Devin Ross, recently promoted to captain was currently walking around the DOW headquarters trying to find all the members of his squad. He had already met Rawlings, the head chaplain, and Frank Delgado, the pyro expert. He was on his way to meet the two women in his squad, hoping that they would be assets in combat rather than just communications. The files still hadn't arrived which meant that Ross was in the uncomfortable position of having to converse with all the members about their usefulness in combat. This was the part he dreaded most, women can get a bit touchy when one questions their abilities, even if it is his duty to know their strengths and weaknesses. Apparently the two women bunked together and, if Delgado's crude remarks were correct, one was lesbian. They slept in room 618, Ross had just walked by room 587. As he was counting the numbers on the doors he didn't notice the redhead who was busy typing something on her handheld computer. They only bumped slightly but the girl screamed and backed into the room where she had come from.
"I'm sorry are you ok, I barely touched you," Ross looked the woman over and was surprised to find that she was incredibly young, probably not old enough to even drink yet. Her hair was ginger and her eyes were a striking shade of green. She was beautiful as well, dangerously so. He could easily find himself, as well as some other members of the DOW getting distracted by her in the field.
"I'm fine, you just…surprised me sir," the girl replied, straightening up almost immediately.
"Sir?" Ross asked, "We're not on active duty..um…corporal, you don't have to call me sir. It makes me feel old."
That generated the appropriate response; the girl smiled and stopped her unconscious fiddling. She looked into the captain's eyes with a small smile still playing on her face.
"Well sir, what should I call you instead?" The girl had a playful expression in her eyes, but her voice was still very awkward, there was something wrong with her. Ross could automatically tell that there was something slightly off about her. There was something innocent, almost childlike in those eyes. Those were dangerous things in this line of work, but refreshing at the same time. What most concerned Ross was the fact that her facial expression was still tense, her eyes were the only indicator that she was in a playful mood.
"Ross," he said, leaning against the doorframe sipping an imaginary martini glass, "Devin Ross."
The girl chuckled this time and stood up straighter, "I'm Simone Cole."
"Simone," Ross repeated, she was definitely part of Jericho. Now that she was comfortable with him, he had to ask the important questions. "I'm pretty sure you've guessed by now that I'm the new captain so I have to ask a few questions, I hope it's not too much." The playfulness between them died almost immediately, Ross was never very good with women. "First, what are your skills?"
"I'm a reality hacker sir. I program cabalistic as well as chaotic equations into my computer that put a strain on the continuum and give me a small pocket where I can move extremely quickly."
"Um..," the captain's knowledge of mathematics and science was limited to what was taught in High School, and therefore had no idea what Cole had just said, "Can you translate that to English please?"
She should have smirked, but her face remained the same. Ross noticed that she seemed almost annoyed that he could not understand her. "I can slow down time."
"Excellent. So can I use you get me a hot dog next Thursday before they all run out?"
"I'll remember to get 2 next time, sir."
As much as Ross hated losing the playfulness in her eyes, he had to ask at least one more question. "Do you have any disabilities or anything that could possibly get in the way of a mission?"
Cole became apprehensive again, she almost looked scared. "I'm a high functioning autistic, sir. The doctor's believe it is Asperger's Syndrome. My motor functions are not impaired, but I have many problems with emotions and speech. I also have nyctophobia, claustrophobia, and haphephobia."
Ross was stunned, he couldn't even think of a reply. All he could do was think of his little niece that was currently in special care because of her autism, and how he could do nothing to help her in the military. "Simone, your skills are amazing, but you shouldn't be here. With all that you should be developing weapons or something in a safer environment."
"I tried sir, but I cannot stand the people I was forced to work with. I caused too many temporal distortions and the military was extremely angry. I may not be the perfect soldier sir, but this is where I belong."
"Well, it's nice to have you then Simone. I want you to remember one thing, if you ever feel afraid of anything, just call me, and I will do everything in my power to help you."
"That's a big promise sir."
"Well if there's one thing you need to know about me, it's that I keep my promises. Here," The captain extended his hand, "shake on it."
Cole stared at his hand, her mind torn between accepting the new man and her natural phobia of physical contact. Finally she built up the courage to slide her pale hand into the older man's. She shook uncontrollably, but she rather enjoyed it. Through her fear she felt a connection that she had never felt before.
"Well Simone, I'll see you later, now I have to go find your roommate."
Ross woke with a start causing Abbey, whom he currently possessed, to fall on the floor of the helicopter face first.
"Damnit Ross!" she growled, angered at the rather rude interruption to her slumber.
"Hey sleeping beauty, glad to see you're awake chica. We're almost home." Delgado pointed to the window. Black could see DOW headquarters in the distance.
"We're going to have to inform the families," Rawlings started, "Black, you think you and Ross can handle Mr. and Mrs. Cole?"
Black nodded and spoke up, "Why us?"
"As far as I know, you two were the closest to her. They deserve to hear the news from people who really knew their daughter."
"Understood," Ross replied, there was no possible way this could end well.
"Oh God no, no please. Please-" Lucrecia Cole, Simone's mother, sobbed as soon as she saw the uniformed Abigail Black standing in her doorway. All she could do was bow her head at the sight of the poor mother and try to be composed. Abbey had never done this before, always working solo missions, she never had any friends who died in combat. Ross, please help me, she thought, hoping that he could hear her. Ask her to sit down and then we have to tell her what happened, came Ross' reply. He was not sure how he was going to reveal himself, or if he even should, but he had to be able to interact in the conversation that was about to transpire. He was the one they had always called whenever they needed to hear about their daughter and had trusted him to keep her safe.
"Would you like to sit down?" Abbey was incredibly nervous and it didn't help that she was on the verge of tears again. She may be tough as nails to most, but she was still human, she could still cry for a lost sister.
They moved to the small couch as Aaron Cole, Simone's father, came down the stairs to see what the commotion was about. When he saw his wife crying on the couch with the suited Abigail Black sitting opposite her, he immediately knew what had happened. His face hardened and he flew to his spouse's side to comfort her. It wasn't possible, his daughter couldn't possibly have died.
"We," Black started uneasily, "we had just entered the vortex when the firstborn told us that he only needed our souls to finally break free. That was when Cole and Jones went to check for weak spots. Right after she found them he… killed her." She didn't want to tell them how she died, it was still giving her nightmares and would be too much for loving parents such as these could handle.
"But," Mr. Cole spoke up, "she was supposed to be safe. Captain Ross said-"
"Captain Ross also died," Abbey hoped that Ross wouldn't say anything, he didn't need more people blaming him for her death.
"Oh," Mr. Cole looked down, "I'm sorry for your loss."
"We're all grieving sir, we lost many good friends on this mission."
"She used to talk about him," Mrs. Cole looked up and spoke to Abbey, "the few times she called home, half the conversation was filled with Captain Devin Ross. She used to say that he was the only man she ever really trusted. Her autism made it very difficult for her to think clearly and she always told me that all she had to do was what Ross told her, and she always came out okay. She followed his orders almost blindly because she trusted him with her life. As a matter of fact, she called me right after her mission in Bermuda, when she got caught in the cave collapse. Simone is nyctophobic and claustrophobic, and she was incredibly scared. But Ross was on the other end and told her all the things she needed to do to get out, and when she did she called me and told me that everything would be ok as long as she was with Ross. I think he was probably her first crush."
Black smiled, "I really can't imagine them together."
"I always thought it was cute. I love my daughter and her incredible intelligence and dedication, but it's nice to see her act like a normal girl every once in a while. The doctors always told us that she lacked empathy and would not be capable of having deep or lasting relationships, especially romantic ones, but I don't think that's true. My Simone has a huge heart, she just doesn't like others to see it."
"Behind all those chaotic equations and computers is a small girl who's afraid of everything and needs people who understand," Mr. Cole added, "You and Captain Ross were those people to her. After she moved out, I called Ross repeatedly to make sure that she was okay. It was hard never knowing if my baby was okay. Was she hurt? Did she have enough food? Was she in a dark place? Did she have enough money? Were people treating her okay? A father can only worry, and Ross always assured me that everything was fine. But not this time. Can we at least have her body?"
Black panicked she couldn't tell them, "her body was destroyed along with Al-Khali. I'm so sorry there isn't anything I can do." Her tears were starting back up. It was too much, she had to leave, "I have to go now, here's my number in case you need anything."
"Thank you Abigail. I know this is hard for you too." Mrs. Cole walked Abbey to the door and gave her their number. Black walked to her car and drove silently all the way back to the airport. She was going back to the DOW to sleep in room 618…