Ryard and Sirin led two captives before them as the third prisoner was dragged by the fishmonger’s drone upon a collapsable gurney across the pavement of the residential thoroughfare. Red light crested the horizon as the wind picked up, howling like a mad god between the tight, twisting spires of the southern block’s industrial district, that opened before the weary party to a massive clearing enclosed by a high wall, patrolled by armored guards visible through magnesium aluminate encased embrasures, behind which rose the enormous, angular facade of KSRU Headquarters. A large motley crowd stood before the outer wall, waving placards and homemade signs, shouting and chanting against the institution with chaotic fervor. Someone had erected a polymer effigy of Acelin Syzr, hands stained with ersatz blood, to the left of the portal-bound path. A few members of the agitated mass slammed their fists vainly against the broad, flat gate of the barbican. A newly assembled cacograph on the gate read ‘murdrers.’
Ryard scryed the crowd and hesitated before the wide, low-walled monochrome lane which let up to the outer gate of the crowded defensive perimeter, face heavy with exhaustion and apprehension. Sirin halted beside her companion and pressed a small button upon the side of her helm.
“Captain Raimer, do you copy?”
“Copy, Corporal. At the gate?”
“Just got back. Crowd appears volatile. Need space cleared for entry.”
“Afraid of your own people, fawner?” The red tattooed man sneered to the CAV-keep over his shoulder with a clatter of metallic restraints.
“As you are aware, electricity will flood your body if you stray over twenty feet from me,” Sirin interjected flatly, “What you may be unaware of is that this corrective measure can be initiated manually.” She nodded to Ryard. “He inveigned against it. Continue in your petulance and he might change his mind.” The prisoner scowled at the woman before looking to Ryard uncertainly, then to the seething mass before the imposing alabaster wall.
Ryard and Sirin led their captives up the wide paved incline as a squad of plated KSRU officers wielding burnished alumina shields emerged from the barbican and swiftly cordoned off the entrance. Eyes and veins bulging, the mob screamed, cursed and spat at the armored agents, some throwing objects to hand, pieces of detritus recovered from the nearby processing plants. A few attempted to break the cordon, but were, with little effort pushed back by the white clad auxiliary officers.
When the wrathful multitude had been suppressed, the party passed through the division in the sea of bodies to the interior of the partition as the shielded guards closed the gate behind them. In the courtyard, the wayfarers were met by the dark-haired Captain, Jean Raimer, whose tan, perpetually displeased visage Ryard recalled from his previous visit. Sirin bolted upright and saluted, holding the pose until the gesture was returned. The Captain removed his helmet and held it in the crook of his arm as he surveyed the bound trio and their sleepless captors.
“Pleased to see you made it through safely. Crowds been at the gate for hours. Corporal, take our new guests to processing. Raffin will need your statement on the,” he gestured to the reavers, “Incident.”
“Come with me, Mr. Vancing.”
“You look worried. Is something wrong?”
“Just come with me.”
Ryard left Sirin and the barbican retinue in perplexity and accompanied Raimer to the citadel, passing beyond the lobby and great hall to a spacious, dimly lit study on the second floor where Tyser Lanning and Vera Straker waited. Lanning paced nervously beside a bookshelf while Straker sat a desk in the back of the smokey room, a small sediment filled tray before her, thick with discarded cigarette stubs.
“You wanted to see me?” Ryard queried after a lengthy silence.
The woman gestured hastily to two chairs before her paper piled desk. “Take a seat. You too, Captain.”
Raimer and Ryard settled into the two chairs before the desk, the latter folding his hands in his lap, leaning forward expectantly.
“Where’s The Colonel?” Ryard asked, curiosity and impatience overwhelming his tact.
Straker adjusted her austere white garb and took a long drag on her cigarette, her expression grim and exhaled before addressing the gathering.
“What I am about to say does not leave this room.”
Raimer nodded. Ryard looked around, confused. “What happened?”
“Yesterday, at Consortium Hall, a one Rachael Ryan Hastings made an attempt on Eidos Kryos’ life.”
Ryard bolted upright.
“She, unsurprisingly, failed, and was dispatched by Ermin Gild’s security detail. Mr. Kryos does not attend meetings in person, but communicates through a telesomatic interface, which is, to the naked eye, indistinguishable from a real person. A precautionary measure. Clearly, the would-be assassin did not know this or the attempt would not have taken place. We presently have only one lead concerning the case. You asked about The Colonel, Mr. Vancing. He went to follow up this lead directly. Danzig Kleiner, the man who attacked Casja Fawnell had a peculiar weapon on him during his encounter with Colonel Syzr. A sychitin blade. So did the assassin. The Colonel believes the supplier for Kleiner and Hastings are one and the same. If so, its possible the merchant or merchants responsible for dispensing the blades knows who commissioned the assassination, if they themselves were not responsible.”
“There’s more. Last night, Casja Fawnell was struck by a vehicle along the Kiflin Line CAV-way.” Straker met Ryard’s gaze, her own melancholic. “She was killed instantly.”
Ryard’s mouth parted. He leaned back in the chair, staring at nothing. For half a minute, no one spoke.
“I… I just spoke with her. She was going public…” Ryard tensed and jolted forward, anger shining in his eyes. “Was it Kleiner?”
Lanning shook his head. “Just a freak accident.”
“We don’t know that for certain,” Straker cautioned.
“What else could it be?” Raimer interjected flippantly.
Lanning moved to stand before the tinted window of the study as dawn broke above the spires beyond, rain smattering pane and sill. “She went to eat with a friend at a restaurant in the mid-tier called ‘Harborage,’ adjacent to the line. When she left, she must have taken her time on the crosswalk, maybe got distracted, and was hit by an inbound lev-han headed for the market district.”
“Who was the friend?”
“Dunno. Haven’t been able to ID the person from the available footage.”
“There’s a recording?”
“How do you have access to recordings from private premises?”
“All private feeds connected to Affinity Network are accessible by the Security Commission district substations. However, approval of access can’t legally be granted by the Commission. Normally, citizens are only allowed to view feeds with the assent of both the associated surveillance company and the individual or individuals that hired them. Unrestricted district-wide access was part of our arrangement with the mayoral convention.”
“May I see it?”
Lanning looked to Straker. After a long look at Ryard’s grim, desperate face, she nodded.