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A note from the author:
DO NOT be discouraged at the length of this story! Like my few other recent entries, it is rather long, so be prepared for a winding story. But it is entertaining! It’s filled with battles, heroics, sex and builds up for so much more (which is currently in the works- a Book Two). As with every story I publish, I thoroughly enjoy and look forward to your comments- both good and bad. So please submit comments as well as your votes when you get done with this fun, sexually depraved yarn. I may not respond to feedback from email, but I always read it!
And if you happen to notice a glaring bit of “Mary Sue”-ism in there, please forgive- I hadn’t intended to really insert myself into the story; it just sorta happened and, once done, I found that it actually kinda worked well enough to leave it alone.
Chapter One : An Interview
“Specialist David Shayles, reporting as ordered, sir,” I said as I snapped a salute when I reached six paces away from the General’s desk. I had barely gotten through the door when I announced myself, which had been more for the sake of protocol rather than actual need. The General knew that I was coming.
Lt. General Alec Hannis stood up from his desk and returned the salute as cleanly as I’d offered it. “Relax, Specialist,” he said softly. My stance fell back to parade rest, feet spread apart shoulder-width, spine erect, hands clasped behind my back and eyes facing forward. His voice was strong and deep, the way that most Army generals tend to be. He came from behind the desk, his hand outstretched toward me. “Relax, I said,” he repeated. “I appreciate the sentiment of respect, Specialist Shayles, but from here on out I want you to be comfortable while you’re in my office.” When he was finally in front of me, hand ready to receive mine, I followed his order and further relaxed my stance to something more casual while I shook his hand.
“Yes, sir,” I said. “Thank you, sir.”
“And welcome to NATO headquarters,” he added. “You’ve only been here a week, but I hear that you’ve settled in nicely already.”
“Thank you, sir. Yes, sir, I’ve found an apartment and we’re settled in, as you say, nicely, sir.”
There was a short awkward moment of silence while he sized me up. Finally he said, “You’re probably wondering why I asked you here.”
“The question did occur to me, sir, yes,” I answered blandly. I also thought to myself that generals don’t make “requests” of junior enlisted men. Generals state their desires and men in my position make those things happen.
General Hannis smiled, but something about it seemed hollow, like he was slightly amused. “I’ve been studying you for a long time, Shayles,” he told me. “Since your days at AIT, actually. You’ve been a very interesting soldier to watch.”
I blinked at that, not sure of how to respond. When an Army general who is stationed in NATO tells you that he’s been watching you, alarms and bells start going off in your head. You start to worry that you did something wrong at some point and you start breaking a mental sweat trying to figure out just what the hell was going on. “I appreciate the interest, sir, but… uhm… why?”
By way of answer, General Hannis indicated the chair next to me. “Take a seat,” he said as he started to sit down in the one next to him. When we were both seated comfortably in front of his desk, he nodded. “I’m in charge of a very special project. We don’t have very many people involved with the project because, frankly, fewer people means less risk of security breaches. You’re here so that I can interview you, to see if you’d be willing to participate in the project with us. Normally, the screening process would start at significantly lower levels and you and I wouldn’t be having this conversation, but, as I pointed out, there are only a small number of us involved and most of them are civilians. Your involvement would be completely life-changing, and I’m not being metaphorical about that- it would change your life in almost every way you can imagine. The fact of the matter, Specialist, is that you’re a pretty average guy. In some respects, you’re actually below average- injured knee, bad ankle, minimal PT scores, a pretty thick counseling packet which doesn’t necessarily show a pattern of misbehavior as much as it does a general sense of individualism.” That last bit stung- the Army doesn’t go in for individualistic thinking. “However, there is one quality you have which is well above the norm.”
I looked at him evenly, already aware of what he meant. In a way, I sort of knew that this was coming, if not exactly how it would happen. “My intelligence, sir,” I replied. It wasn’t a question. I knew my strengths and weaknesses. I knew them well. I had shaped my, so far, short military career around them, having chosen to work as an I.T. specialist and computer technician. I knew that I was good at those things and had shown an aptitude for them where others struggled. Ever since I was a child I’d had a special sort of affinity Amsterdam Shemale with computers and technology in general, always able to somehow figure out how gadgets of all sorts worked. For me it was an intuitive thing. The details of how things worked were merely window dressing in my mind, constructs of limitation or potential. I knew that I was smart in that way, but I wasn’t necessarily egotistical about it. That aspect of my character was always simply a given, a thing that I’d come to accept and learned how to work with. The rest of the qualities the general had mentioned, however, were just as starkly true.
“Yes,” he said with a slow nod. “Your intelligence. It’s garnished quite a bit of attention, whether you realize it or not. Your scores in almost everything were exceptionally high. Your IQ is 172, well above the genius range. Your ASVAB was also impressive, seeing as how you hadn’t been in a school for thirteen years before taking the test. Every commander, sergeant and leader you’ve worked with has had nothing but glowing things to say about your abilities and potential. And aside from being a so-so soldier, you have an inherent and strong sense of respect and ethics, which has helped to balance your military career.” He reached across his desk and pulled a folder that was labeled “PROJECT ODYSSEY: TOP SECRET.” He began to thumb through the pages within the file while I quietly sat and mentally chewed on his assessment of my qualities.
“As I said, sir, I appreciate the interest in my intellect, but my physical limitations and personal philosophies have tended to be a bit… problematic. Honestly, sir, I’m a bit surprised at the interest. I’ve always known that I’m a good man, but I’m not sure as to whether or not I’m a good soldier. Then again, to be a soldier is to serve and a strong desire to serve humanity was part of why I became a soldier in the first place.”
“You came here with your step-daughter,” he stated plainly and then looked up at me, the dossier on me no longer of interest to him. “How is she adjusting to life in Belgium?”
I blinked at the general again, somewhat blindsided by the question. My mind was still reeling at the fact that my name had somehow ended up as part of a top secret program. I recovered quickly, however, and answered. “She’s doing well, sir, thank you. She’s already made an acquaintance in the apartment complex where we live and she’s starting to take in the sights. I think she intends to see about getting a small job next week, something to keep her occupied and out of trouble.”
Hannis nodded in a way that told me he already knew that. “And your wife… she’s still back in the States along with your step-son.”
“Yes, sir,” I said. “She has a job and career back home, working for an R&D company that has government contracts. She does tech support for them and enjoys the work. Darren’s about to start high school next year. We decided that, coupled with the fact that we just bought a house before my deployment to Afghanistan, it would be best to not upset the apple-cart. Holly coming with me was more of an effort to keep her out of trouble than anything else. She’s eighteen now and, as a legal adult, can do pretty much whatever she wants… as soon as she figures out what that is. Coming here with me, we think, will work to everyone’s advantage.”
The general again nodded, this time with a slight grimace. “But two years here… and on the heels of a year-long deployment… aren’t you worried that it’ll put too much of a strain on your marriage?”
I smiled grimly at that. “Of course, sir, that had been a concern we both shared. But we got married late in life, both of us already pretty well formed in our habits and patterns. We’ve both gotten accustomed to being on our own, even though we’d be happier together. We’re a patient couple and we believe that my prolonged absence from home, while inconvenient, can be weathered and overcome.”
He seemed satisfied with that answer and nodded agreeably. “From what I’ve read, she seems like a pretty devoted and dedicated spouse.”
At that I couldn’t help but smile proudly. “Yes, sir,” I replied. “More than that, however, sir, she’s my best friend, which is part of why I think we’ll be able to get through the separation with minimal trouble.”
“And your step-daughter, Holly,” he said, once again changing the subject, “seems like she’s pretty independent-minded herself, like you. And I see here that she made you a grandfather a few years ago. Tell me, Shayles, do you think being so far away from her own daughter will be a problem for her?”
My eyebrows knitted together now. This general sure as hell seemed to know a lot about my family. Of course, I’d never been quiet about my personal life, but I didn’t recall ever making any of my family’s issues a matter of official record. I began to wonder just how much he knew about me at that point, but decided to just roll with it and take it for granted that it would be pointless to hide anything. “I don’t believe so, Rotterdam Shemale sir,” I said. “Her daughter’s adoptive family has been more than accommodating to her. They regularly send her pictures and emails and they speak on the phone frequently. In a way, they’re sort of like an extended family for us- we’re very grateful for their care of Cammi. Holly should do just fine.”
General Hannis again nodded sagaciously, like he’d just heard the answer he expected. He closed the folder and left it on his lap. “Very well, Specialist. I guess it’s time that I ask you a few questions now which will have more bearing on the project.”
I glanced at the clock on his wall subtly. “I should probably call the shop and let them know I’ll be late in getting back, sir. Today is my first day and I don’t want to make a bad impression on new leadership.”
A wry smile played across the general’s weathered face. “That won’t be necessary,” he told me. “You’ve been brought here under false pretenses, Specialist. You’re looking at your new leadership. Every official record will show that you’re working as an Information Management Officer here at NATO, attached to our Signal Battalion. Friends, family and other service members, even the media, if they become interested in you for some reason, won’t be able to tell the difference. Emails will be intercepted and replied to using your style and digital records will be kept which will indicate that you’ve been working on your old capacity. But the truth will be very, very different. So forget about your old job as an IMO- that’s over and done with.”
I glanced at the folder on his lap meaningfully. “I think I understand, sir, but I’m still not sure that I’m the right choice for it- whatever it is.”
Now the general’s smile widened. “Actually, Specialist, I think you’ll find that you’re perfectly suited for it. As I said, we’ve been studying you for a long time. Every aspect of your life, your philosophy, your history, your background… everything has been under the microscope. We’ve pored over every Internet posting you’ve ever submitted, every email you’ve ever sent, every phone call you’ve ever made. Your entire life of the last ten years has been under strict scrutiny. And, despite some of it, we think that you’re the ideal type of person for what we have in mind.”
My eyes widened at this news. I knew my life wasn’t without blemish. There were lots of things that I’d posted on the Internet in recent years which would make most members of American society flush with distaste and possibly even hate. I had online interests which most would consider to be aberrant, if not downright outrageous. That said, I never let my interests interfere with my roles as a father, husband or soldier- I kept that part of my life tightly compartmentalized and away from everything else, almost like a secret identity. The only other person who really knew that dark side of me was my wife, Kathy. While she didn’t necessarily indulge me in those interests, she had often admitted to a certain sort of intrigue about them… and expressed respect for my control of them. Until recently, that is. We’d discussed the topic shortly before I came to Belgium with our daughter in tow and had both reached an understanding about it.
I fixed him with a nervous stare, like a deer might look when the headlights of a large truck bore down on it in the dead of night. Surprise and fear etched all over my features. “Everything, sir?”
General Hannis nodded with a sharp gleam of discrete knowing in his eyes. He enjoyed seeing me squirm like this for some reason. “Yes, Specialist, everything,” he answered significantly, putting stress on each syllable. “Relax. I can see that you’re concerned and I’m here to tell you, right now, that we don’t care. You’ve kept one particular… interest, shall we say, strictly in the realm of fiction and fantasy, which is good and shows the level of self-control that you possess. And, frankly, even it hadn’t been, we still wouldn’t really care- too much trouble to bother with unless someone complained about it, of course. Besides, the other aspects of your personality far outweigh that particular one, darker aspect. We won’t quibble over it if you won’t.”
“Understood, sir,” I said simply. After all, what more could I say? When someone opens your closet and finds the skeleton hidden within waving back at them, only to treat it with bland unconcern, what more can you do?
“Nothing to thank me about, Specialist. Personally, as a man, I think your interests are a little repugnant, but professionally they have no bearing on our interest in you. As long as you continue to be discrete about it, we won’t make it a problem for you.”
I visibly gulped as the full import of what the general had just told me sank in. “Yes, sir.”
“Now… to continue with this interview… I have a few questions that I need to ask you, Specialist. Please feel free to be candid and frank in your answers- honesty is what I’m looking for.”
I nodded at Netherlands Shemale him in understanding, already aware of what was expected of me, but my mind still reeled at so many irregular things going on. A general doesn’t interview low-ranking soldiers for anything. And the business about my dark secret, being subtly told that I could do whatever I pleased as long as I didn’t draw attention to myself, was beyond surprising. The military tends to take a dim view on such things.
“Okay. First question: how do you feel about aliens? And I don’t mean illegal immigrants.”
My eyebrows almost leaped off my forehead at that first, unexpected question. I did manage, however, to regain my focus and consider the matter. “Seeing as how I’ve never knowingly encountered an extraterrestrial, sir, I can’t formulate an opinion on them. If you mean to ask if I think they exist, I’d have to say that I think it’s absolutely likely that they do exist. I don’t necessarily buy the whole ‘little green men’ myth, nor can I speak to the idea that Humanity has been in close contact with aliens, but I personally believe that the universe is vast and chaotic enough to accommodate their presence.”
“And what would your thinking be if we had been in contact with alien beings?”
I shrugged. “I should hope, sir, that we’d treat them with a great deal of respect and deference. Beings advanced enough to accomplish interstellar travel are surely more experienced and knowledgeable, which would make them worth listening to. I’d hope that we could be on friendly terms with them.”
Hannis watched me carefully while I answered and gave a soft grunt of acceptance at my reply. I couldn’t tell if the grunt indicated agreement or an appreciation for my shrewdness, but he seemed satisfied by it nonetheless. “Next question: two buses are falling to their doom. On one bus is a group of children, on the other a group of nuns. You can only save one busload from death. Which one do you save?”
I didn’t hesitate in my answer to that one. “Children are our future, sir,” I said promptly. “Their lives are unblemished and innocent.”
“Why not the nuns? Aren’t they just as innocent and unblemished?”
Again, I didn’t hesitate. “The nuns are, I assume, already at peace with God and ready to join their husband-“
He interrupted me. “Excuse me. Husband?”
“Yes, sir,” I said. “As I understand it, nuns join a convent on the belief that they are entering into a marriage contract with Christ.”
“I see,” the general said. “Continue.”
“Not much more to say, really, sir. I believe the nuns would be only too happy to sacrifice their lives in the favor of innocent children. I wouldn’t like making that decision, but if that’s what I was faced with, that’s what I’d choose. The children would take precedence.”
“All right,” Hannis said as he absorbed the answer. After a moment of deep contemplation, he fired the third question at me. “Let’s say that you have the ability to go back in time. You find yourself faced with the opportunity to assassinate Hitler. Would you?”
This, I felt, was an easy answer. “Negative, sir.”
“How could I know if so significant a change in history would be for the better or worse? Killing Hitler would change things so drastically that it might even create a paradox, undoing a full sequence of events which might prevent me from ever coming back in time in the first place. It could create a vacuum of power in the Reich which might invite someone much worse. It might make the Reich collapse which would have an effect on the world economy. No, sir, as much as it pains me, I would spare him.”
“So you wouldn’t change events in the past?”
I smiled. So he didn’t know everything, which told me volumes. “I didn’t say that, sir.”
Chapter Two : A Secret
Several months before the meeting with General Hannis
The first time I saw myself, and I’m not talking about looking at my countenance in a mirror, was while I was in Afghanistan, smoking a cigarette. It had been a quiet night of nominally monitoring the network, which usually boiled down to surfing the ‘net and checking out my Facebook page for hours on end. I would typically grow tired of sitting around, doing nothing, and venture outside to have a smoke inside the concrete bunker that was situated close to our NetOps building. I hardly ever saw anyone else during these times except on rare occasions when other soldiers (all night-shift folks) would come outside for a break, just to get away from the ennui. So I had a cigarette in my lips, a bottle of Gatorade in one hand and my lighter in the other, about to lean against the interior wall of the bunker to sit and smoke, when I found myself freezing in mid-motion, just before lighting the cigarette’s tip. You know that feeling you get when someone’s watching you or when someone has just entered the same room you’re in, even though your back is to them? That’s the feeling I got just then, that sixth-sense of someone else’s presence nearby, multiplied by ten. The moon was in full and cast a lot of silver light on the gravel outside the bunker, but the bunker itself was shrouded in shadow and darkness, difficult for one’s eyes to discern anything without the help of a flashlight.
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