05 Loose Ends

The year is 2009 and Psionics have established themselves among society. Several groups have cropped up across the globe for the benefit of these gifted individuals and against them. Among them, The Consortium is ranked as one of the top organizations promoting and supporting the betterment of Psionics and Mankind alike. It is believed that the ‘Truth-Seekers’ have become a mere whisper in history while other dangers lurk in the shadows. The minimum word count is 200.
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Tech
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05 Loose Ends

Post by Tech » January 31st, 2016, 8:04 pm

In the basement of main building, the control room was a disaster area. Circuit boards, panels, and all sort of wires lay about. Among the mess two people worked together to repair the core system for Mona; an AI that watched over the campus.

"Of course it would go easier if the space was big enough for a certain robot to fit in." Tech said. Sliding out from the main panel, he shook his hand and then sucked on the finger that bled.

"It was just a suggestion," Mandy said. She gave him a bag from Sally's Place with a bottled soda.

"I know, thanks," He said. "How's your friend doing?"

"She's stable," Mandy said. "They're putting that woman in status."

"Good, she's trouble," He said.

Breaking for lunch made him realize just how hungry he was. The smell of the burger and fries made his stomach grumble. He bit into the burger and closed his eyes with a sigh.

"Would you like to be alone?" Mandy giggled.

"No, it's just good." He said. "Thank you."

"You're welcome," She said. "You owe me ten bucks."

"Cheeky," He laughed. Tech dug out his wallet and handed her a bill. "Hey, have you seen Medic?"

"Yeah, she's working with others to help the kids."

Tech sipped from his drink then shoved a bundle of fries into his mouth. He then worked his way back under the main panel to resume working.

"Perhaps a new structure is in order rather than repairing the old?" Wrangler asked. His voice crackled through the earwig Tech wore.

"Uh huh," Tech said. A spark flared and he pulled his hand back banging his elbow on the frame. He cried out through the fries.

"You okay in there?" Mandy asked.

He held up a thumb then squirmed back out banging his head on the horizontal bar of the frame. He groaned.

"Maybe it's time you took a break." She said.

He nodded, rubbed his head and then washed the fries down with soda. He looked around the room and the mess of computer parts. "I'm starting to think that Wrangler's right. I should just start over."

"Don't start over," Mandy said. "Give her an upgrade."

"I like the way you think." He raised his hand up to her for a lift up. Grabbing his lunch bag and soda, he draped an arm over Mandy's shoulder. "Let's go talk with Wrangler- in person."

-

OOC- I know I didn't give much to springboard from. Take your inspiration for the story Return, there are plenty of loose ends in there- hence the name of this story.
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Re: 05 Loose Ends

Post by Cleric » February 6th, 2016, 5:44 am

Jon sat at an outdoor lunch table—not far from the building he and Avalon had their showdown—as he cleaned his guns. He wore a lent—kinda tight—gray shirt, with his trench coat folded next to him; a couple cracks in it from the intense cold, when he carried Ice from before.

Though things were still a little chaotic, he held a sense of calm. Avalon was sidelined. Ice would be fine. The Campus was safe once again; until whatever commotion came barreling in next time. As he watched the people rush around—fixing up the place—he popped a grin. Perhaps he would stick around for a bit and help out; stay still for a while.

On the table, next to his dismantled gun, the cellphone buzzed. He picked up and answered, “Hey Red. Checkin' in?”

“Yep. How're things going on your end?”

“Oh, why bother askin' me? How 'bout ya ask Joe; since yer best bloody pals.”

“... Yeah... What can I say: I keep my clientele confidential. If Pearce wanted to let you in on it, then that's acceptable.”

Jon sighed. “Aye, I get ya. Anymore buzz on the ISR?”

“Nothing much. A couple mentions on the wire, but nothing of any use. They may not even been too involved with Avalon's handling; just a hired gun aimed in the right direction.”

Jon pondered for a moment. “Hey... ya think there's a chance... ya know... that they were the ones messin' with me all those times? Redford, Morifasi 'n all them?”

Red was silent for a moment. “I kind of doubt it, but you never know with these people. Usually, their only goal is to “wipe out” people like you. However, I've been hearing... rumors.”

“Rumors? What rumors?”

“That instead of just killing Psionics, they've been abducting them; every victim never seen again.”

“So no statements by leavin' a dead body on someone's doorsteps. So why the cloak 'n dagger?”

“I don't know. A couple of the rumors say they've become more covert, so not to become too public. A couple mentions here and there can be explained as some nutjob's conspiracy theory.”

“'Kay. 'N the other rumors?”

“Some say they're performing experiments; trying to find more efficient ways to kill Psionics. Others theorize they're brainwashing them to be obedient slaves; like sleeper agents.”

“Holy Shite,” Jon exclaimed. “Ya think they could actually be upta' buildin' themselves their own Psionic army?”

“Well, it would explain the strange attacks you've encountered, but I still don't think so; at least not 100%. My guess is they may have a handful—at best—on their payroll; for some extra firepower. I'm not sure if anyone could actually brainwash someone against their will.”

“Who knows. Ya tell this ta' Joe yet?”

“I'm collecting some more data first. Rumors go only so far, before they're more dangerous than informative.”

“Then ya go on 'n keep at it. I'll let ya to it.”

Jon hung up, as he looked at the pieces on the table. “Could it've been the ISR screwin' with me? Nah, makes no sense. Whoever it was, they were tryin' ta' kill me, not kidnap me.”

He released a long heavy sigh. “I need ta' get me a pack o' smokes,” he said, as he continued his work. “Maybe grab somethin' ta' eat at Sally's later. I'm gonna need a little more distraction now."

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Re: 05 Loose Ends

Post by Doctor Adrise » May 13th, 2016, 4:15 pm

On a deserted road, miles from the campus, two mobile-lab transports were parked, with several men in black uniforms standing around; chatting among themselves. Within the largest lab, Dr. Erik Adrise sat facing several monitors, with Arianna behind him, as the people on the screens ran around or relaxed.
On one screen, Jon MacDagget was at a table, as he cleaned his guns.

“He looks quite intimidating,” Erik said, as he enhanced the image. “Und even more so, vhen you consider he vas able to best Avalon.”

“He got lucky,” Arianna stated. “She didn't know his go-to move was smashing the ground. She probably wasn't aware he was a Psionic either.”

“Vhat ever zhe case, she left him quite drained. Vith any luck, she has made our job zhat much easier.”

“And what about the psychic?”

“Ve keep our distance. He has no reason to read us, if ve give him no reason to.”

“Understood, Doctor,” she said. “But how do we get close to Cleric.”

“Oh, I am sure you vill find a vay, my dear. 'Til zhen, be patient und zhe instant you see your opportunity, you seize it.”

“Hopefully we won't have to wait long,” she said, as she looked through a narrow slit in the rear steel door at the armed men. “In the meantime, do we have any clue why they're here?”

“No doubt our benefactors vant to keep an eye on us, after vhat happened to Mr. Vhite. Surely zhey have zheir suspicions.”

“Do we need to worry?”

Erik chuckled. “It matters not. If all goes to plan, zhey vill be nozhing more zhen bugs to step on.”

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Re: 05 Loose Ends

Post by Double Fire » May 29th, 2016, 4:20 pm

Mandy gave up. Across the campus, she had retreated to the one place she could cope. The sport complex was vacant which meant she had her choice of cages near the baseball field. She chose the pitching one; letting her frustration go with each throw.

Images and voices flashed through her mind. First, there was Tech's optimism despite the damage to his creation. Wrangler was another issue. Then the bat she found in the control room that bothered her most. That plagued her the most.

She threw a pitch, the speed-reader buzzed, and the readout flashed in red the number 35.

Behind her, Pyroclastic whistled. "Very nice."

"What do you want?" She stepped out of the cage and secured the latch.

"Are you avoiding me?" He asked.

"No," She examined the various bats in the holding bin then stepped into the bating cage. "I'm dealing with something personal."

"I understand you're friends with Laurell." He gripped the chain link fence, watching her swing. "This can't be easy for you."

"I can deal with that. Someone's always trying to do something to one of us; kidnapping, killing, you name it." She activated the auto-pitcher and stepped to the mount. Her first swing missed the ball. The second turn she swung with a smack sending the ball back. She watched the auto-pitcher load the third ball and pitch.

"Then what's the problem, or are you getting tired of it?" Pyroclastic persisted.

Missing the ball, she looked to him. "No, that's not the problem."

"Then what is?" A smile twitched at the corner of his mouth. "Come on kid, I can be more than your instructor... I'm a good listener. I mentored Blaze."

"I've already had a mentor." Resigning to his persistence, she stepped from the cage and cancelled the pitched. "We lost her."

"So you're not up to taking on another one?" He asked.

"I didn't say that." She stooped down to pick up a water bottle from her gym bag. "Snow was more than a mentor. She was like a second mom for me. No one could replace her."

"And I wouldn't dream of it."

"Let me ask you something." She slung the bag over her left shoulder and walked towards the condos. "You've read my profile, right?"

"Yes, a few times actually." Keeping pace with her, he walked with his hands cupped behind his back. "I've never met Professor Yates but I have heard good things about her. It's understandable that you miss her."

"That's not the problem either." Mandy turned to face him, her hand gripping the top of the bottle. With a heavy sigh, she hesitated. "I think she would want me to trust you."

"Let's get some coffee." He motioned with a nod towards the administration building.

In the cafe near the reception area Pyroclastic stirred his drink and then turned towards their table. He set the cup down then removed his leather jacket before sitting himself. "So, tell me what's bothering you."

"It's Hollow, Matt." She sipped her Chai then, setting the cup down, closed both hands around it. "We've been together for some time- since high school. Something's wrong, I'm not sure I can explain it- I just know."

"Do you love him?" He blew at the steam rising from his cup.

"I thought I did," she shrugged. "I thought I knew him but then... I touched that bat."

"The one you found in the control room?"

She nodded. "I don't know why but when I did- I saw a flash of him in my mind and I knew it was his bat."

"Did you take it to the forensics lab to test for prints?" He asked.

"I did, they haven't gotten back to me yet."

"Then that should be our next stop." He insisted.

"Does any of this make sense to you?" She looked towards the entrance and the people moving in and out of the building.

"Nope, I try not to makes sense out of anyone but myself."

She forced a smirk as she looked to him. "Most of my team from high school is gone. It's just me, Matt and Laurell now. At least, that we know of."

"Ouch, now that's rough."

Her phone chimed with the standard ring-tone for a text message. Retrieving the phone from her bag, she checked the message.

Prints and DNA present, confirmed as Matt McMicheal

She showed the message to him.

"Well damn, I'm sorry kid." He shook his head.

"So, now what happens?" She tucked the phone back into her bag.

"Now," He secured the lid onto his cup. "We can either talk with Triton or work out your frustration with some training."

"Talk with Triton about what?" Joe approached them from behind him, carrying a stack of files.

"The results on the bat are in," Mandy said. "It's Hollow's."

"Good to know," Joe said. With a nod, he accepted a travel mug from the server that approached. "Thank you... Now, it's back to business." He raised his mug to them and walked off.

"That just never gets old." She said.

"How he knows when to be in the right place at the right time." He chuckled. "He's good."

"So, what's the lesson for today?" She finished her Chai and set the cup upside down.

"I'm going to show you how to create and control fire."

"Are you sure we should do this today?" She asked.

"Don't worry; no one will see us where we're going."

They stood away from the table as she grabbed up her bag. With his hand to her back, he guided her out of the cafe and the building.

In the parking lot, they climbed into an old black jeep with gray leather seats. The canopy was off giving them fresh air.

Mandy looked towards the various clusters of people they passed by. Some appeared to be going back to their regular tasks. Others clearly worked on cleaning up the mess left by Avalon. She set her head back to the headrest with a quiet sigh. Closing her eyes, she thought of Matt and the others they had known.
Amanda Lynn Matchall
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Re: 05 Loose Ends

Post by Cleric » June 8th, 2016, 9:58 am

“Looks like I ain't the only one needin' their legs stretched,” Jon said, as he watched a jeep leave the parking lot, while he ventured to his car. “Bite ta' eat soundin' even better. Guess ta' Sally's it is.”


ELSEWHERE


“It would appear your target is on zhe move,” Dr. Adrise said, as they watched Cleric drive away from the campus. “Now is zhe opportunity you vere vaiting for.”

“Yes Doctor,” she said, as she quickly left the lab for her car.

He pressed a button on a console next to the monitors and said, “Keep drone four on Mr. MacDagget und keep Miss Porter apprised of his location.”

“Confirmed, Doctor,” a man answered.

Adrise returned to the monitors to see a jeep on the move with two other potential subjects. “Hmm. I vonder.”

SOME TIME LATER

It did not take Jon long to reach Sally's; after going over the speed limit a little. “Heh, barely a day 'n 'ere I am again,” he said, as he parked. “Now ta' get me a pack o' smokes 'n some decent food. No 'fense ta' Joe's cafeteria, but it could do with a bit more o' a personal touch.

Once inside, he found a seat at the bar and ordered his food and preferred substitute to alcohol. As he waited, he looked at the pool table he and Avalon had been before and cocked a smile. “Funny how things turn out, ain't it.”

The sound of fingernails drumming on the bar top drew his attention. Sally stood with one hand on the bar and the other in a fist against her hip. Her chestnut hair was up in a messy bun but her make-up was just plain perfect. She pursed her lips as she drummed her fingernails on the bar top. "I know you're not going to light up in here, Cleric."

She pointed over her shoulder to the sign on the wall. THANKS FOR NOT SMOKING

"No worries, Love," he said, as he pulled out an empty crumpled pack and set it down. "Guess ya been busy. Didn't notice ya, last time I was in."

Of course last time I was a wee bit occupied

"Hope thing's have been good."

"We've all been busy these days, haven't we?" She patted his hand and shook her finger. "Don't leave that there; we're doing classic American on this month's menu." She slipped a laminated paper under his hands, with a wink and a smile she walked away.

Jon smirked, as he looked through this month's special menu; unaware of the pair of eyes focused on him from across the room. Arianna sat at a table, as she kept to herself. Her target was close and now she would have to play it careful or lose her opportunity.

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Re: 05 Loose Ends

Post by Triton » October 24th, 2016, 5:52 am

On campus, Joe conferred with a representative from the solar panel company. A small crew worked behind them removing the damaged panels. Joe's cell phone chirped and he took it up from holder on his hip. "This is Pierce, go ahead."

"It's Sal, there's a problem in town, a bit of a trouble maker if you catch my meaning."

"If you'll excuse me, I need to take this." Joe stepped away from the man, moving to his car. "All right, tell me what you know."

"She's blonde, alone, wearing expensive perfume and sitting in my place? Check your phone's screen."

The image appeared clear on the small screen. Joe grumbled and held up a hand as Tech approached him. He returned to the call. "No, I don't recognize her. Any thoughts on who she is?"

"I thought you wouldn't ask," Sally said. "Give me time and I'll have what you need."

"Keep me posted." Joe ended the call and stared at the image. "I have a job for you."

"Nice, Mona's up and ready," Tech said.

"Good," he sent the image to Tech's phone. "Sal is working on her end; I want to know every name attached to that face."
Tech gave him a two-finger salute. "Yes sir."

As Tech walked away, Joe sent a text message. 'Where are you?'

The reply came quick. 'Training'.


short yes but more than 200 words
US Decemvirate Joe Pierce
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Speak softly
Be warm hearted and
Carry a big frakking stick

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Re: 05 Loose Ends

Post by Doctor Adrise » July 18th, 2017, 4:22 pm

Erik sat at his desk, in the mobile lab, as he thumbed through his research notes. “Zhis is it,” he said aloud, as he set the notes down and rubbed his tired eyes. “After all zhis time, our dream vill soon come true, papa. Und zhen, ve can be done vith zhese fools und zheir fool ideas.”

“I wish you wouldn't work yourself so hard,” a woman's voice said.

Erik smiled and turned back to see a young woman with blond hair sitting at an ornate wooden table. The lab was gone; replaced by the inside of a log cabin. A fireplace illuminated the room with a warm light, as it crackled. “Es it wenn ich meine beste Arbeit mache,” he said, as he stood.

English, Erik,” she said, as she held up a coffee cup. “If you want to impress the Professors, you'll have to make sure they can understand you.”

“My accent vill make zhat hard enough,” he said, as he joined her. “Honestly, I believed I vould have gotten zhe hang of it by now.”

“You do just fine, when you put your mind to it.”

“You mean like this?” he asked; his voice deeper and words over enunciated. “I don't think sounding like a robot will do me any favors.”

She laughed and took a sip from her mug. “You'll be fine. By next year, you'll be Doctor Erik von Adrise.”

His smile diminished. “Doctor Arnum Helmut Krauss."

Her demeanor dimmed as well, as she stared into her cup. “Erik... will you ever tell me why you don't use your real name?”

He shook his head and answered, “It is better not to know, Anna. If people knew my real name—my father's name—I wouldn't have a chance as a dishwasher, let alone a doctor.”

“I understand you have a past you're not willing to talk about, but whatever your father did, you shouldn't let his shame ruin your life.”

“Shame?” he asked aloud, as he glared. “My father had nozhing to be ashamed of. He poured his heart und soul into his vork. Vere it not for narrow minded fools, he vould be lauded as a pioneer of genetic research; Zhey vould consider zhemselves mere buffoons, should zhey ever consider his genius.”

Anna shrank back and held her cup close.

He saw her discomfort and took a deep breath. “Forgive me. I... I need to get a better hold of my emotions, vhen it comes to my father.”

“I shouldn't have pushed.”

“No, it is my fault for losing myself,” he said, as he stood and tilted his head toward the fireplace. “Come, let's take our minds off of tomorrow und focus on zhe now.”

Anna nodded, as she joined him.

“Come come,” he said, with a smile on his face. “I promise to vork on my accent, if you do your exercises.”

She groaned and said, “I don't know why we bother doing this.”

“Because ve both have our dreams: me expanding my research und you controlling your abilities. Now, cocentrate on zhe fire, und zhen-”

A knock at the door shook them and Anna asked, “You expecting someone?”

“Not zhis late,” he said, as he walked toward it. “I'll go see who it is; just vait here.”

There was one more knock, before he opened the door and was greeted by blinding daylight and a man with a holstered gun under his left arm.

“Is everything okay, Doctor?” the man asked.

Erik glanced at the lab and its monitors with his notes at his desk. He looked back at the man and asked, “Vhat do you vant?”

“I was asking if everything was okay?”

“Verdammt diese Narren,” Erik said. “I don't need you vasting my time.”

“I'm very sorry, but your assistant left without stating her destination and it's been-”

“It matters nozhing to you vhere my Assistant goes or for how long,” he cut the man short. “She vorks for me und zhat is all you need to concern yourself vith.”

The man cleared his throat. “With all due respect, I'm just doing my job.”

“Keeping an eye on me und my assistant is not vhat I would call a job,” he said and cocked his eyebrow. “I believe zhat vould be called spying—und quite poorly, I must say.”

The corner of the man's mouth twitched.

Erik smiled and said, “Oh my, you have quite zhe tell. Take my advice und never play poker.”

“Doctor, I can assure you, we're not here to-”

“Do not insult my intelligence,” Erik said, as he stepped closer. “Ve both vork for zhe same people. Do you believe I am oblivious to zheir tactics? Now, I suggest you quit vorrying about my assistant und keep your attention on me.”

“On you?”

“Of course,” Erik said, as he started to close the door. “Believe me: I am zhe one zhey truly do not trust.”

Once the door closed, he went back to his desk and continued his work. “You're pushing your luck, old man,” he said aloud and looked up at the monitors. “One more subject may be all I can afford, before zhey put me down just for zhe hell of it. But vhich one?”
Last edited by Doctor Adrise on October 16th, 2017, 5:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: 05 Loose Ends

Post by Eve » September 23rd, 2017, 1:27 am

Hidden by the foliage of a lush tree, Eve peered through her scope, watching the collection of Psionics move about the campus. In the parking lot, she spied the woman the ISR had altered. The man who climbed into the jeep beside her made Eve draw back. "Sohn einer Hündin," she cursed.

Accessing files on her tablet, she opened an old image. Then, took another look through her scope. With her focus on him, she growled. "Pyroklastische."

Eve took out her cell phone and called her brother.

"Hallo," he answered in a groggy voice.

"It's me," she held her breath and clenched her jaw as she spoke. "I found him, brother, the man responsible for Papa's death."

"Where?" Adam was suddenly awake and alert.

"Get the next plane to New York," she tapped an icon on the screen of her phone then the send icon. "I have sent you the coordinates, call me when you land."

Tucking her phone and the scope into her pack, she climbed town hitting the ground with a thump. Ducking and dodging as she crossed the grounds, she made it to her motorcycle.

At the entrance, waiting behind the other Jeep, Eve took a small device from her bag. With one tap, the compression released and a small disk shot out. It landed next to the tail light just as the front vehicle pulled into traffic. Eve opened her tablet and tapped her nail on an icon. A screen appeared, showing the transmission from the tracker.
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Re: 05 Loose Ends

Post by Terra » September 23rd, 2017, 10:56 am

Arianna shifted in her seat, as she kept her eyes on Cleric. She had ordered some coffee, to keep from looking too conspicuous. She was about to take a sip, when her phone vibrated in her pocket. She pulled an earpiece from her breast pocket and slipped it on, before reaching into her other pocket and tapped her phone's screen.

“Yes, Doctor?”

“Just checking up on your progress,” he said, as the sounds of rustling paper could be heard.

“We're currently at an eatery not too far from the campus,” she answered, as she pretended to drink her coffee. “He seems to be content on staying for a while; drinking soda and occasionally chatting with a woman behind the counter.”

“Perhaps zhe good Mr. MacDagget is lonely,” he said, with a slight chuckle. “Our “escorts” are getting antsy. It vould not surprise me, if zhey didn't have kill orders, should ve act... suspiciously.”

“Then I should be there, Doctor,” she said, as she set her cup on the table. “If they try to-”

“Zhere is no need for vorry, my dear. Zhey vouldn't attempt to kill me, without a perfectly good reason; lest zhey provoke zheir masters.”

“But Doctor-”

“Just stay focused on your target. Ve may only be able to acquire him; zhe girl is vith someone und I doubt our potential executioners vould be inclined to collect her for us.”

“Are you sure, Doctor?”

“I am,” he answered. “Do you have zhe “special” trinkets I gave you?”

“Of course, Doctor,” she answered, as she reflexively patted her side. “If they're as potent as R&D says they are, they should make things a lot easier. I just need to make sure I keep my distance, for a few seconds.”

“Very good. Take your time; I zhink ve have some to spare, before zhey get too vorried.”

“Very well, Doctor”

“Und Arianna?”

“Yes, Doctor?”

“Should Mr. MacDagget be uncooperative, feel to free to have just a little bit of fun. If you like.”

Arianna grinned. “Thank you, Doctor,” she said, as the earpiece chirped and she removed it. She looked at Cleric and sighed, as she picked up her coffee. “Try not to take forever, will you.”

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Re: 05 Loose Ends

Post by Cleric » October 23rd, 2017, 5:37 am

While Jon ate his food, he occasionally looked over his shoulder. Something kept nudging the back of his mind, as though there was something amiss. Just then, his phone buzzed on his hip. He shoveled another helping into his mouth, before he pulled it from his pocket and answered, “I just love it when ya call.”

Red responded, “You know, it's kinda sad the only reason you answer the phone with such confidence is because you don't have a life, outside of work.”

“Aye, I'll get ta' havin' some mates ta' go fishin' with some other time. Meanwhile, how 'bout ya tell me why yer callin' me up, durin' the first decent meal I've had in a long time?”

“I just thought you'd like to know what I've dug up so far.”

“Always. Whaddaya got fer me?”

“I've been diving through a lot of bank accounts and transactions, tracing a path to Avalon's exact employers—thinking it might give me a solid lead on ISR activities—and I've come across something... odd.”

“'N just how “odd” is odd?” Jon asked, as he pulled his wallet out.

“While hunting into who it was who hired Avalon, I started coming across this little shell company called Attah Technologies. On record, it's a small-scale tech-rep based out of Tangier, but-”

“But the record is 'bout reliable as usin' a fake tit as a life-preserver,” Jon said, as he put down the money for his food and a tip, while he got up.

“One way to put it. Even I would have ignored it, if it didn't keep popping up. Never overt; always just on the edge of the radar. In fact, if it was anyone but myself, I don't think anyone else would have noticed.”

“Inflate yer ego on yer own time,” Jon said, picked up his coat and draped it over his arm. He waved back at Sally, as he strode outside. “So, this Attah Tech place: what's it got ta' do with Avalon?”

“Nothing.”

Jon paused. “Nothin'? Whaddaya mean nothin'—yer 'sposed ta' be the best at this whole hackin' thing 'n now yer tellin' me ya've been prattlin' on 'bout this Tech place, when it's not a damn thing ta' do with-”

“Will you quit whining,” Red cut in. “I drop the hunt for Avalon's employers, because I think Attah Technologies is connected to the people who've been messing with you.”

“That's just feckin' great,” Jon said, as he walked toward his car. “So, if it's connected ta' the ISR, that would explain the hassles, but why not just try ta' kill me outright? It always felt like I was jumpin' through hoops.”

“Well, that's where things get odd.”

“This should be good,” Jon said, as he reached his car opened the trunk.

“Attah Technologies is actually siphoning money from other companies with possible ISR ties.”

“The hell?” Jon asked, as he opened the trunk. Inside was only a spare tire with its rim and hubcap. With three fingers, he pressed on specific divots on the cap and gave it a twist, until there was a click.

Red said, “A nasty little program snags .02 cents for every 10 dollars in a company's holdings.”

“Red, pretend I have no idea what that even means 'n then try ta' tell me again,” Jon said, as he pushed the tire further back into the trunk and a false panel opened on its own. Underneath were several assorted guns; mostly .45's, two sawed-off shotguns, a pump-action shotgun and an antique peacemaker.

“It means that it's been stealing from the other companies. It looks like it's been at it for a long time; maybe five years.”

“Well that can't be much,” Jon said, as he slipped his used guns among the others and closed the panel; the tire automatically sliding back into place He reached into a gap in the hubcap and pulled out a cigarette. “I mean: .02 cent's is barely anythin' ta' do any good.”

“Come on, Jon. This is the ISR; if you knew how much money they had, your head would explode.”

“Okay, so what yer sayin' is this little company is leechin' off the big companies”, Jon said, as he closed the trunk.

Red sighed on the other end. “Yes, Jon. The little company is "leechin'" from the big companies and because those companies are so large, Attah Technologies has several billion dollars spread out through a couple thousand other small companies, holdings and over seas accounts.”

“This is all fascinatin', Red,” Jon said, as he sat/leaned against the trunk and lit the cigarette. He took a long drag and asked, “But what's it got ta' do with me?”

“While looking into Attah, I remembered something.”

Jon sighed a puff of smoke. “I'm not gonna like this, am I?”

“It took me a while, but I was able to trace Attah's actual base of operations and it is far from Tangier. It actually originated in the Republic of Guinea-Bissau; a small country in Africa.”

Jon shrugged his shoulders and said, “Yer losin' me.”

Red sighed again. “Attah is an African surname. A woman named Imani Attah, a kinda medicine woman, lives there.”

Jon scoffed. “Yer tellin' me some kinda voodoo lady's snaggin' money from the ISR's back pocket and has been screwin' with me?”

“Jon, listen closely... this last part you're really not gonna like.”

Jon took another drag. “Lay it on me, old man.”

“Imani Attah married an Englishman named Nigel Brook. They had a daughter; Dalia."

"Red, Yer killin' me here."

"Dalia," Red overstated to show his agitation. "Went on to marry an African Prince... Abioye Morifasi.”

Jon froze. “That don't make any sense. Morifasi—the real Morifasi—is dead. I saw his body myself; had a hole right through his brain-pan.”

“Trust me, I know. I dug a helluva lot deeper and I found a black file.”

“The hell's a “black file?”

“They're top secrets files within the dark underbelly of the corporate world. According to one of Morifasi's rivals, there are rumors that Morifasi faked his death and is using his company's Chairman as his mouthpiece.”

“Shite!” Jon yelled and flung the cigarette, catching a couple glances from a couple entering Sally's. “So this whole feckin' time, the fake Morisai's been pullin' a puppet master?”

“Looks like it. From all the companies Attah Technologies is stealing from, Morifasi's subsidiaries are the primary sources.”

“Less questions asked, if the boss is caught stealin' from his own cookie jar.”

“That would be my guess, but Jon... that's just the tip of the iceberg.”

“Oh, come on, Red. What else could there possibly be? It's not enough Morifasi's been runnin' me ragged for his sick entertainment?”

“I don't think it's Morifasi.”

“What?”

“A good portion of the money has been funneled into a practically invisible holding within one of ISR's shell companies, but completely under its radars. It looks like some kind of genetics R&D sector.”

“Genetics?” Jon asked aloud. “When the Night Rider went all Goliath on me, it was after he injected himself with whatever was in that gun.”

“Perhaps this is where he got it from. Whoever they are, they've got balls of steel. If I'm piecing this right, they're working on the ISR's dime and stealing from them at the same time.”

“Okay, they're bold, but the question's still the same.”

“Why are they interested in you?” Red asked aloud. “Remember what we talked about earlier: about the rumors of abductions and experimenting?”

“Aye?”

“What if this is the result? Kidnap Psionics and figure out—not how to kill them easier—but how to give regular people Psionic abilities?”

Jon scratched his stubbly chin. “I dunno. It sounds crazy; even for us.”

“I admit: it's all kinds of nuts, but there were stories of crap like this back in World War II; German and Soviet scientists trying to get an upper hand on each other to win the war. What's bugging me is how they managed get at you, when I was giving you jobs at random.”

“Perhaps yer not as smart as ya think,” Jon said, with a smirk.

“You may be right,” Red responded; no sign of humor or sarcasm in his voice.

Jon's smile was gone. “Did ya just agree with me?”

“No one's perfect, Jon. Not even me.”

“Yer startin' ta scare me, Red. It ain't like ya ta be humble.”

“Don't get ahead of yourself. I'm still the brightest bastard you've ever met. If these pricks have managed to figure out how I work, then they'll regret messing with me.”

Jon's smirk returned. “Now that's more like it. So, what do ya figure? They make me run their lil' tests and then nab me off the street or somethin'?”

“Maybe. If that's their goal, then they've had time to think of a way to take you down easy; so keep your head on a swivel.”

“No worries there,” Jon said, as he scanned the parking lot. “I've been feelin' paranoid, since this mornin'. I dunno... something's buggin' me, but I can't put me finger on it.”

“Right now, paranoid is good. With these abduction rumors looking more and more real, paranoid just might save your sorry butt.”

“Speakin' of abductions...” Jon trailed off.

“Yes, I'm letting Joe know,” Red answered. “While we've been chatting, I've been putting everything into an encrypted file. It'll look like a damage report to anyone else, but Joe's bright; he'll figure it out and unlock the information.”

“Gotcha,” Jon said and sighed. “Guess I'll be headin' back. I may stick 'round the campus for a while; least til I know the kids are safe enough on their own”

“You know they have teachers for that, right?”

“Aye, but I am a lil' responsible for some of the damage. Feels right ta' wait til all the fixin' is done. We'll consider it vacation time.”

Red scoffed. “Like you know how to take a vacation. All right: Joe should get the file soon. As for me, I'm getting back to it. You keep your head down; your one of my top earners.”

“Yer not me pimp, Red,” Jon said and hung up. He took another glance around the parking lot. But for cars and the odd person walking in or out of Sally's, there was nothing worth noting; especially anything that would warrant his feeling of unease.

“Screw it,” he stated and got into the car.

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