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A Time Travelers Guide to Solving Murder Chapter 7: Allusion

February 26, 2017

The Continuum

(Roughly 3:00 AM)

(October 9th, 2020 | Relatively)

 

Galahad was falling. The smooth glass of a building rushed by next to them, reflecting Talston City behind their falling form as cold air mixed with flecks of snow whipped through their hair. An incessant beeping rang in their ears, getting progressively faster the farther they fell. Galahad gritted their teeth and threw their arms out to the side to keep themself steady in the air as they plummeted downwards towards the busy road below. The beeping reached a fever pitch and their vision washed a searing white.

Galahad was falling, again. Slower this time, a more controlled descent instead of a flailing free fall. A fall designed to show them something. Blocking out the beeping noise, Galahad focused. Their reflection slid across the glass, a blur of green and red, the white tether of the Continuum trailing out behind them.

 

Focus.

 

The world slowed, a lethargic force like the second right before a car crash. The glass ended, curving back to accompany for a balcony that sat in the side of the building. The doors burst inwards, kicked in by some unseen force and suddenly Galahad was spiraling away, falling faster and faster and deafened by the beeping until everything dissolved in white-

 

The Android jolted awake with all the grace of a two legged cat, synthetic heartbeat racing in their chest. They flailed their arms in the cold everything of the continuum in an effort to get themself upright. Hera’s apartment was on their left and their little ‘tech cave’ was below them. It was less of a cave and more of a room with one of the walls ripped off that they had filled with pieces of technology that had found its way into the void. Pointing one arm at their half room, they flexed their wrist and a thin cord shot out, embedding a small claw in the outside of the wall. Reeling themself in, Galahad swung inside and let the artificial gravity of the room pull their feet to the floor.

 

The last strands of the dream was was being filed away into their memory and Galahad pressed one hand to their forehead and screwed their eyes shut, “Androids don’t dream, huh?” They mumbled to the empty air, “Well what was that then?” Letting out a long sigh they ran a hand through their hair and grabbed their beanie off a hook near the entrance. Once it had been pinned in place, they jumped up and grabbed the cord that connected their room to Hera’s apartment, pulling their way across the expanse of void to the main building. There was no real ‘right way up’ in the Continuum it was relative to the person, or in this case Android, that was there. By concentrating on the rooms in relation to theirself, Galahad could walk along the outside of Hera’s apartment and jump between rooms without drifting off. It was a little like walking on the moon.

 

They crossed the smooth outer walls to the kitchen and wormed their way inside through the window. The lights were off for some reason, the Android sighed as they climbed into the room, body giving off enough light that they could at least see where they were putting their feet. Fumbling for the tablet glass in their pocket, Galahad tugged the thin white lead from the back of their neck and kicked it back out the window. Fishing out the thin piece of glass they swiped one finger up it and turned the lights on.

 

“It’s not like you pay for electrical bills, Jones.” They grumbled, picking their way around the table to scavenge for something to eat, “Leaving the lights on isn’t much of a problem.” There was a leftover carton of rice in the fridge, helpfully labeled with a ‘G’. They didn’t need to eat, but it was a weirdly comforting ritual, bringing them a little closer to being human again.

 

Also it recharged them and their backup batteries needed a boost.

 

Dumping the contents of the carton into a bowl Galahad grabbed a spoon and shuffled out of the kitchen, down the short hall that led to the living room. Hera was there, sitting on the couch with a book in one hand and Sigi’s head resting on her leg as the dog slept. The TV played quietly in the background, a boring news report dictating the weather and the latest celebrity scandal.

 

“Shouldn’t you be sleeping?” Galahad shoved a spoonful of rice in their mouth and flopped down on the other side of the couch, drawing their knees up to their chest.

Hera didn’t even look up from her book, “I don’t sleep.” Galahad rolled their eyes and turned their focus to the TV. It was playing some blurry footage from a concert with too many flashing spotlights.

“Hey, I didn’t know Beyonce was in this universe!” Galahad poked Hera’s arm until she looked up as well.

The woman raised an eyebrow, unimpressed, “She’s in most of them.”

The green haired android gave an appreciative nod and continued eating, “Ah, Beyonce. The one constant in our ever changing lives. What a gift.” Hera hummed in that ‘I’m not actually listening but I’m acknowledging that you’re making noise’ kind of way and the two of them fell into silence again. Hera continued reading, Sigi slept on and Galahad finished their rice and slid the bowl onto the side table.

The TV switched, swapping out concert footage for a woman standing on a bustling street corner outside the Hotel De La Belle Chante. Hera scoffed under her breath, grey eyes glancing up long enough to gather what was going on. The woman on screen started her report, explaining a very bad overview of the murder that had taken place and started taking the blame on the building security.

Galahad changed the channel, “So, what’s on the agenda for today, Sherlock.”

Hera shut her book, tucking her thumb between the pages to save her place as she turned her icy gaze on the android, “Interrogating the men who tried to kill me, comparing my theories with what forensics gathered, more interrogating of possible suspects, and trying not to anger Siobhan.”

They pursed their lips and picked at the rips in their jeans, “Annnd what am I supposed to do?”

The woman reopened her book, “Take Sigi for a walk.”  Hearing her name, the pitbull jerked awake, swiveling her head around to blink at her owner. Galahad let out a long sigh and stood, whistling for Sigi to follow as they moved towards the door to grab a leash and the sweatshirt they’d dug up from Hera’s expansive closet. Once they had wrestled the dog into her harness, they slipped out into the hall and slammed the door behind them.

Sigi blinked up at the green haired teen, her stump tail wagging, oblivious to their slight anger. Galahad looked down at her, bit back another sigh and started down the hall.

 

“‘My names Hera Jones,’” they muttered under their breath, faking a british accent to sound more like the woman they were complaining about, “I have no friends because getting attached makes you weaker and emotions aside from anger and distain have no purpose in my life. I only deal with Galahad because it’s my fault they’re forever bound to a white void, but I don’t feel guilty about it anymore because guilt isn’t one of my carefully selected emotions to feel.’” They slammed their fist against the elevator button and tapped their foot impatiently. Sigi sat beside them, anxious to be outside.

 

“I mean, it’s not my fault everything about me in synthesised!” They stepped into the elevator and hit the button for the lobby, “It’s not my fault someone programmed me to feel things like remorse or anger or sadness, I had no choice in the matter!” Sigi barked up at them and they leaned down to rub her ears, “Sorry, didn’t mean to rant at you. You’d think I’d be used to her being an ice queen after a few thousand years.”

 

Stepping outside into the cold October air, they set off in a slow jog towards Talson Public Gardens. They’d always enjoyed running, the feeling of all their servos and shock absorbers kicking into gear as they moved. Sigi kept pace with them, a steady beat of right, left, right as they made their way towards the gardens. The sidewalks were practically empty at 4 am, clear aside from a few early risers heading towards work and drunk partygoers stumbling home. A few cars darted past, lingering at red lights before screeching off onto some other road with a haste unneeded for such an early morning. The sky was a dark blue, brightening slowly as the sun crept up through the buildings.

 

Scattering a flock of pigeons as they passed through the stone archway leading to the Gardens, Galahad let their mental processes drift, falling into an easy autonomous rhythm. A whole day with nothing to do, since Hera didn’t trust them to go near the precinct ever again looking like a ‘delinquent. They’d looked up ‘normal human activities’ once but they all pretty much had factors that made little to no sense when performed by someone made of metal and nanos. Eating had little to no purpose aside from giving them an small energy boost, and all they really had a taste for was rice. Movies just seemed like a waste of time, a notion that had been drilled into their head as being one of the worst things they could do. Besides they could download any movie they wanted from any time period. Wandering around the city and doing impossible science were their only two options.

 

Suddenly Sigi pulled up short, almost sending Galahad face first into the ground, her teeth bared at something ahead of them.

 

Galahad regained their footing and frowned down at the dog, “What?” Sigi growled and snapped her teeth, eyes fixed on a small clearing up ahead. Wrapping the leash once around their hand, the android crept closer, systems on high alert. The scene came into view slowly; rows of chairs, the edge of a temporary stage and then-

 

Galahad’s entire being went shock still, “Oh god.”

 

A man in a tattered suit was on the stage behind the podium, a long thin pole stabbed through his chest so that when the bottom rested on the ground he was suspended mostly upright, his chin slumped against his chest. Quickly slinging Sigi’s leash around the arm of a bench so that she would stay Galahad moved down the aisle between the rows of chairs, eyes wide. His arms were held up by pieces of fishing wire tied around his wrists and secured to the lighting supports framing the stage. Blood oozed slowly from around the metal spike in his chest, dripping down onto the wooden stage floor to create a pool of half dried blood. Scrawled in dripping, oozing streaks of blood across the projector screen behind the podium was a single letter ‘P’.

 

The back-of-the-teeth cold feeling of synthetic fear was worming its way into Galahad’s mind but they shut it out, separated it from their processes and eradicated it. Now was no time to lose their head. Bending slightly to see the man’s face, the Android scanned it and ran it alongside the Talston’s visual database. The man was a sickly pale color, with blonde hair sweeping across his forehead and lifeless brown eyes staring down at the floor. It sent an involuntary shudder through their frame, a faint wave of static rising from their arms. A tense feeling of paranoia crept along the back of their neck, like there were eyes on their back. Galahad pushed the scan to the back of their mind to run in the background and slowly, oh so slowly turned around.

 

And screamed.

 

Painted in blood across the rows of chairs behind them, were eyes. They took up every inch of the metal, sloping and dripping thin streams of blood that merged with other splotches of the substance. Hundreds of red eyes focused on the green haired android, burning into them.

 

Swallowing hard, Galahad backed up until their legs hit the edge of the stage and pulled the thin piece of glass from their pocket. Sigi had stretched to the edge of her lead, whining at her owner’s distress as they held the glass up. It rang once, twice, three times before Hera’s annoyed expression swam into view on its surface.

 

“What.” She snapped. Galahad’s vast list of words filed away in their mind was nowhere to be found. Instead they lifted the glass so that Hera could see what was behind them, eyes glued to the multitude of other eyes painted on the chairs. Even though they were only painted on, the scene held a terrifying eeriness that had fused itself to their visual processors.

 

They heard a sharp intake of breath from Hera, “I’ll be right there.”

 

—————————

 

 

“Wait.” Citlali held up one hand, partially to pause the conversation and partially to put some distance between him and Deputy Wright, “So now this is all my fault?” He crossed one arm over his chest and pinched the bridge of his nose with the other. Four in the morning was far too early to be dealing with the unsavory deputy. Police swarmed around him; taping the scene off and turning away civilians.

 

“Well you’re on scene rather early, aren’t you,” Wright huffed, a spray of crumbs leaving his mouth from the aftermath of his breakfast,  “Awfully suspicious since we didn’t learn about it till after you arrived.”

 

Citlali was quickly loosing his patience, which was something that took a great deal of effort on the other persons part, “I told you, I live on the other side of the park and I know the witness. They called me after they called her.” He was fairly sure he had scared a handful of people, half sprinting towards the park like a madman. Galahad had been full on sparking when he got their, barely holding together. Talking them down had taken time, but now they were parked on a bench behind him with Sigi.

 

Wright tugged on the collar of his police jacket and huffed again, “I’m just saying it’s suspicious that he refused to speak to anyone but you and you’re one of the leads on this case.”

 

“They.” Citlali corrected, “Are Hera’s intern so of course I know them.”

 

“It’s very-”

 

“Wright!” A voice broke through all other sounds like glass, an enraged yell from the path behind Citlali. Hera moved like a hurricane, the people parting before her as she stalked towards the two of them with anger swirling around her. She wound back one hand and hurled something at Wright, the pair of mangled handcuffs hitting him in the chest with a fury driven force.

 

She thrust a finger in his face, voice barely contained behind her gritted teeth, “You have two. Bloody. Seconds. To tell me why you put my witness in handcuffs and accused them of doing all this, or I swear to god I will have you doing Detective LaRoche’s old job for the rest of your pathetic life.” Deputy Wright clutched weakly at the cuffs still pressed against his chest and gasped for words, suddenly at a loss of accusations in the presence of such an angry force. Hera towered above him, six feet of pure rage and wild curls.

 

“You handcuffed Galahad?!” Citlali spun around, searching for the bench where he’d left them only to find their seat empty, “That’s a great idea, let’s handcuff the traumatized teenager and accuse them of murder!”

 

Wright took in the condition of the handcuffs, their chains mangled and the cuffs snapped open, “How- What- How did you get these open?!” Hera’s metal hand curled into a fist and Wright’s eyes widened a fraction and suddenly excuses were spilling from his lips.

 

“He-”

 

“They.” Citlali corrected, again.

 

“-Was the one who found it and refused to talk to anyone but you or LaRoche and they seemed very skittish and suspicious like and they resisted arrest-”

 

“Get.” Hera leaned down, the full fury of her grey eyes trained on the sniveling man, “Off. My. Crime. Scene.” He needed no further convincing, retreating down the path with the last scraps of dignity he had left. Half way down the path he jumped, yelling like he’d been shocked before breaking into a fearful run.

 

Galahad moved between Hera and Citlali, shoulders hunched as they flicked the fingers of their left hand, “That’s the least he deserves,” They grumbled, tucking both hands in the pocket of their sweatshirt, “The Drecksau.

 

Hera scoffed and some of the tension drained from her shoulders, “Come on, Cactus. We’ve got a murder to investigate.”

 

“His name is Jakob Steiner.” They offered, pronouncing it the German way, “He services vending machines around the city. Night shift, takes him all over the place.”

 

“Not someone who would draw attention if he was killed.” Citali sighed and tucked his hands into the pockets of his jacket. Hera hummed in acknowledgement, eyes fixed on the gruesome scene. Her mind was already hard at work. Pulling a handful of latex gloves she passed two to Citlali and pulled one over her non-metal hand.

 

“Galahad, see what you can get from the cameras.” She ordered, “Anything at all that could help.” The android clicked their tongue and moved back towards the bench where they had tied Sigi.

 

Citlali offered a wry smile, “After you, Sherlock.” Hera scowled back at him and started towards the stage. At first glance she didn’t see anything Galahad hadn’t told her about. As she stepped onto the stage, that was a different story. There was a bullet wound in the back of his head from a sniper rifle, the blood around the edges of the wound clotted and dried.

 

“He was dead before he got…” Hera pressed her lips together, “Impaled.”

 

“If that’s supposed to make it better, it really doesn’t.” Citlali called over his shoulder and he inspected the chairs in the front row, “This paint, blood, whatever, is still tacky. This was done pretty recently.”

 

She nodded, “The body’s still bleeding slightly. Gross, but it means we’re not far behind.” A thin triangle of white paper was sticking out of the man’s pocket, and Hera carefully tugged it free. Most of it had been stained illegible with blood, but Hera could make out enough to piece the writing together.

 

“‘Vote for’ someone.” Hera read, passing the paper down to Citlali, “The names been ripped off and it’s covered in blood but that much is readable.”

 

“So the killer is a fan of the Democratic process?” Citlali refolded the map and waved over one of the Forensic detectives that had just arrived. Hera stepped down off the stage and they moved away from the scene to let the Forensics unit do their job.

 

Galahad unfurled from the bench as they approached, unhooking Sigi’s leash, “Walk with me.” Not bothering to wait for an answer, they turned and started down the path. The two detectives followed. The android walked fast, pausing at turns to close their eyes and mumble incoherently to themself.

 

“What are we doing?” Citlali asked after Galahad led them out of the park. He didn’t mind the walk, but he generally liked to know where he was going.

 

“The files at the actual scene are gone – again- but they didn’t get all the other cameras.” Galahad explained, “Our friend the killer was caught on camera further away dragging Jakob towards the stage. I’m retracing those steps to see if I can find where he was killed.” The rest of their walk continued in silence, Galahad striding ahead of them with Sigi beside them while Hera maintained a frosty quiet as she walked. Not all the fury had leached out of her, it simmered just under the surface of her stony facade.

 

They stopped short all of a sudden, “His trail starts here. It’s odd, the cameras must be glitchy or something. He was only ever on screen for a short time before disappearing.”

 

“Glitchy cameras, whatever,” Hera waved away their sentence and started down the alley they had stopped in front of, “Let’s see what we find.” The alley was short and ended in a short turn off point occupied by rusting dumpsters and discarded cans of beer. There was a small pool of blood and dirty water near the corner, along with the crushed remnants of a bullet casing.

“Sloppy.” Galahad muttered, handing Sigi’s leash to Citlali and gesturing for Hera to step aside, “Mind if I take a look?” They stepped into the center of the turnoff and held their arms out. Flicking their fingers, tiny green particles flooded from their body and coated the surroundings.

“Jakob was… 5’8” and the entry wound was in the back of his head so he was standing here and facing… This way.” They flicked one hand over their shoulder and a hologram in Jakobs likeness appeared made of those same green particles,  “The blood on the edge of the dumpster there means he was standing when he was shot, and then fell into the puddle there. That would mean that with his height and the entry and exit wounds the shooter was…” They scrolling in the air with their fingers like they were doing calculations, eyes closed and mouth twisted to the side, “On the roof of that building.” The building they pointed too was an older office building that was starting to light up as workers began filing in for the morning.

As Galahad recalled their green hologram particles, Citlali pulled out his phone, “Well done. I’ll call the station and see about getting a few officers down here to check it out. Someone still needs to go interrogate Johnston.”

“I can do that.” Hera said, tucking her hands into her pockets and turning to head out of the alley, still cold as usual, “Galahad you should head home.”

“Yeah.” The android’s face twisted in distaste, “I think I’ve had enough of this universe for one day.” They seemed exhausted, even for someone who’s emotions were synthetic. Citlali clapped them on the shoulder and handed over Sigi’s leash as they trailed past him down the alley behind Hera. They offered him a half hearted thumbs up in reply.

Once the two Time travelers had disappeared around the corner, Citlali turned his phone on. There was a text from Galahad, ‘You’re the diplomatic one, I’m the science one. We all have our uses.” He frowned; he had really hoped that whole tool conversation wouldn’t come up again.

Something moved on the roof behind him. Citlali whipped around, immediately regretting that he left his gun at his apartment and now only had his phone as a weapon. The alley was silent, aside from the muffled sounds of the street. He stayed where he was, ears straining for any sounds.

A sharp pain burst in his neck and Citlali recoiled, frantically  ripping a small dart like syringe from  the spot. He staggered backwards against the far wall, legs suddenly refusing to work in any semblance of order and went crashing to the ground. He couldn’t move, his whole body numb and ignoring the warnings that his mind was screaming.The world swam in and out of focus, a blurring mass of reddish brick and grey cement that was interrupted only by a face looming into view. Cold metal pressed against his forehead, the barrel of a gun unwavering against his temple. His world closed in on itself until that was all he could feel.


And then he felt nothing at all.

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