P.S.O Jules Stewart
Pattern surveillance Officer Jules Stewart leapt across from the maintenance shaft on the side of the hydroponics plant. Her dashing figure, a silhouette against the bright sky, to the crowd of onlookers peering across from Gambier Sky Terrace. Witnesses reported her chasing the notorious Lime St Stalker across what was once the tower of the Cathedral to the far corner. Trapped, the vicious brute lunged at PSO Stewart who leapt on her attacker. Grappling to secure her arrest the pair came perilously close to the drop, three hundred feet down to the street level below. Pulling back from the brink she finally managed to secure the monster just as her colleagues joined her at the scene.
Not quite how I remember it. I blink newspulse closed. There’s no pouring rain, stumbling over fallen masonry, the animal howls of the man I was pursuing, nor the smell of blood and fear. No mention either of the Memory Store. I couldn’t have caught him without you. All of your memories held in this archive led me step by step to see the true pattern of events. Our collective memory reveals exactly what’s going on in this city. Still, it’s increased my ratings and I’m one case nearer to strata twenty.
I sense the monorail carriage braking beneath my feet, lean forward and brace myself against the crush. I grip the strap tighter with the one hand I've got free from the crowd. I can't fall anyway. I'm held in place by everyone around me. Perspiration is gathering on the brow of the man pressed next to me and I feel sweat traveling down my back.
I went straight to tell Dorace the case was solved. I wanted to tell her myself, get the story straight. Still can’t get her on the network, she refuses to be chipped and I won’t force her, not at her age, so she’d only hear gossip, a distillation of netnews from the few friends she has. She didn’t really grasp the significance. I tried again to explain how different our lives will be on strata twenty but she doesn’t understand.
‘One more case,' I said to her, 'one more and we can move up,’
She patted my knee.
As we approach Pierhead Towers everyone prepares to disembark, feet shuffling into place and arms slipping free. Nearly there. The monorail passes by the tarnished copper eye of the Liverbird, caged in by buildings of glass and chrome, which extend endlessly above and straddle the old streets way down below. Its view of the river now blocked.
As the doors of the carriage hiss open the network voice cuts through my personal soundtrack, reciting the stations all the way from Breeze Hill Pinnacle to Dingle Rise and the crowd sweeps me onto the monorail platform.
Against the night sky the corporate strata is a pattern of light, bright windows, shining walkways and the monorail's electric blue tracks. The illuminations are like a diagram of the city, built layer upon layer upon layer, stretching up to strata one hundred and ten.
Two in the morning and the walkways are flooded with light and streaming with people. A short man in a red vest, face glistening, his focus on the network, barges past me. I note his net-ident as it flashes in my field of vision. Blink it closed. He’s going to hurt someone going against the flow like that but I’m off duty, someone else can deal with him.
The walkway over to Lime St Interchange is impassable, the crowd at a standstill. I lean against the window and yawn. No sleep for the last forty-eight and in this heat, even hotter now after the rain. I’d rather head straight to my cube. But I'd better at least be tagged in a bar. The hero should always finish with a victory drink not alone in their sleep sack. I need to keep my ratings up if Dorace and I are ever going to advance.
Beyond the glass, way down, yellow lights, from piers and watercraft, project shimmering paths on the dark choppy surface of the river in between the tankers that are lined up to enter the super port. The waterfront at street level far below is lost in darkness. Who knows what’s going on down there on the ground, it’s out of my jurisdiction – so who cares. Folk begin to shuffle forward and Berry-Berry is beckoning me, last year's place to be but at least you're guaranteed a seat and Fat Peter's concoctions always hit the spot. Just one. Then we’ll see what the night brings...
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