S T A T I C
And it's one, two, three,
What are we fighting for?
Don't ask me, I don't give a damn,
Next stop is Vietnam!
Awake in the predawn grey of morning, Briareos stared at the ceiling for a moment trying to figure out what had interrupted his sleep. The apartment building was comfortably silent. Only the truly early birds were stirring outside their partly opened window. He sighed, trying to relax and enjoy the cozy warmth of being curled in his bed, with his woman on a quiet weekday morning. Tilting his head slightly to get a look at her he couldn't detect any sign of distress. That ruled out the idea that maybe her restlessness had inspired his.
Deunan was snoring softly against his shoulder in her usual sleepy heap. An elegant sleeper, she wasn't. It was when she was sacked out that she reminded him most of the little girl she'd once been. The fact that she had retained the knack of sleeping anywhere, on anything, that many children possessed? Only made her cute sprawl over him in bed more adorable.
Briareos sighed again, shifting his shoulders to try and get back into a sleepy state of mind. It didn't work. His nerves were jangling with an anxiety he couldn't quite place. The sensation that something, _somewhere_, wasn't right was haunting. He stared at the ceiling and cursed his weird instincts a moment, before carefully easing sideways to check first the clock, and then Deunan's phone, on the off chance that someone had left _her_ a message and not him. The little device had no incoming calls to report. Laying back Briareos petted his girl's hair thoughtfully as he waited for inspiration to strike. Too wound up to sleep, or to read, or to even count ceiling tiles, he turned his attention inwards, wondering if maybe something in his system was on the fritz.
Talking to the 'machine' inside his head was never exactly easy. He forced himself to concentrate as he'd been coached back at the clinic. Normally the Hecatonchires unit installed in his head was passive, taking care of translating all the signals his brain was trying to send to limbs-long-gone and rerouting them to the robotics that had replaced them. There were times however when it became useful to have some conscious control over his own subsystems.
Briareos cleared his thoughts and focused on providing the mental prompts necessary to 'wake' his body up. Half his vision was suddenly grayed and overlaid with various readouts. Telling himself it was no worse than any other HUD built into a helmet, he tried to ignore the fact that he wasn't _wearing_ a helmet. The 'screen' he was looking at was inserted into his field of view directly at his optical nerve endings.
All systems reported in at or near peak functionality. Briareos shrugged, hardly surprised. They hadn't had any seriously dangerous missions since his last scheduled maintenance. There was no reason to suspect he was malfunctioning. Digging a bit deeper into the system information screens, he ran separate checks on his communication hardware wondering if something recently added was upsetting his equilibrium. The police-grade radio frequency scanner was picking up a weird amount of ambient noise, more so than usual. Prodding at it a little, he found the phenomenon covered a wide portion of the spectrum, not just the usual bands used by SWAT.
It took a moment to push his Hecatonchires system out of the way and get back to his usual view of the world. Reaching out again, he turned on the radio, toggling the volume down low enough that it wouldn't disturb Deunan's sleep. The stupid banter of the DJs was already going strong, despite the disgustingly early hour. But even there, the usually clear channel was fuzzy, oddly noisy. Briareos turned off the speakers, and then after a moment's thought, turned off the alarm as well. They wouldn't be needing it, it seemed.
"Deunan? Wake up for me, girl." He shook her shoulder, bracing for her inevitable grousing.
Instead of the protracted battle he expected, Deunan went from sleeping to alert with little more than his touch. Her fingers tightened reflexively against his t-shirt as she blinked and frowned at the lack of daylight. Shifting so she could look up at him, his woman gave him a puzzled look. "Bri?" She asked, confused.
"We need to report in." He didn't move to push her out of bed immediately, despite his subconscious impulse to get moving. Seeing his girl yawn and stretch herself out in stages was a pleasant distraction. Idly he wondered if it would end up being the high point of his day.
"It's like… four in the morning. We aren't due in today until nine…" She reminded him, rubbing her head with her hands as she got her brain working. "Don't tell me it's another earthquake, Tin-man, because I don't think I can take another natural disaster this year. One small one was bad enough."
"Not an earthquake, girl. But… something's up." He agreed, sitting up as she levered herself off of him and into the bathroom. He ignored her mutter of 'Bri the psychic, at it again' as she closed the door on him, just glad that she was cooperating. Then again, she'd been equally quick to rise _last_ time he'd gotten her out of bed in the middle of the night for seemingly no reason. At the time he hadn't realized what had jarred him out of his sleep was a foreshock of the quake that had badly rattled the city.
Stripping off his sleep shirt, he reached for a uniform, and then for his spare combat gear, not sure why. Deunan emerged from the bathroom with brush in hand, took one look at him, and frowned. "That bad, huh?" She asked.
Picking up the remote for the TV, she flicked it on as she pulled out her own gear, dressing first in her regular blues then stepping into her SWAT overalls before snapping on the various pads and braces that kept her safe. They'd have to pick up their full kit from the lockers on the van, he reminded himself, but at least this way they'd be half-ready, for whatever was coming.
The TV signal was also fuzzy. He watched the lines of static distorting the image being broadcast with a feeling of foreboding. "We need to go."
"I'm getting there." Deunan chided him for his impatience. Passing him her guns and pointing towards the door she shooed him on ahead. "Go store our crap in the car, handsome, I'm going to snag some breakfast-to-go stuff for us from the kitchen. This frickin' early in the morning, the mess hall on campus won't be serving anything more nutritious than coffee. And we'll both be hungry in half an hour once your nerves settle."
There was no hurrying her faster than she was already going. He sighed, seeing the sense in what she was saying. Scooping up the crates the that held their personal weapons, he set them by the door. Doubling back while his woman gathered together a make-shift picnic from their kitchen, he grabbed another duffel, and chose a random selection of uniforms, towels and other goods from their bedroom before heading down to the car. Probably Deunan would laugh at him later, he sighed as he examined the dark sky overhead and their sleeping neighborhood. Probably it was just some weird solar storm messing with his system, and everything else as well. But if it wasn't…
He just wanted to be ready, he told himself. Sometimes paranoia was paranoia. Sometimes people really were trying to get one over on you. He wished he could be certain which this was. Climbing into the back seat, he didn't have to wait long.
Deunan jogged over to the car and passed him another bag, the scent of bread and ground-coffee coming from it's hastily packed contents letting him guess some of what she's thrown together. Poking at the rest of the bag while his girl buckled herself in and coaxed their car onto the road, he shook his head at what he saw. Apparently his anxiety was contagious. Either that or Deunan had learned after the last time. There was bread and jam and coffee beans, sure, but there were also two boxes of protein bars, several heat-and-eat meals, and an assortment of other items that fell firmly into the category of 'emergency food.' If she tried to tease him for packing towels and a few days worth of clothes, he'd just tease her back for equipping them with enough snacks to work 48 hours straight without stopping to do more than boil some water.
The view of the city from the highway was unremarkable. Heavy clouds made it hard to guess the time. The clock on the dashboard told him they'd mustered in a respectable 22 minutes. With virtually no one on the roads, Deunan was making good time towards HQ. Still his fingers itched with the unnamed feeling. "Stop the car, girl."
"Are you crazy?"
"Please, just pull over a second, ok?" The radio was on their regular news-station, the announcer's voice familiar despite the static. It was same-old-same-old repeating the reports from the day before, much as the TV had been. It was too early for new-news, he sighed as he unrolled his window, sticking his head out to listen to the air. Deunan humored him with a soft sigh, easing the car into the pullover lane and rolling down her own window to see what he was up to. Catching her giving him a 'what the hell' look, he shrugged. "Turn off the engine?"
Still, she did as he asked. In the quiet of the highway, the city and harbor spread out along the side, he heard something. It was far away, unbelievably far away, but still audible if a person tried. A faint drone of engines echoed from overhead, in the clouds. Deunan heard it too. Tilting her head back, she listened with a frown, trying to identify the sound. "What is that? It doesn't sound commercial…"
He opened his mouth to answer, but the distant pop of gunfire interrupted him. Not just any gunfire, the faint pops were too slow, and sounded too heavy to be any sort of handgun. There were frigates in the harbor, he remembered suddenly. Three in harbor, and an entire battle group off shore, their country's token effort to appear 'ready to respond' to the threat of attack from the western alliance. He was hearing ship-guns.
Unless there was some sort of massive battle drill scheduled for the morning that they hadn't been told about? The sound of the twenty-two inch guns thudding from across the water wasn't a good sign. Deunan started the car without him telling her, expression tight as she turned up the radio and drove.
They were just pulling into campus when the emergency tone interrupted the regular broadcast. The report was barely good for anything. It was principally a warning of unknown military activity taking place off shore and for people to refrain from commuting in the early morning hours. Briareos counted under his breath for the obligatory ten seconds. Deunan's phone chirped at the same time as his built-in received a call. The series of codes that followed the initial tone were pretty much what he'd expected. It was an 'All Units' broadcast.
"Looks like we won't be the only ones on campus before our shift this morning." Deunan murmured, steering into the parking garage and grabbing the first space. "At least we get first dibs on parking and bunks, if we need them."
"We'll need them." He agreed, climbing out of the back to help her carry their gear. "Let's grab an empty room to drop our stuff, then check in with your father."
"You thinking this is going to be bad?" She shouldered a bag and trotted next to him as he crossed the familiar grounds. "It could just be more political dick-measuring on both sides… the news later will be all about how they 'didn't realize they were flying over our coast in the fog'… you'll see."
"Doubt it." He held the door for her and followed her into the quiet lobby of the women's dormitory. It wasn't ideal, but it was a tactical choice. The rest of the officers swarming in would undoubtedly go for the men's quarters first, filling the building to bursting before anyone thought to remember that there were never as many female officers as males, and so there were empty rooms to spare. Sharing with Deunan even gave him a perfectly reasonable excuse for the short-cut to a guaranteed bunk. She snagged a set of keys off the board for 'visiting officers' and lead the way to their temporary home. Setting their bags on the bed, he reached over to flick the tiny standard-issue radio-clock on. The hiss of static was louder than ever, burying the regular broadcast under a wave of random nose. "That's a jamming pattern, hellcat. Someone doesn't want us to know that they're here, or how many of them there are."
Pressing her lips together as she looked at him, Deunan tried to appear disinterested. "So it's war, huh?" Her eyes told him she wasn't as calm as she wanted him to think she was. Rubbing her hands along her arms, she inspected their room for anything they'd overlooked. "What happens now?"
"We sign in. Get our guns. And then sit around waiting for the calls to start coming in." He squeezed her shoulder as he led the way back out of the building.
All around them were the sounds of people waking abruptly, groggily staring at their communicators and clocks, and wearily preparing themselves for a long day. Soon the campus would be awash in officers awaiting orders to disperse into the city. The population was going to be spooked, even if no attack came. He sighed, recalling the patterns of other conflicts he'd read about or seen. With any luck some damn fool wouldn't try and start a riot downtown, but he wasn't holding his breath. "Come on, girl." He steered her when she might have lagged, staring up at the clouds and what was likely hidden by them. "You stick with me today, alright? I want you where I can keep an eye on you."
"Yeah." Deunan agreed softly, falling in step next to him as they joined the other early-arrivals in the first briefing room. Beyond the buzz of conversation and incoming cars, Briareos could hear the business-like sound of shells from the ships in the harbor, and not just the vessels out at sea. They were shooting _at_ something, no doubt. The high whine of things falling through the air, followed by the inevitable 'boom' told him that someone was shooting back. The sky towards the west flickered briefly with the light of the detonation. Someone who didn't know what was going on might have mistaken it for summer-lightening. He shook his head at the naiveté of the general population. It'd been over a generation since L.A. had seen direct conflict. People wouldn't have a clue of what to do. If the Pacific alliance was serious about attacking, the civilian casualties were going to be insane.
Some poor bastards would have to go down and help the harbor-side police departments to evacuate the residents to their designated shelters. He wasn't sure whether he wanted to volunteer, just to get out into the field and doing something, or if the wiser course was to stay back and wait for the Colonel to assign him something, with the hope that it would be in a safer section of the city. He hated waiting around when there was a fight brewing.
Glancing down at his woman, he wondered how she would hold up in an all-out conflict, if it came to that. She was a survivor, of that he was certain, but would she be better off if they kept to the periphery rather than leaping right into the middle of everything? Knowing Deunan, leaping was what she did best. He sighed at the frequent conflict between his desire to protect her, and to let her do what she was born to do.
Deunan smiled grimly up at him as she noticed his speculative look. "Looks like it's gonna be a busy day, handsome. You up for it?"
"You point. I shoot." He quipped softly, reminding her of their usual roles. That got a genuine smile out of her, at least. Turning to lean back against him, she caught his hands in hers, guiding them to wrap around her waist as they both waited for their numbers to be called.