Tagged: Writing

The Balance of Love


Foreword

My sister died just before April 2021, it was sudden, it was heartbreaking. Due to the unknown cause of death there was an autopsy and a coroner’s report (without inquest). Today, April 28th, we had her interred at the crematorium in St Helens near to where she lived.

Below is the Eulogy I wrote and read for her and the poem I wrote that was read at the ceremony.


Kathryn at a Walking Day in the 1960s

Kathryn Keating: A Eulogy: The Balance of Love

I have to say before I start. When I wrote this, I wondered for a moment what Kathryn would want to say. She’d probably say: don’t make a fuss, don’t cry too much, or remember the happy times. No bad jokes or swearing. You know, don’t cock up the eulogy. 

When I think of my sister, I think of the fact that she spent most of her life living in, or near to, Warrington. She had holidays with family. She went abroad to France and Italy. She loved books. She loved science fiction. She loved fantasy and superheroes. She loved Doctor Who, but that’s because she was sensible. 

She loved music, seemingly when it contained androgenous boys, she was a huge fan of Adam and the Ants and A-ha along with Simon leBon from Duran Duran in the 80s and later IL Divo, I have a small story about that in a minute. She introduced me to New Wave and New Romance, but I don’t feel she approved of my choices when I introduced her to Punk, Goth, Metal and Thrash. 

She was too young to die. But, sometimes the brightest lights burn out suddenly. 

My sister was always happy for others, she had great joy for what the people around her did, or were doing. However, for all of my life that I can remember she carried a great personal sadness. A shame, a sorrow, a loss. A thing that she could not escape. Some people take the pain that is done to them and give it to others. My sister turned it to love. She would not give her sorrow, her anger at what happened, to others. She would always try to shoulder their sorrow instead, feel their pain, take their loss. She knew what it was like to feel the most dreadful anguish and could not bear to have others feel the same.

It defined her in many ways. 

My sister rarely got angry when I was younger. Oh she could be picky, ratty, or niggly about silly things. She could get frustrated. But not really angry. Not tear down the walls and howl at the moon angry. Which is rare for a Keating, apparently. It pissed me off because we are an egregious bunch. The only time I was ever able to get her really angry was over the lead singer of A-Ha. She had a major crush on him. When I read that he was engaged to a girl called Rose and there was a picture in the paper of him with a tattoo of a rose. I used that as a way of winding my sister up. I went to town. For no good reason other than I am an ass hat. She tried not to rise to the bait. But I was pretty persistent. I don’t know where I get that stubbornness from as I think of a family of Bates nearby. That was the day I ran out of a room and she threw a table at me. I got away but we had a broken door and a damaged table.

It was the only time I can recall her being genuinely mad, screaming at me level of madness. Because she was kind. It took a sweet natured soul like me to make her really mad.

How do we judge a life? How do we discuss how it was filled? How was it worth living? I was thinking about this because Prince Philip passed away recently and so there has been so much media attention, so much public outpourings, discourse and even some anger. So it made me think of how we often judge a person based on their achievements. Sometimes we might mention the love, or joy they brought to others, but mostly we judge people on what they did, not just who they were. So I thought of my sister.

Kathryn was the eldest child of Sheila. Blessed with a mother’s love, she also took on that role, to give love to others. When I was a young child she seemed as old to me as any adult. I was still three when she became ten. She would take me to the park, she would read to me, teach me numbers and tell me what the world meant. 

My earliest memories are of standing on the back rail of her tricycle as she raced through the streets, me holding on for dear life and screaming with pleasure. She filled my world, I can remember the feeling of her hair brushing my face as we raced along the pavement or when I was pushed on a swing on the park which we called the Cowfield.

She was that for all of us. She did not have children of her own, but she was like a mother, or more a grandmother, probably the best ever auntie to all of us. To my brother, Simon and his wife Cathey she helped raise Steven, Jenny and Liam. Then she helped, as much as she could, to raise Jenny’s children Joshua and Caitlin. She was there for me and Leigh for all of our children, Benjamin, Elliott, Asher. And to Steven and Sam’s son, Lewis who was a light in her world, he was her little man, they all were. Finally she adored our littlest Keating, Mila, daughter to Liam and Alex. She felt rewarded that finally she had another niece along with Kaitlyn. Another little girl in the family. She wanted to mother us all. To hold us, protect us, smother us with love and gifts, her every thought was for others.

We can judge a life on the balance of love. How much they gave versus how much they received. In that my sister’s life was flowing. It filled everyone around her. She loved us all deeply. More than some of us deserved. So much that we can only hold our breaths and miss it. She filled her life with her family. With her devotion to us. To our mother and to our sister. 

I think that might be the better value of a life. How much you give versus how much you receive. We can all do better, but the best you can hope for is a balance of the same in and out. Statistically it is impossible for everyone to give more than they receive, the average will shift. Some have to be worse, some have to be better or everyone has to be average. I know I did maths in a eulogy, and Kathryn right now would be raising her eyebrows, rolling her eyes, and declaring me to be a nerd. 

My sister gave much more love into the world than I think it could afford to balance. 

For my sister, Lesley, my heart aches. She and Kathryn seemed fixed together. Bonded as sisters with a deeper shared understanding, theirs was a friendship few will ever know. They should have been old ladies together, grey haired and wobbly, with a deep smell of Vicks vapour rub, tutting at fashion and laughing at the haircuts of the young, yelling at people to pull their pants up or try wearing a skirt and not a belt. 

We have been robbed of that double act, so we are all going to have to expect Lesley to play both parts and tell us what Kathryn would have said. I asked Lesley if there was something she wanted to say. Her answer: 

“Tell them the old git shouldn’t have left me alone without her, it’s not fair.”

So we say goodbye to Kathryn, my sister. But I think I have lost someone who was also like a mother, or a grandmother, a lover of people, a lover of family,  a confidant, a fellow geek. I lost not just a sister, I lost a part of myself, I lost a friend.

I feel I carry some inescapable sadness, losing so much love from her. I guess that’s a cost in the balance of love.


I call for you

I called for you,
You were not there.

I looked for you,
But there wasn’t even your shadow.

I listened for your voice,
But I could not hear it.

I waited for your touch,
And felt nothing.

No matter where I looked, I could not find you.
Not in any photographs,
Not in the many stories,
Not in words, not in letters,
Not in songs or any film we shared,
You were gone.

In the darkness, I thought I saw you,
At night,
When you’d just left.
But, it was just an echo,
Thoughts grasping desperately
Sorrow crafting phantoms.

A Hope,
Now Forlorn.

I needed you,
To be here.
I wanted you,
To hold me close.
Reminding me,
That it’s okay,
That it is all right,
That we’ll survive,
That you’ll be there

But. 

You’re not here.

And then I remembered,
A thing you said,
That was so long ago,
I barely remembered.

It brought back,
The laugh we shared,
That trip we took,
The song we heard,
The words we said,
The films we saw,
The books we read,
Those games we played,
Those things we shared,
The way you looked,
The way you cared.

And you were there.

(Mark Keating, April 2021)

Written in 365 Parts: 189: How Are We Going To Get In?

The huge lump of rock wasn’t an asteroid, it was a ship. Marsh marvelled at the sheer absurdity of that fact. Perhaps at some stage in the past there had been a rock this size in the system. There could have been surveys that recorded any object this large, but how detailed, or accurate, they would be was not something he knew. Maybe Drick knew, would they have checked that, were they as surprised. 

Perhaps some original asteroid had been destroyed to make up the camouflage. But it was no longer a rock, or an asteroid, it was a ship. It was a massive vessel that had been encrusted with particles of rock to make it look like a natural object. There was little chance that this was accidental. Someone had deliberately cloaked a ship by encasing it in the material of the Kuiper belt of this system. 

As the stealthed ship’s lights lit up the surface the higher detail showed the lines and structures of a ship’s docking ring. It was enormous, as large as one would expect from a vessel this size. It was clear that the stealth ship wasn’t going to attach to the surface, the ring was opening. The ship would easily fit inside. As they watched, hidden by the sensor blackout and camouflage of their own vessel, the ship they were following changed its direction slightly so that it would enter the docking area sideways. The ring would accommodate a ship three times its length with ease.

They would not be able to sneak their own vessel onto the hidden ship that way, there would be sensors and cameras and possibly even organics. They couldn’t just park up next to the stealth ship with a cheery wave and ask the directions to the nearest habitation.

Marsh noticed that their course had altered. It was slight, but their ship had rotated as well. They were now, similar to the stealth vessel, approaching the vessel sideways, mimicking its final approach. Marsh felt his eyebrows lift and his stomach churn, was Drick just going to land them right next to the other vessel?

There was a gentle nudge of acceleration and they started to move away from the other ship and the docking ring. Marsh hadn’t realised that he had been holding his breath until he allowed it to release in a long slow exhale. 

Looking out of the forward view screens it felt like they were moving upwards simply because of the orientation of the floor and ceiling inside their own vessel. What they were actually doing was going into a slow orbit around the hidden vessel inside its rock camouflage.

“Let’s take a look around this thing.” The message from Drick flashed across his screens. Text only and on the touch based communication channel. Drick had pressed her suit onto his slightly. This was a signal channel for suit to suit communication. It was fitted into the hard suits and prevented anyone noticing a communication, or scanning activity on the electromagnetic spectrum.

Drick was taking no chances with even internal communications. There was a strict rule while in stealth pursuit. Signals blackout except for essential communication, that to be delivered by text using the short data link. 

Marsh sat patiently as Drick instructed the vessel to make the orbit of the rock. Drick pointed out features on the visual scanners. All the instruments were still set to passive mode. Reception only. They didn’t want to give any indication of their presence.

The rock surface was clearly fake. The closer they flew the more detail the ship was able to scan and then composite into a diagram. It was amazingly detailed as, even passively, at this range the ship could determine the small regular features that hid under the surface. The sensors also detected that the rock surface was not actually rock below a depth of several metres. Other materials were present. It wasn’t uniform across the whole surface. Underneath the rocky coating there were structural supports and what was clearly a complex framework.

Drick was taking careful readings using a magnetic field analysis. This was another passive system. It could be coupled with a mass spectrometer, but that would require a sample which would be a more active approach. The analysis was enough to identify the different materials as they acted within the localised magnetic fields. There was also a detector for gravitonic distribution, but it was slowly gathering data as it needed thousands of points of reference to build a clearer picture.

“Looks like the ship is about forty metres down for the most part. Below the superstructure supporting the camouflage” Drick patched into Marsh’s internal screens.

“How are we going to get in?” asked Marsh.

“Let’s get a few more readings and see if we can find an entrance, or make one.” said Drick. They turned back to the instrument panels and slowly watched as the computer built a better picture.

Written in 365 Parts: 188: A Huge Lump of Rock

The stealthed ship that they had been tracking had taken a slow route to its final destination. It moved in an elongated arc to intercept the rock that allowed it to get a three hundred and sixty degree sensor sweep with all of its potential systems as it moved in. The complexity, and speed, of the sequence of maneuvers took almost eighty hours to complete, from the point they had first detected the craft’s approach. 

Drick had deployed a large, thin, fibre net. It was made of an organic compound very similar to silk but with even greater tensile strength. It was sensitive to electromagnetic fields including short range radio signals of the type used for internal control systems on vehicles. It had been strung out from their craft, for hundreds of kilometres. A non-reflective, microfibre mesh that would passively detect the movements of the almost invisible vessel they shadowed. 

Drick had tried to explain to Marsh how the passive array worked. Something to do with detecting spatial shifts from electromagnetic sources. Marsh had not fully understood the conversation. What he knew was that you couldn’t make something invisible. Nor could you bend all the possible sources of energy around an object to make it undetectable. So instead you cloaked it. You replicated the signals using an active shield that when viewed from any direction would make it appear as if nothing was there. It was a mixture of absorbing any incoming active signal, masking any outgoing signal, and redirecting any background difference to appear uniform and natural.

Since detection of a vessel in space mostly relied on seeing its outline against the background levels of electromagnetic energy, replicating that energy, and allowing the background to be unimpeded or interrupted, made most sensor arrays ineffective. After that you simply needed to paint the vessel black and use optical dampening to absorb visible light, and it was almost invisible to sight.

At great distances there would be nothing to detect. The further from the object the greater the intervening distortion, with higher levels of interference due to distance and potential sources, and the better the cloak that masked the vessel. 

The passive array that they were deploying extended the range and field of the sensors. It allowed them to detect much smaller variances in any of the potential sources from the electromagnetic spectrum. This was how they tracked the cloaked vessel. It was sensitive enough to detect the smallest level of electromagnetic change. It needed to be large enough, to cover as wide an area as possible to allow for comparisons of minute differences, to determine the difference between these signals and naturally occurring changes, and to triangulate a position.

The stealth vessel had used occasional slight course changes and other manoeuvres that flipped its entire trajectory. It was an old style of maneuvering, learned from vessels that needed to determine if another was tracking them covertly, a random change in course will allow you to check if you were being followed. Even walking along streets in a city this technique was utilised. It was particularly useful on a stealthed vessel as its own passive sensors would still operate even if they were cloaked. 

Drick kept them far enough away that this behaviour wouldn’t reveal anything. The vessel Drick and Marsh travelled in had similar cloaking technology and light absorbing panels. Whilst undertaking a flight that had complex maneuvers, the stealth vessel wouldn’t be able to deploy as large a passive array as the one Drick was using. Their own large mesh was invisible to almost everything but a similar device.

The stealthed vessel made its final approach on the rock by arcing out to a far point and then flipping and making a direct line for the objective. It was behind the object in regards to the rest of the system, and so invisible to most of the rest of the planets, shielded by the rock as well as its cloaking tech. It had used a small set of thrusters that appeared as bright pinpoints of light to Drick and Marsh, deploying them at the final moment so none of the light would edge around the surface of the rock to anyone on the other side. The large object in front of the craft would completely mask it from any other observer.

Drick had pulled in the large passive sensor net as the ship made its final approach. They were directly behind the vessel and used the flare of the rockets to allow a slight increase in their own speed. They would be using a short burst from the graviton drive to slow them when they were in final approach distance themselves.

Marsh studied the large asteroid that they headed towards and was impressed by nothing. It looked like what it was meant to, a lump of space debris. It was a huge lump of flotsam, suspended in the darkness, many miles from a sun whose warmth would never caress its surface. There were no landmarks on the surface that indicated that is habitation, or ever would have had someone desperate enough to live here. There was no large vessel hiding behind it, hidden from the rest of the system. There was no vessel on its surface masked to scanners by a coating of some type. 

Marsh was about to turn to Drick and tell her that it was likely another ruse, that there was something else going on. But he paused. A sequence of lights had played on the surface of the rock. A pattern that suddenly lit up to look like a circle. Then as if by some trickery, a large docking ring had appeared. The lights had now faded to a dim glow that lit a huge circle of rock that was slowly sliding sideways, splitting into segments as it did so which retracted into the surface of the asteroid.

As the ship approached other small lights came on and tracked its descent. They were standard approach lighting. Marsh swore softly in surprise as his brain tried to register what he was looking at.

Written in 365 Parts: 187: Out of Contract

“Alison Kendrick, huh.” Marsh smiled at Drick, “I See where you get the Drick from. And it is less obvious to abuse a nickname like Drick than say a nickname like Ally.” Marsh grinned, but in a satisfied manner without mockery. “Your original name. It’s a nice name.”

“Shut up.” said Drick with a dismissive wave of the hand, though their expression wasn’t one of dismay. “It was a name that’s all. I went by the name Kendrick for a very long time. But it just became easier to use Drick. Lots of organics were using that anyway. It is just a call sign, nothing more. I got used to replying to it. I guess in the end it became the identity. I wasn’t Alison Kendrick anymore. I don’t know how long it was before that faded away. I guess I never really got the whole of them back. But who can say, are we the same person from day to day anyway? That shit is for stoners and philosophers and goes deeper into speculative bullshit than I am usually sober for.”

“So who are they? This organisation?” Asked Marsh hoping to pry as much information from Drick while they were in a feeling loquacious.

“Ah the secret masters,” Drick sneered. “Oddly enough I don’t know as much as you’d think. There wasn’t an introductory course. However I have learned bits over time. They were a think tank originally.”

“A think tank?” asked Marsh.

“Yeah. They were a special part of what was called the United Nations. Which was already fading out of existence in my time, I think you might have known them more. They were  already merged into the Solar Alliance when I was in training. They went through a few more name changes until it all became the Accordance. The think tank that were the first iteration of the group were mostly military officers, high ranking with diplomatic clearances,  with a few high level academics and civil servants. Professionals in both warfare and political systems. I think their role was to try and prevent major conflicts by examining patterns of military and political shifts. So I guess they had social and cultural specialists as well, hard for me to be sure as there is not much publicly, or privately, available about the original group.”

“Doesn’t sound like something you’d keep secret.” Marsh raised an eyebrow.

“I don’t think it was, originally. It is hard to say how they came to their decision, but at some point I think they decided that manipulation by force was sometimes needed. Not by an army though. They needed covert forces of  their own to direct. Maybe it was the rise of companies so powerful, so rich, that they could buy elections and manipulate social change. Or the rise of the data wars of the late twenty-first century when organisations, and governments, influenced millions of other nations citizens. From what i understand there was some idea of trusted ledgers of information, but they were easy to manipulate and hard to store all data in single archives. It was long before the laws governing identity ownership. More your time period, So I guess you’d know more. It was decided that a secret organisation was needed to investigate, infiltrate, and deal with these issues.” Drick laughed. “Sort of watchers, but before you ask I don’t know if they were watched.”

“What do you mean by deal? Is that a polite way of saying eradicate? I mean having an army of secret super soldiers. That smacks of a rather problematical response.” Marsh raised an eyebrow.

Drick smiled. “Yeah, as in eradicate threats.” Drick laughed a little. “I told you they dealt with the spirit of the laws that govern us, not the letter. They fight enemies that wield incredible power, and can force whole governments, even planetary systems, to change. So they use similar techniques. It isn’t a great solution. But, what do you do when you fight a power that can wield universal control and influence. You have to use methods that are less than socially, or maybe even morally, acceptable. It is a heavily handed attitude that lends itself to both extremes of the political narrative.” Drick paused and gave Marsh a hard glare for a few long moments. “Good and  evil, right and wrong, are always much easier to debate in abstract, much harder when there is a maniac rewriting your history and selling societies into slavery. However, that’s moot and I don’t want to debate it much more right now. The issue with them, for me, is that  they move glacially slow. I guess that’s how they gather the strands that link things together. I think it is them who brought me to you, and then placed all the other relevant pieces. This has been some time in the planning. I can feel it. It has a stink of a story that has been fermenting for decades, not months. The more I think about it the more the strands appear to be woven together.  Fuck. I wondered why they left me out here, on this shitty out of the main core colony system, after my last operation. I thought they had accepted my desire for retirement. I did want to stop. My last mission was painful and costly. It was easier for me to drop out and survive on my own with no help from them, I thought they had accepted it. They even gave me opportunities to exist. I thought they were pensioning me out, looks like they were chucking me breadcrumbs to keep me on the right path.”

“So they move you around? You’re a piece on a board. A fairly powerful one. I mean, even without the previous gender identity, you kind of shift like a chess Queen.” asked Marsh.

“What the hell does that mean?” asked Drick.

“Means you can go in any direction,” Marsh smiled at Drick. “So you think they kept you around?”

“Officially I am out of contract. The deal I have with them expired a couple of centuries ago. I have been working a lot of freelance since that time. Worked for a few different justice, and independent, paramilitary units. My expertise is always in demand, someone always wants a head cracked or an arm twisted or a deep dive into a psychotics wet work. Even did some time with the Union and a few of the larger, shall we say less legal, organisations. I did the occasional bit for my former bosses, once you are a part of their network you never really leave and they always know that you will work for them on the fringes. They just stop paying you top credit for the privilege. They still own you, when you are like me, you are more a piece of the machine and not an independent part. I know them. I know how they work. They just let me off the leash for a while until they need me. They pull their tiny threads everywhere until suddenly whoosh! Whole world is torn apart and I am deep in the weave of one of their intricate tapestries. Right smack back in the centre of another of their little endgames.”

“So what are you going to do now?” asked Marsh. “You could just refuse to carry this through. Hell, I am not forcing you.”

“Sure I could. But they would pull me in. The fact that they haven’t outright contacted me already is because I am stumbling along their path of breadcrumbs like a happy little mouse. Do you want to stop?”

Marsh was about to say something when there was a beeping from the cockpit. Drick looked at the door, but Marsh guessed they were accessing the ship’s systems onto their internal screens.

“We have a contact. It is slight but that’s why I cast such a large passive sensor array. It has to be the stealth ship As anything else would have triggered the array long before. We can follow it at a distance to our eventual target. This is the best possible chance of approach. We wait until it docks and then we land somewhere and get aboard the rock. Hopefully there will be enough interest in the stealth ship to mask any of our activities. We will be discreet and covert but there would still be a potential trail. This way they have something else to occupy their sensors. Best start to get ready and check over all the equipment one more time.” Drick stood and started to unpack the small lockers.

“Thanks for the talk, Drick,” said Marsh. Drick looked in his eyes and then they returned to checking over a box of tools they had pulled from the first locker. Marsh moved to get the equipment in the next locker down.

2/n

Grief is an odd thing. (Honestly I would laugh at such a trite opening sentence but I wrote it.)

I mean it is horrid, and it is cruel, and it is frustrating, heartbreaking, really just add whatever words that feel like you want to tear your own heart out here, as that’s what it can feel like, it’s basically a bag of shit…

I am in my fifties, clearly this is not the first time I have felt grief. I am still grieving over the loss of a good friend from 4 years past. And in some deeply sarcastic coinciclasm that was also in fucking April. I am not over it and I will have to pass that anniversary while grieving for my sister, in fact before my sister’s funeral I have an anniversary of a time I still cannot get over, so many regrets and so much loss. 

So, I have compounded my grief. And now I have mentioned it I honestly don’t know which grief is truly which. I don’t know if I am feeling different things because  of this. I don’t know because I can’t separate similar emotions, and I don’t know if the more recent emotions bring fresh the past.

The recent grief or the memory of grief. And whether I should even realise that I am comparing how different they are, like it matters what the level is, is this in some kind of grading… more on that later…

But this grief is different. But all grief is different. This is the first member of my close family I have lost. Someone who has been there every moment of my life and isn’t any more.

Thankfully I have had the option of hiding away for some of the week to process my thoughts and feelings (I have to say ‘Thankfully’, because I am thankful for this. But I also think I am being stupidly selfish and almost vindictive, hiding away to shield myself from others.). 

I have also had to deal with funeral directors and the coroner’s office, my sister had to have an autopsy to determine the cause of her death. This just extends the process. It is as if we can’t let her go as there is no understanding as to why she died. The physical cause, I should not have to say. So dealing with the practical aspects is a blessing in that I can focus my feelings. It is a curse as I have to deal with it and then be the emotional gatekeeper of each new piece of information.

Does this affect the grief? A little but maybe not that much. Or maybe to a great degree. I don’t have the introspection to know differently. I think it is just a factor in the process but it isn’t a motivator for much. Some confused feelings, some anger at having to wait, to have no explanation, to have nothing to blame. Then when we know, anger, relief and sadness as if it was just a death. there is no easy anger. There is no fault that was obvious. There was just a long series of compounding factors. No easy route to blame. So it just makes it more conflicted, more unresolved feelings.

But the grief would have all of those even if the situation was clearer.

There is this thing where if you are sad, if you are grieving, it is like you shouldn’t be laughing, or enjoying something. that you shouldn’t eat, or drink, just mourn in quiet loneliness or beat your chest in an agony of despair, or something (please fill in a standard socially acceptable response at this junction). It can be a bit of a grief ritual, it can be a bit grief shaming, it can be a bit grief competition.

When public figures die we often see people giving extended diatribes on how the grief has affected them. The media and focus of others doesn’t help in this. But it feels as if we end up wallowing in loss that has nothing to do with what we lost. We also try to justify, qualify, or worse compete to show our grief.

I want to say it is sickening, and in some ways it can become that way, but it isn’t. It is just processing errors. the inability to be able to functionally interpret how to respond in each given social situation based on how others are responding. In other words, people make people worse when we grieve. We all grieve in similar patterns, but our grief is our own and we deal with it in our own way.

So grief has you laughing at stupid things that are not that funny as a release from the crying at the things that you just can’t fucking change at all.

* A brief interlude while I go away to be sad, like you’d notice since you get this all in one flow *

So there are seven stages of grief, you can go and look them up I am not going to Google it for you. I broadly see how they categorise them, and right now you should have guessed by this sentence that I don’t think that does anything other than help us rationalise this.

As if you can rationalise looking at a minecraft t-shirt and feeling deeply sad that it means something that would have lifted someone momentarily. A smile in a world that can sometimes be hard. That would make someone feel good about something they did. But that moment is now forever gone and the joy it would have brought is a moment of loss that it never happened. That’s grief. 

Reconcile it. 

I am not saying we can’t rationalise, I am not saying we can’t even gain comfort of closure from understanding how it is actually a beneficial memory (run it all to its course and it actually is) but it can’t be reconciled. It could only have been reconciled if the event had happened. It can’t ever happen. It just gets pulled into your moments of grief that you can categorise into seven distinct phases.

Like how I can’t separate my feelings between my grief at the loss of a friend who died 4 years ago (a few days from now) and the death of my sister who died two weeks ago. I can’t separate the feelings and so now I worry that I am doing some injustice to one of them.

I only know that they both meant a great deal to me.

They were both quite exceptional people.

I am begining to really fucking hate April.

Written in 365 Parts: 181: Generation Ship

Drick stared at Marsh for a moment before answering. “I can’t be precise. I would imagine it is a courier of some kind. I thought it might be someone from Yee On Kline or one of their subsidiaries. But the information does not support that. I would guess then an independent contractor. However they will be under direct supervision and fiscal control of Yee On Kline, I am fairly sure of that. But distanced enough so that nothing can be traced. The vessels that go out to the location are usually automated and crewless, that I do know.”

“How do you know that?”

“I have some of the scanning information from regular customs checks. I also have enough of the internal documentation from the various agencies that deal with the vessels.”

“You said they were stealth vessels.”

“Yes. That’s correct. The vessels have the appearance of being normal when they leave the planet though. They make a regular run back and forth from the planet to the mining colonies. But once every few months a vessel will also swing out towards this rock. On the way they must visit some location to pick up a stealth generator. It is probably parked on a big enough rock in the asteroid field, or maybe on one of the smaller moons.”

“Why? What could be out there?”

“It’s fairly obvious. It can really be only one thing.”

“Well are you going to tell me. Or do I have to guess as that’s going to start with some vague wrong answers, and descend from there into silly, and then stupid answers.”

“Let me run you past my thinking, just so you understand why I think what I do.”

Marsh leaned back in the chair. “Go on, spin me your conclusions.”

“We know that this is all connected, somehow, to Yee On Kline and their genetics program. We know that you are heavily involved, not you personally, but you, the original you are modelled upon. We know they have enough genetic material from your parents to make an exact clone. How did they get that material? How did they make it? How do they know about you? Those were the most essential clues that lead me to the conclusions I have.”

“Well I have no idea. So I hope to heck these clues have some answer.”

“No. I know you don’t know. But that got me thinking. I am old, very old. I remember hearing about a time, not long before mine, when they used to make clones of people. As spare parts. They would get samples, usually donated at the time of birth or conception. They only did it for special reasons, often if the parents used what they used to call artificial insemination.”

“Yeah. It was common. I was birthed, as you say, naturally. But I was artificially inseminated into my mother, the egg and sperm were introduced outside the womb. It was fairly common. I know they donated lots and they also took synaptic fluid and samples from me. It was common practice for people born in my economic bracket, I was signed up pre-birth for public duty to repay the costs to society of my birth. My parents couldn’t afford private education, or health, so had to get a loan from the authorities. That was my nine year military service. Well, Marsh’s nine year service, the original Marsh.”

“So somehow they got hold of that. Which seems implausible. A lot has changed Marsh. We had a great expansion and everyone left the solar system behind if they could. Then we had a few hundred years of the Expansion Wars. After that mess, well humanity didn’t have much left of the old people and their technology. Terran Space was a mess. That’s when we lost history and records and have been piecing it together since then. Mostly from stories, and sources of the original colonies. That is one of the important clues, by the way.”

“What? Did I go to a colony? I had thought about it. If you signed up as crew you got to work while people slept. You arrived older, but you arrived with land and a clean slate.”

“Yup. I think that’s what you did, Mrsh. I think you went on a colony ship. That’s why they have a perfect record of your brain. Those colony ships took them so they could restore memories after the cryogenic sleep. They took perfect replicas into storage, well as perfect as they could. Which is part of the problem and a small puzzle still to solve. The copies back then were never one hundred percent. They copied a lot, but not everything, certainly not personality quirks. It was mostly a memory dump. It wasn’t subtle enough to capture changes from experience.”

“So I made it to a colony?” Marsh asked.

“No. I checked colony records. Thankfully those did survive as each vessel that made land fall sent back a message of who made it and when. Some of them are ghost worlds, a few colonies didn’t make it past a few years. But none of them had a Marsh who matched your description. However I think I know where you are, or maybe that’s a were.”

“Where I am. Where am I?”

“In this system. Remember what the researcher said. We found a source a few hundred years ago. A source of unchanged humans. Humans from before the expansion wars. Humans from before the time when there was more than just clones and mixed tankers from clones. We were able to re-introduce original material.”

“From a colony?”

“Nope. Even the colonies used cloning and tanks. They took them with them. It was the latest technology. They were using them in your time for spares. Less than a century after you over half the population was a clone. The colonies preferred birthing tanks more than Terra. It allowed them to alter the next generation, adapt them to whatever world they found themselves living on.”

“Then from where?”

“As I said. You never made it to a colony. You did make it to a colony ship though. I think you made it to a missing colony ship. In fact I think you made it to one of the legends. There were twelve Generation Ships. Massive vessels that were intended to help colonise a region of space, not just a planet. One of them went missing. I think you were on that one. I think that’s what is hiding out there and that’s where we get our original sources from.”

Written in 365 Parts: 180: What Else Do You Know

Marsh unclipped the harness that was securing him to a chair and slowly stood up. The ship was still accelerating away from the surface but they had reached an altitude where the gravity of the planet was no longer having a noticeable effect. The acceleration no longer held him down or provided something safe to push against. He floated gently upwards in the low gravity that the vessel generated from its internal spin to stand upright.

Marsh began the walk forwards to the small chamber ahead. It was the ship’s mess and utility room, located just behind the cockpit. He would meet Drick there once they had the vessel locked onto its course, and the automatic systems fully engaged.

While he waited for Drick to join him, Marsh busied himself with getting the equipment unpacked and stowed away properly for the journey. Everything on this vessel was new. The ship itself was new, and had only just completed its first safety mission. It was unregistered and untracked. It was very compact, mostly because of the wide variety of extra systems and capabilities. Crew were confined to a small area to give maximum room to other flexible options.

Marsh started the food recycling system and set the preparation machines to making a small dinner. It would be a protein and fibre shake with some high carb cereal bars. All the growing body needs, he mused. At least the synthesised coffee was better than it had been a millenia ago. Well a millenia ago to the memory they implanted and grew in him of how the coffee tasted. Marsh guessed that there were no irregular tenses that covered the way inn which he existed. Hell, in this age everything was likely the subject of at least one irregularity.

There was a light sound that was the slight pressure change, the door to the cockpit opened and Drick came through. They wore a full spacesuit, as did Marsh. A standard procedure for such a small vessel on take off. “We can get out of the hard suits and put on pressurised jumpsuits now,” said Drick. “I see you started food.”

“If you can call it that,” Marsh muttered. “Didn’t want to sit around doing nothing. Coffee will be ready in thirty seconds.”

Drick nodded and moved past Marsh into the small rear cabin that contained the passenger chairs and the small sleeping quarters. They would be using hammocks that could be rolled up and stowed to preserve space. 

Drick quickly undressed and changed into a soft suit. It was an all-in-one affair with a static-powered seal running down one side. Once closed it stretch adjusted to the body, it reacted to body temperature to reform into a tight and flexible fit. Then it inflated ever so slightly with its own internal pressure. With a face mask on you could survive in a vacuum in a soft suit for hours. It was a standard outfit for space travel. It felt  like wearing a comfortable lycra wetsuit.

Drick flicked a glance at Marsh as he came into the same room and changed. He wasn’t as fast or assured as Drick and fumbled the static seal. “Here,” Drick took his hand and placed theirs above it and used their fingers to push his in the correct manner. “Don’t pinch, or press too hard, gently slide along the length. The seal is sensitive, but once it snaps shut it is locked and you need to deactivate it with an internal suit trigger or user interface command.”

Marsh felt that Drick’s hand stayed on his for a fraction of a moment longer than expected. He looked into their eyes and noticed that they stared at their hand before dropping it away. “Thanks,” he said quietly.

“Don’t mention it,” Drick said and moved quickly back to the mess room. Drick sat down and locked themselves to the seat so that they wouldn’t drift off the surface. In low gravity even the actions of cutting bread could flip you upwards as Newtonian physics still had prominence. The gravity was less than ten percent of one Terran norm, so even slight movements in one direction could result in big distances as forces were equal and mass was not constrained so dramatically by friction, gravity and pressure. 

Drick poured the coffee slowly into two mugs and flipped the lids shut. The cups had release catches to drink that would auto shut if not at the mouth. Drick passed Marsh a cup as he sat down. “Go on, you’re dying to ask questions. I can tell.” Drick smiled at Marsh. “It’s been a few busy weeks and II can see you’re getting edgy. I know stuff, you don’t and you have been dropping non subtle hints.”

“Damn right I have.” He took a sip of the coffee and tried not to grimace at the taste. “There’s a lot you are not telling me. But we will start with the basics. Where the hell are we going?”

“Outer edge of the solar system, close to where the Kuiper Belt for this system is located. Close for a given value of close. We will be a few million klicks from the belt itself.”

“Okay, that’s going to take a while to get there then?” Marsh sipped the coffee.

“I am afraid so. We are going to be accelerating for about six weeks and then we will decelerate for about three weeks before we reach the destination.”

“That seems fast than I expected but I don’t really get technology here yet. Is there a planet we are heading towards?”

Drick smiled “It’s fast enough. And yes we have improved acceleration and constant acceleration in the last millenia or so. We’ll be outside of the orbit of the furthest planet in this system.”

“Okay. Then what’s there?”

“If you had detailed scans,” Drick tapped a combination into the flat panel table and a series of images were projected above the surface. “Which we do.” Drick smiled slightly. “It looks like there isn’t much at all. Mostly empty space with a few cosmological bodies floating around. The occasional wandering rock or comet that’s not got the energy to swing fully from the outer parts of the system to be a threat or of interest to anyone with a life.”

“Okay. I know there’s more, are you deliberately teasing?”

“Yes. I like watching your expressions change.”

Marsh stared at Drick expecting the next sour comment. When none came he spoke. “So what am I not seeing in these images.”

Drick adjusted one of the images and zoomed in on it as close as possible without too much pixelation. “This. Looks like a rock. A, very, big rock. Probably about a million kilogrammes, so worth watching even by bored cosmologists. It’s going to affect something so it is going to be tracked. Likely a  stray bit of flotsam left over from the system creation. However the data.” Drick pulled up reams of sensor information. “Shows very little. It responds a little too much like you’d exactly expect it to.”

“You’re suspicious of a rock acting exactly as it should do? A rock that’s floating in space billions of miles away? Well, this may stun you rigid. But I bet that every rock out there is also behaving the way you expect it to..”

“They will be. However they don’t get a visit from a stealth ship once every three months. And they also don’t change course. This is the same rock when this system was first surveyed over a thousand years ago.” Drick showed the data from much older sensor readings. The information wasn’t as precise and the accompanying images less defined. But it was the same rock. Drick placed the  orbits and trajectories next to each other. “This rock should have worked its way further out towards the edge of the system. The original readings state that it would eventually end up as an outer body. It is currently about three billion kilometres off course. That’s not usual, collisions, poor sensor readings. But, there is no trace that it hit anything else, and there are no big bodies that could be exerting a gravitational effect on it. Even if it had hit something, the chances of it achieving a stable orbit from that. And it is in a stable orbit, unlike many thousands of its fellow outer system debris friends. The chances of it not having any impact damage from an event that would be staggering in force to alter its trajectory, are not even slim. They are impossible.  so that means only one thing.”

“Somebody, or something, deliberately changed its course?” Marsh guessed.

“Yes.” Drick sipped at the coffee and made a face of slight distaste that Marsh guessed was as bad as his own.

“What else do you know? Who is visiting it?” Marsh looked into Drick’s eyes. “Why are they visiting it?”

Written in 365 Parts: 179: You’re dead

“Surprise, you’re dead
Ha ha ha, open your eyes
See the world as it used to be when you used to be in it
When you were alive and when you were in love and when I took it from you

It’s not over yet
You don’t remember I won’t let you forget
The hatred I bestowed
Upon your neck with a fatal blow
From my teeth and my tongue
I’ve drank and swallowed, but it’s just begun
Now you are mine
I’ll keep killing you until the end of time
Surprise, you’re dead
Guess what
It never ends
The pain, the torment and torture, profanity, nausea, suffering, perversion, calamity
You can’t get away”…

“You’re awake. I mean, finally, awake. It has been a little while. We thought we’d lost you again for a time.” the Captain sounded slightly happy. Maybe happy was the wrong word, gleeful. Drick blinked and opened their eyes. 

They could barely see, the world swam in and out of focus. Their head pounded so much that they didn’t feel the hypodermic slip into their neck. A few moments later and the chemicals hit their system and the world stammered into sharp relief. Drick let out a roar of anguish as the dulled nerves screamed into life and brought a wave of pain to their synapses.

They were still suspended by the arms from the ceiling. Their arms seemed so thin now, barely skin and bones. Thick brown trails of bodily fluids ran from the binding on the wrists, that had cut deep into the flesh, and had started to scab over as they had been held for so long. The fingers would probably be useless now. Too much nerve and ligament damage. Held too long without a strong enough blood supply. The hands looked puffy and black.

Drick looked at the Captain and sucked on a hollow cheek. They could not move their jaw. The last beating had smashed it so thoroughly the medic had just wired a cage together to hold it in place. Whatever sustenance they gave Drick now was given via a tube, this had been wedged down Drick’s throat whenever they felt obliged to keep them nourished. Drick suspected it was the minimum needed to keep them alive. Maybe not even that. The amount that allowed Drick to die slower was probably more accurate.

“You don’t look good,” The Captain walked closer and then wrinkled their nose. “In fact you reek of death. You’re apparently rotting away. Even with blood micro-pumps helping your body and extremities there isn’t enough blood getting to your limbs.” The Captain looked almost sad but Drick could see the malicious gleam in her eyes. “It might be best just to put you down. You’re pretty much a corpse anyway. You’ll never walk again. You’ll barely be able to lift the stumps that remain of your arms. You’ll probably have trouble speaking, hell you’re going to need help breathing. You can’t move your jaw much. If we leave you, we’d find you in a puddle of your own piss and shit. So it’s over. You’re done.”

The Captain turned her back and walked over to a table where there was an unusual shaped gun. It had a square barrel that had a small series of holes at the tip. “So I have decided to end things for you.” The Captain picked up the unusual weapon. “And I had our engineer make this for me. It fires tiny darts. Generally they are called needlers or needle guns. You can fire a variety of interesting shots with them, they are very versatile. Sugar darts loaded with toxins that dissolve in seconds in the bloodstream leaving almost no trace. Mini ablative rounds that blast interesting cones out of things. Magnetic shots with isotope tracers that you can satellite track. Explosive darts, needle shards,  a whole plethora. That means many types if you are not familiar.”

The Captain looked at Drick and the smile faltered for a second. Drick stared straight at them, summoning all their energy into a single look of pure calm. If they were free the whole of this crew would be dead. “You are one tough piece of work. You gave us nothing, oh hell there were the months of playful tuorture. But you never talked. You never gave anything up. I have to admire that, while of course hating every shred of your being. Now, I am going to fire depleted uranium rounds at you. Don’t worry, there won’t be any issue with the radiation. You won’t last long enough to care about that. The darts will go right through you. They will leave a hole less than a millimetre across. I can fire a single shot, or the whole fifty thousand shot magazine into you. It’s all my choice.”

The Captain raised the gun and aimed at Dricks arm. “The medic tells me it will be a prick that will burn. They also told me that if I hit an organ, and put a hole through it, you might die. I mean enough micro holes through you is going to make you bleed a lot internally anyway. So let’s start with the limbs. Don’t worry. Today you will die. Just very, very slowly.”

Drick wished that they could have told the Captain that the first few shots had no effect, as to Drick they didn’t. So much was painless against the unending throbbing and piercing pangs from limbs. The datrs passed silently through the flesh leaving little trace of their existence. It was five or six shots before the Captain hit a vein that was close enough to the skin for a small rivulet of blood to run. For them to see that they had hit Drick. A dozen more shots into the shoulder and near to the neck before Drick winced in pain as a muscle group that still had sensitivity was struck.

The Captain let out a snort of laughter. Then they fired a shot into Drick’s lower abdomen and Drick jerked in pain. That burned and a searing fire made their limbs spasm. The Captain laughed, “looks like there is still enough fire in your belly to burn you with.” She snapped.

The Captain took aim and fired a shot that went through the top right of Drick’s chest. A sudden burning and Drick was coughing as blood trickled into a lung. The coughing was getting easier as the hole closed quickly, being so slight, but still the pain was staggering.

“No passing out this time,” said the Captain. “We stopped at a station a few days ago. Managed to pick up an exotic concoction, it will keep you awake no matter how much pain you suffer. You are going to feel every moment of your death. Every agonising second.”

The Captain lifted the gun again. Suddenly they jerked in surprise as an alarm sounded throughout the vessel. A voice came over a speaker. “Captain we are being approached. Five ships just came around the planet behind us. They are attack ships in a delta formation. Looks like they are coming in high and fast in a containment manoeuvre.”

The Captain hit an intercom switch. “Take us down low to the surface and hit the main drive. We’ll use the narrow distance and angle to throw us off in a straight line escape route. The cloud cover will help.”

There was an aye Captain. The Captain turned to Drick. “Looks like I may have to just toss you out into space.” She grabbed a hold of a wall mounted handle and activated her magnetic boots as the vessel accelerated. 

Drick could feel the shifting in gravity and inertia. It sent fresh spasms of pain coursing through their body. They would be dead soon. But maybe those ships would blow this vessel to pieces. The Captain’s suggestion was good. Cloud cover and a straight descent to near the surface. Use the gravity to throw you back out on a fast line course away from the pursuit. Smart.

Drick had a moment of satisfaction as new alarms sounded and a mechanical voice screamed ‘proximity alert’ into the ship. The tannoy broke through again, “Captain there is a large vessel below the clouds.” There were sudden loud clangs from the hull. They were deafening. Drick could have laughed if their body wasn’t a hellscape of agony. “They’ve attached graples and are bouncing electromagnetics at us. We have lost all navigation and sensors. They are reeling us in. We were herded straight into a containment vessel.”

The Captain screamed in anguish. “They have us,” she finally shouted. “All crew prepare for boarders. Defend the ship and let’s see if we can take out these bastards. The Captain strode towards the doorway and then stopped and turned to look at Drick. “We may have lost. But you’re dead.” She said. 

The Captain aimed the needle gun at Drick and switched it to full auto. Then Drick watched as she depressed the trigger and sprayed Drick’s body with the entire clip.

Written in 365 Parts: 178: You Have Told Us Almost Everything

“How can I help you, officer?” The Officer strode into the room and stared at the occupants. There was a Justice Department Officer, sergeant stripes on their arm. A paralegal, likely from one of the government departments judging by the expensive outfit. Two justice department robots and a detention droid. The latter looked more like an upright coffin than a robot and was used primarily to transport prisoners.

“Hooper,” said Hooper. “Sergeant Hooper. I usually work from Justice Central. But today, Officer Camonte, is a special day. I thought the fresh air and personal touch would do me a lot of good. I am here delivering a warrant.”

“Well that’s delightful. How can I help you, Sergeant Hooper? A warrant for what?” The Officer stared at the man. The gall of the Justice Department flunkies, thinking they could show up in his office and act like they owned the place.

“For whom.” Hooper’s voice was quiet. “So, if you could tell me all your crimes in a nice detailed statement? It would make the conviction and sentencing easier. I am sure that the judgement would be more favourable in that regard.” Hooper smiled.

“You must have taken leave of your senses.” The Officer laughed. “I have done nothing wrong. Had I thought that I had done anything that would require even a caution, then I would have my legal team in here. Now, let’s be sensible. I am not going to tell you anything. I doubt that you have anything. So please leave and don’t let the door catch you on your way through it.”

“Very well,” said Hooper. “As with all department duties this is being recorded by the artificial intellects in the room. It will be noted that you were told that we wished you to make a statement, and that you have declined. At this point you have also refused legal representation.” Hooper stared at the Officer. “Is that correct Officer Camonte?”

Camonte waved a hand nonchalantly as they stared at Hooper. “Go on then. Ask your questions.”

“I need you to confirm that what I said was correct.” Said Hooper.

“Very well. Yes, it was correct. I understand it is being recorded. I decline to make a statement. I do not need legal representation.” Camonto smiled sardonically. “This is me. Officer Camonte who has stated this without coercion, but with much irritation at the pomposity and pointlessness of the proceedings. Is that good enough?”

“Thank you.” Hooper indicated the chairs, “might we sit down?”

“If you must.” 

“Can I confirm that you are Officer Camonte?”

“I am. I just stated as such”

“And you accept who I am, though there is no need to confirm that as we made sure to deliver our identification to your very helpful secretary. Recordings are also matching our bio information.”

The Officer made a mental note to demote the secretary, but waved a hand. “Of course I accept the credentials. You said there was a warrant?” Officer Camonte attempted to make an external call on his implants but the termination of service message flashed in front of his eyes. He must be being monitored as he saw the Justice Department Sergeant.

“I am sorry, Officer Camonte,” Hooper smiled. “But we have started a formal interview so your communications have been suspended. If you wish to make a call you will have to wait until after our interview. You can call your legal teams though? But since you declined initial legal representation that will have to wait until after the initial serving of the warrant and declaration of charges and evidence. This is a statutory right. We did confirm that you wished to make no statement and have no representation, as yet.” Hooper smiled slightly.

“I will let you know when, and if, I consider that to be necessary after you have made your statements.” Camonte sneered but a growing sense of unease had started to form in the lower parts of their abdomen.

Hooper placed a small data recording device on the desk. “So let us confirm for the record the position. I will begin by making a few statements and give you the accompanying evidence. Since it hadn’t been asked, I requested you to identify yourself as Officer Camonte, which you did. I also asked you to make a statement, which you have declined. I have identified myself as being on legal business by informing you we have a warrant, which we do.” Hooper looked at Camonte, he could already see a slight nervousness in the organics eyes.

“Now, this first excerpt,” Hooper activated the playback device.

“…A pause and an intake of breath. “good, I have a task for you.”

“That is apparent, otherwise you would not have contacted me. We do not have a social narrative.”

“Obviously.” 

“I have work I need you to perform. It will require a significant lesson but it will have to be discreet.”

“Who. Cease with the extraneous verbiage.”

“They go by the current disposition of Drick and will be landing at the south-east quadrant in a justice central shuttle in forty-five minutes. Do you have the resources and capabilities.”

“I will send two operatives. The spaceport is heavily monitored. We will only be able to engage with low level force. Though that is only the method and not the outcome. What is your desire?”

“My personal desire is termination with extreme prejudice. But the order I must convey to you is to ensure they do not pursue the current activities. You should be warned that they were tanked as a military grade. Specifically enhanced.”

“That will cost extra. I will send double my usual team.”

“Your usual team is only two. Send quadruple at minimum.”

“That is excessive and will draw attention. So many people increases the chance of secondary and tertiary witness and detection.”

“It will be taken care of. As will the extra fee. If there is a misunderstanding of a stop to their activities then terminate with prejudice and I will ensure that this is covered.”

“I do not care for mere assurances. I require a claim identity so that I have a legal route to pursue with your authority.”

“Here is your authority and claim route. You are covered. Do not fail.”…

Hooper looked at Officer Camote. “I am sure you recognise yourself from that file. It was from a recording recovered from the servers at the Peyote Club. You know we have tried to find the owner of that club, but they seem to have disappeared. Care to comment on that conversation? Care to tell me where they are?”

“I have no idea what you are talking about.” Hooper saw the small beads of sweat starting to form on their forehead and upper lip. Hooper smiled and idly wondered if they were aware that the robots were recording every microscopic change. The artificial intellects he had requested were the most powerful and sensitive that could be found outside of the military. At this moment they were recording such minutiae of detail as the fluid pressure in the various organics arteries using intense electromagnetics. Detect microscopic variations in all body functions that would be used as evidence.

“All of these recordings have been verified with material from your own systems and matched to your biological imprint. We even have the data confirmed as to your location and actions from your own security systems.”

“How did you get that? That is material obtained illegally.” the Officer snapped.

“That is not relevant to your case. How we obtained the material is inconsequential as we have committed no impropriety or illegal actions in obtaining the material. The actions of others would constitute a different case outside of this.” This was calmly stated by the government appointed legal brief. “However since it is irrelevant to the case we are making, I can for clarity state that it came from yourself, as far as we understand. Our records show that it was sent by you. From your personal terminal. During the attack yesterday.”

Hooper smiled, “care to comment on that?”

“I cannot. This copy of my personae and memories is from three days ago. My backups are lost.” 

“Shame.” Hooper smiled grimly. “Loss of memories, deliberate or accidental removal of memories, is not an acceptable excuse for a crime. You are aware of that. Now listen to this.” Hooper keyed the second recording.

…“This is very dangerous.” 

“I appreciate that, I am aware of your preferences for subtlety, but we were given little choice.”

“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.”

“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?” …

“That recording was made by your contact Perf. The Desk Sergeant. I am not even going to ask you to comment upon it. We have your vocal imprint and location. We cracked Perf and they gave us everything. Hooper didn’t mention that they had broken the computer code not for this information. Never reveal all your information or sources. “Let’s listen to the next one. This isn’t directly about you. But it does implicate your organisations involvement, which they claim was all at your authorisation.” Hooper noted them look up sharply. “Oh yes, we spoke to the board of directors initially, to arrange this interview. They were quite definite that you had full authority and the freedom to take all decisions. Quite certain. They are almost eager to appoint blame in precise locations.” Hooper smiled a little more warmly. “This was recorded in a nightclub between a hitman named Minch and his contact with Perf who is called Susa Camile.”

…“Razed the area to the ground with the targeted strike as instructed. There was nothing but a smouldering crater. I waited but there was nothing moving except fragments of dust. The heat scans showed nothing except a rapidly cooling impact zone. Whoever they were, they are dead.”

“They were likely to be a justice operative named Hooper. A clever guy but clearly not as smart as our mutual employer.”

“Who is still a mystery to me.”

“Which is the best thing for you. You don’t want to owe them any more than you currently do. You also don’t want their attention. They won’t appreciate your loyalty like I do. They are likely to just see you as a liability. They tend to eradicate those. They don’t like threats or loose ends.”

“Must be someone high up to have access to that kind of smart technology, the tent and the missile?”

“Nope, just someone with impressive connections. The tent and missile were not government, they were from a private organisation. Though the guidance systems, satellite coverage and launcher were different matters….

Hooper leaned back. “You really should have made a confession. It would have helped a little. Your company deems you disposable, that’s because they are facing a full government enquiry. Yee On Kline have severed all formal relationships with you. The stock of this company has probably halved in the time I have been talking to you. We of course leaked to the news organisations most of this story. We though it appropriate, shame that you already have a falling market share. And, you know I think you’ll love this last snippet of information.  I walked through the door today with a full confession from Perf; from some of your officers; and with full recordings of every call you have made in a year that your board has authorised me to use. And with your own confessions, mailed by you yesterday, from your own personal logs. I didn’t need you to be so stupid as to make a confession. It would have only made you look more guilty had you bothered with legal representation.” Hooper played the final recording.

…“ …even if you are not here, I will find you and destroy you, and Marsh. I mean, I already took out your justice department friend. Did you really think that ruse in the morgue and the desert would work? Why would I tell you anything?”…

“Looks like you have told us almost everything.” Hooper said. “Now, are you sure you don’t want to call someone?”

Written in 365 Parts: 177: Someone is Going to Pay

The Officer paced along the corridor towards their temporary office on the eighth floor of the compound. The Officer would be stuck in a small room for the next few weeks while their own office was completely replaced. Though replace was an interestingly appropriate term considering it was completely missing. Blown to fragments, some parts of it vapourised.

They flicked their eyes over a data sheet, it calculated the losses that the attack had caused. The structural damage alone was significant, several million credits to complete. The damage to equipment was even more impressive. The weapon used on the combat mech had completely scrambled the internal systems and electronics. From the outside it looked unharmed. A close visual examination of circuit boards would reveal little damage. However under a microscope, and penetrating electromagnetics, every fragile circuit had fractures. Warping and distress caused by an intense burst of gravity. 

The operator was dead. Their body had been wrenched apart at a molecular level. Cells and fine electronics do not take well to sudden gravitational forces. The prognosis was that they had suffered forces of several thousand Gs for a tiny fraction of a second. Even the metal armour was damaged at its molecular level.

Then there was the damage to the server rooms. That was catastrophic. Aside from the payments to personnel, and to those who had families, to keep things quiet. There was several hundred millions in computer infrastructure costs. This was a fraction of the cost of the data loss.

The Officer snarled even louder when they looked at the potential cost to replace data and the effect it had on their systems. They were a security company. The loss of data was expensive. The loss of reputation was devastating. They had lost nineteen percentage points from their stock this morning. A cost of billions in shares  wiped in a day. Someone was going to pay very heavily for this, the Officer would see to that.

The Officer studied the reports of the forensic analysis of the attack. There was nothing significant yet, nothing to say who was responsible. Nothing to indicate how they had even got into the building in the first place. How had they managed to get stealth attack pods onto the grounds? How had they managed to infiltrate the upper levels past all the layers of security. How had they known the location of all the guards, sensors and equipment. Why did they want to destroy the servers? 

It was sophisticated. They had a lot of information. This must have been years in the planning. It had to be a major competitor with a lot of inside information. This has to be to wipe them from the market. The run on their stock was evidence of this. That was not just a coincidence. 

They would find the traitors in their organisation. They would find them and they would recover every morsel of information before mailing their remains back to their loved ones.

The Officer felt sure that Drick had something to do with the events. Yet, they had video and sensor footage of them. They were nearby, in fact they were at one of their usual spots, observing the Volstron Compound when the attack happened. They had even tried to get a closer look past the sentinel droids during the assault itself.

The Officer ground their teeth together and went into the section where their new offices were located. Their secretary was standing waiting for them.

“What is it?” They growled. “If it is more bad news I will not be impressed.

The secretary visibly shrunk away from the tone in their voice. “I’m sorry. There are two officers from Justice here.”

“What? Where?” the Officer snapped.“In your office.” They indicated the small room where the Officer was temporarily housed. With an angry look and a hand gesture he dismissed the secretary and strode into the office.