There would be no official investigation into the crash, of course. A private cleanup company would be hired, any employee of that company would be placed under strict surveillance, and found at the bottom of a river if they so much as Googled the word “whistle”
So grief had to wait.
Sett was a recognizable enough face to keep covered until they dropped into the relative obscurity of the smouldering hull. They winced as their injured leg took on more of the impact than they had intended, gritting their teeth through it and unhooking their cane from the back of their sweater.
“What am I looking for, Fern?” They asked, not bothering with the flashlight in their bag.
“So, if there’s anything in tact it’ll be in one of the offices. Just- any of the higher-up’s terminals should have at least a little bit of information we can use.” The borzoi dropped down behind them, pausing to fiddle with their own flashlight.
“Got it, offices.” They split off, not waiting for approval. Barracks, armoury, a small first aid room, and beyond that a small block of offices, arranged in a half-horseshoe around a space-wasted lobby. They struggled to balance one legged on the uneven ground, bracing against the receptionist’s desk and pulling it’s tower from the back corner with the tip of their cane. They finished up the rest of the block of offices, taking special note of just where in their duffle the office labelled ‘Dir. Ross’s hard drive sits in their bag.
“There’s nothing on this side of the ship, a few research terminals but they’re all cloud-based.”
“There’s still a few more doors on my end. Give me a moment.” Sett cut back out into the hall, checked the last few doors: mostly storage, and stopped at the final door. A layer of cobwebs too thick for the half week the wreck had been sitting here blocked their entry.
That, and the psychological barrier of it being the room in which their wife was killed less than four days earlier. There was only so much blocking out one could do when confronted with the exact environment in which one of the worst moments of their life had happened.
But they had to be thorough.
Grief could wait.
They poked through the threshold with the tip of their cane, creating a doorway through which they wouldn’t have to touch the webs. The room itself was in a state of paranormal disarray: poor safety procedures had completely altered the metaphysical makeup in this room, most prominently in ribbons of stretch-mark like scars tracking their way through what was at one point solid steel.
It stunk of iron rot. There were options, of course. Sett had considered ahead of time that this space would be like this, and if left to fester those scars would be forced open, and the people outside would have no choice but to confront the fact that Angelcorp had gambled with all of their lives.
Then again, people would die.
And so, Sett set to work quietly pulling the space back into alignment. Perhaps the crash would be enough.
There is still work to be done, of course. In time, they would have to learn to commune across the divide, to point the other Sett in the right direction, but there was a good 40 years before they would first meet, and so today at least could be set aside to enjoy the sunset.
Sett steps out of the customs office, paperwork held tightly in the crux of their arm. They shield their eyes, making their way up 49th street. They sit down on the frost-touched pier, crushing the bag of cookies provided to them by the desk demon and sprinkling them onto the water’s surface.
“Can I help ya’ miss?” A man’s sharp cut snapped them from their duck-watching. They were technically not supposed to be there, but no one could really be expected to enforce that law.
“Do you know how I can get to Toronto from here?” Why not ask? This was not an era they had had much experience with, anyone but them would likely have a better idea than just walking.
“Ol’ Muddy York? Why settle for the copy when you could have the real thing?” The dock worker takes off his cap and sits down next to them.
“I’ve got friends there.”
“Well,” he flipped open a carton of cigarettes and took one, offering a second to the strange goat, “I sincerely apologize for that.”
Something about that made them laugh.
A black second-generation Pontiac Firebird rolls to a stop on the bay-side shoulder of West Frontage Road. Across the bay, the golden gate bridge howls mercilessly. After seven months of the same design flaw filling the city with a high pitched whistling, those in charge have still done nothing.
Eleanor steps out and carefully examines the white letters painted on the hood. This was the first time her car had made that drive under its own power, and it had held up remarkably well.
She shoves one sneaker into the wheel well and steps up onto the hood. Then up onto the roof from there. She stands up on her tiptoes to see across the barrier between the side-street and the highway.
Despite being mid-day, the road’s surface is devoid of tires. The highway is home to one solitary police cruiser, but that has been turned over, keeping in tact President Eizenhour’s rubber virginity.
There’s a barrier about a mile north, and here: people are celebrating. This part of the city has been taken over. The cops that refused to leave were forced out, and now - in Oakland - people care for their own people. It is a slow process, but it is far from complete. There is a beautiful future for this place.
Eleanor stares down at the hood of her car: an inverted “BLACK LIVES MATTER” painted in water soluble white. She had been otherwise occupied for the time during which that would have been a radical statement, but better late than never.
She takes a moment to thumb the patch cut of cloth in her pocket, hops down from the roof, takes the door by the handle, and pulls it into a ghost-state. It glides easily across the street and through the barrier, stopping on the highway in the midst of a crowd of bewildered rebels.
“Hey!” Eleanor smiles, “I’m- uh, I’m Eleanor!”
“Morning Angel.” Not much had changed for Steph since the crash. Her inbox - chronically unchecked - was cluttered with interviews with the mind behind the original Angel Computers. How could such an innocent corporation have let things get so bad? Did she know all along?
Of course, none of these were questions she was thinking about that morning, given that she hadn’t read them. In truth, she was thinking about ways of conveying the experience of a psychedelic trip to a computer-based life-form. Maybe digital acid would fix Angel.
That is, if there was anything left to fix. The robot had not responded to “good morning” in her usual tone.
“Angel?” Steph amended her route ever so slightly to be able to look into the androids eye.
The way she was silhouetted by the morning sun, sitting upright in her nest, had given the pile of synthetic skin the illusion of still being alive. Whatever little energy she had had left had evidently petered out.
It was hard to know how to feel about that. Angel was still more or less there, with the right technology she could be brought back, and yet, there was something not right about that idea.
She turned to 013, another failed project, and again did not know how to feel.
“Ms. Jozwiak.” Angel suddenly stirred, a new tone in her voice: clear, with almost zero trace of its digital origins. Steph turned to look at her creation.
“Goodbye.” The creature said, a single note of acceptance.
“Goodbye, Angel.” Steph nodded. Perhaps this was the way to feel.
After 9 years in self induced isolation, Hanratty Ishmael Vermington - Izzy, to her solitary friend - injects a nullifying compound into her bloodstream. For the next 24 hours, her disease will be incommunicable. As a result of the cure, however, her body will begin to shut down. In 6 hours, she will be completely dead.
She stops at two places. Lacking money, she shoplifts a carton of pens and a pad of paper from a Business Depot. She writes a short, but heartfelt note to her mother on the train ride back to Oakville.
Between home and the train station, she stops at a convenience store for a package of sour cherry balls. No one is home when she delivers her note.
She sits down on a river bank and watches the flow. This is okay. This had to happen. There should never have been two.
Hanratty Vermington wakes up on a train. There is another figure, black, and crackling, and hard to look at. It’s as though someone tried to build a person from broken tiles.
“Where am I?” She asks.
“It’s hard to say.” The figure replies. Their tone is even and cool, tinged in equal measure with sorrow and reserved reverence.
“Am I dead?” Ratty asks. There is no time wasted thinking of the next question.
“There’s no way of knowing.” The figure replies.
The possum looks around. The rest of the train is empty. The “next stop” indicator is blank. The corrugated metal walls rock gently back and forth. The wheels click quietly below the floor. The possum took a deep, shaking breath, slouching in her seat as she let it out.
“If it helps, you figured it out.”
“Yeah,” Ratty nods. “just, a little too late.”
“Was it worth it?” The figure asks. Ratty takes a moment to think, before asking:
“Is Sett okay?”
“They will be.”
The possum took another deep breath, her throat closing slightly as her eyes glazed over. “Where are we going?” She asks.
“I’m not sure,” The figure looks towards the front of the train, “somewhere important.”
Outside, illuminated by red light, so small looking in the dark, a pattern of ridged stone breaks up the concrete walls.
“Can’t I just rest?” Ratty asks.
“It’ll be some time before we arrive. I think you’ve earned that much.”
The possum nods, mostly to herself, and leans back in her seat. Her hand rests naturally on her bag, one she hasn’t carried in years. Inside are a pair of goggles, a particulate mask, a first aid kit, an audio recorder, headphones, a bluetooth keyboard, and a notepad. It’s her old field kit.
She takes out the recorder, scrolls from the microphone icon to the music note icon, and hits the play button. The device picks a song at random.
“We’ll meet again,
Don’t know where,
Don’t know when,
But I know we’ll meet again some sunny day.”