From behind the counter, Harry slides an empty cup towards Rob. “Morning. Scrambled eggs with bacon and toast?”

Rob nods. “And hash browns please.”

The waitress pours steaming black coffee into the cup. “You hardly ever have that.”

“Need the energy to work on that new picket fence of yours, right?” says Harry as he grabs the bowl of egg and cream mixture from the fridge underneath the bench.

Rob smiles and glances at the television in the corner. It’s showing the news as usual, something about some president reminding everyone that his country still got plenty of nukes.

Harry shakes his head. “Crazy bastard.” He ladles the egg mixture into the pan. It hisses. “Hey, doesn’t your grandson have a test today or something? He doing well?”

“Yeah, they have one every week,” answers Rob as he lifts his coffee towards his lips. “Still, I think it was harder for us back then.”

Tommy’s average grade is a C+. It’s not entirely his fault; after all, it’s a team effort. But still, that doesn’t make him feel any better about his grades. In any case, he needs to do better today.

Taking a deep breath, he gently taps the touchscreen in front of him. He’s gone through this drill hundreds of times before. He understands the calculations and how to check them. He knows the answers. And so does everyone else around him. Mostly.

A curve stretches across his monitor: an exponential function. One by one, he selects what he knows to be the correct options for the problem at hand. Math, physics, geography … all that studying wasn’t a complete waste.

The bell rings and a deep voice booms from behind them. “Stop!”

Tommy takes his hands off the screen and keyboard, then glances at the digital clock on the wall: 00:00:58. He sighs.

“At least we shaved twenty seconds off our previous times,” says the guy seated next to Tommy.

It’s just one test but at least his grades will start to improve. Perhaps Grandpa will be proud.

Out on his front lawn, Rob uses a screwdriver to pry off the lid from the can of paint as his wife Grace prunes the roses. When he picks up the brush, there is a soft flash in the distance. He spots this despite the relative brightness of the morning and his aging eyes.

Squinting, he sees a dozen glowing blue beams shooting up from the fields outside of town. He smirks.

“Another successful drill,” he mutters to himself.

“What was that, darling?” asks Grace without even looking at her husband.

“Nothing,” answers Rob. “Just that our Tommy and his friends ran another launch drill.”

Grace momentarily glances at the lasers spearing the skies, simulating missile launches, then turns her attention back to her red roses. She has seen the light show hundreds of times before. (It’s more impressive at night anyway.) “You think he did alright?” she asks.

“For his sake, I hope so.”

Grace raises an eyebrow. “Don’t you mean for this country’s sake?”

Rob dips the brush into the thick white paint. “If it was a real launch, it wouldn’t matter anyway. We’d all be in trouble. In the meantime, he may as well get good grades, as he should.”

He’s about to bring the brush down onto the first post of their new picket fence when he notices Grace still eyeing him. Rob shrugs. “Until this place vaporizes and becomes a crater of glass, I’m still gonna finish this fence.”