*Author’s Note: “No Good Deed…” is a standalone story, set in the same universe as my other Reedsy short-stories, with overlapping characters/events.*
Gadget knew criminals always returned to the scene of their crime, and she hated being that predictable. But it was unavoidable.
Even from a distance, it was clear security had increased since her last visit. There were two guards at the main gates, and a third inside a quick response 4x4 car.
Her brain had to fight against her leg’s desire to run, but her legs couldn’t hear the drones whirring overhead. The spies in the sky would’ve already detected her presence, so turning back was no longer an option.
Her pace slowed as her inner turmoil waged on. The gravel path that led to the main gates squeaked complaints under foot; the Hindsight Corporation’s HQ wasn’t designed for visitors.
Buzzzz buzzzz buzzzz.
Gadget took out her mobile, and saw Flo’s profile picture looking back at her. She clicked to answer the call, and the image on the screen was replaced by an angrier version of the profile picture.
“Where are you!?”
“Hi Flo, I’m well thanks. How are you?”
“I’m serious. You’re outside. You’ve not done it yet then?”
“Just walking up the garden path now.”
“Good, turn around and come back.”
Gadget continued walking to the main gate, and Flo could tell there wasn’t a change in direction.
“I’m sorry Flo, but I have to.” Gadget could see anger in Flo’s eyebrows, but sadness in her eyes. Flo had stunning brown eyes; even being framed by Flo’s dour expression couldn’t diminish their beauty. “Because-”
“I read your note, I know why you think you have to do this, but you’re wrong.”
Gadget had no answer. She looked at Flo, and hoped this wouldn’t be their last conversation. Leaving a note felt pathetic now, but she couldn’t risk Flo stopping her – if anyone could it was her. Gadget didn’t want to think about what the others would’ve done to her, if they had discovered her plan.
Neither was willing to break the uncomfortable silence as Gadget walked on. The gravel’s complaints seemed insignificant now compared to Flo’s.
“I’m sorry,” said Gadget. She didn’t know what to say, but that was how she felt.
“So am I,” said Flo, but Gadget sensed Flo’s apology wasn’t as simple as her own. “I hope you know what you’re doing.”
“I do.” There was confidence in Gadget’s voice, but it didn’t reassure Flo. “Dr.-“
“DON’T!” snapped Flo. “Don’t you dare say his name.”
“He’s trying to do the right thing. We were wrong.”
Flo watched her friend. The intensity in her face made Gadget feel uneasy.
“And I won’t mention anyone else’s involvement,” confirmed Gadget.
As she waited for Flo to be reassured, Gadget feared her connection had froze, until she realised the stony façade was caused by shock.
“You think that’s why I’m pissed?” Flo’s eyebrows matched the sadness in her eyes. Gadget was stung by guilt, as she realised what she had implied.
“No. I mean…of course not. I just mean, if the others ask, if they’re worried. Then.”
Flo watched on in silence, taking no joy from seeing her friend floundering, but also unwilling to put her out of her misery.
Gadget stopped herself from saying anything more. She knew no words were up to the task. She just hoped she was doing the right thing.
“I’ve got to go,” said Gadget finally. “I’m coming up to the gates.” Flo didn’t speak, but she didn’t have to. “I’ll need to wipe the record of this call.”
“Okay,” said Flo. The anger had left her face completely now, leaving a look of resignation behind.
“Don’t worry,” said Gadget, pointing a finger to her temple, “photographic memory…I’ll call you after.”
“Good luck,” said Flo, but as with her apology, Gadget sensed a deeper meaning to her words. It felt more like farewell. They both forced a smile, and then Gadget ended the call.
Gadget took off her rucksack and knelt down on the ground. She reached inside it, and pulled out her electro-magnet. She pointed it at her mobile, and then switched it on. The desktop image on her mobile was concept art from her favourite computer game. The artwork began to pixelate, until a green line flashed horizontally across the screen, and then it went completely black. She put both devices into her rucksack, and then continued her walk to the main gate.
“STOP,” called out the guard. His left hand was raised high, and his right hand hovered over his hip. “This is private property.”
Gadget stopped dead. The guard walked towards her. The other two guards watched on.
“I’ve come to see-”
“It’s appointment only,” said the guard curtly. “You don’t have one.”
“I’ve come to see Dr. Chase,” said Gadget, ignoring the technicality of not having an appointment. “I need to see him.”
“So does everyone,” the tension in the guard’s body lessened, and a smirk spread across his face. “That’s why it’s appointment only.”
“I’m not everyone,” said Gadget, growing with confidence with every inch the guard’s right hand moved away from the gun on his hip.
“And why is that then?” The guard was becoming more irritated than threatened. “We don’t need any Girl Scout cookies.”
Gadget smiled out of politeness; it wasn’t the first time she’d heard that joke. It seemed aspiring comedians couldn’t see beyond her small statue, and youthful features. During the winter when she was wrapped up in thick layers, she was often confused for a boy, due to her short cropped hair.
“Because I have his missing data files.”
The guard’s authority dissipated with those words, as he knew the decision had escalated beyond his pay grade. He reached for the radio on his shoulder, and held down the button.
“Marv, come in.”
He released the button, and waited. By the gate there was a grey portacabin, and Gadget could see the second guard inside watching them from the window. She watched Marv echo the movements of the first guard, as he spoke into his shoulder.
“Yep, go ahead Hank.”
“We’ve got someone here claiming to have Dr. Chase’s missing data files. Call the doctor and see what he wants to do with her.”
“Calling the boss now, hold on.”
Gadget watched Marv move away from the window of the guard’s office, and then looked back to Hank. His authority was slowly returning, as he watched her in silence. He was a young man, probably in his early twenties too, although he wore his age more accurately. His brown eyes didn’t blink, and didn’t share any of the characteristics of Flo’s. The longer she waited, the more Gadget feared Flo had been right.
“Hank, come in.”
The voice coming in through the radios snapped her back into the moment.
“Yep, go ahead.”
As soon as he was given his command, Hank pounced like a tiger. He clamped onto Gadget’s upper arms, and squeezed hard. She could already feel the bruises forming, as he spun her around, removed her rucksack, and slapped plastic zip ties onto her wrists. Hank was an efficient jailer; much more convincing than he was as an intimidating guard. Within seconds Gadget had been relieved of her rucksack, and was being led back to the guard’s office.
Marv came out of the office and searched Gadget. He looked through her rucksack, frisked her, and then nodded to Hank once he was content she didn’t pose a threat.
Hank left Marv at the main gate, and took his quarry to the boss. As they walked inside the HC’s HQ building, Gadget recognised the interior design from her previous visit. However, now wasn’t the time for nostalgia. Hank led Gadget ahead of him by holding her wrists. He lifted them to put pressure on her shoulders when he felt she was walking too slowly, and she complied.
By the time they reached Dr. Chase’s office, her upper arms ached, her shoulders burned, and her wrists stung. Hank knocked on the office door.
Hank turned the handle, and they both entered the room. He closed the door behind him, and pulled a lock-knife out of his pocket. He cut off Gadget’s restraints, and pushed her forward. Losing her balance, she stumbled, reached out, and steadied herself on the back of the chair in front of her.
“She wasn’t armed,” said Hank to the stern guard standing next to Dr. Chase. He handed Gadget’s rucksack to the guard. “It’s just electronic stuff.”
Gadget stood upright, behind the chair, and smiled at Hank’s lack of knowledge about ‘electronic stuff’. The new guard looked back over at her, and the heat of his stare evaporated away her smile. Gadget sensed his authority wasn’t going to dissipate with anything she said. If looks could kill, then Gadget would be suffering an unimaginably painful one.
“Thank you Hank,” said the stern guard. Then without further word, Hank left the office, and closed the door behind him.
The stern guard looked into Gadget’s rucksack – he didn’t seem to trust Hank’s knowledge of ‘electronic stuff’ either. He removed the contents, and placed each item onto the desk in front of Dr. Chase.
Dr. Chase’s eyes were instantly drawn to Gadget’s electro-magnet. He picked it up, and with his free hand, he directed Gadget to take a seat. She sat down, and was unnerved by the silence in the room.
Gadget kept her eyes on the doctor, too nervous to glance at the guard. She didn’t have to look to know he watched her with malicious intent. Dr. Chase turned the electro-magnet in his hands, studying it from every angle. He had piercing blue eyes, and Gadget sensed they missed no detail. He wore a comfortable jumper, and had a shaved head that made it difficult to judge his age. His appearance wasn’t like the stereotypical mad scientist, but he still was one. He had invented time-travel, and by doing so, had also created a whole new industry that his company had a monopoly over.
“This creates a directional magnetic field?” asked Dr. Chase. Gadget nodded. “So it can wipe a specific device, without affecting any others?”
“Very impressive…crude construction, but the design is impressive.” Gadget was proud and embarrassed in equal measure. Her work was being graded by one of the greatest minds in the world.
“I imagine this would be quite useful in your line of work.”
With that single statement, Gadget’s embarrassment tipped the scales. She could coat her actions with all the ideology she wanted, but the reality would remain unchanged. She was a thief, and she was confronting her victim.
“Yes it has been.” Gadget’s voice was low and timid. As she was questioned by Dr. Chase, all she could think of was how much she wished Flo was with her.
“Yet, walking into my compound is clearly bad for business. So. Tell me why I have you in my office?”
“I’ve seen the projection.”
“Don’t be cute,” barked the stern guard. “Explain yo-”
Dr. Chase’s raised hand silenced his attack dog.
“A little more detail would be appreciated,” said Dr. Chase.
Gadget glanced up at the guard cautiously, and he looked poised to beat a confession out of her, regardless of what she said.
“I believe you’re the best chance we have for averting the apocalypse.” Gadget paused at how melodramatic she sounded, but it was the truth. “So I thought the best place for that information was in your hands.”
Gadget felt like Dr. Chase was looking through her as he stared at her. As if he saw into her thoughts, her feelings, her motives. Like his eyes were lie detectors, and he was assessing the level of truth in her words. He looked up to the stern guard that was still standing to his right; the guard seemed to understand the look on the doctor’s face.
“I would’ve brought the hardware too,” blurted out Gadget – keen to keep this a two way conversation. “But I don’t have it anymore. I mean I couldn’t carry it even if…the data is all there, nothing is missing is what I mean.”
Dr. Chase turned back to Gadget, and the guard continued to watch his boss.
“She’s no assassin sent to kill me, so I don’t need to waste anymore of your valuable time.”
Gadget couldn’t tell whether that was said as a thinly veiled insult or not; offending others isn’t often a concern of powerful people. Whether intended or not, the stern guard looked offended, and it appeared to take all of his restraint not to strike Gadget as he walked past her, en route to the door. He closed the door behind him more loudly than Hank had done, but not quite a slam.
“Don’t mind him. He fears you’re a ferocious beast, after you dispatched him so quickly during your last visit.”
In that instant Gadget realised who the guard was. When she had stolen the data files from Dr. Chase, he was the guard that Gadget had zapped with Flo’s cattle-prod during their escape, and had knocked to the ground.
“I’ve seen the CCTV footage – it was quite a feat of strength. I hope I won’t see a live re-enactment.”
Gadget gave a genuine chuckle, and felt at ease, despite her situation.
“No. There’s no danger of that.”
“So you’ve told me why you brought back my data, but why did you steal it in the first place?”
Gadget looked down into her hands, as if she held a reasonable answer she could hand to the doctor. She looked back to Dr. Chase, and told him the truth.
“I thought you were a con-man. Scare mongering the world, to make more profits for your company.” Dr. Chase listened intently, without offense, and showing no sign of interrupting or correcting Gadget. “I wanted to share with the world the truth you were hiding.”
“Then you realised I already had,” confirmed Dr. Chase.
Gadget gave the doctor a warm smile in answer. The pair shared a moment of mourning for the fate of mankind. Now she had fully laid out her situation for Dr. Chase, Gadget couldn’t wait any longer to find out her own fate.
“So what happens now?”
“We endeavour to change that future.”
“No, I mean to me?”
“I was including you in that ‘we’.”
Gadget looked confused, and Dr. Chase didn’t understand why what was obvious to him, wasn’t obvious to Gadget.
“Are you offering me a job?”
“Well, yes, I suppose I am, if you want to confine the task at hand within that framework.” The doctor’s words only made the situation marginally clearer to Gadget. “I think your help would be invaluable, so if you need a wage, name it.”
“But…” Gadget could barely formulate her thoughts, let alone her words. “But I stole from you?”
“The data was backed up, and taking the cabinet was more of an inconvenience than an expense.” The doctor sat back in his chair, trying to predict what Gadget’s decision would be. He thought from his assessment, she would want to help him in his work; but her emotional reaction wasn’t a variable he had included in his analysis. “Things are easily replaced, but a mind like yours is hard to come by.”
Gadget leant forward in her seat. Since she had decided to hand the data back, she had stressed about what would happen to her. Her imagination had run wild, but fact was stranger than fiction.
“My mind? But you’ve only just met me?”
“This is true,” said Dr. Chase. “But a person’s actions speak volumes.” Gadget sat upright again, as she listened to the doctor’s explanation. “You and your companion used non-lethal weapons, so you’re not unnecessarily malicious. You broke into my compound, so you are willing to act upon your beliefs, and are brave. You’re a competent person, as you managed to do all of this without being caught. These are all the things I already knew before I met you.”
Gadget had to admit the doctor had been accurate in his assessment so far, and quite complimentary.
“As for today, the fact you brought back my data shows you have a conscience. The fact you did so in person, at great personal risk, shows you wanted to ensure it went to the right person. These facts tell me you are willing to selflessly act for the greater good. These are the things I’ve learned about your character.”
The doctor picked up Gadget’s electro-magnet, and looked over its craftsmanship again. Gadget listened in silent awe, as the doctor broke down her life, and had yet to make a wrong assumption.
“As for your skills, this little electro-magnet is an example of your ingenuity, and creative skills. The way you disassembled my cabinet showed your excellent destructive skills too. Good inventors must possess both skills.”
Gadget grinned at the last compliment, which was the one she was most proud of. There was an endless list of toys she had broken in her plight to understand how they worked, which was the foundation of her technical understanding of mechanical things.
“And finally,” said the doctor, pulling Gadget out of her childhood memories. “This is probably the most important thing…you said you accessed the data to watch the recording of the projection.” Dr. Chase paused, and Gadget nodded to confirm this was true. “No one has ever broken my encryption. So as far as job interviews go, I think this has been a good one.”
Again Gadget was lost for words. This was happening so fast, her brain wasn’t able to process what she was being told quickly enough, to instruct her mouth what to reply.
“So?” said Dr. Chase, breaking the prolonged silence. “What do you say?”
“What other choice is there,” said Gadget.
“Excellent. Welcome to the company.”