C/PFC Kirian Harper
2114 - 2133
"Service before self"
"Is this who I am?" I wondered, gazing at the headstone before me. But, if that were true, why was I standing here, three years after a marker in a military cemetery claimed I had died? So far, it looked like this journey wouldn't yield any answers.
We had stopped in Raleigh on our way east to find if the town held any more secrets from my past. I'd tried everything from the local high school to the heritage section of the library and the department of records in the city hall. The only information I'd been able to find on Kirian was his, my, name on a few trophies, a couple more pictures in old year books, and now this grave. All that, and I felt no closer to learning anything.
Jaimie slipped her paw into mine. "What now?"
"I don't know, I think we need to get moving again though."
As we traveled further east, I began to notice changes, not just in scenery, but also in my mental state. I discovered that I could begin to remember parts of my past. It began with glimpses of my childhood, but progressively grew until I began remembering events from middle school, learning to ski, my first shooting coach, dancing with an attractive otter at some high school formal. It was an odd feeling. Sometimes, they came to me gradually, like I would expect memories to. Other times they would burst into being, occasionally so forcefully I'd have to pull over and have Jaimie drive.
I didn't know what it all meant, or why it was happening now. Still, always on the very edge of all this was the hint of my recent past, the events prior and leading up to my accident. I just couldn't seem to reach them though. At times, I felt like their presence would drive me mad, tantalizing me with the answers they held, but wouldn't let me know. I was certain that these were the contents of my dreams, only to wake and not know what they had been about. There was one dream I had had multiple times and remembered, though it made no sense, of flying towards a cliff face. I had the feeling that something would happen when I got to it, but I always woke up before that point.
Two days later, as the mountains became visible over the horizon, I decided I would just have to settle for any information I could find here. Among the other things which were troubling me, was my decision to travel to this northeastern range. Sure, I hadn't really had any other place to go, but now we were here, I was constantly questioning the logic of the decision. I didn't know where to begin or even what to look for and I was afraid that I would be letting Jaimie down. My hind sight was telling me we should have stayed in Raleigh.
Maybe I could have found Kirian's parents, or an old teacher. I knew these thoughts were foolish though. The longer we stayed in one place, especially one with such a high military presence, the more likely it was that the JIA would catch up with us again.
"You okay Xavier?"
"Yeah, just worried."
"I don't know, all this, not knowing what I'm doing, you."
"Well, don't. I'll be fine, and even if we don't find anything, we can stay on the move for a while, and then find some place new to settle down."
As the sun set over the desert turning the red dust to shades of violet, we came to a large town at the base of the mountains. Compared to the range back home, these peaks were strange. They were tall, jagged, and sparsely vegetated. One of their biggest differences was the lack of any foothills. Instead, they seemed to simply burst from the vastness of the desert but then again, there was something oddly familiar about them.
I drove through town until I found a hotel which offered covered parking. I immediately found my way to the shower and allowed the hot water to run over me, un-matting my fur and washing off three days of driving grime. I hadn't realized how sore sitting in a car could make you. I finally extricated myself from the steamy interior at the sound of Jaimie pounding on the bathroom door.
That night I found my way to a small pub which the hound at the front desk had recommended due to its abundance of locals who I might be able to learn something from. Jaimie had opted to stay behind and I allowed it on the condition that she keep the door locked and not open it to anyone. The interior was slightly run down and very noisy from the myriad of patrons, but it gave the whole place a close and trusting sense.
"What'll it be newcomer?" the bartender asked over the din.
"Something dark and cold."
I took my drink and picked my way to a small table in the back where the sound of voices was somewhat lessened. A young seagull waitress came by to take my order, but I waved her away while studying the faces of the many individuals who crowded the space. This whole idea is crazy, I told myself for the hundredth time. Leaning back, I sipped the imported beverage, while continuing to passively watch the room. Out of the corner of my eye, I notice an older porcupine who sat alone, watching me. He was wearing a faded black T-shirt and blue jeans. Long sleek hair which surrounded a black face covered his quills. I motioned to him and he obligingly stood up and settled back down at my table.
"You're not from around here are you kit?" he asked in a gruff, but friendly voice.
"No sir," I replied, some part of my mind automatically adding the honorific at the end.
"We don't need that sir b s. Call me Brenan. I won't bother with your name but, 'f you don't mind me askin', what you come this way for? Nothing out here but dessert."
"A few reasons. Looking for answers among other things. I'm not too trusting of people recently though."
"Ah, I see. Well, since that's the case, we'll be direct with each other. How's that sound?"
My silence must have encouraged him to continue.
"Good, now let me make a few assumption. People here think I'm an ol' crazy, but this head's got some sense in it still. I don't mind though, it lets me sit and watch in peace. You can learn a lot about a person, or persons, just by watchin' em. If you know what to look for. You my uncommonly white friend know what to look for. I saw it in your eyes while you were studyin' the room. Now, by the way you hold yourself, I'd say you're a lot stronger than you initially appear. Your movements are controlled, you don't spend an ounce of energy that isn't required. You don't blend in naturally, but I think if you wanted to disappear in a crowd, you could do so quite effectively. I'm guessing you are, or were in the military, probably Special Forces. These facts combined with the knowledge that you're looking for answers tells me that I probably have some of the information you want."
I stared at him indifferently, carefully controlling my expression. This man was to be trusted or feared, and I wasn't sure which it was going to be. I chose to see what he claimed to know before passing judgment. It was a risk, but JIA agents hadn't swarmed in yet, so I guessed they wouldn't be here any time soon even if he was one of them. He didn't have the same feel about him though. He was more relaxed and passive. His observations were stated as if he were making them as he spoke, not reciting memorized information. Of course, it all could be an act to keep me here.
"And what's that?" I asked, not allowing any of my recent thoughts to enter my voice.
"Well, that's going to cost you." he replied, grinning and tapping his glass.
Taking the hint, I flagged the waitress and got Brenan a drink. He accepted it gratefully, took a long swallow before setting it down and turning back to me.
"I'd guess you want to find the bunker."
"Well, that is the question isn't it, seeing as the government denies its existence. That being said, I'd bet a good deal that it's out there in those mountains. You see, rumor has it that the military had a supper bunker up north a ways, built during the Great War. It was 'supposedly' decommissioned, but three years ago, people start seeing this strange plane. They say it would appear in the sky from nowhere and disappear to the north. Not a normal plane either, one of these Air force stealth jobs right. Well, folks don't take much stock in it until last fall when it starts comin' and goin' like nothing else. Then it stops. Just like that, bout four... maybe five months back. No sightings since. My guess is that it had something to do with that old bunker, but don't ask me what. Strange things surround these artifacts from the war, but if you're lookin' for somethin' out of the ordinary, I'd check up there."
"Well, I'm not sure if that's what I'm after, but thanks for the help Brenan. You seem pretty knowledgeable, is there anywhere else you might think to look?"
"Bah, I just notice things, but if you don't find anything up there... I guess I'd do some research on defense contractors, they always have a hand in these things."
"Thanks again. Can I get you another drink?"
"Nah kit. The misses will be expecting me."
He took his leave and I watched as he exited the bar. I was still contemplating what he had said, my glass only half drank when the bartender filled the empty seat.
"Hey stranger. I don't know what you and ol' Crazy Brenan were talking about, but if I were you, I wouldn't take too much stock in his words. His time in the service left him a bit cuckoo."
"He was in the service? Where?"
"I dunno, some intelligence group under the Army. Couldn't tell you much else, but it left him without his sanity."
"Thanks, I'll keep that in mind."
I followed the old Porcupine out of the pub a few minutes later and proceeded back to the hotel. Super bunker up north eh? The period he had told me fit closely into my mental timeline, but not quite perfectly. It was defiantly worth checking out though.
I unlocked the door to the room and stepped inside. Jaimie was asleep so I left the lights off and moved silently in order not to wake her. I sat on the second bed, it's worn springs sinking, and gazed at her prone form. In the end, despite what she had decided and said to me, it wasn't right to bring her into all of this. I would never forgive myself if anything happened to her. Restlessly, I climbed into the bed and tried to fall asleep.
Again, I flew through the air at breakneck speed. I seemed to be descending and a strange jagged mountain range was racing up to me. I was about to impact the rapidly approaching cliff when...
The alarm sounded, waking me from my dream.
Ran into #1. I think he's headed to TC17. Will keep you informed.