Saturday, July 21, 2012

Who Are You?

“Who are you?”

The long sequence of long and shorts vibrated in my ear; that standard answer to the question I had asked a hundred times.  It’s designation and a question in return, Why do you want to know?

“Because I’m the curious type,” I said in a whisper. 

I got enough looks for just having it on; I didn’t need anymore for talking to it.  My fellow Tram riders tried to ignore me, but their sideways glances from time to time were not lost on me.  It replied after a half-second, longer than usual.  Didn’t curiosity kill the cat?

I smiled; it and I had been together for too long, we were like old women during the downtimes.  It spoke again in the archaic language reserved for die-hard amateur radio operators, conspiracy theorists, and Conductors.  We are nine minutes from our destination.

I could now translate Morse Code at a rate of fifty words per minute; blazing fast speeds compared to when I was first recruited.  My mind no longer built the words a letter at a time, rather our conversation became like any other language you might pick up – like Spanish or Creole.

“Review target.”

Target is male, 43 years old, 5 foot 6 inches, occupation writer.  Last know address is 4508 Pleasance Ave, Apt. 5.  Walks with a limp, balding with blonde hair, and a scar on his left cheek.  Non-violent?

“You don’t sound sure,” I whispered with a grin.

The data is inconclusive.  No previous record of violence.  All of which means little when it describes humans.

“How specieist of you.”  I must have said it too loud, because the purple hairs across from me looked at me with disgust.

The data does not lie.

“True enough,” I said quietly this time.  It shifted a little to connect with my wrist computer.  Getting use to the Morse Code was easy compared to getting use to the slimy tendrils It moved and attached to different parts of my body.  It, was biological construct ACv-5b-I7, a data analyzation unit used exclusively by Federal Agents to record, analyze, and comput information agents used in the field.  The official nickname was “Parrot”, but the more common unofficial name was “Inky”.  My “Inky” I had never given a name to, simply had referred to it as It.  I had tried to not get too attached (pun intended) but It had grown on me (pun intended again).

Five minutes from target.

It had always bothered me.  The comps that I had learned Code from had all typed in the same way – very structured, very concise, very predictable.  It didn’t “speak” the same way as them; It had it own voice, its own pattern of speaking.  So whenever I had a free moment I would ask, “Who are you?”

I honestly wondered.  The biological constructs were still too new to be fully understood and their existence had driven religious leaders the world over into hissy fits.  There was even a group that wanted the Inky’s freed and allowed to live in the wild – frolicking and creeping through the tulips I guess.

The target was potentially one of them, or at least knew who had killed Agent Marlow and stolen his Inky.  The tram disgorged its riders onto the station platform and then mindlessly continued on its way.  I took the stairs down to street level, took a moment to get my bearing, and then started east down Pleasance Ave.  The streets weren’t full, but there was a steady stream of workers filtering their way back toward the Tram station and home.  A woman in a brown coat and red dress bumped into me at some speeds, nearly knocking us both over.  She kept her balanced, offered her forgiveness, and then ran off.

I checked my pockets and my holster, just in case.

Content that I was still in possession of all my possessions, I continued on.

Three minutes.

I could see 4508 written across the doorway of the brownstone; three minutes seemed a little much, “And if I take the back door?”

Nine minutes.


You’re out of shape.

“Silent mode.”  It’s tendril in my ear slinked down my neck and under my collar.  I huffed my way up to the third floor, a small bead of sweat on my forehead.  Apartment 5 was the entirety of the floor it seemed; there were no doors in the hallway save for one at the very end emblazoned with the number 5.  That was… odd.

I knocked on the door, the raps echoing down the hall.  I waited thirty seconds and then knocked again, harder.  The door swung open on my last pound.

“Corbin Ouillet?  I’m a Federal Agent, the door is open and I am coming in.”

It’s tendril was quickly back in my ear… Windows.

The single word was as immediately translated as the individual dits and dahs from the code were in my mind – there were no windows in the room.  The door had swung out into a large great room the remaining length of the building.  The wall beyond once had three bay windows, now bricked over.  Florescent lighting took over where natural lighting was denied, casting the whole room in a pale green light.

I stepped over the threshold.  The room was spartan even by spartan standards; a decorist would have probably called it Cantonese.  A single end table and chair swam alone in the emptiness of the room.  The next room of the apartment was down an open doorway and dark hallway.

I called the man’s name again, still no answer.  Cautiously down the hall I went until I reached a second great room.  The lights came on as soon as I entered and there was my target.  The room was just as spartan as the last, only a few extra amenities like a bed, a sink, a toilet, and a writing desk were additions.  Ouillet was sitting in his chair, back to me.


I stepped closer.

No. No.

I ignored It and reached out to shake the man.  As I made contact It sent jolt into my ear that knocked me down.  In all our years together It had never hindered or harmed me.  The jolt stopped and I could move again.

“What the hell was that?”


“Who are you,” came a whisper from the man in the chair.  From my perch on the floor, thanks to my “partner”, I could see the front of the man.  He was a man in his 40’s, balding blond, and scarred on his left cheek; Ouillet sure enough.  The inky black goo seeping from his eyes, ears, nose, and mouth on the other hand…

“Who are you,” the man whispered to no one, neither seeing nor hearing me.

ACv-3b-07.  Agent Marlow’s construct.