Date: 4 Monday February 2041ce 1530z
Location: Last World Citadel, Louisville, Kentucky (-0500)
Shannon was sitting alone at an otherwise crowded table, reading something on her datapad with a single hot cup before her.
“One might think,” Melissa began in a tone intended to make her humor immediately clear, “I didn’t go through so much work designing these incredibly well fitting and attractive uniforms.”
“One might,” Shannon said, appearing neither shamed of her athletic attire nor distracted from her datapad, “but I gave it the day off.”
Not like her at all.
Melissa sat down across from the other chaplain, viewing the concentration in Shannon’s eyes.
Nor is she reading.
“What is it?” she asked while arranging her eating space.
“The raiders at Cherry Creek,” Shannon said. “Interesting how far they got into Resistance territory.”
Melissa found the datapad shoved in front of her.
“I read the… Oh.”
Shannon’s statement had been subterfuge; The display contained a single image, of a young male walking down a dusty road.
A quarter face exposed… Is it?
“I see,” she said quietly.
Melissa pulled up the metadata; The image purported to have originated at 3:31pm the day before, time stamp local to Sitka Scavenger Base, Kansas.
Could it be him?
There wasn’t much to go by, not even a full profile. But she quickly assessed height, weight, hair color.
Yes. It could be.
She handed the datapad back.
“A mystery certain to have a reasonable explanation,” she said while handing it back.
Does her grandfather know she’s looking for him?
“Tea, again?” she asked before biting into her sandwich.
“Chai latte,” Shannon answered.
“Awfully fancy way of saying, ‘yes.’ You must be spending half your pay on milk.”
“About a third,” Shannon said, sounding like an honest admission while closing the datapad and setting it down. “Not doing anything else with it.”
Live a little.
Of her own pay, meager as it was, Melissa had also spent very little, having established a not-yet impressive savings. She did, however, enjoy a new sweater and a few movies.
Aaron slid into the seat next to Shannon, face eager for an answer to his inquiry.
“Not since meditation,” Shannon answered.
“He came to breakfast as I was leaving,” Michelle said. “Seemed upset.”
“Got a lower score than yesterday,” Aaron informed them.
Shannon sighed slightly, reached for her datapad.
“Still thinks he’s at Academy,” commented Melissa. “Still trying to be number one.”
“I’m thinking Sister Shannon here needs to pump up the score,” Aaron said through a mischievous grin.
“And I’m thinking,” Shannon replied, “that so long as Michael is busy trying to beat me, he’ll continue beating himself. Here.”
The datapad was passed to Aaron.
“Well…” Aaron said, seemingly amused. “Well, well, well indeed.”
“So when do you intend to make a mark on the leader board?” Melissa asked Aaron.
“I have no shame about being slightly behind my fellow Chaplains,” Aaron answered happily while returning the datapad. “And as we all know, anyone scoring above eighty is rated ‘veteran combatant’. I’m having too much fun watching Michael chase Shannon all the way to one hundred. Getting there first would spoil it.
“Then again,” he quickly added, “if one of them gets ninety-nine-nine, then going for the gold might be worth it.”
“Deprive them both of top spot?”
“I really wouldn’t mind,” Shannon said while collecting her items and standing up. “It would give our favorite jock someone else to hate for a couple days. See you both later.”
“Something’s bothering her, too,” he said merrily while sliding into the vacated seat across from Melissa.
I’d almost swear he delights in misery.
“Evil stirred in the night,” Melissa responded.
“It’s all over the news,” Aaron said. “Cowards wouldn’t go in after them. Even let them take some troopers, live at the time.”
“One did,” Aaron informed her. “Both put up a fight shortly after crossing the river. Damn satellites caught it all.”
“Yet somehow missed them coming out to begin with.”
“Imagine the High Council is in an uproar over this,” Aaron commented.
I’m sure they are.