"I don't wanna wake up," Jared sulked, cuddling even tighter to his adult version of a teddy bear.
"Jared, sooner or later your kids are going to poke their noses in here," Mathews pointed out.
"Davey knows better," Jared muttered. "And he'll keep Cody from doing anything, either."
"And what happens if Davey gets up after Cody? What's going to keep your younger son from barging in and leaving us with all sorts of difficult questions to answer?" Mathews asked.
"I already get to answer them," Jared said glumly. "His hearing is just as good as mine, remember. As is his smell." Jared took a deep breath. "Just relax. If something is going to go wrong, it'll go wrong."
Mathews tensed. "His hearing is as good as yours. How good is your hearing?"
"Good enough that I can hear Cody giggling over what we're saying," Jared shrugged.
Mathews turned around in Jared's arms, forcing Jared to wake up a bit more. "Are you telling me, are you seriously telling me, that he could hear what we did last night? And you don't have a problem with it?"
"He was asleep when we got home last night," Jared shrugged. "And it doesn't matter anyway. Your crew talked about sex enough to give him a rather broad education on the subject."
Mathews moaned. "I should have made sure everyone knew about your hearing," he complained. "Damnit."
"He had to learn sooner or later," Jared sighed. "No parent can keep their kids from hearing about sex forever. In my case, it's just that much more difficult." Jared started laughing.
"What's so funny?" Mathews asked.
"Come on in and tell him yourself, Cody," Jared laughed. "Yes, I'm sure. No, we're decent enough. Come on."
"You're talking to him from outside the room," Mathews shook his head. "That's going to take some getting used to."
The door opened slowly, then Cody shuffled in, still in his pajamas. "Hey Uncle Kode," he said, eyes down.
"Hey Cody," Mathews smiled. "Don't look so unhappy kiddo."
"But you won't make Daddy feel good 'cause I'm here," Cody looked up, dashing a tear from his eye. "It's my fault he can't have fun."
"Of all the-" Jared began to swear. "Get your ass over here, kiddo," he patted the bed between him and Mathews.
"But-" Cody began.
"Cody, you and Davey are more important to me than anything else in the world," Jared told him. "Mathews and I might have fun, but if it makes you feel bad then it's no good, for either of us."
"But you can, if I just-" Cody edged towards the door.
"Cody," Jared told him firmly, "we need to have this talk, all three of us. Hell, go get Davey."
"Jared," Mathews said between clenched teeth, "are you sure this is the right time?"
"Kode, trust me," Jared shook his head. "There is no other time."
"Can't I at least grab some pants first?" Mathews begged.
"That would defeat the purpose," Jared shook his head. "Let me make one thing clear, mister, I am not letting go this time. We are going to have a relationship. And that means the kids are going to need to learn to deal with it."
"Oh hell," Jared swore as he heard Davey complaining. "I didn't think Davey would still be in bed, he must have been sleeping- Oh boy."
"What is it?" Mathews asked.
"Well, Davey wasn't sleeping in. He was in bed, but lets just say that sleep was the last thing on his mind," Jared said softly. "Talk about bad times to introduce the topic of you and me being together." Jared raised his voice, "Cody, you can let Davey take enough time to grab some clothes. This isn't that urgent."
Mathews started laughing. "Are you telling me that you just had your younger son walk in on your older son jacking off?"
"Yeah," Jared shrugged. "Good hearing, but not that good."
"In other words, we still have some privacy?" Mathews asked hopefully.
"Some," Jared whispered into Mathews' ear, "assuming you can be quiet." Jared nibbled a little on Mathews' earlobe, and making his body flexed as he stifled a moan.
"Fuck you," Mathews whispered, "that is just cruel!"
"As I recall, you did that last night," Jared laughed. "Sounds like they're coming back."
"Better soundproofing, I am definitely getting you better sound proofing," Mathews growled as Jared rolled away.
"Come on in Cody," Jared backed away from Mathews, grinning.
Davey, wearing nothing but a pair of boxers and a rather grumpy expression, was pulled in by Cody. "What is it?" he complained."
"Sorry, didn't think you'd be sleeping in still," Jared apologized, ignoring the painfully visible evidence that that wasn't what had been going on.
"Thanks," Davey complained. "So what was it?"
"Come on, sit on the bed," Jared sat up against the head board to make room. "Hopefully this won't take too long, but there's no reason for either of you to be standing."
Davey's eyes tracked around the room as he sat, then snapped straight to Jared's face after he looked past Mathews, whose nudity was painfully evident despite the blanket. "As I'm sure both of you figured out, Captain Mathews -- 'Uncle Kode' as you've started calling him -- and I have a long relationship. Now that we're off the ship, we're free to pick that relationship back up, and that's going to require some adjustments to our lives. Most of this is aimed at Cody, but your augmentation is improving Davey, and sooner or later it's going to apply to you as well. In a sense, it already does apply, and we need to get it out into the air."
Jared glanced over at Cody. "Turn that frown upside down, little one," he smiled. "You didn't do anything wrong. I may have had bad timing, but you just did what I was telling you to when you interrupted Davey."
Davey started blushing. "Dad," he muttered in complaint.
"Alright, it's time to stop ignoring the elephant in the room," Jared told them firmly. "Our augmentation improves all our senses, which means that we frequently overhear things that we'd rather not. In the case of Cody, it means that he already knows a lot more about sex than I'm comfortable with. I'm not going to bother hiding things from him that he already knows too much about. Same thing goes with you Davey."
"In the normal course of things, a closed door is enough to stop most sounds, so that a degree of privacy is maintained," Jared said carefully. "Unfortunately, my hearing is unnaturally sharp. So is Cody's. Even if that weren't the case, our senses of smell are just as exquisite. So the primary 'defense', as it were, of our privacy is gone. We literally cannot hide certain activities. So we need to discuss the second defense of that privacy."
Jared looked at his sons. "Davey, normally I wouldn't comment on the fact that you are clearly flushed, flustered, and in possession of a subsiding but still painfully evident erection."
Davey blushed even worse. "It's nothing to be ashamed of, and as I said under normal circumstances I'd just ignore it. It wouldn't exist. Which is exactly what needs to happen in this family."
"Huh?" Cody asked, confused.
"Cody, you're still young, so you're not going to understand a lot of this," Jared shook his head. "Just try to understand, and remember, ok?"
"Alright," Jared bit his lip, not sure where to start. "Cody, you were concerned about Uncle Kode not being able to make me feel good, right?"
Davey choked as Cody nodded. "That's a reasonable concern, as is not wanting you kids to know what we're up to," Jared smiled at Mathews. "Normally, kids aren't supposed to know about sex, and it definitely shouldn't be performed where they might see. Or hear."
"Unfortunately, as we've already established, that won't work for us," Jared shrugged. "So, the rules change. Closed doors mean we want privacy, and we don't go snooping past them, right?" Both the kids nodded. "Well, what happens behind closed doors stays behind closed doors. You don't go pressing your ear against them, and whatever you happen to overhear you ignore. Doesn't happen, and you don't mention it. You don't even think of it, if you can avoid it."
Davey and Cody glanced at each other. "And yes, that applies both ways. So long as you aren't breaking any rules, I won't pay any attention to anything I overhear from your rooms," Jared gazed at Davey hard as he continued. "But you had damned well better not try to use this to sneak past the rules, understand me? What you do, by yourself, in your own room is your own business, right up until you start breaking the rules. When you break the rules I've laid down, then we have trouble, closed door or no closed door."
Davey gulped. "That said, I won't bother you otherwise. And Davey, God only knows how often I needed my door closed when I was a kid. I already had a pretty damned good idea why yours was closed so much before I gained the ability to overhear. Understand?" Cody looked totally confused, but that was alright, so long as he remembered it wasn't that big of a deal.
"Yeah Dad," Davey mumbled. "God, this is embarrassing."
"As embarrassing as realizing that your brother was sitting out in the living room listening to us was for Mathews?" Jared raised an eyebrow. "It had to be brought out. And now it's been brought out. The same rules apply as before, knock on a closed door and wait before entry. If you have something important, feel free to knock anytime. If you happen to notice something that suggests it should wait, use your best judgment before knocking."
"So we just pretend you guys aren't... I mean... ick," Davey shook his head.
"Yeah, precisely," Jared nodded. "Now, I think Davey should go back to what he was doing. Cody, I'm sure there are some cartoons on. Go watch them."
Jared turned his smile to Mathews. "And while he's watching them, we'll have a talk of our own."
"I..." Mathews hesitated. "I think you said most of what needed to be said. They're gonna know, one way or the other, aren't they?"
"Yeah," Jared nodded as his kids slipped out of the room.
"Then there isn't much more that needs to be said," Mathews sighed.
"This from the man who couldn't stand the idea of anyone knowing what we were doing?" Jared laughed.
"I've grown up a bit from when I was a troubled juvenile delinquent," Mathews laughed. "A long way. I'm all grown up, and I'm a big boy now!"
"Oh?" Jared smiled.
"I'm not happy about it," Mathews shrugged, "but what will be will be. Has he turned on the cartoons yet?"
Jared nodded, "Turned the volume fairly high too."
"Well, in that case," Mathews purred, "why don't I show you just how big a boy I've become?"
"I'm sorry to cut your leave short Captain, but we needed both of you on hand for this meeting," Admiral Beech apologized as Mathews lead Jared into a conference room. "Sergeant, a pleasure to meet face to face."
"Something's up, I'm told?" Jared asked, suppressing the dismay he felt. They hadn't simply summoned Mathews, but him as well. Somehow, they thought he was part of the solution to whatever the problem was, and that wasn't good.
"Federation planetary HQ was able to get a shuttle into orbit long enough to get a transmission off," Admiral Beech frowned. "The news is mixed, but the orders that came with it are non-discretionary. If possible, we have to attack at the earliest possible moment."
"Oh boy," Mathews shook his head. "What set that off?"
"America is about two or three days away from civil war," Admiral Beech explained grimly. "Worse yet, nuclear civil war."
"Fuck," Jared swore, shocked. "How? Why?"
"It would appear that President Ellison focused on putting personnel loyal to him in a number of strategic positions," Admiral Beech activated a display that bloomed to life on the tabletop between them. Various colored dots suddenly started blossoming over a map of the United States. "He didn't even touch most overseas bases, or those bases which are simply national defense stations. He focused his efforts on various communication, command, and logistics nodes. He has complete control over Washington DC, several national-level command and control nodes, and various other facilities that he considered important, such as the R&D facility you were housed in, Sergeant, and several facilities that are critical to the supply chain of over ninety percent of the armed forces. Unfortunately, something no one considered is that he also put officers loyal to him, personally, in charge of every single remaining nuclear launch facility and platform left in the U.S. arsenal. Those stockpiles were being drawn down, but they still exist, and Ellison has expressed his willingness to use them on both international targets, and any 'disloyal' cities or military units that attempt to oppose his rule."
Admiral Beech pressed a control, and the display zoomed out to show the globe as a whole, complete with a complicated set of lines indicating satellite orbits. "The stockpiles weren't considered a threat because the Federation maintained a network of global defense satellites with the capacity to destroy any ICBM missile. Without ICBMs, no one could hope to use nuclear weapons on a global scale, and since the use of WMDs automatically brings the Federation into any conflict no one could use them without being able to do so on a global scale. Unfortunately, the U.S. destroyed the defense satellites early on in the conflict. Since those satellites were equipped for space-to-space engagements, as well as look-down ICBM engagement, no one considered why those satellites were deliberately and specifically targeted. It was simply assumed that the U.S. wanted to control the orbitals."
"Late last week, that assumption was broken when Ellison broadcast his intention to use them on a regiment that was moving against him if they didn't return to base immediately. They refused to do so, and continued to advance against their target -- one of the command and control nodes I mentioned. Ellison used a low-yield 'tactical' nuke to wipe them out."
Jared hissed, unable to believe it. "He didn't!"
"Ellison has now been added to the international watch list, in his own persona and not as the President of the United States," Admiral Beech nodded. "There is a debate as to whether to act against him as a police action, as he is clearly holding the U.S. hostage, or to continue with open warfare against the U.S.. Thankfully for us, we possess the ability to take direct action against him. Federation HQ isn't aware of that capacity, but we have it."
Mathews frowned. "My ship?"
"More than just your ship," Admiral Beech frowned, then pressed another control. "Mark One powered armor," he introduced the new display. "We've been experimenting with the technology for a while, but there were a number of critical flaws that prevented us from being able to utilize it in general deployment. We've solved most of those, and the technology transfer you brought with you included a number of items that intelligence believes were deliberately targeted at the remaining issues, suggesting our alien friends are not only aware of the program but, want to assist in it. We have four prototype suits, and one of them can be made ready for field deployment in under a day." Admiral Beech looked at Jared. "One suit isn't much use. They're powerful, deadly and dangerous, but they aren't invincible. Their single greatest weakness is that they radiate a powerful EM signature which is very difficult to miss. More specifically, while they are running they radiate a powerful EM signature, and they weigh far too much to move around in while the suit's exp-muscles are offline. It is simply impossible for someone to sneak around while the systems are active."
Jared wasn't the brightest crayon in the box, but he could see exactly where this was going. "I wouldn't have that problem, would I?"
"We need to test your ability to move around in the suit with the systems off, but we believe not," Admiral Beech nodded. "With the Nova Maria's micro-jump capacity, we can get her into position to engage any nuclear weapons launch from the continental U.S., but that still leaves the question of how we deal with President Ellison. If we launch an all-out invasion, we'll drag in soldiers who have no intention of supporting Ellison. If we don't, then the U.S. just sits there, a rotten apple with devastating global consequences. We can't let the situation drag on too long, either, as the U.S. may still possess portable strategic weapons based on submarines."
"I'll do it," Jared sighed. "You don't need to convince me. I swore an oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and if Ellison isn't a domestic enemy, I don't know what is."
Admiral Beech nodded. "He's trying to break the U.S. Constitution, make himself President for Life. He's not having much success yet, despite his nuclear threats. Too many legislators and several key members of the judiciary are just too stubborn to give in that easy, but they can't hold out forever. Not without help, and we can't get them that help without Jared."
His oath was his bond. Jared had no doubt that Admiral Beech had understood exactly what position he was putting Jared into. "My children?"
"Will be kept here, safe and protected," Admiral Beech nodded. "Assuming we regain control of the orbitals, we'll transfer them to an Earth-side facility under Federation control. They'll be safe, one way or the other."
Jared looked at Mathews. "Someone else will have to be in command. The Captain and I can't be in the same chain of command, not anymore. Our relationship has progressed to the point where we can't wait, can't deny it."
"I don't want to lose the Nova Maria, but he's right," Mathews sighed. "He'll have to drop from my ship, but I can't be the one in command. The regs-"
"Article Fifty-Nine-E," Admiral Beech cut in. "Upon certification by the senior officer available that a regulation is inhibiting the needs of a unit, the regulation may be waived until review by command. Captain, you know your ship better than anyone else, and Sergeant, you aren't replaceable."
Jared frowned. "Is that legal?"
"Exigencies of the service," Captain Mathews shook his head in surprise. "Article Fifty-Nine covers a wide variety of situations where the 'exigencies of the service' may require, and therefore allow, rules to be modified or waived. Basically, if you need to you can ignore other rules."
"Some rules are exempt from that article, but not many," Admiral Beech nodded. "And even then, they can be overridden by the legislature. I am now certifying that an Article Fifty-Nine-E situation exists in my command, and that I waive all relevant regs that would prevent Captain Mathews from commanding the Nova Maria while Sergeant Warren engages in military actions with the Federation. I further waive all regs that would hinder Sergeant Warren from engaging in military actions in co-ordination with Captain Mathews. These waivers are specifically activated as a result of the romantic relationship developing between the two of them, but also cover any other regulations that may interfere."
"You could have invoked Fifty-Nine-H," Mathews said thoughtfully.
"Article Fifty-Nine-H only covers individual missions," Admiral Beech sighed. "Hopefully we'll only need the one mission, but there may be more."
"If we're going to do this, I need to start practicing using the combat suit ASAP," Jared sighed. "I'm not even sure how well this will work, I've never even been near anything like that thing."
Admiral Beech nodded. "I'll introduce you to the engineers running the system."
"And I'm not sure what you're expecting one man to do," Jared added. "That thing looks powerful, but I'm just one man."
"One man who damned near won the medal of honor," Admiral Beech contradicted him. "I have access to your personnel jacket, Sergeant Major Jared Brent Warren. Two Navy Crosses for heroism under fire, not something most people manage. And the details are especially informative. After the sergeant in command was killed in an ambush, you took charge of your squad and brought them home without sustaining a single additional loss. Your unit killed well over sixty enemy combatants before being relieved, in four firefights over the course of three and a half hours."
"Holy shit," Mathews breathed, shocked.
"After that little fiasco, you were immediately promoted to full corporal," Beech continued as Jared felt his face begin to get hot. "Your commanders note that you were 'driven to excel, to a degree unusual even in the Corps'. In fact, you steadily ignored pressure to 'go mustang' and become an officer, with one commander going so far as to note that 'Staff Sergeant Warren's persistent refusal to consider a commission is a great loss to the Corps, as evidenced by his continual and skillful efforts to avoid being braced on the subject. While clandestine, these efforts are unusually effective for an individual of his experience and rank, further suggesting the appropriateness of a commission.'"
"Then, of course, came your second Navy Cross," Admiral Beech shook his head, smiling. "Which probably would have been a Medal of Honor except you actually decked the lieutenant in charge of the platoon."
Jared shook his head. "I was never charged."
"No, you weren't," Admiral Beech nodded. "In fact, he was brought up on conduct unbecoming charges shortly thereafter. Still, after you shattered his jaw he was unable to exercise command, so you took over the unit. And then proceeded to kick ass and take names. Your defense of the village, and the senators who were staying there, was enough to make the very idea of bringing you up on charges career suicide for your superiors. The senators were most impressed."
"He was decorated for assaulting a superior officer?" Mathews asked, eyes almost bulging in shock.
"What the Admiral didn't mention is why," Jared forced out. "The son of a bitch was caught sleeping with one of the villager's under-age daughter. He tried to order me to keep the incident quiet until we got to base."
"Unfortunately, the witnesses all died in the attack," Admiral Beech nodded. "Conduct unbecoming let them add some jail time, instead of just discharging him, but they couldn't nail him for child molestation."
"I never should have gotten that second cross," Jared mourned. "Too many died."
"You were outnumbered ten to one, without any support," Admiral Beech pointed out. "You shouldn't have survived at all, much less held the village for the three days it took someone to notice your unit was out of contact."
"Fine then," Jared conceded the point, "but I could only manage it because of the men under my command. Corporal Jensen-"
"Who, in fact, did receive the Medal of Honor," Admiral Beech interrupted.
"Corporal Jensen managed to slow the initial attack long enough for me to organize a response. Privates Williams and Banner broke the back of the initial assault-"
"And as a result both earned silver stars," Admiral Beech smiled.
"The point," Jared growled, "is that I couldn't have done it without them."
"You, personally, led four of the counterattacks, and you single-handedly held off one of the midnight raids until the rest of your unit could respond," Admiral Beech shook his head. "Fact is, you undertook several independent actions that each should have earned you several awards. It was decided not to do so, and instead give you a single Navy Cross. And you came within several backroom deals of actually getting the medal, instead."
"Can we move on," Jared gave up. "Is there a point to this, somewhere?"
"Simply put, Sergeant, you are not just 'one man'," Admiral Beech shook his head. "You are the epitome of what it means to be a marine, with the skills necessary to be a commando, rifleman, officer, tank driver, and more. About the only role you couldn't fill would be the technical roles; your ability with higher mathematics and high technology is abysmal."
Jared shook his head. "I'm not smart. I've known that practically since the day I was born."
Admiral Beech consulted the terminal in front of him again. "'Corporal Warren's self-confidence is perhaps his single greatest weakness,'" he read. "That's a near constant in all of your reviews. 'His complete and utter belief that he is 'not smart' sabotages him whenever he engages in an activity that he believes requires intelligence, while he continues to display an amazing grasp of tactics and an ability to multitask that is breathtaking. If he can be broken of his belief in his stupidity, he will go from being a mere asset of this platoon to one of its key members.' Sergeant, do you know what your IQ is?"
"I don't know," Jared shook his head. "Fairly low?"
"You've had at least six tests over the years, at least that I could get my hands on," Admiral Beech shook his head. "Your score varies from as low as eight-five to as high as one hundred and three. If you ignore mathematical questions and focus on those that simply test for memory and logical processes, it rises, sharply. You think you can't do math, so you can't. Your technical skills are slightly less psychological; while you are capable of utilizing logic, it appears that the rigid forms of logic used with computers are difficult for you, possibly as a result of your belief that you are 'not smart'."
Jared shook his head. "That's impossible. I mean, I'm not-" His mouth closed with a click. "Even my parents knew. My very first memories-"
"I'd kill them if they weren't dead," Mathews snarled suddenly. "I saw them fucking doing it, and I never understood!"
"What?" Jared asked, confused.
"Those fucking bastards formerly known as your parents," Mathews growled. "All those times they called you stupid. I didn't argue because you did need help with your school work. God-damn it, how could I not have seen it earlier! They made you that way!"
Jared blinked. "But... I am stupid!"
Admiral Beech sighed. "Jared, do you still carry that puzzle around?"
Jared frowned for a moment. "Puzzle?" he asked, confused. "Oh!" he exclaimed in realization. "The one I used to carry everywhere! I gave it to Davey when he was a kid. It's too bad he lost it."
"You solved that in about five seconds, or so the legend goes," Admiral Beech asked.
"Well, yeah, that was pretty easy," Jared nodded. "I mean, it took everyone else several minutes-" he broke off. "But it was easy!"
"Fine, you're stupid. You're still one of the best damned ground fighters humanity has ever produced. Agile and dexterous, strong and enduring, quick-witted and observant. You hit what you aim for, you see everything, and you aren't seen unless you want to be," Admiral Beech pounded the desk. "You can do this!"
"Do what?" Jared asked.
"The key of the problem is the President. Remove him, and the various militant groups don't have a toe-hold on the White House. Remove him, and the number of officers that are loyal to him personally, or simply follow the orders of the commander-in-chief blindly, are removed from the equation as well," Admiral Beech leaned forward.
"I'd prefer to simply arrest him, but that isn't practical. He's too heavily guarded, by individuals either loyal to him personally or who believe in 'The Cause' to greatly to realize their position is hopeless," Admiral Beech shook his head. "We could simply destroy the White House from orbit, but there's no way to guarantee he's really there, or prove that he's dead. We need to get a single man on the ground to locate him, to provide proof, and if possible to actually do the deed."
"I want -- I need! -- you to kill the President."