In a future, where the internet is a part of everyone
Two men were seated inside, reviewing case files via neural transfer. A tiny node inserted at the base of their necks winked silently as the data was uploaded.
One of the policemen grunted.
Scratching his neck, he winced as the node buzzed. “I really hate that stupid vibration.” His partner gave no reply.
Navigating invisible screens, the second man confirmed that the information was reviewed and accepted the work ticket. The node buzzed.
“Clarke, you okay?” His partner asked the senior officer.
Blinking, Clarke nodded as the personal interface vanished from his sight. “I hope they can patch out the headaches with the newer model.” After the pain passed, he turned to his junior associate.
“Got your orders, Orwell?”
Orwell confirmed he did indeed. “Looks like a typical case of cyberjunkies looking for a fix.”
The police car automatically stopped at a holographic red light, transparent advertisements playing in the air as traffic waited for the colors to change.
Clarke barked a short laugh. “Rookies think everything is simple.”
A screen on the dashboard flashed as it updated the time of arrival.
Frowning, Orwell glanced at the images floating outside. “Are you saying this is going get complicated?” Clarke sighed. “I’m saying that nothing is ever what it seems.”
The light glowed green. With a hum, the electric vehicle splashed through an oily puddle as it continued to its destination.
* * * * * * *
The alleyway was dingy and empty, save for the trash. Orwell gripped his plasma pistol as he surveyed the slums. “Come on,” Clarke waved to him. “It’s just over here.”
A filthy pad jutted from the concrete wall. Holding a universal key card over it, Clarke waited until the device blinked the words: Warrant Accepted.
Groaning, a section of wall swung inward. “Ladies first.” The senior officer grinned beneath his obsidian helmet.
Beneath his black visor, Orwell wrinkled his nose. The helmet might filter out any toxins but it couldn’t block out the stench. The acrid odor of urine and burnt plastic stung his nostrils.
“Someone’s been performing illegal mods.” Kicking broken transistors aside, he raised the pistol and ventured further into the grimy residence. Sensing dim lighting, the weapon switched on its flashlight.
Orwell shone the beam around, checking blind spots and corners with tactical precision. He knew that Clarke was monitoring his performance, possibly even sending live feed straight to headquarters.
Soft voices gave him pause. Switching helmet vision to infrared, two heat signatures popped up.
Silently, he motioned that there were at least two perps nearby. Clarke nodded. How should we proceed? Orwell asked wordlessly. His superior shrugged, signaling it was up to the rookie’s discretion.
Swallowing, Orwell tightened his grip on the plasma pistol.
Bursting into the next room, he shouted: “HANDS UP, METRO POLICE!”
An emaciated woman was thrashing on the floor, pasty skin glistening with sweat. Her node was buzzing incessantly as bloodshot eyes rolled. Next to her, a bald man was crying as he raised his scabby arms. “Please,” he pleaded. “Help her. I don’t know how she got like this.”
Clarke snorted as he approached the convulsing woman. “Couldn’t have anything to do with the self- modifications, I’m sure.”
Orwell watched the man with suspicion, tracking his movements. The cyberjunkie shook his head. “N-no it’s not like that. I knew what I was doing!”
Sighing, Clarke knelt down by the afflicted lady. “That’s what they all say.”
He pulled out a small tablet and scanned her vitals. “What the…” Clarke began to read the data with growing concern.
“What is it?” Orwell asked, keeping his eyes on the weeping man.
“It’s a TTD. Worst case I’ve ever seen.”
The woman moaned as her node buzzed again. “What’s it doing?” Her partner blubbered. “Is she going to be okay?”
Clarke stood up and pressed the side of his helmet. “Dispatch. Get me a Bio-Tech team out here. We need to quarantine this entire area.”
“What’s happening to her?!” Glancing at the man, Clarke shook his head sadly. “There’s nothing anyone can do for her.”
As they watched the Bio-Tech crew cordon off the apartment and purge the area, Orwell asked why the need for such drastic measures.
Grimly, Clarke explained what he’d found. “She had a self-replicating worm. Nasty piece of work too, it was burrowing into her memories and deleting everything it found.”
“Do you think it was contagious?” He asked nervously, rubbing his node. Clarke hesitated and admitted he didn’t know. “I didn’t see her transmitting anything, the amount of pain that she was in….” His voice trailed off.
There was an electronic crackle as the Bio-Tech crew set off a localized EMP, frying any electronics in the apartment.
“What about the guy?” Orwell asked, afraid what the answer would be.
“If she was infected, chances are he was too.” Clarke walked back towards the police car. “Come on, we’re done here.”
As they headed back to the police station, Orwell blinked as his node buzzed. “Clarke?” The policeman looked at him expectantly.
“Weren’t there three suspects in the file?”
Clarke narrowed his eyes and brought up the details. “Huh. Nice catch, rookie.”
Allowing himself a small smile, Orwell basked in his victory. “I thought so.”
Frowning, his partner searched through screens. “When did we get the files? I can’t find them here.”
Orwell stared at Clarke, confused. “We got them less than an hour ago.”
Clarke’s node buzzed.
He smiled. “Hello, rookie. I’ll be your partner for today.”
With growing dread, Orwell watched as Clarke’s memories continued to erode.
(Word count 944)