Authors: C. R. Daems
Tags: #Science Fiction
Copyright © 2014 C R Daems
All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. Published in Canada by Double Dragon eBooks, a division of Double Dragon Publishing Inc. of Markham Ontario, Canada.
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping, or by any information storage or retrieval system, without the permission in writing from Double Dragon Publishing Inc.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
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First Edition December 21, 2014
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Book II: The Unthinkable
Ninety-five women gathered in a warehouse-like prefab some ten miles west of Las Vegas. The building sat on a bare stretch of desert land located on a dirt road a mile off highway 160. The sand-colored building had no windows. Inside, the walls, ceiling, and the concave beams that supported the twenty-foot ceiling were a dull, steel gray. The large open space inside was bare except for a five-tiered aluminum bleacher, just large enough to hold the assembled women.
The women looked to be a cross section of America: black, brown, white, yellow, short, tall, thin, plump... They had come in response to a unique opportunity to become a Kazak-legendary bodyguards. The announcement had been posted in Martial Art studios and fitness and sports centers for the past three months. It read:
The Kazak Guardians are offering women a special program designed to prepare successful applicants for entrance into the Kazak Guardian school, which produces elite bodyguards who protect America's VIPs. Interested women should call 800-B-A-KAZAK for further details. The work is dangerous but rewarding-Kazaks guard individuals whose lives impact America's national security and interest.
For the right person, the program constituted a unique opportunity. The normal biannual competition seldom produced more than a few interested women and most left when they found they had to climb the sheer face of a mountain to qualify. The few that successfully made the climb over the years found themselves competing with men who were inherently stronger and more aggressive.
I stood just inside the front door surveying the group and wondering how many would make it to the Hill-the name the Kazaks used for the school, although it sat on the top of a mountain. I doubted I would have more than twenty candidates to work with after my opening remarks. It was not a life most people would want in spite of the substantial salary and benefits.
"Everyone, take a seat in the bleachers," I shouted as I approached the group, drawing everyone's attention and an assortment of looks.
"It's about time someone showed up. We've been waiting here for hours. Who are you?" a short stocky woman shouted.
"I'm Kazak Lynn. Take your seats," I said and waited until everyone was seated and the talking had stopped.
"I don't know if any of you ever attended the biannual competition at Hollister Mountain. If so, I'd bet you turned and left. The face of the cliff is intimidating, rising close to a thousand feet. For those who haven't, it is the first of five Challenges. To gain entrance to the school, the candidates must climb to the summit. Roughly fifteen percent succeed most years.
"I've convinced the powers-that-be that the climb favors men, and if they want women Kazaks, the women need an alternative first Challenge. Before you become fond of those smiles, your first Challenge will be equivalent to a mountain climb. It will be a yearlong ordeal, partly because you will need additional training if you are going to have a reasonable chance to successfully compete with the men. Yes, you will still have to compete directly with the men, and yes, it's a competition. Each subsequent Challenge eliminates candidates. After the fifth Challenge, only the best of the best remain to become Kazaks.
"When a friend of mine and I decided to try out for the Kazaks, we sought advice from Master Jianyu, a very wise man. His advice-don't go. When we asked why, he told us the Kazaks care little about the candidates or their wants. If we survived the first Challenge, we would spend our time learning how to live on only a few hours sleep, ignore pain, and to give up our lives to watch over people who also didn't care about us. He was right.
"My friend knew he didn't want the life of a Kazak, but he wanted to experience at least a few years of their training, hoping to learn some of their fighting secrets. He saw only the glory and not the sacrifice. Fortunately, he didn't make the climb. Today he understands the truth of Jianyu's words and is glad he failed to make it to the top.
"When I finally made it to the summit, the Master Kazak gave us a welcome speech. It went something like this:
"You aren't here to have fun. If you came for fun, you came to the wrong place. We did not ask you to come here; therefore, you'll stay only as long as it takes us to find a reason to get rid of you.
"Over the next couple of hours, I'm going to do you a favor and try to convince you that applying was a very bad idea."
"Why? I thought you wanted women Kazaks," a tall redhead stood and shouted. She glared at me with narrowed eyes.
"The organization wants to give women an equal opportunity to compete. But at the end of the day, they want Kazaks-not men or women but the best of the best. Those that decide to stay will get one year of training designed to negate the men's natural advantage of strength and aggressiveness. Those that survive the year will be allowed to join the Kazak school along with the men who pass the first Challenge in next year's biannual competition. There you will have to prove you have what it takes to be a Kazak or be sent home. To the Kazak instructor, you will be a candidate-neither male nor female.
"The Kazak Guardians is one of the most dangerous professions out there. You have better odds of surviving injuries or death in Afghanistan. To make someone a Kazak who wasn't the best of the best would be like sending a blind man into battle. I tell you now, few individuals are suited to the life of a Kazak."
"Are you a real Kazak? I thought only men were Kazaks. You don't look like you could compete with the men without help," a tall, muscular brunette shouted. She hadn't stood but had raised her arm to be recognized. I couldn't count the number of times I'd heard that from clients. My boss, Mr. Witton, usually withheld the fact he was sending a woman, which meant I had to explain I was the only one and it was me or nothing. He claimed it saved him hours of arguing with the client.
"Yes, I'm a Kazak. The one and only female Kazak. As for special treatment, those that make it to the Hill will find that not only will the Kazak instructors not help you, but also they won't allow your fellow students to help you. The Hill epitomizes the survival of the fittest concept. Sending you home as soon as they can is the only special treatment you get. It saves you years of unnecessary pain and them from wasting their time trying to make you into something you will never be."
"Why did you stay if the Hill so horrible, the life dangerous, and the people you guard don't care about you?" a well-dressed blond asked. She looked like she would be stiff competition in a beauty pageant.
"Because I knew it was the life I wanted more than any other, and I was willing to risk my life to attain it. I mean that literally. When I climbed the mountain, I went outside of the area covered by the net, because I thought that gave me the best chance of success. If I'd fallen, I would've been killed.
"Kazaks live in a world that few people will ever glimpse. We get to see the real person behind the name or position. Most don't care about us as individuals and some are assholes, but we protect them because in one way or another they serve our nations best interest. In keeping them alive, I make a real difference and that's important to me. I love the life and wouldn't change it for any other position in the world.
"If you're here for glory or the benefits, which are many, go home. Stay only if the idea of guarding the nations most important people appeals to you and outweighs the potential danger and the long hard years of training." I walked up to the front of the bleachers and removed my weapons, shirt and bra, and slowly turned completely around so that everyone could see the assortment of scares I had received over the years. When the screams, gasps, and various expletives died down, I continued.
"We'll take a thirty-minute break to give you a chance to consider what I've said. If you're uncertain about the life, training, or have other questions, stay. You'll always be free to leave. Otherwise, I suggest you leave. I don't know if you have to be crazy or special to be a Kazak, but I do know you have to want it more than anything else in life." They needed time to think about what I had said, so I left the building, which would become the workout area for those who stayed. When I had discussed the matter with Witton, I had told him I expected to lose at least three-quarters of the women the first night and for that number to decrease as the months wore on. I felt I would be lucky to bring five women to the Hill by the end of the year. I walked to the right of the building, where a smaller prefab stood. It would serve as the dining facility. When I entered, the lights were on. Behind the serving-line, a stocky overweight man was busily inspecting the equipment, while loudly expressing his opinion.
"A Vulcan Hart. Eight burners and two ovens, very nice," he commented while opening one of the oven doors and examining the interior. And then looked up at the overhead pots and pans. "...ah Viking, good quality cookware and cutlery."
As I approached, he stood inspecting one of the knives with his finger. With his bushy white beard and hair, round face, and smile he could easily pass for Kris Kringle. He lacked only the red suit. He finally noticed me and looked up. His eyes scrutinized me like a side of beef.
"Hmmm, you must be the lady Kazak. I'm Fredric your chef. I was just looking over my kitchen. Good quality equipment-big bucks. I'm glad you're here. I hoped to speak with you before tomorrow about your instructions."
"It's nice to meet you, Fredric. I'm Lynn." I smiled, "I'll bet they seemed strange."
"Very strange. You want only two meals a day, good nutrition, high calories, and bland. Is that correct?"
"Yes. The women who survive me will be going to the Kazak school. There, too, the meals will only be served twice a day and will be close to tasteless. Over time, they must learn to eat only because their body needs fuel. When on assignment, they can't be selective and can't be distracted by the taste."
"To Fredric, that sounds cruel. I prepare food to excite the taste buds," he exclaimed, holding his fingers to his lips and making a sound like a kiss.
"Well, we could be nice and start off with reasonable tasting meals and work down to very bland as the months go by." That seemed to appease his concerns somewhat as his frown relaxed.
"That will be a challenge, but Fredric will do his best. You're the boss lady. What time do you want the meals served?"
"For now, 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. That will change over the months. Eventually, breakfast will be at 6:00 a.m. and dinner at 6:00 p.m. The first meal will be breakfast on Thursday, three days from now."
"It looks like you have over eighty women judging by the cars out front. The equipment is very nice, but it'll be difficult to make a hundred meals at one serving. And I'll need help." Fredric frowned again as he looked around the kitchen.