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    David McLeod
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

0300 Book 3 - 1. Chapter 1: 2009-01-01 One Year Earlier. Las Vegas, the _____ Palace Casino

2009-01-01 One Year Earlier.
Las Vegas, the _____ Palace Casino

Men in green robes moved through the arena as silently and carefully as possible. This was the most dangerous time of the year, when hung-over Reverends woke in their own vomit and filth after the night’s debauchery. Where they could, the men in green picked up the children who lay among the Reverends. So far, only two of the children had been dead. Dozens of others lay entwined with the sleeping men.

“What the hell?” one of the recumbent figures muttered.

“Your pardon, please, Reverend,” a man in a green robe whispered as he knelt and bowed his head.

“Coffee, goddamn it! Bring me coffee!” The naked man slumped to the floor and his eyes closed.

“Yes, Reverend.” The man stood and hurried away. Perhaps he will not remember my face.

The answer was unnecessary; the Reverend had passed out before the man in green had spoken his second word.

 

In a room apart, the Senior Reverend of Las Vegas and his privy staff glanced briefly at a televisor that showed the scene in the arena, and then took their places at a large table.

“They are fools,” said the Senior. “Most of them have no idea we were attacked and that if the attack had been successful they would have died.”

“How else can we keep someone in Lodge Pole, Kansas or Bumfuck, Georgia?” one of the Reverends asked. It was a rhetorical question; still, someone answered it.

“They all have their little girl- and boy-friends in Lodge Pole and Bumfuck,” one of the men said.

“Is it a good idea to encourage that?” It was a perennial question.

“It has proven to be the best source of recruits,” another man said. “The boys begin their training at the hands of their mentors—”

“You mean the catamites learn to read and write when they’re not getting fucked—”

The Senior frowned at the language and the Reverend who’d spoken became quiet.

A man in a khaki uniform entered the room.

“What do we know?” The Senior asked.

“An armed rabble, made largely of children, overwhelmed the border guards but had advanced no farther than the Spring Mountains west of this city when they were met by the Army,” the man in uniform, who wore the gold oak leaves of a major replied.

“The Army was dealing with the attack, including futile attacks on our tanks by suicide bombers, when reinforcements arrived. The reinforcements were, according to the witnesses we’ve interviewed, flying in boxy aeroplanes without wings and had weapons that fired lightning.”

The major waited until the babble of conversation died down.

“There are recorded televisor images as well as still photos that confirm both claims,” he said.

“These reinforcements removed members of the attacking rabble as well as the intact bodies of their dead. No survivors of the attackers were found. There was no one to question. We don’t know from where the attackers came.”

“California!” one of the Reverends said.

“Probably,” said the major. “We know they came over a pass between us and California. But we cannot be certain they are Californian.” And we dare not jeopardize our relationship with California, he thought. They are the source of the Army’s best weapons—the only source.

“And the reinforcements? The ones with wingless aeroplanes and weapons of lightning?” The Senior asked the more important question. “Could they, too, have come from California?”

“We simply do not know.”

“Are they Pan-Asians?”

The major just shook his head.

 

2009-01-07 Battleship USF Charleston: Recruiting Team I

 

The metas—Geeks with Guns—had begun an effort to locate others like themselves and recruit them into Fleet. When the computer searches, including a final check by Tobor, found a likely candidate, I sent a recruiting team to locate the boy, and—if he passed their scrutiny—to offer him a place in Fleet.

No one had refused. No one’s family had objected. For the most part, the boys’ families were only vaguely aware the boys existed: the metas’ veil kept even their parents from remembering them for more than a short time. The boys were so hungry for human contact and companionship they would have accepted any invitation. That the invitation came from other boys like themselves made it easier to accept.

The teams, especially the one commanded by my son, George, wanted to call themselves Press Gangs, after those operated by the British in the early 1800s, until President Jefferson had sent Fleet to kick butt. I discouraged that nickname, however, and the boys were so . . . respectful? trusting? that they didn’t push the matter.

 

We had been on the Charleston for only a week when a recruiting team’s approach call was routed to me on the Flag Bridge. “Paul? We have a problem. Please meet us on the flight deck.”

It was George’s voice, and if there were a problem George couldn’t solve, it would be a serious one. It didn’t escape me that George didn’t say more, not even mind-to-mind. I knew that meant he was afraid—afraid of me.

I turned the Flag Bridge over to Kevin, whom I had made my XO as well as Chief of the Flag Intel Team, and hurried to the Primary Flight Deck.

The shuttle door didn’t open until I reached it. That was another bad sign. I stepped in, and the door closed behind me.

“What—” I got only one word into my question when I saw George kneeling over a boy’s body. The boy was naked, and curled in a foetal position. George had looked up when he heard the door. His face was pinched in pain; tears ran down his cheeks.

The boy on the deck of the shuttle was alive. That’s the second thing I determined. The first was that George wasn’t injured.

The boy was alive, and he wasn’t one of ours. I couldn’t feel him, nor see what he was thinking, not even his surface thoughts.

The rest of the recruiting team, all Geeks With Guns, were clustered near the front of the shuttle. They, too, were afraid.

“George?” I held out my arms, and he lurched into my hug.

“We felt him,” George said when he had stopped crying. “We felt his pain and fear. It was dark. I assessed our chances and the risk, and ordered a hot pickup.

“He was in a village—”

George stopped talking, took a deep breath, and continued. “A village about 50 miles east of Medina.”

Nova sol! Medina’s in the middle of Mujahedeen territory. That was my first thought. I bit my tongue and clamped hard on my thoughts. I needed a deep breath, too.

“Go on, George,” I said.

“There were people, including the target, sleeping on the roof of the building, so we rappelled onto the roof of an adjacent building. It was easy to get from there onto the roof where he was, and to grab him. He woke up while we were carrying him to the first roof for pickup.

“He was suddenly afraid. By the time he had taken a breath to scream, we’d been pulled into the shuttle and were smoking straight up.”

“His mind seemed to close down, and he curled up like that. We can’t talk to him or anything.”

George managed to sob, “Daddy, I’m sorry!” Then he collapsed on a seat and covered his face with his hands.

 

George is only 14, I thought. He’s a meta, but he’s only 14. Have I asked too much of him? I thought about my own awakening, and realized that it had proceeded more slowly. Of course, that was before we knew that there were other universes, other realities, and that at least one of them was inhabited by bad guys. Am I pushing him, and the other GWGs too hard? Too quickly?

 

I touched George’s shoulder. What I said was for him, alone. “George, no matter what has happened or will happen, you’re my son and my boyfriend and I love you. I will not abandon you; Danny and I and all the Geeks will be here for you. Now, we must take care of this boy.”

George looked up. I saw the same expression that had been on his face when in Admiral Davis’s office I had told George he was to be assigned to me and not kicked out of Fleet. I shared that memory with George and saw a tentative smile.

We have overcome more than this, I thought. Nor is it likely that this will be our greatest test.

I knelt beside the kidnapped boy, and touched his shoulder. George was right—the boy was deeply catatonic.

“We’re not going to solve this here,” I said. “Put him on a stretcher, cover him, and bring him to your quarters.”

I turned and addressed the rest of the team that by now included the shuttle’s flight crew. GWGs, as well, I thought. Good.

“Guys? Discuss this with no one until we can sort things out. I will make the official notifications when I think it is appropriate.” I raised a mental eyebrow in question. They all agreed. I felt their trust, and it felt good.

 

I wanted to keep the knowledge of this event close, even among the GWGs, so I brought in only Cam, who was the most sensitive telepath among the metas. Danny would, of course, have to know about the situation, since he and George shared quarters—officially—although when I was lucky, one and occasionally both would sleep with me. Since they were the chiefs of my security detail and my sons, no one thought it untoward that we had adjoining quarters. That George, Danny, and I were also boyfriends, most of the GWGs knew, of course.

 

George answered Cam’s knock, and gestured for him to come into the room. Cam gasped, “What? When—?”

“Cam? What is it?” I hadn’t expected him to react so quickly.

“I’ve never felt anything like it,” Cam whispered. “He . . . he thinks he’s a mouse, hiding deep in its burrow in the sand. His name is Maudi.”

“How can you—” Danny began.

“None of us could—” George interrupted.

“Shhh!” Cam put his finger to his lips. We watched Cam tiptoe to the bed, strip, and crawl in beside the boy—now called Maudi—and cuddle him. In only a few minutes, Cam was asleep.

 

I assembled the boys on the Flag Intel Team, and told them enough that they could begin exploring the situation. “This stays among the team, for now,” I said. They knew that by team I meant the GWGs and not the broader Flag Team.

 

George and Danny had watched Cam and the boy, now known as Maudi, turn and turn about through the night and called me when they woke the next morning. I was already up and dressed, and reached the room quickly.

Cam and Maudi were sitting on one bed. They were wearing Fleet utilities. Cam was holding the boy, one arm around his shoulder. Danny and George were sitting on the adjacent bed, motionless. I stopped as soon as I entered the room.

“Paul, this is Maudi,” Cam said.

The boy spoke in Arabic, and Cam translated. “I am Maudi. How did I get to this place? Am I in heaven? I think I must be, for I have never seen people as beautiful as I see before me. May I have water, please?”

“Ice water, George,” I said, when I felt him tense to stand.

George was puzzled, but obeyed.

Maudi sipped and then smiled. “I know I am in heaven, for Allah has promised that the evil dead will drink from fountains of boiling water,” Cam translated. That was what I had remembered from reading the Quran, and why I told George to bring cold water.

“If he stays here, we will have some re-educating to do,” I sent by tight-beam to Danny, George, and Cam.

“Not so much, I think,” Cam replied. “His understanding is slight, his knowledge is shallow and largely based on repetition and memorization. And he will have to stay here.

The boy kept talking, and Cam translated. “When my father and brothers said that they would burn me because I was a devil, I knew that I would suffer and that on the Day of Standing Up I would be sent to hell. I am glad that—”

Something in the boy’s mind clicked. He paused only for a moment, and then spoke.

“What is this place? It is not heaven nor is it hell, and I am not dead,” Cam translated.

“This is the room that my sons, Danny and George share. We are on a ship of the United Space Fleet, and are in orbit above the Earth on which you live,” I said.

The boy pursed his lips in thought, and then nodded. “That is more reasonable than either heaven or hell,” he said.

“My name is Paul,” I said. “The boy who is hugging you, and who held you all last night, is Cam.

“Maudi? I answer to one who is more powerful than I, and must speak to him. I entrust you to the care of my sons and to Cam, who is like my son. Please listen to them, for they will help you.”

Cam translated, the boy nodded, and I went to meet with the Geeks on the Intel Team.

 

“Marty, I know you’ve been monitoring Fleet traffic as well as the news services. Anything?” Marty was the kid who had broken into Danny’s secure, trinary circuit to Tobor while we were at Fleet School Australia, and was now head of the sigint-elint team. Not that the Reverends had any sources of elint, and very few sources of sigint. Still, Marty and his team were wringing everything they could from it. This time, I’d asked them to turn their talents to their own world.

“No, sir, not even from Al Jihadi. Nothing about a missing boy, nothing that could be construed as being about a missing boy—or a USF shuttle over Mujahedeen territory.”

“Alex? You’ve gotten imagery of the village and the roof?” Alex was our art Geek, and had found his place as head of the imint team.

“Yes, sir. But nothing useful. That is, nothing that provides any clue about a missing boy. In summer or near the equator, people often sleep on the roof in the Mujahedeen territory.

“It’s cooler and it’s too high for most flying insects,” he added. “But not for flying saucers.” That got a giggle from the team.

I thanked them, and went to my office for a secure, private link to Admiral Stewart.

 

“Admiral? I have exceeded my authority. I don’t think anything will come of it, but you must know in case it does.” I explained that while on a mission to Earth, George had sensed a strong meta, had picked him up, and brought him to the Charleston.

“The boy is a Mujahedeen, and was taken from his home in a village near Medina before his father and brothers, who had some inkling of his abilities, could burn him as an evil spirit. We are reasonably certain the kidnapping was not detected. We cannot under any circumstances return him lest he be killed. I will accept responsibility for him and for integrating him into our team.”

Admiral Davis looked at me for a moment, and then chuckled. “Paul? This isn’t an armed invasion of England, but you are right. I needed to know, just in case. Carry on.”

Armed invasion of England—the punch line of the Prime Minister Lloyd-George story. I remembered it had been at Edmonton during one of Admiral Davis’s lectures that I’d first heard that story.

 

The following day, I called a meeting of all the metas.

“Some of you know a bit about how Danny and I met. I don’t think, however, that anyone but Danny and George know that I kidnapped him. I operated with less authority and reason than the Press Gang did on the mission that rescued Maudi. I operated from purely selfish motives. I will never regret my decision.”

I felt some grins from the boys who’d been on the “Press Gang” missions to find and recruit metas from Fleet territory. I’d been—until this point—adamant about not allowing them to use that name. After Maudi’s kidnapping, I felt I no longer had that option.

“The team and flight crew operated from a clear understanding of their mission and from a logical and ration extension of their orders. Their motives were more appropriate than mine. I guess what I’m trying to say here is that I could never call them to task for what they did, especially having done what I did. The fact that I love them all, but especially their commander, only makes that more clear to me.”

George and his team blushed in the applause that followed.

“You may call yourselves Press Gangs, but the bandanas and black eye patches are not approved. Besides, they’re anachronistic.”

That got a giggle and a laugh, and a couple of nudges in George’s ribs.

I was sure George had other things in his head, but eschewed reading him deeply enough to find out. I trusted him, but, I remembered the words of a one-time politician: “Trust but verify.” Now who was that? The memory would not come. I shrugged. Must not have been anyone important.

* * * * *

Cam spent much of his time over the next month with Maudi. After that, Maudi could speak English (although with an incredibly sexy liquid accent) and understood (but perhaps had not completely internalized) the tenets of the Enlightenment. What was most important, I think, was that he and Cam had struck up a relationship that was fast becoming very, very sensual. I was pleased to see that: Cam had been alone since he and Alex had ended their relationship a few weeks ago.

Copyright © 2014 David McLeod; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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On 01/11/2014 01:48 PM, Kookie said:
I'm glad to see the series continuing and look forward to the coming chapters.
Hi, and a good time of day to you,

 

Glad you're here. Please let me know what you think about the direction this is taking.

 

David

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Great start, I suspect that Maudi is but the first of many to follow. Will they all be this easy and/or inclined to join up. How many are there, we are talking about an entire planet here. What kind time frame for this can Paul afford. Great chapter, thank you.

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