Adrift, Anchored – Ch. 12

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The medbot’s cozy, dim lighting in the cargo area suddenly felt less shameful. Aria could endure the odor of Mr. Wang’s blood because she was going to do her best to help him.

Only now, she noticed that her mouth was dry. She signaled at the medbot. It crawled over to her with a cup of water. What a friendly robotic tarantula!

Afterward, it folded its tarantula-legs, lowered its core body on top of it, and rested, ready to lie to the outsiders. Hydration helped Aria see her surroundings more clearly. Here were all the freight containers, full of bags, the owners of which must be anxiously waiting at the airport.

She also noticed the noises beyond the nonstop swiveling of the mockup and its hitting the freight containers: the muffled murmurs of the crowd outside. Airport police or reporters were still lingering around.

And the cold. She put the sickle-shaped cable in the pocket of her jacket. Finally, she didn’t need the solace of that physical anchor anymore. She put on her leather jacket and wore her gloves.

“We have to hide both Mr. Wang’s body and the mockup,” Aria said.

“Should I search for a hiding place at the airport? I have access to the blueprint,” Vera said.

“No. I don’t trust the staff here. Office politics, now of all times? They’re mad, both the indoor folks and outdoor folks.”

“Good point. Not staying at the airport then. I could browse online maps for appropriate hiding places near the airport.”

“Yes. It’d have to be somewhere dry. I don’t think the mockup is waterproof, and I don’t want to test it.”

“Good. And say we find the hypothetical hiding place, then what?”

“Then… Wait, no, we can’t just hide. Mr. Wang wanted to be cremated. That way, no one can access his brain or any other part of him. You saw the threads in him, right?”

“Right. Then, cremation first.”

“Yes. Problem is, we can’t just cremate him anywhere. There’s got to be a procedure of some sort, a legal or medical confirmation that we need to get the cremation approved. Otherwise, I don’t know, murderers would be cremating their victims at random crematories all the time.”

Vera chuckled. The bot had a sense of humor.

“So we definitely have to leave the airport,” Aria said, “and we definitely cannot hide before we get the cremation done, and before that, we most likely need medical or legal help. Also, I don’t think the Black Suits or the people behind them have given up on capturing us. They might be lurking around somewhere on the nearby freeways.”

“I agree. So, ground transportation is out. It’s too predictable.”

Vera pressed the button on her wrist to pull up the news holograms once more. Only a few news drones hovered over the airport and the snow blocked their lenses so much that the frames were half white. The layer of snow on the ground had become so thick that despite the many humans and bots walking or rolling around, Aria couldn’t see the concrete ground exposed by the footprints and ruts. She couldn’t even tell if Evan still stood near the building, stubbornly eying TXP076.

Some policebots blinked their white visors while facing the aircraft. Why?

“They are communicating with the flightbots,” Vera said, noticing Aria’s frown. “The flightbots have been told by the airport authorities to let the police know if there’s any significant noise coming out of the cargo area.”

“Is that what the flightbots are telling the policebots? That we’re making noises?”

“No. The flightbots aren’t revealing anything. In fact, they also don’t know yet that Mr. Wang is dead.”

“How do you know they don’t know? Maybe they have connections here.” Aria looked around the ceiling. There were no visible cameras, but those things were becoming way too small these days. All it took was a teeny tiny hole somewhere.

“I know because I’m connected to them and the flightbot’s prime directive is to obey the captain, who instructed them to communicate with me in her absence,” Vera said. “I also know that Captain Stravinsky, before she was taken in for questioning, managed to tell the flightbots to not tell the police any key information that might jeopardize the safety of the aircraft.”

“That’s vague. You think the flightbots will reliably interpret Mr. Wang’s death as such?”

“Oh, I made sure they think so. I told them that if the police learn that Mr. Wang is dead—if he were dead, that is—the police would immediately attack the aircraft or at the very least, tear the doors apart to forcefully enter.”

Aria nodded. It was comforting to know that bots lacked the ability to betray each other or a human. All Aria needed to know was the chain of order, which began with Captain Stravinsky, who’d killed a Black Suit. That act spoke louder than any words or impressions. Aria could trust the captain. It was that gut feeling that allowed Aria to trust Vera, therefore the flightbots.

In silence, Aria and Vera stared at the snowstorm shown by the news holograms.

“No ground travel,” Aria said, “but looks like air travel won’t be much easier either.”

“Yes,” Vera said.

One or the other news drone crossed the frame occasionally. Both Aria and Vera were thinking…

They fly though,” Aria said, pointing at the drones.

Vera looked up. “Drones,” she said.

Aria looked up too. “A whole herd of drones.”

© 2022 Ithaka O.

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