The Obvious Conclusion
Opol shrugged and took his customary place behind the controls. He looked over at her. She was fair, slender and her hair was red, just as the messages had warned. Attractive, but not overly pretty, with a face that had a few more lines in it that her reported age would seem to have justified.
“You really should carry a Sphinx or a Benelli-Mossberg,” she commented. “Guns with electronic safeties are simply too easy to shut down.”
“What sort of range does that device have?” he asked, genuinely curious.
“30 meters,” she replied. “Enough to keep you from blowing my brains out until I could speak with you. It will also temporarily interfere with your audio and visual recording devices.”
“Well played. May I assume you are Myranda Flare?”
“You may,” she acceded graciously, with a small flicker of a smile. “As I said, I have a message for August Karsh from Golem Gregor. I would like you to convey it to him for me. Will you do so?”
Mystified, he nodded. She smiled, then her expression hardened and she began speaking.
“Tell August Karsh that you have met Myranda Flare, the woman he cannot catch. The woman he cannot touch. Tell him that his agents, his databases, and his vast network will avail him nothing. Tell him that neither he nor House Dai Zhan will stand in our way any longer. The Integration of Man and Machine is no longer the future, because the future is now.”
She stopped. “Can you remember all that?”
“More or less. I have a good memory.”
“Excellent. Repeat what I said, record it, and send it to Director Karsh.”
“I can't send it to him directly. I don't report to him directly.”
She sighed impatiently. “I know. Just record it on the var's audio system and send it to Platen, on Kantillon. I'm sure he'll see it gets to Karsh.”
She knew about Platen? Mike Platen was his counterpart on the sector capital as well as his superior. Golem Gregor was better informed than they thought. “What about your device?”
Flare held it up. “It's off now. But don't bother trying for your Howa. It might interest you to know that in addition to locking its safety, I can cause it to fire electronically too. And based on how your holster is positioned, I suspect it would blow a rather large hole in your hip.”
“You seem to have covered all your bases, Miss Flare.”
She smiled thinly. “Thank you, Mr. Opol. Now, the message, please.”
“Of course.” He grinned uncertainly and cleared his throat. “Var, record message for Michael Platen. Um, Mike, it seems I'm sitting in my var here with the very woman that has caused all this recent excitement and she has a message she'd like you to relay to Director Karsh….”
When he finished, he glanced at her. She nodded her approval, so he ordered the var to rout the message to Kantillon with a top priority flag.
“Thank you, Mr. Opol. I appreciate your cooperation. Var, execute system override one.”
Without warning, his seatbelt slithered to life and strapped him securely in.
“What?” He scrabbled at the belt buckle, but it seemed to be as frozen as the Howa's safety had been. “Flare? Is this your doing?”
She didn't say anything, she merely opened her door and stepped out onto the roof. If he'd been mystified before, now he was entirely befuddled. And a little bit alarmed.
“So, is that it? A melodramatic warning about cyborgs being the future? Is this some sort of joke?”
“I'm afraid that is not it, Mr. Opol.” She made a wry face and shook her head. “I'm sorry about this, but I'm afraid you are required to attend a very important meeting. Var, execute system override two.”
The door slammed shut. The engine started by itself, and despite Opol's frantic efforts to turn off the ignition, it roared to life and lifted the var off the roof of the building. The var rapidly began to gain altitude. He whirled around as best he could, trying to see what Flare was doing down below on the rooftop and where she was heading.
“What is going on? Where do you think you're going, you ridiculous machine?” He swore at the var, more furious than frightened as the autopilot caused it to pick up speed and head in the direction of the center of the nearby city. A meeting? What sort of meeting? And with whom? Wherever it was, it must be a good distance away, he thought, as he observed the var was continuing to pick up speed.
Then he looked up from the instrument panel and saw the graceful curves of the Diamagnet straight ahead. The obvious conclusion was so astonishing that it took him a moment to realize the huge building was standing directly in the way of the var's programmed path. A less philosophical man might have screamed. A more religious man might have prayed. Bertrand Opol merely shook his head, closed his eyes, and mused on the unexpected absurdity of his own demise.