Jirel stared down at Lieutenant Colonel Dread. The human’s stench of murder, rape, lust, theft, and deceit made portable toilets smell sweet by comparison.
Dread sneered. “Sergeant Cutler, I’m issuing a warrant for the arrest of Private A. L. Snyder for being AWOL.”
Jirel raised his hand. “Sir, begging your pardon, he was kidnapped.”
“Sir, with all due respect, his quarters had traces of gas.”
The thin Colonel laughed. “Oh, really? And why might someone want to kidnap Private Snyder?”
Jirel sighed. He had a good guess, but the answer wouldn’t be believed and, if it were believed, would create unnecessary complications. “Sir, I’ll find out all I need to know if allowed to investigate.”
“Sergeant, Quality Assurance needs it’s NCO. Snyder, on the other hand, is human refuse. Trash meant to be bred out of our species. He must die. If not now, then later. Now is the time.”
“Isn’t it odd, sir?”
“Isn’t what odd, Cutler?”
“That human refuse found the diary that you’ve taken so much credit for finding in recent days.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Snyder told me about finding it before you sent him off to that wilderness camp so you could steal all the credit for yourself.”
Dread cursed. “So what do you want, Sergeant? A promotion. I can arrange it.”
“Beg your pardon?”
“What’s your price to keep this quiet?”
“Sir, I’m not for sale!”
Dread cursed. “Maybe that wasn’t the best phrase to use with a black guy. I meant no insult. All men have their price. What do you want?”
The human spoke without knowledge. Jirel took comfort in that they’d be too busy cowering from the light to concern themselves about what he looked like in his true form. “I want Private Snyder back.”
Dread smiled. “I never took you as the type. Lover, eh?”
“Oh? Read Animal Passion by Switzer, Sergeant. You’ll find it liberating. According to Switzer, the only reason to care about anyone is if they meet your sexual needs, or you benefit financially from the relationship. We all want only those two things, whether we admit it or not. So what money can you make off him? That’s the only other option.”
Such evil men fall into when they cast aside Imageo Deo. “Sir, with respect, we don’t have time to debate philosophy. Private Snyder is in danger out there.”
“Cutler, I’ll give you a 24-hour leave. You have that much time to bring him back or you’ll both be declared AWOL. I’ll enter the leave into the computer.”
“I’d like a copy on paper, Sir.”
“That’s so antiquated.”
“A signed paper copy can’t be removed from the system the moment I leave and give you pretext for declaring myself and Snyder AWOL in less than 24 hours.”
Dread walked to the liquor cabinet and poured himself a glass of bourbon. He took a sip and laughed. “Wherever did you learn of me? Very well, Sergeant. A paper receipt signed in my own hand. But remember, twenty-four hours, or then you and your precious juvenile delinquent will both have a serious, dare I say, lethal problem.”
Jirel sighed. If the colonel tried to shoot him, he’d be very surprised by the results.
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