Phoenix Military Base
House of J. Walsh
The address was
correct, precise, and had been bitten off as if the boy had
slashed his fangs into it. For a moment, Walsh thought he saw the
impressive muscles beneath the plain coverall quiver as the young
Supertrooper leashed his temper even tighter.
else I am to do... sir?"
Gooseman." Walsh hid his sigh. The boy had started being a
little less formal since he'd gotten the commander's approval of
his reaction to the accident, but lately that development had
clearly reversed. Now he was more formal than ever. "That's
all for today. I'll return at 1900."
The boy snapped to attention, then turned on the spot to return
to his desk upstairs. Joseph thought the highly polished wood of
the banister creaked under the fierce grip that made Shane's
knuckles appear stark white under his always pale skin.
fine gleam of the old mahogany made him think, too, as he left
the house for his staff glider. He suspected Shane used it as a
slide, but he'd never caught him in the act. And the fierce,
overly-controlled youth the boy was at the moment seemed not the
one to be confronted with an offense Joseph had committed himself
as a boy. With relish and persistence, and taking revenge when
his brother Frankie had tattled on him – which had happened
on a regular basis, when one of them had been forced to stay
indoors for some reason and...
looked up from starting his glider and threw a look back at the
house. Maybe it was the same problem now.
National Park (West)
pulled the glider over into a deserted parking lot and turned off
the engine. He unlocked the fright compartment and activated the
cybersteed container. The headpiece glowed blue as the
silver-grey robotic horse scrambled onto it's feet.
we ride the rest of the way, sir?"
ride." Walsh swung himself into the saddle. And met
Gooseman's eyes for the first time this evening. "You
sir?" Hesitation, distrust. A pang of hope almost
Walsh tightened the
next moment, a puff of whirling sand was all that remained in the
field the glider's strong headlights pulled out of the night.
Gods, he had forgotten how fast the boy was. Of course, he'd
known his times at Wolf Den's training ground, but there in the
controlled environment destined solely for the Supertroopers'
training it had appeared far more natural, normal than out
here in the growing desert night. No wonder the boy had had
trouble with constraining that speed to merely sauntering for
months after he'd been drilled five hours a day almost all his
Walsh was forced to drive
the cybersteed into its fastest gallop to keep the boy within
sight. Not an easy task when wearing night-goggles in addition
and having a serious disinclination to having cactus spines
embedded in your skin. Good thing that he'd chosen one of the
racing cybersteeds BETA had gotten recently. A real horse would
have needed too much attention to keep it from getting hurt by
the cacti and sagebrushes covering the Sonora desert. And the
grey mare he borrowed from Maddie once in a while wouldn't have
stood for this steeplechase anyway.
they were caught out here, Eric would have the incident he needed
to have the boy frozen. Aside from the fact that they were
seriously breaking the National Park rules, there wasn't a chance
of pretending that he had Shane under control at the moment.
Walsh knew he took a considerable risk with putting that much
faith into Goose's loyalty, but there was no choice. The boy was
going mad at staying inside, or walking at what must seem a
snail's pace to him, being always watched, always under
Though Walsh had
tried to made it as unobtrusive as possible, he knew Goose was
aware of it. That's why he had refused to insist on a
transmitter, considering the surveillance as being probably part
of the problem. The sender was futile anyway, should the boy
really decide to disappear in the night. And there was the
additional risk that someone else might catch the signal and
learn about movements in the desert night far beyond the
capabilities of any vehicles or animals known in this part of the
world. So he had nothing to gain by it.
then Gooseman was suddenly gone, had disappeared from his field
of view in the blink of an eye. Shit! Of all things...
Walsh reared the horse to a stand-still, searching
A moment later, he
spotted him. It was a somehow disconcerting sight to see the
young trooper twelve meters up at the swaying tip of a saguaro,
investigating one of the huge blooms that filled the night's air
with their heavy scent. He knew the ST couldn't fall to his
death, he knew the boy was more than able to get up there without
cutting his hands and feet on the spines,
he bellowed. "What on Earth are you doing up th–?"
Supertrooper let go of the cactus and landed on a sandy spot
close enough to trigger the warning sensors of the robotic steed.
Goose grabbed the mane and looked up at him with eyes aglow. "Did
you know these things have blooms the size of coffee mugs?"
He spread his fingers. Nectar glittered in the vanishing
Walsh caught his temper at the sight of Shane's unconcealed
excitement, masking his own emotions – relief, anger,
wonder at the unexpected glimpse of closeness between them –
with brittle humor, knowing full well that the boy wasn't
prepared to deal with them. "When I said 'run', I meant
running on the ground, not up a saguaro."
sir." The next moment the boy was gone again, forcing Joseph
to follow him at a breakneck pace as he darted back into the
night, leaving only a cloud of pollen raining like fairy dust
into the growing dark.
of Cmdr. Walsh
lowered himself into his office chair. Admittedly carefully
because of the current condition of his backside – and the
rest of him – which felt only slightly less raw than a
steak tartar. At least it had been worth it. He'd never before
seen someone so happy while picking cactus spine fragments out of
his legs and feet, trousers and shoes as Goose had appeared to be
on the drive home. He just hoped none of the cybersteed
technicians stumbled across the saguaro nectar smeared into
CS-85-RA-Triton's sensor mane.
adjutant, Sheela McIntyre, bringing in the daily mail, tossed him
a glance and asked compassionately, "Are you okay,
nodded, briskly, with clenched teeth. The hell if he would ask
for a seat cushion! "I overdid the evening walk with my
protege yesterday." More precisely: my evening marathon,
three hours ago, he corrected grimly in his thoughts. "Seems
I'm not as fit as I thought I am." I'm damned fitter.
Otherwise, I'd have dropped dead on that ride! A hot stab of
pain shot along his spine. If only the darn tin horse had been
softer to sit on.
have a look at the Saguaro
National Park website for information about the
park and what is really allowed and forbidden there. :)
to S. 'Trivia' Blank for chasing the mistakes out of this story.