CHAPTER TWO

"They're working out quite well, aren't they?"

General Stockwell sat at his desk, continued to write without answering. Carla sighed. After all these years, she should be used to this cold contempt with which Stockwell treated everyone around him. She knew he would answer her; he would just take his own time to do it.

He signed his name with a determined slash, tossed down the pen, leaned back in his chair.

"Yes, they seem to be. I was concerned at first, after Peck, but they're well-trained soldiers. They'll follow orders. In their own fashion, of course, but they will follow them. That's what matters, in the end."

"Sir, about Peck..."

"That's a closed subject now, Carla. He's out of our hands."

Carla sighed again. "Not technically, sir. I should be kept up to date. I can't do my job if I'm not privy to all the information. Eventually..."

" 'Eventually' is not a certainty, Carla. We don't know what's going to happen. Neither do they. That," he stated almost condescendingly, "is why it's called an experiment."

"I still think they should have used Santana. He wasn't even a member of the team."

"They didn't use Santana because we needed him. He knows explosives. We kept the ones that were necessary. The only one who was superfluous for our requirements was Peck. And he happened to be exactly what they were looking for. The decision was obvious. And now," he pointed out, "Santana is a member of the team."

"Yessir. Will I get the updates?" Carla was subordinate only to a point. She had a job to do.

It was Stockwell's turn to sigh. "Very well, Carla. On the off chance he's useful to us in the future, I'll make sure you are kept in the loop. Satisfied?"

"Yessir. Quite." Carla moved out of the office, a small smile on her face.


*****

It stayed cold that day. Neither he nor Sam had really warm jackets. They'd gone to the Church "closet", as they called it, but nothing there yet. The woman working there said donations weren't coming in yet. Another week. Closer to Thanksgiving. That's when donations really took off.

They wandered around for a bit. Randy wanted to go to Loring Park. It probably wasn't the greatest place for two straight men to walk around together, but Randy didn't care. It was a nice park. It was the farthest place from the VA they usually went. Just over two hours to walk there, which wasn't bad considering all the side trips they usually made on the way. Sam kept telling Randy he needed to focus more on what he was doing, not 'gallivant around' so much. Randy just laughed. What fun was taking a walk if you couldn't check out everything along the way?

Sam had been quiet most of the day. That wasn't like him. Finally Randy asked him about it.

"Randy, we can't stay here any more. It's getting too cold. If we stay, it'll mean using the shelters every night, if there's room. If there isn't room..." Sam shivered just thinking about it. "We have to move further south, or west."

Randy stared at Sam, open-mouthed. "Move? But Sam, I just got my house all set up. And we were gonna find you a new one, too, remember? We'd be real neighbors then. Like real people. And it'll be snowing soon, Sam. We gotta see the snow!"

Sam sighed. He knew Randy didn't cope well with change. Moving out of the VA, then out of that half-way house - both had shaken Randy badly. One reason Sam made sure he kept taking those pills. He didn't like it, but he knew it was the only thing holding the man together now. And things had been working out. Sam had left it to Randy to decide what they should do after leaving the half-way house. It hadn't been the greatest decision, but Randy had coped. He'd adapted. That's what mattered.

Sam had known they would have to leave Minneapolis soon, but the cold had moved in earlier than expected. He really hadn't had the chance to prepare Randy properly for this next move. It was going to be difficult now. Randy had put down roots, such as they were. That was important to him. But Sam couldn't in all good conscience stay here with him. The shelters were always overcrowded when the cold weather set in. Sometimes there wasn't enough room for everyone, period. And then they'd start finding frozen bodies in the mornings. There was just no way Sam would take that kind of chance with Randy. He was too important.

"We can't wait for the snow to come, Randy. We've talked about this before, remember?" They hadn't, but Randy would now think they had. He wouldn't want to admit to forgetting it. It wasn't nice, but it made things easier. That was the secret to dealing with Randy. Knowing how to con him into doing things he didn't want to do.

He watched Randy as he tried to remember this so-called conversation. Sometimes Sam felt badly, lying to him. But he had to. He had to keep him safe. He had to teach him. So many things Randy had to learn if he was going to survive. Without Sam, Randy would never make it. And Randy had to make it. Sam didn't dare fail.