Brent had assured Emily that ICS would take care of buttoning up things with her old landlord and making sure no trace was left of her after her hasty retreat out of Phoenix.
“This was on us,” he’d said. “You shouldn’t have to pay for it–financially or otherwise.”
He had also said she couldn’t get back to working just yet, as they would need a little time to work on her cover identity.
“Just lay low,” he’d said.
At which, she’d teased him about his poor grammar and reminded him it was “lie low.”
He’d rolled his eyes and smirked. “Okay, but it sounds weird your way.”
Weird or not, she was already done with this lying low business by the time she woke up in the morning of her first full day at the safe house.
She showered and dressed, searched for a blow-dryer unsuccessfully, and then found a breakfast sandwich in the freezer she could microwave.
Going to need to get fresh groceries if I don’t want frozen and freeze-dried food the entire time I’m here, she thought, beginning a mental list of things she might be able to do to keep busy and avoid losing her mind from boredom.
The breakfast sandwich hadn’t generated any dishes needing washing–just a wrapper for the trashcan–so she fired up the coffee machine and rifled through the dry goods in the cabinets and pantry until she found a decent-looking coffee blend.
Too bad it’s pre-ground and not beans. She measured it into the coffeemaker and shook her head. I’m apparently a coffee snob now?
While the coffee brewed, she wandered a bit aimlessly from the kitchen to the hall and found herself re-checking the rooms.
The thought crossed her mind that, if this safe house was anything like the rest of ICS property she’d experienced, there was probably more to it than met the eye.
“Unless the fancy garage elevator and tunnel is the extent of it,” she mused. “I do wonder how they built that without anyone noticing.”
She wandered back to the kitchen just in time for the coffee to be ready, and she prepared a large mug of it. She thought through the many seating options in the large house: there were the two bedrooms (the one she’d slept in had a rather comfortable armchair beside the window), the living room, the dining table, and a back porch with cushioned whicker furniture.
“Oh, who am I kidding,” she said to herself.
Heading back to her bedroom, she lifted her Bible out of the laundry basket she’d brought from her apartment and then took it and the steaming coffee mug into the surveillance room. She turned the monitors on and sat down in the desk chair leaned back to look up at the array.
Everything looked normal to her, so she eventually settled into her Bible reading. Despite finding herself reading the same few sentences over and over, she finally realized she was reading Jesus’ words: “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”
She stared into her coffee mug, the liquid finally cool enough to sip, and nodded her head slightly. “That’s timely,” she murmured.
A few sips of coffee later, and some mental wandering as she thought about what she’d read, Emily nearly jumped out of her skin as the voice of the house’s digital assistant spoke from a speaker overhead.
“Motion alert. Motion alert. South-west quadrant. Front walk. Courtyard.”
Almost spilling coffee all over herself, she set the cup down and jumped to her feet, scanning through the monitors as she looked for the ones that displayed the location called out by the system.
When she finally located the correct feeds, she frowned. She’d half-expected to see a line of black-clad ninjas stacked up to breach the front door, but the area was empty.
“Computer,” she said, shaking her head at the digital assistant’s moniker and wondering who’d been the one to set that up.
It couldn’t have been Brent this time. He doesn’t watch enough TV to be a proper trekkie.
“Computer, are you sure about that?”
“I’m sorry,” the voice answered, “I don’t quite understand. What can I help you with?”
“Are you sure about the motion alert?”
“Last motion alert at–” the voice paused for a fraction of a second and then said, “–8:27, today.”
Emily squinted at the screens again. A small brown sparrow hopped around in the front courtyard, checking every corner of the low pony-wall for crumbs or seeds or–crickets, apparently. The bird snatched up a cricket, lazy and slow from the cool morning temperature, and then flew away in a blur of small wings.
Timely bird, she thought. Then she said aloud, “Thanks.”
“You’re welcome! Is there anything else I can assist with?” the digital assistant asked cheerily.
“Not to hurt your feelings,” Emily said, “but the ‘thanks’ wasn’t for you.”
“I’m sorry,” said the voice, “I didn’t catch that.”
Emily shook her head. Feelings? Computer programs don’t have feelings, Emily! The way I’m talking to this AI-thing, I definitely need to find something to do with myself.