OPTICA #29

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Polly nodded faintly. “…Sure. Am I a suspect?”

“No,” said Jonquil. “But you are one of the only first-hand accounts we have, so your recollection could be crucial.”

“…One of the only? How many… did everyone die but me?” Polly’s face drained of color.

Aliza shot Jonquil a glare- a reminder that for whatever virtues Jonquil possessed, she was dog turds at interrogation and deposition. “There are still lots of people unaccounted for,” Aliza said soothingly. “They’re combing the wreckage for survivors, plus we’re still trying to account for who was actually in the building at the time of the blast. It’s only been a day since it happened.”

Deftly done: everything Aliza said was technically true, and it was exactly what Polly wanted to hear. Of course, the chances of other survivors were close to nil: the bodies yet to be discovered were the ones buried under tons of rubble or blasted to smithereens. Polly’s survival was miraculous.

How terrible it was, to lose everything you cared about in one random act of violence.

Polly seemed to calm down, though maybe that was the meds. “So there’s still hope. That’s good… we’re nothing without hope. Ask away… I’ll do my best to answer.”

Aliza smiled. “Well first, I’d like to ask what you did every day at SPRING_ToMind.”

Polly sighed. “Well, I’m a spectroscopist. I study light, specifically in communications. I was working on a way to embed messages in beams of light… like how the tellies talk to one another.  Mostly I just tinkered with my code all day long.”

“How was your research coming?”

Polly’s smile was bittersweet. “Slow. My niche is small and expensive. I think I might have been onto something when…” She trailed off.

“Is that why there were telegaeics in the base?” Aliza asked. “We saw some on the security footage and were curious.”

“Yeah, actually. They were in my wing… I worked with them a lot. Not that I could communicate much with them.” Polly looked at the ceiling. “Could they have been the ones who…?”

Aliza shrugged. “It’s a possibility that we’re looking into.” Another half-truth. “Was there anything strange about SPRING_ToMind, in your opinion?”

“I-I don’t think so… are you trying to say the bomber targeted us?” Polly asked in a small voice.

Aliza didn’t answer immediately. “We have to consider the possibility. It was either random or it was targeted- and if it was targeted, then the bomber’s motive becomes crucial motivation. Come on, wasn’t there anything odd? Think back to when you first started working there- anything out of place, anything you dismissed as just a quirk?”

Polly shook her head slowly. “I’m sorry… I can’t think of anything… oh! There was one thing.”

“Yes?”

“Accounting… they were always really weird. They didn’t talk to anyone outside of accounting, and if we had to talk to them for any reason they’d pretty much ignore us for as long as possible. I remember once that my pay didn’t arrive when it should have, so I messaged them… I didn’t hear back for three days. The digits were in my bank account. They didn’t so much as send me a ‘fixed it’ message.”

Aliza stroked her chin thoughtfully. She and Jonquil traded a glance. If a company was doing something shady, accounting was the first place to look. It wasn’t much to go on, though. “What about more recently?” Aliza asked instead. “Anything strange on the days leading up to the explosion?”

“Strange…” Polly continued to stare into space and avoid looking at either of them. “Well, the week before, President Du Pont made a speech. She told us that we had to deliver a working prototype before the end of the year, or else the investors would start pulling out. So we all starting spending long hours at the office… I even slept there sometimes. Everyone was stressed and tired.”

“Anything else?”

“Umm. Yeah, actually. Two days before, a few women came in to look at my wing’s projects. They didn’t say much. They looked around, asked a few questions to my boss, and left. At first I thought they were investors, but they didn’t really look like SPRING girls. They looked, uhh…” Polly sucked on her teeth. “M-maybe I shouldn’t say.”

“We can’t find who did this unless we know the whole story, Polly,” said Aliza gently. She went to cup Polly’s hand in hers, but Polly drew her hand back rather than be touched. “I want justice- and I bet you want it a thousand times more than I do. But I need the whole picture.”

Polly stared off into space for a minute. Her eyes were misty and her voice quivered when she spoke. “They looked like UMBRA agents.”

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