Mr. Hurlpen Jones is in an examination room within the offices of Oilcrawler Associates, LLC., waiting for his doctor.
He’s been waiting over an hour. For the last fifteen minutes Hurlpen has contemplated going out to ask if everything is okay; if they’ve just forgotten about him; he doesn’t want to be a bother. Just then, a man opens the door and enters.
“Hello, Mr. Jones. How are you today?” the man asks as he closes the door behind him.
“I’m reasonably well, ah— another nurse was already in here, she—”
“No, no, I’m the doctor—Dr. Patel, pleased to meet you. Dr. Fein, uh, can’t make it today, I’m afraid. I’ll be examining you. If that’s all right?”
“Oh, ah, yes I see— Maybe I should reschedule? I’ve been seeing Dr. Fein for many years—”
“Certainly, I understand. You were not notified of this change and this is unfair to you. I understand. But— There is something I think I should tell you although this is not the best time, but I see no way around it. Please do not share this information with anyone yet, but Dr. Fein is— There was an accident, you see. His patients for the day are being notified, but since you are already here, I thought I could see you, rather than just send you home.”
“Oh dear. Is it serious? I can reschedule, my complaint is minor, this is— is he all right? Was it serious?”
“Serious, yes. Dr. Fein will be unable to see patients from now on. You are welcome to choose another doctor of course, it doesn’t have to be me, I was just— I could fit you in— today. It’s rather a courtesy, a customer service, ah, thing.”
Mr. Jones looked at Dr. Patel. He seemed like a reasonable choice for a doctor. When Hurlpen first came many years ago to see Dr. Fein, it was not unlike this, he had just made an appointment with Oilcrawler Associates and Dr. Fein was the one who saw him. From then on Hurlpen had only ever seen Dr. Fein. That was twenty years ago.
Dr. Patel interrupted Hurlpen’s thoughts, “Why don’t we just get a scan and get your profile up to date since you are here. After all.”
“Oh, yes, okay. I didn’t mean to suggest that— Well, I’ve been seeing Dr. Fein for a long time.”
“Great. Please follow me, you surely know the way already. We will go to the booth and get a scan.”
The two men enter the carpeted hall and wind their way past a number of doors and into the tri-corder room.
“Please close the curtain, disrobe, and enter the booth, Mr. Jones.”
Along the wall are a series of hooks. Above them is a quaint, hand-painted sign reading, “No Electronic Devices.” Hurlpen remembers the sign from the original location of Oilcrawler Associates. Then, the sign was in the waiting room. The receptionist couldn’t bear the sound of people talking on their mobile phones. That was really her problem and not enough to demand that no one use phones, except that she was one of the original partners’ wives. And when she was unhappy, everyone around her needed to be unhappy too. So it was decided to honor her demand.
Hurlpen removes his clothes and hangs them on the hooks. Then opens the door to the booth. Inside it smells of disinfectant. There is an unsavory brown blob near the drain Hurlpen is careful to avoid. It looks slightly too translucent and gummy to be feces, but what else could it be? “Please stand with your feet apart and your arms straight down but not touching your body. Thank you.”
Whrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Tk tk tk tk tk. Whrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Zewmmmp.
“Thank you Mr. Jones, you may exit now and dress. Then we’ll go back to the exam room and talk about your concerns.”
Hurlpen exits the booth and puts on his underwear, pants, shirt, then he remembers something. He looks in the booth and the brown blob gone. “God damn it!” He tries to slide his feet across the tile to clean it, but isn’t sure which foot is soiled. Annoyed, he dresses fully except his socks and shoes, which he carries with him.
Back in the exam room, Hurlpen returns to the arm chair he previously occupied while Dr. Patel sits before a display screen to access Mr. Jones’ medical file and the results of the scan.
“Escuse me, Dr. Patel, are there any napkins or alcohol wipes or something available in here?”
“Hmmm? Oh, sure, here you are— this is strange.” The doctor says. “Are you a veteran of the military, Mr. Jones?”
“What? No. I’m a software engineer. It’s the only thing I’ve ever done. I guess.”
“Right. Well, I’m not sure what Dr. Fein has done here, but your record is— Nnnnot accessible to me right now. Uh, we can look at today’s scan though. Let’s start there.” Dr. Patel silently manipulates the display controls. Then he abruptly turns off the display, stands up and without looking at Mr. Jones says, “I’ll be right back, sir.”
In the meantime Hurlpen rubs his soles with the wipe, but it looks clean. He retrieves several more from where he saw Dr. Patel get them and methodically wipes his feet finding no brown smudge. “Hmmmm.” Twenty minutes pass. Mr. Jones sighs, “I can’t make the nine-o-clock now” he thinks to himself then sends an email through his glasses letting the office know he is running late. He checks the news, there is a new local story about a fire— not just a fire, but an explosion. Several people are reported dead. Mr. Jones at first thinks he’s imagining it, but he hears multiple sirens apparently coming to a halt near this building. He hears rapid footsteps in the hall and other activity. A few minutes later there is a knock on the door. “Mr. Jones?” someone shouts.
“Ah, yes?” Mr. Jones says, but receives no response. He repeats it louder, “YES?”
“Mr. Jones, this is— Are you dressed? Can I come in? I am agent Tuft of the FBI.”
“Yes, I’m dressed, please do come in.”
Mr. Jones hears whispering and shifting bodies. “Oh for Christ’s sake,” he says, gets up, and opens the door impatiently.
There are a number of apparently startled FBI types and two doctors including Dr. Patel. One of the agents instinctively draws his sidearm as they all look at Mr. Jones. “Good God— Hello. You are all welcome to come in if it helps speed things along. I have to get to my office.”
“Yes. Hello, Mr. Jones,” one of the agents says in a voice Mr. Jones recognizes as that of agent Tuft. Tuft without looking pushes the arms of the agent with the drawn weapon down. “Your doctor, it seems, found something unusual in your scan. Are you aware of it?”
“Aware of what?”
Another man takes over, “Hello, sorry, I am Dr. Durmstadt, the lead physician here. Can we all move into the conference room, please? Everybody, this way.”
The group awkwardly shifts from a let’s-attack-whomever-is-behind-this-door-without-enough-room-really positioning into a let’s-go-down-this-hall-without-enough-room-really positioning. An enormous tactically appareled agent waits for Hurlpen to join the file apparently wanting to be the last.
“Oh. Uh, thank you,” Hurlpen moves into the hallway.
As he does so, the agent taps him on the arm, “Ha’m, Strailin.”
“Huh? I’m sorry, I didn’t get— the name,” Hurlpen wasn’t sure if he heard the big man correctly. He maybe had an odd accent, but with so few words spoken, he wasn’t sure.
“Sorry, ‘Starfloat,’ did you say?”
“Nah, Stropshot, tha call me. Iss.”
“Again, sorry, one more time?”
“Straighlink!, please amet you.”
“Straightline? Straightline, is it? Pleased to meet you as well.”
“Nah, Sinelig, Moishall Stintlot, jess tha.”
“I’m having trouble hearing you correctly, Spaintrot?”
“Fuss in altee, moigh! Lin trussin Soighloft, fuss!”
“Yes! I see, nice. Thank you.” Hurlpen hoped this utterance would sound like and end to the conversation and signal to his aural assailant that it was over.
Instead, the large man put an arm around Hurlpen’s shoulders and pulled him to a stop. “Gess fuss moigh row! Bessis fots jis? Lobe! Ha! Stebnal ess?” He said in a tone that suggested the situation was escalating.
Hurlpen searched for someone to help him, but the others had continued down the corridor and were winding around a corner— “Ah, yes. Uh, soo pleased to meet you, sir. We should catch up with the others, no?”
The hulking figure sniffed as it looked at Hurlpen with seriousness and said nothing for a few seconds. Then, “Ya,” and it fished out its wallet and began showing Hurlpen photos of what were presumably the giant’s family. “Togadiss,” it said and paused for a response from Hurlpen.
“—Ah, nice,” was all Hurlpen could manage as he swallowed hard.
Suddenly from down the hall another agent shouts something also unintelligible, “Giflefiss!” But it is enough to bring Hurlpen and the giant’s exchange to an end as the giant indicates that they should join the others.
They assemble in a small conference room that apparently doubles as the coffee room. It smells not half-bad.
Dr. Durmstadt continues, “Mmyess, Mr. Jones, you see, your scan is unusual. Dr. Patel, can you describe what you found, please?”
“Mr. Jones’ body has greater than two-hundred location trackers of various types and ages in his body. I have determined that approximately twenty percent of them are currently active, but this number is probably significantly higher as half of the trackers are not in the medical catalog and appear to be far more sophisticated than what we encounter— here.”
“Yes, alright, I think we can all agree that this is unusual.” Agent Tuft says, assuming control of the proceedings, “Mr. Jones. I’m going to ask you some questions. You are not under arrest, but I think you might have the right to an attorney because of Doctor/patient protocol. Do you understand?”
“Yes, perfectly. Please just ask the questions. How did I get two-hundred trackers inside me? Who would track me, why did Dr. Fein never mention these, are they all from within the last three months? What happened to Dr. Fein?” Mr. Jones rapidly asks of his interrogators.
“Those are some of the questions we also would like answers to. So, I think we can conclude, you had no knowledge of the trackers?”
“Are you now, or have you ever been enlisted in the military or contracted for the military or been employed by a governmental entity or contracted for a governmental entity?”
“Have I what?”
“Do I really have to repeat that?”
“No, no, no. I’m a software engineer. It’s the only thing I’ve ever done. I have never been in the military or done government work. I guess.”
Agent Tuft looks at Mr. Jones. Then he looks at the ceiling and leans back in his chair.
“Mr. Jones. You are— evidence. You may also be a witness. Dr. Fein was murdered this morning. This has not yet been reported in the news, but a crime has been committed and the investigation already involves the FBI and other agencies. I’m afraid we will have to detain you for a period. Are you agreeable to this?”
“Agreeable? Do I have a choice?”
“Yes. You have the choice between being agreeable or being held in restraints.”