The crowds outside of FortDetrick’s fence line had grown to near uncontainable numbers. Hours after the nuclear attack on Washington, refugees arrived in groups of two to four with nothing in mind other than safety.
At first Major General Hughes, commanding officer of FortDetrick and Underground lycan, allowed entry to all, but as time passed the trickle became waves. Once the crowds grew beyond the guards’ ability to control, the gates were closed and reinforcements summoned. General Hughes then authorized lethal force as a means to keep the displaced masses crying for entry at the gates at bay.
Master Sergeant Sims had become second to the Detrick’s provost marshal in regards to maintaining perimeter security. A mix of relief and regret came over him when Hughes ordered the gates closed; Detrick’s resources were stretched to their breaking point.
He stood atop a parked Hummvee’s roof, thirty feet from the main gate, peering at the crowd through his M14’s scope.
The majority of the lost and displaced clung to perceived precious belongs, and only a few understood that their lives and the lives of their loved ones were more precious.
More often than not the refugees looked over their shoulders or scanned the surrounding area. Sims knew they were fearful of what could possibly be closing in on their retreat.
Daniel Nathaniel Sims had been a lycan since his birth in County Kilkenny, Ireland in 1788. He’d been an average farmhand when he was transformed. The change had come by way of a constable sent to confiscate cattle at the onset of the Tithe War. The constable was one of several dozen and it had been clear to Sims that this particular keeper of the peace had more than four legged cattle in mind. Confused and angry at what he had become, Sims immigrated to America in September of 1832.
Sims decided the moment he touched American soil that the military was the safest bet to vent his anger. He’d served with distinction under General Sherman in the American Civil War and had gleefully help put the torch to Atlanta and anything else that stood in his way. And he feasted often, which was one of the perks of being a professional soldier that kept his true nature under wraps.
In 1881 Sims left the Army as an infantry company First Sergeant. The so-called Indian Wars of the American west cured Sims of his anger and bloodlust. It only took fifty years to do, but what he’d seen and done after the Civil War changed him profoundly. From then on he refused to fight to satisfy only his needs.
Sims lived happily in peace in WashingtonState until 1917 when he rejoined to fight in World War One. He’d found a home in the Army then and stayed until the end of the Korean War, leaving as a Master Sergeant. Mandatory retire was a bitch he was unhappy about suffering through once more.
Sims left the trappings of his old life and pension for a new beginning. He retained his name, but changed his past and moved to New Jersey. There he adopted the life of a dockworker, more for anonymity than money or anything else, until being drafted into the Army in 1967.
It was then that Sims resigned his life to the Army and worked his way up once more to Master Sergeant while vowing to never again change into lycan form. He’d planned on retiring once and for all in a year to finish his days in human form. Never changing brought the slow decay and blissful numbness of humanity to the surface and Sims was very okay with that scenario. Wish in one hand and shit in another had become a mantra since Vance’s end game began.
Even though it had been years since he turned he sensed lycans in the crowd. The sensation was like having a faint tickle at the end of his nose. Until they acted he had no idea whether the lycans were Aberration or Underground. He’d had the same feeling the first time he’d met Vance, but he’d stupidly blew it off.
Sims knew that fading away while innocent people died wasn’t an option. Even after two and a quarter centuries of knowing better, he remained an optimist. He believed one person, lycan or otherwise, could make a difference.
And his time to make a difference had arrived, and he wanted to kill as many Aberrations as possible. They had killed millions that did nothing more than exist, and ruined his retirement on top of that. Sims wanted them all, and by God he was going to get them all.
He pushed vengeance aside, and sniffed, and listened. Lycan scents mingled with the melted metal and burnt meat tang that used to be Washington, DC. He listened to mothers urge their children forward and to others holding back tears as they told kids that everything would be okay.
He smelled the fear and frustration of fathers who felt helpless to protect their families. The stink of lycan fear and rage and human uncertainty, terror, and greed was enough for Sims’ stomach to clench involuntarily. His blood pumped hard through his veins. Human and lycan alike taking advantage of a shit situation always angered him to the point of pummeling someone into meaty jello. His jaw tightened and his lips thinned as he attempted to focus his mind away from his personal feelings.
Something moved in the woods to his right. He peered through the scope at the motion, but saw nothing, even with his augmented eyesight and the scope. Still, he sensed something there and the left corner of his mouth parted for a low growl.
He looked back to the crowd, his eyes settling on a family being harassed by three young men, possibly teenagers. No one stopped to help the family just as no one noticed the mother fighting against one of the men pulling at the stroller she pushed. The woman was in tears as she and the husband fought back.
The three men laughed as they pushed the father and mother to the ground. The mother overturned the stroller as she fell and Sims’ closed his eyes against the child’s frightened cries. The father valiantly tried to fight his way to his feet but was kicked in the back forcing him back down. Sims snapped his eyes open and he sighted his scoped rifle on tallest of the three attackers.
“I know what you’re thinking, Master Sergeant,” said a lycan MP manning a Hummvee turret next to Sims. He was in human form, but Sims could feel his urge to turn. “I hear it and hate it too. We’re just gate security. There’s nothing we can do…for now.”
“Fuck hurry up and wait.” Sims twirled the toothpick in his mouth. Two of the harassers aimed pistols at the stroller and the father as the third put a knife to the pre-teen son’s throat. “Hostiles, forward! Eleven o’clock, range five hundred yards.” He squeezed the trigger in quick succession. The men fell dead. The mother didn’t waste time trying to identify where the shots had come from. She quickly unbuckled the little girl from the stroller before helping the father to stand. After that, the three made quick work of leaving the scene behind.
“Hmph. Guess I’ve done my good deed for the day,” muttered Sims, returning his gaze to the woods once more. His instinct had been correct. Someone had been there, proving they were no threat to the refugees. He’d heard the smaller caliber shot at the same time as his and he knew that whoever had fired had been military.
Sims jumped from the roof. He thought of changing. The added strength would help his ageing knees.
“Your daddy tendencies are going to get you killed, Master Sergeant,” quipped the turret gunner.
“There ain’t going to be no killing of babies on my watch.” He was about to radio to command about the shooting when he glanced around and found General Hughes and Major Kunpai approaching.
He hung up the handset and waited. Both men wore full combat gear and the same stern expression.
“Good Evening, General,” said Sims. “Evening, Major Asshole.”
Hughes grinned at Sims’ remark, appreciating the rapport the two shared.
“Good evening to you as well, Shoney’s Fat Boy. That was outstanding shooting.” Kunpai smiled as he eyed the crowd outside, and repositioned the belt fed machine gun slung to his front.
“You gentlemen saw that?”
“We did,” answered Hughes. “.” Kunpai and Hughes had been inspecting Detrick’s state of readiness when an orbiting Blackhawk had radioed that Sims appeared to be sighting in on something in the crowd. Hughes trusted Sims’ judgment, but he still assumed an elevated position to see what could get the lycan’s back up.
“Hrmph,” Sims said, nonplussed. “No need to look over my shoulder, sir.”
Hughes chuckled. It was an empty sound, devoid of any emotion. “It wouldn’t have mattered either way to those three. They’d still be just as dead. What’s the sitrep, Master Sergeant?”
“Area’s secured, sir, but just. You know we’ve got ‘em coming in from all over. It’s only a matter of time before we’re overwhelmed with either civilians, Aberration, or both.”
“Any other contacts?” Kunpai’s stare remained on the crowd.
“Negative, Major. Be advised that there are poodles in the crowd, but I can’t tell what their intentions are. Sure could use that poodle sniffing fly girl of yours, General.”
“Chief Walinski’s at gate three doing that now,” answered Hughes. “I’m having her redeployed from gate to gate at thirty minute intervals.” He sighed, looking to the gate. “Chances are she’ll wear herself down sooner rather than later. There’s only so much any of us are capable of. Regardless, maintain perimeter and continuing checking in every fifteen.”
The three nodded to each other and Kunpai and Hughes left to see Walinski. Vehicles patrolled the interior as soldiers in lycan form and human troops with canines moved purposefully in pairs or threes.
“Do you think Colonel Juneau and Sergeant Mitchell can get things organized quickly enough, General?” said Kunpai.
“How did you know I was thinking of them, Major?”
“Back at the gate you muttered, ‘we’ve got to resume moving the children in’. All after that was obvious.”
“Did I? I wasn’t aware that I ever muttered.”
“Yes, sir. It was more of a mumble, but it was there.”
Hughes kicked a rock and sent it flying across the road. “I want to let everyone in, but our resources are finite and I honestly don’t know how much protection we can offer. It’s a foregone conclusion that we’ve got hostiles mixed in with the civilians.”
“Has any thought been given to how people would react to lycan protectors, sir?”
“It’ll be pretty obvious sooner or later that we’re a part of the base. Still, I imagine there’d be some that would raise a stink about it.”
“May I make a suggestion, sir?”
“Go ahead, Major. It’s a free country to a point.”
“Have some of our lycan troops stationed at the gate as you announce that you’re letting people in. Those that want to chance it, will. Others… well… I guess they’ll split.”
“Like panic much, Major?” It was a drastic idea, but Hughes thought it sound.
The surrounding areas of DC had been under Aberration attack before the nuclear detonation so some people were bound to refuse shelter where lycans were present.
“It’s only an idea, sir. People have to know that all of you aren’t out for a bite.”
Hughes laid his hand on Kunpai’s shoulder and smiled. “Glad to see your mouth isn’t the only smart thing on you.”
“Just doing my part, sir.” Kunpai wanted to smile, but couldn’t. He felt guilty knowing that his family was safe while those he’d sworn to protect remained in harms way.
They arrived to find Walinski standing on a vehicle’s roof, scanning the crowded area with a scoped M16A4.
“Stationary roof surfing must be a new fad,” quipped Kunpai.
Chief Warrant Officer Brenda Walinski survived the attack at FOB Ironjaw only to walk away with a piece of Apache helicopter piercing her brain and an uncanny ability to point out most lycans. Vance proved that some lycans could mask their presence from her ability. That was reason enough for her to hate them.
Walinski wore her flight suit and Kevlar body armor laden with M16 magazines. Her eyes narrowed under her sweat drenched helmet as she skimmed the anxious crowd.
There were malcontents present, as well as a few lycans, but she sensed no hidden evil. The world was nothing short of good and evil to her, but all she sensed were scared beings.
Sensing Hughes, she dismounted the vehicle to give her report. On a personal level she was pleased with Hughes’ preparedness. She expected him to be ready, but the base moved like they’d been training for years for this type of emergency. Somehow Walinski doubted very few places on the planet were as prepared as FortDetrick.
Like many she hoped that September 11th and Hurricane Katrina had exposed the weaknesses in the nation’s emergency planning and that those weaknesses had been addressed. She knew better. Politicians would never agree on any plan because they felt themselves untouchable. Not that there were any politicians left in Washington, DC. But like any average cockroach, she was certain that there were enough national level stuffed suits somewhere to keep the bickering alive.
“What’s the sitch, Brenda?” said Kunpai, pulling out a cigarette.
“FUBAR, of course.” Walinski allowed her rifle to hang from its harness as she rubbed her eyes with her palms. “We’ve got refugees everywhere and more coming by the minute.” Smoothly, Dolly added her unwanted assessment. “We need to do something with them and fucking fast.”
“That’s not a problem… Dolly. Doctor Juneau and Sergeant Mitchell are finalizing a relief effort.” Hughes saw the worry in Walinski’s now violet eyes. “Do you have a concern, Chief?”
“Yes, sir, I do. If it were me, I’d let the families in, and only families. If they don’t have a child, fuck ‘em. I hate the idea as much as I hate saying it, but this is the shit right here, General.” Dolly had taken over and the moment wasn’t right for Hughes to speak to her. He wanted Brenda, not the more in-your-face of the three.
“Is that your expert opinion, Chief Walinski?” Hughes spoke with as much matter-of-fact attitude as Dolly. He would suffer only so much familiarity from her personalities.
Walinski had her left hand on her hip and motioned to the gate with the other. “All due respect, sir, Dolly might be onto something. It is feasibly wise to allow entrance to only those that meet those criteria. Regardless of who’s let in, anyone that tries to push through dies from subsonic lead poisoning.” Her attitude took both men by surprise.
“You’re fucking kidding, Chief,” snapped Kunpai, leaning forward. He angrily thrust a finger at Walinski. “What was that, Brenda? Dolly masquerading as you?”
“No, Major, that’s my opinion. Dolly thinks its crap. She says all or nothing. That’s how she is and you know it. And another thing, don’t act tough with me, sir.” Her pronunciation of sir was perfect, but at that moment she meant cur. She didn’t like being hostile, but she was confused by his attitude.
She ignored Kunpai and looked at Hughes. “I’m not close to kidding, General. If the other gates are like this then we have a shit load of poodles intermingling with civilians and I don’t know how better to solve this problem. I’m assuming those shots earlier were an answer to someone wanting to do bad to someone weaker.”
Hughes pursed his lips and glared at a crowd that wasn’t growing any less restless or any less ugly. He knew she was right; hostile lycans were surely waiting for their chance to make something happen. “And how do you think some, if not all, of the families will react once they discover a third of the forces on station are werewolves?”
“If they want safety then the choice is on them, General. Here with us or out there with them.”
Hughes stood silently for a few seconds.
“Sir? Are you seriously considering her recommendation?” Kunpai said incredulously.
“Do you have another plan, Major? I hope so because I’m fresh out. Chief’s right. Families take precedent. If a free human race is to survive then we have to safeguard the resources for species continuation as it becomes available.”
“All due respect to you both, but you’re out of your whole damned minds. What the hell is going to happen if we come across a family with a lycan that’s not friendly? What are you going to do? Shoot the whole family? Is that the answer, Brenda?”
“No, I’ll only shoot the threat.” Walinski’s eyes held a coldness that would chill the Arctic.
Kunpai leaned forward, looking into her eyes. The color hadn’t changed. It was Brenda talking, no one else. “You’re nuts. You’ve finally gone to the dark side.”
“It’s a hard choice, Major, but its sound in theory and in reason.” Hughes didn’t like the thought of taking a parent away from a child, but the time for absolute moral thought was over.
“I see. Fine. But count me out.” He spoke first to Brenda and then turned to Hughes. “I object to this plan of action, General, and I will not take part in it. And if this action is given as an order I’ll object to that too. It doesn’t matter if it’s a written order or not.”
“Your objection is noted, Major.”
Kunpai assumed an unnecessary position of attention. “Permission to resume patrol, sir.”
Hughes nodded his dismissal to Kunpai.
Kunpai left, leaving Walinski and Hughes to discuss implementation of her plan, but she spoke first regarding Kunpai’s feelings. “I know he’s not happy with it, but unless he comes up with something better…”
“He won’t and I agree with him. Sad thing is we have hard choices to make and uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. It was true when I first saw Bill Shakespeare put that play on and it’s true now.” Hughes sighed.
“Sir, I only said that Dolly might be onto something. I’m of the opinion that we should allow only those sixty and under inside. Anyone at retirement age should be excluded.”
“Thought this out, have you?” His face darkened. “Leave it to you, you’ll make a hypocrite out of me, Chief.”
Embarrassment reddened Walinski’s face. Hughes himself was well past human retirement age. She recovered quickly. “I understand, sir, but we must put species survival ahead of personal…opinions.”
Hughes stared at Walinski. He didn’t understand where her attitude change had come from. He would’ve expected a plan of this magnitude from Kunpai or Zellar, but not from her, though he was sure Zellar would agree with Walinski in a second. ‘Who the hell are you?’ thought Hughes. “Okay. I’ll deploy reinforcements to the gates. I need you to implement your plan one gate at a time, so you’re in for a long night.”
“No worries, sir. I’m not tired.” Walinski moved to the officer in charge of the gate and began conferring with her.
The female lieutenant’s brow shot up and she looked around and found Hughes staring at her and Walinski. She acknowledged Hughes’s nod and turned back to Walinski. Walinski stared a moment longer at Hughes and then began speaking to the lieutenant.
“Who are you, Chief Warrant Officer Brenda Walinski?” whispered Hughes. He watched her climb into the vehicle she’d been standing on and drive to the next gate. For the first time ever Hughes was afraid of her.
All content is copyrighted 2011-1014 by Jason McKinney Reproduction is prohibited unless otherwise authorized by the author.