“I don’t know why you have to go there yourself. Send a drone rep,” Anabelle said. “Don’t you think you’re overreacting?”
Steve stopped tossing things into his travel case and looked at her on the screen. Strands of her hair were out of place, her eyes a bit wild, and her breath elevated. It wasn’t like her. “I’ll be fine. I don’t know why you’re arguing with me. You saw for yourself what happened there. Something’s wrong, and we’re involved. Put the other cases on hold. I’m taking the trip. It was a company job so call the company transport. I’m not paying for this. They owe me a drone and an explanation.”
“Already on the way. You have insurance, Steve. It’s not like you need them to pay for the drone….”
But he was walking past the screen when she said it, and he didn’t even look up as he strode out the door. The magnetic locks clicked as soon as he stepped onto the front entry, and the helicopter landed with a quiet whoosh by the time he walked up the sidewalk. The door swung open, and without lessening his stride, he stepped inside, and straps adjusted to his frame once he settled, and the aircraft lifted off. But he wasn’t alone. Within seconds of open-air, Anabelle appeared on the screen in front of him, where she continued the conversation whether he liked it or not.
“Steve,” she said, “listen, I won’t be able to monitor your levels in all locations there. They have blockers on some levels. Your insulin…you need to keep track of it yourself. Look at your wrist at regular intervals. Are you listening? Steve?”
He listened. Instead of looking at Anabelle, he watched the drones arrive and descend into the gaps of the old observatory with the random mimicked grace of starlings.
Birds…he’d always been obsessed with them since he was a school-aged boy. That early obsession’s what made him valuable. He knew that. Had always known why he ended up in the position he held. It’s why even still, as their creator, he was mesmerized by their random poise as they flew through the air, even in the artificial sense. But their authenticity is what also made his drones resilient and worthy of the highest patent and highest dollar. Unfortunately, this also made them a security risk. One lost from the flock. He had to retrieve him like a lost son with a particular DNA that no one should attain, especially the company.
Tearing his eyes away as the last drone swooped through the bellows, Steve looked up at the screen, “I understand what you’re saying. You don’t need to worry.”
She huffed. “Yeah, right.”
“Seriously. I don’t need a mother. I’m fine. I’ll find out what’s really going on and retrieve the drone. I’ll return tonight.
“It’s part of the investigation now. Do you really think they’ll hand it back to you?”
“It’s my intellectual property. They have to. Even if it’s wreckage.”
“Uh, huh. Well, I think you’re being a little naïve here, Steve, but whatever you say,” she said with a tilt of her head.
“Hey, I know what’s happened in the past. But I have some weight to pull.”
“Okay, whatever. Let me know what I can do to help. I’ve got some calls to make to clear today’s schedule.”
“Yes. Be nice, please. I don’t want to have to make more apologies than necessary.”
“You’re funny. That last guy had it coming,” she said, pointing a finger at him and smiling. Her glossy red lipstick met perfectly to the edges of her mouth, and on the reflection of her glasses were little distorted hexagons. Then she disappeared into a screen of black.
Steve leaned back. Set his eyes on the horizon. It was going to be a longer day than he’d imagined when he’d woken with a simulated hangover. At least it was still daylight farther east. The only problem beyond the horizon was the new simulated world. The world he would never see. Didn’t want to see. And yet, you could not help but look at it. The globe was right there, piggybacking onto Earth’s rotation with the moon around the sun like a watermark on the universe. There was one thing they had in common. Like Earth, the New World would not shake the moon. And once Earth was cannibalized of all resources, the 3D printed New World would take its place. The transfer of the plan was all very tidy, right down to the last human breath. Only…Steve would remain with Earth; he might even be that last puff of air they expected, and there was no way they were taking his technology with them if he could help it. Try as they might.