7 Days in May by Peter Barns
Frank Booker sighed as he read the report lying on his desk, his pudgy finger running down the pages picking out the relevant details. He fidgeted in his seat, not really believing his Director of Research would have had the audacity to turn in such a negative piece of work.
“God damned woman,” he muttered, flicking over another page, scanning it with his steel-blue eyes while wiping his forehead with a man-size tissue. Booker was running to fat and tended to sweat in the enclosed glass cage that was his office.
As he read, Booker tapped a pen on the desktop, his small, almost feminine mouth – framed by ruddy jowls – pursed in concentration. He cursed again, wondering how he had ever employed such an unsophisticated scientist in the first place. A doctor she might be but one with little imagination about positing a resolution. If Booker’s army career had taught him nothing else it had made him realise that fortitude made the man.
Booker’s favourite lament when drinking his evening port at the Duck and Drake was the way that the youth of today expected everything to be handed to them on a silver plate.
“Where is the effort, the drive,” he’d ask anyone willing to listen.
Booker slammed the report shut and removed his glasses, rubbing the bridge of his nose with a forefinger and thumb. Leaning back in his chair, he swung it around to face the huge picture window behind him, staring across the grounds of the facility he’d managed for the past six years.
The sun was high, glinting from the razor-wire atop a high electrified fence paralleling Military Road. The name always brought a smile to Booker’s lips, reminding him of better times. Military Road ran south-east along the Isle of Wight’s coast line, winding its way through scattered villages. It was a pleasant walk at this time of year but one Booker hadn’t been able to take for some months. The project was burying him under complexities that should have been resolved by his staff.
What the hell was he paying them for, he wondered.
Closing his eyes, he pictured his golden retirement fund disappearing because some stupid bitch couldn’t do her job properly. Breathing deeply he watched two gulls skimming low over the sea, trying to calm himself.
The facility he administered, designated Area 7 by the authorities, but known by the staff as ‘The Camp’, had been set up in the late 1990s to research pharmaceutical methods of improving warfare. Booker was offered the post of Director General after he’d retired from the forces. Sir Craig Holland, an old army comrade, had put forward his name, smoothing the way by reaching out to the numerous government contacts he’d built up over the years. It was the loyalty shown to him by Sir Craig that had carried Booker through his initial doubts about the latest project that they were researching.
The Aggression Stimulation Project, or AspByte as it was quickly christened, had raised some serious doubts in Booker’s mind, but Sir Craig had visited Area 7 personally, explaining how important the Government considered the project to be.
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