Zeus and Io - Books 1 and 2
Chapter 21

Copyright 2012,2013 by Harry Carton


Shopping is boring. That's why I shop so infrequently. At a grocery, I buy large volumes of things that would keep in the freezer: frozen burritos, frozen 'man-sized' meals, frozen everything. Well, not everything, I didn't like frozen vegetables much. That way, I wouldn't have to go again for a long time.

It was even worse shopping for items I'd need on the mission. In the unit, we just got stuff. We requisitioned it, or just went to the supply room, and picked out what size would fit. Take a wet suit for example. They come in sizes. I couldn't just buy one and assume it would fit properly. That could lead to a disaster. Or a rebreather, for underwater breathing without a tank; there were ten of them, at differing prices. I eventually settled on a German-made unit, but only after trying it in a tank. That was an experience, let me tell you! Try to convince a salesman that you want to try his entire selection of rebreathers underwater before you'd buy one. Actually, I bought two.

My shopping list was extensive, and Io's was only slightly less so. Arti stayed in the H2 the whole time, and Io was there, too, of course. Every time I got in to the car they were talking about thousands of shares of Disney, or what the latest price was and so on. That was okay. That part of the project would effectively be over sometime on Friday, and today was Thursday. They had a lot to do and oversee.

"How's it going?" I asked after packing the newest purchases in the back of the Hummer.

"Ahead of schedule," said Arti. "They've had to shut down trading in Disney stock at 11:00 am, with the price up $12 already. That's a huge percentage gain on a stock that was trading at $44. It closed at 56, and reopened at 61 at noon. It seems that we were not the only ones buying."

"Artemis," said Io, "we just got some more at 61.50. That's another $1.3 million of our funds. We've spent about $400 million so far, and the volume in the stock is just huge. It is over 11 million shares so far. Not all of that is from us. The Disney family announced that they are increasing their stake in the company: they want to increase it from 5.1% to 5.5% over the next few weeks. That is a commitment of just under half a billion dollars. And somebody else is coming in on the buy side.

"The company itself has said it has no idea why there is such a strong surge today, or for that matter why the short interest exploded over the last few weeks."

Arti said, "Push harder, Io. We want to get all our funds deployed before they shut it down, again."

"If all our pending orders are filled, we'll have spent $750 million."

"Okay, that's good," said our 'finance officer.'

"I have bought all the things I need, too," I said. "It came to just under one thousand dollars. I hope that doesn't hold up our takeover of the Disney company. Donald Duck already doesn't have any pants, you know."

Arti looked up from her computer and laughed.

"I'm sorry, Zeus," she said. "You've kinda been on your own. It's what, 2:00 pm? I haven't even had breakfast yet, and I never go without breakfast. I've been a little, ahh, preoccupied."

"I've noticed. It's perfectly all right. I know you need to do this, and I'm glad to have you do it. We'll hurt them twice this way," I replied. "Besides, you'd only have been in the way, considering all the stuff I was buying. I did have to pay full retail for all my stuff though."

"Arrrggghhh," she mocked a pained expression. "If you'd have negotiated we could have saved, maybe, two hundred dollars." She punched me on the arm, not hard. "Loose wallets – uh what do loose wallets do? They don't sink ships."

"No, no sinkings. Loose wallets pay retail, I guess. When can you break for food?"

"The market closes in about an hour," she said. "But I think that everything is covered. Io can handle things very well."

"Good. Io, can you find us some place to park this beast overnight? Either here or just east of here," I said. "We still have to get your office supplies and other stuff. No sense getting to Punta Gorda before late Friday. So we'll take it easy."

"A day off? Impossible," said Arti. "Can we go to the Circus Museum? There's no circus there 'cause it's summer. But I always wanted to go to the museum? Can we, can we, can we? It's on the way, in Sarasota. Can we?"

She was getting 'under my skin, ' as the old Sinatra song went. I laughed again. Before I met her, I hardly ever laughed. Not since my ex-wife was in the picture, anyway.

"Yes, little girl. We can go to the circus. But now, we've got to get you some food. Don't want you to pass out. How about Denny's?"

"Zeus! I just made more than $100 million. And you want to take me to Denny's?"

I found a place that was a little more upscale. It wasn't Shoney's either.

There are places in the U.S. where the large meal of the day – usually in the early afternoon – is called 'dinner, ' and the evening repast is called 'supper.' I wasn't brought up in that tradition, so I didn't have a name for the large meal that Arti and I shared at the very nice restaurant we found. We shared the venue with a group of senior citizens. They entered en mass and proceeded to have twenty-two versions of the Early Bird Special with wine spritzers. Over the next hour and a half, they further proceeded to get thoroughly plastered.

I checked my watch. "Well, I guess it is sufficiently past 1530, that you won't feel compelled to check on the stock market, so it's safe to head back to the Io-mobile."

Arti laughed and showed me the face of her camo-colored smart phone. It showed the stock ticker and the financial ticker. The hot news item was "Disney stock up sharply on unusual volume." The darn thing had been sitting on a corner of the table throughout the whole meal. I couldn't fault her though: I'd have wanted to keep on top of one of my ops, too.

"No wonder I didn't see that thing. The camouflage was perfect, it blended in with the white tablecloth. It's practically invisible."

I reached into my pocket and was surprised to find I didn't have enough cash to pay for the meal. Arti laughed again, and placed her credit card on top of the bill.

When we got back to the Io-mobile, we went to the nearest office supply place, and filled Io's list. The most expensive thing she bought was heavy cardboard stock ... well, that, and a top of the line laser printer. Did I mention the laminator? We lugged all that out to the camper and manhandled it inside. And woman-handled it too – I don't want to insult any of the team, here. I had to go into the auto parts store next door and get some heavy tie-downs, so we could strap the new equipment against the walls. We didn't want that stuff to be rolling around when the camper was in motion.

One more stop at a costume shop, and one more after that at a fine luggage store, and we were ready to take on the world. I hoped.

We hadn't really used an overnight berth at an RV/Camper lot, before. I needed instructions. I learned where the cleanout station was (that's where you dump your waste and waste water), and how to hook up the cable TV and electricity. I elected to take a pull-thru spot, even though it cost five dollars more. We'd gone to the ATM machine to get me a refill, and Arti assured me that we could afford it, now that we were trading Disney stock in the multi-millions.

After getting all the connections ... well ... connected, we re-entered the camper and began to set up the new equipment, as well as Arti's laptop. Io printed several copies of the false identification papers for all three of us. Yes, three: Arti and I got shiny new DEA identification tags, which we fitted into the new wallets along with the badges from the costume shop (that would never stand up to a close investigation), and the H2 got brand new fake government license plates, printed on heavy cardboard. The window stickers still said "Texas" on them, but that could easily be explained. Besides, if we got that close to a real inspection, how would we explain the computer humming along in the back seat?

After we laminated everything and cut it to size, I ventured that we'd fool the Disney traffic police but not real G-men. Arti said we'd just avoid them.

Neither of us needed any more food, so we just decided to go to bed early. Sleep, however, was not in the cards. I was staring at the printed-out maps, now laminated, of the Peace River area and the grounds around the intended shooting gallery in Orlando. Wearing my usual nighttime attire: a full set of sweats, I padded out to the living area, maps in hand. Arti was wearing a very faded Lion King shirt. It probably came to mid-thigh on her when she was standing. At the moment, however, she was sitting, in nearly a half-lotus position on her bed – with her laptop on her lap, fortunately for me. I did not need to entertain any of those thoughts just a few hours before having to deal with terrorists.

I downed some OJ from the container in the refrigerator. Arti didn't even look up. "That's disgusting, Zeus. Use a glass for cripes sake."

"Language, young miss! 'Cripes?' Golly gee-whizikers. Don't you use that kind of language with me," I said as I tipped the OJ container up and finished it off. "What are you doing?"

"We just bought some more Disney stock. Finance is a global market these days, and the Hong Kong market is still open. We've got another two hundred thousand shares. That's $13 million more we got invested, and the stock is still rising. When Io tickles the trading companies' computers tomorrow, it will blow the lid off."

"That's great," I said, not really listening any more. "Say, is Io available on that thing?"

"I am here, Zeus," she said through the laptop's tinny speakers. "although I am not using an avatar to represent myself at the moment. The laptop's capabilities would be strained."

"Io, what is the depth of Reedy Lake?"

"Which one, Zeus? There are several Reedy Lakes just in the United States."

I looked at the back of the laptop. Fortunately, Io could not see the frustration on my face. I caught myself, and remembered that she is an abiological intelligence and extremely literal. She didn't know I was looking at maps of the Disney World / shooting area.

"The Reedy Lake in Orlando, just northwest of Disney's Magnolia Golf Course."

"It is eighteen feet deep in the rainy season, and usually not less than twelve feet deep in the summer."

"Perfect. Thank you, Io. You can go back to playing Monopoly, now."

"I am, in fact, reviewing Seven Samurai at the moment. I need to use my non-linear logic module, which operates only in my main processor, in order to understand it properly. The society in which it is set is fascinating. I shall have to add a study of the 15th through early 20th centuries in Japan to my reading list. I should add another mainframe just to read all the books on my list. I have nearly five hundred on it now, and there will be more once I have delineated all the Japanese culture books necessary. Unfortunately, I have to read at a background speed. I need all the processing power I can get for other projects. I shall have to shut it down entirely, soon," Io said. Then she added in a confused tone, "Why would I be playing Monopoly?"

"He means our little adventure in the stock market, Io. He's trying to be funny. We can forgive him. He's only a male, you know," said Arti.

"Sorry to interrupt, Io. Just needed to check a fact, and you are SO much nicer than Google," I replied. "And as for you, Miss Lion King, don't you think you ought to be a bit more covered up?"

"Oh? Does this distract you too much?" she said, pulling up the hem of the t-shirt another inch. "How about this?" She pulled the hem on the other side up so the whole thing was above crotch-level. The only thing covering her up below the waist was the laptop. It was a perfect shot for the 'Girls of College' photo spread in a men's magazine.

"I have maps to study and I don't need the distraction." I turned back to the bedroom, but that picture was burned into my brain.

"Someday, there aren't going to be any terrorists to shoot," she said loudly at my back. "You're going to be in trouble then."

"She speaks the truth, L.T.," said the spirit cohabitating in my head.

"Goodnight, Artemis," I replied, flipping off the lights.

After Io's statement that it would take six to eight hours to get to Sarasota, we decided to eat breakfast at 0600 and get on the road as soon as possible after that. It's easy to think that Pensacola is in Florida, so Sarasota, Florida must be fairly close. Not so. It was a good 500 miles down the Interstate. All our purchases were stored away, and we began the tedious chore of driving down there.

Tedious to me at least. Arti was tied to her laptop from the moment we hit the highway. Apparently the London markets were now open, and she could begin her whirlwind of buying Disney. I slept for most of the trip.

At some point, I asked her why we weren't buying Universal too, and she just said that we couldn't possibly have an impact on two companies stock at the same time. I said 'oh, ' as if I understood everything that was going on. We were fully committed. We were over-committed if I understood anything Arti had said yesterday. Of our available nearly $1 billion dollars, we had bought $1.3 billion of stock. We had used the profits on our first purchases to buy more stock.

When the N.Y. Stock Exchange opened, Io began to tickle the big trader-banker's computers. She had apparently found several 'back doors' into the program that the authors or managers used in all of the computer systems. When she got in, she saw that most of the managers were even cheating their own systems: buying and selling in 'relatively' small sized orders for themselves before the trading programs traded in much, much larger quantities for their companies.

The order flow appeared to be: the illegal orders from the managers, then the legal (but in Io's opinion, unethical) trading programs, and last and certainly least, the rest of the world. Io 'adjusted' the program just a little bit. She inserted a negative sign into the illegal orders from the managers – thus they would sell when they should have been buying and vice versa. Then the trading systems were only slightly 'adjusted.' They began to trade in Disney stock, all on the buy side. The combined volume in orders from these mega-trading systems was awesome.

All trading in Disney stock was halted for the day at 11:33 am. The price of the stock had shot up nearly $20 in just a few hours, and the volume was an eye-popping 15 million shares, in just two and a half hours. The exchange said that there were no sell orders at all and a flood of buy orders. Neither the company, the SEC, nor the exchange could offer an explanation. The last price for the stock was $84.75. The SEC said it would not resume trading until "things cooled down" over the long weekend.

If they only knew.

In the passenger seat of an H2 going down the Interstate sat a carnivorous cat with a broad grin and canary feathers all over her face.

"Okay, Zeus," Arti said. "All we gotta do now to close the trap for good is kill some terrorists! Over to you, Batman."

"Holy boat-slip, Robin. We can't do that 'til O-dark-thirty tonight. Our first mission is in Punta Gorda."

"I've never had a rush like that. Io, aren't you excited – just a little? We control over $1.7 billion of stock in Disney, counting all our profits. It's all illegal as hell, but we did it!"

"I understand the emotional aspect of our arrangement of the pieces on the chess board," Io said. "But I prefer to not count the poultry until their eggs have fully hatched."

"Or," I added, "in terms of Kenny Rogers' song, 'You never count your winnings at the table / there'll be time enough for counting when the game is done.'"

"Yeah, yeah, I get it. But this is a locked in cinch. A 'future fact' like Martinez says," Arti said.

She paused to put her laptop away. "You sourpusses can't bring me down. I just had a big win – err, I mean we all did. Mostly with Io's help and Io getting the money. Anyway: we had a big win. PLUS, I'm going to the Circus Museum! I'm going to celebrate."

She reached into the food sack and pulled out a cinnamon-raisin bagel, and began to eat it. Boy! Let me tell ya, when that gal starts to celebrate, don't get in her way.

The circus museum was interesting, but I was already concentrating on the mission. I didn't even drive the last few miles to the Port Charlotte side of the river – almost opposite the marina where the 'Beautiful Dreamer' was berthed. I asked Io to maintain a watch on it into the night, so I'd be aware of any change in occupancy or movement of the boat. She'd be updating me via text on my new 'water proof' phone. Nothing was really water proof, however, and I hoped it would work. If not, I'd just go with the last info that I had.

Frank was the presumed terrorist's name – or his false name in the U.S., anyway. I was going to kill him. At any rate, it was the best intel we had. Frank's usual pattern was to call an escort service on Friday evening, and send the girls home on Saturday morning. Io redirected all calls from his mobile phone to Arti. She was supposed to be an answering service for hookers, so she didn't need to do anything special: just promise that the girls would be there. 'They'd be late, but they'd be coming, ' was the story.

We got settled into a campground that catered to overnight campers, before dark. I got us connected to 'shore power, ' and disengaged the H2. Then I went into the camper to sleep. Arti said she'd stay in the Hummer, to get the call. She wanted to call it 'Hookers R Us' or the 'Hooker Helpline, ' but I knew she wouldn't mess it up.

I left a wakeup call with Io. Like many soldiers, I fell asleep when and where I could, and as often as possible. That evening was no exception.

My mobile rang at 2100 hours. I got up, slipped into the wetsuit and gloves, picked up the knives I wanted and slid them into their sheaths. A set of goggles and flippers finished my work suit. It felt great to be back 'in uniform' again. I walked out of the camper – and turned right back around. I'd forgotten the rebreather and the backup rebreather – then I picked up the mobile phone and a laminated map of this stretch of the Peace River. Some professional I was; ten years was a long time. Who was I kidding? I wasn't a professional any more. I was what we used to call an F-U-A – Fucked Up Amateur.

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