The Negative Man: City of Chaos (Chapter 3)

One week my peeps until The Negative Man: City of Chaos comes out.  Are you excited?  I’m excited.  That means this is the last chapter for the free preview, so read on everyone.  We’re almost to release day!

The Negative Man Cover

Chapter 3 –

Thursday Midmorning; John Wonderton’s Office

I tossed the files on DL’s desk. “Jenkins is copying gl-O-bal’s tech.  Heather from Legal figured it out.  This prototype looks just like her Mercury Five phone.”

John Wonderton, aka The Dark Lion, was a big man. Easily six foot five with a linebacker’s frame, the middle aged man looked at the papers and sighed.  “Well then I guess I’ll just have to fire him.  Is that what you want?”

“Actually no, look at the prototype closer.”

He squinted and held the paper close. “What am I looking for?”

“The display, check out the phone’s display.”

DL studied the paper, but it seemed to be missing him. “So he likes solitaire?”

For a guy who was a powerful superhero vigilante, sometimes he was impossibly frustrating. “How do you miss the Ace of Clubs staring at you?”

Boom, there it was. “You don’t think this is just a coincidence, do you Jericho?”

“Makes all the sense in the world. Diamonds would’ve been easily able to steal the servers if Jenkins was in on it.”

Seeing my viewpoint, “So you want us to keep him here, to figure out the end game?”

“We know Diamonds was just a distraction, probably the weakest in the group. You never know, he might’ve sacrificed himself in his fight against you for a reason.”

This logic made me think of the suicide bombers. You know death’s coming, but instead of fighting to stay alive, they embraced fate with open arms.  “Maybe stealing the servers was just a curveball, get us to chase the bad pitch while they steal home.”

I got a rare smile from the superhero. “Your baseball analogies suck.”

Yeah, sports weren’t my thing, except baseball, hence the pretty bad analogy. I’d keep trying though until I got it.  Computers, technology, those were my areas of expertise.  That didn’t stop me from trying though.  “My point is, we keep acting none the wiser and Mr. Clubs might lead us to real answers.”

“The Negative Man…”

The fact DL even said his name wasn’t a good sign. “We don’t even know if he’s still alive.”

“He is; his presence hangs over Pacific Station like a black cloud.” He looked out his large window, which out of respect to me he put a darkened film over.  “Can’t you feel his energy?”

I felt energy alright, probably a nervous energy from DL. “There’s a threat in front of us we can deal with, The Aces.  I wouldn’t worry about The Negative Man, not yet.  And who knows, maybe we’ll get lucky and another Ace will slip up with more info on him.”

He stabbed the prototype file with his finger. “You’re right.  Take this down to Research and get Jenkins to create another.  While talking to him, see if you can get anything worthwhile too.”

“You want me to interrogate him? That’s not smart.”

He shook his head. “No, talk to him, nerd to nerd.  When you guys get together, you can’t help but gush over the latest and greatest.  He might slip up.”

I doubted it, but I scooped up the files off his desk. “If he catches on to me, my death is on your hands…”  He pushed me out of his office and closed the door.  He didn’t even ask me about Diamonds blood analysis.

On the elevator ride down, I tried to think of the best way to first tell Jenkins we were on to his copycat schematics, but also see if he’d spill any secrets. My mother, God rest her soul, always said I was pretty damn conniving when I wanted to be.  The elevator door opened, the R&D Lab was buzzing.  Between the lost servers and the usual deadlines, the lab coats were running in a frantic state.

Jenkins was at his monitor towards the back. I shuffled between all the hub-bub and found a seat next to his desk.  He didn’t look up but did acknowledge I was there.  “Jericho.”

“Jenkins.”

It’s not that we were on bad terms, but nerds tended to try to stake claim to Alpha-nerd. I’m a computer guy with an extensive background in engineering and he’s an engineer with an extensive background in programming.  There was a built in rivalry.

His eyes were going a million different directions behind his glasses. “Something I can help or explain to you?”

I put the file on his desk. “You can explain to Mr. Wonderton why this prototype looks exactly the same as the Mercury Five from gl-O-bal.  He’s not happy.”

“Caught that did he?” He stopped working and made eye contact.  “Or did one of the legal bums figure it out?”

“So, you did that on purpose?” Color me confused.

He opened the file. “Of course I did!  I work my ass off down here and everyone just takes credit without ever even coming to me!  Do I ever get a good job?  Or do they even come down to get an explanation?”

Ahhh… “So you did this just to see how observant the legal team was? And to see if Mr. Wonderton even personally looked over everything?”

“Exactly!” He popped out of his chair.  “Tell me Jericho, was it you that noticed?  As an intellectual peer, that would be most obvious.”

“Yeah, Legal dropped it off with me to take on for approval. That’s when I noticed the design.”  Was I lying?  Yes.  Was this my way in?  Yes.

Jenkins closed the file and dropped it in his trashcan. He pulled another file out of his desk and handed it to me.  “This is the real prototype.  So new that it wasn’t even in the servers yet.”

This piqued my interest. I opened the file and was blown away.  “Whoa, this is incredible!”

Just from my initial quick glance, I could see Jenkins was taking the normal parameters and expanding them exponentially. The phone’s processor was going to be faster than anything on the market.

I closed it and handed it back to him. “What’s the name of this top secret project?”

“In a nod to my French heritage,” he looked as French as a guy named Wonderton, “I’m calling it Project Trefles. It sounds very fancy and expensive that way.  The population won’t be able to resist.”

Say it adds to my nerdiness, but I’m fluent in three different languages (not counting binary), including French. Trefles is their word for ‘clovers,’ which is also what they refer to the ‘clubs suit’ in cards.  This just furthered my assumption.

Smiling, “Would you like me to take this to Mr. Wonderton for approval or does it need more time?”

Jenkins was itching to get this project out to the open, you could see it in his eyes. He refrained though, for whatever reason.  “Not yet, I’d like some more time to work on this.”

“I don’t know what you could do to make this even better, but I’m excited to see.”

His eyes lit up at the praise of a fellow tech head. “Between me and you, gl-O-bal Labs’ Owen Walker has reached out to me, wanting to know more about this.”

“How does Walker know about this?” I asked the question quietly, like I was excited to hear more.

Picking up on my enthusiasm, “He read my thesis on cellular acceleration a number of years ago and we’ve remained in contact ever since. Don’t get me wrong, I’m loyal to Wonder-Tech, but having a friend like Walker’s nothing to sneeze at.”

DL was going to have a heart attack. “I’d keep that between us okay?  I don’t think the big guy or Legal would be thrilled with that association.”

Jenkins nodded and I got up. As I was getting ready to leave, “I thought you were just Wonderton’s yes man.  I think I was wrong about you Jericho.”

“I appreciate that Jenkins. Maybe one night after work we can grab a beer.”

He looked down and typed out a quick text. An answer came back almost immediately.  “Yeah, we definitely should do that.”

-Jeremy

So you’ve read all three preview chapters, now it’s time to continue the adventure.  Head on over to http://www.amazon.com/author/jeremycroston to preorder your copy for 99 cents.

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About Jeremy Croston

I'm a comic loving, soccer playing, devoted husband who has a writing addiction. I can be found at Orlando Solar Bear hockey games, at the local sports bar cheering on my teams from Philly (go Flyers!), and being led astray by my schnauzer, JJ. Check out my Amazon page at www.amazon.com/author/jeremycroston to see my collections. Feel free to friend me on Facebook too at www.facebook.com/jcroston2 (there is another one of me out there apparently). Outside of writing, I work in business development and am considered an expert in all things Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Thanks for stopping by and looking forward to talking to you soon!
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