Simulent Wars

Chapter One

by TT
9/3/06

It was a listlessly hot day in July. The weather had succeeded in imposing a languid lethargy on the sprawling mass of New London, doing what few things in history had managed -- sapping the energy out of the city. Those who could afford it headed out of town in search of cooler climates; those who couldnít tried to find some other way of combating the heat. Many headed for the various bars, cinemas, cafes, leisure centres and other climate-controlled areas that the city had to offer. Some simply followed the shade of the buildings and occasional tree in a forgotten green space. All was still and tired in one long, lazy summer day.

The surprisingly seasonal weather had also succeeded in producing another minor miracle in the New London Police Headquarters; Sherlock Holmes was catching up on his paperwork. In the tiny modular space that had been temporarily assigned to the dead detective, Holmes and Watson the compudroid attempted to wade through the months of backlogged paperwork. If it had just been a case of filling in the appropriate documents on the computer screen, this might not have seemed so bad, but the centuries had not diminished the great consulting detective's old habit of hoarding reminders from his past cases. The tiny space was even smaller, crammed with odd scraps of paper and assorted curios, as the two friends attempted to wrestle it into some sort of order. The fact that they had to forego the air-conditioning because it upset the pile wasnít helping either of them, Watson was afraid another thirty minutes or so and he would begin to overheat.

"This reminds me of the time you told me of the Misgrave Ritual Holmes," said Watson, as they finished another case and consigned the documents to the shredder. "Though I doubt the room was in such a state even then."

Holmes was almost ankle deep in paper. Watsonís size made it almost impossible for the droid to move in the tiny room, so Watson had been left to input the data into the central computer while Holmes had no choice but to wade through the mountain of junk for the relevant information.

"I really donít know how Lestrade operates with all this bureaucracy," muttered Holmes as he pulled a tiny piece of bent metal from a box and handed it to the droid. "It seems for every case weíve solved there are thirty documents to complete and cross-reference."

"Lestrade keeps up to date with her filing daily, Holmes," chided Watson gently as he scanned and downloaded an image of the wire before dropping it into a labelled evidence bag. "She doesnít let it build up until she canít move. Where is our friend, anyway, this morning, Holmes? I havenít seen her since she went to answer the phone."

Holmes wiped the sweat from his forehead with a handkerchief and reached down into the next paper stack. "It seems she had an urgent appointment with Greyson."

Watson stopped typing, his brow furrowing in concern. "Oh, my. I hope sheís not in any trouble!"

"Lestrade is rarely not in trouble, my dear Watson, but it does seem rather early in the day for a lecture from him upstairs. Mind you..." said Holmes, retrieving another sheet of crumpled paper from the floor, "...at the moment I would happily trade places. Even a dressing down by Greyson seems preferable to this administrative equivalent of the Forth bridge."


At that particular moment, Holmes was not the only one who would have happily switched places. Beth Lestrade stood patiently outside Chief Inspector Greysonís office, trying not to look nervous, seeking a sense of righteous indignation for whatever she was about to be shouted at for. It would have helped if she could figure out what it was she had done. She mused despondently that she was sure to find out soon. Greyson could never keep her waiting out here long when he was in a temper; he might explode, for a start.

Eventually the speaker outside the office cackled to life.

"Detective Inspector Lestrade, in here....please." For a full second Lestrade didnít move. Those was the gruff tones of her superiorís voice, and it did sound full of barely concealed rage, but Greyson had never bothered with titles and wouldnít have said please if he had a gun to his head. Almost wishing she had bought her gun, and with considerable curiosity outweighing her sense of caution, she opened the door.

Chief Inspector Greyson stood uncomfortably to one side of the large plastimix desk and waited until Lestrade closed the door before looking round. He looked like he was either about to explode, or sink to his knees sobbing. His eyes quivered with a multitude of emotions. Beth had almost opened her mouth to speak before she noticed the other man. Greysonís overstuffed chair faced the window, its large back turned toward Lestrade. As the door clicked shut the chair swung round, revealing a ferret-like man with an overly large head, and a tiny moustache fighting to get a toehold on his upper lip. Greyson regained a little composure as Lestrade looked from one man to the other.

"Commander Howsett, this is Detective Inspector Lestrade. Lestrade, this is Commander Howsett from the law council. He has an assignment for you."

Lestrade decided it was anger; Greysonís voice sounded like he was swallowing gravel. She also decided she did not like the way Commander Howsett was trying to smile at her, baring all his teeth with the faintest twitch of an upturn at the corners of his mouth.

"Ah, Detective Inspector Lestrade. I have been told so much about you....and your partner Mr Holmes, of course, remarkable man....I have even heard rumours of a droid that believes it is Doctor Watson. Quite mad of course, but amusing none the less." As if to prove his point he gave a small humourless chuckle that made Bethís teeth attempt to stand on edge.

"There is such a droid, Commander, licensed to Lestrade, and I believe...."

"That will do, Chief Inspector." Greyson clamped his mouth shut with a sharp click; his eyes bulged. Howsett ignored him.

"Chief Inspector Greyson and I have been discussing your record. Remarkable."

"Yes, sir." Lestrade almost relaxed a little.

"Tell me, exactly how many times have you been called up before the disciplinary board now."

Lestrade stiffened. "Thirty-six, last count, sir."

"As I said, remarkable. And so young as well." The man tapped at a hidden computer screen on the desk, his eyes gleaming slightly in its glow.

Greyson tried again. "Lestrade has also been commended for her actions no less than...."

"Thatís enough, Greyson." Howsett tapped off the screen and steepled his hands turning his watery gaze to meet her.

"Your Chief Inspector seems to have a very high opinion of you. In fact when he heard I had come from the law council, one of the only bodies in the this country that can immediately strip an officer or rank, benefits and job, he went out of his way to tell me what a dedicated and commendable officer you were. This was, I might point out, quite before he found out what I was actually here for."

Lestrade felt herself begin to grind her teeth; the man was getting to her. She tried to regain control of the situation.

"What exactly are you here for, sir?"

Howsett laughed again. "Why, to find a suitable officer to show a foreign official our fair city. He arrives in three hours at Gatwick." Bethís head reeled. For a moment she had thought the task would be something profoundly horrible; babysitting a tourist didnít seem so bad.

"The officerís name is Detective Davis. Hereís his file." Lestrade heard her handheld beep as he transmitted the data. She flipped it open and staggered. Cold dead eyes stared out at her from the screen, attached to a face that belonged firmly in a Frankenstein movie. A mechamide. Howsett continued.

"As you may or may not be aware, there is a conference on biomechanical issues looming next week -- the press has been full of little else for a month now -- being held right here in London. As a result certain....representatives....are travelling to the UK to make their case. There will be a week of some cross-cultural events: Bio Mec Gladiators, Mec Strongman and other various activities -- and the vote will be decided on Thursday. Mr Davis is coming to represent the law enforcement division of America and will need some....how shall we say....overseeing to make sure there is no trouble."

"You mean no repeat of last time, the Liverpool Street Riots."

Lestrade saw Greyson flinch this time, she knew he still walked with a slight limp from the fighting.

Lestrade drew a deep breath. "I donít think Iím suitable for the job, sir!"

Howsett flexed his long bony fingers and raised a single thin eyebrow. "Oh, and whyís that, pray?"

"I donít like mechamides, sir."

He smiled. It was not a nice smile.

"This is a joke, Greyson," the man said in a quiet voice. "Youíve put this officer up to this." Lestradeís eyes flicked to Greyson for a moment and darted back. The Inspector stared at the wall behind her. His hands were clenched in tight fists at his hips and she swore she could actually hear him grinding his teeth together in either rage or frustration. It took a moment for her to realise she was not the focus of it this time; it seemed she had not been the only one chewed up and spat out today.

"Lestrade has a right to express her opinion if she feels...."

"....QUIET." The sound made both of them jump, Howsettís face was going red with fury. He turned his back on Lestrade.

"She is a police officer, Greyson. She will do as she is told, or there will be consequences. Demotion, for one thing, to constable, until she learns to obey orders. And a mere constable doesnít need a compudroid assistant, I could order the droid seized."

"No!"

"Its memory wiped clean and reprogrammed...."

"I said NO!" Lestrade tried not to shake, it was one thing to threaten her and her career, it was quite another to threaten a defenceless droid. Howsett slowly rolled his chair back round to face her, his lifeless eyes once more locked on hers.

"Then give me a reason not to, Inspector."

"Fine. Iíll babysit the Halflife." Beth turned on her heel and stalked out of the room, not waiting for another word, not waiting to look at Howsett -- the thin smile once more on his lips as the door glided shut behind her.

TO BE CONTINUED


On to Part 2!

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