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Chapter 9 – Dream Gone

May 8, 2012

Chapter Nine – “Dream Gone”

Now – Penthouse Apartment above SchneiderCorp HQ, New York, New York

Schneider woke. He was embarrassed regarding his behavior from the previous night. The effects of “The Last of the Mojitos” was subsiding at last. How could those kids drink that syrupy stuff? At least he thought that was what it was. It had begun at Urge…before the scotch.

It was only a few hours ago he got home. He felt fine apart from a slight chill from having slept in the rain for an hour or two until some cabbie had happened along the drive in the Park and gotten him home.

Upon awaking, he immediately went and ran a drug test he had purchased months ago for Louis. It came up negative for LSD and any other number of known hallucinogenic drugs the test was supposed to cover.

Whatever it was, it must be new and difficult to trace. His alarm clock went off. The sound annoyed him. Didn’t that damn computer know he was already awake?

Sound…

Could it be they had at last figured out how to stimulate different areas of the brain using sound? Microwaves had been discussed and experimented with for decades now. Same with ultrasound.

If they could do that…

Wait. Why had they done that?

He suddenly recalled the man in the nice coat. He had seen him before…at Detrick during a presentation.

F***…

He reached for his cellphone and them remembered it had been stolen the night before. He’d get a new one today.

He went to his study and poured a drink. Then he grabbed the receiver off of his desk and rang Oliver Francs. Francs was his interface at Fort Detrick for the work he’d been doing for the Department of Defense. If they were terminating his contracts, Francs would know. He might even know what they used on him the night before and who he’d have to f*** to get the bulls*** to stop.

The automated service at Fort Detrick came back with “extension unknown.” He tried spelling Francs’ name and it still came up with nothing.

He finally got a hold of a receptionist in Francs’ area. She seemed businesslike but not annoyed.

“Dr. Francs retired last week.”

“Uh. Retired? He’s only forty-five.”

“He took an early retirement option.”

“Who took his place?”

There was a long pause.

“Please hold.”

This pause was much shorter. Perhaps a bit too short to not mean they were waiting for his call.

“Hello?”

“Hello. This is Eli Schneider. Just wondering—”

“Dr. Schneider. What can I do for you?”

“Was wondering about Francs. No one told me he was leav—”

“Yes. He’s gone.”

There was something very odd about the tone of voice. Creepy was probably accurate.

“Who is this?”

“Have a nice day, Dr. Schneider. Lay off the booze, eh?”

The man hung up. Schneider let his arm do the same absentmindedly on his end.

“F***…”

They knew. Obviously, they knew. He had taken great pains to avoid any connection to the foreign sales. He had purposely had little to do with the sales at all including not touching the moneys, regardless of the accounts they had wound up in. His only involvement in fact was to see that the payloads were done properly and safely and he made certain no one knew who he was when he did that. False identities in every case.

This was not good. It jeopardized his entire plan.

He immediately went to his PC and entered an innocuous post on a birdwatching website. Then he called on a secure line regarding a Swiss bank account and verified that the transfers had begun.

It was game time. He had to scramble the accounts and make other preparations.

He checked the security cameras around the building. There was a fire truck just visible around the corner. Hadn’t they been there a few days ago as well? The day he had that awful interview?

Yes, whoever it was was playing with their food was about to take a bite out of it. He poured another drink, sat down, and turned on some music. It was time to wait. Their move now.

“Eli. Why?”

He didn’t bother turning around. He knew what he would see. He took another sip of the scotch before he spoke.

“I don’t know precisely what you are, but I know what you aren’t: you aren’t Maya’s ghost. You aren’t even Maya’s long lost sister or clone or whatever else.”

“You should never have let me go alone to see Roarke.”

“You—She! She made her own decisions and once her mind was made up there was no changing it. If you really were her, you’d know that.”

“Ready for a round?”

That disturbed him. Whoever was pulling this thing’s strings knew that was what Maya said before they sparred or had sex. This breech of privacy not only disturbed him, it pissed him off and royally.

He spun out of the chair and hurled the glass quickly. He expected it to pass right through a projection, but that didn’t happen. Instead, she…it!…caught the glass with lightning speed.

Whatever it was, it was solid this time.

He smelled something burning… smoke, most definitely. That was when he noticed the red dot on the wall. A sniper’s laser sight?

No. The wall was starting to smoke. They were burning the place down, trying to smoke him out, literally.

The Maya-bot threw the glass back at him. He ducked it narrowly and tumbled to the window. He grabbed a mirror next to it, pulled it from the wall and turned it against the window to reflect the laser light elsewhere.

He peered out and down as he did so. The fire truck was now in front of his place and he barely made out some smoke rolling out and the faint outlines of other lasers. They weren’t just smoking him out, they were burning the damn building down around him.

There were police cars visible as well. He also spotted the shadows of no less than five helicopters circling above. Four were undoubtedly news and police. The fifth, though, had a different shape.

Mendoza. This is serious.

He had to disable the android or whatever it was and get out, somehow. He grabbed the foil off the wall and swished the blade a few times to warm up his arm. Then fake-Maya picked up the chair he had been sitting in an threw it at him. He narrowly ducked underneath its arc and it crashed against the shelving unit behind him. Glass and porcelain tinkled.

He advanced looking for an opening in a vulnerable spot. What was a vulnerable spot on this thing? Bound to be in the skull. Scientists and engineers had a tendency to put the fake parts where their biological equivalents lay.

The eyes it was. If nothing else, he might be able to bring its vision down to 2D and use that as an an advantage. If he could bring himself to harm something so resembling the real thing.

He feinted and turned, attempting to stick the point in the thing’s right eye. The fake-Maya grabbed the end of the blade impossibly quick and with a hold impossibly strong took it from him like a toy away from a toddler.

It flipped the blade around and slashed him in the leg. He grunted at the pain and felt the blood coming down.

He tried a low kick to see if he could knock her—it!—off balance. The android grabbed the leg with the other hand and tossed him across the room with ease.

Schneider decided that his only choice was to flee. He got up and tried to run around the advancing machine. It grabbed him by the throat and picked him up bringing his face close to hers.

“Goodbye, Baby.”

*****

Mendoza watched from above. SWAT was talking with the FDNY now about the layout of the building and how to get in and out quickly. The FBI was there listening but not participating directly in this part. They just wanted Schneider once he was out and waited patiently until that was the case.

It happened quickly enough that Mendoza had to later rewind the surveillance video to see it, but Schneider crashed through a top floor window.

Via instinct or luck, the old man managed to grab onto the firetruck ladder that FDNY had in position for SWAT a floor and a half below. He started to lose his grip. A quick-thinking fireman who had been climbing the ladder jumped up and grabbed a wrist just in time and swung Schneider over to the ladder where the fireman below helped to secure him.

They had him now. FDNY would take care of the fire. Mendoza hoped that there was no evidence laying around regarding SchneiderCorp’s contracts. If there were, it would complicate matters but still be manageable.

Why couldn’t the sonuvabitch have landed on the sidewalk and spilled his brains? Easier for everyone.

The surveillance cameras automatically followed and zoomed in on the action. The news choppers and cameramen below did likewise.

So it was something that puzzled Mendoza and despite no evidence to the contrary found after the fire, he was still uncertain. The news would report it had been a suicide attempt or a panicked attempt to avoid the flames and there would be no mention of it there either.

Why was it Mendoza thought he saw someone moving inside just after Schneider crashed through the window? And why was it that there was no body, no trace, no evidence of any such person afterward?

—–

©2011 Christopher C. Knall

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