The Interview

The Interview – Book 2 of The 942 Series

Forty-Seven known survivors from Astel. Nash’s heart sank as he looked at each photo. He scanned the last of the files Royce had forwarded from James in a numb trance and committed every detail to memory before he destroyed the documents.
Odds are Roz and your family are dead, the Sarcastic voice interjected.
“Shut up.”
It’s time to quit chasing ghosts and move on.
“No, and I told you to be quiet!”
The Darkness rose to join the conversation. It’s been eight years. Even if she’s still alive, do you truly believe that she would have waited for you?
Nash shut 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 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 deserves a night off from me.”
The doorman noted the time as Nash left the building.

An hour later, Nash sat in a crowded diner somewhere off the entertainment plaza. Most of the patrons were Korlo club-goers, looking for a way to wind down before they went home. He hunched down over his coffee and tried to blend in with the shorter, dark-haired crowd. His mind wandered.
“Excuse me, but you have to order something besides coffee.”
The comment brought Nash back to the present. “Pardon?”
The waitress pointed to the sign and read it to him. “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 board but didn’t recognize anything. “Do you have anything simple?”
“What do you mean by ‘simple’?”
A few heads near them turned, someone sitting behind him laughed, and Nash could feel the heat rising up past his collar as he flushed.
“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 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.
“I’ll have that. Thanks.” Nash flashed her a brief smile returned to contemplating what else he’d read that evening. Roz never returned to Ribal. According to the census, her father relocated to Merrow Cluster the year after the attacks; he died two years ago. Nash wished he’d had the chance to meet the man that would have been his father-in-law. James says some of the Diasporan survivors became M’Kang, but he believes the majority joined Clan Destine. Nash idly sipped his coffee and reviewed the photos of the known Astel survivors in his mind’s eye, willing there to be a familiar face among them. Nothing.
Royce referenced survivors that made their way into the Seep, the Kind voice offered.
“He didn’t have any names.” Nash shuddered, remembering the toxic jungle from his time at Farlen Station. “Still … Going M’Kang wouldn’t have been an option; Clan Destine wouldn’t have appealed to them either; not with Roz, Amma, and the kids along. That leaves Clan Evora … Gods. If everyone’s in the Seep now, I may never find them.” He added another black mark to Edric Makon’s tally. “You will feel the pain you’ve caused, if it’s the last thing I do.”
Do not let this rage consume you; you want justice, not revenge, the Kind voice reminded him.
“If I’m being honest, I don’t know what I want anymore—”
“Does that mean you don’t want the soup?” A steaming bowl of broth was placed in front of him.
Nash blushed again. “Sorry, I was just thinking out loud. It’s a bad habit.”
“Don’t worry about it. If you like this, I can get you seconds for free. It’s almost time to change over to our morning menu.”
He tasted it cautiously and let the delicate flavor spread across his tongue. “Thanks.” He sampled a noodle and grinned. Polonu, just like Amma used to make.

He was halfway through the second bowl when the digipad in his pocket beeped twice. What now? Nash saw the ID tag and seconds later logged into his apartment security system to check the feed from his cameras. Nothing? He switched to infrared and saw the distinctive heat trails coming from a drone as it hovered outside his living room window. Damn them. There was a sudden flash, and the feed went dead. What the hell? He accessed his alerts and the notification file was gone. That was more than a localized EMP!
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. Under normal circumstances, it would have been beautiful, but now everything was too bright and upset his equilibrium. His heart raced so he took a deep breath and held it. It’s just nerves. Calm down, or you’ll have a stress reaction, he told himself as he exhaled. The anxiety remained.
“We’ve arrived, sir.” The cab came to a halt.
He paid the fare and entered the darkened building.
The doorman was distinctly absent.
Nash broke out into a cold sweat. Shit. Where’s Fred? He wandered past the desk, peering into the gloom, and someone touched him on the shoulder.
“Good evening, Doctor Korpes. You’re out late tonight.”
Nash spun and recognized the doorman. He let out a squeak 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. You sure you’re all right, sir.”
“I’m just tired. Good night.” Nash acknowledged him with a wave and entered the elevator.
What makes you think you’ll find anything this time? KMR and D hasn’t been sloppy thus far. The Sarcastic voice reminded him as he exited into the hall.
“That isn’t a reason to stop checking.” Nash pressed his ID to the scanner and counted. One … Two … Three … Four. The apartment door slid open and the lights adjusted to his presence. “A second too long, just like last time.” He adjusted the blinds to close completely before he entered.
Call Davis. The Kind voice urged.
“And tell him what? He’s already starting to think I’m paranoid.” Nash locked the door behind him, crossed over to his desk, and removed his old diagnostic digipad from the drawer. “Now to see if they’ve left me anything to prove I’m not going crazy.”