BY: JOHN HEGENBERGER
“TRIPLEYE ~ We never blink.”
Early in the twenty-second century, a master of mind control has risen to the head of Earth’s Weave Corp. Under the guise of the Neo-Socialists, he threatens to terrorize both the Inner and Outer Planets with murder, sabotage, and theft on an expansive scale.
Join the Skyn; the skystalk walker’s daughter; Jonny Jesus; and Wolf Archerson, the glass eye—all mentally linked—as they explore the deeper secrets of the strange bio-substance known as The Snot, which leads to negative entropy, or what some might call…Time Zero.
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Oxymoron by John Hegenberger, the agents of Tripleye, a detective agency based on Mars in the twenty-second century, have returned to Earth in search of a missing agent, Chico Kim, so they can protect her. Chico is pregnant and the bad guys are looking for her to force her to give them information about the agency’s mysterious telepathic virus called the Link, as well as a mysterious substance they discovered in some ancient ruins on Mars that they call Snot.
A cute, intriguing, and fast-paced adventure, this one will make you grin and bite your nails all the way through.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Oxymoron, Tripleye ~ Book 2 by John Hegenberger is the story of the agents of the Intensive Investigations, Incorporated (Tripleye) who travel from Mars to Earth in the twenty-second century to stop the evil criminal Von Roon who wants to use a mysterious substance found in ancient ruins on Mars to take over the universe. This case will test the agents’ skills, including their telepathic virus, the Link, and they will be lucky to escape with their lives.
Told in Hegenberger’s unique and refreshing voice, including his subtle flashes of humor that you can miss if you aren’t paying attention, Oxymoron will keep you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end.
Eric Von Roon felt the distant, faint trembling in the Link. He hovered his thumb over the detonator that would destroy the ship.
The Vax went Breep and spat its printout onto the deck, just as the ops of Tripleye came aboard. Jules St. Mathew picked it up and glanced at its contents. “It’s for you,” he said, handing the message to Doc Pat.
The black woman accepted it from her wheelchair. “I told Mishko we’d be meeting here and to forward any important updates concerning Jonny and the Link.” Pat read the message. “She says she’s sorry to hear about the quake and is glad we all made it through in one piece. I—I didn’t tell her about my leg.”
The third op, Dan “Wolf” Archerson, had been wandering around the ship’s cabin, bending to inspect various items and instruments in St. Mathew’s vessel.
It was a gaudy ship by anyone’s standards. Jules was known to be ego-centric, but having mirrors installed over the pilot’s seat was a bit presumptuous, and Dan said so.
“It, ah, makes the cabin seem bigger than it really is,” Jules explained.
“And you’ve got a mean collection of music discs,” Archerson continued. “I might want to copy some of these for my mods.”
St. Mathew turned his attention back to Doc Pat. “What’s Chico say about Von Roon?”
“Holy shit!” Archerson exclaimed behind them. “You’ve got an original Gershwin here.”
Pat and St. Mathew exchanged glances.
“Uh, say, Wolf,” Jules called. “We’re trying to get a strategy session going here, remember?”
The bald op walked forward to confront the ship’s owner. “Listen Mr. Ego, nobody wants to get that malf Von Roon more than me. So knock off the impromptu lectures, okay? Where’d you get this ship, anyway? Salvage from one of your ‘secret adventures’? Must cost a mint to launch it.”
“I won her in a VisionDuel, three years ago from a hot-shot economist from Earth.”
“You licensed to pilot this thing?”
“It took a while, but, yeah, I can fly it.” Jules stroked the control board, lovingly. “The previous owner called her the Busted Flush, whatever that means, but I changed her name to Yonder, as in cold, black and dangerous.”
“Sounds like you’re talking about Doc Pat.”
Upon hearing her name, Patricia Emory looked up, worry lining her forehead. Her mind continued to sort through the info she’d just read, while her two employee’s bickered and traded barbs. If what Mishko said were true, and Von Roon had met Chico at the Triage labs on Ceres during the Belt War, then he must therefore also know about the Link.
Pat tried to fit this into place with what she already knew from their recent encounters with the head of Weave Corp and his Neo-socialist bodyguards. But the pain in her right leg continued to throb, keeping her from thinking clearly. “Hey, you two,” she called, just as Archerson and St. Mathew were settling into another of their impromptu arguments, “I need your help on this.”
St. Mathew smiled into Archerson’s face. “Saved again by the boss, Baldy.”
Archerson’s face screwed up and reddened, but he held himself in check.
Doc Pat shook her head in dismay. St. Mathew’s juvenile tendencies were getting out of hand. It must have something to do with the company he kept.
Or, perhaps it was only another sign of how they’d all changed since the disaster. Pat fought back the ache in her leg and tried to act confident and authoritative.
“Now, according to the info we’ve received from our contacts in the Gov,” she said, keying data onto the Vax screen, “Von Roon’s group managed to leave Mars in the middle of the quake. I’ve no idea if he got what he was after out there at Achilles Fons, but his ship docked at Vegas station and the latest reports say it’s still there. Unfortunately, the Gov can’t touch it while it’s in Vegas territory, but that won’t stop us from going in and checking things out. Right, Jules?”
The younger man smiled and flipped his weighted braid of blond hair over his left shoulder. “I was hoping you’d give me that assignment. I’m looking forward to reacquainting myself with a certain young lady—”
Archerson jumped in. “I think Handsome’s talking about that Weave Corp zombie who almost killed us out on the Xanth Plains.”
“I am,” St. Mathew said. “But it’s strictly business. Shadow’s got some way of interfering with the Link.”
“I gathered as much from your report,” Doc said. “She might be a natural telepath. That would help explain how she can tap into our Link virus.”
“Besides that,” Archerson added, “she’s the only woman who’s ever beaten St. M at his own game. The gink’s in love with her.”
Doc ignored the comment. “This ability to use the Link against Weave Corp is exactly why I’m giving you the assignment. There’s still a lot we don’t know about the virus’s etiology, but if it gives us a way to eavesdrop on Von Roon, I think you should use it. You can send an update whenever you learn anything. I’m particularly interested in this plasmoid substance—”
Archerson smiled. “The Snot?”
Doc sighed and switched smoothly into her psychologist mode. “Wolf, I feel we need to talk about your feelings. I sense an underlying hostility ever since Chico left. I know you’re mildly depressed, but we can’t afford to play to our private feelings until this thing is finished.”
The bald op looked down and sorted out his fingers.
“I want you both to know I’ve tracked Chico’s flight through the Deimos exchange and found that her final destination was the Napal Skystalk. We owe a lot to that woman and I’m going to Earth to try and find out why she left.”
Archerson arched an eyebrow. “What do you mean?”
“According to this Vax from Mishko…” Doc Pat handed the paper to her op. “…Chico was involved with Von Roon years before we met her. I think she may have gone back to Earth in order to be with him for some unknown reason. In any event, following her might be our best way of locating him.”
Archerson appeared to still be reading the Vax. “This says Mishko thinks one of Von Roon’s zombies has shown up on Ceres. Do you think there’s a chance they’re hiding out in the Belt?”
“I have a hard time believing that the head of Earth’s biggest corporation is hiding in the Outer Planets,” Jules said.
“Yeah, but he just about destroyed Achilles City,” Archerson countered. “Maybe he wants to lay low.”
“Nobody but we three know Von Roon caused the quake, Baldy, and we haven’t any proof.”
Archerson rose from the ship’s co-pilot seat. “Listen, Fuzzface—”
Doc felt her emotions rip loose. “That’s it I’ve had enough.”
Archerson dropped back into his seat.
St. Mathew stopped entering an order in the ship’s food processor.
“It’s not the same anymore,” Doc went on. “I didn’t see any of the warnings, and now look at us. Just one damn mistake after another.”
Jules and Archerson exchanged glances.
“Now wait a minute, Doc,” Archerson started, but the woman cut him off.
“I thought it would be a benefit, Dan, to combine my psychiatric practice with your old investigation agency. But what’s it gotten us? Nothing, but trouble. Then I thought we could make a good income from a Gov grant and improve our capabilities further by testing the Link, but—”
“We’ve been over this before, Doc.” St. Mathew handed her a cup of hot tea. “We can’t quit, now. And you’re the boss. You always have been.”
“But there’s no profit for us in chasing after Von Roon, is there? How are we going to continue to operate the agency without a source of income? My psychiatry service is in a shambles since Chico left, and I’ve spent almost the entire last two months in the hospital with the radiation scrubbing and this damn leg—”
“Listen Doc,” Wolf said, stretching a hand out to rest on the table before her, “Don’t blame yourself for the things Von Ron and Weave Corp have done to us. It’s not your fault.”
Pat felt the heat of tears forming on her lower eyelids. “But if I’d listened to what was happening around us; if I’d only—”
“Dammit, Doc,” Archerson said. “That’s exactly the way I used to feel when Dad died and then again when Jonny got himself killed.” He placed a palm on her shoulder. “But you, yourself, told me I had to put it all behind me, or it would eat me up from inside. I quote: ‘All you need to do is stop feeling sorry for yourself and start ignoring all the negative baggage you seem to enjoy carrying around,’ unquote.”
Pat’s forehead wrinkled. “Did I actually use the term ‘negative baggage’?”
“Do you want me to play back the chip of our session on the ultra-vax?” the operative asked with a slanted smile. “Don’t get mad; get even.”
St. Mathew put his hand on her other shoulder. “A minute ago, you structured an excellent strategy session. I’m all for following through with your plans. Trust your instincts.”
“And besides,” Archerson added, gesturing in St. Mathew’s direction. “We need all the help we can.”
Pat dabbed the moisture from her eyes. “You make a very good case, gentleman. But I don’t see how I can continue to manage operations in my present condition. Running this company requires an enormous amount of data-handling, and with Chico gone—”
“Then get help.” Jules tapped a keyboard on the ship’s controller. “You’ve already got the ultra-vax for data analysis and communications. Take it with you to Earth while you’re looking for Chico. It’ll help you coordinate the total operation while you’re working on your own portion of the case.”
Archerson leaned forward. “I know a guy at AI Assoc who could install it in your prosthetic leg!”
“Then you could do some dandy leg-work,” Jules quipped.
Doc shook her head and chuckled.
“Fancy foot-work?” Archerson suggested.
Doc covered her mouth as she laughed out loud.
The joy was there. It had been all along. She’d just lost sight of it.
“Here’s something else you once told me,” Archerson added. “You said I had the potential to be the best damn investigator in the System. Well, I’ll tell you, boss, the same goes for you, too.”
“And it doesn’t matter if we don’t make a profit,” Jules said. “With my luck, I can always pick a few thousand lose credits to keep things going.”
“What’s important is,” Archerson told her, “that we don’t let Von Roon or Weave Corp get away with destroying half the city. We can worry about our personal problems later. It’s hard, but we’ve got to do it.”
Pat took a deep breath. They were right, of course. This was no time to wallow in weakness. She had to be strong, if for no other reason than they expected it of her.
None of them had used the Link since boarding St. M’s ship. Maybe that was poetic. ‘All right,’ she said, speaking directly to their minds. ‘You’ve got your assignments. Why are you wasting time talking?’
‘Aye aye, sir,’ St. Mathew sent back.
And the Link sent another voice into her consciousness, ‘Replitropic!’ But Doc Pat couldn’t be certain if the voice belonged to Archerson or Jonny both of them.
Eric Von Roon floated away from the Link. Something or someone was keeping him from detonating the ship. Perhaps it was his own curiosity. Perhaps it was his own perversity. Perhaps it was his own insanity.
© 2018 by John Hegenberger