Post new topic    Reply to topic

Jim the old guy
Post subject: Overseer - chapters 17 (partial) and 18 (partial)
Post Posted: Nov 29, 2006 7:30 pm
Offline
Joined: May 31, 2005 10:36 am
Posts: 2927

Every step is an extra effort. Every movement is an extra pain. Every second brings me closer to death. Every breath is a labor of life. And if that’s not bad enough, I now see two IRS booths. Great! Can this get worse?
When I enter the booth, I sit in a chair that is bolted to the floor. That’s a bad omen. Maybe things get threatening while people are trying to remove implants. Whatever the case, I need to get this thing turned on and remove the implant. I pull the VR helmet over my head and adjust the strap to secure it tightly. This particular unit is voice activated, so, without further pause, I say, “Begin program.” A swirling pattern starts to form on the VR display in my helmet. As the pattern continues to gyrate, it forms into a familiar shape: my brain. The 3D display in the VR helmet is awesome. I only wish I had more time to appreciate its intricacies. But I don’t. I need to get moving if I want to survive this drawn out ordeal.
Nervous and shaken, I reach for the twin hand controls. They’re similar to joysticks we used on computer and game consoles when I was a kid. There were several directional buttons that could be used to move the kamikaze neutralizer to its final destination. Also, by moving the controls themselves, I’m able to view my brain from any angle; top, bottom, side to side, any angle. This would be fun if my life wasn’t on the line.
A display in the bottom right corner appears. The word ‘start’ comes into focus. So, using my controls, I move the yellow arrow and center it on the ‘start’ button and click once. I take a deep breath and let it out slowly. With my life hanging in the balance, I’m not entirely sure of my next move. However, I really don’t have a choice.
After pressing ‘start’, a multitude of red blood vessels appear on the VR screen. Seconds later a green dot becomes visible. That is the P333 implant, if I’m not mistaken. It’s buried deep in my brain and is surrounded by thousands of curling pig tailed blood vessels. This is not going to be easy. But, at least I’ve still got about two more hours. Then, a miniature syringe emerges from nowhere and stations itself on the outer edges of the brain. I deduce its purpose instantly. It contains the N216 kamikaze implant and I need to use it to enter a blood vessel and work my way to the green dot to neutralize it. Easy as falling down, which I may do before this is over.
However, as I enter a blood vessel, a timer pops up in the upper left hand corner. It’s set for five minutes and begins its downward count as I maneuver the mini syringe inside the blood vessel. My heart skips a beat. I only have five minutes to navigate the kamikaze agent to its target. If I don’t make it, I die. Working the controls feverishly, I make numerous attempts to reach the green dot. Each time, though, the blood vessel stops at a dead end. I enter and reenter blood vessels as I watch the timer tick down to three minutes. Sweat is forming on my brow and trickles into my eyes. I don’t dare remove the VR helmet, knowing that would immediately terminate the program and most probably my life.
Once the timer hit the two minute mark, I notice several blue dots emerge from the P333 implant. They seem to be racing in all directions, haphazardly trying to locate the neutralizer. A computerized voice sounds in the VR helmet’s earphones. “Warning! Counter-neutralizing agents in seek and destroy mode. Encountering these agents will drastically reduced the kamikaze implant’s power. Three encounters and the neutralizer implant will be nullified. Have a nice day.” You can take your nice day and put it where the sun don’t shine, lady. God, I hate those voices!
There’s another strike against my efforts. Unconsciousness is creeping up on me like the affect of a blue krait’s bite. I need to force myself to concentrate on the task at hand. Time is running out; neutralizer agents are seeking to destroy my N216 implant; and I can’t find the right blood vessel to maneuver the syringe to the P333 implant. There are literally thousands of them and it would take hours to find the right one. I enter a blood vessel, end up at a dead end being chased by the neutralizers, and run like hell to get back out to safety. Except, safety is temporary! I have to get back into the brain and try again and again. If I give up, I die. It’s that simple.
One minute left and I have already encountered two agents. My power has been dramatically reduced. The syringe is moving slower than molasses in January. The throbbing pain in my head is heightening. It’s getting difficult to breathe. My eyes are playing tricks on me. I see two brains, each in 3D. Two more agents appear from the P333 implant. At least I think there’s two, difficult to assess the circumstances with a proper degree of intelligence. The situation is bleak; downright impossible. Pain, disillusionment and despair are now in control of my thought processes. If I just sit back and relax, I may be able to die peacefully. Death is sleep and I haven’t had a good night’s sleep since I took this damn case. It would be a welcome relief.
My hands slip off the controls and fall to my sides. I close my eyes and think of paradise. My life flashes before my eyes and I’m sated. At age 33, I’ve lived longer than some less fortunate souls. Although not accomplishing all I’ve set out to do, I’ve done enough to feel at least marginally placated. The pain seems to be fading, like my life. A warm, serene calmness washes over me and fills me with euphoria. I finally feel at peace for the first time in my life. Death is a welcome change.
I see mom and dad along with my two brothers and one sister sitting in the family room. They’re watching “Land Before Time XXIV: Little Foot Finally Becomes Big Foot.” Well, it’s about time. Popcorn bowls fill each lap. Pop bottles sit atop corkboard coasters filled with water dripping from the ice cold bottles. The lights are dimmed for greater affect. I’ll be joining them soon.
“Thirty seconds remaining. Have a nice day.” That despicable voice of Jezebel rouses me from my utopian state. Damn! I’m gonna get that broad. The pain is back, my hands and butt are asleep, and sweat is pouring into my eyes. I get angry with all that has happened. I get angry at the implant in my head. I get angry with the computerized voice. I get angry that my life is going to be cut short. “Aaaarrrggghhhh!” I yell at the top of my lungs in an arduous effort to release pent up emotions. My mind begins to clear. I remember that I am a Murphy and Murphys never give up.
I bolt to an upright sitting position. I will my hands to re-grasp the controls. I shake my head to clear the sweat out of my eyes. When one gets down to his last chance, he needs to get angry and get mean. And that’s the way I feel right now. I’m gonna beat this thing whether it’s possible or not. I’m an active participant, not a passive observer.
“Twenty seconds remaining. Have a nice day.” Yadda, yadda, yadda. Quickly scanning the display, I come to the realization that, as Sherlock Holmes once said, ‘when you have eliminated the obvious, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.’ Well, if I cannot find a way to the P333 implant from the outside, I’ll simply find the way out from the inside.
“Ten seconds remaining. Have a nice day.” When I’m done, I’m gonna put my foot through the main computer control. In the meantime, I start at the implant and trace the path outward.
“Nine seconds remaining.” Well, at least she didn’t say ‘have a nice day.’ I find the blood vessel I need to enter and do so post haste.
“Eight seconds remaining.” I start to navigate towards the implant when three neutralizing agents appear on the far horizon.
“Seven seconds remaining.” I move the kamikaze implant through the curves and esses and right and left turns; down long pathways; over hill and dale, so to speak.
“Six seconds remaining.” The neutralizers force me off the path momentarily.
“Five seconds remaining.” I dodge two of the agents and find my way back to the main pathway to the P333 implant.
“Four seconds remaining.” My hands are shaking, my brain is breaking, darkness is nearing and my implant is veering - away from the agents, that is.
“Three seconds remaining.” I’m not going to make it. I gave it my best shot. If only I had come to this realization a few seconds earlier.
“Two seconds remaining.” I thrust the controls forward with all my might. My mind, despite the raging pain and the oncoming unconsciousness, is willing the kamikaze implant to its intended target, a neutralizer hot on its tail.
“One second remaining.” I’m almost there. An agent is gaining rapidly. It’s about to overtake my implant. I’m almost there. Almost.......

Larry Hammond chose NEXUS as a hiding spot after he became aware of Greg Call’s murder. The phone calls to Murphy were made from the office here. He had baited Murphy with tidbits of data as it became necessary. Although, Hammond was very impressed with Murphy’s deductive abilities. He would have found out about NEXUS sooner or later. However, if Murphy had fallen prey to the informant’s thugs and he had been injected with a time-release implant, then he was on a collision course with death. Hammond could not take the chance on that happening. Therefore, he called Murphy and told him of Call’s autopsy. Murphy acted quickly and now he was here.
Larry watched as Murphy landed his speeder a few feet from the door. Not knowing the code would make it nearly impossible to enter the facility, so Larry, after entering the code and pressing ‘enter’, reentered the code so that Murphy merely had to press the flashing ‘enter’ button; which is exactly what Murphy had done. He then entered the building and stepped into the implant scanning booth. It was just a matter of time before Murphy found the lab and all the items necessary to neutralize the P333 implant.
While watching Murphy via several covert cameras, he was able to use the 16 camera DVR to zoom in each camera as needed to follow Murphy’s steps closely. The giant 48” screen allowed him the privilege of an ‘up close and personal’ view of the rookie detective. Using a remote control, he merely pushed one of 16 buttons to switch from camera to camera. Then he would press ‘zoom’ and zero in on the smallest of details in Murphy’s search. All the cameras were hidden within the sprinkler heads on the ceiling. Each had a zoom lens and could rotate 360 degrees. Hammond was having fun playing with the remote until he watched Murphy enter the IRS booth. Then he knew time was short.
The one thing Larry Hammond did not want was the onus of saving the world. It was too much for him to carry. When he timed Murphy’s entry into the booth and the subsequent duration, he started to panic. Murphy had been in there the full five minutes. Maybe he would have no choice but to accept the weight of the world on his slumping shoulders. He bowed his head, postulating on the future. Murphy was dead; they were all dead, except for the one man who appeared to be the rat. And Larry Hammond could never stand up to John Klaus. Greg Call was infinitely more intelligent than Hammond and yet he fell prey to Klaus’ wiles. No, the burden was overwhelming and he simply could not persevere. The world would soon be in the control of a madman and his cronies. And Larry Hammond would be eliminated all too soon. So be it.
One last matter to attend to: the burial of Murphy’s body. It was the least Hammond could do. So, he left Call’s small, yet efficient office and made his way to the lab. His heart sagged at the sight of the prone and lifeless body of the once agile detective. As he reached down to grab Murphy by the under arms, he saw a finger bend ever so slightly. His heart leapt! Bending down, he placed an ear to Murphy’s chest. A heart beat, faint, yet steady. Not having any medical training, he simply hoped that Murphy would come around. However, he did run to the Men’s room and wet a few paper towels with cold water. Removing the VR helmet and placing the towels strategically on Murphy’s forehead and neck, it seemed to have the desired affect. Murphy was nearly conscious within a matter of minutes.
Murphy tried to raise his head, but only moved it about two inches. He grimaced in pain and discomfort. Then he tried to raise his right arm. He was moderately successful when Larry took over.

“Easy there, Mr. Murphy. You’re recovering from a near fatal brush with virtual death.” His voice was grave, but caring.
“Wha....what happened?” It was all he could do to whisper those few words.
“You went into the IRS booth and, well, uh, I thought you were dead.”
“No, I just feel that way,” and Larry smiled.
“You fell out of the booth and onto the floor. I was about to take you outside and bury you. That’s when I saw you move.”
“That was a nice thought.” Tex’ voice was gaining strength, but still very weak. By now he was partially upright, almost to a sitting position. Hammond had turned him so that Murphy’s back was against the wall for support.
By now Tex had realized the throbbing pain was gone. So was the nausea and light headedness. Apparently his attempt to remove the implant was successful. As his eyes began to focus more clearly, he was able to make out the facial lines of his mysterious ‘friend.’ He also recognized the voice. Good! Maybe now I can get some answers.
“You’re Larry Hammond, aren’t you?” Tex asked with a mild squeak in his throat.
“Yeah! How’d you guess?” Larry was pleasantly surprised at Murphy’s conclusion.
“It’s a long story. Thanks for helping, both now and over the last three days.” A few moments later and Larry helped Tex to a chair. It had been days since Tex felt this good and he was ecstatic.
“There. How’s that?”
“Better, much better. That was a close call. I thought I was a goner.”
“Yeah, me too.” Larry looked relieved and Tex wasn’t sure why. Great. Another question.
“Say, listen, can you tell me what’s going on here?”
“Sure. First, I’m sorry for not telling you my name the other day. I have some serious trust issues going on. With all that’s happened, I’ve got a right to be a little paranoid.”
“Yeah, I guess you do. By the way, you haven’t been using the code name ‘Poisoned Pawn’ have you?” Hammond seems to fit the bill.
Looking confused, Larry replied, “No. Why?” So much for fitting the bill. Am I ever going to find out the identity of the PP?
“It’s not important. How’d you get here?”
“Greg Call gave me the directions. He told me this would be a good hiding place if I needed one. After arriving and calling you with my last tip, I watched you land and enter the building. Also, I saw you inject yourself with the neutralizer implant. That took guts. Then you went into the booth. I prayed that you would come out alive.”
“You could have helped me, ya know.” An unintentional smirk crossed my lips.
“Well, maybe. But I needed to see just how good you really are. My suspicions were correct. Also, I needed to know if I could trust you. You see, I have a very strong sense of self-preservation. I even brush my teeth carefully.” He forced a grin to display his pearly whites. Gee, I think the light caused a sparkle to flash my way. Just like in the commercials.
“Well it’s too late to debate the trust issue. And your teeth look great.”
“Thanks!”
“Listen, Larry, I have several holes in my investigation that need to be plugged. So, why don’t you start at the beginning and tell me everything you know. Tell me about Carl Linsky.” He shifts uncomfortably, like a little kid who’s playing outside and realizes he has to go pee.
“Well, Linsky and I both worked on STG. But I didn’t know him back then. I recog-
nized his picture in the paper from when he had his suicide.” I shake my head. People don’t have suicides, they commit suicide. It’s not like having a baby. Sheesh!
“Well that’s helpful. How about STG?” Larry casts his eyes downward and walks away from me. His involvement with STG has been unpleasant, to say the least. I can sympathize with him. My investigation has given me cause for disconsolation as well.
“It was really a mysterious operation. When Greg brought me in to do some program-
ming, I didn’t know anybody on the design team and we weren’t encouraged to get to know each other either.” I’m standing now, feeling much healthier. Larry continues, “Once we got our instructions, we went off to work in different places. None of us knew what each other was working on.”
“So, who was in charge of this enigmatic circus?” In all honesty, I bet he says Gideon.
“Greg had been there the longest. He was pretty much running the show.” That’s why I don’t gamble. Betting is not my forte.
“So, is he this Overlord I’ve been hearing so much about?”
“Oh, no. There had to have been more higher ups.” Bet’s on again. “I knew Greg for a long time. We were in Mutant League together.” That seemed to perk him up a bit. However, it does little for my case.
“Just so I understand something here, the reason you got in contact with me is because you wanted me to find Call’s lab, right?” Larry nods. “Why?”
“Well, early on in the program, Greg got really paranoid and relocated his base of operations. No one knew where it was at. I didn’t even see him until after I finished my work with STG.” His eyes roam off to the side and his countenance changes to a frown. Something painful just filled his mind. Could it be Call’s murder? I’d bet on that.
“A couple of weeks ago,” he continues, “after all the mysterious deaths, I decided to go underground and get a read on my life expectancy. Well, see, I was underground when Greg found me, which didn’t give me a great sense of well-being. Anyway, he said he needed my help.”
“To do what?”
“He wanted to find the passcards we’d all been issued. You see, all eight of us received those cards at the beginning of the project. They were used to transmit data from wherever we were working to some sort of central computer. Now, the whereabouts of that computer, that was top secret.”
My mind begins to hum again, only this time it’s not the P333 implant. Larry said there were eight passcards which means eight members on the STG team. According to Slade’s hit list, seven of those people were card carriers. The only exceptions were Sylvia, Gideon and myself. So, who’s the eighth card holder? It has to be John Klaus. His name keeps popping up like a bad habit. More like unsightly acne. And what about this central computer? Overlord has been referred to as an ‘it’, not a ‘him’. Could this super computer be Overlord? If so, who is the Overseer? Gideon? I don’t think so. Someone considered me a threat and attempted to eradicate my life via a deadly implant. I don’t believe Gideon is capable of that heinous act. Then again, if he is the creator of the STG project, which includes the notion of placing implants into everyone to control them, he could well be capable of committing murder to protect and institute the Overlord process. If so, he is definitely insane, despite his outward comportment. That very notion disturbs me. I’ve grown fond of Mr. Gideon and would hate to see anything happen to him. That still leaves John Klaus. He must be the Overseer. But, could he also be the Poisoned Pawn? Can he be the usurper and the sacrificial lamb? Doesn’t seem plausible, but time will tell.
This recollection has conjured up another question I need to ask Hammond. “Well, what about the chess moves?” The way they keep popping up, they have to be significant.
“Oh, I don’t know anything about those. I think they were Greg’s idea. He designed the cards.”
“And you’ve got one of the cards.” He has to in order for my deductions to be accurate.
“Yeah,” and he hands it over after withdrawing it from his sock. I take it timidly, hoping he’s as careful about washing his feet as he is about brushing his teeth. “You take it. Just holding it next to my skin gives me the hives.”
“No, it’s that polyester.”
“Really?” He looks down at his pants and pulls them away from his skin. I guess I shouldn’t take advantage of his gullibility, but it’s just my nature. Old style PIs are fundamentally smart-alecs. Conversely, Larry is a likable fellow. He put his life on the line to help me solve this case. Now, if only I can finish it.
“Look, Larry, you told me that if I came here, I would get all the answers to all my questions.”
“I said that? No, I...I was just guessing. But I do have something that might help. Greg gave me this the last time I saw him. Now, he said don’t open it unless something happened to him. Since he’s dead, I think something has happened to him.” Brilliant, but forthright. He proceeds to hand me an envelope that was folded and stored in his back pant pocket. I espy it judiciously.
“What are we supposed to do with it?” I ask, kind of hoping he’ll stick around to assist me.
“What are we supposed to do with it? Uh uh. It’s your problem now. I told you everything I know, I gave you a passcard, and I gave you what Greg gave me. I’m outta here. I’m gonna go somewhere and try not to get killed. Hasta la pasta, baby!” With that rousing conclusion, he spun around and made tracks to the double steel doors. A slight chortle escapes my lips as I watch him leave. Polyester pants, wool sweater, button down shirt, and sneakers ratted and torn. What a sight. Yet, I feel a kindred spirit to a guy like Larry Hammond. Anyone who goes out on a limb for others is okay in my book.
“Hey, Larry!” He stops dead and turns to face me. “Thanks for the help,” I add sincerely.
He smiles and says, “Anytime.” And that was that. I hope he’s going to be alright. With a madman like Slade on your trail, you better be quick and you better be alert. Unless I’m grossly mistaken, Slade’s responsible for at least five lives, maybe more. And that’s just in this case alone, not to mention his worldwide executions. Some day, Slade, you and I will meet. It’s inevitable; it’s our destiny. Win, lose, or draw, I’m looking forward to that time. And you better be ready.

Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2037 A.D.
Late afternoon

Larry Hammond lands his rusted, dented and sputtering speeder in the alley behind his apartment building. He climbs the fire escape of the dilapidated establishment to the third floor. This was his fourth place of residence in the last month. Moving wasn’t fun, but it was essential to continued life. Crawling through the partially opened window, he lands in a dark hallway. God only knows when the light bulbs burned out, but one thing’s for sure, they have never been replaced. Nonetheless, he makes his way to number 303. With the usual degree of difficulty, he finally gets the key into the lock. He thinks he should have sprayed some WD70 on the key so it would slide in easier. Then again, it probably wouldn’t matter since the lock gave him the same degree of difficulty. After several tries, the stubborn lock twists its way out of the jamb, allowing Larry entry.
He flips the light switch to ‘on’ and starts to skitter around the two room dwelling in a concerted effort to gather what few belongings he had and stuff them into the faded and frayed Goliath-nite suitcase. Papers, two sets of underwear, four pairs of socks, two shirts and matching pants (matching in the eyes of Larry Hammond, not according to Dior), his personal copy of the King James Bible (complete with dog-eared pages and red, yellow and green highlighted verses), and a revolver, a present from his old friend Greg Call. Greg himself loathed the firearm, considering it the bane of society, along with drugs and alcohol. However, he convinced Larry that it could save his life, so Larry took it just to make Greg happy. He stood upright and reflected on the loss of his friend. Who would perpetrate such an atrocious crime? If the coveter merely wanted the passcards, why didn’t he just ask for them? Maybe he did. Maybe Greg realized how important they were and refused to hand his over. Was I right in giving my card to Murphy? He thought for a moment and nodded inwardly. Yes, it was the smart move. Besides, this is no time for second guessing. It was time to high tail out of this dump and head for a more secure haven. His brother lived in Billings, Montana. He had contacted him earlier via the ethernet and made arrangements to move in immediately. He and his brother weren’t close, but they weren’t rivals either. As long as they minded their own business, they would get along fine.
He returned his attention to his packing. Although a master computer programmer, he had little in the way of common sense. He could tell that something was missing as he took inventory of the items in the suitcase as it lay open on the insect infested-poor-excuse for a bed. Hmmm. Papers, clothes, gun, Bible, aha! My personal cosmetics. How could I forget my toothpaste and toothbrush? He felt his greatest treasure were his sparkling white teeth. He turned to head for the second of the two room apartment - the bathroom - when he noticed a movement from the corner of his eye. His heart skipped a beat. His blood ran cold. A chill shot through his spine. No, it wasn’t an insect or a rat or any other type of critter. It was a man.
As he faced the intruder, Slade stared him down. A thin smile upon his lips and in a self-assuming posture, he moved slowly from the bathroom towards Larry Hammond. His hands were in his coat pockets and unknown to Larry, they each held a pistol. One had six rounds in it, the other had one round in its chamber. Slade was going to enjoy this, but first, he decided to retrieve Hammond’s passcard. True, Klaus told him that it wouldn’t be necessary. But Slade felt that if at least one passcard were in his possession, he would have a bargaining chip for future benefits.
“You must be Larry Hammond. I’ve been looking forward to our meeting. I have something for you,” and Slade removed the gun with six bullets from his pocket. He didn’t have to aim it at any particular body part. His accuracy from this distance was exceptional and true. He just stood there, smiling an evil smile.
“Wha...what d..do you wa..want?” Larry was on the verge of wetting his pants. Who wouldn’t? His fears had caught up with him. So did his personal nightmare. He began to have regrets for coming back to collect his meager personal effects. They weren’t valuable. He could replace them easily with the money he had been paid for the STG project. Why didn’t he just go directly to his brother’s place? Terror was creeping in; fear shown on his face; anxiety filled his eyes. He was on the threshold of a nervous break-
down. And Slade was drinking it in like a plant that absorbs the sun’s rays.
“I’m glad you asked that question, Larry. I’ll give you a hint: it’s small, flat and green. About, let’s see, the size of a credit card.” He had been smiling, but now the smile paled into a sneer. “I want your STG passcard and I won’t take no for an answer.”
This caused Larry even greater concern. Maybe it wasn’t the smart thing to do to have given the card to Murphy. He should have kept it. ‘Why? Why didn’t I keep it?’ And then it came to him. The gun. It’s in the suitcase. It’s my only chance. As these thoughts raced through his mind, he devised a plan to beguile his oppressor. It was a slim chance, but the element of surprise was in his favor. That’s what they hope for in the movies, so why not expect that in real life? But this wasn’t Hollywood; this wasn’t the movies; this was the real deal. And Slade was holding all the aces.
“Uh, yeah, my, uh, passcard. I got it right here, in my, uh, suitcase. I’ll get it for you.” Larry turned slowly, not desiring Slade to get suspicious and shoot him before he could grab the gun.
On the other hand, Slade had seen Larry stash the gun into the tattered suitcase. And, being ‘The Mind, The Body, The Man’, he had anticipated this move. Slade sighed as he watched Hammond turn towards the suitcase. He had hoped he could eliminate this piece of mutated slime by using his desired method of execution: Forced Russian Roulette. But it was not to be. As usual, this assignment presented another bizarre twist. Disgusted, he allowed Larry to get the gun. Slade figured he would amuse himself by seeing how close he would come to death by allowing the mutant to turn and fire.
Larry fumbled through the suitcase pretending to locate the card. What he was really doing is buying some time. Death was knocking on the door and he didn’t want to answer. Finally he decided to go out blasting. He got angry, then mean. He grabbed the gun, growled out loud and spun on his heels. The gun was in his left hand as he turned. With a vicious yell, he fired at Slade. The bullet creased the sleeve of his overcoat. Larry was stunned. He shot the hitman! He did it! He began to break out into a hysterical laugh as he stood there like a statue.
Slade, meanwhile, glanced down at his expensive coat. Once perfect, it now had a tear and a burn mark from the bullet fired by Hammond. Now Slade was furious. He shouted in return, startling Larry back to reality. Before Larry could squeeze off another round, Slade pumped six shots into the chest and stomach of his prey. Blood squirted everywhere. Pieces of flesh splattered on the walls. And Larry’s compact, small framed body fell to the floor with a thud.
Larry Hammond, STG project worker, friend of Greg Call, assistant to Tex Murphy, innocent regarding the wiles of a woman, and just a plain, all around good natured and kindly human, was dead. He would not be remembered, he would not be missed. Most loners never experience the warmth and solace that is felt by the so-called ‘beautiful people’. He would share a flowerless plot in a run down cemetery on the outskirts of a strife worn city. Because of the high death toll from WWIII, the unfortunate were buried atop one another in order to conserve space. A plaque showing the names of those interned would be the only legacy Larry Hammond would be afforded.
Slade, shocked and filled with rage, began to tear apart the rooms, the suitcase, and Larry’s clothing. Try as he might, the card was simply not to be found. This infuriated him all the more. Frustrated for the umpteenth time with this whole task, he flew out of the apartment, down the stairs and out the door. His next stop was his new dwelling, Millie’s Motel on the southern fringe of New S.F. Some exercises and a cold shower would refresh his spirits and calm his soul. Yes, Master Lo would counsel him just so.

Chapter eighteen 2043 A.D.
Golden Pagoda Restaurant

After reciting my harrowing experience at NEXUS, I light up another Lucky by using the table’s scented candle’s flame. I know it’s not a very classy thing to do, especially in a joint like this, but the urge was irresistible. As I blow the cancerous fog out of the side of my mouth, I glance in the direction of the bartender. He smiles in approval, putting the finishing touches on a newly washed wine glass using a white linen towel bearing the initials GP. Yeah, he thought it was cool too.
I take a deep drag, watching the paper and tobacco burn its way to my lips. In my left hand is a half empty (or half full depending on whether you’re a pessimist or an optimist), glass of bourbon. Blowing smoke from my mouth, I down the rest of the alcohol, relishing its warmth as it flows the natural course to my stomach. Ordinarily I would be smashed by now. However, since the Colonel’s visit to my apartment last December after a six year hiatus, I’ve learned to control my imbibing. Oh, I still drink as much, but over a longer period of time. Before I was a lush; now I’m just a heavy drinker, when the time calls for it, that is.
Chelsee, on the other hand, is in a hypnotic trance, staring at some focal point on the table. I’m betting it’s the frilly napkin supporting her drink. The fancy lace pattern and its intricate complex design probably remind her of the case I’m relating. Come to think of it, that was my first and certainly my most memorable investigation of my sagging career. It seemed to branch off in several directions while at the same time it centered on one particular theme - planetary sovereignty via mind control implants.
Coming back to the present, Chelsee remarks solemnly, “That was extraordinary! I mean, you were within a heartbeat of death. This case, well, seems to be unrealistic. Not that I’m doubting you.” You mean like you did when I retold Malloy’s case? I wanted to say that, but I resisted. She’s pretty shook up right now. As a matter of fact, so am I. The events surrounding that first step into the world of a solo PI were memorable and left an indelible imprint on the mind and soul.
“And that wasn’t the last of it, either.”
“I’m not sure if I want to hear the rest.” Then she smiled and added, “But, I’m a woman and I just can’t buck a good tale. So, what happened after Larry Hammond left? Did you ever see him again?”
“No. But I hope he made it to wherever he was planning on going. He was a nice guy.” I should have followed up on his disappearance. I wonder if Slade got his grimy paws on him. I hope not.”
“I hope not too. By the way, were you able to get into Call’s computer?” Before I could answer, the waitress came back to our table, a large salver in her right hand. She set it on a folding support and immediately served our entrees. Chelsee ordered Almond Boneless Chicken and I had the Peking Duck. Hmmm. This duck doesn’t look Chinese. Well, it better be from Peking or I’m gonna send it back to the kitchen.
The next few minutes were spent gobbling down the delicious dinners prepared by one of New San Francisco’s finest chefs. Huang Hong was world renowned in culinary circles. His ability to take everyday dishes, such as ABC, and transform them into new creations was appreciated by all who frequented this exceptional eatery. Even the egg rolls were as diverse as the vegetables and seafood contained therein. And the plum sauce! Bravissimo! Hey! How do you say that in Chinese? Never mind.
“Well, before I could get into the computer, I needed to read over the material in the envelope Larry gave me. On the outside of it were the letters WARD. Unscrambled they read Draw, Larry Hammond’s password for passcard B. As you can imagine, the ‘chess’ theme was beginning to occupy my mind more and more as the case progressed. Every time I heard or read a chess term, my thoughts focused on J. Saint Gideon. Deep down inside I hoped I was wrong, but, on the surface, he seemed the most likely candidate for the Overseer billing.
“Anyway, the first memo inside the envelope was a list of chess terms. I was becoming increasingly intrigued by the continuous references to the game of chess. In lieu of that, I studied the list in depth. It was written by Greg Call and it described how, in detail, to defeat Overlord. It seems as though Call programmed eight chess moves into the stalemate system. However, only six moves would be needed to defeat Overlord. Which six moves, though, would be the correct ones? The answer to that question did not present itself at the time. So, I refolded the paper and placed it securely in my pant pocket.
“The second piece of paper was a personal note from Call to Larry. According to the STG note I found earlier, starting with Larry’s name and taking every third or fourth word, I would able to decipher Call’s coded message.”
“What did it say?”
I pretend to ignore her as I reach for my cigarettes. Taking the pack in my right hand, I shake it up and down once, releasing the next cancer stick to meet its maker. My lips close gently, yet firmly, on the smoke as I flip the lid on my Zippo and thumb the flint wheel to ignite the flame. Slowly, but surely, the dancing yellow, white and blue blaze edges towards the unfiltered end of the cig (Luckys now come in either filter or non-filter packs). I suck in with the sagacity of a smoking veteran, drawing deeply from the inferno at the end of the Lucky. I inhale with my mouth wide open, enjoying the euphoria a good smoke can generate as its rushes down my throat and into my lungs. Before I start choking, I narrow my lips to a mere slit and blow the smoke across the table in the general direction of my date. Through all of this, my eyes were half closed, as though I just took the first sip out of a new bottle of Jack Daniels. They’re now wide open. And so are Chelsee’s. And she is not happy. Good. The desired affect!
“Tex, I’m warning you! Don’t do this to me.” She’s wagging her finger in disgust.
“Uh, do what? Oh, never mind, just let me continue, okay?”
“Argh!”
“Well, the note from Greg Call read this way: ‘Larry, I’m not sure if I should tell you this, but you can help me to figure out a riddle. This can be found out if you know my tendency to always pass along a good word and see what follows. Putting this message in a note was the idea I had first because of the letters you’ve written me. Good luck, Larry. I am relying on your most excellent and proven brain to carry on in trying to achieve the ultimate goal. Greg.’
“Decoded, the note read thusly: ‘Larry, if you can figure this out, my password follows in the first letters. GAMBIT.’ So then, Greg Call’s password was Gambit.”
“What kind of chess term is that?”
“I had no idea at the time, but later on I did some research. Gambit is an opening strategy which involves the offering of a minor piece, such as a pawn, in order to achieve good game development.”
Chelsee’s brain trust is in overdrive right now. She’s probably thinking that Gambit is similar to a ‘Poisoned Pawn.’
“You know, Tex, it sounds like Gambit is similar to the term ‘Poisoned Pawn.’” Damn I’m good!
“Very good, Chelsee. I had the same thought. However, the similarity was non-
essential to my case. The important thing was that I now had the password, the passcard and the reader. So, I attached the reader, swiped the passcard and typed in Gambit. A video message began playing. It was Call’s curtain call, his final legacy to mankind; a gift which turned out to be critical in solving the case.”
“Wait a minute! Do I have time to order another drink?” I blinked my eyes in disbelief.
“I guess. Sure, go ahead.” What could I say? I hold a three to one edge in the drinking department tonight anyway.
Chelsee motioned for our waiter who was all too happy to oblige our every wish. The tab was growing faster than a bottle gourd plant in the Middle East.
“Excuse me, but you just ordered a vodka martini, shaken, not stirred.”
“That’s right, Tex. I feel as though I have extra free radicals that are speeding up the aging process.” She then smiled broadly; so did I.
“Well, Call’s message went something like this:
‘To Larry or whoever’s watching this. I’ll have to assume that my first plan has failed and I’m probably dead. The purpose of this message is a warning, and afterwards my computer will reformat, so listen up.
‘I’ve enjoyed a long friendship with J. Saint Gideon. We founded Gideon Enterprises years ago and I believe that he is a good man and has honorable intentions regardless of how I may disagree with his philosophy.
‘For years he has worked on a program called Overlord - a world wide surveillance system which would allow him ultimately to control key political figures, thereby speeding up the world peace process. This was all made possible about a year ago. A breakthrough in nanotechnology allowed us to create microscopic devices that, once implanted inside someone, would allow us to control the physiological reactions, the chemical reactions, make the person a slave to positive response. And in this way was born the STG project, a sort of a Pavlovian remote control program. We recruited seven other scientists and put them on different phases of the project so none of them would know what the entire project was about. We gave them passcards which allows them to transmit data to a central Overlord computer.
‘I found out shortly thereafter that John Klaus, one of the scientists, was intending to sell out the project to the Law and Order Party. When I went to Gideon with my fears, he disregarded them. Either he knew something that I didn’t, or he was simply too obsessed to listen to reason. Regardless, I took it upon myself to implement a fail-safe program into Overlord which I called STALEMATE.
‘Now in order to activate this STALEMATE fail-safe program in the Overlord system, all eight STG passcards are required. I made a plan to track down the other seven passcards. I started with Carl Linsky’s home once I’d learned that he’d committed suicide, but I was unable to find the card. The thought crossed my mind that since Carl Linsky and John Klaus were friends, that possibly Linsky staged his own death and is working with Law and Order and John Klaus, but I can’t substantiate that.
‘At this point I’m not sure who I can trust, aside from Larry Hammond and J. Saint Gideon, though I’m not sure how much J. Saint Gideon will listen to me at this point. Regardless, Gideon’s program, Overlord, must be deactivated. If not by me, then by whoever is watching this message.’”
“Gee, Tex, that sounds more like a funeral dirge as opposed to a helpful message.”
“You’re right. Since Call had been murdered, his legacy to humankind was a system to destroy the Overlord program. He was a fully selfless person if there ever was one.”
We clink our glasses in memory of Greg Call.
Suddenly Chelsee slams her glass down on the table and sits upright in her chair.
“You’ve got gas?” I ask dumfounded.
“No, silly. I just figured out the case.”
“Really? Mind sharing it with moi?” This is got to be good.
“Sylvia was behind the whole thing!” My ex-wife? Wish she would have told me. “Oh, it all fits together now. Of course, Linsky staged his own suicide.” Hey! That’s not a bad hypothesis. Looks like Chelsee aspires to be an amateur sleuth. So, I encourage her.
“Okay, you’ve got yourself an interesting theory, now play with it.” I don’t bother to take a drink or light up another smoke. I devote my full attention to her verbal reasoning.
“Um, well, okay. Linsky worked at the clinic, right?” Rhetorical question, obviously. “And, well, there’s a lot of patients there and, you know, maybe one was in a coma or terminally ill and Linsky finds one that is about his same size, hey, maybe even looks like him, and I think that’s when Linsky probably gets the idea.” She is totally pleased with her summation. In fact, I give her a nine for entire presentation. Well animated, emphatic gesticulation; excellent concentration; thought-provoking, rational presentation; sincerity as well as a professional appearance; however, she needs to eliminate a few of her word-whiskers. Nonetheless, I’m impressed.
Chelsee continues her delivery. “So, he dresses the patient in his clothes, he, you know, plants the wallet, the keys and the suicide note on him; they, you know, dump the body in the Bay, and it’s recovered and who identifies it?”
“Sylvia,” I answer at her behest. But, I didn’t have the heart to remind her of the obvious clues that led to Linsky’s identification. For example, at least six persons saw Linsky jump from the bridge, not dump a body over the rail. True, on a foggy night it would have been difficult to make a positive identification, but, still, there’s a big difference between jumping and throwing. Second, the general consensus regarding Linsky’s reputation centers on his goodness, kindness and overall comportment. There’s every indication that he was an excellent surgeon with high moral adherence and a man of superlative scruples. Unlike Klaus, who, if he had any scruples, he probably stole them from some unsuspecting soul. Finally, I just shared with Chelsee Call’s final warning. His spotlight was on Klaus, with only a hint of possible active participation on Linsky’s part. Very inconclusive, but circumstantial at best. Then again, my date is paying for dinner, so it’s best to humor her for at least a few more minutes.
“Well, did I get it?” She’s oozing excitement. But I don’t answer right away. Instead, it’s time for another smoke. So, I light up, blow out a few o-rings, and take a long swig of my bourbon. Smoking and drinking - two of the greatest pleasures ever invented. Of course, that in itself is a paradox. Pleasures? Yes. But deadly? Definitely! In spite of the foregoing, I continue to enjoy my Lucky, drawing in deeply and exhaling expertly.
Then it happened. Chelsee broke down. Face and neck red as a beet, she reaches across the table, violently wretches the cig from my mouth, and stuffs it out in the ashtray. I’m in total shock. Not only is she unaware of the man/cigarette amalgam started over 1500 years ago in China, but she has invaded my private territory, and my territory is sacrosanct. It’s like an iconoclast effecting great damage at the Basilica in Vatican City.
“Are you going to tell me or what?” She states furiously. The adjoining diners are beginning to take notice. My next move better be well calculated. It was. I remove another cigarette from the pack and light it up.
“You...I....you....I....” She’s stuttering now. Good! The desired affect.
“Hey, Chelsee, that’s very good. At this rate you’ll be able to learn the other three vowels in a day or two,” and I give her my best stupid grin.
She’s holding her breath, on the verge of a verbal barrage that would make a hockey announcer look amateurish.
“Oh!” That was all she could muster, hands clenched into fists of fury.
“Oooh, impressive. Another vowel. You know, with this sort of progress, we’ll be on the consonants next week.”
“Aaarrrgghhh!” She gets up, slam dunks her satin napkin on her empty plate, and storms off to the Lady’s room. Our waiter approaches and asks if everything is copa-
setic. I nod politely and order another round of drinks. He and the busboy clear away several empty dishes and wipe the crumbs from the table.
“Would you care for dessert?” and he hands me the dessert menu. I study it for a few seconds and make my decision.
“Sure, why not. The lady will have the apple cobbler, warmed, and a generous scoop of black walnut ice cream on top.”
“Excellent choice. Obviously a woman of exceptional taste.” Oh, obviously, she’s here with me, isn’t she? Although I’d doubt she would agree right now.
“I’ll have your infamous Chocolate Tower with a hot cup of coffee as a chaser.”
“Very good, sir. Your taste in the dessert selection is only rivaled by your taste in beautiful women.” He proffers a friendly smile and departs. Yeah, I think I have a good sense of taste when it comes to women. Well, in one woman anyway. Maybe two if I include Anna Nicole Smith.
Chelsee returns to the table completely composed. Her recovery seems remarkable, so, I take the opportunity to apologize.
“I’m sorry for causing you so much frustration, Chelsee. I was attempting to have a smidgen of fun at your expense.”
She looks at me with smug, yet sensitive eyes, boring into my heart with just the right mixture of love and reproof. “Well, I’m sorry too. I know how you like to tease and I should take it in stride. But, this case is proving to be more consuming than any other you’ve ever related. I got so caught up in your explanation I lost my head when you kept resorting to childish antics just to buffalo me.”
“Well, with apologies sincerely exchanged, why don’t we get back to the subject at hand.”
“I agree, Tex. By the way,” and she reaches across the table and cups my face into her warm, soft hands, “if you ever do that again, I’ll squash your entire pack of Luckys and grind your Zippo into a million pieces. Capeche?”
“Uh, yeah, I understand perfectly.” If ever there was a time to acquiesce, it was now.
“Now, did I get it or didn’t I?” I was tempted to reach for another Lucky, but stayed my hand in an effort to maintain a personable relationship with the woman I, well, you know.
“Maybe.”
“Okay. So, why don’t you tell me the rest.” She’s much calmer now. Thank God.
“Actually, I’m fascinated by your story. Why don’t you tell me what you’d do next.”
“Well, if it was me, I’d go back to the Law and Order Party.”
“Very good, ‘cause that’s exactly what I did, now that I had Knott’s passcard.”
“So, what happened when you got there? Was the guard watching out for you?”
“Well, let me tell you of my ingenuity in foiling the guard’s efforts to perform his duty. It went like this....”

_________________

"If you look to me for illumination, you better have a flashlight!"

  Profile  
 
Display posts from previous: Sort by

Post new topic    Reply to topic
Search for:
All times are UTC - 6 hours

Page 1 of 1

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Bing [Bot]


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum