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Wrote in 365 Parts

Written in 365 Parts: 9: I like the Truth

Drick had been waiting in the almost featureless ‘central processing’ main lounge for greater than forty minutes and was beginning to run out of news headlines to read on social feeds. Drick had been focusing on seeing if there was any hint of who Marsh might have murdered from around the time they were picked up, but there were enough deaths that single incidents were not reported unless they had some additional news value.

Pity that Marsh didn’t kill someone important, or sensitive, or famous as then there would be a few dozen casts and maybe a punditry vlog with enough comment routes to trawl. But there was nothing. Part of Drick’s mind suggested it was unusual to find nothing at all, so was it a cover up? But Drick silenced that quickly. The likely explanation was that aside from the peculiarities around Marsh the death was something mundane.

Drick set a few tracers onto the news feeds as a matter of habit and then used a known trick of searching recent keyword bombs from some of the journalists and investigators they stalked. Might as well see if anyone else had found a trail.

Without meaning to Drick yawned emphatically just as one of the roller doors, there were twelve that led into this waiting room, rolled up with the slight scraping of a poorly fitted, or overused, panel.

The person that came through made Drick roll eyes and stare at the ceiling letting out a loud enough to be clearly noticed exasperated sigh.

“Well shaft me with a synth marrow, when I was given this task I should have known it would be you, Drick.” the voice was world weary and spoke of a lifetime of processing the sectors criminals and judiciary cases. “Shouldn’t you be out lurking in a hospital waiting area or vidding pervos at a todder gym?”

“Not my scene.”

“It wouldn’t be the first time though, would it?”

“Got to make a living. Got to make another credit to stave off the inevitable poverty charge.” Drick stood and looked the beleaguered public servant up and down. Clothes were pressed but had been worn all day on a long shift, they were also patched where wear and tear had taken their toll. Hair was thinner than the last time Drick had seen them and the waistline had a little more breadth.

“You could make an honest credit, you have a good enough mind and times have changed. You could always give judiciary a shot.”

“I’d love to shoot quite a few of you, but that’s going to get me into a little bit of trouble, or it might get me a medal.”

“Always with the smart mouth, Drick, always with the comeback. Without that attitude you could go a long way in the service.”

“You mean like you have?”

“Well that’s not fair, I managed to work my way sideways to a position where they mostly leave me alone, where they think I wont make a damn.”

“You make a damn,” Drick smiled, “good to see you Hooper. How’s the partner and podlings?”

“Tolerant for the first and taller, louder, faster, more expensive and mouthier for the latter two.” There was a sudden warm smile and Drick was hugged.

“You’re showing signs of wear and tear, Hooper,” Drick drew back a little but kept palms on a slightly out of shape waist, a little jiggle “this is a little less firm?”

“It’s the gravity difference, at my age I don’t have the belt adjust as much so the walking is easier in the lower gravity. But you know that makes everything looser.” A warm smile and eyes twinkling.

“That and all the cake you eat.”

“More partial to facon and feggs myself with a side of grits.” there was a laugh. Drick drew back and laughed a little as well. “So why are you here Drick?”

“Came in with someone, landed in section seventeen eleven. I thought it would be an easy percentage claim, K tag so definitely one with the chances of a payout for an either way answer. But it has a few unusual elements.”

“Such as?”

“K-tag calls their self Marsh but has no ident-tag.” Drick noticed the almost surprised look. “I guess that news is spreading a little.”

“You sure I can’t pair you onto a different case? I got a triple murderer came in with the same load and so far no one has sniffed onto them. Would make your life a little easier.”

“Well that’s interesting. How likely is it to have a payout?”

“Very, there’s little doubt of it being an open and shut murder, they should process within forty eight hours. Company will have to payout but you’ll get a nice percentage on a triple, not as high as a denial but good enough.”

“Well, that’s too tempting isn’t it. I’ll take both of them,” Drick smiled.

“Damn it all Drick, you would be wise to drop this, it stinks. Something is wrong and that means that someone up high is going to get interested, you really want to lock horns with the JDI?”

“Wrong question, Hooper. It’s whether they are dumb enough to get in my way. There’s a bigger story and you know I like the truth.”

“Of course you do. That’s what got you where you are now.”

“So, what can you tell me about the killing?”

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Wrote in 365 Parts

Written in 365 Parts: 8: Identity Confirmed

Drick stood and placed their arms outwards from the side of their body showing the palms with fingers outstretched as the roller door lifted. The door hadn’t even made it to the halfway point before three enforcement drones shot in under the gap and came to a hovering stance less than a metre from Drick’s face.

The drones were squat objects around the size of a football with a circular gravity inducer on the bottom. They were fitted with scanners and a direct connection to the justice department data streams. This model also had autobinder arms and ejection ports for dispensing gas or sprays. They had a flashing light that currently pulsed quickly around the upper section in a red, blue, red repeating pattern of trailing colour.

“Don’t move,” a hollow automatic voice spoke from one of the drones as the same information was flashed holographically in front of the middle drone. The text was in the four main scripts used locally and the common dialect of Terran. Drick saw the same message scroll across the bottom of their retinal implant.

“Hold out your arms, palms towards us and fingers spread” the drone continued needlessly repeating the standard script. Drick knew the procedure and had been a recip[ient of it many times.

Drick saw that the drones had their spray ports activated and if Drick moved they would likely gel them with the same stuff they used on Marsh while making the arrest.

Drick stayed still as one of the drones moved closer and triggered the skin-dent to run a full DNA and identity display. Drick watched the flowing symbols and diagrams dispassionately and waited for the inevitable.

“Identity confirmed,” the drone hovered backwards and moved over to Marsh and attempted the same procedure. Drick watched with more curiosity as it repeatedly sent the activation code but got no response from Marsh’s wrist.

“Identity denied, this K Tag is an illicit person of unknown origin,” the drone hovered back to its companions. There was a small wait while they no doubt confirmed what was going to occur.

The doorway had fully rolled up now revealing the connecting passage that led to the airlock, decontamination and central processing area of the judicial centre. Drick noted that they were in section seventeen eleven.

The drone turned back to Drick, “proceed to central processing, you will be met by an organic officer.”

“What will happen to Marsh?” Drick asked.

“The prisoner’s identity cannot be confirmed. They will be processed by a higher grade. You will proceed to central processing where you will be.”

“I get it,” Drick cut them off, “I will proceed to central processing.” Drick marched past the other two drones who obediently hovered out of the way and stomped down the corridor as loudly as their boots could manage.

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Wrote in 365 Parts

Written in 365 Parts: 7: Tear Out My Brain

Drick studied Marsh as they stared at Drick for several long moments. “The transport will land shortly and then they will start to process the containers. We are near the back but they are super efficient so you are wasting time.”

Marsh took a deep breath and slowly let it out then bent their head forwards so that Drick could study the back of their skull. Drick moved over cautiously, Marsh was a K Tag and they could still be using an elaborate ploy to draw Drick close to where they were shackled to the floor.

Drick, cautiously, keeping a close eye on Marsh’s body for any sign of sudden tensing, checked behind the ears and at the nape of the neck, feeling the skin. It took just a few moments to find the small bump and puncture wound, a moment or two of closer examination revealed the needle hole which was red from recent creation.

Drick backed away, “well someone wanted to be able to communicate with you. You have been implanted.”

“What does that mean, does it mean there is a machine inside me?”

“Depends what you mean by machine, Marsh. Humans are to a large extent just an organic machine. They have likely injected you with a self building neural net fitted with translation capabilities.”

“You’re going to have to explain it more than that as that was just a lot of sounds as far as I am concerned.”

“It is a small injection of miniature organic robots. They would have had an instruction to use some of the organic local material to build a network interface across your senses and the language regions of your brain along with some of the parts of your cognitive reasoning. The function is to give you the ability to understand and speak in just about any language. You don’t really speak them, you just hear them as if they were speaking in a manner that you can understand. Occasionally it will get garbled when there is no local knowledge, but if they have any remote passive connection to the data streams they will download extra material and information on demand.”

“Somebody put a machine in my head?”

“Yes. Though as I said it was organic so no different to a virus or a bacteria, more of a friendly thing, a symbiotic relationship not a parasite.”

“That makes it so much better. And this thing is wired into my brain?”

“In a way, yes. Though really it is now a part of your brain.”

“Can you get it out?”

“Probably, but not easily and it will have restructured things so you will lose some ability if done badly.”

“So I have to keep it.”

“Yes. That would be wisest.”

“You realise right now that I want to claw my own skin off and tear out my brain. This is the creepiest thing I have ever heard. What do you mean connected to the data streams?”

“Some units have passive, and sometimes active, reception so they can get updates or upgrades, better models can navigate the streams to request data and further explanations for unknown translations. Depends on the model. Since you don’t have an ident tag of your own if it is an active connection it will be linked to an account, active connections are billable by demand, which gives us a trace as to who put it there. Might be a line of inquiry for you.”

“A line of inquiry!” Marsh strained to get the words from gritted teeth.

Drick checked retinal screens as Marsh seemed close to physically convulsing. The readings were all elevated, blood pressure, heart rate, nervous responses. “Take some deep breaths, it isn’t that bad. Everyone has the same thing. That’s how we all can understand each other. I know it seems totally alien to you but it is completely regular.”

“Regular!” an angry snarl, “you stuck a Goddamn thing into my brain and that’s regular? What the hell do you people do when you want to get creative or exotic. Get it out of me” Marsh tried to stand completely upright, tugging at the restraints that attached them to the deck.

Drick was about to yell for them to stop. To calm down as they were pulling at a system that had auto-responses. But it was too late. The automatic escape countermeasures activated and the bindings on Marsh’s wrists shocked with a massive burst of electrostatic charge. Drick watched Marsh shake for a few seconds before collapsing temporary unconscious to the floor once again.

Drick sighed and then jerked up in surprise as the light flashed above the roller door and a flat mechanical voice warned the occupants to remain calm and still as the door was now opening.

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Wrote in 365 Parts

Written in 365 parts: 6: I Have A Vested Interest

“It was hundreds of years ago?” surprise and then quickly it turned to disbelief, “that’s not possible, that can’t be true.

“It might be impossible, Marsh, but it is true. So however unlikely it feels it doesn’t change a thing.” Drick felt a sense of puzzlement wash over them, “I am confused as to why, if you are from the twenty-first century that you can understand me. I didn’t think they had sub-dermal implants back then.”

“Sub-dermal what? No. I don’t know what that is. I understand you because you are speaking English.”

“I can assure you that I am not. I am speaking the Rillish dialect. The officers who arrested you would have been using a pulse language, all droids do. Yet they processed you which would have involved some communication if only them telling you to stand still and you can understand me as well. Which makes me believe you have a sub-dermal translation unit. The monitor wouldn’t scan for it automatically and I can’t re-callibrate it even if it could, lean forward and let me see behind your ears.”

“A what? Do what?” A shake of the head “I am not going to do anything you say until you explain who you are and what is really going on.”

“I told you who I was.”

“You haven’t told me anything, you said your name is Drick, what does that even mean? Who do you work for? Why are you in here with me?”

Drick sighed. “Look. Okay. Let me explain a little more. Normally it doesn’t help and people clam up, but you seem especially confused. I am a private insurance investigator, Marsh. I work freelance. I know someone who gets me onto the prisoner transports with anyone who has committed a crime that’s likely to have an insurance claim attached to it. You’re a K tag, you killed someone in some way, so that means there is a body. It is law here to have a personal insurance plan to cover any eventuality such as causing an accident, being in an accident etc. The only people with no personal equity insurance are people with no equity and they don’t get arrested, if they’re caught they go through a different kind of processing. So this is just about a claim for me.’

“A claim?”

“Sure, an insurance claim, as I said private investigator. You sure it’s just your memory that’s messed up? Look, when there’s anything like a death, a serious injury, or a major crime like grand theft there is always an insurance claim. The companies will always put out a contract to investigate. I like to get ahead of the competition. You are worth two point three percent of any claim I can disprove and point zero four percent of any I cannot.” Drick smiled, “So I am likely to be your best chance of help right now, marsh. Because anything that I learn that reduces the payout of the insurance companies will increase my percentage so I have a vested interest in everything you say. So put your head forwards please.”

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Wrote in 365 Parts

Written in 365 parts: 5: What Year Were You Born?

“Well you are in a prisoner transport, or what you said was a prisoner transport, so it follows that you are or prisoner, or a guard.”

“Well I am not really either of these,” Drick responded, “and I think it would make better use of your time to work out your own issues. You are being recorded, you understand that don’t you? And monitored?” Drick watched Marsh look around at the camera they had already mentioned. “Yes that’s a pretty standard camera unit able to see across a broad spectrum with a sensitive microphone. But the arresting officers implanted a monitor as well.”

“What the hell do you mean by implanted?” the voice was raised and again Drick noted that mostly it was fear based anger response. The biological readings all verified this assessment.

“Try to remain calm, this display will not help and if you become agitated there will be automatic countermeasures, it is built into the monitoring system. There are a number of issues that I would like to raise with you and to get more clarification on, this will likely help you.”

“Who are you?” Eyes narrowed again and a suspicious look to the face.

“My name is Drick, I told you that already.”

“But that doesn’t tell me who you are? What you do? Why you are here?”

“None of that matters at this exact moment. Let us return to your memory and what you remember. You will be asked to give an account of yourself and if you don’t have a clear understanding then they will pull the information from you.”

“How exactly are they going to do that?”

“There are a number of techniques for extraction, some of them passive, some not quite so.”

“I don’t understand why this is happening to me. This doesn’t seem right. Everything is wrong and I don’t recognise any of the things around me or what you say. Like the tattoos that can move and give information, or being in a craft that you say was in space, well why wasn’t I floating?”

“Well they are both easy to answer. They are not really tattoos, they are surface implants that have display capabilities. You can get auto-pigmentation implants but these use photon emitters. The gravity is because these vessels are fitted with artificial gravity and inertia compensators.”

“But that’s not possible, how is that possible? That’s all sci-fi bullshit isn’t it?”

Drick bit thoughtfully at the inside of a cheek. “Tell me Marsh, what year were you born?”

Marsh stared for a long moment, “twenty thirty-eight, in Kendal, Cumbria.”

Drick frowned hard, “well that explains a couple of things if it is true, Marsh.”

“Of course it is true, why wouldn’t it be true?”

“Well mostly because the twenty first century ended hundreds of years ago.”

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Wrote in 365 Parts

Written in 365 parts: 4: Re-entry

“Well I told you my name. I’m Marsh. I grew up in Cumbria and I used to be in the military, I think. Some of that is really confused as I don’t recall leaving it.”

Drick stayed still and quiet for a few long moments. They were weighing up the options and at this point they were all heading into very uncertain territory. “Look, Marsh, I don’t know if that’s your real name or a nick you use, but there is something badly wrong. Everyone, I mean every person has a skindent. Heck even people who didn’t have one from a Tube Tag, and it does happen, get one as soon as possible. It is how you do anything. You couldn’t move without one.”

“Well I don’t have one.”

“What’s the last thing you remember?” Drick sucked a deep breath in, “do you remember being sprayed, anything just before that?”

There was a loud rumble outside the walls of the vehicle and the panels started to shake. Drick noticed Marsh looking around fearfully.

“What’s happening?” They yelled out in a mild panic, “are we crashing?”

“Atmospheric re-entry, don’t worry about it.”

“What the hell do you mean by atmospheric re-entry? Are we in space? How come there’s a gravity? Did we go to the moonbase?”

Drick laughed, “No, who calls the moon colony a base. We are headed to the justice facilities for processing, investigation, trial and possible incarceration. Though with a K tag you are looking at some form of a custodial sentence, Marsh.”

“So are they on Earth? Or did we go into space for some other reason?”

“Earth, what you mean dirt? Or are you talking, Earth, earth? As in Terra?”

“Of course.”

“So you’re a Terran?”

“Isn’t everyone?”

Drick stared at Marsh again for long seconds trying to work out if they really believed what they were saying or whether they were trying some ruse. It felt real and the monitor that had been injected into Marsh and was scanning and uploading data to Drick’s retinal plant was saying that they believed what they said. But it was all so impossible.

Marsh spoke, “hey, your arms and legs?”

“What about them?”

“You are not bound or shackled and you don’t have this plain outfit on.”

“Well I don’t have a plain outfit, no, but you were arrested in that suit. As for restraints, why would I need them?”

“I guess you don’t, I imagine it is just K grades and similar, violent types. I would have thought all prisoners would be treated the same.”

“They mostly are, Marsh. But whatever made you think I was a prisoner?”

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Wrote in 365 Parts

Written in 365 parts: 3: People Call Me Marsh

“I’m not sure,” again a strong look of confusion, “everything is all jumbled in my head.”

“Try to not over think. When they sprayed you it would have had a mild anaesthetic mixed in along with the other chemicals. They call it a pacifying attack. That’s not what I would call it as I think they would make anyone mad as hell, but the mix is strong enough to incapacitate you so that you can’t do anything about it. So I guess pacifying works. Anyway that’s going to mess with your short term memory and add to your feelings of confusion. So let’s go longer term. Do you have a name?”

“Yeah, sure people call me Marsh.”

“Well, Marsh, that’s a start. People call me Drick. You want to share where you’re from as with your arms strapped behind your back I can’t see your skindent.”

“My what?”

“They must have given you a heck of a dosage of that, or maybe you just react badly to it. Your skindent. The identity tag tattooed on your wrist.”

“I don’t think I have one.”

Drick raised an eyebrow and laughed, “sure you do Marsh, everyone has a skindent, you can’t even buy a glass of water without one. How do you pay if the vendor can’t access a register to draw from an account?” Drick shook their head, “look,” they said moving so Marsh could see their arms. There were tatoos going up the forearm from the wrist, they moved updating to show different symbols and shapes or graphs. Marsh could see current time, heart rate, tasks lists and other information in one tattoo while a band on the wrist scrolled constantly with a range of numbers.

“I have five of them,” said Drick, “the wrist one is of course my tube tag but I got the others for various helpful functions. Everyone has a tube skindent Marsh, you get it implanted when they pop you out as a new birth.”

Marsh shuffled round so that Drick could see the arms strapped behind. Drick stared at Marsh’s wrists. Stared at them for a long time before speaking again. “Shit” was what they finally said. “You don’t have a skindent Marsh. Who the hell are you?”

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Wrote in 365 Parts

Written in 365 parts: 2: What Do You Remember

“Do you know how I got here, or not?” The civil tone was making a rapid run for the hills now and Drick could see the eyes narrow despite them being slits from swollen cheeks and brows.

“You don’t need so much attitude, it isn’t going to help.” Drick kept a neutral tone.

Drick watched as K14792 stared and then looked around the transport. They seemed to be confused with a furrowed brow as they looked at the almost blank metal box they were in.

“What type of vehicle is this?”

“As I said, it is a prisoner transport. Pretty standard one. Metal box, toughened steel walls, roller-shutter doorway, camera in the corner, vents in the ceiling for air and so they can pump it full of gas to shut us up if we get too rowdy. Fairly standard stuff. I am guessing this is your first time in one? So this your first crime, or just your first murder?”

“What?” A raised voice but out of surprise and not from anger. They looked shocked, eyes were wide and mouth slightly agape. “Who said I did a murder?” the anger was returning to the voice now.

“Hey,” Drick kept a calm voice, “don’t get stressed, you could be innocent for all I know.”

“Who said I killed someone?”

“Look,” Drick wished they had more than a few feet between them in this soundproofed metal box, ‘no one said anything at all. They tossed you in here and said nothing about you at all. I was just going from your designation.’

“What designation?”

“The K, you know what that means, right? It stands for killer, only people who have taken a life someway have a K designation in the prisoner ident.”

“I haven’t killed anyone, or at least I don’t remember killing anyone,” they looked around confused and shaking slightly, “I don’t know where I am or how I got here and I certainly don’t remember any damned murder.”

“Look if you’re aiming to lessen your sentence by claiming some amnesia or mental illness, you’re out of luck. The authorities here will not believe you.”

“I am not trying anything, look I don’t know what is going on.” They were shouting with anger and possibly fear.

Drick tried to smile despite feeling worried, ‘okay calm down. I am not calling you a liar, just letting you know how things stand. Why don’t you tell me what you do know. What do you remember?”

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Wrote in 365 Parts

Written in 365 parts: 1. Where Am I?

“So how did you get here?”

There was a dry cough before the rasping reply, “what, where, where am I?”

Drick watched as they struggled to sit upright, hacking up dry lungfulls of air and squinting through teary eyes. “You need to slow down or those restraints are going to cut into you. Try blinking, your eyes will be dry and itchy from the spray.”

“What happened?”

“Well that’s a query with a fiscal tag.” Drick snorted mirthlessly.

“What?” spitting to one side with eyes still streaming.

“Million dollar question. You want to be careful with spitting if you’re caught they will gag or bag you.”

Drick watched as they took a few minutes to stop coughing and for their eyes to clear enough to sit up properly. They looked at Drick. Not too bad looking even with the puffy eyes and busted lip. Nose could be a little shorter, hair less of a tangled mess, that might not be from the method of detainment.

“Where am I?” Calmer and more controlled, almost a civil tone of voice.

“Prisoner transport vehicle.” Drick smiled with no detectable warmth yet not cruel. “Looks like they tagged you as K14792.”

“How did I get here?”

“Well now, that’s where we started,” Drick gave another little laugh, “that’s the question I asked you.”