Tales From The Institute

Conspiracy

Copyright 1998 by David Zeiger

*****

"So you read the book?" asked Luken. He and Manholz, the two Institute Directors, sat in conference with Agents Asp, Elite, and Valhalla, three of the best Agents in the Vampires Division.

"Oh, yes." Asp replied, "You were certainly correct about it--the novel provides an extremely accurate portrayal of what vampires are."

"Good story, too." Valhalla added. "The only problem I had was the way he portrayed some of the internal government procedures--our probes of government documents paints a much different picture."

"But it is fiction." Elite commented, "Do we really need to concern ourselves with information that is conveyed in such a way that the reader is *not* supposed to believe it?"

"You know Institute policy on this matter, Agent." Manholz replied.

"Yes, and I agree with the base policy--with the current mindset of humanity, revelation of the existence of supernatural creatures would simply lead to a purge. But again, the book is *fiction*."

"So is the National Enquirer," Luken replied, "yet stories there have a direct impact on what people believe."

"This author--Pat Wrigley--do we know if she actually knows how accurate she is?" Asp asked.

"We believe that he, and it is a he, did have contact with a known vampire within 18 months of the novel's submission to publishers." Manholz replied, "It is not known conclusively if Mr. Wrigley knew of his contact's true nature."

"And the vampire?"

"Terminated about a year ago in a territorial conflict between two different LA vampire groups. Any further questions or objections?"

Asp and Valhalla both shook their heads. Elite shrugged his shoulders and sighed, "I guess good vampire novels will just have to get that much harder to find."

"Good." Luken said, "Valhalla, I'm giving you the assignment. You may want to use the Apache--it's been fitted with the new NeuroStealth device."

****

Pat Wrigley was currently enjoying life. The money he made from his last novel, while not tremendous, was enough to allow him to quit his job-- assuming he continued to sell, of course. But he was already two-thirds of the way through his next book, and was very pleased with the way it was going.

His high-rise apartment, while not luxurious, was certainly adequate for a single man. And it had a great view--the glint of the Pacific ocean in the distance, a couple in a neighboring complex that provided the inspiration for several of his racier scenes, and a wonderful view of a large black helicopter right outside the window.

Pat blinked as the last vision registered, and looked again. Sure enough, there was a large, frightening-looking helicopter hovering right outside his window. Suddenly, the tinting of the cockpit went away, and Pat was able to see the helmeted pilot of the helicopter, who was grinning and waving hello.

Pat gave a nervous grin in return, and began to move back towards the door. The pilot's grin became a frown, and the wave became a finger waving back-and-forth. The thirty-millimeter cannon underneath swung to point at Pat, a laser targeting device painting a dot on his forehead.

Pat froze.

The pilot scratched his chin, pondering his next move. Then, with a snap of his fingers, his grin returned. He motioned Pat across the room with a wave of his hand, then produced a small remote control with one large red button. Still smiling, he pressed the button.

Pat's computer exploded.

When Pat recovered from the blast, he turned back to the window to see the pilot wave goodbye as he pulled the helicopter up out of Pat's view.

****

A few minutes later, Pat was knocking on the door of his upstairs neighbor. "Did you see where the helicopter went?" he asked the man who opened the door.

"Helicopter? What helicopter?"

"You must have seen it--it was right outside the building, just a couple feet away! It blew up my computer then flew off!"

"Son, I think you need to lay off whatever it is you're taking. There were no helicopter flybys right next to the building. I *did* notice a bit of a power surge a few minutes ago--all my lights got brighter for a second. If it damaged your computer, then I suggest you invest a few bucks in a power strip. Good bye."

****

Pat spent most of the next couple days cleaning up and working with insurance companies, wisely putting "power surge" as the cause, rather than "black helicopters." Finally, he was able to get a new computer set up, and went over to his cabinet where he stored his backup disks.

'That's funny,' he thought, 'I'm sure I had the cover on this disk box closed. Maybe it opened when I was cleaning up.' Shrugging his shoulders in puzzlement, he took the disk with the backup of his current novel and put it into the computer's drive.

"What do you mean, 'Disk not formatted?!?'" Pat asked the computer when the error message popped up on the screen. "Must be something wrong with the disk."

20 minutes later, he had finished going through all of his backup disks. "All of them wiped out." he moaned, "I better give my agent a call."

Instead of ringing followed by the bland voice of a bored receptionist, however, he immediately heard a mechanical recording on his receiver

"You are not authorized to call this number."

A second try resulted in an identical response. Undaunted, he called information. After confirming the number as correct, he went ahead and let the telco dial the number for him. This time he did hear a ring. But then the voice came on the line again

"You are not authorized to call this number."

Slamming the phone down in frustration, he left his apartment and went down to find a pay phone. Locating one, he put in his quarter and dialed the number.

"You are not authorized to call this number."

Sighing, Pat started back towards his apartment, stopping to pick up his mail on his way back up.

"Let's see, bill, junk, junk, hmmm, what's this?" Pat asked as he pulled out a black glossy envelope out of the stack of mail, "No stamp? Someone managed to put it in my locked box?"

Opening the envelope, Pat found a jumble of small pieces of paper. "Newspaper clippings?" he asked, examining a few, "Wait a minute, these are all announcements of job openings. What on earth is going on? Never mind, I probably don't want to know. Maybe now would be a good time for a vacation. Somewhere remote, like Montana. With me paying cash the whole way."

****

Three days later, Pat was feeling much less stressed. He still didn't understand what was going on, but it was so far away at the moment that he could forget about it and enjoy the fresh air. Particularly now, as he was on horseback, far from any manmade structure.

Suddenly, his horse spooked, rearing up and knocking Pat off, then bolting. Before Pat could get up and chase after it, the black helicopter appeared once again, right in front of him.

"Sorry about that," the pilot said over an external speaker, "I sometimes forget that the NeuroStealth system only works on sentients."

"NeuroStealth system?"

"A more personalized Stealth system--I'm only seen by those I *want* to see me. Now, let's get down to business. In case you didn't understand the hints, we would like you to change your line of work."

"'We?' Who's 'we?' Are you with the government? And why are you picking on me?"

"Do you know of anyone else with access to this kind of equipment? As for why, let's just say that some of the things you wrote hit too close to home."

"But I just made up most of the internal secret agency workings, I swear! I'll change everything!"

"I'm sorry, friend, but orders are orders, and my orders are to make sure you stop writing."

"Or what, you'll kill me?"

"Well, that is an option, as distasteful as it may be. But I can work with you on this--I'm authorized to offer you our guarantee that your sister will receive the best medical attention available to us if you stop writing. It's really tragic, with the car accident leaving her a quadriplegic and all."

"Car wreck? My sister was never in a car wreck!"

"Oh, really? Well, in that case, let's just pray that I'm not a fortune teller. Good day!" And with that, the helicopter once again vanished.

****

At The Institute a few days later, Agent Valhalla stuck his head into Elite's cubicle. "Hey Boss! Mission accomplished. Mr. Wrigley has just started work as an accountant."

"An accountant? That's the best you could do?"

"Well, I figured that if he wasn't allowed to write about vampires for a living, the least I could do is get him a job that tends to suck the life out of people."

*****

Disclaimer: All people and events in this story are fictional. Any resemblance to existing people or situations is purely coincidental. Please don't send the black helicopters after me...