Only Human (Themis Files #3)

Only Human (Themis Files #3)

Sylvain Neuvel

Eyaktept eket ontyask atakt oyansot ot.

Eyantsant eps.


* * *

FILE NO. 2101


Location: Outside Dar es Salaam Hotel, Tobruk, Libya

—Central, this is Lapetus. Target in sight.

[Copy that, Lapetus. Stand by.]

Standing by … Right where we’re supposed to be. Am I good or what?

—Oh, stop bragging, Bodie, you just punch in the numbers they give you. When you can make that giant robot moonwalk, then you can brag.

—Moonwalk? Like in slow motion?

—Seriously, Bodie? How old are you?

—That’s Captain Hough to you, Lieutenant Baaaalllll. If I remember correctly, you tripped on a house the last time you had the legs. Fell face-first, broke Benson’s wrists in the process. Am I right?

[Lapetus, this is Central. If you could stop bickering for a minute, we have a job to do. Are you facing the hotel?]

Affirmative. It’s a nice hotel. Wouldn’t mind spending some R&R in this place.

[Do they have a clear view of the robot?]

If you mean the people staring at us from the top floor, yeah, they see us all right. We’re taller than everything else in this town. You can’t miss us.

[Roger that, Lapetus. We’re talking to their chairman now. Stand by for orders.]

Standing by. Why are we in Tobruk, by the way? I thought the government was in Tripoli.

—It is.

—Then what’s here?

—Another government. Don’t you do any research before a mission?

—But it’s the same country.

—It happens from time to time. They had three governments for a while when I was a kid.

—Which one’s the real one?

—Depends on who you ask. Pretty sure they all say they’re the real one.

—That doesn’t make any sense. Anyway, who cares, right? Twenty minutes from now, it’ll be an American general running this place.

—You mean advising the democratically elected government of Libya.

—Yeah, that.

[Lapetus, this is Central. The chairman isn’t as receptive as we’d like him to be. Use your light beam and remove the north half of the building. Repeat, destroy the north half of the hotel.]

Copy that, Central. We’re—

—Captain, top floor, second window from the right.

—I see it. Central, it looks like there are people in that part of the building. Wanna give them a minute to evacuate? We can wipe out every car in the parking lot, that’ll make ’em leave.

[Lapetus, you have your orders.]

—What do we do?

—What do you mean what do we do? You heard the man, Lieutenant. Start from the center of the building and swipe to your right. Aim low, maybe we can spare those houses behind.

—Yes, sir … In position.

—Activating beam. Say when.

—Uh … when. You can see the beam, right? You know when I’m done.

—Terminating beam. Wow, that thing’s nasty. Doesn’t even make a sound. Central, this is Lapetus. Target destroyed. Half of it anyway.

[Copy that, Lapetus. We have it on satellite. Stand by.]

Damn, I love this job!

—I can see that.

—What’s that mean?

—It means what you think it means. You said you loved this job. I’m telling you that it shows. That’s all. You have a problem with that?

— …

—Good! Moving on! We might be here awhile. What do you want to talk about? Books? … No? Movies? Have any hobbies I don’t know about?

— …

—All right, I’ll go first. I collect Cabbage Patch Kids.

—I don’t know what—

—It’s OK. I wasn’t born then either. They were dolls, supposedly all different. You didn’t buy them, you “adopted” them. They came with a birth certificate, adoption papers, a little card to write down its first word, when it took its first step, its favorite food.

—They talked?

—No, Bodie. They didn’t talk. They didn’t eat either. It was just meant to look real, like you adopted a real baby that was born in a vegetable.

—How do you adopt a doll?

—You buy it, of course. They’re in a store. You pay, but you call it an adoption fee. Anyway, they were a fad in the eighties. People went nuts. There were fights in stores, all sorts of crazy things. They were only that popular for a short while, but they were made by one company or another for about forty years. My mom had six of them. She gave them to me when I was a teenager, and now I collect them. The old ones are hard to find, usually cost a fortune.

—You collect dolls. That’s not creepy at all.

—I sold one last year for five K.

—You sold a doll for five thousand dollars.

—Brutis Kendall, born in the Cabbage Patch on November 1. Near mint. With box. All the papers.

—That’s nuts. I still think it’s creepy, though. You shouldn’t—

[Lapetus, this is Central. The Chairman of the Council of Deputies of Libya has requested technical and advisory assistance from the United States. Job well done. Just sit tight. Navy is bringing in troops. ETA twenty minutes. Return to base when they arrive. Navigation will send your get-home numbers in a minute.]

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