Jarreas Underwood

"I'm what!?"

"Transferring to XSWAT. Sit down."

The fatigue in his captain's voice stopped Sergeant Robert Hemelshot cold, turning his anger and disbelief aside—for the moment. "Yes, sir." The words were clipped and enunciated.

Captain Harold Sorenson sighed, sat down and tried to explain. "Look, Bob, I just found out and I've spent all morning trying to get more info. Have a seat and I'll fill you in."

Bob followed the example of his commanding officer and friend of 13 years, and settled his six-foot, well-muscled frame into the more comfortable of the two chairs in front of the large, cluttered desk. He'd been there many times over the years, sometimes for commendations and just as often for a reprimand, but never with such a sinking feeling in his gut.

"You know the implants you had last month?"

"Yeah." A smile cracked Bob's stern features. "The subdermal weave is nice, but the reflex boost really saved my boys' asses in the action yesterday. That reminds me, Harry—I've got most of the paperwork done and I'll have it to you after lunch."

"Thanks." Harry gave a wry grin at his top sergeant's efficiency and devotion to detail. He'd miss that, almost as much as he'd miss his friend. "But your recovery time was well below the norm and they went over your tissue samples again. Guess what? You've got the cybernetic synthesis genome."

"I what? How? I took those 'are you special?' tests when I joined the force, Harry—everyone does. They were all negative."

"That was over a decade ago. They've gotten a lot more sophisticated since then." Harry grinned, "You're gonna be a Glitterboy."

"I'm—!" Bob sat up in amazement, then dramatically flopped back into the chair and threw up his hands. "Fuck! I'm going to turn into an arrogant bastard who can't find his ass with both hands, a map, a compass and a stick."

Harry fought a snicker and won, barely. "You know that's not fair to the rest of 'em. Just because Officer Nichols has cranial-rectal insertion syndrome doesn't mean they're all bad."

Bob snorted, "He makes up for the rest of 'em."

"In any case, you've got the genome and you're going in for training. You're also being reassigned to Division 9 immediately, reporting to Alice Cadbury at 0800 tomorrow."

"So soon?"

"Yep. And there's bad news to go along with your transfer."

That got his attention. "The transfer is the good news?!"

Harry looked troubled. "Do you remember the rumors about them losing an entire team out in the Haunted Zone?" Bob nodded. He'd heard a few things but nothing beyond the loss of an entire combat team. It had made him nervous, and stopped the anti-XSWAT jokes for a while. "That was the Ninth. It's being reformed with new people."

The sinking feeling Bob had turned into a free-fall. "How new?" This could be bad.

"That new."

Shit! It was that bad. He looked at his hands. "I don't know if I'm the best man for that."

"Bullshit. They need someone like you to ride herd on their latest collection of freaks and geeks, you're the best I've got, and if that isn't good enough for XSWAT they can go to hell."

Silence for a moment, then, softly, "I should've checked his equipment one last-"

Harry stopped his friend with a hand on his shoulder. "Bob—we've been over this a thousand times. All month long he'd been sticking to procedure, and you'd checked every single time. You couldn't have known he wouldn't clean his gun that one time."

"The one time it mattered." Bob looked down. "If I'd kept to the book he'd be."

Bob remembered yelling at the rookies. "Eight laps more, one hundred rounds at the range and you pansies are done for the night!" He smiled to himself—these were good men, some of the best he'd ever trained. Over the past month he'd run them ragged with practice, drills, simulations and range time, and had yet to find anything seriously wrong. Perhaps it was time for an early night? He smiled, and trusted the men to know the routine by now.

He awoke to the blare of the klaxon, instinct rolling him out of bed and onto his feet before his brain caught up. The duty screen flashed the info: a robbery gone bad, a hostage dead, and SWAT called for immediate resolution. It was the worst kind of mission, Bob cursed as he slipped into his gear, no planning, negotiations already impossible and they didn't know anything about the perps—except they were armed and desperate, and willing to use deadly force. He checked his sidearm one last time and holstered it as he headed to the briefing room.

The rest of the night was a blur—a speeding, crowded spinner, sirens and strobing lights on the street, a few minutes to plan an assault against the four men in the mini-mart, sending two men to cover the alley on the left, then blowing through the store like a typhoon. He remembered the smoke from his barrel as he stared at his target, then "Officer down! Officer down in the alley!"

There had been six perps, not four, and the last two had tried to escape down the alley—straight into the two men he'd sent there. Probationary SWAT team member Daniel Blackwater had his gun drawn and pointed at the door, but it had jammed and the perps had pulled the triggers on AK-47s loaded with AP slugs. It was cold consolation to Daniel that his partner had eliminated his killers moments afterward.

Harry's voice and a hand on his shoulder brought him back to reality "He'd be just as dead. There were two guys coming at him—he didn't stand a chance, gun or no gun." He'd come around the desk and sat beside him. Bob looked Harry in the eye. They'd had this conversation a hundred times in the years since the incident, and it always came down to the same last words. "He could've gone down fighting."

And as always, Harry made no reply. He tightened his grip on Bob's shoulder, and the moment passed.

"So, how much trouble do you think I'll get into over with the the Xtreme Shitload of Weird Arrogant Turds, anyhow?"

Harry laughed, and replied with a grin, "At least you're getting a raise to pay for all the trouble you'll be causing."


That evening, at home.

"Honey? The good news is I'm getting a raise."