“Are you certain your android didn’t escape on its own somehow?”

“Yes, I am sure he didn’t escape.” Dr. Rose answered.

They were now standing in a spacious living area Dr. Rose had referred to as the Habitat. It was living quarters designed to resemble a loft, except that it was located a hundred meters below ground. In order to compensate for the lack of view, three of the four walls contained mock windows displaying three-dimensional images of a cityscape. The illusion was completed by artificial sunlight shinning into the room from each of the windows.

“Why use a city view?” Zak asked as he looked around. The loft was much smaller than the loft he lived in, although it seemed to have plenty of open space. “Why not a view of the county, something more sedate?”

“Derek lives in the city, not the country.” Jonas made the statement sound perfectly logical.

“He lives in a hole in the ground,” Zak corrected.

“SHIAM are more likely to live in an urban environment,” Dr. Rose explained in a less than friendly tone. “We wanted to simulate his future environment so he could become comfortable within that context.”

The loft was divided into separate well-furnished functional areas. A large-screen comm and entertainment system was set up in one corner, with comfortable overstuffed chairs and a couch positioned for optimal viewing enjoyment. An impressively large digital library section ran along the nearest wall. The library included an extensive collection of digital books, movies and music neatly arranged and categorized on the shelves. In the opposite corner was a small but well equipped gymnasium. A dining and kitchen area completed the space.

There were two doors off the kitchen. One door led to a full bathroom. It wasn’t fancy, but it was complete with a toilet, sink and shower.

“A toilet?” Zak asked.

“As I said,” Dr. Rose replied. “Derek has a digestive system. Naturally, that system includes the necessity to eliminate waste.”

Zak simply shook his head. He doubted he’d ever get used to the idea of an android going to the toilet.

The second door led to a rather small and austere bedroom. There was very little in the way of personal effects. The private quarters reminded Zak of the living quarters he had while attending the University of Pevnost, studying for his degree in computer science.

“So, why a separate bedroom?” he asked. “There is plenty of space in the main area for a bed.”

“Would you want your bed out in the open that way?” Dr. Rose asked.

“Actually, it is.” Zak didn’t understand why a SHIAM required a bed in the first place. The documentaries he’d seen showed SHIAM simply standing against a wall-mounted power station during their recharging period. Why would a simulated sleep mode be any different?  He decided not to pursue the issue. “We’re a hundred meters below ground and there’s only one way in or out. In order to pull this off the thieves had to get past all the security alarms and cameras on the main floors, circumvent the retina scan to gain access to the elevator, pass by the security guard at the station right outside the elevator door down here, then avoid the cameras on this level. And then do it all over again in order to get out! How did they manage all that?”

“We don’t have a fragging clue,” Vennhim said. “You saw the security vids of the checkpoints and elevator. There were no signs of anything unusual going on in any part of the building that night. Not a single alarm. Nothing. And our RAAID unit got the same results as yours...zip!”

Vennhim’s admission lacked any trace of embarrassment. Zak studied him a moment without comment. Something was off. Vennhim was almost casual in the way he admitted that his team had not only failed so utterly at preventing the theft, but had also failed to figure out how it happened. This offhanded manner was out of character for an egotist like Vennhim. He was a control freak and didn’t like being out maneuvered by anyone. Zak would have expected the man to show more frustration and resentment at being outwitted.