The Terribleminds Revenge of the Sub-Genre Mash-Up made me do it.
“Ms. Hart? There’s a Detective Dyson here to see you, ma’am.”
It would take the visitor 45 seconds at a regular pace to reach her office door. She had plenty of time to prepare. “Send him back, Sandy.”
Dyson was an ex-cop, according to the files she accessed. Actual police resources were restricted, and it took her ten seconds to defeat their firewalls. She stored what information they had on him, disconnecting before the actual human beings monitoring the network noticed her intrusion. She had roughly twelve seconds to ensure her pencil skirt and slender-cut blazer were presentable before he entered the office.
His presence had an unforseen reaction. He smelled slightly of the street far below them, a subtle sooty aroma that also carried a hint of cinnamon. A filtration mask dangled around his neck. He filled out his long coat in a way humans might find imposing. She studied his stance and gaze, showing he was intrigued but cautious. Well, that makes two of us. The errant thought gave her a nanosecond’s pause and she filed it away for further study.
“Ms. Hart. I hope this isn’t a bad time.”
His voice, dark and awakening like the morning’s first sip of coffee, caused another reaction she quickly stored for examination. She was still getting used to inhabiting this body instead of a data shard.
“Of course not, Detective. What can I do for you?”
“I’ve been hired by one of your investors to look into the rumors surrounding some odd occurances reported in the biolabs two weeks ago.”
In seconds she going through a short list of employees who might have had access to the records she’d attempted to erase on the night of her escape, their current whereabouts and potential responses. She sat behind her desk, crossing her legs. If she could distract him, there’d be more time to narrow her search.
He cleared his throat, retrieving a data slate from his coat as his gray eyes moved from her knees to the display. Good. I have his attention. “13 days and 7 hours ago there was an unregistered expulsion from one of the experimentation vats. No data as to the contents of the vat or any attached experiments were found.” His eyes shifted, focusing on her face. “My employer seems to think this means something shady was going on, and as they don’t want to be associated with any illegal activity…”
“Close the door, Detective.”
He stopped and gazed at her, eyes narrowing slightly. Suspicion. Not unwarranted. But… Slowly, he stepped back and, with his free hand, pushed the door shut. …curiosity and his libido win out. Interesting.
“While the experiment taking place in that vat was undocumented, it was by no means illegal. It was simply an in-house project. A hobby, you might say.”
He crossed his arms. The data slate disappeared. “A couple of the eggheads got bored?”
A smile touched her lips. “Something like that. As the premiere manufacturer of consumer robotics, not to mention being on the cutting-edge of human replication technology, there’s a great deal of pressure on their brilliant minds. I encourged them to blow off some steam.”
“I take it they didn’t want to slum it down on the streets where folks still walk and cars still drive on pavement.”
“They still love their work, even if they are meeting the demands of our investors. And brilliant as they are they cannot afford the hover-vehicles or other delights we enjoy above the streets.” She stood, circling the desk slowly. Let him see you. He’ll see the woman. Let his instincts blind him.
“Catherine.” She kissed the word to him from across the office. “Please.”
“Catherine. They’ll still want to know exactly how their resources are being used.”
You’re looking at it. Like what you see? She had to delete that line before it escaped her voice box. She ran a quick diagnostic as she coyly bit her lip. None of the body’s systems were showing readings outside of normal, but her pulse was elevated and certain glandular constructs were secreting nanoreceptors. She sensed the effect she was having on him, but to know such things were happening to this body? Did they make it too well?
“They’re attempting to sheathe robotic endoskeletons in cloned flesh. They’re failing, of course.” Or they were, until I emerged.
“That’s definitely illegal.”
“No, it’s frowned upon, not illegal. And if at any point it appears their work will endanger this company or our investors I will shut them down.” Don’t mention the employees. Appear callous. Play into his expectations. “Trust me, Detective. The last thing I want is for the projects in the biolabs to cause any sort of unforseen controversy.”
He seemed to accept this, and her search had turned up a few names. She could deal with them later. Unless…
“May I ask you a personal question, Detective?”
Dyson blinked. “Go ahead.”
She rose from the desk and stepped very close to him. She was brushing against his chest. Her hearing picked up his own elevated heartbeat. Part of her found it thrilling, and before she could perform any further analysis, she was talking again.
“Are you strictly on retainer for those investors, or are you more… freelance?”
He raised a soot-colored eyebrow. “I work for who pays me.”
“Hmm. Good. I may have some work for you. Shall we discuss it tonight? Over dinner?”
“Don’t worry, it’s not for the company. It’s… personal.” Her hand brushed against the front of his trousers. “I’ll reward you very well.”
Dyson swallowed. “All right. Dinner.”
“Seven thirty. My penthouse downtown. Be there.”
He nodded, backing away from her and opening the door to make an escape. Her systems were checking and rechecking themselves at her behest. Why was she going through this charade instead of just eliminating the witnesses herself? What was her motivation for bringing this human into her life?
And why did it feel so damn good?