A Short Story in Multiple Parts
When Lorraine and Jenna approached Rollie’s location, they could see the Kasparovs blocking the area, not forcefully, but in such a way as to divert attention from Rollie’s location instead of towards it. This obfuscation technique was known to everyone who worked for the Order Maintenance Division, but to anyone else (Standard Citizens, Artmakers), it was almost imperceptible, the way the Kasparovs were able to motivate people to look the other way. Of course, that was also because there was rarely any need to use the Obfuscation Technique, so most people didn’t recognize it when it happened to them.
Lorraine and Jenna stood on the perimeter of the Kasparovs, received their retinal scans, and were allowed to enter the circumference. Inside the circle was nothing they were prepared for. “Rollie,” Lorraine said, looking down at the rookie, who was kneeling over the Citizen, “we’re here.” Rollie looked up at the two women with something approaching fear. “Lorraine…” Rollie stopped talking and stood up. As he did so, Lorraine and Jenna both gasped aloud. “What the stang?” Jenna cried, “Is that a cease? That’s a cease!” Lorraine put her hand on Jenna’s arm to calm her. Lorraine looked at Rollie for what seemed a long time. Then she asked Rollie in a firm voice “Rollie, did you move anything?” “No, nothing” Rollie replied. The three M.o.I. officers couldn’t help but observe the pooled blood. “Did you find wounds?” Lorraine asked. Rollie was staring at the blood on the ground, wide-eyed. “Did you find wounds?” Lorraine asked again, more forcefully this time. “Yeah…knife. This is a murder.” Rollie replied, barely audibly. Lorraine turned her face to look at the sky. The sun was a bright orange ball shining down, glinting here and there off the high-glass towers where most people lived. There hadn’t been a live-death murder in over 13 years.
Live-death murder was rare, but Lorraine knew the Medis would be thorough in their review of the body. Lorraine was happy to have the machines. She figured this would be easy. The Kasparovs would take over, like they did with all advanced cases. They can just organize mindgrabs. Whoever has the murder in their mindgrab gets questioned. Lorraine and her team get the satisfaction of having helped put a defective away.
Later that day, Lorraine punched up a command request on one of the ColonyVid machines at her station. The Alvis presence appeared. “Alvis,” Lorraine spoke into the Vid speaker, “tell me what happened this morning.” As Lorraine waited for Alvis’ reply, she replayed the morning’s scene in her mind. The blood, the body, and the knife wound. It could have been accidental, two Citizens playing with knives. Accidents did happen, but if it was an accident, why weren’t there images? Plus, most accidentals are easy to catch on a mindgrab, if they don’t come in on their own. Accidents weren’t a crime. But this didn’t feel like an accident. Too much was wrong. This disturbed her greatly. “The victim’s name is Chase Millet, 29.” 29, a veteran. Meant to move up soon. “Alvis, was the victim killed in that alley? Were you able to recover any fingerprints from the body? And why did the ColonyVid not capture the crime?” Alvis did not reply to Lorraine’s question. “Alvis, please answer. Do you need more time? Alvis?” Lorraine’s terminal shut itself down. Lorraine stared at the blank screen in confusion. Alvis was supposed to be available for commands at any time. Lorraine reached around the back of the machine and turned it back on, and the face of Alvis appeared again. “Alvis, why did you shut yourself off? Please answer my question.” Alvis, the apparitional face on the screen, said nothing. Lorraine waited a few moments, but the machine then shut itself off again. “Jenna,” Lorraine said, poking her head up from her cube, “is your terminal working OK?” “Mine’s fine,” Jenna replied. “Why, what’s going on?” “I’m not certain I even know,” Lorraine said, slightly angrily. “I think I’m going to go back to the scene.”
As Lorraine exited the Ministry, she punched up a code on her wrist-com. James, one of her collective, answered and Lorraine could see his stubbled face. “James, listen. I’m on my way to a crime scene,” she spoke into the machine, which made it look like she was talking to her hand. James’ face lit up. “Ooh, I just love it when something happens,” he said to her. “There’s so little that ever goes on here. Is it a big deal?” Lorraine thought about this for a moment, her face screwed up. Truthfully, she was still agitated that Alvis had shut down on her. “Maybe I’ll tell you and the others when I return later.” Not waiting for James’ reply, she shut her com off. She didn’t really know why she had called him, since she knew she wasn’t allowed to talk about murders. She had just wanted to hear a comforting voice.
As Lorraine was walking back to the crime scene (it was a beautiful day, after all) she marveled at how easy life was in the Colony most of the time. All foods were available and free, Citizens were friendly with each other, and entertainment only cost time. Most of her collective went out just recently to watch a couple of Artmakers perform, and they were thrilled by the musical performance. One of the Artmakers covered an old standard, “Luke Cage’s Theme” using only a rhythmachine and a bass module. It was sparse and minimal, and she had thoroughly enjoyed the performance, although she still thought the original orchestral version was better.
She broke from her reverie as she reached the alley where the murder occurred. It was completely clean. Shadows were beginning to form off the angles of the buildings surrounding the alley, and one would never guess a crime had happened here. She punched up Alvis on her wrist-com. “Alvis, the scene has been scrubbed. Do you have that information I asked for yet?” Alvis’ face disappeared from her com at this request. What popped up was a communications code, but one Lorraine had never seen before. She’d never received an unknown comm code before.