The iFactor Chapter 6

By R.W. Van Sant

Matt stood facing the door. All he had to do was to walk through, and it would be as though the last ten years hadn’t happened. No, it wasn’t as easy as that, no one could escape their past. He may have gotten his career back, but he had acquired some emotional baggage, and he still had one hell of a past to live down.

Matt had been in the room beyond only once before, to provide information to a detective concerning the trafficking of contraband tobacco. The room was filled wall to wall with computer, displays, monitors, and terminals. It was nothing less than the nexus of all the data that ran through the colonies mainframe. This time, he walked in under his own newly acquired authority.

“Welcome to the synapsis, Detective Dales.” Officer Perry rose from his seat and crossed the room with his hand extended eagerly forward. Matt shook it. The young man waved his arms, sweeping around the room in pride. “If a secretary in Agro sector accesses her computer terminal or leaves work early, this is where the computer lights up.”

“Sit down Dales.” Detective Zimmerman indicated a chair beside hers; eyes never leaving the monitor. “We have work to do.”

“Thanks.” Matt sat.

“What we have here is a sexual assault.” Zimmerman punched a few buttons on the terminal, and the large screen before him lit up. A standard police incident report came up. “Start reading.”

“Yes, Ma’am.” It had occurred to Matt that not everyone would be happy about his promotion. Although the chief had done his best to discourage rumors, information was difficult to suppress. There was enough data concerning his past, and his condition to make most of the security officers keep him at hands length. He had long ago accepted that as fact. The new promotion did little to alleviate it. Matt turned and regarded at the display.

The top of the screen contained an image of Lori Holt. Directly below it was a short bio listing her as a clerical worker with SiChem. Other images revealed slight bruising, and the medical records indicated vaginal trauma. A rape kit was positive for the presence of semen, and there were traces of Fantasia in her bloodstream in large enough doses to cause temporary memory impairment.

“Don’t call me ma’am,” Zimmerman said. “I’m a detective like you. Just with more seniority.”

“Understood, Detective.”

“Good.” She turned back to the monitor.

Matt knew that it was not going to be a harmonious partnership. That was acceptable. He liked it quiet.

He scrolled down the screen to Lori Holtz’s statement, scanning the report for the pertinent details. She got off work and went to get a drink at the TriNova, a trendy club near the executive quad. After a little dancing and two mixed drinks, she met a man who called himself Max. They had a drink together, and the next thing she remembered was waking up in a deserted corridor half-naked with her clothing ripped and in a pile.

“Looks cut and dry,” Matt said. “So, we find this Max and match the DNA.”

“This isn’t Earth.” Detective Zimmerman said. “Here, we have the technology. Perry, access the city tracking system. Time-coded twenty thirty yesterday. Lock on 13098.”

The younger officer pushed several buttons on her keyboard, and the wall screen lit up. The screen was mostly dark with white lines showing building plans, filled with numbered dots. “Let me show you how we do it on Sirius.”

“Those are the signals sent out by the palm chips?”

“The city computer tracks us all at all times, the only catch is that you must have a person’s permission to track them, or court order,” Zimmerman said. “In this case, the incident report gives us the victim’s permission to track her motions.”

“I could have used this in Dallas.”

“I’m sure. Pay attention to the red dot. That’s our victim. Perry, zoom in.” The image around the red dot grew so that a diagram of the room appeared. Around the red dot were several dozen blue dots moving around the outlines of furniture. Yes, there were several tables with dots around them and a long table that had to be the bar.”

“Why are we getting only numbers?”

“UN privacy rules. If we find cause to believe that a colonist has broken the law, we request a warrant to access that person’s identification.” Perry said.

“Accelerate feed by a factor of ten,” Zimmerman ordered. The dots started to whirl around, coming on and off the screen. The computer, however, stayed fixed steadily on the red dot, Lori’s dot. Matt observed as dots advanced and withdrew, each time he wondered if the dot was ‘Max.’ A few times Lori’s dot moved to an uncluttered area with another dot and moved erratically for a few moments then went back to her table.

Ultimately, a dot moved to the other side of her table, 34129. It remained for a time, moved to the bar, returned and then the two dots moved out of the room.

“Stay with her,” Zimmerman commanded. Perry typed a bit more, and the red dot returned to the center of the screen while the lines surrounding her moved about. The two dots moved out of the building, her red dot was moving with increasing irregularity.

“Is she drunk?” Matt asked.

“Fantasia intoxication.” Zimmerman looked at Perry. “I need maximum zoom.”

The image increased until almost all Matt could see were the red dot, the blue dot, and the lines indicating walls and walkway. The red dot continued to move erratically. The blue dot converged, and both went into an alley. Then the dots moved around each other a bit, it appeared to Matt as though she were trying to escape. The blue dot obscured the red for a few moments and then deserted her, bearing back to the walkway. The red dot remained still.

“Do we have a camera view?” Matt asked.

“No, not in the alleys,” Perry said.

“Damn, now that would have been useful.”

Zimmerman said. “We got enough. He’s ours. Officer Perry, send a recording of this and request a warrant for the identity of 34129, and a visual warrant of TriNova.” She twisted in her chair and considered Matt. “You get involved in your cases, and you’ll burn out.”

“Call it a habit. On Earth, if we didn’t get involved in our cases, then it meant we just were not trying. Here I can see how that might be a flaw.” Matt said. “Now what?”

“We wait for the warrant then we investigate ‘Max’ and order his arrest,” Zimmerman informed him.

“It was never this easy back home,” Matt said. “It may take a while, but I could get used to it.”

“This is why there are no unsolved crimes here.” Officer Perry commented. “This system makes it impossible to get away with anything.”

“While you’re at it, request a Level Three contact web on ‘Max’ here,” Zimmerman said.

“Yes, Detective.” Perry turned to his monitor and started to file the appropriate paperwork.

“How long does it take to get a warrant authorized?” Matt asked.

“Depends on how busy the council of judges is. Maybe an hour or two. They never say no. When the warrants come in, we’ll follow the web to the supplier, and we’ll get them both.”

“I don’t know what to think. I knew the system was in place but had no idea of how well it worked.” Matt commented.

“I have a one hundred percent conviction rate,” Zimmerman asked. “How was yours, back on Earth I mean?”

“You don’t want to know. Even when we arrested the perps, they often got off on technicalities.”

“Not here. Everything is airtight before we make the arrest. Backed up by the city tracking system.”

“I’ll try not to get bored,” Matt said.

“Requests filed detective,” Perry said. “We should have a response in an hour or so.”

“Well, what do we do while we’re waiting?” Matt said.

Officer Perry rose and turned. “I’m going to lunch. Say Soy has a new meat substitute hamburger, which is almost passable if you smother it in mustard. You want to come?”

Matt wasn’t comfortable eating out. Restaurants were too busy, too many people. He never relished the experience. “I think I’ll stay.”

“I’ll stick to the cafeteria.” Detective Zimmerman said.

Matt was overcome with a sensation of Deja Vous. He was sure that he needed to go with the new detective, he just wasn’t sure why. Psychic impression? One thing was certain, however, when the feeling struck, it paid to go with it. “Changed my mind. I’m in.”

“Good, a guinea pig.” The young officer waited at the doorway. Matt was a little slow getting to his feet, but he followed.


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