Move past the ship. Sink down through the clouds. (Try not to scream, this is a literary device.) Zip over and approach the western seaboard of the United States. Circle around, observing the regulated flight patterns, until you are silently drifting over San Mateo, California. Head for the coast. There, nestled in what was once a bayland marsh protected by the government to preserve endangered species, lies the magnificent Hill Institute, a rambling collection of gleaming white buildings and relaxing parks. Founded in 2027 by Gene Hill, futurist and biologist, in its first 10 years the Hill Institute was responsible for 341 distinct patents, each one a miraculous innovation that would help mankind. Which, frankly, was more than the Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse ever did.
Walking around the Hill Institute made even guests feel vital and connected to something greater than themselves. Scientists competed to work there; you could hardly heave a brick without hitting two or three Nobel Prize laureates, who would then scramble to publish learned papers about trajectories, the histories of impromptu weaponry, and the rise of social barbarism. Every element of the Institute was carefully designed and crafted to be eminently functional and soothing to the soul. Eco-aware, beautiful to look upon, a scientific heaven on earth.
Sadly, a heaven with extremely lax security. Not that it would have helped.
The front doors of the administrative building slammed open, which was impressive since they were designed to slide sideways. But when a 6′4″ man with broad shoulders, muscular arms, firm jaw, thick wavy hair and a glint of steel in the eyes demands entrance, nothing but slamming will do. “What the pus-crusted hell is going on?” he bellowed.
Various lab-coated doctors and assistants scurried to get out of the way as the man strode up to the front desk. The receptionist turned from her computer (where she was idling away the time between visitors by devising a way to produce cellulosic biofuels with office desktop terrariums) and smiled.
“May I help you, sir?” she asked. It almost goes without saying that she was strikingly beautiful; most humans were, those days.
The man leaned on her desk and growled at her, fluttering her hair. It was not unlike being confronted by an angry bull that had been drinking beer. “Where’s the bastard?” he yelled.
“The bastard that sent me this!” He thrust out a grubby, crumpled printout. “The bastard I’m going to–”
“Ah, you’re Admiral Buchanon’s 9 o’clock. He’s waiting for you, just go right down that hallway and turn right. He’s waiting for you.”
He leaned closer. “You really might want to go ahead and call the EMTs for him now,” he said. “I hear even a few seconds can make a difference.” The paper fell to her desk as he stormed off down the hall. Crashing sounds quickly followed, along with a small explosion.
Were you to take, say, a beer-maddened bull, zap it a few times in a delicate spot with a cattle prod, and then release it into the halls of the Institute, you might end up with the sort of trail the man left behind. Fist-sized holes in walls, sporadic eruptions of paper and electronics from passersby who failed to yield right-of-way, scorch marks that were better left uninvestigated. The Hill Institute administration building was a very deliberately relaxing place, yet cool walls punctuated by leafy plants and frequent displays of tasteful artwork completely failed to register on the man as he pounded past (and occasionally over) students and scientists, who abruptly found a predator in their once-secure habitat and reacted in the most scientifically appropriate manner, i.e. shrieking and hiding and quickly trying to evolve. He moved rapidly from corridor to corridor, his eyes darting back and forth, his quarry within range.
Using his keen skills of cunning and detection he finally found his quarry (down the hall and to the right) behind the door marked “Adm. Everton Buchanon, Director.” He burst through the disappointingly open door into an elegant, well-appointed office of dark woods and screamed at the man behind the desk.
“Dammit,” he roared, fists raised to the sky. “Why did it have to be you?”
The man leaned back and smiled. “Because, Parvo, the only other people who would voluntarily talk to you are orderlies, bartenders, and hostage negotiators,” he said. “Sit down.”