Author’s Note: This is the first several pages of a story I am currently working on. I am not sure if I should call it a ‘sample chapter’ because I am not sure if it will be long enough to need chapters when it is done. Enjoy.
They say that here in The Tower, OmegaCorp is the only god that matters. That may as well be true. The company owns everything, the food we eat, the air we breathe, the roof over our heads. Everything. Hell, a huge portion of the population is dependant on body augments to survive, and the company isn’t afraid to repossess its property when payments fall through. OmegaCorp is a cold, unfeeling god, and profit is its only commandment. I am the one they call when someone breaks that commandment. I am the one who seeks out the impure and weak of faith to cleanse them in the name of my god. I am an inquisitor for the god of profit.
That morning was like every other. I awoke in the darkness of my micro-apartment to the electronic screech of my alarm. After a lukewarm shower and a brief thought about shaving, I sat down for another fabricated breakfast. Coffee and toast. The same as every other day. Not that I wouldn’t have minded some variety, but everything that damn fabricator made tasted like burnt toast anyway. The coffee was awful as well, serving only as a vehicle for delicious caffeine. I watched the notifications and newsfeeds stream past my plate, courtesy of the LPD mandated ocular implants. There was a high-priority alert waiting in my inbox but I didn’t bother reading it. Didn’t need to. The top trending headline was ‘Top-Floor Exec Found Dead’ so I was pretty sure I knew what was in the alert. Sure enough, before I could finish my coffee, a call comes through. The caller ID read: ‘Loss Prevention Offices’, I reluctantly answered.
“You know I haven’t even dressed yet, right?” I grumbled.
“I don’t give a fuck! Get some fuckin’ pants on and get up to Floor 5. Now. I will send the case file to your pad. Don’t fuckin’ bother coming in, just get to the scene ASAP.” The Chief Inspector’s booming voice always gave me a migraine when it was projected directly into my brain like that. I wished the implants weren’t mandatory in the LPD, I’d have given anything to be just a plain old baseline human again.
“As soon as I finish my coffee, boss.”
I began to answer but was interrupted with the forceful click of being hung up on.
I found some clean smelling clothes in the pile, luckily I didn’t need an actual uniform, and picked up the usual gear: my gun, my ID, and a standard-issue scanner capable of doing all of the work of a forensics team from one of those cheesy old serials my grandparents used to watch, the ones that always opened with a stupid pun. I threw on my coat and headed out into The Tower. My hallway was as crowded as always and I hardly had time to engage the door locks before I was swept away in the current of humanity.
Like blood through the veins of some massive wild animal, we all eventually flowed to the same place: The massive elevator complex at the center of The Tower, the heart of the beast. I didn’t mind the crowds. I preferred to go unnoticed, anyway, and I took comfort in all of the life swarming around me. The elevator car was empty, apart from me. Not a lot of people from my level ever headed up to the top, after all. Hell, I got enough dirty looks when my ID unlocked the door to get on. Floor 5 was about an hour ride, so I had plenty of time to read the case file.
The victim was one Andrew Banks, some big-shot executive in the Accounting Department. Born to a wealthy, upper-floor family, was known to have inherited his fortune when his father passed away several years ago. According to interviews and tracking data, he had never even been lower than Floor 10. He was last seen on camera entering his apartment late the previous night, apparently intoxicated. The AIs were still tracing his path to see where exactly he came from.
Banks was found dead early that morning after he didn’t show up for work, no apparent cause of death. The cameras showed no one entering or leaving the apartment between his arrival and the discovery of the body. The victim had no criminal record of course, but anyone on Floor 5 was wealthy enough to afford to wash any dirt off their record. No known health problems, but I would have to check his implants when I got there for his recent vital recordings. Banks had several known associates, mostly work friends, three of which were the last people to see him alive.
When the elevator doors opened, it was like I was looking at every mindless consumer’s idea of Heaven. Where my floor was worn-down, dirty, damp, and crammed with people, Floor 5 looked new, clean, lavishly decorated, and nearly devoid of people. They even had plants, real ones, hanging in planters at every hallway intersection. The huge halls were lined with shopping centers and storefronts, just like my floor, but there were none of the small, hole-in-the-wall shops and food stands like I was used to. It was all high-end clothing, luxury goods, and gourmet restaurants.
I proceeded to the smaller capillary halls where the personal housing was located, away from the massive main thoroughfare. It wasn’t hard to find the victim’s apartment. All I had to do was walk for a while and look for the group of reporters being held back by security. I flashed my ID card and they let me in.
The first thing that struck me about Banks’ apartment was the obviously high price of everything in it. A chandelier hung in the lounge over a couple of comfortable looking leather armchairs with matching side-tables. Slumped over in one of the chairs, in front of the long-cold fireplace, was the corpse of Mr. Andrew Banks. There were several more security agents in the room, all dressed in the usual black MegaCorp body armor with masked helmets. I approached the one seemingly in charge and flashed my ID again.
“Thomas Cooper, LP Investigator. You in charge here?”
“Yeah, I was first on the scene, too. Responded to a call from his office when he didn’t show up for work.” He removed his helmet, showing me his military buzz and dark stubble. He struck me as your run-of-the-mill, straight-laced, security officer type.
“No apparent cause of death? What did the victim’s implant data say about his vitals?” I asked.
“A sudden spike in heart rate and stress levels right before he died. I mean, he was also drunk. But that doesn’t seem weird to me.”
“Any signs of a struggle or any attackers?” I was beginning to think this guy wasn’t very bright.
“No, nothing. Me and my boys searched the whole apartment, and there were no signs of a fight.” He said, with a shrug.
“Thanks, but I think I’ll have a look around” I was sure that there was no way that these guys hadn’t missed something.
He nodded and went back to barking the occasional command to the other security officers.
I explored the apartment before checking out the body. The place was huge, probably big enough to fit my apartment ten times over. It had three main rooms: the lounge, a bedroom, a kitchen, and two bathrooms. His apartment was even on the outer edge of The Tower, so he had real windows. There was a breathtaking view of the endless sky, the ground obscured by a thick layer of clouds. It was nice to know that the view was still decent up above the clouds, below was another story. The officer was right, though, seemingly nothing out of place. I approached the body.
Andrew Banks looked a bit older than me, maybe mid-forties or early fifties. It was hard to tell: he had plenty of extra weight around his midsection, and was beginning to go bald. Neither of those helped him look younger. I considered my luck at still having all of my hair, just with a bit of handsome grey. I noticed his pad on the table next to the armchair. Upon inspection, I found that it was just as dead as its former owner. It had been left on all night. Apparently, Mr. Banks was using it just before his death. With a quick glance around to ensure no one was looking, I slipped the pad into my pocket. I figured I could get some useful information off of it later. It’s not like those security guards would know what to do with it anyway. They were only hired for appearances. Very little crime ever happened on the top floors, so they were little more than hall monitors.
I pulled out the scanner and gave the body a quick once over, and it finally showed me the cause of death. The majority of his implants were still active, which was how the officers got his vital records. Yet somehow, every single one of Mr. Banks’ neural implants had catastrophically failed all at once. His brain had been fried.