Three days later, Deol surveyed carnage of a different sort. She adjusted her face mask. The heat of the Tamil afternoon wasn’t helping with the smell of decay and blood. She stepped over a body as the United Nations observer caught up with her.
“Ugh…how many bodies are there?” Major Jeffery Kaspinsky was clearly more accustomed to desk jobs.
The captain looked around at the American. She found his presence annoying at best. “Forty-three. There’s another twenty-six in the hospital. You could have waited at the station.”
Kaspinsky shook his head. “I’m an observer. I need to observe, not just hear reports – especially biased reports.”
She shrugged. “Suit yourself.” She tried to decide which she found more grating, his clipped Yankee accent or his American self-importance. She let the silence hang between them, curious to see how long the American would tolerate it. She counted to thirteen.
“Well, let’s head back to the hotel. Wasn’t the lieutenant going to meet us there? What was her name again?”
“Lt. Nila Amra. Fine. Let’s go.” She deliberately picked a long path through the bodies.
Kaspinsky followed. “So, are you seeing anyone?”
She pointedly tapped her visor, causing it to darken. She walked briskly to the modern high rise hotel. It was constructed using new light-weight materials that were strong enough to resist earthquakes. The materials also allowed for whimsical designs. This one twisted skyward in multi-colored spirals.
They entered the hotel restaurant where Lt. Amra was waiting for them. “I’ve secured a private booth for us.” She glanced suspiciously at the American then added, “I’ve confirmed the gunman’s identity. It was Corporal Chandra.” She scowled, then coughed into the pressed edges of her military sleeve. “I’m sorry.”
Captain Deol sighed as she removed her mask and visor. She looked grim. Part of her wondered if Amra was sorry that it was Chandra or because she was coughing. “That’s the fifth member of the Regiment to commit an atrocity.” She regarded Amra. “Have you been to a doctor for that cough yet?”
Amra shrugged it off. “Just a cold. Too much time in the rain.”
Kaspinsky activated the sound-dampening field that made the booth private. It was typically rented by clandestine lovers or businessmen negotiating contracts. He drummed his fingers impatiently on the table while the two women sat down and tea was served by the waiter.
The captain turned on her recorder and started her official report.
Location : Manali, Tamil Nadu.
Date : 15 Ashadha, 2359
Kaspinsky interjected, “That’s July 6, 2437 in the West. Uh, this will be going to the UN, right?”
Deol frowned as she paused her recorder. “And the US as well, yes? Shall I continue my report or do you wish to dictate it?”
Kaspinsky waved her off. “Please, continue. Just include Western dates so as to avoid confusion.”
Amra blew her nose louder than necessary. She looked at the other two innocently.
Deol suppressed the urge to roll her eyes and resumed her recording.
Sixty-eight civs shot, forty-two civs and shooter are dead. Gunman shot by on-site police. The pattern of bodies suggests the gunman was following a path similar to that of the Mandalay Offensive of 2351 when Corporal Lara Chandra of RoJ Reg cleared a path between drop point and enemy comm center. In this case, the gunman moved between apt complex to local broadcasting building. Each victim shot once, indicative of a master marksman. The motive for the killings is unknown. Given the pattern of shootings, it’s possible it was a post-traumatic stress induced flashback. Her identity has been confirmed as the same Cpl Chandra.
Kaspinsky said, “Perhaps it’s time you told me exactly what the Rani of Jhansi Regiment is.”
Amra scowled at him. “We told you; it’s an all-female regiment of the National Army.”
He ignored Amra and focused on Deol. “And?”
The captain watched the handful of other people in the lobby, mostly family members of the shooting victims waiting to identify and claim the bodies. She nodded and cut off Amra’s objections. “Stand down, Lieutenant. We’re under orders to cooperate as needed.”
Amra clenched her jaw and looked away.
Deol continued, “The Jhansi unit were genetically altered to improve battle skills. They used retro-viruses to turn on certain traits and to introduce new code for others.”
Kaspinsky grimaced. “The UN specifically forbids…”
Deol slammed her fist on the table. “It was necessary to stop the Chinese and you know it. Your government helped fund the research. Don’t pretend you have the moral high ground here, Major.”
He bit his lip, then leaned back, feigning relaxation. “Fair enough. What sorts of modifications?”
She mirrored his posture. “My reflexes are three times faster than yours, I can see in infra-red, my hearing is far superior to yours. That’s the stuff I can talk about.”
Kaspinsky nodded. “That explains the vertical pupils. But why do this to women?”
Amra snorted. “We aren’t pampered creatures like those in America. We can’t afford such luxuries.”
He glared at her. “Women in America aren’t pampered pets. They are equals…”
Deol raised a hand. “Save it. Your laws on equality are a few hundred years old but your culture has made them practically irrelevant. To answer your question, most of the volunteers for the project were women. It also helps that it’s easier to track the offspring. It isn’t yet known if our modifications will be inherited. It can be difficult to track where a man has…been.”
Kaspinsky colored slightly. “Point. So why are these women suddenly turning into killers?”
Deol shook her head. “We don’t know. We suspect the Chinese have developed a retro-virus of their own to counteract what they perceive as a weapon.”
Amra held up a microchip. “I have blood and tissue samples from Chandra. Shall I send them to the lab in Mumbai?”
“Keep a set to take with us. We’re going to visit Dr. Donald McGillivray, one of the developers. Maybe he can help.”
Kaspinsky asked, “Where are we going?”
Deol raised an eyebrow. “Lt Amra and I are going to Pandukeshwar in the morning. I suppose you can come along.”
“Doesn’t Captain Sita Bipen live in Pandukeshwar?” Amra asked.
Deol hesitated. “I believe she does.” She brought up Capt Bipen’s file on her virtual monitor. “Her mobile platform exploded when it hit a mine during the battle of Chengdu fifteen years ago. It was twenty-three minutes before the medics reached her. She has no memory of anything before waking up in the hospital three weeks later.”
Kaspinsky speculated, “So she could have been exposed to this counter-virus.”
She allowed, “Bipen is on the sleeper watch list, yes.”
He nodded. “Then to Pandukeshwar we go. maybe we can stop the next slaughter before it occurs.”
Deol said nothing as she turned off the monitor and the privacy shield.
to be continued
copyright 2011, Kimberley Long-Ewing, all rights reserved