Whisper in the Dark - Chapter 01

Whisper in the Dark
by Sleethr

~o~O~o~

Whisper begins her summer vacation and airport security proves to be a little tricky.

~o~O~o~

 

Insert standard disclaimer here: The one that reminds everyone that this is a work of fiction. No one is real and any resemblance to someone who is real is purely coincidence, honest. This is also a Fan Fiction set in the Whateley Story Universe. No Canon characters were permanently harmed in the making of this story. I hope. :)

 

Note: Ya all made me do it. It's all your fault. I have zero idea when chapter two will be ready, so don't read this if you're impatient. I'm planning on working on Reality Storm, but it depends on what my muse wants to write. Thanks go out to my beta-readers/editors/sanity checkers as well as djkauf for his magical editing.

~o~O~o~


--SEPARATOR--

 

** Chapter 01 **

[0900 hrs - Saturday 9-Jun-2007 - Manchester-Boston Regional Airport ]

The ninth grade is done! Stick a fork in it. I survived three months at the crazy place that is called Whateley Academy and it was time to catch my flight home for the summer. Hoorah!

The school’s van kindly dropped off me and a bunch of my classmates right in front of the terminal and I didn’t even make it to the doors before I caught a few people rubbernecking me. I guess I couldn’t blame them because when a van pulls up and lets off a bunch of high school age kids, people tend to look. Especially, when there are a couple of exemplar guys and gals in the group. You know, the type of people who look so darn attractive everyone checks them out to see if they recognize them from a movie, TV show or dirty magazine.

I wasn’t friends with any of my fellow students in the van, but I also wasn’t enemies with any of them either. I kind of knew and was friendly with Dominique, aka Demona because we were both in Whitman cottage and she was in one of my classes, but we didn’t hang out or do anything together. We did sit next to each other in the van, but other than a slight welcoming smile when I joined her; we said nothing to each other during the entire ride.

Thanks to my system and their MID cards, I knew all of my fellow student names, what their MID said their powers were and had automatically cross referenced the information against my own threats database to help fill out their information with more factual data because knowing their information could save my life. Like Gunny and Sam are fond of telling the newbies at the gun range, ‘it was always the details that killed you’ and the little detail where Demona turned into a gargoyle at night could prove useful if aliens invaded and we ended up trapped in the airport together.

You think I’m kidding, but it could happen!

Yes, I had developed a fair amount of healthy paranoia over the past few months, but I preferred to think of it as maintaining a high situational awareness. Other than Dominique, I think only one of my fellow ‘evacuees’ knew my name and that was exactly the way I liked it. As a result, there are no tearful good-byes to muddle through and attract even more attention from the ‘norms’. I patiently waited my turn to exit the van, received my luggage from the friendly van driver and made my way into the terminal.

In an effort to avoid trouble, my systems were running on full alert. I had gotten into the habit of scanning all of the non-encrypted radio traffic as well as some of the easier to decrypt encrypted channels. If having the MCO hating your guts isn’t enough to make a person paranoid, then dealing with your fellow students at Whateley will. All clear, no transmissions have made it past my content filters by mentioning ‘Whisper’, ‘Brianna’ or ‘Mutant’. I also didn’t detect any activity on the military or MCO frequencies either. Of course, I’ve only just arrived and the day is young. Murphy just loves messing with me.

There is also my pesky glamour to take into account. With some help and training from Nikki, I’ve been able to dampen it, but, for some reason, it likes to flare up every now and then. Like, right now. It seems to have a mind of its own and loves to slip the reins during potentially awkward social situations.

“Look mom, it’s a fairy princess!” I heard a little girl cry as I entered the terminal.  I glanced over and wow, she was so adorably cute! I stumbled a little as I caught myself thinking like a girl. 

Murphy strikes again. Sigh.

I turned to her with a smile and placed my finger over my lips as a signal for her to keep it a secret.  She giggled at me and before her mom could stop her, she rushed over to me. “Hi, I’m Heather. You’re so pretty! Are you really a fairy princess?”

Dang glamour!  Down glamour! Down!

I crouched to appear less threatening and look her in the eyes. She was pretty darn cute and her eyes were wide as saucers. There was no way I could be mean to her. “Shh, we can’t let it get out or the Queen will be upset with me.”

I was kidding because I felt pretty sure Aunt Aung would’ve probably find my current situation and my reference to her more amusing than upsetting, but still.

Looking embarrassed and concerned that her daughter would accost a stranger, Heather’s mom walked up behind and gently held her daughter by her shoulders. “Heather, leave the poor girl alone.”

“But Mom, she’s a real fairy princess!” Heather tried to whisper, but she was a little too excited and it came out more like a yell. Her yell attack did some collateral damage when a slightly older girl entered the terminal, overheard Heather and was instantly drawn to me.

No, I wasn’t wearing a fairy princess costume or any costume, geez. I wore my favorite skirt and leggings outfit. The same one Aunt Julie got me. I know, it wasn’t jeans and a t-shirt like I would’ve worn in my past life, but it was comfortable, looked nice with my boots and it was kind of a tradition for me to wear when traveling. Okay, so I only traveled once with it, but I like it. It’s also black and has been modified by the costume wizards at Whateley. It’s now flame, acid and bullet resistant, and if my friends are correct, it should also be able to absorb a hit from one of the MCO’s plasma cannons, once, maybe. Thus, it’s not only fashionable, but very practical and a tactically good choice if bad things started happening.

“If you’re a fairy princess, why aren’t you wearing a fairy princess gown or a crown and where are your wings?” The second girl challenged me.

She was a little more cynical than Heather. I turned to her and my glamour hit her full strength, causing her to gasp with surprise. “I’m trying to keep it a secret because if everyone knew, I wouldn’t be able to make it through the airport without tons of people trying to take my picture or get my autograph.”

“Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry!” Her eyes teared up as she clutched her hands to her chest. “I didn’t mean to sound so mean.”

Ah, crap. Now I felt like a meanie. This was going to hurt me more than it would them, but I had a girly girl idea.  No thanks to my girlfriends at Whateley, I received an education on most of the classic fairy princess movies.  More like forced indoctrination, but hey, the action scenes were good. Lesson learned: When asked how much you loved “Beauty and the Beast” or “The Little Mermaid”, do not let your female interrogators know you haven’t watched them, or any Disney princess movie, ever!

“Oh, it’s okay sweetie.” I glanced around to see how many people were watching and shifted my vision into the magical range to hunt for magical detection wards.  Only the kid’s parents were really paying attention and there were wards, but they were poorly maintained and focused on the entrance instead of inside the check in area. I motioned for the two girls to step closer to me and when they did, I cast a simple illusion of a tiny winged pixie.

The girls gasped with surprise when my pixie materialized in my hand.

“Shhh…” The pixie giggled at the girls before she fluttered her wings and rose a few inches above my hand. “I’m Princess Brianna’s guardian pixie, Sara. Pleased to meet you!”

I know, Sara, but I couldn’t think of a better name. My pixie even looks a little like her.  Petal or Blossom might have been a better choice, but I was in a rush.

“Wow!” Heather and the other girl huddled even closer, helping block other people from noticing. I hope.

Sara turned to the older, more cynical girl and pointed to Heather. “I know that she’s Princess Heather, but what’s your name?”

The cynical girl gulped. “Umm, I’m Olivia.”

“Oh, Princess Olivia! What a pretty name.” I glanced up at the parents to see if they were freaking out, but they seemed to be more amused than concerned. They probably thought my illusionary pixie was just a doll or something. Adults can be so skeptical sometimes, but it can work in my favor too.

“But, I’m not a Princess…” Olivia protested while Heather clapped and bounced up and down with barely restrained glee.

Sara twittered with amusement. She looked so cute as a pixie. “Oh, but you are now! As holders of Princess Brianna’s secret identity, you both have been hereby appointed as Princesses.” I made my Sara pixie sprinkle some sparkling pixie dust on them. “There, now it’s official. Princess Heather and Princess Olivia, welcome and remember, real princesses always behave and listen to their parents, right?”

They both energetically nodded their heads with agreement as their parental units smiled with approval.

“Great! I have to go now, but it was nice meeting fellow Princesses!” I stood and dismissed my pixie Sara illusion because there wasn’t any reason to draw extra eyeballs to the scene. 

Heather gave me a quick hug before returning to her mom and they both departed with Heather sneaking a peek or two behind before they disappeared into the crowd.

“Go ahead dear, I’ll catch up.” Olivia’s mom hung back as her husband gently pulled his glowingly happy daughter behind him. 

Rut roh!

Mrs. Olivia waited until they get a few meters away and just out of earshot. “I saw what you did with the doll.” She surprised me with a quick hug. “It was amazing and thanks! Liv is very afraid of flying, but I think you may have helped brighten her day.” She blushed and glanced over to her patiently waiting husband and smiling daughter. “Well, umm, thanks Princess Brianna, your secret is safe with us.”

Well, I guess Murphy didn’t hate me, but now Olivia’s mom reminded me that this was my first time flying by myself and I wasn’t looking forward to getting through security. I heard so many horror stories from my fellow classmates about how nasty the MCO screeners could be. The TSA screeners were a piece of cake compared to the mutant passenger screening because as soon as you showed your MID, you were directed to the special MCO run screening line.

Knowing my luck and how much the MCO hated me, it was probably a good thing I got to the airport three hours before my flight.  I hoped it was enough time because I didn’t want to miss my flight home. Summer vacation had a whole new importance for me now. Before my ‘little’ change and Whateley school experience, summer vacation was simply time off from school and while cool, my previous summer breaks didn’t seem to mean as much. Okay, summer vacation was something I looked forward to each year, but I just don’t know how to put my feelings into words because I think I’m feeling extremely homesick right now.  I guess that was the main difference, I wasn’t home.

Instead of simply getting off the school bus and walking the short distance to my house, I was in a small, regional airport dragging far more luggage than any girl should be capable of dragging. What’s worse, I don’t know why I have so many darn clothes or why I should care about them. Okay, there are a few outfits I really like and I need my school and team uniforms, but why do I have 22 pairs of panties, 15 bras and 30 different pairs of socks?

Out of all those undergarments, barely half were white. Why did I have to have so many different colors and why did they have to match? Okay, I know, I know, silly question. I had to admit, I did need more bras because there appeared to be some unwritten rule about not wearing the same bra twice and washing those puppies was a real pain because you can’t just toss them in the washer. Oh no, you had to use a special mesh bag to keep them from getting wrecked.  It had to be a conspiracy or something to make women buy more bras.

I didn’t even want to go into all the special washing instructions. Why did a random half of my wardrobe have to be delicate or dry clean only? What happened to the simple, colors and whites pile my mom made me sort my dirty clothes into?

Sigh

I got off track.  So many things happened to me over the past few months. Okay, homesick. Yes, I felt homesick and couldn’t wait to see my family, even my little pain in the butt sister. She better not have grown any because the inch or two she had on me was bad enough!

Dang it, I did it again.  Homesick, check. I think I have established that emotion. Oh wait; I also missed my best friend, John and his BGFE, Lisa.

Groan

I think I’ve been hanging around too many girls because I cannot believe I just used that acronym for Lisa. Best Girlfriend For Ever, what the hell?  I totally need this vacation to detoxify my brain. I’ll hang with John; we’ll blow crap up on the Xbox, watch some good testosterone filled action movies where stuff blows up and just hang. No talking about hair, makeup, clothes or boys. Especially no boys, not even the cute ones.

Yes, I’ve discovered I like boys. Wait for it...and girls and I’m totally okay with the last one because girls are so much more attractive to me than boys are, but there was one boy in my class who kind of made my insides turn to jelly, I think. I mean, I caught a glimpse of mister tall, dark and handsome without his shirt on and wow, was he cut. It took all of my willpower to not run over and touch his rock hard abs or do something embarrassing like get caught staring at him. I have a photographic memory for a reason, don’t you know? Isn’t it amazing how many things could happen and what random thoughts could run through my head in the short trip from the drop off point to the airline ticket counter?

“Miss? I can take you over here.” I heard a woman’s voice off to my right.

Oh, hey, it was the airline ticket lady and wow, she was beautiful. Not exemplar babe beautiful, but beautiful enough to be a model and I caught myself wondering if she was wearing heels. I wore my mostly sensible wedge heel boots, but I wouldn’t want to try running a marathon in them. I’ve practiced in them enough; they shouldn’t slow me down if I have to fight. Not that I would ever plan on getting into a fight in the freaking airport.  That’s crazy talk.

Speaking of silly shoes, I wore some four and a half inch stiletto style heels during the dance last month. Yes, I danced with a boy and it didn’t kill me. Steve, aka Mechano-Man, the boy with the rock hard abs I mentioned earlier. I’m almost ashamed to admit it, but I kinda liked being held in his strong arms and breathing in the subtle scent of his cologne. Where was I? Oh yeah, high heels, those weren’t so bad and it was nice to be tall again, but I certainly wouldn’t want to have to wear those kind of shoes all day.

I pulled my two large rolling bags plus my carry on and laptop backpack over to her counter. No purse, I used my laptop backpack to hold my wallet. I pretended to struggle a little with my bags as I set them on the scales. The scales registered 122.5 lbs. This is going to cost me. Well, cost Uncle Sam because they are paying for the flight. Her eyes momentarily widened with surprise when I handed her my spiffy military ID card plus my Military Mutant ID card.

“Did anyone unknown to you pack your bags or have they left your sight since they have been packed?” She asked me the standard question.

Really? Do people let unknown people pack their bags? “Hey, random street person, can you come here and pack my bag for me?”  Yeah, right.

“No, ma’am.” I politely replied.

She seemed a little taken aback and surprised by my address, or maybe insulted because ‘ma’am’ is also code for ‘old person’. “Okay, umm, the excess baggage fee will be $100. How would you like to pay for it?”

“With this, please.” I handed her my government issued credit card.

After she tagged and struggled to get my bags on the conveyor belt, the nice lady handed me my boarding pass and I was free to run the MCO’s ‘enhanced’ security gauntlet. I wasn’t sure if my nanites would set off the metal detectors, but if they did, I had a note from my doctor. If they decided to try running me through the full body scanner, I had a note for that too.  Under no circumstances was anyone authorized to scan my body with one of those things.  If they tried to detain me, I have a note for that too, but if things got that far, it probably wouldn’t help.

However; I knew my rights and the most they could legally detain me without charges was one hour. Of course, the MCO wasn’t known to follow the rules, but I had a contingency plan, just in case. Before I placed my laptop and carry-on bag onto the conveyor, I pulled out a manila folder containing my weapons of red tape.

Expecting red lights to flash and sirens to blare, I nervously slotted my MMID into the MCO’s card reader and surprisingly, the light quickly turned green and the machine beeped at me. The MCO inspector impatiently motioned for me to proceed through the metal detector. I made it through the metal detector without a single beep.

“Miss, I’m sorry.” The MCO inspector’s voice dripped with insincerity as he undressed me with his eyes. “But, for security purposes, I’m going to have to ask you to step into the scanner over there.” He pointed to the full body scanner.  The perv probably wanted to get with his buddy operating the scanner to look at my nudie picture after his shift, or maybe right away. Who knew?

I confused him when I opened my folder and hand him a Department of Defense document. I also displayed my Military MID card as well as my Military ID card. “I’m sorry sir, but I am not authorized to comply with your request.”

He motioned one of his co-workers over and showed him the document. The other man shrugged his shoulders. “I guess we can’t, but that means ‘we’ will have to do a full body pat down.”

His buddy used the ‘royal we’ there, causing the man’s eyes to light up with glee. I got a perv vibe from him and I was pretty sure I knew what he was thinking. “Oh goodie, I can legally grope this little girl.

“Well, then young lady, I’m afraid I’m going to have to perform a full body pat down search.” Mr. Perv’s voice dripped with insincerity.

I confused him once again by happily smiling at him as I shook my head no. “I’m sorry sir, but as a minor and unaccompanied female, I must decline to allow you to do that. However; per regulation A.23-1, I am willing to allow a female agent to perform the requested pat down.”

I was pretty sure they didn’t have a female agent on duty and he wanted to do some inappropriate touches because he got a tad upset with me. “Listen here, young lady. You might think you know your rights, but this is the MCO and if we think you are a danger to the safe operation of an airline, we are authorized to do whatever we need to insure the public’s safety!” He took a step toward me.

>U.S.Army/RA/SSGT/E-6/Anthony/Brian/Kramer/xxx-xx-xxxx/O+/FALSE

>U.S.Army/RA/SGT/E-5/Phillip/Jonathan/Williams/xxx-xx-xxxx/B-/FALSE

Ahh, good, my plan D was here. I took half a step back and pointed behind him.  His co-worker was trying to get his attention because there were two uniformed and armed military policemen standing behind him.

“Sir, you’re not planning on causing a breach in the MCO Force Authorization Treaty by attempting to detain Cadet Peterson while she is on official orders from the Unites States Department of Defense, are you?” SSgt Kramer asked.

>Alert!

>MCO Armored Reaction Force power signatures detected!

>Localizing…

>Signatures of two MCO Powered Assault Armor Model MCO-MA1-B detected.

>ETA 20 seconds

Just when I thought everything was good to go, it was time for Murphy to pop up. On the plus side, it’s the MA1-B model, but I knew I should’ve been worried when their scanner accepted my MMID badge so quickly. Time for me to implement Plan E, connect with the DOD’s servers and bring General Evans into the loop. I also needed to come up with a Go-To-Hell Plan and the armor model gave me an idea.

>Initiating connection…Link Established.

>Combat, Command and Control systems...online.

“Incoming…” I sighed and motioned for the MP’s to take cover. They reacted instantly while the MCO agents just looked lost and confused because there is nothing on their screens that would give away the fact that they had two of their most dangerous toys barreling down on us right now.

{“Whisper, what’s the situation?”}

{“Uploading the data now sir, but it appears like the MCO is still upset with me. I detected the power signatures of two MCO Powered Assault suits incoming. Sgt Williams and SSgt Kramer are here with me.”}

>ETA 5 seconds

The lights in the area finally started flashing red as blast barriers dropped into place to protect the public from harm, or keep me from escaping. My link to General Evans temporarily dropped when the MCO kicked in some military grade jammers in an attempt to limit my ability to call for help. It took me less than a second to bypass and resume communication with General Evans. The jammers were pretty darn powerful and I figured the FAA was probably going to be pissed at the MCO.

{“Sorry sir, they attempted to jam our communications. I had to reroute. They are probably messing up air traffic control right now.”}

Blast doors slid open with a whoosh, revealing the expected suits of powered assault armor. The two men confidently stepped out and I watched as their weapons tried to lock on to me, and failed.

Phew!

They were determined enough to try manually aiming their electrified capture-net stun gun cannons at me. At that point, I wasn’t worried because I could read everything they and their system was trying to do. They pressed the triggers, but their friend or foe system wouldn’t let them activate their weapon with me in the cross hairs. Thanks to the MCO’s paranoia, their system also wouldn’t allow them to override it without command authorization.

Ha! I wasn’t sure if what I did in Arena 99 with the Grunts would work in real life.

The two of them were a little confused. {“Control, this is Grumman. Our weapons are inop. Please advise.”}

Someone in their chain of command replied almost immediately and they sounded a little stressed out. {“Holy fucking shit!  Grumman and Legman, stand down! Please tell me you didn’t fire on her!”}

Just to add to the confusion, I gave the pair my friendliest, most innocent smile. “I’m glad you guys aren’t all trigger happy because I think the Secretary of Defense and maybe even the President is really pissed off at your boss right now.”

~o~O~o~

[1600hrs Thursday, 17-May-2007 - Arena 99 - Whateley Academy]

I stood next to Gunny Bardue in the well-equipped Arena 99 briefing room. Arena 99 isn’t a holodeck, but it’s the next best thing to one.  The inside of the arena is the size of two football fields, in each direction. So, I guess it could be said it is really four football fields.

The floor is broken into ten by ten foot squares. Below the squares are a series of hydraulic lifts that can be raised to a height of a five story building. The blocks are used to create city streets or any other terrain the Arena 99 programmers wish to simulate. Once raised, the blocks are wrapped with a force field to give it 'solidness'. The force field is then painted with projected holograms for visual effects. The arena is then further 'dressed' with plants, signs and other props to complete the illusion.

A city isn’t a city without people and Arena 99 has that covered too. Robotic characters, called ANTS bots, are used to fill a scenario.  The ANTS bots are programmed to act as bystanders, victims, or enemy combatants.

This was my first time in the Arena briefing room. So, all the technology kind of distracted me until the Grunts started to file into the room. Breaker, their current leader was first, followed by Deadeye, Bomber, Mule, Slapdash and the only female member, Bunker.

I wore my custom designed, black “Special Ops” uniform and carried a matched pair of FNX™ -45’s in shoulder holsters. I wanted to go with the movie Beretta’s I used in my simulator, but I was talked into trying the 45’s by Sam Everheart. She claimed they had more stopping power. The stopping power thing sounded good, but instead of asking her what it meant and looking like a noob, I had to look the term up. Summary, more stopping power equals good!

It made me glad Whateley had such a large arsenal to choose from and was willing to allow students to train with all kinds of different weapons. My old public school would’ve had a cow if a student was playing around and used their fingers to mime pointing a firearm at someone. 

Of course, the ‘experts’ viewed my carrying of two pistols as ‘noobish’ at best or outright criminally stupid because it wasn’t practical to fire two pistols at the same time. It was showboating and stuff like that only happened in the movies. Gunny held a similar low opinion of my choice, until he tried to prove to me how stupid it was to even consider wielding twin pistols. My private demonstration left him speechless and he never said another word to me about it. I think he was secretly waiting for one of the other Grunts to challenge me to a shooting match.

“Gunny, why is the FN-, umm, Whisper here?” Bunker surprised me by asking the question I’m sure everyone else was thinking.

Unofficially, I knew a lot more about her and the rest of the team than I was probably allowed to, but there was no need to piss her off by dropping her name when she viewed me with disdain and referred to me as a FNG or Fucking New Guy.  Andrea Elsner, aka Bunker-Buster, Bunker for short. Besides me, she’s the most junior member of the JROTC squad. She’s shorter than me by an inch and I put her solidly in the cute category. Not in the super-model category like the exemplar babes, but outside of Whateley, I think she would turn a few heads.  She likes blowing stuff up with rocket launchers. Not the way I would go about handling things, but effective.

Of all of them, only Deadeye seemed happy to see me, but he’s the only one who has even bothered giving me the time of the day or offering his assistance on the range. I think it’s because he’s their sniper and he views me as a kindred soul, but I could be wrong because I’m most definitely not cold enough to be a sniper.

Gunny glanced to Breaker, the current leader of the Grunts.  “Whisper is here because the people who pay your scholarships want her to be here, she needs the experience and while she will not be taking part in your combat finals this year; she will be a full member next year. Any other stupid questions?”

They grumbled a little amongst themselves, but settled down, and then Sara walked into the room and their tension levels rose immediately into the red zone.  I guessed they didn’t like Sara for some reason.  It took all my willpower to not smile or react to her presence. After all, she’s an evil demon and everyone knows that, but all I really wanted to do was run over and give her a quick hug.

“Oh, goodie, fresh meat.” Sara licked her lips and smiled at me before turned her attention to Gunny Bardue. “Hi, Gunny, are your little cupcakes ready for the oven?”

“God damn it! What in the fuck is she doing here?!?” Bunker scowled at Sara and gripped her rocket launcher tightly.

“Stow it, Bunker!” Gunny glared at her using his best drill sergeant expression. “Because if that is all it takes to get your head out of the game, then you can sit this exercise out, got it?!?”

I have to admit, for a baseline human, the man was extremely effective at being intimidating. Bunker stiffened to attention. “Sir, aye sir!”

“Sara is here as an observer only. She has not had any input into the design of this scenario. So, you all can relax on that front, but don’t think it’s going to be a walk in the park either!” Gunny smiled a Cheshire cat grin causing them all to blanch a little.

Gunny left my side and walked over to the map projected on the huge LED TV. “This is the OP zone.”  A decent sized city appeared as if viewed from 10,000 feet. He touched the screen and the map zoomed in on an industrial area. “A hostile force has managed to take over an MCO weapons dump and are currently loading an MCO heavy lift shuttle with the intent to sell the MCO hardware on the black market. Your team is the closest available and you mission is simple. Prevent the scumbags from taking off for ten minutes so that the MCO’s own fast reaction force can stop them.  You have five minutes to plan and four of them are already gone!”

I felt a little miffed, but not at all surprised when the Grunts ignored me as they formulated their plans. Instead of pouting about the expected outcome, I studied the map, added the Grunts to my Command, Control and Communications system. We all wore the same helmet with an attached heads-up display and low-light vision system integrated to the comm system.  Maybe they would add me to their network so I could help them take advantage of my C³ capabilities to help them keep track of each other and the enemy.

It was up to Breaker to allow me to join their network, but he ignored the ping request from my system. I could see their data, but I couldn’t help them coordinate their tactical data. It was pointless for me try and call out the stupidity of ignoring a possible asset. The Fucking New Guy wasn’t supposed to know enough to argue with a superior officer.

I shrugged, connected my system to Gunny’s system and downloaded all of the known tactical data as well as the inventory data for the supply dump. They had a lot of heavy weaponry on the list, but I expected there would be a few “off-list” items. I hated surprises and I figured there could be a lot of nasty ones hidden there. Next, I looked up the specs on all of the expected hardware, arms and equipment I found in the MCO’s inventory. 

There were 18 known hostiles and in addition to a lot of heavy weapons, the base had 6 of the MCO’s specially designed model: MCO-MA1-B Powered Assault Suits. The MCO suits were designed specifically to take down mutants and from my adventure in the mall, I knew those suits where pretty locked down and needed a biometric based password to access them.  The person wearing the suit also needed to be trained. You couldn’t simply step into a suit and start blasting stuff without falling flat on your armored ass.

The Grunts seemed to know that also because they dismissed the suits and concentrated on the non-powered armor and heavy duty anti-mutant weapons as being the primary threats.  They only needed to disable the shuttle and prevent the hostiles from escaping.

With one minute left before we were “dropped” into the frying pan, I snuck a glance at Sara.  She winked and gave me one of her patented smirks before turning her attention back to the Grunts and their plans. No one else saw her, but if they had, they probably would’ve assumed she was trying to freak me out instead of give me a much needed dose of encouragement. It made me feel a little better about things because this was the closest I had been able to be to her since my arrival at Whateley.

She visited me once or twice a week in my VR space, but it wasn’t the same.  I hated having to pretend to have the heebie-jeebies for her like all of the other kids at school, but based on everyone else’s reactions to her; I guess it was for the better.  Okay, I will admit that she did make me gasp with horror the first time I watched her “eat” a puppy in the cafeteria, but I think she only did it for the shock value and as a preemptive strike against people who might think about taking her on.

I followed the Grunts out of the briefing room and into a square box attached to a crane system that was designed to simulate a helicopter.  The holograms activated and the effect was very realistic. It looked, felt and sounded like we were really about to be inserted into the town by a helicopter. “Whisper, your job is simple. I have you on mute to prevent any distractions. Stay back and keep out of the way, got it?” Breaker stared into my eyes.

I nodded acceptance. “Got it.”

Hey, even if I didn’t do anything, it beat watching the action from the control room. I might even learn something.  I still didn’t trust Gunny to not have a nasty surprise for us. He made it sound far too easy, but I’m just the FNG; what do I know? It would have been nice if they had at least made an effort to ask what I could do. They only knew the public information about my powers.  Officially, I was still only Wizard level 1 rated, Gadgeteer level 2 without any gadgets and some unknown and untrained Empathetic level 3 rating, but with an Exemplar 4 rating; I would expect them to at least try and use me for something. Admittedly, I looked pretty lame on paper because my real ratings were Top Secret, but since I’m supposed to work with them, I’m pretty sure I was authorized to tell them most of the top secret stuff.

Oh well.

Bomber jumped out and provided a distraction to allow Deadeye to be dropped off on a rooftop with a good line of sight to the shuttle. As soon as he rappelled down to the rooftop, our ‘pilot’ dropped down in the middle of an intersection and the rest of us rappelled out of the ‘helicopter’.  It was only 4.4 meters to the street below. I contemplated jumping down, but decided to follow everyone else’s lead. No point in showboating when Mule, Slapdash and Breaker probably could have jumped themselves.

My system automatically cataloged and tracked the enemy using the data from Bomber’s mad flight over their position.  There were 5 enemy combatants wearing unpowered armor and carrying miniature plasma guns moving to engage us.  Using Bomber’s data, I spotted two enemy snipers, but Bomber only reported the one he saw with his own eyeballs. Deadeye took out the first sniper, but the second sniper took out Deadeye.

Deadeye’s removal pissed off Bomber. He used his own initiative to fly up and take out the second sniper.  It was a good thing he flew fast and was mostly immune to plasma bolts because he took a lot of counter fire by the bad guys. It worked out because his distraction allowed the rest of the team to quickly eliminate the 5 guys shooting at him.

Since I wasn’t part of the plan, I decided to use the distraction provided by the Grunts to go invisible and scout ahead, far ahead because I didn’t want to accidently be caught by one of Bunker’s rockets. I had been practicing the invisibility spell a lot and used it to get around campus. It was kind of fun to dodge people, but also kind of a pain sometimes, literally, because having a speedster run into you hurt. After the speedster accident, I decided to go with simple illusions to modify my features just enough to make it more difficult for people to recognize me and guess my movement patterns.

As a result of all my practice, I was able to maintain invisibility pretty much as long as I wanted, until I attacked someone, then it would drop on it’s own. I needed to work on that little weakness because being able to stay invisible while attacking someone could be very decisive. I had also done a lot of testing and found my invisibility worked for all spectrums of light. Sonar or radar was a weakness, but not many people used sonar and for radar, I could probably get some stealth clothes, or something. 

I quickly found the remaining 11 bad guys. Against all odds, five of them were wearing the MCO-MA1-B suits and they appeared to be in full control of them. They were arranged in position to ambush the Grunts while the remaining 6 hostiles feverishly worked to finish loading the shuttle.

I marked them all, highlighted the suits and I could’ve overridden Breaker’s mute on my channel, but it was a learning experience.  Maybe they had a plan for how to deal with these guys and if so, I’m sure it would be interesting to watch.  The enemy’s ambush instantly took out Bunker and Slapdash. Bomber fell a few seconds later, but he managed to take down one of the two suits targeting him. Mule and Breaker lasted a few minutes longer, but while they were slugging it out with the remaining 4 suits; I decided to ignore the rules and help out.

>New mission parameters accepted...

>Assessing Enemy Target Threat Ratings...

>Assigning Enemy Target Priority...

The six guys loading the shuttle proved to be ridiculously easy to take down. They weren’t wearing any armor and their hands were full with heavy boxes of arms, ammo and equipment. I simply dropped my invisibility and ‘serviced my targets’. I had to admit, the military lingo and euphemisms were kind of amusing. Time slowed to a crawl for me as I lined up each target in order. One shot, one kill and the shuttle was secured by me in 0.6841 seconds. Of course, I knew the people I just killed were really robots, but the ease at which I eliminated them from up close and personal range made me wonder why I had a problem with sniping.

Now, all I had to do was watch Mule and Breaker duke it out with the suits. After Mule got webbed and disabled, I suspected things wouldn’t go their way. I touched one of the unused suits and was a little surprised to discover it was a real suit, not a prop. Where in the heck did Whateley get a hold of real MCO suits?

Oh well, it should make the hairball plan I was considering a little more likely to succeed. With that in mind, I copied its RFID number. Theoretically, I would now appear as a friend on the other guy’s targeting system and based on how paranoid the MCO was, they wouldn’t be able to fire at me.

I opened up a box of electromagnetic anti-tank mines and extracted four. Each mine was 12 inches in diameter, three inches thick and weighed a solid 20 pounds.

Breaker destroyed another suit and I put one mine back in the box.  I recast my invisibility and ran toward the battle with three mines in hand. It was a good thing I was stronger than I looked because 60 pounds of high explosive frisbees was heavy.  My invisibility broke when I slapped a mine on the first suit. Attaching the mine also made a loud clanging noise, but I managed to slap a mine onto the back of a second suit before the ANTS controlled MCO suits realized I was there.  Breaker looked like he was on his last legs and when the third suit stopped slugging it out with him to turn to fire at me; he was too exhausted to do more than stumble forward in an attempt to stop it.

Hey, at least he tried to look out for me. The suit’s massive cannon was pointed right at me, but it didn’t fire. I dared to stick my tongue out at it as I slid to home between his legs, popped up behind him and attached the mine to his back with a solid thunk sound.  At this point, all of the guys in the suits were desperately trying to reach behind their backs and pull off the mines. Their antics were kind of comical and made me giggle.

“Hit the deck!” I yelled as I jumped into the open window of a nearby building and activated the mines.

KaBoom!

Well, Kaboom is what I was expecting, but I guess the suits were expensive because instead of the earth shattering kaboom, the suits froze and all of the lights in the arena flooded to life.

“Well, that was a clusterfuck.” Gunny Bardue’s voice announced over the PA system. “Exercise complete, return to the briefing room.”

“Bummer, well, that was fun and I bet they’re pissed at me now.” I muttered under my breath as I followed Breaker and the rest of the Grunts for the After Action Review/Ass Chewing.

After the Grunts, minus Deadeye, and I trudged back into the briefing room, Deadeye surprised me and everyone else by rushing forward and lifting me off my feet with an enthusiastic hug. “Holy fucking shit Whisper, that was fucktastically amazing!”

Gunny cleared his throat to get everyone’s attention. “Yes, that was one fucktastically tragic clusterfuck! Where did you all screw the pooch?”

Bomber raised his hand. “It was my fault sir. I missed the second sniper. It all kinda went downhill after that.”

Gunny nodded. “Nice of you to notice, but nope, that wasn’t it.” He glanced at the rest of the team, pausing at each of them, but his eyes slid past me without a pause.

“Anyone?”

“I screwed up by running into an ambush by the powered suits. I should’ve expected the possibility that the enemy might be able to use them.” Breaker grudgingly admitted.

Gunny and Sara laughed while Deadeye snuck a glance at me and winked. I’m guessing that since Deadeye “died” first, he had been able to make it back and watch the rest of the battle from the control room.

“Shut the fuck up bitch.” Bunker scowled at Sara. “You’re the last creature that has the right to laugh at us.”

Oh yeah, Bunker really didn’t like Sara.

“Can it Bunker!” Gunny yelled, slamming his clipboard down on a nearby desk with a bang that got everyone’s attention. “It’s that attitude plus the rest of the team’s attitude toward the ‘FNG’ as you like to euphemistically refer to her that caused this little amateur hour disaster.”

Now the Grunts were all looking at me like I was the one who made them to fail, even though we technically won. If I had ignored Breaker’s order and forced the data onto the team, none of this would’ve happened. “Umm, well, it was probably my fault. I guess I should’ve stood up for myself a little more?”

Sara giggled, drawing everyone’s attention away from me. Phew. “Isn’t little Whisper so delightfully fresh and innocent?  She just makes me wanna eat her up!” She stood and excitedly clapped her hands together as if she was actually considering the idea.

Bunker surprised me by edging herself protectively between me and Sara, but I knew better. Sara really meant she wanted to give me a hug, I hope. I also needed to look up the records on the history between Sara and the Grunts because Bunker really hated her guts for some reason. 

Sara caught Bunker’s gesture and smirked with satisfaction before she turned back and started the replay of the mission. She paused it when Bomber flew over the enemy’s position. Both of the snipers were clearly visible in the targeting system here.

“Shit! It was pretty obvious there, but I swear, I never saw the bastard!” Bomber raised his hands with disgust.

Sara turned back to him. “No, you didn’t, but Whisper did.”

Once again, they all looked at me, their eyes accusing me of not speaking up.

“Damn it!” Gunny yelled, gaining their attention again. “Don’t you all fucking get it? It’s plain as fucking day for anyone with half a brain!” 

Deadeye glanced back at me. “Sir, it was-”

“Not you…” Gunny interrupted him and glared at Breaker for a second before he motioned for Sara to continue the replay.

This time, he let it play all the way to the end. “Okay, now, does anyone besides Deadeye and Whisper know exactly when and how you all fucked up?”

“Oh, I do, I do!” Sara gleefully taunted the Grunts.  She really was evil, but geez, I missed her.

“Breaker?” Gunny asked, expectantly.

Breaker gulped, glanced back at me, hesitantly nodded and sighed with defeat. “Yes sir, it was during the briefing when I ignored her request to join our network as a peer, and then it was compounded when I muted her line.”

Gunny’s pleased smile hinted at more pain to come for the Grunts. “Yes, that was probably the biggest set of mistakes, but why in the hell didn’t you even try to include Whisper in the op-plan?!?”

Slapdash jumped to his leader’s defense. “But, we’ve all looked at her MID. Sure, she’s an EX-4 with some other minor powers, but she’s nothing special. Sorry, but maybe if she was more than a WIZ-1? The rest is stamped “Classified”. How could we have known?”

“Oh, only a Wizard 1!?” Gunny smirked. “Who in the hell has been tutoring her and who is her magic studies mentor?”

“Fey and Sir Wallace?” Breaker asked, hesitantly answering the question.

“Do you really think either of those two would waste their time with a Wiz-1?”

“No…” Half of the team mumbled.

Gunny turned to me. “Whisper, what’s your real rating?”

“Umm…” I glanced helplessly to Sara for a second.

“Don’t worry, none of the Grunts will blab, right?” Gunny glared at them as they readily agreed with him.

“Wizard 4, maybe a 5. Fey thinks it might go that high with more training,” All of their jaws dropped with shock. “But, I seem to be limited to mostly illusion based spells.” I tried to make it sound like it wasn’t all that great.

Gunny simply smirked at my dissemination attempt. “Yeah, because invisible units on the battlefield aren’t useful at all…”

Gunny Bardue proceeded to dissect the rest of the action with laser precision. I didn’t escape unscathed. He yelled at me for trusting the MCO’s Friend or Foe system as much as I did, but praised me for taking the chance. My C³ and signals systems became known to the Grunts. They saw how useful it might be to have a mobile C³ system with them on missions, but they really thought my Hollywood ability to target and fire two weapons independently of each other was the best.  I guess I got off lucky and it felt kind of nice when the Grunts asked me to join them at their table for lunch the next day.

~o~O~o~

[1034 hrs - Saturday 9-Jun-2007 - Manchester-Boston Regional Airport ]

I wasn’t sure if the President got involved, but it still took an hour of negotiations between folks very high up on the food chain before the MCO apologized for the ‘glitch’ in their system, yeah right, and released me and my two MPs from lockdown. I received a lot of curious glances and a few hostile stares as I exited the MCO Containment area followed by my two MPs.

The Power Armor equipped MCO guys stayed behind, but four plain clothes MCO agents paced a discrete distance behind. Not very subtle if you asked me, but I think the MCO leadership was feeling a little nervous. Things had not been going well for them the last couple of months and except for the lives lost, I didn’t have an ounce of sympathy for them.

Good news, even with the MCO’s hour plus delay, I didn’t miss my flight. Bad news, the MCO’s jammers screwed everyone up and I had to wait at the gate for an extra two hours. More good news, the gate attendant upgraded me to an unbooked first class seat and I got to board first. I think she saw all my ‘fans’ and just wanted to keep me away from the other the passengers.

I felt pretty happy and optimistic about finally getting home, but Murphy has other ideas because who did I see enter the cabin and lock onto me almost immediately? Was it another MCO dude in power armor coming to shoot me?

“Princess Brianna!”  Everyone in the first class section, the flight attendants and the passengers trying to board turned to look at me.

No, it was worse. It was ‘Princess’ Olivia.  What were the odds?

~o~O~o~



If you liked this post, you can leave a comment and/or a kudos!
Click the Thumbs Up! button below to leave the author a kudos:
up
395 users have voted.

And please, remember to comment, too! Thanks. 
This story is 8810 words long.