The two men jumped out of the sudden hole in space
gracefully. Well, one of them did: the other pretty
much stumbled out.
The first man quickly turned, his flashlight illuminating the empty office as the second stayed frozen for a moment. An endless set of seconds later, the first hissed, "It's clear. You alright, son?"
"Nothing hurt except my dignity, Robert."
The man named Robert nodded and began to move towards the door. Behind him, the second man stood, fumbled for a cell phone and entered a number. His lean face showed a certain distaste for the gadget.
"Sir John? Are you there?"
"No need to shout, Howard."
"Right. Of course. We've arrived at our destination, and there's no one else here. Where do we go now?"
"Let me check the plans. Where did I put them ... ah, thank you, Beth ... if the insertion worked correctly, you should see a room to the left of the main entrance. The main server should be in there."
"'Main server?'" The voice over the phone became even dryer.
"A large box with blinking lights and a soft whirring noise. Really, Howard, you should pay more attention to the modern day..."
Howard 'tuned out' (he inserted the quotes, even in his head) Sir John's usual commentary about his perfectly-natural enjoyment of a simpler time as he moved to the door.
"Curses." Robert ambled over.
"It's locked ... but where's the keyhole?"
Robert looked puzzled for a moment, then snapped his fingers. "It's one of those electronic locks. Clever little things: you wave a card at it, and it unlocks."
"Well, do we have a card that will serve as a key, the better to unlock this unholy portal?"
Robert grinned. "Nope. I completely forgot to bring a key. However..." - he stepped back and kicked the door, hard: it flew open with a bang -
"I didn't forget to bring my foot, so it works out."
The two peered inside, both of them looking at the computer server. Robert was the first to speak.
"Tell me again why we are doing this."
"Because it's a pure shame what they're planning to do to Clive's books, and he's too proud to ask for our help..."
"I meant, why are we doing this?"
"Oh. Well, Randy and Ralph have that diplomatic ball to cover, Fearless-Leader-Bob's stuck with trying to keep our little joyride private, Isaac and Eddie's training the newbies and Phil's too busy trying to explain to that Adams guy that indeed, everything that he knew was wrong. That leaves just us, old hoss. Besides, we don't actually need to know what we're doing to do what needs doing."
"That almost made sense, Robert. Very well. So, do we just pull out the plug?"
"Something a little more lasting is called for, I think. Got the acid?"
"Yes. I still think that we should make it look like an accident, though. Dumping acid into the labyrinthine depths of this 'computer' will obviously be taken as an act of sabotage."
"True, but it'll also knock them silly for a couple days. That should set up things nicely for Linebarger to come in and do his consulting. He knows just how to knock them for a loop without them noticing. By the time he's through, the guy who set up the book deal won't be able to get a job selling newspapers."
Howard looked around. "It seems a shame to do this to an otherwise perfectly innocent publishing company." His companion snorted.
"They shouldn't have broken bread with Nybbas - besides, remember what it took to get royalty checks from bastards like these?"
Howard's eyes glittered.
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