Authors: Alex Siegel
Copyright 2014 by Alex Siegel
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The Gray Spear Society series is a long-running saga. It is recommended that the books be read in a specific order. The current list is:
1. Apocalypse Cult
2. Carnival of Mayhem
3. Psychological Damage
4. Involuntary Control
5. Deadly Weakness
6. The Price of Disrespect
7. Tricks and Traps
8. Politics of Blood
9. Grim Reflections
10. Eyes of the World
11. Antisocial Media
12. Sharp Teeth and Bloody Claws
13. Teller of Lies
14. Faith Defiled
Marina left her bedroom and entered the main part of the San Francisco headquarters of the Gray Spear Society. The space had a square layout with sides a hundred feet long. The floor was built on two levels with a split running north-south in the middle and a short stairway in between. At this time of morning, it was dead quiet. Ipo had the night shift in the security booth, but otherwise, no other team members had arrived for work. Olivia was sleeping in her own bedroom, but technically, she was just a permanent guest instead of part of the team.
Marina went to the kitchen which was nearby on the right. Yawning, she started a pot of coffee brewing. She would worry about breakfast after she had a dose of caffeine.
The living room area was just north of the kitchen. It had nice couches, chairs, and a coffee table. Soft, blue material covered the overstuffed couches, and they were the perfect size for stretching out and relaxing. She turned on the giant television and switched to a news channel.
The breaking story instantly woke her up. Cannibals were running amok in Chicago, and the victims already numbered in the dozens. At least several murderers were responsible for the wave of carnage.
Marina took a deep breath and thought about her lover, Aaron. He was the commander of the Chicago cell. There was no doubt his team was fully engaged in hunting the cannibals. It wasn't her territory, and therefore, it wasn't her problem, but she wished she could help him somehow. They were two thousand miles apart, and at times, it felt like two thousand light-years.
She decided she could at least give him moral support. She went to a small storage room beside her office on the west side of headquarters. The room was partially filled with supplies such as toilet paper, linen, soap, and cleaning products. Marina and Olivia lived in headquarters, and the rest of the team spent most of their time there. It was basically home for ten people, and they needed a lot of supplies.
A secure video conference system occupied the rest of the storage room. It had a high-quality video camera and a large monitor. The camera was pointed at a wooden stool in front of a gray curtain. Marina turned on the system and sat on the stool. The security booth in Chicago would be notified that she was trying to reach Aaron. The message would eventually get to him, and he would activate a similar conference system in his office, assuming he was home.
After a couple of minutes, an image appeared on Marina's monitor. Aaron sat on a stool at his end, and even though the connection was remote, seeing him again delighted her. He was tall and muscular but not ridiculously so. Bushy eyebrows shaded his brown eyes, and subtle pools of darkness in his eye sockets made them even darker. His straight, brown hair needed a trim and a good brushing. A strong jaw was one of the nicer features of his handsome face. Bags under his eyes and a brooding expression showed he was tired.
"What?" he said in a curt tone.
"I love you, too," Marina replied.
"Sorry." He paused. "It was a long night."
"I saw the news report. Cannibals? What's going on?"
"Some kind of disease or poison is making people crazy. We're still trying to find the source. It's a bad situation and getting worse. Half-eaten bodies are turning up everywhere. The authorities are already talking about a large-scale quarantine possibly enforced by the military. On top of all that, the snowstorm of the century is parked over the Midwest. I've never seen so much snow in my life."
"Damn," she said. "Is there anything I can do?"
He shook his head. "I don't think so. This is my problem to solve, and it's coming at the worst possible time."
"The twins..." Aaron had a distant expression.
Marina knew he was referring to Bethany and Leanna, the computer experts in Chicago. They were engaged in the "universal firewall project" which had the ambitious goal of making the entire universe safer for all life. When Marina had first heard about it, she had thought the concept was preposterous, but God was giving the project His full support. The Lord had frequent meetings with the twins to discuss technical details.
"Can you tell me about it?" she said.
"Sorry." Aaron sighed. "I can't. The information is on a need to know basis."
In recent months, he had become very vague about the project. He was keeping secrets even from Marina, but she had gotten the impression it was reaching a critical point.
"OK. I just wish I could help you."
"Seeing your beautiful face is helpful enough." He smiled. "We're past due for another visit. How long has it been?"
"You were here two months ago in October."
"And I haven't seen Chicago since last summer," she said.
"You can't come here until the twins are done."
"When will that be?"
"Soon," he said, "I hope. Let's plan on getting together for Christmas. One way or another, it should be over by then. I'd better get back to the cannibals. I love you." He blew her a kiss.
She smiled. "I love you, too." She blew a kiss back to him.
Marina got up and turned off the video conference equipment. The conversation had only made her more anxious about the situation in Chicago. Aaron certainly had his hands full.
She returned to the kitchen and saw the coffee machine was done brewing. She poured herself a steaming cup.
She was taking her first sip when Olivia came out of her bedroom. The nine year-old girl was living in a small room on the east side of headquarters. She had blonde hair with gentle curls, and the skin on her pale face was flawless. One eye had a black iris, and the other was white. She was a perfectly adorable child, and Marina had to smile every time she saw her. Olivia was wearing floppy, pink pajamas.
"Good morning," Marina said in a voice that she tried to make cheerful.
Olivia flashed a smile. "Can I have breakfast?"
"We should do some training first. It's better to eat after you exercise, not before, and I want to work with you when I can give you my full attention."
Olivia's smile became a pout.
"It's for your own good," Marina said. "You need to know how to protect yourself. God's enemies still have you in their crosshairs."
Olivia returned to her bedroom to change. Marina went to her own bedroom to do the same.
The woman and the girl met a few minutes later on the blue exercise mats in the northwestern corner of headquarters. They were now wearing white karate uniforms with gray belts. Olivia's little outfit was really cute.
Marina picked up a foam pad from a pile. "Let's see how those kicks are coming."
She held the pad at the height of Olivia's head. The girl snapped off a series of front kicks that were a little slow and awkward, but they were very respectable for somebody who had studied martial arts for only three months. She had real talent. One day, she would be a fine fighter.
"Come on," Marina said. "Put some oomph into it. Get angry."
Olivia kicked harder, making a squeaking noise every time she attacked.
"Do you feel anything in your gut?" Marina said. "A burning sensation?"
"No." Olivia shook her head.
Marina frowned. Olivia wasn't really a member of the Gray Spear Society and lacked access to God's breath. No matter how hard she trained, she would never be a
. She had a different destiny, one intimately tied to the Voice of Truth.
"That's OK," Marina said. "You're still doing very well."
She coached Olivia through an intense half-hour of kicks and punches. When other members of the team started showing up, Marina gave the girl a break.
Hanley was the first to arrive. His short, black hair was tightly curled against his scalp. He had a lean, agile body which always contained aggressive energy. A fierce expression added to the impression he was ready for a fight at any moment. His intense, brown eyes looked at his commander.
"Good morning, ma'am," he said.
"Not so good," Marina said. "Chicago is a mess. Aaron and his team are dealing with a plague of cannibals."
He grimaced. "How unpleasant."
"Sometimes I think dividing the Society into isolated cells doesn't work. Some problems are too big for one team to handle."
"The idea is to prevent betrayal in one cell from endangering the whole Society," Marina said, "as you well know, but you're right, it can be problematic. The legate can tell one cell to assist another in an emergency."
"Does that actually happen?"
"Rarely. Commanders don't like to admit they need help. It suggests they are incompetent, and we have our pride."
Yang was the next to arrive. The newest
on the team had emigrated from China several years ago and still spoke with a thick accent. His light brown face was handsome and well proportioned. Wavy black hair could get a little wild at times, but at the moment, it was brushed back. He was short for a male
, not much taller than Marina, but he had the body of a gymnast. He could jump and flip as if his legs were made of rubber.
She had spent the last three months training him, but a lot of that effort had just been polishing existing skills. He had come to the Society as a decorated war veteran. He was an expert with a gun, a sword, a knife, and his fists. As far as she was concerned, he was already qualified for any mission.
"Hello, ma'am," Yang said politely.
Marina nodded. "Eat a quick breakfast and take the next shift in the security booth. I'm sure Ipo wants to go to sleep."
"Yes, ma'am." Yang went to the kitchen.
Marina remembered Olivia was still taking a break from her workout. The girl was tired and sweaty from her vigorous exercise. Marina decided to go easy on her even though the training session had been short.
"You can eat breakfast now," Marina said. "Go put your regular clothes on. But after you're done eating, you'll spend some time in the shooting range."
Olivia scampered back to her room, and Marina smiled. The girl wasn't strong enough to shoot anything larger than a .22 caliber, but a well-placed shot from even such a small gun could kill.
Three assistants, Min Ho, Jia, and Imelda, arrived next. Everybody congregated in the kitchen, and soon the aromas of food being cooked filled the air. Every member of the team had a specialty, and they shared like a family. Imelda was a professional Mexican omelet maker, and Jia could do special things with chopped fruit.
By mutual consent, only Marina didn't participate in the cooking. She wasn't the worst cook in the world, but she was close enough that some considered her food to be a health hazard. She did more than her fair share of the dishes though. Cleaning up messes came naturally to her.
Katie came running into headquarters.
"I didn't miss breakfast," she said between breaths. "Good."
The only female
on the team had dark brown hair with lighter highlights. Her slightly dark skin tone revealed her Mediterranean ancestry. Despite twelve months of intense training, her body stubbornly refused to give up her soft, feminine curves. She was muscular though and stronger than many men. Her shoulders in particular had real bulk. She had also become a fine marksman with particular expertise as a sniper. Marina was proud of Katie for persevering even though she wasn't a naturally great fighter. Katie's strengths were more cerebral.
Marina raised her eyebrows. "Your alarm clock didn't go off?"
"I hit the snooze button one too many times." Katie blushed.
"You'll help me clean the kitchen."
Marina went back to the television to watch more news while breakfast was being prepared. A big part of her job was just keeping her eyes and ears open. She had contacts all over Northern California who were doing the same. If anything strange happened in her territory, she wanted to be one of the first to hear about it.