A knock on the door startles you. Tasha calls out your name from behind the door. "Just a moment, I'm not decent," you lie, shoving the items back into your satchel. You close it tight and throw it on the side of the desk. Best not to let your ROTC cadet host know something was wrong. You calm your nerves and open the door.
"Good morning," Tasha greets.
"Morning," you yawn.
"May I come in?"
"Sure," you hold the door open so your African American, young adult host can enter. You glanced at her attire. She was dressed in her Army Combat Uniform.
You close the door and turn to her. "Are we heading somewhere we need a military presence?"
Tasha chuckles, "No, my unit and I are going on a training mission while Dalton takes you to the police station."
"Me," you hold back the panic in your voice, trying not to look at the bag with your stolen goods.
"Not just you, everyone. I was wondering," She pulls out her hands from behind her back. You catch the slip of paper she is carrying. "if you might be willing to aide Dalton and I with a little mystery."
"Aide you how?"
"You served in the war as an MP and then went to college where you received your degree in criminal justice. After graduation you were promoted to Captain then was transferred to the Pentagon where you worked intelligence for fifteen years. You worked your way up to Major General then retired a year before you were eligible for another promotion. You left the army on a very nice retirement package. You have been writing freelance investigative reports for several top newspapers and work as a military correspondent for the networks, FOX, and CNN."
"You know alot about me."
"I make it my business to know everything about the passengers and crew members on my boat."
"Alright, it's all true. What does any of that matter to you?"
"Are you on this cruise for business or personal reasons?"
"You've been called back to duty, Major. There's a thief on my boat and I want to know their identity."
"You can't call me back to service. Only the president...." Tasha hands you the note she had been keeping from you. You stare at the handwritten note from the President of the United States. How could Tasha have gotten that? You know the president's handwriting. Maybe it was a forgery. You hold it in the air examining the ink, paper and handwriting. Everything was legit. The secret markings, the formation of the letters, everything! You lower the paper with a long sigh. This was the last thing you ever wanted. How do you explain to your commander-in-chief you are the one who took it. "Whose my contact?"
"I am. No one, including Dalton, knows you have been reactivated. You must understand the thief is a threat to national security. No on can know about this vessel and this trip. When the tour is over we will ensure the passenger do not remember the trip. They will think it was all a dream."
"What's the purpose in that if no one can remember what they experienced?"
"Oh, they will remember some of it but they will think it was divine inspiration that had given them the idea. They'll turn their experiences into a novel, short story, poem, song, who knows what other pieces of art will come of it. I've been doing this for four years. Each time, there have been new works of literary and visual arts that explode soon afterwards in the United States. This vessels job is to ensure the arts do not die in our county. They can never die. If the thief exposes this little governmental secret then we can rest assure other countries will try to duplicate our program. This vessel could potentially become used for war and not the peacefully endeavours we employ. Think about it. A ship that can travel through space, time and other dimensions? Why in the wrong hands you could eliminate an entire population by one tiny act in their history."
"True. How do you chose who comes on this ship? There were so few tickets available."
"Only those whom we have pre-chosen from the population ever see the offer on the website you went too."
"Why chose me?"
"In case I needed you. You will continue on the tours as you usual but will keep a sharp eye on everyone and everything around you, understood?"
"Good, get ready. The next tour is at a police station," Tasha said then exited from your cabin. You look down at you bag. Someway, you were going to have to make duplicates of everything you stole and plant them on a passenger. That could be easier said then done.
|Tasmania Police Station by Canley|
Sometimes, I wonder why I bother, I thought, looking around the room. Five visitors sat in the barely adequate chairs, watching and listening to the hum and howl of the station around them. One woman wrinkles her nose in distaste as people stagger past - a drunk draped on a woman that could kindly be described as worn out. Her saggy breast almost falling out of a threadbare dress that is several years too young for her, and wasn't in style when it was new. Its Lycra is sagged and pulled in various places, and the wide V at the front gives a view of flaccid, wrinkled skin.
"Welcome to the main station," I say, crossing to them. I can see them eyeing me up, and I know what they're seeing. A bleary-eyed detective in a suit as wrinkly as the ineffectual bosom of that prostitute - three day stubble, blood shot eyes. But I smell clean, and I smile as disarmingly as I can.
"You're the last group I'm taking on this tour," I say, as they're all lead to the desk. Brochures are handed out, and I explain, briefly what we'll be doing.
"So, you'll be taken into the back offices of CORETEX. If there are no crimes currently being logged and booked, I will demonstrate the system with the information outlined in this pamphlet," I say. The crime that we've chosen to use, after deliberation was CX115-AX3 - when my best friend was shot in the foyer of the station. Because, of course, we own the footage and have no need to gain permission from the public spaces that crimes may or may not have happened at. And the prosecuted cases passing through now are in judicial limbo, as the last of the pilots are assessed.
Five visitor passes, handed to each of them. "Before you take these though, I have to tell you that there are mandatory touch checks going on. Your pass contains a sweat-spot," All five nod happily.
Sweat spots. As if they couldn't just douse themselves in chemicals to suppress or invalidate the tests. No clone would be dumb enough to come to the stationhouse anyway.
"The Open House project is designed to give you a chance to explore the CORETEX system's practical applications in the community. It's our database as you know, but what has just been announced, and was piloted here, was that we're all jacked in…"
"Is that entirely necessary?" a timid voice from behind me asks. The small woman is one of the outlying district's councillors - Ms Japes I think. I put on my widest beam before turning to her, hoping my smile is as disarming as the words we're all trained to parrot.
"CORE jacked officers are designed to be helpers in the community - it means we're able to collate and sift evidence as we see it. Everything is filed, and everything can be checked. It makes the meaningless muddle meaningful." The words are saccharine on my lips - the party line, of course.
"Why's this your last tour?" an older, portly man asked. "I've enjoyed having you testify in my courtroom," With those words I placed him.
"Judge Marks, I was told you'd come on one of these,"
"Gotta see what the tour is all about," he said, patting my arm. "So, are you retiring?"
"No, off on a consult, then Beth will be imminently due…"
"Ah yes, your lovely wife. Deepest congratulations," I smiled. We were travelling along the long hall, the worn tiles showing the age of the refits that were long overdue. I could see them all looking around and wondering why we hadn't cleaned this up instead.
Up ahead someone was subduing a prisoner, firmly holding him face first into the wall.
"This is the perfect example of why CORETEX makes our lives much easier,"
This is the perfect example of why I hate CORE, I thought. "So, as you can see, the officer is subduing this man for, "
"Drugs possession," the officer supplied as I stopped, dutifully.
I nodded, "this will be documented, including his attempt to escape. Any marks or bruises will be later documented to ensure there were no mitigating circumstances, and everything will be tracked…."
Later, much later, I was back at my desk. The tour had gone as expected, and now, I had some clean-up to do. I knew I was getting the consolation assignment - Cassidy had already given me it, so now, I had to pack up. I wasn't coming back here for a long time.
The drive home was interesting. Snow everywhere, the first flurries of the year. And every channel, every station was talking about 'Big Brother with Blood' and how UCPS had set something up that was perfect for the burgeoning problems in the city. I looked over at my rucksack, at the CD I'd been given, and at the official files and sighed. 'Big Brother with Blood' better not get on my nerves.
D Kai Wilson-Viola's first book, Glass Block, leads on from the events described in this passage. Elliot Peters, the detective leading the tour here, lives in a city that never sleeps, and might even be considered almost sentient. The book will be available imminently (until then, please visit http://buythebook.darknesspd.com).
Kai is currently Nanowrimoing desperately, writing the next book and nine others for her tenth year as an ML. You can read more about her writing and editing adventures athttp://authorinterrupted.com or on her Facebook at http://facebook.com/dkaiwilsonviola