Phyllis Esposito: Interdimensional Private-Eye #147

While still inside the plastic tent, Henricks submitted to another pair of scans: one with the helmet, and one without.

“Okay… Good,” declared Fox, reviewing the results on his monitor. “It looks like the nanobots in your brain are still dormant, and they aren’t replicating or spreading. Further, the helmet blocks or reflects any signals coming your way, so as long as you are wearing it, no one should be able to give them new commands. You can take off the containment suit and come out of the tent now.”

Henricks did so quickly, and then proceeded immediately to the bathroom. When they returned, they had gone pale. They beckoned me close before whispering: “Hold your bodily functions, if you are able. If not, perhaps walk to the nearest public facility.”

I nodded. “Yeah, I’ve seen it. That’s why I went at the pizza place. Fox is both an alien and a total slob, which makes for a potent combination.”

“Potent, and pungent,” added Henricks.

“What are you two muttering about?” asked Fox, without looking away from his computer screen. “If it’s the bathroom, I don’t want to hear it. I had another maid quit on me. Also, half of my building was eaten by nanobots. So…”

Henricks declared the pizza both atrocious and repulsive, but ate four slices anyway. Hard to blame them. Our last meal had been unidentified meat jerky and stale water from a canteen, consumed around a campfire before reaching the Sorceress’s place.

That made me think of Graham, who’d been thoroughly irritating all of us by whistling the same damn drinking song for what seemed like three days straight. I wondered how much of Graham had still remained at that point, and how much was really Alurian, hiding inside his brain.

To hear Alurian tell it, Graham had been overwritten completely, chosen because none of us would recognize a change in his personality. But Alurian was Ms. Moon’s brother. Had she really not suspected anything? Would Alurian have really kept his plan secret, even from her? We had spent most of the last couple of weeks in pretty close company, but there would have been plenty of time to sneak off and have a private conversation.

Still, I remembered the way she had pleaded with him in the Sorceress’s basement. I didn’t think that was for my benefit. She may well have kept his secrets, but that didn’t mean that she shared his goals. From the beginning, all of this had been about finding her brother, and saving him. I dreaded the seemingly inevitable conclusion that saving her from him would be the best I could do.

If that.

“So,” I said. “Is this bug zapper going to work?”

“It’s not a bug zapper,” insisted Fox. “It’s a very sophisticated device which makes use of cutting edge electronics, artificial intelligence, and nanotechnology!”

I frowned. “I thought we’d decided to steer away from those last two.”

Henricks shook their head. “They will not be nanobots, nor will they have their own artificial intelligence. We will be using cloud-dispersal of nano-engineered electromagnetic chaff, coordinated with dynamic electrical discharge micro-pulses, all controlled by a frequency modulator that will detect and cancel out the incoming signals as fast as they can be generated.”

“Oh,” I said. “Well, okay then.”

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