Monday, March 12, 2018

Query 1.02: Reversal

The city was something entirely different at night, especially in Old Town. The shops that would remain open well after dusk in other parts of the city were shut firm, old roll down steel gates pulled over windows and doors to prevent entry, a defense against casual vandalism, but questionable protection against anyone with deliberate intent to make mischief. The inhabitants in this part of town seemed like caricatures of the most melancholy bits of humanity. The beggar. The dealer. The whore. Victims all, in one way or another. Py knew and didn’t know them. He imagined them as the disenfranchised masses, having glimpsed a small part of the lives they must endure.

The car found it’s own way while the officers behind what Py assumed was bulletproof glass sat and reviewed evidence in leisure. The short stubby man that had been called John kept grumbling about the stink that was on him. The other officer simply sat with a bemused smile on his face, occasionally commenting with a tone clearly tailored to placate his partners bitter attitude.

“So, Richard, may I call you Richard?” The officer’s voice was surprising clear, emanating from the same spot behind Py’s head where his Miranda Rights had spewed from earlier. If not for the sudden change in volume Py wouldn’t have thought he was being addressed. It had been years since anyone had called him Richard.


“I prefer a shorting of my middle name, actually. Call me Py, if you don’t mind.” He watched as the officer’s face pinched at the nickname, but to his credit the reaction was brief. Officer John gave a snort.


“What kind of name is Py? Your parents must hav…” John’s voice cut off suddenly. The two officers began a muffled argument and with the bits and pieces Py picked up he was getting the measure of them. Py always tried to be fair when assessing people. Everybody had bad days and sometimes you just happened to cross someone’s path when whatever shit they were dealing with made them appear the perfect likeness of an asshole. Py was having a bad day himself, but he was starting to suspect that the small portly officer wasn’t just asshole adjacent, but a hemorrhoid nestled somewhere deep in the anal cavity. Py had never been able to fathom people like John. He’d met plenty of them. Indignation incarnate. Entitlement made flesh. The simple act of walking or talking a bit too much for their delicate sensibilities. The other officer, who Py understood to be named Logan from the heated exchange in front of him, seemed professional enough. At least he was doing everything in his power to get John to “chill the fuck out,” as Py had heard him put it.


The two officers finally came to some type of agreement, with John crossing his arms in the perfect impression of an impudent child and Logan’s voice once again came through clear and proceeded as if no interruption had taken place.

“Well, Py, for now I’m just Logan. To speed things up I’ll be taking your statement as we drive. At this time I’m going to remind you that anything you say is on the record and you’re more than welcome to remain silent and await legal counsel.”

“I’m sorry to say that it’s part of my employment contract to remain silent unless properly advised by a lawyer.” Py watched John fidget in his seat. Logan gave his partner a sharp look before continuing.

“Really? Who do you work for?”

“Sorry, but I’ve been instructed to only ask for a phone call in situations like this.” Py actually meant it too. Both that he was sorry and that those were his instructions. He didn’t like stonewalling, but some fluffy perks, a substantial paycheck, and extenuating circumstance were enough to keep his mouth firmly shut.

“We’ll get to that once we’re through booking. But, are you sure there’s no statement you’d like to make? You were found in proximity to a dead body, Py. Wouldn’t it be prudent to clear the air and tell me why you were there?” The officer had adopted a tone of patience that reminded Py of a parent trying to convince a toddler to eat their vegetables. More surprising was that Logan seemed sincere. Py suspected Logan had plenty of opportunity to practice patience on his infantile partner, but whether Logan was a good actor or genuinely sincere didn’t matter. Py could only give one answer.

“I’m sure. Thank you.”


“Okay Py. We’ll talk more at the station. Truth be told we found you on shift change, so the faster we get you put away for the night the better. Speaking of,” Logan gave the front window a couple raps with his knuckles, “we’re almost there.”


As the car approached the police station, Py observed one of the many chimeras the city of Delphi had birthed in the last few years. The building was abnormal, an asymmetric mass of metal and concrete more akin to Frankenstein’s Monster than anything resembling planned architecture. It was clear that the original building had been reinforced along its walls to support the addition of a parking structure. The light coming from the station shone off of what Py recognized as large pillars of carbon that supported the bulbus add-on that now housed the Delphi Police Department’s ground vehicles.

Stranger still, atop this structure sat a lattice of hexagons - a giant half orb of black honeycomb where the DPD drones could be seen by their alternating red and blue lights, darting about with a kind of hum, the buzz of their propellers an almost imperceptible vibration in the night.

As the car drew closer Py watched many of those little red and blue flashes disappear into the night, off to monitor whatever they passed along the preprogrammed course set by their masters. Py observed other drones gliding smoothly into that black hive, no doubt to dock in one or another little cubbies and offload their data stores into some server hidden underground. Their bytes the pollen that would be fed to hungry lawyers and their ilk, fueling the machine of Lady Justice ever forward. Py could only hope some intrepid thought-smith had possessed the foresight to call that hidden server Queen Bee.

It didn’t take long for the car to be swallowed by this strange beast, and with not a single care for Py’s depressive air the car parked neatly in a space with a faded number 8 and shut down with a cheerful three tone jingle.

As the officers were opening their doors, Logan suddenly brought his hand up to the side of his head. Py hadn’t noticed before, but there was a small device in the man's ear. Even looking directly at the thing Py could barely distinguish it from the surrounding skin. Whatever Logan was hearing through the device was putting a frown on his face.

Logan gave the device a tap and responded with a, “Roger that,” before tapping it a second time and dropping his hand to his side.

“We gotta drop him off in medical before booking.” Logan said, giving Py a quizzical look. “Apparently, Mr. Black has requested a full examination.”   

“You’re fuckin’ kidding me! Can’t we just get one of the night rookies to deal with it? Leave him with the vampire and be done?” John whined, as he pulled Py from the car.

Logan’s eyes turned to Py. There was no pretense in those dark eyes. Just naked appraisal, pure and simple. He was sizing Py up, deciding exactly how much trouble he wanted to put himself through for this skinny man in a wrinkled grey suit. Whatever he saw must have given him pause because Logan shook his head.

“Afraid not. It was our tag and if this turns into a full blown 187 we need to do this right. Listen,” Logan said, a bit of wheedle in his voice, “make you a deal… go home, you smell like cat shit. Deal?”

John didn’t take long to think it over. He didn’t even say anything. He made some indistinct noises in the affirmative before turning Py over to Logan and walking off into the station.

Py wasn’t sure if the vampire, as officer John had so lovingly put it, was in reference to the pasty faced women with a caduceus, twin snakes wrapped around a winged scepter, prominent on her uniform or the Veebot Robotic Phlebotomist front and center in the small sterile side room. After the brief explanation, guidelines, and warnings related to sudden violent movement and how much pressure the padded arm cuffs of the Veebot would apply to an arm given such inadvisable activities, Py found himself 10 milliliters of blood lighter.

A cursory check of his motor function and pupil response revealed nothing out of the ordinary. His heart was ticking fine. His lungs were good. She photographed his scratches and abrasions then finished by taking a couple of swabs from inside his mouth, declaring that by all appearances Py was in perfect health.

Py expected Logan to be waiting for him outside the exam room, but another officer, a young man with a mirror bright bald head escorted him to booking.

He seemed so keen earlier. In all fairness, I too smell like cat shit.

Py was guided into an ovoid chamber where he was uncuffed and asked to disrobe. As he undressed and placed his clothes in a plastic bag the officer proceeded to go through a checklist: Cardiac pacemaker or implanted cardioverter-defibrillator? Artificial eye? Artificial joints? Piercings? Penile implant? Dentures? Etcetera, etcetera. Py gave a negative to all these and was instructed to stand in the circle in the center of the room. The officer exited and shut the door, his voice coming through a speaker, instructing Py to close his eyes and hold still.

In an instant he was blasted with white flickering lights, scanning and capturing his every dimension. X-rays captured every bone. MRI his every organ. A gently wafting of air carried to electronic noses the places he had been, the things he had eaten, both still on the tongue and long ago digested. All of the DNA on his person was captured, his recent encounters catalogued and his own DNA determined by its statistically large concentration.

It was an amazing bit of tech, top of the line, even. Py doubted if one in a thousand precincts had anything like it. There was a lab like this at Py’s company, and from what he understood it had been modified to make this look like a toaster.

Two minutes later as Py was stepping from the screening room he was greeted by the bald officer holding a beige jumpsuit. He had only placed one hand on his new outfit when officer Logan appeared with Py’s recently confiscated possessions.

“You’re free to go.” Logan said to the surprise of Py and the other officer present. “Your bail's been paid. There’s a car waiting for you out front.”

“Just like that?” Py said, confused by the sudden reversal of circumstance. He knew the cost of bail had been predetermined based on severity of crime, but he had to give his company credit for the incredible turn-around.

“Just like that,” Logan said, snapping his fingers. It was clear from Logan’s tone he was even more surprised than Py.

Py got dressed and took a look through everything. He was happy to find among his belongings the long silver pen. With that confirmed he quickly thanked officer Logan and exited the station. He wondered for a moment at the officer slamming the trunk of the waiting car, but the man gave him a nod and Py, on reflex, nodded back before he flung himself into the back of the vehicle.

“680 Church street please.” Py said, shutting the door behind him.

“I’m sorry sir, but I have been directed to take you to 1100 East Commercial Row.” The automated voice was cheerful and apologetic.

Vergeron. Surprise, surprise.

“Any way we could swing by somewhere to get some food?”

“I’m sorry sir, but I have been directed not to deviate from my path. I have a number of beverages and snacks under the seat for your comfort and enjoyment.”

How convenient. Just what I want after a lovely day out and about the town, shitty car snacks.

“Thanks. Activate silent mode and proceed.”

The car took off from the police station as Py fished a comically tiny bottle of water and an even smaller bag of gold plated crackers from under the seat next to him.   

ring, ring...ring, ring

Fuck, Really!

Py had jumped at the tone. He could only think of two people that would call this car directly, his Vergeron appointed legal counsel or his boss.

ring, ring...ring, ring

“Huhhh, accept call. Hello. Py speaking.”

“Heard you had a long day...and you owe me two million dollars.”

It was his boss, Cain, and he’d managed to say both things in a tone many would mistake for genuine sympathy.

“I’ve had a long day, and I’m about to eat 2 million dollars worth of crackers, so I know money isn’t your primary concern. What’s this really about?”

“Ahh, put you in the executive car did they! I do love those crackers. No, this is more of a courtesy call. I expect you in my office by seven thirty tomorrow morning. Also, I want to politely remind you that per your contract quarantine protocol is in effect, so if you choose to make any personal calls be aware that someone might be listening. I’ve had all of the relevant details sent to your corporate email in case you have any questions. Legal counsel is available to you at any time of course, but that shit’s expensive and you already owe me 2 million dollars. The car will take you home now. Don’t be late. Eat an extra bag of crackers for me.”

And with that, Cain hung up.

Py closed his eyes and let his body relax into the plush black leather. He'd been read two sets of rights today. One reminding him of what he could do, the other what he could not. There was no doubt which bound him tighter as the next 12 hours were as good as being in prison anyways.

Py’s mind drifted back to the police station for a moment. Back to the officer who hadn’t been a complete asshole. Officer Logan, stalwart defender of a system that was slowly dying. He couldn’t help but compare him to someone like Cain, warden of the new age, political, polite, polished, and deadly. Cain held his duty to Vergeron well and no man Py knew could match his tact, nor his very real intent. Py thought there was no bureaucracy, or swarm of lawyers, or bunkers thick enough to protect him from Cain’s wrath. The same could not be said of Logan, tied up as firmly as Py himself by oaths of service. Feeling sorry for Logan was Py just feeling sorry for himself, something he didn’t often do.

A few minutes, three tiny bottles of water, and, as tribute to Cain, two gold leafed bags of gourmet butter crackers later, Py had collected his thoughts. He took his silver pen from inside the plastic bag and holding it tighter than was strictly necessary brought it up to his mouth as one might a microphone.

“Alice… how many people in Delphi with records of otherwise normal brain function have reported episodes of missing time in the past 6 months? Filter out individuals who have prior association with paranormal or supernatural communities, individuals with hereditary predispositions, and anyone with a history of chronic drug abuse.”

“497.” The voice came from the back of the pen, sweet, nurturing, and almost human.

Well that’s high.

“Of those, how many indicate in their medical reports possible exposure to a pathogen, organic or inorganic compounds that may have altered the subject’s mental faculties?”

“75.”

Still more than I would have guessed.

“In these cases, how many of the 75 people are still alive?”

“72.”

Well, that’s a relief.

“Do any of these people live within 6 blocks of where I was apprehended?”

“No.”

“Did any of these people report contact with a dead body?”

“9.”

Py was undiscouraged by the lack of correlation with the strangeness of his circumstance. It didn’t mean the incidents were unrelated, only that the similarities were more subtle, more intriguing.
“Okay, we covered illicit drugs, are any of these people on the same prescription medication?”

“31.”

“Really…..”

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