Paine - Time of Anarchy
Published by J. B. Durbin
Copyright 2013, 2015 John Brian Durbin
2d Edition

Chapter 1 Sickness

 The bar was crowded. Ashley Miller flipped her long black hair back and laughed politely at the joke the man sitting next to her told. By her calculation, it was the twelfth time she’d heard it this week. She was secretly smiling to herself, knowing the guy thought he had a shot at her when she knew he didn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell. She gently removed his hand from her knee and crossed her long legs, giving him a flash of thigh in the process, then leaned back and took a sip of her drink.
Ashley had entered MIT at the age of fourteen with fifteen college credits in mathematics, chemistry, English and history. Brilliant, focused and mature for her age, she breezed through her first year with all A’s in the honors program. Already a senior by age sixteen, she was admitted to graduate school on a full scholarship to study biomedical research. Her first class was a summer seminar studying the effects of bioengineering on wheat grown in Afghanistan. The field trip was particularly exciting for Ashley; she got to see the desert in full bloom and she met her first real love.
Her parents were very liberal; she had received her first three-year contraceptive implant for her thirteenth birthday. Boys were always after her for dates. Even though she hadn’t really been interested she’d gone to her senior prom. Ashley found most of the boys in high school immature. She figured out that they were only after one thing and would do anything to get it. She didn’t think college men would be like that.
John Self was a graduate student helping the professor run the trip. Nice looking and smart, he was drawn to Ashley’s drive, intelligence and beauty. He did not know she was only seventeen, and she was interested in someone for the first time in her life. They talked about science, art, music, politics, religion, the world. Ashley was looking forward to a long relationship when they returned to MIT, thinking of maybe even moving in together when she turned eighteen. Her hopes were shattered during the plane ride home. Cuddled in his arms, she’d asked him what they were going to do when they got back.
“Baby, I have something I have to tell you. We are going to have to be careful when we get back to school.”
“Why on earth should we do that? I thought we had something special?”
John took her hand and looked deeply into her eyes. “You know I love you, don’t you?”
“Of course I do, you idiot. Do you think I would have spent all my waking hours with you? I love you, too.” Ashley said.
“I know you do, so it should be easy to continue to see each other once we get back home. It’s just that my wife wouldn’t understand.”
Ashley stared at John in shock. “We can see each other at school, share lunch and other things,” he said, squeezing her hand tightly, “and she will never find out as long as we are discreet. What do you think?”
John spent the rest of the flight putting ice on his left eye. Ashley cried until touchdown.
Devastated, Ashley threw herself into her school work and quit dating entirely. She’d gone right to work on her master’s degree and received a fellowship to complete work on her doctorate at John’s Hopkins. When she finished her doctorate, she thought briefly about what to do with her life, then the offer to do research on disease-resistant crops at a mid-sized, minority-run bioengineering firm came in. John’s Hopkins had already offered her an assistant professorship, but she wanted to work on methods designed to increase food production, not to teach undergraduate seminars and grade papers for some old professor. She took the research job.

Ashley started out of her reverie when the man reached out and took her hand. Ashley felt the callous left by the ring he’d struggled to get off. She kept the disgust off her face, but it took effort not to spit in his face. “Bob, I appreciate the drinks, but I have to get up early tomorrow. I have a big day at the lab, so I have to go now.” He leaned in for a kiss, but she stood up, patted him on the head and walked out, humming to herself.
The guard at the door to the bar held up his hand as Ashley tried to leave.
“Better to wait for a few minutes, sweetheart. The police haven’t cleared the street yet.”
Ashley winced and looked over her shoulder toward the bar. She really didn’t want to go back in there, but relaxed when she saw Bob had already set his sights on the redhead who’d been sitting three stools away. She sighed and asked, “So now what’s going on?”
“Big drug bust that went bad. The cops had a lead on a shipment coming in and set up a buy. The problem is that word got out and the Cartel had a counter-sting set up. The whole thing went bad when one of the rookie cops spotted a gun and drew his weapon. Six dead, five wounded, and a lot of coke lost. It’s a good thing we have bullet-proof glass and soundproofing, or we’d have lost a few customers tonight.”
He pointed out where a bullet had put a crack in the glass and then turned his head as a message came into his ear bug. “You can go, the coast is clear. Grab the first cab you can. There might be some druggies out there looking to pick off a pretty girl like you walking alone in the dark. You can’t be too careful.”
Ashley patted him on the cheek, and then motioned him close. ”I know D.C. is a bad place, so I have a contingency plan.” She looked to see if anyone was watching, then started unbuttoning her blouse. She grinned as his eyes lit up and said, “Don’t get excited, but get a load of this.” Ashley pulled her blouse open to expose the bullet proof vest she had on and then flashed the completely illegal hand gun in her bag.
“If anyone wants to try, they’re welcome to. I won’t give up easily,” she said.
The guard laughed. “I feel sorry for the poor drugged bastard that tries to mess with you.” He unlocked the door, bowed to Ashley and waved her into the night.
Ashley looked up as a lifter flew by. Steven Corvis revolutionized the flying car when he developed a computer program that coordinated the forward, downward and rearward looking radar with the newly designed turbofan technology developed by General Motors for military applications. Corvis famously designed the program in his backyard shed. He became a multi-millionaire when GM accepted his design and began producing military lifters. GM, on the edge of bankruptcy once again, soon transferred the design to civilian models and produced 300,000 vehicles for the GSA government fleet. Flying cars were becoming more common, but were still out of the price range of the average commuter.
As Ashley walked on in the cool night air, she felt rather than saw someone rushing at her from behind. She spun around, hand reaching for her pistol, and then stopped as the small woman slammed into her, engulfing Ashley in her arms.
Ashley returned the hug, and then pushed her friend away. “Amy, what the hell are you doing out here? Didn’t you hear the sirens?”
Amy Pace, a fellow scientist at the small company Ashley worked for, just laughed. She was obviously intoxicated.
“I just had some of the best loving you could imagine!” she exclaimed. “The guns were going off, the guy was scared but determined and I was really getting into it. Nothing feels better than cheating death and having sex at the same time!”
Ashley shook her head. That was the reason she and Amy did not go out together. The girl was way too wild for Ashley’s tastes.
Amy linked arms with Ashley and began to guide her down the street. “Let’s celebrate! I know a great tattoo parlor where we can go, sit back with some free drinks and get beautified.”
Ashley did not want to leave her drunken friend alone, especially in her condition, so she let Amy lead her to the parlor.
“Just one drink, Amy,” she said, “and no tattoo for me.”