I've been trying to decide today which of two topics, both important to me, to post about. Sitting down to write this, I guess I'll post about both.
First, I'm pretty sure everyone has noticed we're having a pandemic right now. As COVID-19 fears are whipped into a media-fueled frenzy, I just want to ask that people please stop buying into the panic. Medical and endemic professionals from around the world have provided information and advice about general-use isolation procedures (avoid large gatherings, self-isolate with masks if you have to go out), basic hygiene (seriously, there are people who still struggle with trying not to face-touch and knowing hand washing is important?), and what at-home treatments to use to help avoid getting so sick that you need professional medical treatments (all the same things you use for a flu – rest, DayQuil / NightQuil, Neo Citran, air humidifiers, ibuprofen, etc).
Will avoiding unnecessary contact with other people and washing your hands stop the pandemic and save all of us from getting sick? No, it won't. But it will ensure the virus moves slowly through the population so our medical supplies and resources can support the severe cases requiring intensive treatments.
Turns out the skin on the neck had fat on it that had stoppered the neck hole like a bathtub plug. Shoving it with a wooden spoon popped out the plug. And yes, while on the phone with her, I snagged a few tricks she'd learned over the years for making sure the bird tasted good once it was cooked. That first turkey turned out pretty tasty. And yes, I still use those tricks.
I feel lucky to have had such a friend, and proud to have had such a grandmother. She'll be remembered and missed.
I hope you have a great weekend!
The plane landed smoothly at an unmarked airstrip in the early-afternoon heat. Jerry, Ray, and Nate were directed out and climbed down the rusted stairs slowly, getting a view of the desert around the lone runway and the single road to and from it while they were elevated. Only a dusty, older model pick-up truck and newer military SUV were nearby. The two guys who’d pushed the stairs up to the door waited until everyone getting off the plane was on the ground and then pulled the steps to the side of the runway and left them there. They climbed into the pick-up truck without saying anything and drove off as the plane door thumped closed. Only Jerry, Ray, and Nate had gotten off the plane. They glanced back and saw the wing flaps raise and lower as pre-flight checks were gone through again.
“Welcome to Arizona,” the visibly nervous driver of the SUV called, gesturing to the vehicle doors he’d just opened. “Please, get in.”
Nate started moving forward, saw he was the only one who did, and stepped back to wait beside Ray. The three older men stood in a row to face off with the driver from three meters away.
“Where are we going?” Jerry asked, raising his voice to be heard over the plane’s engine.
The driver smiled tightly between pretty blond hair and a rumpled, tweed jacket. “Please, just get in?” he asked, yelling so he could be heard, and gesturing with both arms. He spoke with the tone of someone at the end of a usually relaxed temper. “I can’t brief you in the open.”
Jerry looked at the two men beside him, both of whom were surveying the wide open and essentially empty space around where they’d been dropped off while Jerry did the talking. Ray’s quick scan finished with watching the plane taxi away, and Nate’s ended when he started profiling the driver. Jerry waited the two seconds for both men to finish their assessments. They shrugged to him because they didn’t see anything worse than the situation they’d been in on the plane, except now they’d be traveling on the ground. In silent agreement for being in this together, Jerry climbed into the front passenger seat of the SUV, Nate sat behind Jerry, and Ray sat behind the driver.
“My name is Richard Leech. I’m an English professor,” the driver said, once all the doors were closed. He turned up the air conditioning and put the SUV into gear, pausing to lean forward slightly and watch the plane take off. “I really have no idea where to even start. Right now, I’m hoping you have questions. I think I’ll be better at giving answers than at explanations.”
“An English professor?” Nate blurted. Jerry agreed with the surprise in Nate’s voice. Based on today’s events, Richard saying he taught English was one of the weirdest things he could have started with.
“Yes. Ivy league education and tenure,” Richard said. “Teaching at those schools wasn’t very interesting, though. It was also very stressful. I moved to smaller schools and then into military academies.”
“You left ivy league for military academies?” Ray asked, bewildered by the choice.
“Fulfillment is important, too,” Richard said, catching Ray’s eye in the rear view mirror.
“Nice to have the choice,” Nate muttered.
“The Arizona facility isn’t an academy. Who are you teaching?” Ray asked
“Until three days ago…” Richard paused and blew out a long breath. He gripped the steering wheel harder. “Your clones. And the twenty-three other clones made at the same time.”
The three passengers in the car stared at the English professor in stunned silence.
“Can… can you repeat that?” Nate asked when he could speak again. “But add in enough back story so it makes sense this time,” he added. Richard sighed and then shrugged and nodded. The gesture looked more like a response to what Richard was thinking than to Nate’s question.
“Twenty-four years ago, thirty soldiers were selected to take part in a cloning program. You three were among them. When asked to provide samples without knowing why, you each agreed. You then signed a non-disclosure agreement about providing samples and – I’m guessing – completely forgot about it until right now.” Richard glanced at everyone else in the SUV, getting nods of agreement from all of them. “The collected samples were used in tests for viability in creating interspecies Hybrids. The program –”
“Wait, ‘interspecies’? So, you mean our DNA got tested for being mixed up with other species? Like… animals or…?” Nate interrupted.
“Not ‘like’ animals, with animals,” Richard corrected. “The program wasn’t successful during the first six years, but the results showed improving promise with each pairing. Nearly eighteen years ago, twenty-nine Hybrids lived through gestation. Twenty-eight of those lived through infancy, and then twenty-six survived through toddlerhood.”
Richard stopped talking as he signaled right and turned off the narrow highway. He drove the SUV toward a security shack. There was a black chain link fence running along beside the highway, and the heavy gate in it was on the road beside the security shack. The fence looked like it kept in a lot more of the same desert as was outside of it. The security shack was the only building around, and it was just an armored, windowed box with one inside corner walled off (probably for a toilet). Richard held up his security pass card against the scanner pad on the side of the shack and the gate started opening automatically. The soldier in the shack waved in a friendly way, not even opening the window, and they continued driving.
Jerry and Ray glanced at each other. Normally visitors were required to show identification and sign in when coming onto any base. Richard noted the glance and smiled at them.
“It’s well known you were coming and we don’t have time for redundant protocol rules. Your security passes are waiting inside,” Richard explained. “Now where was I? Oh, yes, there were twenty-six Hybrids who lived into childhood. All of them are now seventeen years old.”
“You said you were teaching English to these Hybrids up until three days ago. So what happened three days ago?” Jerry asked.
“The facility was attacked,” Richard said. His fingers clenched and loosened on the steering wheel.
“Why?” Nate asked.
“Because these kids are a squad,” Jerry said before Richard could answer. “Bred, born, and raised to be used tactically.”
“Our kids are super soldiers?” Nate blurted the question. He leaned forward between the front seats to stare at Richard.
“Technically they’re not your offspring, so not your kids. They’re your clones. But yes, however, these Hybrids are what someone like you would call super soldiers,” Richard replied.
“Fuck me,” Nate said as he sat back. He shook his head in disbelief.
“So why are we here?” Jerry asked. “We’re not active military. There are squads for this kind of rescue and recovery.”
“Rescue and recovery aren’t needed. The attack failed. None of the Hybrids were taken,” Richard explained. He turned off the road to drive on a dirt track toward a small hill. “You’re here because half the facility’s staff members were killed, and the dead half includes almost everyone on the security teams. Most of the systems are still down, which is why we’re using a back door rather than the main entrance. All of the attackers were, as our General says, neutralized in the first twenty-four hours after the attack. Unfortunately the Hybrids were released from their secure areas, and for the past three days we’ve been finding them throughout the facility and bringing them back to safety.”
“Who’s safety?” Ray asked. The frown he’d gotten when Richard said ‘secure areas’ for seventeen year old kids was still creasing his face.
“Theirs,” Richard replied. His expression was shocked that anyone might think differently. “They’ve been raised in controlled environments, completely underground. Exposure to this violent situation was –”
“Exactly what they were made for,” Jerry interrupted, finishing Richard’s sentence. “Everyone must be itching to get the security footage so they can see how well the project did in its first real combat scenario.”
A weekly blog updating every Saturday with quick personal blurbs about me, as in what's going on during my life as an Author and mom, and parts of my short stories and novellas for everyone to read for free!