Jael opened the door to his office. Seated across from his empty desk was a large, densely built man. He sat silent, waiting for Jael to address him. Jael shut the door behind him, and the music of the club died. Camm’s face was stern and sported a short blond beard. His hair was cut close on the sides, but a colored length grew from his crown. Beneath a long, military coat adorned with a studded pattern, a plain grey shirt was stretched across a wide, muscular chest.
Camm reclined in the chair. It groaned under his adjustment. Jael met his stoic gaze. Camm had a slight smirk on his face, eager to share some hidden information.
“How goes it?” Jael asked.
Camm nodded. A look of approval appeared across his face. Something important was on his mind.
“Need a drink?”
“I’m good,” he answered, gruffly.
“Fine.” Jael walked to the mini-bar next to his desk. He poured himself some ice water.
“Heard from your brother?” Camm asked nonchalantly.
Jael stopped pouring. He set the bottle down and turned to his guest.
“Jazun’s been getting into trouble again,” Camm continued.
Jael picked up the half-poured glass and walked quickly to his desk, without a word.
“And?” He tried to hide the stammer in his voice.
“I know he’s alive...” Camm now met Jael’s expression. “… and wanted for murder,” Camm said, calmly.
“Again?” Jael took a drink.
“We think we found them, J.” Camm said, leaning forward.
“Found who?” Jael asked.
“Verus. Not to mention the butchered bodies that were found.” Camm sounded confident.
Jael shook his head. “So the police suspect Verus? Easy enough. But how do you know he’s with them?”
“There’s about six people that we’re looking to identify within this group. He hasn’t turned up yet, so he’s most likely alive.”
“Huh. Figures. I wonder how long he’s been hiding with them.” Jael leaned back and placed his hands atop his head.
“I hoped you’d be more surprised,” Camm said, slightly disappointed.
“Nothing about that asshole surprises me anymore.”
“But,” Camm continued, “the best news is that we have a good idea where we can find him, and the rest of those bastards.”
Camm pulled out his celltab and laid it flat on Jael’s desk. Residual diamond dust crunched underneath it. Camm picked it back up, and blew the dust towards Jael. Camm eyed him before setting his celltab back down. Jael brushed the front of his shirt off.
Camm pressed a button on the front of the device. A wide, cylindrical cutout of a forested valley landscape appeared above it, rotating slowly.
“This is a valley in the Red Mountains, just beyond the terminator. We think their operation is somewhere in the area. This is where we planted the evidence.” The map zoomed out to include a red arrow pointing to the location where the shallow grave of discarded synth cells had been discovered--the cells attributed to murder by the hand of Verus.
The edge of Rhod was now visible and Jael was able to see everything in relation to the city. “There’s an old mining operation in the valley that was abandoned before the turn of the century. We believe they’ve repurposed it as living quarters. We need
information about how we can get inside.”
“So, fly a drone over. Get a reading on the area.”
“We tried.” Camm sat back and continued, “They have a detection perimeter set up. Our drones get shot out of the sky. The perimeter detects androids, synths...anything that isn’t human. We need someone that can get us some info. We can’t afford to send androids in that just get captured and taken apart.”
Camm pressed another button on the celltab display.
Profiles of six people appeared, one of them Jael recognized as his brother, Jazun.
“These are your guys?” Jael asked.
“Our main goal is this person.” The profile of a dark-skinned woman highlighted. “Moja. Her husband reported her missing about twenty-five years ago. They both worked in the UN geology department in the ‘50s, before Zarmina was sectored off. If we can get a reading on the area, I can set up a team to flush them out.”
“You can’t find her? Aren’t you the man with infinite resources?” Jael halfway smiled at his own remark.
“I need to keep this between us. This matter is delicate. You’re my resource for finding people, J.”
Camm did have a long list of contacts that proved to be fruitful in times such as these, but he was intent on keeping the matter quiet. He stood and walked to the window. The outside was heavy with clouds. “Moja’s husband has since transferred. He chose to leave behind her memory when he did.”
Jael remained silent.
“He wouldn’t know her if he saw her.” Camm, turned back to Jael and continued, “And I don’t blame him. Who would want to remember someone who abandoned their marriage and ruined his career?”
Jael sat and reflected.
“There’s an old access road that leads to the area.” He walked back over to Jael’s desk and returned to the cutout of the valley. The map reappeared and spun on its axis. He zoomed the map out far enough to show a highlighted route leading north from the highway that encircled Rhod. “The road was taken off the grid years ago. The only way to get there is to drive. Manually.”
Manual driving on public roads had never been legal in the history of Zarmina’s government. Jael was unsure what Camm was getting at.
“You want me to find someone that knows how to drive?”
“Yes.” He leaned in close, creating strong eye contact with Jael. “Someone who doesn’t give a shit about the politics involved. Someone who doesn’t ask questions,” he added. He leaned back and walked back towards the window. “You pull this off, get me some data on that valley, I’ll get you that new cell.”
Jael looked at him in a stupor, unsure if he had heard him correctly. He didn’t doubt his statement. Camm had the resources and know-how to get things done. He had worked plenty of deals over the course of his years that enabled him powerful leverage in negotiation. Camm knew that Jael had the affable social prowess to sell any idea to the right person.
“It’ll be dangerous territory,” Camm warned.
“You have someone in mind?” Jael asked.
“I have a client coming in from the Duskrider that owes me a good deal of money for a synthetic loan I fronted him. He’s sent me the contact info of his new driver. Says she’s human.”
“A human magnacycle operator?” Jael asked, confused.
Camm looked up from the celltab and let out a hearty laugh. He navigated through his celltab. Jael received a notification that a new contact was added.
His lottery ticket had come in.
Shel waited for Lena to return until midnight of Sunday. He stood motionless in the darkness for hours, waiting for her to return upon the game trail. He had heard a scuffle within the
perimeter in the afternoon, but still he stood motionless. Even if he could have intervened, a member of Verus would have fried his internal CPU within minutes.
When she failed to return, Shel removed all traces of their camp before departing. Her bike sat parked where she had placed it before their trek into the forest. A sharp blade shot from his hands, and he sliced a wide cut into each of its tires before incinerating her note. He transformed into his mobile form and sped away.
The posts Lena planted had sent their geographic data to Shel’s internal hard drive. In the early hours of Monday morning, Shel entered a small port in the massive pyramidal structure of Fenix, Inc. Camm waited in the lower bay of the complex. Camm paired his celltab with Shel’s internal storage and downloaded the new information.
“Did you destroy the accessory?” Camm asked. He studied the holographic image that had appeared above his celltab. It displayed a cutaway of a hillside, exposing a network of burrowed tunnels and rooms beneath a V-shaped hill.
“There was no need.” Shel answered. “It never returned to the designated meeting spot. Presumably, it was captured by Verus and destroyed.”
“Shame.” Camm smiled. “Verus claims another victim.”