Castle Roland

Changing Connections

by Eric Aune

In Progress

Chapter 24

Published: 13 Apr 17

Changing Connections

Copyright © 2012 - 2017 by Eric Aune and the Revolutions Universe Partnership.
All Rights Reserved

Changing Connections LogoAs they flew east Sabrina and Janet discussed Carson's recovery for the next few weeks and the steps they would need to take to get him up and about in the shortest length of time without stressing him. Logan was so focused on the information on his laptop that he took no notice of anything else going on around him.

They had all lost track of time when Marko came and joined them. "We will be in Maine soon. I do not want to advertise who we are or what we are flying in, so I need to ask you to arrange for a place where we can land so that we can keep our presence unknown for now." Janet looked at Marko and then over at Logan who was typing on his laptop, oblivious to what was going on around him. She got up, went over to Logan and touched him on the shoulder. He looked up and then looked around and saw the other three adults looking at him. "Um, what?" She smiled and tousled his hair. "Councilor Marko needs to know where to land."

"We're here already?" She nodded. "Well you did say it was a fast ship."

"Can it make the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs?" They looked over to where Jamie and Ian had fallen asleep and saw that Jamie was awake and had a mischievous smile. Ian was rubbing his eyes as he too started to wake up from his nap. Logan and Janet looked at him with confusion on their faces. Marko gave him a blank stare. Sabrina burst out laughing. Jamie grinned at her outburst and Marko was looking confused now. Janet and Logan were looking at her as she laughed. They knew that they were missing something here. She looked at Marko, "Later Marko."

Janet and Logan exchanged puzzled looks and shrugged. "What did you need, Mom." Janet gestured to Marko. "Marko needs a place for us to land so that we can disembark. He says that they don't want anyone to see the ship as they are still not prepared to reveal themselves to anyone but us." Logan looked at Marko. "If you can help me contact the UNIT, I can get us a safe place to land." Marko nodded and walked over to him and pointed at some controls on the arm of the chair. "Just tap this plate, and when you're done tap it again to close the transmission." Logan nodded and tapped the plate.

"Angel 1, this is Logan"

"This is Angel 1, Will here Logan. What's up?"

"Will, I need you to bring the Chinook to pick us up."

"Pick you up? In KF? Um, okay, but I'll have to let Adam know."

"No, not in KF, I'm nearby. Just a moment and I'll give you a location." Logan typed a few commands on his laptop and a couple of moments later he nodded to himself. He looked at Marko and pointed to a picture on his screen, Marko nodded.

"Will, I need you to do a couple of things. First have someone stop all air traffic on runway 11 slash 29 at Portland International. There is a large grassy area at the east end of the runway. We'll meet you there. Land at the east end of the runway, with the ramp facing east. Once you lower the ramp we'll come aboard and you can take us to the Reagan."

"Got it Logan. See you in a few."

Logan looked at Marko. "Okay, we're good to go. You can stay cloaked while you land and no one will know you are there. We can then move from your ship to the Chinook and then you can head back." Marko nodded and went back to the bridge.

A few minutes later he heard Will's voice come from the speaker in his chair. "Logan this is Will. The runway is shut down, we will be there in a couple of minutes."

"Thanks Will. See you in a few."

"Angel 1 out." Marko joined them. "We will be landing in a few moments." Logan nodded and closed his laptop. Janet, Ian and Jamie were checking around them to make sure that they had everything that they brought with them. They felt the slight bump as the ship landed and they stood up. Marko and Sabrina accompanied them to the hatch. Janet looked at both of them and shook hands. "Thank you for all your help today." The two Scireians shook hands with her and the three young men. "We'll see you when you get back to base. Good luck."

The ramp lowered and they could see to the runway nearby. Moments later they heard the sound of the Chinook coming in for a landing and could see snow and dirt being blown around as it neared the ground. Once it was down, they saw the ramp lowered and standing just inside were Khan and Robin looking all around the area trying to spot them. Janet and the boys waved at the Scireians before she led the way down the ramp. As soon as they cleared the cloaking field of the Scierean ship, their friends spotted them. They had a little bit of a surprised look on their faces, since the four of them had appeared from thin air. Janet looked back and could no longer see their transport. She faced back to the Chinook and they quickly headed up the ramp and inside the cabin. She smiled at Khan. "Let's go. I want to make sure my boys are okay." Khan nodded and called Will. "All aboard." The Chinook engines changed pitch and they were airborne in moments.

A short time later, the Chinook was once again slowing down and descending. They looked out the windows and saw the USS Ronald Reagan's flight deck and island. As soon as it touched down, Khan put on his helmet so that anyone who looked inside would just see a very large soldier instead of a Tiger Hybrid and opened the ramp.

Janet and the four boys started to leave, but Janet stopped Ian and Jamie. "I want you two to stay here and get some rest. You've had a very busy morning and I can still see the fatigue in your eyes. Try to get some rest. Once your team gets here you can join them."

"But what if you need my help." She looked at Ian and seemed to be considering what he said. "I'll tell you what, if I really need you, I'll call for you. If it were really bad, we would probably already know about it and if your gift was needed I would make sure you were with me, but I think we'll be okay. Get some rest." Ian started to protest, but it stopped when Logan put a hand on his shoulder. "Don't waste your breath. When my mom makes up her mind about something, there is nothing you can say to make her change it. If she needs you, she'll call." Ian glanced at Janet and nodded. "But if you need me you'll call?" She smiled and patted his cheek. "Of course. Now you two find a place in here to rest while Logan and I do what we need to do." She and Logan turned and headed down the ramp. As soon as she and Logan stepped off the ramp, Khan closed it and they heard the engines shut down. Will joined them a few moments later. "So how'd you guys get here? I thought you wouldn't get here until later tonight." Jamie grinned. "We got to fly on a flying saucer."

As they stepped off the ramp a sailor met them. She noted that he was a corpsman. "Doctor Hayes?" She nodded. "Doctor McCray sent me to escort you to sickbay." Janet nodded and he led the way to the carrier's island. They followed him inside and down into the ship. They went down several ladders and along a few different passageways until the corpsman brought them to the entrance to sickbay. "In here Doctor." The corpsman led them inside and when Doctor McCray saw them he headed toward Janet with his hand out. Logan stepped forward and shook his hand. "Please excuse my rudeness Doctor but... I have some intel that the President and Admiral Norris need to see right away, but I need to get it printed out. Can you point me to where I could get that done?"

Doctor McCray looked at Logan and called for the same corpsman who had escorted them to sickbay. "Please escort this young man to the ops center. When he's done there, find out where Admiral Norris and President Bryce are, and escort him directly there. Until further notice, you are to be this man's escort." The corpsman nodded and with a nod of his head, had Logan follow him. Janet looked at Leo. "So tell me how my boys are." Leo turned and led the way deeper into sickbay.

Christina had turned Dragon over to Drake's control and was talking with Oliver when Sean's voice came over her headset. "Chris, we are getting a call from Adam on the Reagan."

"Put it through."

"Red Dragon, this is Adam, come in."

"This is Red Dragon, Christina here."

"Christina. I need you to do a recon for Task Force Neptune. There is an enemy fleet about 350 miles east southeast of Nantucket. Admiral Norris would like you to take a look at it, before you join us."

"Roger Adam. On our way. Red Dragon out." She looked over to Oliver. "Well let's go take a look at this fleet. Drake, autopilot off."

"Acknowledged control transferred."

"Sean, what is the large city ahead of us?" There was a short pause and Sean answered. "That would be Montreal."

"Give me a course that will bring us from Montreal to the location of the enemy fleet and put it on my display." Moments later the course appeared on her display. "Thanks Sean. Drake, I'm going to be pushing you to the redline. Let me know if it starts to cause engine damage."

"I am in perfect condition due to recent maintenance, you can go maximum speed for twelve straight hours without any appreciable danger to my engines."

"Thank you Drake." She smiled at Oliver. "It's been awhile since I got to floor it."

A little less than an hour later Dragon was nearing the fleet location. "Sean, give me a sweep of the area and label types and numbers of ships."

"Scanning now… it should be on your screen… wait a moment, we have a transmission from the Reagan."

"Put it through."

"Red Dragon, Red Dragon, this is Ronald Reagan, sitrep over."

"Ronald Reagan. This is Red Dragon coming into visual now." Christina looked at the display. "Looks like three carriers, nope make that four. A slightly smaller carrier with escorts is about twenty minutes behind the main group. The main group is three carriers with escorts. Not much air activity, just a few fighters on patrol."

Moments later Reagan came back. "Red Dragon this is Reagan Actual. Can you get a closer look at the fourth carrier and see if you can transmit a radar profile to us please?"

"Stand by Reagan, moving in for a closer look." She switched to intercom. "As soon as you have the profile send it Sean."

"Roger." They neared the fourth carrier. "Profiles have been sent."

"Red Dragon this is Ronald Reagan. Do a hundred mile recon circle around the fleet and head back."

"Roger that Reagan we are going to start south of the fleet and run the circle."

"Red Dragon I want sitreps once every 15 minutes."

"Understood Reagan."

Christina headed south of the fleet and contacted the Reagan. "Ronald Reagan this is Red Dragon. We have reached the southern point of our circle, turning west now and heading around… wait a second, what the hell is that?"

"Red Dragon this is Ronald Reagan, what is going on there?"

"Standby Reagan." Christina turned to the south because she had seen a blip to the south that looked out of place. Moments later she could see what it was. "Shit!" She keyed the mic. "Ronald Reagan, Ronald Reagan this is Red Dragon. We have another fleet about 150 nautical miles south of the advance fleet. Moving in for a closer look."

Christina continued south at full speed until she arrived at the location of the new fleet. "Sean get the radar profiles and send them." She contacted Reagan. "This is Red Dragon, looks like a pretty big fleet. We count thirty-two surface ships, sending radar signatures now."

"Red Dragon, this is Reagan Actual. Thank you. You are cleared to head back."

"Roger, on our way. Red Dragon out." Christina turned Dragon back toward Nantucket. A little under an hour and a half later they were landing on the Reagan. As they landed, Christina and Gabe were asked to meet in the Admiral's conference room for a mission briefing. As they came down the ramp, they were greeted by Ian and Jamie. "How'd you guys get here?" Jamie smiled and looked around to make sure no one was nearby. "Would you believe it, we got to ride in a flying saucer. Doctor Ziegler brought us." She was about to ask him about it when an officer came up to them. "Captain Casey, Colonel Patterson. I'm to escort you to the Admiral's conference room." They nodded to him. "You can tell me about it when I get back. Get inside and check your gear. It appears we have a mission." The two boys nodded and ran up the ramp.

Christina and Gabe followed the officer to the conference room. The officer directed them to the correct room and then took his leave of them. When they entered, they saw Adam, Logan, Jimmy Horne, Bucky and another man in uniform that they didn't know. Adam looked up as they came in. "Good, you're here. Chris, Gabe have a seat. I think you know everyone here except for Captain King. Captain King, this is Captain Christina Casey, commander of Red Dragons Assault Team and Colonel Patterson, former Green Beret, now a member of Christina's command." The man they didn't know stepped forward with his hand out. "Captain Braxton King, Australian Special Air Service. Call sign Bush Ranger."

The two of them shook hands with Captain King. The Major glanced at Adam. "I may be a little off here Mate, but doesn't a colonel out rank a captain here in the States?" Adam smiled. "Normally you would be right, but we do things a little differently in the UNIT." King looked at the two new people, and shrugged. "No worries, just curious about a young looking Sheila like her being in command instead of the colonel there."

"Maybe because that Sheila has a lot of combat assault experience and could probably kick both yours and the colonel's ass at the same time." Captain King looked a bit skeptical, but noticed that Gabe didn't say anything to contradict Adam and in fact when he caught the captain's eyes, he gave him a slight nod. The captain shrugged. "No offense meant mate. Nor to you Captain, just new to me." He turned back to Adam. "So what've ya got for us Mate?" Adam pointed to the screen as Logan projected the picture of a train on the screen. He turned to face the group and smiled. "We're going to rob a train."

Christina and Gabe trotted up the ramp of the Dragon. "Okay people, gather round." They waited while everyone gave her their attention. "We have a mission. It will be us, Adam and his team, Bucky's SEALs and some Aussie SAS people. We will also have the Hind and Black Ghost. We…" She stopped as some more people came up the ramp. Everyone turned and saw the large fully armored and helmeted figure of Khan and the smaller similarly dressed figure of Robin. Right behind them was Commander Horne. Christina smiled. "Good, you're just in time. Now that the rest of our team is here, we can continue. Rio, close the ramp, we're all here now." Rio went over to the controls and the ramp closed. She waited until it was shut before continuing.

"Like I said we have a mission. Commander Horne is with us to oversee C3." She glanced at Sean and Brett. "You will be working with him." Sean nodded and smiled at Jimmy. "Glad to have you with us Commander."

"The mission is called Operation Sundance, because we're going to rob a train." There were a lot of confused looks from pretty much everyone. "There is a train that is carrying about a hundred of Ashwood's and the AoG's undesirables. Among them are at least thirty-five children that are destined for the AoG's biological labs. They are the gold that we are liberating from the train. We will be split into two teams. A small insertion team that will be led by Khan and will consist of Chase, Robin, and Rio. Their objective is to take the engine. The second team will be led by Gabe and will include the rest of you, except those of us needed up here to fly Dragon, man the guns and run command and control."

"What about me?" She looked at Vanya and nodded. "You'll be up here working with Jamil on one of the fifties." Vanya hesitated a moment and then nodded. "Gabe's team will take the guards' car nearest to the engine. We know what the AoG's forces are like. These people will show you no mercy and neither will we. Questions?" She looked around. "Okay, strap in and let's get going." Christina and Oliver headed to the cockpit, while Sean and Brett led Jimmy to the control center. The engines spooled up and they received permission from the CAG to take off. Operation Sundance was on.

Christina's voice came over the speaker in the main cabin. "Red Dragons, lock and load, we are fifteen mikes out." The main cabin became a hive of activity as everyone checked their own and their buddies gear. Jamil moved to the ramp controls.

Minutes later in the cockpit, Christina keyed her mic. "This is Red Dragon Actual… starting our run." Christina flew over the train. "Khan, we are coming up on the engine, get ready." Khan's team moved to the ramp and Jamil activated it. As it opened they watched the train pass by underneath them. Dragon hovered and Khan and his team jumped off the ramp and dropped the ten feet to the top of the engine.

Dragon then faded back from the engine until it was hovering over the second car of the train. Christina brought them a little closer to the roof of the car so there wasn't as far to jump since not everyone that was jumping was a Genesis augment. A couple of them landed a little bit off balance and were quickly grabbed to keep them from tumbling off. They knelt down for stability and waited for the command to begin the assault. Once the teams were dropped Dragon pulled back to work as command and control for the ground forces.

Khan's team knelt down. He pointed at Robin and Chase. "You two take the catwalk up to the door to the cabin. It shouldn't be a problem for you to stay out of sight by staying low as you move up to the door. Rio and I will get in position above the entrances to the cabin. Do you think you can open the door and get out of the way so that we can enter without you falling off the catwalk?" Chase walked over to the side, peeked over the edge and looked toward the cabin entrance. When he got back he nodded. "Yes, that will be easy for Robin and me." Khan nodded and turned to Rio. "When they open the door, swing down and through the door. You see anyone armed, take ‘em out. Chase, Robin, when we're in position open the door and we'll drop in." His team nodded their heads and the two ferrets went to the side of the roof and dropped out of sight. Khan nodded to Rio and they moved forward in a crouch to take their positions. The two ferrets were in position with one hand on their sword and the other on the door handle. Chase called Adam on their tactical radios. "Adam, we're ready to take the engine."

On the second car, the Red Dragons split up moving to each end of the passenger car. Luckily this train was using older passenger cars. They were only one level instead of two and the doors were on each side of the end of the car. They carefully moved to the end of the car above the two side doors and waited for Adam's order. At the end of the car there were a couple of metal rungs that were located near the door. Jamie used his telekinesis to lower Apollo to the rungs on one side of the door. He reached over and gripped the door handle. Jamie then lay down on the roof of the car so he could see the door.

A short time later they all heard on the UNIT tactical frequency. "Ready." Apollo gripped the door handle tightly and looked at Jamie. Jamie looked to his side and saw Gabe kneeling and ready. "Go." Apollo wrenched on the lock of the door breaking it and then pushed it open. Jamie lifted Gabe up and moved him into the now open door. The next person stepped up and he repeated the process until everyone was inside the car. He then moved over so he was above Apollo and reached down to grasp his hand. "Okay don't drop me." Apollo nodded and Jamie dropped off the roof. Apollo used the momentum of his fall and swung him around then tossed him into the open door. Jamie stumbled when he landed but quickly got his bearings and followed the rest of the team into the car. Apollo jumped in right behind him.

They had achieved complete and total surprise. Most of the men were lounging in the seats and relaxing, some were sleeping. A few sat up when they heard the outer door open, but they weren't sure what the noise was. Moments later the inner door opened and they saw black clad figures pour into the cabin. Many never had a chance as the figures began firing as they entered the cabin. A few had a chance to grab their weapons, but their return fire was disorganized and those who fired were quickly taken out. There was really no cover other than the seats in the cabin. At the far end a couple of the men had taken cover on the other side of the inner door. Dakota and Apollo took the lead and leapfrogged over the seats until they were in position to rush the two men and take them out. The rest of the team started checking the bodies.

Chase saw Rio ready to drop and nodded. He keyed his mic again. "Go". The two ferrets pulled the doors open and Rio and Khan dropped down from above and moved inside. There were three people in the cabin. One was sitting on the right side driving the train, obviously the engineer. The other two were dressed as soldiers. One sitting on the left side of the cabin and the other in a seat between the two. When the doors opened, both of them reached for their pistols, but they never had a chance. Rio shot the one on left side and Khan reached over, grabbed the neck of the other one and gave it a powerful wrench and the soldier slumped forward. Rio pointed his M4 into the pale face of the engineer and said. "Stop the train." The engineer nodded and started working the controls to bring the train to a stop.

In the cabin, the Red Dragons felt the train begin to slow and heard Adam's voice on the radio. "We're clear." Gabe called back. "Front cabin clear." They heard Bucky's voice on the radio. "Good job teams. The train's ours."

Red Dragons exited the front cabin and made their way to the other teams. They saw Bucky opening one of the cattle cars as they approached. From the engine, Khan and Rio were escorting the engineer. Chase and Robin were running along the top of the train, stopping when they got to the first cattle car.

The doors of the cars were opened and everyone was helping the people out of the car. They heard Logan's voice on the radio. "Romeo Team, this is Oracle, be advised, they know you're there. Just got a burst transmission from the Shreveport base. They just went to full alert and are deploying in your direction. Estimate twelve minutes before they engage."

They heard Bucky on the radio. "Roger that. How long until our birds land?"

"Approximately twenty-six minutes."

"Tell them to hurry."

The teams gathered the people and started moving them to the LZ. Moments later they saw Adam and his team jog into the nearby woods. Some of the Red Dragons started to join them, but were reminded that they had their orders to help the people get to safety and protect them.

Logan contacted Christina. "Chris, they know we're here. Their orders are to kill or capture but be sure to get samples. Let your people know." Chris growled back. "Roger got it and will pass it on." She contacted the Red Dragons on their private frequency. "Red Dragons, this is Chris. Those people know we're here and they are coming after us. Watch your backs."

The soldiers from Shreveport were right on time and began attacking Adam's battle line. Half of the team were in position to repel any that got through while the others were helping the freed prisoners into the Ospreys. Dragon was on the ground and they ran inside. The ramp closed and Dragon headed back as an escort for the Ospreys.

They heard Will over the radio. "Adam… we can't hold them off much longer." Right after he said that they heard one of the Osprey pilots come over the air. "Cargo off-loaded. We're coming back for you guys."

"Roger that. It'll be hot!" Bucky turned to the teams. "Fall back to the roadway, the ride's almost here." They heard another artillery shell hit and then there was silence on the radio for a few seconds. Then they heard several UNIT members begin calling for Adam over the radio. Another voice cut through everyone's consciousness. "Raptor 4! Get outta there!" It was Eve. "Angels, clear the area of all troops! I don't care if you use up everything you have. Command… how far out are the jets?"

"Five minutes. Oracle, what do you need?" There was silence for a few seconds. "I need an airstrike on this location. Full cleansing run."

"Copy that!"

"Angels! You gotta clear the troops out! Dragon is thirty seconds out, and I want as much time for the ground troops to search before the airstrikes get here!"

Inside Dragon they could feel him accelerate to full speed and moments later the sound of rocket and double chain gun fire could be heard as they swept back and forth. Dragon then pulled back and descended. "Jamil, open the ramp." It was opened just enough for someone to get through when Khan, Chase and Robin jumped out while they were still several feet above the ground. The other Genesis kids followed soon afterward. Once Dragon was on the ground the rest of the team joined the search.

They heard Rio's voice. "I found something." He held something up. On the ground was the broken hilt of Adam's sword and a large piece of his armor covered in blood. Next they heard Robin's voice. "Over here!" Several of them hurried over to where he was standing. When they got there they found Adam's helmet, covered in blood and a piece of an ear lying inside it.

"YOU GOTTA GO!" No one moved for a moment. "DRAGONS! NOW!" They grabbed everything that they had found and ran back to Dragon. Christina made a full power ascent to clear the area. Over their radios they heard a calm voice. "Air strike commencing." The ramp was still open and facing the area as the first missiles fired from the jets hit the target. Jamil starting closing the ramp as the fuel air bombs fell. Dragon was rocked slightly by the shock wave from huge explosions. They knew anything that was left was now destroyed. They had succeeded in keeping the AoG from finding any trace of a UNIT member to use in their experiments. The area was cleansed.

Inside Dragon it was quiet and somber except for the pacing of Khan. He moved like a caged tiger wanting to get at his tormentors. His face was thunderous and he kept clenching and unclenching his fists. Some of the others had a similar look. Many of them, especially those that had served with Adam in the universe that they come from, had tears in their eyes. Their look was a mixture of sadness and anger. They paid no attention to the passage of time and looked up when they felt Dragon slowing and descending.

"Guys, we're just landing so that Khan and Robin can join the rest of the command team on the Chinook, then we're all heading to Kettle Falls." Chris did not slow down the rotors very much once she was on the ground. The ramp was lowered and Khan walked down it and jumped off before it touched the ground. Chase hugged Robin at the top of the ramp and Robin followed Khan over to the nearby Chinook. The ramp was raised and a short time later Dragon was taking off once again, headed for home.

Again it was mostly a quiet flight, many of the team members were sleeping because of a combination of after combat fatigue, adrenaline crash, anger and sadness. The flight took about six to seven hours at cruising speed to reach Kettle Falls. When they started to land, those that were awake went around to those that were asleep to wake them. People stretched and gathered their items. They knew the first order of business when they got back was to make sure everything was clean and stored away before they could do anything else.

Once the ramp was lowered, they immediately got to work on their equipment. They were quiet as they worked. They began to notice other members of the UNIT, some of those who had not been part of the attack, stepped up and helped get their equipment and the equipment from those in the Chinook cleaned up. They exchanged nods and little smiles of acknowledgement of their assistance. Little was said, they just worked until the job was done and everything was stored where it needed to be. From time to time someone reached up to clear up blurry vision, but they went right back to work. Finally, the work was done and they were dismissed to get something to eat and maybe try to get some rest.

Later they heard about the honor guard that had been started by Jeremy and Tyler and all of them stated their intention to take a turn, including Gabe and his men.

With every UNIT member wanting to take turns at the memorial, Christina used her rank to move her and Oliver to the front of the line, because there was something that she had been thinking during the flight back to Kettle Falls. While standing her guard, her mind was busy thinking about what was going to be taking place soon, the Change of Leadership, as it had during the entire flight home. Her mind ran through the names of the UNIT members who might take all three steps. Since they were her family, she knew everyone pretty well and thought she could figure out who would step forward. She thought about what their strengths and weaknesses were. As she pondered this, one name grew in her thoughts that was the closest to Adam in ability and training as someone she thought would be the best choice to lead the UNIT forward. She didn't know if this person would accept the position if she proposed it, but the more Christina thought about it, the more certain she was that it was a good idea. She decided to talk with the person as soon as she finished her duty at Adam's memorial.

Because everyone wanted to be a part of the Honor Guard, no pair stood there for longer than an hour before their relief showed up to take up the guard. As soon as her guard was over, Christina went with Oliver to stow their equipment in Dragon. As they were walking back through the hangar she turned to Ollie. "I'll see you later. I have something that I need to do first." Oliver nodded and she gave him a quick kiss, before hurrying away to go in search of her target. She checked her watch and knew that she didn't have a lot of time.

She found her target where she expected her, in the command center. When she entered she saw Eve was talking to Apollo, but at no time did she ever stop looking at her monitor or any of the other monitors in the room. She did not seem distracted from either her discussion with Apollo or her current duties as operational commander. She had removed her headset but she kept her eyes on what was going on around her in case there was something that needed her attention.

Eve had noticed her enter the room and Christina smiled slightly. Yep, Eve was completely aware of everything going on around her, even though she seemed to be focusing on Apollo as they talked. Eve gave Christina a nod in greeting as she neared the two of them. "Captain. Is there something you need?" Christina shook her head. "No, but there is something I need to speak with you about." Eve glanced at Apollo. He nodded and stood up. "See you later. Call me when you're off duty Eve." Christina reached out and lightly grabbed Apollo's arm. "No, you don't have to leave. You should hear this too. You don't know some of our traditions, not having been part of us when we were formed, but there is something that will be happening soon that is important to us. And may be important to both of you depending on the outcome."

Apollo sat back down as Eve nodded. Christina was silent for a moment marshaling her thoughts. "Okay. I don't know if you have heard anything about what's happening in…" She checked her watch, "…about an hour. You may know by now that some of our ways are patterned after the Samurai. That is because many of us were trained by Master Takamura. His training helps us focus on what we wish to accomplish. You know that predator cat DNA was bonded with our Human DNA, to make us the super soldiers that we are. Some think that without this training and because of the brutal way we were trained, that predator DNA, if fully unleashed, could cause us to go into a killing rage that would be difficult to stop short of killing us. So, we have devised certain traditions and one of them is called the Change of Leadership Ceremony."

She paused for a moment because the thought of Adam not being in charge was hard to think about. "It has always been our tradition that the strongest of us leads the UNIT. Adam was the best of us. He was our leader and now with him gone, we need to choose a new leader. Every UNIT member possible will gather together at noon. Janet will call for the Change of Leadership Ceremony and all those members who wish to be the leader will be asked to take three steps forward. There will probably be a few who will take the first step, less will take the second step, but very few will take the third step. It may be one or two or maybe even three. Whoever takes the third step will fight until only one is standing. That person will be the new leader of the UNIT."

She finished and looked at Eve. "I understand, and thank you for explaining this to us, so that we understand what is about to happen. We will try to be there for this ceremony." Christina shook her head. "No, that is not why I came here. But yes, if they don't need you here, you should be there. No, the reason I came to talk to you is because I wish you to be one that takes the third step so that you can be the new Commander of the UNIT." Both Eve and Apollo were shocked into silence. "Eve, I know we have not always gotten along, ever since we met at Brett's compound back in Big Bear. But I believe that has changed now. I also know that although you and Adam have also not seen eye to eye on several things, because of each of your backgrounds, and how you were brought up and trained, you did reach an understanding."

Eve nodded. "But how does that give you the idea that I am the best person for this position. I do not have the history with the group that the others have. How can you expect them to accept me as a replacement for Adam? Most of them don't really know me. Besides…" She brought her fists down on her legs. "How the hell am I supposed to take that third step when I can't even take the first step with these useless things?" Eve looked at Christina with the anger and frustration evident on her face.

Christina held up her hand. "I understand, but if you will accept me. I wish to stand proxy for you. I know that you have been told that the Scireians have said that they can fix you up, so that you can walk again. So you will be mobile soon. Right now we need someone to command. I know that Logan will not step into Adam's shoes. He does not think of himself as a commander. He has always been willing to step in when needed, but that is not where his talents lay. So he will not even contemplate taking that step. If Chang would step forward, he would easily beat anyone. I think Adam has come the closest to beating him, but I don't think Chang will step forward either. So in my mind, the only person left who has the background, training and temperament for commanding the UNIT, is you. You have proved that more than once. When you stepped in during the rescue of the Bryce party and once again during the recent mission. You took control and did what needed to be done, everyone followed your command without hesitation. You knew exactly what needed to be done and you did it. And did it well. So for that reason, I want to stand proxy for you in the ceremony."

Eve turned to look at the monitors on the command center wall and watched what was going on as she contemplated Christina's statement. She knew she had been created by her version of Brett MacLeod to command. She was Eve to the UNIT's Adam. Their biggest difference was the manner in which they had been trained. Her training had been just as tough and challenging as Adam's had been, but it had been less brutal. Doctor MacLeod had not wanted what he had witnessed being done to Adam's people, for her and her team.

Once word went out about the escape of Adam and his team, she knew that those in charge of the experiment wanted her and her team to hunt down and kill or capture Adam's team. Adam's team had been looked at as traitors that needed to be taken down. However, the last few weeks that she had worked with them, she saw that no matter what they had been through, they were not how they had been portrayed to her. They were not wild animals to be put down. Yes, she knew that they could have been those wild animals as they had been described to her, if they had wanted to be. And she knew that in some instances they had let such emotions come through, when they sought retribution for what had been done to them. But, overall, she knew they had chosen to use their abilities to help others. When they all arrived here in this dimension, they could have simply tried to keep their existence a secret as long as possible, but they had instead announced their presence loud and clear when they joined on the side of President Bryce.

Without hesitation they put all of the resources that they could into stopping an obvious megalomaniac from destroying this country, even though it technically was not their country. And when offered the chance to return to their own dimension, they had nearly all refused because they knew that they were needed here. Some went through the painful process to make it possible for them to fully become a part of this dimension. She knew deep down that had they been given the job of going after Adam and the rest of his team, they would have lost. It would have been a good fight, but after seeing them in action, she had to grudgingly admit that she and her team would have been outmatched. She had accepted that they were now part of the group that her team had been created to take down. She had no problem with that and knew that her team were on board with being part of the UNIT.

She turned back to Christina and nodded. "Very well. I accept. But do your traditions allow such a thing?" Christina nodded. "Yes, it is allowed. If a contender was injured but wanted to be the commander a proxy can be nominated and if the proxy agreed, he or she would fight in the injured person's place. Or a person could do as I have done and approached that same injured person and offered to be their proxy. If you were able to take part yourself, I would have still come to you and told you that I supported you for the position, but I would have expected you to do your own fighting. But my being your proxy will be accepted."

Eve nodded again. "I am honored that you will do this. We will be there to witness the ceremony." Christina nodded. She then used her telekinesis, to lift Eve to a standing position so that they were eye to eye and put out her hand. Eve reached out and they grasped forearms in a warrior's clasp. "I thought it was appropriate that we reach this agreement facing each other as warriors." Eve nodded and there was a faint moistness in the corners of her eyes as Christina lowered her back to her seat.

"Soon enough, you won't need anyone's help to do that." Eve nodded as Apollo reached out and took her hand in his. "Don't forget, noon in the hangar." Christina left the command center. Apollo looked at Eve. "Do you really want to do this?" She nodded. "It was what I was trained to do, so yes I do."

"Okay. Well you've been here for hours. I think if you're going to be the commander, then you should get cleaned up some and look the part." She nodded and looked around the room. None of the UNIT teams were on duty that needed to be monitored, so she called to one of the UNIT members in the room and told them to call her if she was needed. He saluted and resumed his duties. She and Apollo went back to the room that they shared so that she could clean up. Once she was ready they headed for the hangar for the ceremony. They saw that many of the members were already there and more were trickling in. They made their way to where the rest of the Red Dragons were located. When Christina saw them, she nodded in acknowledgement and turned to face the center of the crowd.

The UNIT was gathered. At one end Janet stood and looked at her children as she thought of them. There were some murmurs and you could see a few wipe their eyes as they thought about why they were gathered here at this time.

A voice cut through the room causing everyone to become silent. "You all know why we are here. We have lost our Commander. We need a new one." Janet looked around as the silence surrounded her. On the ground in the center of the circle of people were mats demarking the area where the ceremony would take place. Everyone followed her glance to where Logan stood looking straight ahead. Everyone could see the strain he was under as he tried to maintain his composure for his lost mate.

She looked back at her children. "Does anyone wish to say anything before we begin?" She looked around the room and waited. The silence was all encompassing. You couldn't even hear anyone breathe it was so still. She stepped forward so that she was standing in the center of the mats and slowly turned to take in everyone. "So be it."

She let out a breath and continued. "We are the U.N.I.T. The Universal Next Generation Infiltration Team. We are not the normal sort of soldiers. We Are Warriors. As warriors, we must have a commander who shows that they are worthy of leading us. We demand no less. As such, any that wish to be our commander will enter into this circle, and combat will determine who will lead."

They watched as she paused and again turned in place, they saw her looking at each of them in turn. She straightened up and raised her voice to make sure everyone could hear her. "Let all those who wish to compete, take three steps forward, and enter the circle!"

Nine people stepped forward and paused looked at each other. Then four took the second step. Khan, Juan, Jeremy and Christina. Again they looked at each other. Then Juan took the third step that took him to the center. Christina was right behind him. Khan and Jeremy both stepped back and there was a surprised gasp from the crowd.

Christina and Juan looked at each other. "Approach." Janet's voice now held a commanding tone. The final two stepped forward and bowed. Those watching from the crowd saw Chang step forward to stand behind Janet and place his hand on the hilt of one of the swords he always carried. She continued. "Juan Casey. As the ranking member of this challenge, you are the first to state your desired intention."

Juan turned around to face his team, his friends, his brothers, his sister… his family.

"From day one, the UNIT was created to fight. At first it was supposed to be for our 'masters'. We broke free, and fought for ourselves… fighting for who we wanted to fight for. We fought for those like us. Those that didn't have a choice, didn't have a voice, didn't have a chance. Some of you started out like that, but then you chose to become one of us. Throughout all of it though, there was Adam. He was more than our leader, he was our brother. He was our friend. To many of us, he was our Mentor. We followed him not because we were ordered to. We followed him because, if he ordered us to go through hell, he would be the one leading." Juan smiled, and let a little laugh out while his tears fell. "Hell on the way out, we would probably be running as fast as we can to keep up with Adam as he kicked the Devil's ass out of hell, and took over."

Through tears, many laughs were heard. Juan sobered up though, and the smile was gone. "I am not Adam. I could never be Adam. He was more than a Commander, he was our Captain." Few outside of the military would have caught the meaning there. But everyone that was standing in the circle, and those who were allowed to be present who were not members of the UNIT, they too understood the meaning.

"I'm not Adam." Juan said again as he turned in a circle. When he made one full rotation. When he stopped, he was looking right at Christina. "But I can lead us to the vengeance that we deserve… that we demand. We all tell ourselves to 'mourn the loss of childhood'. Well it is time that our enemy mourns the loss of our childhood. At least until they can mourn no more.

Juan finished and looked at his family as he turned in a circle as Janet had before stepping back. Janet looked at Christina. "Christina Casey, it is your turn to state your desired intention." Christina nodded and stepped forward.

"We are the UNIT. We accept those who believe in the things that we believe in. We stand together against those who will oppress others. We do not shy from danger, but willingly run to the guns if it means we are able to protect one person who cannot protect themselves. But I am not standing here for myself. I stand here before you as proxy for someone else who because of her injuries cannot stand for herself. If she could, she would certainly stand on her own and fight for the right to command us. She was wounded saving others and hopefully soon she will be back on her feet. I volunteered to be her proxy because like Adam, I know that she was made to command. Over the last few days, she has proven her ability to command, when she stepped up and took overall command for two operations. The saving of the President's family and our recent rescue of those people who were to be made a part of an experiment by a group worse than those who made us." Christina looked over to where the Red Dragons were standing, Eve was in front surrounded by the group and pointed at Eve. "Eve did what needed to be done, when it needed to be done, and that is why I volunteered to stand as proxy for her until she regains her feet." Christina stepped back, all eyes now falling on Janet again.

It took her a moment to fully regain her emotions before she could speak. "In standing with UNIT tradition, a leader must want to lead. You two have both shown that by stepping forward even knowing what would come. The UNIT needs courage, since we will be facing death every time we go out. You have shown that. The UNIT needs strength. Not just of arms, but also of the mind. You will be tested on that now. I wish you both luck." Janet stepped back, looking like she wanted to say more, but couldn't.

Chang stepped forward, and called the two into the circle. "When I leave the mats, you may begin." He rested a hand on one of the swords on his side. "When I call a halt, you will stop, or I will stop you. Do you both understand?"

In unison, they both nodded. Chang gave them both a bow, then stepped back off the mat.

The two vying for command took positions on different sides of the mats and faced each other for a few moments. Juan suddenly charged across the short distance. Christina quickly rolled to the side and moved away as Juan turned to face her. He began a slow move forward, his hands up. Christina slowly copied his movements, then launched herself forward with a flying kick to the head. Juan knocked it aside and brought his leg around in a sweep trying to hit her behind the knee as she landed to take her to the ground, but she used the forward momentum to move her leg out of the way and tuck into a roll that she used to stand back up.

Juan moved toward her and tackled her to the ground, she grabbed him and fell back, keeping her back rounded as she rolled and pushed against him, throwing him off. He landed on his feet as she did a kip up to regain her feet. Unfortunately her back was to Juan and he used that as an advantage when he did a spinning kick aimed at her head. She saw the movement out of the corner of her eye and twisted slightly, bringing her arm to block, but his kick was strong enough to knock her off balance and as she stumbled slightly he was on her. The two rolled on the ground trying to get their opponent into a controlling or knock-out hold. It was like watching a wrestling match with attempted pins and escapes as each of them tried to use every part of their body to establish dominance. Neither could get the right leverage and they eventually rolled apart and got back to their feet.

They moved in again and began trading close in kicks and strikes. The two were closely matched and they continued for several minutes. The attacks were so fast that their movements were almost a blur. The two of them were working hard trying to get through each other's defenses, but for the most part they could not.

The UNIT members watched in silence. This was not a cheering matter where people cheer for their person to win. They did not treat it as a gladiatorial contest, even though in essence it was a form of that. But any gladiator that would have faced either of them on the mats would have been out of action long ago. The only sounds in the hangar were the grunts of the contestants as they battled for supremacy.

Then Juan broke through Christina's defense and delivered a powerful fist strike to her chest, driving her backwards and to the ground. He followed up with a leap into the air, aiming to land on her chest, but she rolled and did a flare, knocking his legs out from under him. She continued the flare movement and twisted up to her feet. Juan had turned his fall into a forward roll and stood up. Those watching could see the evidence that not every blow had been blocked. There were scrapes, bruises and cuts on their faces and hands.

They circled each other, eyes locked on their opponent. It was Juan who first moved forward in a low feint as if to take her legs out, and as she moved to block his low attack he sprang up with a spin kick that was aimed at where he expected Christina's head to be as she moved to intercept his low attack. As soon as Juan changed the feint into an attack, she rolled forward under the attack and kicked out with her heel hoping to hit his leg and knock him off balance when he landed, but her kick ended up catching Juan in the groin. He groaned and stumbled as he landed, his hands went down to his groin. Christina went into a flare move that brought her up to her feet behind Juan and launched herself at his back wrapping one arm around his neck and locking it up with her other arm. She wrapped and locked her legs around his body, locking his two arms against his sides. They crashed to the floor and Christina began applying pressure to his neck. Juan tried to struggle but he had no leverage with his arms locked against his body. She kept the pressure up and Juan tried to bring his chin down between her arm and his neck, but her arm was like an immovable iron band. Likewise with his arms, he could not pull them free. Her knees were locked around his elbows, holding them tight against his side. That did not stop him from trying to break free. He bucked, and pushed off with his legs, trying to dislodge her, but she was like an octopus with its prey. He tried rolling with a similar result.

"HOLD!" The two continued to struggle. "HOLD!" The second command broke through their concentration and they both halted their struggling, although neither relaxed. Christina held Juan tightly but quit applying pressure with the choke hold. She could feel Juan's tensed muscles for a few more moments and then he relaxed. She looked up and saw Chang standing nearby. He nodded his head and she relaxed her two holds on Juan and let him go.

Christina stood up and put her hand down for Juan. He looked at her, one hand still gently holding his injured groin and let her help him up. Christina faced Janet and Chang.

Janet walked out and looked at Juan, the question in her eyes was all he needed to see, 'are you alright?' His nod back was all she needed to see, before she turned and looked at the assembled, silent crowd. She let her eyes move around, taking in all of them, all of her family. Finally her eyes stopped on Eve. The older teen girl was sitting in her wheelchair, right at the edge of the circle. Those that came with her, circled behind her. "Eve! Front and Center!" She ordered, then watched as Apollo pushed Eve across the circle to where they stood. Janet looked down at her, and smiled. "Since the beginning of the UNIT, Adam has been the leader. He has made all of us better than we were before. He taught us things we never would have learned without him. However, as he always said, the UNIT changed him, just as much as he may have changed the UNIT. That mantle now falls to you. The UNIT will change under your leadership, it must. But also know, leading the UNIT will change you just as much. Are you prepared for the challenge?"

Eve glanced up at Apollo for a few seconds. He smiled at her and stepped back to join the rest of the Red Dragons. Eve looked at Janet for a few moments and then put her hands on the wheels of her chair and made a slow circle in place so that she could look at everyone in the circle, before facing Janet again. When she spoke, she kept her voice low so that only she and Janet could hear her. "Doctor Hayes. I was told that these people, the Scireians, can fix my back so that I can walk again." Janet nodded. "Good. Please find out what my downtime will be and let me know. For now, I have a UNIT to run."

Eve once again turned to face her new command. "My team and I were trained to be the antithesis of all of you. It was all we knew. We were told that you were dangerous renegades that had to be taken down." Her gaze was steady as she met the gaze of her new command as she turned in a circle. There was a wide range of looks on the faces of the UNIT members surrounding her. Most of those faces looked shocked, there were even a few that looked angry.

"Like you, we lost people when we first got here, but we were accepted by Captain Casey's team, without any animosity toward us, once they learned who we were. When I first met Adam, it was difficult not to think of him as being the person I had been told he was. We were not friends and we may never have become friends, but after observing him in command, I grew to respect him and realized what we had been told was a lie. You were not dangerous renegades. You were a well-trained team of soldiers, doing what you could, to help those who did not have the strength or ability to free themselves from situations that they could not escape from. When given the opportunity to be a part of you, we readily agreed, because what the UNIT does is needed in this world."

She looked at them for a few moments before continuing. "Adam is lost to us, but the UNIT is not. Now we make Ashwood's forces understand why it is not a good idea to piss us off. I want actionable target locations ASAP. Use common sense. I do not want anyone to bring me the White House as a target. I do not want to destroy the UNIT to exact revenge. There will be no unwinnable battles. I intend that we bring judgement to Ashwood, our way. Our President's forces are stalemated on the Mississippi River, I intend for us to break that stalemate and do what we can to bring Ashwood's forces in the area to their knees, so that President Bryce's forces can break through the line and begin to roll up the enemy forces. We have a foothold across Florida. The northeast is pushing south. I want all intel possible to be gathered concerning any point along the river that is weak. All our efforts will be geared toward that point. The sooner we take Ashwood down, the sooner we can focus on our real enemy. The Army of God."

She once again looked at them. She saw determination everywhere she looked. "U. N. I. T. Atten- hut!" The entire group came to attention. "Dis-missed!"

They immediately left the hangar to follow her orders with determination chiseled on their faces. Eve sat and watched them go. The only people left were her, Apollo, Janet, Christina, Juan and Chang. Apollo moved to stand behind her chair. Christina glanced at Juan who was still gingerly holding his crotch. "Sorry about the ‘nads Juan." Janet looked at him with sympathy. "Come with me Juan, so I can make sure there is no permanent damage. She placed her hand on his shoulder and walked with him to the infirmary. Christina gave her a half a salute and trotted off. Chang stood there silently looking at her and then bowed before walking away. She glanced up at Apollo. "Let's get to work." He smiled at her and started pushing her chair in the direction of the command center.

Off in a corner of the hangar, standing on some tables, were two people who had watched the entire contest. "Well that is certainly one way to settle command," Marko remarked.

"Marko, their being genetically altered and enhanced, it is exactly what I would have expected of warriors."

"So what do you want to do now, Sabrina? You obviously have a plan or we wouldn't be here."

"I have the regen unit with me. In two days, Eve will be 90% healed. In three days, she will be 100% and I can began her physical therapy. With her drive, I won't be gone more than a week."

"You will signal us when you are finished?"

"I suspected what was going to happen when we intercepted the reports of Adam's demise. There is a flyer in the cargo hold. When I'm done, I will use that to return to the citadel."

"You know, we really need the Council's approval for this kind of activity..."

"Marko, you go get the approval. I'm going to heal that young woman so that she can lead her people." Sabrina looked her boss in the eye. "I've never disobeyed orders before. But our people need to get their act together..."

"Yes, Sabrina. I not only understand, I approve."

If you are enjoying this story, please write and let the author know: Eric

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