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Landfall: A Dark Universe Story by Milton Davis


Terranova by Dragos Jieanu


May my words serve as enlightenment to those in darkness and nourishment to those in need. May the knowledge that I share strengthen the foundation that benefits us all.

There was once a man who had a dream, a dream that became a reality, and a reality that became an empire. His name was Cornelius Cassidy, and we are the descendants of his legacy.

-Samake, Cassad Djele/Historian



Cornelius Cassidy emerged from cryosleep in less pain than when he entered. His mouth was extremely dry, his joints ached, but he was anxious for the chamber to open. Ten years after spending a fortune he was finally going to see his dream realized.

"Mr. Cassidy?"

Cornelius's mouth ached when he smiled.

"Dr. Hanes?" he croaked.

"I see you survived. Congratulations."

"I hope that was meant as a joke."

Dr. Hanes laughed, her voice driving the chill from his body.

"So, when do I get to emerge from the crypt?"

"Soon. We're still running vitals. Everything seems to be stable but we have to be sure. We don't often have travelers your age."

"Too young, huh?"

Dr. Hanes laughed again. "If you say so."

Thirty minutes later the chamber opened. Cornelius squinted into the light as two nurses reached in; grasping him gently then lifted him up.

"I can do this myself," he fussed.

"I know, but I'm being safe."

Dr. Hanes appeared, her angelic brown face lifting his spirits. She clamped the exam pad to his wrist then looked at her holo-tablet.

"Vitals are good. You seem to travel well."

"I do a lot of other things well, too," he replied with a wink.

Dr. Hanes rolled her eyes as she smirked. "I'd kill you. Literally."

Cornelius chuckled. "I bet you would."

"Daddy?"

Yvonne Cassidy entered the room. She was the mirror image of her mother at the same age, dusky brown skin with high cheek bones and a dimpled smile.

"Hurry up and get on your suit. You need to see this!"

The nurses fitted him into his bionics. At one hundred and twenty-five he needed the assistance to travel long distances. After a few gestures he sprang to his feet then followed his daughter to the lift which took them to the observation deck. He was greeted by Oyewole Bamidele, ship's captain.

"Mr. Cassidy! Welcome to Cassidy."

The opaque walls turned clear. Cornelius felt as if he was standing in the sky as dense foliage rushed under his feet. Two bare rock columns protruded from the vegetation; in the distance a thunderstorm raged over a grassy plain.

"It's beautiful," he whispered. "Simply beautiful. And it's mine."

"Not quite."

Yuri Yamato strolled onto the deck, looking nonchalant as he gazed down on the planet. The Environ executive exuded the confidence of a man at the top of his game.

"We still have a few papers to sign, Mr. Cassidy."

"You didn't expect me to finalize this deal without inspecting the merchandise, did you?"

Yuri smiled. "Of course not. But this is a bit more than just merchandise, isn't it?"

Cornelius smiled. "Yes, much more. Do you know what this is, Yuri? This is a new start, a second chance, a Final Pas-sage."

Yuri looked confused. "I don't understand."

Cornelius smirked. "Of course, you don't. When can we go planetside?"

"We'll have to wait until the storm passes," Oyewole said. "It's lingering in the vicinity of the compound."

"Your papers will have to wait until then," Cornelius said to Yuri.

The Environ executive walked to stand beside Cornelius. "I have to say you made a fine choice. This one went unnoticed. You're lucky none of the Blocs purchased this first."

"They don't know what to look for," Cornelius said. "Too much money to spend. They've made your company fat with their inefficiency. I estimate their cost overruns exceed 50% of projected costs due to additional terraforming."

"No comment," Yuri answered.

"No need to. I did my homework."

"Yes, you did. The solar deflectors were easy to place and the magnetic field boosters secured the atmosphere much sooner than we anticipated. Accelerated vegetation cycles progressed well and the transplanted fauna adapted rapidly as well."

They fell silent as the storm drifted east.

"Looks like we're ready for landfall," Oyewole said.

"Good," Cornelius replied. "Let's get to the shuttle. I'm ready to put my feet on solid ground."

The team took the lift to the shuttle bay. The shuttle was compact yet comfortable, holding Cornelius, his daughter and Yuri with ease. The craft dropped from the bottom of the ship, falling until it was far enough away to engage engines. It cruised low over the trees, giving a better yet swifter view of the land-scape. They dropped low over the grasslands, scattering a herd of wild horses then entered a wide canyon. Cassidy Compound crowned a steep hill rising from the canyon floor, a graceful building promising an interesting tour inside.

"I see you didn't spare any expense," Cornelius groused.

"We treat our best clients like royalty," Yuri said.

"I'd feel better if it wasn't my money you were treating me with."

Yuri laughed. "Believe me, Cornelius; we threw this in pro bono."

"We'll see," Cornelius answered.

The shuttle came to a gentle rest on the upper landing pad. Cornelius stepped outside then took a deep breath. The air was sweeter than the ship, with a tinge of an organic smell that meant new life.

"This is pure air," Yuri commented. "I love the way a new world smells. Or should I say how it doesn't smell. Remember this moment, Mr. Cassidy. It goes downhill from here."

"Not if I can help it," Cornelius whispered.

"Shall we go inside?" Yuri said.

"Not yet." Cornelius took a moment longer to gaze on his gamble. If not one person ever migrated to Cassidy he would still feel successful.

"Okay, let's go inside."

Yuri led them through the functional structure to the main conference room. They spread out around the table as an Environ employee served them glasses of water.

Cornelius took a sip then grinned. "The water is as good as the air."

"Our work is first rate. It also helps when the heavenly body responds well to our handling."

Yuri's eyes studied Yvonne as he spoke.

"Let's get down to business," Cornelius said. "What do we have here?"

Yuri stood then activated the controls for the holoscreen. An image of Cassidy appears, spinning slowly on its axis.

"What we have is a class M-2 planet orbiting a G2V star. Our distance from the star is approximately 85 percent that of Earth, hence the solar defectors. Currently the temperature pat-terns are tropical to subtropical, but we are forming ice capes both north and south. The equatorial region is currently uninhabitable due to extreme heat but we expect that to moderate over the next twenty years."

"It there any chance the ice capes will expand to glaciers?" Yvonne asked.

"No," Yuri replied. "We provide climate monitoring at no charge for the next two hundred years. It usually takes that long for weather patterns to establish themselves."

The planet view zoomed in as Yuri approached the im-age.

"We've designated 30 initial sites for prime city development. We expect another 15 to come online once the patterns settle. For now, there is no threat of volcanic activity or earth-quakes."

Cornelius eyebrow rose. "For now?"

"We're working on establishing a molten core," Yuri said. "It helps to anchor the atmosphere if the planet can generate its own magnetic field and a molten core is essential for it."

"I'm not sure I like that," Cornelius said.

"It's a necessary evil for a class M planet."

"How soon before we can start settling people," Yvonne asked.

"A year from now," Yuri replied. "How are your recruitment efforts going?"

Cornelius sagged in his seat. "Not good. So far, we have 750,000 signed. We'll probably lose half of those once we begin boarding on the ark ships."

For the first time since landfall Yuri looked displeased. "Our agreement called on an initial payment then a 100-year lease based on planet production. You'll need at least one million people to meet our requirements."

Cornelius took on a hard look. "Yvonne?"

His daughter handed Yuri a bank tablet. The screen dis-played the Environ/Cassidy transaction data.

"Press enter," she said.

Yuri pressed enter. The remaining balance for Cassidy appeared in the Environ account.

"Oh my God!" Yuri whispered.

"You can verify it if you like. I think our business with Environ is done."

"Yes, I think it is."

"Can you deliver the other documents so we can make this deal final?"

Yuri was almost giddy. "Yes, I can. It will take a moment to download them."

Yvonne sat close to Cornelius.

"It's all yours now, daddy," she whispered.

"Yes, it is, baby girl."

"And we are now officially flat broke," she added.

"For now," he replied. "I've been here before. Don't I al-ways rise again?"

Yvonne kissed his cheek. "Like a phoenix, daddy. Just like a phoenix."


* * *


Thomas Cassidy slumped in his office chair then moaned when he read the intertex from his sister. His forehead furrowed as he read the text again, hoping he'd got it wrong. But he hadn't. He pushed away from his mahogany desk then trudged to the window wall, looking down on the busy Atlanta streets. For the last 20 years he'd worked hard helping his father build Cassidy Enterprises into the most powerful company in the world. Now it was all gone, just like that.

He tapped his ear then waited for his mother to answer.

"Hello, Tommy," she said.

Her mellow voice eased his anger.

"Mamma, he did it."

There was silence for a moment.

"Tommy, I want you to close the office and come to the house right now. We have some things to discuss."

"We can talk right now," Tommy answered.

"Don't get fussy with me, boy," she replied sternly. "You come on down. I'll be in the garden."

"I might as well," he said. "It's not like we're solvent or anything."

"Quit sassing and come down," she said.

"Yes, mama."

Thomas sent a broadcast text to the office employees then cringed as a collective whoop went up. People hurried from their desk in a jubilant exodus to the elevators. He knew he wasn't as well liked as his father. He was considered a task master, which he was. Someone had to make up for all the money his father was spending lately. And now that he knew the reason he wouldn't be any better.

His personal sped him to the south Metro area to the house. “House” was an understatement; the Cassidy compound was a 2000-acre wooded nature preserve. The massive gate identified his personal and the gate opened. The small vehicle entered, proceeding up the paved driveway to the mansion. The driveway ended at the cul-de-sac; the personal stopped then Thomas jumped out, fast walking to the back of house. Mamma was tending her vegetable garden as always, wearing her dirty coveralls and large plantation hat. She looked up with her big smile, her smooth sepia face hiding her almost ninety years of life.

"Mamma, what's going on?" Thomas blurted.

"Give me a kiss, boy," she replied. "I ain't seen you all day."

Thomas rolled his eyes then kissed her on the cheek.

"You smell like earthworms," he said.

Mamma chuckled. "So, what's this about us being broke?"

"Daddy paid off the balance on Cassidy," he said. "He cleaned us out!"

Mamma walked away to her tomatoes. "All of it?"

"All of it."

She pushed back her hat. "I thought he would. No sense leaving things undone."

"What are you talking about?"

"Go get me my chair," she said.

Thomas hurried to the shed then brought back her fold-ing chair. Mamma sat hard then wiped her brow.

"You know your daddy is dying, right?" she said.

Thomas looked solemn. "I know he's not in the best of health but..."

Mamma reached out then took his trembling hand. "No, son your daddy is dying. Soon. It's why he went to Cassidy and why he paid off the balance. He didn't want to leave us in debt."

"So, he's leaving us broke?"

Mamma smiled. "Cornelius spent all his money. He ain't spent any of mine."

Thomas was startled. "Your money?"

Mamma nodded. "Me and Cornelius always kept our money separate. Just in case he got in trouble."

Thomas cleared his throat. "Mamma if you don't mind me asking; how much money do you have?"

Mamma's eyes narrowed. "I ain't never told your daddy. Why you think I'm going to tell you? Let's just say I have enough to see things through."

She stood up then waved Thomas close.

"Come on. Let's walk to the house. We have some things to do."


* * *


Yuri grinned at the father and daughter.

"That seems to conclude our business," he said. "It' been a pleasure working with you."

Cornelius's smiled faded. "I don't think we're quite done yet, Yuri."

The Environ rep forced a smile. "Is there something else?"

"I believe there is," Cornelius replied. "A matter of some-thing on 'my' planet that doesn't belong to me."

"What are you talking about?" Yuri maintained a rigid smile.

"Don't make me do this," Cornelius warned.

Yuri seemed dumbfounded, but Cornelius knew better.

"Let's take another ride," he said.

The trio returned to the main ship.

"Wole," Yvonne said. "Take us to the other site."

Oyewole nodded then the ship sped off. Yuri pulled at his collar.

"I don't see what this is all about."

Cornelius didn't reply. They streaked over a long stretch of forest before coming across a mountain range. Oyewole weaved the ship through the narrow passages until another building appeared.

"Ever seen that place before?" Cornelius asked Yuri.

"I can't say that I have," Yuri replied.

"I can say one thing about you. You stick to a lie until the end. It's an Environ monitoring station. It's got everything you need to keep close tabs on planet development. It also contains a big dose of Environ security tech just in case things don't go the way you planned."

"Cornelius, I had no idea..."

"Maybe you didn't, maybe you did. That doesn't matter. What matters is that this is my planet now and I want it gone."

"Just supposing this does belong to Environ. It would take years to dismantle and remove such a complex structure."

"Then I'll let you lease the land and tax your services un-til you can remove it," Cornelius said.

"You can't do that!"

"Yes, I can. It's my planet now and you're trespassing. An incident like this would give the Blocs just the evidence they need to extend government control over your operations."

Yuri dropped his act. "They couldn't if they tried."

"You're correct, but they'll try. Environ doesn't need the distraction. You have worlds to build."

"So, what do you propose?" Yuri asked.

"The deal I just offered."

"I'll contact my office," Yuri said. "You'll have an answer in the morning."

He stalked away to his cabin.

"Good work, Yvonne," Cornelius said. "Looks like we're not so broke after all."

Yvonne smiled. "I'll contact mamma and Tommy."

"Please do. That boy is probably pulling his hair out right about now."

Yvonne laughed. "Like father like son."

Cornelius smiled. “Unfortunately, true. But once he comes he'll change his mind. Too bad I won't be alive to see it."

Yvonne's smile faded. She walked away to carry out her duties.

Oyewole steered the ship away from the Environ facility.

Cornelius gazed at the pristine landscape, fighting a feel-ing of melancholy.

"Not much time left," he whispered. "None at all."


* * *


Thomas flinched from pain in his right thigh. He looked over at his mother, a frown on her face. He blinked his eyes then turned his attention to Reverend Charles Roy as he reached the climax of his stirring sermon. Half the congregation stood on their feet, shouting amen and holding up their hands in agreement and worship. Thomas almost rolled his eyes but remembered the painful pinch to his thigh just a moment ago. I swear that woman still thinks I'm eight, he thought.

"Get ready," mamma said. "You're up soon."

He couldn't believe he agreed to this. The fate of Cassidy Enterprises hung in the balance despite mamma's cash infusion and he was about to deliver a speech, the most important speech in his life if mamma was to be believed. But Thomas was never much on faith. His constant mantra was 'faith had nothing to do with it.' But it was mamma's money, so she made the rules. For now.

He suffered through five more minutes of sermonizing, the opening of the church doors then the obligatory collecting of the tithes. He was about to let the plate pass him by when mam-ma elbowed his ribs. He reluctantly dropped a twenty in the plate. Mamma gave much more, frowning at him all the while.

"We might need that money tomorrow," he whispered.

"Be quiet, boy. Your time is coming up."

After a few brief announcements by Bessie Lansbury, the church secretary, Reverend Charles took to the pulpit again.

"The Lord has blessed us with a good word today and I know y'all are ready to go home. But before we dismiss I seek your patience for a little bit longer. Cornelius Cassidy's boy, Thomas, has a few words to deliver on behalf of his father.”

Reverend Charles turned to him. "Thomas?"

Thomas straightened his tie then took the podium. He looked out into the sanctuary and a hard knot formed in his stomach. He couldn't do this. He knew most everyone sitting before him. These were people that nurtured him from when he was a boy. To tell them what he was about to tell them, to convince these people who were like a second family to do what he proposed he had to believe it was the right thing to do. And that was the problem.

"Thank you, Reverend Charles. I'm not going to hold everyone long. I'm here to deliver a simple message and offer a life changing opportunity. A few days ago, my father accomplished a lifelong dream. He purchased a planet."

The sanctuary erupted in applause. Thomas waited until silence settled in the room again before speaking.

"But what's a world without people? My father is many things, but he's not The Almighty."

Laughter broke the tension and eased Thomas's mind.

"I come today to ask some of you to make a special commitment; a life changing commitment. Thousands of miles and five years away is a world waiting to be filled. It's a world ripe with new opportunities and it's waiting for you. Yes you. We are willing to transport anyone wishing to build a new future to our planet. We have ten ark ships waiting to take all of you who are willing to a new life, a life which all of us deserve with-out any restrictions. I know this is not for everyone. This is a one-way journey. You'll never see Earth again. But this is also the opportunity of a lifetime. A chance to build a society where second class does not apply, where racism doesn’t exist. A chance to build a truly equal society. I would say more, but I'm not going to sell you. The opportunity speaks for itself. I appreciate your attention and I hope you think long and hard about this opportunity."

Thomas went back to his seat to modest applause. The congregation looked confused mostly.

"That was terrible," he whispered.

"You did just fine," mamma said. "Short and straight-forward, just like your daddy."

Reverend Charles took the podium again.

"Thank you, Thomas. Your father is a good friend, a good deacon and a good brother. I hope everyone here today takes the time to consider this opportunity. Remember wherever God's people go, so shall He be. I'd also like to let everyone here know that when those ark ships lift off to Cassidy, I'll be one of the passengers."

Thomas gasped with the congregation.

"I told you it was going to work out," Mamma whispered.


* * *


Cornelius sat in the prep room of the ship, his daughter holding his hand. He looked at her nervous smile then patted her hand.

"Look at you. You'd think that you're the one going un-der the knife."

"Don't say that," Yvonne replied. "It sounds so terrible."

"So squeamish, just like your mother. Speaking of her, have you heard any word from them?"

"Their almost home," Yvonne said. "50,000 away from full capacity."

"Good, good. Looks like we have ourselves a viable planet."

"Not quite," Yvonne said. "Mamma said they're going to have to go abroad to get the last 50,000."

Cornelius pouted. "I was afraid of that. But they can do it. Thomas is a good son. He'll get it done whether he wants to or not."

Dr. Hanes entered the room with her usual bright smile.

"So, are you ready, Mr. Cassidy?"

"Ready as I'll ever be."

Dr. Hanes put the analysis band on his wrist then scanned the table. When she looked up her face was serious.

"You know we don't have to do this, don't you? There's technology that can perform the same function and be nowhere near as intrusive."

"I want this," he said. "We're making history and I want every bit of it recorded. Every bit."

Dr. Hanes looked at Yvonne. "Any chance we can bully him out of this?"

"I'm afraid not," Yvonne answered.

"Let me put it this way, Cornelius; this is a stressful operation. You could die."

"I’m already dying, Zarina. A lot faster than most. So, let's get this over with. We've missed too much already."

"Okay, then let's get started."

Dr. Hanes and Yvonne left the room. They activated the sealing sequence then initiated sterilization mode as she linked into the surgical robotics.

"How does this work again, Doctor?" Yvonne asked.

The Djele implant will be embedded into the cerebral cortex. Once it’s in place a stimulant will be injected and the unit will merge with his brain. Its outer layer was constructed from your father's protein structure so there is no chance for rejection. From that point on it will record everything your father experiences. It will also enhance his memory."

Yvonne looked at her father lying on the operating table, surrounded by the surgery robots.

"And when he dies?"

"The unit will be removed. The data will be harvested for future reference."

Dr. Hanes performed a few preliminary motions to con-firm complete synchronicity. A bot moved closer to her father then attached an IV filled with anesthesia. Yvonne could see her father's body relax.

"We're ready to proceed. Are you ready Yvonne?"

Yvonne cleared her throat. "Yes I am."

"Okay then. Here we go."

Yvonne said a prayer as Dr. Hanes made the first incision.



* * *


Thomas took off his jacket, rolled up his sleeves then loosened his tie as he gazed at the rows of sailboats in Durban mooring. He fidgeted as he waited for his contact, unhappy with the world. There was something strange about summer weather in December. He didn't care what hemisphere he was in, it just wasn't right. He wondered what odd conditions he would face on Cassidy, what strange weather patterns would set off his allergies after spending all that money to get them under control. So, when Angelica Buthelezi strode to his table with her statuesque looks and glowing smile he was not swayed.

"You're late," he said.

Angelica sat before him then took off her shades. "Good afternoon to you too, Thomas."

"So, what's the verdict?"

Angelica raised her palm to Thomas's face with a frown.

"Angelica, I don't have time for..."

"Silence," she commanded. "First things first."

A waiter glided to the table.

"Welcome, Ms. Buthelezi," he crooned. "Shall I bring you your wine?"

"Yes, Baxter, and bless you for remembering."

Baxter grinned. "How could I forget?"

The waiter glided away. Angelica leaned back in her seat.

"I'll have 30,000 ready in two weeks," she said.

"Thirty? That's all?" Thomas rubbed his head. "That's twenty thousand short."

"It's the best I can do with such short notice," Angelica replied. "Besides this is illegal. If the AU discovered what we're doing we'll both be thrown in prison."

"You think I don't know that?" Thomas wiped his sweaty forehead with a napkin, and then pulled a handful of rand from his pocket.

"You're leaving?" Angelica said.

"Of course, I am. I need to find 20,000 more people to take this trip, and I won't find them sipping wine and staring at your breasts."

Angelica smiled. "So, you did notice."

Thomas managed to smile. "Of course, I did."

The waiter arrived with Angelica's wine. She took a sip then nodded in approval.

"They'll be ready in two weeks," she said. "I've arranged a rendezvous in Natal."

"Make sure everyone is there and ready to go. We'll have a short window."

Angelica took another sip. "Don't worry. You should try Congo."

"For what?"

"For your other 20,000. Things are still unsettled there. You'll find plenty people willing to leave."

"But will they be the right people?" Thomas asked.

"Beggars can't be choosers." Angelica went into her purse then took out a GraycellTM.

"Look at this when you're alone. He's a good contact."

Thomas took the chip then put it in his wallet. Angelica turned up her cheek; Thomas sighed then kissed it.

"We used to have so much fun," she said. "I miss the old Thomas."

"I miss him too," Thomas replied. "Goodbye, Angelica."

Thomas strode out the club to a waiting limo. One more stop then he was done.

"I hope you appreciate what I'm doing here, old man," he whispered. "I damn sure hope you do."


* * *


The ship followed the winding river, swaying with the turns. Cornelius stood before the window flanked by Yvonne and Dr. Haynes, his arms folded behind his back. Bandages still covered his head from the surgery, but he insisted that they take this trip as soon as possible. The doctor monitored his vital signs, the holoscreen hovering before her eyes.

"There," he said. "Do you see it?"

Yvonne nodded. "Yes, I see it."

The doctor glanced from the screen. "It's beautiful. You should sit down."

Cornelius gave her a sidelong glance. "I'll sit when I'm ready. Take us down closer."

The ship descended giving a better view of island.

"That's it. That's where I want to be buried," Cornelius said.

Yvonne was visibly upset. "That's why you brought us here? To show us where you want to be buried?"

Cornelius gave Yvonne a stern look. "Yes."

"The transports from Earth are arriving soon," she said. "We don't have time for this."

"Then make time!" The sudden emotion triggered a sharp pain in his head. Cornelius reached out then found his chair. He sat down hard. Yvonne was immediately at his side.

"Doctor?"

Dr. Haynes studied his scans. "He's still healing. The im-plant is still syncing. You'll have to keep your conversations friendly for now."

Cornelius waved Yvonne away.

"You're right. There are more serious things to attend to. I needed you to know just in case your mother wasn't able to..."

"She'll come, daddy," Yvonne assured him. "I don't know about Thomas, but I know mama will come."

"I hope so. I did this for her, too."

"Let get back to main base," Yvonne said. "We're the welcoming committee, remember?"


* * *


Ten huge transports circled Cassidy, each pregnant with 100,000 anxious passengers. The journey through the gates had been traumatic, especially for those who'd never experience jump space, which was most of them. No sooner had the ships established orbit did they begin filling the shuttles to take everyone planetside. A steady stream of the smaller ships descended single file through space then atmosphere, guided by skilled Environ controllers.

Cornelius watched the first shuttle touch down on the tarmac. Tears came to his eyes, as they did to Yvonne and even Dr. Haynes.

"Damn it, I hate crying," the doctor said. "But this is so beautiful. You must be so proud, Cornelius."

"You have no idea how much," Cornelius replied, his voice cracking.

The terminal could have been designed to release the passengers inside as was the norm, but Cornelius wanted each new resident to experience Cassidy as soon as possible. The ship taxied to fifty yards of them then came to a complete stop. The doors lifted then the stairway extended to the asphalt. The first to emerge was a young family; a husband, wife, two children and one infant. The report said the infant was born during transport, making her one of the first true citizens of Cassidy.

Two stewards guided the bewildered family to Cornelius and the others. Cornelius greeted them with a magnanimous smile. He shook the young father's hand then hugged his wife and children. This is what it was about, creating a new life for the young ones.

"Welcome to Cassidy," he said. "Welcome home."


Thomas took a long drag from his cigar then placed it on the holder beside the holobar on his coffee table. He glanced outside for a moment, savoring the Atlanta skyline. This was home. This right here. No matter what he was told, this was where he was meant to be.

The Environ technician had come earlier that day to in-stall the bar. It was secret technology; he was not to let anyone know he possessed it. He had a mind to whisk it away to his R&D department to 'receive and duplicate' but he didn't want to cause trouble for anyone else. He'd done enough of that already.

He was officially banned from the African Continent by the AU for participating in illegal immigration. The company's assets had been seized and extradition orders filed with the US. But Thomas was a pro at getting in and getting out of trouble. As long as he stayed away from the continent he'd be fine. He had no intentions of going back. He had no intentions of going anywhere.

A piercing sound like the netline warning system filled the room. A blue light emerged from the Environ bar, halting about 12 inches above the device. A face appeared, an attractive female with red hair and freckles.

"Thomas Cassidy?" The woman said.

"That's me. And you are..."

"Catlyn Rogers, Environ Communications specialist. Please stand by."

The wo