Twenty Miles Southwest of Hancock, Michigan. March 1st 2003. 0903:
"What do you mean 'I gotta quit?'" The General in charge of the Michigan Facility asked. "Do you realise I need you here? You're the best man I've got!"
"I'm sorry sir, but I just can't anymore. I'm sure you understand my previous experiences on the battlefield..."
"I understand that, Sergeant. But you need to understand that what we're developing here can only carry on because of your expertise..."
"They're getting worse, Tim! I've got to leave." The Sergeant interjected. General Adams folded his arms, and completely understood. He took out some pieces of paper and filled in some forms. Once completed, the Sergeant turned to leave.
"Where will you go, son?" Adams stood up and asked as the Sergeant put his hand on the door handle. The Sergeant just shrugged. "Take a seat, I might be able to help..."
Outside the Frontier Apartment Building- September 26th- 1710:
As Brian approached the apartment building, he saw a large SUV leave the drive and head towards him. The driver gave him a wave as he went past.
"Looks like my stuff's all here." He thought to himself. "Rebecca had better not have broken anything."
He headed through the front door and over to the lift. The landlord gave him a strange look as Brian was still in uniform. Brian pressed the lift call button and headed to the 5th floor. When he arrived, he headed for the apartment. The door was slightly open, so he gave a quiet knock and headed in. Rebecca was lying on the sofa reading a book. When she saw Brian enter, she put the bookmark in and got up.
"Have a good day?" She asked with a smile. Brian replied positively and apologised profusely about any strange smells emitting from his clothes . "Is all my stuff ok?"
"You don't need to worry about all that. I drove back myself because I didn't trust Richard with all that stuff. By the way, I found this in the back of your wardrobe gathering dust. I would have thought with this you'd have taken better care of it. She picked up something off the table and unzipped the protective jacket to reveal an army uniform. "I also found your medals in there. How come you just left them? I mean, one of these is a Distinguished Service Cross!" Brian's mood suddenly changed.
"It's nothing, really." He headed into his room and changed in to some of his own clothes. Rebecca zipped up the uniform and hung it up on a jacket rack for the time being before putting the dinner on. Five minutes later, Brian came in wearing a casual shirt and jeans, and lied down on the sofa to have a nap.
Half an hour later, Rebecca was stirring the vegetables in the saucepan when she was startled by Brian jumping up on the sofa and woke suddenly with a loud gasp. Rebecca turned to see Brian was hyperventilating and shaking uncontrollably. She immediately turned down the heat and ran over to him, sitting him upright and trying to calm him down.
"Brian?" she asked with a lot of concern in her voice. "What's wrong? Are you ok?" Brian couldn't answer. He had gone pale and was shaking so much Rebecca couldn't stop him. She was getting worried, so ran over to the storage cupboard and grabbed a paper bag that she had brought her groceries home with a few days ago. She took it over to Brian and put the open end over his mouth and made it so it would inflate and deflate as he breathed in and out.
"It's ok, just breathe normally… in... And out... in... And out..." Brian was able to relax and did as Rebecca told. His breathing rate slowly started to return to normal and the colour started to return to his face. Rebecca took the bag away from his mouth, parked herself on the edge of the sofa and held him up as he panted heavily. She looked into his deep blue eyes, they were dilated, something was wrong… Something was really wrong, but Rebecca was always one to worry about those who were her friends.
"Are you ok?" She asked. "Did you have a bad dream?" Brian looked at her. There was no point in trying to cover it up anymore...
They sat down at the kitchen table; Rebecca had given Brian the bottle of whiskey she kept in the cupboard for her Irish coffees so he could ease the shaking. She sat opposite him while Brian eyed his medals.
"It was November 12th, 2001. My team had been sent into Kandahar to take out some remaining Taliban insurgents holed up in the city. There were forty of us in all: Mostly privates, but I remember a corporal, a couple of specialists, I was a sergeant, and a staff sergeant in charge of all of us. A Chinook dropped us off about 5 miles south of the city, outside a gas station just before daybreak. We started the long walk north, taking all our supplies and weapons with us. Some were killed by landmines, others injured the enemy. Most of us stayed with injured soldiers, so in the end only six of us were able to carry on, but we just kept on going. We were so close to finishing the Taliban off, we couldn't just quit now. When we finally entered the city, everything was quiet. In fact, it was too quiet, even though it was dawn and the city full of terrorists. A civilian let us inside her house and told us where the insurgents would be. We headed back onto the streets, and were immediately shot at by guys with AK47s. I remember killing three, the staff sergeant killed two, and one incredibly accurate private first class managed to get ten. The corporal was wounded, so the staff sergeant, who was called Mark, picked him up and we tried to find a safe place to keep him while we tried to get a chopper in. We missed a guy who had a rocket launcher, and he fired at the ground around us. I was able to spot him before he fired, and we were able to get some distance away before the rocket hit the ground. I was thrown about ten feet away from the blast, twisting my ankle and badly bruising my right wrist. It's a miracle I wasn't killed. But, sadly, the corporal, a specialist and a private weren't so lucky. They were killed, but Mark and the accurate private first class survived." Brian downed his whiskey and continued while pouring another one. "I think the corporal must have blocked the blast for him, because he got the medal of honour or something like that. Mark was badly injured, he was bleeding from a cut in his head, and he had dislocated his left shoulder and sprained his ankle. The private was relatively unscathed, just had some bruises, had been winded and his clothes were a little messed up. We moved as quickly as possible into the building we had seen the rocket launcher guy in. The PFC, I think his name was Dale, cleared out the entire building like he was killing zombies in a Resident Evil game. We took the stairs to the roof and decided we'd wait there until night when we could escape under the cover of darkness. Dale made the mistake of taking his Kevlar helmet off while standing up; and he was shot in the helmet by a sniper. I was able to spot the sniper and managed to take him out, using the last few bullets of my M4. I was stuck with mine and Mark's Berettas, and we were stuck for ammo because what was left of it was in the specialist's bag lying there on the street. I had six Beretta clips: Three were mine, and the other three were Mark's. I hid Mark with Dale on one side of the doorway that led to the stairs, and I stayed the other side. As various Taliban guys came out onto the roof, I picked them off one by one, and as the last one came up, I had run out of ammo, and hadn't got the time to change clips. The enemy shot, but missed, so I played dead on the ground. The Arab turned and left, and I just had to wait till night." Rebecca got up to see to the dinner, while Brian drank the whiskey. The shaking had stopped now, but he left it out at the table, once again looking at his medals.
"What happened once night came?" Rebecca asked. Brian closed one of the medal cases and continued:
"Once night fell, I opened my eyes and carefully looked around to see if anyone was there. I told Mark to be as quiet as possible and we headed out onto the street. Luckily for us, the terrorists had left a pickup truck in the road that was easy pickings for us. I lay Mark in the back and hotwired the truck. I floored the gas pedal and got the hell out of the city. When we got 2 miles away, the damn thing ran out of gas, so we had to continue on foot back to the gas station so we could be extracted. Dale went on ahead to find help while we lagged behind. What we did forget about was the various mines the Taliban had planted for us. I guess I was lucky in that they were proximity controlled. They must have swiped them from an Army convoy or something, because I knew our land mines beep at increasing speeds before they blow, so when I heard the beeping, I tried to move Mark away as quickly as possible, but I couldn't move fast enough. The mine went off and we were both sent flying. I broke both of my legs, a collar bone, dislocated right shoulder, dislocated knee and four broken ribs, as well as a fucking massive head injury; it put me in a coma for a week. Luckily, one of the other guys tending to the injured saw the explosion and ran over to us. We were airlifted back to a base eighty miles from Kandahar where we were put in an intensive care unit, before being flown to some RAF base in England. That's where I woke up, and got presented with the Silver Star, I got the Soldier's Medal in Kosovo, and the Purple Heart, and the Distinguished Service Cross in England as well." Rebecca didn't know what to say. She stood up and stood behind Brian, wrapping her arms around him to give him a hug, with her arms around abdomen with her chin resting on his shoulder.
"I'm so sorry. I didn't know. You must have gone through a lot" Brian let her hold him for a moment. Once Rebecca had let go to check on the dinner, he gave her the conclusion to his story.
"After months of hardcore recovery, my commanding officer came over and gave me three choices: I could go back to Afghanistan and serve out the rest of my term, get an honourable discharge from the army, or get posted to a military weapons testing facility. There was no way I was going back to Afghanistan, and I have practically no family left, my parents are no longer around, my only uncle lives in Australia and my only aunt lives in the Caribbean. I had to take the third option. I needed somewhere to live and I needed the money. It was the only thing I could really do."
"Do you mind if I ask how your parents died?" Rebecca asked politely. Brian looked up at her and gave her a straight answer.
"9/11". Rebecca dropped the wooden spoon and put a hand over her mouth as she gasped.
"They were on the first plane that crashed.." Rebecca put her arms around him again and held him a little tighter than before. She turned the heat down and headed over to the stereo. She reached into a plastic box and pulled out a CD case amongst a plethora of various movie soundtracks. She opened the box and placed the CD in the disc drawer. Brian let out a laugh as he heard the first few bars of the song. The CD that Rebecca had put on was the soundtrack to The Blues Brothers, Brian's favourite film. "Sweet Home Chicago is on it, and you were singing it in the elevator last night, so I kind of made the connection there really." She looked inside another box. "And most of these albums are by blues musicians."
Brian did feel a little better. There was no way a more well mannered, caring and friendly woman could exist. He had been in his fair share of relationships, a good looking guy like him usually was, but for some reason Rebecca was different. The thought escaped him as quickly as it entered. To him, he was living in her apartment for the short term, and besides: They are work colleagues, their relationship had to be strictly professional. He was then snapped from that thought by a beep emitting from the timer on the microwave.
"Chicken's done!" Rebecca said excitedly, and removed a baking tray with some chicken drumsticks on it from the oven. She shared them out onto two plates and poured some peas, a couple of boiled potatoes and squirted a bit of tomato ketchup on the side of each plate, before placing one in front of Brian and sitting opposite him with the other, talking about where and when he picked up some interesting things, like his various war 'trophies' and his collection of WWII memorabilia.
"I came in contact with an elderly man in a nursing home in a place called Walsall in England" he explained. "It was something where veterans of past wars would meet veterans of the Afghanistan conflict. He showed me this picture of him and this fine young girl, who was an American nurse who had come into Portsmouth harbour on board a US Destroyer. They became close friends and he told me that he has never been able to love anyone else like he could love her, and he asked me if I could try and find her and tell her about him. He was in a very frail state so I promised him I'd do my best to find her."
"Did you?" Rebecca asked, talking with her mouth full.
"When I got back to the States I was straight on the Census Bureau's website to see if I could find her. Sadly, she died in 1995, and when I made a call to the nursing home in England, the guy I spoke to had died that morning. Both of them died alone apparently, with no families."
"That's so sad." Rebecca said with some sympathy. "How long were you in England for?"
"Well, I recovered faster than anyone anticipated. I spent a week in a hospital bed after waking up, then in a wheelchair for a month while my bones healed, then some intense physiotherapy for another 2 months. Then I spent 2 months as my regular self over there, then came home to the army testing facility where I stayed till mid 2003, before being transferred to Stoneville's police force, then transferred here."
"So you get around then?" She joked.
"Kosovo, Afghanistan, England, Michigan, Colorado... Yeah, I guess I do."
"You fought in Kosovo?" said Rebecca with some surprise. "That's a while ago now"
"Yeah, I was eighteen at the time, and served two years over there. Eastern Europe's got nice scenery, shame it's all so poor over there and they're always shooting at each other." He finished the last of his chicken, and stood up, picking up both plates and placing them in the dishwasher. He turned and looked at the various boxes lining the edge of the living room and leant on the counter, folding his arms.
"You know something? If I had a girlfriend who kicked me out and didn't allow me to get my things back I wouldn't be bothered."
"What makes you say that?" Rebecca wondered curiously. Brian let out a cheeky smile.
"My stuff is shit."
The rest of the night was spent listening to Brian's immense collection of old records and CDs. A record that Rebecca really got into was 117 Degrees by Izzy Stradlin, the former rhythm guitarist for Guns N' Roses. Rebecca, intending to establish common ground with Brian, briefly touched upon her experiences in the Arklay Mountains and how she and the other surviving S.T.A.R.S members, including Billy and Carlos and excluding Kevin, learned of Umbrella's experiments with bio-organic weapons. It was a strange thing for Brian to listen to. All this time he had been under the impression that they were in the city when they encountered the zombies and monsters, not in the Arklay Mountains. That said, he was in Kosovo when it all happened, and as someone outside that circle he would have to settle for any 'official' reports. Rebecca kept passing comment on the music. It wasn't something she'd normally listen to as she preferred 90s alternative music like Pearl Jam and the Stone Temple Pilots.
"I remember playing that album over and over when I first got it. It was great to play when we got out of that firing range where we were testing the..." He stopped mid sentence and sat completely still.
"Testing the what?" Rebecca asked. "Or aren't you allowed to talk about it."
"Have you got a computer?" He asked, changing the subject completely. Rebecca was a little confused.
"Erm... Yeah, I have a laptop in my room. I'll just go and get it." She got up and headed for her room. Brian headed into his and retrieved his side pack from his S.T.A.R.S uniform trousers. He exited his room as Rebecca came out of hers holding a MacBook. They sat back down on the sofa and Rebecca handed the laptop over to Brian.
"Where are you going with this?" She asked, intrigued. Brian didn't say anything. He opened the laptop and switched it on. When OS10 was loaded, he clicked straight on the Safari icon and the web browser loaded up. On the search engine, he selected Google Images and typed in four capital letters into the search bar. He hit the enter key and waited impatiently for the results to come up. When the images appeared, he clicked the fourth one across on the top row, which, when enlarged, revealed a futuristic looking assault rifle, which had two barrels, one on top of the other, a large scope which housed a small computer system for the infra red and night vision modes, a grenade launcher attached to the bottom and two clips: One for the standard 7.8mm rounds and another which contained six 20mm rounds. Brian turned the laptop screen so Rebecca could have a look.
"This is our mystery gun." He concluded. "The Objective Individual Combat Weapon. Or OICW for short." Rebecca looked at it in awe.
"Why couldn't you remember this before?" She asked him with some annoyance. "We'd have had a lot more leads by now."
"When I was nearly blown up by that landmine, I suffered a massive head injury, and my memory after that event can get rather fuzzy. I can remember some things well, and others not so well. My mind just goes blank. Besides, I never fired the sniper round. I'm not trained to use sniper rifles." Rebecca's mood changed from slight annoyance to a more friendly tone.
"I forgot about that, but at least we're getting somewhere now. Can you remember much else? I hate to pester you but we need to know."
"The only place that sniper could have got it from is from the military testing facility in Michigan. It's about 35, maybe 40 miles southwest west of the city of Hancock, completely in the middle of nowhere. It's well hidden, and the transport Ospreys and helicopters have to fly through the creeks so they won't be seen by the public. The area in a 2 mile radius is fenced off to walkers and there's as much security there as there is on the approach to Area 51." Rebecca slid down a little on the sofa and pulled her knees up to her chest, she put her head on her knees and faced Brian.
"It's far too late to do anything now. We'll have to wait till tomorrow. We've got to go up the station anyway. I hate going to the memorial. It brings back too many memories." She remembered something: "You haven't been for your formal uniform fitting yet, have you?"
"No... What about it?" Brian replied dryly, knowing something embarrassing was going to come up.
"All of us have a tailor made ceremonial uniform made for us. You're going to have to wear a suit for now." She gave him a funny look, "You do have a suit, right?"
"I've got a shirt and tie, and a formal jacket thing., as well as my greens. I hate wearing suits and fancy formal stuff."
"That's ok. I think you might get away with wearing standard police shirt, some suit pants and smart shoes."