I hadn’t watched afternoon tv in years. Not since university. I didn’t realize there were so many skinheads, pregnant high-school cheerleaders, distraught soccer moms. jilted lovers, scorned wives, two-timing husbands, other women, con-men, scam artists and other assorted characters that seem to be sitcom staples all trying to out curse each other amid the wanton throwing of folding chairs. I spent a couple of hours watching the spectacle while I thought about my predicament.
The only thing I knew for certain was that somebody invented a ray-gun and I accidentally saw it in action when I wasn’t supposed to. I was probably being held in some government building, but by who, I had no idea.
A knock on my door broke my reverie. “Come in.”
Adams sat down in the chair across from the bed. I tuned off the tv.
“I know you want to leave, so let’s get right to business. We have done a preliminary investigation into your background, and given what we have found, and have observed over the last day, we think the most effective way to resolve our mutual problem is to offer you a full-time job.”
That’s not what I was expecting. “I’m not getting where this is going. I may be just a loose end to you, but I’ve a lot of questions of my own.”
“I saw an innocent man murdered last night. I was the only witness and I didn’t call the police, and even worse, we ran away and left his body in the street like an animal.” I was starting to shake.
“I assure you that Constable McMillan has been duly and respectfully handled by the police. We have arranged things so the police know nothing of your presence,” was the cool reply.
I was getting edgy. “What do you do here? What is this place, some sort of government spy agency? Do you build those ray-guns here?” I could feel a torrent of questions about to spew from me. I had to slow down. The hamster wheel in my brain was spinning furiously.
“We are a branch of the federal government. Not a spy agency, but we do perform investigations into various sorts of problems. One case involves missing ‘ray-guns’, which we prefer to call handheld directed energy weapons. When you return for your orientation sessions next week we will give you more details.”
Adams reached into his jacket pocket and handed me a card with only a phone number and terminal address on it. “This is my contact information. Please come back Thursday at 9 am.”
“I haven’t accepted yet” I was getting impatient with the assumption that I’d drop everything and join. “What if I don’t? What will happen? You’re not going to kill me are you?” I can’t believe that blurted out. I’ve been watching too much tv.
Adams looked at me like an exasperated parent who has to explain a simple fact of life to a dim witted teen for the umpteenth time, “Contrary to our portrayal in the popular media, we do not make it a habit of randomly killing citizens whenever we feel like it. We do indeed get those feelings mind you, but we use other very effective means to persuade people to cooperate and remain silent. We would apply them to your case. Your everyday life would become very difficult if you felt to estrange yourself from us and act on your own impulses to go public. It would be hard to travel, hard to hold a job, hard to get a loan, hard to be taken seriously by the media if you courted them, hard to get your children into good schools, hard to do just about anything. If you persisted in not cooperating, we would be forced to take our encouragements to another level.”
I hate these guys.
“But, I do not think it will come to that. You do not show any signs of resisting what is on offer. I think you rather like what could be ahead and the opportunities it may present. You are in a struggle with yourself, not with us.”
The hamster started to get winded. “I didn’t know ray-guns actually existed. Does everybody have them?”
“Directed energy weapons are still in their infancy as far as we know. The one you saw was one of a small set of early prototypes that were stolen from one of our labs six months ago.
Work on the compact fusion generator that they are based on was started fifteen years ago. Other countries had embarked on similar research programs, but most did not succeed. Our lab was lucky and their approach was the basis of a workable design. The devil is in the details and they needed a lot of money to work them out. Only the military could make that kind of funding available, and to get future work the scientists had to adjust their goal and focus on developing the generator to be the basis for a new breed of handheld weapons.
The work has been slow and difficult and only recently have fairly stable models been constructed. The earliest prototypes, like you saw last night, will explode half the time they are fired.”
“So, I was just lucky that the bicyclist’s gun didn’t explode and kill all three of us?”
“The lethal range of the blast is relatively small. Since you were well away, and inside a car, you probably would not have been killed,” Adams explained. “Those early prototypes are far from being reliable operational devices. They should only be experimented with in a controlled lab environment and should not be wasted on mission oriented tasks.”
“Why do you think they used one instead of a regular gun?”
“We are not completely certain, but I think they were sending us a message. Or rather, they were sending me a personal message in a very theatrical manner. I think they had meant to kill me, not Constable McMillan. Did you notice that the Constable and I were about the same build, same height, same hair colour? We both had on standard issue uniforms. It was dark. And the car was the one I usually drive. Given the way they staged the attack, they did not have time to confirm identities. “
The hamster finally flopped over. “Who are ‘they’?”
“Again, we are not quite sure. They are likely a young and relatively inexperienced group considering that their tactics appear to be pulled from comic books. But, we take them very seriously whoever they are. Look what they did last night.”
“What were those shots I heard earlier?”
“They were both sidearm discharges. We were investigating what we thought was a credible lead that would help us recover the stolen prototypes. Our information was not correct and the operation did not go as planned. I was looking for someone who fled the scene when I came across you running down the sidewalk.”
“I have told you more than I should, but I am confident that you will make the right choice.” Adams looked at his watch. “What’s your decision?”
“Good. Those gentlemen sitting outside your door will escort you down to the subway and help you on your way.”
“What should I tell my wife, or my boss?”
“As for your employer, we will help smooth your exit. For your wife, you need to make up something. She will find out the details later. There will be a spousal briefing session as part of your training.”
They seemed to have thought of everything. I got up to put my shoes on.
Darth had some parting advice, “Please remember that should your commitment wander and you feel compelled to set the record straight in a public manner before we have mutually terminated our relationship, we will take appropriate steps to contain the situation.”
Yeap, they had thought of everything.
Part 7 can be found here.
Part 7 can be found here.