There’s the thickest manila folder Agent 1337 has ever seen, sealed and waiting to be opened. The inter-office mail receipt is marked “Department 42”: the AEGIS weird tech team. Good Lord, this place is an anachronism.
There’s also a typewritten letter. Predictably, it’s from Agent Waters. Other people send e-mail, or at least use the office printers to send correspondence, but nooo. At least Waters is merely an old goat. Director Costigan is an actual living fossil.
The letter is informal. “Dear 37… blah blah blah… Menagerie… Leonard Snow case file… BEARTRAP files are restricted… material transfer approved for all records pertaining to SNOWMAN, along with hardware specs… relaxed restrictions on schematic…” The wording is stilted. It won’t win Waters any prizes at open mic night. But something about the typed letters on the page seems odd.
The next page is much clearer. “SNOWMAN was our last best hope of trapping Rossum. It cost us a lot, but it worked. We learned enough about him and his organization to shut him down again if it should become necessary.” The manila folder is crammed with a series of bank accounts, names, and other identifying data, some of which 37 recognizes as former luminaries in the super-criminal and high-tech worlds. Rossum customers who were taken down or flipped. It looks like a big operation.
The next dead tree’s worth of filed pages are a series of specifications. Electromagnetic pulse generator, long-range radio tracking beacon, hardened audio-visual recording device, and more. All miniaturized, tested, and documented, from the look of it. They built some kind of portable device to take out a high-tech evil genius. This must be how they got Rossum. But how did they deliver it?
There’s also a series of glossy color photographs, taken of a subject at all angles. 37’s eyes bug out in recognition.
It’s Leo Snow. No, it’s an android replica of Leo Snow. The chest cavity is open, with scorch marks all around it. The whole mechanism looks shook up, but not too badly damaged. Consistent with an EMP device going off, but from inside the chest. But Rossum was captured at one of his lairs. The bomb must have gone off there. Rossum must have taken this android there. Why would he take an android copy of his son into his sanctum, unless he thought it really was… 37 stares through the photograph into the dead eyes of the humanoid machine. Leo Snow perfected the duplication of a human mind into an android body. According to the tech specs, his robot brain tech isn’t inherently electromagnetic, so the contents would have survived an EMP. What if…?
Old man, just what did you and your organization do?
The agent can already hear Waters’ mental voice answer, without quaver or hesitation. What we had to.
37 snatches up the first page of the letter and reads it again. AEGIS requires a digital record of all internal correspondence, but only requires the words be recorded, not a scan of the physical paper. The typewriter hit several of the letters several times, making deeper indentations on the sheet, to emphasize specific letters. They spell out a message. T H I S I S S N O W M A N M A K E D A M N S U R E W E H A V E I T L O C K E D U P W A T C H Y O U R A S S.
The old Christmas chestnut, “Frosty the Snowman”, comes to mind unbidden. Children build a person, made out of a lightweight ubiquitous substance, and bring it to life. “He could laugh and play, just the same as you and me…” But it’s the last line that makes 37 pause. “I’ll be back again someday”.
author: Bill G.