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THE QUEST BEGINS


Tom woke up knowing two things: there were others like him and that he had to find them. He needed to understand what he was, what he could do, what exactly being a Wildsoul meant.

He dialed Dr. Svetsky's phone number. It rang once, then he hung up. He needed to think before he spoke to anyone. He realized he was wearing the same clothes from the bar-be-que yesterday. He went into his bedroom and took them off. He then climbed into the shower.

A few minutes later, the phone rang. 'I refuse to answer that,' he thought. The answering machine picked it up. "Where are you?" said Matt. "It is Monday, y'know. Get in here, something really important just came up."

'Damn, I suppose it is actually Monday.' Tom finished his shower. He picked up the phone and dialed Matt's number.

"Army Advanced Technology RDEC, Matt Pauls speaking."

"Hi, Matt. It's me, Tom."

"Where are you? More appropriately, why aren't you here?"

'Oh, nothing,' thought Tom, 'just running around merging my soul with wolf-spirits.' But instead, he said, "My alarm didn't go off. What's up?"

"Nothing much, just that we have to present our microservo work as back-up to whatever Ron's working on at some big briefing at the Pentagon next week. So get in here and help get all this junk ready. Julie is already getting us airline and hotel reservations."

"Doh!" Tom looked at the clock: it was just before ten. "I'll be in before lunch."

"You'd better. Bye."

"See you in a few."

Tom got dressed and then checked the weather. Winter in Michigan could be awful or it could be awesome. Today it decided to be nice. A little chilly, but still riding weather. He put on his riding gear and headed outside to his bike. One push on the starter button and he was headed to work.

Twenty minutes later, he walked into the office he shared with Matt. "Hey, slacker. Nice of you to roll in," said Matt.

"Bite me. What's the big deal?"

"We have been summoned to the Pentagon next Monday. Ron and his folks have to present their progress on whatever it is they're doing. Part of it is related to our microservo stuff."

"Since when did using miniaturized servo motors for engine control actuation become interesting to generals?"

"Since this morning when I was told to bring all of our reduced data to this meeting and present it, if it becomes necessary."

"Are we going to read-in on Ron's project?"

"Ron says that he's interested in alternative applications for our actuator bundles."

"Such as?" asked Tom.

"I don't know," replied Matt, "and I'm not supposed to know. And neither are you: that's why it's called 'Top Secret'."

"Okay, I can work in the dark with the best of them. Didn't we just write a report on this subject?"

"Yes, last week. Generals don't read reports, they read summaries and ask questions. We need to compress all the important stuff we've learned from this experiment to eight briefing charts. That's all the presentation time we're allowed."

"Well, let me see what you've already got." Tom pulled his chair up so he could see Matt's computer and they got to work making six months of effort fit on eight pages.


It was after lunch. Matt and Tom were back in their office. "The people we're presenting this to aren't scientists. They're not going to care about our experimental methods," said Matt. "They will be more interested in the suggested improvements than the methodology."

"Okay, I just figured that we'd give them some background."

"You've never been to the Pentagon, have you?"

"Never as a genuine government employee. I took a tour there once."

"That's what I thought. People who work in the Pentagon don't care about background, they want information and recommendations. They assume we know our jobs and did them right."

"That's a pretty big assumption, talking about you two," Julie said as she poked her head in the office.

"Hi, Julie," said Tom.

"What's up?" asked Matt.

"Nothing. What time do you two want to return Monday?"

"Better schedule us for the last plane from DC back to Detroit," said Matt. "I'm afraid the meeting might run late."

"You're probably right," said Ron, walking in. "I need you guys to come down to my office this afternoon. I want to talk to you about this briefing. But I've got to talk to some other people first. How about three-thirty?"

"Fine," said Matt, "we'll be there and we'll bring whatever charts we have ready."

At three-thirty Matt and Tom were standing outside the locked door to the special access room. Matt pressed the doorbell. "Who is it?" said Ron, his voice distorted by the tiny speaker.

"Matt and Tom."

"Okay." The speaker buzzed, indicating the door was unlocked. Matt pulled it open.

Ron met them in the hallway. At the other end there was another locked door. On their right was a small meeting room. "We'll meet in here. We just need to wait for Wendy." The doorbell buzzed just as Ron finished saying that. "That's her, I suppose."

Ron left the meeting room briefly, then returned with Wendy Herschel. He shut the door behind them. "Before we begin, I need to know all of your security clearances."

"I've got a Top Secret clearance, Ron. You know that," said Wendy.

"T.S. here too," said Matt.

"Only a Secret. Is that going to be a problem?" asked Tom.

"No. Not for the part of the project you need to be involved with." Ron looked over the three people he had assembled. All good employees, with excellent records. He still hated bringing extra people into the project, but it was necessary. One could only work without being "in the know" so long. They'd piece things together fast enough anyway. He'd be better off just telling them what they needed to know right away.

"As you know, the project I'm heading is classified Special Access - Top Secret. It runs strictly on need to know. However, most of the supporting work, like what you are working on, is not classified. It is still very important. Let me tell you some more about this project. It has to do with Omegas...."


Adam Sanders hated night shift. He figured that five years of seniority should get you off nights. But it was the holiday season. People went on vacation and all the normal security schedules got screwed up until January. So he was walking around the empty parking structure to make sure none of the three cars still there was stolen. The People Mover rocked and rolled above him. He glanced up at it. Something across the structure reflected a streetlight, like chrome or a piece of glass.

He walked over towards it. 'Probably some broken headlight. I'm gonna have to clean it up.' He was standing right where he thought it was, but nothing was there. He looked around. Some kid was standing in a shadow about twenty yards away. Sanders put his right hand on the butt of his pistol.

"Awright, step into the light. What are you doing here? Structure's closed for the night 'less you got a monthly sticker." He undid the retaining snap on the gun.

The man stepped forward. "What the hell!" said Sanders. The man's hands, face and hair were all silver, like chromed metal. He raised one hand. Sanders drew his gun and fired. The bullet tore through the silver man's jacket at his shoulder. He twisted around from the impact as it ricocheted upward. More chrome shone through the tear.

Silver Slayer whipped his arm forward, like he was throwing a baseball. Chrome shards flew out of his hand, piercing Sanders in half a dozen places on the chest. He looked down at the rapidly spreading dark spots, almost invisible on his leather jacket. Then he fell to the floor and slipped into the darkness of shock.

Silver Slayer extruded another bunch of spikes into his hand. He knew the shot would attract attention, probably soon. He had to leave now, even though he hadn't made the hit. He could do it another time. His left arm was numb from the bullet impact and it would bruise. He could hear someone running down the stairs, another guard, no doubt. He ducked back into the access stairs he had come up and disappeared into the dark Detroit night.

John Stone burst through the door, Beretta pistol in hand. He saw Sanders lying on the floor. He saw no one else and ran over to Sanders. Stone reached for Sanders' neck. He still had a pulse. He was still alive even though he'd been stabbed six times. He ran to the emergency phone and called an ambulance.

Stone ran back to Sanders. "Hang on, man. EMS is on the way. You can make it." Stone pulled off his jacket and put it over Sanders to help fight shock. Already he could hear the siren of the approaching ambulance and probably a police car too.

The police pulled up first. Officer Doyle got out of the car. "Hey," shouted Stone, "you got a blanket in there? Sanders is going to go into shock if we can't keep him warm." Doyle opened the trunk and grabbed a blanket. He walked over and put it on the unconscious man. "Doyle, Detroit PD. What happened?"

"Well, Sanders and I don't normally work nights, but with the holidays, y'know. Anyways, I'm checking the upper levels and he's down here. I hear one shot and come running down. I get here and he's laying there, stabbed, with nobody else around. So I call the emergency number and they musta sent you and them." Stone pointed at the ambulance as it pulled into the garage.

The paramedics started working on Sanders immediately. One had a radio attached to his jacket. "I've got a stabbing, multiple wounds. Black male, late thirties. Looks to be stable. We'll transport to ER immediately. Have a trauma team waiting."

The other paramedic pointed at one of the wounds. "ER, copy this: not a stabbing. Several fragments of metal, looks like this guy was hit by shrapnel."


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