Cyborg insects are the future of espionage. DARPA is doing research on them.
Truman was sitting at the bar; he was nursing a beer and watching the news of the latest terrorist attack in New York. A tall thin woman with deeply chiseled features entered and sat on the stool next to the empty one beside him. The glow of burning buildings, reflected on the curved surfaces of the goblets hanging over the bar, lent a macabre tint to the shades the woman was wearing.
She got a beer, glanced at him, and smiled. She said something in a low voice. He raised his eyebrows and smiled. “Excuse me?”
She put an elbow on the bar, and placing a finger on her forehead, covered her face. “Don’t look now, but there’s a roach on top of the keg of Bud.” He started to move his head. She whispered urgently, “I said, don’t look!”
He held his breath and looked away to scan the room, but no one was paying attention to them. He started breathing again. Subconsciously, he lowered his voice. “So what? They’re probably all over the place.”
She moved over, sat next to him, and leaned over. Their shoulders touched. “Ssshh! They can hear you.”
“No one is listening to us. They’re watching the news.”
“I don’t mean the people. I mean the roaches.”
He took a good look at her and felt a stir of interest; he had a thing for the odd and weird. He decided she was attractive in a punk rock sort of way. “Should I care?”
She spoke in low breathy tones, “They’re not real roaches. I mean, I think they’re robots or maybe they’ve been wired with high tech devices.” She moved her tongue over her glossy lips. “I’ve seen them in the dark, when they thought I was sleeping, blinking their lights, perhaps communicating with some government agency.”
Truman looked out of the corner of his eye at the roach. “It’s looks like an ordinary German roach to me. No blinking lights nor rotating disks, do I see.”
The woman looked hurt. “You’re making fun of me.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. Let me buy you a beer, or how about something to eat?”
“I’d like a burger, if it’s ok with you.”
“I’d be delighted to, by the way, I’m Mark.”
“Nice to meet you, Mark. My name’s Debbie.”
Nodding, he gave her a smile. He raised a hand, catching the bartender’s eye, and ordered. As they waited for the burger, she picked up on her story. “Usually, people don’t see the signals; they’re too dim. But, sometimes you see a flash out of the corner of your eye, then you look directly at it and you lose it.”
He rubbed the sides of his head with one hand and took a deep breath through his nose. “But, why go to all the trouble of implanting roaches? I mean, they already have all kinds of eavesdropping devices,” he grinned, “called bugs.”
“Yes, but when people see a tiny mic they know they’ve been spied on. When they see a roach, they spray it and trash it.”
He massaged the back of his neck. “Yeah, well. Assuming you’re right, these things must cost a lot of money, so how could they justify the expense? And how much could it help them?”
They stopped talking as the bartender brought her order. She swallowed a bite of her burger and watched him leave. She spoke to Truman, “I’ve done a lot of thinking. The government is getting paranoid. They’re seeing suspects everywhere, so they figure the people must sacrifice some privacy for the security of the country.” She picked up a napkin. Wiping her mouth, she whispered, “There’s a roach behind that poster. I saw it scoot under. It’s probably the same one getting closer to listen to us. Let’s move over to a table.”
They sat down across from each other. Truman unbuttoned his blue suit, loosened the red tie over his white shirt, and took off his wire frame glasses. Taking out a handkerchief, he wiped the lens. “Do you have any evidence? I’m sorry, but your story is a little hard to believe.”
The woman took off her shades. Her blue eyes contrasted well with her short spiky black hair. “It took me a long time, but I was finally able to catch one a few nights ago. I have it in my bag.” She took a small match box out of her black shoulder bag and put it on the table. Truman opened it. A roach, the same variety as the one in the bar, was unmoving inside. He flipped it over onto the table, revealing a slit down the middle of its belly, and inside, tiny wires and a micro chip.
Truman put his glasses back on and looked over the rim into her eyes. “You don’t know how long I’ve been waiting for this. I haven’t been honest with you, but that’s because I was afraid. You see, I was on the original design team to create one of these things, a mobile biological sensory device, a cyborg. A very talented team... and we did a great job. Later on, I had strong doubts on the ethical use of the roach and asked to resign from the project. I found out they wanted to erase five years of my memory and that’s when I decided to hit the road.”
“What are your plans?”
“To keep running.”
“What should I do with this roach?”
“Keep it safe and hidden.” Truman took a wallet out of his back pocket. “Here, this is a card of a friend of mine. He works at a newspaper. Give him an account of these events and my story. He’ll take it from there.”
Debbie took the card and put it into her purse with the match box. Truman rose. She put her shades back on and held out her hand. As Truman gently took it, he said, “I’ve got to go. There’s someone I need to see. But, you’ve given me hope. I can see an end to this.”
He walked to the door with hope adding an inch to his stature, opened it, stepped out, and strode to his car. Standing next to it, he watched the big rigs zipping by. He didn’t regret his decision to resist the agency; he had found it impossible to do nothing as his country chiseled away at the foundations of liberty and freedom. Still, he often wished others would join the struggle. Fate had given him a lucky meeting; he felt things were going to change.
Debbie walked to the table in the far corner, her heels clicking on the hard linoleum floor. The solidly built man watched her approach with an eager gleam in his eyes. She stopped and stood over him. “Max, we’ve got our man. Do your business and let’s get out of this dump.”
He smirked and rose. “It’s about time, Delilah.”
His partner’s lips hardened. “Don’t use that name here, asshole.”
He brushed past her and strode to the door. Opening it, he saw his quarry in the parking lot, approached, and fired three bullets into his back. Truman died before he hit the gravel.
Inside the bar, Delilah opened the match box, dumped the broken obsolescent roach, and crushed it with her heel. She sat down, took a phone out of her bag, thumbed six numbers, and waited. She felt no remorse, for the country was at war. To her way of thinking, anyone hindering the process of securing the safety of the nation was aiding the enemy.
The improved version sensing its call, scampered out of hiding, and zeroed in. Delilah saw it clamber over the edge of the table. She opened the match box and the roach climbed in. She put in a morsel of hamburger, closed the box, and put it into her bag. Rising, she joined Max as the burning buildings, reflected on her shades, collapsed.