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  • Michael Travis

Below and Above 1

By M. A. Travis




Early Monday morning in the city. Still dark out with soft snow making its way down the skinny corridors between the tall buildings, periodically being lit by the neon signs as they pass by; eventually landing on the glass littered pavement in front of a convenience store.

Few curious nightlife deplorables gathered behind the police barrier. The smell of burning circuitry and hydraulic oil was lingering in the air. A beat-up classic muscle car pulled up from around the corner and stopped a few yards from the line. A tall figure in a trench coat stopped out and walked towards the scene leaving a trail of pointed footprints in the thin layer of snow.

“Hold it!” One of the officers barked at the figure after seeing it walk towards with a purpose. The figure without turning towards the officer lifted its hand flashing a cyber badge of a detective and the officer waved the figure through.

The muffled crunching sound of the figure walking over snow was replaced by keen cracking of broken glass beneath. Stepping over the blown out storefront window the figure noticed a sophisticated security system over the now jammed door; too sophisticated for a simple convenience store. The figure continued towards the cops mingling behind the counter stepping over smoldering goods and merchandise racks. One of the cops turned and pointed a flashlight towards the figure.

“I’ll be damned! Detective Levi? You look like crap, I barely recognized you.” He proclaimed.

“Nobody looks good with an LED light in their face at three in the morning” Blinded by the light Levi raised hand to see the semi-familiar voice.

“Harris? I thought you would retire by now.” He continued as the seasoned cop with a classic mustache lowered the light.

“Yeah, they got me watching over the pups.” He nodded at the other young officer who was busy looking through papers in the back while covering his nose. There was a strong smell of burnt plastic, circuits and oil in the air from an obvious blast.

“What you got?” Levi asked as he was looking at the gruesome scene of two robotic bodies decimated by the blast in front of the counter and a deceased male in the back of the store.

“The blast came from behind the counter. Maybe a robbery gone awry?” Harris shrugged.

“Who brings a bomb to a robbery?” Levi replied.

“This is Kaplin’s turf isn’t it?” He continued

“I think it is, but what would they want from a cheap dollar parts store?” Harris raised an eyebrow.

“Got any ID’s on them?”

“The guy in the back is the store owner, Henry Lee. The two bots are his helping hands Min Do and Shin Do.”

“More dead bots, seems to be a lot of that lately.” Levi noted.

“Have not noticed.” Harris wiped his mustache with a sleeve, obviously having no regard for silicone members of the society. Levi knew of this unfortunate side of the police department too well.

“Any connection to Kaplin?” Levi asked.

“No markings, seem to be civilians.” Harris replied.

Levi squatted in front of the bots and produced his own pen light. Bots looked fairly new, probably just kids recently developed.

“How long have they been working here?” Levi asked Harris who directed the same question to the young officer in the back.

“They are fresh off the line, only working here a few months.” The cop in the back replied after briefly taking hand off his nose to check the information on his arm tablet.

Levi stood up and walked over to look at the owner and examined him.

“This one was killed before the blast.” He mumbled.

“Huh?” Both Harris and the young cop turned their attention to Levi.

“Look at the angle of the body; it's not matching the blast angle.” Levi stated.

“If you say so.” Harris took off his hat and was scratching his head.

Obviously nothing has changed; the cops of this dirty city have no care for little guys in this forgotten neighborhood. Levi walked over to the deceased. The body was laying face down on the floor with arms out covering the majority of the face. He bent down to take a closer look and after a few moments suddenly rolled the body over.

“Hey! You’re not supposed to touch the body until forensics gets here!” The young officer barked at Levi who ignored him. 

The man’s face was pale. Half of it was altered with expensive cybernetics, it would have been barely noticeable if not for black streaks coming from an electronic bug stuck to it. Levi reached into his breast pocket and produced a plastic evidence container and popped the bug into it using the back of his flashlight pen.

Young officer moved to stop Levi but Harris held him back.

“You can write a report to the captain if you have a problem.” Levi noted to the officer as he was looking closer at the bug in the container.

“Are we done here?” Harris said obviously aggravated with Levi. 

“Yeah I’m done, I’ll take this to the lab for analysis. Good seeing you Harris” Levi put the capsule in his pocket and left the scene. Crime evidence typically may or may not end in the lab. In Levi’s case it will eventually but it will go on a little detour.


-


The orange sun made its first appearance illuminating the “No Swimming, Hazard!” sign at the docks. Levi was exhausted but he loved taking this longer route home. He remembered when he was a kid; he and other orphans swam on the beach and hung out on the docks. Nowadays if you spend more than a few seconds in the water your skin would start peeling off. The corrupt officials have ruined this once beautiful and prosperous city; the dock was now the place to dump all kinds of illegal stuff and substances. Levi was sure if they were to dredge by the docks there would be quite a few murder weapons and even bodies at the bottom.

Levi closed his car window and hit the gas pedal down the still fairly empty freeway passing palm trees along the highway; one of the few still beautiful things left in this city. 

Levi’s apartment building was definitely not beautiful but it was affordable and not in a gang territory. Was fairly quiet too minus an occasional train going by. 

He pulled up in the back and triggered the garage door opener. The door struggled to rollup and after about fifteen inches the motor finally gave out with sparks and smoke coming out of it.

“Uuugh just my luck.” Levi got out of the car and reluctantly squeezed himself underneath the garage door pulling streaks of mud and engine oil along the way. He manually opened the door from the inside, pulled in the car and went back out pulling the now unlocked door down.

“Well at least nobody can hack the motor and steal the car.” He mumbled to himself as he walked to the apartment building entry. He was too tired to worry about the garage right now; just need to find the Super tomorrow.

Scanning his palm he entered the lobby through the secure door hanging his head low, out of habit to avoid security cameras but also from being tired. Levi pushed the elevator button and after several minutes of waiting angrily pushed it again; still nothing at which point he raised his head letting out an angry groan. As he did that his eyes met a piece of paper on the elevator door which read “Out of Order”. Levi could not help but laugh at this level of misfortune and took the stairs. He was the type of a guy that needed privacy but also a drone pad so he paid a premium for the apartment on the top floor with a terrace. Constantly broken elevator and twenty flights of stairs up is the icing on top of that.

As he started walking he thought he could use the exercise after sitting so much being plugged in; by the time he got to the top he hated the idea of this type of exercise. Finally getting to his apartment door he produced a key and opened the heavy steel door. He opted for an old school mechanical lock since cyberlocks are so easy to hack through and the government has all the backdoor keys.

Levi entered the messy apartment plopping his keys and evidence container on the kitchen counter. Thirsty from the stair climbing he filled a glass with bubbly water from the filtration machine, it was out of flavoring and he made a disgusted face from the taste of iodine. He kicked off his shoes and threw the coat onto a hanger in the closet. Now his stomach started to rumble from not eating all day so he decided to make a seaweed and cheese sandwich. The cheese was synthetic but seaweed was home grown and delicious. Levi grew the seaweed himself, the hydroponics tank he got from a yard sale was the best investment he ever made. 

“Here you go Fred.” He broke off a bit of his sandwich and gave it to his pet rat who grabbed it with his tiny hands and quickly nibbled on it. Levi smirked at the white whiskers dancing with joy and sank himself into a fake leather recliner signaling for screen to go on. 

He grumbled at the news as he ate the sandwich and then eventually switched to a silly competition show and fell asleep.


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