Monday, March 20, 2017

Nunc Sciunt

     “What kind of beans are these?” Captain Dante, Jr. asked as he inhaled the delicious aroma wafting from his mug.
     The staff secretary adjusted her uniform shirt, straightened her shoulders, and met his curious gaze with a steely, “Donian Dark Roast.”
     Closing his eyes, Captain Dante sipped the coffee, and then said, “tastes more like Montisi Black.” He took another sip, “you may want to talk to your guy. If he can’t sort that out, let me know.”
     “You going to report me, sir?”
     “Listen carefully, Staff Sergeant: the best coffee in the world comes from just north of Baroport, Poterit Don. It’s the original Donian Dark Roast. Many knockoffs have been peddled across Dan and we, poor Danians, have been subject to every manner of black market treachery thanks to current import controls.” After taking another sip, he sighed, “our only problem is backwards law.”
     Her eyes narrowed and her lips formed a thin line as she tilted her head away from him. For a moment, she sized him up. Then she said, “it is possible that I misjudged you, sir.”
     With a short snort, he replied, “most people do.”
     “So. Uh,” she stirred her cup, “what’s up with the major?”
     “He misjudged me too.”
     Staring at him, she nodded, “I learn something new everyday.”
     “That’s good. So long as you’re learning, you’re still living.”
     “Uh yup. True story.” She sipped her coffee and then asked, “so you can taste the difference between Donian and Montisi blends?”
     “Of course. You can’t?”
     “I know the difference between crap,” she kicked the cabinet door where the extra containers of ground coffee were stored, “and real shit,” she held up her mug.
     “Have to start somewhere,” he nodded.
     Before she could respond another enlisted soldier walked in.
     Captain Dante, Jr. said, “Staff Sergeant, I expect to see that document,” he winked at her, “tomorrow. No excuses.” He about-faced and strolled out of the Front Depot’s Break Room.

     “Just sit,” Ensign Gunter Baeckerei ordered, pointing to the reception area outside his office, “I’ll page you when the commander is available.”
     “Uh. Okay,” Tech Sergeant Rydel sighed as he turned to open the glass door leading back into the short hallway. He opted for the chair directly across from the door so that he’d at least have a view of the ensign. Precisely as his butt hit the seat, Baeckerei’s voice echoed down the hall. Rydel heaved himself out of the chair, crossed the hall, and pushed open the door again. “Sir?”
     “Commander Dante will see you now,” Baeckerei said without looking up from his desk.
     Closing the door behind him, Tech Sergeant Rydel thought, office bitches, as he shook his head. He ignored the ensign, crossed the room, and knocked on the commander’s door. After waiting a moment, Rydel twisted the knob and pushed the door open.
     “Come in. Sit down,” Commander Dante ordered.
     Quickly following instructions, Rydel stared at the stacks of paperwork neatly organized on Dante’s desk. For a split second he contemplated verbally vomiting the finer details of Major Peters’ last hour, but opted for silence as he watched and waited.
     Finishing up with a significantly smaller stack of papers, Commander Randle Dante, Sr. signed his name with a flourish before adding the papers to the left stack. After straightening up the stack, he looked at Rydel, and said, “yes or no?”
     “Yes, sir,” Rydel answered.
     “Good.” Cmdr. Dante stood up, kicked back his chair, and then circled around his desk. Slidding a piece of paper onto the desk in front of Rydel, he tapped it twice, while saying, “the next promotion cycle is in three months.” Tapping the paper again, he added, “I see, your supervisor recommends you...”
     Though Rydel attempted to continue listening, his capacity to hear was instantly tested when he read the words: My office is bugged. Rydel immediately looked up at Dante who’s lips were still moving and who’d begun shaking his head in the affirmative.
     “As you know, with your scores, I can’t push for your promotion. Regs are regs,” Dante droned as he walked around the side of his desk, motioning for Rydel to follow him to the window. When the two men were staring into the parking lot, Dante pointed to his Iago Citadel. “Better luck next time, Tech Sergeant. I suggest actually studying beforehand.”
     “Yes, sir,” Rydel replied softly. He shoved the piece of paper into his back pocket. “I really thought my scores were high enough,” he muttered.
     “Close the door behind you,” Dante ordered.
     With a bit of effort, Rydel plastered a dejected look on his face. When he passed by Ensign Baeckerei, he narrowed his eyes, and nodded at the amused secretary. He promptly walked out of the building toward the commander’s car. In the dull halo of the parking lot lamps, Lieutenant Musgrove, leaned against the Citadel trunk as he cleaned his fingernails with a pocket knife. A cigarette hung from the right side of his mouth, with each inhale the cigarette bobbed up, before returning to it’s original position. Rydel was instantly fascinated with the length of ash that curled down but did not fall. “Got a light, sir?” Rydel held up a pack of his own.
     Without pausing in his hygiene efforts, Musgrove answered, “yep.” Upon finishing his nails, he flipped the knife closed with the ease born of long practice; he then slid it into the same pocket from which he’d pulled the lighter. “Half an hour. The jogging trail back of the Koi Pond.”
     “Thank you, sir,” Rydel said, taking the lighter. He beat his pack against it, removed the plastic, pulled the ‘stay fresh’ foil, and popped a cigarette into his mouth. Though there was no wind, he cupped the flame, and bent his head as he puffed. Afterwards he handed the lighter back. Nodded once and walked off.

     “Where is that useless cum-guzzling queef-stain hiding?” Major Dickinson slurred from the Front Depot’s main entrance.
     Heads popped up from the cubicle rows. Enlisted soldiers stared at the red-faced, pissed off, major as he weaved in the doorway. In fact, every head, except for Captain Dante’s popped up. The captain slowly pushed away from his desk, sat down the book he was reading, and rolled his eyes while shaking his head, figures he’s a drunk, too. Standing up, Captain Dante immediately made eye contact. Keeping his tone even, Dante projected, “Major, you may want to take a minute in your office.” With the plethora of witnesses available, Dante knew his best bet was to keep as civil as possible because Major Dickinson was steering right toward charges for ‘Behavior Unbecoming an Officer.’
     “Oh! Imma take a minute,” Major Dickinson reassured the room, “go on! Get your jizz slurping slimy slit in my office now! You think the Front Depot’s full of vanilla twats that don’t know their asses from their elbows. You got another thing coming, boyo.” He waved his arm around the room, “this here’s a hand-picked bunch of cutthroats, card sharks, and spitfires. You don’t really think that Central Command sent you to the Front by mistake, now do you?” His wide eyes burned with the type of crazy generally reserved for straight jackets. “I don’t see you moving.”
     The captain’s jaw dropped as he glanced around the room. One after another, the enlisted soldiers began nodding their heads, grinning, and making faces at each other. Seems I underestimated this jackass. No worries, Captain Dante closed his mouth into a tight smile. “On my way, sir,” he bellowed as he pushed in his chair, picked up his practically empty mug, and turned toward the major’s office. As he passed by the staff sergeant’s desk he whispered, “if he’s your connection, you’ll never get the real shit.” By the brief flash in her eyes, Dante knew he’d hit on one more nail for the major’s coffin. The old boy was a dead man, he just didn’t know it yet. This much attitude, he must think he’s untouchable. He’s got dirt on someone. Suppressing the outright grin that threatened to form, Dante, Jr. bowed his head, tucked his tail, and headed for the major’s office.

     Hiding in the shadow of a bench under a weeping willow tree, Tech Sergeant Rydel waited and watched the solar lake lights illuminate the water as the wind moved the surface of the Koi Pond. From his position he could see the entire parking area, both tennis courts, and the racket ball walls. The well-lit night jogging path wound from the parking lot along side the Koi Pond, and every few hundred yards a dim yellow flashing light indicated an emergency phone booth. Keeping alert, he warily sought any sign of Commander Dante or Lieutenant Musgrove. The solid tick-tock of his eyes became as regular as an old grandfather clock. He remained in position when he saw the black Iago Citadel pull onto the asphalt and then slowly roll into the spot nearest the water. He always takes the closest one. Man of habit. Rydel snorted, then muttered, “that’ll get you into trouble.” Once Rydel was certain that the lieutenant was alone, he gave two shrill whistles, and stepped out of his hiding place.
     “Ah,” Musgrove said. He meandered down to the water’s edge and kicked a stone into the Koi Pond.
     As the ripples traveled out of the circle of light, Rydel hung back in the shadows. “Sir?”
     Seemingly oblivious to the light, Musgrove spun toward Rydel, “speak when spoken to. Understood?”
     “Yes, sir.”
     After an awkward moment, Musgrove about-faced and marched out from under the lamplight. He leaned toward Rydel, whispering, “got another job. Game?”
     “Always,” Rydel whispered back.
     “Good. You ever been to Sanctuary City?”
     “That shithole?”
     “Yeah, that shithole. You know the place or what?”
     “Yes, sir. I know it.”
     “Ever been to the Stadium?”
     A shocked Rydel stared at Musgrove.
     “Well?” Musgrove asked.
     “I didn’t catch that. Say again.”
     “The Stadium.”
     He forced air out his nose, cracked his neck, and then answered, “what I thought you said. I’ve been.”
     “Any reason you can’t go back?” Musgrove asked.
     Rydel shrugged. “Just the usual: they kill strangers.”
     “You a stranger?”
     “Aren’t we all?”
     Nodding, Musgrove replied, “indeed.” He then said, “have to risk it. Back of the Burn Building there’s a brown burn bag sitting next to the Pits. It has two stars on the side. Take the bag to the Stadium. Talk to Steele. Give him the bag. Don’t let anyone else touch it. And, don’t look inside it. Got me?”
     “Yes, sir!” Rydel answered.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Become a supporter of The Pu'Shing Bhu'Tons Series by clicking here.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.