A lone figure pushed through the door to the crumbling warehouse, face obscured by a hooded jacket. The sensors clicked harmlessly, attuned to his presence as the only one allowed within the dusty and broken walls. He walked quickly, cutting across the room to climb the worn stairs up to the third level. It was in shambles, pieces of metal shrapnel and hunks of paper hanging from the holes in the floor and embedded in the walls. Standing in the doorway, the man regarded the wreckage with a deathly air of calm. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small disk, holding it up so it caught the weak moonlight.
It was an intricate weave of golden circles lined with glowing red designs that fit in the palm of his hand. The pattern of the circles changed every time he looked at it, circles within circles orbiting and swirling around each other. It seemed to shift the air around it, like it had been pulled from another world and didn’t quite fit into this space.
The effect was mirrored on several bits of rubble on the other floors; signs that she had been there.
A twisted smile split the man’s face and he tucked the disk back into his pocket, “Your move, Hera Jones.”
October 8th, 2020
In all seven years that Citlali had been with the police force, he had never seen a group of police officers look so invested in their work. Most had their heads bent low, busying themselves with their cases, or getting forms filled out, even cleaning their desks. All eyes remained dutifully fixed away from Siobhan’s office.
The Chief’s voice rang out, followed by the sound on hands slamming on a desk in rage. The ever calm undertones of Hera’s voice were drowned out in the angry lecture. Thankful he’d been spared the lecture from Hell, Citlali took a sip of coffee. He technically didn’t have a desk so he’d resigned himself to leaning against the counter in the back between the old malfunctioning printer and the coffee machine.
Which was probably the reason he was currently on his third cup in two hours. Letting out a resigned sigh he emptied the mug and put it in the sink, content to let some other lowly officer deal with it later. He was about to go find something to do when someone called his name.
“Officer LaRoche!” A canine officer approached, a greyish brown pitbull at his heels and a grin on his face, “There you are!” Something about the officer was weirdly familiar. He looked average enough; the british accent, dark green eyes, unkempt brown hair, slightly crooked teeth. That and he seemed overly friendly, like the two of them had met before.
Citlali crossed his arms, “Here I am.” he raised an eyebrow, “Have we met?”
The Officers smile twitched up at the corners as he made his dog sit, “Forgotten me already? I’m Officer Galeas DuLac, the canine officer who helped you and Detective Jones find that warehouse two days ago.”
“Right…” Citali drew out the word, the name nagging at him like there were dots to connect that he just wasn’t picking up on.
Galeas pulled a paper bag from his coat and offered it to Citlali, “Jones told me to pick up breakfast for you guys. Figured it was the least I could do, after all you both helped speed along my transfer request back to England in exchange for helping you out.” Now Citlali was downright confused. This was undoubtedly part of some Hera plan that he clearly hadn’t been filled in on. Galeas was still wearing that smile, the one that said ‘I’m part of a joke and we’re almost to the punchline’.
Citlali dropped the bag on the counter, “Who are you?”
“I’m exactly who I told you I am.” Galeas wound the leash around his hand, eyes darting towards Siobhan’s office. It had gone eerily quiet in there, the argument having died down.
“Nervous?” His green eyes practically burned into Citlali, “Hera won’t let you get kicked off the case. You’re too valuable.”
Citlali turned, resting one elbow on the counter and giving the young man his full attention, “What do you mean, ‘Valuable’?”
The smile was back, “You can’t tell me you haven’t noticed? Hera didn’t bring you onto the case because she liked you, it’s because she needed you.” the canine officer waved a hand dismissively, “Hera gets hyper focused on the big picture and can’t pick up on the little details like you can, and she’s horrible at talking to people…”
“Something I’m good at.” Citlali finished that train of thought.
The other man shrugged, “Don’t take it personally. She takes great care to not get attached to anyone so she’s got nothing to lose. That, and she’s too proud to ask for help. Enlisting you via the Chief was the directest approach to getting you on her side.”
“How do you know all this?” Citlali glared, “I don’t even know who you are.”
Galeas laughed, leaning down to scratch behind the Pitbull’s ears and Citlali was hit by another pang of familiarity, “You haven’t figured it out yet? Come on, LaRoche! I thought you were a history major.”
Before Citlali could answer, the door to Siobhan’s office swung open and Hera walked out, “LaRoche, DuLac, let’s go. We have places to be.”
Galeas gave her a salute as she stalked towards them and pushed through the door to the back staircase, “Yes ma’am.” He followed Hera out, with an increasingly confused Citlali in tow. Hera didn’t slow her pace, the sound of her heels clicking on the stairs echoing in the high ceilings.
“Could someone please explain what’s going on?” Citlali jogged down the stairs after her, keeping one eye on Galeas’ dog so he didn’t trip over the poor thing.
Hera pushed through the outer door and out into the cold October air, “The Chief was a little mad that I went off without orders and blew up half a mill building.” She stopped on the sidewalk and turned to face him. It felt more like a standoff; her eyes were hard, daring him to say something against her. The thought hadn’t even crossed his mind.
“I figured that much,” He jerked his head at Galeas, who was standing a little to the side rubbing his Pitbull’s ears, “Who’s he?”
“Rough day, LaRoche?” Galeas stood up, his figure shifting and shuddering only to fall away and reveal a very smug looking Galahad standing in his place, “I laid all the clues out for you, even my name was a dead giveaway.”
Citlali sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose, his mind finally connecting all the dots, “That… makes a lot of sense, actually.” They grinned at him and crouched to devote all of their attention to the pitbull in front of them.
“I meant to tell you I was having Galahad go undercover sooner, but,” Hera’s expression turned sour, “Siobhan caught up with me faster than I had anticipated.”
“You’re losing your touch,” The android said, looking up at her, “Soon you’ll start being late to meetings!”
Hera shuddered, “All the more reason we need to finish this case quickly and find the Timepiece.”
“What does it even look like?” Citlali crossed his arms, assuming his ‘I am an officer of the law’ stance.
Galahad made a circle about three inches across with both hands, “About this big, a bunch of circles within circles, and a chip. Its gold with little red lines all around it, looks like it belongs in an antique store despite it being from the future. It sorta warps everything around it when it’s not inside the IT Watch. It’s hard to miss.”
“I already checked all the stores in the city.” Hera answered the question she knew was coming, “Moving on: I promised this dumb Cactus we’d go get supplies for the dog, so let’s go.”
“You’re keeping the dog?” Citlali stared at her like she had grown a second head. She knew what he was thinking and he wasn’t exactly wrong; keeping a dog in an apartment that floats in a void of space time wasn’t her best plan.
A promise was a promise, and Galahad had promised to keep Galeas stored in their memory if she ever needed them to go undercover in exchange for letting them keep the dog.
“Pitbulls need space to run, not very good for apartments.” He added.
“Her name is Sigi. Also, I have it taken care of.” Galahad elbowed Citlali in the knee and stood up, grabbing Hera’s wrist, “Let’s go!” They pulled her down the sidewalk, Sigi trotting beside them. Running a hand across his hair Citlali sighed and followed, figuring he should at least enjoy the three minute walk to the nearest pet store.
The second they were in the store, Galahad disappeared behind the shelves to start collecting things, leaving Citlali and Hera by the door. They darted back into view a few seconds later, dropping a few toys and a bag of treats on the counter.
“I’m surprised you’re letting them keep her.” Citlali commented, brown eyes tracking Galahad’s trips to gather things.
“Taking care of a dog can’t be any harder than taking care of Galahad.” Hera replied, flexing the fingers of her metal arm.
“You’ve got a point there.” He laughed. An old man, with a nametag that deemed him the owner, was instructing Galahad on certain things. He kept one eye on the pile of things they were going to buy, clearly tallying up the money he was going to make off the green-haired teenager. Once they had everything they needed, which was a rather impressive pile of things, Galahad darted over and snatched Hera’s wallet from her pocket.
“Need this!” They grinned.
The wizened store owner behind the counter smiled at the two by the door, revealing a rather distinct lack of teeth, “It’s very nice of you to buy all this for your son.”
“Oh god no,” Hera waved her hands, hastily flicking them between her and Citlali, “We’re not… together. They aren’t our-”
“They’re not my parents.” Galahad clarified, fighting the urge to burst into laughter, “More like an unwilling guardian and an older brother.” Hera cast them a withering glare and they turned back to their pile, tugging their beanie higher up on their head. Sigi was oblivious to the mishap occurring, too busy winding the leash around Galahad’s legs in excitement.
Citlali ran a hand over his hair and jerked a thumb over his shoulder at the door, “I’m going to go find a cab.” As the door closed behind him, a sputtering laugh burst through Galahad’s composure before quickly being smothered. They gathered all of the bags into their arms and passed a few to Hera, making their way towards the door while trying not to trip over Sigi’s leash.
“Thanks!” They called over their shoulder to the store owner as they ducked through the automatic doors, Hera right behind them.
Heading towards the cab that Citlali had managed to stop, Galahad lowered their voice, “I forgot to tell you earlier, but I think I figured out the narrative the killer’s trying to get.”
She turned to them, grey eyes questioning, but they waved it off as best they could with their hands full, “I’ll tell you once we get back to the apartment.” Before she could get another word out they had hurried ahead to dump their things in the trunk. Hera frowned. There was a lot Galahad wasn’t telling her and they were good at keeping important information to themself. Of all the days to choose to be difficult…
She sighed to herself, “Typical.”
Once back in Hera’s apartment, Galahad disappeared down the hall, leaving Hera and Citlali to set up the room with everything they bought. While they unpacked, Sigi explored her new home, running from the living room to the kitchen and trying to trip Hera while she worked. Once everything was in its place, Hera flopped down on the couch and started flipping through the file; Citlali leaned up against the far wall with nothing else to do.
Sigi trotted over to Citlali and sat down at his feet, looking up at the man expectantly. She bumped her grey head against his knees until he let out a long sigh and bent to rub her ears. Her tail worked like a rotor, a whine escaping her throat every time he tried to straighten back up.
“Little attention hog. You’re barking up the wrong tree, I’m more of a cat person.” Citlali mumbled, crouching down to scratch under her harness and then directing his next question at Hera, “Where’d you get her?”
“Rescue. Galahad wouldn’t have it any other way. Be careful around her neck, she’s got a few scars from her past owner.”
“She’s pretty friendly despite that,” He commented, craning his head back as Sigi tried to lick his nose.
“That’s Galahad’s influence. They smothered her in love when we brought her home.” She let a small smile curl her lips, “Never really had any pets. Lived in an apartment in London that didn’t allow pets, and the Mannheim Institute didn’t allow them either, so I might also be responsible for wanting to keep her.”
“Three thousand years and you’ve never had a pet?”
“Three thousand and thirty two years, technically,” Galahad said, shuffling back into the room, “But that’s beside the point. I need the picture of the first kill, wide shot if you’ve got one.” Hera dug the requested photo out of the file and passed it to them. Sigi ran to their side, only to be shooed to her bed in the corner.
“Ok, so. I was looking around in the memoir room trying to figure out what Galeas should look like and I found this,” The green-haired android held up an old, slightly faded photo of two people playing in a park. One of the people, a young man with squarish glasses and a well styled undercut, was typing away on a laptop. He was focused completely on his work, unaware of the disaster that was imminent just behind him. The second person, a kid with unruly brown hair and a smattering of freckles, was in the process of falling out of a tree behind him.
Hera’s fingers curled into a fist, “I’ve told you not to go in that room.”
“You told me to base Galeas off what I used to look like,” Galahad snapped, defensive, and pointed at the person in the back “It’s been three thousand years since I looked like this, I needed a refresher.”
“Wait, that’s you?” Citlali interrupted, taking the picture from their hands to get a closer look, “You look so normal!”
“And my brother, Arthur, yes.” They sliced at the air with one hand and raked a hand through their wild hair, knocking their beanie to the floor, “We’re getting off topic. Compare that to how the first kill was staged.”
“Two people at a park, one’s on a bench enjoying the view… what about the legs?” Citlali looked up, “What’s that supposed to be?”
The androids shoulders dropped, like the answer was obvious and no one else was getting it, “It’s a kid! That’s what kids do at parks, we climb trees and do stupid things!” They looked up at the rafters above them and after a few seconds leapt straight up to one. Citlali added ‘super jump’ to his list of ‘weird things Galahad can do’.
They hooked their knees over the beam and hung from it, just like the picture “See, this is the sort of dumb thing a kid at a park would do. A mother and her child.”
“Then the next kill features a dead mother, a mourning child and a drunk father.” Hera stood, linking the clues in her head to match Galahad’s theory, “So we’re looking for a white, tallish, super rich blond man with blue eyes, a dead mother and an alcoholic father.”
“Not to mentions he’s got a vendetta for Hera.” Citlali added, resting his hands on his hips.
Galahad jumped back down to the floor, “Unfortunately… with the way this case is going I don’t think we’ll be able to catch him until he’s finished his narrative.”
The weight of their statement fell heavily on the room. Silence reigned between them, stirred only by Sigi twitching in her sleep and the humming noise of the Continuum beyond the windows. Galahad’s shoulders twitched back towards the window, their eyes landing everywhere in the room but on either of the other people. Citlali stared at his shoes, arms crossed, and felt a sinking feeling of dread.
Curling around themself, Galahad looked up, “Hera… what do we do?”
“Well…” Hera met their eyes, storm grey meeting wild green, “We can’t bloody well give up now, can we?”
Citlali let out a bitter laugh, “So what now, Sherlock? We sit around and wait for this guy to finish killing?”
“Time Traveler isn’t much of a title when you can’t control time, is it?” The android said softly, almost regretfully. Hera frowned down at the watch face set into the inside of her arm, the device she gave her life for, the device Galahad gave their life for. It was starting to seem like more trouble than it was worth. To Citlali, the two of them seemed a world apart from him; two impossible people trapped in a constant state of motion. Two people with lives so impossibly complex that he wasn’t sure he’d ever truly understand them.
He wondered if, by association, he was just a little bit impossible himself.
“Let’s see what tomorrow brings.” He offered, pushing away from the wall.
“What if tomorrow brings nothing?” Galahad turned their head to look at him through wild strands of green and red hair, their voice tired “What then?”
“Then we keep counting tomorrows.” Everything was too overwhelming to deal with now. “We count as many as we need until we solve this thing, because if we can’t solve it,” Citlali let that hang in the air for a long moment, “There’s no way anyone else will be able to.”