A Collaborative Effort: Part 1
"A man never discloses his own character so clearly as when he describes another's."
--Jean Paul Richter
And in conclusion, I would like to thank the Society once again for recognizing my many years of ongoing research in this field. For years I have single-handedly pursued this aspect of alternative fuel sources, often with little recognition or support. It is an honor to receive this lifetime achievement award in acknowledgment of all my hard work.
Joseph, a tall distinguished brown kiwi, let out an inelegant squawk, dropping the beaker he held in his hand and whirling around to confront the intruders who had dared to enter *his* lab unannounced.
Oh, its you, he muttered as he calmly stepped around the broken glass and straightened his pristine white lab coat. He casually sauntered over to the intercom and ordered a cleanup bot sent to his lab. What do the two of you want?
William Locke smiled, the pleasant placating smile that always put people at ease - and Joe was no exception. His surly demeanor faded and he even smiled back.
May I ask what you were doing just then, Joseph? It sounded like some sort of acceptance speech. William nonchalantly sat on a stool and cocked his head in encouragement.
Ahem. Yes, well, actually Im being honored for my work in alternative fuel sources by a very prestigious scientific society. They want to give me a lifetime success award for my contributions in the field. Im very excited.
Which society? William questioned.
Oh, I doubt you would have heard of them, theyre Old World, European, and very prestigious, but they prefer to stay out of the limelight, so to speak.
Thera Strand sat down next to her partner. Please tell us, Joe, it sounds so fascinating.
Joe smiled amicably at the pretty young skunk. The two of them were proper young people, generally respectful of their elders and careful with the equipment. These two were such a joy to work with, not like some agents he could name. No consideration whatsoever there.
Well, its called the Society for Scientific Advancement and Assessment, the SSAA. They contacted me recently to tell me I was an honoree. Im leaving soon to fly to Germany for the awards ceremony.
What field are you being honored in, Joseph? This question came from William - the mouse deeply interested, as Joseph had never told them about his outside experiments.
Well, actually I have been looking at cooking oils for years as a possible alternative clean-burning fuel. My interest started after some failed experiments with nitroglycerin and grease. Never could get a correct chemical balance, cooking fat being so highly unstable.
William made one of those noncommittal but reassuring noises while Thera just cocked an eyebrow, not sure what to say.
Anyway, Joe continued, oblivious, I switched to cooking oils, and have made some marvelous advances in the past ten years. But, sadly, few people are willing to acknowledge the validity of my experiments. Although there was all that interest in that compound I discovered - but aside from a possible use as a detoxifying agent, it was virtually useless. However, now I am finally receiving the recognition I deserve. Its about bloody time, let me tell you.
Yes, I would say it has been a long time coming, Joseph, William agreed. Kudos to you for your success.
Waving a modest hand, Joe bowed, acknowledging the compliment. Thank you, thank you. Now, what are you two doing here?
Youre supposed to be outfitting us for our next mission, Thera reminded him gently.
Oh yes, yes of course! How silly of me. Come this way, please.
My goodness, the Ambassador will not be a happy man when he discovers his head of security was too busy in bed with his wife to keep his secrets safe.
William smiled evilly while he flipped a small microfiche up into the air and caught it easily. Thera just laughed.
That was positively evil of you, William, switching the security cameras to broadcast only what was going on in *that* bedroom, she chided, not really meaning a word of what she said. Actually, it had been a brilliant distraction.
You have to admit, it bought us enough time to get in and out of his office, totally unnoticed, he replied as he slung his jacket over his shoulder.
They had just returned for Eastern Europe, where a very upset Slovenian Ambassador was probably just discovering hed been robbed. It had been just the two of them, since Z was laid up with a broken collarbone after accidentally skiing into a tree last week (hed been ducking a group of Chilean thugs when he took a wrong turn). William was rather proud of the distraction he had come up with. Normally Z found the best way in for them, but it had been just the two of them on this retrieval mission, and he was quite pleased with the fact that it had gone off without a hitch.
They were now back at headquarters, both looking forward to a few weeks off until Z recuperated and they were put back into active duty. But, the best laid plans of mice and men
Drew was waiting for them was they left the debriefing room, and he did not look happy.
Drew, whats wrong? Thera asked as she spotted the grim look on his face.
Relax, we got in and out with no problems; why the gloomy expression, boss? William added, coming to a halt.
Drew just shook his head, the normally sanguine chipmunk looking like he had just come from a funeral. He motioned for them to follow him to his office.
Something bad has happened, he said without preamble once they were all seated in his plush office. Joe has disappeared.
What?!? Thera shrieked, her normal calm evaporating while William just sat there looking thoughtful. What do you mean disappeared? How could this have happened?
A week ago, Joseph was planning to go to Germany, William interjected. What happened after that?
Near as we can figure, Joe left for his plane as planned. He took a company flight to Heathrow and was scheduled to meet a private jet to Hamburg. We have evidence that the plane took off, but records indicate that it didnt land.
In Germany? William questioned.
Anywhere. We can find no evidence that the plane landed at any major airport in Europe, nor is there any evidence of that it crashed. It seems the plane dropped off radar while crossing international air space, and never reappeared. The pilots broke off contact at about the same time, but they had not reported any problems beforehand. Weve ruled out the plane crash scenario; however, we know it was loaded with enough fuel to fly anywhere on the Continent, or possibly even make it back to the States.
Has there been any sort or contact? A ransom demand, maybe, or an offer for trade? Thera said quietly.
Actually, weve had contact - from Joe himself. Three days ago, one of his assistants received an email via a secure home account from him. It was short, only two lines. Weve been trying to trace the path of the email, but its bounced all over the place from what we can tell. Ive got the experts telling me it did originate from Joes laptop, possibly from as far back as when the plane disappeared. Right now were classifying this as a straight kidnapping, but without some sort of demand, we dont know why he was taken.
That was my thinking. Joes knowledge would be very valuable, especially to the right people. Hes an expert in his field, a creative genius when it comes to advanced weaponry and explosives. Plus he has a great deal of basic working knowledge of our agency. Joes clearance is top level, has been for years. Hes probably forgotten more stuff than I can remember about this place.
We have to find him, Thera insisted. While Joe was more valuable alive, he could be *very* stubborn.
You said there was an email, William finally spoke, his mind already working.
Ill get you both a copy. The first line makes no sense; the best code breakers weve got have been working on it since it arrived, and they are clueless. Its just six letters XYZPDQ. We cant figure out what it means, and we cant find any record of an experiment or anything with that name in his records.
Perhaps its a code name for something.
Drew sighed heavily and shrugged his shoulders, sinking deeper into his chair. Maybe. Right now its all weve got to go on. Listen, Ive put every available agent we have on this, as well as put out the word to some of our contacts in all sectors. I know you two were supposed to go on leave until Z recovers, but right now we need all the help we can get. I know its not your normal gig; you guys handle retrieval, mostly, but
Dont worry, Drew, Thera assured him, rising from her seat and crossing over to stand beside him. Suddenly Drew looked both his young age (only 17) and incredibly old, the weight of the world resting on his furry shoulders. Being a division head during a crisis was *not* easy, William decided, studying his friends worried expression.
Well do everything we can to help Joseph and the agency, William seconded. We may be retrieval, but were still agents, and Joseph is a friend. I havent got many of those you know, have to make sure I keep the few I do have around for a while.
Had anyone been paying attention, they would have seen a most incongruous sight. A bespectacled white mouse dressed extremely nicely was slinking around the perimeter of a large, ill-kept yard, his target an old brick house that, despite the dilapidated appearance of the yard surrounding it, was actually in very good shape. A lovely yet equally young female skunk followed behind him, backpack slung over her shoulders and what upon closer inspection appeared to be a Glock clutched in one hand. Fortunately, no one was watching them break into Joes house - not surprising, considering they were professionals.
I still dont understand why were breaking into Joes house, Thera stated for the fifth time. We could always get access from Drew; it is a company house, you know.
I know, William replied, grinning, but I like doing things *my* way. Its more fun.
Thera shook her head, sighing as she did. But a rueful half-smile crossed her lips anyway. William could be a great deal of fun to work with sometimes. They got into the house easily, William shaking his head at the generic security it had. Once inside, he went straight for the computers, while Thera began to sweep the house.
You do realize Drew has already had teams go over this place with a fine-toothed comb, she told him as she sauntered back in after searching the first floor. Find anything?
Nope, they replaced the hard drives on all of these machines.
So this has been a total waste of time.
Not really - I have discovered that they didnt get to Josephs private lab.
Youre kidding. That doesnt sound like Drew; he never misses a trick. He has to have already gone over it.
The one in the house maybe, but Joseph once let slip to me that he had another lab, one entirely for non-work-related experiments. He didnt keep it in the house because he worked with some very unstable compounds and he was worried about safety.
Unstable compounds, huh. You mean pig fat?
William stood, chuckling as he did. He grabbed a small book and a couple of papers, shoving them into Theras bag as he left the room. Thera hurried after him.
What was that stuff? she demanded.
Just something I want to take a look at while we drive, he replied nonchalantly, resetting the alarm and slipping out the front door. She caught up with him at the car, keys dangling in her hand.
I take it you want me to drive, she said as they got in Diablo. In response, William grabbed the book from her bag and began flipping through it. Why didnt you just carry that? And what is it?
I never carry anything on me but the essentials, he retorted as he thumbed through the small book. Thera hmph-ed in response. This is Josephs old address book. According to the date, its three or four years old, but he kept it. I want to know why.
Joe was a tad absentminded, Thera reminded him as she shot onto the highway, already doing 85. Fortunately for William, he was more than used to her driving.
He was that, he agreed as he paused at a particular page, He had three appointment books for a reason - but still, why keep something this old when he had an updated one, Ive seen it.
Maybe there was an entry he wanted to keep. Are you going to tell me where were going?
Warehouse district, Miner Street by the wharf.
Ah, thanks. I hate driving aimlessly.
Funny, I thought with you it was flying aimlessly.
Cute, very cute.
Thanks, I try my best. Anyway, Ive found something very interesting. Two somethings, actually.
First of all, Joseph doesnt seem to have had much of a social life - these are all colleagues, relatives, or contacts in his field. Very few friends, especially female ones.
He was the quintessential nerdy scientist in many ways, although he was brilliant. Its only normal. Find anything useful?
Oddly enough, he had the same phone number listed under four different letters so far - D, N, P, and now Q.
Wait, PDQ! Check under XYZ, see if its there too.
That was my thinking. Yep, also under X, Y, and Z. Now isnt that interesting. I think we found a lead.
So XYZPDQ is probably a codename for a person. But why also have it listed under N?
Dont know, but the number is long distance. I think its still here in California, though.
William pulled out his cell phone while Thera guided the car down an off ramp at about Mach 3. They blew past several cops, who watched the black blur thunder by and just shrugged. They knew whom that particular car belonged to by now. Los Dimiosa was a government town.
The line rang three times before someone picked up.
Bubba, you idiot, an irate voice squawked at him, Wheres that seed, it was supposed to be here an hour ago!
Terribly sorry, William replied, I must have the wrong number.
Oh. Dont worry about it, happens all the time. Who were ya meanin to call, young fella?
An old friend, Stuart.
Ah, we dont get no one asking for no Stuarts. Got a feller once who wanted a newt, told him he had the wrong store - we sell grain and feed here, not livestock.
I see. May I ask how long youve had this number?
Bout six months ago my husband Joe Bob convinced me we should have a private line to the store, something only the ployees and the kids, not that they usually aint one in the same, could call. So danged if that fool didnt get one of them cell phones with this number. Bout every other call is a wrong number, but did ya know it costs to change it, so I figure what the hey! Ya meet the nicest folks and its free advertising, in a way.
So this is a cell phone number, then. Thanks, youve been quite helpful. I appreciate it.
Heh. No problem, sonny, if youre ever in San Viano, look us up.
William turned to Thera after he had put the phone away; she was still smiling in amusement.
So, she finally said.
A feed supply store apparently, but the number is new and its a cell phone number, William replied flipping through the address book.
Cell numbers are still local usually. Did you get a location?
San Viano. Thats south of us, isnt it?
Heres something interesting. Also under the Ns is a listing for a Newt in San Viano, CA.
Could be a lead. Wanna check it out?
I suppose. How far away is San Viano from here?
Normally about four to five hours.
Ah, so well be there in three, right?
Eureka! Newt yelled, raising the test tube high in a victory salute, Ive done it!
The bubbling contents of the test tube, apparently displeased by their new altitude, promptly ignited. The resulting explosion, brief as it was, scorched the genius kiwis cap and showered him and the counter in front of him in smoldering embers and soot.
Then again, Newt amended, Perhaps I havent done it, after all.
Done what? a voice called from the labs entrance. Besides blown up another experiment, I mean, Bob Kiwi clarified.
From behind his fire-resistant shield at the far end of the room, Beak waved at his friend, motioning him to the relative safety the barrier afforded them. Mr. Newt is experimenting with alcoholic explosives again.
Thats alcohol-based propellants for internal combustion engines, the inventor/scientist corrected, dusting himself off and calmly marking the results in a battered research notebook. The state of California has awarded me a rather respectable grant for research on alternative fuels. Based on existing ethanol research and a survey of popularly used fuel accelerants, Ive decided to explore the possibilities of switching from petroleum-based gasoline to a fuel derived from grain alcohol. Its widely available, relatively stable, high in energy, cheap, and biodegradable. Plus its already compatible with existing engines.
Sounds like youve been talking to my sister, Ferdie muttered, warily surveying the lab before venturing inside. The bluebird glanced at the genius kiwis lab notes as he passed, shaking his head at the red resultant: explosion tic marks parading down the page.
Come to think of it, she did mention something about nitrate, Newt allowed, But I must say, Ive found that to be a most inefficient fuel. It ignites far too quickly and burns to nothingness almost immediately. It would supply one with a quick speed burst, but nothing sustainable. Plus, unless used in very small doses, it will overheat the internal workings of most automobile engines, causing said engines to either melt into slag, explode, or seize up. I really cannot see why anyone would recommend it.
Bob blinked. Hes more dense than you at times, he commented to Beak. The tall brown kiwi started to nod in agreement, then caught himself and squawked indignantly.
Fascinating work, really, Newt continued, oblivious to the war of wits raging (albeit rather feebly) behind him, I have quite a few colleagues working on similar experiments. Mark my word, by the end of this decade, fossil fuels will be obsolete.
Speaking of obsolete, Ferdie began, tearing his attention away from a half-charred environmental energy reader, We need to borrow Beak for a while.
The manager at Bananarama says his shift starts in half an hour, Bob clarified.
Hurry up! Ferdia yelled, leaning half-out the passenger window in an attempt to keep their quarry in sight, Were losing them!
Im working on it!
It *is* floored!
Squeaks, this is insulting! Theyre practically out of sight! We need to go faster!
Were going as fast as we can! the mouse snapped, glaring out at the rapidly shrinking black speck that was their speeder. Thats a brand-new, high-performance sports car up there! Theres no way a decade-old Chrysler can keep up with that!
Ferdia glared over at her partner. Dont make me come over there, she warned. This cars perfectly capable of going faster than we are now, and youre not taking nearly enough shortcuts!
Were on a highway! There *are* no shortcuts!
True, she allowed, But there is the nitrate!
Which has yet to work properly, Squeaks reminded her.
If we set fire to another squad car
Ferdia grinned deviously. Its checked out in Vernons name
The blue and white leapt forward, flames shooting out its tailpipe as the battered police car accelerated far more rapidly than its designers could have ever dreamed. The few cars still in its path scrambled aside, allowing it to streak by at speeds best described as take-off velocities.
If the black Diablo flying along ahead of them noticed the squad car, they gave no sign of it. Granted, they were arguably traveling faster than the speed of sound, so it was entirely possible they simply could not hear the trailing cars sirens. It continued weaving through traffic at uncharacteristically high speeds, merrily maiming the laws of physics as it did so. It eventually rocketed down an exit ramp, screaming onto the streets of San Viano with no signs of slowing down.
The squad car followed suit, sideswiping a few stunned motorists cars as it did so. The flames were still spewing from its tailpipe, and while it was gaining on the Diablo, it was also now trailing smoke and the acrid stench of burning rubber.
In what can best be termed a merciful turn of events, the Diablo finally pulled off to the side of the road, grinding its brakes as it screeched to a halt. The prowler followed suit, swerving into a 180-Degree spin to come to a skidding halt just in front of the stopped Diablo.
I ought to just forget trying to list the number of traffic laws you just shattered and arrest you on the spot! To say Ferdia was pissed at this point would be an understatement. Do you have any idea how fast you were going?!?
Roughly a 100 mph, a young female skunk said as she casually got out of drivers side and slammed the door shut. A white mouse exited from the passengers side, raising an eyebrow at his partners blasé attitude. Actually, it was closer to 120, he corrected. And that was pretty good for her; she usually does about 140 on the highways.
Not on my watch! Ferdia shrieked. And not through a school zone!!
Oh, was there a school zone, the skunk replied, looking mildly surprised. I didnt see any signs. Anyway, were federal agents.
She quickly flipped out her badge, then tucked it away again almost immediately.
Ferdia fumed. I dont care if youre the bleedin Queen of- Squeaks clamped her beak shut, halting her rant.
Federal agents or not, nothing short of a violent attack warrants the speeds you were traveling at, Squeaks frowned at the pair, Not without broadcasting your presence and destination to the local PDs so an attempt to clear some sort of path for you can be made. Especially when said path traverses crowded city streets. Even we dont push things that far.
And you can just take those badges and shove them up your- Ferdia started, only to be cut off by a warning glare from her partner.
And you are interfering with a federal investigation, the skunk shot back.
The young mouse accompanying her stepped in before a fistfight could break out. Are you aware that your police vehicle is on fire, he pointed out.
Quite, Squeaks nodded with an unconcerned ear twitch and half-shrug. Happens all the time. Shes still trying to work the kinks out of that.
Ah, I see. Very well then, just give us one of those tickets and well be on our way. Doubtlessly youll be wanting to put the fire out.
No need for that, Squeaks replied, Itll burn itself out in a minute or two on its own. Im actually more interested in hearing your explanation for what youre doing here. All federal activities are supposed to be cleared through the precincts involved, if for no reason other than to avoid situations such as this.
Thera had just opened her mouth to explain how their agency didnt normally cooperate -or even acknowledge - local authorities when a loud explosion had them all flattening to the ground. A yellow blur flew by, crashing into a small tree by the Diablo. Thera almost screamed before she realized it had missed her car.
A brown kiwi peered out of one of the newly shattered windows in the building the explosion had originated from. You can scratch that combination off the list as well, Newt! he called to someone in the building.
I didnt touch anything! another voice yelled from elsewhere in the building, Especially not the nitroglycerine! Nope! Not at all! It fell off that shelf entirely of its own accord!
What the hell was that, Thera muttered as she picked herself up off the ground.
Why do I have the feeling that this Newt person is another scientist, William remarked to his partner. Together they made their way through the newly enlarged door to the building, completely ignoring the struggling yellow kiwi still stuck in the tree next to the Diablo. The two cops had rushed through the existing door even before the smoke had begun to clear, and were in the process of dressing down a college-age bluebird in an old Ghostbusters t-shirt. Nearby, the brown kiwi theyd seen in the window shouted something to someone out of sight and set out to retrieve his treed compatriot.
Thera entered first, then suddenly stopped dead, staring at someone in shock. Behind her, William came to a halt, also startled. A medium height lanky brown kiwi in a lab coat and glasses was coughing heavily as he attempted to put out several small fires. Joe, Thera finally managed to say.
Joseph, whats going on, William called out, striding forward towards the puzzled kiwi.
Hey, Newt, the female cop called, dragging the struggling bluebird along in a headlock, Ferdie here swears most of that was your fault. Care to comment on that?
Hmm, the kiwi responded, Seems I used just a bit too much nitroglycerine in that last batch. Although the fireworks certainly didnt help.
That was an accident! the bluebird yelled.
William turned to look at Thera.
Newt?!?! they said in unison.
Oh, hello, the bird blinked at them, Terribly sorry about that. Didnt hit you, did I?
You have to be Joes brother, Thera said, as it suddenly all made sense.
William nodded in agreement. Its amazing how alike you two are. Joseph has violated every known safety law the agency has, and that was only last month.
NEWT!!! a voice bellowed. A rather scorched-looking yellow kiwi stumbled into the room, still tugging at the slab of bark stuck to his beak. Behind him, the brown kiwi from before was carefully examining what looked like a hand-held laser for damage.
I am going to stop visiting you if I keep getting blown up, the kiwi growled, before rounding on the headlock-ed bluebird, And if you dont learn not to touch things in this lab, Im gonna make him stop helping you with those ghost-detector thingamabobs.
How was I supposed to know they were fireworks? the bird grumbled, Its not like they were marked or anything
Excuse me, Thera interrupted, slightly annoyed. Could someone please explain what is going on? Who are you people?
William took the opportunity to fade into the background. Well aware that Thera would get increasingly irate until she got her answers, he studied the group before him.
The mouse spoke first. Officer Squeaks Arcadia, San Viano 42nd Precinct, he introduced himself, mangled tail twitching idly as he did so. He had the bearings of a soldier, and his pale blue eyes made no attempt to hide his wariness of the two agents. A curious mark in the form of an inverted magenta triangle, was just visible under a forehead of white head fur. Ferdias my partner.
Ferdia Birdie, the female cop chirped, mock-saluting them while keeping one arm firmly gripping the bluebird she held in a headlock, And this walking disaster is my brother, Ferdie.
Nice to meet you, Ferdie gasped, still trying to free himself.
Thats Bob Kiwi, Ferdia continued, indicating the small yellow kiwi still tugging at the bark slab his beak was wedged in, And Beak, she nodded to the brown kiwi with the laser gizmo. Both kiwis paused for a moment to acknowledge her, then went back to whatever it was they were doing.
Bob, Beak, and I are private detectives, Ferdie supplied, finally prying himself free from the headlock. And Newt heres our resident genius. Hes an old friend of Bobs, and he helps design equipment for us.
Quite so, Newt nodded, Although I do believe you have me confused with my cousin. Admittedly, Joe and I look quite similar we both take after my mothers side of the family but I assure you I am who I say I am. I have my cousins number, if youd like it. We collaborated on a few projects a number of years back, and weve stayed in touch since then.
Well that clears it all, Thera smiled at the scientist, then turned to the rest of the group with a snap, If you will all please leave, we need to speak to Newt.
William stepped in then before his partner could piss off the entire group. Im Special Agent William Locke, and this is my partner, Special Agent Thera Strand. We are federal agents who work with your cousin Joseph. Hes the reason we came to San Viano. Im afraid I have some bad news - Joseph has disappeared.
He boarded a plane for Germany a week ago, Thera added, and has not been heard from since, with the exception of a single email we believe was sent from his laptop the day he disappeared.
Oh, Newt blinked, astonished. Goodness. He took a moment to digest this information. Well, Im sorry to disappoint you, but Im afraid I wouldnt know anything about that. I knew he was set to receive an award from some scientific academy or the like, but thats it, really. Are you certain he was kidnapped? Joe has a habit of sometimes, er
disappearing for a while. Sometimes its to get time to work on some private project, others its for some long-needed vacation time. He could simply be basking at a resort somewhere.
We dont believe so, William responded, reaching into his pocket. The email he sent his assistant sounded like a warning of some sort here is a copy of it.
He handed a sheet of paper to Newt that read:
The puffer fish sleeps with the patented leather shoes.
Beware the magic pixie dust.
We were hoping you could provide us with some clue as to who or what XYZPDQ is, William continued.
Newt read the message aloud, a carefully-composed look of befuddlement on his face. Finishing, the scientist stole a fleeting glance over at Bob before replying. Im afraid I cant help you there, he said, Except to say it seems my cousin was rather drunk when and if he wrote this message. Its all gibberish probably the mangled punch line of a joke he heard on the flight over. Im sorry.
I see, William took the paper from him and slid it into his pocket. That is a pity. Perhaps if you think of anything or if you come across a reference to it, you will contact us.
I assure you, I shall inform you at once, Newt replied.
Across the room, Beak had a look of deep thought etched into his features. XYZPDQ, he stated. Hmm
.that sounds familiar. Doesnt that sound familiar to you, Bob?
Bob, who had been tugging at the bark slab stuck to his beak, suddenly ripped the entire piece free with a painful yank. Nope, he whimpered painfully, Not at all, Beak.
You sure? Beak questioned. It sounds like a code name or some ow! he yelped, hopping on one foot as he attempted to coax the pain out of the one Bob had slammed the bark slab into.
I have no idea what you could mean, Bob continued calmly.
Thera watched the interplay between the two of them then glanced at her partner, wondering what his game was.
Perhaps you could tell us about the projects you and your cousin worked on, she said as she elbowed William. Any information about Joes past could be useful to the investigation. She smiled as ingratiatingly as possible at Newt.
Im afraid most of that information is classified, Newt replied crisply. However, I can tell you that it was a multinational scientific venture into possible sources an formulas for alternative fuels.
William bobbed his head. Ah yes, I see, he replied. Completely understandable. We do apologize for taking up so much of your time. If you think of anything at all that could be of use, please contact us. He pulled out a business card, which he handed to Newt, then practically dragged Thera out the door.
What was that about, Thera demanded once they were outside.
He was lying, William said simply as he grabbed the keys from her limp hand and headed for the car. He knows about XYZPDQ.
Well then lets go back and question him about it further!
No. Hes obviously trying to cover something up. And XYZPDQ is a person, not a thing - a code name for someone, and at least two people in there knew who.
So why just walk away?
They wont talk to us, so we do things another way. My way.
The Diablo sped away, already doing over a hundred.
Why does your way always involve something illegal, Thera muttered as she lurked in the shadows across from the building that was their target. And why do we have to break in, anyway? Cant we just shoot them until they talk?
Beside her William rolled his eyes. Why do you always complain when I want to have a little fun, he replied. You know this is the easiest way to get answers. Id wager it was the kiwis that hold some clue to that message. Personally, breaking into the lab or home of a mad scientist does not strike me as wise, which leaves the yellow chap and his taller, bumbling companion. Experience has taught me that most people keep their secrets where *they* can easily access them, and when those secrets are threatened, they always run to check on them first. The yellow kiwi went here.
Well, they just left, and the buildings gone dark, Thera pointed out. Do we move now?
No, we wait a little longer. Three names were listed on the agency directory and weve only accounted for two. I want to make sure we arent interrupted.
Afraid of getting caught?
Yes, but not by the authorities. Id prefer our adversaries not know they dont have us fooled.
You really think those guys are our enemies.
Lets just say they arent willing to tell us everything they know, which is a lot more than some of them are letting on. As long as they keep secrets, I dont trust them.
This from Mr. Mysterious himself.
Ha-ha, quite funny. We give it fifteen minutes then we go in. The sun will have set by then.
| Onwards to Part 2 |