Furthest Right

Crosses & Double-Crosses, by Clayton Barnett (Part 20: Who Matters?)

We are fortunate at Amerika to be able to present the second installation of the exciting dystopia saga, Crosses & Double-Crosses by Clayton Barnett. You can find your copy on the Jungle River store, but first, read this week’s segment of the story, “Who Matters?”

“Excellent!” she made a motion with her left hand.  “It is something of a tradition in our organization to have a drink amongst friends… which it seems we now are.  Acceptable, Vice Minister?”

“Certainly, Deputy Director.  Shall I have one of mine fetch – ?”

She was shaking her head as both of Blevins’s men came up with what looked like oversized briefcases.  One cleverly unfolded to a small table.  The other, set upon it and opened, contained a variety of alcohols and shot glasses.  Sylvia and Villa moved aside as their men came forward to pour drinks.

“I think we both dodged a bullet,” he said, sotto voce to her.

“This time.  You can trust the Texans to keep the agreement.”

She saw him turn from the corner of her left eye.

“And your people?”

“Ah.  Everyone has a drink.  Shall we?”  She stepped ahead and poured an ounce of tequila for them both.

“Peace,” Villa said.

“Peace!” everyone echoed.

While their two groups co-mingled, Sylvia did note that her official packet was handed off to a man who left with undue haste to a car at the Mexican side of the bridge.  The car tore off at speed.  Not particularly wanting another drink she found herself next to the young man she had taken note of.  His nearly pure Spanish skin and features highlighted by his tailored cream-colored silk suit.

“Young to be a diplomat,” she teased.

“<Young to be a terrorist,>” he rudely said back, in the Spanish of Mexico City’s upper crust.

“<These are odd times we find ourselves in,>” switching to a regal, Catalan dialect.  “<We are all… chasing new stars.>”

Now what made me think of Ninon just now?

“New stars…?” he lapsed into English.

“Your skin says what you are, and running your mouth like that tells me you aren’t a part of the Ministries,” she said while taking his hand with hers.  “I’m Sylvia Fernandez.”

“Not Deputy Director?” he asked with a smirk.

“Not at this moment, no.”

“Oh.” He seemed surprised and noticed her hand.  “Apologies!  I am Anton Alvarez.  I’m supposed to be in the Masters Program at UC San Diego but there are other things…”

“Of course!” Sylvia laughed softly.  “We all have ‘other things!’”

She dropped her hand and stepped back, not wanting to attract too much attention to their little exchange.

“I was once told that I was going to matter; I have my doubts, young Alvarez, but I do admit that I feel the same for you:  in this turbulent world we find ourselves in, you are going to matter.  Don’t let your chance slip!”

Kharachan made an odd sound.  It was time to go.

Sylvia flashed young Anton a smile before a few concluding words with Villa.  Both groups retreated to their own countries.

Once back into her car she had Smith radio the plane to get ready.  I have to be in Los Alamos in less than two hours and talking with Kline in no more than three…

“Deputy Director?” Smith asked.


“The flight crew is prepping.  I wanted you to know that we also have word that our forces, both Texas and ExComm, have crossed into New Mexico.  They will be outside of Albuquerque and Santa Fe by nightfall and will await orders to enter the cities the next day.”

The fact that Smith regarded ExComm as a separate entity from his country increased her anxiety.


Immediately after re-boarding their plane, Sylvia checked her phone and laptop for messages.  Besides largely unimportant chaff that Llon had seen fit to pass on, there was one from Thaad:  transport FY&OY arranged at LA.

So I’m to meet Kline alone while their ex-State is being invaded by Texan forces.  Not only does that seem dangerous it will also arouse Kharachan’s suspicions… I’ll sleep on it.

Knowing the flight was only about an hour, she went into the small bathroom to change into her suit before returning and telling her people to wake her when they were close.  Until then she lay down on the couch, put a seat belt around her, and hoped Ninon would let her sleep this time.  She was already unconscious before they were wheels-up.

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