thrice great hermes
by stanley lieber
IT TAKES THREE
On the night Werner had decided to quit, a two-man team was dispatched to separate him from the job. Neither side of the dispute was aware of the other’s current disposition. Perhaps communication would have alleviated the need for violence...
P steered the transport over the landing zone as T anxiously tensed and untensed his grip on the the straps of his crash web. At last, they were going to see this wretched little town for themselves.
Exiting the vehicle they observed strict silence. P never said anything—he didn’t have to. T had to work harder at the discipline but he was making real progress. Stubbing his toe on the way down the ramp, he stopped, eyes ablaze, but simply bit his tongue. Noticing the small triumph, P nodded his approval.
A short hike to the apartment complex and the men took up positions around the main entrance. When a preliminary scan by their ship confirmed Werner’s apartment was empty, they climbed the staircase to his balcony door and gained entry via special access methods and procedures. Namely, entering a master code that appeared nowhere in the manufacturer’s documentation.
Several hours later Werner drug himself in the front door. It had taken him quite a while to trudge all the way back to the city after his ride had flashed a cancellation. All he wanted to do was take a hot bath and drown his considerable sorrows in a mug of hot chocolate.
"Sorry, pal, we drank it all," T said.
Werner noticed the intruders for the first time. "I see," he said, and sat down opposite his guests at the kitchen table. "Can I offer you any other refreshments? I’m afraid I don’t have any alcohol or cigarettes." P could sense T revving to go and cut him off with a final sweep of his arm. "We’re good," he said, for the both of them.
Werner placed both of his palms flat on the table. "So," he said, "To business, then?" There was a certain pleading in his tired, gray eyes.
P continued to stare. "Quite so. We’re here about the report."
"Oh, that old thing," snapped Werner.
"As you are no doubt aware, many readers have found themselves dissatisfied with your recent output. We’re here to help get you back on track. Failing that..." P trailed off.
"You’re too late," Werner blurted out. "I’ve decided to quit." At this, T rocked back and forth in his seat, increasingly agitated by the rising potential for action. This time, P made no move to tamp down his enthusiasm.
P himself stopped. "You can’t just quit. In fact, we’ve brought along some sample material, to help get you started."
P threw the latches on his satchel and Werner eyed the stack of papers suspiciously.
The pages were scarcely legible, but did seem to be scrawled in his hand.