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The Pyramid Scheme – by Catherine
Atlanta, Present Day
“So, do we have a deal?” the man asked.
John looked across the table at him, his brown eyes narrowed. The other patrons in the noisy café moved as if they had absolutely zero cares in the world, while he had just been threatened with his world.
“I still don’t understand. Why me?” he asked.
“Because”, his companion replied, “you are the only person who can. You know this as well as I do.” He folded his bejeweled hands and leaned across the table. “Unless you’d rather I offered the same opportunity to your son?”
“Absolutely not!” His emphatic response burst out louder than he intended. He glanced around, but no one seemed to take notice of the pair sitting in the corner. “Marie would never allow it, and neither would I. This is no kind of life for a boy.”
“You were his age when I found you. It took very little persuasion to make you decide to work for me.”
“I was an orphan without friends and owning only the clothes on my back. Caleb has a family, parents who love him, friends who would miss him.” He set his jaw, frowning. “I simply cannot allow you to use him as you have used me these twenty long years.”
“So you’ll do this one last job for me, yes?”
“That’s what you told me the last time you approached me about a job.”
“Ah, but last time I did not have a buyer for the great capstone. If it was not such a great offer I would have left you alone. But as it stands, a young man such as yourself is much better equipped to take care of such a, well, enormous task than an old man like me.”
John muttered under his breath “You’re not that much older than me.” Aloud he said “Alright fine, I’ll do it, but only to protect my boy.”
“Perfect!” His employer sat back and grinned, reminding John of the Cheshire Cat. “You still remember the rules, yes?”
“It’s only been two years, of course I remember the rules.” He smirked. “After all, I am younger and brighter than you are.”
The man’s laugh echoed around the café, causing several patrons to look in their direction with smiles of their own decorating their faces and a grimace on John’s face at the same time. “That’s why I like you, John. Always turning a man’s words around. You’re the perfect man for this kind of work. I don’t understand why you want to retire.” He waved for the waitress.
“As I’ve told you before, I’m tired and I’m ready to stay home and take care of my family. I don’t want my boy growing up without his father.” John waited for the waitress to finalize their ticket. “Now, as for my equipment?”
“I have it all written down here.” He slid a piece of embossed stationary across the table. “Everything you need will be inside your ship: clothes, reading materials, tools. You know the drill.” He rubbed his hands together in gleeful anticipation. “I can’t wait to see how you pull this one off Johnny Boy.”
Following the directions, John found his ship, the same hunk of metal he had been commandeering for the last fifteen years. His first ship had been incapacitated by superstitious Chinese peasants, and he had made it out by the skin of his teeth and only because the radio had been the only thing untouched. To anyone unfamiliar with his line of work, the ship looked like a child’s playhouse, thanks to the sophisticated cloaking mechanism. Once inside, however, it was anything but a playhouse. Having been kept updated every few months, it had the latest technology, a far cry from the flying Delorean from his favorite movies. The monitors flipped on as he backed into his ship, making sure no one was watching. He glanced at the destinations computer out of habit to check and make sure it was programmed to the correct place. It still had his last mission pulled up.
Okay, he thought with a sigh, so this really is a last-minute mission. I suppose I should check to see if I am fully equipped as he said. Hmmm, appropriate clothing, that’ll be important. What’s in this bag? Powder? What the heck am I supposed to do with this? Hopefully there will be instructions somewhere in this tub. Ropes, good, good, you never know when you need rope. Am I really going to need a gun? Why not a sword? That would be much better and help me blend in easier. Okay, there is my toolkit. Let’s see, everything appears to be in there. I suppose I will have to rely on the goodwill of the people I meet. I just hope they’re not too suspicious.
He secured everything in the storage compartments in the walls and sat down at the controls. First I will need to key in my destination. Where is that blasted piece of paper? He found it in his pocket and entered the information into the destinations computer. Now all I have to do is sit back and enjoy the ride. He started the engine and pressed the green launch button. The ship began to roar and shake. Taking the plug from the wall, he inserted it into a port on his watch. He laid down in his bunk for a nice nap and information download, and let the ship work its magic.
Egypt, 2560 BC
CLANG CLANG TING! The goldsmith’s hammers made a loud cacophony in the small area. John was starting his second week in the smithy, utilizing the skills he had quickly learned while on his journey. He was dressed in a simple white, linen skirt belted at the waist, although the white was more of a dirty tan now. Sweat dripped down into his eyes and he wondered, not for the first time, why his employer had to choose this particular object.
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