Dale considered his options. He could sit around and argue with Chet until the chisel-chinned son of a bitch had wasted away his entire lunch break, or he could give him the twenty, probably never see the change, and hope the nearest gas station had an ATM. The conundrum did not hold him up long. He leaned awkwardly in his chair and dug behind his back for his wallet. It was bloated with scraps of paper, receipts, strange membership cards, and the stubs from the last nine movies he had seen alone. Folded up into a strip no bigger than litmus paper used to test the PH of government fluorinated water the solitary bill was adhering to the back of a business card for a telemetry data clearing house. Moon Shot Records, Inc. grudgingly parted ways with its monetary paramour and Dale even more grudgingly handed the twenty over to Chet.

"Thanks cocksucker," laughed Chet, amazed once again at how easily things came to him.

He winked at Dale and oozed out of the office smiling.

Dale returned his attention to the computer screen. It took him roughly three seconds to come to the conclusion that he no longer wanted to work on his latest Chem Trail update. The L-Team would just have to wait until that night. He suspected that many of them were actually bored teenagers without the slightest understanding of the hard work he had to do in addition to maintaining the web site.

Fuck them. They would never understand him, let alone the vast conspiracy threatening to undermine the greatest democracy in the free world. It rested on the shoulders of men like Dale McElroy to remain ever vigilant against the encroachments of fascist secret governments and shadowy dealings with powers almost beyond imagining. So too did Dale McElroy shoulder the responsibility of maintaining the good name of the 60-second AccuWeather Report.

With this thought in his mind, and a faint smile on his sagging middle-aged face, Dale McElroy opened Internet Explorer and set sail for weather.com.

***************

The Mark Seven Advanced Automated Surveillance Drone was a marvel of early 21st century technology. Many long and verbose memos bearing the "Top Secret" stamp were filled with pages of description and glowing adjectives about the Mark Seven.

Secretary of Defense Janet Conroy referred to it as a "miracle machine" that was "sure to save hundreds of lives on the battlefield". The highest ranking field commander in the US Marine Corps got his hands on a prototype and gushed similarly, calling the Mark Seven "a hell of a good time" despite the fact that his control crew rammed it into a mesa. Possibly the most cynical depiction came from a crusty two star Air Force general from Texas named Hank Larson who wrote that the Mark Seven was a "flying spoon" with the performance of a "tumbleweed caught in a dust devil". He also spoke unfavorably about the control interface, stating plainly "it's shit". General Larson's terse analysis was almost immediately buried inside an otherwise sycophantic 11,000 page collection of the opinions of various reviewing officers.

No human being ever read the 11,000 page archive and the Mark Seven project, despite its supposedly amazing potential, was rejected for post-prototype financing by the Senate Appropriations Committee. The Mark Seven's Ratheon design team was dissolved, the prototypes stored in a secured hangar in the Nevada desert, and all digital information scoured from Air Force mainframes. From every possible angle the Mark Seven was dead.

Yet there it was, hovering just above the dense jungle canopy of Guatemala, its five lens downward-facing sensor pod flicking rapidly between magnifications. General Larson was right of course, it looked like a flying spoon that had been dipped into a cup of jungle camouflage flavored pudding. The Mark Seven weaved from side to side as the operator controlling it from a Quonset hut on a banana farm eighty miles away struggled with more small joysticks than she had hands. Her partner controlled the array of cameras slung beneath the Mark Seven, working to keep them trained and focused on a group of men making their way through the jungle. The images on the three screens slewed abruptly and both women fought to steady and re-center the commandos they were tasked with following.

Three Quonsets over an elaborate radio intercept console crackled loudly. The black-uniformed women gathered around it adjusted dials and slides to improve reception just as someone began speaking.

"Keep it tight."

The voice was calm and quiet, identified on a small screen as belonging to Captain Patrick "Liberty" Henry.

Captain Henry and his team of fourteen men had been dropped into the heart of the Guatemalan jungle just over nine hours earlier by an unmarked black helicopter. His mission, as handed to him by a staff officer working indirectly with the CIA, was to infiltrate the compound of the Guatemalan Ortez cocaine cartel suspected of dealings with Al-Qaeda terrorists. He was to confirm these dealings, verify the nature of them, and then execute Pablo Ortez, the cartel's kingpin. Unfortunately for Captain Henry and his men things had gone wrong before the mission had even begun.

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