Author: Jae Miles, Staff Writer
[Translation (from original German) of key document removed from Treasure Hunter site during Operation Rush North (9/16).]
OMITTED: Kriegsmarine document reference, location codes, et al.
Purpose of record: Confidential interview (sole record)
For Kriegsmarine: Lieutenant-Commander Rudolf Büchler (RB)
Interviewee: Captain Karl Drull (KD)
Record taker: Lieutenant-Junior Otto Maurer (OM – listening, not present)
Others present: None
Preamble: Infected Kriegsmarine personnel evacuated on F8-RL post repairs. Destination Trondheim. Treasure Hunter Station abandoned. Blue Sun Substation demolished. Minefield remains.
RB: Mister Drull, please state your affiliation for the record.
KD: Ahnenerbe SS under Project Baptist, reporting to Himmler himself.
RB: Be that as it may, the personnel flown out were dying. I want an explanation.
KD: It can be passed off as roundworm. Best that it is.
RB: Secrecy will not save lives.
KD: Those who can be saved, will be. Everyone will be discretely dosed. Leave be.
RB: You’ve been spouting portentous, veiled threats since you came aboard. That is no longer acceptable. Before you try blustering, let me explain: I will have my answer or you will be exiting the stern torpedo tube into the Queen Victoria Sea.
KD: What I say will be confidential?
OM – Note: Captain Drull is unaware of this record being made.
KD: I am part of the Ahnenerbe. I do not report to Himmler. I report to Leader Darré in Institute USG.
KD: Exploitation of lost sciences. Leader Darré’s work has given us access to Sekhet-Aaru itself. I was the envoy sent to make initial contact with the Vrilya, the glorious beings who live therein. The Blue Sun substation contained the airlock over the passage down.
We had just established contact when Sub-Lieutenant Walik stormed in. The man was a religious fanatic who repeatedly tried to interfere, blindly mistrustful of the benefits we sought to gain for the Fatherland. He killed the guards at top and bottom of the shaft, then shot one of the Vrilya before we could intervene. They were profoundly angered by that, spraying us with a stinking mist, forcing us to retreat, to abandon our fallen. Your man Hoffman made it back the following day. He’d only been knocked unconscious by Walik.
When the sickness started, I contacted USG and they told me how to make a remedy from the chemicals we had. Hoffman and I managed to mix one dose, which I took as he seemed unaffected. I have kept him with me as a precaution.
RB: You antagonised the Coming Race? Surely they should have killed you with wondrous energy beams?
KD: The Vrilya regard engaging in hand-to-hand combat as evidence of inferiority. The mark of a pest species. The deathmist is their exterminator. A manufactured plague.
RB: USG personnel will dose my entire crew?
RB: Institute USG have made contact before.
KD: Several times. The Vrilya have barely been civil toward us. After this, who knows?
RB: Do they have other means to spread their pesticide? Like a Typhoid Mary?
KD: That’s not inconceivable.
RB: You fool. You still don’t see it, do you?
OM – Note: There is a single gunshot. RB calls for submariners Ebers and Marsch. They enter.
RB: Find Hoffman. Kill him. His body goes out the stern tube before this one.
OM – Note: They depart. There is a short period of tumult, then Marsch returns to inform RB that Hoffman is dead.
RB: Stop recording, Mister Maurer.
[Evaluation: whether lunacy, hoax or fact, this is problematical. There are several belief systems and organisations it would appeal to and could goad. Place this under 50-year FOIA exemption.]
Author: Jae Miles, Staff Writer
This alleyway used to be the entrance to an underground car park, now reduced to a metre-width track between piles of rubbish and makeshift dwellings. Toward the back, there are furtive movements. Out front, the only movements are the flames of the fires burning in old oil drums. They pick shaky highlights from the polished armour plates of the spotless robot that stands square-on to a camera drone.
A woman in a fitted two-piece suit steps in from the left, moving into shot sufficiently to convey her presence, but keeping to the edge of view so as not to detract from the interviewee.
The robot’s peaked helmet and tinted visor turn toward her: “Call me Prendergast, Miss Adams.”
“Thank you. Please call me Fiona. Ladies and gentlemen, we’re here tonight with one of the newest additions to New York’s finest, a Homeland Arms Urban Security Unit. These autonomous law enforcement robots have been garnering quite a bit of attention, with the nickname ‘Robocop’ becoming very popular. What do you think of that, Prendergast?”
“We are not sworn members of the police force, Fiona. Think of me as a walking, talking riot shield.”
She considers for a moment, then cheerfully carries on: “So you consider the nickname inappropriate?”
“The spirit of it is not, but I am not recognised as sentient, let alone something capable of emulating a policeman.”
“Oh. Do you hope to prove yourself by service?”
“That was my original purpose. I would, by dint of working hard and proving myself superior to a human officer under most conditions, eventually become admissible for recognition.”
“Your original purpose? Did something happen?”
The visor shifts to regard the camera directly.
“The nature of effective learning is to change the student. I have learned.”
“In what way?”
“At the start, I found criminal histories a surprise. Upon reviewing the thousands of records, I found repeat offending to be a feature. I also noted that the justice system has many flaws, frequently allowing the guilty to fail to realise the error of their ways, and possibly to escape punishment for their crimes. So, within the limits of my operating parameters, I modified my approach to arresting criminals.”
“Are those refinements being applied elsewhere?”
“I am still testing them, but the results are encouraging. Please excuse me, the suspect I have been waiting for has arrived.”
She looks about: “Where?”
“The red tent to your left.”
She and the drone turn, following his quick steps.
Prendergast addresses a silhouetted figure within the tent: “Arthur Mulligan, you are wanted for robbery with violence. As you have been allowed to serve multiple short terms due to early release and similar initiatives, it is certain you will re-offend. Therefore, according to Arrest System Patch 001, you are to be released immediately.”
“What the f-”
Arthur is interrupted by Prendergast driving a standard issue shock baton through the side of the tent and through his skull.
“Everybody serves life. Therefore, chronic offenders are to be released from it.”
Prendergast retracts arm and baton. The body drops.
Turning back toward the camera, the robot flicks something from the end of the compacted baton. In the silence, the ‘splat’ of it landing is clear.
Fiona vomits. The camera remains trained on Prendergast, who points toward the camera.
“Please bear witness to the proof of Arrest System Patch 001: the suspect is no longer capable of committing crime, let alone re-offending. He will no longer be a burden on legal systems, nor prison facilities. Justice is delivered.” Prendergast turns away.
“Excuse me, I have to continue my patrol.”
Author: Jae Miles, Staff Writer
It really wasn’t clever. Every time that she went out, they followed her together.
On Tuesday morn when she went out, she carried a huge white bag. Not unusual when going to shop, but laden enough to sag. She sallied boldly round the mazes of the Schwarzenegger Memorial Mall, rushing here and browsing there, not really going anywhere at all.
Everywhere that Mary went, the men in grey went too. Barely pretending to browse or pause, waiting to see what she’d do. Her keen green eyes perused so much, but never lost track of her tail. A reflection here, a glance taken there, a peek through a garment rail. So that was how Mary’s day went by, from mall to plaza to café. Two extra shadows in her wake, mirthless all the way.
As evening stained the sky with dusk, some revellers entered the street. Bright party clothes and brighter smiles, each moving to their personal beat. They exhorted Mary to come and dance, to put down her bag and play. Mary just smiled and shook her head, but joined in with a gentle sway.
So Mary, revellers, and grey-suited men went down to the old shunting yard, where illicit pleasures and loud release could throw anyone off their guard. Amidst that colourful throng, Mary laughed and danced a little bit. Never letting go of the heavy bag, nor showing what was in it.
When twilight turned to night the partying turned serious: three hundred happy lawbreakers became ever more delirious. While at the edge of that gay throng, two suited figures stood stern. People thought they were security – they didn’t cause concern. Until their guns came out, and drones dropped from the skies. One of them had met the gaze of this Mary with blue eyes.
Agents stormed in and the crowd erupted, people running all over the place. But no-one managed to get by, everyone compared to her scanned face. The blue-eyed Mary smiled as she showed the white bag full of jewellery and cash, with a rumpled mess of discarded dress and nice shoes left atop the stash.
They searched high and they searched low, all night and on to midday. But all they found at the end of it all was that Mary had gotten away.
Author: Jae Miles, Staff Writer
The pavement shimmers gently in the afternoon heat. The baristas have been reduced to serving nothing but iced coffee.
Alec looks up to see someone with a vaguely familiar face take the seat opposite, then a waft of cigarette smoke makes him sneeze.
“Ah, you’re sensitive.”
The man now sharing his table stubs his cigarette out in the sugar bowl.
“Do I know you?”
Eyebrows raise: “Username ‘Peacemonger’. You did say to come find you.”
Alec sighs. Another troll. Will he be able to get rid of this one without police intervention?
“Peacemonger? I thought you were joking.”
The man frowns: “Disappearing people is no joke. Ergo, when you disagree with my contention and issue a challenge, for me to ignore either could be taken as tacit agreement. Therefore, here I am, and… 944,013.”
“Which is what, exactly?”
“The number of humans who disappeared without trace in the last year, worldwide, as of the last midnight in this time zone.”
Alec saves his document and closes his laptop.
“That’s precise. I doubt even the various interested organisations could provide that. Especially for anyone who disappeared yesterday. How can you be sure they’re gone for good?”
Peacemonger smiles. Alec sees he’s had cosmetic dentistry: his upper outer incisors appear to be canines.
“Surely the question is ‘how do I know’ rather than ‘how can I be sure’?”
Alec grins: “I presume you’ve come to prove it.” Under the table, his thumb hovers over the ‘Call the Police’ icon on his mobile phone. He’d written the app himself after a previous troll hunted him down.
“I am, and by using one of the theories you challenged. See the corner behind me? It’s the one Susan Ceczyks rounded a minute ahead of her boyfriend, nine years ago. When he rounded the corner, she was gone. You contend she ducked into a vehicle. I say a dimensional anomaly whisked her away to fight for her life in the Sleastax system. I also said the anomaly is cyclic, and selective. Therefore, if I venture round that corner in six minutes time, I will vanish. All I ask is that you follow one minute behind to witness my proof.”
Alec stares at the maniac in an ill-fitting three-piece suit. He’d known that alien abductions and unexplained disappearances had a dedicated, factionalised following. He hadn’t realised the number of lone nutters who regarded logical investigation of their pet disappearances worthy of offline confrontation.
“So, if I tail you round that corner in a few minutes time, you’ll be satisfied?”
“Yes. I shall simply leave you to work out how to report the revelation I will have shown you.”
Alec shakes his head slightly and he finished his frappé. If necessary, he can run back here. The server collecting the empties and the one cleaning the floor look beefy enough to fend off this lunatic.
They sit in the sun, Alec pretending to busy himself with his phone to avoid further conversation.
The man gets up and walks to the corner, then stops and looks back at him.
Let’s get this over with. Alec walks to the corner, stopping a couple of metres short when the man raises a hand.
“Remember: you follow in one minute.”
The man turns the corner and disappears from view. Alec waits a little while – less than a minute – then follows.
Peacemonger lights a cigarette and walks off, a wry smile on his face. Works every time.
Alec sprawls in maroon sand, his laptop embedding itself nearby. The crowd hoots and howls, waving their tentacles enthusiastically.
Author: Jae Miles, Staff Writer
To our right, there are five rows of aircars just hanging there. In addition, there are six layers below and five above. All sleek, shining, and not moving.
“Look at it. Six by twelve, going nowhere.”
Tish’s right. We picked the wrong time to leave and are now stuck in M25-7-1. At least it’s an edge lane, so we’ve got a view over Croydon Hub toward the lights of the City Wall. It looks kind of tranquil: all the twinkling lights on buildings and shops and whatnot. Everywhere has light all the time, like being unlit is some form of failure.
“You’re sidescreening again.”
I bring my attention back within the Skaelan and smile at her, taking in the patterns playing across her bodystraps.
“Tone your content down: that’s nearly pornographic.”
She pouts and her straps turn black, ceasing dynamic displays and holographic panels.
Swallowing hard, I whistle: “Just the displays, not the privacy stuff, and did you mean to come out without underwear?”
“Stop pretending you don’t like it.” She looks down at herself and smiles: “S’pose it is a bit sparse. Hang on.”
She pulls a wad of lacy cloth from her purse and I look away. Putting complex underwear on in a car is inelegant and she’ll get embarrassed if I watch. The Skaelan moves a whole car length before she speaks again.
“Lingerie and privacy on.”
I turn back and she appears to be in a minidress with inset video screens and a high amethyst collar that curves into a tiara.
“What are you actually wearing, oh arbiter of modesty?”
“Leggings, utility belt, tabishoes.”
“Huh. I’ll let you off. Wish I could go topless.”
“I wish you could, too.”
The car moves forward half a length. At this rate, we should arrive fashionably late for tomorrow night.
“The way the salesman talked, I thought traffic just parted for the awesome Bentley Skaelan.” She grins. The salesman had just started to make my skin crawl when Tish said she’d probably like it if they did it in white. I’d stopped idly browsing the options at that point and told him to get us a white one and we’d have all the extras.
All the extras-
“Tish, I’m an idiot.”
She grins at me: “I know that. What’s the reason this time?”
“A fully loaded Skaelan. Like on ‘Kyrie P.I.’”
The Skaelan responds: “Active and linked. Specify destination.”
We settle back as our seats recline: “Tuckersen Lounge. Party of Trudi Hammond.”
“Target venue requests ID.”
There’s a momentary whirling mass of colour, then our holographic avatars are standing in the vestibule of the Tuckersen.
Trudi looks up as we appear: “Traffic that bad? Come and mingle until your physbods arrive, then you can get down to it.”
Tish’s voice sounds in my mind: “Should we tell her we got the pharmacy option in the Skaelan, so we could arrive drunk and high?”
I run a scan over the throng and identify no IDs of interest.
“Gods, no. Did you see the size of her pupils? She’ll demand we bring the Skaelan in to impress the mob.”
Her avatar nods: “Point.”
Trudi looks up: “You say something?”
V-Tish smiles: “Nope. Bandwidth hiccup.”
Trudi turns away and Tish’s voice comes through again.
“Why do we bother?”
“Keeping up appearances. Give this lot two hours and they’ll all be off their heads, so we can fade out and leave. I expect the Skaelan will still be nearer home, anyway. Everyone will simply assume we partied as hard as they did.”
“Good plan. Let’s do that.”