There may be a little overlap here because I didn't bother to read through what I posted earlier. My internet is incredibly lethargic today. >.<
Marie McKenna slapped her laptop shut. She was disgruntled and tired already, and she still had a long night ahead of her. She shoved her laptop and some messy folders into her slim black leather briefcase and turned out the lights. She made sure all the doors and windows were locked before she went down into the basement. Once in the basement, she locked and barred the bulletproof door behind her. Then she went over to the weight machine in the east corner. Raise the leg weights halfway, set the resistance on the right cable to one and the left to thirty—yes, all seemed to be working. The weight machine, which was far too heavy for even several strong men to lift, rose from the floor on a hydraulic lift. Marie stepped inside and pressed a button. The lift sank back into the floor, leaving no trace.
A matte black helicopter waited in an overgrown field next to an abandoned house on the furthest outskirts of the sparsest subdivisions of town. Even though Chicago was not, as a rule, a superstitious city, there were stories about how lights could be seen in the house, on Halloween, especially. These stories mostly circulated among the wide-eyed youngish contingent, but some adults had seen the lights, too, and there was no explaining them. Oh well, it was probably just old gases from the cesspool spontaneously combusting, nothing more. The adults never bothered to tell why the house never burned down, so the stories stood, and got more and more grisly and preposterous with each telling. No one knew it, but there was a hydraulic lift, which matched the one in Marie’s house, in the middle of that old shack, which really wasn’t as ramshackle as it looked.
Marie walked out of it to the waiting helicopter. She pulled her thin jacket closer and wished she had thought to bring a thicker one. At least she was going where she wouldn’t need one for awhile. She climbed into the helicopter and, putting on a headset, she nodded to the pilot, who started the helicopter. Before the rotors started turning, the helicopter vanished, seemingly into thin air. Unbeknownst to any of the helicopter’s passengers, a young, confident-looking man watched the takeoff. He whistled lowly and jotted down a few notes on a small notepad.
“Impossible. I’ll bet this is the next big scoop,” he muttered to himself, and went off to his sleek red Corvette, which was parked on the shoulder of the road. After stowing his camera, which was hung around his neck, he started his car and revved the engine, sending a spray of rocks into the ditch. Plainly, he was oblivious to the atomic threat that hung in the sky, waiting to destroy the free world.
“How’s the Gamma Project coming?” Marie asked, once the helicopter was safely out of sight and radio earshot of Chicago and surrounding suburbs. The other passenger inclined his head. He frowned before he answered.
“Well… we’ve run into some wee complications on the sub-atomic level. It seems that the idea is a good one, but it’s given us a few bangsters to work out,” he said. Marie was not satisfied.
“Complications? We don’t have time for complications, Mr. Murray, or for equivocation.”
Murray cleared his throat. Marie always made him feel slightly uncomfortable, though he did not know whether it was from her unyielding, almost monomaniacal, leadership or from her directness. Perhaps it was both.
“Certain parts of atoms have reacted to the radiation differently than we originally expected. It’s not a bad thing, certainly, but we have to make sure that there will be no side effects,” he explained. Marie cocked an eyebrow.
“What parts, and what exactly is it doing to them?”
“For fear of boring you with lab blethers—”
“All right, all right. We’ve been bombarding consolidated beta particles with gamma particles with the hope that it would increase the beta radiation.”
“Well no, but it did somewhat else, maybe better. Instead of increasing the radiation, it split up the electrons—”
“They’re electrons, Murray. They can’t ‘split up.’”
Murray shook his head.
“I believed it no more than you do, but there’s no other way to explain it. When the electrons split, we expected a meltdown.”
“Did you get one?”
“No, we got somewhat better. When the electrons split, they created a strange disturbance.”
“A disturbance… okay…”
Murray was becoming excited, and his Scots accent came through all the more clearly.
“Aye, a disturbance. Ye ken how mass bends licht? It’s like that, only better. See, when mass bends licht, that’s all. The licht is just bent; but with this, we can not only bend licht, but also air, water, and even radio waves.”
He had been leaning closer and closer to Marie with every word, and now he leaned back, evidently rather self-satisfied. Marie failed to understand the significance of his statement.
“Why would we want to bend those things? Don’t they bend enough already?” she frowned.
“Na, na. Think of the electrons as a weapon. If we could twist the air with things that small—think of it, miss, think of it! We could disturb communications, avert missiles, and even maybe change the weather! This would be the most powerful weapon in the history of mankind, barring the atomic bomb, of course, but still—still! The second most powerful weapon in the world, at our fingertips!”
Murray was caught up in the rapture of the moment until Marie reminded him about the “side effects.” His face fell.
“That’d be awkward, if it had nasty side effects,” he groaned.
“What if it does? It’s no skin off our backs if we can use it with our robots. They already have fairly sophisticated weapons systems, so they should be able to handle this,” Marie reasoned. Murray brightened.
“Indeed they do. I’ll look into this further,” he remarked.
For the remainder of the flight, no one spoke. The helicopter arrived in a Middle Eastern desert early the next morning. Marie stepped out, looking as fresh as if she had just taken a shower, but Murray looked more like he had been through a blender than a trans-oceanic flight, since he was plagued by severe motion sickness. He dragged himself off to his quarters to try to recuperate before noon. Marie went straight to her office, where she met with several of her chief officers. They informed her that some strange things were going on in Iran. They had a lengthy meeting, centering largely on this topic, and they left with only an admonition to find out what was the matter in Iran.
Marie had flown back and forth from the Middle East to Chicago several times in the past week. On the last of these times, she had removed everything from her Chicago house. That last time was the time her helicopter was seen, or rather, not seen, by a reporter. He sped away to the airport and boarded his plane to Austin, where he went to visit his family. He was a few minutes out of Chicago when the pilot came on the intercom.