NOTE: THIS IS THE 4TH SNIPPET IN MY GENETIC ENGINEERING SPACE STATION STORY
Stealth stormed into the command room, tearing off his helmet and holding it in his left hand as his eyes darted about in search of Captain Legorn. Several officers stood about, most leaning over screens in discussion. A couple at a table in the back played Celtic chess—a strange, circular game that had made a resurgence in the early twenty-second century, but that Stealth couldn’t quite figure out.
None of them, however, had the trademark stark-yellow hair of the captain.
Where the hell was that piece of slime?
The captain, however, found him first. He stomped forward, a group of lieutenants jumping out of his way as he came for Stealth, hands balled into fists.
“Captain—” Stealth started, prepared to get down to business, but a fist caught him across the jaw. Next thing he knew, the captain had him by the hair, pulling his face in close enough for Stealth to see the yellow stains on the man’s teeth, the bloodshot red of his left eye, though oddly not his right.
“I should have you shot for disobeying a direct order,” Captain Legorn started in on him, spittle flying and landing on Stealth’s cheeks. “The hell were you thinking?”
Stealth ground his teeth, using all of his discipline to not slam his fist into the captain’s nose. He’d done it before, which was a large part of why this guy hated him so much. And also why he, Stealth, wore the three chevrons of a sergeant, missing the rocker of the staff sergeant he’d once worn.
This was all in the civilian military, however, so part of him said he didn’t give a damn. In his mind, he was still a Marine through and through, and they couldn’t take that from him. Since it was all he could remember from before, and even that was somewhat hazy, he clung to the memory even more. He would always be a staff sergeant in the U.S. Marines, no matter what they told him or what other military he joined. Not the PD, not the Global High Command’s ridiculous excuse for a military. None of them were on the same level, as far as he was concerned.
But this was his life now, and he had to remember not to completely trash it. Instead of clocking the captain, he just stared, glaring, imagining the smug look on that bastard’s face vanishing with a good elbow across the temple.
“That explosion take your hearing?” the captain asked, lowering his voice and leaning in. “Or is it time for another attitude adjustment?”
“You threatening me?” He couldn’t take it anymore, feeling the rage boil up inside. He broke free of the man’s grip, ignoring the pain as some of his hair was yanked free. “Instead of wasting your time trying to prove you have big balls, why don’t you tell me how the hell we were hacked?”
“Hacked?” the captain asked, his anger shifting to concern. “What’re you talking about?”
“The helmets, for one. Gave us the wrong directions, so that we walked right into that trap. We weren’t breaking your orders—we were following what the helmets said your orders were.”
For a long moment, Captain Legorn stared, his bloodshot eye twitching. “All part of the plan, Sergeant.”
“We had to let them in so we could trace ‘em.”
“I had no idea they’d get in far enough to infiltrate the helmets, to lead you to an ambush of sorts.”
Stealth held up a hand, trying to process this. “A head… I saw Red’s damn head go flying past. Not connected to his body, mind you.” Now the rage was on again, and he stepped forward, swinging his helmet so that it cracked the captain across the jaw and dropped him with a groan. Stealth stood over him, shouting. “You let them in, then you as good as killed Red! What gives you the right? What—”
Two security officers plowed into Stealth, taking him to the ground as he shouted, struggling to be free of them. Captain Legorn was holding his jaw as he climbed back to his feet.
When he turned to them, blood flew from his mouth as he yelled, “Get that piece of dog meat out of here! I want him locked up so deep in the pits of Horus that he’s sucking metal before air. You hear me!”
Stealth found himself being dragged away, his struggles futile. He had just given up, his escorts forcing him through the outer hall, when a woman appeared, his helmet in her hands. “Hold up, gentlemen,” she shouted after them.
“We have our orders—oh, damn, I mean, yes, sir.” The security officer helped Stealth to stand, then took a step back, nodding for the other to do the same. The second glanced back finally, eyes going wide, and followed suit.
It didn’t make sense that they would act this way, not unless Kyla Nor herself was here. That couldn’t be. No, he couldn’t have just acted like a complete fool in front of her, right?
To his dismay, he turned to see that it was indeed Mrs. Nor. She stood in her double-breasted, bright yellow jacket, gold buttons gleaming and blue stripes running down the sides of her sleeves and pants. It was gaudy as hell, but went quite well with her almost gold complexion and wavy hair with gold highlights pulled into a bun.
She was the CEO of New Origins, though she liked to refer to herself as Admiral Nor, and have everyone refer to her as sir. The sir part was normal—everyone in the military referred to women as “sir” nowadays. The Admiral part, though, had always irked Stealth. She wasn’t military. She was in charge of a multinational—now intra-galactical—corporation. One that ran operations as if it were the military of space. But not actually military.
How nobody had the cajones to call her out on this fact, or the other CEOs that went around with titles like Admiral and General, Stealth could never understand. Different times, to be sure.
“Sir,” he said, standing at attention.
She smiled, cocked her head, and then held up the helmet. “It was smart of you to bring this back, considering it might be one of the only leads to figuring out who got into your helmet.”
“Sir, Legorn said he let them in, so surely we know—”
“We’re making a move on who we know made it in,” she replied. “And it’s Captain Legorn… a fact that you should remember, to avoid risking a stint in the brig.”
“Risking?” he asked, a flutter of hope running through him.
She nodded, slowly, eyes assessing him. “You lost someone today, I get it. That makes the best of us lose our cool. But here’s the thing, you assaulted an officer.”
She held up a hand to cut him off. “Thing is, I’ve had my eye on you. We think your training is going well and, depending on this mission, had it in mind to put you in with Nightshade. She wants you on the team, and guess what? She outranks our dear friend Legorn there.”
“Captain Legorn,” Stealth said, with a grin.
She laughed. “Getting cocky already. A pivot like that… it’s commendable. If you’re open to meeting with Nightshade, possibly joining her and the Taipans, we’ll see that Mr. Legorn forgets this ever happened.”
An image of Red flashed before Stealth’s eyes—the man doing pull-ups and chanting with each up, mumbling under his breath the motto of the Taipans, “Honor in death.” Red had wanted to be approached by them for as long as Stealth could remember, since they had been paired together over a year ago. Since that was about as far back as Stealth’s memory took him, and Red’s as well, that was saying something.
For him, Stealth would do this. In truth, it’s what he wanted too, but had always seen it as more of a pie in the sky type dream. Never a reality. It wasn’t just that he wanted to be part of an elite group, but also because they had the highest level of clearance he knew about.
Perhaps if he was part of them, if he had access to what they could access, he could find some answers. This could be the key to learning who the hell he was.
He nodded. “Thank you, sir. It would be an honor.”
With that, she held up the helmet, then tossed it to him. “They’re out on a mission right now, but you’ll join one of the rear teams. Get over to the west wing, hand this to their tech guy for processing, and get suited up in the Taipans’ gear. You’re going to make a great addition to the team.”
With that, her eyes ran across him in a way that made him feel naked. A final smile and she was off, strolling into the command room where she would presumably take care of the Captain Legorn situation.
Stealth took a few moments to collect himself, then turned to see the security officers still standing there, staring at him with shock.
“Quite the change of fate, huh?” Stealth commented.
They both nodded, mumbled “yes sir,” and then stood at attention. He’d forgotten, for that moment, what being a member of the Taipans really meant. This type of respect, for one.
“Dismissed,” he said, curiously, and watched with an amused smile as they marched off, eager to be away from the man they had been about to lock up.
With an extra bounce in his step, he pulled up the map on his wrist and headed for the west wing, ready to get into the action again. The memory of Red was fresh and it stung, but being a member of the Taipans now, and knowing that Red would be proud, made him feel that sting that much less.
All seriousness and his search for answers aside, he had a sudden rush of excitement. This was going to be fun… in that nerve racking, adrenaline rushing sort of way.