by • September 7, 2017 • Flash Fiction, Kansas, SerialComments (0)

Kansas: Chapter 31


“Arturro Villarreal,” Lee read the name off the projection screen where it hung underneath Kansas’ profile image. Staring at the expressionless face he couldn’t help but imagine this figure dispatching the two GT agents. In a fit of morbid curiosity Lee had dug the records out from the Black Box. A drone had been independently recording the entire exchange. A retrospective analysis had shown it had taken Kansas approximately 43 seconds from first contact to dispatch his opposition. No wonder everyone was calling him the Butcher these days.

“Arturro Villarreal,” Lee repeated the name to Jhel, using it as some kind of talisman against the Butcher pseudonym. “That’s the name he’s been using while in Madrid.”

“He’s been trying to pass for a local?” Jhel asked. If Lee hadn’t been working with Jhel as long as he had, he would have missed the incredulity in his tone, but it was there. Little wonder – Americans tended to stick out on the Continent, especially since the disintegration of the EU. The reinstatement of border controls had engendered increased regional and local customs and differences. At least it had for those who still found themselves subject to the whims of nation states. Glancing out the window Lee thought that those really didn’t apply to himself or Jhel anymore.

Lee refocused on the image and the conversation. “Despite the name I doubt it. The facial recognition software matched him from the Provisional Alien Directory.” Lee pulled up what little on the profile existed with a quick snap of his eyes, the neurojack translating the impulse to the computer. “It says he’s been cleared for security work.” Lee moved through a few more sheets on Kansas’ alias. “Whoever he has building false identities for him does good work.”

Lee spun around, prepared to continue, but he was stopped short by Jhel’s new appearance. The corporate hadn’t undergone any sort of creative surgery, but in the years that Lee had known him he had never seen Jhel in anything but a classic sabiro. Now wrapped in a plastic and polymer shell, etched with the hieroglyphs of micrometeoroid and thermal protection, it reminded Lee of Hans Persson’s personal death squad. Even now Lee felt like they were still running from them. Logically, he knew this wasn’t true. There was nowhere to flee from the entity that was Hans Perrson.

Index finger running around the interface of the neurojack, Lee let the pride in his work momentarily eclipse his dread of GT’s founder. “If he uses that ID to leave Madrid, we’ll know.”

The slightest trace of doubt again marred the near perfect symmetry of Jhel’s ethnically ambiguous features. “He can’t possibly be stupid enough to use that ID now.”

“Probably not,” Lee conceded. “I doubt he just resurfaced when we found him in Moscow. But with the facial recognition software we’ve got running and Persson’s network, if Kansas shows up on any public cameras or runs across state or corporate security forces, we’ll see him.” Lee thought about all the different ways there were to defeat facial recognition software. He had seen the newsfeeds with kids running around with camera-defeating NIR LEDs in their glasses, spiked hair obscuring their profiles, and geometric, multi-color patterns painted onto their faces. While he hadn’t paid enough attention to know what they were protesting it reminded him of the old time punks he had seen in documentaries tearing down the Berlin Wall.

He decided not to mention any of that to Jhel who was staring out the high-temperature quartz glass of the leeward side port window. Lee could see the long curvature of the Earth in Jhel’s eyes, could see the dusk of the fast moving sun push continents into dark, lights of entire civilizations blinking on as they passed far overhear. Watching all of this Jhel only said, “Well, we’ll be able to see him wherever he goes now.”

Read the next chapter here.
Read the previous chapter here.
Image courtesy of Affaires de Gars.

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