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white lie coverPenny gets the less than envious job of collecting Private Bennett.

“Corporal Bennett reporting as ordered, Ma’am.”

“Corporal?” She checked a computer file on the table. “Says here your last offense got you busted to Private again.”

“Oh, yeah,” he said, reaching in his pocket for a smoke. “Forgot about that.” He pulled a chair out, flopped into it and tipped back.

Penny eyed him with curiosity. “Where in the regs does it say you act like that in the presence of an officer?”

“Sorry, the guys are kinda casual around here.” He rose again. “Please, have a seat, Ma’am.” He clicked his heels together and bowed as she took her seat across from him.

“You can sit,” Penny said as she scanned the file screens.

Bennett sat carefully, not as causally as before. He leaned over the table, hands folded, trying to see what was on the screen.

“Quite a checkered career, Private.”

Bennett snorted rudely, then caught her look of reprimand. Clearing his throat, he formed a more appropriate reply. “Yes, Ma’am. Seems I have a little problem with authority.”

“That before or after they gave you the juice?”

He looked genuinely puzzled. “Juice, Master Sergeant?”

Penny rolled her eyes. “The ‘bug’ juice,” she gestured vaguely, drawing his attention to the electronic surveillance.

Taking her meaning, he inclined his head slightly. “That would be somewhat before, but the juice exacerbated the problem.”

“You’re being given a chance to atone for past misdeeds, Bennett. You’re needed for a special mission.”

“I’m getting out? Hot damn! Want to go for a drink? I’m buying!”

“Wait a second, Marine. Nothing in this life is free. You have to earn your freedom.”

“Can’t just let me out cause of my good looks?”

She chuckled at the fleeting thought that Bennett looked like a baboon.

“Not bloody likely. Your talents, such as they are,” she grimaced, “are needed on a mission. I have your orders. Pack it up, Marine.”

“You bet!” He hopped around the table, reaching for her to kiss her when he found himself flat on his back with her heel in his armpit and his hand in a very painful Aikido hold.

“Touch me again, squid, and I’ll take your arm off.”

He stood with difficulty, and was too flustered to salute as he left the room. Penny contacted

Wil on her secure comlink by which he had been monitoring the interview.

“What do you think, Penny? Useable?”

“I may have to break his arm before I get him back there, but he’ll do.”

“Excellent! Got another special assignment for you when you get back.”

“Oh, another armed escort?”

“No, ma’am, this one is of a more personal nature. VanLipsig out.”

Penny smiled secretively as she walked briskly out to collect Bennett.

Back on Greyling’s ship, Wil allowed himself a small, contented smile. Things were coming together. They still had several days before the lunatic started to kill the royal family and he had finally found a woman who understood him. He had a fleeting feeling of doubt. Life was too good, what was going to go horribly wrong?

* * *

Ray walked over to the weapons range with care across the pocked and uneven field. He was looking for Abrams who was a long range weapons instructor. He saw a group of recruits getting their first lesson. Wondering if he’d ever been that young and green, he walked toward them. A fresh faced corporal trotted up and saluted. He looked about twelve, Ray thought.

“May I help you, Lieutenant Commander?”

Ray returned the salute, once again enjoying his new rank.

“I’m looking for Sergeant Abrams.” The corporal pointed to the tall, athletically built woman who was bellowing at some private for fiddling with his safety before he was told. When she had finished, the corporal approached her, pointed to Ray and spoke quietly. Abrams put the corporal in charge of the class and walked stiffly over to Ray, not bothering to salute.

“This better be important! I’m right in the middle of a class!”

“Sergeant Abrams, on behalf of Colonel Wilhelm VanLipsig, I apologize for the interruption, but it’s a matter of some urgency. I am following his orders.”

“So urgent it can’t wait an additional thirty minutes?”

“Yes.”

He resisted the urge to tack ma’am on each sentence since he outranked her, but it was difficult. He brought her quickly up to date with the Aurialonus situation. Abrams hesitated one moment more, then stalked over to her corporal, speaking to him for a few minutes. She walked back over to Ray.

“I’ll get my things.”

Ray followed her to her quarters, walking behind her on purpose. It wasn’t in deference to her, he just liked the view. Damn, that woman could strut! He stayed behind her all the way to the shuttle, giving her a hand up.

“Lieutenant Commander Schmidt?”

“Yes, Sergeant?”

“May I ask you something?”

“Sure.”

“Is there some reason you’ve been staring at my ass for the last thirty-three minutes?”

He chuckled, trying to think of a plausible excuse. None came to mind. “Well, Sergeant, I’m a country boy and was raised to appreciate the beauty of nature.”

“What’s that got to do with my ass?” She cocked her head to one side, eyeing him critically.

He held his hands out about the width of her rear, cupping his palms. “Well now, what’s more natural than a man watching an attractive woman? By damn, Sergeant, your ass is thing of beauty!”

Abrams sat quietly a moment, then she started to laugh. “Schmidt, that’s the biggest crock of shit I’ve ever heard!”

“Yes, ma’am, it sure is. But it don’t make it not true.”

She gazed at him, eyes moving up and down his body as if cataloging every inch. “I think I’m going to like you, Schmidt.”

He smiled his most winning, charming smile—the one women melted over. “I certainly hope so, Ma’am.” He saluted her teasingly. “Call me Ray.”

* * *

©2015 Dellani Oakes

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