Gamma City Blues – Arc 03 (Falling) – Report 04

Officer Eddie Page had blood on his hands. It wasn’t a new occurrence. There was a sting across the knuckles that came with beating someone to a bloody pulp. It left him feeling a little high, and if he’d been the sort of man given to self reflection he might have noticed his dopamine levels spiked up after an “aggressive arrest” to levels that suggested a psychological addiction to the violence he inflicted. That wasn’t something he wanted to notice though. All he wanted was to feel the kick of it, again and again.

Punish the guilty and get a reward. The only thing better than that was punishing another cop. That had been a sublime thing. He would always remember the feel of Joe Greensmith’s face as the bones in it cracked. He hadn’t been there when they’d given Joe’s son the same treatment, but he heard the daughter had joined the force too, so there was always hope for another high like the last one.

The person laying on the ground wasn’t as exciting by comparison, but he was guilty of something. Probably. It didn’t particularly matter to Eddie. All he had do was to say that he’d seen the guy go for a weapon. It was oh so scary on the streets – bad guys were everywhere – and he’d had to keep himself and his partner safe. Instincts had taken over (which was at least truthful, though not in a sense that Eddie would ever confess to).

Once upon a time, a cop like Eddie would have shot the guy laying before him. It was a simple formula; see someone you don’t like, provoke a tense situation, and give free reign to your worst impulses under the cover of ‘self preservation’. Eddie had played that game a few times, and if he’d had a particularly bad week he wouldn’t hesitate to put someone down for giving him too much grief. Or if he thought they looked like they’d give him too much grief.

Fatal shootings always demanded a review though, and those came at the expense of paid time on duty. What was much more effective was the kind of pure physical brutality that left the victim a pile of agony, but which their bio-mods could repair in the course of a day or two. No lasting marks for a judge to see, or a jury to feel sympathetic over.

Not that it ever came to a trial. Everyone knew they could file charges for Criminal Assault in cases of police brutality, but everyone also knew that those cases were virtually unwinnable in the Gamma City Court system, and that was just how Eddie Page liked it.

What he didn’t like was the automated assignments that Central Dispatch assigned to him while he was on the clock. He was rubbing his hands, enjoying both the lingering pain in his knuckles as well as the incoherent groans from the wreck of a man at his feet, when the next pile of work orders dropped into his queue.

“You get anything good this time?” Eddie’s partner Mark asked.

“Don’t know,” Eddie said. “I need to file the report on this one.”

“I got two priority jobs,” Mark said. “Dispatch must be swamped tonight.”

“Nah this is typical,” Eddie said. “Work always comes in waves. Gimme a second to make up something here and I’ll check what they dumped on me.”

Eddie threw together a quick report on the incident that lead to the altercation he’d just been in.

The truth of the matter was simple. Eddie had seen a boy (correction: thuggish looking foreigner of indeterminate age) and had stopped the youth to hassle him about the clothes he wore (correction: had approached the man who was acting erratically, and asked the disturbed individual the standard set of approved questions to determine the state of the individual and the safety of those in the area). When the boy stammered back a “what are you stopping me for? I haven’t done anything wrong!” (correction: The thug became agitated and showed signs of escalating the situation with a violence), Eddie then punched him, breaking the boy’s nose, and asked him what right he thought he had to be in Gamma City (correction: Officer Page followed departmental procedure and resorted to “Hard Empty Hand Control Techniques” to regain control of the situation without endangering the numerous innocent bystanders.)

Eddied continued on in that manner for another few paragraphs, largely copying the text from the hundreds of other incident reports he’d submitted for similar events.

Zai watched him finish filing his report and slipped the work order to investigate Carlton Merriweather’s death into the long list of tasks that awaited Eddie Page’s perusal.

There was nothing unusual about the ticket authorizing Carlton Merriweather’s murder investigation. Like most people of his social standing, Carlton hadn’t left behind enough of a life insurance policy to cover a full investigation into his demise. On a busy night, Eddie didn’t give the work order even ten seconds of attention before tossing it off to his Cognitive Partner for data processing.

In theory, the Cognitive Partner was supposed to assemble the easily verifiable data and present a tentative finding to the officer, who would then follow up on leads, interview witnesses and close the investigation without wasting time on tedious work that an electronic agent could perform better.

In practice, Cognitive Partners could craft a solid enough narrative that it sounded convincing to nine out of ten human jurors and eleven out of ten artificial ones. A good defense lawyer knew the kinds of thing to look for in a CP generated case, but most of the lowlifes Eddie saw himself arresting couldn’t afford anything beyond the free AttorneyBot that the court assigned them. And anyone who could, would probably be able to get away with whatever they’d done anyways. That was why Eddie never bothered rich people.

Or at least never bothered rich people until Zai made him do so.

Everyone makes mistakes. People are built to do that. It’s what gives them creativity and the ability to learn. In Zai’s case the mistakes she made with Carlton’s file were specifically crafted to snarl in the Cognitive Partner’s logic structures and induce it to make the kind of requests it should have never attempted on its own.

Carlton Merriweather died in an area that wasn’t covered by the EyeGrid. He had to die there since he had no actual body to appear before a working camera. As such, there was no reason for Eddie Page’s Cognitive Partner to reach out and try to collect the relevant EyeGrid records surrounding the time and place where the murder occurred.

Zai’s malicious data jumped through a loophole in the Cognitive Partner’s code, a hastily knocked out algorithm which hadn’t considered how to handle a date which was before the dawn of time.  Zai knew exactly how it would handle that input and watched with satisfaction as Eddie’s expert system rolled the number around, truncating bita off to make it fit into a workable date range. Once it had “fixed the date”, it mindlessly spit out a request to the EyeGrid archive system to return a stream of what the cameras had recorded years previously and in a completely different part of the city.

Stealing from the archive in the time window Harp proposed wasn’t possible. Or Ai couldn’t think of a method of safely pulling it off. But why steal when you could take the information you wanted legitimately?

Within the systems watching the EyeGrid archive an alert was raised the moment the request from Eddie Page’s Cognitive Partner was received. There were thousands of requests made of the EyeGrid archive every day. Most of those were for information within a recent time span. The ones which asked for data that had been placed in offline storage were uncommon enough that they rated automatic review. The review bots scanned the datastream as it was transmitted. Facial recognition made several critical matches in the images that were being sent, and a deeper level warning system was engaged.

The deep agents tried to terminate the datastream, but were rebuffed because the request came from a verified source pursuant to an active murder investigation. Had the deep agents possessed the permission to override that lock out they would have but theirs was a subtle mission and the capacity of edit or delete privileged requests of the archive data would have made them too easy to detect and counter.

So they did the next best thing. They alerted their master.

In Tython’s system, an agent which was supposed to remain asleep forever woke at the notification it was never supposed to receive. After verifying the alert was properly signed and involved data relevant to its master, it sent a single innocuous packet to the human it was built to report to.

Zai couldn’t see further into the Tython web than that. She desperately wanted to know who was pulling the strings but had to settle for predicting what the hidden human controller would do with the information they’d just received.

Harp had provided them with a copy of the manifest, and together the three of them had pieced out the relevant backups that they needed access to. Those archive files were streaming into Eddie’s Cognitive Partner at the speed of light and through a backdoor that Zai had burrowed into the unwitting CP, the data was being passed on invisibly to Harp and Ai who were already watching it.

The whole transfer took only a few minutes. The EyeGrid files weren’t especially large but the pipe out of the archive facility was kept intentionally small to prevent widescale theft if the security was ever breached. Ai’s answer to that had been to utilize the data they’d received previously to make sure their theft was highly targeted and would go unnoticed by anyone except those who were actively trying to keep it a secret.

For its part, the Cognitive Partner received the data from the EyeGrid, parsed it for matches to Carlton Merriweather, found nothing, and dutifully deleted the records, supplying a confirmation code of its actions to the archive. As far as the GCPD was concerned, the EyeGrid request had yielded nothing of value, just like most such requests and the case sputtered out for a lack of useful evidence.

Eddie was informed of the lack of actionable data available in relation to the Merriweather murder and confirmed the “Close Case” command indicating that he had “researched the crime to the fullest extent possible and saw no likelihood that it was more than a isolated and non-repeating case of under-socialized psychotic behavior.”

For Eddie, that was as far as the Merriweather case went. Lost amid thousands of other cases Eddie wouldn’t have been able to accurately testify whether he worked on it or not even under threat of pain or death. Plus he’d managed to score a half dozen high paying work orders in the bundle that made the Merriweather investigation forgettable even if the Cognitive Partner had produced an airtight case against someone.

There were other actors though who paid much closer attention to the case of Carlton Merriweather.

From within Tython, barely discrete data probes were launched.

Who had requested the datastream which showed the human master in revealing  company? A cop.

Why was a cop snooping around in data which was that old? Because of a murder investigation.

What did a murder investigation have to do with events which happened years ago? Nothing.

Who was killed? Carlton Merriweather.

How was he connected to their human master? He wasn’t. Extensive checks revealed that he was nobody special, and certainly not involved in anything relevant to their master.

Why did his death warrant a request for archive data? It didn’t. The request was in error.

No. The request had been tampered with. The date on the request was intentionally scrambled to yield access to their master’s data.

Who tampered with the date? The original report had the correct date on it. The request to the archive was for the wrong date.

Conclusion: Officer Eddie Page slipped in a request for data he should never have needed.

Why did Officer Page ask for the data?

Hypothesis: Officer Page is one of the agents within the GCPD who was responsible for the NME incident, and is connected with the organization which is working to expose Tython’s NME Cure program.

Support: Officer Page’s account received an unusual influx of money due to a statistically unlikely collection of high paying cases. This was a prime method for a connected organization to make a payout to an operative.

Several minutes passed and then a response from the master arrived.

Hypothesis accepted.

One second later, Officer Page’s Cognitive Partner went offline. Eddie thought nothing of it. His unit performed poorly from time to time and usually just needed a night to reset itself. In the interim though he was blocked from sending any outgoing datafiles, but as far as he knew he didn’t have anything that he needed to upload anyways.

It was six hours before Eddie got off his shift. Four hours after that, he was alone in his car.

That was the remaining extent of Officer Eddie Page’s life span.

He saw the NME that had been sent after him.

He felt the sheer force it exerted when it ripped his car in half, and that was the last thing he ever felt.

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