Thirds Beyond the Books: Volume 2 Excerpt
PROMPT: FROM the last hot seat series, I would LOVE to see Dex and Ash at that assembly Cael was talking about, you know, with the head smacking, trash talking, all while Sparks or whomever else is trying to give a presentation.
“I’m going to die.”
Dex looked at his watch. Fifteen minutes? Yep, he was going to die.
“You’re not going to die,” Sloane muttered. “Stop fidgeting.”
“It’s a thing, you know. Dying of boredom. It happens.”
“No, it doesn’t.” Despite Sloane’s stern expression, Dex could tell he was amused. At least someone was.
Dex slouched in his seat. Could they have picked more uncomfortable chairs? Why not just bring in a bunch of jagged boulders and have them sit on those? It was probably so their victims couldn’t fall asleep. Bunch of sadists. Sadists in Converse.
“I’m not going to make it. It’s been fifteen minutes, Sloane,” Dex hissed quietly. “Fifteen minutes and I swear I’ve grown a beard! I can’t make it through another hour and forty-five minutes of enhanced algorithms and statistical anomalies. Ben Stein sounds like a freakin’ auctioneer compared to this guy.”
“Would you shut your trap,” Ash growled, leaning over Sloane to jab a menacing finger at Dex. “You’re an embarrassment to this team.”
“Screw you, Simba. Just for that—” Dex reached into one of his tac pants pockets and pulled out a packet of gummy bears. “—you’re not getting any.”
Ash narrowed his eyes. “You can’t eat those in here.” He frowned at Sloane. “Tell him he can’t eat those in here.”
Sloane sighed and turned to Dex, his voice flat. “You can’t eat those in here.”
Dex opened the packet and popped a couple in his mouth. “Mm, gummy goodness.”
Ash arched an eyebrow at Sloane. “You wanna try that one more time, with some fucking feeling?”
“Like he’s going to listen to me. Just go back to pretending you were paying attention.”
Dex laughed through a mouthful of gummy bears. He pointed at Ash. “Ha!”
“I’m going to the bathroom before I strangle him.” Ash stood and walked the narrow aisle in front of Sloane. At that moment Cael sat up, and Ash paused. With Ash stopping, Dex felt a stretch come on, so he stretched his muscles, along with his aching legs, just as Ash walked by. Oh shit!
Ash stumbled over his legs, catching himself before he could hit the floor. There were a few chuckles around them, and Dex braced himself. If looks could kill, Dex would have spontaneously combusted.
“It was an accident!”
Ash grabbed a fistful of Dex’s shirt. “Accident, my ass.”
“Sparks is glaring at you.”
Ash swiftly let go, straightening when he caught sight of Lieutenant Sparks standing at the end of the row, her eyes narrowed at him. He pressed his lips together and held a hand up before he continued down the aisle.
“He is going to murder you,” Sloane muttered, leaning casually into Dex.
“It was an accident.” Dex finished off his gummy bears in case he wasn’t alive enough later to eat them. If this damn assembly from Intel didn’t kill him, Ash certainly would. He shoved the empty bag into his pocket when something struck him across the back of the head. Hard.
“Ow! Son of a fuck monkey!”
“Agent Daley!” Sparks snapped, and the whole place went silent, even Agent Nerdy McNerdisson standing at the podium. Crap on a cracker.
“Is there a problem?” Sparks asked, her patented I-will-stab-you-with-my-stiletto expression on her face.
“No, I um, was just surprised by Agent uh, genius guy up there. I mean, predictive policing. It’s all so very… Minority Report.”
“Yes, well, perhaps you can keep your fanboying to yourself for the moment.”
Dex gave her a salute. “Yes, Lieutenant.”
The assembly continued, and once the attention was back on what’s-his-name, Dex turned his head. Ash held a fist to his mouth, and Dex could tell it was so he could keep himself from laughing.
“Leave it, Dex,” Sloane warned.
“How can you say that. Shouldn’t you be defending my honor?” Dex jutted out his bottom lip. “It hurt.”
Sloane shook his head. “Sorry, but this assembly’s already removed my will to live, so you two are on your own.”
With a smug grin, Ash pulled out a packet of Doritos from his pocket.
“Oh, so I’m not allowed to eat, but you are?”
Ash shrugged. “This is a grownup snack for grownups, not a five-year-old’s snack for a man-child like you.”
Dex pulled out another bag of gummy bears from his pocket and opened it up. He grabbed a green one, and gave it a salute. “You’re a brave soldier, but a sacrifice must be made.” He licked one side and flicked it at Ash.
It stuck to his cheek.
The horrified look on Ash’s face had Dex almost peeing his pants. There were muffled snickers and laughs around them. Rosa had tears streaming down her face, and Letty looked like she was about to explode. Dex could just imagine what was going through Ash’s head. He had Dex’s saliva on his face. Sloane covered his mouth with his hand, his shoulders moving from his silent laughter.
Ash closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “Sloane, get it off.”
Biting his bottom lip, Sloane reached out and plucked the gummy bear. Dex took it from his fingers and popped it in his mouth.
Ash made a gagging sound. “Oh my God, I think I’m going to be sick.”
With a chuckle, Dex went back to snacking, wondering what the hell Ash was doing, nibbling on the end of one of his Doritos. What the hell is he doing?
“Snack warfare,” Ash declared, chucking the Dorito at him like it was a Chinese star. The thing hit Dex’s hand, and he almost jumped out of his chair. Holy shit! He was actually bleeding! Granted, it was minor, but Ash had actually drawn blood.
“What the hell, man!” Dex licked his sore spot. Mm, cheesy.
“He stabbed me with a Dorito, Sloane. A Dorito.” How the hell had Ash turned a snack into a weapon?
“Aw, poor, Daley.” Ash leaned over Sloane and made like he was rubbing his eyes. “Boo hoo. You started it.”
“No, you did, telling me to shut up.”
“You tripped me.”
“It was an accident.”
“Bite me,” Dex hissed. Ash reached over Sloane, and Dex readied himself, slapping Ash’s hand away. Sloane smacked both their cheeks.
“Ow.” Dex sat back and rubbed his barely stinging cheek. “You hit me.”
“What the fuck, man?” Ash frowned at Sloane.
“No. You know what? It’s bad enough I have to sit through one of these things, but I am not going to sit here between you two while you go to war with your snacks and act like a couple of school children. If I hear one more peep out of either of you before this damn torture session is over, I swear I will have you on equipment duty for a month.”
Dex and Ash quietly sat back in their seats. Sloane was pissed. Dex ate his gummy bears. His pocket buzzed, and he gingerly reached for his phone. It was a text from Ash containing nothing but an emoji of a hand giving him the finger. Trust Ash to have an emoji for fuck you. Well, looks like this assembly wasn’t going to be a total loss after all.