Chapter 9 | Pantone 877
The dull silver handcuffs were finally being unlocked and taken off Ben’s rather sore wrists after a long forty-eight hours of incarceration. Not that he noticed how long it had been. Too much had happened to him. He’d lost so much. His fiance. His friends. His company.
“We’re very sorry, Mr. Ashmore. It’s amazing that you were able to escape this entire situation unscathed. You’ll understand our suspicion. But in light of all your other…losses…the Bureau has cleared you of any wrong-doings and are close to tracking down the culprits.”
Ben looked up at the agent confused, “I’m sorry, Agent…?”
“Samuels. Emma Samuels,” she smiled.
“Agent Samuels, there was something going on behind all this? Someone behind it all?” he asked, dumbfounded, wondering how it could all possibly tie together.
“I’m afraid you’ve been the target of industrial espionage as well as several other organizations and professionals in the Bay Area,” she said as she escorted Ben out of the holding area, through the building to the exit to a waiting vehicle.
“What I can tell you,” she continued, “is that a few days ago, our agency got a tip on an foreign agency working on stealing several hi-tech research projects, for an end we were unable to uncover. Besides robotics and artificial intelligence, there was a biological element they were after as well. Our reports showed some shipments going to your offices, but were ordered by an outside element. When we converged on your office, someone had already been tipped off and they blew the building, perhaps with some items in the containers that were shipped to you. Your staff and several of our agents were killed. When we went through your phone to find the source of the photos you received, we hit a dead end.”
“I still don’t understand why they were sent to me,” Ben said as they walked along.
“Probably to put you on our suspicion list.” She answered. “However, we were able to find some digital fingerprints that we traced to a building where a group of hackers and security with some high-end hardware were found dead as well. We did find crates of robotics equipment, computers, and several biological agents, none of which seemed dangerous. And, strangely, not from your fiances lab either.”
“Good god. So they were the ones that did all this?” Ben hopped into the SUV Agent Samuels pointed towards.
“All evidence points to them. Though one of my agents said he’d never seen anything like how the hackers were killed before. We’re trying to track down who they were connected to. We think they are located outside of the country,” she finished.
“What shipments were sent to my office?” I asked.
“We weren’t able to tell. Do you remember anything odd?” Emma asked.
“Well, just what I told you about Jerry and his experiment. I just can’t imagine HIM being involved in something like this,” he shook his head as if shaking away a bad thought.
“He may not have been a willing or even knowing accomplice. He may have just been working on this as a hobby, or he may have been talking to someone about his project. They saw the results he was getting and decided they wanted it. We’re still following those leads, but nothing as of yet,” she stared at Ben for a moment, some empathy in her eyes. She reached in a pocket, pulled out a card, scribbled on it and handed it to me, “Mr. Ashmore, if you need anything, just call.”
I took the card and gave her a small smile. I extended my hand which she took warmly and firmly. “Thanks,” I said.
As the agent dropped Ben off at his house and drove away, he turned to stare at what was going to be their home. It would be a constant reminder of a future that would never happen.
No one ever talks about that aspect in losing a significant other. It’s not just that she was gone, but so were the children they were planning on having, the places they were going to visit, the way they were going to change the world…together.
He knew, logically, that he would recover. Eventually he would rebuild, find new people and co-workers, friends, and love. But, today, all he could see was a future lost. It was the ultimate re-boot to his life. A life he had enjoyed and couldn’t think of one thing he would have wanted to change.
Ben keyed in his security code, walked in and stumbled upstairs to take a shower and change. He was exhausted, delirious, and ultimately — numb — after the events of the past few days. He let the water heat up and climbed in, letting the water wash over him and wishing it would wash away the pain he knew he’d start feeling soon.
© 2013-2019 Eric Huber. Silicon(e)™ is a work of fiction. All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
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