“Have you heard from him?” Otto asked. It was midnight and Dad had arrived at Servidyne two hours prior.
“Not lately. His last message said he was waiting for the night crew to leave.” I sat on the bed with the tablet in my lap. Suz and Rory had gone out to a late movie. I figured they would be back any minute. With luck, the transmitter on the radio had picked up the wireless signal so we didn’t have to hide out near Servidyne.
“Did they do anything to him?”
“No, just set him against a charging station.”
I yawned and rubbed my eyes. I’d been staring at the tablet screen for several hours. There had only been a few messages from Dad. So far, everything seemed to be going well. I wondered how long it would be before he could start the mission.
The tablet screen blinked a few times and a fuzzy image appeared. I tried to adjust the focus somewhat to see what was going on.
“Jonah?” Dad said softly.
I touched the “talk” icon on the tablet screen. “Yes, I’m here.”
“How’s your visual?”
I heard mechanical whirring through the speakers. “What are you doing?”
“Trying to adjust the optical gain. They weren’t too gentle in loading me in the transport truck.”
“It got bumped?”
The image on the screen became clearer. “That’s better,” I said.
He stood and I watched him cross a pristine white room. Along the wall sat dozens of bots. Some were old, some appeared quite new. I wondered why they were at the repair department. “Dad?”
“Why are new bots there?”
“I dunno.” He approached one. “This model is only a year old.”
“Maybe. I’ll find out when I tap into the mainframe.” Dad went to the door and opened it. Through his eyes I could see him peering into a hallway. Everything was painted white. I remembered my days of tagging along with him and being in awe of how clean the place looked. Unfortunately, it was so clean that a dirty old bot like Dad would stick out like a sore thumb. We’d cleaned and polished him the best we could, but even with the new exoplates, he still looked shabby.
“All right, I’m going to head toward the mainframe systems block.”
Otto wandered over and sat next to me, watching Dad’s progress through a seemingly endless maze of hallways. “And he knows where he’s going?”
“He worked there for years. Of course he does.”
“I wasn’t sure his memory core held all that data.”
I shook my head slightly. “I have no clue how much data we actually uploaded or how his consciousness got into the machine, but he seems to remember everything from being alive.”
“Still don’t know how we did it.”
“I remember you mentioning the barn got hit by lightning.”
“Think that had something to do with it?”
“Perhaps. Like Frankenstein’s monster was reanimated, so my Dad came back to life.”
“Just as a tin can.”
I regarded Otto and chuckled. “Better than a manhole cover.”
“Almost there,” Dad whispered.
“You haven’t seen anyone?” I said.
“Surprisingly, not a soul.”
“Just some service droids cleaning the place.”
I saw his viewpoint; a lone droid was polishing the floor in the hallway. Droids differed from bots in that they had no artificial intelligence, no socialization programming, and ran simply on root programs to perform a specific function. They tended to be boxy in appearance and many rolled around on wheels.
“How long do you think it’ll take you to upload the virus?”
“Just a few minutes. After that, it will take several hours for it to fully infect the system.”
“Enough time to get out of there.”
There was a long pause before Dad’s reply. “Enough time to hopefully find my killer.”
Otto reached over and pushed the talk icon on my tablet. “How are you going to do that?”
“I’m going to access the database admittance files from my lab. Whoever killed me should be on record as having been in there.”
“And what are you going to do if you find out who it is?”
“I’m not sure.” He continued on for several more minutes, saying nothing. Then he stopped at an imposing door. “Oh, no.”
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“The cyber lock.”
“What about it?”
“It’s changed hourly. Only those with a rotating user I.D. badge can access this area.”
“How did you plan on getting in?”
“I was hoping the interface port on my arm…But they’ve done away with that function.”
He turned his back to the door, facing the hallway. “I need to think.”
Otto craned his neck, getting a better view of the tablet. “Mr. Blackburn?”
“Are there any security cameras in that zone?”
Dad scanned the area looking high and low. “Not that I can see, but I’m certain there are several in the mainframe rooms.”
I sat back against the headboard and sighed deeply. We’d come all this way and gone through too much to fail now.
“At this hour there aren’t many people in the building. And I’d certainly be caught if I accosted one and took their badge.”
A loud clanking noise came from the speakers. There was no way to tell where it was coming from. “Dad?”
“What’s that noise?”
He turned his head, changing our vantage point to another hallway. A battle bot clomped by, disappearing from sight.
“Are they patrolling the building?”
“That’s bad news,” said Otto. “If one of them catches him, it’s all over.”
There was more clanking. Dad swiveled his head to the right. Quite a distance down the hall came another battle bot.
“Oh!” he said.
“What’s next to the door, Mr. Blackburn?” Otto chimed in.
“A short hall with one door on the right. I think it’s a power supply closet.”
“Go down there, maybe it won’t see you.”
We watched as he quickly made tracks into the hallway and tried the door.
“Can you flatten against the left wall and remain stationary?”
“I’ll do my best.”
Our picture from his eyes was the door across the hall. A text message appeared on the screen:
I’d be holding my breath right now if I had lungs.
Despite all the drama going on, Dad was trying to be funny. When he was alive, he always had jokes to share with us. Mostly they were silly jokes, but now I realize how much I missed them. In his new form, he didn’t seem as witty as before. Maybe when this was over and we were home safe, I could do some tinkering to try and bring that side of him out again.
The noise grew louder. Another text:
So close now!
“Don’t move a muscle,” I said.
Ha, ha, very funny. Was his reply.
We listened as the clanking came and went. The battle bot failed to see him.
Oh, that was too close for comfort! Dad texted.
“You still haven’t figured a way into the mainframe room have you?”
“No,” he replied softly.
Otto held up a finger. “Umm, do those droids go in there to clean?”
I poked the talk icon. “Dad, do the droids go into the mainframe room and clean?”
“Can you wait until one of them goes in and sneak in behind?”
He walked to the end of the short hall and peered around the corner. The service droid was still buffing the floor, but moving closer to the mainframe doorway. “Maybe.”