The Hades Connection
by Gabriel S. Timar
part 1 of 2
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.
As we had nothing to do, Esther and I spent the afternoon in our comfortable suite trying to figure out what drinks to order for the cocktail party. Suddenly somebody knocked on the door. As we did not expect visitors, I checked and found Mike Horn waiting.
I could see on his face that something was wrong.
“Any problems, Mike?” I asked as he entered.
“Yes, although there is nothing I can put my finger on,” he said.
“Can you explain?”
“Well,”he continued, “I find it strange that none of my dispatches appeared on the evening news. I sent a fax to CNN and another to NBC well before the newscast, but they did not mention the NUTS or the extraterrestrials.”
“Perhaps they are trying to confirm the items from other sources,” I said.
“I don’t think so.” Mike shook his head. “First, they know me. Second, the White House, the Kremlin, and Ottawa were supposed to release the news simultaneously. Is it possible that someone reneged on the agreement?”
Although I was sure that none of the three leaders had backed out of our deal, Mike’s complaint bothered me. It seemed impossible that all three governments would back out at the same time.
Suddenly, I had a surge in my bowels and the taste of brass in my mouth. In other words, despite the unquestionable courage of Captain von Vardy, I was scared stiff.
“We’ll clear that up in a minute,” I grunted and walked to the phone.
“Don’t waste your time,” Mike interrupted. “The phone lines went down just after I sent my faxes. In addition my cell phone is off line too.”
Smelling a rat, I dug into my pocket, took my communicator, flipped it open and intoned: “Godfather is calling Baby, come in Baby, over.”
“Baby receiving you three by five,” came the voice of Teri Garfield weakly through the crackles and whistles of interference. “We can hardly hear you. Over.”
My God, I thought. Someone is trying to mask our transmissions. Whoever is doing it must have extraterrestrial technology. We better get out of here fast.
I switched my communicator back on. “Baby, Godfather requests emergency pick-up,” I said in a calm tone. “Pick us up directly from our hotel room hovering at the balcony with impact shields on full, over.”
“Can you give me some coordinates, Captain? Over.”
“I cannot,” I replied as calmly as von Vardy’s courage permitted, “but I will hit two points on the ground with my laser gun. You should line them up and come in from the direction of the first one toward the second. Make your approach about four and a half meters above the surface, adjusting manually to match the balcony railing on the second floor. Over.”
“Understood,” came Fedorov’s voice. “I’ll be in the pilot’s seat, sir. Can you fire now? Over.”
“Firing,” I announced and drew the laser gun. Barely cracking the door, I selected two spots on the surface in line with our balcony and released two short bursts.
“I got it,” Fedorov said. “We’ll be there presently. Baby out.”
I turned to Mike: “I believe we are in danger. You must come with us. It is impossible that the TV, telephone, fax, cell phones and radio would all go offline at the same time in North America. Someone does not want us to succeed.”
“Don’t you think you’re overreacting, darling?” Esther asked.
“No, my dear,” I replied. “Anyone smart enough to come up with something like your purgatory story should be good enough to create a communication problem for us.”
I got up and walked to the balcony. Without switching off the air conditioner, I opened the door slightly.
“Listen,” I said, “when the ship arrives, Esther goes first, Mike next, and I’ll be the last one. I don’t want any arguments from you.”
“Aye, aye, sir,” Mike said and gave me a mock salute.
“Baby” suddenly materialized outside with a short gangplank hovering a few inches above the railing. Esther stepped on the ramp; Teri Garfield instantly and unceremoniously yanked her aboard. Mike was next, and I followed. I was perhaps a little slow. The young petty officer leaned out to give me a hand; as she looked down, her face turned white. With eyes hardened, she grabbed me and brutally pulled me aboard as if I were a rag doll.
Before I could reprimand her, she slammed the door shut and shouted to Fedorov at the pilot’s seat: “Close shields, full power and reverse outta here.”
The ship shook from a direct hit by something; I automatically glanced at the shield indicator. As the light was glowing green, there was no damage; the shield was holding.
“The Stinger,” Garfield remarked.
“Get us out of here, Mr. Fedorov,” I ordered, “and put us into a low orbit in the vicinity of a communication satellite, if you please.”
There was no second hit; we safely assumed our position.
I turned to Petty Officer Garfield: “Now, please explain what happened back there.”
“It is hard to say, sir,” she begun. “I admit I acted instinctively. When I first looked out of the porthole, the place looked like the Pointe Hilton on South Mountain, the site of the Phoenix massacre. The view made me edgy. When I helped you to board, I saw a man. He was Ali Ahmed Desan. I felt I’d traveled back in time. That’s why I ordered the shield closed and full-power reverse.”
“You probably saved the ship and the mission,” I said. “Before I reward you properly, I’d like to know more. What was the Phoenix massacre? And who the hell is Ali Ahmed Desan?”
Petty Officer Garfield gave me a strange look. Evidently, she did not understand my ignorance.
“You probably don’t remember the details, sir,” she said. “You were an adult when it all happened, and to you it was just a news item. For us in school, the Phoenix massacre was a major historical event: the birthday of the Northern League. A group of mercenaries led by Ali Ahmed Desan killed the participants of a technology exchange conference in the Phoenix Hilton Hotel. It happened only a few months before the start of the Great War.”
Something suggested that there was more to the story of the Phoenix massacre than it seemed. We may be part of a chain of events that cannot be altered, and Earth Two will inevitably suffer the fate of Khomu, no matter what we do. Regardless, I was determined to break the chain.
“Garfield, you are hereby promoted to ensign; you just became the second most important member of the team,” I stated. “I need your and Mr. Fedorov’s knowledge of history to save the mission. However, first things first; can you get into a telecommunication satellite?”
“Most certainly, sir,” she replied. “What do you want me to do?”
“Make a phone call,” I grunted. “I want to get President Holdsworth on the horn, pronto.”
“I cannot guarantee that,” Garfield replied. “I can manage a call to the White House easily, sir. However, what the switchboard operator does then is another matter.”
“Call them, I’ll talk to the operator,” I said and turned to the pilot: “Mr. Fedorov, kindly turn over the pilot’s seat to somebody. I need you to set up a very special firing sequence.”
“Yes, sir,” he replied.
“Mr. Fedorov,” I continued in a low tone, “can you aim a very low aperture laser beam at the telephone operators’ desk in the White House?”
“As soon as we have the coordinates or have at least a telephone contact, I can,” he said. “What strength do you want, sir?”
“Not enough to hurt him, but enough to scare him,” I replied. “If he doesn’t put me through to the President, you’ll have to fire and scare him into connecting me.”
Fortunately, the name of Captain Rudolf von Vardy was enough to get the attention of the telephone operator at the White House, and soon I had President Holdsworth on the line.
“Captain, it is a pleasure to hear your voice,” came the President’s baritone. “How are things in Phoenix?”
“We have a major problem, Mr. President,” I replied. “It seems someone is interfering with our communications. Did you get our messages? “
“We did not receive anything here,” Holdsworth replied. “Why?”
“Apparently none of our reports and communiqués got out. We sent you a number of memos and a very important message about personnel selection,” I replied.
“Strange,” he mused. “We didn’t get anything.”
“In addition, when we left, we were fired upon by strange people,” I stated. “I suspect they are a group led by a certain Ali Ahmed Desan.”
“My God!” Holdsworth’s voice changed. “I am going to send in someone to investigate and another battalion to protect you. Desan is not a person to trifle with.”
I looked at Ensign Garfield. Her face was like a mask. She remarked: “I hope he will not send General Graham.”
“Just hold the line, Mr. President,” I said. “I have an urgent communication coming in.” I switched off and turned to Garfield: “What’s this about General Graham?”
“On our world he commanded a Ranger battalion at the Pointe. His teams provided security for the technology conference. As soon as he was sure that terrorists had taken over the Pointe complex, he ordered a premature raid,” she explained.
“Desan’s team repelled the attack with their Stinger missiles, shooting down two of the Rangers’ helicopters. Subsequently they executed some of the hotel staff to show they meant business.”
Copyright © 2004 by Gabriel S. Timar