Birmingham: Ten miles.
Almost there, I thought.
“Emmie,” I heard Grace’s voice over my headset “So what’s the plan?”
Although I’d told Grace where we were going I hadn’t even explained why or what exactly I hoped to achieve.
“Will worked at TethTech. They’re a military contractor and if he was a part of anything that could have gotten him killed it would be to do with them,” I explained.
“What makes you think they’ll tell you anything?” asked Grace.
“I have no idea but if I can understand what types of projects Will may have been working on then that may be my best chance for answers.”
We approached the ringed gate around Birmingham. An electrified barbed wire fence ran around the edge of the city, enclosing its thousand square miles from outsiders. Behind the barbed wire was a concrete wall fifteen foot tall, which had more barbed wire on top of it. Security cameras ran along the perimeter. Apart from the thirteen gates that ran around the outer walls there was no other way into the city on foot.
As I looked at the imposing structure I suddenly became very aware of the fake identity in my pocket. I repeated my new name over and over in my head “Jessica Young, Jessica Young, Jessica Young.”
There were only six of us in the queue. It was rare for people to leave or enter the city. Once you were in there was little reason to leave. Despite this the queue moved slowly, with extensive checks required for each person visiting. A necessary requirement to protect the city.
“Name please,” the guard faced me and it was my turn to be scrutinised.
I paused for a split second to make sure I got it correct. “Jessica Young.”
“ID Please,” he asked.
I reached into my purse and spotted my real ID sitting right next to my fake ID. “God Emmie, did you even think this through?” Grabbing the fake ID and making a mental note to hide the real one later I handed it over.
The guard looked at the holographic seal on my ID. “Surely that would be hard to fake? Especially for a movie prop designer,” My faith in Grace’s colleague started to wane.
“Hold on one moment,” he showed the ID to his colleague and I placed my hand on my motorbike keys ready to escape if the ID didn’t work.
His colleague looked at the ID from inside his security room. I couldn’t see what they were saying but it was an agonising minute and a half.
The guard returned and asked “Are you her?”
“Who?” I replied.
“Your name; ‘Jessica Young’. Are you really her?” he asked.
I wondered if this was it. The ID was worthless. I’d fallen at the first hurdle. Will would be so disappointed. Running wasn’t an option; they’d shoot me dead before I made it to my motorbike. I had no choice but to continue the lie. “Yes, I’m Jessica Young.”
“Yeah but are you the Jessica Young?” he emphasised the ‘the’ as if there was something special about the name. Then it dawned on me. Jessica Young was also the name of a famous British athlete who had won gold in a running event a few years before. No wonder the name sounded familiar when I plucked it from the air.
“If only, sadly I’m no athlete,” I replied.
“Shame, my daughter would have loved your autograph. I mean her autograph,” he said.
In a world filled with debt, we still had heroes and hope.
I looked behind myself at Grace to signal that everything was ok. She released the grip from her motorbike, she too had been ready to escape at any sign of trouble and she proceeded to be interviewed.
The first guard waved me along and I walked through to the second guard inside the security box. This small box was just large enough for the two of us and a desk. There were metal bars above the doors that could come down at a moment’s notice. It seemed like a temporary prison.
He had the exact same face as the previous guard. It felt like Déjà vu but was fairly common. Tethered twins who worked together stayed safe together.
“So were you her?” he asked.
“Nope, sorry,” this was the first truthful thing I’d said so far.
“Ah, never mind,” he directed me towards a full body scanner. I sensed he was hoping to get to peek at an Olympians body but mine would have to do.
As soon as I entered the scanner an alarm rang out. The guard jumped to his feet, holding his gun directly at me. I moved from the scanner and looked right at him in fear.
“Ok maam, I will ask you this only once. Are you carrying a concealed weapon?” he asked.
Yes, I thought to myself. I’d bought my gun along just in case but hadn’t anticipated that I’d be subjected to such tight security. I’d never been to one of the main cities before.
“Yes,” this time I said it out loud.
“Ok,” the guard did not put his gun away. “Please remove the weapon and place it on the table.”
I reached down to my side and grabbed the gun. How am I supposed to do this? I thought. If I angled the gun the wrong way he might shoot me. I had no idea of the proper protocol and tried my best to keep the gun pointing away from the guard, whilst I placed it on the table.
So bad was my movement that the guard flinched a couple of times but he didn’t fire at me which was a relief.
“Please can you explain why you are carrying a weapon?” his accusation startled me into telling another truthful statement.
“I’m a police officer,” I handed him my badge and then realised this was a huge mistake. First of all, for all intents and purposes my alias Jessica Young wasn’t on the police register. Secondly the badge I handed him was registered to my real name; Emmie Keyes. If he scanned the badge ID that could set off a red flag that I was alive. Not that it would matter if this guard shot me first for my other deceit.
“Thank you. Please remain standing,” he took my badge and gun, and then dialled a number from the phone on his desk.
A senior sounding man answered the phone on loudspeaker. “Lee? Is that you?”
“Hi Wilfred, how are you doing?” asked Lee the guard.
“Same old. Are you still up hitting a karaoke bar after work?”
“Absolutely! Let’s go for some songs from the noughties era.”
“Wilfred you know I hate retro music and which century are we even talking about?”
“Honestly Lee you have no taste, the early years 2000’s were great for music, not like that rocker synth rubbish you used to listen too.”
“Anyway Dad,” Lee looked away from the phone as his father continued to talk. He interrupted him. “Dad, Dad, Dad! Thank you. Could you run a trace for me?”
“Sure, what have you got?”
“Two things; a weapon for the serial number Alpha, Tango, 7-8-5-4-6-1-1-0 and a police badge 5-6, Mike, Golf, 5-5-1-4-9 Kilo.”
Wilfred repeated the numbers back, which Lee confirmed. I looked out of the window for Grace but couldn’t see her. She must have gone into a separate booth for her own interrogation. If nothing else, I knew Grace would be safe. She had no weapon and a real ID.
“Ok. The weapon is registered to an Emmie Keyes,” said Wilfred.
“Crap!” in my mind, I knew the game was over before it had begun. How could I explain having someone else’s weapon?
“Miss, can you please explain why you have someone else’s weapon?” asked Lee.
I looked at him bluntly, unsure what to say. I could lie; sure but wasn’t exactly sure what would be a plausible explanation? “She was a fugitive? I killed her? I am her but in disguise wearing fake skin and I secretly want to interrogate one of the most powerful men in the world to get justice for my brother?” No, none of that would do. I’d so far managed an “Um,” and an “Err,” neither of which seemed likely to help.
I was temporarily saved by Wilfred. “aaand, the police badge is registered to a, Jessica Young.”
Now I was even more confused. That was impossible.
Before Lee could dish out his own justice, I was once again saved by Wilfred. “It looks like both Emmie Keyes and Jessica Young are police officers at Smyth West and that Ms Young requested a transfer of Ms Keyes’ firearm about a week ago. The paperwork has been signed off so it all seems legit to me.” If Lee didn’t want to go for karaoke with Wilfred, I certainly did.
“Thanks Dad, see you later.”
“Bye Lee, say hi to your brother for me,” Wilfred hung up.
“Ok Ms Young, you are free to go. You might want to get your weapon taken to a gun store so they can fully transfer it to you. It will make things easier in the future.”
“Thank you, I’ll do that,” I replied.
“Oh and sorry for pointing a gun at you. We can’t be too careful in protecting our capital,” I nodded, relieved that I didn’t find out what they did to real terrorists. “If you could hand me your keys I’ll get your bike put into storage for when you leave the city.”
I tossed him my keys and walked out through the gate and into the city. As I waited for Grace I started to have doubts about her. Getting a fake ID was one thing but falsifying police records?
Something wasn’t right about Grace Wilkerson.
“Home sweet home,” Tobias walked into a darkened room and flicked a switch. “It’s good to be back.”
The room was suddenly bathed in light as two overhead lights flickered on. In the middle of the room sat a large chair, which was padded all around.
“Come on then,” Tobias motioned over to two of his team who escorted a third man into the room. He wore a blindfold over his eyes.
Tobias’ men sat him down into the chair and turned two large plates around so they covered his chest. They connected wires to the plates and placed electrodes onto his head.
“How are you feeling?” asked Tobias as he removed the man’s blindfold.
“Fantastic, let’s change the world,” replied the man.
“That’s the spirit,” said Tobias. “Now let’s make you more than a man.”