They had died when helping thwart a plan to undermine the government of the United States. Now Ben and Susan have returned from the dead and they must bring that government down. Standing in their way are Michael Black and Michelle Gray, the bodies of whom they now occupy.
-(The Story begins HERE)-
Partially blinded by an overhead light above the gun-wielding threat I crawled through the trapdoor into a small room. To my left I could see Michelle lying face down on the floor.
"Michelle!" I shouted.
The barrel of his gun touched my neck and its bearer spoke, "She's not hurt, Mr. Black. Now please be quiet.
"The hell you say! Who are ...?"
As I turned to face my tormentor I caught sight of blurred movement. The butt of his weapon struck me in the temple. Groggy, I tried to turn my face away from a cloth being pressed against my nose and mouth. The word chloroform had barely entered my thoughts when everything went dark.
At first the voice seemed distant, disjointed. "Michael? Wake up."
Through glazed eyes Michelle's face slowly came into focus in front of me. I winced from the dull throbbing in the side of my head.
"I'm alright," I responded to her concern. I rubbed the sensitive spot near my ear and took in our surroundings. We were no longer in the same small room, but were seated on a plush sofa in what appeared to be a waiting room.
She was watching me looking at my hands and noted, "I noticed that when I came to. I thought for sure we would have been bound."
I scanned the entire room, "...And our captors?"
A door to my right swung open and a tall slender man in a black suit entered. A smile forming on his lips he said, "Captors? No, you're not prisoners."
A second man, taller and more chiseled than the first appeared in the doorway. "We're the good guys," he quipped. "I'd like to think we're on the same side."
I rubbed my temple and snarled, "Is that so? You have a hell of a way of introducing yourselves."
"I apologize for the extreme measures," said the shorter of the two, "but the three men you were obviously trying to elude were in the building, two doors down the hall."
Michelle exchanged glances with me and remarked, "So we escaped them only to fall into your clutches?"
"Look," said the other man, "We didn't know who was coming up through that trapdoor. Frankly, we were surprised it was the two of you. Then we heard your friends in the lobby outside the entrance to the labs."
His partner chimed in, "It was imperative that they didn't find you ... or us!"
In a mock gesture I raised my hand, "Just who are they?" I studied their faces as they looked at one another and added, "For that matter, who are you?"
"FBI," said the taller one. He and his partner produced badges and held them before us. "I'm Agent Landers and this is Agent Ferrara."
Michelle stood up and faced them. "If we're not prisoners, I assume then that we are free to go about our business. I see no reason for this tête-à-tête to continue."
I arose and stood by her side, "Unless of course, you're going to charge us with ... what? Unlawful entry? A felony hardly seems to be within the jurisprudence of the Federal Bureau of Investigation."
Agent Ferrara responded, "We have no cause to hold you, but first, hear us out."
Landers cleared his throat and with noticeable hesitation added, "We need your help."
Bemused, we settled back onto the sofa. I arched my eyebrows in a less than furtive look of skepticism. "Help or cooperation?"
Landers offered a weak nod and moved over to the window. He twisted the suspended wand of the jalousie and peered between the wooden slats. "I see that your pursuers are still here. They're milling about in the middle of the quad, no doubt wondering where the two of you are."
Positioning a chair with its back to us Ferrara straddled it and rested his arms across its back, "It's like this, Mr. and Mrs. Black, we can't touch the bastards. They're irreproachable!"
"Come on, Ferrara," I sniped. "Are you trying to tell me they're above the law?"
Irritated he grimaced, "Mr. Black, you know know as well as us ... that these people and their operations don't officially exist. While we know that they have ties with high-ranking government officials and military leaders, we are also aware that they have had connections in the private sector."
Michelle nodded, "You're of course referring to the late Bishop King."
"Whose vast empire you and your husband now control," said Landers who was still peering out the window.
I stiffened and remarked, "...And you think that we are in bed with them? If that's what this meeting is all about, I can assure you that you are way off base."
Ferrara was drumming his fingers on the back of the chair as he spoke, "No, we don't think your working with them. We think that maybe, just maybe, they are afraid of you. Moreover, we believe that you may have something they want."
Landers closed the window slats and took up station next to his seated partner, "What ever that something is, we want you to keep dangling it out there. Maybe they'll slip up when they decide to take the bait."
"So," I muttered, "you're suggestive that we should work together?"
Peering over the chair back Agent Ferrara grinned, "You don't know whether or not to trust us, and we're not sure how cooperative you will be. Let's just say that we are suggesting a reluctant partnership on both sides." He reached into his pocket and withdrew a card. "You can reach either one of us at that number."
"By the way," asserted Landers, "your friends piled into a car and drove away in the direction of the waterfront."
The two of them then slipped through the door into the corridor leaving us alone in the room. We looked at each other and shrugged our shoulders. In turn we began to look about the room.
Michelle rose to her feet and grabbing the arm of the sofa began to move it away from the wall. I walked over to a small end table, lifted a lamp from the glass surface and picked up the small screwdriver that had been hidden beneath it.
She positioned herself by the door and cracked it open. Peering through the slit she nodded to confirm that the coast was clear. On her cue I began removing the cover to the light switch on the wall. I pushed aside some of the tangled wiring to reveal a small red button. When I depressed it a panel on the wall that had been hidden by the sofa slid open. I quickly replaced the switch cover and placed the screwdriver beneath the base of the lamp.
The portal was low to the floor and we had to stoop down to pass through it. I reached back into the room and pulled the sofa back to its original position. Once we were inside the panel closed.
"Here we are ... in Jordan's cocoon," Michelle said as she flipped a light switch by her shoulder.
We were standing in a massive room, nearly all of its walls lined with shelves upon shelves of electronic equipment of all sizes and shapes. On one of several benches lie a pair of neural headsets.
From behind a bank of large computer servers a gruff voice greeted us, "Welcome, I've been expecting you."