Author’s note: This idea is a small part of something much larger that I’ve been considering writing for a while. Think of this as a testing run of one of my main characters, seeing how well he flows out onto the page. My apologies if half the references in the story don’t have explanations yet.
Dana Black could smell the charred flesh three flights below the penthouse. He lifted the large soya-coffee to his lips, taking a large gulp to override the stench.
He didn’t pause at the entrance to the penthouse suite, his breathing easy. Dana chose to avoid most of the new downloads on GeneNet, especially considering what he saw during his work day, but there were some mods that were undeniably worth their exorbitant price. The basic aerobic/anaerobic muscle boosts were one of those mods.
As he stepped through the doorway, briefly noting the charred marks on the inside of the shattered frame, the smell intensified. A couple of officers were standing by, hands to their faces and trying not to gag. Dana nodded to one man that he recognized, an older sergeant named Carson. A man he had negotiated successfully with before.
The body, or what was left of it, was lying sprawled in the middle of the living room, surrounded by blackened streaks of soot across the marble floors. Dana stepped closer, peering over the shoulder of one of the crime scene techs. “What have we got?” he asked, addressing the question in Carson’s direction.
The sergeant stepped forward, lifting his holopad to briefly check his notes. “The room was rented out indefinitely to a Karla Defuengo, age twenty-four. She had a private account on file with the hotel, everything was paid immediately.”
Dana prodded the charred corpse with the toe of his shoe, ignoring the elicited squawk from the nearest crime scene technician. “So, rich kid, probably partying it up every night in the city.”
Carson wanted to remain impartial, but Dana caught the slight hint of a nod before the officer regained control. “Doorman knew her. Said he called her a lot of cabs, usually pretty late at night.” He didn’t need to add that this only confirmed Dana’s prediction.
Still squatting down by the body, Dana shot a meaningful glance across the room, where a charred piece of electronic equipment sat, smoking, next to a padded bench. “Any chance of getting data off of that?” he asked.
“Not likely.” This time the response came from one of the techs. “The biologicals are kept on the inside, for preservation; the computer parts are on the outside. The memory’s the first thing to go when the terminals take any sort of environmental damage.”
Dana kept his expression neutral. It didn’t matter much to him that the GeneNet terminal was fried; his upload was already running Karla Defuengo’s name through the databases, searching for recent purchases. He didn’t have to wait long. A soft chime in his ear alerted him to a match.
Climbing back up to his feet from the squat, he closed one eye as the data streamed across his contact lens. Despite having worn the system for months, now, he was still thrown off balance by the words appearing directly in front of him, seemingly hovering in thin air. He wished that the scientists could figure out how to stop the double vision headache, caused by the words only appearing in front of one of his eyes instead of both. Focusing on the words with his open eye, he read through Karla’s most recent downloads.
Ah. Although it wasn’t the last mod that she had downloaded, the name made the choice obvious. Tapping his fingers softly to activate commands on his uplink, Dana filed the bug report for the mod, making sure to tag it Priority-2. With a clench of his fist, the report was away, streaming back to his parent company through the invisible waves of data filling the air.
Opening his other eye, Dana let out a sharp wolf whistle, getting the attention of the workers in the room. He swung a finger around in the air in a small circle. “Case closed,” he announced. “Let’s wrap things up, let the cleaning crews get in here.” He was sure that the hotel was already offering the ‘newly vacated’ suite to other potential buyers.
Most of the cops began gathering their belongings and heading for the door without a word, but Carson caught Dana’s eye. “I doubt I need to ask, but we’ll be getting paid the usual for this, right?” he asked. “Keeping things quiet for your company?”
“EnteroDagon is thankful for the assistance and cooperation of the authorities during these early stages of genetic modification testing,” Dana recited from memory. “As is our civic duty, EnteroDagon will provide any and all compensation necessary to aid the authorities.”
Carson nodded. He was able to read between the lines of corporate bullshit, Dana knew. He respected the man for that. He turned and followed the other officers out of the room, leaving Dana briefly alone with the burnt remains of Karla Defuengo.
As he turned to exit, Dana spared one last glimpse down at the body of the former socialite. Karla was the typical daughter of a rich scion, bored and burdened with too much money and not enough common sense. She had been a regular at the party scene, and several arrests for drugs and misconduct had already been quietly expunged from her records. Still, the lack of judgement in this case surprised even Dana.
Who thought that downloading an untested mod for fire breathing, of all things, was a good idea?
Not sure what’s happening? Don’t know what GeneNet, download terminals, mods, or EnteroDagon is? That’s okay, because nobody else does yet either! I may or may not write more on GeneHack – stay tuned. It now has its own sidebar label for easy tracking.