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Jim the old guy
Post subject: Overseer - chapter 21
Post Posted: Nov 29, 2006 7:33 pm
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Joined: May 31, 2005 10:36 am
Posts: 2927

Chapter twenty one 2037 A.D.
Thursday, Nov. 19
Alcatraz Island

The trip to Alcatraz was bittersweet: sweet because I had solved the enigmatic case surrounding Linsky’s death; bitter because I was about to confront the man indirectly re-
sponsible for the death of Carl Linsky. Additionally, I was really getting to like Gideon. My respect for his efforts in the Mutant community was well deserved and grew as the case evolved. I just wish there was some other way of handling this situation. It dawned on me that if circumstances were different, Gideon and I would have become fast friends.
As I near the island, I pass over the Golden Gate Bridge, the scene of Linsky’s demise two weeks prior. The bridge has become the most popular spot in the world to commit suicide. Approximately 1500 people have jumped to their death from this very location since the bridge was built about 100 years ago.
Once past the bridge, Alcatraz Island comes into view. It too was erected nearly 100 years ago. However, after only three decades of use, the prison island shut down, being used for making movies and as a tourist attraction. Some of the world’s most infamous criminals made their home here during those turbulent years. Al Capone, George ‘Machine Gun’ Kelly, Alvin Karpas of Bonnie and Clyde fame, and Robert Stroud, who came to be known as the Birdman of Alcatraz. As they died, so did the use for Alcatraz as a federal penitentiary. Now, J. Saint Gideon has found a new use for it - a base of operations for his ingenious (yes, ingenious) plan to control the world’s future by means of nanotechnology. But, all too often, genius is a consociate with madness. And madness leads to death. And death leads to sorrow. For me personally, this is a lose/lose situation.
I see the rocky shore, the treacherous waters of San Francisco Bay, the gloomy watch-
towers, the ominous prison bars, all looming like a cancerous sore on a smoker’s lung. Much of the prison’s exterior is rotting in various phases of disrepair. It gives the impression the place is abandoned. Off to the east is a parking area for speeders. I see two Lotus deuce-and-a-quarters, the modern day equivalent of the old Buick 225, parked near the front entry. Since the outside appears to be droidless, I decide to park alongside the existing speeders.
Taking one last cautious look around, I exit the speeder and clap my hands twice to activate the auto door closure. The fresh salt air sends my olfactory senses reeling in a mock state of a seamen’s oceanic voyage. It fact, I feel like a neo-Jonah who is about to be swallowed by the big fish. Except that Jonah had God on his side whereas I’m hoping for a good dose of lady luck. As I approached the door meditating on these thoughts, a flash of blue light comes from a hidden turret fifty feet to the door’s oblique. A tingling sensation centered on my stomach begins to filter through my entire being, working its way up my chest and down my legs. In seconds, my whole body feels like jelly. Unable to move, as though I was paralyzed, I just stand there, trying to decipher the import of the flash. Even my brain seems to be numb. Finally, the waning moments of consciousness begin to fade as the onslaught of obscurity replaces it. Sooner than I had anticipated, I was falling to the ground, looking for a soft spot amidst the rocks and shale. Oh well, I could use a good measure of rest and relaxation.

I awoke on a cot, feeling slightly nauseated. It became obvious that I had been stunned by some kind of laser blast. As my head begins to clear, I realize that I’m locked in a cell. Where I am and how long I’ve been here is difficult to tell. That’s the bad news. As I search my pockets, it’s apparent that whoever put me here didn’t appropriate my collection of notes and gadgets. That’s the good news.
Looking out through the bars, I see the bright rays of the noonday sun shining through the window at the end of the cell block. It seems I was out for about two or three hours.
I hear a whirring, beeping noise off in the distance. It’s closing on my position with a monotonous continuity and dogged determination. As it nears, I see that it is one of the security droids I read about on Gideon’s disk. Slowly passing my cell, I espy a large letter “A” painted in red on its side. Hmmm. I must be in cell block A. And, since I am inside a cell, the droid won’t blow my brains out. That’s the good news. The bad news is this: How the hell do I get out of this cell?
“Ouch! Damn it! That hurt!” Hearing these shouts, I peer through the bars, straining my eyes to look down the walkway in front of the cells. Two workmen, wearing some kind of weird clothing, are repairing a cell. Next to them are two five gallon buckets and a half empty bag of Quick-krete. That stuff is used to make minor repairs in concrete driveways. Sometimes it’s used as mortar to reset bricks.
Curious. If Gideon has people effecting repairs on this facility, he may anticipate its further use. Maybe he plans on incarcerating certain undesirables or insurgents. Or, he may use this place to detain key political, commercial and religious leaders until he can insert the implants. His plan must go far beyond whatever I had imagined. That makes my escape even more urgent.
My peering through the bars reveals two more items of importance. First, why haven’t the guards been zapped by the droid? Perhaps it has something to do with the strange outfits they are wearing. Second, there is a tarp on the floor by their work area. On it are various tools including a small blow torch. Man, if I could get my hands on that I would be able to cut my way out of this hole.
I hear a loud ‘dong’ and see the guards set down their tools and walk away. It must be lunch time. As they pass my cell, I stare at them blankly. One of them smiles crookedly, gives me the finger and says ‘have a nice day’. They both laugh heartily. I didn’t think that was very funny.
As soon s they were out of sight, I frantically search for an escape route. The tarp on the floor is a good twenty feet away. Looking around the cell, I see the solitary cot is attached to the wall by two brass hook-chains. I remove them both and hook them together. Too short. The entire length is only ten feet. I need two more of these chains, but that means I would have to get into another cell. Oh, that’s just peachy! What a paradox! In order to get out of this cell, I have to break into another one. I can here the Colonel now, screaming at me for being so stupid.
But I am not stupid. I got this far because I’m a good detective and I am firmly resolved NOT to let this minor predicament stop me. I’m too close to halting Gideon’s project to simply give up. There must be a way out of here.
Hands in my pockets (that’s when I do my best rationalizing), I hang my head and force my brain to think. That’s when I notice some small clumps of fresh mortar on the floor behind the cot. I toss the cot aside and inspect the wall. These bricks have been reset recently, probably while I was unconscious. If I could loosen a few of them, I could crawl into the next cell, putting me that much closer to the tarp.
I lay on my back on the cell’s cold stone floor with my legs propped up in the air. I believe they call this the dying cockroach position. Anyway, with all the might and gusto of a kick boxer, I kick the newly installed bricks as hard as I could. They moved, but only slightly. So I kick again. The pain shooting up my legs is excruciating, but I am making progress. So I kick again. And again. SMASH! Several bricks fall through to the other side. The hole I made was just big enough to squeeze through – barely! Boy, am I glad I didn’t stop for those macho burritos from Rocko’s Tacos.
On the other side I immediately remove the two hook-chains holding up the cot. Piecing them together with the others, I now have a rather wimpy looking grappling hook. The tarp is about 12 feet away. In one corner of the tarp is a hole reinforced with a brass ring. That is my target. After several attempts, I finally land the hook in the hole. Carefully, as though I was juggling raw eggs, I pull my prize towards the cell.
Unexpectedly, the tarp stops short. I peek out through the bars and see the tarp snagged on a makeshift worktable set up by the guards. I pull harder but cease as soon as I feel the weak hooks begin to bend. Great, now what do I do? I need something to disengage the table leg from the tarp. If only I had something heavy enough....The bricks! Eureka! I grab a loose brick and toss it at the table. It makes contact with a loud bang, but releases the tarp. I pause long enough to see if the guards were alerted, but apparently they were not. With a few more tugs, the tarp is now in my possession. I take the blowtorch and the striker and light it up. Twenty minutes later I have a hole in the bars big enough for me to fit through.
I soon find myself facing two problems. One, I need to time my breakout with the security droid’s rounds. Two, it’s been 45 minutes since the guards went to lunch. If they keep union hours, they’ll be back within 15 to 20 minutes. I need to move fast.
The droid passes slowly, turns, hovers down to the lower level cells and begins its return route. I crawl through the bars, careful not to singe any of my perfectly combed hair on the still hot metal, and quickly estimate my chances of reaching the far door before the droid returns.
I see the droid make its automated turn and realize I will have to run like the wind to get free. Taking the steps downward three at a time, I soon reach the lower level. Only seconds to spare. My goal is the door to cell-block B which was left open by the guards. It seems too easy and it was. My toe catches on a nail in the molding and I flip head over heals and land flat on my back, the wind temporarily gone from my chest. The droid’s persistent beeping rouses my senses and I judge that it is about 40 feet away. The disk in Gideon’s computer center said this droid has a range of 30 feet. With all the speed I could summon, I roll over and scamper through the door just as a bolt of blue death misses my head by a fraction of an inch. Sparks flutter around my head and shoulders, but I’m completely unharmed. Man, these droids really burn my.....
The room I’ve entered is fairly small, about 20 feet by 20 feet. There’s a door to my left, so I head on through to the other side. Voices filter through the silence. From the shouts and hoorays, intermingled with bursts of expletive deletives, I gather the guards are engaged in a heated card game. Tip toeing through what appears to be the visitor’s area, I near another door that is wide open. Hugging the wall, I get into a position to peek through the jamb side of a solid door. The two guards working near my cell have joined two other guards for lunch. A makeshift table was set up consisting of a four foot by four foot piece of plywood resting on four 40 gallon drums. Their seats were empty wooden spools forged to carry hundreds of feet of heavy electrical cable. Paper lunch bags, empty pop bottles, torn bags of potato chips and smoldering ashtrays littered the splinter filled table. My instinct and keen sense of discernment tells me they are playing an animated game of euchre. It appears that my two guards were winning. Too bad.
I stood there for a few seconds despite knowing their lunch would end soon. If I’m going to make a move, it better be now. That’s when I noticed a way out. The room they were in was some kind of a holding area. The door was barred and open and the keys were left in the lock. If I could walk in slowly, like I’m not even there, I could steel the keys and have free run of the old prison. First, though, I checked to see if any of the guards were packing. No, no weapons. Good. Also, it seems apparent they had to don those special uniforms instead of wearing street clothes. Doing that, it seems they have left their cell phones with their clothes, probably in a locker room somewhere. Better! So, pretending not to notice them, I walk into the room, close the door and lock it with their own keys. I then remove the keys and start twirling them on my finger while whistling the old rock and roll tune, ‘You Got A Hold On Me’. By the time they realized who I was and what I had just done, it was too late. They jumped to their feet, reached through the bars to grab me, and began to shout abuses. I stayed back, about two inches out of their reach. I raised my finger to my lips and motioned them to be silent. Like little dogs pleasing their master, they fell silent. As calmness ensued, I looked at my two nemeses, extended my middle finger, smiled and said, “Have a nice day.” Talk about a Hodak moment!
Ignoring their continued insults, I inspect the keys. One was earmarked cell-block C; another cell-block D; and the other was the dungeon. There were keys for A and B, but it was a little late for them now.
I insert the key in the lock to the door of cell-block C and turn it. However, before opening the door, I remember what was said on Gideon’s disk. The roving security droid in cell-block C moved faster and had a longer sensory range than the droid in cell-block A. So, I waited for the droid to come to the front, turn and head back down the cell-
block. When it did, I entered and headed for the door to cell-block D off to the right and out of the droid’s normal route. Upon reaching that door, I inserted the key and tried to turn it, but it wouldn’t budge. Exerting extra force, I finally begin to turn the key, but only slightly. By now, the droid was returning as I could hear its robotic whirring and beeping. The closer the droid got, the more I willed the door to unlock. Finally, the droid appears behind me, drowning out my frantic cries for help. Its incessant noise was beginning to get on my nerves, especially since I now came to the realization that I would be dead in seconds. I turn to face my executioner only to be surprised by its turning and moving back down the cell-block. I let out a sigh of relief as I conclude that it was a unidirectional droid. Its eye was fixed instead of rotating. And that’s why someone can hide in a cell when it passes! Cool!
Once the droid left, I worked slower and more methodically on the lock. Eventually, with one last umpf! the key turned and the door opened. I was now in cell-block D, no droids in sight. That was a huge relief. I quickly rifle through the entire block but come up empty. However, I noticed a stairwell going down to the dungeon. I walk down the steps exercising extreme caution as I remember the last set of steps I traversed. Another solid steel door awaited me as I reached the bottom step. It had a small security window in it, so I peeked through and observed an empty corridor. I unlocked it and entered.
The dungeon smelled musty, like an old tug too long in dry dock. Also, my olfactory senses picked up an odorous stench coming from my immediate right. It was a room that housed garbage until it could be effectively removed. Must have been a while since their last trash pickup. Continuing my trek in the dungeon, I come to an adjacent hall. I walk down to the end, open the door and gasp. A droid was sitting on the floor, completely deactivated. I guess I’m just a little jumpy. However, upon closer inspection, I see that it is a maintenance droid, judging by the numerous equipment attachments and lack of weaponry. The disk from Gideon’s mansion mentioned the lack of security droids in the dungeon but it did not mention maintenance droids. Will that be helpful or harmful? Only time will tell.
Going back to the junction, I turn right and find a long hall with several air condition-
ing units fixed to it. The noise is nearly deafening as they all seem to be functioning properly. While standing there, one of the units begins to flash a red warning light. Mere moments later, a maintenance droid appears from a room at the end of the hall and moves directly to the flashing unit. Using an attached tool, it opens the cover, removes a dirty air filter, and replaces it with a clean filter. Then, it closes the cover and the unit resets auto-
matically. Hey! That was kind of neat! The droid contains a multi-purpose equipment arm that rotates to the needed tool. I file that away in my head under the subheading: useless.
Taking advantage in the lull in the action, I edge down the hall towards the room where the droid appeared. At its end was a set of glass doors. Peeking around the edge, I see a real live guard sitting at a workstation. He probably opens the doors for the maintenance droid. What he should be doing is watching for intruders like me. If he did, I’d be history. Instead, he seems preoccupied with some sort of gossip rag. Good for me, bad for him. As long as he has his back to the monitor, I’ll be able to move freely, for now, at least. If I follow my PI instincts, I would assume that Gideon is close by, perhaps on the other side of the security station. If I’m going to make a move, it better be quick.
With time of the essence, I formulate a plan of action. I need to disable the guard without confronting him. One fistfight this week is enough. Besides, it looks as though this guard is armed and he may not want to drop his weapon in favor of proving his manhood. So I head back up to cell-block D. On the way, I stop at a room designated ‘Supplies’. Rifling through the habiliments, I grab a tool belt filled with various small tools and tie it to my waist. Also, I lay hold of a small stepladder and a gas mask. On the way here, I remember seeing gas canisters attached to the walls of cell-block C. They were used for riot control years ago. I hope they’re still noxious. My plan calls for gas.
As I enter cell-block C, I am faced with another difficult problem - the droid. I’m not sure if I can get the canister without getting fried. So, I stand against the wall and wait for the automaton to circle the front and head to the rear. After it does, I peek around the corner and survey the block. On the left are three open cells, spaced apart so I can move one to the other and avoid the droid. More importantly, I espy a three foot long iron bar leaning against the wall just above the second open cell. Hmmm. Iron bar; that gives me an idea.
The droid is more than half way down the cell-block when I make my break. I was able to reach the first cell by the time it begins to turn and head back. Waiting is always the hardest thing for a PI to do, but, in this case it could be life saving. The droid circles, heads down the block and grows small in my vision. I break to the second cell and step inside. Now I’m midway between the front and rear of the block. The iron bar is about four feet above my head, resting on a small ledge. This is going to be tough. The front and back of the block is equal in distance, about 120 feet. That only allows me a fifty foot leeway. I better be good.
I remove my overcoat and wait for the droid to go out of range. Grasping the coat securely in my right hand, I step out of the cell and fling the coat up to the bar. I hope to wrap a sleeve around the bar and pull it down. It took several tries and a couple of close calls with the droid, but I finally got the coat around the bar. I give it the old U. I. of U. yell and pull with all my might. The bar comes crashing to the floor, narrowly missing my head. I stand there for a moment, disgusted with my own ineptitude. What if I would have knocked myself out? Bozo! That’s when I hear the fateful humming of the droid as it approaches. Its sensory indicator makes an unusual noise as it homes in on my location. I jump into the cell just as the droid unleashes a barrage of blue lightening bolts.
Allowing time for the droid to reach the front of the block, I ease out of the cell and retrieve the iron bar. It weighs about twenty pounds and is very solid. That gives me another idea. I’m going to put the droid out of my misery.
The droid passes overhead and retreats to the rear of the cell-block.
It turns and heads toward my cell.
I grasp the iron bar like a baseball bat.
The humming noise is getting louder.
I envision Roger Clemens throwing his famous fast ball.
The droid is getting closer.
I judge the time and distance.
It enters my peripheral vision.
Wham! I hit the droid dead center, burying the bar deep into its circuitry. A jolt of electric current courses through the bar, up through my arms, and I’m sent flying backwards. I end up on the floor feeling groggy and disoriented. Fortunately, my dizziness last only micro-seconds. I watch as the droid shakes violently, blue streaks zigzagging all over its torso. Finally, it falls to the floor with a bang. “Shocking,” was all I said. I remove the bar from the droid and place it by the door to cell-block D. I grab the step ladder and carry it to the front of the block and lean it against the wall. Using my new found tool belt, I take out a screwdriver and carefully remove the gas canister. Once in my possession, I go back down the ladder and see the four guards through the bars. My guess is they were rooting for the droid.
“Paybacks are a bitch, eh guys?” A robotic glare was all I was afforded.
Back in the dungeon I put phase II of my plan into operation. Searching through the refuse, I find a dirty air filter. Going back to the deactivated droid I found earlier, I use my screwdriver to remove the multi-purpose tool from the defunct droid. Now I’m back in the long hall that leads to the guard station. Choosing the AC unit furthest from the guard, I use the droid’s tool to open the cover and remove the clean filter. I toss it aside and put the dirty filter in its place. The red indicator light begins to flash. Seconds later I hear the glass sliding doors open and the whirring sound of an approaching droid. As it heads to the AC unit, I slide down the hall, hugging the wall all the way. Crouching low just before the doors, I put on the gas mask. Once on, I blow out the excess air, hold it tightly to my face and pull the straps taut. It will now keep out the dangerous gas.
By this time the droid is coming back to the guard station. Hovering just outside the doors, it makes a soft pinging sound and the guard pushes the door release button. As the droid enters, I sneak in under its protective cover. The gas canister has a small pull ring on it, so, unable to resist an urge, I pull the pin and toss it into the room. The doors begin to shut automatically, but I’m prepared for that too. I set the iron bar on the floor between the two doors and they close on the bar, leaving me a gateway for entry. Then I hear these sounds in rapid succession: Whoosh! Pop! SSsssshhhHHH! Pfft! Thud!
The whoosh was the doors closing; the pop was the canister bursting; the sssssshhhhhh was the gas escaping; pfft was the canister contracting as the last of the gas escapes; thud was the sound of the guard hitting the floor. Easy as falling down (pun intended). Since the doors are propped open by the iron bar, I simply slip through and enter the room. I spot the exhaust fan switch on the wall and turn it on. Two minutes later, the gas was gone to the point where I could remove my mask. What trace of gas is left smelled terrible, but it had no affect on me.
Walking around the hovering droid, I see our friendly watchman sleeping like a baby who has just finished a bottle of warm milk. At the rate I’m going, the security guard’s union will start referring to me as the Sandman.
A few feet away there is a long hallway cordoned off by another security door. It’s made of Flex-Plex, the new and unbreakable clear plastic that can stop a bullet. I’ll need a security card to open this door. A search of the guard’s wallet coughed up that little treasure. So, without further ado, I swipe the card through the reader and the doors slide open. It wasn’t until I reached the end of the hall that I came face to face with another perplexing problem - a DNA scanner. Shoot! These things are impossible to fool.
A DNA scanner requires an authorized person’s DNA in order for it to operate. If two people entered the scanner and only one of them was authorized, the scanner would recognize the preprogrammed DNA and allow the booth to rotate and let them exit. That’s the good news. The bad news? Where do I get some authorized DNA?
One thought came to mind: drag the guard into the booth with me and it will work. However, the guard will eventually wake up and then I’ll be faced with an additional problem. No, I need to think of something else. So, I walk back up to the guard station and look around. The gossip rag he was reading was strewn across the floor; a book on The Mechanical Ins and Outs of Droid Maintenance lay on the counter; there was a Links LS coffee mug next to the book (I wonder if that refers to popular websites?); and a tray of food scraps. Hmmm. That’s interesting. The tray has fine China on it along with a hand-blown Crystalline wine goblet and sterling silver knife, fork and spoon with a fancy capital G imprinted in the handles. Looks like Gideon had steak and eggs for brunch today. Wait a minute! That gives me an idea! Maybe I could use the spoon and fork on the DNA scanner. They must still have traces of Gideon’s saliva, but would that be enough? Probably not. I waltz back to the scanner and toss the silverware onto the scanning pad. The booth makes a glitch noise that sounds like a belch. “Excuse you,” is all I said. Disappointed but undeterred, I went back to the guard station.
There has to be a way to get that thing to.... That’s when I got a weird idea. Weird, unethical, but workable. I’m convinced that the guard took the tray to Gideon and then picked it up when he was paged (there was an intercom unit at his desk). Ergo, his DNA must be programmed into the scanner. Since it’s not advisable to drag him into the booth, maybe all I need is some of his long, flowing, curly locks. So, gritting my teeth and with silent apologies to the guard, I grab Gideon’s steak knife and begin to separate the guard from his hair. Two minutes later I had a healthy handful of his sandy brown hair in my hands. I go back to the booth, set the hair on the pad, and watch as the red negative light changes to a green positive light. I jump into the booth as it starts to rotate and a moment later I was on the other side. Damn I’m good!
In front of me was a long narrow walkway supported by steel cables. Below is a dark abyss and above is a dark firmament. ‘No tripping over your feet here, Murphy’. Exactly half way down the corridor is an unmanned computer station. The screen was blank except for a blinking cursor. I crack my knuckles, like a famed pianist preparing for his solo, and, recalling the chess move note and Greg Call’s words, I nimbly type the word Stalemate. A voice out of the past (Greg Call) instructs me to insert one of the STG passcards and type its corresponding password. A visual display checks them off one by one until I finally type in the last of the passwords. I’m told to don a virtual reality headset which is sitting next to the computer. That’s when I heard a disturbing voice that sent a shiver through my body. The dreaded moment was upon me.
“Exit this program immediately, Mr. Murphy,” commanded a very authoritative J. Saint Gideon. His tone was coarse and harsh, unlike the man I had met with earlier.
I swallow dryly, take a deep breath, let it out slowly and answer, “Sorry, I can’t do that, Mr. Gideon.” Using the headset, I search the entire unreal area in front of me and still cannot spot him.
“You don’t understand what you are doing. I am not the enemy.” True, he was not the enemy, but there was an enemy among us.
“I know, but Overlord is.”
“Then you do not understand its purpose.” When he finally comes into view I get an unusual surprise - he was standing! Does that mean he is really not crippled, or, is this just a side effect of the VR program? I opt for the latter. His headset and the program we’re in are giving me a false sense of reality. I’ll just have to make adjustments.
“On the contrary, I do understand. Do you know how close Law and Order came to overtaking your system?”
Gideon laughs hideously. I’m beginning to believe that he is completely insane. His life long pursuit of peace has warped his super-intellectual-mind into thinking he has found the ultimate answer to man’s problems. A megalomaniac, by any other name. My task set before me is more difficult than I had originally imagined. I need to be good, very, very good, if I’m to best him.
Still smiling, he says, “A calculated risk, my friend.”
“Well, a lot of innocent people have been killed. I’m just trying to make sure there are no more victims.” I appeal to his sense of goodness; let’s see what, if any, affect it has on him.
“It is better that some die rather than allow the entire planet to degenerate into total chaos.” Oh my Hell! He is insane! To assume life is so trivial is the sign of dementia. How am I to overcome the reasoning of a madman? I know how - with both barrels ablazin’.
“No one has the right to play God.”
“I agree, it’s unconscionable. But the fact is, it’s done everyday and, moreover, by people who aspire to nothing more than avarice and domination. What do you imagine stopping me will accomplish?” My mind begins to reel. He is making more sense than I figured. Perhaps the world would be a better place with someone like Gideon in control. Let’s face it, he is kind, impartial, generous and loves peace, the very essence of human desire. Considering the current state of affairs, the political upheavals reeking havoc on underdeveloped countries, incurable diseases running out of control, starvation the agenda of the day for hundreds of millions, and illegal drugs infiltrating our schools, just to name a few, maybe the world really needs a renegade like J. Saint Gideon. In addition to the foregoing, what about greedy commercialism and mainstream religion? How many wars and how many lives have been lost due these two bed partners? Maybe I should just acquiesce and join forces with Gideon, carving out a permanent niche in Gideon’s society and making a good home for my future family.
‘Hold on Murphy. Gideon might be okay as world ruler, but what happens when he dies? Let’s face it, there were good Caesars and bad Caesars; good Popes and bad Popes; same goes with political leaders. No, no, Murphy. You need to stop him and now.’
“Well, what do you think you’ll accomplish?”
“Overlord is the hope, Mr. Murphy. With it, I can influence events in the global political arena for good.” He’s actually excited over his pet project. I hate to bring him down, but....
“Good for you, maybe.”
“Good for all who respect mercy and justice.”
“You’ve created just a little bit of a monster here, Mr. Gideon, and it wouldn’t be the first time you lost control of your creation,” referring, of course, to the usurpation by Schimming, literally wresting Gideon Enterprises from Gideon’s grasp. “The Law and Order Party was gonna use it for its own purposes. Other groups are gonna try and eventually one of them is gonna succeed.” Now for the frosting on the cake. “This little nightmare of yours has got to be destroyed.”
Shaking his head sadly, he counters, “Oh, I pity your blindness and regret that you cannot be reasoned with. Let the match begin.” Match? What match? I don’t even smoke! Is he alluding to the match involving the chess moves? I sure hope not.
I hear several unrecognizable sounds as a set of walls encase the both of us. Chess pieces begin swirling amidst a sea of stars and lights. A huge virtual chessboard appears along with a 3D interface. It has numerous buttons and controls on it. Suddenly, a number of chess pieces, both black and white, pop up on opposite ends of the chessboard. Based on their positions as well as the fact that several pieces are missing, I assume this is a game already in progress.
Quickly and frightfully I become aware of two distinct possibilities. One, if I lose this match, I die. As sure as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, Gideon will have me expunged. Who knows? It may even be built into the headset, or the chair I’m sitting upon. I lose and poof! Little bits of atoms floating around the dank and darkness of Alcatraz, no one the wiser. Two, and infinitely more important, I come to the realization that the entire future of mankind is now resting on the shoulders of an amateur chess player. The mere thought nearly pushes me into a state of shock. My mind forms an eddy from which this is no escape. Self doubt, confusion, uncertainty, fear and hopelessness overwhelm my senses. What did Sylvia call me? Tough guy? Yeah sure, when it comes to duking it out with someone like Slade. But, to match wits with a master is a horse of a different color, not to mention the fact that no one knows I’m here. There isn’t anyone else who can stop Gideon at this juncture. Every life on earth, good, bad or somewhere in between, depends on the next few decisions I make. God! I wish I had someone to fall back on, like the old reruns of “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” show, where the contestant could call a trusted friend or ask the audience or have the computer do a fifty-fifty. But, I can’t even call Jorge Valdez to assist me. No! I’m solo on this one. If I make a wrong choice, it’s Katy bar the door, 126 pages of Dear John, finis and finito.
I shake my head aggressively, almost dislodging the VR headset. It is absolutely imperative that I get a grip. I must not lose sight of the fact that I am a Murphy, and despite an insatiable desire to get up and leave, I must sit here and face my fear. I must make every effort to defeat Gideon at his own game. I must give a good accounting of myself, like my ancient ancestor Audie Murphy in WWII. It’s true that I would like to see an end to war, poverty, crime, starvation and corrupt politics. But that has to be accomplished in its own natural course of events, not by a madman hell-bent on destroying everything humans have worked for. While sanity can be only skin deep, insanity runs clear through to the bone. And Gideon is insane.
Gulping down dry spit, I wring my hands, trying to root out the clamminess. I breathe in and out deeply three times, clearing my mind of fatalistic thoughts. Reviewing the chessboard game, I finally ask Gideon, “I’m black, right?” I hope he says yes because there are more black pieces than white.
“Oh, I’m afraid not. But you do have the first move.” He’s being gracious and sardonic at the same time. His benign smile reveals his true persona.
“Well, that’s good,” I think. Scanning the interface and the chessboard, I notice there are 13 black pieces and nine white. The interface offers me eight possible moves, just as shown in the chess note. However, only six are required to quell my opponent. But which six? I take out the chess moves note and study it scrupulously. Okay, now what?
Recalling past dealings with people like Valdez, I remember one or two points when planning chess strategy. First, I should completely review the entire layout of all chess pieces. Second, I need to visualize each move and its subsequent consequences. Third, make the move and see if it changes any planned strategy, especially after Gideon makes his counter move. Fourth, pray fervently to St. Jude, the patron saint of lost causes.
Well, no time like the present.

MOVE #1:
After surveying all placements, I remember the meaning of Gambit - sacrifice a piece while attempting to set up future moves. So, I execute Rd1, moving my Rook laterally and placing it directly across from Gideon’s protected King. This move could prove advantageous later, if I play my cards, er, chess pieces right. Gideon counters by using his Queen to capture my only Knight. That sets up my King for a possible checkmate. One more wrong move and he’ll have it and the game.

MOVE #2:
Next I execute Rxe7, moving my Rook straight up the board and capture his Knight which was stationed directly in front of his King. This puts his King in a dangerous position, forcing him to move it or protect it. With a smidgen of haughtiness, I state, “Check, Mr. Gideon.” Before I could relish the moment, he quickly captures my Rook with his other Knight. His decision was fast, maybe too fast. He’s good, but maybe too good for his own benefit. I am counting on a bit of overconfidence to work in my favor.

MOVE #3:
If I’m not mistaken, I believe I can keep Gideon on the run, so to speak, by forcing him to continue protecting his King. If I can do that, then maybe..... The Queen is one of the most important pieces on the board. It can move in any direction and is not limited to just a few spaces, like the Knight. However, the chess terms Poison Pawn and Gambit keep rolling around in my brain. If I move the Queen to Qxd7, I not only capture a Pawn, but I try to divert Gideon down the wrong path. His ego will be inflated as soon as he captures my Queen, but I now have the next three moves firmly in mind. But, he has to take my Queen or this ploy doesn’t work. It worked. Gideon used his King to capture my Queen, putting his King out into the open. Now, no mercy, Murphy, pour it on while you have the upper hand.

MOVE #4:
My Bishop, and mind you I’m not a religious person, will be a blessing. I slide him to Bf5, placing it into the path of the King. “Check, Mr. Gideon.” I glance across the VR chessboard and look at Gideon. He flinched almost imperceptibly. The smugness that was there at the beginning of the match has disappeared. His only move is for his King to retreat to its original position. If he does that, I have him. He does it.

MOVE #5:
Taking my time, almost wishing I smoked so I could call a brief recess, I realize that the same Bishop should be moved only three spaces, to Bd7. That puts it right next to his King. “Check, Mr. Gideon.” My tone is softer yet full of confidence. Gideon, conversely, is as quiet as a church mouse. My moves have taken by surprise. I watch him shift un-
comfortably in his chair. His countenance has fallen, taking the air of a defeated man. He’s being bested at his own game and there’s nothing he can do about it. Once again he moves his King out of harm’s way, but only temporarily.

MOVE #6:
There’s only one chess piece protecting his King - a Knight. I move the other Bishop to Bxe7, capture his Knight, review the entire board and aver, “Checkmate, Mr. Gideon.” I’ve just defeated a world class chess player in six moves, thanks to Greg Call and a lot of luck. For that, I am thankful. But, I’m now concerned for Gideon. What will he do?

I watch as his lips part in awe and disbelief. A simulated video comes onto the screen. It shows the Overlord satellite orbiting in space above earth’s atmosphere. Suddenly, the device explodes into a million pieces. My eyes close and I hear a loud hissing noise. It’s the breath I had been holding for some time now. Although thoroughly exuberant, I notice that Gideon is completely crushed. So are his hopes for the future. I watch, with mixed emotions, as he grasps the VR headset and removes it from his head. I’ll never forget the scene being played out in front of me; it’s the look of disheartenment. This once proud man with a vision for the imminent blessings of all mankind is now an empty shell. Hair mussed, eyes despondent, face blank, he stares across the room and looks into my eyes.
Gideon reminds me of “Casey At The Bat’. He’s had his three strikes and he has missed on all fronts. First, as a UN operative, then losing Gideon Enterprises, and now as Overseer of the Overlord project. All he can do is walk back to the dugout with his head hung in shame. I no longer feel the ecstasy of triumph. I’ve just caused a brilliant, caring, generous, creative and ingenious individual to fall into the abyss of despair. My stomach aches at the sight.
A large steel door opens and Gideon comes wheeling into my presence. The air could be cut with a dull knife. On his lap is a tray holding a bottle of liquor and two tumblers.
He looks at me and states, “Your case is finished.” He rests his hand gently on the bottle’s top and adds, “I’ve been saving this to celebrate my success.” He gulps and quivers ever so slightly. If I weren’t here, he would probably break down and cry. My heart is heavy at that very thought. “I suppose I should drink to yours.”
I just stand there, like a lifeless statue with bird crap dripping down my face. I wanted to speak, but no words formed. What could I say? Have a nice day? Good luck and Godspeed? Hope things will get better? You’ll get over this in time? Phooey! The only thought in my mind is the age old unanswerable question, ‘Why do bad things happen to good people?’
Conversely, as Gideon purrs two healthy drinks of 25 year old scotch, I think of all the good people who have died as a direct result of Gideon’s dream of world peace. I see Val Davis screaming as her speeder dives into the pavement; I see Rona Morgan writhing on the floor as poison courses through her bloodstream; I see Bosworth Clark nearly wet his pants as an pernicious hitman gloats over him; I see Greg Call murdered by the same hitman; I think of Sam Jones and debate if his body will ever be found; I see Carl Linsky screaming his lungs out as he jumps to his death just to relieve the pain; I see Sonny Fletcher bleeding to death before my eyes; and I wonder if Larry Hammond was able to escape the clutches of Big Jim Slade. All of these play musical chairs to the recurring tune of a funeral dirge as my distraught and overworked brain tries to make heads or tails of all that has transpired over the last eight days. I was their avenging angel; their irreligious Messiah; their spokesman extraordinaire; their only hope for the future. Mind you, I’m not boasting; I’m just thankful that I could fulfill my destiny.
As Gideon hands me a drink, I think of two more unsuspecting and unfortunate souls: Sylvia Linsky and Maria Fletcher. Both had suffered at the murderous hands of those who pursue unlawful desires. And for what? Nothing! They’re all dead or in jail and life goes on. It wasn’t worth the effort. Now I feel disgusted. Life is simply too precious to be taken for granted.
The soft bouquet of my drink floats up into my nostrils. I look forward to downing this stuff and get on with my life. However, the memory of a bloodied Sonny Fletcher weaves its way into my thoughts. I think of him asking me to join him in one final toast to life, a last testament as death neared. Then I think of how I refused him, thinking of the evil affects of alcohol as man’s worst enemy. My high-mindedness sent a man to his grave with an unfulfilled last request. I made that mistake with Sonny, I’ll not make that mistake with Gideon. Instead, I anticipate drinking this glass of scotch, keeping close to my heart the words from Colonel Dobbs’ letter. Now I know what he meant. ‘Sorry, Sonny; sorry, Colonel.’
My attention returns to the matter at hand. Gideon has offered me a drink and by God I’m going to drink it. With a thin smile upon his lips, Gideon toasts, “To the future.” He’s probably talking about my future since I just destroyed his. Regardless, we both empty our glasses in one gulp. Man that tastes good! It was as smoother than silk; a vast improvement over Beam’s Choice
Adding an extra flare to the moment, Gideon reaches inside his smoking jacket and removes two expensive looking cigars. Handing one to me, I contemplate its ramifica-
tions and slip it into my inside coat pocket. Maybe someday I’ll light this thing up, perhaps as I recall today’s far reaching events. Yeah, someday soon!
I walk around his wheelchair and head for the automated door that leads back to the scanning booth. Gideon lights his cigar, exhales heartily and enjoys its gusto. The scent of the cigar has reached my nose and, instead of coughing, I find myself relishing its aroma. What did someone once say? ‘There is pleasure in sin.’ I no longer doubt that axiom.
As I reach the door, Gideon calls out to me. I turn and he tosses his Zippo through the air; it lands squarely in my left palm. “I shant be needing this anymore.” I would like to think that he plans to quit smoking, but I get the impression that he’s about to take a journey down an endless thoroughfare. I smile thinly and move to the door while still facing him. The door opens automatically as I pass in front of the motion sensor. I’m in the DNA booth and it too rotates automatically. Back in the corridor from whence I came, I decide to see how well the lighter works. So, using the thumb of my right hand, I press down on the steel wheel and a one inch flame appears. Simultaneously I hear a gunshot from the other room. My eyes close as I discern that Gideon has just ended his own life. My God, what have I done?
After a few relaxing breaths, I work my way back to the main entrance. To be safe, I throw my overcoat out the door and as I suspected, nothing happened. Apparently, the security system was controlled by the Overlord satellite and is now deactivated. I pick up my coat, enter my speeder, and head for shore. I need to make a phone call.

Saturday, Nov. 21, 2037

Two days later, I swing by the Rank and File and pick up Jorge Valdez. We fly over to Mt. Olivet Cemetery on the outskirts of the New City. Constructed after WWIII, it’s the final resting place to San Francisco’s finest. About two dozen people are present today. These are the ones closest to Gideon, minus, of course, several other friends who have preceded him over the last few weeks. They were notified privately of his premature death, now ruled heart failure. That was my doing. I reminded Eve Clements of a certain collar I handed her on a silver platter; she reminded the coroner of their affair that is still unknown to his wife. Hence, heart failure instead of suicide.
A minister of some obscure religion is mouthing the usual funeral rhetoric that, for the most part, is falling on deaf ears. No one is concerned about him; the only concern is on the blank faces and heavy hearts of those present who must carry with them this melan-
choly onus. All except one person who seemed to be bored. It’s Frank Schimming. I have an unquenchable desire to walk over and punch him in the chops. But, I’m too busy restraining Jorge Valdez from doing the same. In the meantime, an ominous cloud has appeared overhead and dumps gallons of water during the eulogy. How appropriate. The minister ends quickly and the attendants lower the casket into the ground. Sylvia Linsky, tears in her eyes, tosses a red rose in on the coffin and leaves abruptly. Maybe she does have a caring heart. One thing’s for sure: I’ll never forget this day.
Frank Schimming bends to get into the back of his white Air-limo, compliments of Gideon Enterprises, their logo plastered on the side. I approach like a G-man on a mission and grab the door before he shuts it. My eyes are narrow slits and I’m breathing fire and brimstone. With all the seriousness I could draw up from my gut, I demand, “Gideon Enterprises better see to it the J. Saint has the biggest and most impressive monument in the entire cemetery.” Schimming opened his mouth to object, but I talked him out of it. I shook my head silently and pointed to my left arm which was still holding Jorge at bay. For the first and only time, I saw fear in Schimming’s eyes. Discretion being the better part of valor, Schimming acquiesced.
I never did explain to Jorge all the minute details regarding Gideon’s death. Was I afraid? Not necessarily. I wanted Jorge to retain his same mental picture of Gideon without besmirching it. Despite the media’s sensationalism surrounding Gideon’s untimely (there’s that word again) death, the entire Overlord and STG project remains a secret and always will.
We finally arrive in front of his store. With a simple nod of our heads, we shake hands and he turns to leave. Stopping in mid-stream, he turns back and offers free chess lessons. I tell him I might take him up on his offer someday. What I didn’t tell him was that I do not want to see another chessboard for a long, long time. Besides, I just played the most important chess game ever played and I feel there’s little chance of surpassing its outcome.
On the way back to the office, my mind is plagued with a hodgepodge of recent events. Ignoring my repugnance of alcohol, or at least my previous stand on such, I stop at a liquor store and buy a fifth of bourbon. Upon arriving home, I uncap the bottle and pour three fingers worth. Since I didn’t have any ice, I drank it at room temperature. It goes down almost as smooth as Gideon’s scotch. Then the vid-phone rings.
“Murphy, I gotta talk to you.” It was Eve Clements.
“Sure, Detective Clements, what can I do for you?”
“I need some details concerning your part in the Gideon fiasco. Also, what am I supposed to do with these four security guards? I can’t hold them without charges.”
“Well, I told you all I know about Gideon. He was very depressed over the coup by Frank Schimming and he decided to end it all. As for the guards, I really don’t care what you do with them.”
“What about all that computer stuff we found at Alcatraz? What’s the story with that?”
“Beats me. I guess you’ll just have to wait until the hereafter and ask Gideon personally.”
“Listen, Murphy, the last thing I need is some pansy....” I switch off the vid-phone and finish my drink. It rings again. I’m loaded for bear this time. But, to my pleasant surprise, it was Sylvia Linsky. She wants me to spiffy up and pick her up at her father’s house. She’s taking me out on the town. Should I, or shouldn’t I? The first rule of a PI is... Aw! The hell with the rules of a PI. I take Harley Fenwick’s book and toss it into the trash on my way out of the building.
On the way to Sylvia’s, I stop off at Wang’s Cleaners and pick up my tux. I bought it years ago when I was best man at my older brother’s wedding. Jimmy Wang lets me store it here for safekeeping. Anyway, because of time constraints, he allows me to change in the back room. I transfer all my pocket items to the tux, get dressed, thank Jimmy and step out into the twilight falling over New San Francisco’s radiated skyline.
Thinking of tonight’s possibilities, I put my hands in my pockets and look down on the sidewalk. The face of Abe Lincoln on a shiny new penny is staring back at me. I pick it up and regard it closely. “Find a penny, pick it up. All the day you’ll have good luck.” I smile and place it into my trouser pocket. Then I think of the incredible luck that came my way during this bizarre case.
After cruising high above the skyscrapers of the city I love, I land in front of Carl, er, excuse me, Sylvia Linsky’s house. She ushers me quickly into the living room, a trail of expensive perfume wafting into my nostrils as I follow swaying hips. Good thing there aren’t any vases in the hallway; they’d all be broken by now. Speaking of which, the sheer black dress she’s wearing is fit for a movie star on awards night. Low cut on top, high cut up the sides, and tight in all the right places. Man! This dame is hot! If she was a fudgecicle, I would.... Never mind.
She welcomed me with her usual playful charm and seductive manner. I’m about to lose all control and I don’t care. She was coming on to me like a used speeder salesman who just spotted a teenager with a pocket full of cash and a new license. Some might claim she’s irresistible and I’d be one of them. Before I could take a defensive posture -
not at all sure that was what I wanted - we began to converse concerning the immediate future.
“So, Mr. Tex Murphy, Private Investigator, are you ready to take the dive?” Her left hand held a glass of champagne and her right hand is draped around my neck. If we were any closer, we’d resemble a Vulcan mind meld.
“It depends. What’s in it for me?” The glass of bubbly she handed me when I walked in has warmed well past room temperature, the direct result of my own personal body temperature channeling through my hand.
“Well, let me give you a little taste,” and she pulls my head forward and plants her delicious ruby red lips on mine. The kiss was passionate, erotic, arousing and any other adjective that comes to mind. Hmmm. Strawberries!
Coming up for air, I demand, “Keep talking.”
“Well, how about a romantic night in the Caribbean. Or sun filled days on the beaches of Rio.” Before I could answer, she gives me another taste. Okay, when do we leave? “How about skiing in the Alps?”
“I don’t ski,” I reply numbly.
Flashing a sultry and inviting smile, Sylvia says, “I’ll teach you how to ski....among other things.” Hold on Murphy! Time to regroup. Think with your head, not your groin.
“I’m kind of a white-picket-fence-kids-dog kind of guy.” World travel doesn’t excite me. Conversely, I would like to have a family some day.
Deflecting my parry, she responds, “We’ll talk about that later. Right now we have the whole world to explore.”
“You know, Sylvia, I’ve been thinking. A million dollars isn’t what it used to be. I think we need to get an investment counselor.” Ah, the indisputable voice of reason. How can she refuse such stunning logic?
“Well, $850,000.” That’s how.
I eye her incredulously. “You’ve already spent a hundred and fifty thousand dollars?” My tone increased in pitch and power with each syllable.
She gets all excited, like a kid with a new toy. Then she confesses, “But that reminds me, I got a little something for you. Hold on.” For a 150 Gs, it better be good.
Setting her drink on an end table, she reaches for two wrapped packages lying on the floor. Covered with red paper and sporting a silver ribbon, it felt like Christmas had come early. She hands them to me and waits for me to rip them open.
“You didn’t have to do this,” I stammer with mock humility. Taking the drink from my hand, she sets it next to hers and watches as I carefully open the smaller of the two boxes. As I do, she lifts her right leg and places it on the couch next to me, revealing a gorgeous, well-formed thigh. Gulp! I instantly recall my childhood where, as the youngest, mom always let me choose first from the platter of deep fried chicken. I always chose the leg. You might say that I’m still a leg man.
“This is in celebration of solving your first case.” What? The present or the leg? Not wanting to prolong the mystery, I open the box and remove a hat. It was a brown felt fedora a la Bulldog Drummond.
“Wow! It’s a hat!” I’m having difficulty containing my enthusiasm. I put it on; it fits perfectly.
“All great detectives wear hats. I thought you should have a fedora.” Man! She sure knows what to say and when to say it. This gal is a pro.
“I hope you didn’t pay too much for it.”
“I paid way too much for it,” was her snappy comeback. Box number two is already in my hands and half opened.
“What’s this?” It was an overcoat - a very old overcoat.
“This was supposed to have been owned by Humphrey Bogart. I know how much you like him.” Is she kidding? He’s my main man. And she is now my main woman.
“Here, help me try it on.” She holds it up as I slip my arms into the sleeves. They only come half way up my arms, which isn’t surprising since Bogey was about five foot six and I’m about six foot five. “Maybe we can put it into a frame or something,” I proffer. However, I kind of like the idea if wearing an overcoat similar to Bogey’s. I just might go out and buy one.
Sylvia is laughing and smiling, impressed by the sheer magnitude of the situation. I, on the other hand, am overwhelmed by her generosity. If I have any resistance left, it just flew out the window.
“I don’t know what to say.”
She reaches for her gold plated cigarette case and her silver plated lighter. “Say, ‘thank you, Sylvia.’”
Removing the coat, I say, “Thank you, Sylvia.” She flips open the case and offers me a cigarillo.
“Would you like one?” I pause for a moment, contemplating the possibilities. I muse over the past, relish the present, and ignore the future. The scruples I strictly adhered to while working for the Colonel had now been cast aside in favor of personal indulgence. The Colonel’s words of reproof as well as fragments of my conversations with Eve Clements and Sonny Fletcher are bouncing around my skull like ping pong balls at a table tennis tournament. I’ve indulged in the fruit of the vine, something I vowed never to do, and now I’m being tempted with the fruit of the plant, something else I vowed never to do. And if that’s not enough, I’m being hustled by the fruit of love by the very embodiment of seductivity. My resistance is so low a snake couldn’t crawl under it. I follow my heart and suppress my conscience.
“Sure doll, why not?” This decision may well affect the rest of my life, but so what? A lot of good people are dead as a result of cleaving to tenets they held sacred. Of course, this doesn’t mean that I am abandoning all my beliefs and goals; that would be totally foolhardy. Instead, I’m just giving credence to the ancient Roman gladiator principal: ‘Let us eat and drink today for tomorrow we are going to die.’

_________________

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

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