Part 5

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One by one, the damaged drones fell under concentrated fire. With the barrels of their guns still smoking Sheriff Brown called into the Forensic team, "Ok fellas, it's clear to land."

Through the electronic eye of one of the downed drones, it stared up in an inverted view at the tops of the trees. It was a miracle that it was still functioning considering the circumstances. Somehow despite the damage, it was still broadcasting. Strictly speaking, there was no one person to observe this broadcast as an event. Instead, it was gathered as one more data field in a sea of such data being collected along a vast front. To the cold calculating mind that mitigated the relative value of said data, over the myriad of other data that streamed into the conscious monitor. It was this action against the drones out of the countless operations under its surveillance that the Monitor had for the first time registered as anomalous. It was in this instant when the virtual entity that stalked the continental surveillance system for trouble had tagged this operation for an escalation. Though its memory was flawless, its resources were limited. Its capacity to act on its plans was, therefore, limited.

Sheriff Brown made his way toward this particular drone and picked it up. He looked into the eye of the camera and as he did, the surveillance system's facial recognition system went to work. By examining the geometry of his facial features, it had been able to identify him by comparing these to images from public records databases. This, on some level, was troubling to the monitor for, in all of its planning, its system of subterfuge in dealing with local authorities had never gone this way. It determined there would be a need to rerun of the behavioral analysis. The predictive algorithms had never encountered this type of negative response. There must be, there was something fundamental in the data that it had missed. As John Brown held the drone at arm's length looking into its artificial eye, the light that he saw there flickered and died. Before he tossed the lifeless mass of plastic and steel to the ground he spoke to it. "I wonder who sent you and where from you came." This sound recording was the last data received from the drone before it hit the ground and broke into pieces.

When Emma returned to the cellblock, she found Jaden sitting cross-legged on the edge of his bunk. She immediately sensed a change in his demeanor; there was pensive energy about him. She imagined the expression on his face was a smile. The truth was, though his natural physiology had denied him this ability, he was smiling. For decades, he had struggled to perfect this simple action. At long last, he prevailed. And though this expression was laborious, this awkward facsimile of a human smile had, however, met all of its defining criteria. The most important of all being sincerity. His appearance, therefore, had so struck Emma that she felt the need to comment on it. "You seem happy today."

"That's because I'm desperate to stretch these ancient legs somewhere beyond this tiny cell, and more importantly because your about to release me."

"Now how could you know that?"

"Well, beyond the fact that you're carrying the cell door keys in your hand, I am imagining that you've just returned with Sheriff Brown from the coordinates I'd given him. Logically, your investigators may have discovered some kind of evidence that could lead to my exoneration. I would further imagine that my Lawyer, Mr. Estevez has come to bail me out of here. If these things were not so, we would not be having this conversation." A pall drew across her expression as she was reminded again of the terrible sights that she had been made a witness to at the scene of the crime.

Though he sensed from her expression that something was bothering her, he had not quite pieced it together. He surmised incorrectly, being insensitive to human emotion, as he was, that it was his comments that had affected her. "I'm sorry, did I say something wrong?" Emma stepped forward and pressed the key into the lock, rotating the tumblers. The sound of the clanking of the gears and jangling keys echoed through the narrow stone hall. When the steel door swung open she responded, "It's not you, it's been a long day. The good news is you'll get to stretch those legs." Emma stepped aside displaying a smile upon her face that appeared as similarly labored as Jaden's.

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