(Continued from Word Press Blog http://dellanioakes.wordpress.com)
Using hand signals, she brought her people in to tight formation and sped up. She was with Kaz in less than two minutes. Looking at the screen, she saw he was telling the truth. There should be a readout of all the squad members, but the bars for the point team were blank. Not flat lined, just blank. Not even their names appeared by the bar.
"Shit! Sound off!" She growled into her headset.
For the next thirty seconds, her soldiers stated their names. She came up another three short. That made, with the point team, seven.
"What the hell?"
She was angry now. Something was happening she had no control over and didn't understand. Was it Shine Clan or the cyber unit? They weren't finding bodies, so maybe they were still alive. She didn't like it, but she didn't have to like a situation to get the job done.
"Sound off every five minutes,"she ordered.
Walking slowly, cautiously, quietly, they proceeded deeper into Shine territory. The hairs on Fiddlestix' neck were dancing with nervous energy. The feeling that she was being watched through a powerful scope increased the closer they got. She'd picked up the trail of the cyber unit shortly after the point team disappeared. They might be super soldiers, but they sucked at covering their trail. It occurred to her that they might have done it on purpose to lure them in. Her paranoia increased and she tightened security.
Five minutes later, three more of her people were gone. She called a halt. No one had seen the people disappear. It was as if they melted into the mist that surrounded them.
"It isn't possible," she muttered. "Grown people, soldiers, don't just disappear! It is not possible!"
After the next sound off, four more were gone. Stifling an angry scream, she called another halt. Anticipating that the Shine Clan had sophisticated surveillance equipment, she ordered her people to stay put.
"Set up a perimeter patrol. No one leaves for any reason. I don't care what you see or hear. Take cover and stay put. Kazinski, Harmony, you're with me. Diaz, you're in charge."
"Yes, Gunny." She responded.
"I don't give a shit what McLain says," she told Harmony and Kaz. "I'm looking for the Shine Clan leader. If I can talk to the person in charge, I'll feel better."
They kept walking and she kept talking. To the men, it seemed like she was babbling, but she was banking on the fact that the Shine Clan could hear her.
"I don't want my people hurt. We didn't come here to cause trouble. We want to get the cyber unit and go home, then everyone's happy."
Kaz and Harmony looked at her like she was crazy. They knew this, why was she telling them something they already knew?
"Gunny?" Kaz sounded worried.
"What?" She stopped babbling long enough to listen to him, but she kept moving.
"The rest of them. Diaz and them. Just like the others."
"What?" She rounded on Kaz who looked at his computer screen helplessly.
"They were there a second ago, then poof! Gone!"
"Thirty people don't go poof!"
"They just did!" Kaz was worried and scared, which made him rather surly.
Feeling surly herself, Fiddlestix grabbed the computer from his hands, nearly dropping it. Aside from the three of them, there were no other life forms showing on the screen.
"Not even a squirrel! You can't tell me on this entire mountain there's no squirrels!" She stopped, lowering her gun, turning in a slow circle. "I don't know what you're playing at, but if anything happens to my people, there will be hell to pay! I promise you that! Just so we're clear, we're here to help you. Or haven't you noticed you've got a passel of crazy, cyber soldiers battering down your back door?"
"Gunny? Are you okay?" Harmony's dark face was clouded with worry.
"I know they're watching, or listening, monitoring us somehow! Come on! Show yourselves! If I wanted to cause you trouble, would I march in here like a fool? Cowards! Hiding under your mountain! Come out!"
Spinning in a low, continuous circle, she bellowed for all she was worth. Hurling insults, she castigated the landscape. Harmony and Kaz looked more and more concerned. Kaz gasped suddenly, pointing over Fiddlestix' left shoulder. She felt a tingling. Moving around so she faced the opposite direction, she kept her hands carefully away from her weapons, motioning her men to do the same. Taking a step forward, she focused on the bracken to the west, waiting.
A moment later, the bushes rustled and men poured forth. They were huge. The smallest of them was well over six feet, dwarfing Harmony, who was six foot seven. Their bodies were muscled in ways that Fiddlestix had never seen before. All of them were tall, buff and disarmingly handsome. None of them were smiling. One man stepped forward, literally toe to toe with Fiddlestix.
Over seven feet tall, he loomed over her. At six three, she was used to looking down on most of her team members. This man made her lean back, gazing at his chin. Despite her irritation and disquietude, her heart fluttered, but not from fear. He was, for lack of a more descriptive term, gorgeous. Built along the lines of a Norse god, his golden blond hair flowed down his back. A tight, narrow braid was knotted with a red strip of leather and tossed casually over his left shoulder. His crystal blue eyes bored into hers.
"I'm here," his voice was deep, husky, musical. His Southern accent was strong, flavoring his words like honey. "I can't say I much appreciate the disparaging remarks about my character, though." His lips made a firm, tight line. A steely glint flickered in the back of his eyes.
"I need to speak to your leader."
Fiddlestix folded her arms across her ample chest, blue eyes flickering around the perimeter of the clearing, taking in the opposition. She counted twenty, but figured there were at least twice that many that she couldn't see.
"I'd like to talk to him," she made it clear she wasn't moving until he granted her what she wanted.
"Look, lady, I don't know who the hell you think you are, but do you know who you're talking to?"
A slightly shorter, man detached himself from the group behind the blond god. He was even more massively built than the other man, dark and brooding. They had to be brothers, there was a strong family resemblance. Especially in that defiant jaw. His eyes were dark chestnut brown, the other man's were a clear, vivid blue with a steely edge.
"I'm Gunnery Sargent Hannah Braun of the North American Army," she began confidently. "I demand to speak...."
"Honey," the dark haired man's brown eyes danced happily. "You're speakin' to him right now. After the noise you made in our woods, do you think anyone else was gonna come? Gunnery Sargent Hannah Braun, meet General Deacon Scott of the Shine Clan."
(For part 3, see http://www.myspace.com/dellanioakes )