On These Streets In These Skies

Non essays; fiction.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Former Commander of the Elite Unit Making Headlines Speaks Part 3

Part 2 is here

INT: Are the zombies themselves the result of government experimentation?

CAIN: No, they're a result of global warming.

INT: Do you have evidence of that?

CAIN: Some, "accounts" from before the first ice age. Cave paintings. There were few incidents in midevil literature, coordinated with tree rings. Fourteen fifty two or fifty three, 1601, 1783, 1815? All those were very cold years, and each time there would less and less incidents. It dropped off completely around the turn of the century; no incidents until the 1960's.

INT: What changed?

CAIN: The climate, to start. Whatever creates them, you'll have to ask the doc's about that. We know what it looks like in people and  how to treat it. But you put a the bacterium or virus or prion in a line up with the common cold? I couldn't tell you who's who. But they started happening with such regularity that throwing regular units at them proved...a bad idea. Later, they trained us to handle other things.

INT: And now they are standing up two more of these units?

CAIN: That's something you'll have to ask them. I'm retired. We had to cover the whole country; which wasn't so difficult. All the were-people in Maryland. We handled outbreaks and other things.

INT: Vampires?

CAIN: Yeah, sorta. They're not really magical or anything. They're more like humans. Blood is their main staple, covering a lot of vitamins and minerals, but they need starches and greens, too. They can't digest most meats, though. Mostly they keep their heads down, regular citizens.

INT: Until the cultists? They declassified some of that; most of it was redacted, but even then, there were references to blood rituals.

CAIN: Yeah, they sprung up a few places. All over the mid-west; but real spread out. I blame the fucking internet for that shit.

INT: Are they...infectious?

CAIN: Nah, but they can breed. So what do a lot cult leaders do?

INT: Get women pregant?

(Cain taps her nose twice)

CAIN: That's right. Ordinarily one of them meets a nice non-vampire person, they do what men and women do. If it's a vampire lady, almost 100 of the time the baby is born with the need for blood. V-guy to human woman? Sixty to forty chance.

INT: So they would leave the forty percent to die?

CAIN: My sweet summer, child. No. That was in house source a dietary staple.

INT: Jesus!

CAIN: Hey, cultists man. Add something that people think really is supernatural, like religion?

INT: There's no ghosts?

CAIN: It's Cain, not Venkman.

INT: Well played...

CAIN: No, never seen anything that would suggests ghosts are real. Never seen any telekinesis. No one ever turned into a bat, or a goat or crow.

INT: But...a really big dog.

CAIN: Were-persons don't actually grow any extra hair, I might add.

INT: So they look like a giant naked dog?

CAIN: If they hairy before they change, they're hairy after.

(A large cat bring a dead bird and drops it near Cain and meows proudly)

CAIN: Who's a good girl? Where was this one? Eating the corn? Wait here a second...

(The cat waits patiently, seated on her hind quarters. She's a large, regal looking house cat, well fed and well groomed. Cain brings out a can of tuna fish, Chicken of the Sea, and opens it and put it down in front the cat who purrs while happily eats.)

CAIN: You know he - my husband - he hated cats; he thought the way they behaved, they way they killed things? It was bad. But I have four cats here, this one is a number one killer. Cats are natural killers. We used to fight about keeping them, you know. He was more of a dog person. But you have to love a thing for what it is and not ask it to be something else.

INT: How did he handle your service?

CAIN: Mostly well. He knew me. You know how we met?

INT: Please, tell me and everyone else.

CAIN: Well, I saw him around, at Hopkins, He was just... cute you know? Like, he was good looking but it wasn't sexual. I was ROTC, and I'd see him around and he was just you know... this beautiful boy. I wanted him bad.

INT: When did you talk to him?

CAIN: Oh, I had no confidence at all. You know, generally? I've...you know... I mean I did, and sometimes women just assume all men they are attracted to are just all kinds of experienced and awesome and that made me feel really shy.

INT: Talking to him...

CAIN: Right, sorry. He was at the Charles Village Pub and I sat down next to him and said "Hi, I think you're hot." And he blushed all the way to his ears! He was so adorable, you know. He was like a puppy or something. I just wanted him, you know? We did have sex that night, a few times. The first time was...bad. We were both virgins and you know how that goes. But the fourth time was good!

INT: You had sex four times that night?

CAIN: Well, we both had heard about sex a lot, read books and such. But no, we'd never done it before. It was mostly funny, figuring it out. But that fourth time? Yeah, really good sex.

INT: So you miss him?

CAIN: Of course I do! He... was just... always you know, beautiful. Like, even with cancer, he was just gorgeous. His veins and stuff... no body hair at all, he looked like some kind of angel.

INT: Did you have sex when he had cancer?

CAIN: Not really, in the regular sense. He was always so warm after chemotherapy, I would just hold him. If he was up for it in the morning, we'd hit it, yeah. He was weak for a long time. It got to a point where he was just dying. Couldn't get it up anymore, and he wasn't himself. I would just hold him.

INT: Is that how he died, in your arms?

CAIN: You know what's fucked up? No. I went out to get orange juice for breakfast and he died while I was a the fucking grocery store.

INT: How did that feel?

CAIN: It feels like I'd rather talk about killing monsters instead.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Former Commander of the Elite Unit Making Headlines Speaks Part 2

Part 1 is here 

INT: Before America was a thing?

CAIN: Oh yeah. Look, the world is teaming, like chock full of wild awful shit that walks on two legs. We worked pretty close with Native American tribes, translating their stuff looking for clues, that kind of thing. They were great; hooked up us with a lot of stuff. A lot of good knowledge that keeps us one step ahead.

INT: Like what?

CAIN: When a man is Wendigo? They had some roots and things they could feed them, keep them the monster at bay. So we took those notes to the Army Research Lab at Aberdeen [Proving Ground] and let them sort it out. A lot of what we know comes from Native Americans scientists, testing old knowledge and finding the application. Whatever's clever, you know?

INT: Wait? Sort it out?

CAIN: Well, mostly with volunteers, whenever possible. Through Johns Hopkins, that kind of thing.

INT: So...what kind of awful thing happened from that?

CAIN: Excuse me?

INT: Well, you admitted to lying before...

CAIN: I fucking told you why, too.

INT: I'm sorry; could you tell me what happened?

CAIN: Well, you know werewolves right?

INT: They're real?

CAIN: Oh yeah. But thanks to Blackfoot science, we were able to make a serum that prevents them from changing. They all live in Maryland now where the QRF can get to them quickly. They get their doses through the VA and never have to worry about changing anymore. We figured that out around...1996, I think.

INT: Before that?

CAIN: Shit before that we load them all on a bus and take them to sectioned off area of Fort Indian Town Gap and let go to town on deer.

INT: Was it lunar?

CAIN: No, but it was monthly. We figured our that every 25 days they would change. Some of them tried all kinds of stuff, vegan diets and such. Didn't work; in fact when they would change? They would eat even more meat.

INT: The deer wouldn't be enough?

CAIN: No, they would kill other were-persons.

INT: Holy shit.

CAIN: Right?! And they don't know. They are just trying to the moral thing but then have to eat flesh in state or they just die.

INT: Is "is state" what you call it? Is there a way to..study them on a neurological level? After they transform?

CAIN: Yeah, if someone does some sort of change, we called that "in state," and if they weren't contained the alert "in state, in sector," 

INT: And that meant...

CAIN: There one the loose.

INT: And studying them?

CAIN: Last I heard it was a little difficult to get a hungry wolf person in an MRI...

INT: I guess so. Can you tell me what else is real?

CAIN: Well, since the footage leak, you know zombies are a thing.

INT: Yeah, I watched the video. So..we have a vaccine?

CAIN: Well, we even have a treatment up to a certain point. The ones you saw in the video were captured in that state, there isn't a way to get them back. Well, okay, the treatment still works on them, but the chance of them coming back from it is slim. Once they loose pain receptors they start breaking things, cutting themselves by accident, they get sepsis, etc. If the treatment works they are in the hospital for the rest of their lives and those lives are short.

INT: How short?

CAIN: The longest lived was six months...

Continue to Part 3...

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Former Commander of the Elite Unit Making Headlines Speaks Part 1

The former commander of the Special Quick Response Force (SQRF) from 1994 to 1999 Col. (Ret) Jamila Cain has a farm and sort of animal shelter in Jacksonville, Md. 

It's an idyllic place, with a number of Weeping Willow trees standing sentry around one level home that is painted in earth tones with hasta plants that belly up to the foundation. 

Cain is smoking a cigarette on the front porch, cleaning a sub machine gun on an oil blanket when I arrive. She has all the appearance and bearing of a soldier, and stand rail straight when I'm within a certain distance. As I walked up, she looked once and started rushing what she was doing with the weapon and by the time she was done she was ready to stand up and shake my hand. She takes me around the property, her home and tells me about her husband, who designed most the landscaping.

She has just buried him, a prize winning novelist, and later, during the course of our interview she goes through their mutual gun collection, breaking down, cleaning and functions checking each one.

There are many animals, a massive flock of chickens roam freely and there are dogs that heard them out of boredom. There is a smaller flock of ducks that hold court over a series of three large ponds, the top pond is the largest: fish swim in all them while, turtles and frogs go about their business all around its perimeter in in there waters. It is structured in such a way that the largest pond is the highest, sort of a "volcano of life" as Col. Cain tells me. Her husband designed it this way.

There is a sort of ox-bow lake pond, which the ducks avoid as it ruled by an aggressive old snapping turtle that Cain's husband named "Hemingway." She smiles a little says "Hemingway is a sonovabitch...but he takes good care of those in his pond. The cranes only fuck with this pond when he's hybernating, he's awake now and mad as hell. They feast on things until early April or so, after that...he's not having it."  

Another smaller pond - that is about the diameter of a very large backyard pool, teams with more fishes and frogs and around the perimeter, Cain points to the toads that will only come to the ponds the breed and how her husband - whose name she has not said and will not say for the rest of this interview - put most of the land together to just 'keep life going.' The ponds all  feed into each other through a mechanized waterfall system that Cain's husband designed.

When we start to walk back to the front porch she pauses, and says "He was very gentle. I was not." She says nothing until we arrive back at the porch. 

The dogs that heard the chickens and roam around stop by sometimes and she'll toss a lacrosse ball that one of them brings her from time to time. They are all retired military type dogs. German and Belgian Shepherds, 2 of the former and 1 of ladder, and a Pitbull that is missing an eye.

My Interview with her: 

INT: So, how did this unit come about in the first place? 

CAIN: The Girl Scouts were established to fight demons and vampires and shit. Probably because of that whole 'penchant for virgins,' thing. Most women usually don't make it to their 18th birthday without killing some sort of other worldly ghoul. Next time you see a lady with scars you should probably thank her for keeping the wolves from the fucking door.

INT: The Girl Scouts?

(at this point Cain cracks a wide smile)

CAIN: No, I'm totally fucking with you. (She laughs)

INT: You seemed so sincere.

CAIN: That was a big part of the job when I was commander; to be honest. In the 90's? It was way easier than it is now to keep incidents vague. We'd call it training exercise or gas leak or whatever the fuck.

INT: You would lie.

CAIN: If you want to say that; you can. But a lot of things we dealt with? I can promise you, people didn't want to know about. I grew up during the cold war; I saw Amazing Grace and Chuck in the theater. You remember that shit?

INT: I... don't.

CAIN: How old are you?

INT: 25.

CAIN: Alright, well, it was an anti nuclear war movie, and I don't remember much about it. But there was this one line, "Let's just say that your mama and your sister are washing dishes after dinner. Your mom [sic] drops a fork. Now, if an ICBM airbursts even miles away, your sister's gonna be vaporized
before that fork hits the floor." That shit was chilling. Any kid who saw that didn't sleep well until the Berlin wall fell. If we didn't "lie" about why we existed and what our missions were? What we were up against? Your generation would have had a harder time sleeping, too.

INT: Now that it's out there, though...

CAIN: I'm okay with it. I was hoping it would happen during my command, but it didn't. Then 9/11, and you know...

INT: How did that change things?

CAIN: My command was until 1999, so you'll have to ask Chief Denison.

INT: She was a warrant officer under you?

CAIN: She was a sergeant. She went to warrant officer school in late '98, I retired a month after and while she was in school, Capt. Harris Jackson was acting commander, he did well but, it's not really a man's job.

INT: How do you mean?

CAIN: The Girl Scouts joke? Not far from the truth. The unit has historically been almost always been female type soldiers. Even before it had a formal name, it was mostly women. Every so often a man makes the cut, but that's pretty rare. It's a real thing and the stuff we deal with? Whatever you want to call them? They are after women, young women and girls, first.

INT: Do you know why?

CAIN: Scientifically? No clue. But for some reason women would end up with experiences with these things way, way more often than men. Okay, well, like...they'd survive. There would be men in these situations. We'd find their corpses after the fact.

INT: What happened to them?

CAIN: Generally? They were overconfident. They confronted things they didn't understand, thinking they knew what to do because they scuffled with other boys they could handle whatever were-thing or whatever.

INT: Do you know what they are? The 'were-things' and so on.

CAIN: Of course, we have a whole system! 

INT: Can you share it with me?

CAIN: You'll have to talk to Chief Denison about that, I'm sure it's changed since I was in command.

INT: Historically, can we talk about that?

CAIN: Sure. It wasn't a formal unit for a long time. But military units that were mostly women? They hunted down a lot of stuff and fast and quiet. Starting long before America was a thing...

Saturday, December 30, 2017

The Glass Coffin

The Colonel died in a fire fight. She was everything to us, the brigade.

She was always first. Always in the lead. She was our hero.

When a flag officer dies, we have to pick someone. They have to watch the body burn. Everyone else can look away. Can cry. Can tear their clothing and pull out their hair.

But the one who watches the body burn has to stand at attention the whole time. Watch the body blacken and burn. Watch the fat melt, watch the bones turn to dust. It can take up to three hours.

The General enters the room.

"Brigade!" She shouts.

"Brigade!" is echoed.

"Centerrrr, FACE" they all turn towards it.

Our hero is in a class coffin.

"Let the Witness fall out!" the General said.

I fall out.

The general is at the foot of the glass coffin and I meet her there.

"Do you accept this responsibility as the witness, soldier?" The General asks. She towers over me. Her face is scared  on the left side.

"Ma'am, I accept it." I salute sharply.

"Do not let me down again." She sneers.

"I will not, Ma'am." I say.

She spits in my face. I'm not allowed to wipe it off until after it is over.

"All except the Witness? Aboouuut FACE!"

I hear their heals turn and snap.

I hear a hissing noise. I see this colonel, who made us all soldiers, I see the glass coffin fill with gas. That distortion of air, fills it. It swirls around, and I watch it. I know what happens next.

She told me once, "Get it together, you're going to see worth than this."

She was right. 

So I watch her body burn. At attention. Not moving. Not crying. The entire brigade wails in agony. She was everything to us. She was kind. She was tough. She was everything a good soldier needed.

Her hair went first, of course. She had tight cornrows which she would get for the combat zone. Then her uniform started to burn.

A soldier pulled out their sidearm and shot himself in the head. That hurt my feelings, because they knew full well that if I couldn't hold it together, decimation would happen.

Her dark skin darkened further and burned away, the embers crawled over her. It was worse than seeing her die because it was much, much slower. I saw her body become a thing. An object.

I didn't budge. I didn't cry. I stood there like she would have wanted.

She loved this brigade. I would not let it be decimated. No. She was the greatest commander we had ever seen.

For her I would feel nothing for the good of the brigade.

Sunday, December 3, 2017


I wish I could take my pain out.

Draw it out like donated blood.

Mix it into concrete.

Make an obelisk of it.

Take it on a Navy ship.

This rock made of pain and memory.

And just throw it away.

Into the ocean. Let it sink to the bottom.

Let the monsters of the deep swirl around it.

With their alien lights and sightless eyes.

Because that’s where it belongs.

With monsters.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Still Here

I keep finding pieces of broken glass you left behind

digging into my war calloused feet; they itch.

In my sleep they open up the softer skin

when I am the least prepared for it,

I wake up bleeding knowing this isn't what you intended

but I still have to start my day cleaning all the new cuts.

Monday, February 22, 2016


1. Care

"Okay, what the fuck are you doing?!" I sneered at the new care taker. She was coming from either
medical or weapons, but I didn't care. She froze and looked at the soldier she was gripping by the bicep with disgust like that soldier had done something wrong.

Definitely new.

"We do not put our hands on the soldiers here, understand?"

She looked at me like I had a octopus on my face. This made me angrier and I tapped the rank sewn on my shirt and squinted at her. She straightened up and let the solider's arm go.

"Go play, now. We'll talk later." I told the troop.

I turned my attention to the care taker. "They didn't tell you what this is, did they?"

She shook her heard stiffly. She was terrified, and rightfully so. Not a whole of men living had my rank.

"At ease, at ease, at ease. Not your fault. You can call me Senior. You are?"

"Chernov" she said.

"All right, Chernov, all these soldiers are elite, understand? Our mission success rate is 98%, and our causality count since we began this program? It was mother fucking zero until...."

I dropped my voice. Did she need to know this? Yeah, yeah she did

"..until yesterday. So we don't put our hands on them here, unless it's for comfort. Tough as they are, they are still children and they still need to be kids when they aren't in the field, understand?"

Chernov nodded.

"That soldier you were man handling? Her names Maria, she's 10 and just back from sabotage mission, and thanks to her and her squad? The enemy won't be able to make drones for six months. But she lost one of her troops, his face got taken off by shrapnel. So she's going to be acting out. We don't punish that, because it doesn't work. You ain't seen anything like they've seen, and you never will."

Chernov nodded. She had the pallor of an undergrounder and her nod told me I was right.

So many of them, the undergrounders, had these insane ideas about how important they were. Which was fine, whatever they had to do to stay in a good headspace. But the kids would move like cats through the remnants of our above ground to find where the enemy was trying to get a foot hold and make them pay dearly.

I did my duty from five to fifteen years old. Going to the surface, causing havoc and killing the enemy, coming back and having some undergrounder street step me like I was a child when I had made their lives possible, day after day.

The Nursery existed to ease the burden of the few children who could fight.

Boys almost never made it past seven; the enemy viewed them as high value targets and could smell them from miles away. But girls were invisible to them for some reason. Girls could tear down their operations with skill, while smaller squads of heavily armed boys distracted the enemy vanguard.

I exhaled and let my mind get back to where I was. Calm music was playing and simulated bird songs and the lighting suggested morning. Maria was still in shock, because ordinarily she would have smashed anyone's nose out of their head. Hopefully the calm would help. Maria went to one of the clay table and opened a fresh canister of red, started kneading it and hunched over it.

She was scrutinizing it for imperfections, but she was making into something.

It was becoming clear to Chernov, too.

She was a in pastel pocket of weirdness, light years distant from the drab, endless hallways of City 23. Toys and games filled cubbie holes on the far left wall, higher than the children could reach and the ceilings curved up higher than any others, light in soft colors that simulated the day night cycle on the surface.

"You get one question about me, Chernov." She blushed and laughed nervously.

Yeah. I'm a rare type.

"Shouldn't you be studding?" She asked. "Men shouldn't be involved in this...sort of thing, ; there are so few of you and...

"I do stud about once a month, but the work we do here is equally important, because...." as if on cue, a little girl with corn rows started bashing a doll against a table and then hurdled it into a corner. She set upon it, kicking and stomping its head into the ground.

Chernov started toward her. "Wait." I said. The little girl wore herself out and she bent at the waste and then vomited and started to cry. "Now, you watch."

You have to approach someone in these kinds of states carefully. Like an animal caught in a trap. It could be the snuggliest puppy in the world, but when their foot is caught in something ugly? They'll fight. And when they're caught in something ugly that they know they had to do, they'll fight everyone and everything.

"Lequisha? It's Dan. You okay?"

"My brother." She sobbed. "my brother. Maria. Maria got him killed-ed." I placed my hand on Lequisha's shoulder and she folded into me, her arms shaking, pressing her corn-rowed head into my knee. Her whole body sobbed and I knelt down to embrace her and keep her from falling. She wrapped herself around me and wailed like wounded bird.

The whole nursery was silent. I'd like to think it was as much out of respect as curiosity, but I might have been kidding myself.

"Mr. Dan?" It was Maria. "Mr. Dan? Can I talk to Lequisha?"

"Okay, I..." Lequisha went from sobbing mess to lioness in a breath, setting upon Maria like she had the doll, but Maria was a squad leader for a reason and subdued the smaller girl with little effort. Maria held Lequisha in a sleeper hold, just enough force to calm her down. Then she spoke.

"Lequisha? Listen. Lequisha. I'm sorry about your brother. He was my friend, too. I miss him, too." Maria started to sob as well and her hold loosened. They both started to sob uncontrollably and hug on the ground.

They exhausted themselves right there, and I went to get a blanket. At ten, Maria was easily worn out and at just five, Lequisha, though big for her age, was no match for a born leader like Maria plus she lacked the emotional stamina to sustain so much anger.

"How did you know it wouldn't get deadly?" Chernov asked.

I beckoned her over the to table where the dough Maria was playing with. It was a child's recreation of a mangled face, Lequisha's brother in his final moments.

"They know what they did. They know what they are." I said. "But it's against human nature to like either."

2. Long enough to become.

The main door slid open and rough looking sergeant major stepped through.

"Attention on.."

I held up my hand. "Sergeant major, we don't do that here."


"It's in the regs, no calls attention in the refuge rooms."


Colonel Andrea Shane entered the room. She was legendary warrior, with commendations and medals and a nasty burn scar down one side of her head. It framed her features on the right side and she was missing her ear. She had very pale blue eyes, a long, angular face and the grey in her dark hair lent her a wolf-like appearance that fit her reputation.

"How are you Senior Sergeant?"

"I am well, Ma'am. How are you?" I said, coming to attention.

"At ease, Dan, seriously." She was amused at my following the protocol as I did.

"Gotta set the example for these soldiers, Ma'am."

"That you do. Can we talk in your office?"

"Of course. Sergeant Major, will you join us? I'll need to grab another chair." I said.

"She is a part of this, yes." the Colonel said.

We walked to my office in the back of the nursery and I nabbed an adult size chair on the way. I did consider getting a smaller one just to mess with the Sergeant Major, but the Colonel was very careful about her personnel and I decided to go with the benefit of the doubt.

"We had an incident." The Colonel said in a tone I knew from when we were working the surface together. Years ago, that tone would tell me it was going to be bad. That was the tone she used the day she lost her right leg.

"One of the trainees, we think..." the Sergeant Major interjected. She was young. Younger than me, but three ranks higher than I was. You don't make sergeant major by being soft; but she was halting in her speech.

"...we think. She was abused."

I felt a rush of anger, it flowed down the top of my head, down my ears, my throat and my chest. The anger swirled around my heart.

"What do you need from me?" I asked. I knew this anger. I knew how to use it. And if either of them had asked me to kill someone I would done it without asking for a weapon.

"We would like you evaluate her...she has. She's already seen a doctor. She'll...never have children." the Sergeant Major said.

"What?" I said. The anger became like a ringing in my ears. Sometimes trainers were rough with the new recruits and yeah, that would happen. The training sergeant would be suspended for a while, get some kind of remedial training, recycle the solider into a new training iteration and call it a day.


"Someone raped a trainee?!" I said. They both stiffened at the word. It's an ugly word, and old word that sometimes, with our united sense of purpose, seems like it should be outdated. Should be.

"Yes." said the colonel. Her voice caught in her throat. All the awful shit she'd seen, but this was too much to handle.

"We have evidence," the Sergeant Major said.  "Semen and blood samples.

"Then why come to me?" I said. This was not even remotely approaching my jurisdiction.

"It was Senior Sergeant Harris."

The ringing in my ears got louder.

"What?" I asked. "How could...what? That..."

Harris was there the day the Colonel lost her leg. He provided covering fire while I carried her out. Against all odds he made back to the compound three days later. He was starved, exhausted and bleeding from two wounds that should have been fatal. He was given a hero's welcome. He was a hero. His trainees were incredible; they were ones with the lowest casualty ratings, the highest kill numbers, the most successful missions.

"Kill him." I said, flatly. "In public."

"It's more complicated than that." the Colonel said.

"No, it isn't!" I snapped, and slammed my hand on my desk. They both were taken aback.

"I'm sorry," I exhaled. "You remember Master Sergeant Dice?"

The both looked down at the ground.

"Yeah." I said. "We didn't have the evidence for Dice that you have for Harris. We had to have all twenty two his victims testify before the council! That's 22 soldiers, all under the age of 10! C'mon, ma'am! We are going to go through again?!"

"Twenty three." said the colonel.

"Well, I didn't get it as bad as some of them did, ma'am. Let's keep that in perspective. Dice put his dick in most of those boys, the only reason he didn't with me is because..."

"You fought." the Sergeant Major said.

That was...one word for it. What I actually did was castrate Dice with my teeth. He knocked me unconscious and ran, screaming down the hall bleeding from his ruined scrotum. I woke up with...a unique taste in my mouth and three missing teeth.

"Dice was a bad man." said the colonel.

"No shit, ma'am! And that's why we executed him! And even after I emasculated him with own fucking teeth we STILL had to put those boys through hell. I would have liked him to live a long life where I got to smile at him every morning, but here we are! We followed the protocol then, and we should do it now. The fucking council needed more proof! So I guess if a nine year old bites off you balls you were just what? Making a fucking honest mistake?! Huh?"

I stood up at my desk. They knew this was an ugly thing for me. It was part of the reason I was assigned here. "I'm sorry. Look, you know me, ma'am. Eighty successful missions, fifty two of which you led. Fuck Harris. Get rid of him now. He's committed treason. Straight up treason, ma'am."

"No, Dan. We think Harris was compromised." the Colonel said. "The three days he was MIA? We think they did something to him. Made him into a sleeper agent of some kind. He doesn't remember anything, so he claims. We found foreign structures in his skull."

"Why would..." I started.

"They are loosing." the Colonel cut me off.  "Every day they are loosing more and more ground to us. This is....is a new tactic. They may have figured out they can't take the Earth by attrition. They need to create threats from within..."

I didn't say anything for a long time.

"So... again, what do you need from me?"

"Talk to Harris. Talk to Private Jones. You're probably the only one who can be sure."

"How's that?"

"Rape is very rare now. So rare we don't really have anyone with any experience anymore, investigating or understanding." The Colonel said.

"There were twenty two other boys. They're all dead?"

"Yes. You know males don't last very long when they work the surface." said the Sergeant Major.

"Of course, but...Walter? Jimmy? There were five others..."

"They all committed suicide. None of them made it to 25." The colonel said. "After they were transferred to other Haven cities, they eventually killed themselves. We found that out when we tried get at least one of them transferred back."

"Fuck." I said finally. "Alright."

3. Barely Contained

City 23 is probably the largest of the Haven cities. There are about ten that still function, and while they are over crowded, crime is nearly unheard of in all of them. Japan is nearly free of enemy threats, but they have so few real estate it isn't surprising.

Every city has an something like a mythical hero. Helena DeBeu of City 20. Ryoko Takahasi of City 12. Maya Ibna Muhammed of City 7.

Master Sergeant George J. Harris was the only man to achieve such fame. His image was everywhere in City 23, on motivational posters and fliers. All over the place, his rugged good looks, square jaw and dark eyes insisted he was everything everyone wanted.

He was gorgeous looking, truly. I didn't think of myself as ugly, but I had more scarring and maybe I didn't hit the gym as often as I could. Harris, despite being well past his prime like I was, was youthful, with a full head of rich, dark hair and almost always a five o'clock shadow to match.

He... really didn't need to rape anyone.

I mean, the few men that were still viable producing gametes had sex at least three times a week under City Protocol 5. We were allowed to have more of course, provided we didn't catch anything. But I couldn't imagine Harris wanting for affection.

Walking down the main hall to infirmary to speak with Greta James, the victim, I realized the scope of the thing. Harris face was everywhere. He was on video screens and posters. He was everywhere.

Turning him into a rapist? If the enemy did that on purpose, they had figured out more about us than anyone considered. Which would have been difficult because they would obliterate the bodies of the boys they killed. There usually wouldn't be anything left.

The girls were literally invisible. When Col. Shane was a lieutenant, I once saw one of the enemy drones blow right past her and take a male soldier. It tore him limb from limb. We knew next to nothing about their drones; their computer coding how they "see," we're not even sure how the function. Our scientists have been working for almost two decades, with next to nothing.

But it appears they have hacked us.