Where strange fact and stranger fiction collide
This is a story I wrote for a writing project a few years back. The concept was that the cold war ended with world war III. Earth was no longer habitable, but a select group from both sides escaped to the stars and continued their covert war in space.
Elite agents on both sides were called Comets.
This was the introduction of my primary character Virginia Dare. A James Bond for the Twenty-First Century. Deadly and self assured, her primary weapon was her words.
It was a good project but real life got in the way and we only were able to write a few stories. Honestly I pulled it out because I was running out of things to post but as I re-read it I remember why I liked Ginny and the whole ‘Rouge Comet’ universe and maybe I will write some more down the road.
SIS Head Quarters
Armstrong City, Luna
06:00 Hours Zulu
Heather Lee was dead, and Virginia Dare was dying.
Not like Tony, who had physically died, under the surface of the frozen seas of Europa. None the less she was slowly dying from the inside.
Heather Lee, Virginia hadn’t thought about the girl she had been for most of her life, in years. The mousey little girl who was too smart for her on good, but not smart enough when it came to her heart or her own needs. She was a far cry from the passionate and strong woman Virginia had become. And with any luck would be again.
It was Zulu shift, the last shift of the night. The SIS office building at Armstrong was almost as empty as the dearly departed planet Earth. No one else was working in the ops room besides Virginia. The SIS brass had given her make work to do. Translating taped transmissions between some Russian general and his mistress. It was a job a computer could do just as well. Arguably she could pick up on nuances and innuendo that might have a hidden significance, that an analytical program could not, but, it was make work none the less. Over the last six hours she had learned plenty about the general’s kinks, but nothing of any practical intelligence significance.
Her mind began to wander. And that damned picture of Tony sitting next to her monitor wasn’t helping any. She hit the pause button on her desk counsel and took off her ear phones. Virginia locked up her work station before she left, just like she had been trained. She needed a smoke break. She wasn’t supposed to take her break for another forty five minutes, but what were they going to do? Reprimand her and banish her from the action again?
Knowing that almost no one else would be in the building, Virginia had worn only a light pink spider silk tee-shirt, a Pair of black woman’s Levis and sandals. She also had added a light bit of make up. Eye liner and lipstick with a little foundation, even though she knew almost no one would see her. “Vanity your name is Virginia,” she chided herself.
A single UN Marine guard was at the corridor’s intersection. He nodded curtly and glanced at the ID that hung from a lanyard around her neck “Evening Ma’am.”
Ma’am? Virginia thought. Who the bloody hell does he think that I am, my mum? She walked by him briskly not even looking up to see if he was attractive or not.
At the end of the corridor she reached the third floor’s smoking room. It was across from the gym, an irony not lost on Virginia.
The clean white smoking room with its leather couches and piped in classical music, was empty. She flopped down in one of the comfortable couches, and placed her pursue on the table, and began to dig through it. She pulled out a half smoked pack of cigarettes and a lighter. Lighting up she took a deep drag, and then sunk deeper in to the over stuffed couch.
How had her life turned out this way? How had the girl who had been born Heather Lee, become this woman who, now stared blankly back at her from the smoking room’s mirror.
Heather Lee had been a good girl, a nice girl. She was also incredibly boring and far too eager to please others. She was born on the lunar colony of Armstrong. Her parents had been part of the exodus, of survivors that had escaped into space, after mankind had irradiated its home world.
She’d been very smart, but not particularly focused. She got good, but not superb grades. She bought the same type of outfits that the other girl’s did. She listened to the same type of music the other girls listened to. She took the mild drugs that the other girls did, and she quit the drugs when the other girls quit them. She also lost her virginity when the other girls did. She graduated with better grades than most her clique, but not because she had tried to.
She met Mel, “Always Mel never Melvin” Crook, during her first semester at Luna University. She broke up with him just prior to graduation. She would have married him too. Not out of any love for the guy, but because she thought that’s what he wanted and she had already invested four years in him. She figured she would teach until the children came along and then hope that Mel would be making the kind of money he had always said he would, so he could support them without her having to work.
Then during Heather’s last semester of her undergraduate career, her life fell apart. First her parent’s where killed in a shuttle accident. None of her parent’s siblings survived the war on Earth, and she was an only child. She no longer had any living family anywhere in the solar system. Devastated she only survived because of the support of Mel.
Then a week before graduation, she came home to the on-campus flat, she shared with Mel and found an envelope on the dinning room table with photos of Mel and her best friend Lara Gale making love.
In an uncharacteristic act of defiance she tracked Mel down at his part time job and slapped him in the face telling him to pack his things and go.
So, the day after graduation, there she was, with no family, no lover, no job prospects, and she would have to leave her flat on campus with in forty-eight hours. Then he showed up.
Who was he? Even now Virginia didn’t know for sure. What he was though was a recruiter for the SIS. He offered a chance to move to Titan, to attend tuition free the University of New Oxford, to get her masters degree in applied linguistics but also to train to be a covert agent.
With nothing else to choose from, Heather jumped at the chance. She left her apartment full of her things and boarded to a transport to Saturn’s moon, and began a new life in the city of New London.
Heather had ceased to exist, and Virginia Dare was born.
As Virginia she could be all the things she could never be as Heather. Strong, sexy, confident, assertive and powerful.
If some how Heather’s parents could have been resurrected, they would not have recognized the woman she had become. It was not the minimal reconstructive facial surgery or the radically different haircut as much as it was the change in her personality and attitude.
Her new persona was the person she always wanted to be. She even spoke differently. Gone was the Midwestern twang of her parents. She had replaced it with a sharp educated English accent. It not only conveyed an air of sophistication and education but also brought men to their knees. As Virginia studied linguistics during the day she learned the tools of the spy trade at night. Two years of intensive physical, intellectual and emotional training.
She learned to kill a man with a gun, she learned how to kill a man with explosives, she had learned to kill a man with a knife, and she learned how to kill a man with her bare hands. She learned how to kill a man with her voice,
Her voice. As a student of linguistics, she knew words were important, that they could conceal hidden meanings and that they could do damage. Now however she had learned that the deadliest of all weapons was the female voice. Men where hardwired to listen to women. They had been trained to obey the female voice. Trained by their mothers, by their wives, by their lovers and even by their daughters. There was a reason why when a space transport suffered a catastrophic hull breach, the automated system that guided the survivors to safety was always a woman’s voice, Society had subconsciously trained men to obey and follow a woman’s voice.
Virginia had learned how to modulate her voice. She had been trained to know what tones and words men associated with the lovers of their imaginations and could make a man forget his wife and his morals. She discovered what verbal nuances they associated with displeasing their mothers, making them fear rejection. She now knew what sounds they associated with harmless little girls.
She had become one of the new bread of covert operatives, a Comet. An agent comfortable with the high technology of the high frontier, someone who could easily blend in with the huddling masses that had fled the cracked egg that was the Earth. Some one who was dedicated and strong enough to resist an enemy of equal tenacity. Like their namesakes they burned with a magnificent glory, but were in fact really as cold as ice,
She also discovered that she did indeed believe in what she had been called to do and in the cause that she was potentially laying her life down for. It was more than just the standard indoctrination. She began to see that she was engaged in a holy crusade. The Red Menace may be overstated in the propaganda films, but it was real. She learned to cherish the values of democracy, freed trade and personal freedom.
Unfortunately she also discovered that some of her so called superiors were more concerned with lining their pockets and satisfying their egos than making the solar system safe for democracy. She also found that the SIS had its share of political appointees, who did their damndest to fulfill Peter’s beloved principle, by rising to the level of their incompetence.
More than once she had used her deadly voice, on a superior who thought he knew more about field work than she did, when he obviously didn’t. Or they had thought that they were entitled to treat her disrespectfully because of her gender. Her willingness to verbally challenge her superiors had created quite a few enemies, in the middle ranks of the SIS management. More importantly it cost her some potentially valuable allies.
For six years Virginia rose in the ranks of the SIS. She had completed quite a few successful missions, varying from assassinations, courier missions, extractions of defectors, and surveillance. Then a year ago she was partnered with Tony Crowe.
The timer bell rang, bringing Virginia back to the present. Some bureaucrat had come up with the brilliant idea of the timer bell. It went of if a person was in the smoking room longer than fifteen minutes, as a way to keep employees from extending their break time. Virginia discarded her nearly finished cig in the disposal container, and lit another one. The bell had become silent but she looked in the general direction of where it went of and barked “Sod off!”
She began to think of Tony again. She had taken many lovers since she had become Virginia, but until Tony she hadn’t really been passionately head over heals in love and hadn’t a real relationship since,‘Mel never Melvin.” Of course there were regulations about agents fraternizing amongst themselves. But their overlords, pretty much turned a blind eye as long as they got results during their missions.
Then everything changed during the mission on Europa.
It was a cluster sod from the beginning.
The top brass of course claimed it would be cake walk. Sure it was a cake walk to them, it was not their asses that were hanging out deep below the frigid oceans of Europa.
Tony of course spotted the problems in the mission right away. Tony! Even six months after his death to think about him caused her body to react like it did when he was alive and they were together.
The mission was on the surface a simple smash and grab. The target was called by the Reds, Submersible Factory XXIII. A domed enclosure on the bottom of the ocean floor on the moon Europa. It was being used to create a new type of chemical weapon, that the Ruskies innocuously named PURPLE. Swim in grab the goods and swim out. Peace of cake. Right?
Tony was right. The problem with the op was twofold. First, evacuation. There was not enough back up. If they were compromised. A single Thresher class stealth sub would not be able to evade what the Reds would throw out to intercept them, and get the team off to safety.
The other problem was the newbie. John Greenwich. On paper he was more than an adequate hacker. He should be able to crack the Sov’s defensive protections in no time flat, and retrieve the PURPLE data files. But this was his first field assignment. Virginia took one look at him and knew if someone hadn’t fudge his PT scores to pass him, well then she was the bloody Secretary General.
The scuttlebutt was that he irked off some SIS director or another because Greenwich had dared to date his daughter.
As they rendezvoused for their covert tryst, before their transport left Titan for Europa, Tony, explained he had tried to get Greenwich’s fat ass bumped of the mission, to no avail. But he had gotten a bud, Mike Kensett, to oversee the op from the stealth sub. Tony had saved Kensett’s life and he owed Crowe. So he could be counted on not to just bail on them if things went south.
The incretion was the easy part. Even the plump Greenwich, was able to smoothly swim from the sub to the underwater base. First Tony planted on the outside of the dome a special package. One he had personally whipped up, just incase the bloody crap hammer fell. It was not in the parameters of the mission, but Comets are allowed quite bit of room for improvising as long as they succeed. He then bypassed the domes security protocols, and picked the electronic lock on the bulkhead door to facilities air lock.
Next was Virginia’s part. The SIS had arranged for a glitch in the facilities security cameras, they had been down for the last twenty four hours. The Reds characteristically activated their security protocols. That meant they sent regularly scheduled checks where a guard had to verbally report in at different security stations. If the sentry was over due to report in more than one hundred and twenty seconds, security began to swarm through out the dome.
Secreted in a small alcove, Virginia let the lone guard pass by her. Then stepped out and shot her with a curare tipped dart. Killing her before she hit the ground.
Virginia knew the guard’s name was Corporal Kayta Krinsky. She knew her age was twenty four, and that she had spent the last five years in the military Virginia was aware that Krinsky had married Sergeant Viktor Krinsky. And they had one child Ivan age ten months. Virginia knew how she loved low gravity volleyball and ridding motorcycles.
Virginia had spent the last two weeks studying the intimate parts of the life of the woman she had just killed. Listening to tapped conversations of her talking to her fellow soldiers and to her husband. Reading and re-reading her files. Because now Virginia would become the woman whose life she had just taken.
As Crowe and Greenwich dragged her victims body away. Virginia took the dead woman’s ID card and slipped it in the blast door’s security slot and rushed off to the next check point. Once there she hit the comm, with twenty seconds to spare. The man on the other side of the com-link inquired how little Ivan was doing. Virginia told him in perfect Russian, and in a very goof imitation of the dead woman’s voice, that her baby boy was teething but other than that he was healthy. She then promised the man she would give the boy who she had just made an orphan a kiss good night for him.
Kayta’s route took them right to the main frame that Greenwich was supposed to yank the data out of. She left the two men to their job as she finished the dead sentry’s route.
As soon as she stepped back in the server room, she knew things were bad. Tony Crowe, always the professional, was poker faced, Greenwich was panicking, he was also babbling and sweating profusely. “I told the Ops Director that they would have level six security protocols not level five like he said they would…I can’t do this… Not in the time they have given us…It’s not my fault… I can’t do it in time with the equipment they have given me…it’s not my fault…It’s not!”
Virginia looked at Tony and said “I have completed the rounds but they will notice her missing within ten minutes.” They were supposed to be heading to the airlock by now. Then focusing on Greenwich and selecting a voice that was meant to remind him of his mother soothing but assertive. ”You can this do Luv, but you need to stay focused. They wouldn’t have chosen you if you couldn’t do this. But I need you to stay cool and finish your job.”
That seemed to do the trick. Greenwich seemed to relax and focus on his job. Though still stone faced she knew Tony well enough to know he was not just perturbed at Greenwich but that he was also worried,
Seven minutes latter Greenwich’s face let up like a light bulb, “I got it!” he exclaimed. Unfortunately retrieving the data was not all he did, moments latter he set off an alarm.
Tony was as cool as ever. “I am going to take him to egress point two. I need you to cover our tail. Get me three minutes if you can.” He told Virginia, who responded with a slight nod. Then he did something he had never done before during an actual operation. He kissed her. She knew then and there, he didn’t believe they were going to survive.
They moved to a near by cargo bay, she knew from the plans of the facility reinforcements would most like come through here, using the northern door. The two men headed off, Tony in the lead Greenwich huffing behind. Virginia pulled out her Saturn Industrial Group-Sauer P-228 sidearm with a built in sound suppressor, and took a position behind a pallet of food stuffs, waiting for the ‘fun’ to begin.
Three Red solders ran in to the room as swiftly as they could. The first one went down two rounds hitting him dead center in the chest. The other two began to spray the cargo bay with AK fire. The rounds hit the boxes on the pallet that Virginia took refuge behind. A mist of freeze dried borsch powder hung in the air.
The cargo master at the facility had been either lazy or sloppy. Canisters and palettes where just laid out haphazardly through the cargo bay, literally creating a maze of supplies. Virginia fired a few more rounds off, as she headed through the labyrinth of supplies. It was as if she was daring the guards to follow her. Actually that was exactly what she was doing.
Virginia was a good ten meters ahead of her pursuers. They would let out a burst or two at her as they followed her. Fortunately there where enough curves and turns in her maze of obstacles that allowed her to turn prior to them getting a bead on her. Still running for her life she reached into her satchel pouch on her belt and pulled out an anti-pursuit grenade. She activated it and dropped it behind her. A web of filaments was ejected out of golf ball size ordinance. As soon one of the Sov’s combat boots touched the web an explosion went off.
She could hear her pursuers scream in pain The APG was not designed to kill out right, rather it was meant to wound and maim. Stopping not only those chasing her, but forcing others to stop and help them. A satisfied grin formed on Virginia’s face as she dropped two more of the dangerous orbs, and headed off to meet Tony in the sub bay, using a side door she should not be that far behind the other two.
When Virginia went through the bulkhead’s door she knew immediately what had happened. Tony and Greenwich had been ambushed. Three more guardsmen had been waiting for them. Two of Ivan’s best lay dead, rounds from Tony’s submachine gun had ripped through their bodies. The third, a woman began to advance on Tony’s prostrate form. Virginia had entered from behind the Red, who was so focused on Tony she never saw Virginia enter. A double tap from Dare’s SIG hit the other woman squarely in the back of her head. She died instantly.
Tony was dying, he had moments to live. Greenwich was already dead on the sub bay’s floor.
Virginia bent over her partner’s dying form. “Plan B, babe,” He said with a wry smile. “Get the data and go,”
Virginia was in shock, but this is where all her training and field experience took over. She grabbed the data file off of Greenwich’s corpse. Then returned to her dying lover. She bent over him, as he slipped the denotation device into her hand. She then kissed him one last time. He was dead before her lips left his,
For a moment she wanted to give up. Just let her self be caught or better yet let herself get killed. But she forced herself to continue. Tony’s sacrifice would not be in vain. The whole time since she changed out of the Russian uniform they had operated in armored diving suits, now she secured her helmet and breathing apparatus, and got ready.
She entered the water next to the moored resupply submarines. So when the deluge hit she wouldn’t be smashed flat with the rushing antic cold water. When the first Red entered the submarine bay, she pushed the button on the detonator,
The little surprise that Tony had left on the outside of the facility went off. It was as if Poseidon’s own hand had reached down and rent the roof of the dome over the bay. Air rushed outside, water pored inside. Virginia’s body was expelled out with the rest of the flotsam and jetsam.
Virginia forced herself to go limp as the undersea currents carried her away from the dome. She wanted to break down and cry. “Stop it. You bloody twit.” She scolded herself, “There will be time enough for that latter. Not now you need to concentrate and conserve your breath.”
She began to relax, and breath like she was trained to, rhythmically and using less oxygen than she would normally. Knowing the polymers in her suit would make it extremely difficult for Soviets to locate her with all the debris from the dome, besides the Reds were to busy trying to keep the facility from being completely flooded.
The suit was designed to carry another thirty-six hours of oxygen, but by controlling her breathing, Virginia got it to last almost forty before the sub retrieved her. Tony was right to select Mike Kensett to be the point-man on the pickup. Any one else would have abandoned them to their fate, but not Kensett. She owed, him, and she owed Tony for having the forethought to pick Kensett to lead the recovery team.
The tribunal was opened the day after the transport touched down on Titan.
It was a show trial. It was a bunch of careered bureaucrats that had caused the mission to go south, and they where all scurrying to protect their pensions.
The funny thing was that the mission was a successes. They got the PURPLE data, and they had burned Ivan bad. That was worth the lives of two men, even if one of them was the man Virginia loved, wasn’t it?
But someone had to pay for the screw up that had left the two men dead and shattered the pretense that civilians on both sides of the oh so cold cold war believed. My side doesn’t engage in that kind of thing.
The prosecutor claimed it was Virginia and Tony’s relationship that had caused the tragic events. That Tony had miscalculated because he was more concerned about Virginia than the outcome of the mission. All Virginia had to do to walk away with a slight slap on the wrist was to agree. Sign off on it all being Tony’s fault.
But Virginia couldn’t do that to the man who had died in her arms.
It was supposed to be her elocution, but instead she began to vent about the incompetence of the planners and tacticians who had orchestrated the attack on Submersible Facility XXIII. She railed how they practically sent John Greenwich to his death, a man obviously not field qualified. How they had tried to save a few quid by sending inferior equipment to crack the protection that secured the PURPLE data, despite Greenwich’s warning that they would need more advanced equipment. She ripped them a bloody new one when the ranted about improper evacuation procedures.
The only thing that prevented her from being terminated (and terminated did not only just mean being sacked with the SIS,) was that the prosecutors had originally placed the blame on Tony not Virginia.
Instead she got an official reprimand and a desk job as far from the action as she could be.
For nearly five months she had been rotting away in a bloody desk job, Might as well put a bullet in my sodding head, she silently complained.
The timer bell went off a second time, an indicator that she had been in the smoking room for a full half hour. She tossed the cig that was burnt down to the filter in the disposal unit and grabbed her purse. Before she went back to her work station she pushed the big blue oval button next to the door that released through out the room the enzyme that removed the smoke smell from the room’s furniture and carpet and also from Virginia’s hair and clothes.
As she trudged back to the vacant Ops room, she entered it and sat down. When Virginia unlocked her computer. There was a message on her screen marked: Attention: Dare, Virginia H.
Nervously she moved her cursor to the message and clicked on it.
JUNO, report to the level seven Briefing Room, 7B. We have a mission for you.
She realized, not for the first time, if they did really release her from this white collar hell, and let her back into the action. She would get the type of assignments that were one step above suicide missions, if she rank that high. Missions that were too dangerous to send a SIS agent in better standing.
She looked at the picture of Tony one more time. Then asked herself aloud. “Bloody hell, what are you waiting for?”
Virginia locked her workstation, and placed the picture of Tony face down on the desk. She straitened her tee-shirt, and fixed her hair, then headed to Briefing Room 7B.
— END OF TRNSMISSION —