“Can you do it without the incentive enhancer? Is the jump easier now?”
“Yes, Mark. Just give me a few minutes.”
Ethan smiled inside at the change in approach. The hulking Ted had been replaced by an affable technician with sandy hair. Ted had ceased to exist. Now a member of the team, Ethan no longer wore restraints. Doors unlocked and incentive enhancers disappeared. He just couldn’t leave the facility. Yet.
Ethan squirted out of his body and flew along the timeline to a spot two days in the future. More skilled at pinpointing his target time and place, Ethan jumped to the New York Public Library, the easiest place to get what Churchill wanted. Then he’d do what he wanted. Closing stock quotes memorized, Ethan tunneled through time to the one place that held his thoughts captive. A second early, he watched the forces gather and realized he could do nothing to change the discharge of enormous energies.
In that horrible moment when the blue bolt of flame shot through Beth, turning her into a burning rag doll, he saw her. Not her body. He saw her. Through the incandescent electric flame, he saw and felt the real Beth in the moment of becoming the same incorporeal something that he himself had become.
As he watched Beth scream, Ethan gathered his own forces and thought himself into the lightning bolt. He entered the blue globe that formed around his beloved. He felt chaos, panic, and pain, but for a flicker of an instant, his energy touched hers.
Though beleaguered and fearful she sensed him and they had a microsecond of infinity to remember everything.
“I’ll find you, Beth. Don’t be afraid.”
The energy was going somewhere and Ethan tried to get sucked into it. Then he hovered alone in the gloomy rain, his spirit exhausted by the effort he had just made. In mental shock, he wondered how close he had come to being shredded apart.
For a moment, he felt sick with defeat. He had been so close.
But he would not accept defeat. In the afterimage of the lightning Ethan sensed something like an echo of Beth lingering in the air. A trace of her led off into someplace, somewhen. Ethan lacked the understanding to follow that trace, but he knew it existed.
He remembered one of his father’s sayings. “You can do anything if you have the desire and the time.”
Desire he had. And time? He had a universe full of it.
Now certain that Beth still existed somewhere, Ethan felt the first glimmer of hope since her death.
“What’s the meaning of this wire transfer, Churchill?” Churchill heard the incredulity in the voice of Michael Sturm, the CEO of the Avalon Group.
Churchill turned up the volume on his speaker phone. “The meaning is clear. I’m invoking the buy-back provision in our agreement. That’s the first payment as required to forestall the conversion of your Class B stock.”
“You can’t do this. It’s outrageous!”
“Just watch me. I’m getting you off my back. You should have funded us faster and made this thing work. Now you can just take the money and shut up.”
“The redemption penalty is one hundred percent. You’re going to pay an extra fifty million?”
“Whatever it takes.”
“You will hear from our attorneys.”
“Oh, I’m sure I will. But a week from now, I’ll transfer the balance of money we owe you and that will be the end of it. Your lawyers can eat shit and die for all the good they can do now.”
“Where are you getting this money?”
“How do you think anybody gets this much money overnight? I’m printing it.” Churchill hung up the phone and felt better than he had ever felt in his life.
Churchill loved owning a golden goose. Could he squeeze money out of it even more quickly?