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Wrote in 365 Parts

Written in 365 Parts: 13: Blood Patterns

Drick looked over the crash report for a second time trying to fix, from the very brief details that had been gathered, some of the events that led to the death.

Perp had been in the vehicle with a dead body when the bots arrived on the scene. They were moments ahead of a security team from Volstron who maintain the section on behalf of the city governors and corps. Judiciary bots had been close by, about four levels down patrolling a tunnel section which had reports of drug activity and gang crime, usual for the lower levels, but a good enough reason as to why they were first on the scene.

Vehicle was a hover car, saloon styled and suitable for up to five passengers. Not capable of full flight but used the highway magnetic repulsion coupled with emergency grav. lifters which were also used for steering. It was a pretty standard design for vehicles that would never leave the city and would never travel except from garage to garage. Some of the more luxury vehicles had full flight capabilities, but those were the reserve of citizens of less limited means.

Drick pulled up an image of the crime scene on the holo-display of the headset they wore. The judiciary bots had done a standard three hundred and sixty degree rotation before even attempting to recover anyone so the foam was untouched.

Drick noted that the vehicle looked like a fleet car. Standard grey with a serial number on one side, looked like a logo above the serial but there was too much damage for instant recognition. There was extensive damage to the body with the vehicle missing all of its plexiglass panels, the hood and at least one door as the left drivers door was absent. Drick chewed on a lip, then enlarged the view of the drivers door hinge. They couldn’t be sure but the hinge looked as it was tore outwards, so maybe the door hooked on something, Drick would have to check that.

Drick paused and realised that there was a stain on the foam near the door. It was blood, so it was the left-hand drivers seat ejector that had failed. The vehicle wasn’t new but it was well maintained which added further issue to the foam ejector failure, unless the ejector had been in the door. That might account for why the foam didn’t shroud the victim. Drick tried to get a viewpoint to see more but the initial three sixty hadn’t angled enough to zoom in closer on the foam.

Drick pulled up another view this one showing the foam and doorway from a different side, lower down as the bots examined the scene. There was a lot of blood over the foam, some of it mixed in which was intriguing. Drick moved and rotated the view to capture the failed ejection nozzle and that’s when they noticed the blood pattern on the ceiling. There was a spray of blood along the interior leading towards the door and window.

Drick had the system calculate patterns and direction of blood flow and compute a model for what might have caused it. The system gave a fast response. Wounds were consistent with arterial spray caused by massive head trauma. What was interesting was that there were two spray patterns with something that separated them. Almost as if the murder weapon was wedged into the head and neck.

Drick would know more when the autopsy arrived but it was more of a puzzle. One thing was certain they were alive when that incident happened as the blood spray was impressive. Which means that the cause of death was possibly not by beam weapon, and since Marsh wasn’t covered in blood, they were not in close proximity to that trauma when it occurred.

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Wrote in 365 Parts

Written in 365 Parts: 12: Cut the Small Talk

Drick boarded the shuttle for the return trip from the central judiciary and selected a seat near the back. Drick activated the privacy screens so as not to be disturbed and slipped the harnesses on in a manner that suggested they had done this a thousand times before. A quick tightening of straps and then a helmet was lowered over Drick’s short cropped hair.

Now that they were alone Drick was able to put a call through to Krennar, as usual the line was busy so Drick left it on hold and triggered to activate into full screen once Krennar picked up.

There was a slight bump of the main hatch sliding shut and then the usual announcements made over the tannoy. Drick partially listened in case anything different was stated. As usual the gravity and inertia compensators wouldn’t be turned on for the whole of the journey which would take about five hours.

It once amused Drick that they always saved energy on the return shuttle flights by turning off the gravity. When transferring prisoners and working law enforcement officers the gravity was kept on, but for the innocent schmucks returning they could float. In reality it made practical sense not to let prisoners float around, they could cause more damage to themselves and others in a weightless environment. But it was still amusing.

Drick’s comlink beeped and they noticed that Hooper had been true to their word. A full breakdown of the justice bots report was in the archives along with the names of any witnesses and organisation involved in the incident. Drick noted the route and made a task to drive it on the way over to Volstron Services.

Although it would be easier just to vid-call Volstron Drick often found that faceless companies always employed an organic receptionist. It was the official way to humanise any emotionally deficit entity. A meatspace meeting was always a good way to get a read on a company and more often than not a good way to get extra privileges.

Drick’s screen flashed and the notification warned Drick there was an incoming transmission, it was the on-hold call. Flicking the screens gave Drick a view of Krennar, as usual they looked tired and angry. Also as usual a small credit charge window appeared, Krennar had put Drick on the clock.”

“Good localtime to you Drick, how are you today?” Krennar was all polite words but the face read that they didn’t care what the answer would be.

“Let’s cut the small talk, Krennar, this is costing me money. I need you to sit on a K-tag for me and I want them unmolested if possible. Goes by the name of Marsh and they were taken in today. You can get all the details from Hooper.”

“Well that’s good, I am also well if a little tired from the heavy workload I have. It was kind of you to ask if I had time in my calendar.”

“If you didn’t have the time why did you take the call?”

“Maybe I like to be social.”

“Looks like I am paying for your likes, if this is social why am I being charged?”

“Oh, just habit. Who did this Marsh kill?”

“We don’t know yet.”

“Have they been found?”

“Yup but the victim cannot be identified just yet, and neither can Marsh. Marsh has no skin dents. In fact they have no implants except for a vocoder unit. Recently fitted.”

“Sounds delightful. You realise I am going to charge more for any extra services I might use or need?”

“Same old. If I were you I would take along one of your lumpier pets, there is a lot that stinks about this and someone might try a little strongarm persuasion.”

“I still haven’t agreed to help.”

“You’re not helping. You’re being employed. Let’s be honest, you rarely have anything better to do except chase divorces and custody battles.”

“Very well. I will get the next shuttle. I assume they have been taken to the judicial processing centre?”

“They have, I will probably meet you in the terminus as I am heading back, so you could be a sweetheart and swing by my apartment and pick up a few things I might need.”

“Such as?”

“I’ll text you the list.”

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Wrote in 365 Parts

Written in 365 Parts: 11: Too Many Complications

“Thirty blocks, the entire regional section had no monitoring or cameras?” Drick took a deep intake of breath and let it out quickly, “that’s a heck of a lot. Was there a power disruption?”

“Not in that area last night. We had a couple of small outages on the fringes, but you always get them there, mostly the corps penalising people for late payment. But Yee On Kline is a central sector. Power stays steady for the wealthy, even if it is the lower levels that are affected.”

“So what’s the reason for the lack of monitoring?”

“There hasn’t been one given as yet,” Hooper read some script from their eye once more, “looks like a request has been placed for all information and the bots are doing a standard search across businesses and vehicles to see if any of them have footage. But nothing yet.”

“Did you get the bots to check the vehicle auto-upload, most of the fleet vehicles have tracking on central servers.”

“Wow, you know, we never thought of that even though it has been a standard practice for half a millennia. Sure we did. But the system was down for the whole area and that includes all the relays.”

“That’s might odd, or is it mighty convenient.”

“Smells like trouble to me. I told you to drop this one. Too many complications.”

“Sure, can I get a copy of the witnesses, you must have some of those. Also maybe a list of any vehicles that went in or out of the same area as the reported collisions, say thirty minutes either side of them.”

“Sure, you want anything else? A nice meal, a personal servant to wash dishes, do the laundry and clean your backside, maybe?”

“That’d be nice, save me the effort. So can you get me those or do you want me to beg?”

“I can get them, I just don’t know why I should. You know this is looking to be a heap of effort for likely little to no reward.”

“Yeah. I know. But there is something about this that makes me interested. I guess I can never resist intrigue. Do Yee On Kline control the power and services in that district?”

“Yes, but not directly. The monitoring, cameras and traffic control are managed by Volstron Services, but they are almost completely owned by a hedge fund which is a Yee On Kline managed organisation, they are principle share holders.”

“Well Volstron Services might be able to tell me a little more about why the monitoring system was down. I assume you’ll bounce that list onto my personal net?”

“Yeah, sure.”

“And I want the K tag, Marsh, assigned to me for full investigation, I will fire the paperwork to Krennar. Make sure you inform your enlightened superiors so they don’t move Marsh to someone else. I want them here and I want to be informed of any questions, investigations or analysis related to them.”

“Damn, Krennar, really? You still working with that bloodthirsty critter? Okay, I have already had the K tag assigned to you and placed in holding, I will make sure your leech gets whatever access they need.”

“Thanks Hooper, I owe you. Oh, and throw me that triple death I will do it on my way off base. No sense in not earning a little credit.” Drick started moving towards the exit that led to the shuttle lounge, “Rack up a few on my tab at the Tanz.” Drick smiled and flicked a three fingered salute, “later Hooper,” they said walking through the doorway.

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Wrote in 365 Parts

Written in 365 Parts: 10: About the Killing

Hooper stared at Drick for a few moments, “going to get my rear in a bind for this. You know I could have given that sweet triple to any other investigator and they’d feel like they owed me a favour. You, you make it sound like you are doing me the favour and you want me to stick my face into a nest of stinging crap for the pleasure. You’re a piece of work, Drick.”

Drick smiled but not coldly, “still ain’t fessing up on those details Hooper.”

A world weary sigh and then Hooper nodded in resignation. Drick watched as they looked into the near distance obviously reading from a retinal screen. “Well there isn’t much to tell. Perp has no previous priors, not unusual as they have no identity to link anything to. We are waiting the trace from biologicals which should at least give us their closest genome types and that way we have some route to trace their origins.”

“Sure all that’s sweet,” said Drick impatiently, “but tell me about the killing.”

“Well at this point it is only a presumed manslaughter charge that’s being held. They are still investigating the case and so I don’t have much except the scene of the arrest.”

“And…”

“Pulled out of a hover vehicle in the Yee On Kline District on lower lane six, looks like the vehicle lost stability and flight capabilities after a collision, or potentially multiple collisions, with other vehicles or structures. The vehicle hit the barriers and then the ground at enough force to mangle it. Luckily for our perp the vehicle had full safety foam and impact deflection but not well maintained and the side ejector on one of the seats didn’t trigger. The other occupant of the vehicle suffered massive injuries and died in the incident. That’ll be why your perp has a K-tag as they were sole survivor and the investigation teams haven’t worked out who was driving.”

“So they pulled someone out of a vehicle and then instantly sprayed them. Doesn’t seem friendly even for justice bots.”

“Well they were holding a weapon, tight stream beam ejector, and were screaming incoherently. So the bots pacified them for their own protection, and until exact circumstances could be ascertained.”

“That’s a nice official line. We nuked them for their own good. Same old bull Hooper.” Drick sucked on a lip, “there’s a lot wrong with that. How and why did it crash. Why did only one side fail on the foam ejectors, they’re pretty tight systems, well integrated to vehicle controls preventing usage in failure at start, even the older models have that. They also emit a warning if they don’t work or become unstable and restrict vehicle speeds. Any chance it was damaged during the final crash? Or maybe disabled? You said several other collisions? Who is the stiff?”

“The other occupant,” Hooper over emphasised the words, “hasn’t yet been listed, like the events leading up to the crash as that’s what is being investigated.”

“It’s been a few hours Hooper, what is taking them so long? Surely there is vid footage. I know the lower lanes have fewer monitors but they do have some. We have any anything I can look at? Oh, and surely the other occupant had a skin-dent? Or do we have two of them as total unknowns?”

Drick waited as Hooper did a retinal search and raised a speculative eyebrow as that turned into a search on their hand pad. Hooper breathed in thoughtfully and muttered to themselves.

“Problem Hooper?”

“Just a couple of small ones. They had an ident but it isn’t listed on the system as to who they are. The second problem is that it looks like the monitoring for that section was down the entire time so there is no footage or sensor readings.”

“The whole section?” Drick asked with eyebrows reaching for their hairline.

“Yes, the whole thirty blocks.”

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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?”