On the Line

The previous morning, whilst Clare and Bob drove to Coriolis, Lianne Medway was analysing her available evidence. Another lucky find snapped into place, more hints of trouble and conspiracy, but nothing definitive. Nothing actionable. Nothing to point an assault team at.

Hanging around in her apartment, wearing nothing but sensornet and underwear, picking apart the reports as they came in... it felt like one small step away from watching daytime reality shows. Medway needed something more satisfying – suiting up, kicking a few doors down – but whenever she stood up from her desk and stretched, there was that tug of injuries. The bullet wounds were healing well, but needed weeks more before she was fit enough for full active duty.

Her fingers found an itch where one of her sensornet nodes was developing an irritation. It was good to have the hardware back up and running, but Jaz could have sorted out the touch of rednode in no time...

She pulled on a tracksuit - even in the supposed safety of Peel House it was not good manners to wander around in nothing but underwear and sensornet. It took a few seconds to download the analysis to her nodes, then she queried the location of Superintendent Morrison, cleared the terminal and went in search of doors to kick down. On the way to see Morrison, she went via the medical facility to check on Jaz. Colleagues called out as she passed to ask how he was progressing.

In the peaceful wing devoted to serious trauma cases, medical hardware hummed and glowed in individual rooms with intensive care gel tanks – an uncomfortable reminder that she was still on light duties, still fragile and recovering. A few millimeters one way or another, and she could have been another cybercop preserved in jelly.

Jaz hung limply, legs twitching in a parody of walking, a great improvement over his imitation of their last shag. She stroked the armoured glass of the tank and accessed the diagnostics. He was progressing well. There was an annotation that the sleep inducers would soon be turned off. Once out of the tank he would have conscious control over learning to use his spinal bypass – and she could talk to him. Medway had only known Jaz for a matter of days and missed him already. With such a quiet, submissive personality it was curious that he created a deep impression on those around him.

It was time to make a deep impact on his behalf.

Medway walked away. From the far end of the medical block the maglev shuttle whisked her to Blossom Lane. Morrison was busy, but called her in after only a brief wait.

"Jaz is recovering well." Even the superintendent took an interest. "Your check-up yesterday was encouraging. No return to duty yet, though."

"But light duties OK," she countered. "Fit for travel. No training or combat."

"What did you have in mind?"

She made her pitch. "CyberLine – there is some link with Kyla’s death. I want to take a look. They lied about knowing her. I think Eleven may have been interested." <Request to desk terminal: permission to download files?>

<Access granted.> "A delicate matter, Medway. I’ll let you loose on this because you get results, but dealing with people like CyberLine requires tact. Damn..." He had skim read the information appearing on his screen, but now uploaded the data to his own processors to confirm the analysis. "There are serious inconsistencies here...”

“Worth a look, sir? An aggressive look?”

Morrison gave her the management look – balancing public relations with getting the job done. “Sometimes tact is overrated.” Sometimes that balance came down to letting cybercops off the leash. “Getting Kyla’s personal records was a good move... pity she couldn’t have been more direct and told us who we are after."

"She had to be careful…"

"True… when do you propose to start?"

"I can leave this afternoon and start my enquiries in the morning."

"Under other circumstances, I would send a senior officer and arrange an appointment." He stared hard at the information on his screen as if that might make it go away. "Get yourself ready. Full body armour. You might be on light duties but…"

"If Kyla was killed by these people then they have the technology to challenge a cybercop."

"And they know your capabilities, Medway," he said bluntly. "They may not have all the details, but CyberLine could probably assemble a good hardware profile on every officer."

She stared at him, because that was... "We should change that, sir."

"A significant oversight... It hasn’t been a concern before. Take a set of distress alarms with you. I will arrange co-operation with the headquarters at Oxford. There will be a full warrant waiting for you there: data access under section two of the Cyber-enchancements Act. Only the senior officer there will know about that. Report in and make sure a backup team is available. Make sure they know what’s at stake."

"Kyla still had contacts at Oxford. Some of them might be able to help."

Morrison blinked. His desk terminal went blank and a moiré swirl began chasing around the windows.

"Sir?" Discussions of a criminal investigation did not usually warrant heavy-duty anti-snoop measures.

"Be very careful, Medway. The evidence suggests CyberLine are selling top of the range military implants on the black market. That’s the sort of high-risk business that calls for insurance... if you get even a faint sniff of local officers on the take, get out and call for help. There are specialists who deal with that sort of thing." He stared at her, as if willing the instruction into her brain. <Data exchange: emergency priority access code for Superintendent Wilbur Morrison.> "At the moment we have the death of a former officer and a suspicion of illegal cyber trading. If this turns into a corruption investigation things will get ugly – especially if the guilty officers decide to erase the evidence and cover their tracks."

"Which would include me." Medway shifted in her seat – having her sensor-net was good, but right now she wanted her armour on as well. "The senior officer at Oxford… can I trust him?"

"If you can’t then you’re screwed – the evidence will have vanished before you get there, and your death will look like an accident."

"Thanks."

"Anything else you think you need?"

"No... unless you’ve got a small army to back me up."

"Be careful, Medway. Everything about the case smells bad." He released the snooper-pooper. "Now, get going. Catch the bastards."

He watched her go – another potential medical retirement in the making.

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