Hey y’all. Did you miss me? I know I haven’t done one of these in a while, but last week my friend ’Nathan posted a Friday Flash Fiction inspired by the picture below:
Which got me thinking about “The Digital Corpse,” the ongoing story I’d been working on in bits and pieces as previous Friday Flash Fiction installments. The last chapter of that can be found here.
This entry doesn’t follow immediately that previous one, but I suppose I’ll eventually go back and fill in the gaps and maybe bring all the disparate portions together in one place. But as always, that’s a project for another day. So…
To the Island
“I’m guessing someone doesn’t want us to pay a visit,” Andrews said.
Bradford, at the wheel, didn’t so much as raise an eyebrow. “The fact that we have to get there by boat, even in the Upload, should have tipped you off to that already.”
Andrews lifted his chin toward the black line of storm clouds in front of them. “Those pretty much underline that fact.”
As if in response, a fork of lightning stabbed toward the water, the rumble of thunder reaching them a second later.
“And that’s the exclamation mark at the end of the message saying ‘get out,'” Bradford added.
When Bradford called to say he’d found a lead, Andrews was skeptical—a way to get him to make good on the dinner Andrews owed him. But no, he said they needed to follow this lead into the Upload.
Bradford had isolated three user codes connected with the sim where Alexa had been murdered, but he didn’t think any of them belonged to the killer. More likely, he said, they were decoys or targets. He’d found the idents for two of the codes, but the third was tougher to crack. He traced it to an off-network sim that he couldn’t access from outside, but there was a way in, as in literally a way to enter the sim as an upload, a participant.
Which would not have been Andrews’ first choice, since their two murder victims were killed while their avatars were in the Upload.
And then Bradford had named a price of sorts for the information. “I’m only giving it to you if I get to go with you as well.”
“That’s not a good—”
Bradford cut him off. “I’m not budging on this. Besides, I’m getting a little sick of whoever’s opening up their own private little playgrounds in my Upload.”
For a moment, Andrews used the silent treatment, hoping to draw Bradford out, but the man said nothing. “Fine,” Andrews said, and hung up.
Doyle, who had gotten back from Paris that morning, leaned against Andrews’s desk and grinned. “He wants to be your field trip buddy?”
“Something like that.”
“Maybe you’ll get lucky on this ride.”
Andrews arched and eyebrow. ”Sleeping with a person of interest-slash-low-key suspect? Seems like a bad idea.”
She shrugged. “You’ve had worse, like going in there at all.”
Now that he was standing on the deck of the boat, holding onto the rail as Bradford steered them over choppy waves, Andrews was inclined to say she was right. The wind had picked up, tossing sprays of seawater in their faces. The boat skipped over a swell and landed with a whomp.
“I thought you said whoever programmed this left a way for people to get in,” Andrews yelled to make himself heard over the wind.
“Building a door doesn’t necessarily mean they left it unlocked. Luckily, I’m pretty good at picking locks.”
“You’re what—oh, right.” All of this was just a simulation, no matter how real it seemed. Bradford might have been standing at the wheel, but he was actually generating code to bust them in.
“Hang on,” Bradford said. “The next part should be interesting.”
“Interesting” didn’t quite capture the mythic-looking beast, part dragon and part serpent, that erupted from the seafoam ahead of them. Its emerald eyes locked on their boat as it dove through the water toward them. The next moment, they were airborne, the deck splintering below them as the creature surfaced beneath the boat and sent them hurtling skyward before—
Solid ground materialized below their feet, facing a grove of palm trees. Andrews looked behind them toward the water. The boat was gone, but so was the creature. He sighed with relief.
Which was also when he realized he was holding Bradford’s hand. He dropped it quickly.
Bradford looked barely ruffled by the experience. He smiled. “I don’t mind. Besides, it was pretty scary.”
“But not for you.”
Bradford put his hands in his pockets. The man couldn’t help but look smug, could he? “Scarier would have been if I hadn’t gotten us in.” He turned toward the palm trees. “Or maybe scary is whatever’s ahead of us.”
“You haven’t forgotten all of this might have been programmed by your suspect, have you?”
Shit. As much as Andrews hated guns, he wished he was armed right about now.