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  2. Ezz0564

    Chapter 18

    It is a Documentary type movie, done by Shane on his life with & up to the time Tom's death. Especially after how Tom's family lied to him and treated him.
  3. The next chapter of So Weeps the Willow is out.  Rush and the cop, Hammond, meet and discuss cases.  Jake's family has a memorial service for him.  The two expert reports have been delivered to both sides and so Ben and Rush meet with the client, Sawyer Bailey.  

  4. Cole Matthews

    Discovery 11

    Discovery 11 “Meet at Hen House 1 pm for brief,” the text message read. It was from Detective Hammond’s personal phone, not his official cell or his office number. Rush really didn’t want to go. He knew Hammond wanted his help and working for Hammond in the best of times was painful. However, the cop had assisted a bit with the space heater case. Rush sighed, and that made Ben ask, “What’s wrong?” “Hammond,” he answered, clearing his screen and popping his phone back into his messenger bag pocket. “He keeps bugging me about this guy they found in the bridge along Minnehaha Parkway.” “He thinks your gaydar will show you the way to his killer.” Ben laughed, looking around his laptop screen at his partner. “Hammond really doesn’t get it.” “No.” Rush shook his head, but a bemused grin cracked his face. “He’s not that bad. He does think I have some insight into the gay mind, or something.” The detective made air quotes with his fingers. Finally, he concluded, “I just don’t like him.” Rush watched his partner’s reaction. There was a kind of dawning on the other man’s face, a realization. “Maybe you can help,” Ben said. “I’ve been reading in a couple of local blogs. There are people in the leather community who are scared and anxious. They feel like they’re targets.” “I think that’s what someone is suggesting.” Ben didn’t respond. He was keying away at his computer and then said, “Listen to this; ‘the only community more marginalized than the trans community are the leather folk. When violence happens to our people, society thinks we asked for it’.” Ben paused and added, “They aren’t wrong, not really. That’s what people have always thought about violence in the gay community. They think two guys together are asking for trouble.” Rush considered Ben’s observation. “Does Hammond really want help?” Ben continued working at his computer as he said, “I think we need to support where we can. If we want justice, we need the guilty to pay.” “And the innocent to be exonerated,” added Rush without pause. He was now reading a text from his phone. “Listen to this, Hammond confirms the Hennepin County DA is charging the owner of Sunset Pawn with arson and insurance fraud. Hammond was right. It wasn’t the heater after all.” Ben stopped and looked up. “So, your friend Hammond is giving you valid information that helps your case. The asshole is a homophobic prick, but he is delivering. I just wish he wasn’t such a hater.” Rush shook his head. “Hammond is an insensitive prick and the police are like any other bureaucracy; impersonal and distant, but not necessarily apathetic. I think Hammond is really concerned about this poor dead guy shoved onto a cement pillar and left to the birds.” Rush considered his next words carefully, “He seems to be personally offended by it.” The younger man shook his head, but then stopped and tilted his head, reflecting for a moment. The look on the Ben’s face was so special, concentrated, serious, yet almost innocent. The man’s thoughts translated into reflected colors of his skin and tics on his face. His anger showed at bright magenta, and above it was a pink of excitement. Also, his underlying color was a little anemic, gray, for the gravity of the situation. Ben was animated, the corners of his mouth twitching, as he thought. After a few moments, he gave Rush a resigned smile. “Then you should help him,” Ben said. “I think something hinky is going on.” Rush said, getting out of the kitchen chair and hefting his bag on his shoulder. “Maybe Hammond will have more to help my case.” “You scratch his back…” “Please don’t suggest I touch that guy’s pimply back.” Ben laughed as his partner headed through the hall to the front door. *** “So why am I here?” Rush asked, watching Hammond take a bite of his pancakes. A drip of syrup escaped the corner of his mouth and leaked down onto his chin. The man wiped his face with the sleeve of his dark gray suitcoat. Rush shivered in disgust. “I can’t get my head around this guy’s deal,” Hammond said. Rush noticed the cop hadn’t swallowed his mouthful of food yet and his voice was muffled, accompanied by a spray of moist bits. “Why would he hide in this day and age?” Rush shuddered, and then answered. “There are still people who aren’t comfortable with gays and other groups of people in the community.” Hammond swallowed and shook his fork dismissively, nodding in agreement. “I know that. But, it’s not like it’s illegal or anything. If two guys want to use whips and chains on each other, who cares?” Rush screwed up his face in puzzlement. “What are you talking about?” “This Steve guy, he was into bondage or something. That’s why he was dressed like he was and, well, other stuff as well.” “The guy found in the park?” Rush asked, trying to get up to speed. “You mentioned he had some leather community items like the flag and some cards in his wallet, but that doesn’t really make him part of the kink community. Hammond took a long drink of his coffee, emptying his cup. “We found a couple of rather suggestive items in his apartment as well, but the clincher is the ad.” Rush shook his head in confusion. “Start at the beginning. I thought this victim was a gay guy with a bit of a kinky side. What are you saying now?” Hammond cleared his throat, pushed his plate away, and licked his lips. “The deceased’s name is Steve Wylie. He was found on the bridge’s undercarriage dressed in jeans and a leather jacket. He had his wallet and there were business cards from local establishments catering to the kink community like Leather and Latte and a couple of sex toy places. “That doesn’t mean much, except the woman and kids that found him, did so because a handkerchief identified with the leather scene was doused with his blood. Putting two and two together, we realized this must be a guy with gay fetishes.” Hammond stopped and took another huge bite of pancakes, chewing with an open mouth. Rush interrupted, “I think you’re jumping to conclusions. I have a card from that same coffee house and Ben has a red handkerchief, but the kinkiest thing we do is watch Jason Strahan action movies after sex.” Hammond grimaced at the man’s comment, but continued, “The kicker is we found an ad on a website saved to his computer looking for a date to dominate him. It was found on some kink site for gays. It wasn’t hard to find. We didn’t assume because he has a black and blue bandanna, he’s into leather. The ad was pretty clear he was a submissive looking for a master. “I did some investigation. I talked with witnesses who knew him. The thing is, none of his family, his friends, hell, his roommate, knew anything about that side of him. As far as they knew, he’s a straight guy who’s single and loved the ladies.” “Perhaps it’s something he’s exploring. Maybe it’s new and something he’s not comfortable with yet.” Hammond nodded. “But, his roommate is gay. She doesn’t think he ever expressed interest in men. His coworkers were pretty sure Steve Wylie wasn’t into men, but certainly had a ‘healthy’ interest in women. None of his friends ever heard him talk about kink or domination or anything like that.” “He could be straight and likes being dominated by women,” Rush suggested. “Do most straight guys have gay porn DVDs and very large sex toys, the kind you stick up your yoohoo?” Rush admitted he didn’t know about that. Hammond picked up his fork and drew lines in the maple syrup pooled on his plate. “There is one other thing that makes this case weird. In fact, it’s the main reason I called you.” Rush nodded to the other man. “Steve Wylie knew Jake Ogden.” “What?” Rush asked, leaning forward. Hammond smiled ruefully. “According to Wylie’s friends, Jake and he were drinking buddies at their usual hangout after work, Gallivant’s. It’s a bar in the neighborhood where both men lived.” “That’s an unusual coincidence,” Rush said after a long pause. “It sure is. Apparently, they liked to get drunk together, pretty often. I spoke with the staff at Gallivant’s, and Wylie wasn’t as ‘regular’ as Ogden, but they were frequently seen drinking and chatting together. “Did they say anything about being more than friends? “No, but one of the bartenders was under the impression Jake’s ex wasn’t a big fan of Steve’s and vice versa.” “That’s interesting,” Rush said quietly, thinking and sipping at his own cup of joe. “Did they know anything else about Ogden and Wylie?” “I was only pursuing Wylie’s back story, and it was only in passing someone mentioned Ogden. There was some kind of altercation involving the two of them. I’m not sure what it was about, but the bartender who usually works nights and the manager were both pretty sure Jake and Steve were just friends.” “But, it’s possible Wylie was testing the waters.” “Maybe. Who knows. Apparently, Wylie was quite the ladies’ man, or as the bartender put it, ‘pussy hound’.” Rush took out a notebook and started writing down notes, questioning the detective further. Hammond made sure his information was off the record. *** Defense Expert Report in the Matter of Jacob Ogden, Decedent Clifford J. Tomlinson, CID, CSP, BCEE As a Certified Industrial Hygienist and Certified Safety Professional, he has conducted thousands of safety surveys of consumer products. He has conducted indoor environmental quality assessments of many commercial buildings, and several thousand air quality and causation assessments of residential buildings. He has served on the national Board of Directors of the American Industrial Hygiene Association (www.aiha.org), as Chairman of the AIHA Management Committee, and is currently Chair of the AIHA Indoor Environmental Quality … … examination of the heater and parts showed no deficient components. The carbon monoxide switch was damaged and the result was a heater that wouldn’t turn on. The connections between the electronic ignitor and the burner were incomplete and so without completely replacing the switch, the heater was inoperable. Further examination showed arcing around the site of the switch which may be a missing link or other artificial and external addition. Kerosene heaters of this type with a ‘fail-safe’ switch, shouldn’t operate if the mechanism didn’t perform properly. The switch worked perfectly by not allowing a flow of fuel to reach the burner. There was no flow of electricity to allow operation of the heater. The arcing soot source isn’t clear. There was probably tampering of the switch which allowed the heater to run in a dangerous manner. The safety device operated as designed. Plaintiff Expert Report The Estate of Jacob Ogden and Special Administrator, Twyla Smith v. Bailey Safety Systems, et al. Janet C. Bloomington, Ph.D, Consumer Product Safety Analyst … present during the destructive testing of the space heater responsible for the death of the Jacob Ogden. While the kerosene heater wouldn’t operate at the beginning of the testing, it was clear the product had operated recently. There were soot marks showing poor fuel oxidation and burned wires. In addition, the safety switch was broken with the dial and the connections severed. This shows the device was inoperable. As the product was subsequently tested, it was obvious there was some kind of alteration done at some point, because the heater wouldn’t fire until the switch was replaced. This could be as a result of a few things. 1. The faulty switch failed to stop the electronic connection between the ignitor and the burner. The new switch operated as it should. 2. This connection was somehow either removed or fell off during preservation of the product at the scene. 3. The connection was removed or fell off after the preservation of the product during transport to the testing facility. 4. There was tampering of the equipment by the operator, who then was poisoned by the heater. This tampering should have been prevented by the safety switch, but because of inadequate design, allowed operation when damaged. 5. There was something about the safety device that allowed the operation of the heater, but after being turned off, was no longer connected. …in conclusion, the safety switch failed to stop the heater from operating in a dangerous manner with a clogged intake vent. The safety device design was inadequate to sense and stop the flow of fuel to the burner causing excess amount of carbon monoxide to be produced which poisoned the decedent. *** Twyla looked at the poster board sitting on a tripod at the front of the chapel and mused. It looked sad, with the pictures of Jake plastered all over it. There were water stains evident on the dark blue background and her mother had placed glittery dollar store stickers all over it. Jake’s handsome smiling face was surrounded by tacky rainbows and tawdry sports symbols. Neither of which reflected any sense of her brother’s character. Behind this bizarre remembrance of her brother were flowers. There was an impressive spray of gladiolas from his employers at Fisherman’s Wake. There was another from his ex, an urn of red and white carnations. Someone whose name she didn’t recognize had sent a pot of rust-colored mums. There was the white bouquet of roses from her family and next to it was a vase filled with drooping, wilted lilies which had started to shed petals. That was from his friends at the bar, Gallivant’s. It was a depressing scene and she wasn’t sure why they’d even held it. Jake’s funeral had been a private affair, just their immediate family. Her mother had wanted it that way. So, they’d kept it small and intimate. Then Winnie got a notion that her beautiful baby boy should have a memorial service for all his near and dear. She had pestered Twyla for weeks after Jake’s funeral to put together this assemblage. Jake had died almost six months ago, and yet here they were. Again. There weren’t many people here at all. Perhaps thirty had come and she didn’t really know many of them. Twyla had met a couple of his coworkers and his manager who showed up and introduced himself. One of his professors from the university came, telling her how Jake had so much promise and it was tragic he was taken so young. Of course, Eddie, his ex, had shown up. He was dressed in black jeans and a blue button-down shirt and white tennis shoes, which seemed to gleam brightly even in the quiet, subdued light of the chapel. Eddie looked down and depressed, barely speaking a word to them, though he had embraced Winnie upon entering. Nats came, dressed in a black dress with sensible black shoes. She fidgeted pensively in the back row of the white-painted wooden folding chairs. Twyla knew Jake and Nats had a falling out before he’d died, but Jake had never said why. Apparently, the roots of their friendship had run deep enough she showed up to pay her last respects. Twyla noticed her father was standing to the side, looking out of the leaded glass windows. He was probably watching the rapidly melting snow and thinking about his son under the earth. She’d think the same thing, considering her husband’s situation. Winnie was at the front entrance, greeting each person who arrived. Twyla had been surprised at how sober and awake her mother was. At the beginning. After setting up the easel with the photos of Jake, her mother had grabbed her purse and fled to the restroom. Every fifteen or so minutes, Winnie would disappear and return with a hint of whiskey clinging to her. Her sobriety had eroded away as the afternoon unfolded. Now, the woman practically teetered on her low heels. Twyla couldn’t stand watching her unravel as the event unfurled. “Are you doing okay?” Steve asked, taking her hand. Twyla squeezed his hand and smiled thinly at him. His face was wan and gaunt, with deep, dark circles under his baby blue eyes. Atop his head was a stocking cap she’d knitted for him. His hair had fallen out and not grown back yet. Steve was still weak from his surgery, but he’d insisted on coming. His cane was next to his chair, announcing his infirmity to the world. “I’m fine,” Twyla answered. “I wish we hadn’t done this.” “It’s for your mother and father. And Jake’s friends too,” he added. Twyla pointedly looked at the score and a few more of mourners and then back at her husband. “Not much of a turnout.” “He was buried months ago. It’s unusual to have a memorial this long after the death,” Steve answered. “I’m glad we didn’t bring the kids though. It’s more sad than mournful.” Twyla nodded. “Are you doing okay? Should I take you home? I can come back and—” “No, I’m fine,” her husband assured her, tapping her arm. “There’s the minister.” Twyla watched as a somber looking man greeted Winnie. He had a black shirt, dark suitcoat, and white collar, and he was taking her hand in both of his. At first, he appeared to be consoling her, and Winnie was nodding. Then her mother opened her mouth. Twyla giggled to herself as the minister recoiled while her mother spoke to him. No doubt, he’d gotten a smell of her whiskey breath. Winnie was suddenly a mess. She was now crying on his shoulder and he was gently patting her on the back. A woman came up beside the minister, and she was wearing a hat, a rather large one, black with a black crepe band on it. She was wearing black lace gloves and talking with Winnie. The woman also leaned away from Winnie as she turned and spoke animatedly. Her mother’s presence was a powerful force, apparently. The woman whispered to the minister and then walked over to the piano situated below the leaded windows next to the flowers and easel with Jake’s photos. With a flourish, she took off her gloves, opened up the instrument, and began playing Amazing Grace, with a great deal of panache. The piano sang in mournful tones and chords. Twyla shook her head again at the absurdity of it all. “What’s the matter?” Steve whispered. “Why did my mother choose spiritual hymns for Jake’s service. He was about the least religious person I’ve ever known.” “They aren’t about Jake. They are about the bereaved,” Steve whispered back. “If it was for my mother, it shouldn’t be Amazing Grace. It should be, There’s a Tear in my Beer,” Twyla snorted derisively. Steve snorted back, holding his hand to his mouth to mask his laughter. Twyla leaned over and placed her face on his chest. It rumbled with his wheezing breath. She looked at him as he put his arm around her, pulling her closer. She now knew how bad it really was. *** Ben watched as the older, well-dressed man shrugged off his coat and hung it on the rack next to the door. He was proud of their new office, a place that was only for work, away from the house. Finally. They’d rented this space just a couple of months back, now that they had law firms and clients and the money was flowing in steadily. Ben had painted and decorated the place himself. The entryway to Rush’s tiny office space was tight; two chairs opposite each other in front of a short, squat desk behind which the paralegal was seated. He’d volunteered to man the “reception area” for his partner today. Basically, it was a hallway from the door to Rush’s small inner office. They wanted it to seem so much more. “Mr. Bailey?” He stood and offered the man his hand. The client smiled broadly and grasped Ben’s hand firmly, pumping it eagerly. “Yes. And you must be Romer’s husband? Boyfriend?” he asked looking Ben up and down. “We’re partners,” Ben clarified. “In life and work.” “That’s great. Will you be joining us in this impromptu meeting?” Ben blinked. “I wasn’t planning on it, but sure. If you’d like.” “The more the merrier,” Bailey said. “Rush says you’re his researcher and sounding board. I’d like any insights you may have as well.” Ben agreed and coming around the desk, he knocked on the door. “Come on in,” Rush responded. Ben opened it and the client followed him inside. Rush’s desk was covered in papers, as usual. His laptop was situated in the center of piles of folders, notebooks, and a couple of racks of magazines spilling over the wired sides. Ben could never understand how Rush could think in such a messy space. He certainly wasn’t that untidy at home. Bailey sat in a folding chair close to the door. Ben picked up a pile of red-roped files, tied tightly up with string and set them next to the armchair. He was about to offer the client the better seat when Rush spoke up. “I’m glad you could come so quickly. We have a lot to discuss since we received the final reports from the experts. Also, there’s a new development I want to share with you.” Bailey said, “Did their expert admit my switch worked?” His tone was sarcastic and bitter. “Not exactly,” Rush said, picking up a bound sheath of pages. “She admits there is something missing from the heater and basically claims the police screwed up preserving the evidence.” “Did they?” Bailey asked quickly, leaning forward. “Not that I can see. Our expert reports the heater was complete and there are some problems with the evidence, but not with the forensic team or the custody of the evidence.” “Can I see them?” Bailey said, reaching out toward the pages. “I’ve read our expert, Tomlinson’s findings, but not the other side’s final writeup.” Rush handed over the hefty softbound collection. Bailey took it and immediately started reading. Ben smiled at Rush. The detective grinned back and gestured to him. Ben stood and scooted over to his partner’s side. Rush whispered something to him. The paralegal nodded and then returned to his seat. Bailey read silently turning the pages quickly until he finally grunted. “What does this ‘destructive testing’ mean? Why would they destroy the heater?” Ben replied smoothly. “Experts in civil matters sometimes need to take things apart to see what went wrong. In order to do so and preserve the original evidence, they work in tandem in a lab space recording what they’re finding. It’s not destruction of the heater, but destruction of the original state of the evidence.” “Oh. So, their expert and our expert are both present when the thing is taken apart. That way no one can claim the other did something tricky.” “Yes,” Ben said. “That’s true. Both reports contain identical photos and descriptions of the heater in question.” “How can they come up with such different results?” Bailey asked gruffly. “Basically, the plaintiff’s expert is claiming missing evidence or a magical missing wire has vanished.” “That’s the gist of it. Neither expert understands how your switch failed to stop the heater or prevent it from turning on in the first place. They tried all sorts of ways to turn the heater on and it wouldn’t. Your expert says the switch isn’t to blame and doesn’t know what happened. Their expert also doesn’t know what happened, so she blames the switch, but doesn’t know why.” Bailey handed the report back to Rush. “A jury is going to be as confused as I am.” “Maybe not,” Rush said. “Plaintiff has the burden of proof showing the switch caused the accident. Their own expert doesn’t know how and that is huge.” “Why is it huge?” Bailey asked. “The guy died and the jury will want someone to blame.” “True,” Ben said. “However, the expert findings are both rather conclusive. Both say the heater shouldn’t have worked and something extraordinary must have made it run.” “We have something else too,” Rush said. He looked at Ben. Ben nodded. The detective continued. “We have reason to believe something strange is going on.” The businessman looked startled. “What’s happened?” Rush continued. “My contacts in the police are looking into this case because of another matter. There was the murder of a guy in south Minneapolis who was friends or at least an acquaintance of Jake Ogden’s. The cop I spoke with thinks these two deaths may be related.” “Are you serious?” Bailey said incredulously. Quickly, he said, “They think it’s murder?” “They aren’t jumping to that conclusion quite yet. It could be a case of suicide or it could be foul play. The police are very quietly checking into this, and I’ve supplied them with copies of the expert reports. These suggest perhaps someone did something to the heater causing it to poison Ogden.” Rush said. “When I read it in the reports, I thought that sounded kind of far-fetched. I mean, wouldn’t someone need to be an engineer or mechanic of some type to do this?” “We don’t know anything yet, and don’t get your hopes up,” Ben added, “However, if this is a criminal case, it means your switch wasn’t the culprit. It means someone probably killed Jake Ogden by tampering with the heater.” Bailey leaned back. The look on his face was shock, bordering on thrilled. “This is the best news.” “The police are looking into it, but they are skeptical,” Rush said. “Two people are dead,” Ben added. “Of course, it’s terrible. I hate to think someone killed those young men, but it is good news for me.” Bailey said in a kind of dazed state. “Yes,” Rush and Ben said together. They were both still a little shell-shocked as well.
  5. CLJobe

    IOI Chapter 20

    I hope future chapters will let us the Australian Agents were all about. G'day
  6. Valkyrie

    Last Post Wins #46

    oooo fajitas and ice cream pie
  7. Today
  8. Ivor Slipper

    Chapter 18

    Never heard of it let alone seen it, but I'll put it on the list now you've mentioned it.
  9. Mrsgnomie

    Just a dance

    I make no promises and I have no idea how you’ll feel about the rest of the chapter. Hopefully it’s redeemable, I guess we’ll find out.
  10. Starrynight22

    Just a dance

    Oh I don't know. Alcohol lowers our inhibitions like say...... against fucking people we know are awful and mean but that we think are not. And hate fucking is a thing
  11. Ezz0564

    Chapter 18

    It has happened, remember the movie Bridegroom of Shane Bitney Crone and his partner Tom's Death and how Tom's family treated him. If you haven't seen it I suggest you do.
  12. Love is confusing, frustrating, erratic and fleeting at times, but when you have it and receive it. It is worth fighting for.

  13. Will Hawkins

    Chapter 12 - Ember

    “I don't care what the newspapers say about me as long as they spell my name right.” PT Barnum. The reactions to you story vary all over the place. Remember what Barnum said and keep up the good work you are doing.
  14. cognac69

    Chapter 5

    I definitely like it and like it more with each chapter.
  15. dkstories

    The First Steps

    Note to Readers: Henry and I broke all kinds of records in the history books. Youngest officers to actually hold positions in the U.S. Army, youngest Presidential Envoys, and two of the most effective Presidential offsprings in history. Before the Industrial Revolution, really before the mid-twentieth century, children our age were expected to complete the work of adults. Even after that though, children often did perform the work of adults and lead very active, public roles in the adult world The only thing is, most of them were child actors or performers. Henry and I were most definitely not singing our way to the top of the charts. Instead we were fulfilling diplomatic, public relations, and sometimes even military or police missions long before we turned eighteen. In those first days, there were few people with the gumption to tell dad that we shouldn't be used this way. They were all ignored, and by the time the country was back on its feet, we were so well loved by well over 90% of the American public that those who protested were often labeled 'old-fashioned'. I would rather have stayed in Alabama and played around with Jimmy. "So, tell me about yourself." I said to Petty Officer Second Class Knight after he'd finished going over what would be happening for the rest of the day. Sergeant Collins, the head stewardess had just left after discussing menu arrangements. I'd pretty much told her to cook whatever they wanted to from the list she'd provided. The galley on this plane really was well stocked, and whoever had given them a list of my preferred food had been extremely accurate. "Uh, what do you want to know, sir?" Knight asked me. I'd asked him to call me Dylan, but he hadn't yet. I wondered if he, and the others thought it odd calling a thirteen year old kid 'sir'. "Look, we're going to be working together for a while." I said. "You already seem to know all about my life, even my favorite colors, but I don't know anything about you. I like to get to know the people I work with. So, tell me where you grew up, when you joined the Navy, why you joined the Navy, that kind of stuff." "Oh, uh, sorry, yeah, I guess you're right." Knight said, blushing a little. His voice was had a melodic quality to it and I reflected that he'd probably be a good singer. It was definitely what I'd now call sexy, although a week ago I wouldn't have realized that at all. "Let's see, I grew up Lakeland, Florida. Pretty normal kid. My dad owned a carpentry business, my mom was an office manager. They passed away when I was in the Navy, a car accident." "Oh, sorry to hear that." I told him. "I kind of have an idea of what it must have felt like." "Yeah, I'd agree with that statement." He said, giving me a sad smile. "You're handling it better than I did though. I was a wreck for months afterwards. You see, my dad's business had been doing great when I was growing up, but with the construction bust that happened four years ago, things weren't going to well right when I was getting ready to start college. They told me they had a choice of either using a lot of our family savings, include my college fund, to soak up the losses of the business, or lay off workers. I knew those guys that worked for dad. I'd grown up with them, worked with them in the summer, and I knew that if they got laid off they'd lose their houses or worse." "That's a tough place to be." I said. "I know a lot of people would have just taken the money and gone to college, as long as it wasn't they who had to deal with the consequences." "Well, I was still thinking about going to college." Knight admitted. "I was thinking I'd go for a year, they didn't need all the money right away, and I'd have at least gotten one year out of the way. I also thought about community college nearby, but my parents wanted me to go to a really big college. Then I saw an Army poster saying 'Need Money for College? We Can Help.' That was when I realized there were other ways." "If you saw an Army poster, how'd you end up a squid?" Richardson asked from where he was seated, no longer reading his book. "I'm not an idiot." Knight laughed good-naturedly. "I'm not good when it comes to fighting. I can do it if I have to, but I don't like it, and the thought of shooting someone, or being shot, made my stomach turn back then. I didn't want that, and I also learned that the Navy has hot showers on the ships. I like being clean. Since the college money at the time was pretty much the same, I signed up in the Navy. I picked Yeoman for my training school, again so I wouldn't get dirty or have to shoot something. It seems half the guys on ship are either working on the weapons systems, covered in paint, grease, and dirt, or all of the above." "It's going to be fun having you around." Richardson said with a very evil grin. "I'm not the same person I was back then." Knight said in a warning tone. "About a month ago, we were sending a food convoy out from Norfolk, and Martha, excuse me, Lt. Ellington, thought it'd be a good thing to take pictures so the troops on base would know we were having some good effect. Morale was extremely low at the time with the ships we'd lost, and we needed the boost. The convoy was attacked, pipe bombs to stop the first vehicles and then guys with guns trying to get us. Half the marines guarding the convoy died, but they got every one of those bastards. Then, when we got to our destination, people started trying to steal the stuff off the trucks instead of letting us get it into the shelter. Then I saw the people in the shelter, and I realized that there are more important things than being clean or not having to shoot someone." "Glad to have you around, buddy." Richardson said with a smile. "If you ever want to learn how to shoot, talk to me. Or bug Mr. Jacobs here. I hear he's the best shot on the plane." "Shut up Richardson." I growled before returning my attention to Knight. "So how exactly did you end up here?" "Well, after boot camp and school, I was assigned to the USS Cowpens." Knight answered. "I eventually became the yeoman for the Operations Officer. Darby was the yeoman for the Captain and X.O. We both arrived on board the same day and became instant friends. After mom and dad, died, the insurance money barely paid off the debts on the business. Things had been getting worse and dad was seriously in debt by that time. I had some money, the house, and my Navy college funds to get me by, and I was looking at discharge in three months. That threw me into a depression and I thought that it wasn't worth going to college if they weren't there to see me graduate. I didn't want to go home either, and wasn't really sure what to do with my life. Darby was going into the Reserve, and talked me into doing the same. He even got the Captain to pull some strings and get me assigned to the same unit as him, near Washington." "So you two have known each other for quite a while." I stated and he nodded. "Yeah, we've been friends for a while." He confirmed. "I was the best man at his wedding. He was the best man at mine. When we got out, we were both looking for jobs. I was using my money to keep us in an apartment near his hometown just outside Washington. We went to our first Reserve meeting and met Lt. Ellington there. She was interviewing us trying to figure out how to fit two yeoman into the unit when it didn't need even one. She had some openings at her firm that we fit into perfectly and she hired us to work with her. When stuff happened, she sent got orders to Command in Norfolk and she took us with her. She worked directly for Admiral Fullard, and that's how we got this assignment." "You're married?" I asked quietly. "I was." Knight answered, and for a moment I could see him holding back tears. "I don't think she survived the blast. We lived on the outskirts of Washington and that area was pretty devastated. Darby's pretty shook up about it too, but, well, we have to keep going." "I'm sorry, Knight." I said softly. He looked at her sharply for a moment. "Just make sure the bastards that did this rot in hell." He said vehemently. "They are." I said softly. He must not have been 'in the loop' on what had all happened. I debated on telling him for a moment, but realized Dad would be announcing it soon anyway, so it wouldn't hurt now. It was also an opportunity to give something to someone who would be working for me for a while. "Dad, the President, is going to be making an announcement here soon. The old President, he launched submarine-based nukes at cities all over Europe before we were attacked. He destroyed London, Moscow, Berlin, Brussels, a few other cities. The attack on us was their retaliation for that attack on them. Most of northeast Russia is now littered with radioactive debris because most of their missiles failed on launch. A US ballistic missile submarine also launched on China after they fired the missiles that hit L.A. and San Diego. It was almost caught by a Chinese sub and had to sink it before they could fire. They managed to devastate almost every major city in China." "So it was our fault that Carol and Tiffany died." Knight said softly, sitting back in his chair with a stunned expression. It gave me an insight into how many people would react on hearing the news. A glance at Richardson showed a similar look on his face. "No, it was the fault of the man who died in a nuclear blast." I said. "Most of the people who are responsible for what happened are now dead. It's up to us, my family, to make sure that it doesn't happen again. Dad's meeting with the King of England soon. He's flying there at this very moment. They're trying to discuss how to end the hostilities and to make sure no one launches any more nuclear bombs." "Do you think he'll be successful?" Knight asked quietly, still somewhat shocked. "Yes, he will." I said with a reassuring smile. "He'll walk away with the King of England thinking dad's the best thing for England since Harry Potter, and a donation check for the church's roof repair fund." Both of them started laughing at that comment, and I could see Knight relaxing more. We were all silent for a bit, until the captain announced we were on final approach and for everyone to take their seats. Knight started to rise, but I motioned for him to stay. He buckled into the seat though as the plane began its final descent. "Um, after we land, we need you to meet the press crew." Knight said, moving back to business, but there was a warm familiarity between us now. Yup, sharing the information with him had been a good idea. "You never did say if you wanted them to come in here or for you to go forward and meet them in the main cabin." "Let's do it in the main cabin." I said. "I'm tired of being in this room already and I think it'll be good to limit their presence in here. Make it seem special when they are allowed back here." "I agree." Knight said immediately. "Martha was thinking the same thing. Um, about what you've told me, can I tell Darby?" "Yes, but keep it secret otherwise, please." I said, and he nodded. "Thanks, Dylan." He said and I smiled as the plane's wheels touched down. I looked out the window and noticed that it was still light outside before I remembered the time difference. As we taxied towards a dark terminal, I noticed that there were a few armored vehicles about, but not as many as in Wichita. I also remembered a comment by dad that Oregon had experienced fewer problems with civil unrest. Most of their people seemed to accept the situation as a challenge, and it had only been a series of really bad storms, and lack of fuel supplies that had kept them from outstripping California in recovery. I just hoped that with that spirit, they'd be getting the supplies they needed. As soon as the plane was stopped, Knight got up and said Lt. Ellington would be back in ten minutes or so and then left. "You handle people pretty well, even when you don't use whatever it was you used with me." Richardson said, throwing me for a loop. How had he figured out what I was doing? "What do you mean?" I asked quickly and he gave me a knowing look. "I figured it out while you were talking to him." Richardson, no were alone, Sammy, said quietly. "I'd liked you before the interview, but when you touched me I felt something more than that, and then when you kissed me, it was like nothing I'd ever experienced in the world. All I could think about was you, and making you happy, and it made me happy that you liked me and was paying attention to me. I still feel that. Every time you look at me, or talk to me, or say my name, it sends a little thrill through my body and it's all I can do not to let that show. I don't know what it is, I don't know how you do it, and I really don't care. I like it and wouldn't have it any other way, and I think you should do it to more people so they feel the same way and will protect you better." "I don't know what it is either." I said softly. "I first felt it with Jimmy the other day. You're the only other person I've tried it on. I…whatever it is it's powerful." "So you're just learning about it?" Sammy asked in a surprised voice. "Wow, is there anything I can do to help?" "We'll see." I said, smiling at him and he smiled back. "I…now that you figured it out, I want you to talk to me about what you're feeling at times. I want you to tell me if it feels stronger, or weaker." "I can do that, but I don't think it will get weaker." He said. "That first time, it was like something soaking into me, covering every part of me with your…I don't know…essence. It felt like you were making me a part of you and it felt wonderful, and then when I came, it was like I felt…complete for the first time in my life. It's been just as strong ever since. When I didn't see you for a few days, I was worried that maybe you'd forgotten about me, but earlier, well it was like a reaffirmation of that first time and I don't know, it felt like I was renewed, refreshed or something like that. It's kind of hard to describe." There was a knock at the door at that second that prevented me from responding. Both Ellington and Connors came in then. Connors told me that we were actually picking up three people now, and would be staying here overnight as planned. There was an argument going on between the pilot and ground crew about putting the aircraft into a hanger and everyone staying at the local HQ, or ground power being connected and staying on the plane. I thought about it for a moment and told him to tell the pilot I'd prefer to stay on the plane. Connors laughed and then told me that he'd be checking over the security arrangements while we ate dinner. Then we'd take a trip into town. I was supposed to meet the Governor of Oregon, the Guard Commander, and tour one of the local shelters and the local HQ before heading back to the plane. Lt. Ellington took over as soon as Connors left, giving me background information on the news crew. I was shocked at who had been sent for this. The reporter was one of the most well known international affairs correspondents. She'd become widely known during the first Gulf War, when I hadn't even been born yet, and was someone I'd seen many times watching the news as I grew up. Her crew were all veterans of the Iraq war and were some of the best ever at what they did. There were actually four of them total, not three and according to the lieutenant, they were anxious to meet me. After she had tucked back my uniform top a bit, she smiled at my obvious nervousness and told me I'd be fine. Then she led me forward towards the main cabin. Chambers immediately fell into step behind me, along with Richardson, and trailed me as we went around the conference table with its bolted down chairs and moved into the main cabin. The main cabin had looked very neat when I first saw it as I boarded the plane. It looked far different now. Although the number of people in here were only about half of what it could hold, it now had a very lived-in look. In the most rearward section of the cabin, the members of my security detail had made themselves at home. Weapons were stowed near their seats and they sat talking, playing cards, reading, or doing several other things. They all seemed to straighten up as I entered and all nodded in my direction as I passed by. I'd interviewed each of them, although not like I had interviewed Sammy Richardson, so I tried to smile at as many of them as I could. Just forward of them, on the right side, Knight and Darby were working on two laptop computers. The chairs all had a tray that folded up and out on which the laptops sat, and I noticed that they were connected by wires into ports on the plane's fuselage. Captain Unger and his two staff members were on the left side, all three looking over some satellite photos and other papers. They all stopped when they saw me and Captain Unger nodded politely. Just ahead of them, on both sides of the aisle were four civilians, and I immediately recognized the tall, stately, forty-ish woman who stood and smiled as we approached. The three people with here were all men, and all looked to be in decent shape. They were all also either in their thirties or forties. "You must be Dylan Jacobs." The female reporter said in a slightly accented voice. "I am so happy to meet you at last. I'm…" "Genevieve Marloneur." I finished for her, taking her hand delicately and inclining my head slightly. "I'm honored to meet you as well. I've been watching your broadcasts since I was a little boy. Tell me, what was it like to be in the Congo when the genocide started? It looked frightening to me. To be honest I'd been idolizing being a reporter but when I saw that, I had serious doubts about surviving if I did." "Wow, I didn't know you were so familiar with my work." She said, immediately smiling broadly and an air of satisfaction seemed to surround her. "Although I think with the things I've heard about you a little danger wouldn't have thrown you off too bad." "I was ten at the time." I told her with a shrug and she laughed. It was actually a very pleasant, light laughter. "I think I see why people like you so much." She said immediately. "You're a natural charmer." "Thanks, I think." I said quickly, getting another of those nice laughs. "I meant it as a compliment." She said. "So tell me, are you nervous about this trip?" "Yes, of course I am." I said immediately, and then looked at her crew to see if they were pointing a camera at me, but they weren't. "Don't worry, we're not going to start shooting regularly until tomorrow." She said. "We've already verified our transmitters will connect to the plane's satellite communications system. We're getting our batteries charged right now for the satellite remote pack and some of the other stuff. We'll test it later when you go into town. I've already talked to the studio and they're going to do a test run to make sure everything works for live broadcast. They go on air tomorrow morning, and they'll be running tapes of your events tonight, and your mother's in Norfolk as well. I don't suppose you can tell me where your father and brother might be, can you?" "You'll have to ask Huntsville for that." I said and she smiled. "That's what I thought. I guess it must be something big, though if he's gone incommunicado." She said softly. "So far your entire administration has been far more open with the press than we were expecting. Much better than it was before." "Dad's dedicated to the principle that government is responsible to its people for what they do." I said. "There's times that if something was known beforehand, that publicity could cause damage, or even make vital efforts fail, but that doesn't mean we aren't accountable for what was done. I'm sure that if he's gone anywhere from Huntsville he'll have reporters along and that they'll know the full story." "We know he has a crew with him." She said. "I was just trying to decide if they got the better assignment." "Oh, so now I'm not as good as I was a few moments ago?" I teased back and she laughed. I was right, she'd been teasing me. "So, you do understand that we're supposed to be allowed to follow you around, filming pretty much what we want, right?" She said. "We're also uncensored unless something is sensitive in the way you just referred to, and then we can still air it after things are over?" "Yes." I said. "But, I hope that you'll also understand there are moments when I need my privacy. I've been locked away in the cabin on this flight so I can get use to this whole mess. That's my sanctuary, where I can go to relax when things get a little overwhelming. I promise that we'll let you in there every now and then so you can get some pictures of me relaxing, but unless you're invited, that's my get away spot. If you can agree to that, I'll say right here and now that I won't ask you to stop filming anything, anywhere else unless I'm taking a piss or changing. I don't want nude pictures of me floating around." "Are you sure?" She asked me. "I'm sure the nude pictures would be very popular." "Uh, thanks." I said, blushing at that. She laughed when she saw me blushing and I suddenly realized that my tendency to blush was an asset, not a negative thing. I tried to see if I could blush more, imagining a camera filming me while I was inside Sammy, and it worked as my cheeks went redder, and she laughed some more. "Okay, you win." She said with a smile "No nude pictures, no pictures of you using the bathroom, and your cabin is your sanctuary, as long as you let us film it and film you relaxing inside." "Deal." I said, sticking out my hand again. She shook it and smiled again. "I think I've gotten the better assignment." She said. "You've definitely got the intelligence you appeared to have on television before and you know how to use it." "Coming from you, that is the best compliment I've received in a while." I told her and she blushed slightly. It seemed my little insight into humility as a tool was something that she knew very well also. A blast of cold air announced that the forward door had been opened. I had to move aside as two of my detail (Smith and Jones, oddly enough) moved forward of me, rifles in hand. They only relaxed and moved aside when Connors came through leading two uniformed men and a large civilian. I didn't recognize the Major, but I did recognize the Captain, and the civilian (the man was huge, tall and with a gut, but his weight looked natural on him, as did the bushy brown beard and his long brown hair). "Captain Williams! Professor Higgs!" I exclaimed excitedly, rushing forward and shaking both men's hands eagerly. They were both actually smiling at me, as was the Major. "Excuse me, sorry about that Major." "No problem, young man. I can understand your surprise." He said, extending his hand. "Major Charles Smith, Oregon National Guard." "Warrant Officer Dylan Jacobs." I replied, shaking his hand. "If you think you're surprised, Dylan, you should have seen me when Captain Williams drove up to my house and asked me if I wanted to take a job as a private tutor." Professor Higgs' booming voice was actually reverberating in the confines of the plane. "I almost said no, but he said it'd be you and that we'd be traveling a lot. I was supposed to be on sabbatical this year and I love to travel." "I'm glad to see you here, even if it means my study break is over." I said. He taught English and a few other related subjects so I knew that the school work wouldn't be too hard. "Don't think you'll be getting off too easy." He said. "We're picking up another tutor in Seattle. An old friend of mine who is good at sciences." "Meanwhile you have me for the military sciences topics and some other things as well." Captain Williams said. "We're part of your permanent staff." "While I'm just here for the Idaho trip." Major Smith said and I nodded. I also refrained from asking if he was any relation to Private Smith who was standing nearby. I knew it was unlikely since it was a common last name. "Sir, dinner is ready to be served." Sergeant Collins said with a smile as she came from the forward area. The cold air cut off as someone shut the door. "We made enough for the new arrivals. I nodded at her and had a sudden idea. "Captain Unger, Lieutenant Ellington, would you and your staff care to join Major Smith, Captain Williams, Professor Higgs and I for dinner in the conference room?" I asked. They immediately nodded and we made our way back towards the conference room. I saw Ellington whisper something to Darby, who stopped and whispered something to Genevieve. "If you don't mind, Dylan, Darby has some work I need finished before we disembark. Would it be okay if Genevieve joins us instead?" Ellington asked, and I realized she was right. Being nice to the reporters is always a good rule. "Of course not." I said with a smile and she nodded. She would be teaching me a lot, I knew, as time went by. As we sat down at the table, with me at one end and Major Smith at the other, Lt Ellington, Knight, Genevieve and Professor Higgs on my right, and everyone else on the left, I realized that this had been a good idea. Sergeant Collins had all three of her Air Crew immediately setting down glasses and silverware from cabinet I hadn't even realized existed in the conference room. Obviously it had been meant to also serve as a dining room. The Air Force crew, used to serving high ranking government officials, many of whom came from rich families, was use to serving a high class, fancy meal. The chicken parmesan was well made and served with an elegant style that I thought odd in a military setting. At first, conversation was stilted slightly, but as people got to get a better feel for each other, it became livelier. "So, Dylan," Genevieve said after the salad and as the main course was being brought in and set on the table. "Tell me what you think about getting such a good dinner while most of the people in the country are hoping for the presence of any food on the table." "That was something that bugged me in the first days of the crisis." I answered immediately. This was an easy question for me now. "I noticed that the church workers were eating better than the people they were feeding, I noticed that the Guard troops had better food, and that they had it regularly. It bugged me, but I realized something. The church workers were putting in twenty-hour days helping the thousands that needed help. They were using so much energy that even with their better, and more, food they were starting to lose weight. The guard troops were facing the fact of dying, and also were burning off more calories than they were taking in. If they had to do with less food, or smaller portions, they may have not had the energy to do their jobs, and then the people who were counting on them to save their lives would end up dead or starving. What good would it have been for a Guardsman to give his lunch to a little girl who had only a bowl of oatmeal to eat if the Guardsman later didn't have enough energy because of his skipped meal, dropped his rifle from exhaustion and was shot dead by a rioter or looter? Who would be there to protect that same little girl when the looters showed up to take her food or rape her?" "But what about here?" She asked me, and I wondered if she was seriously thinking of it as stealing food from others or if there was another purpose in her question. "The specific reason we're here right now is to help bring an errant state back into the fold." I told her. "We have a chance now, to do this without firing a shot, without spending tons of fuel, food, and lives to do the same thing later on, and we're looking at bringing more food back into the country as a whole, lifting us up one more rung on the ladder to recovery. Every person on this plane has a role to play in that effort, and keeping all of us well-fed, rested, and at our best so that we succeed will feed, clothe, and provide fuel for far more people than if we gave people the food we have, and the fuel in the plane's engines." "Good point." She said as I finished, taking a bite of her food. "This really is good. I was just wondering if you saw the big picture or just expected stuff like this." "I'm not a spoiled brat who doesn't understand the value of what I'm getting right now." I said and was unable to keep a hint of anger from my voice. "I'm very much aware of my role here, and that everyone at this table will play an important part I am unable to do in what we're doing. I'm also very much aware that things could go wrong when we get there, and if they do, it is very likely that I'll be a prime target for someone's bullet. That's a risk I'm willing to take to help people." "I don't think it will come to that." Captain Unger said, breaking into the conversation with a stern expression. "We've gotten the latest satellite pictures of Idaho. The infrared photos showed that none of their power plants are operating at all. The only power they have is from small generators and I'm willing to bet that most of them are close to being out of fuel. We show a lot of heat sources consistent with wood fires and the like, and there's almost no visible traffic in any of the photos." "That's good news for us." Major Smith said with a nod of his head towards the captain. "We've got almost half of our population powered again, and we've just begun getting food in from the farms. We're shipping about half of it back to California for processing and from there it'll be split back up to the areas that need it the most." "Isn't it a waste of fuel to ship it to California?" Genevieve asked. "No, not really." The Major replied. "Right now, California's processing plants are going at a rate we couldn't hope to match. Their airport can handle most of the aircraft that are being sent in to carry the food across the country. They're ideally situated to act as a transportation hub to carry food in almost any direction. The biggest problem is that they're processing food so fast that they'll run out in a few weeks. The first of our food shipments will arrive soon, and they'll be able keep going far longer than they would otherwise. If we get enough for Idaho, I think most of the western states will be able to survive the winter, even if they are on lean rations. By then, the mid-west states should start coming online and they'll carry the rest of us over until it is harvest time again. That's part of the cooperation strategy that the President argued for, and succeeded in getting over the last few months when he was just a District Commander. A large part of this plan was his. Right now, California and Oregon are going to feed half the nation during the next few months. After that, those states that received their help are going to be back on their feet, and helping us out because we'll need it then." "Don't you think it's a shame to keep using the same fuel-inefficient methods of transporting stuff around?" Genevieve asked and I realized she was being a reporter, playing devil's advocate and making us justify everything. I liked that, and forgave my earlier anger towards her. "For now, it's either use them or sink further down into chaos." Professor Higgs said, surprising many of the people. He had taken off the heavy winter coat he'd been wearing and his dyed shirt and faded jeans completed his 'old hippie' look. "I've been arguing about the environment for years, and the first few days of the crisis I laughed at the thought of all those people in SUV's who now had no gas. I also realized that if we ever recovered from this mess then the ideas I'd been arguing for, hybrid cars, stuff like that would replace everything else or people would lynch the leadership." "So, you're from the same town as the President and Dylan?" Genevieve asked, latching onto him. "What do you think about him? And about Dylan?" "James Jacobs has always been a man that scared me." Professor Higgs said, causing a lot of people to lift their eyebrows. "He's a shrewd navigator of the political world, and he can be ruthless in achieving his goals. But he's also got a compassionate side to him. When this all started, I was quite sure he'd be an iron-fisted dictator, but he proved me wrong. Since I was allowed to help Dylan and Henry with their education while they were at the local HQ, I got to see things from both the inside and outside. I still don't like the man, I don't like a lot of his outlooks on life, and society, and especially the role of religion in society, but he has my support as President. I may not like everything he's going to do, but I do think that he'll get this country back on its feet, and he'll restore democratic elections, and do what needs to be done." "So what are your thoughts on his sons?" Genevieve pressed him, and I felt another blush coming on. "Dylan and Henry are two of the smartest young men I've ever met." He said and I did blush. "They're smart, and even more importantly they both know that as smart as they are they don't know everything. They listen to others, and accept guidance when they need it. They're also both very independent. I received a basic briefing on what's going on right now and what we're supposed to be doing, and I can say that I have every confidence that things will work out. These boys can do things men three times their age can't do. When they finish growing up, I expect they're going to be two of the best leaders our country has ever had and I'll be able to brag that I had a hand in their education." "Only if our heads don't explode first." I mumbled and everyone laughed at that. "You shouldn't say stuff like that in front of him." Ellington said with her own laugh. "You'll blow his head up so big it won't fit off the plane." "Don't worry," Captain Williams said with a smile. "I've always got stories about him like the first time he tried to transmit while training as a controller." "What?" I said suddenly, not sure what he was talking about. "I did fine." "Yes, you did." He replied. "But you forgot to shut off your mike afterwards and everyone heard your little comment. What was it? Oh yes: 'Take that, Captain Williams, and shove it up your ass. I didn't mess up.' We all quite enjoyed hearing that." "I didn't…." I started to say, but shut up as everyone laughed. Okay, I'd been thinking it but I know I didn't say it aloud. Or at least I didn't think I had. "Everyone was so silent after that." Williams continued. "They were looking at me, expecting me to chew him about but I just let it go. Despite everything else, he's still a kid and it was nice to see that." "Oh gee, thanks." I mumbled, and the people at the table laughed again. I noticed that the Major was looking at me closely, as if weighing me. Frankly, I'd expected him to immediately take charge of things, but he hadn't, and I could see from his expression that he wasn't going to either. That scared me even more, and it thrilled me as well. When dinner was completed, Connors appeared and said the ground transport was ready. I noticed that the armored vehicle I boarded was a local vehicle and remembered that my own transport would be catching up to me in Washington and Idaho, not here. Genevieve and her camera crew now had their equipment out and filmed my introduction to the Governor and the State Commander at their headquarters building. We were there for about an hour as the two officials discussed everything that they were doing, and preparing to do. Then I visited a church shelter that was filled with cots, bunk beds, sleeping bags, and blankets. It was explained that all those without power were sleeping at places like this because of the cold weather. Despite Connors' attempts to stop me, I spent a lot of time there talking to people. It was amazing how they seemed excited to meet me, and how their expressions grew more hopeful than they had been when I arrived. Almost all of them told me that they wished my dad luck and would be praying for all of us. It was both a humbling, and exhilarating experience and really cemented my belief that having us visit different areas like this would only help speed things up for the better. When we got back to the airport late that night (we'd stayed three times as long as we were supposed to at the shelter because I wouldn't leave), I found the plane had been moved into a hanger and several dozen men were moving over the thing, working on it in pairs while a squad of local troops watched them. The Colonel who was in charge of the plane came up to me and explained they were checking to make sure everything was ready for a cold weather flight and rough landing in Idaho. The fuel tanks were also being topped off. We had enough fuel to get to Idaho and return all the way to Alabama, but he preferred to have as much as he could carry on board. I went to sleep that night in my bed, with Richardson putting his chair into full recline mode and a blanket over him. Power from the local grid made sure the plane's heaters were working and we'd shuttered the windows to keep the lights of the hangar out. The bed wasn't the most comfortable in the world, but it was comfortable enough that I slept very soundly. At 0500 in the morning, Connors used his key to unlock the door (Only he and the plane commander had that key) and attempted to sneak inside, a test to see how well Richardson was guarding me. He was satisfied that Richardson's M-16 was pointing at his head before he'd even gotten the door open, and that my pistol was in my hand and pointing in his direction as well. He just told me it was time for PT and to get dressed. Twenty minutes later I was running around the hangar in freezing cold, through snow drifts wearing my red army sweats. Genevieve's camera crew had appeared after we'd finished our warm-ups and were recording this as well. After our run, we used showers in the hangar to clean up and then went back aboard for breakfast. I was surprised that the Oregon Guard Commander has shown up and was seated in the conference room for breakfast. The conversation was light, based mostly on questions about my studies and what kind of degree I hoped to receive when things were done (I just said military science since I hadn't really thought about that). After breakfast, the plane was pulled out of the hangar and prepped for take-off. The Oregon General left, shaking my hand and wishing me good luck in front of the cameras and I was told that Professor Higgs was waiting for me in the conference room for study time. The cameras of course followed me as I moved back into the conference room. Higgs was sitting at the end of the table and pointed me to a seat directly to his right. He had a few books on the table, as well as the laptop Sergeant Collins had mentioned, but not produced until now. He had his own personal laptop in front of him as well. He started me out easily, reviewing what he wanted to cover today (a mixture of political science and English). The main topic of discussion was Rousseau, and he questioned me about what I remembered from a reading we'd done back at home. Then he told me write an essay, no more than three pages long, with the grammar and spell checker turned off, expressing my opinions on the weakness and strengths of Rousseau's Lawgiver, and how it either helped or hindered democracy. I noticed that Genevieve, who was standing the doorway watching, had wide eyes at that point. By the time I was done, the plane was in the air and halfway to Olympia, Washington. We were landed and taxiing to the terminal when I'd sent the essay to him via the plane's network system and he was reading it over as Lt. Ellington and Knight came in to go over the schedule for this stop with me. It was another meet and greet with the Governor and Guard Commander, this time in the airport terminal itself. Then it was off to a local shelter, this time run by the local Red Cross where I would have lunch with several families. The meetings with the officials reminded me so much of the meeting with their Oregon counterparts that they seemed to blend together. Lunch at the shelter was interesting because the families I ate with were literally huge. The food was a basic stew that was bland, but at least it was food. The families, nearly thirty people in total, were actually five sets of parents who had each adopted several kids made orphans by the recent crisis. I'm sure the camera crew got plenty of shots of me talking about how great it was that the parents had opened their families to the kids, and how God had given the kids a chance to enjoy a family every bit as loving and caring as their original families. I spent most of the meal with a four-year old girl who had crawled into my lap as soon as I sat down and refused to move until it was time to leave. When I returned to the plane, I was told we'd be taking off in twenty minutes, and that Major Grant from the Washington Guard had arrived. He was waiting in the conference room with Major Smith and Captain Unger. Connors was in there as well, and when I entered, he pointedly told the camera crew that this briefing was classified. They didn't protest at all as he shut and locked the door behind him. I noticed that Major Grant had taken a seat at one end of the table and pointed to a seat next to Connors on his right for me to take. There was even a thermos of coffee waiting. The new Major was scowling at me when I sat down. "I don't know what these men have been playing at here, but I want to make sure you understand that General McFarland has directed me to oversee this operation." Major Grant said in a stern, almost angry voice. "I want to make sure you are absolutely clear on exactly what you will and will not do. You will basically greet whoever they send to meet us, and then introduce me as the chief negotiator and Major Smith as my assistant." "I understand, Major." I said instantly, both relieved and upset at the way he took charge. It was a refreshing change to me being expected to fix this whole thing. "We've received another communication that we will be met by someone calling himself 'Governor-General' Walter Jefferson." Grant continued. "Our records indicate he is the leader of a neo-Nazi counterrevolutionary group that had a sizeable compound in Idaho and connections throughout the world to terrorist groups. His people were well-armed, and if they linked up with some of the other groups could very well have led a coup against the state government. He's suspected of some pretty cruel things, including human slavery." "I'd much rather seen him executed than negotiated with." Captain Unger said quietly. "Unfortunately, we can't really expect that to happen." Major Smith said. "We'll have to deal with him until such time as we can get elections held, and with federal troops make sure they're not rigged. That's way down the road though and until then we have to deal with him." "We'll be offering him, in writing, a guarantee of no criminal prosecution for past actions as long as he cooperates with federal authorities until elections are held." Major Grant said firmly. "That protection will be extended for all past actions, up to the time it is signed, and will remain in effect for the rest of his life." "That should settle his concerns." Major Smith said with a nod of his head. "Now, Mr. Jacobs, I understand you were staying in the cabin?" Major Grant asked and I nodded. "Well, you can get your things out of there and take a seat in the main cabin." He said shortly. "With all due respect, Major." Sergeant Connors said immediately, and the Major's stony gaze fixed on him. "It is the order of the President of the United States that he stays in that cabin for the purpose of security. No matter his rank, or your status as Officer In Charge of this mission, he is the son of the current President of the United States and will remain in that room. This plane is assigned to him, the guard detail answers directly to the President of the United States, and the pilot and crew of this plane are charged to ensure his safety and comfort. Everyone else on board is a passenger and a guest of the President. Those are the orders of the President of the United States, sir. If they are a problem for you, you may feel free to use the plane's communications equipment and contact Huntsville for their confirmation." "You better believe I will do that." Major Grant said, standing and heading forward. "I want to get a tape of that particular conversation." Major Smith said immediately and everyone chuckled. Connors got up and shut the still open door, locking it for safe measure. Major Smith looked at me thoughtfully. "I've known Grant for ten years, and I knew he could be sore thumb, but this is ridiculous." Smith said quietly. "Give him some lead, but don't let him ruin this mission." "Me?" I said and winced when my voice broke in the middle of that word. "Shouldn't you be the one to say something if he's going overboard, sir?" "If any of us step on his toes, he's going to run to McFarland who has apparently picked him for this." Unger said. "From what Smith mentioned to me, Grant is an old buddy of McFarland's family. The only one of us with connections to trump that is you, since your father is McFarland's boss." "Will one of you two let me know if it gets to the point I should do something?" I asked and they nodded at the same time as someone banged angrily on the door. "Who locked this door?" Grant demanded angrily as Connors opened it. "I did, for security purposes." Connors said and got a glare from Grant, a glare that didn't seem to faze him. I realized that Connors knew he could get away with certain things since the President himself had assigned Connors to my security team, and Connors reported directly to the President. "General McFarland was unavailable." Grant said immediately. "So was the President, but I did speak to Admiral Fullard. He reaffirmed my command of this mission. Apparently General McFarland had not been informed we'd be using the Presidential Plane, though, so I was misinformed about berthing assignments. You can keep your cabin, boy." "Thank you, Major." I said softly, trying to look intimidated instead of pissed. "I'm sorry for the inconvenience. If I could give it to you, I would, but my dad would probably shoot Connors himself. He's a little overprotective of me sometimes." "All parents are that way, son." Major Grant said in the least angry tone I'd heard from him so far. It seemed he'd accepted my 'I'm intimidated' look. Now to just keep it going. "I think you can go now. I have some things to discuss with Major Smith. The rest of you are dismissed." "Thank you, sir." I said, rising to my feet. I had some questions though, and they needed answering. "Captain Unger, sir? Do you still want to give me that lesson on military law? We could use the cabin if you like." "Sure, Dylan." The man said smoothly, not letting on that there had been no such planned lesson. He really was good at hiding things and adapting to situations. He turned to open the cabin door, but it was locked, so he banged on it while I crossed around the room with Connors behind me. Richardson opened the door and let us in. Connors stayed outside the door and I could hear Grant ordering him out before Richardson shut it. A quick gesture from me kept it slightly open and I enjoyed hearing Connors telling the Major that security arrangement required at least one guard in, and one outside of, any cabin I occupied. Grant argued that the discussion he was about to have with Smith was private, and Connors' response that it was for that reason that Connors himself would stand guard outside of my cabin instead of putting a private there. I let Richardson close the door at that point and noticed Unger was smiling broadly. "This room is soundproofed isn't it?" Unger asked. "Yes, it is." I answered and he let out a sharp laugh. "I hate people like that Major." He explained when he finished. I moved to sit behind my desk, noticing my laptop had been moved in here and was plugged into the network and power supply already. It was also braced so it wouldn't move around once the plane was in the air. "I think I do as well." I said. "For some reason neither General McFarland nor Major Grant seem to like me." "Don't let it get to you." Unger said. "Some people are frightened when they meet others that are smarter than them, or have more influence, and for both to be in the body of a thirteen year old boy must be even more irritating than anything else." "How do I fix that problem?" I asked, and he laughed. "You marginalize them the way that Sergeant Connors did." Unger replied. "He's a smart man for an enlisted man. He should think about going officer." "I think he doesn't like that concept." I said. Richardson was still standing by the door, in the 'at ease' position. "So, what did you want to talk about?" Unger asked me. "The law." I answered immediately. "I wanted to understand more clearly what authority I do and don't have, and how the law might support anything I might have to say or do if Major Grant's attitude causes problems, and why you seem to think that it should be me who does that." "You understand that the military doesn't do anything without orders, right?" Unger said. I nodded. "Good, now most of the time an officer gives an order, it is a verbal order, say, telling Connors to get his men prepared for escorting you off the plane. Now, more formally, there are standing orders that we all follow. There's the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the Geneva Convention, the Laws of War, and of course the standing orders of our commands. Then there are mission orders, saying stuff like 'deploy and secure objective Alpha'. Mission orders, and standing command orders are printed, and signed by the commanding officer, or issuing officer." "I understand all that, but how does that fit into this mission?" I asked. "This mission, and each of the military personnel on this plane, has printed orders that sent us here." Captain Unger said. "Those of us attached to your personal staff have orders that say specifically 'Report for duties related to support for the operations, security, and training of Dylan Jacobs, son of the President.' We're here to support your operations, help with security, and to make sure you receive the training and education you need. I talked to the pilot about his orders, and they are to 'conduct flight and support operations for the family of the President in the performance of their duties. Major Smith's orders are to 'conduct negotiations with insurgents in support of the Presidential Envoy.' I'm sure Major Grant's written orders are similar, except they identify him as the senior officer and chief negotiator. But, he is not the Presidential Envoy, you are." "I am?" I asked, and he chuckled. "Is that laptop hooked up to the plane's network?" He asked. "Yes." I answered. "Good, then open up the 'n' drive and look in the file marked 'Mission Directives'." Unger said with a smile. "You'll see several directories marked 'aircrew', 'security detail', 'Personal Staff', and one marked 'Jacobs, Dylan'. Open that file. There's one entry right now, and it pertains to this mission." "Holy shit." I whispered as I opened the file. There, in black and white was a scanned document with the seal of the US President at the top. It had my name, and rank, under the 'To' heading and basically said I was the Presidential Envoy to the Insurgents currently in control of the State of Idaho and I was directed, with the support of assigned personnel, to oversee and conduct negotiations for the purpose of reintegrating the state and its citizens, into the United States. Any treaties, agreements, or articles would be considered binding upon my signature, confirmed by at least one officer of the rank of Major or higher, and subject to the ratification of the Continental Congress. All this signed by Dad. I scanned the second page and noticed that it was affirmed by unanimous vote of the Continental Congress. That threw me for a loop. "Yes, I don't think Major Grant was told of the specific contents of your orders." Unger said with a sly smile. "I don't think he's aware of you're full authority here. As a military officer, he ranks you, as we all do, but your status as Envoy makes you his superior as a government representative. The Orders for you, and both Majors Grant and Smith are being printed up by my staff on a color laserjet. The Air Force really equipped this plane well. Would you believe the last President used it to send his kids to Barbados in order to get them to safety? His wife went with them." "I thought they were in Washington." I said, stunned by his other news. "No, the Colonel was telling me about that. He had them flying from city to city, base to base for the entire time. It wasn't for security, either. It was whichever base had the most consistent power supplies, the best food, and the best alcohol. The air crew threw all the alcohol out when they got back from the trip to Barbados." "Good, there won't be any on this plane while I'm here." I said, and he laughed. I noticed Richardson smiling as well. "Considering the President's a preacher, none of us expected any." Unger said. "The Colonel doesn't like alcohol either. He said he used to have problems when he drank and he gave it up. He's hard on his crew about that as well." "You said your staff was printing up our orders?" I asked, switching back to the job at hand. "Yes, in color and everything." He said. "It's typical on diplomatic missions that the emissaries exchange documents detailing their authority, and proof that they have the power to make the deals that are reached. I doubt seriously that these people will have anything like that with them, or even fully understand it, but they will realize that we are official, and that we represent the United States of America, not some upstart group that thinks it is in charge. They'll also do another thing." "Establish me as the person to talk to." I finished and he nodded. "Grant and Smith have orders issued by General McFarland and countersigned by their own commanding officers." Unger said in a very pleased voice. "You have orders signed by the President of the United States and countersigned by the leader of the United States Congress. They're being put in leather binders, and yours will have the Seal of the President, while theirs will not." "Hand him mine by accident when we land." I said, and Unger grinned maliciously. "You can then say 'oops, sorry Major, this is yours." "It's good to see that you've got a malicious side." He told me with that grin. "You have to use that at times, especially with people like Grant." "You said you're feared in the courtroom." I said slowly, my brain following a tangent thought that had just occurred to me. "I was wondering if you'd mind giving me lessons on how laws work, and maybe about how to read and handle different types of people." "You're pretty good at handling people already, Dylan." Unger said. "All that means is that you should learn pretty quickly. I'd be honored to teach you those things. I'll talk to Martha and have her work some time into your schedule." "Thanks, Captain." I said, leaning back in my chair and thinking things over. Life was so much more complicated than I had ever imagined.
  16. AusGlitterati

    August, 2018

    Hey thank you very much! That means a lot There is a lot more to go on all three of these plot threads! I hope its not so long before I update again. I really appreciate the continues support <3 thank you so much and have a lovely day!
  17. “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.”
    Abraham Lincoln

  18. AusGlitterati

    August, 2018

    So real talk, this comment made me do this weird happy squeak in front of my friend :p I can't tell you how much that means to me! It's some of the highest praise I've ever received and i never expected such a reaction to a story I wrote <3 I hope very much that im able to retain that spot and keep the story interesting it's comments like this that make tts so much fun to write. I hope your day is as good as you've made mine ^.^
  19. jaysalmn

    Just a dance

    I agree. I was very disappointed myself. I think of all the stories I've read on GA that went this route, there have been maybe 2 that the bully fully redeemed himself. Most of the rest I quit reading. This one I'm on the fence. If I can't stand someone, hooking up with them isn't even a possible outcome, and alcohol isn't an excuse.
  20. Rigby Taylor

    Day 1 - Arrival and Orientation

    Good dialogue, excellent pace, amusing conflicts... great stuff. Of course they will fall madly in lust later on, but the journey to get there is going to be fun. 😎
  21. ColumbusGuy

    Chapter 1

    I check out the Prompts regularly for ones I might use, and while that one was intriguing, I couldn't find a wayto use it that I was willing to put into one of my existing stories. You did a wonderful job with it, and it evoked just the emotions you intended.
  22. mikedup

    IOI Chapter 20

    Brilliant chapter. More drama ahead.
  23. drpaladin

    IOI Chapter 2

    Given the context, I suspect Jeremy's wife had plans of her own. Mitchell is a very clever boy. He already knows how to manipulate an ofttimes mindless bureaucracy to achieve his ends. He also knows what he can get away with and yet is honest. Being absent from school isn't going to affect someone with his intelligence. He is a boy who has big things ahead in his life.
  24. Ivor Slipper

    Chapter 1

    I'm afraid that with that first line as a prompt I found it virtually impossible to write anything that didn't have a chunk of sadness, but hopefully with a chink of hope at the end.
  25. drpaladin

    IOI Chapter 20

    Leave it to Sebastian to come up with a clever plan and stay two steps ahead of everyone. i love putting the officious on their back heels. Those three are not in for a good time.
  26. MarqMur

    August, 2018

    Another great chapter! You've paced this story very well. There was a lot of action but it never felt rushed or thrown together because it all made sense. It all fit. Talk about twists! So many layers were revealed. The story just opened up tremendously. Anything could happen from here. Hands down, my favorite story on GA right now!
  27. ColumbusGuy

    Chapter 1

    My eyes were watering before I got to the end, dear friend. I've had pets as long as I can remember until August of 2015 when my last Siamese Bortai died at 15 years from cancer. I thought she'd be my last pet as I didn't know how many years I'd have left with the things going on in my life, but she went first out of the blue. Cats are sneaky, not often showing signs until the last few days when I got her to the vet and discovered it was far too late--'too many lung tumors, so it was eat or breathe, and not both'...She resides in a nice copper urn on my mantel now. I was fortunate that my first pet--talked about in my first Prompt here, and my first piece at GA--lived from when I was three years old to the summer before I gegan college at nineteen. All my pets have had long lives with the loving care I gave them, but the length of the bond doesn't matter--it's the loss of a beloved friend that is foremost. I encountered the Rainbow Bridge first in Norse mythology if I'm right--the link between Midgard and Asgard where our spirits live on...it's a beautiful thought that we can rejoin our animal friends when our time comes. I don't know what Christianity teaches about the fate of pets, but I always got the impression Heaven was just for people to sing praises to a deity for eternity...sorry, without my pets that would be hellish for me--and I can't sing worth a damn. So, Heimdall, please let me cross the Bridge when my time comes.
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