Perf couldnâ€™t believe it. How was it possible? Hooper should be dead. They should be a smear at the bottom of a crater. They were in that tent. They were in that explosion. No way did anything survive that explosion. It wasnâ€™t possible. And yet a few hours ago Hooper had arrested them.
How was it possible?
Perf had sat in stunned disbelief, as he had been handcuffed, and then roughly pulled to his feet. Hooper had stared at him for long seconds. Face to face. Eye to eye. Saying nothing. That look. That look was enough to chill Perf to the marrow.
But surely they didnâ€™t have any evidence. What could they get Perf on? A minor piece of deception. Failure to turn up for work. These were small matters, a fine or two, an ignoble release from duties and then Perf would be free and rid of this world. It was a minor setback. Nothing more. Perf might not even bother with a lawyer. A justice bot was enough to get these charges settled. Then Perf would be out of here. A minor inconvenience, as long as they pleaded guilty and then got away from here before a full audit could be done.
Perf looked up as the doorway slid smoothly back. Two legal reps came in, from the look of them they were with the government prosecutors office. Behind them Hooper came in, they were carrying two evidence boxes and a data slate. All three of them sat down. Without speaking each one of them allowed a recording drone to take a full scan and genetic sample. Then it did the same to Perf. It was thorough and took samples from both of his hands, his throat and a blood sample.
â€œWhat are you charging me with?â€ Perf asked.
Hooper stared at Perf for long seconds before lifting the data slate and showing some information to the two prosecutor officers. They had both switched their ident tags to no display, so Perf had no idea who they were, how they identified and any preferences. Usual technique with lawyers, never give anything up for free.
Hooper smiled slightly. â€œI must ask you if you are aware of your rights? Do you wish a lawyer to be appointed or will a court appointed defence suffice?â€
â€œIâ€™m fine with a justice bot. I havenâ€™t done anything bigger than a fine.â€ Perf said calmly. â€œCan we not just skip forward to the bit where I pay up and leave?â€
â€œDo you know how we found you?â€ Hooper asked.
Perf had been thinking about that for some time. The only possibility is that someone had noticed him buying clothes in a different size. They may have got a line on the first class ticket, but that had to be less likely. The real worry was that Hooper was still alive. â€œIt doesnâ€™t matter. It was a minor offence.â€
â€œWhy were you running, Perf?â€ Hooper asked, â€œwhat were you running from?â€
â€œI just needed to get away. I have been feeling it for some time. It was a mistake to sign on for another ten year stretch and I couldnâ€™t face paying the penalty. This way I would end up with a fine. Not be around to pay it so they would just cancel my government stipend.â€
â€œWouldnâ€™t that leave you destitute?â€ Hooper asked.
â€œNo.â€ Perf smiled. â€œI always lived on satellite. I saved my money and have been using those savings as investments on the stock exchange.â€ This was true. What Perf didnâ€™t say is that he had a few larger investments in hedge funds run under anonymous accounts that extra payments were made to by his associates.
â€œSo how do you think we found you?â€ Hooper asked again.
â€œI really donâ€™t know.â€ Perf said. They smiled. â€œWhy does it matter?â€
â€œWe both know why it matters.â€ Said Hooper. â€œLet me leave you to chew on that a moment more. Tell me, were you surprised to see me at the shuttle port?â€
â€œA little,â€ Perf smiled, â€œI thought you were off duty, sick or something. Had I known you were about we could have discussed the upcoming Union meetings.â€
â€œSure we could. I mean arenâ€™t you surprised to see me breathing?â€ Hooperâ€™s voice was calm but his eyes were ice cold. They looked as if they wanted to drill right into Perfâ€™s brain and pull out every secret that was there.
â€œWhy would I be surprised at that?â€ Said Perf.
Hooper smiled. â€œWell because you supplied some of the equipment and information that was used in a surgical strike to attempt to kill me.â€
â€œThatâ€™s a very serious accusation,â€ said Perf, â€œMaybe I will get myself a better lawyer.â€
â€œI think you should,â€ said Hooper, â€œWe have a lot more questions. Do you want to get one now? We can leave you with the court appointed bot to sort that out.â€
â€œYou can carry on, for now,â€ said Perf, â€œjust be aware that I am not going to let you railroad me into a false confession and entrap me. Right?â€
Hooper laughed. It was a dry laugh but it had genuine humour in it. Perf noticed that the two prosecutors also smiled. Perf suddenly felt like a piece of meat at a hyena party. Hooper stopped laughing. â€œWe have no need to do that, Perf, we already have enough evidence to have you vaporised. This is just a formality. Your best option right now is to come clean and tell us everything.â€
â€œI donâ€™t know anything,â€ said Perf. Their heart was racing and their palms had started to sweat. Hooper should be dead and they were being very coy. Could be a trick to get Perf to confess, but they wouldnâ€™t get anything from them. â€œI just wanted to get away.â€
â€œDid you hear about the assault on Volstron?â€ asked Hooper.
Perf had, but there was little on the news and it had happened while Perf was writhing senseless from the body alteration drugs. They hadnâ€™t logged in again so knew nothing other than what the media had reported. Which was very little. â€œI heard they had some trouble. Are we getting another rash of corporate fighting? Let the government forces deal with it.â€
â€œIt appears someone got into Volstron. Rumour has it that they managed to get into the secure servers. Terrible business. Way outside of the Justice Department. As you rightly point out. Private company compounds are only covered by government forces, and the companies can always lobby for special privilege. However we did receive an anonymous data package. Seems that Volstron kept a record of every communication that went into, or came out of, their system. They kept all of them. Even the encrypted ones. Of course encrypted comms would take decades to decode, even if you could. Unless someone gave you the encryption key as well.â€ Hooper stared hard at Perf, â€œI wonder what you make of this snippet?â€
Hooper tapped on the screen in their hand and Perf heard their own voice and that of the Chief Officer of Volstron Services â€œâ€˜That is quite a lot that you want.â€™ â€˜We are paying you well. You would be wise to remember that you are well known to us and we expect results for our investment.â€™ â€˜The officer took a deep breath. â€œI may need options in case this gets too problematical.â€™â€
â€œNow, Perf.â€ Hooper smiled again as those cold eyes burned straight into Perfâ€™s soul. â€œWant to start talking or do we move on to the rest of the evidence we have against you?â€