoners escape. (I do have plans for a few sequels, and a small amount further written, but I think that the story ends nicely enough here to stand by itself.)


Record 1 (Urban Harvest)- Joel Shine explains why he has written a book about the Eclipse Co. and their secretive operations based on the accounts he got from Nigel Hunter and Ronald Carpenter. The first part is basically a journal of what happened to Ronald Carpenter based on what he told Joel.

Chapter 1 Why I Joined The Hunt- Ronald Carpenter explains how he was working at the Central Park Zoo. When he tries to get help in recapturing escaped bats, he is contacted by a company called The Eclipse who claim they have experience in handling ‘bat-like’ creatures.

Chapter 2 Allies From The Darkness- Ronald discovers that the bats have gotten into the subway tunnels and he has no idea how he can recover them. He asks the company if they know how he can recover the creatures. They send out two men, Roscoe Sandford and Bucky Owens, who get the bats back by using tranquilizer guns. They say he can pay them back by helping them handle and capture their lab test subjects.

Chapter 3 Paying My Helpers Back- Perry Striker from The Eclipse Co. comes out to his apartment and gets Ronald to agree to come out to their lab in Arizona to help them get control of their own animals. On a layover in Chicago, he gets met by a woman named Prisca Chubb from The Eclipse Co. who tells him that he is no longer needed in Arizona, she says that The Eclipse Co. is impressed with him however, and offers to hire him for a lot of money. She then asks for his help collecting a specimen at a lab owned by The Eclipse right there in Chicago.

Chapter 4 Discovering a Dalliance’s Dangerousness- Prisca takes Ronald to the lab, but it turns out that she wants his help in taking the scientist Nigel hunter captive because he had already used his own body in a test. The Eclipse decides that he is another one of their lab animals now. Ronald uneasily helps, wanting to get back to his own life. When Ronald gets back to the zoo however, his bosses are upset with him. A crazy outside group of big zoo supporters who hate the Eclipse think that he was trying to sell zoo animals to them. The zoo doesn’t want to upset this radical group called ‘The Solar Flare’, and so they fire Ronald to appease them. He regretfully begins working for The Eclipse to help keep their collection of lab animals; Ronald now begins traveling between The Eclipse Co.’s multiple secretive labs in North America. 

Chapter 5 The Results of Attempting to Help- Ronald explains how he came to find out that the ‘animals’ that the Eclipse is keeping are very human ‘fantasy’ creatures like humanoid bats and multiple werewolves, basically anyone who isn’t exactly human. He becomes convinced that the Eclipse workers are actually vampires. Eventually he gets called out to settle a problem with the monstrous creatures and rescues Nigel Hunter who was beaten by the other prisoners. Nigel gets a medical treatment with silver to protect Dr. Hunter from the werewolves. Feeling guilty about what is happening to Nigel, Ronald convinces the Eclipse people to make use of the doctor as a scientist instead of as a lab-test subject. When Ronald comes face to face with Nigel afterwards, Dr. Hunter disapproves of the experiments that he is now forced to carry out.

Chapter 6 What my Work Actually Became- Eventually Ronald is teamed up with Roscoe and Bucky to travel about the country and handle lab animals. He becomes aware that The Eclipse people don’t seem to trust him. He finally does get out to Arizona where the bat-people are being kept. Dr. Hunter is refusing to experiment on the bats anymore because the test that the Eclipse is making him preform kills them.

Chapter 7 The End of any Sympathy- Ronald was never told about what Nigel can do because of  his experiments, and unguardedly tries to confront him. Nigel attacks Ronald with the high speed power that he gained through his previous experiments. The attack burns Ronald and hurts Nigel until he is helpless and is taken back into custody as a lab animal by the Eclipse. Ronald is taken to doctors. As he heals, Ronald just begins to hate Nigel and no longer feels sorry for him.

Chapter 8 Sitting on the Sidelines- When he is sitting it out and healing, Ronald consults with the Eclipse from afar. After some time, when Ronald is finally well enough to get back to work, he is called out to a secret lab in Washington state called ‘The Wolf Tank’ where werewolves are kept as lab animals. He learns that this is where Nigel Hunter is now being kept prisoner.

Record 2- Joel Shine comes back to explain how the rest of the book is based on the hastily written diary where Nigel Hunter explains what happened to him from the time when he came to work for the Eclipse.

(4-01-2XX?)- In the front of the diary Nigel begs anyone who finds the notebook along with his unconscious body to just leave him be and get away from him quickly so he doesn’t accidentally hurt them. (the start of the diary is from the same time as Ronald’s story took place)

(01 - 17) - past- A video of Nigel being interviewed before he comes to work for the Eclipse is described. 

Nigel has to explain how his experiments caused the dramatic end of his last job.

(02 - 11) - What I Found Myself in Charge of- A letter from David Rice(Nigel’s new boss) to Perry Striker describes how Rice is unsure he can share the secrets of the Eclipse with Nigel.

Nigel Hunter stater he is an assistant to David Rice. Nigel describes some experiments he was trying on lab animals (only rats as far as what he did personally.)
Nigel runs into Roscoe and Bucky delivering lab animals to the lab. David Rice comes along and distracts him before he sees their ‘wolf’ so he never suspects werewolves.

(03 - 12) - Why Exactly Was My Help Needed?- A note written by Nigel Hunter describing his surprise in finding a gland in the brain of a rat that produces a certain chemical that can cause a high energy reaction.

Nigel explains how the same gland probably exists in all modern mammals (including humans) yet it is blocked by evolution in such a way that it can’t be released into the body. Excited by the implications, Nigel rushes into the lab where he can test what would actually happen to a rat if he surgically removes that blockage.

(03 - 15) - Confronting my Query’s Complications- A letter where the lawyer Prisca Chubb describes getting Nigel Hunter to sign consent for David Rice to perform experimental surgery on him along with agreement that he will submit to observation by the Eclipse scientists afterwards. She believes he is insane for agreeing.

Nigel Hunter tells how before he wrote this note, he got David Rice to help him test the surgery on a few rats. When the rats awaken, they can leap at the speed of light (and pass through clear glass). One of the rats slams into the head of an intern and kills her and itself. The others make it to a cage with an automatic feeder in a different room. (The rats also screamed when they were zipping through space if light was touching them.)
No one wants to get near the rats after the lab-tech’s death. In the self-feeding cage they will be fine without human contact for a long time. Nigel convinces David Rice to perform the surgery on himself(Nigel Hunter) so he can ‘safely’ study its effects.

(07 - 03) - Finding Out What I Owe- A note by Nigel on scrap paper begs for help from whoever finds it, claiming that the Eclipse has taken him and several others prisoner to use as lab animals.

Nigel explains how a few months before he wrote this note, he enjoyed having the power and assumed that everything at his work was normal. After the surgery, Nigel comes to realize that his new powers have two major drawbacks; 1 his body is easily burned if he is touching any rubber as he moves (he finds this out as one of the rats kills itself with the rubber ball in a water bottle and he gets burned by the rubber in his underpants), 2 the movement also is quite painful within a lighted space.

Unexpectedly the remaining rats die. The Eclipse hurries to make sure that Nigel will stay true to his agreement and let them study him. Ronald Carpenter comes along and takes Nigel prisoner. 

Now time becomes skewed and he doesn’t remember a lot of what happens. As he moves as a prisoner through multiple Eclipse labs he is horrified to discover that the company is keeping a ‘zoo’ of nearly-human fantasy-like creatures to use as lab animals. On him, they are mainly testing how long they can keep causing him to speed-jump or ‘shift’ through space before he dies like the rats. Nigel describes his trouble getting these werewolves and creatures like that to trust him.

(__ - __) - Friends Through Darkest Times- A letter from Roscoe Sandford to Perry Striker that describes how he is nervous because many of the werewolves are actually starting to feel sorry for Nigel and act protective of him.

Nigel describes one time when he uses his medical knowledge to save one of the werewolves and how it gets most of them to like him. He explains the moment when he finally gains the friendship of the werewolves who are reluctant to trust him.

As Nigel’s health deteriorates the Eclipse people watching him ease up on his running sessions. 

(04 - 01) - Becoming Hunter The Hunted- The label off of the Eclipse Co.’s folder that was containing all of the letters/notes that Nigel included with the diary is pictured here.

They bring the humanoid bat Mortimer out to the Washington ‘Wolf Tank’ where they are now keeping Nigel. Nigel can’t remember meeting Mortimer, but the bat/man remembers when Nigel refused to operate on him and so probably saved his life. Nigel’s memory of helping the Eclipse operate on creatures like Mortimer comes back and sickens him.

Mortimer and Amber with Nigel manage to sneak into a multi-story office building to get some files that Nigel can steal and keep with him so he does not forget everything that he needs to remember to help the prisoners like how he forgot Mortimer. They locate the folder full of the letters/notes that Nigel included in his account.
Ronald Carpenter and Roscoe Sandford discover what Nigel, Amber and Mortimer are doing and try to get control of them with a gun as they run up to the roof. Mortimer tackles Ronald to stop him, but Roscoe shoots Amber through the head. As the sun is coming up, Nigel manages to ‘shift’ high-speed move out across the sky and get away.

After a very short time of traveling near the speed of light, Nigel crashes into a tree many miles away and hurts himself. He makes it to the nearest town and  manages to get into a hotel room and hide.

(04 - 03) - now- A letter from Ronald Carpenter to Perry Striker with ideas of how the Eclipse can try to turn Amber against Nigel by making her believe that everything that happened to her was Nigel's fault. 

Nigel writes that he wishes he had had the chance to show it to her because it proves what he had been saying to her earlier.

Things I Need To Do- A to do list written by Nigel of what he wants to do next in the quest he now has to rescue all of the werewolves and other fantasy creatures that he now believes are in captivity by the Eclipse.

[In the Nigel Hunter part of the story I have created a readable .jpg or .gif of each letter, note, and the folder label using special fonts to look like handwriting while being easily legible. For Record 1 and Record 2, I also pasted together some images to make a little artwork for the story. I also made a cover image that looks like a notebook.]


Middle Grade or Young Adult readers of Science Fiction and Fantasy.

People who like mad scientists and those who are willing to consider the so-called 'humanity' of werewolves and other fantastic creatures.


I have a small blog at:

I have a Facebook page:

I have a regularly updated Twitter feed: @22niel

You can find links to all of the silly short stories I have online at Goodreads:

My LinkedIn page:

My Google+ Page:

My YouTube channel:


In my book the evil company The Eclipse is a not well described, yet a huge, multinational company that is teaming with chemists who conduct experiments on living creatures like Oscorp from Spiderman comic(Marvel Comics 1962-now), movies(Columbia Pictures, Marvel Studios 1969, 1977, 2002, 2004, 2012, 2014, 2017).

Like Lex Luthor of LuthorCorp from Superman comic(DC Comics 1938-now?), movies(Lippert Pictures, Cannon Films, Warner Bros. 1941, 1948, 1950, 1951, 1974, 1978, 1980, 1983, 1987, 2006,) or Smallville TV show (WB, CW 2001-2010), Perry Striker of The Eclipse is an all around nice guy and friendly face when presenting his business, but has his own sinister secrets and practices that could never be considered good when looked at more closely.

Like the Weyland-Yutani conglomerate in the “Alien” movies(20th Century Fox 1979, 1986, 1992, 1997, 2012, 2017), video-games(Atari. Software Studios, Square, Konami, Acclaim, SNES, Sega, Mindscape, Game Boy Color, Play Mechanix and Raw Thrills 1982, 1984, 1987, 1990, 1992, 1993, 1995, 1998, 2001, 2003, 2006, 2014), and books(Bantam Books, Dark Horse Comics, Aspect Books 1979, 1986, 1992 by Alan Dean Foster, 1997 by A. C. Crispin, 2017 by Alan Dean Foster, 15+ more novels by various authors); The Eclipse conducts bioweapons research and development in the name of ‘defence’.

Like ‘fsociety’ in ‘Mr. Robot’ TV show(USA Network 2015-now), ‘The Solar Flare’ in The Illumination Query is a hacker group who claim to be working towards the good of the public.

Like Joss Whedon’s ‘Dr. Horrible’ popular Youtube creation(2008

), Nigel Hunter is something of a mad scientist who happens to be a main character.

As in The Island of Dr. Moreau by H. G. Wells(Penguin Books Ltd. 1896) and films(Ace 1977, 1996), in the second part of my book, Nigel Hunter is a man who finds himself to be trapped with several people who aren’t exactly human.

And like The Passage by Justin Cronin(Ballantine Books 2010), The Illumination Query delves into the questionable effects of medical experimentation on people.

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Record 1 (Urban Harvest)

Nigel seems a little amused to have me gathering this story of his adventure, but he doesn’t seem to object. In all truth I think that the idea makes him somewhat proud, though he’d never admit it.
I, Joel Shine, don’t even enter into the story myself until after events recorded here. I’ve been making something of a record to nail down everyone else’s explanation. If nothing else, why such strange events occurred should make a good story.
Because it fits, I’ve been calling these files ‘The Speed of Darkness’. If you can get far enough through my writing, I won’t need to tell you why.

Let me warn you, I never trained to be a writer. My most advanced English class was in  a public high-school. The course was such a joke that I think my teacher might have slept through it.
These first two parts of what I think you’d need to know are close to how I received them. I tried to correct obvious errors, yet I don’t claim to have caught everything.

The Story of Ronald Carpenter is what I copied to paper one evening while listening to my recording. I made the recording while Ronald was giving his excuse for why the others first saw him as so evil.
Ronald wanted the recording made when he saw that I could do so. I suppose he wanted to the reasons for his actions to be common knowledge. That way, Nigel’s little notebook recount wouldn’t be our only way to think of Ronald’s past. It might have been meant as proof of apology, but that tape worked well to encourage  my writing.
I’m not sure Dr. Hunter forgives Ronald, but the doctor seems to at least believe that he is telling the truth here.

Chapter 1

Why I Joined The Hunt

To regard bats as evil is silly, or so I’d always thought. However, when I came upon that dark shrieking, flapping cloud of shadows, the parts of my life that I’m most ashamed of started.

Before I ever got into business with The Eclipse, most people who saw me at work would say I was a zookeeper. I worked at The Central Park Zoo, in New York City. I might not have ever studied as a vet, but I probably do know some less ordinary bits of animal care that are slightly beyond what is needed for your everyday pets.
I suppose some would have no qualms with calling me a trainer, but I didn’t really train anything. That sounds to me more like what you would call someone who is putting together circus or theme-park shows.

I have actually heard some people say that using animals in such a way is cruel, but those performance animals are generally more loved and better cared for than many a child’s small pet in a cage (you know, that fish or hamster who can get left alone to starve if, perhaps, it’s owner might become a little distracted by something unrelated...)

Because I can usually get along well with animals myself, I was more than happy to spend my time working to provide the feeding and cleaning up that their comfort and display requires. Sure I dealt with escapes a time or two, on a need-be basis- if and when it happened, but dealing with escapes could hardly even be listed as the description of what my job was.
And while you could say that my successful escapee-recovery efforts ultimately led to the change there was in my career, you might also argue that the resourcefulness I used in my problem-solving chained me inescapably into serving as a zookeeper wherever it was that I finally ended up.

My name is Ronald Carpenter. Back at that time, I’d lived in New York for all of my life. I happened to be working, like I said, at The Central Park Zoo, at the time when I first noticed that something had changed in my working environment. On that day, I had one of those automatic split-second thoughts that I felt slightly reluctant to try explaining to someone else.
Don’t make me ask you to get your mind out of the gutter- my thought can hardly be construed as anything other than innocent. The idea that whizzed through my head as I heard the short motor run for the automatic bat-enclosure food-dispenser was: ‘That sounds too green.’

Yes, I realize that the majority of people don’t hear in color, but that feeling doesn’t mean I’m crazy, I don’t believe. There is even a word that someone else came up with to describe the phenomenon- synesthesia, so I know it’s not just me.
Might as well be though; I’ve never come across another synesthetic(?) person, those few times I’ve tried to explain the experience to whoever I’m around. In fact, I usually don’t bother with trying to have someone else understand because more than once I’ve had them react like I’m trying to describe being caught in a tie-dyed world of hallucinations.
I know that the colors with slight shapes are only in my mind. You can think of how someone you know looks without suddenly believing they have appeared in the same room next to you, right? The colors, how a sound looks, I ‘see’ it that way.
High and sharp sounds are the most obvious in white or pink; they come almost like sharp flashes and then they fade out into soft mist. Electrical buzzing sounds are usually green and yellow vibrations; natural ones come in a thick fog, electrical or mechanical noise is more of a substance almost pulled tight like wires. High, toneless clicks are colorless flashes like a camera makes while low clicks or thumps are dark red to black fluid looking ripples. And mammalian voices, human or animal, are are generally colored near brown, without any set solid shape.

It’s just that trying to say all of that to someone else, some person who is most likely a little skeptical about the concept to begin with, can start to make me feel a little bit self-conscious and probably uncomfortable. The only description of the odd squeaking sound that I could bring to mind was an attempt to describe a particular shade of bright green. Rather than tempt fate with the type of embarrassment that often comes from watching someone else’s face as they decide to think you could be loony-tunes, I decided that I still had plenty of other work to do; I figured that I would be safe to wait and look into what might be wrong with the bat cage later.

Had I actually gotten someone else to look at it right then, there might not be the rest of my story to tell here.

Handling, feeding, and cleaning wild animals was my job. I also kept track of how they were acting so we could alert a vet when something was possibly sick. I’ve just always had a certain knack when dealing with thinking, non-human creatures. I usually like them, and I often kind of hope to think that they also like me.
No, I can’t speak some secret language, or magically understand their yips and growls as words. I can just usually get them to accept me without too much effort.
How I do that? As I wasn’t taught myself, my method is a little hard to lay out in words... It’s mostly making eye contact and exhibiting a calm trust. I’m not sure I can really explain it as more than just that. If I do what feels like the right thing to do, generally the animals that we’ve kept for a time will just trustingly react accordingly.

I am not a vegetarian, and I usually tire of over-pampered companion creatures that seem to lack enough brain-power to take care of their own selves. Part of what I enjoy about zoo-creatures is how many of them are not tame and so seem to be something more than just a pet.
That with the zoo is exactly where I belonged, I can’t deny, but am I the only person to have thrown out what is right and good when I discovered a way to have a little ego-boosting power-trip?

For now, let’s not worry about why some might call me a little bit too proud, because that definitely wasn’t the case when I saw what I did on my way out of the zoo that night.
The little nagging worry that had been planted in my mind with the strange noise had gotten me to swing back by the bat cave/cage on my way out for the day just to be sure that I couldn’t see anything that might have been visibly wrong with the enclosure.
When I walked over to where we put the food that those bats are getting, I came upon a gigantic-billowing, black cloud of bats who right then had found a route of working their way out through the food dispenser and escaping free from the machine’s back end. I might have had a chance at catching one or two, had I a butterfly net or something similar on hand, but I was really too stunned to do much more than just watch.
As I stood there looking helplessly upon the swarm of fleeing beasts with a growing contingent of dismayed animal caretakers, I couldn’t stop myself from noticing how the bat-screeches almost look/sounded like bright-green/yellow cloud made from bolts of lightning.


I don’t think I have to point out to you about the massive size of New York City. When considering how similar bats are to your common pigeons (the so-called ‘rats with wings’), their ability to survive until an instinct to move on to somewhere less populated kicked in wasn’t all that much of a worry, in my thinking. We really just needed a way to narrow down exactly where our 64 escapees had gotten to before that urge to leave the big city gripped them.
Change that- as I began wondering how long it might be before sightings of our escaped swarm were reported; I discovered that only 63 had escaped because one of the bats was in a cage in the veterinary office.
It seemed to me that there had to be a way for us to use this remaining winged mammal in some sort of plot to recapture its brethren.
I don’t know what this bat (who I started calling ‘Fred’) was with the vet for. (I’ve named many an animal ‘Fred’ when I need to care for it yet want to distance myself, so I don’t become too attached.) It was perfectly healthy again before I ever came to it. (I’m sure that this bit of naming roots out of trying to turn whichever lucky animal I name into something almost as make believe as say, The Flintstones.) If my plan worked right, this little chiropteran(bat) would happily seek out and rejoin the others were we to set him loose, and we could simply follow where he went.
I ran the idea by those who now made up the recapture crew and in no time they asked me to join them because my plan was good; before long we were looking up the best small-sized tracking equipment that could be harmlessly yet securely affixed to a bat.

Now, this escape/hunt is important in my history because without it, I’m not sure that I’d ever have come into contact with The Eclipse. I say that because of how my somewhat odd method of tracking our escaped bats was soon discovered and then highlighted by the local media. I hadn’t yet even located our runaways, but I already had optimists who were hailing me as some sort of city-wide hero.
Emails poured in to the zoo servers. Our computer kid then separated these out by their titles and the letters that seemed to be aimed directly at me were passed along for me to do with as I would. You might say Emilio was lazily trying to pass his work off onto me, but you can also argue that my silly idea had unexpectedly just about tripled his work-load.
I can’t say that I really minded, it kind of gave me a kick to see how many of the ‘uncaring public’ gave a minute’s import to what I was doing. And while there was a fair load of it that seemed to be no more than criticism and name-calling, a refreshingly healthy amount of the letters were compliments of ‘good idea’ and even a few offers of outside, unasked-for help.

That life-changing letter was one of the last among these, and though it just seemed almost perfectly innocent at the time, the email was odd enough to stick out in my mind. It came from the personal account of a man named Perry Striker who claimed connections with some sort of vaguely undescribed defense firm based in Chicago, called The Eclipse.
Apparently they had an animal testing facility or two, and were having their own problems with the containment of batlike-creatures. He was inviting me to come ‘join’ him and others on a company newsgroup. Perhaps our different ideas for solving our supposedly similar problems would help out everyone.

Of course, I didn’t realize it at the time, but now I’m pretty sure  he was looking more to get a feel of me through my response than he was actually trying to offer any type of real help.

Chapter 2

Allies From The Darkness

By this time, I realize that you’re probably beginning to wonder why I spent so much time going into that whole imaginary color spiel. It does have some relevance, I swear.
And though setting a cloud of bats loose on New York City might evoke images of the winged mammals against a backdrop of skyscrapers, we just weren’t having anyone report a real sighting of them, even near the area where my little tracker-bat was reported to have gotten to. We were more or less down to looking by eye where my equipment said he and possibly the other little flying-critters should be (somewhere close to the south of Times Square, it was).
I think it was the morning of the second or third day that my Fred-bat had stayed in just about the same place (some were beginning to worry about the likelihood of his death) when I climbed down into the oversized subway terminal there to catch a ride home to my apartment that I ‘saw’ the growing cloud of green/yellow lightning flashes from the high-pitched squealing that a mass of bats’ echolocation makes.

Now the space inside the tunnels where the trains go down past the area that you’d usually want to walk in, is dark enough to prevent seeing bats flying within them easily, and with the random unusual noise caused by subway wheels/brakes/engines (not to mention the ever-present crowd babble) generally any additional sound would just be ignored; it was my notice of this yellow lightning against the backdrop of grey machinery racket and the pink/brown bubbly noise of human conversation that got me to realize how the skies where we had been looking was the right location, it was just the wrong elevation. My ears were picking out the bat-voice sound underground where we hadn’t been expecting it.
And sure, when thinking about it later, subway tunnels did make a more bat-like environment than the city’s brightly lit skyline ever would. I guess that manmade, underworld labyrinth just didn’t quickly occur to the minds of us who were on the lookout for wild, airborne innocent creatures.

It was a little frustrating to locate those bats where we had, you see; there was no reasonable way that we could hope to clear the area of trains and people until we had recovered all of them. How the hell could we ask people for a ‘time-out’ in a city that never stops?
Were I a little less realistic, I would say that the bats had purposely gotten just out of our reach while staying within our sight, almost so they could taunt us with their freedom because we had caged them in the first place.

Even if we could get a team of tranquilizing shooters and bat baggers out to where the swarm was, it was a little unreasonable to think that any of those people would just willingly jump into the path of oncoming trains to try and fetch the animals as they fell upon the tracks.
Other than have a couple people stand ever-ready to take down the bats one by one as they flew away from the dark tracks, if the creatures never just happened to foolishly wander far enough away from their growing loft in the tunnel over to where we could bring them down safely, there wasn’t all that much we could really expect to do.
This irritatingly slow recovery process left me ready for just about any other workable recovery method that might present itself.

It was at this point that I finally gave in and checked to see how those animal-testing bozos were doing with their own bat hunt. There was seemingly no end of talk on their message board about two subjects;
1. How Stanley Cooper, a guy that happened to be known and reviled throughout the company (apparently some animal rights nut or something) was now suspected to be involved in the act of releasing more bat ‘test-subjects’.
2. The ‘professionals’ in the newsgroup all seemed to use it for playing some sort of elaborate fantasy game where they tried to claim honest-to-god supernatural involvement in real events.

In fact, I wasn’t even sure that I’d gone to the right place except that people kept signing their bizarre stories with both their name and their position title within The Eclipse.

When I left a note to try and question if I was in the right place, I did get that Striker guy (or at least someone who signed his name but was now claiming the title of American-CEO) to answer me. He grumpily commented how they had ‘already recovered most of our zoo’ and so were no longer interested in my input.
I was a little ticked off at how quickly he was now pulling back his offer of help and might have snidely commented back about how he probably couldn’t pull bats out of a busy subway anyway.
Bless that email with every reply to your own comment option, I’m sure I’d have have never gone back to check it after the first 2 or 3 answers I got that were just unexplained remarks (it sounded almost like an inside joke I wasn’t getting, or something) about how their quote-‘security morons’ could probably use the practice even if the bats were just animals. Striker’s whole letter-style/punctuation now used in his comments towards me however, became much more clear and proper as if he’d been reprimanded after he read mine and his colleague’s replies.
Just before I shutdown my desktop computer to focus back on my own problems, I saw one more note from Striker that I had to consider answering:
“Mr. Carpenter, you mean you know right where they are and so only need help bringing them in?”

Now, I had to stop and look at this reply for a moment. It almost sounded like an offer of assistance, yet it was worded so that I still needed to ask for his help.
Might he just have been trying to give me an easy way out?

I didn’t worry about it much at the time, instead I was still trying to think of how to go about rounding my bats back up. Wasn’t my invite to this newsgroup so we could help each other out?
Finally, I just started asking questions; “Did you net your animals or tranquilize them? Where were they hiding when you found them? Did you have to deal with anything similar at all to an environment full of spectators and trains?”
Striker answered far too quickly; “Were I to lend you my expert marksman and his assistant with a supply of sleep-darts for a week or two, would you be willing to owe me the favor of traveling out and helping to beef up security if we need it at one of our labs at least once, after your animals are recovered?”
Asking what his company was exactly testing or the type of creatures they might need help with, I guess, never really occurred to me.
Truly, that deal of my help in return for his, seemed to be a more than fair offer.
Owing a favor would simply be my payment for his service. That was all.

I quickly agreed, and in two days the hunting team of Roscoe Sandford and Bucky Owens were flown out to meet me in New York, having come from somewhere out in Arizona. The thought that it must be a goodly-sized company if Striker had already claimed offices in Chicago and yet was calling workers from out of the southwest desert might have tickled my mind, but I had other matters to worry about right then.
Roscoe Sandford was a quiet man who seemed to be very dedicated to his job, looking out on the world with grim and strangely humble eyes. The way he held and moved with the dart gun made the weapon almost seem like it was a part of him. His quick movements that came without any hesitation as he deftly picked the bats out of the air when they ventured into sight near where the tunnel opened up into the station, and made my blood run cold with the idea of his using real bullets. Guns were as natural to him as animal behaviour was to me.
Bucky Owens, on the other hand, was just a happy-go-lucky, carefree helper to this Roscoe. I didn’t quite think it right to ask why if they didn’t feel like just explaining, but Bucky seemed to hold some sort of almost hero-worship for his supervisor. This young man would happily jump down onto the tracks to retrieve the fallen bats when Roscoe asked him to, before we had to worry about them getting hit by trains.
As Roscoe treated Bucky’s carelessness with calm leniency like an older sibling might when the younger’s antics were harmless, I’m sure that the sharp-shooter had to be aware of it. I won’t call it love between the two of them, because there was nothing there in the romantic sense; it was more what you could describe as unquestioning trust and friendship.

One night/morning when the subways were least active was all the time that it took the two of them, everything was done under a light legal guard to keep curious bystanders out of the way. Sandford picked the animals out of the sky when the subway trains weren’t roaring by, and Owens ran out down on the tracks and picked the creatures up; simple as that. The entire recovery was more quickly and easily accomplished than we from the zoo had ever believed could happen.

Chapter 3

Paying My Helpers Back

I didn’t have long to wait before these military equipment testing people tried to call in their debt from me. The very day afterwards, when I got home from crateing the little fugitive-zoo-bats between a pitstop at the vet’s for a wellness checkup and a final drop-off back at their newly repaired display cage, I came home to find a strange dark man standing outside of my apartment.
He seemed to be trying to look inside.
“Can I help you?” I asked this stranger with a slight annoyance.
His eyes lit upon me and seemed to brighten with a faint recognition. “You’re Ronald Carpenter..?” The way he said it was closer to talking to himself than it was to asking a question. Nevertheless, I almost felt a need to reply.
“Yes, I’m he;” I agreed. Something about the situation didn’t hit me right so I became faintly angry, shaking my head. “You came to my house, you know who I am. Who are you?”
Were he not standing between me and my own home, I might not have suddenly felt so nervous. Certainly there was nothing threatening about him; in fact, now his face fell into a smile as he offered his hand to shake.
“I’m Perry Striker, American CEO of The Eclipse. I believe you and I spoke on the computer? You did agree to help improve the security of our subject holdings if we could  recover your zoo animals, correct?” That he would come directly to where I lived but still not even discuss what exactly he had in mind for me to do, I guess it just threw me off.
I was certainly still quite thankful for having him lend me those two strange helpers, even if the thought of helping improve security for lab monkeys or perhaps bats didn’t sound too pleasant; I tried to pull together some proper host skills. I mean, he had to be who he was claiming; who else would even know of that agreement.
“Sure, let’s talk about it inside;” I offered as I edged around him to unlock my door. “Your people fixed things up for me nice and quick. I hope that I can do the same for you.” I waved him in before me.

Striker reiterated what I had read in the newsgroup- about how it was even assumed by he and his fellow Eclipsians that they knew specifically who was releasing their test subjects (he always called them ‘subjects’ and never simply ‘animals’), they just wanted to somehow catch this suspect in the act, to hold some almost irrefutable witness testimony.
Yet when I suggested that they simply focus a video camera where the bats were housed, he just waved me off like I didn’t understand, and started mumbling about the components that were inside of the cameras.
I finally realized that he was asking that I come and witness one of these break-ins first-hand, then I suppose, make myself available to testify in court when they got a trial.

All in all, the whole thing seemed a little ridiculous to me; although, if acting as a living camera would make him feel repaid, I could do that. Perhaps he understood my discomfort with the thought of live-animal, medicinal experimentation and so was willing to spare me worse.

Sure, I’ll admit that the whole acting as a human camera idea had me more than a little nervous. And the way in which they wanted me to me do it I would never have agreed to, had Perry simply proposed it online or on the phone without coming out to see me in New York. Before I could really even think it over to consider the downsides, the man had me on the plane going out to Arizona with the Ok’s of my supervisors to miss a little work; so quickly was it all planned out that I had never even thought to question what could be The Eclipse’s motives. (I would soon learn that it was just a little hard to disagree with what Mr. Striker wanted you to do, face-to-face.)

I was landed during my flight out to Arizona for a layover somewhere just off the great lakes, Illinois I think it was, when of all things, a little dwarven woman comes running through the crowd yelling, “Ronald! Ronald! You’re Ronald Carpenter, correct?”
A bit confused and taken aback by her sudden recognition, I did answer; “Yes. And who are you?” I could have just about sworn that she stopped with some surprise, ready to keep on running; almost like she had no idea about what I even looked like, but knew that someone named ‘Ronald Carpenter’ should be getting off of the plane I was leaving.
She just plowed ahead before I could think about her surprize that I had answered, too much; “I’m Prisca Chubb, lawyer for The Eclipse, and I was hoping it would be possible to stop you before you got all the way out to Arizona. We caught Stanley in action, you’d have little left to do there that would help us. Striker and the other high-up’s were impressed with how quickly you agreed to come out for us without question.” Motioning towards a couple restaurants in the airport she continued; “Let’s have lunch and talk some other things over. Striker’s now interested in hiring you on a more permanent basis.”

I already knew that I didn’t want to help maintain a colony of animals for what could be construed as the torture of living things, but I did still owe these Eclipse people something to thank them properly for the bat matter. Anyway, I reasoned, testing products on animals keeps people safe; there had to be some good in that idea, and getting a nice meal out of my inability to right my debt for their help would somewhat make this trip out to be not so much of a waste of time.
I know that the idea of using animal test subjects to avoid products possibly causing human injury line of reasoning might fail when said ‘products’ are weapons or whatever ‘military hardware’ that this Eclipse Co. produced, but I didn’t want her to think that my not meeting with her was possibly out of some lack of respect because of how tall she was or something.

The idea that that could be exactly why Striker had sent her specifically with the new project didn’t occur to me until later.

Prisca wasted no time. Without even asking what it was, she offered to double my current salary if I could immediately agree to take a high position in their nation-wide test-subject handling team. Although that seemed a generous offer, I had to tell her that I enjoyed living in New York.
“That’s no problem,” she insisted; “we have a far-reaching set of operations. You could really be centered just about anywhere in the country that you want. We only need a person who could be available for emergencies. Someone for when the situation could use a little more thought and tact than we expect from either Roscoe or Bucky who aren’t truly based anywhere either.”

I’d like to say that the money made no difference, that the new job’s questionable moralities stood no chance at making me turn my back on the job that I loved; yet that is a lie I have trouble trying to sell that idea to myself.
That, and the idea of importance that would come from a job for a company who seemed to be willing to ship me about the whole country if not the whole world just for my own expertise wasn’t slightly tempting. A job as ‘Animal Security Manager’ for The Eclipse would be much easier to talk about than a profession where I still have far too many people react like I just claimed to do nothing more than shovel lion droppings all day.
So perhaps I did agree with a small twinge of greed in my heart. Perhaps I was a little quick to sign all of the happy non-disclosure forms without any qualm. I am sure that developing products and testing their effects when used as weapons might hold secrets to make whatever we’re developing ineffective if word of how they are put together did get out. Requiring me to keep my mouth shut was simply nothing more than a logical precaution.

Back up here; I wasn’t simply signing papers in the restaurant, after getting my verbal agreement when we were eating, Ms.Chubb led me to a nice hotel suite she said had been already reserved for me. It was prepared fancily yet comfortably, with a nice small business-like table and matching chairs where we eventually dealt with the paperwork.
And these documents I had barely even looked at were scooped up quick and neat inside her briefcase before she said the last few words that got me trying to think back on what exactly I had agreed to with just my signature.

I was sitting down and she standing so our eyes were close to level when she turned around with a question or two on her way out. It was then that Prisca’s phone beeped, and she read a text.
“Now, that was a little sooner than we thought;” she murmured.

“There is one further matter I’d be happy if you could help me with right this evening if you’re willing.” Attorney Chubb was now looking to me with surprised pleasure on her face as if the idea had just occurred to her.

The woman had already wined and dined me, and had taken the effort to secure my agreements for a job guaranteed to leave me as a multi-millionaire in less than 10 years. Was there really any way she could have expected me to say no?
“Sure,” I nearly chuckled; “What is it I could do for you?”
Opening her briefcase again she started searching for some document as she answered without looking at me; “As your duties are meant to facilitate the transport of our lab subjects, this can be your first assignment; would you go pick up Nigel Hunter from his work in our lab here, I don’t like working with him. Too self assured... If you can just go do the talking to make him come along, Roscoe and Bucky will convey him to our nearby testing grounds.”

I was clearly missing something here. This Hunter guy must be a technician or some sort of scientist. I thought she had been preparing me for work with dangerous animals. To ask me now for my service as something of an attendant to be taking him out to the parking lot seemed like a repeat of that constant zoo-keeper belittling. Anyway, before the drive that night, I wasn’t even sure when the last time I’d been behind the wheel of a car was.
“I can do it, but I wasn’t agreeing to be just some kind of professional introducer, for you guys. I thought you wanted my work for handling animals;” I said, letting my annoyance color the words.
“I said, and one Ronald Carpenter signed agreements for working with the Eclipse’s test subjects.” Prisca explained the terms of my contract proudly. “Here it is;” She said, continuing while she pulled another signed agreement out of her stack of paperwork and held it before me. “Dr. Hunter underwent a voluntary, not necessary, medical procedure, performed by Dr. David Rice and directed by The Eclipse, to study its effects upon himself. Before we would pay for its undertaking we had him sign this paper giving us the legal right to hold him by force if necessary to observe its full effects until his death (were it to go so far), so that we could see its full outcome for ourselves.”
With a satisfied smirk she came to her conclusion; “The man has already signed an agreement stating that we can use his body for study, and while it may insult say a rat to call him an animal, the fact that he agreed makes him to be quite clearly a test subject.”

I couldn’t argue her logic. I think by that point in time I saw the lawyer as something of a rabid chipmunk. She looked perfectly harmless, but I just needed to find some way to quickly get away without panicking. The idea that she had somehow gotten some moron to literally sign away the rights to his own body didn’t exactly make me feel sorry for him.The fool seemed to be getting exactly what he deserved.
I wasn’t too worried about him specifically at that time, anyway. I was more concerned about Ms. Chubb’s briefcase full of all those carefully worded agreements I had signed without concern. Had this fabulous opportunity she presented really been like just some sort of snare-trap for me?
What would they do to me if I didn’t come along to take control of him by force?

It now looked like the choice was for the two of us to screw with either my life, or someone else’s who I’d never even heard of before today and didn’t know.
Whose safety do you think I picked?

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