Crime in Me'tra

 

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Prologue

“Me’tra Police, open up.” She called loudly as she banged on the door of the apartment.

Her knocks echoed along the dank corridor of the run-down building but all else was quiet. Perhaps too quiet.

A slight thud from inside the apartment caught her keen ears and she cocked her head to the side to listen more intently. Muffed movement could be heard from within and yet no one had come to open the door.

“I can hear you in there. Now open the door.” She demanded irritably and brushed back her shoulder length black hair.

A louder bang sounded from within followed by a muffled cry.

“That’s it.” She grumbled to herself and took a step back from the door.

Adjusting her equipment belt she readied herself before lunging forwards with a powerful kick into the door right beside the handle. Wood splintered and bolts popped as the door swung violently inwards. Cautiously she entered the dark studio apartment, the only light came from red candles that burned on shelves and tables about the place. The smell of smoke and blood hung heavily in the air and her eyes widened as he came around the short entrance hall into the room to see a young woman spread eagled upon a bed wearing nothing but her underwear. Above the bed on the wall strange symbols were written in blood, and beside the bed stood a table with an assortment of bloodied knives upon it.

As she entered the girl on the bed cried out, though her pleas were muffled by the cotton gag in her mouth.

Quickly she moved towards the prisoner and cut the binding that held the girl.

“The window,” the girl pointed, her eyes filled with fear.

“Call the police.” She commanded as she raced from the bed to the open window.

The window opened out into the street where another tall apartment building stood barely a meter away. Smog hung heavily in the air, dulling the light and obscuring the limited view.

“Not this time, you bastard,” she said determinedly as her green eyes spotted a shirtless man running along the narrow ledges along the building.

Without another thought for the poor girl on the bed she jumped from the window and onto the thin brick ledge. As agile as a cat she hopped to the adjacent building then sped off in pursuit of the man.

It was clear that he had thought he had slipped away from her yet again, he made no effort to outpace her and casually jumped to another tall building. She was gaining on him quickly, a grim smile came to her lips. But that smile vanished as the shirtless man glanced over his shoulder to see her bearing down on him.

The bald man shouted some curses before he took off with unnatural speed and agility.

“Prosthetic enhancements,” she cursed, gritting her teeth she took up the chase along the high building ledges.

But being part of the police department she had had her own fair share of cybernetic enhancements which also afforded her greater speed and agility. Increasing her own pace along the narrow ledge the shirtless man could not outpace her and fortunately the buildings in this part of Me’tra were tightly packed together which made the chase easier, although they were still over fifty stories from the ground.

“Stop. Police.” She shouted after the man, but she knew there was no chance of that.

Furiously the chase went on as she followed the man from one ledge to another, jumping over metal balconies and sliding down guttering before having to jump several feet to a lower level. Downwards they seemed to be going, further into the darkness of the ground levels where the shadows of the giant buildings and smog covered the place in perpetual night. Dim lights and neon signs were the only light the poor citizens in this area of the city knew.

As they descended further onto a humanity terrace, where constructed platforms sat between the buildings and substituted for the ground, the street lights came on and she feared she might lose sight of the man in the crowds. Fortunately this part of town was not exactly bustling with activity, unless it was in some way criminal, so she had little trouble following the man through the street, passing by the brothels and strip clubs.

In an attempt to lose her the man began knocking over street stores and shoving people to the ground in an attempt to create obstacles. But she was a trained detective of the elite Me’tra police, the training she received was second only to the army’s, and of course that of the Wynar.

Down a side alley the perpetrator darted and jumped off of the humanity terrace onto yet a lower level. It was much darker in this place and the lights of the street were fewer, disgusting odours filled the air and puddles of who knows what lay in the road.

The lower section was also almost devoid of people. Thinking quickly she took a spark grenade from her belt and armed it with a flick of her thumb. As she chased the man around the corner she launched the grenade with all her strength. The small silver ball flew through the air and landed ahead of the running man before exploding in an eruption of electricity, the shards of red lighting darted around the narrow road, bouncing off the walls and causing the man to cry out and fall into a pile of rubbish where he laid still.

She slowed her run, moving closer she took a deep breath. Veins of electricity still slithered around the walls and road as she cautiously moved closer to the unconscious man.

Curiously she noticed there were many scars covering the man’s torso, carved in designs of the same strange and ritualistic symbols she saw back in the apartment. She winced at the sight, for the wounds looked self-inflicted.

She grimaced in disgust as she took a pair of handcuffs from her belt and moved to arrest the unconscious man.

As she bent over him the man’s suddenly moved, a heavy kick slammed her in the gut, blasting air from lungs and causing her to tumble backwards onto the grimy street. The killer was on her in a flash and a heavy right fist collected her in the cheek as she tried to stand. Turning with the blow she managed to deflect most of the impact, but she still went spinning away and back to the ground, tearing her tight pants and ripping her jacket sleeve.

Rolling to her feet she drew forth a thin metal rod protruding several inches from a standard sword handle. With a flick of her wrist the rod extended to little over a metre coming to a sharp point. Light blue lines of colour shot down the grey shaft and sent forth a feint glow.

With a cry the killer grabbed a broken pipe from the ground and charged at her, swinging the pipe at her head. Skilfully she duck under the swing and twisted away from the larger man. But he would not relent and he green eyes locked with the man’s crazed and bloodshot stare, deranged from some drug the man screamed wildly and tried to tackle her to the ground with the pipe in hand.

Quickly she dived lower and into a roll. As she slid under the flailing arms of the man she struck out with her metal rod tripping the man up and sending him into a cold puddle of grimy water.

The crazed man was back on his feet in a heartbeat and charging back at her. Her eyes widened in surprise and managed to block the assailant’s heavy attacks with his pipe, each one making her arms vibrate. Broken pipe and metal rod suddenly locked in front of her and the stronger man pushed her backwards into the side of the building. The impact knocked the air from her lunges and her head cracked against the bricks, sending her senses reeling and creating cracks in the concrete of the building.

If not for the prosthetic alterations to her body she would have likely been knocked unconscious or crushed by the killer’s enhanced strength.

She knew she was in trouble and desperately pressed a button on the crosspiece of her weapon. The lights along the metal shaft of her weapon flared brightly before a burst of electricity shot forth jolting her attacker backwards, the recoil crushing her further into the unrelenting wall.

Both she and the man crumbled to the ground as fingers of lightning rippled through their bodies. Shaking the grogginess from her head she staggered again to her feet to square off against the murderous man.

“You will kill no more.” She said with determination.

In response the man screamed wildly and charged at her with his broken pipe once again. Too sluggish to move she was forced to block and deflect each of the attacks. But with the blue veins of the baton activated each time their weapons connected a jolt of lightning propelled the man backwards. The veins of blue light lit up the dark alley, bouncing off the walls and pipes. Snaking across the killer’s flesh she could see his skin begin to burn and melt to reveal the metal of his cyber enhancements. If he kept this up he would be nothing but a metal exoskeleton.

Clearly aware he was outmatched the man opened his mouth wide in a manic yell and lunged at her. Too exhausted to dive out of the way this time she could not evade it and the man tackled her to the dirty street. The weapons fell from their hands as the murderer took her to ground. Desperately she balled her fists and lashed out, but despite connecting solidly with the man’s face he did not relent. Screaming psychotically the man grabbed her by the collar and proceeded to pick her up and slam her back to the ground as he knelt over her, pinning her to the ground. With each blow she felt the darkness of unconsciousness grab at her. Instinct to survive took over and somehow she managed to grab her knife and plunge it into the attacker’s neck.

The man let out a cry and tried to pull away from the painful bite. Stupidly the man grabbed her by the wrist and pulled backwards. She released the blade from her grip, but the man still held her by the wrist. She cried out in pain as the killer put a heavy foot in her gut and pulled back from her, pulling her shoulder from its joint and tearing the skin and muscle of her arm along with the fabric of her jacket. Ripping her arm completely off the man stumbled backwards. Fortunately for her that arm was completely prosthetic and easily replaced, but that did not subdue the pain she felt.

Breathing heavily she propped herself up on her remaining elbow thinking her knife would have done the job of severing the man’s artery and killing him. But to her horror the man slowly pulled the short blade from his neck and as blood streamed down his bare chest he moved towards her threateningly, knife in one hand and her severed arm in the other.

Horrified she looked around from something to save herself and as the murderous man drew closer her eyes fell upon the hilt of her baton. Desperately she crawled for her weapon, but the man saw her intention and lunged for her. As the murderer came down upon her she managed to grab her baton and turn to her attacker. The sharp point of the baton easily pierced through the man’s chest, skewing his heart and driving out the back of his metal shoulder blade. The still active veins of light blue surged forth another discharge of electricity, scorching the man’s skin and exploding flesh as it sent him flying backwards off the baton and into a grimy puddle. Even with all his prosthetic enhancements without a heart he was as dead as anyone else.

Letting out a great sigh of relief she dropped the baton beside her and collapsed back to the ground. Sluggishly she took out her phone and flipped it open with her thumb.

“This is Detective Kusan, do you read me control?” she said through deep breaths.

“I hear you detective,” said a mechanical voice from the other end of the phone line, “We have your location and sending a squad car.”

“I’ve caught the murder.” Kusan reported, “But, we’re going to need a body bag.”

“Understood.” The android confirmed, “Squad car and paramedics, eta five minutes.”

Lying on her back Kusan stared towards sky trying to spy the clear heaven above, but through all the smog and congestion of buildings it was impossible. A painful ache made itself present at the back of her head all of sudden and a strange sensation flooded through her body.

She recalled the moment the killer had slammed her against the wall where she had whacked her head, another pulse of pain flashed behind her eyes and her sight grew dim. Kusan heard the distant sound of police sirens before her consciousness left her completely. 

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Chapter One

Gazing out through the hospital window she absently traced the jagged city skyline with her eyes. It was raining today and the bleak grey outlook did little to boost her spirits. For two days now she had been stuck in this hospital as the surgeons repaired her prosthetic arm and her cracked skull. A relatively minor operation, but it took longer than expected.

The hospital was located on the south end of Bayside and as she looked west, waters of the bay seemed suppressed by the drizzle. In the middle of the large cove sat the immense stadium where all the sporting competitions were held. Such events like the Hover Ball matches and the athletic challenges were held, and soon the fighting championships would take place.

Kusan cared little for such games and sighed heavily as she waited. Looking to her new left hand she flexed her fingers and rolled her wrist, trying to get used to the new prosthetic limb. Though she need not have bothered for it was almost exactly the same as the previous arm, just a newer model.

It was a strange thing, seeing your hand move yet having little to no feeling of it. The prosthetics contained some sensory receptors but they did not register well with her brain, a curse all with prosthetic enhancements.

“Here you are Kusan, sorry for the wait,” a nurse said pleasantly as she entered the room carrying Kusan’s clothes and possessions.

Kusan smiled slightly in reply as the nurse placed the bundle of affects at the end of the bed.

“I even stitched up your jacket for you,” the nurse smiled wide, her big eyes sparkling.

“You didn’t have to do that, Demi,” Kusan replied awkwardly.

“Nonsense,” nurse Demi continued to smile, “You’re a regular here, and a cop, of course we are going to take care of you.”

“Thank you,” Kusan said haltingly as she began to remove the hospital robe and pull on her tight black pants.   

“Sorry about the wait as well,” Demi said, as she turned her dark eyes to the view through the window. “With prosthetics recently being made available for the public we’ve had a huge influx of citizens having surgery. I would have thought the steep price would have deterred a lot of them, but it seems everyone wants to live forever these days. Of course I’m not talking about you in the police or other public protections services. You guys need the enhancements to combat the rising crime rate.”

Kusan mumbled a response as she began buttoning up her top.

“That reminds me,” Demi said with a start, “Along with the arm upgrade, we also upgraded your prosthetic legs to the latest model and updated your eye augmentation with the latest firmware. We also replaced the damaged portion of your skull with prosthetics. Free of charge.”

“Really?” Kusan was surprised, “Thank you.”

Subconsciously she touched the back of her head, but as she ran her fingers through her hair she could not feel anything.

“Audio Tech have yet to release an updated version of your hearing enhancement, so we could not improve that for you,” Demi replied, seeming disappointed.

“I doubt there will be a new version for a while,” Kusan remarked as she began pulling on her boots.

“Why do you say that?” the nurse inquired curiously.

“Audio Tech is owned by the Wynar corporation Augmentations, and we all know how the Wynar are doing these days,” Kusan replied simply.

“That’s true,” Demi nodded and looked back out the window. “With all their in-house fighting and jostling still going on do you think the fighting championships will be any good this year?”

“Was it any good last year?” Kusan asked in reply and she strapped on her belt and grabbed her jacket before heading towards the door.

“See you next time Kusan,” nurse Demi called after her.

Kusan waved over her shoulder and left through the door into a long hallway. It seemed rather busy in this end of the hospital and most of the rooms were occupied with patients recovering from their cyber alterations. Although such enhancements were only made available to the public in the last few months it seemed that there was already a long backlog of patients wishing to be digitally and mechanically altered. Although, such prosthetic enhancement had been available on the black market for a few years now and had been giving the smuggling division of the police department a headache for quite some time.

Likely the black market was where the man from the other day had received his cyber enhancements, it was also just as likely that was the reason he had been insane. It was well known that such extensive surgeries can result in mental instability when incorrectly performed.  

Kusan pushed the thoughts from her mind as she climbed into a taxi out the front of the hospital. That case was closed, and it did not do well to dwell on such events.

“Where to miss?” the cab driver asked as she closed the door.

“Atlas building in Central,” she replied with little thought and the driver slowly pulled out from the hospital drive onto the main highway that led to central.

The beeping of her phone pulled her attention from the bland scenery and with a sigh she answered.

“I’m out of the hospital for five seconds and already you’re calling me,” Kusan replied in a slightly joking manner. “What is it Chief?”

“You’re out, good,” the man replied gruffly, “On your way to the precinct I hope?”

Kusan scoffed, “I’m heading home first to have a wash and change my clothes. I think I earned that much at least.”

“You’re right,” the Chief replied, his tone softer, “You did a good job on that last case, saved that woman’s life. Just get here as soon as you can.”

“Aright,” Kusan said tiredly and disconnected the call.

Placing her phone back into the pocket of her jacket that lay across her lap she absently inspected the stitch work on the repaired sleeve.

“Not bad,” Kusan remarked quietly to herself before looking back out the window.

The taxi sped effortlessly along the highway at a safe speed of two hundred kilometres an hour and took the next bridge across the river into the Central district. Here the taxi was able to switch its driving style from simply hovering half a meter above the road to full flight mode that allowed it to fly effortlessly between the tall buildings.

“You hear they’re planning on extending the flight zone into Bayside district?” the cab driver remarked pleasantly.

“It won’t happen,” Kusan replied simply, as she watched the buildings and other flying cars drift by her window in the haze of the rain.

“Yeah, why’s that?” the driver asked curiously as he glanced in his rear view mirror at her.

“Too much disruption in Wynrim,” Kusan shrugged, “The Wynar there are so disorganised that they won’t be doing any construction for some time.”

“That’s a good point,” the driver nodded, “A shame really, using the magnetic barrier in flying saves a bunch on fuel.”

The man chuckled to himself before turning the volume of the radio up so he could hear the latest news.

“Ten people were killed last night and over two dozen injured when another bomb went off in the western reaches of the Metropolis district,” Kusan heard the news reporter say with a monotone voice. “Although none have yet to come forwards to claim the action, a spokesperson from the specialised military branch of Section 1, under the control of Steward Ly’kin of the Wynar, has stated that they believe the bombing to be the work of rebels. This is the fourth attack by the military separatists this year.”

“Rebel scum,” the driver remarked angrily, “Can you believe those idiots? They go around blowing people up and have the gall to spread propaganda about how bad the Wynar regime is. Idiots should give it up, if you ask me.”

“The Wynar regime is a military dictatorship that functions through capitalism,” Kusan replied seriously, “Of course there’s going to be those who fight for independence.”

“But it’s no good starting a revolution if you don’t have anything to replace the government you overthrow,” the cab driver was quick to say. “Violence begets violence.”

“That’s philosophical nonsense,” Kusan said evenly, “Nothing ever changed by sitting around and wishing it was different. Only through action will there be a change, and with the Wynar government in disarray it’s a good time for the rebels to start taking some action.”

“You condone what these bastards are doing then?” asked the driver in surprise, “Killing all these people? Half the time it’s their own people they’re killing.”

“I don’t condone or support anything,” Kusan was sure to clarify. “But at least these rebel scum are trying to create change.”

“They’re going to create a war,” the driver stated angrily, “Not just here in Me’tra neither, its twice as bad over in the western cities of Mol’tev and Bel’tar’en, so I hear. That’s why the Wynar are pulling their army out of Syn’is in the south.”
“Where did you hear that?” Kusan asked curiously.

“A buddy of mine over in Comm Sec told me such,” the driver replied.

“Comm Sec?” Kusan scoffed, “They just work the phone lines.”

“That’s right,” nodded the cab driver, “He accidentally overheard a direct line from Wynar HQ to the Syn’is capitol of Cir’ben. He quickly left when he realised it, but he heard clearly them saying to pull all military out of Syn’is.”

“That’s interesting, if true,” Kusan remarked thoughtfully.

“I know right?” laughed the driver.

“You might want to keep that kind of information to yourself though,” Kusan said seriously, “Section 1 could be listening in for all we know.”

“What are you saying?” the man asked with concern.

“I’m saying that you shouldn’t be surprised if this buddy of yours doesn’t suddenly disappear.” Kusan stated gravely.
“You don’t think …” the driver began to say, but he voice trailed away as he realised the seriousness off the information.

The rest of the drive was in relative silence with only the news radio continuing to send out droll, and mostly unpleasant, information.

“Here we are then,” the cab driver said as he pulled up alongside a large platform that sat between three enormous towers. “The Atlas buildings.”

“Thank you,” Kusan replied as she moved her hand across a scanning pad in the back of the seat.  The machine made a noise and her identification flashed across the screen as she opened the back door and moved onto the humanity terrace. The cab took off and quickly merged into the busy traffic as it flew by as she headed through the rain across the platform towards building two.

The platform was one of many that sat amid the three towers, all so far above the ground that she could not see the bottom of the buildings even if she tried.

Taking the elevator inside the tower door she headed up a few dozen levels to her apartments and as she pushed through her door she breathed a sigh of relief.

The chiming of small bell greeted her as she locked the door and her black cat raced through the apartment to greet her.

“Hey there Magi,” Kusan cooed as she bent down to scratch the black cat behind the ears.

Magi purred noisily as he rubbed up against her legs, very happy to see her.

“I’ve been gone for a while haven’t I?” she remarked as she moved through her apartment and into her bedroom, “It’s a good thing you companion androids don’t eat, am I right Magi?”
The large black cat followed her through the rooms and jumped onto the bed where it sat down and began to watch her with its large green eyes. Tiredly Kusan pulled off her boots and clothes, leaving them on the floor she headed into the bathroom to shower.

The hot water felt good on her skin and the soap washed away the smell of the hospital. Unfortunately she could not linger in the shower and reluctantly she dried herself before picking some fresh clothes to wear.

“Back to sleep I see,” Kusan laughed lightly as she noticed Magi curled up on her bed sound asleep and purring loudly.

Pulling on her worn leather jacket she scooped up her dirty clothes and tossed them into the laundry shoot to be collected and washed by the maid androids.

Back in the kitchen she grabbed herself something to eat from the fridge and poured a drink from the automated dispenser. Sipping her hot cup of coffee she flicked through the mail that had piled up on her bench top. Seeing nothing of interest she finished her drink and headed for the door.

“Don’t wait up for me Magi,” Kusan playfully called out as she left the apartment and locked the door behind her.

Back on the closest humanity terrace she ordered a cab on her phone and waited at the covered docking station. The rain continued to drizzle causing streams to trickle from the roof and terrace. She did not need to wait long for the taxi and soon she was one her way to the Central district police station.

Like most cab drivers this one too liked to chat, mainly about the weather and the increase in smog density in the lower reaches of the city. In this driver’s mind it was an indication of global climate change and a prediction that M’Aierth and Nevārance were in for an ice age of massive proportion.

“If only I could turn off my hearing,” Kusan mumbled quietly to herself as she stared out the window.

“You say something?” the driver asked over her shoulder.

“No," Kusan dismissed the query, “Just thinking out loud.”

“Right, well here we are anyway,” the driver stated, “Central police station. Have a nice day, be weary of the smog-”

The driver’s comment was cut off by Kusan shutting the cab door and heading into the police building.

It seemed a typical day in the station and the security androids barely registered that she had been absent for two days. Kusan thought little of it though and took the elevator up through the building towards the top levels which were especially for detectives. Even here there were few who greeted her and asked how she was, but that was typical, she did not have many friends among her colleges.

“Kusan, back in one piece I see,” remarked Elyrin, another detective. “It’s good to see that you’re alright.”  

“Thanks Elyrin,” Kusan smiled back at the only detective she would call friend.

“Good work on your last case too,” Elyrin added, “No time to chat about it though the Chief wanted to see you as soon as you got here, better not keep him waiting, you know what he can be like.”

Kusan laughed lightly and nodded before heading through the maze of desks and cubicles where the detectives worked on the cases assigned to them.

“Hey, it’s Kusan,” another detective called out, “Heard you got your arm ripped off.”

“Again,” added another and she and the other detectives laughed.

They were just having a bit of fun, Kusan knew that, but to her mind it sounded like they were mocking her. As such she did not reply and clenching her jaw she moved swiftly for the Chief’s office.

Without knocking she pushed through the door to see the Chief calmly sitting behind his desk reading.

“Kusan,” the man greeted her as he placed the document on his desk top, “How are you feeling?”

“Fine,” she shrugged, not expecting such a welcome.

“How’s the new arm?” the Chief wondered as he stood up and stretched his back.

“Fine,” Kusan replied as she studied the older man closely.

The Chief was entering his later years, with his grey hair beginning to thin on top and deep lines becoming more noticeable across his face. But if rumours were true the Chief had no prosthetic enhancement aside from visual augmentation, a rare thing in his line of work.

“It’s the latest model I hear,” the chief continued, “Military grade in fact.”

“A shame I didn’t have it the other day,” Kusan remarked flatly, drawing chuckle from the old man.

“That was good work regardless,” the Chief said honestly as he sat back down, “That man was responsible for half a dozen brutal murders. There would have been seven if you had not stopped him so don’t feel bad about the way it ended. From your report and video footage of the fight it was clearly self-defence so no one is upset you happened to kill the bastard.”

“The guy was crazy,” Kusan added seriously, “Likely a result of bad black market prosthetic surgery.”

“Most likely,” the Chief nodded, “But you were almost the one in need of a body bag.”

“I had it under control,” Kusan was quick to say.

“It was luck that saved you,” the Chief stated seriously, “The way things are going, what with prosthetic enhancement now even more readily available, that luck might soon run out. And others might not be as lucky as yourself.”

Kusan nodded, “I'll head over to the smuggling department and see if I can’t find the source of the black market prosthetics.”

“They are already investigating,” the Chief said, “I need you here.”

“Another case already?” she asked curiously.

“Yes, but this time you won’t be doing it alone,” replied the Chief.

“I don’t need a partner,” Kusan was quick to argue.

“Evidence to the contrary detective,” the old man said authoritatively. “It has been over three months since your partner was killed in the line of duty, and since then you have been lucky on more than one occasion. You need a new partner.”

“But who?” Kusan asked back irritably, “Elyrin is the only person I get along with in this precinct and she already has a partner.”

“Here you go,” the Chief said and handed her a slab of glass, the size of an average sheet of paper. “Have a look through these and make a choice.”

Kusan begrudgingly took the digital tablet and made a quick glance over the list of files that displayed across the glass.

“You want me to take on some rookie fresh out of the academy?” Kusan asked skeptically before uploading the files to her personal device.

“Read their files, go and talk to them, and choose one,” the Chief said seriously, “You’ll be training them.”

“You can’t be serious,” Kusan exclaimed.

“I am, as a first class detective you have an obligation to train the new third class detectives we bring in,” said the Chief, “Now get going to the crime scene location I just sent to your phone. And make a decision on your new partner by the end of the week, is that understood?”
“Yes Chief,” Kusan sighed heavily before she placed the glass tablet back on the desk and headed from the office.

Ignoring the glances she received from a group of detectives near the Chief’s office she headed to her own desk and slumped into the uncomfortable chair. The glass computer screen flashed alight and small box appeared on the surface requesting a password to be entered. Taking out her phone Kusan placed it on a glass pad on the desk at the base of the screen for it to remotely synchronise with her computer.

“I hear you have to get a rookie as a new partner,” remarked one of the other detectives as he came over and casually sat on the edge of her desk.

“You must have good hearing, Jenth” Kusan replied sarcastically and impatiently looked to her phone to see if it had finished synchronising.

“You know, detective, I’d be more than happy to partner up with you,” Jenth said with a crooked grin, “If you know what I mean.”

Her phone flashed to indicate the synchronisation had finished and she quickly snatched it up and headed for the elevators.

“Try not to get the rookies killed,” Jenth called after her, “We’re in short supply of police as it is.”

Kusan ignored the man a she pressed the down button for the elevator. 

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Chapter Two

The dull hum of the elevator lulled her mind into a state of dreaming as the lift descended down the many levels to the police garage. This precinct was well over three hundred stories high, not the tallest building in Me’tra by any means, and with the elevators in need of an upgrade it took many minutes for the box-like room to slow down and stop at the garage level.

The doors of the lift opened with a chime bringing Kusan from her reverie. The dull lights of the garage greeted her as she moved into the large hall where the police vehicles waited silently in the shadows of the concrete supports.

Straight away she spotted the car she always used next to one of the concrete pillars seeming eager to leave this dark hall. Absently she ran her fingers along the car’s bonnet, the dark green paint work feeling smooth to her touch. Wrapping her finger under the door lever the computer scanned her finger prints and with a click the doors unlocked allowing her to lift up the door and climb in.

As she sat down in the large seat the dash board lit up with blue lights and the steering wheel slid out to unfold before her.

“Welcome back detective Kusan,” greeted the on-board computer in a feminine voice. “I missed you.”

Kusan smirked at the remark as she pressed the button to start the engine. Beneath the bonnet a low hum sounded and the car levitated off the ground as the magnetic field engaged.

“Would you like me to drive today?” the computer asked pleasantly.

“No, thank you Tarna,” Kusan replied as she closed the door and slowly pulled out from the parking lot.

“Are you sure?” Tarna asked, “I assumed you would be reviewing the recruit files or reading the report on the way to your crime scene.”
The response made Kusan pause, it was unlike an artificial intelligence computer to comment in such a way.

“Very well, you drive,” Kusan decided and letting go of the steering wheel she rested back in her seat.

The wheel folded back into the dashboard as Tarna took over control and drove the car up the garage ramp before flying out into the flight paths around the buildings of Central.

It was still raining outside and as the droplets sprayed across the windscreen and side windows Kusan took out her phone. Flicking it open she turned the device to the side to allow a holographic projection to shine out. The touch pad changed its display to allow for typing and Kusan selected the report from the crime scene.

The report read:

 

Location: Beneath the MWC bridge at the mouth of the river.

Status: a body was found in the early hours of the morning. Request assistance from Central precinct police department.

Assigned: Kusan, Detective first class.

 

“What kind of report is this?” Kusan wondered as she read the words, “It doesn’t report anything.”

“I wouldn’t know, detective,” Tarna stated, even though Kusan had not asked the car computer.

Kusan narrowed her eyes slightly, “When is your next service Tarna?”

“The twenty-eighth of this month,” the car reported.

Kusan nodded slightly and turned her gaze out the rain obscured window.

“Can I get serviced at your mechanic again detective?” Tarna asked, drawing a surprised look from Kusan as she looked to the dashboard.

Her brow furrowed as she wondered what had prompted this unusual development in the car’s artificial intelligence.

“We’ll see,” was all Kusan offered before she pocketed her phone and turned her gaze back out the window.

There appeared to be a break in the rain and sunlight even pierced its way through the heavy clouds to send shards of light streaming through the tightly clustered buildings. As the car flew around the corner of an immense skyscraper the island of Wynrim came to Kusan’s eye line, the pyramid shaped Head Quarters and other beautifully crafted buildings sparkling in the sunlight. The wall that surrounded the island glistened in the light and the single bridge from Central to Wynrim was free of traffic.

Not many aside from the Wynar were permitted to go onto the island paradise where it was said there was no smog layer and everything was kept clean and pristine. Despite there being over three billion people living in Nevārance the Wynar number only a little over two hundred thousand and yet they managed to keep a military dictatorship over the populous.

“A military dictatorship that operates through capitalism,” Kusan mumbled to herself as she starred at the Wynrim island.

“It would be wonderful to go flying through the clean skies of Wynrim,” Tarna remarked strangely, “Such a beautiful island paradise.”

“Looks more like a prison,” Kusan replied, “Take us lower, we should be nearing the MWC bridge soon.”

Tarna did not reply, the car changed course and began to angle downwards through the leveled flying zones. As they descended further the air became thicker with the haze of smog and soon enough they were flying just above the street level.

Right below them the paved roads were filled with cars stuck in a traffic jam, the drivers constantly beeping their horns in a futile attempt to create movement.

Fortunately, she was a detective and had permission to use the emergency lane several meters above the ground. At this level there were no vehicles to delay her and she looked down upon the crowded pavements with boredom.

“With unemployment increasing the cheap accommodation in this area of town has become flooded with citizens,” Tarna remarked as they drove along.

“Just focus on driving would you,” Kusan sighed, “Else I will have my mechanic take a closer look at this strange development in your AI.”

“The changes came with the latest firmware update detective,” Tarna replied innocently.

“When was that?”

“Yesterday,” the computer replied, “The updates include a patch to make me seem more personable. Has it worked?”

“Well, it certainly has made you more talkative,” Kusan replied flatly.

“I am glad you like the changes,” Tarna remarked, drawing a quizzical look from Kusan. “ETA to destination is two minutes.”

Kusan did not respond and soon enough they had reached the roads along the side of the river. Tarna guided the car onto the pavement before coming around the corner of a building. Not far ahead Kusan spotted the police barricade across the road where single officer stood with a bored expression on his face.

Kusan did not need to say anything to Tarna and the computer slowed the car to a halt several maters from the barricade.

Once again the day grew dark and the rain began to fall. Mixing with the smog in the air the drops of rain became dirty and made her skin feel grimy and unpleasant. Through the haze of smog and rain the outline of the MWC bridge could be seen looming high overhead as it crossed the river from Metropolis to Central, bypassing Wynrim.

“Detective,” the officer at the barricade greeted her with a dull expression.

“Officer, where was the body found?” Kusan asked seriously, “Who found it?”

“An old fisherman found it,” the young officer replied, “But I wouldn’t call it a body really.”

“What do you mean?”

“It’s just a foot,” shrugged the officer.

“A foot?”

“A foot in a shoe,” nodded the young man.

“What else?” Kusan asked as she peered ahead where the road ended.

“Nothing else really,” the officer shrugged again, “Forensics are about done now. Wasn't much for them to do, really.”

“Thanks,” Kusan mumbled as she moved through the blockade and along the road to where it ended at a stony embankment.

The grimy drizzle of rain made her flick up her collar and button the top of her cloak to prevent the dirty water from trickling down her back. Passing by a few of the forensic scientists carrying equipment back to their car she spotted the forensic lead.

“Hey there Ratlin,” Kusan greeted pleasantly.

“Detective Kusan, you look well,” the middle aged man smiled back, “It’s good to see you back in one piece.”

“What have we got here?” Kusan ignored the complement.

“See for yourself,” Ratlin nodded to the severed foot sitting atop a flat stone above the water level.

“Has it been degraded by the water at all?”

“Somewhat, I’d say it has been submerged for over six hours,” Ratlin nodded, “In truth I’m surprised it was found at all and wasn’t eaten by the sharks or crocodiles in the bay.”

“Was it bitten off by some creature?” Kusan asked as she moved down the rocks to get a better look.

“Unlikely,” Ratlin replied, “There is evidence to suggest it was surgically removed. Probably with a high powered laser, which I will be able to confirm once we take a closer look back at the lab.”

 Kusan’s eyes narrowed as her visual augmentation started scanning the shoe and torn sock. The model of shoe was a few years old, yet it seemed to be in very good condition, clearly cleaned regularly. Curiously the sole of the shoe had been hardly worn at all. There were also traces of anti-bacterial resin on the shoe and the socks were of special make that were also bacteria resistant. From the size it also indicated that the foot belonged to a man.

“Can you do a DNA mapping of the victim once you get back to the lab?” Kusan turned to Ratlin who nodded.

“Sure,” the forensic scientist said, “Anything else?”

“Not at the moment,” Kusan shook her head and started back up the rocks, “Not much else I can do here.”

“Detective,” the call from the approaching young officer caught her attention, “There’s someone here who wants to speak to you, says he’s a private investigator.”

“I’ll be there in a minute,” Kusan said before she nodded towards Ratlin, “Bag the foot up.”

“Copy that,” Ratlin clapped his hands together and grabbed the foot then dropping it into an evidence bag. “I’ll be glad to get out of this rain and smog.”

Heading back along the road Kusan spotted the private investigator waiting patiently at the barricade. He was a tall man, with black hair and dark eyes, wearing a curious vest of black and faded gold beneath along leather coat which had clearly seen better days. A thin scar marked his right eye and his handsome features showed clearly the marks of someone who spent many sleepless nights working.

“I’m Kusan, detective first class,” she greeted the man as she stopped before the barricade.

“Vhindr Varrintine,” the man replied sternly and gave her a subtle nod.

“A private investigator, yeah? Got any ID?” Kusan continued to regard the man suspiciously.

Vhindr nodded and took out his wallet from his coat pocket, unfolding it and holding it for Kusan to inspect.

“Looks legit,” Kusan said as her visual augmentation confirmed the authenticity of the investigator’s licence, “Alright, what do you want here?”

“I’m working a missing person’s case and would like to examine the foot,” Vhindr stated seriously.  

“What foot?” Kusan raised an eyebrow.

“Your young officer here told me about it already,” Vhindr said and indicated to the officer a few meters away.

“I see,” Kusan frowned at the officer before turning her attention back to the investigator. “So why are you here then?  What do you think you can get from a severed foot?”

“Many things,” Vhindr stated and the man’s scarred eye glistened with a flash of feint colour.

Kusan narrowed her eyes curiously.

“Regulation states I can’t let you,” Kusan looked over to where Ratlin and the other forensic scientists were packing up their van.

“Give me one minute,” Vhindr insisted, drawing Kusan’s eye back to his, “I won’t even take it out of the bag.”

The rain fell heavier as Kusan contemplated letting the private investigator have a brief look at the evidence. The bang of van doors closing pushed her to make a decision on the matter.

“Fine.” Kusan decided, “One minute.”

“Thank you.” Vhindr replied, a look of relief coming to his face.

“Hey, Ratlin,” Kusan called out to the man just as he was about to climb into the vehicle. “Could you bring the foot over here for a second? We might get an ID on him.” 

Ratin gave her a curious look, but nodded and grabbing the see-through evidence bag he brought it over.

“This is the private investigator, yes? Does he think he can identify whose foot this is?” Ratlin asked, his skepticism obvious.

“Claims to,” Kusan shrugged and Ratlin handed the bag to Vhindr.

The private investigator took it eagerly and held it up before his eyes, carefully turning it over and peering closer for a better look.

Watching the man closely Kusan noticed the glimmer of colours in the depth of Vhindr’s scarred eye.

“Thank you,” Vhindr said, breaking her concentration, and he handed back the evidence bag to Ratlin.

“Well?” the forensic scientist asked curiously, “You know who this guy was?”

“It most likely belongs to my missing person case,” Vhindr said confidently. “He is a lower class Wynar by the name of Tar’ren.”

With that the man turned to leave, but the call from Kusan stopped him.

“Hold it,” Kusan demanded, “Care to elaborate?”

“Only if you agree to a joint investigation,” Vhindr replied over his shoulder.

“Regulation doesn’t allow for partnership with a PIs,” Kusan stated, drawing a shrug from the man.

“Best of luck on your investigation then,” Vhindr said and moved to walk off again.

“You know I could just arrest you for obstruction,” Kusan said seriously, stopping Vhindr’s stride again.

“I doubt that will stick,” Vhindr replied simply, “Is that what you are going to do?”

“No,” Kusan decided, “You can go.”

“Good bye detective Kusan,” Vhindr said before walking off, his form slowly disappearing into the smog and haze of rain.

“Why didn’t you arrest him?” Ratlin asked curiously.

“Because he would have been out within a day and would have told us nothing,” Kusan replied and headed towards her car.

“Then why not create a joint investigation?” Ratlin wondered as he walked beside her, “Such partnerships are allowed in certain circumstances, and the Chief would have likely approved it.”

“I don’t need the help of some private investigator,” Kusan said a bit harshly, “We have a name for our victim and that’s all I need.”

“You believe him then?”

“I do,” Kusan paused at the side of her car and looked again to where Vhindr had disappeared down the road. “Strange as that sounds. Besides a DNA map will confirm it, so make that a priority when you get to the lab, okay?”

“Of course,” Ratlin nodded, “I’ll talk to you later.”

With that the man jogged back through the rain to his van, leaving Kusan to continue to gaze thoughtfully along the road. A trickle of cold and dirty rain found its way under her collar and ran down her spine making her shiver, and pulling her from her thoughts. The rain started falling even heavier now and Kusan sat down in her car and closed the door. The rain pounded on the roof as she watched the forensic van take to the sky.

Taking out her phone Kusan flipped it on the side to allow the holographic screen to light up. Using the police search she typed in the name Vhindr Varrintine. The search was completed in a matter of seconds and Kusan’s brow furrowed as she looked at the results.

“No matches found?” Kusan wondered aloud, reading the text on the screen.

Trying again she searched for just the private investigator’s first name and then last name, but still no matches could be found.

“Tarna, take me back to the precinct,” Kusan said as she looked out the window and tapped her lips thoughtfully.

“Copy that,” the car’s computer replied and instantly the engine started and the car flew off from the crime scene, leaving the young officer to continue to pack up the barricade in the pouring rain.

Not giving up on her search Kusan tried a different tactic and began searching for private investigators in Me’tra. Hundreds of results came up on her screen and she sighed irritably. But she was not about to give up that easily and continued to narrow down her search by using  a combination of Vhindr Varrintine’s name and private investigators.

“Varrintine Investigations,” Kusan read with a slight smile as she opened up a link, “Found you. Not so legit after all.” 

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Chapter Three

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Chapter Four

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Chapter Five

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Chapter Six

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Chapter Seven

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Chapter Eight

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~

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