The Unbroken Circle Chapter 3This is a featured page

Colonel Derek Reese watched with clear satisfaction as the throng of humanity surged through the tunnel.The refugees rescued from the prison convoy were first, some still with haunted looks of fear, others with tears of joy and relief streaking their cheeks as they grasped that were really free of their metal tormentors. Behind the refugees came the troops that had carried out the surprise attack-rifles slung over their shoulders,expressions of grim satisfaction on their faces.In their midst Derek saw his brother walking briskly toward him.

Derek snapped a salute at Kyle. "Well done Major Reese."

"Thank you Colonel Reese." Kyle's voice dripped with an affectionate sarcasm. His tone dropped as he edged closer to his brother. "Derek, you've got to talk to him. He won't listen to me."

Derek shook his head ruefully. "So what did our boy Napoleon do this time?"

"It's not funny anymore Derek. He fights like he either wants to die or doesn't care if he does."

"So what happened?"

"We had just wrapped up the rescue and were starting to move out when a Triple-8 came out of the darkness on our left. They would have messed us up bad except..."

"Except?"

"Without even waiting for my order Johnny shifted his company up into a covering position. Hell, it was like he was moving even before the Triple-8s showed up...like he was anticipating them. His company broke their first attack and then covered our retreat.

"Sounds like he did a good job as usual," Derek said.

"No." Kyle's voice was filled with a frustrated exasperation. "That's not all. His company was moving backward leapfrogging in a perfect retrograde maneuver. I was watching through my night glasses and I could see him positioning his men, pushing troopers under cover. But Derek, he never ducked or dodged or took cover himself. Shells exploding everywhere and it was like he was strolling in the park. He is going to get himself killed."

As Derek shook his head in dismay, Kyle considered and then decided against telling his brother one of the last things he had seen. Derek would think he was crazy. Maybe he had just imagined it. But he could see that rocket streaking toward Johnny as he turned his back disdainfully and was walking away from his last position. Just before it hit, a sheet of gleaming silver seemed to pop up from the ground and shield him from the explosion. Kyle struggled with the memory. Maybe the rocket had just exploded prematurely. Maybe the kid really did have a guardian angel. But luck or good fortune couldn't last forever.

A new burst of voices echoed down the tunnel. The last troopers from the raid were coming in, J company...John Connor's company. Kyle and Derek watched as the troopers swung into view. These soldiers walked with a confident swagger noticeably different from any of the other resistance fighters. They carried their weapons in their hands rather than slung over their shoulders. They looked as if the were ready to go back into battle in the blink of an eye.

Recognizing the top two battalion officers, the company stamped to a halt. Abruptly a voice from the back of the column rang out. "Captain's coming. Make a hole."

As if reenacting the parting of the Red Sea a corridor opened as men jammed themselves against the tunnel walls. A young man came striding purposefully down the corridor stopping here and there to pat a soldier on the arm or to make a quick comment.

Over to the side a soldier whispered to one of the rescued refugees. "That's Connor. First on the battlefield, last off as usual."

Derek tried to recall the half naked boy who had appeared so mysteriously in the tunnels three years ago. There was still something of him left but now it was covered by the hard veneer of manhood. He was taller now, better muscled and carried a scar that ran down his left cheek. Derek remembered joking that the boy who seemed surprised that no one knew his name would be famous someday. That casual remark now felt more like a prediction than a joke.

Captain John Connor reached the head of his company and snapped to attention. "Company J reporting in Colonel." John's face gleamed with a wolfish grin.

Before Derek could respond a voice from the column shouted out "We're Connor's Cougars.We eat lightning and crap thunder!" In perfect unison the entire company roared out "HOO HAH."

Both Kyle and Derek struggled to restrain the urge to smile. "Very good Captain. Glad to see you back. Any losses in your company?"

A trooper standing behind John couldn't restrain himself. "Colonel, the Cougars don't suffer losses. We inflict them." John turned his head to glare with mock severity at the trooper who immediately looked chastened. "Sorry sir."

"If I may interrupt,Captain Connor." Derek was fighting the urge to grin.

"Of course, sir."

"I would like to have a word with you...in private."

"Sir, my men have been on the move for more than twelve hours. May I have a few minutes to see to their quartering?"

Derek could read the expressions on the Company J troopers. The Captain always put their welfare ahead of everything else.

"All right Captain. Half an hour and I want you back here."

"Absolutely, Colonel Reese."

Derek turned toward his brother as Connor led his men off down the tunnel. "I'll talk to him Kyle. I'll make the speech about the difference between courage and recklessness but it's not going to do any good."

Kyle Reese suddenly felt overcome by a deep fatigue and an even deeper sadness. "I know Derek, I know. But dammit I love that kid."

"He's not a kid Kyle, not anymore. And I love him too. But he is a combat officer, maybe the best I have ever seen, and he is going to do what he is going to do."

"Even if it kills him," Kyle said.





talli
talli
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