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    C James
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  • 5,625 Words

Changing Lanes - 3. Pursuits and Auditions

Chapter 3: Pursuits and Auditions


Three blocks from the hotel, Eric glanced in his Jeep’s rear-view mirror at the perusing black sedan. Chewing on his lip, Eric desperately tried to think of a way out as his foot slammed down on the accelerator and he plowed through a hole in the thick Los Angeles traffic. Whipping the Jeep into a tire-squealing right-hand turn, Eric roared down a side street as the car raced to follow.

"Shit," Eric mumbled, wishing that he’d had a bigger head start, fully aware that there was no way he could outrun the big sedan, and that this was a car chase he was destined to lose unless he thought of some way to shake off his pursuer.

The big black sedan closed in and Eric slammed on the brakes, threw the steering wheel hard right, his tires chuffing against the pavement as he rounded the corner.

Racing down the street, Eric glanced in his rear-view mirror and saw the sedan whip around the turn behind him, gaining fast. He knew he had to lose them, but how?

Reaching the next main street, Eric leaned on the horn as he tore around the corner, cutting into traffic and weaving around slower vehicles. The black sedan, however, kept closing in. Looking ahead, Eric saw a small mall and whipped the Jeep into the parking lot, hitting the speed bumps fast enough to catch some air and send the Jeep careening, almost out of control.

Aiming for the corner of the parking lot ­– an area separated from the busy street by a pair of high curbs and some rocky landscaping – Eric slowed, allowing the sedan to close in and letting them think he was cornered.

After waiting a moment for the lone pedestrian on the sidewalk to amble out of the way, Eric eased his foot onto the gas, driving the Jeep at an angle across the first high curb, fast enough to bounce hard and lurch into the air before ramming into the second. With a growl of protesting shock absorbers he bounced onto the sidewalk and then out onto the street, keeping his foot on the gas, accelerating diagonally across the main street until he was on the right-hand side of the road, and then taking the next right, punching the gas, leaving his frustrated pursuer unable to follow.



Arriving several minutes later at his destination, Eric clambered out of his Jeep, cursing the paparazzi. They’d had his hotel staked out and had followed him, yet again, and this time on a day when he couldn’t allow their intrusions. He made a mental note to get together with Jim and see about introducing the paparazzi to some angry bikers the next time they tried. Pulling on a black tank top and then tugging a baseball cap down over his eyes, Eric walked into the club, ignoring the ‘Closed’ sign on the door as he’d been instructed.

A dozen feet inside the poorly lit club – which smelled like stale beer and lemon-scented cleaner despite the club’s upscale appearance and reputation – Eric spotted a man bounding up the walkway towards him. The man came to a halt, ushering Eric further into the club as he gushed, “Welcome sir, thank you for coming. I’m George Tankardsly. I’m the general manager here, and I manage the hottest guys in the business. Only the best here, sir. The club is closed so your privacy will be assured. We’ve got Jansen and Keith warmed up and I’m sure you’ll agree, they are really hot. Just the thing to get your motor revving. Can I get you a drink?”

Knowing a sales pitch, especially a clumsy one when he heard it, and deciding to rattle the man a little, Eric smiled and then shrugged. “Coke will be fine, but when it comes to revving my motor, I’m not gay, so we’ll see.”

As Eric expected, George blanched, which was evident even under the low lighting. Showing Eric to a gleaming table, he talked, still a little too fast for Eric’s liking, trying frantically to explain. “Sir, I meant for the potential audience, of course. I certainly didn’t mean to imply­–”

“Oh yes you did,” Eric said in a serious tone, before smiling a little and adding, “But that’s a fair assumption given where we are. One more thing, my name’s Eric, not sir. My first name is fine; just don’t use my last name, okay?”

George nodded, and turned towards the bar and with a snap of his fingers signaled the bartender. “Coke,” he said, just loud enough to be heard, and then took a seat across the table from Eric.

Eric turned to watch the approaching bartender, realizing that a closed club wouldn’t have a bartender on duty except to butter up a client. The bartender, dressed in black slacks, a bow tie, and white cuffs and who looked barely old enough to be serving alcohol, puffed out his bare chest a little as he reached the table, turning himself just so, as he slid the drink across the polished wood with a flourish. The drink arrived, served over ice in a fancy glass, and Eric had to fight the urge to laugh as the bartender, missing George’s ever more frantic attempts at a wave-off, gave Eric a lascivious wink and said, “My, but you’re a hot one.”

Eric gave in to his urge to laugh, as George squirmed and the barkeep beat a hasty retreat from the obviously pre-arranged flirtation. Arching an eyebrow in George’s direction, Eric said, “Not the most subtle play I’ve ever seen. You really should work on that. So, when do I see the act?”

George raised his arm and clicked his fingers again, and the club’s few lights went out as the music – which Eric recognized as a sixty’s surfer tune – began to rumble from the club’s speakers. The bass of the tune was far too punched-up – drowning out the crispness of the guitar – for Eric’s liking.

Three spotlights lit a sheer black curtain, which obscured the stage. Behind the semi-transparent veil, a rotating mirrored ball appeared, and Eric fought the urge to wince at the cheesy setup.

The curtain parted in the middle, sweeping aside to reveal an empty stage and a painted set backdrop; a cartoon-like visage of a beach. From opposite sides of the stage, two guys appeared, dressed in board shorts and tank tops, barefoot and wearing sunglasses. Each had a white surfboard under their arm. Grinning, the two guys walked to the center of the stage where they stopped, turned to face their audience, and began to move a little to the music.

The song changed suddenly, and Eric recognized the driving beat to Instinct’s song ‘Beyond’. Turning to glance at George, Eric raised his voice to be heard over the music and said, “I thought the flirting bartender was an obvious play, but this... Not exactly the best way to keep me incognito, now is it?” Eric’s scowl was genuine; so far the act he’d come to see came across as tacky, but he tried to keep an open mind.

Looking genuinely startled, George stammered, “Sir, I didn’t realize... I assure you, this is their regular routine, including the music.”

Sizing up the man with a long look, Eric decided that for once, he was on the level. Returning his attention to the stage, Eric watched as Jansen and Keith dashed to opposite sides of the stage, leaned their boards up against the set, and turned to dance back towards each other. Ten feet apart, in perfect unison, they turned to face their audience, and with a smooth, practiced move, grabbed the front of their shirts and tore them off with a resounding rip, which Eric noticed came from the speakers, not the stage.

The moving spots of light from the mirrored ball played over their bare torsos, and Eric decided, then and there, that there would be no mirror ball at Brandon and Chase’s party. Watching the two dancers carefully, taking in the nearly identical tanned and chiseled torsos, the similar blond hair ­– though Jansen’s was a shade darker and cut a little longer – and the similar faces, he raised his voice to ask George, “Are they twins?”

George shook his head, reluctantly deciding to do his duty and vet the client. “They’re not related, but they are a couple and they don’t fool around. They only work with each other,” he said, watching Eric carefully for any reaction. Not seeing the disappointment he’d feared, George used Eric’s non-reaction to assume, to his own satisfaction, that Keith and Jansen wouldn’t be expected to do anything they’d be uncomfortable with. George frowned on dancers providing sexual services; that was bad for a high-end club’s reputation. It happened often enough, but so long as it was kept very discreet and he wasn’t made aware of it, George would often turn a blind eye. In this case, however, he was more concerned that Keith would torpedo the lucrative deal, so George was more than a little relieved by Eric’s reaction.

Eric returned his attention to the stage, as Keith and Jansen alternated between dancing with each other and dancing towards their singular audience. Taking a sudden step to the side, Jansen moved in front of Keith as Keith’s hands found their way to Jansen’s gyrating hips. Slowly, inch by inch, Keith, dancing in sync with Jansen, eased Jansen’s shorts down, revealing a blue and red Speedo before ripping the shorts completely away.

Both dancers turned, jumping away, circling each other back to back as they moved in time to the beat. Jansen moved behind Keith, one hand on Keith’s hip and the other roaming his chest, and again a sudden ripping sound emanated from the soundtrack as Keith’s shorts came off, revealing a Speedo identical to Jansen’s. The music shifted again, changing to a typical bump-and-grind riff, as the two dancers gyrated, their hands roaming their torsos and thighs as they danced, both facing out from the stage. A drumroll filled the room as Jansen and Keith hooked their thumbs under their waistbands, and again the ripping sound came from the speakers as they whipped off their tear-away Speedos, leaving them both in just glittering gold thongs. Eric watched as they danced, noting that they seemed slightly less choreographed, and guessed that at this point in a regular performance they were dancing the stage edge, getting money stuffed into their thongs.

The music died down and the dancers took a bow, racing off the stage as Eric gave them a few claps. Misreading his client, George asked in a hopeful tone, “Are they what you’re looking for, sir? You won’t find better, and they’re one of the few surfer-boy acts in the area.”

Still looking at the empty stage as the club lights came on, Eric thought for a few moments before answering, “I need to talk to them.” George nodded agreeably, getting up to trot backstage. He returned moments later, with Jansen and Keith, still in their thongs, in tow. “Pull up a chair,” Eric said to the dancers as they approached. Turning to look at George, who was taking a chair of his own, Eric said, “I need to talk with them alone, or no deal.”

Looking decidedly unhappy, George beat an awkward retreat. Eric watched his retreating back and then rolled his eyes before saying, “Your manager has all the finesse of a used car salesman.”

Keith and Jansen exchanged a knowing look, and then Keith replied, “Yeah, he lays it on kinda thick sometimes. He’s a decent boss though, so we put up with him.”

Eric hadn’t missed the look the dancers shared, and was pleased by the frank appraisal. Deciding that he could work with the pair in spite of their cheesy act, he said, “Your act is fine for a club, but this is for a bachelor party. Can you change it around a little, lose the glitter ball, and do your routine in amongst a group of people instead of on a stage? Also, can you act, at least a little?”

Jansen and Keith turned to share a look. Eric noticed Jansen’s amused smile as Keith replied, “We’ve both taken acting lessons and yeah, we can change the act around, no problem.”

Eric’s innate ability to read people only worked well once he got to know them, but something about the two dancers didn’t feel quite right to him. Deciding to do a little fishing, Eric turned to Jansen and asked, “How come you never say anything?”

Jansen shrugged, and then gave Eric a lopsided shy smile. “Keither is better at the business stuff than I am, so I let him deal with it.”

Eric watched Jansen carefully, finding no deception in the incongruously shy dancer. Flashing a smile of his own, Eric turned to look at Jansen’s partner and asked, “Keither?”

With a chuckle and a grin that almost lit up the room, Keith replied, “That’s my nickname, which Jansen should keep to his own damn self,” Keith gave his partner a grin and an elbow in the ribs before adding, “If you want to give us another audition, just tell us what you want and we’ll do it.”

Nodding, Eric shifted the subject a little by asking, “What has George told you about me and the gig?”

Keith exchanged another glance with Jansen before replying, “He said it’s a bachelor party for two guys, not you, and it’ll be overseas. He wouldn’t say where or for who. He said you’re offering four grand for each of us plus transportation, food, and accommodations for a few days. He also assured us that it would be just the act, nothing more.”

Still not quite satisfied that he could trust them but getting closer, Eric asked, “What’s your split?”

This time, Keith didn’t look at Jansen before replying, “Fifty-fifty, which is a pretty decent split in this business when the club generated the booking.”

“So, you don’t know who I am, or who the party is for,” Eric asked, wanting to see if George had leveled with him.

Keith, as usual, fielded the answer, “I didn’t say we don’t know that, but George didn’t tell us. I know who you are, so I have a damn good guess whose bachelor party this is for; Brandon Wolfe and your brother, Chase Carlisle. Would we be performing at both their bachelor parties, or just one? The price would be the same either way, I’m just curious.”

A slight scowl played across Eric’s face as he replied, “Both, it’s the same party. They insisted on a joint stag party.”

Keith rolled his eyes. “You’re kidding me, a joint stag party? That’s just...” He let his voice trail off, realizing that he may have gone too far.

“Perverted,” Eric finished Keith’s sentence with a wicked grin as the remaining tension at the table dissolved into the laughter the three guys shared. Eric leaned forward and bumped knuckles with Keith. “I guess we think alike on that, but that’s the way they want it so we’re stuck with it. So, I guess you recognized me, huh? Was it because you use one of our songs in your act?”

Keith began to reply, but the normally silent Jansen cut him off to say, “Yeah, kinda, but that’s because Keither likes your music, and he probably doesn’t want me to tell you that he has a poster of you guys on his bedroom wall.”

Keith’s head snapped around to glare at Jansen, who was well into the process of cracking up. With a blush evident even under his golden tan, he told Jansen, “You are so dead, dude,” followed by another elbow in his partner’s ribs. Keith turned to Eric to say with a smile, “He’s just so helpful at times.”

“How long have you two been together?” Eric asked with a disarming smile.

Keith sat up just a little straighter as he replied, “As dancers or as a couple? About two years for both.”

Angling his head a little, and then looking in turn into each of the two pairs of sparking green eyes in front of him, Eric decided to rein in his suspicions. He changed tack to ask, “What’s it like, doing what you guys do?”

Another look was exchanged between the dancers, and Jansen replied with a grin, “Call it what it is; we take our clothes off for money. We’re strippers. The money’s good and it’s putting us through college, plus keeping us in a decent apartment. We have to keep in top shape and rehearse a lot though; you’d be surprised how much time that takes.”

Eric gave Jansen a smile, accompanied by an amused look. Keith slapped his palm against his forehead as he realized the obvious and turned towards Jansen. “Whoa, I think he does know. I’ll bet he spends a lot more time rehearsing than we do, and he has to keep in shape, too.” Turning towards Eric, Keith asked, “So, what’s it like being a rock star?”

Eric laughed and rolled his eyes before replying, “I practice my bass at least three times a week, even when we’re off tour. We rehearse all the time, and then there’s the writing. I work out a little... Ya know, I think our jobs are pretty similar in some ways. I’m a performer, I rehearse a lot, and my life pretty much revolves around my work. I get hit on by fans all the time, and when I perform it’s on stage, and there’s music involved.”

“Yeah, but at least you get to keep your clothes on,” Keith observed with a chuckle.

Breaking into another laugh, Eric replied, “Not exactly. What are we wearing in that poster of yours? Shirtless, right?” Keith nodded in reply, and Eric continued, “We’re always doing photo shoots and stuff, and a lot of that is in just shorts or whatever. I can’t say I mind at all because one thing I’m not is shy, but my brother Jon is kinda uneasy with it sometimes. Still, in a way we’re like you; we get paid to take our clothes off.”

“There’s one big difference,” Keith said, sounding very serious until he added with a wicked grin, “You don’t get paper cuts in sensitive places.”

Jansen and Keith grinned, staring at Eric, waiting for him to figure it out. Eric tensed for a moment, then his eyes flew open wide and he gasped out, strangling on his own laughter, “I get it.... When they shove the money in your thongs, if it’s in front, you can get paper cuts on your... oh fuck, man, that’s gotta hurt!”

Jansen nodded and replied with a grin, “Yeah, kind of an occupational hazard.”

Getting down to business, Keith asked, “So, do we get another audition? Let us know what you want, including for the acting.”

Satisfied on that account, Eric grinned as he said, “Start packing, the gig is in the Canary Islands starting a month from today, but keep that to yourselves. I won’t say which island – I’m keeping everybody in the dark to make sure no fucking paparazzi find out – but you’ll like it. For the acting I’m not real sure yet, but nothing too major, just pretending to be resort guests if you bump into Brandon and Chase, that kind of thing. Count on two performances; the first at a pool party, the second at the stag party, and helping out with the bartending at the party; nothing too complicated, beer and liquor mainly, and I hope you can pour tequila shots. You’ll be on the island for a few days and most of the time will be your own.”

The two dancers shared a wide-eyed happy glance before jumping up to exchange a high-five. “Dude, you won’t be sorry. Thank you so much,” Keith replied with a beaming grin as he and Jansen stood up.

Eric unabashedly let his eyes roam over Jansen and Keith’s toned physiques, deciding that both dancers had a perfect body and look. “I think Brandon and Chase will really like you guys. This’ll be fun. I’ll let you know when I’ve got detailed plans,” Eric said with a grin.

George appeared as soon as Jansen and Keith walked away, and was pleased to hear the news that his act had a booking. Smiling, he produced the paperwork with a flourish, and Eric signed, then left a deposit.

With that task taken care of, Eric walked out of the club with his hat pulled low, glancing around for any sign of the hated paparazzi. Finding none, he walked back to his Jeep and pulled out into the thick Los Angeles traffic.

Two blocks later, a black-clad rider on a motorcycle whizzed by, cutting between the lanes of traffic to pull in front of Eric as they stopped at the next light. Eric glanced absently at the vanity license plate, ‘Shady 1’, and then watched as the light turned green and the dark rider sped away, zigzagging in and out of traffic, hell on wheels, soon lost to sight. That gave Eric an idea regarding one of his problems, and he turned right as his destination changed from his hotel to somewhere quite different.


General Bradson paced in the living room of his apartment, glancing around at the sparse furnishings. The thing he looked at the most was the clock, its soft ticking an incessant reminder that time was running out. The hands aligned: noon. That was the deadline he’d given himself, and the silence of his phone left him with little choice. Pulling out a pre-paid cell phone he’d acquired ­– one that could not be traced back to him – he made the call he’d been dreading, knowing full well that for the first time in his life he was breaking the law in a major way.

An old acquaintance answered, and the General, after taking a long, slow breath, simply said, “It’s a go,” before ending the call.

With that task done, he made a call to his bank. What he had planned would take a lot of money, but that he felt he could handle. Always a frugal man, living mainly on base since the death of his wife nearly twenty years before, the General had amassed a considerable nest egg, which had grown still further thanks to a few sound investments. He only hoped it would be enough.

The next step was at once both harder, and simpler. Sitting down, flipping through the notes he’d taken during the previous days, the General made many calls, cashing in many a chit, calling in a swarm of old favors. The first part, critical to the rest, was intelligence, and he breathed a sigh of relief when the man he’d called had agreed, in a roundabout way and with a pre-arranged phrase, to provide him what was needed. A casual lunch meeting, which would be anything but, was agreed.

An hour later, at a nondescript old diner just off Interstate 5, General Bradson, still dressed as the civilian he’d never really feel himself to be, joined a bespectacled, ruffled little man in one of the oversized booths. Sliding in across the split vinyl, the General said, “Thanks for joining me, Bill.”

Bill shrugged, easing his glasses back further on his prominent nose. “I’m not doing this for the free lunch, believe it or not. I don’t like what I’m about to do, not one little bit, but I like the need for it even less. You realize we could both end up in a federal prison, right?”

General Bradson nodded slowly. “Indeed I do. If there was any other way, I’d never consider it, but I cannot, will not, let politics piss away my boy’s life. He deserves better, and I aim to deliver or die trying.” The General’s words were far from hyperbole; he well realized that his own chances of survival were slim.

Still speaking in a low voice, masked by the tinny whine of a nearby jukebox, Bill drummed his fingers on the table and said, “General, I’m in. This isn’t personal; it’s because I feel this country owes its men and women in uniform every possible effort when they’re in service of their country. Instead, the administration is pissing about, fretting about diplomacy with a bunch of fanatical thugs. I say fuck ‘em all. Too bad you didn’t keep that nuke you dug up; it could come in real handy. ”

General Bradson let out a slight chuckle. “I may need a diversion, but not quite that big. I don’t even have an operational plan yet. That’s where you come in; I need to know where Brian is, what the tactical environment is, and above all, I need to know of any flaws in the Iranian’s security.”

“General, I wish I could give you better news, but unless Washington fesses up to the incursion, based on a signals intercept it looks to me like the Iranian Revolutionary Guards will make Brian disappear,” Bill said, looking the General square in the eye.

Feeling a greater weight on his shoulders than before, the General asked, “He’s in IRG hands? That’s confirmed?”

“Yeah, it is, by two separate SIGINTS’s,” Bill replied, using the agency shorthand for Signals Intelligence, which meant radio or other communications intercepts. General Bradson slumped a little more, knowing full well that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard – IRG for short – was among the worst of the worst; hardcore fanatics that would stop at nothing. Indeed, the IRG had been designated by the State Department as a terrorist organization a few years before.

“Assets?” the General asked, wondering just how far Bill would go.

Bill remained silent for a few seconds, well aware that he was being tested. Deciding that if he was in, he was all the way in, he replied, “One HUMINT,” an acronym for human intelligence; a source or agent, “though not well placed. Aside from that, we’ve got the overheads; signals and images both. I’ve got access to the take from an Intruder bird, and an 8X for overheads, plus something they won’t know about.”

The 8X, commonly referred to inaccurately as the KH-13 – itself a shorthand for the Keyhole series of photo-recon satellites – is the oldest model of the currently operational U.S. photo-recon satellites. Somewhat similar in basic design to the Hubble Space Telescope – which itself was developed mainly using photoreconnaissance hardware – the X8 satellites are the size of a Greyhound bus and operate in a near-polar low earth orbit, circling the earth every ninety minutes at an altitude of a hundred and thirty miles. The big problem with them: their orbits are easy to plot, so the subject would know when they were within the observation window. The orbit could be changed via a thruster burn, but not by much, and that also meant using up a significant amount of the very finite onboard supply of hydrazine. The X8 was good for general reconnaissance of fixed sites, but not for the tactical level intelligence the General needed.

The Intruder satellite series are SIGINT birds. Often operating at geosynchronous altitude – over twenty three thousand miles above the earth – and thus in fixed positions relative to the ground, the Intruder series are in essence a giant ear in space, listening in on everything from cell phone conversations to the leakage from microwave relay dishes. At least one Intruder is on duty over the earth’s eastern hemisphere at all times. As a means of electronic eavesdropping, it has no rivals.

During his career, General Bradson had seen his share of satellite photographs and communications intercepts. Thus, he was passingly familiar with the National Reconnaissance Office’s space architecture. One thing Bill had said just did not fit, so the General arched an eyebrow as he asked, “Can’t see coming?”

Giving a shrug, reluctant to go quite that far, Bill indicated the old jukebox with a subtle nod of his head and asked in an offhand way, “I wonder if that thing has a song called Misty on it...” Bill arched an eyebrow of his own to drive home his point.

The General raised both eyebrows in disbelief. Misty was the name of a classified project to develop a stealthy series of photoreconnaissance satellites. The advantages of such a reconnaissance platform are obvious; if the enemy can’t detect it, they would be unable to plot its orbit and thus never know when it would be overhead.

Stealthing a satellite is not an easy task. To make an object difficult to detect by radar requires specialized shapes and materials, and especially the elimination of all right angles. This runs contrary to the design of a satellite, especially its solar panels. The answer was at once both easy, and difficult. The concept was the easy part; inflate a dish-shaped balloon made of radar-absorbent material and place it under the craft, keeping the satellite obscured when seen from Earth. An aperture in the balloon for the optics could be stealthed far more easily than the entire satellite, so a simple solution had been found. Or so they thought. What proved difficult was developing a material for the balloon, one that would hold the precise shape needed, and also remain rigid after unfurling. Creating the specialized material had taken five years and over a billion dollars, but finally a plasticized fabric which hardened upon exposure to ultraviolet light had been invented. After much trial and error, the system had worked, giving the satellite a very small radar signature, making it nearly impossible to discern from the countless pieces of orbiting space debris. That took care of radar, and visually concealing the satellite and its radar shield had been simplicity itself; they’d painted it black.

The program was highly classified, but that was not the cause of the General’s surprise. “Bill, I thought that was a failure and they canceled the program back in 2008?” the General asked in a bare whisper.

Bill shrugged, choosing his words carefully. “Hypothetically speaking, can you think of a better cover? You know how the agency cherishes its failures.”

Narrowing his eyes, the General stared at his bespectacled acquaintance. The message was intriguing; U.S. intelligence agencies did indeed cherish, and work to enhance, their reputation for failure. It was good fieldcraft; make the enemy underestimate you. The Misty project had been billed as a humiliating and costly failure, which upon reflection, the General decided, made perfect sense. “So, the X8 is the flusher; they see it coming and assume that they are otherwise safe. Then along comes the stealthy one, catching ‘em with their pants down.”

Shrugging again, unwilling to directly confirm the General’s accurate speculation – respect for need-to-know was second nature to people in Bill’s profession – Bill had let the General know roughly what was available, so he brought an end to the topic by saying, “I can get the overheads you need. I’ll see what I can find out regarding exactly where your son is and what kind of security surrounds him. I’ll also drum up some contacts you’ll need, weapons suppliers and such. Now, about that lunch you promised me; the enchiladas here aren’t bad.” And with that, the business came to a temporary end, as both men ordered lunch and the conversation turned to the far safer realm of sports.

Once he had returned to his sparse apartment, the General slumped into a chair, feeling an odd sense of relief. The odds were still long and the risks were enormous, but the feeling that he was actually doing something filled him with a new sense of purpose, though it brought to mind the legend of Pandora; the box had been opened, dire and deadly things unleashed, but what remained was the rarest gem of all: hope.

With that thought in mind, the General knew he’d found the name for his operation: Pandora.


Eric strolled out of the Wilshire Boulevard showroom with a contract and a receipt clutched in his hand. Pulling off his shirt and tossing it on the passenger seat, he climbed into his Jeep before giving the paperwork one last looking-over. Setting it aside, he laid it on his passenger seat along with the Yamaha brochure he’d been given. Clicking on the ignition key and listening to his Jeep’s throaty roar, he wondered how badly Helen would react once she found out.

Chuckling to himself, Eric envisioned the explosion he’d face, but his mind had already begun the planning needed to use the news to solve his other problems. Eric wheeled his Jeep around, forcing his way back into the heavy traffic, heading for the nearest Department of Motor Vehicles to take the test for an M1 California Driver’s License.




© 2008 C James

Please let me know what you think; good, bad, or indifferent.

Please give me feedback, and please don’t be shy if you want to criticize! The feedback thread for this story is in my Forum. Please stop by and say "Hi!"



Many thanks to my editor EMoe for editing and for his support, encouragement, beta reading, and suggestions.

Thanks also to Shadowgod, for beta reading, support and advice, and for putting up with me.

Special thanks to Graeme, for beta-reading and advice.

A big "thank you" to to Bondwriter for final Zeta-reading and advice , and to Captain Rick for his advice.

Any remaining errors are mine alone.

Copyright © 2009 C James; All Rights Reserved.
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I can just see Eric on a motorcycle dodging the LA traffic. Man, those paparazzi won't know what hit them. lol Helen will have a cow. Next will be some tats and piercings and he'll be one of Jim's bikers. ;)


Like the last story, I am amazed at all the things I am learning about building bombs and the government. lol


Terrific chapter, CJ. :)

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The story plots that Eric and General Bradson are carving out make for a very oddly interesting sort of ying-yang setup. With the latter, we're starting to scratch beneath the surface, though with the former, that's not the case quite yet...

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I wonder if Jim and his crew will walk out when they hear, for what I’m sure might be a Japanese crotch rocket 😛


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