Allies and Enemies - [Apertures: Book Two]
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by Darrell Bain
Category: Science Fiction/Suspense/Thriller
Description: A new Apertures novel by best-selling ebook author Darrell Bain.
Betrayed by a new aperture former he is mentoring, unconscious from a head wound, Jan and his team are stranded in a hostile alternity, with enemy forces surrounding them and closing in for the kill? The exciting sequel to Apertures and the second book set in the Apertures universe.
eBook Publisher: Double Dragon Publishing/Double Dragon eBooks, 2011 Double Dragon Publishing
eBookwise Release Date: August 2011
16 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [370 KB]
Reading time: 240-337 min.
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I left the debriefing room at Home Base, "The Hole" to those of us who lived there, deep under the mountains of western Virginia. I was tired, dirty, and hungry from the latest mission against Panka. I'd created an aperture into the Pankan alternity to an area where we thought they were concentrating Apes--aperture formers to alternate Earths--in their own alternity. We thought they were getting ready to try infiltrating the U.K., and either taking hostages of their leaders' families or setting off demonstration explosions, to show how easily it could be done from another alternity. We had killed three of their Apes for the loss of only two dead and several wounded ASF commandos. The Panks had also lost a good number of their troops to our surprise assault, but they didn't count. It was their Apes who did the damage to us and our allies.
When Dad predicted there would be repercussions from us kicking the Pankans in their own alternity, their own world, off the east coast of America, he was completely on target. Their response simply took a while, that's all. It was like he said. We wouldn't have stood for it on our own world so why should some of our less than bright politicians have thought the Panks would on theirs? Not President Comstock, though. He knew we were in a war with the Pankan alternity as soon as he took the oath of office, right after they assassinated President Chamford. He knew it even though Congress was still refusing his request to declare war on Panka and make it official. Some of the opposition wanted to negotiate and some still didn't believe in other alternities, despite all the evidence to the contrary, which shows just how far some people, especially politicians, can go in denying reality. Alternate worlds exist. It's a fact and has been known to the public for the better part of a year. I think the deniers knew alternate versions of our Earth existed. They were just pretending they didn't, or that the Pankans weren't a threat to us while they jostled for political advantage. The opposition wasn't all from the other party, either. A significant portion of the naysayers and weak sisters came from the same side of the aisle Comstock had run for Vice President with.
My personal belief is that he lost the declaration of war against Panka the moment those video recordings of long lines of refugees evacuating the three Pankan towns on the east coast of America in their alternity became public. Those settlements were close to where Washington, D.C. was in our world. The locations had given their Apes easy access to our capital, and they were well on their way toward launching an attack on Washington through an aperture, before being discovered. President Comstock gave the order to force the Pankans to give up the towns and territory, then left it to the military to choose how it was done. Since Jani Jenkins, my twin sister and I, Jan Jenkins, were two of the only three Apes we had at the time, we were called upon for assistance. Assistance, hell. We played a dominant role in the short, vicious little conflict and territorial cleansing by entering their alternity riding stealthed drones and hunting down their Apes with Hellfire missiles. We had an advantage because we were Naturals, able to detect other Apes from much greater distances than normal ones could, and therefore the enemy Apes had no idea we were there and couldn't possibly detect the missiles in time to form an aperture to another world and escape. Of course there was some collateral damage, as the army called it. That meant we killed a good number of civilians along with the enemy Apes. It sickened Jani and me both, but there really wasn't much choice.
After we disposed of the Pankan Apes, the drones began dropping leaflets demanding immediate evacuation of the inhabitants of the three towns, to another alternity. The demand also carried a warning that failure to comply would bring total destruction of the towns and the people in them.
That was six months ago. Unable to legally carry all-out war to the Pankan alternity, the ASF--Alternate Special Forces--concentrated on discovering and training as many of our own Apes as we possibly could, and pushing them into service protecting our crucial military establishments and cities. They couldn't do much other than notify reaction teams when they sensed enemy Apes approaching or apertures from the Pankan alternity being opened. As quickly as they were detected, drones that were constantly overhead were ordered to shoot Hellfire missiles at them. That upset the liberal crowd, naturally, despite the way that the Pankan agents the Apes brought with them were infiltrating the country and learning about our culture, not to mention what they were up to in other parts of the world, none of it good.
The pacifist element in Congress kept insisting the Pankans meant no more harm than the illegal immigrants from Mexico who were just looking for work. They kept up a constant drumbeat of horror at the number of innocent Pankans who were killed by the missiles targeting their Apes, and clamored for the State Department to send diplomats to the Pankan Empire so the "misunderstanding" could be straightened out and a peaceful relationship with the Panks could begin. At the insistence of the leaders of the opposition in Congress, Colleen, my new wife, actually did crate an aperture into the Pankan Empire, and their chosen delegates passed through it to negotiate. At the pre-appointed time she created the aperture again for them to come back. They never showed up, and were never heard from again.
I don't understand that kind of mentality at all. Apparently they weren't even worried about what the Pankans might be up to in enemy nations here on our Earth either, and God knows what kind of trouble that would ultimately cause. We were already seeing changes in attitudes toward us by some countries, indicating the Panks were either threatening to slip in from their alternity and kill their leaders, or loan them Apes to help them carry out attacks on us and our allies. Perhaps they were helping those countries influence their other enemies besides us, but if so, I wasn't aware of it. At ASF headquarters we were provided a weekly top secret geopolitical and military briefing, but beyond that we got our news like ordinary citizens, from the internet and what few newspapers were still struggling along in the old print format. I felt lucky to know as much as I did. Most citizens weren't nearly as well informed.
Dad said it would take a calamity to wake up the opposition in Congress. After I listened to a few of them on the news, I believed him. It made me glad we were safely buried in the military's most secure redoubt, deep under the mountains of Western Virginia--when we weren't out on missions, that is. With only three of us to begin with, Jani, me, and Colleen, we were kept busy countering the Pankan maliciousness while learning as much as we could about their world in our off time. The more I saw of them the more I hated them, and not just because they had killed our Mom, either. Their culture was just plain evil, and was kept that way through propaganda, lies, and exhortations from their government that the other alternate worlds were a constant threat and must be either subdued or destroyed before they could gather enough trained Apes to invade the Pankan Empire. It was a pattern that Dad told me had been common on our own world for ages.
The Panks were right about one thing, the scarcity of Apes, and didn't need to lie about it. We were searching frantically for potential Apes, and running them through the gamut of tests and evaluations. At first we believed only one of several hundred thousand potentials would produce an Ape under the right circumstances, being present when an Aperture was created. A regular Ape, that is. Since then our chief apertures scientist, Cantor Endicott, had managed to bring the figure down to one in ten thousand or so. However, neither our country nor those of any other alternity we knew of had discovered anyone like Jani and me. We were what was called "Natural Twapes," twin Apes of opposite sex who far outclassed regular Apes, including the single Naturals with years of training. Our capability also exceeded that of identical twin Apes, those who had to be trained in order to utilize their full talent. Natural Apes of any type were very rare and valued, but Jani and I were so rare as to be two of a kind. We were treated like royalty at times, but we had our handler and bosses like anyone else.
When I entered the conference room that morning to meet the newest batch of our Apes, I almost lost confidence in the screening process that produced potential aperture formers, very few of which would eventually turn out to be real Apes. Not many of the potentials were capable or had the ability--same thing--and a person had to be young to even be a prospective Ape. I knew it, but I still stopped momentarily and did a double-take. For an instant I imagined I had wandered into a middle school classroom buried in the warrens of the ASF fortress. These kids were going to help fight a war? Most of them didn't even look old enough to have a driver's license! I took a deep breath, while hoping my reaction hadn't been evident, and continued on to the head of the conference table. We had the room for the whole morning, then would have to turn it over to another group. We were still cramped for space since the underground fortress also held the President and his staff as well as many politicians and most of the nation's senior military officers. They had been moved in with us soon after President Chamford was assassinated by a Pankan Ape, after refusing to break off his campaign tour. His successor, President Jeremiah Comstock, wasn't that stupid. In fact, the Apes had probably done us a favor by putting him in office.
Dad was there, sitting at the other end of the table. He smiled and stood up as I entered. The kids, Apes I mean, quickly followed suit. I guess I'd have to watch myself, because they were indeed Apes. I could sense the ability in every one of them, seven young men and three young women. The three females at least looked old enough to be in high school.
"Take your seats, please," I said. "We're going to be busy enough without submitting ourselves to a lot of formality. Da--um, Sergeant, would you do the introductions, please?"
"Of course," he said. Dad was my and Jani's official handler, although I didn't know how much longer that would be allowed. Family in the chain of command and all that kaka. Handlers were the ones who helped plan and assign missions to our Apes, and counseled them when and if necessary, or kicked their asses, whatever worked. My father was a slightly smaller version of myself, big and dark-haired with features frequently referred to as handsome, in my case, and distinguished in Dad's. Dad's hair was graying now but still was mostly black, and if he carried any extra weight I sure couldn't see it. We were both well muscled from most of a lifetime of training in the martial arts, karate mostly but with some variations of the quick-kill variety that I was glad to have been taught on the few occasions I'd found myself in close contact with Pankans.. Jani took after Dad, too, being tall with glossy black hair, but she had Mom's pretty face and outstanding figure.
Dad began the introductions, while the new young Apes gazed at me with obvious awe. As close as most of us lived in the fortress, they almost certainly had sensed Jani and me as Naturals, the most capable Apes known to exist and also the rarest. The range at which we could sense an aperture or an Ape was easily ten or more times that of a new or even a trained normal Ape. We had other talents in the field that exceeded normal specs as well, including a couple we've never mentioned to anyone except our spouses and immediate family. Some of these young persons would improve with time, but they could never hope to even come close to matching our ability. A Chihuahua can't grow up to be a German shepherd no matter how well it's trained.
The oldest Ape there other than myself was Julia Goldberg, a seventeen-year-old prodigy who had already finished three years of college. She was also a prodigy in the appearance department, featuring an extremely attractive, even featured face with sultry lips and green eyes, along with strawberry blond hair falling in waves to below her shoulders. She had prominent breasts and a narrow waist that flared into nicely curved hips and long legs. She also possessed an attitude that told anyone within shouting distance that she knew exactly what she had and wasn't adverse to advertising it. Maybe even using it. She practically exuded sexuality. I had my doubts about how good a soldier she'd make, but our Apes were so scarce they'd practically have to possess an extra head to be rejected and even that might not do it. Three heads, maybe.
It was only a couple of months ago that General Bullock, commander of ASF, had decided to induct Apes into the army. The decision came after a couple of incidents where new Apes figured they could do as they pleased with their just discovered and vitally needed talent. It took quite a lot of special handling to disabuse them of the notion, whereas if they had gone through basic training they'd never have dared act like the prima donnas they thought they were. All new Apes were now required to go through a six week basic training course, slightly modified by needs peculiar to Apes. It still included weapons training, physical conditioning, and an introduction to army discipline that shocked hell out of their coddled little souls. Most of them came from the upper end of the IQ curve simply because one of the attributes of potential Apes was a solid grounding in hard math and science courses, the kind that few high school students were inclined toward these days. It took those subjects to train the young minds in reasoning power, a prerequisite for becoming even a potential Ape.
After graduating they were given a courtesy rank of corporal, where they would stay until they proved capable of assuming responsibility and carrying it out to the ASF's satisfaction. Unlike regular basic training, they were not allowed to flunk out and go back to civilian life. For the present, they would be soldiers whether they liked it or not, and whether they agreed with the Presidential decree or not. The ACLU had sued the ASF, but at the President's urging the Supreme Court intervened, took the case, and ruled in favor of the army.
Jani and I had gone through eight weeks of army basic before discovering we were not only Apes but Twin Apes, usually called Twapes. It put us in the forefront of the fight against the Pankan Empire immediately, but also made us their number one target, as we'd soon discovered. We had been commissioned second lieutenants, after the ruling that other Apes must be in the military, and during the present shadow war had been sent through a quickie three week officer's training course.
Stephen Wong was the oldest male Ape there, only sixteen, but he almost looked it. His appearance was that of the prototypical geek, with glasses and tousled dark hair that appeared to have only a passing acquaintance with a comb. Unlike regular soldiers, Apes were allowed to keep their original hair styles as long as they didn't attract undue attention. Despite his looks, he had graduated at the top of his class in basic, and shot expert with both rifle and pistol. I thought I would probably get to like him if we wound up working together, and if he lived long enough. Every new Ape had a mentor for a couple of months if at all possible, although some of the first ones found that after the screening process began they were thrown into the fight as quickly as they were confirmed. We had enough Apes now that we could afford the training time, but just barely. If the undeclared war heated up, always a possibility, that might be thrown out the window again.
"Thank you, Sergeant," I said after Dad finished the introductions. He had been recalled to active duty from a medical retirement due to a wound while serving with a Delta force unit. "And to all of you new Apes, congratulations on your graduation from basic training and welcome to the ASF, Alternate Special Forces. I am First Lieutenant Jan Jenkins, coordinator of operations at the Ape level. Lieutenant Jani Jenkins, whom you will no doubt meet later, is the other coordinator. You will receive your initial assignments from me, or in my absence from Lieutenant Jenkins. We, as I assume you've been informed, are given operational orders from our immediate handlers. In my case it is Master Sergeant Jenkins, here. Each of you will be assigned a handler as well as a more senior Ape as your mentor. Part of my job is to help match you with a compatible senior Ape, and in consultation with Major John Farnham, executive officer of ASF, to steer you to a handler who I believe fits your temperament and training as it progresses. You can expect to change handlers as you gain experience and are assigned to more complex and possibly more dangerous missions. Any questions so far?"
Julia Goldberg stood up, making sure everyone got a good look at her. "Lieutenant Jenkins, you said you didn't care for formality. Does that dislike extend to titles? I much prefer first names."
Shit. Did she learn nothing in basic? "Corporal Goldberg, it most emphatically does not extend to the use of first names between enlisted Apes and officers or NCOs. You are to address Master Sergeant Jenkins as Sgt. Jenkins and myself as Lieutenant Jenkins. Clear?"
"Okay, if you say so."
"That's okay, sir," I said. I met her gaze squarely and waited.
A red blush slowly crept from her neck to her cheeks. "Sir," she finally said, reluctantly.
I nodded and she sat back down. I hated the way she acted. It got the session off to a bad start. I continued on, trying to act as if nothing untoward had happened.
"Over the next day or two Sergeant Jenkins and I will be interviewing you individually, and introducing you to your first handler and first mentor. You may find that several of you are assigned to a single handler since at the present time we have more Apes than we do handlers. The handler, in turn, will put you in contact with your mentor. That may be here, or you may have to travel to the location where your mentor is presently operating. In either case, you can expect to accompany your mentor from then until you're found to be capable of operating on your own. How long that may take varies from person to person. Most likely your first duty will be monitoring critical assets such as nuclear plants or military bases, or possibly acting as guards for members of Congress or high ranking military officers in crucial positions. Questions?"