Reginald’s eyes shot open at the sound of Red’s sing-song voice. When had Red shown up at the Manor’s medical facilities? He rubbed a throbbing headache out of his temples. That was strange considering that he hadn’t had a headache when he lay down for a simple mind-scan.
Everything was still blurry when he managed to smile nervously towards the ghost-like projection, “Hello Red, I have good news for you.”
It was only half good news and half bad news, of course. The good half was that he had retrieved her body–a child-sized humanoid drone. The bad half was that her toys were still in an orphanage in Dam-Torsad.
Red pouted her lips in response, “And I have bad news for you…”
Reginald furrowed his brows as he tried to stand, though, not feeling quite comfortable, he returned to sitting on the edge of the bed. He took the moment to glance over to Red. She seemed slightly different somehow, her ghostly legs dangling over the bed opposite his own. It bothered him that he couldn’t quite grasp what was different about her.
He shook off the feeling, “I’ve brought your body back from Mercy’s Keep. I’ll be working on it today…” He paused after realizing her response, “Bad news for me?”
Red lowered her head, her eyes transfixed on Reginald. She said sarcastically, “I know.”
At that moment, she hopped off of the bed, her feet tapping against the floor. Wait. Tapping?
“See?” She smiled as she tapped over to Reginald’s bed and tugged at his hand.
Reginald felt the metal and plastic of the humanoid drone against his hand–the one that was sitting in pieces in his quarters. He was speechless. Red had to have either put it together or had another one lying around. Those were the only explanations.
Finally, he managed to utter, “But… how? It’s in pieces in my quarters. Did you put it together in the fifteen minutes I’ve been away?”
She shook her head, “Nu uh. It has been like, twenty hours. You died.”
He instinctively jerked his hand away from Red’s grasp, “What?! That–that doesn’t make any sense. I just put my head down for the mind-scan.”
Red frowned, “No. That was earlier. You died, Reginald. You died on the terrace. Vlad shot you.”
He ran his hand over his face, his breathing becoming rapid. A correspondingly accelerated beeping echoed from a monitor. He shook his head in disbelief, then finally laughed, “This is one of your jokes, isn’t it? Well,” He took several calming breaths then laughed nervously, “That was good. You really had me, there. So, did one of the servants help you with your body?”
Red pointed to a clock defiantly, “Look at the clock, did I change that too?” She walked over tot he window and pulled the blinds back, “And the sky? Did I make it dark too?!”
Truth was one of those things that the unbelieving party found difficult to grasp, even in the face of overwhelming evidence. For a second, his mind wondered if Red would gloat about being right–it was a childish thing to do, after all. Then again, Red was more mature than many of the capsuleers he had chanced to meet in New Eden. The second passed quickly, his neurons lurching forward into his postmortem mental checklist.
Do I need to update my clone? No, this is a soft clone. Good. All fingers. All toes. Vitals look… normal.
Despite the calming effect the checklist was supposed to provide, he remained pale with realization, “No, that’s just–just–” He checked his hands and clothes a dozen times, “I lost twenty hours?” He turned towards Red again, his gaze fearful,, “I died?”
Red responded matter-of-factly, “You did. And Vlad killed you.”
His mind flooded with a thousand questions, only barely managing to select the important ones, “Why? How?”
Red shrugged, “I only just heard about it, and came to look for you.” She settled back onto the bed, “Did you bring me the other stuff?”
“So you mean it just happened?” He asked, really only to himself rather than for confirmation.
After a while, he realized Red asked him a question. He responded, but his tone was tangential, distracted, “No, the other stuff isn’t here yet.”
“Oh,” Red sighed dramatically. After a while, she asked, “Yes, it just happened a little while ago. Do you want to see it? I can get the surveillance logs for you?”
Recognizing Red’s disappointment, he said, “I’m sorry, I know where they are though.” He took a deep breath, “But, yes, I’d like to see the surveillance logs.”
Red picked up Reginald’s neocom from the bedside table and tapped away. Reginald found it somewhat interesting that they now had something in common–they were both using “new” bodies. He corrected himself–technically, Red’s body was an old one rather than a new one. If something is so old to have been forgotten, is it possible for it to be new again? Then again, he had no idea how far Red’s memory went back–her attention span sometimes seemed that of a six-year-old, but her memories were often as clear as a security drone’s footage. She handed him the neocom.
Speaking of which.
Reginald handled the neocom with trepidation. He had never watched himself die before. It was disconcerting enough to see his corpse flying out in space, but to watch that life end? Some philosophers would argue that the life didn’t end. But he disagreed. This part of him had lived a life. It had lived a life twenty hours beyond his current one, twenty hours that he would never live again. He wondered if that Reginald had had the same thoughts, desires, fears. He wondered if the man he was about to watch die had–he paused for a moment, then continued with the thought–had loved Kat. He shook his head. There were more pressing questions at hand. As much as it pained him, Kat would have to wait.
Red climbed up onto the bed next to him to watch. He considerately angled the neocom so that she could see, though he was certain she had already seen it. All the same, it seemed like the proper thing to do. He hit the “play” icon and the scene of his death played out before him from the perspective of a watchful security drone.
He nearly laughed at his stupidity, though looking back on it, it was certainly what he would have done. Vlad had threatened Kat–that was more than enough to send him over the edge onto a suicide mission. Maybe that was something he should work on. His eyes scanned the datapad intently as he watched as Vlad ruined his dominant hand, then waited on bated breath as his deceased self stood up defiantly. Would he have been able to keep going?
For Kat, yes.
He was surprised, watching the scene now, that the deaths of his men seemed like afterthoughts. But the idea of Kat being, of all words, ‘abused,’ angered him immensely. His gripped tightened as he watched himself fire a single round into the back of Vlad’s head, a useless, futile gesture. And then Vlad shot a knife into his heart. Reginald swallowed as he watched himself start to bleed onto the Terrace–he could also swear he felt the blade in his heart as he sat on the bed with Red, but he knew that wasn’t possible. It was his way of feeling empathy for the man who lost his life.
Red’s brows furrowed when Vlad bent down to whisper something to the dying Reginald.
“What did he say?” She asked, curious.
Reginald’s interest was also piqued, so he rewound the video and raised the volume, making adjustments so that the video zoomed in on Vlad leaning over the helpless man.
“You shouldn’t have done that. Now you die like your men,” The robot said, almost vindictively.
Red frowned, “I wonder what he meant by that.”
Reginald knew exactly what it meant. It was a confession, a vengeful one conducted over Reginald’s helpless final moments, but a confession nonetheless. He grit his teeth in anger at the gesture. Vlad had been playing with him like a toy, then had gloated over his victory.
“He… He did kill them.”
Red offered reason, “He didn’t say that. He said you would die like they died. And you did die. But he didn’t say he made them die, right?”
Of course. A child’s wisdom. Reginald tried to counter “But how would he have known?”
Red outpaced him, “Everyone knows your men died?”
The exchange prompted Reginald to look at it more objectively. There were connections, some form of evidence he could draw upon. He tapped his fingers on the datapad absentmindedly, then made the requisite commands to view information on the unsolved murders.
“But they were killed by knives,” He glanced at Red, “Do you think they’ve already moved my body?”
“Yup. It is here in the morgue. I went there first, cause I just wanted to see,” She kicked her feet against the bed railing, “It’s all bloody and stuff.”
Reginald smothered a disgusted look, “Would you mind taking me there? If the knife matches that of the other murders, then we’ll have a stronger case against Vlad.”
He stood up, acclimating to his new legs.
Red hopped off of the bed, “Kay. But it’s kinda scary there.” She tilted her head and looked up at him with wide, blue, innocent eyes, “And there’s a ghost in there too!”
She added, watching him wobble, “Can you walk?”
Reginald tried to look normal, “A ghost? Well, this place is full of surprises, isn’t it?” Still unsure of himself, he somehow managed to bow–he could still be a gentleman, that was good. He offered Red his hand, “After you, my lady.”
Red curled his fingers around his own, then started to lead him towards the morgue. The entire time she was a chatterbox. She skimmed over the topics of Ezzy, the other slaver hounds, which were her favorites, and why. She then told him a story about “peeking” in on Ryven’s new room–Kat’s old room–though she didn’t find anything interesting. When they finally reached the morgue, Red, from somewhere in the realm of cyberspace, recalled the pass code, then tapped it lightly on the keypad. The door slid open. She shivered.
Reginald thought it strange that the drone would shiver as well, but he squeezed her “hand” reassuringly. He wasn’t sure if it made a difference one way or another or if she even felt the gesture. He added, for good measure, “Ghosts are only scary if you let them be scary.”
Red shrugged, asking hesitantly as she tiptoed over to where Reginald’s corpse was being stored, “Have you ever seen one?”
Reginald closely followed, “Come to think of it–no.”
Red glanced up at him and quirked a brow, “Then how do you know if they are scary or not?”
He smiled back nervously, “A good question.”
He asked shortly after, “Are you afraid of the dark, Red?” He hoped to explain why ghosts could be scary.
Red moved over to the drawer and tentatively pulled it open using both hands. She wrinkled her nose as she peeled back the white sheet that covered his corpse, “I’m not. But she is.”
Reginald started examining the corpse, searching for the knife wound, “She?”
He took out his datapad to make a recording of the wound, “Really? I never thought her to be afraid of very much. But the dark can be scary–it’s the unknown mostly. That’s what tends to scare people.”
Red leaned against the table and flicked her finger against the tab that hung off of his toe, “One time? Our Father chained us up in this very scary room and it was so dark. That’s why she doesn’t like it.”
Reginald nodded, furrowing his brows, “What kind of Fa–” He glanced down at Red, then thought better of it, “That sounds horrific. I can’t imagine what that would have been like.”
Red merely nodded, her expression solemn.
He finished making the recording, then made a note to visit the evidence rooms. “There you see?” He tried to smile, “No ghost.”
Red looked back over her shoulders and shivered, “Maybe. But if there was one here you probably won’t see it. Cause it is a ghost.”
Reginald tried to play along, “And who might it be a ghost of?”
Red looked back at the corpse, fluttering her fingertip across the foot tag, “Lots of people probably. Snake says he has seen a Deteis boy here one time. His ghost, I mean.”
He frowned, surprised at the honesty, “I see.” He tried to be comforting, “Well, do you think we should be going, then?”
Red nodded then dashed towards the door.
Reginald watched her dart away, then glanced around the morgue. He felt a sudden pang of fear at the idea of being left alone, in a room too large to see all at once. He stared back down at his corpse, then saw something move in the corner of his eye. He shot around quickly, to see nothing. He knew he had to be imagining things, now. All the same…
“Wait! Don’t leave me here like that!”
He closed the drawer, then rushed after her, catching up just as she reached the doorway. She paused to look back at him, “Better hurry then.”
Red winced as an air unit suddenly turned on. A stack of papers rustled as a cold gust of air flowed through the room. The sound shattered an otherwise still atmosphere, leafy echoes ringing.
“Was that you?” He asked as he glanced at the rustling papers.
Red widened her eyes, “Nu uh. I promise.”
Feeling uncomfortable, Reginald led her gently out back into the corridor, “Then, my lady, would you mind closing the door?”
Red entered the passcode, the door closing and locking, “Told’ja there were ghosts.”
He said stoically, really more for himself than for her, “I’m still not convinced.”
He tried to change the subject hastily before she became suspicious, “Do you know where the evidence room is? I just need to check something.”
“The security room?”
He nodded, “I want to check the knives. If they’re the same, then don’t you think we’ve got Vlad red-handed… or whatever the equivalent is for a robot?”
Red studied him for a moment, thinking. “You would have to check the bodies of your men, no? Or ask Alexa, she might know?”
Red opened her mouth to continue speaking but froze suddenly. Her humanoid drone became inactive. Shalee must have woken up.
Sighing, Reginald shook his head. He was surprisingly tired after this excursion. He made a note to visit the security room. He suddenly had a strong desire to see Kat, to hold her, to know that she was safe, but his eyes grew heavier and heavier. He felt exhausted. He returned to his bed at the medical bay, hoping this was an issue with the soft clone rather than a problem stemming from his reintegration. He pondered the thought for a few moments–about the implication of a nervous system not quite attuned properly–then slipped back into slumber.