Tess had often imagined the day when she would go to Earth. Many human members of the vast Genesaunt civilization thought longingly of Earth, but very few ever got the chance to visit the home world of their species. One of the advantages of being an Interventionist was having a good chance to visit Earth. Now that day had come for Tess, but it was spoiled by the fact that it was just a tease...it could only be for one day and then she would be taken back to the Moon and become a prisoner of the Overseers.
Tess tried to put all the negatives out of her thoughts and absorb the wonderful view as the spaceship came in for a landing on Earth. Andresklo quietly monitored the landing routine and left Tess to her private thoughts. The other robot on the spaceship sat passively and certainly would not speak unless spoken to. Soon enough the trip was over and the spaceship settled into its berth in the basement of the barn behind Lanora's house. To casual inspection, the spaceship now looked like an old piece of farming equipment.
Andresklo had known Tess long before she started using implanted nanites for facial feature modification. Briefly he wondered when the last time was that she had allowed her face to take on the natural appearance that she shared with Dexamene and her six other sisters. Andresklo turned to Tess and said, "Alter your facial nanites, from now on you are Dexamene." At the start of the flight Andresklo had supplied Tess with the "Dexamene pattern" for face and body sculpting. On the flight from the Moon, he had repeatedly challenged her to use that pattern and she now easily slipped back to it. Andresklo inspected Tess closely and could see no fault in her disguise. Andresklo led Tess and the new robot up a ladder to the main floor of the barn and past the impressive collection of expensive vehicles that were parked there. He led the way out of the barn and up the driveway, past the pool and into the house. He took Tess to Dexamene for her briefing and the required nanite exchange that would allow Tess to pass herself off as Dexamene following her capture by the Overseer.
Andresklo then took the robot to a room where it could wait until Alfred arrived. Using his nanite implants, Andresklo "watched" while Alfred completed his last remaining task, the planting of a few of Lanora's cells in one of the Overseer's DNA sniffers on campus. Knowing that Alfred was now on the way back to the house, Andresklo began preparing the new robot's nanotronic brain for the planned memory download from Alfred.
When the hired security guards arrived at the front door of the house, Tess invited them in. According to Dexamene's plan, these two private security guards would help keep out gate-crashers during the party. Tess led them from the entry way to an adjacent room. For this meeting with the guards, Tess had transformed her face from that of Dexamene into the pattern of a middle-aged woman in order to match the false identity that was now on the deed for the house. Tess said, "I'm Madeline Beliakoff. May I ask your names?"
The two guards showed their police badges to Tess. One of the guards said, "We are off duty, and for today we are simply employees of Tripod Security."
The more senior guard commented, "I had not heard that the Bakers no longer live here."
Tess said, "I spoke to Mrs. Baker on the phone once, a few weeks ago. I had the impression that this," She gestured around her at the house, "Was all just too much for them to keep up."
The guard had known the Bakers as members of the community for many decades and he imagined that they were both in their 90s. The guard continued, "So, who are you expecting for your party today?"
Tess replied, "Mostly students from the university."
The two guards exchanged glances. "Uh, that seems rather unusual. And I'm obligated to report all off-campus student parties to the city police station and they coordinate with campus security."
Tess nodded. "That's fine. In case you are wondering, there is no alcohol on the premises."
The guard said, "I'm glad to hear that, but I still do not understand why you, a new resident in town, are hosting a big party for university students."
Tess had been fully briefed of events of the past week by Dexamene and Tess had taken on a large swarm of nanites that had attached to her brain and now provided her with what were essentially copies of Dexemene's memories from the past week. Tess said, "Well, it is not necessary that you understand, but I'll explain anyhow. My daughter has made friends at the university and she invited her friends to come here for a party and those friends have invited their friends...you know how it goes. When I saw that the number of invited students had grown too big for just me and my staff, I hired you."
The guard asked, "Your daughter attends the university?"
"No, not yet. We got to town in the middle of the semester."
"I see, but she has been hanging out on campus?"
"No. My daughter does not "hang out". She uses the library and has attended some public lectures. She has a non-student library card. Many parts of the campus are open to the public."
"Okay, so what do you want us to do?"
"I want one of you to stay down at the foot of the driveway." Tess pointed out the window at the long front driveway. "All guests should be members of either of the physics club or the computing club or with a friend who is a club member. They should all either know Charles Parker, the president of the physics club, or Jennifer Van Coak, the president of the computing club. Feel free to turn away anyone who looks like trouble...this is definitely for invited guests only. Anyone who arrives by car can park on the lawn along the driveway. One of you should stay at the front door; that's the door you just came in. I call it the front door even though it just around to the side of the house. I expect some students to arrive by bike...send them on past the front door...there is a big barn down in back where they can put their bicycles."
The senior guard looked at his clipboard. "The party starts at seven?"
"Yes, but Charlie and Jenny and one other student will be here early for dinner."
"Is there anyone else we should expect? Additional members of your household who will be in and out? You mentioned staff? What is your daughter's name?"
"My daughter is Lanora. My driver will bring the dinner guests. There should be no other traffic besides the invited guests. Let me show you the house and the grounds...I'll introduce you to my staff. There is just my driver, Andy and the gardener, Alfred..." Tess proceeded to show them the house, particularly the recreation room in the basement and then the back yard.
Alfred was in back working by the swimming pool. One of the guards asked Tess, "Are you expecting to use the pool during the party?"
Tess replied, "It is fully heated and well-lit. It will be available for use tonight, but I don't expect many of the guests to make use of the pool. It was not mentioned in the invitations."
The guard commented, "My advice is to lock the gate to the pool and tell the guests to stay out of the pool."
Tess grimaced. "That is probably good advice, but Alfred is a certified lifeguard. I want the guests to feel welcome and nothing here will be off limits tonight....except for uninvited company...that is your job." She handed each of the guards an iPhone. "Here is the list of invited guests. Please stay at your stations near the front of the house tonight. If you have any trouble, say if someone unwelcome charges past you into the house or onto the grounds, call me."
The senior guard said, "If anything gets out of control, such as people bringing in alcohol, what do you want us to do?"
Tess replied, "The guests were told to just bring themselves. If you see any alcoholic beverages, feel free to tell people to leave them in their cars." They had returned to the house and were in the main living room near the big circular fireplace. "This will be a 'dry' party. We are expecting most of the guests to congregate in here for conversation or down stairs in the recreation room for video games. If anyone even shows up here tonight smelling of alcohol feel free to turn them away. I want no trouble. If you see anything that looks like trouble, demand to see a student ID and call me right away."
"If there is any serious trouble my first call will be to the police and they will come shut the party down."
Tess nodded, "Fine. We are agreed. None of us wants any trouble tonight, just a bit of fun and relaxation for my daughter and her friends. They are all serious and studious young adults and I expect no trouble. I'll appreciate your help to just keep out any possible trouble makers who may have heard about the party and who try to sneak in uninvited. Oh, and feel free to help yourselves to food and drink. I hope you have a relaxed evening."
"Thank you, Mrs. Beliakoff."
The house was now busy with dozens of students and the oak beams of the second floor seemed to resonate with the rather loud music playing in the recreation room far below. Tess was in the second floor bedroom at the end of the hallway where Ferace had stayed during her short time on Earth. Tess turned to the door when Dexamene entered. Dexamene closed the door and paused to lock it.
Tess now looked exactly like Dexamene and it would do their plans no good if someone wandered into the bedroom and saw two Dexamenes. Tess had come up to her room on orders from Andresklo and Andresklo had gone to wait in the flyer. Not having expected Dexamene to come up stairs, Tess looked at Dexamene with expectation and asked, "What is going on?"
Dexamene briefly looked out the window then lowered the window blind. She sat on the desk by the window and replied, "I was expecting to have to entice the Overseer to drop in for the party, but she is taking the initiative. She found a member of the computing club who went out of town for the weekend and has assumed his identity. She will be here in a few minutes."
Tess felt her heart skip a beat. "Wow! How did you get warning?"
"The cell phone jungle of students networking and car pooling to the party...anyhow, Jenny got a call about it and Andresklo had been monitoring the Overseer's activity in preparation for our plan to force her to come here tonight. Andresklo pieced together what the Overseer is doing and so now we just need to move up our plans slightly. We were not going to bring the Overseer here for another few hours....I wanted to let the guests have some fun first." Dexamene was monitoring a nanite probe located in a tree in the yard. It showed the Overseer pass into the house through the front door. "Okay, the Overseer is in the house, just a short distance under our feet."
Tess felt her muscles tense. Until that moment the sudden trip to Earth and preparations for the party had seemed dream-like, but now the reality and threat of the Overseer was tangible. "Did you get word to Lanora?"
Dexamene nodded. "Yes, Lanora knows what is happening. From now on, as long as the Overseer remains here, only Lanora should be out and about. We must stay in here until it is time to hand you over to the Overseer. I see no reason to try to speed up the timing of the hand-over. The party can play itself out as planned."
Tess asked, "Why would the Overseer risk impersonating a student? Presumably some of the other guests know the student well....they might not be fooled by the Overseer."
Dexamene shrugged. "The Overseer found a reasonable match in body form between herself and a student who had been invited to the party but who went out of town. She is now impersonating a male student and I suspect the Overseer will keep a low profile during the party...she probably just wants to have a look around. I had blocked all her nanoprobes from entering the house, so she probably felt frustrated and angry. She knew that there is an Interventionist cell working out of this house and she knew the cell was intercepting her probes."
Tess suggested, "It would be natural for the Overseer to assume that something important was planned for tonight during the party."
Dexamene agreed. "She only had a few choices. She could have charged in here any time today and carted you away, but she would have wanted to clean out the entire cell. The Overseers know that Interventionists routinely use robot assistants on Earth and she had some evidence that Alfred had recently been both in Japan and here. As I told you, she did not know the identity of the robot, but she had detected an unauthorized neurorobotic signature. She doubtlessly saw Andresklo drive to campus today to pick up Jenny and Stefi, so it was probably clear that this 'cell' includes at least Lanora and one robot. A remaining question for the Overseer would have been if there were additional members of the cell. What better way to find out than come to the party? Also, even though I tried to make it appear that Charlie is Lanora's target for intervention, it would be reasonable for the Overseer to wonder if other students had been targeted by this Interventionist cell."
Tess had to defer to Dexamene's greater knowledge about Overseers, but it still seemed rash for the Overseer to come to the party. "What is stopping you from just 'subtracting' the Overseer?"
Dexamene laughed, "Oh, she's not a fool. She's broadcasting a steady stream of observations back to her spaceship and it is all relayed on to the Observer Base on the Moon. If we try anything rash like directly interfering with the Overseer's freedom of movement then the shit would really hit the fan. No, this has to go down like a typical Overseer operation. We sacrifice you and Alfred and the Overseers go away convinced that they have won another round."
Tess and Dexamene fell into talking about the Moon and the rather impressive colony of artists there and if Tess would be satisfied to live out her life there under the watch of Overseers. For a while they discussed how long she should pretend to resist adapting to the Moon and how much delay there should be before she would settle into being an artist. For a while she would have to continue to pretend to be Dexamene, the captured criminal Interventionist. It was all rather absurd since Tess and all her sisters had spent several years living on the Moon. Tess would, of course, be assuming a new identity and have to make new friendships with the artists who she already knew on the Moon.
After a while Dexamene came to attention. She was using nanite probes to monitor events around the house and the grounds. Her probes and those of the Overseer had been playing games of hide and seek, but Dexamene had been able to keep watch on the Overseer, at least from a distance. Now Dexamene had noticed Thomas follow the Overseer into the barn...then all hell broke loose. Dexamene stood up and said, "Tess, get your running shoes on."
Tess was confused, but automatically looked at her shoes. "Wha-"
Dexamene grabbed Tess' hand and they ran from the bedroom, down the hallway and down the stairs to the first floor. Dexemene hesitated, watching events outside by means of her nanite implants. The group of students who were seated around the circular fire place all started to notice what looked like twins standing frozen behind one of the big semi-circular couches.
One of the students came in from the kitchen carrying a big tray full of drinks and snacks. He came face-to-face with Tess, stopped and said, "Hey, coming through-" He noticed Dexamene. "What the hell-"
Tess started to move aside to let the student past. Dexamene was in communication with Lanora and suddenly pulled Tess towards the front door. "Come on!" They opened the front door and startled the guard who was about asleep on the front steps. Lanora came racing up the driveway from behind the house, slammed on the brakes and popped open the door of her car. Dexamene said, "Into the car!" and pushed Tess out of the house. Tess ran down the steps and jumped into the car and Lanora hit the accelerator. Dexamene ducked back into the house.
As Lanora sped down the driveway towards the street, the spaceship flown by the Overseer rose above the trees that lined the driveway. The guard looked up in disbelief and muttered, "What the hell is that?"
Dexamene moved back outside onto the steps and flexed her legs. Andresklo came rocketing up the driveway, flying about two feet above the pavement. Dexamene launched herself and landed in the rear seat of the flyer. The guard said, "Shit!" and watched the strange aircraft zoom away down the drive and then up into the sky. The other guard was walking along the street, trying to stay awake and only noticed the startled face of Charlie in the car when Lanora sped past.
Some students had followed Tess and Dexamene to the front door. One of them had seen the flyer move past the house and asked the guard, "What was that?"
The guard replied, "It looked like a flying DeLorean!"
- Chapter 14 - Amelia on the beat
Here is a map of the chapters:
_> Mary –––––––––––––––––––––> Lincoln / \ / \__> Amelia PAlbert ––––––––––––––––––––> Andresklo / \ \---->Ferace ------> Yasas / \ __----------> Cathy / / \ / \ / / \ / \__________>Tess CC –––> Charlie ––-----–> Stefi \ \ ----------------> Lani \ / \ \ _______---> Jenny –––> Thomas \______> Dexamene
Sunday ----> time flow --> one week in the Fall --> ---------> Saturday
Useful pages for the reader: List of characters and the Glossary. Readers can discuss the story at Talk:Cellular Civilization.
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