Read chapter One from Laid in the Future

CHAPTER ONE

Digitally transcribed for the Gardner Francis Fox Adventure Library

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The purple disc came down out of the clouds and swooped low above the Kansas wheat fields where the wind rippled the long grain. It was not a large disc, it was too small to hold human beings. Its cargo was much deadlier.

Its metallic sides gleamed brightly. From the dozen glass panes on the underside of the disc, purplish light began to glow. The disc moved at about fifty miles an hour, and the brighter those purple shafts became, the hotter grew the air below them.

I watched the disc as if I were hypnotized. My behind was perched on the edge of the chair in the Audience Room of the League of Underground Spies and Terrorists. A big television set had been put up when the man from the future had first begun speaking to the Earth. We were watching the purple disc on a color teevee screen, and not liking the show at all.

My name is Eve Drum. I am the lady from L.U.S.T.

David Anderjanian is my case officer, who gives me orders and assignments. He was directly to my right.

To my left sat The General, who is the boss-man over all of L.U.S.T. The League of Underground Spies and Terrorists is a by-blow of the C.I.A. with a little mixture of the National Security Agency thrown in for good measure.

My job at L.U.S.T. is to fight the fire of foreign governments with the flames of resistance. I kill or get killed to keep freedom the way she is in the United States. Usually my work takes me out of Uncle Sam country to all corners of the world.

Right now the whole world was united.

Earth was afraid of only one thing.

The Future.

The purple disc had come from the year 3693. At least, that’s what The Voice claimed. The Voice had come for the first time about a week before.

The Voice had said, “People of Earth, this is your future ruler speaking. My name is unimportant, for the moment. What is more important, vitally important to you, is how long you have to live.”

It went away then, just as suddenly as it had cut in on every television and radio set in the whole damned World. The ones that were turned on, anyhow. Everyone had heard The Voice as it interrupted the telecasts then taking place, in some way in which the scientists could not even guess.

At first, everybody thought it was a joke. Locally, that is. When the newspapers and the broadcasters went to work, the world learned the same message had been broadcast in England, France, Italy, behind the Iron Curtain, in Africa and even in back of the Bamboo Curtain.

The world was a little shook.

Red China offered to make friends with Russia and the United States. That gives an idea of how bad it was, the quiet panic that ran down the backbones of every man and woman on the planet. Russia called on the hot line to ask if this was a capitalist trick. When the Kremlin learned that the Pentagon was just as worried as it was, ideologies took a back seat.

First of all, man had to stay alive to practice any doctrine. The United Nations exploded with oratory. Red China was invited to send emissaries to the big building in New York City that flew the blue and white flag. There was to be no trumpeting of Marxist doctrines. There was none, which can give an idea of how worried everybody was.

Two nights later, The Voice came back.

“People of the past, listen! One week from today, over the wheat fields of western Kansas, a purple disc shall appear. Your sets will be trained on it. There is nothing you have to do, it will be done for you. Watch what happens.”

So here I was, with the rest of the world, sitting around and waiting. The purple disc had appeared. It was glowing with power, a power you could sense just by looking at the damned thing.

David breathed, “Hang on to your hats!”

Every man and woman who owned a teevee set was glued to it. They wanted to learn what was going to happen just as much as we did at L.U.S.T. headquarters. The only difference was, we intended to do something about it. Or thought we did, anyhow.

The United States Air Force was in the air, ready. A thousand interceptor planes were up there over Kansas, waiting for the word. They were ready to swoop down and destroy the disc when the President gave the word.

The President was in the Pentagon, surrounded by the brass. He had the finest military minds in the world there with him: ours, the English, the French, the Russians. There were more generals in the Pentagon for this occasion than there were rooms.

The disc glowed sullenly. It came on steadily, its purple lights getting brighter and brighter.

Then:

“Oh my God,” The General said. There were no more rippling seas of wheat. They had disappeared completely. There was just bare, scorched earth where the wheat had been. Nothing but bare dirt. No wheat. And the disc went on making its run, sweeping the wheat away like a magic broom.

A red light flickered to life on the monitor in front of The General. He sighed and leaned back, saying, “There it is. The President has ordered the planes to attack.”

We saw them almost at the same moment, coming from out of the clouds with the sun at their backs, their cannon belching flame. We did not hear the sounds, but we saw the explosions on the metallic surface of the purple disc.

The disc ignored them. It went on destroying the wheat. There was a farmhouse down below, out of which the people had been evacuated by Presidential order, some days ago. The farmhouse went with the wheat. There was nothing left, no wood, no stone. Nothing.

“Jeez,” breathed David. The planes swung around and came back. They might as well have been mosquitoes. We sat and watched the destruction and we all felt so damn helpless. My eyes were smarting with unshed tears. I could hear David swearing steadily under his breath. The General looked like an old man, suddenly, in the glare from the dim lights.

I think we all had the same thoughts. We were tuned in on the end of our World. Then the purple shafts disappeared. The destruction stopped. Exactly twelve miles of wheat and farm and countryside had been leveled to nothingness by those eerie beams of light. For a few seconds we stared at the disc in mingled hate and horror. Then the disc disappeared. Just like that. It was there one moment, then it was gone.

The planes circling all around the spot looked suddenly feeble and ridiculous. They had been able to do nothing more than the rest of the folks on Earth, who were just sitting and watching, to stop that thing. Nobody blamed them. Everybody knew there was nothing that anyone could do.

The television went blank. The man to the right of The General leaned forward and shut it off.

I stared around me at the hard faces. Every eye Was staring back at me. No kidding. At first I thought it was kind of a joke, except that nobody was in a jesting mood. I smiled around the room. Ten men, twenty eyes, all looking at poor little me.

Finally my feminine instincts twitched. Ordinarily, this would have meant that the purple disc was my job. It was up to me to stop it. But if it came from the future, I was safe enough.

I said out loud, “That was a regular nightmare. It’s a shame there isn’t anything we can do about it.”

The General cleared his throat. David Anderjanian grinned. Then I knew for sure. The Marquis de Sade would have loved David Anderjanian’s reactions to sending me off on a deadly mission. I sat up straight and glared back at him.

“You’ve got to be kidding!” I yelled. “I haven’t said a word, Eve.”

“You don’t have to. I know the symptoms.” He spread his hands placatingly. Everybody was grinning, now. He said, “Eve, it’s for the sake of the whole world. Surely you won’t even think of refusing.”

I was absolutely flabbergasted. I said, “Now look. The purple disc came from the future, right?”

“From the year 3693,” nodded The General.

“It isn’t a hoax?”

“No hoax,” said David, grinned more broadly. “And you expect me—all alone—to stop it?”

“Right the second time,” said The General.

“Oh, now look! This is just a gag, right?”

“Wrong. You are going to volunteer to go almost two thousand years into the Future, Eve. You are our only hope.”

I ran my baby blues around the room, very slowly. I could read my sentence without being told. Eve Drum was going into the Future. How, I had not the faintest notion. But they were going to tell me. Oh my, yes.

So I asked, quite naturally, “How?” The General hunched forward. He was a big, handsome man, he had been a three-star general in the armed forces before the government had reached out to tap him for the job of heading the League of Underground Spies and Terrorists. He had been in the Tank Corps, I believe. He acted like a tank, too, running roughshod over everybody in his command and enforcing his demands by his bullying tactics.

For a change, he was almost gentle. “Eve, some weeks before the purple disc appeared, even before we heard The Voice, a small black box arrived at the Pentagon.”

Nobody knew what the little black box was. It simply appeared one morning on the desk of the only five-star general in the place at the moment. Fortunately, the five-star general had brains. When his investigation showed that nobody had been able to get in and leave the box, he sent for some scientific help.

They were all sitting around staring at the thing when it spoke. “Will someone please say something, so I will know whether I am addressing an intelligent human being?”

“I’ll be damned!” shouted Five Stars.

“There is not sufficient data there to form a conclusion as to intelligence.”

The officer flushed beet red. A scientist hid his smile and leaned forward, saying softly, “The formula for the conversion of mass into energy is, energy equals mass times the square of the speed of light.”

“I will accept that,” said the black box. There was a short silence. Then the box resumed speaking. “I am a recording device. I have come from the year 3693 with information about building a time machine.”

“Oh my God,” yelled Five Stars.

He shushed when the scientists made frantic gestures.

“In my time era, there is a man named Anders Orion. He is ruler of Earth, what you would term a dictator, a tyrant. It is his hope to conquer the entire time stratum.

“This box has been prepared by the Resistors, a movement formed to fight Anders Orion, to overcome him by force or whatever method will work. Unfortunately, however, we of the future have lost much of the aggressiveness of our forefathers.

“None of us can kill.”

There was more silence.

Then:

“Perhaps, ‘assassinate’ is a better word to use. We can kill in the mass, not in the singular. None of our generation could take a revolver or a rayer and use it against Anders Orion.

“For that, we need a killer from your time.

“History records the deeds of the League of Underground Spies and Terrorists, how it was a balance in the Era of the Cold Wars, to maintain peace between the two greatest nations on Earth. It also mentions a person named Eve Drum. We would appreciate your sending this Eve Drum to us.”

At this point in his story, The General leaned back and beamed on me. “You see, Eve? They even asked for you by name.”

“I don’t believe it,” I moaned.

“Eve,” said David in a pained voice.

I turned to him. “But why me? Why not one of the others—Todd Clarke, for instance, or Dermot Wilkins?”

His broad shoulders shrugged. “I’m not Sure. Why don’t we listen to the rest of the story and find out?”

I smiled at The General. He went on with his tale.

“The reason for the naming of Eve Drum is quite simple. Aside from her most excellent qualifications, she also meets the size and weight standard. You see, we Resistors do not possess the very powerful transitimers that Anders Orion possesses.

“He can send a battleship back into Time. We cannot. If we could do so, we would ask for your best operative. As it is, we must settle for this Eve Drum.”

“How about that.” I murmured. The General smiled at me. “Actually, Eve, I take this for quite a compliment. They know your name and your deeds, two thousand years from now. Not everybody can say that.”

“I wish I couldn’t,” I breathed.

The black box had told them that it was the first of several. There would be a red box, a blue box, and finally a yellow box. These vox-cubes would contain all the data necessary for twentieth-century scientists to use the knowledge of thirty-seventh-century scientists. The information would be translated into terms readily understandable by men of our Time Era.

“And did they come?” I asked.

“On time, if I may make a pun,” smiled David. I glared at him, then looked at The General.

The General chuckled. “Anderjanian is correct. The red box came and was taken immediately to Time Travel, the name of that section of the National Institute for Advanced Scientific Research that the government took over for this project.

“We borrowed men from all branches of life for the job. From colleges and universities, from the research departments of big corporations. Men came from England, France, all over Europe, including Russia. For a change, everybody was united on a single project.”

“How come? Didn’t my old friends the Russkys think it was a decadent capitalistic trick?”

“They saw and heard the telecasts. They heard the voice in Russian, of course, not in our language. It convinced them they were up against a force greater even than their megaton bombs.

“So today, we have a regular league of nations assisting us in our researches. Even Red China was asked to join —and did. They sent us Lin Foo Chong.”

“Never heard of him,” I said.

“Lin Foo Chong was the guiding genius behind their atom bomb. A very brilliant man. He has been most helpful.”

“And with all this talent, you still need me?”

“They can build the Time Traveler, which the men of the future name the “transitimer.” They cannot travel in it. Only you can do that, since it has been built to your specifications.”

“Yeah, hey,” I murmured dolefully.

My shoulders slumped. I thought about all the nice things like my luxury apartment in New York City that I would be giving up, my wardrobe of Ceil Chapman and Yves St. Laurent gowns and dresses I would not be wearing. I let myself dwell on my ultra-smart Shelby Cobra GT Car.

David Anderjanian can read me like a book. He leaned over and, with his big paw enveloping my hand, said consolingly, “Think of all the future fashions you’ll be seeing —and wearing.”

Well, maybe he had a point there.

I brightened somewhat.

David also said, “They may even have come up with a couple of new love postures.”

My nickname in L.U.S.T. is Double Oh Sex. The boys all know my devotion to the love arts. Their eyes fastened on me hopefully.

“I don’t believe there are any,” I said slowly. “But on the other hand, after two thousand years—Somebody must have come up with something new.”

“It’s right up your alley,” David grinned.

“Never mind my alley,” I grinned back.

The General laughed happily. “Then I take it you’ll accept, Eve? The world can count on you? I’ll tell the boys at the Institute to get ready for take-off?”

“I’ll go, General,” I told him. David Anderjanian stood up, reaching for my hand and pulling me to my feet. I looked around, reading hope, envy, curiosity in the eyes that stared at me. I was going to the Future, those eyes told me. Mine was the opportunity to know what would happen before it ever did.

Me, I felt like a dumb guinea pig. I clung to David all the way along the metallic corridors of L.U.S.T. headquarters and out into the brilliant spring sunshine. It was a glorious day, bright and warm. It made me feel glad to be alive. It also scared me.

“Will the weather be the same in the future?” I asked David.

Stupid question, of course, but I was a bit rocky at the moment. The idea of what I was letting myself in for was just getting me.

“The sun will still shine and rains will fall,” he told me, somewhat poetically, I thought.

“Don’t you leave me,” I snapped. “I’m scared.” The astronauts get a lot of training for what they have to do. I was going into this cold.

His big arm hugged me. “I won’t, honey.”

“When is take-off?”

“Tomorrow morning at ten. I’ll take you home, tuck you in, see that you get a good night’s sleep.”

“The hell you will. You’ll take me dining and dancing, that’s what you’re going to do. And afterwards you’re going to stay in my apartment against an attack of the screaming meemies.”

David brightened. “Condemned girl’s last meal sort of thing? Sounds all right to me.”

We said good-bye to The General and the brass outside the headquarters building. David escorted me to his Cadillac convertible. I got in, showing off my legs in my Hanes stockings: blue, to go with my pale blue, mini-skirted and high-waisted dress of sari fabric from The Candy Happening. I wore pearls about my neck, and a pearl ring on a finger.

“Where to first?” he asked. It was still early afternoon. I said, “A drive. The Earth looks pretty good to me right now. I want to see more of it!”

We drove up the Deegan and the Thruway. On the way back, David said, “Let’s stop off at the Column. We ought to be in time for the six-thirty meal.”

The Column was an eaterie a few miles from Peach Lake. It served two meals, one at six-thirty, one at nine-thirty. Its big dining room held about sixty people, no more. The menu was in French.

There was a bar, you walked into it when you went in the door. From the outside, the place was nothing special. You might drive by it without ever thinking to go in and sample its cooking. David Anderjanian enjoyed his food, one of his hobbies was going around to new places and ordering up whatever caught his fancy.

He had never taken me to the Column before. We were half an hour early, but the bar was open so we ordered sazeracs. One sazerac is plenty for me, but David must have two. He is a big man, he looks like a Viking stuck into a Brooks Brothers suit. He is six feet four inches tall and as big and as muscular as a pro football linebacker. He needs his vitamins, the dear.

I lingered over my drink, sopping up the atmosphere of the Column. I was discovering that everything seemed sharper, more alive, than I had ever noticed. The drink was stronger, the air clearer. I loved the smells of the cooking foods, the sight of the bar and the pictures on the walls.

We went inside. A waiter brought a blackboard on stilts, on which was written the menu in chalk.

“Ragout of porc-au-vin rouge,” David ordered for us both. “And I want a well-seasoned salad to go with it, lightly sprinkled with pepper, olive oil and wine vinegar.

Oh, yes—and add a bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape.” He pondered over desserts, then settled for chocolate mousse.

The meal was all it sounded. Perfect. I ate and ate. Even when I was lingering over the chocolate mousse and coffee, I did not feel too full. David beamed at me.

“Liked it, didn’t you?”

“Honey, it was scrumptious.”

“You’ll sleep well after a meal like this.”

“I hope so.” Inside me, I was uptight. Hell, who wouldn’t be? I was taking off for parts unknown. We know more about Mars and Venus than we do about the future.

The year 3693 could have more surprises for me than ten packages of Crackerjacks. Little did I know!

David reached out, patted my hand. “You’ll be fine. If need be, I’ll rock you to sleep.”

“How?” I shot back. “Any way you want.” It sounded promising. “And you’re going to stay with me, too, you know,” I added darkly. “No running off to go home.”

“Cross my heart, hope to die. I stay.” I nestled up to him on the ride back to the city with my head on his shoulder, my arm tucked in his. He refused to one-arm drive-my safety was a National Emergency and he was taking no chances.

To my surprise, the combination of food and fresh air made me sleepy. I told myself, no sleep this night. You’re going to take some pleasant memories into 3693 with you, if nothing else but the clothes you wear.

David pulled the car into my apartment parking lot, then came around and opened the door for me. He was being quite the gentleman, I must say. I guess he figured my last night on Earth in my own Time Era should be a happy one.

I gave him my key, let him unlock my suite door. The dim lights came on. I dropped my handbag into a chair and walked across the inch-thick wall-to-wall carpeting, kicking off my shoes as I went. I am a lot shorter than David even with high heels on. Without them, I felt like a child. He grinned down at me from his superior male height and waited for me to make the moves.

I think the difference in our heights added to my blue mood. I felt my lips quiver, the way a baby’s lips quiver when it is about to burst into tears. David read the signal right.

“Hey! None of that. No blubbering.”

“I’m s—s—scared.”

He reached down, put his hands under my armpits and lifted me up. He kissed me. For a long time. Using his tongue and lips like a vacuum cleaner. I oozed against him, feeling the emotions swimming around inside me.

David knows how to turn me on, all right. His hands were sliding up under the blue sari material of my mini-gown, settling onto my pantied behind. His arms were tightening like the tentacles of an octopus, holding me to him.

For some strange reason, his technique worked just the reverse. I burst into tears. I bawled.

“Hey, now. Hey, now,” he said.

“I c—c—can’t he—help it. I f—feel deserted.”

“Not by me,” he declared. He carried me into the bedroom. Honest, I did not want sex. I just wanted comforting. I nestled to him and clung. I felt like a baby. I guess David sensed my worry, he was very gentle as he sat me down on the edge of the bed and began undoing snaps and fasteners. I raised my arms as he drew the dress off.

“You match,” he grinned.

I had on pale blue panties, blue garter-belt, cobwebby blue brassier and the blue nylons. I looked down at myself and giggled.

“Do I do the rest?” he asked.

I nodded, turning my back so he could unfasten my Warner. The bra cups came down, my pale white breasts came out, faintly shaking. David bent his head and kissed each nipple very tenderly.

My hand ruffled his hair.

“You’re good for me, David,” I told him.

He said nothing smartalecky, as is his habit at times like this. He kissed my pouting lips, also very tenderly. Really, he was outdoing himself.

I stood up. He knelt down, gripped my blue panties and pulled them down off my hips, gently. He leaned to kiss my bellybutton. I smiled and bumped my hips against him.

His hands unfastened my garters, rolled down my stockings. I lifted a foot so he could ease off a shoe. He pulled the stocking off. He turned to the other leg. The garter-belt came off, too.

“What nightie?” he asked, staring up at my nudity.

“None,” I said. I turned my behind on him, threw back the covers. David watched me, he tucked the covers up about my chin, then started to get undressed himself.

Know what I did? I fell asleep, just as his pants were coming down. Double Oh Sex herself. Like I’d had a full day and was expecting to have a fuller tone tomorrow. I was beat.

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