Date: Tuesday 7 August 2040ce 1530z
Location: Desert Springs (Facility Two), Nevada
A long narrow finger pressed the Call button.
Decision’s been made…
The Conference icon came on, indicating a secure channel.
Now I have to sell it.
The monitor came to life, revealing the face of General Hitchens.
“Good morning, General,” Doctor Scott said.
“Doc,” Hitchens replied curtly.
“Is something the matter?”
“Never good when you call this early,” Hitchens said, raising up a glass of orange juice to accentuate his point. “Only just began to digest.”
“Certain you weren’t up late celebrating your performance the other night?”
The general’s face twisted into a grimace.
“Saw that, did you?”
“The world saw it, General.”
“Not the first time I told that tale, Doc,” Hitchens remarked before taking a swallow of his juice.
“I’m surprised you gave the interview.”
“I was the last link in the chain. And it’s no different than a thousand other stories just like it.”
“A thousand others don’t end with shield technology.”
The General chortled as he shrugged.
“Communication break downs do have their advantages, Doc.”
“As does secured communications. Has your new datapad arrived?”
The General finished his juice, then raised a flat object into view.
Doctor Scott launched a data transfer from his station.
“We’ve had a spike event,” he said, his tone more casual then his actual concern.
“A spike?” Hitchens asked with controlled alarm as a tone indicated the data had been received. “Been a few years, hasn’t it?”
“Seven years, four months and eight days,” Doctor Scott answered.
“Nine miles south of the Hartwell Dig,” Doctor Scott specified. “Nearest hive is in Abbeville.”
Hitchens seemed to be scrutinizing something in the file.
“What’s this?” he asked finally.
“Tap it,” Doctor Scott instructed.
A moment later, the item the General referred to was on his own display.
“Ah, yes,” Doctor Scott said in the utterly calm tone he used when he was most excited. “It appears as though something were pulled out of the ground.”
“No shit, Doc,” Hitchens replied, certainly irritated. “Any idea what?”
“My initial suspicion was a tank,” he said in response. “But it doesn’t seem practical. The area had been completely buried under debris from Sungrazer Three, but satellite images from before the war show that the area was little more than farms, and the hole only goes a few centimeters into the pre-strike strata. Hartwell was the largest population center nearby.”
Hitchens seemed disturbed.
“About the size of a nuclear warhead, too,” he said dryly.
Though it didn’t make direct sense to Doctor Scott, he understood such matters to be of the general’s concern. There was already one rogue nuclear nation in the center of the former United States already.
It’s his job to worry about that.
“The images were taken by a ground team dispatched by my NES contacts. They reported no visible signs of heavy equipment or any other activity.”
“Just a hole in the ground?”
Hitchens released a sigh. “Are we sure they’re related?”
“Range and distance readings from seventeen listening stations all pointed to that location.”
He watched the play of emotions on Hitchens’ face.
There are things he won’t say even on a secure line…
The two would have chance to meet during the next week, so Doctor Scott knew he’d hear it all eventually.
Keep calm, General… This is why the program exists.
“So what do your NES friends think?”
“They’re scratching their heads,” Doctor Scott answered. “Just like us.”
“They keeping this quiet?” Hitchens asked. “Or is this going up to MI?”
“NES Intelligence has it, I’m afraid,” he replied. “I doubt I could have stopped that; Too close to their own borders, and within their protectorate state. I suspect you’ll get a call once their DoD has it.”
“That’s always a pleasure,” the General said glumly. “I swear, if Reunification goes through, I’m going to personally put my foot up their collective asses.”
“I’m sure that will be a most enjoyable experience, General,” Doctor Scott remarked.
The General laughed. “All right,” he said. “Anything else?”
“Yes,” Doctor Scott said. “My pick.”
He transferred the data.
“I thought you weren’t selecting for another three months,” Hitchens said as he received and opened the file. “I did receive your short list.”
“This one was brought to my attention last night,” Doctor Scott stated. “She’s not on the list.”
He once more watched the display of emotions on Hitchens’ face.
A few of those emotions strengthened some of the doctor’s personal theories regarding the General’s Resistance past.
“You do know who this is?” Hitchens asked finally.
“Of course,” Doctor Scott replied. “I certainly didn’t pull her out of a hat.”
“So how did she come up?”
“Met all of the criteria,” Doctor Scott answered. “She never submitted her DNA to the census while in Colorado.”
Such submissions were now required when enrolling in any federal military; To ‘assist in identification of the fallen’ was the official reason.
How much so, Doctor Scott chose not to comment on, and the information wouldn’t appear on the general’s new datapad, despite its upgraded features, outside of specified secure areas.
I’m curious to see how long before he looks…
“Had no idea she was coming back.”
“If you didn’t know,” the doctor began, letting the General finish the statement.
“Then her mother didn’t either,” Hitchens conceded. “Won’t be long before she does.”
“May not be long before she finds out, but we can fuzz up her chain of command until Phase One begins.”
Technically, it was ‘public phase one’; The actual count would be three.
“What’s her status, then?”
“Flagstaff Command,” Doctor Scott answered. “Finished her enlistment exams yesterday, and ready to be cleared for service.”
“And what do you need from me?”
“I need her on site in six months. And any other First Tier Candidates in the area. Full field troop.”
“I can arrange that… But why so early?”
“The core structure of the team needs to be solid from the very beginning. And must form before they realize what’s happening to them.”
“And a few months of field patrol would certainly build that. Not worried about losing her in the field?”
“You’ve seen her record?”
“Damnit, Doc…” He shook his head in an agitated manner. “I put half those medals on her chest myself.”
Doctor Scott recalled the list.
“Really? That wasn’t in the file.”
“Never is… Wait? You’ve never watched the post-victory ceremony? The Founding of Nevada?”
He had but didn’t feel inclined to fluff the rooster’s feathers.
“The ten-star speech you most certainly gave.”
“You bet your ass… Victory speech following the Battle of Reno. Google it.”
“That no longer exists, General.”
“It’s not a verb anymore?”
“Neither is xerox.”
“Fine… Look for it anyway. In the meantime, I’ll get it done. But let me ask again, are you sure? Because the moment Melaku catches even a hint that we’ve got her daughter involved in something under my command, it won’t be pretty for either of us. And Madsen is still available.”
Doctor Scott looked at his own pad, the candidate’s image looking back at him.
Madsen’s good… And qualifies. But he’s a convert.
He once more reviewed the displayed genetic sequences as if admiring a fine piece of art.
And far from unique.
“No, General,” he said confidently. “Sergeant Wagner is the one.”