The prometheus effect, p.1
The Prometheus Effect, page 1
Table of Contents
Copyright © 2017 by David Fleming
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the copyright owner except for the use of brief quotations in a book. Requests for permission should be addressed to the publisher.
The Prometheus Effect is a work of fiction. Names, organizations, places and incidents portrayed in this novel are either products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual, events, locales, or persons is purely coincidental. No underground secret organization made the author state this either.
Published by: David Fleming
Edited by: David Gatewood (www.lonetrout.com) and Crystal Watanabe (www.pikkoshouse.com)
Cover Design by: Susan L. Harlow (www.slharlow.com)
Ebook and Print Formatting by: Crystal Watanabe
First edition, 2017
an honest man
Tom & Rebecca
the greatest of friends
“Who are you, Jack?”
A simple question.
But Jack knew better than to tell the whole truth to a politician. Blurting out, “I’m the man on the verge of creating fusion!” would likely land him in a government bunker while they destroyed the world. He valued life too much to allow that to happen. And if they were armed with his creation, power-worshipping men behind imposing desks would be virtually guaranteed to wipe humanity’s slate clean in the worst way.
I gave him the answers he asked for, Jack thought. Let his deeds be recorded in history; mine will direct the course of it. We don’t have time for these questions. Now, thank me and let me get back to work.
“Just a man,” Jack answered.
“You’re only nineteen years old. More a boy than a man.”
Jack calmly rested his hands on the polished leather arms of his chair. This man wasn’t the first person to try to intimidate him, nor would he be the last. Still, the situation called for a modicum of respect.
“What can I do for you, sir?”
The politician drummed his fingers on the file sitting atop his desk, his intense hazel eyes never leaving Jack’s calmer brown. Great men had sat in Jack’s chair, and no doubt some of them had fidgeted and babbled before this politician. But Jack sat comfortably and waited for an answer.
“I have read your proposal,” the man said at last, opening the file. “How did you come up with it?”
“It seemed reasonable.” Jack noted the unique strokes of his own handwriting in blue ink on the exposed page.
“Reasonable?” The politician goggled at him, then lowered his eyes to the file. “We presented our problems to the best minds available to us. Some managed to address the most serious issues, but not one of them even approached anything I would call ‘comprehensive.’ Yet you covered every issue—including a few we hadn’t thought of. Atomic weapons, dictators, pandemics, population, natural resources, and crazy things I’ve never even heard of before.” He looked up from the file. “Do you really think fossil fuels are going to cause so much trouble?”
“Undeniably. The problems are all interconnected.” Jack leaned back in his chair, his expression unchanged.
“Why does the implementation of this have to be so damned secret? I would feel a lot more reassured if it had an oversight committee. They could also be sworn to silence.”
“Those who peddle power for a living tend to have trouble keeping secrets. They use them as barter to advance their positions. If any of the organization’s solutions become common knowledge before they’re needed, then they become problems themselves.” Jack steepled his index fingers before him and asked, “What do you think your enemies would have done if they had known about your atomic weapons project?”
“They would have attacked us sooner.”
“That’s best case scenario. Worst case, they would have waited until they developed enough atomics of their own and then annihilated us. Imagine Pearl Harbor over every city, with atomic weapons.”
“Point taken, but why does the existence of the organization need to be invisible?” He tapped the file. “This is the only copy, by the way.”
“Two reasons. First, any knowledge of this organization, no matter how insignificant, would invite scrutiny. And scrutiny is like an open wound. It would attract all sorts of infectious processes that could kill its effectiveness. Second, in intervals of peace, some might consider dissolving the project. Yet peace does not obviate the need for this organization. The future is bound to be paved with trouble.”
“Very well; I’m no stranger to secret societies,” the politician said. “Incidentally, your physics professor committed a serious breach of national security by sharing our problem with you.”
“He knew he could trust me,” Jack replied.
“Can I trust you, Jack?” The politician locked eyes with the teen. “More importantly, can the country trust you?”
“What do you mean, sir?”
“As you read in the classified documents your professor provided, we came c
“All of them,” Jack replied without pause.
The politician raised an eyebrow. “You’re being a little melodramatic, aren’t you, son?”
Jack held the man’s gaze silently.
“Well.” He leaned back in his seat. “That’s why we appealed to the geniuses. That’s why you’re here. I’m authorizing the inception of your proposal, and you are the person I want to lead the program.”
A self-preservation instinct impelled Jack to his feet before the politician finished his last sentence. I did them a favor by outlining a path to a peaceful world. Now they want me to pave it for them? Perhaps Jack was the best choice to lead this project—no, not perhaps; he knew he was the best choice—but he also knew that anyone involved with the organization would never have a normal life. To the rest of the world, the organization’s members would cease to exist.
I should have seen this coming. And if I hadn’t been so focused on my discovery, I would have. You don’t bring a problem to someone unless you have a solution, and you don’t provide a solution unless you’re willing to do it yourself.
He decided the situation called for a bit of obsequiousness. With his hands on his hips and his head bowed, he asked, “Why me?”
“It’s your idea; I can’t think of anyone better qualified. And it would make you a very powerful young man.”
That it would. This was a ticket to absolute power. Yet power and fame held no value in Jack’s moral code. Truth—that was the only standard by which he lived. He had never considered immersing himself in a field where lies and deception were the norm.
“And if I won’t?” Jack asked.
“You’re the genius. What do you think?”
I think I should have known better than to trust a politician.
After a brief pause, Jack replied, “The way I see it, you have two choices. One, lock me in isolation for the rest of my life. Or two, kill me.”
“I really hadn’t thought of the first one,” the politician said. Jack discerned no humor in the man’s tone.
And there it was. Jack had no real options. From the moment he’d submitted the proposal, his fate had been sealed. And if he was honest with himself, perhaps he’d known that all along. He would never have trusted anyone else with the execution of this plan.
So be it.
“You understand that in order for this to work,” Jack said, “it has to be implemented exactly as written. There are no line-item vetoes here.”
“Does this mean you’re accepting the position?”
“Yes.” Jack stepped forward and took the file from the politician’s desk.
“Good luck then, Jack.”
“With the level of secrecy involved, and the type of people I need to acquire, you’re likely never to see me again,” Jack said.
“Like Jack the Ripper?”
“I’ll do a better job of it.”
Jack turned to leave, his heart racing and his mind several steps ahead. But before he reached the door, the man asked from behind him, “What are you going to call this organization of yours?”
Jack stopped to ponder the question. In comparison to the function of the organization, the name seemed meaningless. “It won’t have a name,” he said. “That would only draw unwanted attention.”
“It has to have a name,” the politician urged. “Otherwise you and your people are forever going to be saying, ‘Let’s get back to the you-know-what, wink wink.’”
A valid point. Jack thought for a moment—and then it came to him. Something simple and unlikely to raise suspicions if overheard. “I’ll call it the City,” he said.
“Very well then. I will arrange your security clearances… and your death,” said the politician.
“Thank you, Mr. President,” Jack said, and he left the Oval Office.
One week later, Jack’s cremated remains fertilized an unmarked apple tree seedling in his hometown. The official story was that his truck had blown a tire and skidded into a ravine. The fuel tank ruptured and his vehicle was engulfed in a fireball. By the time the volunteer fire department arrived, there was nothing left that could burn. The charred skeleton inside was identifiable only by cross-matching the serial number on the engine block to the registered owner. According to the coroner, the driver was dead on impact. He never felt a thing.
The City currently had a population of one.
Near a dry lake bed in Nevada, recently used for bombing and artillery practice, a nineteen-year-old man sat at a surplus military desk in an aluminum-clad house trailer. Stacks of personnel files from all branches of the military cluttered every flat surface, and a humming space heater took the edge off the chill. In the trash, a crumpled obituary lay among several Black Jack chewing gum wrappers.
And as the man rotated the dial on his Western Electric 302 telephone to set up another interview, he couldn’t help but think:
Damn, I loved that truck!
Late Summer 2039
Mykl held the world in his hands. Continents and oceans spun in a blur before his eyes. As they slowed, he gave Greenland another swipe with his tiny fingers and sat mesmerized by the illusion of power rotating in his lap.
“Put the globe away Mykl. We have to go,” a gentle voice said from behind.
A slender woman with raven black hair cascading over her shoulders stood patiently in the doorway of the one-bedroom apartment. Rays of warm light from the setting sun accentuated her petite figure. She wore preposterously high heels in an attempt to create a fantasy of height, while fishnet stockings hugged her legs, sparkling magically from ankles to hips with calculated purpose. A leather corset peeked through the opening of her jacket. One pale hand hung relaxed at her side, while the other tapped polished red nails on the doorframe. A lock of hair masked one side of her angular face.
Her fierce blue eyes stared purposefully at the small boy across the room. “Now, Mykl.”
He placed the globe atop his cluttered desk. Giving it one last spin, he danced his fingers across the keyboard of his disposable computer, closed his calculus book, and dashed to take his mother’s outstretched hand.
“We won’t have to live like this much longer, you know,” she said as they walked to the car. “In fact, I may even be done by tonight. Then we can finally be with your dad.”
Mykl tilted his head to gaze up at her. She rarely spoke of this man he had never met. It was as if he were some great secret. His mother had many secrets, and she kept them well.
She kissed his cheek as she checked his seatbelt. “I named you after him, Mykl. He’s going to be so happy to see you.”
He probably has a weird name too, Mykl thought. No one ever spelled his right, and everyone who saw it written down pronounced it wrong. It would be a lot easier if he spelled it like every other Michael.
They drove in silence to a child care center that catered to night shift workers. Mykl leaned forward in his seat so the air conditioning would blow harder across his face. His body felt tingly as his mother reached over with her free hand to scratch his back. These brief moments spent with her were wonderful.
Today marked the first night at her new evening job. Once she finished her shift at the club, she’d pick him up, drop him off at a second child care center, one nearer their apartment, and move on to her day job. She never talked about work or why she needed so many jobs. Another secret she reserved for herself. She never explained why she wouldn’t let him stay at home and play—though that was an oft-debated point between them. She had treated him like a child for as long as he could remember. He wa
Waning rays of sunlight teased the solar arrays on the eastern mountains. They were unable to produce electricity as well as advertised, but residents had learned to adjust to the arrays’ limitations, similar to the way they had with water several decades before: limited resources went to the highest bidders. And in Vegas, those bidders were the owners of the garish neon signs and dazzling strobes that beckoned patrons to an adult playground of sensory overload and sinful fantasy. Even with war tensions running high and the world in crisis, high rollers and power brokers still migrated to Vegas to indulge in wanton spending, every one of them with an irrational hope of a lucky streak—a hope that would eventually crash into the concrete wall of probability. All of the glamour and glitz boiled down to the simple exchange of ten dollars for nine.
Their car came to a stop in front of the care center. Mykl let out a deep sigh and leaned the full mass of his meager weight into the door as he pulled the handle.
“Hey, short stuff. Aren’t you forgetting something?”
Yes, I’m forgetting to remind you it’s my birthday. Stretching across the seat, he gave his mother a kiss goodbye before scooting out. As he leaned into the door to close it, his mom called out, “I love you, Mykl.”
Her warm smile melted any misgivings he had about her forgetting his birthday. “I love you too, Mom.” He trudged away to his humdrum shift inside with the other unfortunate kids.
“Happy birthday, Stinker!” his mom yelled to his back.
Love for his mom and guilt for doubting her assailed him simultaneously. The lump in his throat left him speechless.
“We’ll go get your present after I pick you up,” she said. With a wink and a wave, she was gone.
The insistent chiming of a phone in the next room stirred Mykl from a deep sleep. Heavy grogginess made him feel like a bag of sand on his tiny cot. Breathing mounds of slumbering children encircled him in the multipurpose room. Why was he so tired?
by David Fleming have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes