GC III: Xeno Defense

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Central Park

Jan Burns sat in the AXIOM Mobile Command center.

From the outside it looked like an older model Winnebago and it fit right in with the other RV’s and Camp trailers here on the Good Sam’s Campground a few miles outside El Paso.

Inside it was equipped with the most advanced communication technology known to man.

He had just finished his report to headquarters as one of the technicians leaned over to him and said. “Sir, I believe you want to see this. The bikers and the Toyota have been found!”

“Quick! Let us go there and see what we can find out!”

“That will be a problem, Sir.” The Technician said and pointed at his screen.

High resolution images from what appeared to be the surface of the moon showed a collection of Harley Davidson motorbikes in a chaotic jumble, a Toyota Celica with open hood and number of dead bodies strewn around.

It was certainly the same vehicles and people he saw on those Satellite images that brought them down here to Texas in the first place. It took him a long moment to comprehend what he saw and then said.” This is the moon?”

“Yes Sir. A NASA probe registered sun light reflections on the surface where no reflections should be possible and then used a space borne high resolution telescope to make these pictures. NSA was able to restrict the discovery to a few scientists and keep it out of the general channels. The president of course has been informed and he tasked AXIOM with the investigation.”

Jan still stared at the images. ”Are the headlights of these bikes still on?”

“That was the light reflection making the NASA scientists aware of this area , Sir.”

“Any explanation of our resident genius?”

“None so far, Sir. All we got from headquarters is that we are supposed to increase our efforts.”

“Alright then! I tried to play nice. Send sniffer programs into the local Law enforcement computers and every private machine in the area. Search for any e mails, unusual blogs about aliens or magic or miracles.”

“Aye Sir. Uploading Worms now. Local IP nodes are identified and seeded. ”

Suddenly the screens blinked and an alert sound beeped loudly. One of the Techs slammed his hand on a big red button. “Cyberspace counter attack! I shut down our connections!”

Jan no longer able to sit got up. ”You telling me the most advanced NSA cyber surveillance tech was recognized and followed?”

“Sir we are rebooting systems as we speak, but it looks like all, even our most secure systems got hacked and breached in less than a second. ”

Another Technician said. ”Agent Burns I have Dr. Smith on a secure direct line!”

The Face of the AXIOM chief became visible on a small screen. “AXIOM Systems connected to you via the NSA link just got attacked and is certain the system doing it had more computing power than all computers in the world combined. NSA was able to pinpoint the location of the attack within a 100 mile radius of your mobile Command Post.

It occurred when you activated the Cyber sniffers. As you have seen by now the bikers and their vehicles have been located on the moon. Everything points to activity in the region you are.”

“What do you suggest, Sir? The local law enforcement agencies are stonewalling us and I don’t have any concrete leads.”

“Don’t use the sledgehammer approach. Washington got complaints by the Texas Governor about Federal Agents conducting investigations and acting as if they were above the law.”

“Sir, with all due respect, but these Texan cowpokes’s drive me crazy. The most severe Alien activity registered since Burke came back from the Antarctic happened right here and I have no clues. ”

“Mr. Burns I expected you to work with the locals. Shelf your New York arrogance and work with them. I would go there myself, but I am tied up with another investigation. Keep me posted.”

Burns cursed at the now dark screen and got up to fill in his partner Howard Packard, who introduced himself as Agent Miller to the locals. Howard was catching a few ZZ’s in one of the Command posts bunks.

--

EARTH ORBIT

The Feron spaceship dropped out of Trans light and approached the third planet of the yellow star system. Nalka-Kalku had made the trip many times before and he disliked the hairless apes of that planet very much.

Not only did they resemble the Sarans, they were biologically almost identical to them. It was a good thing the Saran were involved in their almost 2000 year old civil war against the Pan Saran, because it occupied them otherwise and made them neglect their old animosity against the Feron, at least most of the time.

Nalka leaned back in his command seat, watched the blue planet on their screen slowly increase in size as they came closer. Still almost three hours away from breaching the atmosphere he had time to think about his mission.

He knew about the story of Marma-Tuke and his crew who visited this cursed planet over 60 local years ago, shot down by primitive aircraft, that weren’t nearly as primitive as Marma thought they were. No one knew exactly what happened to Marma and his crew, but Sunku- Taka who was undercover on this planet believed they were held as lab specimen in a human military installation called Area 51. Sunku also was certain the primitives were related to the Saran, perhaps a forgotten colony. The ancient pyramids on the planet and a lost civilization called the Egyptians were too similar to be mere coincidence. Ever since the Feron believed the Earthers to be related to the Sarans they used this world to observe and conduct experiments on live specimen, they abducted once in a while.

Even though he called them primitive he had to admit to himself, the Earthers weren’t as simple and helpless as he and other Feron Captains made them in their reports. He saw their development of computing power in a short few decades virtually explode. Sunku-Taka, who was his friend, believed the Earthers to be related to the Saran but even more aggressive than the Xunx. While the technology of the Earthers developed in a staggering pace, their morals and their society remained unchanged. They still had nation states on their own planet and fought each other in bloody wars.

No, Nalka had no moral objections to Experiment Nine.

He was certain the Earthers would have eradicated themselves anyway, sooner or later. He was especially amused about the Earthers decision to abandon manned space flight, and reduce their space program to a few robotic drones.

They would never leave their cradle and pose a threat to others. He had to admit that approaching the planet wasn’t as easy as it once was and that the Earthers used the relative primitive electromagnetic based detection equipment with great efficiency, but as long as they relied on what they called Radar, the Feron ships could be made invisible against it, by simply absorbing the incoming radar energy and not reflecting it. Sunku, his friend was waiting for supplies from home and the final green light to commence Experiment Nine.

None of the space faring cultures he knew off developed a faster than light reliable communications technology. Ferons relied on Ult Hyper-wave communications, which were about as fast as ships and easy to intercept. That’s why sensitive information was still carried by courier ship.

Nalka did not look forward to spend another month or two on this planet, but he took comfort in the fact, it was the last time. He had no doubts Experiment Nine would be a success and exterminate these cursed humans.

--

Peter, Wolf and Cloud had a BBQ and lots of beer till late, so it was no surprise the Terran Lawman of the Future was still sleeping at almost 10 am the next morning. Wolf’s auto doc unit fought the conditions of a hangover quite efficiently and other than a great appetite for another of these incredibly steaks or something like that, he was fine. The general technology and development of the Earth of this century was of course primitive, but the food and the drinks so far were so much better than any of the Syntho Nourish of his time. Everything was an explosion of flavors and tastes.

His BuB agreed with the strange alien Cloud, that he could never return and that due to the very fact that he was here, the future would substantially altered and even if he would live to see the 54th century again it would not be like he remembered it.

He sat up in the low grav bed his Nano Factory had made and smiled to himself. This wasn’t so bad at all. He had been married to his career and didn’t have many friends. Terran Enforces were encouraged not to have close ties to anyone, so they could execute the law without emotional shackles. Deep down, he agreed with the Rebels anyway and found the system of Privileged Terrans and non privileged others quite unfair.

Peter, the Texas Ranger he knew only for a day, had a firm opinion about freedom, liberties and a person’s right to pursue them.

Wolf liked the Ranger and the amnesia stricken alien called Dark Cloud and the feeling of a growing friendship was a good one. So he got up and enjoyed a hot water shower. Even in the 54th century there wasn’t a real alternative to a real good water shower. Since he and Cloud had improved the Ranger’s house, it now had an unlimited supply of clean water in any temperature desired.

When he stepped out on the porch and looked over the unspoiled desert like landscape bathed in warm sunlight coming from cloudless blue sky, he felt quite content. Across the packed dirt surface of the front yard stood a lonely tree and from it hung a bag like object. Peter, his new friend, was already up and pounded the sack with his ham like fists. Peter didn’t wear a shirt and his body glistened with sweat. Wolf was quite impressed by the energy delivered with each blow. That ranger was in peak condition and he had muscles as hard as steel under his tanned skin.

He grinned as he saw Wolf on the porch and smacked the sack one more time. ”Good morning Mr. Starr. Had a good night?”

“I can’t believe how well I slept and how refreshed and good I feel.” Wolf responded. “That’s Texas desert air for you! Well that and a few cases of Lone Star makes you sleep like a baby.”

“Yeah but I have the benefits of an Auto Doc to combat the side effects of excessive alcohol consumption. How long are you up and going?”

“I am getting up early every morning. It’s a leftover habit from my time in the Marine Corps and if I find the time I work out. I am doing some target practice care to join? Maybe the noise will wake Cloud. He sleeps like a corpse!”

“Sure, I gladly look forward to fire some of those antiques you got.”

“You keep saying that and I get depressed.”

“I didn’t mean it that way. That antique you have hidden in your truck saved my future tech ass yesterday!”

The ranger went to an old steel container set into a patch of concrete and exposed his shiny white teeth.“In there I got a nice collection of guns. ”

“You have them because you are Privileged?” Peter keyed a combination in two heavy duty padlocks. ”Well I am privileged to be a Texan; the Liberals especially on the East Coast want to take this fundamental right away from law abiding citizens. Almost everyone in this great state of ours has firearms. ”

He swung the doors open. Inside was a working table with a row of strange equipment, Wolf could not identify and a long shelf filled with rifles, hand guns and other weaponry.

Peter explained. “That’s reloading equipment here. That thing over there is a belting machine and I use it to make belts for my Gatling gun.“

He handed Wolf a gun.“This is a real antique. A Colt Single Action Army, Frontier model. Also known as the Peacemaker, my grandfather was carrying two of those when he was a ranger.”

Wolf admired the piece and Peter showed him how it worked. Armed with a shotgun, a rifle and a few handguns they went behind the container.

Wolf was deeply impressed by the incredible speed, accuracy and skill of the Ranger with these weapons. He relied on skills alone, no battle systems, no targeting acquisition. But with the help of BuB Wolf got the hang of it and managed to hit the targets too and it was great fun to shoot at tin cans. The ranger showed off by throwing rocks into the air, then drawing his revolver and shooting the rocks. Wolf shook his head.“I never saw anything like that, without using any enhancements.”

“So what are you packing?”

Wolf handed Peter his Tri-Beam Master Magnum. ”This is a multifunction battle beam projector. It is in an auto draw holster. The gun is teleported into my hand, whenever I need it. I always thought nothing could be faster, until I saw you pulling that hunk of steel out of a simple leather holster almost as fast.”

He made an adjustment and allowed the gun to recognize Peter. ”The gun only operates when I use it and is useless to anyone else, but it recognizes you now. You can try it!”

It was Peter’s turn to be impressed.“That is the coolest thing next to sliced bread. ”

He aimed at a dried out tree a hundred meters away. A sharp crack and a bright bolt of light burned most of the tree to a thin cloud of sparkling dust.“Holy shit! I’ve seen you blast away at those flying crooks of yours but that is one powerful gun, I’d say!”

“That was a very low setting. At the highest I can displace 200 tons of matter in a second. Of course only for a very short time, as it would bleed the energy cell very fast.”

“How come it makes this noise? I always thought lasers to be silent.”

“Because the superheated plasma burns and pushes the air molecules so fast aside, it makes this thunder crack. Pretty much like lightning does.”

From the house, Dark Cloud came walking over to them. He looked much more human now. Wolf had used his Nano factory to improve the alien’s appearance. He still was the tallest of the three but his skin looked normal. He now had eyebrows and ears.” This state of horizontally resting is most interesting.”

Wolf blinked.“You find it interesting to lie down? Does your kind sleep standing?”

“I do not know how to sleep. I have observed you and Peter and tried to emulate the same state but I have not succeeded, I will research that more. ”

Peter shrugged and grinned.” You figure it out eventually; maybe even your kind gets tired eventually.”

“Maybe that is the missing part of the experience. One needs to acquire the state of tiredness before one can sleep.”

Wolf rolled his eyes and Peter tipped his finger against his temple. “You’re one crazy Alien.”

Peter handed Wolf the blaster back and said to Cloud. ”We were shooting and comparing guns. Care to join?”

Wolf snapped his fingers.“How did you blast Nuuk Ta’s men? ”

“I simply channeled a minuscule fraction of energy, transformed it in thermal energy and released it through my left hand in a directed linear manner.”

Cloud pointed his finger and a sun bright beam evaporated a sizeable rock.

“I don’t know of any species with that kind of energy control, at least not in my time and Universe.” Wolf gasped.

Peter was equally impressed. "That is actually very scary."

Cloud turned to look at Peter, "To be afraid is an emotional reaction to something potentially harmful?"

Wulf nodded. "Yes Cloud, your abilities are even scary to me."

The tall alien said. "I still do not know who or what I am. however neither you or Peter will have reason to fear me. Of all the concepts I have been exposed to, friendship is the most valuable one and I shall never be the cause of harm to you."

Peter . “Well in your case giving someone the finger takes on a whole new meaning, but if you want to squeeze off a few rounds be my guest.”

Cloud watched Peter closely and then took the offered gun, aimed and pressed the trigger and the gun exploded in Clouds hand, showering him with parts.

Peter jumped back.“What the…”

Wolf held up his hand.“One moment I am watching the replay in slow motion and analyze it. “Wolf sighed after he had replayed the visuals before his inner eye.“Our big friend held the gun so tight, he did not allow for even an iota of recoil. The recoil energy had to go somewhere and it broke the slide.”

“Are you okay Cloud?” was the first Peter could think off.

“Yes I am, Peter. Let me reassemble your weapon, it seems I need more practice with these.” The broken gun was instantly returned to its previous state.

Peter grinned.” Let’s have breakfast or an early lunch that is.”

--

Jan Burns left the H2 just behind the hill crest and crouched to cover the rest of the way. Two of his men and his partner accompanied him did the same.

He turned to the one holding an AXIOM I-Phone. “You sure the energy beams came from here?”

“Yes Sir. The satellite just picked up the discharge of energy weapons within a two mile radius from here, and that is where the Big B Ranch, owned by Baker, Peter is. I am pulling up his data know.”

“I know him, he is a Texas ranger around here.”

He took the high powered binoculars and crept the rest up the slope and crouched down behind the dusty ridge, then put them before his eyes.

The electronically stabilized optics gave him a highly detailed view of the shallow valley before him. There was a small compound of buildings. A double wide, a tool shed,a very new looking barn and an unused corral with a stable. There was a Steel sea container, half buried in concrete and a little to the right an old tractor, perfectly restored. Jan could see the Ranger’s suburban parked right before the house.

He saw three men, one of them was the ranger, sitting on the porch having what looked like breakfast. It all appeared perfectly serene and normal. Nothing alien anywhere and yet somewhere nearby energy weapons were fired.

The ranger's Suburban was the type of vehicle seen by the Satellites just before the bikers disappeared and energy weapon fire was registered.

Jan was now almost certain that Ranger had seen something or even knew about the alien activity.

“I got the background check on Baker.” His partner said behind him. ”Silver Star decorated Marine veteran. Tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, half Mescalero and according to this, one of the most decorated Texas Rangers in recent history. He is a widower, his wife committed suicide while he was in Afghanistan after giving birth to a dead child. Marine Corps Sniper, Rifle expert. According to his latest duty evaluation he is in peak physical condition.”

Howard whistled. ”You wouldn’t believe it but it says here he has an IQ of 135.”

Howard giggled.“That’s thirty points more than you scored, so much for the dumb Texan, eh?”

Jan glared angrily at his partner. ”I was measured under stress conditions and by highly trained experts. This idiot down there probably was scored by someone not knowing how to conduct an IQ test in the first place. Besides I think you cheated too! No way, you had ten more than me!”

He returned watching through the binoculars. ”Instead of making dumb jokes, take your Camera and run those other two jokers through the face recognition system and see if they are registered.”

“I already have! Neither are clear matches with the Face recognition, no matches to known wanted felons or criminals.” Jens saw the three getting up and he knew from meeting the Ranger in person how tall and muscular the guy was. One of the men down there, was just as tall and buff and the third one was even taller.

“What are they feeding those Texans? Look at the size of those fuckers!”

Howard answered.“I don’t know what you got against Texans. You know I never had any better BBQ anywhere. The folks are friendly and courteous, the wait staff around here is attentive.”

“These down south red necks are republican, right wing bible thumping gun whackos. That’s what they are!”

He watched the three disappear in the Container and come out, Baker carrying an M60, the other man holding a M16, but then he saw the third one, the tall one. Howard who was watching through the zoom objective of his Camera coughed. “You got to be kidding me. Is that a XM307 ACSW that tall guy is carrying out of that container?”

Jan had to blink and wipe his eyes before looking again. ”You’re right that is an Advanced Crew Served Weapon, also known as the XM307 25mm Air-bursting Weapon System it fires air-bursting munitions with programmable fuses.”

“Where in the world did he get that kind of hardware?”

One of the men that accompanied them said. ”Probably from a Gun show, with the right permits those are perfectly legal here.”

“What are they up to? Start World War Three?” Howard wondered.

Jan wanted to smack Howard. “Of course not, those three guys witnessed the Alien activity and probably know where they are and now want to go there and fight them. All we have to do is follow them and find the Aliens.”

Again it was the technician behind Jan saying;” I think they just have some Texas style fun.”

Jan turned around and looked at the man.“Why do you think you know so much about them?”

“Because I heard your remarks about Texas and the southern States, Sir. I am from Tennessee if you want to know and I was raised in small Town USA, Sir.”

Jan snorted. ”Well no one can pick where they were born, at least you made a good choice and live in New York now.”

--

Peter laughed as he saw Cloud coming out with the Grenade launcher. ”Yes Cloud that is definitely you. You look like a bald headed Terminator robot with that thing.”

“What is a Terminator robot?”

“A Science Fiction Movie Character.” Peter said, snapping his fingers and pointing at Wolf, who was holding and admiring the M16.

”Come to think of it you should see that movie. That robot came from the future too, at least in that movie.”

“I assure you I am no robot, but I look forward to see a movie of this time, but you are right Cloud does have the size and certainly some of the characteristics of a big mean robot.”

The tall alien handled the heavy, normally tripod mounted weapon like a weightless toy. ”I am also not an artificial construct; at least I don’t think so.”

Peter slammed his hand on Cloud’s shoulder.” No worries, I don’t really care anymore what you are. You’re alright by my book and that’s enough. Why don’t you let ’er rip. Let me show you how to get the thing going!”

--

Jan saw that the man from Tennessee was right; the three men fired the weapons on rocks, cactuses and bushes in the desert. They had fun from the looks of it, there was no alien presence and there was no energy weapon discharge. “Double check the satellite data. They are armed to the teeth, but nothing out of this world.”

Jan could not hide his amazement as the tallest of the three fired the Grenade launcher holding the thing freestanding and with apparently no effort at all.

The explosions rolled over them like thunder and a big dust cloud created by the exploding grenades obscured the men from his observation. He crawled back behind the ridge and reported via his mobile phone what he had seen so far.

Dr. Smith himself came on. ”Thank you for your report. I just got the transcript of Mr. Packard’s report as well and it looks this Ranger might be AXIOM material and from what I have seen from your recordings those other men perhaps as well. Go down there, and invite them. If they become AXIOM they will help us find what they saw or witnessed. If they are not we can interrogate them here and get the truth out of them about what happened to these bikers without having to worry too much about personal rights and such.”

Jan wanted to object at first. The very idea of this cow herding Texan to be an AXIOM agent was repulsing to him, but then he loved Dr. Smith’s order. Down at AXIOM HQ he could interrogate those country boys his way.

--

Wolf saw the H2 first. ”I think we made too much noise. Perhaps one of your neighbors complained.”

“I doubt it, my next neighbor is 12 miles away and he doesn’t care.” He lowered the M60 “This is my land and they can’t ask you’re for ID’s. So let me do most of the talking.”

With these words he approached the black Hummer that just stopped. The two Federal Agents he had dealt with before stepped out. “Ah Agent Miller and Agent Smith from the FBI, what are you doing on my property?”

Smith smiled coldly as he handed the Ranger a manila folder.

”The Texas Rangers agreed to send one of their men to New York for a Law enforcement convention and advanced criminological training. This ranger is going to be you, Mr. Baker. Your Captain has agreed.”

“I can’t leave. There is an investigation and a hearing, I need to attend.”

“The commission ruled,your action however excessive I think it was, justified and the Ranger HQ in Austin has instructed your captain to lift the suspension. You are going to New York, simple as that."

Peter grinned back.“I can always resign you know. Nothing my Captain or anyone can do about that.”

“Why so hostile Ranger, it is only a few weeks. You learn modern forensics and tactics and we in return benefit from your field experience.”

He made a jovial gesture. ”There will be law enforcement from all over the country, free Hotel, free food. Manufacturers demonstrate their newest gadgets and you can even bring your friends.”

Peter pushed his hat back. “Hmm, maybe that doesn’t sound so bad after all. I’ll think about it.”

“You do that Ranger. We came off on the wrong food the other day. I apologize for that. Our boss was told your boss complained and maybe he had a point.”

Miller spread his arms. ”You might not like federal authorities all that much, but you served in the Marine Corps, I’ve seen the flag in your office and you served your country that way. Bottom line is we all want the bad guys of the streets and should learn to work together.”

Peter had to agree on that.” Well that’s true, I reckon.”

--

Phil rarely found the time to get into the park, but this morning he simply had to go and run a little. He needed to clear his mind.

The recent string of murder cases had piled a tower of file folders on his desk and yet there was neither a clear suspect nor a real connection. Sure all the victims of that series of murders were somehow connected to Samantha Winters. Dave Phillips had killed her, his influential mother used every connection she had and paid large sums to keep her son out of prison and her family name out of the news and scandals. Sam Green was even slimier than the average lawyer and had secured his legal victories with not so legal methods, which he used to get Dave acquitted.

The judge throwing out the DNA evidence impaled on the sword of a monument statue, yes he fit in it too. He wasn’t entirely sure why heavy hitters of the local Family were involved and got themselves killed in the process, but all that aside the murders were committed with Swiss watch precision. No traces, no evidence on the murder scenes. Sure it wasn’t the first time he came across professional killers and he even caught a few, but they were expensive and you had to have special connections to the underground to get these experts. He had checked into Samantha’s background of course, but there was no one who could pay. She was an orphan so he found out. Her only relative was a brother, a twin brother who served in the United States Marine Corps and was missing in Action, presumably killed. Whenever Phil came to that point he wondered what an Army Colonel was doing in the story. The Colonel checked out, he was a well respected, lifelong Army man.

But he was Army and not the Marine Corps, the whole thing would make more sense if he was a Marine too. Why would he say Samantha’s brother was one of his men?

Phil sighed as he kept running through the City’s green lung, Central Park. It was still early and the sun was painting Central Park in that early morning gold, that made this park into an almost surreal place.

The park at this time belonged to the hard core joggers and to the City maintenance guys picking up trash, mowing grass and such.

Of course it was also the time when the homeless left their spots between the bushes, where the sprinklers didn’t reach, to get up and go to the feeding spots for breakfast and then would loiter somewhere to panhandle, drink cheap malt liquor and piss just about anywhere they wanted.

He didn’t care much for the homeless. Sure some of them really had no other choice, but most of them really were on the street out of their own choice. The City and the State had enough programs for them, even housing and all sorts of help. But for most programs you had to stay sober and that was too inconvenient for them.

He had patrolled the concrete canyons of this city before he became a plainclothes detective. He saw the worst human filth the underbelly of society could possibly produce and while he claimed to be immune to it by now and has been dulled by its constant presence, deep down he hated the filth and dirt, the crime and the misery.

A soft fall of footsteps took him out of his brooding mood and a woman in a peach colored sweat suit was passing him. Her feet in white and pink Nikes, she was tall and had her long blonde hair tied to a ponytail that swung to the rhythm of her jog. Too late had he paid attention to her to see her face, all he saw was a glimpse of her profile and then she was past him. She was a goddess. Her butt had that perfect apple shape he loved, along with long legs, nice hips. He almost immediately remembered an old song by Johnny Tillotson called Poetry in motion and while he saw her body’s movements, he started to hum the tune he hadn’t heard or hummed in ages.

She stopped at one of the exercise stations where one could do pull ups. Now he could see her face and he stopped. She was the most gorgeous woman he had ever seen. She was beyond beautiful, simply and absolutely perfect. If he had to find words to describe her, he would have used the words aristocratic and angelic. She had that indefinable almost invisible smirk on her perfectly shaped lips that told the world she knew about her looks and her effect on others.

That she had a set of nice shaped breasts under that velvety peach colored material of her sweat suit, was just an extension of this almost unreal perfect vision of a woman.

Nineteen! She had done nineteen pull ups while he was watching her.

She pulled herself up holding her position and said with a clear voice.”Are you waiting to use the bars, or is there something else?”

The blood shot to his ears and he could feel them burn. “I am sorry Ma’am to stare like that. I was just impressed how easy you did those pull ups.”

She wasn’t even out of breath as she now used one hand to do five more. She then let go, used a small towel she had around her neck and smiled at him. “It’s your turn now, so I can watch.”

Whatever possessed him to show off, was certainly related to his male ego. And he did twenty pull ups too, but struggled as he switched to one hand.

She came closer; he could now smell a faint fresh perfume. Only women managed to work out like that and still smell like they just stepped out of the bathtub.

She said. ”One handed pull ups are as much about technique as they are about strength, you know. If you place your hand in the center you have more balance and it becomes easier.”

He managed to do two of them, and then he plopped down and tried to catch his breath.

“Well the next station is for crunches.” She said and started running again.

Either she ran slower or he was running a little faster to catch up, but after a few moments he was running next to her. He knew he was acting like an immature teenager but she wasn’t stuck up and talked to him and what was wrong with him forgetting the grime and dirt of the city, the bloody reality of his job and enjoy the sight of a beautiful girl?

He glanced over to her in the hope to maybe see a little of that special bounce, men including him, found so irresistible and he was not disappointed.

Then he caught her eyes and the smirk on her lips and again he felt like a boy caught with the hand in the cookie jar.

”Are you doing this kind of fitness program every day?” He asked.

“No not every day, but as often as I can.” “

Training for something? You seem as fit as an Olympic athlete?”

“I just like to keep in shape. I hate diets and diet food and love junk food, you see.”

He could not let the opportunity pass and said.” I am an expert on Junk food; I know a place not far from here serving greasy but delicious breakfast.”

“That actually sounds pretty good. I do have a craving for bacon and eggs.”

He could barely believe his luck, so he almost completely overlooked the yellow plastic tape and the burly looking uniformed cop.” Stop it right there, buster.”

The Cop snarled. Phil and the woman had come around a light bend of the concrete path, now blocked by a “Police-do-not-cross” plastic tape.

The police man made a waving motion with his hand.“Nothing to see so turn around and beat it.”

He was a New Yorker and so he was used to the general tone prevalent on the streets, and after he caught his breath he pulled his batch, flipped it open and said. ”Corporal your conduct is shameful, to say the least. You are supposed to serve and protect and be civil and courteous to civilians!”

The police officer was clearly caught off guard by that, but Phil paid no further attention to the man as he saw his partner Harry step from behind the bushes were the tape was tied.

“I thought I knew that grumpy voice. You got the call after all? I didn’t get you over the radio or the phone!”

“It is my off day, for Christ sake. I thought I leave that phone in the car and get away for a short while. Do a nice jog, get away from it all in the park, but no, I have to run into a crime scene and finding you here, can only mean one thing.”

Harry held his note book in one hand and thumbed over his shoulder to something Phil couldn’t see from his current position.

“It’s Mr. R. He’s sitting on a park bench by the pool.”

Harry came closer to the tape and held his open hand across the tape. ”I had no idea he is dating someone and what a looker you are,. I am Phil’s partner Harry, all he ever told about me is completely untrue and if you ever consider dumping him. I’m single too!”

Phil had the strong urge to strangle his partner to death right there and then and make the scene a double homicide, while he flushed again and tried to say something to her. She simply took Harry’s hand and said.“Nice to meet you, Harry.” then she gave Phil a look from the side.” It looks you will be busy now, but I take a rain check on that breakfast.”

“Ah I guess…” While Phil still struggled to say something, Harry didn’t even notice the deadly daggers in Phil’s eyes as he tried to stare him down.

”Crime Scene is pretty much done, Ma’am, I am sure he can see everything he has to in 3 minutes, if not we leave him here and we go eat. No need to waste any rain checks.”

Phil got himself under control and raised the yellow band, “It be just a minute, Ma’am and then we still could go for bacon and eggs.”

She smiled just a hint.”I guess I could wait a few minutes.”

Around the bush was a park bench, on it a naked man , seemingly watching the duck pond before him. Two men in white coveralls from the Coroner’s office carried a stretcher with a body bag on it from their van.

The ME was talking to one of the the crime scene investigators. Harry bend over and forward biting in his fist and over acted the words “Oh my god!” as if he would scream them but only a whisper came out of his mouth.

“Philip Cornell Decker, you scored big time! Why didn’t you tell me of her?”

“I just met her for Christ’s sake. Even if I would date someone I would never tell you, because of that show act you do and because if you knew the entire department would know every detail ten minutes later."

“You bet your life on it, they don’t call me Harry the 'Gossip' Schulman for nothing. You need to loosen up a bit.”

“And you need to finally grow up!”

“Never!”

“What do we got here anyway? I really want to go for breakfast so let’s get it over with!”

Harry handed Phil a pair of latex gloves, knowing his partner always liked to touch things and move stuff and more often than not found clues most others would have overlooked, even in the age of scientific CSI.

Schulman became serious. ”It’s Mr. Robert Galliani and he isn’t feeding the ducks in the buff. Someone stuffed a bunch of his own cigars down his throat and gagged him with a necktie. He suffocated. He has burn marks all over his body.”

“That was his trademark. He was famous for it, burning people with his cigars.” Phil sighed. “That’s just what I needed, a goddamn war. You know there is going to be a war. There will be guys killing for his position. The syndicates blaming each other. Just great!”

“Why don’t you go with that looker of yours and have a bite. I wrap things up around here.”

“Who found him?”

“City employee, picking up trash about two hours ago.”

“Got anything from forensics?”

“Lots of prints on the bench, but most are old or not useable due to the morning due. Lots of cigarette butts, also all wet from sprinkler and moisture, hard to tell if any are fresh. We found two sets of foot prints, one belonging to the trash picker, the other unknown.”

Phil sighed and handed Harry the unused rubber gloves back. “Yes I think I have breakfast, who knows when I have time to do it again.”

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