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Hinotomi, Damon, Jerry, Vic Spencer, and General Marshal were called to the meeting room in SkyRise Industries. It was a regular square room with a second story street-level view. The room had a rhombus-shaped meeting table, with touch screen pads at each seat. They arrived early and waited for the person who called the meeting.
“I wonder what the meeting is about,” Damon asked.
“It is coming close to quarterly reviews,” Hinotomi said. “It could be for that. We have not done too well in that regard as of recently.”
“Yeah, this has all the signs of bad news,” Jerry said.
“It came from someone above me,” General Marshal said. “Means this has something to do with our DOD work.”
“It wasn’t an email that I recognized,” Jerry said.
“Or a name for that matter,” Damon added.
Hinotomi pulled out her phone and went to the email. “It’s from someone named Marcus Benvise.”
“Never heard of him,” Damon said.
“I didn’t get anything from any Army buds still in DC,” Marshal said.
“So, you looked him up?” Damon asked.
“I asked around some,” Marshal said. “You didn’t?”
“Who would I ask?” Damon said. He turned to Hinotomi. “Did you hear of this Marcus Benvise guy?” She shrugged. “See, who else am I supposed to ask? I’ve been here working on UDC stuff this whole time.”
“Don’t say ‘stuff’ it makes you look like you don’t know what to say,” Marshal said.
Damon marched over to Marshal. He stood taller than him but could still be taken down in seconds by him. “I’ll say whatever I damn well want to say considering it’s my daughter out there fighting for her life to save us!”
“No one asked you or your daughter to do that,” Marshal said.
“She volunteered,” Jerry said.
“That solves everything,” Marshal said. “Children should not be fighting our fight.” He puffed his chest out.
Hinotomi stepped between the two men. “No one is disagreeing with each other. Things are the way they are now. My father is training her. She’ll do fine.”
“Just because she can fight doesn’t mean she should,” Marshal said.
“This is not a good look at all,” Jerry said.
“You are right Mr. Saucher,” said an unfamiliar voice. Everyone turned to look and see a young man, skinny, with a sunken face, and messy blond hair. He had a brown leather suitcase in his right hand. “Hello, my name is Secretary Marcus Benvise. I’m your new contact with anyone that matters.”
“You’re a kid,” Marshal said.
Benvise opened the door to the meeting room. “You better sit down. We have many things to go over.” He entered the room and strode over to the podium, laid his briefcase on it, removed a palm-sized hard drive, and plugged it into the computer.
The five each took a seat at the table. Damon and Hinotomi looked at each other. Marshal sat down and raised the seat up. Jerry sat down and adjusted his suit. “What is your background?” Hinotomi asked.
Marcus set up the computer and clicked the projector alive. “Intelligence,” he said. “You can call me Marc, Marcus, Ben, Mr. Benvise, Captain Benvise. That is all you need to know.” He took out a clicker and plugged it into the USB outlet. The screen faded to life and showed a chart of the UDC attacks. It started low, with slow increases and plateaus until recently where there was a large spike, dropped down, then had a large increase of recent. “I don’t like this chart,” he said. He tapped the clicker on the desk.
“There is only so much we can do,” Damon said. “We don’t control when they come through to attack us. Just that they do.”
“I’m not blaming you,” Benvise said. “I’m just stating a personal feeling. How has our operative been?”
“Dieous?” Jerry asked.
“Yes, D13OUS. How is she doing?”
“She took out five of them last night,” Hinotomi said.
“Yes, I see.” Benvise clicked and the graph zoomed in on the recent activity. “This has been common as of a week ago. The UDCs have increased the number that have come through. This seems dangerous from what our source has told us.”
“He, our sources, says that they have been conservative with the barrier,” Damon said. “They don’t know how hard they push to break it, so they stayed under to make sure it doesn’t.”
“I see,” Benvise said. “Why are they constantly increasing their numbers? What are they gaining by doing this?”
“Kidnap more people,” Hinotomi said.
“Why? Why would they need to increase their kidnappings? They are stressing the barrier by doing this when they could just send that Colonel Herreas to take us out no problem.”
“It’s possible he was hurt and had been healing,” Marshal said. “Getting more food to build up strength.”
“Unlikely, he crushed D13OUS when they last fought. What can that boy they kidnapped tell us?”
“He doesn’t remember anything,” Damon said.
“Yeah, Kyane has talked to him and hung out with him multiple times and said he doesn’t remember anything of his time over there,” Hinotomi said.
Benvise nodded. “I see, I see. So, we don’t have anything good to work on? No positives to look forward to. No proactive problems to solve?”
“Right now, fighting as they come has been the idea,” Jerry said. “We can’t predict where portals will open, and we won’t gentrify neighborhoods too…” Jerry knew where Benvise was going. “No, you wouldn’t.”
“What?” Damon asked.
Hinotomi’s eyes widened. “He wants to,” she said.
“You want us to evacuate the city, and lock it down,” Marshal said.
“No!” Damon said! He pounded the table. “That’s not happening.”
“Why?” Benvise moved away from the podium. “Sure, there have been some small kidnappings here and there we can sweep up, nothing bad. But if this escalation continues, we will not be able to continue this operation.” He clicked and the screen showed a prediction ending with upwards for 20 coming in at a time. “Soon the few we have been sacrificing for will become the many.” He put his hand on his chest. “I don’t want that to happen, no one does.
“I’m only here to say that I hope you are working hard on finding a way to win, because if we can’t,” he pointed to the screen, “I’ll make sure that they can’t.”
The room sat, bathed in the meaning of those words.
“How do I look?” Kyane swung open the door to her dressing room. She wore an electric blue dress, with halter neckline, thin straps, black beaded waist, slit down the side to show off her toned leg, and detailed interwoven straps on the back connected by a zipper.
Jamie looked up from his laptop. “You… you ah… you look fine I guess,” he said.
Kyane checked herself out in the mirrors. She flexed her muscles. “Fine and I guess are not what I’m looking for here, Jamie.”
“Shouldn’t you know what looks good?”
“Do I look like a girly girl?”
“Outside of this outfit.”
“See!” Kyane said. “Also, crippling body issues.”
“You don’t have that. Or… at least… at least shouldn’t.” He paused and stared at his screen. “Why did you ask me to come with you?”
“Thank you?” Kyane said. “Well my mom is extra busy at work, and you have been around Desmond long enough to know stuff he likes. Also, you’re all detached and stuff.”
“No, I mean like good at looking outside what you’re supposed to.” She saw Jamie nod. She turned back to Jamie. “Do you think Desmond would like it?”
“Do you like it?”
“Yeah, I do,” she said.
Jamie stood up. “Buy it then.”
“Okay, okay.” Kyane went back into the dressing room and changed into her civies and walked out with the dress on the hanger. She paid at the register with Damon’s credit card. “I hate to ask, but the one Desmond would like would have been the pink short-skirt, dress thing wouldn’t it?”
“Yes, it would have,” Jamie said. “But I mean he’s trying not to be such a… such a…”
“Boy,” she said. They made their way over to the shoe department. “He has made himself sound like he was kind of a player before.”
“Oh, he was. He told me you made him want to change.”
“Why?” They got to the dress shoes.
“I don’t know… he didn’t say why.” Jamie moved and looked at some high heels. “He probably doesn’t know why himself.” He picked up one of the display heels. “Are you going to wear heels?”
Kyane laughed. “Have you ever worn heels?”
“Have… have you?” he asked. He put the heel down.
“Actually yes.” She picked up some black display flats. “I want to be comfortable, and am confident in my height, or lack of. Whichever really.”
Jamie examined a stack of tennis shoes. “You should get clogs. It would make one hell of a dance.”
Kyane sat down and tried her flats on and walked around the shoe area a bit. “I can’t tell when you’re joking and when you’re serious sometimes.”
“That was a joke,” Jamie said.
“I’m glad those guys that jumped you and put you in the hospital didn’t dampen your sense of humor.” She took the shoes off and went to pay for them. “Do you remember anything about what happened?”
Jamie moved to meet her at the register. “Just those guys in raptor suits jumping me is all. Next thing I wake up and am in the hospital.”
“Are you scared?” Kyane asked. They walked out of the store. “Like, of them coming back.”
“No,” he said, like he actually had a planned response. “I know someone is out there to stop them.”
“I hope so,” Kyane said. She looked over the clothes and shoes she just bought. She needed to strategize how she would wear her armor pieces with her ensemble.