Countdown, Part Seventeen

Continued from Part Sixteen

Colonel Dread stood thirty feet away, gun drawn. Snyder lay the body down.

That’s one way to resolve a moral dilemma.

He felt her lifeless chest. “She’s dead.”

Kendell put Dread in her sights. “Under the Imperial Army Conduct Reform Act, I place you under arrest for executing a prisoner.”

“Wrong. Article IX of the Emergency Act supersedes the Conduct Reform Act.”

“How was she an imminent threat to the Empire when she had surrendered?”

“As long as she breathes, she’s a threat to humanity. The risk of escape in even the most secure institution on the planet is too high.”

Yeah, that and you’re a psycho that gets his kicks pulling the trigger on people.

Dread paced. “The regrettable part is that she could’ve been an asset. I see great potential for the hybrid disease she dev-eloped. But we have her computer for that.”

Kendell coughed. “For the security of the Empire, I had to destroy it. I didn’t plan on you putting a hole through her chest.”

“I’ve already cited the regulation.”

“The Emergency Act doesn’t say to shoot first and ask questions later.”

Snyder raised a finger. “Excuse me, but no one knew about that virus before we got here. If that’s all you’re concerned with, you’re creating lemons from lemon-ade.”

Dread frowned. “Lemons?”

“We’ve just foiled an attempt to an-nihilate 90% of the population. You’re turning a career booster for all of us into a food fight over who cost the Empire a weapon no one other than us even knows about.”

Dread laughed. “What we need to do is move on. We can’t restore Rawlings’ computer, nor resuscitate her. Let’s focus on what we’ve achieved rather than obsessing about what we haven’t done.”

Kendell smiled at Snyder, winking. “What an excellent idea, Sir.”

“We need to contact the IBI and have them arrest all who show up at Rawlings’ gatherings. I trust that you retrieved that information.”

Snyder nodded. “Yes, sir.”

“I believe you know someone at the IBI.”

“It’d be better if you contacted them, sir. My contact doesn’t appreciate a private helping out the IBI.”

“Can’t say I blame him. I’ll order a cleanup crew to deal with the bodies. You two wait here. I’ll wait by Colonel Mor-gan’s body. I trust the stairs will not give me any problems?”

Snyder shook his head. “Her security was designed to keep people out, not keep them in.”

Dread headed down to the stairs and vanished out of sight.

Kendell’s breath rushed out of her. “Thank you, Snyder. I owe you.”

If I called in all the favors owed me, I’d be rich.

“You’re welcome.” Snyder reached in his backpack and pulled out a cigar and his lighter. He lit his cigar and took a puff.

“Hey, imperial smoking regulations still apply, private.”

“Sarge, that’s Imperial facilities and public places. Not the secret lair of a death cult.”

“Would you mind not smoking, then? I’m trying to quit and you’re tempting me.”

Snyder grinned. “Tempting as it is to offer you a cigar, I can go into one of the offices to finish my smoke, if you’d like.”

“Appreciated, but you should quit. It’s not good for you.”

“Thanks for the concern, Mother, but the occasional cigar isn’t a health risk. And on a private’s salary, with the tax, I can barely afford to be an occasional smoker.”

Besides, if I keep this line of work up, dying of old age isn’t going to be an option, anyway.

Continued Next Thursday

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