The doors of Dan’s boardroom exploded open, audibly straining the hinges.
“Children?! Excuse me, gentlemen, but Dan here only listens when I make him blush in public. An army of children?!”
“Good god, man, what do you think you’re doing?” Besides looking the part, Eric King had the tact of a neanderthal.
“Why, I’m just pleading my case. I don’t know how you expect me to keep the peace with a bunch of nine-year-olds.”
“They aren’t all that young.”
“No, some are younger.”
The worst part was, King was right. It wasn’t exactly the army Dan would have chosen either. Sure, the kids could shoot, which was fine as far as it went, but anything bigger than a rifle or a shotgun was right out, even for the oldest teenagers. Their biggest asset was their suicidal obedience, but it apparently came at the price of any human intelligence.
“You need to be thinking long term. They’ll grow up, won’t they?”
“And who will teach them to fly a plane? Sort of an important part of the modern military.”
“Knock it off, King, if you know what’s good for you. Besides, we have planes. You have planes, and pilots.”
“So I do. In fact, I’m not sure I’d go so far as to say ‘we’ have planes at all.”
“Dangerous talk, General.”
“Hmmph.” King adopted a look of condescending patience.“Look, Dan, I’m not against you. I’m sorry if I was out of line. I’m just saying, you gave me a grade school and called it an army. I don’t know what you expect from me.”
“You can start by keeping your mouth shut.” Dan was livid now. Who did he think he was, barging in here? And he’d been invited, like he’d been invited to all of the other staff meetings he never turned up for. This is how he decided to make his appearance. “I don’t like your tone. I don’t like you, King, but I need you. And you know that. You got me there. I have to say, though, I think you’ll find you need me even more when I hand you over to the Coatracks.”
There was a polite cough in the corner. “Gentlemen, please. We must not forget who is the enemy. If we in this room can’t get along, what chance do we have to save our species?” A small man, Milton Fronz looked like an action movie star built at three-quarters scale. He was CEO of Mercury Medias, and he had been instrumental in the local information blackout, particularly in taking down the net. Though he’d maintained strict control over the internet in southern California, pirate servers were commonplace throughout much of the country. This was a troubling reality, but Dan had instead tasked Fronz with discovering the secret of the Coatrack technology. His was the only corporate entity on Dan’s side with an even remotely related R&D department. In a patient, quiet voice, Fronz continued.