Sola sighed, seeing that the recruit list had not gotten any bigger in the last two months. If no one new was being brought in, then they really were going to have limited support. According to a lot of the members, people were busying themselves with work for the gigantic satellite being built. Already the base was just over half assembled and it was just barely over seven months. Now they were coming down to the grind. It was time for all of their final preparation to get put into place. But not before they found more people. They had calculated they needed at least seven hundred people if not a thousand to be able to do any sort of damage. Right now their number was barely close to five hundred. And here they were trying to scrounge at the bottom of the barrel for at any rate two hundred more.
She had yet to really announce the numbers to anyone other than Dom. She voiced all of her concerns to him, which in turn gave him the chance to calm her fears and come up with some kind of solution. Her eyes scanned the list again; just hoping that maybe she had missed a name. And yet somehow at the back of her mind, she knew she wasn’t going to find what she was looking for. Hope among everyone was starting to run thin. It seemed that the Good For You party and the Ritters were already speeding up production. If they worked any faster, the Rebel Alliance would be doomed from the start.
Saving the document and closing it, she resumed her other work. It was starting to get slow. Members were practicing harder and harder, but really there was nothing left for them to do but wait. Everyone had gone through battle training and of course psychological evaluations. Dom was thankful that they had Aldorel to deal with those. She had taken very careful notes, noting everything possible about what was going on. At the most recent council meeting, she had made sure everyone got a copy of the list and her notes. Although there was a great deal of pages to look through, the first few were just the names of every recruit and their mental condition that she ranked them in. Many were in satisfactory or “sane” condition, while a small percentage was in a more “panicked” or unprepared state of mind.
Over all though, all of this information was very helpful. It really told them what they needed to work on. Those that thought they were unprepared where assigned to less stressful tasks, and positions on the battlefield. When it came to their mental health, one’s location on the battlefield and their daily tasks was most important to prepare them for what was to come. Battlefront positions were arranged thanks to Specialist Jon, who remained among their ranks and made his way around the field like one would their home. His skill in assigning was unbelievable, which amazed everyone that they were able to get someone so talented and all-knowing.
Leaning back at her desk and staring at the ceiling, Sola tried to picture exactly what they were going to be doing in about five months. She would remain here, keeping an eye on the battlefront. And if Dom so requested, she was going to move to the forest facility and then do everything from there. It made her anxious and stressed to think that Dom was going to be out on the frontlines with everyone else. They were just starting to get really close, and if something happened while he was out there, there was no telling what could happen to her. He promised that they would both remain safe, and no problems would arise. The only form of contact she would have between the two of them—and the other leaders—was the headsets they all had.
Dom had built each leader a special one that not only was two way communication, it also provided Sola with GPS location, and any vitals that she needed in order for Aldorel to say if they needed to return for treatment. Already they had been testing the equipment, and so far she was glad to know that it worked wonderfully. Now all they had to do was actually get out onto the field when the battle began. All of the other members didn’t have anything so fancy. They mostly listened to commands from their leaders. Each leader was to remain as protected as possible, but in the back of Sola’s mind, she knew that none of them would listen. This was the battle they started, and there was no way they were going to sit on the sidelines and watch while their teammates got slaughtered—or rather, lost their last shreds of sanity.
With all this talk of sanity being lost, Sola had questioned Dom one night as to whether he would be able to get the ones that did become victims their sanity back. Unfortunately he couldn’t provide her with any answer, beyond “There’s only hope.” Rarely did he use the word “hope” other than being optimistic. He always had a solution for things, and for once, when he didn’t have an answer, it scared her. Or it could have been the bad pizza she ate the previous night; either way she wasn’t sure whether it was puking or actual anxiety that was plaguing her. For the past several nights she had been urging him to come up with some kind of resolution; but no matter how much she prodded him, he hadn’t been able to solve anything.
Night after night she had stayed up with him to try and research possible ways out of these situations once they were faced with them later. But no matter what he did, it always ended in an exhausted Dom, and a very frustrated Sola. Either way, she felt horrible for keeping him up and bothering him about the same thing… but this was testing their relationship. If he could take her constant badgering, then maybe they were meant to be together after all. Currently though, he was just trying to concentrate on his other tasks and prepare their other weapons. From what she saw, he had made several leaps and bounds on his current gadgets. All that was left was to test them on actual subjects and not just targets in their shooting range.
Dom had yet to even train anyone else on this gun besides Sola. And she wasn’t even quite positive what it was even capable of. All she knew was it shot some kind of golden light beam. But it wasn’t like the laser guns from a science fiction film. These were genuine bullets that actually did a great deal of damage. And not to mention a few of the other items he had come up with. Her eyes looked past her door and to were Dom was currently at his workbench.
Right now he was trying on all of the armor, and then arming himself with every kind of weapon. It was a bit amusing to watch him strapped with so many items that she couldn’t stop herself from laughing. The armor he had actually fit him perfectly, minus the helmet—which hung down over his face that he had to keep pushing it out of his way. From what she could see, he was putting on one of the other items, which was a belt that he used to hold much smaller but possibly more deadly weapons. He claimed he had yet to try it out on any people, but she had seen him—late one night—try it out on a few mannequins and was quite surprised with the findings.
A closer examination of the ammunition later after the test had revealed that these items were just seasoning packets from instant ramen. Granted, it wasn’t something she was really expecting, but it amazed her to see the damage they packed. When thrown, she saw that one of the packets lodged itself a good half an inch into the dummy’s head. However, it was just a car crash dummy, but it did provide some good results. She could see that they were quite lethal when used properly. Those would be some tough head injuries, which was something she wouldn’t want to be on the wrong end of receiving. While watching Dom experiment with these, she could also hear him shouting out catch phrases that she couldn’t help but laugh at.
Observing him now, she could tell he was testing out the viability of which items could be paired with what. He was currently wearing the heavier armor with the ramen seasoning belt and had a few other weapons strapped on. Teek was helping him strap on all of this gear, which thankfully all of it was empty of any ammunition. It took him a moment to get used to the weight, but once doing so, he was able to move fairly well. She had noticed that the armor he made was very breathable and could flex almost as much as the wearer did.
After another five minutes, he finally had all of it removed with Teek’s help. A moment later he was already synching on the lighter armor. Once that was all on, he then grabbed one of the heavier guns. Sola remembered that he had explained they would be used from a longer distance, and probably for those that had amazing aim but poor close combat skills. From what she had learned at making notes for him, there weren’t very many that had exhibited those traits exactly. In the end it was going to come down to him making final decisions about which people he wanted to place where, and of course what their skill was with that kind of gun.
On the other side of the bench was Collin, who was making all of the notes that Dom said. Normally he would have recorded them via a microphone, but he felt these needed to be observed by someone else in order to get proper input. With someone else scribbling down what he was saying, it seemed to be working out fairly well. After watching him take off that armor, he took out a few smaller items and tried them on. These were various weapon belts and other holsters that could work pretty much anywhere. Sola recognized where some of them went, and smirked watching him try them all on. Dom had made all sorts of holsters—hip holsters, shoulder holsters, leg holsters, ankle holsters. All of them held a variety of items that could be used in any form and whenever one needed them. The only matter was if the items came out on a quick draw. If not, Sola knew Dom was planning on scrapping the designs and only make them available for those that could actually manage to use them properly.
Shedding every one of the holsters, Dom took a seat opposite Collin and glanced over all of the notes. They both still had a lot of work to finish, but thankfully all of the items worked wonderfully. Now it was just a matter of supplying everyone with a set. All of the techies were working practically full time just to fill in the current order. Many people were practicing on the training guns. Although they were up to operating condition, Dom knew they had yet to actually get all the items everyone needed as standard issue. It was getting difficult for them to make each weapon and set of armor specifically for each person. The armor of course took the longest. Each person had a set of heavy duty armor and a set of lighter armor.
Minari and Ane wanted them to just do the standard “One size fits all” routine, but both Dom and Collin—along with the other techies—knew that wasn’t possible. It would make their production time faster, but they had people of all shapes and heights that there was no telling what could possibly come of a size selection like that. Luckily Dom had all the measurements digitally taken upon each recruits arrival so there was no need to really double check. Once a week many of them were required to suit up completely just to make sure everything fit properly. Nine times out of ten everything would lace, zip, button or clip up just as it was designed to do. Here and there they had to make a few changes and or fine tune some items for someone.
Right now though, many of them were concentrating on weapons while a smaller portion was in charge of armor. They had gotten more slots filled, but not as many as they had hoped. The standard issue weapons were still not complete for nearly half of all the members. Out of everyone, the only people that had their weapons and armor in their possession were the council members. Each was trained for hand-to-hand combat, long distance and short range. Without these skills—that they practiced early in the morning as a group—they would have been useless out on the field as leaders.
* * * * *
Collin lifted a box and stacked it into one of the vehicles that was ready to head out. They were assembling supplies for the small groups to head out into the capital city. Several homes, businesses or apartments had already been purchased in order for the parties to move into. It would take several vehicles, but they were definitely prepared to move forwards. Now it was just moving in, which was going to take some time. With less than six months before the satellite was completed, they needed to work quickly. Otherwise they were going to run into problems when the signal was given for them to make a move.
Seeing that this car was full, he closed the back door and patted the side of the SUV. The driver pulled forwards and headed to where he was planning to wait until the other passengers got in. Reaching over he checked off which vehicle it was before turning and signaling for the next one to pull up. It parked and the back hatch opened. Glancing back at Moose, he saw that the Ewok was already shoving some of the lighter boxes forwards on a small cart. Stopping right at Collin’s feet, he looked up and gestured to the items and then to the interior of the car.
“Yeah, I know. I’ll get them in there,” he said, starting to pick them up. He wasn’t really sure how much of the supplies each party needed. In the meeting he had attended it was something along the lines of enough provisions for around eight to ten people. Every so often he had to add items for five more people just for the sake of having extra when they needed it. It was important that if they were able to find more recruits, then they would be able to supply them. If the need be, they could easily send them more; it was just a matter of if the rest of the weapons and armor was completed.
Just as he thought there would be nothing else for him to do after having now packed this car too, he saw that Moose didn’t have any more boxes to be moved. Exhaling, Collin grabbed his bottle of water and downed a good portion of it. Taking his clipboard with his “To-Do” list, he headed back to his workbench to see if Dom had more work for him. From what he had seen, Dom was doing a lot of extra work, despite the soft cast that Aldorel had recently put on his arm. The cast had come off just yesterday and already Dom was working overtime to catch up.
Passing into the main area of the basement, Collin scanned his ID badge before he continued into the rest of the lower region of the warehouse. It was empty upstairs, despite the fact all of the equipment was in full swing. Several other members of the rebellion were watching the machines run. He remembered that Dom had sent home his workers, but promised them the holiday bonus they always received. Many of them worried that they weren’t getting the hours they usually got, but Dom had explained that they needed to trust he wouldn’t swindle them out of anything.
“Collin, are you finished loading?” He had barely returned to his work bench and Dom was already making sure he was getting things completed. Dom’s micromanaging habits didn’t really bother him, and really micromanaging wasn’t a trait Dom had. But he knew that Dom just wanted to make sure things got finished on time. Setting down the clipboard, Collin grinned at his mentor.
“Yup. It’s all packed and ready to go for when they leave. Hopefully it’ll be enough. They barely had room for people,” he answered, grabbing a tool to tighten some fasteners for some armor.
“Good. Go take some time for dinner. I’ll finish up here and get us to where we can move to the next set of orders,” Dom said, setting aside a helmet he had just rigged with a special night vision visor. Each helmet was to be equipped with one, which enabled the members to attack in the darkness. Collin stared at Dominic for a moment. That wasn’t quite the answer he was expecting. Normally it was giving him a long list of tasks that were safe and manageable. But getting dinner?
“Oh. I was going to get this chest plate finished,” he said, placing the tool back on his bench. “But I guess I could get dinner.” Dom stared after him for a moment.
“You don’t have to go get dinner. I just assumed after all of that heavy lifting, you’d want food. All the boxes were labeled right?”
“What do you mean labeled?”
“They had names on them. For the people they belonged to,” Dom said, looking at Collin. They were silent as they stared at each other blankly. This is what Dom was afraid of. Every box held someone’s armor built specifically for them. It was getting so incredibly hard for Collin to keep a straight face, he finally burst into laughter.
“Duh! What do you think I did, just throw them in the car? Of course I made sure they had labels. You are the one that put the labels and barcode on them,” Collin said, laughing at the look on Dom’s face. “Man, you should seriously learn to take a joke. I’ve never seen you look that panicked before. Boy will Sola and the others get a kick out of this when I tell them that.” Shaking his head as he mused about what happened, he pictured the look on all of the other’s faces when he told them. This got him really anxious to go and have dinner with everyone else. “Maybe I will go have dinner.”
“Collin, you wouldn’t really do that would you? I mean come on, you were pulling a joke. I wasn’t exactly taking that as a joke,” Dom said, not wanting to let it get around that he could indeed get panicked.
“Come on, Dom. You’re like my brother. This is like telling people you have pink boxers,” Collin said, grinning menacingly. “Have fun working on the armor,” he said, waving over his shoulder as he headed for the kitchen. Dom’s mouth hung open as he was unable to believe Collin could so easily make fun of him. Grabbing another tool, he returned to work, slightly fuming and also pretty giddy inside at what just happened.
“He wouldn’t do that to me, would he?” Glancing over at Teek, Dom hoped she would give him some kind of answer. Mostly she just returned the blank look before shrugging and then returning to what she was shining. Next to her there was a whole box full of armor that belonged to someone. Once she was finished shining it all, she would then package each of it carefully before getting one of the bots to tape it for her. The label already attached to the box would then be scanned and it would be moved to the appropriate pile. Making a brief nose, she made sure she could see herself in the helmet before placing it inside the box. Not liking the answer he heard, Dom sighed and went back to work, trying to put the thought at the back of his mind.
Dom continued to make adjustments, throwing himself into his work. It was around an hour or so later before Sola approached and sat down casually across from him. Glancing up at her from his current project, he then returned his eyes to what he was doing.
“Can I help you with something?”
“I didn’t know you were able to panic,” she said casually, grabbing a shining cloth and helping Teek. The Ewok had close to a dozen boxes stacked around the table that she had to still shine and pack. It wouldn’t hurt if she had at least a bit of help; Dom was too busy to do anything, so she figured for a change of pace she could get involved.
“How much did he tell you?” Judging from the tone in his voice, he obviously wasn’t happy at hearing what she said.
“He was just joking around. I’m sure if you had a real little brother, he would have done the same,” Sola said, still grinning. His hand froze at what he was currently tightening.
“What exactly did he tell you?” Just as he got that question out, Minari and Ane walked by laughing.
“Do you really have pink boxers?” Minari asked, pausing briefly behind Sola. Dom stared blankly, unsure what to even say.
“Hey! That’s not true and you know it!” He suddenly snapped. Sure, this whole camaraderie thing was great, and they had all really developed into more of a family and less of just friends. All of the teasing just came with the whole package.
“How do we know you’re not lying? Just prove to us that you don’t have pink boxers,” Ane said, arms crossed.
“I am not sleeping with you just to prove I don’t wear pink undergarments,” he said, staring at them both.
“Don’t worry, we’ll just bother Sola later,” Minari said, winking at her before heading off with Ane into the command center. They had obviously come the long way to see him, otherwise they would have just gone straight into the command room. Dom looked to Sola.
“What are you going to say?”
“I won’t say anything. I know you don’t have pink boxers,” she said. He definitely did have a funny face when it was panicked. It made him pretty cute actually. His eyes were wide, and looked kind of wild like he was going to do something crazy. With the teasing from Minari and Ane, it wouldn’t surprise her if he did. Nodding after hearing her answer, he sighed and finished what he was doing.
“How was dinner?” That was a not so subtle subject change in their conversation.
“It was good. Someone made one of D00m’s meals, which seemed to please everyone. And then of course we had brownies for dessert,” Sola said, a grin on her face. Dom remembered that she loved brownies, especially the gooey ones that were fresh out of the ovens. Looking up from the item she was shining, she watched him work effortlessly on the next item. “Aren’t you in any pain?” She gestured to his wrist which not only was currently in the soft cast Aldorel gave him, but it also had a heavier duty splint wrapped around it.
“Oh, I guess I can’t really tell,” he said, ceasing for a minute or two to move his arm around before resuming his task.
“What do you mean you can’t tell? You haven’t been able to use it properly for over a month and here you are working away. Nonstop Dom,” she said, staring at him. He stopped again, shrugging.
“It’s really no big deal. I’ll probably be in pain tonight, but I think I don’t feel anything right now just because I’ve been doing this pretty constantly,” he said, switching tools. His wrist was starting to hurt as the pain killer he had taken over the past several hours was starting to wear off. That would require him to either get it out of his desk or then get some more water… or just go see Aldorel for some of it. Since he did just have it in a desk drawer, he figured he might as well just get it himself. It would be quite a waste to go get the pain killer approved by Aldorel—and by approved it was meant that she cleared him to take it so that he didn’t over dose or anything of the sort.
Pulling open a drawer, he dug around for a moment before pulling out an unmarked bottle. Popping off the lid he dumped two pills into his hand and took them without water. Sola watched him, curious as to what he was taking. She knew Aldorel had prescribed him some very specific medication that would enable him to work with very little pain. But this was a blank bottle. Opening her mouth to speak, she stopped herself and remained silent. They could discuss the bottle later… right now they needed to concentrate on their work.