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.
The Nimrod was on the last leg of her trip to Earth and making good time, because Stuart had boosted the residual force of gravity to 0.75 G. After my happy reunion with the crew, I declared that I needed to take a complete physical along with all members of the Terra team. This was the only way I could manage a long talk with Doctor Joe, the alleged resident representative of Hades.
I was most surprised when, in private, Joe used my real name and offered congratulations on the success of my mission.
“I exchanged messages with Head Office just yesterday”, he said.
“How do you communicate with them?” I interrupted.
“Well,” Joe scratched his head, “I really don’t know. I get telepathic messages from a female named Gemma. Every time we break the connection, she leaves me a password promising to start our next session with it to assure that I am communicating with the right person. She has a telepathograph, which moves her thoughts on a wavelength compatible with my brainwaves. Gemma calls every other day and acts as an intermediary between me and the office.”
“How come Luce didn’t make similar arrangements with me?” I asked.
“Most likely he didn’t have time to record your brainwave pattern in the laboratory,” he replied. “It is a lengthy procedure. Gemma has to come close to me, because thoughts tend to scatter beyond a distance of hundred light years. I think the Nimrod is near the limit of the range of her communication, since I am beginning to have reception problems. Anyway, Luce informed me that you were doing very well and going to get the job done. He said it was a very good move to leave Garfield in charge. Apparently she’s as good as Margaret Thatcher.”
“Who told him about my moves on the planet surface?” I queried.
“I don’t know,” Joe shrugged. “He must have spies and observers everywhere.”
“Did he send any instructions for me?”
“Yes,” Joe replied, “he gave me a set of coordinates. That is the point where Gemma will pick you up. When you get there, just wait. She will find you, yank you out and put von Vardy back into his own body.”
“How about Ann Forrest?” I queried.
“We have problems with her.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well,” Joe scratched his head, “we don’t know where Ann Forrest’s soul is now, but we have the Captain’s. He is in a travel container with Gemma, ready to return to his body.”
“It’s better this way,” I said thoughtfully, “since we may have a problem with Esther.”
“What kind of problem?” he asked.
“Well,” I sighed, “Esther fell in love with a friend of mine, Mike Horn. They got married, Esther hijacked the Forrest body, because she wants to produce little Mikes by the dozen.”
“I’m sure Luce will resolve this problem when we find the soul of the real Ann Forrest,” Joe explained. “If I were you, I wouldn’t worry about it. Anyway, you have to prepare a detailed report about the mission.”
“I was going to do that anyway,” I replied.
“You should do it in a way von Vardy would be compelled to read it. Go to the Khomu High Command, report what he did and take credit for your accomplishments. You must concoct a cock and bull story about Ann Forrest. Cite her amnesia as justifying von Vardy’s taking over the negotiations.”
“I never thought of that,” I said. “I must send Fedorov back to Earth to warn Esther before my return to the Third Dimension.”
“Why?” Joe asked.
“Look at it this way,” I explained. “Von Vardy arrives on Earth as the conquering hero and wants to look up his long-lost love, Ann Forrest. Esther lives in that body now. She should know the details of my report about her. I’m going to write her an old-fashioned letter.”
“What are you going to tell her?”
“Ask her to claim an accident or disease on the day of our arrival at Earth. She should allege hitting her head and suffering complete amnesia. Since she doesn’t have Ann Forrest’s legal training, the terrestrial or Khomu doctors investigating the matter should go along with the diagnosis.”
“Good idea,” he agreed. “She should claim meningitis, because it often causes permanent amnesia. As soon as Fedorov returns, you must go to the pickup point and return to Mammon.”
“I’ll do that, Doctor,” I said. “I appreciate your help very much. Is there anything I can do for you?”
“Yeah,” he grunted. “Tell Luce to get me back to Mammon a.s.a.p. I’m getting tired of playing spaceman.”
“Are you also a terrestrial soul?”
“Of course,” he replied. “You may have heard of me. I used to be a female: Mata Hari.”
I was beginning to understand his frustrations.
* * *
I wrote a short letter to Esther and Mike describing the cover story about my takeover of the negotiations. According to Joe’s suggestion, I told them to say that Ann Forrest had contracted a rare form of meningitis but that it had quickly cleared up following treatment with antibiotics. By the time she recovered, we realized she had suffered a serious loss of memory. Thus, I had to take charge of the negotiations.
I told Fedorov to carry the letter to Esther, hand it to her personally, and return to the Nimrod forthwith. He saluted, said “Aye, aye, sir,” and departed.
I settled down to work on my or von Vardy’s report to the High Command. The report was short, three pages only, ending with the recommendation that Commander Fedorov should take the “Baby” with a skeleton crew ferrying key Khomu personnel to Earth.
When I had finished the report, I reflected on the mission. I must say I’d enjoyed playing the role of the captain of a spaceship and negotiating on behalf of the extraterrestrial invaders with the leaders of my native planet. It was a good assignment. I figured I was successful, but felt it was time to arrange for a transfer of command to Captain von Vardy. I was feeling tired.
I was eternally grateful to Mata Hari on the Nimrod, because without her I could not contact the Hades Head Office.
* * *
Fedorov returned in a few hours and assured me that everything was okay on good old Terra. Esther and Mike had understood the content of my letter and destroyed it in his presence.
Garfield was firmly in control. I was sure she would keep everybody honest. According to Fedorov, she had developed an interesting friendship with Beaufort Park.
I handed the command over to Stuart and told him I would most likely remain with the main body of the fleet and he should consider the Nimrod his own. I also promised him replacements. Boarding the “Baby,” I issued Fedorov the proper coordinates and withdrew into the tiny cabin of the captain.
It took us only a few seconds to get to the designated point. I called Fedorov into my cabin and told him that I was going to rest now and he should start working out a flight plan to intercept the Khomu fleet.
“It will not be easy, Captain,” he said. “I may have to experiment quite a bit. I can plot their route, but I don’t know where they are, because I don’t know when the bulk of the fleet left Khomu.”
“We can estimate the time of their departure,” I said, “and give them a couple of weeks either way. With such a window you don’t have to investigate the whole route.”
“Yes, sir,” he replied, “but no matter what, we’ll have a couple of hundred points we should try. When we arrive, we can set one of our planetographs at maximum range, and then see if we can find anybody in the vicinity. Unfortunately with our dinky little computer I can’t calculate more than five points an hour.”
“The job may take only forty hours, Mr. Fedorov,” I said. “Are you telling me that you can find the fleet in forty hours?”
“Yes sir,” he replied. “I may be able to do it faster. If I cut an image of one of the major vessels and feed it into our general navigation system, the “Baby” may home in on the image. It may not work, but all we are risking is a couple of hours’ work.”
“Okay,” I said, “do it and when you’re ready to move, report to me. Until then we stay here.”
“Aye, aye, sir,” Fedorov said, then saluted and left.
I put my report on the captain’s computer and set it up so that when von Vardy recovered, he would see it as a top priority message. I knew he would have some recollection of the events taking place while I had occupied his body. I hoped he would be smart enough to know what to do.
After finishing the report, I stretched out on the captain’s uncomfortable bed. My mind wandered and again I was beginning to think about myself. What am I, who am I, and what is the purpose of my so-called life? There were no answers, just the cold facts, and the pleasurable memories of my stay on Earth. Could I live for an eternity working as a lawyer? I would have a good time for sure, but I was equally sure that the time would come when pleasure would not be pleasure any more. My eyes caught the porthole of the cabin.
“The letter O,” I thought, “the logo of our transfer team.”
I was wondering when the transfer would commence. I do not know how long I lay on my bed staring at the porthole. After a couple of minutes, its interior begun filling with various shades of purple. I knew the transfer had started; I concentrated on the letter O. It was very easy. Shortly the piercing white light with the pain came and the porthole exploded into a cool shade of green. I found myself on a hospital bed.
A familiar face was smiling at me from the end of the bed; it was Attila the Hun.
“Welcome home, George,” he said. “We’ve missed you.”
I felt strange. My body was stiff from the long inactivity, but otherwise I was all right. I dressed and Attila drove me to my apartment in Elizabeth Towers. I quickly poured myself a huge portion of Campari and soda. Attila refused to drink with me and quickly departed. Perhaps he sensed that I wanted to be alone with my thoughts.
* * *
Copyright © 2004 by Gabriel S. Timar