“We just lost a drone?” Anabelle said. “I’m sorry, Steve.”
“No, no, he’s in there. The array deployed. You saw that right? I saw the blue film. It was there.”
“Steve, no one survived that. Looked at the screen. She’s a goner. Even if the film deployed, it wasn’t expanded in time.”
Steve swallowed and reached into his pocket and pulled out a little white tablet, popped it into his mouth and began chewing. Just the right shade of blue flashed in his mind. Denser than the array’s protective film. Here one second and gone the next. “Look, Anabelle, check for pulse ratings.”
“Steve...” she said it long and drawn out. “We have other jobs to do.”
“I deployed the array. We have a drone in place. We can at least set a beacon and alert the authorities to her exact location. She was right behind us.”
“The authorities were alerted the second their citizens board decreased in a flash by 1%. Meaning their tax revenue just plummeted.”
“You’re really hating on the IRS today. Guy’s gotta eat. Listen, go ahead. I’ll take a sick day if I have to. All right?”
“I’m already on it. Actually, there are eight pulse readings…oh, make that seven. May he rest in peace.”
Steve nodded. Worked his jaw. “Okay, light them up.” And as he stared at the screen, red dots appeared within the image of the rubble.”
“Look, here comes search and rescue…and their drones too. They won’t like that we’re here…hindering an investigation.”
“They can suck it. We were here when it happened. They’ll autodeploy. Damn, we’re already involved. Go ahead and shoot them the video of the incendiary device. Put it on replay.”
“They’ve already got their own, Steve.”
“Yeah, but not from the inside. Or did you not see that?”
“I saw…I just don’t like giving private data to the company voluntarily.”
While she worked, Steve watched the little red dots on the screen. Another one faded away in the right-hand corner. “Like you said, Anabelle, they already have it but…it’s the sentiment. It shows we’re sharing data. It’s a trust thing…not really, but that’s what we’re calling it today. Understand?”
“Not really, but whatever.”
“Now look who’s in a bad mood.”
Using the commands, a little green light lite up amongst the red. “Ahh…drone’s alive, Anabelle. See that? I told you.”
She tore her eyes away from her own screen and looked at his. “The array’s still in place?”
“That’s what I’m saying. I’m going to try nudging.”
“That’s impossible. It was like seven stories that imploded…there’s no way she’s alive Steve.”
“The drone is. The array’s in place and there a little red dot, right there. Oh hell, it’s moving. Blue eyes. She’s moving.”
“Yes now…or blue eyes really has no chance of survival because you’re going to pass out any minute.”
“Okay,” he sat down quickly when the edges of the room were growing darker but he kept his eyes on the screen as Anabelle triggered the dose and he leaned back as his fingers, arms and the sides of his chest and stomach began to tingle and then the familiar sensation of feeling as if he was crawling out of his own skin all over. He’d learned to ignore the sensation. He was ignoring it now…he was trying to ignore it. Breath. Remain calm. But he knew what was coming next and just because he’d thought the thought, he opened his mouth and yawned and then oddly felt a wave of something like a blanket of grief pour over him. Too heavy and smothering. That sensation was always the worst of its predecessors.
She knew it was coming too and she waited for it to pass and then asked, “Were the sads better or worse this time? Let me know so we can adjust the dosage.”
“I still don’t get how you know that’s coming. About the same.”
“You get this look across your face right before.”
“It can’t be helped. Flooding your system with insulin suddenly can’t be good for you. There’s got to be a better way. Can’t believe they haven’t figured that out yet,” he said as he sat up and knew better to stand for a minute. Instead he threw one hand out the window and said, “Look they can create that…but not fix this?”
“I think they’re more concerned with why so many are born and become insulin deficient than how to fix the side effects of the drug.”
“It’s not that hard to understand why. Survival of the fittest. Hey, let’s get search and rescue drones in place above this marker. The drone is moving more than a meter within the array and so is she. Damn look another light went out. The oxygen’s been smothered out.”
Anabelle’s head popped up. “We can supplement for her.”
He shook his head. “And cause an explosion? There could be flames nearby.”
“Here’s a thought. Do you see that other beacon? Do you think that’s our objective?”
“Nah, he’s meat by now. No way he survived. He was on the convex side of the array. He tried to take out the lot of them.”
“Well, he did take out a lot of them. Let him rot, then.”
“Alarms…can you mute that?” he said wincing and tilted his head away from the piercing noise at the same time watching the emergency personnel and drones on the screen.
He shifted in his seat, testing the edges of his vision with the sudden absence of the high-pitched noise and then another noise sounded.
“Incoming,” Anabelle said.
“You know it.”
“Put ‘em through.”
The same friendly female he’d grown up with came through the speakers. He’s listened to this voice tell him stories as he went to sleep as a child, tell him the weather as a teen and the news as an adult, when he was still interested in the news. The voice never aged. Never angered, Never mourned and this time it said, “Good afternoon, Mr. Glennings. There are a few questions the Company would like to ask you about your recent activities. Do you have time at the moment?”
He contemplated saying no…what would happen then?
“Yes,” he stated in a clear and precise tone so that the AI would not be confused and prolong the situation.
With his eyes still on the screen, Steve didn’t bother looking into the camera itself. There were several cameras, some he knew about and some he did not.
“Hold one moment,” she said.
Steve shot his eyes to Anabelle.
She lifted a shoulder. They never said hold one moment…that was unusual, even in a current event.
Then without warning a gruff male voice said, “Steve Glennings this is Detective Mike Portes. Please confirm your identification to ensure I am speaking with the correct individual.”
Steve rolled his eyes and pulled up his sleeve and flipped his wrist over and red the tattooed print. “7058977780879.” Then he flipped his sleeve back down to his wrist.
“Sir, you are required to memorize you citizen number.”
Steve shook his head. “No. The constitution clearly states, we’re required to wear…the number. It says nothing about memorizing the number.”
“Be that as it may, how can you wear a number without memorizing a tattoo that’s been on you since birth?”
“I try not to look at it. Are you here for a reason or a lecture? Because I have work to do.”
He knew the man was piercing him with his eyes even though he could not see him. And Steve didn’t care. He really didn’t care.
Silence for a moment, “Where were you at 19:46:17 UTC?”
Steve pointed an index finger to Anabelle like a game show host. “Precisely here,” Steve said and the eyes of the questioner were alerted to the screen as Anabelle disappeared and Steve appeared in the same room he was standing in there in front of the control screen.
“Can you confirm biologic location as well.”
Before he could point his finger again, Anabelle popped up his states on the screen next indicating his heart rate and speed as a time stamp under that environment. “See, biometrics 99.6% coincide. I’m insulin dependent so I run a little warmer at times.”
“You and your associate…”
“Her name is Anabelle. She’s not just my associate.” The screen flashed back to Anabelle silently glaring at him.
He bobbed one shoulder up and down. Okay, he was admitting it. He was messing with them now.
“You and Anabelle…Shrewt, according to our records…”
Steve shot her a look because they’d worked together for over seven years and like the number permanently emblazoned on his wrist, he also had not committed her last name to memory.
She widened her eyes quickly indicating that he must be a moron and yes, of course that was her last name.
“…sent a recording of the implosion of building 27664 Winslow Way. Is that correct?”
Steve looked to Anabelle again and she confirmed the address with a nod. “That is correct.”
He shifted to the other foot when he heard his own voice and Anabelle’s on the recording through the speaker. The detective was watching the recording in the moment.
“Why uh…are we zooming in on the clerk’s eye?”
Anabelle raised an eyebrow at Steve this time. Yes, why were you zeroing in on the clerk’s eye, Steve?
He felt heat rising up his neck. “I ah, find it interesting the rarity of blue pigment in our current population. It’s less than 2%.”
“Does that mean blue eyed people are going extinct?”
Steve raised his eye brows, “Eventually…it’s quite rare now.”
“Okay. You’re in the room now. Or, I mean the drone is in the room.”
Steve circled at finger at Anabelle meaning they should watch the screen as well and flashed the exact moment the detective was observing on the overhead panel.
That’s when they saw the man in the suit again. Steve tilted his head to the right and watched what he only barely observed in real time, a black object sliding out of his pinstriped suit sleeve. The frame froze right there as the man palmed the sphere and then Steve let his eyes linger up the man’s chest. What would make a man decide to take hundreds with him to their deaths? When Steve reached the man’s eyes, he saw something there he didn’t expect.
“He was your objective?” the detective asked.
“Yes. We were just escorts. It was a termination case.”
“I see. It looks like he’d been with the company for over twenty years. What’s with his getup?”
“I…don’t do a history investigation of my cases, sir. I’m paid to do a job and I complete that task.”
“This was a company job?”
Steve looked to Anabelle who nodded slowly.
“Yes, the client was the company.”
“Do you also work for other clients?”
“Did you have prior tasks earlier in the day?”
“Wait, my clients are confidential. I understand and acknowledge that you may ask me specific questions about this particular incident, because it’s under investigation but I have absolutely no obligation to answer any other questions about any other jobs and besides I have NDA’s (non-disclosure agreements) in place. Unless you gain clearance for that line of questioning, I don’t have to answer.” Then he looked to Anabelle. “Go ahead and summon Randolph.”
The detective cleared his throat, obviously not comfortable with an aggressive and well-informed witness. “Who’s Randolph?”
“We’ll get to that at a later date if necessary. And of course you have the right to have your attorney present but at the moment these are just informal investigative questions. We could have a killer on the loose Mr. Glennings.”
Steve pointed his palm up to the screen. “The killer is right there.”
There was a pause and then the detective came back on a moment later.
“Uh, no…the incendiary came from below. We have footage of the bomb exploding on the main floor.”
Steve took a few steps toward the screen and quirked his head to the left. He wasn’t looking at the suit man’s hand, he was looking at what he’d noticed before. His eyes…they were…kind, if he had to name the emotion he saw there. As if he was looking at someone he loved, not someone he was about to murder. A tingle shot up his spine then.
“Then what the hell is he dropping out of his hand?”
The detective cleared his throat and didn’t hide the fact that he was annoyed. “Sir, that’s what I’m here to ask you.”