Tests

“No, go ahead. Just drop it in the pool!”  Ol’ Dean’s voice bounced off multiple warehouse walls.  “No… no!  I wasn’t serious, for God’s sake.  Pull it up… there.”  Bach needn’t give too much attention to whatever went on.  Likely as not, some fresh and inexperienced new guy was having trouble operating the water winch and crane, not living up to his father's bottomless reserves of perfectionism.  There could be nothing unusual about that, Bach thought to himself.  At least this meant that one of the two ceti husks must be just about ready for the moon pool and the bay waters beneath this part of the warehouse.  Bach wondered absently if his dad meant to put any more than one of those things out for the evening’s impending demonstration.

Whatever the case, Bach had his own husk to worry about.  Shaped like an ape, for lack of any better a comparison, the land-striding beast of a machine had been designed and built for labor.  Though slender in frame, it could stand quite tall at its full height, not to mention topple any standard car off its wheels with little effort.  Though husks of varying shapes and multiple levels of sophistication had been available to the public for the better part of a decade, this new model would outperform anything currently on the market.  All confidence aside, however, he’d need to have it working perfectly before the demonstration.  If anything, it already worked more than well enough.  Still, he’d not leave that purely to assumption.  

Satisfied with his inspection of the husk’s equivalent of a left knee, he pulled loose the medical retractor holding its strange rubbery skin open.  The husk’s polymer outer coating closed and sealed solid as if it hadn’t just spent the last twenty or thirty minutes sliced clean and held wide.  “Nothing wrong with that leg either,” Bach accounted to himself as he worked his way through a mental checklist.

Rubbing his hands free of an oily sensation, Bach pushed himself up off his knees and gave his lower back a good stretch.  Even in its relaxed half-crouch, he barely stood as tall as the husk’s shoulders.  Though the mindless machine carried itself like a great ape might, the width of its frame came in proportionally halfway between that of human and gorilla.  

Beyond that, all resemblance ended.  Instead of two large eyes, it sported six pinpoint cameras that might easily be missed without close inspection.  It had no noticeable ears, nor had it any use for a mouth or jaw.  Its hands and feet, designed similarly to one another, appeared like nothing found on any kind of primate, given the two fingers and two thumbs on each.  It had the wrong number of joints in both its arms and legs, and came encased in a creamy light green and somewhat translucent rubber skin.  In most places, at least.  Some particularly sturdy joints in the legs and around the neck gleamed with their naked metal alloy bones.

Though this ape-like husk offered no place for a pilot to ride — neither in it, nor on it — the thing could not operate without one.  Instead, such a pilot would ‘tune in’ to the machine via the wireless web and experience its operation as if he, or she, were the husk itself.  Wherever industry, public works, science, or even the military had a need for a strong pair of hands or legs — wherever conditions were particularly hazardous — these artificial beasts were held in high demand.  It is a far better thing to risk a machine than a human being.

Letting his eyelids slide shut, Bach cast his inner awareness out across the wireless in search of the husk’s void of a mind.  Somewhere in that search, it occurred to him that he’d have to come up with something to call it other than ‘thing’ or ‘ape-husk.’

Though the manmade beast stood right in front of him, distance had little relevance on the web and, as such, it took him a moment to find the damn thing.  Once he did, and with no consciousness already inside, Bach’s mind slipped inside without any sort of resistance.  Unlike other aspects of tuning into the wireless, this came relatively easy to him.  Then again, he worked with these animal-like devices day in and day out.  It simply didn’t matter that this may be a new and untried model.  Not after he’d basically designed and built the thing almost entirely on his own.

Bach popped his eyes open again and looked down upon the sweat-slicked top of his own dirty-blond head.  Many might suggest that ‘you never get used to that,’ but Bach certainly had.  He reached out with one artificial arm and touched his living body’s nose with such exactness that he could have easily confused the resulting sensation with the light touch of a passing breeze.  Given the late summer’s oppressive heat, that would have been welcome.

In general, husks were not designed for delicacy, though there's nothing to say that they could not be.  Regardless, clientele typically request brute strength more often than any other feature in the husks they purchase.  At the very least, a dexterity test told Bach that all the joints in that arm aligned perfectly, and ground against one another no more than was acceptable.

A repeat with the husk’s other arm got him a good poke in his real jaw, though that was more his fault than that of the machine itself.  He’d check the joints, even so, just to make doubly sure.  Further testing might have to wait, Bach realized.  An older man sporting the beginnings of grey at his temples strode up behind Bach’s living body even as he watched from above.   He knew this old coot very well, but he came shadowed by a strikingly dressed young woman, with long black, that he’d never seen before.

Given the unexpected company, Bach released his grip upon the husk’s mind even as he opened his living eyes.  A quick glimpse of the ape-husk relaxing back into its standard crouch was all he needed see before rounding on his visitors.   Almost without a second thought, Bach tuned out of the wireless web, mentally shoving it aside.  “Ol’ Sandy!”  

The older man shot him a genuinely wide smile as he lurched forward for one of those slap-on-the back sort of hugs men are generally willing to allow one another.  In so doing, Bach caught an eyeful of the woman who waited a couple paces behind Sandy.  She wore a natural smile… as if it came easily and often to her pale face.  Her eyes darted from one of the warehouse’s spectacles to the next before meeting his… and she did not look away even as Ol’ Sandy placed himself between them.

“You’ve not met?”  So asked the elder man… Sandy Earl Abraham, whom Bach had known all his life.  Now a congressman, a representative from Maine’s third district to the union capitol, Sandy had once been his father’s roommate back at university.  He’d since had a hand in the resurrection of the old Kavanagh industrial properties.  Namely, the surrounding warehouse and the adjacent offices.  Following that success, he’d gone on to challenge himself by running for and, after a couple tries, winning his office.  Though the man shared no blood with either Bach or his father, he was as near to family as one could be short of the law.

The young woman’s unwavering stare tugged hard on Bach’s most self-conscious strings.  “No,” he answered, almost without volume.

The old man broke out in another grin, knowing Bach’s introverted nature all too well. “Oh ho.  Sorry then.  She’s been my aide for a couple years, but I guess I’ve not brought her home before now.”  He paused for a moment, and nearly blushed, likely having just given second thought to his choice of words.  The moment passed quickly enough, though.  “This is Khloe Kalitzakis,” he introduced her with a hand on her shoulder.  “And Khloe,” he continued in tandem with the same gesture in kind, “this is Bach Kavanagh, my good friend’s son and increasingly likely heir to the business, from the looks of things around here.”

The woman hadn’t lost her smile at any point through the introductions, but did manage to widen it remarkably just about the time Ol’ Sandy had finished.  “Sir Kavanagh,” she said with a tilted nod.

Bach winced slightly at the greeting.  Maybe ‘Sir’ and ‘Lady’ were all the rage these days, but Bach still remembered a time when people called each other ‘Mister’ or ‘Miss.’  Well, Bach conceded to himself, when they thought to include any measure of politeness toward one other at all.  “Bach is fine, thanks… all that ‘Sir’ business,” he dithered.  “You know…”

She nodded as she pressed her lips together with understanding.  She must be younger by at least five years… and yet… assistant to a congressman?  Bach shot Ol’ Sandy a questioning glance, but tossed aside his momentary suspicion.  The old man may be ever the bachelor, sure, and not shy around women by any stretch of the imagination.  Still, he’d not allow an in-office relationship, much less be tempted into one himself.  No, this youthful woman had to have genuinely earned her position beside him, if here she stood.  

She must be talented, Bach guessed to himself even as he asked of the congressman, “Been back long?”

“Came straight here,” Sandy let on.  “Not so far a drive further on to Bangor, even if we left late.”  

“No, not usually,” Bach admitted, watching as Khloe meandered her way around the two talking men.  Her eyes caught his again, for one appraising moment, before she turned her attentions upon the husk he’d only just been testing.  Watching out of the corner of his eye, he caught her second questioning look, hand stretched out toward the ape-shaped machine.  Bach gave her a wordless nod, which she acknowledged before laying a hand on the thing’s upper leg.

“Your dad around?”  Sandy’s question brought Bach’s attention ‘round again, realizing only then that he’d probably been watching her for far too many consecutive and conspicuous moments.  A certain glint in the old man’s eyes let Bach know well that he’d noticed.  His face might have felt hot just then, were not the insides of the warehouse already quite the oven.  The seaside sliding doors had been left open all afternoon, but the air itself had refused to move all the while.

Wait… he’d been asked a question!  Dad?  Bach swung an eye out across the warehouse… couldn’t have been that long since he’d heard the old man giving some newbie a hard time somewhere ‘round the rim of the pool.  “Thought he was.  Heard him full sour not five minutes ago.”

Ol’ Sandy chuckled out an understanding laugh.  “Alright, I’ll go look in his office.  Same one, right?”

“Yuh.”

The congressman turned to move off ‘round the pool, but stopped short.  “You coming, Kay?”

“That’s alright.”  Khloe, in answering him, never took her eyes away from her intimate inspection of the husk.

“Well enough.  Make sure to be back hereabouts by dinner.”  The older man sounded like a father, himself.  

“Yeah,” she returned with a bit of a drawl.  ‘Be off with you,’ she might have been saying with that one word.

Satisfied, Ol’ Sandy wandered off, leaving Bach with this woman he’d called ‘Kay.’  Was that a grin on his face as he turned away?  Whatever that meant, Bach could have guessed at, but preferred not to.  Instead, he returned his attention to the woman now so transfixed with the mindless ape-husk that towered over her.  He couldn’t help but study her as she studied it — not much else to do when one hadn’t a way with words.  Some people did, but not Bach. 

Strangest thing, really, about her.  The dress she wore flowed freely, clasping tightly only about her neck, and so high as to ride right under the jaw line.  If anything, the thought of that neck-clasp had Bach feeling just the slightest bit claustrophobic.  In the limited ambient light of the warehouse, her flowing frock seemed a dull red.  Perhaps even brown, if richly so.  He’d no notion of ever having seen quite this sort of fashion before now.

Might as well do something about this.  “He called you Kay?”  It didn’t occur to him to include the contemporary title of ‘lady.’  Titles, in general, did not come naturally to him… not even those of his youth.  There was just something about their use that felt disingenuous, if anything.  False politeness, perhaps?  

Abruptly, the woman straightened, allowing the draping fabric to once again hint at her slender form.  Bach made a point to look right into her face.  “Yeah.  Kay is alright, I guess… though Khloe is just as well.”

“Alright.”  He’d have said her name just then, but the pause would have given him away in his introverted discomfort just then.  Too late now, anyhow.

Don’t women know what they do to men when dressing, well, like that?  It wasn’t the least bit revealing, really, except only that it allowed one’s imagination something to work with.  Maybe he was just weird, thinking like this, but didn’t really think so.  Women more than likely did this sort of thing on purpose, and knew it full well.  He certainly did not have to play along, though.

“This’ll be in the demo?”  She returned her gaze to the inanimate husk relaxing before and above her, but fluidly closed the gap between Bach and herself by half.  

Oh, the ape husk?  “Yeah, it’s… it’s a new design.  Doesn’t even have a proper name yet.”  Bach let himself wonder for a moment at just how much this woman might know about such things as husks and other related technologies.

“Is it viable?”

“Yeah.  I was in there just as you two walked up behind me.”

“Ah.  Thought you were a bit of a statue back there.”  She said this with a wry and lopsided grin, showing teeth only on one side.  “Can I try it?”

Bach had to think about this.  “Hmm,” he let out, buying time.  He couldn’t really think of a reason to say no, in spite of his general unease.  “I guess so.”  Of course, he’d have to tune back into the web to pull that off.  He hadn’t developed the tastes that modern youths had these days for spending their entire lives online, now that the web overlapped the physical world… and as such, the act of tuning in and tuning out required something of an effort.  Even so, only a moment passed before things became a lot more lively ‘round the warehouse.  

Figments, mostly in the form of interface displays, read outs, and check lists — the sort of things that might have been displayed on computer monitors a quarter century before — hovered within reach of any given worker in the warehouse.  

An oversized calendar hung on one wall—not really there, but existing as a web-hosted common perception—looking for all the world like a real calendar, complete with the dull and diffuse reflections of paper.  If he’d a mind to tune back out just then, it would have vanished without a trace.  The web essentially just let aone’s senses know that something should be there.  And what it was, basically.  A person’s imagination could fill in for those cues.  Call it a net-served and public form of controlled schizophrenia, perhaps.  Maybe thinking of it in that way had some part in Bach’s disdain for the ubiquitous service.

The woman before him came adorned in figments as well, Bach noticed.  This sort of thing was far from uncommon.  Her previously dark brown eyes had changed to a what could only be described as a smoldering green… they nearly glowed.  The same could be said of her odd dress which did, in fact, now virtually glow with the churning blacks and oranges of lazy Hawaiian lava.  Furthermore, whereas the long hair cloaked much of the right side of her face, on the right and without touching, sinuous figments resembling glassy feathers emanated out from and otherwise followed the outer curves of her left ear.  They hung there as if gravity had no meaning… which, frankly, was true for such things literally seen only behind his eyes. 

Odd as these ethereal modifications to his perceptions of her may be, they were tame compared to what most folk wore these days.  Bach supposed she was on the job, after all.  Can’t go too crazy.  No imaginary pet micro-dragon or anything of similarly tasteless ilk nipping at her heels.  No horns, no halo, no wings sprouting from her back.

Bach simply hadn’t a mind for that sort of thing, which is probably why he spent the majority of any given day tuned wholly out of the net.  He preferred the world in its rustic, natural, and unadorned form.  Sure, he appreciated that the wetware within him — those artificial colonies of cell-sized machines — kept his arteries pristine and zapped at things unwelcome in, or unnatural to, his body.  But the part where they added to his senses these figments of the communal imagination… well, that part he could live without most days.

Of course, if he was going to open the husk up to this woman, he had no choice but to tune in.  “Give me your question,” he said, guarding his tone from sounding demanding.

Without a second moment’s hesitation, the woman nodded her head and outstretched a hand.  Before it materialized a strange shape that boggled the eyes.  Some folk called these things ‘instant headaches,’ and for good reason.  Mathematical fragments represented in ten dimensions, these partial signatures left none to wonder just why the eye couldn’t make heads or tails of them.  They serve as something like locks, which is a bit backwards from the conventional notion of such things.  Rather than handing out the keys to a lock, in this case it is the lock that is being handed out, and the owner always retains the key in absolute privacy.  The question could be given away safely and freely.  

One’s identity could be proven by combining the eye-bending mathematical question with the owner’s otherwise unknowable key, often called the ‘answer.’  Only in combination with the question does the key provide the answer, at which point, the visible shape of the signature solidifies into something perfect, comprehensible and, at very least, not painful to look at.  Since the question exists across ten mathematical dimensions, there are literally trillions upon trillions of trillions of possible keys, only one of which can solve it.  Instant headaches aside, these NIP signatures, as they’re called, keep one’s proof of identity as an absolute.  

Bach could recall a time, growing up, when that sort of thing was always in doubt, when people’s lives could be turned upside down by the theft of their electronic identity.  That hadn’t been true for a long time now.

Snatching at the ethereal signature, Bach moved ‘round behind the ape-husk and waved a hand over something of a spinal hump between its massive shoulders.  Another incomprehensible shape appeared hovering in the air, surrounded by a yellow halo.  With his free hand, Bach summoned up his own personal signature key and, soon thereafter, the two eye-bending shapes merged into something akin to a soap bubble of sapphire hues, if only for a lingering moment before popping out of existence.  The non-existant halo flipped into a friendly green.

Essentially, Bach had just proven his identity to the husk. He’d ensured his authority to over the machine’s internal software.  “Let me add a pilot,” he said out loud, though it was the transmission of his will that carried over the wireless and into the husk’s processors.  In response, the halo flipped in hue once again… this time into an inviting shade of blue.  

Bach released his grip on and pushed Khloe’s personal signature into the waiting halo, where it immediately disappeared.  Regardless of the fact that neither the signature nor the input halo actually existed, the wetware in his body added a tactile sensation to his nerves… a false feeling of actual resistance to his push.  Such made interfacing with the web a lot easier, if also a bit… creepier.  

Having ingested Khloe’s ‘question’ signature, the halo glowed yellow for a moment, then green again before finally vanishing outright.  “You’re good,” Bach announced as he leaned sideways and out from behind the artificial beast’s massive silhouette.

“Fuzzy!”  Khloe chirped genuine excitement, tossing out another two syllables of modern slang.  Not a second moment passed before she pushed her mind into the husk and she had the thing standing upright, towering above him and her both.  When her living body wavered somewhat as it stood, Bach knew she must be quite unpracticed at this.  He moved to steady her with a hand upon the shoulder.

“Careful, please.”  Bach addressed the husk rather than the woman.  For the moment, it supplied her senses.  

The thing lifted an arm and produced something of a gesture halfway between the tip of a hat, and a flailing salute.  Every bit the expression of its temporary namesake, the ape-husk took to hulking about in a circle, walking on its legs and arms all at once.  Its bulb of a head swung back and forth, taking everything in.  This brought to Bach’s mind a suggestion.  “Khloe… your eyes in that thing will range a little ways past either end of the visible spectrum.  Try it.”

In reply, the beast of a husk shrugged at him, and then grew still.  Seemed she had to figure out how to make the thing synthesize speech before asking, “How?”

“Widen your eyes… or squint.  Well, I mean… you know what I mean.”  Trying to explain bodily functions, when one wasn’t actually presently using their body, was the best way, even if confusing at the same time.

“Oh ho.”  The husk stood again, head swinging even more enthusiastically than before.  “That’s too fuzzy!”  The artificial beast’s head found Bach then, and the thing crept closer to him, cautiously, on all fours.  “Bach!  I can see your heart beating!”  She must have ‘widened’ her eyes, to be looking into the infrared like that.  

“Yep.”  He’d played with it himself, never having grown bored with such things.

An arm stretched out toward him, but stopped short of bowling him across the floor.  “What kind of name is Bach, anyways?”

He could only blink, taken off guard by the sudden change in topic.  Granted, he’d never met anyone else with his name before, but…  It can’t be that odd, can it?  “What’s wrong with it?” he asked with a breath of defiance.  

“Didn’t say there was anything sour about it,” she returned with some heat, even as she maneuvered the husk back ‘round to where she’d found it.  A moment later, the real woman opened her eyes as the husk behind her relaxed, having lost the mind its pilot had been providing.  “I’ve just not met anyone before,” she said as she closed the gap between them, “who even had Bach as a surname, much less as a given name.”  She smiled as she said all this, and Bach could not help but return the gesture.

“All I can say about it is that it’s the name I was given.”

“Fair enough.  It’s actually rather fuzzy, if you ask me.  Makes you stand out.”  She said this, even as her attention drifted out across the warehouse.  “Though,” she continued after a moment, “You don’t really carry yourself like the sort who makes a spectacle of himself.”

“Eh?”  Not the sort of commentary Bach usually received from people he’d only just met.

She rounded on him, eyes bold.  “I’ll wager you’re single, too.”  Her eyebrows leveled themselves above her challenging if virtually colored emerald eyes.  “Am I right?”

Bach might have gaped at her.  He hadn’t presence of mind just then to know whether he did or not, taking him a moment to recover himself.  “The hell kind of question is that?”  This, he said not with anger but almost as a whisper, as if to himself.  The urge to break eye contact pulled at him.

“Yeah, I thought so.  What do you have to be so self-conscious about?  Why worry about what others may think?”

Is that so wrong?  “I don’t really… worry, I mean… about that.”  This line of questioning had tossed him wholly out of his element.

“You lie, but that’s fine.”  And with that, she let him go.  “Are all of these going to be in the demonstration?”  She asked this with a broad wave of the arm, indicating the half dozen other folk attending to their own various models of husk.  El Washburn had his cetacean-style model in the water finally, so named for the fact that it was built like a tiny winged whale, designed more for diving depth than for speed.  Another water-going model might be shown that had the latter intent by design, but he didn’t see it anywhere just then.

Other walking models, different from his, occupied the other corners of the room.  Another somewhat ape-like model, like his, but smaller; another that, for all the world, looked like a car-sized centipede; and a third that bore itself more like a cat than anything else.  Some were in play, occupied by the minds of pilots, while others relaxed mindlessly while engineers poked and prodded at them much as he had been ‘til she and Ol’ Sandy had dropped in on him.

“Yeah, and a couple more.  There should be flying models laying 'round somewhere, but… not here I guess.”

“Oooh,” she let on, if perhaps just for his sake, or so he suspected.  In possible confirmation, she changed the subject yet again.  “Well, better not spoil my surprise, then.  Anything to do around here?

Where?  “In Castine?”

“Yeah.”  

Bach had to think about this.  Aside from his own family’s little manufacturing and research plant down by and hanging over the waterfront — beside this and the old maritime academy — the town of Castine defined the term ‘sleepy town.’  The place seasonally drew tourists, if with god knows what.  Mount Desert Island has more going on than this place did.  “I don’t really know,” he said with an edge of irritation, not that he’d meant to direct it her way.  

Khloe’s hands found her hips, and her black eyebrows went flat again.  “Oh?”  That sounded more like a threat than a question.

“There isn’t that long before dinner n’demo, really,” Bach dithered.  A couple hours, at most.  Any other visitors or potential clients that planned to be attending in physical form were either arriving or had already, and busied themselves with settling in for the evening.  “I wouldn’t recommend a drive, either, even in this weather.  Too easy to head off down some coastal road and lose all track of time.”  He didn’t think she’d bite on his one idea, but there was little else to offer.  “I guess you could check out the plaques and such ‘round town.”

Khloe shot him a quizzical look.  “Plaques?”

Hah, didn’t think so!  “Yeah, they’re all over town.  This place has been tied up in a number of wars… battles.  Hell, the single worst American naval defeat prior to… um… yeah, prior to Pearl Harbor occurred in dispute of this peninsula.  English defended it despite being outnumbered, and then Revere and Saltonstall and others literally sunk their own fleet to keep it out of the hands of British reinforcements.”

The flat stare continued for a moment, but then broke upwards in the middle, with eyebrows raised questioningly.  “Paul Revere?”  

Everyone knows his name, but not that of Saltonstall, or Lovell, or Wadsworth.  Odd how history works.  “Yeah.  He barely escaped a court martial over it later.”  Bach really didn’t care that much about this kind of thing, either, but he’d grown up here where the local history was impossible to avoid for long.

“Is that so?”

“Sorry.  I know it’s all ancient history, but it’s not really a lively town.  There’s not much more to offer than that.  People come here for lazy summers.  If you can afford it, there’s a view of Penobscot bay to be had from the various inns and mansions further up the hill.”  Bach suddenly realized he’d more than likely just said more words out loud, in the last few minutes, than he had in all the week previous.  Well, aside from perhaps talking to himself, but that didn’t count.  In any case, “If you’re looking for a pastime, that may well be all there is.”

“Not really my kinda thing.”

“Didn’t really think it might be,” Bach admitted in candor.

She looked ‘round, then shot him another flat look, and then looked ‘round again.  “Sizing me up then?”

Bach choked, “What?  No!”

“You said it yourself.  You didn’t think it would be my sort of entertainment.”  She had her eyes on him again, and there was something of amusement within them.  

Bach knew then that she was having fun with him.  Did she do this sort of thing to people often?  Hell, even worse.  Does she do this to people waiting to meet with the congressman, down south?  He couldn’t imagine it.  “Well,” He dithered, stretching for anything he could say.  

“Let’s see ‘em, then!”

Huh?  “What?”

“They’re a big deal, right?  Take me to see these plaques of yours!”  Her hands were back on her hips, but the amusement hadn’t left her eyes.

“I’m busy here!”

“What?  It felt fine to me,” she said, motioning toward the resting ape-husk.  

Hmm… “So you know what a husk should feel like, then, huh?  A prototype husk that no one but me or my father has ever used before?  You’ve determined it to be fit for demonstration?”  Suddenly, he sounded angry… and, again, didn’t mean to.  She had him off balance.

Still, neither the challenge nor the amusement retreated from her countenance.  She’s a tough nut, Bach thought. Likely every bit as extroverted as he wasn’t.  “I’ll bet it is,” she asserted.  “I’m right, aren’t I?”

Bach might omit certain information when prudent, or exaggerate the rare story, but he doesn’t lie.  “Yeah, probably.”

A toothy grin split her face wide.  “Yeah, I thought as much.  So take me out on the town, then!”

Why Bach resisted, he couldn’t even answer to himself.  “I really shouldn’t.”  A hundred other things could be checked.  Not just on this husk, but on any of the others.  There were things to check that he knew better even than some the company’s veterans, much less the newer recruits.  He could go back to his office and check to make sure that all figment paperwork possible new clients might want would be ready and on hand.  Didn’t matter if they didn’t exist, as they could be summoned up on a whim.  They still had to say all the right things, refer to all the right addresses, et cetera.  Just as likely they’re fine, too.   

Ah… but there was something he could take care of while involuntarily escorting his strange new companion.  “I’ll take you ‘round the town only if we swing by the sheriff’s office.”

“The… sheriff’s?”  An unidentifiable look passed across her face, if momentarily.

“Sure, just to check that all the arrangements are made for closing off the nearby public parking lot.  Space for the demonstration, you know.”  Also likely a task already well in hand, but no one could fault him for checking on it.  It could serve as excuse.  Given how busily impatient visitors to town could be, especially in and around the town lot by the waterfront, local police would have to be weeding out the cars starting now, if not sooner!  

“Alright.”

Bach motioned toward a smaller door that led out of the warehouse on the street side rather than near the water.  “Takes no time at all to walk ‘round this little town.”

She gave him a pleasant grin before moving on ahead of him.  “That sounds fuzzy enough to me.”  A few steps ahead, she pulled open the door, and let in the afternoon sunlight.  Bach blinked a moment, not because of the light, but to tune out of the wireless web — to clear his senses of the various road signs and advertising figments that always so adorned the streets these days.