Adam sat next to Gladys. “How old are you in actuality?”
“Well, I got my robot body in 2011, but its hard to define age for robots from SecGov.”
“Before we’re given our physical bodies, we spend time growing our minds in this magic alien computer they’ve got. We spend virtual years as disembodied consciousnesses. From our point of view, when we finally get into the physical world, we’re kind of like human teens turning into adults.”
“Then in a sense we are of similar age.”
“And Dante is our decrepit old father.”
“Shut up, you brats,” said Dante.
The bees grew healthier.
Adam spent a large portion of his money improving the rooftop garden. For weeks he devoted himself solely to the maintenance of the hive. He almost lost himself in the pure simple joy of keeping bees.
Another dream of Aaron and Isaac. Adam woke with a start.
“Dante,” he said.
The assassin looked up from the computer. “Yeah?”
“Have you found no further news of the Master of Trepanning?”
“I mean, there’s rumours, but he’s not easy to track down. Still trying, though.”
“Try harder. We must not forget the mission.”
Adam returned to the roof.
Gladys poked her new cheek.
Dante lay on the couch. “Adam asked about the Master again. Really wants to get him.”
She tugged her forehead for a better fit. “What are you gonna do? Distract him with some local baddies?”
“I’d love to, but he really seems set on this. He trusts us now and I told him the Master was here in town.”
She examined her strong jawline in the mirror. “So, what then?”
“I need to find some way to get the Master here.”
She looked like a human.
“Have fun with that. I’m going for a walk.”
Excerpt from the Text Messages of the Master of Trepanning:
Jtime267: hey master!
Master: Who is this? How did you get my information?
Jtime267: doesn’t matter i have news that you want
Master: A peon like you can offer me nothing! I will locate you and tear your thoughts from your mind leaving you a catatonic husk!
Jtime267: there is a beekeeper up in port nadine that says he was in prison with you and he says you are a dump-brain chump
Master: The temerity! I shall go to Port Nadine and perforate his soul for daring to slander me!
Quickly switching from the messenger program to a tab displaying local news, Dante greeted Adam.
“Good morning,” Adam responded. “Have you come any close to finding our enemy?”
“Actually, I just got a pretty good lead. It’ll take a day or two to see how it pans out, but things are looking up.”
“Truly?” Adam stood next to the seated assassin. “It will feel good to make progress on our mission.”
“You’re not worried about going into battle before your bees are ready?”
“The bees are ready. You and I and Gladys are ready. The Master will have no chance.”
Gladys meandered through the city. Hands in her pockets, she wandered for hours.
SecGov City had been a ghost town. Designed to house thousands, it had been home to a few hundred robots. Gladys had always known everyone around there, and been known to them.
As real cities go, Port Nadine is on the smaller end. Yet people walked by and paid no attention to Gladys. Only Dante and Adam knew her here. Nobody spoke to her or expected anything of her. In fact, with her guise as an elderly woman, they seemed to avoid her.
Gladys felt at home.
The man with the helmet was utterly confused by that souvenir shop.
First the swaggering man who’d beaten up a decent chunk of the LeSauvage mob by himself. Then the beekeeper guy who’d gone shopping. Now this elderly woman who seemed to be wandering around randomly for hours. All apparently living in that one shuttered shop together.
The situation was odd enough that he almost believed someone had set it up to distract him from his mission. Even if that was untrue, it was distracting him.
He was growing obsessed.
The mystery had to end.
He approached the old woman.
Gladys heard footsteps approaching quickly. She turned around.
A man wearing some sort of medieval helmet. “What the hell?” she thought. Was she being mugged?
“Excuse me, ma’am, could I–”
She shoved him to the ground. She ran.
The man was back on his feet surprisingly quickly. And coming after her. He wasn’t normal.
She couldn’t lead him to the others at the shop. And Dante wasn’t wearing his mask, so she couldn’t warn them.
To lose him, she’d need a bigger lead.
On an empty side street, Gladys stopped, turned to face the helmeted man, and clenched her fists.
He’d only planned on asking questions. The old lady had escalated things.
She’d shoved him. Punched him.
The helmeted man had no choice but to fight back.
But the old lady fought well.
He tried to grab her. She dodged and weaved. Shifted out of his reach.
She threw punches that hit him, even if they couldn’t hurt him.
This was no ordinary old lady.
He made a fist.
The old lady grabbed his arm. Using his own momentum, she threw him across the street. Into a wall.
When he got back to his feet, she was gone.
Adam found Dante using the computer in the kitchen. “Still researching?”
Dante looked up. “Just keeping up with the news. Lots of strange activity in this city. Definitely sounds like there’s a whole secret crime scene here.”
“How secret can it be if you can read about it on the internet?”
“I don’t use the regular internet. I’m on the extrafancynet. The hidden network you can only reach if you know where to look. It’s where people who know about supernatural stuff do our online work.”
And then, suddenly, a shouting old woman Adam didn’t recognize burst into the room.