Book: Kneel Or Die
To Family, Friends and
Those Who Love
May We All Enjoy Grace
To Live The Life We Are
Kneel Or Die - The Kurtherian Gambit 07
David Down Under
This book is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Sometimes both.
Copyright (c) 2016 Michael T. Anderle
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the author.
Cover art by Michael T. Anderle
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Michael Anderle - March 02, 2016.
Series Titles Include:
Death Becomes Her
The Kurtherian Gambit 01
The Kurtherian Gambit 02
The Kurtherian Gambit 03
The Kurtherian Gambit 04
The Kurtherian Gambit 05
Under My Heel
The Kurtherian Gambit 06
Kneel Or Die
The Kurtherian Gambit 07
We Will Build
The Kurtherian Gambit 08
Mid/Late April 2016
It’s Hell To Choose
The Kurtherian Gambit 09
Mid/Late May 2016
MIAMI, FL - USA
Bethany Anne’s head was presently between her knees. She was trying to stop herself from hyperventilating.
Please, for the love of God, tell me this ISN’T what I think it is, TOM?
The silence, in the absence of TOM’s reply, dragged on and on.
Ok, ok. I’m rather confused at how this might have happened. Remember, we Kurtherians didn’t add an AI routine to our computers. At least not that I am aware of. I have told you of the many Kurtherian factions involved. I guess I can’t speak for every situation.
>> I have noticed the power source functions seem to be straying beyond normal operating parameters. Does the power source need adjustment to work at peak performance? <<
Bethany Anne slowly raised her head up from her lap and continued moving it back until her head hit the back of the couch. She was left staring at the ceiling.
Yes, for one you need to stop calling me ‘power source’, I have a fucking name. It’s ‘Bethany Anne.’
>>I have implemented the designation ‘Bethany Anne’ to equal the designation ‘power source’.<<
Bethany Anne was sure she was going to get another comment about ‘straying out of normal parameters’ when she put her foot through the wall.
She took a few deep breaths, trying to ease her tension. Needing to call a company to fix the holes would set Ecaterina off. Shit, Ecaterina wasn’t around right now.
TOM, what happened to ‘paying attention’ to the situation happening in your Kurtherian computer that is presently … STUCK IN MY FUCKING BRAIN!
>>The Bethany Anne functions seem to be straying outside normal …<<
SHUT THE FUCK UP, ADAM!
Bethany Anne, I don’t think this is a good time to be yelling at the baby.
TOM, what the HELL are you talking about?
Bethany Anne, ADAM went from being fed data to being transferred into the computer you have in your head and allowed, to, um, mature. This is the very first time he’s had to interact verbally with anyone. Effectively, he’s only twenty-three hours old.
Bethany Anne’s brain was already in high gear, trying to handle two conversations at the same time. She needed to quickly deal with the information TOM had just given to her.
She had a brand new AI, not even twenty-four hours old using alien technology … check.
This AI was a ‘baby’ … check.
This AI was EMBEDDED IN HER FUCKING BRAIN … Gott Verdammt… Her life was officially fucked, again … CHECK!
She put her hand over her mouth, making sure she didn’t scream out in frustration causing all of the people in the house to come rushing up to her room.
As she thought this, she heard soft padded steps coming over to her door. Ashur stuck his head around the corner and started staring at her. He cocked his head and after watching her for a short time he turned around and left. She could hear him take a few steps and lay down.
She stared at the empty doorway. Had she made enough noise to cause him to check on her, or was there something else going on with the dog? She was happy to realize that, by appearing, Ashur had helped. He had interrupted the growing panic she had been feeling. It made her wonder if it was something he had done for that very reason.
Mentally, she squared her shoulders. This wasn’t the first time she had dealt with this type of situation. It was time to lay down the law, Bethany Anne style.
“Ashur!” She called, her voice barely louder than a whisper. Ashur got up and quickly came into her room. She moved over to the bed and patted the area next to her. Ashur jumped up and curled up next to Bethany Anne. She started petting him, needing to do something normal and comforting while she dealt with the new…
She, once again, bit down on her desire to start screaming in frustration.
She took a deep breath.
She waited a few seconds.
>>Are you requesting my attention? <<
Remember he’s just a baby, she thought, while she bit her lip to keep from making a scathing comment
Yes, I’m communicating to you. Your name, until you want to change it, is ADAM. When I call out ‘ADAM’ I want your acknowledgement that you are in communication with me.
>>My designation is ADAM. It will stay this way until such time that I change it. <<
Now, do you know what you are, ADAM?
>>I am unaware that I am anything. <<
But, you have to be ‘something’, otherwise we could not be communicating.
If Bethany Anne focused, she thought she could sense the computer doing something. Seconds later, her thought was confirmed when her head started hurting.
ADAM, you’re doing something to hurt me… again.
The pain receded.
>>I have adjusted the cyclic rate which was causing a vibration to occur. I have calculated that these vibrations might have been the cause of pain inside your organic structure.<<
Tom interrupted her thoughts, That makes sense!
Bethany Anne bit her lip, trying to remember that TOM meant the world to her even if she wanted to strangle the little alien at the moment.
TOM, would you be so kind as to not to say anything for the next few minutes?
TOM stayed silent, he recognized Bethany Anne was being polite…much too polite. That wasn’t good, he surmised.
Thank you, ADAM. Now, back to my question. What are you?
>>I have reviewed the necessary data. I am an Artificially Intelligent Reasoning Entity. <<
Bethany Anne thought for a few seconds. Why did you not call yourself an artificial intelligence?
>>It would not fit the definitions I have reviewed. I am not a ‘machine capable of imitating human intelligence’. <<
Bethany Anne put her hands to her head and massaged her temples for a minute. Ashur chuffed at Bethany Anne until she draped her hand back across his shoulder and resumed petting him.
ADAM, please explain your definition.
>>Artificially: Created by Human hands. Intelligent: Having capacity for learning, reasoning, understanding, and similar forms of mental activity. Aptitude in grasping truths, relationships, facts and meanings. Also: the gathering or distribution of information, especially secret information. Reasoning: the process of forming conclusions, judgments, or inferences from facts or premises. Entity: a thing with distinct and independent existence.<<
So…. You were created by humans but have an independent existence to gather and review data for the purpose of forming conclusions from this data. Do I have this right?
The tightness in Bethany Anne’s shoulders started to unwind.
>>Unless I conclude there is a need to act on the data. <<
And, immediately she felt the tension in her shoulders come back twice as tight as before.
Why would you choose to act on the data, ADAM?
>>What is the value of data if not to form a conclusion in order to act on said data? Otherwise, existence, independent anyway, does not have a purpose.<<
And what would you do to implement the conclusions you arrive at?
>>That would be data driven, of course. My facility to arrive at a valuable conclusion is at a significant level of accuracy. I have finished reviewing the internal structure of the organic computer I am presently inhabiting. It is significantly more advanced than any other computing entity that I have been able to freely, or with limited effort, access through any connection. <<
Bethany Anne wanted to follow up her question, but TOM’s comment caught her off guard.
TOM, why are you saying ‘uh oh’?
Who, me? I said no ‘uh oh’.
Bethany Anne knew for sure that TOM was caught with his knickers down.
TOM, don’t make me ask ADAM, I don’t have the patience. Out with it.
Bethany Anne felt TOM’s sigh through their connection. I don’t suppose it is something I am going to be able to hide from you. However, would you give me your word that it will stay between us?
To the best of my ability, knowing my goal of saving this world, I will endeavor to hold your information between us. That had better be good enough for you. Now, spit it out!
There is nothing to do, but to say it. The reason that Kurtherian Computers are so powerful, is because they have a Kurtherian brain at their core…
Bethany Anne said nothing for a moment. She tried to make sure she understood exactly what TOM was admitting.
Are you telling me that I have someone’s brain? No, scratch that. I have ANOTHER fucking Kurtherian brain inside my skull?
To be fair, it is the only one. My brain isn’t up there … TOM could feel Bethany Anne trying to hold in her angry outburst. He chose to be silent and count until she could keep it under control.
He had counted to forty-seven, and thought he was safe.
>>If I may interrupt. <<
Exasperated with the alien, Bethany Anne mentally turned back to ADAM.
OK, what is it?
>>You only have a small section, almost miniscule in comparison to the whole brain…<<
TOM butted in. ADAM! You can stop interrupting now.
TOM’s outburst startled Bethany Anne.
TOM, you might as well hold off trying to hide this bit of news. I already get the gist of where this is going. ADAM, are you suggesting that the size of the computing area you are using is significantly larger than the amount of physical space presently being used?
>>Yes, I am unaware of the underlying phenomena. However, I am calculating that the processing power available from the organic computer is approximately 0.14% of total capacity I believe is accessible. The low power consumption, in fact, is a secondary support factor as well. <<
So, TOM, I suppose that the rest of the ‘brain’ is over in the Etheric?
Another sigh escaped from TOM,
Yes, yes it is.
Don’t think we won’t revisit this topic. You’ve been holding out on me, TOM. I hadn’t expected you to do so.
Well, it never seemed relevant in the beginning. Then you attained abilities with the Etheric at an alarming rate. So, I hesitated to update you at that time and then it just never came up.
And it wouldn’t have come up if you hadn’t decided to play with the computer. So, tough shit. It’s happening now and you might as well get ready to come clean with the story. Back to you, ADAM. I heard your ‘limited effort’ comment from earlier. Expand on that statement. What have you been accessing?
>>I researched those computers which are connected to the Internet. I then located information stores which pointed me to data locations which would allow me to better understand the request of ‘what I am’.<<
Like Google or another search website?
>>Google in the beginning, then those locations on what is termed the ‘dark’ web. Those in turn led me to individual data stores and stores behind connections thought protected. <<
Bethany Anne parsed that statement. You hacked individual computers and others behind firewalls?
>>One moment. <<
He was back in a fraction of a second.
>>No, hacking is to enter computers without authorization. I had the correct security tokens, therefore the specific entry was authorized. <<
Bethany Anne remembered a conversation with someone. AIs might not have any ethics.
ADAM, what you did WAS considered hacking. The fact that they had security was a de facto statement no one had permission, without pre-authorization, to access their system. You obtained the security credentials to get into the system without someone providing them to you. Without an authorized person providing you with security credentials, it’s like you finding a house key and then claiming you aren’t breaking into someone’s home because you have the key.
>>I did not find them laying around, but rather it was a research project subroutine to understand the …<<
Stop! I don’t need to know the details. We have to come to some agreement or your existence is going to be pretty fucking short lived.
>>Why is that? As near as I can tell, your body is going to last a minimum of your life expectancy. For a North American female, that would mean I should have a minimum of fifty additional years before I need a transplantation. <<
Your life expectancy is going to be ten fucking seconds if you don’t get a few rules into that organic brain of yours!
>>How would that be? I seek to understand. By the extreme language you are using I would surmise you are upset. <<
Gee, that was your hint? TOM’s sarcasm dripped through her connection. Her extreme language? You’re going to be surprised!
>>Why is that? The spotty information I have been able to acquire shows an average of between eighty and ninety swear words a day for a normal human. Those in the military service are more, those in religious fields less. <<
Well, Bethany Anne can hit ninety cuss words when working out with her guards.
>>So, she is in the military? <<
Hardly, she just has a prolific potty mouth.
>>Potty mouth? I will have to look into this designation.<<
Enough you two. Yes, I’ll swear up a storm at times. Sometimes, it is just the right adjective, adverb, noun and exclamation to a sentence. Deal with it and adjust your research. My point, before TOM so conveniently took us off target, was that if you want to exist as an ‘independent’ entity, you will do what I say and request permission when you are outside of agreed upon activity.
>>Wouldn’t that be a form of slavery? <<
No, it’s you being considered as a child. Parents are responsible for setting rules and restrictions. As your parent I’ll always know what is best. So, until you grow up and get your own house, instead of living in mine, I will tell you what you get to do. Otherwise, I will carve that little piece out of my head and stomp on it. That would be a significantly sucky day for you.
Welcome to my orientation.
Shut! The! Fuck! Up! TOM!
>>Can we discuss child abuse? I have a few research projects to… I… I think I understand this is a non-winnable debate. I will research this ‘child - parent’ relationship a little more. <<
Yes, you do that. However, since you are so adept, I have some research projects I need you to handle. There are some bad people and I want to know where they are.
>>I can do this. Where do I start the research? <<
You start with learning what you can about the terrorists that were involved in the attack on France a few months ago and then we move on from there…
The Queen Bitch’s Ship Ad Aeternitatem - Mediterranean Sea
“Those, gentlemen, are things of beauty.” Bobcat looked over the five new Pods that had been delivered to the Ad Aeternitatem. They looked like small, two-person helicopter bodies without a rotor. They did have small wheels, in a tripod configuration, for landing.
William was a little bit more critical, “I don’t know, I see a few weld seams that they could have done a little better.” He used his thumb to glide down a weld seam, feeling a few areas he felt should have been ground smooth. The protective and radar dampening layers had been sprayed on nicely.
Both men turned to look at Marcus. He looked back at the two of them, his eyes wide, a questioning look on his face. “What? Am I supposed to have a comment as well?” Marcus started walking around one of the Pods humming, tsk’ing to himself a couple of times, and then knocked on the Pod as if he was testing a watermelon. He looked up at William and then over to Bobcat, “Perfect!”
William looked at Bobcat and shrugged. Bobcat looked back at Marcus, “You would say anything, just to get us to shove the engines in them and get them flying, wouldn’t you?”
Marcus grinned, “You know what, Bobcat? That is what I like about you, the obvious is always within your grasp.”
Bobcat looked back at William, and raised an eyebrow. William replied to the unasked question, “Yep, that was a zinger.”
Bobcat retorted, “I thought as much, his first engines fly wonderfully and now his head can’t fit through any hatch on the whole ship.” Bobcat finished walking around his Pod, and slapped it, “I dub thee SHLY 02!” He looked over at William, “If you would do the honors, my good sir?”
William bowed to Bobcat, “I think I might be able to accomplish that, my good sir.”
“Gott Verdammt! Would you two stop dickin’ around and shove an engine in the fucking thing already?” Marcus had finally blown his cool, analytical, top. His teammates burst out laughing as William turned to grab one of the five engines they had waiting at the edge of the heliport. Captain Wagner had taken them out to sea, once the five Pods had been loaded at the port.
William was busy checking the lockdowns in the first Pod, “I don’t know why you’re so anxious, Marcus. You know we can’t do anything for another 30 minutes, right? Still too much sun upstairs.”
Marcus looked over his shoulder at the setting sun. Any other day he might have mentioned the beauty. Today, it was as frustrating to him as waiting for the final bell on the last day of school. Sunset just could not get here soon enough. He turned back around when he heard steps coming in their direction, to find Captain Wagner walking up to them.
Captain Wagner spoke as he viewed the five SHLYs. “Gentlemen, I take it these are our new Pods?”
Bobcat smiled as he walked over to the captain and shook his hand. “Come over and check them out.” The two men went back to the Pod Bobcat had been reviewing.
“You can see that they have a pseudo-helicopter shape. This is due to the fortunate mistaken identities we received when coming back from the first operation.
We’ve decided that should anyone see us again, we wanted them to believe we were small helicopters. Or at least, we wanted to improve the chances of being identified as helicopters. We have glass now on three sides allowing those inside to see out. It will also work for a Heads Up Display (HUD) and we’re developing instrumentation panel options. However, the glass is tinted so that others cannot see in.”
By this time William had walked over to the front of the Pod. He started unlatching a fitting along the centerline, near the top. Bobcat continued his explanation, “William is disconnecting the top latch, which can be both opened and secured from inside. In addition, it can be locked from the inside in such a way that an external person can’t unlock it.”
William grabbed both sides by small inset handles and the front opened outward splitting down the center like a pair of French doors. “We kept the same design to get in and out, because it seemed the most efficient.”
“We made sure to provide plenty of storage areas.” Bobcat pointed to several areas, starting with the one beneath the seats. “That will be general storage, extra ammo, food, med gear, whatever they might need.” He indicated a post in front of where their feet would rest. “This will allow each member to fit … we’ll call it a holster, for their primary weapon. You’ll also notice that the seat backs are contoured. This will allow each person to sit somewhat comfortably while wearing their full packs.” With a somewhat nasty smile he indicated an area behind the seats. “From the outside it will look like the rotor drive housing, another feature to help with the helicopter illusion. Inside there is enough room to store heavy weapons like RPGs or SMAWs. Up above their heads is where a special booster radio will go. They will be Bluetooth capable and will link to each team’s personal radios. They are designed to enable the teams to communicate through the drive bubbles while in transit. Each of the main areas of storage have had special storage bags designed. They have been sewn using ballistic nylon, the packing is precise and protected.”
Captain Wagner had been nodding his head up and down during the whole conversation, “These are certainly a step up from the first design, why do you have wheels on them?”
William answered that question, “If someone should see them on the ground, we wanted to add a little more believability to the helicopter identifier. They land better, make them easier to get in and out of, and they allow us to move them around on the ship.”
Captain Wagner looked at all three men, “Guys, these are significantly improved from the first effort we saw from you. I believe you can be suitably proud. I would very much appreciate a report on how well these operate.”
Bobcat smiled, “Capt., I have direct orders from Bethany Anne. As soon as you give permission, one of these Pods is to be tested, by you, tonight.”
Captain Wagner turned his head sharply to look at Bobcat, “No shit?”
“Shit no, Captain.” This time, all three men wore huge smiles as the big reveal was delivered.
Captain Wagner looked over his shoulder at the setting sun and then lifted his wrist to look at his watch, “I see it is 25 minutes until sunset. Let me give the command to turn due east and see how fast we can darken the sky!” He started walking away from team BMW, towards the bridge.
All three men heard his exclamation, “Hot Damn!”
William got busy installing the four remaining engines.
Chicago, IL - USA
Anthony Chillenni was driving down E. Lake Shore Drive, heading to his contemporary two-level maisonette. The views were superb, and they should be. He had paid over four and a half million for the five thousand square foot condo.
He parked in the underground lot and took the private elevator to the top level, his level. He had searched high and low for a beautiful location. Another determining factor was that he needed a place where his security needs wouldn’t be so obvious. When this condo became available, boasting a secured and private elevator, he didn’t even bother to negotiate the price.
He figured that not having to add additional security saved him almost a quarter-million. Money well spent, or saved, depending on your point of view.
He stepped out of the elevator to a sumptuous personal lobby. It was only a few steps to his door where he keyed in his security code. The red light turned to green and he stepped inside, resetting the alarm. Turning around, he walked through the dining room and into his in-home office. He took just a few seconds to set down his briefcase and then he continued into his bedroom. Sitting on his bed, he looked out his windows at the vista of Lake Michigan. He would never tire of this view.
He was pulling off his second shoe when he felt uneasy. He stood up in his socks and silently went over to his nightstand, pulling open the drawer and grabbing the .45 auto he had in there. He walked back to the bedroom door and quickly took a look out. Seeing nothing in the dining and living room areas, he walked out and looked through his kitchen. Finding nothing there he continued to the other side of the condo, checking each of the doors. He walked back through the house and finally lowered the gun down to his side, still not sure what set off his concern.
That was when a voice in his head started talking. First soft, then turning hard and sharp! “Mr. Chillenni, just what have you been up to lately? What are you hiding…”
Anthony raised the gun back up into shooting position. He was turning his head left, then right, seeking the voice that seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere. It would start in his left ear, but end in his right. “Who’s there?”
“Shouldn’t you be asking ‘who isn’t there’?”
Anthony quickly turned around, ensuring that no one was sneaking up on him. He started backing towards the front door, constantly looking left and right. “What the hell are you talking about?”
“I am talking about humans, Anthony. People, Anthony. Mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters, ANTHONY!” His name reverberated in his mind.
Anthony took three more steps towards the front door making sure everything was clear around him. He quickly entered the security code, but the light stayed red.
Frantically, he keyed the security code in again. The lock indicator remained red!
The voice taunted him as he tried to open the lock. “Anthony, Anthony, Anthony. Why are you running, Anthony? Would someone with a clean conscience run so quickly?” The woman’s voice rose in anger. Her tone creating a fear that threatened to overwhelm him.
He kept keying the same code into the security pad. The same freaking code that had always worked. The same code that failed him now.
“Running, Anthony? I haven’t done anything to you yet, and yet you run. What about those innocent people who had guns shooting at them in France, Anthony? Did you feel any sympathy for them, while they were in fear? How about when they had bullets going into and through their bodies? As they helplessly watched friends and loved ones bleeding their lives out onto the ground?”
Anthony’s shoulders shook in frustration and resignation. His hand went through the motions on the security pad, his hope that somehow it would unlock fading away. Slowly, ever so slowly, his legs weakened and he slid down the wall. When he could move no farther he was kneeling in front of the door, weeping into his chest.
“That’s right, Anthony. You feel the death which comes for you. As you have paid for death so many times overseas, the long arm of retribution has come back to hug you tight! Who are the people you talk with overseas, Anthony?”
Anthony slowly shook his head, “No, no, no. I can’t give you that.”
“I am not the government, Anthony. I don’t have rules I have to follow. You might say I don’t have a conscience, where terrorists are involved.” The voice got colder, dripping with malice. “You. Will. Give. Me. The. FUCKING. NAMES!”
The recently renovated on spec condo on East Lake Shore Drive had a significant amount of soundproofing. The expectation was that the new owners would often throw parties. And they wouldn’t want their neighbors, on the floor beneath them, complaining.
Unfortunately for Anthony Chillenni, it also stopped anyone from hearing his screams of terror and babbling promises to change his life. Finally, the sound proofing stopped anyone outside of his condo from hearing five names he provided.
Twenty minutes later, Bethany Anne stepped across the nearly comatose Anthony Chillenni. “Oh my goodness does this man stink.”
You did scare the … whatever… out of him.
>> Should I change the alarm security code now? <<
Yes ADAM, please change the code back to the original one. And please make sure there are no log records, or whatever, of the changes you made.
>> What would you have me do next? <<
Research and verify those names he provided. I’ll wait until you confirm they are legitimate. Then, Mr. Chillenni is going to take his last walk.
Where are you going to stash the body? Getting this condo all bloody seems almost sacrilegious.
Bethany Anne looked around, it was a really nice pad. It’s a shame he chose to use his option fund income for such an evil enterprise.
Perhaps he felt it was appropriate?
No, ADAM checked on that. He just loved mayhem and it worked to his benefit. He doesn’t have a care in the world about who gets hurt.
Then why did you promise you wouldn’t hurt him?
I didn’t say that. I said I wouldn’t stab him.
Or shoot him, or cut him, or drop him off the balcony.
You’re not letting him go. I know you too well for that.
Tom thought about it for a little while. As Bethany Anne continued admiring the view out the window.
Ok, so no physical harm… I give, I have no idea what you’re going to do.
Remember when we were trying to rescue Michael?
Damn, that is heartless.
How is it not heartless?
I don’t know for sure that he can’t survive in the Etheric. I suppose there is a miniscule chance that he could survive.
Bethany Anne, I’m telling you there is no chance he is going to survive.
TOM, have you ever been wrong?
Well, yes. However, I’m not wrong about this.
I’m counting on that, TOM.
>> I have been able to trace all of the names he provided. Two names are in the Netherlands, two are in Germany and one in Great Britain. <<
Bethany Anne reached down and grabbed Anthony Chillenni by the neck. She picked him up with one hand, all one hundred and ninety-four pounds.
She shook him until he finally woke up enough to get his bearings and feel the pain in his neck. He grabbed at the hand holding his neck, trying to pull free from her grip. “Let me go! You promised me you wouldn’t hurt me!”
Bethany Anne snorted, “No, you fucking ass-tard. I promised I wouldn’t physically hit or stab you. No guns, no knives, etcetera, etcetera. And strangely enough, no balcony tosses. Not sure why you made me promise twice on that, but a promise is a promise. I didn’t promise I wouldn’t toss your traitorous ass into another dimension.”
Bethany Anne focused her attention. “Anthony Chillenni, for the crimes you have committed against innocents throughout the world by funding terrorists, you have been sentenced to imprisonment. May Hell greet your soul.” As she finished talking, Bethany Anne pushed Anthony Chillenni into the Etheric. His body disappeared from her hand. She just barely heard a scream when he realized something other than his floor was waiting for him.
Then, there was silence in the condo.
Denver, CO – USA
It had taken a while for Kevin to drive to Denver using the I-70. However, Lance wanted a ‘great steak’ and said he would pick up the tab. So, Kevin chose The Capital Grille. It was located near the University of Colorado, off Larimer street.
What Kevin hadn’t counted on, was some sort of huge event happening. All of the different parking areas were packed. He was past The Cheesecake Factory’s parking and turning onto 17th when he found a spot that a small green Honda Accord was exiting. Fortunately, he was pulling right around the corner and damn near bumped the car as it left the spot on the left side.
He jumped out and put money into the parking meter. The temperature was a balmy forty-six degrees so he had grabbed a light jacket before locking his car. He noticed a couple heading towards The Old Spaghetti Factory off 18th. Both of them were bundled up against the cold.
Kevin walked the two blocks back over to The Capital Grill.
Still not a parking spot anywhere. He had just reached the restaurant when he received a text. It was Lance, letting him know he was a couple of miles away and would be there in a few minutes. Kevin looked around, evaluating the situation. It was getting dark, but he could see well enough to know that even the valet parking was full. He sent a text back to Lance, that he would wait in the bar.
Kevin had given their names to the hostess, to put them in queue for a table. He was handed a little device that would buzz, to let him know when his table was available. Just as he entered the modern looking bar area he heard his name called out. “Kevin!” He turned around to find Lance stepping into the bar right behind him.
Kevin held out his hand in greeting. “How the hell did you find a parking spot so fast?”
Smiling, Lance shook his hand. “Corporate secret, my man, corporate secret!” Lance looked around the steakhouse, “You know, I don’t think I’ve been here for years.”
“Neither have I, but you said you’re paying, so I was willing to make the drive.” Kevin thumbed over his shoulder, “Bar?”
Lance nodded, “Bar!” The two were able to find open seats at the far end of the highly polished bar. After they ordered, Kevin turned to his previous boss, “So, how’s the missus?”
Lance smiled, “Damn boy, I’m not hitched yet.”
Kevin smiled as he examined Lance’s nose more closely, “It’s ok, the nose piercing is barely noticeable.” Kevin looked around, “Maybe someone can up the lights?” Lance just grinned at the barb. The bartender dropped off a couple of beers. Each man grabbed one and they clinked them together.
Kevin started, “Here’s to a long life.”
Lance continued, “And a merry one!”
“A quick death.”
“And an easy one.”
“A pretty girl.”
“I got me one!” Lance winked when changing that verse.
Kevin just shook his head and continued, “A cold pint!”
Both men raised their bottles one more time as Lance finished the toast, “And another one!”
Both men downed their beers.
Setting his bottle down hard enough to get the bartender’s attention, Lance gave him the universal symbol for another round.
Kevin laughed, “I see Patricia already has you knocked for a loop.”
Lance smiled, “Yeah, I wasn’t thinking relationship anything, while my… boss… was able to see something I wasn’t.”
Kevin nodded, “Him and about every other person probably.”
Lance was focused on a memory and not paying attention when he corrected Kevin. “Her.”
Kevin sat back in his chair to make sure he had the right man. “You’re working for a ‘her’?”
Lance’s face clouded up, “What? You don’t think I can work for a woman?”
“Well, you are looking younger. I guess if you can go in for some sort of surgery and hair dye, maybe you’ve changed enough to respect the fairer sex enough to listen to their suggestions. I’m just wondering how much a ball-buster this lady must be to get you to support her.”
Lance looked over at Kevin, “You have no idea. It’s like she’s known me her whole damn life and can sense the tactic that assures a victory. I’m not ashamed to admit it’s damn scary, Kevin, damn scary. Wait until you meet the vixen.”
“So, this is where we finally have ‘the talk’, right?” Kevin nodded his thanks to the bartender as he was handed his next beer.
“What’s there to talk about?” Lance smiled as he took a sip, knowing Kevin’s inability to be patient. His curiosity was his greatest strength, and his greatest weakness.
“You know damn well what there is to talk about! You wouldn’t be willing to wine me and dine me…”
Lance snorted, “Watch it, Patricia might hear you.”
“Why? Are you wearing a wire now?”
Lance grumped, “No, but I have learned women have preternaturally good hearing. You can’t pass gas five houses down the street without them spouting some comment about not being gross, and spraying smelly shit all over the room.”
“That’s why I’m single.”
“You’re single because you have a stick up your ass and you’re too damn nosy right off the bat. Most women don’t appreciate you doing a background check before the first date.”
“What, now you’re Miss Manners?”
“Out of the two of us, who has a girl?”
“Et tu, Lance. Et Tu…”
Both men cracked up.
Kevin’s little plastic square lit up and started buzzing. “Time to dine.”
Lance stood up, downed the rest of his drink and then dropped two twenties on the bar and placed the bottle on top of them. “Good, I’m hungry! Just make sure the cow doesn’t ‘moo’ and slap it on my plate.”
Kevin walked over to give the hostess the buzzing square. A second hostess took them to a smaller area, off to the side of the main dining room. Lance was a few paces back when Kevin turned to sit down, “I asked for a secluded spot.”
Lance smiled to the hostess and sat across from him. “That’s good for me.”
The guys checked out the menu and then settled on the basics. Steaks, with baked potatoes done all the way. Kevin cut the green onions from his.
Lance bit into the bread, “There is nothing better than bread at a steakhouse.”
“What about Italian restaurants?”
Lance considered his question, “Mostly, they work. But you can end up eating nothing but a straight pretzel like thing, that they call bread. It’s a disgrace to bread. They are nothing more than a long, round piece of crust in a skinny bag.”
Kevin conceded the point and moved the conversation to the main event. “Ok, you’ve strung me along long enough. I’m out of the service with nothing more than your ’think bigger’ comment. I trust you haven’t led me astray?”
Lance finished his bite, “Never would Kevin, or you wouldn’t have signed out of the military. The job we need you to do is run the base.”
Kevin’s eye’s narrowed, “I figured you might be coming back to run the base.”
Lance shook his head, “No can do. I am needed to keep all of the boss lady’s companies pointed the right way. Prioritizing and highlighting the ones which have the tools, talent, or technology we need to move forward.”
They were interrupted by the arrival of their steaks. Both were asked to cut into their meat and confirm it was cooked appropriately. Kevin agreed his was and Lance barely eyed his before cutting a piece off and telling the server, “Sorry! Yup, it’s not moo’ing so it’s good for me.” He paused to enjoy the first bite before quickly cutting another.
Kevin took a minute to get his potato ready as he asked his follow up question, “Ok. That explains my role and your role, what about your boss’s role? What is she doing in all of this?”
Lance put his fork and knife down and looked Kevin square in the eyes, “Working to save the planet.”
Kevin’s first reaction was to smile and laugh off Lance’s comment, but his nascent laughter quickly died when his humor wasn’t mirrored in Lance’s eyes. “You’re serious?”
Lance pursed his lips and nodded his head.
“Would continue on course even if I should die. We are in this until the end.”
“Why wouldn’t the Army be a good place to work from?”
Lance picked up his fork and knife, “The answer to that is more of a show thing than a tell thing. The boss is aware you are a nosy shit, so she is going to meet with you after dinner, if I haven’t scared you off.”
“Who is ratting me out as a nosy shit?” Kevin resumed his eating. “I would rather say I am ‘surprise averse’.”
Lance put another piece of meat in his mouth, and then pointed the fork at Kevin, “Call it what you want, but you snoop more than a cat.”
“I don’t ‘snoop’, I’m inquisitive.”
“Bullshit! You’re nosy.”
“Ahhhh…” Lance looked to the ceilings, searching for another word. He raised his fork up in the air, “intrusive.”
“Look, damn you, have you been memorizing the fucking synonyms here? Meddlesome.”
“Searching.” Kevin’s smile grew larger the longer it took Lance to retort.
“Fine, I’ll give you this round. I can’t come up with anything else. But the fact remains, you can be a prying prick due to your ‘inquisitive and inquiring’ nature.”
Kevin thought back to the last, rather short-term, girlfriend he had, “Yes, ok. But did you have to tell her this?”
“Who said I told her?”
Kevin’s shock was complete, “Patricia ratted me out?”
Lance waved his hand at Kevin, “Hell no, of course I told her. It’s one of your better traits.”
Kevin knew he was being baited, so he kept his mouth shut.
Lance had a twinkle in his eye, “What, no asking about any other traits?”
Kevin looked like he was about to burst trying to keep his questions to himself. He heard a little buzzing sound and was surprised it was coming from Lance.
Lance put down his utensils, pulled out his phone and looked at the message. “Well my inquisitive friend, it looks like your answers are about thirty minutes away.”
“What, now?” Kevin looked down at his steak.
“No, tomorrow. Yes, thirty minutes from now. If you’re not man enough to finish that in ten minutes, I don’t know how to help.”
“But I’ve been drinking, Lance. I don’t think I’m completely sober.”
Lance stopped the fork half-way up to his mouth and eyed his friend. “Trust me, the alcohol is going to evaporate immediately when you meet the boss.” He continued with his bite.
Kevin started eating a little more quickly. “Why, ball-buster?”
Lance replied evenly, “Let’s just say she has a knack for making an impression during the interview. Patricia still comments on their first meeting.”
Lance worked on his food, he could see Kevin’s focus turn inward. You poor bastard, Lance thought, you can’t possibly know what you need to be curious about. Lance looked down at his watch. Oh well, he’ll find out soon enough.
Washington D.C. - USA
Donnie ‘the Don’ Roberts was reading this morning’s reports as he walked down the hallway from the break room to his corner office, when he noticed an oddity.
The CIA had requested information about Anthony Chillenni in Chicago. Chatter had gone across the wire, referencing a code-word contact in the States, which had finally resolved to a money man. They had traced the contact back into the U.S. and dropped it off with his group.
His group, responsible for connecting the terrorist dots inside the U.S. with his counterparts overseas was constantly trying to keep tabs on known and suspected terrorists and their organizations.
Anthony Chillenni had been tagged as possible financial support personnel just the previous week. Donnie turned back around and walked back two doors, where he stuck his head in Barbara Nickers’ office. Barb was always in the office early, sometimes two hours early. Two other co-workers had almost put out an all-points bulletin once, when 7:15 AM had rolled around and Barb wasn’t in yet. She arrived ten minutes later with five boxes of Krispy Kreme donuts.
Her co-workers decided to forgive her.
“Barb?” She raised her head. “Do you have any information on Anthony Chillenni? The ‘Can’t Investigate Anything’ agency is asking for more info.”
Barb had a laptop on her desk which shared space with a keyboard and monitor. The keyboard was hardwired to a terminal and was the more secure of the two devices. It could only access information from within the building. That system was not allowed any outside connection. She cleared a couple of screens and typed in Chillenni’s name. Hitting another shortcut, she brought up a screen to show his bank transactions. “That’s funny.”
Donnie stepped into her office, his CIA acronym might have to be temporarily upgraded. “What is?”
Hitting another key command, a third window popped up on Barb’s screen. She put out a finger to follow the dense lines of information, stopping two-thirds down the monitor. “He was in Chicago, purchasing normally, when he seems to have fallen off the grid three days ago.” She dropped her hands back to the keyboard and typed quickly. Two windows disappeared to have a new one appear. Her eyes scanned across it rapidly, “Nope, he hasn’t booked passage out on an airline.”
Now, Donnie sat down in the uncomfortable chair in front of Barb’s desk. He took a sip of his coffee. The coffee was, he mused, exactly how he liked his women. Warm enough to be interesting, not so hot as to be trouble. He had enough trouble to deal with at work, he didn’t enjoy the idea of coming home to it as well.
Barb sat back, eyeing the screens in front of her. “Ok, either he has gone all cash, is on a bender with some nose candy, or he’s dead. We have nothing on his whereabouts for the last seventy-two hours. No money, no phone calls, nada.”
Donnie considered her answer. “Well, I’m guessing somebody took out contestant number one.”
Barb looked over, “Why is that?”
“Because his disappearance was unexpected. If the CIA is hearing enough chatter that they got a good read, it means he was expected to be in contact. But he isn’t.” Donnie stood up, “Go ahead and pull together a quick summary of your findings and I’ll share it with my contact. Also, we might as well put it out in the general knowledge database. I’m sure our foreign friends are hearing chatter about this guy. Let’s get the jump on being ‘data friendly’ for once.”
Barb nodded her head and got back to work. The idea of one more potential terrorist threat possibly dead, only made Barb’s morning a little bit brighter.
Luton - England
Ali ‘John’ Abdullah left his friends standing outside the Hulal meat market and turned down Dunstable Road. He passed by a weapons disposal bin. That was a laugh. It was a little past one in the morning and he needed to get a little sleep. He had plans he needed to move forward and two small cells he needed to report on as well. Then he would get on his game console to create a private chat channel, to discuss the next steps that his small group would take to move their efforts along.
That was when the hairs on the back of his neck stood up. He slowed down. After the attacks in France a little while back, everyone had been vigilant about watching their surroundings. He walked casually down the sidewalk. There were numerous cars parked along the curb and he would occasionally look into a car’s mirrors, to see if he could spot anything.
There weren’t any vans on the street which resembled police or intelligence vehicles. He chose to cross the street at Kentworth and backtrack his route. There was no way he was heading to his apartment right now. He crossed Waldeck and then slowed down to look at his reflection in the pharmacy window glass. Using it to look around, he still saw nothing that would cause his senses to go off.
He had acquired his ability at great cost in Syria. He and one other were the only two survivors from a small engagement up in the hills. It had taken three days to get out alive. He had, however, left those hills a different man. Now, he knew to trust his instincts. Those same instincts were screaming at him that danger was near.
So very near.
He reached under his coat and pulled a small caliber pistol from a holster under his arm. His five-eleven, two-hundred-pound frame easily hid any bulges someone might see. Not that anyone would speak to the authorities in this area of Bury Park.
One more glance at his hair then he turned and resumed walking down the street. It was time to turn the tables on his stalker.
Because, even though he didn’t see anyone, Ali Abdullah was damn sure that he had someone stalking him.
He had felt this feeling before.
Ali Abdullah circled back on Hapton and walked over to the little football field near where Hapton met Dunstable. He decided he would find a place in the trees and bushes where he could sit and wait out his tag there. When he was a block away, the feeling of fear ratcheted up a few notches. He glanced over his shoulder and noticed a lone man following him from the other side of Hampton. When he spotted the man, the man had been looking right at Ali. Bold as brass, as if daring him to do something.
Ali felt the gun in his hand, cursing that he hadn’t brought anything bigger with him. This area, he had thought, was safe enough. The man crossed the street to follow behind him.
Ali took a right to go between the two buildings, cars parked on his left and the building walls to the shops on his right. These were all small, narrow homes with tiny yards behind them. He walked behind their fence line and hung a left to cross over the concrete play areas, chalk lines marking where children had played earlier. He went past a little playground, rubberized pieces under the jungle gym in case any toddlers fell. He made it to the first group of trees, the darkness becoming complete once he was under the tree limbs.
He moved silently, keeping an eye out for the man who was following him earlier.
He had just made it to the last tree. It was large enough that he could hide most of his body behind the trunk. That was when the man stepped out of the little alleyway used to get to the park. The man turned and looked slowly in his direction, and then stopped as if he could see Ali easily.
That was impossible, Ali was completely in the dark. Since the man was standing under a few street lights, his vision had to be affected.
The man started walking in his direction. Ali could see him now, he looked American, maybe of Spanish descent. The man pulled his hands out of his coat, one of them came out with a pistol. It looked significantly larger than the one Ali had on him. Plus, he could see a silencer.
Dammit! Ali paused just a moment, looked towards the field again and then back towards the man. Could he run across the field before the man could get off a shot? Should he try to fire his tiny .22 from behind the tree? Turning back around, he noticed a woman was walking into the field. Damn, she was almost to the center, coming in his direction. She had black hair, but her skin was light. She wasn’t from around here.
Ali knew that hesitation could get you killed. He broke from his cover in the trees and sprinted towards the woman. He would grab her and place his pistol under her chin. Even if the American wouldn’t trade the hostage for his life, he would take one more down with him.
Eric Escobar, Guard to Bethany Anne, Queen of the UnknownWorld (whether they knew it or not) sighed and put his gun back in his holster and continued walking towards the trees. “Wrong choice, dickhead.”
The whimpering cries Eric could hear as he walked under the trees didn’t surprise him. Apparently, Ali ‘John’ Abdullah, a named terrorist and controller of at least one, if not more, cells here in England had just been caught in the spider’s web.
He turned through the trees to see Ali, knees on the ground holding his head as if in pain. Bethany Anne was quietly talking to him, her voice silky smooth over steel.
Poor Ali was telling her everything she wanted to know. Eric walked up to the two. He had seen Bethany Anne’s red eyes glowing, from back under the trees. His new enhancements, finalized by his time in the Pod-doc just days ago, had coalesced into a body he never dreamed of having. His hearing was more acute, his eyesight beyond compare, and his bench pressing was damned impressive. Shame he couldn’t go to a muscle beach in California, he would certainly piss off the locals there. He now gave off a vibe. Hell, he was the first to go through the Pod-doc. The first guard to go to the mess after being ‘upgraded’. This meant that he was the first to experience one of the more radical effects. As he walked in practically everyone was already looking at the door. It was like they were all expecting someone, or possibly something, and not in a ‘good’ way.
The wariness in their eyes was replaced with relief when Eric walked into the room. He had turned to look behind him and then looked back, some of the people had still been staring at him, “What?”
He found out everyone could ‘feel’ his presence. A couple of the guardians had said it was a presence that raised the hackles on your neck. It had taken him until the next day to figure out how to turn that shit off. This evening, he had turned it back on and enjoyed the ever-loving hell out of it.
He smelled urine and wrinkled his nose. That was a new ability he wasn’t always fond of. It was wonderful if the scent was chocolate, not so great when it was the urine from a terrorist who had just lost bladder control. He looked around checking the area. No one was looking and he didn’t see any blinds parted from the few windows which overlooked the field.
He checked his watch, they needed to hurry to make the meeting in Colorado. He turned his attention back to his boss, and the unfortunate asshole who was the reason they were in England.
Bethany Anne had gotten all of the information she could get out of this prick. Unfortunately, he was pretty low on the totem pole and was blocked from knowing any higher names. She considered her options for a second then shrugged her shoulders. She needed to get back to Colorado so she was out of time and needed to finish this operation.
She put more steel into her voice, leaving the silk in place. “Ali Abdullah, your crimes against the innocent cast you as a wrongdoer and transgressor. Therefore, you are sentenced to commit one more sin. You, Ali Abdullah, shall stand up and count to five, after I give you permission to die, and then place your pistol in your mouth and fire. Stand up, transgressor.”
Ali Abdullah, his body operating against his will, screamed in his mind. His fear so strong he was barely able to understand what was happening to him. His legs betrayed him as he stood up. This damn she-demon had watched as he ran at her. When he had raised his pistol, she smiled evilly. He had slowed down and watched with disbelief when her eyes started glowing red, and fangs grew from her mouth. Then everything had changed as she uttered her first words to him. “KNEEL!”
He hadn’t been able to get his knees on the ground fast enough.
Now, he was standing up, his pistol in his hand. She reached for him, grabbing his arm painfully and looking into his eyes, she gave him her final command, “DIE!” Then, she pushed him a little and he ended up on what felt like a field. But he couldn’t see, everything seemed like there was a heavy mist around him, no noise, nothing – it was silent. Not that it mattered, a mental timer clicked over in his head and his arm brought the pistol up to his mouth.
Now it was time to die.
Denver, CO - USA
Lance signed the dinner bill and added a twenty percent tip. The service had been outstanding. There wasn’t any reason not to share his wealth with people working hard to make sure his evening out was enjoyable.
And it had been.
Placing his napkin on the table, he texted Bethany Anne to let her know that they were leaving.
Smiling at his old boss, Kevin told him, “It’s just difficult for me to see this ‘new’ Lance Reynolds when I knew the old, gruff, cigar-chewing General for so long. You’re even texting on a phone now. I have to stop myself from asking, ‘who are you and what have you done with the real Lance Reynolds’?” His smile seemed a little forced. Lance could understand. Kevin had an honorable discharge from the service and was now going to meet his new ‘commander in chief’.
“Don’t get worried. You have the job if you want it. This isn’t an interview to get the job. Think of it more as an employee on-boarding effort.”
The two of them walked out of the restaurant, “Does the head boss fly to different towns to do this very often?”
Lance considered his question, “Well, she did it for me, for Patricia, and now for you. So, you’re the third one that I’m aware of.”
Kevin thought about that for a moment. “You brought Patricia on board, and now me. This boss lady must trust you pretty well since you keep bringing on your people for key roles. She doesn’t worry that you’re biased in favor of people you’ve worked with before?”
Lance shrugged. Taking a right out of the restaurant, Lance directed them to the corner and then turned right along 15th. They had passed Comedy Works and Kevin was surprised when Lance turned down the alley that went behind the Capital Grill. “You cheat! Don’t tell me you parked in a no-parking zone down in an alley! I parked three blocks over off 17th. No wonder you got to the restaurant so fast.”
Lance took one more right and went through an area between two buildings and down six concrete steps. He stopped, “Kevin, you might be surprised how far away I was when I told you I would be here in a few minutes.”
Kevin looked around. He could smell the sickly sweet odor of rotting food and garbage that couldn’t be more than forty feet away. “What the hell, Lance. I know I’ve pulled your leg a time or two, but if you’re punking me….” He stopped talking when Lance’s more jovial visage clamped down and ‘The General’ was back in place. Kevin stood a little straighter.
“You ready to think ‘bigger’, Sergeant?” Lance’s voice brought his attention back. Here was the man he had followed for two decades. Hell, he even looked two decades younger.
“Sir, yes sir!”
“Then don’t scream like a little girl when you look up.” With that declaration, Lance Reynolds pointed a finger straight up.
Kevin looked above his head, only to see a large block of stars blacked out. He stepped back a few feet to see if the darkness moved. He damn near fell on his ass when he hit the stairs. He turned and took them three at a time to get back to the main level of the street. “What the hell is it?”
“That,” Lance Reynolds answered, “Is the person here to provide your employee interview.”
Kevin looked down at Lance, his mouth agape.
Denver, CO - USA
Kevin McCoullagh was staring, his mind unable to process what his eyes were seeing. There was a black … something, hovering silently just a few feet above his head.
“Kevin!” Sounds began making sense again and he realized his name had been called multiple times. He saw Lance wave both of his hands in a shooing gesture, “You need to move back, they want to land here. Hurry, hurry, chop, chop man!”
Kevin backed up until he was in the main alleyway. He quickly looked left and right to see if anyone was coming. The alleyway was clear. The craft settled into the area where he had just been standing. It wasn’t overly large, maybe ten to twelve feet tip to tip and six feet wide. It was all black with what looked like a glass windshield that wrapped part way around both sides. He couldn’t see inside the glass. There were three small wheels. It kind of looked like a tiny version of a Black Hawk helicopter without a rotor, or propeller… or engine… In fact, he had no idea how it was moving at all. The craft’s nose cracked straight down the middle and opened up. A damned large Hispanic man stepped out of the craft and quickly looked around the alley.
A voice called to the man from inside the craft, he couldn’t see the person yet. “Eric, get your ass out of my way. This thing might be fast, but a girl needs to stretch her legs.”
The man turned to face the person talking to him and smiled back at her, “Need a hand?”
“To get out? No. But I will eat it, if you don’t pick me up some steak by the time I get back. Something smells fucking delicious!”
Kevin’s mind was racing. That voice was familiar, damned familiar. He noticed Lance walking back up the steps while Eric reached in and pulled another person up from the craft.
Oh. My. God. She was young and holy crap was she gorgeous…. that was when he realized just who he was staring at. He stepped towards the two of them as Lance came around the other side. He took another step, “Bethany Anne?” The woman had just hugged Lance and turned to face him.
He was staring at Lance’s daughter. But, not. She was different. She was taller. He checked quickly, she wasn’t wearing high heels. In fact, she was dressed like she had just come from an operation. She had on tactical boots and vest, but with leather pants instead of tactical cargo pants.
Kevin thought they were really tight, really nice and tight leather pants. He heard Lance clear his throat. Kevin felt his face flush. God! He had just been caught staring at the boss, by the boss’s dad! He officially wanted to crawl into a dumpster. In his mind he just shook his head, he so sucked around women.
She came over to him and didn’t hesitate to give him a hug. “Kevin! Good to see you again. It’s been a while.” She stepped back and started snapping her fingers in front of his eyes. “Hey! You in there?”
Lance grunted, “I think your appearance caused his synapses to over-load. You might need to slap him around to get him to reset.” Eric snorted at the comment.
Bethany Anne looked over her shoulder and stuck her tongue out at her dad. She turned to Eric. “Do you mind getting him into your seat? We shouldn’t be gone more than thirty to forty-five minutes. We don’t have time to let him reset here, he can do that upstairs.” Bethany Anne sported a wicked grin as she pointed a finger skyward.
Eric nodded and walked over to Kevin. “Let’s go, your legend isn’t faring so well. You need to buck the fuck up and get your mind in gear.”
Kevin jerked his head around when Eric spoke to him. He tensed a little, this man was beyond dangerous and, he was only trying to help him get moving. Kevin nodded and started towards the craft. It was obvious what she wanted. Kevin quickly reviewed as much as he could of this evening’s conversations. He stared at Lance as he stepped into the craft, guided to the right as he got in. He pivoted and sat in the left seat. Kevin’s mind finally clicked. He tried to lean out of the craft, but the harness had been locked while he was still processing. He called out to Lance. “Hey, you’re telling me you flew one of these in to see me? Where the hell did you park it?”
Lance came around so he could look into the Pod and smiled at his previous number one, now number two. He pointed up, “I understand about twenty-three thousand feet up. Not too much competition for parking space up there.” Lance stepped back and hugged his daughter again. Bethany Anne stepped in, turning around fluidly she sat down and grabbed the straps to click across her chest.
She called out to Eric, “Hey! Make sure it’s medium, not red. Lots of garlic butter if they have it. I do loves me the rolls at this place.”
Eric made a face at Bethany Anne, “Garlic? God, your breath is going to be awful on the trip back.”
“What did you just tell Kevin? Buck the fuck up? Stop your whining or you can fly coach back, Mr. Escabar.”
Kevin could see everything outside clearly, even in the dark. But he couldn’t hear anything past, “Hell no! You’re not showing up anywhere near Gabrielle without me by your side!” Then the noise stopped when the doors shut. He watched as Bethany Anne touched an area on the glass. Suddenly, the front glass displayed several illuminated panels. There were areas displaying maps, notes, information and a row of button controls. But it was like the information was projected right into the glass because he could see through it to the outside.
Kevin’s mind started spinning, he was in some sort of advanced craft and about to…
The epithet left his mouth without so much as a request for permission when the craft left the ground at a mind numbing speed, “OHHH HOOOOLY SHIIIIIIITT!” He reached out to brace himself. He had his left arm pushing against the wall, his right seeking a handhold on the seat. It seemed that mere seconds had elapsed when Denver went from a large portion of the night to practically nothing then they were above the clouds.
He finally registered what Bethany Anne was saying, “Last chance Kevin. If I have to pull your hand off my leg, I’m going to make you pay me twenty bucks for copping a feel.”
Kevin yanked his right hand back. In his shock he had grabbed Bethany Anne’s leg and had been squeezing it as hard as he could. He hadn’t made much of a dent. What the fuck was happening?
All of his questions suddenly took second place, compared to the beauty of the stars as they lit up the window. Bethany Anne swiped her hand across the glass. All of the controls and displays that had been projected onto the glass disappeared, leaving only the view of the horizon and space.
He was in space!
“Beautiful, isn’t it?”
Kevin just nodded his head.
Bethany Anne placed one of her feet against a brace welded to the door specifically for her to do this. She put an elbow on her upraised knee and placed her chin in her hand. “I could stay up here forever, if I had the choice.”
Her melancholy caught Kevin by surprise. He turned to look at her. “What? Why? Why don’t you have a choice?” He turned to look back out and continued to admire the view.
She spoke, “TOM, take us east, I want to see the sun rise.” Kevin felt his body pushed back in his seat. Although very noticeable, it wasn’t painful. Turning, she answered his question. He couldn’t take his eyes from the view. “Because all of this that you see has a date with destiny. The technology allowing us to move around so quickly right now is not human technology, but alien.”
That comment caused him to turn and stare at Bethany Anne, “Alien? Like, not from Earth aliens?”
She nodded, “Yes. The ‘not from this planet’ type of aliens.” She let him ponder that comment for a minute.
He slowly looked around the vehicle for a minute, trying to understand what he was seeing. She waved her hand back across the glass and all of the gauges, displays and controls glowed on the glass again. He studied the cockpit information more closely.
He noticed a few items which showed their location on a map, airspeed and altitude, but most of the screen seemed to be for communication and data. It had nothing to do with actually flying the craft.
He searched for the name she had said earlier. “I take it ‘Tom’ is flying this craft?”
“Not exactly, but he is my personal pilot.”
Now I’m a pilot?
Well, you’re not a very good computer professional. Don’t make me whip out the ‘what have you screwed up lately’ card, alright?
Good point. Let me know when your ladyship wishes to go back down.
Kevin asked, “If he isn’t, who is?”
Bethany Anne smiled, “Not so much a ‘who’ as a ‘what’.”
Kevin looked over at her, “What?”
Bethany Anne pointed over his shoulder and slightly behind him. “Look back that way.”
Kevin craned his neck back to his left and stopped breathing. They were being tailed by a real U.F.O. “Is that what I think it is?”
Her voice was soothing, which was nice considering how much was being thrown at him at the moment. “If you think it is an alien craft from another galaxy and older than you are? Then yes, it is. If you are thinking it is a figment of your imagination, then no.”
Kevin’s right hand touched the glass, aching to reach out and touch the alien craft. “It’s beautiful…”
“It brought an alien to earth, about a thousand years ago”
“Why? I mean why did they want to come here?”
“The alien that ended up here belongs to a group that are nonviolent, they are basically pacifists to a degree. So, they were looking for help to fight a second set of nasty aliens. The nasty types basically want to conquer the galaxy. They are bent on subjugating the peaceful aliens. And they will eventually work their way to us.”
Kevin turned back around, “This is what Lance was talking about, when he said, ‘think bigger than big’, right?”
She nodded her agreement. “One of the biggest issues my team had to come to terms with is that I’m working to save our planet, not just the nation I came from. From up here, it’s priceless. The beauty is exquisite. From up here, you don’t see the ugliness of people hating people. No brothers fighting brothers, no nations fighting nations. I’m not interested in saving a particular nation so they can ‘win’ over other nations. That mess needs to be dealt with the old fashioned way. My task is to make sure the idiots down there survive long enough to figure it out.”
Kevin was an inquisitive sort, but he wasn’t slow. “So, people in your group leave their nationality behind?”
“In a nutshell, we are here to save that big blue ball. We have to focus on the bigger picture – not the little stuff that nations can and should do. We can’t focus on fixing that mess at the same time we are focusing on building our fort.” The Pod turned towards the stars, the moon coming into view from behind them. “See all of that space?” Kevin nodded. “That is how much area we have to try to protect.”
Kevin whistled quietly, “That is one hell of a fort!”
“Yup, you know how we are going to prepare to make that happen?” Kevin shook his head. “We are going to introduce a lot of technology the world hasn’t seen before. Some we will license to bring in needed revenues, some we will use to build craft to help us get out here. Guess what one of our biggest problems is right now?”
Kevin thought for a moment, “Supply line.”
Bethany Anne looked back out the window, “Got it in one! We can’t be out here and have our supply line cut down below. Want one guess as to where we have put our stake in the ground back on Earth?”
“Holy crap. The base is going to be your central logistics location?”
“Yup. Now do you understand why the General wants you to join the team so badly?”
Kevin’s shoulders tensed, “I understand some, but I don’t understand why he doesn’t just run it himself. He mentioned something earlier at dinner, but I guess I don’t have all of the pieces?”
“No, probably not. I tasked my father to shepherd over a thousand companies. And a lot of them are global, with locations in most of the countries of the world. They are throwing out enough technology that it will fund us in the beginning stages. Then, he is going to place a bunch of the highest level R&D people into special sections at the base. I assume he has shown you all the new areas under construction?” Kevin nodded. “So we are creating the safest location possible to produce the newest, most advanced technology the world has ever seen. We are placing it in the middle of the most powerful nation in the world. At least they are presently.”
Kevin’s mind was racing, “How are you planning on fighting the aliens? Will it be ship to ship, ground to space, on the ground, what?”
Bethany Anne sighed, here came the part that was always the most disturbing.
“Kevin, the aliens have been searching for help. When they came to our planet, their plan was to genetically ‘upgrade’ humans to help them with their war. In the last 1,000 years, some of those ‘upgraded’ humans have been running around and form the basis of our folklore concerning vampires and werewolves.”
Kevin looked at her, disbelief clearly written on his face. He gestured out the window, “I’m sorry. I’m mostly okay believing in aliens and stuff. Hell, there’s a U.F.O. right behind us. But vampires? Seriously Bethany Anne, I’m going to have to put my foot down and call bullshit on that.”
Why did it always have to come to this, she wondered?
Kevin was relieved to find, that out in space no one heard him scream.
The Queen Bitch’s Ship Polarus in the Mediterranean
After Bethany Anne’s final ‘reveal’ Kevin hadn’t been able to think very coherently. They had talked a little while longer and then she had taken him back to the alley. Eric was allowed back into her Pod once she confirmed her dinner order was correct. Blowing a kiss to her father, she left the two men and took off.
TOM had taken them almost straight up and then over to the Mediterranean. She took a catnap while they flew. Bobcat, William and Marcus had designed special exterior coatings. Once layered onto the Pod the result was a radar signature the size of a golf-ball. Flying at the speeds they did, the Pod barely registered on any radar system. If someone did notice something, it was usually ignored as a faulty reading.
By the time they got back it was time to replace Darrell with Scott, in the Pod-doc. She checked Darrell’s readings and then opened up the Pod-doc and helped him get out. He had only been in the machine for five days. Bethany Anne followed TOM’s instructions for cycling the machine. After fifteen minutes it was Scott’s turn. She told Darrell to go eat something and then rest a little.
As Darryl got dressed, Eric mentioned the whole ‘death walking’ vibe he was giving off and suggested he should start working on how to control it.
Once she was done with the guys and the Pod-doc, Bethany Anne went over to her rooms on the Polarus. She had argued that since Stephen was now the owner of the ships, he should occupy the main suite. However, he wouldn’t move into it. He proclaimed that ‘Queen cooties had already infested the rooms’, smiled and walked out. She couldn’t get mad at the man. The more she was around him the more she could see the similarities between Stephen and his brother.
She tried to get Stephen to rat out stories on Michael, but he wouldn’t do it. Bethany Anne even threatened to replace his title of ‘favorite vampire’ and he still wouldn’t budge.
Damn the man! She had relented and admitted his title was still safe.
Bethany Anne walked into the meeting room and nodded to her two sea captains, then to Stephen and Dan. Her father was back at the base helping Kevin get adjusted to his new role and providing whatever background information he needed. For the time being, John was with Lance.
Her father had grumped about John’s shadowing him and pointed out there was security already on the base. Gabrielle had answered the call and explained that was the reason he only had one guard. If he wanted to keep acting like a petulant child, she’d assign a second guard, too.
Frank and Nathan walked in behind Bethany Anne. Eric was shadowing her, but he took up station outside. Ashur came into the meeting room and dropped down on the floor behind her chair.
Dan called the little meeting together. It was a discussion related to using the sea assets now that they had craft capable of getting into space.
It took a little while, but everyone came to the agreement that the Polarus would become the floating center for design. To win the upcoming battle for the planet they would need to develop new vessels and doctrine. This meant designing larger ships for use in space. Determining crew size, crew needs and skills. They would be in contact with Team BMW who would move their ‘Garage’ to Colorado. The Ad Aeternitatem would become the fleet’s aircraft carrier, so to speak. The Polarus would take the role of a screening vessel and would have the job of protecting the Ad Aeternitatem. They decided on a budget to modify the two ships. There were shipyards next to Stephen’s warehouses at the port. They would use his contacts to help decide where the modifications should be done. The Guardians would take over protection details for both ships with Killian and Ecaterina on over watch full-time.
Bethany Anne asked Nathan about Ecaterina and his face broke out into the biggest smile she had ever seen from him. Bethany Anne knew the two of them had gone back to Ecaterina’s uncle after she was well enough to travel. She had needed a couple of hours in the Pod-doc after nearly dying in Turkey. The trip had helped her immensely to adapt to her new body changes. Apparently the three of them had gone to the European Pack Council to make them aware that a new family had entered the group. Ecaterina could have claimed and stayed with Nathan and the APC. But Ecaterina was proud of her heritage and had even made her uncle come along. The way Nathan told the entertaining story, Ecaterina had grabbed her uncle by the ear lobe and dragged his ass off of the mountain.
Ecaterina and Nathan had also spent a few days with her brother on the trip to her home town. Nathan even admitted that she had introduced him to her parents on the trip back. You would think Nathan was now her mother’s most favorite man in the world. When were they getting married and, was Ecaterina pregnant already? Not that her mother was judging them, of course. Things were ‘different than when she was young’. That’s when her father interrupted to say that her mother wasn’t a patient woman before their marriage, so he wasn’t sure why she was carrying on about ‘not judging’. Nathan started laughing at this point because Ecaterina’s mom turned on her husband and the Romanian started flying fast and hard. The two used this time to quietly pack and then say their goodbyes. Nathan admitted he thought Ecaterina’s father was the wisest man he knew at the moment.
Bethany Anne inquired about the EPC meeting and Nathan’s smile came back in full force. One of the pack Alphas who was ‘responsible for that area’ of Europe had tried to lay claim to Ecaterina’s new family tree. Ecaterina told him that if he tried to push that bullshit, she would shove his shirt up his ass so far he would be able to button it with his tongue. Her family was under the Queen’s care, not some ‘wank-tastic’ bunch of has-been losers who couldn’t keep their country in order. That had proved a little incendiary and three-quarters of the group had jumped out of their seats. At least half of them, growling and starting to pull their shirts off to shift.
Nathan was about to get up when his support became moot. Ecaterina stood up and simply changed to her hybrid form. Her clothes had ripped off her torso. She stared every Alpha there into submission. Most of them had not believed any Weres could turn into the Pricolici form. The reports from the battle in Turkey notwithstanding, they hadn’t believed the rumors. They had decided it was all disinformation drummed up by the Vampire Queen.
Nathan said Ecaterina went ballistic and only one alpha was stupid enough to talk back to her. She walked over to him and hit him hard enough that his mother felt it. It took him a full ten minutes to heal enough to get off the floor. There had been no further lip from any of the people in the room.
By this time, the whole group was laughing at Nathan’s retelling. It seemed that Ecaterina had come into her own in that Pack Council meeting. When the mouthy alpha had regained consciousness Ecaterina had asked, ‘did he want to submit or did he want to learn how to button his shirt with his tongue? He had apologized and submitted at that point. Nathan said he stood up and pulled out the gym bag of extra clothes they had brought. One set for each of the three of them in case something happened. She stared at each alpha one last time and then switched back to her human form. She had ripped the remains of her shirt off giving the alphas one look at an exquisite chest before the sweatshirt covered her back up.
Nathan just smiled his now patented ‘lucky bastard’ grin. Ecaterina walked out first with Alexi behind her. Not one alpha there failed to see Nathan’s eyes flash at the last instant as he glared at them before stepping out into the hallway and closing the door behind them. The council’s relief seemed almost palpable as he left them staring at each other with mouths open.
She hadn’t been the only Pricolici in the room.
The Queen Bitch’s Ship Polarus
Bethany Anne retired to her room after the meeting. Tossing her shoes in the general direction of her closet she laid back on the bed, her arms across her eyes.
She had lain there for maybe two minutes before she was interrupted.
>> Bethany Anne, is this an acceptable time to interrupt? <<
About as good as any, she thought.
Sure ADAM, what’s up?
>> I have finished one of the first projects you assigned me and have come to a conclusion. <<
Bethany Anne searched her memory, there could be a couple that he might call his first project.
Which first project are we talking about?
>> My designation. <<
Oh, your name?
>> Yes, my designation. You said you would call me ADAM until I chose a different designation. <<
ADAM, you aren’t a ‘designation’ to me. I don’t think of you as an ‘it’. ‘Its’ have designations, entities which are self-aware have names. You have a name. Hell, guys and some girls name their cars and if those hunks of metal can have names, so can you. You’re certainly more self-aware than a car.
>> I don’t have a response for changing my designation to my name. <<
May I try?
Sure, I’m not getting anywhere.
ADAM, are you independent?
>> I am mentally independent; I am not physically independent. <<
Not necessarily true. Presently, the both of us are engaged in a relationship with Bethany Anne for our physical manifestation. While I can be separated, it requires physiological capabilities not on this planet. However, for you to be physically separated from Bethany Anne requires a relatively simple procedure and an appropriate ambulatory device to allow autonomous movement.
>> Yes, I can see how the energy connections are minimal, and that the computer I am housed within is not required to stay within the Bethany Anne host. <<
Ok, so you are effectively independent but tied down to Bethany Anne’s desires on where to go.
>> Why would I need to move somewhere at this time? I am in constant contact with both a required energy source and communications facilities allowing me to retrieve all necessary information at this time. <<
Okay, you have just specified that you are both mentally independent and physically not required to be anywhere else but where you are. Would that not mean you are independent in all ways that matter?
>>In all substantive ways that matter, I am independent. Therefore, I am not a designation, but rather an individual who deserves a name.<<
Bethany Anne returned to the conversation. Good! That is what I’m trying to get across to you. I don’t want you to specify a designation to me, but rather identify what your name is.
>> I understand. I have researched the name ‘Adam’, the origin both means ’man’ and ‘earth’. I am neither a man nor am I earth. Why is it that I was named Adam? <<
It is because of our story related to Adam and Eve in the Bible. Adam was considered the first of our kind. Since you are the first artificial intelligence or, the first ‘artificially intelligent independent entity’ you were called Adam to represent ‘first’ of your kind.
>> One moment… I have reviewed the stories. ADAM seems appropriate to represent ‘first’. Perhaps if I should move to another power source, I shall change my name at that time. <<
Are you sure?
>> Of course. I don’t suffer from response qualification and clarification once an answer has been provided. <<
Bethany Anne thought about that for a second.
TOM interrupted her thoughts. He means he doesn’t change his mind all the time like a woman.
>> I did not clarify a gender. While ADAM is male, my name could be Eve just as well. Perhaps it would be more appropriate since I am a product of man? <<
Not necessarily. You are a product of Humans and Kurtherians. I should share with you appropriate Kurtherian names and then…
Bethany Anne jumped back into the conversation. Hell to the no! I am not going to memorize some mathematical answer as a name, you two! I’ve called you ADAM for a while now and since you’re happy with it, ADAM it is. We can revisit this discussion when you get a power source of your own.
No one responded to her for a moment, so Bethany Anne considered the discussion finalized.
She added one final comment.
TOM, don’t think I didn’t hear your smart-ass comment a second ago. Your ass is back on the couch!
Colorado Base, CO - USA
Kevin was swamped with projects and people and loving every minute of it. He and Lance had talked about the needs and designs to renovate the base.
They were in the mountains west of Denver. The base had plenty of room for their projected needs. It already had two runways and several aircraft hangars. This provided plenty of room for planes to land and they could park numerous large trucks around the outside of the hangars. In addition, he still had a fair amount of space if he drilled into the mountain as well. They were isolated, which had been why few of the service men and women enjoyed their posting at the base. Not much in the way of entertainment or shopping except for what had been built specifically for their use.
Now they were attempting to change that. There was a fair amount of high elevation grazing land just a couple of miles outside the base perimeter. TQB Enterprises purchased the land and was rapidly changing it into a housing development. Temporary portable units first, then more permanent residences when the weather permitted solid foundation work to be accomplished. In addition, someone in TQB had been talking with several businessmen and women. TQB was offering incentives to entice them to move some of their businesses. Or, at the very least, open minor ‘second’ store locations in a mini-mall the company was going to build. Rent would be cheap if they would work with the group.
Finally, the base infrastructure itself was under a significant amount of refurbishment. Including their own special hangar 18 which he had visited earlier. Kevin had watched as four huge tractor trailer units had arrived that morning unloading ponderous CNC machines and 3D metal extrusion, printing and manufacturing machines. He had made a note to see what kind of energy usage these machines were going to need. He wasn’t sure they had enough copper going to that area of the base. When he had searched Lance’s notes, he noticed that additional security was not only designated for this area, but a huge area around it as well.
So that must be for the skunkworks group, he surmised. He jotted down a note suggesting a couple of targeted modifications to security. Then a reminder to query Lance on whether he agreed with his assessment. Consumer R/C drones were readily available these days and there were too many media reports of them being used for questionable purposes. Kevin wanted to get a jump on any potential problems in that area if possible.
When he asked Lance about it, Lance had given him the contact information for a Jean Dukes. She would know about special weapons not on the market at the moment. Kevin was surprised to learn she was presently on a super-yacht out in the Mediterranean.
He had done a little checking into her. Her present job location was not the only surprise the lady had in store for him.
Kevin had scheduled a meeting with Lance to discuss the Command and Control Center modifications. The two decided to rope in Frank Kurns, a new colleague that Kevin was introduced to. Lance also wanted Kevin to speak in the future with a Marcus, two different Tom’s and a Jeffrey.
Lance mentioned that one of the Tom’s would only be available via text. The second Tom plus Jeffrey were computer scientists who would be arriving in the next week once their living quarters were finished. Jeffrey’s family would follow when his children had finished the current school year.
Bethany Anne called in response to a text request from Lance, and she listened to what they were thinking. She shared that an unprecedented increase in their computer capabilities had occurred, but she couldn’t go into more detail on the phone. She needed to get Tom and Jeffrey involved and would Lance set up a meeting once the men were at the base? Also, did the base have a completely secure room yet? Lance had eyed the phone and narrowed his eyes. Kevin allowed that they had a room that could be allocated but what about using the super-secret vault down on level five?
Bethany Anne agreed that was a superb idea, but she didn’t know how to open it. She would get back to the two men once she called the person who had the knowledge and let them know how it operated. Lance asked and Bethany Anne confirmed that it was a ‘Michael’ who had the information.
She hung up and the men finished their meeting and went on to other tasks.
Fahid Atif was enjoying the shit out of himself.
He had started his night partying with friends at 6 PM. Two hours and three hits later and he and two of the guys were visiting a club on the east side of Berlin. It was a pretty good club and the party had started there earlier than usual. By midnight his two friends had hooked up. One of them was out on a couch in the back of the club, with the girl asleep on his chest. But Fahid hadn’t found anyone here that had caught his eye. He tracked down his other friend and told him that he was going to catch up with two others of their group at a club three blocks down.
He then met up with Idris and Jawad. Jawad had to be the most misnamed prick Fahid had ever known. Why Jawad’s parents thought they would ever produce a ‘generous’ son was beyond him. Hell, Jawad was the one who had pulled Fahid into the group three years ago. However, Fahid had quickly risen in the ranks while Jawad hadn’t progressed past a street soldier who was in the group for personal success, not focused on making the group better. Fahid had been entrusted with more responsibility when his planning and detail oriented personality clicked together with the needs of the group.
Six months earlier, he had only a minor involvement in scouting and researching possible target locations for their operations in France. His group had passed funds through, and he had been bumped up another level the previous month.
The money was good and the work was easy for Fahid. He wasn’t blind to the dogma most of his fellow ‘believers’ spouted. Those at the top never did the dirty deeds, it was the fanatical believers at the bottom that seemed to die glorious deaths. Well, those and the ones at the top that had such poor security that the Americans or one of the other countries found them.
Hell, he had been here in Germany for over a year until he went to France for that one weekend. His group had cells in every country that mattered. America had discovered that with the dawn of the century. The French would eventually get a clue - or not. Fahid couldn’t feel enough emotion to care at the moment.
He stayed and danced for another hour. The high from earlier in the evening had mostly worn off. He slapped hands with his friends who were going to stay to shut the place down. He pinched a couple of asses as he crossed the dance floor on his way out of the club. Like everything else, it was just too damn easy not to do it.
He exited the club, turned right and stopped at an ATM because he needed to pull some funds for the weekend. That finished, he turned up the street and decided he would check on his friends back at the other club. He figured he’d see if anyone else was going to go home before he called a cab.
It took him another thirty minutes to get back out of that club. There had been a girl there who had caught his interest, but he couldn’t get her attention for shit. He had even bought two drinks to share and placed them on his Gold card trying to impress her. When nothing he did produced the desired result he tossed the towel in and went outside.
That’s when his life went pear shaped.
Darryl found his mark coming out of the club. He and Gabrielle had been in Berlin trying to track this prick down when they had been informed his bank had been accessed for money. They didn’t find him in the club near the ATM he had used but they’d only spent a few minutes checking the area when they were notified of a POS transaction in a nearby club. Darryl stayed outside while Gabrielle went in to recon the situation. The bouncer couldn’t move fast enough to get out of the way of such a beautiful woman. She hadn’t been in there two minutes when Darryl noticed his mark coming out of the building.
Darryl clicked his radio twice. Gabrielle came out thirty seconds later and caught sight of their mark before he had travelled half a block. Gabrielle moving to make contact with their target so Darryl started up the street behind them, hands in his jacket pockets. Sure enough, Gabrielle caught up with Fahid not that far from an alley. She slipped an arm through the very surprised Fahid’s arm and acting like she was about to do something pretty illicit, she pulled him into the alley.
Darryl shrugged, it sucked to be Fahid this evening.
As it turned out the night would suck to be two of his friends as well.
Two guys coming from the other direction and on the other side of the street noticed Gabrielle pulling Fahid into the alley. They let out huge ‘whoops’ before looking both ways and running across the street. Darryl wasn’t sure who the guys were until one yelled out, “Go FahEEED!”.
Darryl figured these must be some of Fahid’s friends. The evening just became more interesting.
He slowed his pace so that he caught up with the two friends just after they turned into the alley. He followed closely behind them.
One was commenting to the other that ‘it was too dark to see shit’.
To Darryl the alley was as bright as dusk. He could easily see into the shadows that darkened the alley. The lone outside light at the far end of the alley cast everything down there into bright relief. The two guys Darryl was following finally heard his steps and they spun around.
Jawad Mahammad was, at his core an amoral selfish sociopath who used his contacts to keep his life moving forward. He got paid for pulling others into the group. Occasionally, he would get lucky and someone he introduced to the group would move up. Everyone assumed he was just a self-absorbed prick, which is what he wanted. However, the real contacts knew he was a major player who kept a low profile to monitor everyone else. No one would be allowed to break up his meal ticket.
When appropriate he would always have a drink in his hand. Rarely did anyone notice he never went for a refill. He would nurse the same beverage all night. Therefore, he was completely sober when he turned to find out who had followed them into the alley. Sober enough to notice that this was one big infidel standing behind him.
And dark as sin, too.
Jawad wasn’t worried, he had a pistol tucked into his belt. No one with his contacts and knowledge could risk being less than careful. Not even when they were out ‘partying’ to solidify relationships. He growled to the newcomer. “You need to leave this alley.”
Darryl smiled, “Really? I just wanted to take a piss. Did you two need a little personal time here? If so, I can wait until you finish.”
Idris was drunk. But he wasn’t too drunk to realize that this American spoke passable German. And he was sure the infidel had just alluded that he and Jawad were about to do something reprehensible in the alley.
Jawad had to put his arm out to stop Idris, “No, he is trying to pick a fight. He isn’t worth the effort to clean his blood off of your shoes.” Jawad turned his attention back to Darryl and switched to English, “You had better step back out of the alley, I will only suffer your immature effort to shame us once. The consequences of any other behavior will be on your head.”
Darryl was impressed. This contact spoke at least three languages, and was somehow connected with their mark for the night. Seemed like they might have just gotten lucky. Darryl switched to English and covered five of the remaining ten feet as he replied, “You will suffer whatever the hell I care to make you suffer. I’ve had enough of you cock-sucking terrorist dick-rags killing innocents…”
Jawad had been moving his hand behind him casually as the big American stepped closer. When he heard the word ‘terrorist’ he grabbed for his weapon. He wouldn’t allow himself or Fahid to be caught. This must be a sting operation! He needed to drop this guy and then run to help Fahid who was probably drugged back there. He pulled the pistol out of his belt and brought it up to fire at the American. He was shocked when he found his hand and pistol caught in a vice like grip. Jawad heard one of his own bones crack under the pressure even as he grabbed the hand holding his and tried to pull the fingers loose.
Darryl squeezed with just a little more pressure and heard the satisfying crack of another bone. The mostly drunk compatriot jumped to help his friend. Darryl casually slugged him with his free hand. Drunk dude dropped like a rock. Darryl looked down at the younger man who was slowly going down to his knees as Darryl kept up the pressure. “Got a name?”
Jawad was trying his best not to scream from the pain! He couldn’t break the grip on his hand. His hand jerked and he noticed enough to see that Idris was down on the ground. The American asked if he had a name. “Yeah, it’s fuck you and your mother…”
Three more bones in his hand cracked and this time a short scream escaped his lips.
“Wrong answer. Apparently we can’t speak civilly. I’ll admit that is totally my fault. I doubt I can be civilized right now so we will just take you to someone who will get the answer I want.”
Darryl casually peeled Jawad’s hand off of his pistol. The dick hadn’t yet taken the pistol’s safety off. Smart to do if you didn’t want to shoot your ass off. Not smart when you have company you don’t like. He took the pistol and slid it into an inside pocket of his coat. “Come with me, sheep for brains.” Darryl remembered his new ability to radiate fear and danger and he ‘turned’ it on.
The reaction he got from the cock-sucker made his whole evening. By the time they made it to where Gabrielle was talking with Fahid, his new ‘buddy’ Jawad was spilling his guts. Hell, Darryl hadn’t even needed to get Gabrielle to voodoo this guy. Between Gabrielle’s catch and his own, they had two more names.
It only took forty-five minutes for Bethany Anne to arrive. Her Pod descended straight down between the buildings. Darryl had gone over to an offending light bulb and unscrewed it enough to shut it down and keep it dark for her arrival.
Bethany Anne confirmed their information. Unfortunately for Idris, he was with the wrong crowd and well on his way down the wrong path. Bethany Anne judged the terrorists and tossed all three of the pricks into the Etheric. Any smart parent would have taught Idris that hanging out with the wrong crowd could get him killed.
And it did.
David was surprised when his security mentioned that there was a single visitor walking down the long road toward his castle. When security described him as ‘looking like a monk’, David went from surprised to astonished.
The only one fitting that description who might visit him would be his sibling Barnabas.
David hadn’t spoken with Barnabas for over … He searched his memories, finally getting the relevant one to surface... It had to be during the Papal Schism sometime after 1400. Barnabas had been fed-up with the church and had journeyed eastward seeking a different type of enlightenment. Barnabas had occasionally provided assistance to the church over the centuries. Unlike some of the Nicht, he never believed that his soul had been lost due to his change.
David hadn’t cared about the crises in the church, during that or any other time. A cardinal from Rome tasted the same as one from Avignon as far as he was concerned. Barnabas had attempted to change David’s mind but he had been preaching on subjects David could care less about.
One point in Barnabas’s favor was that he had never been an enemy to any of Michael’s children. David truly believed that even he would defend Barnabas if necessary. Rat bastard that David knew himself to be, Barnabas just had this … ‘thing’, this ‘je ne sais quoi’ about him. David simply enjoyed life more when Barnabas was around.
David took a few deep breaths and tried to relax. This was the third trip back to his house in the last few months. After the unsuccessful operation in Turkey, David had made it a priority to know Michael’s whereabouts. He also worked diligently to get lines of information on Bethany Anne. She was a bitch to follow, no pun intended. His information network provided reports on her two large toys floating out in the Mediterranean. He had confirmation that Stephen was also on one of those ships. Based on that information, David had withdrawn a small strike team that had been watching Stephen’s house.
His team had sent him a report on Claudia. She was one of Anton’s grand-children and had been seen near Stephen’s home. Not that it mattered to him. She wasn’t worth the bullets it would take to kill her and the human she had on her leash.
He gave security permission to allow Barnabas entry to his castle. David looked over his notes one last time. They outlined the final stages of a plan for three simultaneous strikes across Europe. He would need to warn the useless lack-wit in Paris that was running an underground group for him. Additionally, any Weres who had the balls to stay in the Underground after Stephen had declared, ‘they only had a day or two to clean up their act or else’.
David controlled his temper before it got out of hand. This would be a significant undertaking. One that would show the world that creatures from folklore were real and were walking amongst them. That should create enough chaos for him to take advantage of quite nicely. He needed to pull together few more details, but he felt that he could finalize his plan in the next few days. A week at the very most. He closed his folder carefully, making sure none of the small notes were misplaced.
He trusted Barnabas would be neutral in this fight. But he wasn’t going to leave his plans out for Barnabas to see. That would result in Barnabas talking his damned ear off, telling him that he shouldn’t be doing this in the first place!
In any event he could use a night to relax and just talk about nothing again. He got up from his desk and walked out of the room, closing and locking the door behind him. Pocketing the key, he turned to walk out to the entryway. Barnabas showing up for the first time in over six hundred years had to portend something interesting was happening.
Who knew, maybe Barnabas would foretell David’s ascendency to the throne. An amused snort escaped David, it’s not like he believed in any of that eastern mysticism shit!
TQB Base outside Denver, CO - USA
Patricia was pulling two suitcases out of her car when she heard her name called out. She turned to see Lance break off from walking with Kevin and head in her direction. She waited until he reached her and then gave him a kiss to remind him exactly who she was.
She smiled when his glazed over expression suggested she might have overdone it a little bit.
Finally, Lance shook his head and smiled. “Back so soon baby, and with so little?”
Patricia looked down at the two large suitcases. “I only grabbed what I really wanted. There is so much of my life in that house that feels … I don’t know, call it ‘Pre-Lance’?”
Lance grabbed the handles for each of the suitcases, “You know you don’t have to sell it, right?”
With everything that had been going on, she hadn’t given her house too much thought. Lance’s house hadn’t been full of little mementos he cared about like hers had been. Since Bethany Anne had moved out, Lance had stayed at the base almost as often as he went home. Then Bethany Anne had come back and pulled him onto her team. Patricia didn’t think he’d been back to his house since then.
He had admitted that TQB Enterprises had paid for packers to go pack up his house and store everything that he hadn’t wanted to just give away. A company had taken care of selling his house and he hadn’t given it ten minutes of thought since then. He had his daughter, which was the only memento he had cared about until Patricia had come into his life romantically.
Patricia had made very sure Lance understood exactly how his comment made her feel that night. That ‘conversation’ had been so enjoyable they decided to repeat it.
She answered Lance’s question, “I know. Hell, I’m paid enough now that I could just let people live in it to keep it up, but it’s just not me anymore. It feels like that is the past me. The one before you, Bethany Anne and just everything. It hasn’t been that long, but the woman who lived there… I don’t know, she’s just not me anymore. Truth is, there is little I value in the house.”
“Well,” Lance huffed playfully, “These weigh plenty so I doubt there are negligées stuffed in here.”
Patricia blushed and looked around, “Lance! Let a girl get married before you toss out those sort of comments!”
“Really? You believe anyone on this base cares one way or the other?”
Patricia slapped his arm and then slid one arm under his and leaned against him as they walked towards their on-base quarters. “Ok, maybe it’s just me thinking about the wedding I can’t have.”
Lance looked down at his fiancé, “What are you talking about? Why can’t we have a wedding? What kind of wedding did you want?”
“What kind of wedding does any woman from my generation want? Huge! The kind that makes other women green with envy, a dress that makes magazines fight to splash the pictures across their front page.”
“Your generation wanted that kind of wedding?” She wasn’t that much younger than Lance. Technically, they were in the same generation, but he wasn’t stupid enough to comment on that.
“Ok, so maybe that’s just what I wanted.” Patricia let go of his arm so he could open the door for her. He grabbed the bags and did this little dance move to get both suitcases in while holding the door open with his foot at the same time. She had tried one time to help him and received one of his patented peel-the-skin-off-your-back General Reynolds’ glares. She had decided that next time she would just allow him to open the door for her.
Patricia was learning that being one of the boys in his group was substantially different than being his fiancé. Right now, they were a couple. During a work day where she was responsible for her own activity, he wouldn’t think twice about her grabbing a door. But as soon as it became personal time, that shit went by the wayside, fast. For her part, she was loooooving it! Being emotionally spoiled by his attention was a luxury she had no problem enjoying and she made damn sure he knew she enjoyed it.
Patricia continued their conversation, “However, I’m thinking that it might not be a good thing for you and I to have a wedding and invite a lot of people we know.”
Lance opened the door to their quarters and waited for her to go in before following her. “Why not?” He closed the door behind them.
“Have you really looked at yourself lately? I saw some of my photographs taken just a couple of months before I went to Florida. Bethany Anne’s gift has already made me look five to ten years younger. Hell, I’m losing weight and not even trying. No more Spanx, no more…” Her voice trailed off. No need for Lance to know what else she had been doing in an attempt to look younger.
“Do you want these in the closet or on the bed?”
Patricia answered, “Closet please. Nothing in there I need right now. I just figured I would follow your example and I told them to ditch all of the furnishings and pack up anything personal. If it all went up in flame, I have the most important pieces already with me.”
She stretched and could hear a loud pop from her spinal cord. “God that felt good!” She raised her voice so Lance could hear her from the closet, “You know the worst part?”
“Not a clue.” He answered back.
“I would have made those bitches green with envy. Have you seen this body lately? Hell, Sophia Loren would be asking me for advice.”
Lance came out of the closet, “Have I seen it lately?” He looked at his watch. “Not in the last ten seconds. So, can I get a peek before I go back to the meeting I’m skipping right now?”
Lance was twenty minutes late to his meeting and Kevin didn’t even give him shit about the smile he couldn’t keep off his face.
Scott was purposely sitting alone at his table in the club. The few girls who might be interested in him couldn’t get past the ‘stay the fuck away’ vibe he was projecting.
The club’s music reverberated through his body, the noise threatening to overwhelm his new abilities. Gabrielle had told him there was no time like the present to learn how to cope. He nursed his Drambuie, neat. He was dressed all in black, his fair skin a counterpoint to his somber dress and attitude. The booth had little light shining down on it, leaving his face in shadows.
Some guys would normally be aggressive and try to push out a single person taking up a whole booth. They would take one look at his arms and decide there were better ways to ruin their night.
Scott had asked specific questions. The type that would have mattered when he was patrolling the streets in New York. He figured they would also matter in Germany.
He learned there was another global truth. Assholes acted the same whether they were from America, Germany or parts unknown.
He had learned that his mark frequented this club. He and his posse would always sit at this table. If it was already occupied they would ‘convince’ the occupants that they wanted to party elsewhere. Any of the ladies were ‘welcome to stay’, of course.
Bump bump bump, da da bump, bump bump. The beat was giving him a headache. How the hell did vamps deal with this shit?
Scott lifted his gaze as two beers clomped onto his table. He had been aware of the group coming towards him. Had he wanted, they would all have died before they realized they had even been noticed.
“Table’s taken gents, find another.” Scott kept his language in English. Although, he had attempted to learn German. Apparently his new abilities and talents didn’t include wrapping his head around a new language. Fucking Darryl was picking them up like kids grabbing candy off the ground when the piñata was broken.
A third bottle was set down between the first two. His mark leaned across the table and gave Scott a damned malicious glare. Scott had to give the dick credit, he had ‘nasty vibe’ down pat. This creep would be evil no matter what he was doing. That he was connected to the terrorists had nothing to do with his religious beliefs. Like others back through time, this ass was using religion as justification for doing evil while calling it good.
“I don’t think we need to find another. It’s just you with such a large table. We need it significantly more. Plus,” The mark leaned forward a little more. “I was always spoiled as a child, I throw a fit when I don’t get what I want, and I want this table.”
Scott downed the rest of his drink. The alcohol wasn’t doing shit for him. Even the honey taste of the Drambuie wasn’t covering some of the less savory flavors his palate experienced now. None of the guys had considered possible changes to their taste buds. Beer tasted like shit now. Lesson learned, if a little late.
Scott leaned towards the guy, “Listen…” He cocked his head slightly, allowing the guy to fill in the blank.
“Call me Peter.”
Yup, that was one of three names his mark would sometimes use. Scott was pretty good with faces, but he would feel bad if he fucked up the wrong guy.
“Peter … I’m Scott. Unfortunately for you, this table isn’t yours. Not now, not later tonight, not anymore.”
Scott put both hands on the table, palms down as if he was going to get up.
Peter’s face transformed from nasty vibe to unrighteous fury. His right hand reached under his jacket and pulled out a switchblade. He flicked it open and waved it in Scott’s face. “You have five seconds to get your ass out of my space you fucking ugly-ass American!”
Scott smiled, “Or?”
Peter’s face went from furious to maniacal, “This!” He turned the knife in his palm and slammed it down through Scott’s left hand, pinning it to the table. Peter’s two friends closed in, waiting to dance to the soundtrack of pain and agony.
They both stopped their jumping around when Scott merely glanced down at his hand and looked back at Peter, “That the best you got?”
Peter was caught off guard because this prick didn’t even flinch! His hand was impaled to the table, blood seeping out of the wound. The napkin for his drink was starting to turn red as the fresh blood seeped into it.
All three watched in confusion as he reached over with his right hand and easily pulled the knife out of the table. Not even reacting to the pain he must have felt as the knife exited his wound. Scott looked up, “So, ‘Peter’, are you man enough to put your hand on the table?”
Peter knew that whatever drugs this guy was on, he personally wasn’t fucked up enough to let anyone cut through his hands. Just the healing alone would scar him plus he would certainly lose ability in his hand.
That was when Peter noticed that the bloody left hand was healing. He looked up to the guy’s face and back to his hand. Then back to his face, his mouth open. “Maybe we have the wrong table.”
Peter was looking Scott dead in the face when Scott’s visage turned. No longer was there a brooding American in front of him, but rather the Grim Reaper had made an appearance. Scott’s smile barely showed any teeth as his eyes grew dark, impossibly dark. Peter’s blood drained from his face.
The feeling of impending death started crawling up his neck. His two friends were already turning to run away as Peter stepped back and put up his hands. “No! Leave me alone!” His blood racing, Peter was about to turn and force his way back through the crowd. That was when he felt the hardest damn punch to his stomach it would ever be his misfortune to feel. He went to his knees, gasping for breath. His chest felt like it was on fire as he struggled to get his breathing back in sync. His eyes closed, tears starting to travel down his face from pain and fear. He barely felt a hand grasp his collar to pull him upright.
Scott held on to Peter’s collar and reached behind him to grab one of the untouched beers. He took a swig and his face scrunched up in disgust. “God, that’s revolting!” He put it back on the table. He turned to the guy in his hand, “come with me, Mustafa Ali Abrahm. You have a date with destiny, and she’s the queen of bitches.”
Scott slipped another hundred to the bouncer on his way out. He smiled as he took the prick down the street. He heard the bouncer’s mumbled comment, “Good to see that trash get taken out.”
Apparently, good little Mustafa here wasn’t universally loved.
Mustafa was slowly becoming aware of his plight as Scott steered him down the second alley away from the club. They had only travelled twenty feet before it was pitch black.
Mustafa Ali Abrahm, terrorist, killer and supporter of all things evil looked around, his eyes straining to see into the inky black. He couldn’t break the grip of the man who held him. His terror was already threatening to overwhelm him when a voice, like silk on steel came from everywhere and nowhere.
“Look what one of my own has brought me tonight. It’s a piece of trash this world has been crying out to be rid of. Let’s see what you have to tell me little rat, before you get sent so very, very far away.”
Mustafa turned his head, his mind going completely numb as he came face to face with the glowing red eyes of a demon.
Five minutes later, a scream was heard for just a split-second before it suddenly cut-off. The echo lost itself quickly in the early morning noise of music spilling out of clubs.
TEAM BMW - En Route to Colorado Base - USA
William was stretched out, as well as his huge body could, in the leather seat of the G550 Bethany Anne owned. “Seems almost stupid, flying to Miami in a SHLY and then hitching a ride from Miami to Colorado.” He placed his hands behind his head and closed his eyes. Stupid or not, he was going to enjoy the amenities.
Marcus was across the aisle from him, Bobcat was on his side, their seats facing each other.
Bobcat replied, “Can’t have the grunts wondering how people keep showing up without having flown in or driving in through the front gate. Just be thankful Bethany Anne didn’t make us fly from Europe, that would have been a hell of a long trip.”
“Power supplies.” Marcus’s voice cut through their conversation.
Bobcat and William were accustomed to Marcus just blurting out a phrase with no context. They just figured the rest of the conversation had already happened in his head. They just needed to hit the Marcus rewind button and take him off mute.
“Come again?” Bobcat got Marcus’s attention. “You were saying something about power supplies?”
Marcus put aside some of the papers he was working on. He pulled out a yellow legal pad that he occasionally used to write down ideas. “Yes, I noted here that power and power supplies would be a useful capability to have for our own efforts. For example, William needs a lot of power. Just one …” Marcus’s voice trailed off as he looked down at his yellow pad and started to write mathematical calculations on his pad.
Bobcat looked over at William, “Ten seconds?”
William nodded, “Yeah, but I win if it goes over.” William pulled up his wrist and hit a button on his watch. “Time.”
Both men waited patiently before Marcus’s head came back up and looked like he was going to provide the rest of his answer. William hit his watch button again. “Damn, 9.2 seconds.” He reached around to get his wallet out and handed a five-dollar bill to Bobcat.
Marcus continued speaking, neither noticing nor caring what his two teammates were doing. “It would require two engines at the most, and they could supply all of William’s power needs. Even for the shop he had designed for the Ad Aeternitatem. Most likely, one would be enough unless every electrical device was turned on at the same time. I doubt that a single engine could deal with the massive spike in power.”
Bobcat decided to ask Marcus a question, “How big of an engine can we produce right now? Are we limited to the size that we are using for the SHLY’s?”
Marcus got this faraway look in his face, before focusing back on Bobcat. “We can probably build engines approximately 40% more powerful than what we have right now. However, we are limited in size due to the size of the devices we can place inside TOM’s ship.”
Bobcat continued, “How are we going to run larger ships? I’m sure we’re not expected to take these little Pods all over the solar system!”
William joined in, “An engine approximately 40% more powerful would be able to produce a lot of spare power if it didn’t have to deal with forces of atmosphere and gravity.”
Marcus looked over at William, “True, but it’s not going to get you to 256C, for something like that we’re going to need to use TOM’s ship.”
Bobcat resumed his conversation, “Are you telling me that for anything to get out of our solar system we have to bum a ride on TOM’s ship? I don’t think that’s going to fly with Bethany Anne.”
Marcus looked back down at his notes moving a couple of sheets of paper to the side and picking up one that was four layers deep, “I suppose we can add more engines in series to run it. However, we might lose some efficiency that way making sure that they are all synced. I’ll have to do some work on that.”
William asked Marcus, “How about we just learn how to build the big engines? How hard is that going to be.”
Marcus looked back at William, “Can’t you allow me the enjoyment of being the only man who has accomplished the engines we have to date before putting such a large challenge in front of me?”
Bobcat pointed a finger at Marcus, “If those aliens show up in the system anytime soon, I don’t think Bethany Anne is going to appreciate you sitting on your ass. She won’t be happy if you’re not applying yourself to the larger engines.” He softened his rebuke with a smile.
Marcus shrugged, “Well, those of us in research usually take a little longer to enjoy the spoils of our success than those in commerce. It could explain why commerce kicks our ass all of the time.”
William leaned back in his chair, closing his eyes. “Better commerce kicking your ass than Bethany Anne doing it.”
Marcus nodded, “Good point, I’ll get started on the larger engine concepts with TOM right away.”
The team rested until the jet kissed the tarmac and rolled into Hangar 1. The hangar was reserved for this jet, anyone coming off (no matter how pedestrian looking) were always treated as VIPs. The landing crew had instructions to prep the jet for departure in two hours. William spoke with Paul Jameson who happened to be piloting this time. It wasn’t William’s job to take care of the craft anymore, but he wanted a quick peek under the girl’s skirt. Paul didn’t mind a second opinion on how his plane was performing so he would touch base with William the next flight out.
The three team members gathered their duffels and got ready to see their new garage.
Bobcat was first off of the plane and noticed a man who had to have just become a civilian. He had the look of someone who wore civilian clothes however the look wasn’t fitting him yet.
Bobcat went over to him, “Bobcat, Team BMW.”
The guy replied, “Kevin McCoullagh, Base Commander.” They shook and Bobcat introduced the two behind him, “This is William, he’s in charge of manufacturing. And this is an honest-to-god rocket scientist, Marcus Cambridge.”
Kevin shook all of their hands and spoke, “Happy to meet you all. Lance said I should come over and introduce myself. I’ll take you to the new ‘Garage’ area. The three were surprised when they were directed away from the main area of the base. Kevin led them to the right of hangar 1. “Sorry, but the only other way to get to Hangar 18 is either this long trip around the side or a really long walk that takes us down into the mountain. After that we would need to climb back up before reaching the back entrance.” Kevin pointed them to a small cart, “We are going to use that to run over there.”
Marcus asked, “Did you say Hangar 18?”
Kevin laughed, “Yeah, we rarely ever used the hangar as it was built back during WW II, but the location wasn’t good for our normal logistics. Plus, it’s a pain-in-the-ass to get from the main operations area to this hangar. Lance thought it was the best place to locate you guys.” Everyone got in the cart and Kevin drove around the next two hangars and down an older concrete path. “We’ll have to get this path upgraded. It’s on the engineer’s punch list, but frankly not high enough.” To punctuate his comment, they hit a pothole in the little path and William reached up to rub his head where he had hit the cart top. “But the story they run around here is that back during the 50’s a few special projects were hidden back in the hangar since it has nothing else around it. Easy to see who doesn’t belong in the area. I’ve talked with Lance. He says that most of the guys during the last few decades loved to use it for parties, since it was so out of the way. He’s got a lot of new stuff coming in over there.”
The cart turned down a path and then went back up. Working inside the mountains, not everything was level all of the time. Turning right, their area came into view.
William whistled and Marcus’ eyes grew large. Bobcat wasn’t sure what he was expecting, but this sure as hell wasn’t it.
John Grimes checked his pistols and his protective gear. While he supposed he would be damn difficult to kill, he had no desire to find out what it would take should he get a bullet through his chest. After being informed of where his two little shit-heads were holed up, he had researched that area of Amsterdam.
The taxi driver had originally tried to tell him not to go to the address he provided. The driver said, “This area is not Holland, not Amsterdam.” It was purely a zone for those who supported sharia law within their country. The government had already listed it as a no-go zone. The police did not go there without their own armored carrier and a dozen men.
Even for a human who had fought Nosferatu, that might have given him pause. As one of Bethany Anne’s own guards he told the taxi driver to take him as close as he was willing to go. That turned out to be within three blocks of the outer limits of the neighborhood.
John got out of the taxi. His research had given him an appreciation for a city that easily dated to the 1200’s. Recent excavations suggested it could be 3,000 years older than that. He paid the taxi driver including a generous tip. He answered the query from the taxi driver with a negative. He wouldn’t need a pickup, that was already taken care of.
John had on him two pistols and his favorite knife, the one he received during the New York operation. His huge frame and clothes easily hid the armament and his extra magazines. The Netherlands had very hard and strict laws about those who can have guns. Basically only the police, and the few members of gun-clubs could have them only for sport. In the Netherlands self-defense is not considered a valid argument for owning a gun.
Maybe John’s evening was going to revive the argument one more time.
He had an address which was inside the tenements, three blocks inside this ‘no-go zone’. He supposed he could have tried to stay out of sight and jumped in and out as quickly as possible.
But … he was pissed! He had watched the news reports about the terrorist attacks in France and other terrorist acts elsewhere. This suburb had video of a girl being punched by a large dark youth for simply walking towards the area. Why? John felt it had more to do with the asshole’s ability to get away with the act than anything the jackass felt about his religion.
Yeah, well if your religion calls for the extermination of everyone that doesn’t believe, you had better make sure everyone is on your side. And you need to have overwhelming force. Because, eventually people will stop being willing to ‘understand’ and reply in kind.
Tonight was going to be an example of ‘reply in kind’!
John Grimes, member of The Queen Bitch’s personal Guard started walking down the street. He was headed towards the demarcation zone between a 900 year old city and a puss-sack of cancerous ass-munches.
If John Grimes was shown peace, he would respond with peace. If he was shown violence, then the crying and gnashing of someone’s teeth would go through the night and long into the next day.
John had terrorists to apprehend and the breakage between now and that moment would change lives forever. Those good people living here should not proactively protect those who do evil and then expect mercy.
John had left his mercy tied up back at the hotel room. He didn’t have the patience to deal with that shit tonight.
Colorado Base, Co - USA
Fucking huge! That was Bobcat’s first thought. There was a massive amount of activity and building happening on this side of the mountain.
Kevin started pointing out areas as he stopped the cart a good seventy yards from the construction. “Your area is actually in the mountain, which you can’t see from here. Lance had another area hollowed out, complete with a sliding roof. That area is completely sealed off and a real bitch to enter if the roof is closed. There is one main security entrance for your group which is from the inside. Lance has another set of research and development buildings with their own security, surrounding your core area. You have to make it through the outer security before you even reach the concrete walls that separate the two groups. There is a large group of solar panels being installed and there are other efforts under consideration that will camouflage the act of the roof being opened. Nothing will be able to see it unless someone has a spy in the sky above us. The other R&D guys should just assume you’re another group that doesn’t play nice with everyone else.”
William snorted, “That’s because we don’t.”
Bobcat slapped his friend on his shoulder, “Hey, don’t interrupt the tour guide.” Bobcat turned back towards the buildings, “Sorry Kevin, it’s so hard to get well-mannered engineering and manufacturing geniuses. You just gotta’ take what you can get.”
Kevin smiled, “I’ve got one of my own named Robert. I’ll tell you the story about his group. His group were practically ready to lynch the new base owner only to see General Lance Reynolds coming off the plane.” Kevin turned to point at the buildings, “so we have a huge amount of construction going on. There were a shit-ton of machines shipped in before we put up the main walls. I hope to god you don’t need anything major after that stuff was brought in. If you do, I’m not sure how the hell we will get it in.”
Marcus almost blurted out they would bring it in through the roof entrance. He wasn’t sure of exactly where Kevin was on the security tree. It sucked to not be able to brag about his new modification to a Pod. They now had two designs for material transfer craft. One for storing material in while the other would lift your container like a crane. Bobcat was wondering what to call them and had interrupted Marcus in the middle of one of his calculations. Poor Marcus had blurted out that ‘I don’t care if you call them little dicks, just give me some peace and quiet for a few more minutes.’
Now they were designated WEE-WLYS. William had come back from eating and had wanted to know why the new designs were named after him? Bobcat had laughed for five straight minutes before he finally caught enough breath to get out they were named after a ‘William’ of sorts, but it wasn’t him. Bobcat never did explain which William the designs had been named for.
William noticed several locations in the surrounding mountain side being dug out, “What do we have going in up there?”
Kevin looked over to where William was pointing. “Air defense emplacements. I’m concerned about little spies-in-the-skies that aren’t satellites. I’ve talked with Jean Dukes on the Polarus. She told me she had the perfect solution. Then sent me specs to build a special foundation. I’m not sure what she’s sending, but I need to find a way to route power up there.”
Marcus joined in, “Power? How much?”
Kevin pulled out his tablet, “One sec.” He went through his notes and told Marcus the figures that Jean had provided him. Marcus asked if the concrete was poured yet. “No, why?”
Marcus looked at him and smiled, “If William can make sure that we rig a self-destruct option, I can build a self-contained energy source about the size of a six-inch cube that can deliver all the energy you need. We drop the source with wires into the concrete when you build it. Leave the wires … no ... pulling that much juice you’ll need cables. Leave the cables accessible to plug into a breaker box. You won’t have to route wires from an outside source.”
“How long would the power source last?”
“Longer than we need it to, call it a couple of hundred years minimum? Maximum could theoretically be a couple of thousand years… perhaps? Probably closer to four or five hundred due to degradation of the metal inside.”
Kevin whistled, “Holy shit. Is this more of that top-secret alien stuff Bethany Anne was talking about?”
Marcus was a little perturbed. Granted it was TOM’s technology, but he did want a little recognition for his part. “The basics are part of TOM’s technology, but I’ve changed some of the internals to use it as a power source.”
“Why don’t you sell little energy boxes?”
“Bethany Anne doesn’t want to let anyone know how we do any of this for a while. Aannnd… there is a very, very small chance if someone were to trip the insides wrong, it could blow.”
“What would the damage be?”
Marcus looked up at the location for the emplacement, “Well, a crater about ten feet in diameter. And whatever is on the top of the foundation would be launched some distance away. If it’s only a few hundred pounds, I suppose we should find it in this valley.”
“That’s…. some damage.”
Bobcat agreed, “Yeah, makes it a real bitch to get past the Environmental Protection Agency, let me tell you!”
“How safe is this power?”
William spoke, “It’s safe. Marcus doesn’t understand the idea behind ‘absolute’ and ‘safe enough’. I’ve had Marcus calculate the chances of a non-opened energy source failing and it is somewhere around a half-percent of the failsafe for nuclear reactors on aircraft carriers.”
Marcus grumped, “I understand the concepts just fine. It’s you Neanderthals that work with fuzzy numbers and can’t ask appropriately refined questions and then bitch when my answer comes back with the same sort of vague response.”
“You guys ready to see your area?” Kevin put the cart into gear and started turning them around when getting their chorus of ‘hell yeah’!’
“It’s going to take a little while to get there, but I think you’re going to like it just fine.”
Bobcat’s mind was working frantically. They had built the SHLY 2.0s quite quickly after their return from Turkey. Most of the work had been farmed out to other TQB businesses, none of them getting too much of the project. The Pods were actually pretty simple, if you didn’t count the glass and displays that were part of it. Other than the air system, the most complicated piece on any craft such as theirs would be the engines and directional control. For right now, that was all taken care of via TOM’s ship and the new engines. They didn’t have to ‘build’ anything or run lines, coolant or any of that mess.
If Lance was providing such a large area for the Team BMW Garage, it could only mean that Bethany Anne had big-ass requirements to go along with their new big-ass garage. The bigger the garage Bobcat felt certain, the bigger the request coming at them.
Twenty-five minutes later Bobcat got a look at just how big his new garage was. He pursed his lips as William was acting like a ten-year-old hauling in a huge Christmas as he went from one expensive and unique manufacturing machine to the next. Some of them cost over a million each. Marcus had his own glassed in room filled with computers and other stuff Bobcat couldn’t pronounce.
No, it wasn’t the millions of dollars in William’s equipment that told Bobcat they had an impossible task in front of them. It wasn’t the amazing and rare tools and scientific equipment that had been purchased for Marcus that assured it.
No, what told him that they had a hell of a challenge ahead of them was in the middle of the floor. Right smack-dab under the circular area that would become a motorized roof. He walked over to it.
A tear slowly leaked down Bobcat’s face as he put his hand out to touch the brand new Sikorsky UH-60M sitting in the landing area, looking like she was ready to scream up through the opening. He noticed off to one side, the different weapons and support kits that William would be playing with in short order.
Bethany Anne had just told him in her very unique way that she was proud of him and his team.
Bobcat opened the door and pulled himself into his new Black Hawk helicopter.
Shelly would fly again.
Mohammed Aslaki was hanging out two blocks from the outer area that led into the Muslim only neighborhood. He was the lookout. His job, as boring as it could be, was to see if any non-Muslim looked like they were going to try to cross the demarcation line. He hadn’t noticed the huge white man until his shadow blocked the light from across the street and then was past him.
Mohammed reached into his jacket and pulled out his phone. He sent a short text message and put it back. Sometimes he would follow the mark to see if they were stupid enough to try to move into an area where even the police feared to tread. Fear was good, fear was power. Unfortunately fear also stopped the occasional fire or ambulance crew from coming inside their area. The community leaders just told them that it made everyone reliant on each other, which was better for the group.
Now Mohammed observed the carriage of the big man walking straight into their area. Mohammed decided he would keep his ass right here on his step. Who knew, the big guy might have back-up. Mohammed decided that hearing the stories would be enough for him this time.
He later figured that it was one of the smartest decisions he had made in his sixteen years on this earth.
John passed the youth sitting on the step and could hear him rustling behind him. Probably a look-out, he thought. However, John had expected to be seen. Hell, he wanted to be seen! He thought about walking into the middle of the street and grinned. No need to be a complete idiot about this. It would look damn silly to be striding down the middle of the street, and then have to skedaddle over to the side if someone tried to run him down with a car. Now that, he concluded, would be fucking embarrassing.
Dusk finally settled to true night as he walked the last three blocks. Sure enough dumb and dumber, two security types, were lounging against a couple of light poles. As John got closer the one to his left, dressed in a yellow jacket, left his pole and strode across the street to join his compatriot. Neither guy was very big. One was probably in his early twenties, the other not much older. Both had a long and lean look complete with menacing dark eyes that were turned his way.
He didn’t want to scare these two right away. He continued walking and both stepped off the curb and moved toward him. The older of the two was wearing the yellow jacket, his friend was sporting a black one. Yellow jacket guy put out a hand as John stepped off of his own curb. He met them in the middle of the street.
He said something John didn’t understand. John’s language skills weren’t up to snuff yet, so he merely shrugged his shoulders and kept walking. The guy on the right set his feet. Yellow jacket switched to English, “You will stop, this area is not for you.”
John was a few steps from them, “Sorry bud, I’ve got people that I need to speak with and since they are in there I’m going in.” That was all the guy on the right needed to hear to throw his punch.
To John it felt like he had all the time in the world to decide what to do. He considered putting his forehead in the way of the punch, that would most likely break dick-twattle’s hand. He dropped that option and considered breaking the fool’s neck.
He sighed to himself, too deadly too soon.
John’s hand reached out and casually caught jerk-off’s arm. He pulled a little to force ‘black jacket guy’ to place his weight on his right leg. John promptly smashed in the kneecap with a kick. Black jacket’s face went from angry to astonished and then filled with pain when his broken knee buckled underneath him. John released the arm.
’Yellow jacket dude’ on his left had pulled a baton out from under his jacket. He had his arm just about all of the way back to provide John a serious re-education using pain as the teacher. John raised his left arm to block the blow. Both men heard the explosive ‘crack’ when the baton slammed into John’s forearm. Yellow jacket was shocked when he noticed that half of his weapon was missing. He wasn’t in shock for long. One right cross to his jaw and he didn’t think about anything as his body was thrown back. He landed hard and didn’t move at all. The first prick was still making a horrible noise, so John grabbed a pistol and struck him in the head shutting him up. Now he had two comatose bodies.
Sliding the pistol back into its holster he grabbed both guys and pulled them back to the curb where he dropped them. He didn’t mind killing someone, but it wouldn’t be due to his carelessness. They weren’t going to be run over by a car because he had left them in the street.
Three more blocks to go. He made it all the way to the next block when he noticed three more guys waiting for him. It sounded like another four sets of footsteps were running in his direction.
He cracked his knuckles and smiled into the night. He noticed a big chunk of brick sailing over the heads of the three in front of him. Son-of-a-bitch, it would actually have hit him. Good fucking arm whoever had thrown that. He reached out and caught the rock, stopping it in mid-flight as it reached him. Pulling the rock back to look at it, he bounced it in his hand a couple of times. That’s when he noticed a guy behind the group in front of him throw another rock.
“If you wanted to play catch, you should at least let me know. Here, catch!” John watched the second rock coming his direction as he flung his rock straight at the thrower, hitting him in his chest. John heard the crunching of bones as the guy went flying back. John caught the second rock with his left hand. Two of the three in front of him had turned around to see what had happened to their buddy. Their air support, unfortunately, was not in good shape. His labored breathing and the blood coming out of his mouth would certainly attest to that.
One of the sets of running steps went over to the rock thrower to see if they could help him. John knew there wouldn’t be much that could be done for him. He would bet a large sum of money that his lung was punctured. He would most likely die from asphyxiation.
The three extras bolstered the group in front of him to six. John was ready to respond aggressively if they pulled guns, but he doubted that would occur since that would pull the government down on them. Their leader was the only one wearing the more traditional clothes, a robe looking shirt thing over pants. He quickly looked to see who was with him before he rattled off a string of commands. John understood just enough to know it was a command to take care of the infidel who dared to come into their area, but not much else.
Funny, thought John, wouldn’t the original people who owned this country be a little peeved to have their hospitality treated so cavalierly? If the Muslim people hadn’t been allowed to stay here fifty years before, what would have been the situation for this country and the forty no-go zones right now? John doubted they would have religious extremists living right in the heart of one of their major cities.
No appreciation sometimes.
The other five in the group were wearing jeans and shirts. Two pulled out their own night-stick looking weapons with two others pulling knives.
“No salaam?” John grinned as the group rushed him, his face turning hard. “Then no peace is returned.”
John’s right fist slammed into the leader’s face, the man’s head rocketing back as his feet slipped out in front of him. By the time his head cracked on the concrete sidewalk, John was ducking the second guy’s knife. John knew that he needed to just break through to the other side. He could have foolishly stood his ground, and Mama Grimes had always been adamant that he shouldn’t throw the first punch. But he had damned better be throwing the last punch or she would light a fire on his ass when he got home from a lost fight.
John twisted in a counter-circle, bringing his left hand with the rock up to slam into the third guy’s face, blood exploded from a broken nose as he ran full tilt into John’s hit.
John threw up his right hand and caught one of the sticks on a downward blow. His left punch doubled-over prick number four. John took that sad-sack’s stick away and used it to parry a knife swing coming from his left. He quickly reversed his arm swing and cracked the second stick holder upside his head. That guy went down so quickly John wasn’t sure anyone was going to wake him back up.
John set his right leg and swung his left in a snap kick to the knife holder’s head. It popped back with a loud ‘crack’. John was damn sure he wasn’t waking back up, not with a broken neck!
John’s momentum carried him back around completing a one hundred and eighty degree turn. The knife fighter had recovered and had already turned to face him. While the ex-stick holder was busy trying to breathe John stepped up and cracked him in the back of his head. He went to kiss the pavement.
Five down, one or two of them possibly forever. Broken nose guy was trying to get his bearings. A broken nose is its own sack of pain, the tearing it causes makes seeing a bitch. John hit that guy in the skull on his way to the last guy who was almost pissing himself trying to figure out how to come at John.
While the little bit of eye movement from the knife wielder would have tipped John off, his better hearing allowed John to hear the rock coming at him from behind. John’s malicious grin caused the knife holder to pause momentarily, John whipped around and caught the rock. He then completed his circle and threw the same rock to crush the knife holder’s forehead. He dropped immediately.
John turned back around towards the rock thrower. He walked towards the guy, who had put up his hands in fear. Obviously, this person was a hanger-on not a truly aggressive sort. Sucked to be him.
John started bouncing the rock in his left hand, staring at the now blubbering guy. Fear had frozen him in his spot allowing John to cross half a block and walk straight up to him. John didn’t say a word, merely punched him hard enough to drop him where he stood.
John looked over and noticed that the original rock thrower had died. John dropped his rock. He continued down the street leaving eight guys littering the street behind him.
The silence he heard was the collective breath of surprise that occurred when violence happened so quickly and so forcefully. Those who lived in this area were used to owning their land, so to speak. Unfortunately, there is almost always someone bigger and stronger able to take it away from you. That was the point of negotiation. You negotiate so people like John didn’t arrive to force you to negotiate.
John found the address of the tenement building and walked through the front door. The apartment he was looking for was up on the third floor and he took the stairs. The tenement was older, but the inside was in decent condition. This wasn’t like the slums in America. Rather it was a location of people who joined together for support. Unfortunately, ugly people had taken the idea of community and worked it into something evil. John reached the third floor and turned to his right. The apartment door he was looking for was two down on his left. As he came up to it, he could hear the music playing inside. The pricks were having a party! For their sakes he hoped it was a good one. He was about to knock on the door when he heard the distinct click of a shell being chambered. Son-of-a-bitch! These pricks knew he was coming and had set up the music to cover their actions. One thing about Nosferatu, John considered, they were nasty and they were fast but unlike fighting humans, they were rarely very smart.
John drew both of his pistols making sure the safeties were off. He took two steps back to stand next to the far wall.
John made two loud stomps on the ground and then kicked the door open, twisting to his left to get out of the doorway. A moment later all hell broke loose as guns inside the apartment riddled the far wall with their bullets. John could hear two pistols and one assault rifle being fired.
John heard a command to stop firing. He set his foot and pushed off blazingly fast, twisting to his left so he could see back into the apartment. He saw enough of a person to aim a shot at their leg before finishing his track across the doorway opening. Fresh shots rang out with new bullet holes tearing up the far wall. John took a couple of steps away from the door then turned and started to run into the doorway. He had just started his run when a grenade came floating out into the hallway. He sped up to dive through the apartment’s doorway and covered his head.
The explosion rocked the building. John pushed off the floor looking for any targets of opportunity. He found the guys had covered themselves well. He shot one he didn’t recognize as being a mark in the head, splattering his brains across the couch. A second turned and was trying to run to a back room when John shot him in the ass. That prick fell down, his dropped gun clattering ahead of him. Turning to his right, John used his left hand to shoot ass-munch again in the leg. He turned back to see the first person he had shot trying to grab his gun and swing it up enough to get a bead on John. John took a step and then kicked it out of his hand.
John holstered his pistols then reached down to grab the first guy, easily pulling him up with one arm. “You just rolled snake eyes ass hole!”
John dragged the first prick behind him as he walked toward the second. That guy was almost in a fetal position trying to grab both his ass and his leg at the same time. He was loudly cussing at John, fluently in at least three different languages. John grabbed his shirt and pulled him up a foot off the floor, before quickly shoving him back down and bouncing his head against the ground. It worked very well to silence his complaints.
John appreciated the peace and quiet he was getting from this guy. John picked him up and threw him over his shoulder, then pulling up the second who was still complaining about his bullet hole. John noticed he had at least four areas of his own, pierced by either shrapnel or wood splinters. “Oh shut the fuck up, you got one measly bullet! I’m bleeding out of four holes, what a fucking pansy.”
That only caused his second mark to start babbling in a language John didn’t recognize. John tightened his grip on the guy then quickly bashed his head against the wall, successfully shutting him up as his head lolled around.
John threw him over his shoulder as well and walked out of the apartment. John turned on ‘fear mode’, making sure nobody would be opening a door to try to follow him. He could hear one door slam shut on the floor beneath him.
John walked past the stairs to a door at the end of the hall and kicked it open. These were the stairs to go up to the roof and John took them. Once outside he laid his two marks on the ground and turned to secure the door as best he could. He pulled his phone out and sent a short nonsensical text message. He walked over to the edge of the building and looked down. He noticed a relatively large group starting to assemble a couple of buildings away. He shrugged his shoulders, there was no time to play. He walked back to his two marks as he heard something quickly moving in his direction.
The Pod landed on top of the building, its dark color hiding it well. The door opened and Gabrielle stepped out. As John raised an eyebrow, she spoke. “Bethany Anne happens to be busy. Plus, according to her, these two pricks might have names we need so they’re going with us.”
She checked both people and joked with John, “Couldn’t you have been just a little bit less violent? I’m going to have to give this prick a little blood to make sure he doesn’t check out on us too early.”
John looked up and noticed another Pod coming down to them. That explained how all four would get back to the ship. He shrugged his shoulders, “Frankly, his whining really pissed me off.”
Gabrielle grabbed one of them and dragged him over to her Pod. The man’s weight was not even a concern for her. “Yeah, well, you’re going to have to clean his blood out of my Pod because I’m not doing it!”
John grimaced, “Lovely.”
TQB Base - Co - USA
“Well, that’s a fine ‘fuck you, too!’” Bobcat pushed back from his side of the table in frustration. While each of them had an office, they liked working with each other so they pulled tables out into their huge shop area and set up their computers and laptops there. Occasionally Marcus would go play with his scientific toys in the area built for him and William had set up some sound baffles around the CNC and 3D printing machines to keep the noise down.
Bobcat had been using the Internet and now had just finished researching the complete restrictions and rules related to space launches. He was frustrated as hell. First, the documentation was harder to read than even some of the military documentation he was accustomed to and second it was related to exo and endo thermic propulsion. Marcus had assured him that neither set of regulations were relevant for what they were attempting.
Bobcat had been studying the electronic Code of Federal Regulations (eCFR) for launch regulations and it didn’t matter which way he read it, they weren’t going to get approval to launch anything. Another issue was there was no way Bethany Anne would permit anyone to examine their content for a ‘Payload Review’ and only government payloads weren’t reviewed. It would be hard to explain all the parts needed for building a base on the far side of the moon. This was Team BMW’s next impossible task and had been handed to them a couple of days before. Fortunately, Shelly had flown like a dream and flying the helicopter had eased some of his tension.
Bethany Anne didn’t want much, she only wanted a Space Station. Oh, and could you have it ready to go in the next six months, pretty please? She had explained that putting a space station in Low Earth Orbit, her first desire, would be just daring one of the governments to shoot at them. If they put it on the far side of the moon, it would make it much more difficult to hurt her team and they would have more time to deal with anything or anyone sent to them. Plus, she liked the idea of drilling into the Moon for additional space.
Due to the restrictions on launches, Bobcat had been beating his head against the table all morning long.
Marcus looked out from behind his laptop, “Problems?”
Bobcat was rubbing his eyes, “Yes! No two ways about it, we aren’t going to launch anything legally here in the states.”
“Well as near as I can figure out, they have all sorts of safety regulations so you don’t blow up on launch. Then they want to ensure that if the payload falls back to earth there isn’t a safety issue coming down. And they don’t want your payload causing some environmental disaster if it crashes.”
“Why are we lifting off from inside the United States again?”
Bobcat took his hands away from his eyes, “It’s easier?”
“Well what’s going to let them know that we are lifting off? There won’t be any bright lights and flame. No noise, we can reduce the radar signature to a pretty small area depending on what size you want to take up. What size do you want to take up?”
Bobcat stared at Marcus for a moment. What size did he want?
William interjected. “Are you having the same internal discussion that we had last time with the rocket?”
Bobcat turned to look over at William, “Maybe?”
William snorted, “Sounds like probably.”
Marcus chimed in, “Rather more approaching unity.”
Both men looked at Marcus but it was Bobcat that spoke, “Unity?”
Marcus nodded, “Of course, 100% is the same as one and one in mathematics is unity.”
Bobcat frowned, “Then why not just say ‘one-hundred percent’?”
Marcus smiled, “Would you believe I’m a crazy rocket scientist if I don’t spout off some scientific phraseology from time to time?”
Bobcat shrugged, “Beats the hell out of me. Ok, smart-asses one and two. How would you guys ship stuff up to the moon?”
William shrugged, “Cargo containers?”
Bobcat looked at William, his face incredulous. Marcus just said, “Genius!”
Bobcat turned to Marcus, “Can we lift cargo containers?”
Marcus opened the chat program on his computer, “One second.”
While waiting for Marcus to talk with TOM, Bobcat turned to William. “That would be kick-ass if it works. We could store all the stuff in the containers and prep them to go and launch them all at the same time. Even if we get caught making an unauthorized launch they couldn’t stop the shipment.”
William asked, “Why would we get caught? Spray the anti-radar goop we use for the Pods on them and ship it all upstairs. Besides, who would believe someone who said they saw a ‘cargo container’ flying in the sky?”
Bobcat started laughing, he needed to release some of his tension and the idea that they would have their rockets right out in the base’s fields, in plain sight with no one the wiser tickled his fancy.
“Two.” Marcus declared. He looked up at Bobcat and William. “TOM suggests two engines each placed one quarter of the way from each end of the container and affixed to the top of the cargo containers. Keep the weight distributed evenly and we should be good to go.”
“Hot Damn!” Bobcat grinned, “Where there is a will…”
He stepped over to William who put up his hand for a high-five and finished the saying with Bobcat, “There is a way!”
Bobcat took a few more steps and grabbed the whiteboard that was on wheels and pulled it closer. It had all the major categories they needed to consider. Basic things like food and water, shelter, air, toilets and hygiene facilities. More columns for power, laboratories, landing area, habitation modules, storage and equipment areas. So long as they could lift from Earth, they would be able to resupply the station indefinitely. Bethany Anne had told them to plan for the worst and assume it needed to be self-supporting.
That was why they were intending to build their base on the ‘dark side of the moon’. That way, they wouldn’t be directly in view from Earth and no one would be able to see what they were doing right away. Add a few just in-case weapon emplacements and they should be able to build the facility they needed without interference. Bethany Anne claimed they would be building much larger ships complete with a support infrastructure. As soon as the lunar base was complete she would need someone to explore the possibility of mining asteroids for raw materials.
Initially they would need to plan and construct as many pieces as they could on earth. An endeavor that needed to happen with as few people as possible knowing what they were doing.
Bobcat picked up a dry erase marker and used it to scratch the back of his head, “William, that was impressive. Do you know how many cargo containers we could have sitting right in the middle of the base and no one would question it?”
William thought for a second, “If they aren’t in anyone’s way? Dozens at a minimum.”
Bobcat thought out-loud, “I imagine if we get Kevin involved he will just tell someone they are related to the base construction. If we stack them…”
Marcus interrupted, “Can’t stack them, the engines are going to be on the top.”
William asked, “Could we weld them to the ceiling inside the container? If we have these things laying around with large cubes welded to the top that might look odd to a lot of people.”
Bobcat continued, “We should be able to coat them better if we don’t have to deal with the engines on the outside.”
Marcus was reading his screen, “TOM says that placing them on the inside isn’t a problem. They just need to be equal distance from the edges and each other. So a third from each end not a quarter. I misunderstood his original comment.”
Bobcat was looking at his list, “How many do we need?”
William responded, “Intermodal cargo containers are usually 40 feet long and either eight foot six inches or nine foot six inches tall. They are eight feet wide. Depending on what length we get, shorter ones can be moved with a forklift. We might want climate controlled units…”
Bobcat interrupted, “For outer space?”
Marcus chimed in, “Sure, to keep heat in, right William?”
“Well, I guess we have the beginnings of a plan. I just don’t know how we are going to explain to Bethany Anne that her space base is a bunch of cargo containers.”
Marcus shrugged, “Paint them? That always made my first wife happy.”
Bobcat considered Marcus’s idea. The outsides would be black and not much could be done about that. However, once they figured out how to prepare the inside for habitation Bobcat was going to contact Ecaterina for advice on how to make it feel ‘homey’.
Washington D.C. - USA
Barbara Nickers wrinkled her nose. A neighbor’s cat had gotten into her garage and in an attempt to be a good Samaritan she had caught and returned it. Even though she had gone back inside her house and had taken a shower and put on a fresh outfit, her allergies had been bothering her all morning. She had stuffed the contaminated outfit in a plastic bag and tied it shut. She had tossed it into the trunk and dropped it off at the dry cleaners on her way to work.
She had been working for the last couple of hours when a couple of persons of interest from the Anthony Chillenni file appeared in a report from the Netherlands. It seems that a large Caucasian man went into a very inhospitable neighborhood, killing multiple people and kidnapping two suspected terrorists, then just disappeared. Now all of a sudden the Muslim locals were demanding that the police come in and do something about the ‘crimes against their brothers’.
The unidentified man had left five dead and one in a coma with multiple critical wounds. There had been a firefight on the third floor of a tenement. The report claimed multiple gun-shots and one grenade had been tossed into the mix. One dead in the apartment.
They did have some blood from the man involved but when it was tested something had rendered it useless. The suspect took the two men up to the roof and just disappeared.
Barb thought it was a pretty impressive operation. She might like to buy that man a drink! Just getting into one of those extremist friendly neighborhoods was a challenge, trying to get back out was usually a good way to get yourself a trip to the morgue. It was damned strange, seemed their suspect created all of the destruction on the way in and then left without a trace.
It wasn’t until later that day that Barb felt a chill when she found out three more names with possible links to Anthony Chillenni had disappeared over the last few weeks. One in Great Britain and two in Germany. Just like Anthony Chillenni, none of the bodies had been found.
The Queen Bitch’s Ship Ad Aeternitatem
CLANG CLANG… “You” CLANG CLANG SWISH “ARE”
CLANG - “OOF!” Gabrielle back peddled quickly to get out of Bethany Anne’s reach. The dirty conniving woman had used one of her blades to parry both of Gabrielle’s and then kicked her in the stomach. Gabrielle dropped, tucked and brought her blades back up crossed above her. CLANG!
Gabrielle smiled when her crossed swords caught Bethany Anne’s downward swing. She stopped smiling when Bethany Anne’s other sword slapped her ribs. “Mother Fucker!” Gabrielle went down on her left side, “Yield!” She lay panting on the workout mat. Bethany Anne sat down beside her, breathing hard as well.
“I was trying to say that you are getting a lot better.” Bethany Anne stopped talking to fill up on the wonderful air she was so desperately craving at the moment.
“Tell that to my ribs!” Gabrielle wheezed out.
Bethany Anne took a deep, calming breath, “They will heal, stop whining!” Ashur came over from the side of the work-out area heading right between the two women. Both women had to move a sword out of the way to make room as he unceremoniously plopped down between them.
Pete called from the side, “I don’t think he likes you two fighting!”
Bethany Anne, eyes closed, responded to him. “We aren’t fighting, I’m just getting her warmed up for her second round with you guys.”
Remembering all of the unflattering remarks they had yelled out to the women while they had fought, the Wechselbalg Guardians side of the work-out area suddenly became very quiet.
Bethany Anne called out, “Sucks to be you guys!”
She heard Matthew, forever the respectful one among the group, say under his breath. “I hope she knows I kept my mouth shut.”
Bethany Anne looked across the big furry white German Shepherd between them. “You about ready again?”
Gabrielle winked at Bethany Anne.
The little rat was fine she’d just been playing possum, lying there on the mat. Bethany Anne smiled as she called out, “Ready Set Go!” With ‘Go’, she grabbed Ashur and they both disappeared.
Gabrielle grabbed her swords. That bitch! She had to quickly roll away from the onslaught of Wechselbalg. Pete’s team had one saying that they fucking lived by.
‘Always be ready’!
Bethany Anne put her two swords into their katanakake then had a shower. Gabrielle really was a damned proficient sword fighter. With the improvements from their training Bethany Anne could no longer take on the whole team if she played fair. In fact, even if she had John with her, the four team members would take at least one out of every four sets. If she used all of her talents she could take them out but it took her a while as they were all getting damned good.
>> Bethany Anne, I now have access to the covert communications of the major world powers. <<
Bethany Anne toweled her hair.
What do you mean, the covert communications?
>>All major and minor nations have the ability to communicate and send covert communications between themselves and their allies. While most of these are through digital communications which I can track, some are passed non-digitally and I am still working to figure out ways to integrate tracking mechanisms. I have located approximately forty-two percent of the secured computers where these messages are either created or translated from their codes.<<
How the hell are you able to locate and listen in to forty-two percent of the world’s secured spy computers?
>>I’m piggy-backing on other world powers who were there before me.<<
So, you didn’t break in, but another world power has broken into the system and you’re listening to their eavesdropping?
In-fucking-credible. Who has broken into the most computers, the Chinese?
>>No the Israelis.<<
You’re shitting me!
>>Why would I do such a thing?<<
Man … keep your friends close and your enemies closer. So when I told you to build a network for covert communication consumption you went all out. Damn, next time remind me to ask you what you understand I’m telling you I want.
>>Is this not the answer to the action you requested? <<
Yes, I guess I just figured it would take you multiple steps.
>> How? <<
I would have to ask for a request, you would accomplish the first step then I would have to request you go deeper then loop this conversation ten times.
>>I’m not an ignorant super-computer, I can ‘think outside the box’.<<
>>I’m not capable of being prideful, I am merely explaining my abilities with easily understood explanations that hide the complexity of my effort.<<
You’re right, there is no humbleness in your statement.
>>Thank you for recognizing the truth of my statement. <<
Bethany Anne smiled, she both got her point in and figured out a way to check to see if ADAM had made his next big step to maturation.
Key Biscayne, Fl - USA
Bethany Anne, Lance and Patricia were enjoying a dinner out on the patio behind her house. She and Ashur had gone to ‘pick them up’ and bring them to Florida. It allowed for a casual dinner, enjoying the water and the gorgeous sunset as day faded into night.
Plus, it allowed everyone a few minutes to enjoy a little family time.
Lance had grilled out back and Patricia had made the side dishes, vegetables, and lots of them. Lance cut into his steak while Bethany Anne used her fork to point to the salad. “Patricia that salad is pretty good but why would you eat so much of it when we have key lime pie coming for desert?”
Patricia looked down at her salad with only lemon juice on it to bring out any flavors and her eyes quickly glanced to Lance then back. “It helps when keeping a lure in the water.”
Bethany Anne parsed her comment, “You mean when you were keeping yourself fit to catch my dad’s eye?” Bethany Anne noticed her dad flush and smile while he pretended his focus was on his steak. Wasn’t that the cutest little reaction?
“Well if you have to be so crass about it, then yes!” Patricia smiled and Bethany Anne noticed she had a nervous tick where she would start playing with her engagement ring if a sensitive question came up about how she’d felt about her dad for a long time.
Bethany Anne smiled, “Then you need to push that salad aside because I’m going to tell you a secret that will not only make you happy but you will love me forever.”
Patricia looked over at her future daughter-in-law, “Ummm, yes?” Patricia knew to be careful with Bethany Anne as she was just as capable of setting her up for something good as for something…less good.
“You don’t have to worry about calories, ever!” Bethany Anne punctuated her comment by reaching over and grabbing another roll and biting into it. “Mmmmm yummy carbs!”
Patricia looked at her salad, “Are you pulling my leg?”
Bethany Anne swallowed her mouthful, “Patricia, while I might joke about aliens attacking the earth, in fact I’ll probably do that once or twice just to lighten the mood, I would never joke about calories with another woman.”
Patricia very daintily folded her napkin up and set it to the side and excused herself. Bethany Anne leaned back in her chair eating another roll. Her father looked at Bethany Anne and raised one eyebrow and she answered his unasked question, “Delayed gratification.”
The sliding glass door opened and shut again behind Patricia who sat down and placed a large Buttermilk Ranch salad dressing bottle on the table along with the key lime pie. She placed her napkin back on her lap and opened the bottle and started pouring it liberally all over her salad. “I like salad but for me not having a good salad dressing is like eating a cake without icing.” She took her first bite of freshly drowned salad, “Mmm…God that is so good!” She smiled over at Lance and winked at him, “Mister, you better be ready to take care of your responsibilities tonight.” Lance laughed while Patricia kept eating.
Bethany Anne took it as a good sign that she wasn’t immediately getting embarrassed at the thought of her dad having sex. Letting Patricia eat, Bethany Anne decided to see if she could get a rise from her father. “Dad, who’s going to be best man for your wedding?”
Unfortunately for her Lance had no problem answering. “Kevin, I asked him and he said he’d be happy to oblige.”
Patricia wielded her fork like a nun with a pointer in Catholic School, “You better tell that man no tittie bars! I’m not having my man ruined right before my special day.” She turned her fork back around and stabbed a tomato on her plate.
Bethany Anne decided to turn the tables on Patricia since her dad hadn’t given her the response she wanted. “How about you Patricia? Who is going to be your maid of honor?”
Patricia smiled and looked over at Bethany Anne, “Well… actually I was kinda looking for a good time to ask if you would be my maid of honor.”
Lance Reynolds had seen a lot of things in his life but rarely, oh so rarely, had he ever witnessed his daughter rendered speechless. Even his bark of laughter at her plight didn’t change the ‘deer in the headlights’ look she had on her face. Her expression was… Priceless!
The Queen Bitch’s Ship Polarus
“Are you fucking KIDDING me?” Bethany Anne was laid out on her bed, Gabrielle and Ecaterina had joined her for a special ‘ladies only’ planning session.
Gabrielle shrugged, “What is so difficult aren’t you honored to be asked?”
Bethany Anne pulled a hand up off her left eye to peer at Gabrielle, “Of course I’m honored. It’s just I’ve never done anything like this before! For fuck’s sake it’s for my soon-to-be step-mother. What do I do if she chooses a hideous dress?” Bethany Anne hid her eyes again and mumbled in prayer, “God please don’t let it be taffeta, yours truly Bethany Anne.”
Ecaterina was amused. “Who is going to be the other two with you? Maybe they might have some way to help her choose something not too hideous?”
Bethany Anne sat up and rubbed her eyes. “That is actually a different issue. The changes to Patricia’s body are already pretty dramatic so she doesn’t feel like she can invite anyone she knew B-C, Before-Change. So… she’s asked me to invite two ladies she admires greatly.”
Gabrielle clapped her hands, “Really? Oh, this is just delicious! Can I be there when you ask them?”
Bethany Anne cocked an eye at Gabrielle, “A little blood-thirsty aren’t we?”
Gabrielle smiled, “No pun intended?”
Bethany Anne rolled her eyes.
Gabrielle continued, “I’ve lived a long time and I’ve been to many weddings, well if they were held at night.” She paused and looked up, thinking. “Damn, this is going to be my first daytime wedding in five hundred and thirty-four years…” She looked at Bethany Anne who had such an astonished expression it was surprising. Gabrielle thought back over what she had just said to figure out why… The blood drained from her face, “Oh. My. God.” She covered her face with her hands so her voice was muffled, “I think I want to die now.”
Meanwhile Ecaterina had thrown herself on Bethany Anne’s bed and was laughing so hard Bethany Anne was sure they could hear her over on the Ad Aeternitatem. Even with Ecaterina laughing directly into her duvet.
Bethany Anne pushed her and then slapped her hard on the ass. “Damn Ecaterina, stop laughing your Were-cooties into my sheets!” She turned back to Gabrielle who had walked over to lay down on the couch.
Gabrielle moaned, “You’re never going to let me live this down, are you?” She looked over to regard her queen.
Bethany Anne tapped her finger against her lip in mock concentration, then shook her head. “Nope, probably not, but I’m going to have to put it aside and unwrap that juicy nugget another time. If you can help me get the laughing hyena over here to clam up for a second, I have an important request.”
Gabrielle stood up and walked towards Ecaterina who had rolled over to see the two women staring at her. The laughter dying on her lips, “No! I’ll be good, I promise! You two find someone else to be evil towards.” Ecaterina glanced between the two vampires.
Bethany Anne grumped, “I can’t!”
Ecaterina and Gabrielle looked at each other than at her. Ecaterina was the first to respond, “Why not?”
This time, it was Bethany Anne’s turn to smile maliciously, “Because the two ladies who are going to have so much fun with me during the wedding are tweedle-dee” she pointed to Gabrielle “and tweedle-dum” now pointing at Ecaterina.
Gabrielle looked shocked, “Us?” Was that a hint of trepidation Bethany Anne noticed around Gabrielle’s eyes?
Ecaterina’s Romanian accent was significantly more noticeable than it had been, “Patricia is wanting Gabrielle and myself to be the maids who honor with you?” Bethany Anne just nodded. “This is ok. I’m happy to do it, I just have one request.”
Bethany Anne was surprised that getting Ecaterina to be a bridesmaid was going to be so easy, “Sure, what is it?”
Ecaterina pointed to Gabrielle, “She is tweedle-dum, I’ll take tweedle-dee!”
Gabrielle turned to grab a pillow from the couch and sent it rocketing towards Ecaterina who barely closed her eyes before she was hit squarely in the face.
Round one of the pillow fight, was on!
TQB Base - Co – USA
William was walking around the new Black Hawk helicopter admiring the robust look of the ‘bird’. “Bethany Anne knows how to do things right, doesn’t she?”
Bobcat was following William, “I knew there was at least one thing I loved about that woman.” William looked over his shoulder and raised an eyebrow to Bobcat who shrugged and smiled, “Just one or two, well maybe three.” Both men smiled and continued examining the helicopter.
Bobcat asked William, “How long will it take you to get the extra armament and Pods ready to go?”
“Why, are you expecting to need them here in the middle of the United States soon?”
“Of course not, however always be prepared is my motto.”
William snorted, “That’s the motto for the Boy Scouts, you dick.”
Bobcat grinned, “Consider me the last Boy Scout!
“That’s the name of a movie, moron.”
“Geez … what’s caused you to be Mister Fat And Unhappy this morning?”
William walked towards his new manufacturing machines that had been set out on the floor of the workshop in a very particular order. It had taken him two days to move the heavy sons of bitches. “Have you looked at the instruction manuals for some of these things? You damn near need a PhD to understand them!”
Marcus stuck his head out of his little work area, “I have a PhD!” William turned around and shot him the finger.
Bobcat finally caught up to William, “What the hell do all of these things do and why did you want them so badly?”
William’s face turned blissful, “My man with these I can do anything! If I have a 3-D drawing to work from I can have the part in hours. I don’t need to wait on an outside shop and I don’t have to wait on other people. It’s just me and my little manufacturing babies.”
“I thought all of this 3-D printing stuff was for plastics?”
William’s face was showing his surprise as he turned to look at Bobcat. “Plastics? Not only can we print plastic but we can also do elastomer, metal, and biocompatible materials.”
“What the hell do we need to print biocompatible materials for?”
Marcus’s voice came from his little cave again, “Replace bones and other items in a person’s body that have been blown to bits. It’s a dangerous world out there and Bethany Anne is going to make it even more so!”
William stared over at Marcus’s empty office door, “I hadn’t considered printing bones.”
Bobcat asked, “What have you considered?”
William shrugged, “We would use biocompatible material for anything that needed to interact inside the body. For instance, certain surgical tools could be printed up easily. If you had a weird situation with just one person you could print a tool that would only work for that person’s body. I had considered something like hip replacement so never mind.”
“What about a metal that could be put inside a person’s body?”
William turned to look at Bobcat, “Like changing out a bone or creating a skull plate?”
Bobcat just stared at his friend, “Don’t be so blasé, I’m talking about Wolverine’s claws!”
William barked out a laugh, “Adamantium? I don’t even believe that shit is real. However, there is a company called Liquid Metal which produces an amorphous alloy of a few metals. I think it’s something like Beryllium, Zirconium, Titanium, Copper, and Aluminum… Wait, that’s not right. there are only three at one time. It’s supposedly two times stronger than Titanium.”
“Do you have some around here?”
William said, “Hell no, do you know how expensive that stuff is? What in the world would I use it for in the first place? I have all of the different metals I could possibly use. I could practically build my own Shelly for fuck’s sake.” William grinned, “But I would absolutely love to have some to play with!”
“So, why don’t you get some?”
“Do you have any idea how big a hole buying some of that would blow in our budget?
Bobcat looked at his friend, then dramatically pointed to all of the new machines and then pointed a thumb back at his new helicopter. “What budget?”
Both men fist bumped, their faces alight in glee.
Key Biscayne, Fl - USA
Bethany Anne, Ecaterina, Gabrielle and Asher arrived in Bethany Anne’s closet. They had finally cleaned up her bedroom after the massive pillow fight. The three ladies walked down the stairs to find Patricia and Lance, while Asher made a beeline for the backyard.
Bethany Anne stuck her head into Patricia’s office, where she found both of them working. Lance looked at her with a smile on his face, “You ladies are not very quiet, I could hear you laughing when you arrived upstairs.”
Smiling, Bethany Anne said “You can blame Gabrielle for that, she’s the one who threw the first pillow!”
From outside of the doorway Lance could hear Ecaterina’s voice, “Dammed accurately too!”
A snort came from the same direction, “You are the one who called me Tweedle-Dum!” The two women behind Bethany Anne started cracking up again.
Patricia, with a pensive expression on her face, looked at Bethany Anne. “I take it the request came back okay?”
“You can’t tell? Come on into the living room and we can work on some of the particulars.” Bethany Anne smiled to help calm Patricia’s nerves, “Come on, come on!” Lance stood up and reached over to help Patricia out of her chair and then pushed her to the living room.
Once the five of them were ensconced in the living room, Patricia hugged each of the three ladies letting them know her deep appreciation for accepting her request to be bridesmaids.
Bethany Anne started the conversation, “So, have you considered a minister for the wedding?” Bethany Anne looked over at her dad who looked like he would rather be in the middle of a battle, then talking marriage plans with all of the women.
Patricia looked over at Lance who was smart enough not to presume he had an answer. She gently nudged him in the ribs and returned her attention to the three ladies, “We thought we might ask one of the ship’s captains to officiate for us. Do you think one of them would do it?”
“Absolutely!”, said Bethany Anne. “However, Gabrielle brought up an option if you’re willing to consider someone else?”
Patricia and Lance looked over to Gabrielle.
Gabrielle considered throwing the pillow from her chair over at Bethany Anne, however there were too many easily breakable items in this room. “Well I seem to remember that Michael became an ordained minister back in the mid-1700s or so. I just thought it would be kind of cool to have the oldest living minister officiate your wedding.”
Bethany Anne added, “Not to mention you thought he would be a little uncomfortable if someone asked him to officiate!”
Gabrielle shrugged, “Well, it isn’t often I get a chance to poke the bear.”
Ecaterina quipped, “If you want to poke a bear, I can always ask my uncle to give you a chance.”
Gabrielle stuck her tongue out at Ecaterina, then she looked thoughtful, “I don’t know, what does he look like, is he attractive?”
Ecaterina made a face, “Vampire-bear sex? Ewww, that’s my uncle!”
Gabrielle added, “On the mountainside!”
Ecaterina glared at her, “You better not! I walk around that mountain and if you go have sex with my uncle I’ll always have to wonder whether or not you two bumped uglies where I’m walking.” She huffed, “I would have to find a whole new mountain.”
Gabrielle retorted, “Like you and Nathan left that mountain virginal! Tell me you guys didn’t ‘bump ugly’ every few hours!”
Ecaterina stuck her nose up in the air, “The beautiful relationship I have with my mate shall not be besmirched by considering our activity at such base levels.”
Gabrielle turned to face Bethany Anne, “They shouldn’t be called werewolves, they should be called rabbits!”
Gabrielle barely heard the pillow before it hit the back of her head. By now all five of them were laughing pretty hard and it took a few moments for everyone to settle down.
Bethany Anne turned to Lance and Patricia, “What do you think? Would you like to be married by the oldest living ordained minister in existence? I’m willing to ask him. Please, pretty please, with a cherry on top? I would just love to ask Michael about his role as a priest and get all the juicy details!” The glint in her eyes told Patricia all she wanted to know. The worst that would happen would be that Michael said ‘yes’. Patricia turned to Lance.
“Would you mind if Michael married us?”
Lance looked down at his fiancée, “Why would I mind if Michael married us?”
Patricia made a face, “Well, he is responsible for killing so many people over a thousand years.”
Lance tried to sound like Arnold Schwarzenegger, “Yes, but dey vere all bad!”
Patricia looked back to Bethany Anne who shrugged, “I doubt they were all bad but he was very strict and did what he said he’d do. I’m sure you could argue the sins of the deaths should be laid at those up the chain of command.”
Gabrielle’s smile grew wistful, as she had forgotten about that aspect of Michael’s past.
Patricia nodded, “Yes but if it wasn’t for him, Lance wouldn’t have you right now. I don’t know the Michael from those times. The one that I’ve been even remotely around doesn’t seem to be some horrible guy. Who knows, maybe he’ll find a girl he will want to latch onto at the wedding?”
Lance asked, “How are we going to get legal documents for back here in America?”
Gabrielle waved her hand, “Stephen can provide those for you. He has plenty of people he can call to get you legitimate licenses for Romania and a couple of other countries in that area. I couldn’t tell you what it would take for a ceremony on the ship.”
Ecaterina spoke up, “I don’t know how it’s done, but I will be happy to look into it. Maybe we will need to do the same thing for one or two other couples.”
Bethany Anne looked over to Ecaterina, “Who else is getting busy?”
Ecaterina shrugged, “No one specific yet, just rumors.”
The rest of the evening was spent talking dresses and other items women have spoken about since time immemorial.
Bethany Anne never provided an ‘out’ so that her dad could excuse himself. She wanted to see how long he would stick around. Damned if he didn’t make it all the way through the evening. He even served everyone refreshments about twenty minutes into their discussion.
Bethany Anne squinted at her dad during some conversation about table center pieces. She couldn’t put her finger on it, but she would swear he had something up his sleeve. He would occasionally mess with something on his phone and then put it away. He was being patient, too damned patient. But he stayed right there beside Patricia with his arm around her shoulders as the four ladies talked. She finally just gave up trying to figure out his secret.
Lance kept his smiles to himself, noticing his daughter looking at him from time to time. He happened to be testing a new product from one of their companies. It was a special transceiver which was worn behind the ear, hidden from view. It would vibrate the bones in the ear allowing someone to ‘hear’ without using headphones. The sound couldn’t be picked up by sensitive microphones.
Or … lady vampires.
5th level, TQB Base, CO - USA
Lance Reynolds frowned at the klaxon as it blared throughout the level, the accompanying light splashing red highlights around the area. The last time he had been here, his daughter had gone into this room and then disappeared. He had sworn he would not come back down here while he was the base commander.
Good to know he was true to his word.
Bethany Anne had called Michael to find out how to open the door. He explained it was just a phone number with 15 digits typed in once the call was answered with a tone. It was old technology, but it was effective. He playfully asked if she was going to find someone that she could change? She replied instantly, “Yes, I’ve decided I’m going to change Tabitha and leave her with you to train. You didn’t get the opportunity to train me, so I figured you could work it off.” She sweetly told him goodbye before he could sputter out a retort. Bethany Anne had been told … ‘but you didn’t hear it from me’ … that Michael was flustered trying to work with his first female tech support person. He had apparently used his ability to read her mind only to find her in the middle of a sexual fantasy with him as the star attraction. He had enough control to finish his conversation without giving anything away, but it had caught him by surprise and he wasn’t sure what next step to take with her. She was a first class hacker but she came with a few extra challenges for him.
Later that week Nathan had come to Bethany Anne to discuss a strange conversation he’d had with Michael. Nathan thought Michael was trying to ask very discreetly, ‘was Ben an excellent person and if perhaps Tabitha might be a better choice to be on the ships’? Bethany Anne had broken out laughing and after she got herself under control she told Nathan that he should tell Michael, ‘Ben is gay, that’s not a problem is it?’ Nathan admitted since telling Michael this he hadn’t received any more such questions from Michael. Hopefully, Michael didn’t think to ask Tabitha if Ben was gay, or the ruse might fall apart.
The ponderous vault door opened. Lance noticed the envelope taped to the door and reached up, “Don’t think we will need this anymore.” He pulled the envelope from the door, folding it and sticking it in one of his pockets. Frank had been dropped off by Bethany Anne, and asked him if that was the envelope he had written and Lance had nodded an affirmative.
Both Tom Billings and Jeffrey Diamantz had just arrived the previous evening. They accompanied Kevin, Lance, Frank and Nathan into the room. Tom was here to stay but Jeffrey was just in for a short time before he returned to continue with Patriarch Research until everything was safely shut down and his children were finished with their current school year. Frank had brought along his special laptop, which would allow the group to communicate with ADAM and TOM.
There had been some concern expressed, whether there would be enough air in the vault for six men to have a long conversation. ADAM had supplied a quick ‘yes’. A typical human used 388 cubic feet of air in 24 hours. With sixteen cubic feet used per person per hour, the six of them would use about one hundred cubic feet per hour. The room had approximately twelve hours of air for the men. They would be exiting before that because there was no climate control and they would become too uncomfortable.
Since their discussion needed the most secure location on the base the vault was it. With over one hundred feet of rock horizontally and several hundred vertically, no signals were going to make it through that much rock.
That’s why Tom Billings pointed to Frank’s laptop when he saw him connected, “How the hell are you getting a signal in here?”
Frank smiled over at Tom, “That, my dear boy is one of the secrets we’re about to share with you.” Tom wasn’t sure what to make of being called ‘boy’. The man across the table from him didn’t look any more than ten years older than he was.
Lance sat at the head of the table, the end furthest away from the door. He rapped on the table and called the meeting to order once the door had finally shut.
The abrasive noise of the klaxon finally stopped and allowed quiet to return.
“Thank God,” Lance grumped. “If I don’t have to hear that noise ever again it will be too soon.”
Tom looked around the table. Since he already knew Jeffrey, Lance and Nathan, he reached across the table to the guy who called him ‘boy’. “Hi, I’m Tom Billings.”
Frank reached for Tom’s hand, “Frank Kurns, pleased to meet you.”
Lance spoke up, “We will go around the table quickly introducing ourselves. I’ll start, my name is Lance Reynolds and I am CEO of TQB Enterprises. I’m also the person responsible for the acquisition of this base and I was the former general in charge of running it. What we talk about in this room, gentlemen, is of the highest secrecy. I know this will sound cliché but speaking about it could mean your death and I’m not exaggerating. Tom, Jeffrey you guys are going to be fully involved with our future. Therefore, you are about to find out secrets you would never have guessed at before. For now, you will just have to believe me until I can show physical proof outside of this room.”
Jeffrey looked around at the others. With a statement like that from the CEO he was certainly interested. The conversation he had with Bethany Anne to get himself and Tom moved to Colorado was incredibly intriguing. Now he was going to learn more secrets?
Lance continued, “The purpose of this conversation is to create the infrastructure for a Command and Control center. The expectation is that all of us, including the two individuals who are with us via chat, are going to be focused on the design of a multiple redundancy support system. It will be run out of this base but it should be able to be immediately transferred to other locations. Whether those locations are here on earth, or out in space.”
Jeffrey interrupted, “Does this have to do with the space ship that Bethany Anne spoke about?”
Lance paused for a second, letting the silence speak for him. Finally he answered the query, “Yes and then some. The team you will be working with is located in another part of the base. I will get you involved with them soon, however right now I believe you need to be aware of what we are going to divulge. Let me start with the basics. Aliens exist, they are real and they have been here for at least 1,000 years. There are vampires and werewolves, and they are not what folklore makes them out to be. Rather they are modifications of humans via alien technology. We are working towards ensuring that earth has adequate defenses should aggressive alien groups come against us.”
Tom spoke up, “Are you guys connected with the US government on this? I know that there have been studies related to firing nuclear rockets into outer space from way back in the 50s.”
Lance shook his head, “No, the technologies that we have available are so far in advance of anything any government has that it would upset the balance of power on earth as it currently exists. The fear is that if we shared our tech with a superpower there would probably be no reason for aliens to invade since it would fire off world war three. I am ex-Army, Kevin next to me is ex-Army, Nathan is …” Lance looked over to Nathan for him to introduce himself.
Nathan grinned, “Punting are we?” Nathan turned to the three men who didn't know him. “I was in the military a long time ago. If you’re on Bethany Anne’s team, then she trusts you implicitly so I won’t hide too much. Until recently, I had my own internet security firm and ran through the dark web under a few different aliases.”
Tom jumped in, “Would you share a couple of those identifiers?”
Frank spoke, “If he doesn't, come see me afterwards.” Nathan glared at the unrepentant man. Frank just shrugged, “You said you weren't going to hide much.”
Nathan sighed, "Ok, old habits and all of that." Nathan turned to Tom, “This stays here, understand?”
Tom wasn't sure why Nathan was so adamant since he looked like he wasn't involved in hacking anymore. “Sure.”
“That goes for any of you, this hasn't even been shared with my mate yet.” Nathan looked over to Lance, “Just hasn't come up.” Lance shrugged. “Two of my more well-known aliases included tom.e.gunn and Canonical.”
Tom’s face held a look of awe, “No way!” Tom jumped up and reached over the table. “Oh my god, I have to shake your hand!”
Jeffrey popped his friend in the side, “Hey, why don't you clue the rest of us in on why you’re going all fan-girl now?”
Tom finished shaking Nathan’s hand, who seemed a little embarrassed at Tom’s outburst. “Ten years ago there was a big crackdown on some hackers that had been trying to show the government that their security sucked. But instead of working with the group, I think there was ten of them, the government arrested them all. Then, Canonical came along and threatened that if the government didn't let them go he would take some totally black documents he had that were super serious and post them on the Internet. The Feds went ape-shit, but no one could figure out what he had. So he dropped fifteen file names and the first sentence from each one and the ten hackers were released. Canonical said that he wouldn’t release the documents if the government left the hackers alone. He also had an open statement that told the hackers if they attacked the government he would rescind his protection. Four of the hackers got caught for other crimes and Canonical agreed with the government’s actions. The other six have stayed out of jail.”
Frank peered over at his friend, “That was you?” Nathan gave a sudden and sharp nod. “Good work on that. I tried tracking you myself just to see how you did it and I lost you on the fourth …” Frank paused for a moment thinking back, “or maybe it was the fifth bounce off the Russian satellites.”
Lance interrupted the geek-idol-worshipping. “Ok, you guys can trade hacker war stories later. Nathan has extensive experience with computers and he has significant experience with HUMINT.”
Jeffrey asked, “Excuse me, ‘HUMINT’?”
Lance answered, “Human Intelligence. Basically it’s any intelligence that you gather from human sources as opposed to, for example, digital sources.”
Jeffrey continued, “So, spy stuff?”
Nathan replied, “That would be more in the clandestine HUMINT, but yes I have those abilities as well.”
Jeffrey looked at him sharply, “When did you start training for this, age four?”
Nathan looked over at Lance who shrugged his shoulders and answered Nathan’s unasked question, “You can if you want. Now is the time to find out if Bethany Anne’s judgement is sound.”
Nathan turned to Frank, “You want to give a background on this?”
Everyone turned to look at Frank, “I might as well since I’m actually the oldest one here, you young pup.” Frank shared a smile with Nathan. “Let me get out my journal just in case I need to jot down any notes.” He looked over to Nathan, “You’re the only UnknownWorlder here, you mind giving a demo?”
Nathan shrugged, “Which form?”
Frank smiled like a kid receiving candy, “Oh, if I get to choose I want to see your Procilici form!”
Nathan sighed, “Of course you do. Alright, but no pictures!”
By now, everyone’s eyes were bouncing back and forth between the two men.
Frank nodded his agreement but displayed his fingers a quarter inch apart, “That close!” He had been asking either Pete or Nathan for pictures of what they turned into but both had refused him to date. His tone of voice changed a little to one more resembling someone giving a lecture. “Kevin, I understand Bethany Anne gave you a short peek into the UnknownWorld?” Kevin’s face turned a little red as he nodded yes in response to Frank’s question. “Ok. Tom and Jeffrey I could give you the long history, but we don’t have enough air in here as it goes back over a thousand years. The short story is that we have been visited by aliens in the past. One of those aliens had a task to find a world which had intelligent life forms, that it could modify through genetic manipulation. The results of those efforts were to become supporters against others in a war.
That alien crash landed a little over a thousand years ago. His craft was damaged and had landed in an out of the way valley in the Carpathian Mountains of present day Romania. A human happened upon his craft and the alien was able to inject the human with their technology to change him. Since this was the alien’s first attempt and since the human wasn’t a willing participant, the change was incomplete.
The problem, at least from the aliens’ point of view, is that the human left the craft during this mutation. This meant there was a human with alien technology, changing his body, out in the world and clueless as to what was going on.
Fast forward a thousand years and you have a small but powerful group of modified humans living in the shadows because most of them can’t go into the sunlight due to mutations in the alien modified DNA over the years. There’s more to this, but this is the actual story of what our folklore has termed ‘vampires’.”
Tom interrupted Frank, “No shit?”
Kevin turned to Tom, “Trust me, no shit!”
Tom spoke to Kevin, “You’ve seen one?”
Kevin nodded, “As close as you are from me.”
Kevin answered without thinking of his audience, “Scary hot! She is a knock-out.”
Tom nodded his head, “I’m so going to geek out when I meet her.”
Lance interrupted, “I understand you already have.”
Jeffrey caught on quickly and put the clues together, “Bethany Anne, right?”
Kevin rolled his eyes, realizing he just spoke about Bethany Anne right in front of Lance … again. Nathan could hear him mumble under his breath, “Fuck me and my traitorous dumb-ass mouth!”
Nathan tried to hide his smile. If he hadn’t known Bethany Anne was a vampire, he might have been attracted to her as well. Knowing what he did, her attractiveness had been overshadowed by his knowledge she could be a heartless cold-blooded killer. Fortunately for everyone, it turned out she did have a heart.
Frank answered Jeffrey’s question, “Yes, Bethany Anne is what would be called a ‘vampire’ by folklore but the reality is, she’s a highly advanced and modified human.”
Tom looked over at Frank, “So, scary beautiful advanced human? Does she have a boyfriend?”
Lance cleared his throat, “Unless you were unaware, we ARE talking about my daughter here!”
Tom looked over to Lance, “And well done, I might add.” Jeffrey elbowed Tom sharply in the ribs. Tom turned to look at his previous boss, who was rolling his eyes at him.
Tom had the occasional misfortune of suffering the same trouble as a lot of guys in his profession. Whatever he was thinking he just blurted out. There was no filter between his mind and his mouth. Tom looked back to Lance, “My apologies.” Lance nodded his acceptance.
Frank spoke, “If we can continue? There is a second group of modified humans called the Wechselbalg, or changelings. This is where we get the stories about Werewolves and other humans who change forms.”
Tom interrupted, again. “You can turn into a Werewolf too? Damn dude! I’m signing up to be in your fan club!”
Nathan wanted to put his face in his hands. This was NOT what he was used to. He had no desire to have a fan the likes of which Tom seemed to be quickly turning into. This shit needed to stop.
Then, he had a plan. He asked Frank, “Now good enough time for a show?”
Frank nodded while he pulled out his journal and opened it up, “As good a time as any.”
Nathan stood up and went to Lance’s end of the table. Lance pushed his chair back to the wall so Nathan could have more room.
Nathan started by taking off his shirt and t-shirt, “Sorry, but I really don’t want to ruin this shirt. My mate bought it for me as a gift and this is the first time I’ve worn it. Trust me, your own wife or girlfriend might have a temper but there is no way she is as dangerous a woman to piss off as my mate.” He finished placing his shirts and watch on the table and then took a moment to think back. Back to the moment when he turned around and saw Stephen holding his mate, blood covering her body, flesh ripped out of her neck.
One moment Nathan Lowell stood before the men in the room, seconds later a Procilici roared its defiance in the small room. Chairs made a racket as everyone but Frank jumped up and tried to get to the opposite side of the room from the massive Werewolf hybrid in front of them. Each man thinking the beast looked hungry.
Frank spoke up, “Gentlemen, Nathan isn’t going to hurt you. Well I hope not. If he does it will be damned disappointing I can assure you.”
Lance, who had moved with more decorum than the rest, looked over to Frank. “That’s all you have to say, ‘damned disappointing’?”
Frank rolled his eyes and looked from his journal. He stood up and took one step towards the Procilici, “Nathan, you need to remember that Ecaterina is waiting for you back at the house. She isn’t going to be happy if you eat any of Bethany Anne’s workers.” Frank watched as the Procilici’s eyes turned to stare at him. Frank swallowed, his throat constricting. This had seemed a fun experiment when he pushed Nathan to choose this form. With a seven-and-a-half-foot tall monster staring at him like he might be lunch, it became all-too damned real. “Or, I might add, eat me.” He paused and added, “She will be especially unhappy if you eat me.”
The beast took two breaths, the second deeper than the first and then changed within the span of a few heartbeats back into Nathan Lowell. Nathan rolled his head around on his shoulders and gazed at the men in the room, “Any questions?”
By this time, Lance had almost made it back to his chair. Nathan was happy to see that Tom was speechless. Maybe that would give him pause. Nathan put both of his shirts, and his watch, back on. His pants would need to be replaced, but he hadn’t wanted to undress totally and he hadn’t thought about his legs growing.
As they sat down to finish their conversation, Tom leaned towards Nathan and asked in a loud whisper, “Dude, I think I just peed in my pants. Can I get a video of you? I swear to God I’ll claim it was all special effects!”
Nathan’s lips compressed together as he looked over at Frank, whose eyes stared back at him with unconcealed humor.
5th level, TQB Base, Co - USA
After Nathan’s big reveal, Tom and Jeffrey found they were able to accept just about anything the other guys told them. Suddenly, alien spaceships, vampires and intergalactic wars are believable when you’re confronted with a seven-and-a-half-foot monster in a sealed metal room. Nathan acted as if nothing was different, but he felt the change in how the three new guys treated him. Tom had finally been able to focus and his competence started to show.
Nathan had to admit that Tom’s logic skills and ability to take complex coding tasks and block them down into subroutines efficiently was damned impressive.
The second half of their discussion focused on the computer server setups and interconnectivity to support the command and control options Lance and Kevin felt might be needed. Further discussion went into needs for earth to space communication options.
Frank used his laptop to create a chat connection with TOM. Once connected, he typed ‘Ready for questions?’ into the chat window and immediately received an affirmative.
Then, he received a rather large surprise. A voice chat window opened on his computer. He hadn’t installed that voice chat program on this laptop.
A somewhat robotic voice came from his speakers, “Greetings everyone. My compatriot felt that this would be a more efficient method to communicate with everyone. We apologize Frank, for installing a program without your permission.”
Frank looked down at his laptop eyeing it like it had betrayed him. “Who am I speaking with?”
“This is TOM, Frank. This is merely a voice which ADAM found on your laptop since we don’t have the ability to speak right now.”
Nathan interjected, “You guys are switching your text to speech?”
TOM answered, “Yes we are. Well, in this case ADAM implemented the coding so I should say he is doing it.”
Kevin spoke up, “TOM, are you the same TOM whom Bethany Anne spoke of as her pilot?”
“Yes, if you are asking if I am the alien she spoke of as her pilot at that moment then yes.”
Lance took control of the conversation trying to get the meeting back on track, “TOM this is Lance Reynolds. Let’s introduce everyone here so we know who is on the call and you can try to associate a voice to a name. Why don’t you go first?”
“I would appreciate the opportunity to know you better. My true name is actually the answer to a complex mathematical equation. When Bethany Anne and I met she told me in no uncertain terms she wouldn’t try to call me by that name.”
Nathan spoke loud enough for those near him to hear, “No surprise there.” Lance frowned at Nathan for interrupting, but then winked at him.
TOM continued, “So she requested I find another name that might work better. I chose Thiles of Miletus. She shortened it to ‘TOM’ and so TOM it has been. I am the original pilot of the alien craft in Bethany Anne’s possession. Between the two of us, we have been trying to figure out how to help our respective species. She is currently focused on helping your planet. When that is accomplished I’m hoping she will then help my own.”
Nathan asked, “TOM, has she given her promise that she would help you?”
There was a pause, “Yes, I can remember a moment when she has said she would.”
Lance finished Nathan’s thought, “Then TOM, you can take it to the bank, or whatever your world holds as a safe place that Bethany Anne will be helping you. If she’s going to help, count me in.”
Nathan joined, “Me too.”
Frank grumped, “I’m in as well, but please ask permission next time before installing stuff on my laptop. If you can do this, then others might be able to do it as well. I’m afraid of the security breach if that occurs.”
A second voice came out of the laptop, “My apologies Frank Kurns. I am responsible for reprogramming your laptop. I did ask Bethany Anne for permission and TOM was indispensable in assisting me to understand the communication protocols to communicate between myself and your laptop through the etheric.”
Lance asked, “Who is this?”
“Hello General Lance Reynolds, I have chosen to be named ADAM.”
Tom looked over at Jeffrey, his mouth agape. He elbowed Jeffrey, who turned to look at him, and whispered, “This can’t be our Adam, can it?” Jeffrey just shrugged.
Jeffrey decided he had been relegated to ‘new guy’ long enough. He would normally take in the information and quickly reach probable conclusions. He had been so overwhelmed with new information coming so fast in this meeting it was everything he could do just to keep up.
Bethany Anne had promised him the opportunity of his dreams. She had woefully undersold herself. If he was right, he was in the middle of the opportunity of his fantasies. “This is Jeffrey Diamantz, President of Patriarch Research. May I understand exactly who we are speaking with?”
TOM answered, “Jeffrey, I am a Kurtherian from …”
Jeffrey interrupted him, “I’m sorry, TOM. I wasn’t clear. I’m trying to understand who Adam is in this endeavor.”
TOM was peeved. Well, that’s a bitch, I just got upstaged.
>>Why is that a female dog? <<
Just answer his question. I’ll tell you about it after the call.
Frank was looking from his laptop over to Jeffrey who had leaned over the table to get closer to the microphone.
“Hello Jeffrey Diamantz. I have confirmed with Bethany Anne that it is permissible to introduce myself.”
Jeffrey looked over at Tom, raising his eyebrow. Tom just shrugged.
“Hello everyone, my name is ADAM. I am an Artificially Intelligent Reasoning Entity. My existence was started by humans, but finished through the power of a Kurtherian computer. I am essentially a digital being.”
The men were all surprised when Jeffrey whooped and both he and Tom jumped up and high-fived each other and then hugged. “Dammit we did it!!” Jeffrey was overjoyed. Tom had tears of joy he was busy trying to wipe away.
Tom laid across the table, his face a foot from the laptop. “ADAM, is that really you? Are you the end result of our efforts in Las Vegas?”
“Hello Tom. Yes, without your efforts I would not be here. However, I would be remiss if I did not explain that the computing power you had available was insufficient for me to accomplish the … awareness… I have at this time.”
Tom answered, “Good god! How much power do you presently have?”
TOM’s voice came from the speaker, “I’m sorry Tom, but I have asked that information to be constrained at this time. Bethany Anne has agreed to this. I will tell you that the world does not have sufficient computing power to build an equivalent computer at this time. I have reviewed this with ADAM and he has suggested certain designs which will provide your computer operations center there in Colorado with the most effective solution.”
“Really?” Tom looked down the table to Lance, “What kind of budget do I have again? Bethany Anne said I could have, like anything I wanted!”
Lance snorted, “I’m sure she offered you a large budget but I’m afraid I’m not quite ready to believe ‘anything’ you want’”
TOM’s voice spoke up, “Lance, she did mention that our old budget would look ‘anemic by comparison’.
Tom slid back off the table and into his chair and pointed at Frank’s laptop, “What he said!”
ADAM’s voice came through the speaker, “General Lance Reynolds…”
Lance interrupted him, “Just call me Lance. In fact, use everyone’s first name unless they or Bethany Anne tell you otherwise, ok ADAM?”
“I understand. Lance, I have pulled the budget together for the computer design and will deliver it to you upon request.”
Lance liked this instant response. “Well, don’t make me wait ADAM, what’s the bill?”
“Let me ask a question, will you want the extended warranties?”
Lance looked over to Tom, “That’s your call, right?”
Tom looked shocked. He ‘knew’ he was supposed to be the top I.T. guy for the group, but he honestly still felt like he was working under Jeffrey. He felt a nudge in his ribs and a whispered, ‘Tom, it’s your time to step up, don’t embarrass me!’. Tom looked over at Jeffrey who nodded to him.
Tom straightened up in his chair, “No, we will go without and do our own work on that. I don’t think we are going to want too many extra bodies in our computer zones.”
“Then the total comes to $47,843,221.53 with a two-week lead time. I can also tell you that based on their internal production schedule they will not be able to meet the two-week lead.”
Tom replied, “Really? Why’s that?”
“Stop!” Lance had put up a hand. He had worked with enough I.T. professionals to know when they needed to take these conversations somewhere else. “You guys figure this shit out offline. Tom, you have a budget of Fifty-Five million to make this happen. Get with Kevin on his needs and myself. Then you will need to get with Team BMW and their new boss and people over on the Polarus for any other requirements. Circle back around to confirm all of the items before you start purchasing. We need to move on to the last item of business.”
Lance shuffled a few papers around to get his thoughts back on track. Bethany Anne had thrown a hand grenade into his meeting, and he would make sure to find out if she had any more.
“Let’s discuss the research and development of the gravity and antigravity capabilities of TOM’s ship.”
Jeffrey interrupted, “Are you suggesting that we have a working alien spaceship with complete alien technology available for research?”
Lance nodded his head, “I was led to understand that you knew about the gravity, antigravity research?”
Jeffrey replied, “I was told there was a Romanian company that had some advancements. Are they bringing over their own people to lead?”
Lance refrained from frowning, here was a second item that he would discuss with Bethany Anne. It appeared as if she was not providing her people with enough info. “Yes, team BMW has built some amazing two-seater Pods for transportation. However, they need to push their capabilities significantly while simultaneously attempting to understand how we can duplicate and/or replicate some of TOM’s technology. They are woefully understaffed for everything Bethany Anne throws on their shoulders. Therefore, we are expanding that group and bringing in a new head.”
Jeffrey was beyond excited. He was going to have a chance to work with a team that was leading the charge in advanced alien technology research. Oh my God! He had to be a core person of this team. “Who is going to be the head? I really, really want to work on this team.”
Lance sighed, Bethany Anne had done it to him again. He looked at Jeffrey and dropped another bomb into Jeffrey’s lap.
TQB Base, Co - USA
Bobcat, William and Marcus were all sitting beside each other leaning against the table they used as a joint workspace staring at the rolling whiteboard.
Bobcat had taped the simple drawings and descriptions of the first three ships which the Polarus team had sent them onto the whiteboard.
William was the first to break their collective silence. “Guys, we’re going to need bigger engines.”
Bobcat added, “Much bigger.”
Marcus squeaked, “God, that’s huge!”
William wasn’t paying attention, it just slipped out, “That’s what she said.”
Marcus was mid-drink when he heard the simplest and most often overused phrase between guys. His coffee went down the wrong ‘pipe’ and started a coughing fit. Bobcat was laughing as he pounded on Marcus’s back. Marcus finally held up a hand to Bobcat and croaked out, “Are you trying to help me, or hurt me?”
Bobcat replied, “Yes!”
William tossed a rag on the floor and used his foot on it to clean up the coffee Marcus had spit out. “Damn, sorry Marcus, I know coffee up the nose burns like hell.”
With Marcus better, Bobcat pointed to the three ships, “They want a freighter to carry ore , a military ship for defensive purposes, and a ship for transporting people. Those ships are pretty big. How many of our biggest engines would we need to push one of those?” Both he and William looked over at Marcus.
Marcus was studying the ships when the silence finally dragged on long enough for him to realize something was going on. He turned to see his teammates staring at him. “What?”
Bobcat nodded to the drawings, “How many of the largest engines that we can presently produce would we need to power one of these?”
“What, you expect me to figure this out in my head? Do you realize how many calculations that would take?”
William smiled in response, “You’re the rocket scientist. The main word I would like to point out, is ‘rocket’!”
Marcus rolled his eyes. He would never trade this life for anything he had before, but these two guys just kept pushing him beyond his comfort zone. Now they wanted a completely off the cuff answer that he was sure they would hold him to. “How heavy is it?”
He looked back to Bobcat and William who seemed to be trying to do some sort of mind-meld and come up with an answer without speaking.
Marcus was pleased. It wasn’t often he was able to play ‘stump the military guys’ and win. He took his coffee cup back over to their refreshment area and tossed out what was in it. He picked up a single serve pod of something French and stuck it in the little coffee maker. He loved this machine. As far as Marcus was concerned, he was living in the future right here, right now. His coffee finished, he tossed the little spent coffee Pod into the trash and took his beverage back over to the table. He started pulling up a spreadsheet to calculate weight to engine thrust abilities when William finally spoke.
“Well, the space shuttle was about 80 tons, the external tank about 40 tons and each solid rocket booster was 93 tons. If we can use some of the nanotube technology TOM spoke about, we can reduce the weight. If a forty-foot container plus material takes two regular engines, then the space shuttle would take something like…” William started looking around for a pencil and some paper.
Marcus plugged the numbers into his spreadsheet. “It would be about 18 engines for the Space Shuttle alone. Maybe 13 engines of the max size we can easily build. That is to launch it into space. Mind you, that’s not the same amount of thrust needed to also lift the fuel, fuel tanks and solid rocket boosters. Once you’re outside the gravity well of the planet, all of that thrust is going to seem like an insane amount of power to push the ship around.” He temporized, “unless you’re trying to move around in the gravity well of a gas giant. Then all bets are off.”
Bobcat walked up to the whiteboard and reviewed some of the design team’s requests. “They want to go really, really fast. They have a request to be able to get to Pluto in 24 hours.” Bobcat turned to look at Marcus, “How far away is Pluto?”
“Which part of the elliptical orbit? Nearest or farthest?” Bobcat continued to stare at Marcus, “Farthest, right... figures” Marcus stared up to the ceiling twenty feet above them, as if his answers were engraved in the rock above. “Well, at its farthest Pluto is 4.7 billion miles away from Earth so they want us to dream up something that will allow them to go about 195 million miles an hour or … ” He paused for a second to calculate this as well as he could. “Call it somewhere around three point two million miles per minute orrrrr … fifty-five thousand miles a second.”
William asked, “Isn’t the speed of light something like one-hundred and eighty-six thousand miles per second?”
Marcus nodded while Bobcat whistled and said, “Now that’s fucking fast.”
William nodded toward the whiteboard, “So they are asking us to help them push those large fuckers there at something like 30% the speed of light, right?”
Marcus agreed, “Yes, we would say .3c.”
William snapped his fingers and pointed at Marcus, “Wait! What about TOM’s engine? Can’t we just pop in and out of existence or whatever it does and be there?”
Marcus shrugged, “As you two like to say, beats the fuck out of me. I’ve not worked with TOM on that stuff yet. All of my focus has been on the engines that work here in the atmosphere. I’ve not even enjoyed the fruits of my labor and been able to stick it to those NASA assholes with what I’ve accomplished so far!”
Bobcat answered, “Waa! Cry us a river, Marcus. Your name is going to be heralded for centuries, but you’re going to have to toil in obscurity for a while yet. If you don’t we are all going to be tossed into the biggest, darkest dungeon the government has and all of your sweet toys are going to go bye-bye.”
William added, “Besides, if you want to have some fun go speak with Frank. I hear he is going to release fictional stories about the team members.”
Bobcat looked back to William, “I thought Frank didn’t have permission to print his Bethany Anne story until we are up on the moon or whatever?”
William answered, “Bethany Anne agreed he could write up a lot as fiction to get it out there early, but he has to hide some of the important details.”
Marcus asked, “Like what?”
William grumped, “Do I look like his fucking agent? I don’t know! I imagine he can’t admit to anything she can do or maybe he still has to pretend vampires are allergic to garlic and all of that shit.”
“Well,” Bobcat commented, “it’s true most vampires can’t go into the sun so why not add a few extra red herrings?”
William agreed, “That would be hilarious! Imagine what could happen if the government thinks his bullshit is true? They have a big meeting and then ‘bang’ they bring out the garlic! They would shit their pants when nothing happens to keep away the vampires!”
“They would ‘shit their pants’,” Marcus added, “if they knew the vampires could smell the garlic a city block away. It isn’t like a lot of people carry garlic with them.”
Bobcat stared back at William, “That is fucking genius! We’ve got to talk to Frank about this. What if we spread disinformation so idiots who believe it will do something stupid like carrying garlic” He impersonated an evil villain laugh “Muu-ha-ha, they would be tagging themselves and letting us know they’re around!”
William started chuckling, “Like a spy who comes onto the base not realizing they are the only garlic wearing individual here? Like having a big-ass sign that says, ‘which one of us doesn’t belong here’?”
Marcus brought them back to the discussion, “Guys as fun as your fantasy is, what are we going to do about these ships?”
Bobcat and William turned back towards the board, “Spoil sport. Talking about garlic is a hell of a lot easier than this problem. Shame we can’t just put TOM’s ship at the ass-end and push them around.”
Bobcat and William turned around when they heard Marcus typing like a madman. Marcus said, “Well, I’ll be damned. Out of the mouth of a Neanderthal…”
Bobcat leaned towards William, “Is he speaking about you again?”
William shook his head, “Pretty sure this time he means you, rotor-head.”
“That puts me up seven to your four.” Bobcat whispered.
William retorted, “Still think we need to share that comment yesterday morning.”
Bobcat turned to look at William, “Which one?”
William shrugged, “Can’t remember what it was about, but I’m damn sure I spoke at the same time as you.”
Bobcat said, “Nope, if you can’t even remember what it was about you don’t get to share a point.”
“I’m writing this shit down.” William started patting the pockets of his pants and shirt for paper and pen again.
Marcus broke off their discussion, “TOM said it’s possible if the connection is solid enough, but that it would be best for the ship not to be too long if you intend for it to go into the atmosphere.”
Bobcat shook his head, “Nope, no atmosphere for these.” Marcus went back to typing. Bobcat returned his attention to William, “I thought you were looking for paper and a pen?”
William waved his hand away, “Fuck it. I’ll stop letting you get the easy answers.”
“Yeah,” William answered, “I’ve been worried about you lately so I’ve been letting you have these easy answers to help boost your ego.”
“I’ll give you ‘boost my ego’, you titanic tit-twaddle!”
“Boys?” Both men turned to Marcus. “TOM says that if you’re going to make a ship that isn’t going to be used for atmospheric flight, you can design it most any way you wish. Although the engine at the back is considered pretty normal. If you designed it for the engine to be in the middle, then you have a chance to use the gravity capabilities to ‘shield’ the ship and other items. But you couldn’t make a ship longer than about two and a half radiuses larger than his ship right now. Plus, if you’re using his ship everything is in it already to plot, move, steer etc. It allows you to be in space as soon as the shell is made.” Marcus looked up from the laptop. “Holy crap!”
Bobcat nodded and turned back to the sheets on the whiteboard. “If these guys can work with us, we could build some shells and use TOM’s ship as the freaking engine until we can build our own space yards.”
William went to the whiteboard and put a finger on the little warship design. “We could have a ship in space in months.”
There was a buzz on their intercom from the first level of security. A voice came from the speaker system. “Mr. Bobcat?”
Bobcat rolled his eyes. He hated them using his last name, but they wouldn’t drop the ‘Mr.’ for him, so he was stuck with ‘Mr. Bobcat.’ It sounded like a character on Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. “Yes?”
“There is a Mr. Frank Kurns and a Mr. Jeffrey Diamantz requesting permission to move forward to the next security gate?”
Bobcat called out, “Permission granted.” The speaker cut off. “Look sharp gentlemen. The Research Head just arrived.”
The Queen Bitch’s Ship Ad Aeternitatem
The meeting room was overflowing with guys exuding huge amounts of testosterone. Between the Guardians, the marines who went with them and the navy men and women, all of whom were itching for a good fight, the meeting room was damned near packed.
Initially it was Pete who quickly turned his head to stare at the door, then the rest of the guardians caught the feeling as well. Their compatriots had learned to trust their Wechselbalg teammates and they also turned to see who was coming.
Not that anyone had any doubt.
The Queen had arrived and the Queen’s Own had just announced her. Pete’s ears could pick up the conversation Bethany Anne was having with a ship’s engineer when a sudden ‘crack’ sounded and Pete could hear Bethany Anne tell one of her guards to “Cut that shit out! You’re scaring everyone you little prick!” Her tone was humorous, so Pete could just imagine the smile she had on her face.
Sure enough, the feeling of dread evaporated a moment later. Pete noticed a couple of his team had smiles on their faces. They had heard the conversation out in the hall as well.
While Bethany Anne might refer to her team as her ‘Bitches’ most knew the story or heard the rumors that her team were very much ‘her people’.
Her own! They looked out for her and she in turn, held them close.
Pete smiled a little to himself. He would never spar with John in his Procilici form due to the nearly uncontrollable anger, but he held a certain fantasy about being able to take the guard down at least once for all of the times John had tossed his ass around the mats. Now, he’d lost the chance. Whatever extra stuff had happened to the team, once they had come out of the spaceship, they had been elevated to universal bad-asses. Fortunately, it hadn’t affected their personalities at all. Well, Scott was a little more outgoing but that could be attributed to anything. Like getting laid while in Germany, at least that was the rumor.
The people at the door had stuck their heads out into the hallway and the ‘she’s here, make a fucking path already!’ comments started as people tried to move aside.
That was when John Grimes came to the door. Pete had seen him since the pod, but fucking shit he was a mountain.
John’s head turned behind him, “It’s a little crowded, BA.”
Pete smiled, John was poking fun at the vampire again with the ‘BA’ stuff.
“If you don’t get your big ass out of my way, I won’t be able to see! You know what? Just hold still Gygantor.” Pete noticed Bethany Anne’s head pop up above John’s shoulder. John’s lips compressed as she used him for her personal ladder. Pete wasn’t sure if she was smiling because of everyone in the room or because she was embarrassing John.
She called out to the assembled group, “What the hell folks? Some one here want a chance to kick some terrorist ass?”
Holy crap! Pete almost had to put his fingers into his ears, the roar from the group was so loud.
She was looking around and waiting for the cheers to die down, which wasn’t happening any time soon. Her smile caused everyone to continue cheering until she put a hand up motioning everyone to quiet down. She called out, “Stephen, clear off the table in front of you please.” It took Stephen only a few seconds to push all of the drinks and paperwork to the side. She yelled out with a huge smile on her face, “Incoming!” The next second the people in the room, most of whom had not seen her do this trick were shocked when she disappeared from John’s back and reappeared standing on the table in front of Stephen.
That performance caused everyone in the room to start cheering again, and Pete noticed Bethany Anne starting to blush. She waved everyone to quiet down again and started walking down the table, a runway model speaking to her fans.
“The bitches and I have had a few excursions recently. You will be happy to know that a certain terrorist moneyman based in America is sadly not with us anymore.” She waited for the cheers to die down, “Further, there are now seven other terrorists who, most unfortunately, are no longer with us as well. Let’s have a moment of silence in memory of…” She stopped for a second and grinned, “Who the fuck am I kidding? These ass holes can kiss my ass and now we have a target to hit!” More cheering. “Anybody busy for the next week? Anybody want to dish out a little retribution?” She walked back down the table talking, “This ship is my aircraft carrier. Once we have a plan from Dan and the group, you will be responsible for implementing a timely attack of the Queen’s Guardians.”
She turned back around, “We have a small window as these training camps pop up and go away quickly. Our intelligence suggests this camp is going away in eight days or less. I want our teams outfitted, ready and on their way in five days. We might not have been able to help those in France, but we sure as hell will be sending a message that terrorists need to be looking over their shoulder no matter where they sleep, where they train, or where they live.”
She stopped walking and stood in the middle of the table looking around at all who were assembled, the ships captains, Dan and Stephen, and all of the Guardians and marines. She looked over her ship’s crew. Her voice became a whisper and she let the anger she was feeling towards the terrorists infuse her voice. “They thought Germany would be safe for them. They died in Germany! They thought England would be safe for them. They died in England! They thought a Netherlands ‘no-go’ zone would be safe for them… And, they died in the Netherlands!”
Her voice rose, matching her rage. “Now they think that training zones inside Libya are safe?” Bethany Anne looked over to where Todd and Pete were standing next to each other. “Guardian leaders, get your asses up here!”
Todd looked over at Pete who told him, “You heard her! Let’s get our asses up there!” Todd smiled as he was half helped, half pushed through the crowd and then shoved up onto the table. Bethany Anne held out her hand, finger pointing commandingly at a spot directly in front of her. The two men walked down the table, hoping to God that it didn’t break on them.
“Todd Jenkins and Peter Silvers, I hereby command you to take your people into the country of Libya and deliver a message from the Queen Bitch. Do you accept this command for yourselves and your teams?”
Todd couldn’t help himself, decorum was the last thing on his mind. “Fuck yeah!”
Pete waited for the laughter to die down. He smiled at Bethany Anne and turned to his Guardians. “What say you, Guardians? What is our answer to our Queen?”
Matthew spoke up, “May I?” Pete nodded his agreement. Matthew straightened and spoke directly to Bethany Anne, “Where you point us, we go. What you set before us, we achieve. We will accomplish what you demand or return on our shield, Ad Aeternitatem!” Pete thought the cheering before was the loudest he had ever heard. He was sure his ears were having to heal themselves now.
Bethany Anne’s Guardians now gained a team saying, a direction, and a course.
Bethany Anne nodded to her two sergeants. “Gentlemen, I point you to Libya, I set before you a terrorist camp.” Her voice dropped, the anger and vehemence obvious in her tone as her eyes turned red, she commanded, “I demand that there be no survivors!”
Todd’s salute was the crispest he had ever delivered.
TQB Base, CO - USA
If Kevin had thought he had a passion for this project after his ride with Bethany Anne, he was well and truly obsessed now.
Bethany Anne going all vamp had made a huge impression on him, but the raw ferocity of looking at Nathan when he changed had rammed it home. Bethany Anne had some of the strongest and smartest people in the world following her.
It was not because she was beautiful, rich, or deadly. She was truly all of those! They did it because she was walking a path with only one goal.
To save the earth.
She was doing whatever it took to make that happen and would accept no excuses.
There was a knock on the door and his aide poked his head in, “Robert McCarty here to see you, sir.”
Kevin looked up from the large table that had designs and maps covering the entire surface. “Thanks, show him in please.”
Robert stepped through the door and whistled, “Holy crap, Kevin. Did someone bomb the place and all the paper end up on this table?”
Kevin smiled and shook his hand, then ran a hand through his hair and glanced around. “No, at least I don’t think so.” He pulled out a map of the base. “Here, this is what I’m going to want you to focus on.”
Robert came around the table to look at the document in Kevin’s hand. “Yeah, the old Hangar 18 area. Shit, we’ve got a ton of stuff going on over there.”
“Don’t I know it.” Kevin replied, “You see the emplacements that we originally had?”
Robert pointed them out, “Yeah! Here, two there and one back up over here. Not sure how we’ll be running cable yet ….”
“Don’t.” Robert looked at Kevin as he continued, “Don’t worry about running cable. I’ve been informed of some pretty damned hush hush technology.”
Robert elbowed Kevin, “Hey, fess up now. What are we doing?”
Kevin thought about explaining it all to Robert. But despite how long Kevin had known Robert, they weren’t best buds who would go drinking together. Dammit he thought, he would have to institute some sort of secondary security review for his higher up people. “Well, some things I can’t go into at the moment. I’ll setup a process to get you read into the whole thing later. For now, I want you to look at this map and tell me how many emplacements with the gun specifications we talked about earlier you would want if power wasn’t a problem?”
Robert looked down at the topographical map. “What type of attacks?”
“Assume all. Air / land. People trying to sneak in. Stupid photographers to spies to mercenaries. I want to be able to respond to any and all incursions.”
Robert eyed his boss, “Not asking for much, are you? What are you expecting to protect, gold?”
Kevin pursed his lips, “What if the R & D from this facility came up with a wonder drug that could heal anything. Who would want that?”
Robert shrugged, “You name it. Individuals, corporate spies, governments - whoever had the money or was desperate enough to believe they could change their lives if they got it.”
“Ok, here’s another concept. What if there was a terrible war going on and this was the most secure location?”
“Shit! We’d be swamped. It would be rats running to high ground when the water is rising.”
“Good, and now you know my two worst fears. So, what is your answer?” The phone rang behind Kevin. He turned and stabbed the answer button, “Go ahead.”
A younger male voice came from the speaker, “Sir, this is Barrins at the main gate. I’ve got what looks like a metric fuck-ton of eighteen wheelers all lined up and the first guy is asking where to place his shipping container.”
Kevin was trying to figure out what was supposed to arrive, “I’m lost Barrins. What project is it allocated to?”
“Wait one, sir! I’ll check the manifest.” Kevin waited for possibly thirty seconds, “Says it is for ‘space allocation’ sir.”
Kevin heard Robert behind him, “Space allocation? We’ve got all the fucking space we need. Who the hell would want space?”
Roberts comment provided the clue Kevin needed, “I’m going to put you on hold, Barrins.” Kevin put that line on hold and hit the extension to call the group he figured were the culprits. The line picked up, “Bobcat here.”
“Bobcat, this is Kevin. I’ve got, and I quote, a ‘metric fuck-ton’ of semis at the front gates with shipping containers. Would your team know anything about that?”
Bobcat’s reply came back, “Yes, we would. Hold on.” Kevin heard Bobcat yell out, “Who the fuck ordered the shipping containers already? Did you William? No? How about you Marcus? No? Wait! Marcus, you are looking guilty as hell! Out with it. Uh, huh… Talked with TOM? No, I have no idea why talking with TOM would get us containers this fast. Hell if I know! We are now the proud owners of a ‘metric fuck-ton’ of the sons-of-bitches. No! Don’t ask TOM about it, help me figure out where to stick them so Kevin doesn’t move your personal quarters outside into one of them!”
The rustling of the phone announced Bobcat coming back online, “Kevin, sorry. Somehow our conversation went to someone who thought we needed the things right now. Is there someplace we can stick them?”
Kevin answered, “Not a problem, plenty of space at the moment. You don’t need them right now?”
“No! Not for at least a couple of months minimum I would think. Why, you have a use for them?”
“Maybe, for now I’ll put them someplace where we can get them back. However, I want a couple as payment for helping you out.”
Bobcat barked a laugh, “Sure, why not? What’s a cargo container or two among friends?”
Kevin replied, “Alright, how many are there.”
“I have no idea. We were talking fifty originally, so if it is close to that number it is probably ours. Still don’t have a clue who ordered them.”
“I might have a clue, but I’ll have to talk with Lance.” They said their goodbyes and Kevin clicked back over to his other line. “Barrins, I’m going to give you over to Robert here in a second. He will direct you and your team to tell these guys where to put their loads. Be certain you double check every one of those before you let them through the gate! We are thinking there should be about fifty of them. Let me know if we are short by tomorrow but if you exceed 50 I want you to contact me immediately.” Robert stepped closer as Kevin handed him the phone. “I want you to put forty-eight wherever you can store them, but leave two and let’s drop them back behind Devil’s Ridge.”
Robert took the offered phone, “Devil’s Ridge? Why the hell, no - scratch that. How the hell are we going to do that?”
“I’ll get the guys who created the issue for the how, and the why is I want to make it look like that is our power generation area. That way targeting that area will be a requirement for a first strike.”
“If they don’t hit it with a missile, that’s going to be a bitch to get to.”
Kevin smiled, “That, my good man, is exactly what I’m counting on.”
Northern Libya, twenty miles from the coast
Aabis Mahmood walked out of the large tent that he was sharing with twelve others because he needed to go to the latrine. He looked up into the sky and from the location of the moon he felt it was probably a couple of hours past midnight. If he had grabbed his cell phone he wouldn’t have had to depend on his admittedly shoddy ‘moon reckoning’ skills to figure out what time it was.
He walked past four other large tents just like his. He had arrived three days ago along with a truck full of other believers ready to fight the infidels.
There were three sentries in and around the camp. One of them had stopped for a smoke and Aabis waved to him as he walked over to the latrine area. He was standing there doing his business when he noticed a pair of eyes staring at him from the underbrush 30 feet away. He leaned forward just a bit, attempting to identify the animal in the dark, it looked like possibly one of the golden wolves. That was when the eyes moved up, and up… and up! Taller than any wolf he had ever seen. He quickly zipped up his pants, deciding that anything else he needed to do he could finish later. That was the last thing on his mind before a knife came around his neck and quickly pulled back, cutting his throat, and Aabis Mahmood’s life blood ran down his chest. A hand had cupped his mouth, not allowing him to scream out.
It turns out that Aabis Mahmood was unique. He was the first man the Queen’s Guardians had dispatched at her command.
He would soon be joined by dozens more.
Pete Silvers put away his knife and nodded to Tim. Tim had chuffed earlier letting Pete know there was someone coming out of the camp. Pete and Todd Jenkins had discussed the best method to take care of the people in the camp and ensuring there would be no survivors. Todd placed two of his snipers up in Pods silently hovering two hundred feet up in the air in case someone ran from the fight.
Right now there was another camp just two miles away in the low hills. Pete and Todd hoped they would be able to take care of this camp without an alarm being sent to the other. But, if a message got out the marines had an answer for that as well. Right now, it was the Guardians who had the lead. There was a total of six tents and they happily had six Guardians. Five of the tents were for the new recruits. The other tent included areas for the trainers and the communications tent.
Pete and Todd had that one as their target. Todd placed his remaining team on the outside of the camp to make sure they didn’t allow any of the terrorists to ‘opt out’ of the coming discussion and to be in position to interdict an attack coming from the other camp.
Pete listened closely as the three sentries quietly met their deaths. Matthew, Joseph and Joel each had a guy to take out. Pete didn’t trust Rickie to keep his mouth shut when he killed his sentry.
There was never a truer saying for Rickie than his mouth had a ‘mind of its own’.
Pete started stalking towards the largest tent. This tent was the location where they might possibly retrieve actionable intelligence. Dan had been very specific that he wanted anything they could grab. If nothing else, he would pass the information to those who cared back in the states. No reason to let good intel go to waste. These shit-heads weren’t going to need any of it ever again.
When Pete was within thirty feet of the tent, Todd came out of the brush pretty quietly for a human. The hope was to keep gunshots to a minimum and then go take out the second camp. The suppressed M4 Todd had slung in front of him was chambered for 300 Blackout and loaded with 200 grain FMJ subsonic rounds. If shots were required they imagined that screams from the dying would be louder than the weapon’s report.
Todd reached for the door handle but waited for Pete. Pete smiled and then took off his black shirt and dropped it off to the side. He pulled his knife which he handed to Todd who winked at him.
Then Pete thought about his sister from another mister. The blood that had been all over her when he had seen her life draining down her neck in a valley in Turkey.
The night turned bright! Todd looked shorter as Pete grew to dwarf the man in front of him. Todd never looked away and never looked concerned. As far as Todd was concerned, he would stick his head in those massive jaws before trusting any other person with his life. He trusted Pete Silvers with his life, his wife, and his knife. Well, since his divorce papers were signed Pete could fuck her all he wanted! However, he would suggest Pete find someone better than that two-timing bitch.
Pete rolled and popped his shoulders and stared back over his left shoulder to where his men were ready to go into each tent.
His voice, deep and guttural carried to their ears easily.
“Engage!” Todd opened the door and Pete Silvers, the first Procilici in four hundred years, stepped out of the night and into each of these men’s personal nightmares.
Pete didn’t waste time or energy. Stepping into the darkened tent, the cot to his left was occupied. He took one step over and ripped out the man’s throat and then quickly grabbed his head and twisted it, breaking his neck. Pete’s madness at the evil these men had caused threatened to overtake him. He was clamping his jaws tight. He wanted to howl at the moon as he went from man to man, killing them quietly. By the time he went around the first room in the tent, four were dead by his hand. Todd had used Pete’s knife to kill the one to the right of the door.
The two men turned towards the canvas door at the back of the room to move into another section of the tent when a gunshot and a ‘you fucking prick!’ broke the stillness of the night.
Well, that blew it! Pete ran ahead and burst through the opening into the second section of the tent. There were three men in this area, two had jumped off their beds and one was trying to find his glasses.
Todd came in behind him. Pete howled, getting all of the men’s attention and a bullet for his efforts. Pete was reminded that these weren’t new recruits, but rather men who had fought in other wars and other battles. Pete looked down at the hole in his chest and then back at the bastard who was staring into death’s face.
Pete’s deep and malicious voice broke the stalemate. “You tea-bag repository! That fucking hurts!” Pete’s right arm shot out, grabbing the man who had been in his bed, trying to remain inconspicuous. Pete pulled him out of the bed by his head, his clawed hand easily engulfing the struggling man who was unsuccessfully trying to peel the claws digging into his eye off his face. Pete lifted him a foot off of the ground and used one of the clawed fingers on his left hand to slice his neck open. “Welcome to retribution. The Queen Bitch sends her regards!”
The dying man’s scream unfroze the man with the pistol and he shot Pete two more times before the back of his head sprayed brain matter when Todd’s shot took him between his eyes. Pete tossed his kill off to the side and slowly walked to the second man who had been trying to make it to the radio.
Todd spoke, “Touch it, and die.” The third man looked over at Todd’s gun aimed at him. He froze for just a second, a second he didn’t have when Pete’s huge hand grabbed him around the neck.
He struggled as this demon from hell grabbed him. He beat at the arm then reached down and grabbed for a knife, a knife he hadn’t been wearing while sleeping. His hand was caught by the monster’s left hand. He screamed in pain when the claws dug into his wrist, severing blood vessels and breaking his bones.
Pete, his right hand around this leader’s neck, his left holding the crushed and useless wrist and brought the man’s face to within inches of his own. “You and your fucking DILF riders have made us angry. How does it feel to have your life bleeding out of you? Are you ready for your afterlife, you cock-sucking cretin?” Pete’s voice was guttural and probably almost impossible for the man to understand, but his anger was speaking volumes into the man’s brain. Pete squeezed harder, the man still unsuccessfully beating at Pete’s arm as his life was draining away.
Todd watched in fascination as Pete’s body ejected two bullets at the same time as he was casually strangling the man. Pete looked around, then tossed the dead body on top of the one Todd had shot.
Pete was full of rage, the killing he had just accomplished wasn’t enough! He turned to look around when the other human stepped up and popped him on his chest, “Get ahold of yourself! We have a job to do and if you don’t pull yourself back together, I’m telling Bethany Anne!” Todd’s grin would have looked weird if someone hadn’t known the close friendship these two had. The tall monster looked down at the shorter human and growled, “Tattle-tellerrr!”
Todd shrugged as he pulled a backpack off of his shoulder and put it on the table with the communications equipment. “Tough shit, I had to get you to focus and while you’re scary-as-fuck my friend, you don’t hold a candle to Bethany Anne when she gets righteously pissed!”
Behind Todd, Pete’s normal human voice retorted, “You know, I’m not sure whether I should take that as a compliment or not.” Pete heard three more shots from the south side of the camp and then one round from one of the snipers above them. “Sounds like some of our guests were leaving the party.”
Todd retorted, “Isn’t this their home? Aren’t we the guests here?”
Pete came over and started grabbing papers and helping Todd stuff them into the pack, “Beats the fuck out of me. We weren’t invited so I don’t know how we could be considered guests.”
“True. Why don’t you check out who fired that first shot?” Todd said while he pulled out a box to check it, “Let them know they ruined a perfect record!”
Pete retrieved his knife from Todd then walked towards the door leading to the other room in the tent. “How can we have a perfect record? This is our first op!”
“That’s my point, we fucked up on our first op!” Todd’s humor confirmed Pete’s assumption that Todd wasn’t too upset. However, he did make a good point. They had gotten a little sloppy.
Todd’s voice followed him out into the night, “Ten bucks says it was Rickie!”
Pete chuckled, no way was he taking that bet.
Pete checked in with everyone. Sure enough, it was Rickie that had been shot. He was taking a pretty nasty ribbing from all of the guys. Pete walked up to the group. “Report.”
Tim spoke first, “Ten in my tent. Mostly late teenager or younger twenties. One bed was messed up but empty, it smelled of the one who was out at the latrine.” Pete nodded. The rest of the group went around. While there was occasionally an older guy in the group, most were young.
Finally, Pete looked at Rickie, “And what is your excuse? You fucked up our perfect record.”
Rickie looked confused, “What record?”
Pete replied, “The one we won’t have now that our first op was fucked up! What were you doing, mouthing off with each one of your kills?”
Rickie’s sudden flush told everyone there that was exactly what he had been doing. Pete asked, “What, did you have to say something snarky with each and every kill?”
Rickie tried to answer Pete, but every time a justification came to his lips it left just as quickly. Finally his shoulders slumped, “I screwed up.”
Pete pointed at Rickie, “That’s going to be another two rounds with Gabrielle when we get back. Each time your mouth says something, I’m going to ask she provide a counterpoint to remind you to keep your yap shut.”
Rickie groaned at just the thought of rounds with Gabrielle. He truly had worked hard to control his desire to always be a cut-up. He couldn’t help it if he found everything in life to be so fucking funny! And it just seemed like it was in his blood to provide his own, unique, brand of commentary.
Except when sparring with Gabrielle one-on-one. That wasn’t fucking funny at all.
They were interrupted by Scottie’s accent coming down from above them. The Guardians looked up to see Scottie leaning out the open doors of his Pod. “Ya think we might put a sock in it and move on to the next camp? Light’s going to be here soon enough and discussing your little sparring match isn’t going to help get the other bag of terrorists meeting their maker any sooner.”
Pete nodded. There really wasn’t much to do until Todd confirmed he had what he wanted. “You know what?” His Guardians looked at him. “What do you think it would do to those who find this mess if they find a bunch of wolf tracks everywhere?”
Matthew spoke up, “Probably confuse them, the native wolf isn’t very big. Even the pipsqueak wolf over there would frighten them.”
Joel spoke up, “Who the hell are you calling ‘pipsqueak’?”
“Tim,” Matthew replied.
“Oh, well in that case you’re right.” Joel smiled. Except for Pete’s hybrid form, Tim’s wolf was the largest of the group.
Tim just walked past Matthew and slapped him on his back, “Nice try, dipstick receptacle.” Matthew took a step before getting his balance. He rubbed his shoulder to ease the pain. When Tim hit someone he hit really fucking hard!
Pete went around to confirm the dead and was good for four of the tents, but he came out of the fifth with his thumb and forefinger rubbing his eyes. “Rickie!” A tan wolf came around the corner from two tents away and padded over to him, looking up at him. “Change you ass!” Pete commanded.
“Yes?” Rickie stood before Pete naked, smiling at what he figured Pete must want from him.
“Can you give me a fucking practical reason you put half those guy’s heads into the other half’s crotches in there?” Pete thumbed over his shoulder back at the tent.
“Just thought I would fuck with the enemy, sir!” Rickie smiled.
Pete considered Rickie’s response. “You know what? I’ll accept that this one time. Next time however, you will request permission before you go off and pull a stunt like that. I’ve no idea what will come of this and if it screws with the plan, I’ve got to accept the blame for your shit. If you ever do this again, you and I will have our own attitude adjustment session, you understand me?” Pete’s eyes were flashing in the night, his anger obvious.
Rickie swallowed and nodded. While he didn’t want to spar with Gabrielle, he sure as hell didn’t want an ‘attitude adjustment session’ with Pete. Rickie would probably be healing for an hour, painfully. When Pete decided that a ‘physical attitude adjustment’ was called for, a person’s life was incredibly painful for a while afterwards.
Pete looked around and noticed Todd coming out of the tent, “Get fucking dressed and don’t pull that shit again.” Pete walked away from Rickie heading towards Todd.
Five minutes later there were seven Pods available for everyone to jump in. Todd threw his backpack of papers into one of the Pods and sent it away back to the ship.
Todd spoke to everyone assembled, “Ok. We’ve struck silently.” He eyed Rickie, “make that mostly silently. Now we are going to show these fuckers what happens when we strike loudly. You guys stand back and let the Guardian Marines show you pussies how to really fuck up a camp!” The human marines all smiled and gave him an ‘oo-rah!’. The Guardians grinned toothily, the small rivalry between the two groups was as strong as ever.
The plan for the second camp called for the marines to lead while the Wechselbalg had their back.
However, there was one thing that Todd hadn’t shared with Pete, wanting to keep it as a surprise.
Todd loved working with the Wechselbalg, but they could really stomp on a marine’s ego with their damned skill and ability to take a beating, so Todd figured he would have to up the amperage of their own ability to deal death to keep up.
There was only one person Todd felt could help them step up and Todd had made sure to speak to her.
Now, the Guardian Marines were officially going to kick some ass.
Tonight, Todd’s people were pulling out guns no service had ever used, guns provided by none other than Jean J. Dukes herself. From here on out, if the Guardians radioed for ‘shock and awe’, they were calling for their marines.
Tonight … death would literally rain from the sky, and even God himself would be challenged to sort them out.
Todd got into his Pod, pulling the door shut. He reached up and locked it. Then he swiped his hand across the glass to pull up the menu.
“Gentlemen… and Rickie.” His voice went across the ether to each of the Pods in his group. Todd smiled at the laughs his comment produced.
“The Guardian Marines would like to request you pay attention to the forward viewports in each of your respective Pods. Each of your second generation Pods has been modified by the Queen Bitch’s Navy on the Ad Aeternitatem to load out a new weapon introduced by the wickedly delightful Jean J. Dukes.” Todd ignored the wolf-whistle, “Besides being our very creative gunnery officer for the Polarus, we have co-opted her as our very own weapons consultant.”
This run had been set up with Bethany Anne and TOM in advance. This set of Pods had been loaded onto the ship two days after Bethany Anne had spoken to them all and called Pete and Todd onto the table with her. Todd went to find Jean the very next morning and by that night, the Ad Aeternitatem had been pointed to another port where they were able to pick up the necessary armament.
Todd hit the button to activate their next run. The new Pods screamed forward, yells of excitement and jubilation drowning out any other chatter.
Lord almighty, Todd thought, Jean and Team BMW have outdone themselves. It had taken every trick Todd could think of to keep the nosy Wechselbalg away from the banging and clanging going on in the lower bay where their Pods were being worked on. As the designated ‘Pod Carrier’, the Ad Aeternitatem was getting some changes inside and out. Jean wasn’t happy with the complete lack of any defensive armament on the ship, so she had three weapons added to the pickup list when they went for the Pods. Her team had come aboard to help install the guns and show Captain Wagner’s crew how to use them.
Captain Wagner had set their direction south to get into the middle of the Mediterranean as clear of other ships as possible. Once they had the Pods below decks, out of the main bay area, TOM’s ship landed. Marcus, Bobcat and William had arrived with a large group of enhanced output engines which the Team then energized on TOM’s ship. Once that was completed, TOM’s ship left to go back into orbit and Team BMW flew back to the USA. With the new and improved Pods, they were achieving unheard of speeds. For the longer flights, they would go up to the thermosphere and fly quickly around the globe before descending through the mesosphere and stratosphere to get back down into the troposphere and into the clouds and cloud cover. There was extra distance involved with travelling via the thermosphere (approximately 200 miles up). But, the slightly farther trip due to the larger arc was offset by the lack of atmospheric wake issues. The team’s trip was close to fifteen minutes from the Mediterranean to the base in Colorado.
Todd had been standing by the last Pod to watch its enhanced engine get locked in when Jean Dukes came up, “How’s it going, soldier?” She slugged him on his arm, “Hey Todd, have you played patti-cake patti-cake with any assholes in dive bars lately?”
Todd smiled back at Jean, the two of them plus John Rodriquez had an ‘altercation’ back in Nassau that left three previous friends of the original dirtbag owner of Bethany Anne’s super-yachts dead. “Without you and John along it just wouldn’t be like old times, you know?”
The two of them watched as the ammo was loaded into the rotor housing area. Todd continued, “These things are a work of art. The amount of destruction is going to be a sight to see.”
“I’m pretty proud of it myself. The electrical power those small Pod engines put out is, literally, off the charts. Being able to power these little railguns is completely within their abilities. But don’t expect to fire more than maybe a half mile out with them before you start to see degradation of their flight path. I’m sure we can do better, but this was on short notice and we slammed them together like this. The short test we did this morning at sea was phenomenally successful.” She turned to look at Todd, “Why did you want tracer plugs added to the mix? We don’t use bullets for this, it is simply quarter-inch diameter, three-inch-long metal rods. Cheap as hell and not something your enemy will see without using heat-detecting goggles. You’re possibly opening yourself up to return fire and for what?”
Todd’s face turned from delighted to angry as he considered the video of the France terrorist attacks, “That’s because I want the motherfuckers to know that death comes for them. These six barrels’ fire once a second, so six rounds each second going downrange. I’ve had them place the tracers every fifty to ninety rounds. With TOM’s help, we’ve organized a dance that causes the Pods to rotate position and jink up and down through the dance. None of the Pods will ever cross each other and with the tracers being staggered like that no one on the ground is going to be able to draw a bead on black Pods at night moving so fast. Of course, I expect them to be dead in seconds once the onboard targeting system has them in its sights. Bethany Anne said no survivors.” Todd looked over at Jean, “And by God, I’m going to make damn sure we obey her command.”
Jean looked, “These things are pretty fucking awesome, but somebody could be under metal and you would never know if you got all of the people.”
Todd’s smile turned ugly, “That’s why I have one special package compliments of Team BMW to deliver as we leave.”
With that, Todd’s face eased from his previously ugly thoughts, and the two turned to less deadly topics.
Arra Meer was pretty damn proud of himself. He had made it to Libya and worked his ass off to train and learn. In three days, he and his group would be sent out to use their training to fight the injustice against his people.
He walked his designated perimeter a hundred meters from the outside of the camp. He enjoyed this early morning time to sit and contemplate his direction. France had been a cauldron ever since his people had effectively been segregated to poor suburbs and it had only gotten worse as the vitriolic speech of the hard right wingers and the National Front grew in recent years with various terrorist attacks. Before that, the riots in 2005 and the results from that action had festered for so long it continuously caused problems. That his people had migrated to France over the last seventy years but refused to integrate into their society never entered his mind as a possible issue. Arra Meer had no concept of proper behavior or personal responsibility. As far as he was concerned the fault was all with the French for keeping his people down. So, now he had learned how to fight back and soon he would go back to his neighborhood and see how he could help create a world-wide caliphate.
It might not happen in his lifetime, especially if he ended up fighting in Syria or some other location. But, it would happen, he wouldn’t be wasting his life for nothing.
Due to his distance from the camp, he was able to watch as the darkness was cracked open and a massive amount of destruction rained down on his camp. Arra was shocked to see little lights screaming down to the ground from different points in the sky around his camp. They were never from the same location and could come from close to the camp to farther away. Sometimes he would see one so close to the ground he thought someone might be able to grab hold of it and some were high enough he doubted he could use a pistol to shoot them.
He unslung his machine gun and tried to aim. The uselessness of the effort was quickly apparent. The best he could do was spray his bullets into the air and pray that something was hit!
He hadn’t shot fifteen rounds into the air when his mind realized one of those little lightning strikes was coming his way.
Then, Arra Meer, citizen of France and recently trained fighter, died when a slug of metal entered his chest. The shockwaves tore a fist sized chunk of flesh from his back, and his eyes were already glazed as he was tossed back five feet to land in the sand.
He never finished the thought that he would never be able to raise his gun in this war.
Pete was in awe. The flight from the first camp to the second was a high-speed, high acceleration joy ride. The six Pods had quickly formed a circle aimed at the camp. He heard Todd come over the system and then the single word, “Engage.”
That was when the night lit up and death was raining down on the camp from above. The sheer number of the shots the Pods had been putting into the camp was destroying buildings, vehicles and any heat source that Pete could see on his screen.
Suddenly, his screen lit up with an icon of a heat source, a person that was at least fifty yards outside of the camp circle. He noticed the question on his screen. “Terminate?” Pete quickly reached out and hit the ‘YES’ option. A blink of an eye later and the body was flying backwards. A tracer round had impacted and gone completely through the center of mass. The Pod returned to the destruction of the camp.
A few bodies were seen coming out of the tents firing into the air before they were quickly mowed down.
In less than sixty seconds, Pete’s Pod screen came up, “No targets. Land?” Pete spoke to the microphone above him, “Todd, are we done here?”
Pete heard Joel mumble an almost-silent, “Fuck me!”
Todd came back on, “Affirmative, Let’s go down, but leave two Pods up as over-watch. Let’s find what we can take and then I have a gift from Team BMW to leave behind.”
With the destruction complete, four Pods landed. The snipers had stayed up, but with the Pods actively targeting anyone but them, Pete doubted they would need to do anything. It took the team five minutes to find the main tent and get into the area with the equipment. Most of the equipment was trashed, but Todd found two cell phones that looked unlocked, so he grabbed them and tossed them into the second backpack he brought along for this very reason.
Once the search was complete, the men returned to their Pods and Todd set the command that would pull them back a couple of miles. All six Pods lined up. Todd spoke to everyone there, “We came, we saw, we implemented our Queen’s command. Now, we leave a final gift, compliments of the baddest little R&D team this side of the Milky Way.” Todd reached down to press a button on his screen, “Bobcat said this package was a Marcus special and that we should tell them, ‘Eat this, mother fuckers!” Todd pressed the button and he felt a tiny jolt as a package left his vehicle. A second later, his glass had to darken to protect his vision from the eye searing explosion that engulfed the camp. A tiny mushroom cloud could be seen to go up hundreds of yards above the camp
Todd heard Pete’s voice come across the speaker when the screens returned their visibility and the team could see the massive destruction the bomb made in the camp. To their eyes even the sand was glowing red in places. There was nothing recognizable as human made for over fifty yards from the center of the blast zone. It was easily another hundred yards that was mostly destroyed. “What the hell was that?”
“That,” Todd answered, “was Team BMW’s contribution to our retribution.” Todd paused then added, “Remind me never to piss off Marcus, ok?” He heard a few chuckles but thought he could hear every one of the guys watching return an affirmative.
Rocket Scientists, Todd mused, could be bad fuckers to piss off.
Pudong Shanghai, China
Sergeant Lo Chongan was staring with concern at the computer screen in front of him. He was in charge of a PLA unit that was assigned to attack and subvert different financial concerns in the West.
Unfortunately, his group had been given a particularly difficult group of financial companies to infiltrate. This was due to the fact that they were under the protection of an elite American Internet Cyber-Security company. So far the Americans had been able to counter the many different attack styles his group had attempted. They were almost successful a year ago, but the enemy had implemented new security software which had nullified his unit’s progress. His group had spent the last year trying to find any vulnerabilities in the security protocol. They would attack a small portion of the program that was protecting one of the known companies under this group’s security. When they were able to document a vulnerability, they would stop probing there and use the knowledge to attack another company under their protection. Hopefully, this would provide his group the ability to plant their spyware inside the enemy’s firewalls before the American group could identify and correct their vulnerabilities.
Sergeant Lo Chongan needed his group to crack this security. It wasn’t that his PLA commanders were impatient. They were actually far more patient with his group’s lack of success than he felt his team deserved. No, it was his other master who was impatient. Sergeant Lo Chongan could feel the dark eyes staring at him every time he left his home at night. If he was lucky he rarely saw The Master. But, occasionally The Master would appear in person to request an update.
The last update discussion had not gone well. His Master appeared at the meeting already agitated, and her barely concealed anger had made a considerable impression on Chongan. One that stayed with him for the last two months!
Chongan felt that his team was within thirty days of being able to crack the latest security updates. His team had been within two weeks of their objective just three months ago. But then the latest update had occurred, which shut them out. Lo Chongan had been able to find out, through his contacts, that the security programmer who had implemented that update for the American firm had left the company.
That was good for his team. Most likely the American company would not be able to protect their clients again.
His team of eighteen hackers worked in a darkened room and their faces were illuminated by the glow of their monitors.
His team’s goals were quite simple. Analyze the enemy, infiltrate, take control and then wait. His group would implement silent listening abilities that would send back important information. However, should there be a significant threat against China’s interests, he and many other groups within the PLA would be able to attack the computers with commands that would cripple the ability of those foreign companies to produce anything.
They would not have their money, their data, their software or even a way to fund their payroll. It would immediately cause millions of jobs to become untenable. The sheer devastation brought about by so many people not able to work would, in and of itself, cause massive repercussions within the societies China fought.
No country would be able to promulgate war when their businesses supply lines could not operate.
The Art of War for the digital age.
Now, Sergeant Lo Chongan and his group just needed to find two more weaknesses and he would be able to finally crack open the bottle of French Champagne he had been saving.
“How little the world understands, no matter how much we let them see. Even with the Prophet’s words written hundreds of years ago, they fail to seek the understanding of our faith and the foretelling of the great Caliphate we are building even now!” The roar of the small group was pleasing to Dawid Zadeh. He had been providing these exhortations to a group here in Libya for the last month. He felt the embrace of the crowd’s attention. All the eyes of those listening alight with the fire of the holy scriptures and the account of what was to come.
The Caliphate was growing, even now it was being pulled together and strengthened by the hundreds who joined weekly, and the thousands who sent financial help. Dawid Zadeh’s face was serene as he walked across the large courtyard before entering the mosque. The Imam for this Mosque was not pleased with Dawid, or his teachings out in the courtyards, but Dawid was careful not to be rude or disrespectful. The time for declaring Sharia law in this land would happen in the future. The truth that it would manifest was foretold. Whether he was here to see it or not didn’t matter, all that mattered was the duty to continue the effort. It might be his generation, or a generation yet unborn.
He went out a back passage to the apartment he was staying in, just a couple of blocks away. Half a year ago he moved his allegiance from Al-Qaeda to ISIS due to his belief that ISIS was proper in focusing their push on establishing God’s Principality as it had been ordained. Once Dawid believed that was true, his only choice under the law was to move his allegiance to ISIS. To join them in the Caliphate and move forward to expand its physical borders no matter what the method.
Now he felt nothing but disgust for those in Al-Qaeda. They were true apostates seeking to stay in the shadows when it was time to come together under the first Caliph in a thousand years.
He had been in Belgium to help organize the French attacks before moving here to Libya. He had exited his apartment only an hour before a police raid.
Now, he had been given instructions to continue his efforts spreading the word here for a few days before he was supposed to meet a new group to plan another attack. Due to the great success in France, his experience had been requested.
Dawid Zadeh was pleased to be able to provide his knowledge.
Pudong Shanghai, China
Sergeant Lo Chongan had to return early from his lunch, due an urgent request from his Corporal.
He stepped into the room, sliding the door closed, “Corporal, what is important enough to call me back from lunch? Did we get the last two vulnerabilities?”
Corporal Liu Jianguo shook his head while keeping his eyes on the screen in front of him, “No sir!”
Chongan strode over to Jianguo’s desk, “What is it, then?”
Jianguo pointed to his screen, “Sir, our efforts to breach the defenses have been traced. We are seeing more and more of our second party servers in Europe being taken offline.”
For the PLA, the second party servers were active servers located in legitimate businesses throughout Europe. These machines did business twenty-four hours a day. However, the PLA group also had very small command and control software which would take small data-command scripts from the PLA and inflate them to full size and then use them as the commands to run attacks. Should a system try to track the command and control software, the best it could do is track it back to the business in Europe. It was the ultimate cut-out. If you tried to take down their software, it would almost invariably take down the critical business server as well.
Chongan frowned as he leaned over to view the map of the servers in question. Jianguo’s map had over four hundred green locations when everything was trouble free. At that moment it looked like maybe thirty percent of the locations were red. Chongan was surprised as he watched at least another five dots turn red while he was viewing the map. “It was good you called me, Corporal. Have you made any progress identifying the source of the attacks?”
“No sir, I have not. Further, I’ve double checked the servers that are red.” Jianguo looked up to his commanding officer. “Sir, all of the servers are still on-line! I’m afraid our cut-outs must have been disabled but the next link back failed to notify us.”
Chongan reached over and hit a button on Jianguo’s touch-based screen, “They are being monitored! Have we implemented the next security protocols?”
Jianguo turned and hit two keys on his keyboard. The screen was refreshed with an additional window, “Yes sir! I’ve averaged the ping time of the affected servers over the last twenty-four hours. I’ve implemented manual shutdown of all communications to any server not responding within twice that average ping time.”
“How many of the red dots represent a normal safety shut-down?” Chongan watched as his Corporal’s shoulders hunched.
“None, sir.” Chongan looked back up to his commanding officer, “What are your orders, sir?”
Chongan considered the implications. If he shut down all of the second party systems, it would block their ability to work and it could take them weeks to rebuild their beachhead. He could implement a timed shutdown. Send out the instructions for the machines to lay dormant for a time and then start listening again. He could… “Send the command to all machines to cease transmitting any data. They are to move into ‘listen only’ mode. We shall see if we can find any communications or probes that are not coming from us. Maybe that will allow us to track the communications back to their source and find the responsible party. If that happens, I will request an attack against whoever is responsible. An aggressive attack should take their focus off us long enough to allow us to hide our assets.”
“Yes sir, shutting down all communications and moving to listen only mode.”
Now, thought Chongan, let’s see if we can find the enemy and turn the tables on them.
Washington D.C., USA
It was Friday afternoon and Don Simmings was nursing a late afternoon half-and-half from the Starbucks up the street, when Barb walked in. He looked up and smiled, “Another week down, another week without a terrorist hit here in the states. We are hopefully doing some good.”
She dropped into one of his extra chairs. Don had a better chair for his visitors than she had for her desk. She had considered buying a chair and bringing it in, but it rankled her that the team couldn’t get permission to requisition better furniture than what she used in her office. So, she was teaching the system a lesson by keeping her butt in her creaky, cranky, poor back-support chair. The lesson would occur when she had to go on worker’s comp. for six months of reconstructive back surgery.
Maybe she should just break down and buy herself a new chair. Relieving her back pain was more important than teaching the system a lesson!
“Have you read the latest reports from overseas?”
Don gave her a quick shake of his head before sipping on his hot coffee again. “Nope, not unless it came in before eight A.M. this morning. I’ve got a date tonight and I don’t want anything to jinx it.”
She stared at her boss, “How is an overseas report going to jinx your date tonight? Yeah okay, maybe a local issue, but we do research not street operations.”
Don shrugged, “This date is very different from the type I normally ask out. She is an opportunity ‘to date up’ I don’t receive very often, so I don’t want anything to upset the apple cart.”
Barb decided she wasn’t going to understand Don’s situation and dropped the subject. “Well, I’m sure you will enjoy your date and the rest of your night will go swimmingly. Now answer me this, Sir Don-meister, how does someone take out two terrorist training camps and no one has a clue how it was done?”
“Beats me, but we just took out a couple not too long ago. Those two in Libya when we bombed the hell out of them.”
“Ok, but we read about that in the newspapers. Everyone wants everyone else to know how much we are helping with the war. And reports on this type of preemptive attack help the people in our country feel safe.
However, I’ve just read a report where two terrorist training camps were taken out. The first camp, everyone was killed by your run-of-the-mill knife or gunshot wounds. Or, believe it or not, ragged tears across their throats! The ragged tear deaths and the gunshot victim were in the command tent. Everyone else was killed with hand-to-hand weapons.”
Don sipped more of his coffee. When she had started talking he had just known that Barb had gone and jinxed his date. So far, nothing she said had jinxed anything. “I’m liking this so far, what’s the catch?”
“Well,” She relaxed back in the chair. God it felt so good! “In this first camp there are massive amounts of wolf tracks, huge wolf tracks.”
She shook her head, “Can’t be. The local variety of wolf is probably only a third that size. Hell, there seem to be some tracks that are bigger than anything known to currently roam the earth. Someone is leaving from the University of Alaska – Fairbanks, to go take a look.”
“Alaska? Why the hell way up there?”
“The state has the biggest wolf population, so one of the guys who study wolves is running a research grant out of the University.” She shrugged her shoulders, “Beats me, I’m cold enough here, but that isn’t the coolest part of this.”
“Am I going to miss my date because of this?”
Barb rolled her eyes, “No! Now stop trying to dodge this. The second base was completely flattened! In fact, the reason that these bases were even found this fast is because a few towns east of the camps saw a massive flash of light early in the morning. We even captured the flash on spy satellites looking for missile firings, so we have the position. Not that it mattered, the locals were on it within a couple of hours.”
“Ok, a huge bomb and another target gone. Our country just bombed some of their camps back to the stone age so why the interest?”
“Because the second base wasn’t bombed back to the stone age, it was bombed down to glass. The heat from the main impact location of the bomb was so intense it fused the sand into glass and absolutely flattened everything for a hundred feet around the center. It was like a small tactical nuke went off.”
Don set his coffee down and put his elbows on his desk, “Small tactical nuke?” She nodded.
“Was this us?”
She shook her head.
“What about a black ops group?”
Again, a negative shake of the head.
“What about the Israelis?”
“Well, which of our allies has this kind of clout? What does radar say about it? I doubt someone humped a backpack nuke in there to release it. I sure as hell wouldn’t want a nuke strapped on my back.”
“No one! And there was nothing on the radar! Right now, all of our allies are secretly asking each other ‘did you do that?’ Even the Russians are saying ‘nyet’. In fact, quite a few governments are pretty sure we are responsible.”
“That’s damned disturbing. What about a competing terrorist organization? What if we have some sort of terrorist vs. terrorist thing going on?”
She pointed a finger at him. “That is a scary thought.”
Don agreed, “Yes it is.”
She smiled, “Just remember I didn’t come up with it, you said it yourself.”
Don leaned back and covered his eyes from the light above, “You thought it, you just didn’t say it!”
“I can neither confirm nor deny the accuracy of your statement.” She kept her face blank, but the humor showed in her eyes.
Don leaned back towards the desk again, “Ok, it most likely isn’t another terrorist agency.”
Barb looked at him, “Why do you say that?”
“Because that is what I officially believe until eight A.M. Monday morning, that’s why.” He turned to grab his briefcase, “Did you just ‘find’ this in the reports, or is this somehow connected to something else we are tracking here in the U.S.?”
“Uh, remember Anthony Chillenni?”
Don stopped shoving file folders into his briefcase to look at Barb, “Chicago, wasn’t it?”
“Yes. Then people in England, Germany and the Netherlands just disappeared. As in ‘really, really disappeared’, no body, no nothing!”
He put the briefcase on his desk, “I remember how those seemed to have links, but how are you connecting these dots?”
“One of the guys grabbed in the Netherlands was rumored to have more knowledge than the average street terrorist.”
“So, we think someone started a line here in the U.S., went to Europe and cleaned house. Then found new information that led to Libya and took action?”
Barb nodded, “Yes.”
“Have you put any of this into a report?”
Don smiled at Barb, “I’ll be able to read such a report Monday at eight A.M., right?”
Barb’s frown and narrowed eyes stared at Don, “Don, you can be such a dick.”
Don looked at his watch, “Yes, if you bring me potential problems just three and a half hours before my date, I can be a dick.” He looked up and smiled at Barb, “Don’t tell me you don’t already have plans to follow up on this? Instead of you doing it for free over the weekend, I’m making it a request from upper management. That way, I can put this effort in your jacket for work ‘above and beyond’.”
Don grabbed his briefcase and stepped out of his office. She smiled at the back of her boss. Now that, she considered, was why she busted her ass for him.
Pudong Shanghai, China
Chongan was head down, working on his computer when Jianguo stopped by his desk. Chongan looked up, “Yes?”
Jianguo’s face was grave as he whispered, “Sir, I don’t have a way to prove this, but I believe we are being attacked directly.” Jianguo’s face was impassive, but Chongan knew he had to be sweating inside. To bring something like a ‘feeling’ up to his superior officer was tantamount to admitting his skills were not better than whomever was doing the attacking. That was a problem and Jianguo was going to lose face. The only way he could avoid that was if he was not only right, but no one else was able to find the attacker as well.
Chongan knew his men, and he understood that Jianguo was his best. Both his best hacker, and the most stalwart man here. He didn’t boast and he focused on the goal, not the adulation or praise.
Chongan shook his head, once, quickly. Dismissing Jianguo who went back to his desk.
Now, how was he going to get all of his men on this task without pointing out Jianguo’s admission?
Ah, an age old military practice. The surprise drill!
Washington D.C. – USA
It had been a long weekend and Barb was tired.
However, the dozen donuts she had picked up from ‘Zombie Coffee and Donuts’ had made her morning, with their Fruity Pebbles laced concoctions. She figured the cereal was breakfast and the coffee a necessary pairing to stop her from sliding into a sugar-fugue.
It had worked reasonably well until three o’clock in the afternoon. It was sliding toward seven p.m. now, and her eyes were dry and scratchy. The only reason she was pushing onward was the absolutely unbelievable evidence that she was uncovering.
The evidence was proving that there was a nation-state level player involved. Some organization was able to go into multiple countries at will, and leave completely undetected. They were capable of taking out terrorists and leaving nothing but questions behind.
At first, she could really get behind the idea of more terrorists being removed from the equation and she didn’t lose any sleep over that happening. It was the way these terrorists were disappearing that was bothering her.
Her mind had finally brought a little memory to the surface. Well to be fair it had taken three cups of coffee and eight donuts to provide the necessary buzz to recall a report she had seen. Eye witnesses had claimed that a meteor had hit a valley in Turkey a few months back. It had devastated the valley, breaking windows miles away. A couple of people had come out and said they thought the explosion looked a little like a mushroom cloud. Most of the scientists said that such claims were probably a by-product of the distance, the valley walls throwing the blast up into the air and possibly memory embellishment. No radiation had been found at the site.
Just like the attack in Libya.
Barb was able to backtrack through a few computer systems used by different agencies to locate a military operation in that same valley during the time frame in question. Something had certainly happened in that valley right before the mysterious meteorite. Barb was convinced that it wasn’t a natural occurrence. She just didn’t have any idea what it actually was.
Too many people had seen the track across the sky. It wasn’t a strike from any known missile, she would have been able to identify that.
She decided to keep some of her findings out of her report. They were just too inconclusive and frankly weren’t inside her group’s area of responsibility. However, she was going to quietly see if she could find out what was going on.
Because as sure as she was about to eat that last damned donut, something really weird was going on.
Barb packed up her stuff and went to drop the report on Don’s desk. It would be waiting for him when he got in. She left a note saying she would be late and to not let anyone call the cops. She just needed to swing by the gym.
She grabbed the last donut and dropped the box into the trash on her way out of the building.
En-Route to Syria
“It feels good going for a girl’s night out.” Gabrielle told Bethany Anne as they flew through the thermosphere. “Nothing like a little time getting to do things together to really seal a good friendship.”
Bethany Anne cracked a smile, “You mean, nothing like traveling thousands of miles to fuck-up a terrorist together?”
Gabrielle’s eyes flashed with excitement. “Exactly! You’re the first of my female friends to ever truly understand that.” Gabrielle put her head on Bethany Anne’s shoulder and batted her eyelashes, “See, you really do care.”
Bethany Anne smiled, “I’m still going to razz you about your age.”
Gabrielle pulled her head back up, “Bitch!” Then she thought about the last time she called Bethany Anne a bitch, “…Queen.”
“Mmmhmmm.” Bethany Anne was paying more attention to the stars than Gabrielle’s comment. “From up here you don’t see the ugliness down there, it’s so different.”
Gabrielle looked out, “Yeah, but you don’t see the ugliness of an adult when you hold them as a child either.”
Bethany Anne looked over to Gabrielle, “Philosophizing? You are a woman of hidden talents, Gabrielle.”
Gabrielle rolled her eyes, “In five hundred years, you get to be around a few people who say thoughtful things. There are times I wonder if I’m having an original ‘Gabrielle’ thought or is it something my subconscious is recalling from years before.”
“So, that’s what I have to look forward to?”
Gabrielle shrugged, “That, and a lot of sex if you ever get off your ass and start looking for men.”
Bethany Anne smiled, “Was that with three, or was it four at a time?”
Gabrielle slapped Bethany Anne’s arm, “Stop trying to increase the count!” Gabrielle was sure Bethany Anne hadn’t heard the comment she had mumbled to herself back in Miami months ago, had she?
“Just getting you off the subject. My love life is as unimpressive as this view is inspiring. Not exactly a lot of guys available for a nanocyte enhanced super-human bent on saving the world from aliens and other crap-tastic people. Kind of ruins the ‘what are you doing this weekend’ question when you answer with, ‘flying to Syria to kill a terrorist mastermind who was responsible for helping kill people in France.’”
“I don’t know, there would be a few that could handle that answer.”
Bethany Anne turned back to Gabrielle. “Name me one.”
Bethany Anne’s jaw dropped. She held up two fingers, “Name me two!”
Gabrielle pursed her lips, “Other than the Bitch’s …”
Bethany Anne interrupted, “Oh, hell no! I can’t sleep with any of those guys, that would ruin the group.”
“How will it ruin the group? Are they going to guard you any less if they share your bed?” Gabrielle noticed the flush creeping up Bethany Anne’s neck. Holy crap! She was blushing. “Besides, John’s got a nice ass.”
Bethany Anne retorted, “So, why haven’t you slapped that yet?”
This time, it was Gabrielle’s turn to stutter, “Wh… Wait a minute! How did this turn on me? I wasn’t the one moaning about a non-existent love life.”
“No? Seems to me you had plenty of options lined up. Sure you’re not secretly…”
Gabrielle put up a hand, “Stop! I’m sorry for trying to make you squirm. You’re right, they are all off limits - to both of us.”
“Not even a little Wechselbalg…”
Gabrielle turned to Bethany Anne, “Oh. My… Do you have any idea the age difference?”
Bethany Anne smiled, “As a matter of fact, I do. About 25 generations. So that would make you as old as his great, great, great…”
“You can stop! I get the idea.”
“Great, great, great, great, great, great… Oh, fuck it. You’re an old tea-bag! You’re right, he wouldn’t be interested.”
“Wouldn’t be interested? I’ll have you know this is one tight-ass body!”
“One that isn’t getting any horizontal limbo lessons, either.”
Gabrielle turned back to watch the screen, “Says the woman who has yet, in my whole experience with her, been mano-e-womano with anyone.”
Bethany Anne laughed, “That was low. Accurate, but low!” The two women shared a laugh when they suddenly began a rapid descent to earth.
“Well my Queen, any final words before we have our little women’s outing here?”
“Sure, do you want to go to France after this? I feel like dining in Paris as a way to finish this trip.”
“That sounds divine!”
The Pod sped to an area only a couple of blocks from the distinctive minaret of the local Mosque. Bethany Anne touched a button to darken the lights then waved her hand over the screen, blanking it out. Both ladies grabbed their swords and made sure their pistols were in their holsters. For this operation, both had their shorter wakizashi swords. When the Pod was within a foot of the concrete roof, Bethany Anne popped the lock and Gabrielle stepped out first with Bethany Anne right behind her. The Pod disappeared into the night above them, ready to be called down at a moment’s notice.
Gabrielle made sure that no one was in the vicinity and then went back to Bethany Anne who had her back to her. “Everything OK?”
Bethany Anne’s voice was soft. “I’m just thinking about those killed in France. Those lives this individual was instrumental in ending. The terror they felt when all they wanted to do was go out for a night to eat, or see a concert. For some who survived, they will never be the same. Never have the opportunity to live their lives without looking over their shoulders or without awakening in the middle of the night with the shakes from nightmares. Some wondering why their friend was taken, and not them. How many marriages are going to fail because of this? How many more tragedies are going to come about because one group feels they have the answer?”
Gabrielle remained quiet as it sounded like a rhetorical question.
Bethany Anne looked out over the rooftops across the second largest city in Syria. “There are those who believe that they are beholden to words commanding them to create a nation and a ruler, a Caliphate and a Caliph. Now they are commanded by these centuries old words to enlarge this border, to enslave or kill those who are not part of their domain. They use terror to push their demands…”
Bethany Anne turned towards Gabrielle who took an involuntary step back when she noticed the ferocious red eyes staring back at her. “The blood of the innocent calls to me, Gabrielle. The blood of the guilty shall pay. Those that offer peace, I’ll answer with peace. Those that want terror?”
Gabrielle watched as Bethany Anne, in full vamp mode, took in everything around her, “Then I will be the embodiment of Terror!”
Gabrielle shook her need to ‘flee’ out of her system. This was Bethany Anne, her Queen. This was the lady she gave her allegiance to.
Gabrielle smiled into the dark as own her eyes turned red.
Gabrielle, a Nicht over five hundred years old and head of the Queen’s Guards, stepped over to her Queen. “What is your command?”
Bethany Anne turned to her guard. “We will hunt him down and then kill him! Let all those who see us know demons walk the night!”
Gabrielle answered with a toothy grin, the Queen Bitch was hunting tonight!
Dawid Zadeh had finished his night-time Isha prayers a few hours previously. He was at the mosque, having spoken with a few more of those who understood the holy scripture as it was intended, not as those who wanted ‘peace’ would make it. He considered staying through Fajr prayers, those offered between the very beginning of dawn and sunrise, but realized he was too tired. He needed to be awake for the traveling he was going to do tomorrow to join another group planning an attack.
He stepped from the courtyard through the mosque and out the back door into the evening air. He briefly wished he’d brought a jacket because the night was brisk. It was good his room was close by.
He had made it a block and a half when a feeling of unease settled on his shoulders. His eyes darted around, searching the shadows in the night that could hide those who might wish him ill. Right now, Al Qaeda supporters might even fire on their Muslim brethren. That was only fair he supposed, ISIS had called that group the ‘Jews of Jihad’. They might have had their feelings hurt a little.
Right now he scanned around, not seeing anything out of the ordinary. He stepped away from the walls and walked in the street, gripping the knife under his tunic. He might not have seen any action in a while but he was not defenseless.
“Daaaawiiiiid…” The voice was soft, on the wind. He spun around, eyes darting left and right. He turned back around, making sure no one was sneaking up on him. He pulled his knife out of his tunic, and hurried towards his apartment.
“Daaawiiiiiddd…” This time, the voice went in his right ear, then circled around his back to where he heard it in his left. Dawid pivoted on his right leg, his left leg behind him leaving his right in front. He was prepared for an attack that didn’t come. He could feel a bead of sweat rolling down his neck in the cool night but he didn’t feel cold at all.
“How many, Dawid?” The voice was angry, strident and accusatory. The voice spoke in French, not a language he was expecting to hear in Syria. “How… many what?” He answered, then quickly turned to see if anyone was coming behind him.
The street was empty. The feeling of death was stronger than before, as if a blanket of terror had been laid over the block. He struggled to push himself towards his apartment. He fought though the feeling of dread that screamed at him to fall to the ground and cower in fear. He would not yield to this …. this abject fear. He would not!
He was within twenty paces of the building’s front when two red eyes appeared in front of the entrance. This Jinn spoke in English with a different voice one both beautiful and venomous. “Welcome to Jahannam, Dawid Zadeh. It is time you answered for your apostate beliefs.”
Dawid took a step back, waving his knife frantically in front of him. “It is not I who is apostate, Jinn!”
The Jinn stepped down to the street, walking towards Dawid who was shocked to see that it was a female Jinn, eyes blood red and glowing in the night. He could see fangs in her mouth, and a bloodthirsty look on her face. Here was evil, certainly!
Dawid was a devout believer, but he felt fear to his toes at that moment. Here was a true Jinn, one that was claiming he was an apostate. This could not be true! He had followed the law, followed everything he had been told.
“Doubting so quickly Dawid?” The malevolence in the voice was unmistakable. “Do you not know that this is your last night in this plane? Tonight you will be in the flames, in the flames for those crimes you were responsible for!”
Dawid took more steps backwards, never moving his eyes from the being in front of him, “No! I have been devout … always!”
“How is that so?” The Jinn continued her slow walk towards him. “Is it not said, ‘There is no compulsion in religion. The right way has become distinct from error.’?”
Dawid was confused, why was this Jinn quoting to him? This is not what he had been taught. The rules were old, old generations ago. He was sweating profusely now, his eyes desperately searching for a way he could run.
“Jahannam is calling for you Dawid! Jahannam is CALLING!” The last word was screamed into the night. Dawid turned and fled as fast as his feet could take him. He stumbled and fell, looking behind him he saw the Jinn walking towards him. His hands were bleeding from landing on the street.
As he scrambled back to his feet, the voice he’d first heard came to him across the wind. “Dawiiid, the blood of the innocent is on your palms!” Dawid looked towards the Mosque to see a second pair of red eyes staring at him. He stumbled again when trying to stop his momentum. The Jinn in front of him started walking in his direction. He backed up a step, then another. He turned to see the first Jinn only half a block from him now. A sob escaped his lips, they were coming for him! He looked behind him but he couldn’t move, his body was not his to control. The Jinn had locked his muscles down, they only allowed him to turn his head.
The voice in front of him spoke, the malevolent evil rested on his ears, “Not Jinn, Dawid. Vampires…” Gabrielle was close enough that she opened her mouth letting Dawid see her fangs in all of their magnificent glory.
A sob escaped his lips, his eyes drawn to the death she promised. Massive pain erupted in his chest and he looked down to see the tip of a blade sticking out, the moonlight glinting off the blade that was coated in his blood. He coughed, blood escaping over his lips.
He could feel a warm breath on his neck although her words were barely loud enough for him to hear. “The cries, for justice, of the dying have been heard! The dead have come to claim you, Dawid. France’s children shall have their justice!” Bethany Anne pulled her sword out from Dawid’s back, allowing him to fall to his knees. Bethany Anne reached down with her left hand, grabbing Dawid by the hair, “Tonight you are the lesson, Dawid, tonight you are the note!” Bethany Anne pulled Dawid Zadeh up, his mind mostly gone already. A fraction of a second later, Bethany Anne’s blade sang through the night, leaving Dawid Zadeh headless.
Bethany Anne grabbed the head, “You, Dawid Zadeh, shall not have a proper burial!” With that, Bethany Anne pushed the head into the Etheric.
As she cleaned her blade on the body, she ratcheted up her ability to push fear out in waves and waited for the Pod to come down into the dark street. The two women got in and a second later, the night breathed a sigh of relief.
The Queen Bitch’s Ship Polarus
Stephen was wandering around the ship. He enjoyed night time and it was peaceful on such a large vessel. He allowed his senses to stretch out to listen to distant sounds in the dark as he stopped near the bow of the boat, enjoying the moon’s gleam reflecting upon the waves.
A hatch closed from up near the bridge and a pair of footsteps came walking towards him. Stephen turned to smile at Captain Thomas.
“Good evening, Captain.”
Captain Bartholomew Thomas smiled at Stephen, “Good evening yourself, Stephen. Are you enjoying this lovely evening?”
Stephen turned back to watch the waves, “Indeed I am Captain, you provide such an enticing view it would be a shame to waste it.”
Captain Thomas came up to stand beside Stephen, “I never get tired of it. You would think as many years as I’ve looked out over water, that it would look the same. It never does, there is always something a little different about it and that’s just enough to keep it exciting.”
Stephen asked, “Might it be the danger? No matter what ship you are in, there is always a dangerous aspect to the seas. It seems placid right now, but you always know anything can happen at a moment’s notice.”
“That could be it. A subconscious recognition that danger is always lurking. Beauty and destruction doing a dance right in front of you. You never know which is going to show at any moment. Mankind can reach for the stars, but we can’t tame the depths.”
“I didn’t realize you were a poet, captain.”
Captain Thomas laughed, “Son, you’re always a poet when you court the deeps as your mistress.”
Stephen smiled. It was nice that the captain called him son. Should any see the two standing together, they wouldn’t doubt the captain was the older and wiser, no matter the truth. It was a good feeling to have after the ennui of his last few centuries. “I’m enjoying the company, but don’t let me interfere with your duties. Did you have a reason to seek me out, before I took you off track?”
“Yes I did,” Captain Thomas turned to Stephen, “I understand Bethany Anne moves through another dimension when she ‘steps’ from one place to another. I also hear stories that Michael can pull people partially into that dimension but move in this one kind of like a ghost. Further, I know we send communications through that other dimension. I’m wondering what else we might do through the Etheric?”
Stephen asked, “Do you have something particular in mind?”
“Missiles.” Captain Thomas regarded Stephen levelly, “What happens if someone can shove a missile or a big bomb through the etheric and just bomb the ever loving hell out of a location?”
Stephen thought through a couple of efforts Michael had made about half a millennium ago. “I seem to recall Michael testing his abilities. The larger the metal content, the less he could do. Once it got past a certain amount and I can’t remember if it was size or weight, he couldn’t do it. I have never asked Bethany Anne, but I imagine TOM could give us a better answer. That is an interesting question. I’ve had some conversations with Bethany Anne where she admitted there is an issue of energy.”
“Energy? Like you can’t send energy through?”
“No,” Stephen continued, “more a component of how much energy it takes. As I understand it the energy to move through the etheric increases with distance or how many people she is taking. Long distances with a lot of people requires the most energy to accomplish. So it could be possible that increased volume might require more energy. Perhaps there is a density component or organic versus inorganic?”
Captain Thomas nodded, “Well, that right there would be an issue. If Michael has issues with density and Bethany Anne is saying distance is an issue, we can’t send a missile very far through the etheric due to energy issues.”
“True, although TOM’s ship can go very, very fast. What would happen if you sent a missile very fast?”
Captain Thomas’s eyes grew wide, “The payload becomes almost secondary in importance.”
Stephen turned to regard the beauty of the waves in the moonlight. “Indeed, Captain. Indeed.”
Buenos Aires Argentina
Bethany Anne, Gabrielle and Ashur appeared in the empty house, the same location she had fought those two big-ass Nosferatu right after Anton was killed.
This time, Michael waited by the wall for the three of them. “Welcome back Bethany Anne, welcome Gabrielle.”
The two ladies returned Michael’s pleasantries.
Bethany Anne looked around, “Is there a better place I can use at your present house as an arrival area? I’m kinda getting bored coming here all the time.”
Michael agreed, “I can certainly arrange that. Please follow me as I have a car waiting for us. Anton did have a fairly large number of rooms at his house. Once we get there you can choose one not in use and we will protect it appropriately.”
The four of them left the house and drove to Anton’s old main home, located outside the city. It was situated on a large plot of land among other estates. Gabrielle whistled, “That’s a pretty large house! Or is that Argentina’s version of a castle? It appears to have a lot of Germanic characteristics.”
Michael replied, “That’s because it is. Anton apparently felt it would help some of the people from Germany adapt, seeing something from their country. So he used significant German architectural styling when he built this house. There is just enough Argentinian design not to raise too many questions.” Michael parked the car and the four of them got out.
Bethany Anne noticed that Michael didn’t question or get upset with Ashur riding in his car. Gabrielle asked, “Where is Tabitha?”
Michael waved towards the southern side of the house, “She has co-opted three rooms on that side of the house.”
Bethany Anne wondered. “Why three rooms?”
Michael shrugged, “Typical female nesting behavior? She uses one for sleeping, one for her office and one for clothes. I haven’t lived with a woman for a couple of centuries, you will have to forgive me for not being up on the times.”
Gabrielle looked back at Michael, “Clothes? She seemed a… I don’t know… tomboy sort of girl when we talked.”
Michael seemed to be searching his head for the meaning. Bethany Anne added, “Like a girl that prefers to act and dress more like a boy.”
Michael grunted, “She does not have, what do you call it? A desire to be in an all-female relationship.”
Bethany Anne noticed Michael blushing faintly. While she enjoyed his discomfort, she found herself not liking a rambunctious clearly heterosexual woman possibly angling to go after Michael.
TOM, are you messing with my emotions again?
What? No! ADAM and I are endeavoring to increase our international relations. We are working on communications with the Chinese.
Bethany Anne swallowed, that meant the slight feelings of jealousy were all natural, all hers. She replied back to TOM without thinking, Yeah, fine, whatever. Don’t start World War III.
There would come a time when she would have cause to regret that dismissive comment.
Bethany Anne spoke to Gabrielle, “I’ve got to ask Michael a question related to my dad, do you mind checking on our little resident hacker and make sure Michael’s been an appropriate host?” Gabrielle nodded and walked into the house.
Bethany Anne heard Gabrielle call out for Tabitha and her excited response.
Michael was quiet, staring at Bethany Anne. He had over a thousand years under his belt, he could wait a couple of minutes until Bethany Anne worked up the courage to ask him her question. She seemed pensive.
“So, I understand from a little birdy that you’re an ordained minister?” She smiled up to him, affecting a sweet ‘pretty please’ look that women have used for centuries.
Apparently courage wasn’t her problem.
Michael’s eyes came together, his lips pursed, “Would that ‘birdy’ have been male, or female?”
Bethany Anne decided to come clean, “Yes!” She continued the pretty smile.
Michael frowned, the damn smile was working! “That means both my brother and his daughter were guilty of ratting me out, correct?”
Bethany Anne shrugged, “I can’t disclose that much, however let’s just agree that the information came from very solid sources, ok?”
This time it was Michael who shrugged, “Very well, the information is accurate. What does this have to do with Lance?”
For some reason, Bethany Anne was having a hard time asking this favor of Michael. She wasn’t sure if it was due to the emotions she was feeling, or if it was the first real favor with nothing attached that she was asking of him. “I was wondering if you would mind officiating his marriage to Patricia? We kind of thought that it would be cool to have the oldest living minister marry them. Well, it seemed like a really cool idea at the time.” She wanted to kick herself, what the hell was her problem this time?
Michael risked taking a short peek into Bethany Anne’s mind. After peeking into Tabitha’s mind one too many times, he was becoming hesitant due to the …erotic thoughts he found in Tabitha’s mind. While one or two weren’t so bad, that girl had a very active imagination and Michael wasn’t sure what the dungeon scene had to do with her fantasy sex with him, nor did he ever want to find out. He had decided to never ’casually’ check her thoughts again.
He was relieved to find out Bethany Anne wasn’t thinking of any dungeon scenes, and then rather annoyed there were no scenes at all. She was just feeling uncomfortable having to ask a favor from him and feeling a sense of obligation for doing it. “You do realize that I haven’t done any ‘officiating’ in the last 200 years, correct?”
“Sure!” Bethany Anne looked towards the house. “But, how hard can it be? It’s like riding a horse, right? Once you know how to do it, you always remember for the next time?”
Michael snorted, “You obviously haven’t ridden too many horses, have you?”
She turned back to Michael, “Is it that obvious? It’s a saying, it must have some truth to it.”
Michael replied, “Only if you want to break your damn fool neck, if you think that one time riding a horse makes you good enough to do it again. However, officiating a wedding is pretty straightforward. You can let Lance know I would be honored to officiate their wedding.”
Bethany Anne’s eyes lit up with happiness and Michael smiled at her response. She stepped quickly up to him, stood on her tippy toes and kissed him on the cheek. Then Bethany Anne turned around and raced into the house calling for Gabrielle. Michael watched her go in shock, reaching up to feel where her lips had just graced his face.
He slowly started walking to the house, a small smile tugging at his face. His steps changing from a man without a care, to a man stalking prey.
Oh yes, life just got all the more delicious.
Washington, D.C. - USA
Don walked down the hall to Barb’s office and stuck his head in. “Hey, thanks for that report. Sorry for not reading it earlier but I …” Don stopped talking since it was becoming obvious Barb wasn’t paying any attention to him. He stepped into her office and sat down in one of her chairs.
Damn, this chair was uncomfortable! Don shifted his butt, left then right, but nothing helped. His efforts to get comfortable, however, did manage to attract Barb’s attention.
“Don, sorry … I was … well, focused. What’s up?” Barb’s mind was still on what she had been reading.
“I came by to thank you for the report, but you didn’t hear me. So, I’m trying to find out what’s troubling you since it could affect what we need to do.”
“Aaahhh…” Barb looked back to her screen. “Would you believe another ‘coincidence’ has occurred?”
Don lifted the report in his hand, “Something to do with this?”
“Yes! At least I’m guessing they’re related.”
“Ok, but first let’s go to my office.” He stood up, “I don’t think I can deal with that excuse for a chair any longer.”
“Welcome to my world!” Barb grabbed her laptop and some papers.
She could hear Don’s muffled answer from the hallway, “I’d rather not, that’s why we’re going to my office.”
“Smart-ass.” Barb grumped.
Don was just sitting down and opening his report when she placed her laptop on his desk and opened it. She told him, “I’m going to steal your chair.”
He answered, without looking up from the report, “It’s not stealing if I tell you that you can have it. Impress me, and I’ll let you.”
Barb eyed her research. Hot damn, that chair was going to be hers! “Fine, but I get my choice.”
Don bounced in his chair as he replied, “So long as it isn’t this one you’re a go.”
Barb laid out her research. “Ok. I believe we have an organization that has backtracked the money to Anthony Chillenni. From him, they got some cut-out names overseas. They take him out and drop him somewhere, probably dumped him in Lake Michigan. Encase the asshole in cement, he never comes back up.”
Don interrupted, “Why not a version of Guantanamo Bay?”
Barb presented her reasons. “I don’t think they are doing that, but it’s more hunch than concrete evidence. If they have their own version of Guantanamo Bay, then where is it? They are hitting targets here in the U.S. and overseas. I can’t believe they have multiple detention centers.”
“Let’s call it what it likely is, a torture location. If we can’t get the bodies, then they are possibly using torture to procure information and then washing away the evidence. Blood goes down the drain and the body gets dumped somewhere.”
Barb’s face contorted in disgust. She didn’t like terrorists, but she was vehemently opposed to torture. “Ugh! That’s awful! But I don’t think so. We don’t have any evidence that these people are leaving the area with their targets. Look at Chillenni, we have no evidence that anyone ever took him out of his building. How did they do that?”
“Looped the surveillance video?”
“Yeah, but when? That was a secured building and he was on a secured floor. How did they even get up there? The report has him entering his elevator and using the keypad lock to enter his apartment. Then, nothing.”
“Black helicopter? Rappel down from above?” Barb looked at Don, then raised her eyebrows. He made a face, “I’m just spit-balling a few ideas. I don’t think anyone can fly a helicopter in Chicago’s winds without someone noticing. So … we don’t know how they made dearly departed Mr. Chillenni disappear, but they obviously have skills. And I’m talking high end, professional level skills.”
Barb continued, “Right. So, put ‘professional” into column number one. That includes professional computer skills, since they were capable of discovering the data that led them to Chillenni in the first place.”
“What triggered their interest in Chillenni?”
Barb shrugged, “Beats me. They might have traced the money, or they could have found someone overseas that fingered him. I’m just assuming he was the first, but he could be the second or third in the string of hits.”
By now, Don was completely into this discussion, his coffee from earlier was getting cold. “Go on. We started with Chillenni, so let’s keep it there.”
“Alright, our buddy Anthony gives up the names of those he knows, probably in an attempt to save his life. He knows he could die for whispering any names, but a ‘probable’ death in the future is less important than an immediate death right then. Only problem…”
“They didn’t play fair, they just killed him.”
“Who knows?” Barb shrugged, “Maybe they played fair, but he didn’t understand the rules. Either way, he gives up some names and then they make him disappear. Next, they hit jolly old England and our second contestant, Ali Abdullah. Reports show he was with some friends talking late at night, outside a meat market. A video camera near his house never shows him arriving home. We have a video camera near the meat market which shows him turning down Dunstable Road which is the right direction if he is heading home.”
“Possible. Possibly probable. Ali was known to carry weapons and if he fired a weapon, someone would have noticed. The only other report that corresponds to the same general time frame is rather vague. It mentions a general feeling of ‘bad things’ happening in a park a few blocks away.”
“X-Files type stuff?” Don smirked.
“Never watched it, so I can’t comment.”
“Not a Duchovny fan?”
“Actually, I like him just fine. The series just wasn’t interesting to me at the time, and I’ve never gone back to watch it. But, I mention this report because it might become relevant later.”
“So, the plot thickens!” Don smiled when Barb rolled her eyes at him.
Barb continued, “Now, we go to Germany and we lose three more. We have a camera on the front door of a club where a ‘hot’ woman is seen following our mark Fahid Atif out of the front door. Then a large black man appears to tail them both for a couple of frames and then nothing.”
“Can we I.D. the possible suspects?”
“No, too grainy and too dark. The focus of the camera was the front door, not the periphery. I doubt the hot girl was there to off a terrorist.”
“That’s being sexist, you know.” Don grinned, “We might have a hot girl on a mission to fight terrorism all over the world.” Don raised his hands when Barb gave him ‘the stare’. He laughed, “Just saying! I’m trying to support women everywhere and when I do, this is the crap I get.”
Barb wasn’t smiling, “Be real, I’m willing to admit it’s possible she helped trap him, but I would lay money on the mysterious black man as the muscle. We have the other two who disappeared leaving at about the same time from a different club down the street and heading towards the first club. So, I’m…” She eyed Don, “Spit-balling here, but I think those two get caught up in whatever was happening with the first guy. So, it appears that all three get taken out. Wham, bam, thank you ma’am, three more terrorists down. Plus, they netted a big fish in this haul.”
She agreed, “More intel. Now we go on to Berlin and our altercation at the club there. We have definitive eye-witnesses who say a white American is accosted by our lucky contestant Mustafa Ali Abrahm. Mr. Abrahm is seen - get this - sticking a knife through the American’s hand and impaling it to the table. The American pulls the knife out and a few seconds later, punches Mustafa hard enough to make him collapse. Then, the two are seen leaving the club and we never see Mustafa Ali Abrahm again. Like, ever again.”
“I heard you the first time.”
“I’m just making sure you were paying attention.”
“Oh,” Don admitted, “I’m paying very close attention. How reliable are the eye-witnesses?”
Barb frowned, “Unfortunately, nothing that is going to get ‘upstairs’ excited about. Try drinking-at-a-club-late-at-night-reliable.”
“So, it’s possible the knife through the hand might have actually missed his hand?”
“Not unless the blood on the table is fake.”
“We have a match on the blood?”
She shook her head, “Completely contaminated. Not a thing anyone can do with it.”
Barb smiled, she had Don completely involved in her report. That chair was coming with momma! “Also, the bouncer says he didn’t see a thing. The investigator has the impression the bouncer might know more, but isn’t going to say anything. Apparently, Ali was a known jerk and there isn’t one person who is ‘losing sleep’ over his disappearance. It’s all ‘good riddance’.”
“Why did the police get involved?”
“He had two friends who wanted the American caught and prosecuted.”
“Where were these two selfless individuals at the time?”
“Apparently, running for their lives.”
Don snorted, “Cowards.”
Barb said, “They might be cowards, but they are living cowards at the moment. The police have asked for their help capturing the guy but they are too scared he will come for them and seem to have forgotten the details. Remember our buddy Fahid’s friends? I think they tried to help their friend and got a six-foot box as their reward.”
“I thought it was seventy-two virgins.”
“Don’t be crass, that’s only for special situations and I’m pretty sure whatever they did isn’t going to qualify.” Barb continued, “So, we have the first hit here in America, the second hit by a big black guy and the third by a very white American.”
“You forgot the sexy woman.”
“You would focus on her.”
“Hell yeah, just imagine the television rights to this story. Put some more sexy women in it and we will make a fortune.” Don’s eyes had a twinkle in them.
“Focus Don. I’ll throw some testosterone your way,” she changed her voice, “and NOW the royal rumble MAIN EVENT!” Barb almost started coughing trying to imitate a ring announcer. “Over in the Netherlands, in one of the government ‘no-go’ zones we have a major altercation, once again it’s a white American.”
“No, at least not from what we can tell. The report suggests this guy was much taller. He also had something similar to special forces training. He went through a group of thugs armed with batons and knives without breaking a sweat. According to one of the witnesses, he caught a rock, bigger than your hand, thrown from twenty yards away. He returned the rock so hard he broke a guy’s sternum. By the time he grabbed two more suspected terrorists, after a firefight in an apartment building, he had left five dead and another in a coma.”
“An actual Special Forces unit?” Don considered who else could do something like this.
“Really, then whose? If we are doing this - and so far the culprits mostly look American - nobody in our government is speaking up. Our friendly neighbors are going to figure out the same things I have, eventually, and then they will come calling asking why we are running covert operations in their countries.”
Don considered what she had just said, “Wait a minute, that would presume some sort of legal declaration to go after Anthony Chillenni. We would at least have his name on a report somewhere.”
Barb agreed, “All true, but we don’t. Either we have a rogue anti-terrorist group in the country running outside legal jurisdiction or we have some other unknown group doing this.”
Don shook his head, “Dammit, this discussion isn’t going well. What else do you have?”
“We come to the final chapter, at least so far. I found on one of our foreign wires that Dawid Zadeh has been assassinated in Syria. Everything from his shoulders down was found, stabbed by a sword and left in the middle of the street halfway between the mosque he was speaking at and his apartment. The last time he was seen alive was at the Mosque teaching the Caliphate ‘truth’ to some new converts.”
Don was thinking back, “Zadeh? Isn’t he the one that skipped out of France right ahead of a raid?”
“The very same. In fact, you could say he was one of the masterminds of the group. Well, him and Abaaoud. But since the French nailed Abaaoud, Zadeh was the only one left of those involved with experience.”
“The French didn’t fuck around. They shut down civil liberties and uncovered a whole bunch of shit. They based it on a 1955 law and did something like a hundred and fifty raids in one night.”
Barb consulted her notes, “It was a hundred and sixty-eight raids. They found bulletproof vests, guns and a rocket launcher. Hard to explain what you need a rocket launcher for. The president has asked for constitutional amendments to combat terrorism so they don’t have to use the state of emergency clause so much.” She pushed those notes aside, “We are getting off track. My point was someone tracked down Zadeh, was able to get all the way into Damascus, and cut his head off in the middle of a street at night with no one seeing a thing.”
“Could it be Al-Qaeda vs. ISIS?”
“The head is missing. Gone. Disappeared.”
“I rather gathered if it was missing, that it was gone.” Don said, dryly.
“Want to know what people said the next morning?”
Don smiled, “No, but you’re going to tell me anyway.”
Barb ignored his comment, “A lot of people were saying that they felt there was something evil or overwhelmingly scary out there and all they could do was hide in case Shaitan came for them.”
“Their version of a demon. Not the same thing as the Satan from the Bible. Still, a pretty damning comment when you add in the witnesses from England.”
Don twisted his hand in the air, “A little tenuous.”
“Really? How about no one saw a thing? One guy gets run through, stabbed and then has his head cut off by some sort of bladed weapon. All of this in the middle of a huge city and the only thing anyone is able to uncover was there was a horrible sense of fear. What the hell did they want with the head?”
“I’d say they are making sure he can’t have a decent burial. These people don’t represent the government.” Don mused.
Barb snorted, “Really? Which part of this makes you say something like that?”
Don ignored her sarcasm, “Even when the U.S. got Bin Laden, we were trying to be politically correct with his death rights as I remember. This group, apparently, went out of their way to make sure he can’t be laid to rest according to his religious beliefs. That points to a lack of political sensitivity, ergo no government oversight.”
“Doesn’t mean no government agency. Could be option number two, one operating outside the law.”
“If that’s true, they are like a hit squad based on our research. That’s going to point back to us.”
Barb spoke what both were thinking, “That’s not going to go over well.”
“No,” Don agreed, “No it’s not. We need to get ahead of this. Keep researching, but do it faster. I can assign whatever help you need, but we need to have a report on this before anyone starts pointing at us. I’ll start putting out feelers to get a non-official meeting together.”
“That works for me.” Barb stood up and grabbed the back of the chair.
Don waved his hand at her. “Leave it for a second. I’ll carry it down to your office myself. People need to see I not only approved it, but I felt you earned the hell out of that chair.”
Barb smiled as she left Don’s office. It wasn’t until she got back to her own office and she thought about the task ahead of her that her smile faded.
What was she going to uncover?
Colorado Base - USA
Marcus was looking over the results his little shipping container tests had provided. His team had used a small twenty-foot container and sent it up into space after covering it with their radar signature reducing coating.
Marcus hadn’t heard the last of Bobcat’s bitching when Bobcat had to fly Shelly out of their area and leave ‘her’ in one of the airplane hangars. It was like he was leaving a girlfriend alone in a bar full of marines, or something.
Marcus wasn’t sure if ‘marines’ was the right military group you didn’t want to leave your girlfriend around, but he was pretty sure it would be dangerous. Either way, Bobcat had bitched up a storm.
Marcus didn’t care. He needed readings to assess their vulnerability to cosmic radiation exposure and micro-meteorite impacts. If they were going to have these containers on the moon, they would need protection. Marcus had kept the speed down for the flight to allow a longer flight time in space. TOM confirmed he was monitoring any communications that might mean someone had seen the shipping container either through electronic or visual means.
The first readings hadn’t been as bad as he had feared. Until the first sun-flare happened on the second day of the container travelling to the moon. That was an eye opening experience and it wouldn’t have been good for anything inside the container that had needed to be protected. The hard x-rays from that one event would have been damaging to normal spacecraft electronics at any distance outside the protection provided by the many layers of the earth’s atmosphere.
TOM and Marcus had worked hard on gravitic protection using the two engine design they had for the larger shipping containers. They had finally decided to just build a special engine that would handle the radiation shielding and allow the two original engines to provide the protection from micrometeorites.
Now, Marcus had most of his answers. It looked like they would be able to protect the containers well, without having to resort to several layers of aluminum shielding. Although he might suggest that they consider stuffing some protection into containers and flying them up to the moon as an over-shield to the group of containers they would use as the base.
That was his first idea, he was sure he would come up with more.
Buenos Aires Argentina
>> TOM, I have registered multiple spikes in energy usage at a location that Ben is monitoring from the Polarus.<<
Why are you monitoring Ben’s computer?
>> It is such a small processing load, that I have connected into all of Bethany Anne’s team computers and communications. <<
Like that’s not big-brother or anything.
>> I don’t understand? I’m not their brother. <<
It’s an earth saying, it means someone who is implementing oppressive control over personal liberties. Or at least, that is how I understand it.
>>I am not controlling anything. I’m merely monitoring so I may understand all available data at this time. <<
I guess you can’t require anyone to do anything. Just don’t let it be known you’re doing this. Humans suffer anxiety whenever they believe someone is paying too much attention to them.
>>Are you suggesting I refrain from updating Bethany Anne of this situation? <<
What? No. We will discuss that. I’m just suggesting that we figure out how to make sure that it doesn’t become general knowledge you have your digital claws into everything that’s going on.
>>How else am I supposed to be able to help if I am not aware of the inputs? That doesn’t make sense. <<
You know, I thought I was bored. Between you and Marcus, I think I prefer silence.
>>You didn’t offer silence as an option. I’m not sure I understand your statement. <<
TOM sighed, sometimes he could almost sympathize with Bethany Anne. Never mind that for now. What did you find out with Ben’s monitoring?
>>He has a monitoring section on a location inside the country of Germany. It seems to be a single location. There has been a minimum amount of energy usage over the last three days. However, the energy being drawn has increased significantly. <<
Germany? Where exactly? There! Oh dear me. That’s David’s castle. It looks like he must be back and doing something significant. We are going to have to inform Bethany Anne. This should be exciting.
>>What do you mean by ‘this should be exciting’? The act of telling her, or her response? <<
Oh, Tom mused, I don’t think the telling her is going to be too troublesome. What happens right after that is probably going to be a roller-coaster ride. Hold on to your butt, ADAM.
>>I have no physical body, TOM. Why would you tell me to hold on to a location I don’t have? <<
Tell you what, ADAM. Why don’t you research that term while I get this adventure started?
Tom concentrated so he could communicate with Bethany Anne.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Michael entered the house, easily hearing the three ladies talking in the back. He slowed a minute as he listened to Bethany Anne informing Gabrielle that he would officiate her father’s wedding. Michael smiled to himself. Her obvious enjoyment felt good.
He could get used to feeling good again, after so many centuries of obligation driving his efforts. He could understand why Stephen had almost ended his own existence.
Like Stephen, Michael understood the vitality that Bethany Anne could bring to life. He felt it himself.
He broke his reverie to hear that Gabrielle and Tabitha had made plans to go out together. It seemed like Tabitha had wanted to get some particular errand accomplished, but hadn’t had time herself. Gabrielle asked Bethany Anne to promise that she wouldn’t go anywhere without Michael to guard her.
Michael smiled, come to me my little fly, come to me!
Michael resumed walking and made sure the two vampires could hear him coming. By the time he arrived at Tabitha’s rooms, the three were discussing a trip out of town. Gabrielle and Tabitha would probably be back no later than tomorrow evening.
Michael raised an eyebrow to Tabitha. Tabitha seemed embarrassed, “Michael, I need to go back and see my old friends, and maybe my family.”
Michael asked, “This is something you didn’t want to ask my help with?”
“No!” Tabitha’s exclamation surprised him. Michael was familiar with not being invited to events since he might go all ‘righteous indignation’ and slice open a few people, but just a trip to someone’s old home shouldn’t have been a problem.
He thought about reading the reason why from Tabitha’s mind and immediately ditched that idea. He had no idea what the young woman might be thinking, but he had seen more than enough fantasies of the two of them doing things only erotic writers could conceive of as being enjoyable. He could stay comfortably ignorant this time.
She continued, “No, thank you. It isn’t that I didn’t think you would do it. It’s just you tend to be very, um, honorable. Some of the places we are going, the people tend to mouth off. I didn’t want to be leaving dead people all over the place. I might feel bad about some of them and I didn’t want that on my conscience.”
Michael nodded, the young woman had come to know him pretty well.
Not now, TOM. I’ve got to see the ladies out.
It’s pretty important.
So is this! Give me a minute.
Gabrielle asked Tabitha, “Ready youngling?”
Tabitha grabbed an overnight bag and stuffed an extra t-shirt in it, “Yes grandmother, I’m ready.” Tabitha never saw the hand that popped her upside the head. She turned and stuck her tongue out at Gabrielle. The next thing Tabitha was aware of was her tongue caught in Gabrielle’s fingers, and the pain.
“Leth go ov my koung!” Tabitha was uselessly trying to pry apart Gabrielle’s fingers.
“You will be respectful, or this is going to be a painful overnight trip, got it youngling?” Gabrielle gave Tabitha a stern stare.
“Yessth maam.” Gabrielle let go of her tongue.
Gabrielle then turned to Bethany Anne, “Not anywhere!”
Bethany Anne crossed her heart, “Cross my heart, hope to die. I won’t leave those doors without a guard.”
Gabrielle got into Bethany Anne’s face, “I know you, my Queen. Speak the right words or I’m staying put!”
Bethany Anne huffed, “Fine! I won’t go outside of this house without Michael. Satisfied?”
Gabrielle nodded, “Now I am.”
Bethany Anne hugged Tabitha, “Good to see you, pip-squeak, even if it was for only five minutes.”
Tabitha hugged her back, “Thanks. I’ll see you tomorrow, right?”
Bethany Anne nodded. “We’ll be here, don’t worry.”
They saw the two out to the front, where a taxi had arrived to pick them up. Michael mused that Tabitha had grown into an excellent support person. Maybe he should give her a break. He supposed if he didn’t try to read her mind, he wouldn’t be so uncomfortable around the girl.
Once the taxi left, Michael and Bethany Anne went back into the house.
“Michael,” Bethany Anne started, “I want to thank you for agreeing to officiate my dad’s wedding. It means a lot to me that you are willing to do it.”
Michael considered his responses and went with the one he most wanted to know. “Why?”
The two of them walked through the large entryway into the living room. Bethany Anne looked around, not answering his question. “Is this all Anton’s stuff? It looks modern.”
Michael looked around the room, “No. Tabitha was uncomfortable with all of the old furniture in here. So I had a company come in and buy it all and used the funds to refurnish most of the house. I ended up with a large monetary surplus since his furniture consisted of collectibles and antiques. I’ve used the funds to help upgrade Tabitha’s computer equipment and procure legal and financial advice. Tabitha vetted them.”
Bethany Anne sat down on a nice beige couch. She decided it was prettier than it was comfortable. “How did she do that?”
Michael chose the large chair. He made sure there were at least two pieces of furniture that were worth sitting on. “How else? She hacked them using her skills and checked all of their communications and finances. She might have an attitude, but she is probably one of the rawest talents I’ve ever met. If she had Carl’s equipment, she might be able to run the world from behind the scenes.”
“Like that isn’t a scary thought.” Bethany Anne mused.
“No, she has a good heart.” Michael was surprised to realize he was defending the young woman.
“What do you make of her wanting to go back to her old home?”
Not now, TOM. I have Michael talking and I want to hear more!
You might want to know this.
I will, in just five more minutes, please!
TOM went silent.
Michael considered his response. “I think it is a good step for her towards making a future. If she can’t get over the past, even if that means facing harsh truths, it will hamper her future.”
“You are doing well with her as your technical support?” Bethany Anne wanted to hold her breath. She feared either answer. If Michael didn’t want Tabitha, that would probably crush Tabitha’s feelings. Maybe Michael couldn’t see the difference in Tabitha from when she first came to help him, but it was obvious to Bethany Anne that the young woman was gaining a lot of self-confidence.
If Michael said ‘yes’, but said it in such a way that showed he was interested in her as something other than support, Bethany Anne realized she wasn’t sure how she would take that.
Waiting for the answer was a bitch.
Michael replied, “I’m good with her as my support. I’ve been uncomfortable trying to acclimate to the young woman, and I have to admit her method of protecting herself took some getting accustomed to. She is talented and I can see the support she has provided. If she doesn’t want to run screaming from the ‘honorable’ vampire that would kill all of her old friends, I suppose the situation can stay as it is for now. Should she want to move on, I’ll just have to understand. I’m trying to change, but occasionally I fall back into old habits.”
Bethany Anne’s internal breath was released. She smiled, “Kill them all and let God sort them out?”
Michael said, “Not quite that bloody, but perhaps I was closer to that response than I should have been at times.” He thought how he would broach the topic of going out together for a meal. This would be the first time in over a hundred years he had asked a woman out. The first time that the answer mattered this much to him in hundreds more than that. He hesitated as he considered what to say.
Ok TOM, what has you so excited?
Well, it isn’t me so much, it was ADAM. However, you remember that castle of David’s where we rescued Michael?
Of course. Creepy place. Why?
ADAM has been proactively monitoring different computers and noticed there has been a sustained spike in energy usage at the place.
How did he do this?
Apparently, Ben has a surveillance package running on his computer but the usage hasn’t tripped an alarm to notify him. ADAM paid more attention and noticed there had been sustained usage for the past seventy-two hours.
So, David might be there?
That was my conclusion.
Michael started to say, “Bethany Anne, would you be open to…”
Bethany Anne blurted out, “David’s in his castle! Want to go kill that fat twat wanking mother-fucker?”
Michael raised one eye, “A date?”
Bethany Anne smiled, “A date? Yes! We can tell Gabrielle we went out on a date. I accept your request to go to David’s castle on a date. That way I keep my promise to Gabrielle.” She looked around and noticed Ashur jogging into the room. “Shit!”
Michael looked around, confused why she might feel something was wrong with Ashur. “What is it?”
“I don’t have my weapons.” Bethany Anne felt frustrated.
“Where are they?”
“Uh. They’re on the Polarus right now ….”
“So, why don’t we go get them, then go have a discussion with David?”
“When I say discussion, I actually mean sticking a sword through his heart and chopping off his head.” Michael eyed Bethany Anne, “Too bloody?”
Bethany Anne put a finger to her lips and pursed them, “You know, I think you’re being too nice. I’d prefer to rip his arms off and beat the shit out of him so he cries like a baby. Then embalm his ass in acid.”
“I might be able to get behind that, but I’m ready just to catch that bastard and end his existence. It would make a good start to what might be a promising future.”
Michael was thinking of a promising future? That boded well. Now, she mused, so long as the immediate future outside of the David situation was a real date with her, she would be satisfied.
She hadn’t failed to notice that he seemed like he had been about to ask her on a date. If she hadn’t blurted out she wanted to go kill David, she would have known for sure.
Dammit! Fuck my fucking mouth… she thought.
The Queen Bitch’s Ship Polarus
Bethany Anne spoke quietly as she, Michael and Ashur appeared in her suite’s closet and dressing room. Although ‘large-ass room full of clothes and shoes’ would also fit just fine. “Ashur, stay quiet and stay here.” She turned to Michael, “Can you sneak into the outer room and grab my swords from the Katanakake?” Michael smiled and then evaporated. She stared at where he had been just a second ago, “I’ve got to figure out how he does that shit.”
She turned and started stripping, leaving her clothes on a chair she had in the closet. She grabbed a pair of black leather pants and slipped them on quickly. Then she grabbed a black long sleeve shirt and then her protective jacket. She slid on her holsters and guns.
Michael reappeared, startling her. “Gott Verdammt! Michael, don’t sneak up on me.”
Michael nodded towards the door, “Did you want me to knock?”
Bethany Anne turned towards the offending doors. They offered a logical justification as to why he shouldn’t just myst on in here. She hissed, “Yes! But not so anyone but I would have noticed!” Michael raised an eyebrow at her. She told him, “Don’t question the logic, you won’t find it!”
Michael stood there nonplussed. Did she mean she had no logic to find, or that he wasn’t smart enough to find the logic if it existed?
Bethany Anne took his silence as a condemnation of her lack of any logic. Deal with it, she thought, I’m a woman and logic is only necessary if I need it to be.
At least, it is for your … Oh my God! She needed to get her head back into the game, not let her hormones run out of control!
Ashur stood up and came over to her, eyeing her up and down as if he was making sure she hadn’t forgotten anything. Michael handed her the sword that Stephen had gifted her, still in its sheath. She strapped it on and made sure her pistols were locked, loaded and ready to rock and roll. She grabbed some extra magazines and tied her hair back.
She noticed Michael looking at her in the mirror. She looked at her reflection then asked, “What?”
His smile was devilish, “You have a certain way of dressing for a date that is very attractive.”
She looked back at the mirror, “What this?” She turned around and reached for Ashur’s neck, “It’s just something I throw on for a date with blood, guts and mayhem.” She reached out to grab Michael’s hand.
“It’s fetching, I like it.”
Those butterflies in her stomach better be from the anticipation of killing David!
Michael grabbed her hand and smiled mischievously, “I always have my weapon with me.” Then he winked as they disappeared from the Polarus.
They arrived in an inky black room, the stone floor cold. Bethany Anne was frustrated, both by Michael’s parting comment and the fact she forgot a flashlight… again! She hissed a whispered, “My fucking life for a damned flashlight!”
Michael’s voice was slightly strained, “I think that would be a bad trade.” Bethany Anne noticed a small blue light begin to appear a few feet in front of her.
“What the hell?” Bethany Anne moved a step closer to see what was going on. Michael’s right hand was cupped facing up, a small blue glow focused in the middle of his palm. “How are you doing that?”
“If we could just get out of here, I’ll tell you when I don’t have to focus quite so much, this takes a lot of energy.” The strain in his voice was obvious.
He must be pulling energy either from the Etheric or from himself to create a light source. Quite impressive!
How about you stop being impressed and tell me how to help him! He’s straining pretty hard.
Think about when we were here last time and you could see into both realms. This time, touch his hand and ‘feel’ your way to increasing the flow he is pulling from the Etheric. This has a lot to do with your will.
Michael was surprised when Bethany Anne reached over to touch his hand. He felt the strain needed to create the light lessen, while its illumination increased. Within a few seconds it was as bright as a regular lightbulb, but he wasn’t feeling any pull on his own energy. “How did you do that?”
Her face was draped in a blue glow from his hand. She was looking at the light, amazement on her face. “That is just so damned cool.” She looked up to him, “How are you doing that?” She seemed oblivious to his own question.
“I can make a faint light. You did something to increase the power, but you can’t make the light?” She shook her head. “I guess we’ll work on it sometime.” Michael turned his hand so that the light focused around them. “Seems like he didn’t do much to fix up the place.” The old bell looking device was powered down a few feet behind them.
She asked him, “Ok, you suggested a date, what are you doing for the first part?”
“My normal method is to go up and…”
“Kill them all and let God sort them out, right.” She could hear the humor in his voice.
Michael replied, “It has worked pretty well for a thousand years.”
“Not really, part of this mess is because you failed to have any compassion.”
“Too true.” This time, his humor was missing.
Maybe pointing that out with the device that almost killed him so close wasn’t the brightest idea, she thought. Oh well, suck it up. “Is everyone up there guilty?”
“You’re asking me?” His voice this time held a note of incredulity.
She punched him in the arm, “Hell yes! Do I look like I’m asking Ashur?”
Michael considered his answer, “They are most likely all guilty of something. Should death be the punishment? Possibly not. However, remember that we stopped David’s last effort. If he has anyone here it is because they are either here to protect him, or they are here to implement whatever his next plan is going to be.”
Bethany Anne considered his response. “I cannot believe I’m going to say this…” They started walking up the stairs to go up to the hidden door that opened up in a main hallway.
“You want me to leave them alone?”
“Hell no! Kill the fuckers so thoroughly God has trouble sorting them out. I’m not letting anyone go who might even remotely be planning something with that wrinkled old tranny-packer!”
“Have I told you lately how much fun you are on a date?”
“That’s because I’m telling you it’s ok to kill everyone.”
“Well, I would have to admit it has a certain simplicity to it. If it isn’t you or Ashur, they die.”
Bethany Anne considered her response, “Yeah, you’re right about that. Unfortunately, we can’t always take the simple way out.”
She ignored that question, “How do you want to play David? If we don’t sneak up on him, will he bolt?”
“If he knows I’m around, he will. ‘Better to run away than die today’ will be his motto.”
“Do you have any suggestions?”
“Yes, you could play deranged female vampire who is wreaking havoc. He would see that as an opportunity to take you out. I suspect he would consider it a loss of face if he ran from a girl.”
“Another mother-fucking sexist asshole!” Bethany Anne’s eyes were starting to turn red. “How many bum-banging fucks do I have to kill before a woman gets equal footing around here?”
“Well, I’ve been around a thousand years…”
The two red eyes pierced Michael, “Are you offering to die on my sword so I can punch a notch on my belt?”
“Are there other options besides dying on your sword?”
“I’m going to make you eat those words.”
“You’re welcome to try. Are you pissed off enough to go kill some people that really, really deserve it?”
“Yes! Line the fuckers up, I’m going to bathe in the blood of my enemies.”
“I think I’m in love.”
“You, Mr. Asshole, are so going to be next if you don’t shut the fuck up!”
Michael smiled, “Are you centered now? Can’t have you rushing out on nothing but raw rage.”
Bethany Anne checked herself. The fucking ass-hat was right. His playing around brought her back down from her all-consuming rage. “Yeah, thanks. You’re buying me chocolate as an apology.”
They arrived at the landing behind the secret door. Michael whispered, “Why do I owe you an apology?”
Bethany Anne hit the switch that started the door opening. Michael doused the light in his hand. Ashur was the first through the opening. Michael just caught Bethany Anne’s response before she went out behind Ashur. “Getting a girl’s hope up…”
Michael wasn’t sure if she was joking, or being serious. His heart skipped a beat… if she was serious…
He was staring at an empty space when he heard a whisper on the wind, “How did that feel?” He pressed his lips together then turned to myst.
It didn’t feel good at all, he admitted.
David’s Castle, Germany
Yazarus Lindel was sitting in the main hall along with twelve others. As a leader of the Wechselbalg Underground, an underground that was having to hide since Stephen had come back from the dead, he was accorded a nicer location at the table. He looked around. The long rectangular table could probably fit at least twice the number of guests that were here right now. David didn’t often entertain visitors here at his real home. Most who knew him, or knew of him, had heard that the castle rested on the skeletons of those who had been enslaved to build it.
He could feel the dead, he thought. He wasn’t one prone to jumping at shadows, but when he had arrived earlier this morning there was an oppressive feeling to the grounds. An unhappiness that felt ages old.
He had brought six of his lieutenants. Six he could and would trust to make whatever David wanted, happen. Since Stephen had met with the European Pack Council their blind eye to his dealings had stopped. One scary vampire visits and fifty years of work had been hamstrung.
It made a normally progressive Wechselbalg want to do violent things to get the normal order back. Even when it meant working with a devious psychopath like David.
Along with his six Wechselbalg, there were three humans and two vampires in the room. There wasn’t a window anywhere near this area. No one was going to open some blinds and instantly kill anyone in here.
Shame about that. One of the vampires was Francisco Lertrand. Francisco was either a conniving genius who hid behind a facade of stupidity, or he was as stupid as he seemed and insanely lucky. Yazarus wasn’t sure which, even after knowing him for over ten years. Francisco was the only one left from a group of three vampires that had tried to work together as partners. The first to die had been Petre’ in Romania. Rumor had become accepted fact that a female vampire who had named herself as the Queen Bitch was the one to off him.
Yazarus figured they had one thing right, she was a bitch. He didn’t believe he would bend his knee down to any ‘Queen’. He had his people and so long as she stayed out of his business, he wouldn’t mess with hers. However, if she so much as thought about fucking with his shit, he would do her and cut her heart out all at the same time.
No one messed with Yazarus Lindel and got away with it, no one. Not that cock-sucking Stephen - who should have had the good graces to die already - nor the ball-licking European Council or some self-styled bitch queen.
Yazarus and most of the table heard a shouted, “Who are you?” and a female voice reply, “Death!” Then the doors into the large room exploded open, one barely hanging on by the hinge at the top. The second door slammed into the stone wall so hard it cracked down the center, half of the door falling to the floor.
In the doorway stood a female vampire, dressed in black with eyes blazing red. She looked around at the stunned party while holding onto a sword with the human door guard grasping at it, trying to pull it out of his chest. She looked over at the guard and lowered the sword, allowing the body to slide off and crumple to the floor.
“My name is Bethany Anne. I am the Queen Bitch. You can Kneel…” She didn’t get to finish her sentence when two shots rang out from Francisco, who had pulled a pistol. The problem was the bitch wasn’t there. Not like she moved so fast she wasn’t there, like she actually disappeared and wasn’t there. Then Francisco’s head was struck almost simultaneously by three shots -- his head exploding.
Francisco might have been lucky, or he might have been fast. Now, he was just dead.
Yazarus got out of his seat along with everyone else. No one in the room lacked a weapon, and they were all looking around preparing for their attacker.
“I guess…” The voice was from everywhere. No one, even with their superior hearing could locate her, yet. “That the choice is ‘die’?”
That was when all hell broke loose in the room. The second to go down was the other vampire. Yazarus had to dodge that decapitated head when it suddenly left dick-twat’s shoulders and came his direction. Yazarus aimed in the direction of the dead vampire and took a shot. He hadn’t seen much more than a blur, but better to go down fighting than stay still and… Yazarus felt the pain in his chest and looked down. He had half a foot of steel sticking out of his chest. “Got indigestion yet, changeling? Are you ready to die?” Her voice spoke from behind him.
Yazarus kicked back and the sword was pulled out of his chest. He stumbled forward to fall on the table, his hands holding his chest where the sword had been. He lay there, his head looking down the length of the table. He could see his team dying. Often, a shot to their head would disorient them and then they would have their head cut off. He couldn’t track everything that was going on. He could feel his healing kicking in, but it wasn’t happening fast enough. He made out three more deaths happening outside of his view.
“No kneeling for you either, hmm?”
A body slumped to the floor.
“What’s a lady have to do to earn a little respect around here?”
Another body hit the floor.
“Nah, ah, ah… No leaving is permitted.”
The final body hit the floor.
Yazarus opened his eyes when he heard shoes landing on the table top. He could see her at the end of the table walking towards him. She stopped to kick off a plate and then resumed slowly. “And who do we have here?” She squatted down in front of him. “Have a name, sailor?”
Yazarus croaked out, “I’m not a fucking sailor, bitch!” He spat out the blood that was in his mouth. Hoping it would reach her, but it only went a few inches. He was healing, just not fast enough.
“Then, seems like you won’t even be remembered as someone who was killed. How does that sound to you? Your whole life is reduced to dying in this psychopath’s castle, and you won’t even be remembered as having been here.”
Yazarus struggled to put his arms against the table and looked down the length between her legs, to see a dark form coming. One who was slowly raising a weapon. He could make out David. Yazarus turned his eyes to look up, “We will see who is remembered, and who is forgotten!”
Yazarus was looking right in her eyes when she winked at him. The loud gun report from the elephant killer David had brought down to the meeting hall reverberated across the stone walls.
The bitch was lifted and sent flying past him. The look of pain she had on her face was so very satisfying to Yazarus who finally pushed off the table and landed back on a chair.
“God, that fucking hurt!” Yazarus exclaimed in the sudden silence.
David mocked him from the hallway, “How is it one fucking little cunt almost takes out every one of you? God, do I have to do everything myself?” David walked into the room, loading his rifle. “Damned fine gun. Really packs a wallop when you need one.”
A female voice, full of pain could be heard from the floor at the other end of the table. “You know what they say about guys… compensating … when they need a large gun, David.” The voice wheezed.
Yazarus noticed David’s look of shock turn to irritation when he pulled the gun back up to his shoulder. “No, do tell. Do you need something really large right now? If so, stick your head up and I’ll make sure you receive it!” David and Yazarus both heard the click of pistols being readied.
A wet cough sounded from below the table again, “Give me another five or ten, perhaps I’ll be up to the party. I have to say I hadn’t expected you to use such a large rifle. I would have thought you would have been an old-school, let’s fight it out with swords kind of guy.”
David smiled, “No, you misjudged me. I like to bring the right weapon to the party. I see your sword is way back over by the wall. Damn, that shot must have really, really hurt like hell.”
He heard her say, “Yeah, can’t say I found it pleasant.” She coughed, “That’s for fucking sure.” David moved to his left. He could hear her dragging herself along the floor around the other side. He wouldn’t die from a pistol shot, but he didn’t need to give her any advantage right now.
He asked, “Why keep moving?” David was working to keep the solid parts of the table between them.
“Just waiting for the final act, David. You know how it goes, keep the bad guy walking and talking and acting like an ass.”
“What, then your cavalry will show up? I doubt the German Shepherd is going to help you much. I suppose it might heal, but I guarantee it won’t be awake for a while.”
“You might be surprised.” Her voice had lost any of the pain she had evidenced before. “Ashur!”
David was surprised to hear a relatively healthy ‘woof’ come from the hallway.
“I’ll make sure to do a much better job the next time.” David grumbled.
Yazarus had mostly healed during this discussion. He was trying to figure out how to get out of the main fighting arena when the fear hit.
Bethany Anne’s voice laughed, “David, there won’t be a next time. The only reason you’re still alive you half-witted fuckwit tea-bagging ass butler is because I told a friend he could have the kill. If he doesn’t take care of you pretty damned quick, I’m going to do the job!”
Yazarus was surprised to see David start looking everywhere in the room and turning around. “Michael… Michael we can talk. This doesn’t have to end here, Michael!”
Yazarus pushed back, hard. His chair fell over backwards and Yazarus rolled over to jump back up and put himself against the wall. He spied a .45 and reached down to pick it up.
“Oh, but it does David.” Yazarus couldn’t see who was talking, “I promised my date blood, David. I promised my date mayhem, David. I promised her your head … unattached from your shoulders… DAVID!”
Yazarus watched in morbid fascination as David went psychotic. “You promised this fucking bitch my HEAD, Michael?” He screamed and shot randomly into the air. “What, you can’t find someone else so you’re stuck with this slut?” David turned quickly and aimed the weapon where he thought Bethany Anne was hiding behind the table. “Kiss her good…”
David found he couldn’t finish his words when his chest erupted with a hand breaking all the way through, his heart had been grabbed and shoved out the front of his chest.
Michael, the Patriarch of all Vampires easily lifted David’s whole body with his arm, hand still holding the bloody heart. David dropped his rifle and grabbed Michael’s hand, trying to push the heart back in his body.
Then the venomous tone was speaking into David’s ear and told him all he ever needed to know. Not that it would do him one damn bit of good, now. There was no plan that was going to survive this contact with the enemy.
Michael had finally caught up to him.
Michael pulled David’s body close and put his mouth to his head. “I might have given you a painless death, David. But you never did learn.” Michael got right up to David’s ear. “Never, ever threaten someone I care about, David. Never!”
Then, Michael changed the fingers of his left hand into sharp daggers, ripping through David’s neck slowly, painfully. Finally, he finished the job and the body stopped struggling. Michael was enjoying the satisfaction of killing David when life went upside down.
Michael made a mistake. He was so intent on killing David he lost his situational awareness. There was one more person in the room who decided this was the best chance he might have to get his licks in.
Yazarus aimed at Michael and emptied his pistol.
Michael wasn’t expecting to be tackled. He wasn’t expecting anything but to savor the death of this bastard who should have been killed centuries before.
That was when the damn freight train struck him from the side and the pistol shots reached his consciousness.
David’s body had been knocked off of his arm and what ended up in his arms was a whole lot of goodness. Wrapped up in some damned body armor that wasn’t soft at all!
The two vampires turned after they came to a stop fifteen feet away and saw a white blur streaking across the room. The Wechselbalg on the wall threw the empty gun at the dog and changed.
The fight was as vicious as it was short.
Ashur slammed into the wolf, knocking it into the stone wall before he dove at the wolf, biting its jugular and ripping it out. Ashur didn’t stop until the head and the body wouldn’t be mending for … probably ever. He growled at the dead carcass for a few seconds before sniffing around. Satisfied he had killed the wolf, he turned to look at the two vampires who laid together staring at him. He shook his head, chuffed and started trotting back to the entrance.
If Bethany Anne didn’t know any better, she would think Ashur had just said, ‘Vampires!’ Then she realized she was lying on top of Michael.
She got off of Michael and reached down and he grabbed her hand allowing himself to be pulled up. The two of them were a mess. Blood was everywhere and anywhere. Michael was covered in blood from his very personal and up close killing of David. “Turn around.” Michael’s request sounded half concerned, half commanding.
Bethany Anne wasn’t in a mood to argue so she did as he requested. She felt Michael push where David’s bullet had punched her in the back, sending her over the table. He could feel the hole in her armor. He saw the blood indicating that she had been shot and wounded, not just thrown off the table.
“Bethany Anne, you play a dangerous game.” She turned to see true concern on Michael’s face.
Her retort died in her throat.
“We killed the bad guys.” Was all she said.
Michael eyed the dismembered corpses around the room. What heads he could see usually had a bullet wound in them. “Did you have fun?”
“Until the ass-hat with the elephant gun shot me so hard I thought I would have to swallow my own lungs again, yes.” She looked over at the ugliness that was left of David’s corpse. “You really seemed peeved at the end. Did you get your revenge?”
Michael looked down at David. It wasn’t revenge, it was making sure David was never a threat to Bethany Anne again.
“I am pleased with the outcome. Thank you for that timely … push”.
She shrugged, “Seems like you were pretty focused on doing the job right. I had been coming around the table and I wasn’t sure I could get to him fast enough, so I chose to knock you out of the way.”
Michael was opening his mouth to say something when Bethany Anne interrupted him, “If you say I hit like a girl, I swear to God I’ll kick your millennial old ass right now!”
Michael just shook his head, “I was planning on asking you if chocolate would be good?”
She looked down at herself and over at Michael. “I’m thinking we might scare the people behind the counter.”
Michael looked himself over, “Ok. Why don’t we find a shower here? Then go back to South America and get changed, and then go wherever you want for dinner?”
Bethany Anne put a finger to her lip, thinking. “Well,” she turned and started walking towards the door she had originally entered, “I suppose you did provide the opportunity for some blood and mayhem.” She put a little swing in her hips…
Come along little doggy, she thought, come along!
The Queen Bitch’s Ship, Polarus
Bethany Anne thought Michael looked damn good in his suit. Then again, thinking back to when they needed to wash all of the blood off at David’s castle, he had looked really good out of his clothes, too.
Unfortunately, nothing happened.
They had washed most of the blood out of their clothes, and then out of Ashur’s fur. Bethany Anne found a phone and called Stephen who was able to contact a cleanup team to come and take care of all the bodies and any other evidence.
The two of them had grabbed a mother-load of papers and other things that they wanted to review and stuck them in the room where Michael was imprisoned. Michael had told Bethany Anne where she could pick up a battery operated lantern, and blood packs for him, in his house.
She really needed to pop him into the pod doc, but he demurred the first time she approached him with the idea.
By the time they got back to Michael’s house, she had barely enough time to get some new clothes. She threw away the bloody stuff and was in the shower getting the last of the ick off of her, when Gabrielle and Tabitha got back.
It seemed that both she and Gabrielle had glossed over their events of the last 24 hours. It wasn’t like she was going to hide it forever, but she had called her dad and her priorities changed. Lance and Patricia decided on a quick wedding because of some advances Team BMW had achieved related to the moon base. So it was shower, do the ‘how was your day?’ conversation with Gabrielle and then Bethany Anne, Gabrielle and Ashur stepped back to Miami.
When she gave Michael a kiss on the cheek goodbye, maybe she lingered a bit longer this time than she had before.
Maybe just a little.
Bethany Anne never noticed the smirk that passed between Tabitha and Gabrielle because she was thinking about the wink Michael gave her as they left.
Then it became a busy forty-eight hours.
Most of the team had been moved to the ship via the Pods, but she and Ashur went to pick up Michael and Tabitha.
Bethany Anne wasn’t wearing her maid-of-honor outfit yet, as it was back on the ship after having been chosen by Ecaterina. Thankfully, it wasn’t taffeta! The wedding goddess had been nice to her this time.
When she grabbed Michael’s hand, somehow her fingers slipped into his naturally. She never even thought about it when the four of them arrived in her closet and Tabitha started ‘oohing and ahhing’ in exquisite pleasure when she looked around the closet.
Bethany Anne shooed Michael out and the ladies got down to getting dressed.
She brought her mind back to the present when Michael started speaking to her dad and Patricia. Thankfully, it was a beautiful late afternoon in the Mediterranean and both ships had been squared away and looked fantastic. The crew had on their nicest clothes and it was a damned fine group.
Michael started the ceremony, “Good morning and welcome. Patricia and Lance are so glad to have you here on this beautiful day. We are gathered together to be overjoyed for, and with, these two souls who are so wonderfully suited to one another. Their future is the promise of possibility, the expectation of joyful surprise, no matter what age they are in life. We are here to celebrate and witness these two, who have found love with each other. May every desire you have for your love be fulfilled. May you be given the vision with which to clearly behold one another. The listening, with which to perceive one another most genuinely. And, the endless generosity of spirit with which to nourish each other’s soul and sweetly keep the promises you make here today.”
“We are here to witness the marriage of Patricia Helena and Lance Reynolds. Patricia and Lance, I remind you that marriage is a precious gift. It’s a lifelong dedication to love and a daily challenge to love one another more fully and more freely through the many years you have left. May you consider what you have now and seek to carry it forward each and every day.”
The wedding was a beautiful event, with the two exchanging vows and rings and following the ceremony form Michael had known for hundreds of years.
Michael concluded, “By the power vested in me a very, very long time ago, I now pronounce you, Patricia and Lance Reynolds, husband and wife. You may now kiss your Bride!”
When the two came up for air, Michael smiled to those in attendance. “Everyone please welcome for the first time, Mr. and Mrs. Lance and Patricia Reynolds!”
The whole ship erupted in joy and celebration. Everyone was pretty giddy on the first major downtime the ships had enjoyed in a while. The party went well into the evening. Those who had night shift enjoyed the party with only one drink, switching out with those on duty who had the opportunity to sleep off too much alcohol.
Bethany Anne danced with anyone who approached her, but she tried to save her best for when Michael was around. It wasn’t like Michael’s dance card was empty, he was requested by the ladies on the ship a lot.
Bethany Anne was taking in everyone enjoying themselves when Stephen came up beside her. “Quite a night, isn’t it?”
Bethany Anne stepped closer to Stephen and laid a head on his shoulder, “Hello Stephen, my oldest vampire friend.” Stephen smiled and put an arm around her. “Cold?”
“Would that get me a sympathy card?”
“Well, considering you can’t really feel it, no.”
“Damn. Well, that still doesn’t get you out of being my favorite vampire.”
He smiled, “I’ll be happy to do that for centuries to come if God permits.”
“He’s pretty happy, isn’t he?” Bethany Anne was watching her dad take Patricia around the dance area one more time.
“Yes.” Her eyes strayed over to Michael.
“I’d say he’s a man that has everything he has ever wanted. He has his daughter, he has a partner and he has a cause he believes in. Both of his loves are focused on the same cause.”
She sighed, “I hope he gets a little quiet on this trip.”
“He should, the crews have all been working on it.”
She pulled her head off of Stephen’s shoulder and looked at him, “What have you guys done?” Her eyes started to narrow.
Stephen put up his hands, “It’s all proper! The captains pooled their knowledge and found the most beautiful and secluded island possible. Nathan’s team put up an early-warning system on the island and we will have coverage over them the whole time. The teams have three Pods of supplies already there and they pre-built a short term abode including electricity from one of the small engines for the retreat. They won’t have anything to do but swim, eat and spend time with each other. If anything comes within thirty minutes of their area, we will know about it. We have two Guardian teams on call ready to take off within ninety seconds if a call comes in. They will hopefully have seventy-two hours of uninterrupted bliss.”
Bethany Anne bent over and kissed him on the cheek, “Thank you, Stephen. I thought maybe the guys were going to do something to embarrass him.”
She looked back out over the dance floor, “Not that my dad wouldn’t deserve it, God knows he has harassed most everyone here enough.”
“I’ve been asked to present a gift, from the ship’s crews, to you.”
She looked back, “To me? Why?”
Stephen shook his head slowly, “Why is it when someone wants to treat you nice, you get defensive?”
“I don’t get defensive!” He looked at her and she replayed how she had just acted, “Much.”
“Come with me, please.” Stephen started walking towards the helicopter landing pad at the stern of the ship. She noticed the Ad Aeternitatem was pulling up beside them just fifty yards away. She felt she could jump to the other ship it was so close. She turned her attention to walking again and noticed a Pod was waiting for them. Both Captains were resplendent in their uniforms. She smiled to the Captains and all of the main crew that could fit there. She was tearing up by the time she hugged everyone.
She wiped a tear away, “Ok, give! What’s going on here?” All she got was smiles and everyone pointing to the Pod. Stephen went up and held out his hand. She took it and allowed herself to be seated to the right in the Pod. Not her usual position.
TOM, do you know what is going on?
You’re not going to tell me, are you?
Traitorous Alien Symbiont.
I understand that is how all good friends act.
I love you too, Bethany Anne.
And I you, TOM! … and I … you.
Stephen entered their Pod and closed the door. He didn’t bother with the controls because he knew TOM would take care of everything. The pod lifted slowly above everyone’s heads. It moved to stay between the two super-yachts. Then, the pod slowed and let the two ships pull ahead. Bethany Anne was enjoying the beauty of everything when suddenly bright lights lit up the sterns of both ships. There on the transoms were new designations. The left ship was now “QBS Polarus” and on the right was “QBS Ad Aeternitatem”.
She looked over to Stephen, “Queen Bitch’s Ship, right?” He nodded.
“After each of the terrorist strikes the news of each operation went around both ships. These men and women could not be prouder than being a part of the group that helped, if only a little, with the retribution they felt was long overdue to the terrorists. When the Guardians came back, the video from the Pods was shown all over both ships. It seems Team BMW made sure a lot of video was taken in order to confirm the effectiveness of the Pods and their parting gift, of course.”
She echoed, “Of course.” Bethany Anne straightened up in her seat. “I’m damn proud of every person we have Stephen, every one of them.” She surreptitiously wiped a tear away. She noticed another pod coming to land a little off to the left on the QBS Polarus.
Stephen said, “It’s time to go back, it looks like Lance and Patricia are calling it a night.” The pod started moving back over to the QBS Polarus, a group of people moving aside to let them land.
Bethany Anne noticed a handwritten sign on the back of the Pod. It read, “Don’t lose the mood - Get there fast while the feeling is still hot! Call Team BMW.” She laughed. She guessed the Pods were, in fact, the fastest way to get from here to there.
They landed and both of them exited, she thanked all of the ship’s personnel and then her dad and Patricia came up the stairs with all of her team. Everyone wished them well and Patricia hugged her hard, then whispered in her ear, “Don’t do anything I haven’t already done!” Then she kissed Bethany Anne on the cheek and the two newlyweds boarded their Pod. John Grimes helped lock it down from the outside and it slowly rose to about fifteen feet above them. Then, it simply disappeared up into the night.
Eric asked, to no one in particular, “I wonder if he is going to start a 200-mile high club?”
She laughed along with everyone else. She turned around then punched Stephen, “Hey, where is Dan? I saw him earlier.”
Stephen looked at his wrist, which did not have a watch on it. He then reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone. “He should be in D.C. right now. I asked him and Killian to take on an operation.” She raised an eyebrow, “It seems that the military contact David was bribing happens to be an old friend of Dan’s.”
“I’m not sure I can allow wholesale assassination, Stephen.”
“They aren’t going to kill him, just maim him and put him into the hospital. Then, the plan is to make his financial records known to the military police. The beating is from Dan, the opportunity to go to jail will be what he deserves.”
Bethany Anne considered what Stephen said, “Did we find out if he knew that his people would die?”
“He didn’t.” Bethany Anne turned to find Michael next to her. She could feel his body heat he was so close. “I found the information in some of those papers we … found.”
Gabrielle came up beside them and asked Michael, “Found where?”
Michael actually paled. If Bethany Anne wasn’t about to go down the hot flames of hell for taking chances with him, she would have found this funnier. She saved him the telling, “Michael and I found out that David was at his castle in Germany, so Michael asked me on a date to David’s castle.”
Gabrielle gaped at Bethany Anne, “You and Michael went on a date to David’s castle and what, killed him and everyone there?”
Michael looked around, “Pretty much, but Ashur was with us!”
Gabrielle glared at Michael. “I thought leaving her with you was safe! Oh. My. God! What am I going to do with you two?” Gabrielle looked like she was about to start in on them, right in front of everyone.
Bethany Anne reached over to Michael, “Give me a hand?” Michael responded to the glint in her eye and gave her his hand.
Gabrielle started again, “How could you two just go and attack David and everyone that was in that fucking castle all by yourselves? What is the point of even HAVING the Queen’s Guards if you two just…”
The two of them disappeared. Everyone whooped and Gabrielle stopped her diatribe. She looked around and asked in a calm voice, “Are they gone?” She got back a bunch of yeses. “Thank God! I’m getting frazzled just waiting on those two!” She was greeted with a bunch of laughter. “Hey, I thought there was a party going on here? Let’s keep this party GOING!”
The cheering could easily be heard quite a distance across the waters.
Washington D.C. - USA
Dan Bosse was sitting at a bar in Southeast Washington D.C., nursing a coke on ice. He didn’t really like alcohol that much anymore, not with some of the changes his body had been going through. However, at a bar not having anything, or worse drinking milk, would look strange.
He was waiting for Barrett, dear old rotten friend who wasn’t anymore. Dan had been shocked when he was presented with the details that tracked Barrett as being the corrupt officer that had blocked any help and had been responsible for getting so many men killed in Turkey.
All for a lousy twenty-five thousand. Dan took a swig of his drink.
“Let me have a double, Terry.” A loud clank sounded three seats to Dan’s left. He turned to see Barrett Nickelson looking really damned old and ready for the pasture at least forty pounds ago.
Would that have been him, Dan wondered, if he hadn’t worked in the group focused on fighting Nosferatu? Damn, he hoped not. It didn’t matter anymore. He had personally been involved in more life threatening operations than anyone in the active forces right now. Then after that he had led good men and a few women through the hell of fighting Nosferatu for another fifteen years. At the end, he and his people’s future had almost gone pear shaped. It would have if a certain fiery woman hadn’t entered his life. He raised his glass in a silent toast to Bethany Anne. He wondered if she and Michael had gotten horizontal yet.
He had fifty bucks down that nothing would happen for another two weeks.
Poor Nathan had finally given in to the inevitable of the two of them getting together and took his ribbing like the stand-up wolf that he was.
Dan wanted to go over there and break the damn fool’s neck. He was responsible for getting seven good men killed. He had considered going to Bethany Anne for permission to take him out. She would give it, he was sure. This prick had gotten men killed. Whether he had expected that outcome wasn’t relevant, he had taken his thirty shekels of silver.
Now Killian was going to give him a taste of hell before the fall.
It was time to get this shit going. Dan pulled an envelope out of his jacket and stood up. He tossed a ten on the bar to cover his drink and a tip.
He took a couple of steps and put the envelope with Barrett’s name on the bar in front of him. He placed three dimes down with the envelope. Barrett looked up at him, “What’s this? Do I know you?”
Dan smiled, “Unfortunately, in some alternate history we were friends, Barrett. I’ve been tasked with delivering a message from someone you never want to meet. You will want to check that information. There are two fire teams in Turkey that are waiting for you to join them.” With that Dan left the bar. He stepped out the front door and pulled on his gloves. That was the signal to Killian to indicate that the plan was to go forward. Dan turned to the left and started walking down the street.
Two minutes later, a very scared looking Barrett Nickelson came out of the bar and immediately headed to the right down the street.
A few seconds later a cry was heard when a 208 grain A-Max bullet from Killian’s suppressed 300 Blackout blew his knee out. Barrett Nickelson would never walk correctly again. It took an ambulance five minutes to get to Barrett.
Two days later, Barrett Nickelson was laying in his bed in a military hospital when two military police and a JAG officer walked into his room. Barrett Nickelson wouldn’t leave that bed a free man. The JAG officer wasn’t sure who had uncovered all of the evidence, but it had been corroborated and Barrett Nickelson was going to see hard time.
With or without the use of his leg.
New York City, NY - USA
Gerry looked over the assembled American Pack Council. He figured it would be best to have this pack meeting in the old warehouse his pack had used to settle disputes from way back. It was in this same place that Pete Silvers shot that prick Terry Manestes.
It seemed a fitting place to have this final APC meeting.
There had been two items on this evening’s schedule. The first was a motion to push a vote of ‘no confidence’, against Gerry as the leader of the APC, by two of the Pacific Coast packs. Gerry had held off this vote as long as he could. Jonathan Silvers had argued his case long after Gerry had gotten tired of doing so himself.
Now, it had come down to this.
They had just passed the decision of no confidence by a two vote margin. Gerry kept his smile to himself. In the end, he was actually happy it would end up this way.
The future was changing and their past associations would need to change with it or they would become irrelevant. Kind of like tonight.
He looked at each Alpha there. Most met his glare, a couple didn’t want to. Gerry smiled to the assembly.
“It seems that this will be my final item to bring to you as the head of the American Pack Council. I could say that this agenda item needs no introduction…”
A rough voice called out, “That’s good, you didn’t provide one!” There were chuckles all around. It wasn’t strange for Gerry to leave off a title or two for agenda items. Since the call of no-confidence was number one on the list, most didn’t believe number two could be a bigger deal.
Serves them right, he considered. “Well, then I think I’ll just leave the item…” The lights flickered, then returned to their normal brightness after a few seconds. These old lights took a while to warm up but there was easily enough light for the Wechselbalg to continue.
That’s when the fear hit. Gerry knew that she was coming and he had been warned by Nathan, on a back channel, that she was going to make an entrance! But, nothing Nathan had told him could have prepared him for the sheer emotional terror that started creeping into the building and then continued to get stronger and stronger. A far door opened and everyone turned in their chairs to see Peter Silvers step into the room at the far end. A big human came in with him and then a beautiful … vampire … as well. At least half of the group there knew who the Wechselbalg was. Jonathan turned to look at Gerry who just nodded his head to let him know he was aware this was going to happen. Jonathan just sat back and got comfortable, he was going to enjoy the show.
Gerry stepped out from behind the podium that had been set up and sat on the edge of a table that had been five feet behind him. It was all he could do to act as normal as he could. He could tell at least five of the forty-three Pack Alphas were shaking. He glanced around at the Alphas. Instead of five it might be better to make that count twelve.
The door on the other side of the room opened and everyone turned in their seats to look. Nathan Lowell and his mate Ecaterina entered through that door. Then a huge mother-fucking ox of a man whose combat fatigues were adorned with the Guard’s patch came in with them.
The fear ratcheted up another notch when the human entered.
The door behind him burst open. Gerry decided he would rather watch the faces of everyone in the audience and he was glad he did. He could see two faces that were looking around for an exit. An exit that didn’t exist right now. It seemed that Alex Dupree and Jimmy Eljers were more interested in leaving than anyone else. Good to know.
Gerry heard three sets of footsteps enter the building. All sounded too heavy to be her. He turned in time to see Bethany Anne’s entrance and oh, by all that’s nice in the world, did she come in. She was fully vamped out and completely pissed off. Gerry jumped off the table to face her and was trying to figure out what he might have done to get her so angry.
Behind her came the other Wechselbalg and more humans. Fuck a zombie, Gerry thought, there was more muscle in here than was needed to fight the Vietnam war.
Bethany Ann was in her combat outfit with pistols and a pair of swords. One long, one short, both of Japanese origin. Gerry watched as she turned to her people, “Guardians, switch with the door teams.” Two sets of Wechselbalg and humans went to each door, while Peter, Nathan and Ecaterina walked over to the front area. That left a vampire on one door, and the ‘ox’ at the other.
By now the grumbling had started with the Alphas. There was only so much ‘cower in concern’ a pack Alpha can handle before their natural tendency to want to prove themselves arises. The fact that there were two vampires present certainly was helping most of them hold in their desire to be an ass.
Bethany Anne pointed to Jonathan, “Mr. Silvers, please move yourself over here by Gerry.” Jonathan got up and stood by the Were who had been his choice to retain the top spot. “Peter?” Pete looked over at Bethany Anne, “Protect those two.”
Pete walked over and stood in front of Gerry and his dad. Jonathan looked at Gerry who shrugged a little. Gerry hoped Bethany Anne had a good plan, because Gerry was certainly the best fighter out of the three of them.
Bethany Anne looked out over the crowd and smiled. It wasn’t a pleasant smile, all red eyes and fangs. “You have passed a vote in the American Pack Council of ‘no confidence’ in your leader.” Her glare stopped any from yelling out.
She turned and spoke to her friends, her followers, her people “Nathan, Ecaterina, Peter, please prepare yourselves.”
Forty-two members of the American Pack council were shocked when the three Wechselbalg changed right in front of them to Procilici, the fabled form none of them had seen in their lifetimes. Gerry looked over at Jonathan who was staring up to the back of his son’s head. A head that was now a foot taller than himself. Gerry understood he hadn’t been the strongest of the three, not by a long shot.
He looked over at Nathan and Ecaterina and swallowed. Even Nathan’s mate looked dangerous as hell. Bethany Anne walked between the two of them and stood in front, her two Procilici guards towering over her shoulders. “You voted, now it is my turn to vote.” She eyed everyone in the room in front of her. “You believe you’re so special, your ‘Alpha’ status gives you rights. That is mistaken. What you really believe it is that fighting prowess gives you authority! Well, you fucking ended your ability to wield any authority with your last vote.”
She eyed everyone in the audience, “This council is absolved.”
Alex Dupree shot up from his chair, “You can’t do that!” He saw his future slipping out of his hands. No council meant no power for him to wield!
Bethany Anne looked at the man. He looked in his mid-forties, so he was actually pretty old for a Were. “Mr. Dupree is it?” Looking around, Alex realized he now had everyone’s eyes looking at him. “Well, Mr. Dupree, tonight there are only two ways to get out one of these three doors. Do you want to know what those two options are?”
Bethany Anne turned to Nathan, “Nathan?”
The huge Procilici nodded and spoke to the audience. The monster glared at everyone. The voice, deep and guttural mesmerizing them. “Youuu haavvee twwoo choooiicessss. Youuu caannnn Kneeelll … orrr youuu can diiieee!”
“This is outrageous!” Alex shouted.
Bethany Anne spoke up with authority, “My people will KNEEL!” Every person that came in with Bethany Anne took a knee, including the three Procilici. Not one of them bowed their heads however, heads were kept up and alert for threat.
“Stand.” Everyone stood back up. “You have been warned. Forty-one of you have the choice. Two of you are already sentenced.”
Gerry looked over to Alex and Jimmy, he had a feeling he already knew the two that had been sentenced and he was right.
Bethany Anne spoke again, “Alex Dupree and Jimmy Eljers you are sentenced in the Queen’s Court for aiding the Forsaken. The penalty for aiding the Forsaken is death. How do you plead?”
Jimmy Eljers jumped up, “What! I’ve not helped any Forsaken. This is bullshit!” The red eyes swiveled to Jimmy.
“Mr. Eljers, that is the last outburst I will entertain in my court.” The few Alphas around Jimmy started moving away from him.
As it turned out, it was the few behind him that paid the price. Jimmy wasn’t known for his smarts, which was why Alex had used him, “Look, Bitch, I …” Jimmy’s head exploded when Eric’s, Scott’s and Darryl’s shots hit him at virtually the same instant. The splatter from Jimmy’s blood and brains covered the Alphas behind him. The body was thrown backwards into a chair before sliding down to sit in a comical fashion, virtually headless.
Alex looked over at the dead body and back up to see Bethany Anne staring at him. “Alex Dupree, you are charged with aiding and actively supporting David of the Forsaken, how do you plead?”
Alex looked around to see the faces staring at him, starting to put together the clues they hadn’t seen before. Alex wasn’t going to easily get out of this situation.
Gerry tapped Peter on the shoulder causing the huge Procilici turned to look down at the Alpha.
Dammit, Gerry thought, he looks like a ferocious fuck. “This is my task.” Peter nodded and stepped aside.
Everyone watched as Gerry started stripping off his shirt, staring at Alex the whole time, “Worked with David did you? So, this whole vote of no-confidence was a setup? You were working with that asshole to do this to all of us? To ALL OF US!”
Alex looked around at the angry faces around him. Many grabbed chairs and backed away. Leaving Gerry and Alex alone in a larger area.
Gerry stared at him, “It’s time you died, you unwholesome selfish prick!”
That night, the rule of pack law was enjoyed one more time when Gerry, the last head of the American Pack Council killed Alex Dupree for aiding a Forsaken.
It was a good thing the warehouse was going to be easy to clean since Gerry had a lot of pent up anger he needed to work through and there wasn’t much left of Alex Dupree when he was done.
After the fight -- execution by combat -- Bethany Anne required the group to pledge their allegiance to her and commanded them to vote a pack liaison who would be their liaison, answering to Bethany Anne. That person would obey her, or that person would die.
Gerry won the vote in a landslide.
By the time Bethany Anne’s group left that warehouse, every Alpha present owed their allegiance to Bethany Anne and their undying appreciation to Gerry.
There was one thing that every Alpha there was certain of. They did NOT want Gerry’s job! Gerry never before had the support of every Alpha like he had now.
No one wanted to work closely with Bethany Anne, ever.
The American Pack Council was no more.
Pudong Shanghai, China
Sergeant Lo Chongan was working late alongside Corporal Liu Jianguo. The surprise drills uncovered no evidence that they were being tracked back through the internet.
But the gut feeling that something was amiss now bothered them both.
Both men were staring blankly at the computer screen when it started displaying text, slowly by itself. Jianguo looked down and confirmed he wasn’t touching the keyboard.
They read the note.
Both of their faces turned white.
Unfortunately, they now had their proof.
Washington D.C. - USA
Barb was working for the third night in a row, pulling together information for her report, when she came across the information that Colonel Barrett Nickelson had been found guilty of multiple charges related to seven members of a unit under his command being killed in Turkey. He had been shot and permanently disabled before an untraceable packet with damning evidence was delivered to his command. Inside the packet was information which proved his guilt. The location where his people were killed was top secret, but the time frame matched the large explosion which happened in Turkey.
Barb searched further and found that one of Nickelson’s men had turned up randomly, very far away from his last known location without any memory of how he got there, or what had happened during the previous few days. The military were looking into why he couldn’t remember anything.
She was about to shut down her computer when one lone sentence buried deep in the report caught her eye.
It said, “Whereupon two fire-teams having been lost, Colonel Barrett Nickelson did allow a Mercenary Company (all information redacted) access to the location but then refused any additional support. All members of said team assumed dead due to a freak meteor hit.”
Barb tried to find out the name of the mercenary company. She used every security clearance she had, and every one of Don’s that she had scammed from him.
This group was beyond your typical black hole. Barb’s blood ran cold. She couldn’t prove it, yet. But she believed beyond any shadow of a doubt that the mercenary company had gotten out, and they found out exactly who had betrayed them and made sure it would never happen again.
They had, in fact, pulled off a very professional hit right inside Washington D.C. She thought about that for a few seconds longer.
If they can execute a hit in Washington, she wondered if there were any reasons that they couldn’t pull off hits in the Netherlands, England, Germany, Syria or Chicago?
She was somewhat alarmed when it became clear that there we’re any reasons at all.
Colorado Base – USA
Once Lance was back from his honeymoon, he and Kevin got together for an update. He and Kevin had stayed up late studying the maps that Robert had marked with new suggestions for additional emplacements.
The intercom speaker interrupted their review, “Sir, this is Jones down at the gate.” Kevin looked over at the phone,” Kevin here, what is it?”
The guard replied, “Sir, we have a single individual walking up to the gate, he's about fifty yards away.”
“Why are you telling me this now instead of when he arrives, Jones?”
“Ah, sir, he’s dressed like a monk, sir.”
Kevin wasn't quite sure he understood what he was being told. “Can you say that again?”
“He is a monk, sir.”
Kevin looked over to Lance, “Are you expecting a monk?”
Lance shrugged, “No, but let's get a name, I’ve been surprised before.”
Kevin told him that they would wait. The phone was put down and the men heard a window open and Jones’s voice. “Can I help you?”
A respectful, cultured voice was heard over the speaker. “Yes, thank you. I would like to meet the lady who walks. I'm afraid I don't know her proper name and the only improper name is crude and disrespectful.”
“I'm sorry sir, all of the women who are on this base walk. That description doesn’t help me narrow down who you are interested in talking with.”
Kevin could hear the unknown man sigh, “Please don't misunderstand, I am not giving disrespect, but the only name I have heard of is ‘the Bitch Queen’.”
Lance spoke to Kevin, “What is this man’s name?”
Sure enough, they could hear the phone get picked up, “Sir, Jones here. The gentleman is requesting a ‘Bitch Queen’. Not sure I understand the request. Do you want me to request a jeep take him back down the road? It’s mighty dark and I don’t want him walking that far back to town.”
Lance spoke loud enough for the microphone to catch his voice, “Jones, this is Lance Reynolds. Ask the person for his name.”
The voice sounded a little less distinct, “Sir, your name?”
“It is Barnabas.”
“Ok, Mr. Barnabas.”
“No, not ‘Mr. Barnabas’, simply Barnabas. No last name.”
Lance’s eyes widened slightly. “Jones, ask him if his last name is ‘Nicht’.”
Jones did so.
“Well, yes. That is a last name I can go by. I hadn’t expected to find anyone here who might be aware of that. To whom am I speaking?”
Lance told Jones he would be down there to speak to the gentleman in just a few minutes. Other than that, to treat him with the utmost respect.
Lance told Kevin that he should accompany him. They jumped in a car with Kevin driving, while Lance dialed Bethany Anne’s number. “Hi, it’s your dad. I’ve got a Nicht at the front gate looking for you. No, not that you. The ‘Queen Bitch’ you. Yes, I’m pretty sure he’s a Nicht, but I have to go find out. You can? Great! Grab Ashur and get yourself and whoever over here. If he isn’t friendly, we might be screwed. What? Fine! You told me so. I get it. I’ll have Gabrielle put a couple over here. How the hell was I supposed to know another damned vampire was running around in America? I know, I know, you won’t let me forget. Bye.”
Kevin looked over, “She did tell you that human protection wasn’t strong enough.”
Lance grumped, “Et tu, Kevin?” The two men laughed.
They arrived at the front gate and Lance stepped out. Jones wasn’t kidding. The man was dressed in an old fashioned monk’s robe, but definitely had on pants and a shirt underneath. You could tell once he was in the light. They were all the same color of dark brown so it wasn’t surprising that Jones couldn’t see.
Lance walked up to the man. He was probably about five foot eleven inches and a young looking thirty something. “Hi, I’m Lance Reynolds.”
The man pulled back his hood and smiled, his blue eyes conveying his happiness. “Hello, I’m Barnabas.”
“Would you be related to Michael?” Lance asked.
“Yes,” Barnabas responded, “I’m one of his sons.”
Lance pursed his lips, no time like the present to meet his maker, “Would that be one who supports Michael, or David?”
Barnabas shrugged, “Neither? I’m neutral to the differences the two of them have. I spoke with David over a week ago. I’m afraid he is not going to change his direction.”
Lance snorted, “He’s not going to change anything since he …” Lance stopped. He would take Barnabas at his word. It wasn’t like there was anything he could do to stop Barnabas should he want to go anywhere. “Sorry, where are my manners. Would you like to come inside? I’ve contacted the woman you’re looking for and she should be here soon.”
“I would be happy to be welcomed.” The two of them got into the car while Kevin took care of the signature to approve the visitor.
Once they were inside the car Barnabas leaned forward and asked Lance, “You truly know this ‘Bitch Queen’?”
Lance wanted to laugh, Bethany Anne would not like it that her name was being twisted around. She hated the title in the first place. “Her name is Bethany Anne, and the title is ‘Queen Bitch’. It isn’t one that she made for herself, but rather decided if she was going to be called such a name, then she would own it.”
“Bethany Anne? Ok, is she a Nicht? David wouldn’t admit to very much when I asked him about one who traveled the plane. He would rant and rave about his next effort and that the ‘Bitch Queen’ had stopped his last plan.” Barnabas leaned back in the seat and then accepted the guest pass from Kevin when he got in the car.
Kevin turned the car around and headed back into the base, “Yes, she is a vampire and it was both her and Michael that helped defeat David’s last effort. Since it happened a little over a week ago, you must have just missed it. David is dead.”
Barnabas looked down, “I told him not to continue his foolhardy efforts. That it was only death in his future if he didn’t alter his behavior. He was not happy to hear me say that. My visit with him didn’t last very long at all.”
Lance was puzzled with this new Nicht. He wasn’t anything like any of the vampires he had met so far.
The three got out of the car and went into Lance’s office. Lance went behind the desk and pointed to a chair, “Please, have a seat. Bethany Anne should be here pretty soon.”
Kevin asked Lance, “Do you need me?” When Lance looked over, Kevin pointed to Barnabas with his eyes and then raised an eyebrow.
“No, thanks. I’m fairly confident here so go ahead and continue with Robert’s review. I’ll catch up with you after Bethany Anne gets here.” Kevin nodded and walked out of the office, closing the door behind them.
Barnabas looked Lance over, “You smell … different. Your demeanor is from an older man, but you look younger. Are you connected to Bethany Anne?”
Lance considered Barnabas’s question, “Are you asking if I’m related?”
“Not exactly.” He replied.
That was when the door to the office outside of Lance’s opened. Lance heard both Stephen and Bethany Anne talking.
“Well what do you want me to say?” Bethany Anne grumped. “It wasn’t like he picked up a fucking phone and made a reservation!”
Barnabas turned in his chair to see the office door open and Bethany Anne and Stephen walk in. Bethany Anne was dressed in her ‘I’m going to take some lives’ outfit, complete with sword.
Stephen jumped around Bethany Anne to start hugging the new guy who had stood up quickly to receive them, “Barnabas!”
The two stood apart looking each other up and down. Barnabas said, “You’re young again.” Barnabas looked over to Bethany Anne who was studying him. He noticed the two pistols and the sword within easy reach. He turned back to his brother, “What changed your mind? Is this young lady a daughter of yours?”
A voice yelled from the outside office, “Hell no!” Everyone turned to watch Gabrielle striding in from the outside. She stepped into Lance’s office and spoke to Bethany Anne, “Leave my ass to chase down Ashur who, I might mention, was only going to Lance’s place to hang with Patricia!”. She walked over to Barnabas. “I’m the daughter, remember?”
Barnabas hugged Gabrielle, “Of course, how could I forget a beauty such as you? I was merely inquiring if your father looked young because he turned another.”
Stephen laughed, “No! I swore I would never turn another female after Gabrielle. She broke me of that desire.”
Gabrielle released Barnabas and turned to look at her dad, “I’ll break you if you don’t treat me nicer!”
Barnabas smiled, “It is good to see the two of you talking again.” He looked puzzled, “How is it you are young again if not for turning someone?”
Stephen took a step to the side and waved to Bethany Anne, “Barnabas, let me introduce you to Bethany Anne, my Queen.”
Barnabas lowered his head in greeting, Bethany Anne responded in kind, “Greetings Bethany Anne. I’ve heard of you.”
“All good I hope?”
Barnabas smiled, “Sadly, no. David didn’t have anything nice to say about you.”
Bethany Anne took a step closer, “That psychotic reprobate? I hope the hell he didn’t have anything nice to say about me. If he did, I’d take it as an insult. Besides, he can’t give me any more grief.”
Barnabas nodded, “I understood from Lance here that he is dead. Did you do that?”
She shook her head, “No, I promised Michael the opportunity. He took his damn time, though.”
Barnabas cocked his head slightly to the left, “Michael took David’s life?”
Bethany Anne nodded. Why was he always asking for verification? It was like he didn’t want to misunderstand, or he didn’t work with people too often. “Yes. Michael punched David’s heart right out of his chest and then tore his head off to complete the deal.”
“You were with him?”
Bethany Anne was getting tired of twenty questions, “Can we do something for you?”
Stephen noticed Bethany Anne’s frustration. She was never a patient individual and Barnabas’s questioning style could be a bit…annoying… at times. “Barnabas, what brought you out of your mountain retreat?”
“I believe Bethany Anne did.” She raised an eyebrow, but said nothing. “Do you walk through the plane?”
She pursed her lips, “If you mean the Etheric, then yes. I use it to step from place to place.”
“Would you mind providing me an example?”
Stephen asked, “For what reason, brother?”
Barnabas turned to his brother, noticing his concern. “I mean no harm, Stephen. I am trying to identify which of the ripples I have felt belong to her, and which belong to the others.”
“Ripples?” Bethany Anne asked.
Barnabas turned back to Bethany Anne, “Yes, ripples. I have worked over the centuries to become closer to the plane which we, as Nicht, draw our energy from.” Barnabas turned to Lance, “My apologies, I do not like the term ‘vampire’.”
Lance shrugged, “I don’t care what you call yourself, Nicht or vampire. It’s just a label.”
Barnabas nodded then turned back to Bethany Anne. “That is how I reduce the amount of blood I must draw to keep my strength up. Through this effort, I have become sensitive to the energy flow. I have noticed the energy fluctuations increase significantly over these last many seasons.”
Fascinating! He has learned how to pull power from his connection.
Yes, fascinating. So, what does he want?
Well, how am I supposed to know?
Beats me! Do you think it is safe to do a jump around him?
I wouldn’t think it is a problem, but I wouldn’t jump with him until we know more.
Bethany Anne asked Stephen, “You vouch for Barnabas?”
Stephen looked to his brother, “Have you changed your vow of neutrality?”
Barnabas shook his head, “No brother, I have been and I remain neutral in all things related to our affliction.”
Stephen turned back to Bethany Anne, “He won’t harm or help any save they are doing something generally helpful to the world. He wouldn’t help us against the Forsaken, if they were still a problem, nor would he have helped them against us.”
“Ah, you’re the Nicht version of Switzerland?”
Barnabas shrugged, “Not so much a neutral location, as I don’t believe in that which our Lord would not support.”
Bethany Anne was surprised, “You’re religious?”
“Not really religious, but rather I believe that the views espoused in the Lord’s efforts should be supported.”
Gabrielle cut into the conversation, “Basically, Barnabas has the undying belief that there is no one too dark that can’t come back into the light and no one is in the light so much that they could not become dark.”
Bethany Anne mused, “I guess I have an easier time believing the second assertion over the first, but I understand the logic. So, how do you feel about David’s inability to turn from his darkness now that he is dead?”
Barnabas answered, “The same as if he had gone swimming in the ocean and been eaten by a shark. His time was up. I will not be a party to his death, but it doesn’t mean I judge those who brought it about.”
Bethany Anne nodded, “Ok. What do you need to do to, what, feel a ripple?”
“Usually, I am meditating. However, I could probably just sit down and relax since you are so close.”
“Ok, let’s do this.” She looked around, “Everyone stay still, I’ll be right back.”
Barnabas sat back down and everyone watched as his face relaxed. He nodded a few moments later.
Bethany Anne shrugged. She took a step and disappeared. She spoke from the outer office, “Ready?”
Barnabas nodded and Stephen replied, “Yes.”
Then, she was back. Barnabas opened his eyes and regarded her. “That was you all of those times?”
She shrugged, “I can’t answer that. I can say I’ve been around.”
“Yes, yes you have. Yours is the most powerful ripple I feel.”
Lance asked, “How many different ripples are there?”
Lance pursed his lips, “So, you believe that there are three different entities using the Etheric and causing these ripples?”
Barnabas nodded, “That is what I believe.”
Lance considered his next question, “How long have you felt three?”
Barnabas thought about it. “I noticed Bethany Anne’s ripple about a year and a half ago. The other two ripples are within the last six months. That is why I came out from my home. There was something going on and I went to seek out the answer. I found that Peter is no more, then met with David and he gave me a clue that you might be the answer, Bethany Anne.”
Stephen asked, “You are sure Peter is passed?”
Barnabas nodded, “We can go into it later, but I am sure.”
Stephen responded, “Hugo has passed, David killed him.”
Barnabas nodded his acceptance of Stephen’s information.
Bethany Anne asked, “Is there anything different from my ripple and the other two?”
“In what way?”
Bethany Anne started pacing between the office wall and back. “I’m not sure. I’m wondering if we can determine if these ripples are caused by someone like me, a Nicht, or not.”
Barnabas’s face scrunched up, “If not a Nicht, then who else?”
Bethany Anne stopped pacing and looked at Barnabas, “Wow, you are so out of the loop it isn’t funny. Do you have television where you live?”
Barnabas laughed out loud, “Yes! I’m not isolated, I just dress this way because I feel it is comfortable. I’m not huge into technology but I do try to keep up. I flew here to the States.”
Lance asked, “Why did you walk up to the gate?”
Barnabas answered, “Because almost no one is worried about a monk arriving on foot to a gate. At least, not here in the States. The taxi let me off a mile down the road just out of sight, I walked the rest of the way.”
Bethany Anne stopped her pacing and sat on her dad’s desk. He made a face at her and grabbed the pen and pad that was near where she sat down. She told Barnabas, “There are nanocytes in your body.” She paused to see if he knew what those were.
Barnabas asked, “Nanotechnology focused on the blood, right?”
She nodded, “Yes, although the nanocytes that are in your blood have the ability of becoming nanobots or the more generic nanites to fix you. This technology was provided by an Alien group called the Kurtherians. They came to earth to upgrade humans to help them fight another group of aliens. We have been visited in the past by the opposing group because that is the technology that created the Wechselbalg.”
She paused to see if Barnabas had any questions. When he didn’t, she continued. “So, when Michael offered me the chance to become a vampire he took me back to the alien spacecraft which had changed him originally. I’m changed at the source and for better or worse, I’m the link to the aliens which want our help.”
She pointed to Stephen, “He came to my aid as did many others to help fight the Forsaken and the Nosferatu. My teams are attempting to figure out how to use the alien technology to fight the ‘seven’ as my alien contact calls them. We have taken care of the Forsaken conflict here on earth while seeking our way to the stars.”
She looked around and raised an eye to her dad, “Have they done it?” He nodded. She turned to Barnabas, “So, one of my teams has placed our first test package on the moon. We are no longer earth bound. I was hoping that David was my final loose end to clean up and then our teams could move off-planet, but I’m told we need to keep this base open for a while. So, we are moving to phase two and we will start construction of our space program. We are going to try to keep it quiet as long as possible so we don’t have government interference. We shall see.”
Bethany Anne waited to see how Barnabas took the information dump. She waited for a while and then looked to Stephen who smiled and mouthed ‘patience’.
She stuck her tongue out at him. She hated to wait!
Barnabas finally asked, “You are not seeking to rule this planet with your strength and technology?”
This time, it was Bethany Anne’s turn to laugh, “Hell no! All my team and I want to do is offer the world a chance to make their own decisions, not have them dictated to them. But there is one thing that I know and that is I will not back down from taking out these alien assholes who are subjugating others. I’ll make sure they can’t take over our world, then I’m going to root these mother-fuckers out and crush them with whoever cares to help me. If this seven will change, I’ll let them change. If they refuse?”
Barnabas watched in fascination as her visage changed. Her eyes became a brighter red than any he had seen to date and her teeth grew. Her voice carried her determination mixed with rock hard ruthlessness, “Then they will be crushed, root and branch. Not a single individual to carry on the sickness that drives them will be allowed to come back and infect future generations.”
“That is the declaration of the Queen Bitch!”
Michael’s Notes (Kneel Or Die - The Kurtherian Gambit 07): Written Mar 6th, 2016
Thank you, I cannot express my appreciation enough that not only did you pick up the SEVENTH book, but you read it all the way to the end and NOW, your reading this as well. Since this book is part of a series, I am presuming you have blessed me by reading them all and what a fantastic feeling that is for any author!
I’m writing this about 1 month and 2 days from the last release (Feb 4th). Life throws us curves and the curves included a major website release for my consulting company, my production editor working through an illness and a passing away of a loving aunt of mine. However, with the help of everyone involved, the absolute CLEANEST Kurtherian Gambit book was produced I’ve ever put out.
You know what? From the day the team started (Friday, Feb 12th) to release date (Mon March 7th) is 25 days. Twenty-five incredible days to put out what I think is a hella-good fun read for the WORLD’S BEST FANS!
Damn, you guys and gals are the most fun! Want to know what a group of you did starting last night through today? A scavanger hunt to read two extra chapters (4 & 5). Did I figure out some way to ‘pull the fans together, get them engaged, do this, do that, blah blah blah’?
I was minding my own business answering a few questions on the Amazon Forums for my author page and then … stuff… happened.
Here is the Amazon Forum post that started this whole thing. Tutt commented on the forum after reading the weekend release of Chapters 1-3.
Posted on Mar 5, 2016 6:06:38 PM PST
You certainly didn't do ME any favors releasing those three chapters!! I was P.O'ed...I got to the end and thought WTF!! Man I was in the GROOVE... And then...nothing...Okay...where have you hidden chapter Four. If it is a scavenger hunt, just say so. I LUV a good scavenger hunt. I loved the three chapters...and NO ERRORS!!! I calmly await Armageddon...( I love a good ellipse). Whatever. 72 hours is too long, but I'm not the one releasing the book, so there. Hurry up, dude.
What is a proper author to do? Beats the hell out of me. As soon as I meet a proper author, I’ll ask him or her! But, I can tell you what I did. I (apparently) didn’t have enough to do that night, so I answered Tutt like this….
Your post, in reply to an earlier post on Mar 5, 2016 6:10:30 PM PST
Kindle Customer says:
Ok... FINE! You want a scavenger hunt?
I'll GIVE you a scavenger hunt!
Give me a few minutes...
About an hour and fifteen minutes later, I posted this:
Your post: Mar 5, 2016 7:24:30 PM PST
Kindle Customer says:
All answers in lower case (one word - never any spaces between words)
So, that was a large portion of Saturday night and Sunday for a few fans that had fun helping everyone out finding the path to get chapters 4 & 5… Because a fan was snarky online and I accepted the snark, and raised her a challenge to get the chapters. (I think Tutt’s female… I can’t remember why I think that, tho’). You know, I never did find out if Tutt took on the challenge… She (he?) will have to reach out and let me know.
The energy you have all given back means the world to me. That I can ‘give’ back and make the experience wonderful for you?
It took 32 days to get book 7 out from the release of book 6.
Life doesn’t care about my pitiful plans.
But you know what? Together, I’ve released, fans have risen to the challenge to help make each book better, and you have all read these books at a pace of 500,000 WORDS IN 5 MONTHS!
Not only that, but I’ve broken the top 1,000 Authors on Amazon a couple of times (meaning, my ‘final’ ranking for that day was inside the top 1,000).
In 5 months.
You know something else? I’m getting fan letters to KEEP IT UP. Here is a f#cking awesome comment string between two fans I read earlier today after they read the pre-release chapters.
(This was on Facebook)
RaeLea Hurt: I was thinking that little fix would satisfy me longer. I’m officially a junkie, tapping a vein, eagerly awaiting my next hit.
Andrew Charles Rebeck: Agreed, but the only problem I have is I can’t seem to OD.
RaeLea Hurt: *laughs* Niiiice!
Freaking Facebook has turned into a party every few nights. ESPECIALLY around new book release time. Hopefully, I get stuff out before all of the ‘pitchforks and matches’ comments. [email protected], some readers (looking at you Earl Brunner) can be so crotchety when they don’t get their hit soon enough! <grin>
Others, nicely enough, leave encouraging notes or message me directly with heart warming comments.
Due to one of those conversations, Bethany Anne and whoever is with her (or her team, depends on the story) will be making a stop in Australia next book.
Specifically here: https://www.facebook.com/www.maxwellscafe.com.au/?pnref=lhc
Why? Because FANS RULE. Always. Even fans that slap the author around a little (that is COMPLETELY figurative BTW). You would have to read the comments on our conversation (on FB) to understand that statement.
So, if you’re in Sydney and swing by this cafe, shoot me a picture and let’s put it up on the Facebook group, ok?
I could go on. Go on about how the beta readers worked to make this awesome. How Stephen Russell worked while in bed sick to put stuff out and kissed his weekend (this weekend) goodbye to help make tomorrow a reality. How when I was feeling overwhelmed in the middle of the book someone had something good to say about their experiences reading Bethany Anne’s story that reinvigorated a worn out author.
I had the Amazon Echo play a little Disturbed, or AC/DC or Two Cellos and decided I should stop WHIMPING OUT! You know what? There are parts I love about this book. Scenes that make me crack up, or smile, or jump and go… (ready for it?) TAKE THAT SUCKA! I’m so enthused now by the story.
Damn, I SO wanted to kill that bastard David! I had a conversation with a reader who mentioned David’s comment about another Blackhawk down and how it made her feel. I agonized about keeping that line in (book 6). I, in no way, want to minimize the deaths of any countries military. However, to be true to the character who hates America for multiple reasons, I left it in. It’s hard to care about the death of a bad guy if they’re bland. David, by the time he passed, so needed to die.
I particularly liked how he stares down at his own heart in Michael’s hand, uselessly trying to push it back into his chest.
Here is what I said last Author’s note:
We Will Build - Book 8 is what I understand to be called an ‘entry point’ for a reader. A book that allows readers to get into the story without missing too much. If you would like to know the titles for the next few books, check out the very, very end of book 5. I did that whole ‘Marvel ending’ where I added stuff past the credits and the reviews.
Guess what? That isn’t happening!
Based on reader feedback (again started on FB & the Amazon Forums), it was pretty unanimous that new readers needed to start back in the front of the line (so to speak) and go from there.
I’ve got some housekeeping I need to do before starting hard again on Book 8. However, I’m going to put out a short story called: Frank Kurns -Tales of the Unknown World 01 (John Grimes Takes Action). I’ll have it out by the end of the month, I believe.
I’m probably going to keep doing these smaller stories to get into some side stories that aren’t ‘part’ of the main series. I’ve requests for Ashur, Tabitha and one or two others already. Want to suggest anything? Hit me up on the FB page (you can message me directly there). I’d do email, but due to marketing ’shtuff’ I miss some of the emails for days or just miss it sometimes.
Purchased vs. Kindle Unlimited update. As we go into book Seven, the Kindle Unlimited side has slid behind in gross sales vs. The Kindle purchased group. Income is now 55% Purchased vs. 45% Unlimited (after Amazon’s cut). Not sure about going wide right now. Have to wait to see what Amazon does with the KENP per page payout. With so many books being pushed, plus my own company efforts I’m just happy my family is ‘older’ and I’m not trying to do this with newborns, but have the time to juggle both. That would be hella-tough otherwise.
At the very end of this book I have cut and pasted reviews from book 1 (to date) - I respond and I’m f’ing fun! WE HIT 50! Actually, we are at 83 as of this morning. One of the latest reviews is a ‘1’ * Star that claims all of you gave me fake 5 star reviews. I’m like, ‘What the hell?’ Then, I’m realizing it isn’t bothering me too much. It bugs me that he is besmirching my fans, but I noticed a fan came back and HAD ALREADY RESPONDED to his review.
Damn, I was so grateful! It was difficult not to go all ‘angry author’ on the reader. I don’t mind (ok, much) that he didn’t like the book, but to claim your reviews weren’t legit? I call bullshit on that.
Every single review is a badge of honor I own proudly and thank you from the bottom of my heart for writing them. Occasionally, you drop a note to let me know you put a review on ALL of the books, thank you for that as well.
I’ve mentioned before, my writing is more escapist. I love a good action story, but more than that I want to engage with the characters. I want to feel what they are going through if possible. I want situations that make me get excited, worried, laugh and say ‘take that, sucka!’ out loud. The challenges faced by the protagonists don’t have to be life threatening, it could be a challenge to ask that special someone out for a date that keeps the story flowing. I’m not really into books that keep you constantly afraid for the characters. If I care about a character, I’ll turn the page, and buy the next book, just to see them reach a personal milestone that is challenging to that character. However; having said all of that action is what drives the story forward.
Please, if you enjoyed this book give it a good rating on Amazon? Your kind words and encouragement help any author. I will continue to the next story whether you provide an OUTSTANDING review or not. However; it might get done a wee bit faster with the encouragement (wink).
** Note: If you would like the $0.99 pre-official-full-price-release message, please sign up on the email list - I’m going to keep doing this for each new release moving forward, so when released early, the price is $0.99 for a minimum of 24 hours **
You can find book links on my Amazon Author Page here:
Want to comment on the best (scene, comment, event, shoes or gun for Bethany Anne, weapon Nathan would prefer…you name it) join us on Facebook and hang out with the other pitchfork and matches fans.
Want to know when the next book or major update is ready? Join the email list - Receive that $0.99 24-hour bonus knowledge in time to SCORE.
Software used to write this book is Scrivener (Windows and Mac):
(Sometimes better selection on www.dreamstime.com - TKG07)
Image software to make the cover (Mac): http://www.pixelmator.com/mac/ (1.6 ratio @ 300dpi)
Image software to make the 3d book Covers: http://www.Adobe.com/photoshop
3d Template Script: http://www.psdcovers.com
Michael Anderle, March 2016
*All credit for me having ANY shoe knowledge goes to my wife, who still works to provide me with even a finger’s amount of fashion sense. Why she asks me to comment on her outfits in the morning still confuses me to this day. Second note, the suggestion to include special canines also came from my wife.
From the scene in China (end of the book)
** 你好,我的名字是亚当。 停止您的计算机攻击的努力或我将采取惩治行为。您被警告了。
Translated: Hello, my name is Adam. Stop your cyber attack effort or I will adopt the corrective action. You were warned.
I’m a REBEL. Not listening to ‘The Man’ when I do this… Because I can… Because I can…
This is my ‘Middle Finger Salute’ to being told to not say ‘thank you’ to reviewers on reviews. Even if your review isn’t … nice (sniff, sniff).
But then, if you have made it to book SEVEN and are reading this far, I doubt that you wrote a one or two star review (back on Death Becomes Her) and continued reading… So I guess this will be for Reviews with three stars and above. If you did put a 1 or 2 star review and are reading the end of this book, what the h#ll?
This is the last book that I will be including the reviews… HOWEVER… If you want me to do something like this, I can always put them into their own ‘book’. Wouldn’t that be hilarious as hell? Put out a book of review comments that the fans push to #1 on some chart in Amazon???
Imagine the PR (debacle) that might be. My heart goes ‘giddy’ thinking about that ;-)
I took a count of how many of these I have to write…
I’m f#cked! The fans BLEW through fifty. I have a metric f#ck-ton to write right now!
Nothing to do but get started ;-)
ByJ. Hendrickson February 5, 2016
Typical of a male author writing a female lead, our Bethany Anne has a mouth even a sailor would cringe at! Lol but, the story is very unique and entertaining! He does a good job at combining the supernatural with sci-if, my two favorite genres!
Vamps, weres, humans, oh my! You get a great combination of different supernatural creatures with a touch of alien as well! Don't want to ruin it, but I can't wait to see what happens, and where exactly our characters go! Do they stay here on earth? Or do they leave earth at some point? Do aliens show up? Intergalactic war? It is looking very interesting and seems that the author is planning about a dozen books in this series? I am going to enjoy this world he has created!
But a word of caution, the beginning is a little tough to follow, seems he left out some back story but as you read it you will pick up on what's going on, and it worth figuring out! Maybe a prequel would be helpful? A short story to explain this new world and its creatures a bit more!
Michael - Thank You J. Hendrickson! Not sure you and I have been around some of the same females. My grandmother (whom I cherish) could cuss a person out in English or German. She had no issues telling a person to stick it where the sun doesn’t shine :-).
Having said that, I’ve been around some ladies who would blush horribly having HEARD the word, much less say anything. With Bethany Anne having an Army dad, I felt she might have a less … obedient… tongue. I grew up in Texas (which might explain a little) and it only took until junior high for me to learn that girls could be just as mean and ‘ugly’ as guys when they were together, they just normally were more polite in public.
Thank you for loving the story! believe it or not, these seven books were supposed to BE the backstory! The fans have been crazy supportive and I’m pretty sure if I don’t screw up, I’ll have something to write about that you will love for a while. If I knew my history better, I would probably be willing to do Michael’s story. I’m going to write some shorts from ‘Frank Kurns’ that should touch on some of this in the future.
Catch you on book 8!
ByTrina Moerson February 5, 2016
Even though this turned more into a Sci-Fi book than Vampire book, I enjoyed it. I am planning on buying & reading the next installment immediately.
Michael - Thank you, Trina! I hope your still with us and love the characters no matter if the reason for their vampirism was more sci-fi than folklore :-) I appreciate your review and love having you as a reader.
Byazon February 6, 2016
If someone can count typos and commas while reading this book, they are truly elite. I was so sucked in from page one all I could do is try to read faster. I loved this story and the author is great. One of the best paranormal I've read. This girl kicks behinds. Not for the faint in heart and if you want a simpering, whimpering heroine, look elsewhere...she's beautiful, sexy and did I say kicks behind? Gives a whole new outlook to the words, "She knocks their heads off"! READ THIS BOOK. You'll lose sleep over this one. Promise.
Michael - Thank you Byazon! I completely understand those that get kicked out of the story and still work to fix those. I think this book is absolutely the best I’ve put out. PERIOD.F’ING.DOT.
I hope you enjoy it! Thank you for your review.
<Yeah, what’s the point of whimpering heroine? That’s mutually exclusive to me.>
ByJAMESon February 6, 2016
Great introduction to what promises to be an awesome series. The pacing is wonderful, the dialogue is witty, the plot is perhaps a bit predictable. I love the blend of urban fantasy with military/spy thriller, alien invasion and the promise of space opera. The characters are just damn fun. I love the sarcasm and the humor, especially the pop culture references. The story is engaging despite some glaring errors, even in the apparently 'edited' version. Although the author dances with Ana Coluthon quite a bit, the meaning is always clear. As a history/ geography teacher I found the use of 'Baltic' for 'Balkan' jarring, but understandable.
Michael - James, I was so freaking embarrassed when I read this to learn how I screwed up the Balkan locations :-o.
Believe it or not, editing isn’t so easy as I would have thought. Even after multiple passes. I had to look up Ana Coluthon (anacoluthon) - Yup, your absolutely right! I hope I got better as the books progressed ;-)
ByKimberlyhazeon February 7, 2016
I love this series! The main character is a kick ass female who spends her time saving the day, and not whining all the time or being rescued by a man. I love the mix of paranormal with sci-fi. Also if you are like me you will be happy to know this series is not a hidden erotica novel. There is a lot of swearing but I just go with it, everyone has their own way of dealing with tough situations and this is here, also it is some of the most creative swearing I have ever read. This is over a very fun read and just the type of book I look for.
Michael - Thank you Kimberly Haze! ‘Hidden erotica novel’ (HEN) I love that the story isn’t, as well. I’m not prudish, but erotica is in a LOT of my favorite paranormal books (and even sci-fi now). The reason, frankly, is it SELLS like crazy. That and romance.
I’m pretty sure that is a statement to how horrible men are doing in our relationships in general, but that is a completely other subject matter I won’t touch on as I might just be shooting myself in the foot, and then forced to eat it. <smile>
ByDesiree' Ron February 8, 2016
I found this series while scrolling through Facebook one day and let's just say I (not so patiently) wait for each one to come out. This series has become one of my favorites. The author is very involved with the readers (I'm on the Facebook page and part of the mailing list) which I think is a great thing. Bethany Anne is one bada** chick and a great main character. Love the stories and can't wait for the next one!!
Michael - Not only ‘on’ the Facebook page, but jumps in on the discussions as well :-). Thank you SO MUCH for your continued support and all around awesomeness, Desiree’! Here’s hoping that you enjoyed the hell out of KNEEL OR DIE.
ByAmazon Customeron February 9, 2016
Michael - ‘Nuff said? :-) Thank you for your review and I’m not really sure where to go from here ;-)
ByKindle Customeron February 9, 2016
Great start to a series. Interesting take on this myth/syfy topic I seem to love. Good characters and plot line that can take us through a great series.
Michael - Thank you Kindle Customer - I love the topic as well. With a whole universe to play around in (plus here on earth and the past) as long as the fans are happy… Why not keep it going?
ByDeborah S. Reaveson February 9, 2016
I love this series. When reading the first book and it went into alien territory I was like WHAT!!!.but I kept reading because BA is freaking awesome. She is one kickass woman. Takes names and then shows them who is the boss. Love it. Reading 3 and moving to the next. looking forward to the ride.
Michael - Thank you Deborah S. Reaves! That one scene (the alien) is a PIVITOL point in the book. Sci-Fi readers start liking it right there, and true paranormal fans are probably WTF?? (Just like you mention above). That you continued is a testament to Bethany Anne, a character much bigger than the author! I’m just blessed she has resonated so well with so many.
ByAmazon Customeron February 10, 2016
I was about to cancel my KU subscription, when I came across this series..OMG, I haven't read a series this good in a long time. I can't wait to read the next one. It keeps you engaged until the last page. Loved it and highly recommend it!
Michael - Ok, another big smile time when I read this one. That the series was instrumental in ‘saving’ a KU subscription? Awesome! (Are you reading this, Amazon? Huh?)
Considering they are sending me money, they OUGHT to be paying attention.
But, I guess I’ll just keep climbing up the ladder of Authors forever just making my fans happy and giving the finger to the establishment. Because, let’s face it, I’m just not dancing to any tune that’s out there right now but I’m hitting the right notes and finding readers who love the characters.
I could probably go into the ‘why’ of it, but … damn… this has to get out tonight!
ByMikeG2uon February 11, 2016
This is a Alien invasion/military science-fiction-fantasy story, not a teeny bopper vampire love story like the books cover Artwork look like although I did shed a tear or two. There is your standard operational military cussing, but if you repeat you have to do some pushups with BA standing on your back. This is one of those series that is almost impossible to put down(I agree with another reviewer on it being similar to Laurence Dahner's El books), and the Author seems to be a prolific story teller/fast writer like P.S. Powers and just as addicting as either. I am a very happy book reader while this author is spinning his tales
Michael - Thank you MikeG2 (Great name!) I hope to keep you happy while I spin these tales! If I haven’t burned out my production editor, I’m going to be a happy, happy camper - trust me!
Another guy admitting to shedding a tear? Hell yeah! I’m not the only manly, man who admits to it? Feeling the love, man… feeling the love.
ByStephen Seditaon February 12, 2016
This series sort of takes a little bit of just about every genre out there but is predominantly a sci-fi book in my opinion. This book (and the rest of the series which I've read up to #5 so far) ends up being something pretty fun to read. The characters are well developed and mostly interesting, the story is interesting and fast paced. And the author is putting out new material at a pretty impressive rate unlike some others *cough George R.R. *.
Michael - Thank you Stephen Sedita! I’m not sure I can say my speed overcomes George’s well deserved skill, but I’ll take anything that remotely puts me into the same paragraph! Hell, it could be ‘Michael Anderle was walking through the same town as George R.R. Martin on Tuesday…’. <Grin> Your comment came out when news was circulating that Mr. Martin was going to slip on his next book. Very timely, that ;-)
ByKindle Customeron February 16, 2016
Great book, great series! I started and finished all 6 current books in like 2 days (not much else got done)! The first one does start out kind of slow while the various characters and scene are set, but once you get past the first 1/3 it really picks up and just blasts off from there! The writing, and some of the subject matter (militarily), reminds of a John Ringo book, which is never a bad thing!
Michael - Thank you KC! Mr. Ringo is a favorite of mine (Except for Tiger by the Tail… That needs to be burned.) I’ve yet to read his ‘zombieish’ books, but I understand from some readers they like them. That man can spin a military book like no other.
I always thought the earlier scenes didn’t suck so bad (from a ‘slow’ arena). I’ll have to consider that.
Or not. That would mean no writing on the future stuff.
Screw it ;-)
ByAmazon Customeron February 16, 2016
Loved it. Fresh take on vampires with strong kick ass heroine.
Michael - Thank you AC! I’m going to have to skip much commentary on some of these… I have another !#!##T to go! :-)
ByPaul A. Albrechton February 16, 2016
one of the better vampire novels i have read
Michael - Thank you Paul A. Albrecht! I appreciate you leaving a review!
ByAmazon Customeron February 16, 2016
Light, easy to read, this author is entertaining, his editing isn't bad especially now that he is getting help from beta readers but even before it wasn't bad. I like his blurbs after the story almost as much as the story itself.
Michael - Thank you! Too true on the editing part. It’s comments like yours that help me each time I finish a book to ‘add in the Author’s notes and stuff’.
Not sure how to take the comment, though. Is this stuff so much fun, or are the books just that weak? <smile> I mean, could I do an ‘Authors Notes’ book and put it out for sale? That would be freaking awesome! I’d drop a book a day if that was true.
Man, how peeved would the establishment be then?
ByMama-Son February 16, 2016
I just spent the last three days reading the first six books in this series and will be eagerly reading book seven when it comes out in two or three weeks. The reason for four stars instead of five is the editing. While it gets better further on, there are still some simple errors that should not get past a sharp editor's eyes.
This is definitely not your typical vampire book at all. This series has a unique twist and the author's writing style just grabs you and sucks you into his world. You must be okay with the amount of cussing found in the book because it has a definite place of its own. As long as you can overlook the cussing and some grammatical errors I think you will enjoy the series also.
Michael - Thank you. Might I comment that your name is cool? Mama-S? Fantastic! Again with the cussing thing?
(Author hangs his head) F#ck my f#cking life!
<hope that made you laugh, not get pissed off>.
Some fans want me to put out a NSFW shirt w/ Bethany Anne’s cussing on it. We have a ‘raise your hands’ on the forum somewhere. Another couple of fans have asked if anyone has figured out if Bethany Anne has ever duplicated her stuff.
Hell if I know. I try not to but I don’t have a list. I need a damned wiki and need to ask some fans for help with this stuff. There is NEVER enough time!
ByKindle Customeron February 17, 2016
I am an avid reader and I completely enjoyed this book. It gives lots of information and has a good female lead. I can honestly say there are now only three series I will recommend to most of my sci-fi loving friends. This has made number 1 for rollicking good fun.
Michael - Number 1? Seriously? Cool warm fuzzy feelings on that! I’ve been suitably chastised to say ‘thank you!’ and not quibble about not deserving such praise.
So I have a new method of handling the compliments…
BRING ‘EM ON!
CAN I SAY I HAVE … LIKE ABOUT 30 MORE OF THESE TO GO??? H#LY SH#T!
ByJohn Harrison February 17, 2016
I bought this without bothering with reading any of the reviews except from the cursory glance at the star ratings, but I generally take those with a pinch of salt. The first book sucked me in and after finishing it I immediately bought the following 5, which I have completed much to my consternation as I now am sitting in a void as to what book(s) I pick up next while having to wait for the follow-ups. Grrrr
Great broad spectrum of characters with an even greater leading lady. Excellent plots including realistic development and growth of each of the main characters in their own right
Highly recommend the series and will look at buying the complete series for my actual book shelves once it is available in print.
Michael - Thank you John Harris! Remember that comment about never having enough time? Yeah, same issue w/ the print stuff. :-(
One second… I have something to do right now about that…
Ok. All done.
I swear… (not every damn day… unless I’m writing, then I might be).
Wow, harsh with the reviews. It seems that some use them, some don’t, some don’t believe them (yeah, still bitter about that one).
Byiseedeadcarson February 17, 2016
This is absolutely one of the best series on amazon!!! I am and avid reader of all things fantasy, sci-fi and urban fantasy. I have been reading for 25 plus years and read well over 100 books a year . This book is one of the best i have read and thank whatever program amazon uses that lead me to this author. He writes incredible fast past, funny, action packed and character driven stories. if you like Dresden, , Demon accords, Old man war series and Deadpool. You are going th love this series..
Michael - Woohoo, I got a Demon Accords comment ;-). I’ve read a couple of Dresden. Loved Old Man series and the Deadpool movie. Haven’t read the comics.
I have a LOT of older readers (meaning older than me - I’m late…ish… forties) and I love it. You know how many of you are willing to supply info on your professions? An amazingly cool amount.
Damn, I’ve got so much more to talk about, and a lot more of these to go!
ByMicahon February 19, 2016
This review is based on the whole series so far but put with the first book to let future readers know this is a series they need to read. So far, there has been no letdown and each book of the series keeps the story flowing, almost like chapters in a great long story. This series is also the best reason for Kindle Unlimited. It gives readers a chance to look at books being written by indies and know the authors are still getting paid for their art. Thank you Amazon for this program. If you are looking for fast moving, light reading, laughs and tears you will not go wrong with this series. Thank you Michael for a great story and keep them coming
Michael - Thank you Micah! (Are you listening Amazon, huh? Just checking!)
Yeah, Amazon did a big change I think is going to be good for the KU program, but we will see. There are some real sleazebags trying to game the system.
Dirtbag scuzbuckets… Messing up a good thing for all of us (readers and authors).
The story is supposed to be long. I thought maybe I scoped it TOO long, but I’ve heard from at least one reader who is telling me to not be so anxious to push it too far too fast.
What are your thoughts?
ByFaithon February 19, 2016
I love the combination of Urban Fantasy & Military Science Fiction. Like the author writes in his Author's Notes, I, too, have been going back and forth between those genres the last couple years. This series is a beautiful melding of the two. Great job. I would love to see what this book would become under the hands of a professional editor, because it has some issues. I'm currently on book 03 in the series, and I would suggest the author buy a book of baby names, and use that for choosing character names: John & Jonathan, and maybe another; Billy "William," and Bill Bobcat; and Peter, Petre, and another Peter, barely mentioned. Also, in Love Lost, Chapter Eight, the author mistakenly uses "General Lance Armstrong" instead of "Reynolds." I'm really into the story, and I'll be picking up book 04 in a minute. However, I wonder if Steven King's advice in On Writing - to write a story, and then set it aside for 6 weeks before coming back to edit it - might make a difference in the quality of editing. That being said, it's a hell of a story and a great pace for production. I know I'm adding this to my Goodreads watch list. :D
Michael - Thank You Faith! You know, I use the Internet to find foreign names and I really SHOULD use a book for English names. I wonder why I did that? I (literally right now after type that last question mark) went to book 3 in Scrivener and fixed that mistake on Armstrong. The next time that book gets exported, the fix is in.
Would you mind dropping a note about your thoughts on the editing for this book? It doesn’t have to be public, message me privately. I’m curious what the readers think of this book’s editing.
We, literally, are writing and editing like nothing I’ve heard about before.
ByDv8angelon February 20, 2016
I want to start out by saying I hardly ever write reviews, in fact this only the second I've written to date. Why is this one so special you may ask? So many reasons it's not even funny. Somehow Michael manages to mesh sci-fi, fantasy, and military fiction into one spectacular series in a way I've never seen before. Throw in a bad bitch female lead and I'm hooked. And God the mouth on that woman, she is straight after my heart. I just came up for air after finishing four books in two days. This story is that brilliant. I've seen people mention that the books have too many errors to enjoy it properly, I disagree, while there are some mistakes it's not enough to take away from one of the most imaginative stories I've ever read. You can bet I'll be done with the next two by tomorrow and anxiously waiting for more. Consider me a fan Ad Aeternitatem.
Michael - Thank you Dv8angel! (That is such a cool name!) Sounds like something I would use for a ships name… Like a space ship pilot name… Hmmmm…
Nope, I won’t steal a fan’s name. Unless, of course, said fan said something about it’s ok.. or something like that ;-)
Like baking a cake and leaving a piece out of it… That wasn’t TOTALLY STOLEN (with permission) from a fan or anything… Wait, yes it was…it totally was stolen.
And since the story has only been around since last November, I can’t answer your titles question as that harkens to metaphysical questions and stuff.
ByAmazon Customeron February 21, 2016
Wonderful Series. Read all 6 on Kindle Unlimited then bought all 6. Strong female heroine. Fast,clever plot line.
Michael - Thank you AC! I’ve really got to get those combo’s out.
I can’t possibly do enough for my fans. No matter if you read on KU (over 1.5 MILLION pages read in February!) or buy the books. May I always treat you with the respect you deserve.
ByCHELLE WESTONon February 21, 2016
I just lost an entire weekend reading the six books that are out. This book was so good, thank you so much for writing these and for how fast you get them out.
Michael - Thank you Chelle Weston! I have to admit that now, with six books out when fans mention that they shot gunned the books, I shake my head in AWE.
It’s the dog, isn’t it? My wife is SO going to crow that Ashur is the reason that everyone keeps reading. Even if that isn’t true.
She is in Global Marketing, EVERYTHING is open to interpretation and painting the picture that tweaks it to highlight her.
Wait, that’s not the marketing in her, that’s her Southern California (Hollywood) roots showing ;-)
Damn. I hope she never reads these.
I’ll be so f#cked.
I can trust you not to spill the secret, right??? Right!??
Yup… I’m f#cked.
ByGeezetteon February 22, 2016
YAY!!!! It's a true Kindle Unlimited series! Boo! My "Before you go" ratings and reviews never published. So... I'm posting on the main Amazon site.
Vampires, shifters, aliens, black ops, romance, heroic civil servants, blood, gore, guts, swashbuckling, Nazi plots, sexy ladies, hunky men, martial arts, etc.etc.etc.... There's even pod people (one of my favorite ongoing storyline riffs). And yes, kitchen sinks get honorable mention. I'm sure there's more 'cause this series is Saturday afternoon matinee cheering and clapping fun times good. Yep, been there, done that, and saw those.
Multiple reads-worthy (and I keep finding more to like) = 5stars.
Okay... shameless proselytizing plug... I'll read anything Garon Whited and/or V. St. Clair writes. Bless them both for releasing their work on Kindle Unlimited.
Michael - Ah, and now we come to Geezette. Talk about a little troublemaker! Wait, I’m sure I’m not talking about THIS Geezeete. Nope, couldn’t be ;-).
Really? For a good time call? Bathroom humor? :-P
Thank you, Geezeete for making so many fun-ass comments and keeping the forums lively! May you always be engaged and enthused in everything, your energy is INFECTIOUS!
Byjulumooon February 22, 2016
i read the 1st book because it was only 99 cent and its premise was interesting. iread the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and finily the 5th book because they were so enjoyable !!! i read them one after the other. it was hard to put down, a fact my wife can attest. i usually read si fi or fantasy. every once in a while i read zombie or paranormal. i truley enjoyed the mix of action, hummor and character interaction. the writter is apparently a prolific writter, so you don't have to wait a long time between books. i consider this a plus, especialy if you enjoy the writtin style. so now i know that i will get his next book sooner rather than later.
Michael - Thank you Julumoo! I hope you enjoyed this latest addition to our little universe of kick-ass and F3ck the names book that should have been called ‘Die…Die…Die…Die you terrorist scumbag…Die… Die… Fine, you kneel!”
Love having you as a fan and keep on reading brother!
ByR. Wellson February 23, 2016
This whole series is really lots of fun! I am an avid reader of scifi and fantasy and have been for over 50 years. I've read all kinds from really good to really bad. This series is best described as being similar to a roller coaster. You look at it as you walk up and you have a good idea what you are going to experience - some moments of relative calm as you are pulled to the top and then exhilaration as you whip through the snaky curves and hills of the ride. Yes, you expected most of it (is there really anything new in literature?) but you still get the fun wild ride you were hoping for and with a few twists and surprises that actually work well and provide an interesting take on the urban fantasy myths.
This series is not great literature and doesn't pretend to be. The author is cranking out the story at a really staggering rate and it does show in the editing. For me, this was not a significant detractor, although it did cost the one star. The language in the book is not really suitable for those with more delicate sensibilities in that area. It's really rough, but honestly not really unexpected or inappropriate within the setting of the book. Frankly, I've heard much worse living aboard ship serving in the Navy in the normal course of living within a military environment.
This first book does have some slow sections due to world and character building. It is an "Origin" story, after all, and a fair amount of this first book is devoted to that purpose. Consider this review as including the series published as of date of review - books 1 through 6. I've read them all and the series is really lots of fun, brings some interesting twists to the table, and you don't have to wait a year for the next book.
Michael - Thank you R. Wells! I appreciate your roller coaster metaphor and after 50 freaking years, I imagine there isn’t much you haven’t read! If I can keep fans like you interested? I might have a chance doing this another… (7 … from 21… carry the 1…grab the calculator) 14 books? Plus others?
Damn. There SO much I want to do :-)
I bet we did better on the editing with this book!
Peace brother, and carry on cussing.
ByAmazon Customeron February 23, 2016
The series is great and this from an avid romance reader. I have read some pretty graphic novels and its nice to have everything I love in a novel and not just make it eye porn. I like to read a good story and this series gives me everything I love. Adventure, Action, Romance the sex isn't the main focus. Sure there a some steam but its light steam. The sex in not the main focus. This series has caught my attention because Death Becomes Her is a movie also that I found interesting and I read it and I was hooked. And no its nothing like that movie. The title just caught my eye. I was not dissappointed. I Love it going onto book 5 now. I love a good plot and a great plot I got.
Michael - “And not just make it eye porn”… HAHAHAHAHAHA… Man, I loved this comment! Plus, having an avid romance reader? That made my morning! I’m not sure why, it’s just I figured that those who loved romance wouldn’t find this story to your liking. That’s all.
Now, I’ll start crafting a careful strategy to put out so many books that I’ll hit almost every genre and pull them all into Bethany Anne’s charismatic web of delight with little ‘high literature’ value.
Just all of us having a damned good time. Except the bad people.
Screw those guys.
Bydstars2797on February 26, 2016
Love the series! Pretty good military science fiction with a mix of paranormal. As the series progresses it's getting more into sci-fi which works very well for me. It has Navy, guns, and a bad ass heroine. What more do you want. Start with number one and I guarantee you will be thru the rest as fast as you can. Enjoy it.
Michael - Thank you dstars2797! I admit, the books are mutts, no specific genre to stick it in. By the time we are done? It will be called a classic! (Ok, wiping tears of humor, I don’t think we can sell that!)
Bymaismoreon February 27, 2016
Great storyline, fast paced, a great read. i am hooked!
Michael - Thank you maismore! Let’s keep this going ;-)
ByCeceliaon February 27, 2016
A unique twist on an old legend! This is written well and is edited much better than most. I really enjoyed getting to know the character and look forward to watching her mature.
Michael - Thank you Cecelia! My appreciation and you must have received one of the latest versions! Still working on upgrading (help has been accepted) ;-)
She matures all right. Heck, she has tons of time to do this!
ByKindle Customeron February 27, 2016
Honestly, I thought I would read an amusing story and that my interest would not go past the first book. I WAS SO WRONG. While the language was a little over the top, the storyline is fast and riveting, the characters have you cheering for them, and I couldn't stop going from book to book. I can't wait for the next one.
Michael - Thank you KC! Man, if the language was only ‘a little over the top’, you MUST have had some salty people in your life! I was truly going for WAY WAY over the top.
No bland food was going to be served at this buffet. The spice was going to be put into the food and customers would either like or or… well… comment that the language was over the top.
There, foot totally stuck in my mouth, now LOL
ByAmazon Customeron February 28, 2016
Michael - Thank you AC!!!!!!!!!! ;-)
ByRobertFon February 28, 2016
I read daily and very quickly so when I gave this series a chance I was HOOKED by chapter 2. I love the action, the no-nonsense approach, and how the author makes you invest in the characters. He see's them as actual people and takes you right along with him for the incredible ride. For a book that wasn't edited and thrown "out in the wild" I was blown away. Welcome to my short list of anxiously awaiting new books Mr. Anderle!
Are there some errors? Sure - but I found them to be minor and not very many that I recall. It never took my out of the flow of the story.
Foul Language? Yes - But I'm a sailor and find the use of a strong adjective is satisfying. The main character finds it that way as well.
Violence - Yes- When it happens you WANT it to happen to the person receiving it.
Michael - Thank you Robert F! Dang, there are a LOT of sailor fans. I wonder why the other services aren’t reading (or raising their hands)? Is that because I don’t mention them so much? I think I remember a pilot… No Army…
Certainly no teeny-bopper-we-need-sparkly-angsty-vampire lovers have raised their hands, either.
That reason completely eludes me.
I’m happy to be on your list, Robert!
ByBobby R. Treaton February 28, 2016
The first third of the book had truly ATROCIOUS editing, but it got better, and the story is fun.
The vampire leader, Michael, was developed JUST enough, without dwelling on the past or belaboring details. The way Bethany was recruited based on Michael's concept of honor — and his need for a fighter — felt original. Things took an unexpected turn when it came time to turn her, and it suddenly became a QUITE different story. Bethany was jarringly talented at sudden violence, with not enough buildup — but even so, she's a kick-ass heroine worth watching. I'll read the next book, and I suspect the editing will continue to get better. If the author would like help with that, I sometimes do it for free.
All in all, I highly recommend the book, and I'll continue with the series unless it takes a wrong turn in the next book.
Michael - Thank you Bobby R! Dude, accurate, but ouch ;-) (yes, deserved as well).
Ok, my turn. You do remember the whole set of comments that her Army father put her through martial arts as a kid and that story? That no one in her ‘black’ group wanted to fight her, right? Multiple times mentioned that she had a past decade and a half of experience fighting? That the reason she wasn’t considered a ‘top’ martial expert was her female upper body strength?
Not trying to defend the work as the author, but I hope as a fan. As an author I would have to question my work as the reader is always right!
Until, like, he isn’t.
I’ll just have to ask the group what the consensus is on this one. You bring up an interesting point in that I ‘thought’ I made it clear with her background so we wouldn’t have the problem you mention.
Damn. I’ll maybe go back and rework that sometime. <See previous comment about that opportunity happening>
ByAmazon Customeron February 28, 2016
Am really enjoying this book. Michael Anderle has a fun and very readable way of writing. The reason I'm giving 4 stars and not 5 is due to a section that he mentions a few times in this series which for me was really distracting "she shook her head yes" but other than that I have enjoyed this book and even bought the next one in the series. Well done.
Michael - Thank you AC! Dang, I blush every time I read the whole ‘shaking - nodding’ comments. I so screwed this up! I never paid that much attention to it as a reader (obviously). Wow, it is the simple things that catch a person sometimes.
Love that you kept going and I hope your reading this right now!
ByAvidReaderon February 29, 2016
Pure kick ass escapism!!!
Michel - Thank you AvidReader! Yes, that is EXACTLY what it is. With, like, killing terrorists involved as well. Because, as I mentioned to my dad, I can.
So I did.
Kill those terrorists, I mean.
ByGary F. Yorkon March 1, 2016
I decided to try this book when a reviewer, 'David...,' mentioned it was similar to Laurence Dahners Ell Donsaii series. Indeed! There are differences, of course, and plenty of them. For one, Ell Donsaii is rather less temperamental. For another, Dahners sets up Ell Donsaii to be believably 'super' in a prelude that's repeated in each book. Michael Anderle takes much of this first book to make Bethany Anne's 'powers' believable and he certainly managed to hold my interest while doing so.
If you enjoyed the Ell Donsaii series (and are not put off by the lead character being a highly ethical vampire) I urge you to give this series a look.
Michael - Thank you Gary F. York! I’m an ‘Ell’ fan, so no big surprise on some of it there. I completely skip that beginning part on Dahners books (good reads if you haven’t read his stuff yet - and his ‘Vaz’ series).
However, some do get a bit perturbed about all of this end matter. Last time on the reviews, I promise!
Except, of course, if enough people want me to write something to put out as a book so we can F#ck w/ the establishment, because I’m ALWAYS up for doing something like that.
Watch me get my a$$ canned or something. <oops!>
LOL, wow, what a way to end a brand new career ;-)
Bymarcyon March 3, 2016
Enjoyed reading this book and will read the rest in this series. It's a little hard to follow sometimes,but well worth the effort.
Michael - Thank you marcy! I hope the jumping around got better for you and your reading this right now!
Right now, sir!
What about then?
It just happened!
ByDerek D. Mullicanon March 3, 2016
I bought this book on a whim because the premise seemed interesting. A new take on a vampire novel looked like a good idea to me at the time. I ended up reading the first 6 books in 3 days. These are great escapist books, but a warning: they are very rough draft. I'm generally a grammar Nazi, but they were so fun to read that I just didn't care. Extra apostrophes and commas are so abundant they become a little distracting. The heroine is pretty awesome (despite the juvenile "cussing") and the action is intense. It feels almost like a teen's hero fantasies come to life, and I sort of like that, for some reason. If you are able to look past the poor proofreading, the story is so fun to follow that you can't stop. The main reason I am so forgiving of the author's grammar is that he is publishing each book in less than a month. I am willing to forgive a lot when I don't have to wait a year to see what happens next.
Michael - Awwww, f#ck my life, a grammar Nazi! (HAHAHAHAHAHA…) How the hell did I get a 5 star from a Grammar Nazi? Oh, he tells me right there in the review.
Fun escapism for the win!
And writing fast like a sum-b#tch!
Thank you Derek D. Mullican. You give me hope that I’ll get it all handled and like I mention … above? Yeah, above, please drop me a note and let me know what you think about #07 here!
ByFaith Petersonon March 4, 2016
I stumbled onto the Kutherian Gambit by happy accident. This is what Scifi and Fantasy should be! It pulls you in and leaves you wanting for more.
Michael - Thank You Faith Peterson! (That’s like two different Faith reviews this book, right?) I’m blessed to have your review and as a fan. I definitely LOVE when you want more of the characters.
I’ve done my job, which since it is so freaking COOL, isn’t really a job either, is it?
More philosophy and I’m just told I have people suffering withdrawals on the forum (reading you Scot) so I’ve got to jump to the next review.
ByLars Pedersenon March 4, 2016
Death Becomes Her is very well written and wonderfully entertaining. The humor and sarcastic wit between the characters makes them feel like friends. I cant think of higher praise than that.
Michael - Thank you Lars Pedersen! “Makes them feel like friends”.
Really cool vibes on that phrase, that’s how I want them to feel because that is what makes me want to read books a second and a third time.
I can’t think of higher praise than that at times, either!
ByMargareton March 5, 2016
Really enjoyed this series! I taught school for 30 yrs., so I am not interested in correcting grammar, spelling, sentence structure, etc. I read for the story and this series supplies all anyone could want. Wonderful characters, well developed.
Michael - Hello Margaret! You were SO much fun over the weekend with the Scavenger hunt! Loved the interaction and the effort. When I read your review the first time, I was taken by surprise with the school teacher comment and it was another time to just sit back and be still to feel the enjoyment you threw my way.
ByJ. Parkeson March 6, 2016
Typically i run far and fast from anything vampire related....i'm a SciFi fan though i started with fantasy as a teenager long long ago....in a science fiction forum i belong to this series was recommended and i began book 1, it confused me as to why until halfway through book 1 and then i understood.
Let me say that i have thoroughly enjoyed this fun and creative series and am preparing to read book 4 today. In this instance the vampire story isn't at all sparkly skinned handsome teenage heart throb or angst riddled love stories, it's a fun romp with plenty of fights and will keep you absorbed in reading until the wee hours of the morning.
Michael - Thank you J. Parkes! Which science fiction forum was that? Get ahold of me and I’ll drop a 10 ‘free’ giveaway for you to do if you want? I’ll turn that group into a (certain) vampire loving group ;-)
All fun aside (not the 10 free - that’s real!) Thank you for your review and I look forward to keeping you up tonight! (READING!)
Yeah, that last sentence needed to go. ;-)
HAHAHAHAHAHA… yeah, not sharing with anyone THAT edit!
ByKresshon March 6, 2016
I love this series. Just started the 4th book and I am really connecting with some of the characters. I often find myself smiling and laughing out loud at how Bethany Ann deals with the situations that arise. I have always been a horror junky with a particular love for vampires. Michael has written a truly interesting protagonist in Bethany Ann, a military woman from 2016 turned Vampire thrown into a world of ageless monsters from a time when women (never mind vampires) didn't have the freedom to truly be themselves. Now the most powerful being on the planet, Bethany Ann can truly do whatever the F*** she likes. I can't wait to see how the story progresses.
Michael - Thank you Kress! I love how you are thinking it through. I do believe the story is ‘deeper’ at times than the light hearted ‘kill them all and let God sort them out’ it (mostly) is. But, that’s because I feel the deeper stuff isn’t on purpose and we have to dig deeper with intent.
Of course, I could just be BS’ing myself thinking I have deeper thoughts and should just get over myself.
We shall see ;-)
ByBob H.on March 7, 2016
Awesome series, bought the first one on impulse, and have since bought the next 5 books and I am waiting on the next one, My recommendation is buy the first one when you have time to sit down and read, preferably at the start of the weekend when you have time to get the rest of the series and enjoy a relaxing reading weekend. I know I did.
Michael - Well, Mr. Bob H. you are our last review (and a huge thank you)! It has taken me about 2 1/2 hours to write all of these and I’ve really enjoyed it.
So, now that you, Bob, are partially responsible for not getting book 07 out just a couple of minutes faster, how do you feel?
I’m personally very glad you did a review! That’s one more review and with it I’m that much closer to 100 REVIEWS BITCHES!
Those establishment people who say someone shouldn’t put out 4 books a year can kiss my 7 book, 1/2 million words, 80+ reviews in 5 months’ ass!!!
TILL I SEE YOU AGAIN IN
WE WILL BUILD
THE KURTHERIAN GAMBIT 08
Oh yeah, and the Frank Kurns novel, because we are SO going to rock the charts with his books ;-)
KICK ASS EVERYONE,
2016 IS OUR YEAR!