By Andrew G. Dombalagian
Innsmouth, MA – Friday night, hundreds of soldiers from the Massachusetts National Guard descended en masse upon Innsmouth, accompanied by armoured transports, automatic weapons, and explosive equipment. Additional personnel attached to the surprise operation have been identified as members of the U.S. Treasury Department, Coast Guard, and a private military company owned by Nightcroft Holdings. The incident culminated in the demolition of several buildings and has shaken the town to its very heart.
Colonel Amelia Delapore of the historic 181st Infantry Regiment, commanding officer of the deployed National Guard battalion, stated that this was a “crisis response training exercise.”
“This is merely a readiness drill,” said Col. Delapore. “Operation Zadok, named for a government informant who alerted authorities about bootleggers in Innsmouth during the 1920s, is a tactical response exercise for purely hypothetical domestic threats. We have cooperated with federal, state, municipal, and private agencies. There is no cause for alarm; there is absolutely no actual danger to the folk of Innsmouth. Safety is the wage of vigilance. In these troubled times, we must think the unthinkable and prepare for the unknowable.”
Innsmouth residents have expressed fear, panic, suspicion, and anger over the swift, sudden exercise of force. The Innsmouth Police Department and Town Council have been flooded by phone calls, emails, and livid visitors.
“Daggum, couldn’t someone have up and warned us ’bout this here mess?” said town council member Jeff Acker. “I was in my daggum undershorts, gettin’ ready ta watch Supernatural, when my wife hollers from downstairs that a big ol’ tank just zoomed by like a greased-up pig. Just like that, I’m gettin’ hogwashed with phone calls from folk flippin’ like the fox got in’un the hen house!”
According to Councilman Acker, the Town Council was not informed about the National Guard’s imminent “training exercise”. A statement released soon after by the entire Town Council, however, corrected that members actually had been notified of Operation Zadok and were in constant cooperation with army officers. An unfortunate breakdown in communication was blamed for the lack of information to the public. Many residents were not appeased by the explanation.
“How do you forget to tell everyone that the Army’s on its way with tanks, guns, and explosives?” asked octogenarian resident, Prudence Bachmann. “I saw the Great Government Raids of ’27 when I was a little girl and I am not ashamed to say that it still gives me night terrors. When I saw all those army men tromping about, I nearly had a heart attack.”
To address the public outcry over the veiled truth behind Operation Zadok, Elizabeth Nightcroft offered a statement to clarify the situation.
“The whole ‘training exercise’ excuse is a rather tired way to keep citizens from panicking. The truth would be a better policy here,” said Nightcroft. “Investigators in my employ, examining the Marsh Sanitarium as part of my efforts to ensure proper management of the site, discovered a drug syndicate operating out of the abandoned facility. Considering how well-equipped these scoundrels were, contacting federal authorities was the only natural response. Innsmouth may well have been one of the northeastern-most anchors for the flow of illicit goods through North America. As our beleaguered Mexican neighbors have been disappointed by America’s recent handling of the cartels issue, our government was all-too-ready to prove its commitment to serving justice.”
Nightcroft declined to comment on whether Telemite Construction, the Nightcroft Holdings subsidiary in ownership of the Marsh Sanitarium, or its executives, had any knowledge of, or involvement with, the alleged drug syndicate.
Nightcroft’s contribution to the Operation included personnel, arms, munitions, and vehicles from the Nightcroft Household Guard. The NHG, a private military contracting firm owned by Nightcroft Holdings, was originally founded by Henry Nightcroft in the 1970s as family bodyguards. Headquartered in Greenfield, the NHG has several field offices across the globe. In addition to contracts with the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan, the NHG works extensively with the African Union and United Nations in hot spots, and collaborates with the Mexican Army and Federal Police in combating the drug cartels. Uniquely, the NHG is believed to be over 70% female, including a preponderance of women in combat roles.
“Our Household Guard is proud to recruit women who have nobly and ably served their respective nations,” said Nightcroft. “We draw personnel and staff from former members of INTERPOL, NATO, the African Union, U.N. Peacekeeping forces, and the military and law enforcement branches of several nations. Many of our veteran employees sought the opportunity to continue serving their fellow human beings without the, shall we say, adversities and prejudices presented by their original agencies.”
Nightcroft would not offer exact figures on the number of personnel or resources her firm committed to Operation Zadok. Innsmouth residents confirmed seeing at least a half-dozen squads of female soldiers, with accompanying vehicles, wearing NHG uniforms and insignias. Among helicopters deployed by the National Guard, at least two aerial units also displayed the Nightcroft insignia.
Innsmouth Free Press also received a phone call from a witness identifying himself only as ‘Sheldon’, an employee of the Innsmouth Aquarium, who claimed to have seen Jason Nightcroft and several NHG mercenaries at the Sanitarium, accosting Bryan Grossman, CEO of Telemite Construction. Mr. Nightcroft, CEO of Trident Security and adopted son of Elizabeth Nightcroft, could not be reached for comment. Mrs. Nightcroft indicated that her son was leading security personnel in cooperation with the National Guard; this report was corroborated by Col. Delapore. A representative from Telemite Construction stated that Mr. Grossman was not available at this time and dismissed any allegations against him. According to Director Maggie Witherstein, no person by the name of ‘Sheldon’ has ever worked at the Aquarium.
The former Marsh Sanitarium was the first site occupied by armed forces, being overtaken by 8:00 PM. Military personnel were next stationed simultaneously at a number of locations across Innsmouth by 9:00 PM. The Marsh Refinery Brewing Company, New Church Green, and the Innsmouth Central Cemetery were visibly occupied by significant numbers of National Guard soldiers.
Shortly before 9:00 PM, soldiers also evacuated residents of Sarnath Heights, a housing subdivision on the northwestern edge of Innsmouth. The neighbourhood was built during the construction boom of the 1990s, but was hit hard during the housing market crash. Many residents had previously fled, seemingly to avoid foreclosure or bankruptcy proceedings. Several dozen dogged residents, as well as an unknown number of squatters, continued to inhabit the decaying Sarnath Heights. Witnesses indicated that many of the evacuees appeared injured or sick, as they wore heavy, concealing clothing, walked with pronounced limps, or showed audible breathing difficulties.
Several old warehouses along the Harbor were also garrisoned. A small flotilla of Coast Guard boats was sighted patrolling Devil Reef.
“I ‘ad me boat out for a late night trawl, and I saw ’em out by the Reef,” said a local fisherman, speaking on condition of anonymity. “They ‘ad spotlights an’ machine guns trained on tha’ water, like they were lookin’ for anythin’ to pop out at ’em. There was one boat, all black, diff’ent marks than the other’uns. Looked like all lasses aboard. T’was a strange sight.”
Residents reported hearing sounds of distant gunfire echoing from sewer grates, storm drains, and other tunnels across Innsmouth. These first reports began around 11:00 PM and lasted until near sunrise on Saturday. At dawn, several tremors were felt reverberating through the region; many residents believed these to be explosions. Col. Delapore and Mrs. Nightcroft refused to comment on whether any casualties were sustained. Witnesses indicated that well-guarded medical pavilions admitted many wounded patients, including unrecognisable bodies, well into Saturday afternoon.
By Saturday evening, it was confirmed that the buildings of the Marsh Sanitarium had collapsed into a large sinkhole and were sealed by debris and rubble. It is believed that this was the result of a calculated demolitions operation. It remains unclear whether National Guard or NHG personnel were responsible. A large section of Sarnath Heights was similarly obliterated. At least three abandoned warehouses along the Innsmouth Harbor were also razed by the National Guard. Col. Delapore declined to comment on the details or cause of these destroyed structures.
Belligerent town fixture Caleb McHenry refused to offer a statement on what many residents are already calling the “Second Great Raid on Innsmouth”. McHenry, wearing a Vietnam War-era U.S. army uniform, was observed assisting employees of the Tcho-Tcho Community Centre during the raid. Some residents expressed surprise that McHenry did not greet the military personnel with vociferous protests.
“Old Caleb is a complete nut. I can’t even imagine the abuse and psychological torture he put his wife through for her to abandon him for a refrigerator magnet. The lucid man I saw out there with us, handing out blankets and hot meals, couldn’t possibly have been the same Caleb McHenry,” said Christopher Barnstaple of the Innsmouth Fire Department.
On Sunday, Elizabeth Nightcroft issued a statement promising to help fund any reconstruction efforts necessitated by Operation Zadok. Trident Security has also offered steeply discounted services to local businesses and industries during the aftermath and reconstruction period. The Tcho-Tcho Community Centre has opened its doors as a refugee shelter for residents displaced by the operation; traditional Tcho-Tcho cuisine and food donations from the Fungo Mushrooms Company have also been provided to evacuees. It remains to be seen how long it will take for the humble town of Innsmouth to return to normalcy following this tide of chaos.