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The Legend That Was Earth
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    In New York, the sun was shining from a clear sky, reflecting as a subdued orb from the tinted windows of the skyscraper at the end of Manhattan Island housing the offices of the Global-Interplanetary Export-Import Bank. The board room on the floor below the penthouse commanded a clear view over Battery Park, past Governor's Island and the Upper Bay all the way to the Narrows, with the Jersey City docks fading in haze across the mouth of the Hudson to the right, behind the Statue of Liberty.

    Casper Toddrel appended his signature on all six copies of the Deed Transfer Agreement, handing each to the financial secretary to be witnessed and dated. These were followed by a ten-page Disclosure Affidavit, Financial Underwriter's Statement, and Supplementary Articles of Contract. The documents were passed along the table to the signatory for the three representatives from the Brazilian Land Commission, and finally to the head of the Hyadean delegation at the far end. These were top-level Hyadeans, the real movers—taking in the U.S. and parts of Western Europe in what came close to a state visit. They sat aloofly in a group, with fans directing scented air streams on the table in front of them—as if not really comfortable at being this close to sweaty, smelly Terrans. Toddrel would have welcomed a greater display of togetherness, but he wasn't troubled all that much. By his estimation, when the various transactions, payments, share allocations, and commissions were completed, his net personal worth would have increased by somewhere in the order of a cool half billion dollars.

    Toddrel was a medium-set man in his mid-fifties, with black curls of hair fringing a smooth head, and dark, moody eyes adding depth to a face controlled and inexpressive about the mouth and jaw but otherwise untroubled. He believed in being thorough in all that he did, expected the same from the people he paid, and accepted his secure and comfortable existence as no more than the due return for hard work, innate intelligence, and summoning the will to get things right. He was tired of hearing about the self-inflicted problems of people who never had developed a worthwhile thought in their lives, refused to make decisions, did nothing with opportunity when it came, and then complained that they'd never been given a chance. Professionally, if not entirely socially, he had to admit he had a grudging admiration for Hyadeans. They did what was necessary to get the results they wanted.

    Murmurs and chattering broke out around the room when the formalities were over. People began rising. Everyone looked pleased. Toddrel returned the pen to the holder on the table in front of him and stood up, pausing to exchange a few words with some of the other directors. He declined an invitation from the Hyadeans to lunch on the grounds that he was flying to Europe later that day and had matters to attend to, and left before getting involved in anything further. Ibsan, his former SEAL/Secret Service bodyguard joined him in the anteroom outside, and they walked together to the elevators. Toddrel's limo was drawn up in the basement motor lobby when they emerged. Ibsan opened the door for Toddrel, then got in up front to ride with the chauffeur. Drisson was waiting in the rear compartment as arranged. Toddrel leaned forward in the seat next to him to pour a Scotch and water from the decanters beside the entertainment unit. Overtly, Drisson was a colonel in the Internal Security Service. Covertly, he coordinated operations related to higher policy, of a kind that it was preferred not to have recorded in official orders.

    "So, what have we got?" Toddrel asked as the limo began moving out though armored doors, then up a ramp into the Downtown streets.

    "Not good," Drisson replied. "Reyvek has vanished without trace. Given the last two evaluation profiles we have on him, the indicated conclusion is that he's defected. Since he was involved with Echelon logistics, I'd guess he took that information as collateral. We have to assume that we're compromised."

    Toddrel exhaled heavily. "Echelon" was the code designation for the operation to eliminate Farden and Meakes. Toddrel had made arrangements for the meeting at Overly Park ensuring that the two of them would fly together. The last-minute addition of the two Hyadeans had been an unexpected complication, with unthinkable repercussions now if the story got out. The ruin of Toddrel and his accomplices would be the least of it, with a good chance of a life sentence as a gesture toward making interplanetary amends.

    "If they had the profiles, why was he allowed to continue on-duty?" he fumed. "Why wasn't he suspended? What's the point of having profiles if nobody's going to act on what they say?"

    Drisson made a vaguely placatory gesture. "It's like a lot of things. Sometimes it takes hindsight to make the right interpretation." He waited, as if giving Toddrel time to vent further before being more receptive. Toddrel gulped irascibly from his glass, savored the taste for a moment, then looked out the window. They were en route for the Waldorf, where Toddrel was staying. In one of the side streets, police were keeping an eye on a speaker addressing a ragged-looking gathering from a platform.

    "So what do we do?" Toddrel asked, turning back.

    Drisson rubbed his chin, indicating that there was no obvious easy option. "The plan was to sanitize the situation by putting it on Scorpion's account and then taking them out," he said.

    Toddrel nodded impatiently. Scorpion was the compromised CounterAction cell being set up to take the official rap. "I know what we planned, Kurt. I'm asking what we do."

    "Obviously, we have to eliminate Reyvek. But the only way we'll find him now is through someone on the inside. So the proposal is this. We put a hold on taking out Scorpion. Instead, we infiltrate somebody into it to find Reyvek."

    "Is that likely?" Toddrel queried. "Isn't Counter Action supposed to be highly compartmentalized?"

    "I think there's a good chance. With Reyvek being involved in the operation Scorpion is supposed to have carried out, there are good reasons why they might end up meeting. The operative takes out Reyvek. When that part's done, we send in the cleaning team as scheduled. End of problem."

    "You make it sound like just part of a regular day's work to put somebody inside CounterAction," Toddrel commented.

    "Normally it would be a tough thing to do on demand," Drisson agreed. "But in the case of Scorpion, we might have a break. One of the cell members that we've identified is the former wife of a wheeler-dealer on the West Coast who sets up business deals with Hyadeans. Our people visited him a few days ago on a routine check. He says he doesn't have contact with her anymore, but they weren't convinced. This guy knows everybody and has wires into everything." Drisson shrugged. "If we can get him to locate his ex for us, we've got a conduit through to Scorpion."

    "And what makes you think he's likely to do that?" Toddrel asked.

    Drisson looked across the seat and smiled enigmatically. "Ways and means," he replied.

 
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