Gender: N/A Age: N/A Location: N/A
|Introduction: Not my story|
Chasing Wild Geese
Ron tossed and turned in his bed, alone that night as he had been for a long time. He couldn’t get past the events of the last months, and the dreams...
... They were in Miami. The city was being destroyed. People had not listened to their warning, and so the city was still heavily populated when the Russians attacked. Although the sides were evenly matched, the Russians were playing by a far looser set of rules. The civilian population was used as ammunition by the FC, hurtling them at PPA troops. As the Americans tried to save the lives of the civilians, they had lost their own, in turn killing the civilian anyway.
The battle was well underway, and that was when Ron made his mistake. Twenty or so Russians pushed over a giant office building, loaded with panicking people. Ron tried to stop the building from falling. It was a foolish effort; there was no way he could have held the building upright. Seeing his dilemma, Kim had come to aid him. In the struggle of forces trying to hold the structure together versus those trying to topple it, the building had simply disintegrated. It was not built to withstand such pressures. It toppled in their direction, and he’d had all he could do to save his own skin. He saw her falling, being buried under a huge pile of debris...
“NO!” he screamed, bolting upright in bed. His heart was racing, his skin covered in a cold sweat. His breath came in heaving gasps. His eyes scanned the darkness for any sign of an enemy, before he remembered his dream.
And then he wished he could forget. It had been over three months since the battle in Los Angeles, during which time several major battles had been fought, and lost. The city of Miami had fallen, literally, to the Russians only two weeks ago.
He had searched that pile of rubble for three solid hours, fearing what he would find left of his assistant’s – his friend’s – body. He continued looking out of an unknown sense of duty. He would not leave her behind.
When he did finally recover her, he was amazed to find her still alive, but barely. With the battle still raging around him, he carried her, walking, to the aid station that Susan Chandler had established. He fed her as much of his own strength as he could, trying to heal her, but his skills at this were not up to the damage that had been done.
By my own hands. It was the thought that had run through his head then, and every night since. He had relived that battle time and time again, and it always ended the same way, the way he remembered it.
He dressed and left his room, silent and brooding. Except for the guards, no one was awake at this hour. He moved stealthily through the house, not wishing to awaken anyone. He slipped into the night, the cold air slapping him in the face. He shivered, but moved on, toward the medical facility they had established.
It gave him some comfort to know that, in saving Susan’s life, and in training her, he had helped his cause immensely. Her medical healing skills were some of the best he had ever seen, and Karen had filled in the gaps in her knowledge. Karen had also removed herself from the battlefield, realizing that she should have been doing what Susan was now in charge of.
He entered the medical facility, with its white walls and its bright fluorescent lights. His skin looked sallow and sickly, for he had not slept well in a very long time. The staff took note of his presence, but knowing why he was here, made no attempt to speak with him. He moved, almost in a daze, to her room, opening the door silently, and walking in.
He looked at her, and only because he had seen her before was he able to hold in his gasp of dismay at her appearance. Her face was bandaged, but the skin that was visible was now an ugly yellowish color, having faded from the deep purple of her original bruises. Her body was bandaged, as her bones healed. The process was certainly much faster than conventional healing, but, as Susan herself had told him, conventional medicine could not have saved Kim. The head injury and the internal bleeding had been far too severe for that. Susan had also told Ron that his initial aid to her had certainly saved her life, but he knew that was something that doctors just had to say. After all, it had been him who had nearly killed her in the first place.
He sat down beside her bed, and watched her breathing. There were a few monitors in place, along with a simple IV to help feed her. She had woken up only twice, the nurses had told him, and in both cases had faded back out without so much as a word. She was completely unresponsive to any stimulus that they had tried, including direct mental probing. There was a strong, dark barrier that held them out. Although Susan had never dealt with a comatose patient before, she felt that this condition might be a normal part of the coma for a psionic.
Ron looked at her for a very long time before he moved. When he did move, he reached over to gently take her hand. Her hand was warm but limp in his, and he then leaned over toward her. He whispered in her ear, in a tone that carried more grief than he could have imagined feeling for a living person, “I’m sorry.”
He managed not to faint when her hand slowly grasped his. Though her eyes didn’t even flutter, and her monitors all remained unchanged, in his mind, he heard,
Ron held her hand gently as he leaned back in his own chair. The doctor on duty found them that way two hours later when he made his rounds. He decided not to disturb them.
When Ron finally awoke that day, he found himself holding hands with a conscious individual. He looked over and tried to smile at her. It was a vain attempt, but even the gesture made her feel better.
“Hi,” he said.
he answered, after checking his watch.
she asked with a little worry in her voice.
At the first hint that she was still in pain, tears welled up in Ron’s eyes. He stopped as she squeezed his hand as tightly as she could. He punished himself for the weakness of her grip.
Kim felt her heart lurch when he said that. ‘I thought I’d lost you. Not we, but I. Perhaps he does care for me. Kimberly had had the unpleasant experience of reliving her own mistakes in life during her coma, and she had come to the conclusion that perhaps she had made a mistake in her choice of lifestyle. The man before her was so obviously concerned for her well-being that she could deny it no longer. And yet...
What if I’m wrong now? And so she said nothing. At that time, they were interrupted by the doctor, who came in to see a very awake patient. He was so surprised that he actually dropped his clipboard. His mouth hung open in an expression of total amazement. Finally, he regained his composure, and left the room to find Susan.
Ron remained at Kim’s side throughout the following two hours of procedures. He didn’t know why he couldn’t leave; he had work to do, after all. Something in him compelled him to remain by her side until he knew the results of the tests. He also felt that Kim might need someone there in case the news was not good.
Susan dismissed the nurses, and pulled up a chair next to Ron. He didn’t entirely understand why she had not asked him to leave throughout the ordeal. She had simply moved around him when necessary, not even once asking him to move out of the way. The look on her face was unreadable, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to hear what she had to say. He had the sudden urge to run from the room just as fast as he could, but he was effectively blocked in.
“Kimberly,” the doctor began, “I’m glad to see you’re awake now. We were beginning to worry that you would never come out. Now, my experience with coma is... well, I won’t lie, it’s nonexistent. The regular docs on staff tell me that the longer you were under, the less likely you were going to recover fully.
“Now, I know you want to know the results of our tests. All of our findings look good. Your body is healing rapidly, but this has some rather unpleasant side effects. Because of the rapid regeneration, you are going to be very uncomfortable for a while. We will give you pain medication to ameliorate this. That will last for at least the next week to ten days.”
“Doc,” Kim asked, “When the hell am I getting out of here?”
“Well, that is partially up to you. As you regain your strength, you should be able to use some of your own ability to heal yourself a little more quickly. After all, as good as I am, you’re the only one who knows ALL the places that need fixing. The other thing is that you’ve been laying in this bed now for two weeks, and will continue to do so for at least one more. That’s three weeks off your feet, and you’re going to need to get your physical body back into shape, too.”
“Can’t I do that from across the parking lot?” She was referring to the house where she had been staying.
“I suppose so, if someone will keep an eye on you, so you don’t overexert yourself.” She eyed Ron with meaning.
“I can assure you that she would be looked after,” Ron said. If I have to follow her around myself, his mind added before he could stop it.
“Very well, then. As soon as you can move around at all, we’ll let you back over there. But you are not to go into battle until I say so. Is that clear?"” Her voice had taken on a stern, ‘I’m a doctor, and you’d best listen’ tone.
“Yes, ma’am,” replied Kim weakly. As she faded out from the exertion of the afternoon, Susan motioned Ron to the hallway.
They walked down the hallway as they talked. “Ron, she’s in pretty bad shape. She is, right now, in the same condition as the worst of our other patients. Each of them has taken three weeks to leave here. I worry that we may be pushing it to let her out in one week.”
“Susan, I promise you, on my honor, that she won’t be going into any kind of battle until you say it’s okay. The girls can watch over her 24/7 if need be, and, let’s face it: you need the room.”
Susan sighed. “True enough. Okay, but I still don’t like it. I don’t like patients leaving until they’re well.”
“I’d prefer you didn’t have any patients at all,” Ron said morosely. “We don’t always get what we want.” He left the hospital then, to go to work.
For the next week, Ron made sure he spent at least an hour or two every day with Kim in the hospital, talking, helping her with her exercises, hoping to cheer her up a little. He was more successful in this last endeavor than he would ever know.
When the day finally came for her to be released, Susan and the staff nurses and doctors who had worked with her lined up to applaud her as she walked, albeit badly and leaning on Ron for most of her support, down the hall to the exit. Susan waited at the door.
“I don’t think you have the strength to walk all the way to the house, Kimberly. Perhaps we should call over a jeep.”
“You keep thinking in normal terms, Susan. You should remember we’re psionics. I’ll get her over to the house, don’t you worry,” Ron responded. Kim looked at him with the newfound love she had allowed to blossom over the last week. Now, it was only necessary for her to find the courage to tell him about it. That would be much more difficult than she anticipated.
Ron led her through the doors, where they paused to absorb the warm sunshine. She looked down as she felt the ground fall away. Ron had lifted her, and she relaxed into the sensation of being carried in his psionic powers. Oh, how she would rather he had carried her in his arms, but to a psionic, this was nearly the same thing.
From across the lawn, the family watched them approaching.
“She sure looks happy for a sick girl,” noticed Nikki.
“She’s in love,” answered Linda.
“Have you noticed how much time Ron has been spending with her lately?” Sandra asked Linda.
“Perhaps it’s just guilt,” Lars said. He had an annoying habit of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. Karen slugged him, rather hard, everyone else thought, for it.
“Damn you, Lars Ohlin, don’t you have any caring for anyone?”
“Only you, love. Only you.” He reached down and kissed her by way of apology. She allowed it, but was still a little miffed at his attitude.
“Mom,” Nikki said, “Are you saying that Ron loves Kim?”
“Well, Sweetheart,” Sandra answered carefully, “I think he does, and Linda thinks he does, but I’m not sure if Ron knows he does yet. So be careful what you say. Love is a very tender thing,” Sandra concluded, staring at Lars. He raised his hands in a sign of surrender, and kept his mouth shut.
Nikki looked more closely at Kim just then, studying her face, her posture, her mood. Then she looked to her brother, and what she saw there... Nikki nodded her head to her mother, and then she slipped away, going back into the house.
Ron settled into a routine for the next two weeks: in the mornings, he would receive his briefings about how the battles had gone the previous day. Under the advice of his staff, he was not going into the field anymore. They had suggested that his place was to command, and not to lead. He felt that this was somehow inappropriate, but he went along with it, figuring they knew better than he did how to run a war.
In the afternoon, he would spend his time helping Kim regain her strength and flexibility. For the first few days, it was simple walking. Once she felt strong enough from that, they moved on to some basic martial arts and weapons moves. These things were all familiar to Kimberly, but her body rebelled at being forced to do them after such abuse. She was extremely sore the first day they tried this, but a warm massage from Megan eased many of those pains. While she lay there, she longed for the hands on her body to be Ron’s, but she had not yet gotten up the courage to say anything to him. What if I never do? I will live the rest of my life without him! That thought scared her so badly she shivered.
When Megan finished up the rubdown, she left, to be replaced by another female of the house, who wrapped a robe around Kim’s shoulders before she sat up. As she did rise, she saw that it was Nikki, Ron’s younger sister, who had come to visit her.
“Hello, Nikki,” Kimberly said properly.
Nikki said, “I’m jealous of you.”
Kim was taken aback. So much so that she moved slightly away from the young lady. “Whatever for? I have nothing that you could want...”
“You have my brother.”
Kim’s face reddened. “Nikki, your brother and I have never...”
“Not yet,” she said. “But you will. I can tell. I know my brother.”
“I wish I were that sure,” Kim said without thinking.
“Are you afraid of him?” Nikki asked.
“No... not afraid... not exactly,” Kimberly stammered.
“He’s a good person, Kim. My brother deserves the very best.” Her tone of voice did not imply that Kimberly didn’t fit into this group. It also did not automatically place her there.
“Yes, I know that,” Kimberly said, her head down slightly.
Nikki reached over, and put her finger beneath Kim’s chin, so that Kim was looking her in the eyes. “You be good to him, you hear me?” Nikki said, and, though it was veiled, Kim thought she heard the implicit threat there anyway.
“I will, Nikki. I promise.” There were tears in Kim’s eyes as Nikki leaned over and kissed her softly on the lips. Then she got up and walked out. The voice from the other door to the room startled Kimberly rather badly.
“Nikki never was one to hold a grudge,” Sandra said quietly. Kimberly jumped as she turned toward the voice. “But she will hold you to your promise.”
Kimberly nodded soberly. “I only hope I have a chance to keep it.”
“You will. She’s right, you know. The only two people who don’t know he loves you, are you and him. He’ll come around, but don’t push him. He’s lost two already, and it’s a very sensitive subject. Don’t tell him unless you’re ready to open that door. There’s a lot of ugliness behind that door, Kim. And he will have to deal with it again. And then you will have to deal with however he chooses to deal with it.”
“He has been in love twice already?”
“Probably more, if you count his older sister. Ron has lost a lot of people who are close to him. He lost Jessica, his first... girl, in the first battle with the Russians, a couple years back. Dawn left with Nathan soon after that. Kumiko was his first real love, I believe, and she was killed by a demon. Michelle was another, and she has, apparently, turned against him... or she was always this Zinaida person, and what she had with him was all a lie. Either way, I know he hurts over it. All of that is hidden away, Kim. Locked in some corner of his mind. If you tell him you love him, it will open that door, and something very unpleasant may come out.”
“Are you telling me not to tell him?” Kim feared that was exactly what his mother was leading to.
“Oh, God, no. Kim, he needs you. Don’t you see? The rest of us... okay, we love him, but we really don’t understand him. I used to think I understood my son, but that was before all this happened. Now... now I just enjoy the time I have with him.”
Kimberly rose from the bed and crossed over to Sandra. “Thank you, Sandra. Thank you for your advice... and your permission.” Though no one had yet said it, both of her visitors this evening were giving their implicit permission, and even support, to Kim’s adventure.
Sandra hugged the girl to her growing frame, and without hesitation, they kissed warmly. Kim melted into it and enjoyed the sensation while it lasted. After their lips separated, Sandra said, “Be good to him, Kim.” The threat was less ominous in Sandra’s voice, and Kim wondered just what that meant.
“I will. I promise, Sandra.” They kissed again, to seal the promise, before Sandra left her alone with her thoughts. Her head spun at the thought that everyone knew what she felt... except for the one she most wanted to know.
The next morning at breakfast, Ron was eating toast and scribbling some notes when his mother came into the kitchen to make her own breakfast. Ron looked up at her, watching her walk across the kitchen. It would have been comical if he didn’t love her so much. She was six months pregnant now, and her otherwise slender frame was grossly stretched by the baby she was carrying. His baby. He rose quietly from his chair and walked up behind her, wrapping his arms as far as he could around her waist. He laid his head down on top of hers, and just held her for a moment. She stopped what she was doing and relaxed back into him, briefly remembering the tension the day he had noticed her pregnancy. She feared an outburst, she thought he might explode at her. He had sat down and wept. She never could bring herself to ask him what was wrong that day. After that, he went out of his way, like now, to let her know that he loved her. She knew that, anyway, but she enjoyed his attention.
Linda walked in at that moment. Seeing what was happening, she waddled herself over, and rubbed Ron’s back. He enjoyed that, she knew. She reminded herself that this was something she would have to teach Kim.
Ron let go of his mother, and turned to embrace Linda, giving her a warm kiss in greeting and thanks. She enjoyed the feel of her stomach pressed against him, her swollen breasts pushing into his chest, and her lips sealed against his. It was the perfect way to start any morning.
He let her loose with a parting smile, and, without a word, returned to his notes. Neither woman knew what was so important, but the scowl that returned to his face as he began work again meant that it was definitely bothering him. They ate their breakfast in silence.
Kim would have no chance to talk to Ron in a personal way this day. He called everyone together for a planning meeting, to discuss some things he had figured out.
“Okay, everyone. We’ve been fighting since late July, and we’ve achieved very little.” The bitterness in his voice was hard to miss. Everyone in the room knew just whom he blamed for that particular situation. “We have to find a way to fight back, without hurting the people more than they are already being hurt. First, let’s catch up with what’s going on around the world. Jeff, you have a report, I believe.”
Jeff limped up to the podium. His latest injuries had not yet healed, and he still had a scar on his forehead from the Philadelphia battle, so many months ago. “As you can imagine,” he began, “We are the hardest hit nation. However, no nation has gone unchallenged. We have reports flooding in from Africa, Asia, even Australia. Nowhere is neutral territory in this war. We are also receiving dozens of requests for training assistance.”
“We haven’t got the manpower,” Colonel Titus grumbled. Ron scowled at him, and motioned for Jeff to continue.
“Our reports tell us that even Japan has finally been attacked. We have unconfirmed reports that show that this is one place where the FC has been stymied. It would appear that, though major damage has been done, the Japanese psionic community has not taken major casualties. However, we have no information to support this report. Both formal and informal inquiries made toward the Japanese psionic community have been unanswered. We have no further information to report on this development, but we are working on it.
“In the rest of the world, they are faring about as we are: badly. No one really seems to be able to understand the concept that the Russians are aiming for. They have yet to go after political or military leaders, or even the leadership of the opposing psionic forces. We don’t know why this is, either. It goes against military doctrine.” At this point, Ron waved him to a seat. Jeff was glad to be off his feet.
Ron moved back to the front of the room. “That last question, I think I finally came up with an answer. It started back in Los Angeles, but it wasn’t in focus. I couldn’t quite get a handle on it. The Miami attack...” here, Ron faltered for a second, but recovered, making sure he did not look in Kim’s direction. “Showed me what I was missing. The Russians aren’t after the country. At least, not yet.” Everyone waited patiently as Ron warmed up for this talk.
“I couldn’t figure out just why they were attacking cities at random... destroying them, and then disappearing back to their hidey-holes. They weren’t actually getting anything out of the attacks. They destroyed all the usable materials, most of the citizens had left...”
“But sir,” Lars interrupted, “We’ve found that most of those citizens have, in fact, been hunted down after the attacks.”
“Not hunted, Lars, I don’t think so. They were found and killed, yes, but I think it was more of an amusement than a concerted effort. These people thrive on killing, but I don’t think that’s the point of the attacks, either.
“Okay, so they don’t want resources, they don’t want slaves, what does that leave? Why go to the city? More important, why let us know you’re going to the city?” He saw the querying looks he was getting, and so moved on. “That’s right. I think we were told which cities were going to be hit. Why did we know about some, and not others? Why did we know about any of them? There was no reason for us to know. No reason for the people to know. So why did we? And why never a little town, or a little battle, but always those with hundreds of psionics? The only little battles are the ones we’ve stumbled on in progress. That can’t be a coincidence.
“What I’m suggesting is this: the target of this Russian campaign... is us. Not us in this room, or even just us in this compound, but every American... no, every non-Russian psionic in the world. Before someone asks: why not attack this compound? If they do that, and succeed in destroying us, it makes the others harder to find. The longer this war drags on, the more psionics find their way to us. We’ve gathered a total of 17,852 psionics so far, and we’ve lost over a quarter of those. We have no accurate numbers on how many psionics are in the United States, but I’d say we probably account for a significant fraction of them. So, destroying the PPA goes against their goal. At least, if they do it directly. But if they draw us out into combat protecting a city... well, that just looks good for the cameras, doesn’t it?” He looked over at Melissa Conway, sitting next to her cameraman, filming the briefing. He smiled quickly before moving on.
“On the other hand, what else can we do? We can’t just hand them the city. That condemns millions of people to torture and death. Okay, yes, I admit, we’ve done damned poorly at preventing that anyway.” He looked down and shook his head, trying to clear the thought. “It’s a brilliant plan. Either we fight, or we become enemies of our own country. We can’t attack their country, because their country isn’t really the cause of all this. So, what do we do? Does anyone know? I haven’t got a fucking clue. I wish-“
Ron was interrupted by one of the house guards, a former Hunter by the look of him. He saluted properly, and waited to be acknowledged. “What is it?” Ron asked.
“Sir, we’re receiving more troops. These are... not Americans, sir.”
“Okay.” The man left, and Ron turned his attention back to the group. “I guess I need to find out what this is about. If any of you come up with a plan to fight this, you let me know. Otherwise, we will continue with the only course of action available to us. Dismissed.”
As the room broke up, Ron motioned Kim to his side. He walked slowly, to make sure she had no problems keeping up. He knew she still had a few weeks to go before she would be battle-ready. “How are you feeling today?” he asked in an earnest voice. She had noticed that he seemed almost to be straining himself, unwilling to actually push her too hard, but seeming to push himself in her stead.
“I’m getting stronger every day. I’m a little sore from yesterday, but,” she added quickly, seeing his concern, “It’s nothing more than I would have felt from a strenuous workout before the accident.”
The accident. He had noticed she had started calling it that. He didn’t know if that was a mental block on her part, or a way of trying to make him feel better about nearly killing her. Either way, the semantics didn’t fool his own perverse conscience. The only accident was that I actually did anything right that day.
“Okay. I’m apparently going to be busy with these new people, so I want you to train with either Lars or Jeff. Is that okay?”
“Yes. I’ll ask Lars. He knows my moves a little better, and can more easily tell me where I need improvement. Ron, I understand that you’re busy. You don’t need to see to my rehab every day.”
He just looked at her with one of those Wanna bet? looks. He turned away from her after a few moments, and said, before walking away, “I’ll see you later. Take it easy today, okay?”
“Okay,” she answered to his retreating back. Did I just make a mistake? And if so, what was it? Who can I talk to about this? I have no idea what I’m doing! She felt the tears pushing their way to her eyes, but she forced them down. Warriors, she had learned, do not cry. She had never had someone to teach her differently.
Ron made his way out to the parade ground, to see several hundred psionics milling about, in what looked like very worn and tattered military gear, but it definitely was not American in manufacture. The first soldier to see him bellowed out, “Regiment to attention!” Ron noted the accent immediately, having grown used to people’s feet slapping together when he walked into their midst.
“Stand at ease,” he said in a normal tone, using his telepathic strength to convey his message more clearly than any public address system. The troops fell into a parade rest posture, and focused on their new commander. “As I’m sure some of you are already aware, I am General Ron Chaffey, of the Provisional Psionic Army of the United States of America. We shorten that mouthful down to PPA around here.” He waited for, and got, the chuckles he expected.
“You are entering the ranks of over twelve thousand soldiers fighting the FC forces in America. I can tell by the looks of you that all of you have already seen combat with these bastards. You’ll see more. A good many of the major American cities are already in ruins: Philadelphia, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco, Phoenix, Albuquerque, and more others than I’d care to list. Why certain cities haven’t been touched yet: Washington, DC; New York; we don’t know. What we do know is that sooner or later, unless we stop them, the FC will destroy every city in the country. It is our job, and you are now part of that ‘our’, to stop them from doing so.
“One thing you may not be used to is the presence of the medical corps.” Ron pointed to a small group of people, dressed in jumpsuits patterned the same as the standard PPA uniform, but colored red with white accents. “This team, led by Colonel Susan Chandler, is what stands between you and certain death if the Russians get the upper hand on you. I don’t know what we’d do without her and her crew, and they never get enough credit for their work. If you see one of them on a battlefield, afford them as much protection as you can: they are not well equipped for fighting.
“Well, that’s about it. We don’t know when the next big battle is coming, and so we will settle you in just as fast as possible. I don’t know who it was that said an army runs on its stomach, but this one seems to run on its paperwork. The ladies are setting up the table there, and I need you each to register with them, so that we can fit you to an assignment. That is all. Dismissed.”
As Ron stepped away from the position he had assumed to speak, one of the soldiers approached him. As the man saluted, Ron’s memory snapped into play. Ron returned the salute. “Mr. Warfield, how good to see you again.”
“Yes, sir. It’s good to be here. Sir, I have a message for you.” The man produced a small envelope with the royal crest on it. Ron took it, turning it over in his hands.
“Who is this from?” Ron asked astutely.
Tom Warfield smiled knowingly. “Well, let’s just say the King isn’t inviting you to tea.”
Ron nodded and thanked him before moving off to open the note. He read it slowly, absorbing the words, wondering why she had written them, and knowing, even as he asked himself the question, what the answer was. He walked into the house.
He found Lars practicing with Kim in the small back yard of the house. He stood watching them for a while, noting that Kim had improved even from the day before. As he watched, however, Lars took her down, rather hard, and she made no immediate move to get back up. It was at that point that Ron interrupted.
He walked over, but made no effort to help her up, feeling that would just embarrass her that much further. He did make eye contact with her, and confirmed that she was all right. He turned to Lars.
“I have to leave for about a day, possibly two. One of our allies wants to talk to me about something. In person.” Ron kept his voice completely neutral as he spoke, and neither of them made any comments about what that might imply.
“Yes sir,” Lars answered as Kim got to her feet. Ron made sure she had no problems rising, ready to immediately assist with his extension if she wavered even the slightest. She didn’t. “We’ll handle things while you’re gone. Are you taking anyone with you?” Lars knew that normally Ron didn’t travel alone anymore. He half-expected him to take Kim.
“No. This meeting is to be very confidential. Not to be publicized.”
“If anyone asks where you are?” Kim asked.
“Tell them I’m in a conference with our allies.”
“Very good, sir,” Lars concluded. “Now then, Kim, are you ready for more?”
Ron said, rather quickly, “I think she’s had enough for the moment. Take a break, and start again later.” Lars nodded at the wisdom of that. Kim just looked at Ron, somewhat puzzled.
First he acts as though he hates me, and now he seems very concerned about me. He is very hard to figure out.
Ron actually used one of the many aircraft now available to the PPA for his trip to London. They landed at Hereford, a military base outside London, because the Heathrow airport was in ruins. It was late, and Ron was tired, and so he again stayed at the small inn just outside of London. He was not scheduled to see her until tomorrow, anyway.
The next day, at exactly noon, he walked down a very specific stretch of sidewalk, and stopped next to a girl slightly younger than himself, with strawberry blonde hair and a face that had already launched a thousand fantasies.
“You wanted to see me?” Ron asked quietly. She had not yet turned to acknowledge him.
“It used to be pretty here. You know? The trees, and the grass. The old buildings, it all used to be very quaint and lovely. Now, it’s...” She broke off her words, and he could see the tears in her eyes. He longed to hold her, but he didn’t know if he had permission to go that far.
“Yes. The world is becoming a very ugly place because of them.”
“Why?” she sobbed. “What could possibly make them do this? How could anyone be this... this heartless?”
“I don’t know, Princess. That’s a question I struggle with every day, and for more reasons than just my peace of mind. What do they want? What will they do next? I have no answers.” His own thoughts were churning now, but as she grew more sorrowful, he just became angry. He turned his thoughts from these things. “I can’t help you answer these questions. And I don’t think they’re the reason you brought me here.”
She wiped at her eyes, and finally looked up at him. “No. It’s not. I want to show you something, but it is some distance from here...” Her eyes asked without the need for words.
“Needing some transportation, are we? Well, let’s go then.” Ron lifted them both off the ground, and the princess quickly remembered the thrill of her last ride. She directed him northwest, and they flew for some time. When finally they landed, Ron saw what used to be a village.
“This is what I wanted you to see.” She walked him over to a cemetery. He noted with dismay that the gravesites were impossibly close together.
“I don’t understand. Are they buried standing up? Do you need that much space?” She merely directed him to read one of the markers. His mind did the math automatically, and then went numb with rage. He checked another, and another. None of them was over the age of three.
“While they kill many of the adults, they are killing all of the children! They hunt them down like rabid wolves, seeking them out of their hiding places. And then... then...” she broke down, weeping, and this time Ron didn’t even hesitate. He wrapped his strong arms around her and held her, letting her sob into his chest. Without her even noticing, he carried her away from the place, back toward London. She wept throughout the flight, oblivious to the scenery flashing past her. By the time she calmed down from her crying, they were outside the inn where he was staying. There had been a few curious onlookers, but a thought had moved them away, and she and Ron stood there, together and alone.
She looked up at him, wiping her eyes free of tears. He looked down at her with an expression of tenderness and warmth. She wanted to melt into that slight smile, those caring eyes. She did, instead, the other thing she wanted to do. She reached up on her tiptoes and kissed him full on the mouth. He gave no resistance as her tongue slipped past his lips, dancing across his teeth and colliding sensually with his own tongue.
They remained lip-locked as Ron maneuvered them into his room, shutting the door without using his hands, and making sure it was secured. His hands, meanwhile, caressed her back, feeling the soft skin beneath her thin cotton dress.
Her hands clung to his back, clawing at his shirt as if to shred it off him. Their kissing grew even more passionate as Ron used his extension to unbutton her dress from top to bottom. She felt the fabric part between them, felt her now bare breasts pressing against him. She moaned as her heat rose.
Ron pulled her dress off her shoulders, and she let it fall off her arms and onto the floor. She gave it not a second thought as she slipped off her shoes. Standing before him in only panties and stockings, she stepped back from him slightly. Ron gazed at her form, enjoying the way her breasts swelled, the way her legs curved. She bent to slip her panties off, and he watched as her tits swung gently. Now, wearing nothing but her stockings, she moved back to him, and pulled at his clothing. She continued yanking at it roughly until she had his uniform down to his ankles. She quickly unlaced his boots, and pulled them off, taking his jumpsuit with them. She took far more care with his briefs. She ran her hand gently against the outline of his hard cock, tracing it up toward the elastic band. She hooked her fingers into this and gently tugged it down past his hips. As she did so, his cock sprang free, and she gasped softly at its length. She finished pulling off his underwear, but her eyes never left his dick.
Her soft hand gently caressed his length, and she could see him shiver from it. She lightly gripped his shaft with her hand, slowly sliding her fingers up and down his length. She moved closer, and kissed the very tip of his cock with the tender caress of a baby’s mother. Ron shuddered at the sensation.
The princess had never given a blowjob before; her parents, she was sure, would think it beneath her. But she knew that was a lie: it was just something you did to please your partner. She moved her mouth onto the head of his dick, and ran her tongue over the soft skin there. Then she slowly took him into her mouth. She slid down onto him until he hit the back of her throat, and her gag reflex started. She pulled off of him, and then pushed her mouth back down. This time, she felt the reflex being eased, and his cock slipped all the way into her mouth, until her nose rested against the base of his shaft. She moved her tongue around his shaft while keeping it buried in her mouth for as long as she could. Then she began to suck him vigorously.
Ron moaned with the pleasure of it. He had sensed her wish to do her best for him, and had helped her get past her gag reflex. Now he was glad that he had. This girl could give his sister a run for her money. The princess’ lips moved quickly back and forth on his shaft, her tongue always in motion adding sensation to it. Ron knew he didn’t have long before he would come. He delved in her mind, seeing what she wanted, and so he let her go even faster on his shaft, until his cum spurted from his shaft into her throat. She swallowed and slurped as he continued to spasm. She let not a drop of his cum escape her hungry mouth. Only when he was completely cleaned did she let him slip from her lips.
Ron stood her up and kissed her hotly, tasting his own fluids in her mouth. He had long ago learned to accept that flavor. He started to slip down her body, thinking to return the favor, but she stopped him. She motioned him to rise.
“It’s not that I don’t want you to,” she said. “Maybe later. Right now, I need you inside me. And I want...” she hesitated, not sure if she was now being a little childish, demanding he show off for her.
Ron knew what it was she wanted; he had seen it in her thoughts. He held her lightly, and with his extension, he floated the two of them into the very middle of the room, as far away from all six surfaces as they could get. She kissed him, and her hand slipped down to his shaft again. He felt her maneuver herself, and then the slippery warmth of her cunt lips pressed against the head of his shaft. Though she kept up the light pressure, she did not thrust herself onto him.
“Fuck me!” she whispered urgently. And so, in one hard thrust, Ron plunged his dick into her to its full length. She let out a loud moan, and her fingers gripped the back of his neck tightly, as she held on. He began thrusting into her full force, and her hips rocked back into him. He slowly spun them in space, moving into what would be impossible positions for her to achieve any other way. His cock pounded into her, and she grunted and groaned her approval, as her hips lunged back against him, seeking to bury him further inside her pussy.
He moved himself around so that he was taking her from behind, and he reached around to massage her magnificent tits, fondling them with care as he continued to pound her pussy. She came in a sudden rush, her orgasm overtaking her almost by surprise. He continued to rut into her throughout, letting her rise as high as she could go.
Her orgasm was followed by another, and then yet another as they continued to fuck in mid-air, changing positions and rhythms. As Ron neared his own climax, he knew it was time to pull out all the stops. He formed a part of his extension into a very thin rod, and pressed it against her asshole. She was initially startled by the intruder, but as Ron eased her tension and it slipped gently into her, she could feel the energy pulsing in her ass. She began to writhe on it, as it pulsed inside of her, and then started to thicken. It continued its pulsing, in time with Ron’s thrusts into her pussy. He again began to caress her tits, lightly pinching at her nipples, and kneading her pale flesh. Her mouth hung open in the sensations she was feeling, and he couldn’t resist. He formed another appendage to his extension, and he thrust it into her mouth. Her eyes opened wide as it slipped much further down her throat than his cock had, and it, too, raced with the psionic energy. Her body was now being fully fucked in every hole, by a single man. Her orgasm exploded from her body, her screams muted by Ron’s extension, but her passions were clear on her face. Her pussy and ass squeezed tightly against Ron, and he was overcome. His climax came upon him and he exploded in her sopping cunt.
Their orgasm seemed to last forever, but as they withdrew from their peaks of ecstasy, Ron removed his extension from her mouth, and pulled her to him, kissing her softly. He slowly moved them over to the bed, leaving his dick, now softening, inside of her, and his extension was still buried deep in her ass, though he had made it much smaller now. They lay down on the bed, in each others’ arms, and fell sound asleep.
It was several hours before Ron awoke, and when he did, the princess was still sleeping quietly in his arms. She shifted slightly as he withdrew himself from her. His extension had evaporated as soon as he had fallen asleep. His dick slid from her, and he withdrew himself to go to the restroom. When he came back out, she was sitting up on the edge of the bed.
“This was selfish of me, wasn’t it?” she asked. He knew what she was referring to, and he didn’t want her feeling that way. He moved beside her on the bed.
“Maybe, but I enjoyed it at least as much as you did, so I think it all balances out. Hey, it’s not every guy who gets to bed a beautiful princess.” He said this, and immediately worried that she might think he would brag about it.
She smiled at him warmly. “Worth the trip over?”
“Worth a trip twice as far, Princess.”
She rose from the bed, and he admired her as she walked to the mirror, looking over her body. “I bet you’ve had better,” she said.
Ron didn’t know exactly how to answer this question, so he explained his outlook to her. “I can’t say better or worse. I have been with quite a few ladies, and they’re all different. I’ve enjoyed each experience, because most of them meant something to me.”
She turned, and he had yet another beautiful view. “Most?”
He sighed. How to explain it? “In the first days after I learned I was a psionic... I... played around a bit. Some of my adventures were with people I didn’t really care all that much about. In some cases, I developed real feelings for those people later, but at the time, it was just a way to get something I wanted, and to learn to use my powers. I guess that sounds pretty selfish, too.”
She walked back over to him, and sat down in his lap, wrapping her arms around his neck and kissing him. “Maybe, but someone like you deserves to have a little fun now and again.” He took his hint from how she said ‘again’. The next two hours passed by in a frenzy of movement and cries of pleasure.
When they had finally had enough for the day, they showered and redressed. He found her outside, staring at the sunset, after he finished dressing.
“There is one other thing,” she said. “It’s something I overheard my father talking to his staff about. They’re not going to tell you about this.”
“What is it?”
“They’ve heard rumors that the Russians have a base camp, a headquarters, somewhere in either western Russia, or Eastern Europe someplace. I didn’t get any more than that. I don’t know if that’s at all helpful to you.” She turned to him, searching his face for his emotions.
Ron had already donned his sunglasses, making it hard to read his eyes, but the smile was touching. “Any information is helpful, Princess. And this time with you has been very... relaxing.” They both smiled at that. “Perhaps we will see each other again.”
“Perhaps soon?” she asked hopefully.
“We’ll see,” he said noncommittally. “Do you need a ride home?”
“No, I called for my chauffeur. That’s him now.”
He kissed her once again, and then she got into the waiting limo. The chauffeur looked at him blankly, and then got in the driver’s side of the car and drove off. He stood, looking at the receding vehicle, and then decided it was time to go home. She had, after all, given him a lead to follow.
When Ron returned to PPA headquarters from the airport, he saw a frenzy of activity. In the midst of it was Col. Chandler, her short red hair flipping back and forth about her head as she turned here and there, directing people and shouting orders. Without getting in her way, he asked telepathically,
Ron moved into the house, setting his beret on his desk, and sitting down in his desk chair. Shortly thereafter, Kim showed herself in the doorway. He motioned her in.
As she walked over to his desk, she took note of a certain lightness in his mood, a certain relaxed quality. She took a guess. “How was she?” she asked lightly, not meaning any harm by the comment.
Ron was caught off guard, and he stammered a bit, his face turning a bright shade of red. He did not understand why he would feel... what? Guilty? Over what? He had no commitments here that didn’t understand his relationships with other women. So why did he feel guilty around Kimberly all of a sudden?
Kim, seeing what she had caused, quickly changed the subject. “Did you learn anything on your trip?” She sank down in the chair opposite him, glad to have a few moments to rest. She was pushing herself to become rehabilitated as quickly as possible. Her troops were going into battle without her, and that was wrong.
“Actually, yes. I learned two things. First is that the Russians are animals. They are killing every child they come in contact with. I’ll explain why I think that is in a minute. The other... hang on.” Ron lifted the phone and punched his intercom. “Jill? Could you have Jeff join me in my office? Thank you.” He set the phone down and they waited. Kim was very uncomfortable with her earlier faux pas.
“Ron, I didn’t mean...” He waved her off with a smile.
“Sorry, you just caught me a little off guard. Although everyone here knows... well, knows how I am, it’s not something we usually talk about.”
Kimberly nodded, as Jeff walked into the room, still limping, but better than he was a couple days ago. He struggled to a proper attention posture and saluted. “Jeff Durant, reporting as ordered, sir!”
“Yeah, yeah. Sit down.” Jeff slumped into the seat next to Kim. “Jeff, where do the Russians go when they finish with a city?”
“Where do they go? They don’t stay in the cities for any length of time; we know that. Where do they go?”
“Well, we’ve always assumed they moved on to another city or town...”
“Too much time lapse between attacks for that. They’d either have to be spending a great deal of time just lounging about, or they’re going somewhere. Either way, we need to find out where.”
“Yes, sir. How should we do that?”
Kim interrupted with, “Let the Hunters do it. They’re trained to track without being noticed.”
“Kimberly, if you think I’m letting you in on this...” Ron started.
She waved her hand. “As much as I would like to, I am not ready to return to combat operations. Susan said so, and I don’t feel ready yet, anyway.” She was beginning to feel the return of her old doubts, and coupled with her new feelings for the person she would normally lean on for support, she was very unsure of herself just now.
“Okay. Have Stefan take a group, and follow the next Russian group they come in contact with. They are not to engage the enemy. If they are spotted, their orders are to run like hell. Understood?”
“Yes, sir!” she responded automatically.
“Okay. That’s what I wanted, Jeff. How’s the leg?”
“Getting there, sir. Doc says I should be up and at ‘em again in about a week.”
“Good. Look, the Princess said that her father was talking to his staff about an FC HQ somewhere in either western Russia, or Eastern Europe. If there is one, then that’s likely where their troops are going back to. Let’s find out, shall we?”
The two people across from him nodded, and then they rose and left. Ron took out a stack of old plans for battles that he’d worked up, and leafed through them. These were plans he’d done before the military people had begun advising him. He was tempted to trash them, but something made him start looking through them. He fell asleep poring over those papers.
In the next two weeks, very little happened. Ron planned, Jeff and Kim rehabbed, and Susan worked to heal the injured. Battles happened, but none of them were major. The Russians were moving about the country at random, and the PPA was doing their best to find them and keep them from killing Americans.
All of that changed on the day before Christmas. Stefan and his group came straggling in to Ron’s office, with Susan hot on their heels.
“General, these soldiers refuse to be treated until they give their report. I want you to order them to the hospital right away!”
“Susan,” Ron started quietly, “They’re already in my office, and it’s going to take more effort for you to get them out of my office than it is for them to just give their report. So calm down, take a seat, and wait.”
Susan harrumphed, but sat herself down in a chair by the wall. Ron turned his attention to the people before him. “Okay, Hunter. Report.”
“Sir!” he began, and was interrupted as Kim came into the room. He nodded for her to have a seat, and then for the man to continue. “We did our best to follow the FC soldiers. We were almost caught trying to return to you, which explains our present condition. Regardless of the doctor’s worries, we’re fine.”
“Continue, Major. And you will report to the hospital for a physical after this debriefing is finished.”
“Yes, sir. Anyway, we tracked them as you ordered. We caught up with a group leaving Houston. Sir, they left a wake of dead bodies... all of them six and under. The parents were nowhere to be found, but the children... sir, they murdered all of them.”
“I am aware of the tactic, Major.”
“You never did tell me what that meant, Ron,” Kim interjected.
“In a minute. Go on, Major.”
“Well, sir, we tracked them for three days. Eventually, they did return to the Ukraine, where they have a fortified headquarters building slightly larger than this house. Only, it’s made out of solid concrete, reinforced with rebar. It is a true fortress, sir.”
“Can you locate it on a map?”
“Already done, sir,” the man handed over a map. “Is that all, sir?”
“Yes. You are dismissed.”
“Wait a minute!” Kim demanded. “What about the children?”
Ron looked at her for a second, weighing his options. Everyone else had frozen with the question, waiting for an answer. “The children, Kim, are potential enemies to the Filitov Council. They apparently worry that the Ability Sphere isn’t visible in a younger child. So, they will kill them all. It goes back to their goal: they want to be the only psionics on the planet. After they’ve gotten rid of all of us, then taking over the world is a simple task for them, isn’t it? Nobody need even know they were actually doing it. And, with a little creative reprogramming, in a generation or two, nobody would even remember psionics exist. Hmmm. That’s a thought...” Ron’s mind wandered off on a tangent for a while, before he snapped himself back to reality. “Anyway, that’s what’s up with the children. You are dismissed, Major. Kim, tell Jeff I need to see him, please. And Lars.”
Ron sat back as the others left the room. Now, how do we do this?
The next day was a mix of the normal, the spiritual, and the insane. Christmas at Ron’s house was always a little unusual, but with the war, he had not had the time to make his usual preparations. He did, however, have suitable gifts for everyone. He had invited all houseguests, but not those in the facility, to participate. It was the first Chaffey Christmas for Cindy, Lars, Kim, and even Shelley had been asked to join them. He presented Shelley with a very nice outfit that was very tasteful. He admitted to having his mother help him pick it out. Lars received a very valuable old sword. Ron explained that it just seemed to suit Lars’ personality. Lars ran his hands over it, muttering something in Swedish that Ron couldn’t understand.
“Thank you, my friend,” Lars said quietly.
Nikki and Tammy once again each got a puppy, bad things having happened to the last two he had bought for them. They cried over them just like the first time. Ron shook his head to think that at least that hadn’t changed in his life.
Sandra received some beautiful clothes, some of which would have to wait until after the baby had arrived. Ron was trying to let her know that he would still find her attractive after then. She bent over and hugged him, struggling to get back upright.
Ron noticed that Kimberly wasn’t opening her gift. He moved quietly over to the spot she had chosen, an out of the way corner of the room.
“Is something wrong, Kim?” He asked so that no one else would hear them.
“Ron, I can’t accept whatever is in this box. I got you nothing for Christmas.” It had entirely slipped her mind until the day before, and it was, of course, much too late then.
“The gift wasn’t given to get something in return,” he said with a small sigh. “It was given... because I wanted to give it.” He would never tell her that he regularly sent gifts to almost everyone he’d met, including the Princess. It wasn’t an appropriate time for that kind of revelation.
“But...” she still needed convincing.
He knelt next to her, and looked her in the eyes. “Look, I can’t take it back, so if you don’t accept it, I’ll have to find someone else to give it to. Now, do you really want to cause me all that trouble, just because you didn’t get me something?” It was a perfect ploy, and only the twinkle in his eyes kept it from being a stinging remark. She smiled slightly and gave in to the inevitable.
She removed the paper to reveal what was obviously a jewelry box. She opened this ever so slowly, and even her quiet gasp was enough to silence the rest of the room. She looked up at him, and there were tears in her eyes. “It’s beautiful,” she said in a hushed voice.
He took the box from her and removed the necklace. He moved behind her and placed it around her neck. Sandra and Linda both looked at it in awe and envy. Though their own necklaces, given three years ago and still worn every single day, were very precious to them, and were by no means trinkets, this necklace outshone theirs by a mile. It was a gold band inlaid with clear crystal that shone brighter than diamond, and set evenly along its length were emeralds, rubies, and the bluest of sapphires. Like their own, Kim’s necklace dipped into a “v” at the very front, and from it hung a small, but exquisite gem that neither of them could name. When Ron held it up, it appeared to be clear, but as soon as it touched Kimberly’s skin, it took on a faint bluish tint, almost a glow. They were enraptured with the beauty of it. It took them a while to realize just how much Ron must care for the girl, even if he didn’t yet realize it.
Kimberly loved having him touch her, loved having his hands on her skin. She also loved having something he had given her against her skin. As if he were reading her mind, he leaned into her ear and said, “Please, don’t ever take this off if you go out of the house, okay? There is a reason, but I don’t want to tell you now.” She merely nodded, unsure of her voice, and then wiped away the tears of joy that had flooded her eyes. As Ron returned to his seat, she shared a look with Sandra, who placed her hand below her own necklace, and then nodded for her to look around. Linda, Nikki, Tammy... they all wore similar necklaces, but nothing so elaborate as her own. What does this mean? she wondered.
The rest of Christmas day went by smoothly, and it was a day of rest for all of them. Even the FC seemed to be taking Christmas off, which was just fine with everyone else. The next week would be hectic enough.
On New Year’s Day, Ron called his staff together, to outline the plan they had worked up. “This,” he said, revealing what was obviously a satellite photo, “Is FC HQ. Or, I should say, we believe it to be. We have tracked people coming in and out of this facility. This seems to be their main planning facility.
“Unlike our enemy, I intend to take the battle to their leadership. Cut off the head, and the serpent dies. Well, we’re going after the head. Colonel Titus, you want to outline the plan for them?”
Ron sat down as the colonel stepped forward, and laid out the plan of action over the next forty-five minutes. Questions took another hour, forcing some minor modifications to the battle plans. Then it was time for the pep talk. Ron rose again to speak.
“Okay, everyone. These bastards have attacked innocent civilians and peace-loving psionics for five full months. It’s time that we show them why that was a bad idea. We mount up tomorrow, the attack happens in four days. That is all.”
As everyone filed out of the room, he took Kimberly aside. “Has Susan cleared you for battle status yet?” he asked.
“No, the last time I spoke to her, she still wasn’t sure.”
“When was that?”
“About four days ago.”
“Ask again. I need you out there.” Ron walked off, muttering something to himself.
And now, just when I think he’s starting to like me, he turns back into the cold and calculating general again. Will I ever have a chance with him? Do I want one, if this is how he behaves? The little voice in her head answered that last question for her.
Susan somewhat reluctantly cleared Kim for duty, and she was now in the jeep, or whatever the Americans call this oversized tank with wheels, on her way to the airport to board a plane. A plane? How would they get permission to land?
That question was quickly answered by the fact that Ron handed her a pair of “jump-wings” to put on her uniform. Seeing her look, he laughed.
“Hey, if we’re going to jump out of an airplane, we must be jump-qualified, right? Can I help it if we don’t need parachutes?” The equipment would, sensibly, have parachutes attached, but they would guide it to make sure it landed in the appropriate places.
An hour later, she was on a flight heading east, into the rising sun. It was to be a long flight, and this plane was not all that comfortable, being a military model rather than a civilized aircraft. She hunkered down against her seat, and tried to sleep. She figured she should get as much of it as she could now; she didn’t think she’d be getting much in the next few days.
Three days later, she was crawling – almost literally – through the forest, and she had been right: sleep had not been plentiful since their arrival “in country”. They had gone over and over the plan repeatedly until she could do it in her sleep. She knew that this was the point, but she now longed for the opportunity to sleep. She glanced to her left, and there was Lars. To her right was Ron. They dared not use any form of psionic communication this close to their target, so she motioned them to stop.
“I believe we are at the point where we need to separate,” she whispered. Ron nodded agreement, as did Lars.
“Lars, you circle that way, and Kim, circle around to that side. Wait for my call, and whatever you do, don’t take off that necklace.”
Kim grew a little concerned by that comment, but Lars said, “Ron, you really should tell her what it’s for.”
Kim was beginning to grow impatient, so Ron relented, smiling at her. “Okay, okay,” he said quietly. “On top of being pretty, and accenting your eyes,” he noticed her blush when he said that, “The specific gems in that specific pattern also act as a mental homing device. If you know the pattern, and you know the... um... ‘frequency’ on which to look. I’ll always know where you are, so long as you have that on. The last thing I want to have happen is to lose you out here somewhere.” He placed his hand on top of hers for but a brief moment, and then he signaled her to move off. This she did, with her thoughts jumbled as to his real intent.
Ron moved his team forward more slowly than the other two groups, as he was taking the most direct approach. It took another two hours before they had reached the tree line that bordered the clearing in which sat what could best be described as an extremely large bunker, made, as expected, of reinforced concrete. The window openings were mere slits, and even these had gratings over them. Ron wondered if the grating would somehow stop psionic energy, but he had no way to tell without announcing his presence. It was time to wait for the other teams.
It took another hour for the other two teams to get in place, the entire time of which Ron sat immobile, but his patience wearing away. He wanted to do something, and sitting here staring at the objective didn’t count. Finally, he received the mirror flashes that indicated the other two teams were in place. They had moved quietly, and there appeared to be no sign that the ten guards on top of the bunker had heard, seen, or sensed anything yet. He hoped that, like in his own home, the people inside the bunker would depend on the guards for protection, and would not be alert to psionic activity themselves. The guards were the responsibility of Ron’s team. He gestured, a swift, cutting motion with his hand, and twenty members of his team took down the guards. The two-to-one advantage guaranteed swift and silent results. The guards all collapsed like marionettes with cut strings.
Ron flashed a brief mental signal to both other teams, and they started moving in. Slowly, they moved across the brush-covered areas of the clearing, until they reached what would be considered the “yard” of this particularly odd “house”. The lawn was two hundred yards wide, and the easiest way to cover it was quickly. Ron gestured to his team, and they all flew right up to the building, stopping at points that could not be seen through the windows. Kim’s team came next, and Lars’ last.
Once they were all in position, a brief and very directed mental signal went out to their backup teams waiting in the forest, to let them know the objective was about to be assaulted. Ron moved around to the main door of the complex, while Lars moved about to the rear entryway. Another brief signal, and both doors were burst open with a shove of telekinetic power. The teams rushed in, leaving a guard force behind so that they would know if anything was coming their way. So far, it had been a picture-perfect raid.
That was about to end.
Doors were burst open, and offices were entered, but the building was empty. Bunk rooms were rushed into, only to find them empty. The cafeteria, the gym, the library, all were empty.
After a thorough search, only ten psionics were found at all, and those had been the ones on the roof. The offices were gone through, and though some plans were found, by now Ron knew they would all be fakes.
“Shit. It was a fucking lie,” he spat.
“Yes, sir,” Kim replied. “The only question now...”
“Is whether it is also a trap,” Ron finished for her. “All right, everyone, let’s move it out. There’s nothing here.”
It was then that they received the warning from the perimeter guards: troops on the way.
The team moved outside, to see that they were facing not just psionics, but tanks, guns, and other normal military weaponry. “Well this is a switch,” Lars said.
“Can it. Now, move out!” Ron commanded, leading his team forward. Kim’s team moved left, and Lars’ group moved right, trying to flank the positions of the enemy. But the soldiers opened fire, and the psionics were soon having to dodge and duck behind objects to avoid being shot. Ron cursed. Sure, he could stop bullets, if he could concentrate on them. It’s hard to concentrate when they’re whizzing at you from six different directions.
Then the psionic blasts began. The trees and rocks that the PPA had taken for cover were shattered and blasted apart by the FC psionics. The Americans had to run for new positions to avoid being punctured repeatedly by fast moving lead projectiles.
Ron saw his opportunity, and moved left. From this position, he couldn’t be seen easily, and he wasn’t in the direct path of fire. He focused on the first tank, and the ammunition inside started cooking off, immediately killing the crew inside. Ron was joined by two other PPA soldiers, and they made quick work of the tanks. There were still individual soldiers with guns, though, and their programming was total: they were FC robots made of flesh and blood. Their only thought was to kill: they had no fear of death.
Ron shot off a signal to the backup teams, and received his acknowledgment. Then he started working on the infantry. His position was soon detected by the FC, and he drew mental fire from them, but his shields held up to their attacks, and he and his subordinates returned fire, transfixing them with powerful kinetic blasts, then watching as their bodies fell limply to the ground. Still, they had to move: the position had been compromised. They moved forward, approaching the line of Russian soldiers. Ron noticed that they had all nicely lain on the ground, behind a small berm, but in a straight line. He looked left and right of their position, and then shot off a message to Lars.
Together, the two men pushed over two large trees on either side of the Russian line. The trees fell quickly, and the entire company of soldiers was crushed beneath the weight of the falling lumber. There were a few who had escaped, but other members of the PPA quickly mopped them up. That left only the psionics to be dealt with.
The Russians were suddenly caught out in the open, without their distraction. They moved to duck on the other side of the building from the PPA, but the American reinforcements picked that moment to show themselves. The chaos was immediate and deadly for the Russians.
Ron moved himself out onto the field of battle now, not really afraid of psionic fire, as his shields could stop that. He took down two Russians, and then something made him look right.
There he saw Kimberly, taking down one Russian, but she was apparently not aware that she was being attacked by yet another. Ron saw the blast leave the FC soldier’s hand, and his world seemed to move in extreme slow-motion. From his current position, he knew, he could not stop the attack: he was much too far away. He started to fly in that direction, as fast as he could. Still, he felt as if he were moving in a dream: everything around him seemed to slow down, but he moved as if it were normal. His senses were reporting information far faster than normal, and the speed his body was going must have been incredible.
As he approached, he saw Kim turn and see the fatal blow coming for her head. He watched as her face changed from surprise, to fear, and quickly to terror. He saw her begin to raise her arms, as if that would matter. His shields were at maximum power, but he knew that this was more a matter of time than power, and he feared he wouldn’t make it.
He somehow managed to stop himself from an incredible speed at just the right point. He wrapped his arms around Kimberly, his shields at absolute maximum power, a mere quarter-second before the blast washed over him. It was a strong blast, but Ron’s shields were so strong as to be visible to a normal, and the Russian’s attack stood no chance of penetrating that wall of energy. Without even looking, Ron’s extension pierced his shielding, and lunged for the Russian’s head at lightning speed, piercing his skull with a single thrust. Ron had the satisfaction of hearing the man’s skull crack apart, as he pulled his extension back into himself, and lowered his shields.
Time sped back up to normal for Ron, but he didn’t yet let go of Kimberly. She looked up at him, not really sure just what had happened, but she knew that she’d just had her life saved by the man she secretly loved.
“Thank you,” she gasped, and hugged him tightly. He held her in his arms for a few moments, but then, ever so gently, pulled her back.
“We need to get out of here.” She nodded.
Ron looked around, and saw that, for once, the PPA was actually in charge of a battle. He hated to take it away from them, but this was not why they had come here, and the Russians probably had more reinforcements on the way.
His order was followed at once, as the soldiers disengaged in a fighting withdrawal. There were few FC soldiers left standing, in any case.
“Where to now, Ron?” Lars asked.
“Lars, you take the troops to Germany. We have friends there, and that’s where the plane landed. Go home. And call up HQ and tell them to send the VC-20 plane for Kim and I. We’re going to England.”
Kim was somewhat surprised to be included in any trip that involved the princess, but was happy to be allowed to go with Ron, in any case.
“Yes, sir!” Lars responded, and moved off. Kim and Ron headed in a slightly different direction, at high speed.
Hidden on a hill a quarter mile away from the scene of the battle, Zinaida Dostoyeva had watched it all unfold. Her lieutenant was with her, and said, “Looks like their leader is pretty strong, boss.”
“Yes,” said Zinaida. “But I know his weakness. When we return to headquarters, tell Sakov and Belarev that I want to see them."
“Yes, ma’am,” the lieutenant replied, wondering why she wanted to see her two strongest psionics together. Well, he would find out soon enough.
It was nearly nightfall by the time Ron and Kim made it to London. Instead of taking a rest at the inn, however, they headed straight for the palace. Ron was far too angry to be tired. Kim was tired, from the battle, and from the terror of seeing her life almost end, but she kept up with her leader.
They walked right into the palace, unchallenged, even though Ron was far too angry to bother with the subterfuge of making them unseen. Obviously, someone had given new orders to the palace guards. They were met at the door by a princess who was, at first, happy to see him.
Ron took hold of her somewhat roughly, and pinned her to a wall. His eyes bored in on hers as his mind marauded through her memories. He found the section he was looking for. His grip on her immediately eased, and his eyes softened. The fear that she had felt from seeing her lover in so angry and vengeful a manner eased somewhat as his expression changed.
“Sorry, Princess. I had to make sure you weren’t the one who lied.”
“What do you mean?”
“The headquarters you told me about was a trap,” Ron said simply.
“Oh... my... my... God... I could have... I could have gotten you killed!” the princess stammered.
“Take it easy, it wasn’t your fault. You were misled in such a way that you could not have reacted any differently. That was their plan: they knew I wouldn’t trust your father. They knew I would trust you.”
“Who knew, Ron?” Kim asked.
“The Russians, who else? Oh, by the way, Princess Melissa, this is Kimberly... um... I don’t know your last name, Kim,” Ron said sheepishly.
“Just call me Kim,” she said to the princess, giggling at Ron’s discomfiture. They shook hands warmly, and shared a certain connection almost immediately. The princess greeted her in a friendly manner, before returning her attention to Ron. Kim recognized the look of devotion on the girl’s face, and didn’t reflect on the fact that it mirrored her own.
“I need to see your parents, Princess. Both of them.”
“They’re having dinner right now. With guests.”
“Like I give a shit,” Ron said to no one in particular. To the princess, he said, “Show me where.”
Many heads turned as the doors to the dining hall opened to admit the interlopers. The king nearly rose from his chair, seeing who it was. “Guard, remove these two at once!” The guard made moves toward Ron, but was thrown back against the wall, unconscious.
Ron’s voice rang across the dining hall. “Try that again, Your Majesty,” and Ron’s voice dripped with sarcasm, “And the next person being thrown against a wall will be you!” Ron motioned to Kim, and their boots rang against the marble floor as they marched down either side of the table, flanking the king’s position, effectively trapping him.
“What is the meaning of this?” the king bellowed.
“I will take only a moment of your time, sir. If you are not what I suspect you are, then I will return you to your meal, slightly embarrassed, but none the worse for wear. Now sit still and shut up.” The princess paled; no one had ever spoken to her father in that manner. Kimberly kept her eyes roaming the room, looking for danger, but finding none.
Shortly thereafter, Ron pulled out of his head. “Shit.”
“What is it, Ron?” the princess asked.
“Your father has been permanently reprogrammed. I wonder –“ Ron’s thought was interrupted.
“It was by me,” a voice said, in a thick accent that left no doubt as to its origin. The woman was definitely a Russian. It was not, however, Zinaida.
“Who the devil are you?” the king insisted.
“Why, Your Majesty,” she cooed, “Forgotten your lover already? We were good together, you and I. And the whole time, I was fiddling in your mind, you never noticed a thing.” She laughed an evil, vicious laugh of superiority. Then she turned to Ron. “You will have no allies in our hemisphere, General!”
It was the last thing she had a chance to say, as Kimberly reached out with her extension and crushed the woman’s windpipe. “Barbarian!” she spat.
Ron rifled through the woman’s mind, but found little of use. Obviously, Zinaida was keeping her plans close. As the woman finally asphyxiated, Ron turned his mind on the queen. He found her mind clear of tampering. The prince was not so lucky, though he did remember spending a night with the Russian woman, it was so burned into his mind that he would have done anything she asked of him.
Ron took the princess aside. “We have a problem. By all rights, your father and brother have committed treason. They have conspired with the enemy.”
The nearest guest heard this talk, and quickly left the room. Kim had no orders to stop him, and let him go, since he was not a threat.
“What would you have me do?” the princess asked.
Ron was about to suggest something when the guest returned with ten guards. Ron immediately tensed, but the guards approached the king and his son. The man said properly, “Your Majesty, Your Highness, I am placing you under arrest for high treason.”
“This is preposterous!” the prince screamed. “You have no proof of wrongdoing!”
“There you are wrong, young man.” The guest turned to Ron. “You see, General, I am William Mathers, the prime minister of the United Kingdom. Do you vow, before these witnesses, that their minds contain proof of the crime of which I have accused them?”
Ron straightened himself, to appear more official. He stepped slightly away from the princess, as he raised his voice. “Yes, Mr. Prime Minister, I do. Their minds contain definite proof of treasonous acts. They have given aid and comfort to the enemy of the United Kingdom.”
“Thank you, General. Guards, take them away.”
“This is ludicrous! You have no real proof!” the prince cried. The king was extremely subdued.
“Young man,” the prime minister said, “If you bothered to pay attention to national affairs, you would know that, months ago, when we first learned of the psionics and their ability to read minds, the Parliament passed a law stating that a person’s thoughts are, in fact, admissible evidence if they can be verified by a certified psionic. General Chaffey is as certified as they come, and we will have it double- and triple-checked by other court psionics. You should have known the consequences of your actions, boy.”
As the two were being led out, the prime minister said to Ron, “Thank you, sir, for bringing this to our attention. But I was not aware that such a level of manipulation was possible for a psionic.”
“It’s not something we prefer to have widely known, Mister Prime Minister.”
“Understandable, I suppose. We will handle this matter with the utmost care. Might I inquire how you came upon the knowledge of the King’s treason?”
“We were given information, from the king, through the princess, that a certain place was the headquarters of our mutual enemy. It turned out to be a trap. I must stress that the princess was not involved in the treachery. She was expertly used by the forces involved, and she believed she was helping us. She should not be affected in any way by the actions against the king and his son.”
“Nor will she be. It does, however, leave us with a sticky situation. For a girl her age to be coronated... well, it hasn’t been done in recent history.”
“I understand that, Mr. Prime Minister, but I think you will find that she will make an excellent queen for you. Just give her the chance.”
“I cannot fault your loyalty to a friend, General. This will, of course, be fully discussed in the proper venue. I would like to offer my country’s official thanks to you, General.”
“Not necessary, but we gratefully accept your thanks. Now, we must return home, to continue our fight.”
The princess showed them to the castle gates, where she expressed her concerns for her future. “What if the Russians come after me?”
Ron looked to Kim, and they shared an immediate thought. “Protect yourself, Your Highness,” Kim said.
“How?” the princess asked.
“With a psionic or two. Someone you trust,” Ron answered.
“I understand,” the princess replied, and then, in light of present company, gave him a soft kiss on the cheek. “Good day to you, Ron Chaffey, good day, Kim”
They both bowed slightly to her, and left for the airport to return home.
“A long day, Ron,” Kim observed.
“Yes, but not so long as some others. At least we didn’t lose very many people today.”
“Do you think we have a chance of winning this war?” she asked, expressing her own doubts and fears.
“I don’t fight to lose, Kim,” he said with a tired smile, leaning back against his seat as the plane rolled for takeoff, closing his eyes, and falling asleep.
I hope you’re right, Ron. If we’re ever going to be together, this war has to end. Her mind considered that for some time as the plane flew back over the Atlantic, until she, too, finally slept.
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