Part 2

The streets of Silver Cove were so clean that he could have eaten off them, but he suspected that would get him sent to the retraining center, whatever that was. It sounded like a prison of some sort. The buildings were constructed mostly of light gray bricks with a few pastel reds, yellows, and blues thrown in for aesthetic purposes. The structures were spotless on the outside and the lawns were perfectly trimmed. Flower gardens were planted with rows of white, blue, pink, or yellow flowers arranged with precision in alternating rows. The aura of perfectionism was familiar, though why, he didn't know.

One promising sign on a door of a little squat brick building read Help Wanted: Dishwasher. A small black sign with glowing blue letters above the door announced, "Mary's Café." Lemon scent mingled with the aroma of fried chicken and baked potatoes drifted through the open window. His stomach growled. He couldn't remember the last time he had eaten.

Just then, a memory sprang to him, unbidden.

"Careful, dear. Don't break it," a woman warned from behind him. "You must be very, very careful not to make a mess."

"Why, mama?" he heard himself ask with a child's voice.

"Because you might end up in a bad place someday."

Cautiously, he put the dish onto a bright yellow towel that was nearly covered by other dishes. They were white.

The memory faded. Perhaps, he thought, getting this job would help him recover some more memories. If nothing else, he could earn some money.

As he entered, he noticed the restaurant looked like it had just been cleaned. The lemon scent was strong, but it didn't bring back any more memories. From the carpet to the ceiling, almost everything was in shades of blue. Several large black screens hung up on the walls showed various images in motion. There was no sound.

He was greeted by a short, plump woman with gray hair that was covered by a fine net. She also wore gloves and a light blue apron. As she looked him up and down, her eyes widened with surprise.

"I don't believe my good luck. How'd a handsome young man like you end up in my café? Are you a Technocrat Inspector?"

"No , Ma'am."

"How can I help you then?" she asked.

"I'm looking for work," he said.

"Work? No offense, young man, but with those fine clothes, you look like you could afford to buy this place."

He looked embarrassed. "Honestly, Ma'am, I need a job."

"Did a retraining center send you here or something? The only job I have pays minimum wage."

He shrugged. "I wish I knew the answer to that, Ma'am. I lost my memory. I hope it's only temporary."

"Do you remember how to wash dishes?" she asked.

"Yes, Ma'am."

"Do you have a name?" she inquired.

"Enigma."

"That's an odd name," she mused.

"It's the name I chose for myself until I remember my real name."

"I see." She scrutinized him again. "Well, you look young and healthy, which is hard to come by these days. You also look like you can keep yourself clean. Tell you what. I desperately need someone to start tonight. I had to fire my last dishwasher when a couple of Technocrats stopped by, and there was still a smudge of dirt on the dishes. I've been doing the job myself for the past few days, but I can't keep it up much longer."

Indeed, Enigma thought, she looked nearly as tired as he felt. "Do you know where I can find a place to stay?"

"Down the block that way," she gestured, "my daughter owns a boarding house. It'll cost you 100 credits a week and you'll get breakfast free. That's fairly cheap these days. If you can stay on for a while, I'd be willing to give you a raise after a bit. My daughter needs the business."

It was safer to agree, so he nodded.

"Can you start tonight?" she asked.

"Yes," he said.

"Good. I'm Mary. The supper crowd will be here any time. The kitchen is back there." She pointed. "Make sure you put on a hair net, apron, and gloves, or the Technocrats will give me hell if they show up. Do your best to keep your apron clean. If it gets dirty, just put on a new one. I can't risk getting another fine."

He nodded. "What are the fines for?"

"Oh, the government Inspectors will show up every so often – pretty much whenever they want to. If they decide you're in violation of the cleanliness laws or any other regulations, you get a fine. Too many, and they shut you down. You have to go find another job, maybe go through retraining." She looked at him curiously. "I thought everyone knew that."

Enigma shrugged. "I don't. What is retraining?"

"Bloody Technocrats. They send you off to one of their centers where you learn a bunch of new skills and get shipped off to wherever the jobs are, like it or not. If you need a foreign language to work there, you learn that, too. But I never heard of a retraining center that erases your memories."

He shrugged again.

"Well, as long as you can wash dishes, I don't care where you're from," Mary said abruptly. "Go get ready."

He went into the kitchen. There, he found a light blue apron and put it on, along with the other accessories. There were currently no dishes in the sink, but he had a feeling that it would fill up all too soon. After what seemed like an hour later, Enigma was busy washing dishes. The faucet marked *hot* was scalding and the water the came out of the other faucet was freezing. When he did, it was a jarring shock to his skin, but he got used to it.

Mary poked her head into the kitchen and whispered, "There's an inspector here. Be careful not to make a mess. I told him your name was John Smith."

Enigma nodded. "Thank you, Ma'am."

The woman shook her head. "Call me Mary, please. Everyone else around here does. It'll seem odd if you don't."

"Yes, Mary," he replied. It felt strange to say her name, as if it was ingrained into him not to.

She smiled. "Good."

The inspector approached soon after that. He was a well-built, middle-aged man with dark brown hair and brown eyes. He wore a white uniform that vaguely resembled Enigma's clothes, but the styles were different. He also wore an embroidered patch with the symbols of a yellow light bulb, a blue book, and a red balance scale. Enigma filed that away for further research. Beneath the patch, a name badge read "Inspector Blackmore."

The Inspector's eyes widened as he recognized the dishwasher. "You! What in blazes are you doing here?" he exclaimed.

Enigma's eyes grew wide as he nearly dropped the plate he was holding. This man knew who he was, but could he trust him? "How do you know who I am?"

"I don't know your name, but my unit received a report that one of the modified humans had escaped from sector nine. You'd better come with me," the Inspector said.

He shook his head. "What are you talking about? Why should I trust you?"

Reaching into his pocket, Blackmore withdrew a small silver pistol and aimed it at him. "You have no choice. Put that plate down and come with me."

Enigma sighed. He made a move as if to put the plate down, but instead suddenly threw it towards the Inspector's outstretched hand. A bright green laser beam sliced through the air, vaporizing the plate. Then a high-pitched alarm wailed, creating a distraction. Enigma took the opportunity to run, although he still had a limp.

Mary looked up just as Enigma came limping out of the kitchen. The Inspector followed him.

"Stand aside, Ma'am," Blackmore commanded.

"But…" Mary gestured frantically towards her kitchen.

The Inspector looked toward where she was pointing. When he looked back, Enigma was gone. The Inspector let out a string of curses. "Damn. The boss isn't going to like this," he muttered to himself.