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   Chapter 3 No.3

The U.M.I. Corp Connection By Mark Anthony Tierno Characters: 17099

Updated: 2018-04-10 12:02


Doctor Flaatphut

U.M.I Corp was on level five in the high-rent business sector, where the air was relatively untainted by industry and people smells. Outside, it was all black-tinted plasti-glass and gleaming metal. As we walked into the lobby, I noticed secreted security cameras viewing us from every angle. A few decorative ferns greeted us in the lobby as well as a smiling female volpanoid receptionist. Tiff and I walked over.

"What can I do for you?" she smiled, as she combed out her fur.

I produced my ID, "I'd like to speak to someone in authority, if you don't mind."

She smiled again, "I'll call up mister Tressel. May I know the nature of your visit please?"

"Official."

She smiled again, spoke into an intercom, smiled again, and a few minutes later, out walked this dark-skinned human gentleman, dark-haired, three-piece suit, dour smiling look, the whole bit.

"Inspector Flaatphut, how nice to meet you, " he smiled, producing a hand for me to pump, "and what can we do for the nice people over at InterSpec?"

"I'd like to discuss a run-in I had with some of your employees."

"Well, " he smiled again (or still?), "come into my office to discuss it, " ending with another smile.

He smiled and motioned us in.

The receptionist smiled us away.

Tiffany was turning a nice shade of green from all of this smiling. I was about ready to throw up breakfast myself.

We sat down in his office as the auto-door slid closed quietly behind us.

"Now, what's this all about?"

"Well, " I sat back, "it appears that some of your more over-enthusiastic employees mistook us for a hockey-puck during their lunch-hour an hour ago. Four cars and a truck."

"I got the license numbers right hear, " Tiff handed over a piece of paper, "they gave us a pretty good chase."

He looked at the numbers, "Well, I can look them up, but I'm sure that you're mistaken. Our employees aren't in that habit of chasing down government officials."

As opposed to chasing down real people or what?

"The license numbers trace to your company car-pool, " I pointed out, "and my car has the dents and bangs to prove it."

"Hmm. I'll punch them in and we'll see what we can see."

He punched them into his terminal and then looked up again, "Well, it does seem that those are our cars."

"And why were they chasing us then? We weren't even-"

"And, it appears, " he interrupted, "that these cars were reported stolen a few hours ago."

Figures.

"I don't suppose that finding stolen cars is in your branch of the police? We could use those cars."

I looked a bit miffed, "That's for the metros, I'm InterSpec."

"Sorry, it's just that if you've seen one cop you've-"

"I wonder, " Tiff interrupted, "what is it that you make here? I've never been inside a place like this before. It's all just so fascinating, " she smiled back with a flip of her head.

I think she's been watching that receptionist too much.

"Well Miss, I suppose, for all the trouble that our stolen cars have put you through, I could arrange a little tour, " he punched an intercom button, "send up Dr. Husteff."

"By the way, " I ventured, "a friend of my mom's works here, I thought I'd look him up. His name's, ah let's see, a Mr. Thed Everest Klein. I think he's in your finance division."

"Let's see, " he hunkered over his display, "Klein... ah. He quit this morning. Something about a trip to the middle east for a few years. I'm afraid that he's out of reach."

Yeah, permanently.

At this point, in walks a five foot tall male grey-furred muskrat in a lab coat and horn-rimmed glasses.

"Ah, Dr. Husteff. Please give these two a tour of the facilities. They're special guests."

I don't like it whenever someone words things that way.

"Oh, if I must, " he looked a bit put out, "Follow me."

He adjusted his glasses and we followed.

First he brought us into a room with lots of big machines filling up a bunch of little bottles. Squirt, Spew, Cap. Squirt, Spew. Cap.

"This is where we fill all of our medicines, prescription and otherwise, " he sniffed, wrinkling his nose, "The machines are precisely computer controlled."

It all looked innocent enough so far.

"Is it ever possible for a prescription bottle to make it into a box meant for off-the-shelf use?" I asked.

He looked slightly shocked, "Why of course not. Everything is constantly monitored. Nothing happens that shouldn't. But it's time for the next room."

We left the room of many machines behind.

The next three rooms were one stage of the manufacturing process or another. Nothing out of the ordinary. Nothing to indicate unclean money or any reason to get upset about a little missing cash. But, still, I just had a feeling that I had stumbled into something.

About an hour later, we were in some food-vendor machine area.

"Now, if you'll just wait here, I have something to check out."

I'd been so busy with trying to spot hidden clues in the tour, that I can't remember exactly when Tiffany took off.

In walked the good doctor again.

"Dr. Husteff, I was wondering -"

He looked up, "Who are you? This is a restricted area. I'll have to call security."

"But wait, you were-"

He sniffed and scurried out.

A bit odd.

Oh well, that's a doctor for you. I went to one of the vending machines, put in a coin, and punched up a candy bar. It had a funny taste to it; probably older than this building was.

As I was munching and grimacing, I turned around, and noticed out in the hallway, through the other door, the doctor going down the hallway coming from a totally different direction from which he left.

Funny, he didn't look like the athletic type.

I heard a noise behind me and turned around.

It was the good doctor again.

This guy must be Olympic material!

"I'm sorry if I took so long. Now, if you'll just follow me for the rest of the tour."

And with a short memory too. What happened to security? I was about to say something but instinct said not to.

Who listens to instinct anyhow.

"Doctor, were you just out in that other hallway?"

He looked at me as if I were a new kind of bug.

"Never mind."

Sometime in the walk back down to the entrance, we were rejoined by Tiffany.

"Well, I hope that you enjoyed your tour, but, if you don't mind, I have to get back to work."

We passed by the receptionist as he led us to the door.

I think they glued that smile directly onto her face.

Once outside and out of security-cam range, Tiff spoke up.

"Henry, was the doctor with you all of the time."

"Yes. Why."

"Because, then he's triplets. I saw two more of him in widely separated areas of the building."

"In that case, he's quintuplets. What else did you see on your little tour."

We got into Tango as she finished up the rest.

"Well first, a number of security personnel that read like a list of Who's Who In Crime or Thugs-Are-Us. And second, a high security closed off area that I think merits a closer inspection."

"Hmm, " I banked Tango onto the express-way tube, "Questionable personnel and an off-limits zone. The high security could be legit, but still."

I get into more trouble just by thinking.

"We'd need a reason..."

She looked up at me, "I dropped my contacts over there...?"

"Good enough."

I gunned Tango and began to think about how.

I feel silly in this doctor's outfit; like something off a bad soap opera. Tiff's done up as a nurse. I think she has the better end of the deal.

It's around nine and we'd spent the past few hours preparing our get-ups, having a cozy little dinner together (guess where), and uptown yelling at me for being AWOL the past half-a-day. I was going to have to have something good for them after this.

We'd found a back employees-only-type door and were approaching it.

"Are you sure this is the only way? I mean their security system isn't too complex and ICy could-"

"Ah, baby-poo, " she mocked, "when are you going to learn that you can't do everything by computer? Sometimes things just require the personal touch. Besides, if there's anything funny going on, it wouldn't be in their com-net."

"True. But couldn't-"

"It's either this or be a patient."

I succumbed to the wiser choice.

As we approached the security door, before I could wonder about getting past it, she produced two security passes and the doors opened.

I didn't ask. Besides, what we're doing is boarder-line legal anyhow.

"Well, lead on McDuff."

"It's

two floors down from here, I think."

We headed for the elevator.

We waited for the elevator.

It opened.

And out came two security guards.

"So, Doctor McFoot, " she said studiously, "what do you think of the RNA count in that last specimen?"

"Well, Doctor Sweeney, I think that we should increase the proportion of RH factor in the TBE and R-Colon mixture."

"And then PH the rest."

"Of course. Excuse me gentlemen, " I moved past the guards, who were getting out, "And then we check the E-count."

As the door closed, I half heard the guards make some comment about intellectual types.

As the elevator moved downward I noticed another security-cam above us. Tiff noticed it too so we both just kept shut. This place had an awful lot of security for just a medical building.

The elevator stopped and the door opened.

The hallway was painted in green. Towards the left it became outlined in red.

I didn't have to guess which direction.

We walked down the red corridor, blathering our nonsense, until a doctor walked by. Hm, doctors know what part of our nonsense is real or not. Hmm.

We shifted our conversation to tennis.

He gave us a second look, shook his head and walked on by.

We came to a room of many doors.

"Now what, " I whispered under my breath.

"Well, " she whispered back, "I doubt if it's the one labeled Lounge."

"It couldn't be Supplies."

"And the Lab is bound to be a bit busy."

"How's about the one labeled Lab-Storage, " I suggested.

"Bingo, " we both whispered together.

The door was locked, of course.

"Here, let me, " she offered.

"No, I haven't forgotten everything mother taught me. You just watch my back."

"Don't I always, " she smiled seductively.

Business, think Business.

Of course, it has been a few years since I had to pick locks on a regular basis.

Two minutes isn't that long.

Click.

"It's about time, " she whispered over to me.

We crept in past the door.

The room was wall to floor to ceiling full of boxes labeled as various forms of medicinal torture, excuse me, I mean medicine. We looked around, seeing nothing but meaningless Latin names. Personally, I think they just make up most of these names; I mean, I've heard kids make up the same sort of nonsense words when they-

"Over here, " she whispered.

I went over. The boxes indicted were labeled as water. I looked closer and then took out my IR-goggles for an extra look-see.

"Don't touch it, " I warned, "it's surrounded by security beams."

"For a few boxes of water?!"

"Maybe it's Perrier?" I offered.

She smiled and began to look for the beam source.

Between her expertise and my hardware knowledge, this security system didn't stand a chance. It took us twenty seconds to deactivate the whole thing.

"Now, let's see what kind of funny water mama brought us today, " I said as I opened up the crate.

Inside the packing material were five bottles of a clear liquid. I picked one up. It looked like water.

I opened and sniffed it. It smells like water. Hmm. Maybe a taste?

Now, you don't think that I'm that stupid, do you?

"This stuff reads like ordinary water."

"Can't be, " she replied, "too much security around it. Maybe an analysis?"

"I know a guy that probably could, no questions asked."

"Well then, let's get out of here, because if we hit that trip-beam that was probably in front of the door as we came in, then the guards should about be here."

"I thought it was too easy."

"Makes life more exciting and worth living that way, " she smiled.

I went over and peeked out the door. Four six-foot Doberman guards were coming our way. Well, if it works in the movies...

I came rushing out, "there's been a break in, you've got to check it out. It's over there. Some thief-"

"We just caught that thief. Come with us."

"But you don't understand, I'm a doctor and-"

Does everybody watch the same movies I do?! I mean, get a life guys!

"According to your security tag's scanner read-out, unless you name's Henrietta, you're a thief."

Oops!

They grabbed me by either shoulder. These guy are strong!

Two of the guards got hit in the neck by small darts and promptly fell down. I kicked a third in the- well, let's just say that I removed him from the gene-pool- and a fourth I actually decked in one blow.

Okay, so I did see another dart hit him at about the same time.

Tiff came out of the room as I asked, "What's in those darts?"

"Enough stuff to put an oak to sleep for about a week. Come on."

We sprinted for the elevator doors, stopped to look calm as the doors opened, walked in, and sighed as the doors closed.

"Do you think they-"

The elevator stopped.

"-have overrides on this thing? Yes, " she finished for me.

"This sounds like my department." I went over to the buttons, brought a screwdriver out of my pocket, and popped open the panel.

Ten seconds of tinkering and the elevator was moving again.

"Minorly impressive, " she said, "now what about that camera?"

"I know how to handle those too."

I smashed it with the handle of my screwdriver.

Hey, it's not high-tech or subtle, but it works.

We rode for a few seconds before the doors opened.

We looked out.

No one around. Strange.

We calmly walked towards the doors.

"What about the elevator?"

"I sent it on a tour of every floor."

We walked over to the back doors, approached and-

They wouldn't open.

"How are you with these, now?"

"Let's find out, shall we?" I bent down to work on the door's panel.

I heard footsteps in the distance.

"Hurry up!"

The door opened and I rushed us through.

Guards appeared around the hallway.

The door closed behind us.

"What about the door?"

"I put it on a time lock; it won't open for about an hour or so."

As we approached Tango, refuge in sight, Tiff halted me.

"It's been broken into; I stuck a peace of my fur in the door and it's not there anymore."

I think that she uses pieces of her fur for almost everything.

"In that case, stay in back of me; I'm good with booby-traps."

"And I'm not?"

I looked inside the window, at the door and around the lock. It was wired. Probably break an electrical circuit if I opened the door. Have to maintain electrical contact. I could tell ICy to run a low current through the entire car. I examined the wires further.

A very professional job; barely seeable at night, hidden well, and most importantly, wired to also activate if an excess current was also applied. I got out my clippers and took off my watch. If I could re-wire it to go through my watch batteries instead of the door...

I carefully pulled on the wires, wrapped one around to the inside of my watch, activated my watch, took my clippers, and...

Click. The door opened. No boom.

Tiff sighed as we both looked in.

It was a small box with a proximity detonator on it.

"This guy don't quit. Well, I'm not giving up on Tango."

I looked at the circuit. It had a few elements in it that were sometimes a bit photo-sensitive. I carefully reached around and pulled a flash-light out of the glove-compartment.

"Tiff, the light should keep those circuits confused for a few seconds. Clip the black wire when I shine on the light."

She nodded and I turned on the light.

She clipped the wire.

Again, no boom.

I carefully took the box out of Tango, unwrapped the wire from the door, and left box, wire, and my watch (still hooked up to it; oh well, watches are cheap) on the ground. I then bent down and opened up the box.

I stopped; what I saw put my heart somewhere around my feet.

"What is it, " Tiffany inquired, "what's in there?"

"The calling-card of a dead-man, " I replied somberly.

She looked over my shoulder, saw it, and then shuddered.

"But that's impossible, " she gasped, "he's dead."

"I know, " I brought out a rag, "And we're going to need this as a clue."

I grabbed it with the rag as it was probably poisoned and brought it out.

It was a nine-inch dagger, blade and hilt made out of a single cut of black obsidian, with a single point of red light gleaming from the center of its hilt.

I carefully put it in my glove compartment. The symbol of the Black Dagger, with his (or her or its?) habit of giving you the very weapon with which you would die.

We quickly got into Tango and nervously drove off.

In the distance, my watch buzzed ten just as the box exploded back in the parking-lot.

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