Perturbed and confused by the odd behavior of Alvis, Lorraine decided to stop for a drink on the way home. “James,” she said into her wrist-com, which she set to message mode, “I’ve got something I need to take care of. I probably won’t be home for dinner. I love all of you.” With that, she entered her favorite bar, the Unicord. Walking in, she could see it was a slow night, with only a few patrons scattered about. She ordered a Snorter from the bartender, Riley, whom she had spoken with many times before. As she paid for her drink, Riley brushed her arm suggestively. “Not tonight Riley, I’ve actually got real Ministry work to do.” Riley ran a pick through her afro nonchalantly and turned her back away from the bar. “Your loss. But come see me anytime,” she replied. Lorraine didn’t reply to this, and moved to a booth at the back of the bar where she could have some privacy. She looked again at the comm code on her wrist-com. Her fingered hovered above the ‘authorize’ button, while all sorts of odd thoughts went through her mind. Who was on the other end of the line? What did they do? Did they know about the murder? How? Was she in trouble? Only one way to find out. Lorraine pushed ‘authorize’. What she saw on the other end surprised her more than all the other strange events of the day.
“Yeah, who’s this?” The face on the other end of Lorraine’s wrist-com was that of an older woman, maybe 63, although it was hard to tell. The woman had dark black hair streaked with gray, cut short, maybe a little past her ears, with a dull brown complexion. Lorraine had never seen an older person except in pictures, which she supposed this was too, but different. This one she could interact with. “Hi, I’m Lorraine. I work for the Ministry of-” at which point she was interrupted by the old woman on the other end of the connection. “Let me guess. You’re young, but not too young. Close to moving up, but still in Twentytown. Your Alvis shut down unexpectedly, and it won’t answer any of your requests.” Lorraine looked into her drink, surprised. How could she know all this? “Who are you?” Lorraine asked. “My name is Doris,” the older woman on the other end of her wrist-com said, “and I think I’m going to have to help you solve a murder.”
Lorraine assumed that Doris was a member of Sunset – Colony E. Sunset was the last rung up the ladder of Colonies. Once you got there, you’d completed your journey. Seeing as how travel between Colonies was only one way (up, never down, and never back), she didn’t understand how Doris could help her in any way. So many questions. Almost as if she could read Lorraine’s mind, Doris spoke. “Let me guess. You know interactions between Colonies is forbidden. You know travel is the same. Well, newsflash kid,” Newsflash? That’s not a phrase Lorraine recognized. “See, sometimes the Babysitters – sorry, the Kasparovs,” Lorraine could detect the sarcasm in Doris’ voice, “find something they don’t understand. I’m from an older generation. You might say I’m an outdated model if that makes you feel better. But I remember the world before the Revolution.” Lorraine had studied some of the history of pre-Revolution, but it fascinated her. Animatedly, she spoke into her com “You did? What was it like? I’ve read it was a nasty, violent, socially intolerant place.” Feeling like she was making a fool of herself, Lorraine slowed her speech before she spoke again. “Everyone says I have an old soul, and I’m really interested in what it was like.”
Doris didn’t answer. Doris figured it best if the kid didn’t know too much. “We’re not going to be able to do this via com-link. I’m going to have to come to you.” Doris said. The look on Lorraine’s face when Doris said this was exactly what she expected, a mix of confusion and excitement. “But travel isn’t allowed! Interaction with different ages is forbidden. How would you even get here?” Lorraine was all at once animated again. She knew that Citizens understood when it was time to move up the ladder to the next Colony, but interaction between Colonies wasn’t something that was done. Most people didn’t even think about the reasons as to why, because they were too busy living in the present.
Doris spoke again. “I’m scheduled to arrive there tomorrow night. They won’t let me bring my wife so I’m hoping this doesn’t take too long. I hate leaving her alone.” At this Lorraine suggested “The rest of your collective will watch her, won’t they?” “I don’t have a collective, kid. One wife, that’s all.” Lorraine had never met anyone with only a single partnup. “How…” Lorraine didn’t know how to respond to this. “It’s ok kid. You’d probably think it was quaint. I guess in some ways it is. But, I maintain some nostalgia for the old ways.” At this, Doris touched something on her wrist-com which sent instructions to Lorraine’s device. “All you need to know is on there. It tells you when I’m arriving and where I will meet you. Oh, and you can’t tell your collective any of this. From now on you shouldn’t talk about duty in anything but a perfunctory way to them.” “Doris, why you?” Lorraine needed to know this. “Because I used to be like you kid. A detective. Only back then, we had real crimes to solve. Plus, I miss seeing young people. Sometimes. Not often, mind you.” Doris shut her wrist-com off. Lorraine had a million questions, but she knew the comm code was probably disabled by now. She would have to wait to see what happened next.