The Artemis Project: Prologue

US Army Captain Elizabeth Annette Garrett walked into the office area of the base, nodded to the corporal and three privates working the desk area, then walked behind them down the hallway to her own office. She would have preferred to be elsewhere, but the summary sentence that had been imposed on the idiot that required her to be here had ended this morning, she would be seeing him any minute now.

Once she was in the office, she sent her secretary, a corporal with excellent administrative skills named Jane Kitterwell, to get her a fresh cup of coffee. She sat down behind her desk, waiting for the idiot to arrive so she could lay down the law, maybe he would turn a new leaf.

While she waited, she thought back to the incident that started the whole thing. One of the staff sergeants responsible for running the pistol and revolver ranges, Peter Jensen, had invited his daughter to visit him, as he hadn't seen her for over ten months. She had travelled all the way from Arizona, leaving in the afternoon on the Friday and arriving at the bus station two miles from the base at 7:45 AM on the Saturday.

Staff Sergeant Jensen had talked about his fifteen year old daughter many times, he thought the world of his little girl. He was very happy when he found out that she would be able to visit him and had made the arrangements for her travel and living space on the base.

Patti Jensen had been picked up at the bus station just after 8 AM that Saturday morning, and was supposed to be staying until early Monday, when she would be returning home via the bus service heading west from the same small station near the base.

Her dad had met her a few minutes after she arrived on the base and had been allowed to show her around the public areas of the base. Patti had eaten meals in the mess with some of the soldiers who had treated her quite well, and was walking to her room Sunday morning when she was grabbed from behind, then yanked inside a doorway. The soldier who had grabbed her was a tall but slightly seedy looking male.

He reached for her blouse with both hands, which was when Patti started screaming at the top of her lungs. A sergeant from one of the base's infantry companies and two privates were passing by, they broke the door down and hauled Corporal Bryan Longstaff away from her.

All three of the soldiers recognized him quite well, the corporal was known for how he treated women on and off the base. He had always complained that the army was not the place for women, in his words, "They should be barefoot and pregnant, that's all they're good for."

It was no surprise when others arrived that Longstaff was lying on the floor, the sergeant had used the inner wall to knock him away from her.

Patti, the sergeant and the two privates had all given their statements that Longstaff was about to strip and likely sexually assault her.

Patti had been a nervous wreck for the rest of her visit. She hadn't wanted to leave her room at all, but a few female enlisted had talked her into spending some time in the one area of the base that was relatively untouched, a small wooded area behind the base's many buildings.

The problem was that Longstaff hadn't actually done anything beyond grab the girl; when roused a few minutes later, he stated that he had brought Patti into the building just to talk to her. There was no actual proof of anything sexual, and the jerk had high-reaching connections. There wasn't a single person on the base that didn't know that Longstaff's father was an Army general and an uncle was a navy admiral.

When it came to Colonel Brownlee's attention, he left the punishment up to the girl's father, while saying that he was damn glad that he hadn't been present when it happened. Staff Sergeant Jensen had decided to put Longstaff on sixty days of kitchen and latrine duty.

She snapped out of her thoughts when her secretary returned with her coffee, followed a moment later by Corporal Bryan Longstaff.

**********

Longstaff stood just inside the doorway, saluted her, then relaxed briefly when she returned the salute. Captain Garrett pointed, stating, "Take a seat, Corporal." The corporal walked in front of her desk, taking one of the two simple wooden chairs, then waited for her to speak.

"Corporal, if it had been anyone else, they likely would have been dishonourably discharged after what happened that day. You, young man, are only here because your father pulled some strings AND because there was no proof of any sexual contact with the girl."

"She's a girl, with her big tits and ass, she had to have been looking for a good time, that's what girls like her do."

"Shut up, corporal, one more bit of crap like that and I'll happily go to the colonel to have you discharged dishonourably. You knew, like just about everyone else on the base, that she was only fifteen, you're 23; if you had had sex with her, you'd be looking at statutory rape. The age of consent in her home state of Arizona is eighteen, it's eighteen here too; you know that quite well, you've been here for over two years.

"This is your last warning, Corporal. If anything else happens, you can bet your brisket you'll end up in a military prison. Now get out."

Longstaff stood and snapped a salute, then waited for almost a minute for the salute to be returned before he stalked out of the office.

**********

Captain Garrett watched the corporal walk away after she returned his salute. She shook her head, he'd be in trouble again soon enough.

She turned back to her desk, then became rather busy with reading reports and making her own to pass on to Colonel Brownlee. She had turned on a radio, but kept it low, as she tended to find it easier to work when there was some kind of background noise nearby.

**********

Corporal Longstaff walked away from the office area, fuming, "How can that bitch stand there and tell me what I can and can't do? Doesn't she fucking know who my father and uncle are? Hmmm, maybe I can have them post her to some piss-poor location far away from me."

He wandered into an empty building, pulled a high end cell phone from a pocket and hit the number two speed dial on it.

He stood there and waited while the phone rang three times, then a fourth, before it was picked up. "Brigadier General Longstaff's office, please hold." He continued to stand there for a few minutes, his foot tapping impatiently on the floor, before the person asked who was calling.

"Hello, this is Bryan Longstaff, is my father in his office, miss?"

"He is, I'll put you through to him." Bryan had to wait another minute or so before his father came on the line.

"Hello, son. I thought I told you not to call here directly unless it was an emergency?" Joseph Longstaff's low growl came through the phone.

"Well, dad, it might be an emergency. You see, the Captain here has threatened me with military prison, I want her relocated and lost."

Joe Longstaff listened to his son and shook his head, he sure as hell hadn't raised the boy to be like this.

"Son, I'm going to say this once and once only. You were damn lucky this time that nothing beyond you grabbing the girl happened. I've intervened for you several times, but if you had actually done anything to that girl, I'd lock you up and throw the key away myself. I could have sworn I raised you to respect women and treat them with decency and honour, yet you constantly go too far in your interactions with them."

"But dad, you can't just toss me to the wolves like this! I'm your only son!"

"You are a fool, Bryan. One last time... son or not, if anything had happened with that girl, I would have disowned you then and there, then made sure you were behind bars for the rest of your life. Child molesters and rapists don't deserve to be free to do what they want. Now I need to get back to work, I'm sick and tired of cleaning up your shit. From now on, you will not be allowed to call here, or to call John's office."

"What the fuck are you doing, dad? Why are you and Uncle John cutting me loose?"

"Because you need to grow up and learn that life doesn't always give you what you want, but sometimes what you deserve," growled Joe.

Corporal Bryan Longstaff stared at his phone in utter shock, his father had just told him that he and his uncle would no longer help him.

**********

Elizabeth was still working her way though the pile of reports, including making notations in her report to the Colonel, when her phone rang. She picked it up and announced herself, only to hear her secretary say that she needed to report to the Colonel's office ASAP.

"I understand, Corporal Kitterwell, please inform the Colonel that I am on my way."

The Captain picked up the reports, including the one she was writing and place them all in a file cabinet, then locked it, pocketing the key.

**********

Captain Garrett stood in the open doorway of the Colonel's office and snapped a salute, which was returned a moment later.

"Come on in, Captain and take a seat, you might find this discussion rather interesting."

She walked over to the closer of the two chairs, sat down and relaxed, waiting for the Colonel to start speaking.

"Ahhh, Captain, I've been looking at your service records, very nice, you've been in the army for quite some time, nearly nine years now, I believe. With your awards from your actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army Distinguished Service Cross, the Army Distinguished Service Medal, a Bronze Star, two Purple Hearts, a Legion of Merit, and a Silver Star, you should have been boosted to Major or even higher."

"How the heck did you end up here, Captain, after a service record like that? It makes no sense."

"I can't be certain, Colonel, but I feel that my being female may be too much for some high ranking people to understand and respect."

"So you're saying that you think you might have been passed over because you're a woman? Hmmm... I'll admit that it's rare to find a woman with a record like yours, but that in itself should not be a reason to deny you the chance to climb the ranks. Service should be rewarded."

"I agree, Colonel. So what does this have to do with my being called into your office, sir?"

"Well, Captain, the Army wants to create a unit to protect certain people who are at higher risk of harm and are involved in one way or another with providing services to or for the military. Many of these people are transgender, and we've learned that there are groups that either are or may be targeting these people, whether to just disable them for a while or to remove them from helping the military, we aren't sure yet.

"Your service record and the fact that you openly stand up for LGBT army members has brought you to the attention of the Defense Department. They want you to lead that unit, and give you authority to intervene and protect these people in the US or elsewhere. From what I've been told, they want the unit to be roughly squad size, with a few people providing intel services to assist the main unit. I've also been told that there will be a few people assigned to your unit for training purposes, primarily weapons, martial arts, offensive driving, perhaps others."

"That sounds interesting, sir. What makes me the best candidate for leading this unit?"

"To put it bluntly, Captain, the simple fact that you've put your life on the line several times to save others in very risky situations."

"Understood, sir. When will this unit be formed and where are we to be based, Colonel?"

"As of now, you'll be given six weeks to pick out the members of your unit. Oh, by the way, welcome to your new rank, Major."

Elizabeth sat there, spluttering, "Major? But... but I haven't done anything, sir!"

"Ahhh, but you have, Major, you just accepted command of the new unit you will put together, code named Artemis. Understand that this unit will be a black one; any awards earned will be privately given, as we want to keep you as close to unknown and invisible as we can."

"Th... thank you, sir. You still haven't answered my question as to where we will be based, sir."

"That decision hasn't been made yet, I'll inform you as soon as I know, Major."

"Colonel, would there be any problem if I wanted to have someone from Delta Force and/or the Seals in my unit?"

"Hmmm... I don't know whether they'd let you take active members, but you could look through their discharged members, I suppose."

"Thank you, sir. I assume I am to stay here while I pick out my people and that I am to continue with my current duties, sir?"

"For the most part, yes, but I don't believe your duties here have been onerous. Time to get back to work. You are dismissed, Major."

She stood, saluted the Colonel who promptly returned the salute, then she turned and walked out of the office. She made her way slowly back to her own office, her thoughts focusing on the fact that she had just been made the visible head of a new special operations military unit.

**********

Once she was back in her own office, she focused on clearing the reports on her desk, then finished her own weekly report to the Colonel.

When that was done, she put the reports away and sat in her chair, thinking. If she was to command a unit, she wanted them to be the best they could be. As much as she might like to take someone like Staff Sgt. Jensen with her for the new unit, he was needed much more here.

"Hmmm," she mused, "What about Corporal Patrick O'Bannon? That lad is a deadly shot with just about any military weapon. I'd have to be crazy not to want to have someone that good at my back if something went wrong with a mission." She nodded to herself, pulled out a small notebook and wrote Paddy's name in it, then closed it and set it on the desk as she went back to thinking about the people she wanted.

She smiled as another name popped into her head. "Sgt. Annabella Vincenzi, she was in the same unit when I was in Afghanistan, she's good with weapons and damn good at several martial arts, perhaps I could have her train the unit in those until someone better arrives." Elizabeth giggled as she remembered Anna putting her on her back on the mats several times when they served together a few years earlier.

She sat there, continuing to think for several minutes, then laughed. "Ahhh. Another sergeant, Ricky Ciardano. For such a big man, he moves like a ghost. We could use him, I'm sure he could help the rest of us to improve our skills in that area, and oh, man, is he ever a hunk!

"Oh, maybe I could get Lieutenant Ellison Quincy as part of the team! He has great team leadership skills and with his work as a paramedic before he entered the army, he has skills in that area that will come in handy for us, he could make a huge difference in our efforts."

She picked up the small notebook, added the three new names, then closed it and set it back on the desk. She turned and picked up the phone, then tapped in a number and waited. When the line was answered a minute or two later, she spoke to the male on the other end.

"I'm calling to ask if you have any major's insignia on hand, the Colonel raised my rank an hour or so ago."

"We might, let me check," Corporal Shayne Herron replied. He left and returned a moment later, "We have two sets, I can bring one there."

"Thank you, I think it's time that I went and had some lunch. If I'm not here, drop it off with Corporal Kitterwell, please."

"Yes, ma'am. Congratulations on your new rank, ma'am."

The young man had hung up after congratulating her, so Elizabeth headed to the mess hall to have lunch after pocketing the notebook. Some days were better than others when it came to food here on the base, today's lunch was a reasonably edible plate of macaroni and cheese covered with bits of ground beef, along with a side of green beans and a fresh cup of coffee. She found a seat at a table and ate her meal.



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