Daniel leaned back into the leather seat of the aging but comfortable Learjet 85 and sipped a bottle of water he figured must have been sitting in storage for the past 10 years. He had heard a rumor that most of the food and supplies for Marine Echo had been from stockpiles stored for the better part of the last couple of decades under the Kansas salt and limestone mines when the CIA decided it would be in America's political interests to engineer the conflict. He found himself wondering if limestone had leeched into the early 21st-century plastic.
The American offensive had ramped up suddenly out of necessity, and the government had commandeered all non-essential aircraft to aid in the transport of all “rehabilitative service operatives.” That was the term the President's press secretary coined for Marine Echo and the other convict units in an effort to keep all the New York Times subscribers happy. The Learjet was another nod to spinning the war effort as egalitarian. Popping a prisoner bound for an assumed death sentence on a Learjet or another seized private plane was yet another attempt at PR. The fact that this was seized from a TARP II firm that couldn't quite meet the terms of their settlement made it even more of a photo op, which Daniel gladly participated in while boarding the jet.
He was still in the grey Service Tribunal jumpsuit, but the addition of worn combat boots and a nearly empty gear pack served to signal the initial transition from “prisoner” to “soldier.” He was told he could ride in his boxers and t-shirt for all Echo cared once he was on the plane, but needed to board in standard-issue transport attire. He also knew he would switch to some relic transport jet somewhere in Europe, but would enjoy the ride while it lasted. As a photographer for the NY Times magazine clicked away, Daniel had clenched his jaw to make it more square. He affected a solemn glare as he strode purposefully to the plane. People are going to eat this shit up over their cornflakes in the morning, he thought to himself.
Despite the popular assumptions, Daniel didn't feel as if he was on a death sentence. Sure, he felt that way at first when he saw the look of horror in James' eyes as watched Daniel drive his fist straight through the redneck's jaw. He knew he just royally fucked that relationship up for good then. He initially tried to plead for a continuance from both the courts and James, but realized he wasn't going to get a break from either. As far as either were concerned, he was too flawed to bother dealing with. He had been accused of both arrogance and recklessness several times before, but had never considered either a real defect. Instead, he considered both a form of efficiency. He was right the vast majority of the time, and it was much easier to apologize for the handful of times he was wrong after the fact rather than waste time trying to appease and collaborate.
He realized he didn't find himself exactly remorseful now either. He had made a series of choices. It was that simple. While he could be accused of arrogance, he could never be accused of lacking in integrity as he applied the harshest standards of all to himself. He found remorse horribly inefficient, however. By the time he sat in front of the glorified public defender at the Service Tribunal, he had reasoned there was no better way to get over it than to play around with machine guns and various explosives for a bit. Shoot shit, blow shit up, work out, blow some more shit up, work out some more, shoot more shit, and blow even more shit up and eventually save the day -- and America -- in the process. Once he beat the odds and made it out alive he'd come back to the States with some major reformed-war-hero cred.
His eyes moved from the cool interior of the Learjet to the sky. The color of the sky and his eyes were almost a perfect match. This pleased Daniel. He almost felt that was a sign he was above the mundane and part of something much grander.
© 2009 Lisa Kupfer