Mason Tiffany woke up in a jail cell with no recollection of how he had gotten there. He ached all over from some hard labor he didn’t recall doing. He wore an unfamiliar, ragged suit with mud caked on the pant legs and cuffs. He attracted a guard’s attention, but instead of getting an explanation, he was escorted to a small room with bare walls, a sterile table, and three chairs. He took the chair in the corner and waited for what seemed like hours until two burly men in police uniforms entered the room and sat in the remaining chairs.
“Good afternoon, Mr. Tiffany,” one of the men said. “I’m Detective Thompson and this is Detective Shultz.”
“Which one of you is Good Cop and which one is Bad Cop?” Mason asked.
Shultz chuckled but Thompson gave only a half-smile.
“Mr. Tiffany,” Thompson said.
“Call me Mason,” Mason interrupted.
“Mason, can you tell us where you were this morning and what you were doing?”
“I have no idea,” Mason said. “I was doing a zombie shift. My dispatcher can tell you though.”
“We’ve talked to him,” Shultz said. “He told us you never logged in. From what we can tell, you were in full control of your body today. That doesn’t look good for you, buddy.”
Mason guessed he must be Good Cop.
“Check my chip,” Mason said. “I promise you, I was in zombie mode.”
Thompson and Shultz exchanged a look which clearly carried meaning, though Mason couldn’t decipher what. Shultz got up from his chair and opened the door. A woman stood impatiently on the other side. She entered quickly and dropped a briefcase onto the table. She quickly extracted a laptop, followed by a long, tangled cord which she wrestled for a few moments. At the end of the cord was a strange hat. The woman plugged the cord into the laptop and handed the hat to Mason. He put it on hesitantly.
“Just give me a minute to get this working,” she told the detectives. “This system is kind of slow.”
Thompson shrugged, but Shultz turned to Mason as if they were old friends and finally getting a moment to catch up. “Hey, I’ve always wondered what doing a zombie shift is like,” Shultz said.
“It’s nothing special,” the woman with the laptop said.
“I dunno,” Mason contradicted. “I like it.”
“Isn’t it weird though?” Shultz asked. “You come out of zombie mode and have no idea what you did all day?”
“There’s always a log,” Mason told him. “If you really want to know, you can look it up. I used to check it out a lot when I first started. It was random stuff like deliveries, construction, or cooking. One time I did a surgery. If it can be automated, I do it.”
“Yeah, but, what is your brain doing the whole time?” Shultz asked. “Do you dream or something?”
“Nah, my mind is fully active. I can surf the internet, play ARGs, whatever. I try to be productive and, like, learn things but honestly, I usually procrastinate and waste time. I’ve got a level 162 reiver in Manifest Destiny.”
“Huh?” the woman said. Everyone turned to her, but she didn’t offer any commentary. She was giving her laptop a skeptical look, as if it were lying to her. The three men watched curiously as she typed, clicked, and scowled. “This is weird,” she finally said.
“What’s weird?” Mason asked.
“Well, you were in zombie mode today, like you said, but it wasn’t your regular dispatcher that provided the instructions.”
“I think my company has deals with other dispatchers. They, like, use each other’s zombies sometimes.”
“It’s not like that,” she said. “Every dispatcher in the world is supposed be registered. It’s international law. Whoever dispatched you wasn’t. I think you were hijacked.”
That seemed… ominous. Mason inspected the dirt under his fingernails. “And what, exactly, did I do while I was hijacked?” “Do you know the Mt Olivet Cemetery?” Thompson asked. “It’s missing a body.”