Chapter 4.11: Interview

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Frank would not let me view the video of what happened to Ayva, and he was right not to, for as long as I was acting as Ayva’s rock.  She’d been severely mentally abused by what she’d been forced to do.  Not so much killing the one man, as being forced to place symbiotes in underaged host hostages so that neither the human nor the symbiotes had any way to defend themselves.  She was going to have nightmares.  Many nightmares.

Trying to get her to remove her armor was a difficult undertaking.  She didn’t insist on her helmet back, but she wouldn’t remove the rest of the armor.

“Ayva, you’re going to town to give a statement at the police station, you aren’t going to need the armor.”

One of the detectives shook his head at me.  “We don’t need to go to the station.  Not for now at least.”

After a couple seconds of intense processor activity inside her, where she and Danielle were probably argiung. Ayva almost hissed back at me.  “I want to be ready.  In case.”  Then she pushed me slightly away, and looked around, audibly sniffing, trying to scent the air as efficiently as possible for a human shaped olfactory system.  “I have their scents.  I know them all.  Those children were valuable to them.  The soldiers were fodder.  They didn’t even care about themselves.  If I catch one that is not near the children, they are done.”

I needed to convince her that their scent wouldn’t be a strong enough identifier to justify a killing.  I also needed to get her out of the armor.  Ayva had distributed Danielle’s recording of the events to the police, and a couple of them were using tablet computers to display images for the non symbiotes.  It was hard to imagine non-paired humans being useful at a crime scene with so many symbiotes pairs around, but I could tell by body language that there was real respect for the non-paired officers present.  Investigating the social dynamics of mixed population law enforcement organizations at the scene of a crime could wait, however.

I slowly reached out both of my hands to her face, my fingers touching her jawline on either side, and turned her face to look straight at me.  “Ayva, listen to Danielle.  They could have been cloned.  It’s also possible that the scents you are looking for could be intentionally introduced to someone that they want dead, knowing how angry you would be right now.”

She just stared at me.  I could see Danielle thinking in conversational patterns.  Then, all of a sudden, Danielle’s thinking patterns shifted wildly and became much more random.  Apparently, Danielle decided I might be eavesdropping.  I had strongly considered it.  I gave no reaction to the change.

I asked internally, “Frank, did the scenario recording Danielle provided define the enemy scents in sufficient detail that they could be used by another symbiote to track by?”

“No, that data wasn’t included, scent data usually isn’t.  It tends to be pretty data intensive.”

I spoke out loud again. “Ayva, I want their scents.  If you collected a good scent signature on the whole group of them, I definitely want them all.  I’m rather confident that the officers will want it too.  We can’t use it for instant justice, but you’re certainly right that it’s important.”

Ayva straightened up a bit and her eyes darted around, looking at the detectives and the half dozen other officers carefully not watching her too closely that were standing nearby.  She noticed that the non-symbiote detectives had stepped a bit back and to the side, behind me.  The internal conversation between her and Danielle got more intense briefly.

Her eyes locked onto mine again.  “Danielle is sending the scent data to Frank.  I’ll also provide it to other symbiote officers to supplement the scenario recording.  I won’t act on the scents with deadly force if I encounter them.”

I nodded.  That was a good start.

She looked around, then looked back at the house, thinking.  After a second, she turned to the closest officer, the detective that had spoken to me earlier telling me that the trip to the station wasn’t necessary, “Can I to go into our house to remove my armor?”

“Not a problem, Ma’am.”

She then turned to me and apologized, “Sorry about your hands earlier, Bob.”

“My hands are fine, Ayva.  Let’s get you out of this armor and talk to the officers.”  I picked up one of her gauntleted hands and kissed the back of it, then started moving slowly, backwards, towards the house, holding her hand.  She started walking with me.  I adjusted my pace and position to walk next to her, on her right, my left hand holding her right, clasped.  I could see her starting to unwind a bit.  Looks like Danielle probably pulled her down from combat readiness, now that the child was no longer in immediate danger, healed, and in the hands of medical personnel.  I noticed that the two Highway Patrol officers were gone already.  Probably going to write up reports and be debriefed, or something.

As we walked back to the house, towards where the front door used to be, Ayva looked at the trenching in the yard leading up to the wide scar in the yard where I had laid down my bike.  Her eyes tracked to where the bike had bounced and rolled over the walkway, up the stairs, and across the porch before smashing into the wall of the house.  The impact of the bike had buckled the wall a few feet from where the front door used to be, but the bike had not passed through.  She looked at the place where the door used to be as we got closer, and as we passed through the hole in the external wall, she saw the hole I had smashed through the wall between the dining room and the living room, and the now taco-shaped steel security door laying in front of the fireplace.  She just shook her head and smiled a bit.

I had taken a close look at the bike as we passed near it.  It had leaked some fuel, I could smell it, but it was no longer leaking.  There was an officer there who had apparently been taking a lot of pictures, making measurements, and taking prints from the bike.  The evidence collecting officer was calling for help to move the bike away from the house.  The wheels were warped too badly to roll through the suspension forks.

We moved into the house, and Ayva stopped at the laundry room, starting to remove her armor, placing it piece by piece on the wall.  There was a bit of a commotion from the back of the house, and a few seconds later, a symbiote officer joined us.  He walked into the house from the back, through the hole Ayva had made, grasping something carefully in both hands

“Mrs. Benson, I believe this is yours.  Can you reprogram it so it stops attacking us near the house?”  He held out his hands, and I smiled as one of Ayva’s sparrows appeared between the cupped hands where it had been carefully held immobile.  He didn’t release it, but allowing us to see the sparrow allowed said sparrow sufficient mobility to attack immediately, drawing a bit of blood before the officer confined the bird tightly again.

Ayva reached out her hand and the officer opened a gap in his hands, sufficient for Ayva to reach her finger in and touch the sparrow, which immediately calmed down.  “Sorry officer, the last command it got before the network went down was to guard the house.”

The officer nodded “I understand.  Seen similar with real dogs.  Never seen it with construct birds though.  Was a bit of a mystery until I noticed it had your scent and its beak was cutting me up pretty fiercely.  Very efficient, mean little guard construct.”  He released the bird, which, having just been reprogrammed, simply sat on his palm.

Ayva picked the sparrow off of his palm and placed it in the bird cage with my two.  It hopped over to the recharging station for its capacitor and chirped when there was no power.  It would chirp once every fifteen minutes until it was able to recharge, or ran out of power and collapsed.

“Thank you officer, for not simply killing it.” Ayva moved her hand in the cage and the bird dropped the little microphone it had been carrying in its claw, then she rubbed its head with a fingertip.  The birds weren’t reactive to attention since they were fully artificial, but they still looked cute.  Ayva and I found ourselves giving them pet-like attention they had no need for, without thinking about it.

The officer that carried the sparrow in left the way he had come in, and Ayva resumed removing her armor, finishing fairly rapidly.  She had been wearing form fitting exercise pants and a tank top under the armor.

“Would you mind if I put on something else before we talk, detective?” She asked the officer that had been accompanying us while quietly and intently watching everything.

“You aren’t under arrest, Mrs. Benson.  Feel free to go get cleaned up a bit and dressed more comfortably.  If you like, one of our female officers can accompany you?”

“No thank you, detective, I don’t need anyone to help me feel safer, and Bob got me grounded enough where I’m not likely to react inappropriately to the unexpected.  I’m good solo, for now.  I’ll be a couple minutes.”

Ayva kissed me on the cheek and walked back to our bedroom, which, fortunately, had not been in the path of either her exit or my entry.

The detective looked at me.  “Mind if we get the recording of the scenario from you as well, from the point where you were within a half mile of the house, until the ambulance left with the child?”

“No problem, detective…” I looked at his name tag. “Connolly. Sorry I didn’t get your name earlier.”

“I think it’s safe to say that you had some other things on your mind.”  He held out his hand and I gripped it.  Frank and the detective’s symbiote performed their own software handshake and Frank sent the scenario recording as requested.

“Mind if I walk around?” he asked.

“Feel free, detective Connolly.  I don’t think we took out enough load bearing walls to make the house unsafe, as long as you are careful where you walk.” I stayed near him in case he had questions, but tried not to get in his way.  His symbiote was rapidly processing data, and so was he.

“You hit the door here pretty hard.  How did you know you wouldn’t just bounce off?”

“I’ve seen the aftermath of deer being hit by cars at highway speeds, detective.  I weigh about the same as a respectable sized white tail, I was moving much, much faster than normal highway speeds, and my bones are a lot more resistant to breaking than a deer’s.  Even without calculating anything, I knew what would happen when I hit that door.  My biggest concern was that the door might wrap tightly enough around me that it would restrict my movement.  So I did do some calculations.  After entering the house though, I really had no idea what trajectory I’d be on, since the actual internal construction of the walls around the door was uncertain.  Didn’t turn out too badly though.”

The detective grinned and looked around.  “Property damage aside, I suppose so.”  He turned back to me with a more serious look on his face. “How did you know your wife wasn’t in the house, in harm’s way of all this?”

“I didn’t.  It was a risk.  If Ayva had been free to meet me, she would have been able to hear my bike coming from a long way off, and made herself visible.  We’ve had lots of tactical discussions about dealing with intruders around the house.  There are quite a few people in the world who don’t much care for me.  Some of them are not nice people.  Ayva has a few people of her own that don’t like her much, even if there aren’t that many.”  I thought about it.  “I wasn’t expecting a child though, and whoever the attackers were, they don’t seem to care much about their own lives, or the lives of children.  I think Ayva and I are going to have to rethink tactics to include the possibility of people in the house that might be seriously injured by an entry like this.”  I waved at the path of destruction.

He nodded, then looked back towards the bedroom where Ayva had just walked out of the door, dressed in loose jeans, a solid black T-shirt, and cross trainers.

She was pulling her hair back while walking towards us, a dark red mane that was long enough to tie back, with a six inch stub of hair trailing the hair clasp.  She never let it get longer than that, but wouldn’t cut it shorter either.  Danielle didn’t seem excessively active, so no deep conversation happening there.  She looked at me and smiled while walking up to give me a kiss on the cheek.

“Sorry for the delay, Detective Connolly.  I’m feeling a lot more human right now though, and I appreciate your having allowed me to clean up and get dressed in something a bit more modest.”

Detective Connolly just nodded.  “Sure.  Can we sit somewhere?”

“The seats in the living room looked to be in usable shape.  Power’s out, but it’s only been a while, you want anything to drink?  We have tea, water, and orange juice in the fridge.  Iced coffee as well, if you will drink your coffee that way.  Bob won’t.  Not without vanilla ice cream in it.”  Ayva grinned at me, she had finally found something that I would put in my coffee and enjoy it, though it was more of a dessert than a drink.  Bailey’s and Kahlua didn’t count.  I enjoyed the taste of both in coffee, but Frank wouldn’t let the alcohol affect my brain.  That was an argument I’d never managed to win with him.  Not a big loss, and Frank was more than willing to help me relax with chemicals he controlled himself, if I asked, which was very rare.  I’ve never been much for chemicals for mind altering, at least not since after college.

Detective Connolly looked around when we entered the living room and chose to sit at one end of a couch, while Ayva and I sat next to each other, shoulders touching on the love seat.  There really weren’t a whole lot of questions, but the detective had overheard me getting the scent data from Ayva, and asked if he could have it as well.  I agreed and passed the data to him.  He asked for it from Ayva as well, and she provided it.

“Does law enforcement use scent now?” I asked.  I hadn’t heard anything about it.

“Well, we’ve always used scent, but always in the past through dogs, which are obviously not as versatile as we’d like, since they can’t talk back.  Actively using scent in an organized fashion like fingerprints and DNA hasn’t developed very far yet, but a case like this might break that open.  It would be nice to have another strong tool at our disposal.  Scent is really just an offshoot of forensic chemistry, just not well developed.”

Ayva and I reacted almost exactly alike, both nodding with the same motion, at the same time.  The detective’s eyes bounced back and forth between our faces and he smiled.

The conversation went on for a while, the detective asking us about people or organizations we knew that might be involved.  When I mentioned the assault on myself and Frank in the virtual world that had happened before I had been arrested the other day, he asked me why I hadn’t reported it.

“Detective, I had millions of charges of battery against me.  There were other things I was thinking about at the time.  When B showed up, he was almost as much of a shock to me as he was to you all.” I replied.

He nodded.  “OK, but we’ll want to hear more about that later, if you don’t mind, and I’d like you to give the data to another detective.  The cases might be unrelated, and I’m not sure I want Xerxes to have that data added to what he has already collected unless we start to see more in common.  Did you get scents of your attackers in the assault on you?”

“Yes, none matched these from Ayva’s twenty.”

The detective nodded.  “Definitely want another detective to get this information from you then.  I’ll have Xerxes and the other detective’s symbiotes compare the data then, and see if there are any points of crossover, but I don’t want Xerxes to have that raw data as long as I’m not sure it has bearing on this case.”  I nodded.  Frank used to be a lot more likely to make false connections between human relational data.  He still wasn’t perfect, but he was probably better than me at it now.  Xerxes would learn.

The detective asked us questions for a while, mostly Ayva, then thanked us for our time as he left.  We stayed out of the taped areas while the officers did their data collection, until, many hours later, they were done, except for the yard around where Ayva had killed the man who had broken the little girl’s neck.  After the tape came down, Ayva and I worked to test the house’s electrical systems before restoring power, then double checked, and released the sparrows with instructions to watch for thermal bloom or electrical discharges.

Other than the one spot in the yard, the house was ours again.  I connected to the biofactory we used for mulching wastes, and used it to clean up the mess inside of the house, then split it in two and had it stretch itself to cover the two holes in the wall of the house.

After we had restored the house’s power, set the sparrow constructs to watch for intruders, and secured the holes in the outer walls with the household biofactory, Ayva and I made coffee and sat on the love seat again.  We relaxed, leaning back against the seat, side-to-side; my arm was across the top of her shoulders, and her arm was behind my lower back.  No words were necessary.  For a little while, one or the other of us would take a sip of coffee in the silence, but after a while, Ayva fell asleep against my side.  I sipped coffee until it was cold, and continued sipping occasionally till it was gone, absently, not really tasting it.  All the while maintaining physical contact with Ayva and carefully avoiding jostling her.  For the next couple hours, I made plans for the next day and worked with Frank to run simulations and scenarios.  Then I let myself fall asleep with requests to Frank and Danielle to carefully keep the two of us in contact so Ayva wouldn’t wake before she was ready.

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    • farmerbob1

      I’ll try to think of a better way to rewrite that last paragraph, but it’s really hard to add luster and sensory appeals to a couple just sitting down and taking comfort in each other’s physical presence after a long, terrible, mentally exhausting day. They are typically boistrous with one another, and energetic, even competitive, but sometimes that just isn’t what they want.

      I normally try to put a hook in the end of each chapter, but in this case, there really is no hook.

  1. murray

    Left back the way he came… the back is redundant.
    leaning against one another, each of us with one arm behind the other, leaning together at the shoulder, relaxed, leaning back in the seat… are they leaning? Haha

  2. Anonymous

    Oh crap, they’re going to use the small children to take advantage of the new programing. Extremely limited in reality symbiote children with inversely OP VR power, used as expendable soldiers by ‘organization’.

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