Publish Novellas 25 July 2021
EPISODE 5 – AWOL
With Dennis and Abigail in the wind, their boss tries to piece together omissions in their data and track them down.
After convincing the autonomous vehicle that he does not want to go to work, it takes Dennis and Abigail to the Hyperloop train. Exceeding 600 miles per hour, this slingshots them to a faraway destination.
Their travel pod is relatively empty on this midmorning weekday. With just three rows occupied, the occupants appear immersed in their thoughts or personal activities. Dennis considers them all closely. For the first time, he isn’t seeing people on the Hyperloop as faceless individuals. He sees them as people who have somewhere really far away to go, very fast.
There is a man of about sixty years old seated with something that seems to be trending—a retro hardcover book. Dennis, prefers the convenience of mobile devices, but if the guy wants books, who is he to criticize?
Seated across the aisle from the mature gentleman is a contrastingly young redhead of about nineteen years old. She is transfixed on her phone. Her small backpack betrays the presence of at least one hardcover book. Dennis shrugs off the contradiction. “She should be at home with her parents… or in school,” he thinks to himself.
Abigail looks at him briefly and follows his gaze to the young lady. “She is beautiful.”
Dennis shakes his head and replies, “She should be with her parents.”
The Hyperloop speeds through a dark underground tunnel. When they return above ground, Dennis’ phone begins ringing. He looks at the screen and dismisses the call.
“Who is it?” Abigail asks.
"Katy,” he replies without looking at Abigail.
“Oh boy!” she exclaims while touching her hair nervously.
Dennis gently squeezes her hand. “It will all be okay!”
She affirmatively nods, unconvinced.
“You should take a nap. From the minute we step on the plane, we will be fugitives.” They bounce from the the United States to the Philippines, to Asia, and then Europe before continuing.
Katy sits in front of her computer, glaring at Dennis’ workload over the past week and wonders what changed. He has always been very reliable. She scrolls down list after list, entry after entry, hoping to find a clue as to what is going on.
Towards the end of his Friday entries, she notices a deleted item. It is his job to enter rare genetic diseases and their symptoms into the database. Why did he delete something instead?
She doesn’t want to assume the worst, but follows the alphabetical order of the diseases and realizes a conspicuous record is missing.
“Could Dennis have dysautonomia?” she thinks to herself as she continues going through the lists. But Dennis’ name does not show up under dysautonomia. Confused, she begins inputing the records Dennis did not get to.
In another screen, she accesses personal records for Dennis and notices from his smartphone GPS that he is bouncing all over the world. There is a high volume of communication between him and Abigail.
The two of them even visited Utah over the weekend. But Abigail has not been at work since Thursday. Katy wants to know if she also has a disease they are trying to conceal.
As she enters each new disease, the names of people who already have symptoms show up. When she enters Adult-Onset Still’s Disease, everything suddenly makes sense. She scrolls back up to dysautonomia and finds that it wasn’t Dennis’ name she ought to have been looking for. It was Abigail.
She knows what is happening, and vacillates between giving Dennis and Abigail up or protecting them. If Dennis had trusted her, maybe things would not have come this far. Now that she has entered the diseases into the database, there is no turning back.
Katy pulls up the surveillance of him visiting the doctor’s office. She then remotely accesses Dennis’ computer and fishes out his deleted browser history. The things she sees there confirms what she already knows. “How sad,” Katy mutters under her breath as she takes the information to her superior.
Dennis and Abigail take a plane that lands late in the evening. Turbulence in the air led the pilot to suspect a hack so he ordered everyone to switch off their phones.
Abigail halts him from complaining. “Let’s not attract attention to ourselves. Something tells me pictures of us will be in the media pretty soon.”
Dennis agrees and stops talking. When they get off the plane, however, he still has a few snide remarks about the airline. Powering up his phone he sees it populate with messages urging them to come into the office. They both look at each other.
“We need to get Nick!” Abigail says.
“Yes… right away,” Dennis says while dialing.
Nick answers the call, but is silent over the phone. All Dennis can hear is him breathing.
“Nick… what’s up man?”
“Dennis, is that you?” Nick cautiously confirms.
“Yes, Abigail and I have been flagged. You think you can get us some help?”
“Oh, my god Dennis, where are you? You were supposed to come over and let me help you get those things out…”
“It’s too late for that. My job just sent messages asking us to check into the nearest facility,” Dennis replies.
“Yeah, the government needs to compare your symptoms to some rare diseases…”
Seeing through the request, Dennis snickers, “It is pretty obvious that they already know. Nick, please research treatments for Still’s disease and dysautonomia, as fast as you can!”
After a short silence, Nick responds. “Dennis…”
“Nick, please! Please…” begs Dennis.
“Okay, let me see what I can find out.”
“Thank you.” The line clicks dead and Dennis turns to an anxiously awaiting Abigail. “Nick will help this time,” Dennis says.
“His desire to help isn’t the same as his willingness to help,” Abigail reasons out loud as she wipes a tear from the corner of her eye.
Dennis pulls her into a warm hug to let her cry it out while standing in the airport waiting area. “We need a break from all the flying. Let’s see where we can settle in away from cameras,” he advises.
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