Times Enemy: Part three


Chris Van Deelen

"So, how did the date go last night?" Asks a man wearing a crisp military uniform. A name tag on his right breast pocket identifies the man as D. Travis. He is an average looking man in his early thirties, built like a brick shithouse.

"Didn’t." Answers a man seated before a computer terminal. He sighs and leans back in his seat, locking his fingers behind his head. Like Travis, this man is wearing a crisp uniform. They could be brothers, as they share similar physiques and looks. Both men display captain bars on the lapels of their uniforms. The tag over his right breast pocket identifies him as L. Carter. "She bailed out on me at the last minute. Guess she’s to stressed out about the rumors we’ve been hearing over the net. Said she’d love to go out with me on Friday night."

"My condolences Lou. You have to pull a shift that night don’t ya?" The first man replies.

The seated man nods. "That I do. I think she knows that as well. Hell, it isn’t like she doesn’t have access to the duty rosters. After all, Tina is in admin."

"Besides, it would never work out! She’s just a lieutenant, and you’re a full Captain. You know how the military feels about," he holds up his hands and waggles two fingers before him, "Liaison’s between personnel of differing rank."

"Fuck that noise Daniel."

Travis laughs. "That is the general idea. I’d kill to get into her panties!"

Carter leans on the table. "I heard from a reliable source that she’s into thongs and body paint."

Travis turns and stares incredulously at his friend. "And how would you find out about something like that?" He growls menacingly.

Pushing himself away from the table he wanders over to the first of the two gateways located inside the control room they currently are residing in. He places his left arm against the armaglass window and peers into the hexagonal chamber. "I’ve heard stuff. I guess she likes to swap kinky sex stories with her roomie."

Travis bursts out laughing. "Vanessa? Christ, she is the definition of the born again Virgin! I bet she’s never had a bone in her life! She goes around spreading stories of Tina to keep the rest of us testosterone charged soldiers off her."

Carter traces the outline of a voluptuous female form on the glass. "As if anyone would want to dip their wick in Vanessa. She’s definitely what I would call a butch. All bones and angles. No curves, no soft spots."

With a quick shove from his feet, Travis shoots the chair across the room, rebounding off the far wall before replying. "She’s not that bad Danny. Hell, the only women you go after are the super model quality types. So she’s a bit on the large size. I’ve seen far worse." He grins evilly. Come on, admit it buddy. I just bet you want to do the horizontal shuffle with her."

The man standing against the gateway whirls about so fast he nearly falls over, eliciting a laugh from his friend. "I’d rather fuck you!"

"Ah, come on buddy, admit it. You want to deflower her, or at the very least you want to find out if she really is a virgin or not. Personally, the only way I’d ever through her out of bed would be to fuck her on the floor!"

"Man, Travis, we’ve been friends for a long time. We both know you’d fuck anything with a hole, as long as it was female and wet! You’ve had some mighty fine ladies over the years, remember Angie? But then you would dump her and go after someone like Tabitha. She was such a fucking dog." He holds out his arms before him, angling the hands down at the wrists, like a dog begging. He barks a couple of times to empathize his point.

Travis belts his friends hands, laughing at his antics. "Cut it out. Besides, why are you complaining? You’ve eventually had nearly all the girls I dumped. Always did like sloppy seconds didn’t ya?"

"Never sloppy seconds. They dumped you for a real man." He counters, a huge grin splitting his face.

"In your dreams pee wee."

Carter is about to retort when the screen on the terminal he was seated before begins to flash, line after line of code scrolling across the screen. "What the hell?" He jumps out of the chair and rushes over to the terminal. "We have an unscheduled jump occurring!"

The other man steps up to an intercom system on the wall, next to the huge sec doors that secure the double gateway from the rest of the facility. "This is Captain Travis at Gateway controls, ID T2395YXL222-82. We have an unauthorized jump in progress. I repeat, we have an unauthorized jump in progress. Request immediate backup. Full security detail."

"Captian Travis, this is General Hammond, request granted. Security detail ETA 1 minute, thirty seconds. Which gateway?"

Travis glances over his shoulder at the pair of gateways. "Gateway number two sir." He answers.

"Confirm that Captain. Did you say gateway two?" Hammond asks, the disbelief in his voice carried clearly across the intercom system.

"Affirmative Sir." Travis knows that Gateway was just recently completed and ninety percent of the computer controls inside the control chamber are dedicated to it. As a matter of fact, he can’t remember any time that the gateway has ever been used. Gateway one is the primary jump point for the redoubt. Come to think of it, the only ones to have ever used Gateway two are the jump scientists.

"Captain Carter, ETA on arrival of gateway travelers." He barks, the camaraderie and friendship disappearing from his voice as fast as a drop of water in the desert heat.

"Unknown! I’m getting some very strange readings from the computer. The gateway is reporting that the travelers have already arrived, yet a second later it reports that they will arrive in five minutes time. The temporal readings are way off the scale!"

Travis blinks. Temporal readings? What the fuck? The only time he’s ever heard about the temporal readings is when the gateway’s secondary function of Time Trawling was in use. But that’s impossible! There are no trawling experiments due until March. "Captain Carter, confirm those readings. You have to be reading it wrong."

"It’s reading right, check it out yourself!" He yells, jabbing a finger at the computer screen. "Oh shit… Think someone might have hacked into the system off the net?"

Travis takes a seat next to Carter and studies the board. "The chances of that are slim and none. We’re supposed to be cut off from the public lines, but there is always a chance that someone has gained access to the control center via another redoubt." He places his hand on a key built into the computer system. "On my mark, cut all communication links, then power to the gateway."

Carter complies, hand resting on the key.

"Three, two, one, MARK!" Both men twist their respective keys at the same time, triggering built in safeguards that literally sever the outside link to the gateway control. Somewhere down the line, hidden deep in an access tunnel far below the redoubt a razor sharp blockage plate slams into place neatly cutting the fiber optic link in half. The security measure is rather extreme, but considering the nature of Overproject whisper, it’s worth the cost.

A readout on the terminal indicates that the cut off was successful. Travis says so out loud. Just as they are about to shut down the power to the gateway the huge sec doors slide into the ceiling and a squad of soldiers armed with M16A2’s, HK PDW’s, and HK SOCOM’s enter. The soldiers are dressed from head to toe in kevlar body armor, complete with arm, leg, throat and groin guards. The soldiers immediately take position in the control chamber, all weapons aimed at the closed door.

General Hammond enters the control room. He is dressed in full combat fatigues. Unlike most of the high ranking soldiers in the base, General David Hammond has seen plenty of combat in his career. The general appears to be in his late fifties and began his life as a career soldier in Vietnam, in 1968. It was during this time in Vietnam that he proved himself to be a highly adaptable, nearly unstoppable soldier. Nothing seemed to scare the unimposing man of five eleven.

When the ‘police action’ in Vietnam ended, he volunteered for every high risk mission he could get his hands on. It wasn’t long before his superiors noticed his zest and willingness to tackle any challenge. He was just the man they needed for certain ‘Black Ops’. The general has been in the heart of the old Soviet Union, Cambodia, China, as well as the Philippines and Afghanistan.

During these varied missions he saw several things that he had no right to see. Early time travel experiments by the Kremlin, Cloning farms in the heart of Mainland China, Genetically engineered monstrosities in Iran and Iraq.

The US government had two choices. The first, and easiest choice would be to simply kill the man and wash their hands of the whole situation. The second would be to help the man climb in rank and take on more responsibility in the Totalitarian Concept. Considering his experience and knowledge, killing the man would be a terrible waste.

In the end, he became the commander of the Totalitarian concepts latest redoubt and research facility, located in Wisconsin. The redoubt is the pinnacle of many of the concepts secret projects. Here, all the data from the failed time Trawling experiments have been collated and compared, as well as their only success. They have been able to fine tune the technology and now have a 85% success rate in their recent trawls. And, from all appearances, the trawling gateway has been accessed from an outside source and someone, or something is about to arrive.

The general runs his hand through his short cropped, deep brown hair and stares into the gateway chamber. "Don’t cut the power to the gateway." He growls, holding his hand out two the men seated at the controls. "Let’s see who was stupid enough to make an un-authorized jump to my redoubt."

As he spits out the order, the floor and ceiling panels begin to glow and a fine mist forms. He watches, knowing exactly what to expect, as he’s seen the jump hundreds of times in the past. But, unlike the times before, this isn’t a normal jump. He’s only seen what is occurring a handful of times.

Six indistinct shapes begin to appear. There is no way he can tell what they are, as they simply appear to be small globes of free floating molecules. The seconds pass and he can watch the skeletal structures form, sinew muscle and veins flow like water over the bones. Inside the rib cage the heart, lungs and other organs appear as if magic. The site fascinates him, watching the blood flow over the forming bodies, the heart already beating in the still exposed cavity.

The flesh flows over the raw muscle and organs like hot wax flowing down the side of a burning candle, but like it was in reverse. These particular travelers are only naked for a nano second, as the clothing and equipment they are carrying appears out of thin air.

Inside the chamber two men, three women and a huge cougar lay in a comatose state. The entire process took less than four seconds from start to finish. The newcomers are also armed to the teeth with an assortment of high tech weaponry.

Hammond opens his mouth to issue the orders but before they can be uttered, several soldiers already have the gateway chamber door open and are inside, taking the blasters from the people before they have a chance to awaken and use them.

One of the soldiers, a man with the name of Smith sewn over his right breast pocket steps out, motioning for several others to enter. "Intruders have been disarmed sir." He says, his voice calm and steady but the general notices the fine film of sweat on his brow, and he appears to be a little more pale than usual.

Hammond nods curtly. "Send the weaponry down to forensics. I want identification numbers, if any are found, to be tracked down. I want full identification measures to be taken, everything from finger prints, to DNA scans, to their shit and what they had to eat this morning. A full spectrum. Once they have come to, take them to holding."

The soldier salutes sharply. "Sir. About two of the intruders."


"Sir, one is a feline, cougar to be exact. The other, one of the females, is, well…"

Hammond was never known for his great patients. "Spit it out soldier." He snaps, causing the taller man to flinch slightly.

"Sir, the female is not human," He stammers. "Nothing like I have ever seen before."

The general shoulders his way past the soldier. Sure enough, inside the chamber one of the females is most definitely not human. From her appearance she could be one of the experiments from Project Genesis or Excalibure. Unlike the other five forms, she is beginning to show signs of regaining consciousness.

Before him in the chamber lay six figures. The huge cougar is out, thank god for that. One of the females, a young woman with a ratty mop for hair is out like a like a light, her face planted firmly in the crotch of a barrel chested man.

A attractive Spanish woman in her mid twenties sits next to a huge man with terrible facial scarring. During the jump she suffered from a nosebleed, the blood having collected over his chest, just now starting to congeal.

The large scarred man catches his interest. He is dressed in combat fatigues, new boots. The uniform has no insignia, nor any rank. The general is willing to bet that not one of the group is carrying any sort of identification. Could they be part of some former soviet union experiment in matter transference? More likely they are a sabotage team set to inflict as much damage as possible. The past months have been getting more and more tense between the two superpower nations. With the election now over and the presidential inauguration in a weeks time, anything could happen.

What grabs the general’s attention and holds it like amber trapping a fly is the baseball cap the man is wearing. It shows the three headed dog insignia. Only members of the Cerberus project display that insignia. Deep in his gut he knows that this man most definitely isn’t a member of the project.

Like the soldier said, one of the people inside the chamber isn’t human. Her legs are all wrong, more like those of a large dog, but hairless, ending in three large talons, wider than those of a birds. Spikes jut from her knees and elbows and a tail, nearly four feet in length lays limp and motionless on the floor between her legs. He can’t see her face, but knows that he’s seen this female before. At least, he is quite sure that he has.

"Secure the prisoners, It’s only a matter of a few minutes before they start to come around." The general nudges the hind shank of the cougar with his spit polished boot. "Fill this animal with tranqs and get it down to holding now. We don’t want it waking up."

The lead soldier points his weapon at the big feline. "Why not just kill the damned thing and be done with it? A cougar that size is going to be serious trouble to control once it comes around."

Hammond shakes his head. "Secure that thought soldier. There is a reason the cougar is with the group, and I want to find out why. Until I say otherwise, treat it like you would treat any other prisoner."

The soldier nods curtly. Holding out his hand, a second soldier hands him a dart gun. Smoothly he shifts the weapon to his primary hand and fires. The feathered dart hits the cougar in the hip. Even deeply unconscious as it is, the cougar yowls and snaps, causing the soldiers to jump, weapons ready.

"Get it out of here." Hammond snaps. Things just keep getting stranger and stranger…

* * *

As the mist closed over her, her mind shutting down to protect it from the chaos that is a matter transference, Ged’s last thought is that there is something very different about this jump. She has been through several jumps during her time with the whitecoats. Something nags her, but before she can put her mental finger on it, the blackness overcomes her.

One thing she found with the jumps that she took in the past were the presence of nightmares, usually horrifying in their nature, sometimes almost prophetic as well. This is probably the one and only time she can remember not suffering from a jump induced nightmare.

To her, an eternity passes. She has no sense of time. The jump probably lasted no more than a handful of seconds, but to her distorted mind, it feels as if she spent several lifetimes in the black void, yet, somehow, at the same time, she feels as if no time has passed at all.

Ged moans pathetically, and when she raises her arm to try and wipe some of the griminess out of her purple eyes, she finds that she can’t move her arms! Her eyes snap open, and she takes in the site of the armed soldiers, one with a gun inches from her face. The little girl trapped inside lets out a blood curdling shrike of fear. "Brett!"

* * *

His wards terrified scream brings Maverick around faster than a bucket of cold water. For him, the jump never seemed to have taken place at all. He feels no sense of the passage of time. It’s almost as if he simply blinked.

Before his eyes are even open he tries to leap to his feet, his hand automatically going for the butt of the desert eagle strapped to his him. But all he manages to succeed in doing is lurching himself off the floor, throwing himself completely off balance. He opens his eyes just in time to shut them again as the floor of the chamber rushes up to meet his face. To avoid a broken nose and jaw, he turns his face at the last second. The impact is still enough to send stars rocketing through his mind.

"Don’t try that again. Move a muscle, and we’ll soot you on the spot." A harsh voice commands over him. Maverick realizes that he really doesn’t have much choice but to obey, as his mind registers the fact that he was unable to move his arms, and that is partially responsible for him ending up in the position he is currently in.

He opens his eyes, noting instantly that the others that he can see are still out of it. There are nearly a dozen soldiers all armed with HK sub guns, as well as body armor. He knows that they are instantly and totally fucked. "Urgh.. Uh, Hi?"

"Funny guy asshole. I said, don’t fucking move."

Maverick laughs without humor. "Yeah, right, and let you chill my ass? I don’t think so."

The soldier slams the butt of his subgun into Maverick’s back. "Don’t speak asshole."

The others are beginning to stir. Ged is fully awake, looking around the gateway in fear. He’s seen fear on her face before, but never like this. It’s mixed in with recognition as well. She is far more pale than he’s ever seen. That worries him. To make matters worse the chamber appears to be identical to the one that they were supposed to have jumped from.

He isn’t surprised in the least to see that the soldiers have stripped them entirely of all their weapons, and have secured their hands behind their back with plastic disposable ties. Not even with his exceptional strength he couldn’t break them. Ged would be able to, but the soldiers would kill her long before she could do anything.

He catches her fear filled eyes and locks her gaze with his. "Relax Ged, everything will be ok."

"I said," the barrel of the blaster smashes across the back of Maverick neck, causing him to yelp in pain. "To be fucking quite. I won’t warn you again."

The next of the group of friends to awaken is the feral woman. She sneezes loudly and tries to climb to her feet, but she too is forced roughly back to the floor of the gateway chamber. "What go on?" She mumbles, glaring and crinkling her nose at the overpowering odor of so many men in an inclosed chamber.

One by one the members awaken from the jump induced coma. Gitana finds that she is suffering from a nosebleed. Joe wakens to find his lap filled with rank smelling vomit from where Feral was sick.

Hammond stands in the doorway of the chamber. His hands are clasped behind his back as he stares at the five people lying on the floor of the chamber. With a deep breath he addresses the travelers. "I don’t know who you people are, or who you work for, but you made one hell of a mistake jumping into my redoubt." Maverick is about to speak, but Hammond silences him with his hand. "No, don’t even bother trying to explain yourself now. There will be plenty of time for that later."

The general nods his head and the soldiers pull the five people to their feet. Even though she is still groggy from the effects of the jump, Feral looks around the chamber. "Where is she?" Her voice is laced with worry and fear.

"Where is who?" General Hammond demands. The young woman certainly talks oddly he thinks.

"Friend. Cougar. Where she?" She demands, near hysterical. She can feel the cougars presence but it is growing fainter by the minute.

"The cougar is being taken away to holding. You will be seeing your friend soon enough." A quick spin of his heel and he walks out of the gateway into the control chamber. "Enough questions. Take them down to holding. You know what to do." The general punches the code into the huge sec doors and leaves as soon as they are open enough to allow passage.

One by one the soldiers lead the five people out of the chamber, none to gently. They all have a thousand questions, but know that to openly ask them will result in the best case a rude reprimand, at worst a severe case of butt-stroke.

The young mutant stumbles slightly, the tip of one talon catching in the seam on the floor. The guard assigned to her shoves her forward, causing her to fall to the cold floor. The weapon raised, he stands over her. "Get up freak."

Maverick doesn’t hesitate. He launches himself forward, slamming his shoulder into the back of the soldier, ramming him face first into the wall. There is a sickening crack as the soldier, taken completely by surprise, finds himself the proud owner of a badly broken nose. He drops like a spent shell.

A three shot burst rings out, hitting the big warrior in the lower back, just over the kidney. His body armor saves him from an instant chilling, the kinetic energy transfer is like getting hit by a war wag out of control coming down a hill. He crumples to the concrete floor groaning.

"Hold your fire Goddammit!" Bellows the general. I don’t want them killed! He strikes out, knocking the barrel of the M-16 towards the ceiling of the redoubt.

Lowering the weapon the soldier glares first at the general, then at the unmoving man. "He attacked Krasner sir."

"Yes he did, but you still were not to use lethal force." He steps past the man, making his way to the head of the line. "Consider yourself on report soldier."

Glowering, the soldier grabs Maverick by the arm, finding the scarred man to be far heavier than he appears. He is forced to get help. It takes to of them to drag the heavy man to his feet. Maverick doesn’t resist. He’s far too busy suffering to put up any resistance.

With the general out of site, he rams the butt of the assault rifle into Maverick’s already wounded back, causing him to cry out. His knees buckle and he slumps to the floor again, retching. A thin line of blood trickling down his chin.

"Leave him alone you fucking triple stupe asshole!" Gitana roars, struggling against her captor to reach Maverick.

The soldier laughs. "The wetback bitch’s got guts, that’s for sure." He grabs Maverick by the hair and forces the big man to his feet. Maverick is hurting, there is no doubt about that, but for once he keeps his peace. If the soldiers have their way with him any further, he’ll be of no use to anyone. The survivalist has to try and regain his strength and fast, so that when the opportunity arises, he’ll be able to take advantage of it.

Something has gone triple wrong. His mind reels, trying to make sense of the chaotic situation before him. From all appearances they are still located deep inside the redoubt, and that the jump never occurred. But at the same time, they are facing armed and dangerous sec men dressed in pre dark military uniforms. That in itself isn’t uncommon. But, still unlike only minutes before, the base smells occupied, not long abandoned. And there is the General Hammond, looking very much alive and well.

He stops dead in his tracks. "Holy fuck, we’ve time jumped!"

His ‘guardian’ is about to drive the butt of his weapon into Maverick’s back to keep him moving when he too, pauses, startled by the scarred man’s exclamation. "Keep it down, and move your ass." He grunts, some of the piss and fire gone from his voice.

Looking at his three companions and the newcomer, Feral, he sees that Ged must have come to the same conclusion. She looks far worse than he has ever seen her. Like a deer caught in the headlights of a war wag, paralyzed with fear but just on the edge of flight or fight. Maverick tries to smile, to reasure her that like he said earlier, everything will be ok. The last thing he wants to have happen is the young mutant to break free of the bonds and start a fight. Sure, she’d be able to kill quite a few, but the odds are stacked against her, as well as the rest. Any firefight started with mean blood spilt on both sides.

The group are taken to another elevator, this one not marked on any of the maps that they examined when first arriving in the redoubt. They are crowed into the small car. The elevator’s doors are heavy, security doors. Maverick is quite certain they’d need a wag chiller to punch them open and at the same time that would most certainly damage, if not out and out destroy the car.

The ride lasts only a few seconds. He has only been inside an elevator a few times in his life, so has no idea to judge how far they traveled. It could have been only a few yards, to half a mile for all he knows.

The doors slide apart to reveal yet another long, monotonous hallway. As with many of the halls they explored, this one has a security check point. The guard simply nods as the procession passes, staring with blank amazement at Ged.

The corridor travels nearly four hundred yards by Maverick’s estimate before stopping at a single sec door. It is designed to slide into the ceiling, like the main entrance and the entrance to the mat-trans chamber, but is far smaller. It’s the size of a normal door. On the right hand side of the door is a key and number pad. The lead soldier punches in a code and the door slides smooth as silk into the ceiling.

Into the opening they step and are greeted by the site of a huge laboratory.

The room itself appears to be the size of a football field, with numerous smaller chambers and cubby holes cordoned off with arma glass and regular walls. Dozens of white coated scientists stop their work and look up at the newcomers. An man in his mid forties walks up to the group. When it comes to height, this man is sorely lacking. He is five feet tall, and that includes the soles of his shoes. He has a full head of dark brown hair, and a small, pencil thin moustache. Hazel eyes peer out from small glasses. The eyes are highly intelligent, and glow with a malevolence that has rarely been seen before. One look into those bright, evil eyes and you feel as if he’s stripping your soul apart, analyzing each portion of it like a germ or virus under a microscope. A tag over his right breast pocket holds the name A. Spint.

"These the newcomers we’ve been expecting?" He asks as he inspects the prisoners like a grocer inspects a side of beef, noting every flaw, every scar. Gitana shivers under his gaze, feeling somehow dirty, violated, even though he hasn’t laid a finger on her. He walks around the five people, muttering under his breath. At Ged, he stops, crosses his arms and reaches up to tap his lower lip with the index finger of his right hand. "Gedoena, how did you escape from your confinement this time, and how did you end up with these vagabonds?"

Ged refuses to meet his gaze, nor does she answer his query. The room itself is warm, slightly warmer than normal room temperature. Despite that, she shudders.

The scientists clucks his tongue like a father dealing with a disobedient child. "Now child, is that any way to treat your friend, Dr. Spint?"

Maverick and Gitana exchange glances. The big warrior hit it right on the head. Somehow, they did time jump. They are back before the skydark, back before Ged’s friend Matt helped save her life by putting her into cold sleep.

Spint sighs with great exaggeration. "Ok Gedoena, be that way then. We’ll only end up putting you to bed without supper yet again." He steps up to the lead soldier, craning his neck to look up at the taller man. "Take these subjects to the holding chambers. I want them stripped of everything, then a FBC performed. I don’t want any risk of one of them carrying weapons. When that is complete, let me know so we can run a full physical on them. I want to know everything there is about these people before the interrogation.

The soldier scowls, looking at Spint as if he was something the soldier just discovered clinging to the bottom of his boot. "Yes sir."

The five travelers are taken through the huge chamber. At the far end is another doorway. Another keypad is located on the right hand side. A simple code opens the doorway, allowing access to the tunnel behind. A total of twelve doors line each side, with a final doorway at the other end. The doors are flush to the walls, no handle or punch pad visible. Only a single, small window can be seen at eye level.

The lead guard stands at the mouth of the corridor and speaks out loud. "Ok, open the containment cells, one at a time." The first door slides into the ceiling, revealing a small cell, ten feet long by ten feet wide. Nothing decorates the cell, no furniture, nothing at all. The lead guard shoves Ged roughly into the cell, and the door slides down not even a second later.

One by one the five companions are shoved into the cells, Maverick last of all. He’s too sore to even consider trying anything. As trader used to say, a man in good shape stands a better chance of pulling his carcass out of the fire than someone who has one foot in the grave.

The big man wanders around the room, finally sitting in the corner opposite of the door. He leans forward, resting his head on his knees. Some fucking leader I’ve turned out to be. One jump with those mat-trans and we have our asses in a sling, and hell, we’re not even in our own time! He slams his fist in frustration. Now, the predark whitecoats have us, and god only knows what they have planned. And there isn’t a fireblasted thing he can do to help them.

A soft feminine voice breaks his self loathing. "Remove all clothing and place on the floor next to the door."

"Fuck you." It’s really a pathetic show of bravado, but he feels better from having said it.

Undaunted, the voice speaks again. "Failure to comply will result in disciplinary action."

Maverick laughs. "Yeah, right. Can’t do much to me in this room. Send in your sec men, I’ll give the sons of muties as good as I get."

He feels as if someone slams a fist into his stomach, slamming him to the wall. Every muscle in his body is instantly paralyzed. The pain is exquisite, like nothing he has ever felt before. He doesn’t know what is happening, but he has just received a powerful electrical shock. Not enough to kill, even in his weakened state, but enough to make him realize that these whitecoats are not fooling around.

"Me and my big mouth." He groans.

"Compliance will be rewarded. Non compliance will result in further disciplinary action. You have thirty seconds to comply."

Painfully, Maverick unlaces his boots and removes his socks, tossing them before the door. It takes far longer than it normally would for him to remove the body armor, as well as the rest of his cloths. To his relief, the female voice doesn’t push him to finish the job. He cranes his neck to inspect his side where the three round burst hit. Three huge bruises, the size of saucer plates overlap one another. He sighs. Once, just once, he’d like to visit someplace without being shot, stabbed, or beaten.

In four of the other cells, his companions are doing the same. Ged and Gitana both strip down without having to be told twice. Ged simply from previous experience, Gitana knowing that resistance wouldn’t benefit anyone. Feral is shocked once before finally complying. Joe is a little more stubborn, receiving three shocks, each one progressively more powerful than the last. But in the end, he too, strips down to his birthday suit.

Nearly a full hour passes before anything happens. The door to Maverick’s cell opens, and seven people enter. Five soldiers armed to the teeth enter, followed by Spint and one other whitecoat. The soldiers pick up his clothing and stuff them in a sack.

He small scientist, hands clasped behind his back, stands over Maverick. "Lets make this as painless as possible. I will ask you questions, and you will answer them." Spint unclasps his hands and waves two of the soldiers over. They stand next to Maverick and pull him to his feet.

"First question. Your full name."

"Brett Maverick." He answers, knowing that the evil little bastard will make life a living hell if he doesn’t.

The small whitecoat shakes his head, tisking. "Come now, do you honestly expect me to believe that is your name?"

"Yeah, I do you sawed off little fucker. My father was a triple big fan of predark westerns, specifically anything written by Laurence James. He also loved to read the paperbacks written about the Gambler, Maverick. So he named me after his hero."

Spint blinks, then with the speed of a rattler, strikes out, slapping the bigger man across the face. "I will not tolerate profanity Mr. Maverick. You would be well advised to watch your tongue." He glances over at the other whitecoat, who nods once. "So," He continues. "You appear to be telling the truth. How refreshing! But what are you talking about. Predark. What is that?"

"This time. The years before the skydark. The big war between the United States and the Soviet union." He leans forward. "The war that wiped out the planet, chilling 99.99% of the population and creating the world I grew up in. The Deathlands." With each word his voice climbs the decibels ladder. "The final war that was caused by sick little fuckers like yourself."

A smile devoid of all warmth spreads over the small scientists face. "I told you Mr. Maverick not to use profanity." Reaching into a pocket he withdraws a small device, then rams it into the scarred warriors testicles.

The pain from the taser is more than he can bare. Maverick passes out, slumping to the floor. Spint shakes his head. "Oh dear, I guess the interrogation is going to have to wait until later. Well, on with the physical examination." Spint pulls on a pair of latex gloves and cackles gleefully as he performs the full body cavity search on the unconscious man.

The search complete, he gets the soldiers to roll the man over onto his back. He pulls out a tape measure and stretches it over his prone form. "Seventy two inches tall." He speaks out loud, the other scientist recording the information. "What was his weight after removal of his armor and garments?"

"Exactly two hundred and twenty three pounds, nine ounces." Answers the other scientist.

All the data on the man was downloaded from the jump logs into the redoubt’s mainframe computer. The other scientist is holding a small, palm sized computer, checking the information as the Spint calls it out.

"I would hazard a guess that he has less than four percent body fat. He has the build of an athlet. I wonder how much he can press?" Spint comments, pinching the flesh of Maverick’s flat stomach.

"According to the logs, he has exactly 3.74% body fat. Cellular damage indicates several periods over his life where he suffered from malnutrition, but nothing fatal. He has also been exposed to radiation. The logs indicate potential cancerous growths in his liver, pancreas and intestinal track. Nothing life threatening, but they have the potential in a few years."

"Fine, fine. Schedule him for surgery tomorrow morning." Spint waves his hand dismissively. "We can’t have anything happen to the generals prize prisoner, can we?"

A few quick taps on the keypad and the surgery has been entered.

The small whitecoat opens Mavericks eyes and shines a light into them. "Pupil dilation normal. Eye color slate gray." Peeling back his lips, the small man forces Brett’s jaws apart. "First glance, he has all his teeth. A few minor cavities here and there, but nothing out of the ordinary."

All the information is recorded and compared.

"Full head of hair, deep brown, nearly black. Lucky for him it appears that he might keep it for the rest of his days. No sign of premature graying either." Using both hands he tilts the warriors face from side to side. "Large number of facial scars. From the looks of them, they appear to have been caused with a sharp instrument, probably a blade of some sort." Using the tape measure he carefully catalogs the scars on Maverick’s face and body.

"This man seems to have lead a very violent life. The scarring on his back look remarkably like whip marks. Even with the overlapping I counted exactly thirty two individual scars. His left shoulder is a mess as well. It appears as if not only was he shot there several times, but it looks as if something bit him. Same with the scar around where his left nipple used to be." He waves the other scientists over, tracing the outer rim of the scar with his hand. "See how jagged it appear to be? I believe that something with incredibly sharp teeth bit him here and tore away the nipple, as well as a long strip of flesh, nearly nine inches in total.

The cataloging continues for several more minutes and ends just as Maverick begins to crawl his way back to the world of the living.

"Are you going to co-operate this time Mr. Maverick, or will I be forced to sedate you once again?"

If looks could kill, the whitecoat would be vaporized instantly. But instead of arguing, Maverick simply nods his head.

Clapping his hands together delightedly, the little Whitecoat giggles. "Excellent! I think we will get along much better if you could be civilized. Now, where were we?" He places his hand on his chin and stares at the ceiling. "Oh, yes. That’s right. Question and answer period. Now Mr. Maverick, how old are you?"

"Twenty nine."

"Very good! Now, where were you born?" He asks, sitting back on his heels, hands clasped before him.

"Near the shore of Canyon ferry lake, in what used to be Montana. Raised on a Ranch fortress."

Again, the little scientist glances at his counterpart. The other man nods his head once without looking up from the terminal. "It appears that you are once again telling the truth. Family?"

"Mother and father are still alive, well they were when I left them to join Trader’s convoy. Got a younger brother and sister as well."

"I see." Spint nods his head, not in agreement, but in time with a music only he can hear. "How did you get all those scars?"

"All part of living in the Deathlands. Everyday is a rad blasted fight for survival. Been in more firefights than I rightly can remember. Each scar has it’s own story of overcoming the odds to see another sunset."

Spint cackles with glee. "How poetic! There seems to be much about you my friend." He caresses Maverick’s face, tracing the trio of scars on his cheek. "And now, pray tell, how did you get these scars? What a shame, destroying such a fine face like yours."

Maverick shivers, the memory smashes it’s way to the surface of his mind like a stickie heading for an explosion. The fires, the naked bodies slowly being eaten, the feminine laughter, mocking as the skin on his face is split, the feel of hot blood pouring down his neck and chest. He keeps his mouth closed, afraid that his voice would crack if he tried to talk.

"That story can wait for another time." Spint finally says. "Shall we continue on with the other questions?" He states, not bothering to wait for Maverick to answer either way. For another half hour the questions continue. Maverick gives up the details on his life, his travels, and finally how he came to be in the redoubt. Like trader used to say, spill your guts, save yourself the pain, as long as it doesn’t harm your people. Considering everyone is in the same predicament he is, no harm is done.

Finally, the small whitecoat stands and stretches. "Very good Mr. Maverick. Why don’t you try and get some rest? Food and clothing will be brought to you later." He leaves the room, his assistant right on his heels. The guards follow, never once turning their back on the unarmed man, as if sensing that even without a weapon, he’d be able to kill without much difficulty. When the door shuts, he feels more alone than he has ever in his entire life.

* * *

Feral is unable to keep still. Her senses are nearly overloaded, and it is almost enough to drive her insane. Human’s are bad enough to be around, but the entire facility reeks of hundreds of norms, so many that she can’t make out individuals, not even her new found friends, though she can sense that they are close by. To her relief she can just touch the mind of her cougar friend. It’s deeply unconscious, but very much aware of her presence, which is comforting to both.

Before the door opens she is aware of people approaching. Sure enough, a single soldier stands at the small observation window and orders her to stand away from the door. She does so. Five soldiers enter and surround her, preventing her from moving as Spint and his assistant enter. One of the soldiers gathers up her clothing and stuffs it into a bag. Feral sneezes violently as she gets a good whiff of the little man. Not even the most vile mutant she has ever encountered has had such a clinging odor of decay and corruption about it, like the man in the white coat has.

"Ok, before we shall proceed, I have to ask you a few questions. You will answer them of course." He sits down on the floor before her. "I have to know a name to call you by, as it will make things so much easier. What is it?"

She backs away from the little man, trying to put as much distance between herself and the corrupt creature before her. "No name. Never had name."

Spint shakes his head sadly. "That will not do at all. Everyone has a name. What did your parents call you?"

"No mother, father. No family. No name. You stupe?" To her it makes perfect sense. Why should she have a name? After all, Maverick, Joe and the others accepted that fact, so why can’t the hideous little mutie before her understand that?

"My, but you do have such a stilted way of talking. I take it you’ve had no formal education then, am I correct?"

She nods.

"Ok, fine. So you have no name. What do your friends call you?" Spint folds his hands across his knees, getting comfortable for the long interrogation ahead. He feels that this one is going to take longer than any of them.

"Call me Feral." She say’s proudly, pointing at her chest. "Joe name me. I like."

"You like what my dear? The name or this Joe you are talking about?"

Feral blushes, uncertain why she is though. "Like name. Said it fits."

He nods, not even bothering to make sure if his assistant is taking notes. "You said you had no family. What happened to them?"

She shrugs. "Not know. Lived in wild all life. No help except animal friend." The little man terrifies her more than anyone she has ever met in her entire life, but she doesn’t know why.

"Do you know where you were born then?" He leans forward, causing the mutant girl to shy away from him, but she has no where to go, as she is standing against the wall. "Your features are slightly oriental. A slight slant to the eyes, small mouth, slightly pointed chin, as well as your ears I see. Probably born somewhere along the west coast I figure."

Feral shrugs, not really knowing what to say.

"Do you know how old you are?"

She contemplates the question. She really doesn’t know, but from what people have told her, she figures that she is at least twenty years old. That is what she answers with.

The assistant speaks up. "According to the mat trans record, she is twenty one years of age, six months, and eight days."

For the next forty five minutes he asks her various questions, some she is able to answer, some she can’t as she either doesn’t understand what he is asking or just can’t answer them. When he stands, she breaths a sigh of relief, expecting that he and his norm friends are going to leave. That is not the case however.

Pulling out a tape measure, he steps right up to her. Being so close to the little man, she gags, the bile rushes up to her mouth. With the greatest of effort she forces it back down. It doesn’t go un-noticed.

"What is wrong my dear? I am not going to harm you, I just want to give you a physical examination."

"Smell bad, like all. But you smell like dead." She answers truthfully.

Just for the briefest of seconds, he looks as if he is going to lash out at the young woman, but as quickly as it comes, the flash passes. "How very interesting! You seem to have a highly developed sense of smell. But how can I smell like that? I haven’t performed an autopsy in weeks!" He doesn’t wait for her to answer. First, he takes a measurement of her height.

"Sixty eight inches. My, but you’re a tall girl, aren’t you my dear?"

She doesn’t answer. Her concentration is solely occupied with trying to keep herself from vomiting all over the repulsive little man.

"What did the computer record her weight as?"

"One hundred, seventeen pounds, nine ounces." Answers the assistant. "She has 9.23% body fat. Perfectly normal for a woman of her age and build."

"Any signs of illness or cancer?" Spint queries, looking over the woman’s form, inspecting it for scars and other malformations.

"Negative sir. She’s in perfect health." He scans his notes. "However, genetic scans show some irregularities. She appears to have .03 percent unknown genetic material. And from what we have been able to determine her senses are extremely keen. And, she possesses emerald green eyes. That is very rare. Have you noticed how her ears are pointed? Very unusual.

The little man nods, then suddenly lashes out with his hand, slipping between her thighs and out again without warning. Feral screams at the cold, dead feel to his skin, her hands lashing out to strike the little man, but before they can land, one of the guards slams his rifle into her stomach, fully having expected this to occur. She doubles over, slipping to the floor. A low, pitiful moan flows from her lips.

"Can you believe it? A twenty one year old virgin! I thought such a breed were extinct!" His crude comment cause the soldiers with him to chuckle in grim humor. She can hear one of the guards mumble under his breath how he’d like to pop that cherry. Feral tries to make herself even smaller.

"Hmm…. Something should be done about her hair. It looks like she has been cutting it using a knife!" He doesn’t realize how close to the truth he actually is.

The examination is over in only a few minutes, but to her it was like a lifetime. The two scientists leave, the guards following close behind. Feral doesn’t move for a very long time, seething in anger and hatred at the little man, as well as herself for letting the horrible little mutant touch her the way he had.

* * *

Joe is sitting in the corner of the room, brooding. He had no intention of ever giving up his Kachinas. He made a promise to his shaman that he would only give it up when he died. Now, twice in a period of a few weeks it has bee taken from him. But, it’s not like they have him much of a choice. If he would have refused a third time, the shock probably would have killed him.

He is damned curious as to why the feral woman was in the jump chamber with the rest of them. She must have entered at the last second. But why the hell was she laying face down in his crotch? And the room reeks of vomit from where she’d been sick on him. Odd, she seems to have a problem with the way people smell, but not him. Joe scratches his head. Why the hell is that?

Pity she wasn’t a normal girl. She is kind of cute in her own wild way. And the way she talks can actually grow on you after a time.

From the corner of his eye he detects movement. He turns his head and sees a guard looking in at him. The older man sighs, knowing that the fun is about to start.

The soldier unlocks the door and five guards slip in, followed closely by the little doctor and another white coated scientist. The doctor stands over him and smiles. "Well my friend, have you decided to co-operate with us?"

"Didn’t leave me much of a rad blasted choice now did ya you little mutie." He growls, expecting to be on the receiving end of a butt stroke from one of the guards. But it doesn’t happen."

Spint smiles. Joe gets the impression that a shark is smiling at him, waiting for a chance to swim in for the kill. "No. You really didn’t have much of a choice in the matter. Not if you wanted to live. But I am quite glad that you decided to see things our way." He clasps his manicured hands behind his back. "So, what is your name?"

"Joe Bennett."

The little scientist holds out his hand. "I am very pleased to make your acquaintance!" The older man just stares at it, with the same kind of revulsion he would show as if the whitecoat pulled his dick out and offered it to him. Spint shrugs his shoulders.

"How old are you Mr. Bennett?"

"Thirty six."

"Where were you born?" He steals a glance at the other scientist, making sure that he is recording the notes.

Joe sighs heavily. What is this, the fucking inquisition? "Wheeling, West Virginia."

"Stand up Mr. Bennett." Orders Spint as he tosses the tape measure to the nearest guard. "Take his measurement."

The guard calls out. "Seventy inches on the mark."

"What did the comps record his weight as?" Asks the little scientist.

"One hundred, eighty six pounds and three ounces." He continues to glance down at the data. "Twelve point four three percent body fat."

Spint steps up closer, peering into Joe’s eyes. "How very unusual. Another person with green eyes. Not as green as the feral woman’s eyes, but green none the less. What are the odds of that?"

"When did you first get the gray in your hair?"

"Why?" Joe demands. "What the fuck difference does it make?"

Spint shakes his head sadly. "What is it with you people? You all use so much profanity. Why can’t we just be civilized here."

"Hard to be civilized when your standing buck ass naked in a room full of sec men." Joe growls, his boyish face transforming into a hardened mask of anger and hatred. Not something he is used to feeling, but the little whitecoat brings out the worst in him.

The scientist continues with his physical examination, asking the occasional question. Joe is forced to answer Spints questions about his family. He finally admits that his father is dead, and he wishes that his mother was as well. He has an older brother, but hasn’t talked to him in many years."

The soldiers dutifully pick up his clothing. The Kachinas doll falls to the floor, catching the whitcoat’s attention. "My, what do we have here? A Hopi Kachinas doll. I am very surprised to see that. Very Surprised. What is a Caucasian like you doing with a Hopi talisman like that?"

He turns and glowers at the guards. "Why did you allow him to keep this? I ordered all of you to take anything they were carrying away from them. Why was this left behind?"

The lead guard shrugs. "He insisted on keeping it, and it passed all the scans as being harmless, nothing toxic, nothing that could be used as a weapon. Nothing at all."

Spint pockets the talisman. "We shall deal with this later. It seems that you people have a real problem when it comes to listening to orders. But, now is not the time, nor the place.

"Since you know what it is, and you know the meaning of it, you also then know that it is not a weapon, so let me keep it."" Joe says, trying to keep his voice steady despite the anger he feels growing hotter by the minute.

Spint holds the talisman before his eyes, letting it spin slowly on the necklace. "I don’t think that is a very good idea my burly friend." The little whitecoat lowers the talisman into the breast pocket of his coat. "I might let you have it back in the next few days." He turns to the guards. "This interview is over, time for us to go."

As the little man is leaving, Joe calls out. "Hey, Spint."

He hesitates. "What is it Mr. Bennett?"

"I’ll be getting that back. Count on it." The big man smiles, baring his teeth.

Spint stares for a moment, then turns away, leaving Joe alone in the small cell.

* * *

Gitana paces the small chamber. She doesn’t bother to cover herself as she has never been shy. Besides, what is the point? The guards and their masters want her to be naked, so be it. If she doesn’t do as she is told, the sec men will probably just come in, beat her and strip her themselves. So, why give them that pleasure?

She steps up to the small window and peers outside. Directly across from her is the cell that contains Joe. She can hardly believe it. Some how the predark technology worked and she, as well as the others are now back sometime before the skydark. But the big question is, how long before the skydark? Days? Months? Or longer? No matter, they have to try and escape somehow and make it back to the mat trans chamber and return to their own time.

Sure, they will survive the war while inside the redoubt, but what about all the corpses they found? Something killed them. And even if they did survive whatever killed the personnel, even with their survivalist skills, the odds of them surviving in the rad blasted world outside, through the nuclear winters would be slim, at best.

Her musing is interrupted when the door across from her opens and seven people exit. One soldier hands off a bag to another guard who quickly disappears from view. To her surprise the group cross to her cell. Rad fire, so soon she thinks. The petite woman moves to the far end of the wall.

The door opens, and, as with the previous cells, the guards fan out. She recoils in disgust as the little scientist enters and beams. "My, aren’t we the pretty young thing!" He walks right up to her, hands clasped behind his back.

"So I have been told." She grunts.

He waves his hand, motioning for the assistant to come closer. "What were the stats on this lovely creature?"

"Height sixty two inches. Weight one hundred five pounds, three ounces. Eleven point three percent body fat." He lists off, one at a time.

"Yeah, all of that in her tits." One of the guards mumbles under his breath, causing the others to chuckle. Spint turns and glares, but doesn’t say anything, as he doesn’t know who said it. He lets it go.

"I’m Doctor Spint. How may I address you?"

"Gitana." She replies.

He smiles widely. "Gypsy in Spanish! What a lovely name. What is that, your first or last name?"

"The only name that I have." Well, at least until I get married someday, she adds silently.

The change is so sudden, Gitana recoils from the little man. "Why in the name of Chaos can’t any of you dolphins give me a proper answer! First it’s the comedian, Maverick, then the feral woman. Seems that the only one out of your group that has been up front was that man, Bennett." He sprays the naked woman with spittle as he rages. Then as suddenly, the rage passes and he smiles. "Alright, so be it. Your name is Gitana. Lovely name."

She can’t help but notice the knowing glances pass between the guards. "I can’t help what my parents named me." She doesn’t bother to add the fact that she never knew her real family, as she was raised by a group of nomads who traveled the southern portion of the Deathlands and northern part of Mexico.

"How true my lovely, how true." He motions her forward, and when she doesn’t move, two guards grab her roughly by the arms and pulls her away from the wall. The whitecoat walks around her, inspecting every inch of flesh, noting in particular the trio of scars that mar the perfection of her skin on both arms. "Tell me my dear, how did you get these?"

"None of your rad blasted business." She snarls, angered at being treated like a piece of meat by the guards.

Again the change is sudden and unexpected. He grabs her left breast and twists it savagely, grinning hideously as she moans in pain. "Now, listen and listen carefully my Spanish beauty. You are going to answer my questions, and without hesitation. If you do not, you will find the consequences of your actions to be very, very costly."

She strikes out with the speed of a diving hawk, catching the little man right in the nuts with her foot. His eyes widen to unbelievable proportions, and a feeble squeak creeps past his tightly drawn lips. He slumps to the floor and she spits on him, cursing.

She is unable to savor her small victory for long.

The guards lace into her with everything they have, landing blow after blow on her body with fists, boots and rifle butts. Spint’s assistant watches, his face strictly neutral. Finally he shouts for the soldiers to put an end to the beating before they kill the woman.

Painfully the small scientist climbs to his feet, his face pale from pain and sweating profusely. "That was not a wise decision my dear. You are going to pay for that, pay for it greatly."

Battered and bloody, Gitana glares defiantly at Spint. "Hah," She spits out a gob of blood. "Is that the best your sec men can do? I’ve received worse beatings at the hands of my adopted brothers!"

"Oh, that is nothing my dear. With our modern medical technology, I can keep you in agony for years. You will break, and you will answer the questions I ask you. We can do it the easy way, which it will be if you continue to defy me, or we can do it the other way, with you answering my questions. Please, continue to refuse to answer. Allow me to work my magic. It’s been so long that I can’t remember the last time."

The evil little fucker probably gets his rocks off at the thought of torturing me, she thinks. Well, I sure as shit won’t allow him the satisfaction of that. Best to answer the questions and save the trouble.

A riverlet of blood drips down her chin. "I was attacked by a scalie. Mutie tried to rape me, but I chilled it, but not before it’s claws tore three strips of flesh off my arms."

He looks at her, surprised. "What did you say?"

"You asked how I got the scars. I just told you." She grunts, the words slipping past her swollen lips.

He actually appears to be disappointed. "Alright, so what is a scalie?"

"A mutie. Live along the coastline. Huge numbers of them live in the ruins of Manhattan." She goes on to describe what that particular strain of mutant looks like for the small whitecoat.

The questioning goes on for nearly an hour. Finally the whitecoat turns away and exits the room without another word, leaving the Spanish woman alone with her bruised and battered body, and her thoughts.

* * *

Gedoena paces her small cell, dreading what she knows is about to occur. Her heart skipped several beats when she first saw the despicable whitecoat. He was directly responsible for trawling her from the future and her family. Her memories of the first few months under his care cause shivers of revulsion and fear to coarse up and down her spine. Her long prehensile tail quivers, displaying her agitation.

When the door opens, her hand go to cover the smooth hairless flesh of her groin and her breasts. Her tail coils itself between her legs protectively. Five uniformed guards enter the chamber and right behind them is the hated whitecoat Spint, as well as his assistant.

"My Gedoena, but how you’ve matured since I’ve seen you last." He taps a finger on his chin, deep in thought. "When was the last time I had seen you ? Must have been only a week before."

Ged nods, remembering the day clearly, thanks to her eidetic memory. But, to her that was nearly one hundred years ago, not only seven days, like it was for the whitecoat. "I remember it."

"Ok Gedoena, you know how I like to run things."

Oh yes, I do indeed, she thinks.

"So, here is what is going to happen. You are going to answer my questions as quickly as accurately as you can." He leans against the wall, eyeing the mutant girl. "How did you end up with such a motley crew anyhow?"

She explains to the whitecoat how Maverick had found her in the redoubt, deep in cryo suspension. How he thawed her out and promised to get her back home to her family in California.

He nods as he listens to her narrative. "So, when you arrived at this redoubt nearly one hundred years from now you decided to use the gateway to make the trip back to California a lot faster. But you used the wrong gateway! I think you would have been far better off if you had taken the other gateway, or a least switched the controls from time trawling to regular matter transmission."

She doesn’t answer him, knowing full well that she would give away the information that her only friend, Matt, was responsible for giving her the codes. Instead, she shrugs her shoulders. "That pretty much sums it up."

"Read out the stats the computer recorded when they jumped." Spint demands.

The whitecoat’s assistant immediately begins to read off the hard data on the woman. "Genotype unknown, humanoid though, not one of the recorded genegineered subjects from Genesis or Excalibure. Age twenty one years, two months and nineteen days. Height seventy two inches, weight one hundred eighty seven pounds, fourteen ounces. Eye color is purple, skin pigmentation similar. Percentage of body fat, point three. Well below that for a normal female. She’s all muscle."

"Yes, yes. That fact always surprised me. Nearly no fat, no matter how much she ate. She has a highly advanced metabolism, and burns fat far faster than a normal human would. If we could isolate that gene, we would be billionaires in a matter of weeks." He steps up to the girl and pulls away her hands, uncovering her. "I see you have fully matured now. But you still haven’t grown any body hair."

She stifles a scream as he touches her arms. She could easily prevent him from pulling them away but knows that it would be a futile gesture, resulting in his torturing her later on. One of these days she will get him for all the hell that he put her through. Some day soon.

"Still the little girl trapped in a woman’s body I see. What are you now, nearly eight years old?"

She nods once. Her birthday is coming up pretty soon, though she hasn’t bothered to tell the others about it.

"One thing puzzles me though." Spint comments, hand on his chin. How did you get placed into Cryo? And who did this? And, finally, why?" Spint paces before the young mutant woman. Suddenly, he spins and leans up to the girl until their noses are a mere inch apart. "Could all this fantasy that you and your friends believe could actually be true? Is the United States actually going to be destroyed in a nuclear holocaust?"

The girl tries, but fails to prevent herself from cringing. "Yes, you know it’s true. You also should know that what you thought to be dimension travelling was wrong. All you did was pull me away from my family from the future." She quickly regains some of her courage, forcing herself to meet the whitecoat’s gaze head on. "I don’t know what the date is right now, but it’s only a matter of time until the nuclear weapons detonate and the world is thrown into a new dark age."

Spint turns away and throws a look at his assistant. He nods once, looking rather pale. "I see that you believe what you are saying to me to be the truth. When does this nuclear exchange take place?"

"January twentieth." She snarls. "And you, as long as the rest of you, will all die. And," She leans forward, forcing the whitecoat back, the guards raise their weapons in preparation, "I hope you die slow. Rad cancer or maybe a slow acting biological agent."

Spint surprises her by actually laughing. "My dear Gedoena. You are still so naive. I fear no cancer. After all, we’ve had the cure for what, nearly twenty years for all forms! As for bio agents, we are totally secure from any outside attack, and have more than enough supplies to last for decades inside this facility."

Ged’s only attack seems to have failed miserably. Her tail swishes back and forth displaying both her and fear and anger. "Please, just leave. You already know all about me, who I am, and probably even know what I am. I just want to be left alone."

To her surprise, yet again, the scientist actually agrees. "Ok Gedoena. You can have it your way. After the FBC."

The soldiers snicker slightly as they file out behind the whitecoat and his lackey.

* * *

The entire group, with the exception of Gedoena have to be shocked into unconsciousness in order for the soldiers to perform the full body cavity search. They really had no choice as they were determined to fight to the death if need be. Especially Gitana and Maverick. But with the group unable to resist, the examination is performed quickly and efficiently.

The soldiers even leave clothing behind for them to dress in. Nothing fancy, just fatigue pants and a tee shirt, plus underwear for all. All members quickly dress and sit down to their thoughts.

Spint settles down in his office to read over all the information from both the records made when they jumped into the gateway, as well as from the physical examinations and the interrogations. How very odd. He knows that the mutant woman, Gedoena is safely secured in the research facility in Michigan. He just completed a jump to the redoubt. Yet, here she is in two places at once.

He has been forced to order all the soldiers that were with him to keep their mouths quite, and not to discuss what they heard. If word ever got out to the general populace of the base, it could jepordise everything they have been working on. He really doesn’t care if the nuclear holocaust occurs. In fact, he would welcome it. With the soldiers at his disposal, as well as the weapons and equipment, they could quite possibly rule the entire country.

Spint leans back in his chair, clasping his hands behind his head and smiles. To be the ruler of the country, and un-opposed. Who could oppose him and his soldiers? He knows that this redoubt, as well as the Michigan redoubt will survive. After all, if they didn’t, the mutant girl would never have made it out of the redoubt and make it to the mat-trans to time jump.

But where do the others fit in? The heavily scarred man, the beautiful Spanish woman. What about the man had the Kachinas talisman. And there is the new genetic deviant. Could she be another assassin sent by his rivals in Excaliber or Genesis? Wouldn’t be the first time. They always want to test out their latest creations. Oddly enough the genetic deviant The Spanish woman described sounded quite familiar.

He is going to have to place a few calls. The masters of Overproject Whisper are going to have to learn of this. But, maybe he’ll wait until the twenty first, a week from now. If the war, as they mentioned, doesn’t occur, he will make his report. But if it does happen. He lets the thought trail off.

* * *

Maverick plays with the food the guards provided him. He’s not very hungry. The worry and fear he feels more than over rides any thought of sustenance. For the first time in a long time he is actually afraid of what the future might have in store for him. And he fears for young Ged. He’s grown to love the young mutant very much, more than a sister, more like a parent to a child. He swears to himself that if the little freak whitecoat hurt her in any way, he’ll curse his parents for ever having conceived him.

Then there is Gitana. The dark skinned beauty that has come into his life. His heart pounds rapidly as he studies the image of her face deep inside his mind. He can see himself settling down with her and raising a family of their own once they make it to California.

Maverick laughs at himself. When? More like if they can make it back to their own time, let alone California. He suddenly feels a powerful urge to see her again, to hold her and smell her, to feel her small arms around his torso in a loving embrace.

He leaps to his feet and goes to the small window. He stares out for a long time, trying to figure out which cell she would be in. He spots Joe looking out of his cell and they smile at each other, though Maverick doesn’t exactly feel like it. A moment later Gitana looks out her cell window and they see each other. She smiles as well, and mouths the words ‘we’ll be fine.’

Brett wishes he could share her optimism. Carefully he speaks out loud, making sure that she can see what he is trying to say. He points at himself first, then his heart, and finally at the small woman. "I love you Gitana."

Her big brown eyes brim with tears. She repeats the same words back to him. He walks away from the window and paces, feeling his own emotions starting to overwhelm him. I’ve got to figure out a way to get us out of here. But how? They took all of our weapons and personal belongings. Think Maverick, think! What would trader say in a situation like this?"

The grizzled features of his former leader appear and he can almost hear him speaking. "Even the most heavily armed and armored war wag has a weakness. Just got to be patient and wait for that chink in its armor to make itself known."

Your right Trader. As you always were. Maverick mouths. But time is something we don’t rad blasted have! Hope that chink in the armor shows up. The scarred man stares into the tiny video camera embedded in the wall. Just for fun, he flips the lens the bird, feeling silly but what the hell he figures.

He knows very well that the cell is being monitored at all times. Probably can even read his thoughts! Hell, that’s silly. Even the whitecoats never had access to anything like that, but he does remember the rumors of though readers occasionally encountered in the outback’s of the wastelands.

The revere of his inner thoughts is suddenly broken when the cell door opens and two soldiers enter. One picks up the tray while the other holds the blaster on the big man. It’s two of the guards who had been with Spint earlier. One hesitates.

"What?" Demands the big man.

"What you said, about the war, is that true?" Asks the guard holding the tray. Maverick glances at his tag. D. Montague. He’s a young man, in his mid twenties. Kind of good looking. Be a lot better if he didn’t try to put on a air of toughness.

"Yeah. Everyone of you will be chilled either before, or shortly after the skydark. Make it easy for yourself, put the barrel of that blaster in your mouth and pull the trigger. Save yourself from the rad sickness and hunger that came with the war."

The two guards exchange glances and back out."

"Stupes." The big man mutters, sitting down with his back against the wall. Despite the hopelessness of the situation, as well as the pain he’s feeling, he allows his head to slump forward and dozes off. You always take the sleep when ever you can get it. Recharge the batteries and you’ll be ready to fight when the time comes.

* * *

With a sudden start, Maverick awakens. He is totally disoriented, and at first can’t remember where, or when he is at the moment. His mind is a confusing jumble of half remembered thoughts, nightmares and anxieties.

Maverick struggles to get his ragged breathing under control. Fear washes over him like a tidal wave. Not for him, but for Gitana, Ged, and the others. Pushing as hard as he can, he forces the fear down into the dark recesses of his mind, out of the way of conscious thought. Now is not the time.

The warrior struggles to his feet in order to look out the window of his small cell. His internal clock is totally out of sink. He is unsure how much time has passed since he finally managed to fall asleep. It could be only a few minutes, or it could be a few days. He silently curses, angry that there is no natural lighting to help him even guess what time it is.

A small group of soldiers come into view and open the cells one at a time, taking his companions out. The entire process takes less than ten minutes before his own cell is opened and the guards motion for him to come along.

"Keep your hands locked behind your head Mr. Maverick" Orders the guard that talked to him the night before.

He figures that despite his own speed, there is not a hope in hell of him being able to grab even one of the blasters from the guards before he’s cut down. Like the fear, he forces the thoughts back down into his sub consciousness.

"Hey, Montague." He calls out. "What time is it?"

"Oh seven hundred hours Mr. Maverick" Replies the soldier, only after a moment hesitation.

Maverick shrugs his mental shoulders. Geeze, that sure told me a lot. Should have asked him how long I slept. He grimaces. Mr. Maverick? Fireblast but does that sound triple stupe. "Call me Brett, or Maverick. But not Mr. Maverick, ok?"

"No talking." Growls one of the other guards, raising the barrel of his assault rifle ever so slightly.

Maverick takes the hint and wisely closes his mouth. He’s still feeling quite sore after all the physical abuse he had been subjected to.

The small group walk in silence for only a few minutes before entering a side room. The room is barren except for a single table, ten chairs and a large screen built into one wall. His three friends and the newcomer are seated at the table, eating.

All four turn to watch as he enters. Gitana practically leaps from her seat. The guards level their weapons, but hold their fire. The small woman rushes up to Maverick and wraps her arms around his waist, hugging him Tightly. "Amante, I was worried about you."

He kisses her passionately, not caring if anyone was watching. "We’ll get out of this Gitana. I promise you. I’ll get us home somehow, someway." He caresses her face, tracing the lines of her cheeks with his thumbs. "I love you Gitana."

"I love you too Brett."

Reluctantly, the two separate. "How are the rest of you doing?" Maverick asks.

Joe smiles. "You sure know how to get us into some tight spots Mav." He mumbles, his mouth full of food.

Maverick takes an empty seat next to Ged, Gitana sits down next to him. "How you doing Geddie?" He runs his hand through the mutant girls hair.

She tries to smile, but fails. "I’m ok Brett. It’s just that being here has brought back some bad memories. I know things will work out though."

"Atta girl Ged." He squeezes her shoulder. "Have I ever let you down before?"

Ged almost says that yes, he nearly got himself killed while trying to steal the truck, but she keeps her thoughts to herself, not wanting to hurt his feelings, even though he doesn’t seem to be capable of being hurt by what someone says. "No, you haven’t Brett."

The feral woman meets Mavericks eyes, but stays silent. He wants to know why she followed them, but all things considered, what is the point?

They eat their breakfast in silence. The meal consists of pancakes, sausages, eggs, hash browns, all spiced perfectly. To top it off a pot of real coffee, not the coffee sub that they are all used to drinking rests in the center of the table. The guards stand at attention, two in front of the door, as well as one in each corner of the room. Not a word is spoken to the group.

"What is going…" Gedeona begins to speak but clamps her mouth shut faster than a baron’s jack purse as the door opens and Spint, his side kick and a third man enter the chamber. She feels her heart leap into her throat, and clamps her hands over her mouth to stifle the cry of shock she feels.

The newest member of Spints personal entourage is a man in his late twenties or early thirties. He has shoulder length dark blond hair and hazel eyes. He stands at a single inch shy of six feet, and weighs in at an even one seventy. Fine lines spread out from the edge of his eyes and mouth. A sure sign of a man who smiles often and easily. A single scar, barely half an inch in length splits the eyebrow over his right eye. The name tag displaying his smiling face and name is pinned to the pocket over his right breast pocket. It reads M.G. Lee.

He seems to be as surprised to see the mutant woman as she is to see him. M.G. turns and glances at Spint. "What is Gedoena doing with this group Spint? She’s supposed to be…"

Spint waves his hand silencing the newcomer. "That will be explained at another time." He walks up to the table. "I trust that everyone slept well and is enjoying their breakfast?"

No one bothers to answer.

"Good, good! Well, enjoy your time together and make sure you eat you fill. You are going to need all your strength."

"What the hell are you talking about?" Maverick growls, causing the guards swing their weapons in his direction.

"Oh, more examinations, tests and then a tour of the redoubt! And of course I have a lot more questions to ask of you. Especially of the future you all claim to be from." He stands next to Gitana and places a cold clammy hand on the back of her neck. "I believe that you will be the first my lovely!"

That is more than Maverick can take. Even with the guards at the ready the speed of his attack shocks them all. In less than a tenth of a second he is out of his chair and has both hands firmly around the throat of the scientist, holding him nearly three feet off the floor. "You won’t live to try that."

The hands wrapped around his neck are like steel bands. The strength that the scarred warrior possesses is phenomenal. Spint struggles, clawing at the immovable fingers, leaving shallow gouges. He doesn’t stand a snowballs chance in hell of breaking the grip. He tries to order is guards to shoot, but the can’t so much as draw a breath, let alone speak. Bright flashes of light burst in his sight.

"Release him now!" Screams one of the soldiers, who moved up until the barrel of his rifle rests against the big mans lower back. All he has to do is squeeze the trigger and the three round burst will cut the scarred man in half. "I’ll give you three seconds to comply, then you die!"

The other guards have their weapons trained on the rest of the group, no one is able to do anything. "Then this little fucker gets to ride the last train to the coast with me."

"One." Shouts the soldier.

"Amante, let him go!" Cries Gitana.

Maverick tightens the grip ever so slightly, feeling the smaller man’s larynx grate against the spine.


"Amante, please!" Gitana cries again, her voice desperate.

The big man hears her.

"Thr…" The soldier starts to squeeze the trigger on the blaster just as Maverick drops the scientist. The soldier eases off on the trigger of the weapon.

"Thank you Amante. Thank you." Gitana whispers softly.

The small whitecoat lands on the floor in a heap, his soft hands massaging his brutalized throat. He tries to speak, but can’t. Instead he motions to his companion, making writing motions with his finger.

The scientists assistant hands him a pad and a pen. Spint quickly scribbles a few words on the pad and hands it back. The assistant scans the words. "Ok, take Maverick back to his cell. He’ll deal with him later."

Three of the guards, including the one he talked to the night before surround him and force him to walk off.

In a raspy voice Spint speaks. "Take the two mutants to the Genesis labs. I want him," He points at Joe, "In medical."

Two of the remaining guards take their position behind Ged and Feral. Lee opens the door and waits for them to leave. Ged almost seems pleased as she passes, favoring the blond scientist with a tiny smile.

"As for her…" He points at Gitana. "Take her to her cell. I’m not quite ready to give her my full attention."

She swallows a wave of bile, just imagining what the disgusting troll might have in store. The final guard motions for her to head through the door. They walk back to the cell. She steals a peek at Maverick’s cell as they pass, seeing nothing at the window. "Oh shit," she mutters to herself.

* * *

After a brief ride in the elevator Ged immediately recognizes the long corridor that leads to the gateway chamber, as well as the one room they explored, with the cryonics chambers inside it. The guards, as well as Lee, keep quite the entire way.

Several times Feral grimaces and sneezes, obviously not enjoying the scents she is experiencing. Ged is very curious about the other mutant woman. Her senses are somewhat better than a normal humans, but no where as enhanced as the other woman’s. What must it be like?

The blond scientist motions for both women to sit. "Ok, Spint wants both of you examined once again. Blood, urine, stool, all the usual tests. Then he wants both of you to be placed in what we call the coffin."

Ged pales. "Matt, are you really going to kill us?"

The scientist blushes, embarrassed for some reason. "Sorry Geddie. I didn’t mean to scare you. The coffin is just a full body MRI. It’s a lot more sophisticated though. It’ll map your entire body, as well as your genome in a matter of a hour."

"Looked at us. Last night. Why again?" Queries Feral in her usual clipped manner.

Lee steps forward, placing a hand on Geds shoulder. He speaks quietly so that only her and Feral can hear. "I won’t subject you to that again. I saw the reports on your friend last night. For some reason Spint didn’t bother to include the fact that you were here."

Ged nods, believing every word. She trusts Matt, nearly as much as she trusts Maverick. After all, he was the only one who was ever kind to her after they trawled her through time. A strange, tingling, but pleasant feeling fills her belly.

The blond man walks over to a small table and picks up a syringe, then a small bottle filled with a clear liquid. He fills the needle and holds it up to the light, tapping it slightly and finally squirting a thin stream into the air. He grabs a small wad of cotton.

"What are you doing Matt?" Ged asks as he swabs a spot on her arm.

"Giving you a sedative, to make it far easier on you. I’ll also give one to your friend." He shrugs apologetically. "I’m sorry about this, but I have no real choice in the matter."

She gasps as he slides the needle expertly into her arm and injects the clear liquid into her body.

"It’ll make you sleepy Geddie. Don’t worry, I won’t hurt you. You should know that I won’t harm you, ever." Matt says as he drops the needle in a bio hazard shut, disposing of it. He then repeats the process with a second, brand new needle.

Feral shakes her head violently. "No. Try and I chill." She snarls, baring her slightly pointed teeth.

"Chill? What are you talking about lady?" He asks, genuinely perplexed.

"She means she will kill you." Ged informs the blond man, her voice already slightly slurred from the effect of the drug coursing through her veins.

The guards with Lee move to stand next to the feral woman. Lee studies the wild woman carefully. "I’m asking you to allow me to give you the injection without fighting. Make it easier for all of us. If you don’t, you won’t get a chance to attack me. The guards will allow you to do that."

"Do as he asks." Ged implores. The mutant girl is almost fully under the influence of the drug. She has only known the other woman for a short period of time, but honestly doesn’t want to see anything happen to her.

"No." Feral states. The finality in her voice forcing the two guards into action. Each guard grabs an arm and pin her in the chair. The girl is fairly strong, but no where strong enough to fight off the guards. She struggles mightily, screeching and howling in fear and anger. Subconsciously she calls out in her mind. Throughout the base the lab animals begin to go berserk, howling and screeching in time to the mutant’s own. Needless to say, the sudden unexpected reaction of the animals baffle the scientists and research staff.

Even heavily sedated, the cougar secured in a cage begins to growl softly, it’s tail and legs twitching slightly. Again, the research staff are baffled by the strange reaction of the cougar which by all rights should be out for days.

Ged watches the scene passively, no longer caring her mind deep in the drug induced stupor. Lee deftly moves out of the reach of the wild woman’s legs and quickly stabs the needle in her arm, injecting the drug. He would have preferred to have injected it directly into the vein, but has no choice. It’ll take it a little longer for the medication to take effect.

The guards refuse to relinquish their grip on her arms until the drug takes effect. The entire time she is screaming. After a few minutes the guards are sweating and starting to show signs of fatigue, but, luckily for them the drug is taking effect, and quickly.

"That’s better." Smiles Lee. "It wasn’t so bad, was it? I don’t want to harm you. I really don’t. But I have to follow orders after all."

"Chill… you. Chill you." She repeats over and over, like a mantra. She wants to struggle, but is unable to. Like Ged, she is under it’s effect. She finds that she no longer seems to care. It doesn’t really matter any longer. Nothing matters any longer.

Throughout the facility, the scientists watch in facilitation as the frenzied animals slowly calm down and seem to slip into a lethargic state. Yet another mystery for the whitecoats to try and figure out.

He quickly has the two guards lift the women out of their seats and place them on tables. With the hands of a practiced expert he peels off the clothing of each woman. As with the night before they are subjected to a battery of tests. But unlike the night before, Lee is very careful and gentle, doing his utmost to treat the two females with respect.

The examination is completed in record time, then both are placed inside a large, coffin shaped object. Lee runs his fingers over the controls as if playing a piano. The multi-million dollar piece of equipment begins a careful mapping of their entire system, correlating the data gained on the pair when they jumped in. The mapping complete, he uses the device to take genetic samples, as well as some unusual chemicals that they have never encountered before.

Lee quietly talks to Ged as the machine works on her. She is barely coherent but his voice sooths and calms her. She smiles up at him sleepily. "So Ged, now that we’re alone, how about telling me all about how you got together with these others."

Her voice slurred, she tells him the entire story on how just before the war occurred, he placed her into Cryonic suspension, after giving her all the codes that she would need to activate the jump gate and make it to back to her family in California. She also explains to him how she was discovered my Maverick and all that happened to them up until the point when they were captured.

Matt listens carefully. He wonders how it’s possible that he could have done what she said. He doesn't know any jump codes. He’s a medical research scientist. But at the same time, he saw this same girl only the night before, as he tucked her into bed. They must have made a mistake when it came to the dimension trawling. She’s from the future. Which means that the war is going to take place in only a matter of days.

He glances over at the other woman, snoring softly on the examination table, waiting for her turn in the chamber. Physically, she appears to be normal, but on closer examination, the mutations can be seen.

The dark blond man realizes that he is going to have to talk to a few of the soldiers he’s made friends with over the past few years. After the examinations are completed, he dresses the two women, blushes as Ged giggles, slapping at his hands in slow motion, accidentally knocking one into her small breast.

It takes a while, but finally both females are dressed and he gets the guards to help him take them back to their cells.

* * *

Montague is sitting in a chair, drinking a can of coke. Several other guards are sitting near him, relaxing and enjoying a quiet break from the guard duty. He doesn’t much care for the facility, nor the scientists. Especially the scientist, Spint.

"Hey Monty, what gives? Looks like you’ve just lost your best friend." Calls one of the few soldiers he actually got along with.

Holding the can at lip level, he glances up at the soldier. "You can say that."

The other soldier grabs an empty chair and turns it backwards before sitting down. "Mind explaining what you mean by that?"

He shakes his head. "Not really supposed to talk about it. You never know when Spint might be monitoring us."

The soldier lights up a smoke, taking a long drag. "Nahh, you don’t have to worry about that. He’s in the Mat Trans, going over the logs from the jump last night." He taps the cigarette over the ashtray. "Now spill the beans."

"Well, I was with Spint during the interrogations last night." Montague answers.

"Go on." Prompts the other soldier.

"I was listening and watching the PSE that his assistant was using. Well, turns out that according to the people we dragged in, the Reds are going to launch a sneak attack in six days time, right during the inauguration."

The other soldier just laughs. "Man, come on! You actually believe that load of shit?"

"Hey, the PSE doesn’t lie! Either that, or they are totally bug fucked in the head and believe the shit that they told us. Everyone said pretty much the same thing. And those two females, one that looks like she walked out of a horror show, and the other."

Another guard, this one wearing a tag stating his name N. Sheers, sits down at the table with the other two. "I found something really strange."

"What’s that?" Asks Montague.

"Well, I was given the captives weapons and told to take them to the armory, and catalog them. No big deal there. Routine stuff." He leans forward, staring at the other two soldiers. "Several of the weapons they were carrying came from this facility. And the SPAS 15 shotgun that the big fucker with the scars came from Redoubt 33."

"Your kidding." States the other soldier, his tag portraying the name R. Biggs.

"Not about this Biggs. I went to the armory and checked myself. The Styre scout was sitting right there, serial number and all. Hell, even had the exact same camo pattern, as well as a slight scratch along the stock."

Several other soldiers in the room have picked up on the conversation and are quietly making their way over to the table. Several exchange glances, unsure if they should believe what they are hearing or not.

One of the newcomers coughs lightly, grabbing everyone’s attention. His tag reads J. Smith. "I tried to call my fiancée this morning. It seems that Spint has put a complete blackout over everything. The phone lines are down, as well as access to the net. Only Spint, as well as the XO and General Hammond have access."

Biggs points a thumb at Montague. "He’s got the shift tonight watching over the newcomers cells."

"Yeah, so what?" Montague growls, not liking what he is sure he’s about to hear.

"Why don’t you talk to them? Maybe not the big guy, as he seems way to violent, but how about the Spanish woman?"

Montague places a hand on his chin as he thinks. "She might be willing to talk. She seems to be pretty level headed. And, her and the big guy seem to be an item."

"What the hell a beauty like her would see an ugly fucker like him is beyond me." States Smith, causing the others to burst out laughing, several nodding their heads in agreement.

"Man, have you ever seen anyone that strong before? Hell, Donahue would be hard pressed to out lift the big guy. The way he picked Spint off the floor and held him aloft, like he weighed no more than a sack of feathers.

Biggs nods. "Yeah, heard about that. Guess you saw it. Be interesting to see the ugly bastard take on Donahue. I’m willing to bet a weeks wage that Donahue would mop the floor with him. After all, a big man like him tends to be slow as molasses in January."

Montague shakes his head. "You weren’t there. Should have seen him leap out of the chair. He struck faster than a Cobra!" Besides, if what he said was true, he’s been fighting most of his life. Hell, probably has more combat time under his belt than all of us combined!"

That might not necessarily be true. Every soldier in the base has seen at least one tour of duty, be it in Vietnam, Panama, The Gulf, or as mercenaries. But not a single person in the base have ever had to fight nearly on a daily basis their entire life the way the survivalist has. When the war occurs, a few would probably survive, and they would be forced to throw away everything they ever believed was right, as survival would dictate it.

For some of the soldiers, that wouldn’t be much a change.

Montague finally asks. "But so what? What difference will talking to the dolphins do us? Just confirm what they said already? We now know that the holocaust is only six days away. We can’t contact our family or friends, we can’t leave the base, even via the gateway, as I bet Spint has it locked down tighter than a virgin’s pussy."

"Just do it. Who knows what we’ll get out of them." Answers Biggs. "Just do it. You’ve learned more than anyone else, as you were part of the guard detail. Just confirm it for the rest of us."

Montague sighs heavily. "Yeah, what the hell. I’ll ask. I figure that if what they are saying is true, we might as well make the best of it. Any tidbit of info they could give us might make the chances of surviving this war that is about to take place, just a little better."

Sheers slaps Montague on the back. "That’s the spirit!"

The soldier grunts non-committal, downing the last of his drink.

* * *

Sitting in his cell, Maverick closes his eyes. It’s been hours since he attacked Spint and the guards tossed him back in. He’s not really tired, but he is bored beyond belief. Even during his time on the war wags he always had something to do. He used to chew the fat with Abe, always trying to figure if the story’s the man told were true or just bullshit. Sometimes he’d spend a little time with the armorer, learning about blasters, on the off chance that he might actually come across one of the weapons the small man described.

Of course, if he could find a quite spot, there was always the tall woman, Okie. She liked to fuck the way others like to eat. But, as it usually seemed to go, she ended up bedding down with Cawdor. What the hell did the female members of the crew see in that cold bastard? One eye also had a triple deadly temper. Thankfully, Brett had never been on the receiving end of it.

A smile stretches his scarred features. At least in his memories he can find a little relief from the agonizing boredom. The down side to reliving memories is that you have to take the good with the bad. The lost friends, the fights, the injuries come back to the forefront.

He rubs his chest, feeling the phantom pains of the attack when he lost his nipple outside the ruins of Chicago. As it tends to happen, the phantom pain spreads from his chest, to his back, then finally to his face. The big man breaks out in a cold sweat, shuddering despite the comfortable air inside the room.

Christ, what do the whitecoats have in store for me and my friends? He thinks. Sure couldn’t be worse than that night, all those years ago. Or could it? Basically, Spint seems to be pretty much the same as the leader of that group. A sick, perverted little bastard. He slams his fist into the floor in frustration.

"Fuck!" He shouts out loud.

Somehow I’ve got to figure out a way to get us out of this. But how? I wonder if that guard Montahue, or Montifue, or what ever his name is might not be able to help me? He sure seemed to be interested in finding out about the Deathlands. If only he could somehow get his hands on a weapon, or even a damned key.

Eventually the boredom gets to the big survivalist and he drifts off to sleep. Almost immediately R.E.M. begins and he slips into dream mode.

Maverick finds himself seated in one of the small bubbles on the side of War Wag two, his arms resting over the trigger of the multi barreled gatling gun. It’s been a long uneventful trip through the deserts of the south west. This is one of the few times that Maverick can remember the air conditioning working inside the huge rolling fortress. He stares out over the vast expanse of the wasteland.

They were on their way towards New Mexico. Trader heard rumors about a redoubt being located near what used to be Dulch. Trader, being who he is, could never pass up a chance at finding another cache of predark tech and weapons.

A mutie gopher, the size of a German shepherd pops it’s head out of it’s burrow and watches as the convoy passes. Damned they sure grow em big he thinks to himself. And what the rad blasted hell are they doing here in the middle of the desert? They tyically live only on the grasslands. Just for fun he sights in the multiple barrels of the gatling gun, his finger caressing the trigger, just aching to squeeze it.

"I wouldn’t if I was you Maverick. Trader would have your balls in a sling for wasting ammo like that." A gruff voice states from behind.

He doesn’t turn, knowing exactly who it is. "Yeah, triple right about that Ryan. You bored as well?" He asks, finally turning to look at the tall one eyed man. His single blue eye stares unblinking.

"Just checking up on you. Things were so quite up here, figured that you might have fallen asleep on the job." Ryan answers, not one to hold back on what he thought.

"Hell no. Do that and have you or Dix come down on me? I’d rather face a rabid scalie than that." Maverick turns back to stare out the port.

"Fireblast, that’s one triple big rodent. Hate to be the dirt turner that has to get them out of his field."

Maverick chuckles. "Yeah. Need some serious blaster power to chill em."

The one eyed man leans against the bulkhead. "So, just how are you going to get yourself and the others out of this one?"

"What are you talkin’ about?" Maverick says, not bothering to turn around.

"How are you goin’ to get you and your friends out of that redoubt? And just what are you gonna do about Spint?"

"Oh, that." Maverick sighs heavily. "Don’t know Cawdor. Been bustin’ my brains trying to figure out a way out of this one. Sure wish you, Trader and J.B. were around to help me out. Could always count on you."

Ryan shakes his head. "Can’t always expect us to be around. After all, I told you to stick with Cohn and the others when we hit the trail to that hidden redoubt in the darks. You’re on your own."

"Yeah, don’t I know it." As he watches, the landscape changes from desolate dryland to lush, fertile forest. He knows deep down inside that this isn’t right, that there is no way the land could transform around the wags like that. He also knows that it is impossible for Ryan to be standing behind him.

"Look at that, will ya? Never seen an actual flying wag before." Ryan points out the ob port. Maverick looks to where he’s pointing. Like Ryan, Maverick has never seen a air wag either, except for the occasional picture in a predark book or magazine. He recognizes it as a B-2 bomber, one of the highest tech jets in the governments arsenal. Probably loaded with nukes, heading towards Russia, or possibly Cuba.

Again, it seems totally out of place, but Maverick accepts it. "I guess I should try and chill the guards when the come to feed me. Or at the very least try and make good my escape. Once I’m out of that rad blasted cell, I could royally fuck up their plans, and might just be able to break the others out."

Cawdor nods his approval. "That’s the spirit. But you might not need to worry about that. Talk to Montague, he seems to be a level headed guy, for a sec man. I’m willing to bet ya a months jack that he’ll end up helping you out."

"Montague. Yeah, he did seem more than a bit curious about the nukecaust. I new I could count on you to come up with the answers Cawdor. After all, that’s the reason Trader made you and Dix his two right hand men."

Ryan grins slightly, the muscles on his face pulling the puckered scar running on his cheek. It makes him look far more menacing. "Maverick, I’m not even here. Just your over active stupe imagination workin’ overtime. Wake up man, get your ass out of this fix and help your friends.

Maverick turns away from his former war chief and studies the rapidly changing landscape. Before his eyes the lush fertile forest begins to turn grey, as the trees are covered in ash and the sky darkens, even though he never saw it, he knows he’s watching the onset of the nuclear winter that covered the world for five long years after the nukes flew. "Didn’t trader always say to get sleep when ever you could, as well as food, because you never knew when you would get either?"

"A traderism if there ever was one." Cawdor grunts. "So, that’s what the dark night looked like. Triple amazing that anyone managed to live through that." The one eyed man backs away from Maverick. "On the other hand, if I ever caught you sleeping at the post…" He leaves the sentence unfinished.

"Yeah, I know Cawdor. Hell, I rode with you and the crew long enough to see what would happen. I do something stupe like that, could end up getting the entire convoy chilled." The big man runs a finger across one of the numerous scars on his face. "Reminds me Cawdor. How’d you lose the eye?"

"How’d you get your pretty face cut up?" Ryan counters.

Maverick grins. "Good counter attack. You tell me, I’ll tell you. Fair enough?"

Ryan flips him the bird. "Yeah, and I’m a stupe if you think I’ll fall for that. ‘Sides, already know how you got them. Did you ever chill the fucker?"

A cold shiver of fear races down the scarred man’s spine, causing goosebumps to erupt all up and down his arms. "How the fuck?"

Cawdor holds up his hand. "Your dream Maverick. That’s how I know." He looks out the op slit. "I’ve got my sec rounds to complete, make sure that no one is fuckin’ around on the job. Besides, looks like your about to have visitors."

Maverick turns and stares outside. The ash covered forest has been replaced by a small brightly lit cell. "Roger that Cawdor. Be seeing you ‘round."

Ryan doesn’t bother to acknowledge as he walks down the small corridor. Maverick turns back and stares out the op slit, noticing a shadow crossing over the window on the door.

The big man wakes up with a start, shaking off the effects of the dream. Sure enough, just like in the dream there is a shadow passing the window. It stops.

* * *

The soldier known as Montague stops for a few minutes in the security check near the holding cells. As expected, it’s manned. The younger officer seated at the council is a friend of his. Been friends for nearly as long as they’ve been based together at the facility.

"Hey Jackson!" He greets as he enters.

"Yo." Replies the other man, not taking his eyes off the monitors. He seems particularly fascinated with the cell holding the mutant woman. "You ever seen any freaky shit like that before?"

The other man shakes his head. "Reckon I can’t say that I have. Heard rumors about freaks like that though, created in the other redoubts here and there. You know, Excaliber, Genesis…"

Jackson places a finger against his lips and quietly hisses. "Shhh…. You know that we’re not supposed to talk about that, especially in here, where Spint and his ass kissing compatriots could be listening in."

Montague leans forward, placing his hand on the counter. "Check out the beauty in cell three."

The other man chuckles. I have been. All shift. Not often you get a looker like that in one of the cells. Real shame that Spint’s gonna get her, isn’t it?"

He turns away from the screen and straightens his shirt. "Real shame. Well, I’m gonna check in on our ‘guests’. Talk to you later."

"Later Montague." His friend calls. He then notices a scrap piece of paper sitting on the counter where Montague had his hand. "Hey…"

Montague opens the door. "How about getting in some reading?" He says, cutting his friend off before he could finish his query.

"Ah, right. Things look pretty quiet, so I might just take up your suggestion." In the base, with all the ultra secret experiments taking place and nearly every room under constant surveillance at one time or another, Jackson takes the hint. He casually sweeps the folded bit of paper off the counter and into his hand.

* * *

Montague doesn’t know how much time he has, so he heads straight to the cell with the small woman. He peers into the cell, immidately spotting the woman, her head slumped forward, resting on her knees. She might be asleep, she might be faking it. No point in screwing around.

He quickly opens the door and steps inside. The woman looks up, her eyes awake and alert. "What do you want sec man?" She growls, her voice decidely unfriendly.

"You said that you come from the future, our future. Said that in less than a weeks time the states as well as the rest of the globe will be devastated by a nuclear war." He states, not asks.

"That’s right."

"Ok, is there anything we can do to stop it?"

"Sure. Contact the feds in Washington, tell them to inspect the soviet embassy, as well as a small drug store. Can’t remember where the other nuke is located though. Oh, and even if they can’t disarm the nukes, accept the loss of Washington. Don’t retaliate!"

He sighs. Sounds so simple. But is she being honest? "Well, that was easy. So what else can you tell me?"

She studies the man for a moment. He seems more interested in learning how to avoid the holocaust than interrogating her. "What do you want to know sec man?"

He grimaces. "Call me Montague"

She shakes her head. "Forget it sec man. I don’t need to know your name, and I don’t give a flying fuck about your name. Just get on with the fuckin’ interrogation already. Rad fire! How often do you punjabo’s want to hear the same story."

A wave of anger washes over the man, but he keeps it in check. Losing his temper isn’t going to do any of them any good. "I need to know what is gonna happen, so we can prepare for it. I can’t do a damned thing with the way you mentioned. All outside communication has been cut ‘cept at the highest level."

"You don’t sound happy about that." She laughs mirthlessly.

"Would you be? Spint and Hammond want to keep the status qoue. If we can’t at least warn our friends and family to head for the hills…" He leaves the sentence unfinished.

"What difference would it make anyhow? Most of those you warn will get chilled. Be it rad sickness, exposure, starvation or other survivors. Let em stay in the big villes. Least that way they’ll die quick."

He considers her words. "Better to try and just to give up and die. Sure most won’t make it, but those who do will at least be able to start over again. And who knows? Might be able to change a few things for the better for your own time." He glances at the camera, noticing that it is still trained off to the side. A sure sign that his friend read the message.

She notices. "What?"

"I’m not sure how much time I have." He crouches, but stays a good six feet away from the woman. "There are several of us that are not happy with the way things are being handled. Sure, we’re all loyal to the feds and to the project, but there is no way in hell that we can just stand by and let the world be destroyed. We have to find a way to get a warning out.

She has rarely heard such sincerity and conviction in a voice. "What can you do for me and my friends?" Gitana figures that she might as well push it, see how far the soldier is willing to go.

"Don’t know. Might be able to get you out of the cells, and help you get to the gateway. Take some doing, but might be able to obtain the codes so you can get back to your own time. I can’t guarantee it, but it’s the best I can do."

"Better than nothing."

Montague steals a quick glance at the camera. "I’ll be in touch, one way or another."

The small Spanish woman lowers her head again, crossing her arms over her legs. "You do that sec man. You do that."

The soldier steps out of the cell, possibly not a moment too soon. He wanders past each cell, stopping for a moment to glance in each. He comes to the cell containing the huge scarred man. It surprises him to see the man watching back, looking as if he has been expecting the man, as if he knows what just transpired.

Out of curiosity, he stops and opens the door, un-holstering his side arm ahead of time. He steps just inside the cell, letting the door remain open. "Need something?"


He goes to turn. "I don’t have time for this shit. I got work to do."

Maverick stays seated, totally relaxed. "You asked me if what I said was true. Read the interro reports. I know they used high tech lie detectors. So, you know what I said is true."

He nods his head. "What do you want?"

"Get me out of here, and I can promise you that I’ll do everything in my power to help you survive. After all, I am a survivalist, and I know more about living in a post nuke enviro than any of you trained monkeys do."

The soldier bristles at the comment. He is more than your average soldier. To be a member of this particular organization he had to be at the top of the class in O.C.S. Not to mention physical training that rivals that of the Green Berets, but not quite as tough as that of the Navy SEALs. He and his fellow soldiers are more than just grunts. He keeps his peace though. Better not reveal all his cards at once.

"I’ll keep it in mind." He states, his tone strictly neutral.

As Montague turns to leave, Maverick growls. "You do that soldier boy, you do that. Me and my band are your only chance of surviving the nukecaust."

The door closes behind him.

He turns and is about to head out of the cell block just as the entrance opens. Several guards enter, dragging two very sluggish and unhappy looking women between them. One of the females is the mutant. He stops short.

"Hey, Montague. What are you doing here?" Asks one of the guards.

"The usual rounds, just checking in on our guests." He jerks his thumbs at the two females. "What’s wrong with them?"

"Spint wanted more tests done on them. Had to drug em both. This one," He grabs Feral by the hair and pulls her head up. "Was about to tear that whitecoat Lee a new asshole, so really had to dope her up heavily."

"I see." Montague answers, opening the door to her cell. He watches as they take her inside and dump the woman unceremoniously on the floor. She lays bonelessly, snoring slightly.

The other female, the mutant, seems to be far more coherent. She giggles as he passes her to open the door to her cell. "Hiya Monty!" She calls, trying to keep her face straight then bursts out in a giggle fest once again."

He ignores the strange female and steps aside, allowing the guards to dump her as well. She lands with a thumb, her tail curled underneath her. A small yelp of pain escapes her. "Hey, that wasn’t nice." She growls slightly, sounding about as dangerous as a kitten. "If Brett hears that you treated me bad, he’ll kill you."

The sincerity in her voice surprises Montague. Why the hell would he do that? What does the freak mean to him? "Ok, the subjects have been secured in their cells. Record the time, as usual. Report to Jackson."

"Roger." Answers one of the guards as they file out of the cell block.

Montague finishes checking on the cells and leaves, his thoughts a jumbled chaotic mass. His loyalty to the project and to the government finally being questioned, if it wasn’t for Spint calling a total communications black out, he probably wouldn’t have these thoughts of rebellion.

He wanders throughout the base, in a daze, barely acknowledging those around him.

* * *

Two days pass slower than the nuclear winter for the small group of survivalists. The only contact they have with anyone inside the base are the guards who bring the meals twice a day, once in the morning around 7 AM, and again, twelve hours later. They have managed to keep in contact with each other surprisingly enough, by tracing words with their fingers on the small window. It takes minutes to say a single sentence, but it’s far better than letting the monotony get to them. Poor Feral though, she can’t read so was unable to participate in the mimed talk.

Several times during the forty eight hours Spint and his usual entourage of guards and assistants come and peer into the cells. It angers Maverick beyond comprehension the way Spint always seems to linger at the entrance to Gitana’s cell. He knows that the whitecoat has something less than pleasant in mind for her. But what about him? He nearly chilled the sick little bastard, yet they haven’t tried to retaliate yet.

It occurs to him that might be part of Spints punishment. Make Maverick think about what he has planned. It’s not the first time it’s happened to him. It was one of his fathers favorite ways of punishing the him as a boy. If Brett ever did something wrong, his father, if it wasn’t something too bad, would let him stew in his own juices and think. More often than not his father simply would sit him down and talk to him, making the young Maverick explain to him why he did what he did, and the consequences of his actions.

To some, it seemed like his father was spoiling the boy, but others saw the wisdom in it. If he ever manages to get them out of this, and back to their own time, he swears to himself that he will stop in on his family and see how they are doing.

Around five in the after noon of the second day the guards come by and take each one out of their cells one at a time. Unlike the last time this happened, the guards secure hand cuffs and leg irons to each of the captives. Their hands are in front of them, but no one, not even the mutant girl Gedoena would be able to snap these bonds.

Maverick finds himself the last one to be taken out. He silently holds out his hands, allowing Montague to secure the cuffs, while another soldier place ankle chains on him. He lets the soldiers lead him away.

Unlike the previous morning, they are not taken to the mess hall. Instead they take a short elevator ride to the next level up where they travel down yet another long, identical corridor. The short walk ends when they are led into a medium sized chamber and forced to sit down, where they then have their ankle chains secured to the floor. The guards leave them alone.

"Hey, how you doin’?" Maverick calls out to the group.

Joe shrugs. "Been better. Least the sec men feed us."

Feral sits without looking or speaking. Ged watches the other mutant woman, trying to gauge what might be bothering her.

"I’m ok Brett." Ged answers, smiling. "They’ve been nice to me, for the most part."

"What about you?" He speaks directly to the Spanish woman.

"A lot better now Amante. A lot better. At least we can speak to each other."

"Better watch what we say though." Joe warns. "These sec men probably have this entire chamber wired for sound, and probably are vid tapin’ us as we speak."

Maverick realises that what the barrel chested man says is probably true. When they get out of this, he plans to try and figure out a way they could pass messages to each other without speaking. Sort of like the pre dark sign language. Sure make it a lot easier to speak their minds that way.

As if snapping out of a trance, Feral looks up. "Amante, what you do? How we gonna leave?"

Maverick growls deep in his throat, turning bright red. "Listen up kid. You can’t call me that. Only Gitana can call me that."

Gitana is about to speak when Feral sticks her chin out defiantly. "Your name. Amante. Heard Gitana call that."

Maverick’s mouth opens and closes several times, but nothing comes out other than an exasperated grunt. Joe is grinning ear to ear, finding Maverick’s predicament highly amusing.

"Feral," Gitana says softly, trying desperatly to fight down the laughter that threatens to overwhelm her. "Amante mean’s lover. He and I are lovers so that is what why I call him that. You are not his lover, so you can’t call him that."

"But…" Feral tries to say but is interrupted when the door of the chamber opens and insteps the hated scientist and his lacky, as well as the usual number of sec men.

"I do so hope that I am not interrupting anything important right now." He calls out smiling brightly. When none of the group reply, he simply shrugs and stands before them.

His hand clasped behind his back, he paces back and forth, his head angled slightly so he appears to be studying the ceiling. "I suppose you are all wondering why I have brought you here."

Again, no response from the group. A sudden change overcomes the man and he whirls, his face contorted with rage. "I expect an answer when I speak to you, and if one is not forthcoming, the consequences will be dire. Most dire indeed!"

"Yes, we were wondering why you brought us together." Gitana answers quickly, not wanting to waste this chance of being with the rest of the group.

Like switching a light, the whitecoat changes again. "I am so glad you asked me that!" He resumes his pacing before the assembled group. "After a great deal of soul searching and study, I have determined that I will allow you all to live. In fact, you can help me rebuild the nation after the holocaust wipes the slate clean!"

The news stuns the group. Maverick notices the scientist looking directly at him, a bright gleam, the look of madness, shining in his eyes. Spint points directly at the big survivalist. "You, Mr. Brett Maverick, shall be pivotal in this operation. With your skills you will lead my armies to reclaim the wasteland!"

The guards glance at one another, obviously as surprised about what they are hearing as the assembled group of survivalists.

"Why me?" Maverick blurts out, surprised at himself for actually speaking out loud.

"Because you are the leader of this group, and you all have knowledge that will prove invaluable to me. You all know how long the nuclear winter lasted, how the soviet bombs reshaped the country, as well as the rest of the world." He walks right up to the big man. "And you seem to know a great deal about the redoubts, and which ones got through the exchange intact.

The big survivalist is about to speak when Spint holds up his hand to silence him. "Tell me, my good man. Haven’t you ever thought about being a king? An Emperor, the ruler of a powerful nation?"

Maverick shakes his head no. Deep down, of course he’s thought about it. It’s the dream of many people, to be in a position of great power. But at the same time, he has seen what power has done to many of the barons he encountered while travelling with Trader. How’d his old leader put it? No matter how well meaning a man is, give him too much power and it goes straight to his head triple fast. One minute he’s got only the best intentions on his mind, next minute he’s using his power to keep people under his heel.

Besides, in the Deathlands, a baron who doesn’t use his power to it’s fullest will soon find himself pushing up daisies. Fear and showing of strength are the only way to keep subjects in line.

Spint ignores the shake. "Of course you have!" So have all your friends. It’s part of human nature. Even part of those of you who are not human."

That last comment causes the big man to bristle. He doesn’t much care for muties, but he does care deeply for Gedoena. Still, he lets the comment pass. "But why us? Sure, we know how to survive in our world, but that’s nearly a century away! Look around you. You’ve got triple tough sec men, a huge arsenal of weapons, arma wags, as well as supplies to last decades. Fireblast, you don’t even need to leave the redoubt for decades after the nukes fly. I’m willing to bet that you probably even have a SEAL team based here, or at the very least a squad of Rangers, or Berets. The predark government would have spent millions in jack to train and equip you and your people."

"That is true my dear Maverick." Spint nods sagely. "But there is something your people can do for us. You have the training that comes from years of surviving in what is essentially a combat zone. You have techniques and survival skills that you can teach us."

Maverick finds what the whitecoat is saying a difficult pill to swallow. "Ok, so say we go along with your little plan. What’s in it for us?"

"All of you will become members of the most powerful force to walk to post nuclear wasteland. You will eventually become rulers in your own right, helping me reshape the landscape." He pauses dramatically. "Provided you give me your un divided loyalty."

The soldiers glance about the room nervously. Spint is crazy, always has been, but what he’s been saying is an insanity unlike any of them have ever witnessed in the past. He is talking about out and out rebellion.

Spint holds out his hand and his assistant places a small palm top computer in it. "Besides. You’ll get to live." He says after scanning the computer for several seconds.

Big surprise there Maverick thinks. Living is the driving force in most people’s lives. "Better than nothing."

"In your case, that is true." Spint retorts with a smug smile.

"What the rad blasted hell is that supposed to mean?" Maverick growls.

"Quite simple, I’m afraid." Spint steps away from the group, turning his back on them. "You, Brett, are dying."

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