Gated 1b

On a day like today it would have been easy to pretend nothing bad existed. But Eric, Lord of Testosterone, immortal (being not-quite twenty), and heir to the Tuille fortune, had need to always look danger in the face and stare her down. "I've been going over the Nasorolevu Gambit again," he announced as the sat in the Mexican restaurant, their burritos before them. Mario’s had been serving student for over 100 years, and some of the artwork looked that old, but the food was good. The interior was kept dark to save on energy and keep the heat down. Warm air whirled through the fan blades, offering the pretense of coolness.

"Again?" Daoud snorted. Nasorolevu was one of the mountaintops that survived the rising waves in one of those drowned South-Pacific islands nobody really cared about.

"Again!" Eric cared. The Combined US Army had taken a shellacking there from the Aussies and their Chinese masters. He gathered up plastic tumblers, salsa squeeze bottles, and forks from the other tables, then began laying them out.

“Aussie 7th fleet,” he placed some salt shakers on the worn wood table; “Chinese 12th Submarines,” forks; “New Zealand missile barges,” a few of pepper shakers.

“West US forces,” he placed some tumblers right side up on some spread napkins, “And East,” tumblers upside down.

“The Aussies are coming in by sail, reserving their gasoline for tight maneuvers. “Slow, but loaded with troops. The Chinese have our people locked on the beach, except for a few of our hang-glider troops. Our entire New Caledonia invasion force. They can’t do much.”

Daoud pointed to the salsa bottles. “Who are these guys?”

“Nobody, I don’t need those.”

“Cool.” Daoud picked one up and squeezed green tomatillo sauce on his burrito.

“We’re basically locked in place until the Kiwi barges take out our batteries, and the Aussies come in and kick our asses.” Eric looked around for another item to represent some mystery element. He was forced to use the squeeze bottle, holding it over the table. “This is--don’t say salsa, you’ll sound stupid--The Teswell-Google 2 Astronomical telescope. Largest stiffened mylar reflective mirror at the time. At that time, under contract to-- Guess who?”

“The way you’re leading me around, I’ll say the Greater Berkeley University.”

“Kabingo!”

“So?”

He made a rough bowl with his spread fingers. “Giant mirror, kilometers on a side. Turn it towards the stars, you have scientific knowledge for all mankind. Turn it a bit, point that sunlight towards the Earth, focus into a tight beam...”

“Oh come on, you mean you could focus it into death laser? What about atmospheric spreading? Cloud cover?”

Eric placed the salsa back on the table, scattering the Australians. “I did the calculations. Hot enough to ignite the Australian sails. The Kiwi missile barges used even cheaper plastic.”

The waitress, another college student walked up to their table with the tab, a plastic readout with a number pad for students to divvy up their payments. “Are you boys done playing games, or is it checkers next?”

Eric tried to swipe the tab from her, but Daoud got his hands on it first. “I can get my own,” Daoud insisted.

“Dude, when this hits, I can get a commission anywhere. This is the training problem in the uncrackable category. You’re on the long plan, and I’ll be able to request my assistants.”

Daoud tapped the tab with his amount from his official dipIn card. He’d ordered steak to keep up with Eric, and that burrito would cost him at least another day in the service. “I appreciate it, I do. But I want to do this myself. I feel I’m taking advantage already.”

Eric swung his fist out and hit Daoud on his beefy shoulder. “We’re friends. Friends do for each other. I don’t want anyone else watching my back. Let me get some things now and again.”

“I don’t want money standing in our way, buddy. It’s best we pretend it isn’t there.”

They got back to campus before Daoud’s next class, Applied Rhetorics. He sat in the old lecture hall, canted in a bowl with another 150 students. The place smelled like industrial deodorants and had been used here for the last century.

AR 250 was required for pre-law, and he had to get his grades up if he was going to get into Hastings.

He hadn’t thought about college until he was a junior in high-school, then panicked when his parents started emailing him career outlines. The campus was just over the hill from Concord, so he could make the long bicycle trip home on the holidays.

Since the only way he could afford a college was on the long plan. Take as many courses needed to graduate, rack up your books and meals on your dipIn card, get your final bill, then march into the cashier’s office and declare bankruptcy. Your file was then turned over to the campus Armed Force recruiter who would already know you and your case. If you went to a good school, like Berkeley, you would have met with your case officer ahead of time, gone over your career plan and possible military jobs, and he or she would have made class recommendations.

Daoud met with Lieutenant Mike Summerville every year for the past three years, and the two of them had been talking about Navy legal. Mostly cutting orders and dealing with regulations. Boring executive officer stuff. But if his grades were good enough for Hastings, maybe a position in writing legislation or the JAG office. He had his hopes.

THe idea of being Eric’s personal assistant was kind of... shameful. Eric had places to be, a person to become.

Daoud wasn’t sure he wanted the hassle. Find someone he could get along with for the next several years, have some fun. Rae’s face flashed across his mind’s eye quickly, until he noticed the blonde two rows down.

His hand reached towards the hidden inner pocket of his shorts, and he touched his private, illegal dipIn card.

© Tony Jonick 2013