Barbara@TGWSTW

Storyteller. Traveller. People Person.

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Barbara@TGWSTW

Storyteller. Traveller. People Person.

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Do or Die14 min read

You are a hero, Special Agent!

I’m getting tired of hearing that.
These naive idiots really think we did our job and the case is closed.
They’re all still wet behind the ears.
For them, any excuse to get drunk is reason enough. Of course everything approved by NOVA.
 
Trevor Green is caught.
The kidnapper of little Hannah Keller will now be brought to justice.
Aviana is safe again.
The appearance of a perfect world has been restored.

 
 
 

Yeah, yeah.
 
“Cheers!”
 
To me… and you… and NOVA… and to Gandhi, Mother Teresa, and the universe. Who cares?
 
“Hey sweetie, why don’t you bring me the whole bottle and skip the refill. Is there some place around here I can smoke in peace?
 
Back door? Thanks.
 
What’s your name?
 
Tiffany? Thank you, Tiffany.”

 
 
 

I can’t bear it in here another minute. I gotta get out of here. I’m taking this bottle with me.
And where’ s my lighter?
Aaah.
Smoke and cool night air. That feels good.
A moment of serenity.

 
 

BAM!
Thoughts start to circle again. I can’t get rid of it. And I can’t even talk to anybody about it.
Playing it over and over again won’t help, you old fool.

Stop it! It’s destroying you!

The last few days just don’t make sense.
 
Why can’t I switch it off?
 
Damn it.
All right.
Here we go again. Maybe I’ll come up with something clever after all.
So, uh…
 
One at a time.
It all started early last night.

 
 
 

An Alarm.
A Silent alarm.
First time ever.
 
A P.O.D. has been removed.
 
Personal Occurrences Device.
Such occurrences include not only identification and payment.
Obviously. It’s for security and control.
Especially control.
But also live tracking, movement patterns, health analysis, remote diagnostics are used.
In fact, it can analyse almost anything.

I remember when I got one of those things. To welcome me. Like everyone who arrives in Aviana.
Being chipped like a goddamn dog. With a big fat needle it’s rammed into the palm of your hand.
Goes in like butter.

No getting out.
At least not unnoticed.
And thanks to the barbs, not without pain.
Even if it’s only the size of a grain of rice.
 
Hmm.
 
I can’t even feel mine anymore.

ALARM — P.O.D. — 17029

In red, capital letters, on my monitor.
I realize instantly:
 
The device must have been damaged or removed.
 
The ID belongs to Hannah Keller. Next, some live images from the surveillance drone. Latest coordinates are being flown to.
There’s nothing on the images.
All I see is woods.
A cave.
No child.

I’m on my way.
The Kellers’ cabin is located far outside.
It only took the drone three minutes.
I need twenty.
In the meantime, a missing person’s report is coming in.
The Kellers can’t find their daughter anymore.
They don’t know about the alarm.
I wait undercover.

Detectives Young and Mahone are finally arriving too.
They are interrogating those present.
Nothing surprising to be found later in their report.
The day was sunny. As usual.
They met with friends, had a BBQ.
The adults talked, the children played.
Some alcohol was involved, after all it was weekend.
Everybody knows the rules, so everything was kept within reason.
The hours went by. The kids had fun.
 
I bet my ass that this scene happened the same way, or somehow similar, in most other cabins.
The upper class likes to meet on the weekends for a small BBQ in the remote forest cabins and enjoy Aviana’s idyllic picture postcard scenery.
 
But so far no one has disappeared.
 
The detectives assured everyone that we would take care of it. Silence was ordered and that was that.

The party was over.

Luckily, I don’t have to put up with that anymore.
The screaming and the crying.
Twenty-five years on homicide in New York.
Twenty-five goddamn years.
Poking around in other people’s shit to find out who killed who, when and how.
 
And now here I am.
 
Aviana does not need profilers. Precaution is the key. The people who come here are all screened in advance.
NOVA knows all about you.
What you like or dislike. How you deal with stress. Whether you have a tendency to aggression or you see pink unicorns now and then. Just everything.

And then there’s the chipping. Their greed for control is insatiable.
One thing you gotta admit about them, though. They tolerate a certain amount of misconduct.
Because people are the way they are.
No matter where they go, they always bring along a piece of their shit. Every now and then they have a short fuse.
They go berserk.
Nothing serious. A verbal altercation here, a brawl there. Mostly within the lower classes.

That’s where I come in.
Quietly. In the background as best as I can.
I figure out if it was a one-time violation of the limits, or if this subject could cause greater difficulties in the future.
 
But with you Hannah, everything is different.

From the beginning, it was all wrong.

I’m following your tracks.
Your motion profile is leading me to the cave.
You don’t go there directly.
On the contrary.
First you sneak between the trees. Your shoes leave distinct footprints. You’re walking in circles. When you reach the cave, the tracks stop.
It is partially flooded, the water clear.
Two divers scan every inch.
 
Nothing.
 
I don’t get it.
It doesn’t make any sense.
 
 
Then I find your destroyed P.O.D.
 
 
Shit!
Poor thing.

That had to hurt.

There’s still some tissue hanging off the barbs.
But that means you’re alive.
No one goes through all this trouble to chop you up.
Or do they?
 
Hannah, where are you?
 
The motion profiles of everyone are compared.
No match.
 
No one’s been here but you.
How can that be?
 
That’s when events start to tumble.
I can’t find anything but a couple of tire tracks near the cave.
 
I run a crosscheck on the system and get a single hit.

 
 

Trevor Green.
 
27 years.
 
Driver.

 
 

Movement profile puts him at his home at both the time of Hannah’s disappearance and now.
 
Just fifteen minutes later, I’m there, too.
No one opens.
The house seems empty.
I bust the door open.
No sign of Trevor.
 
That’s impossible.
 
His P.O.D. signal clearly shows he’s here at this very moment.
Malfunction? Secret room?
 
Something’s fishy here.

I get some backup and we’re searching the house thoroughly.
There’s another squad heading for the “Deep Blue” at the same time. Older motion profiles showed Trevor spending quite a bit of time there at night.
Clueless, I drive back to headquarters.
On the way, I get word that Trevor Green has been spotted at the “Deep Blue”. Drunk off his ass.
 
Why wasn’t there an updated motion profile?
I’m having him detained and brought in for questioning.

His file is pretty revealing.
Growing up in rather modest circumstances, he still made it to college and even almost graduated in microbiology. In his senior year, there were a couple of serious run-ins and he was suspended.
Then he joined NOVA.
Here he drives the various samples of the individual researchers to the corresponding laboratories. Hannah’s father, George, is a geologist.
So Trevor probably knows him.

Does he know Hannah, too?

Then another surprise.
 
Trevor’s P.O.D. was found at his home.
Nice and neatly cut out. Not like Hannah’s one.
 
Meanwhile, he’s sitting in one of the interrogation rooms.
 
 
“Where were you at the time…” Blah, blah, blah.
There was nothing to squeeze out of that guy.
He doesn’t seem to remember anything.
 
Tactics or booze?
I’m not sure.

He claims he was working as normal as every day. After that, he likes to have a few drinks at the “Deep Blue”.
I’m running down all his delivery and pickup locations for that day. Everything seems fine.
Dr. Reeds just said that Trevor was in a frenzy that day. Or nervous. He wasn’t sure. Either way, Green’s behavior was suspicious.

As I confront him with the cut out P.O.D., he suddenly seems completely sober. He knows it’s no good and swears he didn’t do any of it. He rolls up his sleeves, shows me his hands.
Nothing visible. I don’t get it.
He’s arguing that he wouldn’t be that stupid and cut it out, knowing it would set off an alarm. He does know. That’s what they all get taught before they go on duty in Aviana. Everyone knows that.
It would be insane.
 
And yet we are both staring at his chip lying in front of us.

 

The extraction produced several hundred pages of data that I now had to rummage through. It soon became apparent that the code had been modified to bypass the alarm. That figures.
But how?
Jeff is a really good software engineer. One of our best, actually. And if he’s confident that it’s impossible to break the security barriers in the code, then it is the case.
And yet somebody, somehow managed to do it.
 
But who?
 
That weakling in front of me? I can’t imagine.

Then a lucky strike.
Jeff continues to search and finds that some biochemical data like the blood values have been overwritten. And usually the author is logged with a time stamp so that all modifications are traceable.
But in this case, all traces were covered up.
Sneaky.
Someone knows what they’re doing.
 
What are you trying to cover up?
 
When I request a traditional DNA test and blood sample, people look at me as if I were from another galaxy.
 
Old school.

NOVA doesn’t like that.

High-tech is their religion. Anyone who strays from their faith has to expect consequences.
 
 
Fuck that!
 
 
My Messenger’s vibrating.
Detective Young is sending me photos that were taken in Hannah’s bedroom.
Among the many things a 12-year-old girl typically possesses there are many drawings of butterflies.
It hits me like lightning.
 
I saw a very similar one at Trevor’s house.
 
I knew it.
 
You knew her. You had contact with her. You chose her, you sick fuck!
 
I’m losing my temper.
 
 
 
“I know it was you, you asshole!
 
Where are you holding her? Where’s your hideout?
 
Or have you already buried little Hannah somewhere? Tell me!
 
Maybe you raped her first, huh?
 
You like kids, Trevor? Isn’t the entertainment here enough for you? Looking for new thrills, you little prick?
 
Even in your worst nightmares you can‘t imagine what NOVA will do to a scum like you.
 
You’re only making it worse. At least tell me where you…”

 
 
 

Suddenly it bursts out of him. He’s sobbing like a little kid.
Not that I feel sorry for him.
But I know what a really broken man looks like. And he really doesn’t seem to understand what’s happening.
 
And neither do I.
 
I’m rattled.
Damn it!
 
You used to be a tough guy. And now look at you, old man.
Insecure like a little boy. Full of compassion.
You ain’t Mother Teresa. Get a grip.

I’m trying to look at it again as rationally as I can. And I’m sure.
I’ll squeeze it out of you, Trevor Green.
 
And then I’ll find little Hannah.

 
 
 

“Shit! Damn it! How about knocking?”
Detective Young bursts in like the sacred cow in India. I recognize the lab results of the samples in her right hand immediately.
Green has Hannah’s DNA under his fingernails.
 
That’s it.

Game over.

Two more detectives come in uninvited and grab Green. They take him to the RED HOUSE.
 
“Who has authorized this?!”
 
Orders from above.
 
Shit.
 
Green’s getting hysterical. Fights over when they take him away by force. I’m about to stop them but I hesitate finally.
Then the whole crew bursts into my office and makes me a hero.
 
How corny.

These idiots don’t get it.
I don’t do it halfway.
I do my job well or not at all.
But all they want now is to go to the “Stellar”.
Celebrate.
Celebrate what?
What have I done, you morons. I wasn’t finished. Nowhere near.
 
I’m angry.
My heart is aching. It vibrates strangely. Only seconds later do I realize it’s my Messenger.
 
The Captain’s calling.
For my exemplary work, I’m getting a fat bonus. A bigger house, reserved for engineers only.
Instead of joy, I’m feeling an unbearably queasy feeling.
I can’t stand the cheering.
 
They drag me out of my office by my arms.
I’m in a daze.
 
What about little Hannah?

Why aren’t we looking for her?

And now here I am.
 
In front of the “Stellar”. Or rather at the back entrance.

Where others puke in the corners.
With a bottle of bourbon in one hand and a cigarette in the other.
 
I feel fucked.
 
I shouldn’t make a fuss. Another order from above.
 
It’s do or die.
Hah.
 
Do or die.

 
 
 

“Hey Tiffany! Good to see you! Smoke a cigarette with me? I could use a little company.”
 
No? Okay.
I can understand that.
 
What’s that? Your phone number?
Are you trying to woo the hero of Aviana?
 
I’m sorry… I’ve had that bottle with me for a while.
 
You’re right. I’d better give it back to you.
But I won’t…
Sorry, Tiff.”

 
 
 

In her thoughts she gave me the finger. I saw it in her eyes.
What is it that she put in my hand, anyway?
Weird.
 
It’s a piece of paper taped together from several thin strips. That doesn’t make things any easier. And the letters are already dancing like crazy in front of my eyes.
I feel sick.
Only slowly I am recognizing coherent sentences.
 
Trevor Green’s blood work. Why blood work?
I’ve already seen this.
 
No wait. These look different.
 
Two figures are underlined.
 
Flunitrazepam.
 
Goofies.
 
No, roofies.
 
Green was loaded with them at the time Hannah disappeared.

My hands are shaking like crazy.
 
Oh, shit!
The bottle!
 
It’s falling.

Almost in slow motion.

We got the wrong guy!
 
 
We got the wrong guy!?
 
 
Shit… We got the wrong…
 
 
He must have been totally passed out. Unable to move.
I guess that explains the blackout.
 
But how was it possible for him to operate normally just a few hours later?
Ah.
Flumazenil is the magic ingredient.
 
The antagonist.
 
It is absolutely impossible that he drugged himself with that stuff.
 
But who did it then? And why?
 
 
 
Revelation is a bitch.
While we are here celebrating my pseudo-success, Trevor Green was falsely convicted and taken to the RED HOUSE.
 
And it’ s partly my fault.
 
What kind of person are you, James Hunter? You have no balls. You could have stopped them.
I feel like a greedy fucking hangman.
Shit.
Even if I protest now. It’s not gonna change what happens to Trevor anyway.
 
NOVA needs a sacrifice.
 
And I’d probably lose my job.
Once that happens, I can’t help anyone.
 
Right.
Keep talking yourself into it. You wuss.
Fuckin’ hell.
 
Someone sold you out, Trevor Green!
 
Someone sold you out!

 
 
 
 
 

What the fuck?! Another toady wants to congratulate me on my heroics?
 
 
“Yeah? Hello?!”
 
 
“Whose side are you on, SA Hunter?”
 
 
“What? Who the hell are you?”
 
 
“Someone who can look in the mirror without a guilty conscience. And what about you? Now that you know the truth?”
 
 
“Look. I’ve played this game too many times. In less than two minutes I’ll have figured out who the fuck you are and where I can get you.”
 
 
 
“That’s what I’m counting on, SA Hunter.
 
That’s exactly what I’m counting on…”

. . .

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