Chapter Seven

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Today

After hustling quickly into the nurse’s room on the second floor of Digi-Life’s Liberty Village office, Scott slowly closed the door behind them, careful to ensure the latch didn’t click too loudly. Then he carefully engaged the lock before turning back to Gary.

His friend had a concerned look on his face.

“You’re freaking me out, Scotty,” Gary said. “What’s going on here?”

“I wish I knew,” Scott said. “I’m really not sure what is going on or why it is happening, but Herb is trying to kill me.”

“Herb Canter?”

“Yeah.”

Gary’s face took on an odd expression, a look Scott recognized immediately – it was the one people normally reserved for when a crazy person cornered them on the street or in a shopping mall. It was a combination of a subtle “deer in the headlights” lift to the eyes combined with the quick eye-darting that suggested the person, feeling backed into a corner, was looking for any opportunity to escape the situation. There was no fight or flight about this; it was all pure flight, because the prey understood that there was no rational way of defeating this foe in the “hand to hand” combat of normal socially acceptable conversion. No, the crazy person was following a specific agenda, performing a script that nobody else had access to, and would take you down the pre-determined path they controlled entirely. Usually, the crazy person, completely oblivious to normal social convention, would never pick up on the subtle nature of the terrified and cornered person’s eyes; they would, if they even noticed anything much in the face of the person they were speaking to, in the bull-headed following of their precious script, would likely have interpreted the wide-eyed look to be that of genuine and unabashed interest.

That is what the look on Gary’s face told Scott.

“I’m not crazy,” he said, doing his best to speak in a calm and rational voice. He knew, having put Gary into that ‘Oh no, I’m speaking with a person who has lost their marbles’ state, that it would be difficult to navigate without everything sounding a little bit crazy to him.

“I was working at my desk on the fourth floor,” Scott said, “when Herb called me in to his office. He at first seemed normal, but there was a strange glazed look on his face, and a very subtle almost robotic tone to his speech.

“I didn’t think much about it at first. I mean, it is still early, for all I knew, Herb hadn’t had his morning cup of coffee and was still working off one too many the night before.

“But he tells me to close the office door, and the next thing I know he’s taking a shot at my head.”

“He what?”

“He fired a bullet at my head.”

“With a gun?”

“Yeah, a handgun of some sort.”

“There’s no way. I would have heard it. Those things are loud.”

“It must have had some sort of muffler or silencer on it, because it didn’t make a loud noise, just a strange sound. Because I had my back turned, I thought the sound was Herb smacking a thick plastic ruler down hard on his desk – you know how as a student you used to hold it down firm with one hand, but with the other hand, slowly pry and bend the ruler back so it would snap down hard against the desk. That is exactly what it sounded like.

“So there I am, shocked by the sudden hole punched through the drywall beside me and the dust and smoke, when I hear this sound.  I turn and duck at the same time, and see Herb is holding a gun.”

“No way,”

“Yeah, and he says, in this strange, robotic voice:  ‘You won’t get away. You cannot evade us.’

“Us?”

“Yeah. So I figure Herb has lost it, worked way too many sixteen hour days. I mean, my work is pretty solid, so there’s no way it was a performance issue.”

Gary issued a nervous laugh into the room.

“But I figure he’s whacked. So I duck down and half-crawl half run out of the room, run around the corner, eager to get the hell away from there, when I see this security guard coming down the hall toward me.

“Safe, I figure. I’m safe now.

“But do you know what he says to me when I tell him about Herb?”

“What?”

“He says: ‘You won’t get away. You cannot evade us.’ In that same robotic tone. As his eyes are just as glazed as Herb’s were.

“No!”

“Yeah. I figure, holy crap, I’m in a bad sci-fi thriller now. But I know, immediately, that I’m toast, so I run from the guard.  Soon enough both Herb and the guard are after me, repeating that line again and again.”

Scott then proceeded to explain the rest of the story to Gary.  As he told the tale, he injected bits of humor into it, like he had about the work performance joke when Herb shot at him. Given their jovial relationship and the way they liked to make fun cracks at one another, he knew Gary would realize he wasn’t crazy if he told the story, as unbelievable as it was, with a bit of a sense of consistency for their relationship. Gary was an analytical person, he knew – he would believe even a difficult to accept story if all of the elements that, otherwise, made complete sense, lined up.

So, though Scott didn’t have all that much skill as a conversationalist, being a hacker, someone used to guiding a program through logical steps; particularly logical steps that, while deviating from the original outline and intent of the program, still seemed normal and not at all out of place, was just part for the course.

“Do you think it’s just the two of them?” Gary asked, when he got to the point of bumping in to his friend on the second floor. “Or could there be more. I mean,” he pulled out his mobile phone and they both glanced down at it, “should we call 9-1-1?”

A sound outside the door, the scuffle of footsteps, startled them both.

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