On the Record with Major Tannen
Greetings everyone, and welcome to Friday Rambles! I’m really excited about today’s post, because I have something special in store. But first, I’d like to send a huge thank you to L.M. Sherwin, author of Night Bells and generally awesome person, for featuring me on her blog today. Click here to check out the interview…and you should totally be following her on Twitter. Just saying.
Today’s special event is the fulfillment of something I promised last week. Based on your recommendations, I’m going to periodically post character interviews, scenes from alternate points of view and “hidden scenes” from the Matt Archer series. The first in this series of extras is a short story featuring Matt’s Uncle Mike. (And yes, that’s a picture of Michael Trucco, who I’d hire to play Uncle Mike in heartbeat if there were ever a movie…sigh.) Anyway, this scene comes in after Mike is deployed to Afghanistan, and it features a pretty pivotal moment in Mike’s life, although he doesn’t actually know it yet. Let me know what y’all think!
On the Record with Major Tannen
Mike paced outside the conference room, waiting to be called for his interview. The general had sent someone over to observe and report back on the operation they were running in Afghanistan. He had no use for pencil pushers and having a babysitter from the Pentagon only made it worse. Why did he feel like he was being called on the carpet? He’d been here less than a week, for God’s sake.
Colonel Black had promised him complete autonomy over here but maybe something had changed. Mike sighed. He wasn’t one to stress, but being away from Matt right now had him stretched thin. Hopefully Matt hadn’t seen through his act at a brave face when he shipped out. If his nephew realized just how scared he was…no, Mike thought, I can’t go there. Matt will be fine. He has to be fine.
Mike stopped pacing to stare at the wall—bare cinderblock, painted gray. The Army wasn’t very creative. How long was this glorified secretary going to keep him waiting? Seriously, why couldn’t the general just accept their reports and stay out of the way? It wasn’t like the team had discovered much, yet. All they had to go on were rumors, whispers and trails gone cold weeks before. If the intel was right—and Mike wasn’t entirely convinced it was—and there were zombies in the mountains northwest of Kabul, he hadn’t found a shred of evidence to prove it.
The door to the conference room squeaked as it opened and Mike turned. A young private swallowed nervously when Mike caught his eye. “Thank you for waiting, sir. The captain will see you now.”
About damn time. “Thank you.”
The young soldier gave him a sharp nod then scrambled out of the way. Mike didn’t think he was all that intimidating, but facing a major in Special Forces was probably enough to scare a shiny new private. Watching the kid scurry down the hallway like he’d been fired from a rocket launcher, Mike wondered how old he was. Nineteen? Twenty? He still even had zits on his forehead …just like Matt. God, if something happened to his nephew, Mike would never forgive himself. He glanced at the doorway into the conference room; for now he just had to survive the general’s inquisitor. There’d be time to wring his hands over Matt later.
The conference room was one of many identical, soulless rooms in the Army office compound. Bare walls, metal table and chairs, one, small, high window in the corner—a room that said, “get your business done and go back to work. Now.”
But today something was different.
Mike stopped just inside the room, completely dumbfounded, as a gorgeous, dark-haired, dark-eyed woman in Class B uniform stood and came to shake his hand.
With a wry smile, like she knew he was checking her out, the woman said, “You must be Major Tannen. Pleased to meet you, sir. I’m Captain Julie Hunter.”
This was the general’s toady? Mike cleared his throat. “Captain.”
Captain Hunter gestured for him to sit, then took out a small digital recorder. “This will be on the record. I hope you don’t mind.” She flipped a switch. “Thanks for meeting with me today, Major. General Richardson has asked me to clarify some statements you made regarding certain aspects of the wielder program, specifically regarding your nephew, Matthew Archer. In particular, the general wants to understand how your nephew came to be in possession of your knife and why you think he was chosen to wield it instead of you, despite Matt being only fourteen years old.”
Nice tactic—put him at ease with a winning smile and a few pleasantries, then go straight for the jugular. “I didn’t hear a question in there, Captain.”
Captain Hunter quirked an eyebrow, like she hadn’t expected him to fire back so fast. “Yes, sir. Let’s start at the beginning, then. How did your nephew gain possession of the knife?”
“I’ve already explained this to Colonel Black,” Mike said stiffly.
The captain gave him a coy smile. “Of course, but you haven’t explained it to me, sir.”
“It’s in the report.”
“I know it is, but the report was somewhat sparse. I’d like to fill in some details. So, could you tell me more about the campout?”
Why did she want to know? He’d told the Colonel everything. Sure, the report was sketchy, but they had to protect Matt. Mike shuddered involuntarily. That night in the woods was something he’d regret the rest of his life. It was his fault Matt got saddled with a knife. It was his fault Matt would see horrors a kid his age should never face. Mike would be damned if he’d let the general drag Matt further into this business while Mike wasn’t around to help him. They’d called him up at a difficult time; he wouldn’t let them make things worse while he was gone. No way.
Mike crossed his arms across his chest and gave the captain a stony stare. “It’s in the report.”
Captain Hunter sat back in her chair. Her expression was one of pure exasperation; as the junior officer, the captain didn’t have the power to make him talk and they both knew it.
Then she did something he didn’t expect: she turned off the recorder.
“Permission to speak freely, sir?”
Mike got the feeling he was about to walk into a trap. “Yes.”
“I’m not here asking these questions because I’m accusing you of something or because I’m nosy. I’m here because I’m the best damn intelligence person the general has,” Captain Hunter snapped. “I’m the one who intercepted the stories coming out of Afghanistan, China and Africa. You might’ve been a wielder for a time, and your nephew might be a wielder now, but let’s get something straight—I know more about this program than any single person on the team save Colonel Black.”
She paused to take a deep breath and her tone softened. “Look, I’m sure you want to protect your nephew, and I respect that, but there’s no way to keep him out of this now. He’s part of the program, no matter how much we all wish otherwise–”
“‘All?’ ‘We?’ To the Army, Matt’s merely a means to an end,” Mike said. “Captain, I interviewed forty soldiers trying to find a man good enough to watch Matt’s back. I didn’t find anyone I trusted more than his fifteen-year-old best friend, and now I’m responsible for both those boys’ lives. There’s no ‘we’ in this.”
Captain Hunter nodded slowly. “Okay. But think this through: the best way to keep him safe is to ensure he’s not walking into a black hole. That’s where I come in. If you help me, I’ll find the monsters, so Matt—and the other wielders—aren’t running blind.” Her smile was sudden and fierce. “I’m very good at what I do. Give me a chance; if I don’t convince you I have your nephew’s best interests at heart in the next thirty minutes, then I promise I won’t ask you any more questions about him.”
Mike relaxed in his chair. He didn’t know why, but he trusted her to do as she said. Hopefully that trust wasn’t misplaced. Somehow, though, he didn’t think it was.
“Major Michael B. Tannen, speaking on the record. Last October, while on reservist status, I took my nephew, Matthew Archer, on a camping trip in Billings, Montana…”