Snyder turned. Sergent Cutler stood behind him, arms folded across his field jacket. How had Cutler known? How had he gotten out here?
“Recruit, unless you’ve been drafted by the NBA, you’re out of uniform.”
Snyder took a step back and began to twirl the grappling hook. “Stay back.”
“At ease, Soldier. I won’t make you go back. This is your own decision. Let me ask you a couple questions, though. Why are you running?”
Snyder cursed. “Isn’t it obvious? No way can I pass the GED.”
Cutler laughed. “So, because you’re not smart enough to pass the GED, you bypass security systems, reprogram the generator, and escape from the Imperial Army.”
Snyder stopped twirling the grappling hook. And Cutler’s point was? He had street smarts aplenty. That hardly translated to book smarts. The stuff bored him to tears. Never seemed worth his time or effort. At least it hadn’t until his neck was riding on it.
Cutler asked softly, “And what were you going to do?”
“I’m going back to Idaho to take Mama Borden up on her offer to run.”
Cutler said, “So, that’s the life you want? Spending every day trying to keep one step ahead of the IBI and the Military Police? Some retirement for your mother, and some life for you.”
Snyder growled. “It’s a life.”
“But it’s not your only option,” said Sergeant Cutler. “You’re afraid — ”
Snyder raised the grappling hook. “I’m not afraid of anything, fool!”
Cutler coughed. “Don’t lie. You smell bad enough with the stench of fear on you without adding deceit.”
Snyder lowered the grappling hook.
“Now, the military doesn’t spend thousands of dollars training people, so we can hand them over to get hung. If you don’t pass this test, you can take it again, and I’ll work with you. I promise you that, as long as you don’t give up, you’ll pass this test. Will you try?”
Snyder dropped the hook. “All right.”
Cutler patted Snyder’s back. “Thanks for not quitting on me.”
“So what will my punishment be?”
Cutler sighed. “Kid, being up this late the day before your GED is punishment enough. Come on.”
They walked towards the front gate.
Snyder asked, “What will we tell the guard when they see how I’m dressed?”
Cutler shrugged. “Oh, that won’t be a problem.”
When they reached the gate, the guard lay sleeping on the ground.
Snyder arched his eyebrow. “Weird. He’s only been on duty like half an hour.”
“Guess some can’t take it even that long,” said Cutler, with a smile.
Cutler walked Snyder back to the barracks. “Now get some sleep.”
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