Category: Wrote in 365 Parts

Written in 365 Parts: 41: One of You Shot Me

A loud scream erupted from the guard as their third hand exploded into shards of flesh and blood. It confirmed that it was a graft controlled by connecting nerve fibres and not just an implant or a controlled appendage. They rocked from side to side holding on to the shattered limb squeezing tight to stem the blood that threatened to spray out. The limb didn’t have a full suit covering so there were no emergency systems to help.

The outfits that the guards wore were combat battle suits, they were probably amongst the cheapest versions of such but would still be fitted with a host of systems. One of the principal systems on these suits was damage limitation, as such the suit could act as a wound patch and even initial trauma response in combat.

Organics who had extra limbs fitted would often wear custom suits. The security guard had foregone that; possibly because of cost but more likely to secrete that third limb as a tactical surprise in combat.

“Quell that yelling or I will silence you,” shouted Boomer their voice echoing loudly in the cavern amplified by the suit speakers. Boomer was moving slowly along the top of the side wall to get a better view on the two guards.

“Let me help them,” the other guard yelled, “please.”

Boomer took a moment to think about it and realised that it wouldn’t hurt and they were tired of the screaming. “Do what you have to, but you try anything cute and the next round will be aimed at the head. We clear?”

“I am not going to do anything, I promise, just let me apply a wound patch.”

“I said do it.” Snappy but not without some compassion. Boomer had managed to move around the side of the vehicles and now hovered silently near the ceiling almost directly above Drick’s vehicle. Boomer was concealed by a rocky outcrop and a thick ventilation duct. The guards were fully visible as was the still form of Drick.

Boomer did a cursory check of Drick’s body, all external life readings were null. No sign of heart beat or respiration. The body was still warm, in fact very warm but Boomer knew that Drick had a slightly elevated body temperature, amongst other distinct differences.

Boomer watched as the guard pulled an emergency trauma pack from a pocket in his jacket and applied a wound patch to the stump of their companions wrist. The patch ballooned instantly on contact and covered the wound with a soothing anaesthetic. The guard’s reaction was one of almost instant relief. They went from hunched in agony to a stiffer more aggressive pose in a few seconds and colour flooded back into their cheeks.

The injured guard tapped their friend on the shoulder for them to move aside and looked to where they thought Boomer was based on the recent gunshot. “I killed your friend good and proper. They weren’t so clever. Everyone claimed they were amongst the best”

“Everyone gets surprised.” said Boomer. “Difference between best and others is how well you deal with it.”

“Death is a pretty final way of dealing with it,” sneered the guard trying to sit up.

“I wouldn’t be so cocky if I were you.” Boomer was watching all of the monitor screens and had instructed their own cover operatives to keep this section of the tunnel closed for the time being.

“Why don’t you make a deal with us. We were not tasked with harming you, as far as we are concerned you don’t exist. We understand that you were just doing your job.”

The other guard, without injuries added. “We can give you the same arrangement. Tell us everything you know and we’ll let you get off planet.”

“Only one major problem with that,” said Boomer.

“That is?” asked the injured guard slowly standing up.

“Me.” Answered Drick as they stood up from behind the vehicle.

The guard was visibly shocked and actually seemed to jump a little in fright, they had taken an involuntary step backwards. “But you’re dead. That’s not possible. Nothing organic could survive that poison.”

“Wrong,” said Drick calmly walking around the side of the vehicle. On an internal screen Drick quickly confirmed that it was Boomer who was hiding in the shadows above the executive vehicle and was relieved to get an affirmation. “As you can see, I survived.”

“But how? I was told it wasn’t possible, that no anti-toxin could work fast enough to stop this shutting down all your organs.”

“I guess that’s true,” said Drick, “I would have to be the type of person who can resist poisons, develop anti-toxins and have vital organs that could be rendered inoperable without it killing me. So while my body brings my kidneys back online we can discuss your surrender and the details that I requested before you attempted to commit suicide.”

“I never…”

“I think you’ll find that you did. The moment you decided to kill me and the second after you did.” Drick smiled, “and just think on this for a moment, while I consider if I should slowly twist of your head or kill you a more painful way. Everything you can tell me, your friend can tell me. So I only need one of you. And only one of you shot me.”

Written in 365 Parts: 40: The Other Guy

“That doesn’t really answer my question.”

“Well I am neither a historian, nor an astronomer, so I can only give you vague answers. One issue we have is that this system has been colonised for greater than five hundred years. We have not used the Terran calendar for years, since the end of the Expansion Wars, in fact possibly before then. Our calendar broadly follows the Terran Year but not really. Just for traditions and festivals.”

“So what is this system?”

“The local name for it is Big House, but that’s a shortening of Ebbighausen which is the name of some historical person. I believe he was related to the first habitable planet discovered at Luyten’s star. This world we circulate is the fifth, most habitable that was colonised, but one of the furthest away.

When I say most habitable I am trying to use terminology from you time period, if my data about the terms from your time is correct. We have redefined what is meant by habitable. It has been some considerable time after all. I cannot verify some historical information as there was a series of large events that have left us with some variable quality information of some of our own history.”

“My history is pretty sketchy but I might be able to fill someone in with some details.”

“I’m sure that would please someone. But it is not important to us at this time. Have you recollected any more information? Do you remember anything?”

“I don’t know. I mean I am not sure. There was a lot of noise and I get glimpses, flashes of images that might be something. I don’t really know yet. Bits are starting to make sense but not enough there for me to say.”

“Well, the initial medical reports will be here soon and that will help us a little. it may be possible for us to have a medical professional help, to relieve some of your confusion.”

“What does that mean? How would that happen?”

“Again, I am sorry to say that I am a legal professional, however medical technology has far outstripped what you would know.”

“Well I figured, the tattoos, implants, the fact that you all look so different. Thought it was a fashion thing at first but now I think you’re all, I’m not sure how to say this, odd.”

“I imagine to you we are odd. But to return to the matter of your memory, there are medical procedures and medication to help restore memories, that might help you.”

“Why can’t you ask the other guy?”

“I’m sorry, Marsh, perhaps you are confused. That is why you had the K-tag, the other organic in the vehicle was dead.”

“There were three of us in that vehicle.”

Written in 365 Parts: 39: A Very Long Way

Krennar passed through the various levels of security required to prove their identity and be allowed in to the secure holdings facility. Part of Krennar wanted to complain at the repetitive levels of checks on the three doors leading to this section, but the sensible part of their mind was glad that it was this difficult.

Krennar had not formed a good impression about the Desk Officer, Perf. There was something off putting about their manner as if they were being deliberately obsequious to manipulate. Krennar had met the same attitude before, usually on legal clerks who would clash with each other while climbing politely up the rectal passage of anyone they deemed higher up the ranks. It was probably the many years of working with similar behaviour in the legal profession that allowed Krennar to instantly spot it on the desk officer. It was nauseating.

Krennar would have thought that Hooper would be aware that there was some motive for the other officer’s behaviour, they seemed casual about the fawning nature. It was likely that this was Perf’s only route to career progression so their fellow officers took it for granted. The least talented always seemed to use this form of false flattery to ingratiate themselves. Those and the most manipulative, how did the old phrase go, ‘always smile at the person you are shafting’.

Krennar opened the door to the holding room into which Marsh had been allocated. It was a plain white room with a long couch that would transform into a single width bed. A small functional table, height adjustable and a panel for calling up services. Krennar had ensured there was ample credit on the rooms expenses so Marsh would have been able to order refreshments. However there was no sign that had occurred as Krennar noticed the screen flashed with the waiting symbol and the credit bar full.

When Krennar came into the room Marsh looked up. They had been staring at their hands sat in a semi-slouched position on the couch. Krennar noted that they seemed to be in good health on the preliminary report, but was surprised at just how different they looked. Their hair was an earthy brown and was slightly unkempt, but it was the presence of hairs on the face that was most unusual. Krennar hadn’t seen facial hair on a person that wasn’t intentionally implanted before. Marsh had eyebrows and lashes that looked as if they had grown.

“I am Krennar,” a slight smile to indicate a non-threatening position, “might I sit with you?”

“Sure. I don’t know why I was moved here?”

“That was my doing. I have had the K-tag suspended for now. There is insufficient evidence at this point to prove a crime so they were improperly assigning it to you.”

“Oh, right. Thanks. I am not sure what that means and why you would do that? Is it your job.”

“Yes. In a fashion. I am a legal. Which is to say that I work privately on legal cases. I am currently in the employ of your investigator, Drick. They have asked me to look further into the legal matters surrounding you and the incident in which you were involved.”

“I see. Look do I have to pay you or something?”

“No. That matter is dealt with by Drick.”

“Right.”

“I notice you haven’t requested anything.”

“I don’t know how to. I couldn’t find any way of interacting with the screen there and there are no buttons anywhere. I will be honest with you, it took me a while to work out how the toilets work, never mind this thing.”

“Ah. Yes, that was my error. Of course you wouldn’t. Drick mentioned that you said you came from the early digital age. I imagine that you have never used an implant before?”

“Nope. I am still freaking out that I have one. Tell me are you also speaking some weird dialect? I think Drick said it was Rillish?”

“No, I speak common Mandarin, most legals do. It is only people who have served in the expansion campaigns, like Drick, who speak Rillish. There are precious few of those. Though my Mandrin would be unfamiliar to someone from your age.”

“What age are we in now? And you are really speaking Chinese?”

“This is the gravity age, or that is what historians loosely refer to it as. It followed the expansion age. And no, this isn’t Chinese. It is a relation to Mandrin, but more of a lingua franca and a bit evolved containing a number of words from other Terran languages such as American.”

“You mean English.”

“I imagine so, I am sorry but history is not really my strong subject and I don’t know many of the former names. English seems accurate but I wouldn’t be able to confirm it. Are you perhaps thinking of Franco-European dialect?”

“No. Really, no. So how do I use the screen thing?”

“You simply think a question at it. Focus on the waiting symbol and think. The implant in your head will recognise what you are attempting to do and transmit to the device on your behalf. If you had retinal screens I wouldn’t be able to see this screen here as the data would be in an augmented view internal to you.”

“Do you have retinal screens?”

“I have considerably more than just retinal screens.”

Krennar watched as Marsh flicked through the menu pages. The progress was cautious at first but as they became accustomed to thinking at the device by focus on the activation symbol it speeded up. Marsh ordered coffee and a pastry type called a croissant. It was not an item that Krennar had seen before. The database of known foods and drinks was extensive and almost anything could be synthesised.

“How are you managing with the gravity difference?” asked Krennar, “I dislike it myself but I imagine for you it is quite significant?”

“It’s not too bad, I think I am a bit more used to it than at first. I felt sick and dizzy for a little while but it isn’t as bad now. Why don’t they use the gravity things like they do on the spaceships?”

“Principally cost,” said Krennar, “the artificial gravity is an offshoot technology from the engines if I recall correctly. Fitting it to the whole of this facility would mean massive generators and a great deal of cost. It would also, I imagine, attract more debris, as in meteorites due to the higher gravity. The outside of the base is shielded as this moon has no real atmosphere to cause objects to burn up on reentry. They keep the pressure inside slightly higher than what you would probably consider Terran normal to combat some of the effects of low gravity. That will also make you feel a little dizzy and sick. It is good to see you are adjusting.”

“Thanks. So what happens now?”

“Well I will allow you to consume your refreshments, they shouldn’t be long in arriving, and then I will answer whatever I can from your queries. I have one or two questions I would be pleased if you would answer. I also will be checking any of the reports from the examinations you have had to see if we can’t piece together a little more of what happened. Is that all satisfactory?”

“Sure, I mean, yes. Whatever helps me to figure out what the hell happened and how I ended up here. Because I really don’t know how the heck I got to the future.”

“Well time travel is still, as far as I am aware, impossible. Except in one direction. So you came here the slow and ordinary way, Marsh, along with the rest of the universe. It is clear though that you have been deliberately brought to this sector of the galaxy as nothing is shipped this far away from Terra by accident.”

“Just how far away am I?”

“A very long way, Marsh, in both time and space.”

Written in 365 Parts: 38: And You Are?

“Hey Krennar,” said Hooper as they walked towards the legal, “how are you? Long time and no see.”

“That is an odd question,” Krennar replied, “we saw each other on the Vanucci case less than twelve standard days ago. Do you not recall that we spoke at some length on the trivial aspects of your family life?”

“Sure,” said Hooper an easy smile on their face, “I meant in person, as in not a hologram of you.”

“Ah, yes. Then it has been some period of months since we were last in the same physical location as a pair of organic creatures. I believe that time also involved our less than desirable mutual accomplice. It is a strange facet of our collusion that it involves that particular entity infrequently and yet it feels like too often.”

“Indeed, it is. You know it is like we never get out to be just good friends anymore, shoot laughs and have a few craps, or did I get those the wrong way round?”

“I am not sure we ever shot craps together, or laughs.”

“Oh come on now. What about the time that you were arrested for a potential grand larceny and I was almost kicked off the planet, that was so funny. Or the time that we had to circumnavigate not just the letter of the law but a whole bar full of spirit as well. That was a whole mess of crap in my opinion.”

“Well there has certainly been times when we have been called upon to do what can be considered less than desirable deeds.”

“You have a real pretty way of saying we were shafted by a herd of oxen with less than social sexual manners.”

Krennar smiled, it wasn’t hard to like Hooper. “Well, to change the subject, and dispense with this ever mind widening series of poor taste metaphors, there are a number of matters that we need to discuss.” Krennar looked at the other officer who was hovering a short distance away and studying a data pad intently. “Are you working with someone?” they asked Hooper.

“Not directly,” Hooper turned and studied the new officer. Krennar noticed Hooper’s stance stiffen slightly, not much but it was there, they were not expecting to see this person, that was clear but there could be something else. “Hello Perf, what can I do for you?”

The officer smiled, “Hey Hooper I didn’t realise you were meeting someone in here I was just hoping to catch up with you and go through a bunch of small things. Mostly to do with upcoming season and subscriptions. Heck you know how I am, I like to keep everything running smoothly by bugging everyone well in advance. If you want I can shoot off and annoy you later? Or if you are not going to be long I can wait around here and do this when you’re finished with your legal friend here?”

“Well I don’t know how long I will be?” said Hooper.

“I shouldn’t take much of your time,” said Krennar, “my client dislikes paying.”

“Hi,” said Perf holding an outstretched hand to Krennar, “call me Perf, most people don’t bother with the desk officer bit.”

Krennar looked down at the outstretched arm and smiled in a manner that suggested someone had held out a steaming lump of faeces to hold but you were too socially polite to mention. “Forgive me, Perf, but I rarely touch. I do not find the sensation of other’s flesh pleasurable.”

“Must make it hard on your partners,” laughed Perf in a gentle mocking fashion.

“No. Not really,” said Krennar abruptly, “perhaps we should continue this conversation later Officer Hooper. I must go to my client’s business anyway. I will contact you for an audience.”

“Sure,” said Hooper in a slightly odd tone watching Krennar’s face, “catch you later.”

“Don’t go on my account,” said Perf quickly.

“Please,” said Krennar softly, “don’t consider it any matter of your doing. I am a very busy person and I allot exact times to matters. This is all my modus operandi. Consider it my blame. I will talk later Officer Hooper. Nice to have met you Desk Officer Perf.”

Krennar turned and walked smoothly, but with no haste, towards the doorway that led to the secure holding rooms. They would no doubt be some interesting questions from Officer Hooper later, but for now Krennar merely wanted to leave the presence of both of the officers and check on the status of Marsh.

Written in 365 Parts: 37: Legal Brief

Krennar had arrived at the Judiciary less than twenty minutes ago and was already, at that point, regretting taking this case. Krennar paused the angst and corrected it, they were regretting even more since arriving that they took on this case.

Krennar disliked space travel, even the short shuttle flight from the planet to this moon was too much as far as they were concerned. The ideal travel was between the bedroom and the office, both of which were contained within Krennar’s apartment. They worked from home and used computer systems and remote staff to maintain the rest of the practice.

Even the trips to the courts could be conducted using hologram representation and Krennar had a complete hologram system in a null room. They could recreate whichever court of appeal they needed to in real time and digitally cast themselves into the physical location. It saved a lot of messy travel and wasted interactions. Organics, machine intellects, fusion systems, they were all so difficult to work with, so tiring.

Then there was the matter that this was also connected to Drick. That particular entity attracted trouble. Always had. Every single case that Krennar had been involved in with Drick was a bag of hornets that you had to stick a face into. Drick couldn’t help it, they were a problem magnet. Maybe they unconsciously were drawn to such cases. However Krennar had a lot of investment with Drick, the favours and work undertaken by Drick on Krennar’s behalf led to a lot of balance in Drick’s favour and Krennar liked to keep the accounts in order.

This case had the potential to be the most interesting assignment that Krennar had undertaken in some considerable time. It had started to feel sour the moment the first, very generous, offer had been made for them to release the former K-tag, Marsh, to a different legal team. It was not a team that Krennar was overly familiar with which suggested lower level legals from a much larger firm, or maybe from more than one firm.

Then there was the request to transfer the investigation to an out of system investigator who was apparently en route, with an accompanying large bonus if this was done. Krennar had passed on both requests as asked knowing that Drick would refuse them.

As for removing the K-tag status, that was done in-flight. It was a simple matter when examining the evidence to conclude that Marsh was not complicit in the death. Or if they were, there was no supporting evidence of such. They were a barely conscious passenger in the rear seat of the vehicle. However the basis for the lack of evidence was not that no evidence was collected, it was that the evidence was corrupted, and in the case of the private security team, altogether absent.

This had been enough justification for Krennar to secure his client and their investigative organic, Marsh, under a special warrant of care. Effectively Marsh and this case were the business of a legal investigation that would be headed by Drick.

Krennar wondered how heavily Volstron were connected. If they had full involvement they had made a huge error in allowing standard judiciary to take Marsh into custody. They could have claimed instantly that Marsh be retained in their care and that justice be done in one of their own courts. It would still be independently investigated but they would hold all the pieces during that investigation. They would handle all of the paperwork and control who was allowed full access.

The fact that they didn’t instantly claim jurisdiction and even that they were surprised by judicial robots made Krennar suspect that they had been either conscripted at last minute; or more likely were not given the information in the first place. So, if that deduction was correct, they were acting on the purview of someone else. Speculation but a logical set of conclusions.

It mattered little to Krennar at this moment, they were far more intrigued about making sure Marsh was secured in a safe location and interviewing them to discover what exactly could be ascertained from their memories of events. The notes Drick had made regarding the initial interview were slightly bemusing. If Krennar extrapolated properly there was an organic over a thousand years old, well from over a thousand years ago, in their custody.

An original human perhaps. Krennar wasn’t certain of when the mass genetic alterations had started. It was before interstellar migration, but not that much before. It was probably within the normal span of life for Marsh if Krennar guessed correctly. So they may have some changes, but possibly not that many. Krennar added it to the list of tasks to undertake.

Krennar had already decided that Marsh had to have a full medical, if only to discover who put the implant in Marsh’s skull. But, Krennar now added a full genetic analysis to the list of desired procedures.

Krennar looked up as they heard a door open and saw a familiar officer making their way towards them. It was Hooper. Just behind them, jogging lightly to come through the doorway before it closed, was another officer who Krennar did not recognise.

Written in 365 Parts: 36: Terminal Payload

It is the little details that always seem to stay in the mind the longest. The crunch of a boot on the hewn stone floor as it ground small loose particles of sand and grit together, there was a slightly greasy feel. The slight wisps of smoke, grey blue from heated metal, that obscured the light rods attached to the tunnel walls that gave the area a warm haze. The still sparkling iridescence of the prismatic particles that were disrupting light beam communication and weaponry as they slowly floated to the floor.

There were small pieces of trash on fire at the side of the husk that was an armoured assault vehicle, bits of clothing and waste packaging, the detritus of life. You could see the remains of nitrox capsules and joint butts, so the alleyway was a favourite for stoners who liked to huff as much as they puffed.

A glint of reflection in the face-mask of one of the security guards. The less mouthy one. They were turning their head to look at their friend, body tilting down and a sense of surprise in their posture even though they lay on the ground.

The other guard was moving fast. Their body jerking upright in a sudden burst to reveal a third arm, no doubt an implant rather than grown on. It was well hidden when they had gotten out of the car, tucked across their stomach the scans had completely missed it.

As the security guard raised their body upright onto their knees in a smooth movement, Drick was already dropping down. Then as the security guard flipped themselves over to allow that extra limb to draw a bead with a weapon they had secreted, Drick who was now launching upwards with all their might.

As Drick flipped backwards to try and clear the roof of their own executive vehicle and gain some coverage they saw the weapon and realised their mistake. It was a disposable ejector. The security guard depressed a trigger with the tube pointed vaguely in Drick’s direction. This type of weaponry needed little aiming, it was a crowd control device. It fired thousands of tiny slivers of polymer usually coated with some form of toxin.

The ejector was a favourite of riot control and security guards as the drug it delivered could be anything from a mild sleeping agent to a paralysis inducing compound. Drick would lay safe money on this one containing a deadly poison.

Drick spun in mid-air as they came over to the other side of the vehicle while scrunching up their entire body to make as small a target as possible. The less surface area presented to the cloud of incoming projectiles the fewer that would penetrate and cause harm. It was likely a futile gesture. If Drick was using a last ditch weapon it would contain only a terminal response. Each one of the darts would likely be capable of killing, it would be foolish not for them all to carry a lethal dose.

As Drick dropped from across the top of the vehicle to the other side the darts hit Drick’s body. Most of the polymer shards of death impacted against hidden Kevlar and ceremetal plating in Drick’s jumpsuit but enough of them hit flesh to burrow in and deliver their payload.

The effect was instantaneous and Drick barely had time to land before the crippling pain and a wave of blackness overcame them.

Drick’s last sight as the powerful neurotoxins raced through the bloodstream carrying instant annihilation was the spray of flesh and bone as Boomer used the large calibre projectile round on the guards outstretched arm.

Written in 365 Parts: 35: A Nasty Feeling

There was a short pause and then the other guard suddenly found their voice. “What is it you want from us?”

“I think I just covered that,” said Drick not unkindly, “but it is simple, I want all the information you have as a testimony. If I get that I will let you both go. In fact I will help you off planet as I am pretty sure after making that statement that there will be some local trouble for you both.”

“You think,” growled the first voice, “we’ll end up dead.”

“Again, that’s what I kind of implied.” Drick made a short comms call to Boomer and gave them a list of next potential actions, Drick mostly wanted them to come a little closer in case they needed to cover Drick leaving the vehicle. Then Drick opened up an encrypted communications channel to judiciary for Krennar’s eyes only.

“How can we trust you?” asked the second voice. Drick could tell that they had already made their mind up. They were likely to talk. The attitude of resignation was evident in their body. The mouthier companion was still too tense. Drick ran a scanner view over them and wished once again that this executive vehicle had a finer grain on its array.

The systems were detecting nothing dangerous but Drick had a long life because of caution and close observation. There was something about their attitude and body position. Drick flicked the comms to Boomer. “Hey Boomer, tell me about lefty, that’s your left and not mine. My screens have them clear of dangerous items. But I have a nasty feeling.”

“Really?” the words were filled with surprise but the tone was not. “That fills me with a slight level of dread considering I am less than ten metres away.” There was a pause. “I’m out of my main vehicle and my suit scanners are pretty poor in comparison, but I think you’re right. They’re tense and they are moving very slightly.”

Drick suddenly made a decision. “Well let’s make me a target and then you can see what they are going to try. Be careful.”

“Hell you know I always am. I already moved back five metres and have my kinetic shield notched up to its highest sensitivity.”

“I meant to be careful in protecting me.”

“Well that’s going to break a long held desire, but I reckon I can try.”

Drick popped the door catch and waited as the smooth hatch slid slowly up and over the roof of the vehicle with a gentle hiss of hydraulics and hum of a servo. Then Drick slowly and carefully stepped out of the vehicle bending very low so their head was kept upright to keep the two prone figures in view the entire time. They would either make a move now indicating a ranged weapon, or when Drick was close which would likely be a melee.

Drick was just about to come fully upright when the figure on the ground made its move…

Written in 365 Parts: 34: Moving On

Drick watched the seconds flicker past on the internal comms screen of their left eye and was about to give the prayer to take out the tank when there was a small flurry of action. The foam on both sides of the vehicle decayed rapidly from a solvent hastily applied. Then five weapons, two from the left and three from the right, were tossed out of the vehicle.

They came out hands and feet clearly visible and both knelt down on the ground. As instructed they placed their hands behind their heads and lay down. Then one of them, the one on the right, raised their face, helmet mask still shielding their looks, and spoke. “What do you want to do now? You have made a clear assault on our vehicles.”

“Well, have I?” Drick replied smoothly. “I think you will find that you were attacked only by some street punks. I never touched any of you. I personally have not fired upon any of your vehicles or assaulted them in any fashion. Yet I have clear footage, that is already being uploaded to the hire company, of you firing on their property. Not only that but you were outside of your assigned protectorate area when you did that. So even if you could prove just cause, which you cannot, you have no jurisdiction.”

The two helmeted people exchanged a glance at each other, unconsciously confirming they were using a tight beam channel to continue conversation. Thank you, thought Drick, and gave a little prayer to have a canister of Glass thrown in the area. Drick waited a few seconds until there was a small flash and the area was flooded with a rainbow of colours.

“What the hell was that?”

“Prismatic grenade,” Drick said calmly. “It is a fine mist of ultra-reflective particles. Makes light beam weaponry and communications devices virtually inoperable. It will prevent your infrared comms and also disrupt the small laser pistols you both have hidden in your gloves. Why do you people continue to act like I am an amateur or a rank outsider? It often astonishes me. Surely you are smart enough to realise that you are facing a talented enough opponent? Capturing you both was the work of about thirty minutes of avoiding your unprecedented assault while you dug yourself into an untenable position and maybe ten seconds of forward thinking.”

“You set us up.”

“You cannot prove that I did anything but protect myself and trust me everyone here who is willing to talk will tell the same story. There were plenty of witnesses at that market that saw you firing at me.”

“Who’s going to believe them, a bunch of lowlifes and biker scum. No one will listen to them. No one cares.”

“Well normally I would see your point of view, but I did happen to fly across a market that had a medical truck, a union recruitment station and a mobile tax collection facility. These people may be the lowest in society but a lot of them do the work that you people wouldn’t risk a robot on. They are employed, they get medical cover and they have to pay government stipends. So there are always a few official vehicles in these areas and they always have all their outside monitoring turned to maximum sensitivity. So your little escapade is recorded somewhere. I wonder if I know where?”

Drick watched them squirm for a few more minutes and then dropped the bombshell. “You know, and I know, that we could have done this conversation via radio. But I wanted you to be out of your vehicle.”

As Drick finished the sentence they signalled another prayer and Boomer shot a high yield shaped tactical charge into the centre of the tank through the open hatchway. There was a satisfying ‘crump’ sound and the vehicle bounced into the air a few feet with flames spewing from any openings in the shell. The armour and hull integrity held but the inside was an inferno for a good forty seconds.

“Now then, looks to me like that was a fire hot enough to vaporise the type of low impact armour and headgear you folks are wearing along with pretty much the entire inside of that assault craft. Since we can easily do a torch on your weapons before artfully placing them back inside we can assume that anyone investigating these remains will presume, correctly, that you two have moved on. Now will it be physically or spiritually? It will all depend on the quality of the information you are about to give me.”

Written in 365 Parts: 33: Information Retrieval

They had spoken over a live comm on a few occasions, infrequently and with no discernible pattern except for some degree of importance or expediency. This could fall into either category. As always there was no visual communication, neither of them wished that, vocal only with heavy filter masking.

“This is very dangerous.” The justice officer sounded harsher than they wanted. The contact was not a person to make into an enemy.

“I appreciate that, I am aware of your preferences for subtlety, but we were given little choice.” The voice was terse but not annoyed.

The officer felt that they may have a slight upper hand for a change. Maybe the monkey played the tune today. “How can I help? If I can help?”

“We are attempting to close every last loophole in this rather regrettable incident.”

“I see. I am not sure why you need to go to so much effort. It appears as if you are drawing more attention to this matter. Had you left it alone there wouldn’t have been so much of a story and we could have dealt with things more carefully.”

“I agree. there was some initial panic caused by the coincidence of the initial Justice Robots and underlings who do not have an inkling of our capabilities. So there was some avoidable judgement calls. These will be dealt with in due course. For now we have managed to obfuscate a great deal but there are a number of minor, yet irritating, loose ends.”

“Those are? I do not have a great deal of time so be brief.”

“Of course. There is the matter of the k-tag.”

“Out of my hands. They have been placed under secure protection of the investigator and their legal.”

“Regrettable but we have other avenues to further in that regard. There were a number of potential witnesses. Vehicles that may have been in the area and similar, can you get a list of those?”

“Tricky. The officer in charge of that evidence is very careful and almost completely straight and reliable. I would have to burn several long term schemes and contacts to get that information.”

“Please do so, I will pay ten times our usual rates.”

“That is generous but I will need more. They are closely connected to the investigator and will be more careful. I also have placed one trace on them today for you so further observation will have a higher chance of being detected.”

There was a long pause, “very well. This one time I will allow you to bid upwards. Fifteen times the rate and no further negotiation.”

“Accepted. I will attempt to gain all the information they have. Is there anything more?”

“Yes. The investigator. We know they are formerly Judicial Special Tactical Forces, but they seem overly-competent even for that division. I would like all the information you can obtain. Including a list of all their known contacts inside and outside of Judiciary.”

“That might take some time. My initial sweep indicates they had some connection to the inner circles of the governing systems, Possibly even an Accord status or rank.”

“Really. That is more than what we have. How do you know that?”

“A chance comment from the officer they have a connection with here, Hooper. He said something at a poker night a few months ago. I only put the comment to the person when I viewed the trace. Do you know them?

“They have crossed our paths before and we were able to deter them. However that was at great effort and not entirely successful. Our records, and past involvement, indicate they are a potential great issue. Also that they have had a number of aliases. I would like all information on those as well.”

“That is quite a lot that you want.”

“We are paying you well. You would be wise to remember that you are well known to us and we expect results for our investment.”

The officer took a deep breath. “I may need options in case this gets too problematical.”

A pause, but not so long as the first, “there are always options. You are not the only resource we can use in Judiciary.”

The line went dead and the officer quickly checked the trace to make sure there was no hint of anyone listening in. There wasn’t any and all the monitors were green. That was excellent news and potentially brought their retirement forward by a few years. Though the final sentence carried a tone that sent a shiver down the spine. What was the other resource as it didn’t sound as if it were organic.

Written in 365 Parts: 32: Opening Communication

It was several hours before they could find a convenient moment to make a voice call. Sure their contact was going to be displeased but they would have to live with the disappointment. There was no choice, compromise was not an option. A lifetime of taking careful judgements had been rewarded with virtually zero suspicion.

They had to make the call from inside Judiciary Central. There was no real option other to this. Calls in and out of the judiciary were monitored, all calls. Including those from the inhabited quarters. They bunked at the judiciary and so their calls were subject to being randomly sampled by a computer system. That was not acceptable. This had driven them to find a route around this issue and it came in two parts.

They had discovered when they first started work at the judiciary that many of the large infrastructure systems, electrical, sewage, water, was controlled and maintained by outside organisations. Actually it was a single corporation that ran a series of separate sub-companies each specialising in a different technical support package that had the majority of the contracts, but that was just par for the course .

The infrastructure had its own reporting systems and tight communications relays to the host companies for repairs and scheduled replacements. This was also monitored by justice computers but in a much more casual manner than the other forms of communication on the base. This was a bonus to anyone who wished a greater degree of anonymity.

Then there was the communications overlay encryption module. A particularly lucrative bust on a major syndicate had resulted in a large haul of specialised equipment. The syndicate had gone unnoticed for so long by using paired encryption modules. Virtually unbreakable levels of security supplied by twin devices. Matched only to each other on each side of the communication must have one of the devices to allow comms. They had taken hundreds of these modules, highly illicit equipment, and placed them all in the evidence lockers. Of course they had been scrupulously counted and stored correctly. They had made sure all records matched what you would find in a storage locker.

Anyone listening into the relays would hear static. It took significant levels of computer power and finely adjusted sensors to realise that a communications signal was being transferred. They only worked over tight light-beam communications devices so had a severe limitation, but not one that surpassed their usage for covert interaction.

There was one placed on a specific, seldom used, wall communicator in the rear of one of the vast storerooms of the judiciary. The companion module was wherever their contact had placed it. They only knew the digit address of the communicator they dialled, it gave no location information and no discernible clue as to whom they spoke to. The modules masked everything, including speech patterns.

They dialled the long code and waited, expecting to be waiting there for a while. They had made sure that people thought they had clocked off shift. Many people knew they were tired and their feet hurt, especially the old leg injury that the judiciary insurance didn’t cover. Claims of heading to their room to take a med and get some rest had been well circulated. Alongside promises to finish their shift later after the pain subsided. All of this to ensure that if they were seen or not seen they had enough of an alibi.

The answer to their open communication came sooner than they expected. “I’m here,” the voice said in its usual clipped manner. The distortion from the masking worked well but their had been enough conversation between them that the officer had started to recognise the slight changes in attitude. They were hurried but the officer was sure they wanted something.