"When it comes to our government, their use of gobbledygook is matched only by their propensity to use acronyms," I uttered.
Susan nodded and observed, "Neural Integration & Mental Holography? It sure sounds like what Michelle and Michael were working on, doesn't it?"
I placed a hand on her shoulder and said, "Here's the plan. First, I'm going to Portland Street to check out that warehouse ..."
"Whoa! Time out, buster!" she interjected and then vehemently added, "We are going to check out the warehouse."
I sighed in resignation, "We will check out the warehouse." I had to admit that this young woman had some spunk. If I had to have a partner, it might as well be one who was sexy and pretty. I extended my elbow and said, "Let's do it."
Fifteen minutes later the taxi dropped us off in front of the train station across from the TD Banknorth Garden. Glancing at my watch I led Susan to a small bar nearby. I responded to the quizzical look on her face, "It's ten o'clock. The Celtics are home tonight and very soon the Garden is going to be emptying out after the game."
Still confused she asked, "You want to get some of the players' autographs or something?"
I frowned and replied, "We are going to mingle with the crowd." I winked and added, "Just in case our 'friends' happen to be following us."
Almost like clockwork a sea of humanity began spilling from the Garden and onto the street. In a matter of minutes we were being carried along by a phalanx of fifty or so fans who had attended the game. I steered us to the left of the queue as we neared the corner of Portland Street. About half of the crowd turned there also, the rest proceeding straight ahead.
I grabbed Susan's arm and yanked her abruptly into a recessed doorway. Without hesitation I pulled her into my arms and pressed my lips hard onto hers. Startled at first, she relaxed and succumbed to my sudden show of passion even as someone in the passing crowd shouted, "Get a room!"
Locking her fingers behind my neck she beamed, "Personally, I would've picked a place with a little more ambiance, but what the hell."
I smiled and countered, "Sometimes the best way to appear inconspicuous is to be conspicuous."
I gave her a gentle push away and turned to a boarded up door. With little effort I managed to work the plywood sheet until there was enough room for our bodies to slip behind it. Inside, our olfactory senses were assaulted by the strong odors of Sterno, stale whiskey and urine.
Susan grabbed my arm and huddled next to me. It was a foreboding cold and dark asylum for the homeless, the winos and any number of unsavory characters wishing to avoid the long arm of the law. We stood still while our eyes adjusted to the darkness. I whispered to her, "I did plan to come here by myself ..."
She shivered and responded, "Don't rub it in, Ben. I'll be okay. Remind me of this the next time I complain about ambiance."
"Stay close," I said as I began to move deeper into the vastness of the abandoned warehouse. "I have no idea who or what might be lurking in here." I felt her tense next to me and I responded by slipping my arm around her shoulders.
"I'm not sure which would be worse, the whos or the whats," she said. "I am not thrilled by the prospect of running into the whats, like spiders or rats."
I extended my other arm in front of me and suggested, "We should be close to a wall by now." My hand touched upon cold concrete, "Ah. Here it is." I groped along the rough surface and stated further, "Now all I have to do is to find a door."
In only a matter of minutes I was manipulating a lever handle to the door. "It's probably locked, Ben," Susan offered. There was a click and the door swung open. "Then again, maybe not," she mumbled.
Stepping inside, we were greeted by the pleasant smell of clean sterile air. I found and flipped a switch next to the door. Two rows of three fluorescent light fixtures suspended above our heads flickered before finally bathing the area in soft light. We were standing in a large receiving bay which was also serving as a garage. To our right were several nondescript sedans with tinted windows, each one bearing Government plates.
To my left the white surface of an ambulance caught my eye. "I found Michael's ride!" I announced. On a bench next to the ambulance lie several large magnetic logos. I lifted each one of the placards calling out what was printed upon them, "Mass General Hospital, Cataldo, Red Cross, and Northeastern University among others."
Susan joined me by the ambulance, "Ben, this is so weird! All of those cars over there are not only unlocked, but the keys are still in the ignitions. That limousine has a stocked bar and a television."
"Ah yes, that would be the General's limo," I said running my fingers through my hair.
She handed me a sheet of paper bearing the letterhead of N.I.M.H., and said, "This was in the limousine's glove box. It looks like one of those headpieces Michelle and Michael were wearing on those discs we were watching."
I studied the drawing for a moment and declared, "Similar, but not like." I was no expert, but I was certain that the drawing depicted an updated version, perhaps a prototype of the next generation of the headpieces. I shuddered and said, "We can only hope that this just a rendering ... That it has yet to be developed."
"Why do say that, Ben?" Susan asked peering over my shoulder.
"Unless I'm mistaken, and I hope to God that I am," I said glancing back at her, "but it appears that this Neuro-headset has a transmitter and a receiver built into it!" I folded the sheet and knelt down. I tucked it into my sock.
There was a sudden crack and it resounded throughout the loading bay. I thought I felt the breeze of something passing near my ear.
"Ow!" Susan cried out. "I've been shot!"
(To be continued in part 22, Monday 2/9, with Sweet Dreams, My Lovely. )