What looked like a pile of scrap on wheels, but apparently far from dead, ground on its abused rims to a gentle stop at the terminal, Dulles International. A nearby skycap looked on in horror as its driver nipped smartly around to the rear passenger side, and opened its door for three harried-looking people to exit. The door hung awkwardly off one hinge, and fell off completely as David, the last of them, stepped out. Without missing a beat, the staff sergeant nudged the door aside with one foot, snapped to attention and offered a parting salute.
David’s return was much more passable this time, and he grinned widely as he shook the driver’s hand. “What’s your name?” he asked.
“Staff Sergeant Eduardo Sanchez, sir. My drinking buddies call me ‘Filthy’.”
“Well, Filthy Sanchez,” David laughed, “I can’t say this was a pleasure, but it has been an honor. Thank you very much.”
“Oh, sir, please never thank a Marine for doing his job,” Sanchez grinned. “It messes with our heads.”
“Eh, I’m still figuring out the job,” David said. “I haven’t had my OJT in treating-good-people-like-crap yet.”
They shared a laugh. “Fly safe, Admiral,” Sanchez offered in parting.
Heading for the terminal, David noted the still-gaping skycap. He nudged Roger LeMoyne and said, “Gimme ten seconds, Roger.” He approached the man, who regained his composure and tipped the brim of his cap in greeting.
“Now remember,” he said to the skycap pointing a thumb back at the destroyed limo, “I’ll be taking my daughter to prom later, so. Not a scratch. Capiche?” He grinned mischievously and winked, and strode back to his handlers, leaving the skycap dumbstruck.
They passed through TSA without much more than a greeting, and before too long were settling into seats on a Navy C-37A — really, a Gulfstream V with a military facelift — and LeMoyne was going over instructions in the control cabin while they awaited takeoff clearance.
“You look uncomfortable,” Agent Diaz said to David as he tried not to fidget.
“I’m managing,” he shrugged. “I’ve just never even seen a luxury jet up-close, much less flown in one. Hell, I’ve never even flown first-class commercial. The urge to play with everything I see is driving me batty.”
“Me either,” Diaz smiled. “Government employees travel light and cheap. Even most admirals fly coach. Can’t risk bumping into some reporter out for an easy Pulitzer over government waste.”
“Not much danger of that,” said David, trying to relax into the deep chair. “The reporters are all probably getting hammered in first class.”
“We’ve got about three hours; you should try to rest,” offered Rebecca with a tilt of her head.
“You should. When was the last time you slept?”
“The catnap,” she smiled; “a Federal agent’s secret weapon. How’s the arm?”
“Sore, but functional, thanks,” David said. “I’ve stopped taking my pain meds. I seem to be getting… paranoid, I guess? About food, drugs, just anything going into my body.”
Diaz nodded. “Understandable. Personally, if I were you I’d be more concerned about anything coming out of your body.”
She raised her eyebrows. “Well… meaning… how’s your sex life?”
“Ha- ! I’m an economist and a statistician,” he laughed. “Even dorks think I’m a dork.”
“Uh-huh,” Rebecca smirked. “What about your little friend Lorelei? She seemed awfully protective of you.”
David was unamused. “I imagine she didn’t view her job much differently from how you view your own. Assuming I’d even be her type, if anyone’s. What’s your point?”
She sighed. “Sorry if that came off catty. My point is, you don’t want anyone using you for anything you’d consider… I don’t know… dishonorable, I guess?”
David nodded silently. No argument there.
“So, surely,” she continued, “you wouldn’t want any unknown offspring running around for anyone to use in the future, right?”
He frowned, reddening a bit, and looked out the window as the plane began to taxi into position. Angry, he muttered, “The thought of even having kids has never even crossed my mind. But other people have considered who I’m to have them with, and how they’d be raised, and what they’d grow up to do, and say, and think.”
“I’m sorry, David,” Diaz said sadly.
He looked back at her. “Life would never be ‘normal’ for any kid of mine, it?”
“You can refuse anything that I, or Roger, or anyone else, asks you to do,” Rebecca said. “But you’ll never be able to not be who you are. As long as you live, people will be watching. Someone’s going to be calling you a messiah, or an antichrist, or a genius, or a fraud. But everyone will be wanting something.”
“What about you?” David asked with a cynical chuckle. “What do you want?”
“Are you kidding?” Diaz grinned. “I’m already having the adventure of a lifetime. I just wanna see what happens next.”
Not completely satisfied with the answer, but neither up to pressing the point just then, David closed his eyes and settled back into the chair. He was asleep within five minutes.