Tag Archives: Coming of Age

Unknown Mission, Part Twenty-Four

Continued from Part Twenty-Three

Snyder stood in the middle of a vast dessert. Nothing to see but sand and a solitary figure approaching. What was going on? Snyder reached for his colt service revolver.

“Anny, that won’t be necessary,” said the familiar voice.


Snyder ran over and embraced his grandmother. “I love you.”

A slap came across Snyder’s face. Shijo stood over him, laughing. “I love you, too.”

Snyder scratched his forehead. “What’s going on?”

Blackjack McGraw stood by the carrier.  He shrugged. “I’d say you fainted, but I probably pushed you down too hard.”

“Someone was shooting at us and I saw my grandmother. What’s going on?”

McGraw pointed to two men lying on the ground. “Those guys were shooting at us. Hotel Security didn’t put in any of their manuals that they put two armed guards on with their cargo. Shijo saved our bacon.”

Shijo sniffed. “Of course I did.”

“In fact, I wouldn’t mind working with him regularly if he weren’t such an egotist.”


“What about my grandmother?”

McGraw shook his head. “Your common variety mirage.”

Several empty buses pulled off the Interstate. Cutler and his minister friend got off one. The minister said, “The mystery bomber has just disappeared. We need everybody on the buses.”

The enslaved children and teenagers boarded the buses like compliant cattle.

Snyder said, “Sarge, let’s get out of here. If we leave first, the buses will cover our tracks.”

Cutler nodded and jumped into the driver’s seat of the van.

McGraw said, “Kid, maybe I’ll look you up some time.”

“What are you going to do now?”

McGraw shrugged. “Three hundred kids, I figure they’ll need some help. Maybe it’s time for me to take a sabbatical. Help boys become men. I haven’t done a good job with my son, and I’m too late with you. But maybe, you know?” McGraw looked across the desert. “Just maybe.”

Snyder nodded. “Good luck.”

“Thanks kid.”

Snyder walked towards the van, but turned around. “Keep in touch.”

McGraw nodded.

Continued…Next Thursday

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Crossroads, Part Six

Continued from Part Five

A few days later, the bugle blasted reveille. Snyder groaned, turned over in his bunk, and looked at his watch. 0300? What the heck? Reveille wasn’t supposed to be until 0500. Sergeant Cutler burst in fully dressed.

Does that guy ever sleep?

“Up and at ’em, soldiers. We’re having a special assembly at 0530 hours. Required attendance.”

The female soldier in the bunk above Snyder groaned. Cutler said, “Soldier, give me five push-ups.”

What a pushover. Didn’t he even remember his own basic training?

After breakfast and the morning exercise, the recruits from his company entered the assembly hall. A giant portable holovision “picture window” filled the entire stage. Inside said holo-window, a larger-than-life colonel stood at a lectern preparing his notes. “Please, take your seats.”

Snyder found a seat with his platoon four rows from the back. His shadow sat beside him naturally. At times, he couldn’t tell whether she wanted him to protect her from certain other guys in the platoon, or wanted him to break one of Sergeant Jirel Cutler’s cardinal rules: no hanky-panky.

The Colonel at the lectern said, “I am Colonel Leopold Lewis. My apologies to recruits in the Pacific and Mountain Time Zones and for our friends at the Naval training center in Hawaii. I’m sorry to get you out of bed. However, I think you’ll find what you’re about to experience worth the disturbance. Here to explain the core values of our Imperial Armed Services, we have our commander-in-chief.”

Snyder stood and cheered along with virtually everyone else.

Lewis continued. “The World knows him as a winner of the Noble Peace Prize for his work on human rights. America knows him as Time’s Man of the Year for two years running and People’s Sexiest Man Alive for the past three.”

The females scattered in the audience cheered, apparently at all locations, from Lewis’ pause. But only his shadow’s squeals threatened to leave him deaf.

It took a minute, but the female recruits eventually remembered they were supposed to be tough-as-any-guy soldiers, not groupies.

Colonel Lewis said, “I know him as a good soldier, a great statesman, and a faithful prince, Earth’s  future King, Donovan the Steward.”

The twenty-one-year-old world leader entered the picture in dress uniform and with his raven hair tied back in a ponytail he’d grown out in belated rebellion. Donovan took the place of the exiting Lewis. “Thank you, soldiers, sailors, and Marines of the Empire and thank you, Colonel Lewis for that fine introduction.

“Perhaps the greatest change I’ve introduced as Steward has been in the core values of the military. My predecessor defined the core values as KILL:Know who’s in charge, Insure the death of terrorists, Loyalty to the Steward,Laziness means death. The KILL model had some interesting ideas, but produced great enmity between reasonable Americans and the Empire that could have been avoided.

“Because of this, I’ve introduced the LEAD model.” Below the Steward, words appeared as he spoke them:

Loyalty to the people of your province, and to the Empire as a whole.

Achieving personal excellence

The Steward delivered an inspirational speech on the LEAD model. It was different than other speeches he’d seen the Steward give. The Steward seemed ready to pound the podium like Mama Borden’s pastor.

When the Steward got to “Ethics,” Snyder leaned forward.

“During my predecessor’s reign, ethics were never discussed. It was considered of little importance, which is why he felt free to betray America and the Empire. We’ve had to correct many of his errors. You are the new army, an ethical army that will understand its ethical obligations.

“An ethical soldier is the pride and glory of the Empire. An unethical one is the greatest friend terrorists ever had. I want my army—make that our army—to be loved, respected, and honored across the globe. If we’re to do that, ethics must be our first priority, and it must be a way of life.

The Steward held up a spiral-bound book. “Your ethics handbook is your guide to life, your source of truth in all situations. It was put together by the finest minds in the world from the disciplines of philosophy and religion. I want us to be proud of what we do, and we’re not going to have that if we do not have an ethical base.”

“Should you run into any ethical problems that you cannot resolve at the local level, feel free to contact my military affairs office, and we’ll make sure that it’s resolved.”

Snyder made a mental note of the number flashing in the air, as if to remind him this was only a live holovision feed. This would be a real change, a huge change, in the way the Imperial Army operated. He could hardly wait to tell Mama Borden.

When the speech ended half an hour later, Snyder spotted Sergeant Cutler frowning in the corner. Cutler called out, “Everyone report to your drill sergeants. Thank you for your time.”

Cutler spent the next hour drilling them on the handling of their weapon. Cutler had them use rubber guns so an idiot wouldn’t kill anyone if he mishandled it.

Cutler said, “All right, good work, men. We’ll meet in 15 minutes in Classroom 12C and review the sexual harassment policy. Until then, you’re dismissed.”

Everyone but Snyder broke off to enjoy a few moments of free time. Snyder walked after Cutler. “Sir, can I have a moment of your time, sir?”

Cutler said, “What is it, Snyder?”

“I was wondering what you thought of the Steward’s presentation, sir.”

Cutler looked upwards for some reason and walked a few steps. “It was interesting. There’s one area it could have used improvement on.”

“Sir, what was missing, sir?”

“Everything he wants you to do, he wants you to do for you. Be ethical, because it will make you feel good. Achieve excellence, because it will make you look good. But Armies are made to fight battles, and in the midst of a battle, will you risk your life so that you look good? Will you die for a promotion? Where I come from, we were taught about love and putting others before yourself. And if a soldier can’t find that love for others, they’re not worth a dime.”

Man. And he thought the Steward had sounded like a preacher.


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Crossroads, Part One

Along the meandering river-side path of the wooded Boise Greenbelt, President Snyder pushed up the sleeves of his orange, blue and black BSU Broncos hoodie. He delivered a right hook to the overgrown slug’s padded jaw.The slug snarled. “Boy, I love it when you play hard to get!”

Snyder spat and spewed profanity that Cerulean would box him over if he was dumb enough to play gang-banger around Substitute Daddy.

“Snyder!” screamed Vice President Chico. “It’s not worth it!”

Chief of Staff Roger “Beanpole” Summers ran over. “Prez, let me help.”

“I can take this slug.”

If he couldn’t, that was why he brought along his cabinet.  Though, being saved from an oaf like Tío Rodrigo-Chico’s uncle-would be a lowlight of his career as President of the Commanders.  “Keep a look out for the Man, Chief.”

Tío Rodrigo lumbered forward. Snyder sped for a nearby tree. He leaped, grabbed a branch, and threw his weight at Rodrigo’s chin. Rodrigo lost his balance and fell like a mantle overloaded with knick knacks.

Snyder leaped away from the hands flailing for him even while the 350-pound slug lay on his back. No wonder the slug molested five-year-olds. No way he could really get a sixteen-year-old like him.

He grabbed the slug’s hands and clasped them together. Rodrigo writhed like he’d poured salt on him, but those arms carried a lot more fat than muscle.

He glanced to Secretary Bill. “Sec. B, duct tape.”

The medium-sized boy ran over with the roll and duct-taped Rodrigo’s hands. Rodrigo continued to writhe helplessly.

Snyder kicked his side. “Get up!”

Rodrigo sat up.

Snyder’s steel toed boots connected with Rodrigo’s love handles again. “That ain’t what I meant!”

Rodrigo snarled. “Ain’t easy to stand up with your arms tied, punk.”

Snyder growled. “Sec. B, get him up.”

Bill and Snyder strained to pull the child molester up. No good. They’d sooner divert the river than budge the slug. Snyder panted. “Sec. M ‘n’ Sec. J, over here!”

The final two members his cabinet made enough difference to lift the slug off the ground.

Snyder unhooked a dyed-green rock climbing rope from his belt. He and his secretaries dragged the condemned through the woods, searching for an appropriate tree for an execution. The branches of the old growth cottonwoods were too high, and the slug would break their offspring. No need to ruin a perfectly good tree.

He spotted a pine with a massive trunk and thick branches that should do the trick. He placed Tío Rodrigo on the right side of the branch and tied the green noose around his neck. “Over here!”

Bill, Jeff, and Mike joined him.

Chico stood off to the side.

Snyder said, “What up, Veep?”

Chico shook his head. “Sorry, Prez. I can’t hang mí tío.”

Snyder’s jaw dropped. “This slug molested you and your little brother.”

Chico looked down at the paved pathway. “He still family.”

So? Snyder sighed. “Okay. I’ll let you out of hanging family. The rest of us can handle it.”

President Snyder and his secretaries pulled on the rope. They went flying backwards to the ground. The noose landed on Snyder’s chest, having slipped right over Tío Rodrigo’s head.

Snyder snarled at the still-breathing slug and stood along with his friends. He threw the noose back over the tree and tied it tighter around the child molester’s neck this time.

Roger came running. “Prez, 5-0!”

Snyder whispered a curse under his breath. The police. “Run!”

They left Rodrigo by the tree, the homemade noose still around his neck, and ran along the Greenbelt. Jeff stopped and pulled out his asthma inhaler.

Snyder yanked on Jeff’s plain black hoodie. “Come on, we can’t stop.”

Jeff wheezed. “Prez, my lungs gonna collapse.”

“We don’t keep moving, and it’ll be your neck in the noose!”

“I can’t keep goin’ this fast, man.”

Outside Ann Morrison Park, Snyder snapped his fingers. “Head towards downtown, then back to the hood. Be cool. You know nothing, you hear?”

His friends nodded and took the path leading away from the park.

Snyder crossed the bridge over the river and into Ann Morrison, where he climbed a tree heavy with large, oval nuts. He scoured the surrounding branches of their produce and stuffed the ammo in his hoodie’s pockets. He pulled an illegal slingshot from his black carpenter jeans’ back pocket.

A dozen cops approached. Snyder took aim and fired at a cop who’d had too many donuts, nicking him in the arm. Snyder took aim again, this time getting the same cop in the knee.

The police fell back. Snyder continued firing at the retreating officers.

For maybe ten minutes, silence reigned. Snyder stretched to reach higher and picked more ammo.

Something rustled behind him.

Pain shot through his back. He turned.

A cop stood forty feet away, holding a long-range stun weapon.

Snyder tried to fire a nut at the cop, but his hands refused to cooperate. The slingshot dropped to the ground. The branch dropped away as dead air snatched him. The tree, the park, the river, and the police spun into darkness.


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