Team Omega–Snippet

16 May

I tried a few experiments with this one, the flashbacks mainly.  How well do they work?

Chapter One

“At ease, Marine.”

Chester Harrison looked up at the young man in front of him and raised his eyebrows. “Is that as relaxed as you get, young man?”

“Yes, sir,” PFC Jackson McDonald said.

He was young and fit, with her hair shaved close to his scalp. Chester knew that the USMC had considered him one of their most promising enlisted men, with a promotion to Lance Corporal delayed only by his habit of picking fights and insubordination when not on active duty. Looking at him, Chester felt unfit, almost overweight. The life of an man flying a desk, even a desk in the Pentagon, wasn’t the same as a person on active service.

“I need to know what happened at Camp Pendleton,” Chester said. He’d read the reports, including the one McDonald had written himself, but he needed to hear it from the man’s own lips. “What happened on that day?”

“It’s in my report, sir,” McDonald said, stiffly. He hadn’t enjoyed writing the report, any more than his superiors had enjoyed reading it. Nineteen Marines dead and five more on the critical list…and no one even knew why. “You can read it all there.”

“I need to hear it from you,” Chester said, softly. “What happened that day?”

“What happened?” For the first time, McDonald showed a trace of emotion. Horror…and remembered fear. “What happened was a goddamned nightmare.”

***

Sergeant Bass considered himself to be the very model of a Marine Corps Sergeant – and that included disciplining the young men in his platoon. Jackson had been rowdy, as rowdy as he always was when not on active service, and Bass had taking it as a personal challenge. After an argument in the barracks that had become a fight, Bass had sent Jackson to run around the edge of Camp Pendleton twice in the hopes that it would teach him a lesson. Jackson had been fuming as he completed the run, wondering why he couldn’t just be sent out to a Marine unit on actual operations. Being in the field was what he lived for.

He heard the explosion just as he came off the track and headed back to the barracks. It looked as if someone had smuggled a bomb into the Camp, perhaps one of the Mexican terrorist groups that threatened the integrity of the United States. He ran towards the sound of the blast, forgetting his anger at the Sergeant in the fear that one of his comrades might be injured. Alarms were going off everywhere as he ran into one of the PT compounds used for raw recruits – and saw a man tearing through Marines as if they were made of paper.

Two Marines, armed with M16s, were trying to gun the intruder down, but the bullets were merely bouncing off his skin. Jackson realised, with a thrill of horror, that he was looking at his first superhuman. He’d heard about them, of course, yet he’d never seen one before now. Any fascination was washed away by the grim awareness that the intruder had already killed a dozen Marines and seemed intent on murdering dozens more.

The superhuman roared as bullets hit his eye – it was clear that he could feel pain, even if the bullets couldn’t penetrate his skin – and lunged at the two guards. He caught one of them, picked him up and threw him through the air towards a helicopter that was flying over the camp. The hapless Marine missed the helicopter and fell somewhere towards LA. His buddy backed off hastily, only to be caught and physically ripped apart. Jackson saw blood splashing on the ground and realised, in horror, that he would be the next victim…

***

“I put it all together without realising it,” he admitted. Chester listened carefully as he outlined the story. “Maybe he was strong enough to pick up a tank and maybe he was tough enough to survive a bullet striking his body, but he still needed to breathe.”

***

Jackson stuck out his tongue at the superhuman and ran, trusting that the superhuman wouldn’t hesitate to give chase. The man didn’t seem to have any form of super-speed, thankfully; he just lunged after Jackson with a loping stride that suggested that he knew that he was invincible. No one would be able to stop him even if they caught him. Jackson led him right into one of the lesser-used complexes and gambled that the superhuman wouldn’t try to bring it down around his ears.

During his basic training, he’d been exposed to gas as part of the NBC course. Young Marines had discovered what happened when they left their gas masks behind through exposure to CS gas, which left many of them choking on the ground. The Drill Sergeants had wanted them to recite name, rank and serial number; many of the recruits hadn’t been able to complete it before the gas overwhelmed them. Jackson hadn’t done any better than most of his peers. He ran through the chamber, slamming the door closed behind him, as if he were trying to hide. The superhuman burst into the chamber and looked around, puzzled, until the gas began to flow. It had been tinted to make it easier to see. Jackson watched as the superhuman breathed in the gas and started to stagger around, throwing up inside the chamber. He’d been so convinced that he was invulnerable that he seemed to find it hard to comprehend that someone had found a weapon that actually worked.

Jackson donned a gas mask of his own, picked up a fire extinguisher and stepped into the chamber. Marine recruits had to go through a sequence of taking off their masks and then re-donning them, even though their eyes were streaming from contact with the gas. The superhuman had collapsed on the ground, twitching and coughing as if he were still trying to throw up everything in his stomach. His hands were tearing at the floor, ripping great shreds out of an airtight material. There was no way he could be secured safely, let alone be transported to the nation’s sole prison for superhuman offenders. Quite calmly, Jackson pressed the extinguisher against the superhuman’s mouth and activated it, spraying powder down his throat.

Two minutes later, it was all over.

***

“Your report stated that you made the decision to kill him without consulting anyone,” Chester said, when McDonald reached the end of his story. “Do you think that that was a wise decision?”

“I think that there was no way he could be secured and taken away before he recovered from the gas,” McDonald said, flatly. “And he had killed a number of Marines. The only thing I could do was kill him before he recovered and ripped my head off, sir.”

Chester could almost read the Marine’s mind. He had been the person on the spot, the sole person to figure out a way to end the crisis before it claimed more innocent lives…and yet he was being second-guessed by some Washington deskbound bureaucrat who wouldn’t know an M16 from a broomstick.

But there would be repercussions from this incident, even though no one had – as yet – figured out who the superhuman had been, or why he had a grudge against the United States Marine Corps. The CIA, FBI, SDI and Interpol had all drawn a blank. It was quite possible that the superhuman had been nothing more than an unregistered superhuman, but it was equally possible that the attack on Camp Pendleton could be the first shot in the long-feared superhuman war. Superhumans had upset the balance of power between the world’s nations ever since they had first appeared.

“You’re not in trouble, Marine,” he said, as reassuringly as he could. But he wasn’t really there to be reassuring. “You kept your head when others panicked and you took down a superhuman opponent. Not everyone can make the same claim.”

He smiled at McDonald’s reaction. Superhumans weren’t invincible, but they did tend to intimidate the hell out of people. The police preferred to back off and call for the military if there was even a hint that a superhuman was involved, while calls for mass registrations of superhumans had failed because there were fears that superhumans would turn on the government. Some of them could live normal lives, passing for mundane humans. Others were physical freaks, marked as superhuman whatever they did. Far too many of them had been driven into the underworld by suspicion and bigotry. Chester regretted that, as much as he regretted anything, but it didn’t keep him from having to deal with the consequences.

“Your platoon has been scattered by the attack,” he continued. “I would like to offer you a transfer to my unit…”

McDonald gaped at him. “Your unit, sir?”

“My unit,” Chester confirmed. He looked like a Washington paper-pusher; hell, in truth he was a Washington paper-pusher. But he served as the director of a unit that was probably more important than any other in the era of the superhuman. “Your superiors have consented to your immediate transfer, assuming you want to take up the position.”

“I see,” McDonald said. He was too young to hide his scepticism. “And what exactly does this unit do?”

Chester smiled. “We kill superhumans,” he said. “Interested?”

He explained, as best as he could. “Superhumans show an alarming series of personality traits – almost disorders – after they become superhuman. These tend to fall into several different categories; some believe that they are heroes and have a right to save people, some become instant assholes and decide that they have the right to take what they want, some just want to hide from their powers…and some want revenge on people who tormented them before they became superhuman. It is comparatively rare to find a superhuman who can be considered suitable for the military – and most of those who are tend to be among the lesser powers.

“This gives us a major problem. We have had superhumans turn divorce courts into murder chambers, superhuman heroes who injure or kill criminals they catch while on patrol and plenty of villains whose only concern is getting all the money and women they want in the world. And then there’s the superhumans serving in foreign countries as part of their defence forces. I assume you’ve heard some of the rumours about Iraq.”

McDonald nodded. The Protector of Iraq, himself a superhuman, had created a superhuman force to defend the country’s borders. They were allowed to indulge themselves in almost any way they wanted, provided they served the Protector’s country. Some of the rumours flooding out of Iraq were downright terrifying.

And Iraq wasn’t even the worst problem in the world.

“Fighting a superhuman opponent doesn’t have to be a death sentence – but you know that already,” Chester concluded. “Team Omega’s task is to monitor the world’s superhumans and, should it be necessary, take them down one by one. Should you agree to join, you’ll serve as part of a small force of elite soldiers and intelligence operatives, working from the shadows to keep the world safe for humanity. You won’t get credit for your work, but you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you’re doing something that no one else can do.”

He smiled at McDonald’s expression. “Your superiors have already approved a week’s leave for you,” he added. “You have that long to decide what you want to do.”

“I have questions,” McDonald said, slowly.

“I can’t answer them,” Chester said. “Team Omega does not – officially – exist. The government fears what will happen when the superhuman community becomes aware of its existence. It is possible that they will react against the government as a whole.”

He shrugged and stood up, holding out a hand. “Thank you for coming to see me,” he said, as if McDonald hadn’t been ordered to attend. “Should you decide to join us, your superiors will give you your final set of marching orders.”

***

One week after that first fateful meeting, Jackson found himself reporting to a small military base twenty kilometres from Washington DC. It looked rather more like one of the makeshift FOBs the Marines had used rather than a proper military base, complete with a set of Stealth Helicopters and armed guards surrounding the complex. Security was tight, he noted with some approval; the guards checked his ID at two separate checkpoints before they allowed him to drive into the parking lot. The interior of the base was fenced too, making it difficult for someone to move from section to section without the right ID. Someone was being very careful, or paranoid. But even paranoids had enemies.

He pushed through the door to the admin building and stepped inside. A dark-skinned man was waiting for him, wearing a pair of plain black overalls that could be swiftly replaced by BDUs if necessary. Jackson sized him up and deduced that he was Special Forces, probably originally from the Rangers or the Navy SEALs.

“I’m Lane,” the man said, holding out a hand. “Any jokes about my daughter marrying Clark Kent will not be appreciated.”

Jackson had to smile. “Jackson McDonald, Marine Corps.”

“Not any longer,” Lane said. “You’re Team Omega now and don’t you forget it. We’re a little bit more relaxed than most military organisations, but if I catch you giving me less than your all you’ll regret it. I’m Field Team Leader for Team One. Any questions?”

“Yes, sir,” Jackson said, carefully. “How many teams are there?”

“Four,” Lane said. He turned and headed towards a door, leading Jackson into a long corridor decorated with photographs of famous superhumans. “Four teams, plus the researchers who dig up most of the shit we use against the capes, the intelligence group who spy on the capes and the admin workers who do the paperwork. All four teams are expected to be combat ready at all times; Team One and Two are based here, Team Three and Four over on the west coast somewhere. Right now, Two is on QRA and One is standing down.”

He snorted. “In the event of Two being scrambled, One will come to full alert and you – until you are cleared to work with us – will go to your room and stay there until we let you out. Once you’ve been checked out on the equipment, you will be training with us until we decide that you’re fit to join officially. We’ll probably still be a little leery of you until you actually see action, but don’t take it personally.”

“I’ve been a Fucking New Guy before,” Jackson said. It happened in all military units; the new guy was regarded with some suspicion until he proved himself. Smart commanders kept it firmly under control. Less capable commanders sometimes let it get out of hand. “I know the score.”

“Glad to hear it,” Lane said. He pushed through a swing door and into a briefing room. “As Chester probably explained to you, our mission is to identify, monitor and eliminate dangerous superhumans. Principally, we deal with the psychopaths, the rogues and the dangerous criminals. Some of the bastards are pretty much celebrities and we have to be careful about how we deal with them. If you have any belief in the value of a fair fight, I suggest that you get it out of your system right now.”

“Yes, sir,” Jackson said.

“That’s Lane to you,” Lane said, firmly. “We don’t stand on ceremony here – besides, I work for a living. Luckily, I only have to use PowerPoint when a new guy comes along.”

He picked up a remote control and waved Jackson to a chair. “Team One; nine active members, three support staff. You’ll be pleased to know that we insist that our field support staff are riflemen first, a concept we shamelessly stole off the Marines. There’s no such thing as a standard weapons load for us, so you’ll be trained and checked out on everything. We’ll also expect you to spend some of your spare time studying for additional MOS certificates, as we want as many disciplines as possible on the field teams.

“You’ll get a proper briefing on the Rules of Engagement later, but suffice it to say that we exist somewhere in the grey area between police SWAT teams and the Delta Force guys who would back them up if they ran into trouble they couldn’t handle. Those who know a little about us think we’re a federal SWAT team linked to the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team, so we attempt to abide by the same rules as they do. However, when dealing with a superhuman opponent, it is generally wiser to apply maximum force and worry about the legalities later. We would prefer to avoid an incident that would cause embarrassing questions to be raised.

However, I expect total professionalism from my people at all times,” he added. “Use the vague ROE as an excuse to fuck up and you’ll wish the superhuman had killed you by the time I’m through with you. Understand?”

“Yes, Lane,” Jackson said. It felt strange referring to a superior officer by his first name. “Don’t fuck up.”

Lane snorted. “Team Omega’s overall director is Chester Harrison, the man who first interviewed you,” he said. “We have an agreement; I run Team One to suit myself in exchange for making sure that we win all of our encounters with capes, while he covers our political ass and reports directly to the President. It was I who approved your provisional transfer to Team Omega. Do you have a problem with that?”

“No,” Jackson said. It seemed to make sense – and it was more rational than some of the other arrangements for military-civil relationships. “We report directly to the President?”

“You report to me, I report to Chester, Chester reports to the President,” Lane said. He looked down at the floor and then back up at Jackson. “I won’t lie to you, son. There’s a good chance that you will end up dead or crippled within five years. And you will be held to a very high standard. We fuck up – hundreds of lives can be lost. If you want to back out…”

“Fuck that,” Jackson said. “It sounds like a challenge.”

“You have no idea,” Lane said. “If you’ll come along…it’s time to start putting you through your paces.”

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4 Responses to “Team Omega–Snippet”

  1. willstinson May 16, 2012 at 1:52 pm #

    Good start. I think the flashback worked well. It will be interesting to see what experiences the other have had, and how this story plays out.

    • chrishanger May 17, 2012 at 9:45 am #

      Thank you. I’m still working on the plotline. How would you kill superman?

      Chris

  2. scruffy May 28, 2012 at 7:29 am #

    sounds awesome Chris, how do you keep coming up with this stuff?

    • chrishanger May 28, 2012 at 9:56 am #

      I just come up with ideas – some of them become stories. But I don’t have a proper plot for this one yet.

      Chris

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