Thursday, December 22, 2016

Dark Winter: Chapter 17

“Look, I am not saying the Marines were in the right about what they did at Spartan Stadium.  Honestly, I think they all need to be put on trial as war criminals.  But with all that said, what are are we going to do about the Afflicted?  There are just so many of them at this point and they can’t take care of themselves.  Something needs to be done about this.” --  Anonymous Caller, MSNBC Morning Joe

“Going Secure.”

After a pause, “Okay, can you all hear me now?” Brandon Allwhite asked the large, unfriendly looking STE encryption phone that was sitting in the middle of the conference room.

There was a reasonably clear, “yes,” From the voices of Okasana and Maxim Kerensky..

And a rather distorted, “check,” From General Sertorio.  

“Dee, I can barely hear you,” Brandon said.  He would have preferred it if he wasn’t hearing her at all.  She was very much an unperson in certain quarters, at the moment.  Worryingly, she had become a hero in others.  The Regressives liked shooting innocent sick people...naturally.

“I’m using a mobile station, Brandon,” Sertorio explained.  

“Why are you using a mobile set?” Brandon was curious on that point.  Where was she?

“Who all is on your end?”  The General ignored Brandon’s question.

“Just me, Dee.”  Brandon looked around the table to Acting Chief Executive O’Hara, Sid Kelly, as well as the new Senate Majority Leader Senator Rutnick.  Her majority was a bit questionable.  

Technically, the GOP held the Senate majority. But a third of those Republican Senators had gone over to the Omaha government.  No Democrats had gone with them at all.  Which was great; it didn’t really matter that the Republicans O’Hara had inherited were geriatrics who weren’t all firing on all cylinders anymore.  They were here and that severely damaged Omaha’s credibility as the  legitimate government.

The problem was that the last President was completely lost  in Stage III SOD.  O’Hara couldn’t be sworn in while he was still alive.  It was a big part of their legal argument.

Unfortunately, Van Djik’s legal grounds, as shaky as the were, had been enough to allow him to be sworn in as President.  Van Djik was happy to do recorded interviews with any reporter that wanted to talk to him, but they were being required to call him Mister President.  The fact that they were running disclaimers to that effect didn’t change the fact that he was getting called Mister President.  It mattered to the people’s mindset.

“So, I understand you have some good news for us,” Brandon said.

“Some, but not a lot,”  Sertorio said.

“You said you had a cure,” Brandon said accusingly.  The rest of these very-much-more-important-than-Brandon people were here at this pow-wow because he had told them she had something big.  Cold sweat was running down his back.

“I never said I had a cure.”

They all stared at Brandon accusingly.  Senator Rutnick fished out her iPhone and started doing some business on it.

“What we have is a vaccine and also treatment,” Oksana said.

Sid quietly got up, opened the meeting room door, and slammed it, then announced in a puffy voice, “Sorry I’m late.  Did I miss anything?

“General Sertorio just said she had a vaccine treatment.“ Brandon tried to keep the charade going.

“Well, that is good news,” Sid said brightly.  “The First Lady will be very happy to hear that.”

There were three tired sighs from the speaker.

“Not a ‘Vaccine Treatment,’ since there is no such thing. Cutting to the chase, no, we do not have a cure for the Stage IIIs. The brain and neurological damage is permanent.”

“So, there is no hope for the president?” Brandon asked in a genuinely plaintive tone of voice.  

A murmur by a young woman’s voice that could have been mistaken for, “Was there ever?” was pretty much drowned out by Maxim Kerensky’s authoritative, “No. I’m sorry, there is none.  Brain damage is what it is.  My previous recommendation stands.  Lobotomize them.”

Jack O’Hara kept his face completely neutral, although his eyes glowed.

Brandon exhaled long and slowly. He knew he was the only one at this table that really cared. Even if he had much to gain from the answer he had just received.  He didn’t want it.  Not like this.

“What we do have is a preventative vaccine, although we don’t know how effective in terms of the percentage of a target population that will immunized.  It could be as low as seventy percent.”

Brandon sighed, “Seventy percent of the population immunized won’t be acceptable. But it’s better than useless.”

Sid rolled his eyes.  He may have been an old sixties radical but kids at least got an education in his day. “Brandon, seventy percent efficacy is effectively useless for immunizing a target population.”  ///SID EXPLAINS RING IMMUNITY

“Correct, Mister Kelly,” Sertorio said.

“It’s Sid, please, General,” said ever-the-politician Sid, reflexively.

“Please call me Dee.  Anyway.  That is half the problem.”

“What’s the other half?” said the slightly stung Brandon.

“Production,” said Maxim Kerensky. “It will produce.”

At the exasperated sighs from around the table.  Aux offered, “Perhaps you remember from history that while Penicillin was first discovered in 1897, it wasn’t in mass production until 1942.”

“There some kind of bottleneck,” said Sid, to Brandon’s questioning look, “They couldn’t grow enough mold.  Something like that.”

“This bottleneck,” said Oksana, “is nothing like that.”

Oksana shuddered at the memory as she explained the problem.

It screamed at Oksana Kerensky through its muzzle, it’s red eyes focused on her. Blind to it’s agony.  Straining with every ounce of its strength against the restraints that bound it to the table, until the thick black nylon groaned dryly in protest.

The operating theater had been designed with cattle, rather than humans, in mind.

The surgical team members were all in full biocontainment suits.  Most of them in white.  Oksana in yellow, so they could at least tell who was in charge.  Everything had been scrubbed within an inch of it’s life and would be decontaminated again as soon as this was over with.  Everything, included the Mossberg 590 shotguns that the three Marines present were armed with.

Aux was praying they wouldn’t be needed.  It would take all day to clean up afterwards.  And they couldn’t waste a day.

“Let’s get started,” she said, trying to pitch her voice to emotionless flatness.  They were having trouble getting the monitors to stick, because the zombie was sweating too much.  At least they’d had no trouble trying to find veins.  Hitting them was another matter.  The patient hadn’t appeared to notice when the needle finally  went in.  

“Is the recorder running?” Aux asked.  A hooded face mask bobbed affirmative and mumbled something incomprehensible.  Well, the little red light was on. That was something.  She was being scrupulously careful with all of the recordings.  

Eventually, when things calmed down again, there were going to be some very awkward questions being asked.  The M & M board would probably ban her from practicing medicine on general principle, but if she followed procedures closely enough and recorded everything, she might avoid being charged with murder.

“Sergeant Major Cahn, if you would CAREFULLY restrain the patient’s head?”  The largest of the figures in MOPP 4 gear, handed off his shot gun walked up the “patient.”

Clamped one hand on the zombie’s head and drew his Glock 17 and placed the muzzle below his hand,   

“What if it ricochets?”  a frightened tech’s voice was heard through it’s mask.  

“These rounds are frangible.  It will be fine,” Shocker said.

Aux suddenly felt worried herself.  “Will it penetrate a skull before fragmenting?”

Cahn considered for moment before replying.  “It will be fine.”  Clearly there were plenty of other ways to kill the damn thing so far as Cahn was concerned.  

With an internal shrug, Aux began.  She nodded to the gasser,  The veterinary grad student took her place carefully beside the writhing, bared teeth of the patient.  She cautiously and expertly covered it with the mask.  

This was going so much better with Vet students, Aux thought to herself..  The silly little idiot they had tried to use from human side medicine had been so frightened, she’d dropped the anesthesia mask. Breaking it in the process.  Veterinary students are used to their patients trying to bite them.

The zombie tried to lash it’s head away from the mask. Red eyes’ s darting around trying to find a target to bite and tear at. Whoever it had been, it knew absolutely nothing in the universe but rage now

“Vitals?” Aux asked.

“Pulse is a hundred and fifty, blood pressure is one ninety over a one hundred ten,” the tech answered.

“Christ, how do these things even stay alive?” Jessika Fallows muttered next to Aux.

“We’re recording,” Aux said icily.  “Cut the chatter.”  Aux did not need unhelpful things getting recorded.  

Although it was an issue, Aux noted in the back of her mind.  How the hell were they staying alive with stats like that?  They should burn out in about a two weeks with numbers that high.  Then again, we haven’t hit the two week mark yet.  Still, somebody should be tracking the mortality rate on this.  Maybe  nobody was tracking it, Aux considered. Or maybe somebody is and just can’t get the word out.  Holes were developing in the reporting systems fast.

The zombie began thrashing less.  It’s deep panting breaths began to slow, to something almost like a normal rate of respiration.  It’s eyes,  it’s frantic blood red eyes, stopped wielding erratically around the room and finally began to lose focus.  

Aux began to have a sliver of hope.  This wasn’t going to be like the last two times.  “Patient is beginning to respond to the anesthesia,”  Aux noted for the record.  “Vitals?”

“Pulse is at one thirty and dropping. BP is at one seventy over a hundred.”

“Noted,” Aux said. I can’t believe I actually like those numbers.  At this rate we can start...

The zombie suddenly howled, frantically trying to lift it’s head.  Shocker battled it’s near inhuman strength with his own.  Struggling brutally to force it’s head back down on the table.  The zombie bucked it’s legs and arched it’s back.  Trying to find some point of leverage  to force itself off the table and kill all of them.

“Pulse is at two hundred,” the tech called in a high urgent voice.. “BP is...I can’t get that one the cuff is off.” she recited.

“Increase dosage,”  Aux called.

“Be advised, doctor,”  the anesthetist began the process of covering her ass.  “That dosage is well above limits as prescribed by protocol. If YOU...”

“Noted Doctor Chu,” Aux granted her Gasser, ass coverage.  Then added a little for herself.  “The starting dosage we began with was already well above protocol,” Aux said for the benefit of the microphone.  “If we don’t take risks now, tens of millions will die!”  Aux yelled to make herself heard above the zombie.  Hopefully her lawyer would find that helpful.

She glanced over at Shocker.  His entire body radiated sarcasm.  She looked at him and shrugged in mild embarrassment.  

“Increasing dosage to ///NUM HERE,” Doctor Chu called.

“Vitals?” Aux asked

The tech answered, “Pulse is down to...”

Zombie suddenly stopped screaming.  His eyes rolled back up into head until there was only a solid mass of red showing.  Its body was suddenly a mass of electric tremors from head to foot.

“He’s crashing!” Chu yelled.

“Get the cart!” Aux called. “Inject with 40 milligrams of...”

The savage head to toe full body spasming of zombie, stopped cold just as suddenly as it started. It’s body let out a long sigh as if it was grateful to finally be done its universe of hunger, pain and rage.

A high pitched alarm clawed at their spines as it shrieked into life.

“Code Blue!” Aux called.  “Scalpel and standby with the rib-spreader,” she ordered.  Forget about TV shows. If he is already on the table.  Open heart massage is your first option.  No one can say she didn’t try.

“The patient had stressed, ‘no heroic measures,’ Doctor,” the deep muffled baritone of Sergeant Major Cahn entered the room.

Is he trying to be helpful? Aux thought in severe annoyance. Kindly don’t give me a reason not to save my patient. “Who was he when he said it?” she asked Cahn not entirely sarcastically.

“Incision,” Aux said to the recorder.

“His grandfather, I think,” Cahn replied.  “Possibly his great-grandfather. I’m not certain. They at least had the same last name.”  After killing four level III patients.  They had finally had the brilliant idea of trying to get a sample from a level II.  The problem was that Mister Doyle, whose rib cage Aux was now ratcheting open, had flipped over to full zombie while he was being prepped.

“Not sound of mind then,” Aux panted as she began to rhythmically squeeze the small, still, grapefruit sized organ in her blood covered  hands.  “Heroic measures are mandatory.”  Sweat was starting to bead on her face.

A several minutes later the inside of Aux’s bio suit felt like a steaming turkish bath house.  Rivulets of sweat streaming down her flanks, drenching her scrubs.  Her mask was now so fogged she could barely see out of it.

“He’s still flat,”  Chu said as she started to rise from her place at the patient's side.  She stretched this way and that. “It’s been fifteen minutes,” she said before heading for the door.  No more need for an anesthetist.

Aux looked at the clock but couldn’t make it out.  “ What’s the Time?” she asked.  

Time of death was duly noted.

“Kill the recorder.”  Now Aux had to get to her real work.  “Jessika, you get the other leg.”  Time was now of the essence but the fact that their patient was now just a donor made things a little simpler.  If a little more destructive.

The saws buzzed into life as the Aux and Jessika approached the remains of Mister Doyle with all the compassion of a farmer’s wife approaching the chopping block with a chicken in one hand and a cleaver in the other.

“We have to use bone marrow to produce ///Magicdrug.  The best spot to obtain DNA in the quantities that we need to produce ///Magicdrugname, is in the thigh.

Senator Rutnick was staring at the phone wide eyed in horror.

“Can’t you get it without killing the Zom...The Afflicted?” Brandon asked.  

“So far, no.”  Aux said.  “Look, anesthesia is a very precise art.  We are trying our best here but it just hasn’t been possible.  The...Afflicted are right on the line for cardiac failure most of the time as it is.”

Sid was white faced at the implications as he thought them through.  Despite his family name, Sid was Jewish.  He had had Grandparents and Grand Uncles who went to the the gas chambers in Birkenau.  What needed to be done struck him to the core of his being.

“At seventy percent successful inoculation...”

“That’s the low end,” Aux said.  “It could be considerably higher.”


They wouldn't really be pluripotent stem cells, but could potentially be forced BACK into that state.  But they CAN be used to effectively create a whole new immune system.  That's how some forms of leukemia are treated.

Sid nodded slowly while looking the President in the eye.  “...and using these...methods, we can inoculate the vital government and emergency personnel.”

Rutnick was shaking her head, silently mouthing, “no.”

“Gentlemen,” General Sertorio said,  “I exceeded any reasonable interpretation of my orders to get this far and I have considerably flown past my security remit in the last few days.  I will need orders and some manner of congressional approval. If I am to proceed with, shall we call, Industrial Methods...”  Sertorio added almost as an afterthought.  “I’ll need Sergeant Major Cahn returned as well, if I have to run that kind of program.”

Senator Rutnick was violently shaking her head at that.

“Annnnd I appear to have a small emergency on my end,” General Sertorio said.  “I’ve given you a lot to digest, Gentlemen.  Perhaps it would better if I called back later?”

“You Marines are robbing me blind,” Master Sergeant Pratt wailed through a surgical mask.

There had been a thaw the day before, but the temperature dropped like a frozen rock that night.  Sparkling daylight creeped over the needles of pine trees, infiltrating carefully as it crawled over a thin crust on the snow that crunched loudly underfoot in the dull morning air of Camp Grayling.  

A short line of men in digicam lead from the supply depot to the back of a waiting five-ton truck.  Olive green lumps of canvas were being tossed man-to-man to the final two men in the back of five-ton.  Breath came from the line like a fog machine as they heaved bundles of military winter supplies into the truck.

“That shit is all fucking earmarked for Battle Griffin!” The Master Sergeant moaned.  He was never going to able to keep track of this much gear being moved.  1st LT Riley at Motor T, had been screaming, jumping up and down, when this group of Marines with authorization from God on High himself had swept in and snatched a shitload of his five-tons.  Pratt had thought it was hilarious at the time, given that Riley was an obnoxious little prick.  Now it was going to be his ass on the line while he was trying to fuck the unfuckable.  He knew damn good and well that he was never going to get all of it back.  Some of it always got lost or damaged.  And in this case, a shitload of it would get stolen outright.  As sure as there was a God in heaven, theses Marines would view his gear as an all you can eat buffet. No damn way was it not going to be coming out his...

“Naibett!” MSGT Pratt heard the little black sergeant call out from inside his warehouse, to the guy that seemed to be running the show.  “They got EWCCS in here The good, Gen Three shit.

“Awesome!” Yelled the guy with COMTOS on his name tag.

“Fuck that!” Master Sergeant Pratt finally roared.  

Pratt knew he had them over a barrel on that one.  Their requisition, if it could even be called, covered winter bivouac gear and that was fucking that.  No way, no how, were they getting their mitts on the uniform cold weather gear.

“Master Sergeant...”  The one named Comtos started to say.

“Specialist Nunez!”  Pratt interrupted him.

“Yes, Sarge!” Nunez replied.

“Call base PMO!  Get the MPs  down here, right fucking now!”

Pratt smiled to himself behind the surgical mask.  He should have done that before.  Lock these dumb ass Jarheads up until somebody way higher up then he was straightened this clusterfuck out.  

If nothing else.  He would be on the record as having called the MPs.  Which, in his world, was pretty much the most you could do in crisis like this.

“Hey, I said they had EWCCS ...What’s going on?”  said the short Marine with MacKay on his uniform tag.

“We’re being arrested,” Comtos told him.

“What for this time?”  Ryan asked, genuinely confused.  They weren’t drunk.  There were definitely no girls around.

“Call her!” Pratt heard Comtos say.

A few minutes later an old Mercedes-Benz 450 6.9 came roaring up and sliding to a halt.  

Pratt snapped to attention and cut a salute. There was a blue officer’s DOD sticker on the windshield..

“Master Sergeant,”  a woman’s voice, colder than the morning air, called to him.  The voice cut through the on-going argument of the MPs and the Marines on the subject of who was going to arrest whom.  

Pratt looked over and saw a hawk faced woman of middle years who looked as sharp as the ice  surrounding her.  She was wearing an issue Goretex parka.  Pratt’s eyes dropped to the rank tab.  Two stars.

Uh, oh.

She took a moment to return his salute.  “Is there problem with the equipment issue?” the Marine General continued.

Pratt steadied himself.  It was a pretty stupid idea to be mad at a General - even a Marine Corps General.  He took a breath to speak and...

“What is on your face?”  The General interrupted him before he could start.  Although she seemed genuinely curious, about his surgical mask.

“It’s because of SOD, Ma’am”  Pratt answered.  

“And you are under the opinion that SOD will be frightened of it?” She arched an eyebrow at him, briefly.

“No Ma’am...Well, yes, Ma’’s authorized by the base,” Pratt stammered his way at last onto safe ground.

The eyebrow dropped, “Very well, Master Sergeant.  Keep the mask, if it gives you comfort because, frankly, that’s all it's going to do.”  

“Gentlemen,” she turned to the MPs, “there has been a misunderstanding and I’m afraid as Commanding General of CJTF-459, that this must be my fault.  If orders are not clearly understood it is always the commanders fault,” she lectured them with stark kindness.  “If you would wait by your vehicles, I will straighten this out,” she fished out her ID card and handed it to them.  

The MP Staff Sergeant accepted it with an almost grateful, “yes Ma’am.”  Running her ID would give him something to do that kept him legitimately out of the way.  

She turned back to Pratt, “Master Sergeant,” she began with emotionless pleasance, “what seems to to be the problem?”

Pratt straightened his back.  “Ma’am, this is illegal.”

Both of her eyebrows shot up this time, “Re-ally?” she drawled.

“In the opinion of my OIC,” he added. Who ran, like the dickless wonder he is, when he heard some ball busting WM General was stomping around here.  Leaving me up shit creek.

“I see.  That would be the Major who is conspicuously absent.”  

At least she seemed to be a little understanding.  Although that could be a trap, Pratt thought worriedly.  “Ma’am all of this gear is earmarked for Exercise Battle Griffin in a couple of months. It’s assigned.  It’s been spoken for Ma’am.”

“You are correct,” Pratt was slightly relieved before she continued, “on paper, anyway.  Be advised, Master Sergeant.  In the real world, Battle Griffin is going to be scaled back so much that the only thing that is being sent to Norway in January will be a couple of staff officers from II MEF G3.  Assuming it’s even conducted at all which, frankly speaking, it won’t be.”

“Ma’am, I wouldn’t know,” Pratt replied.  “Things are going to get bad, that’s clear enough,” he said through the surgical mask.  “And you’re right, Ma’am, Battle Griffin probably isn’t happening, ever again.  Which means this cold weather gear is going to be all that more important.”

General Sertorio looked at him for bit.  Clearly weighing something.  

“Master Sergeant, my authorization is signed by the President of the United States.  Or at least the last guy everyone can agree was President. I can bully you for a while.  Win.  Have you charged under Article 92 and ruin your career.”  She looked him in the eye.  “Or I can sign for your entire warehouse under my own name.”

Pratt thought hard for a moment, “everything, Ma’am?”

“Everything.  The lightbulbs, the coffee pots, the garbage can in your office and the roll of shit paper by the toilet.”  She stated, “everything.  You will be completely and absolutely covered.”

Well, technically that was possible.  It just didn’t happen.  If you lost it, you were responsible for it.  Which meant this crazy WM General didn’t give a fuck if all of it got lost or not.

Things were going to get really bad.  Pratt was just as glad he didn’t have wife anymore and that his boy was at Fort Benning.  The Army could take care of it’s own there, at least.  

But not here.

Look out for yourself, Jimmy.  God bless.   Pratt thought hard about his boy for a second or two.  I hope to see you again someday.

Then he threw the dice.

“Everything in this supply dump includes me, Ma’am,” Pratt said.

General Sertorio blinked, genuinely surprised.  Then smiled, “welcome CJTF-459, Master Sergeant.  Lose the mask, it looks ridiculous.”

“Well, she seems to be willing to accept your authority,” Sid said to an O’Hara still deeply shaken from the phone call they just had.

“You can’t be seriously....I mean,” Senator Rutnick spluttered.  “...Oh my God! I mean just...Oh my God!” She shrieked out loud, in the White House.  “Human experimentation?  Industrial Methods?” She spat. “They are Nazis.  They’re all real life fucking Nazis!!!. You can’t do this Jack!”

“Calm. Down. Liz.” O’Hara said.

“At the moment you certainly can’t, Jack,” Sid said.

O’Hara scowled.  He was supposed to be the most powerful man in the world and he was constantly hearing, “no.”

“No one will implement...Industrial Methods, on the basis of an executive order.  Even if it was from,”  Sid was diplomatic here, “a traditionally elected president.”  Sid couldn’t believe what he was about to discuss.

“You can’t be in favor of this! Not you Sidney!” Rutnick emphasized his first name.  

Sid made no secret of his parentage.  His mother had been an actual Frankfort School Communist. It was the only reason he was here.  She had had to get out of Germany while the gettin’ was good in 1933. She had spent her life racked with guilt over the fate of family members she had left behind.  She had made Sid read every book and watch every movie on the Holocaust. After a lifetime of Atheism she had finally returned to the synagogue to try and find atonement for her survival.  She took Sid Kelly with her every step of the way.

“If you’ve got another way Liz, I want to hear it.  I WANT TO FUCKING HEAR IT NOW!” Sid suddenly shouted at her.

As Sid expected, that shut her up.  The horror of initiating Industrial Methods was nothing to her innate of horror of having to make a decision on her own.  

“The problem is, I can’t get anything through Congress authorizing, or at least spreading the blame for this.  Not with the succession crisis being what it is.  And not while my esteemed predecessor is still breathing.”

A few thoughts had been entertained on that subject but were quickly dismissed.

Now there was the new possibility.  Making the President a Donor.  Claim that he expressed a desire to help find a cure anyway he can.  Claim that he heroically volunteered before SOD stripped his mind away.  If he died on the table then...

The problem there of course was the First Lady who had started to watch everyone like a hawk, once her sycophants had been stripped away.  Leila and Elie were both gone now, as well as the rest of the old President’s staffers.  The First Lady was NOT being invited to meetings like this, anymore.  She’d noticed, and when they would pass each other in the hallway now, would stare at Brandon with frigid eyes.

“There is another way to become President.” Senator Rutnick said.

“I’d rather not do that!” O’Hara said.  He had made a public statement requesting that Omaha recognize that the current President was too mentally impaired to continue and in the name of good government, they should pass a bill relieving him of office and recognizing O’Hara’s lawful succession.

Van Djik responded by impeaching the current President. Perfectly legal on the Reps side of things, which he did, indeed, control.  But it was still impeachment!  For high crimes, no less.  Yes, if he tried the President in the Senate and convicted him, that would remove him from office.  But it would be a political catastrophe for the Democrats.

“Not that,” she said distantly.  “What if I can deliver you a supreme court justice that will see things your way?”

“You have enough Senate members for a legal quorum and enough for a cloture vote.  But the GOP Senators you have here still belong to the GOP. They don’t like Van Djik, but they are bound to balk at voting in a new Justice,” O’Hara said.  “And you will need them to get this through.”

“Not if the Justice we offer is a Republican,” she said with a smile.

“Kind of defeats the whole damn purpose,” Sid said.

“Not if it’s the right kind of Republican,” Rutnick said.  “Not if it’s an Establishment Republican that absolutely, that would and I quote, “crawl fifty miles over roofing nails to piss in Van Djik’s soup.”

“The former Speaker of the House,” Brandon said as the penny dropped and he smiled.  “the guy Van Djik replaced. The guy he got fired.”

“Jerry would be a pain in the ass on the bench when it comes to Guns and Abortion but he is an old fashioned courthouse politician,” Sid said with professional admiration.  “The man will stay bought.”

“When can you get the ball rolling on this?” O’Hara asked.

“I never said I would,” Rutnick folded her arms.

She wouldn’t have come this far and then stop for no reason.

“What do you want, Liz?” O’Hara asked.  It was time for Washington to do what it did best. Deal.

“If you want me to sign off on his horror show, then I want,” she ticked the points off on her fingers, “One: you will attach my Military Courts Reform bill to whatever enabling bill you use to pass your...Special Procedures Act...regarding the donors.  The Uniform Code of Military Justice is just as anachronistic as the Second Amendment.  All felony charges against service people  are to be tried in civilian courts.  Only minor infractions may be handled by the military NJP system and that can be appealed to the civilian courts at any time, as well.”

O’Hara, the former Navy man winced, but nodded.  

“Two:  This project, including all research, is to be conducted under proper civilian oversight. All materials and personnel, including the Kerenskys, at  Michigan State University are to be transferred to the CDC in Atlanta.   Oksana Kerensky is to face criminal charges when this is all over.  I know you can’t charge everyone with murder, but you can charge her.”

“We will need a scapegoat, later,” Sid granted a little sadly.  He kind of liked the girl.

“Three: General Sertorio is to be arrested and charged as soon as that is possible.

O’Hara nodded.  Clearly he had been planning to do that, anyway.

“Four:  Sergeant Major Cahn is to be summarily executed for murder. “

“Doesn’t he get a trial?” Brandon was appalled.

“No, he doesn’t,” she said hotly. “It’s time a message was sent to men like him, everywhere.  He murdered Afflicted, he raped and then murdered poor, sweet Kenzie Styles. You need to show you are the one in charge, Jack.  That if military goons go shooting the Afflicted like they are the stars of some 1980s action movie, they will pay for it.  And no, Mister Allwhite, we don’t have time to jump through all the legal hoops.  The military needs a sharp swat on nose with a rolled up newspaper.”

“Senator, this is way more than a swat on the nose,” Brandon said, a little hotly.  He thought they were both against the Death Penalty.

Rutnick ignored him and addressed O’Hara.   “There are some obscure military regs that will allow you do that during a National Emergency.  It can even be part of the reason you need to pass my reform bill. A. Message. Needs. To be. Sent!”

“This isn’t a message.  This is murder!” Brandon almost rose to his feet

“Brandon, Please,” Jack O’Hara barked.  Then he exhaled sharply through his nose trying to relax.  “Liz, I can’t do that.  I can charge him for capital offenses.  But I can’t do that,” O’Hara said.

She rose slowly to her feet, “Let me know when you want to be President, Jack.”  Senator Rutnick turned on her heel and marched to the door.

/// Jack O’Hara brooding darkly about what great men like himself are sometimes forced to do for the greater good.

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