‘It’s okay,’ whispers Jane, ‘don’t move. Stay perfectly still.’
The huge dog hurtles towards us, snapping and snarling. Every fiber in my body is screaming for me to shoot the fucker in the head, but I hold my nerve. It’s only a couple of yards away from us and going at full pelt when it suddenly veers off to the side and hares along the perimeter wall. Then it turns on a dime and races across the lawn straight at the summer house. It leaps into the air then onto the veranda, teeth bared, jaws wide and thumps into one of the goons. Man and animal fly backwards into the summer house. The hound then latches onto his throat and starts shaking him like he’s a rag doll. Instantly the place is in chaos, the housekeeper screaming and the cops and the other goon wrestling with the dog to unlock it from the throat of their compatriot.
I look at Jane. She smiles.
‘A vision?’ I ask.
‘The dog’s worst nightmare,’ says Jane, ‘…that’ll keep them busy while we have a little chat with Mr. and Mrs. Keen.’
We’re inside and climbing the stairs as quickly and quietly as we can, but it’s not necessary. The Keen’s wailing and screaming is almost frightening. We follow the noise, guns ready, to a small room at the end of the first floor landing, a child’s nursery. The door is open. We can see into the room. It’s full of expensive kid’s crap. In the middle of the room is a single bed. Either side of this are the kneeling figures of a man and a woman, Harvey and his good lady. Each holds the hand of a little girl that’s lying on the bed. I can see she’s dead, half her head’s been blown off.
Harvey has his head buried in the child’s stomach as he sobs and wails. Mrs. Keen is screaming, hitting at her chest with one hand while clutching little Amy’s dead hand with the other. Something must have alerted her to our arrival because she stops, turns her head and stares straight at Jane. In a flash her grief turns to rage and she twists as she stands, puts her arms out straight with her hands forming claws. She screams and jumps at Jane, thrashing out at her face. Jane puts a bullet in her chest, a single shot straight through the woman’s heart. She hits the deck with a crash at Jane’s feet. Harvey lifts his head, a shocked expression on his face. Before he has time to react I’m on him, smacking the butt of my gun across the top of his head. He’s out like a light.
‘Let’s get out of here,’ I bark at Jane, but she knows already we’ve only got a few moments to grab Harvey and scoot before his protection is back in the house and we’ve got a gun battle on our hands. Harvey’s tall but he’s light to carry. I lift him up and sling him over my shoulder in a fireman’s lift. Jane goes ahead of me as we make our way down the stairs towards the front door.
Our luck holds. The keys are still in the Cadillac. I bundle Harvey into the back of the car. Jane hops in beside him while I jump in the driver’s seat, fire up the engine and we’re off, God knows where. I take the first turning and gun the Cadillac, then right, then right again till I hit the main highway. After a minute or so I slow, keeping one eye on the rear mirror, expecting the wail of sirens and two motorcycle cops racing up behind me any second, but nothing.
‘Head out of town on the back roads,’ says Jane, wiping a trickle of blood off Harvey’s head where I whipped him. He’s still out cold, and looks like he will be for a while yet.
‘On it,’ I reply, and take a slip road off the highway. After ten minutes I spot a shopping precinct where we can find a quiet corner and park up for a while. I pull up in front of a grocery store and jump out. Minutes later I’m back at the car with a bag full of eats and a couple of bottles of water. I sling them in the back next to Jane and we take off again, nice and sensibly. I don’t want to give any traffic cop the excuse to pull us over. I follow the signs to a local beauty spot and pull in to the car park. It’s beautiful in the morning sunshine, a lush green wood with a crystal clear river running through it. The place is deserted. We can talk to Harvey here undisturbed.
‘Wake him up,’ I say to Jane and she pours some of the bottled water I’ve just bought over his head.
The shock of the ice cold water straight from the store’s chiller brings old Harv round with a jolt.
‘What the hell…?’
I figure he’s used to a little more deference than he’s getting right now. His head starts to clear. Away from the Zyg and its influence he’s no longer in the mood for blubbing over its death, but he’s hard faced straight away.
‘What the fuck do you think you’re doing?’ he says rubbing the top of his head. I’m not impressed. I point my gun at his head.
‘Well, Harv,’ I say, real polite, ‘I’m doing my job.’
I go through the motions and read him his rights. He is guilty of knowingly protecting an implant, and guilty of manslaughter by association, crimes he helped to put on the statute books. He’s facing at least a fifty stretch, possibly even a death sentence.
‘Want something to eat?’ says Jane to Harvey, real considerate.
‘Fuck you,’ he replies, less than polite.
‘Suit yourself,’ she says, handing me a wrapped sandwich, and opening one for herself. Jane ate earlier but still devours her snack. As we eat Harvey sits there fuming and occasionally rubbing his aching head. We each finish our food, take a swig of water from the bottle, then settle down to business with Harvey.
‘You know, don’t you?’ I say, looking for the reaction in his face.
‘Know what?’ he says, acting pissed off with us but playing dumb.
‘Two of the men working as your security goons were Dreeks,’ I bark at him.
‘You know what a Dreek is, don’t you?’ says Jane.
‘I’ve no idea what you’re talking about,’ he replies with a sneer.
There’s a moment of silence then Jane says, ‘Jake, I’ve just tried to plant a vision in his head. Nothing. He’s been treated with the actinic. No doubt about it, he’s working with them…or for them.’
‘Them?’ he snaps at Jane, his tone suggesting she’s the villain in this, she’s the traitor. I slap him hard across his face, just to remind him of his predicament and that he should perhaps talk to Jane with a little more respect.
‘Quit jerking us around,’ I shout in his face, ‘Tell us what the hell is going on, or you’ll wind up like you’re wife with a slug through your chest.’
‘You bastard,’ he spits out at me. Then he looks at Jane, ‘You killed my wife in cold blood. She was unarmed.’
‘Come on,’ I shout, ‘she was screwed, and you know it. Better she died that way, quick and clean, than the lingering slow death from grief all women go through when their implanted kid dies.’
He looks at me, then Jane, with an intense malevolence, his eyes red and burning with hate for us for the fate his wife suffered at Jane’s hands. Then he seems to relax. He slides back into his seat, a smile forming on his lips.
‘You know,’ he says to Jane, ‘I sent a Torp in a helicopter especially for your little puppy here. He’s one lucky son-of-a-bitch to still be alive. Bet he doesn’t last till sunset.’
‘Fuck you,’ says Jane, very unprofessional.
‘What’s going on?’ I ask again, ‘You knew about the alien contractors before I told you. You’re working with them. Why? What have you got to gain by the extinction of mankind?’
Still with his eyes fixed on Jane he says, ‘…we’re moving people even as we speak. If you can get through to the President and then by some miracle convince him and his cohorts that your cock and bull story is true you’ll still have gotten nowhere. By the time they get the resources in place and start looking for all those people you’ve betrayed they’ll be gone.’
‘Gone where?’ asks Jane.
He gives Jane a sickly smile but doesn’t answer.
‘Answer the lady,’ I bark, shoving the business end of my gun into the hollow of his left cheek.
‘…some here, some there,’ he says enigmatically.
‘Do you want a bullet in your brain?’
‘You won’t shoot me. You think you need me too much. You asked what was going on. I’ll tell you this much. Krillik has his people coming to sort this out right now. Krillik won’t let you harm me. I’m even more important to him than I am to you. Whether you live or die, I promise you I’ll be safe and sound before nightfall. Then I’ll be taking a nice, long vacation.’
‘…where you think you’ll be safe,’ I say sarcastically. He knows if I survive whatever happens next I’ll hunt him down wherever he tries to hide.
‘Safer than here, sure. Somewhere I can walk around at night without the risk of having my face ripped off,’ he says, the contemptuous sneer still there in his tone. I hate this bastard. This is a man that was protecting a killer Zyg less than an hour ago now beefing on about the terror and death they cause. I want to squeeze the trigger and blow the back of his head off but he’s right, I need him for now.
‘Who are you kidding?’ I snap back, ‘There’s no country on Earth that isn’t infected with Zygs.’
‘Who mentioned Earth?’ he says, the grin growing wider.
‘Dreeks,’ says Jane suddenly, ‘…a shit load of them.’
‘Heading towards us. We’ve got about four minutes.’
I fire up the engine but Jane says there’s no point running. She thinks there’s about ten of them in three separate vehicles, a clump of six and two pairs.
‘We can’t outrun that many,’ she says sounding dejected, as if this is as far as we’re going to get.
‘Let’s see, shall we?’ I say, gunning the engine and screeching out of the car park in a cloud of flying gravel and dust. Happy Harvey sits there grinning at us as the force of my exit pushes him back in his seat.
‘If you stop the car and make a run for it they’ll leave you alone,’ he says, ‘They want me, not you.’
I know he’s lying. Sure, he may well be the main reason they’re coming after us in force this time, but they’ve already tried to kill me and Jane. If I did turf the bastard out they’d still come hunting us down. Also, I want to know why they’re so keen to save old Harvey’s ass. What is so special about this treacherous creep? If we shake off the Dreeks then Harv and me will have a nice little chat.
Jane is on red alert, watching every vehicle behind and in front of us.
‘They’re very near,’ she says, reloading her revolver.
I swerve onto a slip road for the freeway, angry drivers honking their horns behind me. This way I know the Dreeks can’t come at us from the front. I see a black Jeep in my rear view mirror screeching through 180, throwing up a cloud of burnt rubber, swinging back to follow us down the slip road. That’s one of them. The Jeep is moving fast and is about six cars behind as I hit the freeway.
‘Can’t you put a vision in the driver’s head?’ I yell at Jane, ‘Make him think he’s running up a dead end.’
‘Don’t be dumb,’ she barks back, ‘He’s a Dreek.’
‘How many in the Jeep?’
‘Six,’ says Jane but I’ve a horrible feeling about two of the others.’
Jane winds her window down and looks skyward. There’s a helicopter coming up fast from behind us following the freeway.
‘Shit,’ she says, ‘There’s a chopper following us.’
My heart sinks. We stand a chance of outrunning cars but the chopper will be on our tail calling in our location no matter how smart I drive. I see an exit from the freeway coming up soon. If I can find a shopping mall we can ditch the car in an underground car park, maybe steal another and give them all the slip. I slow a little to let the Jeep get right on my tail. I can see there are six hulking guys in the Jeep. The one sitting next to the driver winds his window down and leans out. Our friend Harvey looks back and sees what I’m looking so worried about. He smiles and looks at Jane.
‘You’ve had it. Tell your gorilla to pull over and drop me off. I promise I’ll see that nothing too bad happens to you both.’
Just as he finishes talking the rear of our car is sprayed with bullets from the automatic weapon in the hand of the Dreek hanging out of the Jeep’s window. I swerve the car off the freeway just as the slugs start to demolish the rear windscreen. The Jeep’s driver is too slow and misses the exit but thinks he can still make it. He jams on his breaks and swerves right but he’s going way too fast. The Jeep bucks then rolls, bouncing high into the air then landing with a crunch on its roof, spinning wildly. If they weren’t finished with the crash what happens next guarantees no survivors.
A split second later a sixteen wheel low loader toting a huge dumper truck on its back hits the upturned Jeep with a sickening crunch. The front cab rides over the Jeep and slams down the other side. The low loader’s trailer then lands flat on top of the Jeep with all its enormous weight squashing the Jeep down to a thick mass of mangled tin a couple of feet thick. The whole mess grinds to a halt amidst a shower of sparks, cars skidding everywhere to avoid the carnage. Seconds later the spilt fuel catches and the whole lot goes up in a ball of flames. Six down, four to go.
At the top of the exit lane I spot a sign for a shopping mall. I forego the usual courtesies given to other road users and scream straight across at the junction heading for the mall. I check the rear mirror to see if there’s another car following and catch the expression on old Harvey’s face. He’s covered in glass from the broken rear window but that’s not what’s making him look like death warmed up, and like he hasn’t been able to maintain control of his colon. Those Dreeks showered us with slugs. It was no accident. They didn’t give a damn what happened to anyone on the receiving end of their bullets. That included Harvey. Whatever hold he thought he had on Krillik and his cohorts had obviously exceeded its expiry date. He was just as much being hunted as we were. What’s more, Jane and I were now his best hope for survival. Perhaps his attitude towards us would take a turn for the better. Jane has read my eyes in the driver’s mirror. She turns to Harvey and talks to him to make it clear what the new terms of reference are.
‘When we hit the underground car park we need to get out of this and into the public areas as quick as possible. If you drag your feet I’ll kill you. Do you understand?’
He nods. His hands are shaking for the first time since we snatched him.
We’ve been flat out for half a mile, weaving in and out of the traffic lanes. The chopper is right above us all the way. I spot the entrance to the mall, and signs for the underground car park. I go past the exit turn, then spin the car, cut across two busy lanes of traffic and gun down the entrance slip road. Luckily there are no other cars in my way. At the bottom there’s no time to stop and pull a ticket, so I crash through the barrier, setting off a siren and red flashing lights. Cops will be here in minutes.
The car park is brisk but not busy so I have to slow down to dodge the cars parking and moving out of spaces. I’m looking for a suitable place near the mall entrance to make it easier to dump the car and get in amongst the crowd when I spot a sign. It’s like a dream come true. This mall has a subway station directly beneath it. What better way to lose the guys tailing us.
‘There,’ I shout to Jane, pointing at the subway sign.
‘Go for it,’ she answers.
I screech to a halt in a parking slot next to the entrance and kill the engine.
‘You,’ I bark at Harvey waving my gun in his face, ‘If you put a foot wrong I’ll blow your head off.’
He nods. I can see in his face that he’ll behave himself. Moments later we’re out of the car and running for the subway platform. We jump the barrier just as a train waiting at the platform hisses its doors to close. I sprint ahead of the other two and just reach the first set of doors before they meet, then jam my foot between them. By the time the driver has opened and re-closed them all three of us are on board. The doors clunk shut and we’re on the move straight away, slowly at first but we’re in a train in a tunnel deep underground. I don’t know which way we’re heading but I don’t care. We’re safe, for now anyway.
The carriage we’re in is empty, thank heavens. The train trundles along for a few minutes. None of us speak as we catch our breath from the chase. Harvey is the first to break the silence.
‘I can’t believe it. They tried to kill me,’ he says in a shaky voice as he finally gets round to picking the broken glass out of his hair.
‘Us,’ I say, reminding him he wouldn’t have been the only victim if any of the bullets sprayed by the Dreeks had reached their intended destinations.
The train picks up speed. Jane studies the station map above the luggage rack.
‘There’s a stop in a couple of minutes. We should get off and switch trains.’
‘Can Krillik pick up your pulse down here?’ I ask.
‘No, not underground.’
‘Then we should stay on the train,’ I say.
‘…or in a station, as long as we’re below ground.’
Harvey pipes in trying to be helpful, on our side, ‘I know where we are. I travel this line regularly. There’s a theatre above the next stop. It has a basement café we can get to from the station. We won’t need to go above ground.’
‘I’m done with diners,’ I say, ‘Seems like you stop at one and wind up in a shoot-out.’
Jane disagrees, ‘We find a quiet corner where we can have a little chat to Mr. Keen here. We should be safe as long as we stay below ground.’
The train clatters into the station and the doors slide open. Jane and I check the platform is safe before we bundle Harvey off the train and head for the theatre.
Minutes later we’re in the quietest corner we can find of what looks like a popular and classy restaurant, white tablecloths, heavy cutlery, brass everywhere. It’s busy with folks attending some kind of convention in the theatre above, grabbing a break. I order a pot of coffee when we show up and a flunky brings it almost straight away then fusses around us laying out the cups, saucers and coffee pot. He gives a curt little nod before darting away to tend to the needy whining from customers louder than us at the next table. There’s so much clatter and hubbub we don’t need to whisper.
‘So,’ I say to Harvey, ‘you sold out mankind so you and your wife and that thing you’d called your daughter could skedaddle to another planet. You piece of shit. Tell all, and don’t spare the details.’
Harvey has calmed down a lot and a little of the sniffiness is back.
‘I didn’t have any choice,’ he says, ‘…she’ll understand.’
‘What will I understand?’ Jane asks old Harv. I can see in her eyes she wants to chew his treacherous face right off here and now.
‘That the human race is finished,’ says Harvey as if she was a half-wit, ‘We’ve got…what, fifty years, eighty at most? We don’t even own our own species, for Chrissakes. Some fucking corporate light years away holds the copyright to our genetic code.’
‘So, what’s your angle in all of this? Where do you fit in with this guy Krillik? What’s your deal?’
He sips his coffee and sighs, ‘I thought I saw a way out, the possibility of survival, not just for me and my family, but for a select few others as well. There would be enough of us to carry on the human race somewhere out there.’
There are so many questions I don’t know what to say next, but there’s no need. Jane takes over.
‘Whatever you were told, or promised, it would have been a lie. It’s illegal to take living genetically modified creatures from one planet to any other. The risks of viral, bacterial, fungal or DNA cross-contamination are too great. We can move the constituent parts around, samples, dead ones stored in bio-hazard containers, but nothing living. Once they’d gotten you to a shuttle you’d have been put down.’
It all sounded so cold, so hard, coming from her, as if humans were nothing better than farm livestock.
‘Who are the select few?’ I say to Harvey with as much contempt in my voice as I can muster. This guy was happy to sell us all out to save his own skin and that of a few of his cronies. I hate him and I want it to show.
‘There’s about two hundred, all told. It’s a list that the President and I put together.’
‘So he’s in on this nice cozy arrangement as well?’ I say, not really surprised.
‘Of course, but as far as we know only the top echelon in America has made contact with Krillik, as yet no Russians, Chinese or any other nation to our knowledge.’
‘Sweet. So, your plan was that some corner of some far away land would be forever America, while the real Americans down here are left to slowly die off. You son-of-a-bitch. I ought to rip your head off and shit down your neck.’
‘…and what good would that do, you ape?’ he says, the sniffiness well and truly back. But he’s right.
It would serve no purpose other than make me feel a little better right now. We may need this bastard to get Jane in front of someone with the power to stop all this, the Chief of Staff, maybe, or some four star General prepared to listen. There’s no point taking this to the President now. He’s as big a traitor to mankind as old Harvey here. At this point I don’t know what to do. A plan will come soon, I’m sure of it.
‘How did you make contact with Krillik?’ asks Jane.
‘He contacted us,’ says Harvey, ‘Well, not so much contacted as turned up in The War Room. The most secure place in the whole of the United States and suddenly he’s there, sitting in the President’s seat.’
Jane turns to me and says, ‘Visions. He’d have made everyone blind to him and just walked in.’
‘Scared the crap out of us, I can tell you,’ says Harvey, ‘We set off every alarm in the place but none of them worked. Security just carried on as if nothing was happening. We found out later how he could fuck with our brains, make us think this or that was or wasn’t happening.’
‘When did he treat you with the actinic?’ asks Jane.
‘Yesterday, when I told him about your call. He ordered me to send that helicopter for your ape here. He knew you’d turned whistleblower. He didn’t want you to be able to plant visions in my head if you ever managed to get through to me.’
I ignore the ape jibe as slapping him hard in the restaurant will only draw attention to us, so I ask, ‘Why didn’t you want Jane along with me in the chopper? You could have got to us both at the same time.’
‘Krillik said he knows where Jane is all the time and can neutralize her anytime he wants. You were the bigger worry, blabbing your story about. Anyway, if she’d have been in the chopper she’d have known straight away the pilot was a Torp. How the hell did you find out?’
‘I ask the questions,’ I snap, ‘What was so special about you that was important to Krillik?’
He takes a sip of coffee then tops up his cup. The smug grin is back as he turns to Jane to answer my question.
‘You know, your betrayal of your people, your attempt to blow the whistle on what’s been going on is futile. How sad that it will probably cost you your life. We already knew what was causing the implants, we just didn’t know what the end game was. The cops caught a Torp fogging one night. The bastard hadn’t been aware he was being watched. The cops that saw him thought he was a terrorist fogging some sort of nerve gas so they zapped him with a Taser, then kept him tranqued till the Feds took him off their hands. The Feds put him in a straight jacket in a subterranean bullet proof glass cell before they brought him round. The cell was monitored, cameras everywhere, all fed back to a control room at Langley hundreds of miles away. That saved us.
The thing threw all sorts of visions at the guys doing the interrogation and it was a mess. We lost eighteen on the first shift, shot the fuck out of each other. No one had a clue what was going on. We were lucky. Three separate crews were handling the interrogation so we could keep the pressure up twenty four seven. The guys watching at Langley soon learned not to allow anyone with weapons near the Torp, and when reality was shot to fuck for team A, you switched them out and put in team B, then C.
The Torp finally became exhausted. We hadn’t been giving him any food or water. The visions stopped. Not long afterwards we were the ones making life hard. You people are so used to being able to screw with our minds that you’ve got no stamina when the chips are down. The Torp knew he was going to be under the thumbscrews for the long haul and came clean. We have a list of names and addresses, just like yours Jane, and we’ve been secretly killing these bastards off under the radar. No arrests, no courts, no prison sentences, and no public panic, just a bullet in the back of the head when a Torp or a Dreek steps outside their door wearing a back pack.’
‘…and you kept this all to yourselves,’ I growl at him, ‘While me and my compatriots are face to face with Zygs every day, risking our lives.’
‘What else could we do? Tell the world?’
‘Why not?’ asked Jane.
‘I’ll tell you why not,’ I say, ‘because these bastards are no better than your people. Old Harvey and his cohorts are happy to see the human population diminish to extinction everywhere else in the world except the good ol’ US of A. Am I right?’
‘If you think about it, it’s got its merits. No more Russians or Chinese…no more Arabs, or North Koreans.’
‘…yes, but no more of our allies, Europeans, Australians, New Zealanders, South Americans, Indians, Japanese, whole nations confined to extinction…and what right have you to keep this from all the other people in the world, just because we don’t share the same culture and political or religious philosophy?’
Jane suddenly leans forward across the table so she’s nose to nose with Harvey. She stares him deep in the eyes for what seems like an age and then says, ‘It’s bullshit, isn’t it Harvey.’
Harvey puts on a hurt face and looks all offended but Jane presses him harder, ‘It’s a pack of lies.’
He smiles that sickly smug grin of his and sits back in his seat.
‘Okay,’ he says, ‘Why would I lie, given the fact that Krillik is out to kill me as well as you two?’
Jane thinks hard before she answers, ‘I don’t know.’
‘Perhaps this will give you a clue,’ says Harvey.
He sits upright in his seat as if he’s about to make a monumental announcement. Jane and I watch as he holds out his right arm, palm upwards, fingers straight out as if he’s about to beg for money. I’m curious. What the hell is he up to? In one incredibly swift movement he opens his mouth as wide as it will go, folds his tongue towards the back of his throat then rams his hand into his mouth, tearing his tongue from its roots and pushing it as far down his throat as it will go, forcing it tight into the lower part of his windpipe. Suddenly blood is spurting out around his hands, and his eyes are bulging in their sockets. I’m up immediately pulling at his hand to free it from his throat but it’s jammed in hard. His free hand grasps at my eyes, clawing and scratching at the skin on my face. His index finger pushes into the corner of my right eye and I feel searing pain as it starts working its way behind my eyeball. I let go of his arm and grab at my eyes but his finger is driving deeper. My head starts to spin and I know I’m on the edge of blacking out from the pain.
Once again Jane saves me. She puts a slug through Harvey’s head and he flops forward onto the table sending the expensive crockery flying off the table and across the restaurant floor. I pull Harvey’s dead hand off my face and rub my eye hard to try to numb the pain. Jane is out of her seat in a flash and dragging me with her. Everyone in the restaurant is looking at us. You can hear a pin drop.
‘Settle down,’ says Jane to no one in particular, and surprisingly they all do, munching and jawing as if nothing had happened. In their minds nothing had, thanks to Jane’s vision. But that wouldn’t last. Their reality would soon return, along with real cops carrying real guns, and on the hunt for the man and the woman who minutes earlier had been sat quietly enjoying a cup of coffee with the now brutally murdered Senator.
‘Should I leave a tip?’ I quip as she half drags me through the restaurant doors, and bundles me towards the underground car park.
We’re above ground once again in a small, nondescript stolen four-seater, crawling through the mid morning traffic, the tail end of the rush hour and school runs that clogs the suburbs of Washington. Jane is confident there are no Dreeks anywhere near us but curses the slow moving traffic anyway. My right eye is badly bruised and puffed up so far it’s practically jammed shut. We still have no plan.
After a long silence I finally say, ‘What the fuck just happened?’
‘I’m not sure,’ she says, distant, as if she’s still working on an answer.
‘Was any of what he said true, do you think?’
‘Some, yes,’ she says. Again a pause as if she’s working her way through a puzzle.
‘Well?’ I prompt after too long a silence.
‘This is what I figure. He knew about Krillik. We hadn’t mentioned him at all, so he must have had some contact with him, or heard about him through another route. He knew about Dreeks, obviously, as he had a couple working for him, or more correctly with him. All Dreeks down here work for Krillik and no one else. He knew about Torps. I don’t think we used that expression when we spoke to him on the conference call back in the Sheriff’s office. So, there’s no doubt about it, he knew before we told him about the contractors and what they are up to.’
‘His story flipped half way through, did you notice?’
‘What? D’you mean one minute he’s fleeing Earth with his buddies to colonies some other planet, the next Krillik has promised to keep America safe?’
‘Yeah. I can’t figure out what he had to gain by lying like that.’
‘D’you think both versions were lies?’
‘Yes, I think I do. There’s no way Krillik can set aside any nation, country or even an area. He’s a contractor. He’s paid to do a job, that’s all. He’s paid to rid the planet of humans, in a non-violent way I may add, by a given date. Any decision to spare a nation or a country is the gift of Grow, the corporation that gave him the contract, and nothing to do with Krillik.’
‘So why did Harvey top himself?’ I ask. I know Jane popped a slug in his head but that was to save my eye. Harvey would have choked to death within minutes anyway with his tongue wedged deep down his windpipe.
‘…the only reason I can think of…’
Suddenly she swings the car off the main drag onto a side road. She pulls up against the kerb and looks at me.
‘Time,’ she says.
‘Harvey was playing for time. He was fucked anyway, his wife and kid gone, the Zyg’s pheromones still choking him up. It was all a sham, the car chase, the Dreeks shooting at us, everything since we left Harvey’s place, all a charade.’
‘Go on,’ I say.
‘You’re an experienced SOS guy, right? How long do the parents last after the implant dies? Seldom very long. Most die of grief within a month.’
‘Some don’t,’ I say, ‘We have special prisons full of them.’
‘Yeah, but they’re the exception, not the rule. You saw how he was affected when little Amy had her face blown off. He wouldn’t have lasted through the weekend.’
‘Where’s this leading?’ I ask.
‘Let’s play Supposin’.’
‘Okay. Supposin’ what?’
‘Supposing it was true. The FBI did corner a Torp and he spilled the beans. Supposing they did have a list of names and were knocking off the contractors at a worrying rate of knots, worrying to Krillik anyway.’
‘Wouldn’t you have known about it? You were one of them, on the inside of all of this till a couple of days ago.’
‘Yeah, but I’m not operational. I’m treated like an outsider. I wouldn’t have heard about any killings and I’m certain no-one close to Krillik would have let me in on such a big secret.’
Jane seemed very sure of this but I was confused. If she was one of their team then surely they’d have alerted her to the risk if contractors were being murdered.
‘Because only the operational guys are on the bonus and penalty scheme, I’m not. They would keep me well away from anything that they might have to do that breaks the law, and if their bonus was under threat they’d sure as hell break the law to safeguard it. It’s only because the Zyg’s killing is so public that I know about it. No-one’s told me. I saw what was happening then did some research. That’s how I found out the Zyg sperm was contaminated and causing all the deaths.’
‘…and once you’d found out then the best thing they can do to protect their blood money is to neutralize you, right?’
‘Damned right,’ says Jane, ‘So, supposin’ old Harvey back there was lying through his teeth. Fact; He knows all about Krillik and his contract, the Zygs, the Dreeks and the Torps, but he’s lying about the President’s involvement, and the plan to haul the select few off world to start a human colony. Supposing the only one in league with Krillik is Harvey, the President and the rest of the top tier are working their guts out trying to find and kill Krillik’s payroll under the radar to avoid a mass panic.’
‘Why would Krillik single out Harvey?’ I ask.
‘I don’t know…he’s close to the President, perhaps…’
It hits me like a bolt, ‘The Zyg…Amy.’
‘Right!’ says Jane, eyes bright, ‘Krillik must have used the Zyg in some way to blackmail or bribe Harvey. Perhaps he did promise to take Harv’s little family off world, give them sanctuary on another planet.’
‘Could Krillik do that?’
‘No. Like I said, it’s illegal. It’s also not the point. What did old Harvey have that Krillik wanted so badly…’
‘…and why did Harvey sacrifice himself to buy Krillik a little time?’
We both sit back in the car seats pondering these two posers when suddenly something bizarre and terrifying happens. There’s a noise in my head, quiet at first, like Tinnitus. I hardly notice it, but then the whistling gets louder. In moments it’s a piercing screech. I grab my head and press hard to relieve the sickening, drilling pain that’s like white hot needles being pulled through my eyes. I hold out for a few seconds but give in to the agony and scream, pressing my eyes tightly closed. The pain doesn’t stop. I scream again, then again. The pain eases. I open my eyes. I’m no longer in the car.
I’m sitting on a chair in a room. It’s dark, bare brick walls. Above my head is a concrete ceiling from which hangs a single light bulb. It’s swinging backwards and forwards as if it has just been hit. As my eyes focus in the dim light I can make out something in the shadows, movement, people. I try to move but I can’t. My hands, feet and head are locked down somehow. In the ever shifting light I look at my wrists. They are both bound tight to the arms of the chair by metal bands. There’s a needle stuck in a vein in my left wrist with a tube and syringe hanging from it. I can feel and taste sweat and blood trickling down my cheek from my forehead across my mouth. It feels like there’s another tight metal band like the ones holding my wrists gripping my head tight against the back of the chair and cutting into my forehead. The air is cold and damp, but I’m drenched in sweat. One of the shadows moves forward and pulls at my eyelids, then holds a pen-torch near my eyes, dazzlingly bright, adding a little more to my pain.
‘He’s coming out!’
‘Do something.’ The voice comes from behind me and sounds bored, indifferent, ‘If he dies…well, I hardly dare think about the consequences.’
Then, as suddenly as it came, the vision disappears. I’m back in the car. I turn to Jane open mouthed and say, ‘I think I’m being tortured.’
End Of Part Four