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 Chapter 7

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Join date : 2010-05-30
Age : 43
Location : Wintermist

Chapter 7 Empty
PostSubject: Chapter 7   Chapter 7 EmptyMon Jun 28, 2010 2:35 pm

Colonel Hardcastle sat stiffly in one of the straight backed chairs located outside General Kidd's office and checked his watch for the umpteenth time. He had been waiting for several minutes, despite telling the General's aide it was urgent. He felt as if he was about to explode with the excitement of his news. He looked down to make sure his uniform was dirt free and brushed a piece of lint from his jacket sleeve, then touched his tie to make sure it was still straight. On his lap lay a briefcase which bounced rapidly up and down as his right foot nervously tapped the ground. He checked his watch again and made a clucking sound of annoyance.

In his office General Samuel Kidd sat behind his oak desk signing a myriad of papers, oblivious to his underling's impatience. He was an old, salty, combat veteran from ..:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Kentucky, standing 6'2" in his stocking feet. Of a somewhat slim build, the first thing most people noticed about him were his clear blue, Paul Newman eyes, deceptively gentle and shaded by shaggy white brows. Anyone outside the military would take him for a laid back professional man, possibly a country doctor, a look which he actively strove for and enhanced with his rich, slow, southern drawl. Anyone in the military would immediately be aware of the amount of ribbons on his chest and quickly learned that behind the olde world façade was a lightening fast tactical mind and the courage 'to go where others feared to tread'. The gentle gaze could, instantaneously, turn hard and cold, carving directly into some poor, unsuspecting victims heart.

Like Hardcastle, he was also a Vietnam veteran with a military record that showed nothing but success wherever he went. However, unlike Hardcastle, Kidd was one of those people who, through sheer determination, always got the job done, and done well. Ever ready to admit when he was wrong, his philosophy was to always learn from his mistakes. His nickname among his men was "pappy", not because of the way he could bawl you out and make you feel like a 6-year old child, but because of the way he took care of his men. In all of his years of combat fighting, he had never left a man behind. Even a dead one. Although something of a maverick, his record was exemplary. He was not prone to rash or hasty decisions and enjoyed giving his younger officers the benefit of his wisdom, things he had learned over his many years of military experience. And he always had an anecdote for every occasion.

One of the things he tried hard not to do was let his personal feelings get involved when dealing with people, especially subordinates. Although genuinely busy with the work before him, which he needed to get out in the afternoon's mail, a small part of his brain chastised him for keeping Hardcastle waiting. This, in turn, kept another small part of his brain irritated at himself, for he would have kept anyone waiting until he finished his current project and it normally would not have bothered him. However, his disliked of Hardcastle caused him to bend over backwards to be fair; A catch-22 situation for his peace of mind.

He had been Hardcastle's commanding officer for almost 18 months and was heartily fed up with the man's wild imagination, which leaned towards plots and counterplots when none were there. But Hardcastle had his contingent of high place supporters and, even in the man's worse screw-ups he always managed to come out smelling like a rose. Kidd, however, held the man in contempt.

So it was that today that he would probably, once again, have to listen to one of Hardcastle's conspiracy theories. Signing the last document he pushed his intercom and instructed his aide to come in and pick up the papers for mailing. When the door opened he looked up and, seeing Hardcastle seated outside, motioned with his hand for the man to enter.

Finally, Hardcastle thought as he jumped up and hurried into the General's office, waiting impatiently until the aide had left and closed the door. It had been some time since he had actively sought out General Kidd, due in part to the discomfort he felt in his superior's presence. He resented the man and the coveted position that he held, one that Hardcastle felt should have by rights been his. He had been a colonel for too long, and blamed his lack of promotion at the man seated in front of him. He noted with snide pleasure that the General's hair now had more grey then black and that the face seemed more lined than a few months earlier. He chose to ignore the fact that they were mostly laugh lines.

"What can I do for you today, Colonel?" Kidd said, opening up a file folder his aide had placed on his desk.

"Sir, you need to assign 3 companies of Rangers to me immediately. I also need a 'weapons free order' as well as unlimited access and authority to local air bases. Further, I will need access to all weapons currently available with the ability to deploy them CONUS". Hardcastle had delayed the last word for dramatic purposes. CONUS means within the Continental United States. His tone sounded urgent and ominous, as if he felt the General should jump back when the words left his lips. The general did not jump back. In fact he seemed more interested in the open file in front of him. A silence ensued and became uncomfortable until Kidd looked up, his shaggy white brows pulled tight in a frown.

"You seem to have up a good head of steam, Rusty."

Hardcastle flushed. He felt it rise up his neck and into his cheeks. Somehow, when the General used his nickname, it made him feel small and insignificant. He tightened his lips and held back a scathing comment. This was his commanding officer, so he had to grin and bear it.

"First of all I don't need to do anything," Kidd continued, making quote gestures with his fingers. "Second, why don't you slow down, back up and tell me why in the hell you are asking me for all this. But before you do, I would like to warn you Colonel, that as early as it is, I have already put in a full day. I do not. I say again, I do not, have time for you and your conspiracy theories." Kidd reached into his desk drawer and removed a large book which he slid across his desk. He pushed the book across his desk to Hardcastle.

"Open that book Colonel."

Hardcastle begrudgingly took the book which he could see was a dictionary.

"I want you to look up imminent and read the definition to me." Kid continued.

Hardcastle, breathing deeply to contain his fury, turned pages until he came to the right one. Slowly his self satisfaction calmed him. He knew that this time he would be able to stuff this lesson down Kidd's smug throat.

"Imminent," he read, tracing each word with his finger, "ready to take place; hanging threateningly over one's head."

"Good, now look up danger and read that to me."

Again, Hardcastle flipped the pages, this time allowing a slight smirk to come to his lips. "Exposure or liability to injury, pain, harm, or loss."

"Now Colonel, I am going to ask you something and I want you to think about your response before answering. Do you have something that is ready to take place and hanging threateningly over our heads that will cause us injury, pain, harm or loss?"

Hardcastle opened the folder he had been carrying and allowed several pictures to slid out onto the General's desk. They lay there, face up, stunning in their black and white simplicity.

"Why don't you tell me sir," he answered smugly.

Kidd looked down at the photographs and his eyes hardened. He immediately identified the photos as satellite shots of one of the Army's Ranger Training Bases, with the amount of trees he could see, probably the one in Montana. Even with his years of experience looking at satellite photos, what he saw was almost unbelievable. His senses sharpened and he sat forward abruptly, moving several photos apart so that he could better see them. What he was looking at was a massacre. He not only could see the bodies of what appeared to have been an entire Ranger unit, but also several rescue helicopters, their crews scattered around them, several bodies piled on top of one another and all obviously dead. One of the birds was on its side, two of its blades embedded in the dirt. If what he was looking at was accurate, and not some trumped up fake, it appeared that someone had carried out a horrific slaughter of American solders on American soil.

Hardcastle, seeing the riveted look on Kidd's face, felt vindicated as he added additional information to drive his point home,

"Seventy two dead Rangers. Fully armed and equipped Rangers I might add, Sir. A fully armed and loaded rescue team of 36 also wiped out and this isn't Beirut or Panama or Mogadishu Sir, this is the middle of America." Hardcastle voice began to rise with emotion. "Not some third world country, but our own door step. Hell, this isn't even on our doorstep, this is in our god damn bedroom!"

Although Kidd had been momentarily stunned, his military training quickly reinserted itself.

"Alright Colonel, stand down, you have made your point on this one. What else do we know?"

"Nothing, absolutely nothing, sir."

"Nothing! What do you mean nothing? Surely we have some info on this. Some type of intell?"

"No sir, we have nothing. All these men were wiped out right under our noses and we don't have a single lead or idea as to why or how."

"Which base is this and when did it happened?"

"It's the Montana training base and we lost touch with the them about 0200 hours. After we couldn't raise them, at 0400 hours I deployed the rescue team". Hardcastle leaned over the desk pointing at the helicopters. "We were in direct contact with the rescue team when they were taken out. The radio operator lost it, all we have is screaming and gibberish, nothing to tell what was taking them out. I immediately contacted NASA and there was a satellite in the right trajectory, so I had the photos taken for verification. They just came in and I came immediately to you." He stepped back from the desk and waited.

This was not one hundred percent true, but Hardcastle was trying to sell a story. He wanted this mission. He had been involved in several operations recently that had not gone well, and despite his best efforts to pin the blame on other people, his name was beginning to rise to the lips of more and more people and they were not saying good things about him. He needed something to put him back in the limelight in a good way.

"So if the General believes that perhaps we are in…" Hardcaslte made the quotes gesture with his fingers, "imminent danger. Then he could see his way clear to giving me military access and authority to investigate this matter." A small smirk appeared on his lips. He knew that Kidd would have to allow him authority to investigate this matter. He knew that although General Kidd did not like him, he would have no other choice but to allow him to lead a team to find out what had happened.

After a brief moment Kidd began to speak, "You ever heard about the lion and the man who argued over who was the strongest?"

Hardcastle managed to contain his impatience, "No sir." He responded, barely keeping the irritation out of his voice.

"A lion and a man were talking one day about who would win in a fight. The lion told the man that he had fangs and claws and was very powerful. He killed for his food and had to defend his territory all the time. The lion knew how to fight and had the tools to do it. The man responded by saying, that man is stronger because he is smarter. He walked the lion over toward a statue of Hercules fighting a lion. The man showed the lion that Hercules was ripping the lion's mouth open and was going to win this fight because he was smarter. The lion responded by saying "that doesn't prove a thing. It was a man who made that statue." Kidd stopped speaking and stared at Hardcastle.

Hardcastle stood there, confused. "I don't understand sir." he said after a few moments.

"It is very easy for us as men to make things appear the way we want them too. The simple fact is that if that story would have continued the lion would have eaten that man. I am going to authorize you to investigate this matter, but you better make damn sure you know what you are talking about when you report back. If you think you have convinced me to the point that you have a free hand, you're wrong. You will give me constant updates and make sure I am informed. Don't try and bullshit me on this, Rusty. I am your lion and I will eat you if you screw up."

Hardcastle's eyes flashed with fury and he again felt the color flood his cheeks. With his lips pressed tightly together, Harcastle gave the General a quick salute, then doing an about face and left the office. He walked down the hallway at a quick pace, exhilaration quickly replacing the humiliation he had felt in Kidds office. Excitement thrummed through his body. He was thrilled that he was once again going to get the attention he so desperately craved.

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