Murder in New Eden
by Charles C. Cole
Welcome to New Eden, an isolated city floating in space, whose founders believed the start of the 20th century was as good as it would ever get. Gun-free police supervise from atop their penny-farthings, carrying only batons. Aggression has been chemically suppressed for years. But then violence erupts. In response, the chief of police weighs the prospect of thawing secret soldiers. In the middle of it all, two bright young women push for equality and recognition.
Chapter 11: A Weaponized Human
Wayne, Nakamura, and Sergeant Cody stand in the far back of City Operations. Nakamura has clearly been busy moving tables and monitors to make room for an ad-hoc self-defense class. Her sleeves are rolled up, her forehead is glistening, and she is wearing loose gray sweatpants, ready to begin her first day of training.
“I don’t understand,” says Cody. “Please explain it one more time.”
“So,” jokes Nakamura, slowly, as if talking to a child, “this is a kidnapping.”
“Cut it out, Lucy,” says Wayne. “Sergeant Cody doesn’t always get jokes. Don’t confuse him.”
Cody “recognizes” the open area and the gray sweatpants. “You want me to train the two of you?”
“That’s right,” says Nakamura. “Do what you do best.”
“Actually, Lucy,” Wayne offers, “I think we decided that was killing people. This is what he does second-best.”
“Why don’t you come tonight with all of the other police officers?” asks Cody.
“Because we’re not police officers,” Nakamura explains.
“I don’t know about your world,” says Wayne impatiently, “but in our world, women and men are different, and I don’t mean just anatomically. Lucy and I have lucked out, finding positions that usually would have gone to the masculine sex, and nobody’s noticed yet. We get to do our thing. We get to help society. We get to use our brains, analytically. Now we want to use our muscles, too. You know, the holistic approach to being a public safety officer.”
“If there’s another incident, and we all know there will be,” adds Nakamura, “I’m not going to just listen to the screaming and the shooting again. I am going to get my butt up there as fast as I can and help out. It’s the right thing to do. You know it is, so don’t even think about talking me out of it.”
“I wasn’t going to.”
“You understand why we brought you here under false pretenses?”
“Are you going to help us out or not, soldier boy?” asks Wayne.
“And before you say no,” adds Nakamura, “just remember who brought you back from the dead. Nobody else.” She points at Wayne. “That’s right: this girl. So I’m thinking a little gratitude might be in order. What do you say?”
“Yes. I say yes.”
Suddenly, Nakamura has the wind knocked out of her sails; this has been way too easy. “What do you say?”
“Of course, there’s a ‘but’.”
“We’re listening,” says Wayne.
“You have to talk to the chief about letting me see my people.”
“Or you’ll tell on us?”
“I won’t tell on you. This is good for you. You should learn this. But I want your help. Seeing my people is good for me.”
Wayne nods. “The chief will listen to me. He always has. You do this for us, and I’ll talk him into it, no problem. And I’ll be so persuasive, he’ll think it was his idea and wonder why he hadn’t thought of it before.”
* * *
The motion-sensitive bare white lights flicker on overhead, revealing the rather industrial and dusty cryogenics bunker. Cody stands in the middle of the room, blindfolded by a dark hood, handcuffed, wearing wireless noise-cancelling headphones. Wayne stands a few paces behind, quietly assessing his reactions. The room, as always, is filled with the unending throb of electronic equipment. Schiavelli removes the headphones and backs away.
“I know that sound,” says Cody. His tone is hushed, apprehensive.
“I imagine you do at that,” says the chief. “That’s the sound of a hi-tech lullaby for you and your friends.”
“Are they here? All of them? Do I get to see them?”
“Isn’t that the point? How are you going to react, soldier? Can you tell me? Six friends sealed up in individual prison cells, practically entombed, while happy-go-lucky life goes on without them, year after year after year. All their friends and relatives gone. I know what it’s like to be in charge of a team; you feel their pain, their loss, only more intensely because somehow it’s your fault. Are you ready to feel all that?”
“I think so.”
“Convince me, son. I need to believe it.”
“Come again? You think you can handle a little emotion?”
Cody shouts above the noise. “Yes, sir!”
“Okay, I have you chained to the bulkhead. You can probably hear the metal rattle when you move. There’s no room for mistakes. The last thing you want to do is flip out on me. Eartha Wayne is here. In a minute, I’m going to have her give you a little something to calm you down. This is not some mind-control drug. We’re not here to taunt you in any way. We are your friends, soldier. We are paying our respects to your fellow heroes, so you can see for yourself that they’re healthy and so that you fully understand how your behavior topside will largely determine their fate.”
“I don’t like it any more than you do, but the mayor knows where this room is, and if he feels threatened in any way by the presence of a single weaponized human being, imagine his profound discomfort at the thought of a team of armed assassins running around, undermining his fragile authority.”
“That wouldn’t happen, sir. We don’t want to be in charge. You assign the mission. We accomplish the mission. That’s what we do, sir, to the best of our abilities.”
“What if the mayor gives you a command, but I give you another command, contradicting the first? What are you going to do then?”
“Would that happen, sir?”
“I honestly don’t know. I hope not. God help me when I say this, I am not in charge of this music box. I get to hold it sometimes, admire it, but this city, by popular election, belongs to the mayor, like it or not. So, all of us, we do what he says, and we trust it’s for the best. It may not be obvious at first, but we’re not going to know the full possibilities of his choices if we don’t see them through. Do I make myself clear?”
“I’m not understanding...”
“I’m talking about the chain of command, plain and simple. You get that, right?”
“Then follow it, like you always would. That’s all I’m saying.”
“Wayne, give the poor kid a soothing elixir in his right shoulder so we can get through this, and return to our glorious off-duty lives. This place gives me the creeps.”
“Yes, sir,” says Wayne. “This is going to pinch, Cody.” She cleans his skin with a chemical wipe and pushes the hypodermic in, injecting a quick-acting dose of an anti-anxiety medication. He doesn’t react, initially.
“Is it in?” asks the chief.
“How long until it takes effect?”
“If he’s genuinely mortal, like you and me, any minute now.”
“Then let’s do this. Come stand behind me while I take his hood off. No reason for us both to suffer a check to the head when he goes all Samson on us. Yes, Mr. Sergeant, I read old myths, too.” Schiavelli removes the hood quickly, leaving it tied at the neck, and letting it fall to Cody’s shoulders. “Behold!”
Cody sees his friends enclosed in tight metal, waist-high cylinders, their frozen faces behind small oval windows, bleached gray-blue from hidden lights inside their units. They look unchanged from when he last saw them, but they also look less than alive: like wax replicas of their former selves, inert, lacking any of the spark that gave them attitude and determination on and off missions.
Cody whispers, “Are they real? Are they alive?”
“As real as you. As alive as you.”
“I want to talk to them.”
“I don’t blame you, but not tonight, I’m afraid. Look and don’t touch, those are the rules this first visit.”
“I don’t like your rules.”
Schiavelli turns to Wayne. He’s disappointed in the drug’s performance. “Are you sure you gave him enough of that stuff?”
“From what I can tell, it’s the same anti-anxiety med that Valdez gives to all his patients.”
“Maybe that’s part of our problem. Take a closer look at that miracle drug when you get a chance.”
“I don’t like your world,” says Cody, interrupting.
“I know,” says the chief, not unsympathetic.
“Did the mayor explicitly say you couldn’t revive anyone else?”
“I’m afraid, this time, he did.”
Cody suddenly cries out the names of his teammates, as if somehow they might wake and rise at their leader’s command. “Warden! Randall! Abbott! Boyer! Maccario!”
“Easy, son! It’s not worth the yelling; they’re dead to the world in there.”
“I’ll get you out! Do you hear me? All of you! I’ll get you out!” He falls to his knees and sobs. “I’m not alone! I’m not alone!”
“No. Far from it. If it means anything from a guy like me, your friends look quite capable, like a good group of fellows to hang out with. Or go on missions with. Now you see the stakes, why this experiment of ours has to work.”
“The mayor. He wouldn’t...”
“I don’t know,” concedes Schiavelli. “To keep his constituents safe from further harm, he’s willing to take a huge risk on a complete stranger. Good for him. But if he thinks those same people are in immediate danger, I have to believe that he could take another action to the opposite extreme.”
“We can’t let him! It makes no sense. These men, all of them, would die to protect New Eden.”
“I know. And they may have to. Now let’s get you back your feet.” Schiavelli pulls him up.
“But, sir, let them die in battle! That’s all I ask. Hurl us like acid at your enemies so that we can destroy them, but not this way.”
“If I can find an enemy that looks like an enemy, I will gladly order you and your friends into an honorable battle to the death. But the Big Bad, which Eartha Wayne and I are presently looking for, is hiding in plain sight. He or she may very well may be a bright and bitter old neighbor. All we know is: friend is killing friend. That’s never happened here before, not in my generation. I can’t accept it’s voluntary. I have to believe that someone’s releasing, for lack of a better term, an unidentified poison into our atmosphere that manifests like a fever and compels normal, law-abiding citizens to act out like pathological killers.”
Schiavelli turns to Wayne. “That’s what we’re thinking, right? Have I got the general idea?”
“As near as we can determine with what little concrete information we have,” says Wayne.
“What do you want me to do?” ask Cody.
“Continue to train our boys in blue, so that they can contain any future outbreaks and limit the loss of life. You do that and you’ve earned anything you want.”
“I want my team back.”
“Sounds like you’re motivated to me,” says Schiavelli. “That’s a good thing.”
“Yes, sir! I am, sir!”
“Unfortunately, we’ll probably need another incident for more evidence, more clues. That’s just the way it is. You don’t want to lose people. We don’t want to lose people, but I’m afraid sacrifices will have to be made before we get this behind us. So let’s get back topside and keep on keeping on, shall we?”
Copyright © 2018 by Charles C. Cole