Northampton England, Thursday August 7th 2262
Simon felt refreshed and ready to face another day following an uninterrupted eight and a half hours sleep. He was showered and partially dressed. He put a large mug of fresh coffee on his dining table and a plate containing two warm croissants spread thickly with plum jam. He pulled out one of the glass chairs and sat down to eat. He glanced out of the French doors opposite and noted that it was another beautiful day, with another cloudless blue sky.
He ate hungrily enjoying the random selection of music that blared loudly throughout the apartment so far this morning. Betty Boo’s ‘Where Are You Baby?’ was currently playing; he tapped his foot along to the rhythm.
After breakfast he returned to his bedroom to finish getting dressed. He’d carefully laid out on the bed a white long sleeve shirt and the charcoal grey jacket that matched the trousers he was wearing; he wasn’t going to give Chilly Poxy anything to complain about today if he could help it.
He selected a lavender and green tartan tie from his tie selection, and the same black shoes he had worn the previous day. He applied his usual cosmetics and then liberally sprayed himself in Bitterness. He was already feeling uncomfortable in his jacket; he ran his finger around his neck between his Adam’s apple and his stiff shirt collar in a futile attempt to loosen it a little. Could he get away with undoing the top button? No; the bitch was bound to notice his sloppy dress if he ran into her today.
Simon returned to the living area, he was in no rush to port to work; his first lesson wasn’t until 11:06:50 hours.
Blondie’s ‘Return to Harry’ played as he exited the French doors onto the veranda with the rest of his coffee. The heat of the morning hit him instantly, he retreated to the doorway to benefit from the coolness of the apartment and enjoy the view without the high temperature.
There wasn’t so much as a breath of wind; the nearby populous trees remained motionless, the leaves shone in the sunlight but remained still nonetheless.
Inevitably his attention turned to the Northampton Lift Tower. Despite his continued uneasiness about it, he decided that he would take a visit to it one weekend soon. He wouldn’t be allowed to go inside, the security firm that had a twenty-four hour presence on site would make sure of that, but perhaps walking around the base or even touching it would make him feel differently about it. It was just ridiculous to feel the way he did about an inanimate object.
Simon drained his mug and then decided he may as well go to work after all; he was only killing time mooching around at the apartment. He could customise his data-desk’s security settings, as recommended by her, and then perhaps get to know some more of his colleagues… in particular the attractive female ones.
He brought his port slot forward via his dat-com strap; he’d given plenty of notice so he wouldn’t be charged for the later one. He now had five minutes and twelve seconds to wait for his new slot.
He put his plate and mug on one of the kitchen surfaces and headed for the bedroom to check on his appearance one last time before he left. Not bad he thought, as he stood in front of the en suite mirror. Another splash of Bitterness for the ladies, he decided with a grin; you could never have enough fragrance on if you were trying to impress the fairer sex.
Simon stepped into his teleporter and, after the remainder of the waiting time had elapsed, he disappeared from his apartment… Eleven seconds later he was in one of the museum teleporters. The door swung round to his right and revealed the port floor. Standing either side of the doorway were two large male security officers. They were dressed in matching black suits and shirts with a plain yellow tie, the bold word SECURITY, in the same yellow, had been neatly woven into the fabric of the left breast of their jackets.
“Would you come with us please Mr Kingsley,” stated the larger of the two officers as Simon stepped out of the teleporter.
Simon was a bit taken a back. “I’m… sorry?”
“Would you come with us,” the officer repeated, a little sterner this time.
“Would you mind telling me what this is about first?” Simon asked.
The other officer spoke. “We have been asked to meet you as you arrived and then to escort you to the head of security. He is waiting for you.”
“But why?” Simon insisted.
The first officer spoke again. “Mr Kingsley. That is all we know, our job isn’t to ask questions; or answer them, but to carry out orders. Now if you would come with us I’m sure you will find out soon enough.” He went to take Simon’s upper arm with his shovel of a hand, Simon pulled away from him sharply.
“I will come with you, but I don’t need manhandling in the process,” he said indignantly. “I’m willing to go wherever you want me to.”
“Fine,” said the second officer with a roll of his eyes.
As they set off across the port floor to the traversolls the officers flanked his sides closely. Simon dreaded what this was about. Had Chillipoc uncovered his past? Who had she spoken to? Was this going to be his shortest career move ever?
The three men entered traversoll number three.
“Security floor,” the larger officer stated as the doors closed behind them.
The three stepped out onto the security floor and marched along a short windowless corridor, the plain white walls and grey rubberised flooring were a complete contrast from the black marbled floors and high solar windows that led from the traversoll on his floor.
At the end of the corridor two glass doors opened that led to an area similar to Simon’s own wing, but on a much smaller and less grand scale. Several security staff in the communal section looked up as Simon was led through the middle of it; he noticed they all wore the same uniform. Two women stared at him as if they knew of his appalling misdemeanour.
They stopped at a plain white door on the far wall. Head of Security was displayed on the thumb-pad set in the wall. They waited for the Head of Security to authorise their entry to the office. Moments later the door slid into the wall, Simon followed his escorts into the office.
They were on a much lower floor than his, judging by the trajectory of the view from the solar windows that filled the end wall. The Northampton Lift Tower was visible too and loomed ominously in the distance.
The office was the same size as his and obviously hadn’t been occupied long judging by the cardboard packing cases that were strewn or stacked randomly everywhere. Sitting behind the data-desk, in front of the solar windows was the Head of Security. A woman sat opposite him with her back to them.
“Kingsley,” the larger officer declared.
“Thank you,” the man said. The two left without being asked.
“Mr Kingsley,” the Head of Security said. “I’m glad you could spare the time to join us this morning.”
He stood up. “I’m Bennett Hayes, please take a seat.” He said gesturing towards the empty chair next to the woman. He had a far smaller frame than either of the two officers that had just left the room and was shorter too. What he appeared to lack in brawn he certainly made up for with his air of authority; size wasn’t an issue in his position. He wore the same uniform as his team but had one extra word under SECURITY on his jacket. HEAD.
“That’s okay,” Simon answered politely, thinking he didn’t really have much choice in the matter. He sat down in the vacant seat.
“I believe you know Ms Anna Chillipoc,” Bennett announced gesturing towards her as he took his own seat again. “She has asked to be present during our chat…” He paused for a second. “I can ask her to leave if you prefer?”
Simon’s heart sank, he had a sudden urge to run for his life. Instead he slowly turned to face her. She looked at him as if he’d just broken wind loudly. “Morning Anna,” he managed through a dry mouth.
“Morning,” she said sternly back.
It would do him no favours with her now, or in the future, if he insisted she leave the room. “If she wants to stay then that is fine by me,” he said, hoping his words sounded more plausible than they did in his own head.
“Good,” Bennett replied, relieved at not having to ask her to leave.
Simon decided to try and take control of the situation and got straight to the point. “Mr Hayes, would you mind telling me why I’ve been escorted here like this?”
“In good time Mr Kingsley, I would like to ask you a few questions first though regarding a serious security breach.”
Simon thought for a second. “Is this the breach in Anna’s office yesterday?” He looked from Bennett to Anna; so this was why she was here then. She didn’t say a word and if looks could kill… he turned back to Bennett.
“Yes,” Bennett replied. “Anna says you showed quite an interest when she mentioned it in your office yesterday afternoon.”
What was Bennett insinuating? Why was Anna trying to make him look guilty of something?
“Well yes, I was interested,” Simon said nervously. “It was a mystery as to how someone defied a new building’s security measures and apparently got away with it.”
Bennett sat back in his chair and stared at him without speaking for a second or two. “We have a few more answers now than we did yesterday.”
“That’s good news,” Simon said, a little too enthusiastically. “So you now know how it happened then?” he added.
Bennett ignored the question. “Mr Kingsley, can you tell me where you were yesterday lunchtime just after 1300 hours?”
What! Simon thought with alarm. Were they trying to pin this on him? “I was in Marseille on my way to my mum’s apartment for lunch.”
“What time did you leave the museum?” Bennett asked.
“I can’t remember exactly when my port slot was, but it was just after 1300 hours,” Simon hesitated. “I’m sure the port logs for yesterday will show you the exact time.”
“They do. We have a departure time of 13:04:56 to Quai de Rive-Neuve in Marseille” Bennett confirmed, having checked the details on his data-desk.
Simon was relieved to hear it confirmed that he wasn’t anywhere near the building at the time of the incident.
“How long were you in Marseille Mr Kingsley?”
Where was this going? Surely it had been established that he wasn’t in the museum. “A little over an hour, I guess,” Simon verified.
“And you didn’t teleport back for any reason, just after you left; perhaps you had forgotten something?” Bennett questioned.
“No,” Simon replied swiftly. “After arriving in Marseille I went straight to my mum’s apartment.”
Bennett sat silent for a moment; Anna hadn’t moved or said anything to either of them since she had muttered ’morning’.
“Can you be more precise with the time you were away?” Bennett asked, gently scratching his head through his short cropped blonde hair.
Simon thought for a moment or two. “Approximately seventy to seventy-five minutes.” There was silence again for a few more seconds. Simon added. “You must have the exact times in front of you.”
“I do Mr Kingsley; I just needed to hear the details from you.”
Bennett glanced down at his data-desk to check notes he had made on it. He looked up and at Simon again. “Would your mother confirm for me that you were indeed with her in Marseille yesterday for lunch?” Bennett asked.
Simon couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “Am I missing something here? I don’t mean to sound blunt or seem unhelpful, but is there really any need to contact my mum about this?”
Simon continued. “You know when I left and when I came back; the port logs show you down to the second how long I was away from the museum. Surely to god I don’t need my mum to confirm it further?”
Bennett sighed. “Mr Kingsley. I know when you went to France and when you came back. What I don’t have proof of is what you did while you were there. Your mother could quite quickly confirm for me that you were with her and for how long.”
Simon sighed. “I would rather call her myself; she will worry if the Head of Security from my workplace contacts her and starts questioning her.”
“That’s fair enough,” Bennett stated. “Perhaps you can call her now in my presence and bring up yesterday lunchtime somehow.”
“Okay,” Simon agreed with a sigh. Anna continued to ignore him. “Give me a few minutes to think of something.”
“Take all the time you need,” Bennett said, looking down at his notes again.
Simon stood up and wandered over to one side of the office and then to the other, trying to work out how to question his mum without alerting or worrying her.
He sat down next to the stone faced Anna again. “Call Mum, audio only, amplified through Mr Hayes data-desk,” he commanded.
The call wouldn’t connect until Bennett Hayes authorised the call could be routed through his data-desk.
“Hello darling, what a lovely surprise to hear from you so early in the day,” Bridget said enthusiastically. Her voice filled the office. “Is everything okay?” she added, a touch of concern evident.
“Everything is fine Mum,” he replied, trying to sound as if he didn’t have a care in the world. “It was just a quick call to see if I’d dropped a tiepin there yesterday when I came over for lunch. Have you found one?”
“No son, but I haven’t really looked… I don’t remember you wearing one. Are you sure you had it on when you arrived?”
“No. I’m not sure I did now. I didn’t notice it was missing until I got undressed after work yesterday; it could be anywhere.”
“Why didn’t you ask me when I called you just after your shower yesterday?” Bridget asked.
“I forgot,” Simon answered quickly, his heart racing. “I had a lot on my mind,” he backed it up with.
“Oh yes, her,” Bridget said with disgust.
Damn, Simon thought feeling uncomfortable, he wasn’t good at deception. He was jumping from one conversational minefield straight into another. He glanced over at Anna. Had she realised his mum had been referring to her?
He needed to change the course of the conversation again in case Anna’s ears weren’t burning already and his mum said something more blatant about her.
“How long was I there for yesterday?” he asked.
“Well, I suppose it must have been just over an hour. Why do you ask?”
Jeez, she never missed a trick. “Oh, I was just wondering; the time went by so quickly I wouldn’t have been surprised if you had said thirty minutes!”
“Well, they say time flies when you’re having fun,” she quipped.
“And stuffing your face with homemade scones,” he added, sounding more light-hearted than he felt.
Bridget laughed. “If that’s a subtle hint for me to make some more then I will over the weekend.”
Simon shot a glance at Bennett, who was sat with his elbow on his data-desk, arm upright, supporting his chin in the palm of his hand. He was gently drumming the side of his face with his four fingers in turn while he listened intently to the call.
“You know me too well Mum.”
Bridget laughed again.
“Look Mum; I’ve got to go now; I’ve loads to do this morning. Let me know if you find my tiepin.”
“Okay son, love you darling.”
“I’ll speak to you later, bye.”
He looked over to Bennett. “Was that proof enough for you?” he asked. “Has that answered all your questions?”
Bennett replied, sounding somewhat unsure. “Well it certainly sounds like you had lunch with her, she sounded quite genuine and honest. As for answering all my questions; I’m afraid it has made things far more complicated.”
Simon sighed. “Thank you, I was beginning to think I was going to get the blame for something I hadn’t done… couldn’t possibly have done.” He glanced at Anna who looked furious at his watertight alibi, her temple was creased with a frown and her lips were a thin tight line across her face.
“I don’t understand why things are complicated,” he added. “Or why I was implicated in this breach in the first place.”
Bennett decided it was time to share a few of the details with him and Anna. “The facts are that someone managed to get into Ms Chillipoc’s office yesterday and somehow accessed her data-desk. We’re not sure how the office was entered, as there is no entry log of the door being opened after Ms Chillipoc left. We can narrow the time window down to between the time she left at 13:09:08 and the time the data-desk triggered the security breach alert at 13:22:41.”
Simon interrupted. “Could the data-desk have been accessed remotely? Perhaps from somewhere else in the building; or even outside the grounds?”
“That was ruled out pretty much from the start,” Bennett confirmed. “We have an exit log on Ms Chillipoc’s desk eight seconds after the breach was triggered.”
“Oh, I see,” Simon answered. “That does suggest the perpetrator was in the office itself.”
Bennett continued. “From there the details are still confidential; we also have an ongoing investigation regarding an incident with one of the traversolls.”
“Is the traversoll incident connected to the office incident then?” Simon asked. “I guess that’s the only way the intruder could have escaped?” he probed further.
Bennett ignored Simon’s questions and glanced over to Anna. “I’m hoping you can help me by answering some questions regarding that investigation Ms Chillipoc.”
“I will answer any questions you have when you have finished with Mr Kingsley,” Anna said swiftly and bluntly.
Simon was a bit taken aback. So Chilly Poxy wasn’t here just to back up Bennett Hayes about the intruder in her office; she was here for questioning too. He fought back the urge to grin while Bennett continued.
“Let’s get back to the office incident,” he said, noting the atmosphere between Kingsley and Chillipoc. “With the building’s security measures as they are; only staff from your wing and the one opposite can gain admittance to your floor and only personnel from your wing and their visitors can access your wing.”
“This, as we said yesterday, implicates someone on our wing,” Simon said turning to Anna. She ignored his statement.
“Indeed it does,” Bennett agreed. “The thing is that of your twenty-two colleagues that were in the building at the time; all have been ruled out with either technological alibis or physical ones,” he paused briefly as Simon and Anna processed the information.
He went on. “We then looked at the remainder of your colleagues, your neighbouring wing and then visitors for the day to both wings - there is no evidence to implicate anyone.”
“So do you know how the intruder got away from the office?” Simon asked after a moment’s silence.
“I need to ask Ms Chillipoc a few questions before I can discuss that,” Bennett replied.
Anna fidgeted in her chair, obviously uncomfortable with Simon hearing a second time that she too was to be questioned.
“Well, I must admit that I’m curious to know how all this was achieved; I look forward to reading the report when the matter has been resolved,” Simon said, enjoying how uncomfortable Anna appeared.
He looked over to her again and added. “I’m quite confident Ms Chillipoc is as innocent as I am in all this.”
She shot a look at him as if being associated with him was as disgusting a thought as being linked to a necrophiliac. Simon smiled at her, she turned back towards Bennett.
“You still haven’t told me why I was brought in here for questioning this morning,” Simon directed at Bennett. “Even without my mum’s alibi my teleporter logs show I was clearly in France and for how long.”
“Well, they do and they don’t,” Bennett replied. “This is the complicated part of it.”
“What?” Simon exclaimed sitting bolt upright in his chair. “How can they confirm I’m in France and not in France at the same time?”
Bennett stared at him again before he spoke, wanting to see Simon’s reaction to what he was about to say. “You left the building at 13:04:56… and returned at 14:19:08.”
“If that’s the time the logs show then that’s correct,” Simon confirmed, wondering where this was going.
“How do you explain then a log showing that you teleported back to the building at 13:05:03, seven seconds after you left?” Bennett asked.
Simon was silent for a few seconds while his brain processed the information. “That’s impossible.”
Bennett sat there watching him.
“That is physically impossible,” Simon reiterated. “The teleportation process takes eleven seconds; I couldn’t possibly have returned that quickly.”
“A puzzler isn’t it?” Bennett remarked.
“If I had got to France and come back as fast as I could it would have taken at least four times longer than that,” Simon said, trying to prove his innocence once again. “If you take into account the voice commands I would have needed to return; that’s saying I could get a port slot at such short notice.”
“I know it’s theoretically impossible,” Bennett said. “But we have a log showing a port was made by you; it confirms all your biological signs.”
“Well someone has worked out a way to fool the system then,” Simon declared.
“That is the most likely theory at the moment,” Bennett agreed. “That would be a first though.”
“Why do you say that?” Simon asked, his heart pounding in his chest.
“After coming to the same conclusion as you I spoke to The Government Police Authority earlier this morning about it. They confirmed that if someone had fooled the system it would be the first time it had happened.”
Simon sat there stunned.
Bennett went on. “The thing is now that I have brought this up with them they will have to carry out a full investigation… I’m sorry Mr Kingsley, but as soon as I’ve submitted my report to them today they will no doubt be in touch with you… they take this kind of teleportation infringement very seriously… this could potentially cause the collapse of the ongoing peace negotiations with Russia.”
“Well, they can’t take it that seriously or they would have someone here now,” Anna blurted out suddenly, breaking her virtual silence. Simon flinched at the outburst and then sat back in his seat as the potential implications washed over him.
Bennett was as surprised as Simon was at Anna’s sudden outburst. “I didn’t go into great detail with them; I wanted to talk to Mr Kingsley about it first,” he said to them both. “The officer I spoke to about it seemed to think it was highly unlikely and that it had to be an error on our part… I left it with him that he was probably right and I would look into it myself first; to save bothering them with something that would probably come to nothing anyway. I am to report back to him within twenty-four hours.”
Anna turned in her seat to look at Simon. He was staring vacantly forward still in shock.
She smiled. “Mr Kingsley if you need to take time off work to explain yourself to the GPA then you must let me know; I don’t want to be seen to get in the way of an investigation of theirs… besides, you can always make the time up if this ghastly mess you are in is sorted out.”
Simon sat there, not really taking anything in; her words were distant as if coming from a parallel universe.
Bennett looked at the smugness on her face and, for the first time, felt a little sorry for Simon. Ms Chillipoc was turning out to be as vile as he had suspected yesterday; when he’d spent far too much time in her company following the breach.
“Well, Mr Kingsley wouldn’t be the only one that appeared to be in two places at once yesterday lunchtime,” he remarked, staring at her.
Her smug face switched back to its former sour glower in a second.
“But, as you requested, we will discuss this when I’m finished with Mr Kingsley.”
Bennett sat back in his seat and turned back to Simon. “There is one last thing I will ask you to do which may help resolve this whole situation.”
Simon was suddenly ‘back in the room’ as he processed Bennett’s last few words. “What is it? I’ll do anything I can if it may help.”
“Now this isn’t something I would normally ask of anyone, as it is none of my business.”
“What is it?” Simon almost pleaded.
“If you could open up your itemised Columbus account here and now we can look at your teleportation record for yesterday,” Bennett paused. “Now as it is personal information I could ask Ms Chillipoc to leave the office temporarily if you would prefer.”
Simon thought for a second. “No, that’s quite all right; I have nothing to hide from anyone… I’ll open it now.”
“Send it over to my data-desk so we can see it more clearly,” Bennett requested.
Simon walked round to the other side of the desk and stood next to Bennett, Anna remained seated, still fuming at Bennett’s remark.
“Columbus account, routed through Mr Hayes data-desk,” Simon stated loudly and clearly, his voice quavering a little.
Bennett permitted the use of his data-desk again. Simon’s account details appeared on the Plasmorph in front of them.
With some trepidation Simon said. “Show the teleportation log for the last twenty-four hours.”
A second later every port was displayed. The men each scanned the short list.
Simon’s heart sank. There, between the port to Quai de Rive-Neuve at 13:04:56 and the return port from Place du General De Gaulle at 14:19:08, displayed clearly in blue was a port into the building at 13:05:03.