Excerpt: “The Wizard of Woodrow Park”
Hunting for a rogue anthropologist, Aviann Special Agent Hreaak Meekram finds himself confronting a wizard.
Hreaak punched the doors. By the time they scraped across the rubber entrance mat, his sensors had mapped the interior. Illuminated by bare windows and simple electrified chandeliers, the space extended to the rear of the building. Glass jars packed the tall shelves between the windows. A row of tables ran along each side of the room. One table boasted a miniature P’lod generator. Others were furnished with sinks and canisters of gas. More rubber mats covered the floor behind the tables, but the floor in the center of the room was bare…
The old rogue sat behind the center table on the left. Despite the enormity of his crimes, Hreaak couldn’t suppress a reluctant tug of sympathy. Human suits aged poorly. Kleaax’s hair had thinned to cottony wisps drifting over a liver-spotted scalp. His skin, originally the warm light brown of milky coffee, looked drab and peaked. Deep wrinkles scored his forehead and trailed from the corners of his gray moustache. The inverted triangle of his upper body had sagged into a pyramidal paunch. Despite the season, he was buttoned to his chins in a high-collared shirt, vest, and gray wool frockcoat. Hreaak didn’t know how the anthropologist could stand to wear so much clothing in this heat.
Was it fear? Kleaax’s pulse stuttered, despite the pugnacious jut of his jowls.
“Go away,” he boomed. “The lab doesn’t open ‘til nine.”
Hreaak stepped into the center of the room and activated the mandatory holographic IDs. “Weevirril Kleaax, on behalf of Avinar and the Consortium of Allied Planets . . .”
“Avinar? Avinar!” Kleaax pulled a pince-nez from his coat pocket and peered at the projected display. The thick lenses made it difficult to tell, but his eyes seemed to brighten. He jumped to his feet. “Well, it’s about time! Where’s my money?”
“Your what?” Hreaak asked.
“My twenty-nine standard years and three months’ back pay, that’s what! And you’d better not have forgotten the interest. My contract with the Council of Academies calls for full hazard pay with a non-delivery bonus of five percent compounded annually. And that’s before you add in royalties from the Lexicon.
“Uh uh uh, don’t try to tell me it wasn’t published.” He wagged a knobby forefinger at Hreaak. “I didn’t finish my dissertation yesterday, you know. Those old clucks in Galactic Field Studies tried to pull that with my master’s thesis. They didn’t succeed then, and you won’t succeed now. If it hadn’t been published, you wouldn’t be standing there dressed like a two-bit desperado, now would you?”
Read the rest in Clockwork Universe: Steampunk vs. Aliens
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