From Cronatos Hybamper –An Extraordinary Incident
by Tom Diaz (2016)
First Lieutenant Bud Kinard felt his sphincter tighten like a rusty wing nut. A wave of nausea sloshed back and forth across his gut, lifting his vomit reflex up onto crests and dropping it down into hollows. The sweat glands under his armpits secreted a curdled scent he had last whiffed six years earlier.
The acrid odor jerked him back in time, back to precisely that baffling and terrifying moment on his maiden day at the United States Air Force Academy when the first of what seemed like an endlessly thrusting human bayonet of bellowing, in-his-face upper classmen yelled at him to “get off my bus!” None of the people shouting at him in that maelstrom seemed to really care that he had been handpicked for admission. It mattered not at all that Bud Kinard was destined to be a star tight end on the perennially mediocre Falcons football team.
Now, a more seasoned and freshly promoted 1st Lt. Bud Kinard was the very point, the forward molecule, of the nation’s defense system. The United States Air Force and America writ large trusted him. His straw-red hair was buzz cut, his shoes were polished to mirrored reflection, his short-sleeved blue service uniform—worn every day in accordance with NRO directive 120-1, “The NRO Military Uniform Wear Policy”—was tapered to fit his superbly conditioned athlete’s body. He was, in short, tack sharp.
Lt. Kinard was also supposed to know what to do. That was the whole point of his existence. Four years at the Academy. Seven months at the Air Force intelligence officer’s training school at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas. Three more months specialized training learning every nook and cranny of the Cronatos Hybamper satellite system. But the best he could come up with now was to flick tiny little beads of cold sweat off of his ashen face, wipe his palms on his thickly muscled thighs, and squeeze his pale, ice-cube blue eyes into an uncomprehending squint. Bud Kinard had never, ever seen Cronatos Hybamper dump anything remotely like this. Not yesterday, not last month, not in all the eight dreamy months of his exhilaratingly intense experience as an Air Force intelligence officer on assignment to the National Reconnaissance Office, one of the “big five” U.S. intelligence agencies.
Duty Officer Major Ramonita Stackhouse, West Point graduate, legendary military intelligence analyst, and all-around junior officer ball-buster, acknowledged him with her customary steely gaze, eyebrows raised in a manner that conveyed impatient disapproval of whatever was about to fall out of the speaking orifice of this young officer.
“What brings you to Jay Fuck, Lieutenant?”
“Ma’am,” Lt. Kinard said, “We have a problem.”