Author: David C. Nutt
“Thank you for your service,” she said.
“Thank you for your support,” I replied with the appropriate level of expected gratitude.
The hardware store clerk saw the veterans imprint on my license. I didn’t ask for it, it’s required by law. Still, it’s a useful designation. 15% off most retail goods. 25% off restaurant tabs, no questions asked, no hassles given.
I just don’t like the look they give me.
Fear and pity. I can handle them being afraid of me; it’s the pity I can’t stand.
They told us the process would be reversible- that when we finished our tours we could seamlessly integrate with civilian society, only with new skills and the thanks of a grateful nation. Turns out they were wrong. The process isn’t reversible.
At least the nation is grateful.
Then it hit me; the disembodied feeling like I was a half-step behind myself trying to catch up. Damn! I don’t have time for this.
I drove to a bar I had never been to before for someone I didn’t know from Adam; just knew she was in trouble. Her sitrep rolled in. Some biker dude had hacked her command codes. Had her in leathers on a chain. I could tell by the blank look on her face she was just along for the ride. At least as field grade officer, even if retired, I could still help.
I went passed them without making eye contact and into the men’s room. I looked in the mirror, looked myself in the eye. Despite the blinding pain, I flicked into the operational headspace, found her, used the override/compromised command, and set her free. By the time I got to the men’s room door, the situation report update was rolling in. Biker dude had a broken nose, arm broken in two places, all his fingers “ceremonially” broken. I thanked the stars above she left him alive with his package intact.
I came back into the now deserted bar. The vet wasn’t even sweating. She stood there calmly waiting for me. She came to the position of attention and snapped off a smart salute. I returned the salute.
“Thanks for doing me the solid, sir.” She said, voice heavy with shame and embarrassment.
I smiled mischievously “Thank you for your service.”
She smiled. “Thank you for yours” she replied.
“Fuck You!” we both said in unison.
We laughed. I handed her my business card. On the back, I scribbled eight numbers.
“That’s the access code. Change it the first chance you get.” She nodded. I locked eyes with her “You need to be more careful with your operational security. I know you’re not in anymore, but you gotta keep opsec sharp so you don’t wind up like this again or accidentally hit a trigger and take out a Nursery school. Even I have to be careful.”
She nodded sheepishly “Yes sir. Thank you, Chaplain.” She gave me a hug and ran out of the bar. I heard the deep rumble of a Harley as she peeled off the lot. The police would be there soon, better if I was gone as well.
I stepped out of the bar, looked around, got my bearings, looked at my watch. I would just miss dinner but be on time to get the kids to bed. The wife understands. Dealing with me, she’s just as much a vet now as I am.
I walked out to the car. Nerves still tingling, anxiety creeping in, wondering when the next time I would have a trigger event.
Thank you for your service. Fuck you.