Ross knew the General; well, the retired general now, Ambrose Maddox. Forced, ever so delicately, into retirement after reports surfaced about some of his activities in Afghanistan.
And Ross knew about those activities, too. After all, he had served with Maddox, before he’d been cashiered, along with several of his men. Over fucking bullshit. Bastards.
No, wait. Calm down a minute. Be here now. Ross regained his equilibrium.
“Thank you for coming, Colonel,” Maddox said. “It’s nice to know I can count on a few good men, when I need them.”
Ross nodded, and said, “Sir.”
“Colonel, we’ve got a situation, and we need your help.”
Ross thought, “We?”
Ross said, “Sir?”
“You know about this time travel thing, right?”
“Three stations, right? Fairbanks, St. Louis, and Arizona, right?”
“Well those DARPA pukes been using it for some scientific research into cavemen or some such shit, and now they fucked up.”
“First, the station at ASU – that’s Arizona State University, Colonel – the station there has gone down. Deader than Uncle Harry’s Aunt.”
“Second, they’ve sent a civilian – a civilian, for Chrissakes! – back to fix it. Accompanied by another civilian, some professor of cavemanology or some such shit. Well, Colonel, the people in the Defense Department, and my friends at NSA do not want some civilian running around out there, or back there, whatever.”
“No Sir,” Ross said. He knew his lines. And he knew this story was phony. Maddox was out – O. U. T. – out. No fucking way he was tied-in with Defense or NSA. No. The story was bullshit. And obviously bullshit. He was meant to see through it. So okay, why?
Because this is something else. This is a black op. This is the spooky stuff – covert. Fair enough.
Didn’t matter much. Ross knew what loyalty meant. He knew that the General would take care of him – hell, he already had. He’d run some serious interference protecting Ross and his boys after that last go-round over there. So, yeah, Ross knew about loyalty. Whatever the mission, he was in.
“No sir, we don’t want that at all,” Maddox continued. “It’s absolutely critical that we get that station repaired, and prepared – you know the President’s going to go out there to that Arizona station to give a speech, honor the fine men who perfected time travel, let the world know what we done. And now that very station has gone down? A little too coincidental, I think.”
“Colonel, we have reason to believe that this station has been brought down by an act of sabotage, and these purported civilians making their way out to Arizona present a clear and present danger to this great land of ours, to our science, to our technology. These men are traitors.”
“That’s where you come in. We want you to assemble a small team – no more than eight men. Your men, Colonel. We’ll task two scientists to accompany you. We want you to jump back there, find those traitors, eliminate them, and then proceed to the ASU site, where the two scientists – our scientists – will get the station up and running.”
Okay, Ross thought, so that’s the cover story – go back and wipe out these traitors. Got it. What’s the real story?
“Yes sir,” Ross said.
“We’re also going to send two more of our men with you, Colonel. Good men. Treat them with respect. They are mission critical.”
Ah, this was a clue. These guys, whoever they were, were part of this op, whatever it was. Two of “our” men. Whose men would that be?
“We’ll keep working from our end, here. Maybe we can jury rig a way to get that station fixed from this end. But your job, Colonel, is to go back and get those two, then proceed to the station in Arizona.
“Yes, Sir,” Ross replied.
“Time is short, Colonel. I want you to assemble the team within one week. My aide, Swanson, has all the details.”
“Very good, General,” Ross said.
“That’s all, Colonel,” Maddox said. “Dismissed.”
Ross had almost made it to the door when Maddox said “One last thing, colonel. Something that might interest you.”
Those two civilians have some security on their trip. Someone you know.”
“Daniel Lasher, Colonel. Master gunnery sergeant Daniel Lasher.”