David James moved up behind the skimpily clad, statuesque brunette and slid his arm around her waist. The girl, Emma Harris, flinched slightly and then appeared to relax as David whispered in her ear, "I'll show you mine if you show me yours."
David allowed his hand to drift upwards towards the girl's naked breast. In his opinion one of the few good things about the approaching Sa'arm invasion had been the sudden appearance of flesh amongst the female population. A fashion change that he'd gone out of his way to take advantage of.
Emma grabbed the wandering hand and hung on to it whilst twisting away, "Listen buster," she announced fiercely, "that's mine and I don't care how high your CAP score is, it's staying mine." She then giggled, destroying any pretence at anger. The two of them had been seeing each other for a year now and as both had the requisite CAP scores they hoped to be extracted together.
"Yea," drawled David, "but you know you like looking at mine."
"Looking, touching, feeling and a whole host of other things," Emma agreed, "but not here and not now, OK?"
"Sure," agreed David reluctantly. Schools may have increased their tolerance towards public displays of affection but not that much. Changing the subject he asked, "What are you doing Sunday?"
"Nothing much," she answered, "What do you have in mind?"
"Fancy going to the mall?" he asked, "We could do a little shopping, grab something to eat and then watch a movie."
She looked at him questioningly, "No church?"
"No, Mom and Dad have given up on the place," he said. "They didn't mind so much when the sermons just went on about the Sa'arm being an abomination but now that they've started out against CAP testing and people leaving Earth it got too much. I think my CAP score's what tipped the balance, they just couldn't reconcile keeping me here to be eaten when I had a chance to get away." David shrugged, "I just try to keep out of it."
Emma hugged her boyfriend closer, "I guess I'm lucky," she said, "my parents never got sucked in by all that religious crap and when Mom died Dad practically told the preacher to go take a running jump."
David squeezed the luscious body against him, " Yes, well, enough of this doom and gloom. What d'you say about Sunday, fancy seeing a movie?"
"Oh yes," said Emma. "Do you want to invite the rest of the gang?"
"Not this time," said David. "I'm sure they want some time alone," he concluded raising an eyebrow.
The gang in question consisted of Navtej Singh -- who was known as Nuvi -- and his girlfriend Jessica Fling along with Adam Simpson and his girlfriend Kim Sui. These four made up the pre-pak family that Emma and David hoped to take with them if they were extracted.
Emma smiled, "I take it Nuvi and Jessie are finally getting somewhere?"
"I think she's finally beaten down his resistance." A grinning David agreed.
"Good," said Emma, "It's about time he stopped acting all prim and proper and got with the program."
"Amen," said David.
"And God is the sole arbiter of life and death not some 'alien' monstrosity who's very being is an abomination against his word!"
The dark suited man at the lectern absorbed the yell and rose higher; he was nearly frothing at the mouth he was that worked up.
"HE protected the faithful from the plagues of ancient Egypt, HE protected the faithful from the famines that followed and through time HE has protected us all from the works of the Devil!" Trevor Rawlinson screamed out, his arms spread wide to embrace the congregation.
Spittle flew from his mouth as the impassioned pastor stormed, "HE WILL protect us against the works of this 'alien' creature!"
"AMEN!" the gathered masses responded in unison, breathing in the hatred and vitriol pouring from the pulpit. Teddy Bainbridge, who at nineteen, wouldn't normally have been expected to be in church was drinking in the sermon as though it was the very waters of life. That he'd been CAP tested was one of the most carefully guarded secrets he had and that his score had been a mere four point seven was another.
The preacher lowered his voice, "But brethren, should we not feel forgiveness, as the good Book tells us right, for those who have been taken in by this foul abomination from space?"
"NO, I say, thrice NO!" The preacher paused, his eyes cast to the heavens. "No, they have been led from the light by their own greed and the love of this Devil's toys!"
'Yes, ' thought Teddy his mind skipping over the conflict between his own thoughts and the sermon, 'we should be the ones who are going not those geeks.'
Trevor cast his arms forward, "And YOU, yes you! The faithful have shown them the way, denying the 'alien' his prey. You the faithful will stand against this 'alien' monstrosity and show it the error of its ways." His voice dropped an octave, "and You the faithful will render the faithless bereft of life for their errors."
Teddy Bainbridge smiled viciously as he joined in the final "AMEN."
Outside the pristine white church that yell had sounded like the call of a wounded animal seeking revenge for its injuries and pain. Thomas Jefferson Shanklin shook his head in disbelief at what was emanating from his speakers as he sat in his vehicle. The investigative reporter had been watching this church for the last three months and the message had been becoming more and more belligerent each week. When he'd approached his editor about running an article he'd been shocked to find that their small church was a mere cog in a much bigger, as in national at least, machine that had the backing of several of the leading media tycoons, including his own paper's owner.
His editor had told him, in very direct terms, that if he wished to continue working for the paper he'd button his lip and go look for something that they could report on. So the story had remained untold but Tom had been unable to leave the problem alone, which is why, once again, he was outside the church with a directional mike peeping through the window.
Tom eyed his mobile phone, wondering for the umpteenth time about reporting what he knew to the local police department and, once again, deciding that nothing had actually happened yet and there was nothing the police could do.
David sat alongside Emma on the balcony of the food plaza slowly consuming a baguette and cola while indulging in one of his favourite pass-times, people watching. The change in dress code over the last couple of years had been nothing short of fantastic, as far as any normal hormone driven teenage boy was concerned. That it caused his own mother to wear next to nothing was a minor, though embarrassing, consequence which, when weighed against the visible benefits he found he could live with.
Beside him Emma was likewise looking at the crowds of nearly naked women and comparing them with what she saw in the mirror every morning. Whilst she was still self-conscious at appearing in public wearing so little -- which was a feeling familiar to a lot of small town girls -- she knew that to appear in anything less brief was to call attention to herself. An action that could have devastating consequences according to the latest rumours doing the rounds. That her figure and posture compared well with the majority of the competition made things easier for her to bear though she was shy enough to be worried that David was just being kind.
David nudged Emma with his elbow, being careful to avoid the naked breast, and indicated a middle-aged woman crossing the plaza beneath them, "Isn't that Fräu Humboldt?" he asked.
Emma followed his directions and giggled despite her own misgivings, "It looks like her," she gasped identifying the head of the languages department for their school.
Thirty feet below them a large, well-padded woman with long dark hair was crossing the floor wearing a grey wrap that was totally transparent making her lack of underwear extremely clear. It never occurred to the two teenagers that for a German, used to frequenting the nudist beaches of Europe, simply walking through a mall in such a wrap was a normal, everyday occurrence. That it put some of the younger girls, who thought being topless was brave, in the shade clearly increased the chances of the older woman being selected should an extraction happen.
Fräu Humboldt sat at a bench with another woman who, following a careful appraisal by David, appeared to be a younger version of the languages teacher. "Who do you think that is with her?" he asked.
"I don't know," muttered Emma.
"They look similar, do you think it's her daughter?" David asked.
"I didn't even know she had a daughter," said Emma, "I mean she's not part of the school crowd is she?"
"True," responded David quietly, "Maybe she's just visiting," he glanced at his girlfriend. "You know, over from Europe to take in the culture."
Emma giggled, the one thing her town didn't have was any sort of historical significance, "Yes, that'll be it. She's here to view our wonderful town."
David sat back and drained the last of his cola. Looking at the table he figured that they'd nearly finished, he glanced at his watch and did a quick calculation. "Fancy doing anything before the film, we've got about twenty minutes before we have to go upstairs?"
Emma pondered a moment, "Let's have another drink, it's cheaper than up there and then we can go straight in," she glanced over the balcony, "besides, I'm enjoying watching people."
"OK," replied David with a grin getting to his feet, "Do you want the same again?"
Four hundred yards from the happy couple Teddy Bainbridge and a group of about a dozen young men had left the church and decided to grab something to eat at the mall. Their passions, already inflamed by the rhetoric sprouted by Trevor Rawlinson from the pulpit, had not subsided in the short time since. The group had already hurled abuse and scorn at various people going about their normal Sunday business, including one young woman who'd been, in their opinion, too scantily clad. Their abuse had led to the fourteen-year-old rushing away in tears.
The mob, because that was what it was turning into, continued wandering in the general direction of the shopping mall, now actively looking for victims on which to heap their ire. Ahead of them a lone police cruiser was parked alongside the main food plaza entrance. It's occupant, Sergeant Paul Burell, was watching the groups approach with a mixture of trepidation and disgust. Sighing, he picked up his radio mike, "Central, this is Mobile Two One," he called.
"Go ahead Two One," came the tinny answer.
Paul glanced out of his cruiser's windows again, "I'm parked up at the Mall and it looks like we may have a situation developing down here."
"What's the problem Two One?"
"Looks like Rawlinson has got his crowd all fired up and they're heading here," Paul said continuing to watch the young men as they milled about.
"Roger Two One, we'll despatch a couple of units to back you up, just in case. Keep us informed, Central out."
Paul shook his head, it was going to take a while to find a couple of units, manning was always low early on a Sunday. He clipped the radio mike back on it's dashboard mount and stepped out of the vehicle, checking his sidearm as he did so. Ahead of him the group, seeming oblivious to his presence continued forward, their angry exchanges preceding them through the calm morning air.
Behind the mob Tom Shanklin was watching with growing concern. When the congregation had dispersed from the church he'd watched as a sizeable group had stayed together, their behaviour a little different from the previous weeks he'd observed them. Following along he'd watched in alarm as they'd changed from a noisy crowd into a baying mob.
Tom had taken several shots with his camera including a few video clips, his journalistic nose smelling a breaking story that could go national. Glancing ahead of the mob he saw the police cruiser and the lone figure standing beside it.
Tom felt his brows wrinkling, 'surely he's not going to try stopping them on his own', he thought and then watched on in disbelief as that is exactly what happened. The young men making up the mob hesitated for a moment and then swept over the officer. From his position Tom watched the occasional arm rise and fall as the gang swirled around the officer and his vehicle before heading off towards the mall. Tom found his phone in his hand the number for emergency services already keyed in.
When it was answered he just said, "You've got an Officer down at the mall," he licked his suddenly dry lips, "You'd better send help," and then added in a much quieter voice, "a lot of help."
The mob's arrival in the food plaza was not something that could be ignored. The doors slammed open and the group came in shoulder to shoulder, pushing some unfortunate patrons to one side as they did so. The noise they created drowned out the normal clattering that accompanied the consumption of burgers and chicken wings.
A member of the mall's security staff stepped forward and before he could do or say anything more he was pushed to the floor and three or four of the thugs set about kicking him as he lay there. That attack started the screaming as women and children reacted to the unexpected violence being meted out.
On the balcony Emma dropped her drink, barely noticing as its contents splashed over her feet, "Oh God," she moaned softly, beside her David looked shocked
"What's going on?" he gasped, his brain having difficulty translating what his eyes where seeing.
What his eyes where trying to pass to his brain was a display of raw panic. As the crowd reacted and tried to get away from the mob who'd taken them by surprise. Fathers grabbed young children and rushed towards the main mall, dragging wives and older children in their wake. The inevitable happened as someone tripped and went down in the crowd near to the exits and a pile up ensued.
The couple on the balcony began to decipher some of the yells and found themselves beginning to worry about themselves.
"Fear God, You alien's whore!"
"Kill the unbelievers!"
David found his eyes tracking his languages teacher and her daughter as around the fleeing pair scantily clad women had their clothing stripped from their bodies, leaving them naked. The sound of flesh on flesh resounded from below as naked women found themselves being slapped around by the frenzied mob.
David hardly felt Emma grip on his arm he was that focused on what was happening below. Fräu Humboldt came to a sudden halt and then grabbed her daughter's arm and pointed to one side. To David it was clear that she was telling the girl to go that way and the younger woman was objecting. He gasped as the teacher slapped her daughter across the face and then amidst the chaos held her head between her hands before kissing her gently on the forehead and pushing her in the direction she'd indicated.
The teacher then turned to face the mob and, unwrapping the flimsy gauze, stepped towards them. Emma sobbed and David, a huge lump in his throat stood. "Come on, lets go find the girl. She's gonna need some help."
Emma looked at David in disbelief, "Shouldn't we get out of here?" she asked.
David blinked and, for the first time actually thought about what he was planning to do. "You're right," he said, "there's no way I should take you down there." Glancing at the bedlam going on below he found his mind accelerating, creating and discarding options at a frightening rate. He blinked and then spoke quickly, "Emms, you know that little alcove we use at the back of the cinema?"
The little alcove in question was one of those wasted spaces that occur in any large building, a little corner that is too small to be useful and to out of the way to try to do anything constructive with. The couple had found it by chance when they'd been to engrossed in each other's company to pay any attention to the direction their feet took them. Since then they'd been back several times when they wanted a little peace and quiet.
"Yes," Emma said.
"Go there, now and hide." David glanced around, "I'll get the girl and join you as quickly as I can."
"David..." she moaned.
"Now Emma, before things get any worse."
David mimicked Fräu Humboldt without even thinking about it, kissing Emma on the forehead and then giving her a gentle push in the direction of the exit. People clustered around the edge of the balcony watching what was going on below, like the citizens at the Coliseum. David almost growled at the image of all those people giving the thumbs down to the women below.
He moved off, looking for the most convenient way down.
Far above the AI responsible for monitoring all electronic communications on the planet's surface noticed a transmission between a mall security office and the local police force. Several keywords triggered a planned response and a copy of the traffic was flagged as urgent and directed to the G2 duty officer's desk in Task Force Earth Headquarters.
Major William Hebden was the duty G2 officer and was surfing the news channels trying to find something interesting to pass the time, the normal action of the weekend duty staff on the command ship for Task Force Earth. The arrival of the flagged message was actually a welcome break from the boredom that had already set in over the first six hours of his twenty-four-hour duty stint.
He read the traffic and then had the AI cross reference several names, gaining a picture of an anti-confederacy mob running riot. A request for a live feed could only find a cell phone link from a journalist, who was practically screaming about rape and pillage, to his editor. On his own initiative Major Hebden ordered the deployment of a drone to the location. In the eight minutes it took the drone to get on station the Major managed to put together a draft analysis of what he believed was happening, which he thought was obvious, and the possible outcomes. The possible outcomes came down to three things and all depended on the reactions of people. Firstly the local law would be slow to react and potential volunteers would end up dead, secondly the local law would react quickly and there would be a loss of life on the part of the rioters, the third option was somewhere between the two and there would be deaths on both sides.
Just to cover his ass he sent an advisory to the duty officer, Brigadier Rhodes, with a short note asking for options.
The Brigadier, who like the Major was bored, wandered over to the G2 desk, "Morning Bill, what have you got for me?"
"Good morning Sir, It looks like one of those clergymen has finally triggered a mob," he replied scanning the live feeds from the drone, then pointed at a map overlay. "It looks like a group came out of this church," his finger traced the route across the screen, "and then hit the shopping mall, here," he glanced around. "So far nothing drastic seems to have happened though it's hard to get an accurate assessment from outside and to date signals intercepts have only confirmed that something is happening."
The AI joined in at this stage, "There is an update on the situation," it reported. "A policeman has been reported as being seriously injured by the mob before they entered the building and the local police force has only token manning on Sundays. They are requesting support from the next higher formation whilst mobilising what assets they have."
The Brigadier raised an eyebrow, "What is the possible loss to the Confederacy?"
"Routine tracking indicates that there are of one hundred and three potential volunteers in the population of nine hundred and forty-two present in the shopping mall at this time." The AI added, "this includes all potential volunteers with a CAP score higher than eight currently resident in the metropolis."
Major Hebden was reading the transcripts of the police channel as he listened to the AI. "Sir," he announced, "it looks like mobs from the other churches in the area are converging on the mall as well as what may be, blocking positions being established on the roads into the town."
The Brigadier thought for a moment then, "What's your assessment Bill?"
Major Hebden glanced from one screen to another and then chewed his lip for a moment. "Sir, I believe that this is a concerted effort to kill a large percentage of potential volunteers to the Confederacy. The local law enforcement agents do not have the required assets at this time to prevent that from occurring." The Major looked up, "the only thing that can possibly save those people is us, Sir."
"That's what I feared," said the Brigadier. He shifted his attention to the AI, "Inform the Sir Ywain that she is to prepare to drop a minimum of a platoon into a combat situation immediately, attach an Intel summary but stress that speed is of the essence."
He returned his attention to the duty room, "Now I've got to go and disturb Admiral Hargreaves," he said, "and explain why we do not have a ready force allocated to this contingency," he added with a tight smile. "Continue monitoring the situation Bill and keep me up-to-date and feed the data over to the Sir Ywain, they're going to need it."
David dropped down to the lower floor with relative ease; no one seemed to be leaving the upper floor or, to his surprise, was trying to reach that level. Once he hit the lower concourse however things changed, he struggled to make headway against the panicking crowd and more than once found himself bouncing off walls, bumped there by people who seemed oblivious to anything in their way.
Crossing the flow of traffic was only made possible when a man tripped and the ensuing pile up created a break in the traffic flow. From there it was simply a case of heading in the opposite direction to the crowd.
Why was he doing this?
He really wasn't sure, it just seemed right.
How did he expect to find one girl in this crowd?
He had a vague idea, from the way Fräu Humboldt had pointed, that he would find the girl in the rest rooms just beyond the food plaza entrance. If she wasn't there he really didn't know what he would do. As his mother always said, 'one problem at a time David, one problem at a time.'
The closer he got to the food plaza the smaller the crowd he was fighting against became, but the sounds grew worse. What had been the screams of panic became screams of torment and torture. Crossing the open area opposite one of the entrances allowed him a brief glimpse into the hell that was the food plaza and what had been distressing from above became much more fearsome from the same level.
Seeing a woman, naked and terrified, being dragged across the room by her hair was too distressing for David to contemplate. He'd already noticed, peripherally, a man's body sprawled across a cleaning machine, the blood and the angle of the neck indicating a brutal death. This image joined the one of the woman in being blanked from his active mind, though he knew they'd be back to haunt him later.
Finding the rest room was easy, entering it, even though he considered this a mission of mercy, was embarrassing. The usual zigzag arrangement led into a brightly lit tiled area with a row of cubicles along the right hand wall and sink units beneath a full length mirror on the left. The only sound was his feet, which seemed loud after all the noise he'd endured on his journey across the mall.
Most of the cubicle doors stood ajar and David, not wanting to call out, slowly worked his way down the row, pushing those doors that didn't allow him a view inside.
Two thirds of the way down the row he came to the first completely closed door, pushing it gently confirmed that it was locked.
'Now what?' he thought.
"Fräulein?" he called quietly and got no response. He glanced around and then, just as quietly as before, moved on down the row.
David was two doors from the end before he found another that refused to respond to his gentle push. A glance revealed that the last two doors stood open so if teacher's daughter was in this place it was here or the earlier door.
He tapped the door and called softly, " Fräulein?"
Behind the door he heard a sound, just cloth moving across a surface, so he tried again, straining his language skills to the limit, "Bitte, kann Ich die Fräulein helfen?" Which he hoped meant can I help?
This attempt was met with silence for a moment, then a flurry of activity before the bolt slid across and the door opened slowly.
The girl revealed was actually older than he was, and extremely frightened. David took a step back and asked, hopefully, "Do you speak English?"
The girl nodded, her dark hair rising and falling in sympathy.
David held out his hand, "Come on, we need to get out of here."
Hesitantly the girl pulled the cubicle door open and stepped forward, her hand reaching for his. Like her mother the girl was wrapped in a thin gauze-like material, which revealed her charms nicely, without being as blatant as total nudity.
David stepped off, grasping the small hand firmly, the girl trailed along behind him in silence. Just before he reached the first locked door it swung open and a woman of about forty stepped out, she looked at David out of a tear stained face. "Please, take me as well," she was practically begging, and David just nodded holding out his free hand.
The woman was a little over-weight and, prior to the Sa'arm threat, would never have appeared in public in so little. In her panic she'd lost one of her flip-flops, and her skirt which had originally been white, showed signs of impacting with a milkshake and a dollop of ketchup sometime in her journey. Her breasts had been covered in a blue body-paint, most of which had now disappeared leaving her looking tired and vulnerable.
"Come on, we need to get upstairs as quickly as we can." David took off, slowing his pace just enough for the two women to keep up.
"Gunny, how many people do we have?"
"Sir, about half the platoon are here, I'm grabbing whatever bodies I can find to make up the numbers," he looked the young Lieutenant in the eye, "We," he emphasised, "will be ready when they call, Sir."
Second Lieutenant Henry Froom took a deep breath and tried to calm down. Gunny McIntyre had a handle on getting his men together so he, as the older man had just indicated, had better deal with his own problems before it all turned to rats shit. The call by the AI to the wardroom had caused chaos, and he, as the only Marine officer actually on the ship, had drawn the short straw.
Prepare to drop a platoon into a combat situation had been the brief and going on the way everyone was reacting this wasn't some sort of impromptu training mission. His First platoon was spread out across various recreation barges and planet side leave and he didn't have time to get them all back, so his senior non-com was trawling the rest of the ship to find any Marines he could slot into his platoon to make up the numbers.
So far the armoury was open and everyone was collecting a basic, as in very light, load of ammunition and body armour.
The young Lieutenant slipped into the pressurised hanger deck and settled in to wait for his men to arrive. The Leopard dropship that towered over him was already crewed and coming on line as he stood there. It would be ready before he was that's for sure.
The Leopard, although going obsolescent now that the Panthers had become available, was still a good delivery system. About the same size, in the body as the old C130 Hercules transport aircraft she could deliver two platoons of Marines to any spot on a planet and give them a minimum of fire support and protection on the way in.
Henry Froom connected with the AI and started to absorb the situation reports coming across from the Task Force Headquarters and realised that this was a life-saving situation, not an out and out battle. He memorised the plans of the shopping complex and retained an overall impression of the town as a whole. As he studied he started to create a plan of action, splitting squads into sections and detailing them to clear obstacles or provide blocking forces.
A waving arm attracted his attention and he gathered his equipment, as it became clear that the shuttle crewchief was waving him forward.
"Sir," the First Sergeant greeted him, "the skipper is up front and would like a word."
Henry nodded his understanding and strode up the ramp and into the huge cargo bay
Captain Jane Hargreaves dropped down from the flight deck onto the cargo deck when she got word from Pete Dillon, the First Sergeant who was acting as crewchief that the ground commander had come aboard. She, like most people involved, was operating in the dark and she really wanted some answers before throwing her and her aircraft out into the wild blue yonder. She hoped, for his sake that the man approaching her had some answers.
"OK Lieutenant, what's going on?" she asked brusquely.
"Ma'am," he responded, "I've been told to get a platoon together for ground operations."
"That's it?" she said in disbelief.
"Ma'am, you haven't been monitoring the ground situation?" Henry asked, puzzled.
"What ground situation?" she asked getting exasperated.
Henry called up the AI and asked if the information could be made available to the dropship commander. That no one else had considered this necessary was an indication of just how thrown together this whole operation was.
Henry switched back to local mode and addressed the Captain. "Ma'am, if you check the AI the information should be available."
It only took a couple of minutes for Captain Hargreaves to grasp the situation, "What are you planning?" she asked.
Henry, working with the AI, said, "Break the blocking forces here and here with a couple of fire teams and then deploy a fire team at each of the four main entrances to seal the place." He looked up into the Captain's eyes, then I take my last squad and go inside and find out just how bad things are."
"How long till you're ready to go?" she asked.
After a quick check with Gunny McIntyre he answered, "Five minutes."
Captain Hargreaves nodded, "We'll be ready." She half turned then glanced back over her shoulder, "I've got no free-fall ordnance so the only support I can offer is the lasers, but they're there if you need them."
"Thanks Ma'am, I'll keep that in mind," said Henry before heading back to the loading ramp and the first of his arriving troops.
David was determined to get as far away as possible from the rest room and in his haste was practically dragging the two women behind him. That they were pulling back against him was what distracted him as he stepped out of the enclosed space and into the main concourse.
Teddy Bainbridge had enjoyed slapping around the coloured whore he'd caught and after she'd collapsed unconscious he'd gone looking for another victim. The sight of blood streaming from various bodies had shocked him a little but not enough to smoother his righteous indignation at the aliens and their collaborators.
The noise reverberating around the food plaza did cause him to step into the main mall looking for a little quiet. He stretched and looked around noting the toppled waste bins and abandoned bags strewn around the mall concourse, clear evidence of the panic he and his friends had caused.
That casual regard became much more pointed when a man, a student by the look of him, dragged two women out of the rest room. The way they pulled back from the man indicated a clear reluctance to Teddy that caused him to ignore a nagging doubt about the man's identity.
The women, one fairly old and the other much younger hadn't seen him yet so he had a chance to give them the once over. The older woman was a bit of a bag, made worse by the way her makeup was messed up but she'd got her tits out and, from the look on her face, knew what was coming. The younger woman was wrapped in some sort of diaphanous thing that hid nothing which if she hadn't been such a harlot would have been a good thing.
Teddy looked her over and decided that she was much more to his liking and he'd better get her before the kid did something stupid, like hand them over to the mob in the food plaza.
"Here," Teddy called, "let me give you a hand with those whores."
David took two more steps before the voice, and its words penetrated his frantic mind. Which was much slower than either of the women reacted. Both of them tried to stop as soon as they heard the sound of a man's voice.
The man stepped forward and as he reached for Fräu Humboldt's daughter David recognised him as Teddy Bainbridge, one of last year's seniors. The simple act of reaching for the fräulein triggered David into action, pivoting lightly on the ball of one foot and kicking as hard and fast as he could with the other.
As his foot buried itself in the groin of the other teenager David's only wish was that he'd been wearing his soccer boots instead of his soft sports shoes.
Teddy curled up, totally incapable of anything other than feeling pain. He couldn't breath, scream, nothing. He lay there, his vision blurred as he vaguely watched the three people escape. Teddy was actually lucky that the two women had been holding David's arms, which stopped him from putting everything into the kick.
"Go," cried David, dragging the women in front of him and pushing them in the direction he wanted them to move. His own adrenaline levels had peaked and now he just wanted to get away before Teddy recovered or someone else discovered them.
Behind him Teddy began breathing again, each gasping breath a painful reminder of how much he hurt. It took several minutes before he was able to uncurl and begin thinking of anything other than his damaged balls but when he did revenge was at the top of his list.
Teddy started to mutter as he recovered, "I'm going to kill that bastard, I am, just as soon as I've finished fucking his women." With each promise Teddy recovered a little until he managed to stagger to his feet and go looking for help with his revenge.
On the command ship Brigadier Rhodes looked across at the G2 desk, "Bill, are our people ready to go?"
Major Hebden checked his displays and saw that the Sir Ywain was reporting that one assault craft was ready to deploy. "Sir Ywain is reporting ready to drop, Sir."
Bill listened in to the Brigadier's conversation, "Yes Admiral, we have a Marine unit ready to go. It's just a matter of authorisation for the drop."
The Brigadier paused, "That's right, Sir, the scenario has been discussed several times but no formal orders have been laid down regarding our reaction and no changes have been made to the Standard Operating Procedure."
The Brigadier cast his eyes towards the ceiling, clearly disbelieving what he was hearing.
"No Sir, I'm unaware of any memoranda of understanding between Task Force Earth and the United Nations concerning anti-Confederacy actions on the planet."
The Brigadier was waving at two officers at workstations who began a search, it didn't take long and the grimace on the face of the first operator clear showed that the Admiral appeared to be correct.
"Yes Sir, I'll get someone on it straight away."
A pause, then, "Yes Sir, immediately."
Brigadier Rhodes let out a huge sigh, "Bill, tell Sir Ywain the mission is go."
"Yes Sir," said Major Hebden before relaying the instructions to the troop ship.
Inside the Leopard dropship a siren rang out and a voice, repeated inside each Marine's head by the AI, sang out, "Prepare to drop, prepare to drop!"
The Marines, nearly all of whom had dropped into combat before, braced themselves as the little craft twitched and then headed for the hanger barrier.
Captain Hargreaves guided the shuttle along its designated track, through the force field and out into space then dropped the nose and engaged the tracking program. The shuttle shuddered as power was applied and the craft dived into the thick soup that made up the Earth's atmosphere.
"Seven minutes to target, Lieutenant, we'll hit the main vehicle park first then do a run round for your perimeter forces. The last out should be the troops for the blocking positions." She glanced across her instrument panel, "We'll take up station one thousand metres up and be on call if you need us."
Henry Froom acknowledged the pilot's comments and then tried to look relaxed. Around him Marines muttered and cursed, rather than prayed. This was a cluster fuck and all of them knew that once it started things would only get worse.
Gunny McIntyre had managed to get four Staff Sergeants to run the sections but only two of them actually belonged to him. With the number of things that had to be done, the load was going to fall squarely on the shoulders of the various Sergeants he'd press-ganged into service to look after his fireteams.
On the non-com's chat channel he was giving out some fatherly advice, "Remember, keep it simple and if in doubt bug out and yell for help. The aim is to save lives, not get ourselves killed." He waited a moment before adding, "This is probably not going to be pleasant, we will end up killing fellow humans, the whys and wherefores of this are not our problem so don't get bogged down in any arguments. Ask them politely to disperse and if they don't, start dropping them with the stingers. If anyone shoots back switch to the rifles and kill the fuckers."
"Do You Understand?" he asked.
"Yes, Gunny," came the reply, a little muted as people took time to digest 'Happy Jack' McIntyre's comments.
"Louder!" he bellowed.
"Good," he said calmly, "and don't you forget it." With that, Gunny McIntyre closed his eyes and projected a completely false sense of well-being.
David led the two women up the wide staircase onto the balcony above the food court. He was careful to keep to the rear wall to avoid being seen from below. He edged around until he could move to the upper level that housed the cinema multiplex.
At that point he stopped and released the hands that he'd been using to guide the women throughout the journey. He smiled, trying to project a calmness that he didn't really feel.
"My name's David," he said, "what should I call you?"
The younger woman glanced around and then, in a very quiet voice, answered, "Sylvia, my name is Sylvia." Her Germanic accent should have given her voice a hard feel but she spoke so softly it just tickled the hairs on the back of his neck.