“I really didn’t mean to cause more trouble,” Deel tells Franks as they exit the Department of Remembrance, and they follow the marble steps down to the street. The section of pavement below Deel’s feet comes to light with a soft purple glow while Franks’s section stays neutral.
“You’re ten kilos of trouble in a two kilo sack,” Franks grumbles. He heads toward a bench a few steps away. As Deel follows, so does his path glow.
“I was just trying to be helpful.”
Franks takes a seat with a sigh. Deel joins him and the bench begins to glow when he makes contact.
“Can you please turn that off?”
“Yeah. Sorry, Franks.”
Deel’s field of vision is awash with advertisements and information. Every surface synced with his implants, his entire world catered to his aesthetic whimsy. He blinks his way through to his settings menu and pauses his implants’ functions.
“Are you sure?” a pop up asks him. It’s a virtual assistant named Haversham. It wears a tuxedo with tails, white gloves, and is exceedingly polite. “I cannot help you if I cannot communicate with you, sir.”
Deel blinks again. Haversham disappears with a sullen moan.
The virtual imagery fades to reveal the world as it really is. Everything – the buildings, the smart-crete, even the clothes worn by the pedestrians – is the same bland color. Every surface yearning for Deel to turn the world back on.
Franks is busy watching the people wandering slowly about the walkways. Their bodies move slowly, steadily. Their jaws are slack, and not a single person seems aware of any others.
“Autopilot zombies,” Franks mutters.
“I forget you never got the upgrades,” Deel says. “Hell, I forgot I had them. We haven’t been back here in…”
“Yeah,” Franks confirms.
“Yeah…” Deel says. He waits for his mentor.
“She’s Ministry of Chronology,” Franks says after a time.
Deel curses under his breath.
“There’s an investigation.”
Deel stands and paces, an odd juxtaposition against the backdrop of people who have turned themselves into nonplayer characters.
“I can’t tell you much more than that,” Franks says. “I’m benched until the investigation is over.”
“What?” Deel demands. “I’m the one who took the shot!”
“I trained you,” Franks states matter-of-factly. “You’re my responsibility.”
He pauses while Deel fumes.
“You were, anyway.”