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The Ouroboros by Woody Clark

Time Cures All Ills

The world's wealthiest man builds a time machine to take him to the future, where a cure for his terminal illness awaits.

When the planet’s wealthiest man receives a terminal diagnosis, he faces the ultimate decision: accept his fate, or deploy his nearly limitless fortune in the quest for a cure. Having exhausted every conventional option, Michel Bouchon is left with little choice but to build the one technological marvel he knows will yield a universal panacea. With his future, and that of mankind’s hanging in the balance, Michel begins construction and names his audacious invention “The Ouroboros”.

The world is stunned when the reclusive trillionaire emerges from seclusion and announces that he has discovered a cure for every disease. Although a remarkable achievement that captivates imaginations around the globe, Michel cautions that his remedy comes with a considerable caveat: he can only extend his life-saving elixir to ten others, and those lucky recipients, will be chosen via a lottery.

As lottery fever grips every man, woman, and child, so too does it consume Michel’s business rival, Yan Huen.

Driven by greed and his desire to surpass Michel, Yan covertly purchases a lottery spot and enlists the services of master spy, Devlin Archer. Employing the mole to steal the secrets behind the cure, Yan schemes to exploit the remedy for his own profit, and ultimately supplant Michel as the world’s richest man.

In this gripping tale of insatiable avarice, burgeoning technologies, and furtive espionage, the destinies of Michel, Yan, and Devlin become inexorably linked across space and time.

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Excerpt from The Ouroboros © Copyright 2023 Woody Clark

Michel Bouchon, the world’s first trillionaire, earned that monicker when his invention, the Everwake pill, became the first medication in history to be ingested by nearly every living person on the planet.  Taken once a day, the supplement fully oxygenated the body’s bloodstream and in turn, allowed mankind to eliminate its greatest impediment: sleep.

With eight additional waking hours, the human race became more productive than ever before and took innovative leaps at a blistering pace.  Because of his ingenuity, the fifty-eight-year-old’s creation was labeled a “Game Changer” in human evolution and was subsequently compared to the invention of the wheel.

However, with increased human productivity, came the unintended consequence of even faster climate change.  Faced with rising ocean levels, depleted farmlands, and civil unrest, Michel set forth to solve the scourge of global warming.

And did.

After years of work and at great expense to his personal fortune, Michel announced the release of the Orbital Solar Shade.  A satellite that mirrored the Earth’s orbit around the sun, the OSS measured the exact distance needed for its 10,000 square-foot sail to cast a fixed shadow onto the Arctic.  The almost imperceptible change in temperature created by the shade was the precise amount needed to cool the massive ice sheet and prevent further erosion.

With the planet’s temperature stabilized, Michel was labeled a hero, a savior, and to some, The Messiah.

Michel’s life soon began to unravel however when it was announced that due to his work on the OSS, he had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer.  The disease was said to be ravaging his body, and tragically, had left him with little time to live.

For the next several years, Michel was not seen or heard from, and rampant speculation about his fate varied wildly.  Conspiracy theories abounded, but most assumed he had succumbed to his illness in quiet isolation.  Begrudgingly, the world mourned, and slowly began to accept the fact that the man who had saved the planet had been lost forever.

Until now.

Chapter 1

“By the time I finish this sentence, three weeks will have passed.”

As Devlin Archer digested what he had just heard, he suddenly realized the futility of every maneuver he had orchestrated.  The clandestine drops, false passports, and meticulously chosen safehouses were now worthless.  More importantly, though, so was the money.  He’d never again see the man who had hired him or a dime of the millions he’d been promised.

With his breathing becoming shallow and his pulse quickening, Devlin began to grasp the urgency of his situation.  If he didn’t escape quickly, he would be trapped in this underground tomb, forced to spend an eternity here with these people.

And most likely, to die with them.

Struggling to formulate a plan, Devlin’s mind raced and invariably drifted back to the beginning.  The moment when everything had, ironically, been put into motion.

Chapter 2

Dressed in firefighter’s gear, Devlin waited patiently inside the car he’d stolen earlier that morning.  Several blocks from the Bouchon Industries’ headquarters in the heart of Silicon Valley, the world’s most sought-after spy remained calm as he surveyed the employees scurrying through the building’s main entrance.  Like most of the structures in the tech capital of the world, the exterior was futuristic in appearance and massive in size.  Comprised predominantly of glass, the company’s façade reflected the sun like a beacon in the daylight and stood out even amongst the equally mammoth buildings surrounding it.

In his early fifties, Devlin Archer lit a cigarette as he waited, letting the nicotine course through his body and steady his nerves.   Atop his six-foot frame, he fastidiously maintained his light brown hair recently flecked with gray.  Clean-shaven with an aristocratic nose, Devlin’s resemblance to the 1960s version of Sean Connery was uncanny.

However, perhaps most striking about the mercenary were his piercing light blue eyes.  They radiated from his face like a wolf’s, commanding attention and submissive obedience.  His eyes had been his most valuable tool on numerous occasions, having opened more doors than even his light fingers or legendary hacking skills.

From his vantage point in the parked car, Devlin could clearly make out the “Bouchon Industries” lettering that adorned the roof of the building.  His face broke into a sly smile knowing that the pending diversion would take place atop the twenty-story structure.

He took another puff and peered out the window, gazing towards the fog-filled marine layer.  He was relieved to see that the haze had settled into the Bay Area, as it typically did this time of year.  He took satisfaction in the fact that if he couldn’t see the drones shrouded by the thick mist, neither could anyone else.

Devlin leaned back in the driver’s seat.  For a moment he reminisced about the countless missions like this one he’d engaged in over the previous decades.  As with those, every detail of this job had been meticulously planned down to the nano-second.  Sure, there had occasionally been times when things had gone less smoothly than he would have liked, but that was to be expected when assassinating Sudan’s head of state or installing malware into the mainframe of Indonesia’s largest Biotech firm.

In the end, he’d always found a way to make things work.


The most significant difference between those jobs and this one, however, was simple: the size of the payday.  Blackmailing Fortune 500 company CEOs or instigating regime changes in war torn countries had always paid handsomely, but for reasons only his employer understood, this commission had taken his compensation to an entirely different level.  The speed and urgency with which this assignment had manifested had certainly caught his attention, but not nearly as much as the massive crypto-currency payments that had flooded his blockchain accounts.

The watch alarm began to beep on his wrist, anchoring Devlin to the present.  He was forced to quickly regather his thoughts and focus on the task at hand.  Leaning over the passenger’s seat next to him, he opened up his laptop and entered a few commands into the keypad.  Concentrating intensely, within moments he saw his screen light up with the message he was waiting for, “Drones Targeting”.

Devlin let out a deep breath of relief as a timer on the screen began to countdown from five minutes, and as he expertly synchronized his watch to it, he closed the laptop and left it on the passenger’s seat.

Devlin exited the car and grabbed a five-gallon canister of gasoline that he had stashed in the car’s trunk.  He methodically began to pour fuel on top of and inside of the car, conscientious not to let the cigarette that hung from his mouth get too close.  Taking one last drag, he inhaled deeply until the end burned bright and then tossed the butt inside of the car; making sure he left the door open so that the ensuing fire would have the oxygen it needed.

Devlin swung an oxygen tank over his shoulders as he donned his firefighter’s helmet and gloves.  He calmly strode towards Bouchon Industries Headquarters as the vehicle erupted into flames behind him.

Approaching the front door of the building, Devlin paused for a moment as he checked his watch.  Waiting for the timer to count down from nineteen, to eighteen, to seventeen, he slowly reached for the door handle and entered the administrative office.

Once inside, Devlin glanced at the enormity of the lobby and the massive crystal chandeliers that hung from the rafters, fifty feet above the entryway.  Replete with white leather couches, workers scampered along the lobby’s marble floor to elevators that lined the walls, their steps echoing in the open space.  As expected on a typical workday, the inside of the Bouchon Industries’ corporate headquarters was bustling with activity, just as Devlin had planned.

Devlin strode towards the security checkpoint with purpose, where a large Security Guard rose to greet him.

“Where’s the fire?”  the security officer asked incredulously.

Devlin looked skyward, pointed, and said, “The roof.”

Confused, the security guard looked up and said, “I haven’t heard about any fire on the –“

Suddenly, there was a massive explosion from above and the entire building began to shake.  The interior lighting flickered as the five-ton chandeliers slowly swayed in large arcs from one side of the atrium to the other.  Stunned, everyone in the lobby area froze and glanced around nervously in bewilderment.

“Get everyone out of here, now,” Devlin commanded the security guard.

In shock, the guard remained motionless as his mind raced, trying to process what was happening before him.  Without warning, a second violent explosion rocked the building.  In an instant, screams rang out as the swaying chandeliers forcibly collided with one another, dropping massive shards of crystal that exploded onto the marble floor below.

The lobby quickly devolved into mayhem as shrieking office workers covered their heads and bolted toward the building’s front door.

“I said NOW!” Devlin ordered.

The glare of Devlin’s steel blue eyes jolted the security guard back to the moment, and as he pulled out his walkie-talkie, he yelled into it, “We’ve got a fire on the roof!  I repeat, a fire on the roof!  Evacuate the building!”

Still confused and unsure how to proceed, the security guard turned to Devlin for guidance and pleaded, “Who should I call?”

“Everyone’s on their way!” Devlin shouted over the cries of the office workers that jostled past him, “Just get everyone out of here!”

Immediately, another detonation concussed the building, and after locking his panicked eyes with Devlin for a moment, the security guard quickly spun around and pressed a large red button on the wall behind his desk.  Deafening alarms began blaring throughout the entire building while red and white lights flashed along the walls.  Within moments, workers began streaming out of their offices and swarmed the security check point, trying to exit the building as quickly as they could.  Surrounded by a mass of white-collared employees, Devlin pushed through the crowd and became lost in the throng of bodies.

Devlin wove through the pandemonium of frightened office workers and raced up a crowded stairwell.  He moved with purpose down a labyrinth of hallways until he reached the office he had mapped out weeks before.  Staring intently at its door, he became impatient as the seconds ticked by and countless workers pushed past.

“Come on…”  Devlin whispered to himself as he continued to glare.

After a few more moments, the door to the office thankfully sprang open, and the rotund man he was waiting for finally waddled through.  Rubbernecking wildly, the middle-manager quickly closed his office door and merged in with the rest of the crowd as they scampered towards the nearest exit.

Like a salmon swimming upstream, Devlin made his way toward the man and swiped his dangling key card as he brusquely brushed past.  Adroitly palming the key, he continued down the hall until he reached the non-descript door he knew held his immense fortune behind it.  With a quick tap, Devlin used the newly acquired key card and opened the door to the high-tech computer room, which housed scores of multi-million-dollar machines that functioned as the building’s central nervous system.

Once inside, Devlin closed the door behind him and was relieved to find that the cutting-edge equipment room was bereft of evacuated office workers and security personnel, just as he had anticipated.  Filled with servers, cameras and a bank of computers, the secrets these humming machines held were just moments from his fingertips, and Devlin began to tremble with excitement as he sat down in front of a computer workstation.

Disguised in his helmet, mask and gloves, Devlin smirked at the security cameras lining the walls, knowing his face shield kept his identity safeguarded.

Expertly, Devlin inserted a USB encoder into the computer’s main drive and immediately began entering a series of commands that lit up the monitor’s screen.   He ran a number of customized scripts he had coded over the years and his azure eyes gleamed as the screen filled with hundreds of highly encrypted files.

“Bingo,” he murmured as a smile spread across his face.

Each dossier was undoubtedly worth a fortune to any one of Michel Bouchon’s competitors, and yet Devlin remained focused, reminding himself that his client had paid him to procure only one specific file.  Scanning scores of documents, Devlin quickly found what he was looking for and pulled out a large capacity flash drive which he inserted into the computer.

After a few strokes on the keyboard, he clicked on the file labeled Photosynthesuit, and the download of what his employer had labeled “the world’s most highly sought-after secret” began.

With each agonizing second that passed, Devlin remained transfixed as he anxiously waited for the file to transfer from the computer to his flash drive.  Devlin focused intensely, monitoring the transmission of data as it rose from “25%” to “50%”.

So engrossed was the spy in his furtive efforts, he was unaware of an innocuous camera that slowly began to rotate towards him.

Finally, the download was complete, and although it had taken less than a minute, it had felt like an eternity to Devlin.  He quickly pulled out the flash drive and slipped it securely into his pocket.  Expeditiously walking back across the computer room, he paused in front of the door to compose himself, taking a deep breath to steady his nerves.  He then slowly opened the door, exited the room into the bedlam that still filled the hallway, and casually merged with the mass of frenzied people filing for the exit.

Devlin approached the front door’s security checkpoint.  Surrounded by scores of office workers, the overwhelmed security guard noticed his tall frame and firefighter’s equipment in the panic-stricken crowd and shouted, “Hey!  When’s the back-up getting here?”

“Any second,” Devlin replied, continuing to calmly stroll through the lobby door of the Bouchon Industries’ headquarters with the rest of the frantic employees.

In front of her computer in a quiet office, Layah Golden had watched the entire break-in unfold and monitored the actions of the man who was not only stealing her company’s most guarded secret, but irrevocably altering the course of her life.  As her German Shepherds, Hadron and Cern lay at her feet, she picked up her cell phone and sighed deeply.

The tears that filled her eyes obscured her vision, but she kept her focus resolute.  Forlornly, Layah whispered into the phone, “Initiate.”

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The Ouroboros by Woody Clark


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