The Lyssa Kordenay Missions - Book 44 - Dead Zone

 

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Book 44 of The Lyssa Kordenay Missions!
  A secret prisoner in
  a forgotten place
  brings back the need
  for Lyssa's training.

WARNING: The Lyssa Kordenay Missions may be hyper-violent for some readers!

 

 


 

Dead Zone

 
 
 

Chapter 1

Dannigan was reading the reports from the various Agencies. The C.I.A. were trying ferret out a terror cell operating in France. N.S.A. were actively pursuing a group of North Koreans in California. Homeland was trying not to let on they had a mole. The F.B.I. were making progress on a Mafia group in New York. A.T.F. was still picking up pieces from a fiasco near Boston. I.C.E. were working Charleston, North Carolina on a possible new human trafficking ring. State Department had grudgingly upgraded security status for the embassies along Northern Africa.

The N.R.O. had secretly launched four new satellites. That was good news. More came from CyberForce, a CRACKING group had been shut down. A collective of Finnish and Russian freelancers that had set their sights on D.O.E. had fallen for a fake. D.E.A. had slammed the door on a smuggling ring that ran boats across the Gulf of Mexico. All this was good. It all boiled down to things being relatively quiet. Even the U.S. Marshals were settling down. Things were looking good for a three day weekend down in the Caribbean.

All those thoughts came to a screeching halt as he looked at the last page. Army CounterIntelligence. They believed that a prisoner held in a domestic black site has been holding back information that is now deemed critical. A Jordanian terrorist that had tried to come in via a Mexican Coyote group had been been caught coming across the Arizona border over a year ago. The big problem with him, was the fact that he had studied Nuclear Technology. At Michigan State University.

Dannigan looked up the file. Adib Ali Fahmoud. Jordanian national, student visa- Michigan State. Held a 3.6 grade point average. Went back to Jordan after graduation. Rumored to have consulted both Pakistan and Iran on Nuclear facilities. Particularly Breeders. The more Dannigan read, the more he became concerned. Breeders were reactors that produced Weapons' Grade Materials. Though in reality, just about any Fissionable Material could be modified to Weapons' Grade. People educated like Fahmoud were usually kept tabs on. Their knowledge could be used, willingly or coerced, dangerously. It seemed that CounterIntel was in a quandary as to who to bring in to interrogate him now. The clearance level was unusually high. In fact it was in two parts. One level was for him and another was for his location. Actually Dannigan couldn't remember the last time he'd seen one of those levels.

"Definitely out of the ordinary." Dannigan commented to himself then ran the reports through the shredder and buzzed Madison. "Madison."

Madison replied immediately. "Yes Major?"

"Contact Kimberly. See if someone can come pick us up Friday morning for a weekend down there." Dannigan instructed.

"Right away!" Madison replied happily.

 

~o~O~o~

 

"Ram Air Charters." Kimberly announced after picking up the phone.

Madison greeted her. "Hey Kim."

Kimberly smiled. "Hi Madison. What's new?"

"The Major wants to know if someone can fly up to pick us up Friday morning for a three day weekend down there." Madison informed her.

Kimberly checked the log and replied. "Sure. Rodrick has a Freeport to LaGuardia hop Thursday afternoon. He can stop there on the return that evening. Will that work?"

A moment later Madison came back on the line. "That works for us!"

"Ok. See you both Thursday night. I know the kids will be excited." Kimberly laughed and disconnected.

Hunter wandered into the office. "Who's going to be excited?"

"The kids. Pete too. The Major and Madison are coming Thursday night on the return of Rodrick's hop." Kimberly said.

The Black Badge Deputy nodded. "Oh. Yeah, they'll like that. Here's mine and Bobby's ammo report."

Kimberly took the page and frowned. "This is all you used today?"

"Yeah. Problem?" Hunter asked.

"Yes. It's not enough." Kimberly stated. "Look, when you were in service, two hundred and fifty rounds for a .45 may have been excessive for an M.P. and standard for a Ranger. The same amount for a Deputy may have been standard. That was then Hunter. You should be going through a minimum of three hundred rounds twice a week. That's just for sidearms. A hundred and twenty-five for long range rifle, half of which should be cold-shots and at least five hundred close-quarter. Is something off with you two?"

Hunter frowned. "That's a lot of ordinance to be going through."

Kimberly shrugged. "Not really. When Tiffany, Shawna and Krystel were being trained they were on a range every day Hunter. If they don't shoot at least twice per week, something's up. Any shot could be the one that means everything. You know that just as well as we do."

Hunter drank from the water bottle. "Yeah. That's true."

"You jump once every two weeks. That's good. You even learned to dive so you can perform marine incursions. You four have a lot more going for you than when you first came here. Even Parkour. Bump up your ammo counts. Your accuracy is within parameters, just up your quantity. You can do that. You all did good in the demolitions classes." Kimberly remarked.

Hunter went for the cheap-shot. "Yeah. We had a blast."

"Oh, you just HAD to get that one in." Kimberly rolled her eyes. "Get outta here Hunter. Carl and Eddie are going into Freeport this evening. Go with."

Hunter casually saluted. "Yes Ma'am."

Hunter winked at Maria on the way out.

"Go on you rascal." Maria commented then went into the office. "Kimberly, Anna gave me the grocery list for the house."

Kimberly smiled and nodded. "Thank you. If you would, just slip it into the clipboard. Would she like to go tomorrow?"

"A trip anywhere besides the therapist is quite agreeable to her." Maria chuckled.

"I heard that." Kimberly laughed. "I have some good news."

Maria gave a non-plussed look. "Good news is always welcome dear."

Kimberly smiled. "The Major and Madison are inbound for Thursday night."

"Good news indeed. I believe I'll go along tomorrow as well." Maria commented.

Kimberly smirked. "A stop at the salon perhaps?"

"Of course. Might as well book us all. We can make it a Girls' day out." Maria suggested. "First the salon, then lunch followed by the shopping."

Kimberly took up the walkie-talkie. "Attention all personnel. Tomorrow will be a Girls' Day in Freeport. All going, respond now before I start booking appointments."

All the females on the island replied in succession.

"Book us all Kim." Lyssa finally said then added. "Also call The Reef and tell them to have the table ready for us."

Kim asked. "Bringing the twins?"

"Yeah. Let's give the guys a break. They can spend the day fishing or whatever." Lyssa replied.

Eddie was quick to call out. "Carl and Hunter need to be at the Bell in forty-five mikes or I'm leaving them both!"

Both replied quickly that they were about to take showers. Hunter was enjoying having his own place, given the trailer previously occupied by Shawna. The complaint against Carl's snoring went without sympathy from Rodrick, Pete and Eddie. Rodrick offered to trade, night baby duty. Hunter declined before Rodrick even finished.

 

~o~O~o~

 

Madison was excited all day Thursday and at four that afternoon her smile seemed like a permanent fixture. Dannigan was coming out of his office.

"You about ready? Mason should be on the tarmac and finished refueling by the time we get there." Dannigan informed her.

Madison's reply was interrupted by the chime of the elevator. A man in an Army Class-A uniform with Colonel's rank approached them.

"Why do I get the feeling the weekend just went to shit?" Madison muttered.

Dannigan calmly asked. "Something on your mind Colonel?"

"I need one of your assets." Colonel Varnelle answered.

Dannigan kept his tone flat. "Denied."

"Not an option. I'll have to insist." Varnelle countered.

Dannigan didn't even move. "Still denied. You won't like it if I insist. Forget where you are?"

Varnelle shook his head. "I know EXACTLY where I am and EXACTLY who you are. Immediate compliance. SIR."

Dannigan had a page held in front of him. He took it and read. "Colonel. You are either the dumbest or most suicidal fuck I've ever met."

Colonel Varnelle didn't respond.

Dannigan turned the page around. "Number One: Just for knowing this you can be shot. Number Two: yes, this is the most dangerous room in D.C. and now you're demanding to be taken to a place there is no guaranty you will be allowed to return from."

"I don't have a choice. Only two people have the training and clearances for this. One is in the middle of an operation and the other belongs to you. I have my orders and now so do you." Varnelle replied.

Dannigan shifted the bag in his hand. "If your Will is order, follow us. Otherwise, you better write something real quick."

Madison led the way to the elevator and griped. "Now I KNOW the weekend just went to shit!"

 
 



Chapter 2

The Gulfstream came in low and gently touched down. After turning around at the end of the runway, it taxied back to the hangars. Eddie signaled to stop. Carl came rolling out with the tractor and hooked up to the Nose gear. Rodrick led the way down. Once Dannigan and Madison walked down on to the tarmac they were greeted by three squeals.

Maria followed behind the three girls with a smile and awaited her turn to greet Dannigan and Madison. After greeting the girls, Madison went in search of Pete.

Everything came to a stop when Mindy's voice clearly asked. "Who's he?"

All heads turned to the fourth person to disembark, the only one in a uniform.

"An unwelcome visitor Pipsqueak." Rodrick growled.

Colonel Varnelle stated. "Colonel Varnelle, young lady. Army CounterIntel."

"OH." Kasey, Kristine and Mindy said in unison.

Varnelle finally cracked. "I've never had that reaction before. You girls are familiar with CounterIntel?"

Kasey was first and stepped immediately to Attention. "SIR. CounterIntel conducts operations to combat Hostile entities, foreign and domestic, from gathering Intelligence of United States Agencies, Assets and populace."

"C.I. has Federal status, they can arrest and investigate both military and civilians." Mindy added standing at Attention like her adoptive cousins.

Kristine said. "Crimes such as treason, spying, espionage, sedition, subversion and sabotage by Domestic or Foreign Hostiles fall under the jurisdiction of Army CounterIntelligence. Another aspect is that other U.S. Military personnel are given Temporary Duty to CounterIntel to allow them to act more effectively. Personnel such as Special Forces, Military Intelligence, CyberForce and Medical Services. Also certain D.A.R.P.A. personnel due to expertise, SIR!"

"That IS impressive. There are Three-Star Generals that know less that you three." Varnelle commented in approval. "For the record, I actually am CounterIntel, not attached or TDY."

Kristine stared. "That doesn't explain why you're here."

Varnelle replied with one word. "Classified."

Kristine now glared at someone she deemed a pompous ass. "That still doesn't explain why you're here dip shit. Oh and I'm a CIVILIAN minor, so piss off."

"Kris, give the wannabe a break, sis. It's not his fault that God didn't give him the brains of a piss ant. Besides, the last time I checked, our BADGES say U.S. Deputy Marshal on them. That means numb-nuts here isn't our problem. We just have to clean up his blood, guts and dump his body when Dad and Uncle Hunter tear him apart." Kasey told her younger while never taking her eyes off, Varnelle.

"Children, behave yourselves." Maria scolded her granddaughters kindly. "We do not just kill uninvited guests outright. That is not the DeMarco family way. Show your manners. Besides, I doubt that the Major would make the mistake of bringing a man foolish enough to get himself killed to us without reason. Remember your lessons on the Bravta."

Krystel came out and handed Dannigan three pages and saluted. "Sir."

"Thank you Lieutenant Commander." Dannigan replied then glanced them over. "Girls. Back down with the attitude. Colonel Varnelle earned his spurs a long time ago. He's here to see Lyssa."

"She's at her house." Kimberly informed them.

Rodrick waved to the officer. "This way Colonel."

"I'll be along shortly." Dannigan told Rodrick, who simply nodded back as they left.

Kasey mumbled. "Asshole."

"Kasey. You may not like him, but he has a job to do and only one way to do it. He's here under orders that come straight from the Chairman of the Army. Not even he likes this, but he doesn't have a choice." The big Spook stated. "That being said. Yes, he actually was impressed with you three and was pleased with your knowledge. That is, until you both flew off the handle. Off the record; before he joined C.I., he spent time in both Fifth Group and First. He spent a hitch in Delta, which means he's on-par with Rodrick, Bobby and Hunter. He's no wannabe. He's real-deal."

Maria asked. "He is line for a promotion if he resolves whatever matter has brought him to us?"

"No Ma'am." Krystel informed the DeMarco matriarch. "The rank he is, is permanent. He goes no higher. And as the Major said, he doesn't have a choice."

Dannigan sighed. "As tough as my job is, I wouldn't want his."

Maria wanted this spell to end. "Well. All that can wait. We've held dinner up long enough. Come along."

 

~o~O~o~

 

Colonel Varnelle expected more open hostility at the house Rodrick led him to. Instead he found a charming woman in the process of holding bottles for twin babies that looked around a year or so old. A black shepherd had looked him over with a soft growl, but lay where he was.

"See? There's Daddy!" Lyssa pronounced to the twins.

Rodrick walked over and kissed them both on the head. "That's my little rugrats."

Alex laughed and Allie cooed to him. Rodrick then kissed Lyssa

"Your dinner is on the stove. Feed our visitor. I'm going to be a while." Lyssa commented giving the babies their bottles again.

Rodrick showed Varnelle to a guest room. They met back in the kitchen, Varnelle in civilian attire and Rodrick in a Team t-shirt and shorts.

Conversation between the two was light, mostly about current events. Not long after, they all retired for the night.

 

~o~O~o~

 

Despite the teens grumblings about being left out, all the adults met up in the Command Center that morning. Carl was taking the first class for the teens while Eddie watched over the twins in the Hangar Lounge.

Varnelle looked around the state-of-the-art room. "VERY impressive!"

"Thank you Colonel." Kimberly replied.

He handed her a flashdrive. "Captain, was it?"

"Yes Sir. Be ready in a moment. Krystel." Kimberly said then handed the drive off.

Krystel took the drive and plugged it in.

All eyes turned to Kimberly as she stood in front of the bank of screens. "Colonel Varnelle has a specific tasking. He is the lead in all operations that pertain to terrorist threats with Nuclear capability. The long and short of it is, if they have academic or working knowledge of turning any kind of fissionable material or equipment into weaponry, he's the go-to man. Colonel, you have our attention."

Varnelle took position on the opposite side. "Thank you Captain. First photo please."

An image of four frames came up on the main monitor.

"Subject: Adib Ali Fahmoud. Jordanian national. AKA: Bringer of Judgement. Studied Nuclear Physics at Michigan State. Two months after graduation, dropped off the grid. A year later, resurfaced in Jordan then disappeared again. Resurfaced ten years later in Russian for three months and dropped off again. He slipped through FSB's net. He resurfaced three years later in France, working at a Breeder."

Maria spoke up. "Please excuse my interruption Colonel. What is a 'Breeder'?"

"A Breeder is a nuclear facility that produces Weapons' Grade fissionable materials." Varnelle answered.

"Its not a power plant." Kimberly added.

Maria nodded. "I see. Please continue Colonel."

Varnelle nodded. "I'll speed things up some. Fahmoud then began to continually slip in and out of view. All in countries close to becoming nuclear capable, both military and civilian. He wasn't picky. If they had a program of some kind, he was there. After that first trip into Russia, he never entered another facility, but sightings place him in the vicinity of other facilities there. That was for eight years. Finally he broke cover and was reacquired in Pakistan. That's when it was deemed prudent to bring him in. However, the surveillance team was made and he disappeared again. He resurfaced in Iran then went back under."

"He's like that gopher on Caddyshack." Hunter commented.

Everyone chuckled and even Varnelle cracked a smile. "That's a fair comparison, Sergeant. I kind of like that."

The smile got even wider. "He's never been told what we call him, be kind of fun to have him told that's his 'code-name' by us."

Kimberly had been reading on a another screen. "That would make him go berserk. He's one of those 'I am a genius and everyone else is beneath me' types."

"Someone commented that he was a 'Cartman with a nuclear degree'." Varnelle remarked.

Krystel laughed. "Funny. Disturbing, but funny."

"Are you asking that this man be apprehended?" Samantha asked.

Varnelle shook his head. "No. He is already in custody. Document three, photo five please."

The images came up and he continued narrative. "Last year, Fahmoud was captured by U.S. Border patrol agents crossing from Mexico into Arizona. there were also some narco-traffickers in with the same Coyote group. It seemed that Fahmoud had become fluent in Spanish. With his looks, he was able to pass himself off as Latin-American. He has been repeatedly interrogated and did produce a fair amount of working intelligence. Recently though, its been determined he still has more, that may be critical."

"His knowledge is the kind that can produce not only high level munitions but also improvised nuclear ordinance?" Bobby asked.

Varnelle nodded grimly. "Correct. Currently there are only thirty specialists that have the clearance to work Fahmoud. Of those thirty, only five have the clearance to visit the facility he is held in."

Annette spoke up. "Ok. So he's a really high level detainee and a hard-case. I get that part, but why come here?"

"I regret to say, he's exhausted three of those five. They can get nothing more from him. He's shut down. There are only two specialists that can get through his defenses now. One is currently on mission and one is here. Only those two can break through. Both are from the same unit. One is still active-duty and currently deployed, no recall. The other is here. Whisper is not available, I need The Immortal." Varnelle stated looking directly at Lyssa.

Rodrick asked the remaining question. "Where is he held?"

"Scorchville, The Dead Zone." Varnelle replied.

Bobby shrugged. "Ok. So let's go."

"It's not that straight-forward Everbrite." Dannigan said.

Maria looked over. "I take it there are all those clearances that must be issued?"

Lyssa stood up and walked to the screens. "Krystel. Bring up Nevada. Nevada National Security Site, Area 17."

"Area 17? Is that like Area 51?" Samantha asked Bobby.

Bobby shrugged. "Don't know. Never heard of it before."

Two maps came up on the monitor and Lyssa explained them. "National Security Site, Nevada. Formerly called Nevada Proving Grounds. The region is under the Department of Energy umbrella and used by various Agencies. This place has been only for Nuclear testing. It's cordoned off into thirty test areas. Some have no contamination, some have light and others are heavily contaminated. Area 17 was originally designated as a Clean Zone. No contamination, used as a staging area."

Krystel brought up pictures on the screen. "On the left is Area 5; Frenchman's Flat. On the right is the Sedan Crater in Area 10."

"Jesus! That's a BIG fucking hole." Pete remarked.

"Made on July 6, 1962. It still emits a low-level hum." Krystel said then smiled at the shocked faces. "Just kidding. Civilian tours visit it every year."

Everyone groaned at her joke then turned back to Lyssa who had been smiling.

"In truth on moonless nights you can see a slight shimmer inside the deepest part of the crater. Back in 1975 there was a surge of nuclear compromises. Over fifty were captured. The problem was, where to keep them now that they knew too much. A decision was made by D.O.E., the C.I.A., N.S.A. and D.O.D. A highly classified prison was to be built. It became the first real Terminal Facility. Two hundred and seventy-one prisoners from death-row were selected and turned over to the project manager. The prison sits three hundred feet below ground. It was designed by specialists from every agency and branch of the service. Escape Specialists." Lyssa stated.

Krystel spoke up. "From there, the information gets real sketchy. There's lots of holes and redacted files. I'm sure most of it is hard-copy/Eyes Only files. No prisoners are listed as ever being incarcerated there. Actually the official version is that it was abandoned due to seismic instability."

"That's the official line. The reality is, it was completed. Along with a small group of houses and cabins, dubbed Scorchville. In 1977, despite all reports to the contrary, over one hundred nuclear detonations took place there. The ordinance came from American, Russian, French and British ordinance plans and 'acquired' materials. It is the most heavily radioactive site. No transmissions in or out, no vehicles will function. There's only one way anything gets in or out of there, on foot. Without highly specialized gear, you die within fifteen to twenty MINUTES. It takes a little over an hour and half to walk there. Scorchville sits in the center of a twenty square mile area called Dead Zone." Lyssa said firmly.

Maria looked very unsettled. "My God, it's a Hell on Earth."

"There are those that think so. It's definitely in the top 5 nominees." Lyssa said.

"You mean there are other places that are just as bad or possibly WORSE than this place?" Annette asked.

Lyssa, Dannigan and Colonel Varnelle nodded grimly.

"I'm actually kind of curious about the place now." Samantha remarked. "So this is one of those places that doesn't exist, manned by people with no names and all that, right?"

Varnelle nodded. "That about sums it up. Housing prisoners that will never seen sunlight again."

"I assume they have no contact at all with the outside world?" Maria asked.

Varnelle confirmed her assumption. "No trials, no lawyers. Only interrogators and guards. No guard there serves more than one week per year."

"Colonel. There is one other person that could interrogate your prisoner as effectively as Whisper could. Maybe even more so." Lyssa admitted with a hint of disgust, or anger.

Varnelle sighed. "I know who you're going to say. The Possessor. He is no longer viable."

That got Dannigan's attention. "Why not?"

"I already asked for him. He is; OUT of circulation." Varnelle said. "Permanently. He's been secured in The Vault. No further details."

Lyssa nodded. "Not surprised."

"This Whisper person is not able to be brought in, but Lyssa can be?" Maria asked. "I was under the impression that she is, for lack of a better word, retired."

Dannigan nodded. "She is. For the most part. Unfortunately, she is still able to utilize her skills. Until that ends, she can be brought in when there are no other options."

"What are the protocols for transport?" LoneStar asked, his helmet plugged into the system.

Varnelle looked over to him. "From here to Las Vegas by whatever means usual to your group. At McCarran, the Janet Terminal is used to transport to Homey Airport, Groom Lake then to Area 18. From there a helo will transport to the border of Area 17. She knows the way from there. Seventy-two hours will be alotted for the operation then return to the Landing Zone for return to Area 18 for DeCon. Homey Airport for Debrief then return to McCarran via Janet and then release."

LoneStar looked over to Dannigan. "I have the clearance to get to Homey. Can the strip at Area 18 handle the Gulfstream?"

"Krystel?" Dannigan asked.

Krystel frowned. "Maybe. Land, yes. Take-off, maybe. It's a bit short. By a hundred feet."

LoneStar turned back to Dannigan. "Myself and no more than three other people. Everybody takes a piss before take-off though."

Dannigan looked thoughtful and tapped his chin then turned around. "Justice can go."

"Oh HELL no. You're not going alone Sam!" Annette exclaimed.

Samantha shrugged. "OK. You can come to."

"Uh." Annette caught herself. "Me? There?"

Varnelle shook his head. "I can't get them authorized."

"I can." Dannigan smiled menacingly. "I may not be able to override your orders, but I can AND WILL amend them. Justice and DeMarco go. Lyssa, get them ready."

"What do you need." Rodrick asked.

Lyssa replied. "Personal gear only. Sidearms and edged. Kim, get them a set of Tiffany and Krystel's old battlesuits. They can wear their current issue boots and gloves. Ladies, wear comfortable traveling clothes. Nothing else. We won't need it. What we wear in Dead Zone will be burned when we come out is why. Issue them a pair of old sidearms and standard rounds. Five magazines each."

"Only five for each gun?" Annette asked.

Lyssa nodded. "Annette, if we get into a firefight out there, we got bigger problems than running out of bullets."

"That ain't no lie." Rodrick commented.

Varnelle nodded. "Any compromise to the integrity of your protective suit, will be fatal."

"There is that." Annette lamented.

"So do we have to worry about snakes and stuff?" Samantha asked.

Lyssa shook her head. "There is no wildlife. Not even cockroaches. Do as I say, and you'll be fine."

Maria asked what was at the forefront of her mind. "Lyssa. How many times have you been to this place? I'm assuming more than once."

"Yes Maria. This will make my sixth trip into Dead Zone. I know what I'm doing." Lyssa answered.

"Maria. When Lyssa says 'sixth', she means that it is the sixth. There is a difference. Her previous exercises there lasted ten to eighteen days each." Dannigan informed her. "In her previous unit, they trained there to prepare for operations deep within contaminated territory. No other trains to this level. Not even N.E.S.T. trains for this kind of environment."

The mention of N.E.S.T. spoke volumes. N.E.S.T., Nuclear Emergency Support Team, formerly known as the Nuclear Emergency Search Team. A team of scientists, technicians and engineers operating under the United States Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration, NNSA. Any Nuclear incident in CONUS is their tasking, accidental or intentional, they are the First Responders.

"N.E.S.T. trains in Area 1. Its so low level you can wear a poly-suit and fix a rip with duct tape." Lyssa explained. "I'm trained to go into the blast zone, minutes after detonation. If Annette and Samantha will follow my instructions, TO THE LETTER, their exposure will be minimum."

"How minimum?" Annette asked.

Lyssa looked over to her. "After DeCon we'll be given some pills to take. Three pills per day for four days and we won't even register any readings."

"The fact that you're here, is proof enough. Very well. They may go." Maria agreed. "You both will follow her orders to the letter. Lyssa's survival in such a place is testament to us."

Hunter asked. "Lyssa. You said this place is in the top five. You don't seem that fazed by it. Which one does?"

"There's a place in Utah. In my opinion, it's worse. It's where bio and chem agents were tested. I've been there four times." Lyssa answered.

Rodrick stood up. "I get Eddie on prepping the Gulfstream. Wheels up in an hour?"

"Sounds right." Lyssa answered. "Madison, would you watch the twins until we're done here?"

Madison nodded. "Sure thing."

Kimberly went up to gather the uniforms and equipment. Lyssa began a very short briefing on protocols for such an environment. Maria found herself squirming uncomfortably as Lyssa went over the list of procedures. Bobby and Hunter ended up asking many of the questions she had been reluctant to. Both had basic NBC, Nuclear/Biological/Chemical, warfare training as most do during Basic Training. They had more advanced classes as Rangers and Special Forces. The two Marshals had ended up taking notes and would frequently refer to those notes when questioning. Even Varnelle asked a few questions.

Finally Dannigan asked. "Colonel, what's the best case scenario?"

"At best; new names, locations and their protocols are revealed." Colonel Varnelle answered.

"Worst case?" Kimberly asked.

Varnelle frowned. "Targets, materials and strategies."

"Fuck. That doesn't sound good." Pete commented.

Varnelle sighed. "Please keep in mind, we've held him for a year already. I have no doubt that the groups he has worked with have already written him off and are now falling back on alternate planning. He may have had a hand in that and we need to know. We've been on borrowed time for a while now. This is desperation, we need all he has left."

"He will not survive after this. You do understand that?" Lyssa reminded.

Varnelle nodded. "One shot is all we have left. That's why I came to you. When others failed, you never have."

"So be it then." Lyssa said. "The briefing is done. Annette and Sam, get changed into lighter weight and comfortable clothing. Meet in front of the Hangar in fifteen minutes."

Krystel looked up. "I'll have the orders ready in five."

 

~o~O~o~

 

Fifteen minutes later the group was boaring the Gulfstream. The teens of course, while pouting about having to stay on the island, handed off 'wishlists'. It was a frequent occurrence. Anytime someone went to CONUS for longer than a HOP. The girls gave a list of items wanted. Usually snacks or other items not available outside the U.S.

In no time at all the sleek business-jet was taking off and winging its way Northwest. The initial entry point back into CONUS was Eglin AFB in Florida. They refueled there and flew to Houston, Texas then on to Lackland AFB, outside San Antonio. From there it was over to Nellis AFB outside Las Vegas, Nevada.

 
 



Chapter 3

At Nellis AFB, Lonestar had news. They would not able able to fly straight to AREA 18. Their flightplan had to be filed for stopping there at Nellis. A Black-Plan was being filed to get them to the Groom Lake Test Facility. There they would have to land and transfer to another aircraft for the remaining flightplan. After refueling, they took off again.

LoneStar had switched over to the specific channel after clearing the outer markers for Nellis. When a tone came over he knew he was approaching Restricted Airspace.

"Homey Tower. Homey Tower. Do you copy?" LoneStar called out over the radio.

The response was immediate. "This is Homey Tower. You are approaching Restricted Airspace. Identify."

"This is Whiskey 8-1-3. Requesting approach vector for Homey." LoneStar replied.

The Tower called back. "Roger Whiskey flight. We need your code for clearance."

"Copy Homey Tower. My code is Bravo-Charlie-Tango-Sierra-two-zero-one-fife." LoneStar gave his recognition code.

"Standby Whiskey Flight." The tower responded and went silent. A few moments later they came back. "Whiskey flight, you are authorized entry to Restricted Airspace. Proceed heading two-zero-zero at Angels ten. Escort inbound, follow instructions implicitly. Shadow-flight, inbound."

LoneStar confirmed. "Heading two-zero-zero at Angels ten. Escort Shadow-flight, inbound."

Within minutes three combat loaded F-16s came up. Two took flanking positions and one took lead in front of the business-jet. They stayed with them until just before touching down on the runway. The fighter escort veered away. A Humvee was waiting and led the plane back to the main area. A groundman waved them over and directed them into a parking position with hand-signals.

Lonestar led the way out onto the tarmac and was saluted by a man in desert camo with no name, rank or other insignia on his uniform.

"Welcome to Groom Lake, Sir." The groundman greeted then saluted Colonel Varnelle as well.

Groom Lake Test Facility, better known as AREA 51. The top secret facility for the Air Force, Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. It was also known as Dreamland and Paradise Ranch.

The groundman led the group over to a twin turbo-prop plane. "We've made this King Air 200 available for you Sir. It's fueled and ready. Your flightplan is already filed. Here to Pahute Mesa and back. Just sign it out Sir."

LoneStar signed the form on the clipboard and handed it back. The groundman saluted and stood back. LoneStar, Lyssa, Samantha, Annette and Colonel Varnelle climbed in and closed the door. Minutes later the smaller plane was taking off and heading for the outer markers. It wasn't long before they were landing at the small airstrip in AREA 18, Pahute Mesa.

 

~o~O~o~

 

Lyssa woke up Annette then Samantha just after 03:30. Slowly they began to get into the protective suits. Shortly after they had landed, there was a civilian official giving them a more in-depth briefing for protocols inside Area 17. A helicopter pilot was about add another fifteen to twenty minutes with a briefing of their infil/exfil method. They would use SPIE rigs. Lyssa cut him off and turned it into a three minute lecture.

The SPIE, Special Patrol Insertion/Extraction, system was developed as a means to rapidly insert and/or extract a reconnaissance patrol from an area that does not permit a helicopter to land. It was the successor to the STABO rig. Personnel, each wearing a harness with an attached carabiner, hook up to a D-ring at the end of a rope or cable hanging down from the cargo hook of a helicopter. It was for use inserting or extracting troops from an area not suitable for landing. After clipping the bags with their personal gear to a ring at the waist area, they were ready.

What looked like three astronauts lumbered out of the small hangar toward a helicopter now slowly spinning its blades on the tarmac. LoneStar led them to the ends of the cables and helped hook them up. The helmets were closed and the air supply opened. After another check the three were given the thumbs-up. Lyssa had Samantha on the left and Annette on the right and had them rest on one knee as LoneStar waved they were ready. Slowly the Slick powered up. Old UH-1, Hueys, were used in the radioactive areas because of their low use of electronics.

The Slick lifted off and ease forward as it climbed. The lines drew upward and taut. Lyssa, Annette and Samantha had their arms to each other. Annette and Samantha extended their free arms out as they had been instructed. Finally they felt pulled upward and stood up. Soon the ground was no longer under their feet. The Helo pitched forward again and they were on their way deeper into the desert.

"WOW! This is actually cool!" Samantha said over the communications link.

Lyssa laughed. "Yeah. It's not so bad when nobody is shooting at you. You're both doing fine. Just enjoy the ride."

Annette said. "Ok. I'll admit, it's not as scary as those glider things we rode."

"You know. In a way, it's kind of pretty out here." Samantha commented.

Lyssa took a moment then said. "You'd be surprised at some of the scenery all over the world. Rainbows in Southeast Asia. Sunsets over the Caribbean. Fields of flowers in the Alps. The Southern Lights over Antarctica. We use those to try to balance out the other things we see there. It's not easy. Enjoy the good things when you find them. They can mean the world of difference. I think we're coming up on the LZ."

The helo slowed more and began to hover. Slowly it descended. When their feet touched the ground Lyssa let some slack gather then disconnected all three of them.

"Clear! Clear! That way!" Lyssa instructed.

They moved forward as fast as they could then Lyssa stopped and waved the helo. It began to climb again then banked away.

Lyssa turned around and took a compass bearing. "Ok. We need to go that way. No need to run. We have enough time. Just breathe normal. In about fifteen to twenty minutes we'll lose comms."

Both were surprised when Lyssa clipped two ropes to them.

"When we lose comms just tug the rope to get attention. The rope also keeps us from getting separated. Let's go. We can be there in about an hour and half if we don't goof off." Lyssa told them then led the way.

For almost twenty minutes they walked. A soft hiss began to be heard.

"Heads up. We about to lose comms." Lyssa said.

As they kept walking the static get stronger. Finally Lyssa stopped and turned around. She turned off the comm units then hand signaled to ask if they were ok. Annette and Samantha gave her the thumbs up so they continued on. Another twenty minutes passed and a human skeleton was seen lying along the path. Lyssa would bring each one up and check their air gauges regularly. None of them could tell what time it was though, so they had no idea how long they had been walking, but had passed more skeletons along the way.

Finally they saw something in the distance and Lyssa pointed to it. When they drew even, it became obvious. A sign.

SCORCHVILLE, NEVADA
POPULATION - 0
DETONATIONS - 135
STATUS- extra crispy

The skeleton leaning against the post contradicted any humor conveyed by the sign. Lyssa waved them to continue on. Five minutes later they entered a cluster of devastated buildings. At the far end Lyssa led them into a ruined brick and block building. Inside there was a concrete block house. Lyssa cranked a wheel and two doors slowly opened. Inside she cranked another wheel to close them then spun a small crank. It took several minutes then it felt like their world was moving. At one point things stopped and a sudsy liquid almost filled up the room then drained. Movement began again after that. When the doors finally opened a man stood glaring at them.

Lyssa cracked the helmet then lifted the visor. "Morning."

Annette and Samantha did the same.

"Finally! I thought we were going to run out of air!" Samantha exclaimed.

The man in all black BDUs spoke up. "Just who are you supposed to be? You better have clearance or you're all in seriously deep shit."

Lyssa removed the helmet completely. "I; of deepest, darkest faith. I am become, DemonWraith. I am The Immortal."

He wrote as she spoke. "Stay here."

He stepped back and the doors closed.

"Did he believe you?" Annette asked.

Lyssa shook her head. "He has to check against the book. If he can't find my identifier they take the elevator back up and force the doors open. The average person has ten to fifteen minutes of air left by the time they get here. I think you can figure the rest out."

Samantha said it for her. "Asphyxiate inside the suit or fry outside it. Dead either way."

"Or dig the pistols out of our bags and eat a bullet to spare us the pain of either one." Annette surmised.

The doors opened again and he waved them out. "Ok. You're cleared. It's morning?"

Lyssa lumbered out of the elevator. "Should be around zero-five or so. Saturday."

"Cool. So how long are you here for?" He asked.

"Minus seventy-two hours. We have to work fast. Interrogation of a prisoner. Number two-six-zero-nine." Lyssa replied.

He nodded. "We'll get him in there right away. Or did you want to get in a nap?"

"Is he currently on a sleep cycle?" Lyssa asked. "If he is then let him go for another three hours. We'll get in a nap. Once I start I can't stop. We'll eat and get in a nap."

"I'll get you started on getting out of those suits and go check." The guard said.

He returned a few minutes later then stepped back outside the doorway and cleared his throat. "Uh. He's sleeping currently. I'll just wait out here for you ladies."

When they came out in the form-fitting one-piece black suits, he struggled to keep a straight face and level gaze. They were shown to a lounge that had multiple couches. They ate the M.R.E.s they had brought with them then went to sleep.

 

~o~O~o~

 

Lyssa woke up Samantha then Annette.

"Huh? How long?" Annette asked, waking up.

Lyssa drank some water from a bottle. "Four hours. I let you both sleep a little more while I got the room ready."

"Ma'am?" One of the guards called from the door. "He's in the room as you ordered."

Lyssa nodded back. "Thank you."

Annette and Sam took turns in the bathroom then joined Lyssa.

"Gentlemen. I'm going to close the door. I advise it stay shut until I return. The door to the cell block will remain open." Lyssa said as Annette and Sam went out. "I want the prisoners to hear. Everything."

With that she closed the door to the lounge and led the way down the hall. They entered a room that was empty, but for a man now hanging by his wrists from chains attached to the ceiling.

Annette whispered to Samantha. "Oh shit sis."

"Uh-huh. We saw this before. Shawna was the student. We're about to watch the master now. I think we just entered a Hell we didn't know existed." Samantha whispered back, confirming Annette's suspicions.

Lyssa pointed to two chairs. Each had a notebook and pen. It became clear to the two what their purpose was. They were to take accurate account of everything the man said. They watched Lyssa apply the facial markings. An elegant design of swirls that distorted her face.

Lyssa began to put a syringe together then fill it with a clear liquid from a vial. "The time has come Adib."

"A woman? They must be getting desperate! Are you going to seduce information from me?" Adib laughed.

Lyssa pulled the Marauder from the back of her thigh. It looked different from the one seen before. Annette and Sam knew instantly, it was not the same knife. Adib's white smock and pants were cut away. Then he felt a needle pierce his neck and liquid being forced in slowly.

"Your truth serums have been used before." Adib chuckled then stopped. Pentythol took a while to have effect, but this was different. He suddenly felt cold and began to shiver. "What is it you gave me?"

Lyssa's soft voice was right beside his ear. "Inanna."

Adib's shivers became uncontrollable. The only thing holding him up, were the chains. Then the cold began to fade. Heat started. A punch slammed into his kidney area and Adib felt pain like never before and bellowed from it. without turning around to look at them, Lyssa waved for Annette and Sam to get ready to write.

"Past the gates, before the throne. I've been to Hell, Adib Ali Fahmoud. For all the evil you have done." Lyssa said gently as she circle around then let him see her face as it morphed into a hideous visage. "I'll be taking you there. Welcome, my new PET. I OWN YOU NOW."

That's when Sam and Annette noticed. Instead her usual pattern, there were no grays to fill the voids between black lines. It was red. It made the image, all the more frightening. They could only imagine what he was seeing.

Lyssa crouched down and took hold of a foot and looked up. "I'll begin here."

Adib whimpered as she traced a shallow line across the top of his foot then held the skin against the flat of blade and slowly pulled downward. He screamed as the skin and upper layer of dermis ripped away.

Lyssa looked up and smiled. "As my PET, I'm going to make sure you don't try to run away."

"Allah, most merciful. Grant me peace in your garden quickly!" Adib prayed.

Lyssa pulled another strip, only wider. " He cannot hear you in this place. Only I do now. My PET."

Lyssa laughed in cruel delight as another strip was taken and his screams hitched up louder. Every time he began to try praying, she interrupted his effort with more pain. Her smile was pure cruelty and laughter dripped malevolent delight as she worked her way up his legs, inch by excruciating inch. The only purpose seemed to be to inflict agony for the pure joy of it.

Annette and Sam simply forced themselves to stare at the notebook page. Occasionally writing his uttered attempts at prayer the best they could. Put simply, their knowledge of Arabic lacked and they were doing the best they could to write phonetically.

When Adib felt her begin pulling the flesh from high on his thigh, he screamed in English. "ASK ME QUESTIONS!"

"And interrupt the sport with MY PET? No. I am very amused as I am." Lyssa laughed without any humor.

Adib began telling everything he knew, but still she worked his body. Annette and Samantha barely had time to turn a page as they tried to keep up. They knew not to ask for any repeats, he would remember why it was really happening to him and the spell would be broken. Lyssa slowed her progress, but did not stop.

Lyssa stopped and stood straight. "Do you know the story of this place?"

Annette and Sam stopped writing and looked up in puzzlement.

Lyssa smiled. "Many years ago, after this prison was built. The mortals wanted to ensure no one ever left. They made their devices. Weapons they called them. From the many different peoples that had them and scattered them about. Then they called for the most wicked among them. Vast fortunes were paid. You see, they feared what awaited them. After death. In gold they paid, to be brought here."

Adib could still hear her, through the waves of pain moving up and down his body. He listened.

"Over six hundred of the most wicked gave over the wealth they amassed from the suffering of their fellow man. When the moon reached it's zenith on the longest night." Lyssa said, holding up her hand, as if cradling the Moon itself. "It happened. A firestorm much like when the thunder lizards roamed burned the night sky!"

Annette and Samantha shivered as Lyssa laughed loudly. "Heaven and Hell were furious! God and the Devil himself were cheated. It had been discovered before, these devices and the effect they had. Not only would the body be destroyed; the Soul too. It was destroyed! Neither received any! That is why this place, is here. Why YOU, are HERE. There is NO escape! You may die, yes! But your soul? Here. FOREVER. MINE to toy with. No Heaven. No Paradise. None of those places you foolish mortals think awaits you after I take you from your bodies. Only THIS. Only, ME!"

Lyssa then went after his abdominal area and he screamed louder and began to tell everything he had ever known.

"Shall I foretell the future?" Lyssa asked when he went quiet.

Annette made the mistake of looking up. Lyssa was holding up a clutch of Adib's intestines to his face. Annette quickly turned her head and vomited. Samantha looked over to Annette then Lyssa and did the same.

"I see much pain in your life." Lyssa chuckled then snarled. "What's LEFT of it!"

Adib looked up to the ceiling. "Yes! I KNEW I WOULD BE COMMITTING EVIL! I REGRET IT ALL! I TOOK WOMEN NOT MY WIVES! I HURT INNOCENT THAT WISHED ONLY TO LIVE IN PEACE! I ENJOYED KILLING THOSE THAT WOULD NOT FIGHT TO SAVE THEIR OWN LIVES! I DO NOT DESERVE PARADISE! I WILL GO WILLINGLY TO HELL! LET ME GO TO HELL! DO NOT LEAVE ME IN THIS PLACE! END ME! END ME! END ME!"

He had given everything he had. Names, dates, plans. Everything he had. Even how he had been recruited and recruited others. There was nothing more to take, but his last breath. Lyssa sliced into his neck and what was left of his blood pumped slowly out to drip onto the floor with the rest.

"Did you two get it all?" Lyssa asked softly.

Annette choked out. "Yes."

Samantha simply nodded.

Lyssa nodded back. "Go back to the lounge. Clean yourselves up."

 
 



Chapter 4

Annette and Samantha were getting antsy. They were ready to leave. Neither of them really wanted to talk about what happened in the room. Even the guards were 'tip-toeing' around Lyssa. Two of the other prisoners managed to commit suicide by strangling themselves in their cells. They were all terrified she would want a chance at them.

While Sam and Annette were in the bathroom of the lounge, Lyssa took Adib down from the chains and dragged his mutilated body a circuit of the cell block. All ninety-three prisoners saw what she had done. What was more unnerving was that she laughed the whole time. Smiling at each prisoner as she passed. The guards weren't thrilled to mop up the blood trail she left. Lyssa did give the man that did five hundred dollars cash for doing it, with an apology. She cleaned the room herself. Sam and Annette occupied their time with reading. It seemed that the ever changing guards there took turns writing in a series of journals. The options for entertainment in a place that could kill any recording was limited down to cards, board games and books.

While the guards were busy with duties Annette looked over to Lyssa. "Can I ask you a really stupid question?"

"Go ahead." Lyssa remarked, playing a game of chess against herself.

Annette took a moment then asked. "Aren't you worried some of these guys will recognize you?"

"Nope." Lyssa said and moved a piece then turned the board around. "None of these guys have wives or kids. That's mandatory for this. These guards come here from posts in scenic places; such as Korea, Panama, Iraq, Afghanistan, Alaska and so on. They spend a week here then go to their dream post."

Samantha looked up from the journal she was reading. "Dream Post? Is that like, the place they want to be stationed since they go into service?"

"Yeah. Some want Hawaii, or post close to their hometown. Some want Europe or Japan. Some want Paradise Ranch permanently. Others get a bonus for pulling this duty. Or a school; Special Forces, ParaRescue, BUDs. You get the idea." Lyssa said, continuing the game.

"So, no big ballet fans here?" Annette asked.

Lyssa chuckled. "Nope. These guys are serious about careers in service. They've already proven they can keep secrets. This place won't show up in the files. Only the clearance they have will. Certain people see that, and its the key that unlocks certain doors. but it never gets talked about; where they were, what they did. Notice, I never told you about this place until it came up?"

"Good point." Samantha remarked then asked. "That story you told. You were just messing with his mind some more, right?"

Lyssa sat back and thought. "Oh. You mean about the people paying money to be here when the nukes went off."

Annette nodded. "I was wondering about that too."

"Yeah. That's the urban legend around here. All the skeletons you saw, those are from people that were terminal disease patients. In exchange for being subjects of ground zero blasts and so on, their families got a settlement from 'an insurance policy'. A 'policy' that not only gave them a big settlement, all medical expenses were taken care of." Lyssa explained.

"That sounds a bit cruel." Annette remarked.

Lyssa shook her head. "Not when you really think about it. Those people were pretty much dead already. They were simple waiting to fill their coffins. They had incurable conditions. Everything from Tuberculosis to cancer of the brain. They were still able to decide for themselves how they wanted to die. They decided for themselves to have a death that meant something, over one that didn't. Months of misery in a hospital or a few milliseconds here. I heard there were some serious 'going out' parties."

"Parties?" Samantha asked.

Lyssa nodded. "Some spent the last night in penthouses of the casinos. Private shows of the rat-pack. Thousand dollar bottles of booze. Sex with porn stars. Dinner and dancing with Miss America. Word is, a couple of Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders were involved. John Wayne is reputed to have be there. Steve McQueen too."

"You're kidding! No way." Annette protested.

Lyssa stood up and walked over to the bookshelf and pulled a journal and handed it to Annette. "Read for yourself."

Annette opened the book and read then looked over to Samantha. "This is the journal of last requests!"

Samantha set the one she was reading aside and sat beside Annette on the other couch and together they began to read. One hundred people were allotted one page each to sum up the last day of their lives. Some made them laugh, others made them cry. A few even made them both blush. Just as they finished the last page Lyssa called their attention.

"Time to go." Lyssa said. "Our ride will be there just as we get there."

Ten minutes later they were riding the elevator back up and the doors opened. Lyssa led the way back to the landing zone. Within a few minutes, that seemed like forever, a light came on overhead and approached them. Chemical light sticks, Cyalumes, identified the ends of the cables. Quickly Lyssa hooked them to the cables then waved her arms. Almost instantly they were yanked skyward.

Back at AREA 18, the trio were set down and a man in full gear unhooked them then ushered them to a DeCon unit. It resembled a brushless carwash. Inside the hangar they stripped out of the suits and went through another DeCon then scanned.

"Are we ok?" Samantha asked LoneStar on the other side.

LoneStar's muffled voice replied. "Bobby won't have a problem finding you in bed after lights out for a few days."

At their looks of alarm the DeCon specialist shook his head. "He's kidding. You're within limits. We'll give you some pills to take for a couple of days to knock out any after-effects. Nothing to worry about. Just don't donate blood or anything for the next six months. Standard Procedure. You can go take a regular shower now."

Half an hour later they were out of the showers and dressed. Colonel Varnelle was looking over the notes.

"Can you read our writing?" Samantha asked.

Varnelle chuckled. "You two need to learn Arabic, but it's ok. I'm getting what I need."

"Ladies, Sir. Your pilot is waiting on the tarmac." A civilian official informed them.

They wasted no time to load back into the King Air and flew back to Groom Lake. There they transferred back to the Gulfstream. The route back was the same as when they came. The only difference was that Colonel Varnelle got off at Eglin AFB to hop a C-5 back to Washington.That evening they arrived back on the island.

 

~o~O~o~

 

Lyssa was putting away the clean breakfast dishes when a knock came from the front door.

"Come in." Lyssa called out.

"Good morning Lyssa." Maria said coming into the kitchen.

Lyssa put the last item away. "Good morning Maria. Would you like coffee?"

"Yes. Thank you. Do you have some time to spare?" Maria asked.

Lyssa served her a cup. "I believe I do. What would you like to talk about?"

Maria sat down at the counter and sipped the coffee. "The girls told me what happened out there. I think its safe to say, neither will be curious about such places again."

Lyssa sipped her own coffee. "To be honest, I have no desire to go to any of them again. However, because of what I am, I may be required to. This was one of those times, I don't get to say 'no'."

Maria mulled that over. Only fools did not respect her wishes, usually to their own doom. Lyssa's actions, or inactions, had global effect. Doing nothing could mean the loss of lives that could easily number in the thousands.

"I'd like to know, how much of an effect does one of your 'interrogations' have on you?" Maria asked point-blank

Lyssa sighed. "Now we get to the real point. It does have an effect Maria, I won't lie. I don't know how many more of those I can do. One day, I'll just freeze up or puke my guts out."

Maria sighed. "I see."

Lyssa refilled her own cup and returned to the breakfast bar. "The training I had to become what I am, it's nowhere near normal. It's brutal. Some might even say that it's designed to make us psychotic. We really do 'train to insane'. Our training exercises could actually kill us. Every boundary and limit is pushed."

"I heard you say something. Back on the ship. You said 'the deepest, darkest faith'. What exactly does that mean?" Maria asked.

Lyssa sighed. "It's in reference to The Way. It's more than training. More than motivation. It's a state of being. We give ourselves over to it. We give up everything to become that. We don't do it just because we can, we do it because its what we are. DemonWraiths aren't really made, we're found. There are basic traits that we all exhibit. Through the training, the raw diamond becomes the precious gemstone. Ore becomes gold."

"The chunk of metal becomes the deadly weapon." Maria mused.

Lyssa nodded. "More or less. The average soldier you could compare to a piece of rebar. Special Forces, high tensile steel. I would be the equivalent of a titanium alloy. I started out above the normal and through the training, that ingot was forged into the weapon."

Maria was absorbing that. "You inspire quite the visual."

"For you; it's heritage, tradition, honor and art. Not for me. For me; it's science, history, conditioning and philosophy. You are a DeMarco, it's expected of you to be an assassin. It comes with the name. For us; it's not WHO we are that determines what we do, it's WHAT we are that does. We don't go out on mission because we're soldiers. We go because it's why we exist. We were born to this. The training takes away the wildness. We become precise and consistent." Lyssa explained.

Maria stared intently. "You sound as if you have no choice Lyssa."

"Not much of one, if you want the truth. We just ARE. Part of the training is to understand that and direct it. Give us a focus. We learn to understand and accept what we are so that we can do what we do. That is The Way. In some aspects, it's not much different from the Shinobi philosophy." Lyssa said. "There is a method to understand. I've considered doing that for the girls. It may help them."

"Try me first." Maria said firmly.

Lyssa nodded. "Alright. Follow me."

 

~o~O~o~

 

That afternoon Kasey and Kristine found themselves in the main hangar in front of a long table of weapons and a big plasma screen on a stand behind it. The only people conspicuously absent were Mindy and Carl, currently diving in the cove.

Lyssa was standing between the table and the monitor. "Girls. Questions have been around ever since you've come to the island. Some of the answers you've already learned. Some still elude you. Those questions are about me, how I can do some of the things I do and why. Perhaps this will help you."

Lyssa pointed to two bladed weapons, a sword and a knife. "This is Will. It is forced through your enemy and they fall from it."

Now she had their attention. Samantha, Annette, Bobby and Hunter were now paying closer attention as well.

Lyssa pointed to a pistol. "This, is desire. You DESIRE your enemy to be no more."

Samantha whispered to Annette. "This is nothing like the way we were taught. This is. It's WAY different."

The assault rifle was next in Lyssa's commentary. "This is intent. You intend your enemy's death."

"This is like Ninja stuff." Hunter whispered to Bobby.

Bobby nodded and murmured. "Uh-huh."

Next Lyssa placed her hand on the .416 Barrett M82A1 sniper rifle. "This is thought. Every thought must be focused on the bullet reaching your enemy."

"This is hate. You must hate everything about your enemy to completely obliterate all trace of them." Lyssa said pointing to several types of explosives.

"She really boils it down. Doesn't she?" Dannigan asked Maria quietly.

Maria nodded in answer. She had went through a good bit of this earlier.

Lyssa indicated her body. This is means. Use your means to achieve an end. By fist, foot, whatever works."

Kasey and Kristine were completely focused on her every word. This was beyond deep for them. It was like having the universe explained, with visual cues. Lyssa drew their attention to the screen now. A collage of past enemies came up.

"This is Purpose. Because they exist, we fight." Lyssa said firmly.

When the picture of the destroyed slave ship came up Lyssa tapped it. "This is success. When we do what we are trained to do, we can make great things happen!"

"Yeah!" Kristine growled.

Kasey nodded. "Damn right!"

Lyssa almost slapped her hand to the monitor when the picture of newspaper announcements of Clare Brice and David Earp's death came up. "This is failure! WE dropped the ball or didn't have OUR shit together and THEY paid the price for it!"

The two teens' expressions hardened instantly. Their anger was evident.

"This is honor. If we are to fall, we must be worthy of where we are last taken to." Lyssa said reverently at the picture of Arlington cemetery.

The picture switched to the team going through the killhouse and Lyssa said flatly. "This is method. Culmination of that which you do."

Even Kimberly was watching the others as Lyssa spoke. She could tell it was getting through to them.

A picture of them all on the beach laughing and having a good time came up and Lyssa smiled. "This; is being. Being at peace. Being at play. Being family."

All heads were nodding. They understood what she was driving at with that one.

"This is duty. It is our duty to go into harm's way. To fight for those that can't or don't know how to for themselves." Lyssa said of the picture of the teams getting onto the C-130. It was the night they assaulted the Styx.

The picture of Kasey, Kristine, Mindy and the twins was next and Lyssa's voice softened. "This is love. We do all we can to give them a world without need of what we do."

Eddie commented to LoneStar. "That's just plain playing dirty for Lyssa. Laying on that guilt trip."

LoneStar nudged him subtly but shrugged. "She does have a point."

A picture of Lyssa standing over a body, her pistol still smoking. "This is nothingness. I felt no hate, no satisfaction, no anger, no pleasure. Nothing at all."

Lyssa stood directly in front of them. "This is the Faith. Deepest and Darkest. It only comes with the greatest of sacrifice. I; did step out of the light. And took my place, within the night. To Hell; my enemies, I do send. For Death; is my single, solitary friend. I; of Deepest, Darkest Faith. I am become, DemonWraith."

"Lyssa is warning them." Rodrick whispered to Maria. "She doesn't want them to try becoming what she is. She knows they wouldn't survive it. it's more and worse that anything Bobby or I went through."

Maria looked back at the former SEAL. "She hates herself that much?"

"No Maria. She does not. She knew fully, what she was in for and that there was no other way for her. It's not glamorous. It's not fun. In truth, Lyssa is terrifying. Even to me. I listened all night long to the horrors she's endured. I've held her when she woke up screaming from the nightmares of when she wasn't fast enough. She knows the price and doesn't want the girls to pay it." Rodrick said sadly.

Maria looked back at Lyssa. "The Post-Traumatic Stress you all suffer."

"Maria when you were taught and when you've taught Annette and now the girls. To you its an art, old and revered. Filled with tradition and heritage. Lyssa isn't like that. They aren't taught that way. The way they're taught; you could easily call it a religion. Their views of their own lives and deaths are something of a cross between Vikings, Templars, Samurai and suicide bombers. Their actions have global effect. Big picture Maria. Really BIG." Rodrick stressed the last part.

Dannigan said. "Lyssa is one of those few blessed and cursed to be that which she is. As if created specifically for it."

"As if born to it. Or for it." Maria surmised and looked to Dannigan and Rodrick.

Both nodded grimly and said. "Yes."

"Rodrick you made one small mistake when it comes to my family's traditions. Yes, what the DeMarco and Capizeo families pass down is an art and tradition, but there is also honor, duty, and sacrifice. We do not teach our ways lightly. There is an old saying among assassins. 'Only the strong can survive the way, and the way is that of the blade. Double edged and always deadly'." Maria stated.

Lyssa was talking to the girls again. "As I told your mothers; I've been many places and seen some incredible things. I try to use that to balance out the other things I've seen. The most important, is when I look at you kids here. I do all I can to make the world a better place for you. I do NOT want you to take our places. I want you to have the chance at creating your own. Do you understand better now?"

"Yes Prima Lyssa." Kasey and Kristine said.

Lyssa smiled to them. "Now go get into some swimwear and have some fun on the beach. Take your parents with you. They need it too."

The two teens needed no further encouragement. They smiled and ran off to do just that. The Deputies followed behind them.



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