- Part 6: An Unknown Unity
The rubble of the building felt heavy on Paul's bruised and injured skin. Frankly he was amazed that he was alive and equally relieved to hear from Redd's groans that his partner was too. With an almighty heave Paul was able to dislodge one of the largest slabs that lay across his chest and tried his best to breath past the stabbing pains which revealed he had suffered a broken rib among many other injuries he suspected.
Before Paul's blurred and dizzy eyes he saw what appeared to be a humanoid pacing through the rubble caused from the collapsing wall. It appeared to be roughly six to seven feet tall, it's mottled brown skin, hunched form and tough hardened skin revealed it to be Kratel, but the tubes carrying luminescent fluid around its body, the mechanical arm which sprouted into a Heavy Plasma Rifle and the mechanical whir of servos and bionics revealed it to be a Reborn crafted out of the remains of a Kratel warrior.
The Reborn moved it's head from side to side as it apparently scanned the wreckage of the room. Where it's eyes should have been there nestled a series of scanning devices that Paul assumed would send feeds to whatever remained of the Reborn's braid. From behind the Reborn there was the noise of rubble moving and tumbling as something very large emerged from below. To Paul's surprise he saw Redd lurch out from underneath the remains of what must have originally been the video display unit that previously projected the advertisements and propaganda to inform them just how value for money Core-Gen really was. Clenched within a large fist Redd held a blinking red light that emitted a high pitched beep with every blink. Paul recognised it instantly, but he wished he didn't. It was a Zero-Point Grenade.
"Hey you Robo-Fuck!" Came the bellowing roar from Redd, holding the Grenade high over his head. "You know what this is?"
The Reborn tilted it's head and emitted a clicking sound as it's optic scanners twitched in the direction of the beeping sound and blinking light.
"This is a Zero-Point Hand-Held Incendiary Device, or as I like to call them; Zip Grenades!" Redd stared up at the Reborn unblinking. "All I have to do is release the pressure on this beauty and TWAP!" Redd moved his free hand in an open palm gesture away from the grenade "this entire building and everything within it, atomised!"
The Reborn twitched again and quickly turned away from Redd and began it's steady but far from quick departure from the ruined building. Once it was clear from the site it tapped on what appeared to be an arm mounted digi-pad before vanishing in a spray of green and blue sparks.
Redd turned to Paul and smiled as he deactivated his grenade "Fucker didn't even stay and fight" joked Redd as he reached down into the rubble and pulled Paul free before testing the injured man on what remained of the office's table.
"You think you are cle-cle-clever" Called a quiet voice from the other side of the destroyed office. The tone was flat and mechanical with no accent or pitch. It belonged to Stuckov who was now splayed across the floor, his clothes and skin equally torn and flayed revealing a metallic, mechanical chest and skull. "They will rebuild me, and I'll be fine. Unity look after their own" The machine that was Stuckov coughed and spluttered "same with this building, but you" the volume of Stuckov's voice increased suggesting he was trying to either shout or sound intimidating "you will be disposed of. Your flesh and bones melted down and turned into feed for their new recruits".
Redd paced forcibly towards the remains of Stuckov and hoisted it by it's throat into the air and held it there "What do you mean Unity?!" Redd demanded.
Stuckov coughed mechanically and began to explain "Unity; of the Re-Re-Reavers" it was clear that Stuckov was struggling with the words "they are Core-Gen's benefactor. They provide us with the element that enables our enhancements possible" Stuckov turned his head towards where the Reborn had left the building via the destroyed wall "because of their el-el-element our implants have a zero percent rejection factor".
Redd grew enraged as he barked another demand at Stuckov "What does this have to do with Caroline West? Why did you repo her implant?!"
Stuckov turned his attention back to Redd, his cold mechanical eyes locking with Redd's dark living ones. "Nothing" Stuckov replied "it has nothing to do with her. We repossessed her implant because she defaulted on her repayments" Stuckov's mechanical skull twitched into an almost grin "the Repo-Man however. He is a Unity Agent, and when I tell him how you were the ones following his trail, and tracked it back here and then evaded the attack by one of Unity's finest. Then he will come for you too."
Redd grimaced at the mechanical skull "you won't be saying anything to anyone..." With a swift motion he raised his free hand inline with Stuckov's neck and twisted it all the way around. There was a brittle snapping sound and the faintest trickle of blood spurted from within Stuckov's open mouth before the body was discarded on the floor.
Paul tried to pull himself up from the table but managed only an inch before gravity pulled him back down onto his back forcing a wince and groan if pain "you, you shouldn't have done that Redd" Paul strained to get the words out "fuck me that hurts" he continued almost laughing through the pain "if this place is under the protection of Unity, they're going to want revenge on whoever put a wedge in their monthly profits".
"Fuck 'em" replied Redd as he hoisted Paul from the table and unceremoniously tossed him over one shoulder.
Redd was a big man and it always amazed Paul how his partner never seemed to get seriously injured during their encounters. Paul smiled to himself as he was carried back to the Cobra outside through the destroyed external wall. Good; Paul thought to himself. They'd need that in the upcoming months whenever Unity came for them.
Constable Johnston was new to the 612 Precinct when the latest report had landed on his desk. His skipper; Sergeant Cooper had told him to put his name to the file and send it off for financial processing. It was that sort of ask no questions type of policing that Johnston hated and it was for that very reason why he had just finished reading the report in full and was preparing a list of questions for Cooper.
So much of that report didn't make sense to Johnston. It was covering a pro bono murder investigation by the 612 Bounty Store and was filled with more inconsistencies than Johnston could count making him more than just a little uncomfortable with putting his name to the report as requisitioning officer.
Johnston stood outside Cooper's office, the report held in one hand the other hand clenched into a fist as he built up the courage to knock on his Sergeant's door. He gulped deeply as he considered the options; he could go back to his desk, put his name to the report and have it filed. No one would ask him any questions, he wouldn't need to give any awkward answers and he would be showing his skipper and the rest of the boys at 612 that he was going to play ball with their ways of doing things. Or he could knock on the door, get his answers and put his demons to bed. After all he thought to himself Cooper's his Sergeant, a cop just like him. He wouldn't ask one of his new recruits to commit a crime in his first week would he?
Johnston knocked on the door and the sound of knuckles on the reinforced metal panelling rang throughout the precinct.
"Yo! Wha's up?" Came a call from inside accompanied by the familiar drawl of Cooper's lazy accent.
Johnston stuck his head around the door and held out the report pad, wiggling it in a slight wave.
"Sarge" began Johnston, he could already feel the doubt returning "it's about this report."
"Wassat then?" Asked Cooper "jus' sign the bloody thing alrigh'?"
"About that sir?" Continued Johnston "I've got a few questions".
"Shoot away" replied Cooper, looking more inconvenienced than annoyed.
Johnston began the breakdown of his analysis. He started with asking why they were providing financial aid for a case that was done by two bounty hunters who's permits didn't extend to the Block's city limits and how their application should have been denied and supplied with digital copies of permit applications as per SOP. He then moved to the final digi-page of the report to the final box titled Additional Dispensation within which the names Red Claw & Unity were listed.
Johnston continued by asking why the very agency being investigated and one of their allied agencies were down for receiving funding from a report investigating them. It was at this point that Sergeant Cooper's expression began to worsen but Johnston's questions didn't abate. His anxiety and concerns gone, the questions flowed out of him almost like water; should there not be a follow up report on Core-Gen? Shouldn't the 399 precinct be copied into the report? Why hasn't the 612 Bounty Store been called in to provide evidence on the Reborn Brute-Class that attacked the Core-Gen facility? And lastly, if one of the hunters murdered the augmented human worker at Core-Gen, why have they not been arrested?
Sergeant Cooper quietly yet quickly rose from his chair and paced briskly to the door where Johnston was stood.
"Listen 'ere Constable" began Cooper, his voice more than a little raised "all of those questions share the same answer. 'Cause tha's just how we does it 'ere"
Cooper than snatched the report from the shocked Johnston slammed it down on his table and began to sign a squiggled version of S. Johnston before handing the report back to the Constable.
"Got it?" Asked Cooper and turned his back before pacing back to his desk on the other side. By the time he had reached about halfway across his office Cooper stopped and without turning asked his own question to Johnston.
"And Constable?" Cooper began "nex' time you want to read a report, make sure you also complete a s'cond one righ'? Your resignation".
And so ends my latest short story set within the universe of First Law: Override. I hope you enjoyed it as I enjoyed writing it, some parts like the mortuary for example in particular.
For now I'll be leaving you for a short while as I begin a little planning of some stuff, but until I see you next, stay safe and I'll see you Fringeside!
- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley