Marilyn Masters has identified us. Tonight she tried to kill us. But we scored a few points in this round, and she has lost more than she knows.
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Bob the Ghoul showed up again. He took a shot at Whisp, down at the gym. Whisp was hit by the oddest weapon I had ever seen--the gun fired a packet of--I'm still not sure what they were. They were small as mites, functioned much like nanites, and seemed to be supernatural in nature. He managed to get a telepathic distress call to me, and I got there fast. I had worked up this microscopic sensory enhancement, and could see that his body was swarming with these things, whatever they were. Raal and I got him into the cab, and I reached Azineth. She, at least, had a clue. Before I knew it, we were standing in another world, what some have called the between, and a batch of those giant scarab beetles were working on him. It took a while, but soon these little things, whatever they were, were marching out of Whisp's body and into a jar. Now I had saved him for a change.
When I found myself back in what most would mistakenly call the real world, I thought to walk home. Suddenly I was challenged by a man wearing a suit pointing a gun at me--not an ordinary occurrence. I asked what he wanted. It seemed he had been told I was some kind of foreign agent engaged in industrial espionage. His company had sent him to stop me, and he had been instructed that he had the authority under some obscure law to shoot me. I told him that he had been misinformed, that his company was engaged in illegal activities which I was investigating, and that there was no such law. I also thought that this would be a good time to try to use the psionic force shield I had been working on. Good thing, too--he pulled the trigger. What happened next was more of a shock to him than to me. The gun fired a small glob-like creature, which flew at high speed in my direction; but my shield held, and the thing crashed right into it. It then started to run away. Not wanting something like that loose in the city, I drew my psionic blaster and shot it several times, until it stopped moving. Then I checked on my assailant. He had fainted.
I recognized my attacker. He was John Davis--a friend of a friend back in New Jersey. Once I had revived him, I got him talking, and learned that he had taken a computer course which had led to a degree, and then got this job offer in Chicago, so he took it. I briefed him somewhat, but not fully. Presenting my N.S.A. credentials, I enlisted his aid in investigating his boss and stopping their scheme. He was glad to cooperate.
Just about then, Raal picked me up. I wanted to know why Bob the Ghoul had attacked Whisp, and Raal had managed to determine that the ghoul was headed for the airport. I jumped in the cab. Whisp, whom I reached telepathically, said he would meet me there. I'm not sure exactly how we got where we were going. We were caught in traffic, then we took a side street, then we were there. I suspect that Raal has developed a way to take the cab through the sideways to get places, which is an incredible way to beat the rush hour traffic. Whisp was already in the airport waiting for Bob, and I saw the ghoul and came in behind him. Bob saw me, and moved away quickly; but Whisp had activated his stealth gear, refracting all
visible light frequencies around him, making him effectively invisible. Bob ran right into him. Before he knew it, he had been dragged back outside and was being carried into the air. I was flying alongside him, and giving directions to the invisible Whisp. First, I insisted that he give me the guns. He said he didn't think he would, but when I said to drop him, he changed his mind very quickly. I then asked why he was after my friend, and he immediately apologized. It was just a job, he said, and he would have refused it had he known the target was a friend of mine. He did not want to mess with me, and if it was all right with me, he would catch a plane to Atlanta, and stay there--and if I ever wanted to come to Atlanta, I should let him know, so he could leave there before I arrived. He did not know the name of his employer, but the suggestion that it might have been Marilyn Masters was regarded as very possible. I agreed to let him leave, and Whisp landed him by the terminal in plenty of time to catch his flight.
Getting back to my place--I now shared it with Whisp--I felt uncomfortable. Surveying the situation, I made a microscopic examination of the place. In the wall outlet I found a device--it seemed to be a surveillance nanite, capable of entering a place and planting itself, and then transmitting information to an outside location. I immediately let Father Holer know that the safe house had been compromised, and prepared to move. He had another apartment we could have in another part of town; we were there tonight.
There was an interesting accident tonight. It involved Oscar, and it seems to have been fortuitous, in an odd way. Oscar, of course, is Whisp's Naga; but Whisp has invested quite a lot of effort into enhancing his pet. He's about the size of a basketball, and smart enough to understand a number of words--most notably "juice tiger", which is what Whisp says when Oscar is getting out of hand (he once demonstrated what happens to an orange when put into such a device, and Oscar is terrified of the thing). Anyway, I'm not quite sure what Whisp did--I was in the other room when it happened--but somehow hundreds of tiny fragments were knocked off of Oscar, and each had grown into a naga about the size of a baby pea. The apartment was full of them. But I know an opportunity when I see one. Handing Whisp a large plastic trash bag, I went out into the stairwell outside the apartment and played my tin whistle. True to form, the nagas were attracted to the low flute-like notes, and came bouncing out of the apartment, right into the open trash bag. We then took the bag to Marilyn Master's railway station, and found a way to get them into the garage. I imagine that this will give her nightmares--at least problems galore. Nagas are nearly indestructible--they can't be smashed or crushed easily, cutting them usually only makes more, they can eat almost anything with no ill effects. I think fire and electricity are the only real hazards of which I'm aware that are serious dangers to them. They will spread out and fill every nook and cranny of that station, moving around, booping noisily--and triggering every alarm system in the place. By the time we move on the railway station, they will either have shut down the entire security grid, or become so accustomed to ignoring it that they will be unlikely to notice us for quite a while.
I've become fairly adept with those guns. Bob has good taste--a matching pair of fifty-caliber revolvers, six guns more potent than any in the old west. He used phosphorus tips--"brimstone rounds", as they are popularly called. I've managed to get a few boxes of those, which I'm keeping in the left-hand gun; but the right-hand gun I'm loading with standard steel bullets (lead has gone out of use in this world, too). Of course, this gives me quite a bit to practice. I've stopped working the construction jobs entirely (but with the N.S.A. salary, I don't really need it). There is, of course, my martial arts training, and the use of the revolvers. On top of that, I bought a fine custom-made long bow (sites, stabilizers, compound design) and a nice variety of arrows; I also bought two very nice crossbows, like the one my uncle had when I was a boy. I've got some quarrels for these, but even better than that I managed to find three crossbow-loaded grappling hooks. I've worked with these, tying the cord to my belt, and firing the grapple from the crossbow. I imagine that we may have to negotiate elevator shafts to get into the depths of Master's complex, and anything I've got to keep me alive will be an advantage.
I had Whisp run by the Presemium and do a scan today. His information has forced me to expand my attack plan significantly. It seems that there are deep underground passages, with two chambers, one several hundred feet below the other, which is also very deep. There is also evidence of an escape tunnel. But this is not a problem. I'm developing some new psionic skills which I think will help me greatly, and I've got George working on getting some equipment which will play nicely into things. Everything looks good.
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