Here is the start of a SF story I am writing - it's working title is "Data Rule "
His first reaction was to eat. Ever since he could remember his first overwhelming need at times of stress was to eat.This time it was a pure animal urge - almost blocking out other thoughts or pain or the present.
The animal throb ebbed and ritual took over.
This meal had to be folded into a blend of art and succour. James relaxed and spoke to the empty room.
"The flat pan Eric, four hens eggs ambient and two soy-loins.Heat 200C. Oh, lets have my usual salad. I'll be in the kitchen in two minutes."
"Fifteen seconds,James,"came the smooth tones of ERIC1,"Over easy James?"
"No Eric, I'll cook tonight - just set it up." called back James as he entered the kitchen.... Expert Records Interactive Controller Five (Eric5) was in charge of basic domestic systems and tended to be too precise for the creative cooking James needed to indulge in now.
Some of the fear and tightness in his gut began to ease.
A simple old - fashioned omelette thought James as the raw fear surfaced again. 'Don't think....wait....relax....' James told himself. "Eric, project last message from Jill. Decode and full res. Oh, and life size." he added as her image took shape in the centre of the room only to dissolve and then reform full size. The voice recording broke in -
"James, I'm meeting him at four Pacific time.." Jill's voice faded as Eric's cut in -
"Smoke detected! Warning! Please exit the kitc..."
"Cancel warning!" snapped James and then continued," Cancel heat......cancel image......cancel sound......"
That's what they'd done.
Murdered her.Deliberately they had had her cancelled out in what would appear to be a freak accident.
The one person he had ever loved, now dead. A quiet sort of dead. No fuss, no remains, just one of those unfortunate accidents. 'Transmat mal-function' was the stated cause given when he'd called up Obit.Net.
A call which he had made just moments after hearing the devastating news from Jill's distressed sister close to midnight last night. Beth had told him but he had known the moment the connection had come on view. Her face told the story before any words were uttered. Her face, like an unlined twin, had lost that baby glow that had always distinguished the two.
He had listened to the basic 'facts' she was able to tell him and then he quickly broke the connection.
James had even forced himself to accept it in the last few hours...........and then this.
He looked down to the still unopened VacSeal Pac.
The package,robot delivered, was a C.E.T.1. service. Critical Event Transmit - Level One. Delivered at four am this morning. The robot that delivered it burnt itself out after delivery for maximum security. No wonder the minimum charge was 15000 C. It was a rather exclusive service.
Such a parcel was only ever set up by somebody in fear of their life,a person who could become a possible target for an 'accident' - Jill had set up a C.E.T.1. and it's delivery was all the proof James needed that her death had been no accident.
That had been four hours ago and James had still not opened the sealed box. The grief and fear had churned through him and he had sought refuge in DownTime and its comfort-inducing state. He had re-lived their last trip to the cabin in all the perfectness only encountered in a drug-recalled SleepMem. It was after that that James had woken up with the overpowering need to eat.
He could hold off no longer. He must find out what Jill had done or found out that had cost her her life. "Eric! This is a new security directive -Code 12/09/2098 - I want maximum protection. Check voice-wave. Maximum protection! Security Code override " Alpha, Alpha, Gamma, Zero." No one allowed entry, acknowledge Eric ?"
"Acknowledge James," complied Eric," But now need new Code word as the old one based on Jill's D.O.B. not secure."
James looked about as he tried to come up with a new code word. His eyes came to rest on the collection of semi-precious stones he had collected as part of his long time hobby. "Blue-John!" called out James, repeating to confirm, "code word is "Blue-John," reset to this now. Include usual voice-wave secondary check. Also 'Secure-All' as of now."
"Securing...." came back the reply followed by the sound of Leadloy shields dropping over all the exits." Home now secure. New code word in effect as of 4.32 am 12/09/2127. How shall I deal with in-data James?"
"Dave Goodman Visi-call but in voice only using Double-Fractal Encoding and Jill's sister of course. If any other enquires fake mal-function but give out no data. Code Blue-John."
James was confident that this house and it's position were unknown to the Council.Of course his public 'Main' home would be on file and would be by now under discrete observation. It may have been watched for weeks - years even - certainly since the Summit in May.
People who called him here did so via a three-stage routing system. Even so no call was totally secure. He did not know was how long it would take them to locate him should they feel it necessary for him to have an 'accident'. He had two days at most to plan a more permanent location that would buy him time to find out what Jill had gotten into. At least, he thought, he could ferret around from anywhere in this up-linked world.
Right now he had to open the sealed box.
It would of course be ID'd to his voice but Jill would expect him to figure out a word or short phrase known to just the two of them. But which? He would only have three tries before the box would self-destruct.
James put his left hand on top of the box.
"Ready for Key message input." said a tinny voice.
"James David Conner. Key message 'Log cabin.'" said James clearly, prompted by his recent dream-memory.
"Voice match accepted. Key message incomplete. Ready for 2nd event input."
"Log cabin at Crystal Lake." stated a tense James.
There was a short pause as one by one the built in security devices locked out. James thought he heard five different sequences, Jill had really been careful.
No, that was silly - she was dead. She hadn't been careful enough.What was in the box surprised him.
It was almost empty. Lying at the bottom of the box were just three scraps of Rite-Once paper, a 3D Visual of a middle-aged man and a ring. It appeared that although Jill had pre-planned the box and it's method of delivery, weeks maybe even months earlier, the contents had been almost thrown in. Perhaps in the last few hours of her life she had sensed the added danger and decided to activate the delivery hurriedly.
Sadly she had been right.
James could picture Jill's trim figure reaching down into some secure safe, retrieving the VacSeal Pac, throwing in the papers and other contents before hurrying to a safe drop-off point. Jill always a realist would have known by then that she had been targeted. Known she was 'dead' but determined that I should know why or at least getting some information through to Conner.
No accident then. Murder.
The box confirmed it. But as to why - he only had three scraps, an image and her ring in the box. The ring - it's presence was obvious - to prove this came from her. A ring that he had bought her in the local village on that last trip together.
James kissed the ring. A least he had something personal of hers he could treasure. Although it had been an inexpensive gift, a simple ring with a single small semi-precious stone (simple Silica with a rainbow of impurities running across it) it now became his most valued item. He needed it on himself to feel closer to Jill. James managed to push the ring onto the small finger of his left hand. He kissed it once more before looking down at the other items.
And of those four items only three could help, for written on the top scrap was a plea from Jill's heart.
I Love you James
Keep me close.
James pressed the note to his lips and then tucked it into his shirt pocket.
"I Love you , Jill " he replied as he rubbed the ring now firmly placed on his finger.
He would always keep it close.
James began to look at the other scraps. He walked over to the drinks cupboard, pulled out a orange CoolTube, opened it - felt it's sudden temperature drop - drank some and then moved back to the table. Carefully he placed the remaining papers on the table. Two small squares of Rite-Once and an image.
The need to eat had gone consumed as he was by the need to know. Just what had Jill - and perhaps Dave been into. Which part of the Council had Jill infiltrated. Was Dave also dead. Was he himself be in danger even though he knew virtually nothing of Jill's activities?
Of course he was, to think otherwise who allow himself to also become an 'accident.'
The 3D Visual was a copy of a security tag Vis. A man appearing to be in his late forties physically giving a likely age of sixty-five to seventy. Even older if he was seriously rich. If he was powerful as well as being rich he could be over eighty.
But then if he was that important he wouldn't need a Visual - nor would he want one. No, James first guess was probably right and this man was just high enough up to run some section and could afford a Twenty-lift at most.
The face was clean shaven. Hair dark, almost black, was cut very short so that it stood up on the top of his head. Such an old style - Retrorock, high fashion around 2055 over seventy years ago - that James revised his age to middle seventies. His man either was higher up that he looked or had other 'sources' of income. This was at least a Thirty-lift. The face was hard with a waxy skin tone. His eyes were small and somewhat pulled oval with again a dark brown hue. Not his born colour but likely coloured lens-plants. Above them his thick eyebrows shows flecks of gray. His sharp longish nose had a small curved scar to right side.
That was unusual.
People who had paid maybe fifty-thousand credits for a 'Thirty' usually had such marks removed! Vanity had not been the reason for this man's Op.
James studied the picture more closely. There was a small stud in the man's right ear.
"Eric, lock onto visual," called James as he put the small picture down on the low table.
"Now Eric, enhance and throw up actual size 3Image overhead. Oh, and rotate slowly.
Fine! Now, double size and resolution.
Stop rotation! Enlarge right ear further ten times. Now zoom in on stud only."
The small gold stud hovered over the table. At this 1000-Mag James could clearly see it had a small icon engraved in the middle. The symbol was that of the dolphin. At real size that would be, what - less than a millimetre across.
"0.8 millimetres James," answered Eric. He realised he had spoken his thoughts aloud and Eric had supplied the correct size. Being too small to be normally visable the image must serve a purpose other than ornamental. But what?
"Right, Eric give me a standard holoprint plus stud close-up. No, better yet could my hobby-robot make a copy of the stud?
"Yes James. Is that in gold or Repli-gold?"
"Better real gold Eric and also scan the purity profile and make it an exact duplicate. Also check out the symbol with the K-Net. No wait, better not alert anyone of our interest. First just check my personal research files."
Less than two seconds later an enlargement of the stud was waiting on his OfficeTop and a countdown told him the stud copy would be ready in twenty-two minutes.
As James walked into the office den to take a closer look Eric spoke.
"You have over three thousand references to dolphins - to be exact 3672."
"Take out any that refer to live creatures, paintings, sport or entertainment," instructed James.
"Down to twenty-eight,James."
"They break down into....14 clubs - 8 of which are for children, 2 religions, 6 companies, 3 political parties, 2 science groups and 1 Space-Elite"
"Well done Eric. Leave out the ones for children and give me a Hard4 on each of the others soonest." James now concentrated on the other two bits of paper.
The first of these was a MicroList.
"Eric," he called, laying down the sheet," enlarge to 12point and copy."
James then picked up the last item, a Pass-Vis with just one holoword hovering over a security background which was barely intact. James could just make out-
"Data Rule" © D.A.Cooper
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