Part 2 – Interceptor
Foxtrot Uniform Charlie Kilo
F***. I’ll miss you. Oz mumbled around his mouthful of Al-Capone Pizza. He wiped the grease from his mouth with his sleeve. He toasted the city with the rest of the slice in his hand. …Maybe.
He has been on the roof all evening, to watch his last sunset. He let Izanami record all his visual input. Every bit of visual and sensorial memory was important. He was going to be home-sick, he supposed. Everyone was, at least, that was, what they had told him.
Why so serious? Isn’t this what you wanted? Izanami whispered into his ear from his new Uplink implant. He still had to get used to the vision tracking commands, so he wouldn’t zoom in on a passing bottle fly, or falling pigeon poop. If he wanted, he could count the hairs on a mosquito leg, but who would want that?
The orange evening sky withered to an inky brown. In the upper right corner of his field of vision the spectral analysis went berserk. The readout faded, as he failed to focus upon them.
A heavy drone buzzed overhead. It looked like an oversized, robotic amazon-yellow bumblebee. The zoom kicked in. It had 2501 written on its dented body. It was one of those new hub-controlled drones. It hovered briefly over the rooftop of his apartment building, beeped twice, then flew off. Oz sneered. Delivery bumble bee. Data from his new prosthetic eyes pushed into his consciousness. Wind speed. Drone velocity. Hull type. IP-Address.
I booked you unto the 5:50 and the 8:20 flight. Izanami interrupted the flow of information. Also, Strix Genome United sent an urgent request. They need your specs. What should I answer?
Oz scrunched his face into a sceptic grimace. What for?
Dummy, a spaceship needs a life doctor. He swore, he could sense her rolling her virtual eyes. Your hibernation tank. Izanami sighed.
Alright, alright. Send what they need. Oz shrugged. Strix could become a real nuisance…
His contract with them was top-secret. They had hired him right after his dishonorable dismissal from Newport Medical University. They took him in like a kicked dog… His experiments with hibernation had failed horribly. The Ethic Committee had made a point in banning him from being a doctor, for a lifetime.
He swallowed hard. He never imagined how it would hurt, to disappoint. The pain, the disgust in his father’s expression killed Oz. The young offspring of a rich family – all famous doctors – sucked at being brilliant, even sucked at being morally immaculate. He would never be able to work as a physician, not on Earth. He never seen his father so upset, not even after his mother died…
The saliva in his mouth turned to acid. It was cold. He wiggled his toes, but the flip-flops did nothing to warm his feet. It was still April, he had to remind himself.
But they offered the kicked dog a ridiculous amount of money… There had to be a catch, he just couldn’t find it. Yet. There had been nothing else to choose.
What if, Strix took everything back, when he vanished? It wasn’t that hard to get a death certificate without a body. What if, they tried to make him vanish after those five years? Wasn’t it probable, that they were behind his hearing, leaving him damaged goods? Possible. He had to be most careful. Izanami, observe all CCT footage around my flat.
Noooooo one hears youuuu scream in spaaaaaace. Izanami prompted with a spooky sing-song. That’s because there is no air. He answered.
Behind his earlobe, his implant vibrated with an incoming call. It’s Marcus. Izanami chirped.
He shook his head and she let the call go through to voice mail. Oz hated to be summoned, even to his own „surprise” farewell-party. Whatever Marcus had in mind, it won’t happen. What a shame! Missed that one too. He breathed. It smelled of wet dirt. Rain was coming.
The crate under Oz creaked while he craned his neck after the drone trying to land a block away.
In the lower left corner of his visual field flashed a new message. He blinked twice to open it. Oh come on, you pussy! Pick up. Marcus.
Marcus was what came closest to a best friend. No can do, not even for you, Marcus. A gust of wind tore at his tee. He lit his last cigarette, and inhaled as deeply as he could. He stood and looked over downtown gleaming, not noticing his last night on Earth.
The streets were full with cars, police and ambulance sirens. The tail lights and the streetlights seemed to merge to arteries of light, feeding the heart of the city. Oz filled his lungs with dark smoke and damp night air. One star winked at him, then vanished behind thick grey clouds. He was leaving the continent. He dragged in another lungful smoky doubt and shivered uncontrollably.
Time to tidy up, Izanami. The voice command activated a hidden task he programmed earlier, so Izanami would initiate a tiny program in her subroutines and neglect it right away. The blessings of reversed modeling logic worked on every AI, as well as on his personal one. The skin on his nape burned. The feeling of being watched was overwhelming. He flipped the cigarette butt over the edge of the building. He was leaving the planet.
The advance money from Strix sitting in his account went bye-bye. It arrived back, after a brief visit in Switzerland and Cayman Islands. The program moved and shuffled the little zeroes to the music of a quantum key encryption. Even when his account and all his data movements have been flagged, no one could link him to the bits and bites without the key. And the electrons of virtual money circled around him, and his alter ego. Mr Wong was going to be a wealthy, retired and a very happy man. Oz was leaving the inner solar system.
His feet carried him down the staircase, to his apartment. 42. It was empty, his bags were packed. Izanami hummed softly Babylon Feeling to him. My heart is broke, my will is gone. The lyrics pounced on him, like a lion on a sick gnu. He felt a heavy thump in his chest, somewhere deep down, where he kept his feverish nightmares.
Everything he possessed was stored away in cardboard boxes. The storage space was paid for five years in advance. It was a long time. Just forget about me… Oz hummed to himself.
On the kitchen counter was a half finished letter. He glanced at it. His nails dug into the flesh of his palms, his clenched fists wanted to crush something.
It was a suicide note to his father.
To leave his old life behind, he needed to die – metaphorically, of course. He had pointed this out to Izanami, as she tried to call the suicide hotline for him. It seemed theatrical, even pathetic. The Strix people were explicit about this part. No one was allowed to know where he went, and for how long. The best would be, he wrote suicide notes to everyone he loved, and just vanish from their lives. His profiling psychologist predicted this, to be his most credible reaction to failure. A knee-jerk reaction, attempting suicide, even if pretended.
Oz thought of the experimental gear he was going to get to work with. He thought of the money, the carefree life he was going to have. What am I getting myself into?
I don’t know, boss. Izanami sighed.
*Shinigami (死神, “god of death” or “death spirit”) are gods or supernatural spirits that invite humans toward death, and can be seen to be present or interpreted to be present in certain aspects of Japanese religion and culture.
pic by author, Singapore