Black Ice: Part II
By Lydia Trethewey
Through the thin plaster walls Miranda hears tinned laughter, the ding of a microwave dinner and the neighbour’s dog barking.
She leans back in her chair, stretching out the knot between her shoulders, surveying the array of leaflets and posters pinned to the wall:
Slavery and Globalisation
Black Ice Missing Persons: We Need to Take Action!
Her blood feels cold, heart beating in anticipation. In the other room she can hear Josh getting ready, his heavy boots thudding on the laminate floor.
She and Josh had gone to the house the day before, driving up and down, following the blinking locator on Josh’s computer. They’d parked across the street and looked out at the boarded-up windows and crumbling façade, taking photos and waiting for someone to emerge.
Josh had picked up the SOS on his modified receiver, the one tapped into the mind-pirates emergency communication system. They’d traced it to that area, that street, that black wooden door.
They didn’t see anybody go in or out.
At the police station Josh had explained the nature of the SOS to a bored officer.
“The message wasn’t permanent. It’s only visible for a limited time, about two hours, and then it’s gone. It’s how the mind-pirates notify each other if something goes wrong, if they need to clear out. They don’t like to leave footprints.”
The officer had cast a cursory glance over their photos as she swigged her coffee. She’d called over a detective, Mr. Brody, who waved his hand and said that unless this was a lead on the Vazquez case they didn’t have the means to pursue it.
“Out of interest, how did you intercept an emergency broadcast from a mind-pirate?” Brody had asked.
Josh had muttered something about studying signals systems at university, and Miranda had tugged on his arm to go.
“All they care about is finding Vazquez,” he’d said as they stormed out of the station, “just because he’s a high-profile scientist. What about all the other Black Ice victims? They deserve at least the motion of being searched for.”
Miranda had squeezed his hand and pulled him into a side-on hug. “We’ll find whoever sent the SOS, and get them out of there.”
That night she and Josh had stayed up late talking about it all; the fears that the mind-pirates would extract Vazquez’s knowledge of bio-modifications, the problem of consciousness-copies being denied the status of legal persons, the sexual enslavement of Black Ice victims.
“There’s just so much violence,” Josh had said, staring at the ceiling, “and nobody seems to care.”
Miranda had stroked his hair. “People care if they can picture a person being hurt, like with Vazquez. But the faceless victims go ignored, because the violence seems so removed.”
Josh had sighed. “It upsets me when people pretend that this sort of horrific abuse doesn’t happen, or only happens in isolated instances. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth.”
Miranda had fallen asleep with her arms encircling Josh’s torso, enfolded in the safe haven of blankets and his rasping snores.
The pamphlets on the wall flap slightly in the breeze from the open window. Miranda leans over the desk, her back protesting from the strain.
She weighs each bullet in her hand before loading them into the 3-D printed plastic gun, abstract pieces of lifeless metal. Words from the wall march across her eyes, Equal Rights for Copied Persons, End Violence Against Women, Find Vazquez.
Bile rises to the back of her throat, slight regurgitation, taste of bread and haemoglobin.
Josh appears in the doorway, jacket zipped up to his throat, hood shadowing his -face. Miranda stands, slipping the gun into her pocket. Fear tingles in her stomach, her aches dissolving in a rush of adrenaline. She looks into Josh’s face and sees fear reflected there, behind the fury and determination.
“It’ll be ok,” she whispers, not sure whether she’s reassuring Josh or herself. “We’ll get them out of there.”
Her eyes drift to the latest picture pinned to the wall, a photograph of a shabby non-descript building with boarded-up windows and plaster peeling from it like lumps of soggy flesh.
Josh reaches for her hand.
“Let’s do this.”