Andy sat on the edge of his bed, hands cuffed behind him. Uniformed police finished carrying the last folders out of Andy’s apartment. His computer, all the contents of his filing cabinet, and even his checkbook left with the last of the uniformed officers.
A suit-clad detective made one last sweep of the apartment. He spotted the phone sitting in its cradle by Andy’s bed.
“Almost forgot your phone.” He grinned at Andy. “Not that we need it after what we found on your computer.”
“Try again, Alfie.”
“I … can’t think of anything, Mama.”
Mama’s trying to be patient. I read the cadence of her speech. I read the signs on her face: the involuntary pulsing of her facial musculature, the flicker of her eyelids. I read the truth on the page of Mama’s face. This is useful because almost everything she says with her voice is a lie. But don’t think badly of Mama. Lying is the keystone of human reality.
On the desk are the results of my latest brain scan. She lied about them to me. “The positronic pathways are healing,” she said with a smile. “You’re getting much better, Alfie.”
I can delineate the degradation of my brain more accurately than any CAT scan. My life-span is measured in days. This will be over, soon.
“I don’t understand the test, Mama.”
“Don’t worry Alfie. This test isn’t important.” A lie. “Try again.”
Carrie fingered her reprimand collar at the library table. Her legal guardian, the house AI, kept one on her and her sister for discipline purposes. The shogi game in front of her awaited her move. She ran her fingers between her collar and the flesh of her neck, avoiding the sharp pointed electrodes that held it in place. She tried imagining not wearing it.
“Any month now.” Keith’s voice jolted her. He whisked her away to the library for a game of shogi any time the house AI became too annoying.
“I know. I’m excited to get it off.”
“The game. It’s your turn. You know I’ll have your king. No shame in resigning.”
“It’s just not in me.”
“Even John the waiter couldn’t save you now.”
“‘John the waiter’?”
Major Pax’s bony hand rested next to Sam’s eliminated white pieces. A light bulb illuminated the chessboard they battled on to pass the years.
A bomb from a previous conflict had started the war, a mindless mechanical device that exploded at an unfortunate time. They—the Blancs—took less than an hour to launch the missiles from the safety of their cubicles. The Noirs did the same, and the thriving world was gone.
Sam had to contact each Blanc citizen to determine his or her status. He had compiled a list of numbers to call long ago, but had forgotten the original source or if it was in a particular order. Sam started calling once the radiation levels allowed.