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VI (Six)

By P. A. Clouden All Rights Reserved ©

Thriller / Action

Calm Before The Storm

General Curtis Lowell was, to many of those who knew him well, a strong-willed man with a no-nonsense attitude. To those who served under him saw him to be extremely patriotic. However, General Lowell didn't long for the "glory days" of America like so many in politics argued for. He was instead more focused on eliminating unnecessary hurdles and discriminatory blockades; enriching and protecting the land he had sworn to defend.

When those close to him would hear him speak of a "more perfect America", they'd all say the same thing, "When are you going to put your ideas to good use and run for President?"

He knew he could. He fit all the necessary criteria. He was in his early fifties, still in imposing shape with much of his hair left on his head and a military background that stretched 25 years but Lowell had seen how the power and presence of being the Commander in Chief could change men. Even good men could be turned into sniveling, impotent puppets. He had no desire to be President and even less to change. He had a plan in motion that would permanently change the world for the better...if only they could just get it right.

"Have you been able to locate him yet?" General Lowell asked the young reserve who was focusing on redistributing access points through multiple communication channels to locate a specific signal.

"Yes sir, we've located IV but his signal is faint. He may be out of reach or..."

"Dead," Lowell finished, "And V?"

"Decommissioned sir," the reserve reluctantly answered.

General Lowell hung his head and softly pounded his fist against the control deck, "Do we know where the signal is coming from?" he asked aloud.

"Yes sir, we've got the signal centralized to one state. It's coming from the outskirts of Ohio," another reserve answered.

"Can you confirm III is with IV?" The General asked.

"No sir, either he no longer has his tracker or he's found a way to block our sensors."

This was becoming a hopeless situation. General Lowell along with a few decorated members of the military special forces started a private project called N.O.B.L.E. (the National Order of Beautifying Land Everywhere). In many ways it was a success; in many more ways, it was not. Their work was not only unsupported by political officials, it was also illegal. If they were to be discovered, all who participated would surely be tried for murder, treason and multiple violations of international law.

General Lowell gazed out from the top of his underground control center among the 30 or so dedicated reserves checking access points, data entries, surveillance footage and isolating locations to find the target they were looking for. The N.O.B.L.E. communications center sat buried almost 40 feet below the capitol city. It's entranceways hidden to the most keen observer, it's access limited to only those who know of it's existence.

The communications room was lit with computer screens, holographic images of surveyed lands shown in the center and a full wall video screen on the far back wall to capture live instances of their missions. Just then, the hologram from the center fazed out, and the wall screen came to life showing a night sky, a bright full moon and a riverbank below. Immediately, all action inside the center stopped. The screen had the reserves' and General Lowell's full attention because at that moment they realized one of their worst fears had come true: they'd been hijacked.

"Hello N.O.B.L.E," a man's eerie voice boomed over the intercom. The screen turned rapidly changing the view from the moon and the river to a man's face. He had a very hard edge about him. His face showed a scar near his cheek and a few bruises on his lips that blood was starting to leak from, but it obviously didn't bother him at all. His eyes were burning like he had just got out of a fight. Everyone in the center could tell he was staring straight through the video screen and looking dead into the eyes of General Lowell.

Lowell's eyes matched his intensity as he immediately recognized the man, "III" he whispered through gritted teeth.

The man gave a wry smile, suddenly confident, "I just want to thank you for treating me as so much of a threat by sending not just one, but two of your super soldiers to kill me. I must admit, I am flattered," he said. General Lowell grew infuriated by III's arrogance, "I was going to dismember them and send their heads to your underground doorstep; you can only imagine my disappointment when I discovered they weren't human." The hardened scowl returned to III's face, "You sent me robots? That's almost insulting N.O.B.L.E, but I guess it's understandable, you don't want another dead human on your conscience. We all remember what happened to II."

The screen went black as the reserves hurried to their stations to try and get the signal back or a lock on the location. General Lowell stood silently, clenching his fist. IV and V were dead now. III had abandoned and betrayed them. There was only one thing left to do now: Call a meeting.

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