"Colonel Rivers, do you have a moment?"
The balding man sitting in a high backed chair turns slowly to a woman at the door. She's tall, hair neatly wrapped in a bun on the top of her head. Her clothes are pressed, a navy pencil skirt and a white collared dress shirt. All around them are computer screens with live images. Each screen has a number stamped in the bottom left corner. Some say 1, others say 2, and so on around the room. The last computers to her right are black, with white 4's stamped on the bottom. The 3 cameras are blurry, almost impossible to see.
"Of course, General," the man says, in a deep voice. He stands, straightening the military uniform as he does. The woman gives him a blank stare, face never relaxing.
"Colonel, what's your report on the Price issue?"
Rivers looks at the black screens beside him.
"She's in Compound 2 now, has been for about a month," he says, nodding, "Compounds 3 and 4 have both fallen, ma'am."
The woman exhales loudly, her tongue running over her front teeth.
"No one has managed to kill her yet?"
"Not yet, General. She seems to be very- what's the word? Compelling? Fortunate?"
"And still no feed from 4?"
"That feed has been out for about two years now. I reset it every now and again, but it's always a dead end. Whoever is running the compound now knows that we were watching. The last thing we received from 4 was when President Hartley was killed and Price was sent out."
He gives the computer screen a tap, but nothing happens.
"What about the three?"
"You mean the scientists?"
"I lost the feed from Jacob Price when 4 fell, but I still have taps on Julien and Patel. Julien is in Compound 1, and Patel's staying in 2 right now. The girl is liable to find them soon."
"God, she's an annoying little thing," the captain says, pacing around the room. Rivers takes that as his sign that he can sit back down, and so he does, looking at the screens. His desk is messy, yellow paper scattered all over the place. It's covered in names, numbers, places, and drawings of maps and buildings.
There's a pattern on the pages, a recurring name.
Rivers brushes some of the paper out of the way to find his keyboard, showing the pictures taped to his desk. One of the pictures is of a gaunt blonde girl with bright blue eyes and a half smile. Her hair is braided over one shoulder.
Beside that picture is another of a male, dark curly hair and green eyes.
"No offense, Kovach, but Price isn't really a threat to us. She's just one girl."
The general turns to face him, her cold light blue eyes boring down on him. The way she towers over him when he's sitting is intimidating enough. Along with that, though, she has a face of rock, lips in a straight line and a firm solid jaw. Her shoulders are straight, chin slightly raised.
"Alone, no," she says, in a small, powerful voice, "But this one girl has managed to bring together two different compounds against us. If she successfully turns 1 and 2, we will be outnumbered. With the force of Compound 1, it will be a hard fight to win."
Rivers types something in on the black keyboard in front of him, bringing up what looks like a heart rate monitor and two different images.
One is inside a lab, looking down on a neat pile of papers and stacked viles. The vials are all labeled with numbers, a prism of colors.
The other video is of a sprawling forest.
"This is Patel," the colonel says, pointing at the forest scene. "He goes out here a lot, watching the trees like this. The way the cameras work, it's like we are watching through his eyes. Things seem pretty stable in Compound 2."
"And Julien in 1?"
"She's a workaholic," he says, chuckling, "Mainly, I watch her study, read, and work. Like I said, nothing's happening just yet."
Kovach paces again, stroking her chin with a long, spider-like hand.
"It's not wise to sit around the swamps and wait for the alligator to come," she mumbles, not looking at him. "Especially when you know the beast is coming after you."
Rivers purses his lips together, nodding.
"Get the troops ready," she says, heels clicking as she walks out the door. "We need to go to her before she comes to us, Colonel. I want a full military force ready as soon as possible. Even with our secret stock, I'll need living bodies on the field. Up the reassignment rate; make sure the stock is ready as well."
"Yes, ma'am," Rivers says, standing up and saluting her. "What about the new recruits? We have a group taking the IE today."
"Send them right to work. Tell them an attack is approaching and there's no time to waste training. Isn't this a high year? Binns says he sees potential."
"It's a mixture of both, ma'am. There will be an average amount that passes. They are smart, but some of them show some... attitude issues."
"You speak of Collins, I assume?" Kovach says, leaning on the doorframe. Rivers' shoulders drop as he relaxes, nodding. "Her father was a very important military figure, Colonel. She has big shoes to fill, and she won't let us down. If she can't control her mouth, we will just have to take her out to the yard and show her what happens to people who get reassigned."
A blanket of quiet spreads between them. All that can be heard is the quiet hum of the computers, distant whispers of the people talking on the screens. Rivers swallows hard, nodding briefly at her cold words.
"Make it happen, Colonel," she says, turning to walk out into the hallway, "Let the captains know, so they can do their part."
She leaves, the sound of heels against the marble tiles following her down the brightly lit hallway. Rivers glances at his screen, running a hand through what is left of his hair. He types on the keyboard again, the live feed of the two scientists disappearing. Another screen pops up, and this one shows the Repor building, shrouded in darkness. Shivering, the old man clicks off, staring at the blank screen again.
A/N, Question of the Part: What do you think Rivers is so disturbed by at the end?
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Selected (Book 2 of the Immune Series)Science Fiction
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