Resetting Tim Walker – Short Story

“What number should finish the following sequence? 23, 14, 19, 6 and 20?”

“19.”

“State the probability of the visual occurrence.”

“72%”

“What is the date of birth of the female Alice Walker?”

“The 21st of August 2057.”

“Three playing cards are missing from this deck. Please state only the missing red cards,”

“The seven of diamonds and the jack of hearts.”

“Please state your Operative ID.”

“A746211-D.”

“If the female Alice Walker was born on the 21st of August 2057 how old will she be on the 30th of October 2073?”

“16 years, 2 months and 9 days old.”

“Repeat the mission M47295.”

“To decode the data recovered from the mission M37356.”

“What was recovered?”

“Data was inconclusive.”

“Where are the files relating to mission M37356?”

Silence. Inhuman disappointment began to settle heavily in the space around him.

“Operative should state the whereabouts of the files relating to mission M37356.”

“I don’t know.”

“Interface confirms.”

He drew in a laboured breath and rubbed at his face, stubble grating his palms. “Ok,” he said at last “Interface to reset.”

“Interface resetting.”

Interface powered down and Tim felt a moment’s peace at the darkness in the room. The illuminated walls went dark in standby before blinking on again in a single blast that spoke of more power than mere halogen lights.

“Debriefing exercise for mission M47295,” Interface chimed in. Her voice was lyrical and near life-like aside from the rigidity. Operative A746211-D sat cross legged on the floor of Interface, seemingly calm, yet alert.

“Presentation 411. Is the Operative reading to commence?”

“Operative ready,” Tim replied and coughed to clear his throat, thinking that it was unusually dry considering that he hadn’t been awake for long.

“Please state Operative ID.”

“A746211-D.”

The far wall of the Interface flickered in waiting and flashed to the familiar documents that formed the majority of his daily tasks. He rose and approached them, the white numbers on black comforting in his alien environment.

“Please select the prime numbers.”

Tim did so with quick accuracy and stepped away from the wall.

“Please select all multiples of 17.”

He pressed the numbers displayed by Interface and watched them disappear from the wall, the screen somewhat threadbare when he was done. Interface’s screen flashed white and he was momentarily blinded from the next task. Tim reflexively backed away from the screen, his clammy feet sticking to the spongy floor. He wished they’d let Operatives bring socks into the Interface rooms. It was always cold within the debriefing suite though nothing more than the white working overalls in which he stood were permitted.

“A ball is dropped from the height shown and proceeds to bounce in the following pattern. How many bounces before it reaches 25% of the height from which it was dropped?”

“7.”

The screen returned to white and Tim leant against the adjoining wall as he waited, wrapping his hands in the too long white sleeves of his loosely fitted clothing.

“What number should finish this sequence? 23, 14, 19, 6 and 20.”

“19.”

“State the probability of the visual occurrence,” Interface asked as the opposite wall presented him with a building leaning at a precarious angle and as he watched the image slowly began to fall over.

“72%.”

“What is the date of birth of the female Alice Walker?”

“The 21st of August 2057.”

“Three playing cards are missing from the deck. Please state only the missing red cards.”

His eyes scanned the deck “the seven of diamonds and the jack of hearts.”

“Please state Operative ID.”

“A746211-D.”

“If the female Alice Walker was born on the 21st of August 2057 how old will she be on the 30th of October 2073?”

His chest constricted with his answer “16 years, 2 months and 9 days old.”

“Repeat the mission M47295.”

“To decode the data recovered from mission M37356.”

“What was recovered?”

“The data was inconclusive,” he replied blankly.

“Where are the files relating to mission M37356?”

Tim opened his mouth to speak and shut it just as quickly. He stood up straight and puzzled over his lack of data. Blank. He was drawing a blank.

“Operative should state the whereabouts of the files relating to the mission M37356,”

He paused, toying with his answer. Could he tell it he didn’t know?

“I don’t know,” he replied at last and he felt afraid not only by his lack of memory but also of his confession to Interface. The whirring noises signalled to him that the computer was calculating his response and he eyed the door behind him nervously.

“Interface confirms.”

He huffed and rubbed at his face in relief; Command had obviously Ok’d the erase. He continued to rub at his eyes for longer than necessary, they were sore from Interface’s bright lights and as he pressed into them his closed eyes showed him dancing waves of colour.

“Ok,” he conceded after a moment’s pause. “Interface to reset.”

“Interface resetting.”

The lights went out and Tim wandered over to what he calculated to be the middle of the room, sitting down comfortably as he awaited the reset and whilst he waited he rubbed at his stubble wondering when he would be allowed to shave.

“Debriefing exercise for mission M47295,” Interface began and Tim thought that her voice could be beautiful if it were a little more human.

“Presentation 412. Is the Operative ready to commence?”

“Operative ready,” Tim croaked, his voice snagging on the higher syllable of ‘ready’. He was thirsty but he reasoned that it was probably just nerves; he’d never liked debriefings.

“Please state Operative ID.”

“A746211-D.”

The screen started and Tim watched it fill with numbers before he rose to approach it.

“Please select the prime numbers.”

Tim did so quickly, excelling in the well-practiced task.

“A ball is dropped from the height shown and proceeds to bounce in the following pattern. How man bounces before it reaches 25% of the height from which it was originally dropped?”

He watched the ball bounce. “7.”

“What number should finish the sequence? 23, 14, 19, 6 and 20.”

“19.”

“State the probability of the visual occurrence.”

“72%”

“What is the date of birth of the female Alice Walker?”

Tim recited the information though the feelings that surfaced through association with her name threatened to unhinge his ability to answer the more logical questions.

“Three playing cards are missing from the deck. Please state only the missing red cards.”

“The seven of diamonds and the jack of hearts,”

“Please state Operative ID.”

“A746211-D.”

“If the female Alice Walker was born on the 21st of August 2057 how old will she be on the 30th of August 2073?”

“If she was born?” he asked incredulously suddenly hating the tone of her voice. The fact that she had to involve his family in the debriefing wasn’t lost on him. He could sense the threat in the flat voice of Interface.

“The Operative should answer the question.”

Tim rubbed at his stubble and wondered when he would be allowed to shave.

“16 years, 2 months and 9 days old,” he replied finally.

“Repeat the mission M47295.”

“To decode the data recovered from mission M37356.”

“What was recovered?”

“Data was inconclusive.”

“Where are the files relating to mission M37356?”

Tim tried to remember but his usually swift mind returned nothing.

“Operative should state the whereabouts of the files relating to the mission M37356.”

“I don’t know,” he replied and the hair on the back of his neck rose in warning. He couldn’t remember the data pertaining to the case and he felt sure that he would be terminated because of it.

“Interface confirms.”

“Ok,” he said and breathed out a sigh of relief “Interface to reset.”

“Interface resetting.”

“Debriefing exercise for mission M47295. Presentation 413. Is the Operative ready to commence?”

“Operative ready,” Tim replied, his voice growing unfathomably hoarse with the bitter taste of bile somewhere in the offing.

“Please state Operative ID.”

“A746211-D.”

“Please select the prime numbers.”

Tim hurried over and clicked off the numbers impatiently, his fingers jabbing at the screen with undirected anger. He wondered if Interface could feel pain, he wondered if this minor aggressive action hurt her in some way.

“Please select all multiples of 17.”

Jab, jab, jab he tapped impatiently. He wondered how long it would be before he could leave.

“A ball is dropped from the height shown and proceeds to bounce in the following pattern. How many bounces before it reaches 25% of the height from which it was originally dropped?”

“7.”

“What number should finish this sequence? 23, 14, 19, 6 and 20.”

“19.”

“State the probability of the visual occurrence.”

“Hang on – is there a child under there?” he asked in a disbelieving voice as he approached the screen.

“Operative should answer the question.”

“Interface to replay last visual.”

“Replaying. Please state the probability of the visual occurrence.”

Tim watched again as the structure fell and was mollified by the fact that there was nothing beneath it, though he could have sworn that there was just moments before. His mind flashed back to flyaway blonde hair blowing in an unfelt breeze.

“72%,” he replied eventually though he traced his finger along the broken line of the building as he did. The image disappeared and he felt bereft.

“What is the date of birth of the female Alice Walker?”

“Why?” he asked incredulously.

“Operative should answer the question.”

“21st of August 2057.”

“Three playing cards are missing from this deck. Please state only the missing red cards.”

“The seven of diamonds and the jack of hearts.”

“Please state Operative ID.”

“A746211-D.”

“If the female Alice Walker was born on the 21st of August 2057 how old will she be on the 30th of October 2073?”

“She’ll be 16 years, 2 months and 9 days old,” he replied though the thought of her tugged at his heart strings. How long had it been since he had last seen her? He was buoyed with the urge to finish his debriefing and get home to his family.

“Repeat the mission M47295.”

“To decode the data recovered from mission M37356.”

“What was recovered?”

“Data was inconclusive.”

“Where are the files relating to M37356?”

“I don’t know,” he replied reflexively and he was frightened by his confession. He looked to the door behind him fearfully.

“Interface confirms.”

Tim frowned.

“Interface why does subject not know?” he asked.

“Data pertaining to mission M37356 has been erased,” Interface replied.

Tim went cold. He puzzled around her answer and was sure that his own inner workings were on this occasion louder that the components that powered Interface. He needed to ask though he paused in the question, rocking back and forth on his cold feet as he did so, the soft sticking sound the only accompaniment to his racing heartbeat. Tim licked his dry lips and though alarm bells were ringing in some unknown sector of his mind he asked “Interface who erased data pertaining to mission M37356?”

“Operative A746211-D erased data pertaining to M37356.”

Tim’s blood pounded throughout his system. A loud and panicked war drum in his ears. The sound was so encompassing that he nearly missed the hammering on the entrance panel behind him.

“Interface to reset!” he shouted.

“Interface resetting.”

“Good God, forgive me Alice,” he said as he hurried to the centre of the room milliseconds before the lights went out. He grew impatient as Interface began the restart sequence, the conscious death of his memories seemingly absolute in the emptiness of the cuboid room. The sounds behind him stopped gently as if they had simply ran out of steam and his shoulders sagged forward in a thankful surrender.

“Debriefing exercise for mission M47295. Presentation 414. Is the Operative ready to commence?” Interface chimed in with her accustomed flash of white.

Tim took a steadying breath. He felt frightened though he reasoned that debriefing had always unnerved him. “Operative ready.”

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