Paranormal Mercenary Corps Book 1: Call Sign: Cupid
All her dreams are about to come true, one quick test and she is on her way to the Army.
Call Sign: Cupid snippet
“Today’s the big day. Are you ready to start your new life, Chelby?” My foster dad’s enthusiasm reminded me that after I stepped out the front door, my whole life would change. For better or worse.
I was scared shitless.
My foster dad, Retired General Robert Brooks, sipped his coffee and peered over the rim of his mug at me. His piercing gray eyes always made me squirm in my seat as if he was about to write me up for some code violation, and I’d end up in the stockade. Not only that, but he was chasing the Senate seat. I had to be on my best behavior.
“Yes, sir, I guess so.” I stirred my colored marshmallow cereal that wasn’t as jumbled as my nerves. “I’m just nervous.”
I had wanted to join the Army ever since Robert said I could go into Army Intelligence and have access to classified information. I’d become obsessed with the idea. Maybe I could find out who my parents were and why they gave me up. Moving from orphanage to orphanage overseas then ending up in the foster care system hadn’t been like a trip to Disneyland.
Still, I had doubts. What if I didn’t like the answers I got? What if the Army wouldn’t take me?
My foster sister Jamie filed her long nails. “You’ve talked about nothing but joining the Army this whole summer.” She stopped and rolled her eyes. “Now you’re getting cold feet?”
I bit my lower lip. “What if I don’t get accepted?”
“You’re kidding, right?” Jamie flicked her gaze over me. “You’re ideal for the Army. You’re the classic tomboy who never does her hair or her nails or wears a stitch of makeup. No wonder you never had a date in high school.”
“Now, now, Jamie. Not everyone is as beautiful as you are, my dear.” My foster mother Loretta came to the table with a hot pot of coffee and topped off our mugs, starting with Robert.
I cringed at her words. Jamie was beautiful with her long red hair, big green eyes, and slim body. She was the exact opposite of Loretta, who was plump and had light brown curly hair. I had seen pictures of Loretta when she was younger. She still looked the same, maybe a little plumper. Of the three of them, my foster mother had been the nicest to me. I would miss her when I joined the Army.
I glared at Jamie and put my hand on my chest. “I’m the one who found your perfect guy.”
She fluttered her eyes. “Lucky guess. We would have found each other anyway.”
I didn’t argue with her. She would never have gone out with a drummer in a band. She’d always gone after jocks who treated her like crap. Yet I knew they would fit perfect together, and I was right.
I had an uncanny talent for finding everyone’s ideal guy except for mine. In that department, I ran dry.
Robert glanced at the clock. “Shouldn’t you be getting ready, Chelby? You don’t want to be late and give them a reason not to accept you.”
“Robert,” Loretta chastised. “Chelby has over an hour before she needs to be there.”
He put down his newspaper. “The MEPS is forty-five minutes from here. I suggest she get moving.”
Loretta frowned. “Robert, she’s not even finished with her cereal.”
The Military Entrance Processing Station would evaluate my mental and physical status. If I didn’t get past them, I was screwed.
It was pointless arguing with Robert. I wasn’t Jamie, and I had always been treated like a recruit. I put down my spoon. “Yes, sir. I’ll get ready right away.”
He nodded. “That’s more like it.”
I couldn’t eat another bite of my cereal anyway, so I emptied the bowl in the sink and hurried upstairs to grab my backpack. I’d take the bus to downtown Colorado Springs, where the MEPS was located. We lived near the Cheyenne Mountain military base where Robert had been assigned, and he’d retired from there.
Within fifteen minutes, I was at the bus stop. I wore a nice pair of slacks and a crisp white shirt, which differed from my normal T-shirt and jeans. I’d pulled my blonde hair up into a tight bun hidden under my baseball cap. As Jamie had said, I didn’t wear any makeup, not even lip gloss. Soldiers didn’t need makeup to perform their duties.
The bus jerked to the curb, and I climbed aboard. My heart raced as I took a seat near the driver since all the other seats were taken. With each block, my nerves drew tighter. If I didn’t get into the Army, I had no other place to go. I hadn’t applied to colleges like Jamie. Although the Brooks had taken care of me since I was ten, it was always understood that I would move out when I turned eighteen, which was three weeks ago.
Time was up.
The bus stop was about a ten-minute walk from the MEPS, so when I got off the bus, I quickened my step. My destination was a tall, five-story white brick building on Academy Boulevard. I wanted to get there early to make a good impression, and for once, Lady Luck shined on me. I checked into the front desk ten minutes early.
The sergeant behind the desk smiled at me. “Chelby Duncan. We’ll call you when we’re ready.” She gestured at the row of metal chairs. “Please take a seat.”
I nodded. “Thank you.”
I slid into a seat away from the people waiting. Several of the guys didn’t look happy, and it made me wonder if a judge had given them a choice between jail or the Army.
The door opened, and a balding man wearing a long white coat, a light brown shirt, and khaki pants looked at his clipboard. “Chelby Duncan.”
I raised my hand, even though he’d said my name wrong. “That’s me, sir.”
“I’m Sergeant Stevens. Come with me, miss.”
“Um, it’s pronounced Shelby but spelled with a C,” I told him as I followed him through the door.
He cocked his eyebrow. “That makes little sense.”
“Think of it like Cheyenne, Wyoming. That’s spelled with C.”
I was tired of explaining my name to people. Personally, I liked the name. It was one thing my parents gave me that was all mine, and it suggested they were creative people. I simply didn’t understand why they didn’t want me. The state wouldn’t let me see my records even after I turned eighteen. My birth records were sealed as if I were some big military secret.
Dumb, dumb, dumb.
“We’re going to start with a physical.” The sergeant opened a door that looked like any doctor’s office. “Someone will be in to take your measurements and draw your blood. Please, have a seat.”
I sat on a wooden chair and waited. The room had an eye test chart and the traditional poster of Uncle Sam pointing with the caption The Army Needs You. It reminded me of the Captain America movies. He’d always been my favorite Marvel character. He was so loyal, trustworthy, and upfront. I always wished I would meet a Captain America-type guy, but they didn’t exist.
At least they didn’t in my experience with guys, which was little to zilch.
I didn’t have to wait long. A woman came into the office with a clipboard. “Chelby Duncan?”
I lifted my hand. “Yes.”
She smiled as she lowered the clipboard. “Did I pronounce that correctly?”
“Yes. Most people stumble over my name.”
She gave me a cool look. “I’m not most people.”
I wasn’t sure what to say to that.
“I’m Sally. I’m here to take your vitals and draw your blood.”
I nodded. “Fine.”
“Please, hop up on the scale.”
I’d always been on the short and thin side, and her measurements showed that hadn’t changed.
Sally listened to my heart and took my blood pressure. “Everything sounds normal. Let’s do the eye test. Please stand across the room.” She handed me a plastic eyepatch. “Cover your eye when I ask you to.”
After I nodded and dutifully passed the eye test, she pulled a cart with a machine hooked to headphones away from the wall. “We’re going to do a hearing test now.”
Once again, I passed with ease. Maybe getting into the Army wouldn’t be as hard as I thought.
“Now, I need to draw some blood. Do you have any problems with needles?”
I shook my head. “No, not at all.”
She went to the counter, opened a drawer, and pulled out a syringe and three vials. She popped one vial into the syringe. “We have to take three vials.”
I shrugged. “That’s fine. No problem.”
She gently took my arm and turned it over. I tried to look calm as she put on a tourniquet to make my veins pop. The truth was, I hated needles.
Luckily, it was over in less than two minutes.
“I’ll bring these to our lab for analysis, so wait here.”
I frowned. “You’ll have my results that quick?”
“Yes.” She smiled with reassurance. “This is the first phase before you’re allowed to go any further, but don’t worry. I’m sure everything will be fine.”
After she closed the door, I drew a deep breath. I studied the photos on the wall, including Uncle Sam Wants You. I pulled out my cell phone and flicked through emails. Nothing important. I thought Sally would be back quickly, but five minutes went by, then ten, then twenty-five.
Was there something wrong? Were they backed up?
I wasn’t a drug user and had a physical before I left high school. Everything had been perfectly fine.
When Sally finally came back into my room, a shadow fell across her face.
I sat taller in the chair. “What’s wrong?”
She glanced over her shoulder and lowered her voice. “You need to get out of here now.”
My eyes widened. “Why? Was there something wrong with my blood test?”
She nodded. “Yes. Unless you want to become a lab rat, you need to leave while you have the chance.”
I flashed a you’re-a-crazy-bitch scowl. “Excuse me? What are you talking about?”
She clasped my wrist hard. “Listen to me. I’m telling you the truth. I can only cover up your blood results for so long. Get out of here before you disappear.”
I tried to twist my arm away. “Hey, let go of me.”
“Don’t you see? I’m trying to help you,” she whispered. “If they even knew I was telling you this…” She released me abruptly. “Go now while you have a chance.”
“You’re serious, aren’t you?” I grabbed my backpack.
She handed me my results and opened the door. “I’m sorry, but you don’t qualify.”
I took the results and left the room fast. She was incredibly strong for such a little thing. I thought about reporting her, but a nagging thought lurked in the back of my mind. What if she was right?
I hurried down the corridor and through the waiting room, where potential recruits waited their turn to get tested. The receptionists were typing, and no one was looking at me, but I doubted the receptionists were the ones who would seize me. Maybe Sally had been a total whack job. Still, something told me to get out of there.
I quickly moved to the exit door without drawing attention to myself. Sweat beaded on my temples and slicked my palms. Once I opened the glass door, I ran down the steps, passing a couple of guys headed up. I stopped on the pavement to catch my breath.
Cars and trucks zoomed on the busy street, and a pair of chatting women passed me.
I glanced up at the Army recruitment glass doors, expecting to see someone watching me, but no one was there. As I exhaled loudly, I realized I’d been holding my breath.
Sally must have been crazy. I thought I’d tell Robert about her when I got home, but I looked at the paper clutched in my hand and froze. Across the top of the page, in big red letters, was the word FAILED.
Also, a small box was checked. Not human.
She wanted answers about her past but now she has more questions than she started with. Find out how Chelby navigates her world being turned upside down on December 6th when Paranormal Mercenary Corps Book 1: Call Sign: Cupid is released. Head over to Amazon today and pre-order.