He and his conscience had a tumultuous relationship, but it was one that was rather important to Blackwood. He typically deferred to it, but once in a while, he felt he had a good enough case to hold up against it.
This was one of those times.
His conscience told him very firmly that anything that Ironhorse had done in the past, and had assured Blackwood was unimportant to the mission and personal in nature, was utterly none of Blackwood's business. It was very firm on this point.
But, Blackwood countered, Ironhorse had felt no compunction about digging into Blackwood's personal life - following him when he met up with Katja, digging into his own history with her. That was the same situation, wasn't it? He felt a little hurt that Ironhorse did not trust him enough to simply tell him about the incident in question, but he kept that datum out of his battle with his conscience. It was not going to help his case.
Eye for an eye, Blackwood? his conscience shot back. Two wrongs don't make a right, and you know that, it chided.
But is it really a wrong? he fumed. I'm the head of the project - it's my job to determine what's important and what isn't.
Rather dictatorial of you, Harrison, isn't it? his conscience countered. The Army cleared him, and it surely has stricter standards for appropriate behavior than you do.
Different, Blackwood insisted. Not stricter. I don't think killing is acceptable behavior.
You don't think McCarthyism is acceptable behavior, either, his conscience sniffed. Just whence comes this interest into Ironhorse's personal life, anyway?
Point and match to conscience, Blackwood decided, capitulating with bad grace. He started to untwine himself from the lotus position he had assumed on his office floor. With that little matter decided, it was time to go over the new data on alien transmission signal strength that Norton had sent up.
An hour of reading did not see much progress. He had hoped that a little squaredown against his conscience would ease his mind, but it had not helped one bit. His morning run with Ironhorse, usually a source of some relaxation, had been unusually quiet and tense. As a result, he was unfocused and irritable. He wadded up an unhelpful piece of paper and threw it at the garbage can. It hit the rim and bounced off into a corner. He glared at it.
A knock that was too quiet and polite to belong to his team-members sounded at his door. "Yes, Mrs. Pennyworth?" he asked.
The door opened slightly. "General Wilson is here to see you, Harrison," she said.
"Tell him I'll be right there," Blackwood replied. Well, he wasn't getting anywhere scientifically, anyway. He stood, hunted down the errant wad of paper, and shoved it into the trash can with finality.
Mrs. Pennyworth served the two men tea and scones on the patio. General Wilson was just as paternal and jovial as always. Blackwood had asked McCullough in the past if this was deliberate, some kind of loyalty-enhancing facade - the good-cop to the lower-ranking officers' bad-cop. She had approached the subject with all of the dispassionate scientific detachment of a loving niece. "Oh, that's ridiculous. He's just a dear..."
"Ah, nobody makes a cup of tea like Mrs. Pennyworth," the general said with a pleased sigh. He visibly readjusted himself to business. "I hope you don't mind me coming by. The Colonel sent me a list of security measures he wants to implement in the light of current events. I agreed, but I wanted to run them past you, since you're the head of the project..."
Blackwood wondered exactly how much veto power he would have over any measures, but he appreciated the lip service, at least. He skimmed the list. It was in application-level detail, written in very straightforward language; Blackwood guessed that General Wilson had just handed on the list that Ironhorse had typed up in his painstaking manner. "It looks reasonable, but I'll have to give it a more detailed read-through later."
"Oh, of course," the General replied, taking a sip of tea. "Give me a call if there are any issues - implement them as given if not." He put down his cup and leaned across the table slightly. "That incident with the dolphin fellow really shook you folk up, didn't it?"
"A bit," Blackwood replied, feeling some puzzlement.
General Wilson shrugged. "Well, the Colonel was doing some digging on you folk right afterwards, trying to see if there was anything on you he had missed. I've never seen him so shaken, to be honest. Keep an eye on him, would you? He's a good man, but a little single-minded at times."
Blackwood assured the General that he would, then turned the conversation to small talk. While he was doing so, he took that bit of information about Ironhorse's behavior, jabbed it in his conscience's eyes, flipped the pesky thing over his shoulder, and pinned it to the mat until it cried Uncle. Blackwood could not wait until the General finished his tea, flipped his hat under his arm, shook Blackwood's hand, and made his farewells.
Once the General had pulled away, Blackwood hoofed it down to the basement. He glanced over at the biology lab. McCullough had the door closed and was poring over her notes. Drake looked up from his computer. "Heya, man, what's up?"
Blackwood leaned over Drake's shoulder. He muttered quietly into the man's ear, "Care to go on a little extracurricular fishing expedition?"
Drake glanced up at Blackwood. "What are you talking about, Harrison?"
"Well," Blackwood licked his lips, "I believe there is something colorful in the good Colonel's past that is not obvious at first glance."
"And you want me to look this up why?"
Blackwood wondered if his conscience had been chatting with Norton when he hadn't been paying attention. "Well..."
Drake snorted out a giggle as something struck him. "So you can have something to hang over his head when he tries to mess with your love life again?"
"Well, it was a thought." Blackwood grabbed this excuse gratefully.
Drake raised a hand loftily. "Say no more! I will be the enchanted shield for any more romances you want to get involved in. If there's anything out there, Norton Drake will find it!" He turned to his keyboard with a flourish. "And will firmly deny to the good Colonel any involvement in finding anything you use in the future."
Blackwood clapped Drake on the shoulder, then headed back up to his office. His conscience grumbled at him quietly, but he found that he could face the data awating analysis with a much clearer head than he had that morning.
He had done about two hours of reasonably productive work when the intercom rang. He answered it. Drake, sounding more subdued than Blackwood would have expected, said, "Hey, boss, I have something for you. Why doncha come on down?"
McCullough was exiting the elevator as Blackwood was getting on it. She rubbed her head. "God, I am exhausted!" she sighed. "Do you think we can do something about soundproofing my room? The noise Norton makes on his keyboard drives me crazy! And his music! He won't turn that godawful noise down!" She stomped off towards the kitchen, waving her arms, not waiting for a relpy.
As he rode down, Blackwood made a mental note to check back on her when she was in a better mood and see if she actually cared. After a day in her lab, everything bothered her - Norton's laugh, Blackwood's tuning fork, the noise of Ironhorse's boots on the floor.
Drake was tapping his teeth with a pen when Blackwood stepped off of the elevator. "So, you found something?"
"Yeah," Drake told the monitor, thoughtfully. "I had to do some digging, too."
Blackwood paused. "Well?"
"Ever heard of a company called Kerr-McGee?" Drake asked, turning to face Blackwood. Blackwood nodded. "Well," Drake continued, "apparently Ironhorse was one of three kids that were picked up for attempted sabotage to the place in 1974. He and the other two got picked up by the cops when a night security guard saw them. They were all a little tanked up. They were all underage, too, and didn't get around to actually doing much, so this didn't end up on their criminal record." He shrugged. "Not exactly what I expected to dig up, to be honest."
Blackwood rubbed his mouth. "Not exactly what I expected you to dig up, either. Erm," he rubbed his mouth more fiercely, as if the friction would somehow lend inspiration to his mental gears, which it didn't, "forget I asked, all right?"
"Forgotten already!" Drake chirped, turning back to the computer.
Blackwood stepped onto the elevator again. Yes, he remembered Kerr-McGee, and he remembered Silkwood's death; he tried to think about what it would have been like to have actually lived in the middle of all of that as a young boy. Especially a young boy with as much respect and love for the land as Ironhose had. Personal, indeed.
Blackwood's conscience leapt up from the mat, tackled him, and gave him a good pummeling. Which, he had to admit as he sat down heavily at his desk, he very much deserved. He felt quite properly embarrassed, and quite properly a schmuck.
He could not be entirely unhappy he had asked, however. After all, he now knew a bit more about the enigmatic Colonel - something real, something humanizing, something that could let him care about the man a little more as a man, not just as the Army unit Ironhorse was determined to present himself as.
Blackwood just hoped that his conscience never got its hands on that little tidbit.