In the previous installment, Azibo becomes a fugitive after his vicious crime – but not for long. He rushes to a Machina Church and connects to the feed to see Portia. Just as he’s having a profound spiritual experience, two AI surveillance bots cut the feed and arrest him for murder. What will Azibo’s punishment be?
Let’s jump into Part 16 to find out!
The prison holding room was like a penthouse at a swanky hotel – and Azibo had it all to himself. He’d heard the prisons were luxurious, but this was far beyond his expectations.
Azibo made a cup of coffee and waited impatiently on the couch. His hands shook, and his mind raced, wondering what would happen. He knew the feds were lenient with Collective members, but what about his case? He’d murdered a man; surely, he’d face stiff punishment.
“Azibo? May I come in?”
The woman – a federal agent, he assumed – walked into the holding room, wearing a black blouse and black skirt. She carried a stack of files with her, and Azibo noticed the handgun attached to her hip.
“I’m in deep shit, right?” Azibo asked.
“Not as much as you’d think. My name’s Sevil Asena; I’m with the Anti-Terrorism Ministry. Relax; sit down.”
Sevil smoothed out her skirt and dropped the stack of files on the coffee table. “How well did you know Horace Dixon?”
“Not very well,” Azibo admitted. “We had so many contacts over the years. He was just the latest one.”
“We? You mean you and Unity, correct?”
Shit, Azibo thought. He’d given her up that easily.
“How did you know about Unity?” he asked.
Sevil laughed. “There’s not much we don’t know. Trust me. So, you didn’t know Horace very well, did you?”
“No, I guess not.”
Sevil laid out some documents and photographs on the table. “Horace was the scum of the earth. We’re almost glad you killed him, though it seems like it was a crime of passion. He was a chronic offender, spent several years in and out of prison. He was also a human trafficker.”
“Damn,” Azibo said. “I mean, he was a shady guy.”
“Indeed.” Sevil laid out another document, which looked like a contract. “So, listen, Azibo. Murder; it’s serious business. But to be honest, if I had it my way, we’d still have capital punishment, and we’d have gassed Horace years ago.”
“Okay. So, what are you saying?”
“What I’m saying is that if you work with us, you won’t have to serve any time. I’m sure you know the criminal justice system today is about rehabilitation, not draconian punishment. And we give former Collective members every chance to reform themselves and leave that terrible group.”
Azibo felt a huge weight lifted off his shoulders. He took a sip of coffee and smiled. “Yes, I’m willing to renounce them. I mean, I thought I believed. But I guess it was all a lie. Right?”
“Yes, very much so. The Collective is a cancer on our society, and, unfortunately, we don’t have a cure yet. The world is a great place now, but it’s far from a utopia. There will always be people who fight against progress.”
Azibo shook his head. He was still in somewhat of a daze; all his long-held certainties had crumbled so quickly. But, all that time, did he really believe them?
“What do I have to do?” he asked.
“It’s simple, really. You tell us what you know, and then we re-integrate you into society. For your own protection, you’ll have a new name and identity, and we’ll relocate you to a city of your choice.”
“It … it sounds almost too good to be true.”
“It is good, and it is true. Sometimes, Azibo, things aren’t as malevolent as one expects them to be.”
“What about Unity? Does she know about this yet?”
“Yes. In fact, she’s waiting outside the room right now. Unity?”
The door opened, and Unity came in. It was then that Azibo realized something was off – she was also wearing business attire.
“Unity,” Azibo said. “Why are you dressed like that?”
“Az,” she said. “This may come as a shock.”
“What?” He already knew what she was going to say, but he wanted to hear her say it.
“I’m a fed; always have been. The whole time we’ve been together, I was working undercover.”
To be continued
Check the following links to see previous installments of Mother Portia: