Before we can tout a small victory they come at us with a crushing defeat.
The article details an INTERPOL mission gone wrong. Six agents were tipped off about a potential theft at the Louvre last night. They arrived a few minutes late on the scene to catch the perpetrators on their way out. A firefight ensued and cost five agents their lives.
Someone knew we had knowledge about the string of robberies across Europe. They had also managed to secure photos of us at ‘Bossa Nova’ last night. It was easy to tie the two things together and make us look selfish and uncaring. But in some way, the press is right.
I sit on the floor and read the article twice. A single woman gunned down all five agents. “From what I saw, it looked like her hand fired the bullets which ultimately killed the other agents.” No doubt she is a robot.
Thinking of the possible connection between Progenitor Labs and this incident makes my head hurt. Could the stolen technology have been an elaborate ruse to set this exact scenario into motion?
“Dude,” Jason says before nudging me with his foot. I look up at him. “Why’re you up so early?”
“I heard something at the door. Look at this,” I hand him the paper. He glances over the article.
“What could we have done?”
“We could’ve saved them, instead of doing nothing until two in the morning.”
“You were too busy going deaf and fighting robots to save them. Don’t let this get to you.”
“I’m going to get the girls. We need to have a meeting.”
I get up and retrieve Janice and Sam from their room. Janice might have only been half-asleep, but Sam is shuffling behind us, still rubbing her eyes. I ask them to look at the article, and Janice snatches it from my hand.
“Jeez,” she says after reading the headline. “Well, there’s only five of us. What could we have done?”
“If even one of us was over there, we could have saved those agents,” I say.
“Desmond, what if we sent Sam over there and this robot turned out to be fireproof too? What would you say then?”
I look at the floor and rack my brain for a response. We know so little about this group. Before we can tout a small victory they come at us with a crushing defeat. There must have been a virus in the robot files we analyzed earlier.
“Well, what can we do to make this right?” I ask. Chase comes in from the bathroom.
“What’re y’all talking about?” he asks.
“Ugh, can you put some clothes on?” Janice says. He’s only in his boxers.
“Dudes, we can’t be doing this now, we’re barely put together,” Jason says. “Let’s meet up in the lobby in an hour and head back to base.”
Sam is drifting in and out of sleep on my part of the bed. She looks so serene for someone who can breathe fire and sprout wings. Jason places his hand on her shoulder and tells her to get ready back in her room. The girls leave to get changed.
We assemble in the lobby five minutes ahead of schedule. Our flight home is delayed for an hour. I really need to look into alternative means of transportation. Airport seats are some of the least comfortable things in the world, outside of airplane seats. The pseudo-leather cover sticks to my legs even though I’m wearing pants. My damaged ear makes hearing the already garbled announcements over the loudspeaker impossible. All I can do is keep my eyes on the screen above our gate and hope there aren’t any other delays.
The flight itself is painless. We’re the first plane to takeoff and there’s no shortage of soda on the beverage cart. Once we get back to The Hive, I ask Janice to debug the command console while the rest of us come up with a plan.
“What if we send two people to France and the other three to Sweden?” Sam proposes.
“I really don’t think we should split up. It seems like that’s what he’d want,” Janice says.
“A press release won’t cut it this time. Looks like we’re going on tour,” Chase says.
It’s decided, we sleuth out the criminal in France before kicking more robot ass in Sweden. We’ll have to work fast in order to respond to the first crime in a timely fashion, and before anything else happens. This time we’re chartering a jet to take us there.
“So, how old are all of you?” Sam asks. There’s not much else to do outside of talking at forty-thousand feet.
“We’re eighteen,” I say.
“Twenty-three,” Chase says. Same as Janice.
“Cool, I’m twenty-one.”
We talk about other parts of our lives before all of this started. Jason and I didn’t have as much to contribute since we hadn’t been outside of our neighborhood much. Janice studied computer science at school and designed websites as a freelancer in the time she wasn’t hacking databases for her dad. Sam was at the tail end of studying art history and anthropology with the hope of exploring Oceania. They all seem so much more experienced than Jason and I even though they’re only a few years older.
Our plane touches down on time in Paris. Twenty hours have passed since the incident last night. Chase suggests we talk to the INTERPOL agent on the case for a lead. It would be easy to chalk it up to a distraction created by Progenitor Labs, but we have nothing to back up the claim outside of the nature of the criminal. The agent agrees to allow me into his memories of the incident to see what I might find. It isn’t pretty.