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"You've created quite the fuss among your enemies, Freedy," Key said,
not even waiting for Freedy to say something. He was on speaker,
though Freedy hadn't specified that.
"What the...?" Sheila exclaimed. "Who's this?"
"This is my friend, Mr. Key. He's helping me, aren't you Mr. Key?"
"Charmed to meet you, Special Agent Sheila Moller," Key said, agreeably. "I've heard so much about you."
Freedy put his fingers to his lips when Sheila looked ready to ask more.
"Our friends are captured inside the Price-Ceiling store in Hopperville, Arkansas and I need to know which storeroom."
"That would be Storage Unit G." Key answered.
Freedy started up the van, realizing that he just hadn't driven far enough. The letter on the dock next to them read "D."
They were just coming around the backs of trucks when he saw the guards. He stopped and backed out of sight again.
"Did you count them?" he asked Sheila.
"There are two guards on the outside of both the front and back doors, and two guards inside." Key answered instead.
"How does he know that?" Sheila whispered.
happened to look behind him, and saw a patrol armed guards walking the
outer perimeter of the parking lot. He edged the van into between some
of the giant parked trucks as far in as he could squeeze.
"How many guards are searching for us altogether?"
"Forty-five," Key said.
There was silence in the van as Freedy and Sheila realized what they were up against.
thought for a moment about ordering all the guards away, but it
occurred to to him that among those forty-five were the supervisors, the
people giving orders -- including the Grandma from hell.
might be able to get in by foot, alone, but beyond that he didn't have a
clue about how he'd be able to get the entire crew out of there without
being discovered. The fewer orders he gave, the better chance he
"Can you order the guards out of the room on some pretext?" Freedy asked.
can order them out, but they would run to their supervisors soon
enough," Key said. Freedy noticed the Key wasn't making any suggestions
about how to get out of this dilemma. Perhaps, as a program, It
couldn't. No, that wasn't right. The Key was self-aware, It could help
if It wanted to. But after Freedy's experience with the bounty
hunters, Freedy didn't trust the Key.
No, the only
way to use Key was to give it specific and limited instructions, and
preferably instructions so clear and simple that they couldn't be be
warped or misconstrued.
"Show me the contents of the storage unit," he asked, getting an idea.
"Do you want inventory lists or pictures from inside?"
"Let's start with the lists," Freedy said.
The contents of the warehouse quickly popped up and started scrolling by.
down!" Freed commanded. There, just as the scroll suddenly slowed to a
crawl he saw what he wanted. "Show me the inside of the room..."
Key scanned the warehouse. There! Freedy immediately saw what he wanted. Now came the really hard part. Explaining the Sheila.
friend Mr. Key is just the most amazing computer whiz you've ever heard
of," Freedy said. Which was true, after all. That fact that the
computer whiz was a computer didn't detract from that.
can see that," Sheila said. She could tell something was wrong,
probably, but couldn't quite put her finger on it. "Why have you been
keeping him a secret?"
"I wasn't sure about Garland and the others," Freedy said. "Mr. Key only likes dealing with me, isn't that right, Mr. Key?"
"If you say so," Key said.
Freedy stopped himself from cursing. "Always a kidder..." he muttered.
"You always liked my kidding before," Key said.
Sheila frowned. Maybe the Turing Test was still valid after all,
because she seemed to sense there was something not quite right about
"I'm going to have Mr. Key order away the
guards inside and at the back exit. Then, as quickly as possible, I'm
going to try to free our guys and get out of there. Have the van ready
"Freedy," Sheila reached out and grabbed his
arm. "Are you sure about this? They've only been charged with
misdemeanors. They'd probably be let go by tomorrow morning anyway."
there are others looking for them," Freedy said. "I don't believe they
just happened to be spotted and arrested. I thinking they were waiting
Sheila agreed, he could tell. But she didn't
know about Key, only that he was a computer whiz and far away and a
thin reed to hang their plans on.
"Trust me, Sheila," Freedy said. "I know what I'm doing."
stared into his eyes, and no doubt saw the fear in Freedy's eyes -- but
she also must have seen the strange confidence that came from having an
all-powerful, self-aware -- if treacherous -- computer program helping
"All right. The guards made their circuit a
couple of minutes again, you should be clear for about five minutes."
She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. "Hurry, Freedy. Come
back to me."
Freedy jumped out and ran toward the dock. He could still feel her soft lips on his cheek. It energized him.
Outside the doors, he stopped. "O.K., Key -- here's what we are going to do if we can't make a clean escape."
Freedy gave a series of rapid and specific instructions.
"You got that?" he said at the end.
"That's is pretty crazy, Freedy," Key said. "But yes, I understand you."
Very well, Freedy breathed. Time for the great escape.
the bomb-bay door, Hal!" he shouted into the Hello Kitty phone and
unlike the movie computer, this computer obeyed. The sliding door
started ratcheting up. He ran into the room and immediately saw his
friends trussed up but not hooded and gagged.
"Holy Moly!" Jay said. "Do you guys see who I see?"
"Master Thief indeed," Charlie said, looking pleased.
had his pocket knife out and was cutting at the plastic ties in
seconds. Good thing no one used old fashioned handcuffs anymore. He
would have been screwed. He was getting pretty good at this. They were
free in less than a minute.
"Let's get out of here!"
was too late. There was banging on the front door of the storeroom and
not seconds later banging on the back doors. They were trapped.
Freedy realized that he hadn't given instructions to Key to lock the
door behind him. The Key had apparently thought of that Itself.
Perhaps the Program was trying to help after all.
"Thanks for locking the doors, Key," he said, aloud.
"Hey, I'm enjoying your shenanigans. But I'm wondering if you're going to get out of this one."
"Who you talking to?" Charlie asked, confused.
saw a window at the far end of the room, ran over and opened it. Just
barely big enough for most of them, and probably too small for Jim,
actually. About a twenty foot drop to the ground. Not impossible, but
pretty scary. It was also visible from every direction. He left the
window open. His clothes were so ratty by now, he easily tore off a
section of his sleeve and shoved it into the grooves of the window
"Well, nice try, Freedy," Charlie said, looking
resigned. "I'd be impressed if I wasn't afraid we're about to have
our heads beaten in for trying to escape. You may have just made it
"Time for Plan B," Freedy said, sounding more
confident than he sounded. He got on his Hello, Kitty phone, calling
the only number on his list.
"Get out of the
parking lot, Sheila. Now. Wait at the eastern outskirts of town. At
about 4:30 this afternoon, a truck with the serial number STW421 will
pass you. Follow it to it's destination."
"What's going on," Sheila said, sharply.
"No time to explain." Freedy turned off the phone. He took out the Key. After a moment's thought, he removed the battery.
the back wall there were seven huge beer barrels. They'd been used
recently in a local beerfest and were scheduled to be sent back to Milwaukee. Freedy had rescheduled them for Centerville, Pennsylvania
He opened the lid of one of them, and an odor of days old beer wafted out. He recoiled. Oh, well. No help for it.
"Your chariots await!" he shouted at the others, pulling the lids off one by one. "Hop in!"
not getting in one of those!" Jim said, and Freedy remembered too late
that the big miner was afraid of enclosed spaces -- which was quite a
handicap for a miner to have. Fortunately there were enough jobs
outside the mines to keep him busy. Now he was sweating profusely and
his eyes were wide.
As the banging grew louder, the
other miners ran to barrels and one by one plopped in. Freedy pounded
down the lids securely behind them.
Fat Jim approached last, and looked at Freedy. "There's only seven barrels and eight of us," he said.
hadn't thought of that. There wasn't time to rearrange. It would've
made more sense to have Steve and Sam share a barrel, for instance,
instead of chubby Freedy and even chubbier Jim.
there was no help for it. The banging outside the doors suddenly
stopped. Oh, oh. The guards with tools to open doors were either on
their way or already there.
"No time to argue, dammit," Freedy said. "Jump in!"
wide in panic, Jim got in, and Freedy gingerly lowered himself into the
last little bit of space. They barely lowered the lid before they
heard the doors opening.
I'm Duncan McGeary, owner and/or operator for the last 33 years of Pegasus Books in Downtown Bend, Oregon. These days I'm writing books as well as selling them.
I'm the comic book guy. But even more so, I'm a book book guy. Books of all kinds. Big books and little books, children's and adult, fiction and non-fiction, hardback and paperback and trade paperback and graphic novels. Books with more words than pictures and books with more pictures than words. They are all part of the book world to me, and I love being surrounded by them every day.
I also have a second blog: Pegasus Books, where I list the product coming in over the next week.