On to the next chapter.
I am posting The Pericles Conspiracy for all y’all to read here on the blog. Two chapters per week. Given there are 63 chapters in the book, if you don’t want to bother waiting half a year to read the entire book, you can always go buy it (it’s available in ebook and trade paperback) from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, or iTunes.
Chapter 9 – Dangerous Knowledge
They sat in silence for several minutes after the video ended. The enormity of what he had just seen weighed on Jeremy’s mind like a cinderblock around the ankles of a mob drowning victim. Finally, Ngubwe leaned forward over the table and broke the silence, speaking softly enough that his words barely made it to Jeremy’s ears.
“Their ship was adrift. Crippled. They managed to escape before it blew and made it over to us in a lifepod. When they came aboard, they realized they couldn’t survive on Pericles long. Our gravitation and atmosphere were too different from theirs. So they gave us their eggs, a map of where to take them, and a message to explain what happened to their crew. And they paid us, with technical schematics and the mathematical means to translate them. Then they got back in their lifepod and blew it up, so they could die with dignity.”
Somehow Jeremy figured the aliens’ thought processes weren’t exactly as Ngubwe presented them, but he didn’t press the matter.
“This is unbelievable! Why wasn’t anyone told about this? It’s… It’s the biggest thing since…”
“It’s the biggest thing ever,” Ngubwe finished for him.
He was right. A couple dozen colonized worlds and a hundred or so more that were at best marginal for sustaining human life had revealed a plethora of exotic flora and fauna, but no creatures that could be said to even come close to human intelligence. A few could give a great ape a run for its money, or a dolphin, but most were no more brainy than the average rabbit hopping down the bunny trail. Or whatever they really do. To actually meet intelligent beings, and beings who clearly were more advanced than humanity was…to say it was historic would be to say that the odds of surviving a fall from ten thousand meters were unfavorable. Which made it even more confusing that no one had been told about it.
“There is much more to tell, but we cannot talk about it here. Too many eyes and ears.”
“Well great, let’s get out of here.”
Ngubwe shook his head. “The people you need to meet are otherwise engaged tonight. Meet me tomorrow night, same time, at the train yards near the launch facility.”
Jeremy highly doubted the other people were actually unavailable. More likely Ngubwe and his compatriots had planned this first meeting to size him up and try to determine if he was on the level before deciding to trust him fully. It was not so unusual. During the Grynmoor corruption investigation, his primary source had required three separate meetings over the span of a month before he would even begin to give Jeremy the first hints of how deep the scandal went. Compared with that story, this was proceeding at light speed, and with a lot less expense. Jeremy nodded agreement.
Ngubwe pushed himself to the end of the booth seat nearest the curtain and peaked out the curtain. Apparently satisfied, he took back the televid player and the bug jammer. He moved his thumb over the control switch, then paused, looking at Jeremy with serious eyes.
“Be very careful, Mr. Reynolds. This is a more dangerous game than you know. You are probably being followed already. If not, you should assume that you will be, and take precautions. There are people who will go to great lengths to stop this information from becoming common knowledge.”
Jeremy nodded, not bothering to remind Ngubwe that he was a professional, and knew what he was doing. Besides, he was a journalist, and that afforded him a lot of legal protection. Ngubwe wouldn’t appreciate hearing that, though. He clearly had faced a lot of heat, otherwise why fake his own death? Jeremy could understand him being a bit paranoid.
Ngubwe returned the nod. “Until tomorrow night, then.” With that, he turned off the bug jammer and slipped through the curtain.
* * * * *
Jeremy remained in the booth for a long time, his thoughts racing. He had known there was something big hiding in the shadows, but this? This was not the story of the year, it was the story of the millennium! The Pulitzer would not be enough to express how important this story was, and he had the exclusive scoop.
How the hell had no one else thought to look into this before him? Granted, Pericles’ arrival drama was not broadcast extensively back when it happened, but it had been two years. Jeremy could hardly believe his luck.
He needed to call Lou, and let him know this was not a wild goose chase. Maybe he would be less pissed when he heard that.
Jeremy tapped his thumb and ring fingers together, and his contact list appeared in his vision: a vertical list of names, complete with a thumbnail picture of the person’s face beside each, and a blinking cursor next to the first one. Flicking his index finger along his thumb caused the cursor to scroll down the list, until it stopped next to Lou.
Jeremy hesitated, suddenly unsure what to tell him. This was not the sort of thing to just go blurting out on the phone, even if Ngubwe was wrong. But especially if he was right. Again he cursed the bug jammer. If he had been able to make a good recording, he could mail the video and audio to Lou as evidence. But without that…
Jeremy shook his head and stood up from the booth seat. He would call Lou tomorrow night, after the next meeting with Ngubwe.
The upstairs area was more crowded than it had been, to Jeremy’s surprise. Then he noted the time and realized with surprise that it had been well over an hour since he slipped into the booth for the meeting. It had not felt that long.
Jeremy’s thoughts were still wandering as he descended the spiral staircase. He did not even notice the woman near the bottom of the stairs until she bumped into him, spilling her drink all down the front of his shirt.
“Oh, I’m so sorry!” she exclaimed, a look of surprise that quickly turned to embarrassment on her face. She had a cocktail napkin in her hand, and began dabbing at the fluid that was running down his torso.
Jeremy gently pushed her hands away, grimacing in annoyance from the unexpected wetness and cold. “It’s ok, really.”
“I’m such a klutz,” she said, still looking and sounding distressed. “Let me make it up to you.”
It suddenly registered with Jeremy that the woman was a knock-out. Tall, only slightly shorter than he was, with lightly tanned skin, wavy dark brown hair past her shoulders, a slender and firm figure that was accentuated nicely by her dress, legs that never quit, a lovely heart-shaped face, and stunning eyes that sucked him in. Despite his annoyance at her clumsiness, he felt an instant attraction.
“It’s really ok, miss…” he let the sentence fade away into a question.
“Oh. I’m Jaqueline, but my friends all call me Jackie.”
He shook her hand in greeting and was pleased to find her grip was firm, confident. “Jeremy. Jeremy Reynolds.”
“Are you sure I can’t make it up to you? How about I buy you a drink?”
Any other time, Jeremy would leap at the offer, but he needed to collect his thoughts. Besides, tomorrow promised to be one hell of a day. He shook his head.
“Sorry, I’ve got work, but maybe…”
Jackie snorted, a teasing smile appearing on her face. “All work and no play makes Jeremy a dull boy,” she quipped. “Come on, just one drink. I promise I won’t bite. Hard.”
She was a little minx, wasn’t she? Oh what the hell. It’s not like he was going to write any of his story right then and there, or in the morning. Grinning, he nodded.
“Ok, one drink. But first you need to find me a bigger napkin.”
Jackie laughed and, grasping his hand, led him toward the bar. It was shaping up to be one hell of a night, indeed.
* * * * *
Jeremy did not register much about the ride back to Jackie’s place, except for her. The ride could have lasted for minutes or hours. Almost as soon as they shut the cab doors and entered the destination address, she was on him. Deep forceful kisses the likes of which he hadn’t experienced in years. Freely roaming hands. Jackie teased him with a flash of skin, but when he tried for more, she demurred, gesturing to the cab’s security cameras. By the time they arrived, he was mad with desire, ready to burst his pants.
Jackie’s flat was on the twelfth floor. They kissed and groped each other the entire way up the lift, then down the hall to her door.
They spilled into her flat, and he pressed her against the wall. As the door slid shut behind them, he cupped her breasts gently and moved his kisses to her neck. She moaned softly, and he found the zipper at the back of her dress. A quick tug, and the zipper came undone, allowing her dress to fall to the floor.
Jeremy backed away a half-step to take in the view.
She wore no bra. Her breasts were perfection: B-cups, with small, perky nipples. She wore a black thong, with a barely translucent front that hinted at what was there without revealing too much. For a short moment, he just looked at her, thinking he had to be dreaming. She was far and away the best-looking woman he had ever been with.
Then, with a grin, he bent over and took her nipple into his mouth. She gasped, then moaned again, running her hands through his hair and holding his head in place. After a long few minutes, he moved to the other breast, but she pushed him backwards.
He stumbled, landing on the couch he hadn’t even noticed when they came in. Slowly she stepped out of her panties, revealing a short landing strip of brown hair between her legs.
Then she bounded forward and landed on top of him. Her fierce kiss pressed him back against the couch, and she tore open his shirt, not even bothering with the buttons. She worked down his neck with kisses, then to his chest. She lingered on his nipples, giving them little flicks with her tongue while she moved her hands down and began rubbing him through his pants. Now it was his turn to moan.
A heartbeat later, she was kissing his belly while undoing his belt. Then she pulled his pants and boxers down to his knees. Gentle caresses of his member had him gasping. Then she took him into her mouth, and it was all he could do not to explode right then. The things she was doing with her tongue!
After what seemed an eternity, she slowly came up for air. He shuddered with pleasure as her lips dragged over the tip. She grinned at him, swirling her tongue around his member and getting yet another moan in response. He wasn’t going to last if she kept this up much longer.
“Are you ready?” she asked in a sultry tone.
He nodded eagerly, and she gave the tip of his penis a little kiss. Then her gaze moved from his face to something behind him, and she nodded.
Suddenly a gloved hand clamped over his mouth, and he felt cold metal press against the side of his neck. Ecstasy turned to panic in a heartbeat. He saw Jackie back away then he felt a burning line draw across his throat.
His hands went reflexively to the wound, but his lifeblood spurted out regardless. He flailed on the couch, but couldn’t move far with his legs entangled as they were. He tried to cough as blood began filling his lungs, but was unable to manage it.
He mouthed the word as the room began to grow dim, the sounds incomprehensible. He could vaguely make out Jackie calmly getting dressed and speaking to someone out of view.
Then everything went black.
* * * * *
I hope you enjoyed this chapter of The Pericles Conspiracy. Stay tuned in a few days for the next chapter, or, if you don’t want to bother waiting half a year to read the entire book, you can always go buy it (it’s available in ebook and trade paperback) from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, or iTunes.