43 Miles inland from Liberty City
“So I’m sure you’re all wondering why we’re out here, and why Grinder and Dustup aren’t with us,” Andy began, using Mike and Kaye’s callsigns.
The rest of Strike Force Alchibah had taken the shuttle a few dozen miles inland to a hillside clearing, and the pair were conspicuous by their absence. Every other shooter / spotter team that would be taking part in the advance strike on the UNWG ships was there.
The eight of them – Andy and Mariana, Gabe and Kat, Jai and Summer and Ryu and May – were all decked out in full assault gear and very, very heavily armed. The skies were clear as the sun shone down and there was a gentle breeze playing with the tall grass. The picture could hardly have been more surreal.
“We,” he continued, gesturing towards himself and the three other veteran members of old SOCOM, “brought you four here,” he indicated the four younger members, “because you’re…different.
“And I don’t mean in your devotion or spirit or anything of that nature. Lord knows that if that was what I were talking about Mike and Kaye would certainly be here as well. No, I am referring to your genetic makeup. I appreciate you all submitting to the voluntary blood test last week, and we found some very interesting, if not entirely surprising, results.”
The four teens expressions twitched ever so slightly; in this mode, the equivalent of an exclamation of downright shock. Andy continued, “Mariana, as our resident biologist, if you would do the honors?”
“Of course. I’ll start with the basics and then give you what background we have. The fact is there are two genetic strains, lines, if you will, that we have identified as significantly affecting normal human physical abilities. Each of them has the potential to manifest itself in one of two ways.
“The first, which I am affected by, is precognition, in addition to some degree of empathic ability.”
Now the four were openly raising their eyebrows and glancing at each other. “In effect those of us who have this variant of the gene can sense things some time before they actually happen, up to about five seconds in some cases in fact.
“We also can sense most people’s emotions. I do not mean we are good at reading body language. I mean we can directly sense human emotions via brainwaves. For most of us it also means we have to be looking in the persons eyes. Summer, May, you have this variant of the gene.” The two girls looked momentarily shocked, but then slowly started nodding their heads in comprehension.
“You’re not making this up, are you? “ Summer asked. “I know exactly what you’re talking about, I just always thought I was some combination of lucky and weird.” May nodded her head.
“Well, I wouldn’t disagree with that,” Kat laughed, “genes or no genes. I’d say everyone with these little mofos in their system is some combination of lucky and weird.”
Mariana rolled her eyes. “I suppose that is one way of putting it. In any case, as I said, Summer and May, you both possess this version of the gene. JoAnn does as well, and we also suspect that Elana and Kaiya do.
“Jai, I am also fairly sure that Aya and Arra have got it, and possibly in a manner that may be a jump in the abilities we thought were associated with the gene.” The teen nodded, apparently unsurprised.
At this point Andy took over again.
“The second variation is what we call ‘overdrive’ or ‘speed.’” He began, “ Essentially it allows a person to push themselves to the very brink of what is humanly possible at will.
“I am sure all of you remember that reading assignment I gave you about the stages of stress and Combat reactions by that old Military Philosopher. The Conditions we are talking about here are the Red and Black.
“Some Olympic athletes are capable of psyching themselves up to getting into these ranges, and the best of the Military can operate in the Red. Occasionally very highly trained Elite soldiers in the heat of battle push into the Black.
“The difference is in people like Gabe and I it is essentially an on/off switch, and with our training we can push farther into the Black, than even the most highly trained soldiers or athletes that lack the gene.
“Jai, Ryu, you both possess it as well, as I think you will realize as you think back.
“Jai, how did you survive the varg attack? Speed, accuracy and a total disregarding of pain; classic signs of operating in the Red, or possibly even in the Black – without having been there it is impossible to tell.
“And both of you, what do you remember about the sparring match you got into after our first hand to hand session?” They were nodding their heads, grinning at the memory. They had matched each other very nearly perfectly, but at a level well above where almost anyone else could operate.
“We have worked hard to hone those skills and we will continue to train you on how to specifically utilize them over the coming weeks and months because we need them for the upcoming fight. What we are going to talk about now is ethics and how you are NOT going to use those skills.
“Anybody here want to get into a football game with Gabe or I?” Andy watched them shudder. “You would not have to worry, you would not get one iota more than our normal size advantage, which would be bad enough. But not one bit more.
“You could play poker with Mariana or Ash all night and if you get the cards you win. They are not going to use their skills to gain personal advantage.
“That is the crux we are talking about here. Ash and Kat are both double recessive – they have a weaker version of both genetic variants. Think about it. You have all heard the stories about Ash losing at poker. Being double recessive makes him the most dangerous fighter jock alive and his refusal to use those skills in a game make him the mark everyone is looking for.
“The point is he will not use his skills for personal gain. And that is what we need each of you to learn.
“Jai, you done good. You did your damn best to put yourself between an innocent and harms way. You and Ryu stepped it up slowly in a training situation, that was not bad. It was an interesting case study in two people feeling out the other. What, you didn’t know Ash recorded it? Not thinking People!
“Now for the fun part. Ash in his spare time while he was sitting at a desk, traced the genetics of these gene trails.
“They all trace back to one marriage in Switzerland of all places. It was between a Scot mercenary and the daughter of a Burgher. The Male line went back to Scotland and not long after to North America. The Female line kicked around in Europe and eventually made it to North America. The Dominant Lines have not crossed in all those years.
“The names of the original parents were Stuart and Kearns. Surprise folks, we are all distantly related.
“I don’t think you will be problems, our kids on the other hand are going to give me nightmares for years!
“And one last thing before we start today’s training. Gabe, if you would be so kind?” he asked. The giant began to remove his gear.
“Yall remember what I said about Gabe at his wedding? He’s a walking, talking example of why these genes are not yet common in the human race. Simply put, folks like us often don’t survive long enough to have children. We can push harder than other humans, and we tend to test those limits early and often. It is not a coincidence that so many people with these genes are here on Alchibah. Something about the lines makes us put ourselves in the way. Whether it’s genetic or some sort of family spirit that has been passed down we’re not sure, but there’s no doubt that we do not back down when we see something that needs righting.” He finished just as Gabe removed his undershirt. Maylin gasped, Ryu whistled.
The second thing they noticed was his sheer proportion. He couldn’t weight less that 330 and he didn’t have an ounce of fat on him. He looked like he could easily bench press an ox or shot put a small car. It was telling, though, that that was the second thing they noticed. The first was without a doubt the chaotic patchwork of scars on top of scars that crisscrossed his entire upper body.
“What you’re seeing is partly due to the fact that I was the top hostage negotiator in the States for a number of years,” Gabe began, “and I was also the first person in the door when the negotiations went south. Even for Spec Ops hostage rescue is…dicey. I tended to get shot a lot doing the old human shield trick.” Then it was Kat’s turn to talk.
“That’s certainly no lie. Which is exactly the point. We can dish more out and take more than anyone else going, but the fact is every one of us has been under the knife more than once. Gabe has been clinically dead on two different occasions. We’ve all taken hits that would have killed us on the spot if they were a few inches in the wrong direction. You four are good. Really. Fucking. Good. And if you work your asses off for another bunch of years you might be as good as we are. And that’s the point. No matter how good you are there’s a bullet with your name on it. Don’t let that bullet find you
“We’re not going to ask you to be careful or cautious. If you were either of those you couldn’t do your job. What you goddamn better be is smart. Cocky gets you dead, smart keeps you alive. So the next time you think, ‘Hell yeah, I’m good!’ picture that bullet, ditch the overconfidence and get even better.”