ou are standing on a street corner in one of the great cities of the world, looking up at a certain building.
You have been very clever, to have gotten this far. Thousands of people pass this way daily, barely notice this same unremarkable
façade at which you stare; but they don't know what you know.
You realize you shouldn't be staring. Looking as nonchalant as you can, you walk on down the street, and start at your own
reflection in the shop windows, which seems to be watching you fearfully. Nervous? You're not nervous at all, are you? You won't be
going in by the front door, of course. You saw the ragged man sitting on the front steps, smiling and nodding to himself. There would
be nothing so obvious as a man wearing a black suit and black sunglasses. Not to guard what you've come for…
Just around the next corner, you find the grubby little vindaloo place. You paid an awful lot of money to learn the name of this
unpromising-looking shop, but it's just as it was described to you. Drawing a deep breath, you go inside.
You seat yourself, and when the waiter comes and inquires, you say what you were told to say:
"I'd like something pink, with lentils in it."
He nods, smiles briefly, and walks away. You brace yourself, looking around to see if Public Health Monitors with gas guns are
going to come boiling out of the kitchen. None do, but you are sweating by the time the waiter brings you a glass of ice water and… yes…
a dish of something pink, with lentils in it.
You take exactly three sips of the water, eat three spoonfuls of the pink stuff-- you've no idea what it is-- and then, as you were
instructed to do, you rise and head for the lavatory, which is down a narrow hall at the side.
Beyond the door the waiter stands. Without a word, he sets his palm in a certain place on the wall, and though you knew what
was going to happen next you still jump when you see the doorway appear, gliding smoothly into existence out of what had seemed to be
a solid surface. Beyond the doorway is a steel cubicle. You step inside, a panel slides shut behind you and you are suddenly dropping
very far, very fast. You're in.
You have successfully penetrated the defenses of Dr. Zeus Incorporated.
You hug yourself, partly in glee and partly to keep the contents of your stomach in one place. Dr. Zeus Incorporated, also known
as Jovian Integrated Systems, also known as the Kronos Diversified Stock Company! And you know it has had other names, and far older names.
And you have heard all the rumors: how this is a secret fraternity made up of scientists and businessmen, the secret fraternity for which
all other so-called secret fraternities are merely decoys. Its members rule the world. They have unlimited power. They are somehow able to
travel through time. They have found the Philosopher's Stone and the Elixir of Life.
Especially the Elixir of Life.
You aren't here to steal it, however. You know that no amount of bribery could ever get you that far into the inner sanctum, not if
you were the wealthiest person in the world.
All you've come here for is proof.
When the elevator door opens, you are poised and ready. You step quickly through utter and formless blackness, hands out before you,
and you count your paces: fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, turn! You walk three paces to the left. Your groping hands encounter a rack of something,
small flat objects stacked on end. You grab one and stuff it quickly in your pocket. You turn, retrace your steps with meticulous effort and fall
trembling into the steel cabinet, which rises with you at once. By the time the door opens, though you are momentarily blinded by the yellow light
of the dingy corridor, you have regained enough poise to walk past the waiter with no more than a nod.
You leave your credit disk on the table as you go. You won't be needing that one anymore, not after today.
he rest of the journey is a blur, until you lock the door of your hotel room behind you and take out your prize.
It's a tiny golden disk in an envelope of film. It might be a credit disk, currency of an unknown land… and in a sense it is, isn't it?
You're chortling to yourself as you sit down with it, slip it into the Buke and watch the projector unfurl for you. A white beam shoots from its
heart and then the air immediately before your face fills with a shifting bluegreen opacity, and white letters appear.
Unlike most of your contemporaries in the twenty-fourth century, you can read. People of high intelligence and low birth become data
entry clerks. It's lousy work, but you're done with it forever, and all because of what you've stolen today. The word you are staring at is
DOSSIERS, by the way.
The word fades and you are offered a selection. There are at least a dozen headings, and you hold your breath as you fix on the first
one and summon it with a motion of your eye. You've never looked on the face of a god before...
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