after reading some of the great fiction posted here and at Dark reign I was keen to have a try.
This is a first stab at a detective-noir style short story, with a particular style.
Comments and suggestions encouraged...
'Blinded by His light'
chop – chop - chop
Massive overhead fans kick up litter and debris. It dances in the grey semi-darkness that is simulated night in the hive. The dark walkways and ladders are otherwise quiet. Apart from the civic lighting the most obvious source of illumination is the imposing Magistratum building. The lit doorway occasionally disgorges a fresh foot patrol, and receives a weary one as it returns. Hovercars stop and exchange drivers, before heading back out into the hive.
Nearby a gang of rats scavenge in a broken waste-recycler.
I take the Lho-stick from my mouth and artfully flick it at the leader, burning his ear. The pack run squealing. A faint smile at this victory against the decay of society is a luxury I can afford.
The street lights shimmer off my bald head, and glint off the brass augmentic eyes. Everything else is black. Black shoes, black pants, black shirt, black jacket, black skin. My eyes had also been black, once, long ago. My first priority is to light another Lho-stick, inhale deeply, and ready myself for another shift.
Before another mood swing hits I start walking. A Magistratum officer waves as I approach, but his hand drops when he recognises me, and his 'Hello' gets chopped off at just "Hell...' I have no idea who he might be, or even who she might be, tucked under all that armour, and I don’t care.
At the doorway I pull out my Magistratum ID and flash it at the scanner, and somewhere hidden from view gun-slaved servitors relax their trigger fingers.
The lift is out again, which is not unusual. Chief Letac likes to keep his officers fit and this is a cheap way to do it. Shame if you come back from a shift injured. I stomp up the stairs, neither graceful nor clumsy, all the way to the eight level. My lungs are burning, and I’ve left a couple of dead Lho-sticks on the stairs on the way up. Despite being rather lean, physical exercise doesn't agree.
On the eight floor I attempt to slip into the Crimes Resolution Office undetected, but this never works. Somehow I just seem to attract attention. A few people pause mid-sentence, then finish up quickly and move away to work on something else, and the clacking of keyboards subsides for just a moment, and then returns. Crime never stops so the Magistratum beleive that neither should they. They just like to take a breather every now and then.
The heat of upper Taris can work up a thirst, so at the re-caff dispenser I make a cup with two whiteners and three sweeteners, just the way the Emperor intended.
'Ascensione!' A demanding bulldog voice from behind, 'What in hades are you doing here?'
I turn and smile at Deptuy Chief Krebs, then take a long draw on my Lho-stick, before finally answering, '...working.'
Krebs’ normally flushed skin turns another notch of red. 'Don't get smart with me. I don't care who you are,' he roars, 'And I don't care how many cases you've solved. When you work here you are under my jurisdiction and you report to me.' Technically none of this is true, but I am happy for him to look like he’s in charge. It would be even better if he believed what he said, but he doesn’t. Truth is, I think I scare him.
'Apologies, Deputy Chief,' I acquiesce while using a silk kerchief to wipe my brow. 'Investigator Regis Ascensione reporting.'
Krebs steps forward until he is completely in my face. 'We both know you're not Magistratum,' he whispers with a tortured hiss, 'so I dislike it every time you use that title. You didn’t earn it.'
With a nod I concede the point. 'Okay. But do you think it wise to tell everyone who I really am?'
Krebs holds his ground for a while, then backs off slowly. He looks around the room at his people, who in turn look to him for assurance that he is in control. 'Get to work, Ascensione, without another word. Standard procedure. Live cases first. None of that Dead-case stuff that you seem to get off on.' Krebs pivots and walks into his office, still smouldering.
My first reflex is to shrug, not for effect, but because I'm genuinely bemused by what had just happened. No one wanted me here, but yet today's verbal abuse was more that the usual, and it seemed pointed. After a quick look around the office to see who is watching I stroll over to the stack of case files, re-caff in hand, Lho-stick in mouth, and do the usual. With barely a glance at the white sleeved jackets of the Live cases, and a brief flick through a few of the grey Cold cases, I carefully go through the black jackets of the Dead cases.
The whole office is hushed, half expecting Krebs to come at me again, but he is keeping to his office as he does when he feels impotent.
Possible suicides, potential double-murders, a suspected mass-murder, and one suspected-arson. The last gets my attention. Although no expert I know that arson is fairly easy to uncover. Maybe on low tech worlds there is still some room for error, but on
The date on the case is extremely recent. It isn't even a day old. It shouldn't be a Dead case. Why would someone try to bury this, and just as importantly was I meant to find it?
The only details are the sketchy report of the patrol officer who called the fire in, and the fire warden who put it out. It was an abandoned fab-block up near the hiveskin, a cheap derelict place, and maybe the sun would have scourged everything if the fire hadn't.
The simulated night inside the hive is timed to match the actual nights of Scintilla, so luckily it is still dark. Still time to visit the scene. The case file goes into my coat.
On the third floor, the home of the hovercar patrol, the staging room goes quiet. They know what to expect and had probably been hoping to avoid it tonight. Nistan, the Duty Sergeant, comes towards me with his arms out in a gesture of reasonableness. He stops trying when he sees my palm in his face; I'm not a very reasonable person.
'I need a car. Who's going out?' No one answers so I read the names off the duty roster on the wall, as Sergeant Nistan glowers all the while. Werner and Cain, no.
'Now wait a minute!' Nistan interjects. I feel kind of sorry for him.
'Take it up with Krebs if you have a problem.' Not that sorry.
Twenty minutes later I kick Atilas out of the front of the hovercar and wait as he squeezes into the back. It had taken that long to buy a fresh pack of Lho-sticks. Atilas and Silvanus can't decide if they should be angry, so the hovercar sits on the road in front of the Magistratum building, not moving. No one speaks. I think they're using the silent treatment. I know how to wait.
Silvanus cracks first, 'So do you want to just sit here all night or should I just drive around?' she asks sarcastically.
I punch the address from the file into the hovercar's cogitator and the quickest path shows up on a map as a fluorescent green line. 'Drive… and Silvanus?'
I take a good slow drag on the Lho-stick. 'Come on. We're in a hurry.'
Silvanus steps on the acceloratrix with all her 70 kilograms, plus armour that probably weighs the same again. The hovercar rises and lurches away. It is the most enjoyable feeling.
Being driven by someone else is the only way to travel, in a hovercar of course. I have always hated spaceships...
[to be continued]