Free Accelerated by Vaughn Heppner

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Authors: Vaughn Heppner
Tags: Science-Fiction
darkened when he became angry.
    I nodded in lieu of a reply and tasted my coffee. It was excellent, which didn’t surprise me. The Chief demanded excellence in all things.
    “I am saddened to inform you of terrible news,” he whispered “Your former colleague has met with an untimely accident.”
    “I hope he heals well,” I said.
    There was no upturn at the corners of the Chief’s mouth, no tic across his features, nothing except that viper stare into my sunglasses.
    “You know it is not a he, but a she,” he whispered.
    “Is this what you’re here for?”
    There was a fractional pause before he said, “You have been weakened, Herr Kiel.”
    “I’ve become more human is what you mean.”
    “Weakened,” he said sharply. He touched his cup, and there might have been the tiniest frown, the smallest of movement with his eyebrows. He removed his fingers from the cup. “Let us not mince words. Letting you live is a mistake. Letting you freely range among the sheep is an even worse affront to logic. If I tap my finger so—” with his pale hand on the table, he tapped his index finger. “If I do that three times in rapid succession, a laser shall burn through your skull. I will have neatly cleaned the mess your presence makes.”
    “No,” I said. “An ambulance will arrive and the medics will discover some astonishing anomalies concerning me, including a burn-hole through my skull. That will create several sensations.”
    “I will control the medics.”
    “The wrong police officer might interfere. The laser-sniper might miss.”
    “Jagiello is a champion marksman.”
    I leaned back as my neck prickled. Coming here had been a mistake, one I wouldn’t willingly do again. My grief had made me incautious. But I didn’t want to squeeze out every human feeling from my heart. I didn’t want to become a monster like Jagiello, like the Chief. That didn’t mean I had to take reckless chances. It seemed Jagiello aimed a laser at my head. I didn’t doubt the Chief about that. To keep calm, I told myself the Chief wanted information. That was my guarantee Jagiello wouldn’t fire yet.
    Therefore, I forced a grin, and said, “You’ve no idea how much I’ve missed your charm, sir.”
    “Your present sorrow has unhinged you.”
    I leaned across the table, making it creak. Maybe if I kept moving, twitching, I would present a harder target.
    “Kay is dead,” I said. “Now you’ve interrupted the drunk I was going to have in honor of her memory. I don’t want to be impolite to you, sir. Not because I care about hurting your nonexistent feelings, but the possibility of those three little taps is making me nervous. If I become too nervous, I might become jumpy. Do you remember that I’m fast? It’s possible I’m faster than Jagiello’s trigger finger. That means I could crush your brain before he burns mine. But it still leaves me dead, and it would deprive the Shop of your sweetness.”
    His dark eyes bored into mine. “What did she give you?” he asked.
    “Excuse me?” I said, as my stomach tightened.
    He glanced at his Blackberry. “The twelfth of June, eleven fifty-eight A.M., Kay Durant jumped aboard the Alamo with a box in her possession. She left thirty-seven minutes later minus the box. You followed her.”
    I sat back as the Chief highlighted the rest of the early afternoon of June 12, including my boat trip into the ocean. I should have realized I had been under Shop surveillance. Why hadn’t they boarded my boat while I’d been tailing Kay? Why hadn’t they stopped her long before that and simply taken the box, the cube? Something didn’t add up. Maybe the CIA or FBI had been trailing them hard.
    “Let me repeat the question,” he said. “What did she give you?”
    “Some books she borrowed a long time ago,” I said. “She’s quite the reader.”
    “Your American quips have become annoying, Herr Kiel, and infantile. I expect better from you.”
    “Whereas your tactics are

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