Countdown, Part One

Continued from Zero

Private A.L. Snyder burst out the door of the day school carrying an Asian little girl. An explosion knocked him to the ground. The child slipped from his grasp and landed a few feet ahead of him.

A dark brown hand grabbed his. Mama said, “Get up, boy.”

Snyder stood. The fire department moved in. Mama stormed over to the daycare worker who’d forgotten the child. “Girl, where’s your head? You almost killed that baby and mine. You got to mind what you’re doing.”

“Yes, ma’am, I’m sorry.”

“Oh you’re sorry, all right, honey.”

Was Mama trying to embarrass him?

Snyder growled. “Mama—”

Mama Borden continued. “Your job is to take care of the kids. But can you do that?”

Snyder shouted, “Mama!”

Mama Borden turned and sighed. “I guess the important thing is everyone’s okay.”

Thankfully. Snyder walked over to the police car. Bill, his former Secretary B, sat in his squad car.

Snyder asked, “Hey, did they catch the terrorist who planted the bomb?”

Bill nodded. “They’re taking her down to IBI headquarters.”

“Could you take me there?”

“What business do you have in this?”

“This afternoon, I caught a member of her cult aboard Empire Air. Got time?”

Bill smiled. “Let me call Sarge. Things are slow, so they can spare me.”

  Soon, Snyder and Bill outside the IBI’s interrogation room. Bill yawned. “Are you sure Agent Carroll will talk to you?”

Snyder shrugged. “Hey, we got in.”

Carroll walked out of the interrogation room. “Keep this up, Private, and we’ll have to get you a named coffee mug.”

Snyder asked, “Learn anything?”

“She copped out to the bomb. And said her motive was to reduce the oppression of the Earth. I’m leaning towards her being a lone nut disparaging a great sect.”

Uh-huh. “I appreciate that some of you are peaceful, Carroll, but we’ve had three members of your great sect try to seize an airplane. Could I question her?”

“You have any experience?”

“No, but—”

“But you figure an Army Intelligence desk jockey can out-interrogate the IBI.”


Carroll put up his hands. “Give it a whirl. We’ve gotten some great IBI agents from Army Intelligence. Try it, maybe you’ll like it.” Carroll paused. “Only thing is, as she’s a member of a legal sect, the most…” Carroll licked his lips. “…interesting interrogation methods aren’t available.”

Snyder swallowed the bile rising. “Not a problem.”

He and Bill entered the room. The prisoner sat twirling a lock of her red hair around a finger. She frowned. “What is this? Good cop, bad solider?”

Snyder asked, “So what are you planning for endgame?”

She gasped. “How did you find out about endgame?”

“I learned of it from one of your friends.”

She grinned. “You have no idea.”

Snyder stared at her. “Which video game is it from?”

She turned her head away.

“Thank you. Come on, Bill.”

Bill said, “She didn’t tell us any-thing.”

“Oh, her eyes said plenty.”

The terrorist leapt up. The guard beside her pushed her back down.

Snyder and Bill exited the interroga-tion room. Carroll returned with a coffee cup in hand. “Learn anything, Junior G-man?”

“Can you get me access to their files?”

“We got warrants cleared on both of them. What do you want to check?”

“Their game libraries.”

Carroll arched his eyebrow. “Why would we care?”

“Endgame. She knows what it is. So did the air marshal who hijacked the plane.”

“And you think it has something to do with a computer game?”

 “Couldn’t hurt to check.”

“Just a moment.” Carroll walked to a wall terminal.

Two minutes later, he waved Snyder over. “I’ve got all the suspects’ game li-braries juxtaposed side by side.”

Like he needed Carroll’s help. Car-roll was just saving him the trouble of hacking in when he got back to Chic Hecht. “There’s a pattern. Our suspect and three hijackers all own the same game on their panel.”

Carroll smirked. “Yeah, Solitaire.”

Snyder glared. “These four have a game I’ve never heard of. Oerz: The quest for peace.”

Carroll laughed. “That’s the #3 game in the world. I even have a copy.”

 “How far did you get?”

Carroll sighed. “That’s the rub. It was fun for the first fifteen levels and then it became too involved. You’d have to have no life to win.”

“With 14% unemployment, a lot of people have no life. If you reverse engineer that game, I think you’ll find the solution.”

Carroll chuckled. “I’ll get our video games division right on that, Snyder.”

Snyder sighed. He’d have some work to do once he got back to Nevada.

Continued Next Thursday

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