Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer
The light from the triple row of screens reflects in their eyes as they watch the protest from eleven angles for the sixteenth time. When the replay ends, they look to the monitors on the desks in front of the three seated members of the team, then at each other.
Clark waves disgustedly towards the screens.
Maggie indicates the monitors.
“The threat recognition came up short again. Only the four it originally flagged.”
The pair of them look around their fourteen subordinates.
Clark’s expression turns stern.
“This isn’t a private conversation, people. I need an explanation for the director. That means we have twenty minutes to find out why our multi-million-pound real-time threat detection missed ten people getting murdered. This is the third major protest with fatalities in the last six months.”
Maggie’s gaze falls on the newest recruit, a transfer from some disbanded project, foisted on the team. Time to start making her unwelcome so she’ll transfer out quickly.
“Clarice. Care to share something to justify your glowing recommendation?”
Clarice takes a slow sip from her cup. It’s a play for time, but done well enough to not be incriminating. She stands up and moves to the screen.
“Do we have any shots of the victims before they went down?”
Davy uses touchscreens with both hands to quickly bring up forty images.
“Highlight where they went down, and timings if we have them.”
That takes a little longer.
Clarice nods and gestures to the screen.
“Whoever it was worked left-to-right through the crowd.”
Clark nods, but appears sceptical.
“Less than five minutes, first to last. Anyone moving that quickly through the crowd would have registered as a threat.”
“It’s only when they went down. I bet the poison was administered earlier.” She checks the notes, “the protest was contained twenty minutes before the first victim fell.”
Davy looks round.
“You think that’s when they started?”
“Would be my best bet. Now, can this software look for predatory behaviour?”
Davy looks puzzled.
She gestures to the screens.
“The killer moved through the crowd, looking for those vulnerable to whatever application method they had. My guess would be bare skin on arms or back. That means their behaviour would exhibit recognisable hunting patterns. The software didn’t see it because it’s set up to detect threats coming from the crowd. It treats this crowd as an origin, not a target area.”
Davy glances to Maggie. She shrugs.
“I’m not convinced, but nobody’s laughing or proposing alternatives, so let’s give it a whirl. Davy, add the crowd as a protection zone.”
The screens go dark for a few minutes, then light up. On the central screen, a grid map overlays they crowd. A green line moves slowly across it.
Maggie swears under her breath.
Clark claps his hands.
“Is that what I think it is?”
“That’s a lone operator demonstrating prey selection behaviour within the crowd, prior to the first victim falling.”
“Get an image out to the watcher units.”
An image of a bearded figure in a basketball cap and dark jacket comes up, along with a string of body dynamics data.
“Load the dynamics data to the watcher units. Don’t bother with the imagery.”
Clarice nods. It’s clearly a visual disguise. But body dynamics can’t be changed except by those with significant training.
Time passes. A phone rings. Clark answers it and listens for a minute before hanging up. He grins.
“They’ve got her. The jacket has a dozen injectors holstered inside.”
Maggie glowers. This girl’s going to be trouble.