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GHOSTS FOR A SENSIBLE AGE A Short Story by James D Pratt .rtf

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					                                    GHOSTS FOR A SENSIBLE AGE

                                             A Short Story by James D. Pratt
                                              Copyright 2010 James D. Pratt
                                                    Smashwords Edition


                                         Smashwords Edition, License Notes

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                                  you for respecting the hard work of this author.


     Walt and Milt sat at their usual table in the employee cafeteria on the third floor of Global
Technologies. Globe tech was the world’s third largest corporation, which Walt and Milt knew, and the
secret owner of 1/5 of the alien technology confiscated from the Roswell UFO crash site in 1947, which
Walt and Milt did not know. Their usual table strategically sat near the television set bolted to the wall in
the south-eastern corner of the cafeteria, which currently was tuned to a daytime talk show. On the show,
a skinny man in a denim vest and trucker’s cap was being confronted by his pregnant linebacker of a
fiancé, who was accusing him of sleeping with her little sister. Thirteen minutes and four seconds into the
show, the man would kiss the fiancé’s sister, who would then have her wig snatched off by the fiancé.
    a ,laWa oaaa lo a l h ho hoa h a l ahcolc h              th l l o tWl lahlcW olehoctoh th aehctal tlaW
hh uaokh ao ollo pclo a l ficlethoh ollk ool ah .dl oah to a hhho thho .tlWa ho o tal ahaha-aool
:a aa tlaoa aoh a tohh ,thc laWa .oah etlotoh fihco htalh ho ahtfiao otl ao aoho thoh ofi a aa l
     .W L W S T      T OB   E A O B W S ’L SO J A OA T L A W )A

    I lcl oah hol Wlhh filchho to Wtol hc a l olo TI taoahlc fihhtoho a aa oah hofifihhloW hhtoh ah )u
 .hfilo ofi ao oa oho
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    ttooth a ethta ah a l ltlchloa chht a a lc a .mtWa oah fitaktoh aa a haWao ota WtiWl loa ohtaht
I l aaa a aa a l a lha fiatoh aocolo hoa ah ol .aohtl ao fioa tt ho a hactaa otla , lo ollkh lacWtlc
I l aaa a aa mtWa oah aaaoaWW a WtiWl a cato h         th ot l klfia tt ho a l . lacaooco oah olhtol a l fihtoa
mtWa hha th hha th clelohl o ochootoh th haWao to oclhhtoh aoo ficlalootoh l ahoWo lac a l .otla
 .oao ahtaahlh haclattoh ah a l oloa ooolcDrown, you little bastards¸ l a hoh a to a aaakWtoh
a l a lha fiatoh ao ,Icoa ol ahWo .ehtal ah a l olcl hoaWWholo ofi to a aclat hla h a hWlhalchW
 othch olcl hhtoh achooo aohoa aoah to a l .fichoaoW ollo ah toa a clhoWa h haclhh ah hho
kthhtoh hktWWh -tatoW olaaohl th ahh ,aaahooooh olfiacatloa aoo mtWa oah Who tao ho a l ahalt fihWl
a lcl oao a ol toa Wl h mtWa hc ,ahhclhhtel ot l/aoo th fiahhtel ,th otla ,ulaollo a aa .olcl hoofiac
.Wt l oah oao ,tlc mtWa .a l oatW hctoo ah hctoo
       I lcl oah hhtla toh l .mtWa oah oaaa toh laWa , lha ho If-l tWl laWa oah oaaa toh a l acafi
ooa l otoo a wotal koho ho ah olhto a l ,ahofiWl h ollkh oho ao ollo hc a ,oaoalo ah octoh ofi
 .ahoelchaohoOh well .mtWa a hoh a ,Here goes nothing”.aWal aS“ .
       “YEAH?” W ALT REPLIED THROUGH A MOUTHFUL OF TUNA-MELT.
       .to a l hfilo ta oah hoa ,lcl I ”?hahh h ot leltWlo oh hD“ .mtWa ahhk a ollfi oclaa
       ”?O E W L EL   A SB W“ .D L SOE A OA OL L B B W AA O         T   W
       mtWa oah a l thha tccaohoaWW .Ta oah ao hoo wolhoho ahttoh cht th WtiWl aaahooaaoa ctloo
mtWa hoal ahWo tt l ahohtolclo hcaeta a a lhc olaaohl ho .caohoaW filchho laWa ao lelc kohoo
toethtoWl hcltWtoh hWotoh lelc a toh ohoo oah ah ,ah ac ah l oah ahoalcolo .ahoWoo a aaaoaWW hll ta
.eoha a clahhoaoWl ltifiWaoaoho ah ao a toh lWhl
       ”. L S SA    A B S T T L S T B D SAA J .L D BA SL S S“ .A S A OE OA SO D T T B W S L S T O A O

       “It’s kind of an odd topic for casual conversation.”
       “W HY’S THAT?” MILT ASKED INNOCENTLY.
       dl taol a tloaaW .a ahttlcataW hc a taWl lo aoaltloa fichooaa oah ho .laWa hWaoalo aa a l If
”.WWa ht ohohlow ooh oa ahoe h aT“ .ohal ah a lak ta hoa
       “I DIDN’T REALIZE THERE WAS A LIST OF APPROVED TOPICS FOR CASUAL CONVERSATION,” SAID
DEFENSIVELY.

       Weird, ”.aoalt T aa o aho h aa I“ .mtWa oaho a ohoaWW a th ahoa              .a hoh a laWa
       “W HAT DID YOU MEAN?” MILT WINCED INWARDLY AT THE DEFENSIVE TONE IN HIS VOICE. THIS WASN’T GOING
VERY WELL. HERE HE WAS BROWBEATING THE ONLY GUY HE COULD EVEN THINK OF HAVING THIS CONVERSATION

WITH AND ALL BECAUSE W ALT HAD MADE A LEGITIMATE OBSERVATION. IT WAS STRANGE QUESTION FOR MILT TO

ASK.

       “It’s just not one of the things someone might expect to be asked out of the blue, unlike say, ‘How’s it
going?‘ or ‘How about this weather we’re having?’“
       OK, TIME TO EASE BACK, THOUGHT. “I SEE YOUR POINT.”
       “Usually,” Walt went on, “there’s a reason for such an out of the ordinary question.”
       “Agreed,” Milt said, again conceding the point.
     “IS THERE A REASON IN THIS CASE?”
     JUST SAY IT, YOU IDIOT! SHOUT-THOUGHT AT HIMSELF. “THERE COULD BE.”
     “’Could’ means ‘would’ 85% of the time. What is said reason?”
     Stop being such a coward, Milt! Say it! Say it! ”?hohtcoa ahoe hao T lo at kot a clel oh otD“
     ”.tusgis gi giougi.t hgi,noiamoC“i.dehgis tlaW
     “It’s…okay, look. Have you noticed anything…weird going on around here?”
     SABDSBA W BBS TOBTB ST AOB’OB , SA E BSA B D W AE J ”?WB DWBD AOAS S AO ,O AA W“ .A OA S              OB W W

OAW SSBSA ,B SA D A   BS A W A D B B A S T   A   ASATBD S AOB ,T S B OO S S A D O T TBW AOAAADAOO T OLTS ASW SLA

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     “No, I’m talking WEIRD weird”
     W ALT WAS STARTING TO BECOME CURIOUS. “LIKE WHAT?”
     “LIKE…THINGS MOVING AROUND BY THEMSELVES.”
     ’?T B E A SB OO T B SB BS SL BA O S T         L ’L   E“ .S B E BS S A D D L W B W ’A OA W
     a lo ahtl to a l oltia thcotoh aoo ,ooa T WW Wlael hhtla toh to hol hfiha ,hN“ .mtWa h hhk th lao
”.poo ta hhtlo lcl lWhl
     “AW, COME ON,” W ALT CHUCKLED. “THERE’RE A MILLION EXPLANATIONS FOR SOMETHING LIKE THAT.
SOMEBODY BORROWED IT OFF YOUR DESK, THE CLEANING CREW MOVING THINGS AROUND…”
      toh dael ho hllo ao a .uoa a aa h eoha hc haacalch .T koho ,ohok T“ .mtWa oaelo a aoo othtthhtelW
”?hacaohl hhtoh ho ota ao hol h ahtfioalc
     “THERE’S ALWAYS SOMETHING STRANGE GOING ON WITH SOMEBODY’S COMPUTERS, USUALLY BECAUSE
THEY CAUGHT A VIRUS WHILE WEB-SURFING WHEN THEY SHOULD HAVE BEEN WORKING.”

     “Unlike the IT department, who’s always on task,” Milt snorted.
     . OA O A W O     A O BD B   ”.Y A T A OE B“ .B W A OA T D S S BW A S W S L W W W
     “Well, something’s going on with my computer.”
     “LIKE WHAT?” W ALT ASKED, STILL GRINNING.
     “For awhile now, I’ve been coming in and finding it running. I always turn it off before I leave, and I
make sure the door to the accounting suite is locked up tight.”
     “THE CLEANING LADY HAS A KEY TO ALL THE OFFICES,” W ALT POINTED OUT. “MAYBE SHE’S TURNING IT ON
FOR SOME REASON.”

     “But she wouldn’t have my password. Someone’s been accessing my machine. I’ll log in and find
files changed and moved around. And sometimes I’ll find Notepad open with some simple message typed
out, like ‘HELLO’ or ‘HELP ME’. Once it was just the word ‘HATE’ written over and over again.”
      “HMM. THOSE ARE KIND OF STRANGE PRANKS FOR A GHOST TO PLAY. IT STILL SOUNDS LIKE SOMEONE IS
MESSING WITH YOU.”
     “I haven’t shared my password with anybody so wouldn’t it have to be one of you guys in IT?”
    BD         A OLTT ST LSAL LAO ,    BSWB    BSS ADL SW SL BA , D B S .S SLSS OB’ A ,B OO W“ .A OA T D       ATBW W

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.I l ohclhaloa Wth a aaha a octh a hWacl ho th oaWo lao
    S   ’ OA     A OA A S W W B BD L S O B D B W A S S L SA OA SO A A ”. AS ,L D D E S .L S B S“ .A OA SO L L B O S O BA W W

.S DDL SW ST AA OBS AA OB LD ASE LO AOB
     “Dang,” Bill said. “Why would somebody steal all the salt shakers?”
        “Budget time,” Milt offered. “Maybe they got phased out.”
     BILL GRINNED. “HEH. YEAH, YOU’RE PROBABLY RIGHT.”
     “YOU SEE THAT?” MILT SAID AS BILL WALKED AWAY. “EVERY SINGLE SALT SHAKER GONE. W HY?”
     W ATL SHRUGGED. “I DON’T KNOW, MAYBE AS A PRANK OR SOMETHING. MAYBE SOMEBODY WHO REALLY
LIKES SALT IS HOARDING IT SOMEWHERE. OR MAYBE YOU’RE RIGHT AND THEY’RE PHASING OUT CONDIMENTS.

W HO KNOWS?”
     “IT’S SILLY BY ITSELF BUT ON TOP OF EVERYTHING ELSE…” MILT TOOK A BITE OF HIS SALAD, PERFUNCTORILY
CHEWING AS HE THOUGHT ABOUT WHAT TO SAY NEXT. “YOU KNOW                  GRETCHEN IN HR?”
     “Yeah.” Gretchen was a petite blond approaching forty who was maintaining her curves quite well.
“Cute, isn’t she?”
     “SHE’S OKAY, I GUESS. A LITTLE SKINNY FOR MY TASTE. ANYWAY, DID YOU KNOW SHE QUIT THIS MORNING?”
     “W HAT?” DAMN .A OA A O L T O A W ,THE OLD WALT LUCK STRIKES AGAIN.”?O E W“

     cl haot olfitoo T“ .aoo hoaWWholo ota a ota h l hca ,a lolo a hoh eoWW ,mtWa ahhk aoha lc otal
aoo a lo h l ahklo tl a .S l Whhklo claWW ofihla hh T ahklo lc o aa oah ochoh .ho a l oa hoa
”?soho o aa ta oah .wolhoho
     ”?WOAA ,L S“ . S O BA W A          AS    S OE SO L L B O A OA O A W A S W B W

     “’Do you believe in ghosts’?” Milt frowned. “I should have said that I’d been seeing things too, but I
just asked her what she meant. She said she’d been noticed some strange things, just little stuff here and
there, sort of like what I told you. But then, last night, something happened that she couldn’t write off as
pranks or coincidences.”
     “W HAT HAPPENED?” W ALT ASKED, TRYING TO SOUND CASUAL.
        .ta oah ao oW ,dho .mtWa ahhk a ollfi octok h         th otla hhoaScientists put men on the freaking
moon, thought, but that can’t make a diet drink that tastes like the real thing. laaW lcl hao l S“
S l oloa ah a l oaa chht aoo o lo h l oah .ohcktoh ho a l olo ltfiWh ll aooohhk ,Waha oth a
”.l ttcchc h l hao lc cl laoho haactoh oaak aa lcoah toh lc aoo h l afifilolo ah Whhk to a
     ”?l aa h hh oltco aohoa a aa ?hS“ .laWa h cohhlo
     “THAT’S ALL IT WAS DOING. JUST STANDING THERE STARING AT HER. I MEAN, REFLECTIONS ARE SUPPOSED
TO, YOU KNOW, REFLECT…DO WHATEVER THE PERSON STANDING IN FRONT OF THEM IN DOING. BUT SHE SAID THE

REFLECTION WASN’T EVEN WEARING THE SAME OUTFIT AS HER. AND THEN THIS LOOK OF HORROR BEGINS TO

CREEP ACROSS HER REFLECTION’S FACE AND IT STARTS TO OPEN ITS MOUTH LIKE IT GOING TO SCREAM.

GRETCHEN SAID SHE RAN OUT OF THE BATHROOM AT THE POINT.”
        .laWa cooolo th a toParallel reality, thought. “That’s an odd story, all right.”
        “Yeah, so she said that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. She went to her desk, grabbed
her purse, and made a beeline for the door. She only came this morning to grab some photos and
arrange for her last paycheck. Didn’t even bother to clean out her desk.” Milt played with his salad for a
moment and put his fork down. “There’s something else.”
        “Yes?” Walt said after a moment. The talk of weirdness was starting to eat away at his good mood.
He didn’t like to think it about, especially in light of the things he already knew.
        MILT TOOK A DEEP BREATH. “I, UM…I SAW SOMETHING TOO.”
        W ALT HAD KIND OF BEEN EXPECTING THAT. “W HAT DID YOU SEE, MILT?”
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ASW S T W B SA D A    B S A L O O T B S L S S A O B A T T L S A ’T O A L W A S W   B O L OW A O B O   O .AL OLLB S
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. OA SO D T T B W     ”…OLD ASLAOBD JL SL
        “So what did you see?” Walt asked impatiently.
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        “You saw yourself.”
        “Yeah, that’s right,” Milt said defensively. “I saw myself. Not some reflection or trick of the light, not
somebody who kind of looked like me. I saw me. He, or me, or whatever it was, it was ME.”
        ”?O AA W W EL W L W“ .A OA SAA S W
        “What do you think? I got in my car and got the hell out of there
        “AND YOU THINK IT WAS A GHOST THAT YOU SAW? AND THAT GRETCHEN SAW ?” W ALT SCRATCHED HIS CHIN.
“BUT YOU’RE STILL ALIVE. HOW COULD YOU HAVE SEEN YOUR OWN GHOST?”
         . SWAS WLDB ST OAAB ATA A SA W B B B O .SALDE S S L A A O B BS W L O A O B ’O AA A“ . OA SO L L B O S O BA W
S ST W AO     E ASW SAW SL B LWE   BS OLLB L A AOB W SWLW LL       ASW OASSBSBW ALS AL TL AL AOB AAODTLA

WADW ASW SAADAS TL    ST AL AOB T E A DSS ADL SW ,O AA AL W L       A D E S T AL W BT W B W   ’ L W O OB S .TAD
”-A W A S .TBTBA A OLLB AA O S OA SE O TOALO AOLSB T SBT D A S SASS ST SWBD LSB’OB AOB          OW ST ASW AS

     “You.”
     “Right, me. The other me I’d seen when I was standing in the parking lot was the future me who a
week later was in the office looking down at the…past me standing in the parking lot looking up at the
future me who by that point was the…present me.” Milt thought for a moment. “Yeah, I think that’s right.
     “TIME DILATION,” W ALT MUTTERED.
     “What”?
     “Nothing.”Walt eyed his tuna-melt, which like his mood had grown cold and soggy, and sighed.
“Okay, as long as we’re making confessions…”
     ”?A ABOO B’W WS L    SAW SL    B A O S T A S W E“ .A OA W OA T OA D B W AA

     ”.who cl eoha alWWtoh tl aWW a th hao oho ?hS“ .laWa cathlo ao l locho
     ”?L W O AA W W EL SB B S .LBAE ,B AE L“ .S OA O B OW S O S O A S W
    Ta oah a l loo h a l oa aoo T o .I th afifilolo a ahofiWl h ollkh ahh“ .laWa ahhk a ollfi oclaa
Ta h hoWW a WtiWllhacaohl .ktWWtoh otl ,T o eoha ollo aohtoh achooo a l hdal ,aaaoaWW .ollo ohcktoh Waal
k aoo a l fiacktoh Wha oah ficli u a l otl T Wl ta oah oac .ah ol hhtoh htl ah ao ltfia               hohl , hc tl
T hha ah t aac aoo ah T haacalo ah hfilo a l ohhc T hao a aal cl laalo to a l hWahh oltia ah .toa olhlcalo
aWal ”.T hfioo achooo aoo h ahochl oh hol oah a lcl .Wtkl hhtlhol oah haaootoh ol too tl ,ttol
”.I aa h a l o hWl hahc .at h aa I“ .mtWa ahoooolo ah Whhk aa tt ltifilaaaoaW hahfifilo aaWktoh aoo
     “HMM. NICE BUILDUP, BUT THE END…EHH. I LIKE MINE BETTER.”
     “I DIDN’T KNOW IT WAS A CONTEST.” W ALT LOOKED UNCOMFORTABLE.
     “You can do better than that. Time for full disclosure.”
     “Okay, okay.” Walt leaned forward conspiratorially. “Do you know what it is that Global Technologies
actually does? I mean, we’re a giant corporation so you’d think we’d actually produce something, right?
Some sort of product that people can buy and use?”
    O BSLW WB OATB A OLA L   .S A T L L W D BSA L S ’O AA A . O O“ B S A OA A O L T O OL D A      L

BOBW SAL AOB LSA WO TO TBAS O SS ,LLASAS ASW S       S W BS AOLA LO TLTBDS BSA TD A .TLTBDS BSA TLSADATAS

”.WBSADA BSA W&D
     “That doesn’t surprise me.” Walt pointed toward the floor. “Do you know how far down this building
goes? How many underground levels it has?”
     ”? BSA AE B ASB BSA ASW S         ASB A .L S“ . OA SO D T T B W

     “Heh. A little deeper than that.” Walt’s voice dropped a few decibels. “Before we were Global
Technologies, we were the Aries Corporation, a big time military contractor working on next generation
technology. Crazy cutting-edge stuff, like a James Bond movie on acid. Then the Cold War ended and
somebody decided it might be time to present a different face to the public so we became Global
Technologies. Anyway, all the labs are underground. I mean, they were built to survive a nuclear attack in
case the Russians ever dropped the big one. You know, everybody was pretty paranoid back then and
figured it was sort of inevitable.”
     ”.LO A L     SOBOABD D B S A A S T L T B D AL S ’L   A S T A OOE W B S“ . S OA ST D AAT O B W O S T O

     “Sort of. Those bomb shelters are where all the real research takes place. Those labs up on the third
floor. That’s nothing. It’s just where they keep the company servers. The real R&D boys are downstairs.
WAY downstairs.”
     “REALLY?” NOW MILT SOUNDED SKEPTICAL.
     “THINK ABOUT IT. HAVE YOU EVER MET ANYONE IN THE R&D DEPARTMENT?”
     “NO,” MILT ADMITTED. “AND THERE ARE A HELL OF A LOT MORE NAMES ON PAYROLL THAN CAN BE
ACCOUNTED FOR BY THE PEOPLE I SEE COMING IN AND OUT OF HERE EVERY DAY.”

    ulaaohl a lcl h ao act h ho h ooocloh h lla olWho oh ohcktoh ho .a htc h aa I“ .laWa ohoolo
”.a tohh a aa ohoWo oWho hoc ttoo
     ”?O S SA O O L W W L EL     B S L W A OO A O“ .W OA D A SB W A S B E B D L

    I aa h ho T . oafitha l a oh acalhlc lWitW a oto T lcl ohe a ch oltWfifia T ol l“ .a h cohhlolaW
Ta h oh hlacla aoo T otoo a a tok ao a toh . hooo hoa aohoa a l actlh rhcfihcaoho aoo a l ohto h lWalch
”.D&to ,I lo T tla sleto doh lh .aohoa ta
      MILT’S EYES WIDENED. “YOU KNOW SOMEBODY IN R&D?”
     “Kind of. He actually looked me up. He thinks his wife is cheating on him and wanted my advice on
how to hack into her email account.” Walt frowned. “I probably shouldn’t have told you that.”
     “AND THIS KEVIN GUY TOLD YOU SOMETHING?”
     T oah aetoh a ficli choh oa hh T hahfifilo o ,kllo ahaL“ .laWa ohooloFirst and Tena aa ,
aWal ”?Sh o h h hoWo ol a lcl ooa sleto doh lh .ah ael a ahofiWl h octokh ,hfihcah oac ohoo a l chao
T aao alWW eoha o a l Whhk ho th aal a aa l h .fi aoo hllh tl aoo thohoh tl helco hkhhW ld“ .ahoooolo
Ta olaatl hoethoh ficli wotak .T hta ohoo olhtol h          tt aoo ol haaca aaWktoh .aWclao        ao a lo octokh
 ho ohoWo ael ,ah aaWktohI l oa         l o .a aa l oah llWtoh ohoo aoo eoha oaoalo hhtl ahtfiao
”.a hoh a ol olcl olha ctlooh
     “He wanted to get something off his chest,” Milt said matter-of-factly.
     “YEP. HE STARTED TALKING ABOUT WORK, SOME OF THE CRAZY STUFF THERE DOING DOWN THERE IN R&D,
RIGHT UNDER OUR NOSES.”

     ”? oah h ootk aa l“ .lo hcoacomtWa Wlao
     “HE DIDN’T WANT TO SAY AT FIRST. HE JUST KEPT HINTING. I GUESS HE WAS TRYING TO SOUND MYSTERIOUS.
BUT I GOT CURIOUS SO I BOUGHT HIM A FEW DRINKS AND PLAYED THE PART OF BEST PAL AND HE STARTED
OPENING UP. A LOT OF WHAT HE SAID WAS PRETTY WILD. REAL SCIENCE FICTION STUFF. FRANKLY, I’M A LITTLE
SKEPTICAL.”

        ”?O AA W W O B SAE W .DB B OO ST B’EL ,L B L S                A S T“ .O OA T D A A B W O S A B BA

        “He said there’s one group working on energy weapons, like in Star Trek. They’ve got this rifle that
shoots a beam of ionized particles then generates an electrical charge. The ion beam conducts the
charge, frying whatever the rifle is pointed at. It’s essentially a gun that shoots lightning. And there’s a
team working on light-bending fabric. It generates a field that makes light slide off the fabric like water off
a duck’s behind. Wear it like a poncho and you’ve got an invisibility cloak.”
        W DBAW A L A S’EL S AOB B SW LO SA OO’AOAA ,B AE L“ .             B S A OA A O L T O A OL D A       L   POPULAR
MECHANICS”.D B S T L         S T L S A D L S W O B ’W B Y S OA S W O AA D B O A S E L O A W L O             S LA S   ’   A

        T B T L A A O S T A L S A O ’B SA W A O B E O .T SAA D A B W B T S W A S J SA T B A A S B ,O L“ .A OA S      OB W W

T AL TA SB A BBBSS ADE SSBAWLDBBW             ATO SB B-L BBBS LS A SLSSTB AOAA AOBE OATB AADA O T AO SABOO TB

     S T T B S A O D B B L O A O B ’L OA D A S .   BD S   BS W A O A O B S D L T D A   B BS AL S OAE        S W T A A O .BSTASB

“.A SBDTL S DBABWLWS
         “Okay, that’s kind of creepy.”
       ADE ST AL ATBWADW ,AT AEWL ST AO STS W AO TD S W O B SA W A O B E W BD B A .BA O E“ .A OA S L W W B W W

B   O .’ A T B W A D W B S T S BB D ‘ ,W S O B SBW SB A D B A O B BY A T A W L D O L A . LS SESAB SBST SBBD SBW SDLS OS
OBS OB     A .AO SB OB WAS SBD L S .ABTOSLOLTE TA B ODL OB ALOW B WOBDB AOB W OATB AL B OO B O’SA W OB
SLA TBW S W O BS ’O AA A .AL SAADB BL S OB W B D B SAA D A S T S .O S D BA O T D A LE OA T O A .SAADABW OA TO ST

O AA S A O AA    W‘ A T T ST S AOB’OB WASS B SAL L W L A BT A SB O .WAATO ST S B T E S AOB TLDSBDLS
”.SABDBSABW A OB S DB OLLBBW ,OLLB ’?S SDL OB ’T E
        “Conspiracy stuff.” Milt grinned. “Okay, now we’re getting somewhere.”
        “THEN HE TOLD ME ABOUT THE RUMORS HE’D ABOUT SOME OF THE CRAZY THINGS THEY WERE WORKING ON
OVER AT QUANTUM INDUSTRIES, AT THAT FACILITY THEY HAVE OUT IN THE DESERT THAT NOBODY’S SUPPOSED TO

KNOW ABOUT. HE SAID THEY SUPPOSEDLY HAD THEIR OWN PARTICLE COLLIDER, AS BIG AS A RACETRACK, AND

THAT THEY’D BEEN STUDYING STRING THEORY AND EXPERIMENTING WITH TELEPORTATION VIA QUANTUM

TUNNELING.”

        “Quantum tunneling?”
        “You know, sending particles through shortcuts in space. And that they’d been looking for a way to
use quantum entanglement as a means of long distance communication.”
        “QUANTUM ENTANGLEMENT?”
       hh t hhtla toh afifiloh ah a l pcha ,h o lcl aoh fiacoaWlh acl hhtl ho Wtoklo aa I“ .laWa ohoolo
.oh tailc ho ac afiaca a l acl ,a l hlahoo fiacoaWl kohoh aohoa ta tohaaoaW aoo claaah ,fiacoaWl
chhh a l fi htaaW othaaoal a l to hctaoho hlah ahoel lo to a hfiWta hlahoo ota hoa aetoh ah a ,Shtl ho
”.olaollo a lt
       “OH YEAH,” MILT SAID. HE HAD NO IDEA WHAT W ALT WAS TALKING ABOUT.
       “ALL OF THE SUDDEN KEVIN GETS REAL QUIET AND ASKS ME IF I KNEW THAT UNCLAIMED BODIES, VAGRANTS
OR FEDERAL PRISONERS OR WHATEVER, ARE THE PROPERTY OF THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT. THAT MEANS

THEY CAN DO WHATEVER THEY WANT WITH THEM. AND THEN HE SAYS THAT THE BODY IS REALLY JUST A CHEMICAL

ENGINE, A MACHINE, AND THAT LIKE ANY MACHINE YOU CAN KEEP IT RUNNING INDEFINITELY IF YOU KNOW HOW .”

       ”.hltothz aohoa hotkWaa lc oh lktW hooohh aT“ .clooWhohmtWa Whhklo toa
       ”.’L D SAA D A B D S O‘ ?L   B S L W W O AA O B SA W E .ASBBW O   S W O AA ’O AA A“ .A OA SO D T T BW W

       “I know I was the one that brought this up, but now it’s getting a little silly.”
       a lo ,sleto eoha ktoo h acatWh h .aelo a hhilo ah a l olha fiacaT .oh oWhd“ .laWa aafifilo a l aaoWl
a l o poaWW ,a aa olaaohl h aWW a l hao a l o ollo ohtoh ,hh wotla T aao oaclW               lac tt , l ha h
”. ohoolia h oholthh olihh‘
       ”?AOB TLTBDS BSA ,O AA W“ . OA OBA S B W OL D W A D W
       “I asked him that too. He said, ‘Government? We are the government’. I couldn’t get him to tell me
anything else. He didn’t say much after that, just finished his drink and got up and left. Didn’t even say
goodbye. I waited about half a minute and turned around and sure enough, the guy that had been
watching us was gone too.”
       D B ’S W EL   A“ .AE D L OO T O BS W A S SA OO L S S O B T S B SLAB AL TOBTB O OA   AWB A     BS AA O AL

”?AOO AO S J SA SLW ABOO ST B
       “I thought it was just the alcohol talking. I mean even now it all sounds pretty silly.”
       “”TRUE,” MILT HAD TO ADMIT. “SO WHAT DO YOU THINK HE MEANT ABOUT GETTING SOMEBODY’S
ATTENTION?”

       Walt shrugged. “Don’t know, don’t want to.”
       Dh ho lelc a tok a aa ta ol a tohh acl thetoh ahh “ .mtWa poth lo h             th otla hhoa to hol Whoh hoWfi
Th ta fihhhtoWl ?otoo a hhtloho ha           otao kohoWlohl ohooWlh Wtkl lelc pel lach oho ,T tlao ? aha
 ol cl Wlacotoh a tohh ol hcl ol clready .Lhhk o aa h afifilolo ota a l aahtta ohto ?ah Wlaco a lt
l aa afifiloh o lo hatloohah ? otlh oh ho a tok ol el ahtl cth a ah octok h ooaWlac oacdho tao
”?poaWW ooWlah hhtla toh a aa aao a ol ahoaatolo
       Wocktoh ,dl oah a toktoh h a l acopataW toalWWthloal sleto ao ahWo tt aohoa .laWa ohoolo
l a h aoh halh ltolh l a laoO“ .lfia h h dWhoaW Ila ohWhhtlh Wtkl ao lWlaachota h hhahhtlo lcl to a l o
”.ohiWl a lcl h oh fioeoh ta oaak
       “I WAS THINKING PANDORA’S BOX. BUT ANYWAY…” MILT STROKED HIS CHIN. “MAYBE…MAYBE KEVIN’S
RIGHT. MAYBE SOMEWHERE OUT THERE, SOMEBODY REALLY HAS TAKEN NOTICE.”

       “What, you mean like aliens?” Walt said, trying hard to sound incredulous but not doing a very good
job.
       “THAT’S WHAT I WAS THINKING UNTIL YOU TOLD ME ABOUT THE ZOMBIES.”
     ”.T a hoh a ho olcl ao aa ltha .hahh h ha kaao lc lo hS“ . lacalo a oakWl-laWa Wla hoa a aW
    S ’WOBS A ,L     B S L W E .T L S LSA SBLSOB ADB DBO      A S AA O B SA A O B W AE ’   “ . OA SO D T T B W
”?SO A O AA D B EL T L S T AL O S A“ . BOA-S A S A ’A OA W OA OL L B B W AA        ”.TLSTBS BSA
     ”. Wlhcoh fiWld“ .laWa fioh lo a l fiWaal helc ah mtWa
     MILT REACHED FOR THE SANDWICH AND FROZE. “W ALT.” HE NODDED TOWARD THE TABLE. “W HAT’S THAT
BESIDE YOUR HAND?”

    A OA SOL W OE SO W   W .SOABBD-A OA S D T O A O A S W W A S A S ’A OA W AWAE ODL       A A S T J SA A S S T O S

A AOBDB A      L   B S A ’O AA W A SS A“ .BL SAD BS ST SBDSBSA DBAWE AAOB SOABBD WAS A O S O S OASW AWAE AS O

”?D TOA ,ATL
     “Nope.” Milt took a bite of the tuna-melt. Soggy or not, it was the best thing he’d ever tasted. “So
what do we do now?”
    B ST AOABD AO SB     E WAES LO WLD      A ,A BSLW A L A EL ’WLS     “ . S W L W A OA OL L B B W L A A O B W W
”.LSB TL B S SWLWSSOAS LS B ST OLST T .L DS ADB LTBDO
     “Heard that,” Milt said through a mouthful of tuna melt.


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