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 Post subject: The Woman and the Ghost
PostPosted: Mon Jan 18, 2010 6:23 am 
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Krista had been hungover and puking herself silly on better days than this.

That little voice in the back of her head had told her that trying to operate outside of the specified area was a bad idea, but a much louder and more prominent voice had told her that something out there could be worth the risk. Of course, that louder voice was now conveniently silent, as Corporal Krista Showalter led her team down the streets and alleys, hoping to get into a more open area to defend themselves as the undead horde shuffled after them. Their ride, the heavily modified short school bus that teams like hers used for transport, was now inoperable in the middle of the road a few miles behind them as they fell back, executing a well-coordinated fighting retreat that got them away from their pursuers and whittled away at their numbers, but not quickly enough to do even come close to evening the odds. It was five against at least two hundred. Regardless of the skill and armaments of the five, that was not the way smart money bets.

Krista kept yelling commands and questions at her team, hoping to remind them that she was still in charge and theoretically in control of the situation, even though she herself needed the most convincing of that. They were ninety miles from the walls of the Duke City Colony, and although help was supposedly on the way, a lot could happen in the eighty minutes they had been given before it would arrive. They had more or less been running in circles since having to leave their ride behind, since there was simply no place to go to get extracted that was within running distance.

They still had eighteen minutes to go.

“Dave? Get back on that horn and tell our lazy rescuers to get their asses here now! Tell them to extract us at the park at the corner of East Riverside and Birch!”

“What makes you think they even know where the hell that is?” Constable David Aquilar replied, yelling rather than speaking his response.

“Just fucking tell them, Dave!”

“Romeo Three to Alert Four! Romeo Three to Alert Four! Come in!”

Through the earpiece of Dave’s radio, a voice crackled back. “Romeo Three, this is Alert Four! Go ahead!”

“We need a change of our extraction point! The first one is fucked! We’re falling back to a park, location: corner of East Riverside and Birch! Can you locate?”

It took a few seconds before Alert Four responded. “That’s an affirmative. We have the location. Sit tight and hang tough. ETA: sixteen minutes! Alert Four out!”

Krista yelled back as she pumped more rounds out of her early model “Vietnam” M16 into the lumbering horde. A few dropped on their backs as her shots pierced their skulls, and the others on her team could also claim such accuracy, but the horde was now forty yards away and it didn’t seem to be getting any smaller, or slower. “What did they say?”

“ETA: sixteen minutes! They have our extraction point! But we need to get there now!” Dave yelled back.

Krista barked at her team, “Okay, everyone fall back! Fall back now! Let’s get our asses to that damned park and try to lay these bitches down! We only need to hold out a while longer! Double-time it!”

Krista and her four teammates moved with great speed towards the park, which was only a quarter mile from their current position. They didn’t encounter any ahead of them as they moved, but that horde behind them was large, seemingly too large of a town the size of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. Although a couple of hundred were after them, she already knew that a couple of thousand were not far away.

It took about three minutes before the small park came into view. It offered concealment and good fields of fire against what was coming, but it certainly couldn’t offer any ammunition, and the team was running terribly low.

They had outdistanced the horde and hunkered down to prepare for another fight and hopefully rescue. Krista immediately yelled out, “Boba! Do an ammo check!”

Constable Joshua “Boba” Fetterman, the team’s second-in-command, pestered everyone to check their remaining ammo supply. It took a few seconds but he was at least able to report.

“Krista, I have only one twenty round mag in the sixteen, another in the pouch. Half a mag in the Beretta. By the way, that’s about what everyone has.”

Krista was not happy with the news. “And that’s more than I have. We can’t hold off that horde for long. Dave, get ready to radio in a new extraction point if it comes to that.”

Dave replied, “They’ll be here in twelve minutes, and this is as far south as we can go without going out into open desert, and they’ll sure as hell never find us out there.”

“Then we’ll head west and try to get closer to I-25. We might be easier to find that way.” Krista said back.

Another team member, Constable Isaac Kepford, the medic, shouted, “But does anyone but me know that getting closer to I-25 means going back through the town itself? You want to go back in there?”

“Only if we have to, now get ready for a fight! We only have to hold out until our retrieval gets here!” Krista said.

It was only a few minutes before the horde began to come back into view. It seemed larger than before, the two hundred that the team had estimated had grown to at least twice that number now. They began spilling out of the residential area and shuffled towards the park, their moans filling the air, spreading dread to the desperate team.

Krista yelled out, “Take aim and fire on my command!”

Constable Dana “Dizzy” Zachary screamed, “We can’t hold them here! We have to fall back! There’s too fucking many of them!”

Krista snapped, “Shut up, Dizzy! We’ll fall back if we have to, and we don’t have to yet!”

The closest of the horde closed to within fifty yards. It was time.

“Let ‘em have it!”

Their assault rifles cracked off shots and some of the nearest undead began to fall. They fired as they had been trained, slowly and methodically, but it wasn’t enough. Every zombie that dropped showed dozens more behind, arms reaching out towards them, teeth gnashing, moans creeping into the minds of the desperate team.

“This place is fucked! We have to get the hell out of here!” Boba screamed.

“Not yet! Hold your ground!” Krista screamed, her voice betraying the fear that she had so far done an admirable job hiding.

Their shots began to miss their marks. Some impacted harmlessly on chests, arms, and legs, while some appeared to hit nothing at all. Desperation was hacking away at their ability to aim. The horde closed to within thirty yards. The dead began tripping and stumbling over those already fallen, but so many came that it didn’t bring so much as a momentary respite from the terror closing on them.

“Okay, fall back! Fall back!”

The team pulled back towards the west, heading for the Interstate. They moved quickly on Broadway, knowing that they might just be running into something larger than what they were trying to outrun, but their choices had run out.

Dizzy yelled, “Shit, I’m out! A couple of rounds for the Beretta, that’s all!”

“Doc” Kepford shouted out, “Out! Not one round!”

The other three weren’t doing much better.

Krista now realized how desperate they were. Their rescue hadn’t arrived, at least three hundred and fifty zombies were relentlessly pressing them, and their only way out other than open desert and dusty hills was to head west into another residential area where more might be waiting.

Still, she tried to keep it all together as best she could. “Move quickly! We need…”

That was as far as Krista got before Dave said, “I hear them! I hear an engine!”

“Pop smoke!”

Boba tossed his red smoke canister a few yards ahead of them. Within thirty seconds, rescue came into view.

A Stryker armored combat vehicle rumbled towards them, turning around and lowering the ramp. A team of five armed constables from the elite “Brown Coats” charged out and into formation, one jumping on top of the vehicle, scanning the area.

Krista and her team ran towards the Stryker, seeing the insignia on the side of the hull. It was a beautifully-painted American flag crossed with the flag of the state of New Mexico, under which was lettered, “Until the Reunification.” This Stryker belonged to Team Four of the Brown Coats, known officially as ALERT, or Armed Long Range Retrieval Team. They already knew from their transmissions for rescue that Team Four was coming for them, thus Krista, while utterly relieved that they were getting home alive, was neither happy nor surprised at who came out of the Stryker last.

It was Ghost, the person she hated most of all of what remained of her species, except herself that is.

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 18, 2010 11:18 am 
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MOAR MOAR MOAR MOAR MOAR!!!!!

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 18, 2010 11:29 am 
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Nice start to a new story!

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 18, 2010 12:23 pm 
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As above, i am hooked. Not only are your stories good, but you tend to not leave us hanging for weeks on end. Big plus.


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 18, 2010 8:37 pm 
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Nice start to what looks to be a great new story. Having 'Brown Coats' sealed the deal.


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 18, 2010 10:23 pm 
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The man who came out of the rear hatch of the Stryker was Ghost, a sergeant in the Constabulary and commander of ALERT Four. He was an enigma to just about everyone who had ever even heard of him, and in the Duke City Colony, that was everyone. No one knew his real name, and he himself did not take kindly to inquiries about it. What’s more, no one save for those in the Brown Coats had ever seen his face. He wore a skin-tight black mask with the image of a skull face and his eyes were ever covered by red-tinted sunglasses. He had, as far as anyone knew, never been seen without his mask and shades, and that coupled with the gravelly voice with which he spoke gave him something of a frightening, even otherworldly aura. He was known as someone who lacked the ability to feel anything. Love, compassion, hatred, fear…all seemed to have no meaning to him whatsoever. Even physical pain was said to be alien to him. He exited the Stryker with the calm air of someone who had no concern about the shuffling horde slowly closing in on his vehicle, his team, and those he had come so far to rescue.

Despite their nickname, “Brown Coats” was not quite accurate, since they did not wear coats and what they did wear was not especially brown. They instead wore khaki coveralls, black boots, and black fingerless gloves, along with khaki-colored tactical helmets and black tactical vests. They cut quite a different appearance from the Recon Teams like Krista’s, who wore dark gray coveralls instead and the rest of the Constabulary, who wore navy blue.

Ghost, like the rest of ALERT, did not carry the ancient model of the M16 like the rest of the force. Ghost, for example, carried an M4 Carbine with coyote brown furniture and all the tactical accessories of a pre-colonial SWAT officer or Navy SEAL. He stood outside the Stryker, casually waving Krista’s team inside. Krista was last, who stopped when she felt Ghost grab her arm. His voice was cool, calm, methodical, and totally irreverent.

“Corporal Showalter, I see that once again, I am required to risk the lives of my team to come all the way out here and rescue you and your people from your own stupidity.”

“Bite me, Ghost. I am so not in the damned mood for your bullshit right now. Can we just get the hell out of here please?”

“Your mood is of no concern to me, Corporal. None of us were in the mood to travel so far south from our homes to bring you back, nor were we in the mood to be assigned to return tomorrow to this godforsaken place to escort the Vehicular Retrieval Detail to bring your bus back home for repairs, yet here we are. Since we had to operate in spite of our moods, you should perhaps silence yourself and do the same. Your actions are more than just reckless and irresponsible, but dangerous, foolish, and they carry the potential to bring terrible consequences down on our heads. You might consider yourself fortunate that we were on rotation this week. The other teams might just turn right around after thinking that the Colony is better off without you in it. In case it has skipped your mind, you are not the most popular person, either on the force or in the Colony.”

“One of these fucking days, Casper the Unfriendly Asshole, you and I are going to settle everything. Mark my words.”

“Corporal Showalter, I could snap your neck with my eyes closed and my hands bound behind my back. Now then, enough talk. Get your child’s brain and the rest of your useless self inside. I’m taking you back. I have orders to take you to the Captain after your processing. There is much for which you must answer.”

Ghost was the last into the Striker before the hatch was closed. He sat down and began issuing his usual commands. “Okay people, make sure we’re buttoned up. Get us out of here. Don’t bother with the fifty-cal. Let’s just leave this horde where we found them. Besides, tomorrow when we come back to help Showalter and her gaggle of fools get their ride back, we’ll have plenty of chances to pop some heads open.”

Where had the Colony gotten Striker fighting vehicles? Who knew? Some said that they were taken from a convoy that had been wiped out while trying to rescue civilians in Albuquerque, while others believed that they had just been lying around Fort Bliss, Texas, their previous crews having no more need of them. Whatever the case was, they were perfect for the sort of missions that ALERT pulled and they were happy to have them. Krista, however, hated being cooped up with Ghost and his people for the hour and a half ride back to the Colony. It was like being trapped on a life raft with your worst enemy.

Krista’s team was uncharacteristically quiet as they didn’t want to catch any of what passed for wrath from Ghost. Their loyalty to their team leader was absolute, but Ghost’s words made it abundantly clear that she, that they had regally screwed up and a reckoning was waiting for her in the Captain’s office back at the Colony. Not quite so quiet was Ghost’s team, who bantered all the way back about nothing special.

Things got heated when one of Ghost’s men began talking about how badly Krista had fucked up. He was not watching his decibel level and didn’t care who heard. To say that she was a screw-up was stating something that just about everyone knew anyway.

“…yeah, no shit, huh? I can’t believe they keep letting her off her leash like this. She was pretty good on the job when Brad was calling the shots, but since she…”

Krista reached for the throat of the speaking Brown Coat, yelling, “Don’t you fucking dare say his name! You have no right…”

She didn’t have the chance to utter another word when Ghost, who made it a point to sit right down next to Krista, shot his arm out, using Krista’s own momentum to catch her in the chest, slamming her back into her seat.

“Corporal, don’t threaten one of my men again. This is your first and final warning. I will also accept your gratitude, since I will leave this incident out of my after-action report. As far as every other foolish mistake you have made today, well, I’m afraid that there is no way you can duck out of that. Now please remain seated and silent. Your company is grating enough as it is without you speaking.”

There were a thousand things Krista felt like saying at that moment, but the arm that she had accidentally slammed herself into took her breath and her desire to speak them. She spent the rest of the trip in uncharacteristic silence, just like her team, while ALERT Four went on and on about whatever seemed important to them at the moment, while Ghost himself just sat, balancing his M4 between his knees, arms folded across his chest, saying nothing. Krista was relieved when the walls of the Duke City Colony were reported as being within sight by the driver.

It was home to about four thousand people, and had grown out of what had once been the town of Socorro, about seventy miles south of Albuquerque, New Mexico. While Albuquerque itself had been nicknamed the Duke City, the colony took that name simply because most of the first residents, the ones who first started building the walls, tilling the ground, and reactivating the power plant, had been from Albuquerque, and for one reason or another, not many of them were willing to let the nickname of their hometown fade like so much had as the old world crumbled in their hands. It was a prosperous colony, as were many of those that had sprung up across the former continental United States. The concertina walls were expanding every few months as new survivors were located, more land was deemed usable for crops and livestock, and generally because the residents wanted more breathing room, which was in abundance in the immediate area surrounding the town. Of the four thousand residents, three hundred made up the Duke City Constabulary Force, the veteran cadre of which had been whatever law enforcement had reached the place in the darker days, who then trained those that would follow.

Life wasn’t exactly normal within the walls, which is to say that it couldn’t so easily be mistaken for life in earlier days. Money didn’t exist, and no one seemed to miss it much. Rather, food and other supplies were rationed and parceled out on a regular basis and to claim one’s share of it, they had to do their part, whether it be working in the power plant, serving on the force, farming, brewing (a popular activity, one should imagine), or constructing new sections of the ever-expanding wall in the plant, among all manner of other occupations. The medical clinic had been open since almost the beginning, and the local parks, community center, and so on kept the young ones occupied when they weren’t either pitching in or struggling to learn lessons from the old world and the new one in the schools around the colony. It had been a college town, as much of the western edge of the town was taken up by New Mexico Tech, a college that seemed too big for a town that didn’t have much more of a population than it did now. Tech had become the administrative and civic heart of the colony, as the various buildings had been turned into the barracks, headquarters, and training facility for the Constabulary, as well as the various offices needed to work the civic government.

No, life wasn’t normal. People actually worked together and for the most part, stayed within the boundaries of the laws that governed the place. And in any event, the magistrate court was open for business, as was one of the buildings on the Tech campus that served as a jail and the short field behind that which acted as a range for the firing squad, which had only been used a few times in the early days. Infractions these days were rarely of the sort that could get anyone locked up for any length of time, but the threat of serving jail time and then being released into the very community that they had attempted to exploit in any way was by itself enough to keep people in line. Besides, moving to another community wasn’t the easiest thing to do these days.

The gate, or at least the main southern gate, had been constructed right on top of I-25, but the ALERT vehicle turned onto a smaller road and headed west towards another gate, one which led directly to the Constabulary section of New Mexico Tech (or, the Civic Center, as the locals called it). After radioing in, the gate slid open and the Stryker idled inside the inner containment area, the section by the gate that had been fenced in to protect the colony in case any fool opened the gate without reason and let any of the dead in (not that there were any within miles of the wall. ALERT had done its job quite well). After inspecting the Stryker and verifying that nothing dead was hanging on, the inner gate opened and they parked in the motor pool.

After everyone had assembled outside, Ghost spoke to the motor pool’s chief mechanic. “I need this vehicle checked off and cleared for operations by 1100 hours tomorrow. We need to go out again. We’re slated to escort the Vehicular Retrieval Detail. Recon Three’s bus will be coming back. I promise. I also apologize for the incompetence of their commander, since I have no faith whatsoever that she will do so herself. Such an act requires more character than she possesses.”

The lead mechanic shook Ghost’s hand and promised him that the Stryker would be tip-top when they needed it. After that, Ghost came back and stood right in front of Krista and her team.

“Turn your rifles in and report to the showers. I have orders to escort Corporal Showalter to the Captain. The rest of you are ordered to assemble in the briefing room after your decontamination to await further instructions.”

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"If you have a milkshake, and I have a milkshake, and there's a straw, there it is, that's a straw...and my straw reaches...acrosssssssss the room, and begins to drink your milkshake. I DRINK YOUR MILKSHAKE! SLURRRP! I DRINK IT UP!


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 18, 2010 11:08 pm 
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MOAR!


Please.

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 18, 2010 11:58 pm 
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Corporal Krista Showalter, despite being ordered to report to the Captain and the fact that Ghost was probably waiting outside the women’s shower to escort her there, was not particularly worried. It was hardly her first time getting chewed out, and a week’s suspension, or whatever her worst-case scenario might be, was nothing to her but a week’s worth of sleeping in and being alone. She knew she would just have to get through several minutes of hearing about how, as a team leader, she needs to be responsible, how she’s supposed to serve as an example, and all that other horse shit. She could play along until it was time to go home and start planning her next deviation from policy. It was nothing new to her.

Regardless, as she showered, her mind crept back to their desperate flight from Truth or Consequences. It was hardly Recon Three’s first fight, but it was certainly one for the books. Out of ammunition, on foot due to a disabled ride, waiting for help that might not arrive on time, and with no one to depend on but each other. It was something that might make for a decent straight-to-DVD flick if any were still being made these days, but she knew what a close call it had been, and the ending was not a happy one. She and her team were only rescued because a person for whom she had nothing but contempt was willing to bring her back when he could have easily just left them there.

After showering, Krista dried herself off and tied her oak-brown hair into a ponytail, then changed into a fresh gray coverall and boots. She slapped on her gun belt and did her best to pretty herself up a bit. Neatly displayed on her left shoulder was a patch showing the Zia sun, the symbol of New Mexico, which had become the Constabulary’s patch but had previously belonged to the New Mexico National Guard, who didn’t need it anymore as they did not exist.

She exited the showers, hoping she looked at least semi-professional, and found Ghost waiting for her. He was also in a fresh set of coveralls, complete with mask and red shades. In his leg-drop holster was his sidearm, a huge .44 magnum revolver with a stainless steel finish and a four inch barrel. It was larger than any sidearm carried by anyone else on the force, and Ghost’s skill with it was the stuff of legends, as was just about everything else about the man.

“Ghost, I don’t need a babysitter. I know where the Captain’s office is.”

“You are similarly aware of regulations concerning operations near a location deemed ‘off-limits,’ but you have shown precious little concern for that. What you know is not at issue, but whether or not you apply what you know, and in that, you consistently fail. You are to report to the Captain, and I am here to ensure that you do. You will come with me right now, or I will be forced to remove your sidearm and carry you there myself. Now then, let’s try to do one thing today that conforms to our policies, shall we?”

Sergeant Ghost did not speak to her with a shred of condescension in his tone. His tone was, if anything, completely neutral. There was no way to guess any sort of hidden messages or meanings. His voice betrayed nothing beyond words.

She followed Ghost outside and to the Constabulary’s administrative building. He led her to the office of Captain Carl Heyward, commanding officer of all the force’s “special” teams, which included both ALERT and the Recon (or Romeo, as they were sometimes known) Teams. As he led her through the building, the force’s administrative staff threw harsh glances at Krista. Everyone in the office knew why ALERT Four had to go and extract them, and even were that not the case, she had burned a great many bridges in the colony and on the force, just as Ghost had said. Not many cared for her these days.

Down one hall and up one flight of stairs, they reached the desk of Captain Heyward’s secretary, a young, pretty Asian woman who had been the object of just about every male constable’s desire, but was happy to see Ghost on any occasion. He spoke to her in his gravelly, professional tone, and it was a refreshing change for her to be spoken to as something other than the chief inspiration of hard-ons for those in uniform.

“Sergeant, welcome back. Looks like you succeeded.”

“Specialist Nemoto, thank you for your welcome. I trust that your day is going well?”

“It goes on like any other. But looks like we have a treat today. The Captain’s going to rag her, huh? Sorry, but that never gets old.”

“I hope you don’t mind if I remain here while Corporal Showalter is speaking with Captain Heyward. I’ve been ordered to escort her here and remain until he is done with her. Can you tell him that we’ve arrived, please?”

“Of course, and no, I have no problem with you hanging around. Why would I? You’re one of my favorite people.” Specialist Melody Nemoto got up from her desk and knocked on the door behind her. She opened it when the voice inside answered. “Captain, Sergeant Ghost is here with Corporal Showalter. Should I send her in?”

The voice inside answered in the affirmative. Ghost stood outside the door as Melody returned to her seat. She could hear the banter between the two of them as she approached the Captain’s desk. Krista though, for the life of her, could not imagine anyone who could regard Ghost as one of their favorite people, especially considering that his personality was so lifeless while Melody Nemoto was known as a vibrant young woman. They sure as hell weren’t dating. She did that from time to time, but to anyone’s knowledge, Ghost never had.

For quite a while, neither had Krista.

She stood in front of Captain Carl Heyward’s desk, folding her hands behind her back and putting her shoulders back with her chin up, trying to appear to have more professionalism than she really had.

“Sir, Corporal Kristiana Showalter, reporting as…”

“Corporal, shut up and close the door.”

Captain Heyward was a tall, distinguished-looking man with mostly-gray spiky hair and a thick gray mustache. He had been a lieutenant in the El Paso Police Department when the world still existed, had now his expertise in helping assemble the Duke City Constabulary was paying dividends. Although he was in his mid-forties, he appeared slightly younger but strangely more mature and paternal as well. His wisdom was beyond question and his intellect had few equals on the force.

Krista returned to her place, standing in front of his desk, hands behind her back.

“Corporal, you know damned well that the whole town of T or C is in the red. Why, may I ask, were you operating in a red zone? Your orders were to recon the town of Elephant’s Butte and report on potential equipment salvage. That was all. Explain your actions.”

“Sir, we accomplished our mission, you’ll read all about what we found in my report, and we…I decided to recon T or C, since we still don’t know what’s in there, and I thought…”

“Corporal Showalter, are you trying to insult me?”

“No Sir, I…”

“Then you must think I’m a total idiot. Do you think I’m a total idiot?”

“No Sir…”

“Then do not act as though your bullshit story isn’t totally transparent. My teenage daughter can’t throw one past me so easily, and she’s a good deal smarter than you. You really think I don’t know that you were out there turning a Sneaky Pete into a Snatch and Grab?”

“Sir, as I said, we decided to…”

“Tomorrow, when your vehicle comes back, I’m having all contents inventoried. What do you think they’re going to find? Some ‘personal effects’ that can be found easily in Truth or Consequences but no so much in Elephant’s Butte? I’ve been there myself you know, before when the world hadn’t hit the skids yet. I know what you can find in either place and what you can’t. We both know there’s no rule against looting in a yellow zone, but you may not loot in a red zone under any circumstances. I know perfectly well what you were doing out there, and now, here you are, with your bus an hour and a half away, with ALERT Four to thank for getting you back safely. Do you have any idea how many problems you’ve caused today? How many problems I’ve had to deal with since you got your own team? I am at my wit’s end with you Corporal.”

“Sir, okay…we were looking to grab some things for ourselves, and I accept full responsibility for that, and…”

Captain Heyward put his hand up to silence her. “How noble of you. But you should damned well accept full responsibility since you were fully responsible. I don’t know who you think you are, but the age of the loose cannon, maverick cop was long over when I was your age. You play by the book or you get taken out of the game. Your record of accomplishment is outstanding, but I am not impressed by anyone who can only amass such a record by continuously operating outside of regulations. You follow orders, period. I have known too many people, particularly in the early days here, who died because they didn’t. They thought that rules were made to be broken, and they didn’t come back. The worst cases? The ones that keep me up at night? When my people die because their leaders make foolish decisions. You operate outside of too many boundaries, and you have four people who could pay with their lives. You need to be reminded that regulations exist for a reason. You need to learn that others can easily pay for your screw-ups. Constable David Aquilar is your team radioman, is he not?”

“Yes he is, Sir.”

“Not anymore. As of this moment, he is off the force. His badge and sidearm will be on my desk before close of business. I am turning his file over to the Labor Board and they’ll assign him wherever they hell they want. More than likely, he’ll be working as a janitor at the power plant by this time next week.”

Krista’s eyes went wide and her jaw dropped all the way down to the Captain’s desk. “Captain? It wasn’t his screw-up! It was mine! Don’t punish Dave for my transgressions. Please sir, he didn’t do anything wrong.”

“No, he didn’t. You did, and he’s paying for it. It’s easy to walk in here and just get chewed out take it all on yourself, but your actions out there today could have gotten him killed. They could have cost us your whole team, as well as every member of ALERT Four. You keep acting the part of the rogue, the one who follows her own rules and thumbs her nose at regulations, but I assure you, those days are over. It’s easy to accept blame for your own actions, but Constable Aquilar just lost his badge for your actions. It’s not so easy to let others pay the price, is it?” Before Krista could answer, Captain Heyward continued. “Of course not. But I have told you time and time again that your actions could cost others, and now they have. If talking to you and talking to you won’t ram that point home, maybe this will.”

“Sir, this isn’t right, Dave is…”

“He’s a civilian because of you, that’s what he is. Now then, effective immediately, in addition to Aquilar’s removal, the rest of your team is disbanded. For the next month, your team will be broken up and reassigned to support duties. You, on the other hand, are hereby removed from Recon and will be transferred to the Detention Department.”

“Captain, what? You’re sending me to the damned prison? I’m being reassigned as a goddamned prison guard?”

“Yes, I am, and your teammates can expect even less exalted duties than that for the next thirty days. Furthermore, since the Detention Department is not a field assignment, they have no need of anyone with your rank. Effective immediately, you are laterally demoted from corporal to specialist. You will also report by this time next week to Doctor Ness for a psychological evaluation. If I don’t like what I hear from him, you can expect to never return to Recon again, and if his conclusions are particularly negative, your badge will be on my desk. Now then, report to the Detention Center at 0700 hours tomorrow.”

“Captain, I…”

“Dismissed…Specialist.”

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 19, 2010 1:41 am 
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Damn good stuff....oh, I do believe I found one of the last remaining photos of Ghost from before the fall.

http://cache.gawker.com/assets/images/k ... _ghost.jpg

:lol:

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I didn't think it would take long for anyone to figure out who this was based on. The differences are minor, in that my guy does not have a painted face and wears a full-head mask instead of a stocking cap. But after playing COD Modern Warfare 2, I thought that Ghost was way too awesome to not use somehow. This is that time.

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Krista went down to the briefing hall, which had probably been a lecture hall or some such thing once upon a time. The rest of what had been a recon team was gathered in there, wondering how Krista was going to talk her way out of this one, and there she was, dragging ass back to the now-dissolved Romeo Three, wondering how she was going to explain that their careers, at least for the moment, were ruined, while for one of them, there would be no coming back.

She walked towards the briefing hall like a defeated person, knowing that the few friends she had remaining were now about to turn on her, and even if they didn’t all, one would certainly do so. Krista had always managed to avoid any real punishment, and she had more or less grown accustomed to slaps on the wrist. But the slaps were over. Captain Heyward dropped the big one, and she still couldn’t figure out how she was going to break this to the others. Ghost, following right behind, didn’t help matters.

“Well, I guess you got what you wanted, huh Ghost? You got what you wanted all along. You found a way to get rid of me.”

Ghost, stoic as ever, simply said, “What I want or wanted has no bearing on anything. You made a series of mistakes that culminated in this moment, the moment in which your team was taken from you. As I understand it, in thirty days you might get them back, and maybe replace your specialist’s eagle with corporal stripes again, but for David Aquilar, it is already too late. Even if you return to your previous rank and billet, he will always remember the day you took it all away from him. I find it amazing that for all of your past transgressions, you never seemed to feel one twinge of guilt. You always got out of it with only the most minor punishment, if even that much. But still, no matter what you ever pulled, you didn’t care that you did it. Now that Constable Aquilar is losing his badge for your actions, you certainly care now. I must admit that had I been in Captain Heyward’s position, his dismissal of Aquilar is something I would never have thought of. I must regard this as an act of either desperation or good judgment on the part of the Captain. I just regard it as a shame that you never possessed the capacity to feel guilt before today. Most would have felt it at some point in their lives before reaching your age.”

Krista was ready to turn around and slug Ghost in the teeth, but of course, she didn’t. She had already learned a terrible lesson in how the mistakes of one can have dire consequences for another, and anyway, she knew her arm could be broken in three places before her punch ever landed.

“Ghost, do you have any idea just how much I fucking hate you?”

“I am rather indifferent to the matter. The ability to either love or hate is only a liability that our humanity cannot seem to shed. There is no need for either anymore.”

“Damn you…damn you…you are so cold…you’re not even human, are you? Is there anything under that mask? Anything resembling a fucking person?”

“Specialist Showalter, what lies beneath this mask is someone who tomorrow, will still be in command of an ALERT Team. What will you be by then? Will you be someone who looks in the mirror and realize just how many lives you have impacted by your childishness? Will you become the officer that others need you to be? Will you stop using the past as an excuse for your behavior, especially considering that your poor judgment had consequences that took the life of one of the only people I’ve ever called a friend?”

“Fuck you. Don’t you dare, Ghost. Don’t you dare bring that up. I hate myself for that. You know I do. Everyone still hates me for it. I have to live with it everyday for the rest of my life, and…”

“And deservedly so. It was your fault. The only real difference between Arlen Bradford and David Aquilar is that Aquilar is still alive to hate you after you took everything from him.”

Krista froze in her tracks. She turned around and got right into Ghost’s face, inches from his red sunglasses.

“If you say anything like that to me again, I’ll fucking kill you. Understand?”

“”Showalter, I’m not going to report that you just threatened the life of a superior officer. Should you choose to do so again, I will be forced to arrest you. When you report to the detention center for your next assignment, look in the cells and their occupants, and see if you want to spend any measure of time on the other side of the bars. Now then, your team, sorry, your former team is waiting for you inside. I have to report back to the motor pool to see how my Stryker is coming along. Don’t forget that we need to go back out there to a heavily infested town tomorrow to clean up another part of this mess. Good day, Specialist.”

Ghost turned and vanished down the hall.

Krista walked into the lecture hall with tears on the verge of forming, and she held them back as though trying to plug a leak in a dam with her finger. She didn’t know how she was going to break this news to them, especially David. She had ruined his life, and as much as she hated Ghost and everything about him, he was right about one thing: this was not the first time she had taken everything from someone close to her. Also, like the first time, she would probably never put this one right.

The rest of the team stood up when they saw her, and all were about to ask some variation of the question of how severe the ass-chewing was this time, but the way she hung her head told them that this time, something was different. This time, the Captain really let her have it.

Dana “Dizzy” Zachary was the first to ask. “Damn, Krista. He really tore into you, huh?”

“Everyone sit down. I have something…a few things actually…that I have to tell you all.”

The other four in the room all sat and went silent. There were fears now in their minds that she was being suspended, or transferred, or her stripes were being taken away. They were all loyal to her, they all were close friends, the only four she still had. Now, she was about to possibly lose them all.

Krista sat down on the desk at the front of the briefing hall, arms folded, unable to look up. She seemed on the verge of crying when Josh “Boba” Fetterman finally said, “Krista, come on, what happened? You look really tore up.”

“Captain Heyward disbanded the team.”

All four yelled “What?” in unison.

“We’re all being reassigned for the next thirty days. You’ll receive your new postings soon. We’re being split up and in a month, we’ll know if we’re going back to Recon or if we’re just going to stay wherever they put us. I’m being sent to the Detention Department. I get to cool my heels for the next month guarding rowdy drunks and such. Also, I’m losing my stripes. They laterally downgraded me to specialist.”

Isaac “Doc” Kepford was almost speechless. They had all counted on her ability to talk her way out of anything punitive but now, something had given and Captain Heyward really laid into her and the whole team. “Krista, do you have any idea where they’re sending any of us? I don’t want to spend the next month in the gun cage or the records room. What did he say? Anything?”

“No Doc. I have no idea where you’re being assigned, but…I have something I have to say…something…you won’t like it. You won’t like me…you’re all going to hate me for bringing this all down on your heads. David?”

David Aquilar, his hands clenched together with his elbows on the desk, nervously responded. “What is it? Krista? What?”

“Captain Heyward…he…you’re being removed from duty. He wants you to turn in your badge and gun before the end of the day…I’m…”

David was now out of his seat, about to fly into a rage. Boba had put his hand on David’s shoulder, but nothing was stopping him from getting up and finding out what this meant.

“What the hell? Krista? Did you just say what I think you said? I’m being suspended? What the hell did I do? I didn’t do anything! Why the hell is he suspending me? What the hell are you talking about?”

“Dave…you’re not being suspended from duty. He’s kicking you off the force. You’re going to be a civilian again.” Krista said. She finally looked up and saw their faces, each covered in a curtain of utter shock. Her tears were now flowing. She couldn’t stop them.

“What? What the hell did you say? I’m…I’m not a cop anymore?” David was now shouting.

“David, I’m so sorry. I didn’t know any of this would happen. I mean, how could I know? How could I know that he was going to do this?” Krista was now trying to speak through a whimpering voice. It wasn’t the easiest thing in the world to do.

“Krista? What the hell? Why is he doing this? Why me? What did I do? Why am I losing my badge? Why the hell did you get to keep yours and I lose mine? You just get a different rank and a new assignment for a fucking month and I’m never going to wear my badge again? Why the fuck did he do this? Why me? Huh? This was your fuck-up! Why am I the one being kicked out?”

“David, I…I…I’m sorry…”

“Fuck you, Krista. Fuck you. Goddamn you! I loved the force! This was all I had! It was everything to me! You guys were everything to me! It’s all fucking gone now you bitch! Thanks a fucking lot! Happy? You fucked up and you’ll probably be a corporal again, leading this fucking team in a month, and where will I be? Probably jerking off at the recycling plant! Goddamn you!”

“Dave…”

“No, don’t you ever fucking speak to me again. I fucking hate you. Just…just don’t talk to me again.” David was out the door, screaming and yelling, slamming it behind him. Boba ran outside after him, but Dizzy and Doc were still sitting, unable to contemplate what they had just heard. Doc did speak after a bit though.

“I can’t believe this happened. To Dave? He didn’t deserve this. Goddamn, this is…this is a real suck situation.”

Krista tried her best to salvage this rather unfortunate day, but she didn’t get far. “Listen guys, if we…”

Doc got up again. “No, fuck off. If I get cleared for Recon again, I’ll put in for any team that doesn’t have you on it. Otherwise, I’ll just sit where the hell they send me. I’m a medic, so I know they’re not sending me to the Mounted Patrol. Damn you…” Doc was on his feet and heading to the door, throwing a middle finger over his shoulder as he walked.

Dizzy didn’t look at Krista or Doc, and didn’t say a word. She looked down at her hands folded across her desk. She appeared to have shut the whole world out.

Krista started to cry again as she left the briefing hall and back to the lockers, hoping to change and get home before word spread all over the colony about the fate of her team.

It had been sixteen months since she had felt this terrible. That had been the day Arlen Bradford died.

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"If you have a milkshake, and I have a milkshake, and there's a straw, there it is, that's a straw...and my straw reaches...acrosssssssss the room, and begins to drink your milkshake. I DRINK YOUR MILKSHAKE! SLURRRP! I DRINK IT UP!


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 19, 2010 8:50 am 
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Please gov'nor can I have some Mooooooooar


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 19, 2010 4:42 pm 
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excellent so far, looking for forward to more.


... more please!

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MOAR!

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 20, 2010 1:30 am 
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Ok I gotta agree. MOAR. Please and thank you.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 20, 2010 1:54 pm 
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Enjoying another well written story. I look forward to an update!

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I do like these society coming back after the brink stories that are being written lately.

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If Krista had been feeling defeated walking into the briefing hall, she was utterly dominated walking out. Her tears flowed without any sign of slacking off, her hands shook, and the words of her erstwhile friends echoed in her brain like a bomb in a mineshaft. As if all this wasn’t enough, she had to cope with the fact that Ghost and Captain Heyward were both right. She was chronically irresponsible without feeling a collective two seconds of guilt about it, until someone else paid a price for her actions, burning that particular bridge for all time and shoving cold, hard reality in her face.

She was still sobbing as she went back to the locker room, changed into civilian clothes, slapped on her off-duty weapon (a Walther PPK/S), and headed outside, hoping to catch the shuttle to her street. She kept her sunglasses on, hoping that no one would notice the terrible pain and regret they were meant to hide, and she managed to get to her street without catching a ration of hell from anyone else. She had had enough for one day. Krista walked inside and almost collapsed on the couch. The reality of what she had done to her team was now hitting her full force.

She turned on the TV, as it was about 5:00pm and thus time for the news. The college had its own TV station that used to broadcast things like schedule updates and any actual information of interest to those who studied or worked at Tech, but now it was put to use informing the colony about whatever was happening of note, both in the colony and out of it. Of course, she caught the news just after it started, and after hearing about the new trade route between Duke City and the colony in Winslow, Arizona (which everyone had been exited about) and the success of the new sheep farm towards the eastern edge of town, the anchor went ahead and unconsciously kicked Krista when she was down.

“…and in other news, what was supposed to be a routine survey mission in the town of Elephant’s Butte today turned into a desperate fight for survival as one of the reconnaissance teams from the Duke City Constabulary was forced to abandon their vehicle and engage in a running street battle in Truth or Consequences. No casualties were reported as a team from ALERT was dispatched to save the trapped officers. The Constabulary as yet to issue an official statement explaining why the team was rescued in Truth or Consequences when that town has been declared “off limits” due to heavy infestation, but a statement from the Chief of Police did praise the actions of ALERT Team Four, stating that their actions were “in keeping with the highest standards of this elite unit and is a credit to themselves, the Force, and the people of the Duke City Colony.” Also today, the town council announced plans to fortify the large rest stop several miles north of the town in an effort to establish an observation post and possibly begin the development of a base there complete with medical facilities, a small motor pool, communications station, and barracks. The council has revealed in an official statement that this will serve will help significantly cut down rescue operations in the north and even possibly act as a springboard to begin clearing the interstate between the Duke City and Belen. Obviously, we are very excited about this prospect and you can believe that we will be following this story as it develops. In other news, the survivor colony in El Cajon, California just east of San Diego has finally been able to establish communications with other colonies in the southwest again, after repairing a rely station near the Arizona state line. Plans are now underway to…”

Krista turned it off. Things were bad enough for her inside the walls of this place. She didn’t want to hear about anything happening outside the walls, even if the news was good.

She didn’t sleep worth a damn that night and for the last couple of hours in bed, watched the minutes click by one at a time until 5:30am hit. She slapped the snooze button hard and got herself out of bed, wondering when exactly she was going to crash, and whether or not it would happen if she were still on duty today, because one could imagine what kind of impression that would make.

Krista ate a quick breakfast and was outside by 6:20, and she managed to hop the electric shuttle for the ride to the stop near the Civic Center. At this hour, she was the only rider, but people would be running to get a space on the shuttles within the next few minutes as the colony was stirring and the real hustle of the day would begin soon. The driver, as usual, was Pete Birchum, who she spoke to all the time and had long proven himself a good listener and someone who was never too quick to judge.

“Morning, Krissy. You aren’t looking so good this morning. Everything ok?”

“I guess I’ve had better days than the one I had yesterday. Didn’t get a whole lot of sleep. Stuff on the job, you know?”

“I heard on the news last night that some of you guys on those scout teams got stuck out there in T or C and it was a real shooting match for a while, until those Brown Coat guys managed to get out there in the nick of time. Must have been a real knuckle shaker. Almost sounds like back when stuff like that was happening to everyone. It still rattles me when I hear about you guys, you recon or ALERT people, going out there for whatever it is you guys do…after what I went through out there, I’m not going outside the wall again. So, about those guys, they’re all back okay, right?”

Krista was at least happy that someone in this damned colony didn’t already know that it was hear team. That would change soon as the rumor machine kicked into high gear, but at least she didn’t have to hang her head in shame quite yet. This day would have plenty of that. “Yeah, Birchum…they all got back. Everyone’s okay.”

“I heard that T or C is in the red still. I wonder what they were doing running around there? Must have been something secret or whatever. Anyway, I don’t meddle in what other people do. I just drive the shuttle. I guess it’s not as interesting as you guys.”

“But at least it’s safer. Sometimes I think I would be better off doing what you do. Less crap, no one depending on you with their lives, no dealing with those things out there…but still important.”

“I wouldn’t say important, Krissy. We get people where they need to go, and that’s something. I like to think that we have some part in making this place what it is, but it ain’t a big part. We like to think we keep the colony going, but really, when the day is over, what we really do is drive around the people who do the important stuff. You have more reason that me to look in the mirror and know that you’re really doing something good, something that really matters, you know?”

“I’d like to think that, Birchum, I would really like to think that.”

Birchum dropped her off at the shuttle stop right in front of the administration building of the Civic Center. She thanked him and she headed towards the lockers, knowing that she would be getting some rather contemptuous stares as she would once again be weaving in and out of the very people who would be passing the harshest judgments about what she had done the day before. It was still early, but many of the patrol officers were already going about their jobs, replacing the skeleton crew that patrols the neighborhoods at night, and she could feel their eyes boring into her as she walked by. She went into the women’s locker room which, fortunately, was empty. She changed into her dark gray coveralls and slapped her gun belt on. Krista then headed over to the Detention Center, which was not far from Constabulary Headquarters.

The Detention Center had once been one of the many dormitories on the campus, this one being two level with steel bars covering the windows to the private rooms now converted to cells. The doors, which could have been easily broken down in earlier times, had been replaced by metal doors with a shatterproof window and a small hatch for meals to be passed. The rooms themselves were mostly empty, with a small cot, a mirror, and a mess kit, minus silverware. Both levels had been converted into cells, but the office, armory, and supply building was a few yards away on the other side of a bicycle path, both buildings being surrounded by a chain link fence, the Detention Building itself being linked to the office by a more fences that formed a corridor from the side entrance of the office to the front door of the prison. It looked somewhat similar to the newer models of prison in the years before humanity fought and ran for its life against its own corpses, and of course, that was the intent.

Krista walked through the front gate after the two guards on duty there let her in. She walked inside and right to the front desk, where the Sergeant of the Guard, a big, brawny, mean-looking man looking over paperwork looked up and saw her.

“Sergeant, I’m reporting for duty. Can you please let your commanding officer know?”

The desk sergeant led her without a word or even a look to an office not far from his desk. He knocked and walked in. She didn’t hear anything inside, but he walked out and pointed through the door before walking back to his desk. She headed inside and closed the door behind her.

It was time to begin the next month of her life.

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“Ma’am, Corp…Specialist Kristiana Showalter, reporting for duty.”

“Uh-huh…welcome to Shangri-La, Specialist,” her new C.O. replied.

The female lieutenant behind the desk was blonde and perhaps forty, but the age hadn’t appeared to affect her adversely, but rather seemed to add some measure of wisdom to her features, which were attractive for a woman of any age. Krista had had occasion to meet this one before. The Constabulary was only made up of three hundred officers, so they all at least knew each other by sight and name if nothing else. Of course, Krista also knew that serving in the Detention Department was anything but a clean slate. She knew that her transgressions had preceded her here and she would be starting her duties here under a cloud. She also knew that this lieutenant had heard everything there was to hear about Krista Showalter. After all, her new commanding officer was Lieutenant Adrienne Heyward, and the last name was not a coincidence.

“First off, Showalter, let me level with you. The main reason that you were assigned to me is because Captain Heyward already knew that no other C.O. would touch you. While ALERT Four was dragging you and your team back, he already called patrol, administration, records, the gun cage, horse patrol…and no one even wanted to hear your name. He asked me as a last resort. But you had better know something right here and now. I am not nearly as patient as my husband is. If you think this assignment is a skate, let me go ahead and burst that bubble for you right now. If you screw up, even once, no matter how minor the infraction is, your badge will be hanging over our fireplace. Is that understood?”

Krista knew she was against a wall. She would fly straight or get grounded for life. “Yes ma’am.”

“But also, we didn’t have any slots open for another constable. I already had a full staff. That means that you can be expected to be assigned the crap that no one else wants to do. Cleaning the cells comes to mind, as does collecting the trays after the prisoners have eaten. Hell, even answering the phone is above your head at the moment. And something else. Even though you technically outrank most of my people, you will not even dream of giving them a single order. Instead, they are the ones who have put their time in here, they are the ones who don’t shit all over the rule book. If they need you to do something, you do it. Don’t point to your badge of rank and expect it to mean anything here. And that reminds me…”

Lieutenant Heyward picked up a package wrapped in brown paper that had been leaning against her desk. She laid it in front of her and opened it. It was a set of navy blue coveralls.

“The first thing you do after leaving this office is head to the bathroom and change. Sorry, but the gray coveralls don’t play here. You’re not part of Special Teams anymore. Here, you wear the regulation blue. Sorry, but you’re no longer a Dixie Chick. Welcome to the Damn Yankees.”

The reference Lieutenant Heyward made to the colors of the uniforms was common in the constabulary. No one wanted to change back from gray to blue. Getting approved for training in Special Teams was referred to as “going south,” one of the few positive ways of using that term. Getting sent back to the blue uniform was called, "Getting Yanked." No one who wore the gray wanted that term applied to them, and it was quite rare. Krista at least had a distinction in her service record, if not exactly an enviable one.

“Showalter, you will find your name already embroidered on the right side of the chest and your new badge of rank on the arms. Also, your “R3” pins from your old team have been replaced by the “handcuff” collar pins of this unit. You’re in a whole new world now, and no, you’re not going to like it. But when your tour here is finished, your case will be reviewed, and if your conduct hasn’t done an about-face by then, then your ass can follow David Aquilar right down Washout Lane. You’d better believe that. Now then, go change. After that, go see the Sergeant of the Guard and get your assignments for the day. You’ll report directly to him from here on out, and do not expect the slightest mercy from him. He and Arlen Bradford were good friends, so he already doesn’t like you. I’m sure you know this already, but your name gets kicked around a lot, and it’s never in a positive way. You’re not a popular person around these parts, not like Bradford was.”

Krista expected that she would be compared in some way to Brad before leaving the office. She was able to easily choke back the desire to beat the living shit out of Lieutenant Heyward. She had steeled herself for another round of the Brad game. She remained stoic, and convincingly so.

Her first day was as Lieutenant Heyward predicted. The Sergeant of the Guard had given her every assignment that no one else wanted. There were forty cells in the place, only eight with inmates inside. That means having to clean the unoccupied ones, and she was able to get through eleven of them before lunch. That of course meant pushing lunch around on a wheeled serving tray while the less-cordial inmates regaled her with what they would do if they could get between her and her new blue coveralls. It was degrading, and as much as she wanted to open their cells and give them a first-class beating, she was pretty sure that constituted an infraction.

She then returned to cleaning the cells until she had to go collect the trays again. She wheeled the trays down to the kitchen and dropped them off, only to go back to cleaning the cells once again. Krista choked back a lot of emotions as she performed maid service while wearing a uniform with a higher badge of rank than most of her new coworkers. She wanted to throw her badge down and walk away, or start slapping around the constables that threw contemptuous glances her way, but she held them in as best she could. It took a great deal of effort. She also tried to not think about what David Aquilar was doing now.

Krista wondered what Brad would think of her now. She had been well-respected while they served together on Romeo Three when she was a rank-and-file constable and Brad had been a corporal and her team leader. Now, she was treated like a cop on the take in a room full of straight-shooters.

This was not the best day of her life.

Nor were the five after that. After that time, she couldn’t tell the events of one day from those of another.

Six down, twenty-four to go.

And the next day, Doctor Ness was waiting.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 21, 2010 11:12 am 
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Very good! Keep em coming!

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 21, 2010 11:29 am 
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:D

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 21, 2010 3:38 pm 
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I do believe that MOAR is in order.

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It would be overstating the matter to say that Krista had settled into a routine in her newfound duties as a Damn Yankee at the Detention Department. Rather, it would be more accurate to say that she had resigned herself to the boredom, monotony, and degrading day-to-day drudgery that had become her life. Every day, actually every hour, she thought about tossing her badge away and just getting the hell out of the whole situation and just look for an open position in some civilian occupation where the bitch slap that had been her law enforcement career wouldn’t sting quite so badly. Still, the knowledge that David Aquilar had been forced into a similar situation by her bad judgment stayed her hand, as did the sad realization that Arlen Bradford wouldn’t have thought well of her for doing so. She somehow believed that she owed it to both men, men whose lives she ruined and in one cased ended. They didn’t have the option of simply picking up and going away somewhere. One had his career forcibly ended with no way back. One was dead and gone, his memory and thoughts of what she had done to him and indirectly led to his death and her fall from grace as a respected law enforcement officer, and she thought that quitting the force would somehow mean quitting her respect for his memory.

And then there was Ghost. Krista still couldn’t shake the feeling that he was watching her somehow, as though waiting for her to fall as if to justify having an even lower opinion of her than he already had. His judgments of her had always been harsh but with merit, and she didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of watching her give up. She would scrub cells and deliver lunches to those in the slammer for their minor offenses to show that masked abomination that she was made of tougher stuff than he could have thought, and that she was going to get her gray uniform, corporal stripes, and team back just to show Sergeant Ghost that he was wrong about her, even though she didn’t believe for a second that he would ever admit it.

But after six days, she looked forward and dreaded her day off. It meant not having to put on the blue and demean herself to keep her badge. But it also meant having to contend with Doctor Martin Ness, the Constabulary’s resident head-shrinker. She had nothing against the man and she was willing to bet he had nothing against her, but she was slated for a psych-evaluation and that meant sitting on a couch for God-knows how many hours talking about whether or not Krista’s mom took her to the circus or whatever those shrinks asked about anymore.

At least she got to sleep in that morning, which was a change from six straight days of waking up at the ass crack of dawn. She stayed in bed until just before nine and took a quiet shuttle ride to the Civic Center where Doctor Ness had his office. It was the same as usual when she was out amongst the public during the day. Glares and sneers were liberally thrown her way, but she didn’t even attempt to respond to any of them. Even out here off-duty, she was watching her every word and move.

Krista reached Ness’s office and knocked, walking in when the voice inside invited her. Ness kept his office in a former classroom in a building that wasn’t being used for much else. Ness himself was younger than most would suspect, being no older than the latter half of his thirties. Krista had never heard where he had come from before, but his medical degrees and other certificates were neatly displayed on the wall behind his desk, so either he hadn’t come from far away or he really liked those degrees and awards and wouldn’t part with them even when running for his life against a shuffling horde of the dead.

Doctor Ness got up and shook Krista’s hand, inviting her to sit down on the couch near the desk. She folded her hands and looked around nervously. This man’s reputation was well-known. Ness was said to have saved more lives than the whole Constabulary put together. In the wake of the building of the walls of the colony and the solidifying of the mechanics that ran the place, people’s thoughts had turned away from the horror that lay outside and to the horror they still carried within their hearts. Inevitably, suicides rose steadily as people found themselves unable to cope with what had happened to themselves, their country, and their world, as well as regret over who they couldn’t save, didn’t try to save, or the methods they used to stay alive. Doctor Ness was particularly busy those days, speaking with survivors at all hours of the day or night, always seeming to know the right things to say to keep people warm at night, so to speak. He had a knack for putting things in perspective, helping his patients look ahead with hope rather than behind with regret, and to find the delicate balance between learning to accept the fate of their loved ones and forgetting them completely. Suicides plummeted in the weeks that followed Ness putting his practice together, and now, as the colony’s only shrink, he was contracted to the civic government who wanted his practice to carry with it an unspoken message that the local council was looking out for the residents in every way possible.

Some called Doctor Martin Ness a great man, one who saved people with his heart, not with bullets, and was destined to be remembered long after he was gone. Others said he was a good man if not a great one, a man with a good soul who used it to look after the people without it being the dramatic experience some said it was. Whatever the case might be, the truth was that so many survivors had their lives touched, and changed by this man that there probably wasn’t a beating heart in the Duke City Colony that didn’t respect, admire, or downright love the man.

This was Krista Showalter’s first visit with him, and in the minds of many, a long overdue one.

“So, Miss Showalter, do you mind if I call you by your first name?”

Krista replied, “Feel free.”

“Very well, Kristiana, I’m Doctor…”

“Just Krista, if you please. That’s all anyone’s ever really called me.”

“Okay, Krista, now you appear to have been sent to me at the behest of your superiors in the Constabulary, is that correct?”

“Yes. The brass wants you to crack my head open and see what bullshit pours out. Though I don’t really believe that I need to be here, I was ordered to come see you so here I am.”

“Maybe you do and maybe you don’t. Let’s worry about that later, Krista. For now, I wonder if you might explain to me why your superiors sent you here. I’m sure they have what are in their minds very good reasons, but you don’t seem to agree that you needed a session with me. If you think you don’t need to be here, why do they?’

Krista thought for a second, and finally said, “I can only guess at that. Maybe they just ran out of ways to chew me out and figured that you could play ‘good cop’ to their ‘bad cop’ or something. Maybe they figure that I’m such a disciplinary problem that I have to be batshit or something. I can’t really say.”

“Okay Krista, you’ve just referred to yourself as a disciplinary problem. How exactly are you one?”

“I’m sure you have a copy of my service record on your desk in front of you, Doctor. You can just read it all yourself.”

Doctor Ness just smiled, anticipating this response. “But your service record is just a lot of what others have written about you. I already have their perspective. I would prefer to hear yours. Yes, they have written a great many reasons in plain English about why you are here, but I want to see if you would agree with them. Not agree with them that you need to be here, but agree with them that their reasons for sending you are valid.”

“Okay, I’m a disciplinary problem, you know that already. I’m sure not denying it. I take stupid risks, put my team needlessly in harm’s way, and no matter what I do to circumvent the rule book, I don’t care one bit. I think I have the right to get away with anything and I think that the slightest bit of punishment really just an excuse to single me out even though I would regard the same punishment as justified when handed out to someone else who pulled the same shit. There you go, Doctor. I’m a hothead and the pain in the ass to work with. Is that good enough?”

Doctor Ness totally ignored her question. “Krista, you said that you’re a pain in the ass to work with. But your service record indicates that your teammates are extremely loyal to you. So, who exactly are you a pain in the ass for?”

“I get them in trouble. I put their lives at risk when I don’t have to. I don’t know why they’re loyal to me, I really don’t. Actually, I went and pissed that away. I’m guessing you know what happened to my team a week ago after ALERT Four dragged our asses back from Truth or Consequences and then went back the next day to escort the poor chumps who towed our ride back?”

Ness just nodded.

“Well, my team got taken away, they all got reassigned to shit details, except for Dave, I mean Constable David Aquilar, who was my team’s radioman. He got shit-canned. He didn’t do anything wrong. It was my call, my mistake, and he paid for it. We all paid, and still are, but he lost his badge. We’re still on the force, even if we’re doing boring details now, but we could end up back on Recon, but I can’t imagine any of them trusting me again. Dave though, there’s no coming back for him. He’s done. He’s done and it’s my fault. It’s eating me up, and I already had enough of that shit on my plate. One more tire around my neck, you know?”

“So, you are a pain in the ass because you get your team in trouble?”

“Yeah Doc, that’s what I just said.”

Ness leaned back in his chair, hands behind his head. “Then how do we reconcile that with the loyalty your team had for you?”

“I really can’t say. I can only guess that…hey, will my superiors know any of this?”

“Not the specifics, Krista. The end of the world does not mean the end of doctor-patient confidentiality.”

“Okay, because I was always taking us into the red zones, because the picking were awesome there when we wanted free shit, okay? We grabbed stuff where we weren’t supposed to, and as long as the cool stuff was in everyone’s pouches coming back, no one was ever going to raise a word of defiance to the way I ran things. No one on the team at least. The only time anyone on the team ever bitched about it was when it went to shit last week.”

“Why did you loot in the red areas? Those places are particularly dangerous, or so I’m told. What was it about it that you wanted so badly?”

“Nothing really, Doctor. My people wanted to loot. Hell, everyone who goes outside the wall does. So much stuff is just lying around out there, waiting for a new owner. My guys wanted to, so I let them. They still bitched me out when we blew the tranny on the bus and had to shoot and scoot until ALERT Four showed up.”

“Krista, it almost seems like your team was loyal to you insofar as you helped them skirt the rules. They all wanted to loot in a red zone, so did you, but when it went badly and you got called to task for it, they turned on you. Did David Aquilar want to enter Truth or Consequences for the sake of looting?”

“That doesn’t matter, Doctor. I was the team leader, it was my call, it was my responsibility. They were right to blame me. This little stunt of mine ruined their careers, probably for good, and for David, it was for good.” Krista was increasingly confused about why Doctor Ness was continuing with this issue. It wasn’t as though her disciplinary problems began only a week ago.

‘What I’m saying Krista, is that you have stated that you had the loyalty of your team. Why, we have to wonder, was that so easy to throw away? Yes, your actions cost the team, but they all had a hand in it. If they followed you willingly into T or C, they were also at fault. Did David Aquilar contest anyone when you all made the decision to go into a red zone?”

“No, he was as gung ho about it as the rest of us.” Krista was starting to see what Doctor Ness was getting at.

“Then he was himself guilty of operating in a red zone. It doesn’t seem like he just followed you there, but was a party to it himself. Are you certain that he was really punished for your actions, or for his own?” Doctor Ness was now leaning forward, confident that he was getting somewhere.

“Captain Heyward said that I needed to learn that my actions can cost others, and that I could only really learn that if I saw for myself when others paid for my mistakes. He said that. David was canned for what I did.”

“But again, are you sure? Maybe he just needed an example, and Constable Aquilar was it, but then, he was still guilty of the infraction that cost him his badge. You said so yourself. He wanted to loot in a red zone. If he wanted to, then it should have been your job to restrain him and keep him focused on the task at hand, but when the day is over, everyone is responsible for their own action. Even if others can pay for our actions, we are still responsible for our own. He violated regulations, he was removed from duty. I fail to see how everything that happened last week was solely your fault.”

“It was my call. It’s that simple.”

“If it’s that simple, Krista, tell me why Constable Aquilar was taken off the force but you were not?”

Krista cocked an eyebrow. “Say again?”

“Captain Heyward could have done a lot. He could have taken your badge like he did with Aquilar’s, or he could have suspended you completely. At the absolute least, he could have reduced you in rank to Constable again. Instead, he transfers you to another department where someone close to him can watch you, demotes you only laterally, and gives you thirty days to purge yourself of your maverick tendencies and you could be reinstated at your former rank and accepted back into recon. Considering the severity of the infraction, he was not exactly needlessly merciless. Rather, he seems to have arranged things in such a way that you would be guaranteed a second chance, and perhaps indefinitely suspended David Aquilar to…oh I don’t know…help you perhaps? Maybe show you how much it hurts when you see others get punished for your actions and maybe with the expectation that this would help you understand that regulations exist for a reason?”

Krista looked half-convinced for a few seconds, but dismissed Doctor Ness’s words.

“That’s kind of a thin argument, Doctor. That’s a pretty elaborate way to explain something that probably has a much simpler explanation, one that I’ve heard myself, by the way.”

“Well Krista, I’m only saying that you shouldn’t rule out the possibility that Captain Heyward sees great potential in you and he doesn’t want to take a punitive measure that could burn bridges. He just might believe that you could do great things as an officer, and feels he needs to take you to task to help you get there, provided that it doesn’t drive you off the force. I just think you might want to keep in mind that the results of this incident might not be as simple as you think.”

Krista thought about that, but once again, thought it was too elaborate an explanation to have any real basis in reality. Still, she played along, knowing that her time in this office could end with her badge being taken away after all. Doctor Ness was quick to change subjects.

“Now, tell me about Arlen Bradford.”

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 22, 2010 11:10 am 
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Great! I can't wait for some more zombie battles, but I am enjoying the usually unseen, phsycological side of things.
Keep it up! :!:

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