“You lost him?” asked the VelkLaddeur.
“No, Sir. We got him, but somehow he escaped,” said Lt. Jones.
“What do you mean ‘you got him.’ If you got him, he would be dead.”
“Yes, Sir. But you see, when we sent in the corpse collection unit, all they found was an old man named Max Dudley.”
“Didn’t the drones see the unchipper in the plaza?”
“That they did, Sir. But there was some kind of electrical disturbance that confused the drone’s circuitry. The unchipper must have escaped then. The most likely explanation is the drone. . .once the electrical disturbance ceased. . .automatically assumed Mr. Dudley was the unchipped man.”
“Mr. Dudley was a chipped man Lt. How could the drone assume otherwise? Machines never assume Lt. Never. What kind of electrical disturbance was this?”
“We’re still uncertain. Our tech guys are checking it out as we speak. Nothing’s turned up yet. It seems in perfect working order.”
“Keep looking Lt. And keep looking until you find the problem. The last thing we need is another unchipped cowboy running around footloose and fancy free.”
“I want a full report of the problem ASAP. See to it.”
“One more thing. See the safe nurse before you leave.”
“You know the Law Codes. Eye for eye and tooth for tooth.”
“What if we don’t find him?”
“Thirty days Lt. You have thirty days before the methyl butyrate is released.”
Lt. Jones left the VelkLaddeur’s office. The last thing he saw was his Cheshire cat-like grin. It unnerved him.
Lt. Jones grumbled to himself as he walked the long corridor to the safe nurse’s lab. He hated this building, the National Security Agency. Every conversation was under constant surveillance, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. One couldn’t even grumble aloud without it going on record. Secretly, he was glad when it was quitting time. Working in the NSA gave one a headache. One couldn’t even go to the bathroom without some roving mechanical Cyclops staring at you. Yet, this was the case for all government buildings. Constant surveillance. Always watching.
Lt. Jones entered the safe nurse lab where he instinctively held out his hand and passed it over the receptionist’s scanner. It beeped.
“We’ve been expecting you,” said a thin, middle-aged woman with short hair, plain face, who could easily have passed for a man. Her name tag said Leah. Dr. Charan will see you now. She led him to a small room with pink walls and told him to sit on a table. Leah closed the door and left. He tried the door. Locked. The room was bare. No cabinets, tables, or anything to suggest he was in a doctor’s office, yet he knew he was monitored. A moment later the door opened.
Dr. Ali Singhe Charan was short, bald, bushy gray eyebrows, and wrinkly forehead. “You know how this works,” said Dr. Charan immediately. “Same principle as the V-chip in your right arm. This will be in your left arm. Roll up your sleeves.”
Jones rolled up his left sleeve and relaxed as Dr. Charan rubbed alcohol on his arm. Then he picked up a needle, inserted a rice-sized capsule, and carefully inserted it in the lt’s arm.
That’s it?” asked Jones.
“Yes,” replied Charan. “In 30 days the capsule is programmed to release 100 micrograms of hexylbutyrate and 50 micrograms of pentane dioxide. First you fall asleep, then the heart stops beating. So quick, easy, and painless.”
“And the antidote?”
“There is no antidote for the red capsule. We remove it manually.”
Lt. Jones forced a grin. “I feel like Damocles.”
“You are Damocles,” said Dr. Charan.