The New Pioneers: Chapter 23

Copyright © 2012 by Outside the Box Ink.


Will drops his phone in his pocket just in time to reach for the dirty glasses being handed over the counter.

It has been a busy week. As it is early afternoon on Wednesday he is surprised to be slinging as much beer as he would on a Friday night. Wither people are drinking more these days or more people are drinking, he can’t tell which.

He plunges the glasses into the hot, soapy water ad returns his attention to a conversation between the two women sitting in front of his at the bar.

The blond holds up her glass. “Cheers, lady,” she says, tapping the redhead’s glass and clicking her tongue. “Who would’ve guessed we’d end up here.”

“What, in a bar dressed for St. Paddy’s Day in September?” the redhead retorts, leaning back in her chair and holding her arms out to emphasize the Citizen logo on her bright green t-shirt. She tips her green hat and pops an olive in her mouth.

The blond chuckles. “I mean manning water stations at Green rallies when we have graduate degrees.”

The redhead dips a slice of pita in the hummus and breaks out her best Gaelic accent. “I believe the dream is yet to be, dearie.”

Will lifts the full dish rack and moves it to the other end of the counter, reticent to miss their conversation. Then out of the blue a man sitting alone in the corner booth loudly clears his throat.

“People sure talk funny these days,” he says. “Awakening the dreamer, the Great Turning. You don’t believe all that mumbo jumbo, do you Will?” he asks, scratching his cheek.

Will does not recognize the man and his response catches in his throat when he hears him say his name, since his name tag is resting next to his bathroom sink where it was forgotten this morning. He places his hands on the counter to offer his full attention when the man pulls out an Agent badge.

“Freeagent1,” he nods. “How about you come join me for a few minutes?”

The man’s voice is like a grandpa’s but a grandpa that would beat you at an arm wrestle with a smile on his face.

“Will walks around the bar, his feet getting heavier as he approaches the booth where he is about to be questioned by an Agent. About what he has a few ideas and that fact alone terrifies him.

“I’m here about your friend, Freeagent13.”

Will’s stomach drops in relief that this meeting is not about him and this disturbs him.

“What about her? Is she alright?”

“I’m afraid she’s in a spot of trouble. We found her badge in the Red Zone and she has not responded to our calls in two days. Have you heard from her recently?” he asks as he runs his fingertip along the rim of his glass of whisky. This was indeed a boldfaced lie but Freeagent1 would do whatever it takes to reach Freeagent13.

Will bites his tongue for a moment. If he tells the truth then the questioning will be over, but where would that leave her? Will knows enough to be skeptical of authority so he chooses to play it coy.

“How do you know my name?” he asks, knowing instantly from his smug look that he should have just answered the question.

“I know a lot about you, Will. I know that you’re a Freebird sympathizer. I know that your GPA at the University is teetering on the edge of

expulsion. And you don’t claim your tips here. You should be more concerned with answering my questions, son,” Freeagent1

replies firmly. “I’ll ask again. Have you heard from Freeagent13?”

Will nods slowly.

“When?” Freeagent1 presses, further nudging a response by slowly raising his chin and eyebrows in anticipation.

“Yesterday…” Will starts to say when the man suddenly slaps the table.

“I’ll tell you what, son. I don’t have the time or the patience to drag this out of you so I’ll make it real clear. Your girlfriend has gone AWOL. The fact that she’s your girlfriend means that I can take you into custody until the GEOforce brings her in, maybe longer depending on the Judge. Now, Will, I’m sure you don’t have time to be hauling stones in a labor camp so I’m going to level with you. Tell us everything you know about Freeagent13’s whereabouts and this conversation never happened.”

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