Vacation Days – A Short Story
Sergeant Jones dropped the memory unit from his armor onto the desk of Doc Barnaby immediately after he return from his most recent mission.
“Hey Doc, can you help me out with this thing?”
Doc Barnaby, the mission analyst for all of Jones’ missions and those of his squad, looked up from his computer terminal. “Now what?”
“This thing’s on the fritz. I keep getting random errors. Something about memory corruption. It’s not quite a good thing to see big flashing warning signs in the middle of your line of sight when you’re aiming right at some shady character ready to blow your brains to kingdom come.”
“Memory corruption, huh? Maybe take better care of the gear, eh, Jones? You guys have no respect for it.”
“Aww, come on, Doc, give it a rest. We don’t go to the park and watch the birds you know. These units take a beating, every day.”
“Yeah, alright, alright. But it’ll be a week before I can get to it.”
“A week? I need it tomorrow.”
“I’m getting out of here this afternoon. Vacation. You know, the beach and all that. I’m going to enjoy the sun.”
“So what am I going to do then? You know the armor won’t work without that little thing. Without the armor, I’m not going anywhere.”
Barnaby threw his hands up in the air. “I’ll get you a spare unit. Satisfied?”
“A spare? Some piece of junk from the bottom of the drawer? No thanks.”
“No, of course not.” Barnaby looked at Jones. “Have I ever given you junk?” He stood up and walked over to the other side of the room, opened a a drawer and started digging through its contents. Moments later, he found what he had been looking for.
“Here you go,” he said as he handed it to Jones.
“Thanks. Good luck with the sun, by the way. The forecast I saw didn’t look too promising.”
Barnaby smiled.”Oh, don’t worry about me. I’ll manage.”
The next morning, Sergeant Jones arrived at the mission briefing before the rest of his squad, as he usually did, and took a few moments to look through the details of their next mission. His commanding officer, Captain Reynolds arrived a few moments later.
“Early again, Jones?”
“Hey Cap’n, yes you know it.”
“I see you’re already looking over the briefing.”
“Yeah, not quite what I was expecting.”
“I know, I’m sorry. Every now and then we have to go mop up after the priors. This one looks like it was almost a decade ago, just when we started doing this. Rehabilitating criminals with their own future isn’t perfect, after all.”
“So with this guy, we already showed him his timeline? His future?”
“Yeah, we showed him his future if he kept going on the path he was on. He tried to change as far as I know but fell of the grid after a while. We never did find him again. Until yesterday. He turned up dead.”
“So we’re just gathering intel then?”
“Pretty much. Trying to figure out how we can avoid it from happening again. Keep them on the nice and narrow, you know.”
Jones sighed. “Well, it’s what we do, I suppose. By the way, Barnaby is out again.”
Reynolds looked, a surprised look on his face. “Again? He seems to disappear quite regularly these days.”
Jones chuckled. “Yeah, he seemed pretty sure he was going for the sun. I told him not to hold his breath.”
Reynolds laughed. “The joke might be on you, buddy. From what I’ve heard, he always comes back with a tan. He’s got the best luck on vacation days, I’m telling you. I’m not sure how he does it, picking those days, you know?”
After the briefing, Jones and his squad deployed to their destination, a luxury hotel resort on the coast a few hours away. Jones walked through the security check and checked in at the front desk, having made arrangements to meet with the manager upon his arrival. A secretary immediately took him to the manager’s office and then left them alone.
“Sergeant Jones, welcome,” the manager said, greeting Jones with a handshake. “Have a seat, won’t you? Can I get you anything?”
Jones sat down opposite the manager and shook his head. “No, thank you, sir, I’d prefer to get on with business and then leave you alone. If you don’t mind.”
“Oh, no, certainly not. When your department liason called, she said you’re investigating a death?”
“Yes, a gentleman that passed away last night. He was alone.”
“Ah yes. His room is still sealed, I believe. How very tragic. I can take you right to it.”
The manager stood up and led him out of his office and up to the tenth floor of the hotel. As they exited the elevator, Jones stopped for a moment to take in the luxurious surroundings before he followed the manager down a hallway on the right lined with doors. The manager opened the first door on the left with his master key and swung the door open.
As the manager entered, the door behind Jones opened and a man walked out into the hallway, preoccupied with his beach towel and other items necessary for a pleasant stay at the beach. He bumped into Jones and dropped a bottle of sunscreen and his key on the floor. Jones, thrown of balance for a moment, turned around and froze.
“Doc? Doc Barnaby?” he said tentatively as he started at the man.
The man jumped and faced Jones. “Uh, em, well, sergeant…” he stammered.
Jones took a step towards Barnaby. “Doc, what are you doing here?”
Barnaby smiled tentatively and swept his arm around, as if showcasing the hotel. “Vacation time, as I mentioned this morning.”
Jones looked around. “Well, I’ll say, this is one nice place to vacation. It would eat my wallet alive, I’m afraid.”
Barnaby grinned uncomfortably. “If I may ask, what are you doing here?”
“Oh, just following up on a case from a few years ago. The subject refused to see the light and we ended up with a fatality.”
“A fatality? Really?” Barnaby said, his eyes refusing to meet Jones’. He picked up his items from the floor and grinned nervously.
“Well,” Jones said, “Looks like you picked a good day to be here. The sun is out so I’ll leave you to it. I’ll see you when you get back.”
“Oh, sure, of course, I’ll see you then. Good luck, sergeant.”
Barnaby hastily disappeared down the hallway and into the elevator while Jones joined the manager inside the room of the deceased.
That afternoon, Jones returned to headquarters and to the analytics department to drop off his borrowed memory unit. Instead, he found the department taped off and guarded by security.
“Sorry, sergeant, I can’t allow you in here.”
“What’s going on?”
“Internal Affairs. The premises are off limits until they say so.”
“So, what do I do with my memory unit? Per our regs, they have to be downloaded at the end of every day.”
The guard thought for a moment. “Tell you what, come with me, we’ll ask the guy in charge.” He walked through the door behind him with Jones close behind. Inside, the offices of Doc Barnaby were occupied by men in white coveralls, facemasks and gloves.
“Sir,” the guard said with a raised voice, trying to get the attention of the closest man in white.
“Why is he in here?” said the man closest to them, gesturing at Jones. “You there, get out of here immediately. This area is off limits.”
“I only need to find out where to drop my memory unit.”
“Yes, the memory units that are part of our armor. It collects data that Doc Barnaby downloads and analyses every night.”
“Oh. Well, Mr. Barnaby won’t be back anytime soon,” the man in white said.
“Yes, I know, I saw him at the resort today. He’s on vacation.”
The man looked at him in silence. “Would you mind giving me the details of exactly where you saw him?”
“Sure but it’s all on my memory unit. Here, you can have it.” Jones handed the man in white the unit who carefully took it from his hand. “So what’s going on here anyway?”
“Like I said, Mr. Barnaby isn’t coming back for a long time.”
“It appears he’s been utilizing the data from, well, from your memory units.”
“Oh. How so? For what?”
“Have you noticed anything odd in his behavior lately? The last few years?”
“Nothing really, he’s been doing a good job. Although he has been taking a lot of vacations.”
“Yes and not the way he used to. Odd timings, a day here and there, then a week. Like that.”
“Does that mean anything?”
The investigator looked up at Jones. “Yes, in fact, it does. It confirms what we suspected.”
“Apparently he’s been using the memory unit data for the last decade and a half to extract future weather data.”
Jones started at the investigator. “Weather data? You’re joking. What could he possible want with weather data from years into the future?”
“Isn’t that obvious? He was planning his vacation days.”