October 9th, 2020
The North Side, Talston City
Halfway to the Precinct, Hera got a call from Siobhan. Jakob Steiner’s wife had made herself known, diverting the detectives path to the Northern end of the city in search of clues. Galahad was behaving themself for once, they hadn’t complained at all about the amount of walking or the change in plans. Although, unlike Hera, their legs didn’t get tired. The train system could’ve gotten them across the city in a few minutes, but metal detectors didn’t tend to agree with either of the two Time Travelers.
The Northern Side was a hub of culture. Dominated mostly by those of european origin, there were festivals every month, brightly coloured restaurants and bars and street vendors selling more delicious food than one could eat. The pollution turbines suspended in the air above the city were brighter in this part, painted and decorated with more care and life to them. Galahad loved them, pointing out their favorites as the two of them walked. In 3125, everything ran off of clean energy and the pollution issue was fixed so there was no need for the balloon like turbines that pulled smog out of the air.
Craning their head back to look up at the white plaster building in front of them, Galahad took in a deep breath through their nose, “Wow, everything in this part of the city smells like bread.”
Hera double checked the address Siobhan had given her, “A lot of people of Italian descent live here. Lots of bakeries.” Clicking her tongue, Hera put her phone away, “This is the place. Stay quiet, just observe. Let me do all the talking.” There was a police car parked outside, so someone from the force was either guarding Mrs. Steiner or Siobhan had sent her back up.
“Isn’t this what we need Citlali for?” Galahad followed Hera to the door, blinking a few times as they adjusted their eye colour to something a bit less neon, “Where even is he?”
“I don’t know.” Hera frowned slightly, “Haven’t heard from him all day.” Galahad’s mouth tightened but they remained quiet the entire trip up to the apartment. A woman in a police uniform was waiting by the door, her hands crossed loosely behind her back.
She stood to attention when Hera got closer, “Detective Jones, I’m Officer Kate Thompson.”
“I remember you,” Hera stifled a sigh of relief at having her there, “From the hotel killing, glad to have help.” She was horrible at comforting people anyway.
Kate nodded, “Siobhan sent me over to keep track of things.” Her gaze landed on Galahad, who was subtly trying to hide behind Hera’s back, “Who is…”
The detective put a hand between Galahad’s shoulder blades and pushed them in front of her, “This is Galahad Holtzmann, my intern.”
“Yo.” Galahad offered a two finger salute and then shoved their hands back into their pockets. It had been a couple thousand years since they’d had to interact regularly with people aside from Hera, so they were very out of practice. If Kate noticed, she either ignored it or chalked it up to a simple case of nervousness.
She smiled, “Nice to meet you. Shall we go in?” At Hera’s nod, she turned and knocked on the door. A few moments later a woman, probably in her early forties at least, opened the door. A pair of watery blue eyes stared out at them from behind a messy curtain of blonde hair. She had clearly been crying for a while and had only recently stopped.
“Mrs. Steiner?” Kate asked, pulling her badge from her belt to show the woman, “My name is Officer Kate Thompson with with TCPD, this is Detective Hera Jones and her intern Galahad. May we come in?”
The woman nodded and opened the door slowly, “Yes, of course. I apologize for the mess.” They filed into the small apartment, stepping over a scattered pile of mail as Mrs. Steiner lead them to the couch. Hera took a moment to look around; The apartment was fairly small, painted in light pinks and creams with floral curtains and paintings from some countryside lining the walls. They looked hand painted, and judging from the small, paint stained table near the window, Mrs. Steiner was their creator. There was a general sense of clutter around the place, made even more messy by dirty dishes piled up in the sink and a pile of unwashed clothes in a hamper by the bathroom. Grief tended to make any mess worse.
Mrs. Steiner eased down into an armchair, Kate perching carefully on the edge on the sofa near her to ask a few non-essential questions. Galahad had stopped by a bunch of framed photos on the wall of Jakob, his wife, and their two children. A gentle hum of static drifted from them, and Hera tapped their shoulder to snap them out it it; the last thing she needed was Galahad’s particular brand of electric outbursts to blow the power in the entire sector. They turned to face her, a quiet, determined sort of fury burning in their eyes, but the static faded. Hera moved towards the others, Galahad lurking behind her, and sat beside Kate.
Kate took the lead, “What can you tell us about your husband, Mrs. Steiner?”
The woman’s lips turned down at the corners, “My husband was… some would call him difficult. He was a very driven man, he took his work very seriously. Jakob was a computer programer during the day and serviced vending machines at night to pay for this apartment…” Her voice trailed off and turned soft, “He worked so hard so I could dedicate my time to painting and my friends.”
“He doesn’t sound like the type of person to have enemies.” Galahad said.
Mrs. Steiner shook her head, managing to focus her misty gaze on them, “He was cold at first but a genuinely kind and caring person once you could get him away from his work. It’s hard to imagine someone could have a vendetta against him.”
“The victims don’t seem to have any connection to the killer himself,” Hera brushed a few stray curls out of her face, “I know this is hard, miss, but I need to know if there was anything suspicious going on around the time of your husband’s death.”
Mrs. Steiner took a deep, watery breath before speaking, “Everything seemed normal, I don’t know…” She trailed off, her voice tired, “I tend to spend most of the day at home painting while my husband works. He does programming during the day, then services things around the city.”
“Did your husband mention seeing anyone weird following him, or around where he worked?” Kate encouraged, her tone softer that anything Hera could ever manage, “Anything at all?”
She turned to gaze out the window, face contorted as she thought, “He did mention that there was a man hanging around his usual stops, and his phone had been having bad connection recently…”
Galahad looked up at that, glancing quickly at Hera before speaking, “Wait, do you happen to have his phone here… uh, Mrs. Steiner?”
She blinked and then her cloudy eyes focused on the kitchen table, “Yes, I believe the police returned his belongings, it should be with them.”
“Do you mind if I…” Galahad wrung their hands and glanced at Hera again, “Take it apart? I think I might know how they found him.”
Kate started to protest but she was cut off my Mrs. Steiner, “Of course, if you need to take any of that for examination again that’s fine. Anything that can help you find whoever did this.” Kate frowned, but didn’t say anything as Galahad moved towards the table.
“Oh, we’ll find him.” Hera said, voice bordering on the edge of a snarl. The other officer raised an eyebrow, then turned her attention back to the older woman to ask some easier questions. Hera took that as her cue to check on Galahad. They were bent over the table, turning Jakobs phone over and over in their hand. Half-buried under bright green, lines of text scrolled past on their eyes as they flipped it around.
“At least there’s something I’m good at.” They murmured, gently pulling on Hera’s sleeve until she had moved to completely block Kate and Mrs. Steiner’s view of what they were going to do. Galahad pressed the phone between their hands, and with a buzz of static and a gentle pop, the two halves of the phone’s outer shell came apart.
“Gotta love being able to magnetize your own body.” They said under layers of sarcasm, prying both halves off their hands to place them on the table. Producing a soft shell case of tools from the inside of their new jacket, Galahad plucked a pair of tweezers from the inside and carefully pried something from between the plates on the inside of the phone.
“Bugged.” They held the small, circular device at eye level and scrutinized it with the focus of an expert jeweler who was just handed the Crown Jewels. “Must have…wired his phone while he was on break on something, only a few of the wires had been connected. Had to be the killer too, this model is very high tech. Would’ve cost a small fortune.” The other two women had drifted over, everyone crowding around Galahad’s find.
“Is it still on?” Mrs. Steiner asked, wrapping her arms tightly around herself, “There’s not someone still listening to us, right?”
The Android frowned slightly, “This one’s only supposed to be activated when the phone was used, so I don’t think so.” They paused and cocked their head slightly, like they were listening. ‘I don’t think so’ was their way of saying no. It was easier to suggest that they were taking a guess than to explain that they were electronic themself and a scan had told them that the device was off.
Latching on to Hera’s sleeve, they spoke, “Hera, we need to talk for a second.”
“I’ll make some tea for us all.” Mrs. Steiner started towards the kitchen, “Officer Tompson, would you help me?” Kate nodded and followed, but not before casting a worried look over her shoulder at them.
Galahad pulled on Hera’s sleeve to turn her so their backs were to the kitchen, “If I give this bug something to listen too, I can probably track the signal. If I rewire it back into the phone and then track where the signal goes it might lead us to someone.”
Hera raised an eyebrow, “Ok? So why didn’t you tell them that?”
Galahad glared at her, “Because they would’ve asked how I’m going to track the signal and I can’t exactly tell them I’ve got a computer in my head!” They dropped their voice to a fervent whisper and waved their hands between the two of them, “So you need to figure something out.”
“Why do I have to do it?” Hera hissed, crossing her arms across her chest.
“Look, I am almost two thousand years out of practice with talking to people and you’re not.” They pinched the bridge of their nose, “See, this is why we needed Citlali. He’s actually good at this talking thing.”
Hera sighed, “We all have our weaknesses. I’ll think of something, you work on rewiring.”
They offered a two finger salute, “Yes, ma’am.”
Hera stepped out onto the street and suppressed a shiver at the sudden change in temperature, “I can’t believe you made me leave tea behind.”
Galahad hopped down onto the sidewalk beside her and rolled their eyes, “Right, I always forget you’re British.”
Buttoning up her jacket, she sighed, “Yeah, I guess the accent’s starting to fade. Not as much as yours though.”
They threw their arms up in the air like they were appealing to the sky, “Don’t blame me, blame the void! Stupid thing took my life and my accent!” Hera laughed at that, causing Galahad to recoil in exaggerated shock and surprise.
“Did you just…” They covered their mouth with both hands and their eyes widened in mock horror, “Laugh?! Who are you and what did you do with Hera?!”
She socked them hard in the shoulder with her metal arm, “Shut up and get tracking.” Galahad rolled their eyes and opened their hand, projecting their path in the air for a few moments. Trapping their fingers around the image, they set off.
“I’m surprised you got Officer Kate to agree to this.” Galahad clicked their tongue as they walked.
“Tell me about it.” Hera stuck her hands in her pockets, watching the cars flash past as the lunch rush began, “I wasn’t sure she’d actually buy my story, but it seemed to work.” They shrugged in return and kept walking.
After a while, they stopped. “This is it.” Galahad closed their hand and looked up, their eyebrows furrowing as they took in the brick building, “Whoever it is, they’re in there.” It was a simple, five story building that had been abandoned some time ago. A sign out front had it slated for remodeling into luxury apartments within the next two years.
Hera rolled her metal shoulder, “We’re going to have to be quiet about this, now’s not the time for all guns blazing.”
The android shrugged and dug a hair tie out of their pocket to tie their wild hair back, “No problem, I was built for quiet.”
She nodded and jerked her head up at the roof, “Come in from the top and we’ll clear the levels from both sides.” Galahad gave her a thumbs up, coiled their legs under them and then leapt up to grab onto the rusted fire escape on the side. A few more inhuman leaps and they disappeared over the top. Hera curled her metal hand into a fist and moved for the door. The inside looked a lot like the last warehouse she had been in; dusty and crumbling slightly.
Hopefully this one wouldn’t blow up.
The first level was clear, so she started slowly up the staircase in the center, sticking to the railing to avoid creaking steps. She kept one hand on her gun, just in case. Even if she wasn’t planning on using it, it was better to have it close. Whoever was listening to the bug was probably on a higher level to get a better signal, which meant Galahad would reach them first. That was a part of Hera’s loosely formulated plan. Either Galahad would zap the person before they could run, or they’d be chased right into Hera’s path and earn a faceful of metal.
She hoped it was the latter, electrical burns were hard to explain.
Halfway across the second floor, she heard commotion from the floor above her. A wave a static rolled over her, buzzing in the back of her teeth. Two explosive gunshots followed, coupled with the echoing thud of running feet. Hera continued walking, eyes fixed on the door leading to the stairs.
A man wielding a shotgun burst through the wooden door, face half covered by a bandana, and received the full force of a metal fist to the underside of his chin. The impact knocked him off his feet and he crumbled to the floor.
Hera brushed her hand off on her coat, “Well, that was easy.” she nudged the man with the toe of one boot, nose wrinkling slightly. He was out cold. That begged one question: where was Galahad?
Turning her face to the top of the stairs, she raised an eyebrow “Galahad?” No one answered. Swearing under her breath, Hera grabbed the railing and swung herself up, taking the stairs two at a time. Galahad was slouched against the wall in the process of snapping their shoulder back onto its joint, their head skewed at an unhealthy angle.
Hera stopped near their feet and tilted her head, “Do I want to know?”
Galahad let out a long sigh and grabbed their head with both hands, “I went up against a shotgun,” They snapped their head back into its proper place with a sickening popping sound, “I lost. Threw my head and shoulder off track.” They searched around with one hand for their hat.
“Painful?” She offered a hand and hauled them to their feet.
They rolled their neck and winced, “You have no idea. Whoever decided to program pain into this thing was a sadistic human being.” Their eyes flicked to something over her shoulder, “There’s also… that.” Hera turned. A patch of the floor in the far corner was stained with blood and scattered with torn bits of rope.
She swallowed hard, “Lovely. Can you figure out whose it is?”
Galahad rubbed at the sore spot on the back of their neck and brushed past her, “We’ll see. Are you sure that guy down there is out cold?” They crouched stiffly by the blood stain, holding their hand just above the ground to scan it.
Hera flexed her metal fingers, “He’s not waking up anytime soon, trust me.” She crossed the room to the stairwell to check anyway, giving a small nod when she saw he was still face down on the floor.
“Oh god.” The detective spun to see Galahad backing away from the blood, one hand covering their mouth as they stared at it in horror.
“What?” Hera grabbed their arm and spun them towards her, “Galahad, whose blood is it?”
The amount of horror in their eyes was enough to make her blood run cold, but their answer was far worse.