Julian Learns

“Julian, get our nearest medic.” Cassandra said as she entered Julian’s office.

“Doctor Patel?”

“No, Patel is out of range, not sure why. Whoever else we have on retainer, or hire someone we can trust to be discrete. Have them here as soon as possible, any expense. Do we have anyone who can prep the medical room?”

“Yeah, Isaac and I are both trained in basic prep.”

“Get Isaac on it, get a medic here, and then help Isaac.”

“Yes, my Lady,” Julian said. He knew better than to ask extraneous questions when she sounded like this. He had at least an hour’s worth of work ahead of him, if he didn’t have further work in an hour’s time he’d ask her then.

The next nearest doctor was over a hundred miles away, Julian arranged for him to have air transport and went to prep the medical lab. Isaac had already prepped the bed so Julian started laying out surgical tools from the clean storage.

“Any idea what’s up?” Isaac asked as he got a saline bag and hung it on the drip stand.

“None. I haven’t heard of any action going on. Also haven’t heard from either of our Ghosts recently. But The Lady didn’t tell me, and I felt it wise not to ask.”

Isaac smiled and pushed his hair back out of his eyes. “Wise man. Let’s get gowns on, just in case we’re needed during the actual procedure.”

“Yeah.”

The room was prepped, Julian and Isaac were dressed and scrubbed and…waited. The doctor landed and came into the surgery. “Where’s the patient?”

“Asking now,” Julian said.

Julian: We have a medic here. ETA on the patient? The Lady: There is no patient. Turnaround time was forty-nine minutes. That’s abysmal. If we have a high value target injured when Doctor Patel is unavailable we need far faster turnaround. Pay the medic double time for his trouble, and get the medical lab back to prep condition. Julian: Yes ma’am. And sorry. I will put some time into fixing the distribution of our known medics. The Lady: Thank you Julian.

Julian turned to the waiting medic. “Today’s you’re lucky day, doctor. Catch the next flight home, on us, and let me know when you land. This was a drill, and you’re getting double pay for doing so well.”

“Oh, well, thank you, Mr. Julian! Just glad I can be of service.”

The doctor left and Julian started removing his surgical garb.

“That was no drill,” Isaac said, following suit.

“I don’t know that.” Julian said.

“If it was a real drill, the Lady would have come in here, told us off directly for taking so long—“

“She commended us—“

“Don’t even try it, Julian. Your face fell like you’d just seen a puppy get killed when you were sending messages back and forth. She told you we took too long.”

“You can’t know that.”

“Which either means the patient died before we got a doctor or the patient is fine. If we lost an asset in the field she would have been much more angry and that doctor wouldn’t have been given a double paycheck.”

“Do you want double pay for this time as well?” Julian asked, puling the booties off of his shoes.

“Sure. You just figure out what I get paid an hour and double that. Someday when I have time I’ll even figure out a way to spend it. Meanwhile I really want to know who got hurt. Cylee or Wes.”

“Isaac, This really isn’t the sort of thing we should be speculating about.” Julian said, putting all the implements away.

“So sue me. Or tell the General.”

“The Lady,” Julian said.

“I was PDF, Julian. I follow General Vance because I believe in what she’s doing, not because I worship her. And speculating is what a good solider does, so when the general is too busy to tell the solider what to do, the soldier stays alive and gets the job done; every job.”

“Thanks Isaac.” Julian said and went back up the stairs to his office. Julian hadn’t wanted to admit this to Isaac, but of course he’d also been wondering. He considered trying to text Cylee, but things hadn’t gone great last time they spoke. Texting Wes was always a good way to get yelled at.

“Worship The Lady…” he muttered as he started scrolling through mission reports, trying to figure out what had caused the sudden flurry of activity. “I don’t worship The Lady… using outdated forms of address is my thing.” He realized he was muttering to himself, never a sign of being right in an argument.

No dangerous missions, no reports of injured or missing field agents. Cylee wasn’t technically part of their organization—yet—so he didn’t have good tabs on where she was. And he knew that trying to track her Spine was pointless now. But what about Wes?

Julian filtered mission profiles, but no official missions had Wes’ name on them. Which was probably to be expected. So he tried other ways of identifying where Wes had been, what he was doing. Unlike Cylee, they did have trackers on Wes. Not because The La—not because Ms. Vance didn’t trust Wes, but because she wanted to know where her best weapon was when she needed it.

If an observer from an earlier century had been watching Julian at this moment their reaction would have varied based on which earlier century. Anyone before the twentieth would have assumed that Julian had gone insane. Twentieth century folk would have still leaned heavily toward insanity, but might suspect there was a technical element to his motions. Those from the twenty-first would have understood completely, and those from his own twenty-second would have mocked him for moving at all.

Nevertheless, Julian rolled out a map on the desk in front of him, and centered it on his location. The fact that there was no map didn’t change his view in the slightest. Then he pulled up all location data for Wes and pinned it down on the map by timepoints. Exploring Wes’ movements was an education, but that really wasn’t what he was interested in at the moment. The important part was that Wes had gone dark. A little cross referencing said that Wes’ location stopped broadcasting near an old warehouse, roughly four hours ago. Given that Ms. Vance had asked for medical help an hour ago it seemed likely that Wes had gone dark sometime before whatever had happened to him.

It is widely believed that if a person’s Spine has turned off location tracking that person will be difficult to find. And it might even be true if the person doing the finding has a limited imagination, or is unfamiliar with the tools involved. Julian was quite imaginative and had grown up around intelligent-agent type tools. So Wes’ Spine was off the grid. What about his car? What about the sighting assistant on his weapon? While it might not broadcast its location it would have to send image and telemetry data to the server to be processed. Find those images, get a timepoint on when they arrived, see if an AI agent can locate the backgrounds or subjects in the weapon images, and have it return any interesting matches. Give it a search radius around known locations… And you should see…

“Oh no,” Julian said.

There were twenty images from the targeting system. They were Cylee. Some of them seemed to be Cylee’s midsection, but Cylee nonetheless.

A lot of thoughts crowded Julian all at once. First, if he was smart enough to do this search, someone else was smart enough to find out he had done this search. So he needed to scrub his tracks and that right quickly. Second, if Wes was attacking Cylee there was a reason. Third: was there any reason good enough? Fourth: If there was a reason, did that mean The La—did that mean Ms. Vance had ordered Wes to kill Cylee? Fifth: Was Cylee dead? Sixth: Was Wes injured? Is that why Ms. Vance had called for a medic? Six § a, If she canceled the order, was Wes dead, or fine? And yes, Julian had to admit to himself, he was totally the sort of person whose thoughts included section marks.

First things first. Julian cleared his access logs, then generated standard access logs to account for the erased or randomized logs. Next: try to contact Cylee. But…that took some thinking about. Most of Julian’s security software was provided by Ms. Vance and Pacifica, so it stood to reason that Pacifica was the one organization against which it was entirely useless. This took some thinking.

Like, why was he even trying to protect Cylee? What was she to him? Just another contractor, yet another soldier in the march towards a free Pacifica. So why did he care so much?

He couldn’t contact her directly, or via any Pacifica-owned network. But he had to find out where she was. Unfortunately for Julian, Cylee was far better at covering her tracks than Wes had ever been. It took him almost three weeks to figure out where Cylee was.

Fortunately for Cylee, it took Julian three weeks to figure out where she was. This was fortunate, because Wes had been following Julian’s progress with great interest.