Look, I get it. Sudden Onset Dementia is a very strange disease. I realize that many people are finding these delusions disturbing and...and I do admit it’s very odd that in many cases the Afflicted in question can be quite accurate in some of the specific facts and events they are referring to. However you cannot ignore scientific consensus on this matter. It is impossible for these people to be having active ancestral memories. They are simply very sick delusional people, nothing more.
-- Doctor Leslie Stout-Norton NPR All Things Considered
“I wonder if this is what it’s like to be a secret policeman,” Marine Corps Sergeant James Naisbitt muttered to himself.
There is something a little unreal about four AM. Something inherently creepy.
It’s kind of hard to put your finger on it. Nothing is quite right. Nothing is quite as it should be. The road has just a few wisps of mist hovering like wraiths just on top of it, swirling coldly around your tires like the mist might want something from you. . You know where you are going, when you are driving on it. You won’t get lost but you are uneasy about it. You can’t quite trust your senses. You know you aren’t quite awake enough. You have either woken up too early or you never went to sleep in the first place. Bottom line, you aren’t all there and you know it but you still have to function or else you wouldn’t be there in the first place...
Naisbitt was in for a pig of day and he knew it. The word groggy was particularly appropriate in his case. His mouth was dry and fuzzy, he kept reflexively swallowing his own spit to no real effect. The odds that he was still legally drunk were quite excellent. Last night was Friday night after all and of course Friday night had barely ended for him three hours ago. Now it had seamlessly blended into Saturday morning.
He had had to roust himself out of bed after an hour of sleep and chug on down from Traverse City to Cadillac to help McKay with a problem child recruit, who was supposed to be shipping out for boot camp today.
With any luck at all, they would have their victim on deck at Military Entrance Processing Station, Lansing Michigan by seven o’clock. If they didn’t...God help them.
Naisbett took a scalding swig of chalky tasting, convenience store coffee. It did little for his cotton mouth but the burning sensation was good, it helped him fight off the fog that kept trying to slither into his brain through his scratchy red eyeballs.
In another five hours Naisbett’s chestnuts were going to be roasting on the open fire called Recruiter Refresher Training. Or R and R Training. Or the Recruiting Command Theater of the Sadism. Or more simply...the Doughnut Dance. He had successfully enlisted zero recruits for this month.
Not surprising of course. Past a certain point it was impossible to get kids to come down to Lansing to process for enlistment in November. Everyone was too busy getting ready for Thanksgiving. And there wasn’t a lot of the month left after Thanksgiving. It was always a rough month for a recruiter, always would be.
December would be worse. Then you got an easy month in January for some reason known only to the Recruiter Gods before the true horror of Spring season began.. Of course SOD was making all of that obsolete. FMAM would be no more. Everybody knew a draft was coming.
Naisbett blinked hard a couple of times as he scanned the parking lot, looking for his partner MacKay. A Chevy Spark had just rolled into the Meijer parking lot. Yep, government plates on it. It was Mac.
Naisbett was too messed up to smile at the Spark. The Sparkhad only one purpose in RS Lansing. To remind the driver that he was a failure and a disgrace, unworthy of a better government fleet car.
MacKay had only just started driving the Spark. For the past few months Staff Sergeant Montgomery had owned the Spark. The fact that someone else was driving it meant that Monty had either really improved or was really in trouble.
He waved a couple of times at MacKay who changed course and slid up into a parking slot by his own Government Operated Vehicle. In Naisbett’s, case a Ford Focus.
MacKay looked just as blurry and unaware, crawling out of his car, as Naisbett felt himself. There was no real acknowledgement of each other’s existence. No need and no point. They spent ninety hours a week together. Most married couples aren’t together that much..
“You’re sure he’s here?” It wasn’t a question from Naisbett. It more of a threat really. As in, ‘don’t tell me I hauled my ass all the way down here for nothing. On the lives of your children, please tell me that.’ That kind of thing.
MacKay was too tired to pick up on the tone of menace and just nodded his head while yawing, “yeah, he should be here.”
“How do you know? Naisbett asked slightly suspiciously.
“I asked his mom,” MacKay answered simply.
Naisbitt blinked hard in sudden disbelief.
MacKay nodded at that, “no shit bro. Straight up.”
That was actually unnerving for Naisbett. Cooperation from any parent, let alone a mother, was a rare and frightening thing for a Marine Corps recruiter. Mom was usually the biggest roadblock on the road to enlistment. In an average month a Recruiter drove three thousand miles, made twelve hundred phone calls and shook the hands of two hundred strangers on the street. All to make a whopping twelve appointments. One third of those would No-Show. One third would fail the pre-screening for health reason, criminal activity or natural stupidity. One third would say, “Hell yes big Sarge! Send me off to war!” Then the real selling began. The days of American mother’s crying ‘with your shield or on it’ was now as distant a part of America’s past as Valley Forge. First it was, “my son is going to college.” followed by, “I didn’t know he was thinking about this! He needs some alone time with just me before he decides! A lot of alone time. A year or two for preference.” Lastly she would start calling the Air Force, the Coast Guard or the Americorps in a desperate hope of averting the life destroying, catastrophic disaster of her son becoming a Marine.
“What did you tell her?” Naibett was curious.
“The truth,” MacKay replied. “That Josh was supposed to ship this Saturday. We hadn’t heard from him in a while and we were concerned.”
That wasn’t quite accurate. They weren’t concerned at all, they had just written the kid off as a flake and moved on. The only reason they were pursuing him this actively was that the entire station was way down on shippers on this month.
Contracting was important of course but the whole point of recruiting was shipping. If the recruits didn’t get to bootcamp is was the end of the RS commanding officer’s career. Consequently they kept an eye on that.
“What did she say?” Naisbett asked with a worried frown.
“She said, ‘he’ll be at his job at Meijer’s at four this morning. Go get his useless ass!’”
Naisbett drained his lousy coffee and shook his head winding himself up, “Fine! Let’s go get his useless ass.”
Chelle Vasquez pulled into the Nouvelle Cuisine Chinois New China Super Buffet’s, parking lot, just a little too fast. The heavier than bone stock GM investigator's car rocked violently forward on it’s springs as she jammed the brake pedal to the floor a nano-second before she was in her parking space.
Two other Chevy Caprices with uncomfortable looking suspensions were already parked there.
“Jesus, Chelle!” Jimmy snapped at his partner.
“Sorry, Jimmy,” Chelle flashed an apologetic smile as she tore her seatbelt off. “But...”
“...Yeah, I know,” Jimmy interrupted with controlled irritation. “And it’s embarrassing at your age. Go!” He waved her on, “just go.”
Chelle gave Jimmy a big smile as she jumped out of the car and aimed herself for a sprint to the front door. Then instinctively brought herself to her own equally violent stop. About face and a quick check in the side mirror. No need to adjust her makeup but she decided she to undo the top two shirt buttons. This was not a business lunch.
The Nouvelle Cuisine Chinois New China Super Buffet’s name accurately encapsulated the history of its owner’s career aspirations from his brilliantly ambitious past, to his tragically functional present.
She opened the door and was greeted by the restaurant’s Wok-hay ‘the breath of the wok’ A mixture of hyper seared garlic, green onions and ginger, dancing in the flames of a wok so hot that the oil had ignited.
The interior was a far east moshpit of cultural aesthetics, velveted wall paper that was Chinese vermillion with bright yellow kanji sigils on them were pasted above some expensive looking maple wood panels. The wood grain of the paneling had been chosen for it’s delicate lazily swooping, comforting curls meant to warm and relax the diners. It’s stark aesthetic beauty declared it’s Japanese origin. It’s quality was marred by numerous scuffs and scratches on it’s once superb finish. It was clearly not being maintained. The paper lamps that hung from the ceiling were cheap and to Chelle’s experienced eye, distinctly Korean...ish.
The hostess, whom Chelle knew only professionally greeted her warmly. The hostess had a heart shaped face and was wearing just a little more makeup than was honestly needed. She was deeply tanned and her accent was Thai. Her name tag, which was placed to strategically to call attention to a perfectly respectable hint of cleavage, (almost certainly) lied about her name being Eve.
‘Eve’s’ age was highly indeterminate, she had the natural beauty of a polynesian woman who was not a blushing teenager but had not yet, been mauled by time into another Bloody Mary.
“Good morning, dee-tective,” she projected a little. Just enough to be heard above of the din. Not too loud, really. Eve was only, potentially letting the right sort (or rather the very wrong, sort of) people know that the Nouvelle Cuisine Chinois New China Super Buffet’s management, happily honored it’s Policeman’s Discount. Chelle wasn’t the only cop there of course. She nodded at Mac and Tooley, who returned her nod distractedly before returning to a discussion in their own booth. Jimmy slipped past Chelle headed towards them. .
Smiling with bright and professionally white teeth, Eve escorted Chelle to a booth where a Marine Corps Major was already seated.
Eve caught a waitresses’ eye and chirped out a quick set of sing-song instructions. The girl flickered over to the table to present Chelle with a decaf diet pepsi.
No need for menus. It was a buffet after all.
“Hiya,” Chelle smiled warmly and deeply at John Castillo as she slid into the booth.
John feigned utter boredom as he looked up and asked with a half smile. “Who said, I wanted company?”
“Who said, you get an opinion?” Chelle replied while briefly placing her hand over John’s and giving it a quick squeeze.
Chelle’s heart tightened a little as she felt him start to pull his hand back. She removed her own before he did so.
He needed a little time yet. She knew that. She really did.
A lot of old people were tottering in. The New China Super Buffet encouraged that too. Senior discounts, senior coupons and so on. Generally restaurants avoid the elderly as a market. They eat too slowly, tip too poorly and don’t hit the bar anywhere near often enough. But if times are tight and if you have a generous seating plan. They are quite a nice, little trickle of income.
Chelle knew this restaurant wouldn’t have been John’s first choice. That was a good thing. That meant that this place was going to be very low pressure for him. Just a cheap way to have lunch and split the bill between them. Very low pressure.
What do I say, Chelle asked herself. ‘I’m so glad you called,’ is not low pressure.
I’m so, so sorry we met again like we did, wasn’t going to work either.
I see you’ve finally stopped wearing the ring, was a bit on the obvious side. But what do I say? She was starting to panic.
John looked at Chelle quizzically, rubbed the bare indented ring shaped patch on his ring finger. Then gave her a half smile that was meltingly confident. “Let’s eat.”
“Good plan!” Chelle rose in relief.
They headed up to the buffet together. Chelle was a little sad to discover that the Hawaiian Coconut Cream Shrimp had metamorphosed by the magic of a poor economy into Hawaiian Coconut Cream Chicken. She made the rest of her usual selections, making sure to get a cup of the Vietnamese Hot and Sour Soup before heading back to the booth.
What was safe? He was in uniform so that meant he was working on a Saturday. Work is probably safe.
“So the Marine Corps is rounding up new boots on weekends?” Chelle smiled.
Castillo snorted then switched an R. Lee Ermey’s voice “We will never and I do mean never stop rounding up new Recruits. If you are not dreaming of putting shoes on the Little Yellow Footprints, in your asleep, then you will be charged under article 92 for dereliction. There is no excuse for not grabbing that kid at the McDonalds Drive thru window, throwing his worthless ass in the backseat of your car and hauling him to MEPS. He will thank you for it!.” He switched back to his own voice while Chelle giggled.
“MEPS on the other hand is only open one Saturday a month and this is it. So, I have to stick around in case a pot waiver has to get signed.”
“The kid at the drive through is usually too fat for height and weight regs,” Chelle revealed her vast cop based knowledge of drive-through windows.
“He is also, invariably a drop out,” John said with disgust.
“And isn’t grabbing the kid out the drive thru called kidnapping?” Chelle teased.
“That...is part of the reason I took an early lunch,” John said.
“You kidnapped someone?” Chelle was joking. Then after seeing the look on his face, she was hoping that he was joking but she wasn’t all that certain.
Then she got really kind of worried by the way John’s eyebrows twitched.
“Well not me personally,” John assured her with the worst display of innocence she had ever seen since becoming a cop. “I’m just an accessory after the fact.”
Chelle’s smile dipped a little. “Sir, you may now tell me you are joking.” A small part of Chelle chided herself for slipping back into old habits. Calling him, ‘sir.’ Honestly, she grumped at herself.
“I thought abduction was federal?” He said with as much feigned innocence as he could muster. Which truthfully wasn’t a lot.
“Okay now you’re just screwing with me,” She said. Then felt her face flush briefly. She had said, ‘screwing.’ And had actually let herself be embarrassed over it. This is not high school, Chelle groaned to herself.
John missed the emphasis but he saw something had just gotten a little awkward. So he offered, “the boy in question was already in the Delayed Entry Program. He spent too long in the DEP and decided he didn’t want to be a Marine anymore, even though he had given his word and was legally committed. It happens now and then. Most of the time we let them go because charging them is an unholy pain in the ass but once in awhile one of those kids has to live up to his promise. However,...” John concluded, “no actual hands were laid upon him, his recruiter merely invited him back into the fold.”
“What happened?” That seemed safe to ask.
Was probably safe to ask.
“Orphan Recruit Syndrome. Staff Sergeant Diaz the guy who recruited him, and was his “real recruiter,” so far as the kid was concerned, had rotated back to the fleet,” John shrugged. “The kid was hands on, high maintenance and Diaz’s replacement wasn’t as good as Diaz, so the kid flaked.”
Chelle bit her lip smiling, before asking, “what I meant was, what magic words were used to entice him back to the life of a Marine?”
“‘Don’t run. I am not in the mood!’”
Chelle bit her lip harder and fought down a laugh that made her shoulders shake. She looked at John’s eyes which briefly weren’t meeting hers. Good job girls, she mentally saluted her better half. We’ll reel him in yet.
John then scowled though not at her. Chelle turned herself and looked at the TV.
The news was going to be dominated by the crash of Air Force Two for a while. Pictures of a young version of the Vice President were on the screen fading over one another in a montage..
There he was as one of the youngest senators ever to be elected to the Senate in 1972. There he was in the Senate during seven presidencies. There he was failing to become president himself on three different occasions and returning to his extremely safe seat in the Senate each and every time. Honestly his constituency would have kept voting for him if he was an outright zombie.
The TV tracked a life that had accomplished little until the President plucked him out of his well deserved obscurity to make him the Vice President of the United States. Then what he mostly accomplished was to change from a minor regional embarrassment to a major international one.
“Sad business,” Chelle said noncommittally. She personally thought the Vice President was...had been, little short of drooling moron but respect for the dead. That kind of thing.
“Nothing about the air crew,” John noted with dissatisfaction.
“It wasn’t like the VP, was the only one on that plane,” Chelle agreed. Then she looked at John a moment before asking. “Did you know anyone aboard her?”
“I did know Colonel Thorne as a matter of fact. Good guy.” John quietly observed the passing of the passing of a friend with the professional detachment of a career military man.
You get used to untimely death pretty early on in the service,
“I wonder who the new the Vice President will be?” Chelle tried to change the subject.
“This President always replaces like with like,” John said neutrally. He was in uniform after all. Open contempt for the Commander in Chief was never something to be displayed. It was both illegal and in this day of phone sized video recorders, staggeringly idiotic. Best to avoid having Youtube do to him what no Jihadi could ever manage in a decade of constant war..
“How will he find anybody that stupid?” Chelle teased.
“He’ll be looking in Washington,” John muttered quietly then cursed himself.
“Well if can’t find one there, he can’t find one...shit!” Chelle blurted.
“Oh I’m sure he can find one of those,” John joked while turning around to see what was suddenly bothering the girl. John ‘s smile slipped when he saw the TV screen.
A bit of local news was now on the screen. Next to the local talking head was the picture of a large pale man with a shaved head wearing the Marine Corps dress blues of a Sergeant Major.. The face radiated an unnaturally bred in arrogance. The ribbons on his chest spoke of a life that had known inhuman courage.
The trial of Marine Corps Sergeant Major Richard (Shocker) Cahn would begin Thursday of this week. Sergeant Major Cahn, the TV helpfully reminded the viewer had been attached to Marine Corps Recruiting Station Lansing when he was accused of the brutal rape of Corporal Kenzie Styles...
John’s face fell flat. “Well...” he paused awkwardly. “...So much for the subject we weren’t going to mention.”
Oh God, thought Chelle to herself. Perfect damn timing. Just fucking perfect. “I can’t really talk about it at all. Especially with you...John.” Her voice pleaded, I’m sorry about this. I am so, so sorry.
John raised a hand. “Look let’s drop this okay. You can’t talk about it, so we don’t. That’s it. Thats all.” Discussion forcefully ended.
Chelle nodded to him. Trying to think fast, “besides you haven’t told me how the story of the your kidnap victim ends.”
John forced a laugh at that point, like a man glad for any reason to laugh., “Yeah that being the real issue here. The kid snuck off at MEPS and phoned his congressman’s office. I am now ducking the congressman's calls. Which I understand,” He glanced briefly at the latest text on his cell phone, “are becoming increasingly urgent.”
“Oh and shit!” Chelle finally had a genuine smile at that point. She dropped her voice “Is that legal?” She whispered to him.
“Oh it’s pre-e-e-tty much legal,” John drawled. “It’s kind of a bad idea but it’s legal. Congressman Plessy is nowhere in my chain of command Although I suspect, he may start working his way up my chain of command in short order. My district CO will be the next one getting calls.”
“Isn’t that going to be a problem,” Chelle was a little worried about John.
“Only if I hadn’t given Colonel Ferguson a totally deniable heads up,” John said virtuously, “Which I did, before I took off work.”
“And he gave you his completely non-existent blessing,’” Chelle purred teasingly.
“I can neither confirm nor especially deny,” John answered wryly.
The TV had thankfully gone back to covering the death of the Vice President, Chelle was relieved to see.
“Sources close to the White House have revealed that at least one person on the Vice President’s aircraft is alleged to have contracted SOD. During the Vice President’s tour of Central Africa.”
“Woah,” Chelle breathed. “Is that why they crashed?
“Huh,” John said just as surprised. “I wonder how that happened.”
Chelle watched the news silently for a bit. Toying with chunks of chicken thigh that had been uniformly breaded and deep fried but then drenched in slightly different sauces to create dishes that were alleged to be completely distinct from each other. Despite the fact that they weren’t.
“I saw a couple of pictures of him visiting a Congo hospital on his Twitter feed, a day ago,” Chelle said speculatively. “Someone from his staff must have it caught it then.”
“You, subscribe to his Twitter feed,” John’s eyes boggled incredulous shock..
“Oh ab-so-lutely,” Chelle drawled with wide enthusiastic eyes.
“Why?” John said with no small amount of escalating horror.
“I want to be the first one to MT on Twitchy!”
“Ah,” John pretended he was relieved, rather than admit he didn’t know what the hell she was talking about. “A noble ambition,” his head inclined in a nod to her doubtless if (to him) inexplicable heroism.
Chelle almost but not quite subconsciously gave his nod something to look at by cradling “the girls” with her arms.
“Uh, I’m gonna hit the head real quick,” he suddenly rose in a distracted tone of voice.
Whoah! Well done girls. Chelle waved a surprised ‘sure go ahead’ at him and went back to work on her General Tsao’s Chicken, with a secret smile on her face
She wondered briefly about General Tsao’s career progression and why was it now so intimately related to deep fried poultry.
Chelle’s fork hit the floor with a clatter a couple of seconds later as a bearded klutz bumped into her.
“Oh I am sorry ma’m,” the klutz drawled to Chelle in what she recognized as a Carolina accent.. He seemed reasonably sincere in his apology to her. Stooping quickly to snatch her fork off the ground. Although to her minor embarrassment he took a moment to make a close range, quite appreciative and totally creepy glance down her blouse, on his way back from the floor.
He caught himself doing it and immediately locked eyes with Chelle. “I do apologize again ma’m,” he said with a shy smile. In theory referring to the fork.
“Don’t worry about it,” she said quite firmly. There was the possibility that he had deliberately bumped into her but it was more likely just an accident.
And the disturbing stare at her boobs was probably just reflex.
Chelle was more than a little self conscious of “the girls”. Her ethnicity notwithstanding, she had absolutely loved Irish Dancing when she was a little girl. At age eleven she had been one of the top ranked dancers in America in her age group. Little Chelle had been dreaming of a career dancing with Michael Flatley. Then at puberty disaster struck, her hips began a remorseless expansion and her leaderboard scores dropped like a stone. However Chelle stayed doggedly with it for a few more years owing to the fact that from the waist up she still had a “dancer’s physique.” Then at age seventeen, “the girls” arrived and prancing straight up and down for a living became an impossibly ridiculous career choice.
Upside, boys started paying attention to her at last. Downside, they kept paying attention to her whether she wanted them to or not.
Chelle went back to the buffet line for an unsoiled fork, while the bearded pervert from the Carolinas headed off the restroom. She was just a little pleased to see John had paused at the door and was scowling at him.
Don’t get into trouble over me, John, Chelle thought to herself with a delicious smirk as she plucked a new fork from the endcap, while John followed the bearded creep into the restroom.
The bearded man walked up to a urinal and unzipped. “Yes, you’re being followed,” he told John flatley, while staring at the wall..
“Fuck was that about?” John’s voice was genuinely pissed.
“You thought you had a tail. You wanted me to find out,” The bearded man who no longer had a Carolina accent replied innocently, “and you do.”
“Knock off the bullshit. That was a stupid fucking chance to take,” John snarled as he manned the urinal beside him.
The man shrugged before explaining, “I needed to see if she would recognize me. If anyone was going to it would be her. She is a trained professional and she didn’t.” He added in a pleased tone of voice. “Even though she had just been reminded of what I look like, she still missed me. I’m skipping the country next week and I’m out of practice at this.”
“Not smart”, John said, shutting his eyes as he relieved himself. Though maybe not that stupid either. It’s not illegal to grow a beard. Well, actually it is for him but nobody cares about that right now.
Back to the matter at hand, John decided. “About my tail?” John asked.
“A private investigator,” came the reply as his stream began to taper off.
John could only think of one person who would hire a PI to follow him, “Charlotte.”
“No family court in this country favors the man in divorce proceedings.” His companion stated an unbeloved fact of life in America. “However, gross infidelity is what it is. At the moment you’ve got a bit of leverage on her because she left you for another man. The thing is...” There was a zipping sound followed by a flush. “You are legally still married.”
“And if I start seeing another woman, it’s adultery,” John said flatly.
“Seeing and only seeing one might not be a problem,” He began washing his hands while speaking cleanly and precisely. “But fucking one sure as hell would be.” He examined his hands with some care as he spoke, “doesn’t matter if Charlotte started this mess. The law expects you to pine for her while the proceedings advance at a snails pace.”
“Military law would be worse,” John added in resignation.
“Indeed,” the taps were turned off and paper towels were extracted from the dispenser with sharp focused snaps. “I’ll take care of the Private Investigator.”
“Yeah,” John muttered absently, then his head jerked up. “NO! No-no,” John blurted, “you fucking well won’t!”
“It’s no trouble, really,” the man offered generously. “I’m leaving the country anyway as soon as the Big Divide Game is over,” he said reasonably as he dried his hands. “General Sertorio will have found find another bodyguard for the Kerensky girl by that time.”
“It is trouble for me.” Better take a different tack John decided because that private investigator was better than halfway to dead at the moment. “Look dude, she will just hire a replacement, if this guy vanishes. And, ”John paused just enough to make his point, ”I won’t know what that one looks like and lets face it, you aren’t going to be around by then.”
The man raised his eyebrows in acknowledgement of John’s point, “Okay.” Then he changed the subject. “Detective Vasquez was a good choice by the way. I approve.”
John snorted as he zipped himself up, “your approval is what I live for.”
“No, no,” he said. “I’m serious, it made sense. There is nothing for Charlotte to work with.” He reached for the door. “After all There was any number of reasons you might have had to be having lunch with my arresting officer,” Shocker Cahn smiled shark like as he ghosted through the door.
Koolie4uall: sup girl lets hang friday lol
Stylin0069: y hang w/ u?
Stylin0069: seein a friend Friday at 1900 sorry
Koolie4uall: use real time bitch i’m civil-yun now ROTFLOL
Stylin0069: LOL kk 7pm mistah civilian
Stylin0069: cant ditch my friend that night
Stylin0069: u available later?
Koolie4uall: c me at 9
Stylin0069: kk where at?
Stylin0069: cool what shud i wear?
Corporal Styles smiled wickedly to herself as she read the last text. She pressed her thighs tightly together, rotating her hips and rubbing a very intimate piercing between them. She breathed in deeply and bit her lip. Tonight was gonna be awesome.
Her boss, Staff Sergeant Serrano briefly looked up at her, then quickly looked back down at the flat screen. That’s right taco-bender, Styles smiled to herself. Keep your eyes off me. Nobody. No-Bod-Ee! Fucks with me anymore.
The Detroit Military Entrance Processing Station was closing business for the day. It looked like a very clean and well kept welfare clinic with an unusually healthy and almost entirely male clientele. There was now only a small collection of those young men left sitting in cheap, hard plastic rows of chairs. The last of the recruits were being picked up by their services. Half were wearing huge shit eating grins, packed with nervous energy, barely able to stay in their seats now that they were committed by law to a big adventure. Or they were the other half. The ones slumped deep down in their seats, bodies folded in, chin down staring at their feet in misery. It wasn’t hard to to figure out who had made the cut.
Corporal Styles wanted to tell them just how stupid they were being. The military is a huge mistake for anyone, she thought to herself. It’s the job you can’t quit without going to jail.
She smiled to herself again, wondering if she could get away with it. The idea gave her a tingle in her tummy. Just take a couple aside tell them about all the crap that really happens in the military. How everything their recruiter told them was a crock. Flake a few out of the pool at the last minute just to make a Recruiting Station miss its quota on the last day of the month.
I want to see if they would do anything to me. I want to see if they are afraid to do anything to me. I’m out anyway. I’ve had enough of this shit.
A tall well muscled soldier marched in and snatched his green beret off of his short black kinked hair. He was wearing the Army’s business suit, a blue service uniform with the bottoms of his sharply creased trousers stuffed into combat boots shined to a dazzling mirror finish. He had the Army Tower of Power stitched his shoulder. Airborne, Ranger and Special Forces. His strong white teeth were glorious in an ear to ear smile. “OooAaaah, soldiers!” He gave three young men on the bench a taste of Army false motivation. They grinned in return and did their best to answer his call.
Styles smiled at him pretty hugely herself. Oooh, yesss. She rolled a pen off the counter in front of her. The clatter of the pen hitting the floor caught the Green Beret's attention.
He turned and she caught his eye. His smile changed a little, his eyelids lowered just a bit. Styles subtly curved her lips, giving him a little bit of an opened mouth pout. Just enough to make him wonder a bit, what her lips would feel like wrapped around his cock.
The Green Beret who had Duffy on his name tag started walking towards her counter. One eye on her pen but not really paying attention to that.
“Hey Duffy! Gotta sec?” Styles saw Staff Sergeant Reyes beckoning the Green Beret over to him. She knew Reyes was stationed at the Marine Corps Recruiting Station up in Troy. Reyes leaned over to Duffy’s ear. She couldn’t hear most of what he said but she saw his lips form the words, “that's her.”
Sergeant Duffy blinked at her, scowled, turned away from her sharply and beckoned his recruits. “Come on dawgs! Follow me!” He left immediately, leaving Styles’ pen on the floor.
Styles lips were now in a very tight thin line as she stared at Reyes with slit eyes. Staff Sergeant Reyes tried not to look nervous. The truth was that nobody in the entire command would let themselves be a alone with Styles if they could help it all.
At the close of day Styles had a few minor jobs around the station. Empty the garbage can, clean off the counter, shutdown the computers, et cetera. She ignored all of them and at four-twenty five pm, sailed out the door.
Nobody called her on it.
Nobody ever called her on it. She was a short timer anyway, it sucked that she could get away with everything that she did but...she could. So try not to think about it.
A few optimists told themselves that someday Styles’ luck would run out.
Corporal Styles knew that they thought that and she knew they were wrong. So far as she could see, ruthless people pretty much always died happy and in their beds, at a ripe old age. Having gotten every single thing they ever wanted out of life.
Sadly for Styles, it turned out that the optimists were for once, right .
A short time later, Corporal Styles was bouncing up and down in the front seat of her new Mustang listening to Kanye singing, apparently about his wife.
Now I ain’t sayin’ she a gold digga
But she ain’t messin’ wit no broke nigga
“Kimmy you are my her-o-o-o!” Styles sang. Maybe she should get married herself. At least for a little while. Long enough to get the fifty percent she deserves, she giggled to herself.
If you ain’t no punk holla we want prenup
WE WANT PRENUP! Yeah
It’s something that you need to have
“No way Kimmy! Stand your ground!” Styles laughed.
God, she wanted out. She wanted wear whatever she felt like. She wanted to drop some Molly and dance all night. She wanted to be a pornstar and wear her Marine Corps dress blues while getting sealed airtight. Styles laughed and shook her head. Not yet. That would give those fuckers a chance to green light her straight up legal and that couldn’t happen. Not with the money that was headed her way.
She was seeing a literary agent tonight to get a contract for a book that they were going to write about, “what happened to her”. Kenzie snorted about that. What happened was a big time war hero learned not to fuck with Kenzie Styles. That’s what happened. Although Syles had enough innate cunning to know that that story wasn’t going to sell a lot of books.
The agent was talking big numbers. Real big. Her first book and it was going to be a best seller guaranteed. Not that she was going to be writing the damn thing. The agent had told her that the publisher was going to have somebody else do that for her, all secret. Happens all the time, she said. All Kenzie had to do was go to bookstores and sign copies. And go on the radio. And go on the talk shows. The agent said she might be able to turn this into a reality show gig.
She bit her lip, her heart beat faster. It was all happening. Fuck you world. Kenzie Styles the nobody from Camelot Estates Trailer Park was going to be a star.
Traffic was slowing.
Red light. Time to check her phone.
Hey one from Carson...
What. The. Fuck?
Kcb993: I’m out.
Kcb993: I’ve had enough.
Kcb993: I can’t take it anymore.
Kcb993: Do what you gotta do to me. But I won’t do this
What the hell is Carson talking about?
Stylin0069: what the hell r u talking about? *send*
Styles tapped send five times. Then gave the finger to the guy behind her who was laying on the horn. She tried two more times. Then turned it off and tried to turn it on again.
Her phone was bricked. What the fuck, some more? I know I paid that bill, she thought to herself, I always pay that bill.
“Brandon, when you have a moment,” Brandon heard a familiar voice say to him as he walked past him down the hall towards the Oval Office.
Brandon Allwhite didn’t even bother saying, ‘excuse me’ to Leila. He just turned on his heel and launched after the President.
He was a little worried. The president had a famously short temper and his legs were making the short choppy movements that they did when he was mad about something. Hopefully, he wasn’t mad at Brandon. Although if he was, he would find out from the Chief of Staff that he was being fired and not the president himself.
They both swept past the secret service men at the door by now. After all these years those men were like pieces of furniture to them.
The President stalked into the oval office. Allwhite tried to close the door behind him nearly hitting Leila Cabot-Marrow in face with it. She had clearly invited herself to the meeting, Brandon noted to himself sourly .
The president made his way behind the Resolute Desk and sat down. Not for the first time Brandon thought that the desk was too big for the man. It made this president look small.
Brandon stepped before it and clasped his hands behind his back like they used to do on the West Wing.
“Brandon I was having lunch with Senator Rutnick from New York and I found out something disturbing.” The President ran a brown hand over his forehead and wiped his hand across his forehead to clear away some sweat.
“Sorry to hear that, sir,” Brandon began neutrally. Presumably, there was a way he could help.
“How can I help, Mister President?” Leila Cabot-Marrow injected herself.
The president didn’t reply for a moment or two, he just looked at his hand for a moment then squinted his eyes hard to as if to clear them.
“Brandon.” He stopped again. Appeared a little lost for a moment and then began again. “Yes, Brandon,” he began a little more strongly. “Senator Rutnick had just gotten off the phone with a friend of hers. The Michigan Attorney General.
“I’m not sure how much you have been following the business of that Marine Corps Sergeant Major who raped that female private in Michigan,” President asked without asking.
“I’m somewhat familiar with it, sir,” Brandon replied. His mind trying to race ahead. There was something in the news. This morning, he had barely scanned it. He was trying to track the spread of SOD.
“That whole things smells, sir” Leila saw her chance. “I mean what happened to that girl is really, really convenient isn’t it? Leila snarked knowingly.
“That is the opinion of the Michigan State Attorney General as well and she is pursuing that matter, Leila,” The president replied trying to sound stern but his voice cracked when he was saying it. His flicked around the room randomly for a moment before settling back on the two of them. “However, that is not what concerns me.”
“What’s the problem, sir?” Brandon asked, a little unsure what he was supposed to do about any of this.
“Your General Sertorio has attached him to her staff,” the President said angrily.
Why is she my General Sertorio? Brandon wailed internally. Do I still have the receipt? Is it too late to return her?
“Oh, I can’t believe that,” Leila fumed.
Brandon suddenly had no choice. Admitting fault now would be blood in a starving shark tank.
“Oh, that,” Brandon adopted a relieved, ‘I knew that one all along,’ tone of voice.
“Oh?” The President inquired.
“Sir, she’s just keeping track of him,” Brandon wondered if he was lying or not. “He’s a high profile problem child. Keep your enemies close and all of that stuff.” Brandon was suddenly inspired, “You know those military types like to think like that.” Yes, those military types. Them. Them!
Brandon flogged his brain for the relevant case law, “The military was holding off on their own Article 134 investigation, when it was determined that the civilian courts would have precedence in this case.”
“That was because the military,” Leila sneered in disgust, “had covered up for that animal’s rape with their Article 120 investigation. The military proved that they couldn’t be trusted because they were in love that hero!. Rutnick is right about that, we need to take those things out of the hands of the military and put them in the civilian courts where they belong.”
There was also the inconvenient matter of a complete lack of evidence against the man, Brandon thought disloyally, for a moment.
“There was also the problem of giving him a double jeopardy defense at the time,” Brandon said coolly and with a touch of calculation against Leila. The President believed strongly in equality between the sexes but he didn’t appreciate emotionalism in his own office.
“It’s disgusting that that animal is walking around free. God knows what he’ll do to other women. And he’ll be at a college! I mean, my God, the women there are so totally vulnerable as it is and with that beast there!” Leila’s voice was rising in volume. “Well, just think about what that means for a second. YOU KNOW WHAT’S COMING NEXT!”
“Leila please calm down a little,” Brandon said quietly. He knew he’d just won the meeting.
Leila looked flustered, her eyes shot back and forth between the two men. She clearly knew she had just lost points. Her face flushed red with embarrassed anger. Then she pinched it quite a bit tighter as an idea popped out of her mouth. “Why is that animal still allowed to wear his medal? I know that means something to those military types and I know we have authority over that. So why is he still allowed to wear it?”
Oh that’s what this is about. She is still holding a grudge over that. When the President was first in office, one his first official functions had been presenting Sergeant Major Cahn with the Medal of Honor. The President had been happy to do it. The optics were fantastic...at first. Later that day, there had been an official White House dinner for the man. The Marine wearing the United States Medal of Honor had been filmed entering the room. The President as custom dictated rose from the table for him. Everyone else a beat behind as per the protocol. All except Leila Cabot-Morrow who was too busy texting to notice. She was filmed smiling slyly while she cradling her iPhone. The GOP had had a ball with that goof. It made the President look like an amateur out of his depth. Cahn had joked about Tinder waiting for no man. Which made things all the more humiliating for Leila.
Oh yes, Brandon thought. That bitch knows how to nurse a grudge. Particularly when it’s something that was her own damn fault in the first place..
The President held up a calming hand, then absently studied his fingers for just a moment. He then shook his head, “Brandon, call your General Sertorio. Have Cahn relieved. Get him off the University grounds and into the stockade.”
Brandon shrugged mentally, no skin off his ass. “No problem getting him off the university grounds, sir. It will probably take a day or two to get him transferred to the Norfolk Brig.”
“Military efficiency,” Leila grumbled.
“They’re stretched thin right now, Leila,” Brandon sighed.
“Well, of course you’d defend them,” Leila quietly sneered.
“Huh?” When did the military become my problem? Brandon was suddenly worried again. Am I being identified with them? “I suppose we could ask him to drive himself to the brig.”
Brandon looked over to see if the President approved of his little joke at Leila’s expense.
He had ignored it. The President was looking around the Oval Office in complete confusion. “Whut is this place? Whut em I doin heyer?” The President asked in a accent that dripped of Georgia molasses. A place he had never lived in, in his entire life. He looked at the back of his own hands and his face registered horror.
“Sir?” Brandon asked suddenly worried.
“WHUT!? The President said, then repeated, “What?” but this time in his normal tone of voice. He shook his head again, a lot harder this time. Then ran his hands through across the sides of his head, squeezing hard as he did so. Clearly mastering himself. Breathed hard for a moment or two then finally replied, “Yes, have him take off his medal. Have him take off all his awards for valor. That should send a message. Yes, I want a picture taken of that too. That should send a message. Yes.”
“Uh...yes, sir! I’ll see to it sir,” Brandon stammered. Then he swallowed before adding, “are you feeling okay?”
“Not just now,” he said looking around the Oval Office again. “On your way out, send in my secretary. I may need to clear this afternoon.”
“I’ll take care of it, sir, Brandon will be busy,” Leila snipped pointlessly.
“Thank you Leila I appreciate it,” Brandon said distractedly as he turned on his heel and headed for the door.
The President’s mother’s family had been born in Kansas. The generations before that had been slave owners in Georgia. The right wing muttered about the irony from time to time.
Brandon felt cold sweat trickle down his back. Even as he moved to obey the President's orders, There was no doubt in his mind. The President had just flashed.
Dear God, don’t let this be what I think it has to be! Brandon Allwhite prayed for the first time in his life.
Treatment Station 27, Michigan State University
It was bound to happen sooner or later. It was the hidden flaw, the unseen and unseeable crack that would sooner or later make the glass shatter.
Everyone knew that stage III SODs had completely lost their minds. Everyone also knew that the stage IIs, AKA ‘the Flashers,’ still had a mind, even if it wasn’t their own anymore.
What no one had bothered to consider was that a Stage II could pretend to be Stage III.
Corporal Derek Manion thought of it first. Or to be more precise his great great grandfather Cillian O’Manion thought of it using his descendant’s brain.
I’d never have thought that anyplace in the world was worse then the Brewery at the Five Points but here it is. A right proper mouth of hell it’s own self. Mary and the Saints preserve me, Cillian O’Manion prayed.
Life in the most brutal slum of 1850s New York City had taught Cillian O’Manion more than a few tricks of the trade when it came to survival. First and foremost, if you couldn’t make the other fella think you were bigger than he, then it was best to make him think you were too small to be worth bothering about.
When he had first faded up from where ever he had been at...Cillian wasn’t so sure, where he had been at. It must have been quite a fine night indeed for his memory to be so black. He was in a deep fog. Had real trouble struggling to recall anything basic at all. He could do it but it was like he pulling memories out of ice cold thick molasses.
The crushers dressed up all in green weren’t a bad sort as crushers go. They weren’t too free with swinging the stick at those that displeased them. Even had asked, him polite as all day, would he mind laying on the cot, if you please, and that this was for his own good and all when they started tying him down to it.
Cillian had disagreed and tried to go for stroll as fast as his legs could carry him. Something was quite wrong with his legs. They seemed much longer than he was used to having. The crushers had him on his back and cinched down in a heartbeat.
From time to time, one of them would come by and ask how he was doing. He noticed that they did that for all the other poor souls strapped down on these canvas palettes. It quickly occurred to him that they weren’t at all interested in a coherent answer. What they were looking for was incoherence.
They were looking for those that had gone mad. Now those who are completely mad act as animals and are like to be treated as such now, Cillian reasoned. The ways in which an animal will try to escape are far and away different from how a reasoning man will try it. Perhaps it’s an edge. Sure and it’s the only thing within his power to do anyway. May as well try it.
When next asked as to his condition, Cillian O’Manion screamed, barked, and howled like the most unthinking of beasts.
It didn’t quite work out as he’d hoped. They immediately took him from one part of this cavernous asylum to another. Then they cut his clothes off of him leaving him bound naked as a baby to the rack. Not a substantial improvement he thought, slowly. Thinking was getting harder for some reason.
I need to get free of this. I need to find my Soarise and our wee Michael. I need to get home! The ghost of Cillian Manning was getting desperate.