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About a month after fleeing her husband, Vicky was awakened at by Dory at three AM in one of the many Seattle area safe houses. So Dory made good on her promise to look Vicky up. She couldn't really prepare Vicky very well for the experience she was about to undergo, although the other girls in the safe house had done their best. What came next was basic training, or "boot camp". They didn't have to go far. It was about three hours south of Seattle, outside Fort Vancouver, Washington, Pacifica.

When Vancouver BC was made the capital of Pacifica, the new country found itself in possession of two cities named Vancouver. The other Vancouver was the second largest city in Washington, and it was that portion of Portland, Oregon that happened to bleed over the state line. To avoid confusion, the smaller Vancouver returned to its original mid-19th Century name of Fort Vancouver.

Fort Vancouver was the smaller sibling of Portland, Oregon, and suffered from an inferiority complex that is undeserved. For a long time there wasn't even a television station there, and only three radio stations. All the local news was weighted toward Portland and covered mostly Oregon issues. Fort Vancouverites tended to feel cut off from the rest of Washington, like Klickitat County an hour to the east. Unlike Klickitat County, however, Fort Vancouver did not embrace the Oregon culture. It was as though the city wanted to be part of Eastern Washington. The city was an island of WalMart conservativism in a sea of yuppie microbrew liberalism. Portlanders called the city "Vantucky" or "The Couve". Vancouver was the methamphetamine capital of North America. Home of the Tweaker.

The city sat at the mouth of the Columbia River Gorge, which cut through the wall of the Cascade Mountains at virtually sea level. This meant Fort Vancouver continually got the hot summers and cold winters of Eastern Washington. Seattle natives pissed and moaned when it broke 90F or there was one or two mornings when they had to scrape ice off their windshield. Fort Vancouver can get temps of 106F in the summer and the whole month of February it was frozen solid.

Fort Vancouver is big enough that you've heard of it, but not big enough that you've been there. There was an early electric trolley operated from 1910 until 1926 (before the days when utilities became a public monopoly). The trolleys made ten stops and ran once per hour, charging 15 cents each way. For the first twelve years or so, it was quite lucrative for the owners. The electricity came from burning coal.

According to the archives of the local newspaper, the route went along Main Street to 26th Avenue, then out 26th to K Street and thence north to 33rd. From there, it ran on 33rd past the city limits. At that point the trolley became more like a regular train as it followed a cut through the wilderness forest. It was a classy setup, but the publics' preference for motor cars in the 1920s heralded the end of the trolley.

Ironically, just about a century later, a multi-billion dollar public tax levy went through to construct a light-rail transit system along the exact same route between downtown Fort Vancouver and the burgeoning suburbs. It went way over budget, and ended up being an $11-per-ride total cost, while tickets were only $3 dollars. So every day the railway operated, the deeper into the hole it went. And no one from the trolley days were left alive to tell the Transit Authority, in one of their endless series of meetings, what they were doing wrong.

After the Lewis and Clark fur trapping days the economy of Fort Vancouver was based on logging the pines of the productive timberlands all around. The river was negotiable by oceangoing vessels to the city waterfront, but Fort Vancouver never became a major port because there was a sandbar at the mouth of the river that scared the hell out of most navigators.

Still, the US government became an insatiable customer for timber during the First World War, and most of the nearby hills were stripped bare. The tree-fellers spent their considerable pay in the town, just as the gold and coal miners had made Black Diamond a lively place in its day, so there was a trickle-down effect. The good times continued until the Depression of the 1930s.

As part of FDR's New Deal, the Bonneville Dam was constructed just upriver, and this provided the enormous electric power needed by smelters to turn local bauxite into finished aluminum. This aluminum was used in four-engined bombers for the Pacific theater of the Second World War. So Fort Vancouver became firmly established as a blue collar town that grew enormously during the War. By the end of the Twentieth Century, the city would manage to diversify its economy so that it would never again experience the boom and bust cycle of a typical one company town.

As with Seattle, the Cascade Mountain front loomed to the east of Fort Vancouver, where snuggled in the foothills was an old US Army installation called Camp Bonneville, long since abandoned. For many years, the army performed live-fire artillery exercises at Camp Bonneville, and the whole area was littered with hidden unexploded shells.

When the Cold War came to an end the army sold the land to Clark County and said, See ya! Thus wiggling out of paying for cleanup. And the county tried to convert the land into a regional park with hiking trails for all who went on two or four feet, but that worked for about five minutes, maybe, before some children found a grenade and pulled the pin.

So Camp Bonneville remained a huge undeveloped green hole on the Cascade front even as million dollar trophy view homes began to appear on the slopes all around it. Eventually Femina Caelestis offered to take the land off the county's hands to build something they called Shangri-La, and the county was glad to be rid of it. At least the FC would be paying property taxes on it.

Shangri-La was hemmed all around by a tall concertina wire fence. The private Ring Road, miles of gravel along the perimeter, was patrolled night and day by a pair of FC angels in a truck. Other angels ranged through the interior woods on trails known well to them, ever alert for trespassers.

The Ring Road provided access to hundreds of large homes on one acre sub-plots, all of them estates owned by senior members of Femina Caelestis. Robyn and Lilith owned one, Hunky and Dory owned another one. Most of the rest were owned by this or that Gina. They were nice but their location wasn't ideal for the construction of home sites by any stretch of the imagination. From the entrance at the west end on Fifth Plain, Shangri-La rose steeply to some 1,900 feet on one part of its eastern border.

The purpose of building the houses where they were was to guard their great common backyard. Dory and Vicky stopped at the locked gate, which bore a sign saying Shangri-Law Covenant Community. There they waited a few minutes for the perimeter guard truck to come around from the other side and pull up.

Access to the boot camp facilities was to be through Dory's house, out her back patio door, and into the woods.

Two other girls were waiting in Dory's home. They were Geraldine Sanchelli and a girl named Stephanie, no last name, who was a daughter of one of the Ginas and even wore her hair in a classic Gina bun like her mother. Stephanie was pretty and blond, looking very much like a porcelain doll. She had already spent some time here in boot camp and had advanced from recruit to angel.

Conscious of Vicky staring at her, Geraldine pushed black hair away from the dark eyes on her oval face. She was a mixture of Mexican and Irish. Later, Geraldine would reveal to Vicky how much she despised her parents, and smile when she thought of how their lives would be complicated beyond belief by her sudden disappearance.

Vicky herself loved and missed her parents, who lived somewhere in England, and had very little contact with her since she married Frank.

Both Stephanie and Geraldine were already wearing the new Girl Guard uniforms and they were at least twenty years younger than Vicky. Dory explained to Vicky that most Femina Caelestus recruits were fourteen but that everyone entering the Women's Democratic Forum had to go through the ordeal of boot camp no matter what their age, and Vicky would understand why that was so when it was all over.

Do we call you Vicky, or something else? Stephanie asked her. Vicky knew it was a Femina Caelestis tradition to use only a single name, and often this would be a completely new name, as long as no one else had already bagged it. She said, I've already done my research and decided to use a variation of her own given name of Victoria. I'd like to go by Vic now.

You're real name is Victoria? Dory asked her. May I ask what your maiden name is?


Oh ho ho HO! Really? Shit! You're that Victoria Millet?

Is there a problem, Dory?

I don't know. I need to talk to Lilith. In the meantime I don't see a problem letting you go ahead and go to boot.

Geraldine for her part chose Jeri.

Vic knew Stephanie would eventually just become another Gina, and then her hair bun would have something to hide.

Vic looked at Jeri and Stephanie's cute uniforms and knew they were a recent development. Some of the Jills had attacked Andrews Air Force Base last September, and they wore civilian clothes at the time, as the WDF always did. Jeri had been involved in that action in a peripheral way. She in fact had been recruited from the base housing there, and her father was the commanding officer.

As casualties began to mount in the ongoing operations against Femina Caelestis safe houses, the armed forces of the New Confederate States of America actually began to summarily execute captured members of Femina Caelestis as wartime spies if they were apprehended in civilian clothing, this by an executive war order from President Eugene Sundquist. So Lilith ordered all Femina Caelestis members active in the NCSA to don uniforms.

The Luna government was an associate member of ONE, originally sponsored by the Caribbean island nation of Barbuda as a territory of that state but now after reunification with Antigua the FC was represented by Pacifica. Femina Caelestis members now carried Pacifica passports. This forced the NCSA to treat them as Prisoners of War when they were captured, and that in turn gave the Girl Guards enough time and opportunity to stage a rescue attempt.

Many feared that wearing uniforms would permit the NCSA to quickly round all of them up, but as Robyn predicted, the public came to the rescue. Sympathy for Femina Caelestis flourished, especially when stories about their public service were made widely known. A backlash against the Administration developed. Ersatz Girl Guard threads were all the rage. The prim uniform of a gray and white smock dress, red tights, and black knee boots became hot fashion for good girls who wanted to look bad, and bad girls who wanted to turn heads.

So for a sweet season that would certainly be brief, genuine angels could walk undetected anywhere in the South among a million Femina Caelestis wannabes trying to cash in on FC chic.

Dory told them, Remember, when you join Femina Caelesis there's no going back, there's no getting out, and there's no end to the ride.

Not even suicide, Ma'am? Jeri asked.

We take suicidal personalities and give them bodies of girls who are happier. Bad attitudes are bred out. Eventually there is nothing but warm fuzzies all the way around. What's your dress size, Vic?

Eight, Ma'am, Vic said, following Jeri's lead in calling Dory that. Dory was, after all, the third ranking member of the WDF, one of Round Robyn's oldest and closest friends, someone who could actually remember the decade of the 1930s.

Dory gave her a long sleeve half gray and half white thick cotton dress with an elaborate decorative pattern embroidered in black thread on the left, or gray side. What's your shoe size?

Eight, Ma'am. I'm a dress size eight and shoe size eight.

Pink wook socks went over the feet of her tights, then she was zipped up in a pair of shiny patent leather boots that ended just below her knees.

Dory faced the three of them. We're not interested in keeping you busy just for the sake of keeping you busy, like they do in guys' boot camps. That's why, for example, your boots are already as shiny as they can be. Now one or two of you will eventually be in the WDF Girl Guard, and maybe one or two of you will just become civilians. So Vic, Jeri, I don't want word to get back to me that you deliberately screwed up to be civilians. That will adversely affect Stephanie's chances of being picked up for Archangel. You are a team!

Yes, Ma'am!

We don't treat our recruits as the scum of the earth, like other armies do. Still, the Girl Guard is the most formidable fighting force in the world. That means you will be toughened up, big time. You're the elite! They'll throw a lot of mind games at you when you get in there. Just remember, that's all they are: mind games. I promise you will understand what is being done to you before you graduate.

Dory issued a Vic and Jeri a supply of red nail polish, pre-moistened towelettes, a lighted makeup mirror, ruby earrings, and a host of other girly accessories that seemed strange to be called army issue.

Okay Jeri, Vic, let me take a good look at you. This is for the guards here at Shangri-La. They will call up on the Grid this very memory of mine being taken now and just know who you are. The Girl Guard doesn't issue ID cards.

Then Dory kissed all of them in turn, opened up her patio door, and ushered them out to basic training with a little farewell wave. It wasn't very often that Dory did her own recruiting, but Vic was a special case, and she would follow her career with interest, especially now that she knew who she really was. And Dory also had a connection to Jeri from the Andrews thing.

The rule for the architecture in Femina Caelestis boot camp was no straight lines. Most of the buildings looked like fat commas in their top view, irregular with trees and ferns planted on their roofs. The walkways were gravel and dirt. No airborne photography would capture the existence of a training facility here.

In boot camp, every minute of every hour was accounted for, and a typical day's schedule ran like this:

At 0600 the girls would be rudely awaken, take a shower, and get dressed.

At 0700 was morning formation, when their triad Archangel would do a personnel inspection and make any announcements.

At 0730 was a hearty breakfast, which Vic thought was quite good.

At 0800 they worked to make their barracks spotless, for the room inspection at 0900.

At 0915 (assuming they passed the inspection and weren't being punished for flunking it) they changed into their running gear and ran on the hard dirt and gravel trails in the woods, by rooms or sometimes by triads.

At 1030 they showered and dressed again. Lunch was at 1130, and then they went out to the shooting range until 1400.

Following that were three hours of day classes and supper, followed by four house of night classes.

Every day at 2130 the girls had exactly one half-hour of free time, followed by lights out at 2200.

On Uniform Issue Day Vicky and Jeri got three more complete sets of clothing, running shoes, and another pair of boots which they were told to wear only for inspections. They each got one raincoat, which was used frequently at Shangri-La, four red FC t-shirts, four pairs of red shorts, eight pairs of gray panties, and four gray bras.

The Archangel of Charlie triad showed them how to fold their clothes. She said, There's the right way, the wrong way, and the FC way...

Overhead they heard a rumbling that went on for along time. Room Bravo Two was being cycled or exercised intensely as punishment for not doing things the FC way. Vic and Jeri would learn all about that soon enough.

The next day featured a full physical and dental examination by real doc- tors who were Femina Caelestis members. The doctors also administered a hearing and visual acuity test. The women of the FC tended to neglect their health, knowing there will always be fresh bodies to occupy. Here was the first look at two new such bodies coming in, and it was the beginning of Vic's downfall.

For Vic was a jen, with one set of male genitalia and one set of female genitalia. And the Bunners were extremely close-minded about that.

The afternoon of May 8 was their first day to shoot real laser rifles at the range. The next day was when classes actually began. Stephanie, Vic, and Jeri were in room Charlie Two. Rooms Alfa One and Bravo Three also began classes that week, nine girls in all. The archangels of the three triads alternated giving the classes.

The training often went something along these lines: Two Angels and an Archangel form a squad, the smallest fighting unit. There are 2,187 squads in the Girl Guard.

Three squads form a nine-woman platoon, headed by a Principality. There are 729 squads in the Girl Guard.

Three platoons form a 27-woman company, headed by a Power. There are 243 companies in the Girl Guard.

Three companies form a 81-woman battalion, headed by a Virtue. There are 81 battalions in the Girl Guard.

Three battalions form a 243-woman regiment, headed by a Dominion. There are 27 regiments in the Girl Guard.

Three regiments form a 729-woman brigade, headed by an Ophanim. There are nine brigades in the Girl Guard.

Three brigades form a 2187 division, headed by a Cherubim. There are three divisions in the Girl Guard, for a total of 6,561 women, and they answer directly to Bravo, who is a Seraphim.

Of you eighteen recruits, nine will be selected to advance to the rank of Angel and nine will be discharged to civilian life, some to serve at our WDF safe houses, and some even working in space. Everyone at least will go up to Midway to receive the Change.

Everyone, that is, except Vic.

Midway, Vic learned, was a tiny asteroid thousands of miles above the Earth, where the Artifact was kept. The Artifact was the agent of the Change. The origin of the Artifact, as told in the Holy Buron, was not a secret for those willing to believe the account, but neither was it widely known.

After a month of training, the nine who were selected to be Angels, having officially joined the Girl Guard, were to meet two new recruits each and bring them to Shangri-La to begin training.

Three of those Angels in turn would be selected to advance to Archangel and become triad leaders. Finally, one of those triad leaders would be selected as an officer candidate, advance to Principality, and would move on to more training, equivalent to four years of college, destined to make her a Power.

There was a lot of information for the first week but Private Stephanie had been through this whole cycle before. She was there to help them, because it would help herself. Her chances on advancing to Archangel depended on how well she motivated Vic and Jeri.

Then Work Week rolled around. Their first two days were spent in the laundry room doing the wash of every girl then in training, thirty sets of sweaty uniforms every day. Four days were spent on KP or Kitchen Patrol, mess cranking with the outgoing Bravo Three room for two days and training up the incoming Alfa Two room for the next two days.

The room leaders acted as waitresses. The rest of them were grill cooks. Vic wasn't happy flipping hamburgers in Femina Caelestis, but she knew things would get better.

One afternoon Stephanie took Vic and Jeri on a shopping trip in downtown Seattle and treated them to a dinner of skewered steak and shrimp, her way of telling them thanks. She thought their composite score was very high, which bode well for advancement. Jeri's individual score was troublesome, however.

Indeed, when the transition day came around Jeri was not selected to remain in the Girl Guard. She had placed moderately high, but was still in the lower half of the class. She was to be mustered out and put to work as an assistant to a full member while she went through the Change.

I outrank Bravo now, Jeri said, trying to cheer herself up. I'm a civilian.

After a trip to Midway in orbit for the Change, Jeri would be sent to a safe house somewhere back here on Earth. Vic didn't worry for her, they really were safe now. After that botched raid on the house at the edge of Gonorrhea Gulch where Dory took Vic, it was quite clear that trying to seize a Femina Caelestis safe house was certain death for the attackers.

Over the last few weeks the FCIC and local police came to an unspoken truce with the WDF. They watched, but they didn't move in anymore. And a few weeks after that it wouldn't matter, because that's when Pacifica broke off from the US anyway.

Dory, who had taken a special interest in Vic, took the time to speak to Jeri, since she had been recruited with Vic. Even though you are no longer in the Girl Guard, Dory told her in a congratulatory vidphone call from the Moon, you must wear your uniform at all times. Stay out of trouble for now. If you die before your connector blooms, we can't save any of your memories. You'll be dead and you'll stay dead. This has happened to dozens of girls already.

Stephanie moved up to Charlie triad Archangel, and Vic advanced from lowlife recruit to Angel and went out to pick up her new girls, Vera and Annette. Vic retained residence in room C2.

Now that she was partly in charge of their training, Vic used much of their free time making Vera and Annette run up Little Baldy on the two mile winding course, which brought intense grumbling. But she said, Your minimum time on this course is thirty minutes in the final. Any time less than that is extra points toward our composite score.

Work Week came again, but Vic wasn't behind the grill this time. She worked out in the chow hall, keeping it clean, setting out milk, and serving the table reserved for the triad Archangels. It felt a little strange serving young Stephanie when she herself was thirty-six years old.

For room inspection on June 25, Vic's recruits Vera and Annette had missed a spot. Vicky found it at the last minute and wiped the dust with her hands. They passed the room inspection but she herself flunked the personnel inspection with her filthy paws, and her explanation wasn't accepted.

But they were supposed to be a team. When she learned the truth, Stephanie punished all of them with a half hour of being cycled. Vera and Annette were deeply ashamed, and made it up to Vic with a good score on the range, throwing live rocket blades.

If a girl became a triad Archangel, it was partly luck of the draw. She may be a great leader, but have a pair of recruits who didn't want to be in the Girl Guard no matter what. Or she may be a lousy leader, but get two new fish who have their heart set on being Powers in the Guard themselves.

Boot camp was basically just two platoons, so from the nine triad Archangels only three were picked to be Principalities. The rest were trained as specialists. Vic, to her delight, was chosen to be one of the three new Archangels.

Vera and Annette both advanced to Angel, and became room leaders under Vic. She also added Private Eve under her from another room, and six new recruits took up residence in Charlie squad. So the finely-tuned machine which Bravo set into motion in 2002 continued to crank out nine new Femina Caelestis Girl Guards every month, and also nine limited partners. A similar operation was running at Hybla-Dia for the nephilim.

After a period of two years in oblivion as their body was used by a Femina Caelestis full member, they would become themselves full members, with the right to wear new bodies on a time-share basis.

As an Archangel in Bravo triad Vic started giving classes for the new girls. She taught them to kill and how to listen to pain as a defense mechanism and not an enemy to be vanquished.

She didn't have to crank this time during Work Week, having already done so twice. RHIP she said. Rank Hath It's Privileges. And when a room messed up an inspection it was her turn to cycle them.

Vic herself was required to attend leadership classes deep into the night. She was being groomed for great things, and being selected for Power candidate school on was another step in that direction. That she already held a degree from the University of Washington was a big factor.

From a battered wife, Vic had reached the pinnacle of FC basic training with no special favors from Dory or anyone else. She did it. No one could take that core achievement away from her no matter what happened after. She had been translated from little Vicky, a housewife with no self-esteem to Vic, a Principality in the Girl Guard. And she was selected to become a Power and go on to bigger and better things.

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