Live Long and Maybe Prosper

"Who did you say this guy was?" Eliot asked as they entered the "Board room" of Leverage Consultants Incorporated.

"Peter Davis," Alec enthusiastically replied. "I got into his work when I was a student at M.I.T. Some of his ideas were way ahead of his time…"

"Is this the same guy you keep writing fan letters to, and he never writes back?" Parker asked as they sat down at the table.

"Hey, he's a busy guy," Hardison said defensively.

"But apparently not too busy to get blackmailed," Sophie added as she and Nathan walked in.

"Which is where what I call the Reverse Blackmail Effect comes in," Nathan said. He nodded at Hardison, who stood up as he turned on the room's bank of monitors.

"Peter Davis," Hardison said with a somewhat heightened sense of urgency. A middle-aged, bespectacled man appeared on the screens. "A science fiction writer and former NASA engineer. He helped plan the Kepler Mission, which is designed to look for Earthlike planets."

"What, exactly, is he being blackmailed over?" Sophie asked.

"About a year ago, Davis was involved in a legal dispute with a software company that he claimed was stealing his ideas for a new generation of quantum computers," Nathan replied. "This is our target." An image of a grey-haired man with eyes that seemed to be looking suspiciously at them appeared next to Davis'. "Arthur Capek, founder and CEO of Orion Software. Davis was a consultant on one of their first major products, a search engine, about ten years ago. They were supposed to split the profits, but Davis wound up getting nothing and began paying Capek instead."

"That's when he finally answered one of my letters," Hardison looked smugly at Parker, who rolled her eyes. "He apparently knew about us through some Federal contacts from his NASA days and needs our help, bad."

"What does Capek have on him?" Eliot asked.

"A daughter," Nathan sighed. "Apparently Davis had an affair with Capek's wife while they were working together. He's been secretly supporting the girl ever since, and Capek's been holding it over him in exchange for his share of the profits from the search engine."

"How much money are we talking about?" Parker asked.

"About two million dollars a year and change," Hardison said. "Davis is getting robbed blind. He's been keeping the money in a private account, as unreported income."

"Which would certainly make the IRS interested," Sophie replied. "Who's our inside contact with Capek?"

"Capek's ex-wife." Nathan pointed at an image of a middle-aged woman who looked wealthy, but sad. "Elizabeth Chambers. She knows that Capek's been doing to Davis and couldn't stand it anymore." He nodded at Sophie. "Okay, you're going to be her new best friend. Eliot, you and Parker stake out Orion's headquarters as 'Security consultants' so Hardison can get inside and see what he can get on Capek's personal finances." Nathan looked at Capek's face. "Capek is the paranoid type, always worried about theft. If he thinks somebody's stealing from him, he gets dangerous. So be careful."

"How dangerous?" Eliot asked.

"Last year one of his rivals wound up in a landfill," Hardison replied. "The man is definitely not running with what you would call a full deck."

"I guess ten years of blackmailing one of the good guys can do that to someone," Parker wryly said.

"Well, this time the good guy is going to fight back-with a little help from us." Nathan smiled. "Hardison, there's a science fiction convention in town that I think you should attend…"

Hardison grinned. "I still have my Tuvok costume from last year's Star Trek Convention."

"Don't remind me," Parker groaned. "And you made me dress up like Captain Janeway…"

"Aw, come on, girl, you know you had a good time…"

Northeastern Science Fiction Convention

Professor Peter Davis was not normally a nervous man, but he was at this moment a worried one. The man who had identified himself as Hardison-even though he was dressed like Tuvok from Star Trek: Voyager-was all business as he explained to him what was going on.

"My friends are over at Orion's corporate headquarters right now," he said. "Capek's going to be in for a rude awakening when he tries to access his bank accounts tomorrow. Just hang tight."

Elizabeth Chambers patted his arm. "It'll all be over soon," she said. "I only hope I can explain all of this to my daughter someday…our daughter," she added, looking at Davis. "I only wish I'd had the courage to leave Arthur earlier."

For the first time Davis began to relax. "I feel like a tremendous weight is being lifted from my shoulders," he said. He looked at Hardison. "So, what do we do?"

"Not a thing," Hardison replied. "Like I said, my friends will do all the work. Just hang tight."

Orion Headquarters

Arthur Capek knew that there was something wrong. He could feel it. But what was it?

The man who identified himself as "Miles O'Brien" exuded confidence as he continued talking about the plan he was offering: "And, with our firewall, you'll be able to keep out even the most determined hacker." He showed Capek an image of a 3-D safe on the laptop he was carrying. "If you want, I can show you the basic set-up right now. Of course, you'll need to enter your password…"

"Got it," Hardison said over his earpiece. He looked at his own laptop and began typing in a series of numbers. Then he clicked on "Transfer" and grinned. "Damn, I am good, aren't I?"

One Hour Later

Arthur was in panic mode. Not outwardly, of course, but on the inside he felt like he was being torn apart. Gone, gone…corporate assets, even his private account, wiped clean. How could he have been so stupid?

There was only one thing left to do-take care of the thief, O'Brien or whatever his name was, and get the hell out of the country-and fast.

He opened the door to his office and found two men waiting for him.

"Who the hell are you?" he demanded.

One of the men took out a wallet and showed him a badge and an I.D. "Mr. Capek? I'm Special Agent Taggert; this is Agent McSweeten. We're with the F.B.I. We'd like to ask you a few questions about your finances-and one of your rivals who died under mysterious circumstances about a year ago…"

The Following Day

Davis and Elizabeth watched along with the others in the bar as a scowling Capek was walked out of Orion Headquarters in handcuffs. "Now that's an ending I wish I could have put in one of my novels," Davis said. He turned to Hardison. "I don't know how I can even begin to thank you."

"Both of us," Elizabeth added.

"Just make sure you use the money to give your daughter all that she deserves," Nathan replied. "You're the type of man any daughter would be proud to have as a father."

"And now you can be one," Elizabeth added.

THE END