Miguel sat, leaning against the tall wire fence. He was in sight of the hills, splotched black with sage, but still he was confined. He sat, enjoying one last pull on his cigarette. "It's time," said the tall, black splotched, brown uniform. It motioned with its black, deadly, rifle. Miguel stood, and butted his cigarette. The grass was tinder dry, but he butted his cigarette more from the form of habit, than any real concern of a fire hazard. Miguel was beyond concern.

The uniform marched Miguel across the tarmac. It lashed Miguel to a stone wall and walked away. The wall was cold, facing away from the morning sun, and stained a dark red. Miguel looked up, to the south west. He saw it, like some vulture flying high on thermal drafts. Garish and dark against the clear blue sky. Miguel looked down, he knew his fate, he had known that this was possible from the very start, but still he had had no choice.

A moment passed in silence. Miguel saw them now, six new uniforms, black splotched brown, marching toward him. Six uniforms, with deadly adders slung over their shoulders. Six uniforms followed by a bronzed oak cluster. A cluster in another of those drab, black splotched, brown uniforms. The cluster ordered a halt, and the uniforms lined up six abreast, facing Miguel. The cluster spoke. "Miguel Sanchez, you have been found guilty of treason against the state, and conspiracy to overthrow the government. The sentence of death by firing squad is to be carried out immediately. We are not cruel, Miguel, and so I ask you. Do you want a blind fold?"


"How about a last cigarette?"

"No, I've already had one."

"As you wish. Company, attention. Company, present arms." The line of uniforms raised their rifles, and aimed down the barrels. "Ready, aim, FIRE!" Six small bombs exploded simultaneously, and the acrid scent of spent powder filled the air, as Miguel Sanchez slumped forward in his bounds.


Miguel was in a small, dark room. He had been striped down to his under clothing and placed in the cold, metal chair. He was held in place with steel shackles. A black suit sat at a small table. The suit was looking at Miguel. "We found the disk. We know what the disk contains, and we know where you were taking it. What we don't know is why. Why would you betray your own country?"

Miguel spat at the suit.

"Miguel, I'm your friend, quite possibly the only friend you have. My superiors need this information for their report. Frankly they're a bit anal, they really hate gaps in the records. I want to help you, but I can't help you if you don't help me. If you tell me what I want to know, I can make sure that things go well for you. If not? Well we all lay in the bed of our own making," the suit paused. "Now tell me, why would you betray your own country."

"To save it."

"Save what?"

"The country."

"That's hardly an acceptable answer. Now, really, why?"

"To protect the future."

"You're not being very co-operative, but I suppose that will have to do." It scribbled in a note book. "On to more important things, who did you tell about the disk?"

"No one."

"No one?"

"No one."

"Not even a friend? A family member?"


"Who was your contact in Geneva then?"

"I didn't have one."

"You didn't have one. Really?"

"Yes, really."

"Then what were you going to do with the disk?"


"Miguel?" Minutes passed. "Miguel, time is very important right now. If you don't co-operate, I can't be held responsible for the consequences. What were you going to do with the disk?"


"Well, I truly am sorry, Miguel." The suit opened a flip phone, "It looks as though a pain technician will be required in I-3."


Miguel Sanchez stood in the airport terminal, waiting. He was nervous. The micro-disk in his boot, a small circle of aluminium, weighed heavily on his mind. He knew that he was risking his life. He knew that if anyone found the disk, it would mean his death. But he knew that the disk was important. The disk was more important than any man's life, more important than any ten men's lives. More important than even the life of a nation. This small strip of encoded, plastic covered metal, was the difference between freedom and tyranny. It was the difference between life and death for millions of people.

The terminal was crowded at this time of the day. Miguel looked at his watch. It was almost 3 o'clock. His flight had been delayed almost an hour already. The supersonics were no more reliable than the old 747s used to be. It was nothing new, he had been delayed before, but never with anything this important. He was nervous. The longer he stayed on the ground, the more likely he would be found out. He checked his watch again, it was five minutes after three, and the board showed that his flight was just pulling up to the terminal.

Miguel slowly walked from the main terminal to sub-terminal 17A, where he would board his plane. He arrived in time to watch the last of the passengers disembark. That was when he noticed it. An olive drab uniform, talking into a hand radio. The uniform walked towards him, and his hands began to sweat. "Sir, if you will come with me."

"My flight is boarding, I don't have time, sorry."

"Sir, you will come with me."

"But, my flight is boarding, and these tickets do not grow on trees."

"You will come with me sir. You will be reimbursed for you ticket."

"I, don't have time for this, I have very important meeting in Geneva, and it can not be postponed."

"Sir, you will come with me, this is you last warning." The uniform placed its hand on the butt of its pistol.

Miguel slowly walked ahead of the uniform, out of the brightly lit terminal and into an empty parking garage. A black splotched, brown Hummer with tinted windows drove in. Two black splotched, brown uniforms stepped out. They walked over and one of them bound his hands with a plastic twine binder. Miguel was shoved into the back of the Hummer, and sandwiched between two uniforms. The driver started out, toward the nearby base.

A black suit was sitting in the passenger's seat. The suit asked, "Where's the disk, Miguel?"

"I don't know what your talking about, what disk?"

"The micro-disk given to you by Dr. Bowers."


"Don't play dumb Miguel, we apprehended Dr. Bowers last night. He was most co-operative. He gave you a micro-disk, now where is it?"

"I'll never tell you."

"Well then, we'll just have to search you when we get to base."


The office was cool, much cooler than outside. A man sat at the desk, sat on an office chair. The air was smoky from the lit cigar in the ashtray. The man at the desk said, "Miguel, I've known you many years. Our parents were friends. You've been like a brother to me, and this is why I've called you here today."

"I don't understand Steve, what is this about."

"The future."

"I'm sorry, but I don't follow."

"Do you remember what the government did about twenty years ago?"

"Well, I would have only been sixteen, and as I recall there were quite a number of issues. To which one are you referring?"

"Generally, to the military policies."

"And specifically?"

"Specifically to national defence policies."

"Hmm. I seem to recall that we implemented that new defence shield."

"Shield is something of a misnomer."

"Yes, but still, it was meant to protect us from any and all missile attacks."


"I still don't understand what this is about."

"Miguel, you must know that I worked for a while as a military technician and advisor."

"Yes, but I thought you'd quit that five years ago."

"Not exactly. I was transferred to a dark opps division."

"Your kidding?!"


"But, where does the missile defence shield come into all of this?"

"I was just getting to that. You see the shield gave us a vast advantage militarily. With this defence system in place, we can effectively destroy 99% of all incoming missiles. We could not, and we still can't, be attacked by any other nation. No nation can threaten us. Officially, we have only 2000 missiles as a deterrent to the 1% of foreign missiles that might slip through the shield."


"We've been stockpiling long range tactical missiles for almost twenty years."

"What! But, all of those treaties?"

"Just scratches on paper. We've been manufacturing components, and assembling them in underground bunkers. We've squirreled away almost a quarter million missiles, and about six-hundred thousand warheads. We have secret launch facilities for about a hundred thousand missiles, excluding mobile platforms."

"This is bullshit! You're out of your mind!"

"Miguel, listen to me. This is important. The government has been biding its time, planning a nuclear first strike. To be followed by massive troop deployments. They plan to take over the world, Miguel, and they plan to do it soon."

"You have proof?"

The man opened a drawer in the desk. He placed a hand under the desk, and pressed a switch hidden in the top of the drawer. He removed his hand from under the desk and showed Miguel a micro-disk. "It's all here, the launch sites and destinations, missile strengths, planned troop deployments. All of it. They plan to launch in three months."


"I pulled if off the mainframe last night. I took precautions, but its only a matter of time before they trace it to me."


"Don't worry about me. You have to get this disk to Geneva. I've booked a flight for you in the morning. Don't worry, I told them I was your secretary, everything should be fine. When you get to Geneva, go to the UN headquarters, and ask for Dr. Zeman. Tell him your a friend of mine and he'll talk to you. Give him the disk, he'll take it from there."

Miguel picked up the disk, "You don't ask much, do you? Don't worry, I'll do it or die in the attempt."

"I knew I could trust you. Good luck."


Six small bombs exploded simultaneously, and the acrid scent of spent powder filled the air, as Miguel Sanchez slumped forward in his bounds. The uniforms paused a moment, silent. "Lets go get breakfast," one said.

"Yes," said the oak cluster. The uniforms walked off toward the mess, as the vulture circled on its tether. A vicious, cloth vulture. Presiding over the death of one man, one nation, one world. Just thirteen simple stripes. Just thirteen insignificant stripes. Just thirteen stripes, and a field full of stars.

© 2001, Andre Robert Conn

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