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Old 01-28-2018, 06:57 PM   #222
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Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Iceland*
Default Dangerfield

The alleged ‘cottage’ where Dr. Anderson is meant to stay seems nice enough. Master bedroom, two kids’ rooms, guest bedroom and a home office, according to what Wendell Dao tells Dr. Anderson. The living area is spacious, with sofas and lounge chairs centred on a fireplace, in addition to the dining room table. Instead of a crowd of hard faced soldiers or sailors, Anderson spots three women engaged in some task around technical equipment in there.

LCDR Wendell Dao: “I figure you’ll want a proper shower and a change of clothes before doing anything else, doc. The place has a separate water tank, tested clear. The clothes are laid out in the bathroom, just select what you like.”
Dr. Anderson: “That is thoughtful of you, Wendell.”

As the doctor moves toward the master bathroom, he encounters a rugged-looking, moustachioed man, wearing what appears to be an actual cowboy hat, khaki pants and camouflage shirt, coming out of it. The cowboy-hatted man has a rifle like ‘Mack’ and Dao tied around him, but his is larger and somehow more old-fashioned, with a wooden stock. On his right thigh, he’s wearing a Colt pistol like in ‘Saving Private Ryan’ in some kind of gunfighter’s holster. The man touches his hand to his hat and addresses Dr. Anderson in a musical out-West twang.

Cowboy: “Howdy, doc.”
Anderson: “Hello there.”
Dao: “You can call him ‘Tex’, doc. He won’t mind.”
Anderson: “A pleasure to make your acquaintance, Tex. Would you be one of Wendell’s men?”
Dao: “Let’s just say Tex is with us, but not of us, doc. A soldier, not a sailor. He’ll take all your electronics of your hands and have ‘em analysed. Try to figure out what this strange jamming was and that sort of thing.”
Anderson: “My thanks. I suspect that examination of the electronics will yield little of consequence, but I agree, naturally, that it must be carried out.”
Tex: “Happy to help y’all.”

With a polite nod, Anderson enters the bathroom. He has a long, hot, comfortable shower, working out all the minor aches in his body. He feels surprisingly fresh, energetic, even. Even the little muscle spasms and pains just feel like the after-glow of a good workout. Wasn’t it Winston Churchill who said: "Nothing in life is so exhilarating as to be shot at without result"?

When he emerges in the living area again, Dr. Anderson is dressed in slacks, blue shirt and a fairly inoffensive blazer.

Dr. Anderson: “All right, Mr. Dao. I am ready for my close-up.”

Sitting at the dining room table, Wendell Dao grins and picks up a mobile phone. To Dr. Anderson, it looks like a Silent Circle Blackphone, a supposedly more secure smartphone made by a company started by several privacy advocates, one of whom was a former Navy SEAL. Instead of making a call, Dao taps in what looks like a short message on the screen.

LCDR Dao: “I’ve asked the detectives if we can do the debriefing in the office here.”
Anderson: “Do I need a lawyer?”
Dao: “I wouldn’t figure on it. You can ask for one, for sure, and we’d find you one that could be read in on the situation, but it would probably delay things for several hours. And I assure you nobody is going to treat you like a suspect, they’ll just want your input on what happened, not to mention your professional views.”
Anderson: “That will be all right, then.”

While they wait for an answer from Onyx Rain, the curly-haired commando called ‘Mack’ brings sandwiches and coffee.

Dao: “The sandwiches are a few hours old, pre-packaged store bought stuff from the mainland. Sorry about that. The coffee should be fine. Salvatore doesn’t do fancy barista tricks, but he makes a decent cup, as long as you like it strong and black.”
Female voice from living room: “Strong ‘n’ black is just how we likes it, Skipper!”

Mack snickers and there are amused snorts from the three women in the living room. Wendell Dao grins sheepishly, but seems more amused than embarrassed or angry. Dr. Anderson is aware that the strict shibboleths of military hierarchy seem to be more loosely applied among elite special operation forces, but this level of comfort with what Anderson believes to be a fairly senior officer argues either lack of discipline or long familiarity and excellent esprit de corps. Somehow Wendell Dao doesn’t strike the doctor as likely to run an ill-disciplined unit.

The comedian is a statuesque young African-American woman wearing blueish camouflage pants and a tank top, engaged in what looks to Dr. Anderson to be the cloning of his mobile phone. She’s not wearing a bulky rifle attached to her body, but she is wearing a handgun holster on her belt with a big metal pistol.

Dao: “We’re not really unprofessional, doc, it’s just our way of coping with operational pressures.” [louder] “Don’t let your husband hear you say that, Adkins!”
Adkins: “An' why would he think I was meanin' anybody other than his proud black ass?”
Another woman: “No, but… he might suspect you no longer find him attractive, because you told me you’d been having problems and were thinking of getting a divorce, like Kendra.”

There is an appalled silence, with everyone variously either staring at the latest speaker or avoiding eye contact. The indiscreet woman is a pleasant-looking brunette dressed in civilian clothing that might be termed ‘Goth’, ‘emo’ or whatever new subculture designator applies to shoppers at Hot Topic these days. After a very uncomfortable few seconds, Adkins explodes into guffaws.

Adkins: “I did tell you that, snowflake, but you ain’t supposed to blurt out everything you hear. How did you ever get a security clearance, honey?”
‘Snowflake’: “I signed lots of paperwork and then answered questions about my personal life.”
Adkins [to third woman]: “Is she fo’ real, ell-tee? I can’t tell with her.”
LT: “I’m pretty sure Ms. Melody is pulling your leg, Adkins.”
Melody Luna: “It’s just Melody. My last name is ‘Luna’, only they tell you to use just your first name with people outside the unit for security purposes.”
LT: “Good job on that, by the way.”
Melody: “Oh. But you aren’t, I mean… you’re under the Joint Special Operations Command too.”
LT: “It’s a good thing Dr. Anderson used to have a TS-SCI clearance, which is being reactivated, and has been read in on Onyx Rain, Melody. Doesn’t your boss ever explain to you that you might end up in prison for being indiscreet with classified information?”
Melody: “All the time. If Google and Samsung didn’t keep hiring away all the SIGINT people with MIT degrees, I’m pretty sure they’d do it, too.”

There is a collective shaking of heads, rolling of eyes and rueful smiles around the living room. Wendell Dao, after grabbing a cup of coffee, does introductions.

Dao: “These hard-working ladies are our intelligence support. The commanding officer is Lieutenant Kendra Morales, US Navy. Our cell phone subject matter expert is Petty Officer Whitney Adkins, USN. And, as you no doubt deduced, doc, Ms. Melody Luna here is a civilian analyst who favours us with her time, even though she could probably have been a tech millionaire several times over.”

Ms. Luna blushes in response to the high-wattage smile bestowed on her by Wendell Dao. Her intended self-effacing reply only comes out as incoherent monosyllables and a demure involuntary return smile. Petty Officer Whitney Adkins is the outspoken tank top wearing comedienne and Lieutenant Kendra Morales is another winsome brunette. LT Morales is dressed in a uniform suit of the same bluish camouflage as the material of PO1 Adkins’ pants and wearing a holstered pistol.

Dao: “And, ladies, this here fine gentleman is Dr. Michael Anderson, civilian consultant to Joint Task Force Onyx Rain.”
LT Morales: “It’s a pleasure to finally meet you, Dr. Anderson. I’ve read so many of your memos that I almost feel like I know you.”
Anderson: “Memos?”
Dao: “Lieutenant Morales is tasked with the analysis of Project Jade Serenity personnel records, including the psychological evaluations.”
LT Morales: “Apparently, The Powers That Be consider my major in management and leadership studies somehow equivalent to a real psychology degree. I spend most of my time Googling terminology, trying to make heads or tails of it.”
Anderson: “You do not have the look of someone who is easily confused or intimidated, even by psychological jargon.”
Dao: “That she ain’t. Kendra here is as smart as they come. What she isn’t telling you is that her undergraduate degree was summa cum laude from Stanford, she’s also got a graduate degree in Strategic Intelligence and is working her way to a behavioural psych degree in her theoretical spare time.”
Anderson: “That I can believe.”
Morales: “The operators have been really nice about letting me feel like I belong, even though I can never get my knuckles to drag properly along the deck.”

Dao takes out his smartphone, looks at it and nods toward Dr. Anderson and LT Morales.

Dao: “Right. We’re doing the debriefing in the office. Lieutenant Morales, remember that the proper answer to anything these knuckleheads ask their superior officer while I am gone is an indignant denial and Captain’s Mast if you can. That way, they might still like me better when I get back.”
LT Morales: “Aye, aye, sir. No ice-cream until Da… I mean ‘the Skipper’ gets back.”
Dao: “I’d have to be a time traveller to be a Father to My Men, Morales.”
Morales: “Would you like to go back to ‘Skippy’, Lieutenant Commander?”
Dao [in overdone impression]: “I get no respect around here!”
Za uspiekh nashevo beznadiozhnovo diela!

Last edited by Icelander; 02-05-2018 at 08:08 PM.
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