by K. M. Herkes
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MARINE CORPS CAMP BUTLER, ELGIN IL
GATEWAY COMPANY BRIG OBSERVATION ROOM 1
13:30S 11 MAY
Colonel Marcia Galloway opened the door carefully, much as she wanted to slam it open to the wall. Preventable disasters might aggravate her like nothing else in the world, but the world did not care if she was angry enough to melt steel. Emotion caused disasters. Cool reason resolved them. She hadn’t come a thousand miles from home on a moment’s notice to throw a tantrum. She had a crisis to contain.
She forced the burning rage inward where it would only cramp her muscles and rot holes in her stomach. A little of the heat must have reached her eyes despite her efforts. The two technicians fussing over a table full of recording equipment stood up so fast that one woman tipped over her chair before Marcia could get out the words, “As you were.”
A gesture dismissed the techs. Another sharp motion shut the door—gently—in their wake. Two measured steps covered the distance to a window into the adjoining interview room. She righted the fallen chair and gripped the back as hard as she dared. Cool plastic dug into her palms while she catalogued the elements of disaster.
The room was a standard twelve-by-twelve, with the exit door on the right. Gray tile floor, gray extruded paneling on the walls. Two wood chairs and a metal table pushed to one side. Notepad computer on the table. Fluorescent lights hanging overhead. Single air duct high on one wall.
A typical interview venue, but for some members of the population, a normal room might as well be a medieval dungeon. One of those individuals was sitting on a foam mat against the far wall. That was the only place that Corporal Jason Coby would fit. He topped eight feet in height, which made the ceiling a standing hazard. The chairs would have collapsed under his weight. His uniform was soaked in sweat because the ventilation couldn’t keep up with the heat his body generated, and his face was buried in his arms to hide his eyes from a glare that he would find unbearably bright.
The man’s physical limitations were a matter of public record, and his rights were protected by federal law. This was the kind of situation that sank military careers and started Senate investigations.
“Hello, disaster,” Marcia said.