Rance, Deidre and Kelsey were still in the toy department when Shannon and Hecate found them. Kelsey and Rance were playing with some colorful space police toys with another female soldier while Deidre and Ohkawa exchanged suspicious glances. Weddington stood away from everyone, eyeing both women.
Ohkawa tensed the moment she saw Hecate and Shannon’s approach. She gripped her rifle tighter than before. Rance’s smile widened the moment he saw Shannon. Kelsey gave a relaxed wave before returning to playing with her son.
Weddington met Hecate and Shannon halfway to where Rance played. “Sir,” he said. His voice was heavy with concern. “Anything happening on the roof?”
“All quiet so far, Sergeant. I think our plans have moved up. With our new friends arrival we can’t afford to stay put, and that window of opportunity on exfil seems to be our best bet. Pass the word that we’re wheels up at 2030. You, the sergeant major, and I’ll form a plan of action and I’ll brief everyone at 1700. Now, how are things down here? I see you’ve let Ohkawa tag along.”
“More to keep an eye on her than anything else.” Weddington paused, thinking he’d said too much. He looked to Shannon and then to Hecate. He didn’t say what was on his mind, but it was obvious.
“Go ahead. She’s with us so she needs to know the group dynamic. Especially in this area. I don’t want her or the others to be broadsided because someone’s got the jumpies.”
“You’re the boss,” Weddington said, giving Hecate a dubious glance. Ohkawa is becoming a problem. Crist and Lyle informed me that she’s mentioned ‘taking over’, whatever the hell that means. More disturbing is that Deitl, Moore, and Singer have been hanging around her more. Their little confab is making a few folks nervous. It’s only been a few days and unit cohesion is beginning to suffer. The remaining newbies aren’t meshing well with the others to begin with, and Deitl…”
“He’s been with the platoon for two years and was rock steady until recently. Still, I get where you’re coming from.” Concern creased Hecate’s brow. Shannon had a feeling that it was something that he rarely showed. “I guess we’ll just put those few on point and rear guard when we move out. Make them aware that they’ve got to worry about others more than themselves.”
“Sounds fair enough to me, sir,” replied Weddington though his voice indicated otherwise.
The three looked to Ohkawa. She was watching the group instead of Deidre. She thought she knew a threat when she saw one.
“Your ears burning, Private?” said Hecate to Ohkawa.
Her light brown face blushed. “No, sir.” She looked down at the Kelsey, Rance, and the female soldier still playing on the floor.
Hecate chuckled. “I love doing that to people. Please excuse us, Shannon. Sergeant Weddington and I have things to discuss and talk about. You know that whole boring military thing.” He smiled and Weddington nodded. The two soldiers left without saying anything further.
Rance and Kelsey had been enjoying his time with the toys while Deidre stood off to the side. Deidre watched Rance and Kelsey play with the new arrival. While the female soldier seemed friendly enough she was as war of her as she was of Ohkawa.
And Ohkawa’s angry gaze was fixed solidly to Deidre, Rance and Kelsey.
Deidre could take the daggers cast at her. If she’d cast so much as a cross glance at Rance of Kelsey, Deidre would deal with her. But before any action could be decided, Deidre wanted more background on the spiteful private.
Deidre joined the playing trio and sat between Kelsey and the female sergeant. Deidre took the initiative and dove into conversation.
“Hi, Deidre Martin,” she said, thrusting her hand to the sergeant. “Waitress, former lawyer, all around pain in the ass.”
The sergeant looked up, startled by Deidre’s forwardness. Kelsey blushed and Rance giggled.
“Um, Corporal Yvette Delford,” said the soldier hesitantly at first. “Motor transportation, soldier and mother. If I still have a family. I haven’t had contact with my family in a week. Husband was deployed to Flagstaff, and our kids went to Colorado Springs to stay with his parents.” They shook hands. Delford had a war firm, steady grip and Deidre appreciated it given her current situation.
“What’s the situation here, sergeant?” Delford’s head jerked up and she looked at Deidre suspiciously for a moment. “Is Rance overrunning your space defenses or what?”
“I’m a Power Ranger,” proclaimed Rance.
“Yeah. He’s a space cop and we’re the bad guys, but he’s not going to get us,” said Kelsey, moving a garish villain farther from Rance’s.
Delford smiled before dropping a wooden block on a garish colored space vehicle near Rance’s hand.
“I see,” responded Deidre, repositioning herself closer to Delford. “Can you tell me what the deal is with that woman? She keeps staring at me.”
“Ohkawa? She doesn’t like strangers, I guess. Why don’t you go ask her?” Delford appeared annoyed with Deidre’s blunt question.
“I can appreciate that attitude. I was just wondering if she specifically had regular problems with anyone not in her unit.”
Kelsey’s eyes moved back and forth between Deidre and Delford. She didn’t want her and Rance to be caught in the middle of trouble.
Delford moved closer to Deidre. “Look, we’ve all been through a lot lately. Ohkawa just isn’t comfortable with people anymore. That’s all.”
“Has it been that bad for you guys?”
“What do you think?” answered Delford peevishly. Her good humor and warmth evaporated in an instant. “We got cut off when the pullback order came. We were less than a company at that time. Even then we were an ad hoc group of various units and jobs. She was a rook in my unit when she first showed up a month ago, but no one’s a rook anymore. See here’s the thing; talk to her if you two have issues. Copy?”
Deidre didn’t know what to say to the corporal. She knew that if Ohkawa’s attitude continued for the duration of their being with the soldiers that trouble would occur. Still, looking for confrontation didn’t fit into what she had to do. She chose instead to grin at Ohkawa, infuriating the private even more. Deidre doubted that Ohkawa knew that even though she was smiling, she seethed internally with hostility and the urge to pry out Ohkawa’s eyes with the Power Ranger action figures curved fingers.
Deidre forced her attention to playing with Delford, who was no chilly to her, Rance and Kelsey. She breathed a sigh of relief when Shannon and Hecate appeared. Deidre watched, and tried to listen, as the three spoke before Hecate and Weddington left. Each woman was startled to see the grim look on Shannon’s face. It expressed the underlying uneasiness and fear that Kelsey had, while Deidre became more aware of their surroundings.
“Hi,” Shannon said to Delford as she joined them.
“Hello. Corporal Yvette Delford.” Delford extended her hand. Shannon took it and introduced herself.
Shannon made the motions of politeness before Shannon asked to speak to her friends in private. Shannon sniffed without willing herself to do it. Suspicion blanketed Delford, and Delford had no problem showing it. She eyed Shannon and the other women before leaving. Shannon noticed Deidre wasn’t above suspicion either. Her paranoia was at an all-time high.
Shannon spoke once she knew the coast was clear. “We need to get out of here. Come on over here.” She spoke in an urgent whisper, and led them to a bookshelf filled with children’s books.
They followed her, but kept in sight of Rance as he continued playing with the toys.
“Why,” asked Deidre. She wanted to know if her intuition matched up with Shannon’s report.
“Are you crazy,” asked Kelsey before Shannon could answer. Her voice was more of squawk than a tone. Deidre and Shannon recoiled at the sound. “We’re safe here. They’re soldiers! They’ll protect us!”
“Why do we need to leave,” asked Deidre again. Kelsey’s growing hysteria annoyed her. It was better to focus on Shannon. “What do you know?”
“But the soldiers…” began Kelsey. Shannon cut her off quick.
“They’ve got problems of their own. The one in charge, Hecate, told me that there’s dissention in the ranks. More specifically aggression against me. And if there’s a beef against me, then you’d better freaking believe it’ll involve him sooner or later. I’m not planning on sticking around to get shot.”
“But…” Kelsey said again.
“Will you shut up,” snapped Shannon. “You’re starting to make my headache come back.”
Shannon’s headache had been alleviating itself once Hecate had left. Now it was starting up again. Never before had she had such a reaction to any situation or person. She was sure that Hecate was a part of the problem.
“No. I will not shut up!” Kelsey’s voice continued to rise. “I will not let my son’s life be jeopardized because you have a bad feeling.” Kelsey waved her hands in an ooga-booga gesture.
“Obviously, you’re staying,” said Deidre. “I’m going to hear Shannon out.”
“After all she’s done?” Kelsey had no qualms about reminding the world of Shannon’s past transgressions.
“Like I could’ve forgotten,” Deidre shot back. “But like it or not, Shannon’s our best chance of survival.”
“But we’ve got the Army now. They can protect us.” Kelsey was starting to calm down, but her voice still sounded like a hissing animal’s.
Shannon didn’t shrink from Kelsey’s words. Instead she took charge of the discussion. “Their ability to defend anyone’s up for debate. They come from a mish mash of jobs. Half of them aren’t even experienced soldiers, and most are fresh out of whatever training they’ve received and are new to their jobs. And FYI, Kelsey, their leader’s a werewolf and he’s killed more of his own people than I have.”
Kelsey’s mouth dropped open, Deidre’s eyes narrowed. “What,” sputtered Kelsey while Deidre exclaimed, “Oh fuck me.”
Kelsey glanced nervously at Rance while Deidre sidled closer to Shannon. “What does all that exactly?” Deidre spoke with a graveyard seriousness.
“He’s well over two hundred years old and he’s killed his own men before in battle while acting under blood frenzy. If we’re playing the dangerous-to-keep-around card, then it makes him just as dangerous as me. Trust me when I say the facts are the same and the numbers don’t matter. I have a bad feeling about this. We should go.”
Shannon grabbed for Deidre and Kelsey’s hands. Deidre angrily pulled her hand from Shannon’s, and Kelsey refused to move as Shannon tried to pull her forward.
“Bullshit the numbers doesn’t matter. What are his numbers, Shannon? Hmm? What are his goddamn numbers?”
Shannon was overcome with the feeling that Deidre would soon be physically shaking the facts from her. She thought it best to give up the info. “Over thirty of his own people and over a hundred of the enemy during World War One.”
“See, it’s shit like that that makes me wary. To Hell with numbers don’t matter. You’ve killed two, maybe three; that makes you dangerous. He’s killed almost a hundred and fifty; that makes him someone to give a wide berth to. You’re right; we need to get the hell out of here.” Deidre paused, looked to Kelsey and then to Shannon. She couldn’t bear to see the woman on the verge of a breakdown. She believed they had found safety at last, and it was being ripped away. Ultimately it was Rance’s safety that worried her the most. She looked back to Shannon. A thought had crossed her mind and it would decide what she would do. “Does his people know?”
“Know?” asked Shannon, avoiding the answer.
“Yes, Shay, know. Does his people know what the fuck he is?”
“Only that sergeant, what’s his name. Wellington?”
“Weddington, corrected Deidre. “Now that makes up my mind. I’m not sticking around with a fratricidal lieutenant and his potentially fratricidal soldiers. We’re leaving with you IF you’re on the level about leaving. And is there anything else that you want to share with me?”
Shannon swallowed hard. Telling Deidre that Hecate traveled with the spirits of those he killed was something she wanted to avoid. Even with zombies and werewolves out in the open, ghosts seemed to be something that would be hard to swallow.
Shannon considered what she wanted to do was a bad idea against what should be done, and she went ahead anyway.
She screwed her courage together and told Deidre about the German and American spirits that had followed Hecate for the past nine decades. Deidre took it well, nodding in places, and muttering, “Uh-huh” occasionally, but her concern showed when Shannon told her about Steve Greene.
“Greene’s following you?” Deidre was less than thrilled to hear that Shannon had the same affliction as Hecate. “So Greene’s ghost is following you, and can only be seen by you, at his choosing, and only in reflective surfaces like mirrors and such. Is that right?”
“That’s it in a nutshell.”
“Damn day keeps getting better and better.” Deidre shook her head and turned to Kelsey. Kelsey had been silent while Shannon explained the “ghost” situation. Shannon didn’t seemed totally convinced of the truth of Earth bound spirits following their lycan murderers around, whereas Deidre thought it was total bullshit. Kelsey had different thoughts.
Right as she was about to ask Kelsey to collect her things, Kelsey blurted out, “We’re staying put.”
“That’s a bad idea, Kelsey,” remarked Shannon. “Little things aren’t adding up. How come the streets were clear for example? Doesn’t that mean anything to you? And how come they’ve stayed put so for long. It doesn’t add up.”
“And let’s not forget the psycho werewolf that seems to have a mad on for Shannon.” Deidre paused. “Though that is an argument to leave you,” she said thoughtfully.
“Are you really going to stay with her?” interjected Kelsey angrily. “No offense Shannon, but this has got to be the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard. We have a chance of safety and I’m not going to blow this for Rance or me. You’re really basing this on a gut instinct? No proof other than what you feel? Uh-uh. We’re staying put.”
“Kelsey, while I agree the evidence is circumstantial as hell, first impressions are the best. In this situation we have to-”
Kelsey cut her off. She cut off every argument that could be leveled at her. “No. We’re staying with the Army and that’s it. No more talk, no more looking at every angle, I’m staying. Rance is staying.”