an excerpt from
Half a world away, Dr. Frank Morton heard a car door slam and glanced up from the book
he was reading to see his friends, Tony Nicoletti, Jim Barnes and Linda McBride, getting out of Lindas car. As he opened the hangars office door to greet the trio, he realized that it had been more than five months since he had last seen his old Viet Nam buddy Tony. Linda lived next door to Frank in a downtown Seattle high-rise and Jim was a Professor of Anthropology at the University of Washington, but Tony had been bouncing back and forth between his home in Atlanta and a friends place in the Caribbean ever since the four had met here last August.
A lot had happened in the five and half months since that meeting. The tragic events of September 11 had changed the world forever, of course. Today, four months after the attacks on New York and Washington D.C., air travel was just getting back to normal. Temporary airport closures due to security breaches were still frequent occurrences and Frank often reminded himself of just how fortunate he was to have acquired the Learjet 60 aircraft currently parked out in the hangar, just on the other side of the office wall.
Frank opened the door and greeted his friends with hugs and warm handshakes.
Come on in, guys! Tony, you look like a walking advertisement for a tanning salon. I take it youve been back to the Caribbean since we last met?
Several times! In fact, I just flew in from there this morning. I got stuck down there for two weeks after the 9-11 attacks but fortunately Jill let me hang out at her place. She sends her best, by the way. Those attacks were something, werent they? Can you believe the nerve of those bastards? Tony huffed, shaking his head as he crossed the threshold and entered the well-appointed office. Man, this place sure looks different.
When the four had met in this building back in August, it had been in a serious state of disrepair. It had been vacant for several years before Frank bought it and it had cost him a fortune to have it cleaned and renovated. In the reception office where they were now standing, for instance, an old wooden desk and the smell of grease had been replaced by high-tech black furniture and the soft fragrance of fresh cut flowers on a filing cabinet in the corner.
Im glad you like it, smiled Frank, but I think youre going to like the changes I made out in the main part of the hangar even more. The renovations were delayed more then a month due to the terrorist attacks, but the last of the office furniture finally arrived yesterday, so we timed this meeting perfectly. Let me show you what I have done to that dirty old airplane hangar you saw a few months ago.
The meeting back in August had been called by Frank one month to the day after the termination of an impromptu investigation that had started with a mysterious black sphere
and ended with some startling discoveries about the origin of Mexicos Maya natives and
their predecessors, the Olmec. Due to the fact that the spheres could potentially rewrite anthropology, Frank had taken to calling that investigation the Tractrix Project because a tractrix is the mathematical equivalent of a sphere thats been turned inside out.
During the course of that short, three-week investigation, Frank and Jim had crawled through ancient caves in the Yucatan Peninsula and Tony had traveled to the bottom of a thousand foot deep tunnel built by the U.S. Government on the edge of the infamous Nevada Test Site, northwest of Las Vegas.
Before being run off by agents of the Department of Energy, Frank, Tony, Jim and Linda
had managed to decipher ancient Mayan hieroglyphs, solve an international murder and learn some startling facts about a recovered flying saucerfrom a Department of Defense researcher who had actually examined it!
But that was then, and this is now. Back in August, Frank had proposed that the four join together and form a non-profit research organization for the purpose of investigating other mysteries of history and science. Today Frank had invited his three friends to the hangar to show off the new headquarters of the Northwest Institute of Discovery and Investigation (NWIDI) and to convince the trio to abandon their current jobs and join him.
Since winning an $86 million lottery jackpot last June, Frank had completely transformed his life. Just before Tony acquired the mysterious sphere Frank had retired from his position at Boeing Aerospace, where he had been a senior team leader for the International Space Station project. Ever since the conclusion of the Tractrix Project, Frank had devoted all his energies to the creation of NWIDI. Franks wife, Donna, had been killed in a freak automobile-pedestrian accident a little over a year earlier and the total immersion in the NWIDI project had been good therapy for him.
Frank indicated a door in the back corner of the office and waved everybody through into the main part of the hangar, where the Learjet was parked.