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In the pitch dark of the night, a towering structure reaches for the stars. One of hundreds around it, all of them stretching far into the night sky. Inside one of the highly desirable window side apartments, a man named Francis Joe dwells. A simple man, with short blonde hair. Proper clothes as the current eticet demanded. By his side lay a woman with gently features. Her long dark hair spread around her. Long skirt rolled up her thighs.
'Oh no. What have I done?' Francis looked straight into the body's eyes. 'Marie. Why you?' He got up from his crouched position. His stomach ached. There wasn't any time to suppress the nausea. He scurried for the bathroom. The acid burst out of his mouth. It felt hot as some of it flowed down his chin. It seemed to drench everything for a second. He leaned over the sink and let it all come out. The chunks of meat pushed through his throat. The smell, an awful sweet smell. He hated himself. He hated what he had done. Why her?
The pouring sound of water was a welcome change to the silence now surrounding him. Cold. He washed his face. To think that water could taste so good. With his mouth under the stream, he sucked down what he could. He could still smell it, or was some in his nose? 'Why? Why!' Francis asked himself again.

What had once been Marie's beautiful body, now lay spread out on the floor. As if she had fallen, and not bothered to get up. She had come over for dinner. Real beef he had lied to her. She knew that, of course. But she played along. He didn't know why then, but she seemed a little anxious. Anxious about him he had convinced himself. Then later when they were sitting in the couch, she asked him. 'Where is it?' Her eyes were so pretty. Blue, so deep blue.
'Where is what?' He had answered.
'You know damn well what, now WHERE is it?'
Stunned as he was, he didn't know what to say. She took a chokehold on him, and asked him again. 'Where is it, you little prick!' Not a peep escaped. Why? He wondered. She could see he wasn't about to speak.
As he was washing himself over the sink, he touched the bruise on his cheek. She had hit him, once, twice, trice. There had been a fight. If it could be called that, the amount of fighting on Francis's part had been negligible. He could never of have struck her. Never, but he had done so. A reflex, that's all it was he tried to convince himself of. After a minute, when she had tossed him around the apartment, sometime, somewhere, a fist had been made. It moved by itself it seemed. She had licked the blood from her ruptured lip and said; 'Oh, so he does want to play eh?' That was not her face! She grinned. Even now, the voice sounded so nice to him.
Then suddenly, she had a shock rod in her hand. He followed it with his eyes as she raised it, ready to come down on his head. In sheer panic, he had used it at her. Now she lay there, lifeless on the floor.
He loved her, in his own opinion anyway. Love was widely considered a fantasy. But he was sure of it; he had found the one. Sadly, she did not love him.

It was dark. But the disarray in the apartment could not be hidden. As she had pushed him around, shelves had been toppled. Lamps thrown and a table smashed. A holoprojector was in pieces by the windows.
He came back from the bathroom and stopped in the doorway. Thinking back, he could remember the good times. The laughs they'd had. Her laugh, he thought back. A higher pitch than her normal voice, but he loved it. As he loved all of her. Francis let his eyes follow her profile. He realised that she wore the sweater he had bought for her three weeks ago. Couldn't all of have been bad? Could it? A tear dropped. And another, and another. He couldn't stop. A panel creaked as he slid down, leaning to the wall. A few seconds went by before he realised that something had to be done. The police would come and put him away or worse. They weren't just only going to take him away. They were going to take his memories, of her. No! Not of her. They wouldn't be so cruel. Would they?
He called out, out to the net. A soothing voice could be heard in his mind.
'What's the matter, bro?'
'I need help. I need, you.' The salty water dropped to the floor.
Francis sent his memory of the events that evening to his brother.
'Oh, I see.' There was a slight pause. 'I'll be right over. Don't go outside, whatever you do, do not go outside!'
'Sure.' He didn't really care now, not any more.
'Hey, it'll be all right, don't you worry. I'll sort it out, trust me.'
'Thanks Jake.'
'You're my brother, and I won't let nothing happen to you, nothing you hear!'
The voice was gone as it had come. He remained there. The tears kept flowing. 'Why you Marie! Why you!'

Under the gleaming metropolis ran tunnels. Subterranean motorways and maglevs. Motorised transport was banned from the city centre, except for the elevated highways. There wasn't much room for the cars to drive in anyway. A city supporting 49 million people (officially, unofficially the number was around 55 million) was bound to have clogged up roads and endless traffic jams. Most people didn't have a car though. In the arcologies and megatowers, a lot of people never even went outside. Those who did took the maglev or were rich enough to get a hovercar.
The sun was up. Petrov could see that through the transparent sections of the tunnel ceiling. The sections passed overhead swiftly as the squad car sped along the track at 270 kph. He was going through some 'paper'work as the car drove itself to the precinct station. He talked out loud and gave commands to his personal AI. That always drew people's attention. Most people were equipped with neurocerebral implants, which enabled them to access the net with their minds alone. Petrov didn't however have such an implant. He didn't have any implants. Damn brain of his was screwed. Like every kid, he had been eager to get his interface. That eagerness had cost him direly. By law, cerebral implants were only allowed to be operated into people of sixteen years or older. The brain needed to mature before it could handle the nerve fibres of the interface.
But this was only a precaution. Most people could handle it by thirteen, some even earlier. Many kids down on the lower levels of the arcologies get their sets early. So when he was fourteen, Petrov walked in to the cyberdoctor's office and got his own set. He wasn't ready. The fibres grew into his brain, connected to the nerves and did their thing.
He ended up in a coma for six months. The doctor had done a sloppy job, the fibres went too deep. When he finally came out, he saw things none of the nurses did. He would lye in his bed during the night and suddenly let out a shriek. 'Make them go away.' He had pleaded to the busy staff.
Cybernetically induced schizophrenia. The medical tape he wore on his neck could keep the symptoms under control. But he could never get another cerebral interface. The fibres were still in his head, dormant, useless.

Normally, the administrative work could be done in a few minutes. It took longer for Petrov. Even though he worked pretty smoothly with his AI. The information was displayed directly on his retina by the visor. It only let light through one way. On the other side of it, it looked like a polished grey plastic. How much light that passed was automatically adjusted for his comfort. If it became too dark, they could enhance the light to give him a monochromic image of the night.

A car slowly past on the left side. It was similar to the squad car, except with facing seats. Sleek bullet shape with a transparent top. A suit sat in the back seat talking to a girl in the front seat. She leaned over and kissed him. Petrov looked away and returned to his work.
He was hungry. A single glass of orange juice was all he'd had that morning. A growl sounded from his gut. Petrov watched up through the transparent sections of the ceiling. A blue sky hung between the towers.
Captain Fholler on the line. The AI said in his earpiece.
Petrov pushed a button on his bracelet. The graphics disappeared from his vision. A single icon remaining by the side.
'Captain.' Petrov said. He didn't like to speak to people through the AI. It only reminded him of what he was.
'Petrov, don't bother coming in. I've got a fresh one you.' Fholler's mental voice said.
He closed his eyes. 'Understood. Location?'
'Quadrant eighteen, the Lamonte tower.'
He thought back. Eighteen was all middleclass, not a very dangerous neighbourhood.
'Send the file.' Petrov said and opened his eyes.
Information received. A map displaying the car's route through the city appeared on the windscreen.
'I'm on my way.' The icon vanished. 'Display file.' He tried to settle back in the seat.
A picture centred in front of him. It was a blond girl, in her twenties lying on a tiled floor. More pictures visualised around it. He squinted his eyes. 'Pretty.' He said to himself.
'Cycle images.' The image shifted. Pictures of the room centred one after one. Memory blocks were scattered in front of the sofa. It didn't take long until the images finished their cycle and were replaced by text. He skimmed through it but tired quickly.
'Display real-time.' The room appeared again, but now two officers and one droid was visible. Lines of the officers' names and the droids designation appeared beside them. The peripheral vision showed the text NIK-3. It was the designation of the droid assigned to officer Nikelsen.
He kept his eyes on Nikelsen as he touched the button on his bracelet again.
The icon reappeared by the side.
'Nikelsen, status?' He said.
They were observing the other droid as it conducted its scans. 'We're almost ready,' Nikelsen didn't look any different. 'just a few more scans now.'
'What have you got?'
'Zip. We've got no traces of the perpetrator. The hallway sensors didn't pick up squat during or after the murder.'
'Are you certain it was a murder then?' Petrov asked in a tired voice.
'Yeah we think so, scans indicate that the brain was fried.'
Interesting. 'How?'
'No idea. Looks as if it short circuited itself, however that's possible.' Was that doubt in his mind?
'Talk to you when I get there.'
'Roger that.' The icon dissolved.
'Normal mode.' He didn't see the room any more. The car was just going up a ramp to the highway. The AI had automatically changed the car's destination. The sun reflected off the towers around the wide road. The car was starting to pick up speed again.
He wondered why she was dead. What had she done?
He looked out the side. Traffic was light. The cars were holding a modest six metres between one another. The car's transparent top darkened as the sun came out from behind a white cloud. The cloud cover wasn't bad; it was going to be a hot day. The corner of his eye showed one line of text. E.T.A. 7 minutes.

Petrov stepped out of the lift on the hundred and seventieth floor. It was a green corridor ahead with every now and then. A solaris panel in the ceiling wasn't working.
There was a bitter scent in the air. A pair of teenagers hunched behind a door turned to look as Petrov walked by them. They whispered a little bit to each other when he stopped in front of 1711. A droid was keeping watch beside the door. It looked inactive as it continuously scanned the corridor. It was bulky and round with four legs and arms. It was a little over one metre high. The arms were not moving in the air where they hung. A green lens turned on its head. Like a human iris it flexed and adjusted its size. Similar lenses ran the entire length around its domed head.
Petrov pushed the ajar door open. The smell stung in his nose. The apartment was a big open space with sporadic elements of furniture. Dirty pans were still in the kitchen on his left. Sloppy, but the rest of the place was a mess. Shreds of glass from the table by the sofa in the centre of the room, a broken holoprojector by the windows. Shelves were on the floor. There were the memory blocks he had noticed before, all spread out.
'Ah, detective.' The officer's jolly voice exclaimed. 'We've got something here.'
Petrov walked over to the bathroom door. He eyed the corpse as he walked past. The visor was removed as he came up to Nikelsen.
'Someone puked all over. I guess he was aiming for the sink. Anyway, DNA check should be complete in three hours.' Nikelsen said.
Petrov took it all in. There was still a sweet smell in the air, different from the other one.
'Any clues yet?'
'Nope, not yet. But I'd bet my money on the chap that lives here.'
Hmm. Petrov turned around to the body. He didn't feel well.
'Tell me about this mental short-circuit.'
'The droids made an initial scan of it. The brain's all jelly.' Why the hell was he so happy, Petrov wondered.
Petrov crouched done beside her head. He put his visor back on. Hudson, Anna J. The name hovered in front of him.
'Signs of massive cell death was also apparent. You could almost think that all the brain cells committed suicide.' Nikelsen smiled. When Petrov looked at him, the smile disappeared.
'Implants?'
'Nothing strange that we could see. All scrap though.' Nikelsen came over and looked at the body himself.
'A real shame.' He shook his head.
'Anything else?'
'No. The computers are checking if there's something in the building's sensor logs.'
Petrov sighed. 'Fine.' Nikelsen faced him as he stood. Petrov was one hundred and eighty nine centimetres tall. Fifteen more than Nikelsen at least. Petrov frowned as the annoying officer nodded. His smile reappeared. A last glimpse on the body. Nikelsen's smile vanished when Petrov walked away. 'How rude.' He thought.

Back by his car in the underground garage, he took off his jacket and tossed it to the side of the front seat. It was getting warmer. He got in the car and folded the door down.
'Get me the file on Hudson.' Her ID-picture appeared in front of him, text scrolled beside it.
Hudson, Anna Jay. 25 years old. Born August 12th 2080. Employed by Morton Industries January 17th 2099. No prior arrests or violations. There is no record of her coming to the city.
'She sneaked in?' He viewed the people in the garage. The cars were lined row after row.
Probable.
'I wonder why she was here.' A second passed. 'I bet Morton's in on it.'
There is no evidence to suggest that.
Now he was feeling interested. 'Still, I think we should go and ask them.'
Shall I report your intended arrival?
He grinned at his reflection on the side. 'Yes, then head for Morton's office tower.'
Understood.

Morton Industries' office tower was on the other side of the city centre. It stood just about nine hundred metres high, dwarfing the surrounding skyscrapers. The holoads shimmered between the giant monoliths. Dozens of brands competing for attention from the motorists below. Petrov stood by the window, taking in the latest report from the computers back in the station. The sensorlogs had not contained a single bit of useful information. The hallway had been completly empty between 22:02 and 01:34 two nights ago. That didn't make sense. A hallway is never empty. 700 metres down, the congested highways looked like ant tracks. A cloud swept in, obscuring the view. Petrov paced along the wall. It featured pictures, photographic and holographic. A painting in the middle and couple of diplomas by its sides. The office he was in had a circular design. Even the ceiling bent slightly. He stopped in front of a photograph of a few people, all holding their arms together in the air.
The door hissed open and a woman came inside. She was one from the photo. She had a grey suit, with long brown hair held back in a ponytail. She was almost as tall as Petrov.
'Detective Petrov?' The woman said. Petrov turned and moved closer.
'I am director Benso. Please, sit down.' She gestured towards the only chair in front of the desk. A creak could be heard as he sat down.
'Can I get you any refreshments? A drink, some food?' She managed a smile.
Petrov ignored the offer. 'You employ a certain Anna Hudson, do you not?' That same tired voice.
Benso looked at Petrov as she sat down in her highbacked chair. A few seconds went by, her eyes went into a dreamy state. 'Yes, that is correct. But she is not employed in this city. May I ask what this matter is concerning?' She was certainly polite, Petrov thought to himself.
'She's dead.'
'Oh dear. Here?' She asked in a concerned tone.
He raised an eyebrow. Of course here, why else would he be here? 'She was murdered two nights ago.'
Those same dreamy eyes. 'Oh my, this is most unfortunate.' She looked disturbed. Why would she care?
'I expect that you will want all of our information on her, and her life.'
'That I do.'
'Very well, it shall be provided. If you would please send the confirmation signal.' Her smile returned.
The AI sent the police code over.
Information received. The AI said.
'The corporation knew nothing of her travelling to the city?'
'No, I'm afraid not.' She shook her head. 'If she can get passed the police, then certainly she can easily disappear from our sight.' He doubted every word she said.
Petrov nodded. 'Thank you for your co-operation.' They both got to their feet.
'Anything to help.' The door opened on her thought. Petrov took one last look at her behind the desk when he was outside. She still stood there, smiling with her hands together when the door closed in front of him.

Running down a street. The buildings were like walls. Where were his shoes? A dragon landed in front of him. He kept running. If he quick enough, he could fool the dragon.
Then he was alone, in a white room. He banged on the wall. 'Let me out!' He shouted. Shoes. He had found his shoes. He walked to the centre of the room. A tortoise was inside his left shoe. He knew that the tortoise was the gatekeeper. If he could pursuay the tortoise, he would be freed.
A terrible noise could be heard. They, the alarm had gone off. He put his hands over his ears. It made no difference. If only he had been more careful. The beeping continued.

Petrov opened his eyes. 'What the hell is that noise?' He thought.
'Quiet!' He got up in a sitting position. The beeping had stopped. There was one thing he hated above all things; that damn alarm clock. He swung his feet off the floor bed. It was warm. He was warm. Petrov ran his hand through his stubby hair.
'What's the time?' He yawned.
'Oh seven hundred.' A voice said.
'Why the hell does everyone have to get up so...' He couldn't think of a good swear word. '..early.'
The computer ignored the question. Petrov got up on his feet.
'Show window.' The holographic wall vanished behind the bed. He put his hand up to cover his eyes as the light flooded the apartment. A grunt. He put on his pants that were lying on the sofa. The shirt was on the floor. He decided to get a new one. The apartment was one room, with kitchen and bathroom. The sofa was to his right, back to the wall and a small table in front of it. There was a projector in the ceiling. Little else took up the precious floor space. A panel slid across the bed, hiding it under seemingly solid wooden floor.
'Closet.' The wall parted on his command, revealing closely packed clothes inside. 'Shirts.' An arm extended with mostly shirts on it. He picked one in the middle and put it on.
'Close.' The arm withdrew and the wall slid shut.
The kitchen was almost ridiculously tiny. He looked in can on top of the heater. Only a few leafs left. Damn. He would have to go and buy some more tea down below. He did so hate the cloned stuff.
Petrov opened the refrigerator and opted for the bottle of juice. A glass was taken from the open washer. It wasn't clean. He sighed as he poured some water into it.
The yellow liquid tasted a bit sour. He leaned to the wall as he emptied the glass.
'Another day, another beautiful day.' He chuckled at his own wit.

The lift came to a halt some fifty floors above the ground. The doors parted fast. Was that pizza he could smell? Petrov walked down the corridor of the computer analytic division. In short, a bunch of hackers and electronics experts. The hallway curved round out of sight about fifty metres from the lifts. Several doors were open on both sides. Common for all was the mess one could see inside. Petrov came to a halt in front of closed door. The tag said Nakamura, Hiroshi. He pushed it open. The room inside was small, and poorly lit. The only lighting came from the row of holograms by the far wall. In front of them, a man in shorts and an open shirt sat on a few cushions. As Petrov came closer he tried not to step on the multitude of devices lying in his way. He tapped the man on his shoulder. Nakamura turned and looked up from his lotus position. The projections froze.
'Huh?' Was all he said.
'Case 48C-' Petrov started. The man put up a hand and stretched for an audiobeamer beside him.
'Huh?' He said again.
Petrov sighed. 'Case 48-C03.'
Nakamura thought for a second. 'Ah, that one.' He turned to his screens again. They flickered slightly as they changed shape.
'This was one tricky little prick.' Lists materialised by the left. 'He managed to avoid identifying himself to the room's network node.'
'Wasn't that supposed to be impossible.' Petrov crossed his arms.
'Nope, not even particularly hard if you only know what the heck you're doing.' Some schematics came up on the right.
'Which this one did?'
'Yeah, but he's no match for me. I think I can still get some juice out of this one yet.' He zoomed in on the schematics. 'You see, at first the node wouldn't respond to any netcalls, so we went and got it. Someone had actually smashed the node to bits. We were lucky to get anything out of the memory blocks.'
'Get to the point already.' Petrov leaned forward.
'Sure thing. As you can see on the right hand list.' A list popped up. 'On the last day in record, seven calls were made. Now the first five are nothing out of the ordinary. The sixth however, is a complete blank. Neither side of the call registered with the node. The seventh has only one blank and the other being a Francis Joe.' The two rows of text blinked red.
'How come only one end of the line registered?'
'Most likely, our boy Francis called someone with a customised interface. But then again, it could just be the memory degradation.'
Who could he have called? 'Any way you can be sure which one?'
Nakamura shrugged. 'Not yet. We have to analyse the entire node before we can be sure.'
'What about the sixth call then?'
'That, I think is just the busted memory. But it's the same there, the AI is still trying to tie up all the loose ends in there.'
'Call me as soon as possible the second you know.'
'Sure.'

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