Chapter 4: Dream Lover
Mae Lee blinked her eyes. She felt like she had just awakened from a long nap. She had her cellphone in her hand. She gasped as she realized she was standing completely nude beside the bed.
....Rhonda felt the phone in her grasp. She was startled as she realized she was naked. As she became more aware of her surroundings she saw Mae Lee on the other side of the bed. She appeared to be in the same state of confusion as she.
....For several moments they ignored each other, looking around the room for someone else. Their moist bodies glistened in the glare of the overhead lights. In unison they sighed in a show of satisfied fulfillment.
....Rhonda was the first to break the silence, "Wh-where did he go?"
...."I don't know. He was just here. We were .." Mae Lee became quiet again.
....Their eyes fell upon the bed. The blanket lay crumpled on the floor. The sheets were disheveled. Then once again, they suddenly became aware of their nakedness. Mae Lee hurried off to the other room as Rhonda knelt down to pick up her discarded underwear.
....Fifteen minutes passed before Mae Lee reemerged, fully dressed, from the other room. Rhonda, also dressed, nodded in her direction. The discussion they were about to have, and a serious discussion was in order, was going to be uncomfortable at best.
He had broken the cellphone connection before the women had started to dress. They were going to be occupied for some time trying to figure out what had happened to them. Then again, he could have "turned" them on for another round.
....He glanced at the hundreds of pedestrians ambling along Michigan Avenue as the cab sped away from The Loop. He mused at the fun he could have if he only had the cellphone numbers of any of them. He could make that traffic cop drop his pants and moon the passing cars. He could make that man in the three-piece suit dance a jig. He glanced at the back of the cabbie and grinned. What if he "convinced" him to shut off the fare meter?
....He became more serious, for he had yet a lot to accomplish. "See Dick and Jane play," he thought. So far he had seen the "Janes" at play, but now it was time to bring the "Dicks" into the game. None of this would have been possible if it weren't for the work of those four students ten years ago.
....He patted the briefcase next to him. There was a lot more of that out there, and he was going get all of it he could. It wouldn't be long before he was sitting on a tropical beach sipping on one those rum drinks with the little umbrellas. Hell, with all this power, he could own the beach.
....Once the four of them were together in one place, he was going to make sure that it was their first and last reunion. There was another matter, however, that had to be taken care of first. Once in Cincinnati, he would have to place a phone call to a certain professor, one Dr. F. Rheinberg.
The address on the e-mail was unmistakable. He quickly printed it and immediately deleted the original from his in-box. It was in code. There were only five people who would be able to translate this particular encrypted message. He read it one more time to be certain of its hidden meaning.
Here is the entertainment list as promised.He then fished a lighter out his pocket and lit the corner of the printed text. He dropped it into the empty trash can next to the desk and watched as it was reduced to ashes.
Songs: Dream Lover, Eye Of The Tiger, Help Me Rhonda, Stagger Lee, Up On The Roof, Ohio
Cartoon: Milton The Monster
Films: Fritz The Cat, Big Trouble In Little China, The Love Bug
....Dream Lover was the name he had given to the software he had developed. The original program had been activated by an ultrasonic recording of the song Eye Of The Tiger. Two of the songs, Help Me Rhonda and Stagger Lee were obvious references to their project partners Rhonda and Mae Lee. The last place they had been together before they went their separate ways was Up On The Roof of an abandoned warehouse in Cincinnati, Ohio.
....He never liked the nick name, Milton The Monster that Rhonda had given him. It was only natural that Mae Lee's pet name for Herbert would evolve from Herbie to The Love Bug. Their mentor's initialized first name had resulted in his disdain for the name. He was not a happy camper the first time he'd overheard them referring to him as Fritz the Cat.
....It was the remaining film title that worried him. With Rheinberg present, they had all agreed that the their project would end ten years ago. If their notes, the software and specialized equipment ever fell into the wrong hands, or if it was ever used again by any of them, nothing good would come of it. The world was not ready for a fool-proof method of thought transferral, mind reading, or mind control. Dream Lover could do all that and more.
....Big Trouble In Little China meant that Dream Lover had been activated by someone. That wasn't good. He had plenty of vacation time due him, it was time to use it. It looked like the old gang was about to have an unscheduled reunion in Cincinnati.
Propped by his elbows, Dr. Rheinberg lowered his forehead into his hands. For several minutes he had been sending the encrypted message to the others. He had hoped that it would never have to be sent.
....He blamed himself. He had honored his students' wishes and locked away everything related to Dream Lover. He had warned them of the inherent danger. He'd told them that every trace of it should have been destroyed.
....It was a magnificent achievment that his prized students had accomplished. It was a shame that they could not publish their findings. As magnificent as it was, its possibilities were far more monstrous.
.... He shook his head and clinched his fists in anguish. He looked in forlorn defeat at the ransacked filing cabinets. Only two days before, he had returned from a two-month vacation overseas to find that his house had been burglarized. Not that it mattered any longer, but this had not been a random break in. He was certain that the perpetrator had been looking for a specific thing.
....Every folder! The notes and equations! The dictated tapes decribing test results! The software! Everything! Even his password! Gone! It was all gone!
....His thoughts were broken by the twitter of his cellphone. He placed the phone to his ear and spoke, "Dr. Rheinberg. How can I..."
....He relaxed as a high-pitched version of a song familiar to him began to emanate through the speaker of the phone. He sat there, a trance-like glaze in his eyes. An imperceptible charge of electronic particles entered into the deep recesses of his subconscious mind.
....He eyed the cellphone in his hand curiously. He shrugged, placed it on the desk before him and rose from the chair. He walked into the kitchen and turned on the four burners on the gas range. He inhaled deep and then exhaled long and hard. The pilot lights were extinguished within seconds.
....He returned to his desk and placed a CD into the player there. He selected the desired track and eased back into the chair. Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries wafted through his den. It was his favorite piece of music. Nothing relaxed him more than listening to the stirring music as he enjoyed a pleasant smoke from his favorite meerschaum pipe.
....The pipe packed with fresh tobacco, he positioned the lighter above the bowl. He seemed unaware of the strong aroma of natural gas...
From an outdoor coffee shop across the street he could hear the rousing music. He closed the laptop at the same instant as the explosion. He looked up in time to see a thirty-foot ball of flame burst forth from the corner apartment. Windows shattered in several of the facing buildings, so powerful the blast.
....He placed the phone into his breast pocket and picked up the computer. He was two blocks away from the carnage as the first of the fire engines screamed by.
....He grinned and said, "I hope they remembered the marshmallows!" He broke into a hearty laugh as he rounded the corner out of sight of the conflagration.
To be continued... Chapter 5