Virus, Episode Eight

Episode One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven

Sunday, AC April 9

Godfrey stood in a shop called New Arrivals, rustling through a shelf of onesies. He felt lost in all the decisions. There were so many colors, so many designs, so many sizes! How was he to know what size the baby would be before it was even born?

“Can I help you?” a young man asked, coming over to his section. He was wearing what seemed to be the store uniform, a pale blue polo shirt.

“Probably not,” Godfrey said, “I don’t know what I’m even looking for, to be honest. I just, well I just found out we might be having a baby. I guess I’m just excited. My wife told me not to come here, guess she had a good reason.”

The salesman looked as though that was more information than he’d actually wanted. “Sorry,” Godfrey said sheepishly, “I’m just looking.”

“Alright, well let me know if you need anything,” the man said, brightening up again. He hovered nearby, making Godfrey uncomfortable.

The door of the shop opened quickly, the merry bell dinging. Godfrey glanced up, surprised to see Mason coming in. He headed right for Godfrey, glancing behind him as though checking to see if he’d been spotted.

“What are you doing?” Godfrey asked.

“Sorry,” Mason said, “I saw you through the glass. Do you care if I hang out with you for awhile?”

“Yes I do care,” Godfrey said, “Why?”

“No special reason,” Mason said, “Just saw someone I don’t want to see. Or, I guess I don’t want her to see me.”

“Who?” Godfrey asked, concerned.

Mason ducked, laying flat on the ground. The salesman was startled, looking down at him. “Sir, are you alright?” he asked.

“Think I dropped something,” Mason said.

Godfrey glanced up toward the bay window at the front of the store. Dr. Oswald walked past, looking around.

“Why is the doctor looking for you?” Godfrey asked.

“No reason,” Mason said, talking into the carpet.

Dr. Oswald must have spotted Godfrey. She came into the shop, setting off the merry bell again. “Mr. Anders!” she said, smiling.

“Doctor,” Godfrey said, nudging Mason with his foot. “How are you today?”

“Wonderful. Just getting some shopping done on my day off,” she said, “I’ve decided to extend my visit awhile. The Dean offered me a position lecturing.”

“How wonderful,” Godfrey said.

“It’s been wonderful,” she said, “I understand you’re close with the Montgomery family.”

“Sennett and I are friends, yes,” Godfrey said.

“Nice woman,” the doctor said, “and a lovely little girl. I wonder, do you know where Sennett’s gone off to? I’ve been trying to get some time to sit down with her, and I can’t seem to catch her.”

On the ground, Mason tensed. “I don’t know,” Godfrey said, “I think it’s an official thing, though. So I’m probably not supposed to know.”

“Yes,” Dr. Oswald said, “I just thought it was strange. Her foster brother didn’t seem to want to tell me. I just hope she hasn’t gone off to do something dangerous.”

“I couldn’t say,” Godfrey said, shrugging. “You seem very interested in Detective Montgomery.”

“Well, the late Councilwoman Thorn was a hero,” Dr. Oswald said, “Her adoptive children would be high profile citizens even if Sennett wasn’t a hero herself. If she’s off station, we all owe it to her to keep an eye on her brother and daughter.”

“Seems like any young man looking after a little girl all by himself should be looked after by a loving community,” Godfrey said, tensing. “But, I’m sorry, I think a friend of mine said that the detective asked you not to be in contact with her daughter. Is that right?”

The doctor’s smile wavered. “I can’t recall,” she said.

“I can,” Godfrey said. “Please excuse me, I have a busy day today. But I’m sure I’ll see you around. Small station and all.”

“Oh, of course,” she said, her smile back full force. “Have a wonderful day, Mr. Anders.”

She gave him a polite nod and left the store, taking a quick look around again once outside.

“She’s gone,” Godfrey said, once Dr. Oswald was out of sight.

Mason popped his head up, then got to his feet. Seeing that the salesclerk was still giving them a dirty look, Godfrey picked out three onesies that seemed big enough to grow into and headed for the cash register.

“Thanks,” Mason said.

“Why are you avoiding her?” Godfrey asked.

“She’s been laying pressure on me, every time I see her,” Mason says, “Says she wants to come around sometime and meet April. All friendly, all smiles. But no one has that much interest in a kid that age just because they like kids in general.”

Godfrey nodded. “I don’t like the look on her face when she started mentioning April. It’s a look I used to see on Earth when people started talking about money. Come on, I’ll take you home.”

April was kneeling at the living room table when Godfrey and Mason came in, coloring a picture on the screen. Liam was sitting on the couch, fully dressed, with a satchel on the couch next to him.

“Hi, Mr. Godfrey,” April said, running over to give him a hug.

“Hey, Little Bit,” Godfrey said, scooping her up. “Did you get all your homework done for the weekend.”

“Yes,” April said, “Do you want to see my picture?”

“Sure do,” he said, putting her back down.

He let her pull her to the table, and watched patiently while she flipped through several pages of coloring.

All the while, Liam watched them. His gaze made Godfrey nervous. “How’s it going, Man?” he asked finally.

“Got a favor to ask,” Liam said, “Just didn’t want to interrupt.”

“I’m not much for illegal activity,” Godfrey said.

“That’s the difference between you and me,” Liam said, shrugging.

“I thought we agreed you weren’t going to do this,” Mason said.

You thought that. I thought I didn’t take orders from nobody, ‘specially not boys. Sennett’s in trouble and Schultz ain’t gonna move fast enough to get this fixed.”

Godfrey looked up. “What do you mean Sennett’s in trouble? I thought she was just on a recon mission.”

Mason and April looked up. Neither seemed to want to explain.

“Started that way. Now she and her whole team are trapped in a dark station,” Liam said.

“Should we be talking about this in front of April?” Godfrey asked.

“She knows what’s going on,” Liam said, “And it’s better for her to hear it all out, not just overhear bits and pieces that will just make the whole thing scarier.”

“Seems like that’s a decision for a parent,” Godfrey said.

“Seems like she don’t have one here right now. We ain’t her parents and Mason’s too young to know his head from his asshole. It’s nothing personal, no one does that age. Now, I can go get Sennett, bring her home. But I need help getting to Level One.”

Godfrey gave him an incredulous look. “You want me to help you get to Level One, while Sennett’s not here. I know you station people thing terras are stupid, but-,”

“I ain’t playin’,” Liam snapped, leaning forward. “I came to this house on my own. I wasn’t arrested. Sen took me into her home, gave me a place at her table with her family. Now she’s in trouble, and I ain’t gonna sit here and let her die.”

Godfrey looked from Liam’s face to April’s. She was giving Liam a hard look, so similar to her mother. “You’ll come back, won’t you Mr. Liam?” she asked.

“Of course I will,” Liam said, “Little girl, I don’t promise lightly. I promised you that I’d bring your mom home, and I’m gonna.”

“I don’t know why you think I can get you down to Level One,” Godfrey said.

“I just need you to go down there like you got a reason,” Liam said, “I got a cloaker, but if the transit doors are sliding open and shut for nothing people are gonna get suspicious, you know?”

“What’s a cloaker?” Godfrey asked.

Liam held out his left wrist to show him a small green metal square embedded into the skin. “Watch me,” he said and pressed the square.

Instantly he vanished. “Shit,” Godfrey said, reaching out to touch the other man’s arm just to see if he still could.

“Pretty tight, yeah?” Liam asked, reappearing. “But it ain’t strong enough to cover my bag, so I’m gonna need you to carry that.”

“How did you get that?” Godfrey asked, “Do a lot of people have them?” He was shaken imagining hundreds of people running around invisible.

“Nah, they’re fuckin’ expensive. Besides they take energy to run. Havin’ this on while I’m walking is like tryin’ to run with a fifty-pound weight on each nu-, um leg.”

“Alright,” Godfrey said, “I’ll help you down there. But if you run, Sennett will chase you.”

“That would scare me if I thought about running,” Liam said. Looking at April, he added, “But I don’t lie, ‘specially not to kids. They got enough shit going on, without their grownups lying to them.”

Godfrey found that Liam’s small bag was surprisingly heavy as they headed for the transit station. He sat it down cautiously on the seat beside him once they’d boarded. Feeling stupid, he realized that it probably held illegal weapons.

The weight of what he was doing hit him then, as he tried to calculate how long he’d be in jail if he was caught with them. He was sure that Liam wouldn’t stick around to explain the situation if he was searched.

A message popped up on his wrist pad as the train left the station. It was from Liam.

I can see by your face you’re having second thoughts. If you try to bolt I’ll shot you in the back.’

‘I’m using this conversation as evidence that I’m a hostage if I get arrested,’ Godfrey typed back. He received a smiley face in response.

The transit reached Level One. Godfrey disembarked, painfully aware of the sound of Liam’s boots behind him. They seemed uncommonly loud.

‘Where do I go from here?’ he typed.

‘Put my bag down next to that bench to our right, then find some reason to be here. I’m fine on my own now.’ Liam replied. ‘I’ll message you when I can. Watch out for the kids, okay?’

Godfrey sat down, placing the bag next to him. He checked the lacing on his sneakers, trying to look as though that was why he’d sat down.

When he looked up Liam was there, his hood pulled over his face. He shouldered his bag and gave Godfrey a nod. Then he turned and vanished into the crowd.

Godfrey stood, cracking his back. He looked around. Now that he wasn’t terrified of being caught with a criminal and a bunch of illegal weapons, he realized that the Level was busier than normal. Even more strange, there seemed to be a crowd forming in the center of the level, away from the docks.

Thankful for an excuse to be there, he headed that direction.

Apparently, Joy’s campaign was holding a rally for her supporters. Joy herself was standing in front of a podium with a headset on.

“I think you’ve all known me long enough to realize that I hate campaigning,” she said, “I’d rather be working on making this station a better, safer place to live. Right now Marshal Stoat’s making most of the decisions, and I’d like to get back to the office and find out what chaos he’s causing.”

The crowd erupted in laughter. “I’m joking of course. But I want all of you to remember that this part, this campaigning part, isn’t my job as a politician. I hate doing it. Saul Mai, on the other hand, doesn’t hate it. He’s really good at it, too.” She gestured at a screen nearby that showed Saul’s smiling face. “As I’m sure you’ve all noticed, he’s a lot better at running for office than I am.

“He’s good at it because up until now being a Marshal was all about campaigning. We campaigned to be Marshal. Then we campaigned to get the Council to do things.”

Again the crowd laughed with her. Godfrey thought that for someone who hated campaigning, she wasn’t doing a bad job. Then he noticed a woman standing next to the stage. Her hair was threatening to escape her metal clip vengefully. She was holding her wrist pad up, glancing from it to Joy over and over. An Elect Joy pin was attached to the jacket she was wearing over a band t-shirt and jeans. Godfrey marked her as a political coordinator. One who looked like she was about to either burst out in tears or laughter, depending on how this speech went.

“We’re living in exciting times,” Joy said, “We have a chance now to change how we do things here. And being a Marshal means making decisions that will have real consequences every single day. We can’t afford a politician who’s good at campaigning. We need a politician who’s good at making the hard decisions.”

At those words, Godfrey was reminded of the look on Joy’s face the day the AI dogs attacked. He thought of her giving the order to blow them up, quietly and without a moment of remorse. He thought of Howard, who Joy seemed to work really well with. He thought of the look of serenity on Howard’s face as he’d ordered the transit tracks turned on with people standing on them to save Godfrey and April. He shuddered, remembering the hard decisions that these two leaders had made.

He was so lost in the memories that it was several minutes before he realized that most of the crowd was looking back at him.

“What, what’s happening?” he asked.

“Godfrey,” Joy called, and he realized that she must have been calling him for a few minutes. “It’s good to see you here today.”

“Right, yeah,” he said, unsure of how to respond.

“I wonder if I can ask you a question,” Joy said. From the side of the stage, the political coordinator was shaking her hand and head at Joy, her eyes wide.

“Sure,” Godfrey said.

“How long have you been a member of the Foundation Party?” she asked.

“Since I came to the station,” Godfrey said, “Eight years ago.”

“Wonderful. And you stand by our values, of course. We all saw that in your brief time as a council member.

“I don’t know that I can say that,” Godfrey said, “Seems like all I did as a councilman was stay alive.”

The crowd chuckled.

“Don’t be modest,” Joy said, “You’re a hero. You helped this station avoid war with the Khloe. You saved lives during the AI attack.”

“Lots of people stepped up during that attack,” Godfrey said, “I did no more than most.”

“Alright, I can see we won’t agree on that,” Joy said. Godfrey thought that the woman by the stage was going to have a heart attack. She’d begun jumping up and down, waving frantically at Joy.

“Let me ask you one more question,” Joy said, “Do you know who you’re going to vote for, come election day?”

He looked at her. This woman had stood with him when Ki had been arrested. She’d defended April when her secret came out. Sennett loved her. She was also the woman who seemed capable of murder without hesitation if she thought it was the right thing to do.

“No, I don’t know,” he said.

The political coordinator looked as though she wilted. She stood still, her arms down at her side. All around them, the crowd gasped.

Joy looked startled for a moment. “I guess I’ll just have to convince you, then,” she said, doing her best to smile at him.

“Guess so,” he replied.

Godfrey nearly ran through his front door, so eager was he to see Ki after the events of the afternoon. She was sitting on the couch, her feet propped up on a footstool. He sat down next to her and put his head down on her shoulder. “How was work?” he asked.

“Mostly good,” she said, tapping on her wrist pad. “Then this happened.”

She brought up a video of Joy’s rally on the wall screen. There was Godfrey in the crowd. He listened to himself tell Joy that he didn’t know who he was going to vote for.

“This happened while I was at work, telling all of my co-workers how our family friend was certainly going to win. How it was a shame that she had to run at all, after everything she’s done. Especially after how Saul just up and left the station.”

“Saul had been falsely accused of molesting his niece,” Godfrey said, sitting up. “There was talk of calling the child protection law we had to write the Saul Mai Act. I kind of understand why he left.”

“So you went down to Joy’s rally to embarrass her on purpose?” Ki asked, “Why? Do you feel bad about what happened to him? Do you feel like you should have done something to help him?”

“No, that’s not why,” Godfrey said.

“Then why go down there? You had to know that if she saw you she’d call you out.”

He thought of pointing out that Joy had called him out, put him on the spot. He could hardly be blamed for being honest. Wanting to avoid an argument, he said, “Baby, I didn’t even know she was having a rally today.”

“Then what were you doing on Level One?” Ki asked.

He sighed. “I was helping Liam get off station.”

“Liam?” Ki cried. She stood, moving away from the couch as though it burned her to touch him. “You mean the criminal Sennett’s got living with her?”

“Do we know another Liam?” Godfrey snapped.

“Do I get to know why you were helping him escape police protection?” she asked.

“Sennett’s in trouble, and Liam’s going to find her,” Godfrey said.

“What kind of trouble?” Ki snapped.

“I don’t know,” Godfrey said, “That’s the problem, no one knows. She’s on a station that’s gone dark and she can’t get off. Ki, she might not make it home.”

Tears welled in his eyes. He hadn’t realized before he’d said it out loud. “She might not come home,” he said again.

Ki’s face softened. “No, she’ll be okay,” she said gently. She pulled him into her arms. He hugged her back fiercely.

Copyright © 2018 by Nicole C. Luttrell

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.

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