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 30: No Power, No Sleeping Soldiers
A power outage. Cody has just left the chief’s apartment, in dry civilian garb. He is walking on his way to Wayne’s lab when all of the street lamps blink out. The portholes to the stars are open. It is just bright enough to see his hand held in front of his face.
Delumbria is making a pointed gesture. In New Eden, the simulated time is late at night. Most of the city is sleeping. Few people will notice. Maybe it’s a test run. Maybe it’s isolated. He’s trying to take my team offline! Cody needs to run, but he can’t see. He turns around to see if it’s any better behind him.
An electric vehicle with blindingly bright headlights pulls up. It’s the chief. “Get in,” he says.
Cody jumps into the passenger seat. “Delumbria?”
“We’ve got to get the boys out,” say Cody.
“And that’s what we’re going to do.” Schiavelli is quiet and calm.
“Do you think he knows where they are?”
“Do we need Wayne?”
“I hope not, because we don’t have time.”
* * *
Mayor Brandt is “sleeping one off” by the side of the pool when the lights go out. He is dressed but fatigued. All of this political intrigue has worn him to a frazzle.
In the dark, he cries out, “Toby, be a dear and refresh me. And find something to see by. I’ve never seen it this dark. Toby?” The silence is oppressive to a social animal like the mayor. “Bother.”
“Hello, Mayor.” An unfamiliar, bodiless voice speaks from nearby.
“You’re not Toby.”
“Do I know you?”
“No. But you know the man I work for.”
“I know a lot of people.” Brandt knows exactly who he means, damn it. “I’m not up for company right now. I don’t think you should be here.”
“I won’t be staying long.”
The mayor gets up quietly and ducks behind the chaise lounge. He feels along the patio, searching for a possible weapon, until he finds the stretchable elastic headband to his swimming goggles. “Would you like to try the pool? It’s quite yummy.”
“I will if you will.” Sounding a little closer.
“Not me. I’m not dressed for it, I’m afraid. All these clothes will just weigh me down.”
“Have you ever tried it? Maybe it won’t be as bad as you think. Or maybe it will, but only for a little while.”
“You may tell Dom that I got the message,” avers Brandt with costumed dignity.
“He wanted my attention, and now he’s got it.”
“You misunderstand. Actually, I’m here for a delivery.”
“Why didn’t you say so? Then leave it and go.”
“I’m supposed to deliver all or part of you to the water treatment plant, whatever’s easier to carry.”
Brandt tries negotiations. “Fine. Tell him he can have one of Chief Leo Schiavelli’s supersoldiers. I don’t care.”
“It’s too late for that now.”
“Why is too late?”
“No power, no sleeping soldiers.”
“That’s what this is about? I hope you’re wrong. Maybe there’s a backup system. Dom doesn’t want to make an enemy of Sergeant Cody. They tell me he’s a one-man killing machine.”
“But he’s only one man. He can’t be in two places at once, can he?”
The mayor stands. “Let’s stop this little dance, shall we? If you have something to do, do it, or get out of here. I’m not going to cower from you. You may win, but I’m not going to make it easy for you. I promise, I’m going to gouge the skin off your face, and it will get infected and it will scar, and every time you look in the mirror, you’ll see what I did. Let’s do this.”
A crash of glass, a grunt, another crash, metal this time, a second grunt different from the first. The clear vivid sounds of punches being thrown, maybe four. Then quiet.
“Hello?” calls the mayor cautiously.
“It’s me,” answers Petrillo.
“Nicolas! Is it over?”
“It’s over,” answers Petrillo, a little winded.
“I’m so relieved. He’s lucky you got to him first.”
“I can’t believe they only sent one guy,” says Petrillo. “They must really think we can’t handle ourselves up here.”
“Guess we showed them.”
“Guess we did.”
“Thank you, Director.”
“It was the chief’s idea. He says it’s right there in my job description.”
“Thank the chief for me, the next time you see him.”
“And, do me a favor if you please, take the trash to the curb like a good soldier. I don’t want to see what he looks like. I don’t want to be tempted to kick a man while he’s already down. It was just a bad dream.”
“Whatever you need.”
* * *
Nakamura and Wayne race to open the pod doors to all of the cryogenics tubes. Warden, Abbott, Randall, Maccario, and Boyer each survive the ordeal of sudden consciousness. None of them is restrained, the way Cody was the first time. The process is quick, but fortunately they’ve all been through it before, recently, and they vaguely recognize the women helping them.
“Water, please,” whispers Warden.
Abbott sits up and nods. He looks pale and sweaty; his body has climbed to normal body temperature.
“You, too?” asks Wayne. “Sure. I’ll get right on that. I just want to listen to everyone’s hearts. It’ll just take a moment.”
“Clothes,” calls Randall.
“Folded neatly right beside you,” offers Nakamura.
“Lights?” Maccario asks.
“Why are they off? We’re working on it. Soon,” says Wayne, though she has no reason to know this.
Boyer is the most alert. “Sergeant Cody?”
Wayne says, “Boyer. We’re friends of his. You remember that, right? The good guys. The password ‘redrum’ ring a bell?”
“What’s it mean?” asks Nakamura, whispering in Wayne’s ear.
Loudly, so as to avoid suspicious actions. “It means: ‘Don’t kill me’.”
The power flickers back on.
“Delumbria must feel he’s made his statement,” says Nakamura.
“How long does it take to kill a man who is hooked up to the equivalent of a generator?” asks Wayne. “Not long at all.”
Sergeant Cody and Chief Schiavelli enter, breathless.
“Officer Wayne. Officer Nakamura. Glad to see you beat us. Everyone all accounted for?” asks the chief, visibly relieved.
Wayne nods. “It’s a lot easier the second time around, when I know what I’m doing and they’re more trusting. If we hadn’t been here, things would have been different.”
“What were you doing here?”
“Lucy was daring me to reproduce the deep-sleep technology. We had a crazy dream of putting Delumbria on ice, and then the whole insurrection stops dead without its leader.”
“I like it. So?”
“It was just a dream. I didn’t know where to start. But we were just leaving when the power came crashing down.”
Nakamura takes hold of Cody’s hand. Self-consciously, he pulls away.
“Sergeant Cody,” Schiavelli scolds, noticing, “Officers Nakamura and Wayne just saved the lives of your friends. I think you could be a little more grateful.”
Cody sweeps Nakamura up in his arms with a bear hug. He is that grateful. “You’ve made your point,” says the chief, upon reflection. “A little less is fine, too.”
“There are your weapons, Chief,” says Cody, putting Nakamura down. “Each one is one of a kind. We can’t possibly lose.”
Boyer is disoriented and bleary-eyed. “Lose? Lose what? I’ll help.”
“Yes, you will, soldier,” says Wayne.
“Debrief them, while they dress, would you?” He turns to the only women in the room, feeling another wave of relief. “I’m taking the girls up to my office to discuss strategy. Wayne and Nakamura, are you two up for a little War Room planning?”
* * *
In his office, the chief sits on the edge of his desk, casually towering over Nakamura and Wayne who are seated. This is not intended as a power play. For one thing, there’s an open trapdoor where he’d typically be holding court. For another, if anything, he feels like pacing; this is as close to normal as he can achieve at the moment. Actions are happening, and reactions are needed.
Nakamura has both feet flat on the chair, hugging her knees to her, while Wayne sits on one bent leg, absently massaging the sole of one of her feet. This what recharging looks like before going back out into the world.
“Chief, you sure you don’t have alcohol somewhere in here, do you?” asks Nakamura after a not-too-subtle, gallows-humor whisper from Wayne.
“What? No! Let’s get serious. Nakamura, I know it’s not going to sound fair but I need a round-the-clock presence in Ops. It’s up to you if you want the honors or if you trust the two male goofballs I’ve offered to the cause. I know how I’d feel.”
“I’ll do it,” says Nakamura.
“Somebody has to.”
“Exactly so,” says Schiavelli. “I admit it’s not a glamorous undertaking.”
“Besides, they’ll trash the place. I know the most likely cameras to watch. It simplifies the whole process. If Tweedledum and Tweedledee can spell me for catnaps now again, I should be all set.”
“The two male goofballs,” explains Nakamura.
“They never introduced themselves,” explains Wayne. “We needed names to tell them apart.”
For some reason, Schiavelli feels he’s not done justifying his decision. “We’re all aware you struck the first blow, Lucy, and this is hardly front-lines action, but it’s critical that we have eyes and ears on everything going on out there. We’ve got reinforcements, but we don’t have a battalion.”
The black rotary-dial desk phone rings. “That better be Lois asking why she sees lights on in my office at this hour, because I can’t take any more bad news right this second.” The chief stares at it, then sidelong at Wayne and back.
“Want me to get it?” ask Wayne, more or less rhetorically.
“If you don’t mind.” Schiavelli stands up and adjusts one of the photos of the previous chiefs, as if it’s the most important thing he could be doing right at the moment.
Wayne grabs the phone resolutely. There’s no reason to avoid it when it’s clearly not for her. The chief has no idea how many times she’s ducked calls, even his call, and she’s not about to tell him. “The Chief’s office. What? How many were there? Do you want backup? Well, stay there in case they send a second round. We’ll be in touch. Good work, by the way.”
“So?” he asks as soon as she’s hung up the phone. “Was it Lois?”
“Who was it?”
“Director of Communications Nicolas Petrillo.”
“I told that boy to high-tail it over to the mayor’s. What did he want? Directions?”
“Apparently, Dom sent a hit man for Brandt. But Nicolas got there just in time to foil his plans.”
“That’s not funny, Wayne,” snaps Schiavelli, returning to his chair, now on the far side of the room.
She is very serious. “No, it’s not.”
“Really? And I actually felt sorry for Dom. Not anymore. Everyone okay?”
“Sounds like the hit-man didn’t do so well. And Nicolas says to thank Cody for the self-defense classes.”
“So, for all intents and purposes, we’re on,” the chief announces. He sits. The only available creature comfort allowed him. “It’s happening. Wayne, I need you to collect up all of the bad medicine Dr. Valdez manufactured. We’re going to get it to Pelkey and lock all of the bottom-feeders together. We need a way to get it in their systems quickly, so that they take their aggression out on each other, not on us. And, if they don’t kill each other, which is fine by me, we’ll tend to their bruised selves later. That’s the plan.
“Besides the elevator in the plant, there are four main stairwells at each corner of the park. We’re going to block them. Probably park something heavy against them. Any questions?”
“Are we using Cody’s squad or are they sitting this one out?” asks Wayne.
“They’re in. Absolutely! Next question.”
“What about the mayor?”
“I think he’s busy,” says Schiavelli.
Nakamura’s turn. “Where’d all the guns go?”
“You saw that? I don’t know. Maybe they got melted down and repurposed. Maybe they never existed. So long as Dom doesn’t have them, and there’s no reason to think he would, it doesn’t matter. We’ve got the better trained force, with a home field advantage, motivated to protect their friends and loved ones. Anything else?”
“One thing,” says Wayne. “Any chance we can get the anti-aggression treatment back in the water? Wouldn’t that have the same effect and save us a lot of heartache?”
“Don’t get me wrong, Wayne,” says the chief. “I’m not looking for bloodshed. For all I know, Dom disabled that process for good and all, long before Bernie had his temper tantrum. I think it would take us more precious time to figure it out, if there’s any figuring to be done, than to call his bluff. He wants aggression, so let’s start with his team and see how he likes it. You’ve got your orders. And, Wayne, if I call you to see how things are going, pick up the phone.”
Like he was reading her mind before. Or maybe he’s watched her on a surveillance camera. “Yes, sir.”
The two women turn to leave. Schiavelli stands behind his desk, mindful of the gaping hole in the floor, looking out the window. The city is peaceful now, but what would it look like if they failed? How many people would get hurt? Children? “Lucy!”
Nakamura stops. She’s been bracing for the tough-love father speech. “I know what you’re going to say, that Jeb has a job to do and the best thing right now is to not distract him. Am I close?”
“Somehow Dom’s man knew exactly where to find Jeb. Maybe, just to be safe, I’ll swap out the two guys helping in Ops.”
“That’s a good idea,” agrees Nakamura, trying to not be embarrassed, imagining scanning their faces. Maybe there was another reason they had left without making eye contact, another secret they were trying to hide. She flashes back to beating up Dom’s men. The last time it was instinctive, but she’s sure she could summon those muscle memories again if the situation required it.
“I just wanted you to know why you might see a pair of new faces.”
“Is Lois going door-to-door waking everyone up?”
“The boys aren’t as resilient as you two; they’ve got wives and kids at home wearing them down. Let’s give them one more night’s rest. They’re going to need it. We don’t know if it’s really going down. Could be Dom’s just feeling for weak links in our defenses. Personally, I was expecting a tidal wave of violence, like riots in the old days, not a couple of toothless thugs who crumble at the first sign of resistance.”
“We’ve got to go, Chief,” says Wayne. “Miles to go before we sleep.”
“Eartha, we might have a few injured people after all this. I’m expecting it. How’s your training going? You ready to play doctor?”
“I’ll stop the bleeding. I’ll patch them,” says Wayne, “but I’m not holding any hands for somebody’s tearful dying confession. That sounds like a job for the chief of police.”
“If you stop the bleeding and patch them,” counters Schiavelli, “maybe we won’t have to deal with any tearful dying confessions. Get out of here. I’ll be checking in.”
Copyright © 2018 by Charles C. Cole