Robert answered a summons to the Inner City. No sooner had he passed through the portal and emerged on the grid than an aide appeared beside him.
“Robert Prime!” it said, “You are cleared for expedited transfer. Follow me, sir.”
Robert sighed. Whatever it was, it bothered the Council enough to clear the way for him to get to it—or them—without delay, and he knew better than to think it better to see the Council first. He did as asked, followed the aide out of the portal security chamber, and saw that the aide led him to a waiting lightjet- and inside sat another individual, definitely female in appearance.
“Aide.” Robert said, “Identify the other passenger.”
Without pause, the aide answered: “The passenger’s designation is ‘Alex’, and is classified as a feminine identity of unknown origin. She is attached to the Council—capacity unknown—and shares your security clearance.”
The aide took the pilot’s seat, and Robert sat in the adjacent seat, with Alex in the gunner seat behind them. Robert saw that Alex was much like female personae were in the Inner City: fit of figure, appealing in seaming, and apparently confident in posture. That didn’t mean much.
“Engineer Robert Prime,” Alex said, “I assume that the aide told you who I am.”
“Just your name and affiliation,” Robert said, “so I would like to know why the Council recalled me from another task that they claimed was of vital importance.”
Alex nodded to the aide, and the aide lifted the lightjet off the ground. As they ascended, Alex continued: “Something unusual occurred at the Vault within the last hour, and your expertise is required to resolve the issue.”
Robert rolled his eyes. “Be specific.”
“Not until we arrive. The aide is not cleared for access to that data.”
Robert did not like that answer. First, it implied that Alex was a construct and not a man. Second, it implied that the information is sufficiently corrosive that most constructs will become corrupt if exposed to it. Third, the Vault is the top-level quarantine facility for the Inner City where entities of all sorts that the Council deems too dangerous to permit within the Inner City itself, yet somehow gains access to the Inner City’s realm, end up once captured and confined. This made the job a potential or actual containment breech, and even Engineers are considered expendable in such scenarios so far as the Council is concerned.
“When do we land?” Robert said, turning to the aide.
“Ingress is by air drop over the landing platform. We will arrive at the drop zone in 10 minutes.”
That is how Robert deduced that this was a very bad containment issue. If the Council won’t even permit a landing, and thus risk the aide’s corruption, then it had to be very bad indeed. It also put to Robert that Alex was one of the top-tier security monitors, the ones that the Council does not talk about.
“Who’s meeting us?” Robert said.
Alex answered, “Alan 1”.
Robert’s blood turned cold. The Council’s prime enforcer itself was in charge. This was bad.