“Most importantly, you’re human.” She didn’t understand. There were millions of humans in Rhod. “We have an idea of where they’re set up. They live out their ethnically-cleansed fantasy world away from society. They’ve made some manner of synth barrier around this location. No one’s been able to enter. The barrier can detect synths and androids for at least three kilometers in every direction. We’ve found the perimeter, but we can’t get in without setting off alarms.”
“And how did you find me?”
“I assumed immigrants coming into Rhod might be looking for work.” He winked at this, then continued. “You can drive. That’s rare. There’s an old mining operation we think they’ve repurposed. This is why we can’t see them from the air. Also, as far north as it is, it’s past the terminator.”
Lena grew more concerned.
“You mean it’s always dark?
“I’ve never seen it myself, but it’s all woods up there. Chilly, but you’ll be able to camp out.”
Lena stopped him.
“All the suites were full.” Jael shook his head and smiled, dismissing the question. “You’ll have a guide with you. He’s an android. He can get you close and make sure you survive out there. You’re looking at probably three days total for this job. One day travel. One day for the job, then another day back.”
“And what do you need done?” She grew nervous. He smiled again.
“I need you to plant these.”
He got up and walked over to his desk. He withdrew a matte black rod. It was about half a meter in length. On one end, the rod ended with a spike ringed with raised ridges. The other end held a small, spherical electronic device.
“What is it?” Lena asked, although she had some idea.
“It’s a surveyor. When you lay at least three down they coordinate to send back data on the topography of the land between them. You just stick it in the ground. They’re already paired with each other. I can access the data from here. Once you get them down, you get out of there and get home. You’ll have to leave your celltab outside the barrier. Just send me a text on your way back.”
“So, you just want me to plant three of these?” She held the device in her hand, examining it.
“I need at least three for this to work. The more you plant, the more accurate a reading we can get of the area. If you manage to get more down, I’ll give you a bonus.”
“How much of a bonus?”
He looked at her and smiled his wide grin.
“How about enough to cover your insurance deposit?”
Lena looked at him, wide-eyed.
“You think I would just pick up any meatsack off the street to do this job?” He stepped forward and bent down so that his face was close to hers. She saw every perfect detail of his face: the angled jaw, perfectly chiseled cheekbones, green eyes.
“I want to succeed. So do you. You do the job. I cover your insurance. Every extra surveyor you get down is another year of your insurance. I’ll even put up half right now.”
Lena felt uneasy.
“How do I move around without being seen by these people?”
“Your guide android, Shel, will help with that.” Jael held out his left hand, palm upwards. A bright blue light shone from it. Within a moment, a three-dimensional circle cutout of a steep, hilled landscape appeared.
“What is that? Is this where it is?”
The map rotated slowly in it’s warm, blue glow.
“He’s going to meet you here.” A red arrow pointing downwards appeared towards the edge of the 3D model. She could now see a thin road that came from beyond the edge of the model and continued past the arrow.
“There’s a road that goes north from the city. You’ll be arriving from the south. Eventually, you’ll come to another road that’s not in any of the GPS systems. It’s been unused for decades. Shel will have a map you can use. I’ll give you a paper map of the area, but most of it is still guesswork.”
“Can’t I just use a 3D map?”
“If you want to be caught by sadistic terrorists.” he scoffed. “Opening a 3D map in a totally dark area will light you up like a beacon.”
“Can I ask you something?”
Jael looked at her, a bit puzzled.
“It just seems a little odd. Why are you asking me to go?” she asked, but then added, “I guess you don’t seem like the kind of person to get involved in social issues.” As she said this, she motioned her arms and her head as though to summon her surroundings in support of her statement.
“What? You think I only care about taking advantage of drunk people and exploiting holographic women?” He said this with a smile, but then sighed. “To be completely honest, this issue is a bit personal to me. My brother, Jazun, got involved with Verus a few years ago. I haven’t seen or heard from him since. I have on good word that this is where he might be.”
“I’m sorry. Was he taken?”
“No,” Jael took a sharp sip from his glass and continued. “He got sucked in. Started buying into the propaganda. He lost his family over this delusion.”
Curious, Lena prodded further.