Eugene stood from his seat as a group of men entered the room. He fidgeted with nervous energy in his best black tuxedo. It was complete with a bow tie and matching silver cumberbund stretched out around his round belly. He looked down at Wallace and slapped his shoulder to get him standing too. His stocky, grey-haired friend waved Eugene’s hand away and smiled.
“He’s the president, not a judge,” Wallace said, then turned to the president. The distinguished, lean man with a silver beard smiled at the men as he sat behind his desk. His entourage of guards took up positions around the room.
“Thank you for coming, Mr. Carter,” he said. The president looked up at Eugene and chuckled. “You can sit down,” and the portly man did. The president glanced over at Wallace. “And you brought your… assistant?” he asked. Eugene nodded but cringed internally. As much as he hated taking credit for Wallace’s work it was almost unbearable to do it in front of him. The only way he managed was at Wallace’s insistence. Wallace was brilliant but he was not interested in the kind of attention Eugene received with his stolen credit. The pair had been friends since grade school and Wallace trusted Eugene to give him a fair share of any financial gain. Eugene never disappointed him.
“I understand you’ve made contact with an alternate universe,” the president said directly. Eugene nodded and hoped there wouldn’t be any follow up questions about that particular incident. He did not think it would reflect well on him if he explained that Wallace did it. The ‘why’ could only work against their credibility.
“Can you do it again?” the president asked. Eugene started to nod but Wallace spoke up before he completed the motion.
“Why?” Wallace asked. Eugene was grateful for the interruption. He was about to divulge that it had been done many times since then, almost every week for months now. The pair of friends had a regular pizza dinner most Friday nights. They’d learned a lot about the Earths outside their own. And about the dangers of the multiverse.
“To establish diplomatic ties and begin trade,” he said simply. Wallace turned and shook his head at Eugene.
“I’m sorry Mr. President, we don’t know how to duplicate it. We’ve been trying for a while now, maybe if we had a better lab with more funding.” Eugene angled for an upgrade and hoped he’d get more time to find out why Wallace said no. The president shook his head.
“I’m afraid we don’t have the time to wait for you to fail. Thank you, Gentlemen. Don’t worry about it too much, we have a backup plan.” The president pressed a button his desk. “Send in Ms. Sharp,” he said.
“NO!” Wallace bolted to his feet fast enough to make the guards reach for their guns; they stopped before drawing once Wallace put his hands up. “We’ll help, we’ll help!” he spoke as if someone was twisting his arm. “Don’t trust her.”
“You know her? How soon can you help?” The president asked. He gestured at the door and one of the guards stopped it as it opened. The suited guard peeked through the door.
“Sorry, one second, Ms. Sharp,” he said.
“Today!” Wallace said. “I’ll get you a list of reasonable Earths that might be open to trade,” he glanced at his wristwatch. “Four hours,” he shook his head. “I don’t know what she’s told you. She’s from another Earth and she runs a company across several universes. She’s powerful, dangerous, and can’t be trusted.”
“She’s also in the room,” a woman’s voice said. All heads turned to the voice. It came from a lean, pale, dark-haired woman in a white suit. A shorter, rounder woman in a dark suit stood next to her. The shorter woman held the guard down on his knees with his hands behind his head. Bright blue light glowed under her right hand as it pressed the guard’s hands against his skull. The remaining guards in the room raised their guns but a black cat padded into the room between the two women. It stopped in front of them and Eugene noticed it had a red skull pattern in the fur atop its head.
“I’m not here to make trouble, but I have a schedule to keep. Running a multi-verse company doesn’t leave me a lot of free time,” she looked at the president. “I was here on time for our appointment. I waited patiently until you called me in. Asking me to wait again after that is extremely rude. If you don’t need my services, let me know now and I’ll be on my way. If you want to make a deal I have enough time left to talk about it.” Wallace glanced around at the guards. Four guns were drawn and aimed at the women but something seemed off. He looked to Eugene but his friend seemed to be petrified with fear. The man in the tuxedo stared at the women and Wallace thought that seemed odd. Wallace expected the man’s head to be darting back and forth trying to process the situation.
While Ms. Sharp explained her actions to the president, Wallace stared at Eugene and realized he wasn’t breathing. He made a surprised, worried sound and the dark-suited woman turned to look at him. Wallace realized the woman wasn’t holding the guard down anymore, but he remained on his knees still holding his hands in place. The guard was as still as Eugene. He saw golden stars flash in her eyes then Ms. Sharp turned her attention to him.
“I don’t think we can do business,” the president said and gestured at the kneeling guard. “Not when you treat my-“
“Janet,” Ms. Sharp said. The president’s voice did not return after the interruption. Wallace looked and saw the president sitting perfectly still with his mouth open mid-word. Ms. Sharp smiled at Wallace.
“What should I do with you?” she asked herself. “What do you think, Melody?” she asked again after a moment of deliberation.
“He’s slumbering and we don’t need another Sun right now. Wake him up, it might be fun to see how this one develops.”
“Janet?” Ms. Sharp asked.
“A class. Not worth saving for anything.” Wallace was surprised when he heard a soft, pleasant, feminine voice come from the cat. Ms. Sharp nodded.
“Very well,” she gave him a dismissive wave then turned to leave the room. “Your favorite number is 46,” Ms. Sharp called out over her shoulder. “You should get that on a tattoo.” Melody and Janet the cat followed her out of the room and the door close. Then several things happened at once.
“people with such disrespect,” The president finished his sentence at the same time four gunshots rang out. Four bullets hit the same area on the door where Ms. Sharp had been standing moments ago. Eugene’s head twisted left and right rapidly.
“Where’d she go?” he asked.
The guard that was being held on his knees flew forward as if he had been pushed down before Janet stopped time.