Snyder sat at his workstation, waiting for another overblown Imperial Security “threat” to flash onto his screen for him to evaluate and either dismiss or forward on to a specialist.
While waiting, he pulled up the Paternity database to check on his request for matching that he’d sent in that morning.
“Processing” flashed on the screen.
It was silly, really. Who cared who provided half his genetic make-up, when the guy provided nothing else?
The guy was a nobody, a nothing. It didn’t matter. He had Cerulean.
So what if McGraw might know him? It didn’t matter.
Match: 1st Lieutenant Jim Eagleclaw, Imperial Army Intelligence, USA. (27-67 YE). Cause of death: Executed.
Snyder sighed. “Apparently, I’m at risk for the family disease.”
Snyder stood at the otherwise abandoned shooting range. “Computer, virtual target, File Snyder A-7.”
A hologram of Colonel Dread appeared. Snyder fired three shots. The virtual colonel stood there, totally indifferent to the holes in his chest. That was the only drawback. He couldn’t yet program the computer to make bleeding holograms that fell to the ground and confessed they’d gotten honor and advancement by claiming Snyder’s success as their own.
“A little hard on the brass,” said a voice from behind him.
Snyder turned. McGraw, in an Imperial Sergeant’s uniform. Somebody hasn’t forgotten how to get past our Swiss Cheese security I see. “What do you want?”
“I was curious. Could you really have taken down the ninja?”
“Computer, standard target.”
The paper target dropped down at the end of Snyder’s stall. He fired a series of shots into the target. “Pull results.”
The paper was delivered to Snyder. Snyder pointed to his tidy circle within the bulls eye and handed it to McGraw. “Hope that satisfies your curiosity.”
McGraw whistled. “Wow, most can’t shoot like this, especially not at your age. With gun laws, most recruits pick up guns for the first time at sixteen or seventeen.”
Snyder holstered the Colt revolver the army had issued to him. “In Boise, Idaho, we don’t have much regard for unconstitutional laws. Or at least my grandmother didn’t.”
Mama Borden, on the other hand, was not a huge fan of guns, and didn’t let Snyder practice. His oldest sis was his only sibling to ever visit him at his grandmother’s, and she only came for target practice. She never liked him, either.
Snyder folded his arms. “I can’t believe you came here to ask me about shooting.”
McGraw laughed. “I was wondering if you’d reconsidered.”
“Have you ever heard of Stockholm Syndrome? I read up on it when I got home. All your stories about you and Jim were a nice game. Nice way to get the hostage to sympathize with you. I ain’t playing, and I don’t know what you’re doing here. Cutler told you you’ll get your mission in a week.”
“Kid, I wasn’t playing any game, other than Monopoly. Women I play games with. Men I’m straight up with. Have you ever thought about what you’re going to do with your life?”
“If I’m twenty and not a cadaver, I’ll look at my options then.”
“You gonna tell me you’re happy as a mere Intelligence techie? There’s a world out there beyond machines. There’s adventure, there’s life. Tie yourself to that machine, and you’ll be dead before you’ve even lived.”
“I untie myself before I’m twenty, and I’ll just be dead. Though I guess you get points for tea box philosophy.”
“Are you tryin’ to be a jerk?”
Snyder shrugged. “Maybe I was born mean. Must’ve come from my egg donor. She fried her own mother for a fix.”
“Kid, you’re more bitter than beer and pickle juice, you know that?”
“Whatever. I can’t trust you. I got to survive. Now, unless you want to stage another kidnapping, and this time I’ve got the gun, I suggest you go order fake privates around, Sarge.”
McGraw sighed. “Suit yourself.”
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