Chapter Two - Don't Trust Blinking Red Lights
"And off." I turn the TV off as I sat the words. I drop the remote on the table and pick up the book I had been reading earlier. It was silent, too silent - and I didn't like it at all. I put down the book and consider my options. I could read, play video games, complete my homework, waste time on the computer or stare at the view from the window. The book was the last of the pile I had borrowed from the library. I had almost finished the game I was last playing. I didn't want to do my maths homework. I'd checked Facebook too many times already. The view? Yeah, it's beautiful but I've seen it enough times that it was losing its beauty.
I daydreamed instead, thinking back to one of my first missions.
The room that my investigation had taken me to was empty. The circular white table had nothing on the surface, except for a rotting banana skin. I had pulled face of disgust and sighed, staring at the wall opposite. It was plastered with newspaper articles and pictures. I stared at it, wanting to read all the articles but knowing that I didn't have enough time. I stared at the wall, before having an idea. It was worth a try - even if I knew the chances of it working were slim.
"Camera activate." I said out loud. I felt pretty stupid, talking to no one. There was silence and nothing happened. My shoulders slumped but I wasn't surprised. I turned slowly, pouting, when I heard a small click.
Camera activated. Please blink to take a picture.
It was a voice I had heard before. I smiled to myself, pleased it worked, and did my best not to blink. I took a step back so that I could easily see the whole wall and blinked.
There was a loud noise - like a shutter closing. I jumped when I heard it, before realising it was the noise of the camera.
Satisfied, I left the room, the back wall of the store room sealing the entrance behind me. The red light marking the entrance was blinking rapidly and with a pang in my chest I remembered something. The voice in my head that had read the light hand said that the light's purpose was to detect intruders. I cursed myself for being so stupid.
"Well well. How nice of you to visit me." A cold voice said from behind. Grinning at me was the toothless caretaker - the man who I had been investigating and to whom the secret room belonged to. He grabbed my arm roughly, making sure that I wasn't going anyway. I tried to wriggle out of his grip but he held on tighter.
"Let me go."
"Not until you answer me. What did you see in that room?"
"Nothing! There wasn't anything there! Lemme go!"
He held onto my arm firmly and growled. "Tell me the secret."
"The secret to making stuff like you. Robots."
"I don't know what you're talking about. You've seen too many films old man." I spat at him. He twisted my arm behind my back but met his gaze firmly as he said, "You know what I'm talking about. If you don't talk, we'll find a way to make you talk. What if something happened to that little brother of yours? Or if your parents had an accident?" He was only taunting me - empty threats. He couldn't do something like that. Could he? "You gonna speak or what?" He twisted my arm further. I couldn't stand the pain, my arm felt like it was going to snap.
I stepped on his foot, hitting him hard on his toe. The heel of my boot was like dropping a brick on his foot. He let go of me and clutched his foot comically. He hopped about before tripping over a bucket, falling onto his back and bringing a whole shelf toppling over him.
I ran from the store room, out of the building, all the way home. There was a stitch in my side but I didn't care. I pulled my phone out of my pocket and dialed my parents number. My fingers fumbled, not used to the phone. My mum answered the phone and I asked to come home as soon as she could. I called Zephyr but received no answer. I sighed, frustrated.
I glanced at the clock again, pacing. It was past eight and neither of my parents were back from work. It was strange for them to be this late.
"Where's mum and dad?" My brother whined from where he was sitting on the sofa. I sat down beside him as something buzzed in my pocked. I pulled out my phone. "Where'd you get that?" Jai asked, curious.
"Shut up, Jai." I put the phone to my ear, calling back to the missed call. "Pick up, pick up, pick up." Jai looked up at me, chewing on a slice of pizza.
"Hello? Zephyr speaking."
I sighed in relief at hearing his voice. "Hey. It's me. Anya."
"Oh, evening Anya. Is something wrong?"
"You know my assignment? I found something - a secret room. It's white and really clean - well, it is owned by a caretaker so it's bound to be but it's empty as well. Well, mostly empty. There's a wall covered with photos and newspaper cuttings."
"Did you notice anything else?" Zephyr's voice was calm compared to my babble.
"No, there was nothing else that I noticed. I took a couple of photos for you. Also, what have you installed in my head?" I heard Zephyr chuckle on the other end of the phone. "I got caught though. The caretaker threatened me and was asking for some secret."
"Zephyr, he knows what I am. He's threatened my family for the secret on how to create more people like me."
There was no answer for a moment and I could hear my heart pounding. I knew that my voice was faltering. "Anya? You're at home right?"
I nodded and then realised that Zephyr couldn't see me. "Yeah. I'm home. Jai's with me."
"Stay right there. We'll be there in about fifteen minutes."
Zephyr arrived in exactly 15 minutes. The doorbell rang and Jai had rushed to the door, thinking it was Mum and Dad. He was surprised to see Zephyr standing in the doorway. "Anya?" I smiled at the sight of Zephyr and his two friends. "Come in." I led them into the living room.
Zephyr sat down on the sofa, and his two companions stood behind him. "This is Anna Carter and James Collins. Anna is head of the communications department and James is our... spokesperson." I glanced at Anna and James. Anna was a tall woman, her blonde hair in a neat bob cut with not a hair out of place. James was the complete opposite. He needed a haircut and his suit was rumpled. He looked out of place next to Anna.
"Anya, I've had time to consider this but I didn't want to take this option other than a last resort. But I'll need to speak to your parents. Are they late from work?"
I shook my head. "They're not usually this late. If they were, they would've phoned me by now."
"We'll wait a couple of hours."
I hesitated and then nodded. Jai tugged my sleeve. "What's going on?" He whispered.
"I'll explain later."
"Perhaps you could show us the images you took." Anna's voice was softer than I had expected, catching me off guard.
I nodded and then hesitated. "How?"
"I think Jones' department had something fitted in. Try projection."
"Er. Okay. Projection." Everyone stared at me and I fidgeted, uncomfortable.
The voice from before appeared inside me head.
Projection Mode On.
A mini screen appeared in front of me. From the small whisper from Jai, I guessed I wasn't the only one who could see it. A single picture was on the screen, a thumbnail of the photo I had taken from earlier. I touched the picture, enlarging it.
I stared in astonishment at the projection. It was a perfect image, and at a glance, would've been mistaken for a wall.
"You've made me proud with your work, Anya." Zephyr wiped away an imaginary tear from his cheek, grinning at me. It was another reminder of how young he actually was. He stood up and faced the projection, reading the headlines of the articles.
"I'll let Jones know that it was a success." Anna pulled out her phone, typing away to presumably Jones. I blushed at the compliment and the image faltered as I did so. What else have you installed inside me?" I asked as the image faded away.
Projection Mode Off.
"Other than the interface system? A scanner, a camera, a projector, a tracking and navigation system. I think there's music player as well. We may upgrade you with any tech but we've installed you with the basics." It was Anna who answered me.
"A music player? Why do you have a Walkman installed in my head?"
My phone buzzed from where it sat on the table, waking me from my thoughts. At the same moment, the doorbell rang. I grabbed my flashing phone, opening up the text message as I made my way to the front door.
The doorbell rang again.