Airports on the receiving end were just as nightmarish as the sending end these days, Al thought as he pulled his suitcase from an old fashioned belt. Anyone could grab luggage if they wanted to. The security was terrible too. So many uniforms jostling to look closely at you, your bags, and a suspicious mustard stain if you had the misfortune of spilling lunch.
Back before the purge the entities had monitored from afar with others delivering your luggage directly to you, no mess and fuss of people crowding the belt. Now the security gap left by the entities felt unfillable, all of the personnel seemed frustrated by the number of people milling around and the occasional raised voices of people arguing over similar luggage or trying to convey just how important their lost luggage was to a harried worker.
Al found Jeff already in the crowd as he trundled his decidedly unresponsive luggage away from the chaos.
“You got yours, well that gives me hope. I’ll see you at our first meet. If anything arises, let me know.”
“Will do.” They shook hands and Al headed out to the taxi stand.
The study in contrasts always made Al smile, airports and their security had regressed where cars still were entities. Highly regulated entities, but entities nonetheless. The new government was crazy in its attempt to give more people jobs by scrapping 10 years of entity development, but it wasn’t hopeless, in some areas.
The estimated 20k to 50k people per year that didn’t die in car wrecks guaranteed that those entities driving weren’t going anywhere. Also they were the least quirky and some of the least human-like entities. Hence why they replaced human drivers. They were also still hooked into the info-grid which made arranging for one to meet at the curb extremely easy.
After getting in and telling the car where to go, Al sat back and closed his eyes. Although the fallback to old-style security made him anxious to fly, he was not less anxious after this flight. If anything he was more so. The Fislers knew he was coming, but he was coming in to investigate them. That felt like it was a violation of their trust.
He certainly didn’t want to find anything, and from what he knew they both followed rules very well, but the fact that the FBI and the DoD were investigating meant that something was happening. He just hoped it was a case of target misidentification.
The taxi pulled into the driveway of a large house with a xeriscaped yard. Other than a few lush green plants and a few palms by a small pond the yard was rock and cactus. He double checked the address on his phone and the one in the taxi’s navigation system. They matched, but certainly they would have a kid friendly yard, right?
Jeff sat in the sedan watching people pass, nearly everyone looked busy which made him feel like he should be doing something. At the moment he waited for Al so they could talk about any developments, but he also waited in general. His message inbox was clean, contingency plans for all occasions were stacked neatly on the desk back at the warehouse he was based out of, and his personal plans once done here filled his calendar.
Of course the agency had a much more glamorous image, many movies growing up depicted dramatic scenes where hero agents solved crimes despite vast odds while wooing or seducing the love interest. The only interest anyone showed was with their jobs back at HQ, no-nevermind love interests being more human than crime.
He spotted Al walking toward the car, and stopped fidgeting. The boredom and anxiety evaporated as the man who was the anticipated antidote knocked on the window. He unlocked the car and Al got in.
“How are things?” Al asked as he settled in.
Jeff paused, wondering if he should do the socially acceptable thing, but decided against it, “Boring.”
“Well then, let’s not keep you waiting any longer.” Al reached for his phone as the car started to move onto a predetermined route. “Though, I am not sure that the news is going to be very exciting either.” He opened a list on his phone, “They seem like a normal family as far as two high-caliber scientists can seem with a child. They are looking forward to Eddy going to kindergarten and spend plenty of time in the evenings working with him on things. During the day they work at the lab. Are you cleared for what they work on?”
“Right, so they are mainly working on a moss-like plant that can be grown in the lungs without causing a pneumonia reaction. It’s pretty interesting since it works off of micronutrients in the lungs and the infrared heat from the body in order to grow and break CO2 back into oxygen for the host. But enough of me getting excited by their work.”
“Are they over protective of anything? A room in the house or lab equipment?”
“It doesn’t seem like it. This last week I’ve been working and living with them and they seem to have nothing to hide, no wariness around me once the DoD clarified my cover, they definitely understand that the things they are working on are quite sensitive ecologically too.”
“Any unknown people that they talk to?” Jeff interjected.
“Not that I have seen, but I’ve only been around for a week, and I can’t keep an eye on both of them all the time. On the other hand they don’t disappear for long periods of time without reasonable excuses, though I haven’t gone grocery shopping with them yet. They really care for Eddy.”
“Anything out of the ordinary about their parenting?” Jeff barely suppressed a squirm. He didn’t have a terrible childhood, but there were some events that he still wasn’t quite willing to confront. Asking about a child seemed to always bring up those feelings, maybe it was also the reason he never went on a second date.
“Other than seeming to be really attentive parents, no.”
“Are they anxious about him going to kindergarten?”
“Yes, but I think that is normal? Since neither of us has kids I don’t think we know, right?”
“I guess my parents seemed quite anxious when I first went to school. But after I told them about the first day they relaxed.” Too much, no inquiry ever, Jeff thought, it amazed him in retrospect that he had done so well.