The mission has hardly begun when strange things start to happen. Without warning, several of the platoon disappear off the scanner. No one can explain it, including Kaz, who is watching the scanner.
“What?” Fiddlestix rounded on Kaz who looked at his computer screen helplessly.
“They were there a second ago, then poof! Gone!”
“Thirty people don’t go poof!”
“They just did!” Kaz was worried and scared, which made him rather surly.
Feeling surly herself, Fiddlestix grabbed the computer from his hands, nearly dropping it. Aside from the three of them, there were no other life forms showing on the screen.
“Not even a squirrel! You can’t tell me on this entire mountain there’s no squirrels!” She stopped, lowering her gun, turning in a slow circle. “I don’t know what you’re playing at, but if anything happens to my people, there will be hell to pay! I promise you that! Just so we’re clear, we’re here to help you. Or haven’t you noticed you’ve got a passel of crazy, cyber soldiers battering down your back door?”
“Master Sergeant? Are you okay?” Harmony’s dark face was clouded with worry.
“I know they’re watching, or listening, monitoring us somehow! Come on! Show yourselves! If I wanted to cause you trouble, would I march in here like a fool? Cowards! Hiding under your mountain! Come out!”
Spinning in a low, continuous circle, she bellowed for all she was worth. Hurling insults, she castigated the landscape. Harmony and Kaz looked more and more concerned. Kaz gasped suddenly, pointing over Fiddlestix’ left shoulder. She felt a tingling. Moving around so she faced the opposite direction, she kept her hands carefully away from her weapons, motioning her men to do the same. Taking a step forward, she focused on the bracken to the west, waiting.
A moment later, the bushes rustled and dozens of huge men poured forth. Even the smallest of them dwarfed Harmony, who was six foot seven. Their bodies were muscled in ways that Fiddlestix had never seen before. All of them were tall, buff and disarmingly handsome. None of them were smiling.
One man stepped forward, literally toe to toe with Fiddlestix. Well over seven feet tall, he loomed over her. At six three, she was used to looking down on most of her team members. This man made her lean back, gazing at his chin. Despite her irritation and disquietude, her heart fluttered, but not from fear. He was, for lack of a more descriptive term, gorgeous. Built along the lines of a Norse god, his golden blond hair flowed down his back. A tight, narrow braid was knotted with a red strip of leather and tossed casually over his left shoulder. His crystal blue eyes bored into her stormy gray ones.
“I’m here.” His deep, husky, musical voice filled her ears. His Southern accent was strong, flavoring his words like honey. “I can’t say I much appreciate the disparaging remarks about my character, though.” His lips made a firm, tight line. A steely glint flickered in the back of his eyes.
“I need to speak to your leader.”
Fiddlestix folded her arms across her ample chest, eyes flickering around the perimeter of the clearing, taking in the opposition. She counted twenty, but figured there were at least twice that many that she couldn’t see.
“I don’t wanna explain twice, so I’d like to talk to him.” She made it clear she wasn’t moving until he granted her what she wanted.
“Look, lady, I don’t know who the hell you think you are, but do you know who you’re talking to?” A slightly shorter, but more muscular man detached himself from the group behind the blond god.
He was even more massively built than the other man, dark and brooding. They had to be brothers, there was a strong family resemblance. Especially in that defiant jaw. His eyes were dark brown, the other man’s were a clear, vivid blue with a steely edge.
“I’m Master Sergeant Hannah Braun of the United States Army,” she began confidently. “I demand to speak….”
“Honey,” the dark haired man’s brown eyes danced happily. “You’re speakin’ to him right now. After the noise you made in our woods, do you think anyone else was gonna come? Master Sergeant Hannah Braun, meet General Deacon Scott of the Shine Clan.”
Fiddlestix looked stunned. This was the leader of the Shine Clan? He wasn’t any older than she was! Had she heard right?
“You’re General Scott? We were led to believe that your leader was an older man, in his fifties?”
Deacon’s eyes clouded and his jaw worked fitfully as he tried to control his emotions. “My father was killed recently in a raid. You say you know something about the freaks who took our north gate two days ago?”
© 2017 Dellani Oakes
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