The car sped across the
The great city had seen hard
times. Even now there were fewer
taxicabs than there had been eighty years before. The city no longer boasted the largest
population nor the highest building in the world. No longer was there more manufacturing than
And yet it survived. Like some huge dinosaur able to take unthinkable amounts of damage, to survive wounds so large that the lost flesh was more than the flesh of any American animal and yet continue to function and function efficiently. The great canyons of the skyscrapers still dizzied the mind, and the miracle was not only the spirit it had taken to hurl them at the sky, the greater miracle was the spirit that had kept them able to function. Elsewhere business is not done in skyscrapers. It is too costly. Skyscrapers are added for effect, for show. Here it was all show. There was no intermission.
The richest ethnic brew in the world flourished and worked together to bring forth the wonder of the great city. And the world stood in awe.
Wall Street, named after the city’s wall in bygone centuries, now meant not only a street, not only a district, but the entire concept of modern business enterprise. Broadway meant not a wider than average city street but a concept of show business so glamorous that hardly a live performance occurred in the nation but members of the cast and audience would think, would that it were Broadway. Even in a reduced state the intensity and professionalism, the sheer dedication going into a Broadway show set a standard for anyone anywhere who had the audacity to attempt something significant. The same held for publishing, finance and the rest.
As the car topped the bridge
the radio announced that Giga Corp was being investigated for irregular
business practices. “Maybe that will
take them off our heels,” said
“Because there’s a parking space.”
They got out and walked. Fit as they were, their South-accustomed legs did not keep pace with the busy clip of other pedestrians. They took a turn, saw the arrow change direction and walked down an alley. They came out onto a sidewalk.
It was ground zero. Barricades were up. Men in yellow construction hats and heavy
machinery were working in a hole in the ground where the skyscraper collapse
had ended up. Down below they were
bringing out something under an American flag.
For all they knew it might have been
Suddenly they were surrounded
by men in black cloaks. A curved sword
It was a standoff between two
fighting styles evolved over long centuries where
The swords of their assailants were in complete contrast. They were aggressively curved, almost a complete semicircle. The result was that when the sword was raised to strike it leant a halo of steel around the head of the user. And the curve meant that for its reach it was less hazardous to fellows on either side. The scimitar was a slashing weapon purely. The greedy curve meant that it struck not like a hatchet but like a carving knife, a sliding blow that would cut deeply through flesh and bone. And the arc gave a wild look to the blade in action. When several were spun on high it looked like a giant eggbeater, giving the wielders a strange and troubling appearance so that between the appearance of the swords and the spectacular wounds those sword made more than one Asiatic nation over the years had been called, “Tartars,” the Warriors from Hell.
Now the roles were
reversed. The Cossack sword fought only
to delay until outside help might arrive.
The attack was all on the part of the scimitars. But
Sensing hesitation on the
part of the attackers,
“Must have gone that way,” said Hapgood and lead the sprint down to the alley. They were just in time to see a white van pulling away and a couple cloaks disappearing.
“This is Turelli’s
It was dangerous, but the car
seemed in its element, weaving through traffic, bouncing onto sidewalks,
darting through red lights as if survival meant nothing. Soon they were in
In the thick of the fight
Abruptly they seized her,
muffled her again and threw her into the back of the van. The van backed down the alley, turned and
“Abducted twice in two minutes,” she thought. “That’s a lot even for me.”
Soon afterward she felt the van slow, turn and go down a ramp. An iron gate crashed to their rear. For a while they twisted through the bowels of some understructure and then a second gate roared down behind them. Her captors uncovered her mouth and forced her out of the van into an elevator. After a few floors the door opened, and they propelled her down a long dark hallway and into a plush office. They brought her up to a desk.
“Ah, my favorite cardboard
“Nice trick with the microphone in the hair,” she said defiantly. “I suppose you know everything by now.”
“Some things, yes. But not enough. Not nearly enough. You see, it’s all about gathering information. That’s all I do. Gather information. When you have enough information the next step becomes obvious.”
“There’s nothing more to tell you.”
“Now be reasonable. What have those losers you are with offered you? What loyalty could you possibly have to them? Come over to my side. I can reward you well. You know that.”
“Now you see I have trouble
with that. Among the other bits of
information that have drifted my way, it seems that in
“IT’S GENETIC, ISN’T IT?” he jumped up and screamed. “You know some sort of genetic mischief, and you’re keeping it back!”
“They told us it was all a crock of SHIT,” she matched his mood. “They told us it was dodo, kaka, running stool. You’ve wasted your time as much as we have wasted ours.”
“You know more.”
“It all ends with an empty place against the sky where a lot of normal people worked with normal lives and hopes. One of them happened to be a harmless little man who was a friend to a couple of us.”
“Is that your last word?”
“He thought he could save the world. But it was only a dream. He was wrong. He was just wrong. What’s wrong with being wrong?”
“I can afford a lot. But being wrong can be too expensive. We shall see.” He spoke to one of the men, “Take her to the toy room. I shall be there with the Iron Maiden presently.”
The man wrenched her arm behind her and propelled her down the hall and into another room.
The room was double
height. The walls were
soundproofed. The floor carpeted. Along the walls were various instruments of
torture and punishment. In a different
time and place she would have been interested.
The dungeon was vast and exquisitely equipped. So much for
The man dragged her over to a wall and took down a pair of handcuffs. With practiced skill he snapped them onto her wrists. She stood a moment glaring at him as she thought.
There might be a way. It would be dangerous. There was the risk of biting off a tongue. There was the risk of broken bones, of putrefying pneumonia, of brain damage and even of death. But it was risk the guard was just going to have to take. He had accepted risks when he signed on.
The first part of the escape plan would be to sell the idea that escape was farthest from her mind. Look frightened. Then look eager. The second part of the plan was to put the guard at center stage. She must not be interested in, involved with, the devices on display. She must be involved with the guard. So she needed to be afraid of him and of him only.
She looked down and then looked up at him again with wide, moist eyes. She took a tentative step backward. He did not move. “Follow me, you big lug,” she thought. “Give me something to work with.”
As soon as it was clear that they were not going to be playing monkey and weasel, she changed tactic. She leaned forward as if she had only stepped back to have room to maneuver and then stooped and stepped over the handcuffs. She straightened up again, hands cuffed behind her back.
Still the guard did not react. His job was to keep here there until he was relieved, and he was doing nothing to compromise that.
She decided she needed to be a little more brazen. Without changing the flow of her action, she stepped within reach of him. She looked down her bosom and then up into his eyes. No reaction. He was not threatened, not interested, not angry, not critical. He was just busy. That was all.
She whispered to the guard, “I can’t unbutton my shirt like this. But if you did it I couldn’t stop you.”
At last he lowered his eyes to the tidy bosom on offer and then looked back into her own eyes. His expression was unchanged.
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