TERRORFORM

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Welsh Halfwit
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TERRORFORM

Post by Welsh Halfwit »

One

Terraforming.


I have no clue how to do it but it means that we’ve been doing it to a world out in the Briar Patch of space for about twenty years now. Don’t believe all you see on the vids, it doesn’t take place overnight and leave everywhere looking like a garden of Eden. Or, even a garden of adequacy. When I came out here, the planet called Haldana, we barely had one city and a small handful of towns. Now, thanks to continual financial income from Witherington Technologies and Soda-Fona beverages amongst fifty or so other mega companies, we have three cities. Garfield City, named for an ancient country president, Balfour City for a Prime Minister and Briandville for a… well, you get the idea. None of them are Lincolns or Churchills. They’re forgotten. Less important. Same as Earth’s colony out here, really.


We’re here because the United Security Council, an alliance of species that’s counter to the usual antagonism and conflicts, said we should be here. They allotted various worlds to various peoples and Earth got three of them. Earth rules. Earth laws and we had enough trouble establishing which of the litany of laws and legislatures we’d base the rules on. It took a decade but, eventually, it was decided to base the laws on the Australian statutes. Partly because everyone agreed the law should be armed but partly because we didn’t need it being too much of the culture. It’s the thing about cherry picking. You can get the best of history whilst taking account of how things are now. Other races agree to live by the rules on our colony, same as we do on theirs. It’s… equitable.

“What are you thinking,” my partner says as the huge machine, emblazened with the logo of Witherington on its side in 20ft tall letters, works to change a piece of land some four football fields in width – US Football fields – from arid, toxic, land to something that can take seed. He’s from one of the Raitchian worlds – Lasrik I think it was – and the Fuscipan has something of an Australian tinge in my ear. He likes to be called ‘Bushy’ and he came out here because he couldn’t get colony security work in the home systems. He’s nice enough but I’m never swapping lunch with him again. Once was enough.

“Just wondering why they keep expanding,” I say, eating a corn chip. “Ain’t like we’re expanding the population quickly.”

“You’ll probably find,” Bushy replied, snacking on a large insect he took from a box, “that it’s nothing to do with the colony.” He crunched through the food and thumbed a claw at the device, whose humming was setting my teeth on edge. “The next stage of expansion of the Council is coming, Grant. It suits Witherington and the others to have a base here to expand from. Same as all the others. They don’t want to schlepp everything from Earth… What?”

He must have caught me looking at him in amusement. “Schlepp,” I ask.

“Why not? It’s a perfectly cromulent word.” We both laugh.


The actual reason we’re out here is because someone’s actually made a threat against the machine. They tend to believe the machine version of this isn’t the way to go. Manual and organic for everything. They have a point but I note that they’ve waited until there’s enough of a colony here to make their move. They’re probably locals. Locals who moved in five years ago or so. You know the sort. Nothing will happen. But the news came down through the security services to the Colonial secretary of Justice to the Chief of Police to the senior Sergeant to Bushy and muggins here, which is why we’re out, ten miles from the township of Collington, watching over something that no-one in their right mind would try to steal. In the good type of twenty degree heat.


The vehicle we’re in makes a noise as we engage the hover engines that react with the repellers installed in the road surface and lifts us up enough so that the tyres can retract. It saves budget on the tyres but I’m pretty sure it blows the savings on the cost of the motor but I’m not in the budgeting department so what do I know? It’s subsidised by Gravolectric Ltd anyhow. We need to get closer. Just in case. Bushy grimaces and gets ready to use some small sonic dampener headphones to cut out the noise of the device. He’s complained about the sonics these last three days. The benefits of enhanced hearing, I assume. Anyhow, the remote operators know us now. I call them that because there’s no-one else out here. Their control panel links in with the satellite in the lower stars above. It checks their bioprint and let’s them control the gigantic machine. It took them three months to assemble the parts after it had been shipped here from Earth. There’s three of them on the planet right now. One down south. One in the Mountains to the north and this one. “Can I pick up some sand weevils,” Bushy asks, thinking ahead to lunch.

“They don’t do them in roadside diners,” I remind him. “And we don’t have any roadside diners either.”

“Probably healthier for you. I’ve seen what gets served at some of those places. Oh, I see the chemists are stocking up on that heat cream you guys use?”

“Sun cream,” I remind him. “We don’t have the cover you do. Although I AM going to dab your nose this year. After the noseburn last year.” We pull up near the machine and look around. “Where’s Karl,” I ask rhetorically.

“Day off,” Bushy answers, already getting out of the vehicle as we set down.

I shake my head. “Never takes them,” I remind my light brown furred colleague as my boots crack onto the loose gravel to the side of the road, near where the road layer has been stopped for about the last month now, waiting for someone to come out and refill it so it can go on towards the horizon and someone can make a planet around it. We head towards where Karl should have been and find there’s no sign of him, save for his discarded sandwich. Now we’re on edge. Karl is many things and one of those things is a glutton. He’s not leaving a sandwich uneaten. Especially with what it costs for bread out here. We call out his name. No reply. We go worryingly close to the machine. Its noise is deafening and its blotting out the early afternoon sun at this angle. To one side, where it’s been working over the last few weeks, the shoots of greenery are beginning to grow, the machine’s systems having planted the seeds and set up the irrigation automatically. And then…


...that’s wrong. There’s a massive section that’s bare between the green and where the machine is now. At least fifty feet. But Karl used to tell me terraforming is done section by section and all sections had to connect up. So there shouldn’t be a gap. There’s something else in the noise. The shadows are lengthening. And that’s when Bushy and I realise it at the same time. The shadows are NOT lengthening. The machine’s coming towards us. Quite fast too.
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Re: TERRORFORM

Post by Amazee Dayzee »

Great start to the story. They better get out of the way of the machine if they want to live.
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Re: TERRORFORM

Post by Welsh Halfwit »

Two


Bushy beats me back to the car and the driver’s seat. I’m sure he’d claim it’s to do with genetics or the fact he’s lighter and fitter than me and he might be right. But it does have something to do with me noting and picturing the footprints and drag marks in the gravel. It’s not so much the footprints as Karl would have walked the area quite often and boots don’t really tell you too much beyond the size of the foot. Unless you’re a hooved type a size eleven is a size eleven. But some of these prints are dragging something behind them and there are two trails, indicating two wheels or, more likely, heels. I’d like to think I hadn’t seen them before due to the brightness of the sun. Now I was looking from the shade and they seemed more visible so I followed them to a small outcrop near the road, some fifty metres from where we parked. It’s about thirty foot behind me right now, like a massive automated room cleaner, cleaning up its own crime scene. I can see Bushy yelling into the carcom system, hopefully contacting the company to see if they can send a kill signal to this thing


I doubt if it would be the only thing killed out here today. There’s a spatter of impact blood here, next to an indentation on the ground that looks rather similar to the impression a six foot one Caucasian wearing a hard hat would leave if it fell forward. Other marks looked like someone had pulled them around and started dragging. It was closer now, and the tracks were leading directly for the machine so mine were quickly leafing away from it to where the bootprints intersected with the imprints of an off road vehicle, headed away, into the wilderness. Where we can’t go. Photos and video will have to do, there’s no time for anything else. Man, these terraform things can move. Bushy’s shifting over into the passenger seat now as I’m registered as the driver for the car today and, frankly, it’s more trouble than it’s worth to alter the settings if you don’t need to. I get in and we’re on our way as quickly as I can turn around. “They said they’re trying to shut it down,” he tells me, his fear breathing bug enhanced breath into my face and making me thankful I don’t have a Canine’s sense of smell. “They have to override the control box. It’s still operative.”

“Unlike the operator,” I remark smartly, before putting my head back on the rest as we rove out of danger. “Unless he threw someone else under there and ran.”

“You don’t think Karl could do that,” Bushy asks, appalled at the suggestion. “He’s a nice guy!”

“Plenty of killers are ‘nice guys’ until it’s kill or die, Bushy. Can’t rule it out.”

“Suppose not,” he groused. “Hope it is him under there,” he muttered. “Uh, of the two options,” he adds, his nose twitching in an adorable way as he realises what he’s said. I have to resist the urge to reach out and scratch him behind the ears.


We get back to Collington and the Senior Sergeant’s ready for us. She’s called a forensics team from Balfour, the closest place that HAS a forensics team and the representative from Witherington, a slimy piece of rake thin North European who Bushy doesn’t trust called Smith tells me that they have no idea how this can have happened but they’ve managed to stop the machine and their people will be on their way out there to make sure the site is secure. I have to interject but Senior Pollock does so first, raising her voice an octave and shutting him down mid sentence. She bitterly reminds him that there’s evidence of a crime here and the forensics need time to investigate before everything is covered up/ I feel she wouldn’t appreciate me pointing out that everything already HAS been covered up so I keep my mouth shut. Now that the thing’s not totally dangerous and the control’s been severed, she has Daventry and Mason go out to secure the area for the Forensics team. Bushy and I have a different duty.


Karl has a wife. Mrs Karl, I suppose you could call her. It suits. They have an adopted Feline daughter from one of the local orphanages and he used to comment about how he couldn’t think of life without them any more. Sadly, they’re probably now going to have to. Bushy talks, on the way over, about Smith and how that’s obviously a fake name, given him by the company to make him seem approachable. I remind him that it really IS a name too. He shrugs and says he hopes that they’re going to check the other two machines too. If they can get the codes for one… “You should have mentioned that at the meeting,” I tell him. “Would have loved to see his face drain.”

“I’d never be that cruel,” Bushy tells me, keeping his face straight for a whole five seconds. “OK, I just thought of it. Think I can vidcall him?”

“Too late,” I reply as we pull up to a three bed bungalow in an area that cuts somewhere between dignified and salubrious, with the view suggesting the first and half the occupants suggesting the second. We’ve been here or hereabouts a few times and it’s not always been on social visits.


They hold each other for support. We tell them we don’t know what’s happened. We got there and there was no-one to be found. There were signs of a struggle, we say. We don’t tell them about the signs after the struggle. We give them hope because it’s easier to lie to them than to tell the probable truth. Easier on us, at least. Hope glows, they say, but the brightest light can fade the fastest. Sally asks if she can join the hunt. Proper Feline, this one. I tell her the best people we have are going to be searching and that Witherington are sending teams to help. Julia sneers. She doesn’t like him either. It’s one of the few things she and Bushy agree on. They can’t accept the others views on Arts, culture, even sports. Bushy’s a Collington Wolves fan and she’s the Jades, named after a small jewel mine to the south where semi precious gems are embedded in the rock underground, waiting to be hewn out and made into trinkets. But they agree on Smith. A company man. Company first and always, with the people who work for them coming in a distant third after himself. I need the toilet and ask if I can head to it. They agree and Sally follows me. Ostensibly to get to her own room but she’s seen enough police dramas, I suspect, to want to make sure I don’t go searching. I don’t and she’s still outside the door when I come out so I crouch as she asks me if her dad will be all right. She calls him ‘dad’ and my heart wants to break. I know her family died when she was young. The insurance wouldn’t pay for repatriation so she was left in local care until Karl and Julia took her in. They’re all she’s really known as parents. I put hands on her shoulders and promise we’ll do all we can. She wraps me in her arms and I wince as her claws go tight in my back as she puts her multicoloured face on my shoulder and breathes heavily, telling me we have to get him back. They were going fossil hunting in Norberry on the weekend. He’d been planning it for months. I just hug her.


I’m not thinking it.


I’m not thinking how Norberry is off the beaten track. Only accessible by off-roaders or shuttle. And in the direction the off-road tracks had been going.
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Re: TERRORFORM

Post by Amazee Dayzee »

So the mystery ends up deepening. It will be very fun to see just where this whole thing goes!
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Re: TERRORFORM

Post by CunningFox »

Nice start, Welsh. Whatever happens, I'm sure this Terrorform won't be as bad as Rimmer's mind.
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Re: TERRORFORM

Post by Amazee Dayzee »

Rimmer better hope it isn't or else things will get a bit more darker. Considering that this is a Welsh-Halfwit story, I do expect it to happen. :lol:
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Re: TERRORFORM

Post by Welsh Halfwit »

Three.

The investigation is proceeding, so we hear. Teams are out there, holding the scene against those who aren’t there and don’t know it exists in case anyone’s stupid enough to return and sweep up an extremely swept part of the area.


Bushy and I aren’t there at the moment. We’re doing our scheduled patrol around the Central Business District, where half the shops in town have set up shop. Mostly local, colonial, shops but some of the Earth based supermarkets are here and shall remain nameless or have their names adjusted as some of them now employ telepaths to detect if people are thinking bad things about them. That’s a joke, by the way. Strictly speaking it’s not OUR shift but, as most of the other pursuit cars have within the automobile off to the crime scene, we’re making the visible presence known. Bushy wants to stop in at Aldin Squirrelmart to pick up some Chocolate. Real Chocolate from Switzerland. I have no clue how he affords it and I still recall the surprise when I first found out these Animal Aliens could actually tolerate it. But their internal systems aren’t just more complex that those of the Earth varieties, they’re significantly bigger too. There’d need to be a massive amount of Chocolate to do to them what a small amount would do to an Earthen variety. But it’s fine, I suppose. But I’ll go in. Bushy talks to everyone.


He was planning on off roading. I can’t help thinking about it. I’d told the Senior, of course, and she’d wondered the same thing as I had at the time. Victim or killer? We have signs of violence and someone took over that terraformer and tried to kill us with it – or cover up their crime. Either way it wasn’t exactly subtle. I find I’ve gone past the Zaba meat, something almost akin to a half decent steak for around a third of the cost of a cheap Earth one. There’s talk of importing cows at some point. But we’ll need the grasslands first. I go back to it and reach over your common, white haired, bespectacled, old lady. She looks up at me and I can feel daggers. “There’s another up there, I hope,” she demands. Great. One of the lovelies. She’s probably been waiting five minutes for someone’s attention here.

“Seems not, I’m afraid.”

“Well, I’ve been waiting here for someone to get me one down!”

“Should have asked then, ma’am,” I say, handing her the package. I don’t like this sort of lady – or gentleman – but I wear a uniform and I have my number on my shoulder. If I’m rude, she can cause trouble. “Politeness costs nothing,” I add. She flips me off. Gotta love the public. Anyhow, there’s another one up there. She just couldn’t see it. Got a better date on it than hers too.


I’d say nothing happened but that’s pretty much the expected norm here in Collington. We’re not exactly a bleeding edge type of city. More an unhewn cubic zirconia at the moment. We don’t get great heists or plagues or full on assaults. If we get any serious crime it’s in the rents the companies pay for their complexes and the lack of development in the infrastructure and it’s raining as I leave the store and, with a gaggle of others of various species, run for my car. Bushy’s laughing as I get in. I’m soaked and so is the carrybag. I slap his chocolate out onto his lap as it comes to me how he can afford it. Every time we get here, I’m the one goes in. I’M buying it!


There’s another reason we’re here, of course. It’s not just about snacks and where did he get those beetles from? Oh, I don’t want to know and I don’t want to see those dumpsters we just passed on the way out of the parking area. The local eco types are known to have a spokesmouth that works up here and he needs to be talked to, according to the sarge. So we’re the ones for the job. Partly because we’re here and partly because, planet lover aside, he’s also a raving bigot. We park up at the door to his offices and get out, heading in to introduce ourselves to the slovenly, sickly, brown haired teenager he calls his receptionist. She’s the fourth one I’ve seen here in the time I’ve worked here. They’re all like this one. Young. Inexperienced. Unlikely to say no, unlikely to be good at their jobs and unlikely to cost much. When they get to full minimum contract age they’re gone. “Police to see Mr Benson,” I announce before Bushy gives our names. He always makes mine sound more interesting than it is so I always let him do that part. We’re directed to wait and, eventually, he comes out.


The guy could have been a linebacker if the American version of football was played out here but, as it wasn’t, he’d put on a suit and started demolishing opposition in business. He was, officially, the chair of the local soda making companies, a subsidiary of Soda-Fona as opposed to the only competitor, who were a subsidiary of Shwappa. Of course he was also the eco-conservation leader in public and, in private, linked to the Osbert Cartel. ‘It’s a hobby’ he’d say when asked about the public face. He greets me by name, then adds ‘and Officer Bushrat!’ to his remark, as though he’s forgotten my partners’ name.

“Can we speak,” I ask, maintaining civility with a six foot something lump of muscle that could bearhug me into reincarnation. “In private?”

“Well, there’s my office, Grant. You’ll want your partner there too?”

“We are a package,” I tell him.


He leads the way and we shut the child in reception off from the conversation. She doesn’t care. She just starts up with the guy from the mail room. Having one, concentrated, area where digital mail comes in and is then sent out to the named recipients is cheaper. But that’s by the by. We tell Mr Benson much of what’s gone on this morning and, to his credit, he looks genuinely surprised. But then he’s also an amateur thespian when he’s not sodaing and saving the planet. He was, actually, pretty good as Othello in the Collingwood players attempt at the play last year. So do we believe the shock. “We were wondering,” I ask at last, “if you’ve come across anyone looking to join your movement who might want to employ more… direct methods than you do?”

He smiles like a shark and steeples his fingers behind the desk so we’re left with just the image of his intense eyes to intimidate us. “I do have concerns for the speed at which this world is being developed,” he admits. “The corporations forcing the changes without consideration and buying up whole swathes for the industrial complex concern me, as they should you. A colony grows too fast it can fall into rife lawlessness. Look at Caldera or Vallonia. But all I do is by legal means.” I don’t want him to shut up so I fail to point out that he works for one of those corporations. Soda-Fona control half the snack foods and communications markets in Earth space and, thus, are the ones most often used on our colonies. Other drinks are available. They’re just, usually, imported by local beverage distributors. “If there was anyone advocating what you’ve described, I’d report him to you in a second. The loss of HUMAN life…” (capitalisation mine, slight hint of emphasis his) “...is a great pain to me. But, so you can see I’m being open and honest about this, I’ll allow access to my records to your detectives, Grant.” He spreads his hands like a mantrap opening to reveal his pearly whites, freed from the trap. “I have nothing to hide!”


Yeah, right.
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Re: TERRORFORM

Post by Amazee Dayzee »

People will always have something to hide no matter what so if they say that it is best to get suspicious because it might be a trick to get you to trust him. In these sort of situations, TRUST NO ONE.
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Re: TERRORFORM

Post by Welsh Halfwit »

Four


It’s the last hour of our shift and we’re on different duty again. We’ve gone to the local Witherington sub office to ask questions of the employees. I know you’re thinking that should be something that a Detective Investigator should be doing but, in a town as small as ours, there isn’t a Detective department and, until we actually have a body, Balfour won’t send one out. We become what we need to be. I’ve substituted for the crossing guard at the local primary school, making sure the kits cross the road safely and gently stopping the Celican cub from play hunting his Mican classmate. They enjoy it but the parents do fret. Yes, I’ve been a crossing guard, a substitute for the shopping centre security officer, vehicular pursuit and, on one occasion, a primary school teacher. Bushy’s never let me forget it.


But, today, we’re Detectives and asking technical operator Purvees, a Canine of the Chauan breed, what actually happened this morning. She’s still in shock and I can’t think how to blame her for that. This is only a small office and she’s probably known him for years so we’re being gentle. As gentle as we can whilst watching the satellite picture of the scene, with Forensics and Police dotted around the ‘vehicle’. Hmm, that’s a thought. But it’s for later. “I know, Sonia, I know,” I tell her, sitting non confrontationally opposite her whilst Bushy talks to the technicians next door. “Just walk me through what happened this morning. In your own time.”


Haltingly, she starts telling me of her morning routine and how she set the system up so it could go active when Karl started things up out in the field. She noted his control code thumbprint was accurate and acted as the second factor authentication to allow him to operate it and that had been done. She told how the system had seemed a little sluggish so she’d got the local I.T. guy in to fix it and the screen had fritzed for a moment and I get an inkling of something scratching the back of my brain so I ask if the satellite feed from this morning was available. She replies that it can be seen on her monitor and I can have a look if I like. I do, shifting my chair across as hers is a small chair on the top of a remote control stack that could be reduced in height or lifted up. Unexpectedly, she hops onto my lap to operate the system and I can’t help but think she’s flirting with me as she pulls up the footage and plays it back, with me trying to look past her large ears until she notices, gives me a shaky look, apologises and offers to get down. I tell her it’s fine. There’s a slightly pretty, four and a bit foot tall, girl on my lap. I’m not so stone I can’t enjoy it. If she shifted a boot off… I silently thank her as she shifts and sits on my knee. Her hands play on the keyboard and we see Karl arrive. He’s walking onto the scene by where he left the machine in lockdown mode last night. As I wondered earlier, I wonder now. Where’s his car? Didn’t see one when we were out there and I’m not seeing one now. “Did Karl book a slot on the company teleporter,” I ask Purvees and she checks the system. Nope. Nothing booked. Right. There’s only a couple of places that vehicle could be if we weren’t to see it this morning. A small homestead is one and the acid pond is another. No, it’s not called that for that reason. It’s actually a ten on the PH scale. It just happened to be found and logged by Francis Formic and he didn’t think naming it after himself would be right. And Formic’s a weak acid, apparently. I can feel Purvee’s tail wagging against my leg. Karl’s setting things up and getting things online and… there starts the trouble. Twenty minutes later (we hit ff, don’t worry), the screen goes blank. She explains that’s when the tech sorted things out. Or put something in. I ask about the techs. They contract out to one of the local firms. I know it. Mostly by name only but I met one of their techs once, when my own computer had gone half way up its own power system. They have to be my next stop, I figure. I thank Purvees and she makes a show of being emotional so she can get a hug. Heck, why not?


Bushy can smell her on me, I know. He keeps sniffing the air as we head back to the car. The other technicians there and they’d pretty much corroborated all Purvees had said. They’d had a power problem at 1037 and called in the specialist computer team from Collington I.T. who’d turned up ten minutes after and sorted things out. I suppose it’s possible they had someone in the area. Their base is twenty minutes away at legal speeds. The other thing they agree on is this was a new guy. Five six, slim build, red hair, as white as pink can get (that was from a Mican with snow white fur apparently so it wasn’t racist, just a statement of pride) and size eight in boots. I’m not sure why Bushey felt he needed to add that last part as it’s fairly common. “I saw you give her your card,” he ribs me, knowing my awful reputation with females.

“In case she remembers anything,” I tell him. “Then she can call me.”

“And not at all for personal things?”

I laugh. Possibly too much. “No,” I tell him. I wouldn’t object though. An evening out might get my morale up from its current, down on one knee in the sand, position.


Anyhow, we pull up to the I.T. place and, this time, I let my partner do the invites again. But I also let him ask the questions about the person they sent out to Witherington’s place this morning. The girl in charge looks him up and states that’s a ‘James Franton’. Bushy asks if we can speak to him. The girl hits a few keys and goes ‘ah’.

“Let me guess,” I put in. “He’s not here. He’s supposed to be here but you haven’t seen him since you sent him to Witherington this morning?”

She nods. Then, working out the options, shakes her head.
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Re: TERRORFORM

Post by Amazee Dayzee »

Guess they are going to have to go searching then. Something tells me that finding him will not be easy.
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Re: TERRORFORM

Post by Welsh Halfwit »

FIVE

Twenty minutes until knock-off time and we’re booking in a drunk driver. A Celican who tried biting Bushy, calling him an early evening kebab until he was introduced to a Shokstik and rendered as incomprehensible as a rock. For the third time this year. He’s in cuffs now and we’re booking him in with Desk Sergeant Pierce and put him in his usual cell to vomit into the toilet and, generally, starve himself sober enough to be put before the town clerk tomorrow morning and, hopefully, be sentenced to a self driving car for 36 months. Or jail. I hope it’s not jail. When he’s not as drunk as a Skunk in a funk, Darius is quite a decent guy. And a pretty good auto mechanic. He just doesn’t get on with his mate. To be frank, no-one does. She doesn’t want to be here. And I mean on the planet, not the town and she fights all his attempts to fit in. Sometimes I think he gets wasted on Rye and wheatgrass (The latter is Lappinean Whiskey) so he can spend a night at peace. The court’s going to insist on marriage counselling, I believe. And the Marriage counsellors will insist on it being remote sessions being as she did spend a few nights in our cells the once for trying to bite the counsellor. “Come on, Darius,” I say, taking him to tank number 2 to have a lie down. “We won’t tell Lucivia you’re here until tomorrow.”

“She’ll guesh anyway,” he slurs, still being right as he hangs on to me so I can put him in and on the bed. I swing his feet up and apologise as I apparently just trapped his tail. “Yeah, take my bootch,” he tells me as I remove the footwear.

“Whew,” I say, waving a hand, “is your water off again?”

“Yeah. No showers. Not for a day or so.”

“I’ll give you that number in the morning.” I shut the door. They keep disconnecting his water, despite his paying the bill. There was some mix up a few months back, where a payment went in late, and it’s snowballed. But water is a right, not a privilege so they shouldn’t be shutting off a private house. I lock the door and head back to the main office where Bushy’s sat in a shirt that I’m sure should have a burn mark in it from what it caught out of Darius.


“How come he always gets me, not you,” Bushy protests as we drive towards our homes after clocking out. The Senior Sergeant will be coming me in a half hour or so with the results of today’s checks out at the site and I have to drop Bushy off at his flat before getting to mine.

“Well, his head’s always looking in your direction,” I tell him. “Not my fault you’re so tasty looking, is it?”

“I suppose not,” he said, sniffing his shirt as he gets out. “I’ll NEVER get this smell off.”

“You say that every time,” I remind him. “And yet you always arrive, smelling like a female Ginkgo tree in the morning.”

“I think that’s a compliment?

“Well, it certainly stands out,” I remark before pulling away.


The Forensics team have figured out there’s a body underneath the half cultivated ground now and they’re just waiting for the tech company to get the controller they have out there linked up with the town base so they can move the dratted machine off so they can dig it up and process what remains to find out if it’s Karl or not. Leastways, that’s what Senior Pollock tells me when she calls a few minutes after I get home. The trail to the north tailed off after a few miles, she adds, making me think of Darius and how he could use his tail to sweep the desert behind him. It makes me chuckle and I apologise as it’s inappropriate and she agrees. A demerit point for me, I feel. She tells me they found his car in the homestead I mentioned. Just out of sight of the road and parked like someone wanted to drive it back later. Apparently the homesteaders are away for a fortnight, in Balfour, and had told Karl he could park there when he wanted. Given him to code for the gate and everything. Apparently he didn’t want to park his vehicle near to where he worked. In case someone tried to steal it. And it gave the impression someone was home.


I have to say that sounds like him. Karl sometimes needed a tin-foil hat when it came to people being after him. Unless, of course, they were after him. In the morning she wants me to head up to Norberry to ask questions up there. Normally we’d relay the questions to the Police up there. Problem is there aren’t any. They come under our jurisdiction as we’re the closest team there is. So I get to take the Police shuttle up there. Problem with that is we’ve not got one. Oh, there’s one in the budget, yeah, but not one in reality as it needs to be adjusted to work here and the repairs are in net years budget. So I’ll be hopping the 0930 public transport shuttle – economy class, of course) and coming back the same day. I’ve already got a list of people to talk to. Speleologists, tour guides… well, tour guide and an old dear who’s got herself in the press for speaking out against the evil corporations I love you the land (despite her house only being possible because a smaller concern had done a bit of it there to look into mining rights) and, although she didn’t seem like the sort of eighty-six year old that could ride an off road vehicle thirty miles there and thirty miles back, she might know someone who could. First, though, food.


Nuts. If I were married – or had a girlfriend – I might have remembered I had nothing in so I need to go to the foodstores. No fancy Dan replication systems here. We pay for our energy. So it’s back in the car and a ten minute drive to the nearest thing that’s like a supermarket. I’m halfway through picking up some processed meats when I hear a voice ask me if I can get her something down off the top shelf. I’m halfway through complying when I realise I know the voice and I have my hand on some imported Chicken breasts as I look down at Sonia Purvees from Witherington and she grins back up at me. She’s got a childs basket with her. “Do you still need this,” I ask her as her little tail wags.
“Yeah,” she replies, “although I did get something out of seeing you stretch.” I laugh politely. It wasn’t a bad line. “Any news,” she asks.
“Huh. Not so much I can tell you yet, Miss,” I tell her. “Senior’ll make a statement in the morning.”
“Probably saying nothing, eh? You cookin’ anything interesting,” she asks, nosing into my trolley. I tell her and she asks if there’s enough for two.
“You are very forward,” I tell her, a little bit in shock more than anything else.
She shrugs those tiny shoulders. “In this town you gotta be,” she reminds me.
She has a point. And the company for dinner might be nice.
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Re: TERRORFORM

Post by Amazee Dayzee »

Company for dinner is always nice granted that they don't end up causing a scene. I very much expect something to happen since quiet dinners don't exist in this universe.
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Re: TERRORFORM

Post by Welsh Halfwit »

SIX


Sonia lets herself out at half past four in the morning and it’s not like that. She came by, we chatted. I made food as I’m not a complete neanderthal or whatever they’re called. She got plonked on a glass of Mican Brandy and I remind myself that Chiauans really can’t take the liquor. So I put her to bed and lay on top of the sheets on the other side of the bed as the other bedroom’s not made up. We’re both dressed. I’d never take advantage of a girl in that situation, something she acknowledged when she woke sober as a judge. It’s an odd part of their constitution. They get drunk fast and got over it fast. She gives me a small kiss for not taking advantage of her, then got up and made us breakfast. With the stuff she’d stored in my fridge as I’d forgotten to get anything at the supermarket that was suitable for the morning meal. She tells me about her past and her schooldays and what she’s doing out here. I never knew they did a degree in Satellite programming. I take the chance and ask her a few questions about others in that game around here and she tells me there’s a small community in the, uh, community. I’ve made notes of a couple of names she mentions to see if they have any connections to Derek Benson or his acolytes. Well, Bushy’ll be doing that in his office day as he can’t go on patrol alone. I give her a kiss goodbye before I realise I’ve done it and shut the door behind her and her shopping as she heads to the car before it’s light enough for her to be seen by anyone. She has a self drive facility on it but, apparently, blows under the limit judging by the raised arm celebrations.


Bushy’s not best pleased with this as he says I’m getting a jolly and he’s left doing all the paperwork. Including sorting out a vehicle at the other end with the sole officer there. I have a nasty feeling about the chuckle he gives me. But I have to put that aside for now. It’s time to head off after showering – and putting the shower head about 3ft further up the pole and wondering how she got it down that far… and when she showered anyhow? Anyhow, after that I dress and head out in a fresh uniform.


The Shuttle port, as we laughingly call it, is not much bigger than an ancient bus stop with a small cafe attached that does half decent fried egg sandwiches which no-one believes are Chicken eggs but I forego having one now because I always get a drip down my shirt when I have one. I just go for a Kelberry Muffin and think to myself that whover described a Kelberry as a cross between a blueberry and a Flyberra probably knew their stuff better than I do. I scan the ticket Bushy sent at the terminal and step out to the Taldon Aerospace shuttle that’s waiting outside. A whole twelve seater. It might be full when bringing the Norberran’s down for shopping later on but it’s definitely got about eight seats free now and I’m thankful that two of the other three on board are the pilots. I can’t fly this thing.


It’s a half hour plus yomp of about fifty miles and I take the time to arrange appointments with the people I have to see up there. I need to minimize my wasted time. I need to ask what Karl was investigating… or asking about up there. Had he any friends or acquaintances? Was there anything to tell me what was going on and why was there a message from him just getting through my electronic mail system? I frown at the date/time indication. If it was accurate, it was from about twenty minutes before he got to the site yesterday morning. I open it up and it’s nothing but the picture of a mine opening. There’s no-one in the picture but, from the rails laid, it doesn’t appear to be that big of a mine entrance (although it could have been taken from miles away, I suppose) . The message simply reads ‘Sorry. Think my account is hacked, Grant. Talk to you later.’. OK, it’s from an address I’ve never seen before. I forward things to Bushy and ask him to – discretely – check into the E-mail and photo. He asks me to stop giving him work to do and do my own.


The shuttle lands in a town that makes Collington look like a savanna in comparison. The weather is hot, the wind quiet and the main street is sweeping itself towards the horizon. The local Officer, Cooper, shows me to my transport and I hate Bushy. He hired me an autodrive. He knows I hate them. Taking the driving out of my hands has never made me feel safer, even now the quiet wind’s dying down and the roads are returning to a visible state. “I’d escort you around,” Cooper says, keeping her hair under her helmet to avoid stripping it of several nutrients (possibly), “but I need to stay on the ready. In case I’m needed.”

“I get that,” I tell her. Fortunately the interface on these things is simple. I just need to put in the addresses and the map will show up on the screen. “It’s just me asking questions anyhow. I doubt it’ll be interesting. But,” I ask, “where’s the best place for tea? Or coffee? I never touch the stuff on the shuttle. You don’t know where the water’s been.”

She doesn’t laugh as it’s more true than funny. She does tell me the best place is back at the station house so I go there and park up next to a three bed bungalow that doubles as home and work station. I notice one of the bedrooms is barred and locks from the outside for one thing. And the first reception room has a tabletop barrier and all the signs of an office that scream ‘you’re not welcome here, sod off’ about it. The main room’s kinda nicer, although I decide not to mention the horrors of the tartan carpet.


Ten minutes gone, I decide the quite bearable tea is enough and get a vacuum flask filled with it before heading back to my cramped insult of a car and heading out to my first appointment. Speleologist Martin Tyson, chief guide to the caves off to the north and I give the computer the address and it tells me to put my seatbelt on. I do so and it starts up, just as the wind begins to pick up again. Good thing these vehicles are sand proofed, I suppose.


Ten minutes later (again) and I’m admitting there may be something to this self driving thing after all. There’s no way I’d be able to see through a sand squall like this but the computer can. It’s monitoring for things in the way (I hope) and according to the GPS it’s… Huh. According to the GPS on my computer system we should have turned left a moment ago. According to the GPS in the car, we’re still on course and need to turn left in three. Minutes. The two are linked to the same system booster in the car to beat the sandstorm so they can’t be arguing with… The sandstorm clears. I’m heading straight towards a canyon wall.
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Re: TERRORFORM

Post by Amazee Dayzee »

Imminent pain coming in a few short seconds in that case. Hope that he doesn't get too battered is he crashed head on. :P
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Re: TERRORFORM

Post by Welsh Halfwit »

Seven.


There are three ways out of this and I have about thirty seconds to decide as, apparently, someone’s decided to off me and that’s a really unfriendly measure that means someone in the town has something to hide as regards Karl. Option one is to open the door and leap for safety. This has problems, especially in that the door won’t open when the car’s going at thirty… forty now. Option two is to crash so that one’s out too. Which leaves me with option three. I pull at the dashboard facade with a strength bourne of being about to die and expose the systems within. Then I do a very European thing. I take the top off my flask and throw tea into the workings.


The thing starts to slow immediately as the wiring and systems crack and flash under the impact of hot liquid and whisps of noxious gases get released into the compartment. Oh, look, it’s slowing. But now it’s on fire. I’m hoping it’ll release the steering wheel as it’s supposed to do when the computer is fried. The driver is the last resort for driving. Heh. Mind you, with the number of people failing the driving tests, I can’t really be surprised. I understand self driving cars are harder to find on other worlds, with the option to turn them on being the main version. But the wheel’s beginning to respond, faster than the brake handle as the computer doesn’t want to release that yet. Right, concentrate on turning the car. Concentrate on not heading towards that wall… In other words, turn, you beggar, turn! It’s harder than stopping a horny Equinna and tough to turn but it’s coming. It’s turning… It’s.. stopped. Where’s the extinguisher? Even with the computer destroyed, I still need to drive this thing! Where’s the.. Oh, yeah. The gas. I open the now unsealed door to let it out and it whispers into the wind as I get the tiny powder extinguisher from under the seat. It practically needs me to contort myself to get it. I set up the hose, pull the pin and fire it into the wounded dashboard and it shoof’s out, separating fire and oxygen in a second. I step out of the vehicle. Sure, I’m not going to be hitting it at speed but I’m still close enough to the wall that a slight fall of rock could pancake the car. I’m a fan of pancakes. I’m just not a fan of being the filling.


I call Cooper. She’s a bit shocked but accepts my story of someone trying to kill me when I pull up the vid cam on this thing and show her how close I am to a cliff that shouldn’t be there. She asks how I managed to turn the automated system off and I show her the dislodged dashboard and the thermos of tea. She laughs. <“Builders brew for the win,”> she calls. I don’t point out that there’s only two places in Norberry that someone could have interfaced with the vehicle to bypass its security. The airshuttle stop, with two cafes and a strip mall – seriously, it’s a wild west town – around it and the Police Office, with the neighbours and a DIY almost superstore within access range. And she was within fifty feet of the vehicle at both times. Makes her too obvious a suspect, though. Doesn’t make her competent. It does hint at something else though. I’ll have to act on that later, though.


I limp the car back towards where It should be, corralling the manual drive to get to the caves where Jacob Tyson is waiting for me with his associate, Marley. Marley appears to be a Fennekin Celican, perfect for this sort of climate and he says he heard the fire from half a mile away. I’m pretty sure he’s joking and just seeing the current scorch marks and signs of suppressant use on the car. “Please,” Tyson says, “ignore him. He’s very frivolous. You called ahead that this is about Karl? I understand there’s been an accident?”

“We’re not ruling anything out at the moment,” I tell them as Marley swats at flies I can’t see. “We’re trying to get a sense of his movements and it’s been noted that he’s made several trips here over the last few months and called yourself three or four times?”

Tyson goes on to tell me that Karl had been a regular visitor – as I’d just told him – and had become rather a knowledgeable person on the minerals and semi-precious metals. He tells me this as we head into the caves, the headlamps we’ve just put on glinting back of things that glisten like quartz and jade. Tyson says it’s a place of scientific interest. Marley grumps that it isn’t, at least as far as Witherington is concerned. Atmospherics make this an ideal place to put a spaceport, better even than Garfield City. Turns out Karl was trying to speak out – or so he claimed. Tyson tells me that Karl had asked about how to contact others about it but Marley and Tyson had been reticent about naming names in case Karl was conning them. Can’t say I blamed them. It ws telling me more about Karl, I supposed. It also told me that Witherington had someone up this way at least once a month to pester the town council. Someone Karl did his best to avoid whenever he was up here.


Smith.


The Human oil slick is projecting even up here. I wonder why he’s never felt like mentioning that? I also wonder why the news sites aren’t covering it. I wonder… Where’s Marley gone? Oh, down that tiny tunnel there. No wonder Tyson has him around. Excavating caves so you can explore them devastates the caves you’re trying to save, I’d imagine. With a four footer like Marley, you only need a small hole and a fibre optic camera attached to his helmet. Tyson tells me he’s trying to get a teleport pod and a portable pad that Marley can pull into place. They’re raising funds but it’s slow going. Pandera University is putting money in. Soda-Fona is putting a pittance in in hopes of gettinging kudos back for helping. They’re three quarters of the way there. I realise that I’ve only heard of these caves from certain news feeds now. And the news feeds that aren’t easily ignored independents? All have Soda-Fona as a parent company. None of the Witherington newsvendors – that I recall – have so much as mentioned them. Tyson smiles at that. Apparently not even the town’s periodical mentions the mine since they were bought last year. Tyson calls it social obliteration as a precursor to physical obliteration. He wonders how many similar sites they’ve ‘landscaped’.


Marley, shaking himself off after emerging from what was, even to him, a tight tunnel, puts it far more succinctly and I can’t tell you what he said.


We have to head back. I need to get to the next interview. With one of the hacker types who’s threatened the programme recently. Online, at least. I’m growing sure I don’t like what’s going on but there’s still a body needs avenging. A mother and daughter needing answers. And, of course, at least one cop needs them too. “Hang on a sec,” Marley says, heading over to the slightly damaged car. He kneels down and looks under the bumper before plucking something with wires off. “Wondered what the buzzing was,” he said, handing me a tracker.
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Re: TERRORFORM

Post by Amazee Dayzee »

I really did like reading this chapter since it came out very fabulous! I can't wait to see what else you have in store!
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Re: TERRORFORM

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Eight

I probably shouldn’t be driving this now slightly broken vehicle as it’s a crime scene but I don’t have much choice. I’ll have to get the mechanics at the hire place to look it over and get an independent mechanic to look over their looking over. But that’s when on my way out of town, not whilst I’m asking questions. I’ve turned the tracker off, of course. The forensic bods might not be too keen on how I did it but I don’t really care.


The other reason I’m driving this thing around is I want to see the faces of people I’m due to interview here. I might well surprise people by being alive. Cooper’s checking into the CCTV at the shuttle station and her place, using the tricks of the trade to avoid spoiling the fact I’m not deceased. She’s also told me a good place to get a substitute comm as I’m wondering if mine is entirely secure right now. But that’s for after lunch. I force the protesting vehicle in besides a cheap looking bungalow with a cheap looking four wheeled drive parked next to it. The home and office of one Martin Hewlett, teenager and truant, according to the local high school records. His mother’s lurking in the living room, vape dangling from her mouth as she languished on a sofa that spoke of welfare and tolerance. She declines to accompany me as I go to speak to her boy in his room. He doesn’t seem surprised to see me. No reason he should be as he’s currently behind a console that looks like it costs more than the rest of the bungalow and the car put together. He could easily have tracked the tracker from here and, probably, overridden the computer with the little uplink attached to the roof.


He’s a pale seeming youth, having avoided being tanned by the stark sun out here by dint of staying in his room with the curtains closed. He says he followed Karl online and sometimes acted as the guy’s relay in the town. He’s friendly enough and tells me that Karl seemed to want to know everything about the town and its history and he really had no idea he worked for Witherington as he seemed too nice and it had been a real shock when he’d heard about it and he’d felt betrayed and scorched by Karl. It’s all very plausible. Shame there’s no chance it’s true. He’s got the skills and the smarts to look into Karl’s background and his school records show that. He’s been suspended for breaking into the school records and changing other people’s grades. He only got caught because the teacher knew the grades and he was the only person skilled enough to have done it. I remind him that it’s easier to rule someone out with the truth than deceptions and, if he doesn’t stop trying to decieve me, we’ll have to continue the conversation in a location more official than his bedroom and with more recording devices than my comm. He gets the picture. I don’t even need to threaten his future by reminding him the school would mark a suspension for being involved with the Police. It’s against his current bond, apparently. I wonder what he’s doing here today. He replies that he’s sick. I tell him I’m appreciating that.


Karl was forever chatting with him about things to do out here. And off-road hire in the area as Dale is something of an enthusiast, judging by the quad I can see in the back yard, half concealed by a light brown tarp that would stop it being seen from the air by drones. We ‘wander’ out the back and he’s looking paler as we go near, despite the intense sun. Nerves, it seems. “I need to check the GPS on this,” I tell him, knowing he could have tweaked things. He asks why in a way that suggests it hadn’t travelled a hundred miles or so yesterday and I remind him that I’m not reporting him for having an unregistered off roader when he’s too young for a licence and he shouldn’t even try to tell me it belongs to his mother or that he’s watching it for a friend. He sighs, agrees and releases the console so I can download the information and watch it. I need sunglasses. He chuckles and tells me this is why he doesn’t come out here that often. The sun’s reflecting off the windows and the ground whilst beating from above. It’s High Noon. I clock the milometer whilst it’s exposed. He’s done some miles on this. Way more than enough. I ask him where he got the thing and he’s reluctant to tell me but eventually names a shop that I think I saw in the town. I’ll be adding them to things today, it seems. Anywhere that sells one of these to a kid for cash automatically becomes a suspect in the supply situation.


He doesn’t tell me much more of use, though. He sends me some of the chats he had with Karl and I’m going to read them on the shuttle home. But that’s in four hours. Next appointment’s in the CBD, with the local environmentalists but they happen to be next to the comm place Cooper told me about and the garage I’m leaving the heap in. I go there first and the Canine lead mechanic can’t believe it. His jaw sags, showing his lower canines as the car that, apparently, was in perfect nick when it left here this morning, returns looking like it’s been set on fire – which it was – and crashed into a wall – which it wasn’t. He demands to know who’s going to pay and I have to strong arm him to release the information from the computer as it’s evidence in an attempted murder. The readings act as normal until five minutes before the fun began, where a distortion signal overwhelmed the internal GPS and made the computer jump so it thought it was on a long, straight, road some five miles to the west. It still knew the address of where it was going and it knew the route to get there. In reality, it led straight to a cliff. A bit smart. He pulls up the override coding and something about them seems familiar. I’m no expert but, since being told that coders sign their work , I tend to look for connections between codes when I see their naked form. I get him to send it to Bushy with a request to get it checked if he can tear himself away from games of Tasinca online. It’s an adventure game he likes to play.


I withdraw cash from a teller machine next to an election reminder poster, just showing a red sheet with ‘Vote’ on it. Apparently Witherington haven’t selected ‘not their’ candidate yet. I buy a new comm from the net door shop that Cooper recommended and link up my padd to play a game of Tasinca whilst I’m waiting on lunch. I’m no-where near as good at it as Bushy is. He plays it a lot more than I do. Mostly whilst I’m driving. It’s got a useful message board, though, and I use that to advise our comms may be compromised and that I’m not paranoid. I advise him to buy a new comm – the one I’ve bought is clearly second hand – and call it. I give the number.


Now for the environmentalist.


Their door is open and there’s a stale smell, despite the fact they know I’m coming. I have to draw my weapon before I enter...
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Re: TERRORFORM

Post by Amazee Dayzee »

A stale smell usually means someone hasn't been in there for quite some time. So I don't think there is any need to worry.
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Re: TERRORFORM

Post by Welsh Halfwit »

Nine


They’re not best happy to see me. Well, I say that but, as there’s no-one in the room when I enter, it doesn’t exactly describe things accurately. The lights are half on, half off, casting half the room into an evening shadow at noon as I tap my body camera on and call out who I am, who I’m there to see and that I’m armed. It’s the rules. We have to announce ourselves clearly so the criminals can’t say we snuck up on them and they can shoot us in fair play. But there’s an ocean of silence here. No-one and nothing moving and the smell of staleness that tells the air conditioning hasn’t been on. I press the button on my registered comm that summons local law enforcement to assist and hope Cooper still has hers activated. There’s no-one else coming as I step into the office. There’s a couple of desks here, each with a computer terminal on them and one with locked drawers. There’s a cup of tepid coffee on the desk with locked drawers and the ring of an equal mug on the other one. There’s a whiteboard with various diagrams and writings on it against the far wall. I step into a kitchen that looks like the Marie Celeste, down to the half buttered bread on the tabletop next to the stained mug that hadn’t been on the desk.


My ear implant comm almost gives me a heart attack and I barely resist the urge to put a bolt into the upper cupboards as I reason it’s my comm and I answer it, keeping my tone down. “Cooper,” I ask.

<“Who else. You’re at Dorcas Elliot’s operational centre?”>

“Yeah,” I hiss. “And they’re not. Door was open and there’s signs of something happening. Where are you?”

<“Town hall. Dorcas is here. So is Smith from Witherington. A ‘sudden impulse’ to allay fears, apparently.”>

“He got here quick. An impromptu meeting of the town Council. Witherington doesn’t have that much influence here, does it?”

<“Shouldn’t do,”> she agreed. I agree to head to the Town Hall after I’ve been to the bathroom. It’s not exactly by the rules but I’ve not visited the bathroom this entire day. And I had tea.


I’m about to flush when I hear a sound in the main room. It’s only been a moment so it’s rather unlikely Dorcas has returned in that time so I pause my hand and move to the door, opening it a crack to look out. Someone’s moving in the main room. I can’t see them but I can see their shadow in the half light. The floor cracks under my foot. Not visibly, of course, but it makes enough of a noise that my unseen makes for the hills or, rather, the front door. Not the reactions of someone who came to pick her brains. Possibly the reaction of someone who came to put a pick IN her brain so I throw the door open and run after the intruder. To no avail. There’s no-one on the street by the time I get to it. They must have gone down one of the alleyways to either side of the house/office. I step back in to see what they were after, pulling forensic gloves on from one of my pockets. One of the locked drawers is open. They picked the lock. Well, can’t go anywhere now. And I really wanted to catch Smith out too. I comm Cooper and tell her what’s happened and that I can’t leave here now, in case the intruder seeks to return.


Well, the DNA of the fellow under the terraformer was Karl, apparently. So Bushy tells me from a Comm number I didn’t recognise, calling my new comm. It’s on speaker as I don’t want to pair it to the ear implant yet so I’m holding it close to my ear so I can keep the volume down. He’s having a tech check out his comm just in case the paranoid Human’s not raving. I tell him about the meetings up here and he tells me about the meetings down there. He tells me Smith’s been all over them this morning and the forensics have made their discoveries. Most but not all of the blood found there is Karl’s but one’s being run through the IOC database, where the federal, all worlds encompassing, police will see if they have any records. The local environmentalist lunatic fringe are celebrating quietly, fully aware that their aims being achieved through bloodshed won’t win over the wavering support. I tell him about my meetings here and the environmentalists break in and the fact that Karl seemed to be trying to get into anti-corporation groups and I wonder if Smith found out about it all. He’s about to reply when I have to shut the comm off. Storm Eliot’s about to enter my life.


She’s a sixty something with a perma tan thanks to being out here too long and she shucks back her long, sand gritted, white hair and demands to know who I am, even before she’s let the door close behind her. “Cooper told me someone had entered my place with out a warrant to carry out an illegal search so you better have a…” (at this point a lorry chunders past and I couldn’t quite make out her wording. Although I could guess.) “...od reason for being here. Well?”

I remind her that I phoned ahead and said I was coming. I tell her that, when I got here the door was open and the place was like the Mary Celeste (look it up, it’s Mary, not Marie.) down to the missing coffee cup and I’d been about to head over to the town hall – wherever that was – when I’d heard someone in here. I didn’t see them, unfortunately, but I seemed to have scared them off and remained to make sure they didn’t come back. She’s mollified… a bit. She tells me Soames, her associate, is just picking up their lunch at the local store. I tell her I’m surprised she buys her own produce. I’m trying to break the ice. She looks like she wants to batter me with a berg.

“It’s a sacrifice I have to make,” she says, “to be here to hold those…” Ooh, another truck? “...back from doing what they want to do to this planet! As I told him, just now, when he came up on a ‘sudden inspiration’ visit, the truth of this world is in what makes it special, not how much history can be airbrushed over! This… terraforming shower – and I mean the corporation and it’s peons, not the weather control stuff – seem to think that this world should end up just like Earth. Same plants, same climates, same everything! They don’t seem to care that this world has it’s own eco system! There are plants out there,” she added, sweeping an arm towards the horizon outside, “that store water so effectively they don’t need rain for fifty days. They can flower when the sun is at it’s zenith and change colours when the sun is at it’s nadir. Traces of animal life from the last few centuries are being seen and silenced so no-one stops the progress. Of course their press doesn’t report that, does it? They just report that eco whackjobs want to sabotage the terraforming machines. Cost money to repair those,” she added sarcastically. “Raise your taxes to keep the conglomerates sweet. It’s what I was telling Smith just now! Karl’s death does nothing but hinder our efforts!”

“So you knew him, then?”

“Yeah. Not quite your typical peon of authority,” she admitted, moving around the side of her desk to check what they’d opened. “The evidence disc,” she muttered, slamming her hands onto the desk. “They got the evidence disc! The proofs I had. They were in here. Now they’re gone. What a…” She stared daggers at me, her eyes narrowing to stilettos. “That’s why he came. He knew I’d hurry to the hall. I will kill him!”

I urge her to wait. To calm down. She does so. A little.


Then it hits me. It hits me as I see there’s a message from Bushy on the new comm. I play it and we both hear him tell that, in lieu of what we discussed, he’ll ask Smith about it now.


And I realise Smith is in two places at once.
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Re: TERRORFORM

Post by Amazee Dayzee »

Him realizing it means that something is not right about it and he better investigate. Wonder how he is managing to pull that trick off and who is his double?
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Re: TERRORFORM

Post by Welsh Halfwit »

Is this a familiar face just 'chatting'?

Ten


It’s an incredibly diverse colony, this one of ours, but there are occasional signs that it’s based on the Australian. There’s no indigenous population to displace as unfortunately happened there but we’re all immigrants of one decade or another and the unbelievable ease at which the Lamington is available at cafes is one of these signs. Local flour and butter, of course. I doubt it’s really coconut but the raspberry jam (from Soda-Fona’s hydroponics factory in Briandeville) is real enough. The coffee’s imported, though, from Pandera. There’s a coffee plantation there. Owned locally but with a deal for distribution with Garrets, a minor corporation in the grand scheme of things. If they start making a real go of it, someone’ll buy them up. That’s how it goes. The Corporations rule.


It’s not a bad one, if I’m being honest and I ask the Mican serving if I can have a second. She responds brightly, as though I’ve just made her day, and bustles off to fulfil the order. Well, I’ve not eaten and I still have thirty minutes until the shuttle. I’ve seen no sign of Smith and, frankly, if Dorcas hadn’t sent across the short video she’d taken at the meeting as Smith had promised latitude for public opinion and the consideration of local objections. It’s of interest that the local press didn’t show up. Dorcas gave me the video in a sealed file as she has something of an idea what’s going to happen when she puts the video up later. A cyberworm will sweep it from the net within ten seconds. Dorcas says she’s been sending the last few off world to an ‘interested party’ as much as she’s been putting them up to be destroyed. She doesn’t tell me who the party is. Probably best she keeps some cards to her chest. She doesn’t really know me, after all. I could be anyone. I look up as the Mousegirl sits opposite. “Lost in thought,” she asks.

“Drowning in a shallow pool,” I tell her. “Interesting town you have here?”

“Nah,” she replies, “it’s a dump. Nothing happens. As you can tell by the fact this would be the busy hour in Collington and here I am, sitting here, talking with you.”

I humph a laugh. “It’s that obvious I’m from Collington?”

She stirs her own drink with a clawtip as she rests her head on her other hand. “Well, you’re not from here and the only place the shuttle goes is Collington so…” She licks her clawtip. “Makes sense, dunnit? What brings you up here?”

“Ah, just looking around. Hey,” I ask, feigning interest and shifting my body slightly, “what was all that at the town hall earlier?”

“Ah,” she tells me, “just one of those corporation types offering us wealth in our time, prosperity for the future and everything that it entails. Not that anyone believes them, of course. They might just as well add ‘if you give us Carte Blanche’ to everything he says.”

“You’re telling me this easily,” I muse, playing along as she drinks her own soda. “Not concerned I work for them?”

“Nah. You don’t seem the sort. The few I’ve seen? They don’t talk to us locals if they can help it even slightly.” She shrugged. “Actually, the few I’ve seen? Don’t do much in the local sphere at all, though they’re putting in a Liddenmart soon. I figure they’re keeping secrets. And the less I know about them the better, eh?”

I give her half my Lamington. It’s probably healthier than having two for myself.


It’s true, I tell myself as I sit in mid-air. It’s true that Corporations like to employ the ‘hearts and minds’ thing when spreading their tentacles and influence. The only time they don’t employ that tactic is when they think they don’t need to. That no-one can stop them or is interested enough to try. Was Karl trying? Or was he working for them? Bushy’s probably gotten access to his accounts now. Maybe he knows. But he’ll have to wait to tell me. I’m still not risking the new comm and I’m trying to remember if Sonia had access to my router when she slept over. I hope she didn’t. I can think of her smile in a positive manner. I’m more interested in the technician we’ve not found yet. Bushy didn’t tell me anything about him when I called earlier but, when he’s as unsure about who might be listening as I am, that’s not surprising.


Isolating my padd from the net, I take a look at the recording Dorcas made. It’s definitely Smith up there, bragging about how Witherington will make Norberry a power in the colony. It’s pretty much the standard corporation playbook. He’s standing next to the leader of the town council and Councillor… Mortimer, I think it is… can’t look him in the eye. His face is downcast. Almost miserable. There’s about a dozen others in the room. Local owners who could leave their people to deal with the pressures of the day on a near whim to attend and those who didn’t have anything to do. Unemployment is rife in places like this. The prospect of a big, future, employer is tempting. What matters the past when the future is what’s important? I notice Martin’s at the meeting. That doesn’t seem right. He’s not the type, I don’t think. He also got there pretty fast after I left him so I have to wonder if he was prewarned. Then there’s the old Lappinean in the crowd. He stands out, in my attention, for two things. One, he’s the only Lappinean in the place. He’s the oldest one I think I’ve ever seen and he’s resting both hands on a cane as he watches Smith like a hawk. But that isn’t the real reason this tan Rabbit stands out. No. The real reason is he’s just sat down opposite me.


“An interesting meeting,” he tells me politely. I realise he can see the replay on the padd and shut it down as is only polite when someone’s talking to you. “Why do you think no press were there,” he enquires. “It seemed counter-productive to me.”

“And to me,” I agree cautiously. There’s something about this old guy here… “But these things are sometimes impromptu.” I don’t believe it and I’m pretty sure he knows I don’t. “What took you to Norberry,” I ask civilly.

“A minor deal that needed making,” he tells me. “Nothing serious but nothing that could really be done over the comm. I’m in the futures market, you see?”

“And are there futures in Norberry,” I ask, trying not to let him get the advantage over me he’s playing for.

“That is what I was trying to ascertain,” he tells me, before turning the tables. “I’m told it’s a growing community. Even getting a Supermarket soon. And what was an urbanite like yourself doing there today?” He holds out a hand. “If I may enquire, of course.”

I decide to tell him something of the truth. I refuse to let him see me lie fully. There’s some sort of game of chess going on here, I think. “I had an interview with Professor Tyson at the caves.”

His eyes light up. “Ah! A journalist, then?”

“More a seeker of truth.”

He scowled slightly. “So not a journalist, then. Not a local one anyhow. They have no interest in speaking the truth,” he continued, “merely what they’re told to put out as the truth. It’s a very dangerous game out here, the truth,” he concludes as we slide in for a landing. “The truth, he adds, “often withers on the vine.” I could swear he italicised the ‘Wither’ part and left the ‘s’ unencumbered. He heads out to the main off ramp but he’s not there when I get there. I see Bushy’s there and I hand him a Lamington I’d kept for him, in its shrink-wrapped container.

“Don’t tell me I never buy you anything.”

He sniffed at it and put it in a pocket. “Can’t be much good if you didn’t eat it. Anyhow,” he adds, “we’re wanted over at the Massey farm.”


We call it a farm but there’s no animals here. It’s a power bank, generating about forty percent of Collington’s power via the mass array of solar panels that stretches as far as the eye can see. “Why,” I ask, “are we wanted there?”

“Collington’s been down half the afternoon,” Bushy explains. “Someone sabotaged the plant’s computer systems.”
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Re: TERRORFORM

Post by Amazee Dayzee »

He should be glad that he wasn't a journalist since they tend to be on the intrusive side. He could come back and cause problems later.
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Re: TERRORFORM

Post by Welsh Halfwit »

Eleven


So, how can sabotaging a place that generates less than half Collingwoods’ power being sabotaged lead to a town-wide blackout with only generator powered buildings surviving? It’s simple enough. Charge is released into the grid at a managed rate. It ensures safe and smooth transfer. Today, however, the system was set to surge at two pm, flooding the local power grid and tripping the security breakers to save the colonial grid from a complete brown out. We’ve had two collisions on the local streets as people lost their heads when the street traffic lights died and they forgot how to turn right safely when there’s oncoming traffic. The local Aldin Squirrelmart’s doing a brisk trade but they would. They’re the only local supermarket that has their own rechargable generator so their fridges and freezers never fail. The stuff I bought yesterday’s probably defrosted. I’ll deal with that later.


We drive through the shine inducing mirrored surfaces, our sunglasses proving practical rather than just cool looking and Bushy asks me about paranoia and other things that happened in nowheresville today whilst he eats his gift. I would be surprised it had lasted this long but he always says dessert is dessert and had wanted to eat several large… things beforehand. I can never eat those thick chocolate coated ice creams again. The ‘crack’ has been compromised. I tell him of my beliefs and deductions and escapades with tea and he apologises again for supplying me with a deathtrap on wheels. I forgive him with a sidebar of him never offering me lunch again. Or for at least a week. I tell him of my concerns about Sonia and, in full honesty, the events of last night. He quirks an eyebrow at me. “Hey, she’s cute,” I tell him. “But nothing happened.”

“If you say so.”

“Is it my fault that the best looking human women in town are already spoken for? Plus she made me laugh.”

“I make you laugh. You’ve not let me sleep in your bed.” In case you’re worried or interested, Bushy’s got an ex-mate. She lives on Caldera and he sends her money for the kit regularly. He’s not into males. It’s just banter.

“You’re not a pretty female,” I tell him as we park up near the door. “And you don’t make me laugh that much.”


The Sergeant's already inside, taking notes and descriptions of what happened as someone wearing the badge of a Colony Investigator watches on from the shadows. You know the sort. Let’s the locals do all the legwork then, when it comes to the vidseries, the locals disappear and it’s the Investigators team does all the work. A single scientist does all the forensics and there’s one M.E. for the million people on the colony and they’ve got the best one in the quadrant working for them. That sort of nonsense. Apparently they’d had the system maintained the week before and the Sergeant, Bushy and myself have a rough guess as to who did it. Heck, even the investigator – a woman called Gerry apparently – probably can guess the name that comes out of the frazzled operations manager’s mouth after he’s checked through all the regs and sign ins which, comfortingly, are still paper based. Apparently someone had the bright idea that the place that made power needed a hard copy back up in case anything happened to said power. Lessens the strain on their generator too. James Franton, standard spotty faced herbert and, currently, the town’s number one most wanted.


Bushy tells me they traced his car to an out of town compound lot that was depressingly close to a road hover transit line. They’re checking through all the transit cameras now but they secretly doubt he’s gone that way as it seems too easy. Balfour’s sent a dozen from their force to cover the fact that we’re now working a murder AND a sabotage case which are connected and it’s getting to be a strain. They’re also checking the cameras on the compound lot. Bushy mentions this just before I ask as he knew I was going to. It’s protocol. Well, playful protocol. I’m thinking about the Sergeants exam so he likes to test me before reminding me that other people are smart too. Oh and, just in case, they already know that Gareth Benson was in his office at the soda plant when things went down. Just out of town. With it’s own generator that could power the whole town centre for 24 hours in an emergency. In fact that’s why they let him build it. If the power stayed out, as happened in the very early days, it sometimes took days to reconnect. The generators at the hospitals, for example, were only good for twenty four. So he offered that if the Council would let him excavate two storeys underground. The council thought it better than two storeys on top so said ‘what the hey’ and granted it. Apparently they’re negotiating with him now.


Long story short, he had power. The Hospitals had power. The Squirrelmart had power. No-one else did. No lights, no signals, no comm relays except emergency channels connected by satellite. No cameras. Something moved in those two hours. Or someone.


I bring up the issue of Smith again and Bushy tells me his movements for the day and I have to note it’s interesting. He asks why and I show him the recording from the meeting in Norberry. I show him the timestamp. Bushy blinks and realises that he’s just told me Smith was in a meeting with the Senior Sergeant at that time. “Twin,” he asks?

“Lab grown clone,” I answer, equally questioningly, before shutting the display off. The investigator is coming over.

“So, you’re the one who missed the events,” she says playfully. I’m not sure if it’s insulting or not. From the way Bushy’s nose is twitching he thinks it was. That nose only normally twitches like that when he meets a bigot.

“I missed THESE events,” I counter. “Ran into a few of my own. One of the three cases of computer sabotage, for example. Whoever did this is probably also the one overrode the sat system on my hire car and tried to auto drive me into a cliff.”

She looks a bit shocked at that and I have to conclude that no-one’s had time to tell her yet. Although someone, apparently, has had time to tell her where I was. “You’re OK,” she asks pointlessly. “Of course you are. Did you find anything else out, up there?”

I tell her that I’ll have to report to Senior Sergeant Pollock and she’s welcome to listen in.


I’m not paranoid. I just want this to be seen by as many people as possible before I hand the footage over. Not, of course, letting them know Bushy copied it whilst he watched it...
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Re: TERRORFORM

Post by Amazee Dayzee »

This was a really nice and very impeccable chapter that you put together! Love of it flows so well!
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Re: TERRORFORM

Post by Welsh Halfwit »

Twelve


The investigator doesn’t want us going after Smith. She’s probably quite right. Whoever this guy is, he’s obviously connected at the top of Witherington. Local attaché my pert bottom. He probably has the power to… alter things if we get too close. Alter things onto a trajectory that can squash more than just our investigation flat. Trouble is, people with that sort of power often have influence in the lower levels too. People who can stop investigations with the simple line of “We’ll take this on; you just concentrate on the troubles you currently have. A death and several sabotages and a missing suspect. This is a bad week for Collingwood. We don’t normally have this much crime in a quarter, let alone a forty-eight hour period. If we don’ get this under control quickly, we’re going to look bad in the film based on the events that’ll come out in the next decade. So there’s the question of if we trust Investigator Irene Gerry.


I know she’s never been to Earth. She’s from the Caprician colony, where the expensive people live. She’s been to Ganymede High, an orbiting boarding school come university – so she might have been to Earth to visit but never lived there – She qualified and came straight out to the new colonies to work her magic on the interplanetary criminals of the universe. Yeah, right. If she wanted that, she wouldn’t be here. There’s a corporation behind this, there has to be. Huh. Bushys’ paranoia is definitely rubbing off on me today. It’s been a long one. Mind you, I was watching Gerry when she was watching the recording. I’d already seen it but I wanted to judge her face. There’s a quick, almost quaint, look of surprise on it at one point that I resolve to ponder on later. I know what’s on the screen right at that moment, of course.. It’s the old Rabbit. I’m right. He’s someone of note. And she’s not telling us. She’s warning us by not warning us. Trying to protect us, perhaps. Sorry, ma’am, but policing doesn’t work that way. At least not for me. Because now I need to know who he is.


I log into galnet and start a low risk image search for the old fellow, based on the best screengrab of him I can get. I’m not risking Bushy on this so I use my own terminal and leave it running with the screen off and a command to send a link to my home comm if it finds anything. The guy’s probably never done anything newsworthy, I tell myself. Then I chide myself for the foolish thought.


The morning’s going to have me going over the Witherington base again, to check out their power output for the last few days. Well, as much as I can. I do have a few questions about how come Sonia wasn’t repairing her own console when she has the academic grades for it. I looked them up and, just to make it look like I haven’t looked her up, I’m not going to tell her that last part. I drive home, almost letting the autodrive take over due to my extremely whapped nature of my exhaustion tonight. It doesn’t help that everything in my fridge is currently in a half defrosted state as the ten year ld motor tries to get things back up to speed after four hours reacclimatising to the ambient twenty-six degree room temperature on this planet. Same for the air conditioning. It’s not essential but it’s best to have things under twentyfive degrees, they say. So the Air con is on automatically, earning funds for Weston Electrical. A division of Witherington Technologies that makes air conditioners in Briandeville. They’re the main employers in that city. The stuff in the fridge is merely coldish rather than cold. The freezer’s broken, it seems. I’ll have to defrost it later and see if it can be saved. Sigh. Enter the cold bags. I have to fill them. But, first, the food.


The comm goes. It’s Sonia. I’m not quite sure how to play this in all honesty. I like the Chiauan but she’s still suspect in all this. Or her connections are anyhow. I put on a tone and respond brightly. “Heya, Sonia, how’s things?”

She tells me of the work for the day. The stunned and awed reactions of her colleagues to the news it really was Karl under there. I remind her I really can’t tell her what’s happening right now but I’m sure it must be distressing and concerning. I want to cuddle her and I wonder why. It’s not that she isn’t cute. She is, but she’s hardly the first cute girl I’ve seen here. And I never used to settle for cute on a night out. Have I reached that part of life where cute and funny is a better option than beautiful and a half decent intellect? No, that’s unfair to her. She has a very decent intellect. Better than mine by most counts. I say I’m likely to see her tomorrow as I have to drop by the office and I hope she catches it in my voice that I’d like to see her. She asks if she’s still a suspect.

“Only in so much as you’re yet to be conclusively ruled out,” I tell her. It’s accurate. I have to know she’s not lying to me or talking about what I’m doing.

<“Well, I shall see you tomorrow then, Grant,”> she says.

“You too, Sonia,” I reply. “Good night.”

<“And to you.”> It sounds like she blows me a kiss as the comm line shuts down. But that could just be the effect of a cheap comm.
I eat my microwaved whatever it is and drink my nearly cold beer before bed.


Dreams are weird mishmashes of psychedelia, memory, and fantasy, I find. It’s probably why I’m hearing the voice of Dorcas telling me about how excavators are ruining the planet whilst I lie in the dust like Karl did with the massive shadow of the terraformer looming over me. Just when it’s about to start rolling over me, a two hundred foot tall – and completely nude – Sonia grabs hold of the sides of it, holding it in place. Her comment of ‘I control where this goes’ is powerful enough to thrust me down into the sand and dust, the wind from her mouth flattening me against the sides of a hole she’s creating. The Sonia begins to flicker as it urges me to move quickly. I can’t get the use of my legs. I can’t…


...Fall out of bed. Ow. That’s one way to wake up. Three in the morning. The aircon’s on. The facial swelling’s not going to stop talking to me for a few minutes so I make something cold and log in to the office terminal remotely to see how the search is going on.


Odd. It’s been terminated. I look through who sent the termination request.


IOC regional Command on Pandera. Who IS this guy?
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Re: TERRORFORM

Post by Amazee Dayzee »

So the ship Pandera makes its next appearance in a story after not hearing about it for a while. This is going to be interesting to see how the crew factor in to this.
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Re: TERRORFORM

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Thirteen


I don’t need to tell Bushy about the latest interference in our case. In fact I can’t, can I? It’s not exactly something I made public that I was doing. It’s something I’d have raised today if I had a name but I don’t. So I’m driving to Witherington’s base where, to my surprise, Smith is waiting for us. He steps forward with a broad sharks smile as we get out of the car. “Officers Bushan and…”

I interrupt politely before he gets to myself. Or do I talk over him? Never really matters, I suppose. I take the hand he offers in the knowledge he didn’t expect anyone to take it. “Good morning, Mister Smith,” I say simply. “We weren’t expecting to see you here,” I tell him in the tone of voice that spoke of happiness, bright sunshine of the tone and absolute honesty that indicated I didn’t want to see him here. Investigating someone behind their back isn’t easy to do when they’re standing right in front of you.

“Oh, I know,” he replies elegantly, “but I felt it best to show my face here today. Calm some fears and smooth… well fears again, I suppose. I’d bring our candidate in the upcoming elections,” he added, “but this isn’t the right time.” He escorts us in. We had to log todays’ visit on the computer. It’s not certain that he got the notification of our visit off Sonia. But I wish I were certain.


The fifteen or so who worked here were obviously awed by his mere presence here and I chuckle at the thought it’s me they’re afraid of. It isn’t, though, and he gives them this inspiring speech about how they’re all working through this tragedy together and I watch their faces as he says it. Twelve sets of Human eyes of various descriptions look back, black, white, asian, European… one was wearing a Hijab and I wondered how she knew where Mecca was for prayers. Not my place to ask, though. In addition to them were a familiar pair of Canine eyes, a pair belonging to a Mican who was probably white fur under all the dust she’d accumulated and an Equinna. Now I knew who did the heavy lifting around here. A joke, of course. I knew I’d find Titus here. It’s not like a seven foot tall powerhouse can go unnoticed in a town like this. He handled the transport side of things.


We’d decided we’d try it a bit different today and Bushy took the first appointment with Sonia, leaving me with the Mican called Heather. The way she looked at his retreating tail had me wondering which one of us had come up with switching things around first. It was probably him, considering I have to hear Heather ask if Bushy’s single. I can’t answer that. That’s one for him. I ask her how she’s so dusty and she tells me she works the motor pool outside all day. It’s a good reason. It’s not so much outside as in a garage that has to have a large portion of a wall open at all times for ingress. “You’re the only one works out there,” I ask.

“Yeah,” she says, chewing a bit of gum, “small base, small garage…” She spat the gum out into a bin. “Small Engineer.” She put the bin down and her arms on the table. “Anything I can’t handle goes to the local garages or the main base in Balfour. I check the cars over at least once a week.” I ask her if anything had seemed up with Karl’s in the last week or so and could I have a look at the records. “You ain’t trusting me, honey?”

I put a sideways glance Smiths way and, as he’s got his back to me, he doesn’t notice. At least I hope he doesn’t. “It’s not you, Heather.”

She follows my glance and the smile she’s wearing dims considerably. “Understood,” she replies. “He’s corporate through and through.” She sits back and affects the mid-western USA accent that she just slipped from. “He’s no worker bee, that’s for sure. As fer Karl? He did ask me to check the car over. Reckoned it was bein’ a bit sluggish at times on the ride. But slow to react when he turned the wheel, that sorta thing?”

I shift forward as she dislodges some of the dust from her head. “Did you find anything,” I ask. Curious as to the outcome.

“Diagnostics showed summat was interfering with the steering system,” she remarked. “Dunno exactly what it was but It needed a proper set up at the local garage to purge it. I’ll get them records sent over to ya.” She glanced up at Smith. “Anything t’ help, yeah?”


Next for me is Wesley Ranes, the office manager. For him my questions are more general. Who assigns the duties, who sorts out the budgets, who acts as local procurements officer for the terraformers. That sort of thing. In case you’ve not guessed, the third question there is the important one. Even conglomerates have to purchase the land they’re working on. That means the government insists on surveyors doing their job to check out if they should allow twenty thousand tonne behemoths to roll over sites of special scientific interest that might have hidden ravines under a few feet of soil or archaeological treasures to crush. Such as they have out Norberry. Might explain why they’re building a road out to there… Ah, not Witherington, of course. The Council. Who contracted out to Parker Road Ltd. A wholly owned subsidiary of..? Yeah. Them. But I’m getting the sneaking suspicion that the surveys are… tainted. Ranes, a kind of ineffectual and inoffensive 40 something, tells how he’s tried hard to keep calm during the crisis and Mr Smith’s been a rock, visiting over the last couple of days and keeping the workforce informed after the tragic events and I reason I’m found Smith’s first fan. It’s not totally endearing but I manage not to call his boss a slimy toad in front of him.


One thing Raines does deign to do is give me a short tour of the site and I quickly voyage past the canteen, the offices, the restrooms – where we stop for a minute and a penny – and the loading dock, where Titus is loading pallets onto a truck. I ask what that’s about as I wonder if Titus ever uses the pallet truck for that, and Raines tells me they use some of the waste product from the terraformers to manufacture something that closely resembles shale at the Briandeville depot. Then they send it back here to help with building projects. I ask why they don’t refine it here and he looks at me as though I were mad. “Then they’d lose two hundred jobs there,” he declares as we step outside to see the sheds where power for the factory is produced. “Now the power control officer is Harry. We just saw him and his team n the canteen so… Odd,” he said, stopping. I ask what is. “Well, Harry and his team are in the canteen and the on duty member is over there,” he added, pointing to a hunched person working on a power box attached to a wall. He pointed back at the power supply room as someone exited. “I don’t recognise HIM at all!”

I did.


James Franton.


And he’s seen me, seeing him.
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Re: TERRORFORM

Post by Amazee Dayzee »

Does that mean that he's seen him seeing him and him seeing him and him seeing him then? :P
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Re: TERRORFORM

Post by Welsh Halfwit »

Fourteen


With the amount of stuff we have to run in at a thirty degree heat, my speed is never going to be mistaken for a Lappinean or a Chetan feline but I’m no slouch. And I’m probably fitter than Spotty Herbert here but he does have a hundred and fifty yard head start on me as I start off, pressing the alert button on my system. It alerts all nearby officers – mainly Bushy – to the fact that something’s going on that needs immediate attention as there’s an officer in it up to their cap badge. It also enables the GPS to tell you exactly where said up against it individual currently is. Franton’s heading towards the wire fence at the edge of the compound where a blue car’s waiting for him. I put a wiggle on and churn up the dust as I charge, hoping not to slip and eat dirt. It’d be embarrassing. Of course they’d have cameras covering the area.


He’s at the fence. I’m about fifty yards behind and he’s going up it like a spider-monkey. I need to try something else. Something less arduous. I draw my firearm and, after shouting a stop command as we’re legally required to do, put a couple of bolts the cars’ way. One bolt melts through a link in the fence, dissipating a lot of its energy so that it barely scratched the car door but the second gave the driver the idea that skedaddling was the best way of staying intact so it powered up, turned around, almost backed over Franton and sped off for the state road as he gestures towards it and slaps his thigs with his hands. And takes off again as I climb the fence, wondering why this isn’t electrified. Nothing severe, of course. Just enough to stop I.T. pillocks with training climbing it.


Twenty yards between us as I drop from the fence and push burning legs to a new bolt of action. The road covering is harder now, making my feet feel every impact as… OK, not THAT impact. Franton’s just run slap bang into the side of a patrol car. Hey, that’s MY patrol car! Guess it proves Bushy can drive. Guess it proves he didn’t hit Franton hard enough as he slides himself halfway over the bonnet to land on his feet and keep on for the roads beyond. He’s limping, though. Somewhat hurt. Good. The runaround he’s given us these last few days… Bushy’s getting out and drawing his weapon and telling him to halt as I rush past. I’m not letting the little sod get himself killed right now when I simply want to have him sentenced to ten years in an Osiran prison. The Lizards have just rejoined the Council so we’re finally able to threaten people with the most cold-blooded prison system there is again.


I’m on him like a power forward on a football before he makes it another ten yards, taking him at the waist and taking him straight to the ground. I feel the dust ripping the top layer of my skin as he struggles, ignoring my instructions to cease as though he can’t hear them. Which, as I’m holding him face down with my knee in his lower back until Bushy gets over here with the cuffs, might even be accurate. He’s telling me ‘they’ll’ hurt his people’. I have no trouble believing that ‘they’ might. After all ‘they’ are everywhere. ‘They’ know everything. ‘They’ are so nebulous a threat that I sometimes think people call them out simply so they can say something at point of arrest. And I’m not sure who ‘his people’ are either. According to the file, he lives alone. No family save for an aunt on Kennebunkport. Nice colony, I hear.


Now that the sparklers are around his wrists, it’s time to get him back to our day’s base of operations. Not because it’s the station but because I want him on hand for whatever he’s just been sabotaging. I also want to know what he’s been sabotaging as fast as Smith does and I’m not going to get that if we take him back to the station. SO we shut him in Smith’s office with Titus and tell the Equinna this person has questions to answer involving Karl’s death so we need him held for the Senior Sergeant. He’ll be right for the moment. Bushy’s in the next office. The Senior’s on her way in as I, still a bit out of breath, head over to the power supply room, where Smith is haranguing Raines and a slightly portly fifty something I have to presume is Harry, the Power supply Officer. Something about ‘falling for the oldest trick in the book’ when it comes to distracting people. I have to wonder what the sole guy in the office was supposed to do when a power subsystem overloaded, wait for the others to get back from lunch? I’d interject that there should be two engineers on station for exactly this sort of thing but it’s not really my remit, is it? Anyhow, Smith’s seen me. He asks if we’ve secured the little… saboteur (I think he was going to use a much naughtier word there but restrained himself admirably) and I advise that he’s secure and the boss is taking him to the station for questioning. He makes to leave but I, knowing full well, he wants to go down to the station, intercede and remind him that we need to do our jobs and we’ll keep him advised of things.


I turn to the others and ask them what Franton had been up to in here. They tell me they’re still trying to work it out but it appears to have been an attack on the power files for the last few days. What a coinkydink. Just what I’d come for, not that I’d been telling anyone about it. I ask what they involved and they tell me it’s all the records of power use. Ask a silly question. I could get the same from the power company but it wouldn’t tell me which departments were using the power, just that it was coming here.

I ask if there was any high power usage it might have detected over the last few days and, even in the slight gloom of the room, I see the eyes flick to each other before they both say ‘no’, Raines saying it almost a second before Harry in a way that makes it clear they’re hiding something without actually having a sign declaring the fact in neon lettering above their heads. I’m not going to get too much further here, now. Not with my ‘chaperone’. The one I insisted on.


So we return to the station, although I did manage to cast a smile at Sonia across the room. She inclined her head pleasantly, which Bushy ribs me on as I’m driving. He points out I could, possibly, do better but I’d need to pay for it. I’ll slap him for that later. There’s a bubble car in my usual slot so I park next to it and head into the bullpen. Investigator Gerry’s looking put out and I wonder what’s spiked her coffee. Mind you, the scowl she’s giving isn’t aimed at me. It’s aimed at a little Fennec Celican that’s sitting at my desk, tapping away at my computer. I step over. “You got through my password,” I ask.

“Yeah, your password wasn’t that hard to beat.” She looked up and broke into a toothy grin. “They were better than I figured, though. Should I introduce myself? Sorry, I never quite get the personal side of things.” I tell her it is the usual way of things and she offers a hand that I have to move quickly to take before Bushy does. I tell her my name. “I know,” she replies. “Sana. IOC.”
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Re: TERRORFORM

Post by Amazee Dayzee »

This chapter was very impeccable and really great to read! Keep it up!
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Re: TERRORFORM

Post by Welsh Halfwit »

Fifteen


The Senior Sergeant shuts the door, trapping my back up out of the office and she walks around the desk to the chair she uses for official tumblebumble-whuppings. She puts her hand on the top of it and demands to know what I’ve done to bring a federal official down on all our heads. It’s even worse, she says, than the Investigator. I’m sure that’ll stick in Gerry’s craw. I begin to say I have no idea but she’s giving that practised ‘I know it already, trooper, lie to me and I’ll crush you underfoot' look. So I tell her and she grinds her eyelids closed and stares at me with bared teeth. Slightly yellowing and deadlier than a sharks, in case you wondered. She asks me why I did that and I point out that I doubted Gerry was going to do it. I’d seen the look in her eye when she’d watched the video I’d brought back. Someone in it had scared her so I – and here’s where I do lie a bit – had taken screen shots of some of the stand out people and started a low level online search. She reminds me that I’m supposed to run clearly stupid ideas through her first and I apologise.


It seems Gerry has decided to take the lead on the interrogation as Sana’s more interested in something else, judging by the twitching of her ears as I pass by my desk and head down to the interrogation room to watch Gerry work from the observation room. “It’s not right,” I tell Bushy as he watches from behind the mirror that every interogee knows is two way. “I’m the one who grabbed him, I should be in there.”

“Yeah, but you were getting reamed by the Senior,” he replies, offering me something that looks like a boiled sweet. I turn it down. I know it’s not a boiled sweet but a semi-clear carapaced bug found in the area. “How’d that go, by the way?”

I told how she wasn’t fond of the fact I hadn’t told her I was running facial recognition scans on my system that had, apparently, attracted attention from higher ups. He tells me that Franton has been repeating his story about people he knew being in danger. A family that’s distantly related, that he stayed with in Cooperston a few years back. He wants them protected before he’ll say anything about the people threatening his… I mean their lives. It’s a stalling tactic. I know it is, he knows it is, Bushy knows it is. Even Gerry knows it is. She points to the fact that people being threatened into a dangerous scheme that’s killed at least half a dozen people and endangered so many more don’t normally get three thousand credits paid into their account a few hours before. From an account that the local Investigators can’t trace. So would he kindly cut the bull effluence and start telling what’s really going on or she’ll introduce him to the local hover transport landing pad as the hover transport sets down. He tells us what he claims he knows and it’s not that much, clearly. At least, so he claims. It’s the standard plotline of being contacted by someone anonymously who he, apparently, couldn’t trace despite obviously being hired because he was better at computers than the person who hired him that, again, speaks of codswallop to me. But, apparently, Colony Investigations has seized his passport documents so he’s not going to make the twenty fifteen colonial shuttle to Pastra and on to Caldera. I wonder when she was going to tell us about that?

“It’s almost like they’re keeping things from us,” Bushy says, before helping himself to a ‘confection’.

“They all do,” I grumble, deciding to try for some answers.


I head back up to the bullpen and take a seat on my own desk, getting the sand coloured Vixen to cast her gaze upon me as I pocket my desk identifier. “May I help you,” she asks, a touch of amusement in her tone.

“Isn’t that supposed to be my line at my desk,” I reply.

“Normally,” she agrees, “but I’m using official IOC systems at the moment so..?”

“As much as the Senior and the Investigator know,” I tell her, “it could be anyone on the film that’s brought you here. But I only put one face through the system. Why does the old Rabbit…” She holds up a finger and I remember. “...Lappinean interest IOC? And you know I’m going to keep asking if you keep denying.”


She grins and stirs a glass of water with a claw, just breaking the surface and trailing lines behind the claw. “I suppose I should have you relieved of duty but I understand there’s a lot going on here right at this moment. Is there any decent place to eat around here?” She scowled. “I mean, I tried a few of those bugs in the fridge but they’re really not my favourite…” She shrugged. “Had ‘em once or twice. But I prefer steak.”


There are no good steakhouses in Collington but there is a half decent burger place that calls it’s main meat ‘beef’ despite the fact the meat has a purple tinge and wouldn’t taste like beef if it was drowned in beef flavouring. It’s a Soda-Fona subsidiary’s subsidiary so the drinks are pretty much the same as always. Over sweetened and over flavoured. The Strawberry Milkshake could blow your nose off. But she goes vanilla and I end up paying for it. As usual, no compensation from the owner. Not allowed and he’d never give it. Agent Sana wants to know why I want to know about the Lappinean so I tell her that I’m pretty sure he’s overly intelligent enough to know I’m in Law Enforcement and she asks me when I saw him again as she’s seen the video and I’m not in it. So I tell her about what happened on the shuttle and she takes too sharp a bite from her burger. It’s knowledge that’s surprised her. I suddenly get the feeling I’m lucky to be here. She tells me what little she can about him. Which is pretty much nothing except the fact he’s extremely dangerous and, if he’s interested in the exploits of Witherington in a backyard town of a nowhere colony enough to actually come visit, she’s interested in the reason why. I figure it’s probably to do the election or the next round of expansions around here. Lappara have construction facilities on Cora II but that’s too far from here if the expansion starts from here, as Witherington seem to think it will.


She finishes her burger as she hacks into the shuttle internal camera system with annoying efficiency and pulls up the security footage of the encounter… that isn’t there. Then again, nor am I. Someone’s looped the prior day’s footage over it and wiped the old footage with an efficiency that borders of frightening. I pull the fragments of the control override from my pocket and tell of what happened in and around Norberry. She seems interested. She grins. Clearly she has an idea...
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Re: TERRORFORM

Post by Amazee Dayzee »

I certainly thought that this chapter was quite nice! Great work!
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Re: TERRORFORM

Post by Welsh Halfwit »

Sixteen


“You have your own shuttle,” I ask rhetorically as I board her rented shuttle from the stop just outside town, having driven her there in my car as she uses one specially designed for Fennekin that I can’t easily fit in. She’d ridden in the back of the car so as to not adjust Bushy’s seat and she tells me that she’d almost hit three vehicles on the way into town as she’d forgotten what side of the road we drove on here. We’d parked up next to a shuttle listed as ‘Flowers by Inter Stella’ which I KNOW is a reference to a comedy show and I tell her what it means.

“Yes, I do,” she replies, getting into the booster seat and pulling it under the dash so she could reach everything. “And remind me to stiff them on payment for that one.” I reach over to help and she slaps my hand away. “You don’t have insurance,” she states as I think this might be what Bushy feels like as she lifts the shuttle off the ground after checking for any extraneous devices. She switches off the satnav system and hands me a map with Norberry on it with map co-ordinates and directions on it. “Golta always tells me to keep the old methods as back up,” she explains, making me wonder who Golta is. Probably her mate or something. She notes the directions on the map and turns the heading to that direction “Of course,” she tells me brightly, “I could have followed the bus but I believe they have three stops along the way?”

“Four,” I complain, still feeling the slight sting on my hand from her little claws. “So why are we headed to Norberry?”

“Well,” she explains, “that’s where half the action is! Wow,” she says, seeing the terraformer to the left hand side and the difference between the ground behind it and what lies in front, “that is a REALLY big machine.”

“Eco nuts hate them,” I tell her. “They reckon the corporations are going too fast. That not enough is being done to safeguard the natural resources below the surface as they make this into something we can more easily live on. And they’re speeding up as a launchpad for the next expansion.”

“Oh, that won’t come for several decades,” Sana tells me, shifting over to adjust the heading so we don’t hit a pack of birds. “Whichever way we go, we run into races. The Karrineans, the Varkonians, the Kestalans…” She grimaced. “The Patreeve. Add to that the infighting with the Micans and the gel that I…” she paused. “...that I did NOT just mention and don’t ask because knowledge will just make your life abject hell, yeah?”

“Understood,” I agree, wondering what gel she’s talking about. I hope I forget it before I look things up.

“Something else you need to know about this Lappinean,” she tells me, “he’ll kill you as soon as look at you if you get in his way,” she pauses slightly. “but he’ll also go out of his way to save your life if you’re useful or just not a threat.”

“How dangerous can he be,” I scoff. She looks at me.

“When he decided I was ‘not a threat’, he used acid injections to melt the insides of two killers that had me trapped. Never underestimate him. Hello,” she adds, “what’s that?” She points down to something that’s half buried in the sand and dirt behind a small dune. The black carapace is standing out amidst the light brown and not glinting in the sun as it’s not painted that way. She lands the shuttle and gets a pair of goggles on as I find a mask and eyewear. Out here, the dust storms can come up as fast as anything. Sana’s Fennekin design can handle these things without suffocating for far longer than a Human can. Without the mask and goggles we’d be blind and suffocated within a minute. A Fennekin’s respatory system, being more refined, can last a lot longer although, as she reminds me, it doesn’t help if you can’t see. There’s no coat to put on for either of us so I hope nothing happens as she opens the door and, after we’ve gone through, shuts it again. “Looks like a storm uncovered something,” I tell her as we advance on the object. It looks like an… Is this an off-roader, I ask myself as I put hands on it.

“They usually do,” Sana calls back, her voice unencumbered by any mask. “Weren’t you looking for an off roader,” she asks, squatting by it unnecessarily.

“Yeah,” I reply, my tone only slightly muffled by my mask.

“This area’s not far from where the event happened,” she admits, looking back to where the shadow of the giant murder machine can still be seen against the afternoon sun, “so why wasn’t this spotted?”

“Depends who was searching the area,” I tell her. “We’re only a small department. We don’t have the manpower for a search this size. So Witherington brought in people to help.” I realise I’m talking louder and so does she. Her ears twitch and I realise she’s feeling the wind as it begins to pick up. There’s one of those storms coming. On my new comm, I call the Senior – who’s not exactly best pleased by the fact I never told her I was doing this and ‘pin’ the location of the find quite quickly. I tell her exactly why I’m pinning it and she helpfully advises me to get my backside out of there. I have to agree and try to catch Sana up. She’s used to running on shifting sands. I’m not.

According to systems, it’s five minutes out when we get back to the shuttle and vacate the area. The main towns and cities – even places like Norberry – are placed in locations protected against the worst of these storms, although we still get them on occasions. Weather defence stations can keep some of this out, strengthening their power as the storms intensify due to wind powered generators attached to low level shields but thet can get pretty bad. Of course, terraforming is lessening their power as they spend less time picking up sand and debris to throw at us. “Wonder what happened to the rider,” I ask Sana.

“You’ve checked if any shuttles were in the area that day,” she asks.

“It was done,” I confide. “There weren’t any. Of course,” I muse, “there might be an entirely different way they left the area.”

“How’s that,” Sana asks.

“They could have joined the search parties.” She smiles at me. She likes the idea. It’s cunning.


We land near Norberry, next to a sports field that consists of yellow grass, dirt and sand with goalposts at opposing ends of the ‘pitch’. Thankfully, today’s not a matchday. Sana sets up the autoscan to detect if anyone comes near it and we set off towards town. She comments on the loveliness of the heat and I have to confess I’m not feeling it. I ask where we’re going.

“To get someone in trouble,” she replies
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Re: TERRORFORM

Post by Amazee Dayzee »

Why do I feel like even if it was a match day that they would still park the shuttle on the field. I don't know because they just seem the type.
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Re: TERRORFORM

Post by Welsh Halfwit »

Seventeen


It takes about fifteen minutes for us to get to the centre of town and I ask Sana why she parked the shuttle out of town. She responds that she liked the walk and she only had basic shuttle training. Landing in built up areas is part of the advanced course due to the added complexities of not hitting buildings, moving vehicles or landing on people. It makes sense. It doesn’t quite make me feel better about flying with her. But never mind that right now. She’s headed straight into the car rental place. I hurry after her, in case she asks rude questions.


She doesn’t. In fact she doesn’t ask any questions at the moment, she hires a car, alleging that I’m her friend and I’m driving. The Canine sizes me up and grunts that he’s surprised I’d want to rent another car from him after the last time. I tell him it wasn’t really his fault and, oh, by the way, did he have the reports back from the tech people? He complains and explains that it’ll still be a few days from the big city and perhaps I should spend my time watching some of the CCTV around town to pass the time as wasn’t that something cops liked to do? He has a point. Criminals can hide from us but not from the ever watching eagle eyes of surveillance. I didn’t have the time last time as I’d needed to catch the bus. Now, though, the time was provided… Or not. Sana wants to go somewhere and I need to chauffeur. I ask if there’s any particular place we’re going.

She holds up the broken remote device. “I need to get this analysed by my system back on Celica. Bit pushed from here but I can use specialised kit to record its frequencies and send them along with the three dimensional scans.”

“So why not use the university in Balfour?”

“Because that would advertise,” she tells me as we head towards a familiar suburb. “And I know a guy.”


We pull up outside a house I’ve been to once and she looks at it carefully. “Really?” She doesn’t wait for a reply, she just steps up to the front door and knocks. I stand behind her and Martin Hewitt looks me straight in the eye as he opens and asks how come I’m back. I point down and he sees Sana and I see him go into shock as she introduces herself. I’d say it’s the idea of an IOC agent in his house but she’s not identified herself yet. In fact Martin introduces her. “You’re… You’re… Rena Dezè,” he stammers.

“Yeah,” she accepts, “but I go by Agent Sana these days. And I need your help, ‘Wisdom Warrior 14’. Need something that almost got my big friend here killed. Is this your room,” she asks, heading in and into the darkened bedroom. “Niffs in here,” she said, ignoring the pair of us as she looks around at the set up. “Nah,” she says, “this set up’s not right.” She bounces on her feet atop the rug. “Under here, I take it?”

“Uh, no,” Martin stammers, before correcting himself to ‘I don’t know what you mean’ but it’s too late as Sana pulls the rug back to reveal a trapdoor.

“I’m not after you, W.W. In fact I need to send this back to my own system for analysis and I know you’ve got a Carbiner 8 under here with a direct satellite uplink that only about five people know about.”

“And… and I know you need a warrant for…” He stopped as Sana tapped her wrist computer. She glanced at him askew. “And you invented the speed E-warrant,” he concluded. “Which’d make it official and stuff.” He stepped forward and engaged the combination lock to release the floorboards. As the floor pops up, I ask how a teenager can afford this stuff.

“He’s twenty seven,” Sana tells me, jumping down the steps to a cyber tech cave, air conditioning blowing hard to keep things cool down here as we head through stored computer banks to a large terminal set against the wall. Sana lets him log in to his network. He asks her how she knows about the uplink. “I’m one of the five,” she tells him, choosing not to tell him which one.

“How do you afford all this stuff,” I ask.

“Younger days,” he replies, suddenly sounding older, “I found out companies would pay a lot if you could find holes in their networks so they can seal them. And other companies would also pay a lot for you to leave them open. That’s all I need to say,” he adds as Sana takes over and disconnects the probes he’s set up, telling him she doesn’t blame him for trying and he loads the fragments into an analyser. I see a wireframe map of the device come up and the internal systems simulate recombination of the wiring I… um… disconnected and a light blinks on to state that it’s blocking a transmission. “Even the image is capable of sending a signal,” Martin muses. “Makes it high grade stuff.” I ask if he can get into the local CCTV from here. “Can but won’t,” he replied. “You recall I got caught by doing something local?”

“I recall you got suspended from school,” I reply. “Which reminds me, why are you going to school?”

He smirks. “People would ask what I do for a living,” he tells me. “So, if I look like a schoolboy, might as well make use of it. Besides, school is a fun diversion at times.” Talk about method.


Sana has the thing uploaded in about ten minutes and I think how it’d take me and hour with the Police computer. She spins around. “So, why haven’t you hacked Witherington,” she queries. “With this get up, they’d not be able to stop you yet their secrets remain secret. Witherington are something of the enemy hereabouts so I’m going to make a guess. You HAVE hacked them. And they noticed, didn’t they?” He’s looking nervous. I don’t think he can lie to save his life. But could he tell truth to end someone else's life? She continues. “You say you were working on Witherington with his friend Karl but you were also working on Karl with Witherington, weren’t you?” She slid off the chair and sniffed. “Fear smells like garbage, W.W. You’re found out. Now, do we keep talking down here or in the local cop shop?


He decides to talk down here. Just as the trapdoor shuts and someone moves the rug over the top.
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Re: TERRORFORM

Post by Amazee Dayzee »

Sounds like this guy is really competent with computers so he might be good to have on their side. If he's only 27 and he accomplished this, just THINK of what he will accomplish in the future. :shock:
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Re: TERRORFORM

Post by Welsh Halfwit »

Eighteen


Sana shushes me before I even think of making a sound as we hear the reverberations of footsteps heading away from the ceiling. Martin’s pulling up a camera view of his doorway as his ‘mother’ slouches towards the door and opens it to a pair of suits. She asks who they are and they show her badges. Investigators. She reads that out aloud for the sake of the camera whilst giving it no attention. She asks what it’s about. The investigator called Montague asks where Martin is and she deflects that he’s supposed to be in school. The other smirks and comments that they know she knows better than that and he’s in serious trouble and they need to search the place and they’re coming in. She protests that they don’t have a warrant and tries to close the door. At the time they don’t let her I get on the comm and tell Cooper she needs to call by the location now. Martin glances at me angrily and I tell the two of them that we need official proof these people are here. I’m not sure they’re Investigators. At least not official Investigators. He pulls up an outside cam that’s obviously near the floor level and has the image of one of the registration plates. I note it and forward it to Bushy for a check as Martin closes down the system, leaving the room lit by a few, dim, red lights.

Cutting the power levels, Sana whispered as a trio of pairs of boots sounds above. The voices are muffled and deep and I hear my implant sound that there’s an incoming comm. The face of the device lights up. It’s Cooper. I listen in to her asking why I’d called and I just whisper that I can’t tell her right now but that it’s urgent and just to sound her horn from outside for attention before I shut it off again.

“Do you trust her,” Martin asks quietly.

“Right now,” I whisper back, “she’s the only cavalry we have.”

“You think Witherington doesn’t have it’s claws in her,” he asks.

“Nah,” Sana says, chuckling. Clearly she knows something. We stare at her, which would be far more effective in a brighter light. The little agent shrugs. “I checked her financials,” she states. “Her pay’s supplemented by the occasional influx of cash recently. From Soda-Fona.”

The things I don’t need to hear and choose to forget. I could fill a book with them. That one’s another one. I’ll have to find out why they’ve ‘sponsored’ a small town cop but now’s not the time.


The camera in his room picks the pair up as they put fingers to the rug and get ready to… They stop, almost frozen as we hear something sound in the distance. It’s muffled, badly muffled, but it’s the sound of a police siren running as Cooper arrives. We can’t hear what happens next as the sound is off for the simple reason that they might be able to hear us hearing them if it were on. One of them heads back to the door and I whisper that I’m going to get ready for if he has to open the trapdoor. I draw my weapons and set up on the stairs, ready for Martin to release when apposite. I watch the feed.


Cooper’s not impressed by this guy, I can see. Like me she knows the basic difference between an Investigator and a thug with a tie on and she’s not having it. From the motions of her head, she’s now demanding to see his warrant and he’s going for…

...a weapon that Cooper sees and she’s got her weapons closer at hand. It’s not a K.O.. shot but she lands him a good, solid, one with her stick. He reels back and I hear the sound of fast moving feet as I tell Martin to release the lock. There’s the sound of a shot.


I come up behind the ‘investigator’, in his pinstripe suit and city slicker shoes and demand him surrender as he sends a second shot down the passageway towards Cooper, who takes the shot in the shoulder and twists down to the ground, next to the body of Martins’ ‘mother’ who seemed to have taken a shot in the back whilst heading for Cooper. So I call out, looking to have someone that can talk, and he chooses to turn in my direction so that’s the end for him. Possibly. At this range even stun can kill. An electrical charge dissipates over range but four foot will still do more than’s needed. I really hope he’s not an investigator as I check on the other one. He’s out for the count for the moment, showing another weal on his temple where Cooper must have belted him again so I check on her as Sana calls for medical expertise. It’ll be on it’s way. Martin, of course, cries out and runs to the body of his mother… or whoever she is. He rocks her frame and keens as Cooper looks up at me, a trace of red in the corner of her mouth, deeper than lipstick. “Really,” she says hesitantly, “hope they weren’t Investigators!”

I have to chuckle as I tell her the parameds will be here shortly. She responds that she’d rather let her leg drop off than have Simon see her like this and I have to tell her that she’s gotta hang on and everything. She tells me that having an artificial shoulder blown off for the second time in it’s life isn’t something that’s life threatening. I tell her the work is brilliant and I can’t see any sign of it being a fake. She tells me that’s because she was lying and how is someone this gullible a cop. She passes out as the paramedics arrive to save her life.


Oh, the Senior’s going to be up here soon. She’s not going to be happy. Can’t say I blame her. Rental costs for the shuttle will be bad enough. Sana’s going to say she made me come. Senior’s not going to believe her but Sana is a federal employee checking on things and we’re keeping Martin company so he doesn’t run off into the desert. It’s about as fun as it sounds.


The police station is quiet right now as Sana talks to Martin in the back room. Muggins here is on the desk, satnav open and car ready to speed to where any emergency is happening until the Senior and the real Investigator get up here with a temporary Officer to fill in the beat. There’s a small crowd gathering outside, even the local press, who’ve never reported on Smith being up here, have someone taking notes of what the Police House looks like. Someone will have to give a statement. I volunteer the Senior.


In the interview room – often called the dining room in cop shops like this – Martin tells of his work.
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Re: TERRORFORM

Post by Amazee Dayzee »

Hope Martin isn't the long-winded type. I honestly HATE those kind of people in real life. :roll:
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Re: TERRORFORM

Post by Welsh Halfwit »

19


Martin tells us that someone backed him for the position here, paid his transport and helped set him up and helped to fund him whilst making himself known to Witherington. He’d assumed the funds had come from them as he’d been required to send reports on the local situation and investigations into Witherington to them whilst pretending to assist the investigation. He tells Sana how Karl reached out to him to seek information about what the company was hiding about the mineral results around his own town! He emphasises how that had shocked him. He’d been set up here because it was a good place to follow things in Garfield and the other cities without drawing too much attention but, now, Witherington had been seeking to expand in his own town. He’d continued to work for them after double and triple checking the communication source as belonging to a Harriet Brown in Witherington Secure systems. He’d watched as they kept buying up plots around the town. He’d kept the records and information. He supplies Sana with the information he’s got. Tells her where to find it. I’d hear more but a certain shuttle’s just landed.


Well, safe to say Senior Sergeant Pollock’s not best happy about the situation and the phlegm flies as she bastes me alive for heading out without asking her permission and I answer to HER, not to the IOC and we’re… I have spittle in my ears so I don’t quite hear the next word… lucky that Investigator Gerry tells that she’s never seen this pair before. The weapons they were using aren’t standard issue either, the Sergeant admits. She looks at me with a foul stench and intones that it seems we got involved in the middle of a hit and what the heck feathers was going on? This wasn’t the sort of thing that went on in her town and we still hadn’t answered any of the questions about Smith! Cooper, she adds, is fine and complaining about the fact she’s being kept in for observation. Nice of the Senior to remember her. She points at Sana and tells me that, as soon as the interview here is done, I’m to take the agent back to Martin’s place and arrange for everything important in the literal mancave to be inspected, sorted and transported to Balfour where the local chief and the IOC office could argue over who gets to forensically analyse everything. Martin’s place is, apparently, where Gerry is, keeping an eye on the two officers securing the area. Bushy’s been left in charge at home so Senior’s itching to get back with a certain someone to question. So she’ll be going back with him soon, I hope.


Sana comes out about twenty minutes later and says Martin’s agreed to go with the Senior as things might just be a little problematic if he stays here. I have to agree. If the two we dealt with weren’t Investigators, they can only have been Witherington. And why would Witherington want to whack their own agent? Things, as she puts it, are not adding up. So we head back to where we were attacked. It still has the nasal sting of violence and pulse gunfire about it. The red stains of death lying on the floor and Gerry standing in our way. Sana asks her what she’s found out.

“These two are from Garfield,” she admits, poking one of the two corpses with a toe. Hmm, Cooper got him harder than I thought, it appears. “Mark Redonda and Wilkie Carson. Mid level thugs for the Osberts, although it’s not possible to prove it, of course. Paid cash for the transport up here and we’ve traced it back to a rental shop on the outskirts of Briandville. We’re looking into what they were doing there but we suspect they might have had something to do with an attempted murder there.”

“Oh,” Sana asks, her ears twitching at the word. I can feel her pulse ramp up slightly from here. I get it. She’s the computer geek who sometimes gets into a firefight. I have the feeling she can shoot, though. Good. I excuse the two officers guarding the place and they tell me they’re going to continue guarding the place until forensics have finished up and released the bodies. I bluff seniority by telling them that’s the correct answer and letting Sana go in before me, as she simply walks past and in anyhow. Gerry’s walking with her. It looks like Sana’s playing ‘friendly investigator’ with her. More likely she just knows there’s no way to get rid of her.

“It’s under here,” I tell the blonde lady, pulling back the rug to reveal a floor.

“Floors usually are,” she replies, the hint of a smile on her face that twinkles as I release the trapdoor and gesture for the ladies to go down. Sana hops down, landing on the third step and I follow Gerry in, ducking to not smack my head. Gerry’s impressed, as detailed by the whistle. “The boys will have a field day with this,” she intones.

“The squabble that’ll bring aren’t relevant to me,” Sana says turning the system on and looking to link up the systems for a long range data copy. “But the information needs to be stored and gone through quickly, in case it’s connected to what happened to him so I’m sending a copy to my system and a copy to a friend of mine to analyse as I’m not at my home system, am I?” She looks up and smiles a dazzling smile that reflects the light that dangles from the roof. “Even I’m not smart enough to be in two places at once, after all.”

She clicks through on a file as I ponder how a line like that brings us back to the amazing, teleporting, Mister Smith. And, speak of the devil, there he is, parking up outside. Well, his driver is anyhow. Gerry puts a hand on my shoulder. She’ll handle this. She doesn’t need to say it but she does anyhow. I see the look on her face as she turns and strides towards the steps. I didn’t know he had a driver. I wonder where this guy was when his master was pulling chains at the town hall?


She stands defiant in the doorway as Smith states he’s just come to pay his respects to a local he knew of and to express his feelings that such a thing could happen, even here. Gerry comments that she wasn’t aware Witherington was in the habit of employing hackers.

“Independent cyber security agents,” Smith tells her snidely.

“I accept the correction,” Gerry tells him. “but you’re stating he was, indeed, someone who worked for you?”

“Only in a hands-off way,” Smith replies. “He helped us secure our systems and analyse the activities of our opponents. Are those the hoodlums who carried out the attack,” he asks as I slap my head and Sana asks if I’m trying to dislodge fleas.

“No,” I reply, “I’m not. She said those two were attached to the Osbert gang?”

“Yeah. I don’t know them.”

“They’re one of the gangs trying to control the underworld on the colony,” I explain, “you know the sort. But they’re Osbert clan. Benson’s supposed to be working with them.” She looks befuddled. An ear droops. “Local ‘businessman’ in Collington. Runs the Soda-Fona subsidiary and he’s very anti-terraforming. Which means…”

“...He’s anti-Witherington,” Sana finishes.
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Re: TERRORFORM

Post by Amazee Dayzee »

What a spectacular addition to this story you put down! It really came out wonderful!
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