Tuesday, August 4, 2009

EYES WITHOUT A FACE

She lay sleeping with her back to him. The big hammock barely swayed under the massive turkey oaks in his backyard. Carl watched the patterns of light through the branches and the occasional falling leaf. He studied the freckles on her shoulder as if he would memorize them. Her hair smelled like sunshine. He drifted off.

***
The stocky man approached the makeshift bed and looked a question at the harried-looking woman in a lab coat.

“He’s not good.” Her manner was as coarse as her appearance “He was in shock when he got here. That’s a through-and through wound we have to irrigate to keep it from becoming septic. Then there’s the problem of plasma. He’s stabilized, but I hope we don’t have to give him any more.”


“Can he talk?” the man ventured.

“He won’t make any sense. I gave him Demerol at first, but I had to stop that when his temperature spiked. Take a good look, John. This is how you macho assholes end up.”


“What about Marcy?” The man looked at the disheveled form sleeping in the chair next to the bed. Her head rested on Carl’s chest.


“She won’t leave him” the woman groused “She’s suffering from exhaustion. I’m tempted to slip her a mickey and put her to sleep for about a week.”

***

“They were Air Force sigint specialists.” The small woman sipped hot coffee as she made her report. “We managed a rappel to the wreck and retrieved these.” She slid two wallets across the rough picnic table. Few would have guessed the petite woman was a world-class mountaineer.


“Air Force?” One of the group questioned as he opened one wallet.


“Yes” said another “The Air Force has taken over all domestic signals intelligence and internet ‘security’” His sardonic emphasis on the word ‘security’ wasn’t lost on the rest.

“Of course the NSA feeds the Air Force all the domestic traffic they can handle as long as the NSA doesn’t get its hands dirty.”


“They were looking for the transmitter” the first man said flatly “so they followed Marcy up here. They just didn’t count on Carl.”


“He may have killed all of us.” the second man spat.


“And he may have bought us a little time. At least the weather cooperated. That snow will cover up the evidence ‘til next spring.”

It snowed the night of Marcy and Carl’s arrival and nightly since. It was a two-edged sword. It helped bury latent heat signatures, but it also made a high-contrast background for new infra red targets. It made moving around difficult, even physically.

“Move the transmitter again.” It was clear this man was in charge. “They can’t seem to lock on it. That’s why they sent spooks up here.” He looked at the woman. “Good work, Helen.”

The petite woman flashed the kind of smile that broke up marriages.
***

“Alright, honey. Its time you got some sleep.” The gruff surgeon lifted Marcy out of the chair and led her to a makeshift door. “Let me have your shirt”. Marcy was too tired to fight. She lifted the sweater over her head and shivered quietly. She had no reaction to the surgeon’s quick swab and injection. “And honey, before you come near my patient again, you’ll bathe.” Someone drew a sheet over Marcy’s shoulders. It’s the last thing she would remember for the next 12 hours.



***

220 miles above the mine, a school-bus-sized Lacrosse reconnaissance satellite energized its radar. Its synthetic aperture focused on a small area of the surface below resolving images down to 3 feet. The satellite
completed its orientation maneuver and the analysis at the National Reconnaissance Office began.

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