[Original artwork copyright 1993 by Kelly Faltenmeyer]
Our government doesn't quite know who or what -- from "out there" -- it's fighting, but it IS fighting...
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B. A. T. Chronicle
A Science Fiction Serial Installment Series(?)
(maybe to become a novel?)
Hanley "Doc" Harding
Copyright 2001, 2002.
[All rights are reserved by the author.]
"Black Bart" smiled, somewhat ruefully, as he eyed the poster on the wall...
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
FOR MURDER, MAYHEM
CHEATING at CARDS:
and his lowdown dirty
DEAD or ALIVE
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
As he began carefully peeling the poster from the wall, a hand suddenly clapped Marine Force Recon Lieutenant Jile Barton on the shoulder.
"One last souvenir?" Captain Erlinger queried.
"Whatcha thinkin' about, old buddy?"
"Oh, nuthin' special. Just about the good ole days, Cap."
"Well... this marine's got a cold brew for you, any damn time you get a spare minute to pay a visit."
"Thanks, Brian. I'm gonna miss workin' for you... and with you."
"Same here, you crazy bastard. Well, I gotta go see the Colonel about movin' somebody into your slot. Maybe Henderson."
"He'll work out fine... for a white boy."
"Why'nt ya' cut me some slack, you asshole?"
"Back-to-back, all the way to hell, old buddy..."
"Back-to-back..." They clasped each other's arm. "Well... I gotta beat feet."
"I'll see ya' before they drum me the hell off base, Brian."
"Later, Bart-man." Erlinger fanned an imaginary Colt six-shooter in Jile's direction, then turned and pushed through the door and moved marine-smartly down the steps, out of sight.
After he carefully rolled the "wanted" poster and slid it into a cardboard mailing tube, Jile made a final check of all his packed belongings, then took one last look around his living quarters. The Corps had been a good home. He had adapted well, and it had adopted him. He had risen fast, and commanded respect, from below and above, wherever he had served. But it was time for him to move on... to bigger and better things. When he entered the Corps, he wasn't really sure if he was going to stick it out for a career. He grew to like it, well enough, but "the offer" had been too good to turn down. He didn't really give a damn that he couldn't tell anybody what he was going to be doing... he simply knew that the door which had mysteriously opened was one he very much wanted to enter. Somebody in the Defense Intelligence Agency had been intrigued by Jile's unique academic background, which had included a from-childhood fascination with the genius of Nikola Tesla's pioneering work in electricity and a highly original and deeply theoretical master's thesis on celestial electro-magneto-dynamics. What Jile did not know was that somebody had long ago applied those same theories to a problem, and the equations which resulted were, at this moment, being used to marshal incredible amounts of electrical and magnetic energy. And a resultant energy signature had been picked up by the Very Large Array radio telescope facility. And soon-to-be ex-lieutenant Jile Barton was determined by powers-that-be to be the right man to look into what was happening.
A taxi horn beeped, outside. Jile went to the door and motioned for the driver to come in. Within a minute, Jile and the driver had loaded all of Jile's luggage into the trunk. As the taxi made its way to headquarters, Jile inhaled the perfume of Vev's letter one last time before stuffing it carefully into a pocket. He was looking very much forward to some personal time before reporting to DIA. The letter's scent made him stir. He smiled, then switched his train-of-thought to checking-out, as the taxi stopped in front of the Admin Building.
"If you want a good cuppa coffee, come on in."
The driver followed Jile into headquarters, through the quarterdeck area, across the inlaid USMC floor emblem, past twin rows of upstanding polished brass 155 millimeter shells, each one imposingly bespeaking of Marine Corps history, having been fired in Korea, or Viet Nam, or Kuwait, or Iraq, all now crowned with varnished black walnut rounds, their tip-ends linked by three-foot lengths of red-and-gold braided aiguillette. The two men proceeded past the silent sentinels, up the passageway into the Personnel Office. A Lance Corporal looked up from his typewriter. "Good morning, sir."
"Mornin' Del Vecchio. Gotta coupla strong cupsa joe for me an my ride, here?'
"You can stand a K-bar in it, Lieutenant."
"That's the best kind, Corporal."
Del Vecchio poured two cups, then asked the driver for his preference.
"Coupla sugars, thanks."
As Jile and the cab driver appreciatively drained their cups, the personnel clerk resumed his seat and typed some final entries onto forms, then gathered them together for signatures. He arose and went to an open inner door and knocked on the jamb.
"Lieutenant Barton's exit package, sir."
"I'll come out there."
"Aye-aye, sir." Del Vecchio turned back to Jile. "Captain'll be right out, to see you, sir."
Corporal Del Vecchio sat back down, loaded more forms into his typewriter and resumed his daily routine.
Brian Erlinger strode out of his inner office with a grin on his face. Del Vecchio stopped typing and held out a pen for Erlinger and turned Jile's papers around on the desk. Erlinger signed them, one-by-one, then dropped the pen on the sheaf. Del Vecchio stamped and initialed each one, slid several into a large, buff-colored envelope, stood up and handed the envelope to Jile.
"Don't forget, you've got a check waiting in Disbursing, sir. You take care of yourself, Lieutenant."
Del Vecchio saluted, smartly. Jile returned it.
"Thanks, Del Vecchio."
Erlinger then extended his hand.
"Well, Black Bart... time to saddle up and ride off into the sunset. Be sure and give Vev my best."
"Will do, Brian. So long." Jile shook Brian's hand as they looked each other in the eye and smiled. They had survived combat, together. Nothing more elaborate need be said. It was now time to collect his pay and hit the road.
As the taxi headed for town, Jile looked at his surroundings with a new point-of-view.
"So... got plans, Lieutenant?" the taxi driver asked in small talk.
"Naw... just kick back for awhile, 'til I get myself re-oriented," Jile smoothly lied. "I don't think I wanna worry about makin' a buck, for awhile."
"Nice, if ya' can get away with it."
"Well, we filthy-rich Marine JOs can live off all that taxpayer money we save up."
"Ha! I didn't pay that much in taxes, so you didn't make that much money, especially as a JO."
"You got that right..."
The taxi stopped at the Jeep service center, next to Jile's freshly-serviced Grand Cherokee. After transferring his gear, Jile paid and thanked the driver and threw in a five-dollar tip.
"Semper fi, Lieutenant."
Jile acknowledged the driver as the taxi pulled away, then made his way to the cashier to pay his bill. After checking with the service writer, he got into the Cherokee, attached his cell phone to the hands-free cradle and his navigator to its pedestal, started the engine and headed for Interstate 95, northbound.
"Dialing... Veverly..." the cell phone verified his command.
"Hi, Gyrene!" the speaker emitted.
"Hello, sweet baby. I'm rollin'. Should be there about oh seven hundred."
"And I'm gonna have a king-size breakfast waitin' for you, honey. Then we'll have our whole thirty days, right?"
"That and you are all I'm lookin' forward to."
"Well, don't drive too fast. I wanta hold you all in one piece."
"I will be real careful, as ordered, ma'am."
"You do that, cowboy. I love you, Bee-Bart."
"That's a thousand percent right back atcha, baby. Gonna go now. Gotta lotta drivin' to do."
"Okay, honey. See you tomorrow."
"Bye, babe." Jile pressed the cell phone's [END] button.This was going to be one pleasant drive home, Jile thought, as he riffled through a selection of CDs, looking for some mellow jazz to further sweeten the journey. Blue notes soon caressed his mind as the Cherokee capably swallowed road miles. Flat land and endless pine trees eventually gave way to rugged hills as Jile moved northward through several states, stopping only for refueling and hot coffee, but no more phone calls to Veverly... he was enjoying the anticipation.
Jile carried his personal kit, laptop computer and cell phone as he topped the stairs and moved down the hallway to Vev's door. A special knock elicited an excited squeal from inside... the door flew open and Veverly was instantly in his arms and kissing him to make up for months of being apart. As they separated, hands joined, he took a long appreciative look at her.
"Oh, baby... you're just what I've been wantin' to see."
"Oh, Bee-Bart... it's so good to have you back, honey!"
They stepped inside and Jile closed the door and locked it. He closed his eyes and hugely inhaled the aroma of pancakes, bacon and coffee.
"Breakfast is cookin' for my man."
"And I'm gonna eat it up. I'm good 'n' hungry."
"I hear ya', baby. We got lotsa pancakes, with pure maple syrup, a mess o' bacon, OJ and hot coffee. How's that, Gyrene?"
"Sounds great. Smells even better."
"Sit yourself down, big guy. Let's eat."
They both happily ate without ever looking at what they were putting in their mouths. Sometimes the eating was interrupted by two large smiles and handholds. Few words were said. After they finished eating, Jile helped Veverly with the cleanup and dishes. Afterward, they went into the living room and plopped down on the couch and turned on the TV to catch the morning news reports. As they cozied up and worked their way through pleasant intimate chit-chat, the time reached nine A.M. Jile's cell phone rang.
"This is Major Osceola."
"Good morning, sir."
"We sent you some mail."
"Yes, sir." The major terminated the call.
"Give me a minute, baby, while I check on somethin'." Veverly got up and went into the kitchen. Jile removed his VAIO laptop computer from its carrying case, plugged in and booted up. His encrypted email came up quickly and he unscrambled and read it. It was the address of where he was to report at thirteen-hundred hours, today. The email contained no further information. Having seen the message and quickly committed it to memory, Jile acknowledged it and erased it, then shut down the computer.
"Baby, I've got an appointment with the brass at thirteen-hundred. I'm gonna have to get freshened up and hit the road."
Veverly came back with disappointment on her face. "They're not takin' our leave away, are they?"
"I don't think so. They're just lookin' to see my face... make sure I actually got here okay."
"If you call me from somewhere in Alaska, tonight, I'm gonna find you and whale the livin' daylights outta you!"
"Aw, baby, I told you my new job was close by. I'll be back, this afternoon. Bet on it."
"I'm not bettin' too much. I ain't got that much I can afford to lose."
******************************************************************************************************[READER PLEASE NOTE: Lawrance G. Lux rightly pointed out the "irregularities" of this (following) piece in regard to its "shortcomings" as a bona fide serial installment. I have it in my mind that it (the first portion I wrote) will probably end up being somewhere around Chapter 3, because I do have the plot fulcrum already fixed in my mind, and it is a very serious problem for Earth, indeed. In fact, it is so serious, I strongly recommend that you all gather your families together, catch the very next spaceliner the hell off the planet and run for your lives!!! With that said... y'all have a pleasant read, now!]
[below is the ORIGINAL installment, which is still too far ahead of what I have written, above, but I promise I'll catch up, soon!]******************************************************************************************************
As Jile Barton finished re-reading the datafile he had compiled over the last several weeks, the hairs on the back of his neck bristled with fear, loathing and hatred at the conclusions he had reached. He might be the only person in the department who finally realized just what the hell was going on, here. The thought frightened him, but did not cower him; he would do anything and everything necessary to fight against what he had so painstakingly uncovered. But they were smart, very smart. He was only one clever man, up against what must be an organization with tremendous resources at its disposal. Surely, it must have sensed that it was being incrementally exposed by somebody's increasingly curious scrutiny. If he knew about them, then they would certainly, at the very least, surmise his presence. And... since he had managed to penetrate their organization, he must also assume that they had penetrated his own. Outside of his cat, who the hell could he trust?
A crunching noise caught Jile's attention as he closed the file and exited Word Perfect... Turby's sharp teeth were methodically and efficiently reducing dried cat food chunks over her plastic bowl in a corner of the kitchen. Turby's eyes opened and her attention momentarily fixed on Jile's gaze as he looked toward her from his seat at the kitchen table. She purred at his gaze and went immediately back to her tasty crunching. Jile encrypted everything on his hard drive, forwarded an encrypted report to his office, then shut the laptop down for the night and unplugged the phone cord. He stood up and butted his chair back in a fluid motion, gathered up his dinner dishes and sauntered over to the sink. To wash, or not to wash, by hand... that was the question. What the hell... instant stroganoff and tossed salad... not too many utensils... let's wash 'em by hand.
After everything had been neatly placed in the drying rack, Jile placed the dish towel over the back of a chair, picked up the sleeping laptop and headed for the bedroom to catch up on three days' worth of lost sleep. Turby had curled up on her sleeping cushion on the tiles near her food and water bowls and decided to remain where she lay, for awhile, in the dark. After brushing his teeth, Jile shed his slippers, removed his undershorts, checked his alarm clock, slipped into bed, took off his eyeglasses and turned out the nightstand lamp. Within an hour, a stealthy little aircraft, electric motor nearly idling, was silently circling overhead, its targeting camera locked on to Jile's back yard. As the little plane made one final low pass over the back yard, it ejected a small dark object which dropped onto the grass with one small bounce. As the plane's nearly silent motor slowly brought the propeller back up to normal cruising speed, the landed object sprouted legs and uncurled a sharply pointed tail and immediately began to make its way toward the back door of the house.
Turby was gently asleep when her ears pricked up at the sound of scuttling through the pet access port in the kitchen door. She deliberately lay motionless as her eyes cracked open to a surreptitious squinting view of whatever it was which was making the sounds. The bright moonglow through an unshaded kitchen window glistened dully off the multilegged crawling intruder. The strange creature now dropped to the kitchen floor and stopped momentarily to take its bearings. It then began to move across the kitchen floor toward the interior of the house with a mysterious deliberation. Turby was suddenly uneasy -- the intruder was something she had never before seen. She knew humans, and animals -- both larger and smaller than she. Also, insects -- those unusual, not-really-animals, but still, she sensed, alive. But this... this thing which moved on its own, yet didn't seem to be a living creature, was a mystery to her, which demanded more investigation than mere satisfaction of natural cat curiosity. Her cat senses tuned to almost painful awareness as Turby lifted her lithe body slightly off the sleeping cushion and moved fog-softly forward on instinctive pawpads, claws cocked for instant deployment, should the interloper make any threatening move.
The creature became aware of the warm body behind it, moving in smooth, slow unison. The option of stopping, turning and mounting an attack, was contemplated, then rejected as being small -- therefore, inconsequential -- as it proceeded steadily toward its intended target. It was prepared, however, to turn and deliver a strike, should the follower approach much nearer.
Turby slowly began to close the distance between herself and the intruder. She sensed that this was not a genuine "live" creature, but all of her was electrified at the feeling of purposeful menace which the stranger exuded.
The creature had now reached the bedroom doorway threshold and the heat signature of a large body loomed at a thirty degree angle above its passive infrared sensory horizon, heightened by the household's air-conditioned coolness. It also sensed the nearing of the presence which had been following it since its entrance through the kitchen door. The creature decided to momentarily pause its primary mission in order to deal with the continued closing-in of the presence from behind. Turby's mind was not concerned with what she had sensed was a serious deadliness about the strange intruder as her body arced through the air, front paws outstretched with razored weapons. The enemy was reacting, but not quite quickly enough as Turby's paws furiously raked its gangly, multi-legged body and little pieces began to skitter across the waxed wooden floor. A murderously flailing tail with poisoned stinger, and sharp tiny pincers were unable to find a mark as the intruder went through every attack and defense maneuver its rapidly failing body could muster. After three vicious pounces, the remains of the intruder ceased all motion and Turby cautiously re-approached and sniffed at them. Her nose failing to reveal anything more satisfactory about the now motionless creature, Turby backed away about six inches and crouched down to watch over the remains. The creature was not stirring; her human companion was sleeping soundly... everything in Turby's nightworld was again in acceptable order.
As dawn began to emerge, Jile was awakened by an insistent bladder. He sleepily tossed his bedcovers aside and swung his feet to the floor to stand up. He was startled by pinprick crunchings under the toes of his left foot. After swiftly shifting his weight, he plopped back down, switched on the bedside lamp, and proceeded to brush small bits and pieces off his foot. He was suddenly greeted by a warm furry thump beside his thigh and two shiny gold eyes staring up at him. After putting on his glasses and examining the floor closely, he put on slippers and sat down again to make a phone call. As he waited for a pick-up on the other end of the line, he began affectionately scratching behind Turby's ears, eliciting the sound of her appreciative catmotor. Turby had "killed" the intruder and had obviously pleased her companion. Turby was pleased, too.
"Harry...? Bart. Someone sent me a mech scorpion. The son-of-a-bitch would've gotten me, too, if it hadn't have been for my cat." Bart smiled. "Yeah, we're both doing fine; Turby gave it a nasty surprise party. Yeah, I'll bring the pieces to the lab. Okay. See ya' later."
As Jile lay back, Turby stepped gingerly onto his chest and snuggled down against his neck and shoulder. Jile drowsily began to stroke Turby's back. "Turbocharged kitty," he mumbled as they both dozed off...
TO BE CONTINUED...
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|Reviewed by m j hollingshead
|Reviewed by Lee Garrett
|Great job here. Interesting and imaginative. Good voice. Story sucks you in. I'll like to read this when completed.|
|Reviewed by Helga Lian
|Reviewed by Nickolaus Pacione
|I am beyond impressed with this story. You have a very imaginative tone going here, and one can say it is hard enough to write Science Fiction. I am extremely jealous because the influences are there for it but I tend to write more horror. I appreciate writers who can do good Science Fiction because one needs the know the good technical knowhow to pull this kind of genre off. This is a fun read, and I wonder how much fun you were having when you wrote this because it seems like you were having some fun with this one.|
|Reviewed by Mark Rockeymoore
|now this is something else right here. as a spec. fic. afficionado and ex-military man myself, i can get into work like this. the little details were what made it so strong for me, the switch between formalized language in the narrative form and the dialect of every day speech, the detailed way in which you went about describing the military world and that awesome scorpion, as well as the swift battle! i'll definitely be looking for more of this right here. excellent work! i'm impressed...|
|Reviewed by Peter Adotey Addo
|Reviewed by J Michael Kearney
|Very well written! I agree with lgl about the dramatic hook....Usually each chapter ends by leaving the reader in suspense. Still, the storyline here is strong. Fine writing.|
|Reviewed by Lawrance Lux
It is an excellent piece with good concept; but serialization requires certain elements: definition of the Enemy or Evil, a uniform length of 4-5000 words, and a hook in the final scene to draw the Reader to the next Chapter. You need to add an initial paragraph outlining the Evil, flesh out the Characters for the desired length, and put a dramaization hook in the final. The essential element of Serials resides in each Chapter must be a story in itself, as well as a draw to the next chapter. You will find as you rewrite, this gets to be fun.