A Tale of Daylight, featuring The Alliance
Thundersnow( also known as a winter thunderstorm or a thunder snowstorm) is a rare thunderstorm with snow falling as the primary precipitation instead of rain. It commonly falls in regions of strong upward motion within the cold sector of extratropical cyclones between autumn and spring when surface temperatures are most likely to be near or below freezing. Variations exist, such as thundersleet, where the precipitation consists of sleet rather than snow.
- from the Wikipedia article on 'thundersnow'
TO: LGen Robinson/USMC HQ
FROM : 1LT Rafael Vargas, USMC
RE: Status Update/Ninth Military Section
I am sending this report detailing activities in what United States Military Command HQ has designated as the Ninth Military Section – the northwestern counties within the state of Ohio.
As reported earlier, unknown factors interfered with the tesseract platform at USAES, which resulted in Cadre 2996 (and the unit of USMC troops also assigned to reinforce the detail at Legion Tower under Colonel - now General - Armalin) arriving in real-space just outside the city of Chicago. We barely survived the near-complete destruction of the city and the general area; it is my considered opinion that what remains of the area known as Chicagoland be designated as a 'red zone', as only high-powered metahumans could possibly survive the conditions that exist there.
As I have reported in earlier dispatches, Cadre 2996 (later to be joined in-theatre by Cadres 2917 and 3335) and a force of United States Military Command personnel had discovered a large cache of pre-Zero Hour materials and supplies in the remains of the Fostoria Smarty-Mart. To be more precise, we later discovered that the Fostoria Smarty-Mart was also the regional supply and distribution center for the area; as such, vast stockpiles of items were stored at this facility for distribution of additional materials as needed to various other stores in the western part of Ohio within a twelve- to eighteen-hour period. Upon examination of the entire underground facility, we determined that the facility had been re-supplied no more than five to seven days before Zero Hour; consequently, the facility was at between 87% to 93% of its total storage capacity. The strategic value of this facility cannot, therefore, be underestimated.
After realizing the value of this area, we acted quickly to secure it and to keep the information out of the hands of all non-essential personnel. We also felt that it would be advantageous to build a permanent settlement; given the environmental conditions, the need for a defensible position, a sanctuary for defenseless civilians, a means of psychological impact upon rogue elements and a staging area for USMC elements, we borrowed a page from the past.
As you can see, we built a fort. Built in the space of nearly four months, Echo Base is constructed directly over the storage depot, and posseses the advantages of a fusion of medievial and modern technologies. We have the capacity to permanently shelter over 1,000 citizens, as well as support a military force large enough to defend the area. Echo Base has also begun to serve as a trading post for the area; we have become a nexus for many throughout the area for a multitude of goods and services, and the small community of New Fostoria has arisen next to Echo Base. For example, we have eight doctors and a number of other medical personnel who have survived Zero Hour and the resulting chaos; they have formed the basis of our medical facility.We are even fortunate enough to have two physicians from the University of Chicago College of Medicine at Peoria, Il; they were near Fostoria when Zero Hour stranded them. The benefits of having them include the fact that they have been able to act as mentors in Lieutenant Farrington's medical training; he may actually realize his desire to become a fully-trained M.D., in time.
For some reason, we have had very little contact with metahuman forces, and not a single active encounter with those forces. Considering our information from other USMC bases and the activities of The Elite and Arcana in North America, this is a source of ongoing concern. It is almost as if they have all chosen, for some reason that we are unaware of, to leave us alone. However, we have had frequent encounters with well-armed criminal elements and two quasi-religious groups, all of which have proven to be quite dangerous in their own way. One of the religious groups is known simply as the Conservatives; they are a large group of scavengers who have managed to build low-tech vehicles and effective weapons that they have used to terrorize several counties. Their scavenger credo -- that of using anything and everything they can get their hands on -- has led to our discovery that the Conservatives are cannibals, eating even their own dead and the bodies of their victims in order to survive.
Of course, one wonders why they have named themselves after a political ideology. Undoubtedly, the name is both a play and a ploy; a play on words and a ploy to sucker anyone encountering them. Little 'c' conservative stragglers that survived Zero Hour are given hope that there is a remnant of survivors that share similar beliefs when they encounter this dangerous mob; all too late do they learn the truth.
The second group, which has proven to be far more dangerous, refers to itself only as 'The Flock'. This group seems to have at the core of its ideology the complete elimination of all metahumans in response to the events of Zero Hour, which they believe was caused somehow by the existence of metahumans. We have found that they have brutally tortured and killed many metahumans and 'meta-sympathizers', as they refer to them; after an all-out assault on Echo Base in which we decimated the attacking force, they have shifted tactics and made several attempts to infiltrate Echo Base to kidnap members of our forces. This has led to several unfortunate incidents – including one that I was personally involved in, where a female member of The Flock tried to sway my affections and then deliver me to her fellow cultists. If not for my powers and Lieutenant Farrington's psi-abilities, I would not have survived the ordeal. Accordingly, we have adjusted security protocols to compensate.
Our biggest problem, however, has been the environment. The massive cloud cover caused by the Alaskan fire caused caused a winter of such severity that it is a minor miracle that no one living at Echo Base or in New Fostoria died from winter-related causes. (The lowering of temperaures even before winter caused many problems, as well. We are also subject now to suddenly-occuring, extreme weather events such as 'thundersnows'. These events are now even more dangerous due to the atmospheric conditions, and a person could easily be killed if outside during these storms.) Nevertheless, there were numerous illnesses and injuries. If not for the addiditional colonization equipment brought to the base by Cadre 3335 (a Project Starseed unit), the combined powers of our cadres, the metahuman allies living with us and the sheer desire to survive, things could have been much different.
It is at times such as this that the medievial design of Echo Base has proven useful.During the most severe points of the winter, the people took shelter inside Echo Base and the vast underground shelters below the facility; also, many of the people here have taken it upon themselves to perform jobs and duties (without being asked) that one would find in any period structure of this ilk. For example, a large group of young women have found the means and the time to weave elaborate blankets, rugs, and other items - even tapestries for the walls; a group of men have found several dogs and are in the business of breeding pups for pets, hunting dogs, guard animals, and so forth. There are cooks, laundry workers (there is an underground burrow where we have installed numerous washers, dryers, and other laundry materials) - there is even a group of men and women who refer to themselves as 'The Arrows'; these individuals pride themselves on going out in even the harshest weather, hunting down wildlife, and bringing it back for the most lavish of feasts. (For some unknown reason, the harsh weather has not affected most of the animals as it has humans. Deer are especially plentiful, and have become a staple of most survivors' diets in the area.)
On a related note, the building of several fireplaces within Echo Base, particularly the large fireplace within the Great Hall in the main castle, has provided places for social gatherings that have provided an unexpected morale boost for the personnel and citizens living here. During the winter, a tradition has developed of evening gatherings in the EM-shielded Great Hall, where people gather for various social activities; two such activities of note are Wednesday evenings, where DVD movies are shown in concert with the most current Movietone News newsreels detailing events in the world. (My special thanks to the men and women who had the foresight to come up with the recreation of an old idea, the technical expertise to create hand-crank cameras with modern film and the bravery to carry out the dangers in bringing news to the people.)
The second activity of note is Saturday; it seems that 'date night' is a tradition that will never die. Young people (those from their late teens to mid-twenties – the demigraphic for the old MTV) frequent the Great Hall (and the alcoves adjoining it) on Saturday nights for the age-old tradition of 'reindeer games', as it were. As almost all the members of the cadres are in the appropriate age bracket, there have been more than a few times when verbal reprimands have been given for conduct unbecoming. Given our circumstances, however, I have relaxed restrictions on USMC personnel. We are, after all, part of the community.
Because of the ongoing threat of The Flock and the Conservatives, only the immediate area around Echo Base can be said to be secure. Travel at night outside of New Fostoria is strongly discouraged, and movement outside the secure zone should be considered only by heavily-armed groups. We are currently planning strikes against both groups; as soon as we find their primary bases of operation, we will begin sweep and clear missions to put down both groups. Once that is done, I feel confident that the threat level in this area will decrease considerably.
Rafael Vargas, 1LT, USMC
The shivering, dirty mass of people began to move closer as Zoey Robertson jammed a thermal javelin solidly into the ground; a soft blister of reddish light lit the area from the seven-foot long javelin as heat began to flow outwards into the large chamber. "I'll see about getting supplies for all of you," the young woman said, her unusually kind tones calming the people as much as her words as she set a second javelin thirty feet away from the first. "Do you have anyone who needs immediate medical treatment?"
A huge, booming sound echoed through the area, and a Black woman in her mid-fifties who was tending to a pair of children lifted her head and spoke. "Not immediate – but if you have any meds to help with colds, that would be good. "We've been running out, and with these freak snowstorms and the bad winter, it's been killing off most of the medicinal plants we could have used..."
Zoey rammed a third thermal javelin into the ground; several children who huddled in a corner with lost expressions began to move closer as heat began to slowly flow into the area. "You know your way around a medicine cabinet?"
"I've been a nurse for twenty-seven years – and my last ten were with an alternative medicine specialist," the woman said. "I'm Tamara Wells. I've been taking care of my people for about three months now."
Zoey noticed the pair of pistols the woman wore; a military-issue nine-millimeter, a heavy revolver that hung where she could reach it easily, and she also had a Heckler and Koch MP5 9mm sub-machine gun slung over her shoulder. "Nice hand-cannon."
"It's a .45 Colt trail gun – my husband and I used to do a lot of camping and backwoods hiking," Tamara replied. "We had a close call once – accidentally came across a meth lab cooking away the damned stuff – and we started carrying every time we went into the woods afterwards. Nearly getting jumped by a mountain lion didn't help, either."
Zoey looked at the slung weapon again. "Where did you pick the MP5 up from?"
"From some Conservative who grabbed me near the Michigan/Indiana border," the woman said, tasting bile in her mouth as a bitter memory resurfaced. "This was before we hooked up with the rest – there were seven of us then. My friends Tate and Violet, and the four kids of our friends - Matt and Ruth died the day it happened, got fried by lines from a fallen power tower way out in the sticks. There was a serious pile-up on some highway – I can't even remember which one – and as we were searching the wrecks for anything we could use, we found Susan – the little redhead over there.
Tamara motioned to a girl sitting with the kids who gathered around the third javelin. "She was just sitting in a car on the side of the road that wasn't damaged; the owner had just fixed a flat and must have been using his cell when it killed him – the remains were about fifteen feet away with a cell fused to what used to be his ear. Total brainlock – she doesn't talk much, we only know her name from her high school ID."
She went quiet. "What happened?"
"Conservatives dropped down on us – about forty of them. We didn't even have a chance to fight. They raped everyone over and over until they all had a shot – right there by the side of the road, in broad daylight - then built a fire and cooked Matt, Ruth and Nancy – the oldest of the kids."
The older woman shook her head as if to try and rid herself of the memory. "They didn't cook me right then because one of them joked 'No - save the dark meat for last.' While they were eating, I cut myself loose on a piece of metal, sliced some punk's head wide open with it, took his gun and started shooting. I'd drop someone, grab their guns and keep going, and I just kept shooting until they were all dead or running – then I grabbed Tate's 30-06 and picked off the last ones as they ran down the highway. With ammo the way it is – nine-millimeter's still the easiest to find – I've held onto this ever since."
Zoey had heard far too many stories like Tamara's – especially the part about the Conservatives - cannibalistic marauders who were becoming a big problem in northeastern Indiana and northwestern Ohio. "So, where are you from?"
Tamara began to move one of the children closer to the javelin; Zoey helped, and then, readjusted the sick child's blankets. "Los Angeles," Tamara answered. "I was in Minnesota, hunting with some friends. My husband had to cancel out at the last moment; he was a producer with GSN Cable News, and they had gotten a big interview with the guy who runs Wizard Computers. He was supposed to come in the next day and talk his ex-partner, who'd given his entire fortune to those kids in Maryland..."
Zoey nodded as she let the woman talk – after all, she was all too familiar with the Legion. A spot of pain appeared in her chest as she thought of Sandi Griffin, now dead at the hands of that rogue metahuman, Mindbender... She didn't deserve to die like that. At the end, she was a soldier, and she deserved a soldier's death, instead of what happened.
It must have been bad, if they put out a distress call...and we couldn't even get there in time.
At least her friends avenged her.
"I guess he was at the studio when it happened – we were all sleeping in late, and the trucks were a couple of miles away, but we had all of the gear we needed..." Tamara's face grew grim. "We actually slept through the end of the world. I always prayed that it was quick for Tim."
Zoey remained silent; even though her family and the family of Olivia D'Arcy, her childhood friend were safe at Zero Area, her insides wanted to twist into knots when she thought about the aerial shots of Southern California, polluted, burning – her childhood home of Verona Beach, burning...
A fourth thermal javelin slammed into the ground. "You shouldn't have to worry about heat now, and Lieutenant Farrington will be down here in ten minutes. He'll help you with any medical problems you have, and schedule you all in for full examinations – we have eight doctors and what passes, more or less, for a MASH unit here; he'll also hook this chamber up to the reclamation system we have, so you can have toilets and a place to wash up. If you've got some people to spare, I'll take them to the mess and get your people some food."
The heads of everyone in the area turned at the word 'food'. "It's been almost four days since anyone's eaten – Conservatives have been chasing us since the border, and we couldn't stop to scavenge anything." Tamara said. "How have they been able to get machines running, much less rebuild cars and trucks? If we hadn't had a few heavy weapons, they'd have killed and eaten us all."
The young officer's face took on a look that sent shivers through everyone looking at her. "Sooner or later – we're going to find out. Let's get something for your people to eat."
In a highly insulated room on the top floor of the stone fortress that made up Echo Base, Carolyn Field watched as Maryann Lyter used her super-strength to manually crank a giant antenna into the air – a five-hundred foot-long antenna usually sheathed in a nine-foot-foot thick chamber of solid rock. Crafted from the plentiful railroad tracks from the area inside and around what was Fostoria, Ohio, the antenna allowed the people at Echo Base to receive and transmit signals almost anywhere in the former United States.
The construction of the room was deliberate; to have an area where secure communications could go out, and to protect everyone from the electrical charges a large piece of metal (such as the antenna) could generate in the high-EM environment the world was in now.
"It's in place," the athletic young woman said, turning to her teammate. "Give me a moment to change over to full invulnerability before you fire it up... just in case."
Carolyn nodded, and when Maryann signaled that she was ready, began throwing switches that activated the tight-bean transmitter and the 'EM funnel' – a device specifically modified to use the electricity generated by the rampant EM surges to power the transmitter and transmit both audio and visual signals over very long distances.
"It's nine p.m. on the East Coast," Carolyn said, turning on the mil-spec television camera and monitor – the only one of its kind on the base. "They should be ready to pick up our signal.."
She flipped a final switch, and the television screen flickered to life. "Legion Tower, this is Echo Base. How are things out there for you?"
The images jumped, and then resolved into the face of Jodie Landon. Great. The Borg queen. Not exactly who you want to talk to when you want a bit of human interaction. Maybe we should have David go Dark Side – maybe he could communicate with her.
Jodie's image was impassive. "I'm sorry that you have to talk to me, Lieutenant Field. I assure you I'm only here because this happens to be my shift on monitor duty. Mack should be here at any moment – then, you can have a conversation filled with the tedious and meaningless effluvia that all of you insist upon sharing during valuable airtime, instead of simply passing along just necessary information."
Carolyn blinked hard. Wow. She's gotten even more standoffish – and more observant - than before.
"If that's the case – could you hum the 'theme from 'Jeopardy?' until we can speak to a real, live operator?"
Carolyn turned, her face registering absolute shock, and Jodie actually drew back from the screen at Maryann's sharp comment. "The Legion Leader is here," she said without preamble, stepping away from the screen as Mack Mackenzie sat down in front of the screen.
Carolyn shot a harsh look at her teammate before speaking. "Mack – please tell Landon that Maryann's sorry-"
Mack shrugged it off. "If you do that, she'll see it as a sign of hypocrisy and weakness. Maryann – that might have been a bit cold, but it was funny."
Maryann smiled, and Carolyn gave her a cool stare. Stop flirting with every damn guy you see. "We're sending you our latest intel on hostile activities in our area, as well as some data on the metahuman encounters we've had."
Mack's face registered concern. "Still no metahuman attacks?"
"Not since just before winter set in – a group of elementals. Strictly small-timers – a bunch of teenagers trying to survive and get something to eat. We swatted their behinds, fed them, put them to work and got them back in classes. All they really wanted was a place to feel safe."
"David Allen got to them before Robinson and Nogura, hmn? Bet she wasn't happy about not getting the chance to slap somebody around."
"Oh, she gets plenty of workout time. Rafael's got her and some of our other people running sweeps on Conservative hideouts on the Indiana/Ohio border – and three days ago, a large caravan of traders coming in from Southern Illinois was jumped by 'the Flock'. Major attack. If we hadn't had Zoey, Fabian and Maryann out there with some new recruits for the security garrison on training manouvers, they might have been wiped out."
"Sounds like you guys have problems."
"Those freaks keep trying to infiltrate us – if we didn't have telepaths and a girl with danger-sensing skills, they could do some damage. Just yesterday, we caught three of those bastards trying to do the 'suicide bomber' thing – Lieutenant Mitchell, our danger-sensor? She's also a sniper, and picked them off four hundred yards from the front gates. Each one of them had twenty pounds of C-4 strapped to them – and you know that you can't just get that anywhere... not anymore Someone is supplying those bastards – someone with access to serious pre-Zero Hour tech, and who doesn't like the fact that metahumans are operating openly."
Mack shook his head. "Anti-hero terrorists. Almost makes me glad that we're a magnet for all of the other weirdness and super-baddies looking to make a rep or take over the East Coast."
Carolyn nodded. "Yeah, well, we'll find them and clear them out soon enough. Sooner or later, Rafael's going to stop trying to be civil and ask the Marshals to come in as backup – and send Zoey, Maryann and Fabian out with them. David Allen and Carolyn, too, if he wants to totally wipe them out ."
"I don't see how anyone who's seen Nogura in action would want to tangle with him again," Mack said. "It's like watching Sandi work, but with guns instead of her-"
The room went silent; Maryann and Carolyn both felt sad watching the way Mack leaned back in his chair. "You guys are soldiers – let me ask you something," Mack said, finally able to speak. "Does this feeling... does it ever go away?"
Maryann looked away from the screen; Carolyn thought of the friends she lost in Lubbock, when Central Theatre HQ was wiped out. Good friends from the Academy, like Tainn Reynolds, who she had known since first year, and who she had done her internship year with down in Antarctica... "You want me to tell you the truth, Mackenzie? It never goes away... you just have to tell yourself to keep doing your job, because that's what they taught you to do and that's what your friends would do."
Carolyn shook her head. "It never goes away. It just gets to a point – it gets to where you can live with it."
Mack was quiet for a moment; Maryann cut in. "Hey, Mackenzie. We've got some excellent cooks and bakers here – not to mention that Jeffrey's almost an 'Iron Chef', remember? When's the last time that you and your Legionnaires had a really nice sit-down dinner?"
The Legionnaire drummed his fingers as he thought. "We – we really don't do that around here. I mean – we have decent meals – we're trying to conserve supplies."
"Our trading post helps out with that a lot. How about we send you guys something nice this weekend – some baked chickens, fresh vegetables, dressing and gravy, mulled cider, a few pies – we'll even throw in some packs of orange and apple seeds for Lucas to work with – would you guys like a puppy? There's a few around, and-"
"What would you want in trade?"
Carolyn and Maryann gave each other a sly look, and turned back to the screen. "Before we talk trade... what's the real deal with Morgendorffer and what happened?"
Mack almost laughed. "Which one?"
The look of the two former cadets was one Mack knew he'd treasure. "What do you mean?" Carolyn said. "I thought that there was a big blow-out between Daria, her friend Lane and Tom Sloane – what's up with her sister?"
"Maybe we shouldn't be gossiping..."
Maryann didn't hesitate. "A ten-pound fresh turkey with five pounds of cranberry sauce."
"Twenty pounder, and a sweet potato pie for me."
Maryann blinked hard. "Mackenzie – sweet potatoes and pumpkins are like gold, you just can't find them anywhere you look-"
Mack enjoyed the eager look on Maryann's face, and let the seconds drag on before he spoke. "Mack-!"
"She's dating a girl from the Academy. Well, maybe not dating, but there's definitly some serious spending-of-time together with those two."
"Deal." Maryann said, and Carolyn rolled her eyes. "Details!"
The mercenary known as Red smiled as he looked from the mouth of the makeshift cave, not even flinching as a blistering bolt of lightning danced across his torso and face with enough heat to carbonize the area around him.
They'll be hunkered down tight against this storm. Killer lightning, whiteout conditions, 136 mile-an-hour winds, this freak thundersnow is worse than the one that pinned us down that time in Siberia – what was that little number's name, the one I banged after we got those baby nukes-
Oh, yeah. Oleysa. Jesus, she screwed like a wolverine on coke. I could use a little of that action right now – I always like a nice, tight little piece the night before the game.
He stared off into the distance, such as it was, as lightning flared and thunder boomed through the violently-blowing snow that had turned the night sky death-white, knowing that most of the people in Echo Base, fifty miles distant, were sound asleep. Yeah. Let the kids get their rest. Soon enough, I'm going to stomp them all in the ground – and if the man wants heads, well, I can bring him all he wants.
I hear that they built themselves a castle – a little kiddie fort against all of the bad people out there, so the good people can have a safe place to go. After I trash the kids and give the man their heads, I'll just ask if I can keep the castle, and have my own little kingdom right here.
Red looked back; at the end of the tunnel, fifty yards away, one of his mercenary lieutenants was calling out to him. Better check this out.
The mercenary saluted as Red walked up to him. "Sir – we're about to perform our final equipment checks."
"Good. Make sure the men get a good meal and a solid night's rest. Tommorrow – we're going to kick a lot of U.S. Army ass, and you and your men will get all the spoils you can truck away. Plenty of food, supplies from their trading post, and all the women you could ever want."
The lead mercenary smiled a cold smile; himself a metahuman with the ability to move at superhuman speeds, he had done an earlier covert recon and remembered the women and young girls he'd seen. "Yes, sir. I've got plans for afterwards. We're going to whip up a Number Six - and all of the women who make it through the fight are invited to the dance afterwards."
There's actually a couply that I might just grab beforehand, just to make sure, the lead merc thought, letting his mind wander over some of the more choice females there – like that tiny, brainy blonde from the Academy with the big tits, and that Irish dish with powers just like Tom Sloane. I've got more than enough 'flush' stocked up to grab any meta chick I see, knock her powers down and then screw her into next week Oh, I'm gonna have fun with that Alison Cockrum...
Red looked up at the lead mercenary. "A 'Number Six'?"
"Yeah. Didn't you ever see that movie – 'Blazing Saddles?'" The lead mercenary cleared his throat. "'Well, that's when we come a ridin' into town, a whompin' and a'whupin every living thing that moves within an inch of its life – 'cept the wimminfolk.' 'You spare the women?' 'Hell, no - we rape the shit out of them at the Number Six dance later on!'"
Red turned to the lead mercenary, his smile becoming even broader. "I like the way you think."
12 February 2009