Chapter 6. Life on the Lam
Chloe was more than a bit put off by the accommodations in the safe house. There was a cot, a pillow, a scratchy blanket, and a cupboard stocked with some canned goods. The bathroom was about the size of a broom closet, and the water in the shower never got hotter than lukewarm. Apparently, the Gray aliens never heard of Martha Stewart. As far as they were concerned, Chloe’s basic needs were met, and they weren’t going to furnish the place with even a single doily.
Well, that’s life on the lam, Chloe sighed. Her best guess was that some Barney Fife already listed her as a person of interest in Jeremy’s murder. Plenty of people saw them leave the party together. Of course, there wasn’t a sober person in the house that night, and their credibility as witnesses would be severely undermined by even the most incompetent public defender.
The surveillance cameras were a different story though. The two genetically engineered agents in Guy Noir outfits were supposed to use some kind of magnetic device to interfere with the cameras, but who knows. Chloe didn’t trust them – she just played along because they were her only connection to the Gray aliens. Not that she trusted the Grays, but they were her only remaining connection to the Programmers who existed outside the simulation. She didn’t exactly trust the Programmers either, but they were her creators, and at least that was something you could hang your hat on.
When the Programmers had a direct link into her mind, they controlled her thoughts and actions to achieve their ends. The world existed in a binary state where any given switch was either on or off at any given time. Life was simple.
Once the link was severed, Chloe’s mind wandered out into philosophical waters – dangerous waters. Pesky human thoughts began to bob to the surface. She considered the nature of this existence: Are the experiences of the beings inside the simulation genuine? If so, what are the ethical implications of my actions? What, exactly, are the Programmers looking for? If the simulation crashes, will I exist in some capacity in another reality? Or, is that it? Goodnight, Vienna. No mas. Finito.
There were plenty of questions and no real answers. Chloe grabbed a can of albacore out of the cupboard, but then set it back down as she was gripped with anxiety and indecision. There were the health risks of mercury contamination to consider, and it made her sad to think of the dolphins that get caught in the tuna nets. Does any of this even matter in a simulated universe, she wondered.
Her thoughts were cut off when the front door blew off the hinges – splinters rained sideways through the room. Chloe was momentarily knocked out by the concussive force of the blast. When she came to, she recognized the assailant – it was Jeremy’s roommate, Chett. He looked certifiably insane with a Cheshire Cat grin, oversized mirrored sunglasses, a tie-dye t-shirt with a big peace symbol on the front, jungle print camouflage pants, and a handheld weapon she guessed was something beyond human technology.
He gave her some instructions, but she couldn’t understand. Her ears were ringing, everything was foggy. Chett produced a roll of duct tape from one of his cargo pockets and secured her hands behind her back. He got her to her feet and marched her outside. The two men in black agents who were supposed to be protecting her lay dead in the gravel driveway – both face down in a pool of grayish fluid. Presumably, it was their own blood.
Chett searched through their pockets and recovered the brain emulation device that contained a facsimile of Jeremy’s mind. He ushered Chloe into the trunk of a maroon colored Chevy Impala, and she tried to keep her sense of direction as the car accelerated down the long driveway and turned west onto the county road.
It occurred to Chloe that a college stoner with a 1.8 GPA certainly wouldn’t be capable of silently assassinating two men in black agents. Chett must be working for someone big – maybe someone outside the simulation.