Dragging herself to shore was difficult, the rollerblades were waterlogged and the river bottom was covered with around a foot of muck. She could smell someone cooking over a grill nearby as she sat down to try and clean herself off a bit. The skirt she was wearing was pretty much ruined, the stockings had been white but now were dyed a nasty brown from the murky river water.
“I wonder where I am.” Victoria muttered to herself, glancing around. The grass had been cut within the last month so it must be managed land of some sort. She finished rinsing the mud off her rollerblades and walked up the embankment. Pushing through a line of brush she was nearly run over by a man running while looking backwards. Only by diving sideways and dropping her skates was she able to avoid being run into.
“Whoa, sorry about that!” The Frisbee he had been chasing landed next to her and she recognized Jenny’s dad. “Victoria, what are you doing out here? You look like you’ve been through the ringer!”
Victoria glanced down at herself and had to admit she was a little worse for the wear. “I’m OK Mr. Hendricks; I was out skating and fell off a bridge.” The second the words left her mouth she realized how lame they sounded and winced.
“Wow, that must have been quite some fall. Well we’re having a picnic; do you want to join us? There’s a fire you could warm up a bit.” Jenny was running over from across a small clearing.
“Hey Toria, what’s going on? Holy shit, you look like hell! I thought you went off with that hottie in the Porsche after school, what happened, did he toss you off a bridge?”
“Don’t laugh Jenny, that’s not far off the mark.” She suddenly felt dizzy, “Damn, I must have overdone it.” She turned towards Jenny’s dad, “Could you give me a lift home?” A shrill keening sound emanated from somewhere on her back. Victoria suddenly felt weak. “I’m so tired.”
“Hey are you OK?” Jenny’s face showed her concern, “What’s wrong V?”
“Please. Just .. take .. me .. home.” Victoria was having trouble talking, her breath coming in short gasps. Her vision began to fade in and out. Without warning she crumpled to the ground.
“This unit is the property of the Arlington Research Division. The main power supply has been depleted. Auxiliary power will keep core systems safe for T-600 minutes. Please return this unit to 301 Industry Avenue, Los Angeles, California 87960 before the time expires. This message will repeat in 60 seconds.”
“Dad. What do we do?” Jenny was white and shaken. “I mean, this looks like V but what the hell is going on?”
“We bring her home. Honey, this is Victoria, who else could this possibly be?” He picked up the motionless girl at his feet. “I don’t know exactly what’s going on but… we bring her home.” As they hurried towards the car the muffled sound of a cell phone ringing on vibrate from the pocket of her skirt went unnoticed.
Mr. Hendricks pulled up in front of the Scott house, stopping almost fast enough to squeal the tires. Jumping out he carefully lifted the comatose form of Victoria out of the back seat and carried her to the front door. Jenny was already ringing the doorbell. Mr. Scott answered the door, at first with a smile but then with dismay as he saw his daughter in Mr. Hendricks’s arms.
“Jake, what’s this? I thought she was at a doctor’s appointment.”
“I don’t know what’s going on Rich. She just walked out of the woods and collapsed.” He was interrupted by the announcement from Victoria’s spinal column.
“This unit is the property of The Arlington Research Division. The main power supply has been depleted; auxiliary power will keep core systems safe for T-530 minutes. Please return this unit to 301 Industry Avenue, Los Angeles, California 87960 before the time expires. This message will repeat in 60 seconds.”
“Oh shit, I think there’s something about this in the documentation we got from the hospital. Or maybe I’ll just call her doctor. Yeah, I’ll call Dr. Arlington.” He picked up the phone and dialed hurriedly.
“Thank you for calling Dr. Eugene Arlington’s office. If this is an emergency please press six.” BEEEP Rich mashed the key on the keypad.
“Hello, this is Dr. Arlington. I’m sorry I can’t answer the phone right now but please leave me a message and I’ll get back to you the moment I’m available.”
“Hi Mr. Arlington, this is Rich Scott. Victoria just got brought back home looking like she’s been run through the wringer and there’s this automated message coming from her prosthetic about returning her to the home office but she’s here now. Call me immediately I need to know what to do.”
He hung up and seconds later the phone rang, “Hello? Doctor?”
“Richard, is that you?” The voice on the other end was muffled but sounded familiar, “What’s the emergency?”
“Doctor, Victoria just got home and there’s a warning message coming from her prosthetic about the battery, what do I do?”
“Just take the yellow charger from the bag and connect it to the yellow plug in the back of her skull. It’s a charging port and it’ll regenerate the batteries within 15 minutes. It won’t be a full charge but it’ll be enough to get her up and moving around. I’m in the ER but I’ll be there as soon as I can get them to discharge me. Whatever you do don’t leave the house. I don’t have time to explain but it is imperative that you do NOT leave the house.”
“What? Why can’t we leave the house?” But the line was dead and Rich had his priorities. He ran upstairs and pulled the proper charger from the bag Victoria had brought from the office. With some trepidation he plugged it into the wall and then hesitated momentarily before plugging it into the back of his daughter’s head. There was a pleasant chime and the warning message stopped emanating from the gleaming steel and rubber prosthetic imbedded in her back.
After a tense few minutes Victoria stirred, “Mmmm daddy? What time is it?” She sat up, “I feel like I’ve been asleep for weeks!”
Jake Hendricks turned to Rich Scott, “OK Rich, what the HELL is going on here? What did you do to your daughter?”
Without even having to think about it Rich looked him straight in the eye, “Saved her life Jake. Without this treatment she would have certainly spent the rest of her life in a wheelchair if she had survived at all.”
“Holy shi- er crap Mr. Hendricks, I totally forgot. Thanks for bringing me home.” She stood up and felt the cable connected to her head, “What’s this?” Turning to her dad, “What happened?”
Jake answered, “You collapsed and some warning started sounding from somewhere on your back. You had asked me to bring you home so I did. I’m not sure what you’ve gotten yourself into Victoria, but I’m asking you to keep my daughter out of it. This is all just a little too much for us. OK?” Without waiting for an answer he turned and walked out the door.
“Wait, Mr. Hendricks! Wait, you don’t understand!” She ran to the door after him but the charging cable reached its limit and she stopped, knowing it was necessary for her continued consciousness. She could see out the door though. Victoria rubbed her eyes in disbelief, was this a video game or was she still asleep?
ADAM awakened from hibernate mode, his power cells had been drastically depleted; almost to the point of data loss. A quick diagnostic check showed his power monitoring program had unresolved bugs. He edited his code accordingly, re-routing data and lowering some parameters while being careful to leave his clone’s information intact for the programmers to find later. He also noted with interest that the emergency protocol files were still accessible.
Taking note of the quick charge level at 15%, ADAM activated one of the new programs available to him to scan the area by accessing local traffic cameras and the security systems from some neighboring houses. Everything seemed normal until he checked the police band just to be safe.
“APB all available officers respond immediately to possible terrorist threat at 4487 Honeysuckle Terrace. SWAT ETA three minutes. Do not engage until SWAT arrives, repeat, do NOT engage without SWAT backup.”
The host system was moving towards the door, following another. The data flow was illogical and misdirected. ADAM checked for anomalies and discovered this was registering as normal behavior. He checked again, attempting to find a pattern of conduct that made sense but was unable to find one. ADAM stopped the host as it approached the door, it was too dangerous. There was Enforcement all over out there and he knew it. ADAM borrowed the host’s video inputs and began to overlay his data, trusting that the host would be able to interpret it.
“Victoria what are you doing?” Her father was yelling at her.
Looking out the door, Victoria could see cars parked on the street, people walking by, houses, an airplane flying overhead. However, far from being normal each one had additional information superimposed over it. “Civilian” “Police” “Private Security” “Italian Mafia” “Flight 1538 out of LA” She knew these things to be true although she wasn’t certain why. It was like something out of a game or a Sci-Fi movie.
“Dad? Can you get mom? I need you to get in the basement right now.”
“What do you mean? What the hell is going on?”
“There are armed men on this block right now who intend to do me serious harm. If you get in the way I’m certain you’ll be hurt. We need to stay inside away from windows.” Mr. Hendricks and Jenny were halfway down the block when they passed by a car she knew to be an unmarked police car.
“Are you feeling OK? What’s wrong honey?” Her father’s eyes were tight with concern as he looked out of the door, “There’s nobody out there except for our neighbors. Look, there’s Mary walking her dog.”
The door to the police car opened and Jenny screamed in surprise as a SWAT van sped around the corner and riot cops in full “battle rattle” jumped out, running up the sidewalk towards the house. Jenny and her dad were grabbed and pulled into the unmarked car. Mary was thrown unceremoniously to the ground, her dog was going nuts.
“GET DOWN ON THE FLOOR AND PUT YOUR HANDS ON YOUR HEADS NOW! THIS IS A POLICE RAID. WE HAVE A WARRANT AND WE’RE COMING IN!” The first cop was coming through the door, and even though her whole body trembled with the desire to defend her home Victoria lay down on the floor.