A Time Travelers Guide To Solving Murder Chapter 3: Thought Process
October 4th 2020
Talston City Morgue
While Galahad attempted to isolate Laurels memories Hera ran a full check of the body with Citlali flicking between the two of them like a hyperactive hummingbird. She had been right about the strangulation factor, although the word of a dead woman wouldn’t hold up well in court. The hole in her chest had healed over again, another perk of being able to use incredibly advanced technology before the concept even existed. She flicked through the autopsy report, but there was nothing she hadn’t already guessed. Her eyes flicked up to find the other two, Galahad sitting against the far wall with their eyes closed, fingers tapping along the inside of their left arm while Citlali seemed to be pacing the length of the freezer in a fit of feeling useless.
Citlali finally seemed to find something to push all his worry on, “Wait, there are camera’s in here that just recorded us reviving this dead woman.”
“Galahad took care of that.” If Citlali didn’t know any better he’d have thought he heard a hint of pride in Hera’s voice, “They can hack anything.”
That earned a mumbled ‘heck yeah’ from the seated android.
When Citlali’s wayward patrol brought him closer, Hera let a comment fill the empty air, “You’re taking this better than I expected.”
He slowed his pace and came to stand on the other side of the table, “You and me both. Granted, this is the first case I’ve been on in almost a year and it’s turning out to be far more…exciting than I expected.” he accepted the autopsy report she handed him, “Ever since Siobhan married my brother I’ve essentially been a glorified coffee boy.”
“Let me guess,” Hera tugged on the edge of the sheet to straighten it, “Overprotective brother, who didn’t want you to become a police officer in the first place, got a voice nagging in the back of his new wife’s mind that something bad could happen to you in the field. So Siobhan, being the slightly paranoid woman of steel that she is, put you on the safest job she could find at good ‘ol Precinct Five.” She peeled of her gloves and pushed a wave of curls out of her face with a sly smile, “How did I do?”
Citlali raised an impressed eyebrow, “Pretty much spot on. I’m still surprised Siobhan agreed to this.”
“Probably because she didn’t realize what you were getting into,” Galahad said from where they sat. “Once everything sets in and you realize that all this time madness is true you’ll change your mind.”
“Galahad.” Hera snapped. “That’s not a fair assessment.”
They shrugged, “It happens more often that not.” Curling their legs under them, the android stood in one fluid movement, “Memories have been more or less isolated, but there are a few…other problems.” Their sideways grinned turned sheepish.
Citlali replaced the file on the tray table to his left, “What kinds of problems?”
“I may or may not have fried a few circuits disconnecting that fast, and she,” This was said with a pointed glare at the sheet covered lump on the table, “tried to root around and find information. So the cloaking tech is out of the question and my cognitive processor took a hit.”
“Correct me if I’m wrong, but,” Citlali rested his hands on his hips, “that doesn’t sound good.”
They shrugged and ran a hand through their fluffy hair, “The cloaking tech just means I have to leave through that window, but…” They paused and worked their way around the words they needed, “If I don’t get back to the continuum soon I’m going to start losing programs, and that’s not a good thing.”
“Well, we’ve got all the information we’re going to get so let’s get a move on.” Hera nodded to Galahad and they made their way to the window, prying back the glass pane and pulling themself up. Once they were securely on the ground beyond, she passed the bag through to them and closed it, watching their boots retreat towards the parking lot. Once Galahad was safety out, she borderline dragged Citlali from the room, walking down the hall at a pace that almost left him behind. Hera stopped to exchange a few polite words with the security guards before ushering her companion out the door.
Galahad stood by Hera’s motorcycle, face tilted back towards the sky, “What are those?” They pointed up at one of the colourfully painted turbines that bobbed in the air above the skyscrapers. The magnesium alloy cable that anchored it to the ground on the street corner swayed gently in the wind.
“What, you don’t have those in the future?” Citlali rested his arm on Galahad’s shoulder and followed their eyes, “They’re pollution turbines, taking in carbon dioxide and fanning out oxygen. They were decorated by the community so it was less of an eyesore.”
Hera’s metal fingers tapped an impatient beat on the handlebars of her bike, “They do exist in the future, just not ours. Talston City itself doesn’t even exist in our universe.”
“Ah, the joy of alternate universes.” Galahad added, finally taking her hint and getting on the very back of the bike.
Citlali waved them on absently, “You guys go on ahead, I’m going to take a walk.” He needed to clear his head after the hectic morning. His mind still wasn’t sure how exactly he was supposed to be feeling about learning Time Travel was real, meeting an android who looked like a teenager, and resurrecting a dead woman to try and get her memories.
Hera just nodded and forced her helmet over her wild hair before shoving the other one towards Galahad, “Fair enough, Galahad will need time to sort themself out. Don’t get killed.” The android in question cast one last apprehensive glance at Citlali before cramming the helmet on over their bright hair.
The man offered a smile he hoped looked more reassuring than it felt. “I’ll try my best. I’ll probably just grab some food, want anything?” Galahad let out a long string of muffled, unintelligible words, shuddered and then a flurry of sparks burst from the hidden port on their neck. They frantically clamped one hand over the spot, the other tightening on Hera’s jacket.
“We need to hurry.” Hera twisted back to make sure they were still functioning, “Just…take your best guess for me, and Galahad only eats rice. It’s a story I can tell you when they’re not in danger of blowing up.” With that, she took off down the road, taking a sharp right turn and leaving Citlali to his thoughts.
So he walked, his hands tucked in his pockets. He regretted that he’d forgotten his coat to shield him from the early October chill. Organizing his thoughts was proving harder than ever; too much information in a six hour period and not enough caffeine in his system for it to latch onto his brain in any coherent sense. The only good thing about being forcibly demoted to a coffee fetcher was that he knew every cafe in the city like the back of his hand. He knew which ones were fastest, which had the best food, and more importantly, which ones would cut the price of a chili mocha with a well timed flash of his otherwise useless badge.
Unfortunately it had also left him with a dependence on the stuff early in the morning to even think straight.
Stifling a sigh he ducked into the nearest cafe he could find and joined the line. He had to start simple: ordering food was simple. There was a thai place on the way back to Hera’s apartment and if he ordered now it would be ready by the time he got there. Quickly, Citlali double checked the distances from where the detective lived, mouth twisting into a frown. Everything was within five minutes; the Precinct, the mourgue, even including time to get food or go shopping.
Citalli had a feeling that time seemed to be on Hera’s side in more ways than one. Time Travel. Sure, he could wrap his head around that one easily enough, he’d read a million excerpts on Einstein’s theory and seen Back to the Future. The apartment he thought he understood. It existed in a sort of continuum and used the door as an anchor to a certain point in time.
Galahad was another story. A human mind in a highly advanced robotic body from the far future. They couldn’t be more than eighteen or nineteen years old judging by how they looked. Then again, Hera looked to be in her early thirties and she’d clearly been doing this for thousands of years.
Pinching the bridge of his nose, Citlali let out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. There was too much going on to be questioning everything. Right now he’d just have to believe what the two impossible people had told him and keep moving.
Just keep moving.
“Good news,” Citlali nudged open the door to Hera’s apartment with his foot, balancing a drink tray in one hand and a bag of thai food in the other, “I’m not dead.”
Hera barely glanced up, “That’s good.” She sat on the edge of the leather couch, a laptop sort of thing open on the coffee table. It looked more like a thin keyboard connected to a floating screen. There was a small cylindrical container filled with a weird, swirling green glow attached to the keyboard by a short lead.
Sitting next to her, Cilali passed over a cup of tea and started unpacking the food, “Where’s Galahad?” Hera jerked her head sideways towards the window and continued typing. Through the small gap between the dark velvet curtains, Citlali could see of flash of bright colour.
“Well,” He held out a carton of rice, “this is theirs.” The woman finally stopped typing, the white box obstructing her view of the screen. Her slate eyes flicked from Citlali’s face to the carton before she sighed and grabbed it from his hand.
“Stand back. The continuum will grab you if it can.” Hera waited until he had scooted far enough away before pulling open the curtains. White light poured into the room, and once he saw what hovered beyond the thick window panes Citlali felt his breath hitch in his throat. Floating like a discarded puppet Galahad hovered outside the window a thin silvery line trailing from the back of their neck and disappearing into the void. One hand was wrapped gently around a thick metal cable that was connected to something else out in the void. They bobbed gently in the invisible tide, head bowed and hair floating around their head like a brightly coloured halo.
Hera leaned forward and tapped one metal finger on the glass, startling the motionless figure into action. After blinking a few times they pulled themself over to the window along the cable and clung to the window frame while Hera pried it open.
“Here.” Hera crouched and slipped the cartoon to the teenager. Galahad pushed themself down so they could grab it and poke their head just slightly into the room.
“Thanks,” They directed their first comment at Citlali before rolling over to float on their back and look up at Hera, “Do you happen to have a fork? I’ve got the Defibrillator, an Enabletron 3000, and a Vortex Device, but no eating utensils. ” Citlali tossed her a plastic one from the bag and Hera passed it to Galahad.
Hera moved to shut the window, then dropped down to one knee, “Wait, do you have a nose ring?” Her tone was almost accusatory.
“Yeah, like it?” Galahad grinned, tucked their rice under one arm and monkeyed their way out of sight along the wire. The woman shut the window with a long sigh and pulled the curtains closed.
Hera sat back down, “I’ve been going through Laurel’s memories, but there’s not much.” She tapped the device plugged into her laptop, “This is everything Galahad could get, but she didn’t see much of the killer.” She let out a terse sigh, “So we don’t have much.” Citlali pokes absently at his food as he thought. The woman beside him leaned back and crossed her arms, metal fingers tapping on her leather jacket.
“The file said the security cameras at Vietta had been deleted, right?” Citlali had a feeling she wasn’t going to be happy with his plan but he went for it anyway.
Hera looked at him like he’d suddenly grown a new nose, “Yes it did. So it’s a dead end.”
“Not with Galahad it isn’t.” He insisted, “You said it yourself, they can hack into anything. Finding deleted files would be a walk in the park.”
She stared at him, mouth twisted into a miserable line, “I hate it when you’re right.”
Citlali allowed himself the victory of a smile, “You’ll have to get used to it, Partner.” Grumbling as she stood, Hera chose to ignore his comment and went to the window again.
“You’re not taking my motorcycle.” She warned before leaned down to open the window. Citlali finished eating.
Galahad slipped into the passenger seat and pulled their knees up to their chest, “How far away is this cliff?”
“20 minutes.” Citali answered, twisting in his seat to reverse out of the parking space, “And that’s not accounting for traffic.” They groaned and slumped further in their seat, prompting a smile from the man.
So they were a teenager after all.
“So who are you?” He prompted, keeping his brown eyes fixed on the road in front of him.
“You mean besides a 3119 year old android who lives in a void?” They snorted, “I only know what everyone tells me. The middle child of Carmen and Maximilian Holtzmann, the founder and leader of the Mannheim Institute of Robotics and Interdimensional Travel.” Galahad spoke like they were telling a story, “My mother left my work obsessed father before my younger sister was born, then died in a car crash three years later and darling little Guinevere was sent back to live with the rest of her prodigy family in their own gilded cage.” For a moment Citali could vividly imagine them standing in front of a wall of glass windows, copped skin lit up by the sun, so close but so far to the city beyond, “That’s all my father cared about anyway. Arthur was the top engineer for the IT Watches, and well, apparently all I did was play pranks and hack into things. We just kept advancing and working and he stayed ‘happy’.”
“Then along came the Institutes golden girl: Hera Jones, so dedicated to the cause that she gave up her left arm for her IT watch to be in complete sync with her. My brother and I built her the most powerful watch we could, I went along on her first test run, I died, got uploaded into this body, lost most of my memories and now I’m here.” They took a deep breath, “Any questions?”
Citlali drummed his fingers on the wheel, thoughtfully, “If you’re German, why don’t you have an accent?”
They turned to face him, bright, unnatural eyes like steel, “Spend 3,000 years in a void and see if you come out with everything intact.” The car fell into an uncomfortable silence. Traffic was fairly light, speeding their way towards Vietta Cliff. It rose up above the shorter buildings of the Fifteenth District Like a towering giant. Galahad pressed their face against the window with a soft ‘oh’. It was impressive even from below, the whole thing held up by the soot stained factory beneath it. None of this could be seen or heard from uptop due to the pollution turbines and extensive noise dampening technology.
The second Citlali had parked the car, a security guard hurried over from his post near the front entrance.
He snapped to attention when the man got out, “Anything the matter, Officer?” The cliff was still closed off with police tape, and all the officers on duty seemed very on edge. The officer in front of Citlali seemed young and in need of sleep; his name tag read ‘Johnston’.
Citlali passed his badge and the warrant he’d gotten from Siobhan over, noticing out of the corner of his eye that Galahad had snagged one of the police force jackets from the backseat before joining him, “Officer LaRoche. This is my… assistant Galahad Holtzmann.” The other officer looked the android over with some degree of skepticism, noting the oversized police coat, their wild hair, their inhuman eyes and freckle splashed cheeks, “We’re here about the security camera files from the night of the murder.”
Johnston handed his ID back and gestured towards a small shack building at the far end of the parking lot, “Of course, right this way.” he lead the two people towards the building, casting a glance over her shoulder at Galahad every few seconds. Clearly he didn’t trust them and their unprofessional appearance. There was something about the crazy, succulent coloured hair, the nose ring and the shoulders back way they walked that made them seem like they were going to go start a fight instead of assisting an investigation.
The inside of the building was small and cramped and lined with rows of computer monitors. Each showed a different section of Vietta Cliff and two guards sat boredly inside keeping watch. They perked up with Citlali ducked into the room, sitting up straight in their chairs as Johnston introduced them. All the protocol was starting to make Citlali understand why Hera just bulldozed through it all. He was there for files, not to scrutinize every little thing these underpaid guards did.
“Alright,” Galahad clapped their hands together, “Introductions over, can I just find these missing files now?” They moved towards the main compute, but the guard in front of it held up one hand and glowered at Johnston.
“There’s no way I’m letting this punk kid touch these camera feeds.” he huffed. Galahad’s face twisted into a snarl, but Citlali put one hand on their shoulder. It was one of those universal ‘let me handle it’ motions.
“The two of us are here to investigate the murder of a woman. The one who was cut in half, and is highly suspected to be the first kill of a serial killer.” Citlali pointedly raised one eyebrow, “Do you really want to be guilty of intervening in that investigation?”
The guard evacuated from his seat faster than Citlali thought possible.
Galahad moved to take his spot, casting an impressed look over their shoulder at Citlali, “Looks like Hera’s rubbing off on you already.” They sat down and started typing, oblivious to the man’s frown, “Alright, so we’re looking for October 2nd, late at night…” Their fingers flashed across the keyboard, eyes bright from the screens glow. The taped a few more keys and then leaned back to scan the screens. All but two of them showed footage from that night.
“What two sectors are those?” They pointed at the blank screens.
“Third.” Johnston piped up from behind. The android set right back to typing, flicking and discarding files with lightning fast flicks on their wrists. They let out a troubled hum and paused, mouth pulled to one side.
“Whoever did this was a professional.” They sighed, “They didn’t delete the files, they took them.”
“So we’ve still got nothing.” Citlali rested his hands on his hips.
“Not quite.” Galahad hit a few keys and the screens changed to show the glass wall surrounding the cliff. They zoomed in on the reflection in the glass. Warped by the glass was the blurry image of the killer.
“Well done, Galahad.”Citlali clapped them on the shoulder and turned to the two guards, “We’re going to need copies of these.” He finished coordinating things with the guards and ushered Galahad out of the small shack with one last thank you.
Making progress had filled Citali with energy and a sort of brotherly pride for Galahad’s computer skills, “With these and Laurel’s memories we might be able to fit together a suspect list.”
“We’re looking for a man, blonde hair combed over to the left and blue eyes, he’s about…” Galahad’s eyes were closed and they fished for the words they needed, “He’s roughly 5’11”.” They held out their hand and a small figure made of green light appeared looking exactly as they’d described. The man just stared at it, dumbstruck.
“While you were policing I had Hera send me Laurel’s memory of the killing, then spliced it together with the camera files I just downloaded.” They closed their fingers around the projection with a smile.
Citlali smiled and shook his head, “Galahad, you’re a goddamn genius.”