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Destroyer 61: Lords of the Earth

By Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir

Prologue

"In the end, it will be the insects who rule the earth." -Noted scientist.

"In the end, who cares?"-Remo Williams, identity and address unknown, fingerprints on file nowhere, former policeman, still recorded in some old newspaper files as the last man to be executed in the electric chair in the New Jersey State Penitentiary.

"End? What end? You whites will be with us forever." -Chiun, Master of Sinanju, vessel of the sun source of all the Martial Arts, His Awesome Magnificence, known as "Little Father" by Remo Williams, who is a white, but one of the nice ones at times. Not all the time, however. And lately, even less frequently, if you could believe that. Not that complaining ever did any good.

Chapter 1

Winston Hoag was afraid of many things in life, but never the thing that killed him.

He was afraid of the sudden air eddies that came up over tree lines on warm days and sent his small singleengine plane into a sudden dive until, only feet above the cotton fields, he was able to wrestle back control of the craft.

He was afraid of the chemicals he released over the fields, afraid that constant contact with the pesticides that protected the crops for the farmer would somehow get into his blood system and kill him.

He was afraid of losing his contracts as a crop duster and afraid of seeing his family go on welfare. He thought he would rather kill himself than let that happen, although he did not know if he had the courage to kill himself.

He was afraid also that his plane would come apart one day because Winston Hoag always had to measure the cost of new parts against the cost of sending his children to a good school, of his wife being able to put good food on the table, of being able to help support his aging parents.

He was afraid of sunsets that played games with his depth perception and afraid of sunrises that could suddenly blind a pilot in an open-air cockpit.

But one thing he was not afraid of was the young couple who offered him two hundred dollars to let them install a video camera between his legs to shoot upward and film his face as he dusted crops.

All he wanted was to make sure that the camera didn't get in the way of his foot controls.

"We want you to turn on the camera before you get your chemical valves to release," said the young woman. "This is important. We want your spraying system off until you have the camera on for at least a minute."

"Two minutes," corrected the young man who was with her.

"Sure," said Winston Hoag. "But why?"

"Because that's how we want it," said the woman. She was an ash blond and spoke with the long vowels of wealth, with the casual, confident air that made her look rich in a pair of faded blue jeans. If Winston Hoag wore faded jeans, he knew he would just look poor. In fact, the first thing he'd done when he enlisted in the Air Force had been to throw away his old faded jeans. And when he was discharged, one of the first things he did was buy brand-new jeans, stiff blue-black ones, spanking new, and uncomfortable.

Winston Hoag, like many people who had been dirt poor when they were young, always dreaded returning to that. He could use the two hundred dollars.

"If that's how you want it, that's how you'll get it," he said, "but I would like to know why."

"Because," said the woman.

"Because we want to get the change in your expression from when you're not spraying to when you are," the young man explained.

"There ain't no change," said Hoag.

"There is," said the woman. "There has to be."

"Actually, we don't know," the man said. He wore sandals and khaki-colored shorts with a lot of buckles on them, and carried a roll of hundred-dollar bills. "We'd like to find out.'' His old T-shirt called for saving the timber wolf from extinction. Its legend read: "Extinct is forever."

Winston Hoag could go along with that. He didn't like to see animals die out. And the animal he would least like to see die out was himself.

He took the two hundred dollars.

"Remember," the woman said, "A full two minutes before you turn on your chemical spray, we want the camera between your legs turned on."

"Okay," Hoag said.

"How do you protect your insecticide tanks?" the young man asked.

"What?"

"What protection do you use for your insecticide tanks?"

"Don't use nothing," Hoag said. "I'm the one who needs protection."

"How do you know your insecticide tanks won't release prematurely?"

"They're safe from that."

"Let me see," said the woman.

"They're just plain old insecticide tanks," said Hoag.

"We want to see them anyway," the young man said.

Hoag took them to the plane, and explained that he had more than adequate safety measures to protect the tanks from premature release.

"You've got to remember," he said. "That insecticide costs money and I could be sued if I sprayed some residential area."

"Yes," the woman said. "We know that money means a lot to you."

"Listen, I can use the money," Hoag said. "But everybody's got to earn a living and I don't rightly take no job with insults attached."

"We understand," the young man said soothingly. "We didn't mean to insult you. Could you possibly reinforce the insecticide tanks?"

"Sir?" said Hoag, trying to be polite in turn.

"Could you reinforce the insecticide tanks, sort of put another set of brackets around them?"

"Not for no two hundred dollars," Hoag said.

"Three hundred," said the young man.

Hoag shook his head. First of all, the new metal might cost another hundred and that would add weight to the plane and cut his fuel economy. He was ready to forget the whole thing right there. There were a lot of things he would do for a few hundred dollars, but taking risks with an old plane was not among them.

By the time the crop duster and the young couple worked out exactly how they wanted the insecticide tanks protected, it added two hundred pounds of weight to the plane, threw off its balance and would cost the couple no less than fifteen hundred dollars. Winston Hoag was sure they would refuse.

But the hundreds just kept coming from a roll of bills in the young man's hand. And they didn't even want a receipt.

"You know," said Hoag, "even if this danged plane crashes, those tanks won't be harmed. Darn, if they aren't the most secure things this side of Fort Knox."

"You're sure?" the woman said.

"I wish I was that well protected," said Hoag, and the couple flashed simultaneous smiles.

They came back the next day to inspect his work. They insisted on installing the camera, setting it just so, and demanded to see where he sat in the plane. They readjusted the camera's angle to makeaure, they said, that the lens got his face perfectly.

"I think it's pointing at my chest," said Hoag as the young woman ran her hand down between his legs. He liked the touch of her hands so he didn't complain.

"We know what we're doing," she said. "Now, let's see you reach forward for the switch."

He leaned down and reached for the shiny metal toggle switch which looked as if it had been removed from an old electric motor. It had been soldered onto the trigger of the video camera.

As he touched the switch, his chest was less than two feet away from the camera lens.

"Perfect," said the woman.

Hoag took off that afternoon to dust a small crop of peanuts outside Plains, Georgia, fifteen hundred dollars richer from two young people he thought of as fools.

He wasn't even going to bother dusting that day. He didn't want to risk going tight to the peanut field, skimming close to trees with the plane's extra weight. He planned to get over the peanut field, turn on the camera, fly absolutely level for twenty minutes so the camera wouldn't catch anything but his face and the sky, and the two rich idiots would never know he hadn't been dusting. Then he would fly back, give them their camera, remove the heavy junk from the plane and do the regular peanut-dusting run the next day.

     

 

2011 - 2018