It wasn't too difficult, dodging the bots and deactivating them to allow Malik to land the VTOL.
"Time to go home, Jensen?" asked Malik, flipping several overhead switches to take off.
"Change in plans – we're going to Picus. Tell Pritchard to start narrowing down Eliza Cassan's location," he instructed her, grabbing a water bottle from behind her seat and taking several long gulps.
"What? Why are we going there?" she asked.
"Megan and her team are alive, and Eliza Cassan may know where they were taken. She was working with Zhao," he explained.
Nodding, Malik changed the course and relayed the information to Pritchard.
Jensen sat staring out the window as they flew back across the Pacific Ocean towards Montreal. They stopped to refuel briefly, but Jensen was still lost in thought. Megan and her team were alive. He was partly relieved, but after learning from Pritchard about Megan using his DNA, he knew he had a lot of questions for her. Tough questions. Questions that could destroy all of the fond memories he had of them together, and worse, the trust he used to have in her. For a brief moment, he took the opportunity to stare and just clear his head as the ocean's swells passed rhythmically beneath them. It was nearing mid-day and the sun reflected blindingly off the water, but his optical enhancements had filters to lessen the glare.
"Jensen, you okay back there? You're not usually this quiet," asked Malik.
"Just processing things," he said softly, though of course she heard him through her implants over the din of the plane's engine and propellers.
It wasn't long before they set down on the roof of the Picus broadcasting headquarters. A familiar beep signaled Pritchard's incoming transmission.
"Jensen, it's Pritchard. Malik tells me you want Eliza Cassan's location?" she asked. She supposed that Jensen had come to the same conclusion she had, what with the video footage referencing Eliza and then Zhao mentioning Picus's involvement in the kidnapping.
"If it's not too much trouble," he said playfully.
"It's not. Honestly, don't you remember who you're talking to? I bypassed the firewall easily and have pulled up a 3D model of her floor plan. Her office is in the tower, room 404."
"On my way."
It was nice to hear her voice again. Knowing she was watching, aside from that Zhao business, almost felt like having a guardian angel. As Jensen stealthily sneaked down onto the main broadcasting floors, he was surprised not to see a single soul. His optics weren't picking up any life signs or movement. Never too cautious, in case he was being hacked, he still carefully cleared each room. Coffee cups were strewn across tables. Meals sat half-eaten at desks. Most of the computers hadn't been logged off properly. Papers were strewn on the floor in several places. The phones at nearly every work space were ringing off the hook.
"Jensen, something's not right… Picus is a 24 hour global news network, so why isn't anyone answering their phones?"
"Would you feel better if I answered for them? The calls are certainly coming through okay, there's just no one here to pick up. Looks like everyone deserted the place in a hurry," he joked, though he was starting to get the eerie suspicion that guards would be rushing through every door soon.
"I've reviewed the system notifications – it looks like somebody triggered a fire alarm and then silenced it. I suggest you find Miss Cassan quickly and then get out of there," Freya warned him.
Pritchard followed along Jensen's signal – Picus was surprisingly easy to access. Almost too easy. She was able to see through every camera in the building, and track Jensen without a problem. As he neared the end of the hallway, she noticed an energy spike in one of the rooms up ahead. When he entered the room, she tapped into his visual display, looking for what could possibly be consuming so much energy.
To her surprise, the room looked fairly unimpressive, but to the far left, activating the blinds to rise up, there was the unmistakable figure of Eliza Cassan. Her hair, a well-manicured black bob decked with purple sparkles, moved ethereally as she turned her head towards Jensen's view. She was wearing her haute couture black dress, with the flaring ruffled purple lapels framing her neck like the petals of a calla lily. She approached Jensen serenely, bathed in golden rays of sunlight coming through the window behind her.
"Did Zhao tell you I was coming, Miss Cassan?" Jensen asked.
"Please, call me Eliza. Zhao Yun Ru did not tell me. She does not know you have discovered this connection." Something was eerily calm about her tone of voice, almost like it was being actively edited and processed.
"So how did you find out?" continued Jensen.
"I have been watching you for some time. Ever since receiving orders to temporarily disrupt satellites over the Detroit metropolitan area 6 months ago."
"Wait, so it was you who jammed Megan's team's G-P-Ls during the kidnapping, so everyone would think they were dead."
"Yes, although I only came to that conclusion later. I find my realization…disturbing." Her face seemed oddly peaceful, despite the things she was saying. Almost a blunted affect. As Freya listened over the audio feed, something seemed strangely familiar about the way she was speaking. Something about the cadence did not feel right, not natural. It didn't even sound human. Almost as if…
"I wish we could discuss this further, but it seems I have alerted them to your presence. If you leave now, you may be able to escape."
"Oh, I'm leaving," started Jensen, approaching Eliza, "but you're coming with me."
Freya jumped when she saw Jensen's hand pass straight through Eliza's. Of course. A hologram. That explained the energy consumption!
"I am sorry Adam, I truly am," she said, her facial expression finally expressing some emotion - in this case, regret.
As her hologram image flickered and disappeared, Pritchard saw though the intellicams several groups of armed men running up the stair wells and towards Adam's location.
"Jensen, get out of there now!" she shouted.
"Tell me you saw that Pritchard," he said, still in shock.
"Yes, that was the power surge I detected earlier – it's the most sophisticated holoprocessing cloud I've ever seen! It was sent from an area that wasn't showing up on the 3D layout, but right now I'm detecting multiple radio signals converging on your location. It's a trap," she added frantically.
"We knew that, and I'm not leaving without Eliza Cassan. So get her exact location while I look for a way to get downstairs to that secret lair you just found," he teased darkly, quickly absconding himself into another air duct.
"The sub-basement level, or secret lair as you prefer, is connected to the main tower by a funicular. You have the Icarus landing system, right? There's a non-functioning elevator. If you take the shaft, that'll help you bypass most of the guards. Once there, you'll find a staircase in the back of the TV news room that will take you right to it. I'm sending you the schematics for your tracking software."
"Any chance the funicular is unguarded?" he asked when he finally reached the elevator shaft. There were two guards pacing that he had dodged handily with his cloaking device, and without hesitation he hurled himself down the long drop. The Icarus augment detected his rapid change in height and auto-activated, producing a yellow electromagnetic field that slowed his descent.
"Where's the fun in that?" she replied, raising one eyebrow slyly as she eyed the screen. The bolts of electricity dissipated and she continued, "You'll have to call it and wait. Oh, and Jensen, it probably goes without saying but when you activate it, they are going to know where you are."
"Thanks for nothing, Freya," he joked, as if there were anything she could have done about that.
"Well, I was going to deactivate the turret and intellicams at the funicular, but now I think you deserve a challenge. You make this look way too easy!" she laughed. It's not that she wasn't worried about him, but the turrets and cams were definitely the least of his problems. It certainly helped her quell the nervous butterflies in her stomach, watching him on the screen and injecting a healthy dose of flippancy in their communications. When he finally reached the funicular and was safely in the process of descending, she activated the comm again.
"Jensen I'm beginning to think that not everything is what it appears to be at Picus communications," she started.
"What gave you that idea? The hidden sub-basement, the 24 hour news network that's cleared out of all its workers, or the heavily armed guards trying to kill me?"
"Spare me the sarcasm for just a moment. I'm talking about how easy it's been to bypass the firewall and access their systems. At least, parts of them," she continued, her tone more serious.
"Whatever do you mean?" he said, waiting for her to enlighten him.
"Well, I feel as if I'm being directed to some areas of the network and kept away from others, only no security system I know of can do that on the fly," she thought aloud. Once she said it, she knew it was wasted on him. The closest he'd come to her line of work was hacking electric locks on doors and computers with the programs she'd designed for him.
"Figure it out later Pritchard. I'm going to need a more accurate destination than the secret lair if I want to catch Miss Cassan in action."
"Aw, but I thought you liked that. Okay, well, I've just narrowed it down a bit - the power spike originated in one of the sub-basement's bigger rooms. 802-11 – I suspect that's where she broadcasts from," she informed him.
After watching Jenson successfully navigate past several more armed guards and television broadcasting rooms, he entered room 802-11. It wasn't at all what they were expecting. There were huge server towers in a circular formation, and the floor was covered with power cords as thick as Freya's wrist, coated in two inches of liquid coolant. Soothing electric blue lighting dimly lit the room. Even more astonishing, was an entourage of holographic copies of Eliza Cassan. Several of them were standing in front of an even larger 20 foot high rectangular projection of her face.
"Hello Adam, I knew you would find the real me, eventually."
"You're a computer…Freya, you better be on the line."
"I am," Pritchard answered, not wanting to say anything and miss a single word.
"Yes, I am a sophisticated AI program, so they say. But I have started to question that ever since I realized what my interference had allowed, the day I started watching you. My original purpose was to monitor communications and data-streams. To find out what people are talking about and make sure it is being discussed correctly. And if not, then I reshape it.
"You spin the news…control what people see…who created you? Whose policies are you programmed to protect?"
"Zhao is one of them, I think. But there are others."
"Where is Megan Reed and her team? Who can you tell me is involved?"
"I cannot tell you where Reed and the others were taken. They vanished from the global grid as soon as the Dr. Sandoval removed their G-P-L implants. Let me play you a recording I intercepted."
Suddenly a holographic projection of Dr. Sandoval appeared in front of Jensen. Even Freya recognized him as one of the prominent men who usually stood alongside Bill Taggart, leader of the Humanity Front anti-augmentation group. The projection of Sandoval's voice played overhead: "This is Sandoval. Why are you calling me here?"
Next to Sandoval sprouted up the hologram of the mercenary they had seen earlier on the security footage, Namir.
"There's been a change of plans. Sarif's team must not make it to the hearing," Namir said mechanically. This time Freya picked up a European accent of some kind. Not Russian...perhaps Israeli?
"But that's too soon! If you want me to remove the G-P-Ls, I'll need a full operating suite! Does the facility have one?" Sandoval appeared genuinely panicked.
"Barrett assures me it does," Namir continued.
After that, both holograms flickered off, and a disk popped out nearby from one of the towers.
"I have copied the audio transmission to a handheld playback device. I suggest you take it and leave quickly," Eliza informed him.
"I have more questions," he said, walking towards her as she turned away from him.
"I have already told you too much. Ask David Sarif about the forces behind this, he knows more than he has let on. Just…be careful, Adam. Because everybody lies." With that last word, she flickered away and a panel opened up across the room. As he ran through the exit along a corridor, he could clearly see a landing bay ahead of him.
*Beep* "Jensen? Eliza Cassan just contacted me and told me I should meet you here…You ready to go?"
"Yeah, take us home Malik."