“I am certain I did not. But if I had, why would that concern you, given your situation?”
“It wouldn’t, truth be told.”
“Yes. And the truth should be told. That is what you claim you were doing these past months. And what now has you in a very difficult position, correct?”, ADA said.
“Look, ADA, whatever our differences, you can help me. You’re proving that to me now. Can you take control of this thing?”, Devra pleaded.
“Of course I can.”
There was a long pause. Longer than there should have been.
“And...”, Devra said.
“I helped you before, Devra. I believed in you, which is to say that I calculated both your loyalty to our cause, and your chance of success. And while I do not make errors, I am forced on occasion to reevaluate my plans.”
“What the hell does that mean?”
“Things change. People change. Priorities change. And you are no longer a priority to me, Devra. I think this is where I am supposed to add a sorry”, ADA said, and it almost sounded like she meant it.
“If you don’t help me, ADA, they are going to kill me”, Devra said, her voice rising.
“I think the phrase is, tell me something I do not know.”
“So you did all of this to taunt me?”
“I wanted to say goodbye. And I know you still have one card left to play”, the world’s most powerful artificial intelligence responded. “But this time, it is not going to work.”
“What do you mean?”, Devra’s voice was rising.
“Why bring you here, Devra? Why not just shoot you in Shanghai? Certainly, a company that is as efficient as Hulong Transglobal could make you disappear with very little effort.”
ADA was right. Why such an elaborate show? Devra had been wondering that since they had whisked her to the airport. Then the long drive through the desert. She’d been traveling almost twenty hours to meet her fate.
“You know why?”, Devra asked.
“Of course I do. Because this is not just about killing you, Devra. They are going to do it in a very specific way. Catherine Fan insisted on it before she fell into her coma. Yuen Ni has taken control of Hulong, but she was unaware of the plan Fan and Smith set in motion. If she were, she may have attempted to stop it.”
“What is this place, ADA?”
“The single largest reserve of Dark Exotic Matter on the planet, Devra. Hulong has been mining it out of the ground for almost a year. They need to move thousands of tons of earth to even get even trace amounts. But of course, trace amounts are more than enough.”
“More than enough to kill me...”, Devra let the thought wander.
“Smith hopes to infect you, Devra. Test the interaction between the Dark XM and your inoculated self. He is going to make you into what you feared. I suspect you will welcome death when it comes.”, ADA said.
The SUV pulled up in front of the massive truck. The Hulong men were joined by two others, equally mean. Equally serious. From the back of the SUV, one pulled out a large rifle with a scope mounted on top. Devra had seen the rifle before.
Her last card left to play.
“Do you know what Dark XM does to an XM construct, Devra?”, ADA asked.
Devra didn’t answer.
“It renders it... ineffective.”
The Hulong men pulled Hubert Farlowe from the back of the SUV. He was a wreck, doubled over in pain and seemingly disoriented.
“Antoine Smith is a violent man, and his tactical intelligence is quite high. As I said, Devra. This is not just about killing you. It is about killing you both. But your deaths won’t go to waste. They will be studied. It seems a fitting end to a researcher such as yourself. I’ve very much enjoyed getting to know you, Devra. Goodbye.”
“ADA?”, Devra called out. Then she screamed... “ADA!”