Prologue: The Interview – Book 2 of The 942 Series
Married … Two children? Nash’s heart shattered. He scanned the last of the files Royce had forwarded to him in a numb trance, committing every detail to memory. When he was done, he destroyed the documents. Now I know.
It’s been eight years. What did you expect Roz to do? The Sarcastic voice said. She thinks you’re dead.
At least she’s still alive, or would it be easier for you if she wasn’t?
“No, and I told you to shut up!”
The Darkness rose to join the conversation. If we go by the age of the eldest, she didn’t grieve you long—
Nash tuned the voices out before they could do more damage. He stood, grabbed his jacket, and left the apartment in search of distraction.
Where are you going? The Kind voice asked.
“Out. I need air.” Nash muttered as he entered the elevator.
Call Davis. Take him with you; this is not a time to be alone.
“Don’t worry; I’m not going to do anything dramatic,” Nash hissed as he checked his watch. “Besides, I doubt he’s home yet.” The doors in front of him slid open, and he stepped out into the vaulted lobby.
Message him. The Kind voice insisted. Get him to check on you when he returns.
Nash’s fingers lingered on his digipad as he considered the advice. “No. He’s earned a night off from my crap.”
The doorman noted the time as Nash left the building and then went back to watching the entertainment feed.
An hour later, Nash sat in a crowded diner somewhere off the entertainment plaza. Most of the patrons were club-goers, dressed up, and looking for a way to wind down before they went home. As he hunched over his coffee and tried to blend in, his mind wandered.
“Excuse me, but are you ready to order now?”
The comment brought Nash back to the present. He stared blankly at the waitress for a moment, then pointed to his mug and gave her a half-hearted grin.
She pointed to the sign and read it to him, pronouncing each word carefully. “Patrons must order food to occupy a seat.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t see that when I came in,” he looked up at the menu board but didn’t recognize anything. Their conversation had drawn attention and it flustered him. “Do you have something simple?”
“What do you mean by ‘simple’?”
Heads near them turned, there were a few whispers, and not-so-subtle snickers from somewhere behind him. Nash could feel the heat rising past his collar as he flushed.
Her expression softened in sympathy. “I’m sorry. We don’t get many Diasporan in here. You people have trouble with our food, right?”
Nash nodded, tempering the ‘you people’ comment with the obvious sincerity of her apology.
“I’d recommend Shoku soup without the Tebo. It’s basically vegetable broth with noodles. The Tebo is what makes it spicy.
“You’ve sold me.” Nash flashed her a brief smile then returned to contemplating what else he’d learned that evening. Diani, Vincent, Sam, Roz, and Amma are alive. Mom and Delayne are dead. He ran through the details again. Mom died while serving on a Burn Crew; Delly was killed in a Makondi-Core sponsored raid. He added another black mark to Edric Makon’s tally.
Are you going to make contact? The Kind voice asked.
“I don’t know yet—”
“You don’t know what yet?” A steaming bowl of soup was placed in front of him.
Nash blushed again. “Sorry, I was just thinking out loud. It’s a bad habit.”
“If you like this, I can get you seconds for free. It’s almost time to change over to our breakfast menu.”
Nash tasted it cautiously and let the delicate flavor spread across his tongue. “Thanks. This will do me nicely.” He sampled a noodle and grinned to himself. Polonu, just like Amma used to make.
Nash was halfway through his second bowl when the digipad in his pocket vibrated. His stomach clenched when he saw the caller ID; it was his home number. Not again. Nash logged into his apartment security system and ran the feed from the cameras. Nothing? He switched to infrared and scanned the rooms again. He paused the camera when he spotted the cloaked drone hovering outside his living room window; the heat trails curling around it like a wreath. Damn them. When will they leave me— There was a sudden flash, and the feed went dead. Was that an EMP? He accessed his alerts, and the message was gone.
Nash ran his ID across the sensor on the bar and paid for his meal. He was out the door and looking for a taxi before the waitress even noticed he was gone.
The cab sped across the plaza and took the ramp onto the elevated roadway. Nash looked out at the sea of lights that seemed to engulf the vehicle from all sides, like stars. Under normal circumstances, it would have been beautiful, but now everything was too bright and it upset his equilibrium. He choked back his vertigo and tried to focus on what lay ahead; his heart raced. It’s just nerves. Calm down, or you’ll have a stress reaction and be useless.
“We’ve arrived, sir.”
A nod was all Nash could manage. He took a moment to collect himself before he paid the fare and exited the vehicle. He ran to the building. The first thing he noticed was that the reception desk was vacant. A shadow danced in Nash’s peripheral vision and he spun to confront it. Nothing. Just my mind working against me, again. Another dark patch flickered along the wall to his right, picking up the game, but he forced himself to ignore it. His stomach contracted as the stress reaction built. Where the hell are you, Fred? Nash wandered past the desk, peering into the gloom. Someone touched him on the shoulder.
“Good evening, Doctor Korpes.”
Nash turned and recognized the missing doorman. He let out a sigh of relief.
“You okay, sir?”
Nash stifled the urge to throw up. “Yep. Fine. How about you? Have things been quiet tonight?”
Fred laughed. “Things are always quiet here,” he paused, peering up at the skinny scientist. “You sure you’re all right, sir; you don’t look at all well.”
“I’m fine, just tired.” Nash managed to dredge up a convincing smile for the man; it was enough to end the questions.
The doorman returned to his desk and saluted as Nash passed. “Have a good night, sir.”
Good night, Fred.” Nash acknowledged him with a wave and entered the elevator. The smile disappeared the moment the doors shut.
What makes you think you’ll find anything this time? KMR and D hasn’t been sloppy thus far. The Sarcastic voice reminded him.
The doors opened on his floor and Nash checked the hall in both directions before he exited. “That isn’t a reason to stop looking for evidence.” Nash pressed his ID to the scanner and counted. One … Two … Three … Four. The apartment door slid open, and the lights adjusted to his preferences. “A second too long, just like last time.” He adjusted the blinds so they closed completely before he entered.
Call Davis. The Kind voice urged.
“And tell him what? He already thinks I’m paranoid; I don’t want him to start thinking I’m crazy.” Nash locked the door behind him, crossed over to his desk, and removed his old diagnostic digipad from the drawer. “Here’s hoping I find proof he’s wrong.”