As soon as the door slid shut behind Jonah, Sir Thomas said, “Well?”
“He was thinking about how much he admires you and wants to be like you.”
“Did he realize that you were in his mind?”
“No. He had no idea. I only did a brief probe, but it turned up nothing. He simply admires you and hopes that this case will lead you to respect him more.”
Sir Thomas nodded and, leaning back in the Siteazy, said, “And what do we make of our runner then? Give him what he wants and hope that he plays ball, or put him through treatment again?”
“I think we should wait, Sir Thomas. Let him sweat for a while. It is highly unlikely that anyone else could have picked up where he left the illegals, so only he knows where they all are. With no one to run them if they move without him, they’ll be picked up, which might give us a little more leverage than we have now.” Agent Cochran was still straight-backed as could be and on delivering this last opinion seemed, if it could be possible, to straighten out even more.
Ambitious and talented, thought Sir Thomas. Very ambitious and certainly ruthless — she wants my job or more. Well I’m not quite ready to move on yet, and she’s not quite ready to take over yet. But in time, really there is no one else — although hinting that Jonah may be my top choice for my replacement may cast an interesting element into the mix.
As Sir Thomas pondered succession, and her ambition, Agent Cochran sat perfectly still. She could, if required, remain absolutely still for over thirty-six hours.
Sir Thomas made a steeple of his hands and bringing them to his lips said, “Right, we’ve had him in containment for 56 hours and 34 minutes so let’s keep him where he is, no food, no water and no access to waste facilities. It’s 1:38 now, let him stew in his own excrement for another 15 hours, and we’ll interview again at 3am-ish, by which time he may be more amenable to seeing things our way.”
Jurong Island, New Singapore
Thursday 5 December 2109, 1:38pm +8 UTC
I headed straight towards the Lev port nearest the Director’s office for the third time in one day and in my life to date. Right now I wanted as much distance as I could get between me and Cochran and my uncle. I was scared and glad to be out of there.
The Lev politely enquired, “Where do you wish to go, Arbitrator Oliver?”
“Take me Topside, nearest Lev port please.” I didn’t bother sitting down; we were only a level below Topside.
“Certainly Arbitrator Oliver. Half a minute to destination.”
I kept a straight face, but it was very hard. I felt like smiling. I felt like smiling a huge smile, a gigantic smile, but I didn’t. Instead I let that smile grow inside me, spreading its warmth through to every pore of me, and I now wanted sun and sky. I had to control my breathing, and my heart felt as if it were trying to break out of my chest, but I had to control it. How much do they monitor and were they monitoring me right now in this Executive Lev? I didn’t know, but it occurred to me that if I was going to survive this then I had better find out and fast. This is how a criminal must think. I’m thinking like a criminal. It was a shocking thought, but it was true.
“Lev, what’s the weather like outside?”
“Temperature is twenty-three degrees cel with scattered nimbus clouds, and a forty-five percent chance of rain. Wind is out of the south-east and at eight to twelve kilos: a light breeze.”
“Travel off-line please.”
Score one for Gabriel, I thought. The bitch from hell did try to get in my mind while I was in there, but my plan seemed to have worked. At least I am free. When I came out of the Lev before going to the Director’s office I remembered Gabriel’s warning about Agent Cochran with a vengeance. It scared me enough that the urge to relieve myself was desperate. I headed for the nearest outlet to have a think and I came up with the idea that I would simply report exactly what had happened in the room and the rest of the time all I would think about was what a great guy the Director was and how much I would like to be like him.
It is impossible to think of two things at the same time; we’re not dimensional enough to do that. It should be possible for our brains to do parallel processing, but we’re just not there yet. So if anyone did attempt to read what was in my mind then all they would get was that I really admired the Director.
And I assume it had worked. The debrief had gone perfectly from my point of view and I could now just wait until eight hours passed or something happened that meant I had to go back. Either way, the fact that Agent Cochran did read my mind meant that Gabriel had told the truth about at least one thing and on that score he was doing better than anyone else so far today.
“Arrived at destination, Arbitrator Oliver. Have a good day.”
The Lev door opened and I stepped out into a covered area. In front of me was the entrance to the UNPOL Executive Club, to my left the railed walkway that ran around Topside. I took out my Devstick and said, “Give me a map of the Topside area nearest to me.” The map came up, I thumbed down to zoom in and said, “Find me nearest relax lounge outside of one kilom from where I am.” A kilom ought to be enough distance between me and UNPOL staffers.
It was a bit early to have an alky and, strictly speaking, was against the rules, because although I had the day off I was on standby and therefore supposed to remain clean. But somehow, under the circumstances, I reckoned I’d be forgiven this small indulgence and headed for a Sky Level relax lounge. A name came up attached to a lounge icon on the map. Polar Nights. I thumbed ‘Go To’ and the shortest route was indicated with a thin red line. The directional arrow on my map pointed left, so I obeyed and started walking.
The Topside area on Jurong Island is mostly new, except over near the wharves on the side closest to the mainland of New Singapore. There it narrows to a one hundred and eighty meter wide stretch that arches over the water between the mainland and the island of Jurong. The idea of a Topside had been voted in by New Singapore residents in 2085 — they were one of the early adopters although now most of the major cities have a Topside. By connecting all the high rise buildings with a structure that could accommodate the weight of full landscaping and maximum two-storey buildings, a new landscape was created on top of the city.
Topside is mostly for relaxation and greenery, providing green open spaces for people who would otherwise be surrounded by metal, plastic and other manmade materials all of their lives. There aren’t any electric or other vehicles on Topside, except walkers and bicycles. I had taken the easterly route that would lead me in a half circle around the UNPOL golf course to the wharf area. Of course the wharves themselves are fifteen hundred meters below Topside but it was still called the wharf area.
The rubberized walkway was mostly deserted as I walked along. A jogger in UNPOL tracksuit outers jogged past me and gave me a smile. I controlled my paranoia and smiled back. Discreet directional arrows set into the walkway beat a time with the directional arrow in the map on my Devstick and led me around a par three.
I heard a golfer exclaim, “Shit,” as his ball hit the water in the pond between him and the green. His companions laughed. A mother pushing her child along in a stroller also smiled at me and I felt the paranoia increase. This is ridiculous, Jonah, I thought. Calm down. I decided to change the route I was on and turned left onto a path running between the golf course and a park. For a sec or two my Devstick squawked at me as the directional arrow on it blinked red. I ignored it and kept walking.
I couldn’t smile just in case I’d been tagged and they were tracking my every image whether digital or physical. I just had to act normally. That way no one would suspect anything. Breaking with routine should be OK, but I had to do something natural. Having a strong alky and needing somewhere to reflect is natural behavior after what I had been through, and then I’d head straight back to my Envplex where I would simply wait. I took another look at my Devstick. It had responded to my change in course and provided a new route based upon my current direction. I took another turn, right this time, and checked the Devstick again. About another fifteen hundred meters to go.