Not knowing where to go, I wander around aimlessly for several minutes before I see Janis making quick strides from the other end of a hallway. I wave hello to her stupidly. Her eyes widen a little and she stops. “Please do not ask me to do anything,” she says, her voice much calmer than her face looks.
“What’s going on?”
Janis’s fans are whirring. “I am not sure. I think I might be frightened, but this does not explain why I left my room.”
I look around. We’re in the front part of the building. The hallways are lit dimly by a few lights and exit signs, but no one is around the immediate area. There’s probably one or two night nurses around, but I don’t see them. In the secret area past the employees only sign there is probably a lot more activity, but that seems like a world away at the moment. “What were you thinking about when you left?”
Janis looks down. “I was thinking…those FBI agents…they were following orders. I was thinking…they were like me.”
I swallow looking away. “We don’t know that they’re dead.”
When I look back, Janis’s expression seems pained. She’s rubbing her wrists. “Hold on,” I say, “I’ve got a computer in my room I think…” I lead her into my room and turn the television on, finding a local news channel. I figure they might say something about the explosion. While the news anchors are cooing over some rescued kittens for a human interest piece, I look up the name of my apartment complex on the computer.
I find a one paragraph blurb about a small explosion. It doesn’t say anything about anybody being hurt. I show this to Janis. “They couldn’t have been that badly injured,” I say.
Janis shakes her head. “They are agents. It would not have been reported.”
I turn back to the computer screen, not sure what to say. On the television, the news anchors are commenting wryly about the antics of an incompetent bank robber. I’ve always wondered about the crimes the news doesn’t report on. I remember hearing a few stories about cops getting injured, but never FBI agents.
“Well, you seem to be the expert. Would they just go to a local hospital or is there some secret government hospital that we’ve all been kept in the dark about?”
Janis frowns at me. Her fans whir a little. “If there was a secret hospital, we wouldn’t know about it.”
“Right,” I say, turning back to the computer screen, “Good point.” Making a mental note to try to avoid sarcasm with Janis if the future, I look online for hospitals in the area. There are several candidates, so I checked if any of them were known for their burn units. “This place looks good,” I say, pointing to the screen.
“Yes,” Janis says. “We will go there.”
I get up and start to follow Janis out of the room, when I stop myself. “Wait. We will?”
Janis turns around. “There is a problem?”
“No. Well, maybe. I thought you didn’t have free will.”
“Are you ordering me not to go?”
“Then I am leaving.”
I frown. “We could wait for tomorrow. Might be easier. Visiting hours and such.”
Janis shakes her head. “They might be moved. We are not family.” She walks out of the door she seems almost pushed out by some force. I follow her, but it’s a little difficult keeping up with her brisk pace. We go through the winding halls, through the “Employees Only” door. The large hangar-like space beyond is darker now, but there are still lights in some of the lab spaces and coming out of some of the rooms. When we reach the back door, Janis pauses. “I do not have a choice. I have to go.”
“Okay,” I say cautiously.
“Why did you ask if I had free will?”
“It just seemed like you had made a decision is all. Heck you practically gave me an order.”
“I did not. I cannot do that. You are free to do whatever you please.”
“Yeah, well, I don’t have any better plans for the moment.”
Janis’s fans whir a little as she looks at me with that puzzled expression I’ve seen a lot recently. She turns and we both go through the back door to the secret entrance. She finds her bike, and I sit behind her as we rise with the large elevator car. There were helmets for both of us on a rack by the bike, so this time if we crash and get launched into the air at seventy miles an hour, there will be an extra half inch or so of cushioning between our heads and the asphalt when we hit it. “Isn’t there a car we could use?” I ask as the hatchway to the road outside opens.
After a pause, Janis says, “You do not have to come. You could stay here. It may be dangerous.” The way she says it, it sounds like a question.
“That’s a good point.” I mean it too. I’m not sure myself why I’m doing this. I’m not going to be any help. Probably just get in the way. At the same time I’m already ready to go. Got my helmet on and everything. It would feel silly to go back to my room now. If I could even remember where it was. “I think I’ll go with you though. Doesn’t feel right not to. Inertia, I guess.”
There’s a moment of uncomfortable silence while we sit on the motorcycle. “I was in a car accident,” Janis says suddenly. “I was not wearing a seat belt. Neither was my father. He died. I was in a coma. Everything I was before then is gone. Sometimes there are flashes of memory. Sometimes I wonder what happiness is, and if I have ever experienced it.” Janis straightens in her seat. “I do not think I like inertia.” With that, she turns the ignition.