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CHAPTER FOURTEEN – “PERHAPS THEY AREN’T REALLY TANKS AND THEY AREN’T RECENT.”
“Now that you hopefully understand where I am coming from,” the Commander continued, leaning forward in his chair and resting his arms on the table, “I should also explain that in terms of how much I tell you, how much I share with you, it has to be balanced against the possibility that you may still decide that what I, what Kevin and I, are proposing is just not for you.”
He looked at the two lads.
“But Kevin has assured me, and certainly the stats and our intelligence would support his suggestion,” he added, “that you are the right people for the task.” Liam and Sully looked at Kevin. They still didn’t have any real idea of what that ‘task’ was.
[And that is something that you, the reader, need to bear in mind. For whereas you have the benefit of reading all the story and piecing together all the different parts of what has happened and what is going on – and thus to formulate your own opinions and expectations from it all – Liam and Sully were actually living it and thus only aware of the parts that they themselves were a part of.]
So I think the best way to proceed,” the Commander told them, “would be for me to play you a short information presentation that I have had pieced together in order to bring you up to speed and to set the general scene, so to speak.”
But before the Commander could do so a light – on the screen embedded into the table top – flashed. Tapping the screen the Commander simply announced that their refreshments had arrived and then sat back in his chair.
Moments later the door to the anteroom slid open and two uniformed men walked in carrying trays containing; two flasks of tea and coffee, some cups, saucers and side plates, some napkins and some cakes and pastries.
The two soldiers in question were dressed in extremely shiny boots, black tactical pants – which were seemingly tucked into the tops of their boots – and some very modern and smart looking black and red t-shirts. Additionally they were both also wearing plain red berets. The two soldiers placed the trays on one of the sideboards before then serving the teas and coffees and silently offering the cakes and pastries around.
Liam and Sully watched as the two soldiers silently performed their duties. And as they did so Sully couldn’t help wondering if the central red circle on what could only be described as some very modern, even ‘Scifi’ looking, t-shirts didn’t usually contain some logo or military emblem of some sort?
Still contemplating this thought, Sully glanced at the Commander and noted that his uniform – which was very similar other than the fact that he had on a black short sleeved shirt (also with with red trim) instead of a t-shirt. plus the fact that his beret was tucked into one of his shoulder epaulettes – also had no military insignia.
Whilst the two soldiers served the refreshments, the Commander basically said nothing until the soldiers had finished serving the refreshments. at which point he simply thanked them and dismissed them.
“Seal room, Veles.” The Commander instructed once the two soldiers had left.
And as the door locked and the lights dimmed to a amber hue, Liam couldn’t help wondering how it was that the soldiers had known which of them had wanted tea and which had wanted coffee. In truth it may seem like a fairly insignificant detail to you and I. But the fact is that at no point did either of the soldiers ask who wanted which drink. They simply seemed to know, or had made a very accurate and extremely unlikely guess.
“Display file.” The Commander instructed, bringing Sully and Liam’s attention back to what was happening.
additionally, Sully and Liam were suddenly somewhat startled by holographic screens suddenly appearing from the table in front of both of them. They watched attentively as images of news headlines and video clips, complete with audio (which seemed to come from all around them, like surround sound but even more enveloping) about terrorism and Isis flashed in front of them. These were followed by more headlines and video clips but this time about the more recent news reports concerning the spurt of unexplained tank battles.
“The world is in crisis.” The Commander explained, once the initial presentation had finished. “Almost every world power has it’s focus fixed and indeed its resources stretched by either disputes, fighting and unrest on their borders with other countries, or with rebel groups, or by terror attacks coming without warning from Isis and other related militant groups.”
He looked at Liam and Sully to see if they wanted to comment or respond. But both chose not to do so at that time.
“And more recently,” he continued, “news of these tank battles taking place all over the world have become a regular feature in the news.” Again he looked at Liam and Sully but again they said nothing.
“And I know, from some of the conversations you and your clan mates have had,” the Commander continued, “that you are very much aware of these.”
“You’ve been listening in on our conversations?” Liam asked.
“Yes, of course.” The Commander told him. “But please don’t get all bent out of shape right now, let me continue explaining what is going on and then I think you will understand why.”
Over the course of the next hour or so, the Commander basically took Liam and Sully through a whistle-stop guided tour of all the conflicts, attacks, and related estimated costs and casualty stats. Both civilian and military, for each of the main world powers in the past year. Doing so with the aid of several information screens which displayed on the holographic displays in front of them.
In truth it was a lot to take in, and as more and more information was shown and shared the more the presentation became a conversation. With Liam and Sully both commenting, making observations, or asking questions and with the Commander and Kevin answering or deferring their answers as they thought best.
What was noticeable to Liam was how, throughout it all, the Commander seemed to remain objectively unbiased. Demonstrating no political allegiance to any one of the world powers, nor to any one political persuasion for that matter.
“I hope you aren’t asking us to go up against Isis.” Liam joked.
“No.” The Commander smiled. But his smile then stopped and his facial expression became much more serious.
“I am asking far more of you than that.”
Liam and Sully looked at each other and then at Kevin.
“Isis and all these rebel outfits, whilst demanding a certain amount of cross-nation communication and cooperation, are being dealt with by each impacted nation individually.” The Commander told them. “Which as I said before, is taking most of their focus and their resources.”
“So much so, that this new threat,” Kevin added, “because of it’s nature and scale, plus the demands already placed on each of those nations and their resources,” he looked at the Commander for a moment before returning his attention to Liam and Sully, “requires a completely different approach.”
“They are all part of a new threat that we have to deal with.” The Commander agreed, as he invited them all to refresh their cups.
“This new threat being these unexplained tank battles?” Sully asked.
“The ones we have been seeing more and more of in the news recently.” Liam added.
“Yes.” The Commander confirmed. “Except they aren’t recent. Well the reports are more recent perhaps and the admittedly the amount and frequency of them have increased more recently.” He added. “But in many ways that is down to us.”
“Us?” Sully asked, hoping that the Commander might slip and identify just who ‘us’ was.
But the Commander was too experienced and too shrewd to fall into that trap and simply smiled. “Yes, us.” He replied. “And as a result of the fact that our awareness and intelligence of them had improved greatly.”
“So all this, our being here,” Liam asked, returning to his seat having refilled his cup with fresh tea, “is about these tank battles?”
“Yes.” The Commander confirmed. “But perhaps they aren’t really tanks. Well not as you would understand them.”