Agents Franklin & Friday, hunting a serial killer terrorizing the settlers of Perfection.
|2256 — Earth — New Maryland at the Planetary Bureau of Investigation
Beyond the slew of case files resting on my desk, I spy Chief Isaac on the phone in his office pacing about—like a caged tiger. Apparently, whatever is going on has the Chief’s panties in a twist. And then his gaze falls upon me and so does his anger.
“Agent Franklin in my office now! Shut the door—sit and listen up. The top brass wants an old unsolved case closed—ASAP. Starting today you are being reassigned to this case.”
“But Chief Isaac…”
“No buts Franklin—start packing, your destination—Perfection.”
2256 — En Route to Perfection
The first to arrive and settle on the new world named the planet Perfection. From there on the name stuck. Perfection orbits Proxima Centauri, one of three stars in that solar system and it is roughly 4.3 light years from Earth. That makes this a twenty-year jaunt across the galaxy. It's a good thing Friday and I don’t sleep or eat or breathe or have a life.
“Friday, be a sweetheart and cue up the J.R. Holmes case.”
“First off Franklin, I’m not your sweetheart, nor do I socialize with the lesser A.I.” Friday is the ship’s Level-Three A.I. and my partner. She has the sexiest voice you’ve ever heard.
“I’m told Friday that virtual sex is as good as the real thing and relieves stress associated with long voyages.”
“Keep dreaming Franklin, that will never happen. Cuing up the latest reports on the case.”
She transmits the data to my head. I can see and hear what she sees and hears and vice versa.
“I knew one day I'd get into your head Friday.”
“Ha-ha funny Franklin, now all jokes aside, from what we know, this J.R. Holmes has murdered thousands of settlers across the planet, spanning decades. And all within the last hundred years. The anomaly, our suspect, hasn't aged a day since the first murders. This would make him roughly a hundred and fifty years old. Though not implausible, except for the fact that…”
“He hasn’t aged a day. I get that. So what is—he exactly? A simulacrum an immortal an alien a time traveler. What?”
“A simulacrum—impossible. The Laws of Ethics are hard-wired into our circuitry, ‘thou shalt, not kill’, being the first tenet. This leaves us with an immortal, plausible. An alien, plausible but unlikely. A time traveler, extremely unlikely but plausible.”
“No Friday, that leaves us back to square one. In the meantime, until we can figure out how this guy is staying young. I’d like you to monitor all planetary communication. Of one thing I am certain, this guy will kill again and again.”
2276 — Orbiting Perfection
During the twenty-year excursion to the planet. Holmes managed to make time in his busy schedule, for an extra two hundred murders. And more videos surfaced of this monster, revealing he still hadn’t aged a day. Unfortunately for the victims, Friday and I were no closer to solving this case. We decided to leave orbit and touchdown where the killer was last seen. A cow town, known as—New Texas.
“Alright, you got me, what’s with the Stetson and Cowboy Boots?”
“When in Rome Friday, do as the Romans do, Aurelius Ambrosius.”
“Ah Saint Ambrosius. You are aware Franklin that what he actually said was, ‘When I am at Rome, I fast on a Saturday; when I am at Milan, I do not. Follow the custom of the church where you are.’”
“Isn’t that what I said? For a Level-Three A.I., you often trip over interpretation, a design flaw associated with the lesser A.I.”
“Ha-ha, you’re so funny, Franklin.”
Using my best western accent I say, “I reckon I am little miss.”
2276 — Perfection — New Texas
The starlight of three suns at high noon bake the denizens who walk along the dirt-paved roads of New Texas. A town, echoing a world found only in the memories of those from the old American West.
I arrive on an outre world, a distant traveler, in search of answers. And that’s when a bender comes flying through the wooden doors of the OK Corral Saloon and lands in the dirt in front of me.
“Well, Friday looks like them Cowboys are a-gettin' all roostered up.”
Through the swinging doors I enter the saloon and make my way to the bar. My boot spurs make a ching-ching-ching sound in sync with the creak-creak-creak of the dusty floorboards. Behind the bar, a busty bartender wipes down a greasy shot glass, with a dirty white towel. And she says, “Everyone, lookee-here—it's Howdee Doodee!” The saloon erupts into laughter.
Laughing, Friday says, “I reckon you're not in Rome.”
The laughter and my embarrassment, ebb back to the sea. I move to question the busty bartender. “P. B. I., Agent Franklin,” Flashing my badge and I.D. “Have you seen this man frequenting this establishment?” I asked, showing her a Hollo-Print of the suspect. And to my surprise she says, “Yep, he's a regular, shows up once a week. He always sits at the same table over there by the Grand piano. So what’s the guy done?”
“It would be best not to concern yourself mam. And when do you expect him to show up again?”
“Well let me see, If I’m not mistaken, it's been nine Earth days, that would make it tomorrow evening, Decadi.” Perfection takes ten sidereal days to complete a full rotation. The days are: Primidi, Duodi, Tridi, Quartidi, Quintidi, Sextidi, Septidi, Octidi, Nonidi and Decadi. Moreover, ten of those days are in total daylight, and the other ten are in total twilight.
“This must be our lucky day Friday, in twenty-four hours we’ll catch this psycho!”
“That’s great news, so what’s the plan Franklin, do we grab him before or after he enters the saloon?”
“After, I’ll pass myself off as the evening’s entertainment by playing the Steinway. Then wait for Holmes to show and take a seat at his favorite table. The enclosed space of the saloon will limit his possible escape. And Friday, I'll need you to track the operation as it goes down. Now partner, please be so kind, and come pick me up.”
Decadi — 2276 — New Texas at the OK Corral Saloon
The nights on Perfection are as hot as they are during the day; absent the light, or in a downpour like tonight. The packed saloon have patrons standing outside and getting wet. This doesn't stop them from enjoying themselves. And with luck, nor will it stop our killer. I’ve now played the ‘Piano Man’ five times and still no sign of Holmes.
“Well Franklin, it's been eight hours now, do you think someone tipped him off?”
“Doubt it Friday, serial killers are creatures of habit, he’ll show. You know Friday, I’ve been with the bureau now forty-two years, and have served under Chief Isaac sixteen of those. And not once has the chief ordered me off world on such an important high-profile case. So you see, I can’t—won’t let him down.”
“You won’t Franklin—we won’t let that happen.”
“Thanks, you're the best partner a Level-One simulacrum could ever... wait a sec—the bartender is signaling. Reading her lips—Holmes!”
I watch Holmes as he makes his way through the crowd and towards his favorite table. He pulls out a chair and sits. A pool of water forms at his feet. The bartender places a shot glass and bottle on the table. He slaps her bottom as she walks away. Pouring himself a shot, he tilts his head back, swilling its contents. I stop playing, walk over and stand behind him. I then place my hand on his shoulder and say, “P. B. I.—Holmes, you are under...” Swilling another round, he turns his head to look straight at me. Why is he grinning? Standing, he strikes me with a left across the face; shooting me through the piano—splitting it in two. He then bolts out the way he came in; knocking over patrons as he goes. I give chase, but the rain and the crowd don’t help. I’ve lost him.
“Friday, what the hell! I’m as strong as four men, but he was stronger—how?”
“Searching... you won’t believe this, it was the drink. It’s called the Juice. It's distilled from an indigenous plant that endows the locals with enormous strength. But it's effects are momentary.”
“That would explain how he committed the murders using his hands. I’ll be ready for him, when next we meet. Now Friday, are you picking up the tracker I placed on his shoulder?”
“Aye partner, reading signal loud and clear. Holmes is heading towards the outskirts of town...I’m coming to get you.”