The AI lab seemed to cough and within a moment James' route to the information desk became steps in the dark as the simulation fell away.
"AI lab session 12b is temporarily suspended" came a non-plussed voice over hidden output. "Please exit the lab".
"It's for gonna be for you Julie" called Gibbons as the ASIP control centre's internal comms light flashed. "Hope your PR skills are up and running this morning".
Not one for light humour Julie glowered at Gibbons and picked up the phone. "Smidder here". On the other end of the line Esther Launden was frosty, "What the hell happened to the AI lab, since when has a session ever been suspended?"
Julie answered, equally cool "Your subject, Mr Gregory, destroyed ASIP's prime candidate. He was supposed to be subdued by AI Culloch and moved into the next phase, i'm.." Esther broke in "What should've happened is irrelevant. The whole point of ASIP is to adapt. So how did it fail to get beyond the first base? How did Gregory know about the syringe? How could he possibly have seen anything when you've mathematically positioned AI Culloch to ensure this isn't possible?"
"Esther," Julie was appealing to her colleague now "We don't know at the moment, I'm pulling the bio-data and sequence shift information for analysis, we'll.. " Again Esther cut her short but responded more calmly now. "Julie, you know a suspension in mid-cycle triggers reporting to the funding director, not only that but our subject walks out without providing any feedback for assesment. Complete your analysis and report back as-soon-as please." Click.
Julie's head swivelled around towards the ASIP team. It was possible for the converstation to be heard by everyone. "Gibbons, start pulling all the data."
Director Goddand looked at Esther and she met his gaze. Nothing was said and yet everything was understood. The Director left the room.
Esther pulled a Blackberry from her pocket, tapped in a short text and put James Peter Gregory onto cloak watch. Switching back to the internal comms she then had a short conversation with Culloch who in turn spoke with James, releasing him for the day for his own R&R.
James was perplexed. A suspended AI lab session and then Culloch sends him home. None of it made sense to him and he was begining to wonder what the deal was. Maybe he'd been too sharp in the AI lab, he often found it difficult to use and hide his talents at the same time. Maybe it was nothing and the ASIP team weren't as good as they said. Blipping his remote he started his old but immaculate merc and growled through the various security gates out into obstructive London traffic. He headed for his small river view apartment in Kingston upon Thames.
Esther had closed the door to her office and flicked the windows to obscure. She was remembering a period of time towards the end of the cold war when agents under her strategic guidance in East Berlin had been wiped out. Her control desk had been running 4 separate informants in sector 15, each unrelated to the other, operating quite independently and it was the first time she had encountered a sentinel.
The last informant to be lost had given enough information to help Esther's clean-up group identify the sentinel, corner him and shred him with enough ammunition to make him virtually impossible to identify. Apparently.
Because of her catastrophic informant loss, Esther had insisted on accompanying the clean-up group on this misson, hiding as an observer during the hoped for kill. Afterwards she established the sentinel had in fact deliberatly exposed himself to draw out her group - he'd simply waited for the shooting to stop and then killed all six assailants, swiftly and without reserve. She knew too that he had seen her. She remembered vividly the cool eyes peering across the grey street. He stepped over several bodies checking them and then taken a deliberate turn towards her, finding her eyes through the black soul-less window she was behind.
At the time she hadn't known what a sentinel was but she'd seen what he'd done. She'd made enough noise about this disasterous episode to be brought into the confidence of the Group Section Chief. The briefing from him was succinct and terrifying - sentinels scared the hell out of her.
And now James Gregory was starting to scare the hell out of her. The earlier 'cloak watch' she had ordered was a signal to an organisation for initial distant observation of a suspected sentinel. The cogs had started to turn and she felt chilled. Only once previously had she ordered a cloak watch and in the end that had turned out a false alarm. This time, she knew it wasn't.