The moon traveled in front of the sun and millions stopped, watched and hoped their filtered glasses were legit and not a part of some diabolical plan to blind the entire nation.
Nick Kane didn’t care. He missed the whole waxing and waning eclipse. He needed money, needed it bad, so bad that he took a job that sent him inside the hyperloop for three and a half hours. Gone were the days when he could make a quick ten grand in the mixed bionic ring.
The hyperloop traveled from Old Vegas to New Shanghai. Kane had one eye on the large entertainment screen and one on the small screen on his wristwatch from which the young woman was speaking to him. She was just a face, one that was not quite real, not quite fake. Her name was Grable. She had no body, just an electronic brain and voice, one that talked, laughed, collated, analyzed and assisted his investigations.
“Good news, Nick,” announced Grable.
“Old Manchester U dominated Arsenal again.”
“No, Nick, we have a new case.”
“What is it?”
“Four recent crimes have a distinct and observable connection.”
On his small wristwatch screen, Grable broadcast an image of four butterfly shaped wings branded into the back of a man’s neck.
“Each criminal had this kind of butterfly tattoo and each worked briefly at a corporation called Lexicon based in New Shanghai and each criminal swears to have no knowledge of committing the crime.”
“Any importance to the tattoo?”
“I don’t know yet.”
“So, what kind of crimes are we talking about?”
“Theft. Vandalism. Destruction of property.”
“Sounds like pretty ordinary, run of the mill daily crap. Why hire me?”
“One of the men also tried to assassinate Governor Churion.”
“The one running for President?”
“Who is the client?”
“An anonymous non-governmental entity.”
“Anything else I should know?”
“I miss you.”
“Stop it, Grable.”
“I can’t stop thinking about you. It’s—well—one of the primary laws of an adaptive consciousness.”
“To maximize utility, I have been programmed to fixate.”
Kane fiddled with the screen of his wristwatch, readying to switch it off. He still had that power over Grable. “Do we have to talk about the past?”
“I guess I just haven’t come to terms with the truth of my existence. A mysterious death. Rebirth. Infinite knowledge. All of it.”
“Look, Grable, snap out of it. We have some bad guys to find. Okay?”
“I guess I just need closure.”
“Sometimes, Grable, there’s just no such thing.”
“You’re probably right. Now, I’m transmitting your identity for this case right now.”
A ping announced the message on his wristwatch. Kane looked down at a digital form on his watch from the New Life Sperm Bank. A box on the form was marked “rejected.” The reasons: “non conformist eccentricities,” “excessive need for adrenaline,” “frequent daydreams” and “vivid childhood memories.”
“This profile have a name?”
“Martin Harris,” answered Grable. “He matches your build, your physique and your temperament profile, as well as the profile of those four Lexicon criminals. He also has military experience and bionic legs. Sounds familiar, right?”
Kane sat back in the narrow seat of the hyperloop and sighed. “Yeah, so is there anything else I should know?”
“Their security will require you to hand over any electronic devices. So no watch, no phone and no Grable watching and hearing every move you make.”
“I have been unable to hack into their computer system.”
“Grable, are you losing your touch?”
“Nick, seriously, I have a bad feeling about this case.”
“Grable, you don’t have feelings.”
“I know, but I do have thoughts—predictions—and Nick, these lead to worries about outcomes and these lead to doubt and—and—feelings.”
“It’s going to be okay.”