The Scramblers, By R.M. Markwell

iStock_000000097235MediumTERESA can’t remember now whether it was the helicopter blades or the knock at the door that she heard first. After all, chopper blades were a common sound in the city; like the sirens as well; this is what you heard all day and all night, if you really stopped to listen.

It all happened so fast. She was sitting on her overstuffed red couch in her room watching a show on her laptop while fooling around with an Itab her brother Sam gave her a few months ago. Sam just had to have the newest one because it now featured a 3-dimensional Botty. Botty popped out anytime you needed something, she remembered her brother saying. And you could dress her up any way you liked.
But Teresa was real happy about getting his “crappy” Itab, as he called it. All she needed to do was get rid of all the junk he had loaded on. She knew to be real careful about that. Perched on the edge of her couch and leaning over her glass coffee table, she went to work on the old unit.
The knocking was loud and explosive. She jumped towards to the door to peer through the tiny hole and she immediately felt the door opening towards her face, threatening her nose. A man dressed in black moved through the door. His stomach leaked over his tightly drawn black belt.
“What?” she sputtered.
“Ms, we are not here to hurt you.”
Teresa looked past him to see if there was anybody else. Then she realized who he was.
“Thanks for letting us in.” He closed the door behind him quietly. He flipped open his Itab and handed it to her. “Put your thumb on the release form, indicating you read this document.”
She stared down at the document entitled, “Standard Release Form: Apartment Entry (Includes Privacy Statement.)” She started to scroll down.
“Stop,” he said in calm but firm voice. “Sign it. Top Right.”
She did as ordered.
“Ms, I represent Agog! We have been contracted by the company to discuss certain erratic behavior regarding your use of company product.”
Teresa heard the whirling of the blades. The sound had been there for a while but it was louder now. How many times had she seen the chopper visit apartments all over the city? Countless, of course.
She lived on the 10th floor of the apartment and she chose the place because in the summer she could go up to the roof deck and look over at Capitol Hill, which she thought was still beautiful, despite the fact Congress had not been vacant for more than two years. Her friends had warned her the balcony made the building way too accessible.
“What do you want?”
“Mz, you need to cease and desist uncoupling from Agog! When you signed up for “Your Blast, Your Life,” you agreed in the release form, page 322, subsection 1, that you would be a member for life.”
“I never signed up for anything like that. I want you leave right now.”
The man, dressed in a black turtle neck and shiny black pants and black shoes, touched his right temple and said: “Possible code 2. Standby.”
“Mz, we know that while your were watching, IseeTV, Espisode X of “Coders Gone Wild” you were also in the process of fraudulent decoupling from Agog! product. This needs to stop.”
Teresa didn’t understand why every time he mentioned the company name he raised his voice by several decibels.
“My stupid brother, signed up for your stupid product.”
“This needs to stop.” He touched his temple again. “Standby.”
“Ms, this is final warning. You will desist the decoupling or under the law of Agog! and as its fully legal representative, we will sanction this apartment.” His voice was steadily rising.
She new she she had no choice. She sighed: “OK.”
Right temple touched again. He whispered, “Stand down.” He turned to her and held the Itab out again. Then he jerked it back and looked at the screen in alarm. He furrowed his brow. He shouted, “Botty you bitch! I told you to have the second form ready.”
There was a swooshing sound as Botty jumped out of the unit. Weaving and hovering, she cooed in a soft voice: “Very sorry sir, beg to your forgiveness, sir.”
Botty had an Asian face and wore nothing but a small pair of red bikini bottoms. She was strangely well endowed.
The man smiled for the first time: His lips elongated and his cheeks puffed out, but for only a few seconds. Then his chubby, white face resumed the official scowl. “Just got this last week and I’ve already configured it to fully control her. Also redesigned her from top to bottom.”
Teresa wasn’t sure what to say. “Great job.”
“Thank you. Sign here.” Botty morphed back into the laptop as he thrust the unit towards her. She signed.
“Well, that we be all then,” he said. He did not make a move to leave.
“Thanks for dropping by.”
“Been my pleasure. Look.” He paused for effect. “You mind if I come by again sometime? You know, to hang out. “
Teresa was appalled and said, “Sure.”
“This time I will buzz before coming up,” he said, with that smile appearing and disappearing, not unlike Botty’s movements.
Teresa wondered how many times he used that line. “Well..”
“I noticed your taste in web shows. Very compatible to mine.”
“ Oh.”
“I’m on an A Squad on the Scramblers,” he said proudly. “It’s a good job. Agog! MicroApple — the big guys love us. They outsource their trouble and we take care of it.” He barreled on. “I will get Botty to call you.” He looked down at his computer and barked: “Botty, did you hear that?”
Botty’s popped out. “Yes sir!” She dived back in again, effortlessly.
Teresa felt she had to say something. “Don’t you feel guilty with a job like this?” Her friends always loathed the Scramblers.
“Look if people didn’t do dumb, illegal things, we wouldn’t need to barge into homes. But it’s not the world we live in, is it Teresa?”
Teresa was not surprised to hear her name and couldn’t think of anything more to say.
“My name is Dot Calm. Sorry my parents were techies back in the day. I still remember them being all excited about Siri and all that. Look I got to go. Mind if I leave through the balcony?”
He didn’t wait for an answer and ran to the balcony door and opened it. He grabbed the Kevlar rope on the railing and hooked it to his belt. With a jot, the belt tightened and Dot Calm’s face reddened and his scowl deepened, as if to say, “I always hate this part.”
Four men peering out of the open door of the chopper, looking bored, soon hoisted him away.
Teresa watched the black chopper surge away. The “Scramblers” logo, with its shark like teeth emblazoned on the side, grew smaller. They probably had a few more stops before they could hand it all over to the night shift.
She turned back to the couch, relieved to return to her show. But just before hitting the resume key a thought struck her. Why is it in this day and age, they still don’t know how to beam somebody up?
But enough thinking, Teresa was only too relieved to get back to her private life and watch her show, all nestled into her couch.

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