SW10: December 2010 #2: Cauldron Book II, Part 2

Scott Eiler seiler at eilertech.com
Sun Feb 27 18:37:33 PST 2011

Commentator: Summer Morgan for the United States Insight Battalion.

What Has Gone Before. By Katerina Katzmann.

Summer Morgan and her friends Holly, Liz, and Margaret Jean are superhuman 
agents for the United States in Nashville. Liz and Margaret Jean are about to be 
transferred. Before they leave, Holly pursues a bomber and Summer gets ambushed 
near a mansion.


United States Insight Battalion
Operations Report
Thursday, December 9, 2010

Before I could react, my attacker was on me. I did the usual: roll him over me 
and kick him off.

But this "him" was like an "it" - a human-sized cross between a greyhound and a 
seal! It hadn't shown up as a living human when I scanned it. That's one reason 
I thought it was dead. The other reason was, they were pretending to bury it... 
Okay, it's really some weird dog, that they disguised to look like a dead human 
just to fool me.

I ran away from the mansion and jumped a line of shrubs, toward the nearest 
large building. On my helmet map it was marked "Nashville-Davidson County 
Government". But it was just a maintenance warehouse!

I was ahead of the dog for then, because it couldn't jump over the bushes like I 
had. But it could run faster than I could. I had to go to ground.

One loading dock had its door open. I jumped in and considered my weapons. I had 
a siren, two smoke and two gas grenades, plus finally two flashbangs. Nothing I 
could actually shoot with, though, aside from my flare and my rappel gear.

The dog flashed across the yard. I threw one of my flashbangs at it, just in 
reflex. But it was too fast to care. Dammit! I had to get to someplace I could 
defend. So I backed into a corner of the loading dock bay.

Then Holly came in. "Summer! Are you all right?"

"Winter! Can you get back to the mansion?"

"I'm right next door at the golf course. They were trying to cut across -"

"Give history later! Track me back here now!"

"Uh, my tracker's busted."

"Dammit! Head for where it says County Government just north of there, then!"

"My map's busted too."

"Shit! Do you know where you are?"

"Yeah, it's... Uh, wait, the map just came on. I'm on the way."

Then my helmet map said, Incoming - Fast! Okay, not some warehouse guy. I shot 
my flare at it without even looking.

I heard a high-pitched scream. I smelled burning flesh. I heard a low-pitched 
sound that sounded like a snarl, but like it came from whales. And I saw a thing 
that looked like a seal with fists. Eww, not quite a dog.

I aimed my rappel gear and said, "There's more here!" I could swear, the 
seal-thing flinched.

Then Holly came in again! "Ready to the west of you."

"Go north! It's a war zone here! Cut him off at the warehouse doors!"

But then the seal-thing ran. Holly didn't catch it.

Then Liz and Margaret-Jean reported in. They were on their way. I had them go to 
the mansion. But it was too late. Aside from the hole I saw being dug for the 
ambush, the place was deserted.


After the nightly debrief, I had Holly take her helmet down to the night-shift 
maintenance tech in-hotel. Then, down time. Which meant, hot tub time. Even the 
Sheraton Nashville Downtown where we were staying couldn't always get decent 
food in, but it could still run the hot tub.

But Holly flinched! "Um, could I try something different tonight? Salt water's 
supposed to be good for you."

"Holly, we're from Seattle! When's the last time you swam in salt water?"

"Um, I went to Bermuda once..."

Then the phone from our tech Brett rang. I said, "Holly, if you've got the salt, 
knock yourself out in the bathtub." Then I went to answer the phone.

"Agent Morgan, I looked at Agent McGraw's helmet. It was fine. No damage."

"Glitch?" I trust Brett.

"Not likely. Do you know how multiply redundant our systems are?"

"But they fail all the time!"

"But at least we can tell they're broken when they do."

"Well, yeah. I finally get it... Thanks. Hold on to the helmet for now. And get 
a med tech to our room."

Holly knows how to read her helmet maps. She loves the hot tub. And real Seattle 
girls go to California or Hawaii to swim in the ocean! I was starting to think, 
Holly'd been brain-wiped by the EMP gun or something.

The bathroom door was closed. Holly was saying softly, "Calm. Calm. Belong."

I knocked. "Holly, are you really all right?"

"I'm fine. Leave me alone. (and more softly) Let me belong!"

"Uh, Holly, this is me, Summer. I'm on your side. What's going on?"


"Holly, please tell me what's going on."

"Arrh!" I heard thrashing from inside the bathroom. It sounded like a seizure! 
Where was that med tech?

I kicked the door in. I saw a seal-dog creature in the tub - just like the one I 
fought today!

"No! No No No!" I couldn't take it any more.

... To Be Continued.


Author's Notes:

Coming into this episode, I may have given the impression that I was responding 
to a "zombie" plot challenge when I had a body rise out from a hole in the 
ground. I'm not yet quite ready to reveal what challenge I'm actually responding 
to, but it's definitely not "zombie".

Yes, this episode is early. I thought I was being expansive when I planned on 
five episodes in Book II. I was wrong. At one piece of action and one 
cliffhanger per episode, we can expect six episodes now. But the episodes are 
coming in fast and furious; I'm practically done with the next one already. 
(Heh, there went that weekend.) So the story won't take any longer than I'd planned.

The whole story is online in HTML format.  This episode's at 
http://www.eilertech.com/stories/2010/cauldron6.htm .

(signed) Scott Eiler, February 2011.

(signed) Scott Eiler  8{D> -------- http://www.eilertech.com/ ---------

Only their myths concerned peace and contentment, and that in such a
coercive, sullen package it was obvious that the Earth humans resented
the very idea.

- from "Passing" by Elaine Radford, Aboriginal SF, May/June 1987.

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