The Crystal Bridge

Chapter 20 - Headbags and Zip Ties

Dr. Stephens cursed himself as he flipped through the re­ports at his holo-desk. A dozen security breaches. Eleven different dinosaur sightings. Motion sensors going off in almost twenty labs. Lost productivity. Seven­teen vials of serum, worth millions in development, lost in seconds. What have you done, you crazy man?

James Iverson’s midnight field trip had made today a very busy day for Dr. Stephens. He shoved all the reports toward his pocket and watched them shrink and disappear. “There’s no keeping this from Vander. It would be hard enough suppressing the gossip and rumors floating around the entire complex.”

The problem was Dr. Stephens had no idea how to explain what James had done. The man’s broken through the antivirus programs. That’s certain. Then he reprogrammed holo-emitters to broadcast images straight from the BOCS throughout the complex. All while asleep.

Stephens stood from his desk and sighed as he thought of the long walk to Vander’s office. And half the sightings took place in areas where there are no holo-emitters. He’s pushing the impossible past all limits. Stephens frowned and chuckled at the same time. This might actually make Vander very happyYou never can tell.


Mike paced back and forth in front of the café. He checked his image in the large front windows. He looked horrible, bags under his eyes and obvious shadows across his jaw where he hadn’t shaved. He’d been unable to sleep after the dinosaur attack, seeing giant teeth every time he closed his eyes.

The whole complex buzzed with rumors about pranks, halluci­nations, and hackers. Mike had contacted Angie and James immediately after leaving the park. We need to figure this out before Omegaphil gets too inter­ested in James.

Mike glanced at his watch. I’m early. I’m never early. What is James doing to me? They’d agreed to meet at 6am sharp for breakfast and discussion, but Mike couldn’t wait to get answers. He also worried about his friend. Omegaphil didn’t react well to pranksters or hackers and James looked very much like both at the moment.

The neon “Open” sign flickered as Mike paced and he heard the lock slide open. He rushed inside, almost bowling over the waitress who’d just unlocked the door.

“Whoa there, Mike!”

“Sorry Cathy. In a bit of a rush this morning. Can we get the usual breakfast fare for James, Angie, and me? They should be here shortly.”

He showed himself to their customary booth in the corner, sat, and started shredding a paper napkin into a pile on the table, his eyes glued on the front door. He didn’t even glance at Cathy when she placed the coffee cup in front of him.

Angie arrived first. Her eyes flitted around the room before landing on Mike. She made sure they were alone before moving toward the booth. Mike managed a nervous smile and waved her over.

“Glad to see no one else is up for breakfast yet.” She stood for a second looking at the door before taking her seat. “Where is he? You don’t think…” she trailed off as the door dinged.

A middle aged man went straight to the front and slipped into a barstool. He ordered a coffee. Mike and Angela sat rigid, afraid to talk until the man finished his coffee and slipped out.

“Where is he?” Mike repeated Angie’s earlier question. “He wouldn’t…”

The door dinged again and James walked in. He looked straight at his friends before glancing around the room twice. Cathy tilted her head to one side, grabbed a book, and then sat at the far end of the restaurant. Mike smiled. A very good waitress. And cute. Might have to ask her out. What am I thinking? Later.

James plopped himself down next to Angie.

“Heya, Angie, Mike. How about the weather we’ve been having? Crazy, huh?” He smiled, but didn’t look truly amused. Angie scowled at him.

Mike shook his head. “You’re not getting out of this that easy.”

Angie spoke up. She tried to whisper, but what came out was more of an angry hiss. “What are you doing, James? This isn’t funny!”

“Seriously, man. I nearly got eaten by a holo-dino in the park. What were you thinking?” Mike’s left eye twitched. He rubbed at it. I need some sleep.

“Nothing! That’s the problem. I was asleep, dreaming. I didn’t do this. If I did, I didn’t do it consciously.”

Mike glanced over James’ shoulder to make sure Cathy was still engrossed in her book.

“What?” Angie blurted. “What do you mean, you were asleep? I checked the logs and they say you were in the BOCS.”

“But I wasn’t. I swear. You know I wouldn’t. If anything, this is more Mike’s style.”

Mike’s mouth curved up in a half smile. He knows me. “True, but not on Omegaphil’s dime.”

James nodded, his face white. “No kidding. I’m still the new guy here. I wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize my job like this, not on purpose. Listen. This isn’t the first time I’ve had some strange stuff happen while sleeping. A few weeks ago I had some new genetic code show up on the dragon. The computer logged it around 3am when I know I was asleep.”

Angie smacked him in the shoulder. “That’s impossible.”

James laughed. “That’s getting to be a common theme with me.”

Angie nodded, but didn’t smile. “Why didn’t you tell me right away? About the other night? I’m your supervisor. Anything odd with the BOCS should be reported to me immediately.” She looked down at her hands, folded on the table, knuckles white. “We’re in a lot of trouble here.”

Mike and James spoke at once. “We?”

Angie gave Mike an annoyed look. “Yes. We.”

James laughed. “I’m pretty sure you two are safe. I’m the one holding the smoking gun with no alibi. You’ll both be fine after they kick me out.”

Angela looked up and met his eyes. Hers had filled with tears at some point. “You think they won’t send you to jail or worse for this? You think I’m going to be okay losing you? You think Mike isn’t going to feel guilty forever that he brought you here?”

Mike winced as she mentioned him. He spoke up though. “We’re in this together, whether you like it or not, man. We’re out if you’re out, but I won’t do jail.”

Angela shook her head at him. “Really?”

“I bruise easy. Jail’s no place for me.”

James looked at his friends like they were aliens. “Stop it. Neither of you are going anywhere, out or jail. None of us have anything to go back to. Besides, I didn’t do anything wrong. It’s Omegaphil’s stupid chip that’s malfunc­tioning in my head. Probably spitting off sparks and frying my brain. They’re going to fix this and then I’m going back to work.”

Angie bit her lip. “No. We’ll go in together, apologize, and re­sign. The three of us together should be fine on the outside. We’ll fig­ure something out. Start a business together…even though the idea of making Mike a partner is…disturbing.”

“Hey! I’d make a great partner.”

“I’ve already sent an email to Stephens.” James cut their brainstorming and arguing short.

Mike and Angie both sat up. Mike licked his lips and looked at the door for the fifteenth time as he heard a squeal outside. What was that? “We had a plan, James, you didn’t have to—”

“Yes, I did!” James interrupted. “Your plan would get all three of us fired. No, I’m going to fix this and I’m going to do my best to stay here with you.” He looked at Angie as he spoke the last part.

Angie opened her mouth to say something, but then the front door slammed open and three men rushed in. They wore black and were armed.

“Get down! Down! Hands on your head!”

Cathy had already hit the floor. Mike, James, and Angela fol­lowed her example.

James gritted his teeth as they patted him and his companions down. One of the men spent extra time on Angie and James shouted at him. “Is this really necessary? I told Dr. Stephens where I’d be. Why would we be armed, and how? Really?”

A quick kick knocked the air out of him. “Shut up! You’re coming with us.”

Zip ties went around James’ wrists and the men dragged him out the door to a waiting security vehicle, a modified golf cart. Angie sprang to her feet and ran at the door. Mike followed and held her back as she flailed and screamed. They watched through the glass door as the men tossed James into the backseat of the cart, a black bag slipped over his head, and they sped off.

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