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 Post subject: LINK STATE
PostPosted: Wed Mar 02, 2016 12:42 pm 
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Not Zombies but Def. P.A.W.

The helicopter was a patchwork of mottled camouflage contrasting with the flat black sections where it had been repaired. A light wisp of black smoke trailed from the engine, dissipating with the speed of the aircraft. Flying low to stay off radar and out of sight of the people on the ground made the blades change in tone as it flew to match the earth. Chopping the air as it gained in elevation; a dull hollow when it descended.
There was urgency in its behavior that even the animals that shared the sky with it understood. The grim-faced pilot glanced into the troop bay of the combat helicopter in time to see the medic start compressions on the woman on the stretcher. The stretcher flexed under his weight, giving animation to the still form. The man who had boarded with her squeezed the bag attached to her mouth rhythmically when the medic paused the compressions. The pilot absorbed the very bizarre dance with a single glance into the bay. His heart numb with the business at hand. He had seen too many people die in that bay in his career. The copilot’s white knuckles on the stick in front of him seemed to scream out as the pilot keyed his radio’s microphone.
“Lima, Charlie, X-ray. This is Kilo, Echo, Six. We are inbound hot and bingo on fuel, possible fire, clear the pad.” The pilot looked into the bay again. The medic pulled his fingers away from the patient’s throat and nodded to the pilot, “We have one medevac in need of transport.”
Five minutes later the helicopter banked and gained altitude to clear the height of the ramparts as it came up on the walled city, its blades beating the air as it braked to slow its speed. The soldiers standing guard on the wall took notice. This was not a normal arrival.
The air curling the dust from the pad, the helicopter touched down hard, planting itself on the tarmac. The smoke from the engine gushed into the sky, creating its own cloud cover. Firefighting equipment and medical crew were already waiting on the landing pad with the triage doctors springing to life as soon as the bird rested on its skids and the crew opened the door. The fire crew waited nervously for flames that would never come.
Once the stretcher carrying the woman had been handed over to the ambulance crew and the engines of the aircraft were winding down, the pilot opened the canopy door and unbuckled his harness. As he crawled out of the cockpit on unsteady, adrenalin soaked legs, he couldn’t help but focus on all of the bullet holes in the cowling surrounding his seat. Everyone exchanged quiet glances, the dripping of blood from the cargo bay and the clicking of the cooling engine solidified the hypnotic spell.
The soldier who had been pumping the Ambu bag broke the spell, “Sorry that DZ was so hot. I owe you one. If she lives, it was because of you.” The pilot had no answer. His eyes went back to all the holes in the helicopter, not fully grasping how no one was hit inside the aircraft. He was not sure who this man was, but he was positive he never wanted to ride with him again.
His only clear memory of the drop zone in all of the confusion was this soldier walking, across the flat open ground, carrying the wounded woman. It seemed to take an eternity. The entire world shooting at each other across that field. The uniform he wore being the only thing about him that stood out as unusual. He had heard about sterile uniforms, with no rank, unit insignia or nametags. He had just never seen one, until today. When he had gathered himself up enough to respond to the thank you, all he saw was the soldier’s back as he walked down the ramp. Behind him, he could hear his co-pilot sobbing.
Three helicopter rides later, Marcus entered secured peerage territory. Shortly after that, the capital building in Monticello, Minnesota. The peerage had never bothered to fix the exterior of the capitol building, leaving the bullet holes as a reminder of the troubling past everyone wished to forget.
As he entered, he could see the layered design. The outer halls were mostly public servants. Small courts and public appeal areas. The more serious courts were one level up, with government administrators above that. This would be Marcus’ first time in the capital building. His first time dealing with his handler in his native environment. Deeper into the building the décor became more presumptuous; leather seats and dark woods prevailing. The waiting room for the peerage councilman felt more like a gentleman’s club. The only thing distinguishing it from a turn-of-the-century smoking lounge was a monitor on the wall above a small wet bar, displaying a newsfeed. The feed played an interview that had already started. It caught Marcus’ attention because the woman in the interview looked familiar.
The audio from the feed was the only noise in the otherwise quiet room, “So, Commander Voriksardottir could you explain your last name to the public who may not be familiar with Icelandic tradition?” The camera zoomed in on the woman.
“Yes, I can, Phil. Our last name is traditionally the father’s first name and daughter or son after it. So Voriksardottir is the daughter of Voriksa.”
“But, that is your mother’s name,” the commentator interrupted. “Not your father’s, correct?”
“Yes it is. I chose not to use the traditional name of my father and took my mother’s name instead.”
The large maple door in the room opened and a well-dressed woman stepped out, “Commander,” she said. “He will see you now.” Marcus stood and followed her out of the room and into an office that seemed overly Spartan for accommodation with no real art or decoration. Just two chairs with a desk between them and a monitor on the wall broadcasting the same interview as was playing in the waiting area. The chair on the far side of the desk had its back to him, a phone conversation taking place on the other side.
The interview playing on the monitor was shot wide on the well-lit set. It almost seemed purposeful, to exaggerate the scars on the pilot’s face. “So that is how your mother got the nickname, The Wyvern,” the interviewer inquired. “Was that the deciding factor in you joining our air force?”
“Yes, Sir. They played that video of her ramming the side of the building with the nose of her helicopter while firing the nose cannon over and over again. They played until even I thought it looked like a dragon chewing up the side of the building.”
The monitor silenced and Marcus realized the chair had turned around. The councilman in front of him had the demeanor of age, but not the appearance. The council’s access to medicine and the easy lifestyle had been good to him. “Well that did not go exactly as planned did it, Colonel Schiffle?”
Marcus sat up in his chair wondering if he would actually be reprimanded for the mission. “No, it did not. There will be a lot of collateral damage in Pennsylvania. It was a decision of which I am willing to accept the consequences.”
The council member on the far side of the desk folded his hands and leaned forward, “Intel or oversight issue?”
“Neither Sir. We had good intel, good logistics, and good handlers between us and the personnel on the ground.” A stark inhale and the pursing of lips let Marcus know that his answer was not what the councilman had anticipated. It was clear he wanted to be able to take measures to prevent it from happening again, but he had a hard time understanding that. Even though there were no mistakes, the outcome was not always what one desired. The immaturity of his stance was obvious to Marcus, after being so long in the field with professional soldiers.
The man behind the desk turned around in his chair, leaned back and looked at the territorial map on the wall. After a few moments, he turned back around, “Then could you please explain to me what the fuck happened?” Obviously, the councilman thought it was Marcus’ turn to posture.
Marcus refused to engage. He sat perfectly still with his hands in his lap, “Sir, there are things that we could not have known. Situations that presented themselves only when we were operational. The report will…”
The councilman cut him off, “I could give a shit what the report says! I want to know how this benefitted us. There is a string of bodies all the way from here to Pennsylvania, not to mention the loss of equipment.”
“Sir,” Marcus paused, “we encountered a group of indigenous feral …”
The councilman’s interruption raised the tension of the exchange, “I could give a fuck about some piss-ant group of chimps flinging shit at low flying helicopters.” Marcus silently waited to see if the rant continued.
When it didn’t he felt compelled to defend his team and their actions, “That is not what we encountered, Sir. This group was organized and led. Feral to be sure, but learning rapidly. We saw a chance to give them an opening against some Rhode Island militia to see what we were dealing with and they exploited the weakness as well as we could have. We have never seen anything like it.”
After much eye rolling, his handler fired back, “You expect me to believe that? You expect me to believe that some group of chimps just popped up out of nowhere and took down a well-trained group of Rhode Islanders. A group of chimps that no one has seen before.”
“Yes, Sir. We think they are using the park system as a thoroughfare through the Pennsylvania territories hopping from state park to state park hiding in the national forests. They are huge there, millions of acres.”
The councilman seemed to be coming around, “I will read the fucking report, but we have business at hand, we are on a timeline. You understand the seriousness of what we are attempting, right?” Marcus nodded a single time. “Your cadre is in place at the recovery center. I think with the assets we have gained there, you should be able to handle this one.” Marcus could feel the meeting coming to an end. He asked, “How long has that interdiction battalion been in the wild?”
The councilman stiffened, “Not long enough to have lost them, if that is what you are asking. Anything else, Commander?”
“Yes, there is,” Marcus pointed at the monitor screen. “Get her there as well. I am going to need a good pilot.” The councilman turned around in his chair. His seat back represented an end to the meeting. “As soon as your logistics are in order you should start heading south.” Marcus stood and headed toward the door.
“Yes Sir,” Marcus slowed his step toward the door, but didn’t turn around.
“Be careful. You’re getting expensive.”

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 Post subject: Re: LINK STATE
PostPosted: Wed Mar 02, 2016 12:48 pm 
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Survivor Processing Unit—South West Treatment Wing
The village had a medieval appearance to it. The tall grey walls built of adobe and brick surrounded the small city. The small gates opened inward. Corner towers stood taller than the rest of the wall. This type of structure had become very common on the western front of the wilderness that used to be Arizona, Nevada and California. While the design had become common, this particular city was not.
The footprint of the village was huge compared to most in the region. The large landing platform, while uncommon, stood out because of the military aircraft that took up residence over half of it. The most unusual feature being the large clover shaped building editions growing from one wall. Marcus could not understand why they would jeopardize the strength of the wall by building out from it. He would find out soon enough.
* * * *
The white of the hallway felt out of place. Even a little confusing to anyone who had lived outside for any length of time. It just had an unnatural feel to it. That much clean all in one spot? The adobe and brick castle walls had been covered, plastered and painted until the surface appeared smooth. This meant it could be cleaned efficiently. Marcus hated the walk to the processing wing. Glaring sterility and artificial lights made his eyes hurt. Other people would kill to be here and Marcus couldn’t wait to leave.
The offices, built inside the walls of the village, held all of the admin and diagnostic personnel. A tall slender woman noticed Marcus’ arrival and met him at the top of the hallway leading to the clover shaped growth on the outer wall.
Marcus acknowledged her as she closed the distance between them, “Doctor DeAngelo, did the boy survive?”
“Yes, Sir, he did,” her reply absent of any emotion.
“Did all of the recovery team make it back?”
“No, Sir. They did not,” this time Marcus detected emotion, but could not get a handle on it. Disgust? He thought. The Doctor led him through the office hallways and into the diagnostic rooms.
The last room had an observation window. In the room, a boy of ten or eleven sat quietly on a hospital bed. He looked better than most that came from overrun settlements. With the locating and retrieval time being weeks, usually the survivors were rail thin. This kid looked unusually healthy, his ribs barely visible. His group must have been very stable. The child being male would improve its chances of survival; they tend to bounce back faster. The faster he recovered the more relevant his information would be.
“Did we lose him?” Marcus asked.
“No Sir, we did not!” Ah, that emotion he understood. She apparently did not like his position or power. He wondered what had happened and then decided it didn’t matter. “He had lost two trainees that had showed remarkable ability.” Her anger was palpable, “If he keeps losing them, we may never be able to train enough for full teams.”
“Mrs. DeAngelo, if they were any good, he wouldn’t have so much trouble keeping them alive.” Her thumbs flexed the clipboard at his response, but verbally, it went unanswered.
“Take me to him, please.” Growing weary of the political nature of her answer and the meanings, she tried little to hide. “Sir, his condition is...” her voice trailed off with the lack of appropriate words.
“What, Mrs. DeAngelo?” He purposely omitted her title of Doctor—to lend a hint that her behavior had become childish.
“Sir, you don’t know how he gets when he first returns, especially after he loses people.”
“I would like to talk to his support team, if you don’t mind.” He kept his voice as emotionless as possible. Scientists and researchers required more finesse.
“Yes, Sir.” If she could not make him understand, then getting rid of him would suffice.
* * * *
The long walk down the passage leading through the wall was supervisor/staff silent. He preferred it that way. He really didn’t want to know about her life outside of the facility. Her being just an employee, a safer option for him. Known as “the pretty one”, he’d heard that she had a reputation for being pursued by her peers. He didn’t see it.
The door at the end of the hallway, now outside the original wall had a simple sign.
Recovery Department
Badge and Clearance
The door slid back and they presented their badges to the guard behind a simple desk. DeAngelo smiled when he handed hers back to her. Marcus knew the identification procedure, a formality only because of his presence. Everyone condoned relaxation of the rules as long as they kept it discreet. Surprisingly, he knew the guard from the founding of the facility, back before the higher walls were built around the village by the military. He seemed to have done well for himself, noticing the captain tabs on his body armor.
How long has it been? Did he recognize me? Marcus thought to himself. Then he noted the guard taking a long gander at the doctor as they passed.
The hallway ended at a three-point intersection. To the left, the section labeled Pod Three was a mass of chaos. She turned left and waded into the entropy. The large room purpose built for the pods with sections for medical triage, transportation, extraction and surgery. Each area stood out by the equipment it contained. The middle, a hub of communication and computing. The only other exit in the room was a hallway leading directly away from the entrance. Marcus seemed to be the only person to notice dried blood on the floor.
“Can I have a status report, please?” DeAngelo asked. The activity level didn’t change. When the request went unanswered, she took a step back.
“I want a status report,” Marcus ordered. “NOW!” The boom of the last word stopped the room cold. DeAngelo, her job now complete, exited the room the way they had come in.
The head of the team stepped forward to report, “Sir, we have one D.O.A., one K.I.A. and one casualty that could still recover.”
“Captain…Sparks,” Marcus said, while reaching down to lift up his badge to read his name. “What is the nature of the injuries to the D.O.A.?”
The captain winced at the request, he felt ill-prepared to give a detailed description of the injuries that lead to death to his supervisor. “He suffered an amputation during the mission. The amputation was at the shoulder and the trainer could not get a clamp on the axillary artery. He bled out before we could get him to surgery. Frankly, we were surprised that he was still alive—he had been travelling with the injury for thirty-six hours. We think the indigenous subject who was with them used some form of holistic medicine to stop the bleeding. We will know more when he is… ah….better?”
“And the K.I.A.?”
“We assume killed and left at the scene.”
“Take me to the subject,” Marcus tried to keep his tone in check for the benefit of all of the anxiety in the room.
“Sir, he is not communicating yet.”
“I know. I just want to see his state.”
“Yes, Sir.” Captain Sparks turned and led his supervisor out of the room through the short hallway on the far side of the room. The next room over was a completely different atmosphere. It was quiet and focused. “Good morning Sir,” came from a white-coat-wearing shadow against the wall in front of an obvious one-way mirror. Through it, a voyeuristic view of a very normal appearing hospital room.
“Good morning, Dr. Jeffries.” In his short time on assignment here, Doctor Jeffries had been his most competent acquaintance. His tall frame, salt and pepper hair and reserved demeanor fit his abilities perfectly. “How is the patient?” Dr. Jeffries paused too long for comfort, staring through the glass into the room. Drawing a deep breath as he readied himself to give his report.
“He arrived very dehydrated and anemic. We think he did a transfusion of his own blood to the wounded trainee in the field, but we cannot determine how. That and carrying the trainee really took its toll on him. When he arrived, he started an I.V. on himself with the supplies in the room, and then blacked out. As soon as his actions looked stable, we entered the room, retrieved the two trainees and the recovered male and exited. He was just finishing the I.V. and lying down. There were no hostile actions toward us. The soldier with the amputation died of his wounds. We are not even sure how he kept him alive long enough to get here. The third trainee is recovering in the medical ward from shock, dehydration, and P.T.S.D.”
“Why is he not in the medical ward with the trainee?” asked Marcus, “He appears to be in much worse shape.”
“Yes Sir, he is. Very much so. He refuses to come more than one doorway into the building. Claims it’s a deathtrap,” this elicited a shrug from the doctor. “That is why the recovery pods are built like airport terminals. So they are accessed from outside the wall. They were designed around him.”
“You said he took no hostile actions toward you. Is hostile behavior common?” Betraying the lack of knowledge he should have gained from reading reports. The assignment had started two weeks before and he should be caught up by now, but there had just been too much to absorb.
“We usually do something to piss him off,” the doctor quickly realized that he had sounded unprofessional. “Sorry Sir. After he is stabilized, his behavior becomes unpredictable due to the anxiety of being in the compound. He feels it is unsafe.”
That surprised Marcus, “He would prefer to be out there?” He felt unsure as to how this didn’t qualify as insanity.
“Yes Sir. The only reason he works with us is to do the recoveries and to train new recovery teams.”
“How many teams has he trained?”
“Six teams worth of people, one person at a time. There are three teams left that have a pretty good performance record.”
“So, you’re saying that out of eighteen people only nine have survived to work effectively? That’s terrible.”
“Sir, we do not have any surviving recovery personnel that the department has trained. None of them survived.” The finality of his tone belied the value of the man in the window.
“How many people did we train?”
“In excess of three hundred before we ceased and aimed to come up with a better solution. That is when he showed up carrying one of our men. He said we should stop sending them out. We didn’t see him for a couple of months, and then out of the blue, he shows up with a kid from an overrun settlement. Just drops him off on the doorstep and walks away. A few weeks later he shows up with another, but this time he is in pretty rough shape and we ask if he would like to rest a bit and get something to eat before he leaves. Viola, a partnership is born.”
“So, when can I talk to him?” The huff from the doctor exposed his amusement at the statement and his own lack of information.
“Probably never, Sir.” He turned back to look through the one-way glass. “He is too unstable,” the doctor continued to stare at the patient through the glass. “Besides there is very little time between runs.”
“Explain the process to me,” Marcus was instantly frustrated by his lack of the knowledge that he knew would be contained in the reports.
“Let me give you an example,” his body language changed to that of giving an uncomfortable report to a superior. “We get a beacon, a heat signature or distress call or something leading us to believe there are survivors. We give him all the information we have and he decides if he can—or wants—to do it. We open the outer door and he leaves. Somewhere between three days and two weeks, he returns.
“This time he shows up, middle of the day, carrying a wounded trainee on his back with the other trainee blindfolded and being led by a rope carrying the recovered male piggyback style. Three crazies are chasing them out of the scrub growth across the no man’s land. No one sees them come out of the scrub. So, after running three hundred yards carrying a dying man, he has to go hand-to-hand with three crazies by himself, because the trainee and the kid are in shock. Which we find out later, is why the trainee is blindfolded. The whole mess spills into the doorway. Screams and blood and a wounded crazy who he eventually kills with an I.V. stand from the medical equipment in the room.”
“Why didn’t the security team go in and help him?” Marcus asked.
“For the same reason we are hesitant about you going in; because he would have killed them. Shit, he almost killed the kid before it was over. He is still pretty pissed about the no man’s land being cleared out. He says it exposes him way too much. So, anyway, he starts an I.V. and blacks out. We go in, recover the two trainees and the boy and bring them out. He sleeps for eighteen hours, wakes up, drinks a whole bottle of whiskey, throws up, shits himself, and then sleeps for ten hours more. This was yesterday. We lose the guy in surgery, the kid perks up, and the surviving trainee is on psychotropics to keep him from wiggin’ out. So...our friend is still unconscious and probably will be for a few more hours. The nurse just got him cleaned up without too much of a fuss so it should be a pretty quiet night.”
“Let me know as soon as he is awake and sober,” Marcus said as he turned to leave the department, the doctor’s eyes never leaving his new supervisor as he walked away.

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 Post subject: Re: LINK STATE
PostPosted: Wed Mar 02, 2016 3:45 pm 
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Wow, shit hot; you got my attention.

Not a criticism, but I'd change DZ (Drop Zone) to LZ (Landing Zone) a much more likely term when talking about a helicopter medevac.

crypto wrote:
It's not that you were being "harsh" so much as a "douchebag".

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 Post subject: Re: LINK STATE
PostPosted: Wed Mar 02, 2016 3:52 pm 
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wow!! good catch!!!

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 Post subject: Re: LINK STATE
PostPosted: Wed Mar 02, 2016 5:33 pm 
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Off to a good start. I know that we will find out what is going on or has happened.Keep up the good work!

"We'll Fight Them, Sir!, Until Hell Freezes Over, And Then We'll Fight Them On The Ice! Sir!

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 Post subject: Re: LINK STATE
PostPosted: Wed Mar 02, 2016 5:55 pm 
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me likey!!!!

I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me.

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 Post subject: Re: LINK STATE
PostPosted: Thu Mar 03, 2016 2:57 pm 
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OK so.... This book is published (yes it's mine). will I post the whole thing. Yeah, as long as nobody tells my wife. There will be a pretty big gap of time between chapters... say....10 -11.
I just don't want anybody pissed because I am selling it somewhere else and will have to stop mid way through for a month or so.

This is not a bait you into buying it thing. I totally plan on posting the whole book for you guys eventually. I just don't want to seem sleazy.

mods? any problems?

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 Post subject: Re: LINK STATE
PostPosted: Fri Mar 04, 2016 9:35 am 
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Cool, what's the overall length?
And where could we snag it if so inclined?

Overheard at my USN retirement ceremony....
"So he's not a team player then?"
"You mean Spazz...? Hes not even a fan of the team."

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 Post subject: Re: LINK STATE
PostPosted: Fri Mar 04, 2016 11:58 am 
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No News is good news!!

When the world changed, it changed very slowly on most of the east coast. It started with rolling blackouts. The sort of thing people were accustomed to. They lasted a little longer than usual, but this time—in some places, the power never returned.
In those places, small scale rioting occurred immediately, which increased in size over the first week or so. The store shelves were empty on the first day in the parts of the eastern seaboard where the rioting had been the worst. People tried to hold it together by hunkering down in their homes, trading and taking care of each other.
New York City differed from the rest of the country, except maybe Los Angeles. It really went downhill rapidly, the rioting lead to murder and looting on the very first day. The poor invaded the homes of the rich, dragging them into the streets to be raped and murdered by the riotous crowds.
It wasn’t long before the first few warlords started to appear in the city. The gangs came out in force to take what they saw as theirs. They mostly just killed each other at first. Later they turned their attention to the public.
The Crips took over the weaker gangs by the end of the first week. Queens congealed first, then Brooklyn. Manhattan Island became a charnel house of blood and gore that spilled into the Bronx, at least until they blew all the bridges. They could not completely collapse the Holland Tunnel, so they just filled in the hole on the Jersey side.
In Manhattan, there were no victors to take the spoils, just the dead, the diseased and the dying. On the other side of the East River, Queens and Brooklyn formed the core of the new gang empire. When the alcohol and drugs ran out, they had to start looking for food. They looted and pillaged their own neighborhoods until everything of value had been taken. When the food ran out, they started moving towards Hyde Park and Garden City. At times, going door to door to inspect kitchens and pantries for held out food, which often led to rape and murder.
The residents caught on and tried to stay ahead of the gang searches. This left them out in the open just watching, as gang members laughed at them shivering in the street while they looted their homes. They knew it would be just a matter of time before they would be pushed towards the end of the island.
Little did the warlords know that further up the island the cities of Coram and Medford had significant populations of ex-military, and not just a few ham radio operators, who were watching and planning. By this time, the gang membership had solidified with the Crips being the command structure and the lesser gangs being in charge on the streets and the thugs doing the dirty work. They had no problem with brutality; they had been cutting their teeth as pimps, drug dealers and extortionist for years. They had always enforced their will by fear and the occasional acts of violence. Visible enough to get their point across, but not so much as to attract the attention of local law enforcement.
Now, with no law around, it had become open season on the weak. The gangs just did what they wanted and no one really put up a fight. Gun control in New York meant that only the criminals had guns. When someone did push back, they were brutally murdered in the street while their families watched in horror, until they, too, were tortured and killed. This went on as they worked their way down Long Island.
The gangs met their first serious resistance at the Belmont racetrack. The old military guys from Medford had just assumed that the gangs would see Belmont as a target. The gangbangers would be looking for booze and money in all of the public venues. The formed up militia setup all the riflemen they could muster, armed mostly with hunting rifles from the local gun club’s vault. The gangs hooted and hollered as they trashed the clubrooms and started drinking. There wasn’t much left as the local neighborhood had already run out of food and had been scavenging themselves.
They had finished scrounging around the racetrack and were gathering to leave in search of better looting elsewhere, when the first shot rang out. A 30-06 fired by an ex-Marine from about 300 yards out. The shot was perfect—the looter’s head bulged before it blew apart spraying his comrades with grey matter and teeth. Chaos broke out in the ranks of the gang members and it quickly turned into a turkey shoot. The militia, after the fact, counted forty-two dead before they ever got a shot off. In total, nearly a hundred casualties if you counted the solid hits that managed to run off wounded.
When the Crips realized their soldiers were being hit hard, they rushed to relieve them. By this time, most of the gang members at the racetrack were dead and the militia members had mounted their vehicles to depart. The Crips followed them down the turnpike and watched them turn onto Courthouse Road heading toward the golf club. They were smart enough to realize the chokepoint in the countryside could be an ambush, so they didn’t follow.
They were also having problems of their own. Their street soldiers were in shock from the brutal attack, having never been in a real fight. At the same time, two of the Crips’ cars had run out of fuel. Their comrades made promises to return with fuel and left them standing on the side of the road—those Crips were never seen again.
The next few engagements were not as successful, with the gangbangers refusing to group so they couldn’t be attacked effectively. The militia poked and prodded, slowly gaining an effect. After spending three weeks of this cat and mouse game with the 18th Street Crips and the Harlem Mafia Crips, they finally got them to form a solid line in Franklin Square just south of the golf club. The spotter called in the one favor he could get. An aging Rear Admiral with a distinguished last name and a stellar career got onto the radio and asked for a full-time on-target from the Coast Guard cutter Hamilton. They had been communicating with her through a ham radio operator who had once been a Navy Corpsman.
The Hamilton, sitting in fifty feet of water off Brighton beach, her screws almost touching the dredged bottom, started the fire mission. The 76mm cannon fire was spread out into two grids of one hundred and fifty rounds each. It decimated three city blocks and put an end to the Crips control of Brooklyn and Queens. Unfortunately, it also left a power vacuum on the New York side of Jersey City, though it did buy everyone some time.
They attempted a counter attack on the coast guard ship but they had obviously never even heard of a close-in weapon system—or Phalanx. When the 20mm chain gun opened up on the makeshift boats, a crimson slick lay atop the entire lower bay from Brighton Beach to Breezy Point. The following morning, as the cutter turned her bow towards open ocean, it put several sea sparrows into Flatbush and Crown Heights just for good measure. The results of the attack were so severe that the residents of Staten Island had to blow the bridge on I-278 to keep from being overrun with fleeing gang members.
* * * *
The city had some time to prepare itself for winter. The harsh weather would be upon them very soon. They knew the peace would not last, but they would take advantage of the weather induced lull to improve their living conditions. It took a while, but eventually the Long Island residents were pressured by warlords from the city again. In this instance, they managed to stop them at Deer Park. The snows froze the city solid and eventually stopped everything. The residents accepted the blessing as a brief pause in the chaos, but they knew they could not hold out forever.
The upstate country towns, outside of the city, did a better job at holding onto their humanity. The populations were smaller and a little more self-sufficient. They experienced some looting and some violence, but the town members took control and sorted out the problems.
Farther North, the Rhode Island Nuclear Science Center took on a completely new role when humanity turned on itself. They had power and fishing boats nearby, which meant they could feed themselves. The most glorious part, the part that ended the fighting and brought everyone together, was the power from the nuclear reactor. Even though it was just a small instructional reactor, barely making two megawatts, seeing the lights on at the facility had a calming effect on the whole region. The powered up reactor meant the lights were turned on. More importantly, the heat, then the hospital, then the fish processing plant.
The entire community became reasonably functional a week later. The person responsible for the removal of the control rods from the scrammed reactor core was Aengus Ruarck; a native Rhode Islander, part-time instructor at the Science Center and a fisherman. He had been known as a fair businessman and a respected member in the community for years, and he’d just restored power to a community that wanted to survive.
When the local squabbling had settled down, Aengus looked northeast to Cape Cod. Everyone saw the same thing; a huge fishing community that had been feeding the world for 300 years. Aengus also saw the pilgrim nuclear reactor site as both a threat and a goal. If he took too long or if someone else got there first, the reactor could eat itself and the entire East Coast.
He gathered all the able-bodied men he could and they took to their boats. After three days of fighting, the pilgrim reactor cores had been protected with its control rods. He left it producing just enough power to keep people alive, but not enough to be a danger if left unattended.
With the Nuclear power plants under control, he could breathe a little easier. Everyone had concerns about Boston and Providence, the two nearest cities. The survivalist books all said they were screwed because the massive hoard would be heading toward them. Aengus had a different opinion. His knee had been hurting for a week now and the temperature had been on a steady decline. He hadn’t seen signs like these for a couple of years and suspected a mean Nor’easter would descend upon them any day now.
What if the weather didn’t turn? The eight million people were going to get very hungry in New York City, not to mention the other ten million in the rest of the state. He and his men went to war again. With explosives from a local construction contractor, they started blowing the bridges of Highway 95. By the time they ran out of fuel, they had made a 200-hundred-mile buffer zone that had to be walked. The cars they staged between the bridges were burned, any others they found too close to the destroyed bridges booby trapped or damaged beyond use. All the fuel tanks were ice picked as well.
The booby-trapped cars were of the most value psychologically. They caused pause in groups that did make it inland despite the bridges. In the end, it took them a week to get home. None of them had any confidence in what they had done.
Food had been on the forefront of everyone’s mind, so the next most logical step would be to take over the fishing industry in Cape Cod. He knew how to do it and it didn’t take much motivation to get the local survivors to participate. As soon as he fed them, they were his men. He witnessed this repeatedly as he moved south with the day’s catch to trade with the hungry.
This was when he heard the Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton talking with the radio operators on Long Island. He listened to the pleas for help and the subsequent denial. He heard the resignation of the captain’s voice when the aging man claiming to be an admiral came over the radio. The Cutter agreed to one fire mission, hit or miss, that’s all they would get. No do-overs; no second chances.
Aengus’ radioman wished them luck and god speed. That was all they could offer at the moment, but Aengus’ mind raced at the news of the military ship in the area. He knew it could be a game changer for the entire coastline if he could keep the ship this far north. With that in the back of his mind, he started moving down the coast trading what he had for what he didn’t.
When he got to Long Island, they were desperate. The Long Islanders had been pushed out of their homes. Forced to the tip of the island and were just waiting to die in the snow. Fighting when they had to, scrounging for anything to eat and drink when the thugs from the city were not trying to kill them. He gave them food, blankets, tarps and driftwood for fires. He pumped the tanks of his live well through hoses into anything that would hold liquid. He had filled them with fresh water on his second trip to the tip of the island. They looked like they might actually survive the winter with the Rhode Islander’s help. They had a lot more fight left in them after Aengus unloaded his cargo.
Before he left, he asked them what else he could do to aid in their survival of winter. The women were crying and trying to console one another when the first father came out to the ship on his makeshift raft and handed off his children. It took an hour to get all of the kids on board and before they headed for home, Aengus swore to them, that they had trusted the right man.
Every village on the seaboard had its own problems. Some disease or raiders, some just no common sense. He tried to help them all. Some he could not, but most he could, and for those, he did. The entire coastal area turned their eyes to Aengus for answers. Fortunately, for them, he had most of them. He kept the lights on and fished like a professional. When he traded with their neighbors he often helped fight off the people who just wanted to take what they had. Aengus was on the front line when the bullets started to fly and his family did without, just as everyone else did in the tough times.
When the fishing ships got home for Christmas, Aengus asked one more thing of the fishermen. He called the coast guard ship and arranged a meet. The ship agreed but insisted on meeting in the open water. Aengus met the captain of the ship and offered what remained of his catch to the coast guard Cutter. Already his actions on Long Island were the talk of the radio frequencies and the coast guard ship was in need as well. When asked what he wanted in trade for the extra supplies. Aengus said was he would be back in a month. He would help as much as he could as long as the fishermen were successful. He smiled and headed for home.
* * * *
The children from the island were a bit of a struggle. Some had to be moved around a little to find a good fit for the winter, but most just settled in. The nor’easter moved in hard and fast and Aengus wondered what would become of the Long Islanders. Only time would tell.
When the spring thaw came his men with somber hearts manned their ships and headed south to Long Island. No one on the ships were sure of what they would find. Some speculated just a looted village and dead bodies, others were more hopeful. What they did find surprised them. When the men and women of Long Island rowed out to the ships they were lean but in pretty good spirits. One sailor said you could hear their stomachs growl all the way from the rafts.
The man in the first raft was a familiar face. Later it would come out that he was an ex force recon marine that lead the militia and got everyone through the winter. Aengus knew what he was looking for. When the weathered gaunt face made it to the top of the rope ladder, Aengus handed him his chubby and slightly greasy son. Aengus said, “He didn’t start off with a taste for fish but he took to it real fierce and now that’s all he will eat.” The marine's eyes said everything as tears ran down his face.
The fishermen unloaded the children to their waiting parents, all of them a little greasy from lack of water and living indoors for the winter, but all of them alive and healthy. The relationship between the New Yorkers and the Rhode Islanders was forged that spring and it would never be broken.
The Long Island militia waited for the nightmare of the city to start again but it never really came. The few that did stagger out of the depths of Brooklyn were shells of people, so diseased that it almost seemed humane to put an end to them. In the end, it was disease that took New York.
After the riots, the warlords, and the bodies in the street; the frozen winter came. When the city thawed, the uncontained sewage, flies, and the survivors,—weak from starvation, led to a hemorrhagic virus that rampaged through the city. No one was immune. Even some of those on the tip of the island had to be quarantined. It was fast, virulent and killed indiscriminately. When the spring was over you could smell Brooklyn from Staten Island.
It was a generation before any ventured into the city. What they found horrified them enough that it would be almost another generation before anyone returned.
Aengus continued to fish and work the reactors, training people in both skills as well. The Navy ships started to show up. They helped evacuate the Long Islanders from the tip of the island. Transplanting them to better locations on the eastern seaboard. Some of the more mobile military units that survived the change showed up as well, with air assault helicopter units being the last to arrive before winter set in. When everyone was sure they had survived the worst of it, they started talking about how to run things. In the end, they just made Aengus the President of The Rhode Island Union Territories. Regardless of the name, what actually happened had been the creation of a generational monarchy.
This was how the Ruarck Dynasty was created. When his son Isaiah took over for the family, the people loved him too. He was kind and intelligent and his beautiful wife brought an air of peace that they thought they would never experience again.
Their son Thomas was a different story, however. He was quick to anger and slow to forgive. He expected a lot from the people living under his guidance and care. He wasn’t loved, in so much as he was respected and feared. When Thomas’ son Fergus took over, everyone was expecting more of the same. They were wrong! His sadistic traits and his father’s temper made him dangerous with a sickening bend towards cruelty.
It wasn’t long before the downtrodden grew weary of their sons and daughters, mostly their young sons, being victimized by the sick nature of the ruler. When Thomas started seeing the signs of revolt on the people’s faces and in their actions, he decided he didn’t want his family’s line to end in a despot. He made his move in the ruling house to regain power. He had more than enough allies and plenty of people that were just plain tired of Fergus’ cruelty. It would be simple enough to persuade the people that he had been too close to see it. They were skeptical until he had his son publicly executed and then installed a parliament to democratize the decision making.
Peace returned slowly but it did return. Thomas had a daughter who sat on the parliament and had a forty percent vote. Just enough to make hers the most important vote, but if the rest of the parliament sided against her they could overrule her decision. Everyone seemed happy with the arrangement.
Everyone except Thomas, that is. He had lost the rule of the land his predecessors had given him. He was ashamed. He groomed his daughter to a powerful marriage with her always understanding what needed to be done, how to regain the family’s power. On his death bed he gave her instructions that when she gave birth to the child she was carrying, he was to be the last Ruarck with a parliament between him and his people.
After his death, she followed his instructions to the letter. Helping place puppets in parliament that the people felt they elected. She swayed everyone to her new child Niall. She made sure they saw him as kind and intelligent. She spent her days instructing him to watch his temper and his appetites in public. She never let anyone outside of the household see him in any light, other than that of grace.
So came Niall to the parliament of puppets, waiting for the dissolution his grandfather wanted. He would be a ruler again. The nobility of the family restored. It was all a perfect plan until one day, in the hallway, his mother got news she wasn’t expecting. The power was running out. The advisors tried to explain how the fuel rods worked. Explain why the reactors were not going to keep the lights on much longer. She waived them off. She needed to speak to her son. She told Niall he had to grow up fast and become the man his grandfather had wanted him to be. This was to be the year they voted to dissolve the parliament—deem it unnecessary. Instead, they were going to have to go to war if Niall couldn’t solve the problem quietly. The Ruarck House went to work seeking what it needed. The power had to be kept on. When they spoke to each other about it, they all responded the same. "At all costs"
* * * *
While the world worried itself about electricity, the blood, feces and gore-covered depths of Manhattan gave birth to the creature it was destined to create. It called itself Azrael and no one noticed when it clawed its way to the surface out of the gore and sewage-filled Holland tunnel.

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 Post subject: Re: LINK STATE
PostPosted: Fri Mar 04, 2016 3:01 pm 
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hey spazzy,
It is on amazon.

same name.

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 Post subject: Re: LINK STATE
PostPosted: Fri Mar 04, 2016 4:22 pm 
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I've been trying to read this for the last couple days. Very good so far.... The last chapter seemed to be a little rushed to me. I get that it's the lead up to the present time in the book. But to me it just seemed a little hurried. One of the things I really like about it thought is that it all seems possible. The "bread basket" of the north east is the fishing industry I could totally see some fishermen coming together to feed people and make alliances.

I'll be looking forward to more!

Also do you have a link to your book to be bought??

JeeperCreeper wrote:
I like huge dicks, Halfapint, so you are OK in my book.... hahaha
Spazzy wrote:
Tell ya what... If Zombies attack and the world ends I'll hook tandem toddlers to a plow if it means I'll be able to eat...

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 Post subject: Re: LINK STATE
PostPosted: Fri Mar 04, 2016 4:36 pm 
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Here you go. ... link+state

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 Post subject: Re: LINK STATE
PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 2016 12:07 pm 
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The subject slept, visible through the one-way glass, he unknowingly kept Marcus and Doctor Jeffries at odds with each other, “Let’s go talk to him, Doctor,” Marcus said. Dr. Jeffries shook his head in silent protest and hesitated, “I don’t believe that is a good idea, Sir.”
“Why not Mr. Jeffries?” Marcus had a tendency to drop titles when he became frustrated.
“Because not only are you not up-to-date, but we have irritated him once already on this return.”
“Mr. Jeffries, I am fully up-to-date on the recorded matter and have some very serious decisions to make. I am going to stop requesting very soon. Do I make myself clear?” His tone was flat and mono-syllabic.
“Yes Sir, very clear. Have you had a chance to read the report sent to the Peerage Ministry of Defense about the subject?”
“That is the only report that I am lacking at the moment,” Marcus’ tone remained unchanged.
“That is the most important report, Sir,” the doctor stated matter-of-factly. “In general, the report is a listing of our concerns regarding the subject. Well, not necessarily concerns but… questions.” Marcus thought the pause came across very unrehearsed and overly dramatic.
The doctor continued, “So you understand the beginning. He shows up with one of ours, drops him off and takes off. A little while later, he shows up with a kid. We offer some sanctuary. He stays for a while. A couple of weeks go by and we get a call about a hold of nearly twenty people scattered to the wind with a few possible survivors. We take it to him and he says ‘no way, it’s impossible where they are.’ So we are thinking this kid he brought in, is getting expensive. You know! The guy eats like a horse and gets drunk almost every night.
“But, we put up with it anyway. We get another call. A convoy is stalled on a route and subsequently attacked. There is a small 100-year-old village right next to the road and we assume there are survivors. We decide to bring it up to the subject. He goes out and comes back with a whole group. The whole group, eighteen people! We never had success like that! So we decide to continue. Well one day he comes in and he is in pretty bad shape, bad enough that he lets the doctors get a look at him. Let being a misnomer; he wasn’t able to stop them. First thing out of the ordinary, he has had his appendix removed. Okay, yeah, if you look at his apparent age, add ten years to make it fun and he had an appendix problem at say, five or six years old, early, but not outside the realm of possibility. If he was living in the Dakotas at the end, he could be old enough to have had a traditional surgery before we lost the last of the true hospitals. It did kind of make everyone raise an eyebrow though. He has no moles or skin tags, either. They have all been removed.”
Moving to the medical workstation by the window, the doctor pulled large manila envelopes from a locked drawer. Sitting on the corner of the desk, he continued. “The real interesting part happened about six months ago. We had an X-ray machine in the unit when he came in. He got really drunk and passed out. We took X-rays of his teeth.” He slid the X-rays into the light board on the wall.
“So?” Marcus was unimpressed.
“Well, most people wouldn’t notice anything, but we sure did. All of his teeth have had root canals. Not the crap we call dentistry today. Honest to God root canals! All of them! Even the ones that didn’t come in until he was an adult. So, he had this done to him, at least ten years into this nightmare. Procedures that can’t be performed anywhere but in a surgically equipped dental office, and it was done without reason. All of his teeth are perfectly healthy. Only a few minor cavities.”
The doctor pulled the x-rays from the light board and slipped them back into the envelope. “They took out the redundant intestinal organ that has a tendency to explode, had the roots taken out of his teeth because abscesses are lethal without medicine, his moles were removed to prevent skin cancer. Oh, don’t even get me started on his immune system. He could eat a dead cat covered in ticks and not even get an upset stomach. I could go on forever. Someone got him ready, and no one knows who it was.”
“Are you sure?” Marcus’ voice was low and serious.
“Sir!” Dr. Jeffries was adamant, “Our subject walked through three very large crazies, bare handed, after a sprinted three-hundred-yard fireman’s carry of a dead man.” His eyes went blank with internal dialog. “I am not sure which proves my point more effectively, carrying the trainee who had very little hope of surviving or killing the crazies when he was almost dead himself. He has been trained, very seriously trained. More effectively than anything we have come up with, and no one knows by whom.”
“I want to talk to him,” Marcus responded, staring through the glass at the sleeping form in the bed.
“Sir that's not a…” Jeffries hesitated, trying to find a polite way to tell his boss that, under the circumstances, his idea was less than wise.
“Mr. Jeffries,” Marcus showed no sign of relenting.
“Sir, I have to warn you and prep you for the room, but you can go in as soon as he is awake. Which should be shortly.” Marcus simply nodded.
Twenty minutes later, the whole group stood around their supervisor after dressing and bleaching him. Doctor Jeffries broke the silence, “Sorry about the bleach, Sir. He reacts poorly to body odor. It almost seems to translate to stupid. It has something to do with what gets you killed on the outside.”
“Really?! I thought the bleach and scrub brush to my genitalia were just you expressing your belief that I shouldn’t be talking to him.” The humor was lost on Dr. Jeffries.
Doctor Jeffries continued, “We have all done it, Sir,” then hesitated, “well almost all of us.” He gestured toward a newly arrived nurse in scrubs, “Okay, so, we will have Val here go in before you and ask him the normal questions.”
“Good morning, Sir,” Marcus nodded to the nurse’s cordial greeting.
Doctor Jeffries didn’t wait for further comment from either, “She will tell him he has a visitor who would like to speak to him. Then come back and report on his demeanor and if you are still interested in speaking with him, you will follow her in.”
“I will still be interested,” Marcus assured.
“Ok, but keep in mind we have had trained psychologists, who have studied him for weeks, get injured due to carelessness,” Jeffries appraised Marcus. “Slow movements. Don’t hide behind Val. She is going to be making a lot of physical contact with you. Don’t react to her at all, she is the room …” he paused, allowing Marcus to absorb his advice.
Val spoke up first, “Woobie,” she said. “They call me the room woobie. I touch him, I touch you, I touch everything in the room. I make you, in the room, okay. So don’t react to me. The more comfortable you are with me, the more comfortable he will be with you. If you bump into me, don’t apologize just put your hand on my shoulder or hip, let me move around you and smile. We are going to try to impart some of his trust of me, through me and into you. Try not to touch any of his things unless he hands you something, which is unlikely.”
Eyeing her, Marcus didn’t see anything that made her stand out. Dr. Jeffries addressed the unspoken question, breaking the silence, “Truthfully, we don’t know why her.”
Val spoke up with a false sense of pride and a half smile, “My friends say I have a face you can trust, if not a pretty one.” Jeffries moved to the door to open it.
Val entered the room with the quiet determined walk that all practiced nurses have. He visibly stirred when she entered. Finally, awake and watching her as she grew close to the bed. “How you doing today, Sunshine? Let me see your shoulder.” He rolled his body a little while she pushed the gown aside revealing a neatly sutured laceration. “Nice, but if you’re gonna get drunk, you gotta quit falling down. You’re going to open this up if you’re not careful.”
He moved to sit up and she grasped him by his upper arm to assist. Marcus noted how casual it all seemed. The group on his side of the glass murmured at the contact and then started writing in their pads. “You gonna try to pee in the toilet?” He nodded and she leaned forward and wrapped her arms around his chest. Once under his arms she leaned back and helped him stand. “Up you go, you gotta help a little more than tha… there you go…” finally, he stood all the way up.
She took the gown off him revealing a normal body, but one covered in scars. Six steps forward and he stood over the toilet and began to pee. She handed him a cup and he handed it back. She put a lid on it and placed it on a cart by the door. While he remained standing, she pulled his top bedding off, threw it in the hamper, and pulled a new sheet from a locker along the mirrored wall. While in front of the mirror, she shrugged a little. Placing the unfolded sheet at the foot of the bed, she moved to the tray table.
She laid a fresh gown on the table next to a pile of folded clothes. He reached for the pants in the pile of clothes instead. After putting them on, she helped him sit on the bed. Almost as a matter of routine, she handed him a glass of water with a bendable straw in it. He took a drink while she placed her fingers on his wrist and took his pulse. After recording his stats, she placed the specimen jar in the carts sterile drawer.
“How are your feet feeling?” she asked casually. “Can you take your socks off for me?” He bent over and took off the hospital booties to reveal bandages, which she promptly started to remove. “You have a visitor today who would like to speak with you,” she said smiling.
“It’s not a good day,” he replied in a quiet monotone.
“He is kind of in a hurry to talk to you. He seems like an okay guy.”
The trainer, as he watched her inspect his feet, said, “You are unsure of him.”
She smiled and replied, “Maybe a little. He is just farther up the food chain than I am used to.”
“When he is gone you’re going to let me sleep for a while?”
Val looked him in the eyes and said, “I can make that happen for you.” The subject closed his eyes and laid back on the bed. When his feet were inspected, cleaned, and re-bandaged she left the room. When she entered the pod from the room everyone paid attention.
“Today is not a good idea,” an odd squeak resonated in her voice. “He seems…I don’t know— off.”
“That seemed like a normal day in a medical facility to me.” Marcus had a problem understanding the difference between the casual demeanor of the room, and the nurse’s statement.
“Sir with all due respect his not a good day usually involves a lot of people dying. It’s not the same as our not a good day. He also said when he is gone! Not, when he leaves or when he’s done. That is not a figure of speech for him. It means he has not made up his mind exactly how you will be leaving him alone. Sir, he could very well decide to kill you and there will not be anything anyone can do about it.”
“Nurse, I will be fine. It is my decision,” Marcus said, moving to the pod side door, everyone lined up against the window.
The nurse pulled herself back in well-educated professionalism, “If it goes sideways in there, just get out! Don’t worry about me. I don’t think he would hurt me intentionally. Don’t try to fight, just get out.” The door opened silently and waited for them to move forward, “Oh! And ignore the gun if he picks it up,” she said as they stepped through.
Marcus looked at the tiny nurse, his protector, skeptically, “That is what you almost left out, the weapon? Really?”
She just smiled at her supervisor. “For God's sake don’t touch it. Keep your entire body at least two feet from it. A lab tech bumped it with his elbow while drawing blood once and his injuries where substantial and the subject refused to go on any recoveries for almost two months. He just kept getting drunk and taking the pistol apart. He would clean it and put it back together. Like it was dirty and he couldn’t get it clean.”
The door closed behind them and they were in the short hallway staring at the door leading to the room. Marcus noted that it felt like an airlock. Infection He thought.
“It's the boobs, Sir.” the nurse said matter of fact, waiting for the air to exchange. “I accidentally dragged my chest across his body when he was semi-conscious and …well, here we are.” Marcus was silent staring down at her from his six-foot frame. Yep, lazy day, unconscious patient and I didn’t feel like wearing a bra, who knew? A sarcastic smile crept across her face.
“So? Love interest or mother figure?” Marcus asked becoming genuinely interested.
“Not a clue, Sir,” the nurse said looking up. The door slid open. Val entered the room at a leisurely pace with Marcus directly behind her. The Subject stirred when they entered. “I’m back,” she said as she walked to the mirror side of the bed. “This is Colonel Marcus Schiffle. He is the commanding officer of the facility.”
The subject remained motionless, focused on the nurse. At the bedside, she adjusted his sheet to cover his bandaged feet. It was an almost unconscious act of imparting modesty to the situation. Marcus stayed at the foot of the bed.
When Val moved to the other side of the bed she brushed past Marcus, her body making contact as she passed—her hand, shoulder and hip were warm, even thru the scrubs. She replaced his water with a fresh one, making sure not to get herself between the subject and the end table, purposely ignoring the pistol and the bottle of whiskey on it.
When she moved on to the mobile food tray, the subject finally looked at Marcus. It felt like an acceptable opening. “Good morning,” Marcus attempted to smile, but thought better of it. The trainer did not react, “I would like to ask you a few questions, if you don’t mind,” said Marcus. Still no reaction.
The nurse busily straightened the sheet and checked the bandage on his shoulder for signs of leakage. “What is your name?” Marcus was determined. The subject no longer focused on Marcus, but on the nurse. “Were you military?” Eye contact again, but nothing more. The nurse brushed up against him again at the foot of the bed, writing on the day chart, radiating warmth. When she made her way around him, to make sure she did not walk between them, she dragged her chest across his arm. His male hindbrain screamed BOOBS at the contact. She didn’t smell like bleach?
“I guess I only have one real question then,” Marcus continued, frustrated at the lack of communication. The subject stared at him for a second then focused back on the nurse, now at his bedside, placing a stethoscope on his chest. “Why do we fail?” At this point Marcus clearly, and definitively, understood the tentative nature of the scientists in dealing with him. He also realized that the subject had been barely paying attention to him; and getting his attention, which he apparently just did, was not unlike having a large caliber weapon pointed at his head.
With his eyes firmly on Marcus, the subject attempted to sit up, which Marcus thought seemed very similar to someone cocking the hammer of the weapon pointed at your head. As Val helped him sit erect, a spot of sweat appeared on her back.
The subject said quietly, “Everything you train them to do is designed to get them home. Every decision they make is focused on getting home.” He swung his legs over the side of the bed without losing his focus on Marcus. Marcus never wanted this man’s undivided attention ever again. The subject leaned forward and used Valerie’s arm to help him stand, she was visibly sweating now. With his hand on her shoulder for stability he said, “They will never survive until going out is like going home.” There was a pause as he stabled himself on wobbly legs. As a decorated combat vet, Marcus could assess a battlefield pretty well, especially when he was standing on it. The nurse was correct in her assessment, if he decided to kill him there would be nothing anyone could do about it. Marcus started to sweat as well.
The subject reached for the end table and brought the breathing in the room to a halt. Picking up the whiskey bottle, he said, “You should leave now,” and the breathing resumed. Marcus turned and headed for the door wanting nothing more than to be out of the room and back in control of his own life. The subject then turned to Val, “You should leave too. Don’t come back for a while.” She left as he moved slowly toward the toilet carrying the bottle of whiskey.
As soon as the door closed behind her, Val threw-up in the airlock. She threw-up again as the inner door opened, then turned to Marcus, “If I wanted to die today, I would have taken a bottle of pills. The next time you have a fucking death wish, please, leave me out of it!” Pulling off the vomit-covered scrubs, she glared at him until he looked away, turned and left the pod.
“Hey, Woobie,” Marcus called over his shoulder, “you did good in there.” He didn’t actually see Val standing in her underwear giving him the finger, but he sure felt it. It brought an honest smile to his face.
On his way past the security desk he said, “Captain! Please tell Doctors DeAngelo and Jeffries, that I want all transcripts of the recordings on my desk within the hour. Forward all video recordings of the subject to the meeting room. I will be in my office.”
The transcripts and recordings arrived within twenty minutes. Nine hours later, still watching videos and reading, he realized he was wasting his time. His opinion hadn’t waivered in at least two hours. He had a serious problem; a lot of people had a serious problem they didn’t even know about.
“Private Bishop,” he spoke into the intercom to the outer office. “I need the research team associated with the subject in the conference room as soon as possible.” “Yes Sir,” came a fuzzy reply.

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 Post subject: Re: LINK STATE
PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 2016 12:08 pm 
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The large video screen on the wall of the meeting room paused on the subject crossing no man’s land with a trainee in a fireman's carry. Forward three frames, back three frames, his actions had not changed since the morning. He had the clips that he wanted discussed isolated and stored.
Sitting down at a computer terminal, actually not really a computer, more like a dumb node attached to a network, he asked for access to the main communication log. He noted in his head that there were fifty-four reclamation sites like his. It seemed foolish to have them all listed on the network, even if it was a physical access only network. If a competent group gained control of one of the sites, it could be a real disaster for the whole project. Enough second guessing he thought to himself and proceeded to his concern. He requested of the network, the success rate breakdown by site and service. The enter key gave an instantaneous response. The one he feared. His site was number one and not just by a small fluctuating margin. His site recovery numbers were in excess of four times the number of the other sites. Every commanding officer had access to these numbers that sorely reflected their own failures.
The numbers of personnel lost were offset in his favor as well. He realized he was on a time limit from the moment he took command of the site. That is why he was flagged for the command of this mission on such short notice. Someone already noticed!
Marcus greeted everyone as they arrived, giving him an informal moment with each of his staff members. The primary doctors, the security staff, and the administrators that he had talked to earlier in the day were quick to be seated. He was pleased at the speed in which the group focused, even though they entered individually. It implied teamwork and a common work ethic. He could use that to his advantage. He waited for the last to arrive.
“Good morning everyone,” Marcus scanned the room. The conference table seated the staff comfortably with Marcus in the middle. “As you can see by the video screen—” he pointed to the monitor on the wall, “our topic today is going to be the indigenous personnel acquired by this site. The one you refer to as the trainer or the subject.” Everyone had stopped looking at the large video screen. They were now more interested in him and each other. “Doctor DeAngelo,” everyone turned and looked at the doctor, “where is Miss Valerie Pentia? Why is she not present?”
Dr. DeAngelo appeared surprised by the question, “Sir, she isn’t administrative in position or title. She is not even a nursing supervisor. She doesn’t have a degree in psychology. Shit, she’s not much more than a janitor.
“Nevertheless, Dr. DeAngelo, you will send for her!” Marcus watched Dr. Jeffries note the flex in the portfolio Dr. DeAngelo held. He probably had the same question as Marcus: why didn’t they break more often?
“Yes Sir!” She stood and exited the room. Marcus tried to absorb how very unusual she was. In both demeanor and psych profile. Everyone in the room could hear Dr. DeAngelo's voice carry through the door when she informed the private at the desk to summon the nurse.
When she re-entered, Marcus started again. “I would like your attention on the screen.” Marcus moved to get a better shot with the remote, once they realized that he played a clip of the subject carrying a trainee, the staff went back to nonverbal communication with each other, mostly rolled eyes and raised eyebrows.
“I can tell by everyone’s behavior that we have all seen this clip before,” Marcus waited for a reaction.
“Uh, Yes Sir,” Captain Sparks spoke up. “We have studied it extensively.”
“Did you notice anything of importance, Captain?”
The captain stared at the video screen, “Other than great composure and physical ability, no Sir.” Valerie entered the room to a sneer from Dr. DeAngelo. Her dress was unique in the room as she wore civilian clothes. That’s curious, he thought, she didn’t just change into a new set of scrubs.
Ignoring the administrative supervisor, she stared at the screen as the clip replayed the same five seconds over and over again. The screen zoomed in to the subject’s face, then to just his eyes. “This is approximately five to six seconds after he breaks cover from the scrub brush at the perimeter.” Everyone nodded nonchalantly. They seemed to be familiar with the video. After Marcus zoomed in on just the subject’s eyes, he hit play again. The subject’s eyes darted back and forth and from the ground to the sky.
“People! This is situational awareness! This person is one hundred percent aware of his surroundings. Dehydrated, anemic and carrying a dead man while running,”
“That’s not possible, Sir,” Captain Sparks blurted. The faces in the room showed looks of confusion. “Physical activity limits situational awareness. You become myopic with exhaustion,” Captain Sparks explained. “Sir, I cannot accept that. We know by his condition after the fact that he was at the limits of his endurance. He should not have had any situational awareness.”
“Oh! I agree that he should not have,” Marcus hit play again causing the trainer’s eyes to move left and right, up and down, on a loop. “But he did! Here in the next clip,” clicking to a new wide-angled shot of the open dirt perimeter with the subject leading a blindfolded trainee while carrying the other in, slow frame by frame. “Watch closely as the crazy, sorry, feral person exits the brush.”
The video showed a large humanoid dressed in skins, rags, and leather explode from the brush with little reaction from the subject. Marcus hit play for full speed playback and let it loop through a couple of times.
“My point exactly, no situational awareness. He has no idea what’s coming,” Captain Sparks seemed very proud of himself.
“That is how it looks.” Marcus zoomed in until just the subject’s face took over the monitor. Then he hit slow motion play again. The subject, without facial expression, glanced at the crazy, and then tracked along the ground to the door. Glanced back to his feet, then followed the ground to the opening—calmly returning his focus to the ground in front of him.
“Oh my God,” Captain Sparks exclaimed in amazement. “Play it again, Sir!”
Dr. Jeffries interrupted by asking, “What is everyone else, including me, not seeing?” Looking around the room, there were no reactions except a shocked look on Captain Spark’s face. Marcus finally felt like someone understood, “Would you like to explain it to them, Captain?”
“Well…he is not just aware; he is making tactical decisions, accurately.” Sparks leaned forward to get a better look, “Play the clip in slow motion, Sir. Ok, here he sees the first crazy, later two more exit.” Marcus interrupted, “More on them later.”
“Ok, he sees him bust out of the brush. His reaction is so calm we didn’t even know he saw him... But he did. Here.” The clip of the eyes moving between himself, the feral human and the door played slowly.
“He is judging the distance of the feral and the door and himself and the door. The door being a natural choke point that is defendable. Once he realizes he is going to beat the crazy to the choke point he ignores them.”
Marcus let the clip play out. “At the end of the run he stops, turns, drops the wounded trainee, the blindfolded trainee and kid enter the doorway just as the first feral engages. Personally, I think he slowed a little to conserve energy and to keep the ferals excited, but I can’t prove it yet.”
“Sir, it’s...” Captain Sparks started.
“I know it’s not supposed to be possible, but he did it nonetheless. It gets better. This is the clip of the first feral person engaging him.” Marcus hit play and the video camera position changed to a feed from inside the room. In slow motion, the subject, now free from the load of carrying the other man, steps aside to let the piggyback pair into the room. The rider screamed to stop right before they tumbled on top of the bed at the far wall by the one-way mirror. The subject deftly redirected the crazy, in full sprint, into the door jam. His arm physically sagged at the contact.
“You will note here,” Marcus said while pausing the video “The collar bone is broken. From this point on with this particular hostile, he will work solely from the side of the broken bone. I wasn’t sure this had been intentional until later. Here he pushes his opponent into the doorjamb while using a forward snap kick to the feral’s knee.” He moved forward, frame by frame with his dialog. “This is when I started to notice. The first kick was ineffective, so he repeats the kick. The second kick tears the ligaments in the knee, but if you watch, the feral there has almost no physical reaction. His body position doesn’t change, nor his height. His weight distribution and response to the kick is the only thing that would reflect the destroyed knee. The subject, before there is any feedback from the combatant, is already taking advantage of the broken leg. He shifts his body to the rear and lines the feral's neck up to receive a lethal blow from the door jamb.”
“Sir! That is just not possible!” Captain Sparks interrupted, stunned by the video. Dr. Jeffries responded aggressively, “Why not! He could feel the knee break with his foot. Even I can tell when a branch breaks underfoot.”
Marcus needed Doctor Jeffries to understand. “Because he just completed a three hundred yard run carrying—I added it up, two hundred and sixty-two pounds. All while in poor physical health. These things are not possible for normal people.”
Marcus fast-forwarded the video about twenty frames. “This is where feral number two arrives only to be met at full speed by the body of feral number one which deflected the feral into the room, towards the toilet, away from the trainees and the kid. At this point the subject decides to arm himself by pulling his knife.” Three frames of the knife drawing and Marcus spoke again. “This is when it gets … Interesting. The subject meets feral number three at the portal. The first knife strike to the neck appears lethal. It’s not. The subject continues on to a strike that attacks the subclavian artery in the shoulder. It is also non-lethal.”
Captain Sparks raised his hand, “Are these statements confirmed by the autopsies?”
Dr. Jeffries nodded while saying, “Yes they are, even the order they were acquired.”
“Moving on. The third and fatal attack is to the femoral artery. Now, I kind of assumed, at first glance, that this could be a reflex drill. A training exercise—attack three arteries one should do the job. Kind of like a martial arts kata or shooting drill. Like two to the chest, one to the head, just training, but watch the body language.”
The frame by frame showed the subject come to a slight pause when the knife slid into the feral human's leg. Right after the pause in the next frame the subject appeared unconcerned with the assailant, “You can see here, he starts to totally ignore the feral and moves towards number three who has just crawled out from under his dead compatriot. I don’t think we need to see the I.V. stand footage again. I have seen it twice and that is two too many.”
The video screen went blank, “My point is that he was fully aware of the damage his weapon did inside the feral’s body with each strike. This goes beyond training. I am not even sure what this is.” Marcus pushed himself away from the table.
“Sir, that’s not the half of it,” Valerie spoke for the first time since entering the room. “He was unconscious when he did it!”
Dr. DeAngelo reacted physically to the statement dropping her face into her hands. Her muffled voice almost comical, “Are you listening to yourself? You sound like an idiot!”
“That’s enough, Dr. DeAngelo. Please continue Miss Pentia.”
Valerie looked from the doctor to Marcus and continued, “Like I said, he was unconscious or in some kind of induced state. When I got into the room after security checked the ferals, he was lying on the bed starting an I.V. Did they tell you what kind of I.V. it was?”
“No Miss Pentia, they did not. Is that important?” he asked, glancing at Dr. DeAngelo.
“It was an Interosseous Infusion, a non-collapsible I.V. that you put in the bone, through to the marrow. You use a spring-loaded plunger that shoots out a very large-bore needle. He did it to himself! Do you know what kind of pain response you get from the tibia? The combat medics have a rule, that if you don’t respond to the Interosseous I.V. insertion, they might as well quit working on you, because you’re dead! It brings people out of comas—and he did it to himself.”
Dr. DeAngelo, looking more perturbed than usual, shook her head and glared at the nurse. “But that’s not all,” Valerie continued. “I have been working with him for a while as you know.” Marcus detected a hint of hostility, “I check his reflexes when he lets me. You know…the usual. I check deep tendon, patellar, Achilles. When he was out, I also checked Planter and Babinski along with BCR Osinski. Now, on a normal day I get nothing, zeros across the board. The occasional one if he is a little drunk and distracted and I catch him in the middle of a thought. That’s not uncommon for high performance athletes and soldiers. Their bodies don’t do anything they don’t want it to do. This time I get full twos through the whole exam. Now, they are rated on a zero-to-four scale, with a two being normal and a four being the comic version where you whack ’em on the knee with the rubber hammer and they kick the doctor.”
Everyone in the room smiled except Dr. DeAngelo, “His eyes are open and he is following me so he appears conscious. Commander, you have been in the room with him. He takes it over. It is like being in the room with a thousand-pound predator.”
“Yes ma’am, I am fully aware of the sensation,” Marcus was unhappy that the memory forced its way back into his mind, he nodded and she continued, “So, you will understand how weird it was, when I tell you, I felt like I was in the room by myself. As far as I am concerned, he was unconscious.”
“Miss Pentia, did you put this in your report?” Marcus looked at each person around the conference table, silently challenging them. Only Dr. DeAngelo refused to meet his gaze.
“Yes, I did Sir!” No hint of ego from the nurse.
“Dr. Jeffries, what did you do with all of the reports of the situation?”
“They are all in the file, Sir.”
“Apparently not,” Marcus looked down the table at Dr. DeAngelo. “Miss DeAngelo would you care to comment?”
The entire team focused on the doctor who was starting to look uncomfortable. When she looked up, she glared at the nurse. “I didn’t feel it was relevant. I felt it was assumptions not based in fact. The reports are lacking enough hard-based fact as it is and I did not want to cloud the waters any further.”
“Understood Dr. DeAngelo.” He made sure his demeanor did not change. The doctor’s statement was accurate. “In the future please leave all of the reports intact and, if you would prefer, you can label the ones you do not feel are relevant.” He noticed the nurse looking in the doctor’s direction during her answer and saw no signs of offense or pretentiousness. That felt odd. Most people when vindicated publically responded with something.
“Commander Schiffle,” Dr. DeAngelo seemed unfazed by the public reprimand, “I would like to point out that the submitted BIO samples after the incident were unusual and this led the Lab techs to contact the nurse to check him for wounds or internal bleeding. It was she who suggested the transfusion in the field was responsible for the longevity of the amputee. I have spoken with Dr. Jeffries and we have concluded that, while difficult, it would not be impossible. Especially for someone with unique skills like our subject.”
Marcus noted the relationships surrounding him as highly unusual. The Doctor calls the nurse an idiot then is chewed by her supervisor publicly right before she compliments the nurse’s work and it is all fine at the table? Any other unit would have been at each other’s throats in a meeting like this with their commanding officer.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” he said as he stood up. “I have a lot to absorb. I say we reconvene this meeting at 0800 tomorrow morning.” Complacent looks to each other and then a nod to him. They stood and started to move through the door.
“Doctors,” Jeffries and DeAngelo turned back to Marcus. “Do you feel that interviews with the recovered male and the surviving trainee would be possible soon?” The doctors looked at each other and shrugged almost imperceptibly, “Sure,” Jeffries with DeAngelo nodded.
“Thanks,” said Marcus as they continued into the outer office.
Marcus, realizing he had a few questions left that would not let him sleep, pushed the intercom. “Bishop, stop Miss Pentia before she leaves. I have a few questions for her.” There was an unusual pause from the private on the intercom.
“Private Bishop?” he said into the microphone.
The door opened and Bishop entered holding a sheet of paper. “Sir, she gave me this when she left.”
Bishop handed Marcus a full-sized sheet of paper with a single line that read,
This is to inform you of my immediate resignation ~V. Pentia.

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 Post subject: Re: LINK STATE
PostPosted: Tue Mar 08, 2016 9:28 am 
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Enjoying this, very much!

It gets more interesting as the story moves along.


People who are rather more than six feet tall and nearly as broad across the shoulders often have uneventful journeys. People jump out at them from behind rocks then say things like, "Oh. Sorry. I thought you were someone else."

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 Post subject: Re: LINK STATE
PostPosted: Tue Mar 08, 2016 11:28 am 

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I've lurked for a good year, time to join and post.
I bought your book after reading the first three chapters you posted here. I bought and finished it yesterday. I was hooked! You have a gift at writing and I look forward to the next two books.
Also from one vet to another. Thankyou for your service.

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 Post subject: Re: LINK STATE
PostPosted: Tue Mar 08, 2016 1:07 pm 
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Thank You for the compliments and for your service.

That’s not good, Marcus thought as he re-read Pentia’s resignation. I bet DeAngelo isn’t going to be heartbroken, but then again who knows. This place has some strange relationships. “Bishop, get Dr. Jeffries on the phone for me.”
“Yes Sir,” Bishop headed back out the door. Less than a minute went by while Marcus mulled over the effects of the current situation.
“Commander Schiffle, Doctor Jeffries is on line two,” Marcus stared at the intercom. He ended the conversation with Bishop by pushing a button, which brought the background noise of a busy office to his ear, “Yes Commander, how can I help you?”
“Are you aware of Nurse Pentia’s resignation?” The pause proved that Marcus had discovered something the doctor did not know. It almost felt like a command victory. The seriousness of the situation prevented him from enjoying the victory
“No! Absolutely not!” The background noise on the doctor’s end of the phone died down.
“How is it going to affect our relationship with the trainer?”
“Truthfully Sir, it could end it. At the very least, it will get someone killed. She is the only one who is even...”
“It’s alright doctor,” Marcus cut him off. “I will take care of it tomorrow, but there is probably going to be some serious changes.” The doctor’s tone didn’t change. “At this point Sir, it doesn’t matter what we have to do, we will do it.” Marcus thought the doctor’s blurted sentence unusual and thought, does he know more than he is letting on? The long pause on the phone re-enforced the thought. He had no idea where the doctor’s information had come from.
“Goodnight Doctor, please inform your colleagues that the meeting is moved to eleven hundred, and that Pentia has resigned.”
“Just do what I ask you to do, Doctor Jeffries.”
“Yes Sir.”
Hanging up the phone Marcus pressed the intercom button, Bishop responded instantly. “Please inform the pod three recovery staff that the meeting tomorrow is moved to eleven hundred and bring that old bottle of scotch in here. I also need you to find the location of Valerie Pentia’s quarters.”
“Yes Sir.”
Digging around in his desk, Marcus found an old bourbon glass that probably belonged to the last commanding officer. That will do, he thought, as he pulled it from the drawer. Just then, Private Bishop entered with the bottle and a sheet of notepaper, “Here you go Sir,” he said in that ever-present cheerfulness.
“Yes Sir?”
“Go home.” Marcus needed time to focus on his situation.
The private sprouted a cheeseball grin and headed for the door, “Good night Sir. See you tomorrow.”
“Yeah, yeah, shut the door tight on the way out.”
Taking off his boots had always marked the end of his day. He sighed, rubbed his feet together and poured the scotch from the old bottle, his pull on the glass very long and deliberate. With an educated wince, he turned his attention to the computer terminal on his desk. He thought about what he needed to do and the best way to go about it, but he needed information first. Information that could be found on the net, if he looked in the right place.
The computer responded instantly to the keystroke.
------LINK State------
:Network:All:Query:Personnel:All:Sir:Pentia:Pri:Valerie:Oth:Unkn :own
>Records 6
1. Pentia. Valerie. Ofelia. Records 19> Deceased
2. Pentia. Valerie. Records 6.Missing062087.Presumed Deceased
3. Pentia. Valerie. Records 2. Foundry colony. Emp. Laborer
4. Pentia. Valerie. Records 143.Littlerock penal. Incarcerated
5. Pentia. Valerie. Records 15. Denver industrial. Emp. Nurse
6. Pentia. Valerie. Records 2.cheyenne Park.Emp.None.Reason.Age.9Months
Pentia. Valerie. records 49
“Hmmm! That was easy,” Marcus sipped his drink. “Definitely not a John Smith search.”
:Records 15
1.Citizenship.Records 3
2.Education. Records 7
4.BIO. Records 1
“That looks pretty normal; only 3 cit records must have been born here. Normal Ed, normal jobs, and a DNA sample. Fuckin’ inbreds, I can’t believe we need to monitor the gene pool now.” He took another sip and hit the 3 query.
:Employment Records 4
1.Denver Industrial. Nursing Assistant Internship 082092-042094
2.Denver Industrial. Registered Nurse. 052094-092098
3.Los cruces refugee center. Surgical Triage Nurse.112098-042101
4.Processing Center<Classified>. Private Contract<classified>Current
“In New Mexico for the attack, talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time,” he looked at his tumbler as if it had committed a crime as being almost empty.
Records 49
1. Citizenship. Records 3
2. Aptitude Testing. Records 9
3. Training. Records 19
4. Duty Assignments. Records 6
5. Awards/Decorations/Evaluations Records 8
Meh, normal, Marcus thought to himself.
Awards/Decorations/Evaluations Records 11
1. Awards records 22
2. Citations records 11
3. Decorations [non-combat] Records4
4. Decorations [combat] Records 7
5. Physical evaluations Records 33
6. Psychological Records 2

Psychological Evaluations. Records 2
1. Triage Counseling Requirements. Records 9
2. Post AAR <classified> Records 2
: Network:All:Query:Personnel:Results:Military:1:2:3:2
“Combat decorations, after action reports, and stress disorders?” His glass had been empty for a while, “Where exactly have you been, Miss Pentia?” He grabbed the bottle to get a refill. After a few paces to stretch his legs and with a full glass and a grunt he sat down and re-established his view of the terminal screen. After a little digging, his reading material became more interesting.
AAR Interviews Records 2
Interviews <classified>4

>Service Member. Pentia, Valerie, NMI
Attending Psychiatrist. Dr. Longman, Francis

Tech sergeant Pentia is withdrawn during the interview with very few clear memories of the incident and passive refusal of therapy to resolve lapses is allowed per instructions. Cognitive of the incident and highly functioning TS Pentia is a prime candidate for therapy and reintroduction into active service. TS Pentia’s lack of specific memories are not uncommon. Due to the sensitive nature of the incident, they will not be pursued.
TS Pentia’s empathic nature while ensuring her success as a nurse could also make recovery difficult.
Not cleared for active duty at this time.
[Download full report] Y/N
The common ground therapy has been patently successful. Ts Pentia is showing no signs of stress disorders and TS Pentia has done well in her current position as rehab event coordinator. Her quarters were evaluated without her knowledge and in her absence and appear normal with items of interest and reasonably clean for a single female.
Recommendation is for reintegration into active duty.
To avoid distress, reassignment to an active battalion should be during her normal duty rotation.
[Download full report] Y/N
“What sneaky assholes,” he took a sip and grimaced. The cat and mouse game for her career continued on the read-out in front of him,
>Service Member. Pentia, Valerie, NMI
Reinstatement evaluation
1st assault infantry
32nd reconnaissance battalion
Combat medical company A
Attending Psychiatrist. Dr. Pricory, Angela
Attending BTN executive officer Captain Ardoin
Senior TS Pentia has some reservations regarding her promotion and her awards that seem in standing with her psych eval. Her final job performance at her last assignment suffered on receipt of her reinstatement orders. While appearing satisfied with her duty assignment, she seems withdrawn. Follow up evaluations should include psych monitors to avoid stress incidents. Immediate follow up counseling after any exposure to combat recommended.
Cleared for active duty this assignment.
Marcus whispered to himself, “Captain Ardoin, you look familiar. Where have I seen your name before?”
: Network:All:Query:Personnel:Results:Military:1:2:3:2:1:2
Post action Evaluation.
Follow Up evaluation
1. Active Duty Order Evaluation.
2. Termination Active Duty Evaluation.
Marcus clicked on number four.
>Service Member. Pentia, Valerie, NMI
Termination of active duty; Psychological evaluation
1st assault infantry
32nd reconnaissance battalion
Combat medical company HHQ
Attending Psychiatrist. Dr. Pricory, Angela
Attending BTn Co Major Acosta
Senior TS Pentia has been removed from the 32nd recon BTn. Showing signs of PTSD and Paranoia. Memories regarding her combat experiences have been repressed per instructions. Her paranoia accurately includes programs to adjust her behavior and personnel being in her room. She is having problems with her chain of command and personnel of authority. This is not uncommon with combat veterans so will not affect her standing as a citizen and should not be cause for disciplinary actions.
Honorable discharge recommended.
“Blah, blah, blah— fucking her over to get rid of the person asking questions,” his glass did not need to be refilled again, he wanted to remember what he had read.
“How about,”
Combat Decorations Records 7
1. Good Conduct Medal.
2. Theater Ribbon Southern [American Taskforce Allied peerage].
3. Purple Heart.
4. Unit Citation For Combat
5. Bronze Star [with Gauntlet device]
6. Distinguished service Cross [Gallantry]
“Holy crap, that is quite the list. How the fuck does a nurse get a Distinguished Service Cross for Gallantry?”
Distinguished Service Cross [Gallantry]
Battle of Mongol Heights 031505
Gallantry in Combat
On March 15 2105 in the mongol province of tribal New Mexico, During the Heights engagement as a Combat medic in 1st assault infantry 32ndReconnaissance battalion Combat medical company A. Tech Sergeant Pentia’s Airlift Medi-Aid craft was shot down with Rocket propelled guided grenades while over an enemy held position
Tech Sergeant Pentia after the crash, realizing the site was controlled by Tribal insurgents, retrieved the heavy machine gun from the door gun position of the aircraft and with total disregard for her own safety while facing withering small arms fire. Engaged the enemy at point blank range with the aircrafts belt fed heavy machine gun. Single handedly forcing the retreat of over twenty Tribal insurgents. Tech sergeant Pentia then began treating and arming the casualties of the crash. During the height of the fighting Tech sergeant Pentia was able to, at great risk of bodily harm and extreme exposure to enemy fire, drag the four wounded men of the 32nd recon battalion combat alpha flight to a defendable position. Tech Sergeant Pentia then took command of the survivors and mounted a defense that included point blank small arms fire, Grenades and hand-to-hand combat. Her defense of the position held for thirteen hours. In the early morning hours of March 16th Tech Sergeant Pentia was grievously wounded using her body as a shield to protect a wounded member of her team from small arms fire. Despite her wounds tech sergeant Pentia continued to treat and protect with her own body the other wounded at great physical cost to herself until her flight command was rescued at 0445 that morning. Tech sergeant Pentia’s gallantry and intrepidity in the face of overwhelming odds while going above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest tradition of the 1st Assualt infantry. Her actions reflect great credit upon herself, the 1st assault infantry and our armed forces.
Staring in disbelief at the monitor, Marcus realized he had drank too much. Still trying to shake the cobwebs from his mind, he pushed himself back and left the terminal. His anteroom had a bed and a shower and he knew that is where he would be sleeping.
The morning came after a brief sleep. With no windows in the outer wall offices, you couldn’t even guess the time of day without looking at a clock or monitor. The smell of coffee coming from his adjoining office meant that Bishop had arrived.
“Man that guy is like a machine,” he mumbled to himself. After the bathroom and a change of clothes, he called into the office, “Hey Bishop, could you get Captain Sparks in here for a meeting as soon as possible?”
“Yes sir,” Marcus could see Bishop’s ever-present smile in his mind. He began straightening up his office— a necessity of decorum. Professionalism had gone out the window after the second or third drink. His socks were still on the desk next to the computer monitor that had revealed so much the night before.
------LINK state------
------Timed out------
Well, at least there were some security measures on the network. The whiskey bottle—not completely empty— didn’t go back into the reception office. It went into the bottom drawer where he assumed everyone kept their booze. When the intercom sounded, it felt like the starting bell, signaling another round in the fighting ring.
“Sir, Captain Sparks is here.”
“Send him in, Bishop.”
The door opened, Marcus waived to the chair to offer him a seat. “As you know, Captain Sparks, we have acquired a new problem.” The captain’s face was an unreadable blank as he responded.
“Sir, no offense intended, but I think this is a self-inflicted wound.”
Marcus pressed the intercom button. “Bishop, can I get some coffee?” He glanced at Captain Sparks and raised his eyebrows in a silent question. Sparks shook his head.
“Commander Schiffle, would Captain Sparks like a cup?” Came Bishop’s filtered voice.
“No thank you, just one please.”
Turning back to Sparks, “I am aware that my ignorance of the situation caused enough stress to be a catalyst. I just need to get back on track,” pushing the slip of paper from the previous night towards the captain. “Two things, how is the department handling the problem and do you know where that is? I am still not as familiar as I should be with the entire base.”
Captain Sparks picked up the note. “The hierarchy is completely destroyed in the pod. DeAngelo is angling toward the power vacuum.” He looked at the note, “Sir, yes, I know where this is.” He looked up from the note, his expression grim. “Would you like me to send someone to get her?”
“No, Captain Sparks, I think that is what she is waiting for, either the phone call or the runner to show up. I am going to go myself.” The captain put the note down and pushed the paper back towards Marcus, “You should take an escort.”
That puzzled Marcus, why should he need an escort inside the base. “Bad neighborhood?”
“Only if your idea of a bad neighborhood has the fucking bogeyman living in it.” The blank poker face took over once again, “That is the barracks of the teams.”
Marcus responded with, “Interdiction teams?”
The captain’s tone was matter of fact, “Yes Sir.”
“That will be all captain. Please send me an escort at 0900 this morning.”
The captain stood to leave, “Yes Sir.”
This has turned into a very interesting morning, Marcus thought. The little nurse working in the pods continued to surprise him, So this tiny nurse applies and is accepted to this hard-ass assault infantry unit. Gets a list of serious combat decorations, gets run out of the military on rails and decides to hole up on her next assignment with some of the hardest men on the planet.” Looking down at the address, “Who are you?”
At 0915, Marcus rode the base shuttle to the West wall compound with an escort provided by the air assault battalion. It felt good to be out in the sun. The base had been built more like a medieval castle than a military post. The layers of roofed inner wall were stifling with only the inner most courtyards being uncovered. The shuttle stopped at the West wall portcullis. With an open hall leading into the wall, the arched ceiling made Marcus think of a cathedral.
“This is it Sir,” the corporal said making the left turn into the first long hallway. “Are you sure about this?”
“Corporal, I am sure.” They walked down the hallway to the first arch where they found a sign on the wall. It originally read “Interdiction Battalion.” The graffiti had the word Battalion lined through and “TEAMS” painted above it. The graffiti ran a list of rules down the side of the exposed arch:
Welcome to our World
1. Don’t feed the animals
2. Move slowly and avoid eye contact
3. Chicks dig the headset

The rest became more scribbled and lewd as it went down the wall. The Graffiti had been painted over several times in an attempt to show the command structure enforcing discipline at the entrance. The hall became more dimly lit as they journeyed into the West wall barracks. Tobacco smoke, sweat and gun oil were the predominant odors once deep inside the wall.
“Sir, you sure those are my only orders?” the corporal asked again looking a little worried. “You didn’t exactly give me any other instructions.”
“Corporal, your job is to make sure more than one person gets shot when this adventure goes sideways. Do you think you can do that?”
“Yes Sir! Assuming you are shooting the other one, because if these guys are as good as they say they are, I am only going to get one and that’s if we start it,” he forced a smile, trying to match his commanding officer’s style of humor.
“Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.”
The CQ desk stood out in the dim hallway. The soldier behind the desk wore a sterile uniform very similar to Marcus’, “Colonel Schiffle, my commanding officer has asked that the charge of quarter’s staff direct you to his office.” With his name and rank not visible on his uniform, Marcus got the feeling the redirection had been done. The soldier at the CQ desk directed them through a doorway into an office very similar to Bishop’s reception area. The soldier walked past the desk and knocked on the door behind and to the right of it.
“Come!” came the command from inside the room. The soldier stepped aside while hanging on to the doorknob. Marcus pointed to the couch while making eye contact with his escort and entered the room leaving the corporal alone in the outer office. The door quietly shut behind him.
“Good morning, Colonel Schiffle, we have been expecting you.” Marcus looked at the man before him. About fifty and tall, but it was his face held Marcus’ attention. He had been extensively reconstructed, with absolutely no scars. Just an odd face sitting on top of the bones and not really attached. Marcus responded, “What made you think I would come here myself and not appoint a runner, or hell, for that matter just a phone call?” Marcus thought that this had already turned into a chess match.
“You’re smarter than that,” the large man behind the desk shifted his weight to get more comfortable, the kind of movement a soldier makes to get off the old healed wounds that are still bothering him. “You have an asset that just became more difficult to exploit. It affects me as well. My teams are the volunteers that are providing you with trainees for that asset. Sending a runner would have sealed the deal. You would never get to talk to her without taking her into custody, which is why I asked to see you when you showed up. You have a real problem.”
The officer’s frankness surprised him, “What problem is that?” Marcus asked. The officer studied him before responding, “Yesterday Miss Pentia came into my office and asked me for a ride,” the grim demeanor sat on his face crudely. For the first time, Marcus worried about the outcome, “And how did you respond to her?”
The old soldier behind the desk leaned forward to emphasize what he was going to say, “I told her I would take her anywhere she wanted to go, with whatever she wanted to bring. No questions asked, no paperwork and no charge.” He smiled; the plastic surgery and age combined with the weathering of the skin made it horrifying. He continued, “You see, commander, she has saved, rehabbed or treated almost every man in this battalion at one time or another and if she wants to leave she can have a ride to anywhere she wants to go; she has earned that. Oh, and just in case you are thinking you are going to go down there and drag her out against her will, I would recommend against it. You see, she is a civilian and under our protection.”
The move surprised Marcus, “Yeah, I don’t think so. You don’t have the authority. This is my base and my command.”
The man behind the desk didn’t flinch. “Sir! We are one of the last fully functional interdiction battalions. If you think I haven’t broken a few rules to get here … well. Whatever.” He stood, signaling an end to the conversation. Marcus understood that, he had done it enough times. The man was larger than he thought. He said while moving toward the door, “I only answer to the peerage and God, if there is one! Now, I don’t care if you go down there and try to talk her into staying, but she does it of her own free will.” He held the door open for Marcus.
Marcus, concerned this commander had been in the wild for two long, started thinking of his next move. One of his biggest bargaining chips had just been taken off the table. Now it had become her game with her rules. He didn’t like it at all. With the corporal in tow, they walked out past the CQ desk and down the hall towards the quarters listed on the original slip of paper. Her quarters were easy enough to find, they were in the center of the barracks module. The leisure room was across the hall and their arrival had gotten everyone’s attention
Muffled conversations came from the break room; “There he is,” “That didn’t take long,” and “Hope he doesn’t think he is dragging her out of here.” A man stood next to her door with an earpiece and boom mic headset on. He stood there, as stone cold and serious as Marcus had ever seen another human being. Glancing at the man’s rank tabs and name, Marcus decided to break the ice first, “Are these Valerie Pentia’s quarters—Sergeant Kroening?” The soldier’s blue eyes and blond stubble matched the heritage of the name.
“Yes, it is—Colonel Schiffle,” trying to mimic the pause Marcus had without insulting him. “She is with a patient, would it possible for you to wait a couple of minutes? She is almost done.” Marcus almost smiled at the comedy that had become his life, “Does everyone in these barracks know who I am?”
The stoic soldier reached up and touched his earpiece turning it off, “Yes sir, and we knew you were coming…and unfortunately...why!” The crowd in the hallway behind Marcus slowly filled with more and more soldiers. Just as is started to become uncomfortably crowded, the door in front of him opened.
A lanky dark haired kid with a private stripe on his unbuttoned shirt emerged from the room on crutches. His bandaged chest matched his swollen ankle wrapped with tape.
Valerie in a very matter of fact tone said, “Now private, if I see a spot of blood on those bandages tomorrow, it’s your ass. Go home and rest, no pool, no booze, no horsing around.” Looking at the soldier against the wall, “Thank you Sergeant.” The Sergeant nodded and helped the private through the crowd spilling out of the breakroom doorway.
“Good morning, Commander Schiffle,” Valerie greeted Marcus, stepping out of the way. “Please come in.” Marcus closed his eyes for a split second and all of the teachings of Sun Tzu flooded his brain. Marcus had lost this battle before it ever happened. He arrived weary, ill fed, and discordant. Tzu’s list of things to do to bring your enemy to heel continued. He had traveled and crossed borders. She had avoided his strength and attacked his weaknesses. Surrounded herself with impenetrable allies. Most importantly, she had chosen the battlefield, which she occupied before his arrival. If this were an event exposed to the masses, it would be taught in military colleges for years as a perfect example of Tzu’s teachings. Looking to his escort, Marcus silently nodded for him to stand his post at the door.
The soldier instantly turned on his blank face and stared straight ahead, back to the wall. Marcus was impressed with his professionalism in front of such a hard band of men. This soldier could be worth remembering. As Marcus stepped through the doors, the taunting of his guard had already began. Cat calls of, “Ain’t you cute,” echoed from the hallway. Marcus stepped into the apartment and closed the door.
“Good morning Miss Pentia. Could I have a minute of your time?” The room was larger than he expected a nurse would occupy. It didn’t take long to figure out where the extra room came from. They had taken down a wall partition that had split the front room in half.
To the right was a medical table, cabinets, storage and a sink. Next to that was a rolling exam table. To the left was the average living quarters; couch and chair, video screen, small coffee table. Completely average; as if the doctor’s office in the same room didn’t exist.
She moved to the couch and asked, “Would you like something to drink, Sir?”
“No thank you, Miss Pentia.”
She smiled and sat on the couch with him. “Sir, I assume you are here because of my resignation. I assure you, I did not take it lightly and I am set on leaving. I have my assets stored and ready for shipment already. I am looking for a place right now,” she pointed to the monitor on the desk at the end of the room.
Asset, he thought. That is a strange way to describe your personal effects. Could she have just made a mistake? A small unnoticed ravine down the side of her perfect battlefield. He could make out the open listing on the screen even from where he sat. He wondered if she had to adjust the screen resolution so it could be seen from the couch. Valerie stood, moved to the small kitchen and poured herself a cup of coffee. As she returned to Marcus, he asked, “Have you ever heard of Sun Tzu?”
She sat back on the couch, took a sip and said, “He was the military guy that wrote a book on strategy, right? We discussed him a little in basic training.”
Marcus smiled and said, “Yeah, that’s him.”
She waited for him to elaborate. When he didn’t, she asked him why he wanted to know. He responded quietly, “Just curious. I am however concerned with your resignation and how it will affect the unit and what we are trying to accomplish.”
Without breaking her poker face, she stated calmly, “Unfortunately, Sir, that is not my concern. I am a private contractor and I have resigned. I am leaving very shortly. I am not sure you could talk me into staying.”
There is another chink in the armor. He smiled and said, “Unfortunately, I am not sure you would be of any help to me if you did not want to be here. I want you here; I need your ability to communicate with the trainer. I need a trained triage nurse in the room in case something happens. It would probably take three people to replace you and it would take me six months to find them and get them working together, but I think I could accomplish it. I would rather it be you.”
She stared into her cup, looking up only to make eye contact. Marcus felt his only effective move would be honesty. He understood that, even before he arrived here. He sighed and played his hand. “I am limited in what I can offer you to keep you here. I could offer you a commission that would put you in the chain of command high enough for you to have some freedom and some say in what is going on, but I don’t feel you would re-enter the service.”
She shook her head no and said, “That is really not going to happen—five years ago maybe, but not now.”
Marcus presented the only thing he had left. “Then my offer, Miss Pentia, is to renew your contract as a medical liaison between the military and the research teams. It would put you in my chain of command. You would answer only to me,” she looked up and he felt he had her attention.
“You almost got me killed,” she said in a matter of fact tone.
He responded instantly, “Learning curve.” She wrinkled her nose. The passive nature of her body language made him think he might be losing her.
“I can also offer you unrestricted access to your files: personnel, psych, evals, after-action reports from all witnesses—everything,” he stood abruptly and strode to the door. “From a legal standpoint, it won’t mean anything, as you are a civilian and officially don’t have access, but you would know the truth.” He turned to see if he had made an impact. Her face tightened as Marcus continued, “I think you could be happy here, if you were in charge of your own life.
“And yes,” he said, opening the door. “They were snooping in your room.” Her expression changed, but he couldn’t read it. “You know where my office is. Enjoy the rest of your day, Miss Pentia.” He left, closing the door gently behind him.
The crowd outside still milled about taunting the escort, “Well at least you didn’t kill anybody,” Marcus said. The Private turned to look at Marcus, his expression still serious.
“Yeah right!” someone from the break-room called out. “Baby face gonna kill somebody.”
Marcus called back to the room, “His orders were to empty the weapon into the hallway at the first physical contact.” The escort emphasized the statement by putting his weapon on safe with a very audible click in the absolute silence of the room.
On the walk out the hallways were quiet.
Past the CQ desk, he could hear the reports coming in over the desks radio. “What do you mean Comms are down?” He could see the activity level pick up as they moved through the courtyard.
“What is your first name, Private,” Marcus asked as he passively listened to the commotion behind him build.
“Nicholas, Sir—or…” he decided to test the waters with his superior, “Nick, nobody really calls me Nicholas.”
Marcus looked at him and thought he seemed young, “You’re air assault, right?” The private nodded. Marcus was curious, “What made you join the air assault?”
“I don’t know, Sir. I just thought the helicopters were cool.” Neither of them reacted when the base sirens went off. They were the only ones that went on about their business as the rest of the base picked up speed.
“You did good work in there today, Private. I will let your platoon leader know.” When they arrived at the entrance to the South wall, he released the private from his duties, “Stay alive, Private!” Private Skala snapped a salute and left for his barracks entrance at a brisk pace. Marcus meant it. The kid seemed tough. He would need to be in the months ahead.
Avoiding the pods and the power struggles that he knew would be going on, he stopped in his office, “How is everything going Bishop?”
“Good, Sir. We definitely have the attention of the interdiction battalion commander and I confirmed your appointment in the lab with Nademan. He is expecting you at 11:30, two hours from now.”
“Thank you,” Marcus walked into his office followed by the intern.
“Sir, Commander Kaehn called five minutes ago and was adamant that he speak with you. He said you left his battalion area ten minutes before and I should send out a runner to find you,” Private Bishop’s tone and stance very serious.
Marcus sat and leaned back in his chair. “Did you send out the lockdown order after the first patrol report?”
Private Bishop’s expression did not change, “As requested Sir, two hours after the interdiction patrols left the base and made their first SITREP from the perimeter checkpoint, stating they were going out.”
The bang from the outer office came through the walls loud enough that they both jumped and Marcus wondered if the door stayed on its hinges, “Schiffle! Where are you?” Schiffle, in his calmest voice said, “Come.” Private Bishop held the door open for the large man, closing the door between the offices once Kaehn had entered.
The large commander with the glued-on face stomped to Marcus’ desk and leaned into it with a sneer on his face that looked like a dark place in the earth spit it out after a long bout of chewing, “You! You, son of a bitch! Release the lock down!”
Without standing, Marcus replied, “I will when the exercise is over.” Marcus could hear the groan of the desk under the weight of the battalion commander.
“There were no exercises planned,” he growled. “You didn’t file anything! My pilots were told they would be shot down if they disembarked the base. What kind of bullshit is that? You wouldn’t dare shoot down my heavy lifts. We can’t even talk to our guys in the field. Psyops is running a jammer over the whole valley, no one can talk.”
Marcus stood and leaned in so they were face to face, “If they so much as power up, I will burn them into the ground before they get air under their skids. This base is locked down until I say so. The armor at the gates and drones in the air have orders to engage anything that moves, so your interdiction teams better obey their orders and stay outside the perimeter. I will lay waste to this entire valley if need be. Do I make myself clear?”
The commander’s jaws flexed visibly when he broke eye contact and turned away, back to a perfectly formed face for something that looked like meat that had been mounted on wood. “Commander Schiffle” he said calmly, “I get an evac flare from one of my patrols, and you will have to shoot those aircraft down.” With that he turned to leave, he paused at the door, and without looking back, “Release my fucking birds.”
Bishop entered as soon as commander Kaehn left the office. “Orders, Sir?” Bishop was without his ever-present smile.
“Thirty minutes private, not a minute sooner, and you can call off the base lockdown. I am heading over to the labs to see what this...” Marcus paused for too long.
“Doctor Nademan,” Bishop assisted.
“What Nademan can give me information-wise on our friends from the scrublands.” Marcus left Bishop in his office and headed for the labs.

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 Post subject: Re: LINK STATE
PostPosted: Wed Mar 09, 2016 2:06 am 
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WOW!! This must be what the saying "on the edge of your seat" means.

"We'll Fight Them, Sir!, Until Hell Freezes Over, And Then We'll Fight Them On The Ice! Sir!

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 Post subject: Re: LINK STATE
PostPosted: Wed Mar 09, 2016 2:29 pm 
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Bought it last night, finished it this morning.
Can't wait for book 2.

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 Post subject: Re: LINK STATE
PostPosted: Mon Mar 14, 2016 3:36 pm 
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Mature content warning.

Third plot line.

Azrael sat with her back against the concrete wall. Its smooth blackened surface shiny with the oils of the many bodies that had made contact with it. Fat and soot from the cook fires hardened on it and sealed it into a polished surface. The pit fires, kept lower once it had become warm in the middle of the three standing walls, gave off a red glow punctuated by a flash of yellow as the fire found fuel in the burning piles. One of the mothers squatted next to her and braided something in her hair. Azrael never paid much attention to them when they groomed her. The full chest pressed up against her, the nipples crusty with congealed milk. Azrael could see the veins in her engorged breast and they leaked warm milk across her arm and stomach where the mother pressed against her. She smelled comforting and fertile.
Out of the shadows, a figure moved slowly to them carrying a wide container. Azrael sat unconcerned with the male as he poured the container of food in front of her. It steamed and spread across the ground. Her stomach growled fiercely at the smell of it. The mother stopped braiding and crouched on her hands and knees to reach into the wetness and retrieve a large piece of meat. Azrael’s mind could grasp the act of the stolen food, just not why she allowed it. Her animal mind didn’t even recognize the mother stealing food as an invasion, it just simply was. Anyone other than one of the mothers would have been instantly chastised and possibly killed, where the mothers were simply allowed.
Azrael reached forward while the mother ate with her face close to the ground and touched her. Her wetness from behind, unmistakable, and Azrael’s fingers slid easily into her. The mother quit eating as Azrael mounted her. Azrael felt the overwhelming need to express her place and dominate her, pushing the mother’s face onto the warm concrete, her hips and fingers slamming into her until the mother grunted loud enough for everyone to hear.
As Azrael slid off of her, the mother continued to eat the piece of meat she had chosen, then turned back to smell Azrael’s hand. Standing, she walked into the shadows of bodies that surrounded Azrael’s place under the corner of the freeway overpass.
The mother began her search for the next bite of food. Azrael looked at her hand and smelled it, wondering if she could identify the male that had mated with her last from the smell or taste, and then licked one of her fingers. She knew she couldn’t, but the animal inside her said she should try. Looking at the milk drying on her stomach she wondered where the mother had placed the baby. She understood why she didn’t have it with her. They usually didn’t when they groomed Azrael. Especially after the last incident.
There had always been fighting over the placenta after a birth, but it had been a particularly hard winter and the eating of the placenta happened immediately. The baby, still being attached to the cord was drug into the crowd and bitten severely. Multiple times by Azrael herself. The baby wasn’t killed outright, but it did die later. From that point on, the mothers took care to make sure the babies were not around her too often. It didn’t make much difference to Azrael, she just accepted the fact that the babies were not around her anymore.
Thinking of the baby made her wonder what kind of meat was in the puddle in front of her. Her animal mind told her to eat; the other mind, the one in the front had always been curious. The half-digested grass and vegetables, mixed in with the meat, meant that it had not been one of her own kind that they had cooked in the large pot. Not that she would mind. Just that it was not.
The stomach contents of the large grass eaters had always been added to the pot and her body craved the wet greens almost as much as the meat of the animal. Eating until she was swollen and tight gave her mind time for things other than food. She looked at the overpass that hid her people so well. What a thing of greatness created by her kind. Imagining that ability was beyond her but knowing that her kind had built it was beyond the rest of her people. They were wild things, like the cat or the dog, just more cunning.
One of the larger females sat down next to Azrael when the stress of the food had dissipated. The only ones left eating were the ones too weak to eat before it was gone. The diseased or the broken would find the leftovers and clean the entire area of nutritional value. Some of the old had stayed alive for years this way.
The large female straddled up behind Azrael and said her own name, “Mura”. She began grooming her Azrael, licking her hands clean from the juices of the meal and removing the bugs that had gotten into her hair. Adjusting her feet, Mura bumped the leather wrapped piece of steel on the ground next to Azrael who hissed and clamped down on her arm with her teeth. Not hard enough to draw blood, just enough to let her know not to do it again. Mura squealed and moved her feet away from it. It belonged to Azrael and always would, and touching it would not be tolerated.
Azrael looked at the object while Mura continued to lick and pick her clean, it was as long as her arm and wickedly shaped. Someone, years before her time, had spent a lot of time sharpening it and wrapping it with leather. To Azrael it was the only one of its kind and she would never give it up. To the others it seemed almost magical and beyond understanding. Most had a weapon of some kind, but this one was different. It had even proven dangerous to touch.
Shortly after it had been found, one of the males disputed her ownership of it. He grabbed it and when Azrael snatched it from him, he lost one of his fingers. It seemed to the group that the object did not want to be held by anyone but her. To her, he just picked it up by one of its meticulously sharpened edges. She would never be challenged for its ownership again.
She turned and began grooming Mura inattentively. The touching and cleaning was more of a gesture to give Mura importance than an actual act of grooming. The male that had brought the bucket of food and dumped it on the ground came back and tried to sit next to Mura. Azrael hissed loudly and rolled forward onto the balls of her feet. Mura just looked at the ground and held her hand, palm up, to protect the top of her head. She wanted to remain submissive. She did not want to challenge Azrael, or the male.
After he turned and walked away, Azrael resumed the grooming of Mura. She realized she would have to find a mate soon, or it would be decided for her. Sometimes the best mate was not the strongest or the smartest, but a combination of the two. She could see that now. The rest of her people still only respected the strongest.
The night air was thick and Azrael had to get to open ground. Her abdomen stuffed and bulging with food, she took the weapon and made her way out of the smooth concrete maze. The looks on the faces around the fires were drowsy and disinterested. They were always sedate after a full meal, especially when it had been a while since they had been full. She immediately felt better when she hit the open air.
The legs of the remaining bridges of the overpass jutted from the edge of the forest. It loomed over the ridgeline above the plains, a pass into the flat open lands for her people. The legs formed a cathedral at the top of the hill. Protective, but humid and stifling. The breeze moving up the embankments cooled her and moved her hair. It brought with it the comfort of knowing her people were still upwind of the hunted. It also brought with it the smells from the valley.
She had made sure her people had never come to this side of the structure since they had started gathering here. The bodily functions and hunting had all taken place on the far side. Her people did not understand, but soon, they would. This gathering would take another day, maybe two. She never had all of her people take the same path at the same time, it was too dangerous to travel in large groups. The others attacked them too often or at the very least, it drew their attention. She could not afford that now, she needed them comfortable. Comfortable, like the deer, when it doesn’t know it is being hunted. Her people called them City Meat. All of her tribe assumed they were here for the Meat and the crops that would need to be picked soon. It wasn’t, but they would not understand the real reason.
She looked over the valley below her. The food there would make the mothers’ bellies heavy with babies. The pastures and structures would be the largest she had tried for. They had already done the planting for the year. She understood the rest—the unknown plants that should be pulled, the wait for the rain and the need to start fires if the ice came. Most of what grew could be eaten from the field, but she needed to learn how to make it come back. She knew it had to do with the tiny hard objects in the meat of the plant—seeds, she thought. Sometimes the same plant grew where her people relieved themselves, but not always and she couldn’t reproduce the plant with just the seed. The frustration of it lost on all but her. When she turned to look at the huge pillared hall to make sure the fires were not too obvious, she saw a figure move on the crest of the embankment. It brought a hiss to her lips and as she moved towards him, she could tell it did not have the reaction she had hoped for, the male just sat down.
She hissed again, this time louder. He turned to look at her when she hissed and she recognized him. She knew this male, he was powerfully built and had proven to be highly intelligent. When she made her decision. When! Her mind wandered—it must be soon! He would be one of the possibilities. If it wasn’t for his latest injury and the subsequent swelling shut of one of his eyes, he would already be her mate. If she took him now, with his injury, there would be deaths because they would challenge him. As she closed on him, she grunted her contempt. His demeanor did not change. As a mate, he would be difficult to control. She conceded his position and squatted next to him.
The grey dirt on the embankment carried with it no normal smell. It gave his a greater presence. He pointed with his chin at the valley below them, “Want?”
She rocked her whole body in affirmation and whispered, “All.”
He picked up the tooth on the leather thong around his neck and traced the scar on his chest with it. The whole tribe knew he had taken the trophy after it had created the scar. The cat’s size was legendary. His low growl paused the tracing of the scar.
He looked at her, dropping the tooth back to the length of the cord. “All.” He seemed to understand the scope of her desire. He reached under the back of her leg and touched her. She grunted and pushed his hand away. She turned and pressed his head back, giving his face to the light of the moon. Her fingers began pushing at the swollen mass that had grown around his eye. Expressing still, some of the remnants of the puss and infection.
He would probably keep the eye if it continued to heal, but the fall in the mountains probably took from him the sharing of the leadership. If he tried to fight with the poor vision, it could get him killed or worse. Maimed into a feeble struggle to eat, begging for scraps from the strong for as long as he could stay alive. He grunted and snatched his head away and pushed his eyelid open so he could look at her with his bad eye. A snarl and glare with the bad eye satisfying only himself, he slid his hand back underneath her to continue his search amongst the folds of her skin, his erection growing in the moon cast shadows. She grunted and pushed at his chest several times with the back of her fist. When he didn’t stop, she emptied her bladder onto his hand. He did not leave it there long enough to see if her body was going to give up anything else. He snorted, as he snatched his hand back, stood and walked into the pillared cave.
Her thoughts carried her. He should have been the one. He could try to take it after he has healed but that would be well after her new mate is accepted and that is dangerous for the tribe as a whole. Most would never accept the usurper as a leader. Squatting in the odd colored sand looking at the fertile valley below her, she cradled her thoughts on mates as well as the steel and leather covered weapon.

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 Post subject: Re: LINK STATE
PostPosted: Mon Mar 14, 2016 7:32 pm 
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That was a good update; if not a little gross since I just started eating diner, but good none the less.

"We'll Fight Them, Sir!, Until Hell Freezes Over, And Then We'll Fight Them On The Ice! Sir!

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 Post subject: Re: LINK STATE
PostPosted: Thu Mar 17, 2016 10:50 am 
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Back in the stark white walls of the research wing on the outer wall Marcus navigated the maze. He actually found the morgue affectionately labeled, “Processing Labs” for someone’s comfort somewhere in the base’s history. The orderly in the front room off of the hall said he was there to meet him and take him back to Doctor Nademan. Two turns down the hallway and Marcus found himself in the stainless and plastic room with the three dead ferals and the trainee. All of them on stainless steel exam tables and covered with black drapes.
“Good Morning Sir,” Doctor Nademan walked halfway to the door to greet Marcus. “Nice to meet you,” the doctor offered his hand to Marcus.
After shaking hands Marcus asked, “Is there any information of value from the bodies of the four dead?” The Doctor paused in thought for a moment then stated abruptly, “Some.” The doctor walked to the first body and uncovered it. The body of he the trainee who lost his arm was pale and grey. The disparity of the horrific wound and the lack of blood at odds with each other.
“This was removed violently with a rudimentary weapon. It was sharp but crudely shaped as shown by the wound edges,” said the doctor as he used a probe to follow the edge of the dead man’s wounds. “There was a clotting agent of unknown origin applied to the wound. It was a plant extract that works…well, better than anything we got.”
This caught Marcus by surprise and he asked, “Better than the issue blood clotting packages?” The doctor answered in a matter of fact tone, “Yes and by a multitude of factors. It clots blood so well it’s poisonous and could kill you. We found the transfusion site in his foot. We opened up the vein and observed it under a microscope and it was indeed a sight of a long term port. The veins don’t lie. That is pretty much all I can give you from the interdiction team member.”
Marcus moved with the doctor to the first feral. The musky odor took over the space around his body, “This Male is the one with the knife wounds. You have already seen the reports and corroborating video stream. I would like to add that this male is very healthy. He also has more rudimentary tattoos than we normally see.” Marcus looked where the doctor pointed to a black blob that vaguely resembled a horse on the feral’s arm, “He has several—mostly animal motifs. He was apparently a respected hunter by the looks of them,” he said as he referenced the multiple tattoos on the abdomen and arms.
Marcus was impressed by a spear throwing man in the tattoo on the stomach. In the videos the feral looked like a rag wearing crazy; in person he was impressive. His hair was braided with bits of bone and glass. What appeared in the video to be rags was actually braided and sewn ribbon and fabric. The leather breeches on the foot of the gurney were well made, enough that they would be serviceable for years. There was nothing crazy about these creatures except the fury with which they fight. Then Marcus had a thought, the Doctor said this male. Does that mean there is a female?
Turning to the doctor he asked, “You emphasized male, does that mean that one was a female?”
“We will get to her in a minute. Hunter knife wound there, was apparently very dominant unlike doorjamb guy there.”
Marcus looked from one feral to the other, “How so?”
The doctor moved to the doorjamb victim and held up his left hand, “Mostly diet,” he said pointing to the feral with the knife wounds. “He is much better fed and has way more body fat, but then there are the tattoos, trinkets woven into the hair, and his hands,” showing Marcus the hands of the first feral in the video.
“See these fingers? Almost all of them have the tips missing, old studies of primates in the wild showed they had a propensity to bite off parts of the troop to establish dominance. Apparently this behavior has been reintroduced in the upper primate population.” The doctor smiled, “Knife wounds there is missing a tip, but the X-ray shows that it happened before the phalange cap fused, so maybe when he was eleven or twelve. After that he kept all of his fingers and apparently was pretty high up the caste system they use.”
Stunned, Marcus tried this information as he lapsed into thought, These crazies have been grossly underestimated. These were closer to the tribe nation’s people, just more aggressive. There being a huge difference in what everyone thought and what they actually were.
“The female please,” said Marcus as he walked over to the body of the feral that had been brutally killed with the I.V. stand in the room. The doctor started as he uncovered her. “She died from blunt force trauma to the head as you can plainly see. The breasts are small and it is not surprising that nobody saw her as a female. She has had two broken bones, both of them set proficiently.”
Marcus responded, “So they are medically caring for each other and rehabbing the injured? Were the bones broken bad enough to be incapacitating?”
The doctor moved to the feral female’s leg. “Yes, one of them was,” he said as he pointed to the scar on her leg. “This was a complete compound fracture of the femur, it would require eight to ten weeks minimum, before she would be able to put any weight on it at all. They set the bone proficiently then fed and cleaned up after her for over two months. Kept infection from taking hold. She was estimated by x-ray to be seven or eight years old when it happened.”
He moved to just above her pubic bone under her belly button and pointed to another tattoo, “This is interesting. The chubby heavily breasted figure in the tattoo appears to be fertility related so we checked and she has had a birth in the past three years. Perineal tearing was minimal, so we x-rayed her pelvis and found the cartilage had been separated recently. Her breasts are small, but they are still mildly lactating, so she is probably no longer breastfeeding or it was stillborn or possibly just a child mortality.”
Marcus clenched his jaw as he stared at the female. Other than a little more body hair than was socially acceptable in the current culture and the musky odor of an athlete that didn’t bother to bathe, this was a normal human female surviving in the southern wastes with medical care, religion, and social status. Marcus looked at her fingers, she was only missing the tip of one digit on her right hand. As for tattoos, she had several depictions of the sun and moon on her left arm and hip at the border of her pubic hair. Just as he opened his mouth to speak his earpiece crackled to life. The building intercom began blaring exercise alerts, breaking him from the feral’s spell. Marcus looked at the doctor who seemed unfazed.
Marcus’ world was not bending to his will the way he had hoped. These new revelations would complicate things. Realizing the need to think and the fact that food was becoming a priority he asked the doctor for a full autopsy report. Marcus wanted it to include all of the physical characteristics of the ferals, and the results of all the tests. The orderly followed him out and watched him walk down the hallway.
When he entered the main southern square of the base, Marcus touched his earpiece to activate it and asked for a report from Private Bishop. Bishop stated matter-of-factly that the exercise had ended without incident and the interdiction patrols had reestablished contact and had a very dull SITREP. Marcus felt better knowing that no one on the teams had to pay for the power struggle between him and their commander, “Bishop I am going to find a street vendor that has some decent food and then walk the base walls to familiarize myself.” Marcus hoped Bishop understood that he just needed some time to think, “Yes Sir, I will notify you if anything urgent comes up and needs your attention.” Thankfully Bishop understood perfectly. Marcus smiled and walked into the crowded square.
The food was good, his own bed in his quarters warm and familiar. He should have been able to fall asleep without struggling, but his mind would not let go and when it finally did he was haunted by the feral female in the morgue. Her beautiful body and strong smell a stark contrast to the horrific wounds to her head and neck. He was almost relieved when it was time to go to work. He didn’t have to fight for sleep anymore. His journey to his office was uneventful and the ever present Bishop was already there.
“Anything for me this morning Bishop?”
“Sir, I have a comprehensive report from the labs on the deceased ferals, a daily report from pod three and an after-action report from yesterday’s unannounced security exercise.” Marcus took the stack from him to save him a trip and opened the door to his office, “Sir, I don’t know how you feel about gossip, but I have a friend on the other side of the base that said Valerie Pentia was on her way here this morning”
Marcus paused, “A friend?”
“Yes, Sir”
“Thank you, private Bishop, I would definitely appreciate any information any of your friends,” he playfully emphasized the word friends, “would care to provide. As long as you feel they are reasonably reliable.”
Bishop smiled, “Would not have even mentioned it if I felt otherwise, Sir.”
Marcus smiled and disappeared into his office. He decided when, and if, he left this post he would try to take Bishop with him.
Sitting down at his desk Marcus noticed a flashing light on his terminal.
------LINK state------
//command: terminal: network
//live message 1
Clicking the active message gave him 30 seconds of flashing lights repeating “connecting” on the screen then;
//Command: Terminal: Network
//OCIC Actual
//Marcus you had a busy day yesterday. Is there an irresolvable issue with the Interdiction BAT commander?
//SPC Command Actual
//No Sir; nothing I cannot handle; I believe the issue has been resolved.
//OCIC Actual
Was the lockdown necessary?
//SPC Command Actual
You permitted me any and all means necessary; the show of force was necessary. There was concern over Jurisdiction on the base and I feel I have made my Command clear; no further issues should surface.
//OCIC Actual
Would you prefer the Bat commander removed.
//SPC Command Actual
Negative Sir; I feel he is possibly a valuable asset.
//OCIC Actual
Your choice
------LINK state------

Marcus pushed his chair back, “Wow!” he said out loud and thought they were not fucking around.
On the other side of the base Commander Kaehn was staring in disbelief at his own computer screen
------LINK state------

//Command: Terminal: Network
//OCIC Command Staff
Please wait for possible Battalion Command Termination.
Then two minutes later
//Command: Terminal: Network
//OCIC Command Staff
------LINK state------

Coming out of his thoughts and back into the room. Marcus saw Bishop looking through the doorway, “Sir? Everything ok?” Marcus realized he must have been talking out loud, “Yes Private, everything is fine.”
“Sir, Miss Pentia is here and would like a word with you.” Marcus rubbed his eyes trying to get them to focus after working on the terminal screen, “Send her in Bishop.” He then heard Private Bishop tell the nurse, “He will see you now.”
Valerie entered the room and seemed very tentative, “Please have a seat Miss Pentia.” Marcus intentionally didn’t smile because he was told it made people uneasy. “I sincerely hope we can come to some arrangement that will keep you on the post and in the recovery wing.” She smiled and it pained him to not scream at her to run and get out of there as fast as she could. She would be safer farther inland.
“Sir, I would like to stay, but I have a few conditions that I require to be met before I agree.”
“Go ahead, Miss Pentia, I am listening,” Marcus was actually interested in her terms.
“First, all of my assets get shipped to the destination of my choice immediately and without question,” She had his undivided attention. “Second, I look at my personal military records before I decide and I keep the right to decline afterwards. Third, as offered by you, I answer only to you, none of this other petty power stuff. We work together and you aim to not get me killed.”
Marcus absorbed the insinuation quietly and said, “So far Miss Pentia you have not asked for anything that I cannot provide with a few caveats. Continue.” She shrugged, “That’s it, pretty much. I assume this liaison position,” pumping her fingers in the air, “comes with a wicked raise?” He smiled at the exaggeration, “Yes it does.” He was both relieved and disturbed that she was considering staying on at the base.
“Then I think we have an agreement,” she said with a smile. “What caveats do we have to deal with?”
Marcus leaned in, put his elbows on the desk and said, “Your assets, are they yours?”
“I am not a thief, Sir.”
“I am not implying you are. I just need to know that I am not transporting black market goods across the continent.” She squirmed a little, involuntarily, “The goods are…” Marcus interrupted, “Miss Pentia, do you have any military assets in your cargo that contain high explosives? Or encryption technology?” She relaxed and said, “No Sir, the only thing of military value is some small arms ammunition.” He relaxed as well, “That is not an issue. Any fissionable materials?” She smiled, “Absolutely not Sir”
“Then Miss Pentia, I think we have come to a tentative agreement. Ask Bishop to find you some office time tomorrow for you to review your records. Please keep that private. It is technically a crime and I would have to deny letting you do it. More importantly it would definitely affect your employment.” He smiled again, this time she did react poorly.
She stood, walked out of the office and shut the door. He could hear her talking to Bishop through the wall and then heard her shut the outer door when they were done.
Marcus pressed the intercom, “Private Bishop, could you call Lieutenant Wasil in Psyops?”
“Yes, Sir.”
Looking at the stacks of papers on his desk he realized today was shot and he should just start reading.
“Sir the LT said he could come over now if you would like.” Marcus sighed, “That would be fine, Bishop.”
“Yes, Sir!”
A few minutes and one autopsy report later Bishop knocked on the door. “Come,” Bishop opened the door and said, “Lieutenant Wasil here to see you, Sir.” The lieutenant walked past Bishop and into the room.
Bishop stared at him when he entered. People had a tendency to stare at Ezra, he was tall and very lean—almost emaciated, but it wasn’t his build that made him stand out, it was all his mannerisms. If a man could be called elegant, that is how you would describe Ezra Wasil. Marcus had worked with him for a while and had insisted he be reassigned here before Marcus arrived.
“Good morning, Ezra.” The tall and very thin lieutenant walked over and stood next to the chair. “Good morning, Marcus.” Marcus looked at the lieutenant’s bars on Ezra’s shoulder and thought they looked odd. “Why did they make you an LT?” Ezra shrugged. “Easier integration and that is the spot they had available in the needed unit,” Marcus smiled and motioned to Ezra to have a seat.
“Do you even remember what rank you actually are anymore?” Ezra shook his head in jest before changing the subject, “You had a busy day yesterday.”
“Yes, yes I did. I have had several,” Marcus closed the file folder on the top of the pile on his desk. “I need you to take a look at something for me.”
Ezra’s complacent demeanor did not change, “That is why I am here. Business or pleasure?”
Ezra’s smile reminded Marcus of a zookeeper smiling at the animals in his care. As long as you behaved yourself he would probably keep you alive. “Both! Miss Pentia, the little shit, resigned and I had to bait her back into the game.” Ezra’s composure was unbroken, “Unpleasant but necessary.” Marcus enjoyed this man’s nonchalance, “Some things came up that aroused my curiosity. She has assets she would like shipped that she seemed sensitive about. I think it’s probably nothing, but, I am curious. It might give me some insight or some leverage. Can you take a look for me?” Leaning back in his chair Marcus realized he was tired.
“It would be my pleasure commander,” Using his thumb to flick something from under his index fingernail, Ezra stood, smiled and turned for the door. “I am going to steal Bishop from you when this is over. Have you seen his I.Q.?” All Marcus could think to say was, “Get out,” but he couldn't help smiling. It was a fantastic compliment to both of them from someone who thinks compliments are a ridiculous ritual.
By the end of the day he had read way too many biopsy and after-action reports from the drills to sleep on his own. Tonight was another liquid sleeping pill night. He poured the drink and sat down in his chair wondering if he had made the right decisions.
The following morning the walk to the recovery unit wall was tedious. The base seemed to be going about its business, but being here irritated him. When he arrived in his office, private Bishop told him that he had allowed Valerie computer time and he told her she could stay in Marcus’ office to compose herself. She had not yet come out. Marcus asked, “Did she access anything other than her personal records or those associated with her personal records?”
“No Sir, her searches were completely appropriate, but in depth and complicated.”
“Thank you Private.” Marcus turned, opened the door and walked in. Valerie sat on the side couch staring at her feet, “Miss Pentia would you like a few more minutes?”
She looked up, her face serious and angry. “Why did they fuck with me so much? I didn’t see what they were worried I would see. No recollection of whatever it was. Do you know what it was?”
Marcus was expecting the question. “Yes, to an extent.” He sat at his desk to be eye level to Valarie. “The entire region was under operational control of the psychological operations command. They were studying indigenous insurgent people’s reactions to various experiments. Biological, physiological, psychological. All experimental. You were shot down over one of the targeted strongholds that was to be taken. In order for the experiments to work that insurgent base was to be assumed unmolested, so it would continue to operate without suspicion. You and your flight getting shot down over the base was unfortunate. What they did to you and the rest of the members was probably criminal, but they had authorization to do it. You were military so your ability to object was minimal.”
Valerie sneered, “How the fuck do they get away with it?”
Marcus was becoming disengaged by her naiveté. “Miss Pentia, they handled you with kid gloves in the most gentle of fashions. I am still not sure why. If it had been my command, your paperwork would have said you did not survive the crash.” He spoke coldly and revealed as little emotion as he could. She responded about as he expected, “You are an asshole! What else do I need to know?” He thought she looked like her head was back in the game, “Yes—I am, and unfortunately, that would not even have been a low point in my career. As for what else you need to know, I am not sure. I think they are still keeping an eye on you. I feel you being here is not a coincidence. They could be grooming you for something, maybe this! Maybe we are both just pawns!” She stood up to leave, Marcus rose as well, “I told you I would be honest. If I find anything, I will let you know if it is at all possible.”
On her way out of the door Marcus said, “Report to the pod tomorrow, 0800, we will be having a briefing.” Marcus nodded to Private Bishop, who picked up on the cue and started typing on the terminal. Valerie turned to Marcus and said, “Sir, try not to get me killed.”
“I will do my best Miss Pentia—I will do my best”
There was a reminder for a briefing the next day at 0800 on his terminal when he sat down. The file printout of the Mongol Heights engagement kept him busy for the rest of the day.
The evening had gone well or at least reasonably so. The report of the engagement had been sterilized and there was nothing to be gleaned from the after-action reports either. He would have to find a new source of information regarding Mongol Heights if it was going provide him with anything. Maybe the Captain Ardoin that had looked familiar. It would probably have to wait until things normalized, although the base seemed to be returning to normal.
When he sat down for his coffee at the one of the markets, the group next to him was gossiping about the drills being unannounced and what they thought the higher-ups were hiding from them. About the third sip and fourth guess in the gossip ring, his earpiece crackled to life.
“SPC command to SPC command actual. Sir, it’s private Bishop,” Marcus thought it odd to have Bishop use the radio to connect to his mobile. “Go ahead Bishop,” the response was immediate, “Sir, we have an emergency situation developing in pod three, live as we speak.” Marcus jumped up and started moving toward the wall, “I am moving to the pods, what is the nature of the problem?” The crackle was gone and the signal became clearer as he moved through the marketplace. “Sir, the actual emergency is unknown to me. The pods have called an alert, I have an interdiction team activated and in route.” So much for a quiet morning.
Marcus dropped his volume as he moved into a more crowded section of the base, “Please pick up my side arm. All I have on me is my backup. Meet me in the pods.”
“Sir, I am at the vault and have your personal side arm in my possession already. I am in my full kit, would you like body armor as well, Sir?”
“Not yet, see you in five in the pods. Out.” Moving briskly, the rest of the journey through to the outer wall and into the pods only took a few minutes more than he expected.
The entrance to the pods was crowded with bodies. The sharp contrast between the cloned look of the infantry unit and the organized chaos of the interdiction response team, was glaring even from the end of the hall. The behavior was different as well, the infantry squad, acting like privates do, milled around and fidgeted. Most attempted to get a look into the pod to see what was going on. The soldiers that didn’t have a view, whispered and wondered. The members of the interdiction team remained cold, professional and all business. Their response to him moving through the crowd was equally polarizing. The infantry came to attention and became silent. The teams instantly started their equipment check. First their weapons, then each other's gear. Just about the time he entered the pod his earpiece came to life, “Sir, I am right behind you passing through the hallway.” Marcus turned around in the pod and met Bishop.
“Here is your side arm, Sir,” Marcus took it and buckled it on. “Thank you Bishop.” In a much louder voice, “Report please!” Armed, he turned around to be met by Captain Sparks with Private Bishop moving down the hallway, back into the troops.
“Sir, the problem is DeAngelo. She went into the room.”
“Shit, just her? Do you have the feed of the room?”
Sparks looked at his feet. “Yes Sir, but she is not in the room anymore.” moving to the monitor in the pod itself. “You’re fucking kidding me, what the hell happened?” The video began with Doctor DeAngelo walking into the room. Marcus whispered, “What was she thinking?” She went to the hospital bed and started talking. The subject propped on his elbows, then sat up and began talking. Doctor DeAngelo, with a horrified expression on her face, started to back up towards the door as the subject started to get out of bed.
“What’s he saying?” Marcus asked. Sparks responded immediately, “We don't know, he was whispering. The tech guys might be able to bring it out of the background noise, but it could take a while.”
The trainer moved towards the doctor who froze and put her hands up. When the trainer grabbed ahold of her hair and whispered in her ear she lost control of her bladder. As soon as the puddle was done expanding, he quit talking in her ear and started dragging her to the door by her hair. It was then that everyone realized how far up the volume was on the monitor. The screams echoed in the hallway. She was limp and sobbing when they reached the door. She didn't start screaming again until he pried her hands off of the doorjamb to finish dragging her outside. The trainer didn't shut the door when he came back in, DeAngelo was nowhere to be seen. He appeared to fall asleep as soon as he climbed back in the bed.
When Captain Sparks switched to the outside monitor clip of the event, it showed the doctor being dragged down the wall. He pushed her into a seated position, pointed his finger into her face and went back inside. Marcus yelled over his shoulder, “Infantry squad! Dismissed, Interdiction Team One, man!” Two “Yes Sirs” rang from the hallway to ensure him he was loud enough. A few seconds later a man was off of his shoulder, “Orders Sir?”
Marcus took a long look at the man. It was the sergeant standing next to the door on his visit to the barracks, “I need a man who has it screwed on real tight. Get to the top of the access shaft and see if he can get an over-view on the female outside of the wall.”
“Sir, I have a gunship ready to smoke the scrub and do an evac of the personnel.”
Marcus watched him turn his headset back on, “Negative Sergeant that is the route our trainer takes into the field. I need to keep it undisturbed.” He made eye contact with the team leader, “I need your man to provide protective fire if we get ferals coming out of the scrub. Have him take a spotter to help.”
The sergeant looked directly at Marcus, “Will do commander.”
Marcus moved closer to the sergeant to keep his voice from interfering with the pod. “Hey sergeant,” the sergeant looked up, “I know we have a little bad blood between the units but…” the team leader smiled, covered the mic with his hand and interrupted, “No offense Sir, and not to make light of it, but those things will never affect my men's professionalism or our performance.”
Marcus' face tightened and he nodded, “You’re on Sergeant. The operational eyes are yours, keep me informed.” The team leader uncovered his mic and moved away talking. The response in the hall way was immediate. Looking at his watch for the time, it was 7:50, he began wondering where the nurse was when his earpiece went live. “This is Bishop Sir. Pentia has passed the CQ desk and is on her way to you. I had the desk on alert for her, he reported a few seconds ago.” Marcus just shook his head and thought, Crap, that kid can read my mind.
Marcus could hear her yelling in the hallway, “Get out of the way, damn it. Don't you guys have something to do?” She burst into the pod, “What the hell happened?”
Marcus briefed her with the basics, “DeAngelo went into the room and got thrown outside.”
Valarie shook her head. “She knows better! He told her not to come back. Someone get me some fucking scrubs.”
Marcus furrowed his brows, “Scrubs? You are not going in there.”
She unbuttoned her pants and pulled them down, “Yes , yes I am and I am going in just like nothing happened. Where the fuck are the…” and an orderly from the background handed her a set of scrubs.
“I sure do see you in your underwear a lot,” Marcus noticed that she was wearing regular panties this time not the military stuff the female soldiers wore in the coed locker rooms. She gave him the “really” look as she pulled on the pants and top, and then covered her shoes. From the hallway Marcus heard, “Hey Val, those come in red? I think I need a pair.” Her response was instant; “Fuck you Sai, you know these are the ones you borrowed last week.” “Ooh damnnnn,” came a response from somewhere down the hallway full men.
Captain Sparks called from the monitors, “He is up and getting dressed.”
Marcus nodded to sparks and continued to briefed Val on the teams. “I have a spotter looking out for DeAngelo and a team standing by if we need them. Do you think you can get her back inside with him in the room?” She shrugged, “I don't know, he might not let me, but I have to try.” She moved towards the air locked set of door.
Marcus went to stand by the one way glass, his ear piece going live again, “Commander Schiffle, we have eyes on the doctor and the door. Minor movement in the scrub, but nothing identified yet.” Marcus took command, “Roger that sergeant! Eyes and the shooter are Interdiction One. I need a three-man breach team at the pod door now, they are Interdiction Two. I need the remainder in two teams on the pod walk as Interdiction Three and Four. They will be reinforcements for either team. this actual is SPC command. Interdiction One, tie off a rappel line just in case. Valerie is at the door.” Marcus nodded for Valerie to enter. He felt a group behind him as the interdiction team formed an entry stack formation right behind Valerie. He spoke into his mic, “Rules of engagement gentlemen. On my orders only, teams one and two are my command only. Valerie Pentia and Doctor DeAngelo are to be kept alive. We are active.”
The earpiece confirmed three responses from the two active teams and the team sergeant who was quickly at his side as Valerie walked through the second airlock and into the room. She took a deep breath as she proceeded through the second door. The trainer was on the bed putting socks over the bandages on his feet. He glanced at her, but said nothing. She could see his satchel on the floor next to him, “You’re leaving? You realize you’re not in any condition to leave.” He looked up, “I will be back when the rains come. When the plains-people move back in.”
She moved to the cart by the bed. She opened one of the drawers and pulled out a handful of gauze rolls and placed them on the bed, “You should re-wrap them a couple more times before you let them get dirty.” He casually stuffed the gauze into the satchel and pulled his scarf around the back of his neck. When he stood he picked up his pistol and holstered it on his chest in the leather that was made for it. Valerie backed up as he stood. She realized that the door was still open and usually she wasn’t allowed in the room if the door was open. It just seemed unnatural to have the outside world creeping into the room. She didn’t remember she had a job to do until she realized he was completely packed up and ready to move towards the door. She tried to intercept him but she couldn’t bring herself to stand between him and the door. “Wait, what is going on?” she simply had too much to absorb in too short a period of time. “So, you are coming back? You’re not going to kill DeAngelo? Wait…how long have you been walking this well?” He simply stopped, turned toward her and stared, “You ask a lot of questions,” with that, he was out the door.
On the overwatch things had changed, “SPC Command this is Interdiction One. We have a problem.”
“Go ahead One, what is your problem?” Marcus watched the exchange in the room. It seemed like it was in slow motion.
“This is One. There is another indigenous outside the door. I repeat there is another player on the field. We can barely see her; she is hugging the wall just to the left of the door. 170 centimeters tall, 65 kilos, looks like a female. Dress is indigenous—not feral really.”
“One, when the hell did that happen? How long has she been there? Is she armed?”
“This is One, not a clue, Sir. She just appeared out of nowhere. Could have been there the whole time. She does not have a weapon in her hand, no hostile movement towards the doctor, she doesn’t even seem to know she is out there. Damn it Sir! The trainer just exited and walked past her. He knew she was there.”
Marcus focused on the room as Valerie gained on the door. He slammed his hand on the glass. “Stop,” he yelled, but she was out the door.
Valerie hurried to catch him as he was passing the doorway into the outside world, she turned left only to run face first into a strong slender hand. She squeaked as the thumb and fingers gripped her cheeks. Except for the long index finger, it was placed firmly over her lips.
“Ssshhhhhh,” the whisper was like that of a parent to a child. Valerie was stunned; this female seemed to know the trainer. She was tall and strong. Clothed like him, leather and woven cloth. She smelled like sage and almonds. Her presence was like his. This close, she felt like the whole force of world—every tree and every creature combined into one being. Valerie couldn’t do anything but stare into her eyes. The brown seemed formed from the very soil she stood on.
“Is this the one?” the woman said over her shoulder. The trainer stopped moving down the hall and replied, “Yes, that’s her.” she smiled into Valerie’s eyes. The nurse felt like she was being swallowed alive by the world. The woman reached behind the nurse’s head to bring some of her hair out with her fingers. “She’s pretty. Are you going to keep her?”
The nurse silently bore the taunt, the trainer, impatience growing on his face responded with, “She is not a plaything.” The woman just smiled and turned Valerie’s face from left to right, “Oh, I bet she would be. Is she coming with us?”
He continued walking down the hall as he answered, “Not yet.”
“Run along, mouse.” The woman released her, “You have to stay here for now.” She turned and walked away before Valerie could even respond. She watched them follow the wall to the end at the cliff face, turn and head into the scrub. It was like they hadn’t existed. Just gone!
Valerie finally saw the sobbing doctor down from the doorway sitting and sobbing into her hands. She ran to her and peeled her hands away from her face. The doctor stopped sobbing when she saw it was Valerie. She lunged and latched on to her around her neck. Valerie could barely breathe through the grip, “Please, please don’t leave me out here. Please I will do anything you want. Just don’t leave me out here.”
Valerie pulled at her, “Come on sweetie you have to stand up.”
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry I was mean to you, please don’t leave me out here. I don’t want to die. He said if I moved I would die. You won’t let me die will you? I peed on myself.”
Valerie tried to come to grips with the last two minutes of her life and could only say, “You are not the only one honey. Let’s get inside”
The doctor continued to ramble, “How do we get in, he is in the room. I can’t go back in there, he is in there. He said if I come back into the room he will hurt me. He said he doesn’t want to hurt me, but he might if I go back in the room.”
By this time the interdiction team had been ordered to enter the room and was forming a half circle perimeter around the entrance. When the two women got to the doorway Valerie showed her the room was empty. Doctor DeAngelo collapsed three steps into the room. Marcus was there to catch her and hand her off to an orderly.
When they were all back through the airlock Marcus questioned the entire room. “Could someone please explain to me what the hell just happened? Or, better yet, who the hell that was?” The pod staff had no response for him. Neither did the interdiction team. Doctor Jeffries gave the only response in the room, “That is the first person we have seen associated with the subject. We have never seen her before.”
Marcus thought quietly before speaking, “Interdiction team! Good job! Dismissed for your debrief. Please ask your commanding officer to send copies of the AAR when available.” A single, “Roger that Sir,” and they headed out the door.
“Valerie, what the fuck did she say to you?”
“Nothing really, she was…talking to him…about leaving.” She shrugged to try to get out of the conversation, not really knowing how to explain what happened.
“Sparks, I want everything we have! and send the audio to the techs and debrief everyone. Jeffries, I want the survivor on the last mission awake and ready to interview as soon as possible.” When he started walking out of the pod he called back to the nurse, “Miss Pentia, come with me.”
Out of the pod walking to the offices Marcus said, “I want to know what she said! Is he coming back? I have a lot of questions. This is not how I envisioned our first day of work together!” Valerie didn’t know how to respond. She didn’t even know if she still had a job. A small part of her screamed to run like hell. “He will come back Sir, he always does. It just takes a while.” Marcus, still unable to process what happened, shook his head in disbelief. “Miss Pentia we do not have that much time. I will be turning to the other trainees for the results I need.”
Valerie felt like she was in a fog. What was the rush? “Sir, we have been doing it this way for quite a while. What is different?” When she didn’t get an answer, she pushed harder. “Sir, you said you would tell me the truth!”
“From a military perspective, this is a very unstable world we live in. There are power struggles everyday over resources. Not everyone is happy with the way the government is being run. You have people in power who are unsure of what direction to take. You add all that together and then show all of them a very successful program for operating in a resource rich environment and you will attract a lot of attention very quickly. If we cannot duplicate the results of accessing the resources that everyone wants, then we become expendable and in the way for the next person to try. That would mean losing your job in a normal place. Here on the borders it means disappearing one day and having someone else sitting at your desk the next. The people in charge won’t care as long as the next person gets them the results they want.”
He paused before verbalizing their reality, “This could end rapidly and poorly for us if we do not make progress very soon.”
“Sir what the hell are you talking about? Nothing has changed. We have been following this process for quite a while.”
“Miss Pentia we are not interested in bringing survivors out of failed colonies or tribal villages. We are interested in resources that are in the area that have not been touched.” They arrived at his office and he had her follow him to the meeting room with the video monitors. “You want the truth? Here it is!” Displaying opened files on the monitor, he eventually got to a map of the West coast of North America. “You know what this is?” He zoomed in on a map of the West coast.
“Yes Sir, it is what is left of California.”
He zoomed in farther, “How about this?”
“No! I have no Idea where that is.”
He sat down in the chair at the head of the table and leaned back, “Here comes the classified stuff. That, Miss Pentia, is the Diablo Canyon nuclear reactor site. As you can tell by the overlay.” A single button tap on the console changed the image to a colorful readout of the area, “The red is greater than 10 Sieverts per hour. Which in layman’s terms is enough radiation to cook a cow in about ten minutes. Not a steak—the whole cow.”
Valeria winced, she had heard of high rad areas that were not survivable, but this seemed way beyond anything the public knew about. Marcus continued, “This reactor didn't survive the first problems with the eco system failures. As soon as the civil disobedience was out of control and people started to sabotage it, it went critical and slagged the whole area. The site to the South is San Onofre, It was already decommissioned by the time we declared martial law.”
Marcus zoomed out on the map of the continent and then zoom back in on an area in the north, “This is the Hanford site, it produced most of the U.S. arsenal grade plutonium all the way through the nineteen-eighties. We have gained access to the site and our hold on the area is tenuous at best. The tribes don't want us there. We have almost gotten the reactors out of entombment and the heavy water processors are years from being functional, and that is if we manage to keep the site from the tribe nations.” He sat back in the chair and stared directly at Valerie. The screen zoomed in again about five hundred miles to the South of where their base was.
“Does this region look familiar?” He referred to the monitor. “Yes it does, that is South of here.” She did know the area he thought to himself.
“This is the Palo Verde reactor. Not only is this site unmolested, but we think they managed to shut it down properly. This is also the storage facility for the fuel rods for the California reactors. Full rods! Unused, brand new, fuel rods. We would have twenty years of clean energy to get the Hanford sites heavy water processors up and running.”
Valerie felt suspicious of the scenario before her, “What happened to all of the fuel from the reactors on the east coast? There must have been twenty of them that never shut down.”
Marcus sighed, “You are absolutely right and if we had worked together we would have had enough, but the truth is, in the beginning everyone was out for themselves, so all of the reactors were operating at full load, lighting nothing but the villages that surrounded them. We are five years past their fuel capacity and they are starting to burn out. Every warlord and degenerate general is trying to find a way to get to Palo Verde. You just happen to be the only one that has had any success in the area. You and your friend the trainer.”
That caused Valerie pause, “Yeah, but we have had success retrieving refugees not taking a facility from the crazies. How does that translate? What exactly do they think they can make us do for them?”
Marcus just smiled. It had the effect he was seeking. “They can make you do anything they want you to and there won't be anything you can do about.”
Marcus, a seasoned operator telling her the truth, overwhelmed her. Her nervous eyes began searching for the door, “I have to get out of here. You already shipped my crap out, right! Oh, I am leaving!”
“It is too late for that Miss Pentia. We need other options.” He could see that the fear of what the psychological operators were capable of doing to your brain was making her sweat, “Go home, take a pill and sleep. We will find a solution tomorrow.” He needed her to leave soon so he stood, walked to the door and opened it. “I have work to do to buy us more time”
Valerie thought the truth would make her feel better. It didn’t. All it did was keep her awake all night.
On the east coast in Rhode Island, Niall was holding court in his private quarters, his mother long since having left the room to the current head of her household. She felt they knew what needed to be done and were competent in how they were to go about it. The dark room smelled of whiskey, wood smoke and sex. Naked bodies lay motionless on the bed in the far corner. The three men sitting in chairs in front of the stone fireplace did not bother to whisper.
“We need that submarine base. Find the fucking base,” Niall boomed gruesomely. The man next to him, the Chatelain; a plump man, with a clever face and a nervous, mousy demeanor. His response was calm and clear, “We will keep looking your grace, but we are not going to find it. Even if we did find it, the chances of the nuclear storage site being intact and not melted to oblivion is slim to none. The base was a very well-guarded secret. It was very well hidden. We are going to have to go into the desert and deal with the peerage. Regardless of how far away it is or how much we expend in resources.”
“How long has the cutter been at sea?” asked Niall.
Now, it was the third man’s turn to speak, “They are rounding Key West and the Tortugas as we speak. They will be in position within the week.”
Niall stood and moved towards the naked bodies in the bed, “Is Vincent with them?”
The Chatelaine, sensing the night was about to get aggressive made his way to the door. “Yes your grace. Vincent is with them.” Walking down the hall he could hear the screaming start from Niall’s stateroom.

Last edited by burn rate on Thu Mar 17, 2016 10:53 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: LINK STATE
PostPosted: Thu Mar 17, 2016 10:52 am 
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 Post subject: Re: LINK STATE
PostPosted: Mon Mar 21, 2016 2:27 pm 
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------LINK state------
------LINK state------

With Ezra disconnected, Marcus spoke to himself with—“Where did I put that scotch?” being the last thing he said. The rest of the was night consumed with drinking and thinking.
The morning lights in the office hurt his head. While the quarters attached to his office were comfortable, they were no replacement for his own bed. Stiff, he rolled onto his back and rubbed his eyes. Before he could process the decisions of the night before, his senses exploded, his body told him he had company in the room. He mentally went through the room and gathered a list of possible weapons—including his backup pistol on the coffee table.
He risked opening his eyes. The figure was unmistakable, even thru his blurred vision. “Ezra, what are you doing in my quarters?” He noticed that Ezra held his backup gun and his only thought was relief. If he wasn’t on his side, he would be dead by now. “Didn’t your mother teach you to not touch other people’s things?”
Ezra pretended to be hurt, holding his hand to his heart in mock pain. “Marcus why do you carry, and trust your life, to antiques? This weapon has to be fifty years old,” he said, placing it gently on the table.
Marcus balked at the implied fragility, “It is not that fragile, or that old, dammit!” he said, propping himself on his elbows. “You remember the mineshafts,” Ezra’s face changed. The normal aloof and nonchalant demeanor went somber as he looked at the pistol.
“That sulfur ate through everything; our suits, our skin, our equipment. When we got out, that pistol would still shoot. All they had were dull knives.” Marcus felt nauseated, Ezra paused while reliving the same memory. Marcus was fully awake now, “Just quit touching my shit. How did you get in here anyway? What did you do to Bishop?”
Ezra smiled, he was instantly back to his normal self, “Bishop is fine. I told him you were my lover and he shouldn’t get in the way.” Marcus sat all the way up and said, “You’re an asshole. You didn’t come here just to give me grief. What’s on your mind?”
“They do actually want to meet with you. I would advise against it, but I thought you would want to know all of your options. There are at least three operatives inside the command structure of this base and two field agents with orders that I have found so far. There are probably three times that many in cells.” Ezra sighed, looking at the state of his clothes and removing a piece of lint. “My biggest concern would be the interdiction battalion commander. Your conflict with him coincides with a progression of the external problem and his participation with keeping the nurse safe seemed overly helpful. It could be coincidence, but it makes me skeptical of his loyalties.”
Marcus just stared at Ezra. People never wanted Ezra to be skeptical of their loyalties. “Don’t be too skeptical—just yet.” Marcus forced his body up, “I need more information. If the interdiction battalion is off the reservation, then the post is lost and we need to get her off it. Did you ship her crap already?”
“Oh, yes. It has been shipped.”
Marcus put his pistol into the holster and strapped it to his ankle. “Anything interesting?”
“Not really, she is well off, though. She seems to have been hoarding her pay and dabbling in the black market with her skills. Nothing illegal per se. A little medical attention that no one wanted to take to the hospital wing. Mostly keeping military guys out of jail for fighting. I do see a large increase in her bank holdings that coincide with a black-market shootout in the bazaar.
“That is probably the extent of her depth into the issues at hand. What is interesting is the fact that her cargo contained no currency. Minimal precious metals. It is all food and supplies. Four rail containers—two of which are liquid. I assume water, 200,000 liters to be exact. I cannot fathom how she acquired it.”
That surprised Marcus. Ezra never remained stumped for long, “The warehouse looked empty when she shipped out. Which brings me to the interesting point, she shipped it to the middle of nowhere. They wouldn’t even carry her cargo insurance past the last stop. I thought it would be a compound, but it wasn’t. The reports came back that the recipient was in the middle of nowhere with a rail crane and a truck. Here are the coordinates. It is in the middle of secured tribal lands—no real resources to speak of, just dirt and tribes.”
Finding a shirt in his small locker, Marcus replaced the one he slept in. While pulling it over his head he inquired, “Does she have family on those tribal lands?” Completely dressed Marcus moved to his office proper. Ezra again took up his position on the far side of Marcus’ desk.
“I believe that is where she is from, yes,” Ezra resumed. “If you look at her original enlistment records, her documentation states ‘Tribal originals.’ We just assumed she was from an urban area by the location of her enlistment. That being my mistake, I pieced it all together with her travel records on her military leaves. I am afraid if she disappears into that area she is gone. It is 250,000 square miles of Mesquite beans, Joshua trees and indigenous dwellings.”
Marcus pushed the intercom and asked Bishop for a cup of coffee. When he entered with two, Marcus inquired, “Bishop, any word from doctor Jeffries on the patient and trainee being ready to be interviewed?”
“Not yet Sir, I will inquire as soon as I get back to my desk.”
Taking a sip of the coffee, Marcus just nodded. When the door had closed behind Bishop he looked to Ezra, “Do you think we can take Palo Verde with the remaining trained teams, Valerie and the trainer, if we get out of this next scenario with our skin?”
Marcus extended the second cup of coffee, which he waived off, “I don’t know, maybe.”
“Should I be worried about the hitters from...” Marcus paused thinking. “Where are they from anyway?”
Ezra just shook his head, “You really don’t care for politics do you? We assume they are from the Rhode Island parliament. They have been trying to get their people in the western frontier for some time. Since this is the wild west—and mostly just unsupervised military units left to their own devises, it seems most likely that they would have a presence here.” Marcus just nodded as he sipped his coffee. “You see Marcus; this is still just a tribal village at heart. Sure, the military gave them higher walls and better defenses, but we are still just renters in a village that lives on the edge of the wilderness.”
“You are truly a poet Ezra, but you never answered my question.”
Ezra shrugged. “Should you be worried?”
Marcus nodded and Ezra continued “Probably no more than the way you are worried about a stray bullet on a battlefield. It’s possible it could get out of hand, but unlikely. We have resources they do not.”
Ezra stood and straightened his uniform before heading towards the door, “The meeting is set for the back of the motor pool tomorrow night at midnight. Lots of cloak and dagger stuff to scare you—you know, the usual.” Marcus never stopped sipping his coffee.
Bishop must have seen Ezra leaving the outer office as his cue. About the same time the outer door shut the intercom came to life, “Sir, the Doctor is on line two for you. He confirmed the condition of his patients as acceptable.” Marcus turned down the intercom to a less painful setting and picked up the line.
“Doctor Jeffries I would like to speak to the recovered male and the surviving trainee as soon as I can walk to the recovery wing. You good with meeting me there?” There was only silence from the other end. “Doctor?”
“Yeah, I heard you. I just finished a report so I could leave. See you there in five,” then a click.
“Maybe Ezra should be skeptical of the doctor,” he whispered to himself. On the way out the door he filled Bishop in on his plans for the day then proceeded to the recovery wing on the West wall.
The isolation and recovery section were very different from the rest of the medical compound. With glass walls breaking it up into large sections, it felt both open and claustrophobic at the same time. Doctor Jeffries waited for him at one of the many check-in stations.
The doctor seemed nervous to Marcus, “Sorry for the phone call, we need to talk when we’re done here. There are some issues you need to be aware of before they get out of hand.”
Doctor Jeffries motioned for Marcus to follow and started walking down one of the glass-lined hallways. The sterility on the other side of the glass made Marcus feel isolated and dirty. Two turns and three doors later the doctor paused and said, “Here we go! Any questions before hand?”
Marcus just shook his head. The Hazmat suits with rebreathers hanging on the wall in front of the second airlock door made him a little nervous. He had heard of the multitude of diseases that affect the population in the less survivable settlements. He could definitely—at this moment—do without the creeping crud of the desert eating his strength.
The doctor put his hand under the automated sanitizer dispenser and Marcus did the same. The door opened and they went inside, “Hi Joshua, this is Marcus and he would like to talk to you.” The boy sat on the bed in pajamas with cartoon characters and trucks printed on them. Marcus assumed they were the current healthcare trend for pediatrics. The kid had been playing with one of the normal school tablets that the teachers pass out during play time.
“Hi Joshua,” Marcus said. “I have some questions about what happened to you. Is that okay?”
“I… Guess so?” He cowered a little, “I don't want to talk about my parents anymore. The nurses keep trying to talk to me about them and I don’t want to.”
“It’s ok Joshua. How about your settlement, can we talk about that?” Marcus pulled a pediatric chair out from under a bright red two-foot tall table in the room’s play area. When he sat on it, it put him more on eye level with the boy sitting in the bed, “Did you have a river by your village?”
The boy rolled his eyes. “Well yeah, how are you supposed to live without a stream by your village? We just got done putting up the Bikih.” Marcus nodded, thinking Bikih translated to house. “Mom says we moved cause the critters got too brave.” This time Marcus and the doctor were nodding. It being common practice in the nomadic life to move when the rodents got too fierce. Marcus thought his language skills were good with a normal mixture of indigenous vocabulary of the area.
“Have you seen this?” Marcus said holding up a picture of the nuclear power plant.
The boy nodded and said, “The Gila river gets too small in the summer, so we only live down there when it’s cold. I caught a fish this big.” He held his arms as far apart as he could. “But mom said it was cheating cause the river was so low.”
Marcus frustrated, “So, you have been here?”
“Look mister, I said I saw it, not that I been there. The others live there and we don’t like them because they are mean and they poop everywhere. You can see that place from the little horns. I got a deer in the little horns.”
Marcus, fully involved now, “So, from your village you could see this side of the buildings?” Pointing to the North side of the picture, “Uh huh, yep, mister you can’t go to the other side! That is the dead village, you can’t go there! Momma says no one comes out of the there. She was real proud of the deer I got in the little horns. Momma was…” He broke into sobs, rolled over and grabbed his pillow and curled into the fetal position. The doctor looked at Marcus, who nodded. They both stood and moved towards the door. The nurse entered and gave Marcus and the doctor a scowl. She sat on the bed and started rubbing the boy’s back as they made their way out of the room.
Once outside in the hallway Marcus said “So …Phoenix isn’t dead! If you go in and don’t come back, there is something there.” Then the doctor added as he directed Marcus down a different hallway, “and the nuclear plant has ferals living in it, is that going to be a problem?” Marcus tried to figure out where they were heading, “Probably not, getting there is much harder than taking it. What did you need to discuss with me?” The Doctor shook his head and looked at the video camera at the intersection of the hallway they were crossing.
“Could I interest you in a drink in my office commander?” The doctor’s acting for the cameras was comical.
“Why yes, Doctor Jeffries, that would be great.” The rest of the trip to the doctor’s private office was walked in silence. Marcus did notice very few eyes paid attention to them, but the ones that did, paid very close attention.
The doctor, eager to talk, started as soon as he closed the door, “You have a problem. The Interdiction battalion is making moves in the hospital.”
“What kind of moves Doctor?”
Jeffries leaned down to turn the computer on, “They have been tinkering with the work schedule. At first, just a little at a time, now the changes are bigger and more obvious of the desired outcome.”
Marcus sat down as well, “Which is?”
“They have arranged to have a battalion doctor and nurse pair on duty 24/7. It took them a while to get it that way and I noticed when they became more aggressive over the last three days. For the next month, the longest out you can arrange the schedule, they have two people on duty at all times.” The doctor, getting excited, picked up the pace. “That’s not all. About two years ago, shortly after we established the original hospital, we had a very serious black market theft problem. Someone got the idea that we should put floor sensors in the doorways. So, if you went into a room and came back out heavier, we would know you were stealing.”
Now, very interested, Marcus nodded. “As you can imagine,” Jeffries continued. “We kept the project secret. There are only a few of us doctors who know they are there and no one has checked them in a year.”
“What did you see doctor?”
Doctor Jeffries’ face lit up like a kid who wanted to show off, “I started to pay attention to the battalion guys and I tracked them through their history on the scales with the video cameras. They are a full fifteen pounds heavier this week than they were last week. If you don’t mind me asking, how much does your body armor and a weapon weigh?”
It all began to add up to Marcus. The doctor had them cold, “If you are wearing the low profile, hard armor and you put an extra magazine in your pocket, about fifteen pounds, doctor, about fifteen pounds.” The doctor sighed and turned the computer monitor off, “What should we do?”
“We? We don’t do anything. You just pretend that the world is a normal place and try not to piss off the armored assholes you have in your hospital. I think they are the last ditch option. I don’t plan on letting it get that far. If it does go sideways in here, just stay down and let my people take care of it. I need you alive and so do they.”
Marcus had a lot to think about. When he stood to leave, the doctor just looked at him silently and questioned of his future. “Don't worry, I am planning on taking care of this problem before it ever comes out in the open here. We have things in place if someone decides they have big enough balls to do it openly. I don't think it will come to that. I know we were supposed to interview the trainee, but I have to take care of a few more things. The kid had the answers we were looking for.” The doctor understood and added, “The plant is there and intact, that's why, isn’t it?”
Marcus didn't feel like answering questions and so he started walking, “That information is dangerous doctor and you would be wise to pretend you don't have it.”
Walking out of the Plexiglas maze Marcus touched his earpiece. “Bishop?”
“Yes Sir, I am here.”
“Has Wasil been to the office yet?”
“No Sir he has not. He called and asked your location and seemed satisfied when I told him you were in the hospital wing. I did not tell him the exact location. I’m not sure how much you would like me to communicate with the lieutenant.”
“It's ok Bishop, in the future you can give him my actual. I realize that our relationship is...” He paused for the exact words.
Bishop came back first, “Complicated, Sir?”
“Yes, private that is a good way to describe it. Complicated.” The earpiece went dead for a second. “Sir, I realize I…”
“It's ok Bishop, tell me what's on your mind.”
“I have taken liberties with quartermaster and supply, Sir. I had an extra loadout delivered to the office when I placed the order you asked for. Uniforms, armor, full kit, Sir.”
Marcus felt a little relieved at the confession. “Good move Bishop. You should loadout two vehicles from the motor pool as well, have them placed in the inner courtyard. Did you manage to get ahold of Miss Pentia?”
“Yes, I did Sir, and the package is in play, she also said meeting you in the square would be possible at about 1 PM.”
“Good job Bishop, the pieces are coming together. Anything else I should know?” Marcus heard the headset key twice as if Bishop had started to talk, but then stopped to think.
“Sir, do you remember the air assault private that escorted you to the interdiction battalion barracks?”
“Yeah, good kid, what of him?”
“I was sitting in the beer hall last night and he approached me like he wanted to talk. Just as he was about to say something he got a look on his face, like he was seeing something he didn’t like over my shoulder and just passed me a note instead. The note read, Papa Seven Echo 343, then he just got up and left. That’s all I got, Sir. It just seemed important—just not sure why.”
The information’s importance lost on Marcus as well. “Could you get that note to Lieutenant Wasil in the next hour or so?”
“That’s not a problem Sir. I will drop it off on my lunch and mail run. It won’t even be out of the ordinary.”
“Good job, Bishop. Make sure you change your encryption today. I am switching over now. Tell Wasil I am meeting with Pentia then going home.”
“Got it, Sir,” and the connection went silent. Survival, Marcus’ only objective for the next few days. He chuckled to himself. That thought had appeared quite often in his military career.
Each section of the castle-like village had its own plaza where the local residents could gather, eat and shop without going to the huge public squares. The headquarters Battalion barracks and the recovery unit shared one in the middle of their section of wall. The sun, high in the sky when he arrived, put him close—but definitely before the 1 PM meeting. He ordered at the street shop and sat down at the Bistro tables and waited. For about the first ten minutes he could not get over how exposed he felt. It went away as he started watching people. The counter attendant, alert to the point of being distracted from the patrons, stood out as a player. While not familiar in appearance, his actions betrayed his part in the mission. The bartender, doling out afternoon drinks, protected a package between his feet. Probably Valerie’s and that definitely made him a player. Marcus started to relax just about that time Ezra showed up.
“Good day to you Sir,” Ezra said, his head nodding in a micro bow.
Marcus almost laughed at the formal nature of his peer. He stood and shook his hand. “Oh and a good day it is.” After Ezra sat down and absently scanned the menu, he looked at Marcus with nothing but business in his demeanor. Marcus pulled a pen and paper from his pocket and wrote while saying, “Papa Seven Echo 343” on it and showed it to Ezra.
“I know, it is already taken care of. I am however not sure I can keep that particular private safe. He fancies himself an Intel guy and is stumbling about, putting his nose where it doesn’t belong. I will try though; I know you were favorable of him.” Marcus tried to just accept the privates as unknown for the moment and stated. “We will have to accept the outcomes we get. Not really much of a choice at this point.” Ezra agreed, stood and walked over to order a drink.
Ezra returned and sat down, “Valerie got her hair done today before she went into the main bazaar to get.. shoes, I think. I am not sure what to make of her. She is either very calm or she is trying to appear so. The more I watch her the more I like her.” He paused drink his lemonade, “I believe all of the arrangements are as well-planned as they can be. Do you agree?”
Marcus nodded and touched his earpiece, “Crypto good.” Ezra nodded and extended his hand, “See you tomorrow night, Sir.” Marcus nodded when he shook his hand. As Ezra stood to leave, Marcus said quietly. “Watch your ass.”
Ezra replied, “I will see you when I see you,” and disappeared into the crowd.
Ten minutes later with no one in particular to pay attention to in the crowd, Valerie showed up wearing a sundress, a very nice touch. He had never really seen her in a public setting before. The hair, makeup and sundress together showed her to be a very pretty young woman. As Ezra had said, her bags were from a clothing market and her hair and makeup were freshly done, “I see you have been out shopping, Miss Pentia.”
She sat down and placed the bags at her feet, “Truthfully Sir, I was afraid you were going to give me something at this meeting and I wanted bait if someone questioned what I was carrying.”
Marcus felt the lemonade hit the back of his nose, shocked at her ability to adapt, even to his world. If he had prepped someone for a blind drop, those would have been his instructions to the letter, “That will do very well Miss Pentia and I do have a package for you. I hope you will not be needing it, but I would prefer you to have it anyway.”
A few minutes later when the waiter arrived he placed the shopping bag under the table while taking the nurse’s order. Once free of the waiter’s questions, Marcus continued. “Inside you will find very lightweight body armor and a survival kit.”
She pulled it under the table with her feet, “Survival kit?”
Marcus nodded. “Yes, just in case we get stuck outside the walls in this little adventure of ours. I would like for you to have a kit so I know you will be okay for at least 72 hours. You have had the standard survival training correct?”
Now, it was her turn to nod, “Good, then everything in it will look familiar. I am meeting with some people tonight that think they are going to interfere with what we are doing. The only reason I am telling you this is because if something happens to me, you are going to need to run for your life”
Valerie had a hard time swallowing, “You were serious when you said you would be telling me the truth. So, if something happens to you—what are my chances of getting out of here?”
He responded immediately, “Slim to none. Even if you do make it out of the base they will be looking for you on all the local transportation into the tribal lands. They will also be looking for you to leave on foot due to the nature of the person you were tending to. It is not that hard to figure out where you will try to go, even if we did ship your stuff as quietly as possible. I have made arrangements for you. They are in the bag. If I don’t contact you tomorrow, follow the instructions to the letter. They will get you out of the walls and into a vehicle heading in the right direction. Don’t trust anyone who is not on the list. Repeat that to me.”
She stumbled a little, “Don’t trust anyone who is not on the list.” He nodded as she braved the question, “What will they do to me if they catch me?”
His mouth tightened, “Play with your frontal cortex until you behave the way they want you to.” For a minute Marcus thought she would throw up on the bistro table. When she didn’t, he continued, “If that doesn’t work they will get all the information they can and then either kill you, or toss you into a hole until they forget about you or find something fun to do with you.”
At this point she did look positively green. She stuttered a little. “Uh…that’s enough honesty for one day. What are you hoping is going to happen?”
Marcus Adjusted his seat, “We meet them tomorrow and bait them along just enough for us to get a flight to the location we are seeking, get what we want and return. At that point, you are out of the picture and are irrelevant to them and in the end, safe. The only reason we are even including you is because these assholes don’t know of the latest turn of events and even if they did, they would not take it seriously and we need you to ease the minds of the rest of the trained guys that we are taking.”
“Trained guys? You are not talking about the people that he trained are you?”
“Yes I am, why?”
“Yeah, I am not even sure I could get them to go, and if they do go, they are going to be pissed that you are taking them to get something instead of someone. As far as they are concerned they are a survivor recovery team and that is it.”
“We will cross that bridge when we come to it. You should head back. I don’t want to spend too much time sitting in the open like this. Read the instructions, memorize them, flush the paper. Fit the armor tonight and put on the survival vest. Wait for my call, ok?”
She nodded as she stood and collected her bags, “Good luck, Colonel.” Her expression was very serious as she waded into the afternoon market crowd.
Marcus hoped he had not broken her spirit, or affected her will to survive. Sometimes people in desperate situations just give up. Ten minutes later, Marcus left the bistro table and contacted Bishop. “Okay Bishop, I am back on the move. I am heading towards the armorer.”
“Roger that Sir!”
The square seemed crowded to him and he noted the time. Still early. Moneymaking time for the food shops. On the far side of the square the public gun shop Marcus referred to had a simple sign that read Guns and Ammo. Everyone on this side of town came to the same guy if they wanted something private, and not issued. The door creaked and the bells chimed. A moment later a plump dark skinned man came from behind a beaded curtain into the front of the shop and stood behind the counter.
“Good day Commander. Did we call you and tell you your pickup is ready?”
“Nope! Just stopping by to see if I could get lucky. How is business?” The man behind the counter immediately started looking through documents on the monitor in front of him. “Business has been pretty good lately. We have a partial for you, would you like it?”
Marcus nodded, “Very much so.” The man walked back through the beads, gone for quite a while. When he returned he had two packages. Looking through the documents taped to the boxes he said, “This one is complete.” As he pushed that box forward, “This is the partial.” Directed at the second box. “If you don’t mind me asking, what are you putting those in?”
Marcus, collecting the boxes and putting them in the offered fabric bag said, “A Mark 2.” The man behind the counter had a physical jerking reaction, snapping his attention from the monitor. Before his face could completely recover, he said, “WOW! Really, it’s not stock is it?”
Marcus just looked at the man, “No, it’s not stock.” His mind went over the list of modifications he would have to rattle off to describe the pistol.
“How do you manage to hold on to it when you shoot those?”
Marcus paid the man in silver at the going rate in the town, which the shopkeeper seemed mildly surprised by. “I definitely don’t practice a lot,” Marcus said absently while looking at the silver trade bars. Marcus assumed that most of the stationed military guys just used the monetary ration cards from the peerage. He usually did too, but in this case, he thought it better to keep some purchases private.
He thanked the man for the rush job and goodbye. Once outside the door he thought about the recoil of the pistol. Marcus didn’t really remember what the gun felt like when it went off. Sure, he had fired it a few times, but always in the direst of circumstances and he just didn’t remember the recoil.
During the walk to his quarters he kept his mind busy with his surroundings trying to make sure no one followed him and then once home checked to make sure it remained undisturbed. He worried Valerie would not follow the instructions he provided, but then his words to Ezra came back, and he had to agree.
With the planning stage over, nothing remained but to wait and see what was to come out the other side. In all his years of combat he had never once had the outcome be exactly what he strived for. His ego showed itself for a minute, just for his amusement, “Yeah, but I sure did get close a couple of times,” he said to the empty quarters just to hear himself talk.
Three drinks later Marcus snored loudly in front of his entertainment monitor.

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