Commissioner Bellarbi turned away from the reports and savored the earthy flavors of his herbal tea as he gazed at the majestic skyscrapers of the city skyline. Usually the subtly spiced drink was relaxing, but not today. After all, she was coming.
His screen flashed and Bellarbi touched the headline to bring up the details. Information was still sketchy, but it appeared that a nanotech production plant had been shut down due to corruption in the growth process.Bellarbi tapped the comm patch and the boyish face of his secretary expanded to dominate the screen. “Myles? Is there any more on the Rekhavi case?”
“Only anecdotal reports so far, Commissioner.” The secretary’s voice held its usual practiced indifference. “Routine monitoring uncovered evidence that the materials were flawed and might interact with the environment in potentially dangerous, though as yet, undetermined ways.”
“Why wasn’t it discovered and corrected before becoming dangerous?”
“Presumably the correct monitoring procedures weren’t followed. The plant operators claim otherwise, of course. Would you-”
Bellarbi flinched as a deafening blast of music came from the speakers while the screen displayed a surreal abstract of jangling colors and shapes. “I didn’t catch that Myles, these damn spikes get worse every day.”
Myles reappeared. “I asked if I should assign a follow-up team.”
A follow-up audit would be expensive and, as always, budgets were tight. Bellarbi’s fingers drummed softly on the heavy polished desk. It would be hard to justify another intervention without clear evidence of damage or inappropriate behavior.
“Wait for the routine analysis.” Bellarbi was about to cut off the transmission when he noticed something in Myles expression. “What is it?”
Myles paused, his mouth half open before speaking.”There’ve been large street protests in London, New York, Madrid, Yokohama and Karachi, among others. I know you don’t want to-”
“You’re right. I don’t.”
Bellarbi switched back to the summary view and brought up the monthly statistics. Incidents were up seventeen percent across the board on the previous month: communications, traffic control, industrial processing, and data systems. None seemed immune. Regardless of the origin, the infrastructure of society was being affected with an ever greater frequency and with it came an increase in social tensions. People were flooding the streets to protest what they saw of as signs of an uncaring bureaucracy content to let vital services and jobs be lost and he knew it wouldn’t be long before there were public calls for his replacement.
The screen flashed again. “She’s here, Commissioner.”
Bellarbi felt a mix of relief and awe, but knew he couldn’t let himself be intimidated. That would be a disaster given her reputation. “How… how is she?”
“That’s hard to say,” Myles glanced over his shoulder. “I don’t think I’ve met anyone like her before.”
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