In which we find out George is only PARTLY crazy.
Bob rolled out of his bunk and into the dimly lit room. Glancing at the clock, he hurriedly got dressed. He was late for his shift in the command center, and Phil wasn't going to be happy about having stayed on for an extra hour.
He pushed the button next to the door to let it slide open with a cold hiss. Walking down the hallway he couldn't help but feel ridiculous. He'd been on this job for the last two years, and it just seemed silly to waste this level of resources on a single man... but hey, his paycheck cleared every two weeks, and it beat the alternative.
Bob's job was simple, the security contractor he worked for had been hired to make sure one man stayed in one place. Bob didn't know why, and Bob didn't care why. It was a job.
Eventually he reached the command center. The room was a wall of monitors, displaying various surveillance and satellite feeds. It was run by a center console that could be manned by one or two people, and at the moment a heavy set man was sitting there, reading a book.
"You're late," said the man, not looking up.
"Sorry Phil, Slept through my alarm," said Bob, sitting down next to him. "You ready for the changeover?"
Phil closed his book, "Yep, let's do this."
Bob pulled out a clip board, "Okay, so what did Georgie boy do today."
"Nothing so far as I can tell," replied Phil shrugging. "He didn't stop by his usual spots at all."
Bob was a little confused, "None of them? Where is he now?"
Phil shrugged, "Well, the impact yesterday misaligned the satellite we had on his alley. I didn't spot him cross out of it all day."
Bob had a bad feeling in his gut, "What do you mean 'All day'? He didn't leave the alley once? Get me eyes surrounding his alley for your whole shift..."
Phil looked at him strangely, "Why?"
"Because he had to have eaten at some point and he's a creature of habit," replied Bob, keying up data on the console. "He'd show up at one of his regular spots at least... him not being on our grid for a whole shift doesn't make any sense."
Phil began pulling up recordings of various feeds. As they back tracked throughout the day, Bob got more and more nervous. Finally, they found the recordings of early that morning.
It was footage of their subject leaving the alley and going to a laundromat.
Phil looked stunned, "Oh god... that must have been while I was in the can..."
Bob shook his head. The place was built for two people at a time, but the company was only willing to pay for single person shifts.
They spent the next ten minutes tracking him, until he disappeared onto a bus. It took them another few hours to track his movements, from bus to bus, until they finally spotted him... walking onto the freeway with a cardboard sign.
And then a blue sedan picked him up.
Bob stared in amazement, "You have got to be kidding me."
"Did George just leave the city?" asked Phil incredulously.
"He did," replied Bob. "We are so going to be fired. I have to call this in and find out what to do."
Phil nodded solemnly, and activated the secure subspace transceiver. It was a rather sophisticated set up for a two man facility built on a primitive planet, and Bob always thought it was strange they had it. Their system was virtually unhackable, untraceable, and as secure as any subspace communication system could possibly be.
And they were just in charge of watching one guy.
Someone with a lot of money and a lot of power didn't want George going anywhere, and now Bob and Phil had screwed the pooch. Hell was going to be paid, and Bob had a sinking feeling he was going to end up with the check. The transceiver made it's final verifications on their connection, and Bob and Phil were put through to their supervisor.
"This is Monitoring Station 716. Security Officers Phil Scott and Bob Rey checking in," Phil started, as per their standard protocol. "Security code 0058373. We have a situation."
The face that now dominated half the screens in the room was not a happy looking one to start with, no matter what they called in, and he sure wasn't going to be happy about this. It belonged to a man in his late fifties, but he looked much older as stress had prematurely aged him. Supervisor Franz was not a friendly guy.
"What the heck did you bozos do?" echoed Franz's voice in the command center.
"Uh, well... Subject George Larkin has left the city sir," Bob said tentatively. Franz was turning red with anger.
"WHAT?" he yelled at them. Bob's ears were ringing. "When did this happen!"
"Almost a day ago sir," explained Phil. "Our eyes on his alley were misaligned by an impact with some tourist who crashed their ship. We do know that he's still on the planet though."
"This is unacceptable! Do you understand how much trouble you're in!" Franz's eyes narrowed. "Do you understand how much trouble this company is going to be in?"
"Yes sir, we understand sir," replied Phil nervously.
"And you're telling me that George Larkin leaves the city immediately after an interstellar impact?" fumed Franz. "Are you telling me this is coincidence?"
"What do you want us to do sir?" asked Bob, hoping the response wasn't going to be an order to pursue George.
"GO AFTER HIM!" yelled the now beet red giant head.
"Yes sir, we understand sir," responded Phil. "Station 716 out."
With that, Phil closed the connection. Bob sighed.
"Well, this sucks," said Bob, standing up. "We need to start tracking that car. Do we have any good angles on the thing?"
Phil shook his head, "Not when he was picked up, that was the only satellite with a decent angle, and it was top down. Barely sure of the make, let alone any distinct features."
Bob sighed. The frustrating part of working on a primitive planet was that while their command center could be as high tech as they wanted, they were left using surveilance cameras installed by the locals. While holoimagers would make their lives so much easier, if on the off chance a primitive found one, Bob and Phil would find themselves not only fired but possibly in prison for breaking interstellar law. So, they resigned themselves to intercepting images from the primitive devices that were already there.
This meant that Bob's job was on the line and the only thing that could save it was incredibly primitive technology. Needless to say, Bob didn't exactly feel like singing and dancing at the moment.
"Pull up the hologrid and track the car on the footage as far as we can," said Bob. "If it continues on this route, KRX-15 should pick it up a little over the horizon, and we just might be able to get a license plate or something."
Phil nodded and got to work. It took them several hours of manually tracking the blue sedan across various feeds, but eventually they were able to get a clear read on the vehicle's plates.
"Okay, now I'm going to program the system to ping the datapad any time that vehicle enters one of the areas we have surveilance on. We have a direction though, and we should get moving," Phil said standing up.
"You'd think over ten years our predecessors would have broken into more satellites..." said Bob shaking his head.
Phil laughed, "They would have been yelled at for wasting resources. George has never left the city before."
"Well, he has now, and we've got to go after him," replied Bob. "We should get the RX-5 up and running and go after them."
Phil nodded. "You're driving. I haven't slept in over twenty hours."
Bob and Phil proceeded out of the command center and down a rather disused corridor. It was the path to the parking area which held several vehicles. These were always meant to be available in case George tried to escape, but since in the last ten years George hadn't really gone anywhere, they'd been left to collect dust.
When they arrived in the room, the dank smell of disuse filled the air. Bob pulled a set of keys off of a nail in the wall and approached a vehicle that looked not dissimilar to a late 80's black Lincoln Towncar.
Phil climbed into its passenger side, "Okay, let's go through the preflight checklist..."
Bob shook his head, "You may as well wait on that. Just check the fuel levels, we'll be taking it on the road for most of this trip."
Phil looked at him with a confused expression. Bob sighed, clearly Phil hadn't really thought anything through.
"Provision 15. If we're caught flying a spaceship over populated areas we'll find ourselves serving jail terms. No, we drive this thing as long as we have to," Bob explained. "Now check to make sure the neutrino drive is ready to go, and lets get out of here."
After a few minutes, Bob and Phil started up their vehicle. Pressing a button on its center console, a ramp lowered from the ceiling.
With that, Bob and Phil drove out of the command center in pursuit of George.