by Terry L. Mirll
Frank Williamson is a man on the run. In possession of data stolen from the ultra-powerful Ouroboros Corporation, he must travel cross-country to meet his prospective buyer, Nutrisynth, which has offered him a fortune for successful delivery of the data. However, the stolen data is far more valuable than even he realizes.
Frank traverses a sere and barren landscape destroyed by mysterious Interdimensional Free Fall events, or IFFs. On his way, he must evade capture by the ruthless Dr. Richard Lohman, Security Director for Ouroboros. Frank’s prospects begin to improve after he picks up an odd hitchhiker, a four-thumbed, three-eyed, blue-skinned alien called Dippy.
The Old Man smiled gloriously at the heaping pile of gold plates atop his desk. “So, what’s the tally?”
Stevens checked his virtual notepad. “Nine hundred, fifty-seven point two-two kilos in all.”
“Excellent!” the Old Man said. “Excellent!”
“There’s one concern, sir.”
“Cost-effectiveness. However much a thousand kilos of gold can bring on the precious metals market, the machine that produced it was appallingly expensive, and we had to destroy it. So, at present, we’ve lost money.”
“Obviously, then, we build a new prototype. Leave out Shmeat and concentrate our efforts on the deuterium beam. But we modify the apparatus to allow access to the plates once they’ve been converted. Then, once we run off a nice batch of gold, we install more lead and start over. Should be simple, now that we know our real objective.”
“If I may ask, sir, is it your intention to set the Shmeat R&D aside? It still has the potential to be enormously profitable, not to mention its potential for feeding billions.”
“Actually, I want to expand it. We can use the Shmeat program as a cover while we bring the new operation on line. That should leave you with full access to resources without drawing too much attention. Take the lead, Stevens. I want our best and brightest on this, people we can trust absolutely. And I want daily reports, directly to me.”
There was a lull. The Old Man stared at Stevens expectantly. “You’re still here?”
“I’m on it, sir,” Stevens replied and swiftly exited.
The Old Man activated his communicator. “Lohman, where are you?”
The 3-D image of Lohman effervesced into view. “Aboard transport, about to set down in Albuquerque.”
“And what, in God’s name, are you doing in Albuquerque?”
“I have reliable evidence that Flemel passed this way only a few hours ago. Less than a day, I’m sure of it.”
“From various sources. I confiscated the records of one Solomon Goldstein, a local counterfeiter who forged a profile chip for Flemel under the name Franklin Williamson. The Department of Motor Vehicles confirmed leasing a scooter to Williamson, who matched Flemel’s description.
“Later, the scooter was wrecked on the fare some hundred kilometers east of Albuquerque. Somehow, Flemel survived and was hospitalized. I’m en route there. Barring any unforeseen difficulties, I’ll have him for you today.”
“Very good, Lohman. Keep me posted.”
Aboard his corporate transport, Lohman disengaged the comvid. Three Grunts sat across from him, silent and unmoving.
“Beta and Gamma,” Lohman said, “as soon as we touch down, I want you to run a 360-degree sweep of the area. In all likelihood, Miss Evans is still aboard the transport she commandeered from Ouroboros. If she is, the vehicle is running in stealth mode, so look for signs of ion discharge, vapor trails, anything external indicating operation of one of our transports.
“Once you’ve found it, I want it brought down. Destroy its engines. But I want Miss Evans unharmed. I repeat: Do not kill her, either intentionally or accidentally.”
Neither Beta nor Gamma gave any indication that Lohman’s instructions had been received. The Grunts sat inert and joyless.
“Delta,” Lohman said, “you come with me. Your job is to find Flemel. Detain him and retrieve our property. Once that objective is achieved, I want you to dispatch him. Be thorough. Leave no trace that the man ever existed. If necessary, kill any eyewitnesses.”
Touching down, the transport opened its side doors, and the trio of Grunts followed their master onto the hospital’s landing pad. Immediately, Beta and Gamma rose into the air and began to circle one another in an ever-widening spiral. Then they paused, facing north, and shot off at high speed toward the horizon.
Lohman, reaching the hospital’s main door, turned to Delta. “Wait here,” he ordered.
Copyright © 2015 by Terry L. Mirll