Posted by: Michael Kingswood | April 13, 2014

The Pericles Conspiracy – Chapter Thirty-Eight

It’s time for the next chapter of The Pericles Conspiracy.  Read and enjoy, but don’t forget, the book is available in ebook and trade paperback from AmazonBarnes and NobleKoboSmashwords, or iTunes. You won’t hurt my feelings if you decide to purchase a copy.  After all the cash I had to fork out this weekend, every little bit will help.  ;)

The Pericles Conspiracy Cover

Chapter Thirty - Eight

The Mole

Jervis was right.  Jo fell in love with the mole immediately.

Well, not really in love, but for a moment there she was not sure.  He was handsome enough, certainly: young, tall, with striking features, darkly tanned skin, dark hair and eyes, and a dashing smile.  But what made her heart soar was his clothing.

He wore the uniform of a security guard, and it exactly matched those of the guards in the video Malcolm and Becky showed her, back in Quito.

“Jo, Malcolm,” Jervis said as the mole entered the little room, “meet Winston.  He is a member of the security detachment at the lab.”

“Very pleased to meet you,” Jo said, and smiled broadly.  She had assumed the mole was an engineer or scientist, or maybe a technician.  For him to be in security there…this made their task so much easier.  Hopefully.  She could not help but let some of her optimism carry into her tone as she greeted him and shook his hand, and she cringed inwardly.

Beside her, Malcolm smirked, and merely said, “Hello,” before shaking hands with the man.

They sat down around a long conference table that dominated the room, Jervis at the head to Jo’s left and Isaac at the other end, with her and Malcolm in the middle to Jervis’ right.  Winston waited for the rest of them to sit then took a seat opposite Jo, moving with the ease of a man who keeps in good shape.  Becky was not in this meeting, which Jo found surprising at first.  But after thinking it over quickly, it made sense.  She would not have known who this man was, and she did not need to know.  Malcolm and Jo needed to know; they would be working with him, and Isaac…well, Isaac could apparently know whatever he wanted.  His status as the CFL founder afforded him that, Jo supposed, even if he did not make use of it much.

The room was on the second floor, down the hallway and to the left from a control center that was very similar to Becky’s in Quito, if not quite as robust and technically up-to-date.  That made sense too, since Brisbane was at best tertiary when it came to the monitoring and control of the Earth-Luna space sectors.  All the same, for what it was, the control center was impressive: efficiently laid out, apparently well maintained.  Jo was beginning to suspect that more than a little of the funding Becky and Malcolm described came from Isaac’s shell companies as much as from any legitimate businesses that sought the CFL’s help.  One control station of Quito’s capability was one thing.  If all the CFL sectors had command and control setups like Brisbane’s, and Jo suspected they did, that would take a hell of a lot of money to establish and maintain, not to mention the bureaucratic know-how to make the required purchases without showing up on some agency’s radar.

It was pretty impressive.

“So…”  Jo looked from Winston to Jervis and raised her eyebrows.  It was their show.  Time to see what they had.

Jervis smiled knowingly and gestured for Winston to proceed.  The security guard cleared his throat and, inclining his head briefly toward Jervis, said, “Activity has increased severalfold in the fortnight.  The scientists are working three shifts; word is there is massive pressure coming down from above to finish the current projects, and then we’ll be shutting down altogether.  In the meantime, they’ve nearly doubled the security force.”  He shook his head.  “Something’s got them spooked.”

That checked with the chart.  Chandini had to know there was a possibility they were going to blow the whistle on the whole thing or take more direct action.  She, and her superiors, would be stupid not to get rid of the evidence as quickly as possible.  Jo was actually surprised – pleasantly surprised – they had not simply pulled chocks already.

“How much time do we have?” asked Malcolm.

Winston shrugged.  “I’m not a techie.”  He frowned thoughtfully for a few seconds, then perked up.  “But I heard a couple of the senior engineers talking as they left a few days ago.  Sounded like they only thought a month, maybe a little more.”

Jo smiled.  “Perfect.  That’s all the time we need.”

Winston looked at her askance.  “Ma’am, this is a maximum security facility.  We all have greater than Top Secret clearance.”

“So do I.”

He did not look impressed.  “You did.  You’ve been specially flagged in the system, you know.  Everyone in security knows your face on sight.”  He glanced at Malcolm and added, “Both of you.  And even if they didn’t, they’ve got crack troops on security detail.  If you think you can just waltz up there without thorough planning, you’ve got another thing coming.”

“Ah, but we have an ace in the hole,” Jo replied, giving Winston a sharp, meaningful look.

He snorted.  “I’m just a guy who stands watch.  I don’t have authority over anyone but myself.”  He leaned forward and tapped his fingertip against the top of the table.  “Point is, you’re going to have to plan this to the tee.  Even with my help.  And even then, I wouldn’t give greater than a 50-50 chance of getting in, getting your video, and getting out again without being caught.”

Video?  Jo blinked and looked at Jervis.  “You didn’t tell him?”

Jervis returned her look with one of annoyance.  “I’ve been with you this whole time.  When was I supposed to tell him?”

Winston frowned in confusion.  “Tell me what?”

Jo sighed.  “We’re not going in to get video.”

She explained, and his jaw dropped.  He remained silent for almost a full minute after she finished.  She was about to lean over and shake him when he finally shook his head and spoke again.

“You’re insane.”

Jo opened her mouth to speak, but he cut her off, standing and wagging a finger at her as he spoke.

“You are bloody bonkers.  If you think…”  He trailed off and just looked at her incredulously for a moment, then he snorted and threw up his hands.  “To hell with this.  I’m out of here.”  He turned toward the door.

And found Jervis blocking his way, his arms crossed over his chest.

“Where do you think you’re going, mate?”

“Away from her,” Winston replied.  “I pass you information, not…”  He drew a deep breath and said, more calmly, “Look, I can’t be involved in this sort of thing.  I’m fucked if I do.”

Jervis scowled at him.  “You’re fucked if you don’t.”

“But -“

“No.  Listen.”  Now it was Jervis who was wagging a finger – right in Winston’s face.  “You came to us, mate.  Said what was going on in there was some fucked up shit.  Said you wanted to help put a stop to it.  Well now’s your chance.”

“Bollocks.  I meant getting the word out, not some loopy scheme to rob the place!”

Malcolm spoke up, his deep voice carrying easily across the room despite the fact that he barely spoke above a whisper.  “We tried that.  It didn’t work.  There are no other options.”

Winston scowled and shook his head.  “No.  Fuck this.”

He moved to push past Jervis and then…something happened.  Jo couldn’t see, it happened so quickly.  One moment Winston looked as though he was going to push Jervis aside and get through the door.  The next, after a confusing twisting of limbs that happened too quickly for her eye to follow, Jervis had him pinned face-first against the wall, his arm pinned behind his back while Jervis grasped his throat in a choke-hold.

Winston’s eyes were wide in shock – no less so than Jo’s were, she was sure – and he made little choking sounds as he tried to speak.

But Jervis talked over him, quietly into his ear.  “You listen, mate, and listen well.  You’re tied to us.  You’re going to help with this.  If you don’t…  If you betray us, or do anything that hampers this operation, I will personally see to it that the authorities know exactly what you’ve been doing for us this last year.  And about your other little side job.”  Winston’s eyes widened even further, in stark, naked fear.  “Are we clear?”

Winston nodded.  Or tried to.  But it was clear enough.

Jervis released him with a quick shove that sent him staggering back toward the chair he had abandoned.  He caught himself from falling by placing both hands on the chair back and stood there, doubled over and breathing in deep gasps of air for a while, his eyes darting between the four of them in fright.

Jo was surprised to find she was standing.  A familiar tingling excitement swept through her, the byproduct of adrenalin, she knew, and she had to force her arms not to tremble as she, too, took hold of the table’s edge.  She leaned forward and looked Winston in the eye.  He met her gaze reluctantly, but her patented Captain stare held him once he did.

“I know this plan scares you, Winston,” Jo said.  “Believe me when I tell you if there were any other way, I would take it.  But what Malcolm said is correct.  The video you got out of there before is gone; the NSA took it.  We have no evidence, and no time to gather any more.  If we’re going to prevent the wholesale slaughter of those creatures, this is the only way.”

He was starting to get his breath back, and more importantly, she could see he was beginning to understand, and accept.

“Help us, Winston.  Please.”

Winston held her gaze for another long moment, then dropped his own gaze to the tabletop and nodded.  Good.  There was a chance that Jervis’ strong arm tactics would be enough to make him go along well enough.  But there was also a large chance that Winston would find some subtle way to betray them that they would never know.  Far better to use reason to convince him to give his help; then he would go all in for the mission.

Of course, it would have been better if Jervis had not jumped the gun, and she could have convinced Winston straight off.  They were back to amateur hour again, it seemed.  Jo turned a baleful eye on Jervis, who did not even have the grace to acknowledge the unspoken rebuke.  He just shrugged back at her and made a little “Get on with it” gesture.

Jo had to stop herself from grinding her teeth.

* * * * *

I hope you enjoyed this chapter of The Pericles Conspiracy. I’ll be back on Tuesday for the next chapter. Of course if you don’t want to bother waiting the weeks it will take to get through the rest book, you can always go buy it (it’s available in ebook and trade paperback) from AmazonBarnes and NobleKobo, Smashwords, or iTunes.  Or even if you just like the story and want to hook me up, that’s works as well.

Until next time, then.

Posted by: Michael Kingswood | April 9, 2014

The Pericles Conspiracy – Chapter Thirty-Seven

Now that I’ve recovered from my computer’s death by drowning, it’s time for the next chapter of The Pericles Conspiracy.  Read and enjoy, but don’t forget, the book is available in ebook and trade paperback from AmazonBarnes and NobleKoboSmashwords, or iTunes. You won’t hurt my feelings if you decide to purchase a copy.  After all the cash I had to fork out this weekend, every little bit will help.  ;)

The Pericles Conspiracy Cover

Chapter Thirty – Seven

Brisbane

The airplane lifted off the tarmac, blazing away into the Boston night, and Jo sank back into her chair with a sigh of mixed relief and trepidation.  It was done; Carl was onboard, and the way ahead was clear.  Except it was not.  Eight million things could still go wrong, and any one of them could spell the end of their little caper, and more than likely the end of them as well.

Little caper.  She snorted softly to herself.  Had there ever been a bigger caper than this?

“It went well then, I take it?”

Jo turned her head away from the porthole next to her seat and looked at Isaac, seated in his chair across the jet’s small aisle.  She nodded.  “He’s onboard.”

“And you’re sure he won’t betray us?”

This time her snort was loud enough to carry throughout the plane’s cabin.  “Carl is nothing if not loyal, and discrete.  Alison as well.”

Isaac frowned, but said nothing more; he sipped at his drink instead.

The plane’s attitude eased from the steep nose-high angle of its initial climb into a more moderate cruise climb to its assigned altitude, filling Jo was a greater sense of ease.  However much she had travelled, she had never grown particularly comfortable with airplanes.  At least not in the way that she was with spacecraft.  A starliner could not just suddenly drop out of the sky; it flew on an orbital trajectory through the galaxy, even when its engines were not firing.  Nor did it ever really deviate from a straight-and-level attitude.  An airplane, though…  Cut off those engines and they were all going down.  It was not a particularly comfortable thought.

All the same, it was a good thing Isaac had access to this jet.  He had been unclear whether he owned it or had just hired it, but regardless, travel through the general aviation sections of the airports had much less security hoops to jump through than the commercial side, so they were able to avoid the damning identification process that had left Malcolm stranded in Quito for so long.

“So now what?” Isaac asked.  “Straight on to Brisbane?”  Facing him, catty-corner to Jo in his own seat, Jervis perked up, interested.

“I don’t see why not,” Jo replied.  “We have a lot of planning to do, and we’ll need access to your personnel and information to do it.”  She inclined her head to Jervis, who grinned.

“Way ahead of you, mate,” he said.  “My people are gathering up as we speak; even bringing the mole in.”

“Just who is the mole?” asked Malcolm, who sat opposite Jo, directly across the aisle from Jervis.

Jervis just smiled.  “Wait and see.  I guarantee you’ll love it.”

Malcolm frowned but did not reply.

*  *  *  *  *

Jo awoke to the airframe shuddering as the landing gear touched the runway.  It took her a moment to realize where she was; at first the unfamiliar faux-wood of the cabin’s ceiling made her blink in surprise, and she felt a momentary panic.  Then memory returned and she relaxed.  A bit.  Through her little porthole, the world quickly slowed as the pilot applied the brakes, then turned off onto the taxiway.

“Welcome to Bris-Vegas,” Jervis quipped.

He looked wide awake, as though he had gotten a good night’s sleep, showered, had breakfast, and was ready to get going.  It made Jo want to hit him.  Twenty-plus hours on this little plane – lavish as it was, it was still small – was not her idea of comfort, no matter how soft the seats and how far they reclined.  She had a kink in the middle of her back, between her shoulder blades, and her skin felt sticky; she was in dire need of a shower.

Jo sat up, pushing the button to raise her seat to a sitting position, and rolled her shoulders.  “What time is it?”

Jervis grinned at her.  “Ten o’clock.  Right on schedule.”  He glanced up forward, toward the cockpit.  “I really ought to fly in one of these more often.  It’s more timely than the commercial birds.”

From his seat, Isaac snorted.  “You would not like the bill.”  He looked as ruffled as Jo felt; clearly he had just awoken as well.

Jervis shrugged.  “Likely not.”

Malcolm and Becky were still asleep, for a wonder.  After the plane stopped and the flight crew opened the hatch, they had to shake the pair of them awake.  Amazing.

The sun shone down brightly as Jo exited and descended the stairs.  Lately she had mostly spent her time in the northern hemisphere when she was not actually on the equator in Quito, so Jo found herself a bit disoriented at first.  Her instincts wanted to tell her that the sun, nearing its zenith in the sky to her left as she left the plane, was pointing her toward the south.  It took a moment to recall that, as Australia sat, the ecliptic plane lay to the north.  It made her pause for a moment to re-arrange her thinking.

A van was waiting for them outside the Fixed Base Operation – Reliant Aviation, it was called – and they piled in.  The driver was a lanky man with greying blond hair and a wry smile who greeted them with a cheery “G’day” but said little else.  As soon as they were all inside, he put the van in gear and set off.

Jo settled back onto her seat and looked at Jervis.  “Why do you call it Bris-Vegas?”

He chuckled and shrugged.  “We’ve called her that for years,” he said.  “Centuries.  Started because of the casino downtown by the river and all the tourists who came through.  The casino was destroyed in the Tribune Wars, but the name stuck anyway.”

That made sense, to an extent.

The rest of the ride was filled with small talk.  Jervis pointed out landmarks as they drove past and shared tidbits of local lore; in general he seemed to like playing the tour guide.  Maybe it was because so few opportunities arose to do so.  Jo recalled a bit of Australian history; not much, but a bit.  Brisbane, during the Tribune Wars, was reduced nearly to rubble.  The seat of State government had moved during the wars, and there was no reason to move it back after.  Trade had moved on as well, and other cities further up the coast – Townsville and Cairns, if she remembered correctly – drew in the tourists that had once flocked to Brisbane.  Over the years, the city had been rebuilt, but it never regained the stature it once had.

Which seemed to make perfect sense for their context, as Jo thought about it.  The NSA’s lab would need to be near a town or city for logistics support, but ideally not a large one.  Large cities meant lots of people, and lots of people meant more people who might find out about the place, or accidentally linger too close, or cause any number of problems.  A modest town would be a much more suitable place for a secret facility.

“So how far is the lab from here?”

Jervis looked sidelong at her.  “A good two days’ drive.”

Jo blinked, and set aside the theory she had just been contemplating.  “Ah.”

Jervis smirked slightly, and chuckled.  “It’s a big country, mate.”

*  *  *  *  *

The van left them in front of a small commercial building in Brisbane’s western suburbs.  It was low, only two stories, painted a faded shade of blue, and windowless except for a few small openings at the corners of the second floor.  Not exactly inviting.

But then, the neighborhood was not that great, either.  Not that it was run down per say, but everything was just noticeably in a state of slight disrepair.  The paint was starting to peel, the grass had not been mowed in a couple weeks, the windows were smudgy.  Not completely neglected, but just little enough maintenance that a person knew things were not going as well here as they could have been.

Jo looked around and frowned.  “Nice place.”

Jervis gave her a little smile and shrugged slightly.  “It’s not much, but it’s home.”  He turned and led the way to the building’s front door.  “Shall we?”

Becky and Isaac moved to follow without comment.  Malcolm remained and shared a glance with Jo.

“You alright?” he asked.

Jo nodded.

“After you.”  He swept out his arm gallantly, indicating she should lead the way.

Jo could not help but laugh as she followed the others into Jervis’ lair.  Malcolm did as well.

* * * * *

I hope you enjoyed this chapter of The Pericles Conspiracy. I’ll be back on Saturday for the next chapter. Of course if you don’t want to bother waiting the weeks it will take to get through the rest book, you can always go buy it (it’s available in ebook and trade paperback) from AmazonBarnes and NobleKobo, Smashwords, or iTunes.  Or even if you just like the story and want to hook me up, that’s works as well.

Until next time, then.

Posted by: Michael Kingswood | April 9, 2014

The 2014 Chenin Blanc Incident

I nearly lost a child at noon on Saturday.

 

So there I was, sitting with my littlest with a tasty glass of…Chenin Blanc, I think it was…watch The Voice on Hulu via my laptop, while his bigger siblings did their own thing downstairs on the big TV.  Why The Voice?  I blame Dean.  But that’s neither here nor there.

At some point, I needed to leave the room.  I set the wineglass down and took care of business.  When I got back, the bigger kids were in the room, the 3-year old sitting in my office chair.  I noticed the glass was empty, but didn’t think anything of it.  I must have finished it off, naturally.  So I went downstairs to get a refill.  Came back up, and as I approached the desk (where the other two bigger kids were spinning the 3 year old around and around on my chair), I noticed it: a great big pool of fluid, completely covering the keyboard and trackpad of my laptop.

You know those scenes in movies when a bad thing happens, and the character moves in slow motion, shouting, “Noooooooo…..” to no avail?  Yeah.  That was me.

I dashed over, grabbing up towels from the bed (I had been folding laundry before The Voice) and shoving little kids aside.  Must.  Sop.  Up.  Wine.  But it was not to be.  The screen flickered and went out right as I got there, and despite my best efforts to dry the machine, it had been completely flooded out.

It never started up again.

My 3 year old is lucky to be alive.  As it is, he will never go to College, at least not on my dime.  That little fiasco set me back over $3,000 – the Apple Store examined the laptop the next day (I was stuck at home on Saturday because the Admiral was running a Ragnar Relay with her friends, and had the minivan with her.  There’s not room for all the kids in my Jetta) and determined the logic board was completely hosed, and since I had just outlived my Applecare plan…I ended up buying a new computer instead of paying almost the same amount for a repair – and if you figure time value of money 15 years from now, I figure I just used the money I would have used for his tuition to fix the disaster he caused.

Well. I didn’t really spend almost the same amount as the repair would have been.  My philosophy on computers is to get the most suped-up, whamydine model I can, so it will last for a good long time.  Thus, I got a new Macbook Pro (alas only 15″ as they no longer make 17″, which is what I had before) that’s maxed out on processor, RAM, and Flash drive capacity (since it doesn’t use a hard drive – that’s pretty sweet, but also odd since the thing doesn’t make any noise at all).

Luckily, I had backed the computer up less than a week before this happened.  Also luckily, I didn’t do much writing last week.  So I didn’t really lose anything.  But still, there’s a principle at stake here.

Or something.

Anyway, I’m digging the new “wheels”, so to speak.  But the cash outlay still hurts.

As you can imagine, this is why I didn’t get the Pericles chapter up on Saturday.  I generally do it in the afternoon, and Mr. 3-year old’s evil plot knocked me offline around noon.

*sigh*

So that’s all I have to say about that.  I’ll get the next Pericles chapter posted in a little bit.  Until then, have a nice evening.

:)

Posted by: Michael Kingswood | April 2, 2014

The Pericles Conspiracy – Chapter Thirty-Six

Tuesday Night – time for the next chapter of The Pericles Conspiracy.  Read and enjoy, but don’t forget, the book is available in ebook and trade paperback from AmazonBarnes and NobleKoboSmashwords, or iTunes. You won’t hurt my feelings if you decide to purchase a copy.  ;)

The Pericles Conspiracy Cover

Chapter Thirty – Six

Recruiting

Carlton pulled the throttle to idle and eased back on the stick, lowering his airspeed to just above stall speed while he applied a touch of right rudder.  A moment later he felt the barest hint of contact as his wheels touched down on the runway – dead on centerline, as always.  Or at least, as always in his mind.  But what the mind conceives and reality dictates are not always the same.  He had flown more than his share of rough landings, landings so hard he felt like his back had nearly been thrown out from the impact.  But not tonight.  Tonight, he nailed it, and he could not help smiling in spite of the circumstances.

“Delta Seven Five Zero Four, take taxiway Charlie.”

The ground controller’s voice was bland, unemotional, almost as though he did not know who he was addressing, or what was going on.  Very likely he did not, not exactly.  But he had to have noticed that Carlton had been given priority clearance through the traffic pattern, had been allowed to cut in line ahead of half a dozen planes filled with hundreds of travelers with connections to meet.  He must surely be wondering who Carlton was to rate such treatment, though you could not tell from his tone or inflection.

Hell, Carlton wondered that himself as he acknowledged the taxi orders and turned his craft off the runway.  He had never received orders like he had this day.

Well, almost never.

Carlton frowned and shook his head, forcing himself to not think about those initial weeks after Pericles’ last docking.  He and Alison had put that behind them, and done a great job of it too.  Maybe he was just getting a promotion; Delta’s Director of Pilot Training had his office in Boston, conveniently, and the airline’s brass could certainly pull the strings needed to get Carlton preferred treatment.

But he had never heard of someone getting that treatment just to learn he had been promoted a step up the ladder.  Doubts lingered as he stopped the craft in front of a ground traffic director, who stood with his glowing guide rods crossed in an X over his head in front of the craft, and powered down the engines.

He took a few minutes to secure the craft’s systems, then stepped out of the cockpit and activated the controls that opened the craft’s hatch and extended the boarding stairs.  He stepped out onto the top step and froze cold.

Parked just past the port wing was a large black limo.  Alison stood beside it, looking confused.  Flanking her were a man and a woman he did not recognize, both dressed in business casual though the woman looked less than comfortable with it.  They both wore calm, serious expressions that revealed nothing.

What the hell was going on?

*  *  *  *  *

“Where are the boys?” Carlton whispered to Alison.

They sat beside each other in the back of the limo – it was luxuriously appointed, Carlton was forced to admit.  Their two guides, or guards, or whomever, were up front and the privacy screen was up, so if he did not know any better he could almost pretend he and Alison were out for a fancy night on the town.

Almost.

“They’re staying at Greg and Kiko’s house,” Alison replied.  Carlton felt a surge of relief that faded as Alison spoke again.  “Carl, what the hell is going on?  I got a call to meet you here tonight, that you had something important to tell me?”

Carlton frowned, his worry growing stronger by the moment.  “First I heard of it, babe.  I thought I was here for a meeting of some kind.  I was thinking maybe it was a promotion, but I’ve never heard of this being done just to promote a guy.”

Alison frowned as well and clasped his hand tightly.

Through the windows, the city of Boston flashed across Carlton’s vision and he thought back to all the months he had spent here, during his down time between training sessions on Luna.  He had grown to love this town.  It had such a different feel than Quito, the only other city on Earth he had lived in.  He distinctly did not think about his last months there, or at least he tried not to.  But it was hard to forget, even if he tried his best to act as though it had never happened.  Especially after the news of what had happened with the Captain – with Jo – dwelling on those sorts of things was not worth it.

“Where are they taking us?”

Carlton began to shake his head, but stopped.  He recognized the building they were stopping in front of from the news a while back.  It was the headquarters of Sturdivant Sequencing, a pharmaceutical firm that had made headlines not long before he and Alison moved to Boston.  What were they doing here?

The car stopped and, a moment later, one of their guard/guides opened the door, gesturing for them to get out.

“Mr. and Mrs. Hersch,” said the man, in a deep Australian accent, “they’re waiting for you.”

*  *  *  *  *

Carlton saw who was in the room he and Alison had been led to and promptly turned around to leave.

“Carl, wait.  Please listen to me for a minute.”

“Hell no, Jo!  I don’t want anything to do with this,” he said over his shoulder.  He grasped Alison’s hand to lead her away and was surprised to find her resisting.  He looked back at her, ready to snap at her to hurry the hell up.  But then he saw the expression on her face and he pulled up short.  “What’s wrong?  We need to get out of here right now.”

“Carl,” Jo said.  “You know me.  You know I didn’t do those thing they’re saying.”

He knew no such thing, but he sure as hell did not want to stand around and debate it.  Whatever she was in to, he wanted no part of it.  “I thought I did.  Come on, Alison.”

Alison pulled her hand from his grasp and Carlton felt his jaw drop from shock.  “Just give her a minute,” Alison replied, her eyes locked on Jo as though both wishing she were not there and wanting to believe her at the same time.  “Please.”

Carlton muttered a curse under his breath.  They were going up the river if they spent too much time with her.  But he couldn’t refuse Alison’s entreaty.  So instead of leaving he took a seat at the table.

They were in a medium-sized conference room, about five meters square with doors on either end, that was dominated by a standard-issue conference table, complete with controls for the wall televid display to the right.  There were even glasses and a pitcher of ice water on the table.  It was almost like a real conference.

“Ok, Jo,” Carlton said, only realizing after he said it that he had left off the honorary Captain for perhaps the first time ever.  “What do you want that’s worth risking our kids growing up with parents in prison?”

Alison cast a disparaging look at him as she sat down beside him, but he could tell she did not fully disagree.  This was one hell of a risk to take, meeting with a fugitive.  For her part, Jo at least blanched, whether from embarrassment or anger was hard to tell.  Carlton hoped the former.

“It’s not just what I want,” Jo said, and pressed a button on the table’s control panel.

A moment later, the door he and Alison had not entered through opened, and Malcolm walked into the room.

Carlton’s jaw hit his chest.

*  *  *  *  *

“This is insane.”

Malcolm – Carlton still could not wrap his mind around the fact that his late friend was sitting there, alive, at the same table with them – quirked an eyebrow.  “Why?”

“You want to waltz into a secure NSA facility.”

Malcolm and Jo both nodded.

“Steal back the stuff those cat-men gave us.”

Again nods.

“And then you want me to help you fly them up to Gagarin.”

More nods.

Carlton threw his hands up, for a moment speechless.  “Why would I ever even think about doing something like that?”

Jo – when did she stop being the practical one? – leaned forward in her chair.  “Carl, there isn’t much time.  As soon as the NSA is done with its experiments, they’re going to kill all the embryos and dispose of them, and they’ll just disappear.”

“So?”

Jo blinked.  “What do you mean, so?  Don’t you see how wrong what they’re doing is?”

Carlton sighed and looked away.  He saw it just fine.  He was just as appalled as they were, but what they were asking…  It was crazy.  And not just crazy, dangerous.  If it was just him, he might be inclined to help.  He probably would help.  But he had Alison and the boys to think about.  He couldn’t go gallivanting around, flaunting the law.  It’s not like he could just hop on a starliner in a month or two…

Oh shit.

“Son of a bitch,” Carlton breathed, and he looked back at the pair that until tonight he had thought he knew so well.  “You’re going to steal a freaking starliner to take those things back home, aren’t you?”

Poker faces from them both, but Jo flinched just a hair.  That was exactly what they were going to do.

Carlton stood up.  “You are both certifiable, you know that?  You’ll be lucky if they only lock you up and throw away the key.“

“Carl, stop.”  It was the first time Alison spoke since Jo and Malcolm had described the situation, and their plan.  He looked at her and his heart sank.  She had that look on her face.  Every woman has it, that look specific to her that she reserves just for her husband, which says she’s going to be stubborn.

“Babe, don’t tell me you’re actually considering this?”

She stopped with that look, but her tone was no less serious.  “What if it was little Malcolm?”

Carlton blinked; her question took him aback.  For that matter, it seemed to take Malcolm by surprise as well, as he gave a little start and his eyes widened.  Or maybe it was the fact that he had a namesake.

Whatever.  That was not the point.

“This has nothing to do with our son, Alison.”

“But what if it did?  What if he was stuck somewhere and the people we trusted to bring him back instead abused him, and maybe were going to kill him?”

That hit him like a ton of bricks.  Just the thought of something like that happening to their little guy, to either of their little guys…  It both terrified and enraged him at the same time.  He realized he was making fists and forced his fingers apart.

Alison could see it on his face.  “We need to do this, Carl.”

“But it’s such a risk…”

She gave him that look again.

He sighed and nodded.  When she was right, she was right.

* * * * *

I hope you enjoyed this chapter of The Pericles Conspiracy. I’ll be back on Tuesday for the next chapter. Of course if you don’t want to bother waiting a couple months to read the rest book, you can always go buy it (it’s available in ebook and trade paperback) from AmazonBarnes and NobleKobo, Smashwords, or iTunes.

Posted by: Michael Kingswood | April 1, 2014

Audio!

Just a quick note to grin and announce, with happiness, that my first audiobook is now live.

Damsel Audio Cover (600x600)

Bandits stabbed Larian’s father and kidnapped his girl. Confident in his freshly-learned swordsmanship, Larian set out to track them down, avenge his father, and rescue his first damsel in distress.

Things did not exactly go as planned.

 

It’s a short story, so it’s cheap.  I highly suggest y’all check it out.  :)

Posted by: Michael Kingswood | March 30, 2014

The Pericles Conspiracy – Chapter Thirty-Five

It’s a little late, but here’s then next chapter of The Pericles Conspiracy.  Don’t forget, the book is available in ebook and trade paperback from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, or iTunes. Purchasing a copy would definitely help me feel even better, so have at it! ;)

The Pericles Conspiracy Cover

Chapter Thirty – Five

Plotting

“Well,” Jo said, glancing at Malcolm for support, “that is the question, isn’t it? Your files are gone, as are the backups. No one’s going to take our word for what’s going on, so we’ll have a hell of a time blowing the lid on this thing now.” She paused, looking back at Isaac, then at Becky and Jervis. “Unless you have another copy of the files hanging around somewhere?”

Becky flushed and lowered her eyes, clearly ashamed. “No,” she said. “They’re all gone.”

Jo nodded. “And I expect your mole’s been picked up already. If you recorded from his implant, the meta-data…”

Jervis interrupted her. “No, we were quite thorough in removing all identifying data. As of this morning, he is still quite well, and at work with no one the least bit suspicious of him.”

“That can’t last.”

Jervis shrugged. “You may be surprised.”

Jo pursed her lips, pondering. Maybe the mole could make another recording, or get some other piece of evidence that they could use to take this thing public. It might work.

“I see those wheels turning, girl. Might be you should rethink that plan.”

Jo looked at Isaac askance. “What plan is that?”

He rolled his eyes. “This is not my first rodeo, girl. You’re thinking we can just proceed as before, try to get a press conference going. Maybe with some new piece of evidence or somesuch.” He snorted. “Not going to happen. Before, they didn’t know we had them. But now they know we know, and they’ll be ready for it.”

“So what would you suggest?”

Isaac spread his hands and gave her a knowing smile that did not touch his eyes, and remained silent.

Wonderful. Real helpful.

“Think, girl. What’s the core of the problem?”

Jo frowned. “They’re mistreating the eggs.”

“No. What’s the core of the problem?”

Where was he going with this? Sudden movement from the side brought her gaze to Malcolm, who sat bolt upright in his chair as though he had been poleaxed. His eyes were wide; he looked dumbfounded.

“They’re not returning the eggs home, like the aliens asked us to.”

Isaac’s eyebrows rose high on his head and he pointed at Malcolm in approval. “Precisely. Now,” he settled back into his chair and pulled it close to the table again, “how can we help you?”

“You know where the lab is, and you have a mole who could help us get inside.”

Isaac’s eyes were positively twinkling as he nodded in response to Malcolm’s words.

Malcolm frowned. “But that doesn’t do us any good. We’re stuck here in Quito. Unless you wanted to have your people go it alone?”

Jervis spoke up. “We are quite capable, mate. But I think you’ll want to be there won’t you?”

“Then I don’t see – “

“I have a plane,” Isaac said.

Malcolm blinked, then grinned. “Ok, that takes care of that. It still doesn’t help. Even if we could get them out of the lab…” He trailed off, his eyes growing even wider as he turned to look at Jo.

What he was getting at sunk in, and Jo felt like her stomach had fallen out of her body and struck the floor. He could not be serious.

Could he?

“The biggest problem I see,” Isaac said, “is transportation off planet. That is beyond my realm of expertise.” He grinned. “Do either of you know a trustworthy pilot?”

And, just like that, the entire caper came together in Jo’s mind.

* * * * *

I hope you enjoyed this chapter of The Pericles Conspiracy. I’ll be back on Tuesday for the next chapter. Of course if you don’t want to bother waiting a couple months to read the rest book, you can always go buy it (it’s available in ebook and trade paperback) from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, or iTunes.

Posted by: Michael Kingswood | March 29, 2014

Big Trouble In Little China

…is just about my favorite movie of all time, second only to Aliens.

Maybe.  Depending on the day and what kind of mood I’m in, it may even cast Aliens from the throne and stomp on it.  That’s how awesome that movie is.

For that matter, it’s really hard to go wrong with any mid-80s John Carpenter movie.  They Live, anyone?  Brilliant!  But nothing compares with Jack Burton and the Porkchop Express for sheer fun and bravado.  It’s just so full of awesome, I don’t even know how to describe it.

It’s also a little sad, because I can’t see Hollywood making fun cheesy movies like that anymore.  Cheesy, yes.  But fun, the way Little China is fun?  No way.  They’d CGI it up, or worse try to make it relevant or some jackassery like that, and ruin it.

But why do I bring up this timeless classic?  Two reasons.  One, I watched it last night via Amazon Prime streaming, for free!  :)  Now, I own the DVD of course, but the BluRay player in my PS-3 died (I’m waiting on the box from Sony to send it back for repairs).  I was really in the mood for the adventure of Jack and Wang, though, so in desperation I checked Amazon…and it was in the prime streaming library!  Score!

That made for a fun evening.  The kids loved it too.  :)

Second, I encountered this last night, and it is so full of awesome I just had to share it:

So yeah, that’s all I had.

Have a great day.  :)

Posted by: Michael Kingswood | March 28, 2014

Copyright Abuse

Once upon a time, I played a lot of computer games.  Well, maybe not a whole lot, but a decent amount.  Then I got busy.  Then I bought a Mac, and while I love my Macs, I truly miss the gaming experience that comes from PC computing.  For a number of years I lamented that decision.

Then came 2008.  In early 2008, the Navy moved us from Maine to DC (back to my home town) for shore duty in the Pentagon (Holy God does Pentagon duty suck…more on that sometime…maybe…when I feel like torturing you.  No, really.  Jesu Cristo, the head-exploding potential is HUGE there).  We moved into a house in Annapolis after a couple months at my Mom’s house in Kensington while we waited for our house in Maine to sell (we ended up having to do a Short Sale on that one…we got one offer in almost a year on the market and took a $50k loss.  Ouch.  Not that I expect pity from anyone – I know plenty of people took a greater loss than I did.  But that’s haunted us to this day – we’re a few months away from finally paying off the last of the note from that deal).  As we moved in, the Admiral looked at me and said, “We should get a new TV as an anniversary gift to ourselves.”  It was coming up on our official first anniversary at that point.

What man in his right mind would refuse a spousal demand like that?  Not I, said the fly.

I hooked up with an old Elementary School buddy who I still keep in touch with, who worked putting together home theater setups for people, and he got us squared away with a pretty decent system for not a whole lot of $.  Included in that system was a PS-3.  Because “it’s the best Blu-Ray player around”.  Made for a great excuse, right?  :)

It wasn’t long before I was back to buying video games, only on my console, not on my computer.  Now, this was a big departure for me.  I’d always preferred PC gaming, for a number of reasons, mostly deriving from the purity of it, I think.  I grew up on our Apple IIc, and then my dad’s Compaq portable, and then my own 486/33, and spent a whole lot of time playing awesome INFOCOM games like Zork, then EA games like The Bards Tale and Wing Commander, then moving on to innumerable titles that followed.  To me, video games were COMPUTER games – PC games.  The consoles were pissant wannabes.

But with my new PS-3, that changed.  I couldn’t get awesome games on my Mac, so the awesomeness flowed through my PS-3.  Then, once the kids became old enough to work the controls, they came to like the PS-3 games as well (those that we let them play).  Add to that the kick-ass movie experience that comes from a Blu-Ray player and the cool apps that we could get on the console (Netflix, Hulu, MLB TV, etc), and I had a new electronic love.

So I’ve accumulated a new collection of video games – spoken, console games – for our PS-3.  Along the way, I found a couple online video game reviewers that I like.  Chief among them is Angry Joe.  Well, that’s not really accurate.  I love Angry Joe, and he’s the only one I watch with any frequency.

Angry Joe is awesome.  He riffs off one of my all-time favorite cartoon shows (and comic books, and action figure lines) – GI Joe – and makes hilarious but also hard-hitting reviews of newly released games.  He also comments on developments in the gaming community while keeping it all kinds of fun.  He gets hundreds of thousands of hits on his videos and apparently makes his living through his video game reviews and other content that he posts.  I love tuning in to his videos, whether on YouTube or through his website.

Which is why it pains me to see what YouTube and various copyright holders have been doing to him and other reviewers like him.

Watch these for the details:

 

 

I’m admittedly a little behind the times on this, but regardless it pisses me off.  As a Copyright holder myself, I am very sensitive about the rights of the Copyright holders involved here.  But clearly he is using this material for parody and review purposes, which is explicitly protected under US Copyright law.  But despite this, Joe is (was? the last update he posted was two months ago; who knows what’s happened since then.  I only hope it’s good) in danger of losing his business – and thus his livelihood – over this.  IMHO, this is an example of big-money people trying to strong-arm someone with less resources, and YouTube just going along with it blindly.

From what I can tell, YouTube’s policy on these matters is BS.  Joe, and guys like him, gets strikes on his account based on whether someone submits a DMCA takedown notice against him.  Three strikes and his account – his channel, his method of making money for his business – is taken down for good.  And it doesn’t matter if any of the claims were judged invalid later.  Three strikes, no matter their validity in court, and he’s done.  Apparently there’s no appeal.  And worse than that, apparently even if he uses 10 seconds of a property in a 30 minute review, once the notice is put in place the property owner gets 100% of the ad revenue from that video, and never mind  that Joe put hours of effort into making the remaining 29 minutes and 50 seconds of that video, which SHOULD legally be his intellectual property.

On the surface that might sound ok to some.  But a DMCA takedown notice is not a legal finding by a court.  It’s a claim by a copyright holder.  It’s essentially a statement of willingness to sue unless something is done – a demand.

Seems to me a guy like Joe, who is acting in good faith, ought not be paupered over an unsubstantiated threat that has not been borne out by a court finding.  Now, I get that YouTube – Google – does not want to expose itself to unnecessary liability.  But surely a company that boasts the motto “Don’t Be Evil” – and what HELL does that mean?  Talk about a motto for douchebags – and that makes a whole lot of money every quarter can absorb the cost of doing the most minimal investigation to determine which claims have a potential of being valid and which are total BS.  It doesn’t take a lot of effort to differentiate between an honest guy like Joe and a criminal.  Surely Google can do this.

But apparently not.

I really hope Joe’s troubles are resolved satisfactorily.  He’s not the only one to be harassed like this, and IMHO it’s total BS.  If you can afford it, I really hope you’ll go to Joe’s website and show him some support, either via a comment or through a donation.  I don’t know him personally, though I get the impression I’d like to, but he seems like a good guy who doesn’t deserve the BS he’s being subjected to.

Joe, for what it’s forth coming from me, a nobody who owns copyrights that no one cares about at this point in time, I really hope you emerge victorious.  Because this is total BS.

Posted by: Michael Kingswood | March 27, 2014

The Beastly Novelette And The Ebook Store

Just a quick note to let all y’all know The Beast And The God-Woman is published!  It’s live now on Amazon, ready to be downloaded at your pleasure.

Beast Cover (600x900)

The greatest terrors come from within.

Yili never questioned the Gods’ decrees, as handed down to the people from the elders. Do not tarry long on the beach, for there lurks the Beast. Do not venture beyond the breakers, for the sea holds nothing but death and man lives on the island alone.

Until the day a strange object approached the island, borne by the wind and waves toward Yili’s home until it broke apart on the reef and deposited a woman and a man, who could only be Gods themselves, onto the beach. The Beast wants to destroy them. The elders distrust them. And Yili finds himself helplessly drawn to the God-Woman, at the risk of all he knows and loves.

Check it out!

Posted by: Michael Kingswood | March 25, 2014

The Pericles Conspiracy – Chapter Thirty-Four

Today has been especially difficult for me – I crashed my bicycle and got a hell of a road rash this morning on my way to work.  So I’ve been medicating with whiskey. That’s helped a bit.  What’ll help more is to share the next chapter of The Pericles Conspiracy.  Because that’s how I roll here.  ;)  Don’t forget, the book is available in ebook and trade paperback from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, or iTunes.  Purchasing a copy would definitely help me feel even better, so have at it!  ;)

The Pericles Conspiracy Cover

Chapter Thirty – Four

The Birth of a Movement

“Jesus Christ,” Malcolm breathed. “I had no idea…”

“Of course you didn’t,” Isaac snapped. Back to his regular, considerate self again, it seemed. “It’s not a story I tell to just anyone.” He scowled at Malcolm, but after a second mollified his expression. “But it is important you two know, so you will understand why I do what I do.”

He took another long draw from his glass, and Jo found herself mimicking him. It was good scotch, but even were it not, she would not have cared. Not after hearing Isaac’s story.

“What did you do?” Jo asked after swallowing. And how did you not die yourself, she did not ask. She never married, and had no children, but she could hardly imagine the pain of his loss.

I would just curl up and die.

Isaac shrugged. “I recovered, such as it was. Spent weeks in the hospital and months learning how to walk again. The board appointed an interim CEO while I was recovering, and they kept me apprised of what was going on with my business, but as you can imagine I did not care a whit. I don’t think I have to tell you how much pain I was in; I was burned over sixty percent of my body, but even worse, I kept seeing the expressions on their faces when Henderson listed my sins against him. The disgust, the loathing, from Helen and Avi both. That was my last image of them before they died, and it haunted me.”

He emptied his glass again, but when Becky reached over to refill it he waved her off. “There are several paths a man can take when his soul is laid bare for him to see, in all its ugly truth. He can repent, change his ways. He can double down on his path, convincing himself that he is not as bad as it appears. He can go mad, or end it all.” Isaac chuckled ruefully. “He can grow enraged and blame the world and everyone around him for his state. Or he can do what I did, and run away. It was the cowardly way, but it was all I could think to do. I left, went to the earth and roamed from one den of iniquity to the next. For years I lost myself, or tried to, in drink and women and drugs – whatever I could think of to dull my mind, to not think about what I had done, what I was, what I had lost.

“But slowly, I came out of the pit of self-pity that I had dug and began to notice the world around me. I saw – really saw, for the first time – how many people were being held back from what they could be, what they could have. Wicked men, men like me, wielded power that kept them from advancing. And why were they able to do it?” He jabbed a finger up into the air to emphasize his point. “Because we, all of us, allowed it. We invested excessive power in bureaucrats and a government far from us, and entrusted them to oversee things for the good. But we forgot that they are just people, and people look out for their own interests first.”

“As well they should,” Becky murmured.

“Of course,” Isaac replied. “But when a person with power is insulated from the consequences of his decisions, as most in government are, and particularly when he is spending not his own money, but someone else’s…” He shook his head. “Then his perspective gets warped and he begins to think his self interest really is the interest of everyone. Then he grows power-hungry and corrupt, and unethical men like me are able to buy him to do their will.” He leaned forward, fixing Jo with a steely stare. “But if we limit his power, put bonds on the economic influence government is allowed to wield, we can maybe stop the cycle of corruption and despotism, bring back honesty in business and competition. If we unfetter normal people so they are able to pursue their dreams without being crushed from above, we can all be better off.”

It all clicked into place, like a puzzle going together. “You created Citizens For Liberty,” Jo said.

Isaac bowed slightly in his chair. “Took you long enough to figure that out, girl.”

“But…” Malcolm stopped and shook his head, clearly perplexed. “I don’t understand. You don’t have a hand in any of the decisions. You’re around the periphery. Hell, I’ve spoken with you five times in a year and a half. Counting today. If you’re the founder…”

“…why aren’t I in charge?” Isaac finished for him.

Malcolm nodded, and Isaac rolled his eyes.

“The point, boy, is to dilute power. Spread it back to the people so Smith’s invisible hand can actually work. Doesn’t do much good for an organization devoted to liberty to itself have a despot, does it?”

Malcolm did not answer, but from his expression he remained confused. Jo could relate completely. Why not have the man whose vision created the organization lead it?

Isaac looked between the two of them and sighed. “I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. You starfarers are even more inclined toward hierarchy than us, what is it you call us, planetbound?” His eyes twinkled and he chuckled briefly. “Perfectly understandable, of course. A ship needs a Captain. But, and here’s the point,” he leaned forward again, “people do not.”

Isaac sat back in his chair, expectantly. Jo really wished she had a good response ready, but she had nothing. Glancing aside, Malcolm was similarly silent. Isaac sighed again.

“Maybe this will help you understand,” Isaac said. “For a while, I was indeed the leader. As the CFL spread from Bangkok, where I first had my revelation, to other cities, I was ecstatic, and happy to direct its efforts. You have to understand that I truly thought I was alone when I realized what a poison the philosophy of collectivism is. But as more and more people joined us, or began expressing similar values, it was like mana from heaven for my soul.” He smiled faintly. “At first, CFL was open about its goal, and I proudly proclaimed the cause of liberty to all that would hear it. How foolish I was. The forces of collectivism and despotism – they are the same, of course – have no tolerance for dissent, and especially for philosophies that differ from their own. We were pilloried in the press and I was dismissed as a madman who had cracked under the pressure of losing my family the way I did.”

Maybe he did. Jo suppressed the thought ruthlessly, but was not successful in preventing it from registering on her face, as Isaac looked askance at her for a moment and then burst out laughing.

“You’re wondering if they were right?” He laughed again, and shrugged. “Maybe. Maybe I have gone off the deep end into extremism. To that, I will quote a mid-twentieth century politician – a politician, if you can believe it! – who said ‘Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice’.” He lifted an eyebrow at Jo. “Hmm? What say you to that?”

Jo shrugged. “I’d say I’m waiting for you to get to the point. What does this have to do with our situation now?”

Isaac’s mouth shut with the clack of teeth striking each other, and his smile vanished. He stared at her for a long moment, then nodded. “You’re right, of course.” Looking back at Malcolm, he said, “Suffice it to say that before long I became the public face of CFL and then shortly thereafter we were driven underground. I’ll spare the gory details; you likely read about them in your history books in school…” He drifted off, then cursed under his breath. “No you probably saw them on the televid, or read about them after you got back from one of your cussed trips to the stars.” Under his breath, but still loud enough that Jo could hear him, he muttered, “I keep forgetting they’re both older than me, damn them.”

That took Jo aback, and she found herself sinking back into her chair as though pushed there, her surprise was so great. She thought back over her life, and her travels. Like most starfarers, she was born aboard a starliner, and raised there. Her entire existence until her age of ascendency had been a series of year-long shifts, with years of cryosleep in between shifts, and then months of upkeep at the destination worlds where she was able to see and experience something of planetbound life before she set out again. She had gone through one major overhaul that took her from ages 8 to 12, but aside from that most of her childhood years had been spent aboard ship. When she turned 16 and was able to choose her life, she chose to remain. Not all starfarer children did, and that caused their parents no end of heartache as they struggled with an impossible decision: what was more important to them, the life they loved or the children they loved? Most picked their children, but some managed to find a happy medium, doing short runs from Earth to Centauri or somesuch, where they would only miss a few years here or there. Families whose children left were the main reason McAllister had to recruit new hires at all.

For Jo, there had never been a question. She loved navigating the stars, running the ships, seeing new worlds. But she had never considered the other side of it. What did the planetbound think of her people, the starfarers, and the lives they led? By Earth standards, Jo had been alive for several centuries, and yet she had not reached her sixtieth waking year; not even middle aged! She had never before considered that some might be resentful of a starfarer’s apparent longevity.

She opened her mouth to protest that she had not lived nearly as much as Isaac assumed she had, but he beat her to it, raising a silencing hand before he spoke.

“I know, I know. Time dilation. You don’t have to tell me.” Isaac snorted and made a gesture that screamed, “Hey, what can you do?” Then he went on. “Point is, about fifty years ago, CFL went underground and I had to scramble to get my investments out of public view before they were all confiscated.”

Jo did some quick math in her head, then double-checked it to make sure she was correct. If what Isaac said was true, and she had no reason to believe it was not, that meant he was at least a hundred-twenty, if not a hundred-thirty years old. Not excessively old by any stretch of the imagination; people had been known to live to a hundred-fifty these days. But he definitely had a baby face, strange as that seemed when she thought about it.

“For a few years after that,” Isaac continued, pulling Jo’s attention back to his story, “people in CFL looked at me like I was a God. My every word was a command, and no one was willing to do a damn thing unless I gave the go ahead. I realized that I had created my own little kingdom and it was in danger of becoming just another petty despotism, just like the government CFL was created to temper. So I stepped down. Disappeared. I left Bangkok and didn’t tell anyone where I was going, except for a trusted few. I’ve moved around, living off my investments, starting a new company or two here and there. And every so often I check in on a CFL compound to see how things are going.”

Isaac scowled. “Unfortunately, some of the leaders were entirely too bright, and figured out who I am.” He glared at Becky, who smiled beatifically. Isaac rolled his eyes. “But I suppose that’s not entirely bad. It let me step in now, where it matters.” He stood up then, pushing his chair back with the soft sound of the chair legs scraping against hardwood. “I’ve seen, and caused, a lot of injustice in my life, but I have never before seen anything as despicable as what’s going on with those alien eggs.” His eyes grew hard as he leaned forward and smacked the tabletop with his palms. “CFL is my baby, and I’ll be damned if I’ll let some snot-nosed punk like Pedro pull it out of this just because he has his panties in a bunch.”He drew a deep breath, then gave Jo a look that was all business, full of command. “So. How can we help you?

* * * * *

I hope you enjoyed this chapter of The Pericles Conspiracy. I’ll be back on Saturday for the next chapter.  Of course if you don’t want to bother waiting a couple months to read the rest book, you can always go buy it (it’s available in ebook and trade paperback) from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, or iTunes.

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