“Among the Shine Clan” is a short story I wrote about a year ago. It is set in the not too distant future, where cybernetic body parts have become commonplace. The world has changed a lot in the last decade, from Global Warming, tidal waves, and a devastating war with the Chinese. People have become more secretive and clannish, protecting themselves from marauders, but also from their own government. Fiddlestix is in the Army of North America (an alliance formed to better combat the Chinese.) This is her tale, so I’ll let her tell it. ~ Dellani (This story is not appropriate for children under 14.)
It wasn’t going to be a very good day, Fiddlestix could tell already. Not even 0800 and already she’d had five serious confrontations, three semi-serious and two minimal ones. She hated days that started by putting her people on report, but the mission had everyone on edge, including her.
Admittedly, some of the confrontations had been her fault. She had just finished a briefing with General McLain and wasn’t in much of a mood to be messed with. Nine heavily cybered soldiers and their semi-psychotic handler had gone AWOL nearly three days ago. Their last known position was deep in the Appalachian Mountains of eastern Tennessee in an area known to be owned and protected by an organization who called themselves the Shine Clan.
The Shine Clan held to the principle that “The South Shall Rise Again”. They hated to admit that the War Between the States was over, and that their side lost. They were highly intolerant of outside control or contact, deciding long ago that they had no need for a corrupt government.
It was an attitude that Fiddlestix could understand, finding herself less than impressed with the United States leaders in the year of our Lord 2047. As a member of an elite attack force in the Army of North America, she wasn’t in a position to voice her discontent, but that didn’t stop her thinking that not only were the leaders corrupt, they were downright stupid.
This opinion extended to General McLain. No, she corrected herself, it started with McLain and ended with the President. After a brief confab, the general and his buddy, President Bob Harmon, had decided that Fiddlestix and her squad were going to infiltrate the Shine Clan territory, track down the cyber unit and bring them back alive, but incapacitated. She had codes to shut them down, but she had to find them first. The failsafe had to be initiated with face to face contact.
“Proper prior planning prevents piss poor performance,” she muttered as she checked her equipment the last time.
“Hey, Gunny,” her corporal yelled.
“Yeah, Kaz. What?”
Corporal Walter Kazinski dog trotted over to her side. “We’re set, Gunny. Everybody’s loaded up and ready to go.”
“Great. Tell Lieutenant Frieze.”
“He ain’t goin’.”
“What?” She blinked hard, trying to focus on his face as she processed what he’d said. “Frieze isn’t going? When did this happen?”
“About twenty minutes after you went to talk to McLain. He pulled a muscle or something on the wall. He says he can’t possibly function or some such bullshit. He ain’t goin’.”
“Jesus, Mary and Joseph,” she growled. “Give me ten minutes with him. He’s going or I’ll blow his balls off.” She stormed out of the barracks, yelling over her shoulder. “Stow my gear!”
“Yes, Gunny!” He grabbed her kit and ran back to the waiting airship.
Lieutenant Myron Frieze wasn’t career Army. He was some geek who’d signed on for a minimum stint because he’d been in college on the Army ROTC program and needed to pay the government back for his education. He was a bigger idiot than McLain and even more cowardly.
“Pulled a muscle my Aunt Fanny! Piece of chicken shit doesn’t want to go. I’ll kill him. Then they can throw me in the brig and I won’t have to go either!”
The mission wasn’t sitting well with her. She was to a point that she didn’t want to have anything to do with the Shine Clan, the cyber unit, the Army, or more particularly, General McLain.
Frieze wasn’t in his quarters. She found him in the infirmary so doped on pain killers that he wasn’t capable of conscious thought.
“Is he really injured?” She demanded of the doctor who was a friend of hers.
In point of fact, she and Brant Henry were occasional lovers. He’d tell her anything with the right persuasion. She used that now, playing up to him and stroking his thigh under the edge of the table where no one else could see. Brant fidgeted under her erotic touch. There was power in her fingers and he didn’t even want to think what she was capable of if he disappointed her.
“He came in complaining of a pulled muscle. Honest, Stix, I couldn’t find evidence of it, no matter what tests I ran. He didn’t have a bump, bruise, strain or bulge,” his voice caught and he gasped as her hand moved up his thigh. “Nothing, babe, I swear. He’s as healthy as you or me.”
“But yet he’s doped to the gillies, why’s that?”
“He insisted. Low pain tolerance, he claims.”
“Is that in addition to his yellow streak and cold feet?”
Brant chuckled seductively. He held the same opinion of Frieze and McLain that she did. His hand fell on hers gently, holding it at the top of his thigh, moving her fingers between his legs a bit.
“Hey, why don’t you come by later? I get off shift at 1900.”
“I can’t. We’re ready to bug out. I have to go.”
“Will you come by if you get back?” He turned worried grey eyes to hers. “I don’t have a good feeling about this, Hannah.” He only used her given name when he was concerned.
“When I get back, I’ll come see you.”
“Be safe, Hannah. I know you’re not religious, but I’ll be praying for you.”
Heedless of what others might think of him associating with a non-commissioned officer, he leaned over and kissed her lingeringly. “Be careful. Listen to that little, paranoid voice of yours and do exactly what it says. I’ve never known your hunches to be wrong, Hannah.”
“I’ll be careful, Brant. I promise.”
She left the infirmary, feeling even less confident than before. Muttering and mumbling to herself, she nearly walked into Captain Ingrid Bark. The captain stopped her with one arm, nearly clotheslining her.
“Whoa,” she said sharply, grabbing Fiddlestix by the shoulder. “What’s up? I heard your squad is going into combat without Frieze?”
“He claims he’s injured, ma’am.”
“Does he really?” She didn’t like Frieze either.
“Let’s just say that I’m skeptical, shall we?” Never one to gossip, she wasn’t going to start now.
“Do you need me to go?”
“No, Captain. I can handle it. Do me a favor though?”
“Anything, name it.”
“Watch my back. Have me a way out. I don’t like this one, Ingrid. This is not wise, entering Shine Clan territory without asking. It could be construed as an act of war, and that’s a giant we don’t want to wake. We have no idea what their actual manpower is.”
“McLain can’t contact them?”
Fiddlestix shrugged. “Can’t or won’t. Take your pick. I need to go. Thanks for your help.”
“Come back safe, Hannah. I’ll get the ball rolling for you before you lift off.”
Fiddlestix tried to smile, but it was nearly impossible. She ran to the airship just as Kaz was jumping out to come after her.
“What about Frieze?”
“He’s not coming.”
“I got that. Is he really hurt?”
She gave him a level look. Kaz turned away, bellowing at the members of the elite force.
“Heads up! Gunny’s in charge! Sit down, shut up, mind your manners!”
The airships took off, carrying them in stages to the drop point. Twenty miles from the target, they were unceremoniously jerked out the back in a low altitude drop that left Fiddlestix slightly bruised and breathless. After her people regrouped, she did a headcount, ordering everyone to take a few minutes to eat. She would have preferred to take a smaller group, no more than twenty well trained men and women, into the mountains.
Upwards of forty were too many to keep track of. They were nervous and that made them unpredictable. Going after the cyber unit was scary enough, but the idea of going into hostile territory to get them made it worse.
“I have the feeling I’ve got cross hairs trained on me,” she mused, not voicing her disquiet to her people.
Her attitude was cocky and confident. She was damned if her troops were going to see her scared. Her gut might be tied in knots, but they wouldn’t know it. She’d learned a long time ago that the leader’s worry could transmit itself to the troops.
Less than five miles in, strange things started to happen. Kaz contacted her over her headset. He wasn’t very clear and his signal was breaking up.
“Talk to me, Kaz.”
“The point team just disappeared.”
“Do you mean you lost sight of them?”
“No, Gunny. They fuckin’ disappeared. Right off my screen.
I sent Diaz and Harmony out to look for them, nothing. No sign.”
“On my way.”
(For part 2, please visit http://writersanctuary.blogspot.com/ )