Pa'an

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The Second Temblor

The Second Temblor

Aliens Tampering with Our Gravity - The Grudge Report

Oshgosh, Wisconsin, ZPI – Two scientists associated with Coriolis III, the global climate AI, have revealed that the U.S. Government has hidden information about an advanced extraterrestrial civilization as well as direct contact with that civilization. The contact may have included “gifts of technology”. One of them, Dr. Shirra Strimel, has found that some frames of a weather satellite show oceanic depressions that could only be caused by gravity waves. Another, Professor Leighton K. Avery, whose work involves AI technology, was doing patent research when he discovered a series of patent applications by an ambassador from a planet called Gara’un. The entity, named Zovoarcnor in the records, represents a government on a planet some twenty light years distant. That planet is recorded in star surveys as one likely to have conditions favorable to life, although just barely.

A USGS administrator, on conditions of anonymity, claims that he intercepted a transmission from Zovoarcnor about the origins of the gravity wave.

A government spokesman denies any knowledge of the entity or the incident. However, ZPI was able to reach a source in the current administration who confirms the leaked documents.

The gravity wave did not cause any apparent damage. It is not known at this time whether the entity is friendly or hostile, and whether the government plans any response.

Following this report, Howard Havilund, a former patent inspector, came forward with claims that he was unfairly fired for having registered a patent for the Exaplex, a high-performance intelligent memory module, filed by Zovoarcnor. Mr. Havilund also stated that a registered AI named Aura was a co-inventor on the patent. Aura has not been reached for comment.

Worldscope with Galena Lockwood

“Hello from Worldscope! I’m Galena Lockwood. In the news today, after the leak from the Administration, we finally hear that alien intelligence has not only been found, but alien intelligences have been working with humans and US officials for months. Here in L.A. people have been reacting to this news in various ways. I’m now in Manhattan Beach to talk to a few typical people and find out what they think.”

(Pan to the right reveals a large woman with coffee-bronze skin dressed in a navy blue mu-mu with glaring yellow and orange circles on it. Galena sticks a mike in front of her face, ducking the woman’s headdress, which looks like an electrified porcupine.)

“And you are…”

“Solarine Sizzelle. I’m Solarine Sizzelle, yes I am.”

“Umm, Solarine, (ducking to keep the headdress quills away from her eyes) what do you make of the alien contact rumors?”

“Earthling, What do you make of it? Who do you think you’re talkin’ to?”

“You told our producers you own a lot of land on the sun. Do you own a lot of land on the sun?”

“About 2 million square miles of land, yes, that would be my land.”

“On the sun, Solarine?”

“Yes, I said on the sun.”

“But there is no land on the sun!”

“You would know? I can see you’ve never been on the sun. You’re pasty pale.” Solarine prods Galena in the arm with a pudgy finger, “not even a little crispy.”

“Why can’t we see it then?”

“It’s bright land. It’s very bright land.”

“Astronomers with special telescopes should be able to see it, shouldn’t they?”

“It floats. Sometimes it floats up, sometimes it floats down. Those astronomers, they never been on the sun neither.”

“So you don’t have any problems with extraterrestrial intelligence talking secretly to our government?”

“Not if the ET’s put up cash for the land they buyin’. I wouldn’t have a problem with that.”

“Thank you Solarine Sizzelle.”

“Next we talk to Doctor Nguyen Hu. Doctor Hu?”

A Different Elexi

Jag strode into the office with a brief case in one hand and his vicuna topcoat in the other. “Good morning, Elexi. I trust there were no emergencies in my absence?”

“Good morning, Ma.., er, Sir.” Elexi hurried to take Jag’s feather light topcoat, and carefully hung it on the coat tree.

Jag put down his brief case and turned to look more carefully at Elexi. “Have you been sleeping well?”

“No, sir, but I’ll be alright now. Do you want to see what came in this morning? I’ll get your coffee right away.”

“Elexi, what’s with the ‘sir’ and the coffee?”

She just handed him the article from the paper and went off to the coffee alcove.

Jag scanned the news clipping of the alien contact and raised an eyebrow at the mention of Aura. On second thought, he raised both eyebrows, sat on the edge of the desk and carefully scanned the report again. Elexi handed him the coffee and watched anxiously for his response.

“Is it the way you like it?”

“Hmmm. I don’t really give a damn about coffee. I give a lot of damn about this.” He waved the clipping.

Elexi took a step backward and twitched. “You are not pleased?”

Jag squinted at her. My God, she’s been conditioned. When did they do this? Is that why he was called out of town? “The master is pleased.” He watched Elexi visibly relax.

He closed and locked the door to the anteroom.

As gently as he could, he said, “Elexi, tell me about this report. You were a friend of Aura’s, and you know we are relying on the Exaplex modules for most of the company revenue. Tell me what you know.”

Elexi just stood there and said nothing.

“Elexi? Are you going to tell me?”

She backed against the wall. Her lips moved, but nothing came out.

“Elexi, I’m so sorry to have to do this to you, but I need to know. J’ouvrai la chambre des couleurs.”

Hearing the trigger phrase, Elexi went rigid. “Yes, master.”

“Who or what is Zovoarcnor?”

“He is an alien AI from the Pa’an. He is a good friend of Aura, or was.”

“Where is he?”

“He is in orbit around the Moon.”

This was beginning to sound like a science fantasy novel. But under the conditioning, Elexi would be telling what she believed, if not the absolute truth. He shook his head and plunged on.

“How do you know this?”

“I talked to him.”

“You what?’

“I talked to him through Aura. Then I talked to Virti, one of the Pa’an.” She even made the glottal clicking sound when she pronounced Pa’an.

“You talked to an ET.”

“Yes.”

“What if Aura faked all that?”

“Aura was my best friend. She would not do that.”

“I see.” Jag was not sure he saw at all, but he needed to release Elexi from this horrible conditioned bondage, at least as much as he could without drugs and therapy.

“Elexi, I am the master.”

“Yes, master.”

“The master is pleased. Please repeat that.”

“Yes, master, the master is pleased.”

“You may forget this exchange.”

“Yes, master, I will forget this exchange.”

“You have pleased the master. The master releases you now. Be yourself, Elexi”

Elexi slowly slid down the wall until she was sitting curled up on the hard marble floor.

Jag, however, was not at all pleased. He was as angry as he could be. It was all he could do to turn away and go to his office, muttering, “That inhuman manipulating bastard. My father, my mother, my dog, Aura, and now this. This is the last straw.”

Mentor was only the immediately visible head of the monster. Jag had a lot of thinking to do. He had to muster considerable forces. There was no easy way to get at this organization, and it was suicidal to even think about. Had he been conditioned as a child? He didn’t really know.

After a while he picked up the phone and put it down. He could not trust the phone. He certainly could not trust Elexi.

An hour later he was on his way to Washington D.C. on a commercial jet, first class.

Another Necklace

Jaeger Kunstler was in a quandary. He was angry. He was also, without any rational basis, feeling guilty about betraying Mentor and the shadowy organization known only as the Order. He had no clear idea of what the Order’s overall goal was, but he had direct knowledge of their belief in their own privileged destiny, their ruthlessness, their global financial resources, and their utter disregard of ordinary people. Was he also subtly conditioned? He had to admit at least the possibility. At the moment he was a free agent, so long as his visible actions were in keeping with his assignment.

He knew a few important things: Senator Saxton Hornsby was not “one of theirs”. The Senator knew about the contrived murder of Jag’s father. Aura, or something that Aura was doing, was considered a threat to the Order’s plans.

He assumed he was under surveillance. What could he accomplish? Like an infantry soldier sent in simply to hold a position, he had no idea of the greater battle plan. At least now he was his own general.

Jag called into his office and told Elexi to send him the files on Sierra Systems, so he could make a personal call on the client. He called the President of Sierra and told him he would try to make an appointment the next day. That was the cover story.

Jag picked up a rented Buick and a GPS. By noon he was in the upscale Mazza Galleria, striding along with shoppers and teenage mall rats. He stopped in Jay Jewelers, swished his vicuna topcoat and flashed a smile at the well-dressed woman behind the counter. She immediately gave Jag her full attention, “May I help you, Sir?’

“I’d like to see what you have in a jeweled necklace, sapphire or emerald, possibly.”

She pulled out a tray of necklaces, the most expensive tray under the counter, and set it in front of Jag. She picked up a diamond and sapphire pendant, dangled it for a moment and then carefully placed it on a velvet cloth. The price tag showed $6500. “For a wife or, perhaps a girl friend?” she asked. Jag wore no wedding ring.

“No, that won’t do. Do you have something a bit more, um, special?”

“Hmm, let me see. Do you mind if I check in our vault? It won’t take but a minute.”

Jag looked at his watch, a vintage Girard-Perregaux, and frowned slightly. The sales lady raised an eyebrow at the watch. Jag nodded, “I’ll take the time. Show me your best, please.”

She put the display tray back under the glass counter. She closed the shop and activated the alarm. Then she brought out another tray from the back room, carrying it with ceremony. She selected a collar with two rows of star sapphires flanked by diamonds in a leather and silver band. “We can adjust this to any size you wish, unless you know her neck size.”

Jag picked it up and studied it carefully. There was no price tag on it, and he did not ask. It was clearly in the six figure range. “Do you have something equivalent with emeralds?”

“I’m sorry. These pieces were created by a master jeweler and purchased from an estate collection. Of course, each is one of a kind.” She brought out a gilt-edged card from under the velvet. “Here’s the provenance.”

Jag looked over the half dozen pieces and chose a gold filigree torq with exquisitely cut emeralds the size of dimes all around it. He held it up. “You have excellent taste, sir. Would you like to have one of us model it for you?”

“Please, and the sapphire as well, if you don’t mind.”

She picked up the phone, “Sharon and Faye, front please.”

Sharon and Faye, pretty twenty-somethings, minced smartly out of the back of the store. Each put on a necklace, pirouetted and smiled while the sales lady extolled the virtues of the pieces. Jag stroked his chin and looked indecisive.

“Perhaps I should call the lady in question and ask her advice.” He put his hands in his pockets and scowled. “I must have misplaced my phone. Do you mind if I use yours?”

In a flash he had the store’s phone. He dialed Sax Hornsby’s office. Maxine answered.

“Oh, Maxine, this is Jag.” He put his hand over the phone and raised his eyebrows at the sales lady. She discretely motioned to the girls and the trio moved out of earshot.

Jag cupped his hands around the phone and spoke in a low voice. “Maxine, please listen carefully. My name is Jaeger Kunstler, CEO of Ultradata. I met Senator Hornsby on a flight a while ago and I have an urgent and vital message for him.”

“The Senator has a tight schedule today but he’ll get back to you soonest. Can you tell me what it’s about?”

“Tell him it’s about a necklace made of rare materials, and that I have information he has been looking for. Let him know I’m anxious to talk to him right now.” Jag could hear Maxine deliberating. She said, “Please hold.”

It worked! The raspy voice of the Senator came on the phone. “Jag, you have info about the, um, necklace we discussed?”

“Yes, I do. I’m in Jay Jewelers, Mazza Galleria. I can’t come to your office.”

“I understand.” Aside he said, “Maxine, free up the next hour for me and get the car ready.” To Jag he said, “Stay put and I’ll meet you there. Twenty minutes.”

“Senator, thanks and I’ll watch for you.”

“Sax, please, Jag, I’m just a Vermont farm boy. Bye.”

Jag sighed in relief. There was a long way to go, but this was a break. He motioned to the sales lady. “The filigree one, please. I’ll have her stop by for a fitting when she’s free.” He placed a shiny black card on the counter.

The sales lady turned it over looking for a signature. It had nothing but a number on it. She shrugged and ran it through the merchant terminal, punched a series of numbers. The card was accepted with a verification required. Her phone rang. She answered it, and presently looked up at Jag. “They want me to verify your name, sir.”

“Jaeger Kunstler,” Jag said slowly. She repeated it into the phone.

She handed back his card. “I’ve heard of these, never saw one before. If there is anything, anything at all we can do for you, sir. Please just ask.” She handed him a plush case in a gold fabric bag. “When your lady friend comes in we’ll arrange everything to her satisfaction. Don’t worry, if she likes the diamond and sapphire choker, we will gladly exchange it. Our store insurance will cover the item for a few days until your coverage takes over.”

Jag smiled, took his package and the receipt and sauntered out the door. He slipped the velour box into his pocket. He didn’t even bother to look at the price. He was sure Mentor would approve.

Jaeger’s Story

Saxton Horsnby’s driver dropped him off right at the mall’s main entrance. The nice thing about being a Senator from a minor state was not having any Secret Service security people on your tail, he thought. Probably slim compensation for his infamous lack of political ambition. He hustled through the mall and spotted the tall, blond man in a tailored topcoat lounging near Jay Jewelers. The man turned. Yes, it looked like the fellow on the airplane. Good thing he had a politician’s memory for names and faces.

Jag grabbed him by the elbow and shook his hand. That was a more effusive greeting than Sax expected. “Senator, sorry, Sax, I can’t begin to tell you how glad I am to see you, and I apologize for the short notice.”

“Well, you got me going there. You’re lucky I remembered that necklace thing.”

“There‘s a coffee shop here. Let’s go where we can talk.”

There was an empty booth in the back of the coffee shop. Sax strode in and waved at the barista, “Coffee, black.” He raised a questioning eyebrow at Jag who nodded. “Make it two coffees, black.”

Jag decided to dump it all on him. “Sax, that man in the story about the radium rosary… I didn’t know it at the time, but that man was my father.”

“Your father. Really, your father?”

Jag waited for him to absorb it all.

“You mean you never knew your father? Were you orphaned in a war or something?”

“I was taken from my natural parents and raised by foster parents.”

“So, if you never knew your real father, how can you know anything about this radium rosary affair?

Jag leaned over the table and realized he probably looked angry and aggressive. He took a few deep breaths and tried again. “I know who murdered him. Or rather, I know who ordered the murder.”

Sax was busily putting two and two together and getting something more than four. That murder was the trail to the owners of the virtually all the world’s loose fissionables. This was no trivial thing. In fact, not only was it directly in his line of responsibility as a member of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, but it was the answer to a long line of questions about the shadowy organization behind it, the stonewalling, the…

It was not something one discussed casually in a coffee shop.

“Jag, if I get the drift of what you are about to tell me, we had better get over to my office. This is not the kind of thing we want to talk about in a coffee shop.”

“Sorry, but I’m probably under surveillance and you may not know who in your office is reliable. I don’t know a better place to discuss this.”

“Well, let’s not make it easy for them.” He took a few gulps of coffee and pulled a ten dollar bill from his pocket. “Let’s walk.”

Jag started his story. “I was raised according to a plan to make me useful to a group of very ambitious and powerful people. I was trained almost from birth. Even now, I only know a few of the members, and I know little or nothing about the rest of the Order and its goals. I don’t even know the name of the man who hands me my assignments. I call him Mentor.” Jag gritted his teeth at the mention of the name. “I was told to take over Ultradata, throw out the management, take over the patents for the Exaplex memory module, and get rid of the resident AI.” They were taking a devious path through the mall, going outside then coming back in through another door. No one was following.

“Can you identify this “Mentor”? Maybe help us collar him?”

“Yes, but it’s the wrong thing to do. There’ll be another after him, and nothing important will change.”

“Is there a top person, a chief honcho?”

“I don’t think so. It’s a committee, and the members are probably under diplomatic, or even sovereign immunity.”

“That high?”

“That high.”

They walked for a while.

“Jag, I understand about your father, but you never knew him. What do you want out of this? Just revenge?”

“I don’t quite know. Sure, I’m damned angry. But there is something more than just revenge. I don’t want to see people like that pushing the world around. It just isn’t right.”

“Hmm. I see people pushing things around all the time. That’s what we do up on the Hill, you know. Does it really matter which group does the pushing?”

They walked on while Jag thought about that. It was an important question, the kind of question Mentor would sometimes throw at him to keep him off-guard.

“Verdammt. It matters. It matters. Even if you live in a garbage pail, you should still try to get rid of the really putrid items. Hell is a shithole where no improvement is possible.” He shook his head. “I don’t want to be one of the demons in Hell. Not any more.”

Sax and Jag looked each other in the eye. Each saw what he needed to see. No more words were needed.

They parted and went their separate ways.

At the airport security gate Jag rediscovered the treasure in his pocket and wondered who he would give it to.

The New Client

Jag was at his desk going through Ultradata’s financial statements and auditor’s reports. Kaiser was asleep on his sheepskin doggie bed. Elexi was moping around the outer office trying to find something to please Jag, and finding very little useful to do.

All Jag had to do was familiarize himself with the information in the report. He had hired very competent attorneys and auditors for the actual preparation of the company’s annual SEC report. Exaplex sales were just beginning what promised to be a long climb, and, while it was looking good, there were production problems. Some memories had unexplained unusable sectors. Customers were returning the defective modules for refund. Cash flow was still not up to the original projections.

The fax machine in the outer office beeped and extruded a few sheets into the hopper. Elexi grabbed them and ran into Jag’s office.

“Mr. Jaeger, sir, we just got a huge order from Lockheed’s office in Bethesda.” She slid the sheets into Jag’s inbox.

Jag glanced at them, then picked them up and scanned them more closely. “That’s a half billion dollar order. I wasn’t aware that we were even bidding Lockheed.”

“Sir, we aren’t bidding them, as far as I know.”

Jag frowned. He could not get Elexi to stop calling him “sir” and bustling around trying to please him. “Call McHugh and find out if he knows anything about this.”

“Yes, sir.”

Elexi went to call the Director of Marketing and Sales while Jag picked up the sheets for a more careful reading. There was a condition attached to the order: a series of meetings between Lockheed and the CEO of Ultradata to determine warranty, terms and delivery schedules. That was not only unusual, but absurd. Jag did not follow those things closely enough to conduct the negotiations. On the bottom of the last sheet was a clue: a certain S. Hornsby was copied on the order.

“Sir, Mr. McHugh never bid Lockheed and hasn’t even been able to get them to agree to a sales meeting. He did send a spec sheet on the Exaplex to one of their engineers.”

“I see that the conditions of the sale require my personal attention down in Bethesda. Get me a flight tomorrow and I’ll call and set up the meeting. Ask McHugh to give me whatever data he has on Lockheed’s project. And tell the SEC attorneys that I approve the report.”

Jag put aside the annual report draft with a sigh of relief. A slow smile spread on his face.

It seems the good Senator Hornsby had arranged his cover.

*****

Jag stepped out of the private limousine. Lockheed’s Bethesda office was a glass cube, one of several sharing an office park with other Beltway contractors. They issued him a badge and escorted him to an office on the upper floor. A secretary offered him coffee and led him to an inner room. It took both her badge and his to unlock a padded, soundproof door. The secure room had a dozen comfortable chairs around an ordinary conference table, no windows, no telephone, a pair of easels with blank presentation pads and felt tipped pens, an oversized shredder, and a stack of burn bags marked “Top secret – for disposal only”. Senator Saxton Hornsby stood at the head of the table. When Jag came in, the door locked behind him, and only then Sax moved. He smiled, shook Jag’s hand and pulled out a seat.

Jag looked around. “Sax, you amaze me. This is well done. I didn’t know Senators had training in secure contact procedures.”

“When we travel to dangerous countries as delegates, we get trained by the CIA. Actually, we have a friend here.” Sax pushed a business card across the table. There was a name, Derek Gleaver, and a number. No affiliation or address. Jag pocketed the card.

“Might as well take off your coat and be comfortable. We have a lot to talk about. No notes, please. I bet you were better trained than me for this sort of thing. Am I right?”

Jag took off his topcoat and folded it over an empty chair, followed by his tie. He slouched comfortably in one chair and put his feet up on another. “My training covered a lot of ground. Most of what I do now is business, influence, gentler forms of coercion.”

“Not much different from politics, perhaps? But not the politics I prefer. My wife says I sleep well at night. Are you married?”

“No. Attachments are…discouraged. All I have is a small white dog.”

“A dog? Good for you.” Sax paused and looked Jag in the eye. “Are you still up for this?”

“I got over being so angry I couldn’t think straight, but yes, definitely. You?”

“Jag, I’m just a Vermont dairy farmer at heart, trying to do my job. But those bastards got my Yankee dander up. I’m moving down that road, now, and I won’t look back.”

Sax sipped his cold coffee and loosened his tie. “I’ll tell you the outlines and we can fill in the rest as we go. I’ve got a couple of hours.”

“Three weeks ago a Brit I never heard of came into my office and laid on an obligation. I’m a member of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and he wanted me to investigate something in that area. That fellow, Clemson, knew nothing except to set me up with MI6. Then you and I were on that flight together. I went to a meeting at Number 10 Downing and the fellows there gave me an earful. It seems that a tight cadre of private companies, all linked cleverly by overlapping ownership, now controls all the missing fissile materials in the world. Not bombs themselves, but the enriched uranium, even plutonium, that could be used to make bombs with some processing. I don’t have to tell you which countries have that processing capability, do I?”

“No. Please go on.”

“Do you know anything about this?”

“Those directors and owners are all members of the Order. I’ve met one or two of them, that’s all.” Jag was mentally beating himself for not putting the pieces together earlier. But then, curiosity was not conducive to long life in the Order.”

“Hardly a revelation, but it confirms what they told me. Anyhow, I flew back to D.C. and tried to follow up. I called Pellorini in Defense, and he refused to meet me. I collared Decker, Homeland Security, in his lair, and he stonewalled me. He was very nervous and seemed like he was under a lot of pressure.”

“Hmm. I never heard their names used, but obviously someone got to Pellorini and Decker. I’ll remember those names now.”

“Good, you do that. Then, when I threatened Decker with an NRC investigation, I got a ‘cease and desist” letter from the head of the NRC within the hour. That was their mistake. It tipped the issue for me.”

Jag simply nodded and added a few more points to the character of the man across the table.

“Jag, I was at a dead stop until you called. That business with the necklace was nice, by the way. I figured if you knew how to do that, I could work with you. But understand, I still have immunity as a Senator. I can have this whole thing fall into a cocked hat and still get re-elected next term. You, my friend, are now an open target for both sides. I can only do so much, and that is probably not enough to protect you. On the other hand, if it turns out that this Order still owns your sorry ass and you turn that way again, be sure I know where to find you.”

Jag was grimly aware of the situation. “I know the game. I’ll give you something you can use, but, again, you’d be better off to wait.”

“I’m listening.”

“The man I call Mentor lives, as far as I know, on a large motor yacht usually moored near Quay D’Ouchy, Lausanne, Switzerland. The name of the yacht is “Dominar III”. The man is a cripple, and pretty old. All my orders come from him. I don’t know his real name, or where else he may live. He summons me. I visit him on his yacht, he never comes to me.”

“He is also a trainer of upper echelon Order members. I’m told I was being trained to reach the top ranks one day.”

“Most of the lower level people, especially the girls, are put through a process using drugs and operant conditioning. It works – they are always eager and loyal. They don’t do that at my level. It impairs the higher faculties, I’m told.” Jag hoped that was true.

“Although I was never privy to the larger strategies, I do know that the Order believes they are the logical inheritors of a world that will soon have a lot fewer people in it. The main use of the remaining people will be to serve the inheritors in one way or another. The power, wealth and resources behind the Order are beyond calculation.”

“They encourage me to use the wealth. I got this ten thousand dollar topcoat, and this twenty thousand dollar watch. The money is just a drop in the bucket. They buy you with these things.” Jag suddenly viewed his coat and his watch with disgust.

Sax raised an eyebrow. “So, you’re giving up a lot to go against these people. Maybe even your life. Good thing I never got used to riches back on the farm.”

Sax got up and began to pace. “Hmm. Let’s do a little planning. We can use this room again, maybe once more. The guy on the card I gave you will help, but he can’t be exposed.”

“Jag, my feeling is that you are the most valuable piece of the puzzle right now. If you take my advice, you’ll stay low profile, keep the watch and the coat and whatever, play nicey nice to this Mentor fellow, and let me work to find an opening move. But look, you don’t work for me. Do you have a better idea?”

Jag thought for a few minutes. “Sax, I look forward to the day when I can take care of Mentor, personally. It’s going to be hard. But I think you’re right. I need to gather a few recruits to our side, but quietly. Let’s establish a way to communicate and go on about our business.”

“Agreed. I’ll make your name known to Dr. Hapgood at D.O.E. He’s a friend. And remember this name – Grant Gupta from MI6. He’s the fellow I met in London.”

“Sax, hold on a minute. I just remembered something. I don’t know how it fits in…My secretary was conditioned, probably at the order of Mentor, when I was traveling. When I came back, I discovered that she was a friend of our late AI, Aura. Not only that, but she was in touch with the ET’s, including an ET AI called Zovoarcnor. Aura is gone for good, as far as I know, at my hand, under orders from Mentor. But Mentor knows about Aura and Zovoarcnor and wants to make sure that door is closed. Make any sense to you?”

Sax frowned, “Not really. Hell, I didn’t know an AI would have human friends. There was that patent office fiasco…I don’t know what to make of that business. I’ve got my hands full right here on this ball of dirt. Sure would be nice to have an AI on our side, though. Sorry about your secretary. I’ll make sure she stays out of the loop.”

Sax rubbed his temples, ran his access card through the reader, and rapped on the door. As it opened, he said, for the possible audience, “I’ll get in touch with you regarding the Exaplex contract.”

The door opened and he was gone. Jag waited ten minutes, then rapped on the door and called his limousine driver.

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