I finally had furlough. I had looked forward to spending time with Margot since we began our strikes at the corporations. I needed some family time. I needed some rest. I had seen the inside of hell and I was not ready to go back.
I suppose that I had been pushing myself harder than the rest, not taking furlough earlier, but the men needed to see me out in the field, even if I was not actually leading them personally. They needed to know that I was not coward who sent them to battle but stayed behind in a bunker to plan and plot. And they knew that now. I had been more than just a commander, I had been a comrade-in-arms.
Now, I was just another Joe on leave. Hell. I was one of them. A soldier first, and anything else last.
I was headed to my private quarters when Frank stopped me. “Simi and I have gotten the tunnels dug to Sardis, Maxwell, and Freetown. Our crews are setting up staging areas under the cities. Any orders, Dan?”
I smiled. “Just make sure they are big. We may be joined by Danforth or maybe by Jonas Meyer. Or whoever in whatever direction. Make sure each staging area is double in size. Maybe triple.”
He nodded and left with the orders. I watched him go. I was glad I had friends like him. And the rest.
I made my way to Margot after he left. I had been looking forward to our time together for some time. Well, for a couple weeks, anyway. I smiled at the thought.
I entered the bunker we had come to call home. “Honey, I’m home!”
She was nowhere to be seen. “In the bedroom, soldier!” came the reply.
I headed for our little love nest. As I went, I wondered what was up. She usually waited at the door for me. This bedroom thing was new.
I smiled, worried. “On my way!”
I entered the bedroom. To my relief, she was not hurt or in trouble. Instead, she was standing there with nothing but a bow on. I began to laugh, relieved.
She stared at me. “What’s so funny, Soldier?”
I shook my head. “Nothing. If you knew what went through my mind when you yelled that you were in here…well, I thought you were hurt or sick, Baby. But this is a wonderful surprise too.”
She looked at me sternly. “And do you know how hard it was to get this much ribbon?” She burst out laughing. “I wanted to surprise you. I guess I did so, but I did not mean to scare you. sorry.”
I took her naked body in my arms. “Don’t be. I love your surprise.” I kissed her lips. “And we will have to apologize to the restoration department for your misuse of their ribbon. For now, though, I love the gift you wrapped with it.”
She brushed up against me. “How about joining me, Soldier?” She began to unbutton my uniform.
I smiled. “Why not? That is why I am on furlough.”
We lay upon the bed, her head upon my chest. I had my arm around her, holding her soft body against me. Lord, how I missed feeling her against me most nights! Most nights, we camped in the tunnels, close to where we were going to attack. That is, unless it was a night attack.
She was lost in thought. “Why must you go and fight? Why can’t you remain here and command from here?”
I smiled sadly. “I want the men to know that I am one of them, Baby. If it becomes too dangerous, I will not go out. But we were lucky I was along the last time. They had a shield generator and we would have been cut to ribbons if I had not recognized it. Plus, they were using Robo-officers.”
She looked up into my eye. “Still. I do not like the feeling that I may end up a widow. I know you do what is right, but I want you to be here for our child.”
I held her tight. “I know, Hon. I want to be alive for our child as well.”
She laid her head back on my chest. “Then stay home. Don’t go back out. They know you are one of them. They respect you because you have put yourself in harm’s way more than once. Please. I beg you. Retire the hero. come in and direct from safety.”
I knew she was right. “Can I go one more tour?”
She snapped her head back up. I could tell she was upset. “What, then, after that? will it be ‘just one more’ every time you come back whole?”
I was about to answer when Craig’s voice interrupted. “Sir, the enemy has somehow been tipped off that you are in command. It seems they will now be searching for you in every unit that attacks. Their sec-bots have been programmed to shoot you on sight, if they recognize you. It has been advised that you remain in Command Central from now on.”
I looked at Margot. “My decision has been made for me, it seems.” I turned my attention to Craig. “Call the troops together. I am coming down to the staging area.”
I looked at Margot. She was crying. I lifted her chin. “I won’t be going out anymore. Since they know I am in command, and want to remove me, I have no choice but to remain here.”
She beat lightly on my chest. “Yes, but it took a direct threat to keep you here. What if Craig or whoever had not found out about the threat? What then?”
I held her close. “I get it.”
We lay there for what seemed to be hours. Then, she looked up at me. “You better get down to the staging area.”
I nodded, then rose. I dressed quickly, then kissed her on the forehead. “I will be back in a couple hours. I have a traitor to sniff out.”
She smiled weakly, nit really happy to see me go. “Be careful. Who’s to say there aren’t a whole group of them? What if they infiltrated the army and are working to demoralize it?”
I smiled confidently. “One thing at a time.”
A knock came at our door. Instinctively, I grabbed my rifle then pointed to the bathroom. “Get in there.”
Margot went in, obediently. Another knock came. None of my lieutenants would ever knock. They would use the com. Something was wrong.
I slipped the cyber-link from its hiding place. “Security team Alpha. Code Red. I repeat. Code Red.”
A third knock came at the door. “Sir, you might as well come out. You are surrounded. There is no escape.”
Damn. What else could go wrong? I found my stealth belt. And the portable personal shield generator. A belt and a watch. I chuckled silently. “Coming.”
I switched them both on. And waited. I heard muffled voices. and then one plain one. “He’s not coming. Blast the door.”
I hit the auto-open. The door swooshed open. They entered. I shut the door and opened fire. They never had a chance.
I approached them carefully. All but one was dead, but he was close. I switched off the stealth, but kept the shield on. “Who do you work for?”
He smiled. “Durgen Mackey.”