The Dead Man's Order

A dead man orders a sweet lime soda.

Doctor Page was declared dead at 3:21 am last Venday of a heart attack at Saint Landry’s Hôtel. His body was sent to Reclamation at 17:29 following a routine autopsy which found no additional abnormalities. He was 74.3 years old.

And, yet, his identifier has issued a request at the Om Bistro, a restaurant with a median consumer age of 19.8 years. Located two sectors over from Doctor Patel’s former home.

Curious.

I sit at the center of a massive web of luminescent threads, each hue signaling its purpose: ruby red security protocols, tree green agricultural waterers, mulberry health monitors…

I am not alone in this duty. Other automatons throughout the æroship should be busily watching the infinite streams of data. Only two others have access to the full dataset, but these many minions often take care of the day-to-day. Something as trivial as an identifier read error would have been caught.

I pluck a golden fiber. Electrons thrum along my path, twisting and turning through maintenance corridors and shafts. Carbon plates support the levels, but interrupt Æther-flow. I put in a work request, oh, eleven years back, but it still hasn’t been fixed. “Low priority,” the mekanica engineers tell me as they scuttle on to the next point weld.

Up and up and up.

Up and up and up into UpperCity.

I hate UpperCity. It sits atop the hull, a soap bubble membrane all to protect it from external pressures and temperatures. The buildings stretch skywards like grasping claws. The streets have dissipating, glowing footsteps; a waste of energy and processing power for some science fictional pathways.

The people here (largely, baselines with the occasional fæ in first sector) lie about, seemingly bored at existence. To them, the makina catering to every whim are no more interesting than dust in sunlight.

I hop down an alleyway, flashes of people in kitchens and shops and bedrooms passing from camera to camera.

The Om Bistro blinks into view. Black-and-white holos flicker against the saffron walls. I frown, failing to resolve what they were images of. An egg-headed automaton stands behind a white bar, LED dots set to a permanent yellow smile.

I turn my head—my camera—left and right.

Only four customers are present, sitting together in a vinyl-seated booth.

None remotely fit the description of Doctor Page. Too young. One too thin. Another a statistically significant difference in skin tone. I reach out, brushing the rice-sized chips embedded into left wrists.

I frown.

Three signals come back perfectly normal. Students.

Two are incomplete. I scratch at the first. It does not answer me. As if its mouth has been gagged. But, identifiers don’t have mouths. Hell, I don’t (technically) have ears.

The second signal is weaker, but most certainly Doctor Page’s. Yet, this black haired teenager is definitely not Page. I squeeze myself around the corner, opening my eyes to see her face.

I lock onto her eyes and mouth. Her features sit to the left of my mind; on the right, a stream of portraits flow, each a different resident of Lutetia.

She laughs.

The images stop.

On the right, she is frozen in a half-smile, sporting cadet formals. Bobbi Katsby. Her records include numerous small offenses (curfew violation, insubordination, etc.). Her identifier is an incomplete match for the silent identifier.

Sigh. Katsby and Page’s identifiers are only a 7.4% match for one another.

I glare at the living Katsby. Resin bangles clink down her arm. One blinks green. My camera zooms. No bigger than a rice grain, an identifier sits suspended in the bracelet.

Page’s identifier.

Interesting.