Haraway at Twilight: Part 5

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Betasport SDF Hospital

The first thing Fatima noticed was the smell of the air. Antiseptic, and under that, something else, no a lack of something else. This was filtered air, dry, without the tang of the sea or the ever present smell of Haraway. The smell of pressure domes and sealed facilities. Hospital smell.

Oh right Fatima thought I was shot. She opened her eyes and looked around, looking up at the white painted ceiling, then to one side, where Madeline was sitting in the hospital room's chair, long legs stretched out. Beside her the room's medical robot sat coiled like a dead spider, gleaming limbs tight against its main unit.

Madeline looked over the tablet she was reading then looked down at Fatima with a faint smile "You're awake?"

Fatima groaned, and tried to sit up, then winced and wished she hadn't as pain shot through her limbs. She felt stiff, horribly, unnaturally stiff. "I guess so. How bad is it?"

"Not too bad." Madeline shut down the tablet and put it to one side, "You got hit in the head twice, one ricochet, one just a graze, plus several more times in the arms and legs. The armour took it on your body. Given you had a whole clip of APH emptied into you, you're in good shape."

APH, armour piercing hunting. Entirely legal, but capable, sometimes of damaging someone in law enforcement body armour. It seemed the new impact armour Fatima had been wearing was made of sterner stuff. "So what happens now?" Fatima asked, worried.

"Well, the doctor said you'll need a couple of days to get up and moving again, even with the quick-heal they've got you on. I need to take your statement, they'll be some kind of investigative process given you got shot and almost died." Madeline gave Fatima's hand a gentle squeeze "but I wouldn't worry too much about that."

Fatima looked down off to the side, trying to ignore the drip into her arm. "Easy to say." The whole room was white, except the floor, which was blue. Fatima engaged her augmented reality and imposed a beach scene on the place, as if she was lying outside, even if the hospital air slightly spoiled the effect.

Madeline looked serious, crossing her arms neatly as she looked down at Fatima "well, do you think you did something stupid?"

"I needed to clear the stairs." Fatima thought back to the noise and the panic, the gunfire and shattering glass. The fell of blood splashing across her from a target at close range. She shivered "I thought there could be some still at the bottom but I guess I figured SDF creed. First person down is always expendable."

"Well, you're a cop now, not a soldier." Madeline looked more serious "You should put more value on your own life in such situations."

"I didn't want to let you guys down." Fatima blushed a bit.

Madeline nodded "I know. If the SDF hadn't shown up, your action would have saved us." She frowned "Lisa should have told you she'd called them to cover us, but everything got so confused." She gestured, dismissive and then lifted the tablet "anyway, I'll get a Doctor. We can take your statement in a few hours."

Fatima closed her eyes and listened to the sound of the waves. "Alright." She took a deep breath and wished the beach smelled real. A few minutes later a doctor came in and fussed over her for a bit, then gave her a sedative and Fatima fell back into sleep.

A few hours later she awoke again, and ate a meal, then was pronounced fit enough to give her statement. Madeline took it down meticulously, her questions carefully not leading or otherwise prejudicial to Fatima's testimony. When she was done she closed her tablet. "Get some more rest." She squeezed Fatima's hand "You've still got a ton of records to go through and oversight to do on ours."

Fatima groaned slightly, then frowned "Hey Madeline... do you think it was really the Sea Wolves who came after us?"

Madeline paused at the door, frowned, then shook her head "Not for a second." She stepped out and Fatima closed her eyes again. She wasn't really sleepy, she told herself, but thinking. If it hadn't been the Sea Wolves, some leadership dispute or ambush... then who'd sent those men after them. Fatima was still trying to figure it out when sleep claimed her a few minutes later.

Harl's Delta
First World General Store

Namik watched over Anna's shoulder as the engineer slowly inserted the lock pick gun into the bedroom's lock and pressed the trigger, applying gentle pressure with the narrow torque wrench in her other hand. It didn't move at first, and she frowned and worked the handle some more times. After a few minutes of consternation there was a loud *click* and the lock opened. Anna reached up and pulled the door open then withdrew her tools, the lock's bolt springing back into position.

She smiled and pulled the door all the way open then made a face at the contents. The room was a mess, strewn with clothes, processed food boxes and what looked like bits of processed food. "Oh god" Anna muttered, wrinkling her nose at the smell, then looked up thankfully as Namik stepped past and opened the window, setting the room's air conditioning to vent the air. The venting lasted a moment, making a breeze, then air flowed back in, the wind off the sea shifting the debris.

"I'd better start cleaning this crap up." Namik pulled on some gloves "The local garbage collectors are going to hate us you know." He stepped inside and began to sort through the rancid boxes, dumping them into a large bin-bag. "I'll collect anything interesting or useable."

"Thanks." Anna smiled and headed over to the other locked door while Namik sorted around. Honestly the room wasn't all that bad. He'd certainly been in much worse. There was a large flat panel computer set up on one side, on but in power save mode, and several cabinets, also with mechanical locks. He sighed and lifted the remaining boxes. A stained electronic device fell out, and Namik only just caught it, wincing slightly at the PDA's condition and pressing the self clean button on the side. It shed a coat of dirt and old food bits into the bin bag he was using and he set it aside. Anna would probably need to fix it up.

"Hey Namik. I opened the guest room." Anna stuck her head around the door and made a face "The last owner was a pig."

"Yeah, fortunately he didn't deconstruct the cleaning robot to make his locks, so I'll set that going in here." Namik picked up the PDA and handed it to her "I'm not sure if this will still work, but maybe we can get something off it, find out why he went so crazy... not to mention where he left the spare keys."

Anna smiled, made a face at the horrible condition "I'll take a look at it, thanks." Namik nodded, hefted the bag of trash and headed downstairs to dump it.

It took Anna half an hour to crack the PDA, excising the drive and plugging it into her own, then bypassing the password with a few swift electronic keystrokes. "Easy." She smiled when Namik looked at her "It's linked up to the building's main computer, so we should now have access to the whole thing."

"Seems a bit odd for someone so paranoid not to know that." Namik scratched behind his ear and sat down, realizing how late it was getting.

"Paranoid he may have been but he was no computer technician." Anna pressed a button "So let's see what's on here." She looked through the directory "Tons of stuff as you'd expect."

"See what's on the recently viewed list." Namik suggested, "Let me fix us some dinner while we work on it."

"It's really that late?" Anna sighed and shook her head. "Sure, get me whatever, but I'll need some coffee."

Namik headed into the kitchen and dumping two of the pre-packaged meals into the food processor and set the coffee maker to brewing, pulled the cups out and headed back. Anna was fiddling with the PDA still "It looks like he updated a large word processor document, title diary, and what looks like store security camera video feed." She looked up at him then smiled and accepted the coffee.

"Isn't the traditional thing to check the last diary entry?" Namik asked, sitting down beside her at the other end of the sofa.

Anna tapped the button and frowned and read aloud: "They're watching me most night's now, and I hear noises against the shutters. I've put as many locks on everything as I can, and closed the filters on the water lines so they can't get in that way. I can't live like this though. I've got to get out. I've got to get out."

"That's the last entry?" Namik sighed "It sounds like he had mercury poisoning, though I checked the filters." Namik sighed "What about the video?"

Anna pressed a button "It's security camera feed. There's some annotations." she slid the video's time slider to the first one. "Uh... that's odd." At first Namik saw nothing, then he noticed the dark shape in the lee of one of the eves of a nearby building Anna checked another one, there were a pair of men in long rain coats smoking pipes and watching the front of the store.

"You know, nothing there actually shows he was being watched." Namik suggested carefully.

"I guess not." Anna took a deep breath, looking through the footage "It's a bit spooky though. It looks like he starts a new book mark every time he sees another figure. He must have spent hours on this."

"Yeah." Namik walked over to the house's security panel and pressed the shutter close button, suddenly feeling a bit chilled. There was a chime from the kitchen, the food was done. Namik went and got it, handing one of the wrapped packages to Anna who smiled gratefully and tucked in. "Think the main bedroom's liveable yet?" She asked.

"Not till tomorrow. I guess we'll draw store for the couch." Namik yawned.

Anna nodded, then looked at what he was eating: "You're not religious?"

Namik looked down at the pork burger he was holding them smiled and took another heavy bite, chewed carefully and swallowed. "No. Not religious." Anna nodded, perhaps wanting to ask more, but unwilling to break into a subject Namik was obviously unhappy about talking about.

"You take the guest room. I'm smaller. The couch will be easier for me." She said after a while.

"Thank you." Namik finished his meal and got up to dispose of the packaging. "I'll see you in the morning." He padded off to shower and then slumped into bed. He was exhausted, a day of travelling in the heat and labouring in the store had left him rung out and tired. Despite this, sleep refused to come.

There had been something about the figures on the roof. Something not quite right about the proportion. Namik stared up at the ceiling, and wished, for the first time in a long while, that he had a gun.