ORIGINAL FICTION: "The Man Who Would Not Be King" (Part 1)

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Stony Hill, Florida, 1964

The security chief stood in the dark and wondered how his life had come to this. Not that it was a bad life, mind you, but he’d aspired to much more once, and everything had seemed so plain and certain in front of him once, with the strange logic of dreams it had all made sense. Then things had changed - he was never quite sure how - and his grand design for larger things got derailed. Now, here he was, an anonymous joe working an anonymous job, standing all alone in the dark. And it wasn’t even a permanent job at that, just a temp gig providing overflow security for the great big dedication cavalcade. He wondered - not for the first time - how his life might have gone differently if the breaks had gone slightly different for him.

He sneered at nothing in particular to clear his thoughts, and focus on the job as opposed to how much he resented the job. He kept coming back to this one point by the guard shack. He didn’t know why. Something was bugging him about it, but he didn’t know what, hadn’t even recognized that something was off yet. Not consciously, at any rate. The guard was there, and had reported nothing amiss, all of his men were accounted for, no one was missing, and yet…and yet…

‘eh, just opening night jitters,’ he thought. He decided to ignore it. It was too dark out here to make out any details anyway. He was just being paranoid. He got paid for being paranoid, he was good at it, but he was beginning to suspect that he was staring right at something that hadn’t quite worked it’s way in to a recognized pattern in his brain when someone started yelling at him, snapping him away from his not-quite-formed thoughts.

“Excuse me.” The voice said, “Excuse me, hey, Yank! Have you seen Pete?”

The security chief turned to look at the man addressing him. He was tallish, thinish, wearing dungarees, a stupid-looking coat sans lapels, and what could best be described as a communist Chinese cap of the kind Chairman Mao favored.

“I’m sorry?” The Security Chief said questioningly.

”Pete,” the man said in a British accent, “Have you seen - “ the man made binoculars of his fingers to sarcastically underscore what he was talking about “ - Pete?”

“Who’s Pete?” He asked.

“’S my drummer, mate. Tall guy, dark hair, had a bird on his arm, probably drunk.”

“Brit?” The security chief asked, “British like you?”

“British, yes, but not like me,” the man grudgingly allowed

“How’s he different,” the security chief asked, “And by the way, what are you doing here? This is a high security facility.” He wasn’t sure he liked this anemic-looking long-nosed person, who, he noted smelled faintly of marijuana.

“He gets laid a lot more than me, firstly. Secondly, he’s a drunk and a drummer, whereas *I* am a musician,” the foreigner said imperiously, “And thirdly, I’m with the band.” He fumbled around in a pocket and brought out a dog-eared backstage pass, “And fourthly this is a bloody airport. What’s so secure about that?”

“It’s an aero-SPACE port,” the Security Chief said, emphasizing the last half of the word, “and I’m beginning to think I don’t like you very much, sir. If Pete’s in the band he’ll be inside. If he’s not inside, then the security boys will bring him in, so either way, inside is the place you want to be. It’s for your own good.”

“Fascist,” the Brit said as he walked away.

“…and proud of it,” the Security Chief agreed loudly as the man entered the theater through a stage door., then turned to look back at the lights of the Tampa Skyline in the distance. ‘What a lucky town,’ he thought. It had been only a sleepy resort down until Boeing had decided to base it’s space exploration efforts there. Granted, it was only a publicity gimmick; there were a dozen equally likely candidates, but what better place for the Jules Verne Memorial Aerospaceport than the actual location Verne himself had selected nearly a century before? He grinned at the total lack of irony, and went inside.

Backstage was the typical nightmare he was coming to associate with crowd control at public events. Various members of various bands were milling about, a number of groupies had gotten backstage and were causing mayhem. The lighting crews were playing a three-dimensional version of tag in the rafters. ‘Good Lord,’ he thought, ‘what a mess.’

“Hey, Lighting crew!” he yelled, “Cut out that Marx Brothers crap!”

“Yesser, Mister P.” some of them answered. They didn’t actually stop, of course, nor did he expect them too, but their jumping around was a bit less gibbon-like once they’d been properly chastised.

Evans, the deputy chief of security came up and briefed him about the current state of crisis.

“On top of all that, Ron,” he said after listening to the rundown, “There’s a bunch of limey bugs running around outside. Three sheets to the wind. I sent him back inside, but I didn’t see him since I got back in myself.”

“Sorry, Boss,” These damn Brits are running me ragged. What did he look like?”

“Tall, skinny, polish nose. Stupid hat.”

“Oh, *Him*,” Evans said knowingly.

“Him?” the Chief questioned.

“Walked in on him in a second floor bathroom with some evil weed. I tried to catch him and bring him to you, but he loped out a window.”

“A second floor window?”

“I couldn’t believe it myself,” Evans agreed.

The chief sighed, “Just do the best you can.” He paused, then continued on a different tack: “Hey Ron, do me a favor, ok?”

“Name it, boss.”

“East gate guard shack. There’s something there that’s bugging me, but I can’t nail down what it is. The genie will not appear to my eyes, it seems. Send someone out there and have them take a good solid look at it, ok? Then report in what they find. Have ‘em be thorough.”

“Sure thing, Boss.”

“Oh, one more thing…” he asked hesitantly as Evans turned to leave.

“What room is ‘The Voice’ in?”

“Oh, Aaron,“ Evans said in an amused tone, “He’s in Dressing Room 17.”

They both left.

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