The Battery, part 3

Photo by Nik Radzi on Unsplash

They were kinda cute, right?” Nailah says, glancing at Jai from the corner of her eye, but still trying to stay focused on the road.

            “Yeah, very well dressed.” Jai murmurs, watching Izrael through the rearview mirror. He hadn’t looked up from the card since they got in the car. “They were cute.

            “You shouldn’t think such jealous thoughts at me, babe,” his voice washes into her ear. He looks up and cocks an eyebrow at her in the rearview mirror.

            “Who says I’m jealous?” Jai refocuses her eyes on her phone and shifts in her seat. Even if she is a little bit jealous, that would never show on her face. She relaxes her jaw and remains aloof. Izzo doesn’t reply; he just turns the card over and over in his hand, allowing his fingertips to activate Dane’s information, and releasing them, letting his name and number disappear. He keeps shaking his head and whispering “this is so fucking cool” under his breath.

            “What kind of business card doesn’t have a business on it?” Oleva leans over Izrael’s shoulder, watching him play with the card.

            “It might just be his own thing, not his company card.” Izrael replies, shrugging, eyes still trained on the card.

            “Aight, but who do you know with enough cash to just have a touchcard? Most companies still haven’t switched over. I heard even 50 of those would set you back a couple rent payments,” Oleva says, plucking the card out of Izrael’s hands.

            Izrael scratches at his growing beard. “I mean . . . he obviously ain’t some little boy. He was at the Innovator’s Summit. They don’t let just anyone in there. It’s mostly reps from major tech companies and Nobel prize-worthy academics.”

            “Maybe he wants to give you a job,” Nailah says from the front seat.

            “If it’s not a company card, it’s probably not company business,” Oleva replies, leaning forward in his seat to wave the stiff black card next to Nailah’s face. She shoos it out of her face so she can focus on driving. Leaning back, Oleva nudges Izrael, “I’m thinking, you got a rich nigga with a crush on you.” Izrael smirks and raises his shoulder to his jaw, a nonverbal “I don’t know”.

            “Living Nai’s dream,” Jai thinks in Izrael’s direction. “I can get you all the answers you need,” she continues out loud. She turns in her seat to face the two guys, her face animated with a recognizably mischievous look.

            “I’m curious, even if this nigga’s not,” Oleva says, reaching out to hand Jai the card, but Izreal grabs it before he got a chance.

            “Chill, chill. I don’t need to know yet. The magic’s in the mystery, right? I’m sure he’ll tell me everything I need to know when we get coffee.”

            “Since when has everything you need to know been everything you wanted to know?” Jai’s eyes are almost invisible in the pitch black of the nighttime, but every time the car passed under a streetlight, Izzo would catch a glimpse of her teeth sparkling in a grin he knew all too well.

            “Why are you like this,” Izzo says to her, rolling his eyes and coughing out a laugh.

            “There’s no other way to be.” Jai stares back into his face and watches the gold of his eyes catch the streetlight and reflect it back into something majestic.

            “Uh, what y’all doing?” Oleva’s voice breaks Izzo and Jai’s gaze. Jai turns back to sit properly in her seat and giggles to herself.

            Izrael covers his mouth with his hand then stroked his chin slowly. “So, uh, I gave Jai—she Integrated with Oracle this morning. We were just talking.” He gesturs back-and-forth between his ear and Jai’s.

            “Wow, before me? I thought we were brothers.” Oleva shakes his head and faces the window.

            “I—I had to test it on a girl first, make sure it still works,” Izzo says, stumbling to find the right words to bring Oleva back down.

            “Since when has gender ever mattered, nigga? You’re always the first to say that—”

            “Besides, why start with Jai? You know she drops Mach 10. Won’t that fuck up the spinal fluid and shit?” Nailah interrupts Oleva as she pulls to a stop in the parking lot for Howard’s upperclassmen dorms.

            “It’s just a half-tab. When has a little LSD ever hurt anyone?” Jai says. Her hair bounced freely as she hops out of the SUV. “And what’s spinal fluid got to do with anything?”

            “See? She don’t even know how the Oracle works,” Oleva exclaims, chuckling. He points his thumb at Nailah and then back at himself, “And y’all can talk to each other? These are Mwari models and you gave it to someone who wasn’t even around for the Ruzivo? Day one doesn’t mean anything to you, huh?”

Photo by Tarun Dhiman on Unsplash

            “I Intergrate into your body by melding myself to your spinal cord and accessing your cerebral fluid, through the fluid contained in your spinal cord.” Jai stumbles against the curb. The Oracle’s voice seems to come from everywhere and nowhere all at once.

            “You’re back?!” Jai thinks to herself. She stands there for a moment, as she tries to realign her balance and settle her mind as it swirls around her. The alcohol was still floating through her system.

            “I was never gone. You seemed bothered by my presence, so I receded until you were faced with a serious inquiry.”

            Oh, that’s just perfect,”Jai thinks.

            “For someone who hungers for information, you insist on standing in your own way,” The Oracle taunts her, the epicene voice hovering between her ears.

            Jai stumbles, but Izreal catches her by the elbow. She leans against his chest and sighs.

            “You planning on spending the night with Nailah? Might be too late to try to get you into my room.” Izrael helps her walk to the entrance of the dorm. She nods but doesn’t speak up. When they get inside, Nailah takes over as Jai’s crutch and walks her to the west elevator while the guys wave goodbye and watch them leave.

            Nailah lowers Jai onto her white, soft leather futon before heading over to her own bed. Jai waits until she could hear Nai’s breathe slow into a light snore before reaching into her cleavage for the black card. When her fingers press against it, the words “Dane Woods. 310.486.5486.” appear in white letters, glowing slightly in the dark.

            “Hmm, 310. What area code is that?” Jai thinks, turning the card over to see if more information would appear. It did not.

            “310 is the area code for the southwestern portion of Los Angeles county. The number on the business card originated from a T-Mobile store in Ladera Heights.

            “Ooo, you can do your Googles. I can find out more on my own. I’m sure Izzo wouldn’t want his precious Oracle fumbling its way across the darker bits of the internet.

            “I am an artificial intelligence designed to learn from and build a unique relationship with my host. While all Oracles can access the open web, they are limited, and in some cases, aided by the abilities of their host. In short, though we communicate, I will be able to do things the Oracle of Izrael cannot because you can.

“So, what did Oleva mean earlier when he started talking about Mwari and Ruzivo?”

            “The Ruzivo was the first prototype of the Oracle technology created by Izrael 3 years prior. The Ruzivo model could only access information. Her intelligence came from listening to the conversations of her host and surrounding humans, and then presenting related searches. She could ‘do her Googles’. As a Mwari model, I am not only able to communicate, but because I am true intelligence, I can analyze and interpret data for myself, learn from my host, and conduct my own independent searches.”

            “Reeeeeeally? Well, let’s start small. Search the web for a Dane Woods.

            “There is no match for a Dane Woods who resembles the image of the man retained in your memory.”

            “A fake name for a rich nerd? I knew there had to be something else going on,” Jai twirls her fingers in her hair and lays back into one of the satin pillows fluffed on the futon. “It would be too much to ask if you can do a reverse image search, right?

            “If there was a physical image or a search was requested when the individual was within view, I would be able to conduct a search from a retinal scan. However, mental images degenerate as time passes and any reverse image search would be inaccurate.

            “Try it anyway. Why the hell not?

            “Disregarding the inaccuracy of the search, I have found 2 images from recently deleted social media profiles. The closest matches are from a profile for Darrien Williams, deleted December 17, 2023, and Nathan Williams, deleted December 17, 2023. The latter match has silver hair and a wider facial structure.

            “The guy we met was with a twin. But fake profiles with the same initials? That’s sloppy as fuck.

            “The deletion of the profiles was not ‘sloppy’. Given 3 days, the profiles would be completely erased from the internet. None of the profiles could even be found in a regular Google search. Even the archives had been deleted from the public web.

            “So, you searched the private cloud databases of the main social media giants ‘til you found something? And nothing from further back in time?

            “Correct. Those were the only images resembling your memory of ‘Dane Woods’.

            Jai closes her eyes. A vague feeling of fatigue was weighing on her body, and her head was still swimming a little with her eyes closed. She couldn’t think as well as she needed to, not even to ask any questions to drive their search. There was always the option to continue when she woke up in the morning, but she would lose the image of ‘Dane’ in her head by then. But at this point she couldn’t even think of a plausible reason why a man would fake a name and a social life, just to delete it to start a new fake life. And to delete it that thoroughly. . . Well, if he was at a technology innovation summit, he probably had enough computer skills to get rid of anything about himself that he didn’t want to float around on the web. Jai tucks the touchcard back between her breasts; she could try this again tomorrow.

The Battery, part 2

Photo by Terricks Noah on Unsplash

My eyes are trained on the lithe, dark beauty standing at the bar, set apart from her friends, but eagerly watching them take shots of swirling color. You can always tell the D.D. from across the room. Her dense afro had been constrained into two bold puffs at the top of her head, standing in defiance to the otherwise overwhelming domination of gravity. A shorter, more energetic girl made up of tiny bundles of muscles packaged in a skin-tight denim dress tugged at Afropuff’s hand, her short, copper coils bringing out the redness in her skin that the blaring, fluorescent lights tried to drown out.

            “Who’re you staring at tonight?” a sigh followed by a smirk as Nega drops into the couch beside me, a thick manila envelope in one hand and a quarter-full glass of some dark bourbon sloshing against ice in the other. A rotating floodlight behind his head briefly disappears his face, but I still knew it was him from the low cut, the light ridging against his carefully maintained waves. I lift my drink in the direction of Afropuffs and Denim Dress, now joined by . . . someone who had to be a football player, with long, draping dreadlocks, and another man, with shorter locks and a smaller chest. I can see the glinting gold of his eyes from here.

            “Oh shit,” Nega murmurs, as he leans forward, following the sight line of my strawberry margarita.

            “What,” I ask. He carefully places his Bourbon on the table before fumbling with his envelope, pulling out a holographic picture of Gold Eyes standing on a stage, holding some milky, white orb. The hologram then zooms in on the orb, which seems to have small, worm-like tendrils protruding out from its . . . skin. Gold Eyes shoves the orb in his ear and clutches the side of his head, his face contorting in pain. Suddenly, the hologram is blocked by someone appearing to stand to applaud. The hologram loops back to Gold Eyes standing on stage holding the orb.

            I snatch the holo-pic from my brother’s hand and watch the loop several more times while he pulls documents from the envelope.

            “Izrael Mann. 22 years old. 4th year senior at Howard University. Majors in Bio-Mechanical Engineering.”

            “You’re rattling off facts as if he’s a target,” I mutter. “That wouldn’t make sense though, because I know my brother brought me here on vacation.”

            “All I said is nothing happens in D.C. anymore since they moved the capital to New York in 2030. It seems that my brother can’t help assuming things.”

            “Explain to me how that doesn’t sound like time off.” I stand. My margarita is empty and Nega is preparing to ruin my night.

            “Poz, if it makes you feel better, he’s not a target,” he says, lowering me back down into the couch.

            “So what? You planning on asking him out?” Nega glances back in the direction of Gold Eyes and his group. They’d migrated to the dance floor, except Afropuffs, who’s still leaned on the bar, ignoring the bartender’s attempts to flirt. The Football Player had found another tall, dark beauty to grind on, this one with more restless curves. Gold Eyes and Denim Dress seem to have found each other.

            “I don’t think I’m his type,” Nega hisses, and turns back to his documents. “He’s a recruit.”

            My eyes linger on Afropuffs. “I’m listening.”

            “Well, you saw the holo-pic. That thing he stuck in his ear is called the Oracle. It’s supposed to be some new organic tech that integrates with your nervous system so it can communicate directly with your brain.” Afropuffs was starting to look uncomfortable with the bartender’s advances and had her eyes fixated on Denim Dress, willing her to notice. The bartender was reaching for her afro.

            “So, what’s it do? Help the deaf hear? Let the blind see?” I’m getting impatient, but I can’t just go over there. No girl wants to be rescued from a creepy stranger by another creepier stranger who would have to admit that he’d been staring at her all night.

            “Nothing so heroic,” Nega continues. “I think he wants it to be some commercial thing that eventually makes cell phones obsolete—“

            “Bout time.”

            “It’s supposed to help people with Oracles communicate non-verbally and also access the internet. He said in his presentation that ‘she knows everything Google knows, and once she’s in you, you do too.’” Denim Dress finally noticed her and was tugging Gold Eyes—Izrael—back towards the bar, grabbing the Football Player on the way.

            “So why does the Battery care?” I ask, finally relaxing again into the couch.

            “The Battery cares about information; you know that. This thing—“

            “She. He called her a she.”

            “Fine, she can access information.”

            “Anyone can ‘access information.’”

            “But can everyone access information and process it, presenting you with several plans of action and blueprints. Not to mention the nonverbal communication. You should be excited. This thing could take all the guesswork out of being an agent.”

            “Isn’t being a spy all about the guesswork?” Afropuffs’ friends had come to her rescue and were escorting her out of the club. I’m finally ready to actually give Nega my attention, but he’s already standing up, ignoring my last question.

            “Come on.”

            “Come on what?”

            “You’re the one who’s been staring at them all night. Let’s go introduce ourselves.” Nega downs the rest of his bourbon in two quick gulps and gathers his files back into the envelope, tucking that into his cardigan. I hesitate for a moment, then stand up as well. After all, what did I really have to lose?

Photo by Antoine Julien on Unsplash

            Nega weaves his way through the mass of people dancing, masterfully avoiding bumping into any drinks or parting any dancing couples. The flashing lights make it difficult to follow his path, and the heavy bass of the deep house/synthetic funk mixture the DJ was spinning drowns out any hope of conversation as we make our way through the club. It still baffles me that we’ve evolved to the point of using machines for most of our day-to-day activities, from automated self-checkouts at grocery stores to self-driving cars and planes, but we can’t escape the human touch of bartenders, strippers, and nightclub DJs.

            When we finally make it outside, into the bone-chill of the October breezes, we see Gold Eyes and Football Player huddled together against the cold, talking to themselves and apparently waiting for Afropuffs and Denim Dress to return with the car.

            “Izrael? Izrael Mann?” Nega had suddenly adopted this needlessly charming, infectiously personable attitude and was unashamedly approaching the group of friends.

            “Uh . . . yeah? Have we met?” Gold Eyes shivers at the cold and at this stranger addressing him out of nowhere.

            “No, but I was at Howard’s Innovator’s Summit last month. I gotta say I’m a fan,” Nega replies, reaching his hand out for a shake. “I didn’t mean to walk up on you and your peoples out of nowhere, but I saw you and had to introduce myself. Dane Woods.” Izrael seems set at ease by the realization that Nega was a fan, and not a stalker, probably. His shoulders relax, and he grips Nega’s hand and gives it a firm shake. The little ego stroke Nega gave almost made Izrael’s eyes shine brighter.

            “Nice to meet you man. Always good to meet someone who appreciates the vision.” Football Player rolls his eyes. “This is my friend, Oleva.” Izrael gestures to Football Player who smiles and reaches out to shake Nega’s hand.

            “This is my brother, Nick.” Nega turns and pulls me into the conversation by my elbow, a bright grin shining from his mouth, but his eyes darkened with the threat to “play along.”

            “Uh, yeah. Nice to meet ya’ll too.” I shake both of their hands and stuff both fists into my pockets to block out the cut of the night air.

            “I don’t think I’ve ever met a Black guy named Dane before.” The comment comes from Oleva, his fingers stroking his well-groomed beard, while his eyebrows burrow in confusion.

            “Honestly, my name is O’Dane. My people are from New York, by way of St. Lucia, and it’s pretty common down there,” Nega says. “It’s wild, but I still gotta drop the ‘O’ to make my name business formal.” The three of them laugh and I try to join in, but I’m more focused on not blowing the moment by asking about Afropuffs. I just have to wait patiently.

            As that thought crosses my mind, a red SUV pulls up on the curb next to us and rolls the window down. Heat radiates from inside the car, driven by Afropuffs, Denim Dress in the seat beside her, fiddling with the music on her phone.

            “Oh hey, you made some friends.” Afropuffs’ voice carries a soothing, inviting melody when she speaks.

            “Yeah. Dane, Nick, meet Nailah,” she waves her white nails at us, “and my girlfriend, Jai.” Denim Dress’ head pops up, looking at both me and Nega with probing eyes.

            “Dane and Nick?” Jai asks leaning out the window to get a good look at us, her head cocked to the side. She takes in Nega’s short, jet-black hair, dark brown eyes perfectly framed by faux tortoise shell glasses and bushy eyebrows. Her eyes work their way down his lean body, subtly approving of his all black cardigan, wax denim jeans, and loafer combination. When she looked at me, she seems struck by how my platinum blonde hair, that shoots out in every direction, in a short, kinky afro, contrasts with the bushy eyebrows and dark brown eyes I share with my brother. My light, acid washed jeans cuffed neatly at the top of my winter boots and turquoise and orange tribal sweater to hide my chubbier frame is not quite the sober, mature image that Nega presents, but I’m still pretty proud of this look too. She gives a little frown and head nod.

            “Yeah. Nice to meet you. We were just paying some respects to the Crown Prince of A.I. here,” Nega says, grinning broadly. He looks back at Izrael. “It was great to meet you. We should get coffee sometime.” He pulls a black card out from the back pocket of his skin-tight jeans. When the warmth of his fingertips activate the card, his name “Dane Woods” appears on the face of the card, in dim lit white letters, followed by his phone number. Izrael takes the card, proud to be the one singled out for the honor.

            “Of course. I’ll call,” Izrael answers, his eyes still transfixed on the card. Oleva waves and ushers him into the backseat of the car. All four wave again as they drive off.

            “Flirt.” I elbow Nega in the side as the car disappears into the darkness. A smile works the corners of his eyes, but he returns to his sober demeanor.

            “I’m just doing my job.”

The Battery, part 1

Photo by Christina @ on Unsplash

            It was days like this, when the heat was sweltering, that the stench of death was especially prevalent.

            “Uh, what the fuck are you reading?” Jai’s tiny, copper coils breach Nailah’s field of vision, calling her attention away from the book laying across her lap. Nailah jumps at the sudden person leaning in over her shoulder.

            “I’m doing research,” Nailah says, composing herself. “Some of us still have school.” Her slender fingers stay poised over her laptop but don’t actually type anything. She feels Jai rest her chin on her shoulder.

            “First of all, don’t try to play me. I’m only suspended for the semester. Secondly, research for what?” Jai’s voice makes Nailah’s shoulder vibrate. Nai taps her fingers on the only words written on the screen of her laptop, her shock white nails a stark contrast to her deep, dark skin tone. “‘Atlanta’s Organ Black Market?’ Uh-huh, I’ll just let you have that . . . Your nails are so cute though. Where did you get them done?”

            “I finally gave in and bought one of those MiniMani things they been advertising. Where you just stick your hands in the machine and it does a full set in 10 minutes. What they don’t tell you that you gotta buy these acrylic cartridge things for it to actually do shit. But it’s better than going to a salon and hoping that the stations have been programmed by someone who actually knows something about nails. I told you about how I went to that one on campus and it was programmed by some guy who used to be in the military, so all it did was file my nails down? A waste of $40. And you know my nails have to look right . . .”

            Jai flops down on Nailah’s bed. She could really just relax at this point. Once Nai got off on a tangent, she could talk for hours to herself, telling stories wrapped in stories, without ever reaching the point she started talking to make. She would completely forget about the creepy book in her lap, and her computer screen would go dark after going so long without typing anything. Jai could close her eyes and throw in a “girl, yes” here and a “fuck that” there, as she snuggled into the plush wine-red comforter. At some point Jai would pull her cellphone out of her pocket and double tap the plexiglass screen, checking for new text messages.

            “Jai. Jai! Are you paying attention?” Nailah rolls her desk chair over to her bed, as Jai fumbles with her phone.

            “Of course I am.”

            “Sure. Look, I’m trying to do this investigative journalism thing with my degree, so I have to get this article written for my thesis project. There’s evidence of this shit everywhere, so I doubt it’ll be that hard.”

            “Wait, evidence of what now?”

            “Black market organ trafficking. See? Not listening.” Nailah wags her fingers in Jai’s face.

            “So what? Are you gonna go undercover or something?” Jai asks. Nai fidgets in her chair.

            “Uh . . . I’m not really sure yet. It’s kinda creepy, to be honest.”

            Jai pops up, sitting straight up on the bed. “I can help, and you won’t ever have to leave the comforts of this bedroom,” she says, leaning into Nailah’s face, a serpent’s smile spreading across her lips. Nailah softly pushes Jai back, rolling her own chair backwards in the process and crosses her arms.

            “. . . Are you not on suspension right now because of that silly shit?”

            “A lil hack never hurt anybody. All I did was round a B up to an A and everyone freaked the fuck out. I’m just tryna help you get your hands on some real information. Not some conspiracy theory written by some crazy old White guy back in the 90s.” Jai shrugs and lays back down on Nailah’s bed. Her phone vibrates almost inaudibly, muffled by the comforter.

            “Let me guess, Izzo needs you?” Nailah rolls her eyes and turns back to her laptop.

            “Yeah, actually. I promised to help him with the new version of that thing he stuck in his ear last month.”

            “You should probably pay attention to the nerdy shit your boyfriend’s getting into. Everybody else is.”

            “Relax, relax. It’s just a Bluetooth or something. People had them back in the day. We’re still going out tonight, right?”

            “You just need someone to drive, huh?”

Photo by Halacious on Unsplash

“It’s way more than just a Bluetooth, babe.” Izrael stands in front of his work table making a few last-minute adjustments to his tiny invention. Jai was relaxing into the RestrainT Izzo had junked and refurbished at the beginning of the semester. They were mostly for doctor’s offices and asylums, and the occasional nursing home. Honestly, people were starting to think they were inhumane, because whenever they sensed tension, they clamped down hard on your wrists and ankles to keep you still for shots or medication. She couldn’t understand why he would need one of these, but apparently, he had overreacted at his own Integration so he assumed he would need a RestrainT if he ever wanted to implant it in anyone else.

            “The Oracle is the single greatest piece of technology I’ve ever invented. I’ve been working on her since sophomore year. You should really pay more attention, babe. She’s beyond any type of A.I. anyone at this school’s ever even thought of. The engineering department’s been on my ass about developing a new version ever since I Integrated with the prototype. Basically, everything Google knows, she knows, and then some because she has the ability to learn. She can even communicate. Mostly, she just talks to me and my computer, since I’m the only person with one, but now, since you’re letting me use you as a test subject, our Oracles could talk to each other, too.”

            “Okay, so when you put that thing in me, will it hurt?” Jai feels the RestrainT tighten around her wrists. It was barely noticeable, but the cuffs had sensed her apprehension and were making sure she couldn’t run away. Izrael doesn’t respond; he just approaches her with a tiny bauble in the palm of his hand. He’s careful not to drop it or even shake it as he walks over.

            “Remember, it’s biomechanical, so it’s gonna respond to you. Once it’s in, you won’t even notice it’s there. Are you sure you want to do this?” Izzo asks, his orange-gold eyes blazing against his dark, umber skin, burrowing through to her soul. She nods, not wanting to speak. She knew that if she spoke, it would be real and she wasn’t ready to be responsible for that decision. “The Oracle can’t work without a verbal response.” His hand strokes her chin, then traces her jaw up to the ear, adjusting the milky, translucent orb so it sat in her ear canal correctly.

            “Yes. I’m ready to Integrate.” she whispers, but she knew it heard her.

            “Aight. It might pinch a little.” And she definitely felt it. The Oracle opens in her ear, thorny tendrils digging their way through her ear canal, pulling itself deeper into her ear cavity. Suddenly, everything was on fire. Then it went black. She goes to claw the damn thing out of her head, but she’s shackled to her seat, wrists too tightly bound to be wrung out of the RestrainT without breaking something. Her ear was bleeding; her eyes were bleeding; she can feel it. Then, suddenly, everything was silent. She closes her eyes and can only hear a low buzz.

            “Jai, open your eyes,” comes a voice deep in the back of her mind, no higher than a murmur, inexplicably male, but undeniably female all at once.

            “What? WHAT?! You didn’t say there’d be a voice!” Her eyes shoot open, targeting Izrael with her shouts, but he was out of sight.

            “It’s up to you, Jai. It can sound like a thought if you want it to. Or it can sound like anything at all. But I did say she would talk to you.” His voice was coming from another room. “If you relax, the chair will relax and let you up.”

            “You’ll grow accustomed to me soon enough.

            “And maybe you’ll talk like a normal person,” Jai mutters aloud, trying to ease herself back into the chair.

            “Doubtful. And I resent being called a person.

            “Oh great, you have a sense of humor,” she says, regretting it immediately. Well, maybe it hadn’t registered her attitude, or had caught an attitude of its own, because it doesn’t reply. The Oracle was shaping up to be a piece of work, but it was definitely an amazing piece of technology, just like Izzo said.

Jai, can you hear me?” Izrael’s voice fills her ear, but he hadn’t come back into the room yet.

            “Izzo?” she asks, out loud. Jai rubs her wrists as she stands up.

            “See if you can reply through the Oracle. Uh . . . you just gotta think a thought in my direction. Like we’re talking, but we’re not.”Izzo’s voice echoes in my ears again.

            “This is so fucking weird. Oh! I did it!” It was the strangest feeling, hearing her own voice in her head. It was a little louder than a thought, more involved.

            “Yeah, good job. Honestly, we probably won’t have to use that much, unless you really can’t help thinking to me while you’re at work,” Izrael says, smirking as he walks back into the room. “Shit, I’m just glad it works. Mine was glitchy as fuck when I first used it, but, I mean, this is the first Oracle ever.” He taps his ear, and laughs to himself, as if his Oracle told him a joke. “And yours is only the second. I’m gonna change the world, babe.”