RED DOLL: ASI

in steemit •  2 years ago

Chapter Fourteen
First Chapter: https://steemit.com/steemit/@tsudohnimh/red-doll-old-school-cyberpunk
Previous Chapter: https://steemit.com/steemit/@tsudohnimh/red-doll-suspects-and-suspect-minds
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Please leave a comment below if you like it, and please do read the rest of the story, there's some critical parts to the story emerging soon and it's good to know exactly what's gone down before we get to that. Expect that piece either in around 10 hours or at this time tomorrow.

“Evolve your own way.”
-ASI advert.​

14

The evidence whiteboard had grown significantly more complex since the last time Zlata had seen it, and she took a moment to scan and take in anything she might have not yet caught up on. Newly front and centre on the board was the picture of her assailant from the hospital, the large cyborg she now knew as Motey Smith

“Motey Smith?” Flynn asked incredulously. “What did he do as a baby to deserve that name?”

“Maybe Harley Davidson was already taken?” McNally offered. “All right everyone, take a seat. Rob, coffee's please.” Thomas nodded and disappeared out the back of the room.

“Ok,” McNally began. “so, after the second most exciting first day we've had....”

“Actually I’d say third most,” Flynn cut in. “Remember the thing with the rabbits?”

There was a murmur of agreement from the others. In her mind, Zlata looked bewilded; she still didn't know what the vampire thing was about, and now this “thing” with the rabbits?

“True, true,” McNally agreed. “So, third most exciting day. I wanted to assure you Zlata that getting into gunfights on day dot is not the usual thing even for us. But from this little incident, we may have our first suspect.”

McNally tapped the picture. “Motey Smith. American cyborg-slash-motorcycle. And one of the men who attacked us that night at the hospital.”

“He is one tough customer,” Wyatt added. “Fast for his size too; I don't think I landed a single hit on him, even with guided rounds.”

“He certainly fits the profile,” Zlata said. “I can attend first hand he'd have the strength to explain the wounds received by the victims.” A few of her joints were still a bit creaky from the impact that night.

“Kinda odd though,” Flynn began, “That we would receive a tip off about him from the Russians.”

“Perhaps they felt we had overlooked something,” Hogue responded, “And wanted to direct us to look into him?”

Flynn smiled. “Or distract us from the real killer.”

McNally cleared his throat. “Anyway, Mr. Smith is now our top suspect for the killer side of our case. Which leads me to the other , more mysterious side; Mr. Frank, our user of lost limbs.”

He passed out files. “Our guy ain’t human; or rather, he's close to human, but not quite.”

Eun raised any eyebrow. “30 chromosomal pairs?”

In her mind, Zlata glanced sideways at Eun. It was hard to believe the Eun was supposedly in her sixties. Was McNally pulling her leg?

“So, we are dealing with a monster,” Flynn said. “Three kinds of DNA, unknown gene and protein structures, mysterious black fibres....” he shook his head. 'Hey, be honest, are we hunting an Alien?”

McNally didn't say anything; instead, he just wrote “Alien?” on the whiteboard.

In her mind, Zlata raised an eyebrow. “Um, are we really considering an Alien as one of our suspects?”

Hogue coughed. “Wouldn't be the first time.” the others nodded.

“Either way, this gives us a possible avenue to investigate,” McNally continued. “And no matter what he is, he still needs human organs. How are we going on tracking down the tech required for that sort of thing, Jack?”

“I put in a request through the Brain,” Hogue said. “He came up with a few condensed papers. Most of the work with organ transplant these days focuses on replacing biological organs with prosthetics. However, their has been some local research into new methods to transplant living organs that might cover what this guy's using.”

“Who's been doing it?”

Hogue grimaced. “ASI.”

McNally shook his head. On the board, he wrote “ASI.”

To be honest, Zlata wasn’t surprised; if this guy was at the cutting edge of medical research its likely he'd be using something developed by the big megacorps. But, knowing what she did now about the case, it left her more than concerned....

“Did the report specify what kind of research they were conducting?” Zlata asked. “If we considerer the possibility Frank is using similar technology, their may be something in the evidence we have that links him to that research.”

Hogue flicked open a file. “Uh, lets see....two projects dealt with advanced anti rejection drugs, three dealt with utilising genetic engineering and modified proteins, and another utilised something called, and I quote, “advanced electropolymerisation of conjoining tissues.””

Flynn looked at him sideways. “What they hell does that mean?”

Hogue shrugged. “Beats me. All we could get were transcripts; the actual projects are top corporate secrets. Not out in the public.”

“But,” Flynn said, “If they applied for patents for anything they discovered.....”

“That would be a matter of public record,” Zlata answered. “And we could compare what we have against that.”

McNally wrote on the board “Patents” under the ASI heading. “Its worth a shot,” he said. “I'll have King send samples of the unknown genes and proteins. We'll compare them to any patent information we can find.”

Thomas returned from the back room, a try of coffees in hand. He quickly passed them out amongst the seated detectives.

“Wyatt said, th-this was you're brand,” he said to Zlata, handing her a familiar looking IV bag.

“Thank you,” she replied. She remembered what Wyatt had told her back that night: Thomas always tried to be nice to rebuilds, despite his, “affliction”. She was certainly getting the impression he was going out of the way to help her.

“Ok, lets zoom out a little again,” McNally said after sipping his coffee. “We now have confirmation our killer is operating in the camps.” he tapped the board. “At least one in NewPee and another in Novvy Dom.” He drew a line on the board. “that last one gives us a bit of a time line; it was a month ago. That gives us a general idea of when our guy arrived in Melbourne.”

“The last killing in Sydney was nearly four months before that,” Flynn said. “What was our guy doing in the meantime?”

“If he's operating in the camps here, its likely he was operating in the camps up north too,” Eun replied. “It's quite likely he may have kept to the camps for some time.”

“And also quite likely he's killed many more in the intervening time,” Zlata added. “Which reminds me of something that was brought up on day one: How does he chose his victims? The killings in the camps went unnoticed till we started digging; its likely that if he had stayed their we never would have known at all! So why kill outside the camps?”

Hogue scratched his chin. “Have we identified the original owner of the arm?”

McNally shook his head. “Its not one of the previous victims. The DNA work up has been sent to be checked against the Database, but nothing's come up yet.”

Eun sighed. “Yet another possible victim we don't know about.” she shook her head. “How could the other investigations leave out the camps? It's such a obvious path of investigation.”

McNally shot a look at Zlata. It had been left nebulous about whether or not they would tell the others about her misgivings on the quality of the evidence.

“Yeah, and this stuff with the genes and black fibres and all that,” Flynn said, “None of that appeared in the reports we got from up north.” He had a perplexed look on his face. “It's like we haven't been given the whole picture from the start!”

Zlata looked at him closely. Ever since she had lost the ability to express her own emotions, Zlata had become quite apt at picking up the emotions of others. Here, she couldn't read Flynn; their was something about his body language that just left her confused.

McNally cleared his throat. “yes, that has been noted,” he said shooting a look at Eun and Wyatt. “We've been in this situation before, and it didn't change anything. Our job is to find and stop this killer; everything else is irrelevant.”

A sort of understanding seemed to fall on the group. Zlata could sense it; a change in the air, in the mood. Everyone sat up a little straighter, small things like that. She could see that yes, they knew what was going on. They all looked serious.

The only stand out was Flynn. He was smiling.

“So once again, more questions than answers,” McNally said. “We may have a suspect, but we still don't know where he is and where he's been hiding out.”

“I would add we don't know how he's been moving around,” Flynn added, “But a motorbike is an excellent disguise.”

“Figuring how he picks his victims should be a priority,” Zlata said. “if we know why he's killing these people in particular, we may be able to predict his movements.”

“Since this guys a rebuild, we have to consider the possibility he may be living outside of the domes or tents,” Hogue said. “Countryside radiation isn't really a threat for a rebuild.”

“So that just leaves our search area as the entirety of Victoria,” Flynn said sarcasticly.

“If he does live outside of the domes,” Wyatt said. “He'd leave a radioactive trail whenever he went. We could track him with that.”

Eun shook her head. “We never detected higher than normal radioactivity at the crime scene.”

“At that crime scene,” Wyatt responded. “We still haven't found the other ones.”

McNally wrote “radiation” on the board. “We'll keep in mind. It's possible our guy may have passed through a decom station, all lof witch are tracked and covered by camera's. Rob? Could you get onto getting any footage you can from the decom stations.”

“Roger that, sir,” Thomas replied.

“What’s the status on the arena footage?”

“we've gone though all the footage we had from the stadium security system,” Thomas answered. “And only found one person who matched the description given to Eun.” he pulled a file from a desk. “Have a look.”

McNally opened the file. “Hmmm. Doesn’t match Mr. Motey, that’s for sure.” He passed it to Eun. “Look familiar?”

Eun peered at the picture. “Tall man, heavy jacket. That’s all I got. So it seems to match.” She handed it to Zlata.

Zlata looked at the man in the picture. He was standing in a crowd, a good head taller than those around him. He indeed wore a heavy jacket, with a hood which would otherwise cover his features. Except he was looking straight into the camera.

A youthful male face looked up at her, somewhat distinct even in the grainy black and white image. It was obvious this man was not Motey Smith.

“He certainly stands out of a crowd,” She said. “How tall is he, seven foot?”

“Tall doesn’t necessarily mean weird,” Flynn said, looking the image over. “Weird also doesn’t necessarily mean our killer either. We don't even know if the killer was in the crowd in the first place!”

“Does this man appear in any other images?” Hogue asked.

Thomas shook his head. “No, that was the only one, and we lost him seconds latter.”

McNally grunted non-committally. “Even that's not necessarily weird.” He picked up the photo and stuck it to the board. “Either way, we'll keep him in mind.” He shrugged. “I mean with this case, you never know.”

The little circle over, the team broke up to pursue their work. From the corner of her eye, Zlata noticed Hogue look at her, before quickly turning away.

“Jack?” She said after him, walking to where he stood. “Is something wrong?”

Hogue looked at her. “No, no, just... well, its good to see your alright. I was concerned after I heard what had happened too you.”

In her mind, Zlata smiled. “I cracked a plate and some of my joints need a realignment, but nothing major.” She tapped her head. “Had a massive headache afterwards though. What about you though? Taking six rounds to the chest? You had me worried there.”

Hogue smiled, then patted his chest. “Good old dermal plates; damn things might give me cancer, but them plus the armour stopped the rounds flat. Still hurt though.”

“I’d imagine,” she said. “I've forgotten what pain's really like, bar the odd headache; phantoms are the only thing I can feel any-more.” Not entirely true, she thought, but the input of her sensors had a distinctly...artificial edge compared to her biological ones.

Hogue nodded; he seemed ok, but Zlata sensed he was uneasy about something. “Are you sure your alright?”

Hogue looked a little startled. “Wha, ah, yeah, its just....” he stretched a little bit, “we've been pretty full up on debriefs and work while you were gone. Ever since NewPee I haven't really had a chance to decompress.”

In her mind, Zlata nodded. “I understand that; if it make you feel any better, I was pretty busy at home too. No time to decompress there.”

Hogue chuckled. “Well, no that.... that doesn’t make me feel better.” he raised a finger. “I have an idea: You busy tonight?”

In her mind Zlata looked intrigued. “No, not really.”

Hogue nodded. “Good. I know a place down on Flinders, a big bar, real rebuild friendly. Why don't we have a few drinks after we close shop today?”

In her mind, Zlata looked intrigued; this certainly wasn’t the first time a co-worker had asked her to drinks, hell, she used to drink with the people from homicide all the time. Still she had always been a little wary of being asked out; after all, their were people with some odd fetishes out....

Oh for god sakes, its Hogue! She thought. He probably just wants to talk about work, maybe the war a little bit. Decompress.

“Sure,” she said. “First rounds on me.”

“Great,” Hogue replied. “I'll see if a few of the others want to come along too.”

“Detective Mikhaylov?”

Zlata looked up from her desk to find Thomas standing there with a box. “Yes, Thomas, what is it?”

“A-a Detective Leighton asked m-me to pass this along to you,” He replied, placing the box on the desk. “He-he said it might be useful to you.”

Zlata opened the box; inside was a collection of books, files and stationary that she recognised as coming from her desk. Good old Craig, she thought. Carefully, she pulled a photo from the box.

It was old, worn; it had clearly been folded a few times. A young woman in a summer dress, sitting on a hill and smiling. She wasn’t the prettiest girl ever, but the site of it filled Zlata with a warmth she long missed.

Despite himself and his shaking, Thomas leaned in for a look. “Y-your sister?”

In her mind, Zlata laughed and smiled; the doll remained still.

“No,” she replied. “That’s me.”

Thomas face dropped; his checks went bright red. “I....I'm..I'm,” he stammered, more from embarrassment that his syndrome.

Zlata waved it off. “Its fine, Robert. I'm not offended.” But Thomas was obviously embarrassed beyond that point now. He quickly turned and walked away.

In her mind, Zlata laughed; a few even slipped out, the doll making a quiet chuckling noise.

She peered at the photo fro a moment longer, then placed it on the desk. That was so long ago; a summers field outside Pripryat, the day they had gone on that field trip, the day Niki had kissed her behind the tree, the day she's first gotten drunk.

Sigh. That life was a world away; and that field, those green hiss and shadowy woods and warm streams were all gone now. All of it was gone now.

So she unpacked the box, once again thanking Craig in her mind, when the idea came to her.

The reports are doctored, She thought, but the cases were investigated by someone, most likely homicide. Surely, if they were willing to talk to someone they trusted, they could fill in the gaps with what's missing, maybe some crucial.

And she knew just the person whom they would talk to.

“Homicide, Detective Leighton speaking.”

“Hey, Craig,” Zlata answered over the phone. “Long time huh?”

“Zlata?” Craig replied. “Holy crap, it's good to hear from you. Linda has been worried sick!”

In her mind, Zlata chuckled. “Come on, Linda should no better than think I could be stopped so easily!”

“Well, you know her,” Craig replied, “She worries sick about the both of us, and with the kid on the way I don't think she's eager to lose the future godmother.” Craig made a noise. “Ah, crap, I wasn’t supposed to tell you that.”

In her mind, Zlata looked shocked. “Me, Godmother....”

“Yeah,” Craig said. “Linda and I have been talking about it for a while; we were going to ask you to dinner and ask you then, but then you got assigned to the freak show and well....”

“Craig, yes,” she replied. “It would be an honor.”

“Great!” Craig said excitedly. “I'll have to tell Linda, and definitely get you over fro dinner; Linda reckons she's figured how to get her roast in an IV form.”

“I'm looking forward to it,” Zlata said. “Look, Craig, I have a favour to ask.”

“Shoot.”

“Its concerning the case we have here at the DAC,” she began. “Have you, heard anything about it?”

“Only that its weird,” Craig replied. “And that it got you into a firefight in NewPee! What the hell was that about?”

“Long story,” she said. “Look, you've been in homicide longer than me; do yopu happen to know anyone who works homicide in Sydney or Brisbane?”

“Hmmmm,” Craig replied. “Out of luck on Sydeny, but....yeah, yeah I know someone in Brisbane, although he works armed robbery. Yeah, Rupert Price; we served together on the Hobart back during the war.”

“Does he owe you any favours?”

“Not really; its been a while since I spoke to him. Why?”

In her mind, Zlata took a deep breath; The doll responded by ramping up the air pump. “I need someone to look into a couple of murder cases for me,” she said. “Off the books.”

Craig was quiet fro a moment. “Oh....Kay,” he replied, sounding unsure. “I guess I could try and ask him to have a look, but i’s not making promises. Like I said, he's in armed robbery.”

“Thank you,” Zlata said. “Regardless of what he finds, I appropriate this Craig.”

“Yeah, any-time,” Craig replied. “Just send me the case numbers you want him to look at. And hey, you owe me and Linda a dinner date for this, ok?”

In her mind, Zlata smiled. “I can accept that.”

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