going skinny-dipping,” Sam called after him.
“Right you are!” Dodge said again, stripping off his board shorts and letting them lie where they fell.
He jogged naked toward the pool, then veered off to the left, bounded onto a lounge chair that was pushed up against the glass wall, and sprang onto the top of the wall.
“Dodge!” Sam cried out, suddenly terrified. On the other side of that wall was a twenty-story drop. He glanced around at the others, but they seemed calm and relaxed.
“Done this lots of times,” Dodge said, balancing, stark naked, on the wall. The glass was topped with a stainless-steel rail, Sam saw now, at least six inches wide. Even so, Dodge’s perch seemed precarious, considering the drop that was on the other side.
“It’s a bit gusty up here,” Dodge said, waving his arms about for balance.
“Dodge?” Sam said. “Dodge!”
“Whoooaaa,” Dodge yelled, his arms now flailing as he fought for balance on the narrow top edge of the wall. His foot slipped. One moment he was vertical; the next he was on one leg, leaning backward out over the drop, far too far. Sam jumped up, rushing toward him but knowing with utter horror that he could never make it in time.
Then, with a twist of his body, Dodge executed a perfect somersault into the pool, landing right in the middle of the shark feeding frenzy.
He came up for air and took a bow in the water.
Sam looked around at the others in shock.
“He does that to all the eggs,” Kiwi said, and then explained, “Probationers. One day he’s going to kill himself.”
“Why don’t you stop him?” Sam asked, his heart pounding.
“If he dies, I get promoted to point,” Kiwi said. “In fact, one day I might just push him off the edge myself.”
Sam opened his mouth to say something, then saw Kiwi’s grin and laughed. “You’re all mad.”
“Goes with the job,” Vienna said.
Two girls in bikinis emerged from the elevators and made their way to a couple of lounge chairs on the far side of the pool. One was about his age and the other slightly older. They appeared to be sisters with matching blond hair.
Sam looked back at Dodge, who was still in the pool.
“Now what are you going to do?” he said.
“Get out,” Dodge said, and did so.
He walked straight past the two girls as if it was perfectly natural, picked up his board shorts, and pulled them on before flopping back down on his lounge chair.
The two girls stretched out on their lounge chairs, and the younger one looked at them and smiled.
“She just smiled at you, mate,” Dodge said. “Go on over and say hello.”
“I don’t think it was me she was looking at,” Sam said.
“Go on,” Dodge said.
Sam just laughed and casually glanced over toward the younger girl, trying not to make it obvious that he was looking.
“So how come we all live in this fancy hotel, anyway?” he asked.
“We don’t live here,” Dodge said. “You’re here ’cause you’re on probation, and we just moved in for a few weeks ’cause of the threat level.”
“I have an apartment over in Milpitas,” Kiwi said.
“They keep us close at hand in a crisis ’cause it’s quicker, and also so they can protect us better,” Dodge added.
“Protect us?” Sam asked.
“If the bad guys got hold of you, it could compromise the whole CDD,” Kiwi said.
Sam nodded. John Jaggard had said something similar that morning.
“So how does this all work?” Sam asked. “CDD I mean. You’re from New Zealand, Dodge is English, and that Gummi Bear guy has got some kind of accent too. How’d you all end up working for the U.S. government?”
“Ain’t no national borders on the Internet,” Dodge answered for him. “Best of the best. From around the world. That’s official CDD policy. They don’t care where you come from as long as they think they can trust you.”
“Gummi’s from Zimbabwe,” Kiwi added.
“And that whole story about robbing a bank in Nebraska. You made that up?”
Jeremy Robinson, Sean Ellis