The man who approached me in the general aviation waiting area looked even less like a pilot, than the others from pig shit air, who had previously flown me around. The one that afternoon looked like a funeral director, I thought. Not a good look for a pilot, I decided.
“Ms. Stone?” he asked in a dead pan voice.
“Yes, I’m Maxine Stone,” I replied.
“If you are ready, we can leave now?” he said still showing no emotion at all. Not even a smile of any kind.
“Sure, I have very little luggage,” I said holding up a small canvas bag left on the cruise ship by someone from the farm.
“Good, then we can be on our way.”
“How long will we be in the air?” I asked.
“The flight will take about five hours. We have to make a couple of other stops,” he informed me.
The plane was the eight passenger thing I had flown in previously. It appeared to be a kind of shuttle plane for them. We stopped two places with no names posted on either of the buildings used as offices. Each time we stopped the pilot went inside the small metal garage looking things to pick up boxes. There were never more than a single person could carry, but each time at least two.
We arrived on the grass strip of the farm late in the afternoon, but it wasn’t dark when we landed. It was a small covered pickup truck which met us. The truck driver loaded the boxes, then opened the door for me. He had not said a single word to anyone. He did however have a nice sized bulge under his jacket. I don’t think it was because he was glad to see me.
The ride to the building hidden in the trees took about five minutes. Before we arrived, there were two check and choke points. I knew the layout of the place pretty well. At least the drive past the offices and down to one of the barns was familiar. From the air or the ground the technical facility looked just like a cattle barn. There were even tractors parked around. I was sure they got moved about now and then, but they also looked brand new.
The truck stopped long enough for me to exit. After I was out it most likely returned to the office building entrance, or on to one of the other barns.
I was met by a young woman, who at least smiled.
“Ms. Stone, how nice to finally meet you. It is a real pleasure as well as an honor.” she said falling all over herself.
“What the hell is that all about,” I asked her. “You do know that I can not get you a raise or anything else for that matter.”
She laughed then said, “They told me you were brutally honest. I see that it is true. You are a bit of a legend here. There are not many female operative that actually go to war these days.”
“We aren’t at war are we?” I asked. “If we are someone should tell the troops.”
“I meant into actual combat. Most of the female operatives tend to be more the kiss and tell kind. They might shoot someone or plant a bomb, but they don’t really stand and exchange gunfire with the enemy.”
“First you have to know who the enemy is,” I suggested. “For that kiss and tell works pretty damn well.” I paused a few heavy second then added. “I really don’t like kiss ass very much, so can we just get on to it.”
She looked hurt but she led the way to the tack room door, which actually concealed the elevator. The elevator took us down to a basement, which was filled with very clean rooms. Rooms where they did things no one talked about. Things which people with good sense didn’t ask about. So the ass kissing chick dropped me in a small office.
I sat alone where I assume I was supposed to contemplate my sins. I really didn’t consider many things to be a sin, so I just stared at the wall. I had my MP3 player in the back pocket of my jeans, so I looked around for a plug. I found one behind the desk with Doctor Bennet’s name plate on it.
“I see you made yourself at home,” he said when he entered.
“Just making the best use of my time. That is one of my long, long list of directives,” I informed him.
“Well we are ready for you in the lab. It will take a few hours to make the repairs so we can hook you up while we do,” he advised me.
“Can I get some real music while you work this time?” I asked.
“You don’t like sound tracks from all the great movies?” he asked as a reply.
“Sorry the wailing of Broadway has-beens, isn’t my idea of music,” I said.
“Oh well you need to suffer at least a little.” He stood in front of me as he spoke. I stood to follow along beside him as he led me from his office.
Once inside the lab, I lay on the table in a room that was as clean as any operating room in any hospital in the world. They would be vacuuming and sterilizing all the openings I had made in the skin like covering. They would also be evaluating and replacing any contaminated circuits or components.
“It is a mess when you get shot,” Bennet said.
“Tell me about it,” I said in agreement.
“Knock off the wise cracks the crew will be here in a minute,” he said.
“Yes boss,” I said. All the other workers thought I was just another Eve unit. The mechanics were pretty much the same inside both of us, so they didn’t need to know anything else. The fewer people who knew, the less likely they were to pull the exploding head trick on me. A couple of the Eves and Lucy units had blow apart to keep them out of the hands of the bad guys. I would be a real coup for some intelligence agency, if they could take me in working condition. I knew and accepted that as a possibility.
For the next slightly more than three hours, I spoke only when asked to speak. I played dumb ass Eve unit quite well when necessary. I did appreciate that the music being played in the work room was at least a mixture of modern tunes. I hate elevator music.
After the others left Bennet said, “You have been cleaned and serviced now I’m going to add a couple of things. One of the things that allows you to pass for human is how you react to stimuli. We are working to make those as natural as possible. To do that some changes are part of the real world as I like to think of your body. Others are part of the cyber world that is in your brain.
Both worlds have changes being made to them in order to make you better. You are going to find some things different, when you leave here. Some of them will be actual body function things and some will be emotional. The computer geeks are going to plug you in for a couple of hours now.”
“Bennet, thanks for the patch job,” I said seriously.
“Maxine, you take care of this body, I might have all the spare parts here, but you still have to get it back to me. If you can’t, the controllers have orders to pull the plug and I would not like that at all.”
“I expect I have even stronger feelings than you do about that. Unfortunately that was the end game all along. Put me places you can’t risk your own people for one reason or another. If things get too hairy then it’s just Bang. It’s the price I was willing to pay to walk again.” I said honestly.
“That was always the problem with using your full memories and potential. You are just too damn smart to be fooled. You weren’t supposed to sense mortality. The theory was that if you didn’t know you could die, you would be fearless, but you were too smart to be fooled.”
“I saw the Lucy unit explode. I knew there had to be a nuclear option for me as well. Nothing else would make any sense at all,” I said.
“You maintained your ability to reason and problem solve. We wanted that in the next generation after the Eve units. So now we are trying to understand you before we move on. You should know that you are teaching us a lot about this new science, but also some things about us as humans. We have always struggled with what it meant to be human. We are leaning some about that from you.”
“Probably not, you are probably just seeing things that were always there,” I said. “You were just too busy to notice, until they were framed in a way you couldn’t ignore. Like, it is the human thing to weigh the risks and do a thing that needs doing even knowing the risk. Even when it is clearly not in your own best interest. The human thing is to do it, just because it needs to be done. We see it everyday, but it isn’t a big deal until it is more than losing that promotion. You probably never got to see the mechanics of the life threatening decisions being made before me. People do them everyday without much fanfare. They are life or death sometimes, but you aren’t charged with delivering that death decision often. When you have to make those it all becomes very real very quickly,” I said
“Now that is a long speech and right on the mark. Since we are being honest here, just so you know, we really can’t stop you from doing what you want, unless we use the nuclear option, as you call it. So be careful how far you push us, we really can’t just slap you on the hand to bring you back in line.”
“I had pretty much come to that conclusion myself. You could refuse to patch me up, but then I wouldn’t be of any use to you at all. I’m sure it’s pretty much all or nothing with me,” I suggested.
“That’s about the size of it. So are you about ready to reenter the fight?” he asked.
“I suppose so,” I suggested.
“Then here drink your extra virgin olive oil, and get back out to it. Oh after your program upgrade, there are three plastic bags down the hall waiting for you,” Bennet advised.
“Well I guess I can spend the evening working on the ill gotten gains,” I replied as I climbed off the table. I found a pair of new jeans and a red tee that was going to be tight on me. They were at least clean.
For the next two hours I sat in a chair charging while they upgraded the software that allowed me to communicate with the body. After that chore I began exploring one of the two full garbage bags. I had decided to save the half filled one for last.
The first bag contained one hundred and twenty five stacks of hundred dollar bills. Each stack had a band that read $10,000. I had a fairly nice layer of bills on the table when I finished unloading the bag. The next bag was filled with banded stacks of ten, twenty, some hundred dollar bills.
I was shocked to find that the first two trash bags held just over two million bucks in cash. The third bag held about a quarter of a million in cash and those fancy boxes. All in all I had almost 2.5 million in cash and twenty sealed cardboard presentation boxes. I had held off opening the boxes just to let the anticipation rise.
When I finally opened the sealed boxes I found each contained a certified 22k gold Mohammad Reza Shah coin. My guess was that each was worth between five hundred to a thousand bucks and there were twenty boxes. They were valuable and probably hard to unload. Most likely part of the original fortune the old bastard left Iran with after the fall of the Shah.
It was possible that the haul would be just over two million bucks. That was one hell of a lot of cash money to move. I was almost sorry I had taken it.
The farm had some used blue plastic 20 gallon containers. I had no idea what had been stored inside them, before they were steam cleaned. To be honest I didn’t want to know. The mini barrels made good containers for the cash and coins after I had divided them into three reasonably equal stacks. The tops screwed on but I filled the threads with a silicone sealant with adhesive included just to be sure.