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It was not the first time he had murdered or the last. Ricardo pushed back his slick wet hair and raced up the villa steps, stirring the dead leaves in his wake. If he did not act fast the police would know he killed the French woman back at the pool. He had no remorse about slashing her throat, but he did not want to risk hanging around this reality. It was time to return to Cibola and have the Aabaec create a new existence.
He yelled into the cellular as he ran onto the verandah. " Martin! Martin!" If necessary, he would leave Martin behind. The little scrounger, having left earlier with some tramp, was now joy riding in his car and spending his money. After five hundred years together Martin still did not fully appreciate his benevolence. If not for his mercy at Cibola at the beginning, Martin would have died at the mountain pass. The cellular connected into a scratchy transmission. Martin's voice wavered.
" Yeah ..."
" Martin, where the hell are you?"
" Coming past the front gate, old friend."
The woman with Martin laughed. Ricardo peered beyond the terrace, the rippling palms, and long linear gardens as Martin propelled the tiny yellow sports car through the gate.
" Get up here now!" Ricardo pressed the phone pressed against his ear and watched the car move up the hill.
" What's the problem?" asked Martin.
" Just get your butt up here! We're going to Cibola."
By plane and later in the helicopter, Cibola was only eighteen hours away, and they needed to board the jet before the police arrived at the villa. Martin accelerated up the drive and the car skidded to stop. His thin friend leaped from the open car as Ricardo ran down the verandah steps. He yanked the blonde from the seat and threw her across the gravel. Martin looked panicky.
" Get back in the car!"
Ricardo climbed into the sports car as Martin slid back inside, grabbed the wood wheel and spun around a wide semicircle, kicking up the stones. The dust swirled into the breezy air and Ricardo ordered him to the Marseilles airport. The French woman's naked body floated face down in the pool water as they passed.
Martin stared at the pool and sped through the front gate. " The woman is dead!"
" Shut up, Martin!"
" Are you crazy? The longer this goes on, the more chances you take!"
" She pushed me," said Ricardo, his resolve strengthening. He stared at the blue ocean along the coast, still upset Claudette would have tried blackmail. " No one challenges me, Martin ..."
* * *
Ricardo gazed out the jet's window as they banked over the French coast. The twilight cast an exotic glow over the breakers and beach sands far below. He gripped his pen and looked at his paperwork on the table. In his new reality, he would become a powerful force in the defense establishment. Power resided with armaments. Two hundred years ago, during the Revolution he had made a fortune supplying arms to the Americans. Today, technologies and expenditures bore no semblance to the cannon and musket of those days.
Martin, arms folded across his chest and eyes clamped shut, slept in a seat to the left. His unshaven face and disheveled black hair gave him a crude appearance. He had voiced his unhappiness about leaving this reality, but he would have to accept the change. Only sheer luck had allowed them to outrun the police.
Again, Ricardo studied his notes. By constructing a reality geared toward prodigious defense expenditures, he would possess a private empire, selling to the government as he accumulated great wealth and power. He wanted no more boredom. Now, they might work instead of totally subsisting within the playboy atmosphere of the last fourteen months.
He checked his personal computer. A number of companies fit his profile. But these corporations were only models. He had about sixteen hours left before they landed in Denver and continued over the mountains to Cibola. The Aabaec consciousness, the remnant outpost of a long since vanished galactic civilization, would construct his corporation and his world.
Peter Sturgis climbed the platform steps as everyone in town cheered and the school band produced a strained rendition of Stars and Stripes Forever. Jeannie and the kids jumped up and down, applauding from the first row as he approached the mayor. She smiled and pointed behind him to a huge red, white, and blue banner attached to the brick school wall.
Congratulations, Peter." The mayor shook his hand and the crowd yelled louder as she motioned toward him. " You aren't thinking of challenging me, are you, Peter?"
" I'm one of your biggest supporters, Susan."
" Good. I think you'd trounce me if they held a vote today."
She moved up to the microphone, tapped it a few times and raised her arms into the air to quell the crowd. " Ladies and Gentlemen. The man beside me you know as your Little League baseball coach, fundraiser for Boy Scout troop 35, active in soccer and basketball here in town, a member of the church council ... He has worked at Riccom Corporation for the past thirteen years, first as an accountant, and now in the controller's department. He is a great father to his four children and married fifteen years to his wife Jeannie ... I am describing, Ladies and Gentlemen, Peter Sturgis, Westerly's Citizen of the Year!"
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