I nearly jumped out of my skin when I heard someone knocking at the door, the second time this morning. I was really nervous and I thought I had a right to be. I scurried over to the door and peeked out through the peep hole. There were two people out there, a man and a woman. I didn’t recognize either one. They were dressed in everyday clothes, but they weren’t from around here. Too healthy looking. Most everybody around this dump have one or more monkeys on their backs, usually drugs and booze along with a lot of bad luck.
They weren’t any of the landlord’s people. I would have recognized them. They didn’t look like Jehovah’s Witnesses, debt collectors or process servers either. They could be cops, but I didn’t know why they would be interested in us unless it was something about my dad. But he’d been in jail for months. I hoped he was all right. I was mostly hoping maybe it was the Confederacy, but it couldn’t be them. I heard they were all seven or eight-foot tall giants and these two were normal sized. The man knocked on the door again and I decided to answer it.
“If you’re salesmen we don’t want any,” I said. That’s the way my mom always answers the door when it’s someone she doesn’t know.
The man smiled slightly and said, “I assure you we’re not salesmen. Are you Miss Jean Cooper?”
“That’s me all right.”
“We would like a few minutes of your time to talk to you about a file you uploaded to the Web yesterday at your local branch library if that’s convenient?” My heart leaped in my chest. They were the Confederacy. They just had to be. I was going to play it cool, though, and act like I expected them which I sort of did after I did what I did.
“You’re the Confederacy aren’t you,” I whispered with a knowing grin. I got head shakes and they started acting real nervous.
“What are you talking about?” the woman demanded.
“Don’t worry,” I answered. “I’m not going to give you away.” This was Earth First territory and they were taking a big risk just showing up in the neighborhood even if they were in disguise. Heck! They were taking a risk even if they were not Confederacy. “Come on in,” I urged. They didn’t hesitate and I closed and locked the door as soon as they were through.
“You’re correct, Miss Cooper,” the man announced. “We are from the Confederacy. The Confederacy Navy to be exact. I’m Commander Irving Beck and my associate is Petty Officer First Class Patricia Fuller.” He wanted me to check his ID card, but I didn’t bother taking it. That made him seem a little disappointed.
“No need. I believe you. Pleased to meet you both. And call me Jean. You guys are a little shorter than I thought you’d be.”
“The Marines are normally the ones with this duty. They’re the big ones. But we didn’t want to attract undue attention so they sent us instead.”
“I guess your people saw all the Earth First signs up around here.”
I giggled. “I can’t believe I’m being recruited by the Confederacy. I’ll be all ready to go in a jiffy.”
“You’re not being recruited by the Confederacy, Jean,” the Commander said.
“I’m being drafted?” I snapped to attention and saluted. “Make me a sergeant and gimme the booze.” I always wanted an excuse to say that. Well, they just looked at each other and didn’t return my salute. I wondered if I was doing it wrong. Finally, Petty Officer First Class Fuller spoke up.
“You’re not being drafted either,” she said sounding real snooty.
“Well, why the heck not? I took your dumb test. What more do you want?” I remembered part of the test. About a burning building? I screamed my head off loud enough to wake the dead. I’m sure that was the right thing to do. The Commander got a faraway look on his face and I backed away a bit. We have a neighbor who gets real weird when he starts looking that way. People say he has post dramatic something or other.
“May I see your CAP card please?”
“Sure enough,” I replied and handed it to him. I was sure that would clear up things. He looked at it briefly and showed it to his partner who just smirked. I was starting to hate that bitch.
“Six point five is the minimum score required for volunteers. Your score is one point seven. Not good enough to volunteer. Sorry.”
“It isn’t?” That sucked. “But I have a lot of other good stuff you guys haven’t even seen yet.”
“You do? We ‘d love to see it. In the meantime we would like to talk to whoever wrote the file you uploaded.”
“That’s me. I promise.” He got that weird look again.
“What’s happening to him,” I asked Fuller.
“He’s talking to the AI.”
“He’s talking to imaginary people? Don’t they have medication for that?” The bitch just rolled her eyes. Commander Beck must have heard me.
He said, “AI, full audio so that Jean Cooper can hear you. Please respond if she has any questions.”
>Acknowledged< a voice out of nowhere said. Well, I’ll be darned.
“Repeat what you just told me.”
>Jean Autry Cooper is not the author of the file in question<
“Jean Autry? Ha! Do you know ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’?”
Crap! I hate it when people know my full name. Always the same old shit and they always think they’re being clever or original.
“Very clever, Fuller,” I said. “I haven’t heard that one since yesterday—from a five year old. And I am so the author.”
>You are not<
“The AI’s have lie detection abilities which make it impossible for anyone to deceive them, Jean,” the Commander said. “We’ll accept what it has to say about the matter.”
This was getting harder than I thought.
“Fine! I’m not the author, but I do know who the author is and I’m not telling you who until you promise to take me.”
“I can’t honestly make that promise, Jean” said Beck. “I’d be lying if I did.”
“Um, listen. Maybe I could go as one of those sex slaves you have up there?”
I slipped my top off real sexy like. Well, as sexy as I could anyway. I’m not big up top and I still don’t have any need for a bra. I’m kind of scrawny, too. I could already tell those two were not impressed with what they saw and the bitch was rolling her eyeballs again. I reached for the waistband of my jeans and she said, “Don’t bother.”
“This isn’t just about me.” I was getting desperate and ready to beg. Real tears were starting from my eyes.
“What’s going on?” a voice said behind me. I didn’t need to turn around to know it was my brother.
“These two are from the Confederacy. I risked my life to take their darned test and then posted some shit on the internet that I thought might impress them. It impressed them all right, but not enough for them to want me. All they want to do is talk to you.” Oops!
“You’re the author of that posted material?” The commander sounded excited now.
“I dunno,” my brother replied. “What did she post?”
“A technical description of the RLI-1 laser rifle with instructions of how to build it with a 3-D printer.”
“I wrote that,” my brother said.
>Gary Cooper is telling the truth.<
“Gary Cooper? Ha!”
“Belay that, Fuller. That’s an order. Understood?”
“Aye aye, Sir. Understood.”
“I hope that means shut the fuck up,” I murmured. That got a glare from her, but the bitch kept her mouth shut.
“You had several things wrong in your description,” the Commander continued, “but enough were right that the AI was impressed and reported it to us. A few of the features you mentioned were improvements our designers hadn’t even thought of. They’re being incorporated in our updated models even as we speak. Frankly, we expected to meet up with an experienced gunsmith.”
“I do a lot of reading science journals and technical manuals online,” Gary said. “I don’t have a chance to do much else. So, do you need Jean to delete that file?”
“That has already been taken care of. A Confederacy AI monitors the Web constantly, including the dark web. The site was taken down the moment the file was uploaded. The file was deleted and the site scrubbed of any references to it. The site was back up in an instant. I doubt if even the webmaster noticed. The reason for our visit is to meet and recruit you for the Confederacy, but--”
“I know,” my brother said. “I won’t be 14 for another year and a half.”
“If he makes it that far,” I added.
“Gary doesn’t look it right now, but he’s real sick. A genital heart disease.”
>Gary Cooper is suffering from a recently diagnosed congenital heart defect. Poor prognosis without immediate treatment. Waiting period for treatment by a cardiac specialist: six months. <
“How did you know all that?” Gary said. “But yeah, except that six months later the wait is still six months. Six months from now, the wait might be still be six months.” He shrugged his shoulders. People around here do that a lot. Expect nothing and you won’t get disappointed.
“That’s screwed,” said Fuller. She was right—for a change.
“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you guys,” I said. “You gotta help him.”
“AI: recommendations,” Commander Beck said.
>Gary Cooper has high CAP potential. Recommend evacuation as a dependent to a sponsor and immediate treatment for his medical condition.<
“We don’t have no stinkin’ sponsors around here,” my brother said.
“I can be your sponsor, Gary” the Commander responded.
“That’s great! How about Jean?”
“She can go as Fuller’s concubine.”
“Sorry, Sir. I already have two conks. That’s my limit.”
>Exception granted for Petty Officer First Class Fuller to take one more concubine.<
“Thanks, AI,” Fuller said not sounding thankful at all. She glared at me. I glared back.
“Then let’s do it,” Beck said.
>Permission from parent or guardian still required for Gary Cooper.<
“That’s bad! Mom is an Earth First supporter. She’s still asleep.”
“I’ll get that taken care of,” I announced.
“How will you do that?” the Commander wanted to know.
“Simple. She’ll agree to anything if you just offer her a drink. There’s no booze in the house right now though so I’ll have to go get some. The liquor store is just across the street, but it might take a while because I’ll have to suck the owner’s dick first since I don’t have any money.”
“I’ll go get it,” said Fuller. “It’ll save some time.”
“That’s fine,” I responded. “He likes it best if you swallow, but he might want to cum on your face instead.”
“He better not even suggest doing anything like that to me.”
“Just pay with cash,” said the Commander, “and leave.”
“And don’t try to reason with anyone who tries to stop you or talk with you,” I warned. “Just clock him one and make a run for it. I’ve already been raped twice because I couldn’t run fast enough.” Not that I didn’t think Petty Officer First Class Patricia Fuller didn’t deserve to be raped, gang raped or something like that, but it would just slow things down.
“Permission to use deadly force, Commander?”
“Non deadly force and only in self defense, Fuller. Don’t use Confederacy weaponry if it can be avoided.”
“Does your mother have any favorites?”
“Anything 80 proof; vodka, gin, scotch, bourbon. Anything.” The woman nodded and left.
Well, Fuller must have raced there and raced back because she was banging on the door in a matter of minutes. I heard someone yell, “Bitch! We’ll get you for that!” Fuller flipped off whoever was yelling and walked in with a happy grin and a box full of liquor.
“Sorry I took so long, but I had to take care of a few problems first.”