11. To Serve and Protect

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Lieutenant Marty ‘Buck’ McDonnell stood at one end of the briefing room and placed his mug on a nearby table. The rest of the Peacekeepers sat in front of him, waiting. There were a dozen of them now, and some he knew better than others.

‘First off, I guess I should apologize about the coffee. Until we find some more, we have to ration - so it’s pretty damn weak.’

‘Still better than what we get in the Guard,’ said Bolt, with her slight Russian accent. Corporal Karina Ivanova. Buck was making an effort to remember his compatriots’ full names as well as their nicknames. The Peacekeepers needed to become a tight-knit, focused group. A family, of sorts.

‘Or the Bureau,’ added Pai. Special Agent Luksukhon Tongsukum. ‘Can we get going?’

‘Of course,’ said Buck. ‘I think it’s pretty safe to say we’ve had an … interesting few weeks. We’ve all had our own personal challenges to overcome but we now find ourselves here together. And while we have similar backgrounds, I thought it might be good to share our reasons for remaining in the city. It occurred to me that if we talk about why we’re here, it’ll be easier to plan what we do next. I guess I can go first. SL is my city. It’s a long way from perfect – a long way – but I felt it was my duty to stay. I miss my family, but I wanted to do the right thing. I was prepared to do it on my own but I’ll admit I’m much happier to have some like-minded people with me.’

‘Same here.’ That was all Flash had to say, which was fine with Buck.  Veteran detective Jim Taylor was a man of few words but everyone listened when he spoke.

Pai was next to contribute: ‘We have the right skills. And we’ve all sworn an oath.’

‘Quite so,’ said Lance. As usual, Sergeant Felix Chevalier was immaculately attired in his cavalry uniform. ‘And while my oath was to my native Canada, I am still determined to do my bit.’

‘If we don’t do it, who will?’ stated Bolt.  

Nix – Specialist J.C. Reyes – was cleaning one of his many knives. ‘All very touching. But what exactly are we going to do?’    

Buck thought it best to lead the way. ‘With the weapons and ammunition we gathered from Forest Heights plus Flash’s drone and the rest of our gear, we’re in decent shape. From what I’ve observed and from what you’ve all told me, there aren’t many people left in the city on their own. It’s probable that those who haven’t been taken out by CyMS have gravitated to groups of varying kinds. As Flash explained to us yesterday, one of those groups is the Red Dragons - and they are very much in our neighborhood.’

‘There’s also these prepper guys we keep running into,’ added Pai. ‘Not sure what they call themselves.’

Lance spoke up again. ‘Where possible, we need to open dialogue; cooperate where we can.’

‘Easier said than done,’ muttered Flash.

‘Regardless,’ continued Buck, ‘if there is anyone out there we can still help, we will. Also, we can take every opportunity to engage and eliminate dangerous CyMS. We’ve been all been through the moral arguments but the fact is that these … things are now our enemy.’

‘Everything might change if we can make contact with the outside.’ Pai turned to face the group. ‘We can do our jobs, sure, but we also need to work out what the hell is going on.’

Bolt replied: ‘You mean this barrier thing at the edge of the city?’

‘Exactly,’ said Pai. ‘Just another in a long list of unanswered questions.’

‘Fair enough,’ said Lance, ‘but I agree with what you said earlier, Agent Tongsukum - we are a special group and we have a duty to use all our experience and expertise to assist the populace and maintain law and order.’

Buck liked what he heard and it seemed most of the others did too.

Nix was harder to read. He was still cleaning his knife.

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