The Elect 5, part 3 of 4: Freshman Battle

Karyn felt her body changing, and screamed from the pain. A fire raged in her mind and in her lower parts. Her muscles expanded, like inflating balloons, but it was all mass and muscle, not air. Every ounce of fat was converted and her insides, her organs, began to shrink to be converted to muscle mass as well. Her clothes shredded. Her breasts disappeared into her massive chest. She soon had a forearm that was bigger than Jessica’s waist. She became a male body builder in size and shape, and grew the hair to go with it. Hair sprouted all over her arms, legs and face. She continued to scream from the pain, even when her voice dropped from a feminine timbre to a deep bass. She began to shrivel up on the inside and could not stop it.

. Carl watched, horrified. Terrence watched the change and laughed even when Karyn screamed the words, “Help me! Help me!” There was nothing Carl could do. Karyn lashed out with a fist. Terrence stopped laughing and sprawled back against the bench. He got back up, slowly. Meanwhile, Karyn found a name in the thick fog of pain that had replaced her mind. “Carl, help me!” But there was nothing he could do.ac Karyn end

Karyn’s body was not built for this, for these steroids and this testosterone. It would surely kill her. Her pelvis began to wiggle front to back as if looking for something that did not exist.

Emily ran in. She had to look away, even when Karyn spoke a word of clarity. “Emily, kill me.” Karyn immediately caught on fire, from the inside. She burst into flames and the screaming stopped all at once. They heard a moment of laughter as the body began to shrink again, turned black, and collapsed into a charred ruin.

“Too bad you weren’t here,” Terrence spoke to Emily. “We could have killed two birds with one stone.” Before Emily could pounce, Terrence yelled. “Soldiers, front and ready.” The freshman class came in, but this was not Emily’s freshman class. They were all hulking brutes and when she saw the glazed eyes, she knew they were also mindless. They had all been juiced. Every one of them had a weapon – a club or pipe or whatever blunt thing came to hand. A few had knives, but not many. ac ROTC freshmanEmily recalled that Captain Driver went to Washington and had locked up all the firearms before he left. It did not matter. These mindless brutes would surely kill her, but she was too angry to think about running away.

“Kill her,” Terence finished his thought even as Carl jumped him. Carl would likely lose that fight, but it would be close.

As Emily stood there waiting for the boys to charge, she found people at her back. Lisa, Latasha, Pierce and Tom were all there along with a good half-dozen police officers. Lisa surprised her when she instructed the police officers.

“You have to shoot them like rabid dogs,” she yelled as she pulled and fired her own weapon. A few of the police concurred and several of the hulking, mindless boys went down. But they charged and the two sides met in the middle.

Emily fought like a tigress, like a lioness, like a she-bear defending her cub. She would not let one of the boys near Karyn’s corpse. As the numbers on both sides diminished, Emily took a good look around. Four police officers were down along with Tom and Carl whom she guessed was dead. Carl had a knife in his chest. Terrence was headed for the back door. Rob Parker was on the floor, gasping, but got her attention. He wanted to toss her his gun, but she shook her head and ran. She caught Terrence with his hand on the doorknob and hit him hard enough in the back to crack his shoulder blade. When he spun around to face her, she grabbed his left arm. She bent that back the wrong way at the elbow. She crushed it against a pipe, and Terrence slid to the ground from the pain.ac terrance end

“Enough!” Lisa’s word came over her shoulder and it was sharp. “That is not how we do things!”

Emily said nothing. She just turned and cried into the woman’s shoulder and the woman offered all the comfort she could muster.

Maria and Amina arrived after it was all over. Amina came to hold Maria. Maria wept bitterly. Jessica came in and spied Tom shaking his head in the attempt to sit up. Tom had been knocked unconscious early on in the fight and Emily feared he might be dead. He almost certainly would have been killed if he had not been knocked out. Two of the police officers looked dead and the others groaned on the floor, including Rob Parker. By contrast, Pierce did not appear to have a scratch on him. He fought hard. Emily noticed at several points in the mêlée. She noticed out of fear for his life, but need not have worried. Emily felt glad for that, but hardly had time to ask how he escaped injury as Maria struggled to find her.

With Maria and Emily both in tears, Lisa had to ask Amina. Latasha came up with one of the police Billy clubs in her hand to wait. She looked very solemn.

“Owen,” Amina spoke. “He wrote the endocrine paper that started the research. Professor Hilde is the one.” With that told, Maria collapsed to the floor and wailed. Emily gladly went to the floor and ac amina 3wailed with her until Lisa forced her back to her feet. The ambulances were arriving and more police cars, including some state troopers. It was going to get messy and with Latasha in tow, they had some more work to do.

“His office,” Amina said one last word to the detective before she turned to comfort Maria. Lisa paused to stare at the girl. Emily had to get her moving again with the word, “Later.”

The women went out the back door, right past Terrence who had passed out from his pain. Pierce followed. They ignored him. Lisa only had to show her badge once to get them out of the closing circle of the law, and then she turned to Emily with a question.

“Where?” Lisa needed confirmation.

Emily had long since learned where all the professors lived, as had the detective of course, but that was not what she was being asked. “His office.” Emily did not doubt what Amina knew. Her own guts confirmed it. “He will probably be waiting for Terrence to report back on how his super soldiers made out.”

Lisa agreed and looked at Latasha. “Makes sense to me,” Latasha said, but when Lisa gave her a hard look Latasha paused before she amended her statement. “It feels right.”

The Elect 5, part 2 of 4: Assassins

“Super soldiers.” Maria pushed her idea while she pushed up her glasses, and Emily knew there was merit in the idea but it did not help them identify the perpetrators.

“Most likely,” Emily said. She sounded like Lisa. She ran a hand through her hair to compensate. “But there is something else going on here, too.”

Then they had to sit up and get quiet. Ms Granger came in the room.ab lecture hall 1

After class, Maria brought the latest notes to Professor Hilde. It outlined the information gathered so far on the two football players. Professor Hilde seemed in a pleasant mood. Emily thought he was always pleasant, and such a nice man. She felt sorry that he was disabled, but she said nothing because she knew he did not need her sympathy. Besides, he never acted or sounded like he had a disability.

“You know,” the professor said as he looked at the two girls. “It must be nice to be young and strong. Do enjoy it while you can.”

“Yes, sir.” Emily smiled.

“We will,” Maria said. “And thanks for your help with this.” Both girls felt good about things as they left, even if they were as much in the dark as ever.

Emily could not help speaking up. “I have a feeling we will be getting some answers very soon.”

Very soon turned out to be Thursday after lunch. Tom, Jessica and Maria were walking Emily over to drop her off at ROTC, a route that took them right past the science building. Amina yelled as she came rushing up to the group.

a science 2“Emily run. Men are seeking to kill you.”

Emily heard a thump by her feet. She instinctively shoved everyone back into the bushes even as Owen ran up.

“Emily. They are going to kill you.”

Emily’s first thought was to separate from her friends to put them out of danger. The only way she could reasonably do that was to make a dash for the science building. A half-dozen shots hit the ground around her as she ran, but she could outrun the average runner. The door slowed her down. While she yanked on it, a bullet creased her leg. She dove into the building and ran into the first classroom. The lab room had front windows.

Her second thought was how did Owen know? She might be starting to understand Amina. The girl had a very special gift, but Owen?

She found a white lab coat and tore it in a long strip to wrap her leg. Her eyes peered out at the lawn. Students walked by, unaware of what was happening because the gunmen had silencers. She could not tell that anything was happening by looking, until she spied four older men dressed like students talking and staring at the building. One of the men pointed to the building and two began to walk casually in her direction.

Emily wasted no time. She took three lighters used to light Bunsen burners and quickly taped them a science lab 1to the floor where the door would open and make them spark. She shut the door and opened every gas line in the lab room, wide. She kicked the screen from the side window and closed the window behind her on her way out.

By the time the men arrived, some alarm had started going off. Emily ignored it. She was already sneaking through the bushes and did not even flinch when there was an explosion in that room. The two men that were still outside looked up, surprised. Emily got to surprise them more.

Disarming them seemed easy enough. The close one held his gun loosely. She managed to knock it to the ground and knock him away. The other still had his gun holstered. She had to tackle him and rip the gun free. It ended up flying into the bushes, but then since she sat on top she had the leverage to give him one good punch.

She rolled off and clawed at the gun that was in the dirt, but the other man had gotten up and began to go after the same thing. They fought on their knees and with their shoulders until Emily managed to push forward. Her fingers touched the weapon, but she found herself grabbed from behind and it stopped her forward progress. She yelled for strength. Owen, Maria, Amina and Jessica tried to pull the man off her while Tom landed his football best on the one she had punched. The man let Emily go, but Maria got a fist, Amina ducked, Owen ended up in the bushes and Jessica found her rump in the mud. The one Tom flattened put up a struggle.

ac jessica 8“Eew!” Jessica complained about the mud.

Emily grabbed the gun even as the man turned to run and the other man got to his feet to run as well, having violently pushed Tom off. Emily fired twice. Both men went down when the bullets struck their legs. One stayed on the ground, but the other got up and tried to limp off so Tom had to tackle him again.

Pierce came up at that point and Emily tossed him the gun. She felt determined to get some answers this time before the police or firefighters or Bernie the campus cop arrived and took over. She completely forgot about the two in the building.

Pierce saw them. One staggered, but the other went for his weapon. Pierce fired first. It went straight to the heart and the man spun and died on his way to the ground. The other looked up, dropped his gun and threw his hands into the air.

“Pierce!” Emily was surprised.ab surrender 1

Pierce did not waver in holding his gun on the man but spoke to Emily. “I came to tell you someone attacked Professor Swenson.” He took a breath. “She is fine but says she has some information for you.”

“Bernie!” Emily’s voice was full of ROTC leadership. Bernie came up huffing and puffing. She took the gun from Pierce’s hand, put it in Bernie’s hand, and spoke again. “Tom, Owen, beat some truth out of these men before the police get here. Amina and Jessica, listen carefully to what they say. I want to know who hired and sent them. Maria, you’re with me. Oh, we need to find some ice. Looks like you might get a good black eye.” She added the comment before she turned to Pierce. “Lead the way.”

Pierce smiled broadly. “I like it when you get all commanding,” he said. Emily did not know what to say, but she did not have to speak as Pierce turned and trotted off and Maria and Emily had to keep up.

###

ab bench 1They found Swenson on the other side of the science building by the construction mess, sitting on a bench that had not yet been removed. The professor, red faced, needed the air. Doctor Zimmer sat with her and patted her hand. He looked very uncomfortable.

Emily’s first words were, “Are you alright?” but as soon as Professor Swenson nodded Emily added, “What did you find out?”

“Frederick and your young Mister Davis saved my life.” Professor Swenson put her hand to her chest and breathed as deeply as she could.

“The young man who attacked her had a gun,” Doctor Zimmer said between pats, an activity he stopped as soon as Maria sat on Professor Swenson’s other side and took her other hand. Professor Swenson turned her head and smiled at Maria.ab backhoe

“I got lucky,” Pierce volunteered before Emily asked. “It was one of your ROTC freshmen, I believe.”

Emily looked Pierce in the eyes and the first thing that came to her mind was Terrence carefully examining her work on that first night outside the library. He watched when the geeks invaded the TKE house. He also stood around outside the sorority house. He said helping was not his job. And the freshmen answered to Lieutenant Terrence. But murder?

“I have to go,” Emily said suddenly. She backed away. “Take care of her and Maria, get that information.” She ran.

The Elect 4, part 3 of 4: More Questions

Julie got in touch with Maria on Sunday morning. Lisa called Emily shortly after, so the two girls footed it down to the medical examiner’s office. Emily walked in silence, still in a fog, thinking about Pierce.

“One minute,” Julie made them wait when they arrived. She got on the phone. Another minute passed before Lisa came down the stairs and Julie took them all into the back. They found another body, the shriveled, mummified kind, not the cut to pieces kind, only this one was male.ac julie7

“He died Thursday night or Friday morning.”

“Starting a new pattern?” Maria asked.

“I bet there are more bodies buried around the campus, only we haven’t found them,” Emily thought aloud. She wondered briefly if Amina could find them, but decided it would not be nice to ask the girl. It would probably be a hard and disturbing job.

“More than likely several buried bodies,” Lisa said as Ashish finally joined them with a tray full of coffee cups from the donut shop down the street. Emily declined, though she looked through the box of donuts. Maria partook. Lisa treated it like the elixir of life. Julie said thanks, but did not touch it. She still had her examination gloves on.

“So what’s the story?” Ashish asked.

“We don’t know yet. But I ran some tests this time that I did not run before.” She pointed at Maria. “I sent them to your Professor Hilde for verification.”

“Well?” Lisa turned to the girls as she sipped.

ab donut boxEmily hedged. “I could talk to Professor Swenson again.” Emily had no plans to see her advisor, if she could help it, but this was important. “She may have dug up something, or might if she had a little nudge.”

“Zimmer seems a dead end,” Maria said. “And I suppose it wouldn’t be worthwhile getting the gang to dig holes around the campus looking for bodies.”

“No.” Ashish agreed.

“You know,” Emily still hedged. “I can’t imagine these adrenaline freaks and zombies are happening outside the biology department. We have all thought and said that one or more of these professors has to be involved.”

“Maybe,” Lisa now hedged in return as she shook her head. “But we are watching them and they all checked out squeaky clean. I even had our sister in Washington dig as deep as she could and nothing.”

“You have a sister in Washington?” Maria asked.

“My sister, too,” Emily said and Maria understood.

“Mainly I just wanted you to see for yourselves so you start keeping your eyes and ears open again. We had a couple of quiet weeks, but something tells me things are heating up.”

“I was just thinking the same thing,” Emily admittedac latasha 7

The sound of yelling on the stairs grabbed their attention. Latasha burst into the room followed by an irate police officer. Latasha yelled. “Am I late? What did I miss? Oh, coffee!” She grabbed the last one.

###

The next couple of weeks stayed relatively quiet. Emily kept telling herself she had to keep an eye on Pierce, so she and Pierce had several dates. Though she never got over her suspicions, she never asked and she tried hard not to let it come between them. They went to a couple of movies, had dinner at the Hive—just the two of them. The Undead played again. They hung out at the library together, and Jessica even took Emily shopping and helped her buy a couple of new outfits. She got dresses and skirts of course, but Emily decided she did not mind as long as she dressed for Pierce. Pierce and Emily kissed plenty, and Emily noticed the more they kissed, the more he improved. They also began to explore each other through touching and holding and just being together. Emily was not one to jump into bed, but she already believed they would end up there, eventually.

Maria had a single room by then. Gloria had moved in with a couple of guys across town. Gloria was the jump into bed type, though Maria made no comment about it. She just felt glad to have the free space and some peace and quiet.

ac rotc emily 1Karyn and Carl had been getting along great for a while. Emily accused Karyn of fraternizing, but Karyn said when they went out she was not in uniform so it was not a problem.

“But he is still your superior officer.”

“But we don’t wear uniforms so how would I know?”

“You sound like Jessica,” Emily concluded.

Tom and Jessica actually broke up for three days. Jessica called it fun when they got back together. Owen did not come around much, but that seemed fine. All the girls caught up in their classes and Ms Granger gave Emily a “B” on a paper. All felt right with the world for the first three weeks of October. After that, life started to get strange again.

Thursday afternoon ROTC got interesting. Captain Driver put everyone in sweats and brought them out into the gym where the mats had already been laid out. Emily saw Terrence waiting there, dressed and ready to rumble. He had his fingerless football gloves on to protect his hands. He stared at Emily with his meanest stare and once even made a fist and punched it softly into his other hand. Emily inwardly rolled her eyes at the cliché.

“Hand to hand,” Captain Driver began, and Emily started to get up. “Sit down, Hudson,” the captain surprised her. “We can’t afford to lose out tight end at this point in the season.”ac rotc williams 2

“Coach! I mean, Captain!” Terrence spouted in protest but Captain Driver ignored him

“Miss Wilson, will you step up here.”

Karyn stood but looked around and pointed at herself with serious questions on her face before she pulled herself together, stepped to the front and went to attention.

“She is not the smallest in the class, but I am sure some of you are thinking she’s just a girl.” A few eyes shot to Emily. They certainly knew better than to think of Emily that way. “But I am here to demonstrate that even being just a girl is no disadvantage if you know what you are doing.”

Karyn acquitted herself well. Emily felt proud of her. The class by then had been reduced to sixteen plus two, and Emily imagined they might lose a couple more before the second semester but most of the rest would stick it out for the year. After that, the class seemed relatively normal. Emily got ac rotc fight 1Carl for a sparring partner. She tried not to hurt him and made sure he had some opportunities to show off as well. Terrence had to walk around and teach, but he could not help giving Emily a mean stare at every opportunity. Emily could see the steam come from the man’s ears. She smiled, but only on the inside.

###

After class, Karyn said she needed a long shower and a long rest. That left Maria and Emily to visit Professor Swenson, and Owen came this time to tag along. When they stood outside and knocked, Emily imagined Swenson might not be there since there no response came at first. Meanwhile, Doctor Zimmer stood outside his door and stared at them. Morgan Granger stood outside Professor Hilde’s door and stared from the other direction.

“Laser beams,” Owen mumbled as Professor Swenson opened her door and the three tumbled in.

“I thought my hair might catch on fire,” Emily agreed.

“What is that?” Professor Swenson asked as she sat at her desk, but she did not expect an answer as she went right in to the information. “When you called, I was reminded of something I read last year. If I recall, a freshman paper. You know, I don’t usually read freshman papers until the spring semester, but you got me curious.” She looked up at Emily. “I got the fax from Julie Tam. ac swensons office 2Fascinating case.” She looked back at her computer screen. “Unfortunately, I have nothing yet to tell you. I wish I did.” She looked up again. “Did Professor Hilde get the fax?”

“Yes,” Maria confirmed.

“Well, good. Maybe we can engage in a little old fashioned academic competition and see who comes up with the answers first.”

Emily stood, so the others stood.

“Emily. I have your number. I will call as soon as I find what I am looking for.” The professor got absorbed again in her computer and moved her hand to wave good-bye but never moved her eyes from the screen.

Emily opened the door slowly and looked first. The hall looked empty. When they stepped out and closed the door behind them, Maria complained. “Well that was a big fat nothing.”

“Hey, Emily.” Pierce came to the hall from the stairs. “Guys, I found something.” He waved to them so they followed.

“What is it?” Emily asked as they rushed down the stairs. Pierce did not respond. He simply took them out the back door to the construction site where they worked on extending the building. At ab backhoepresent, it looked like just a big hole in the dirt. Pierce waved to the man in the backhoe. The man waved back and used the machine to remove the grating from a certain spot. They heard sirens in the distance. A very old woman had been buried in the dirt. The curious and slightly disturbing thing was her eyes were open, staring. Emily instinctively reached for the long knife, which she had removed from her thigh and stitched into a new pocket in her jacket. She still worried about the zombies. This old woman, however, never moved, and without movement, Emily decided it was safe to hold on to Pierce.

“I’m sorry. But I knew you would want to know.” He kissed her forehead. That made her forget all about the old woman and wonder where else he might be willing to kiss her.

The Elect 3, part 2 of 4: The Rifle Range

Thursday afternoon ROTC had time on the firing range in town. Normally ROTC consisted of class work in leadership, military operations and tactics, army customs and traditions and a whole section on goal setting. The physical part remained important, but got interspersed, with most of the time spent in the classroom. Captain Driver, however, seemed determined to weed out the weak and hopefully the women as quickly as possible, so he top loaded the class with activities like long hikes, running, drills, and the obstacle course and firing range. It seemed to be working. The boys in the class were down from twenty-one to eighteen.

“You should have become familiar with this weapon over the summer.” Captain Driver paused to look at ac rifle range 2his roster, as if he did not already have a victim in mind. “Miss Hudson, please come up here and show us what you know about the weapon.”

Emily already got up before he spoke. It took her a whole hour over the summer to master the weapon, all the parts, and how to break it down and put it back together. It took some of the others days with the manual in front of their faces. Some never did figure it out. Emily went right into it. She snapped it apart, named every piece, its function and how to clean and care for it, and snapped it back together in short order.

Terrence put his head in his hand and shook his head. Carl stared, open mouthed, but he was getting used to it and did not hesitate to glance at Karyn. Karyn grinned broadly, not the least because Captain Driver picked on Emily instead of her. Karyn could have handled the weapon, but not nearly as well or close to as fast, and she probably would have forgotten some of the parts and other relevant information. Captain Driver actually smiled.

“Knowing the weapon and being able to use it may be two different things. Miss Hudson, if you would not mind continuing the lesson on the range.” It was not a request.

“Sir, yes sir.”

ac rifle range 4On the range, Emily went through the proper procedure for firing the weapon and for gun safety in general. She might as well have been reading it from the textbook except she showed and did not just tell. When she got ready, Captain Driver handed her a clip with three bullets in it. “Just try to hit the target,” he said.

“Sir, yes sir.” Emily turned and fired three shots with hardly a breath between. Then she stomped her foot and made a face before she returned to an attitude of attention. “Sir, my apologies, sir. Only two hit the bulls-eye.” One hit the edge but it was hardly a miss by much.

Captain Driver stepped up and whispered. “Is there anything you are not good at?”

“Sir, no sir,” Emily whispered in return.

Then it became everyone’s turn. There were only ten rifles for twenty students and most of the time got spent taking them apart and putting them back together, learning the various parts and practicing gun safety. Not many shots were actually fired that day, nor was that necessarily a bad thing for freshmen.

Emily relaxed and watched most of the time. She helped when she was asked, and that was often enough. The staff might have problems with her, but the company respected her. She spent the rest of her time hanging out at the office. The range manager, a kindly old man, had some interesting stories about the police when they came in, especially the rookies, and some about housewives, particularly those forced to come by their husbands.

The man was telling a particular juicy story about a gentleman who shot himself in both feet when Detective Schromer showed up. The detective had her nose in the air and asked what that foul smell might be.ac lisa a3

“I smelled it, too,” Emily said. “But I didn’t think anything of it. I thought it was just the local sewer plant.”

“Hudson!” Terrence called out and Captain Driver came up to the office. Emily came to attention.

“Sir, Detective Schromer, local police, sir,” she said. “Captain Driver, my commanding officer.”

“Ma’am.” Captain Driver was respectful to the policewoman who spoke before he could give Emily a different order.

“I need to borrow Emily for a few minutes. Please excuse us.” Lisa grabbed Emily by the elbow and dragged her to the firing range while two things happened. Several people screamed, and the office manager shouted.

“Bill? That can’t be you. We buried you last week.” He stared in horror over Captain Driver’s shoulder and slammed the office door in the captain’s face. Then Lisa said something that frightened Emily half to death before it made her laugh, nervously.

zombie 3Zombies.”

The Elect 1, part 3 of 4: Obstacles and Opportunities

Monday morning, the ROTC schedule took Emily to the obstacle course. Captain Driver said he wanted to get times recorded that he could compare with the end of the year when the students will hopefully be in better shape and improved on the course. Karyn got very nervous, but Carl took her out there illegally on Sunday afternoon and let her practice. Something seemed to be budding between those two, Emily thought and smiled.

In contrast to Karyn and the boys, Emily relaxed. The course consisted of running through old tires, climbing up and down nets and walls, swinging on ropes over the cliché mud pit. It tested things like coordination, agility and dexterity, not just speed and strength. In all, it did not appear too daunting.

“Course record?” Lieutenant Terrence snuck up to her and whispered.ab obstacle course 1

Emily turned and looked up at the man. “Not this time. I have to hold back so I can show improvement at the end of the year.” She walked away quickly to get in line for her turn.

They went three at a time. Karyn finished last in her group but that landed her among the middle time slots. Emily felt surprisingly pushed, but held back at the end to come in second. Unfortunately, it also put her time second in the class. When Captain Driver came up to stare at her, Emily spoke first.

“Quality competition can sometimes help a person do their best.” Clearly, the captain put her in between two ringers—the two who tested at the top while she stayed busy the other day holding the flag. The captain’s facial expression changed from harsh to thoughtful as she spoke. He nodded and turned away without a word.

Lieutenant Terrence slid up and whispered again. “Second in the class? I thought you were going to hold back.”

“I did,” Emily said and let him think about it while she grabbed Karyn to go to the showers.

Karyn and Emily arrived back at the dorm to find Maria and Jessica waiting, Jessica staring at her watch. “I have to meet Thomas for lunch,” she said, though they still had a good hour before lunch.

Maria ignored her. She seemed excited and held up her papers. “I talked to Julie Tam at the medical examiner’s office. I said I was helping you and she faxed over this information. I said I had in mind to pass it by the professors here and see what they thought. She called that an excellent idea.”

a science 2“Which professors?” Karyn asked. Emily got busy thinking about it. She kept trying to listen to her intuition like Lisa said and something said one of these professors might be involved. In fact, she felt rather sure of it, but that did not feel like the time to make wild accusations.

“Why, biology, of course. I made an appointment with Doctor Zimmer, my advisor. Emily, you can talk to Swenson and we can both corner Hilde in class. Come on.” She started to walk. Jessica followed, but Karyn looked at Emily.

“I don’t—” Emily started to speak but Maria interrupted by shouting back.

“Come on. Zimmer’s appointment is in five minutes and late means no appointment with the turd. Besides, Pierce will be there.”

Emily bit her lip while she and Karyn followed.

Once up on the second floor, Emily began to have second thoughts but she could hardly pursue them before they ran into Morgan Granger. The woman came out of Professor Hilde’s office and blocked their way for a moment.

“Maria,” Ms Granger acknowledged her good student before she turned to Emily. “Help class is over.”

“ROTC,” Emily said, quietly.

“Yes. Well, we all have to make choices. It is a shame we can’t do everything we want in college.” Ms Granger shoved passed to get to the stairs. Maria spoke when the stairwell door closed.

“I bet she deliberately scheduled the help time when she knew you were busy.”a science hall 3

“Stop, you’ll make me paranoid,” Emily said as she stuck her head in Professor Swenson’s open door and said, “Hi.”

Professor Swenson had her eyes absorbed in a paper on her desk. A man in a uniform sat in the corner. Emily guessed army, but she did not catch the rank in the darkened room. Professor Swenson’s hand came up and waved, though her eyes never left the paper. When the group moved on to knock on Doctor Zimmer’s door, they heard Professor Swenson’s door shut tight.

“What?” The word from the other side of the door sounded sharp. Maria opened the door a crack and spoke.

“Doctor Zimmer? Maria Rios. We have an appointment.”

As Maria opened the door wide, they saw Doctor Zimmer at his desk look at his watch, the clock on the wall, and finally his calendar. “This has to be quick, I have another appointment shortly.”

“I was wondering if you would give these papers a look and offer your opinion.”

“Papers? Why do you think I have a teaching assistant?” He threw his hands at the corner where Pierce had been reading. Pierce put down his book when they came in and stared at Emily. Emily tried to ignore the stare, and tried extra hard not to stare back.

“These are from the medical examiner. There have been three people murdered on campus in a most unusual way.”

ab zimmers office 2Doctor Zimmer grabbed the papers and quickly perused them. “Interesting,” he said. He looked up sharply. “Am I a suspect?”

“No, sir,” Emily spoke because Pierce’s stare made her think all sorts of wrong thoughts. “You are an expert and we value your expert opinion.”

“Because I gave up my medical practice years ago.” Doctor Zimmer finished his thought. “Everyone I treated died.” That was his attempt at humor. He cleared his throat and looked again at the papers before he handed them back to Maria. “Tell your Examiner to check the endocrine system. Blood isn’t good for much except for transfusions and maybe vampires.” He smiled. It looked unnatural, a Morgan Granger frightening kind of smile. “Waste liquid is good for less unless someone is trying to build a better fertilizer. Tell him to check the glands, particularly the hypothalamus, thyroid and adrenal glands. A person might be interested in those hormones and secretions. Someone might be working on a cure for cancer for all we know.” He shrugged.

“Heavy price to pay,” Emily responded.

“Perhaps,” Doctor Zimmer sounded noncommittal. “In any case, not my field. I am strictly genetics and bioengineering these days. Professor Swenson teaches anatomy and could better tell you about the endocrine system, and Professor Hilde is the biochemist. They are the ones you should be talking to. Now please leave. My appointment should be here any minute.”

The girls turned. Jessica had her mouth open at the rudeness of the man. They went to the hall and shut the door behind them even as the army officer exited Professor Swenson’s room. The Colonel, and he gave the girls a friendly salute. Karyn looked inclined to snap to attention, but she was not in uniform. Besides, the Colonel’s eyes stayed on Jessica who had squeezed into her shortest and best hooker outfit, and was busting out all over.ac pierce 2

They whispered and walked slowly toward the exit. Emily dragged her feet to watch and to no surprise, the Colonel knocked on Doctor Zimmer’s door. “Come in.” She heard Pierce’s voice and stopped when Pierce came out to the hall and ran after her.

“Emily.” She was the one he came after and her heart jumped once or twice. “I was wondering if maybe we could go for coffee or something, sometime.”

She wanted to shout, “Yes!” But for some reason, her mouth betrayed her. “I don’t really drink coffee.” Pierce pulled back and she felt it. “But I love tea and anytime would be fine.” She felt him come back a little. “I would enjoy that.” He returned all the way and his smile showed it.

“Saturday night at the Hive.” Jessica stood over Emily’s shoulder. “We are all going and Emily needs a date.”

“Jessica!” Karyn and Maria pulled her back to the stairs.

“Would you let me be your date on Saturday?” The hope was there again.

“Yes.” The yes came, but it came out as a whisper, not the shout Emily felt.

Jessica broke free and butted in again. She handed Pierce a small piece of paper. “Her phone number.”

ac emily 2“I have to go,” Emily said and wanted to turn but again her feet would not work.

“Me, too.” Pierce started down the hall, but he walked backwards to Zimmer’s door. “I’ll call you.” He grinned and waved the paper before he went into the office. Emily felt sure she was grinning too and was not surprised when Karyn and Maria each took an arm and turned her around toward the stairs.

“You were staring,” Maria said.

“Staring?” Jessica disagreed. “She was drooling.”

The Elect, the beginning, post 5 of 8: ROTC

The ROTC freshman class was designed to weed out the ranks. The sophomore class had fifteen and the upper class had just twelve juniors and seniors combined. The freshmen class had twenty-three.

Weeding out the ranks was one of Captain Driver’s innovations. Emily had not met Captain Driver yet, but she spent two weeks in the summer at a kind of boot camp. Thus the short hair. Yes, she put a red streak in it after camp, but that would go when her hair got cut again. Meanwhile, she heard that Captain Driver could be hard but fair. An expert at readiness training, he served a tour with the 82nd Airborne Division in his youth. She also heard he was not a fan of women in the ranks, but she would deal with that if it came up.

Emily did ROTC the last two years in high school, so she knew the drill. She still played soccer then, but had given up on most other sports. She felt an attraction instead to the military and knew she could be good at it. Whether it went further than a couple years of ROTC at the university remained to be seen. She honestly felt interested in nursing.ac rotc 3

Getting into formation in that big, echo-filled gymnasium was not a breeze, but not too bad for a first day. Emily landed in the front row, of course, with the only other woman, Karyn. The class had twenty-one young men, but the odds were worse than biology. More than likely, half would not return for their sophomore year. They stood at attention while Captain Driver introduced his hard, no-nonsense attitude, and then introduced his staff. “Our senior representative is Lieutenant Terrence Williams who most of you will know as tight end for our very successful football team, and our junior is Sergeant Carl Baker. You will take their orders like you take mine. Is that clear?”

“Sir, yes sir.”

Emily stole a glance at the big tight end. He stared right at her while Carl kept his eyes on Karyn. Unfortunately, the captain caught her eye movement, like he just waited for one of the women to mess up.

“Soldier!” He shouted and came right up to her face. Actually, he looked down at her, as most of the people there would. “Is there something about my officers I should know?”

“Sir, no sir.”

The captain waved to the two men and they stepped up while he never turned his eyes from staring down at his captive. Emily kept her eyes straight-ahead, as she should, and only saw Williams and Baker move into her peripheral vision. They all towered over her and all had to be over six feet. Lieutenant Williams alone had to be six-three or bigger.

ac rotc karyn“You are a little girl.” Captain Driver frowned at her. He had to choose his words so carefully. She stood five-six which might not exactly be small for a woman, though not exactly big, either. Karyn stood more like five-ten, and was big besides—not fat, but built more like an athlete than a ballerina.

“You would not even make a tiny, little blip on a radar screen,” the captain went on and lifted his hand to pinch his finger in her sight so she could see how small she was. “You need to listen real good to this. You will receive no special treatment in this command. You will maintain discipline at all times. You will receive no special favors for being a little blip on the radar screen so do not ask for any. You will keep up with the men at all times and in all levels or you will be out. Is that clear?”

“Sir, yes sir.”

Captain Driver shifted his eyes at last to look at Karyn. Emily felt the relief from the pressure but wondered briefly if there might be a hole in the top of her head. “And is that clear to you soldier?”

“Sir, yes sir.” Karyn’s answer came out clear and crisp. She practiced that all summer.

“Well, in that case you two can be our color guard today.” He backed up and the others backed up with him. “Fall out and fetch the flags.” He looked toward the end of the room. Emily ran to the American flag. Karen got the regimental flag, which was just the university flag with ROTC attached. Carl stepped out from the group.

“Right here.” He pointed to the place beside him. “Hustle, hustle.” The girls ran and fortunately neither tripped nor touched their flags to the ground. That may have been what the officers looked for, but the girls were careful and held their flags out at the correct angle as they had been taught over the summer, so Captain Driver had no reason to complain.

Lieutenant Williams brought the company to attention to salute the flags while Carl played a recording of a very slow and drawn out version of the Star Spangled Banner. When the song finished, Captain Driver made the girls remain in place, the flags at a thirty-degree angle, while the rest of the company stood at ease.ac rotc flag

“Lieutenant Williams and Sergeant Baker will remain behind. You two need to hold those flags until told to stop. The rest of you men follow me.” The captain jogged out of the building and the twenty-one sort of bunched up at the door but eventually made it outside. Once they left, Terrence and Carl got out two folding chairs, a card table and a deck of cards. Carl also got the soft drinks. They ignored the girls and passed only quiet whispers between them.

After about five more minutes, Karyn wanted to complain. Her arms were not built to hold steady like that for so long. The flag had not been especially heavy at first but it grew heavier by the second. She finally dared a whisper.

“You all right?”

Emily thought about it. She had gotten herself into a place, mentally, where she hardly felt the weight. She supposed it could be something like a meditative trance. She did not know she could do that, exactly, but as with many things lately, she could look back at high school and see where the seeds had been planted.

“Fine,” she said. “For now.” She did not want Karyn to feel bad if she started to feel the strain.

“I bet you can hold it a long time.”

“What?”

“I heard you took out two men with knives.”

Emily shouted and turned her head. “What?” Who had not heard? She snapped back to attention, but too late.

“One demerit,” Lieutenant Williams said with a click of his tongue.

“Permission to speak, sir.” Karyn spoke right up.

“Granted.” The Lieutenant said as he laid down a card.

“I should get the demerit, sir. I provoked her.”

Carl reached out to the Lieutenant and shook his head. Lieutenant Williams spoke. “Okay, no demerits, only don’t let it happen again.”

ac rotc emily 1“Permission to speak, sir.” Karyn had something more to say.

“What?” The word sounded sharp.

“Where has the rest of the company been taken?”

Lieutenant Williams smiled to himself while Carl spoke. “They have gone to the obstacle course to practice. Don’t worry, you will get a chance at the time trials.”

“Of course, you won’t have the practice so it will be hard for you to do well, but I can’t help that,” Lieutenant Williams said. His smile suggested that he thought the girls not doing well was a good idea.

“Permission to speak freely, sir.” Emily felt the urge to counter that smile.

“What?” The word sounded curious.

“I’ll set the course record, sir.”

Carl laughed, and so did Lieutenant Williams. Then Lieutenant Williams raised an eyebrow, wondering if she might do that very thing.

An hour later, when the troops returned, Karyn had long since given up and sat quietly on the bench. She had put her flag back and taken her demerits with pride. They said she about beat the record. Emily, of course, remained in place at attention, her flag held at just the right angle. Captain Driver looked dumbfounded. He had to call Emily twice to get her attention and on the second call, Lieutenant Williams started to slap her. Emily caught and stopped the man’s hand cold with her own hand. Only one hand remained on the flag, but it never wavered.ac rotc wiliams 1

“Are we done now?” she asked, which did not come out sounding very military, but she only got one reaction from the captain.

“We are done.”

Emily put her flag back, went into the women’s locker room, showered, changed, and walked slowly back to her room. Her arms ached all the way through her shoulders, down her back to her feet. She had a lot to think about. Just exactly what all might be involved in being one of the elect?

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Note: If you missed the first posts in this story, are starting late, or have just discovered the work, the first 4 posts are an easy find. Look under recent posts and you will find parts 1, 2, 3, and 4 listed as clickable links. Happy reading