One Hundred Five

We fly into Bozeman, have a Tahoe waiting, then eighty eight miles to Gardiner, a tiny spot with a population under nine hundred. We connect with Don Dauten, a Yellowstone park ranger.
After I introduce our crew, Janah says, “Nice to meet you sir. Hope we can help.”
Dauten, “Don’t know what to make of it, don’t know what you can do. But somebody up the line got wind of the missing people and said you were willing to investigate. Can’t get no action from the police, they say the people likely just up and left. Nobody made a complaint, nobody looking for ‘em. They’s real close knit folks, came into town for supplies, did a fair amount of livin’ off the land. Huntin’s pretty good, they grew some crops, didn’t make no trouble ta’ speak of. Found a still, but they wasn’t sellin’ the shine to nobody. It was too small to make much ‘sides what they might drink themselves.”
“What do you think happened?”
“Got no reason to think the cops ain’t right, just left.”
“As I understand it, maybe I have it wrong, the vehicles you knew to be there were still there. Pickups, tractor, half dozen trailers. None of their personal possessions are gone.”
“Can’t rightly say miss. They din’t have much. Never went inside the trailers, not until they was gone. For all I know, somebody they knew came along, took them elsewhere. Gets cold here, real cold. Mighta just got tired of it.”
“But someone, up the line as you say, decided it was worth looking into.”
“Yep. We’s stretched real thin here ma’am. This is the north entrance to the park, got some tourist traffic, a few B&B’s, cabin style inns, a few motels.”
“Yes, we’re at Yellowstone Gateway, haven’t checked in yet.”
“Got yourself one of the nicer spots anyway.”
“Good to know. Can you take us to the site? After that, we don’t need to cut into your time. I’m sure you have a lot on your plate already.”
“Congress don’t think national parks need funding. We spend half the time training volunteers, the professional ranger population is going damn near extinct. Crazy thing is, the people love the park, we get more visitors, they cut the budget.”
“I have no love lost for Congress.”
We follow his truck along a dirt road, road being generous, winding up the mountain and narrowing along the way.
“Glad we got a four wheel drive. Rain comes, driving this will be a challenge.”
Around four miles in, he takes a left on no road at all, five hundred yard in, it’s the site.
“Olivia, Christine, sniff the wind, Sharon, keep a sharp eye out. Lindy, you’re with Janette and me, who am I?”
“Darlene, dull, dull Darlene.”
“Very funny. Do not even think of wandering off or I’ll rope you to a tree, understood?”
She looks around, it’s woody, with a damp feel, there’s fog, but it might be simply low clouds, we’re a mile up.
“I’m not going anywhere out of your sight mom, this place is creepy.”
Janah, “I can see why they might have just got tired of it, not much here is there?”
Dauten, “Trees, critters, some patches of grassland where they grew crops, simple stuff, onions, potatoes, corn, all small plots. Not sure how they even got the trailers up here, but they did. Used creek water, guess they boiled it. No electric, they had a propane tank, wood stoves. No shortage of wood here, this ain’t the park. No rules about who can squat and who can’t. County figures anyone crazy enough to park out here is too crazy to mess with.”
“Which direction is the farm?”
“Straight east, if the sky was clear you could just see it. Sun’s out, burn off the fog soon enough.”
“They said this was a holler, I thought that was more an Appalachian term.”
“Them folks was here, they called it a holler, nobody else does.”
“Ah, that’s most helpful. Now, do you know names?”
“Couple, Jeb Watkins, Arlo Prince and a woman, Annie…uh, Annie Slake.”
“And what was the mix, adults and children?”
“Lessee, most of ‘em was adults or older teens, prob’ly fifteen, sixteen of  ‘em. Rest was kids. Ones I saw was six to ten, I heard a baby cryin’once, din’t see ‘em.”
“Last question, then I’m out of your hair, why did you come up here at all?”
“They’s people, not friendly people grant you, but people. Christian thing to do, see if they’s alright.”
Janah smiles, “Not many folks like you left Mr. Dauten, thank you.”
He grins, “They made some damn fine shine too.”
We laugh, “Then you had two good reasons.”
He ambles off to his truck, cranks up, turns around and is gone. Now to get busy.
“Sloane, Janah will watch Oceane and Cass. You and I are going to get nosy, find out which scents make sense and which don’t. Start with the trailers, the trucks, then the grounds. Lauren, you’re with me, don’t just stand around. Look at everything and ask why, why is that there, why isn’t something that should be here not here? Keep mental notes or tap them into your phone.”
Oceane is walking, in a trailer, out again, to another, touching things, leaving them where she found them. Cass is floating over the encampment, the holler, whatever, apparently enjoying the scenery. Sloane is nosing everything in sight and, from the looks of it, several things not in sight.
What might have happened?
Just up and left, with help or on order of some third party. Can’t have just walked out, there’s no place to walk to, unless they got sick or drugged and walked away delirious, then died of exposure, bears or wolves.
Or aliens decided they needed hayseeds for anal probe experiments.
Sloane and I don’t come up with anything we could call unusual. It’s the woods, things smell woodsy, there is evidence of varmints and bigger creatures, but only some distance from the encampment. Other scents are more modern day, gas, oil from leaky trucks, gun oil, leather, the outhouses are some distance away, but to Sloane and I we might as well be sitting in them.
“Nothing revealing in the scents Janah, lack of regular personal hygiene, the creek is cold, heating water for baths is time and fuel consuming. This is a short step up from eighteen hundreds frontier living.”
Janah, “I tried to get a body count from footprints. With twenty three and growing teenagers, it’s impossible to tell if there are out of the ordinary prints, like visitors. They wore everything from no shoes to sandals to boots. Unless Oceane connected to something, the personal effects are plain and ordinary, plastic hair brushes, brushed their teeth but with baking soda. Cleaned things with baking soda, themselves as well when they did it. There’s no a box of detergent or bar of soap anywhere.”
“Oceane, what did you sense?”
“Emptiness.”
“Nothing left on objects they handled, clothes they wore?”
“No feeling.”
Janah, “What could that mean?”
 Oceane gets the vibe of what people felt when they handled an object. These people clearly handled pots, knives, forks, guns, put on and took off clothes.
“Then they were essentially emotionless, all of them. Not just anhedonic, unable to feel happy, rather no emotion whatsoever. At least none that Oceane can sense.”
Janah, “Call in one of your helpers, while you do that I’m calling Dauten.”
We always carry sat phones, no ATT up here.
I reach out for an owl or an eagle.
Janah, “Mr. Dauten, a question, oh, we have satellite phones. My questions is, how did the people appear to you when you interacted with them? Yes, how they looked, how they sounded when they spoke.”
She listens, then, “No, a few minor observations only, no clue yet where they went or why. Speak to you soon.”
“He used the word flat. Didn’t laugh, didn’t gripe or curse, no anger, no frivolity. He bought moonshine from them after they offered him a drink, made from apples he said, sometimes berries. Said it appeared to have no effect on them at all, they called it medicine. He wondered if it was the shine that got them tamped down, said when he drank it, it was soothing, but he laughed a lot. It made him feel loose, like marijuana.”
“If it was the drink, then they all drank it, which isn’t out of the question, they used it as medicine. Given the dicey nature of the water, it might have helped with gurgling tummies.”
An eagle, a big Golden, swoops in and lands on a stump. There are a dozen tree stumps in a circle they obviously used as furniture.
Goldie, “You have the talent, who taught you?”
“A friend in the Canadian Rockies, and an owl,” I turn my head two seventy.
She shrugs, well, sort of, a half wing flap, “Owls are crazy. You asked for me, here I am.”
“Do you know of the humans who lived in this camp?”
“Have to, it is how to stay alive. They shot small animals for food, we have no objection to it. I kill for food every day. They did not shoot like more insane humans, kill just to kill. What they killed, they ate.”
“Do you know when they left, and how? Their machines are still here.”

Goldie is studying Cassie, she’s floating nearby.
“Some humans are more than human, the girl who sits in the air, she knows.”
“I was going to ask her next, I like to connect with bird friends when I can.”

She’s cocking her head back and forth, still studying Cass.
“One day flying machines came, the kind that can be still in the air, like the girl. They landed in the field. The people got on, the machines flew away.”
“You know where the machines went?”
“No reason to, humans were gone, good riddance.”
“Then, which direction did the machines go?”
“In the direction of the sky fire before the night comes.”
“West.”
“If you say so.”
“You have been most helpful, thank you, good health to you, your mate and your young.”
“I will enjoy telling them of the not humans. The opposite of the half humans, you are light, they are dark.”
“We call them Shadows.”
“Ah, good name, we will use it. They are evil, as you know. Why don’t humans kill them?”

“Most do not know what Shadows are, they do not understand. Shadows can take a mind, humans, animals, any living creature with a brain. When we find them, we kill them.”
“I have heard rumors of Shadow Hunters. Too bad there are none in my territory now, I would like to watch you kill them.”
“Thank you again.”

She raises her wings, a powerful down stroke and she’s off, circles Cassie once, then a screech and up into the sky. No eagle joins her, dad must be home with the kids.

One Hundred Six

“Cassie, float down and sit please. Everyone find a spot, let’s see what we have and don’t have.”
We circle on one side, the stumps are smooth, lot of butts have gone before.
“Oceane, dig out what Cassie knows before she forgets it all.”
We’ve figured out they talk mind to mind, nobody else in our tribe is on their channel though. Conversely, I’ve got enough people in my head to start a girl scout troop.
It’s clear Cassie is off someplace past or future. She can time travel, should say time travel lite. Images can be fuzzy or opaque, it’s not like she’s sitting here two weeks ago.
Oceane, “Like the bird said, helicopters came and took them. They went to a place with fences and guards, men with uniforms, like on TV.”
“Soldiers or cops?”
“One is the other.”
“Okay, granted, but where?”
She looks to Cass again, “Cassie can’t tell how far her mind has gone. It stands alone, a large building, two smaller ones, trucks, the helicopters. Men raise their hands to their foreheads.”
“What, they have headaches?’
Janah giggles, “Saluting, it’s military of some sort.”
“Then definitely headaches, or frustration.”
“At ease soldier,” she turns and asks Oceane, “Anything to identify location, a sign, numbers on the buildings.”
“Green with arched roofs, ugly. One man is holding a folder.”
“Does it have a label, something printed?”
“Top Secret, then letters psyops. We do not know what it means.”
“Psychological Operations, our hillbillies are an experiment.”
Lauren, “Is it like zombies? I watched the zombie program on TV, Walking Dead.”
“There aren’t any zombies except at the DMV, cubicle drones, flight attendants and Rob Zombie.”
“Who is Rob Zombie?”
“A rock musician, he sings about Satan, vampires, and zombies.”
“Is Satan real?”
“No, except for politicians.”
Lauren giggles, “Mom has a dim view of humanity.”
“You should chat with Nikko, I’m practically the happiness fairy.”
“Chloe is the happiness fairy.”
“True. Where were we, um…military experiments on hillbillies.”
Janah, “Let’s pack it in, there’s nothing here for us. I need to make a couple of calls.”
We check in to Yellowstone Gateway. It’s basic, but crisp and clean. Plenty of room in our cabin, full kitchen, refrigerator. Too bad, we really don’t need to hang here, the action appears to be elsewhere.
Janah, “Dinner?”
“I looked over the restaurant options, looks dicey. Suggest we visit Gardiner Market. They sell deli stuff, beer and wine.”
“I’ll hang with Oceane and Cass, you take Sloane and Lauren,” she looks in the fridge, “need a bag of ice, tea and coffee and the additives.”
“Oceane, sit here and watch TV, do not go outside, even on the porch. No wandering.”
She clicks the remote, there are two satellite TVs, she searches around and finds CNN. I have no idea why Cass likes the news, but she seems content. Later we’ll find something more interesting than what politicians have been up to, like dead people walking or whatever. What if politicians are actually zombies, living off the flesh of taxpayers?
Janah, “Go, I’m hungry, sort out politics later.”
We do, find an acceptable selection of deli cuts, cracker and chips, veggie wraps, bottle of white and caffeine for the morning. Back to the Inn. Janahs washed the plates and utensils, never sure of housekeeping efficiency in these places.
Oceane and Cass still parked on the couch, neither aliens nor the military has swooped in to grab them.
As we eat, Janah updates.
“They’re at an unlisted military research facility. Back through Bozeman, up 287 to Avon, then Highway 141, two hundred miles. Off 141 towards Black Mountain there’s an unmarked restricted road. Five miles in is the research facility.”
I’m clicking around the map, “They want privacy, they got it, there’s zip there, not even Google Earth.”
Sloane, “These people are part of some kind of military experiment, what can we do about it?”
Janah, “A group of loosely related folks disappeared from a spot in the hills of Appalachia five years ago. At the time it was believed to be eighteen people. Watkins, Prince and Slake were some of the surnames listed. Part of what was known as the Watkins clan.”
Sloane, “The military just picked them out?”
“Story is, they ran afoul of another clan, the Hitchens.  One Hitchen is a Major General in the US Army. Guess where he works?’
“Psy Ops, except it would say Special Operations or something equally nondescriptive.”
Janah, “Yep. Got subjects for whatever research they’re into, got rid of a problem for the family.”
Lauren, “What do they do with people, isn’t it illegal?”
“Of course, that’s why it is classified, which means only a few people know about it. They dress up kidnapping and what amounts to torture under the banner of national security. National security is like religion, you can justify anything if you call it national security or God’s will.”
“Isn’t that wrong.”
“Yes it is dear one, and that’s why we’re going to stop it.”
“How are you going to do it?”
“Beats me, that’s Janah’s department.”
After TV, time to rest. Cass and Oceane take one bedroom, Janah, Lauren and I the other, Sloane takes the fold out in the living room. After pre-sleep ablutions, Lauren curls into me, pulls my arms around her chest. I kiss her cheek and neck until she giggles, we drift off.

One Hundred Seven

I’m pouring Janah tea, “Got a plan?”
“Mulling over a couple. One is to have you do the Shaolin sneak and see what you can find out. The place isn’t that big though and there’s a fair amount of open ground. We can deploy the drone for a closer look. Or I can get us clearance to waltz in and do anything we want. Have to be you and me, maybe Oceane, Cass looks fourteen and Lauren is just hurdling nine. They aren’t likely to be convincing as operatives in the Department of Spooks.”
“I bought a dozen eggs and English muffins. I’ll have breakfast ready in ten minutes. Then we can pack it in and find a spot to launch the drone.”
An hour later we’re on 141 two miles down from the spot where a road heads up the hill, a road with a massive gate about thirty yards in and a couple of guards.
Oceane has the drone airborne, it takes a few minutes to get to altitude then to the site. She’s far enough away that it would only be visible if someone was scanning the sky with binoculars. The video feed tells us nobody is. There are a couple of Humvees and the two helicopters. One is a Chinook transport, the other is a smaller something that appears more of a support copter. Both appear well worn.
The yard doesn’t bustle with activity. It doesn’t bustle with much of anything. The Quonset huts are as Janah described, one large, two smaller, like barracks. Looks like they’ve been around a while. The military doesn’t use them much anymore, they sold most off to the public, this site retained them for reasons unknown.
Janah, “Likely cost, the things were here, the operations aren’t on anyone’s radar. Building new stuff means budget requests and putting the bureaucracy on alert. It’s like the helicopters, neither came off the assembly line in the past ten years, the Humvees have battle scars. Whoever runs this op doesn’t spend much money on it by military standards.”
The big door opens on the larger hut, soldiers mill around, looks like a break, nothing operational. Four go off to the rear of the hut and break out a pack of cigarettes.
“Oceane, peek inside.”
The video zooms, the interior isn’t brightly lit, but we are recording and can adjust brightness and shadows later. Eloise has improved the listening capability by adding a parabolic dish, the kind I have on my hand held listening device. Now we don’t have to be on top of the targets to collect audio.
“Get in range to pick up conversation,” the dish can pick up normal conversation from a hundred to a hundred fifty yards depending on wind and weather.
Man she can fly that sucker, audio kicks in, “Fuckers were a mess when the copters brought ‘em in. Smelled like last week’s fish.”
“You expect, man? They stuck out in the wilderness, hunting varmints and cooking over fires. Got ‘em cleaned up and burned the clothes.”
“You didn’t have to ride two hunnert miles in the transport with ‘em. I wanted to drop lunch.”
“Yeah, Sergeant Suckup, get all the easy duty, Major keep his dick in your ass.”
“Fuck you, I get my share of shit.”
“What we gonna do with this crew? They too fucked up to send back to civilization.”
“They didn’t come from civilization, they came from some ‘holler’ in West fuckin’ Virginia.”
“Tell that to Hitchens, he came from some holler in West Virginia. You gonna be on eat shit detail.”
“Hitchens got the fuck out, they say he don’t go back neither. No love lost for those folks so far’s anyone can tell.”
“Blood is blood, those people, dumb as they are, got on his bad blood side some whichaway. They payin’ now.”
“Best keep your mouth shut. I been here three years, they run a buncha fuckups through, least they was fucked up when they left. That’s what we do, fuck fuckers up and see how they deal. The shrinks develop techniques to coerce, subvert and scare the shit out of terrorists. In this case, turn them into brain dead meat sacks. Where they go when we done with ‘em ain’t my pay grade, ain’t none-a yours either. You want a court martial for treason, keep jawboning. Stomp your smokes and get back on mission.”
“On it.”
“No rank here lower than sergeant, even the guards have rank.”
Janah, “They can’t have anything less than total commitment, people with something to lose if they break ranks. It’s Psyops, they psyoped these guys before they got here.”
“Oceane, bring the drone in, we got lucky with a close up, let’s not press it.”
Drone secured, we pull out of the woods and head towards town, the closest being Helena, about fifty miles. Everything else has a population of a hundred and six, we’d stand out too much.
We check into the Best Western Premiere, two bed suite, which means two connecting rooms, one with two Queen beds and the other with a King. Wet bar in the King, microwaves and mini fridge. There’s a steakhouse next door, two bar and grilles steps away and the hotel offers complimentary full breakfast.
We missed lunch, oh well, Sloane and I fetch coffee, tea and pastries from the Vanilla Bean Bakery a mile away. There’s a Starbucks across the street, I’ll go the extra mile to avoid it. We have vanilla cupcakes with chocolate buttercream icing and chocolate cupcakes with vanilla buttercream.
Janah, “These are good, fun food in lieu of a healthy lunch.”
“Sloane surfed the Silver Star Steakhouse next door, huge menu, lots of veg, steaks, chicken and salads. She made a reservation for seven thirty. I assumed we aren’t going to storm the installation today.”
“No, I have to figure an approach, still figuring. More tea maybe, and a second cupcake.”
We kill the afternoon quietly, around six thirty I open wine, pass around glasses to the others. As a Shaolin priest, I took a vow to avoid intoxicants, the odd sip from Janah’s glass is my only exception. I have no clue what hard liquor is like, or even beer.
“Let’s think over what we’re trying to accomplish, that might give us an approach.”
Sloane, “People are being abducted and used for psychological research. What else do we need to know?”
“We can waltz in and shut it down easily enough, but we need to make it noisy, so people pay attention.”
“Why can’t we just collect evidence with the drone, then send it to newspapers, 60 Minutes or whatever?”
“We can, or Janah can chase down someone I the chain of command who knows what’s going on out here, or should know anyway.”
Janah, “This is a CIA operation, nobody is going to admit to anything. They aren’t going to keep twenty three prisoners sitting in the hut for weeks. If we piece together what we have, they were brought to the installation and blanked, then sent to the woods. The trailers had to be airlifted in, Dauten missed it, but he did wonder how they got trailers up the road, which was clearly impossible. They weren’t in the park in the first place. I suppose he saw regular smoke and got curious. The area has campers all the time, but they stay a couple of nights and move on. To my point, the people were dropped in and left to figure out what to do. They are mountain folk, habit and genetics kicked in even though they had no idea where they were or how they got there. Might not have remembered their own names.”
“Is that the experiment? Can people function just out of habit and history?”
“I can’t see any other reason. Hitchens got them taken from West Virginia, not an easy feat even for a covert military operation. His family no doubt took over whatever it was the Watkins clan was up to, cooking meth, peddling Oxycontin or dope. Moonshine can’t be a big moneymaker, booze is cheap enough and legal.”
“We’re not set up for busting in with rank over their heads. You have to get that cleared, then we need documents proving we are who we say we are. Last time we did that, we had soldiers peddling arms in the US. This operation is sanctioned by somebody up the food chain. If they find out we’re on to it, they can shut down the place overnight, it just isn’t that big.”
Janah, “Agreed. So we go covert. That’s your department Sylk, how do we get it done and not spend a month doing it?”
“I need to think it over, I’ll think better over a steak, it’s time to go across the street.”
Dinner is yummy, we went a little nuts.
Started with  crab and spinach dip, a couple of  honey walnut & bleu cheese
salads with cucumber, tomatoes, egg and mushrooms.
Sloane and I split a filet, nicely charred and reddish inside and smoked pork ribs with a lovely BBQ sauce, cut with a fork tender.
Oceane and Cass have roasted chicken, red potatoes and roasted vegetables.
Janah’s entrée is creamed spinach with garlic, shallots, gouda and cream cheese. I’ll pass the recipe along to Dasha, we do creamed spinach at home frequently.
In fact, she taps into my head, “You will anyway feenish there and come home Dahfoney.”
“Won’t be long angel. Make a note, we had creamed spinach with garlic, shallots gouda and cream cheese, it was quite good. Maybe a variation to serve at home.”
“Da, I will make tomorrow and see. Sister ees not going to San Francisco until you are home. The young ones are gud?”
“Yes, Cass was a lot of help, we have to collect enough video and audio to nail these guys, and whoever up the line thinks it’s a good idea to kidnap American citizens and do experiments on them. Daria’s there then?”
“Da, she will join in.”

Daria, “What can we do from here?”
“Hack into the installation, they have to be using computers for something. It will be in Siprnet, the Pentagon’s private internet. Who do they send reports and updates to? We’re going to have to gut these guys from within. Call Susan, she’ll work on it too.”

(Siprnet is an acronym, for Secret Internet Protocol Router Network).
I give her latitude and longitude, there’s no address for the place, but there are satellite dishes, signals are going someplace.
They blink off. Dasha doesn’t like me gone, really doesn’t like her sister gone, both of us is undue strain. I assume Nishiko figured that out and backed up San Francisco.
“I have our hackers deployed, with any luck we’ll get incriminating communications. We’ll have to unravel the mumbo jumbo to figure out what they’re saying, they’ll use a bunch of code words for the bad stuff.”
Janah, “Then time for TV and bed. Tomorrow Oceane and Sloane have drone duty. Sloane, show Lauren how it works tomorrow.”
“Started this afternoon, by tomorrow afternoon, she’ll have all the basics. Those long skinny fingers are already used to tiny keyboards and touch screens. She has stuff on her android I didn’t know existed.”
Lauren, “Daphne’s mom showed me,” she giggles, “I have to call her Susan or Sis, she said granny was out of the question.”

One Hundred Eight

This morning we drive the fifty to the same spot we used yesterday, it’s deep enough in the trees to avoid being spotted from the road. Sloane and Oceane sit on the tailgate and launch the drones.
“Take opposite sides of the site, keep your distance. When you see a chance to pick up conversation, approach and record.”
Twenty minutes of nothing, Sloane spots a small window near the top of the big hut. Men shuffle between it and the two smaller huts. Smaller doesn’t mean small, they look to be a hundred by fifty. One has a steady stream of smoke coming from a vent, the mess hut. Couple of soldiers come out with cups of coffee. The other will be barracks. There aren’t more than ten soldiers doing grunt work, guards, a couple of cooks, must be at least two copter pilots, a maintenance guy. That leaves the rest as rank, the shrinks and psychologists screwing with people. We haven’t been watching long enough to figure out how many, but it can’t be more than a few, six tops.
Janah, “Looks like sixteen to eighteen, the twenty three subjects seems like a lot to handle, but I’m certain they’re drugged.”
Sloane has her drone about fifty yards from the window, maybe twenty feet higher, the video angled down to see if she can get a view of the floor. One bit of luck, the big door opens and the interior is flooded with light.
“Sheesh, cots in cages, how splendid.”
There are three cages, eight cots in two, seven in one holding the younger ones. The subjects start to mill around when the door opens, “Must be exercise time, maybe lunch.”
So it is, one cage is opened, the younger ones. Four soldiers walk them over to the mess hut. When they’re done, the soldiers walk them around each of the three huts, then back to the cage. The process repeats for the other two.
During the trip around the huts for the last eight, the soldiers are talking.
“Glad to see the last of this crowd. Tomorrow we haul ‘em back to the mountain and drop ‘em, back to their life of luxury.”
“The shrinks thought they would reprogram when they were returned to an environment they understood, undo most of what they’d done anyway. Didn’t work out. They’s as strung out today as they was when we dropped ‘em off the first go.”
“Gave ‘em a awful lot of that drug they’re testin’.”
“I heard one doc say just that, gave ‘em too much. Instead of fixin’ the paranoia, it made them blank, like they’d had lobotomies, or too much shock therapy.”
“Captain Reynolds says they’re hopin’ more time back in the woods will reset ‘em eventually. Major don’t seem to give a shit one way or the other.”
“Keep that to yourself Sarge, or you’ll be getting’ dosed.”
They go inside, the big door comes rumbling down.
Janah, “Nice.”
“We’ve blanked people lots of times.”
“They were criminals, abusers. And we didn’t make them paranoid first, they were already off the reservation.”
“How do you know the military isn’t practicing on criminals? Who knows what the hillbillies were up to before the army swiped them?”
“True, we don’t know anything about former subjects. In this case, they blanked the kids, not sure how criminal a six year old can be.”
“I’m not justifying it, but they couldn’t leave part of the group functional and zone out the rest.”
“I get that, there’s still the matter of legality, even though we do illegal things, and even though we do similar illegal things. Call it an immoral dilemma. Let’s go, we’re not doing an assault, check in with Daria and see if they’ve turned up anything.”
Sloane drives while I mental Daria, “We have a problem, overtaking a bunch of armed soldiers is complicated. Even if we used tranq darts, we have to be able to get to them first. The first few to fall would drive the others to cover anyway. It’s too messy and uncertain.”
Daria, “Will not be necessary. The experiments are supposed to be to test drugs to treat PTSD. In fact they are using drugs to create symptoms, then other drugs to counteract. They use medical and psychological terms, Janah’s dad unraveled the jargon. They don’t care much about treating PTSD, the main focus is finding drugs to make the enemy unstable. That can be administered in the water or air.”
“Essentially chemical warfare.”
“Da.”
“And how much concrete evidence do you have?”
“Enough. They used suspected terrorists, which means Muslims they are suspicious of in the states. They used convicts who signed waivers for reduced sentences. The picked up homeless people and the last group you know about. Major Hitchens decided to do his relatives a favor and remove people they spent a lot of time fighting with over stupid things. Land, hunting and fishing, meth production, children.”
“Children?”
“Inbreeding was starting to be a problem, they made a truce to marry off girls from one clan to men of the other. There’s also some indication that girls were stolen from elsewhere and brought in. Once the girls were post pubescent, they became breeders. Some have had seven or eight kids over the years.”
“Sheesh, how’d you get all that?”
“Dark web. It’s common practice in these kinds of controlled populations.”

“Let me talk it over with Janah, back to you later, anything else?”
“Nyet,”
she blinks off.
I replay for the others, including Lauren. We never treat the younger girls who came to us as neophytes, or in need of some protection from life. They came from crappy situations, they know the drill better than anyone.
Lauren, “What happens now mom?”
“We go to the hotel and goof off. It’s two now, we’ll be there before three. I could get us a flight today, but it’s a five hour flight and we lose two hours in time zones, we’d get home at midnight. Better to go in the morning, we can be home by two if we leave at seven.”
We get to the Best Western, I don’t want housekeeping in when we’re not there, we have strange stuff, disguises, sometimes lesbian toys, not this time but still. The DND tags are still on the doors, we only used towels once and there are spares.
Janah, “I need to move, suppose we tour Helena for a couple of miles?”

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