Even with better than average bio-mods, chasing down a fleeing suspect ranked at the bottom end of Ai’s favorite things to do.
She’d read stories of people who could move through the city like they were a part of it. Urban runners, for whom concrete, and steel, and glass, were as much a part of them as blood and bone. They spoke of the wild exhilaration that accompanied becoming one with their environment. When a free runner was in the groove, gravity dropped away and distance became a joy, not an obstacle. It was a beautiful narrative, but Ai had never found herself even close to living that dream.
“Doing a lot of work there Greensmith,” Curtweather said, doubtlessly watching her heartbeat and respiration.
He sitting comfortably in their cruiser, leisurely navigating it through the traffic choked streets of the Cleanwalk blocks.
Cleanwalk was the official name for a series of development blocks in Gamma City. It wasn’t a planned community, but rather an amalgamation of several different areas that housed things like like one of the major waste reclamation centers for Gamma City, the largest power station for the outer ring communities and several abandoned warehouses that had been repurposed to serve as “municipal citizen storage centers” (aka shelters for the city’s ever growing number of homeless).
The suspect had the advantage of familiarity with the blocked streets and cluttered back alleys whereas Ai was forced to rely on data from the city’s Eye Grid. The half blind and poorly maintained Eye Grid which, as usual, was missing functional equipment at several of the more problematic intersections.
Ai scrambled over a small wooden gate that intersected an alley for no apparent reason only to watch her target duck behind a stack of black plastic boxes. The boxes smelled like they held raw sewage but the real problem they posed was that they cut Ai’s line of sight on the fleeing suspect long enough that she couldn’t be sure which path they took at the next intersection.
None of the back alleys were wider than two people across and the haphazardly arranged stacks of sewage boxes limited the space even further.
“A strike for the orbital laser arrays would do this place a world of good,” Ai grumbled.
“I could arrange that if you want, but you’d probably want to get to a minimum safe distance first,” Zai said.
“How far would that be?” Ai asked
“Delta City would probably wouldn’t feel the blast,” Zai said.
“I’ll keep that in mind,” Ai said. “Any luck spotting our runner?”
“Yeah, he’s heading up to the rooftops,” Zai said.
“Damn, do we have any aerial units in the vicinity?” Ai asked.
“We-the-police? No.” Zai said. “If you want this guy bad enough though I could commandeer one of the package transport shuttles.”
“No, this one’s either clean police work or he gets away.” Ai said, hoisting herself up a flimsy drain pipe.
“You’re not in shape to keep this up indefinitely,” Zai said.
“I’m well aware,” Ai said, seeing her vitals well outside any zone that could be labeled comfortable.
“You could be though!” Zai said. “Just say the word and I’ll muscle you up in your sleep. You won’t even need to spend any time working out!”
“You are evil tempter sometimes,” Ai said, gritting her teeth as one of the drain pipe’s fasteners popped loose. She was twenty feet up with twenty more to go and she could see that the newly loosened bolt was not alone in having detached from the wall.
“I should change my avatar to snake then?” Zai asked.
“No, because despite how much this sucks, I’m still not going to bite,” Ai said. “I’m not supposed to have hyper-muscle mods, they don’t pay me enough for that.”
“Some people don’t need mods to have exceptional strength,” Zai said.
“True, they just need to eat better than I do, exercise more than I do, and sleep more than I do.”
“And you don’t have time to eat right, exercise, or sleep?”
“Those are all on my To Do list,” Ai said.
“Just saying that might make things like this a bit easier.” For an artificial intelligence, Zai’s smugness sounded disturbingly natural.
Ai didn’t waste time with a reply. She wasn’t in bad physical shape she thought, she just wasn’t a machine sculpted hunk of overdeveloped physique like the guy she was chasing.
She hauled herself up to the top of the building just in time to see him effortlessly make a leap to the next roof over. The leap wasn’t inhumanely far, and the neighboring building was shorter than the one they’d climbed but Ai was not looking forward to repeating the runner’s feat.
“Runner’s gone to the roofs,” Ai said into her official police comm channel. “My visual feed has a location to form a perimeter around.”
“Form a perimeter?” Curtweather asked. “This is a robbery in Cleanwalk, those don’t get perimeters, those get one line reports that hit an auto-delete rule in the Captain’s inbox.”
“This guy literally robbed an old lady, stole her store’s receipts for the day and knocked her down, breaking her hip. Will you at least put the sirens on and run him down if you see him make it to the street.”
“Can’t do that Greensmith,” Curtweather said. “Might damage city property. The bumpers on these cruisers are a bit touchy sometimes.”
“I’m not saying to run him over, just block his retreat,” Ai said.
“And why would a dangerous criminal like that stop for me?” Curtweather asked. The raw amusement in his voice grated on Ai’s nerves a little.
“You have a gun don’t you?” Ai aske. “Try, I don’t know, pointing it at him!”
She was making a bigger deal out of the crime than necessary. Most of the GCPD would have filed a report and forgotten about both the criminal and the crime before the electrons in Captain James’ system flipped the first bit from zero to one to notify her a report had been submitted.
For that, Ai wanted to punch everyone at the station, up to and including Captain James, but the suspect she pursued held more value than as just a stand-in to vent her displeasure on.
The “robbery” was less an unexpected occurrence and more a weekly transaction which insured the businesses continued safety from “accidents and mischief”. It was simply “bad luck” which had put Curtweather and Ai on patrol at the store right as the transaction began. That the suspect reacted poorly to their presence might have been due to rumors of another enforcer being fed to the nano-swarm that lived in the sewers and pre-decomposed the sludge that was headed to the treatment facility.
Ai was proud of that rumor. It hadn’t been easy to get to take root, especially without an actual missing person to tie it to. In hindsight however she had all sorts of questions about what she had been thinking.
“I don’t think he’ll be able to get into position,” Zai said. “Our runner isn’t heading down yet.”
“I could just shoot him, couldn’t I?”
“The suspect? Technically no, but history suggests that you wouldn’t face any actual consequences if you did so.” Zai said.
“Not the suspect, Curtweather.”
“Same answer,” Zai said.
“Greensmith, one bullet from my gun is worth ten old lady hips, not to mention what shooting at a fellow human being would do to my delicate sensibilities. Advise that you continue with foot pursuit unless it would endanger materiel or personnel of the GCPD.”
The last bit was a mangled quote from the GCPD Standard Procedures manual. Ai’s fellow cops seemed to enjoy misquoting that section at every possible opportunity since it covered everything from entering an active combat site to getting out of bed in the morning. Orders from Dispatch could override that excuse but those only tended to arrive when there was something of “significant value” on the line. “Significant value” being at least ten times Ai’s yearly salary or more.
“Advice received,” Ai stated for the record, omitting the “and rejected” that she mentally appended as she leapt to the next building.
Adrenaline surged through her veins (a gift from Zai) as she hurled herself across a forty foot drop. Falling wouldn’t have been necessarily fatal. With the right landing and some bio-tech repairs, Ai probably would have been able to walk away from it within a few minutes. Presuming of course that whatever toxins were stored in the barrels below didn’t melt her on contact.
That cheerful thought, and the chemical surge that came with it sent Ai well past the danger point.
She didn’t have the dexterity to do a fancy roll to bleed off her excess momentum so she fell and spun forward landing hard against the roof. With Zai managing the pain inhibitor drugs though Ai was able to rise back up and keep running in less than a blink. That was fortunate because as she rose she saw the runner dive off the top of the building.
“There’s an old access ladder on the side of the other building,” Zai said. “He’s climbing down it now.”
“Great, I have a terrible idea!” Ai said.
When she reached the edge of the building, she too dove off it. Unlike the runner though she didn’t grab the ladder and land on its steps. Instead she grabbed the rails with her gloved hands and let herself slide down and crash into the runner below her sending them both tumbling to the alley below.
Their landing wasn’t pretty. The alley wasn’t storing sewage. Instead it was full of pallets of badly expired food that was destined to be reprocessed and served in the “municipal civilian storage centers”.
The plus side was that the “former-food products” broke their fall well enough that neither Ai nor the runner shattered any bones when they landed. The less pleasant result was that neither could move for a few second due to the overwhelming stench convincing their breath monitors that they were under a chemical attack.
The runner turned blindly to continue fleeing only to run into the barrel of Ai’s gun.
“No, we’re not doing any more of that,” she said, whispering inner blessings to Zai for disabling her olfactory sense.
The runner, lacking Ai’s intelligent mods, responded by vomiting.
“Gonna need a clean up team,” Ai said on the police band. “More than one. All of them even.”
“Oh I can’t wait to see this.” Curtweather’s laughter didn’t sound like this was going to end any time soon. Ai endured that though by pairing it with the knowledge that it meant he wouldn’t be joining her before the cleaners arrived.
“Get me out of here!” the runner said, fighting to hold his stomach in check.
Ai looped a synthetic audio feed in place of the live one. In the fake audio that went to the official record, she read the runner his rights and they had no further conversation while she cuffed him. They’re real exchange was somewhat different though.
“We’ll be out of here in five seconds, I just need one name,” Ai said.
“What name? I don’t have any names for you,” the runner added a few choice epithets proving that he did indeed have names for Ai, just not ones she would repeat.
“This is simple, tell me who you’re enforcing for, and I’ll charge you for robbery,” Ai said. “Try to hold out and we stay here till my partner gets here, then we take you into the sewers.”
“What do I care about the sewers?” the runner said. He was taller than Ai, a pale, blonde haired wannabe tough guy. Not tough enough to shrug off a bullet though.
“Department’s got a policy on the maximum number of small timers like you we can bring in,” Ai said.
“So you gotta let me go then!” the runner said.
“No, we just have to make…other arrangements for your disposition.”
“For my what?”
“Not enough cells for all the bodies we could bring in, so we have to do something else with them. Fortunately Cleanwalk’s got a lot of options for recycling.”
“The swarm’s real?”
“It’s amazing the kind of things you can model after piranha,” Ai said. “But that’s a mess, or more of a mess. All I need is a name, and you go down for Robbery, Personal, not Corporate. No one will have any idea you talked.”
“Guswell. I work for the Guswell family, Nicky Guswell, he’s the guy.”
Ai blinked. Most guys who worked small time enforcement rackets weren’t that smart. Or at least that was what her father had always said. Still, all she needed was a name, it didn’t actually matter if the runner worked for him, just that Guswell was someone who could plausibly be running the local protection services.
“You tapped into runner boy’s comm net yet?” Ai asked.
“Yeah, we’ll see who he really reports into in about…oh look there he goes now.”
“Looks like we have plans for the evening then,” Ai said. A wicked smile curled her lips up and the runner’s eyes widened with the sort of fear that comes from wondering if you’ve made a terrible, terrible mistake.