Tuesday, October 6, 2009

"The Lucky Event"

Start: The Lucky One (Page 36, Copyright 2008), by Nicholas Sparks
End: Event (Page 164, Copyright 2006), by David Lynn Golemon
The story between them: by Michael Rigg

Lost in thought, she hadn't seen Ben approaching. His freckled face was shiny with sweat. Water dripped from his clothes, and there were grass stains on his shirt she was certain would never come out.

"Yeah, baby?"

"Can I spend the night at Zach's tonight?"

"I thought you had soccer practice."

"After practice. There's going to be a bunch of poeple staying over, and his mom got him Guitar Hero for his birthday."

She knew the real reason he was asking.

"Not tonight. You can't. Your dad's coming over to pick you up at five."

"Can you call him and ask?"

"I can try. But you know..."

Ben nodded, and as it usually did when this happened, her heart broke just a little. "Yeah, I know."

Alice watched as Ben shuffled out of the kitchen, his chin dragging the floor. She wanted to call out to him, to say she was sorry, but knew the words would fall empty so she returned to the dishes.

That's when the phone rang and she moved so fast to pick it up before Ben came running back that she almost dropped it in the soapy water.

"Hello?" Alice clamped the phone with her shoulder as she dried her hands with the dish towel.


Alice's blood chilled. Gripping the phone over the mouthpiece, she stretched the cord to the kitchen doorway to make sure Ben had gone to his room. She heard him noisily slamming things into his overnight bag.

"This is Major Cross."

"Major, it's Lieutenant Collins from Shadowbase."

Alice's already chilled blood froze through to her skin as goosebumps raised on her arms. She cleared her throat away from the mouthpiece before speaking again. "Lieutenant, you shouldn't be calling me on this line."

"It's all right, major. We're completely scrambled."

"How can--?"

When Lieutenant Collins spoke again, his voice was clipped and rigid. "Everything is under control, major. We have a car on its way for you."

Alice's eyes traveled around the kitchen; the pots and pans, the sudsy water, Ben's half-eaten peanut butter sandwich. The phone call she was on now might mean it would all be gone in a matter of moments. A call from Shadowbase usually meant the Koreans were up to no good. And, for the past few months, Alice's team had been watching the nuclear supply lines move like surrupticious ants from one hill to another.

They were definitely preparing for something, and relations between Korea and China with the U.S. and Russia weren't going as well as the president had hoped the past few weeks.
Alice swallowed. "I'm guessing we're well past sanctions."
She heard the hiss of Collins' sigh through the line. He relaxed a bit. "No ma'am. The president is wanting us to pull some hard numbers, asap."

"Got it."

Alice hung up just as Ben trudged back into the kitchen dragging his overnight bag behind him.

"You should clean up before your dad gets here."

Ignoring the suggestion, Ben cringed and kicked at the tile floor. "Aww, mom, do I have to go?"

Thinking about the phone call, the car on its way, the underground base teaming with "satellite spies," and a pending nuclear meltdown, all Alice wanted to do was grab her son and squeeze him tight, to tell him he didn't have to go with his deadbeat father, that he didn't have to do anything he didn't want to do. But all she could do was stare, her eyes locked in a daydream of melting plastic and white-hot skies.

"Earth to mom."

Alice blinked. "Sorry, honey." She reached out and wiped a smudge from his nose. "Just try to make the most of it, okay?"

Ben nodded, glum.

"Do you have your DS?"

"Yeah, but it's not the same as Guitar Hero."

Alice nodded slowly. "Well, you just be good for your dad and when you get back maybe you and I can talk about your upcoming birthday."

Ben brightened a little. "Really?"

Alice continued to nod. A car honked outside. "Oop. That's him."

Alice stood as Ben hefted his overnight bag. She followed her son out the front door and down to Roger's Camaro. She normally walked all the way to the car, reminded Roger about having Ben brush ALL his teeth, to remember the time for soccer practice, or to make sure he didn't try to bring home another lizard. But today she stood half-way down the walk, hiding her expression with distance.

"I love you, Benji!"

"Love you too, mom."

Ben didn't look back. Alice's last memory of him that day was of the back of his head, tilted to look into the smiling eyes of his father, the deadbeat, probably promising him some kind of whirlwind Disney adventure. Roger was always buying Ben's love. Alice hoped it was enough. She hoped her job--keeping society intact--would help him do just that. She didn't know if she trusted Roger enough to get Ben to safety should the missles start flying. But she knew he'd keep her son distracted as the news reports got more and more serioius.

A blue sedan with the stenciled letters, KYLE AFB pulled up to the space previously occupied by
Roger's Camaro.

Alice held up one finger to let the sergeant know she'd be just a minute, and ran back inside. She didn't have time to put on her uniform, so she just made a quick pass of the house to make sure everything was off, grabbed her keys, and left.

Less than fifteen minutes later, she was fifty feet below the Nevada desert, looking as important as she could amongst the uniforms, dressed in kahki shorts and a red T-shirt proclaiming PROUD SOCCER MOM.

Alice was met by Lieutenant Collins, who smiled at her appearance. They shook hands.

"I know, I know. I didn't have time."

The lieutenant said, "You've got a spare here." His eyes glinted as his voice lowered so the sergeant wouldn't hear. "In my quarters."

Why was he all business over the phone, then horny high schooler when she showed up on base? And was this really the time to be flirting with her? Alice wished she could erase the past month, get back to a business relationship with Jack Collins, but what was done was done. She had slept with a lower officer. And now she was paying the price with his distracting smile and flashing eyes.

Hardening her voice, Alice gave him a glare before turning to the sergeant. "Let's just concentrate on what we have. Sergeant?"

Collins just nodded, and then looked from Alice to the sergeant.

"This is what we have so far, ma'am," the sergeant said, holding a file out to Alice.

"Just tell me," Alice said as she handed the file to Jack.

"We have a mole," the sergeant said.

She wasn't expecting the twist. She glared at Collins, "What's this about?"

"Sorry, major. Even though I had the line scrambled, I couldn't be sure the mole wasn't on the tap."

Alice nodded. "Go on, sergeant."

The sergeant nodded and looked at Jack. "What we did was run the two numbers through NSA. They were both dead ends as no calls were actually made to those phones from Nevada. This was confirmed by AT&T, Sprint, and the actual residents of those homes. Thus we were left with a dead end. Our friend had managed somehow to scramble the hard lines leading out to the club and the transmission to the phone company's Comsat. We were stuck until we examined the security monitors from The Ark." The sergeant handed the major a cased computer disk. "We came up with this thanks to Dr. Cummings in Photo-Recon. . . ."

[Oooh, I'll bet it's Roger! -- M. Rigg]

No comments: