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Authors: William Shatner

Tek Money

BOOK: Tek Money
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Tek Money

Book Seven of the TekWar Series

William Shatner

Toiling in his toilet and sometimes at his desk, Ron Goulart has written his little heart out. His work on these novels has been unheralded for the most part, and I would like to blow a trumpet for him right now. Hail to Ron Goulart, noblest scribe of the Tek World.

1

P
ETER
T
RAYNOR WAS
having trouble getting to where he wanted to go.

It was a hot, dry, restless night in late October of the year 2121. A raw, feverish wind was knifing across the night beach in the Malibu Sector of Greater Los Angeles, rattling the long twisty row of decorative palm trees, snatching at Traynor's sleeve, shoving him off balance.

His difficulties had grown worse ever since he set his skycar down at the seaside lot and started making his way along the dark sand. It was probably because of that damned stopover in the Venice Sector. He'd promised himself he was through with that sort of thing.

A lean, lighthaired man of forty one, Traynor stumbled as a sharp new gust of hot wind hit at him. He fell to his knees on the harsh sand, putting out both palms to save himself from toppling over completely.

“Jesus!”

One of his hands had touched the face of a dead man who was partially buried in the gritty sand. Thick blood was smeared all across the dead face, great splashes of it. As he struggled to pull away clear, Traynor managed to drag the corpse with him. He struggled, but couldn't seem to disentangle himself.

“Don't you recognize me, Pete?” asked the dead man, smiling with his bloody lips. “It's me—Flanders.”

“You're five weeks dead, Flanders,” he shouted at him. “I had nothing to do with it.”

Crying out, Traynor rolled to his left, kicking out, crawling away from the smiling corpse.

The harsh sand slowed his progress, scraping at his clothes. The wind grew even hotter as it came swirling around him.

“What's wrong, dear?”

He hadn't noticed until now that his wife—well, actually, his former wife since November of 2120—was standing only a few feet away. Slim and pretty in a long white dress, wearing one of her black ribbons to hold back her russet hair.

“I came here to …” He paused, shaking his head the way you do when you're trying to come fully awake. “I have to see Jake Cardigan. He lives along here someplace, but I'm having a bad reaction to—”

“Not a very good idea, is that, Peter?” suggested his ex-wife. “You don't want, really, to talk to anyone right now, least of all a private investigator.”

“I didn't quite catch what you said, Amy.” He took a few shaky steps in her direction, glancing down to make sure he wasn't going to step on the corpse.

But the dead man had moved. He was sitting, cross-legged, over on a white neo-iron bench. He had his shirt pulled open wide and was probing a gaping lazgun wound in his chest with two bloody fingers.

“Leave me the hell alone, Flanders,” he yelled. “I didn't know what was going to happen.”

When Traynor looked again toward his wife, he was just in time to see her catch fire and begin to burn. She was soon completely surrounded by a crackling roar of bright orange flame.

“Amy!”

“As I was saying, Peter, you're not being at all smart,” she resumed. “Go home now and forget this nonsense. You don't, not at all, need a detective.”

He pressed all the fingers of his right hand to his temple. “There's something I've found out—I told you a little bit about it, Amy, the last time I came to see the kids. It's worse than I thought and I've got to do something.”

“No, that isn't necessary at all.” The flames were taking her over, sending a high flickering torch of fire up into the dark windy night. “You're only upset because you and Dennis had a disagreement.”

“I can't argue now—I'm not thinking very straight.” He moved, unsteadily, closer to her. The flames that were consuming her gave off no heat. “Don't get mad and criticize me—I know I shouldn't have stopped at that Tek parlor.”

Amy disintegrated, turning to dark, leafy ashes and drifting away on the wind.

Traynor clenched his fists, pressed them, hard, into his ribs. Would have been a hell of a lot better to have come straight here, instead of stopping for that damned Tek session. Sometimes, though, he felt a lot better, a lot braver, afterward. But tonight, something was wrong. He was having painful flashbacks, unwanted illusions, and they seemed to be getting worse.

After a moment, struggling hard, he was able to regain control of himself again. Things were okay once more and he was sure he could hold off any further hallucinations.

Traynor could remember Jake Cardigan's address now. He knew exactly where to find the beachside condo. He remembered, too, everything he had to talk over with him.

“Jake's just about the only person in Greater LA that I can trust.”

Six big black candles were burning up ahead on the beach, each in a man-high golden holder. They circled a plain coffin that was resting on a metal rack.

He halted, gripping one hand tightly in the other, fighting what was happening to him. “Nothing is really there,” he reminded himself. “Nothing at all. This is just another damned Tek fantasy.”

The coffin didn't go away.

He'd long since recognized it. He remembered it from twenty one years ago. A closed coffin, because of the way his mother had died.

Now, slowly and silently, the coffin lid began to rise.

Traynor put his hands up over his eyes, but he discovered he could see right through them.

His mother's charred and blackened body sat up and shook its head. “You shouldn't be out so late, dear,” she cautioned. “Best go right home now, darling. You don't really want to visit this detective.”

“I have to, Mom. I've found out something—stumbled on it. A lot of bad things are going to happen unless—”

“You're Pete Traynor, aren't you? Is something wrong?”

About thirty feet up beyond his mother's coffin a lean teenage young man was standing, watching him.

“I'm looking for Jake Cardigan,” he managed to say. “You're his son?”

“That's right, yes,” answered Dan. “You don't look so well. Is there—”

“I've got to talk to him right away.”

“Dad's not at home, but he should be soon. Come on over on the deck and sit down, Mr. Traynor.”

The only way to get over to Dan Cardigan and the condo building that rose up behind him was by walking through the coffin.

“Don't keep on with this, son,” warned his mother.

Traynor said to Dan Cardigan, “I know about the hijacking of—”

That was all he got to say.

A huge roaring began in his ears. He heard cries of pain and the boom of thunder and dark, discordant music.

His mother tried to embrace him. “Poor Pete, poor baby.”

Before she touched him, his brain seemed to explode inside his skull and he felt his life go spinning away on the red wind.

The bearded man was saying, “Our revels now are ended. These our actors, as I foretold you, were all spirits and are …”

The strap on Jake Cardigan's wristwatch phone began to contract and expand against his flesh. A handsome, somewhat weatherbeaten man of almost fifty, he leaned forward in his amphitheater seat and held the small instrument close to his right ear before activating the speaker button.

Dan's voice said anxiously, “Dad, you'd better get home. There's been a death and—”

His son's voice was suddenly cut off.

Frowning, Jake tapped out his home number on the wristphone.

The pretty blonde woman in the next seat spoke a question close to his ear. “Something wrong?”

“Not sure, Bev,” he answered in a whisper. “Dan called, then got cut off.”

The phone at home rang again and again. Dan didn't answer.

Jake said to Bev Kendricks, “Sounds like Dan may be in trouble.” After pointing a thumb at the nearest exit to the Beverly Hills Sector Shakespeare HoloTheatre, he eased up to his feet and started making his way along the dark row of seats.

Bev rose up and followed him. “Excuse me.”

Down on the circular stage the hologram actors continued with
The Tempest.

2

T
HE SKYCAR BOUNCED
slightly as Jake guided it through the windy night. He tapped into the homesec system at the condo he shared with his son, and asked it, “Give me a report on what's going on.”

“Everything is normal, sir,” came a tinny voice out of the small voxbox in the dash panel.

“Pictures, room by room,” requested Jake as the skycar carried them toward his home.

“I'm sure he's okay,” said Bev, who was sitting, leaning forward, in the passenger seat beside him.

“Yeah, probably,” he conceded, watching the monitor screen as it took him on a tour of the apartment. “It's just that—well, people that I'm fond of have a tendency to get hurt.”

“That's nonsense. Beth Kittridge was killed by the Teklords to keep her from testifying, Jake,” the blonde detective assured him. “It had not a damned thing to do with you.”

“I could've stopped it, if I hadn't let them sidetrack me.”

She put a hand on his. “Been quite a while since that happened. You've got to work harder at forgetting it.”

“No sign of any trouble anywhere,” he said, watching the screen. “But, damn it, no sign of Dan either.”

“We'll be there in a few more minutes. Relax, talk about the play.”

“I like real actors better than holos,” said Jake. “And I thought the guy playing Caliban was too cute to—what the hell is this?”

The skycar was gliding down toward the landing area next to the condo building. There was a lot of extra illumination down there and it showed two large, squat SoCal Police skyvans sitting at the lot edge. There were at least a dozen uniformed cops and a couple of scene-of-the-crime robots scattered across the beach that fronted the building. And sprawled at the water's edge, where the surf was licking at it, was a spread-eagled body.

“Is that Dan?” Jake leaned close to the sidewindow, scowling down into the approaching glare.

“Too tall, not enough hair,” said Bev. “Take it easy.”

As the sky car started to settle down for a landing in its usual spot, a grating beep noise started coming out of one of the dash voxboxes. “Police emergency,” announced a deep, rough voice. “Police emergency. No landings allowed in this area.”

“I live here!” Jake took over the landing manually and set the craft down, ignoring the beep and the repeated warnings.

A thickset uniformed officer came running to the car door as Jake opened it and stepped out. “Where the hell,” said Jake, “is my son and—”

“Hands up over your head, mister, quick!” ordered the cop, leveling a stungun at Jake. “Suppose you tell me why you disregarded an official warning and landed—”

“Rudy?” Bev got, very carefully, out on her side. “It's me, Bev Kendrick.”

The cop glanced over at her, lowering his gun a few inches. “What's a legit private eye like you doing here?”

“This is Jake Cardigan's place and I happen to be with him tonight.” She walked around the front of the maroon skycar.

“Cardigan? I've heard of him—excon, onetime Tekrunner.”

Jake took a few steps closer to the man. “Where's my son?”

“You don't understand the procedure, Cardigan,” said Rudy, the gunbarrel swinging up again. “Maybe too much Tek has cooked your goddamn brains. We ask the questions, friend, and you answer them. Right now we've got a dead man just about in your front yard. So suppose—”

“Rudy, ease off,” advised Bev, touching his arm with a warning tap. “I really don't think you want to annoy Jake just now.”

BOOK: Tek Money
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