Sorry about the delay in getting chapter three posted. Between work, kids, and all sorts of mess I sometimes forget to breath. Big thanks to Janet Sked for her continuing to edit and work with me on this monster!
Vance pored over after action reports from other areas of operation. Pleased wasn’t a word that described how he felt. Ecstatic was too strong a word, and only pussies used it. He settled on gleeful. Gleeful was the word that fit his mood.
His forces controlled the eastern US seaboard, and most of the West Coast. The Pacific Northwest gave him some trouble, but he knew he could always drop a nuclear weapon to eradicate the minor inconvenience. For now he was content in letting his men and women have their hunt. “Let them play before we get down to business.” His people had earned that much from him.
He stood and looked out at the chaos that had once been Colorado Springs, Colorado. Fires burned here and there, and lycans like him ran riot. The majority of the city’s citizens were either dead or captured.
He looked through the destroyed window, down to where Ella Daughtry’s body had landed. Nothing remained but blood streaks and what appeared to be a hand. “Filthy bitch,” he muttered, turning away.
His plan had been a success, for the most part. What hitches there were annoyed him.
A few were in places he could’ve done without, but the majority was in populated areas that he needed. Briefly he wondered if he should initiate a few more launches but ruling over a scorched, irradiated planet wasn’t on the list at all.
His biggest concern was FortKnox, an installation he had been unable to fully infiltrate. It had a Pack Traitor for a commanding general and that general had proved difficult to remove despite some of Vance’s best maneuvering.
FortKnox wasn’t just a depository for some of America’s gold reserves; it was also the training base for Army and Marine Corps armor units. The men crewing the tanks continued the fight against him, but sooner or later they would fall.
“What’s the difference between Marine tanks and Army tanks?” he mused aloud. No one answered, but that was fine by Vance. “Marine tanks come with bayonet studs.” He allowed himself a chuckle at the old, worn out joke. He knew from the get-go that the Marine Corps warrior ethos would prove a problem and he was right. He also knew that the soldiers stationed at FortKnox would fight just as hard as their Marine brethren. Still, he admired their spirit.
The resistance in the Columbia area of South Carolina had come as a surprise. Most of the recruits from nearby Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island were proving that sooner or later they’d have been Marines. Under the direction of company and series commanders and Drill Instructors they were putting up more than light resistance. It was another problem that Vance was sure would work itself out.
Omaha’s fighting was the most shocking to Vance. He’d had little use for the Air Force aside from their aircraft and pilots. Being the youngest of the four branches, Vance considered them nothing more than petty nuisances. Still, they were fighting like enraged hornets and were giving as good as they’d gotten. The airmen of the US Air Force were proving to be as tenacious as any Marine.
Vance picked up the phone dedicated to his combat information center.
One of his soldiers answered before the first ring could end. “Vance here. I authenticate Zulu niner five five Echo Uniform. Strike Package Hotel.” His voice was filled with impatience. “Scramble one B2 from Ellington AFB, Kylie Field, and Wilcox AFB. I want nukes dropped on Omaha, Charleston, and FortKnox. Scramble escorts with them also. Out.”
Vance placed the receiver back into its cradle. He conceded that using air support was at best questionable, but he believed in overkill at best and safety first at the least. He was going to wipe those standing against him off the face of the earth regardless of what losses he would take.
Vance returned to the window. A mix of F15 Eagles, F16 Falcons and Navy F/A18 Hornets flew patrol over the city. He smiled widely and wondered where he could get something to eat. He had a craving for something small and very young, and was sure that one or two could be found in the city.
He had turned to leave for the armory when one of his phones rang. Annoyed, he answered it with a growl.
“The Detrick operative is on the line, sir,” answered a female voice with a growl of her own. Vance knew she was in her lycan form. It was underlings that assumed that form that pleased him the most. It was a form of sucking up, but he liked it nonetheless.
“Patch him through.”
“Report.” His growl eased into a tone of anticipation.
“Sir, things are fluid at the moment. Our people are mingling with refugees at all gates. The humans don’t require our assistance in spinning into a frenzy. They seem to be doing it on their own. Also, I’ve commenced attacks at their gates.”
“The human populace stampeded nicely?”
“Yes, sir. The forces inside the perimeter are struggling to adjust to the situation. My intel suggests that Hughes is coordinating defense and refugee procedures with Demarti and Kunpai. We’re also attempting to neutralize Brenda Walinski.”
“What’s the livestock count, son?”
“Well into the thousands, sir. It looks like more have survived than the initial projections.”
“Good eating is what it sounds like. I’m glad that’s the case. Can’t run a world without servants and cattle, Captain.
“Any intel on Dayton’s location?”
“Negative, sir. They’re keeping that info contained within their circle. It shouldn’t be difficult to get it.”
“Outstanding. I cannot stress to you enough the need to get Dayton. This is a no fail priority, understand?”
“Good. Until then maintain panic where you can, coordinate our people in guerilla actions, and keep me advised of any changes. You’re doing fine.”
“Thank you, sir. Will maintain actions and keep you abreast of all developments.”
“Roger that. Out.”
Vance hung up the phone. He was still hungry, but he was happier now. His insider wasn’t suspected and things were flowing as he wanted them. He didn’t want FortDetrick destroyed so much as humiliated. He was fond of the saying, “If you kill them, they won’t learn anything” even though he enjoyed killing anyone that was in the way or an irritation to him.
“Time for some sweet baby back ribs,” he said. He left for the armory and to secure a security detail. The time to feed had finally arrived.
“You all know why I called you here,” Hughes said in a grim tone. “World’s gone to hell and we’re going to fix it.”
Mulcahey snorted. “That’s the proper context for it, General. Gone to hell.”
Hughes continued. “We need to examine our situation and decide where to go next. Major Kunpai is in critical condition, we’re near what I feel is capacity on refugees, and what forces we have are stretched thin on the ground. Captain Cotton has informed me that we have more birds than pilots and Lieutenant Lewis has suggested that we recall our search and rescue crews. Not to mention our major worry, the fallout from the DC blast. Captain Demarti, what is the status on that?
Demarti cleared his throat as he shuffled through a folder for the facts he needed. “Our meteorologists believe we should be in the clear for the next forty eight hours. That’s the critical time for any significant fallout to affect us. They say we’re looking fine as long as nothing changes wind and current wise. So far the fallout is being blown out to sea.”
“Good.” Hughes turned to Lewis. “Lieutenant. What about the SAR folks? You stated that our people have the potential to be in more danger than previously thought.”
“Yes, sir,” said Lewis. He drummed his fingers nervously on his helmet sitting in front of him. His eyes looked almost vacant as he tried to think of how to put the situation. “We’ve… um, that is, the search and rescue column I was with had contact with a confirmed hostile military unit. We don’t know whose side they were on but they opened fire on us immediately. We can’t discount that they may have gone marauder or that they were Aberration. We suffered casualties, but they know they’ve been in a fight.” His fingers beat a nervous tattoo on the helmet’s top. His words were even, but there was current of weariness underneath.
Hughes rolled his tired shoulders and cracked his knuckles. “Chief Walinski. I need you to take a bird up. I know you’ve been itching to get back to it so now’s your chance. We need recon flights outside the blast zone, and on the safe side of the fallout to ascertain the situation. Air control says there is no traffic around there so you should have the space to yourself.”
“Am I flying lead or co-pilot?” Walinski scrolled preparations in her notebook, a sense of purpose filled her again. She’d been on the ground too long and felt anxious about getting into the air.
“You’ll be lead, Chief. Captain Cotton will be your co-pilot. You’ll be calling the shots on this one. Captain Cotton. Any objections to that?”
“No, sir. Chief can have this one. I’d rather enjoy a break from being the shot caller.” A twinkle seemed to gleam in Cotton’s eyes. It was a ray of boyishness that annoyed Dolly.
Dolly and Clarice had been in a mood since Kunpai was injured. Both of Walinski’s other personalities wanted payback.
“Outstanding. Now Colonel Shelby has good news, of a sort, for us. He’s confirmed that units here at home, in the United Kingdom, China, Russia, and Australia have pulled back to protect assets while others have set up defensive lines to allow civilians and other units to pull back to safe zones. Vance hasn’t totally won and we’re not out of the fight yet. Colonel Shelby, try to coordinate our efforts with the world wide operations and keep me updated.”
“Aye, sir,” Shelby answered tapping a pencil on his notepad.
“What’s the status on the rest of the US, sir?” Tan hadn’t spoken a word since entering the room, and had sat with her forehead resting on her cupped hands. Her voice sounded hollow. She raised her head, showing her dark-circled eyes.
“New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia, and DC are total losses, Specialist. Defensive lines have been established in Chicago, Dallas, Boston, San Diego, and Nashville among other places to halt the Aberration advance. The bright spot in this forecast is FortKnox. They’re holding their own, but will need to be reinforced or relieved at some point.” Hughes paused, smiling at Tan. “How are you holding up, Specialist?”
Tan gave a tired thumbs up. “Request permission to join next relief column, sir.”
“First unit out, you’re there, Gloria. We all want to get some.”
Tan lowered her head without speaking further.
“Doctor Sutton, Colonel Jeanue. What can we do to get Major Kunpai back on line ASAP?”
“Major Kunpai needs blood.” Jeanue spoke before Sutton could.
Sutton leaned back in her chair and rubbed her eyes with a weary hand. This was the part she dreaded the most, and it was only right that any news should come from Jeanue.
“Okay,” answered Hughes, confused as to why blood should be an issue. “I’m assuming that we’re short on blood types of all kinds for this to be an issue.”
“Negative, General.” Jeanue leaned forward again. “We’re good to go on both A and B negative and O negative. We are a little low on O positive, but that’s not the issue. The issue is that Omi… Major Kunpai, I mean…”
Hughes held up a hand. He didn’t mind if they referred to each other by first names. It was a closeness that assured their survival.
Jeanue began once more. “Omi is AB negative and that was something we were low on to begin with. In order for him to recover we need more, and quickly.”
The mood turned to puzzlement. A few tried to understand why Jeanue and Sutton left something unsaid.
Mitchell shook her head back and forth in small movements. She didn’t like where the discussion headed and she wanted no part of it.
Sutton and Jeanue looked to each other and then around the table.
Sutton nervously cleared her throat. “There are only two AB negative donors on station, sir. I’m one of those. The other is Sgt. Mitchell.”
Bernerd’s eyes widened, and Mulcahey burst into laughter.
Tan’s head whipped to Sutton simultaneously with Demarti’s. Both responded in unison, “Excuse me?”
“You’re shitting us, Doc,” retorted Lewis. “Is this a joke? You mean that…”
“No way that the only two people on station with his blood type are lycans.” Demarti said incredulously. He had no idea why he was opposed to the idea, especially with him being Mitchell’s lover. “What about A negative? I thought that was universal or something. Right?”
“A negative is for everyone else and reacts slower with AB types,” answered Sutton. “Now as far as a donor-”
Mitchell broke in before Sutton could finish. “Oh hell no. Don’t look at me. No way am I turning anyone into one of us. Even if I didn’t like Major Kunpai I wouldn’t be a party to it. You’d better do it, Dr. Sutton, because I sure as hell am not doing anything like that.”
“I was about to say that I would do it, Sergeant. I don’t like the thought either, but if I believed for one second that he’d turn bad I wouldn’t. From what I know of him I think his morals will make the right decision.
Hughes rubbed his temples as he leaned his chair back. The meeting had taken a turn for the melodramatic, something he could’ve done without. “Quiet, both of you… please. We’ve got enough on our plate without a fight based on assumptions.” He leaned forward, elbows resting on the table. “Now, what do we need to do to get Major Kunpai on his feet? Normally we’d just do it, but with your… status, Doctor, I’m guessing we need to consult with his wife first.”
“I’d feel more at ease doing that,” volunteered Sutton.
“Agreed,” added Jeanue. “We owe her that much.”
“Make it happen,” responded Hughes. “Is there anything else that needs to be mentioned here?”
Some shrugged, others grumbled, or muttered that they had nothing to add.
“Outstanding. Chief, Captain Cotton, I’ll outline your recon areas and have them to you within an hour. Until then, stay frosty. Dismissed.”