Countdown, Part Ten

Continued from Part Nine

Colonel Morgan fired a round into the eco-terrorist. The guard crumpled.

“Nice kill,” Dread said. “There shouldn’t be more than four live guards down here now, along with our mad scientist.”

Colonel Morgan said, “Or upstairs. I wish they’d stop sneaking up on us so I can capture one. I don’t quite have Snyder’s memory to find my way around. Speaking of him, Dread, I’d like to know why he hasn’t been promoted.”

“Do you really want to discuss personnel matters right now?”

“Seems as good a time as any.”

“He’s a juvenile delinquent. He re-mains a private until I have sufficient evidence to rid Intelligence of a security risk.”

“I see. Well, I’ve put in a recommendation with the personnel board to promote Snyder to Specialist. I expect that to go through with the full support of his commanding officer.”

Dread laughed. “Not even you can make me do that. Personnel decisions are mine.”

“Then I have no choice but to inform the Steward you’re a fraud, which will lead to your disgrace, court martial, and infamy.”

Dread faked incredulity in the con-vincing way only sociopaths can. “What are you talking about, sir?”

“Check to the east and the west before we proceed.”

Dread glanced around the maze’s corner and turned back. “It’s clear, sir.”

“It’s curious. When Dimitrov’s mis-deeds were uncovered¸ both Snyder’s cap-tain and his row supervisor were promoted. His file notes the change in his reporting status.”

Dread proceeded. “Am I not allowed to recommend promotions?”

Morgan followed. “Certainly, but it’s quite curious that you promoted his row supervisor two ranks and only seven months after his last promotion. Tell me, who else have you heard of going from Private First Class to Staff Sergeant in nine months?”

The sickly light bird stared blankly.

Morgan smiled. “Why so surprised? That’s normally checked. Unless of course you’re in too much of a hurry to cut a deal to gain someone’s silence.”

Dread laughed. “All that from a per-sonnel file? Sir, you make Sherlock Holmes look simple. What am I supposedly covering up?”

“Snyder found Dimitrov’s diary.”

“That punk! He’s a hate criminal from JD mistakenly tossed into Intelligence by someone who lacked any.”

“Dread, head to the north end of the building.”

The two turned.

Morgan continued, “I must disagree. In my estimation, Snyder has well proven the courts right to give him a second chance.”

“This was pure luck. He’s never contributed anything of any significance.”

“Really?” Morgan laughed. “Then how do you explain the wilderness training with a paid leave of absence that you gave him? That also coincided with the discovery.”

Dread stood speechless.

“I know the program you sent him on. It costs $9,000. It’s not something that you send all your men through, so it must have been a reward. But you didn’t want anyone to know you were rewarding him so you could take all the credit. Really stupid, Dread. You would have gotten a lot of credit as the commanding officer anyway, but you had a need to deny him. You’ve got a chip on your shoulder regarding that kid and have put your entire career at risk over it.”

“You think you’ve got me, don’t you?”

“Unless you explain the wilderness trip, a board of inquiry would agree. Dread, let’s turn down this corridor.”

The two turned right.

“Dread, at minimum, discovery will mean demotion and transfer to a post far less pleasing than the noncombatant post your temper has already earned you. But it’s worse than that because you lied to the Steward, and this would reflect poorly on him. That’s why I’m willing to offer you a deal. For Donovan’s sake.”

Dread sneered. “So I promote Snyder to Specialist and all is forgotten?”

“Not quite. Snyder has a real career ahead of him. He would make an excellent member of the Army Intelligence Liaison core. I expect to see him promoted to Ser-geant within a year, and then within a year and a half to join the Liaison core as a Warrant Officer.”

“Sir, I won’t be at Chic Hecht by then.”

“Because you’d like a battalion com-mand by then? Believe me, Dread, waiting two and a half years for a full bird beats what’ll happen if I blow the whistle.”

Dread pointed his gun at Morgan’s chest.

Morgan laughed. “Brilliant! The au-topsy will find the bullet was fired from your gun.”

“Why would anyone order an autopsy on a combat mission?”

“My will dictates, whenever I die, there is to be an autopsy.”

Dread holstered his weapon. “You seem to be a man who makes enemies.”

“I know how to deal with them. Now, let’s get back to the matter at hand.”

A male and a female guard emerged from behind a wall. Morgan and Dread fired at them, and they crumpled to the ground. 

Dread said, “Let me check the bodies and see if there are any clues.”

Morgan moved ahead. “I’ll make sure no one else is coming after them.”

Silence ticked by. “Find anything?”

“Yes,” Dread said behind him. “A solution to my problem.”

A bullet sizzled through Morgan’s back. Morgan turned.

Dread put the gun in the hand of the dead ecoterrorist. “Ivan had the right idea with your kind. It will be a pleasure to watch you die.”

Morgan spat blood. “Cracker.”

“Freeze!” an eco-terrorist screamed.

Morgan laughed. “You idiot, Dread.”

Continued Next Thursday

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