General Lydecker sighed heavily, rubbing the bridge of his nose, wishing he could snap his fingers and just make it all go away.
The Pulse, as the population had come to know the terrorist attack that rocked their world and destroyed their way of life, had thrown down a shit storm on everything Manticore stood for and had tried to accomplish for the last decades. Latest intel pointed at the familiars as the instigators of this disaster, no doubt intent on wiping Manticore facilities from the face of the Earth. Fortunately their knowledge had been faulty.
While the Pulse had indeed managed to hit their databases hard, only recent entries had been lost. A mandatory backup order was in place, going into effect every four weeks. The last back up had been done two weeks before the pulse. The backup system itself was buried a kilometre deep in an old salt mine behind feet-thick walls of lead.
If the Familiars had managed to launch their attack during one of the back up sessions, which might have been their intent, then the effect would have been catastrophic, all would have been lost, the decades of research into the threat the Conclave posed, the libraries of information wiped clean in the blink of an eye. All they would have been left with was a months worth of printouts.
The Familiars no doubt believed them destroyed at best and severely incapacitated at worst. Granted contact had been lost with their agents in the field, but he had faith in his soldiers. They would find a way back, indeed most of them already had, those overseas at the time of the attack either arriving without a word, or sending coded messages giving an estimated time of arrival.
Yet even as they all returned to the place of their birth, their home for most of their lives, Lydecker and his superiors were putting Operation Aeneid into motion. Manticore would disband and disperse, hiding away among the civilian population until such as time-
A firm knock on the door interrupted his train of thought, or wool-gathering more like as he had more than enough to do without getting distracted by already finished plans.
“Yes, come in.”
The door opened slightly and his secretary poked her head in, a flustered look on her normally unflappable visage. Seeing as she was usually a stickler for formality Lydecker was intrigued enough to forgive her the breach of military protocol.
“Um, sir, Agents X5-494 and X5-452 have reported back to base. Shall I send them in for debriefing? Sir?”
Lydecker nodded. “Go right ahead. And send some refreshments in, would you?”
His secretary nodded and opening the door wider, stepped aside to let in 452 and 494. Only Lydecker’s legendary self-control prevented his jaw from dropping as he saw what had his staff so flustered.
It wasn’t two people that entered, but three. Two tall and one- short.
Max stepped into the room first, a little girl holding tightly onto her left hand, Alec behind her, one hand clearly resting in the small of his partner’s back.
Nobody spoke a word as the two soldiers and the little girl stepped up to his desk and stood to attention. Well his two soldiers stood to attention and snapped off a salute to their commanding officer.
“X5-452 and X5-494 reporting for debriefing, sir.”
Lydecker leaned back in his chair and took in the changes a few weeks had wrought. This surpassed even his wildest expectations.
These two stubborn-headed individuals seemed to have finally got their act together. And seemed to have picked up some luggage on the way. He glanced at the little girl clinging to Max’s leg with one arm, even as the other held on to Alec’s pant leg.
This worked out nicely. Very nicely indeed. He resisted the impulse to rub his hands together with glee. Such a cliché. Instead he nodded at Alec to continue and listened with a placid gaze to the recounting of their experiences. No doubt slightly edited for his benefit. He only just managed to hide his amusement when he heard that Alec had been shot again. The man was a magnet for bullets. No mistake about it.
The debriefing wound to a close and Lydecker waved the trio over the group of chairs in the corner of his room. It hit him with some amusement that it was Alec, Tara turned to, curling up in his lap instead of Max’s as he had expected.
“Well, as soon as possible I will pass on your intel to local law enforcement and they can take it from there. Maybe see if some of the girls can be traced back to their families and returned.”
Lydecker leaned back in his chair. He watched silently as refreshments were brought in and Max did the honours, passing around the coffee, and placing a tall glass of milk in front of Tara, even though the girl was clearly already drifting off into sleep.
“No doubt you have speculated some on the cause of the Pulse.” He waited for Alec and Max to nod.
“I will not bore you with the details, they will be in your files on your next assignment, suffice to say that it was indeed a direct attack on Manticore by the Familiars. Our enemy is mobilising and as a result some of our more nebulous ideas doe the future have been pulled forward and are being put into action as we speak.” He sighed heavily.
“I don’t like it, but there it is. Manticore is spreading across the world.”
A man with less perception than Lydecker might have missed the effect this statement had on the two soldiers in his office. Their hands twitched towards each other, while Alec’s arm tightened slightly around Tara. Then again if Lydecker wasn’t perceptive he wouldn’t be General.
“Codename Aeneid. Manticore will spread out, no more than three to five in any given city. Preliminary objectives include monitoring public opinion and making contact with prospective allies in the fight against the Familiars. As an example the USA will be split into four sections, each section with a rank leader, the other transgenics will be required to report to on a regular basis.”
“What about Joshua?” Max couldn’t help herself from asking the question. She had met the self-proclaimed ‘nomily’ on one of her frequent night time jaunts and quickly built a rapport with the highly intelligent artist. Sadly his pronounced canine features made it impossible for him to leave the compound, but he filled in as one of the teachers in the X-7 crèche and painted surrealist works in his spare time.
Lydecker knew all this of course and didn’t rebuke her outburst, even though a more conventional military commander might have.
“Joshua and the other ‘nomilies’ are going to provide backup. Stick to our out of the way safe houses until we can find a new, more permanent solution for them, where neither humans nor familiars can get at them. They will be our first team when it comes to building a new base. The board is floating the idea of a private island off Nova Scotia. No pun intended.”
Lydecker could see Max relax as he put her fears to rest. It didn’t bother him to be held accountable in a way to his subordinates. He just saw it as a good sign. Both Max and Alec had a very healthy sense of protectiveness where their fellow transgenics were concerned, something that bode well for the future.
“What about us?” Alec asked.
Lydecker hid his smirk, there was no way he could have missed the change in pronouns that told him exactly what he wanted to know, even if their body language hadn’t already done it for them. He shuffled around some files for appearances’ sake.
“You two are going to Sunnydale with Biggs and Cece. Weird things happen there, but there is a faction we would like to make contact with, see if they are willing to get their hands dirty on more than just local issues. Manticore has organised an apartment for you in the area.
“The rest of your units will be spread out on the West Coast, with family visits allowed, even encouraged. And Uncle Donald may be by for the odd visit.”
He glanced at them both and the picture they represented.
“Of course to facilitate the mission it would be necessary for you to pose as a family. That will not be a problem I hope?”
He watched his two best, and favourite, soldiers exchange a glance, already knowing what their answer would be.
“No, I don’t think it will.”The End