It took five grueling years to complete, but Bill finally got it done.
Not a moment too soon, either. Sam Houston V, his employer, was an impatient man. As CEO of Waypoint Systems, a large Texas defense contractor, Sam was a man of action, and got his way. When he didn't, it got ugly - southern ugly.
Bill wasn’t sure why, but he knew this project was personal for Mr. Houston. He overheard him say that he had been waiting for this his whole life. He had probably spent half his fortune on it.
“Is it ready?” Mr. Houston asked, bursting through the office door one hot day in early July. He wore a fine southern style suit; grey, his favorite color. His face was bright like the sun outside. “When can I see it?”
Bill parted his white lab coat, and smiled broadly. "First things first," he said. He reached under his desk and removed an old confederate carbine. For a Civil War weapon over 150 years old, it was certifiably pristine.
Mr. Houston took the weapon, and weighed it in his hands. For a moment, he couldn't speak. He blinked meaningfully as he caressed the stock, and then the barrel. “You really did it, Bill. You can’t find these anywhere. Believe me, I’ve looked.”
Bill nodded, and then swallowed hard. “Now, sir, if you’ll please remember our arrangement,” he said lifting a shy finger. “You promised to disclose your intentions before putting it to use. This kind of machinery can’t be taken lightly.”
Mr. Houston lifted his gaze from the rifle, and stood a little taller. The spell was broken. “You do realize I just flew back from Washington, don’t you, Bill?” he said. "First flight." He set the carbine gently on the desk. "I mean, I hate those stiffs just like the next man. Don't know come here from sick'em. But I just left the White House early, Bill. Do you understand me? The President. And you are going to bother me with “why?”
“I apologize, sir,” Bill said. “It’s just—”
“Apology accepted,” Mr. Huston said. “Now show me what I’ve spent billions on.”
Bill lifted his finger again, though not quite as high this time. “Still sir, you gave your word, and I know around these parts -”
“Don’t you tell me what my word means,” he said, as he rubbed his lapel pin, a golden, lone star, between his fingers.
“Yes sir, I know, but—”
Bill led him passed a thick, brushed metal door, and into a dark corridor lighted only by the blinking colors of keypads, control panels, and monitors. Finally, they arrived at another heavy door situated alongside a large viewing glass.
Mr. Houston’s mouth gaped open. “So, that’s it?” he said.
“Don’t make it sound so simple,” Bill said. “That's the result of years of research. We only employed top talent and --”
“Did you load it up like I instructed?” Mr. Houston asked as he keyed in the pass-code, his great, great granddaddy’s birth date. The heavy door clicked blatantly, and its echo shot through the corridor like a bullet through the barrel of a carbine. Then, the door gasped open and sighed.
“Yes, sir,” Bill said, “but that's precisely why I need your assurance—”
“I’m an old fashioned man, Bill,” Mr. Houston said as he lifted the hatch and took his place in the machine next to an ample supply of his company’s modern weaponry. “I believe in two things, family, and the right to bear arms.”
Bill shook his head. “Where will you go?”
“Back to the war, of course,” Mr. Houston said.
“War?” Sam asked, "Which war?
“The only one that mattered,” he said as he rubbed his fingers on the lone star.