Eric Flint: Pyramid Power

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Eric Flint Pyramid Power
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Eric Flint

Pyramid Power

Dave Freer

Chapter 1

Professor Miggy Tremelo, once a University of Chicago senior administrator and professor of High Energy Physics and now the head of the National Science Advisory Council, which was charged with investigating the alien Krim artifact, slammed the phone down. He'd always thought university bureaucracy and politics were tough, but he'd mastered them. He was well regarded in military research circles. His work at Nellis had him a security clearance from here to the middle of next week. It still hadn't prepared him for the new Pyramid Security Agency that the U.S. government had set up in the wake of the Krim pyramid crisis.

Alas-as had happened in times past-the administration had felt compelled to prove to the electorate that it was Doing Something, and Congress had fallen all over itself to comply with the President's proposals. Indeed, Congress had added any number of silly curlicues of its own.

The worst of it, from Miggy's viewpoint, had been the creation of a brand new Pyramid Security Agency to "oversee all national security issues involving the alien menace." The end result had been a ramshackle, hastily slapped-together new bureaucracy-just what the country didn't need. With, to make things perfect, a newly appointed director whose chief qualification for the post seemed to be nothing more than that Helen Garnett was more ambitious than Lucifer and had superb skills when it came to political infighting and backstabbing within the Beltway.

Needless to say, the existing security agencies had been exceedingly disgruntled by the situation. And, needless to say, had immediately retaliated when Garnett demanded they provide her with the required security personnel. No doubt some competent people had made the transfer, as well. But from what Miggy could see, the PSA had become a classic instance of what federal employees meant by the slang term "turkey farm." The CIA, the FBI and everyone up to and including the Coast Guard had found a great place to transfer every lackwit, goofball and loose screw in their ranks.

Without thinking, he turned his head and shouted: "Marie, help! I need coffee!"

But there was no clatter, no cheerful obscenity-laden reply from the outer office. Instead, rather timidly, a head peered around the door. Not Marie Jackson or Marie Jackson's style. "Sir?"

Miggy bit back his response. It was not Rachel Clements' fault that Marie wasn't in the front office. Rachel was just a temp with a great security clearance, who'd replaced Marie after she'd gone on sick leave. With no skills in the coffee-making department, unfortunately.

On the bright side, she was pleasant enough, unlike the troll out of Brothers Grimm the security establishment had thrust onto him last time, before he got Marie.

"Forget it, Rachel. Look, I'll need you to place two calls for me. Colonel Frank McNamara of the 101st, and Professor Jerry Lukacs. If you fail to get Jerry at his own number, try Dr. De Beer's apartment." He allowed himself a small smile. "It's just possible that he might be there."

She nodded. "Yes, sir. Mrs. Jackson called while you were on the other line to the PSA. She said she didn't want to waste her life on hold. She said to tell you that she and Lamont are coming in this morning. She said she needs to talk to you."

Miggy smiled. "Well, that's one piece of good news."

"She didn't sound too happy," said Clements doubtfully. "Not like herself at all."

Liz De Beer, Marine biologist, graduate of both Cape Town and Rhodes Universities (which had taught her a lot less than her time at sea as a scientific observer, especially about expletives), wondered just how she could deal with someone who was definitely not a morning person. She tended to wake up when it got light, and crash early. As long as she had the caffeine kick start, she was even reasonably good tempered in the morning. The man sleeping peacefully next to her, on the other hand, considered midday way too early and first light not a bad time to go to sleep.

Liz had to admit that was Jerry Lukacs' most serious fault, other than a major inability to speak anything but academese in public. Granted, he wasn't a beefcake-although he had built some impressive wiry muscle in the Mythworlds. Still, he was as solid as a rock when you needed him, and one of the few men she couldn't walk all over, mentally, physically, or in terms of courage. That had to be worth some tolerance of nocturnal behavior, she figured.

She decided she'd give him until 8:30. She was due another thrilling day with the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. "La migra," as Sergeant Anibal Cruz called them.

The phone rang. That was possibly another call from the South African embassy. Funny, the South African government, who had been their usual unhelpful selves when she'd needed them, were falling over themselves to get her home when she didn't want to go. Jerry said that wasn't an African, but a worldwide phenomena. She wasn't sure that that was helpful information, but la migra were doing their best to prove him right.

Jerry hadn't even stirred, although the phone was an inch and a half from his ear. She reached over him and snagged it. "Hello. Liz De Beer speaking."

"I'm trying to reach Dr. Jerry Lukacs for Professor Tremelo," said the American midwest accent on the other end.

"Well, he's here," admitted Liz, "but actually speaking to him before he's had coffee is probably a lost cause. I can try, but you'd do better to call back in ten minutes." She knew that that was a little optimistic. "Ask Miggy if I can help."

There was a moment's silence. Then the woman said, "Please hold for Professor Tremelo."

"You'd think that by now I'd have managed to get it into my head that he's not an early riser," said Miggy Tremelo apologetically. "Sorry. These Pyramid Security Agency idiots are turning my mind to cheese, to keep theirs company. I've already spent ten minutes getting nowhere fast this morning. The fact that we've been working in close proximity to the pyramid for the last two weeks, and we know what we're doing, is beyond that woman."

That woman had become Miggy Tremelo's all-purpose reference to Helen Garnett, the head of the PSA. "And without Marie," he said, almost whining, "I have to bull my own way to the top of the food chain."

"And here you stop part way up it again," said Liz cheerfully. "It's all right. I was going to wake him in the next ten minutes or so anyway. He just won't make much sense until the coffee has time to work on his speech centers. What can I do for you, or what can I have Jerry do for you, once I get him up?"

"I'm afraid I've got another battery of tests I need to have run on all the 'escapees.' And I wanted to see if Jerry could shed some more light on the inconsistencies in the myths that the Krim is creating."

"Re-creating is more like it," said Liz. "The Mythworlds seemed to derive their life from the myths in some way. But I'm sorry, I can't make it in to your office today. I need a visa extension, and I've got to spend the day in the offices of the INS. Why the Krim pyramid couldn't have landed on them instead of the University of Chicago's perfectly nice research library, I do not know."

"Because the Krim were using the location of the original atom bomb fission experiments as a target locator-and the INS had its meltdown sometime in the last century." She could practically hear Miggy grinding his teeth over the telephone.

"Damn it," he said. "Does nothing go smoothly? I had to do some serious straightening out with the officials from Fish and Wildlife about the dragons, and had to get someone to intervene with a petty official from the INS who wanted to have Bes arrested. I'm sorry, I didn't know you were having problems too. I'll see what can be arranged. A squad of paratroopers as an escort might work. Bes went in there with some of his new buddies from the WWF. I believe they found it easy to process his request. Look, if you just come in for an hour, I'll arrange some serious smoothing."

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