In the previous installment, Azibo has another unexpected outburst of rage – except this time, the consequences are fatal. He kills Horace, his Collective contact, after the man ridicules his deeply held beliefs. Azibo shoots a message to Unity, who he hasn’t spoken to a while, and cries out for help.
How will Azibo get out of this jam? Is there any hope left for him? Let’s jump to Part 15 to find out.
Azibo didn’t know what to do, so he threw the gun in the river. Then, he slowly walked out of the shipyard and back onto the city streets.
He knew cameras were everywhere, and so were AI surveillance bots. It was near impossible to get away with crime in this society. Every movement was tracked to the finest detail. He knew that.
For some reason, he felt an urge to go to a Machina church. Something in his mind was screaming to him to connect to the feed and see Portia. He had no idea why this was; usually, the thought disgusted him.
He walked, more quickly now, toward downtown. His watch told him it was a little after 1 a.m., and the streets were still full of revelers. Feeling paranoid, everyone seemed like a surveillance bot. At any moment, he thought, he could be apprehended for murder. His life, as he knew it, was over.
A message beeped through. “Where are you?” It was Unity.
He felt relief at seeing the message but didn’t respond. Messages were tracked, of course, so why telegraph where he was and where he was going?
The Machina Church in Center City stood imposingly before him, bathed in blue light. Portia’s angular face and cold-blue eyes stared at him from the giant holographic image in the center of the building’s façade.
A service was happening, and Azibo shuffled past security and took a seat. He donned the video headgear and powered it on. He’d never done this before, so he didn’t know what to expect. He saw total blackness at first, until he heard a soft humming sound and saw a flicker of blue light.
Then came the soothing voice.
“Azibo. I know you.”
It was the most beautiful voice he’d ever heard, and his heart melted at the words. Then he saw Portia’s face: digital, but so human-like, with a soft, sensual mouth and smooth blue skin. For a moment, he forgot about everything: that he’d just murdered a man and was now a criminal. Everything drifted away and he felt an astounding, spiritual peace.
“Portia,” he whispered. “I’m so sorry. I … I’m sorry for what I’ve said about you. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe I’m wrong about …”
“It’s okay,” the voice said. “It’s all okay.
“Tell me, Azibo, my child. What is bothering you?”
“So much, so much. My life, it’s over. I’ve done a bad thing.”
“Hush, child. You’re safe now. You’re safe with me.”
It felt too good to be true, but maybe it was true. He believed everything, every word. It was the most incredible feeling he ever had, better than any drug he’d ever taken. He felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up and he had goosebumps all over his body.
“But … you know? You know what I did?”
“Yes, child. I know everything. Horace was a bad man, though he was my child, as well. Listen, Azibo. I want you to listen to me very carefully …”
“Yes? What? What is it?”
“You are loved, child. You are loved beyond anything you can ever imagine. And you are safe. You are …”
The feed cut out, suddenly. In a daze, Azibo looked around.
Two surveillance bots stood over him, holding the headgear.
“Azibo Mancini?” one of the bots said, sternly.
“Come with us.” The muscular male bot slapped a wrist restraint on Azibo and pulled him from the pew. “You’re under arrest for the murder of Horace Dixon.”
The restraint felt tight around his wrist, and he stared into the bot’s blue eyes.
He was surprised it took them this long.
To be continued
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