Page 25: Just follow the yellow brick road.

Alex gave an apologetic smile and leaned forwards, clasping his hands atop the desk. ‘I’m sorry about that. Unfortunately something rather serious has come up. But, I think we’ve covered everything necessary. Do you have any questions?’

‘To be blunt, Mr. Denton, you seem to know everything about me already.’

Alex laughed.

‘What can I tell you?’ Paul continued. ‘I appreciate the opportunity, I wouldn’t mind a change of scene. Your offer was pretty generous.’

‘I need the best,’ Alex assured him. ‘I’m willing to pay for it.’

‘Then I’m all yours.’

‘Fantastic.’ Alex rose from the desk prompting to Paul to follow and shook the man’s hand. ‘Thanks for coming. ‘My assistant Jane will show you out.’

In the decrepit apartment, Matthias rested against a broken countertop while Stacey stood beside the door, eyes downcast. There was a sharp rap on the outer door.

‘Stacey?’ a gravelly male voice spoke. ‘It’s me.’

She looked to Matthias who straightened slightly, still, he appeared like a child, intimidated and insecure. Stacey stepped to the door and turned the handle. The man who entered wore a form-fitting suit, his dark shoes polished, thick, pitch-black hair combed back against his scalp. He took a breath, looking to Stacey who lowered her eyes from his gaze, and then to Matthias.

‘You’re willing to come with us?’

‘I don’t believe I have a lot of options,’ Matthias stepped from the counter. ‘Who are you?’

‘Ben Jameson.’ Ben extended a hand which Matthias, as usual, ignored.

‘Head of security for Ascension Technologies. We can get you somewhere safe, get you patched up. You’re in safe hands.’

‘No offense, but if you can get me someplace safe, I’ll do the patching.’

‘That’s fine,’ Jameson agreed. ‘But we need to get you out of here.’

‘Are we taking a van?’ Stacey enquired quietly.

‘There’s a unit a few buildings over. We’re short on time, so..’ Jameson turned and stepped to the doorway, looking both ways before proceeding into the alley.

He led them to the rear of another building, unlocking a blue door which led into a pristine apartment. Sunlight fell through large windows over cream carpet, the furniture perfectly aligned, every surface spotless. Leading them through a kitchen into the living room, a teleportation sat in a rear corner. Jameson activated the unit and began dialling.

‘So you just had one prepared?’

Jameson released a near undetectable huff before turning to explain.

‘Ascension holds many assets, but yes. After your incident at Natural Robotics, we’ve been watching you.’

‘Why?’

‘My employer finds you valuable.’

Jameson finished dialling, and the teleporter came alive, emitting a low hum.

‘I’ll go first,’ Jameson offered, and stepped inside, his form disintegrating.

Once they were alone, Matthias looked to Stacey.

‘You trust this guy?’

She gave a small shrug. ‘He’s my boss. I’d trust him with my life.’

She sensed his remaining hesitation and continued: ‘Look, it’s purely by accident that we even knew each other before this. I was placed at Natural Robotics as an observer. I was and am your friend. You can trust me.’

Her eyes seemed sincere, and reading her biometric signs, he couldn’t detect a lie.

‘Okay.’ He looked to the teleporter, hesitating, and stepped inside.