“Unless you’re bringing me an ice cold drink, I suggest that you get out of my sun,” I say.
The looming shadow continues to block all light and the warmth that comes with it.
“Are you a fucking eclispe?” I start. “No? Then fucking move.”
“Ms. Smyth,” a hushed but level voice says. Professional, stern, all kinds of official.
“It’s doctor. Dr. Smyth,” I snap back. This guy is either about to murder me, hand me a summons, or tell me that my credit card has been declined. [i]Pay or we will inform the police. Cash only![/i] I responded to more than a fraud calls from hotels, worldwide chain and by-the-hour house of ill-repute alike, during my time in uniform. Some incidents were better than others - mostly language barriers and miscommunications easily resolved with translators and cooler heads (and of course, the lack of racism). The worst ones involved the drug users and drunks; belligerent and broke, diseased and dirty, unconcerned and uncontrollable, lost in a world all their own. Almost all of them had to be arrested and restrained. I’d throw their garbage bag of belongings in the squad car trunk and hope they got the help they needed. One bit me once, clamped on like a dang gator and it took three patrolmen to pry the rocket fuel rider off of me.
The shadow remains. I turn, lower my sunglasses, and fully open my eyes. After my eyes adjust to the shock, they take in a tall, somewhat muscular man in the most generic black suit I’ve ever seen. In fact, the whole dude is as generic as they come. Buzzcut so short that the hair color is indeterminable, eyes hidden behind dark lens in dark designer frames, and shiny black dress shoes. [i]A literal man in black.[/i]
“At least Mulder wore a tie,” I say flatly. Any personality this guy had at any point in his life has been beaten out of him, either in boot camp for the Marines or at Camp Peary. Hence why this kid doesn’t do clandestine work. He sticks out like a bright red neon sign for a roadside psychic in the middle of the Nevada desert and that is not what spying is about.
“Please come with me,” he says in a dryl monotone.
"Hm, no," I quickly answer.
"Please, ma'am, come with me," he says, same monotone.
I stare at him for a long time. "I don't know you, man. For all I know you're here to stab a needle in my neck and make it look like an accident or suicide."
"Ma'am," he starts.
I stand, take on an aggressive stance. "Call me ma'am again and I'll make what I do to you look like an accident."
Two men that look exactly like him appear in my periphery. A three on one fight against replicants would probably not end for me. I could throw one of them into the pool.
"Yo," I shout, "if I get one of you wet, will you short circuit?"
Emotionless faces glare back at me.
"Wow," I say. "Not even a smirk… Tough crowd."
One of the men that had stepped out of the shadows - [i] Ohhh, spooky![/i] - comes forward. "Are you done?" He says.
"Oh, this one comes equipped with sass," I say, surprised.
"Come with us," the looming shadow says.
As I look all three over, I notice something. "How are y'all all the same height and size? Does the factory only have one model?"
"Smyth, this is your final warning," one of them says. I don't know, they all sound the fucking same at this point.
"Those were warnings?" I ask, mocking concern and fright. "Here I thought we were just flirting."
They glare at me then look at each other perplexed and unsure.
"Training manual didn't cover this, huh?" I say with a smirk. "Be serious here, y'all, you know who I am, you know what I've been trained for… Shit, three year olds are trained not to go with strangers."
They continue to start and blink. I can only assume their hidden earpieces are feeding them instructions on the next step. Some nerdy dude in a fake plumbing van furiously typing in numbers and code and search strings as he tells some upper level dude in a blue suit everything that pops up. Hell, they might even control their little drones from there. All from their smartphones.
[I]Man, I want a government issued phone like that.[/i]
The three robotic amigos start to move away, putting a lot of space between us. Years of training make me go on high alert and start looking for the glinting flashes of a sniper perched up on a balcony or rooftop.
"AJ," Birdie says. I come crashing back down to earth and hit with a smack. Birdie looks at me with his usual face of amusement and disappointment. "Are you never not like this?"
I smile. "I tried, but it never took," I answer with a shrug.
"Must say, Chitwood would be very impressed," he says folding his arms over his chest. "For once, AJ follows her training."
"Oh-oh, do I get a metal?" I ask.
He sighs. His mood shifts. "Let's just make sure you get to keep that other metal first," he drops.
"What?" I ask, my mood matching his and a surge of hot blood rushes through my body. "Birdie, what's going on?"
My handler takes a long time to answer.
"Birdie, tell me," I demand.
"It's probably blown out of proportion, just some bad intel, nothing new. That's why we contingencies in place," he explains. "We don't like doing this, but it happens. Happens more than you think and it almost always ends well."
"Don't worry about it," he says as he touches my shoulder and gives me a friendly reassuring shake. "I know you, you wouldn't."
"I wouldn't what?" I press. "What wouldn't I do?!"
The men come toward me again.
"Go with them, AJ," Birdie says. "It'll be fine. Just some quick questions and tests… In and out."
I stare at the men.
"I've never lied to you before," Birdie says, smiling. "I'm not going to start now."
"Ms. Smyth," the first dude says, extending his hand in the direction that I need to go, toward one of the other agents waiting to take point. Birdie nods, telling me to go. One takes point, one holds to my side, and the last follows at my six.
I turn back and look at Birdie. His face is pale and expressionless. He picks mindlessly at his fingernail, a nervous tick that makes me nervous.
"Hey, I got a question… Do you guys buy your suits in bulk or are you, like, triplets that never grew out of that matchy‐match phase?"
Nothing, not even an exasperated sigh.
"God, can y'all please get humor chips installed?"
"Perhaps you simply aren't as funny as you think," my new friend says.