Web of Chaos
Onboard the America, Gill sat with Martial Call to hold a meeting. “First you will drop me off near my car. I uploaded information on a Joe Williams. He has a tracker on him and shouldn’t realize he’s being tracked. Though, if he does disable it or removes it, you’re to still keep an eye on him.”
Alexander looked around at the other Martial Call Marines. “And that’s it?”
“Hopefully he will lead you to the Onslaught. Then your primary mission takes over, and you do what you came here to do.”
“Ok, well let’s hope we find it before they attack.”
Handcuffed to the bed in the prison infirmary, Joe laid brooding. Fearful of getting killed, feeling vulnerable anxiety built up inside him. The more time passed, the more desperate he wanted to get out of the bed. He wished to be able to take care of himself.
Some police officers came in, and one uncuffed Joe.
Cautious, Joe looked at one officer and the next.
“Your case has been dropped.”
“Why?” It sounded more like an ugh with his injured jaw.
“Witness is dead.”
Joe did not respond and looked around the room suspicious he would end up dead any minute.
“We will escort you to your cell to collect what you want.”
“No. Just take me to intake and release,” he said mumbling the words together.
One officer got on each side of Joe and grabbed him by his upper arms. Half pushing and half dragging him out of the room anger grew in Joe.
Jolting in a twisting motion, Joe grunted then stopped, too sore and exhausted to do more. “Give me a break. I can walk and am more than willing to go.”
“What’s that?” Said an officer smiling. “Hard to hear you. Speak up.”
“Let go of me.” Joe slurred his words with his injured jaw.
“Didn’t your Mother teach you how to talk,” said the officer jerking on Joe hard. “Can’t understand a word you’re saying.”
Joe spent the rest of the time keeping his mouth shut and letting the officers push him around. As Joe signed his name to page after page of forms someone removed the smartwatch. They placed him into a small holding cell to wait a bit longer to be officially released.
Watching Joe walk out of prison on scanners, Cathan put on his Banshee exo-armor helmet. The America hovered high above the prison out of sight hidden beyond the dreary clouds of Philadelphia. Cathan sat ready for orders to fly out and go after Joe if need be.
On the ship’s bridge, Melissa sat in one of the pilot seats. “Why isn’t Cathan piloting. My Yellowjacket could get to the target much faster.”
“Yeah, but the Banshee was made for this kind of mission. Cathan can track and stay out of sight. If we need to grab the target or take him out you can go,” said Alexander.
“I hate all this waiting. What kind of mission is this for us?”
“Anlon said do what Gill says. So here we are.”
They watch the bridge’s screen. Joe took a public access self-driving car he had ordered to come by once he got his PAD back from the intake and release storage.
Not long after the car pulled up to an impound yard. In a second the car left.
“His PAD signal is going with the car. The tracker’s not moving,” said Melissa.
“I’m sure he’s ditching his PAD, but I’ll send Cathan to follow it,” said Alexander.
In the ship’s bay, Cathan jumped out of the America and rocketed down at the city; the gray and white Banshee exo-armor a thin, blurry streak across the dark-gray clouds.
Winding its way through the city, the car took itself to its next destination. Cathan caught up to it in no time and could not see anyone inside. “Negative on target. You want me to retrieve the PAD?”
Over the com channel, Alexander replied. “Negative. We can’t risk giving away our presence. Head to the tracking device’s location and confirm visual.”
As Cathan flew back, Joe got into his impounded pickup truck.
“He’s probably going to ditch the truck the first chance he gets, so stay on him in case he is clued-in to the tracker implant as well,” said Alexander over the com channel.
“Understood. Should have visual in a sec.”
Above Philadelphia’s hundreds of skyscrapers, Cathan zoomed his helmet’s two camera eyes in enough to see Joe in the driver’s seat of the pickup. “Visual confirmed.”
Joe drove off in search of any other G.E members.
Driving his pickup into a parking garage, Joe drove down underground as far as it went. Pulling into an empty space, he left the keys in the ignition and got out. He used them because he didn’t have his PAD to ID himself to the pickup and start it that way.
He thought he heard a whoosh sound and looked around. No vehicles moved, and no people walked into view. Joe picked an old junk of a car and broke into it. As he had figured no alarm went off; it wasn’t worth the money or the owner could not afford an alarm. Though sure the car had originally come with an alarm, he knew it would have needed to be replaced a long time ago.
Driving off, he headed to the nearest G.E member he could recall the address of. Pulling up to an apartment complex, Joe parked in its garage beneath it. Getting out, he proceeded over to the elevator, looking over his shoulders repeatedly. Pushing an icon on the touchpad next to the elevator, Joe waited. The elevator came a few minutes later, and he got on going up forty floors.
Getting out he meandered down the hallways and knocked on a door.
A woman opened the door, and her eyes went wide. Her eyes narrowed, and she frowned. “What the hell are you doing here?”
“I need to find where my cell is.”
“Coming to my apartment. Really!”
“I get it, but there’s a communication blackout. What other choice do I have?”
“Fine. Go to the leader of my cell and ask them what to do. I’ll send the location to your PAD.”
Joe raised his hands as quick as he could. “No, no. Not my PAD. Write it down.”
“Do I look like the kind of person who has paper lying around?”
“Ok. Just tell me, I’ll remember.”
“K. It’s in Camden. Some waterlogged buildings near the Delaware. Dr. Martin Luther King Blvd. Now get out.”
“Ok, I’m going,” said Joe backing away.
The woman slammed the door.
Joe departed back down to the stolen car.
Getting off the elevator, Gill put incoming information from his Aivot on mute. He pushed the doorbell icon next to Maylis’s door.
Sydnie opened it. “Daddy!” Quick as can be she hugged his leg.
“Hello, sweetie.” Gill picked her up and hugged her and carried her to the living room couch. Putting her down he sat next to her.
She slid off the couch in a hurry. “My hamster has a dress.” Grabbing her tablet she tapped at it a few times. A hologram of a hamster in a pink skirt materialized above its screen. Sydnie put the tablet down and patted Gill’s knee. The hamster jumped over to where she patted. “See. It’s cute… and silly.”
“Mom says a real hamster would eat the dress all up.”
“Yes. I’m pretty sure one would if it’s made of cotton cloth.”
“They like cardboard. The game has cardboard at first for it to chew on. Then you can get a gingerbread house, and he eats it.”
“Yeah. I have a gem house now. He can’t eat that one.” She made motions with her hands and a small house with hamster sized holes in it materialized on the couch.
Sydnie poked at a gem, and her finger went right through the hologram. “I wish it was real.”
“I’m sure we could print it out.”
“Mom tried to but couldn’t figure out how to.”
“I’ll do it.” Gill accessed the tablet using his Aivot. Looking through the game options, he noticed there wasn’t any choice to print it out. Gill searched through the program but did not find a 3D-printer compatible object file for the house. He downloaded the file containing the house and set an AI program in his Aivot to stitch together a 3D printable object. It didn’t take more than a second to finish. “Ok, let’s go to the printer.”
Running to a small office room connected to the living room, Sydnie grabbed a stool and moved it over to their 3D printer. She climbed up to the top of the stool and kneeled on it, gazing at the printer without letup.
The printer started before Gill made his way next to Sydnie. Layer by layer the printer put down opaque plastic for the walls and clear plastic for the gems.
Sydnie looked up at Gill for a second smiling then back at the house being printed. In a few minutes, the printer beeped. Sydnie grabbed the house and took it out. She shimmied around and sat on the stool. Looking at the ground and holding her toy house with both hands she contemplated how she would get down.
Gill picked her up and gently put her on the floor. Running out of the room Sydnie held her house with her arms stretched out straight in front of her. “Look, Mommy. Daddy did it!”
Gill sat back on the couch. Sydnie put the house on the couch, climbed up, and sat next to him. She patted the house, and the hologram hamster jumped onto it.
In the back of a semi-truck, Wendy sat on top of one of the dismantled Arkvee arms looking at a tablet. She dimmed the screen a bit more in the dark trailer and stretch, cracking a few vertebrae back in place.
“Keep studying,” said Diesel.
“I’m going. Studying nonstop does not work.”
“As soon as we join up with the other G.E cell you will get to work installing that Dunamis.”
Diesel became angry, then his expression softened. “Yeah, well, I’ve spent a lifetime getting kids who didn’t believe in themselves to do that little bit more to succeed.”
Wendy frowned, leaned back against an uncomfortable, lumpy section of Arkvee and stared at her tablet screen.
Copyright Conrad Brubaker 2018