Private A. L. Snyder walked through Hecht’s courtyard on his way to work, past the statue of the Emperor. He took a quick glance around and spat out a wad of chewing gum that “accidentally” landed on the empty pedestal beside the loathsome idol.
May the traitor rot in Hell and Old Harry join him sooner rather than later.
Ironically, other than the getting hanged for a hate crime if the Light Bird got his way thing, the army itself had been the best thing that ever happened to him. He’d just keep telling himself he was serving his country and his commander in chief rather than the current Steward’s master.
Sergeant Jirel Cutler walked up to Snyder. Snyder saluted.
Cutler said, “At ease, private. I was just wondering, how you are doing?”
What was this? Sarge was acting weird. “Fine, I guess.”
“Good, anything new going on? New hobby or new girlfriend?”
“Girlfriend?” Snyder shook his head. His last girlfriend wanted him to knock her up so she could sell the kid to a breeder for research. “Army chicks are not my type.”
Relief filled Cutler’s eyes. “Glad to hear it. Okay, carry on.”
Uh-huh. “Talk to you later, Sarge.” Snyder paused. “Oh, and, since that question is probably next, I’m not on drugs. My gang’s thing is defending our turf. Getting high would be counterproductive.”
Plus Mama Borden and Cerulean would take turns boxing my ears if I started using.
He strode inside the Intelligence operations center. He walked up the stairs twenty-six levels to his seat by the girl’s bathroom. Technically, the restrooms were unisex, but the ironclad rule of self-segregation dictated that the female soldiers used the upstairs facilities and male soldiers the downstairs. He turned on his station.
“So, I told him he could just forget about it,” said a female private walking out of the restroom on Snyder’s left, past the five cubicles on that side of the aisle.
“Reminds me of my ex-boyfriend; a total jerk,” said her friend. “He’s so irresponsible. When is he going to grow up?”
They stopped three feet from Snyder’s cubicle, as if trying to annoy him.
The first chick said, “That’s the thing. He still hasn’t paid his part of the rent. I said to him, ‘Look, I can’t pay this all my self.’ And he keeps telling me he’s going to get it, and he never—”
Snyder stood. “Excuse me. Did the memo changing this to the break room get caught in my spam filter?”
The first chick snorted. “Well, there’s no reason for you to act like a jerk.”
The two walked down the stairs. Snyder sat down his cube.
The bathroom door swung open to Snyder’s left. Two women exited.
“So, my mom expects me to get leave to go back for the wedding.”
“She’s being totally selfish,” said the other woman. “You have your own life.”
Snyder whispered a curse for Lt. Colonel Paul Dread. Dread kept him stuck with this lame seat assignment even though most techies moved off this row after a month. Snyder had important work to do.
The Imperial Security Monitoring system came up, ready to deliver fresh alerts of potential dangers to the Empire. Mostly, false alarms. However, there were more important things to do while he waited. He pulled up a browser. What should he do?
Hack into Old Harry’s Bank Account to see what he had? Nah, did that yesterday. Probably hadn’t changed that much. Change the front page of ABS news? Too risky. Not twice in the same month, anyway. The White House? Nah, too easy.
Donovan the Steward’s top secret daybook. Hmm, that was always fun.
Snyder cracked the encryption in three minutes. Donovan the Martial Arts Master had a work out on his lawn at 04:30.
Donovan the American University History Professor had an 08:15 class to teach, skipping the Senate hearing calendar as usual. He only bothered to play Senator when something interesting was happening.
Donovan the Steward was to be at the U.S. Senate at Noon to sit in on the Liberal Party policy lunch. That afternoon he had a bunch of short meetings scheduled at the White House, one of them with the President, and in between two speeches, one at 15:30 and one at 17:30.
A third speech would be given around 20:30 at a fundraiser for a Conservative Party U.S. Senator. That the Steward actually sold his boss on his non-combative, bipartisan, moderate approach to politics was only one more reason among many that Donovan was Snyder’s hero.
Two blocks were marked as open time: 10-11:30 and 22-23:30. Snyder snickered. “Open Time” meant “babe time.”
America’s favorite former child prodigy—this teenage soldier didn’t consider a twenty-two-year-old a child—must have thought “open time” would hide from historians how he spent his sacred free time.
Probably more reflected a desire for an elusive private life. Considering he had the degrees to prove the high IQ, Donovan had to know he had far too big a reputation as a womanizer to keep that tidbit secret from History.
Hmm. What next? He could hack his siblings’ e-mails for more proof they had no right to look down on him. Or he could tap into Boise High’s security cameras to find shots of the sweetheart Mama Borden wouldn’t let him date because he was a white, gang-banging, former Catholic altar boy, and his girl the preacher’s daughter at Mama’s black Baptist church. Keisha’s daddy wouldn’t have liked it, either.
Nah, he’d had enough of that sort of torture for the week.
Always the Imperial weapons lab. They always had something fun to read about. Mostly, re-introducing old weapons as cutting edge and getting paid handsomely for it. This regurgitation had all started with movies, and just got worse from there. Snyder shuddered at the thought of the 1990s Brady Bunch movie he’d mistakenly downloaded.
A shot redounded in the building.
Snyder hit the floor and peaked out into the center aisle. At the very bottom of the stadium seats, a terrorist was firing a machine gun into the air. Snyder crawled quickly down the stairs. A male private on row twenty said, “Are you crazy?”
Snyder continued on to row ten. The enemy appeared to be a Native American woman. Snyder pulled his Colt from his hip holster and fired. The shot hit the woman’s hand and knocked the gun away. She let off a string of curses that would’ve made even Snyder blush on another occasion.
The enemy moved to get her gun.
Snyder ran down, aiming the Colt for the enemy’s heart. “Freeze or you’re dead.”
Lieutenant Peterman came running in. “What’s going on here?”
Snyder kept his gun trained on the enemy. “Forgive me for not saluting, but we have a terrorist shooting up the facility.”
“Good work, Private. Now hand over your service revolver. You’re under arrest.”
Snyder arched his eyebrows. “Say what?”
Peterman snatched the Colt. “She fired blanks to illustrate your lack of readiness. Congratulations, Private. You just shot your new XO.”
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