The Hades Connection
by Gabriel S. Timar
The last things George Pike remembered about his life on Earth were the suntanned, streamlined, naked body of Lynn, the report of a gun, the bullet hole in the wood paneling, and his blood on the white carpet next to the black towel.
The next thing he knows, he’s being welcomed to the Third Dimension, where he has a choice not only of afterlifes but of accommodations and a new body, as well. George signs up with Hades, Ltd., a corporation that seems to be the best of a dubious lot.
George very much enjoys being welcomed by Arabella, who is not only highly efficient but something of a race car driver. And yet she has asked one question he cannot answer: how he died. Neither he nor anyone else seems to know. Now George must meet the head of Hades, Ltd., a certain Mr. Lucifer... and prepare himself for a career as a double agent in interstellar intrigue.
Mike agreed to stay with us until we arranged his space flight. I had the feeling he was amused and did not really believe that he would board a spaceship. After searching my memory banks, I found a well-hidden but accessible landing site for the “Baby.”
As it was early fall, a weekday and about lunchtime, the ski slopes were deserted. I did not worry about hikers, either. I decided to have Fedorov land the “Baby” on the property of a ski lodge near the city.
As I was not a skier, I did not know my way around the ski resorts, but I had very pleasant memories about a particular lodge somewhere near Orangeville. My married lady friend — let us call her Joan of Mississauga — was an avid skier and knew the place well. In the course of our clandestine relationship, we visited the resort several times learning about their jacuzzis and magnificent, circular waterbeds. According to Joan, the slopes were very nice too.
As I had difficulty finding the place, the drive to the landing site took more than an hour. While I was busy plotting strategy and getting lost, I let Mike recount the Esther Jackson story, which was enlightening, to say the least.
* * *
It seems a couple of thugs hijacked a Transcontinental Airlines jet over the Atlantic Ocean en route from Paris to Toronto. Their compatriots considered them freedom fighters and great heroes of an obscure South American rebel group. What they really were I do not know, because the definition of a freedom fighter or a terrorist is a matter of viewpoint.
At the time, Esther was the senior stewardess of the plane. According to the other hostesses, she lured one of the hijackers into the galley to separate the terrorists. From Mike’s account, it was not clear what was going on. Some of the passengers claimed that the terrorist ordered Esther into the galley and was going to rape her.
At the same time, two stewardesses decided to work on the other goon. One of them distracted the hijacker, while the other, Dolly Morris, brained him with a fire extinguisher. All this time, hijacker number one was busy making love to Esther in the galley. He must have heard the commotion but could not extricate himself from her vise-like grip.
Dolly had enough time to grab the gun of the hijacker she knocked out and shoot the other terrorist. Apparently, Dolly wasn’t fast enough, and Esther’s hijacker managed to draw his gun. Although aiming at Dolly he hit Esther by mistake; she died on the spot.
Naturally, Dolly became a big hero. She appeared on television several times; Hollywood planned to make a movie about the adventure. Dolly always said that the real hero was Esther and gave her credit for planning the whole thing. In the last act, she claimed that Esther threw herself between her and the hijacker saving Dolly’s life.
Esther just listened to Mike’s account of her heroic deeds without comment. Later she confided in me and explained that she had practically nothing to do with subduing the terrorists. She knew that usually the hostesses were the first victims of hijackers and she feared for her life. She decided to seduce one of them hoping it would help in the crunch.
In the middle of a mutually satisfying encounter, she saw Dolly sneaking into the galley lifting the gun of the other hijacker and firing. Who shot who and when was fuzzy in Esther’s mind.
* * *
We arrived at the ski slope. I parked the New Yorker by the side of the road and walked down the hill. When I was about five meters below the level of the road and a good hundred meters away, I instructed Fedorov to land near us. As the “Baby” materialized, I could see Mike’s face contorting with fear, but he managed to keep a brave front.
“Nice little ship,” he remarked. “Do you have anything bigger?”
“We do,” I replied sternly, “our mother ship. It is a few light years out waiting for us to do the legwork. The rest of the fleet is on the way; they will get here in a few months.”
Mike was in a mild state of shock.
“Okay,” I continued, “let’s get aboard.”
The entrance hatch opened, we got in, took our seats in the tiny salon of the shuttlecraft, strapped ourselves in, and I instructed Fedorov to put us into a high orbit. He threw the appropriate switches, and we became weightless in a fraction of a second.
“We are in a parking orbit, sir, at level 6750,” Fedorov reported.
“Okay, Mike,” I said, “this is it. You may take off your safety harness, float over to the porthole, and check out good old planet Earth from high above.”
Like most novices, weightlessness nauseated him, but he controlled it well. Mike floated over and looked through the porthole. The sight must have been overwhelming since he seemed to forget all his troubles; the excitement of the adventure took over.
“Wonderful,” he murmured hanging on to the handle at the porthole. I literally had to pry him loose and float him back into his seat. “Mr. Fedorov,” I said, “I don’t like weightlessness. Please set us down on the Moon next to the first Apollo landing site. We’ll have a few drinks there before you drop us off at the ski resort for lunch.”
* * *
“So, what do you expect me to do?” Mike queried as we got into the restaurant of the resort.
“Get me in to see our Prime Minister,” I replied. “Help me persuade him to organize a meeting with the powerful individuals you mentioned. We must build and fire huge thrusters on the surface of the Moon to correct Earth’s orbit. If we don’t do it, in about thirty years this planet will not be fit for habitation.”
“How much is it going to cost?” Mike queried.
“Not much,” I shrugged, “a couple of hundred trillion dollars if the data I have is accurate. You must admit it is a bargain.”
“You’re dreaming,” Mike said. “There isn’t that much money around.”
“We’re quite willing to chip in.”
“I don’t want to argue with you,” Mike said. “I’m afraid nobody will believe you. However, even if you convinced everybody who counts, many people would oppose you and try sabotaging the project.
“Since survival is at stake, the unions may think that it is time to tighten the screws. Wages would start climbing. As the project would create many jobs, plenty of money would circulate on the market. Inflation will rear its ugly head again, giving the banks a chance to get rich quick; interest rates would shoot up to high heaven.”
“As I said,” I stated, “we are willing to help.”
Mike shook his head: “Even if you paid cash, it would be nearly impossible to finance the venture. This planet is not governable any more, since understanding disappeared from Earth. The only thing that is still alive and healthy is greed. People nowadays have no principles; they are willing to sell their own mothers, wives, children, their honor, their country and their soul if the price is right.”
“I believe you,” I said. “Remember, I was a lawyer on this planet.” I was trying to get him back on the right track but apparently without success.
“You cannot convince anybody about anything any more,” Mike continued. “There is always someone who knows better. Even if what you say is ironclad, your venture hasn’t got any better than an even chance to succeed.”
“I’ll take it,” I snapped. “If we don’t do anything, the chances of survival are zero. Our options are limited. As I told you, if there is no agreement by the time our main fleet gets here, there will be no more talk. They will batter you into submission and build the thrusters with slave labor. And the people of Earth will be the slaves. That is the point when the probability of our survival declines to twenty percent. When you said the chances of success are fifty-fifty, you offered the best odds.”
“Obviously, we don’t really have any choice in the matter,” he mused. “By the way, how are you going to pay your share?”
I smiled: “I’m certainly not going to use my Visa card. We intend to pay you with the technology you need to build those thrusters.”
“I’m getting the picture,” Mike nodded.
“As I said earlier,” I continued, “I want to meet our worthy Prime Minister. I hope he could introduce us to the group you mentioned and get the project off the ground.”
“And how about the news media?”
“I’ll let you worry about that,” I smiled. “It is your area of expertise. I assume you want to publish a story on our arrival sooner or later.”
“Right now I’m not so sure,” Mike replied. “I’d get the big splash for sure, but from there on, both of us would be hounded by hack newspapermen and the paparazzi. I hate those bastards!”
“There is one catch though,” I noted. “I don’t want to have my picture plastered over the front pages. In fact, I was ordered to keep a low profile.”
“Well,” I began my contrived explanation, “to start with I don’t look like an extraterrestrial.”
“Point well taken,” Mike nodded. “If we publish your picture, the media would smell a rodent and cry hoax.”
“The other reason is that there are some people on this planet who do not want Earth saved.”
“Are they nuts?” Mike exclaimed. “Do they want to die?”
“They are extraterrestrials like me,” I stated. “Death doesn’t bother them because they can come back the same way I did and live perhaps forever on another planet. The survival of Earth is not in their interest. They would assassinate me if they could.”
“Mike, old man,” I sighed, “it would take a long time to explain all of it, and I’m not sure you’d understand. Just accept the fact that I don’t want to appear in public, and I don’t want to be identified publicly as the leader of an extraterrestrial mission.”
“Okay,” he replied in a sad tone, “but I expect you to give me a detailed explanation later.”
“You’re on,” I said. “So, what’s next?”
“We will meet Beaufort Park, our Prime Minister, and ask him to organize a meeting with the other heavyweights,” Mike explained. “He’s a new guy, and I’m sure he knows how valuable his contribution could be. He’ll realize he could be hailed as the greatest intergalactic diplomat of all time, and that should be worth quite a few thousand votes. If he delivers the goods, he’ll get good press; but if he fails, I’ll make him look like the dunce of the century.”
“Suddenly you became rather cooperative,” I remarked. “What is your angle?”
“My fee has not yet been fully discussed,” stated Mike with a twinkle in his eyes. “You said that our planet was governed by the media. Since I control a fairly influential chunk of that, I guarantee our full support.”
“What fees are you talking about?” I said in an icy tone reserved for hostile witnesses.
“I’m not too demanding,” Mike smiled. “Do you want me to help you or not? If you do, pay my price. If not, find someone else.”
“I’m not sure we can afford your price,” I continued. I was suspicious and thought that Mike was either pulling a fast one or he was joking. “I’ll have to take it up with our governing council, I cannot guarantee anything.”
“I am a reasonable fellow,” he rapped, “all I want is the exclusive right to publish this story and the copyright of the history of your planet.”
“No sweat,” I said with a deep sigh. “You’ve got it.”
“That’s for starters,” Mike said with a serious face. “Have you a beautiful female scientist who can develop a cheap and fast technology to manufacture twelve-year old Cardhue in one’s home?”
The priorities of Mike Horn were obvious.
Esther smiled. “We have, I’m sure of that.”
Mike gave her a strange look; she had read his mind.
“You’ve nothing to worry about,” Esther said with a funny little smile. “Our anatomy, apart from the essential and desirable differences, is identical to yours.”
“I’m relieved,” Mike said.
To be continued...
Copyright © 2004 by Gabriel S. Timar