Ell and I had solved the gene sequencing program to produce the viral carrier DNA strand, now it was up to Ultima to turn our genetic calculations into reality. The human genome project sponsored by the U.S. government in the nineties had been the seed for a quantum leap in gene transcription technology that made the next step possible. There were automated processes available for constructing almost any organic molecule once the genetic sequencing and important procedural questions were resolved.

I uploaded the procedures to the Ultima research compound and then drove there to met Huang and the Mahdi. They contacted the President to let him know the success I'd had.

"Dr. Heller," Huang spoke formally holding a telephone handset. "The President would like to speak with you."

"Yes Mr. President."

"This is such a great achievement you've just completed that I don't know how to thank you," President William's delivered the standard boilerplate.

"The keys to Fort Knox," I suggested, but the President was not amused.

"Dr. Heller, you realize I cannot thank you formally because of the secrecy we have to keep. But perhaps I can thank you in another way. Will you be at your home tomorrow?"

"Yes, I need to take a rest after a few too many all-nighters," I admitted. I was in truth exhausted.

"Then expect word from me tomorrow. A special gift."

"I'm looking forward to it," I lied, I just wanted to sleep.

The Mahdi and Huang wanted to share a drink, but I begged off, "I need some down time," I excused myself, though in reality I had a rule about drinking with apostates who drank though their religion forbid drinking. I left the compound as soon as I could, so relieved to be done with this fascade that I blew a little carbon off the cylinders on the Viper speeding home . As fast as I drove though, I had the feeling I was being followed. Just sleep deprived paranoia.

It was the next morning I received a cell phone call from a woman who refused to identify herself. The sound was digitally modified, but I could tell it was Liddy, how could I not recognize her hyperactive voice?

"Listen, I can't talk much right now." She sounded alarmed. "There has been a huge crew of jackboots her looking through your files. They claim they're from the CDC"

I had never cleaned out my desks at the university and there was still a lot of my material there. Not that it would help anyone trying to dig up dirt on me, the journals and articles I read were pretty damn obtuse. And all my data was online, striped across a dozen systems and fractalized anyway.

"Are you okay?" I asked with concern. "I'll erase the bean counter's hard drives if they mess with my favorite secretary!"

"Its not me they're after," she clued me in. "Hurry, you've got to get out of your house," Liddy whispered into the phone, as if she was being watched herself. "This time I think they are serious," and she hung up.

If someone was after me, my telephone lines would no doubt be bugged. I'd only have a few moments to get out of my home and start running, if there was indeed a need to run. But wasn't I being protected by the President of the United States because of the exceptional citizenship I'd just shown?

I took a peek out the shutters from the front living room and noticed the presence of a military Army M-ATV up the hill from my house that screamed attack (the GreenWorlders would freak if they saw that bulldozer in their Santa Cruz mountains). Obviously I'd been under surveillance for quite a while and the jig was up. All this hacking into files was sure to get me into trouble eventually.

It took only an instance to decide to run for my life. If the last year of my life had taught me anything it was that I shouldn't count on anyone coming to my rescue, not even the President of the United States. Who would believe I had been trying to save mankind by hacking the CDC files containing a biological warfare agent and not just trying to make myself rich?

Besides, this all smelled of a setup.

Usually when I moved it was with no particular grace; after all I was in reality a quadriplegic who had been computerized. It was only when I was transformed by whatever mystical connection Ell seemed to have to me that I was capable of the extraordinary athleticism needed to run and fight. Those responses didn't seem to be happening to me this time,

"Ell, where are you when I need you?" I pondered nervously with no response.

I grabbed a sweat suit to camouflage my appearance, threw the contents of my coin jar (the little non-credit card or money card currency I had) in a carrybag and pulled my trail-bike out of the storage closet. There wasn't much alternative, if I got into the Viper sitting out on the roadway it would be like painting a bullseye on my escape - it had GPS tracking anyway. I carried the trail-bike downstairs and out the back basement entrance. There was a path down to a gate which opened onto the road that wound its way down to the Bay through the hills from my house.

"Dr. Heller," came a voice from behind the stair landing which made the blood run out of me. "I don't think you should be leaving quite yet," it was a Presidentail Guardsman I recognized from the Strickland party. But he wasn't in formal uniform, this time it was a full body-armor combat garb.

"I was just going for a little exercise . ." I began to say, as if some unexpected goon should be expected guarding my house. I could see that there was another Guardsman at the corner of the house with an M4 trained on me. This was no surprise birthday party they were planning, I was headed towards an infinite stay at the long rumored Presidential reeducation camp.

I decided to take my chances then. There was an old Louisville Slugger basebat by the back doorway that I used for fungoing to the little league team.

"Okay guys, I give," I said slowly and lowered the bicycle off my shoulder, "just let me put the bike back," I spoke distinctly. What got into me next I do not know, but I took the bat from hiding as the Guard's gaze shifted and with a full swing I cold cocked the trooper in his helmet, cracking the Kevlar and making blood spurt from his nose.

The other Guardsman immediately advanced, "stand still!" he shouted, obviously under orders to keep me alive. "I've got a problem here at the back," he barked into his headgear mike.

I ignored him, dropped the bat and started to drag the bike out the doorway again. Guardsman two advanced at a full run with the butt of his M-4 aimed for a body shot and I swear I caught the impact square in the ribs, knocking my grip loose of the trail bike and leaving me flat on my back. But the carbon fiber nano-tubes embedded in the new lightsuit had evidently done their job and absorbed the impact, and I seemed to survive without having had my ribs crushed.

What happened next is a blur, as the Guardsman attempted to swing the M-4 on me again, I did a gymnastic floor exercise kick to standing position that would have made an 80 pound Chinese Olympian gymanst proud, avoided the axe blow, came behind the stormtrooper and snapped his neck with a twist.

"This is not me, this is not me," I began to incite looking down at the crumpled body, "its that damn software!" but I began to hear the faint sounds from the dead soldiers displaced ear mike that told me his friends were here.

I grabbed the mountain bike and launched myself on it down the bike path just as a third and fourth Guardmen rounded the house corner. This time they had been given orders to shoot to kill and I was caught by a three tap burst of lead to my back as I picked up speed. Apparently the nanotubes made this my lucky day again, because I didn't seem affected.

I hadn't been on my trail-bike in more than a year and I peddled awkwardly but furiously on what I hoped would be a controlled crash down to the city below; a hundred yards downhill I launched out of a bikepath gate that crossed the road just as the military Humvee I'd seen before rounded the curve. Pap, pap, pap! came the sound of more rounds hitting trees. The Humvee turned down the small biketrail I was on to chase me, crashing through the side underbrush like a locomotive. I could see the line of a dark limousines on the parallel roadbed above filled with FBI looking goons opened fire too.

My blood was pumping like a jack hammer and the bike whirred down the Santa Cruz Mountains, I think I must have hit 100. For someone who was against gratuitous thrills this was a bit much. There was really only one chance to shake the pursuers, which was to take an extreme path some trailbiker daredevils had carved out almost straight down the mountain. I caught the turn just barely and breathed a sigh of relief because I never thought they'd head into the woods. But I soon heard the sounds of the Humvee crazily trying to pursue down a two yard wide path I could barely follow.

I was flying over bumps that launched me six feet in the air, but somehow I (I think actually it was Ell) was able to keep from going over the edge. Not so lucky was the Humvee, that failed to catch a turn and launched into outer space, fortunately coming to land in a shrubbed over canyon that broke its fall. I pulled to a skid stop, to look back down the canyon foolishly to see how the Guardsmen had faired, they were human beings I thought. I was rewarded for my concern with a shot taken from the stranded Humvee that pinged off the rock wall near my ear. They must really want me dead. But I wasn't waiting to find out what they were up to and I'd covered the twenty miles into town in 30 minutes.

Once I reached El Camino Real, I ditched the bike and took a commuter bus towards San Francisco, slouching in the back seat to avoid stares - but it was a freak bus anyway. The whole bike ride down the mountain, and the bus trip to San Francisco, I thought about the trouble I was probably in. I got off at Market Street in the City where I knew I'd fit in well with the assorted stranglings. I scarfed a late lunch at a gay bar where I fit in better than I liked, and then gave Laura a call from a pay phone; it was my last dollar.

"Laura, do you know what is going on?" I asked, with my heart still pumping.

"All I know is that government agents are after you," Laura confided. "It's all over the news."

"What do you think the chances are the Mahdi and Huang can call in some favors and the President can get me off the hook?" I asked, feeling a bit desperate.

"The chances are less than zero," Laura admitted. "But maybe if you turned yourself in, something could be done," she added, though something in her tone was none too reassuring.

"I don't think that's wise," I answered. "They'll reopen Alcatraz prison just for me and throw away the key if I'm caught."

"I miss you," Laura changed the tone of the conversation. "Where are you now? Maybe you could hide out here with me at the retreat? In fact, I insist!"

"I'm in Palo Alto," I lied. "I guarantee this call is being traced by everyone from the NSA to SFPDDHS," I conjectured with a sinking feeling. "The Mahdi's retreat would be one of the first places the Feds would look for me."

"That's exactly why you should come here. If we succeeded in hiding you, they wouldn't pursue you further!" Laura pleaded.

"That actually makes sense in a way," I admitted out loud. Inwardly, I was taking stock on whether the woman I loved might not be as trustworthy as I thought. "Don't come for me, I'll find a way to get to you. I love you more than you know," I added obtusely and hung up the payphone.

Laura was a personal friend of the President. In fact, at the Strickland mansion, she seemed to be a personal friend of just about every male powerbroker in the country. I wasn't sure what was going on in her mind, but she wasn't telling me everything.

I had to go on the run now. Someone had tipped off the Feds that I had cracked the CDC files and stolen the formula for a deadly biological warfare agent. It appeared I was on my own and couldn't trust anyone, not Laura and maybe not even Ell.

Or maybe I was just being paranoid and this was just about a friendly IRS audit.