2nd Book in the No Freedom trilogy
After escaping the grip of Pellegrin, a powerful android, and joining the rebels, Paislee Hobson is far from safe. Disguised as a recently-recruited employee of the courthouse, she goes undercover at Portland’s courthouse to dig up vital information.
But she soon discovers things aren’t that simple. With Pellegrin promoted to overseeing the entire west coast Institutes, Paislee must use all of her wits to avoid detection—only to find the android is one step ahead of her.
Back in L.A., Paislee is faced with her toughest challenge yet—to gain Pellegrin’s trust in order to infiltrate his high-security office and complete her mission.
As more humans fall victim to the androids and her cover begins to slip, Paislee knows that her time is running out…
NO REPRIEVE: An A.I. Thriller
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The long Hover Transport-9 glided past flags emblazoned with The Institute’s multi-colored emblem that lined the entrance to the transport retaining location, TRL, under the newly finished building. Android policemen stood on both sides of the hover as The Institute’s Founder stepped out to be greeted by Pellegrin Murr.
The Founder glanced at the reinforced docking doors as they closed behind them. Ahead stood the imposing entry door to The Institute. “This will withstand explosions and fires?”
“Yes, sir.” Pellegrin led the elderly man through the thick metal door and gestured toward the elevator. “Would you like to tour the building before the meeting?”
“Only the medical department.”
Pellegrin had anticipated the Founder would want to see that area of the building to inspect its defenses, since the last patient being prepared for surgery in the destroyed structure had been snatched before the procedure could be performed.
When Pellegrin and the Founder, along with three suit-clad androids that accompanied the Founder at all times, reached the third floor of the four-story building, an android in a white lab coat met them at the elevator.
Pellegrin introduced the android P-14 to the Founder as he escorted them to a closed reinforced door. P-14 placed his eye next to a small screen and the door slid open.
The group walked through a wide hallway, with two armed android guards stationed on each side of them, to another reinforced door. An armed guard along with P-14 each used one of their eyes to open that door.
“The same android cannot open up both doors?” The Founder lightly turned his head toward Pellegrin.
“That was an added security feature in case one android became compromised. Not all of the armed guards’s eyes are equipped with the capability of being able to open a door. Only three doctors—” Pellegrin glanced at all those within earshot before he spoke again. “I’ll explain in our meeting.”
Windows lined both sides of the hallway. Pellegrin stopped at the closest one. “This is one of our recovery rooms.”
The Founder looked through the glass into the room, studying the layout. “Eight beds in each room?”
“Some are private, depending on the ranking of the patient. All windows are one-way and all the nurses attending to them appear to be human. After recovery, the patient is sedated and moved to a hospital from which he or she is scheduled for release later that day. We are following your documented directive that provides reasons for their hospitalization—falling down stairs, tripping and hitting their head, and various other medical reasons. If conscious, they are sedated after entering the hospital and then brought here.”
“Excellent.” The Founder nodded his approval.
Pleased with the Founder’s acknowledgement, Pellegrin guided the group to the double doors at the end of the hall. P-14 and another android wearing a white lab coat placed their eyes next to small pads.
As the doors slid open, Pellegrin said, “These doors will close in twenty seconds. Once the mechanism has been activated, the patient must be quickly wheeled in and accompanied by the surgical team.”
The Founder entered. “A well thought out security feature. I’ll be sending a memo out to have that procedure incorporated in all The Institutes.”
“Another assurance that an operation can’t be interrupted.”
The Founder gazed around the well-equipped operating room, and then checked his watch. “I’ve seen enough.”
After the doors opened, the assemblage went to a conference room on the fourth floor. The android guards remained in the hallway next to the closed door. Pellegrin and the Founder sat across from each other at a table surrounded by ten chairs.
“You were going to mention something to me about three doctors.” The Founder adjusted his glasses.
“Yes. I don’t anticipate any of our androids being compromised, but after my prior experience, I never discuss security issues that they don’t already know about in front of them. Even though it appears, and they all believe, that their eyeballs are used to open the doors, that is not the case. An implanted laser next to an eye of the selected androids opens the doors on the third floor. Only three doctors have the implanted lasers.”
“You also have a laser?”
“No, Father. I am the only one that can open the doors using my eyes. Besides the few working on the third floor, five of my trusted administrators have the implant. Those five are aware that they have it.”
“Two. They have the loyalty chip. They won’t betray The Institute.”
“You sent me the specs on all of your security systems. With so many of your android engineers destroyed either in the blast or the ensuing fire, how did you manage to get it all done so timely?”
“I secured the services of the man who designed and installed the security system in the demolished Institute. I explained the additional features I wanted added and he drew up the plans.”
“Edward Hobson? Paislee’s uncle?”
“Yes. He’s the top expert in the field. Edward Hobson remained at The Institute during the construction, but he wasn’t allowed to take any documents out of the building after the task was completed.”
“Can he be trusted?”
“Except when he’s working on stained glass, Hobson has become a recluse. He doesn’t even get involved with his grocery stores, not even hiring any of the workers. A manager handles the total business and sends him statements. If he looked at the statements, he might become familiar with the names of the employees. Like Kara Leeds, Darren’s—”
“Yes. I know who she is.”
“He was asked, more like begged, to go with the rebels that destroyed The Institute, but he refused to leave. He occasionally calls Kara to find out if she’s heard anything from his niece. Hobson is very fond of Paislee. He wasn’t at all interested in working on the security system. Had he had any ulterior motive he would have jumped at the opportunity. It took appreciable swaying to bring him on board. Threatening him with his life, didn’t mean anything to him. From what I’ve heard, he didn’t care if he lived or died after the woman he loved from another stratum died. But he was concerned about his family—Paislee and her parents. Hobson was given assurance that if he designed and helped install the security system no harm would come to them when they are captured. He insisted on having it in writing.”
A smile crossed the Founder’s face. “Harm can be interpreted in different ways. Enhancements improve a person, not harm them.”
“Hobson works on stained glass?”
“Yes. Before the security system project was started, his house was thoroughly searched. A shelf in his den is devoted to books of historical churches with stained glass windows. Most of those churches were destroyed during the war. A box of stained glass patterns was also discovered in his attic. The new churches that were built lack stained glass windows. After he finished The Institute project, he started working at a warehouse with a group to correct that.”
The Founder narrowed his eyes and tilted his head. “Anything unusual about the stained glass windows they’re creating?”
“No, sir. They are quite aesthetically pleasing.”
“Does Hobson have a loyalty chip?”
Pellegrin shook his head. “No. He has an aneurysm that made the procedure too risky to perform.”
“Yes, I recall. That was the reason we were not able to duplicate his memory. He is brilliant. He did the initial training of all the engineers in that field, and those androids are training the new ones. What is your loyalty chip implant mortality rate for adults?”
“6.8%. His personal probability wasn’t scrutinized after the aneurysm was brought to my attention.”
“Your rate is over one percent better than the other Institutes have been able to achieve. Send me documentation on how you accomplish that.”
The Founder rubbed his forehead. “I understand why you wanted Hobson to do the work. It’s unlikely that one of our engineers would’ve been able to design a system beyond their knowledge. He was asked numerous times to help with the worldwide internet hack. He refused. The man just wanted to be left alone.” A hint of a smile crept across the Founder’s lips. “We’re grateful for that.”
“I’ve learned not to completely trust anyone who doesn’t have a loyalty chip,” said Pellegrin. “Hidden mics have been installed in Hobson’s home and the warehouse he frequents. Two human-looking androids have been permanently assigned to keep track of him. In addition to watching his moves, there is a possibility that rebels might try to eliminate him if they discover he helped The Institute with a more sophisticated security system. We want him kept alive in case the system develops any problems.”
“The rebels view everyone who works or does any service for The Institute as an enemy. Hobson could already be targeted unless his family has some influence in keeping him safe.”
“Paislee wasn’t a rebel and neither were her parents when I entered her life. She did have an old boyfriend who was. Now she could be fighting with rebels someplace.”
“Any new leads?”
“From the last roundup, I recruited a few more rebels. A new recruit heard that some rebels were traveling to Portland.”
“Since the rebels have discovered a mechanism to check for loyalty chips and with the additional costs of enhancements, how are the captured rebels being handled?
“After their knowledge of the rebel movement has been extracted, Option Three has been employed unless they possess a useful skill.”
The Founder nodded. “And how are you keeping the recruits faithful to our cause without the chip?”
“That always works…Portland…that brings up the next item I want to discuss with you. Son, you’ve done such an exceptional job managing this Institute that I’d like you to oversee all of The Institutes along the west coast. In addition to this one, that includes Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco.”
“I’m honored, but I’m not sure how effective I can be here if my time is being divided among four locations.”
“Pellegrin, I admire your truthfulness. Most men would’ve grabbed at the opportunity without taking that into consideration. I don’t expect you to spend much of your time at the other locations. You would serve as a level between those administrators and me. They would come to you with problems, issues, and guidance. You would come to me only if there was something that you couldn’t resolve. Having you in that position would help free up my time to deal more with the resurgence of rebels on the east coast. Currently, we haven’t faced many rebel groups in the middle of the country.”
“I understand. I’d be honored to fill that new position.”
“When I return home, I’ll contact those administrators to let them know about the new organizational structure.” The Founder rose from his seat. “One more thing. Think about bringing a woman with you the first time you travel to those locations to give the impression to the hotel where you’ll be staying and nearby restaurants that you are a family man. That sets a good precedent for future visits.”
“On all visits?”
“No. The first should be sufficient, providing you always stay at the same hotels. Bring a pregnant woman. After that, you can always use the excuse that your wife is home tending to the baby.”
Kara Leeds. Pellegrin smiled as he escorted the Founder to the TRL.