Serge's car was one of the old models, the ones that ran on nineteen-percent fossil fuel when the engine was having a good day. The brakes stuck quite often and most of the fusion components were shot, but Serge had never considered doing anything about it. It would have been useless, considering the circumstances.

She was seated properly beside Serge now, her red uniform blending well with the stainless-steel doors. Serge had to admit that, for someone who was probably only part-human, she had very nice legs. They didn't look as plastic in the morning sunlight.

"So..." he began, "do you have a name?"

She didn't answer him. The way she was looking out the windows at the rest of the city floating idly by, she looked relatively distracted.

Serge cleared his throat. "You work for MORA?" he asked.

"I do not have a name, Mr. Karanov," she said. "The organization has only assigned me a designation and a serial number."

"So what am I supposed to call you?" Serge asked. "You're going to be hanging around for the better part of a week, right?"

"Yes, Mr. Karanov."

"So do you at least have a nickname? A qualifier? Anything?"

She paused for a moment. Serge would later swear that he could hear the gears turning in her mechanical mind.

"Mora," she told him.

"I thought you worked for MORA already," Serge said.

"Yes," she replied, after a short silence. "But we have handled many other subjects for self-termination before you, and they have occasionally referred to us by our organization's name."

Serge shrugged. "It's as good a name as any, I guess."

"If you would prefer, Mr. Karanov, you could use a different name in your efforts at reference."

"It's as good a name as any," he said, knowing that he was going to have to explain her presence to the rest of the Force.

They passed under a wide bridge, the traffic on either side of the car loosening as the other vehicles switched into other open lanes.

"So," Serge said, "what do I need to know?"

"An organized procedure must be followed with regards to your self-termination, Mr. Karanov," Mora said. "It has to do with the operational system installed within your neural impants."

Serge didn't realize that his hand was touching the back of his head until he felt cold fingers press against his skin. He didn't know where the implants had actually been attached, but he felt an odd sensation just thinking about them sometimes.

"What about them?" he asked.

"MORA is an organization that is dedicated to the observation and preservation of human behavioral patterns and history," Mora said. "It is a partially government-sponsored agency."

Serge shook his head. He never knew what was up with the government these days. Serge, for that matter, was the kind of person who bought newspapers just to have something to wrap up fish. "So you're telling me that the government's been watching me?" he asked her. "That's old news."

"Not all the time, Mr. Karanov. Public law prevents that."

"I've been on the Force for a long time, Mora, and if I've learned something, it's that law doesn't really prevent anything when it comes right down to it."

"Those are your insights, Mr. Karanov," Mora said in a completely neutral tone. "Regardless, the organization finds self-termination applicants like you to be most interesting."

"So you want to pick my brain apart? Is that what you're telling me?"

"In a manner of speaking, Mr. Karanov. We archive patterns of human behavior and experience, acquiring the data directly from our subjects' respective neural systems."

Serge gave her a skeptical glance. "So you're going to make a copy of my brain?" he asked, cautiously.

"Your mind," Mora corrected him. "There is a distinct difference."

Serge slumped back into his seat, watching as the road unfolded before him. A strange, amused expression slowly appeared on his face. "Okay," he told her, unsure of what else to say.

"Upon your actual self-termination, I will be transmitting a complete copy of the data stored within your neural implants to the MORA Center, where it shall be collated, copied further, and archived within the organization's cognitive system. The original self-termination contract you approved one year ago allows for MORA to use this data with regards to its psychological and humanist studies."

Serge only had a vague memory of the contract, and he hardly remembered such a clause. But he had to admit that she sounded as though she knew exactly what she was talking about.

"So you're going to make a copy of my... mind?" he asked.

"Yes, Mr. Karanov."

He stared out the windshield for a few minutes, his suddenly precious mind a complete blank. Then he glanced at her, saw that she still sat primly in the seat beside him, and asked the first question that appeared in his head.

"So why me, Mora? Why me, of all people?"

"Because your application for self-termination was approved, Mr. Karanov. We do this for all such processes."

Serge was going to ask her why the organization didn't just get a copy of any mind they wanted. Every human was bound to die sooner or later, after all. Mora and her like literally had the pick of every dying person on the planet, except that... except that...

"Except that you don't know when people are actually going to die," Serge said aloud.

"Mr. Karanov?"

"I said, you don't know when most people will actually die. That's why you're interested in the self-terminating ones."

"Yes, Mr. Karanov. Applicants like yourself are the only citizens whose date and time of death can be pinpointed precisely, and are therefore of great value to MORA."

Serge sighed. It was the only thing he could do at the moment.

"Most others would not have deduced such a conclusion, Mr. Karanov," Mora admitted.

"Yeah, well," Serge said, "the job gets to you after a while. You put a lot of twos and twos together."

She looked puzzled at his remark, although he didn't notice her expression then.

The image of Chesterfield's face on the neural link suddenly occupied Serge's thoughts. If Larton and his old partner were both asking for him, then the Force must have stumbled upon something big. It was the only explanation Serge could think of at the moment -- he knew that they didn't even like him enough to throw a proper going-away party. That was the way the world worked; Serge liked nobody, and nobody liked him right back.

It had to be a case. Something had happened while he was waking up with the hangover.

And then, there was also the matter of the numbers Serge had never heard of before.

"914," Serge said, aloud. "What's a 914?"

Mora glanced at him. "We are unaccustomed to the codes used by the local law-enforcement bureaus, Mr. Karanov."

"I know," he told her. "I was just thinking."

"Many of our subjects make certain to resign their respective commissions within weeks of their self-termination proceedings, Mr. Karanov."

"I know," Serge said. "My last day with the Force was supposed to be Friday last week. I don't know why Chesterfield -- he was sort of my partner, if you can understand that -- is suddenly busting my chops over this one, but he's the kind who makes a lot of mountains out of molehills. He mentioned a 914, and I don't get it. Never ran into a 914 in my life."

She was silent for a while.

"What?" Serge asked.

"My apologies, Mr. Karanov, but we would like a translation of your earlier statement," she told him.

Serge rolled his eyes. "What I said was, he makes a big deal out of nothing at all. Hell, a 914's probably a lost pet or a missed garbage pick-up or something."

"Thank you, Mr. Karanov."

Serge glanced at her, and smiled for the first time that morning. "It's Serge," he said. "What the hell. Call me Serge."

"Is that not informal, Mr. Karanov?"

"I'm the man who won't be lasting the week here. If you're supposed to be the one to bleed me out and screw my brain off its socket, then there's no harm in getting familiar. I call you Mora, and you call me Serge. We good on that?"

Mora thought about this for a moment. "Agreed," she finally said after a while. "Thank you, Serge."


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