Patriot's Games (Part I)




They say looks can be deceiving. Nothing about the worn, fraying carpet or the bare concrete walls said anything about the power of the man inside. Even the army-issued metal desk at which the room's usual occupant sat, suggested that the person was anything other then a minor functionary, just another paper pusher in an armed force that was in the midst of a perpetual boom in paper pushers.

There were hundreds of these rooms just on the air force base alone. World wide? The # could be in the hundreds of thousands. But just as you can't judge a book solely on its cover.. you could not judge Maj.General Thomas Austin by his office.

The one impressive thing about the General's office was the security on his door. To just REQUEST access, you had to enter three codes on the door itself. To actually get INTO the office, you either needed an authorized fingerprint scan and retina scan, or the verbal permission of the office's occupant. It was widely debated on which was harder to get.

Maj. General Austin had been assigned to the operational group
"Section Twelve" just before the Rikti crisis had hit. He was in fine shape, for a man in his 50's. He still kept his hair (although it had turned grey) in a regulation high and tight. His brown eyes had a habit of staring holes into someone like a laser, when he was angry. But he kept a low profile, because according to "official" US records, he worked for a section that didn't exist.

Section Twelve was officially "off-the-books" when it came to
oversight. The US Department of Defense had not wanted it widely known that they maintained a "strike force" of metahuman heroes to eliminate those who presented a threat to the nation's safety.

They hadn't gone in for the usual trappingsof herodom, however. No bright costumes or heroic speeches during combat. Instead, they were trained to attempt to blend into a crowd, strike with overwhelming force and surprise, and exfiltrate without being caught or seen.

The fact that Section Twelve had not been a major factor in the
Rikti's attack on Earth was a black check against them. Several
members of Section Twelve had died during the initial attack, and due to its inherent public nature, Section Twelve had been reduced to guerilla attacks and support, while Paragon City's varied metahumans had united to fight off the Rikti.

The General had sworn that he would take whatever necessary steps to prevent such an attack again, not for personal glory or for more funding... because he would be DAMNED if he let this nation fall to invaders from outer space. Some also said that the fight had become intensely personal to the General.

They said behind his back that he had lost a daughter in the Rikti attacks, but he never spoke about it. All that was known is that every sunday, he would visit the Wall of the Fallen Heroes, which was set up in Washington D.C., in honor of each and every metahuman who had given their life in combat with the Rikti, and he would run his finger against one particular name.

That name was "Lady Flagbearer". A fairly unknown hero, and from what little anyone could research (much of the information on the Rikti attacks were still highly classified), she was a fairly unknown hero who was caught by a Rikti beam while attempting to assist in a general evacuation during the initial attack.

The General's door politely chimed, and the General looked up from the paperwork he was filling out. "Come", he said, tersely.

The door opened, and a man in his late fourties entered, and saluted, as the General stood. As he returned the salute, the General's eyes simultaneously studied the newcomer as his mind ran over the details of the man's dossier.

Colonel Dan Mieskovich was built like the proverbial brickhouse. The man, even though pushing the wrong side of 40, still outworked kids half his age. He filled out his regulation uniform nicely, and not for the first time, the General nodded inwardly. This wasn't a guy to shirk his duty.

(and his familiarity with the subject of the investigation didn't hurt either), he thought dryly.

"Thank you, Colonel, at ease. I'm sorry for calling you away from your unit under such circumstances, but I can assure you that this will be only a temporary duty, and quite frankly, your the best man for the job."

The Colonel nodded shortly. His voice was carefully modulated, and respectful. "They weren't really forthcoming with details, General Austin, but they said that they needed me for something, so, I accepted." General Austin nodded, he was economic with his words and even asked for more information politely while maintaining military decorum. Not bad, a soldier who apparently could fight as well as think. Better and better, the General mused to himself.

"I think it goes without saying, that you remember the Browning
incident?" he asked neutrally, even as he watched Colonel Mieskovich's expression cloud up. "Specifically, the medic that was at the center of that incident?" If the Colonel's expression had been cloudy when he had mentioned the general incident, when the General mentioned the medic involved, his expression was downright stormy.

The General had studied what was referred to as "the Browning
incident" several times over. The 5th Column had infiltrated one of the Army Resource centers designed to test new weapons of war, be they normal or metahuman in nature, They had stole much important information from the Army's "Super-Medic" program (he suspected that Crey Industries got some of the tech behind THAT program, considering some of their recent advances).

They had also kidnapped one of the groups enlisted women, a registered nurse attached to the group, and had subjected her to the treatments in the "Super-Medic" program, with a cruel twist. They had also added psychotropic programming to the treatment program, in an attempt to twist the woman into using those gifts the program provided to serve the 5th Column in their attmepts to bring the United States under their facist rule.

Fortunately, the woman had been rescued by, of all things, one of the registered defender teams that raided the 5th column base she was being held at, and freeing her from the laboratory where she had been involuntarily undergoing "loyalty reprogramming".

The Colonel took a second to compose his thoughts, before he spoke. "Yes, Gail served in the unit I commanded, sir, I think that's fairly common knowledge. I didn't blame her when she took the medical discharge soon after she was freed, it was obvious to her, and to me, that no one really trusted her after she had been in the hands of those.." he paused for a minute to find a term that could properly label those people who had kidnapped her, without resorting to vulgarity. "those thugs, sir. And to be quite honest, the brain boys attempts to root out "any hidden controls or commands that the interrupted program may have left in her", left her quite shaken and hurt." The General did sympathize with the Colonel's position, but he had seen how deep such programming could go, but he didn't say anything to him.

"Well, it seems she's been busy as of late. She's turned up in Paragon City..." The General allowed an amused half-snort to escape, it seemed that more and more metahumans turned up each day in Paragon City, site of the first Rikti attack, the metahuman population had grown to the point that Paragon City was now popularly referred to as the "City of Heroes".

The General then continued. "It seems she's taken up with a team of female metahumans, and is fighting crime and the like. Quite successfully, I might add.. she seems to have mastered most of the techniques that the Super Medic program provided.."

The Colonel smiled inwardly.. He had known Gail Denson to be one of the most dedicated soldiers he had to pleasure to command, and it sounded like her confidence and self-esteem, which was completely shot after the Browning incident, had returned. But then he frowned, as he saw the downside. "But something's wrong.. isn't it sir?" he asked..

The General sighed and nodded, "I'm getting indications that the 5th column is... interested in recovering their wayward lamb, even though it won't be easy with her elevated level of power, that they consider her to be worthy of "serving the 5th column". I do not know how they plan to recover her, but I can't afford to sit back and wait to see how they plan to attack."

The General crossed his arms as he continues, "I would like to ask you to go somewhat "off the reservation", so to speak, and contact her in Paragon City, and request that she come in from the cold, for a bit. We just want to assure her safety, and you're the person she trusts the most, who can explain to her the danger that she's in."

The Colonel shook his head slightly. "If she's powerful, shouldn't
that argue that she is capable on her own? I mean, what am I going to say that that will convince her that I can protect her. After all, she has friends, and apparently has mastered her unwilling gifts.."

The General nodded. "That's the off-the-reservation part. We've
arranged for receive some items, combined with your excellent
athletic and physical skills that will allow you to function at the
level of the average metahuman in Paragon City. We believe this will show that we're dedicated for her safety."

The Colonel sighed, and thought to himself. Finally, there was a trace of reluctance in his voice, butit was overwhelmed by the sense of duty. "Ok, General, you got your man. But if she doesn't want to go, even after I try to convince her, then it's a no-go..."

The General nodded and smiled, a thin tight smile.. "I wouldn't have it any other way. Report to the medical center in sub basement four for outfitting..."

(a couple hours later).

The man standing in front of the General was very different from the Colonel. Where the previous visitor reminded all of a Greek God, the one in front of him now resembled nothing more then a weasel given human form. Utterly ruthless, and utterly dedicated to the General, he had signed on with the General back when he was no more then an assassin, one with rules, but invariably twisted and knotted rules. He now led one of the General's strike force teams.

"So.. let me get this straight. We're allowed to recover the subject only if your man is unable to convince her to come in and let the mindscrubbers make sure that she doesn't have any lingering links, eh? What about use of force? What tactics are we allowed"

The General sighed. "Lethal force is NOT authorized, unless the 5th column succeeds in bringing her back. Other then that, you've got clean reign."

The weasel smiled. "Hmm.. anything, General? Innuendo, slander, and all the fun things I enjoy? I guess not killing her's ok.. I have some wonderful knockout drugs I'd like to try..."

The General nodded once, and the weasel left the General's office, already planning tactics and calling together the strike force. The General sat heavily down in his army-issue chair. He didn't like it, if "Green Gale" was clean of 5th column influence, he may have just ruined her life. The brainscrubbers never really had a stop button, if they couldn't find any hooks, they would just shrug, assume they were deeper, and continue searching, deeper and deeper. There was two cases where someone under the care of the brainscrubbers had gone catatonic.

One was still a vegetable in some forgotten psyche ward.

But he wouldn't.. no COULDN'T allow the 5th column access to the Super-Medic issues. The nation already had too many enemies. He wouldn't allow anyone, no matter how powerful to threaten the nation's safety.

In the next day.. two different planes left for Paragon City. One with a man planning the salvation of a woman he had lost before due to his mistakes.. and the other with a team bent on her capture, and possible destruction.