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    Thread: Zeus's Toy Box

    1. #1
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      Default Zeus's Toy Box

      This story is in the near future, or maybe even now...who knows? But its a little more dark than some and not space related, not really anyways.


      Zeus’s Toy Box

      I have heard a lot of people...and I mean a LOT...saying that governments are too corrupt, too greedy, to be left alone as they are. But imagine the power it would take. The absolute nerve of some people, to try and change things, without an all out war.

      How could it be done, and by who? It would need to be someone nearly invisible, someone nearly indestructible, and someone with really deep pockets, to make any difference at all.

      This is my story, about a team of people, special people who want a better world and are willing to risk all to get it. Young people from all walks of life, working together to change the world and bring about a more stable Peace...the New Elite.



      Chapter 1: First day at Work


      A Team of 30 young people, all ages and all ranks, walked silently out of the shipyards office and into their new craft. It had been built here in deadly secret, and the people who worked on it would never need to work again. 2 billion dollars worth of parts, 200 million in labor, and even some free labor, from the people that then became the ships new crew.

      It had no official name, and no official ID. It was a ghost, in a world of bright lights and greed. There were thousands in high ranking positions that would kill to just see it one time, but they never would.

      The power came on and lights lit on control panels and screens around the bridge and as it did, the large soldier standing by the command chair looked down...at the young woman sitting there.

      Contessa Romani, barely 20 years old, was now the Captain of this new ship and well trained to run it, since she designed the thing herself. Blond, attractive, extremely intelligent but maybe a tad short, but her eyes said it all, she was serious about her job, and her new crew.

      She looked around the bridge as everyone there sat, in their gray and white uniforms, running checks and double checking things before leaving their hidden ‘port’ inside the huge hanger that had hidden the ship for the last 2 years, but tonight that ended, and their run to change their world would start, however long it might last.

      “All systems are green.” She heard as she nodded and remarked back..

      “Back us away, all jamming active.” She ordered as the big doors behind them opened and the large submarine backed away and out into the night.

      “Take us out of the bay and into deep water, ahead one quarter, depth, 100 meters.” She ordered and it was done, as they silently slipped under the nearly calm sea and turned out towards the open ocean.
      She activated her console too and sat checking out the info, but something wasn’t quite right as they left the bay and started into deeper water.

      “What is our current speed?” She asked as her navigator checked and said 40 MPH, and she looked sad. “Check your calibration mister, something is very definitely off.” She said as he did and after a few minutes punching buttons he remarked that the forward speed was now 48 MPH instead, as she smiled and nodded that that was definitely better.

      “Even brand new and right out of the shop I knew it wasn’t that bad...” She remarked as the young officer looked a little embarrassed and she just smiled at the look on his face. “Turn to Starboard, come around to heading 234x 459, speed one half.” She said as the boat turned and sped up and she watched every dial, every screen and finally was satisfied.

      “Very good, speed to maximum cruise....” She said as they sped up yet again and the big boat passed the one hundred miles per hour mark and kept right on going like it was nothing.

      “One hundred,” Called the navigator, “ 125...150...” He went on as a few looked a little worried.”maximum cruise...190 miles per hour.” He called as everything fell into place and the boat stopped speeding up.

      “Imagine if we hit a whale at this speed,” the weapons officer whispered, but not quiet enough.

      “The ship is made from a special Carbon Composite material...” The Captain said loudly.” Its stronger than steel and dozens of times lighter, armor piercing rounds from front line battle tanks cant penetrate it... so one fish, more or less, isn’t going to matter.” She finished with some pride as a few chuckled and one or two decided that their new Captain might know her ships, but whales aren’t fish, but they wisely left it go by.

      “We should be seeing a ship soon, so Lieutenant, get ready to take on passengers.” She said as the big man agreed and made a call to get ready to receive passengers, as a team ran to the elevators and waited.

      “Ship coming into scanner range...” She heard and after checking its ID she nodded that was it. They left the shipyards short handed, on more than one front. Now the rest of their crew was waiting, and she checked that it was now 12 midnight and the weather was perfect, cloudy and calm, with their advanced ECM running unless someone looked out a window and saw them visually, they would never be detected.

      The cargo ship had one order, when the signal was received drop off these passengers, no questions asked. And thats what they did. The men and women were set adrift in rubber rafts, over a dozen of them and they stayed tied together for safety, each carrying their basic equipment with them. The old freighter kept right on going, and in a few minutes was out of sight, as the people started talking back and forth saying that even as professional mercenaries this was odd, and some laughed saying maybe some old enemy had done this and a gunboat was on its way, and no one wanted to hear that right at this moment, since it could literally be true.

      Being a mercenary was a hard job, but many people made a good living out of it every year. But THIS job was different, they had been told that they were especially chosen for it, even that new training would be given for free, and the wages were outstanding, so this being mentioned as a trap, made a few people think seriously about it. To a young mercenary hoping to retire young enough to enjoy it, this job offer was a dream come true.

      The one raft contained the members of Team Alpha, a unit that specialized in combat. Sniping, intelligence and assassinations were all possible with this 4 member team, but right this second they weren’t too sure either.

      “This is getting a little too odd for me,” The Unit Commander mentioned as softly as she could, as her Team all smiled and nodded they thought so too. Master Sargent Phyllis Weber...herself only 21 years old but her Team had formed from bits and pieces of units that died in battle, until only the best and most serious among them were left.

      Mark Jackson, one of her members was the sniper of the group, any firearm of any kind and he’d make it work, as everyone that had seen him work knew. The next was Samuel Hines, a hand to hand combat specialist. He too could turn anything from a gun, a knife or a stone into a deadly weapon, and he didn’t seem fazed a bit by what was happening, as many others just shook their head at his laid back attitude. Then there was Jake Logan, a young computer/communications specialist that kept them all in touch and well informed, and as he sat there playing with his equipment a loud bubbling was heard as someone screamed and a huge nose popped out of the ocean right alongside them and someone laughed and yelled..’our rides here’ and the many that were worried looked a little better right now.

      But that nose just kept going up as a few gasped for a second there at the sheer size of it, and as it stopped rising, the top opened like the top of a huge observatory, and each side laid back to reveal a flat area, marked for take offs and landings and elevators as crew ran to reel them all in, and the Sargent screamed for everyone to get on board.

      “We have 5 minutes to get you all on board,” he screamed as many started paddling his way,” after that if your not standing beside me, you’ll be left behind.” he screamed as raft after raft flew across the water and got dragged in and their contents grabbed and carried to the landing pad where the Sargent was standing waiting.

      They managed to make it and as they all stood there in lines, the floor started dropping and even before their heads went inside all the way, the big doors on top were closing. It all took just 4 minutes and while they dropped to the hanger area below, the ship was already moving and by now was over a hundred feet under the waves.

      They got led to their bunk spaces and had time to get acquainted with the others that were there, then into their first meeting, as two large soldiers stood in front of the room and demanded they sit and be quiet.

      Then in walked a young blond woman, cute and a bit sexy, and some fool got out a quick whistle before being roughly told to be quiet. She walked without slowing to the center of the room as both men flanked her and waited for her to speak.

      “I am Contessa Romani, the Captain of this vessel and I expect good discipline and hard work from my crew.” She declared as one big marine burst out laughing and asked why they should take orders from someone ‘still in diapers’ and she nodded sourly towards security... and the man got dragged away and was never seen again.

      “Any more questions or comments?” She asked as a few people looked pretty surprised by that.After that one hand went up and she asked Phyllis what she wanted and she had the obvious question all ready.

      “My Team and I have been around since we were kids doing this rtpe of work, all over the Middle East and beyond, and I’ve never seen a ship like this before, whats its name?” She asked as she was quickly told that it was brand new and had no name, and she looked surprised.

      “We aren’t worried about that right now, its not important.” Contessa said seriously as everyone looked surprised. “Anything else? If not, heres the deal, you all negotiated your contracts and signed them before getting on board. Your pay starts immediately, even if you aren’t busy yet, but believe me, you will be later, so stay in shape and be ready at a moments notice.” She said and many nodded agreement.” There are workout facilities on board and you’ll have access to those whenever you like, but outside communications is illegal, so let your wives or ‘others’ know that when next you see them. Time off will be every other weekend, somewhere in the world, and calls can be made outside the ship but never once on board. This is a secret operation, as I’m sure you figured out by the generous pays your getting, anyone breaking that rule will get dropped off somewhere, my choice.” She said as many whispered amongst themselves for a second while she waited for more remarks.

      “You’ll use nothing but the best here, and we supply it. Anyone caught pilfering anything for sale or taking things off the ship that belongs here will be fired instantly! Times are tough right now and we’re going to see what we can do to help fix things. Do your jobs, no questions asked, and get paid... thats what mercenaries do right? And when you need us to be there we will be, we leave no one behind, not even bodies, and special training will be offered to those that qualify, so wait and see, when the notices go up.” She said looking around as no one else asked anything else.

      “Welcome on board then, and I hope we will work well together.” She said throwing them a salute that was returned by all 19 members still there as she turned and walked out of the room and her second went with her as the Marine Commander took them on a quick tour, a gym, a rifle range, cafeterias, and showers, all inside a massive submarine and everything they saw was the very best, even the food, and after that there wasn’t a single complaint as he walked away and left them to discuss what they had seen.


    2. #2
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      Chapter 2: Settling In


      “Nice place...” Mark said having a sip of coffee, as everyone nodded agreement,” If the equipment we get to use is this good we’ll have it made.” He remarked as Phyllis agreed wholeheartedly.

      “At least we aren’t left to forage for ourselves this trip.” She added sadly, while they remembered some other jobs where things were not so nice.

      “Wait and see,” Sam added between drinks, as Phyllis demanded he not jinx them soo soon, and he nearly choked as a few others around them chuckled out loud.

      “This is the best gig we’ve gotten for a long while now...hell maybe forever...so watch what you say. 6 months at this pay will make a world of difference to people like us.” She demanded and everyone close enough to hear agreed.

      “Amen...” Mark added sadly, while a few others nearby just nodded and said nothing.

      They finished their coffee and returned to their bunks, and Mark and Sam sat or laid there talking about the new job and the new ship, and both agreed that things were pretty good right now.

      “The best of everything...” Mark mentioned as Sam nodded agreement,” I wont know what to do with myself if that is true.”

      “Like making due with a 30-06 from some sporting goods store as a sniper rifle.” Sam reminded him as he looked tired thinking about it.

      “That wasn’t even the worst I’ve done, before I joined this group I used whatever I could lay my hands on, and even spent some serious cash to get good equipment... that I then lost in combat.” Mark mentioned as Sam nodded agreement. War had changed a lot in the last decade, tanks were being replaced by swift and powerful armored personnel carriers that did the same job only faster and more maneuverable. Helicopters that were all but silent, and had ECM to keep from being detected. Of course many third world countries still used the old weapons, and would for a long time yet, but new high tech weapons were coming out that would change warfare forever.

      Powerful ECM, like what this ship probably used, made ships and planes nearly invisible, and special weapons shot down missiles at a rate that made using them much less attractive than just 10 years before. Soldiers used to need nothing but their bare hands and whatever they could gather on the battle field, and it would surprise many if they knew how many battles had been fought this way. But today just staying alive was getting hard, and new high tech weapons saw them , hunted them, even at night. There was little chance of escape without them and so even a small group that liked being independent like Alpha Team needed to work for people that would help equip them now...or die trying to keep up.

      “That new Captain is cute though,” Mark added with a big smile,” I could get into that.” He said as Sam just laid back and smiled. Mark was a horny dog, chasing skirt wherever he went, and it had gotten him in trouble more than a few times too. But to set eyes on such a serious young officer...even he had to know he was playing with fire.

      “I’m wondering what ‘special training’ we’ll be able to get here.” Sam added as Mark nodded to that too. Training was always needed and to find someone worth teaching you was not easy. Good martial arts training took years to learn and many serious soldiers took the time to learn it. Even a 2 year course wasn’t enough in times of battle nowadays, and that was something Sam wanted, more and better than before.

      “They said it would be posted later,” Mark added and they both decided to grab a nap since half their night was spent drifting along in a rubber raft, and tomorrow was sure to be something new in a place like this.

      A couple hours later and the wakeup alarm went off, everyone was told to shower and get breakfast, and so they all walked that way. Phyllis was already there waiting, as the men joined her and Jake was complaining that none of his equipment worked here, as Phyllis laughed, saying this wasn’t some old tub, this ship had serious defenses and he wouldn’t be getting into their systems unless they left him.

      They ate and went to see the bulletin board, and there seemed like something there for everyone, but Sam took a minute to read an article with a picture that made him laugh. The Kuratas, a robot design that was on sale to the average citizen..if you could afford it. The weapons were a LOTAS launcher and a pair of gatling guns...each setup to fire BB’s or some such toys, but it looked like some serious armor, but was as slow as a riding mower.

      “What do you think?” He heard and without turning he laughed and said that good body armor was expensive too... but this thing was a toy that did only 8 MPH. “And if the guns were real..and it did 50 MPH?” He heard as his face fell and he turned to see the Marine Commander smiling and walking away.

      “ 50?...” Sam whispered as he looked at the picture again. It would take a tank or a serious missile to penetrate that, if the armor was made to suit the weapon, but that was just a toy for rich people and he shook his head and went back to seeing what skill training he could get while he waited on an assignment.


      Chapter 3: Keeping Busy


      Sam took a lesson in martial arts and passed with flying colors. His instructor was an older marine with a decade of experience, and he wiped the floor with Sam several days in a row. But he was always there the next day...or two days later once when he dislocated his shoulder sparing...but he never complained, and his instructor reported it and the Marine Commander smiled pretty wide to see a good quality recruit for a change.

      Mark was playing with new toys too, anything from nice light sniper rifles, to a large heavy armor piecing job that could shoot a mile easily. They had scopes that left him zoom in or out, with presets for his preferences, and he told everyone he was in Heaven, as many other men laughed at his comments.

      Phyllis got some training too, martial arts of course, and training to use new weapons she had no experience with, and to her surprise one day she was led into a meeting where she was given training in Command. She reminded them she had been doing the job for 3 years now and she got along with her men perfectly, but she was given the lesson anyways, and was surprised what ‘little things’ she might not have known.

      The new Captain was seeing first hand who was going to stay with her and who would be looking to go, and she was impressed that this group seemed more than happy here and trained to better themselves at every opportunity.

      She couldn’t let them know what was real yet, or what was about to happen. But once she was sure then they had important things to do, and she looked at the date and the fuel supply and decided that things were going good enough, and they turned onto a new heading, and started towards a line of small islands some 500 miles away. If this crew wasn’t ready, then they better get ready, because the real world was about to come rushing in.

      They traveled for a few hours and slowly those islands got closer and closer. They dropped to 1/4 and slid towards them slower and finally down to a few feet per second, as a rock wall opened before them and the navigator maneuvered them inside. It had been an old WW II submarine base, big enough for several old model submarines, but they closed it after the war and blew the roof down inside and left it forever after that, but some quick finances and good negotiating and it was repaired and refit, and now the big sub slid to a stop, as dock workers ran everywhere getting it refueled and resupplied.

      The whistle went off and all members were asked to disembark, and as they grabbed their things and ran, the big dock area was seen as men and women lined up row after row, and Captain Romani welcomed them to their new home, and many looked impressed.

      “This is our main base of operations...” She said as many just looked around at the size of the place.” We’ll spend a lot of time here, so settle in and get comfortable. It has all the amenities of the ship and more, so there’s no excuse for getting bored.” She added as some laughed and many just smiled and nodded.

      “Once we are properly stocked and ready, missions will start, so start planning for it, it wont be long now..dismissed!” She said as everyone saluted and were led away, to find themselves new quarters, and get the Grand Tour.

      Contessa went to her suite as well and sat down at her desk and leaned way back in her chair and tried to rest a little. The crew was slowly getting better, and another small group was still coming, but that was next week and as she thought about dinner a buzzer went off and she jumped up to see a hologram of a middle aged man flowing off to the side of her desk and she got welcomed home again.

      “What do you want, Mr. Francis?” She asked grumpily, as the man looked sad she was getting angry with him already.

      “You’ve used up 75% of all your funds so far, and your Finance Team haven’t been keeping up.” He mentioned as she reminded him they were busy getting set up, and her Team was still doing OK, considering. “The supply requisition you requested surpasses your budget for the month coming, so some trade offs might need to be made.” he added as she looked even more tired than she felt.

      “I promised my people the best of everything, and I will keep that promise!” She demanded as he nodded and checked his note pad again. “ Some will most certainly not survive the year, and I’ll not let them do without until then.” She whispered as he nodded he understood.

      “If we cant take it from the men we have to take it from the ship then.” he insisted as she tried to argue the fact, but lost.”Some of these weapons are very, very expensive, while under normal circumstances others, less expensive, can do the job.” he insisted as she finally agreed it might be possible.

      “Like: from this...to this...” he started as she checked and except for some small differences... mostly advanced targeting systems... they did do the same amount of damage, and so she agreed to use the less expensive weapon...for now. “That’ll save you 1.2 million already, the rest I think I can find a little cheaper if you don’t mind the wait.” he hinted as she said she needed the minimum armaments immediately, and he agreed saying the shipment was on its way and the link went down.

      “Weapons dealers...” She growled to herself, but he was also one of the founders of her mission, and its hard to find half a billion dollars just anywhere. She got her supplies at cost, and because of that they’d be better supplied than some militaries around the world, but he was a businessman after all, and since he was doing all this... he had a sort of fatherly opinion of his place here...something she was planning on fixing at her earliest convenience.

      But even she didn’t know what was really going on, as the hologram ended the man stepped through a door into the hall. He walked a few meters and a door opened and he walked onto his bridge and looked down on the blue world below him.

      “Why are you playing with these people, Captain?” His navigator asked as he just smiled at her question.

      “They are at a very important place in their History.” he mentioned as she waited to hear.” Like we were around 500 years ago, before the Great Change happened. They’re getting ready for one world government and many tyrants and dictators are willing to die to stop that, because they feel it will belittle them. But once it happens, then this world will be civilized enough to qualify for admission into the Galactic Community, and then it’ll be worth Billions to a trader who has contacts here.” He mentioned as she just left out a big sigh. They were cutting the edge pretty close here, there were rules about guiding lessor civilizations into the future, they had to follow their own path, and while they weren’t telling them what to do...exactly...they were certainly making it easier for them to see the path ahead.

      “You could get thrown into a penal colony for this, if you get the wrong Judge.” She hinted as he just smiled wider.

      “They need to find out first and we’re not talking are we?” he asked as everyone on the bridge agreed and he sat down to see where he could get these weapons, and ordered the transporter to gather everything on his list.
      It was amazing what you could do with a transporter on a barbaric world that had none, and the huge investment they gave him credit for was most of the time were things that just ‘disappeared overnight’ somewhere and would never be found again. As a Galactic Trader stuck his nose into someone else’s business, and hoped for the best result.


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      Chapter 4: First Strike


      Two days later and as Contessa walked out of her apartment to see her Second waiting, he had a nice big smile going today for a change.

      “Something good happen over night Mr. Hayes?” She asked with a sly smile and he just beamed back and nodded. They dropped down to the dock area in the elevator and when the doors opened there sat a series of boxes next to the ship, and even she looked surprised to see them.

      “6 cruise missiles...12 anti aircraft missiles...and 20 small missiles marked as: ‘interceptors’ “ He said as they walked along nodding and smiling wide.

      “I told Mr. Francis we couldn’t start work without supplies...and ordered a minimal set. I guess to him this is it.” She said laughing as Lt. Hayes nodded right along.

      “The funny thing is...no one saw them come in... the guards swear that the doors never opened all night.” He hinted as she got the biggest grin, and she told him not to worry.

      “He’s one of our suppliers and a friend who helps support us financially...” She mentioned as Lt. Hayes agreed.” He has full access to the base, so Mr. Hayes... lets get our supplies on board shall we?” And they walked up the gang plank as workers started running everywhere getting the ship loaded.

      This meant she now had everything she needed to ‘prod’ a few tyrants and corrupt politicians into changing their ways. The Marine Teams were told to get ready for action, just in case, and they moved back into the ship for a few days and at midnight the next night, the big doors opened and they backed out and headed towards the continent of Africa, and a problem that had been ignored far to long.

      In less than a day they were cruising along near the coast, as Contessa asked if getting the President of the nation on the link was going to be a problem, and Jake Logan just laughed.

      “His security sucks...” She heard as she got a giggle in there too and a minute later a call went through...voice only...and he demanded to know who was bothering him this early in the morning.

      “I am someone who would like very much to be your friend.” She hinted as he laughed saying there were ‘certain standard fees’ for such a thing and she needed to talk to his secretary, but Contessa disagreed. “You have been a parasite on the face of mankind for years now...tens of thousands of your own people have been murdered... and you still have this attitude? I suppose its because the UN left you get away with it for this long... but that stops today.” She said seriously while he laughed out loud saying he had been threatened by the biggest and best and she didn’t frighten him.

      “I wanted to give you this chance to stop your genocide and return to Peace, of course I never thought you’d believe me right off the bat, so I’ll call back in an hour.” She said as the line went dead and he looked kind of surprised that this woman could say such a thing to him, but he just rolled over and went back to sleep and a few minutes later, an entire armory went up in smoke, 12 tanks, several armored personnel carriers and tons of supplies..gone in an instant.

      Millions upon millions of dollars in military hardware and he got the call minutes later and he sat there in his bed with his eyes too wide to imagine. He had been warned before of course, dozens of times for his barbaric ways, but none had really done anything, until now. He ordered the military to Red Alert and jumped up and got dressed. He’d find who did this and make a spectacle out of them for it, that he’d guarantee. And he ran into his office and started a search and nothing was there, not near his boarders or as far as his or his allies radar or sonar could reach, nothing. And he saw that maybe it was a one time thing...and then the phone rang again.

      “You’re a very noisy and barbaric man, Mr. President. That was one staging area, there are only 3 more where you hide your weapons. You’ve never fought against a real enemy, only the poor and helpless, so stop this now before you lose even more.” She demanded as he called her every name Humanity had ever made up, and even her eyes popped to hear all that.

      “I will hunt you down and kill you for this!” He demanded as she sighed heavily right on the phone.

      “ 1 hour then...” She said and hung up, as his eyes looked shocked and his mouth dropped for a second. Then he caught himself and demanded all his staging areas be emptied immediately. Take all the tanks and heavy vehicles out into the countryside and hide them until further notice, and even as he was saying that a man ran in saying a cruise missile was on radar, and the President asked where it originated, and the man didn’t know.

      “It just appeared out of nowhere.” He said as the explosion was heard in the distance, even in the office, as one man ran to the window and looked out at the black cloud on the edge of the city, bellowing smoke and fire and he was speechless, as pile after pile of military hardware disappeared in an instant... and for minutes after.

      In a few minutes the phone rang again, and the President slowly answered it and Contessa asked if he was ready to talk now...and he finally agreed.

      “You’ve lost half your armor and for you, that’s half your military right there. People who stood by and watched until now will see your not in any position to argue, and they might move against you, and the billions you stole will need to be spent just to bribe them away or buy new hardware...if anyone will sell to you. Stop this ‘cleansing’ now...today...and you’ll never see me again. Or, continue and we’ll be back...your choice.” She said as the line went blank and the President had to sit down or fall down, so he sat, and sat there staring into space.

      “Mr. President?” His oldest advisor asked and after a minute he looked up with a very sad look on his face.

      “I’ll not lose everything now.” he whispered as everyone nodded agreement.” Set up a news conference right away I’ll address the Nation.” He said and it was done. He stood before everyone, saying they had been attacked, and had taken heavy losses. He then went on to say that this new enemy was powerful and he’d need the help of everyone to protect against them. So he was opening his boarders to any and all emergency relief agencies that had asked to get in before. He wanted his people to see he could be compassionate when it was needed, and together they’d stand against this new threat, and thousands applauded him and even his military leaders knew he had compromised, to stay in power a little longer.

      The ship patrolled the area for another day, listening and watching and when Contessa saw the first ships and planes dropping off relief supplies and UN workers, she smiled. The UN had asked him to let them in to help the poor and dieing, and he had refused for years...now they were here...and she got a coded message from a ‘friend’ there that thanked her for the help, as she turned her ship and went home.


      Chapter 5: Time Off


      “We didn’t even get to do anything.” Mark whined, as many around him laughed.

      “They can pay me to do nothing forever if they want.” Sam admitted eating a sandwich, as many others agreed.

      “Our time will come, believe it, the Captain is no fool and she wont pay us these rates for nothing.” Phyllis added as her team all nodded seriously.

      “And considering the work shes doing...things are bound to get very interesting... very soon.” Mark added and not just Alpha Team but everyone in hearing range agreed.

      They returned to base and got back off the ship again. The job had been a success, at least partially. The President still fought with everyone that came in about human rights and payment for doing...well anything...inside his country. But even that was an improvement, since for years before this it was a black hole, and no one knew for sure what was going on inside.

      As it turned out it was worse than many had thought, and now that they were inside looking around, the violations started to pile up, and it looked like President Verbosa was on his way out for good.

      He saw the writing on the wall when the UN sent someone to tell him to expect charges, and he and his entire Family, and the fortune they stole from their countrymen, all disappeared in the middle of the night, and popped up in some other nice warm climate soon after. He refused to return and the country he was in had no extradition either, so he felt safe for now and someone better suited for the job took his place, as Humanitarian groups hailed it as a huge improvement for the poor and starving people he left behind.

      By now enough time had passed that time off was received and since they were basically in the middle of nowhere, they decided that this time it would be in Japan, a nice long ride but with the right cloths, Americans would fit right in without any questions being asked.

      The soldiers got cloths to fit their real specialties, so if they ran into other military men and women then they’d be ready for the usual talk. Two choppers left the airfield hidden in the trees on the island and they dropped off their charges some time later, at 2 different airfields in 2 different towns.

      The story would be the same...US Military on leave... and the Japanese people had seen enough of that not to worry about it at all.Alpha Team got off together and then split up. The guys went one way and Phyllis went another. She did a little shopping and then stopped at a nice looking little restaurant/bar where some other soldiers seemed to be.

      But as she walked in, the waitress said they were pretty busy right now and ask if she minded sharing a table, and she smiled and said no she didn’t mind, and in a few minutes she found herself sitting across the table from...her Captain... who looked up and smiled from eating her meal.

      “Well hello there...you’re...” She started then looked around at all the people that might be listening.

      “Master Sargent Phyllis Weber..US Marine Corps...” Phyllis added quickly as Contessa smiled and they shook hands officially. “Are you enjoying your leave?” She asked and went about eating her food as well.

      “I guess...” was the best answer she got... but she just couldn’t let it go.

      “You don’t...have someone?” She asked as Tessa nearly choked on her drink.

      “No..nothing like that. I just like to get some fresh air and maybe do a little shopping once in a while.” Tessa added looking down at her plate and trying to finish quickly.

      “If you don’t mind me saying so...” Phyllis mentioned softly.” you should have. You’re a pretty girl and we all know our jobs can end quickly. Waiting for Mr. Perfect might be a waste... Captain.” She whispered as Tessa looked up and after a minute, smiled.

      “And my report said Mr. Jackson was the one who liked giving away free advise.” She said with a chuckle as they both smiled.

      “Be glad he didn’t see you here...” Phyllis added as they both laughed.

      “When the time is right...I’ll worry about those things.” Tessa admitted, as Phyllis just nodded silently and they finished their meal together.

      They were both done at the same time and walked out the door as Phyllis said it was nice talking to her, and Contessa admitted that having someone to talk to at lunch was nice. That was the extent of it, but Phyllis walked away thinking that the Captain was a lonely person...but a nice one...and she’d speak to her more often after this.

      And Contessa was thinking that someone messed up her reports on each new soldier, because it said Phyllis Weber was a hard nosed soldier that seldom talked to anyone outside of her own Team.Of course this time she didn’t mind, but she worried about getting close to people, and then losing them later on, and that was why she had no one, or wanted anyone either.


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      Chapter 6: Next Problem


      A few days went by and Tessa was in her quarters when she felt like checking on something. Mr. Francis had done a good job getting her the ‘minimal needed’ equipment and she did finish one mission already, but a few things were still not here and she decided to call and ask.

      It seemed to take a little while to get through, but she just figured he was away in Europe or something, but it went through a minute later and he grabbed it and ask what he could do for her today.

      “I want to thank you for getting that first weapon shipment to me so quickly, but you seem to have forgotten my torpedoes,” She mentioned and he seemed lost for a minute.

      “Oh... I’m sorry I thought I had more time..” he added with a slight choke in his voice,” what type would you like? I can get...” and he stopped and checked the lists of things he’d already scanned on the surface.

      “German SUT the enhanced SST 4‘s, or US Mark 54 light torpedoes, or even a few VAT III Russians, which do you prefer?” He asked as she thought for a minute. She had a shop making newer, next gen torpedoes for later, but they were still months away.

      “Hmm given those options, I’ll take the SUT, Germany makes some fine quality weapons.” Tessa added as Francis agreed.

      “How many do you need?” He asked and she decided a dozen would do for now, and the deal was done.” They will be there in 2 days.” he added and she thanked him and away he went and for a second she almost called back, because she was curious too about how he got the supplies into her base without being seen. But that was for another time, and she went and made sure everyone knew that more supplies were coming, and that they’d wait for them before going out again.

      “Enhanced SST 4‘s?” Her second asked when she told him, and she agreed.” Those are some good torpedoes, they have adjustable passive/ active targeting and even move from one target to the next if the first one is destroyed before it gets there.” He added as she agreed, under the circumstances they were lucky to get them until her newer next generation weapons got finished.

      “At that price we cant go wrong,” He mentioned as she agreed. Mr. Francis was more than helpful, even other weapons dealers had no clue how he could sell weapons for his prices without losing money.

      “He says they will be here by Friday, so we’ll plan our next mission after that.” Tessa said as he agreed and they went on about checking every system and seeing if anything needed done, before they pulled out again.

      Everyone else was keeping busy and martial arts classes were run every day. Sam got some of those done and on his days off he found a great place for his favorite pastime, since he seldom drank, he liked getting out and walking around and just getting some air, and the island had some small rocky shorelines under shady trees that were perfect for doing a little fishing.

      The kitchen workers heard about it when he was bragging about some nice fish he caught and threw back and they left him know they had some really good recipes for fresh fish, so today he was out to prove himself, and get something for show.

      He didn’t know the names of all the fish around these shores but he knew there were some monsters here, and he bought a better telescopic rod on his last weekend off and some lures the local fishermen had mentioned, and today he was ready, just him... a good length of rope, just in case... and a small fishing chair, and he picked his way past the helicopter pad and through the brush until he came out just 6 feet above the waves and he set up his chair and started fishing bright and early that day.

      He was there an hour and barely even got a bite. It seemed a few small fish were harassing his lures but they weren’t even big enough to catch, at least until he felt a sharp rap and set the hook on a tiny thing barely 10 inches long. It was sort of black and silver and he laughed because it was barely bigger than the lure he was using. He took it off and threw it back but the shock of getting shocked and dragged in was too much for it and it just floated along, barely moving.

      He felt bad about that, but it was just too small to take back and he watched it drift along, right up until it just disappeared in a swirling wave not 50 feet to his left. He quickly made a few casts that way and sure enough after about 6 tries, his line ripped off like he hooked a sub, and he set the hook and the fight was on.

      The beast ran off nearly half his line then turned and rushed back towards the shoreline. He managed to keep up... barely... but then back out again, and all he got to see was a lot of silver and a black tail. In and out it ran and back and forth the shoreline as both man and beast slowly got more and more tired.

      Sam’s arms were getting cramped, but he wasn’t giving up. Finally it just sat out there and he started the great drag to get it in, hoping to get it to the shoreline before it got a chance to rest. He had it within sight, and he moved about 30 feet to the left, to a small spot between the rocks where he could reach the water, and when that fish got to the sand, he dropped the rod and grabbed the gill on one side and ran up the little beach to the trees and there they both fell and laid for more than a minute, as Sam looked across at the big eye and panted and smiled.

      “Got you, you *******...” he said and laughed and the big fish flipped it’s last and then laid still. Sam wasn’t even sure what it was, and he didn’t care, all he cared was this thing was going back, and he got his rod and seat folded up and made a sort of harness out of the rope. He tied it through the gill and mouth and then put the other loop over his shoulder, and started back, with that big tail dragging the ground behind him.

      “Damn, what do you weigh anyways?” He asked and laughed to think he was this tired, but as he got to the helipad, Mark was walking his way with a couple of beers, coming to see if he was having any luck. He looked shocked to see his buddy panting along dragging this thing and handed him a beer and took the rope from him to help.

      “Jesus, what did you use to catch this thing?” He asked as he got the rope settled on his shoulder and they started back.

      “A couple of the locals told me what to use, and I wasn’t even sure I’d ever get this thing on shore.” Sam remarked as Mark agreed wholeheartedly.

      “Its got to weigh a hundred pounds...” Mark said walking along as Sam nodded and took another drink,” God man, you were lucky as hell to get this thing at all.”

      “Tell me about it,” Sam said as they neared the door to the base.” do you even know what this thing is?” He asked as Mark shook his head no, but it was coming for dinner, he said , as they both laughed and went inside.

      The kitchen staff nearly croaked to see it, but after a second the master cook came in and checked it out and was thrilled.

      “Fresh fish tonight!” She said and many laughed and she asked if Sam really caught this off the edge of the island and he agreed. “Fresh tuna...you’re lucky... this is a small one, they have been caught weighing over half a ton.” She said as her and another lady took it and went inside to get started, as Mark looked over at Sam who was now in shock himself.

      “Half a TON?” He whispered as Mark laughed out loud and they went to tell everyone the tale and wait for a great dinner tonight.


      Chapter 7: Big Surprises all Around


      The word got out and even mutated a little as it went. By the time the Marine Commander heard it you‘d have thought that Sam hunted this thing for years before getting it, and he laughed pretty hard when he heard it.

      He left the Second know and he of course passed it on to the Captain, who was very happy to hear he had done so well.

      “Just another reason I don’t mind people having hobbies, so long as they don’t draw too much attention to us.” She mentioned as Lt. Hayes agreed.

      “I hear it weighed a hundred and twenty pounds,” he hinted as Tessa looked properly impressed.

      “That would have been fun to see...” She mentioned as he agreed,” my father used to fish for trout, but they get like this big...” She said holding up her hands as Lt. Hayes nodded agreement."Over a hundred pounds, wow, he needs an award or something.” She said as Hayes just said that rest was probably what he needed most right now, and she laughed at that.

      They were all front and center too when dinner time came and many people gave a cheer as Sam and his Team walked in.

      “Good job...” He heard as many got a sample of the great meal the cooks had prepared. Even Tessa tried some and was sitting with the other officers eating, when her phone rang and she looked surprised.

      “Yes?” She asked, thinking Mr. Francis was calling to talk about her order, but it wasn’t his voice she heard.

      “Lady Captain, I represent a group of business owners that need your help...” he started as she looked shocked.

      “How did you get this number??” She demanded , as the man apologized over and over.

      “Please hear me out, my small country used to be a peaceful place and our biggest export was fish and fruit. Now its been taken over by gangs and drug cartels, and we need your help desperately.” he went on as she said they didn’t do ‘that type of work’ and he just laughed.

      “Your man at the UN was most helpful...” he added as she felt like screaming.” I have sent you a map, on this line, please, check and see I’m being honest with you, the businessmen of my country have chipped in, and we offer 10 million dollars if you can rid our country of these drug labs. If you can do this, your man will receive our thanks and the necessary deposit.” He said and was gone as she slammed her phone down and the officers leaned in while she told them what happened, and Lt. Hayes left the cafeteria right that second to make a call, and to reroute all their calls from now on.

      Tessa had lost her appetite now and went to her suite and sat there looking at the little map the man sent. It showed 4 labs, all marked so she could find them easily, so after a while she called the bridge and got her electronics specialist on the line and asked if they could use a spy satellite for a few minutes, and he smiled and said he was sure they could.

      “Check this map for accuracy then and let me know.” She said and sent him a copy and he nodded and disappeared. In an hour he was back and now they had a real map, actually a picture made from orbit with great detail, as he said the US had great technology, and she laughed.

      “They’re really there,” He added as she nodded,” and it looks like they might be adding a new one too.” he said as she agreed it must be a booming business, and the link went down.

      “So its true then,” She said softly, but that didn’t help her contact at the UN who was dragged away and questioned about giving out top secret information.

      The next day Contessa held a briefing, and she looked like she was up all night, because she was. This became more than new information about a Cartel, it became a moral issue in her mind. If she did what these people ask, it was little more than a hit man job, and many would die. But if it was done properly, then the labs and offices would go up in smoke, and few, if anyone would die. That might not get them out of the country, but it would certainly put some fear into them if they stayed.

      But after some consideration, there was an alternate plan too. The ship could easily take out those labs, but that did nothing to stop them from rebuilding later. But if they had evidence of all the people that supported them, then they could be arrested,and that would end this problem for good, or a long time at least.

      The only trouble was that getting the necessary information couldn’t be done from here, even her electronics team couldn’t hack computers from a long distance, except under special circumstances, and warning the criminals that they were being stalked wouldn’t help either. It needed to be a quick, decisive strike and then they could deal with the buildings and labs.

      “Thats what I’m talking about..finally!” Mark yelled when the plan was mentioned as the Marine Commander cleared his throat loudly and gave him a dirty look.

      “There are circumstances like this where highly trained personnel are necessary. I like keeping my people safe when possible, but that isnt always possible.” Tessa mentioned as many smiled. She was a nice person but maybe a little too soft for command.”We don’t want to tip our hand too early here, so we’ll be sending in a 10 man team. Sargent Major Weber will command, any questions?” She asked as Sam asked what they were to do if they encountered a large force, and she nodded sadly.

      “I’ll be dropping you in there by helicopter, it’ll be late Saturday night, the workers have Sunday off, their only break. If you get in quickly, get all the evidence we need and get out again, the second attack will be from here, and we’ll still keep casualties to a bare minimum on both sides,” She said as everyone nodded they understood.

      It was their first large attack on land since they started this, and she knew someone might not return and it bothered her, but that was the nature of the job, and she wished them all well, and they left the room to get their equipment and start their new assignment.


    5. #5
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      Chapter 8: Getting it Done


      At midnight, the chopper lifted off with a full team on board. They silently drifted towards the shore some 3 miles from the enemy base. Phyllis ordered them to get ready, and when they touched down everyone was off in a minute, and the chopper disappeared back into the night sky.

      “Team 1..you go on ahead, and make a hole through their security, we’ll be right behind and will break into the offices and gather intel.” She said and everyone agreed. They ran for a mile or more then stopped to check the camp with night vision binoculars and several guards could be seen carrying automatic weapons.

      But a minute later they disappeared one by one, as her team ran in and Sam picked the lock on the main offices and they went inside a minute later.

      “We’re in...” Phyllis whispered into her headset, which was picked up all the way back in the ship.

      “Drain their computer files and get out of there...” Tessa mentioned as Phyllis agreed and she started on that, as Sam and Mark looked around and laughed. This guy, like many other rich men, had gotten pictures taken with famous people, and those pictures were hanging on his wall all around them.

      Famous actors, singers, and even a picture with their president, probably from some dinner party he went to.

      “If these guys are hated so much, how did he get invited to meet the President?” Mark asked as he took pictures with his phone of all those others hanging on the wall.

      “Politics, plain and simple, people with money get invited to things so they will donate to the cause. You don’t need to like them... just their money.” Phyllis added as the download was complete and they left as quickly as they came.

      “All teams, withdraw to the extraction point,” She called as they all fell back and ran back towards the spot where they would get picked up. It had gone pretty well so far and as they approached the coordinates, streaks of light came running in, and several explosions went off back at the camp, and fires and explosions shot into the air for 50 feet, as all those chemicals became history.

      “Like the Gods raining fire from Heaven,” Mark said, laughing, as he jumped back on board and they lifted off and ran silently back to the ship. The mission was a success, and even before the intelligence made it to the UN, they were paid, and Tessa smiled that at least their supplies would be covered for a few weeks,and every little bit helped.

      The next day the teams had a nice dinner together and celebrated their first good mission. One man got stabbed in a fight with a guard, but that was nothing in their line of work. It wasn’t in a vital spot, and he’d be fine in a week or two, and they toasted to their success, as Tessa smiled and watched from her suite.

      Being part of a team was nice, and even sitting back here she felt like she was a part too, and it made her smile as she went back to checking new info, and looking for their next job.

      As it just so happened the UN was hoping for some of this information for a while now, and even the countries President was getting called in and asked some serious questions.

      The attack on the compound was written off as a UN mission, and some people really were upset that their business was being upset. But they got warned, on world wide TV that drug smuggling would not be tolerated any longer, and two weeks later, the burned compound was still empty, and no repairs of any kind had even been attempted. It was a good sign, and Tessa was happy the way things had turned out.

      “One down and only a hundred or so to go...” She whispered to herself as even her Second got a smile at that. The job had come up fast and got done just as fast, and now she could start the plan she had from the start. Her men and women used nothing but the best, and she was proud of that, but there were new machines coming out faster than she had hoped, and she needed to get her people involved too, so they would be ready when the time came.

      The first new machine finally came on board, and people looked oddly at it. For generations robots had been very popular in modern sci fi, but with many nations working around the clock to make them real, it was only a matter of time before they hit the battlefield, and autonomous drones had been around for years already.

      One company was so sure of itself they started selling armored suits to the general public, something many people thought was just crazy. But it was slow and cumbersome on purpose, and its weapons were toys for rich little boys and girls. But if you can buy a generic weapon of that size right off the Internet, then you can just imagine what the militaries of the world have sitting around.

      This was their own special unit, the Mark 1 Armored Suit. It had a 20 mm cannon on the left arm and a ammo box that hung on the outside. The right side had a small missile launcher, which was disposable, since it could not be reloaded automatically...at least not yet...but 4 missiles that have a range of 5 miles and seek any heat source, was enough to make anyone think twice and the armor was more than enough to keep the pilot safe under any normal weapons fire.

      Only armor piercing ammo of 50 caliber or bigger had a prayer of penetrating it, and with a unit capable of 50 MPH and turning on a dime because of the human like legs and feet, it gave them more than enough chances to escape.

      This was just a training model, as the Captain informed everyone. There would be ‘try outs’ to see who could handle it best and those would become the ships armored unit. Many thought it seemed funny but a lot signed up to try, and soon 8 men and women were chosen and Phyllis’s entire unit were among them. They were young, well trained and fought hard under any circumstances, and so when they showed up in the upper rankings of the test crew, Tessa agreed it was a done deal.

      “The real working units will have better armor than this,” She informed the men and women that passed the test.” This was a prototype from 2 years ago, our research teams are putting the finishing touches on our armor units right now and I’ve been told we will have them in a week.” She said as everyone nodded seriously.

      “These units are smaller and faster than some other armored units used by nations world wide. Many use old WW II stuff or Korean War left overs. They have huge cannons but are slow to turn and slow to reload. The 20 MM cannon that will be on the new machines is the same design used on the A1 Warthog or Cobra helicopters, so piercing armor will not be a problem.” She said and many there smiled wide. They were once again on the front lines of new equipment, and even when they came here no one would have thought that they’d be in on something as new and exciting as this.


      Chapter 9: Special Information Becomes Available


      “Any questions so far?” She asked as Sam raised his hand.

      “Captain,...can the new units take a hit from something like a 100MM cannon and survive?” he asked loudly and just as loudly she answered.

      “No...don’t expect these to be stronger than a normal tank, they aren’t, but they are far more maneuverable and nearly the same speed, so in cities or towns where lots of buildings are in the way, they have the advantage over larger and slower machines that cant turn and escape as quickly.” She said and many mumbled to themselves and a few just seriously nodded they understood.

      “If a normal tank is a bomber...” Lt. Hayes started as everyone stopped to listen,” then these are fighters, smaller, fast and very maneuverable. Their missiles and cannons will make short work of any enemy armor we might encounter, but in jobs like we just finished, they will get you into the compounds and out in minutes instead of having to run for miles.” he mentioned as Tessa agreed and Mark whispered that they would all get soft, as Phyllis elbowed him in the ribs and demanded he keep quiet.

      “How will we get there though?” One big marine asked as everyone looked his way,” They weigh tons, they surely aren’t going to swim there from here.” he said as many laughed and Tessa smiled and mentioned that they had special mounts on two helicopters to lift and drop them close to the enemy bases.

      “In emergency we can drop them from 15 feet and they will still get up and walk away without damage.” She added as a few looked impressed.

      “But if your not ready that sudden stop drives your tailbone right through your...” Phyllis started then thought better of it.

      “Sargent Major Weber knows by experience...we sent her to the research station for a week last month to check them out and help with last minute tuning.” Lt. Hayes added as Phyllis agreed.

      “And because of your comments as well as a few others, better seats and lighting will be in the new units when they get here.” Tessa added as Phyllis smiled and thanked her.” No thanks needed Phyllis, its was your hard work that made the testing possible, and now things will go better for everyone else because of it.” The Captain mentioned, and Mark and Sam started wondering when these two started getting so chummy.

      “So we want each of you to practice around the island with the new unit, when we get the actual working units, then you’ll each be assigned one of your own.” Tessa added smiling as everyone smiled back.

      “Can I have mine custom painted?” Mark asked laughing, as Phyllis finally got tired of his comments and gave him a good slap for being obnoxious during a meeting, and The Captain and her Second tried hard not to notice as they turned and walked out of the room.

      “You imbecile! What were you thinking, asking stupid questions like that?” Phyllis demanded as Mark tried to explain that if it was seen again and again, then he wanted his to look special, as she just shook her head.

      “We’re a Top Secret military unit..you don’t want people knowing its you... moron.” She demanded, while many there laughed. They might as well put a sign around their neck saying: Couple, because they sounded and acted like an old married couple every single day.

      “They’ll be here in a few days, wait, they are probably all camouflaged with green splotches.” Sam mentioned as even Phyllis had an odd look thinking that.

      But the Captain made a note after that saying no one could apply special paint to any equipment, and that took care of that. But the next day when Sam got his turn outside with the prototype unit, he didn’t seem to happy with it, as security cameras showed.

      He walked along, getting used to the stride, then tried to run, and nearly fell over and after trying a few different gaits, he got out and looked it all over and grumbled to himself about something as Tessa saw on her monitor.

      “Is something the matter with the unit?” She called and he heard it while he was crawling around under it for a minute. He got back to the seat and mentioned that the feet were too long, and that they threw him off trying to move more than 20 MPH or so.

      “It IS the old prototype you know...” She mentioned as he agreed and apologized for asking.” The new models are much more maneuverable, and faster too. You’ll be a lot happier with one of those I’m sure.” She added as he just nodded and looked serious about it all.
      “I was sorry to bother you Captain...” Sam added and went back to walking around and playing with the old machine.

      “Mr. Himes...just for curiosity... what would you do to fix that one if you had to?” She asked as he went on about shortening the feet for better turning, and making the legs a little longer to make walking a bit faster, and she smiled and wrote all these things down,and after their conversation ended she checked with the new models,and almost without exception, everything he asked about had been tested, and had been added to them.

      “This was never supposed to be a combat robot,” Sam was grumbling to himself while she smiled inside the base,” Mobile artillery, yes, carrying long range cannons or missiles maybe, but never normal combat.” he went on grumbling to himself, trying again to run and nearly stumbling and falling. “OK thats it, I quit.” He decided and walked slowly back inside and parked the unit while Tessa sat there listening and smiled widely.

      “Mobile artillery unit...” She whispered and got a little giggle at that." I was wondering what we could do with that old one after this.” And she sent a message asking the research people to look into it, and she went back to work as Sam went to get a shower..

      Maybe he had more skills than she had first thought, he did see many improvements in less than a week that the research people took 2 years to find. And she decided that he needed watched a little more carefully after this.

      The new units came on board 2 days later, and it was obvious that they were bigger and better than that old rig. They stood 15 feet tall, and that meant 12 feet to the seat, making them taller and easier to see from. The seats were thick and comfortable, and Mark was bragging that Phyllis redesigned the seat herself,as she demanded she hadn’t, just mentioned it thats all. But that got her a big thumbs up from everyone, who mentioned that on long patrols or hard battles these would certainly come in handy.

      And the colors werent going to be a problem either, they were all silvery with black trim, and even Sam mentioned you’d never be able to hide in one of these as Phyllis agreed, but said that a combat unit wasnt going to be sitting still for long anyways

      Mark complained, as usual, that as a sniper he couldn’t hide in trees or behind things like this, they were too easily seen and after listening to them for a while, even the Marine Commander had to mention it to Tessa, who had to make a decision to alter her previous comments or not.

      The Units looked good no doubt about it, but at times looks can hurt you, and so first thing she ordered Mark’s unit sprayed flat green and that gave him a more camo look and he agreed it was better than before.So after that they all got the same and Sam admitted that the flat color would reflect less sunlight and give them a chance to go unnoticed more easily, and Phyllis seemed to be on the fence as to wither they were any better or not, but decided it was a lot better than a shiny finish at least.

      Now they could practice as a group, and Mark set up a few targets around the forest behind the base and they would go out and see what the new weapons and units were like in real combat. Sam was impressed, saying that now he had no problem getting 40 MHP even on the short open area around the helipad, and Mark was thrilled that a special unit was made for him, with a 20 MM semi auto anti-tank weapon on one arm, and a 30 caliber machine gun on the other.

      Both units were capable of rapid fire or single shot mode, giving him 2 options for sniping from up to 2 miles away.

      The other units had a 20MM gatling gun on the left, and a small launcher on the right, using the smallest missiles that Mr. Francis could get for them. They were heat seeking and had a range of 5 miles, so helicopters and fighters weren’t safe from them either. And depending on assignment, the 30 caliber machine gun would go right on the right arm too.

      With 6 of those as standard equipment then, these new units had a terrific 1-2 punch in battle, and speed and maneuverability for when they needed to get in and out fast.

      “Not bad, not bad at all...” Mark commented as he tore up an old Jeep that they were using for target practice. “I could get used to this...” he said as everyone laughed and Tessa saw her choice of Combat Team was well founded.


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      WEEKEND EDITION

      Chapter 10: Intelligence Briefing...and a little Shock


      That evening a meeting was held and as they sat to watch, the lights got dim and the screen came on. Tessa slowly ran some video and stopped it when needed to make a point, as new armor units were seen in practice, and once on the battlefield, as many eyes popped open wide at the sight before them.

      “This is the Russian Mk. 2 unit.” She said as a mean looking black armor unit was seen walking through a small town and spraying machine gun fire everywhere.”We knew they had them in service since the skirmishes along their Southern boarder last year. But they keep them quiet, the only video we could get was from a survivors phone, so this is a clear as it gets.”

      A few minutes later, a different town and a different unit, this one tan in color, with a triangle shaped tread under it instead of feet.

      “This is the Chinese version...its a Mk. 3 unit since they were working on them for a few years longer than Russia, notice the tread design? They claim because they used hardware they are already accustomed to they can push their units past 60 MPH...even though that has not been proven yet.” She mentioned as everyone nodded agreement.

      “Our units are based on the Japanese version, they are into research for their Mk.4 Model so their research has been going on longer than anyone else. The armor on our units is better and the engines more quiet than these others. The Russian model is run by a diesel engine,and its pretty loud, the Chinese model runs regular gasoline and is less noisy. They all can use different weapons as needed. Ours too can carry different things depending on the mission, and what supplies we have in stock.” She said as everyone agreed.

      “The Russian version in taller and heavier than the others, being 4 feet taller than ours, and its armor is less high tech, making it slower and heavier.” She explained and someone whispered that was one big piece of junk, and she agreed.”But our weapons can cut threw it like butter, thats what happens when you worry more about mass production for sale instead of quality.” Tessa added as everyone got a chuckle at that.

      “All these units are for sale now so we’ll be seeing them soon enough. The Russian and Chinese models are most likely, the Japanese units are more high tech and more expensive, so many will hold back from buying those.” She went on and it did seem to make sense.

      “So new armor units like these are on the battle field right now then?” Phyllis asked as Tessa agreed.

      “Anyone with the cash can get them now, so our intelligence will watch especially hard for these from now on. They already have found out that Russia has sold over 20 of their models so far, so things are getting a little hotter when it comes to fast armor now.” Contessa mentioned as everyone looked serious again.

      “So long as our weapons can do the trick we should have no problems.” Sam said loudly, as many chuckled. He was always like this, always so damned sure of himself.

      “That I will guarantee you...I’ll see your well armed... so there’s no excuses for people getting killed because of that.” Tessa added and many smiled wide for her.” This meeting is adjourned, make sure you all work daily with the new units until further notice, and we’ll be ready when the next assignment comes along.” She said with a salute and then walked out as the lights came on and everyone sat back to consider what they saw.

      “So, some are faster than ours huh?” Mark said, almost to himself, as Sam reminded him that tread designs had problems that theirs didn’t.

      “Even Tank treads bust if they hit a large object just right. Our units can step over things, they need to run over it without slowing down, and those treads are small and look soft to me.” Sam added as people actually had to think about that.

      “We’ll be fine.” Phyllis said softly,” Just don’t get cocky out there and we’ll be fine.”She said looking out of the corner of her eyes and Mark screamed ‘what are you looking at me for?’ and everyone laughed.

      Another week, another drug cartel. This time Contessa decided to go with the new units, and scare some pants off of some of those soldiers who thought their automatic rifles made them indestructible.

      Thousands had died in the last decade, all from fighting with the countries police force. Many good officers died, and now the drug dealers were getting help from weapon dealers, and they were better armed than the officers they fought.

      It was a small country without much in the way of natural resources, so none of the bigger countries wanted involved, it just wasn’t profitable enough. So the police force of the country went full military, when they could, and started running raids to gather weapons, even from private individuals.

      Tessa got the call after they begged the UN for help, and officially they refused. But the next day a bounty for every soldier killed and lab smashed went into effect, and Tessa saw that while they officially couldn’t get involved, the UN was making a stand against drugs world wide, and she started planning her raid.

      Two units were dropped in 5 miles out and as Mark and Sam walked that way, Tessa talked to them on the coms link.

      “The town of El Grande is just ahead...” She mentioned as they both agreed.” its been completely taken over by the cartels, and the normal residents have fled into the city some 30 miles further south. I’m not saying there are no civilians there, but they will be damned few.” She added as Sam nodded again.

      “The UN is paying for results, labs burned or exploded, soldiers killed or captured. So wounding someone is as good as killing them. We are in contact with the local authorities, and they will run in after the raid and clean up for us, so lets make a profit and get out. I don’t want a single lab standing when we leave, got it?” She asked as they both agreed they understood.

      “Mr. Jackson, find a good spot and cover the Sargent, Mr. Himes, get in fast, shoot the labs up or burn them down and get out. Be careful too, the chemicals in some of those labs are highly explosive, and might damage your unit if you’re too close when they go up.” She added as Sam said he’d be careful. “OK gentlemen you’re on you own from here, be quick and be careful.” She said as they agreed and Mark took up a spot on a hilltop nearby and Sam ran in scanning everything and taking gun fire from soldiers with small arms and automatic weapons.

      “Small arms fire ineffective against my armor...” he announced as Tessa heaved a sigh of relief,” Seeing one, two labs nearby, fixing it now.” he said and a short blast from his 30 Caliber ripped the sides out and fires finished the rest.

      “One lab destroyed... moving on.” he said as something loud rocked his machine and the lights blinked for a second. “What the Hell was that!?” Sam screamed as Tessa came right out of her Command chair screaming.

      “What was it Sargent? Tell me, I cant help if I don’t know!” She screamed as even her bridge crew looked surprised.

      “Explosion right beside me, maybe a grenade, I’ll be more careful now. I just left the soldiers go for a while but that was too close.” he said as his gun reached out and half a dozen soldiers went down from the blast.

      “I told you before... don’t get cocky... the armor is some of the best, but you’re not indestructible out there.” Tessa said loudly as Sam apologized for not being careful enough.

      “Second lab is gone now, looking around and finishing off some of these soldiers.” Sam said as more shots were fired but another small explosion went off that hit the building right beside him and Mark called that they had armor in the area.

      “Armored Personnel Carrier coming in fast, with maybe a 50 MM on top.” he said as Tessa asked what he was waiting for, as Mark smiled and a second later a 20 MM shell was on its way and nothing but smoke was seen after that. “Bing! Gone!” Mark added as Lt. Hayes just shook his head as Tessa looked worried.

      “Captain look at this...” Sam called and turned to see a Chinese armor unit sitting there, not running at all and with no one near it, just sitting next to the last lab.” It seems they are more profitable than you first thought.” Sam added as she ordered it destroyed, and a nice short blast from the 20 MM gatling gun and it was nothing but swiss cheese.

      “Good job, now everyone out!” She ordered as they turned and ran and she finally sat back down and looked tired.

      “I can handle it from here, madam Captain, please get some rest.” Lt. Hayes said as she politely refused.

      “I sent them out there, I’ll be here when they come back.” She said stubbornly as he agreed, and the entire bridge crew smiled and were more than happy they worked here.

      The helicopters were waiting close by and as the two ran in and stopped... the clamps grabbed their shoulder armor and away they went. It took less than an hour, and one more town was free of cartel interference. Now Tessa watched as they landed and dropped back inside, and she could finally breath easier again.

      “See we get the videos from the raid sent to the UN.” she said, and finally got up and went to her room, leaving the bridge to her Second.

      “Lay in a course for home, “ he said softly as he sat in her place,” Official report...job completed and no casualties.” he said softly, as the ship disappeared into the depths and silently they all went home.


      Chapter 11: Rest and Repairs

      The next day there was a meeting on the hanger deck, and Phyllis saw it coming a mile away. Sam had gotten the job done fine, after some troubles, and Mark removed the threat, eventually, but thats not the way it should have happened, and now here they were with Tessa looking ready to scream.

      “I thought I made myself perfectly clear before this last mission...” She started and then gave a big sigh.” The armor suit is very strong and resilient to small arms fire, so when you first see it you get a feeling of being invincible it seems.” She said giving Sam a dirty look while everyone else giggled.

      “But thats not true...as I said...” She went on as she slapped her hand on a big burn mark on the left side of Sam’s machine. “This burn mark was from a 50 MM shell, probably incendiary round...if it had been high explosive and armor piecing we’d be here for a very different reason today.” She said... now nearly screaming... as Sam looked like he’d wilt away, and others looked much more sober than before.

      “So..can you explain Mr. Himes, how this happened?” She demanded as Sam took a deep breath and started talking.

      “As I entered the town the local soldiers attacked with small arms fire.” He said as she nodded and waited,” I was a little surprised that even at point blank range they did no harm at all, and my mission was to destroy any labs in the area, so I basically ignored them.” he went on as a few others smiled but tried not to let it show.

      “The APC was running in from another location, and was completely out of my sight, so I had no idea they were nearby.” he added trying to look as professional as he could while admitting he screwed up. “Destroying that was Sargent Jackson’s job and he did it well I believe.” he said trying to help his friend who he was sure was going to be next.

      “It was completely out of your sight...yet it did this...makes you wonder how carefully you were watching, doesn’t it?” Tessa asked loudly as Sam backed away a bit more and agreed, as even Phyllis was getting surprised she was this upset. “Today there will be training around the island, since Mr. Himes feels these units are indestructible, I’ll have each of you take some hits and get this feeling of being a God out of your system here instead of out there.” She said as many gave Sam a dirty look.

      “Sargent Major, get your people out there and practice, and maybe I’ll throw in a few grenades to liven things up a bit.” Tessa added as even Phyllis’s eyes popped at that one, as Tessa stomped away, and went back to the bridge.

      She walked in and sat down as Lt. Hayes looked at her out of the corner of his eyes, as she slowly settled back down.

      “Think I was too hard on them?” She whispered as he agreed she had done well.

      “Under these circumstances you did very well I’d say.” he said looking as bulletproof as his stature allowed.

      “They made it home alive this time, but this situation showed me something I had over looked before...people can get used to anything very quickly. Mr. Himes saw he was in no danger from the light weapons fire and instantly ignored it, and more than a handful of soldiers poured their fire against him, while calling for reinforcements. If he had taken out those soldiers first, then that APC might never have gotten there in time.” She said as he nodded it was probably true.

      “I do believe that one shot taught him a valuable lesson though.” he added as she got a smile from that.

      “I bet it raddled his teeth pretty badly huh?” She added as he agreed. “Well...a couple hours running around shooting at each other cant hurt, maybe it’ll take the edge of the others, so they wont be so surprised when it happens to them.” And with that the debriefing was over and she sat back and watched as Sam took a beating from his team mates for getting them all in trouble.

      She waited until it was over and then walked back towards the enlisted quarters. Sam got out of the shower and got dressed and decided to lay around a bit after getting something for lunch. He was almost to the cafeteria when he saw Tessa waiting patiently by the door, and he saw his beating wasn’t over yet.

      “Did you learn your lesson, Sargent?” She whispered as he stopped and agreed, sadly.” You of all people should never under estimate a foot soldier. They have a multitude of ways to get help, and some good weapons they can carry around. One good grenade in just the right spot, one soldier with a grenade launcher or shoulder mounted rocket, and you’d be dead right now. Please Sargent, don’t ever forget that.” She said and walked away as he stood there thinking how many times he had used a grande launcher mounted on some rifle in the past. and he knew that she wasn’t doing this because she enjoyed it, but because she was worried he or someone else would die, and she respected her more than ever before.

      He went on inside and got some lunch and as he sat down next to Phyllis she asked if that was the Captain just now...as Sam smiled and asked ‘where?’ and she chuckled and left it go.

      The UN had been pretty good with sending clients their way, and Tessa was sure they wouldn’t stop. But she was also sure that sooner or later people would catch on, so she tried making a few ‘friends’ in just the right places to get them the intelligence they would need later.

      And it seemed to help too, a little ‘tip’ here, a dropped comment there and soon she got a call telling her about a bigger drug operation, one the government ran themselves, and she was happy to hear about it and sent the info to her UN contact to check and sure enough, some third world country was using the illegal drug trade to build up their military, and the small countries next door noticed, and called to report it.

      More than a dozen drug labs were thought to be there, making billions in illegal drugs a year. Their farming industry was almost half growing plants for the drug trade, and the leaders of the country were subsidizing them, and that was the last straw.

      All that money was being spent on military hardware, and the small countries around them had every reason to worry. So the plan was simple, make them realize that this was not the way to go, as the UN started leaning on them from that side and Tessa set up an attack to let them know people were watching, and would take action when needed.

      “Its a very straight forward mission...” She explained as everyone agreed.” we’re going in to make sure they lose a lot of money today. Labs, military vehicles,soldiers and any stock piles we see, even plants that are baled up and waiting for processing. The more they lose the more the UN can make them see their error, any questions?” She asked as Mark asked if he was going sniping today and she agreed.

      “Take extra ammo, and take out any vehicles you can, and if you miss or they escape you, call immediately to report their type and direction.” Tessa declared as Mark gave a short...PFFT...and she looked oddly at him for it.

      “I never miss...” he hinted as Phyllis gave him a quick slap for the comment.

      “Alright then, everyone to their machines.” Tessa called and the mission plan was this, two at a time they get dropped in, Mark and Sam first then Phyllis and a Corporal Jones, with a flame thrower. They would rush in and destroy not only stocks that were laying around, but light several fields on fire that were right next to the town.

      Meanwhile Sam would do his high speed run through, taking out any soldiers and military units he found and Mark would eliminate any armor that were within range. If things went right these fools would lose a billion today and even incredibly rich people look sad over losing a billion dollars.

      “Good luck everyone!” Tessa called as the helicopters lifted off and dropped the first two and returned and gathered the next batch. Now it was all about speed and luck and she was confident after that last time that everyone was more than ready.


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      Chapter 12: Unpleasant Surprises


      Mark found a spot as fast as he could and then Sam started his attack. But this time he wasted every group of soldiers he saw as he was moving in, and Mark started blowing up trucks loaded with supplies and one APC that was parked nearby.

      Phyllis and her partner dropped in to, and as they ran to light the fields the other man said that the wind was against them, as he ran to the far side of the field.

      “OK then but hurry,” She called, waiting and watching him as his cover, but a minute later a loud explosion was heard and her partner went down in a flash of fire and light, as a big black shadow stepped out of the forest on the other end of the field.

      “We have Russian armored units in the area!” Phyllis declared as she ran behind a building that took a hit from heavy machine gun fire. She waited a few seconds to throw them off then suddenly popped out from behind the structure and dumped a long string of 20 MM ammo into the monster that was walking her way. The results were promising, as it burst into black smoke and dropped flat on its back.

      “Russian armor neutralized.” She reported as Tessa started biting her lip while listening in.

      “Its happening faster than expected,” Lt. Hayes mentioned as she agreed, the other manufacturers of armor units must be selling them cheap or giving away credit, to get them into the field so fast.

      “This is the biggest lab I’ve ever seen...” Sam added as he was ordered to destroy it, and he said he already had. “It covered nearly an acre itself, this fire will be burning for a long time I’ll wager.” he added as everyone smiled at that.

      “Is Corporal Jones still alive?” Tessa asked as Phyllis ran to see as he slowly climbed out of the burning unit.

      “He’s hurt but alive, and I’ve got him.” Phyllis added as Tessa heaved a sigh of relief.

      “Second armor unit destroyed, Sam added as cannon fire was heard on the coms link.

      “How many are there?” Tessa asked as Phyllis added she got one, and Sam said he did too and a minute later Mark agreed. “Thats a lot of armor for a drug lab.” Tessa hinted as everyone agreed.

      “I found a warehouse here, its big too and full to the roof with supplies,” Sam said as he opened fire on that too and threw a firebomb inside when the windows were all shot out, and black smoke and flames shot out and roared through the interior.

      “Jesus!” Mark screamed as the top of the hill where he was went up into dust and flying rock and he took a quick look behind him and ran full speed into the forest below.”Full column of tanks coming in fast, Russians ...of course...” he said, as his camera showed him running top speed into the thick woods.

      “They couldn’t have gotten there that fast... unless...” Tessa said and then jumped up and screamed.” Retreat, form up at the emergency pickup point, our people will be holding off some distance away, so get there fast and we’ll get you back home.” She declared as Phyllis turned and ran back through the field and Sam turned and ran down a street, just as the corner of the warehouse exploded and his rear camera saw a tank coming into town.

      “We’ve been set up...” Tessa said sourly, as Lt. Hayes looked angry too. They were hurting the drug supply around the world and someone, or a lot of someone’s, wanted them gone.

      “Long range scan for ships and aircraft in the area!” He screamed as people went to work on that. But so far they were clear and the helicopters made it back and dropped of Phyllis and the hurt pilot, and went back for the others.

      “Prepare for emergency dive on my mark...” Tessa screamed as everything was put into order and she heard the all clear as they waited for the rest of their team.

      “Almost to the pickup point,” Mark called as his camera showed he was running down an old back road and as Tessa checked on Sam, an explosion was heard and a tree fell over next to him as he ran along.

      “Mr. Himes...was that tank fire?” She asked as he said ‘no it wasn’t’ and she looked a little worried,as he looked around a large tree to see a black unit reloading his rocket launcher.

      “ 4 seconds...good...” Sam was whispering as Tessa looked odd and Lt. Hayes got a big smile.

      “ 4 seconds to reload?” She asked looking up as Hayes nodded, all smiles, Sam knew exactly what to do and he ran around some trees and another round went his way, and he then ran full speed back towards the enemy who was now caught with his weapon open and a round in his hand, as Sam emptied his 20 MM on him and the red light came on. “He’s out of ammo..” The Captain whispered but Sam bent down and grabbed the rocket launcher and reloaded it and started running again.

      “Not a problem...” he said as people all over the bridge got a quick chuckle at that. “I’ll be there in 5.” he said as Mark got picked up and Sam was now the very last one left.

      “There are tanks moving into the pickup area...” They heard as the copter pilot reported they couldn’t drop down there again.

      “Damn it...” Tessa yelled and changed the pick up point, now another 5 miles the other way.

      “That’ll be about 12 minutes then,” Sam said as he turned and started that way now. The helicopter made a swing and stayed under ECM so the tanks couldn’t see it, and in a minute or two they were ready again, as Sam ran like a fool across a hilltop and down in to the valley below.

      “Three minutes out” He called as he rounded a turn and started down an old road where he could get better speed.”No armor in the vicinity so far.” he added as everyone slid forward in their seats waiting impatiently.

      “Recovery spot in sight,” he added a minute later and he stood rod straight so the chopper could get a grip, and they disappeared as the ECM covered them and they started back.

      “Get them on board as fast as possible and then get under way.” Tessa yelled and in just a few minutes they landed and the big ship went down and turned towards home.” I need to be more careful.” She whispered as her Second just smiled and said it just came up quicker than they planned thats all, and finally she admitted it might not have been her fault.


      Chapter 13: Mistakes and Upsets



      “So...” The skinny little man said, looking at the President of the Maldives, Mohammed Akime on the link,” where are my prisoners? I thought you said this was a sure fire plan?” he demanded as the President just sat back and smiled.

      “They were very skilled,” he said all smiles, as the little man went nuts on him.

      “I lost 25 million in equipment and all I got for it was a blurry video showing some armor units running through the trees??” he screamed as the President reminded him he lost a lot more than that by a factor of 10.

      “My men were supposed to hold them until the heavy forces arrived, but they ran through us like a mower through weeds.” he said and he wasn’t too happy either.”I lost one of my labs and a warehouse full of product, so don’t you tell me about who lost what.” he demanded as the little man just laughed.

      “So then, what will you do now? This whole plan was your idea, all I wanted was someone to tell me how that damned Francis can sell products so ****ing cheap! I heard he is helping to supply them at cost..AT COST!!” he screamed, “After donating a half a billion dollars to help finance their operation... and you don’t do that unless you’ll get a billion back, MY Billion, and even my intelligence cant find out the name or ID of their ship, much less its base of operations...Its damned aggravating!!” he screamed, as President Akime did agree.

      “They’ll be back,” He said as his noisy friend quieted down,” the United Nations isn’t getting anywhere on their end so this is their only chance, and once we reduce their numbers to zero or cost them more than they can afford, then it’ll be business as usual.” he said as the link went down and the little Arabic Weapons Dealer sat back with a thump and looked like he needed someone to punch right now.

      “Im coming for you Francis...” he whispered as the link went down,” and when I find you, there will be Hell to pay!” And he went back to his own trading, and screamed at his intelligence agents for not finding a link he could use to offer his services to Contessa as well.

      Maintenence was busy for a few days fixing up the damaged units from the battle. The one they lost cost them big time, but it couldn’t be helped. A hundred rounds of armor piercing heavy machine gun fire can do terrible things, and its cockpit and controls were on fire when the pilot crawled out and got picked up.

      The special software and its codes were destroyed, so that wasn’t a problem. The pilot was getting better, after having a large bullet taken out of his left leg and some burns attended to, but it would be a little while before he would be ready to fight again, and now their forces were one machine short, as everyone on board knew, and no one was sure if it would be replaced soon or not.

      Thats the problem with being a privately owned unit, the military can write off all their expenses and machines and the taxpayers foot the bill. But if you own everything yourself, then its your job to pay for damages,crews, and broken or missing machines..millions of dollars of damages and loss in a mission is not something thats easy to replace.

      Only one person knew for sure what was going to happen and the look on her face after that last mission said it all, Captain Romani was worried, so something had gone wrong somewhere.

      “They were too fast getting there,” Phyllis mentioned as her team did agree.


      “And they came up behind us too.” Mark added as everyone just nodded.” was that an accident or did they know where to attack? That first round almost got me and I barely escaped back into the forest.” he added as everyone looked thoughtful about it.

      “It was a very large facility, but a colum of tanks and several armor units is a LOT of money to protect one site.” Sam added as Phyllis agreed.

      “Then we were set up, thats why Tessa is so stressed out today.” She added as Sam reminded her that intelligence is never a sure thing.”Maybe you should mention that to her, Sam.” She whispered as Sam declared it wasn’t his place to lecture the Captain, as Phyllis looked away smiling.

      People were starting to notice that he was being watched, and Tessa was harder on him than anyone else, but that discussion was for another day, as Phyllis stood up looking tough and serious.

      “I’ll do it,” she offered and went to see the Captain while she was still resting in her room.

      Phyllis knocked and asked for permission to enter as Tessa thought about it, but agreed. She walked in and sat down next to her and reminded her just what Sam had said, that the very best you can hope for in this line of work is sometimes a 50/50 chance.

      “Its my job to see through that though, to give us a better chance than normal.” Tessa insisted, wringing her hands and staring at the floor, as Phyllis nodded agreement.

      “And you do...we all see it...before a mission you look like Hell sometimes, because you were up all night, right?” She asked as Tessa looked away.”This is our profession, and we’re happy to be working here..all of us are...” She hinted as Tessa refused to say anything.

      “You’re a smart woman, don’t blame yourself for mistakes made by someone else, life is too short for self-pity.” Phyllis added as she got up and walked out, and Tessa sat there looking tired and after a minute she took a big deep breath and went back to her desk.

      “Pity party is over...” She whispered and went about checking everything that had happened, and saw that pushing her crews a little more than normal might just have saved a few lives.”Thank you Phyllis...” She whispered and after checking the reports she saw something new, and she smiled that even in a bad time, good things happen.

      The next day at the meeting Tessa looked much better and she smiled and thanked everyone for worrying about her, while some just wondered what she meant.

      She turned on the big screen and a picture was on it and Sam nodded as Tessa said that he grabbed this on his way out, because his heavy weapon was out of ammo.

      “Javelin heavy launcher...” She said as many agreed.” originally made as an anti-armor shoulder weapon, this one’s been modified for use on armor units. Our Maldives friends even added a 10x zoom to the new digital scope, and with a range in excess of 4000 meters, its a good all around weapon, as well as great for anti-armor use.” She explained as people got a big smile.

      “Big toys for big boys...” Mark hinted as Phyllis elbowed him again, and he asked why as the room chuckled.

      “Our Sargent Himes grabbed this on the way out...and in my opinion it was a good move. We lost a unit in the battle but we still have the older prototype weapon here. He also did some work the other day and gave me a long list of things that would improve that older unit, and my researchers agree, so it’s being tuned up and modified even as we speak. The idea of using it as a mobile artillery unit was mentioned once too, and we didn’t really have anything like that here, but our enemies are getting more serious, and heavy tanks have been seen during our missions. So..with that in mind and this new equipment... I might be considering making our unit a light artillery piece for anti-tank warfare.” She added as a few applauded and some cheered.

      “I have no experience taking a hit from that, but I can attest that one shot will turn a 2 foot tree trunk into firewood.” Sam mentioned as many there laughed.

      “You’re lucky your here to say that, but your maneuvering skills with the new unit are getting better all the time, and that goes for all of you, good job.” Tess added as everyone smiled at that.

      “Anyone interested in piloting an artillery unit, let me know...that is all.” Tess said and walked out and as she did she gave Phyllis a big smile and went back to the bridge.

      “Artillery? Hmm...” One big soldier mentioned as Mark left him know that basically he’d be a Heavy Sniper..always on the move and raining death to tanks and heavy armor units.”Sounds like fun...hey Himes, how do you think that old unit will handle after the upgrades?” And at least one man was interested, as Tess saw from the bridge.

      “This might work out after all...” Lt. Hayes mentioned as she agreed, and she felt a lot better today than yesterday, as the old prototype unit got a make over and people waited to see how that worked out.


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      WEEKEND EDITION

      Chapter 14: A Royal Pain


      A couple days later the ship got an unexpected call, a Mr. Habib was on the line, and once again Contessa was furious that someone had gotten their new coms link.

      “This is a private link, what do you want Mr. Habib?” She asked as the little man said that he got her link address from a friend, that found a shot up armor unit in some field, as she looked tired just thinking about it.

      “You have been buying your weapons and supplies from a man called Francis...well...as it happens I am also a weapons dealer and I believe I can beat even his prices.” he declared as Tessa just smiled and shook her head, another weapons dealer got their link, at least it wasn’t some crank, but then she didn’t know him very well yet.

      “We aren’t partial to any one merchant,” Tessa added as the man seemed happy to hear it. “I can send you a file showing what prices he has been using for us, if you can beat that I have no problem buying from you.” She added as she made a finger motion to her electronics man who started to scramble the signal right away to keep it from being traced.

      “He’s doing WHAT??” The little man screamed, looking at the list, as Tessa almost laughed out loud on the link.

      “You can see why we deal almost exclusively with Mr. Francis right?” She asked as even he had to admit this was outrageous.”I’ll tell you what, we need some ammo for a new Javelin launcher, so what price can you give me? Mr. Francis hasnt even been called about this yet.” She said and he saw he might be able to make some inroads, if he was ready to take a little loss.

      “There are several types of ammo that fit that though,” He hinted as she told him straight out it had to be armor piercing, and homing, and that changed things a tad. Well, for a full case of 10 this is the best I can do...” he said and sent the price back and Tessa agreed and bought 20 right on the spot.

      “Where should I deliver to?” He asked and was nearly salivating thinking it.

      “Tokyo...” Tessa said and the man got a little quieter and agreed. It wasn’t what he had planned but it still might work out for him. He got the ammo and hid several small bugs and tracking devices in the packaging, and when a van showed up at the warehouse to load them up, he slipped them a nice long list of things that he could get, at prices that might even be better than Francis’s, as the men thanked him and left, and he called that the deal was done and tracking was active, and after stopping at a burger joint and having lunch the men went to the docks and disappeared, and the tracking signal never left the docks and after an hour he walked down there to see a nice note saying,’better luck next time’ and all his toys were in a zip lock bag, hanging on a nail, as he screamed and ripped it down and ran back to tell his people they had been found out.

      “I gave away 20 warheads and got next to nothing in return!” He screamed as his people just nodded, while waiting for a signal that was never coming. “If I had found their base people around the world would be indebted to me for life...and thats a very profitable way to do business.” he said as he sat back in his limo as they drove home and he tried to figure out how to get this job done after all.

      “He was a real fool if he thought a sloppy job like tracking our ammo back home was going to work.” Lt. Hayes said as Tessa agreed.

      “I thought the way he was acting that he’d try something, luckily he’s not too bright, or the people planting the bugs weren’t, or we might have been in trouble.” She said as he agreed. “But...we got our ammo for the new launcher and paid little for it, so thats one deal he can brag about to someone.” She said as a few on the bridge giggled about that, and her new unit was one step closer to being a reality, and it cost her nearly nothing.

      “If we show THIS set of prices to Mr. Francis now...” Lt. Hayes said... as Tessa got a good laugh right there and then, she didn’t want to upset a friend, but business is business.

      “Ah! Habib...that old fool...” Francis said seeing the list as Tessa got a big smile.” Be careful around him, he’ll kill his mother to make a buck.” he mentioned as she agreed, and told him about the bugs in the ammo as he just nodded in return.

      “If he can find your base, he’ll sell that information for bigger and better deals in the future.” He added as Tessa nodded many might do the same.”But fear not, since I have a sizable investment in your success then I’ll never turn you in for a profit.” He added with a big smile and she thanked him for that.

      “You started an attack against the Maldives recently didn’t you?” He whispered as Tessa just shrugged and wouldn’t say.” The President has said to ...lets say...some others. That for a bigger piece of the pie he’ll eliminate you and your people. It seems the heat is on now that you’ve made a name for yourselves.” he mentioned as she still refused to say.

      “President Akime is willing to bet it all on this little war, so be careful.” He hinted as she still admitted nothing,” so..while your on the line, anything else I can get you?” he added with his big traders smile as even Tessa chuckled at the sudden change.

      “Yes, actually...” She said and sent a list over, a small list and he nodded and said he’d take care of it and the link went down again.

      “Eliminate us completely huh?” Tessa whispered and she wasn’t happy saying it. But she knew days like this would come and she was ready, or she hoped she was at least. Security went up another notch and she started a plan to make a long distance strike against the next set of targets, and make President Akime think twice about his plan.

      After running silent for a few hours the big ship bobbed to the surface and the big overhead doors opened. Out ran 6 of those small ‘interceptor’ missiles Mr. Francis had sent them, customized with incendiary warheads. Then one larger missile, as one of her remaining cruise missiles went out and turned towards a different island and a different set of buildings. Now back down into the depths, as a patrol boat came running by, and she smiled sitting her Command chair...too little too late... and satellite images showed some large fires, and even a few small buildings caught on fire from it, and another huge lab was destroyed and the explosion rocked the island and the town nearby, and soon President Akime knew that his little war was not go to go the way he had hoped, and he looked angry he hadn’t seen it coming.
      “2.5 billion in losses in 2 attacks...” he said sourly as even Mr. Habib had to blink at that.” and 5 acres of product burned to the ground, who are these people anyways?” he demanded as the little man looked sad for him.

      “It seems they think they are some ...'Champion of Justice’... or some such nonsense.” he added as the President looked shocked.” There are always a few out there like them, but seldom do they get the financial help to actually do anything.” he added as they both looked angry.

      “The UN must be supporting them financially, then using them as their secret hit men or something, well, I’ll not stand for that!” The President yelled and took the pictures and videos from the attacks and went to the UN himself and demanded compensation for his losses, and the UN President told him in no uncertain terms they didn’t have a clue what he was saying, and tossed him and his so called evidence out of the meeting.

      It was clearly a conspiracy then, and he went home to turn up the heat, and his nation got ready for all out war, and Tessa got a call from her friends saying that it was working, and she smiled and took some time off, as a call from President Akime made it home...to Contessa’s Family, through some odd channels.


      Chapter 15: Rest and Relaxation


      A few days rest never hurt anyone, and as another beautiful day fell over the island, Tessa found herself out for a walk, and decided to see how the old runways and helipads were holding up. For someone like her,rest and relaxation was fine, so long as something got done.

      She leisurely walked along noting that the practice sessions had been doing a little damage to the area, and that she’d mention it during the next meeting. And as she walked along she saw what looked like a small trail, or path that led into the brush. There were no animals on the island to speak of so she walked down that way to see if she could see what had made it.

      There...about a hundred yards down the path... sat someone she knew all too well, and she giggled to think that she was tracking an ‘animal’ and found something else.

      “Madam Captain!” Sam exclaimed and jumped up to salute, which she just waved away with a big smile.

      “Its our day off, so no saluting today,” She mentioned as he nodded and thanked her.” so..hows the fishing going, no more monsters today?” She asked as she sat down next to him in a patch of grass.

      “No nothing today I’m afraid.” He added sadly as she smiled and looked away.” I’m using the same lures as before and caught some decent fish on them but today...nothing.” He added as he tossed out his line again.

      “So...try something different then... never give up, just switch from time to time, maybe the fish are getting tired seeing the same thing all the time.” She hinted as Sam actually laughed at that...fish getting bored seeing the same lure..and she smiled too and finally he decided it couldn’t hurt.

      He switched from the large spinner he usually used to a medium sized silver spoon, and tried that for a while, and after 4 casts just missed a fish that seemed less than serious about hitting it.

      “Missed one, but at least I got a hit now, so maybe changing from time to time throws them off.” He added as she left him know that her father was a rabid fisherman, and that she watched and fished with him a lot of times.

      “Of course those were rivers and streams not the ocean, but I think fish are just fish, so they act the same.” She added as he just smiled and nodded. He was sure though that different fish acted differently, but he let it go.

      A few more casts and he tried a gold spoon instead and started all over again. But this time he got a good hit and after a few minutes dragged in a large, flat looking fish about 20 inches long.

      “Flounder..” Tessa said as Sam asked if they were good to eat, and she laughed.” Heck yes, the cooks will be thrilled.” She added and he said that he had asked about what fish were around here, and the stories changed depending on who you ask, so if that were true, different times of the year, they changed as different groups traveled by.”I know now that you have one fish, try this...” She hinted and told him how her dad had taken out some insides and used them as bait for certain fish that liked to gather food along the bottom. Sam said he’d try, and after adding a hook and sinker to his casting line he used a small piece of the fishes insides as bait and tossed it out again.

      It didn’t need to go too far, the water was deep and blue and Sam sat back on his little chair and relaxed and waited and they talked about her father, his fishing, and what was the biggest fish she ever caught, and she laughed right along, and felt like she was really enjoying her day off for a change.

      Around twenty minutes later, Sam got a medium sized tug on the line and he set the hook and the fight was on. Many fish eat each other or whatever dead fish they find on the bottom, and he got a good fight this time and as he walked down between the rocks to guide it in, they saw a 3 foot shark, and Tessa said they were eatable too.

      “Shark fin soup..shark steaks...there really aren’t any bones in a shark so that helps.” She added as Sam tossed it up beside the other one in the grass.

      “Maybe we should stop now, the heat of the sun might dry them out and ruin the meat.” Sam said as she just laughed and said they had over 100 people at the base, and he hadn’t gotten enough fish for a small fraction of them yet, as he laughed too, and she made a call and two soldiers on the guard duty ran out and got them and carried them back inside.

      “There..fixed..” She added and laid back and smiled looking at the blue sky. And Sam baited his hook again and tossed it back out. It was a nice morning, and after a while it turned into a nice middle of the day, as they walked back inside, dragging one more small shark behind them, and Tessa thanked him for letting her watch and he smiled and said she could come fishing with him any time, and they had a deal.

      The word got around the base pretty fast and Mark thought that was just great, as Sam reminded him not to go around gossiping, because nothing happened out there.

      “The Captain is a perfect lady and I’d never consider such a thing.” he said as everyone around him laughed at his embarrassment.

      “Even a perfect lady...on a romantic beach all alone...” Mark hinted as Sam refused to even look at him while Phyllis got a good laugh from it all.

      “Sam Hines...speechless...this is a first.” She hinted as many of the other soldiers laughed along during dinner time.

      “Nothing happened, so there’s nothing to say.” he hinted as he went back to eating and ignored everyone else. “In my wildest dreams I wouldn’t consider such a thing...” he whispered as Phyllis just smiled and someone watching from the security feed was getting a good chuckle too, and she was thinking that if sitting on a beach with a young woman was his wildest dreams, then maybe he needed to dream a little harder.

      “Is there something wrong, Captain?” Lt. Hayes asked seeing her giggling to herself.

      “Not a thing Lieutenant, not a single thing.” She said as even some members of the bridge crew smiled wider at that.


      Chapter 16: Rescue


      Tessa got a message late one evening and as she answered it the President of the UN himself was on the line and she looked pretty surprised to see him.

      “Captain Romani, there is a special mission I’d like for you to take.” he hinted as she asked what it was, and a minute later a TV report came on showing a military force, led by tanks, APC’s and a few Chinese armor units forcing their way through one small town after another, killing hundreds, and she nodded that it looked bad.

      “The new President of the Country says he wants absolute royalty, and if he doesn’t get it he sends in his forces to clamp down on his own populous.” He said as Tessa nodded agreement.” Right now there are over a hundred civilians hiding in and around the hospital in the port town of El Kazar...and his forces are moving that way. It’ll be a humanitarian disaster if they reach them first. I understand you do very good work so please...save those civilians. Your costs will be more than compensated for, I assure you.” he said as she agreed and the link went down, and emergency alarms went off in the ship. Her people ran to get on board, and in less than an hour they were on their way.

      “We’ve gotten an emergency request from the President of the UN. There is a major military force approaching a small port town, and hundreds of civilians are staged there waiting to escape. If those tanks get there first, then hundreds will die, and we aren’t going to let that happen.” Tessa said as many agreed.” The country has little in the way of an Air Force, some helicopters but thats about all. But they have a decent armored military, with some newer units from China. This will be a very dangerous mission. We are to hold off the military while the UN sends in heavy helicopters and boats to evacuate the civilians. Anyone threatening us or the evacuation must go, no questions asked.” She said as everyone agreed.

      “Our sniper units will be dropped on top of the hospital, thats the highest spot around. They will fire down on armor from that vantage point unless it becomes to hot up there, then they will be lifted off to somewhere else. Our helicopters have advanced ECM so even during a rescue like this they cant be targeted, so you should be fine.” She added as Mark agreed. “We’re also sending in the artillery unit, we have a good supply of missiles now and many of the repairs have been done, so lets all do our best out there!” She said as everyone cheered and they all ran to get ready to deploy.

      The Toy Box, now named after something Mark said after a mission, popped up just 3 miles off shore, the helicopters dropped off the armor units and a call went out to the UN Team standing by that they were ready,The enemy helicopters ran in seeing new targets and one by one they went down in balls of flame as Mark and his new buddy in the artillery unit got some early practice in.

      “3 Helicopters eliminated...” he called as Tessa nodded seriously.”No armor units in sight yet.”

      By now the first UN Team were there, dropping in with large helicopters and herding people on board by the dozens. Then away again and dropping them off on freighters waiting well off shore.

      The coms came on a minute later, as the UN President thanked her for being there so quickly.

      “Its far from over Mr. President,” Tessa added without a pause,” and you haven’t gotten our bill yet either.” She added with a wink, as he just nodded agreement and went away to let them finish their work.

      “Armor units coming in on street 5,” Sam called as the radar showed 3 units, traveling towards the port, and as they turned the corner, one Chinese until was blasted into oblivion by a 20 MM gatling gun, and another Armored Personnel Carrier got off one shot, striking a building before it too burst into flames, as the third unit called back that armor units were attacking them and stopping them from reaching the port.

      “What!?” Major Simmons screamed as his units were slowly destroyed and black smoke billowed out all over the town.”Who in their right minds uses this much firepower to save mere worthless civilians??” he screamed as his third unit went quiet too.

      He jumped into a Humvee and ran to a point where he could see better, and from the hilltop he got a good look at the port, as he saw UN machines and armored units helping the civilians to escape.

      “Damned UN getting in my way.,..how can I declare I crushed the Rebels if they let them escape?” he screamed as even his driver looked away. He grabbed the radio controls and screamed for more units and a few more helicopters ran that way, and a tank battalion turned from their other jobs and ran towards the town, now several minutes away.

      “This is eyeball 1 to base...” The small helicopter called as Tessa asked what they saw up there.” A complete armored unit heading into town from the North,” It said as Tessa swore softly.” Full battalion size and heavy armor too.” It said as she called for the UN to hurry and she got a return call saying they needed just 10 more minutes.

      “All units...we need 10 more minutes... so do your best.” She called as Sam ducked behind a building and took position there, and the first missile from the hospital hit a tank and it went up in flames.

      “Nice shot, but stay back after the shot so they don’t see us...” Mark hinted as the man agreed and machine gun fire rained in as Mark took down another enemy helicopter with his 20 MM cannon. “Its getting hot up here..” He hinted as Tessa agreed saying they were doing great, just hang on,and she ordered her evacuation units to stand by.

      “Battle tanks at the city limits...” Mark called as things just got more complicated.

      “Get those men off the hospital roof, if they see them they’ll be sitting ducks for heavy artillery.” Tessa called as her helicopters ran in and lifted them away.

      “Our snipers are gone now.” She hinted as Sam and the rest called they under stood.

      “Loading the last of the refugees in the port.” Phyllis added as the last large chopper dropped in and loaded everyone close by on board. By that time Sam had been spotted and part of the building went up as large pieces of glass and bricks shower his unit, as he made a run for it.

      “I gotta go...” he called as he ran down one street and across to another.

      “Work your way towards the port, we’ll be able to get you out faster there.” Tessa added as Sam made a turn and started that way, spraying machine gun fire at some vehicles running towards him.

      “I’m out of 20 MM ammo and the machine gun cant break through their armor.” he added as Tessa looked scared and called for the units to retreat, as the UN Commander agreed.

      “You did fine work Captain, we appreciate it.” he said as the first unit got lifted away and Sam ran in and slid to a stop and got taken out next. They barely made it, with armor shelling the port at they ran in too, but Tess got all her men and women away, and she sat back looking exhausted after the battle.

      “220 civilians were rescued, thank you Captain.” The President said as she nodded and smiled.”Did you lose anyone?” He asked as she said she didn’t, but there were some repairs that her units were going to be needing after this one, and he smiled and thanked her again. “I look forward to the bill then.” he said with a big smile and the link went closed.

      “You better,” She whispered as the bridge crew laughed as the big ship disappeared into the sea.


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      Chapter 17: Reunion


      They weren’t even half way home when a call came in and Tessa took it to see someone she never thought she’d see again.

      “Hello, little sister...” The young man said as Tessa sat back looking very upset.

      “What do you want Carl? I’m a little busy right now.” She said as he laughed out loud, and she hated that about him.

      “Father is gone, it happened this morning right out by the pool,” He hinted as she looked sad,” That means I run the Family Business now, and that means your time to change the world has all run out.” he hinted as she looked upset at what he was saying.

      “I gave up the Family business for this job...and I wont be coming back now.” She said loudly as he declared she would, like it or not.

      “You were always Father’s favorite for a reason,” He said with a sly grin,” you’re a spoiled brat, but in business you’re top dollar no doubt about it.” he admitted as she almost smiled at that...almost.

      “He had you doing jobs part time that paid us more than half a dozen others working full time could. And I need that advantage now that I’m in charge.” he demanded as she asked to speak to her mother, while he laughed like a nut.

      “You know our Family’s rules, mother will not interfere, so get that thing parked and get back here, I’ll even let you run the offices since thats what you were trained for.” he insisted as she refused saying that she had a more serious calling now, as his face fell and he got more angry than before. “I said get back here now!! If you don’t then I’ll cut you off at the knees, and then see how you’ll fund your little war!” He screamed as she looked shocked at him. Her dad had guaranteed her a monthly amount, if she got enough backers to build her boat, and now Carl was threatening to take it away? Even with the money she had coming in from jobs, she’d have a Hell of a time keeping things going on her own.

      “You’re only getting so high and mighty because you know business was never your strong suit.” Contessa added as he looked positively livid.” You want me to do all the work for you so you can take credit for it, just like you did your whole life, well tough ****!” Tessa said as he looked shocked she didn’t submit.”Go ahead and run the business yourself, and I’ll run mine, and we’‘ll see who goes under first.” She demanded and she closed the link as he sat there in his father’s office and screamed that she wouldn’t submit to his authority, and even upstairs his mother looked sad that he had to be this way.

      “That doesn’t sound very good...” Lt. Hayes added as she looked around and slowly calmed down.

      “Mu brother is a jerk, always has been.” She said and made another call, to a friend of the Family and asked when her father had died, since no one left her know, and the man looked sad and admitted it was under ‘suspicious circumstances’ and the investigation was still going on.

      “You cant mean that, who would want to harm Father? He had a million friends but no enemies that I know of.” Tessa mentioned as the man agreed but he wouldn’t say anything else. “Carl just called me and threatened to cut me off if I don’t return, he hasn’t gotten power of attorney yet to run the business has he?” She asked as she was told that there were a lot of problems, and that Carl was one of them, and he couldn’t get control, officially, until the investigation was over, and thats all Tessa wanted to hear. And she thanked the man for his help, and then called the bank, and transfered her account into a new name and number and made sure her brother couldn’t steal what her father had given her, since her inheritance would be a fight for sure, but this little amount was hers from her own work, and he’d not get that.

      She also called the bank manager and told him the story, saying her brother might well has had something to do with her fathers death, as the man looked shocked.

      “Carl hasn’t gotten the Power of Attorney yet,” She insisted as the man agreed,” so make sure the money Father meant for my monthly allowance gets through.” She demanded as the man said he’d do his best, and Tessa closed the link and tried to think of anything else she needed to do right away.

      Then to her private computer upstairs in her room at the mansion, and she deleted all her notes and the plans for the ship remotely, and when she was done Carl would have nothing to use against her, and she would finally be free.

      Carl knew that she was right, his specialty was partying and spending money, but she just walked into a room and people through cash at her. The Family business grew by leaps and bounds, when she was still in school, and her dad had her come in for some meetings.

      She saw things the way they were going to be...instead of the way they were...and that skill made her a nice nest egg that her dad had left her use for her training and her own expenses, and she made it into something special, and now that old fool was trying to do the impossible. He was going to give it all to Contessa, and she’d waste it all on some hair brained scheme...and Carl wouldnt allow that to happen. He had planned for years to get his half of the estate when his dad died, but the second the old man started feeling a little weak..he changed his will... or would have if Carl hadn’t found out. Now the old will would be official and he’d still got his fair share, and he planned on fighting for it all, since his sister had a secret now that many would kill to know, or pay through the nose to learn, and he had his own future to consider, and it didn’t include bowing to her forever.

      The crew heard about it a little at a time, and finally Tessa came on the intercom and made the announcement that she was cutting herself off from her Family, but she hoped that their work together would not suffer from it.

      Many agreed that everyone has a time in their lives like this...to go or to stay...and many understood. Tessa was once a rich man’s daughter, but now she was a working Captain, and she gave up everything else, and that gained her some serious respect.

      She tried to think of everything she could do before Carl went nuts on her, and one by one little things got done to protect them all. Her home computer had a lot on it...once..but she fixed that remotely, and all the information about the ship and the base was gone now, she hoped. She even asked a friend to get the empty computer when Carl wasn’t around to see, and send it to her, and that way even the smallest bit of info couldn’t be gleaned from it, but she got caught and Carl now had it, if he knew what to do with a formatted machine now that he did.

      Carl was not tech savvy, and so she was pretty sure that old machine was just as safe there as it would have been in her care. But she made a few changes to things around her and even if by some miracle he found out, then it would do him no good.

      Carl would, without a second thought, sell her out to people like Habib, and she knew it. Telling him to go jump was her ticket to freedom, a freedom that he would never agree to. So she had to be ready no matter what, to defend herself and her people, if and when the time ever came.


      Chapter 18: Things get Complicated



      After that day she tried to get back to normal again. Her contacts set up another raid, this time a weapons factory making nerve gas, and She had her units go in and get information from the main offices for the UN and then get out, while she set them ablaze from miles away.

      The info got sent, and as they started home a patrol boat ran in and dropped an explosive device right on top of them and the ship shook from end to end.

      “Is the ECM on?” She asked as she was told it was, so they changed course, and so did her attacker, and then again, and she saw it for what it was. “They’re tracking us..but how?” She whispered as another boat joined the first one and she saw real troubles ahead.

      “This is the very best ECM ever made, and it was our own research teams that got it working.” She screamed as the sub got slammed again.” How is this even possible?” She screamed as the coms came on and Carl was there, all smiles.

      “Having a bad day?” He asked laughing, as she wondered where he got this info, but she didn’t need to wait long to hear.

      “Father loved your tough attitude, but he was a businessman after all.” he added as she looked surprised,” he had the specs for that fancy ECM on his office computer, and I’m selling it to anyone who wants to know... for millions...because you tend to cost people a lot of money playing God, and they all want to find you as fast as possible.” he said as the bridge shook again.

      “Now get your skinny little ass back here and get to work, or so help me God, I’ll kill you!” He said, “You’ll either work for me or not at all, got it??” he screamed, as she laughed this time, and he looked shocked she had the nerve.

      “I was always prepared to die for what I believe.” She said as his mouth dropped open,” So tell your friends either go away or get blown to bits, because I’m not messing around with them anymore.” She said and closed the link and ordered torpedo tubes loaded and flooded, and when they were ready one went flying, and one patrol boat drifted to a stop, on fire, as her crew baled out into rubber rafts and were picked up by the remaining ship.

      “Full speed while they’re busy.” Tessa ordered and they made their turn and ran full out as she swore that Carl would pay for this. The big boat was very fast compared to those little patrol boats and soon she was out of sight, and they lost her completely. Tessa checked and rechecked and found no one nearby, and so they ran in and docked at the base, and closed the doors to keep anyone from finding them again. Now she had a real problem, without the ECM her ship and all their helicopters would be right out in the open, or even worse, if they tried to use it they would be sending a signal that all those people Carl had sold to would be able to track from miles away.

      Carl bragged he was selling the information to whoever wanted it, and by now that was quite a lot of people. She hated to think it, but it was probably the best business deal that fool had ever made, and he owed it all to her...again.

      But Carl wasn’t happy just giving her up to her enemies, he took that cash, borrowed more against his inheritance, and then bought a large yacht, more than big enough to live on luxuriously, and sold the older yacht that his father had bought years ago as a trade in for the dealer. Now a helicopter to fly to and from with, and some body guards, ex-military that would work for anyone, for a price.

      His plan was simple, he wasn’t at all sure that his plan would go unnoticed, and as the FBI started investigating his fathers death, Carl started trying to sell anything, and everything, for quick cash.

      He even put the mansion up for sale, which his mother put a stop to immediately. She left him know that it belonged to her, and he had no right to it, but even as she stood her ground against him, he grabbed her by the throat and slammed her against a wall.

      “Don’t you dare talk back to me old woman...” he screamed as she used her last bit of strength and slapped him seriously across the face, and he dropped her and stepped back, looking surprised.

      “You were always such a stupid little fool.” She remarked, choking from lack of air that his grip had caused on her throat.” I stayed out of this fight from the start, but no more,its time you see what the real Law can do.” She said and stormed upstairs and he could see she was plotting against him even now.

      She got on the phone and told the FBI what was happening, and that Carl was getting ready to run. They didn’t like the sound of that at all, and they started proceedings to hold him until the investigations were over, but he had a new bank account overseas, and a few million in it by now. He also had what little bit of information that his fathers laptop had about Tessa’s boat, its ECM and its speed. His father planned all along to use her little war for advertisement, and then make more ships and ECM units for sale.

      Now that was Carl’s plan, and he saw that billions in weapons money was better than fighting for a few millions that might get him thrown in prison. So a few days later, his bodyguards knocked the FBI agents out that were guarding his boat and they left for parts unknown, and his account went up yet again, as he found a buyer for the family’s private jet, and he sold it for pennies on the dollar, and laughed that he wasn’t done destroying the Family yet.

      Of course he was doing all this very illegally, and no one had found out yet. But they could fight over these things after he was gone, and as his ship left the port and disappeared out to sea, his mother shook her head and said that even she wasn’t sure if he had killed his own father or not, but it was very likely, as the FBI ask some questions, and put out a watch for him internationally, and Carl made it a game of hide and seek on a world wide map.

      Meanwhile he was still selling info about Tessa and her ship. Now many that wanted to know who had done this, knew, and they too put out a hit list with Tessa’s name on it.

      Billions in damages from her attacks were now laid right at her feet, figuratively, and the UN saw it and warned her what countries had people watching for her, and she told them that she knew this would happen eventually, and she was ready for it.

      But thats easier said than done, and now getting jobs were a little harder since people didn’t have an anonymous person to hide behind any longer. But even before she could do that, she needed to fix this ECM thing, and she and her researchers worked around the clock to fix it with little luck so far.

      But one night as they brain stormed about what to do, they decided it was getting late and they went for dinner, and as they sat and ate, Phyllis and her Team walked in and sat down next to her and asked if things were alright, and she tried her best to smile.

      “The ECM is driving us crazy. It took us months to get it to work just right before, but now we’re trying to find a way to get it to work...wrong... I guess...so it cant be traced again.” She said as everyone looked sad for her.

      “Its a transmitter though right? Like antennas that send out the ECM signal?” Sam asked as Tessa smiled and said it was a lot more complicated than that.

      “Its not like a CB radio Sam...” Phyllis mentioned as Tessa got a good laugh.

      “BUT...it sends a signal out though right? When I built radios in the past it was very important to make sure that you don’t have things touching the antenna, because it causes distortion and static. So its strange to me that making static to hide a signal on purpose is so hard.” he added as Tessa tried to explain that they didn’t want static, but a clear clean signal, and he mentioned that a clean clear signal could be traced, but static cant, and after a few minutes, Tessa started to see what he meant... but didn’t know how to explain.

      “A fluctuating signal out of a single transmitter...” She whispered, as Sam said ‘ya like that’ and everyone laughed.”If its done right, then it would be a set of signals not one, and the combination of the two...split up every few microseconds...” She started as her face lit up suddenly,and she screamed ‘lunch is over,’ and her and her researchers ran back to the lab, as Phyllis mentioned that Sam had some strange ideas from time to time, but for some reason they always seemed to help.


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      Chapter 19: Mother of Invention


      Another few weeks and soon a new ECM was ready to try. It used two different frequencies and they wove back and forth over each other causing a third frequency that was never used as an ECM before. It used a process called Resonant Frequencies to work, the two literally joined and mixed with each other creating a third, odd frequency that no one had ever used before.

      Tessa and her crew mounted the new experimental unit on a helicopter and during the night, opened the doors and backed the ship outside. Then they lifted off with the chopper and turned the new ECM on, and...to their surprise... the helicopter disappeared from radar... and visually as well. It wasn’t perfect, there was a shadow and a sort of ghost like, clear image, but unless you knew it was there it was very,very hard to see.

      “I wasn’t expecting that...” Tessa said, as many laughed at the shock on her face,but one thing was for sure...this fixed the ECM problem instantly... and they went back inside and she replaced every ECM unit with the new ones and she knew that problem was over, for now.

      And it also gave her a way to make some serious cash for her team. Her old ECM was worthless for her now that the specs were given out, but to others it was still a miracle. So she called Mr. Francis and told him she didn’t need it any more and asked if he wanted to buy it from her, and he was very happy to get his hands on some serious ECM, knowing full well that many would buy it happily.

      She made a good deal too, the ship was fully loaded and she had 100 million in the bank, so they weren’t going to need any help for a long time now and she knew that her mission could continue without outside help.

      “That was a smart move,” Lt. Hayes added as Tessa thanked him for saying so.

      “Our researchers didn’t have much to do, so now I’ll have them work normal shifts making new things or researching our old technology for improvements.” Tessa mentioned as he agreed.” Then when we find something, we can use the best and sell the rest, it’ll be a full time research lab right here, and new technology is always worth big bucks.” She said happily as he agreed, and their immediate funding troubles were over too.

      The UN was happy for them too, and Tessa got a new mission to stop smuggling of illegal weapons from one country to another. They got the routes and names of several ships that were doing it, and she had some stopped and searched and found a lot of things that no sane person would need to buy.

      Nerve gas, nuclear weapons, small and large, and missiles and rockets that could travel for hundreds or thousands of miles. They were even surprised who was doing some of it too, and when the UN cornered them, they looked embarrassed saying that ‘times were tough’ and they needed the money.

      But it proved that no matter who you are, if things get bad enough you’ll do things you normally wouldn’t do, and that made the UN President even more sad, since he hoped many of the bigger countries would be more honest than this.

      But the mission was a success, and the word got out that Tessa was back, and ships from many groups and organizations went looking, to end her meddling for good. Patrol boats and destroyers from many countries they had attacked before, patrolled where ever they were allowed, and soon the bounty on her head went up again and people that normally didn’t care about her at all got in on it, and she saw that being hunted ,even with the best technology, was hard to avoid.

      “The full Maldives Navy is on alert for us now.” Lt. Hayes said as she just smiled. It had been months since they attacked them last, but they were throwing money at them by having their entire country on alert and thats an expensive way to do things.

      “The UN is still leaning on them too, so President Akime and his friends are spending a lot hoping to keep us at bay.” Tessa mentioned as he agreed. Of course he also had told everyone that he would stop her interference and claim the bounty, but he’d not been able to do it yet.

      The Bounty was chicken feed for him, but the prestige of killing Tessa or sinking her ship would last forever, and you cant buy that kind of reputation no matter how much money you have.But the stress of keeping this all going was getting to him and his people started to wonder what imaginatory creature he thought he was facing, and his popularity started to slip.

      He tried getting his production back up to help compensate, and one night the Toy Box popped up and fired several small missiles with incendiary warheads, and one production facility and a lab went up in flames and they were gone again, and the President of the UN was more than pleased and they got paid again, as Akime screamed that no one had found her yet, and another billion plus was gone from his coffers.

      “She’s playing with you...” He was told as he looked shocked.” with her technology she could destroy you overnight, but she hasn’t, so you have a chance to survive this, why I’m not sure but you do...be grateful.” he was told by a friend on the UN staff, and he didn’t look too happy to think it, but he was sure they were probably right.

      Either he’d get dragged in for his many crimes, or Tessa and her Team would just show up and he’d be gone,and he saw that neither of those ideas pleased him.

      “There has to be a way out of this...” He thought and when you’re willing to do anything, sell or buy anything...to survive, then things can change quickly, and the UN teams saw that maybe things could be negotiated away...for a price.


      Chapter 20: Politics Rears its ugly Head


      Tessa got a message some time later that said they had won, and she was forbidden from bothering the Maldives again. She wasn’t sure how they won, exactly... but they did... and she got a nice payday for her part, and the subject was closed.

      She could only guess what had happened, and the UN does give away a lot of money trying to help people, in one way or another, so she just left it go and went on looking for new missions and places for her crew to take time off that weren’t too obvious now that they had a price on their heads.

      While this was going on Carl got a message saying that a submarine had been spotted using the ECM that he sold the info on, and that the local Navy rushed in and sunk it. They were still there, investigating, but they thought he’d want to know.

      He closed the link with a mixture of good and bad feelings about it. He wanted Tessa to work for him forever, and make him an immensely rich man. But she refused, and this is what happens to people that refuse him, and he still was thinking of how to get back at his mother for her share in his embarrassment, when the second call came in.

      The scraps and pieces floating after the attack were finally identified...as a Russian submarine...and their President was going crazy calling for a full investigation, as Carl looked faint and sick. He had no idea what had happened, it was a new and very high tech ECM and no one but her was using it...or at least not until now.

      “What the Hell did she do?” He screamed and made some calls and info started coming in that said that the ECM was for sale on the open market, something he planned for after she was gone. But now that plan was a total failure, and she was making a lot of money selling the same units that he told everyone only she used.
      “If she’s selling the ECM to whoever wants it...then God knows how many ships are out there using it now.” he thought as he saw her plan all too well. Now she could go anywhere again, and fit right in because a lot of ships were using that ECM unit, and she would no longer stick out in a crowd.

      He sent a message to Russia saying that he knew who had sunk their ship, and got paid well for the info. Then he got the Hell out of port, before someone found out he was the one who did it. He was slowly becoming known as an Info Broker, and no one asked or cared where he got his info at so long as it got them results.

      And Tessa saw the report that a Russian Sub using her ECM was sunk, and she shook her head and thought for sure that Carl would hang for it this time, but once again, like the good little cockroach he was... he escaped... and someone else took the blame while he disappeared into the night.

      He was making a good living this way, better than he ever had before, and even Tessa was surprised that he had it in him. He was always the spoiled brat she was supposed to be. He got everything he asked for, but he never liked it when he got it.

      Like his 20th birthday, he asked his father for a Ferrari...and he got a custom Mustang instead. But that wasn’t good enough, he screamed for days until he got his way and his father and mother bought his car for him...and he hated it and never drove it...this was the man that was out there, selling info to the highest bidder, and Tessa sighed a heavy sigh thinking that, and went back to work herself.

      She refused to take a day off for weeks, and finally the Second took her to the side and mentioned that she was looking pretty tired lately, and the crew was noticing.

      “I cant relax, I have a price on my head,” She said as he admitted that...if the right person saw her, then things could be bad...as she nodded she knew that too.

      “But...if you conceal your identity, wear a disguise or something... then you can go out just like everyone else, and we both know you need the time off.” He insisted as she admitted getting away for a day or two would be nice.

      “Take a Team with you, they need time off too, and I’m sure getting away as a group would be better than nothing.” He mentioned as she agreed and after a little time to plan, Team A and a certain, undercover redhead walked off the helicopter in Hong Kong for the weekend.

      They got some good food and the men were forced to sit through a show that Tessa and Phyllis wanted to see, and everyone had a few drinks and were having a pretty good time considering.

      Tessa and Phyllis talked together a lot, and it was clear they had become friends. The men were busy watching everywhere at once, but Tessa made them relax a little too, and they all went shopping, and she asked them repeatedly if the cloths she was looking at would look good on her, and everyone looked away, embarrassed, as Phyllis laughed at them for it.

      “They have no fashion sense,” Phyllis mentioned as Mark informed her he helped her pick out cloths too, as Tessa laughed at them.It was nice getting away for a little while, and after a few hours they went to a nice 4 star hotel and got a couple rooms. Tessa told Phyllis that she didn’t need to share a room with her...she was a big girl now...but she insisted that they were there to protect her, and she looked embarrassed but left it go.

      “Were you hoping to share the room with someone else?” Phyllis asked after they got their bath and Tessa refused to even admit she heard her comment. “He’s dense as a post, you know that right? In the years since I met him I don’t think he’s ever beens serious about anyone, he’s only ever dated once that I can remember.” She admitted as Tessa asked if they had stayed friends, since traveling all over the world was their job, technically.

      “Lynn is dead..” She mentioned sadly as Tessa looked sorry she asked. “she died in Pakistan, while we were stationed there 2 years ago. They had just gotten close and started seeing each other on their days off, and then, Bang, a land mine during a mission, and a second later...she was gone.” She added softy as Tessa felt bad now that she knew the truth.

      “Sorry, did you know her well?” Tessa asked as Phyllis laid back on her bed and thought about it for a while.

      “Not really, we try not to get too involved with people, you understand right?” She asked as Tessa agreed.”She was with us for about 5 months and they hit it off right away, but he’s never mentioned her since, and we never do either, its a sort of deal I guess.” Phyllis added, hinting that asking might be too much.

      “What do you see in him anyways? He’s a nice guy, but you can hardly say he’s good company most times.” Phyllis asked as Tessa just laughed at that one.

      “I don’t know...he’s reliable, and strong and considerate to people. He has good sense and understands that some things are best left unsaid, but you can see the strength in his eyes, when he gets really serious about something.” She said as Phyllis laid there, all smiles and finally realized that the Captain was really in love.


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