Ch. XI, p.5

. . .


“I don’t know why, but I feel like I remember you from somewhere. Another time, perhaps… Here,” Kairi said, handing him the small red cube, “I’ve uploaded the decryption to your neural network along with key segments of data in case the you lose that.”

“I appreciate you doing this…” His eyes glazed over for a moment as he toyed with the graphiq, wondering what secrets he would uncover within its plastic walls. His eyes raised to meet Kairi’s, gently gleaming. He smiled. “Thanks.”

She nodded.

“So, how do I get out?”

“Same way you came in,” she said, pointing. “You sure you don’t want to stay for a bit? We could have that tea I promised you… and then promptly forgot about.”

“I have to go, sorry,” he said, sincerely regretting the fact. “There is one thing though—you wouldn’t happen to know anything about this communications blackout, would you?”

“What do you mean?”

“My comms are down. I’ve been trying to get in touch with the doctor who is looking after my friend. Do you know if there is a way around that?”

“I’m not sure,” she said, closing her eyes and concentrating on a remote system. “Someone is definitely interfering with communications… fairly normal around here, really, with all the fighting and smuggling… But I’m surprised that it’s effecting government channels. Usually your encryption algorithms are sophisticated enough to work around the effects of the jamming. Want me to look into it for you?”

“Yeah. That information could be useful…” he said, walking side by side with the woman as she headed for the exit. “If anything, it will give me something to report in order to make it look like I’m doing my job.”

“Well, good luck, soldier,” she said, smiling genuinely at him. Then, leaning forward, she kissed him on the cheek.

Soldier huh… He wondered if that was all anyone thought he was.

“Adios.” He raised a hand as he left through the steel entrance, darkness passing him into the low light of the outdoors. Looking over his shoulder, he saw the brick slide back into place and complete the wall once more.

The streets were empty, still, save for the occasional wanderers, heads hung low, kept to themselves. Oppressive clouds rolled with tumultuous brown-gray ardor, choking the horizon and the heavenly sphere overhead, a single point of sunlight breaking through their thick veil as if some celestial being watching the final hours of a doomed species.

Every pair of eyes seemed suspicious, anxious, damning, each blaming the others for the stirring of an uncertain future. Dominic tried to shake the feeling; paranoia crept out at him, a dark creature from the shadows, dogging his every footstep, each echoing far too loud.

If only he could get in touch with Edwards, he was sure he would feel better. Sure he could shake the feeling that things had fallen out of order the moment he had stepped out of Kairi’s home…

There’s something wrong with me, he thought, eyes searching past de-activated automobiles and into shadowy alleyways, convinced that something must be waiting for him. Why else would I feel so scared all of a sudden?

He considered taking another dose of diazepam to steady his nerves, based upon the recommendation of his neural-integrated nanosystems.

No, I should be able to handle this myself. My emotions are here to help me live in this world… If I hide from them, I cannot grow. Cannot change. He repeated the idea to himself.

‘Recommend independent method,’ he requested.

“Breathe.”

It was a simple command, accompanied by adjustments in his suit that caused him to inhale deep into his gut, then into his lungs, in a slow, full manner. The world seemed to relax as he did; the grays suddenly less harsh, the shadows less dark.

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