“Why do you fight? The sooner you’re done, the sooner you’re out of here,” Ted said.
“On this table or in my room, what the hell’s the difference? I’m still in lock-up.”
“Don’t make me do it. Okay?”
“Shove it right up your ass, Ted.”
“So you want the incentive enhancer?” Ted pulled an old-fashioned cattle prod out of a cabinet. He plugged in the electric wire and tested the button in the grip. The ozone smell of a thunderstorm filled the little room.
“What, no soldering iron? Losing your nerve, Teddie?”
“We don’t want to damage you, buttercup. This just gives you a jolt. Ready to cooperate?”
“Where are you getting these tools from? Sadists-R-Us?” Ethan laughed.
Churchill’s voice boomed from the overhead speakers before Ted could answer. “Ethan, can you do what you did before? Go forward in time? Bring us back information?”
Ethan’s face stayed passive. “You want me to check on Teddie’s wife again? See if she’s wearing a teddie…or a non-teddie?”
In the control room, Churchill shot Dolci a worried look. Dolci leaned over and cupped his hand over the microphone. “Don’t give that psycho an excuse to use his cattle prod, Andrew. Goddamn it, I mean it. I agreed to let you scare him. You hurt him again and I call the police.”
Churchill said into the microphone, “No, Ethan. We’re not interested in Ted’s wife. Can you bring us factual information? A TV news story or newspaper headline?”
“I fly around like a balloon in a hurricane. I can’t control this.” The lies came easy to Ethan now, driven by his desire to get larger doses of Memnon.
“You’ve only started with Memnon. Just try, okay?”
Ted’s face loomed into Ethan’s vision. The big man whispered, “Listen, you freak. I’m ready to fry you down like the wicked witch of the west. Come back with another bullshit story about my wife and I will ram this thing up your ass and leave the juice on while I go to lunch. You got that?”
With no expression on his face, Ethan said, “Called your lawyer yet?”
Ted waved the cattle prod under Ethan’s nose. “You’re not too smart, hotshot.”
“I like to descend to the mental level of my audience.”
Ted glared at Ethan. “You want me to hurt you, don’t you?”
“Yeah. It makes leaving your sorry ass behind that much more pleasurable.”
“Well, have a good trip you warped piece of shit.” Ted thrust the cattle prod toward Ethan’s face and whispered, “Please screw up. I want to see you spaz out.”
“I’ll put you on my dance card.”
Scowling, Ted said, “I start counting and when I hit ten, this goes someplace sensitive and I pull the trigger unless you give me information. Okay? Now your drip has been on over five minutes. You’ve got more than enough juice to get started. So, don’t shit around.”
Yes, Ted, scare me. Make it easy for me. I have somewhere to go.
Ethan closed his eyes and let his mind wander. He thought of a time, a place. Then he heard Ted count. “One...”
Like a watermelon seed spurting from between tightened fingers, Ethan shot into the void, free of his body and into the clean vastness of space. Though having no physical form, he perceived heat and cold, the intense radiation coming off a nearby star, infrared, ultraviolet, radio waves, X-rays, he felt them all, everything up and down the electromagnetic spectrum. And something more. Other forces wrapped around him and through him. Like a blind man being given a telescope, he didn’t know how to understand these forces.
He cleared his thoughts and built a specific image in his mind. The space near him seemed to ripple. A strangeness developed in the clean reality of space. Ethan thought himself closer to it. Like stepping around a corner, in one instant, he was here, in the next … it felt like being wrenched through the guts of a star with heat and pressure and light assaulting senses he could not possibly have until it reached an unbearable crescendo and … he was there.
“There” was the New York City Public Library. With the speed of thought, he whisked from room to room until he found someone reading a newspaper. He checked the date at the top of the page. Perfect. Two days in the future.
Newspaper. A thought wisped through Ethan’s mind. Its smoky tendril thickened into a shape, then an idea, then an image. Even as a prisoner, he could see a way to gain control of his situation. He would prey on that most basic human emotion. Greed.
Ethan waited as the old woman perused editorials. He flitted to several others who were reading papers, waiting for one of them to reach the financial section. Ah, the man in the suit pored over stock listings.
Ethan checked several volatile issues. Then he waited for the man to turn to the futures markets. A heading announced that the Bank of England planned to sell twenty-five tons of gold. The yellow metal had dropped almost ten percent in response. A sudden cold wave in had put a scare into the coffee market. Coffee had jumped two dollars a pound.
Ethan winked out of there and briefly reentered his body.
“Three,” Ted counted.
Ethan had plenty of time. Having gotten the information that would tempt his masters, Ethan now could try what he wanted.
Could he go back to that place in the time stream where his wife had been blasted into nothingness? Could he change the outcome?
Ethan concentrated, felt the texture of space and energy, visualized the time and place he wanted to be. Again, he sensed a distortion, a twisting and he willed himself into it.
Only half believing his idea had worked, he arrived just as the blue lightning bolt passed through his wife, in time to see the surprise and fear and pain in her eyes. Terrified at the raw power crackling around him, Ethan hesitated. He wanted to help her, but didn’t know what to do. Faced with the enormous energies coursing through Beth, Ethan froze. He had time to think, “Don’t be afraid, Beth,” and the moment passed. He had a feeling like an afterimage. Some remnant of her?
He wanted to go back to the moment, but he lacked the strength. Or the courage?
What do you fear, Ethan?
I fear death.
And nothing else? he chastised himself.
He jumped back into his body as Ted said, “Nine.”
Ethan’s eyes bolted open. “Okay. I have something.”
Ted took out a notebook and Ethan rattled off stock symbols and their closing prices along with the closing prices for coffee and gold on the day after tomorrow.
Reluctantly, Ted unplugged the cattle prod. He pulled out Ethan’s IV line, disinfected the site, and applied a bandage. He winked maliciously at Ethan as Churchill’s voice came over the loudspeakers. “Good day’s work, Ethan. Someone will come for you shortly.”
Ethan still had a hyper-stimulated cerebral cortex. As soon as Ted left the room, Ethan jumped again into the void. He had to develop control. He had to learn how to use this power before it was too late.