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RIP - Red 1

 

RIP – Red

 

Published by Lazlo Ferran at Shakespir

 

Copyright © 2016 by Lazlo Ferran

All Rights Reserved

 

 

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Shakespir.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

 

No part of this book maybe used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without the written permission of the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. For information address Lazlo Ferran at:

[email protected]

Chapter One

 

Omah’s head-up display on the visor of his helmet indicated to him the likelihood of criminal activity with a coloured halo around each citizen; blue for law-abiding, white for untouchables, red for Scum. He had always had a visceral tendency for violence:

His mother thought he had a look like a, “Whipped dog.”

His father told him to, “Keep his collar clean.”

The funny thing was that he had never seen a dog.

He took another look at the row of columns under the Hall on the far side of the street and suddenly couldn’t remember what he had just been thinking. Not only that, but he had the feeling something had changed irrevocably.

Shalto Denner leaned as casually as he could against the side of the brick column buttressing the City Measurers Hall under the colonnade. Shaded from the main street he lit the rollup he had stuck above his ear. He had thought about giving up many times, but it marked you out as Void scum; an emblem that could save your life in tight situations. This was one.

He recalled that his good looks had often caught him out, so he slipped on a pair of dark shades. He still looked handsome; silver hair above a craggy face, cross-hatched by age lines and azure eyes. A girlfriend, more generous than most, had described his face as like a crystalline rock face, carved into the likeness of a man.

‘Can’t keep it up long enough to satisfy a woman anymore,’ he mused.

His thoughts were interrupted by a sparkle of light in the crowd. Looking more closely he saw the distinctive black helmet of a Municipal Policeman’s helmet and slipped round the corner to hide down Subaltern Street.

Omah could see a sea of blue, flecked with white in his display, no red. This made him suspicious. From the corner of his eye he thought he saw a single flick of red vanish round the corner of the old Measurers Hall.

“Ah ha! Got you!” he muttered. The midday heat made sweat seep into his collar. He slowly shook his head once to sooth an itch. He decided to pass Subaltern Street and double back, round the block.

“Something’s going on, Sector 4, corner of Subaltern Street and Main. Falcon 2 requesting back up.”

“Roger 2. Falcon 3 right behind you, half a block, on the right.”

“Crossing to right now. Stop on the intersection and wait. I’m gonna circle round and flush him out. Suspect he’s the lookout for something. These buggers always have complex crimes in mind these days.”

“Heh! Heh! Right enough. Careful Little Om.”

‘Shit! Wish they didn’t call me that!’ Omah thought.

Pointing his PAC-30 laser rifle in front of him to clear a path through the pedestrians, he briskly crossed to the right pavement and strode to the corner of the next street. In an instant he passed from hot sun into cool shadow and increased his pace, finally breaking into a hot run when he thought he was far enough from Main Street. The heavy armoured suit’s hip armour dug into his thighs at the top of every stride, making him wince.

“Sure glad I’m in such good condition. Bet this Voidy isn’t!”

Just before he took a right, into the suspect’s street, he checked the time, 11.06 am. He wanted this to be his best report ever.

“You in position Falcon 3?”

“Yep. Me and 1. Both sides of Subaltern covered.”

“I got ’em. Three coming down Measurers steps. Wait.”

Omah had no time to fill his team in. He broke into a run and aimed the A-Lex at the head of a scruffy man with a gun in the back of a Municipal Clerk. Omah could make out the yellow badge on the clerk’s cap, indicating high rank. And wealth.

The Voider he had glimpsed earlier, nodded to the other three and led them toward Main Street.

Omah often wondered if the kicking he received in the school yard because of his shortness led to the enjoyment he had felt pulling the trigger for his first few years as a police officer. But then there had been Schafer. DeLuxe Shafer. What a name! If anybody had been a born Voider, it had been him; shifty, good with his mouth and handy at evaluating stolen goods. Omah had happily removed the man’s head from existence, only to discover at the inquest that he hadn’t been at the scene of the crime. It had changed Omah.

He raised the barrel of the laser and set it to stun while he moved from one clump of pedestrians to another, each time getting a little closer to the gang and their captive.

‘They will waste him just before they reach the crowds in Main, then make a run for it,’ Omah thought, ‘Right now he is their bargaining chip and still worth something. This is his only chance.’

The street had very little cover; one or two more pedestrians between him and the gang, a short flight of steps to side door, probably a service door. He chose the steps and dove for cover.

“Citizens! Stop!” he yelled, after blinking the speaker to ‘Public.’

The rearmost Voider turned, looking for a target and fired hopefully at the steps. Apart from a few flecks of concrete hitting his visor, Omah felt nothing.

‘Oh well,’ he thought. ‘I tried.’

He peered out from behind the steps and lined the rear man up in his sight. An instant later, the man’s arm jerked, severed from the shoulder, and smeared the pavement red where it fell. The man’s face broke into a rictus of agony. Omah had been careful not to let the intense beam of white light sear straight through the men in front, one of them being the clerk. The lead three men suddenly stopped, seeing Falcon 1 and 3 ahead.

“Throw your guns to the far pavement! Lay flat on the ground!” Omah commanded.

The men complied, even the clerk. Omah grinned and strode toward the prostrators.

“You can get up sir!” he told the clerk. “What happened?”

“They took my tokens! All of them! Fifty thousand Baats!”

“Okay, we’ll get you down the Station, take a statement and get the tokens back to you. Is there somewhere secure inside? A large room without too many windows?”

“There’s the Voting Office.”

“Alright. Station North Four. This is Falcon Two. Request secure transport for eight; four Voiders, a clerk and Falcon team. One of the Voiders is… disarmed. Needs medical assistance.”

“Affirmative Falcon Two. Fifteen minutes.”

“Thanks. Mitch, first aid for that sonofabitch. Dan, help me get the rest inside. Stick close to the clerk. What’s your name sir?”

“Albatross Leaky.”

Omah did a double take and tried to restrain a laugh, which became an awkward cough.

‘Somebody’s parents had a sense of humour,’

The wood-panelled Voting Office looked more like a state room, apart from the lack of windows. A large painting of Senator, now President, Garlandya stretched almost to the ceiling in its gilded frame, behind the largest leather chair.

Omah took the privilege he regarded as his own for leading the capture, of sitting in the black leather chair and swung it absent-mindedly from side to side while the prisoners scowled – one moaned in vague pain and looked with sadness at his severed limb after receiving anaesthetic – and they all waited for the police van.

Suddenly the scowls on the prisoners’ faces turned to a look of disbelief. Omah glanced at the helmets of his team, but could make out nothing. However, Albatross Leaky’s mouth had dropped open in what Omah would have to describe as horror. They all looked at the painting behind Omah.

Guessing it had somehow come loose and would hit him at any moment, he leaped up and sprang toward them, as fast as the bulky suit would allow, leaving his laser overhanging the other side of the desk at which he’d sat

He swung round to face the danger and stopped in his tracks.

From somewhere within, or behind the wall upon which the painting hung, a black crack was appearing, burning all it touched at its edges. Smoke began to fill the room as the crack reached to the floor and ceiling and widened.

“What the liar…” Mitch began.

“Is it?” Omah finished.

There really seemed nothing to do other than watch the phenomenon. Truth was a place where nothing unexplained could happen. It had to be, for that was its mandate, a place for logical, cool-headed people to live. There were no such things as fairies, gods, demons or large, burning cracks slowly appearing in the walls of municipal buildings.

None of the Police team present had been prepared for such an event and none knew what to do.

As they watched, a bright light burst from the depths of the crack and became a curtain of rainbow colours. It writhed like some kind of aurora. Out of it suddenly sprang two black beasts.

Omah couldn’t clearly recall later whether they were black or dressed in black, or whether they had wings. They moved to fast to see anything clearly. One leaped over Omah’s head and made for the gang, the other crashed into the door, breaking it down.

The monster near the gang knocked the lasers out of Mitch and Dan’s hands, and uttered something in a deep, guttural language that Omah had never heard. He made a move toward his own laser, still lying on the desk, and beast roared its disapproval.

“Ka puk?” the beast said to Omah. Somehow he had the vague sense that beast had identified him as the leader and wanted to communicate something. But not to Omah. The second beast began to lead the Voiders from the room and the other one leaned close to the white-haired Voider’s head. Omah thought he heard the beast utter the sound again:

“Ka puk!”

The beast pushed the Voider behind the others and slammed the door shut behind it.

None of the policemen moved. Even the sound of pedestrian screaming outside couldn’t move them from their positions.

Omah found himself shaking.

“Did you see that?” he asked.

“What?” Mitch replied.

The other officers shook their heads vaguely.

Nobody spoke in the police van. Omah cradled the severed arm in his lap like a peace token for his boss.

‘This is going to be messy,’ he thought.

The meeting with the Commander didn’t take long:

“Omah, I know you haven’t been here that long. Two years isn’t long enough for you to know everything. But you were put in charge of the squad because you have proved disciplined and hard working. And now this!”

His brief report landed on the desk in front of him and spun round, coming to a halt with a corner overhanging the desk. He squared it with the desk and coughed.

“Explain!” yelled the Commander.

“Well, it’s all in there sir.”

“Monsters? Are you crazy? None of the other officers mention monsters! And neither did the victim, who is a very important person by the way.”

“Yes sir, I guessed that by the amount…”

“Yes, all returned to him, thank Truth. That’s the only reason I am going to overlook this report. Write it up again. The others mentioned a gang of criminals who blasted through the wall and came in wearing black camouflage and bearing laser carbines. I suggest you make sure your report is consistent with that! Dismissed!”

Omah handed in a different report and went off duty. The day had unnerved him and the Commander’s tone had rankled, particular since his superior was an android. He needed a stiff drink and he knew where to get it.

Pushing through the rush-hour crowds on Main, he grabbed a cheap takeaway and turned into ‘Overdose’ Street. At the next junction he turned left and descended to the basement bar, Riko’s.

Two strippers shuffled lazily on narrow stage. The entirely black décor, worn through in places to geological strata of previous colours, comforted Omah

“Hey dude! Don’t normally see you on Mourndays!”

“Long day! I need something cold and stiff.”

“I thought you got plenty of those at work!” a second voice cut in behind Omah. He spun round to face a muscular black man with a neat beard and moustache.

“Cheng! How the liar are you? I thought you were stuck in Grand Bay for the next five.”

“I like to visit the folks once in a while.”

“Let me buy you something,” Omah offered.

“I’m buying,” cut in Aylun, far over Omah’s head. Six foot ten of lean, muscular building technician swung round on the stool, making its shiny chrome frame creak. All three men balanced their upper torsos on the elbows among the slush of spilled drinks to consider the comely barmaid.

“She’ll come to me first,” Aylun boasted, waving his voucher book.

Cheng snorted.

“You’re the size of a damned crane. How can she ignore you?” Omah added.

But the barmaid had good eyes and could see the blue book was still fat with pages. She came over, studiously wiping the bar top clean, and nodded at Aylun.

“Two pig-swills and a Double-Endoscopy.”

The barmaid took the book, tore off the required number of vouchers from a page near the back and handed it back.

They each took a sip of their bitter poison and Aylun asked:

“So what happened?”

“If I told you, you wouldn’t believe me!” Omah replied.

Omah stared into the distance, but one of the dancers moved into his line of sight. She smiled at him. He smiled back and she removed her G-string with a poorly timed flourish.

“You can say anything down here. We’re practically in the Void,” Cheng counselled.

“Have you ever heard of Voiders who can burn a gap in a wall ten feet high in a few moments – emitting a rainbow colour of light too – come out wearing nothing but black clothes into a squad of policemen and take away the prisoners faster than you can blink? And with long, white fangs?”

***

“Where’s daddy?” Em and Josu asked, almost in unison.

As head woman of her small family Bri had to calm her younger brother and sister, but after almost forty-seven hours of such questions, she had almost lost her mind with fear.

“I don’t know! I just don’t know! I wish there was somebody I could ask. I’m sure he will be back soon!”

Life in the Void was always tough. Even in the ‘high’ end of the Void shanty town, which stuck one finger into the City’s suburbs from the fist nestling among the surrounding hillsides, houses were constructed of broken bricks and sheet iron. Her father never told her where he was going on a ‘job’ and she had nobody to ask.

Plaiting her luxuriant black hair and pinning it to the top of her head, she told the elder of the two twins:

“Em, look after Josu. I am going out for just 30 minutes. Don’t leave her. Alright?”

“Okay Bri.”

But the front door flew open, slamming against the wall and making the shack reverberate like the inside of a drum.

Shalto led a chain of captives through the door, followed by the most frightening beasts Bri had ever seen. The moved like shadows, light seeming to dither around them, casting no detail or shadow of themselves into relief for the eye to determine. She found she could not speak. Even the twins were spellbound.

“Stay back,” all of you, her father commanded, descended the short flight of steps. “They mean us no harm! I… I think they are slavers!”

The beasts forced their captives, eight men and two women, into a line along one wall, and beat them with something that looked to Bri like a short whip.

The larger of the two beasts, first to enter, uttered something to Shalto, but he shook his head, lips trembling:

“I don’t know. I don’t understand you. Please don’t hurt us!”

The beast mimed pouring something down his open throat and pointed to the room. He performed the mime again and Shalto nodded.

“Water. Bri, bring all the water we have.”

Bri had to force the muscles in her throat to move, managing only a thin shriek:

“Only the bathwater! For washing!”

“Get it!”

She turned, entered the bathroom, and struggled back with a metal tub of soapy water.

Shalto helped her carry it to the central table and stepped away.

The beast led the first man in the line to the tub and indicated he must drink. The snake of terrified captives wound past the tub, each person gulping all they could in a space of the twenty seconds the beasts allowed. The beasts held the last man back and seemed to discuss something. One nodded and untied the rope knot behind the man’s ankle. He stepped free and fell to his knees, fearing he had been singled out for something. He did something Bri had never seen before. He pressed his palms together and prayed.

One of the beasts lowered its open jaws to the man’s neck and sunk its fangs into the soft flesh.

Bri screamed. Her father held her tightly and put his hand over her mouth, whispering:

“Silence!”

The man on his knees struggled and moaned like a dying animal. Bri would never forget the unearthly sound he made in his throat. The first beast let go and the second took hold, sinking its fangs into the dying man’s neck. Blood sprayed from deep wounds and spattered the mud floor. Soon little rivulets wound toward the table legs and the body lay still. The beast straightened and stared at Shalto.

Bri sensed what would happen and screamed, “Daddy! Run!”

Omah wondered if he had been shifted to night duty for the rest of the week as a punishment. He only half-listened to the static of patrol messages coming out of the ether on his radio, so only caught the last part of one that caught his attention:

“Disturbance in Void District One reported. Two dark gunmen leading column of captives through street. Any units nearby?”

“Night Owl One to Station North Four. I’m close. How many gunmen? Coordinates?”

He already had his eye on a red hoverbike before he got his answer:

“Two or three Night Owl One. Spotted descending from third floor roof overlooking entrance.”

The key word was ‘dark’ for Omah; he had been waiting for anything that might possibly be the monsters. He grabbed the hoverbike from the complaining man and headed down the long slope of the Void.

An array of twisty paths between shacks confronted Omah at the first intersection, but somebody pointed furiously east. He turned. A small crowd or people soaked up the rain, staring east. Omah didn’t have to ask them anything. He kept going at a walking pace. When the crowd ran out, he parked the bike and continued on foot.

“Psst! Down there!” a drunk whispered from the shadows.

“Where?”

A wrinkly hand extended from grey cloak and pointed to a narrow path.

Omah drew the PAC-30 and released the trigger. The red line of lights flicked on indicating a full charge. He set the laser to ‘Kill’ and as an afterthought, pressed, the boost button and turned its dial all the way to the top.

After only a few metres, he saw the open door. Faint yellow light flickered as large shapes moved across its source inside.

“This is it!”

If Bri hadn’t screamed, Omah would never have made it to the door without the beasts hearing him. He leaped through the doorway, landing in a crouched position, and fired without thinking. His short burst hit the beast next to the dead man squarely between its shoulders and it went down. The second leaped toward the bathroom door. Firing at nothing more than a shadow, Omah missed, burning a ragged hole in the corrugated iron wall. At such a high power setting he only had two shots. And he had fired them. But his blood was up, so he leaped down the steps and followed the beast through the flapping bathroom door. He arrived just as a clatter of scattering waste bins sounded far below. Through an open window, Omah watched a dark shadow disappear into the night.

Bri screamed again when the beast on the floor seemed to regain consciousness and began to crawl to the steps. Hauling itself to its feet by its grip on the banister, it lurched out of the front door.

Omah saw the trail of blood in the dust and followed it for a few blocks, but lost its track.

It was the bravest thing Bri had ever seen. She beamed at Omah’s helmet for all she was worth when he returned and shook his head, but he didn’t seem to notice.

“I’ll call for transport. We’ll go to the station and take a statement.”

When the hovervan arrived, Omah made sure samples of the blood were taken. Later analysis, however, proved inconclusive. He divided the witnesses, children in one, Shalto in the other, and kept them separated until statements had been taken, knowing the man would be more likely to lie. Only Bri had the courage to use the word ‘monster,’ so her statement was deleted.

Fortunately, telling the truth didn’t stop her spending her scholarship as she wished. All children showing talent, whether from the higher echelons of society or from the Void, were entitled to a scholarship to a college of their choice, and now Bri knew what she wanted to study.

The nib of that autumn whorled the first gold leaves on the flagstones when she saw him crossing the Police Academy courtyard.

Omah had been sent back to retake his first year Logical Reality module. For three days of each week he would be painfully reminded that his job was now on the line.

He carried his old clipboard under one arm and, as he passed the fountain outside the main doors to the Academy, he punched the power button on the built-in com.

“No harm in a little swatting before the lecture!”

But the small screen briefly showed nonsense letters before blinking out completely.

“Busted! Should have known! But I have this!”

He drew out his personal tPhone, the very latest shiny, black model and punched in the login details mailed to him.

He pushed the doors open and leaned on the reception counter, asking the lean, but severe, boy:

“Where’s Lecture Hall A? It’s been a few years since I was here.”

“It wouldn’t have helped,” he said, eying him through his unnecessarily thick rimmed glasses. “It’s all been rebuilt so it didn’t exist then. Down that corridor, third double-doors on the right.”

“Thanks.”

“Sign your name in here please.”

Omah scrawled ‘Omah DeLion,’ cringing at his grandfather’s choice of fake name.

“Ooh! Looks who’s back!” squealed a prim blonde, nudging the shoulder of her companion, a short, heavy girl with a cruel grin.

“Oh shit! I thought I had seen the last of you Ivone.”

“Third year sweetie. But still taller than you! Did you mess up then?”

Omah returned his attention to the data delivered to him on his phone and headed toward the door labelled ‘Gentlemen.’

He balanced the clipboard on the sink and stared into the mirror.

“Okay, so I am short. Am I that ugly too?”

As he looked at the black mop of hair, shaved at the temples, above a found face, whose shape he often compared to that of a turnip, he had to admit perhaps he was. His eyes were set too far apart and only the unusual, cobalt blue of his irises saved him from feeling like a complete reject. He looked better when he smiled, but Omah rarely felt like smiling.

***

Five years later, Omah stared at his reflection in the train window. The hair now hung to his shoulders in unruly strands but the face looked the same. Only now a few lines, engraved by laughter and age, gave him a kind of homely look, which he had discovered, women liked.

The key he had worn for luck since a child still pressed its cold, reassuring skeleton against this breast bone. He had stubbornly held on to it though his parents had discouraged such ‘weird’ behaviour. Omah could barely remember where he found it anymore:

“A building site; in the dirt,” he mouthed, fingering the talisman.

The key was just about the only thing that marked him out from anyone else.

‘Perhaps,’ he thought ‘that’s why I keep it. A key without a lock. Never brought me any luck!’

The phrase resonated with him. He had thought of a thousand tunes to accompany the words. He hummed them frequently but always forgot them quickly and came up with something new.

He had flunked the Logical Reality module. The image association test with the psychologist had caught him out. Discharged, he wandered the streets, looking for any job he could take. A desk at Marchand’s, the biggest detective agency in Truth, seemed the only option with a viable pay level. Not that the basic pay was good enough itself, but they offered bonuses for solved crimes.

Five years later, Omah was the only human left in an office of nearly four hundred androids. He expected to be sacked. So when his boss, another android, called him into the office and handed him a brown envelope, he feared the worst.

“I have a contract for you. You are the only human left and the client requests a human.”

Omah tried not to let his relief show but he almost wet his pants.

“The pay is good; four hundred baats per day until the job is done,” the android droned on, swinging contemptuously, or what its programmer thought would look contemptuously, in its leather chair.

“What’s that?”

“The job must be done. You will have no life while you are working it. Six days per week, no holiday and no job here, if you fail, or don’t meet their progress expectations. Will you sign?”

“Who are they?”

“Behrendt Institute of Computing and Technology.”

“In Grand Bay Island?” The location presented an extra attraction, but he already knew he would sign.

“Yes.”

“Okay. I’ll sign. When do I start?”

“Tomorrow. Total secrecy must be observed at all time and, of course, discretion.”

“Oh, of course. You know me!”

“No, Omah. I am a machine. My predecessor knew you. And he didn’t like you.”

“Did your programmer do that too?”

“What?”

“Make you hate me?”

“Insubordination will cost you 200 baats.”

“Thank you.”

Since androids only pretended to be pissed off, Omah enjoyed antagonising them when he could afford it.

“This will probably be your last job.”

However, they didn’t lie, so Omah took this as a prediction of his future.

He had booked the first train to Grand Bay Island and now watched Garlandya City recede into a grey blur on the flat landscape. He could still make out the half-eaten egg shape of the half-completed Orbital Complex, vanity project of the President in the one city where her power could overcome the male verticality of traditional architecture.

“Spheres are all the rage!” screamed obnoxiously young art critics on vid screen across Truth. “They represent the female form and offer more attractive spaces for living.”

‘Yeah and they totally mess up the street’s lovely grid layout,’ Omah reflected. ‘Harder to get around, and catch criminals!’

At last he could no longer see the egg, so he swung to the opposite seat and waited for his first sight of Grand Bay Island.

Never having travelled as far as Grand Bay, Omah had been too optimistic about the shortness of the journey and spent nearly seven hours watching nothing but trees, crop fields and the dome of sky, just the green side of turquoise, above. An occasional passenger liner cleaved the green with its white trail, and each time, Omah would follow the head of the trail, hoping its arc stretched right down to the horizon of trees, just the blue side of turquoise, but it never did.

The high speed train slid into the suburbs of Grand Bay Island at last, giving Omah his first glimpse of the capital city of Truth.

At first it seemed little different to Garlandya; there were few domes here, so cubic blocks of stone vied for the greatest penetration into green sky.

“And probably greatest in value of the enclosed apartments,” Omah mused.

Further in, billboards adorned even the second storeys of buildings, not just the legally limited first of his home city. And here, the ramps which meant the rich never had to leave their cars at ground level, led not only to the first storey but also the second, although Omah noticed never to both in the same block. Just as in Garlandya, a scattering of market stalls, shops and booths cluttered the wider streets, first flush of nascent capitalism that the extravagance of the elite had permitted to take hold.

Omah arrived early for his appointment at the prestigious Behrendt Institute of Computing and Technology. Set on a low plateau in the main part of the city, it would be difficult and dangerous to walk to through the melee of hovercars, hoverbikes and old style, ground-hugging cars and bikes.

He took a taxi, enjoying the bump-less glide up the wide streets that wound up the skirt of the plateau, making the Institute seem like a white-columned palace.

Omah tipped the driver with a tip-voucher, just for the lie of doing something for the first time; his voucher book had been replaced by a much fatter one when he handed in the correct paperwork to the municipal funding office in Garlandya.

“The governors will be ready for you in three minutes Mister DeLion,” said the smartly-dressed boy at the desk.

Within five minutes, Omah found himself facing a panel of five austere women in an auditorium on the fourth floor. The arrangement’s resemblance to an interrogation almost unnerved him.

The fifth woman, sitting behind a sign, labelling her ‘Chairman,’ cleared her throat and began:

“Mister DeLion, six months ago a man went missing from this facility. In fact, you might say he ‘vanished,’ quite literally. We have contracted a human, because so far all attempts by the best android detectives have failed to make progress in solving the… mystery. Androids can’t make conceptual leaps, wild guesses, think laterally or act on hunches. We hear you are rather good, for a human.”

The chairman paused and smiled. Omah recognised her as Jackie Greentree. He had seen her on news bulletins and knew she was close to President Garlandya. Her sign called her ‘Jack Greentree.’

He nodded.

She continued:

“Have you heard of the small island of Gunner’s Break?”

“Vaguely. Near the arctic circle?”

“Correct. Oil was discovered off its coast two years ago and now there is a dispute between Truth and Faith over its ownership. Of course there is no legal dispute, but we are having to utilize more and more defence resources to defend the island.”

“But I thought all fossil fuels were outlawed by that treaty?”

“They are. But in total war, you never know what you might need and Truth is not prepared to give the island away just like that!” She clicked her fingers, letting slip a glimpse of her anger. Now Omah knew she had a personal stake in the dispute.

He only nodded, aiming to draw her out. But she seemed to settle before continuing:

“A way was found to settle the dispute without resource to violence.” Greentree referred to a piece of paper under her clasped hands:

“A chess match was arranged between Faith’s Grand Master and multiple world champion Ezekiel Bentwell and our own experimental quantum computer.” She cleared her throat leaving Omah with the impression she had left out the model of the computer on purpose. “The match was arranged to take please here, in one of our labs, six months ago and during the match, both the computer and Mister Bentwell disappeared. That is, they appear to have ceased to be located at this facility.”

“I see.”

“I must explain that we had CCTV in place, but the delegation from Faith insisted that the actual players and board be enclosed within an opaque curtain. Only the cameras recorded the game. They record both the computer and man disappearing within the space of a single frame, although there is no sign of unusual movement. They appear to ‘wink’ out, as it were. Faith has accused Truth of foul play and in fact, murder. We believe the foul play to be their own doing. They have given us just twelve more months to solve this case and produce the man and machine, or a state of war will be declared. I needn’t tell you this whole situation is of the greatest sensitivity and total secrecy must be maintained at all times. I have here a complete dossier; it will tell you everything you need to know.”

“And I work six days per week and have to prove progress weekly to continue?”

Greentree smiled.

“Oh, we are not as strict as that. A weekly report yes but we don’t always expect progress. If there is no progress every four weeks, we would be concerned. And yes, six days per week. You will have your own security guard, to protect you, and our own security while at the facility as well. We have located a suitable residence for you, which we will pay for. It’s just 400 metres from the Institute. We would appreciate it if you keep socialising and recreation to a moderate level while you are with us.” She looked to the women on both sides to check she had covered everything and smiled. “You start tomorrow, 9 am.”

“Thank you.”

Omah walked to the table and picked up the dossier. The four women filed through a door behind their long desk. Omah looked about, not knowing where to go, but an oriental in a smart suit indicated for him to follow the other way.

“Phew. That was intense!” he exclaimed in the elevator.

“Yes sir. My name is Verity Five.”

“Oh great! A motorman!”

Omah knew beneath the short, velvet wig on the android’s head would be the Motormen Division’s logo. Every citizen knew that androids had to display the logo, and thus usually wore no wig, by law, and that only a special decree would allow exemption.

“So you must be my bodyguard?”

“Yes sir.”

“So where are we going?”

“We will collect your suitcase and we will go to your residence.”

“And then you will wait outside?”

“You will not detect my presence.”

“Oh really? Smartass.”

The android swung to face Omah, but the metallic blue eyes were blank.

At the entrance to the Institute the android stopped Omah with its hand:

“The dossier must stay here. Study it for a while if you like.”

Omah took in the executive summary and handed the dossier to a member of the security team, who was watching them.

“No pressure then!” Omah told himself, flopping on the bed in the apartment.

***

Bri arrived at the Ruined Girl club nervous, not knowing what to expect. She craned her neck in the noisy crowd with heart fluttering and experienced a flush of relief when she saw her best friend, Rani.

The two rushed over to each other and embraced.

“I thought you weren’t coming!” Rani squealed with delight, pulling her friend to the bar. “What’ll you have?”

“I don’t know. What are you drinking?”

“Wiskey.”

“I’ll have that then.”

“Have you had it before?”

“No…”

“Right. Wiskey and soda with ice,” she told the barman.

“It’s so noisy!” Bri shouted.

“Of course! It’s fun!”

Her friend’s round face cracked into a broad smile, making Bri laugh herself. Bri wouldn’t have considered Rani beautiful, but she believed her friend’s warmth and intelligence would be a catch for the right man. Both women wore tight, black trousers and jackets to show off their curves, Bri having the more accentuated ones.

“You look so beautiful!” Rani told Bri. “What did you do to your hair? It looks different”

“Oh I just had a new cut; it allows me to plait it on one side – or the back – and still leave the other free. I saw it in on a websphere.”

“Nice!”

Bri flipped her T100 over to ‘mirror’ and studied her shaking portrait, checking that everything looked as she wanted. The stuck the phone back in her back pocket, satisfied.

“You won’t need that in here. Do you want to put it in my bag? The cloakroom doesn’t charge. It’s making your bum look… well you know… it doesn’t show your shape off well.”

“Really? No, I have another pocket in my jacket.”

“Oh but you’ll get too hot!”

Bri gave her friend a warning glare as they both turned to pick up their glasses.

“Oh I see! Bri! Really, I didn’t know you came here to score!”

Bri elbowed her friend in the ribs.

“Come on,” Rani said, “Let’s find somewhere away from the band. They have dancers soon.”

“Really? Girls?”

“Ha!”

Rani found a side room table for two, along a wall facing the main lounge.

“Now we can hear ourselves talk!”

“No Bri. It’s men dancing here. You really don’t get out much do you? Things have changed a lot in the last five years.”

“Men!” Bri’s face looked like stone.

“Are you shy about it?”

“No. I guess not. Why should I be? They made women do it for a thousand years!”

“Yeah. Still do in some of the sleazier places, in the Void.”

“Oh. So what is the big news you dragged me out for?”

“Oh. It’s nothing really. I just wanted an excuse to get you here. Dymon proposed to me again.”

“Oh. And?”

“I don’t know Bri! I want to say yes but… I mean, he’s sweet and he has a good job, and a good family. But I just don’t feel I’m ready for kids and washing up and all that.”

A good-looking blonde man stooped to show his hairy chest and said:

“Hey ladies! Can I buy you both a drink? Two drinks if you’ll dance with me and my friend.”

Both women followed the direction of his glance and saw a broad, muscular man with a moustache and long hair. He smiled at them.

Both women looked at each other. Bri remained silent.

“Nah. Not now. Maybe later,” Rani replied.

“Fine. I won’t forget.”

“Determined anyway!” Rani said when the man had left. “I thought his friend was quite cute too…”

Bri sipped the dark, golden liquid and pulled a face:

“Oo! That is really strong.” She coughed. “It’s like. Well, I don’t know what it’s like. Will it make me drunk?”

“If it’s your first, and if you drink it all.”

“I won’t then. I’m used to wine or beer.”

“Beer? Bri, really, you are showing your Void roots!”

Bri glared and lowered her chin until it was just above the wooden table top;

“Don’t mention my roots in here Rani! Are you crazy!”

“Sorry.”

“Anyway, I think you should tell Dymon to wait another year. If he loves you, he will.”

“Ha! What do you know about men?”

Bri looked hurt.

“Sorry Bri but you are a nerd. You don’t notice when half the population have their tongues hanging out for you.”

“Oh shut up! I’m not that pretty!”

“Look at you; long black hair, gorgeous sculpted face and, as for the rest, well. Just your cleavage drives men crazy. What have I got? Not much of a figure; breasts a little boy would get bored with!”

“Oh Rani! Don’t talk like that!”

Rani played with her glass and then drained it, wincing with that exquisite mixture of pleasure and discomfort.

“Well anyway, you asked my opinion,” Bri continued. “Love has its own way…”

“Oh truth! I forgot you are a romantic idealist.”

Rani gave Bri a warning stare but Bri ignored it:

“Did he get you’re a ring?”

“Bri!”

Bri’s lips quivered, teetering indecisively between protesting and apologising. There followed a long silence.

“So, how is Mitch?” Rani threw desperately into the void between them.

“Oh, he doesn’t care if I marry him or not. He just likes a good shag.”

“Let’s forget marriage. Oh but I hear he has a new hovercar? A Legion?”

“Yeah. I don’t like it. It’s noisy. And everyone stares. I mean; why have a red car? I wouldn’t have minded if it was blue, or white.”

“Anyway, you can talk, about him just wanting a shag. Everyone knows what you want him for!”

Bri laughed, drained her cup, and choked as she tried to stop the convulsions in her throat.

“Wow! That is burning like crazy! I better have another,” she exclaimed.

“Ha! Okay, but don’t evade the question.”

“What question? You didn’t ask one.”

“Well, I implied one. Two in fact; how is Mitch and how much information are you getting from him?”

“Really Rani! It’s not quite like that!”

“On yes it is! You… pump him for information about your long lost love, what’s his name…”

This time Bri looked nervously around her before lowering her chin to the table:

“Don’t say that!”

“What?”

“Pump! It sounds rude!”

“Ha! It wasn’t my word anyway. It was Shen.”

“Well, whoever. It sounds bad.”

“Not any more Bri. You know what President Garlandya said; ‘Now, after 2049 years of male rule, women are the rulers and we will show men what equality really is!’ So I think pumping men is well within our remit!”

Both women laughed.

“But you still haven’t answered either of my questions.”

“What were they again?”

“How is he? What information have you gleaned?”

“Yes, I suppose he is happy. He is due to be promoted to District Commander as soon as they can find a district for him. As for information. I did find out something. Though not through Mitch. With a security job like mine I hardly need a policeman to help me, or a friend of…”

“Of?”

“You know.”

“Say his name, damn you.”

“Omah! Okay? Happy? Yes, it was a long time ago, but I still feel the same.”

Feeling she was on a roll, Rani headed for the bar to reload. She flashed her open voucher book, and more cleavage that she normally would have dared, to get served quicker.

“Here you go,” she said, returning. “Don’t let me stop you; you feel the same?”

“Yes. Have you never felt that there is more than just this?” Bri looked around her. “I mean more than just life here? I often feel that I looking through a wall of life and I see something beyond. I don’t know what it is but there is more, somewhere.”

“I think you are an incurable romantic. Just because he saved your life. But it’s his job!”

“It’s not just him. There is something, I have felt it since I was a child. I have been searching, seeking…”

“Now Bri!” It was Rani’s turn to look embarrassed. “Don’t go talking about those things. You know it’s not a good idea. I hope you don’t talk to Mitch about them?”

“No! No, I never would. He would go mad!” Bri suddenly looked serious. “Do you know; they say there is a place in Grand Bay City where you can watch the switchers walking across the bridge to Faith? I have always wanted to go there and watch them.”

“I saw it. It was just a documentary. I got bored after five minutes. Once you see one person walking on a bridge, you’ve seen them all.”

“But they say that some of them are dressed in rags. Because they keep crossing from one side to the other and the authorities can’t keep up with them, can’t look after them.”

“No, I haven’t heard that. We shouldn’t be talking about this. It’s dangerous.”

“But don’t you think it’s sad.”

“Bri. Let’s talk about something else. I think it’s time we danced.”

“I thought you wanted to know my new information?”

“Oh! Oh yes. Okay?”

“He has a new contract. He’s gone to Grand Bay Island.”

“I should have known it. Who’s he working for now?”

“Still Marchand’s, but working for the Behrendt Institute.”

“Wow! That’s pretty hot stuff. Top secret. Should you know all this?”

“Rani, I’m a security expert. It’s easy for me to find out this stuff.”

“Okay, but be careful.”

“And I’m going there.”

“Going where?”

“To Grand Bay. Not now, but soon.”

“Oh Bri. No. We have to talk about this.”

“Alright, but I wanted you to know.”

“But how can you go. You have a good job here!”

“My boss is thinking about opening the first private security firm in Grand bay. She has connections.”

“And you told her you’re interested.”

“Not yet. But I think I will. It will be fun. Better than staying here. I’m tired of Garlandya Rani. Too many bad memories. And now dad’s gone…”

“Okay. Well I sure hope you’ll keep in touch. It’s a big world out there.”

Rani made a move to stand up, but Bri didn’t move so Rani sat down again.

“You coming?” she asked. “I thought we were dancing?”

“Your problem with Dymon is your pride Rani.”

“What?”

“You have a secret pride. I don’t know where you hide it, but you never let people get close, even Dymon and I. You constantly hide your real feelings. I have learned a lot in the Department in two years, a lot about people. It’s not just the people I study but the people I work with. You get to have a feel for when people are hiding something. I think I can help you, if you open up.”

Rani smiled awkwardly. Bri saw that her friend felt extremely uncomfortable. She decided on one last push; she wanted to leave her friend in Garlandya with the best possible hopes for the future:

“You were the youngest of four children right?”

“Yeah. So?”

“So maybe you sometimes feel you have struggle harder to be heard, to get respect.”

“Listen, you have no right to criticise me when I was only trying to help you.”

“I wasn’t criticising you.”

“I had to struggle a lot, it’s true, but I do not suffer from excessive pride. You don’t know the first thing about me! You think you do! You should take a look at your own life. You just think that people owe you something every time you throw your largess upon them!”

“I don’t!” Both women were firing over a deep gulf now. Bri made the first attempt to bridge it. “Let’s dance.”

“Alright.”

Rani led the way back to the main lounge but Bri tapped her on the shoulder, shouting:

“Anyway, I didn’t know you used such big words!”

“Which one?”

“Largess!”

“Oh, it was something my father used to say.”

“Oh. Well those days are gone now. You came here to score didn’t you? So how do we do it? These new rules for mating confuse me.”

“Watch what I do. You’ll be fine.”

Bri wobbled a bit on her legs from the wiskey, but for the first time in her life, she enjoyed the sensation of dancing. The pounding music vibrated her blood vessels in a pleasant way, and then somebody tapped her arm.

“Oh hello,” Bri said.

“Remember me. Can my friend dance with you?”

“Oh, aren’t we supposed to ask you? I mean him?”

“Okay. If you want. We’re not prudes.”

Rani watched as the friend with the long hair sidled up to Bri. The blonde man whispered something in his ear and he grinned.

“Erm…” Bri mumbled.

“Okay,” the man said, taking her by the waist and breaking into a dance rhythm. Bri laughed over her shoulder at Rani and both women were led onto the dance floor.

Four, sweaty numbers later, the MC announced the male strippers.

“I needed a break!” Bri whispered to her partner, whom she had learned was called Petr.

The four sat drinking at a table while six muscular men writhed sensually to a different kind of rhythm. Bri watched dutifully but her mind wandered.

“You’re not enjoying it much are you?” the blonde man asked.

“Bri, this is Daniel,” Rani interjected.

“Hi Daniel,” Bri said, holding out her hand. Daniel took it and announced:

“My round.”

He went to the bar, leaving Petr to hold his own, but Petr wasn’t much of a conversationalist. He looked relieved when Daniel beckoned for his help. When they came back Petr sat next to Rani and Daniel next to Bri.

“I see. Had it planned all along?” Rani told Daniel. He smiled enigmatically.

“Oh my truth!” Bri said, seeing one of the dancers remove his G-string and shake what she guessed Truth had given him and not some surgery enhanced. She flung her hands over her eyes.

“Never seen one before Bri?” Rani joked.

The strippers left the stage clear and customers gradually filled it in pairs for the next song.

“Come on!” Daniel said, hauling Bri from the stool by her wrist.

“Oh no, I really don’t dance!”

“You do. I saw you earlier; you move very well.”

“Your hand is on my bum.”

“Is it? Oh, so it is. Do you mind?”

“Yes.”

Daniel kissed her cheek before the end of the song, so she opened her eyes and stared into his. Their irises were not the dark blue of Omah’s but they reminded her of him. The strong drink had taken effect and she no longer cared where his hand went, especially since Rani’s was already busy with Petr’s thighs. Daniel’s voice suddenly cut across the music:

“Shall we go?”

“I… I don’t know. I am tired of all this noise. But I can hardly stand.”

“I’ll take care of you.”

Bri nodded, and grinned at Rani as they left. Out in the cool air, he held her hand firmly and asked:

“Where?”

“Home. My place. Then you can make me a nice cup of coffee.”

“Sure. No boyfriend then?”

“Well, there is… but he never comes round…”

“Okay.”

After a short bus ride she thrust her key clumsily into her front door lock and led him into her haphazardly furnished lounge.

“Sorry if it looks a mess. It isn’t but, I have a very e-clectric taste. Is that right?”

“You mean eclectic? Not a word I use often.”

“What do you do Daniel? I didn’t ask you.”

“I run one of these new market stalls with my dad; furniture mainly. You have a lot of nice stuff here. I bet he would be interested in some of it. You should be careful who you tell about this.”

“Why? Are you planning to steal it? You should be careful. I’m a security expert.”

“Yes. I know. Rani told us earlier.”

“She did? I don’t remember?”

“You were a bit drunk I think.”

Are my dear? Am! Where’s my coffee.”

“Wait. I have to find everything. Sugar? Milk?”

“Both. Ones.”

“Ha! Ha!”

While Daniel struggled with an unfamiliar kitchen, Bri kicked off her boots and slid out of her jacket. She found it uncannily difficult to sit up straight on the normally compliant sofa.

Daniel emerged with a serviceable mug of coffee and placed it on the glass table in front of her.

“All these books!” he said, picking up the top book from one of several piles on the table. “There must be thousands!”

“Probably. I love to read!”

Yea-h but I mean! Books are expensive! Are they fiction or what?”

“A few. But mostly faction – I mean factual.”

Bri sipped the steaming hot caffeine. Immediately, she felt the fog in her brain lifting a little.

“What’s in these?” he asked, rattling the front panel of a locked bookcase, one of three.

“More books. That’s all.”

“But why locked?”

Bri had to think quickly.

“I’m a security expert.”

“Oh, I see.”

Satisfied with his exploration, Daniel came over, peeled off his jacket sensually and sat so close to her that she could smell the alcohol on his breath.

“Do you normally sit that close?”

“When I like somebody.”

“Well, let me finish this first.”

She knew now how much she needed the coffee, so when she reached the bottom, she swirled the brown liquid round to soak up all the last granules in the mug.

“Mm. That’s better. Can I have another?”

“No. Let’s kiss.”

“Ha! Ha! Does that line work on other girls?” she replied, wriggling out of his arms.

“Usually. I’m not that modest, but I am sweet, once you get to know me.”

“Does anybody stay that long?”

“Ha! Ha! Ask my brothers and sisters!”

“Hm” Bri wasn’t sure how intelligent Daniel was, and this statement certainly didn’t help her. Some indication might have helped her work out his intentions too.

“I tell you what!” she announced. “Let’s play a little game; you guess one of the books in those locked cases and I will sleep with you. Okay?”
Daniel scowled, murmuring:

“I knew this was a bad idea. I never like intellectual women! How many guesses?”

“Three.”

“Alright. But I don’t like it!”

“Oh but the odds are way in your favour. There must be a thousand there, at least!”

“’Romeo and Juliet?’”

“Nice try. No.”

“That book by Garlandya; her autobiography.”

“’Peace or bust?’ No.”

“’Truth and the Barter Plan?’ You look the type. You must have it!”

“Nope. I had it when I was a girl. Threw it away.”

“Shit.”

“Looks like it’s the sofa for you.”

“I don’t know why I bothered!” Daniel said, standing and throwing up his arms. “Why did you bother? Why bring me here?”

“It was entertaining! No, that’s unfair. I liked your eyes, and it was entertaining. And I needed somebody to make me coffee. The truth is, you had a chance. You should never play a game by a woman’s rules! You’ll always lose! I’m going to bed. Do you want the sofa or not, because I can give you some blankets?”

“Nah! It’s okay. I’m a good loser. Maybe I have been a bit of an idiot. Anyway I’ll let myself out. See you again some time.”

“Good night.”

Bri pulled open a drawer and took out a box of beach shells, the only thing she had left of her mother’s. She chose a particularly bright spiral, rounded like a garden snail and coloured orange, white and blue and. She placed it on the shelf beside four others, whispering:

“If only he had shown some genuine feelings.”

The sound ‘sumaka’ sounded in her head and wouldn’t go away.

“Here we go again!”

She unlocked one of the bookcases and began to search through lexicons and dictionaries. Some went back as far as Earth One, but she knew she wouldn’t find the word in any of them.

 

***

After taking a short nap on his new bed, Omah stepped out onto the balcony. It was mid-afternoon, and Grand Bay Island City shone in the mid-afternoon sun. He spied a white dome upon a distant hill, tinted rosy red on the sunny side.

“Eames Observatory,” he told himself.

Not sure what to do with his afternoon, he called Cheng’s number.

“You there?”

“Sure. Is that you Om? I’m at work. Can’t speak long.”

“Fine. I’m in Grand Bay for a job. Due to start tomorrow, all hush-hush, but I have the afternoon off. Fancy showing me around later?”

“Wait five minutes. I’ll call you back. They owe me some time but, things are freakin’ busy.”

Omah unpacked his suitcase until the call came.

“I can get off, but only for two hours, and then I have to work later, so you owe me a meal. Where are you?”

“About 400 metres from the Behrendt Institute. Big tall block, maybe forty floors.”

“Got you. Do you know a fountain nearby?”

“Saw it on my way in.”

“Meet me there in thirty minutes.”

When he arrived, Cheng looked like he hadn’t slept for a few days.

“What’s up?” Omah asked.

“Big stage show. The Primas. They reformed. Of course the management wants it to be just right and, well, right now, it’s not. And I’m running the show! They’re live starting at 9 pm but since I haven’t slept for 48 hours, I told my boss I needed to get my head down for two hours. Anyway I think the main problems are sorted. I can get you tickets if you like?”

“Hey yeah! That would be cool! I haven’t seen a live band for, oh, probably since the Tiger Minders in ’45?”

“Yeah. Okay. We can eat and then you can go on. You won’t have time to change…”

“No problem.”

“So where to?”

“Dunno. What do you suggest?”

“Are you going to have lots of downtime?”

“Yeah. But they don’t want me going out.”

“Oh. Shit! Well, I suggest a good book shop then.”

“Don’t read books much. But hang on, maybe that’s not such a bad idea. Know where I can get science books?”

“Know just the place!”

Omah was awestruck by the size of the bookshop and diversity of books on offer. He did his best to hurry while Cheng looked on indulgently, but after an hour, he had come no closer to making any decisions.

“I’m just going to grab a coffee. Want one?”

“Um, yes please.”

Cheng took out his phone and explained in a whisper:

“Better just check things are going okay.”

“You reminded me,” Omah whispered back. He took out his tPhone and checked for messages. There were none.

“Not still using that old thing! That must be the only tPhone still working on the planet!” Cheng told him, finishing his call.

“Probably. I will be in either this section or the fiction section.”

“Right.”

Omah had begun to home in on books about quantum theory and quantum computers. He had little experience of books but forced himself into a choice; ‘Numan’s History of Quantum Computing.’ It looked technical enough for his needs, and yet he could understand whole paragraphs. He left the book on the shelf and moved to the fiction aisle.

A simple cover, depicting a red cube, drew his attention to one book in a bargain rack. ‘The Box’ seemed like a book he could master, and when he read the synopsis, he saw the word ‘Schroder.’

“I know that name,” he murmured.

Before Cheng returned, he quickly collected the Numan book, and the first pulp fiction title within reach, and opened his voucher book at the hobby page for the shop girl at the counter. She put the books in a carrier bag, and Omah shuffled them so that the pulp title lay at the front, title facing out.

“Here you are,” said Cheng, handing him his coffee. “Where now?”

Omah hoped Cheng hadn’t seen the computer books.

“Food?”

“Good idea. Let’s head for the Island. I’ll swing you past a few sights on the way. What did you get?”

“Oh, just pulp stuff.”

Omah opened the top of the bag and showed Cheng the pulp cover.

He found Grand Bay Island City almost as clean and pleasant as the tourist webspheres suggested it would be, which surprised him. He had always denigrated the place, more from a remnant of juvenile gang mentality than anything else.

“We’re almost at the Island,” Cheng said.

“The actual Island?”

“Yes. You can barely see it now, mostly paved over, but I am taking you over one of the last two footbridges. It’s mostly tourist shops and cafés now.”

They started over a narrow bridge. Omah looked over its parapet and saw golden fish swimming in the green water.

“You can even climb up to the observation highway over there,” Cheng said. He nodded in the direction of a long flight of steps, and Omah’s eyes followed them up to a narrow concrete walkway, high in the sky.

“Wow! I saw pictures. But it looks a lot higher when you see it!”

“Thousand feet. We can go up, but not much time.”

“Not today.”

Omah followed Cheng’s muscular form as he wove through the crowds, until they arrived at what looked like a small café, down a narrow alleyway.

“Looks too small, I know. But it has a downstairs and serves the best sea-food,” Cheng explained.

The meal of lightly fried calabar in lemon juice and paps lived up to his description, and they made it to the Colosseum only ten minutes later than Cheng had planned.

While Cheng left him to do the final sound checks, Omah waited in the centre of the stadium’s floor. By the time the band came on stage, he had been engulfed by a sea of overjoyed fans. Rocking to the music, still holding tightly onto his carrier bag, Omah danced the evening away under the red moon.

He could still hear the loud beat in his skull when he arrived at the Institute in the morning. As Verity Five led him up to his assigned desk, Omar droned the mantra, ‘Means, motive and opportunity,’ to himself. The dossier lay waiting on the desk.

***

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R I P

 

Lots of cool action and drew me well in.” – AHF Magazine.

 

Never search for science fiction, alternative history romance, military or thrillers again.

 

There is a RIP in the fabric of time space. Two spirits seek each other out, again and again. Om is a man with a key. Bri is an empath. Man is doomed unless they can find a way to navigate the RIP and find its source.

7 lives. 7 worlds.
Come and join them as they start
On the greatest quest never told!

Subscriptions will be for $0.99 for 2 chapters per month (RIP Prime), or $0.49 for one chapter per month (RIP Stream 1 or 2). This major work will build into 7 complete volumes of about 1 million words in total and will be one of the longest stories ever published.

 

Stream 1:

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p)))<>{color:#000;background:#fff;}. Orange – 1947 race to recover the Nazi anti-gravity device ‘The Bell’ at the end of WW2

#
p)))<>{color:#000;background:#fff;}. Yellow – A blood-drinking refugee from alien attack builds an Egyptian empire

#
p)))<>{color:#000;background:#fff;}. Green – Two Meso-American vampire princes seek a magical cup to save their race

#
p)))<>{color:#000;background:#fff;}. Blue (tie-up) – The last humans head for a new planet, but are they human?

Stream 2:

#
p)))<>{color:#000;background:#fff;}. Red – A disgraced police officer has to solve a seemingly impossible crime involving chess

#
p)))<>{color:#000;background:#fff;}. Indigo – A slave fights to Hell and back for the love of a princess.

#
p)))<>{color:#000;background:#fff;}. Violet- A couple try to negotiate a crippled world when water induces amnesia

#
p)))<>{color:#000;background:#fff;}. Blue (tie-up) – The last humans head for a new planet, but are they human?

NB: RIP Prime subscribers will get bonus material instead of a chapter every 4th month.

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RIP - Red 1

“Lots of cool action and drew me well in.” – AHF Magazine. Never search for science fiction, alternative history romance, military or thrillers again. There is a RIP in the fabric of time space. Two spirits seek each other out, again and again. Om is a man with a key. Bri is an empath. Man is doomed unless they can find a way to navigate the RIP and find its source. 7 lives. 7 worlds. Come and join them as they start On the greatest quest never told! This major work will build into 7 complete volumes of about 1 million words in total and will be one of the longest stories ever published. THIS IS CHAPTER ONE OF A MUCH LONGER WORK

  • ISBN: 9781311788603
  • Author: Lazlo Ferran
  • Published: 2016-06-15 18:20:07
  • Words: 10710
RIP - Red 1 RIP - Red 1