Saturday, May 5, 2012

Mr. Tolliver’s Offer

by Edward M. Erdelac -

Kes stared at the disease-ridden corpse with its alien parasite. He practically rubbed his hands together. So much to be done. So much to study and record. This would make his career.

He was so intent on the body that he almost didn’t notice the door open.

Damn! He had to be more careful. He should’ve locked it. He drew the sheet over Croix hastily and turned to regard the well dressed, tall, dark skinned man who entered.

“Who’re you?” Kes demanded. “This room’s quarantined. You’ve got to leave.”

“My name’s Tolliver, Dr. Kes. And let me preface any further discussion by telling you I know who is under that sheet, and what is within them.”

Kes’ stomach bottomed out.


“You’re a talented physician to be toiling down here for the masses and the ZMB,” Tolliver said, strolling across the room to the bed. “I could list your qualifications, but you yourself know your skills are being underutilized, patching up brawling kelp farmers and Enforcers and checking immigrants for syphilis. Your area of expertise is research. Not much call for it here though, is there? Until yesterday, that is.”

Tolliver stared at Kes. The covered body of Croix was between them now. Tolliver reached out and lifted the sheet, staring impassively at the putrid body beneath, which was spotting the white coverlet with yellow grease as the various pustules on the skin burst of their own accord.

He replaced the sheet.

“Do you think the ZMB is going to let you keep sole credit for your discovery? What if I could provide you with state of the art equipment in a private lab space offworld, with unlimited funding for your research?”

“Who are you?”

“I represent parties interested in preventing an impending health crisis of a highly sensitive nature, doctor. They feel they could use someone with your knowledge, especially as it pertains to hitherto unknown lifeforms.”

“What? What kind of a health crisis?”

“I’m only at liberty to speak about it should you say yes to my offer, Doctor. If you do, I can have you and your discovery offworld within the hour.”

“What about Inspector Considine and the Peace Council?”

“Not your concern, nor mine either.”

“What if I refuse?” Kes asked, looking sideways at Tolliver.

Tolliver frowned and clasped his hands behind his back.

“If you refuse….”

Kes held up his hand. A smile broke across his face. “Never mind. I’m being dramatic, I guess. You’re pushing the right buttons, Mr. Tolliver. I’ll have questions of course, but….yes. Yes, I’m interested. I want this.”

“Very good, Dr. Kes,” said Tolliver, slipping the tiny black stingpistol back into his sleeve behind his back. “Let’s talk arrangements.”

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