Monday, June 11, 2018

Query 1.16: Consequences

Py ran to Logan’s side. The bullet had passed clear through Logan’s body and blood was seeping from him, front and back. Py wasn’t sure exactly the path the bullet had taken, the wound concealed under Logan’s thick coat, but it likely had shattered a rib and possibly punctured his lung.

Py pulled off his jacket and pressed it into the wound in a desperate attempt to stop the bleeding.

“Stay with me Logan.” Py spoke calmly, but firmly. “DPD’s just a few minutes out.”

“Where is he^” Logan mumbled, struggling weakly to pull himself up, barely conscious and badly disoriented.

Py put pressure on Logan’s chest to keep him on the ground and it spoke to Logan’s injuries that Py was able to do so. “He’s gone. I think you clipped him.”

“Damn.” Logan growled, going slack, his eyes slowly blinking as if he might fall asleep.

“Eyes open, big man. Stay with me.”

As Py spoke to Logan his gaze turned to the woman in the alley. She wasn’t moving. Her clothes were soaked with blood. It was impossible from here to tell how severely she’d been wounded, or if she was even alive at all. Py wanted to see her, to help her. He started to move but faltered, fearing to take his hand from Logan’s chest. After a few false starts, Py grabbed Logan’s hand.

“Push on this as hard as you can.”

Logan nodded softly, but Py wasn’t sure he understood. Logan's hand sunk into the bloody jacket, but it was impossible to tell if Logan was applying pressure to the wound, or if it was simply the weight of his large hand sitting limply on the damp cloth.

As quickly as he could, Py raced to the woman’s side. He placed a finger on her neck and felt a failing pulse.

“Shit^” Py muttered, looking over to Logan, still bleeding on the ground.

As gently as he could, Py scooped the woman up, carrying her to Logan’s side. Setting her on the ground, he returned his hand to Logan’s wound. Py stretched as best he could, using his free hand to examine the unconscious woman, trying to find the source of the profuse bleeding.

The wounds on her body were clean. She was covered with shallow gashes and it was beginning to look like the blood soaking through her dress was the result of several small wounds instead of the single larger wound Py had expected. He wondered how long she had lay there, enduring slice after slice as he and Logan rushed to her aid.

The woman had a thick matted mass of blood and hair on the back of her skull. Looking closer, Py thought perhaps she’d been rendered unconscious by a blow to the head and not purely from loss of blood.

Thank god, maybe it’s just a concussion. Never thought I’d be so grateful for a little minor brain damage.

It was only a few minutes before the DPD arrived on the scene. The station was nearby and Logan had called for backup before the shooting even started. Py sat in the back of a patrol car, the door open, his legs swung out so that his feet rested on the ground.

Py had been questioned briefly and advised not to leave until he’d given his statement. For now the officers present were far more concerned with getting Logan into a nearby ambulance, and collecting forensic evidence, the best they’d found at any of the three crime scenes Py had examined since the first troubling incident only a few days ago.

Py felt useless, worse than useless. Py had built a homing device to a psychopath and followed it without thinking. He hadn’t been prepared and he’d lead Logan into a bullet. He’d felt so clever when he thought this was a toxin, when he believed he was chasing a compound or contagion. It had been his element. A problem he could solve. It had been in his control, something Py could brute force with enough time and data, but when he’d seen that red, pulsing orb in Ben’s lab that said bright and loud you’re wrong, Py had been struggling. He’d been spoon fed the information he needed to prevent this! Still, Py had walked into the clutches of a mind altering maniac three times now. He was alive because he was lucky, because Logan had chased away the boogeyman every time, and what did he get for his trouble: Logan had been shot, beaten, subjected to forced psychosis all because Py couldn’t accept the increasingly obvious truth that even his own data had confirmed.

“Damn it.” Py cried, glancing through the squad car window at the deep pool of blood where Logan had fallen.

“Are you alright, Py?” Alice spoke for the first time since the shooting had stopped.

“I’m fine, thank you Aice.”

“Are you sure? It is possible that you are hallucinating.”

“Not this time Alice. But thanks for checking.”

“God.” He exhaled heavily, placing his hands on his face. “I can’t believe I got Logan mixed up in all of this. And that poor woman. If we’d only been a moment sooner.”

“Please repeat.”

“I wasn't talking to you.”

“No one else is here. It is possible that you are hallucinating.”

“Maybe I am! Who fucking knows. I don’t know, do you know? I don’t think you know!” Py took a breath to stall the anger. It wasn’t Alice’s fault. He just had the think. To calm down and talk it through.

“Alright Py, pull yourself together. He’s still out there. What happens next? Alice was watching through the cat cam. If I’d realized sooner I could’ve given Logan a few extra seconds. I’ll know that next time. I’m not sure when I started hallucinating, or Logan. When do I start asking for help? Maybe Alice can derive hallucinatory behavior based on context? That’s asking a lot. Maybe she could ping periodically? Describe the setting and we can see if it matches. If the culprit can hear Alice will he be able to match the hallucination to what Alice describes? She can’t describe everything. Can he read our minds in addition to manipulating it? Auditory hallucinations seem less powerful than visuals. Does that help? Not really. At least we know what he looks like now, or Alice seems to anyway. She can warn us when he’s close. What then? Even with help from Alice a counter attack would still require more luck than anything. There was no digital evidence from the first two scenes. Was this the same effect? If he realizes that Alice is a machine can he cause her to malfunction? Maybe we can generate some detailed maps of Old Town, visual and auditory, if Alice doesn’t recognize her surroundings it might indicate she’s been hacked. Of course this assumes Alice can cache all of that data, or maintain up-time with a sever, something we know has been circumvented at least once. If Alice is hacked what then? We’ll know we’re in danger, but we’ll have no way to defend ourselves. It might be possible to incapacitate him with a remote drone using a non-lethal restraint. But if he’s hacking machines could he turn those weapons against us? How do I protect Logan in the hospital if he comes looking for revenge? Even if Alice was a viable sentry that still doesn’t resolve the issue of defense. It’s not like we can fire blindly in a hospital, even with non-lethal rounds we could easily kill someone. The DPD might want to post guards, but the more officers on guard the more danger we’d be in. Even if we were allowed to tell them about Alice there's no guarantee that the guards would trust her more than their own senses. Maybe DPD personnel could be directed through remote police drones? They might be more likely to listen to fellow officers. This alleviates the issue of secrecy as well. Hacking, damn. Anyway the hallucinations still pose too much risk, it only takes one person to create total disarray. We’d have to strike before the hallucinations began. We did this once, but if he initiates the attack I doubt he’ll leave us that chance. Then again, if our defensive parameter was large enough... How big would it have to be? How many drones would I need to get? Could I get them all by tonight? What about the mole? Logan said we shouldn’t trust anyone. The hospital if fairly large, and has a finite number of entrances, maybe we could have the hospital place Logan in the room furthest from all entries? Maybe even admit him under a false name? If a sentry is tripped we could run the other way. Run… how badly is Logan hurt? Damn I wish I could see. Does the perp have friends? How long before the hospital posts his patient charts? God, this isn’t going anywhere...”

“Py, can you clarify the query ‘Alright Py, pull yourself together. He’s still out there…’”

Py listened as Alice began to recite his entire rambling thought word by rambling word, seeming to gain speed as she went.

“Jesus Alice! Settle down.” Py spoke, clenching his eyes. “We’ll need to be a lot smarter if we’re going to keep everyone alive. Think!”

“Yes Py.”

“Wait, Alice, can you compare our cat migration data with local weather patterns? There should be a correlation between attraction radius and wind direction.”

“Yes Py, this appears to be true.”

Stupid!” Py rebuked himself. “Airborne.”

“Alice, does the DPD have access to gas masks?”

“Yes, although they have not been deployed it approximately 5 years.”

“Are they any good?”

“The city deems them adequate, although given your training I suspect you would disagree.”

“Alright, let’s try and see if we can find some.”

“Airborne^.” Py smiled a little, shaking his head, “Why didn’t you come up with that one Alice?” Py said jokingly.

“You didn’t ask.”

“Not reading my mind yet? We’ll have to work on that.”

“Read your mind?”

“Yeah, and maybe you could predict the future too. That would be handy.”

“Is this a query?”

“Never mind Alice. Actually file a bug for me, mark it as a critical failure. Doesn’t read minds. Fails to predict future.”

“If it makes you happy, Py.”

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Logan was propped up in the bed, much in the same position Py had been in just a few days ago. The surgery had gone well. The bullet had been a through-and-through, resulting in a complete pneumothorax of the left lung, better know as a sucking chest wound. The doctor’s assured him the tissue replacement had done its job, that with a little bed-rest Logan would be back on his feet in no time. The thing they were more concerned about was Logan’s mental state.

“You need to take some time Mr. Maxwell. Being shot, even for a man of your vocation, is a traumatic event that needs professional care. Lucky for you, your job affords you good counsel. We suggest you take full advantage of the resources you have.” Logan had just nodded. Their concern was touching, but unnecessary. Any anxiety Logan had about his injuries were focused on the fact that the man who caused them was still at large.

There was a rap on Logan’s private door and an officer stuck his head in.

“You’ve got a visitor.” The officer said, opening the door a little further so Logan could see Py standing beyond the threshold. “You want me tell him you’re unavailable, sir?”

“That’s alright Regg, let him in.” Logan pushed himself up straighter in the bed as Py eased passed Regg, who seemed a little disappointed he didn’t get to deny entry. The door was shut and an uncomfortable silence took the room.

Py looked like hell. It was clear to Logan that he hadn’t slept, his eyes were red and tired, and his gray suit had stains on it from falling in the alley. The man hadn’t been home yet, which meant he’d been waiting to make sure Logan pulled through. Py kept his eyes averted and Logan could see the guilt that was twisting the man’s posture and making him seem small and fragile. Logan decided it was best to head this shit off at the pass.

“Before you say anything I want you to listen, Py. Once upon a time, when I was still green, my partner and I were working a simple case in the Heights district. We were tracking contraband, nothing too serious, and managed to narrow our search to a warehouse where we thought the goods were stored. I decided we were going in. Just a cursory look before calling in the search team. That’s all I wanted. We ended up smack dab in the middle of a two rival gangs making an exchange. Most of them got away, but not before putting my partner down with a crowbar to the head.”

Logan swung his legs to the floor and stood up. He felt the bandages around his left shoulder strain and a tightness across the skin of his chest and back, but nothing more. He stepped toward Py and put himself so that Py would have to look at him.

“I’m going to tell you the same thing he told me when he woke up in the hospital, this is not your fault.” Py’s eyes met Logans and he opened his mouth in protest, but Logan raised up his right hand to stall any declarations of fault.

“Look, I’m not telling you this to make you feel better. When my partner said it to me it didn’t make me feel any better. I can say I understand his perspective now, which has let me forgive myself a little, if I’m honest, so try not to worry about it. I want you focused on what happens next because the only way we come through this now is together. If that guilt helps you with that, fine, otherwise wallow on your own time. Now, where do we stand?”

Logan turned away and climbed back into bed. His legs were still a little weak and he wanted to be comfortable if he and Py were going to dive into the details.

Once he settled back in he glanced back at Py to see what he was working with. The man was still wrestling with his demons, which was expected. Logan had been telling the truth about his partner, about how hearing it didn’t make it hurt any less, but what it did do was let you move past it, to squirrel it away until you had the time for it, and sure enough, Py’s eyes took on that same, familiar flash of unique intellect that made him invaluable. Logan was banking on that because he was well and truly fucked without it.

There was another knock on the door and Regg opened it again with a small smile on his face.

“You’re popular today, sir.” Just passed him was a woman Logan didn’t recognize. Her brown hair was pulled back away from her face and she was wearing the standard hospital gown and slippers provided to patients. She had laceration tape on her left cheek and stitches running from midway on her right jaw all the way down her neck until they disappeared into bandages that circled her throat like a choker. Her hands and arms had suffered the worst of it, the mix of tape, bandages, and stitches cobbled together to make her look worse off than she probably was. Logan recognized defensive wounds, and though he hadn’t gotten a good look at her before the world turned dark, he thought this must be the woman he and Py had rescued in the alley.

“May I come in?” She asked, her voice hesitant.

“Of course.” Logan said, gesturing for her to enter. “How are you doing? I’m afraid I’ve been indisposed and haven’t asked after your health, Miss…” Logan let the word dangle as the woman pushed into the room, and moved to stand so she could face both Logan and Py.

“It’s Evelyn, sir. Evelyn Desmond. I just wanted to say thank you for saving me. If not for you I’d probably be dumpster food in Old Town right now.”

Logan shook his head. “Evelyn, I can’t take the credit. The man you should be thanking,” Logan lifted his chin toward Py, “is Mr. Black. We wouldn’t have made it in time if not for him.”

Logan couldn’t help but grin as Py began to squirm as their guest moved her gaze from Logan to Py. Logan wasn’t sure of her profession, and he didn’t want to make any assumption of a woman who could run in heels through the streets of Old Town, but the look she fixed on Py, bandaged as she was, had an almost predatory glow.

Evelyn moved around to stand in front of Py. She brought her arms up and wrapped him in a careful, but firm hug.

“Thank you so much.” Logan could barely hear her with her face pressed into Py’s should. Py was just staring at Logan, his hand moving in a reflexive ‘there there’ motion on Evelyn’s back.

“I don’t know how to repay you?” Evelyn pushed away from Py and began wiping her face with the sleeve of her hospital gown. Her other hand hadn’t left Py’s arm and Logan decided to jump in before the implication of the word ‘repay’ could pull too firmly at his friends imagination.

“Oh, no need for repayment Miss. Just stay out of dark alleyways for a while, yeah.” Logan said, being polite, but wanting Evelyn out of the room so Py and he could talk. “Glad to see you’re on your feet. Maybe I’ll see you around the ward the next few days. Now, if you don’t mind my friend and I have some catching up to do.”

“Right, sorry for interrupting. I just wanted to say thanks.” Tears still playing in her brown eyes, Evelyn smiled, and it was one of those disarmingly sincere, coquettish smiles that Logan suspected had helped her a great deal in life, whatever her profession. She gave one last nod to Logan, cast a lingering look in Py’s direction and departed the room.

Logan waited a few seconds just to be sure Evelyn was well and gone before speaking again.

“I hope in my unconsciousness you didn’t leave the safety of your new dumpling to chance.” Logan couldn’t help but smirk as Py brought his hand up and ran it down his face.”

“God, what is it with you and food anyways?! After I gave my statement that she was a witness to the incident and a probable target to the threat the perpetrator made I’m happy to say the DPD posted a guard at both your doors without having to be asked.”

Logan gave a small nod. “Well, we do get things right eventually.”

Py gave a snort. “Just as a precaution I have Alice monitoring every device within half a mile of the hospital. If our friend tries to make good on his threats at least we’ll know he’s coming.”

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