Excerpt from The Man From Empire

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It was time for work, but my phone rang again. I didn't recognize the number, but it was long distance, so I gave it a chance on case a family member needed help. It was ScOsh, "Grace, I have two million dollars for you."

A statement like that does get your attention, especially when you're scrabbling for twelve bucks an hour so you can go to school part time. He'd already refused my virtue, such as it was, so I was pretty certain that wasn't his objective. What was? "Um, thanks, I think. Why?"

"I offered you compensation, and you accepted. You may not realize it, but you are running a risk by hosting me. What is your schedule today?"

"Nothing special. Work, then school tonight - Organic chem. There's an exam I haven't studied for"

"Can you call in sick to work today? There's a risk I have to show you how to minimize. You should be fine by tonight."

"For someone paying me 2 million dollars I can. When do I get it? And risk? What risk?" And what did you DO to earn two million dollars overnight? To myself.

"I'll explain when I see you. Stay in until then. I'll be there within an hour. An Earth hour."

So I called in to "Call Me George" Martinez and told him I'd caught a cold from all the rain. My first sick call in two years. He wasn't happy, but I'd finished the EPA report he needed, so he had to let me slide. If ScOsh was as good as his word - and he had been so far - I might never come back. Then I cracked the O-chem book.

I amazed myself. I had struggled with the differences between aldehydes and ketones, but it was a snap now. I not only understood, I was drawing connections the book wasn't making - at least not yet. Better yet, I was remembering them. I satisfied myself, pulled out my calculus book from last semester, and suddenly understood calculus for the first time in my life. Ditto my Tuesday night Molecular Biology class. I went back to O-chem. I remembered it all. I read three chapters ahead. It was dryer than hot desert sand thanks to the writer's pedantic text, but it wasn't hard.

I got the impression more time than an hour had passed, and I was right. It had been an hour and ten minutes. I couldn't have done it in less than four hours before. Then I remembered ScOsh was ten minutes overdue. The way he came and went was creepy, but he seemed to have it pretty well under control. Where was he?

He stepped out of the hall closet just then. God alone knows where he found the room, but he did. He wasn't carrying anything that looked like it could hold a million dollars, but I'd reserve judgment on that. He hadn't been carrying the sword I'd seen, or the other weapon, the one that killed the gangbangers, either. "Sorry I'm late," he said, "But exchanging the money turned out to be more complicated than I thought. I found out about your physical libraries last night after you went to bed, so I walked through first your local college library, then the Library of Congress. Then I went to Atlantic City, and went through all the casinos there. Then Las Vegas"

"You cheated the casinos?" I interrupted, incredulous, "You cheated the mob-owned casinos?"

"I did no such thing," he said, "It's not cheating to use skill. If they don't have rules posted that forbid it, it's not cheating. There were rules posted, but absolutely nothing about using any of the skills I employed. I borrowed a chip from someone for a few minutes, and used it to win. Then I gave the original chip back to the owner with interest. I went from casino to casino. Didn't win too much from any of them. When people started to take an interest in my winning, I lost a little, then changed tables and started winning again. I know how not to be noticed. Speaking of which, that applies right now. You're about to have visitors. I'm not here; don't expect them to find me no matter what they do, so act natural. Don't do anything out of the ordinary. Your planet doesn't have the technology or the wizardry to catch me. I want to keep it to a minimum because there's at least one person around who can." Then he simply disappeared right in front of me, just as there was a knock on my door.

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The Man From Empire
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Empire and Earth
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Working The Trenches
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Preparing The Ground
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Building the People
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The Invention of Motherhood
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The Price of Power
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The Fountains of Aescalon
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This page contains a single entry by Dan Melson published on December 6, 2018 3:17 PM.

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