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Social science fiction is a subgenre of science fiction which focuses more upon speculations surrounding human behavior and interactions, as well as with society as a whole, than with technology and space opera, which tends to be the focus of traditional science fiction.

An Enemy Within — Chapter Forty Five

Chapter 45

As Alex is checking on Shannon, the two of them talk in hushed tones.

“How’d you know I was here?” Shannon asks.

“I was following the news.”

“But…”

“That’s all you need to know at the moment. Now just relax and try to recover.”

Alex was able to figure out where Shannon was through an initial suspicion followed up by some legwork. In the time preceding the attack, Alex noticed that Shannon was acting differently. This caused him to become worried about her. And when the three of them were going to have dinner together two nights ago, Marc told him that Shannon left to take care of some “urgent business.” Following the news, Alex heard about the New World Power attack upon the Marshals Service, grabbing his attention. When one of the reporters commented that the Marshals Service was possibly caring a federal witness, Alex believed that it was Shannon. Following up on this suspicion, Alex started to check the local hospitals surrounding the attack for any possible reports relating to it. This led Alex to the Sherman Oaks Hospital and to Shannon. And since Alex is a temp nurse, he was able to get himself placed on the hospital staff at Sherman Oaks Hospital since one of the regular nurses called in sick.

And this isn’t the only thing that Alex is keeping from her. Like Shannon, Alex too is deemed a mutant by society and he also decided to keep this information a secret. He feels like he can do more good if he keeps it to himself than if he shared the information. The ability that Alex possesses is known as Laying of Hands. The name comes from the faith healer community, but the difference between the two is that the mutant ability has a measurable physical effect upon the body of the patient instead of just playing off of the person’s hopes. This ability stimulates the natural healing process of the ailing patient which aids in fighting off a sickness or healing a particular injury. However, in situations of aiding physical injuries, though the body will heal quicker, the process will tend to leave more scar tissue behind.

With the natural healing process, the body will create more scar tissue then is necessary to help close the wound. In wounds that are large enough, or are not properly treated, a visible scar will be left behind. With Laying of Hands, this process of scar tissue generation is exacerbated because the healing process is essentially put into overdrive. However, in the process of helping fight off an infection or other such illness, the only thing left behind are antibodies tailor made to fight off that particular illness. But regardless of the beneficial aspects of this ability, there are situations where it can have a negative effect on the patient, causing the illness to worsen instead of improve.

One such example is cancer. This is because with cancer, the cells of a particular part of the body start reproducing out of control. And when Laying of Hands is used, all it does is encourage the cancerous cells to reproduce that much faster. Alex also remembers a former patient of his early in his career who was infected with the AIDS virus. Alex thought that his ability would help fight the illness. But instead, the disease actually worsened, hastening the patient’s death. The reason why the disease worsened was because the AIDS virus bonds itself to the victims DNA, essentially becoming a part of the patient. That’s why it’s so hard to fight the disease in the first place, because the disease tailors itself to each patient, preventing a single vaccine from being created as would be done with the seasonal flu.

When Alex learned that his ability actually helped kill his patient instead of help, he was shocked and felt tremendous guilt because of it. It was because of this guilt, and the fear that he would be fired because of it, that he didn’t tell anyone what he did. But his coworkers didn’t expect anything. They just thought that he was taking the death hard. His patient’s death didn’t go in vain, however. Alex learned that there are limits to his ability. His ability is not like those depicted on TV, in the movies, or in comic books where the person with this ability can simply touch a patient and the patient would be miraculously healed of all injuries or sickness. His ability is not a cure-all. All the ability does is help the healing process along. And the effects aren’t instantaneous. It takes time for the ability to have an effect. It essentially just reduces the overall healing time. Regardless, it was because of this ability that Alex decided to become a nurse in the first place and he still holds to the idea that he can do great good with it.

But Alex feels like the time has come for him to share his secret. As he is changing the bandages on Shannon’s neck and shoulder, he leans over Shannon and asks in whispered tones, “You interested in seeing a little trick?”

A look of slight puzzlement comes over Shannon’s face, but she says, “Ok.”

At that, Alex starts using his ability. Fortunately for him, Alex has positioned himself between Shannon and the deputy, preventing the deputy from seeing Alex use his ability. As he does this, Alex closes his eyes, which allows him to better concentrate. As he uses his ability, Shannon begins to feel a tingling sensation, first at where Alex is touching her followed by the surrounding areas. This tingling sensation dissipates as her endorphins begin to kick in and Alex’s ability begins to really work.

After feeling the initial effects of Alex’s Laying of Hands, Shannon takes a look at her injuries. As she does, she sees the healing process in action, which she finds quite strange. She sees scar tissue form and the injuries tighten up a bit. If she had to describe it, she would say that it was the healing process in fast forward. And because of her raised endorphin levels, she doesn’t feel any pain or discomfort. This is because endorphins are the body’s natural painkillers. Eventually, Alex stops using his ability, which is only a few seconds after he begins, and dresses the wounds with fresh bandages.

When Alex has finished, Shannon feels a bit euphoric and says, “I can understand why you got into medicine. And I think I see why you went into nursing.”

Though doctors possess the knowledge and skill to perform the necessary tasks to help treat and fix their patients, it is the nursing staff that actually helps the patient through the recovery process. Even though doctors will check-in on their patients intermittently, the nurses are there on a regular basis and will tend to develop a face-to-face relationship and will help perform the regular treatment. They are there to see the good days and there to deal with the bad. Even though the doctor will get the lion’s share of the credit, the recovery process wouldn’t be possible without the help of the nurses. With Alex, he felt that his ability would be better utilized as a nurse than a doctor for just that reason; he’ll be there during the recovery process and he’ll be able to use his ability often, depending upon the condition and need of the patient.

Once bandaged, Shannon uses her good hand to take one of Alex’s. With that, she says telepathically, “thank you.” She hopes that she sends more than just the words. The reason why she touches Alex to send this message is because it tends to be more effective at sending it than just trying to send it from mind to mind. Back at school, when she was getting help from Terrance on her exam, the two of them practiced together so that he would know how to interpret her psionic messages when he received them. With touch telepathy, the psionic uses the person’s own nervous system, which should better aid in transmitting the message. After receiving this, Alex replies with what he hopes Shannon will pick up as gratitude.

During the time that Alex was using Laying of Hands, the deputy’s radio began to chatter. The deputy is informed that Crow maybe within the hospital. After acknowledging this, he makes his way over to Alex. Luckily, Alex finished bandaging Shannon, and she sent her message to Alex. After approaching Alex, the deputy says, “Excuse me. A situation has arisen. How much longer do you think you’ll be?”

“I just finished,” Alex replies. “What’s going on?”

“I’m not at liberty to say at the moment. But you have to leave, now.”

Reading the situation, Shannon concludes that the New World Power has found her and is in the hospital. She would try to read the deputy’s mind in order to obtain some more information, but he’s not close enough for her to be able to do this. She’s just not powerful enough. But it’s situations like this, where a person is able to read the situation, that adds to the mystique of psionics, making people think that they are more powerful than they really are. Shannon tries to sit up in bed after coming to this conclusion, but Alex turns back to her and says, “It’s probably nothing. Just try and relax.”

Looking at the deputy, Shannon asks, “Is it him? Is he here?”

“Don’t concern yourself with that now,” the deputy says. “We’ve got it under control.” Turning his attention back to Alex, he says, “It’s time for you to leave.”

At this, the deputy leads Alex out of the room as Shannon looks on with concern. Once out of the room, the deputy closes the door behind him and Alex begins to leave. As he does, Alex sees the deputy and one other armed guard standing outside of Shannon’s room. Unbeknownst to Alex, as he is leaving, he is heading towards the location where Crow and the other two New World Power members are currently standing. As he watches Alex leave, the deputy manages to see someone acting suspiciously. Seeing this, the deputy concludes that this is one of the New World Power members. The New World Power member that he sees is the member who was sitting in the back seat of the car. The deputy managed to see him because the New World Power member was looking around the corner. Seeing that the deputy has spotted him, the back seat member quickly ducks back around the corner.

To Crow and the driver, the back seat member says, “I think he saw me.”

To reinforce this, they hear the deputy calling out in an assertive voice saying “Hey!”

Hearing this, Alex thinks that the deputy is talking to him, so he stops and looks back. But looking at the deputy, Alex notices that the deputy is looking past him toward where the New World Power members are located and starts heading in that direction in a hurried pace, pulling out his weapon as he does so. Seeing this, Alex flattens himself up against the wall.

Knowing that their cover has been blown, Crow determines that the time to act is now. Moving quickly, Crow pulls out his gun and turns the corner. Seeing how close the deputy is, Crow manages to raise his weapon before the deputy does and gets a shot off. Crow hits the deputy in the shoulder, causing the deputy to fall to the ground. Seeing the other armed guard, Crow quickly re-aims and starts firing at him.

Reacting to the situation, Alex instinctively ducks as the armed guard raises his weapon to return fire. But because Crow has the drop on him, he isn’t able to react as quickly as he could. This is punctuated by the fact that one of Crow’s bullets strikes him. Fortunately for the guard, the bullet strikes him in his vest. After ducking, Alex runs as fast as he can in the opposite direction so that he can make it to safety. Not waiting for instructions, the New World Power member who drove the car prepares himself to go on the offensive. But he doesn’t pull out a gun, but builds up what can be best described as an “energy” charge. The driver’s ability allows him to secrete an enzyme through his skin that, when oxidized, ignites.

The driver builds up the enzyme around his hands because they act as a point of concentration. To the average person, this ability is perceived as Energy Expulsion, failing to realize exactly what energy is, seeing energy as just a force onto itself. In actuality, the type of energy the driver is building up is a chemical energy, so it would be better to classify this ability as Electromagnetic Expulsion. Once enough of the oxidizing enzyme builds up around his fists, he is able to propel it in the direction which he wants them to go. But he has to wait a second or two before firing so that he can accrue enough of the enzyme.

As the driver prepares his ability and Crow ducks back behind the wall, the deputy and the armed guard manage to recover the best they can. The two of them scurry to the wall located opposite that of Shannon’s room so that they won’t be in the direct line of sight for the New World Power. The armed guard moves into a doorframe as the deputy slides across the floor. Once the deputy reaches the armed guard in the doorframe, he’ll retake his feet.

Once enough of the oxidizing enzyme has been accrued, the driver is ready to lean into the hallway so that he can fire. But as he steps out, the guard fires his weapon in the driver’s direction. Though the bullet misses, being shot at causes the driver to duck back behind the wall as an automatic reflex, but if the bullet was going to hit him, it wouldn’t matter what the driver did. The driver then quickly steps out from behind cover and fires a chemical bolt of energy at the guard. The guard was preparing himself to fire at the driver again, but the driver managed to discharge first, causing the guard to react and dodge instead.

During this volley, the deputy manages to radio-in from the cover of the doorframe that they are under attack and are taking fire. As he does this, the driver manages to fire off two more bolts of chemical energy before the guard and deputy are able to return fire. As the guard prepares to take aim, the driver ducks back behind cover before the guard is able to fire his weapon. The walls in the hospital are essentially constructed of wood and drywall, and thus, don’t provide much in the way of protection. The bullets would most likely just pass through the wall and continue traveling along its trajectory. Fortunately for the driver, the guard doesn’t fire and he moves several inches back from the corner when he takes cover.

Analyzing the situation, the deputy determines that if the situation continues to go as it is, it will turn out very bad for him, his associate, and the person that they are trying to protect. After radioing in their situation, the deputy gets to his feet and rushes forward. Upon reaching the corner, Crow reacts instantly to the situation. He gives the deputy a quick mental stun as he closes the distance between them, followed by putting his hand over the deputy’s gun. In the United States, law enforcement personnel have been trained to keep their weapons lowered until they are ready to use it. This fact reduced the threat that Crow faced when he made his move against the deputy. And the injury the deputy suffered further aided Crow and his attack.

Once Crow deflects the gun, he puts his free hand over the deputy’s face and eyes so that he can over stimulate the neurons in the deputy’s brain and cause a seizure. And with the hand that is over the gun, Crow also manages to partially paralyze the deputy’s hands so that he won’t accidentally pull the trigger and discharge the gun. As the deputy begins to collapse, Crow tries to use Read Thoughts to see if he can gain any information about the person the deputy is protecting, but this can be a bit of a challenge due to the induced seizures he has caused. Right before the deputy hits the ground, Crow manages to get the information he is looking for. Shannon is the person the deputy is protecting.

As all of this is going on, Shannon is freaking out. She hears the commotion and gunfire going on outside of her room and she is incapable of doing anything, including protecting herself. She can’t escape through any doors because there’s only one way in or out of her room, and that is where all the commotion is. She can’t escape through the window because she isn’t on the first floor. Besides, she is in no condition to do anything proactive due to the extent of her injuries. And trying to detach herself from the medical equipment will pose a problem. Though she is scared, there isn’t really anything she can do. She is dependent upon others for her protection, and that isn’t playing out to well at the moment.

As Crow is taking care of the deputy, the guard tries to make a move to prevent this from occurring. However, the driver prevents him from doing so. Taking aim, the driver fires two shots at the guard, but both of them miss. However, the driver’s third shot manages to hit his target, even though indirectly. The shot hits the doorframe in front of the guard, causing part of the enzyme ball to splatter and hit its intended target. The driver would have gone for another attack, but is prevented from doing so by the arrival of the cavalry. Uniformed guards arrive on the scene, causing the environment to change and forcing Crow and the others to react accordingly.

It is at this point that Alex is able to capitalize on the situation and manages to slip into Shannon’s room. The guard is dealing with his injury as Crow and his associates are preoccupied with the arrival of the reinforcements. If Alex didn’t make his move at this point in time, he would have missed his opportunity because uniformed guards and law enforcement agents would have arrived in that corridor and would have prevented him from making his move. But he manages to make it to Shannon’s room without being noticed, and he is carrying a backpack and a container of medical supplies with him. Closing the door, Alex makes his way over to Shannon. Seeing Alex, Shannon is able to relax a bit.

“What’s going on out there?” Shannon asks.

“Well, it seems like your friends from the New World Power want to pay you a visit,” Alex replies. “But from the look of things, it doesn’t appear to be one of those friendly, ‘I hope you get well soon’ type of visits.”

“What are we going to do?”

“I’m going to see if I can get you out of here. I feel that it’s too dangerous for you to stay.”

“How are you going to get me out of here?”

“We’ll see won’t we?” Not exactly the most comforting words one can hear in this situation, but it’s the best he can give. “I brought you some clothes for you to change into. But before you get dressed, let me see what I can do about your wounds.”

At this, Alex takes out a bottle and then injects its contents into Shannon’s arm. He then lays his hands over her injuries and stimulates her body’s natural healing process. After a few seconds of this, he lets Shannon get dressed. Even with Alex’s help, Shannon finds this to be a bit difficult. Once dressed, Alex put’s Shannon’s injured arm into a sling to prevent it from moving about and causing further injury or pain.

With this task completed, the two of them make their way cautiously to the door. Upon reaching it, Alex slowly opens it and peers out, hesitantly. Looking out, it appears that the coast is clear. The New World Power is too busy dealing with security to make a move against Shannon and the security force is too busy dealing with the New World Power to think about protecting Shannon. Apparently, no one thought to come down this corridor. At this, Alex takes Shannon by the hand and the two of them make their way to an emergency exit as fast as they can. Eventually, the Marshals Service will check in on Shannon, just to find that she is gone.

In order to find an emergency exit that is nearby, the two of them have to go down the hallway and round a corner. But as they do, they come across a problem. The New World Power member who was riding in the back seat of the car was instructed to try and find a way to gain entrance to Shannon’s room from another direction. In doing so, he managed to avoid police, the Marshals, and security, and was able to get around to the other side of the hallway that leads to Shannon’s room. This causes him to come across Alex and Shannon as they head down the hallway.

Noticing his target, the passenger doesn’t waste any time and sprints toward them. Seeing him, Alex and Shannon move quickly into a nearby stairwell and start going down. Upon entering the staircase, they come across unexpected traffic. The stairwell is filled with people trying to evacuate the building. The commotion which Crow and the others are currently engaged in cause panic to spread across the hospital. In an attempt to control this panic, and to get people to safety in an orderly manner, hospital staff try and help escort people out to a safe location as quickly as possible. Though this slows Alex and Shannon down, it gives them a valuable advantage. As long as they don’t do anything that would draw attention to themselves, like looking back or trying to push through the crowd, they should be able to blend in with the other people, allowing them to go undetected by the New World Power member.

After Alex and Shannon merge into the crowd, the New World Power member comes bursting into the stairwell. Like Alex and Shannon, he’s surprised by the traffic he encounters in the stairwell. This causes him to take a step back. It also causes him to become a bit disoriented. In addition to all of this, he wasn’t paying close attention to what Alex and Shannon are wearing, so he won’t be able to pick them out from the crowd.

After regaining his bearings, the New World Power member pushes his way through the crowd in order to reach the railing. Upon reaching it, he starts scanning the crowd. His actions displease some of the people but he pays them no heed. As he scans the crowd, there are some people who catch his eye, but they are not the people he’s looking for. Though Alex and Shannon are close by, the New World Power member has lost his target. Upon realizing this, he steps back out of the stairwell and breaks out a cell phone in order to call Crow to inform him of the situation.

With Crow and the driver, they have managed to make it into one of the rooms, which provides them with some cover so that they can try and fend off the advancing authorities. As Crow fires some shots at the authorities, his cell begins to ring. Seeing who it is, he answers it by saying, “I hope you have good news.”

“Sorry,” the passenger says. “I lost them in a stairwell. I came across an unexpected crowd.”

“Damn,” Crow proclaims as he hangs up the phone. Turning to the driver, he says, “It’s time to go.”

And it’s a good time to do so, for Crow and the driver are becoming overwhelmed. With the arrival of reinforcements, and the existence of multiple fronts, the situation is becoming a bit tenuous. They have been lucky to make it this far and they can’t hold out much longer. As he surveys the surrounding corridor, Crow sees a stairwell nearby.

“This way,” Crow says to the driver.

As the driver provides cover, Crow makes a break for the stairwell. Upon making it across, it’s now the driver’s turn to run for it as Crow provides cover. But unlike Crow, the driver isn’t so lucky. While he’s still in the room, the driver finds a bedpan and grabs it. He thinks that it would be able to act as some type of shield when he is shot at. His reasoning is that the metal of the pan would be able to deflect any oncoming bullets. Wrong. As the driver runs for the stairwell, a police officer fires at him. The bullet just so happens to strike the bedpan and easily penetrates it, striking the driver in the arm. This is because the bedpan is not constructed to stop or deflect bullets. It’s built to be shit and pissed in. For any substance to be able to deflect or stop a bullet, it needs to be either thick enough to absorb the kinetic energy of the bullet, or constructed in such a way that the kinetic energy is transferred across a wide area.

Once such item that is able to absorb the kinetic energy of a bullet is a bullet resistant vest, though it is regularly misidentified as a bullet proof vest. The average person generally believes that a person wearing such a vest will be protected from firearms. This is true, to a point. If the bullet comes from a low enough caliber gun, the vest will be able to stop the bullet. But if it comes from a high enough caliber gun, it will be able to penetrate the vest and strike the person wearing it. And depending upon the brand, a bullet resistant vest can be compromised by knife attacks, due to the physics involved in a knife thrust.

After being struck in the arm, the driver is shot again in the leg, preventing him from making any further progress. Seeing that his follower is down, Crow quickly deduces that it is best if he leaves the driver behind. It won’t do him, Crow, or the New World Power any good if he gets caught. With the stairwell that Crow finds himself in, it just so happens to be empty. It’s likely that because of the commotion he and his followers caused while dealing with security, the people in charge of evacuating the floors decided that it would be best not to send people down this particular stairwell. Once inside, Crow decides to go up instead of down. He feels that he would have a greater chance of being caught if he went down. After ascending a flight of stairs, Crow cautiously opens the door and enters the floor corridor. Fortunately, law enforcement is yet to enter the stairwell to notice where Crow has gone. As Crow leaves the stairwell, he comes across a nurse who is hurriedly moving down the corridor.

Seeing Crow, the nurse says, “You shouldn’t be here.”

But this is about all that he can do because Crow moves quickly and is able to incapacitate the nurse. Using both a physical and psionic strike, Crow causes the nurse to collapse to the floor with a minor nose bleed. And since the nurse was close enough for Crow to grab, this aided Crow in his attack. With the nurse now knocked out, Crow drags his limp body into one of the nearby rooms so that the nurse won’t draw any unnecessary attention as Crow makes his escape. It just so happens that the room Crow enters is an occupied patient room. Seeing Crow, the visitor gets up from his chair and turns around to face the intruder.

“What’s going on?” the visitor asks as the patient looks on from behind him.

Crow straitens up and faces the visitor. The visitor is about to yell at Crow to get the hell out, but before he does, Crow rushes forward and punches him in the stomach. This is followed by a punch to the visitor’s jaw. The power that Crow delivers, accompanied by the fact that the visitors jaw wasn’t clenched and his head rotates due to the blow, causes the visitor to become knocked out. Seeing this, the patient sits up in bed. But as she does, Crow quickly turns to her and says, “Don’t even think about doing anything,” pointing a finger at her as he does.

Looking back at the visitor, Crow determines that the two of them are roughly the same size, though the visitor is a little bigger around the middle. Crow then begins to take the visitor’s jacket and hat, putting both of them on. Before leaving the room, Crow turns to the patient one more time.

“Don’t think about anything stupid,” Crow says. “If you do anything that would draw attention to yourself after I leave, I’ll know. Then I’ll come back here and make sure that it’s the last thing you do. Understand?”

The patient nods her head. Crow then leaves the room and heads toward the elevators. Taking one to the lobby, Crow steps out into a horde of patients and hospital staff. Once in the horde of people, Crow blends in with them as they are led out of the hospital.

Eventually, when Alex and Shannon reach the ground floor, they find themselves among the same horde of confused patients and visitors which Crow uses to facilitate his escape. When they leave the stairwell, Alex has his arm around Shannon to help keep her on her feet. And in all of this mangled confusion, security isn’t able to keep an eye on everyone, allowing Alex and Shannon to be able to slip out of the hospital through a back exit. As they were descending the stairs, Shannon began to feel a little nauseated and disoriented, which only worsens as time goes by. Eventually, Shannon notices that they have just left the crowd and are outside the hospital, away from any possible help. Looking around, she begins to wonder what is going on.

“What’s going on?” Shannon asks. “Why are we outside?”

“Don’t worry about that,” Alex replies. “I’m going to take you somewhere safe.”

“Don’t you think the police would be able to do that?” Shannon asks groggily.

“Looking at their track record, I don’t think they can. And besides, we don’t know if there are any more New World Power members inside the hospital waiting for their opportunity to strike.”

Shannon doesn’t like the idea of not going to the police.  They are trained and equipped for situations like this.  And since they have the law on their side, they have greater resources at their disposal than the average citizen.  Even though they will mess-up on occasion, staying with the police is better then nothing.  Not liking the idea of going away from the police, Shannon tries to struggle against Alex.  However, she’s beginning to really feel the effects of the drug that Alex gave her and doing anything other than rest might not be the best idea.  So Shannon allows Alex to take her to wherever they are going.  They eventually make it to Alex’s car, though Shannon’s legs become a little wobbly, making it difficult for them to reach it.  Once there, Alex helps Shannon into the passenger seat, followed by him getting behind the wheel.  From there, the two of them drive off.

 

(c) 2011 Bradley P. Thomas

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Posted by on January 8, 2012 in An Enemy Within

 

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An Enemy Within — Chapter Forty Four

Chapter 44

The sun shines through the window into Shannon’s room. As it does, Shannon looks out through the window. She isn’t really able to see anything through the window, but it just feels good to have the sun shining on her. But despite the feeling of comfort it provides, Shannon also feels confined, that on one side is freedom while on the other side is imprisonment. A part of her wants to leave, but a number of reasons prevent her from doing so. Her health for one; the medical staff and the Marshal’s service another. Also, there are people outside of the hospital who want to kill her. It’s this latter reason that keeps crossing her mind whenever she really things about wanting to leave.

With everything that has happened over the past two days or so, Shannon has become disheartened. This causes her to not want to do much of anything, so she just stares out the window. She wants to see some familiar faces; Marc, Penn, even her grandparents who’ve she’s been thinking a lot about lately. But because of her current status with the Marshals service and the witness protection program, she doubts that the Marshals will allow anyone to visit her because that could pose a security risk, due to the fact that the New World Power could use these guests as a way to figure out where Shannon is and finish what they started. With those who are entered into the witness protection program, they are essentially removed from their old lives, meaning that they can’t meet up with old friends, family, or associates. She doubts that the Marshals even contacted anyone regarding her health or what is going on with her. If they did contact anyone, it’ll either be her grandparents because they are her only known relatives or Marc, who she uses as an emergency contact while she stays in L.A. As she thinks of this, she hopes that Marc is alright.

As she watches the nothingness that is occurring on the other side of the glass and wishing that she was enjoying that nothingness instead of being caught up in all the crap that is currently going on in her life, the door to her room opens and closes. Figuring that the people who entered her room are a nurse and a deputy, Shannon doesn’t care to look over to confirm this. She just continues looking out her window, hoping that something of interest occurs in its limited frame, even if it’s just pareidolia she experiences while looking at a cloud.

“Hello, Ms. Brown,” the nurse says. “How are you feeling today?”

“Can I choose not to answer that question?” Shannon asks.

“Yes, but it could be argued that what you just said counts as an answer.”

Shannon is just struck by a sense of familiarity when hearing this. The voice sounds familiar as well as the way which the nurse responded to her question. Looking over at the nurse, she sees that it is Alex standing there. A look of cheerful surprise comes across her face when seeing him. The deputy didn’t see this look on her face because Alex positioned himself between the two of them. Shannon is about to say something, but Alex brings a finger to his lips in a shushing gesture. Taking the hint, Shannon holds her tongue and relaxes back into her bed.

“You know,” Shannon says, “as you mention it, I am beginning to feel a little bit better.” Playing along with the little game Alex started, Shannon asks, “What’s your name?”

“Alex.”

“Hi. I’m Shannon.”

“Hello Shannon.”

Instead of shaking hands, Alex decides to go down the playful route. He becomes a little rigid, clicks the heels of his shoes together, and gives a bow from the waist with his hands behind his back. In regards to the deputy, he is either dense or is choosing to ignore the fact that the nurse and the patient apparently have a preexisting relationship and are trying to play ignorant about it while the deputy is present in an attempt to fool him. There is a good chance that he is choosing to ignore it.

“How’s your arm?”

“It hurts a bit when I shift or move around. Besides that, it’s pretty much just aches.”

“On a scale of one to ten, with one being a slight pain and ten being the worst pain you’ve ever felt, how bad would you say it is?”

“Maybe a three.” If the pain persists longer then just a moment or two, she’ll probably give it a higher rating. And besides, the scale, like pain, is highly subjective.

As this conversation is going on and Alex is checking Shannon’s monitors and vitals, a vehicle that promises nothing but trouble pulls up next to the hospital. Inside it are three members of the New World Power. The driver manages to find a parking spot that is located across the street from the hospital and promptly takes it. They didn’t come to this hospital because they followed Alex to it. They don’t even know that he exists and are unaware of his relationship with Shannon.

The New World Power members come to Sherman Oaks Hospital because they did some research on the matter and concluded that Shannon was taken to this hospital. And by applying pressure to the right people in the right places, like, let’s say, a low- to midlevel administrative personnel at a news outlet, can help with obtaining the desired information. But the New World Power members aren’t entirely sure that they are at the right hospital. The information that they obtained could be faulty or the situation changed so that the information is no longer applicable to the situation. One of the New World Power members located in the car is Crow. He decided that it was important for him to take proactive steps to help resolve the matter. Before getting out of the car, Crow and the other two members have a brief conversation.

“Ok,” Crow says. “As far as you can tell, Shannon is located at this hospital.”

“Yes, sir,” the guy in the back seat says. “From all the information which I’ve been able to get, she was taken to this hospital.”

“But what if your information is wrong?” says the member in the driver seat as he strums his fingers against the wheel.

“Well, if the information is wrong,” says the member in the back seat, “then we can just go over to the other hospital. There’s only so many places which they could have taken her.”

“But what if she was taken to a government facility that is closed to the public?”

“Then we’re shit out of luck,” Crow says. “Let’s just hope that that didn’t happen. And I hope that we don’t have to make more then one trip. Our window of opportunity won’t last forever.”

“Well,” says the member in the back seat, “if she was hurt badly enough from the attack, wouldn’t that have bought us more time to look? They wouldn’t risk transporting her if her injuries are bad enough, wouldn’t they?”

“Well then,” Crow replies, “we better hope that the injuries she suffered are bad enough so that they wouldn’t risk transporting her. Let’s go.” At that, Crow gets out of the car and starts heading over to the hospital. The other two New World Power members get out of the car as well and follow Crow into the hospital.

As he makes his way over, Crow puts on a baseball cap to help hide his identity. In addition to this, he trimmed his goatee so that there is only a little patch of hair on his chin. He also grew in some stubble on the rest of his face, though it tends to come in as patches. In this regard, Crow has poor genetics. But since it’s at the stage of stubble, it’s hard to tell.

Crow takes these steps to help protect his identity. But he doesn’t try to hard because if he did, it would have the opposite effect. It would make him standout, and when someone stands out from the crowd, it tends to draw peoples eyes. If you want to blend in with a crowd, the first step is to look like everyone else. This doesn’t always mean that you have to match the other people exactly, but you have to be close enough given the circumstances which the crowd is situated. Since they’re going into a hospital, there is a lot of latitude with what they are allowed to wear when going in.

Once the trio enters the hospital, they split up and begin their search. The Sherman Oaks Hospital, like most other hospitals, doesn’t have a high level of security. They have just enough to maintain order when something goes wrong. People come and go from hospitals all the time and it would be pointless and incredibly insufficient if people had to go through security check points like that at airports in order to gain entrance at a hospital. And besides, there’s no reason for someone to attack a hospital unless the person is mentally deranged or bares a grudge against a particular hospital or doctor. It’s a low threat target, so there is no need for a high level of security.

So, because of this, people don’t give it much thought when Crow and his followers come strolling into the hospital to conduct their business. Since there are one hundred and fifty beds or so in the hospital, they have a lot of ground to cover. That’s why it was decided that they should split up; so that they can be more effective in their search by covering more ground. Each of them has a cell phone on them, so if one of them happens to come across Shannon’s room, he’ll be able to contact the other two.

As they roam the hospital, each man checks each room that he passes to see who is being kept there. In their search, Crow has an advantage over his followers. Whereas the followers have to physically check each door they pass, Crow is able to do a quick probe of the people and nurses he passes in order to obtain the information that he needs to help save some time. Also, he knows that Shannon’s room will most likely be guarded, with law enforcement officers positioned outside of the room, making it an easy mark.

As their search progresses, the New World Power member who drove the three of them to the hospital comes across a room where an armed guard has been posted. Seeing the armed guard there, the driver comes to the conclusion that the patient in that room is someone very important. Why else has an armed guard been posted outside of the room? Suspecting that this is Shannon’s room, the driver breaks out his cell phone and contacts Crow after passing by the room so that he won’t draw any unwanted attention from the guard.

Though he doesn’t have an exact room number to give Crow for Shannon’s location, the driver does give a number for a nearby room so that Crow can gain his bearings. With the information in hand, Crow makes his way to that location. But as he makes his way to that location, one of the other people in the hospital notices him. She doesn’t recognize Crow at first, but when she does, it will cause problems for Crow and the other two. After calling Crow, the driver begins to call the third member of their little band of misfits to let him know where to go. But before he is able to make his call, the third member of the group shows up.

“Hey,” he says.

“Oh, hey,” the driver replies. “I was just about to call you.”

“Did you find her?”

“I believe I did.”

 

(c) 2011 Bradley P. Thomas

 
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Posted by on January 5, 2012 in An Enemy Within

 

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An Enemy Within — Chapter Forty Three

Chapter 43

Shannon has come out of surgery in one piece, though she is a little worse for wear. She looks as if she has just survived a battle. Her right arm has been constrained to the side of her body to prevent it from being moved and having the stitches being ripped out. In addition to some minor bruising caused by the commotion that was initiated by the attack, there is some major swelling in her arm and shoulder, particularly around where the surgery was performed. Bruising and swelling are both natural parts of the healing process. They prevent further bleeding from occurring in the area as well as providing extra oxygen and nutrients to the damaged tissues so that they can have all the necessary tools it needs to patch itself up. As all of this is occurring, Shannon is resting as comfortably as she can in her hospital bed.

Though it may look bad, she managed to pull through the roughest part, as long as no complications occur during her recovery. Her current physical condition just makes it look worse than it actually is. In addition to the bruising and discoloration visible on her neck, Shannon’s face adds to the general appearance of ill health. Her face is a bit pale and there are dark patches located under her eyes. These bags under her eyes give Shannon a weary look and it also gives her an almost ghostly appearance.

Hooked up to her IV is a pain relief medicine dispenser, designed to be a self-administering tool. All that Shannon needs to do is press a button on a small handheld device and the drugs will be administered. A safety measure has been built into the device, however, to prevent people from overdosing on these painkillers, either accidentally or intentionally. This safety mechanism is designed to only allow a certain amount of drugs to be administered in any given time. It’ll be bad for a hospital, both on a reputational and an insurance level, if its patients kill themselves while under its care and the suicide was done using the hospital’s drugs and equipment. It’s the hospitals job to help heal and care for its patients as well as to stay in business. Though hospitals provide a great social service to society, it is a business and it has to act as such. And it is very unlikely that the government, either local, state, or federal, will bail it out if it hits hard financial times, unlike the banking or airline industries.

Whenever Shannon will use the painkillers, she will notice that it makes her drowsy, followed by being knocked out. She wonders if this is part of the drugs intended effect or if it’s just a side effect. If it is an attended effect, it’s a smart move by the pharmaceutical company because how is a patient supposed to feel any pain if he or she is not awake to feel it? And unlike other kinds of unconsciousness, like sleep, the only way to regain consciousness is for the drug to wear off or another drug to be injected into the person’s system. Though being unconscious is a good way to pass the time, it can also be a bit of an inconvenience. Even if you try and fight the drugs, the drugs are going to win so you are unable to engage in any kind of activity. And when the drugs take effect, you essentially lose the time that elapsed. But there are times where it can’t be helped. If the pain gets bad enough, it’s best if you just administer the drugs. It’s a small price to pay for your health. And remaining in a constant state of pain is not a good thing because it will result in more harm being done.

As Shannon wakes up, she feels groggy and disoriented, coming right out of surgery. When you wake up right after surgery, it can be a bit jarring, due to the fact that you are receiving new external information while your brain isn’t quite fully able to process it. A part of this can be attributed to the fact that the general anesthetics are wearing off as well as the fact that you are moved about while unconscious.

As she wakes up, she tries to sit up in bed, but a jolt of pain erupts in her arm and shoulder. This is a reminder of why she is in the hospital. Noticing that Shannon is moving, the nurse that is checking in on her does what she can to put Shannon at ease. In addition to the nurse, there is a deputy Marshal in the room as well. Noticing that Shannon has regained consciousness, the deputy Marshal depresses the talk button on the mouth piece that is strapped to his shoulder of his radio, notifying whoever is on the other end that Shannon is awake.

“Where am I?” Shannon asks warily.

“You’re at Sherman Oaks Hospital,” replies the nurse. “You’ve just gotten out of surgery. It’s not a good idea for you to be moving about.”

“How long was I in surgery?”

“For several hours.”

“How bad is it?”

“It would be best if you ask your doctor about that. He’ll be able to better answer your questions.”

Not long after saying this, the doctor comes walking into the room to make his visit. And as the general anesthetics wears off, Shannon will begin to regain her mental faculties. But due to her injuries, the nerves in the injured areas will continue to act up, causing her to become distracted. The nerves in the area will continue to act up due to the fact that Shannon is moving about, because the nerves have been freshly severed, or just because of the healing process.

With the doctor’s arrival, Shannon is able to ask him some questions. The doctor answers them as best as he can. He also tells her how the surgery went and explains how extensive her injuries were. He tells her that the greatest damage was to her arm due to the fact the artery was nicked. The injury to her shoulder area was essentially a flesh wound, but if it was a centimeter or two lower, her survivability would have been drastically reduced.

“You’re very lucky to have survived this ordeal,” the doctor comments.

Shannon gives a weak little smile at this. “Thanks,” she says as best as she can.

“Do you have any other questions for me?”

“No.”

“Well then, I’m going to let you get some rest and I’ll check in with you in the morning. Goodnight.”

“Goodnight,” Shannon replies.

As the doctor leaves, he is accompanied by the nurse and the deputy, leaving Shannon by herself. Alone in her room, there isn’t too much for her to do. For a while, she just lays there in bed, thinking as well as reflecting upon her past. Eventually, Shannon looks around her immediate vicinity. Finding the TV remote, she turns on the TV. She does what she can to avoid watching the news, but there isn’t much on at the moment with the available channels the TV gets. Occasionally, a nurse would come in to check on her, always accompanied by a deputy. As the evening goes on, Shannon ends up watching an infomercial before she has to self-administer the pain medication. It’s not because of the infomercial that she has to administer the drugs, but because of the pain in her shoulder and arm. When one of the nurses checks up on Shannon, she notices that Shannon is out and the TV is on, leading the nurse to turn off the TV.

 

(c) 2011 Bradley P. Thomas

 
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Posted by on January 2, 2012 in An Enemy Within

 

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An Enemy Within — Chapter Forty Two

Chapter 42

Crow is standing alone in a cemetery over his late wife’s grave. Reading the tombstone, it says:

Melissa Delaney Collins

Beloved Wife

March 31, 1975 – July 2, 1999

It’s been nine years since her death, but a part of Crow will never let her go. They were married for almost three years when she died. Still in love, they were still blinded to the flaws which each other possessed. Ever since he put her into the ground, Crow made it a point to visit Melissa’s grave on their anniversary whenever possible.

Though he should be wary when he stands in front of Melissa’s grave, Crow drops his guard, despite the fact that he runs the risk of being caught. He isn’t as wary as he otherwise would, or should, be. It’s not a controlled environment and there are too many variables to control. Cemeteries are open to the public during daylight hours and there is the chance that someone might recognize Crow as a wanted criminal.

Whenever he visits her grave, he tends to stand at the foot of it so that he can avoid standing directly over the casket. Even when he walks among the graves, he tends to walk between them instead of directly over them. For Crow, he feels like it would be disrespectful if he would walk or stand directly over someone’s casket or where they have been buried. The dead should be respected, even if it’s someone else’s. How he sees it, there are only a few situations where it is appropriate to do so, and one of those situations is the process of actually burying the dead.

As he went to his wife’s grave today, he found a discarded beer bottle. He picks it up and wonders why someone would disrespect a cemetery and the dead like that by discarding ones garbage in such a way. That’s why you bury the dead in the first place, so that they can be respected. That’s why he doesn’t understand the reasoning of people who get drunk at funerals or at the cemetery when the body is being lowered. Yes, you are grieving, but don’t disrespect other peoples dead like that. What about their grief? What about their loss? Their wishes should be respected. You can get drunk later. Otherwise, you’re just being selfish. And he’s seen it before with Black and Hispanic street gangs and white biker gangs.

He remembers, growing up, experiencing such an incident with a one-percenter motorcycle gang when visiting his sister’s grave. With his sister’s death, he felt like more was going on then he was led to believe. But this could just be due to the fact that he wasn’t around when the incident occurred and the adults around him trying to protect him, feeling like Ken wouldn’t be able to handle the information. This in turn led Ken to start thinking that a conspiracy was going on. Young Ken was taken to the cemetery so that he can see Ashley’s grave in the hope that he’ll get some closure. As he approaches the gravesite, in his suit, Ken looks over and sees a bunch of biker clad individuals, in jeans, vests, and bandana’s, hooting and crying while in a drunken stupor. He sees a keg in a large plastic container with ice and a few bikes parked over people’s graves.

“Mrs. Morrison?” Ken asks. “What are they doing?” gesturing to the bikers.

“They’re having a funeral, dear,” Mrs. Morrison replies.

“Why aren’t they wearing suits?”

“Because some people have different funeral customs then we do, and that includes clothing.” What she doesn’t tell him is that, in other cultures, the mourners do actually wear different outfits for the funeral then everyday life, but the bikers are wearing exactly the same outfits here as they do while riding their bikes.

“Why do they have cups in their hands?”

“Because they’re drinking.”

“Why are they drinking?”

“Because it helps them with their mourning process.”

“But…”

Before he is able to ask his question, Mrs. Morrison cuts him off by saying “That’s enough questions for now.”

Crow doesn’t learn until years later what was going on with the bikers. Once he does, he develops very strong opinions on the matter. He sees them as dishonorable pricks. For them, nothing exists beyond their selfish little existence and the only laws that they need to obey are their own and the only dead worth respecting are their own. So many times he wished he could teach them a lesson.

Crow still has an emotional connection relating to his wife which hasn’t abated over time. With his troubled upbringing and the fact that he is a social outcast because of his psionic abilities, he felt that Melissa was the only one who truly got him. Much like him, Melissa had her own skeletons tucked away in her closet. Crow’s biggest regret is not opening up entirely to her and sharing all of his troubles with her, which she did with him. Though they talked about it, Crow always evaded the topic, promising to share his secrets another day. But now that day will never come.

The two of them had made plans together, to have a life together, complete with their dreams and aspirations. When Crow graduated from college and completed his four-year ROTC obligation to the Army, they talked about leaving Los Angeles and settling down in a small community, most likely a coastal town. Both grew up in Los Angeles, a city with just under four million people in the city proper and close to eighteen million people in the metro area spread across a vast area, even a medium sized city would seem small. They even considered living in Avalon, situated on Catalina Island. Hawaiiwas also considered. They wanted a break from what a big city like Los Angeles brought. But with how Los Angeles is setup, it has more of a feeling of a country in microcosm then an actual city. When Crow and Melissa chose a location and settled down, Crow planned on working in public office. Initially, he would seek an entry level office job in one of the city’s departments so that he can learn the ropes of the local bureaucracy and gain some real world experience before running for elected office.

But all of that came to an end and Crow’s world shattered the day Melissa died. With her death, Crow received a devastating blow for the second time in his life. Melissa meant everything to him, and with the death of his sister, she managed to fill the emptiness he felt inside. But with her death, Crow essentially snapped. For the second time in his life, the person he cared the most about had died and he was powerless to do anything about it. Even though Crow is a powerful psionic and has mastered his abilities by continually practicing and honing his skills, developing new ones along the way, there was nothing he could do to save his wife.

Normally, Crow would only visit Melissa’s grave once a year. However, the situation has changed and Crow realizes this fact. As the events and activities surrounding the New World Power begin to become more complicated and advanced, it’ll become harder and harder for Crow to take time away from his responsibilities to visit his wife’s grave. He, and his organization, have garnered too much notoriety and infamy for these trips to continue to be feasible. The time has essentially arrived for Crow to say his final goodbye, making it that much harder for him to do. To help him pay his final respects to Melissa, Crow brought a bouquet of flowers with him so that he can leave it at her grave.

As Crow stands there over Melissa’s grave, his cell phone begins to ring. Pulling it out of his pocket, Crow checks to see who the caller is before he decides if he should answer it or not. Looking at the display screen and seeing that it is Bobby, Crow decides to answer it. Bobby is one of Crow’s lieutenants and is the Los Angeles contact for the mission in New Mexico involving Congressman De Soto. When the situation allowed for it, the other New World Power members who were in attendance at De Soto’s rally contacted their immediate supervisor within the New Mexico branch of the New World Power and let him know how the mission when. From there, the supervisor contacted Bobby, who in turn is contacting Crow.

“Hello,” Crow says as he answers his phone. “Is it done?”

Yeah boss,” Bobby says. “As Congressman De Soto started talking about the New World Power, Rickie was able to get his shot off.”

“What’s the status of Congressman De Soto?”

“He seemed to have been shot in the chest area and he was taken to the hospital. The people at the rally saw him moving as he was taken away and from what they’ve overheard, De Soto was responsive.”

A weaker leader would have demanded a definite answer about De Soto, if he survived or not. But Crow knows that some situations are not available to definite answers. Yes, De Soto left the rally alive, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he’ll survive. Take Owen Hart for example. He was a professional wrestler who fell seventy-eight feet from the rafters and his chest struck the top rope, a foot away from the turnbuckle, at a pay-per-view event in 1999. When he was taken from the ring, he was still alive, but he died on the way to the hospital. So just because a person left alive doesn’t mean that they’ll survive.

“Well, let me know about De Soto’s condition as soon as you learn about it,” Crow says. “And if he does survive, I do not want anyone to make a move against him. Understood? No further actions against De Soto.”

“Understood. What should be done about Rickie?”

Crow understood that Rickie would be caught. Even Rickie knew that he would be caught. There wasn’t really any other option if he followed through with the plan. It wasn’t necessary for it to be explained to him; it was self evident, at least to those capable of rational thought, which Rickie clearly is. Yet he still followed through with the plan, which means one of two things; Rickie is dedicated to the cause or he fears the New World Power more than the federal government. Either way, he did it.

“I want an eye to be kept on him,” Crow says. “If it comes to it, Rickie may need to take a fall.”

Crow understands that he can’t risk losing more people in order to save a low ranking member of the organization. The New World Power will survive without Rickie. He’s not an important cog in the machine and he doesn’t possess crucial information that will either advance the cause of the New World Power or sink it. If Rickie plays it right, he could be seen as just a lone gunman out for a particular politician who just might have a connection with a rebel organization, or at least fancy’s himself apart of it. But if this connection is made, it would be flimsy at best. It just depends on how Rickie plays it while under duress.

“Understood,” Bobby replies.

With that, the conversation is over and Crow puts the phone back into his pocket. This allows Crow to return his attention back to his wife. Well, her grave at least. Taking one last whiff of the bouquet, Crow puts the flowers at the base of the tombstone.

“I’m sorry,” Crow says. “I’m sorry I couldn’t help you; for not saving you. I’m sorry I wasn’t as open as I should have been. I’m—” Crow’s voice breaks. Though he doesn’t cry, he has a feeling that he might. He brings his forearm up to his face, placing it under his nose. Whenever he visits Melissa’s grave, Crow tends to be more emotional. And he has a right to be. Melissa meant everything to him. After the death of his sister, Melissa was the only person who had any meaning in his life and managed to get close to him. But once Melissa died, Crow essentially just shut down. From then on, he would always keep people at arms distance, preventing anyone from ever getting to close. “I’m sorry for everything. I miss you babe. I love you. Goodbye.”

With his war against the United States, Crow doesn’t declare it in Melissa’s name. He feels like it would be disrespectful to her and would dishonor her memory if he did. He’s declaring his war because it has to be done to ensure the rights of people like him, the so called mutants, are secured. But if Melissa was still alive, he never would have declared his war. She was the only person who kept him anchored, preventing him from taking drastic actions. If she was alive, Crow would have followed in the footsteps of people like Martin Luther King, Jr. and work within the system to achieve the necessary change, as slow as it might be.

With his goodbyes said, Crow turns and proceeds to leave the cemetery. As he leaves, Crow passes by something which he can throw the discarded beer bottle into. It’s not a trashcan, just something the groundskeeper uses to maintain the cemetery. Crow then passes through the cemetery gates and disappears into the city to plan the next move of the New World Power.

 

(c) 2011 Bradley P. Thomas

 
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Posted by on December 30, 2011 in An Enemy Within

 

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An Enemy Within — Chapter Forty One

Chapter 41

Robert De Soto finds himself in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He is holding a political rally at the Santa Fe Convention Center. Even though he had his third and final debate with Steve Pearce only a few days ago, he still needs to get out there and campaign. Political campaigns are no different from advertising campaigns; you have to sell your product on a continual basis. As soon as you stop campaigning, you are out of the public consciousness and will be forgotten. Now is crunch time and he needs to convince those sitting on the fence that he is the right person for the job and hopefully some of the less sure individuals from the other camp to jump ship. For the rally, the Sweeney Ballroom will be used and has been converted for the event.

Robert De Soto is currently on stage and is addressing the assembled crowd, telling them that he wants to see the troops brought home as soon as possible. He also comments on the fact that he voted against the war when it was time for them to vote. In the House of Representatives, the vote on the Iraq War was essentially along party lines with two hundred and fifteen Republicans voting for the war, six against, and two No Votes whereas the Democrats voted eighty two for it and one hundred and twenty six against with one No Vote. When it came time for the Senate, however, this wasn’t exactly the case. Of the Republicans, forty eight of them voted for the war whereas only one voted against it. With the Democrats, they were essentially split with twenty nine of them voting for the war whereas twenty one voted against it. The only Independent vote in the Senate voted against the war. Democratic Senators gave more support to the war then their House counterparts did.

With the war, De Soto feels like the U.S. has overstepped its bounds. How he sees it, the U.S. military is still acting as if it was an occupying force instead of a liberating one. However, the pieces have already been moved and it would be irresponsible to pullout now without setting up at least some form of stable government. And one step for Iraq to maintain itself is for it to be able to defend itself. Otherwise, it is just a protectorate of the United States, similar to that of Japan and Germany. And for Iraqi self-reliance to occur, more and more responsibilities need to be transferred from the U.S. military to the Iraqi military.

Besides the war in Iraq, an important issue for De Soto is immigration reform. The system is in desperate need of an overhaul. For that to be done, new laws shouldn’t be enacted but the old ones need to be effectively enforced. Otherwise, they are useless. You can enact as many laws as you wish, but if you don’t have a means of enforcing them, they’re not worth the paper they’re printed on. Also, attitudes need to be changed at the immigration offices. He is unsure about other immigrants, but De Soto learned that, when it comes to immigrants from Latin America, they are given the run around and it is generally made difficult for them to work within the system.

And it’s not the illegal immigrants he’s thinking about, but the legal ones who are here on state issued visas as well as those who are trying to become citizens. It is because of this bureaucratic runaround that these legal immigrants are forced to perform that frustrates people and encourages them to come here illegally in the first place instead of working within the system. Why abide by the rules when those creating and enforcing them won’t play by them as well?

And for those citizens who claim that immigrants are “stealing” jobs from honest, hard working Americans, this isn’t true. It’s just that immigrants are willing to do the jobs which Americans refuse to do at the wages which employers are offering. If only the wages are increased, then more Americans will be willing to do the jobs that the immigrants are performing. It’s not the jobs themselves, but the wages, that are discouraging Americans from taking them, and if the national minimum wage is increased, then it would encourage more Americans to take the jobs. Improve the wages to that of a good living wage, and the problem will decrease, even if it’s not noticeable at first.

In addition to this, who’s holding the employers up to scrutiny? It’s easy to blame the workers because people are able to see the immediate effects of the shrinking job pool that is caused by the illegal’s taking the jobs, but they fail to recognize that it is the employer who needs to be held responsible. Don’t look at the person taking the job, but the person who is giving the job, and blame them if illegal immigrants are hired. Laws should be enacted to encourage or enforce employers to hire American citizens first instead of looking abroad first.

And the same thing should extend to corporations, to deter them from creating offshore accounts in an attempt to avoid or reduce the taxation on profits. Capitalism is a good thing and has proven itself to be the most effective force in driving the economy today, but like anything else, it can be taken too far, and this will be detrimental to society as a whole because society, at least modern society, is based on the economy, and if the economy flounders, so does the rest of society. The same thing extends to international and global trade; they are good things, and they should be encouraged as much as possible. This is because countries that engage in such activities tend to thrive better than those who try and remain isolationist. International trade is also a good way to prevent and deter wars, which are generally sparked by a lack of resources. But if you overemphasize global and international trade, there is the chance that you will overlook the cogs and individual parts of the machine, which can lead to the entire machine breaking down due to lack of care.

De Soto firmly supports international trade, but also believes that the United States economy needs to be properly maintained if it is to be a functioning member of the global community. Besides talking about global trade, De Soto also talks about other facets of the economy. And since the economy is in pretty rough shape at the moment, politicians can’t help but talk about it and how it should be changed. And when talking about the economy or about some form of government spending, even if the politician is against it, the politician should say that he or she will look into it, as long as it will lead to a campaign or other political victory.

Regardless of their political party or position, there are a few common threads that run among all politicians. One of these threads is the love to talk. Regardless if it’s intentional or not, given the opportunity, a politician will talk himself dry. They want to tell the world how they are going to save it and that the world will be doomed if they are not in office. This leads them to make promise after promise to their constituents so that they will get into office in the first place. And that’s why there are reelection campaigns; everything that the politician failed to do in their last term in office, they will do this term in office and then some.

Even after being informed about the plot against him and having his family relocated, De Soto is still hitting the campaign trail for the U.S. Senate seat made available by Pete Domenici’s retirement. He can’t allow the New World Power into scaring him out of the campaign or out of politics. Otherwise, the New World Power will win by default. There are times where you have to fight and take on the enemy directly. This strategy won’t work for every situation, but there are times where it has to be used, and this is one of those times. As a result, De Soto is now accompanied by the Secret Service, who make their presence very well known at the rallies and other public events which De Soto attends.

Robert De Soto and the Secret Service are not the only ones who prepared themselves for this rally. Rickie has been preparing himself for the role he is about to play. Even though he has been practicing at his uncle’s ranch, Rickie has also been frequenting a gun range that belongs to a local gun club. At the ranch, he is able to practice at a verity of different distances, but at the gun range, he is able to practice his aim on a human shaped target. He could have practiced on a bowling pin at the ranch, but he needs a more detailed target to practice on. Rickie also felt that if he used a bowling pin at the ranch, it might stir up unwanted questions from his family and others who frequent the ranch. In connection to Crow’s instructions, Rickie has been improving his accuracy. On the silhouettes provided by the gun range, Rickie has been aiming at the same, instructed, spot.

But unbeknownst to Rickie, the leadership of the New World Power has sent other members to the rally as an insurance policy. If something came up that prevented Rickie from completing his task, or he was unable to follow through on his assignment, then these members would step up and complete the task. If such a situation does arise, each of the members have been briefed and understand what they need to do.

During the planning stage of this rally, it was decided to have it televised. Having the rally televised will allow the politician to reach a wider audience, which is what all politicians want to occur. It casts a wider net; a greater yield with less effort. But the problem is that everything they do is documented, so it they mess up, people are able to review it over and over again and it won’t go away. It remains a permanent ghost of the past. So it’s important to be careful of what you do, because it can kill a political career.

However, some politicians fail to realize this and blindly walk into situations that they shouldn’t walk into. However, there are those who are aware of this but don’t care because they know that what they say or do elsewhere in the country will have little impact back home in their district because they know the general public is apathetic and doesn’t follow politics. And those who do can be persuaded to ignore what they, the politician, have said. Generally speaking, when it comes to Election Day, people will just vote for those who are already in office or will vote along party lines. But this line of thought does more harm then good because it won’t allow the best qualified person to hold office, which in turn causes apathy to form in the voting public.

Over an hour has elapsed in the rally. It is at this point that Rickie decides to make his move. He didn’t want to make his move too early in the rally because he thought that if he did, it would have felt forced and it wouldn’t have sent the best message. If he moved to early, people would believe that it was just a random act of violence. But if he picked his moment, a strong political message would be sent. And that moment has arrived when De Soto starts talking about the New World Power. De Soto made stopping the New World Power one of his campaign issues, so he has to talk about it, especially this close to the election. De Soto also wants to make sure that he talks about the New World Power tonight.

Once De Soto starts talking about the New World Power, Rickie prepares himself to make his move. When De Soto’s speech is interrupted by the applauding audience, Rickie decides that now would be a good time to draw his weapon and fire at De Soto. He figured that if he did this during the applause, it would lead to greater confusion and panic among the audience when it realizes that something wrong is going on. Rickie also waited a bit when the applause started to die down to fire.

Once Rickie fires, he manages to hit his target in the exact location where he was practicing, causing De Soto to go down. As De Soto goes down, the crowd gasps in surprise and fear. The bullet strikes De Soto in the right side of his chest. It won’t be known until later that De Soto was wearing a bullet proof vest under his shirt, preventing the bullet from penetrating. The vest makes him look bulky, and to help hide that fact, De Soto decided to leave his jacket on the entire evening.

When he leaves the hospital the next day, De Soto will talk to the press and use this attack as a propaganda tool to help put him into office. At seeing De Soto get shot and fall to the stage, most of the crowd is stunned by terror. Some rush at Rickie to wrestle the gun away from him as well as wrestle him to the ground until the authorities can take over. Rickie doesn’t resist. He knew from the beginning that he would be caught, so how he sees it, trying to resist would be pointless. At the head of the room, rally organizers and the Secret Service rush to De Soto’s aid, as well as to protect him from any further harm. From there, they contact the paramedics and rush De Soto to the hospital.

 

(c) 2011 Bradley P. Thomas

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2011 in An Enemy Within

 

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An Enemy Within — Chapter Forty

Chapter 40

Located several blocks east of the 405/101 Interchange is the Sherman Oaks Hospital and Health Center. Because of its proximity to the Interchange, and the fact that it has an emergency room available, some of the victims from the shootout will be taken here. And one of the victims that it will receive is Shannon. Shannon has managed to survive her encounter with the New World Power, but she is barely hanging on. She has lost a lot of blood, and if she isn’t treated immediately, there is the chance that she will bleed to death.

Even though the deputies protecting her did the best that they could, Shannon was still injured during the attack. Two bullets managed to hit her; one struck her in the arm while the other nicked her in the shoulder. The bullet that hit her in the arm managed to damage the brachial artery. The bullet that struck her in the shoulder, all that it damaged was the muscle there and nicked the clavicle. Shannon was lucky that it didn’t damage the subclavian artery, which supplies blood to the entire arm. Also, if the subclavian artery was damaged during the attack, there would have been a good chance that Shannon would have suffered a stroke. Though she could have survived the stroke, it would have severely impaired her function and may have prevented her ability to testify.

But regardless of this detail, if Shannon isn’t treated, she will die from her injuries. If she manages to survive, there is the very real possibility that she would lose her arm. If she wasn’t hoped up on drugs and adrenaline, Shannon would be concerned about this potential loss. Like most people, Shannon wants to be buried the same way she was born, in one piece. Small things like the appendix, tonsils, and wisdom teeth won’t be missed if they are removed because they won’t interfere with everyday activities if they are gone. But living without something like an arm would be a major obstruction to everyday life. It would also be sorely missed if removed. And since Shannon has grown attached to her arm, she doesn’t want to see it removed. The doctors will do what they can to mend her wounds without sacrificing the arm, but if the situation becomes dyer and the arm can’t be saved, it’ll have to go. When the ambulance carrying Shannon arrives at the hospital, the doctors rush forward to take care of her.

As they do, the paramedic fills them in on the situation and says “We have a twenty-one year old female with gunshot wounds to the arm and shoulder.”

Once the hospital accepts responsibility for her care, the doctors and nurses rush Shannon into the emergency room. Determining the extent of her injuries, they conclude that emergency surgery is needed and they rush her to an operating room. Surgery lasts for several hours, but the doctors managed to repair her arm as well as save it. While in the ambulance, a tourniquet was applied to Shannon’s arm in an attempt to stop the bleeding, but since the guy was new to the job, being certified only a few weeks ago, he wasn’t able to apply it correctly, which helped save her arm.

With surgery over, Shannon is first taken to the recovery room, followed by being taken to a private room. Being placed into a private room will allow the Marshals to better control and regulate who will be able to gain entrance, though there will be situations where the medical staff will need to gain immediate entry. But this will only be during situations of medical emergencies. Hopefully, such situations won’t present themselves. Positioned outside of Shannon’s room will always be at least one uniformed officer, most likely a deputy Marshal.

Due to the extent of her injuries, Shannon will face a long recovery period and will need to spend a lot of time in the hospital. Because of this, the Marshals are going to take into serious consideration the possibility of moving Shannon to a safer hospital facility, where the general public won’t be able to gain access. But if such a decision is made, they’ll need to wait until Shannon is well enough to be transported. Until she is, they are going to have to wait.

 

(c) 2011 Bradley P. Thomas

 
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Posted by on December 24, 2011 in An Enemy Within

 

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An Enemy Within — Chapter Thirty Nine

Chapter 39

Morning breaks at the police station. Though the sleeping arrangements weren’t ideal, Shannon managed to get some sleep at the station, though it left her a little sore. After grabbing a quick shower, Shannon has a rough breakfast that was cobbled together. When the U.S. Marshals arrive, it is late morning, early afternoon.

Upon their arrival, the Marshals introduce themselves to everyone involved. Once the formalities are over, they begin their interview process with Shannon. The preliminary interview process which the Marshals perform lasts for a few hours, which includes taking a lunch break. Eventually, when the interview process is over, the Marshals decide that Shannon is a good candidate for the Witness Protection Program and pre-admits her into the program. With the decision made, the U.S. Marshals begin the process of taking care of the paperwork and take Shannon into their custody immediately.

To ensure her immediate protection, the Marshals will take Shannon from the police station to a temporarily secure holding area. Once she is at a safe location and the paperwork is finished, Shannon will remain under 24-hour protection while she remains in high-threat areas. Essentially, while Shannon remains in Los Angeles, she’ll be under constant protection of the Marshals. This will last until she testifies or when she is relocated for the Witness Protection Program. If she doesn’t have a chance to testify in the near future, she’ll be relocated and when she returns to testify, the round-the-clock protection will be reestablished.

Once everything is squared away at the police station and everyone is ready, the Marshals escort Shannon to a waiting convoy located in the police parking lot, which consists of a series of unmarked police cars. If one looks at the cars as they went down the street, one could conclude that they are unmarked police cars and figure that they are taking care of some important business. Just seeing them parked there makes Shannon uneasy because she made this connection and is concerned that this makes them easier targets. And with human psychology what is it, mixed in with some popular culture, Shannon’s mind comes to the conclusion that those who wish to target the convey know who is in it, i.e. her.

Once Shannon, and everyone else, are inside the cars, the convoy leaves the station through a side gate of the parking lot and begins to make its way to a safe house where Shannon will stay until such time that she is needed in court to testify or when her new documentation is ready for her to start her new life.

The convoy makes its way to the 405 Freeway where it starts heading north. The 405 Freeway has a history of heavy traffic, but despite a high volume of vehicles on the freeway at the moment, the traffic flow is moving fairly well. This is how a freeway is supposed to be; the easy flow of vehicles at a high volume, not the nightmarish gridlock it has become, especially at peak hours. Once they pass Sunset Boulevard and the Getty Center, the 405 clears up a bit and traffic begins to flow with a quicker pace.

The route that the Marshals take requires them to use the 101 Freeway. This requires the convoy to use the 405/101 Interchange, which is one of the busiest interchanges in the city, and generally has major congestion problems. This results in significant backup to occur with the occasional asshole who decides to skip past it and cut when they get close to the interchange, which slows things down even further. A part of the problem with the interchange is that the designers made it to complex and the geography isn’t able to support it. The interchange consists of a connection between two major freeways as well as on- and off-ramps. The people who are getting onto the freeway from Sepulveda Blvd. have to cut across the traffic that wants to get onto the 101, which slows everything down. The designers tried to do too much too soon, resulting in their plans to utterly fail.

Unbeknownst to the convoy, the New World Power will use this structural folly to its advantage and setup a trap. The New World Power learned about Shannon going to the police because one of its members is a police officer who works at the Pacific Area station. The New World Power doesn’t have too many people working in the police department, or in law enforcement as a whole, so it was extremely fortunate for them that one of their own works at the police station that Shannon went to and was in the station taking care of paperwork when Shannon was there. The New World Power member was able to recognize Shannon because he was given a fairly good description of her and a rough sketch of what to look for.

When an opportunity arises, the New World Power member contacted his superiors within the organization to notify them of the situation. Upon receiving the information, the New World Power sent two cars to monitor the police station. The New World Power member who works in the police station will also notify the fellow members in the car when it looks like the Marshals will be taking Shannon, which he does when they leave.

As the convoy leaves the station, the New World Power members in the two cars manage to discretely follow the convoy. As they follow the convoy, the New World Power tries to anticipate the convoy’s next move. As they make their way down the 405, they conclude that they might use the 405/101 interchange. In preparation for this, one of the cars pulls ahead of the convoy and makes its way into the line of traffic for the interchange only to have a “breakdown” at a convenient location for them to launch their attack. With their hood up, the New World Power members prepare for their target. As they do this, a third car containing New World Power members joins the situation.

As the convoy approaches the interchange, the New World Power members get ready to spring their trap with the aid of a small cache of weapons that they brought with them. And the two cars following behind the convoy are also getting ready. With the level of traffic present and how the interchange is laid out, there isn’t too much the following New World Power cars need to do. Most of the work that needs to be done in trapping the convoy rests with those in the “broken-down” vehicle. Essentially, they just need to immobilize a few cars located in front of the convoy to trap them in. They don’t want to try and shootout the lead vehicle of the convoy because it is highly likely that it will be well armored. And even if they succeed in immobilizing the lead vehicle, there is the chance that it could maneuver in just a way to allow the rest of the convoy to pass safely. If that happens, their trap will backfire and it would all be for naught. So the New World Power members target some bystanders to act as their barricade.

Once the convoy is close enough, the New World Power springs its trap. Using high powered weapons, they shoot-up the tires and engine blocks of a few cars located in front of the convoy. The driver of one of these cars tries to continue moving forward, but gets shot up for his trouble. With their target now trapped and unable to move, the New World Power starts firing upon the convoy. Two of the members start moving forward, using the other cars as cover, as the third member stays behind and provides cover fire to try and distract the members of the convoy from the advancing New World Power members.

Once under fire, everyone in the convoy reacts. For the deputy Marshals who are with Shannon, they do what they can to ensure that she is safe within the vehicle. The other deputies start getting out of their vehicles in order to return fire. One of the deputy’s radios-in that they are under fire and need assistance. As the shootout begins, all of the bystanders surrounding the convoy begin to get out of their cars and start running for their lives. One will even be dumb enough to run into the flowing traffic on the 405 just to get hit by a speeding vehicle.

The New World Power members who were in the following cars get out and start making their way toward the action, though they have to deal with the fleeing masses in order to do so. But since they are also carrying high powered weapons, people tend to give them their space. However, they have to occasionally move over vehicles in order to advance forward. And since the deputy Marshals are distracted by the gunfire in front of them, they are open to attack from behind, which the New World Power anticipated and took advantage of. This allows the New World Power to take out a few deputies before they realize that they have a two front situation on their hands.

Using the now abandoned vehicles as cover, and gunfire as a distraction, one of the New World Power member’s is able to advance upon Shannon’s vehicle. But as he makes his way over to Shannon’s car, one of the deputy Marshal’s protecting her spots the New World Power member. Once the New World Power member is close enough to their location, the deputy Marshal takes action and manages to shoot the New World Power member. However, as he goes down, the New World Power member manages to discharge his weapon into the vehicle and strikes Shannon.

Eventually, the shootout comes to an end with casualties on both sides. Because of the person who ran into traffic on the 405, it caused a pileup to occur, which will cause problems for emergency vehicles that are trying to get to the scene to treat the injured and dying. Most of the New World Power members have been taken down during the shootout, but one or two of them actually managed to escape. As the dust begins to settle, the deputy Marshals begin to regroup.

Following the shootout, local news outlets caught wind of the situation and sent its helicopters to go and check it out, even though the situation has essentially ended upon their arrival. One or two news helicopters actually lucked out and arrived at the scene during the shootout, but this was due to the fact that they were already in the area when they received the news. As the helicopters circle overhead, their respective stations interrupted their regularly scheduled programs to give their audiences the news. The news anchors are commenting upon the situation and are reporting upon what they have heard.

With how broadcast journalism is today, it subscribes to the philosophy of “if it bleeds, it leads.” This causes them to focus upon violent situations whenever they occur. This is part of the reason for the dumbing down of America; we are given pointless news stories so that the local TV stations can artificially inflate their ratings and their sense of self-importance. Given the chance, news outlets will go with meaningless fluff like a police chase across Los Angeles instead of news that will have national or global consequences, such as a potential war that might erupt between India and Pakistan or the turmoil that will arise in Iran after its presidential election that will occur in June of 2009. At times, broadcast journalism lacks integrity, causing the American public to become disinterested in global, national, and local affairs as well as apathetic to such situations, which will even spill over to such things as politics. And when the populace becomes apathetic to what is occurring in the world around them, it can become a very dangerous thing.

Eventually, ambulances are able to make it to the scene and begin treating the injured. But because the situation is what it is, some of the victims bleed to death before paramedics are able to reach them. When paramedic crews do arrive, the Marshals insist that Shannon get top priority. This is because Shannon contains important information, and if she dies, all of this chaos and carnage would have been for nothing, allowing the New World Power to win. There are times and situations where the life of one person can be greater than that of the next.

 

(c) 2011 Bradley P. Thomas

 
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Posted by on December 21, 2011 in An Enemy Within

 

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