Gunnery Sergeant Marianne Beaubien, USMC
Time: 1810 EST / 2310 GMTLocation: Bishop International Airport, Flint Michigan
“So what do we know?” Major Thompson folded his arms and listened.
Marie looked around the gathered officers and civilians. Major Thompson stood at the front of the cargo crate they were using as a table, his arms crossed as he studied the map marked in red grease pencil. To his left was Lt. Sobal, her sandy tresses tucked behind her ears, just long enough to be long but not enough to necessitate being tied up. Continuing around the map were the two pilots from the 717, Parker and Morgan, still in their uniform coats. Then there was Bob Hastings, a civilian who flat out refused to be left out, herself, and the tall lean figure of Bull. She liked Bull and his easy attitude, even though he seemed unable to remember to call her “Gunny” rather than “Sarge”. As he was seventy and a veteran himself, she was willing to cut him some slack.
Lt. Sobal was the first to speak. Marie let the top page of her clipboard fall back into place and focused all of her attention on the young officer as she spoke.
“At approximately 1330 we started to receive a transmission of unknown origin directing all survivors to converge on a given chart coordinate.” She indicated the location on a large, fold out map. “The message cycled through English, French, Arabic and Spanish and claimed to be jointly sent by American, Canadian and Mexican governments.”
She paused to check her tablet computer. Marie had seen the Lieutenant give a briefing before and sympathized with the desire to get every detail exact. The blush on her cheeks told Marie that Sobal was nervous, perhaps more than usual. She continued her review.
“By 1700, Lt. Regal left with a team of volunteers to investigate the signal and determine it’s nature. We received radio traffic from him at 1730 as he arrived on site. There he observed several members of an unknown military detaining survivors and moving them into a pair of VTOL aircraft....”
Bob Hastings interrupted the review. “A Vee what?”
Sobal hesitated, her verbal stride apparently broken by the question. Marie shook her head in frustration.
“VTOL - Vertical Take Off and Landing,” Mjr. Thompson answered reflexively, his face still impassive. He did not elaborate further on it, instead saying, “Go on, Sobal.”
She nodded once and resumed. “In addition, the enemy force executed one of the survivors attempting to flee. Lt. Regal engaged at that time. During this the engagement an additional aircraft arrived on the scene, bearing the markings of all three air forces, United States, Canada and Mexico. One of the enemy craft engaged and destroyed it without provocation. Communication with Lt. Regal was lost shortly thereafter.” Sobal took a steadying breath. “At this time their whereabouts are unknown. We also do not know the nature or nationality of the enemy force, only that they appear to be openly hostile.”
“So who do we think they are? The Russians?” Bob did not seem satisfied without some speculation. Marie shook her head.
“We don’t know,” the Major answered his eyes still fixed on the map.
“I said, ‘we don’t know’.”
“Well what the hell do you know?”
The Major looked up from the map. “Gunny?”
Marie closed her fingers around Bob’s upper arm. “Let’s go for a walk, Mr. Hastings.” She kept her grip firm enough to make it clear this was not a request.
Bob pulled back, trying to jerk free. He seemed surprised that Marie held fast to him. “I have a right to be here. You can’t throw me out for asking questions.”
“Come on,” Marie encouraged, starting to turn him towards the open ramp of the KC130 and away from the supply crate they had been using as a briefing table. She had shared the Major's concern for having anyone at the briefing besides the other pilots, Bull, and what remained of their own aircrew. She was anxious to know what happened to Larry as well, but there was no merit in rushing headstrong into blind action. Still, Bob had insisted at being there when decisions were made and it seemed easier at the time to indulge him than to make a scene. He was complaining about how long it had taken to get organized even before Sobal had began her review. Marie was starting to agree with Bull that Bob was lucky not to be left behind.
"I'll have you know I'm not someone to be trifled with, young lady."
Marie's blood started to boil. Who did this man think he was dealing with? "Which is perfect," Marie answered through gritted teeth. Her fingers tightened on his arm despite her efforts. "I'm not trifling with you. I'm removing you from the briefing." She took hold of his wrist with her other hand and deftly moved it up into a pressure hold. She applied enough force to elicit a grunt from him and started to march him out of the meeting. She was not going to let him goad her into something brash. There were more important things to worry about.
A few strides down the ramp he appeared to find his courage, again. "I'm not afraid of you. I know what you did back in Wisconsin and I'm not afraid of you."
She wanted to snap his arm in half. Just a bit more pressure and something would break. Instead she settled for throwing him forward, and watching him stagger down off the ramp. "I don't care what you're afraid of."
"I'd be surprised if you cared about anything."
Marie brought her right hook up to full speed by the time he turned to see if he had gotten a reaction. Her fist impacted square on his jaw and sent him sprawling to the tarmac. "That was probably a surprise," she spat without a hint of irony. She shook her hand a few times and turned to walk back up to join the rest of the crew. "It shouldn't be."
As she returned to the group huddled around the map, the 717 copilot looked out past her. “I should go check on him.”
The airliner’s pilot spoke first putting a hand on the other’s arm. “He had it coming.” He turned back to Thompson. “What do we do now?”
The Major gestured at Sobal. “Lieutenant?”
Marie watched as the younger officer took another breath. “Based on Regal’s report that the enemy craft opened fire without provocation we should assume they would do the same again. Leaving the area by air is a last resort. I would recommend that we move both of our aircraft into hangers and make the airfield look as deserted as possible. If there does not appear to be survivors here, there is a good chance they will pass over us and give us time to gather intel. I could lead a small group on a force recon to the Lt. Regal’s last known location. Now that we know here is a hostile force in the area we can take precautions.”
The Major scratched his chin as he listened. “Parker, Morgan, what do you think?” He looked at the two airline pilots.
Parker continued to study the map. He had not spoken much since Marie had informed him of the exchange with Regal and the others. He had listened quietly and agreed quickly to a briefing and situation assessment. She had heard about the proposal Morgan, Bob and a third civilian had made to Lt. Sobal. It had soured her feelings towards all the civilians but Parker had done a some to heal it with his own forward and honest attitude. Perhaps she had been too quick to judge.
“I think that sending out more parties, especially at night, is a dangerous proposition and it risks us being picked off in groups of four and five. If we consolidate we have a better chance of surviving.”
“My thoughts as well,” the Major acknowledged. “We gather up what we can, make the planes look deserted and then hunker down in the terminal and establish a defensive posture.” He turned to Sobal. “Passive radio use only for the next twelve hours. I want our ears open in case we get something from command but no broadcasts for them to hear.”
She nodded quickly. “Yes, sir.”
Marie flipped up the top page on the clipboard, not even needing to hear a question. “The TSA weapons locker has eight M-16 assault rifles, twelve .45 pistols, six sets of riot gear including batons and shields, and sufficient ammunition for all. One of the passengers on the 717 was traveling with Ruger Guide Gun hunting rifle, modified for long distance, with forty rounds of ammunition.”
“Guilty,” Bull offered with an indulgent smile. “Haven’t had a chance to set the new optics but she was doing me proud just last weekend, sir.”
“Let’s hope you don’t need to use it.” Thompson pulled another large sheet of paper over the map. It showed a crudely sketched layout of the airport tarmac and buildings. “We’ll put the 717 in this hanger, and the 130 over here. Gunny, I want you get as many civilians as have training outfitted and armed. Split the riot gear from the firearms and under no conditions do I want that Bob fellow anywhere near anything.” Marie smiled as the Major continued. “Morgan, I’d like you and one other person to head up to the air traffic control tower and take watch. We’ll send someone up in a few hours to relieve you. Take a flare gun for now, at least until we have a better idea what we can use that won’t be picked up.”
When he had finished he scanned around everyone’s faces. “Questions?”
“No, sir,” Marie and Sobal answered nearly in unison.
Parker offered a hand to him. “I think we got it.” The two men shook hands, then the pilots were on their way. Marie did not hesitate, herself, and began down the ramp behind them. Lefty and his new friend were waiting outside the plane.
“I would’ve aimed for his eye, Gunny, left it good and black,” he said with a grin.
“I’ll try to remember that,” Marie answered. She quickly explained the plan to him. As she spoke, his friend Jo remained silent, watching them. Marie still did not care for the young woman or how she would hide every time Marie came near. It had been easier to deal with the survivors from the 717 than those they had literally lifted out of near-certain death back in Wisconsin. Jo was one of the hardest to be around.
“I’ll start talking to passengers then? Maybe grab Bull to give me a hand. I don’t think anyone we picked up in Madison has formal training,” Lefty said when Marie had finished.
“Start with the ones from the 130 and ask again,” Marie corrected. “I’ll talk to the 717 people.”
“You got it, Gunny.” Lefty gave his friend a quick hug and took off for the terminal at a jog.
Marie glanced down at her clipboard again and pulled out a pencil to start making a chart of who had what skills and experience. She was surprised when Jo spoke up.
Marie felt her fingers flex on the clipboard. She was already on edge and had things to do. The last thing she needed was to give advice to her loadie’s new sweetheart, especially one that had been giving her the cold shoulder for the last two days.
She glanced over to see the girl’s face, her eyes downcast and nervous. The kid was scared. “I need to talk to you, to someone, about the night you picked us all up.” Jo looked up, her eyes locking on Marie’s. They were shining in the fading light of the sunset. “I need to tell someone how I got on the plane.”
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Mr. Osterman's first novel FantastiCon can be found on Amazon.com in both print and eBook editions. It is also available on Smashwords.