Haze Gray 1
Haze gray and underwear in a twist
At least everyone else's. Taylor lay, on her back, on the cool, undulating, January sea rising and falling metronomically. Why you ask? Well on her back so she could watch the sky. It's what her class did. When they weren't having point blank surface engagements, or half of them sinking, anyway. When they were out of range of land targets anyhow. She snorted and let the undulations of the moderate swell continue to relax her.
She was going to have to go back. Face the music and all that. Her boilers were just idling along running her turbo generators and keeping enough rpms to provide steerage and keep her bow into the waves. Her boilers! She had to to keep from fouling her streamed hydrophone arrays. And wasn't that just the topping on the cake, hundreds of systems and she used them all never having even heard of them before. Well, up until now? Plus gas turbines? Those burned the fuel and fed the boilers? That wasn't a thing was it?
She also needed some fuel. The crude she had filched from that super tanker loading/unloading platform was a little urpy, Not Navy Special by any means her engineer, the amalgamation of every chief engineer who had ever served on a USN cruiser, and all their knowledge, had gravely informed her by standing on her shoulder and saying 'hey' while she tried to suck that half a meter metal pipe flat like a kindergarten paper Hi C straw. Which, how? Why? Aside from the fact that that 'Hey' had included the information about being able to run it in the gas turbines even if the oil injectors for the boilers wouldn't like it. Which what, and how do you get that much information in three letters and one syllable.
Apparently, her crew complement included the amalgamation of everyone who had served on, designed, built, supplied, and maybe looked at a USN all gun cruiser of any description, ever. There were some missile drivers in there too. Getting the hell ribbed out of themselves and handed pilots wings and stuff. It was pretty funny, some of it.
It was a bit strange, part of the reason she was out here in international waters, uh, well, hiding really. She had been stuffed in that locker by her bullies and she had had enough. She triggered, if this was what all triggers were like it was no wonder parahumans turned in to villains. Seriously, she had been wallowing in misery and self-pity one minute, demolishing her locker, then the school the next, then running when she heard the sirens, after getting her crew back aboard where they had all jumped off her and started stealing cell phones. Maybe wallets. some pens, a few backpacks, everything really. Then she took off, who knew she could run that fast. A little slow at the start, but as her boilers came up to pressure, gas turbines up to speed? Man! Right off the end of a pier and then the odd skating over the top of the water and hadn't that been a shock.
She hadn't really been in control of any of that other than the urge to run. Sure 'don't run from the police if you haven't done anything wrong' phhht. Real life was a bit different. Running was good. Especially at an indicated thirty-four knots. Especially if you were a little nuts from suddenly knowing thousands of life stories of sailors from world wars, police actions, keeping the peace and then gah!
All that with one part of your brain while the other part processed information gained from passive and active sensors across the spectrum of radiated energy.
One tiny little part of yourself off in the corner being terrified.
Turns out Emma had been right once in her life, calling her a cape nerd had been right on the money and that nerdiness was telling her she was a tinker, thinker, master. Right now, she was monitoring FM, AM and UHF communication, keeping radar and sonar surveillance and building a still to distill the thirty-seven hundred tons of light sweet crude she had sucked out of that pipe. Or her tiny little minions were, some of them, others were cooking, cleaning, maintaining equipment, cutting hair, getting haircuts, running the laundry, reading, taking apart cell phones and building an internet connection, using one of the phones to break into the PRT communications network, wait what? Where the hell had a Dragon tech Smart Phone tm come from? Who in Winslow public high school had one of those? Even Emma had an iPhone. The latest iPhone, but still that didn't touch a Dragon tech phone. Plus, what the hell? How were they doing this stuff? How did they know? She certainly wasn't an electronics nerd. 'Hey'
Taylor blinked at the officer standing on her left boob, a much more substantial boob than she had had this morning. Pretty amazing really. Hips too. Flat belly, more filled out legs, some pretty serious arms, a gun show even. All covered in Khaki. 'Hey!'
"Fine Chief, electrician's mates, fire controlmen, engineers. So a whole bunch of nerds."
"Not much else to do at sea. Right." She watched the tiny senior enlisted man of her crew nod and then disappear into her cleavage "Hey! What the actual fuck? Powers suck."
Taylor perked up as she heard 'Surface contact bearing 098, range twenty-two miles, course 262.' then she panicked a bit, that was heading right for her. Maybe why her crew alerted her to it as apart from the other thousands of contacts they were tracking from whales to airliners in the mid atlantic. Oh, whales, cool. Wait were they... Taylor blushed. Gah! Surface contact headed for her! She stood up and started skating toward the contact. "We'll close to visual range." She blinked and squirmed in her khakis a bit as the crew came to general quarters.
After maneuvering for a few minutes, she took the M19 binoculars she was handed. Looking through them she nodded "Costal container lighter. Didn't think they came this far out."
An officer holding a tiny cell phone and M32 binoculars standing on her shoulder nodded 'Hey.'
"Smuggler. Maybe. Not our job though. We kind of have enough problems right now."
The Captain nodded 'Hey.'
Taylor nodded, she turned and adopted a skating motion as the crew stood down.
Armsmaster, leader of the Protectorate ENE and a tinker, growled and reran the measurement. He checked the progress of the full diagnostic he was running on his power armor again and keyed up the results from the redundant system on his tinker tech motorcycle. He growled when those systems showed the same result.
"Colin? What are you doing?" A picture appeared in the corner of his HUD, the video image of a woman.
"Investigating the destruction of a high school. Or a portion of it."
Dragon, the young woman in the video, a Canadian tinker and member of the guild, perhaps the best tinker in the world, blinked "Casualties?"
"None yet. Of course, the administration is so inefficient they can't even tell who was on site when the incident occurred and have no idea where eighty six percent of the students went. All of the staff are accounted for. One of them is being treated for chest pains."
Dragon blinked "So a new trigger?"
Armsmaster nodded nearly imperceptibly "Most probably. Something is interfering with my instruments, I am attempting to measure these holes punched in everything from the principles leased Audi to reinforced concrete walls and keep getting different readings from seven point six two millimeters to three hundred and five millimeters."
"Hmmm. The trace readings indicate propellants rather than explosives. Mainly."
Armsmaster grimaced "Which one though."
Dragon laughed "Apparently all of them, at least all the known US and British ones from the nineteen twenties to now. Cordite N even, that was imported to the US from Canada during the second world war. That is if these values are correct."
Armsmaster sighed "Which is suspect as I cannot get a reading on these perforations that stays consistent from one reading to the next."
Dragon nodded "What about the marks in the asphalt and on the concrete?"
"Made by both something weighing from seven thousand to thirty five thousand tons and with a diameter of from under two meters to over three and multiples from two to four."
In the video Dragon nodded as she looked off to the side and appeared to be typing. Then she giggled "You are looking for a cruiser. From an Omaha class to a Des Moines class and including an Alaska class."
"That's not funny."
Dragon laughed "Occam's Razor."
Miss Militia, second in command of the Protectorate east north east looked at Armsmaster and shook her head. Ruby Gonzales, one of the strike team commanders of the PRT ENE looked at her and shrugged "Maybe he is arguing with somebody in his power armor, maybe he hasn't finally gone over the edge and turned into Robbie the robot. If he turns around and starts yelling about 'danger Will Robinson' I'm foaming him though."
Miss Militia gave a startled laugh. Then sighed. "So what do you think happened?"
Ruby shrugged "Teenagers are shitheads. They triggered someone. Lucky shitheads because there are no teenagers smeared over the whole neighborhood." She pointed at the holes in the reinforced concrete walls of the former fallout and bomb shelter, it was built in those times and government funding equaled civil defense use, school building "That's eight inch, five inch, no idea what that is, sixteen inch AP maybe, bigger than eight anyway, forty mike mike there, twenty mike mike, ma deuce, rifle. Whoever they triggered is a bolo or a kanmusu. Not killing any of these shitheads even by accident took some skill."
"Can't wait to see her outfit. If she is carrying sixteen inch rifles she is going to have boobs for days and a butt that never ends. Course she will be like twelve or some shit so jailbait for years. Good eye candy though."
Miss Militia shook her head "And if she is a Bolo?"
"Don't wreck my dreams, no hellbore impact marks and the ruins aren't radioactive." Miss Militia gaped at her "Lesbian, why I left the Navy for the PRT. They talk a good game, but out on the boats, all those young people? Its to much, or was for me. PRT, all shore side, easy to keep my indescretions a hundred miles from the flag staff."
Emily Piggot, Director of the PRT ENE looked at the reports on the computer screen, then at the written reports, then at the intel matrix. "You have got to be shitting me."
Paul Rennick, the Deputy Director of the PRT ENE laughed ruefully "We sent it to the thinkers. The E4 mafia already has it pegged at Kanmusu and cruiser. That's where the odds are lowest in the pool. Bolo got three to two to one against and Kanmusu BB got five to one against. Some of them are breast people though. Hope never dies I guess."
"If Kongo steams in here yelling about burning love and calling me teituko or what the fuck ever I am firing you. No. I'm telling her you are the admiral and retiring. Stop gaping at me, I have nephews."
Emily looked over the documents again "And this interesting little side note about Sophia Hess running a clique of mean girls?"
Paul Rennick sobered "Bit of a problem. After we started turning that up we went to interview some of the alleged victims. We are in real trouble. One of them, Taylor Hebert, is apparently a bit of a nerd, as well as being very intelligent, and kept detailed records. To include print outs of emails including the headers. Probably best just to pay, maybe keep paying. Legal and PR have it. Or rather has a certified copy of the record they got from the county registrar's office after her father took one look at the record and then spent some time in the back yard abusing a tree before he loaded her, the record and himself in his pickup and went to the Registrar's office, made it just at closing time and they apparently owe him, a lawyer's office, another one that owes him and is a friend of the family, and the police station of course they are open twenty four seven."
Emily looked at her computer as she typed "I know that name. Oh fuck me. The defacto head of the DWU. Goddamnit. Yes. Pay early and often and get somebody to figure out what the Hebert's want and if it isn't the moon let's get it done. All I need is a bunch of longshoremen starting labor actions and blaming the PRT.
"So thats why legal and ops have been spun up all afternoon."
Emily blinked as the screen on her wall came on and displayed the PRT Logo "Shit."
"Good evening to you too Emily." Rebecca Costa Brown's, the Chief Director of the PRT, a cabinet level position in the US government, image said from the screen "DD Rennick."
Emily sighed "Chief Director. We were just going over the events of today."
"Oh good, then you can tell me why Glenn is running around talking about fleet idols and half the thinkers are catatonic mumbling about abyssals?" Rebecca arched an impeccable brow, like a Vulcan.
Emily sighed and laid it all out for the next twelve minutes. At the end, after not interrupting once, Rebecca nodded "The oil."
Emily blinked and backed up to the mention, one paragraph in hundreds of pages, of the reported theft of over three thousand tons of oil from the supertanker loading and unloading terminal. "We assumed chemical tinker as they took crude rather than distillate products. A separate incident, we had not linked them."
Rebecca nodded "They don't ship distillate products from that terminal, haven't in five years, it's a pipeline header to the refineries around Boston, light sweet crude from the north sea fields, and any refined product is sent back along that pipeline and stored in your tank farm for local distribution and use. Gasoline and heating oil. Not enough to export, though I assume they could as the facilities are there and were used for that in the past.
"With the recent discoveries though we achieved energy independence, well, along with the shale fields and fracking.
"A battleship would take double what was stolen at least. Apparently, they could burn it as is but it's hard to store. It has to be heated. That heating would give us a giant heat signature to use to find it. The Navy is working on it. National assets with the capability have been tasked as well, but with the Simurgh knocking down all the satellites we are limited to the U2 and SR 71 fleet which are pretty busy. The Navy has the capability and has been tasked.
"Meanwhile, what do you plan to do about Shadow Stalkers victims?"
Emily blinked, goddamn Costa Brown the speed-reading fucking genius. "Well, I was going to let Legal and PR get a handle on it and plan to pay and keep paying for a while. Apparently at least one of the victims has us dead to rights."
Rebecca nodded "Good. I will have my legal people contact yours, unfortunately for you Glenn is on his way. I couldn't get a leash on him fast enough, sorry." Emily smiled at her with the same level of sincerity as that last sentence was delivered with, absolutely none. "Shadow Stalker will be transferred to Los Angeles. Alexandria will be seeing to her retraining personally. The lawyers will work on containing the Youth Guard, I know you will be fine once the internal affairs investigators and IG report back to me. Legend has every confidence in Armsmaster as well."
Emily somehow maintained a neutral face and managed not to rail at the injustice of having to be investigated over a ward she did not want, had objected to having in writing, several times, even. "Yes, Chief Director."
Rebecca nodded "Keep an eye out for this new parahuman, we are all dying to know what she looks like. There are several pools running." The screen went blank.
Emily pinched the bridge of her nose "I almost hope it's a Princess."
Paul shrugged "No aircraft."
Paul laughed and then got serious "Probably a waste of breath but maybe its time to see Panacea?"
"Chair not strong enough for burning love?"
"And my office is on the fifth floor." Paul returned deadpan. Emily snorted and waved him away.
Lacey Chabatte looked at Taylor "Tired babe?"
Taylor nodded "finally full too."
Lacey chuckled "That Breitlings Cafeteria will be going up in price I bet, people are going to be pissed."
Lacey nodded "And gave your cooks a rest. Your crew took on enough stores for a cruise though. Going to be some work hiding that. Although we can blame the merchants. They have hit that cold storage warehouse once a week for over a year. They never emptied it before though. That Navy Special was from the seventies when the port closed. It's been sitting in the tank farm all this time. Hard to believe its still good."
"The engineer dumped all the naphtha he had gotten from his still into it, bunch of high molecular weight solvents too. We got the dredges off and it will be fine. Definitely feels better." Taylor patted her belly. Lacey laughed.
Taylor frowned "So what gave me away?"
Lacey snorted "Nobody gains five cup sizes in a day. "Plus, the rest of that and then the turrets on your shoulders, plus the gun belt and the two 1911A1s in the drop leg holsters. Plus, you know, that one in the pancake holster in the small of your back. Maybe the Aegis antenna arrays for earrings and on the head band."
Danny came in and sat on the couch with Taylor "The earrings were my clue, you didn't have pierced ears this morning after all."
Taylor looked at Uncle Kurt, Aunt Lacey and her Dad and teared up. Danny leaned over and hugged her "You didn't trigger yourself Taylor. You didn't do anything stupid; you just went to school."