"Apart from the bizarre killing of the victim, the crime appears to be just one more in a string of mysterious thefts that have puzzled investigators during the past week. No motive for the murder has been established, and it is surmised that the victim unexpectedly surprised the killer."
It had been a month and a half since Rokun disappeared. The unfortunate doctor he'd nearly beaten to death was slowly recovering, though it was evident that she'd suffered permanent brain damage and would probably be severely disabled for life.
Of Rokun himself no trace had been found, nor of the small two-person flier that had vanished at the same time. An extensive search of the city had turned up no clues, and it was finally surmised that he'd disappeared into one of the unreconstructed areas of the immense metropolis. It should have been possible to locate the flier by its magnetic signature, but the attempt had been unsuccessful.
"It's theoretically possible to mask the signature," Kiri had said, "but if he did, he clearly knows how to do something we don't." And that was the last we'd heard of Rokun. Until this evening.
To me it sounded like just another crime report, although crime was admittedly pretty unusual here. Something about the announcer's wording must have caught Kiri's attention, though, because she grabbed for the telecom's controller and furiously keyed something in. The words, "Caution: violent content. Continue?" appeared onscreen, and she irritably punched at a key. From the menu that appeared, she chose "Crime scene images," and a moment later a thoroughly gruesome scene met our eyes. It appeared to my shocked gaze that someone had virtually exploded. I wondered why Kiri would want to see such a horrible thing.
I suddenly realized that all eyes were on Will for some unexplained reason. Kiri muted the volume and for a long second there was utter silence.
"It wasn't me, I swear it," Will said, his face visibly pale.
"Of course it wasn't you, Will," Kiri snapped. "But that was one of your bolts. It had to have been."
Will just shook his head voicelessly.
Kiri turned back to the telecom and entered something else into the controller. A logo appeared on screen, followed by a man in uniform. "Deshti Domestic Security," he said, then his eyes widened as he recognized the Emperor and Empress.
"Hello, Weldan," Kiri said.
"Good evening, Your Majesties," he said. "How can I serve you?"
"I want to speak to whoever's investigating these strange thefts," she said. "Especially the one that just showed up on the evening news. Who's handling these?"
"That's detective Onija," he said after consulting another monitor. "One moment; I'll see if she's in." The police logo briefly appeared again, followed by an older woman's face. "Onija here," she said. "Empress?"
"Onija, I want to know about these thefts. There's been a killing, I understand?" The detective nodded.
"Up until now it's just been surreptitious break-ins. Apparently this person got unlucky. But we're utterly baffled as to how it was done. There were no traces of explosives of any kind, just electrical burn marks on the remains."
"Yes, I saw the news report. Onija, can you get me a list of everything taken in these thefts? All of them?"
"Certainly, Empress. Just one second while I get the information together." She looked off screen, presumably manipulating her keypad, and then a series of Deshtiran characters began scrolling down the screen like a mass of subtitles, finally coming to a halt and disappearing. "You have them all now," she confirmed.
"Thank you, Onija. Do you have any idea what they are?"
"Yes, Empress. We've identified most of them as materials used for genetic modification. The remainder are a bit of a mystery, but our sources indicate they're all biochems or equipment for manipulating biochems of one sort or another. Is there something we should know?" she added hesitantly.
"Yes, there is," Kiri said. "How many people at your level are involved in this case?" Perhaps twelve, counting field investigators and researchers, the detective responded, now clearly alarmed. "Onija, I'm going to have this case classified as top secret," Kiri went on. "You and your staff, and everyone above you that's had any contact with this case, are going to be sworn to secrecy. I'll be contacting the head of DDS next. In the meantime you're not to discuss this case further with anyone, or release any information whatsoever. Is that clear?" There was no anger in her voice, only clipped efficiency. I suddenly realized I was seeing the legendary Mikiria in action.
"Yes Empress." The woman paused. "Have we--failed you in some way?" She looked distinctly distressed. Kiri smiled reassuringly. "No, you've done very well. But you've slipped into some deep waters. Don't be surprised if this whole thing ends up at a very high level." The detective nodded, looking relieved, and then we were back to the desk officer.
"Get me the head of DDS," Kiri said.
For the first time since I'd arrived on Deshtiris, I found myself feeling apprehensive. A strange and horrible murder would have been a commonplace on Earth, but here it seemed far more frightening set against the peaceful backdrop of this placid society. But I think it was really Kiri's and Will's reactions to it that left me with a knot in the pit of my stomach. It felt like some kind of movie, it'd happened so fast. I felt an irrational sensation of dread, as though a terrible storm was about to break.
"So now it's all top secret," Brinkman was saying. "Will you please explain what this is all about?" Kiri had finished her conference with the head of Deshti Domestic Security, and we were all still in a daze. I was glad that Brinkman had asked the question, as I certainly didn't dare.
"You think this is Rokun, don't you?" Will asked, and got an answering nod. I think she must have seen the utterly blank look on my face, and turned to me.
"Well, Haley, you certainly seem to have worked your way into high places. Now you're going to be privy to something only a few people on Deshtiris know." She gave me a half-smile as she said it.
"You already know that my father Tenako genetically modified me. Fancy eyes, permanent dye job, extra heart, all that stuff. But it wasn't just me." Her eyes turned to Will, her affection evident. "Will got a present, too. If he chose to, he could point a finger at you right now and blow you to pieces." Will gave me a sick grin. I just shook my head uncomprehendingly.
"Every cell in his body contains a kind of microscopic battery. Individually their charges are miniscule, but combined they can accumulate enough power for him to project an energy bolt a good fifty feet or more. The power in that bolt is sufficient to turn every bit of water in the target region to steam and blow it apart like an old-fashioned boiler explosion. It's not pretty," she added. I remembered the ghastly sight on the news a few minutes earlier.
"Will?" I said incredulously, turning to him.
"It wasn't me, I swear it," he insisted again. I think he was serious, too; he still looked really stunned.
"We know that, you ninny," Kiri snorted. Her face turned serious again. "The point is, it was Virrin technology that Tenako used to modify us." She let that sink in for a few moments.
"Oh my god," Brinkman said finally.
"Now we have no choice," Kiri finished slowly. "We have to find him. And, if necessary, kill him. Because he's now the most dangerous person on the planet."
This page last updated 2/5/2010.|