The carbon buildup wasn't bad in John's rifle considering how many magazines he'd spent during the firefight at the outskirts of town. He was scraping some of the more caked on carbon with a set of dental instruments, being careful not to do any damage to the bluing, when someone knocked on the frame of the door. He looked up and saw Bobby leaning partway into the room.
“Stephens wants to see you,” he said.
John acknowledge this only by resting his rifle down and beginning the short walk to the second level where Stephens' apartment could be found.
He arrived at the door moments later and knocked. A mumbled “Come in,” was heard from the other side and John obliged; pushing the door open and walking through. The room was still dimly lit, and John found Stephens in the same old position; leaning over his illuminated table.
“Come here,” Stephens said, his eyes remaining where they were, peering into the blue light below him.
John walked up to the other side of the table and looked down. It was a large digital display that, at the moment, portrayed a topographical map of the region. John watched small icons on the display moving slowly. These were units on patrol, their location being transmitted back to the camp by devices on their person. John wasn't accustomed to having this kind of situational awareness of a battlefield, as a special tactics operator, he was never in possession of these transmitters, as their signals could sometimes be intercepted at close range; homing the enemy in onto your position.
“Look here,” Stephens said, placing his finger on the touch screen which immediately displayed a series of information windows on the region selected.
“We were near that location on our way back in yesterday,” said John.
“Yes, I know. I need a team to go in and asses the threat level; environmental and otherwise.”
John knew that when he said 'environmental' it meant a few Geiger counters would be coming along for the ride. Nuclear fallout was still a problem from time to time, where radiation had been more easily absorbed into the local landscape.
John also knew that this meant Stephens was planning on moving the line forward. The need to assess environmental safety was not a necessity when passing patrols through an area. Most of the radiation from the war had dissipated to low enough levels that a short period of exposure, such as walking through said area, was not sufficient enough to cause harm. Moving into a region semi-permanently, however, meant that the radiation levels in a region had to be meticulously mapped. This was done at a preliminary level by sending in small reconnaissance teams to 'take-a-look-see', as John would call it.
“When do you need this team ready?” asked John.
“There's an opening in the schedule for tomorrow in the early morning. That gives you time to get ready, and allows those who knew Robertson to attend the wake later tonight.” Stephens looked up at John briefly. “Will you be attending?”
“Yes.” John said, not looking up from the map.
“I hope he didn't die for nothing.” Stephens said.
John looked at him, a thin sliver of anger visible in his eyes. “What exactly do you mean?”
“I heard about Captain Rafferty's episode in the eastern corridor yesterday.” Stephens said, raising his head from the map and staring John in the eyes. “Frankly John, I am not ignorant enough to require faith in something greater than myself to become more capable or more efficient at what I do. I never believed in God, and I certainly don't believe in Michael Rafferty and his grandson's prophecies.
“I believe that a man is here to do what he can, and must thrive to do as best he can with the short time he's given. Rafferty is an abomination that breaks the confines that men are meant to be bound by. I have great difficulty accepting his existence within my perception of the world and how things should be.” He turned to face his desk. “Nevertheless, he is here, and if Harvey isn't pulling my leg, he could be of great use to us.”
Stephens turned and walked up to John. “I can't afford to spend the resources required to take this place,” he said, his finger stabbing the map. “Rafferty better be able to deliver what his grandson promised.”
John stared into his eyes. “What if he can't.”
Stephens cocked an eyebrow, “Then he'll just be a low grade soldier.”
John took in a deep breath. “I don't doubt him.”
“Well, as soon as he recovers from his alcohol induced stupor, we'll start a training regiment to get him at least vaguely near the skill level of the other members in the team. I'll have you run it. For now though, your priority is getting me the information I've requested. You may go.”
John nodded and turned around, leaving the room in a more bitter mood then when he had entered.