Pyramid Scheme

Pyramid Scheme

by Eric Flint, Dave Freer

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An alien pyramid has appeared on Earth, squatting in the middle of Chicago. It is growing, destroying the city as it does—and nothing seems able to stop it, not even the might of the U.S. military. Somehow, the alien device is "snatching" people and—for unknown reasons—transporting them into worlds of mythology.

Dr. Lukacs is one of the victims.

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An alien pyramid has appeared on Earth, squatting in the middle of Chicago. It is growing, destroying the city as it does—and nothing seems able to stop it, not even the might of the U.S. military. Somehow, the alien device is "snatching" people and—for unknown reasons—transporting them into worlds of mythology.

Dr. Lukacs is one of the victims. Granted, he's an expert on mythology. But myths are not something he'd thought to encounter personally. Or wanted to. Weighing in at 135 pounds in his odd socks and glasses, this academic is as assertive and aggressive as a jelly sandwich. At home in an office full of dusty books, he is ill-prepared for the great outdoors. Especially this great outdoors—full of man-eating monsters, dragons, angry sorceresses, and bronze-age thugs. Sure, he has a couple of tough paratroopers along with him, as well as a blonde Amazon biologist and a very capable maintenance mechanic. Unfortunately, modern weapons don't work, and the Greek gods are out to kill the heroes. All they've got is their own ingenuity, and...

Well, yes, they've got Medea and Arachne and the Sphinx on their side (both Sphinxes, actually—the Greek version as well as the Egyptian). And at least some of the Egyptian gods seem friendly.

But that can be a very mixed blessing, to say the least. Oh, and whatever you do—don't mention dwarf-tossing.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this SF-fantasy romp through classical myth, the authors of Rats, Bats, and Vats offer a charmingly picaresque journey that begins when an artifact of the alien Krim lands in the University of Chicago library and starts abducting people. Few of the artifact's victims return alive, and some do not return at all. Among those abducted into a Krim-twisted version of the ancient Mediterranean world are street-smart university custodian Lamont Jackson, biologist Elizabeth De Beer, paratrooper sergeant Anibal Cruz and, most crucially, mythological scholar Jerry Lukacs. Weedy and absent-minded, Lukacs is the only one who can advise the exiles on how to outwit Odysseus (who has the ethics of a junk-bond dealer) or win the good will of Medea (much maligned, but accompanied by two dragons who need a lot to eat). Assembling allies from different mythologies as they go along, the exiles must strive to undo the Krim's corruption of the Olympians before they can hope to effect a return to their own world. The novel is full of historical, mythological and folkloric erudition, as well as wit (usually laced with puns), coincidences, broadly painted characters and a vast profusion of the verbal equivalent of sight gags. Since the individual parts are sufficiently entertaining, the reader won't worry much about the whole's lack of integrity. (Oct.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal - Library Journal
When a mysterious black pyramid from outer space crash-lands inside Chicago's Regenstein Library, a mythographer, a marine biologist, two soldiers, and the library's maintenance man are tagged by the U.S. to investigate the phenomenon only to find themselves in the company of Odysseus and his bewildered crew. The coauthors of Rats, Bats and Vats combine ancient history with alien encounters in a rollicking cross-genre adventure that belongs in most libraries. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Freer (The Forlorn, 1999) and Flint (1632, 2000) join to describe what happens when a small alien probe called a Krim travels 2740 light-years through a wormhole and lands in the Regenstein Library of the University of Chicago. Then the expanding five-sided black pyramid casts some scientists and others back into Ancient Greece. Many mysteries surrounding this alien interstellar probe remain at novel's end, so a sequel should be cooking. Swift and engrossing fun, the unresolved philosophical mystery smacking of Stanislaw Lem.

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Read an Excerpt

Pyramid Scheme

By David Freer Eric Flint

Baen Books

ISBN: 0-671-31839-X

Chapter One

No borrower may remove more than three books.

The silence was all a fussy librarian could have wished for. It was 2:29 A.M. and the second floor of the Regenstein Library was deserted and dark ... except for the prowling flashlight.

They had said that the noise came from here....

The security guard thought it was probably nothing. There'd been no external alarms-just some "weird noise" the two cleaning women claimed to have heard coming from somewhere in the general bookstacks in the west wing.

The guard rounded the corner, and halted in his tracks. Shredded books lay scattered around the bizarre-looking object. The surrounding shelves hadn't just been knocked down. The force of the thing's arrival had crumpled the metal shelving as if they had been made of aluminum foil. He started to turn away ...

From the apex of the five-sided black pyramid, a beam of violet light engulfed him. Briefly. Then there was no one there to engulf.

* * *

The Krim device expanded, covering some of the debris generated by its arrival. It was nearly sixty yards off target, but the probe was not concerned. That was a perfectly acceptable margin of error for a journey through a wormhole, across 2740 light-years.

* * *

The apex of the pyramid was now almost against the ceiling. Yet the object couldn't have been very heavy. The crumpled paper it rested on was scarcely dented.

* * *

"There's no sign of the entry control officer," came the voice of the University of Chicago policeman, crackling over the radio. "Except a plate of gyros on his desk. The cleaning women say he went up to the second floor quite a while ago. Probably nothing to get excited about."

Lieutenant Solms scowled and exchanged glances with the dispatcher. Then spoke into the radio: "Stavros, you always think it's `nothing to get excited about.' Do your job, dammit. You've got Hawkins for backup."

The dispatcher rolled her eyes. Backup, her lips mouthed, exuding silent sarcasm. Solms' own lips quirked appreciatively. The University of Chicago police lieutenant was the watch commander. Of all the officers under his command, those were the two he often found himself wishing fervently would take an early retirement. A very early retirement.

"Go see what's up," Solms ordered into the phone. "And report back as soon as you can."

Solms straightened and sighed. "I'd better go down there myself. What the hell, the Regenstein Library's only a block away. I'll just walk it."

He headed for the door. "Stavros is probably right, but-"

The dispatcher snorted. "Those two clowns could screw up buttering bread."

* * *

The U of C police cruiser was parked in front of the Regenstein. Neither Stavros nor Hawkins was in it. Solms marched through the front entrance and looked around. The wide and open ground level was well lit. Everything seemed perfectly normal, except for the abandoned entry control desk. The two cleaning women had apparently left.

Solms headed for the stairs on the left leading up to the stacks. When he got to the landing, he spotted a flashlight lying on the floor. It was the same type of flashlight he was holding himself.

Belonged to Stavros or Hawkins. He turned his head and looked down the stairs. His eyes ranged over the ground floor, most of which was open to his gaze, searching for a body anywhere.

Nothing. Like one of them dropped it while they were running-but if that's the case, where are they now?

He shifted the flashlight to his left hand and drew his gun. Then, slowly and carefully, finished the climb to the second floor and started searching through the maze of stacks.

* * *

Solms showed that he hadn't forgotten what he'd learned as a regular street cop, when he saw the pyramid. Something about that black thing said: your next step on your way to somewhere else could be much farther than you want to go.

Then, when he got outside and reached Stavros and Hawkins' cruiser, he showed his political smarts too. Had he still been on the city of Chicago's own police force, of course, he would have called in for backup right away. And he still had every intention of doing so-after he notified the university's own officials.

Solms was savvy about how things worked, officially ... and unofficially. He'd seen the University of Chicago Police as a good career, and after he transferred from the CPD he discovered he had a sharp nose for campus politics. Whatever that thing was, the University administration would be furious if they didn't get word of it first.

The Chicago Police Department routinely monitored radio calls made by the U of C police. Solms got out of the cruiser and went back into the library. Leaning over the entry control desk, he snagged the phone and called the dispatcher.

"Marilyn, get me Professor Miguel Tremelo on the line. Patch it through to here. There's something screwy in the Regenstein. Then I want some backup-and ask the CPD to send a few cruisers too. But don't do it until after I talk with Tremelo and give you the okay."

* * *

Miggy Tremelo was still more of a scientist than an administrator. Once he'd had a thirty second look at the object, his training and instincts came to the fore. "Just keep everyone out, Lieutenant," he said, achieving an evenness of tone that amazed even himself. "I need to make a call. I'll go across to my office in High Energy Physics."

"You can phone from here, Professor," Lieutenant Solms offered.

"It's more convenient from my office," Tremelo lied transparently. "It isn't going to take me five minutes to get over there."

He walked off with a speed that belied both his calm tone and his age. Professor Tremelo was a widower, and he had time on his quick walk to the lab to feel a moment's gladness that his wife Jenny wasn't around to see the havoc wreaked in the bookstacks. Jenny had been the head librarian of the Regenstein, and had taken bibliophilia to the point of near-obsession.

* * *

By the time the university president's Lexus got there, the Regenstein's grounds were swarming with cops-both university and regular CPD varieties-and six excited physicists were trying to manhandle a portable industrial X-ray unit up the Regenstein's entryway. The Chicago officers were fussing about "disturbing evidence," and Tremelo was attempting to explain that X-rays wouldn't disturb anything. They were getting a little heated about it. Meanwhile, Lieutenant Solms' university cops had brought some yellow police line and carefully cordoned off the area.

O'Ryan had already spoken on the phone to his friend the mayor, and his face was very pale. Very pale indeed. Finding Mayor Caithorne wide awake at four in the morning had been alarming. Finding out why had been even more so.

The university president hadn't gotten to his position without being able to exhibit forcefulness when necessary. Before too long, he had reassured the police that no evidence would be destroyed but that they really needed to let Professor Tremelo and his physicists proceed.

"The FBI will be here in a few minutes. Now, listen. I've just been speaking to the mayor. The Pentagon is already onto this. That thing is some kind of satellite. Or something. And it isn't one of ours. Obviously they want this kept out of the media for as long as possible. It's a national security matter already."

Solms nodded. "We've got the area secured. But I have a problem, sir. Two of my officers are missing. And so is a security guard. We need to get forensics in here ASAP. And we'd better call the bomb squad as well, in case that thing is dangerous."

The university president fought down an anxiety-driven angry response, reminding himself firmly that Solms was just a good cop doing his job. Then, in a carefully controlled voice, O'Ryan said: "I suggest you wait until the FBI get here. Apparently they're already on their way. After all, they might just have run away or be absent from their posts for a few minutes ... mightn't they?"

Solms looked stubborn. "Stavros and Hawkins are useless slobs, sir. But police crime-scene procedures have to be followed in something like this, or we're treading on a very fine legal line." Two of the regular Chicago officers echoed their agreement.

The president looked at his watch. He sighed. "Lieutenant, the federal government will have some men to take it out of here before first light anyway. Then your investigation can proceed as normal."

* * *

Lieutenant Solms' father was a builder by trade. As a result Solms knew something about bricks and mortar. And if they could get that thing out of the building without knocking down a few walls, he was a Dutchman's maiden aunt. (Continues...)

Excerpted from Pyramid Scheme by David Freer Eric Flint Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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