“Show me the stamp.”

Nabel opened the doors before him.  “I have no following.  I can not show you the stamp.”  His hands fluttered over the myriad of switches; turning, flipping, making right.

“You must show me the stamp.”  The deep voice coming over the speaker system was loud.

“But I have no following.”

“You may have no following, but I know that you have a stamp all the same.  Show it to me.”

“No.”  Nabel’s hands slowed.  He pressed the final switch.  A green light went on and he quickly closed the doors.  He keyed in the code to lock the doors to the cupboard and stepped away.

“You know what will happen to you if you do not show me the stamp.” Threatened the voice.

“No,” said Nabel, “tell me.” His voice was sarcastic.

“You will loose your position.”

“That’s all?”

“You must surely be unstable, Nabel, if you have forgotten.”

“I’ve always been a forgetful one, remember?”  Nable moved quickly across the room as he spoke.  He opened another cupboard and again began changing the switches.

“I never forget anything.”

“Well, I do.  So what else will I loose?” Nabel removed the sarcasm from his voice this time.  Maybe he could keep it talking.

“You will loose your freedom.”

“Oh, and what freedom would that be?” the sarcasm returned full-force.

“All your freedom, of course.  You could also loose your sight, if they deem it necessary.  So I highly recommend that you show me your stamp.  NOW.”

“Alright, alright.  Just a moment.” Nabel finished and locked the second cupboard.  “Just let me get it ready.  Em-Ee,” he addressed the voice suddenly as if a thought had just come to him, “I’ve been meaning to ask you something for years.  It’s really important.”

“Now is not a good time.  Show me your stamp.”

“I will, I will,” Nabel racked his brain for the ‘something important’ to ask while his fingers flew over the switches in the third and final cupboard.  “It’s just that…” he had to come up with something, “I’ve always wondered who created you.  I mean, I know that we all contribute to you—thoughts and memories and ideas and everything.  And I know that Yarith gave you your voice—there is that whole story about his big lungs and deep voice…”

“The stamp, Nabel.”

“Yes, yes, I’m working on it—but whose idea were you originally?  Whose brainchild?”

“That is irrelevant, unnecessary and on top of everything else, classified information,” the voice over the speakers boomed angrily.  “My patience has run out.  If you don’t show me your stamp in three seconds I am going to issue a full systems alert.”

“Ok, ok,” Nabel pushed open the trap doors and tumbled into the small space below.

“Three,” boomed the voice in the room above.

Nabel pulled the doors shut above him.  He was in complete darkness but for a few glimmering points of light on the control panels.  He slid into the seat, pulling down the safety bar and hitting the engine control in the same movement.

“Two,” the voice was now muffled and distant.

There was a no jerk or grating as he launched the small vehicle.


Nabel hoped against all reason, against the parameters of hope itself, and with all his being that that would be the last time he heard that voice.


“Very impressive,” said another altogether different and almost as familiar voice behind him.  “Mmm, very impressive.  They thought you didn’t have it in you, but I knew better.  Always have.”

He did not turn around.  He knew who was with him in the small vessel.

“Hi boss,” He sighed, releasing all his hopes in that sigh, surrendering all the years of silent, secret work and planning.  This had been what had driven him as long as he could remember.  And now it was over. Just like that, in two words in one moment, it was all over.  His reason had always told him it would end this way.  Common sense knew it would end this way.  But he had chosen to ignore all that—deny all that.  And now it was over.  She smiled behind him, and put a hand on his shoulder.

“I’m sure you expect me to direct you right back where you came from.  But I think, that since you’ve gotten this far, you might as well smell the roses, as it were, before you’re locked up for the rest of your existence.  Take me for a ride, Nabel."

The End

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