Holden cleared his throat. The dry, scratchy feeling was still troubling him, made worse by the painful lump that was now forming there. He tried not to make a show of it, too much hesitation would seem disingenuous.
“My… my name is Marcus Reid. I work for Singularity Enterprises.”
Jacobs eyebrow arched. “You’re in high tech?”
“An engineer then, or is marketing more your department?”
“Engineering,” Holden said decisively. He did his best to work out the details between questions, anticipate what would come next.
“Nanotech.” He said this quite quickly too. No hesitation, no pauses. Leave less room for doubt that way.
“Where were you when… this… happened?”
He waved his hands above him, no doubt to encompass the city they now lay beneath. Answering that proved a little more difficult.
“I – I was in the lab. I was looking over some schematics for the new line of medichines. Our systems started going down, the power went out next…” he dredged his memory for anything that would help. Some facts were still useable, after all.
“I can imagine that was frightening for you.”
“Oh yes,” he replied emphatically. “All our implants and interfaces stopped working. We were sealed in the lab. The other techs began to panic…”
“How did you get out?”
Damn, Holden thought. He hadn’t anticipated that question. He had no idea how a tech would be get free of the labs in a situation like this. No one had ever predicted a total failure of the buildings systems. He hadn’t even stayed around long enough to see if anyone had been in the labs when it had happened.
“The doors… disengaged.”
“Disengaged?” Jacobs repeated.
“Yes.” He kept going with the fabricated tale. It sounded plausible enough, who was this man to say he was lying? “Once all the systems failed, even the backups went down. The magnetic locks ceased working and we were able to walk out. Unfortunately… we all ran off in different directions.”
Jacobs nodded. “Where did you get the gun?”
Holden bristled. “Gun?” He hadn’t mentioned the automag or the altercation with the street thugs. How did he know about that?
“Yes, you had a gun.”
Holden sat there dumbfounded. How could he know about that? The only people who knew were himself and the men he’d used it against. Presumably, they had taken it with them after leaving him for dead. His skin went cold as possible explanations occurred to him.
“What did you do with the weapon with you took?”
Holden couldn’t take it anymore. “Who told you I had a gun?”
Jacobs shrugged. “You did.”
Holden just shook his head.
“You talk in your sleep,” he explained. “You’ve been reenacting the same scenario for days now. You keep telling someone to get away or you’ll shoot. You scream out. You keep calling a woman’s name. Mara… Martha…”
“Marta,” he said angrily, then wished he hadn’t.
“That’d be your wife, then?”
Holden looked away, nodded shamefully. Oh, how this man knew too much.
“So… we’ve determined that you armed yourself before going into the street. Wise move, can’t imagine why you’d want to hide that about yourself. And you were looking for this Marta, yes?”
Holden nodded again.
“Where were you going?”
Holden hesitated. He could feel it again, and was growing very sick of it. That feeling of being at a disadvantage, or knowing nothing and being able to do nothing. Not only was it unfamiliar, it was the worst spot to be in. What could he have done to deserve all this, he wondered? Aside from leaving that man behind, what had he done that was so wrong?
“I asked you a question,” said Jacobs, his tone cutting Holden’s moment of self-pitying reflection short. At least now he could be honest.
“I… I was trying to make it to the lights.”
“Yes. When I left my – the company building – I saw some lights on the horizon. They looked to be coming from Newark. I thought if I could get there…”
“You might find help? Maybe find a way to get a hold of your wife.”
Holden nodded. “All the communications terminals are down. No hardlines, no bahn, no nothing. I couldn’t think of another way.”
An odd silence followed. Holden anticipated more questions, but Jacobs just seemed to be sitting there, staring off to the side somewhere. Eventually, he nodded emphatically and stood up.
“Excuse me for a second. I need to go talk to my mate, over there.”
He turned around and staggered away. Holden noted the way he favored his left leg, his right seeming to have a limp in it. When he approached the other man at the fire, he barely looked up. Jacobs just leaned over and whispered something briefly in his ear. The man with the carbine stirred a little as well, sending his heart rate up just a touch. Once more, he wondered if they were planning on causing him harm. It seemed every time people stirred in the distance now, he found himself contemplating whether or not he would survive. Yet another aspect of his current state that he could do without.
Evenutally, Jacobs turned around and staggered back. Holden sat up and awaited his return, eager to know what conclusion they had reached. Whether or not he had declared himself of use to them. On the one hand, they might assume he was innocent and therefore not a threat to them, thus allowing him to stay. On the other, they might determine he was not of use, and shoot him. Yet another possibility was that they would send him on his way, feeling that they had performed whatever civic duty they were required to and let him find his fate on his own. Anything other than being shot appealed to him now.
“Listen, friend…” he started gravely. Holden’s heart shriveled in anticipation of what he was about to hear. “I got news for you about those lights…”