Jack is suddenly stuck with babies. But are they really babies, or an expendable tool for someone else’s revenge?
Jack Meter’s hard-won peace is about to be shattered again. Two fugitives have descended on his apartment and are demanding help. They’re Phoenixes, a species that start as babies in the morning, age through the day and vanish after sunset, only to be reborn the next day.
Then there’s the Kayzar. The aliens want the Phoenixes back and are willing to kill anyone to recapture them, including Jack.
The Phoenixes’ story doesn’t ring true to Jack, but what’s a PI to do when his home is invaded, his friends feel sorry for the refugees, and he has a dead Kayzar stinking up his apartment?
The family is the test of freedom; because the family is the only thing that the free man makes for himself and by himself.— G. K. Chesterton
Read a sample.
Wouldn’t you love being able to say that? Well, unfortunately, I’m not talking of the world’s destiny but of the publication of Meter Destiny, the latest installment in my case files. It just happened that M. D. was talking about it with her publisher Zumaya Otherworlds, and they’ve decided to delay at least 6 months. She says she’s not all that upset since she hasn’t had time to think of promoting the book at all, what with her trip to Rome and NaNoWriMo.
I’m not that upset about it either. It’ll give me more time to sort out my notes on the Kayzar case that I solved last year.
Okay, I had some help from Aldus, Claire, and Fred. But who ended up with the kids in the first place? Yours truly.
Ambrose peered at me, an amused grin on his face. It was clear that he knew exactly what I was thinking. “Ever hear of the three Fates, Mr. Meter?”
“As in the Greek goddesses who determine and control the length of each person’s life?”
“I’m impressed. Most people don’t know about them.”
“Classical education. My mother hoped I’d become a priest.”
“Ha! It didn’t take, I see.”
Ambrose nodded. “I knew you were a smart one. I’m gonna need a smart buck if I want to get out of this mess. What else do you know about them?”
“That’s about all I remember.”
“Hmm. Let me expand, then. There’s Clotho, who’s in charge of spinning the thread of life. She calls herself Linda, these days. Lachesis, or Cam, coordinates the measurement of that thread. Atropos has the hardest job. She decides when and where to cut. When to end a life. That’s why they often call her the Crone. Hard to accept getting snuffed by a beautiful woman.”
“Atropos, she has another name, too?”
“Okay. Linda, Cam, and Ialysa. What do the Fates have to do with me?”
“Don’t you get it? That’s what CompuLife is all about, man. Spinning, measuring, and cutting the thread of life of humans. Linda, Cam, and Ialysa are in charge of the process.”
“They don’t think they’re goddesses, I hope.”
“Their identities have never been in question. They’ve been the same people for thousands of years.”
I suppressed another sigh and tried to find a gracious way of getting out of there. Maybe reason would work. “How many people are on Earth, these days? Billions. They must be really busy women.”
“Don’t be a smart ass, boy. We use sophisticated tools these days.” His eyes glazed over with nostalgia. “It was real easy in the beginning. Only a few hundred thousand people, the girls could finish the job by lunchtime. They could have leisure activities, rest up. There was laughter around, and a certain ease. Then Linda got ambitious and got a frame spinner, and that meant more people to manage. We had to hire staff. Project management wasn’t her strongpoint. She let the production run 24/7. You can imagine what that did to the workload. With population growth, it soon became apparent that whoever had thought of the trio system hadn’t done any long-term planning. The girls started fighting amongst themselves, Cam and Ialysa went on strike for a while. I tell you, it was a real mess. We got backed up. Population explosion’s not good. Brings out all sorts of problems. So we had to introduce the plague. Had to do that a couple times more, after that. Drastic way to control population, but there you have it. Even then, we’ve never been able to control increases in the same efficient manner. There’s this complicated formula Cam expressed to explain the problem, but I’ll be damned if I understand it.”
I took a large sip of brandy. Even a year ago, I’d have thought either the old man was trying to scam me or he was delusional. Best scenario, someone was playing a joke on me, but I didn’t think so. All I knew was that I wasn’t running out of the room screaming. I wasn’t sure where Javed’s baloney led, but that damned curiosity of mine would kill me one day. “You still haven’t explained how they manage the lives of billions of people.”
Ambrose grunted. “Ever heard of Oracle?”
“The lady of Delphi or the database?”
He threw me a disgusted glance. “Of course the database. We created that. Meaning the Fates, of course. I just run the business side of it.”
“Dropping the name of a well-known database isn’t quite convincing, I’m afraid, even if the name touches on destiny.”
“We’ll visit the data centre once we’re finished here.”
I took another sip of brandy then looked deep into the fire. Now I understood why he’d sent a thug to bring me here at gunpoint. “Okay, let’s say I believe you. What do you want from me?
“Want?” he barked. “What I want is for you to find Ialysa. She’s been kidnapped.”
“Let me think. Ialysa’s the one who cuts the threads, right? Maybe she simply went on strike again.”
“Cheeky bastard. Didn’t you listen to anything I said? You can laugh as much as you want, but this situation is catastrophic. Oh, we can carry on for a while without her, but our system needs constant, minute decisions. Unless you find her and get her back to us, the Earth will continue to fill up, but no one’s gonna die. No one. Ever again. Now, how funny do you find that?”
©2007 M. D. Benoit