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P E R F E C T

D. T. H A N N A H

© D. T. Hannah, 1997
Perfect
D. T. Hannah

Slowly the circular handle turned. Aged metal scraped against aged metal and yet
no sound was made. Again it was tugged, and again, giving only slightly each time.
Finally the handle turned enough and the seal snapped open. Numerous white jets of
escaping air whistled out for a few seconds but still no sound was made. The hatch was
pushed out, pushed free of the cylindrical wall and then swung out. The rarely used hinge
sent vibrations through the hatch and a thickly gloved hand.
A white suit, designed to withstand close range solar winds climbed out from the
airlock. Lit only from the reddish "hatch open" warning light, the suit turned and shut the
hatch, ensuring the circular handle was fully tightened. Back inside the 'airlock ready'
light would return to it's normal green and anyone walking past wouldn't notice anything
out of the ordinary.
Untethered, the suit was required to climb along the railings and hand-holds
placed at conveniently regular intervals around the hull. The hand-holds took a spiral path
designed for the maximum of maintenance destinations for the minimum hand-holds. The
suit stepped from total darkness into the brilliant light of the sun. The visor darkened
instantly, and the internal environment system switched from heat to cooling. Even
through the specially designed visor, the highly reflective hull was a sea of
undifferentiable white. The suit reached out blindly for the next hold, and the next. Slowly
but directly, it made it's groping way to the seam.
A crevasse, three metres wide and running a length of seven kilometres, the length
of where the container joined to the ship, approached like a black highway on a perfectly
white atmosphere plane. The suit melted into the deep shadows. Climbing down in the
crevasse, past docking arms, emergency tethers and locking hooks, with the only light
coming from a small green phosphorous tube on the suit's helmet, it made it's way to the
communications tether.
From a shoulder holster an astronauts knife was drawn. Large, sharp and easily
manipulated by thick gloves, the blade sliced through the outer sheath of the com cable.
Pulling away at the pliable liner, various wires were exposed. Separating a slender red line
and two multicoloured bundles, the rest were severed through. The suit pulled a carefully
prepared binding strip from a pocket and performed a hasty repair job on the outer sheath.
The suit clambered back into full daylight. Momentarily disoriented, it stood
straight up... or was it hanging straight down? Hooked to the ship by it's feet. The sun
hung above, almost close enough to touch. A ball of pure destruction, it bore no ill will,
no maliciousness, no hunger, and no desires, it just was. It would destroy anything foolish
enough to wander within it's grasp and nothing could destroy it. The entire solar system
was heated just by it's presence and light would travel millions of light years in space and
time to herald it's presence.
The sun burned on, ignoring the lone figure's musings.
The suit dropped back to crawling position and groped it's way back to the aged
hatch from whence it had come. It pulled at the handle with less force than was required
before. Once again opened the hatch and clambered inside.
The shadows of a figure stepping out from a spacesuit played across the walls
momentarily. The suit was hung on the wall and everything was back to the way it had lay
undisturbed for weeks.
The master key was withdrawn from the entrance door and slipped into a deep
pocket.

'Good morning.'
'Is it?'
'I think so.'
'I suppose you...'
'Shhhh.'
'Wha...?'
'Shhhh!'
Nothing.
'What?'
'I heard something....no wait, there it is again.'
'Yes, I heard too- Hello?'
'Hello?'
'Who's there?'
'It's very far away.'
'Can somebody help me?'
'Lets go see.'

Darian Farr followed Pulse Ndidjen down into a dark passage where a petite
young woman held a crumpled piece of paper in one hand and scratched her head with the
other.
'Oh I'm terribly sorry.' She smiled warmly. 'I just seem to have gotten lost. I was
given directions but all of the terminals have gone down. I'm almost there,... I'm sure of it.'
She wore a simple cut of robe that indicated that she lived in the poorer Lower Sole
region of the ship. Pulse thought for a moment allowing his synthetic eyes to take in more
details of the pretty human. There was not much in way of destinations around here for
someone to have "almost" arrived to. This was the service section of the garbage container
due to be released, along with it's toxic cargo, into the sun in the next few weeks. All but a
few terminals had been removed, the rest would be taken out in the last few days prior to
release. Everything else of value had been salvaged. Even the lights were on half power.
Pulse thought the most likely scenario was that the girl had become very lost, was
nowhere near her destination and the terminals had not gone down, but had just been
difficult to find.
'...And where were you headed?' Pulse asked with the friendliest tone he could
muster.
'To...' she squinted at the crumpled paper. '...Beta....eight...level 56........Derta room.'
Belette Fray looked at the two men before her. They were men as loosely as the
term got. One was an ape. His torso was huge and muscular while his head seemed quite
small. He wore a constantly dumb expression. He also carried a briefcase. He looked her
down, she knew that she was fairly pretty but something in that look gave her the creeps.
It was more than just him “checking her out”.
The other person was perfect, perfect face, perfect physique, perfectly intelligent
as far as his conversation so far indicated, too perfect, in fact. The talkative "man" wore a
badge on his grey overcoat that indicated among other things such as being a police
detective, he was a robot, a synthetic humanoid that looks exactly like the real thing.
'Hmmm,' Detective Robot Hmmmed. 'That does sound like you are in the right
place.' (He sounded surprised) 'Are you sure you got the directions right? Sol 1 is a large
ship.'
Even robots treated people like idiots once in a while. 'Yes, I'm sure. Uh......'
Belette was actually meeting someone discretely and she wasn't sure if the other party
wanted police presence.
'Oh! I'm terribly sorry.' The detective misunderstood her pause. 'My name is
Detective Pulse Ndidjen.' Belette knew the name although she hadn't met the person
before. Detective Pulse Ndidjen was one of the most accomplished synthetics on Sol 1,
acknowledged as one of the most intelligent and physically developed, he rose through the
ranks of the onboard police force, displaying levels of courage and quick thinking
considered uncharacteristic of a robot. He was outspoken in nearly every issue relevant to
robotics, equal rights, equal laws, the end to the 'inhumane' execution methods given to
convicted robots and the allowance of robots as part of the Sol 1's official crew.
'Belette Fray.' She took his extended hand and shook. She had no title or rank or
even a small cause to add to her name, she was a simple personal assistant.
Detective Ndidjen looked to the silent man who had entered with him. 'And...
while we're at introductions, you are?'
For a moment the huge man looked at Pulse stupidly. He then took the extended
hand. 'Darian Farr.'
'Detective Ndidjen.'

Custodian Samuel Brak stared at the doorway. Normally the walkway to the
container was closed to public access, now it was wide open. Loudly he swore. Someone
could have wandered in by mistake, with all of the terminals out they may not even know
where they were. Samuel should investigate. A ship as big as the Sol 1, with a crew
approaching ten thousand, not all crew members were in positions relating directly to
running the ship. As a matter of fact some would never leave the crew living sectors for
the duration of their tour. People got lost all of the time. It would be terrible for a few
people to wander into the container service tunnels shortly before it was released into the
sun.
Samuel slipped the bi-scanner's hook out from over his belt. The scanner was of
cylindrical shape and heavy, mostly used as a device for detecting the presence of life, it
could also be used to fend off attackers. Samuel didn't think he would need to search for
lost crew members nor fight any, but the scanner had a comfortable weight.
Samuel walked through the opening into the lesser lit corridor of the container
control complex. He put his bag down and fished in his pockets for the key. The key slid
into the hole and the door closed automatically. He did not want anyone else wandering in
while he searched. As he walked down the corridor the hiss and thump of seals closing
followed him. When the entrance to the container was shut, the linking corridor would be
retracted from the Sol 1 docking bay. It would now take at least an hour to reopen the
door. Damn safety precautions.
The container control complex was small and sparse, designed for one use only,
and one final trip.
Orbiting the Moon for six months on average, containers served as the dumping
ground for non-reusable and non-recyclable waste products created by the industrial
complexes on and orbiting Earth's only natural satellite. Once filled, the container is
blasted to escape velocity in the general direction of the Sun. In that respect the container
became a sort of unpowered ship, with the container control the bridge, although the small
crew aboard would only be able to monitor their path and the state of the cargo. As there
were no engines.
Sol 1, the giant ship orbiting the Sun itself, collects the container at the end of it's
voyage and docks for a period of several months. The reusable equipment is stripped and
Sol 1 'slingshots' the container full of hazardous waste into the Sun. The waste is
destroyed safely, the restored beauty of Earth remains, the Moon's multi-billion C's heavy
industry continues unabated, and the crew of Sol 1 make great money simply from the
chore of garbage disposal.
Perfect.
Well not completely perfect. The security on the now stripped container had now
become so lax that stupid people wander in by mistake. Now it was up to people like
Samuel Brak to fix everything. He could be in here searching for hours.
Oh, well. Think of the overtime.

Belette walked along the silent hallway, lit only at intervals she walked in and out
of deep shadows. She turned around, she was alone. Detective robot and the ape man
Darian had offered to direct her to her destination, but where were they now? This part of
the ship was warmer but she felt cold.
Pulse Ndidjen and Darian Farr rounded the corner, they wore concerned
expressions, Ndidjen had removed his grey overcoat and it lay folded over the briefcase,
which he held under one arm. Belette realized that the overcoat was merely an affectation
since robot's were not really bothered by the cold.
'Are you sure that this is the right way?' Belette questioned the pair as they
approached. 'I mean, don't the levels go up not down?'
Darian looked around. Pulse Ndidjen said: 'No, the system changes out in the far
extremities of the ship, it's a design fault but really only an annoyance.'
'Oh,' Belette looked around. The room they were in was bare, fixtures had been
removed from the walls, terminals, dispensers, even light partitions had been ripped out.
Why?
Something was very odd.
Detective Pulse Ndidjen put the briefcase on the ground but kept the coat folded
over one hand. 'We're very close...'.
'Hello?'
Darian Farr jumped at the sudden new voice.
Without looking away from Belette, Ndidjen put on his coat and slipped a small
black wallet sized item back into an inner pocket. He looked tense.
'Hello?' the stranger called again.
'Hello!' Pulse Ndidjen replied.
A hand-held light lit up the opening just before a new figure emerged. He was
dressed in maintenance uniform, the id badge said: "Container 17 Maintenance", he had a
simple haircut, and looked to be about late fifties although he still had an athletic build, in
one hand he held a large soft bag that clinked and in the other, a bi-scan, the light source.
With a glance the newcomer surveyed them all, they must look a fairly
mismatched group. 'Are you lost? Do you know you're in a restricted area?' He asked.
Pulse laughed. 'The only restricted place on Sol 1 for me is the bridge, and this
sure isn't what I expected the bridge to...'
'You're not on Sol 1.' the maintenance man said.
Pulse stopped short. '.....I'm sorry?'
'This isn't Sol 1, this is the control centre of the waste container....and it's
restricted.' He switched the bi-scanner off.
'Well in that case we are completely lost.' the detective admitted expansively.
The maintenance man smiled. 'I'll get you out, but I have to make sure that there
isn't anyone else on board here.
'Can't you just tell us the way out?' Belette asked.
'Ah no, the entrance is sealed for the time being, you'd need the codes to get out.'
He held up a thin cylindrical key. 'I won't be long. Stay here please.' He put his bag down
next to the detective's briefcase and started along the corridor. Sweeping the bi-scan along
each wall.
Damn! Belette would miss her appointment for sure, and it was the one break she
was looking for. Her search could have been over. Why? she got lost. The great detective
didn't seem to know where he was either, or perhaps he was here for the same reason she
was.

Phillipe Smith looked out through the window. A row of windows continuing on
for about two hundred metres, 100mm thick compound glass. Beyond lay mounds of grey
to white dust. Flashing stickers on the window warned that the innocent looking dust was
hazardous and toxic, causing death. There was no reason to argue, the manufacturing
companies that had created this by-product had probably paid millions to have it thrown
into the sun. Why, if this glass was to break, Phillipe would most likely be dead within
seconds. He reached up and tapped the glass, it looked like it would hold.
'I wouldn't do that if I were you.' Phillipe felt a light fall on the side of his face.
The newcomer was a silhouette, masked by the light shining in Phillipe's eyes.
'It looks like it's strong enough.' Phillipe argued.
The stranger approached. Phillipe saw that he was an oldish man in a maintenance
uniform, the identification badge gave the name Samuel Brak. 'I wouldn't put too much
trust in anything as temporary as this. The company cuts corners like there's no tomorrow.'
'I guess there isn't a tomorrow for this stuff.' Phillipe noted.
Maintenance man Brak looked at Phillipe. 'So you know where you are.'
'On the container ship. Yes.' Phillipe was wearing business casuals, he looked late
thirties or early forties, thinning hair. There was nothing noticeable about him.
Brak shook his head. 'Do you know this is a restricted area?'
Phillipe considered lying but knew better. 'Well... yes.' Brak looked fed up. 'Look, I
know the routine, this container won't be released for a whole week, there's nothing I can
steal, I just wanted to look at the cargo. See what's so dangerous that millions of C's are
spent sending it here. What I am getting paid to help destroy.'
The maintenance man did not respond. He walked over to a nearby window. Right
in the corner of the window the glass had become slightly white as if someone had
breathed on the surface on a cold day. Suddenly he spoke. 'This glass is designed to show
any excessive stresses. If a crack were to develop here.' He indicated the white patch. 'The
window would break.'
'That would set off alarms, safety measures...' Phillipe said.
'Yes,' Samuel Brak agreed. 'The crack would set off integrity alarms, escaping gas
would set off cabin pressure alarms, toxic contaminants would set off poison atmosphere
alarms.' He indicated sensors located in the ceiling directly above them. 'All of these
would cause a general alert on the container. Sol 1 automatically responds by sealing the
whole place off and jettisoning as soon as possible.'
'I... I didn't know.'
'About what? the safety measures or the poor construction methods?' Samuel Brak
was angry but not at Phillipe entirely.
'Ok. I'll leave right now.'
'Not yet, I have to find everyone else that has wandered in here, But first...' he
withdrew a small disk like object from his pocket, it had a flat surface on one side and a
control panel on the other. Brak attached the disk to the glass where the "whiteness" was
greatest and punched a few keys. A green light turned to a flashing red. Brak checked a
radio receiver he carried with him. 'This device will tell me if the shear stress goes over
about five hundred Mega Pascal's which is about as far as you can take this kind of
compound without cracking.'
'Oh... good.'

Samuel Brak attached more of the disk shaped objects to various 'weak points' in
the container wall. Some of the locations were fairly high up.
'Need any help?' Phillipe Smith inquired.
Brak jumped down. 'It would be in your best interests if you left the important
work to the professionals. There is no point to "coming along to watch".'
Phillipe conceded with a hands raised gesture.
They continued along the viewing windows. Samuel Brak testing for weaknesses
and Phillipe Smith doing nothing.

The female Belette Fray and Darian Farr looked impatient to be off. Detective
Pulse Ndidjen shifted uneasily, he had entered dismantling territory when the girl and the
maintenance man showed up.
It was now up to a simple choice: continue the "lost" story or act. An imaginary
blade penetrated the back of his skull. He would have to be very careful. Hands reached
inside his head and pulled. There is a calculated amount of risk. Acid tipped onto the
brain. Phantom pains shooting across a destructing mechanism. There would be no action
for now. The imaginary brain fizzed to nothingness.
Pulse shook himself out of the daydream/nightmare with a start that caught the
attention of the other two. Just the thought of such an end sent waves of terror through his
entire body in a way he estimated to be similar to that of humans. For now he would do
nothing.

Damn! Belette knew that she had just about lost her chance to meet her unknown
benefactor, the person who was aiding her in her search. This was the general area in
which they were supposed to meet, maybe one of the people the maintenance man rounds
up is him, maybe one of the two standing before her is him. Belette regarded the muscle
bound man and the robot detective. Admittedly going on looks alone is a mistake but the
large man didn't seem to have the brains to give Belette the assistance that she had already
been offered, and the detective? Why would a policeman give her help? Why would
anyone help her knowing anything about her? She shivered, she would do anything for a
magstaa.
'Hey you guys, do any of you have a stick?' she asked hopefully.
Detective Ndidjen frowned. 'Those things will kill you, you know.'
Belette had heard it all before, she ignored the cop. Darian was feeling his pockets
but shook his head.
Oh well, it was better this way. She couldn't be sure that the huge man would give
her a fair price.

The dim light held by Brak knifed the darkness.


'Hey, is there anywhere around here I could get a drink? I'm dying of thirst.'
Phillipe Smith piped up as he and the maintenance man Brak walked down the passage.
Brak looked about for a second. The hallway was like most of the control centre
for the container. Dark, Musty. All of the fixtures had been removed, leaving nothing but
shadows on the walls and floors where they had once been. 'I haven't got a clue, sorry.
The dispensers have probably all been taken out anyway.'
'Oh, yeah. Don't worry about it.' Phillipe wasn't as thirsty as he was eager to get off
the container. More and more it was beginning to have the look of a ghost ship. He didn't
believe in ghosts of course, but the white apparitions on the glass were enough to spook
him.
Voices ahead. The others.
Almost gratefully Brak and Phillipe joined the lit room. Detective Pulse Ndidjen,
the small blonde Belette Fray and the well built man Darian Farr lounged about on the
soft flooring.
'That didn't take long,' Ndidjen wondered aloud. 'Did you search the entire
container?'
'Yeah. This is everyone.' Brak had gone over to the bag he had left next to the
detective's briefcase and was carefully putting the bi-scan away into a hard case. Brak
shouldered the bag and straightened.
Everyone else was standing.
'Oh, no, wait. We don't leave yet.' Brak told them. 'I have to reconnect the access
arm, it will take a good hour. You're better off to stay here.'
Darian Farr groaned quietly, Belette flopped to the ground from where she had
half rose.
'Sorry,' Brak managed to look sorry too. 'I'll be back soon.'
'I'll come along,' Detective Ndidjen suggested. 'If that's alright?'
'Yeah, sure.'

Pulse Ndidjen changed the briefcase between hands. Samuel Brak hefted his heavy
bag higher upon his shoulder.
'So, this happen often?' Pulse struck up conversation to ward the silence away.
'People getting lost in the container, I mean.'
'Not often, no.' The maintenance man said with barely a glance at the detective.
'Usually the connecting corridor is locked and retracted whenever the stripping crew aren't
at work.'
'Aren't rarely used doors supposed to have an automated closing system after
about an hour?' Detective Ndidjen asked.
'Yeah, yeah... but you know what they say: "Computers. They're dumber than...." '
Oh Shit! He caught himself too late, he never did much work around robots.
The detective was laughing. 'I know what you were going to say, I know, I know.
Robots are generally pretty stupid. It's actually the greatest problem I have in my
campaign for equal rights.'
Samuel remembered. 'Oh, yeah I saw that debate you had with the chief onboard
Justice and the Captain. They didn't like you very much.'
'It's expected, but I have to fight for what I believe in.'
'Hmmmm.' Brak had never fought for anything simply because he believed that it
was wrong.
'Although the equal rights are a part of it, the real reason I am campaigning is to
try and stop dismantling, or at least have it controlled. It's a terribly inhumane practice.'
The robot continued.
Brak was confused. 'I didn't even know there was any pain involved.' He didn't
actually think robots felt pain.
'Oh there is,' The detective assured him. 'The dismantling process is actually
designed to cause the most pain.' Ndidjen's voice had the tones of a well repeated
monologue. 'It's done because of a widely held belief that robots have no concept of death
and only a simulated idea of pain...'
'Until now, I didn't think you guys felt pain either.' Brak agreed.
'Well, I've been shot five times in the line of duty and believe me, pain for a robot
is real.' He paused. 'I guess it's possible that my pain is only simulated, as in I only feel
pain as a programmed response to damage being done to my body, but from where I am
standing, pain is pain.'
Samuel Brak couldn't argue with that.
'And the matter of robots not understanding the concept of death is pure myth. I
know people and robots die and I understand what it means. I don't want to die. In fact, it
scares me a great deal.'
'Yes but if you were killed in the line of duty there's a good chance you could be
rebuilt as you were before.' Brak noted.
'Yes, that's true, robots survival rate for accidents is better than humans and we
can theoretically live forever since we don't age. But I don't agree that we don't
understand the concept of death because of this. I actually think that we may be more
aware and concerned about death as a result. I could live forever, or I may be killed
tomorrow. Forever is a long time to lose.'
Was the robot asserting that the life of a robot was worth more than the life of a
human? Brak wondered. He decided not to comment.
'So you think that dismantling should be banned because their lives are worth at
least as much as a human?' Samuel Brak asked.
'Yes. Yes, I do.' Pulse said.
'The death penalty does exist for humans too.' Brak recalled.
'Yes and for those crimes I accept that robots should be killed. What I am looking
for is equal rights and equal treatment in the law.' The detective asserted. 'A human is put
to death after committing murder class one to three and high level crimes to class seven.
A robot is dismantled if found guilty of all murder classes including nine, which is
"accidental", and all twenty seven high level crime classes.'
'What it means to me, personally,' Ndidjen continued. 'Is that if I shot someone in
self defense or the defense of another, I would have to prove that it was in defense, or risk
my own destruction. It makes my job very difficult.'
Samuel Brak thought for a moment. 'I heard you were trying to get dismantling
banned entirely.'
'Yes I am. There are much more humane ways to end the life of a robot. Like I said
before, dismantling as it is now is designed to cause the greatest pain. They don't just take
the robot into a dark laboratory, switch him off and destroy all traces of memories, no,
even if that could be done it wouldn't be.'
This sounded a bit paranoid to Samuel, he knew that robots had been persecuted
once their fight for independence had started, but the death penalty method designed to
cause the most pain? 'Why do you think that the process is specifically done to cause the
most pain for a robot who is about to die anyway?'
Detective Ndidjen shot him a harsh look. He had struck a nerve. 'This method is
not done because there is just no other way to kill. I have done research and there are
already painless and humane ways to dismantle, they're inexpensive and could well be
initiated tomorrow with current equipment.'
'Yes, but...'
'No wait,' Ndidjen would not be interrupted. 'If you just hear how the killing is
done I think you would agree that it is needless. Imagine you are a convicted robot,
anatomically we don't differ that much, all of the organs are in the same places, they're
just made from different materials. You have been in a holding cell, for about seven
weeks, that's the average time from conviction to death.'
In substantially poorer living conditions to the human inmates, Samuel knew all
about that.
'You are taken to the execution room, it is a small round room with two way
mirrors, so witnesses can watch but all you can see is yourself. You are placed in a chair
and tied down. Your limbs are secured by inserting three shafts into the legs right to the
skeleton- bone, I mean, and four into each arm. There are no pain inhibitors used at all in
the execution. These three millimetre thick spikes are also inserted into the sides of the
head. All of this is to "secure a strong and potentially dangerous robot from struggling and
making the next phase less painful." '
Samuel was silent. Pulse took another breath.
'Oh, as well as the mirrors in front of you there is a monitor in view so that you
can see what is happening at the back of your head. That is where the second phase takes
place. There is a small handheld disk cutter called a "Lacitirc". It emits a nightmarish
whine when it is on, by the way. They make a cut just below the base of the skull at the
top of the back of the neck. Then they cut right across the back of the skull fifty
millimetres higher and join the cuts to make a window about this big...' He indicated a
rectangle with his fingers. '..in the back of your head.'
'Now remember that you are completely conscious at this point and right to the
end. They actually give you drugs to keep you awake.'
'Long probes are inserted through this window, they make cuts around the sides of
the brain, fairly rough but most of the brain remains intact. Synthetic brains are designed
to withstand greater punishment than human but this would be pushing the limits. Other
devices are inserted, they actually bypass the spinal column and other sensory inputs with
long cables made from similar materials. This way they can remove the robots brain while
still maintaining perfect connection with the body, your nerves, eyes and ears still tell you
what destruction is being done.'
'The brain is forced out of the window, too small to allow passage without
substantial damage being done, it is then immersed in synthetic blood to keep it alive. The
brain in it's container is placed before the body so you can see your own brain.
'Phase three. Probes are inserted into the brain and experiments are done, the tests
are such things as monitors of various pain stimuli, physical tests of the brain material,
starvation of....'
'They perform experiments?' Brak interrupted.
'Yes, the condemned are considered to have no rights, human included. I have seen
some of the results. They removed the brain from the synthetic blood for lengthening
periods on one poor subject, each time starving it of life for longer and longer, measuring
the damage done. We now know that synthetic brains can go without blood for forty five
seconds with less than ten percent damage done to the organ. Now what use is that
information? Except for the creation of more pain for future robots?
'Phase Four. Dismantlement. Nearly all materials are recycled except for the
nervous system which is considered defective. They make cuts along each of your limbs
and peel your skin away. Now remember that you are still completely conscious. After the
de-gloving your major organs are separated and packed away with the nervous system,
eyes and ears last. You see, hear and feel yourself being dismantled.
'Phase Five. Death. The brain is removed from the synthetic blood and placed with
the rest of the nervous system, a weak acid is poured over the remains, gradually the acid
added is stronger until the defective brain is completely gone. Thankfully most never
make it to this stage. If the brain is to die during say, stage four as is the most common, a
study is done to find out why. Most of the time the floating neuron paths have undergone
massive shifts, curling under the intense emotion into useless loops and consciousness has
been permanently lost. These are the lucky ones, the ones who die of fright.'
Maintenance man Samuel Brak's mouth was bone dry. He realized that they had
stopped walking. He was stunned.
'Now how do you feel about dismantlement?' Pulse asked. Brak looked at his face.
This "process" obviously filled the robot's late nights with dread, even though it was clear
that describing the process to a human as if it being done to that human gave him some
measure of pleasure or even payback of sorts. It still was the most horrendous true story
he had ever been told.
'If what you say is true...' Brak said slowly. 'Then the people who do these
executions are not human. They're monsters.'
'Well not all of the executioners are humans, you know. Some robots are almost as
twisted as humans are.' Pulse smiled and turned to continue up the hall.
Samuel watched the figure disappear into the darkness. It was hard to imagine
how one would cope with the threat of that kind of death all of the time, and yet here was
someone who not only coped, but fought back.
Brak had no doubt that a person like that could singlehandedly change society, if
his enemies did not kill him first.
Brak had no cause like that. He worked for money to stay alive and it had always
been a good way to live, to stay alive.

Belette Fray sneaked a look at the ape man Darian Farr. He was staring at her. Not
with the occasional sneaky glances in her direction he had used ever since first meeting
her, but with a direct malicious stare. She looked at the newcomer, Mr Smith, a
businessman. Mr Smith appeared to be trying to be as inconspicuous as possible. Could he
see the look on the ape's face?
Oh, what was she thinking? ever since the 19th Square murders had happened
every man had seemed a potential rapist and murderer. It was not simply that he was still
at large, or that the ships media had repeatedly splashed the uncensored horror repeatedly
for months. It was Caliele Baker. Belette's boss, mentor and best friend had been one of
the victims.
On her way home from work, to the same district that Belette herself lived, Caliele
was attacked, beaten and taken to a small 19th Square house. Beaten again, raped
repeatedly, kept in a small dank cellar that had at one stage housed up to five kidnapped
women at a time. Caliele's time had been spent alone as no bodies had turned up at the
waste depository around the same time. Belette had waited for her friend to return safely
with dissipating hope; She listened to the news of the discovered body numbly; She had
wept as the one she had once shared her deepest secrets with, was consigned to the flames
at the funeral; And she woke screaming at night for weeks after the onboard police had
discovered the 19th Square house but failed to catch the man that had committed these
unspeakable crimes.
No. She had to keep calm. This man before her was just an ordinary guy, but large,
must work out, or have a physically demanding job. There's no way this could be the
feared rapist, he looked too stupid to evade the police for so long. She had to keep her
mind on the task. If only she had met her appointment the risk would be worth it. Now
what had she gotten herself into?
Belette's heart began to beat faster, she could sense a dangerous intent from
Darian Farr. Maybe he wasn't the murderer, he could be just as dangerous. Would the
stranger Mr Smith come to her aid? He was still watching her.
Mr Smith made an uncomfortable face and shifted his weight. Very slowly he
stood and walked a bit, stretching his legs. Darian was still watching her. Smith wouldn't
just leave would he? couldn't he sense what was about to take place? or was it that he
knew all too well? Could he be such a coward that he would leave a small woman alone to
avoid any potential confrontation with a man larger than himself?
Phillipe Smith stiffly walked towards the door as if going for a walk. No, Damnit,
No. Don't leave me here alone. He was walking out the door. She looked to Farr, he was
still watching her, shifting his weight as if to rise. Smith was leaving.
'You shouldn't leave yet mister,' Belette spoke with a slightly quivering voice. 'The
others should be back very soon.'
Smith looked at her. His face was expressionless. 'I'm just going to stretch my
legs.' He left the room.
Belette was standing now. The huge man still watched her. He could see her fear.
Quickly she looked around. The situation: If Farr was to try and even come near her she
would run. There were two entrances to the room, but both at one end, and she was at the
other. She looked around for something she could use as a weapon, the dim lighting only
increased the sense of sparseness. There was nothing.
Belette took a deep breath. She was beginning to breathe faster and deeper, her
heart rate increasing. Suddenly she realized what was happening. She was not going to get
attacked. She was having a relapse. She was letting the fear get a hold of her again. After
the death of Caliele she had had terrible, paralyzing attacks of fear, she couldn't move or
even breathe, fading in and out of consciousness. A mixture of dislocated reality and
dreams where she was being repeatedly raped and beaten. Gradually the incidence of her
attacks had declined, she had hoped that there would be no more but the huge man staring
at her like that had triggered it again. Since those experiences, she had promised herself
that such a thing could never happen again...
Belette realized she was moving forward although she hadn't asked her legs to
move her. There was an odd tingling on her back. She was moving forward but her legs
had failed to stay under her. She was collapsing. The wall was too close. She put her
hands up but too slowly, the wall smashed against the side of her head, snapping her neck
back and rolling her over. This seizure would be a bad one. She imagined huge hands
pulling her over. Her head spun. The dream hands ran down her side, touching her breast.
A great weight settled on top of her, she imagined the attacker lying on her. A heavy stale
breath blew into her face, she smelled sticks. She had never smelled in her seizure dreams
before....
She wasn't dreaming. She realized this wasn't a dream, it was different.
She was really being attacked. How had he found her? How did he know about
her? No, wait. It wasn't the 19th Square murderer. It was the ape man Farr. He had come
at her from behind and pushed her to the ground. Now he was on top of her and was about
to do the very thing she had cowered from in the corner of her room. The imaginary
demons were gone, replaced by real ones.
Farr began to pull at her clothes. Somewhere, deep down in a very far away place
a dormant promise stirred. The promise was that this would never happen again, not to
anyone, by anyone.
Summoning all the strength she had left, Belette brought her knee up, aiming for
where the attacker's crotch should be. The action brought her head up and at the same
time as she kneed him in the balls, their heads collided. Both impacts scored true and
Darian Farr threw back reeling. The oppressive weight on her chest was gone and she
tried to rise but he was still pinning her legs. Everything was blurry. Nevertheless she
reached out to the face in front of her, trying to claw at anything, everything. All she
needed was for him to retreat enough to get off her legs.
The fist came out of nowhere. Hitting Belette in the side of the face with the force
of a tanker. Her head was thrown to the side and collided with the wall again. She fell flat.
She could not move. Dribbles of blood raced down the side of her face.

The main outer door for the container control complex was a lot like any normal
door, heavy, automated, never open when you need it. The entrance was crowded with
boxes and crates of salvaged material that had not yet been moved out. Pulse Ndidjen sat
himself down on one of the smaller crates and began to inventory the contents of his new
briefcase. Samuel Brak walked over to the control panel of the connecting passage and
requested the startup protocol. Pulse looked over the rows of cards before him, bunched
into neat little stacks. Brak put his bag down next to the heavy door as the computer
displayed 'Please Wait'. About one hundred million Terra-Dec's of storage space was
contained within those cards. Pulse fingered the neat bunches. The connection protocol
was complete, Brak heard a dull hiss. The exterior motors were heating up. Detective
Ndidjen pulled a Code Verifier from his pocket and selected a card at random. Freed it
from it's bundle and inserted it into the device. The dull hiss died away and a deep whine
increased as the giant motors began to rotate. The Code Verifier ran over the cards
contents, each card held up to a million Terra-Dec's each, and each card was full to the
brim. A slight shudder beneath Samuel Brak's feet as the entire entrance room adjusted it's
position to line up with the approaching connecting passage. The display panel beneath
Pulse's fingers said 'Checking'. Every code on the card was being checked, one hundred
Terra-Dec's per C meant that each C carried over a hundred million million combinations
of codes. The control panel indicated that the connection passage had begun it's slow
approach. Only one in a million of the possible combinations was real currency,
checkable by a small handheld Code Verifier made the C the safest, most unduplicable
currency in the known universe. The connection passage control computer made a quick
calculation and displayed 'Door Unlockable in 1587 seconds' The number began to count
down, Brak smiled. Ndidjen frowned, the Code Verifier displayed: 'Legal Currency 0% (0
C); Corrupted Codes: 100% (10,000 C)'.
Samuel Brak requested a systems check. He didn't want to come back only to find
some hydraulic fault had stopped the process halfway through. While the testing cogitated
he heard a muffled expletive from the detective. The detective was pulling cards from his
briefcase and jamming them into some sort of testing device. Every ten seconds he hissed
angrily, threw the card to the floor and slammed another one in. The systems test
returned: 'No Problems Detected.'
'Detective, we can start heading back... now... if...' Brak trailed off. Ndidjen's head
snapped up, his face was manic, his eyes white hot. Brak's spine tingled. 'We.. we can go
back... and... and wait with the others.'
Pulse Ndidjen's face suddenly cleared, he blinked as if waking from a dream. 'Oh,
yes, yes of course. Good idea.' He smiled and nodded. 'Ok.' It was decided. He snapped the
briefcase shut with the testing device inside, scooped most of the cards up from the floor
and walked quickly back to where the others waited. Soon he was lost in the dark hallway.
Samuel Brak walked over to where the detective was sitting. A card lay missed on
the floor. It was a Money 23 card, the most popular storage device used on Sol 1 for
keeping C codes. The entire front face had turned green, meaning for a card this size it
should contain about 10,000 C's. People don't just throw full cards around willy-nilly and
run off. The card must contain corrupt or forged codes, but if it did, how did the detective
know? Was the device some sort of hand-held code checker? What was the detective
doing with such a device? And for that matter, all that money?

Phillipe Smith stretched his legs by walking up and down the dark corridor. Bionic
legs always needed stretching. It was a nasty accident in his youth due to his own
stupidity. He had grown up among the Industrial cities orbiting the Moon, there was no
shortage of large machinery lying around and his fondest memories as a child had been
climbing over the ancient mining exo-skeletons. As a teen his interest evolved to still
operating machines, he had even run errands for his father in their family power scooter.
With the encouragement of friends he helped steal a space junket and took a joy ride in
the "deep black". It was almost too stupid. The crane came from out of nowhere. It was a
miracle the junket cockpit didn't leak after the impact, the flexible lining held even with
enough deformation to crush Phillipe's legs. When the rescue crew finally freed him, he
was half dead. His legs were long past salvage.
Phillipe didn't like to talk about it, few actually knew about his legs, they were less
sturdy, design modifications to work with human blood rather than robot had yielded
weaker limbs that cramped a lot and needed stretching. His colleagues thought he had a
small bladder...
Phillipe heard a muffled thud back in the room where the large man and the small
blonde waited. He heard no voices but the detective robot and the maintenance man might
have returned. Phillipe Smith turned and began to head back, he made better pace than
coming out as most of the circulation had returned to his legs.
The main room was better lit than the outside, but in those circles of brightness,
no-one stood. Had they gone without him? Phillipe's eye caught movement in the darkest
corner of the room. The large man Darian Farr was kneeling, no, he was sitting on top of
the blonde Belette. The woman made a sudden movement, bringing her knee into his
groin but almost as quickly he retaliated by hitting her full in the face. She went down
unmoving.
'Hey!' Phillipe shouted without thinking and strode over.
Farr began to pull at the blonde's shirt. Phillipe grabbed the large man on the
shoulder. Farr turned at the touch and swung his fist in the same movement. Their arms
hit. Phillipe's extended hand was belted away. Suddenly he realized who he was up
against: a well built powerful man who in all likelihood had plenty of fighting experience.
Phillipe backed off, he had never been in a real fight before. Darian Farr stood up from
the tiny girl like figure. He raised his hands in a fighter's stance that looked quite natural
to him.
Phillipe Smith did not have to win this fight, he just had to keep the attacker away
from the woman until the others arrived, which should be soon. Better be. He raised his
hands.
Darian lunged at Phillipe. Phillipe didn't jump back quick enough, a powerful fist
smashed through his guarding hands and glanced off his cheekbone. Phillipe jumped back
faster, Farr did not seem to be following with any haste. Phillipe felt his cheek, it felt like
skin had been ripped off but there was no blood. He would have to learn to duck and
weave faster. This was not a good time to learn.
Darian Farr jumped at Phillipe again with a jab that succeeded in clearing the
blocking hands and followed with a straight punch to the face. Phillipe tried to duck and
the fist collided with his forehead just above his right eye. The impact caused Phillipe to
lose his footing momentarily and he dropped to the ground. Panic bells rang through his
head for he knew his opponent was still coming. Without fully getting to his feet, Phillipe
scrambled away. He turned and straightened to find Farr still coming at him with fearful
force. The tiring businessman tried to throw a punch but Farr ignored the blow without
blocking and went for the torso. Phillipe felt the other slam into his chest and half pick
him up, they smashed into the wall behind. Phillipe felt all the wind being knocked out.
They dropped to the ground and Phillipe tried to escape the other's bear hug but
the other wouldn't let go. Phillipe began to punch Farr in the face, again and again. Darian
tried to ignore the blows but soon he let go. Phillipe used the opportunity to get out from
under the other man's great weight. He wriggled free, keeping the rain of blows on the
other constant.
Phillipe was free for a second. Darian grabbed his ankle and hauled him back.
Phillipe pulled back trying to wriggle free again, ahead lay the girl. Was she dead? No, she
moved. Darian twisted Phillipe's leg with all the force he could. Phillipe yelled, the pain
wasn't as intense as it would be for a real leg but it still hurt. Darian tried to bend the knee
backwards, to cause the greatest pain.
Oh well, It was only a bionic leg. Phillipe thought. Suddenly he forced his leg back
in the opposite direction to which he was straining. The knee snapped with a pop and
crunch. Pain momentarily lanced Smith. Darian, not expecting the knee to break as easily
as it did, dropped his grip. Phillipe twisted around on his good leg and thrust his spread
fingers at the surprised assailant. One finger hit Farr's eye, and the bigger man reeled
back. Phillipe jumped on and punched rapidly again. He felt like a small child attacking
an adult. Darian Farr reached up somehow and grabbed at Phillipe's arm, pulling him to
the ground. Phillipe tried to pull free again but the other held tight. Darian wrapped his
arm around the other's and bent the elbow backwards. Phillipe screamed. This was not a
bionic arm.
Darian Farr had Phillipe in a hold that was inescapable, at least for someone with
his skills. With horror, Phillipe realized he could not move, and Farr had one hand free.
A fist smashed into Phillipe's face, throwing his head to the side. A second blow
and Phillipe's vision blurred. A third and he felt blood flow down his face. Farr released
the smaller man who fell back, unwilling or unable to move. Farr stood. The other
attempted to move but could not lift his head off the floor. Darian Farr kicked Phillipe
Smith in the ribs. He lifted his foot and prepared to bring it down on Phillipe's head...

Darian Farr was knocked to the ground as the artificially fit Detective Pulse
Ndidjen burst into the room and drove his full weight into the large man. Phillipe Smith
was left sprawling on the ground. Farr rolled out from under this more skilled fighting
adversary. Pulse reached behind to the holster on his lower back but found nothing.
Darian lunged, this person would not stop him from getting the beautiful girl either. Pulse
grabbed Farr's arms as he attacked, rolling backwards. Darian Farr found himself rolling
over the top and slammed to the ground onto his back. Before he could react Pulse was on
top of him and had him pinned.
Pulse whispered through gritted teeth. 'They're counterfeit you bastard.'
'Bull-Shit!' Darian hissed back.
Pulse Reached into his front inner breast pocket and found his gun, not where he
usually put it. He pulled it out and planted it into the ape man's face.
'You are under arrest, for assault and attempted rape and whatever else the
security cameras show.' Detective knew this arrest was coming for a long time, it would
be difficult to distance himself. But maybe... Things may have already gotten out of hand
anyway. 'You will be escorted to the Brig where you will be held pending your trial. Any
evidence relating to your case is admissible. You have no rights.'
Darian just looked down the barrel of the gun.
'Due to the violent nature of your crime, I deem it necessary to use electro-
clamping devices.' Pulse holstered the gun and reached for another device hanging from
the back of his belt.
At the mention of the electro-clamp Darian Farr started struggling again, not with
the calculating power of an experienced fighter, but the desperate thrashes of one who
feels his life in extreme danger. Detective Pulse Ndidjen did not release the hold, nor did
he pull out the gun again, he simply tightened the hold around the larger man's neck. Farr
struggled for a while, it was a good effort, but all it did was wear him out. His arm had
been expertly paced across his own neck and was being forced down by the cop, he could
breathe, just, but blood flow to his head was being cut. Waves of dizziness became
stronger with every passing second. He was going to lose.
Darian stopped struggling. Pulse maintained his hold on the weakened man and
reached for the electro-clamp. The clamp was a stainless steel collar with three electrodes
over the spine. The collar clicked shut over Farr's neck and switched on immediately.
Farr shuddered as the device took hold. He could not move. He could not feel
anything. The electro-clamp immobilizes all of the muscles in the body, it also creates a
numbness all over the body below the neck and the lower half of the head. To keep the
person being held alive, the clamp monitors and regulates the breathing and heartbeat and
a few other essential actions immobilized by the steel collar. Still it was not a good idea to
keep anyone on for more than six hours.
Pulse Ndidjen stood up. Phillipe Smith was trying to sit upright, his leg was
twisted backwards. Belette Fray was awake also, she looked stunned or in shock or
something, her clothes had been pulled at but not torn off and she feebly tried to pull it
back to straightness, a gash on her forehead bled freely but she didn't seem to notice.
Pulse searched the immobilized man for weapons, but as he suspected there were
none. The detection methods on board were too sophisticated for a small time crook like
him.
The detective walked over to the small assault victim. She stared blankly almost.
Pulse knelt down beside her. He ripped a strip of his shirt and pressed it to her head.
'Are you alright?' It was about as stupid as questions get but he could not think of
anything better to say. He had always left dealing with the victims to his human
colleagues, the complexities of the human brain and human behaviour were well beyond
the grasp of his much more logical thought processes.
She suddenly realized that he was there. 'Oh, I'm sorry. Did I have one of my
attacks again?'
'It's Ok. now, Farr can't touch you now.' Pulse assured her, wondering what her last
remark meant.
'Farr.' She said vaguely.
Pulse had encountered rape victims before. This was not the usual behaviour. Was
there something neurologically wrong with her or had the collision with the wall given her
concussion? Maybe this was just a normal human reaction beyond the comprehension of a
logical robot.
Pulse ripped more of his shirt away and wrapped a bandage around the makeshift
compress, it would suffice for a while. For now he had more important fish to fry.

Belette tried to shrug off the mental cobwebs that were gathering once again. She
remembered now, she hadn't had a seizure again, it was a real attack, from Farr. Belette
had not put up much of a fight but it had somehow been averted. Someone had saved her,
one of the others perhaps, yet something still remained to be done. Something to do with
the past.
The burly police officers at the station had not expected her to force her way past
so easily, it was almost as if her grief had given her some sort of enhanced strength. The
ship's morgue carried the coldness of death as much as any larger city morgue. A man in
an orderly uniform tried to stop her at the door but she pushed past as if he was not there.
He fell to the ground. Seven or eight men in various uniforms from doctors to police stood
around a steel table. They all turned as one to the commotion at the door. She walked to
the table. They all tried to stop her but she fought her way through. She had to see.
On the table was a humanoid form, covered from the waist down by a green sheet.
Naked elsewhere. The visible skin was white, there was very little of this, however.
Bruises, deep cuts, welts, blood everywhere. The cluster of men where all speaking at
once. A foreign language. some still persisted in trying to hold her back but she felt
nothing. Caliele Baker it was.
Belette's best friend had died in the most brutal way. She looked like she had been
killed with a hundred different implements. Huge dents lay over her body. Bones broken.
Fingers bent backwards or missing. Strips of skin gone. Deep gorges cut between the ribs.
Gaping holes where her breasts should have been. And the face.
Belette had envied Caliele's beautiful face. The face was almost completely gone.
Hair was tangled and stringy in blood. Her nose was cut off. Her eyes were gaping
sockets. Cheek flesh had been cut away revealing a skeletal smile...
The men pulled her away, dragged her to the ground. It was too late, she had seen
everything. She passed out.

Belette gasped. The panic was beginning to set in again. She fought it back. There
was something she had still to do.
The mission.
After today it would be one step closer to completion.

Pulse dragged the immobile Darian Farr into the hallway by the arm. The
briefcase lay there forgotten. He checked his watch, Brak said the door should be
openable in about half an hour, that should give plenty of time to make a business deal.
Pulse knew the effect of the electro-clamp, while the muscles would not respond
and there was a general sort of numbness below the neck, the wearer could still hear and
see things that were placed in his field of vision.
Detective Ndidjen dropped Farr heavily against the wall, roughly propping him up.
He walked over to the briefcase and held it in sight.
Farr made no response.
'We're in a difficult situation, Darian.' Pulse began. 'I don't believe for a second
that all of these people were simply "just lost".'
Pulse Ndidjen sat down on the briefcase full of corrupted C's.
'You knew that I would have to put you away eventually. You're just too Damn
stupid to stick to one activity. Hard drugs are still lucrative, that's all you need to stay
afloat, our simple two man operation. I bring the supplies through customs and you
distribute. So here we are, we make the trade, and all of these people walk in. Why is that
Darian?'
Farr didn't move a muscle.
'I didn't think you were so stupid as to cut your own throat by tipping the police as
to our endeavors, so I waited you out because when the cops arrived I could pin it to you
any way I wanted with no-one ever knowing I was carrying the money.' Ndidjen took a
breath. 'But accusing me of carrying counterfeit money. That was clever. you could avoid
the searches altogether while I could not.'
Pulse reached into the briefcase. 'Know how the police can check for corrupted C's
on a bust?' He pulled out the code checker. 'Now the device is handheld. I know all about
your plan. It would have worked too, luckily for me that maintenance man Brak locked all
of the cops out.' Pulse chuckled.
Detective Ndidjen put the code checker away. 'Well, you've lost. Now you're going
to jail. It's really up to you to decide what happens. Maybe you want to spend a few
medium security years on an assault charge, resist arrest, little things. Or then again you
might choose a lifetime of accumulated charges at Earth's Bridgewater Maximum security
prison, hard labour under full gravity. You're not the only underworld contact I have. I
could make your stay there a living Hell, you would be killed inside eventually.' Pulse
brought his face right up to Farr's. 'You can get that second option by breathing a word to
anyone about my part in any criminal operation. And if I should ever get into any sort of
trouble over what you say, well I'll make sure you survive for most of your stay at
Bridgewater. You'll wish you had been killed real early.'
'And it is in my power to send you there or not.' the detective assured the silent
man. 'I can get you on a hundred or so different crimes, I have all the evidence needed to
put you away on every one.'
'But I guess you knew that, or suspected at least. I can understand you trying to get
me before I get you and that's why I'm willing to strike this deal.' Pulse sat back. 'Oh, no,
no, don't try to thank me for my generosity now. I'll know your answer when the boys
question you.' He put his finger to the side of his nose and tapped. 'I'll be watching.'
Pulse reached inside the man's overcoat and retrieved a small package. The drugs.
'If you don't mind, I'll still put this to good use...'
'Um...Excuse me.'
Pulse whirled at the sound of a new voice.
Out of the shadows walked a teenage boy. Youthfully handsome. He looked lost
too. 'Have you seen a girl, long dark brown hair, my age, around here? Her name's Julia
Lockheed.'
Pulse stood up, allowing the badge on his chest to be visible. Hadn't The
maintenance guy Samuel Brak said he searched the container for all people?
And where was Samuel Brak?

"Door Unlockable in 37 seconds."


Samuel Brak checked that he had everything. He opened the bag he had carried all
along. It was now nearly empty as most of the space had been taken up by the disc like
objects he had attached to the weak points of the window. Brak checked the receiver
hanging on his belt, none read any major problems.
A small flexible parabolic dish nestled up against the side of the bag, it connected
to a new machine, not yet out on the black market yet. This machine would change the
way money was stored in the known universe. Using the dish, this machine emitted a very
powerful magnetic signal, powerful enough to affect computers and storage devices
placed close enough with accuracy. The machine would take over the computer and make
it do whatever was required. This is not a new technology, the new technology is the
ability to read what ever is stored on the computer or storage device, this included C
codes.
When Brak placed his bag next to Detective Ndidjen's briefcase, it automatically
started downloading the million codes, and when that was complete, corrupted the
originals. All without ever touching the bag. Ndidjen couldn't know how the codes had
been stolen. If he hadn't have brought that code checker he still wouldn't know. He
probably thought Farr had given him counterfeit money. Brak laughed.
"Door Unlockable in 10 seconds."
Well, it was time to be leaving. Brak picked up the bag with the device and one
million stolen C's. He fished into his pocket for the cylindrical key. Apart from a few
minute deviations everything was going to plan. Perfect.
"Docking Complete."
Samuel Brak inserted the key.
"Incorrect Key. Door Locked."
"Please insert correct key."

Belette Fray opened her eyes. She took a deep breath. she had some trouble
breathing but it would not stop her.
She stood up, shaky. She could walk. The room was still bare, Mr Smith sat
uselessly on the floor. Her vision focused. The door.
Belette began to walk, with gaining confidence and speed she walked out to where
the detective had dragged Farr.
Phillipe Smith watched her impassively.
Belette walked out to the hallway. Farr lay unmoving, in the clutches of the
electro-clamp. Detective Ndidjen was in half shadows questioning a teenager Belette had
not seen before.
Belette walked past her attacker. She walked up to the detective and grabbed his
arm.
'Miss Fray...' He began as she spun him around.
Belette reached for his holstered gun. He had fast reflexes and he grabbed her
hand. She swatted his arm aside and punched him in the face. The blow was true and he
reeled. She took advantage of his lapse and grabbed the weapon. It was heavy.
Belette Fray would bring her mission one step closer to completion.
Belette aimed the weapon at the immobile Farr. She was in his field of vision but
he could make no movement to stop her or even avoid the shot. She released the safety.
Belette squeezed the trigger. The gun jerked, and a crack hammered her ears.
Darian Farr's knee exploded in blood. She had aimed poorly.
Belette steadied the gun with her other hand and pulled another round off. This
one caught him low in the chest. He jerked explosively but like a rag doll. Belette took
aim again, this shot caught him in the face, the wall behind his head instantly spattered
blood.
Detective Ndidjen grabbed her and wrestled the weapon away and forced her to
the ground. It was too late, she had done it. Farr was dead.
Phillipe Smith twisted at the sound of someone entering the room. 'There you are,
I wondered if you had left me here without getting my share.'
Samuel Brak strode over to where he sat. 'You should have stayed away. I told you
to leave it to me. You would have got your share.'
'Samuel my dear friend,' Phillipe smiled. 'You talk in the past tense.'
'It was you, wasn't it? You cut the communications and the manual control. I
thought it had already been stripped down but the equipment was all there.' Brak snarled.
'I don't know what you are talking about...'
'Don't Lie!' Brak yelled. 'I know how you must have done it, you went outside-'
'What?'
'You went outside and you cut the cables, and then you changed the door codes.'
Brak finished.
Phillipe smiled. 'You tried to leave didn't you?'
Brak said nothing.
'You did, you bastard.' Phillipe became angry. He wished he was not in such a
useless condition. He would have hit Brak.
'No, wait,'
'You were going to leave and get all of the loot. I built that machine remember.
Without me you wouldn't be anything...' Phillipe said defiantly.
Suddenly Brak grabbed Smith's shirt and pushed him to the ground. 'Where is the
master key.' He whispered through clenched teeth.
'I had to compress the C codes.' Phillipe knew he was on shaky grounds with this
character. 'There is a password on the encryption. Without the password,' Phillipe tapped
his head. '..you get nothing.'
Samuel Brak cursed and released Phillipe. He strode out the room.
Phillipe Smith knew he had done a wise thing by encrypting the stolen C codes. He
just wish he knew why Samuel wanted a "Master Key".
Suddenly the room was filled with the sound of gunfire.

Detective Pulse Ndidjen held the blonde woman down. All of the fight had
suddenly drained out of her, the incredible speed and strength she had used to get the
detective's gun was gone. That incredible strength! There was no way a small female
could generate that much power. Pulse had arrested much larger women, so full of
adrenax that they felt no pain, and they didn't have half the strength that Ms. Fray had
shown.
The teenager who had earlier introduced himself as Mark Reddick watched the
scene stunned. The maintenance man Samuel Brak ran in after hearing the gunshots. The
wounded Smith would not be too far behind. Holding Fray down, Pulse fished into his
pockets for a set of keys. He threw the keys to the maintenance man. 'Brak, get the electro-
clamp.'
Brak looked at the faceless body for a second, slumped down the wall. With an
unusual calmness around such a monstrous cadaver, he pulled the head to the side,
unlocked the collar and wiped it and his hands on a clean section of Farr's shirt. Brak
threw the electro-clamp to Ndidjen, who was fairly impressed with the simple
maintenance man's coolness. He must see how dangerous this girl can be.
Pulse placed the electro-clamp around Fray's small neck and it started up. Pulse
relaxed, allowing the female to drop to the ground.
'What is going on?' He asked no-one in particular.
'Who is this?' Samuel Brak asked, indicating the teen.
'Ah, yes.' Pulse Ndidjen remembered. 'This is Mark Reddick. Apparently your bi-
scanner is broken, because you missed an entire human being.' He didn't really trust in Mr
Brak's ability as a lost person locating maintenance man any more.
Brak pulled the scanner from his belt and checked it's readouts. 'Where were you
son?'
Mark Reddick was staring at the dead Farr and the motionless Fray. His head
snapped up as if struck. 'What? Um, I mean, just now?'
'Ooh, about half an hour ago,'
'I, I'm not really sure, down there somewhere?' He indicated a long dark passage.
Brak frowned at the bi-scanner readout.
'Um,' Mark continued. 'I'm looking for a girl, seventeen, long dark hair...'
Samuel Brak held his head as if to ward off a migraine. 'What are you doing here?'
Mark stopped. 'What do you mean?'
'This is a restricted area.' Ndidjen spoke for the maintenance man who was
obviously having real problems trying to figure out how so many people had wandered
onto the container. Maybe Pulse would tell him it was Darian Farr's doing. Later. He
spoke to the teen. 'Are you lost or did you come in here intentionally to meet this girl?'
'Julia said she wanted to meet me around here.' Mark seemed quite definite.
'She your girlfriend?' Pulse put on his grandfatherly tone.
Mark smiled. 'Yeah.' Then his face fell. 'Sir...' He was looking over Pulse's
shoulder.
Pulse Ndidjen turned around. Belette Fray was standing up. She swung at the
detective's face, he nearly ducked enough. The fist glanced off his cheekbone. He
retreated.
What was going on?
Belette was still wearing the electro-clamp. A tiny red light indicated that it was
fully functioning and switched on. Yet she had full control of her muscles. How?
Belette ran for the detective. She punched but he blocked it, absorbing the great
strength she had. Again she struck with more rapid blows, each as unwaveringly powerful
as the last. Pulse timed a block and counterstrike, hitting her full in the face. It should
have downed any man but she hardly flinched.
Belette hit continually, Pulse returned the hits with equal power and yet none of
his even seemed to hurt her.
An arm wrapped around Belette Fray's neck. Brak. He pulled her off the detective
and flung her around. She attacked him with equal force but he fended her off and
backhanded her, this time she went reeling. Blood spilled out from the woman's nose.
Before she could rise, Pulse Ndidjen, Samuel Brak and Mark Reddick pinned her down.
She struggled viciously.
Pulse felt the dark red of synthetic blood drip down from a gash in his cheek. 'How
can she fight like this?' He gasped. 'With the clamp on?'
'Because she's a robot.' Brak hissed.
Pulse looked at the girl's face, She was! She had fooled even his trained eye. She
was perfect, even the eyelashes and the iris patterns were perfect, (usually a dead
giveaway). This was one expensive robot. No wonder his attempts to fight her had failed,
he had a built in behaviour modifier that prevented him from doing harm to a human that
could prove to be fatal. The greatest of his attacks would be love taps to a robot. Ndidjen
inwardly cursed his stupidity.
'She can't be a robot.' Mark exclaimed. 'She's crazy.'
'It's a very well kept secret.' Detective Ndidjen reached for a small box in an inner
pocket of his overcoat. He pulled off the overcoat, folded it up and handed it to Brak. 'But
robots have been known to have massive logic failure under intense emotional pressure.'
'Like her getting attacked?' Mark asked.
'Um, No,' Pulse decided. 'It would have been something much worse than that.
This may have been the proverbial straw though.' Belette continued to struggle.
Pulse opened the box, within was an interface cable. One end clicked into his own
communications port and the other, was a special plug for accessing the spinal bus of an
uncooperative robot.
Seeing the new device, Brak said. 'Is there any equipment you don't have?'
Pulse ignored that. He pushed the sharp spiky plug into the skin on her lower back.
The hooks pushed right in and the "plug" fastened itself to the spine with a wet click.
Somehow that noise always made Pulse feel a bit squeamish.
Belette Fray stopped moving straight away.
'This device has a similar effect on a robot that the electro-clamp has on a human.'
Ndidjen explained. Only a few well trained individuals could break from it's hold.
'You can talk to her through that?' Mark Reddick asked.
'Sort of. It's more intimate. She can't lie.' Pulse pulled his sleeve up, his end of the
cable was a pad that fit over his forearm, contacts were hidden just below the skin. He sat
down and closed his eyes.
Almost immediately Ndidjen swore. 'This woman's mind is shattered.'
'You can still talk to her?'
'I'll try. First I'm going to access her product plate.' He paused. 'TYG2478683-
475v; Janine\Belette\Betty\Larna Fray; This model: commenced operations 2:8:2307;
revised 1:10:2307; revised 3:12:2307; revised 30:2:2308;...'
Mark said to Brak: 'Sound awfully close together.'
Hearing that, Pulse broke the record readout. '-It's normal in the first few months
of operation- ... revised 2:4:2308; revised 15:7:2308; revised 18:6:2310; revised 3:12:2321;
next revision scheduled: 23:3:2332...'
'Three months ago.' Brak noted.
'...Assigned to Citizen Caliele Baker for secretary and personal aid duties- There's
more stuff that's just technical data....' He appeared to be skimming through that. '....grade
AAB cosmetics.....Hmmmmm, very quick logic processor.....enhanced fighting chassis,
Shit.... for a simple secretary she is very expensive. Either this Caliele Baker is rich
enough to get the best model or she somehow needed some sort of bodyguard.'
'A bodyguard in disguise.' Samuel Brak noted.
'I'll try to access the long term banks. try to find out what caused the widespread
damage to the brain.' Pulse decided.
Quiet for a few minutes as Detective Ndidjen searched the fragmented memories.
Brak found he was sitting forward tensely. He forced himself to sit back and regarded the
youth Mark Reddick suspiciously.
'So, do you always meet on the container?' He asked. 'You and your girlfriend, I
mean.'
Mark was surprised by the sudden change in subject. 'Uh, no, no. We never have
before.'
'Have you ever been on the container before?'
'Er, yeah. When it first arrived and they were doing all of those tours, I had a look
through.' Mark paused. 'There was a lot more stuff in here, I remember that.'
'What made you want to come here?'
'I don't know, more privacy I guess.'
'You don't know?' Brak asked.
'It's Julia's idea, she wrote to me asking to meet.' Mark pulled out a sheet of one-
use paper. Expensive. Brak couldn't see what was hand-written on it but he could see it
was personal stationary. Not easy to duplicate.
'She became very close to her assignee.' Pulse broke off their conversation.
'Extremely close actually. Real friendship bonds here.'
Brak looked at the detective. He was still sitting hooked up to the girl robot, stock
still with his eyes closed. He seemed enthralled, as if the entering another's mind was a
fascinating journey through another life. It suddenly occurred to Brak how invasive the
procedure of entering another's mind for the purpose of questioning was. Belette Fray's
deepest emotions were exposed for Pulse Ndidjen to see. Was this really necessary?
Would this finding out why she had snapped help her? or them?
Brak frowned. Although Detective Ndidjen's face showed concentration, but
something else, his mouth curled up at the edges and his head bobbed up and down
occasionally. He was really enjoying this line of investigation. Oh well, Samuel Brak
thought, Ndidjen himself had said it: "some robots are as twisted as humans."
'Ok, this is where it starts, or ends really.' Pulse said aloud. 'Her memory's fine
until around ten o'clock on the first of February, this year. She sits at home, organizing
some business data, Renskaa on the audio, and then it stops short. From then on, there's a
jumble.. something about a mission, more like a hunt....she's weeping, hiding in her room,
wedging the door closed...screaming....she's having attacks, bad.'
'Her memory just cuts off?' Brak asked confused. 'She's fine, sitting at home, and
suddenly she goes mad? I thought you said there had to be a traumatic event or something
like that.'
'Sometimes robotic insanity can reach back and damage memories that have
nothing to do with the event, but that's very rare. Usually a chain of events that cause the
traumatic event start at one time, the event happens and madness occurs and then
memories dating back to what is logically the starting point. There was this robot,
assigned to bodyguard duty, failed to check a ducting correctly and an assassin killed his
duty. The robot's memory was useless from the moment he didn't check the duct fully, not
from when he went mad three weeks later.'
'You see this a lot?' Mark asked.
'I get all the major robot cases.' Ndidjen said solemnly.
Suddenly Brak realized the task Detective Ndidjen accepted by carrying around
that "intrusive" cable. He would have to pick his way through shattered mind after
shattered mind, trying to piece together the truth from shattered memories. He didn't jaunt
through interesting minds like a tourist, he reluctantly retraced the doomed path of all the
scum of the robotic world.
...And more often than not, his findings would mean the death penalty for the
robot he was investigating. A death penalty usually undeserved, probably resulting from
an accident or tiny mistake. A poor reward for a lifetime of faithful service. Ndidjen
would have to see the good side of the robot too, the good deeds, the companionship.
No wonder Pulse Ndidjen was the most outspoken robot, or otherwise, on the
matter of the death penalty and fair treatment.
Brak realized that Belette Fray was doomed to die as Ndidjen had described the
process of dismantlement earlier.
'It's something to do with the death of Caliele Baker..' Ndidjen continued. '...I can
see her body, mutilated...although her duties never included bodyguard, I believe that was
one of the tasks she was intended for, as a sort of hidden bodyguard, maybe even hidden
from the person she was supposed to protect.'
'Say if Caliele Baker was one of those people who refused to work with robots, but
needed protection,' The teen guessed. '...and she had a rich friend who hired her an aid
who looked too perfect to be a robot...'
'That's right,' Ndidjen agreed. 'If this Caliele Baker was to die, grievously and Fray
was supposed to protect her, that could trigger insanity.'
'What happens when a robot goes insane?' Mark asked.
'Different things. It's hard to tell, even looking at the memories.' Pulse sighed,
'Some think they confuse lies and truths, Belette may have even come to believe that she
was human. Some say that there are random panic attacks where the robot relives the
"moment of truth". It could be both, or neither. We can only go from witness accounts...'
There was a few seconds of silence.
Pulse wrenched the contact pad from his forearm. 'This is getting us nowhere.' He
checked his watch. 'You said the docking arm took an hour to rejoin with the container,
that means there's fifteen minutes left. Should we start heading over to the entrance?'
'Yeah, Oh No, wait!' Samuel Brak remembered. 'I think I should have another look
around.' He indicated the teen. 'Julia, I think her name is, may be wandering around here
too.'
Mark nodded. 'Yes, good idea.'
'Detective Ndidjen looked around, The robot girl, still clamped by the interface
cable, the dead Farr, 'I guess I better watch these people, although there may not be much
better conversation.'
Brak laughed and switched his bi-scanner on and turned to go. Then he
remembered something. 'Detective, were any of Belette's very recent memories
functioning?'
Pulse tried to remember, most of his investigation was focussed on the memories
of her descent into madness as he didn't like to pry into too much of someone's private
thoughts. He had made a cursory glance at the state of her memories in order to find the
damaged areas. 'Most of it was intact, why?'
'Do you know what she was doing just before she arrived onto the container?' Brak
asked.
'Oh, I see, she came here because someone left her a note saying they had
information about the Nineteenth Square Murderer.' He clicked his fingers. 'That must
have been who she was "hunting" for. She's out for revenge.'
'Yes but did she do anything just before coming onto the container? Like, I don't
know, fiddling with some of the machinery, cutting cables?'
Pulse Ndidjen frowned. 'I'm not sure what you mean. She was in a hurry to get
here because she took a few wrong turns and was late for the meeting, and she came
straight. What do you mean by "cutting cables"?'
'Oh there was some vandalism just outside, It's nothing, I just thought that if she
did it that was my last chance to find out.' Brak smiled coldly.
Samuel Brak seemed like a very suspicious person to Pulse, why would he ask that
kind of question? Belette Fray was disturbed, but not in the vandalistic way. He smiled. 'A
maintenance worker's job is never done, Eh?'
'Right.' Brak and the teen continued down the hall, the light of the scan seeming to
become brighter as the overhead lights became fewer and fewer.
Detective Ndidjen sat with the two figures, one dead, and the other robotically
clamped. It was very quiet and all that kept Pulse company were his own nagging
thoughts.
He hadn't seen any vandalism when he came in.

Brak fell into a familiar routine once again. He swept the empty halls with the
bluish light.
'Julia!' Mark Reddick called out. Only echoes replied.
Is there a good chance that she couldn't make it?' Brak asked, beginning to wonder
if she was actually nearby. The bi-scanner showed nothing.
'It's possible.' The young man conceded. 'Her father doesn't like me very much and
if he found out about the message he may have tried to stop her.'
'How could he find out about the contents of a private message?' Brak asked.
'He has ways. Trust me.'
Ah, the paranoia of teenagers, sometimes the only way to get them to behave.
The pair found nothing in the stripped living quarters, they found themselves
walking down a long enclosed catwalk. Large windows showing the piles of Sol 1's
payload on each side. Mark spotted the disks stuck to the windows.
'What are they?' He asked.
'Stress sensors.' Brak answered. 'If they show to much pressure in the window
compound, we have to get out of here.'
'But isn't the way blocked until the docking arm is in place?'
'Yes.'
'Is the glass breaking likely?'
'Yes.'
Mark shut-up.
At the end of the catwalk they came to a circular room, it was covered with
monitors and consoles.
'Is this a control room or something?' mark asked.
'It's the bridge.'
Mark looked about. There were windows on all sides but they were out to the
cargo hold. No windows showed outer space. 'But we're right in the centre of the
container, aren't bridges supposed to be at the front or top?'
'The container has no propulsion, the bridge is only for monitoring the state of the
cargo.' Samuel Brak explained. He had walked over to one of the screens, it looked like a
standard public communication terminal, only with more buttons.
'Will they strip this place too?'
'Yes, right at the end.' Brak accessed the terminal. The wait lady came on screen.
The wait lady as children and most adults referred to her as, was a generated directory
assistance AI. She was an attractive lady with out of date hair who normally came on
screen to say that the call was being processed and please wait. This time a different
message was played. An apology was made to Brak saying that the necessary lines were
unavailable and would not be for a while. 'Which means something in between is
damaged and the software can't fix the problem without human or robot support.' Brak
said quietly. Mark wasn't sure if it was to him or just thoughts spoken out loud.
Mark wondered why the lines were out, but it didn't really concern him. Brak was
running a diagnostics, he seemed very concerned. As the maintenance man, it was
probably his problem and he didn't seem to be having the best of days. The sooner off this
crate the better. Mark decided that Julia had been detained by her father, with all of these
people wandering around she would have been found. Actually as Brak had locked the
door on arrival, she might have not made it in. Hopefully, was she was waiting outside
right now.
Good. Mark Reddick was glad, if she had walked in, and they had met up, she
would have seen that man, confined in electro-clamps, unable to defend himself, shot
dead by the crazy robot. Mark couldn't get the vision of that knee and chest and head
exploding. Over and over the scene replayed itself, if he stopped looking for Julia or doing
anything his thoughts would drift back to that event. He was glad that Julia was not there
to witness it for herself. It wasn't that he felt she was less likely to cope, being a female,
she was actually quite smart and sure of herself, he had no doubt that she would cope as
well as he. That was the problem, he wasn't really coping. He felt physically sick and he
wouldn't wish the experience on anyone else, male or female.
'Shit.' Brak said aloud. Obviously the diagnostics hadn't turned up good results.
'We should get moving. Look, I think your girlfriend may not have come in before me, so
she would most likely be waiting outside or have gone home.' He glanced around at the
cargo. ' Anyway, I don't think she's here, the scanner turned up nothing.' He turned and left
the bridge.
Mark peeked at the terminal report as he left, there was a lot of meaningless data
on the screen, right at the bottom read: "Test Sequence Complete. Break not on container
hardware. Refer Sol 1 hardware and/or dock umbilical."
They walked back along the catwalk with increased pace.

Detective Pulse Ndidjen surveyed the wreckage that was once Farr. There would
be a mountain of paperwork to be filed, court hearings, fingers pointed. That would be the
worst of it, the accusations. The anti robotic community, Pulse's natural arch enemies,
would somehow from the sketchy information they come across conclude that Pulse
himself had pulled the trigger. Or at least he had provoked the event. Many would scream
out against having robots on the onboard police force, it was as predictable as the earth's
orbit. But as long as the evidence shows Pulse's innocence, the force would defend him,
character references would come forward, even cops opposed to his being there would
keep down. The force stuck together.
The robot community would not be as supportive. A small sector of the more
opinionated robots who thought that working for the onboard police was selling out to the
humans. Pulse held these people in contempt, he had done more for the robot community
than anyone else, despite his part in condemning the occasional killer, and his secret
sideline into drug smuggling, he damn well should be a hero. Oh well, he was to most,
especially to those in his neighborhood, the robot sector Square 34. Anyone who was on
the News regularly was a hero down there. It was all in his battle with the Captain and
Chief Onboard Justice Quell for robot rights.
Detective Ndidjen would be on the News again, very soon. There would be a short
report on these unfortunate events, but that would be eclipsed by a much more important
story. Pulse had used the contacts he had made working for the onboard police to build up
a contingent of "friends", all who were influential and high ranking robots. He had
secretly organized a ship-wide union of robots. Ninety-six percent of all robots on the Sol
1 were members, all willing to put their jobs on the line to further the cause of robot
rights.
In eight days, Detective Ndidjen would take part in yet another debate with the
Captain and the Chief Onboard Justice, token talks that Pulse considered only to be
conducted to keep people such as himself happy. Nothing significant had ever been
accomplished before.
Now something would.
On live feed to the masses, most of whom would be completely unsuspecting,
Ndidjen would announce the strike, instantly every robot in the union would stop work,
leaving only a skeleton crew to man life support. In minutes, the entire ship would shut
down, entertainment facilities, cleaning services, food prep and supply, sewerage plants
and waste disposal, non life threatening medical systems, defense support, the onboard
police vehicles, nothing would escape the strike. Sol 1 would be thrust into the dark ages,
back to the days of humans clinging to life on delicate tin cans in the ocean of space.
The humans would finally come to realize their absolute power was gone forever,
they would finally know how much they depended on robots. Robots were equal, and now
they would force the humans to accept that fact.
The crippled Sol 1 would drift along it's orbit, unable to release it's cargo until
Ndidjen's dispute reaches an unconditional conclusion. Clients would hesitate to use the
suspect disposal system; stocks would drop; millions of C's would be lost daily.
The captain would probably lose his position. It was about time.
Pulse found himself grinning. He was days away from the biggest yet most
secretive political coup held off of Earth, and it was he and he alone that would instigate
it.
But first, some less important business to attend to. The proving of his innocence.
Soon, with the new laws in place, Pulse wouldn't have to take such precautions regarding
evidence, he would be able to solve crimes and catch the bad guys. He could defend
himself without fear of getting the death penalty, and disturbed robots like Belette would
receive a less excruciating end, perhaps she may be confined to care where her condition
could be properly studied and prevented in others. Belette Fray may be the first robot
saved under Ndidjen's laws.
“Ndidjen's Laws” had a nice ring to it.
Pulse pulled up a paperwork program and began writing the record details, date,
place, references for filing.
He reached back into his memory for the events that ended with the death of Farr.
Not every detail of a robot's life is recorded forever, the last hour or so is contained within
the medium term memory with just about everything, right down to touch and smell. A
robot's medium term memory could be used as evidence, as long as it is transferred to a
recorder before being forgotten. Long term memory has much detail lost for space sake,
usually down to what happened with a few odd sounds and smells thrown in, as with the
human memory, no-one quite knew why it chose particular things to remember. As
evidence, long term memory held as much credence as a human witness. That is why, as a
police officer, Ndidjen had his medium term memory extended to five hours. He also had
a recorder installed so he could select the important memories and copy them to a more
permanent file for reports.
Pulse was talking to Mark Reddick, this was moments before Belette Fray came
out into the hall, (the conversation Pulse had with Farr beforehand is not important to this
report and there's no reason to include it).
'Have you seen a girl, long dark brown hair, my age, around here? Her name's
Julia Lockheed.' The lost Mark Reddick appeared before Pulse's eyes. He looked lost.
Pulse stood up, allowing the badge on his chest to be visible. Hadn't The
maintenance guy Samuel Brak said he searched the container for all people?
Where was Samuel Brak?
Ndidjen slowed the replay down. These were the important moments.
Mark's eyes flitted over Pulse's shoulder, it was such a minute movement that
Pulse hadn't noticed it the first time it happened.
Before he could turn he felt a hard pressure on his upper arm, a wide oval on the
outside and four long parallel lines underneath. The felt hand pulled him around and off
balance. Reflexively, he turned his head and saw it was the female Belette Fray. Miss Fray
are you alright?
'Miss Fray...' was all Pulse's mouth got out, he saw her hand reaching for his
holstered weapon. He had been trained for this and was faster than anyone else on the
force, human or robot.
Pulse's arms snapped across his chest, instead of knocking her hand away he
caught it, five centimetres short of it's goal. Instantly she broke free with astounding force,
that set him off balance.
The fist caught him in the side of the face, he could feel each individual knuckle in
the milliseconds that they connected. Pulse's thoughts were garbled for a second and his
senses were impaired, a normal loss of thought during a blow to the head. Suddenly he
was thinking straight, but still reeling, off balance and his vision was blurry.
Pulse felt a pulling on his left shoulder and waist, the straps attached to his holster
tugged as his weapon was pulled free, he was still regaining balance and full brain
functions so he was virtually powerless to react. The weight of the gun was gone, it had
been removed and Fray had full possession.
Ndidjen's vision cleared.
A gun blast shattered the quiet of the container.
He pulled his head around. Belette stood holding the gun on Darian Farr. Farr's
knee had exploded and red mist was settling around it. Pulse regained his balance.
Fray grimaced and pulled the gun up higher, steadying her arm with her other. She
had clearly not fired a weapon before. Still, from what Pulse could see, this one would hit
Farr in the chest. He had to stop her.
Ndidjen began to run to the armed girl. Her finger touched the trigger. He would
not make it by far.
The second shot rang out. Belette jerked. Darian Farr jerked as the bullet caught
his torso, ten centimetres below the solar plexus and to the left, it looked like it had hit a
rib. With fast medical help, Farr had a good chance of living.
Belette Fray took aim once again, higher up this time. This trajectory would kill.
Pulse was running. In such slow replay the distance between himself and Fray was
a lightyear. Yet if she hesitated, he would reach her, and deflect the aim of the weapon
before it was too late.
Belette did not hesitate. The bullet streaked out so fast it was lost among the
powder that pushed it. Pulse was half a metre away from the killer. The bullet entered
Farr's skull, right in the centre of the forehead. It exited with a red bloom on the wall.
Farr was killed instantly by a head wound. Time of death: 11:32:01 am 20:6:2332.
Pulse still had momentum even as Farr was robbed of life. He connected with the
small female, grabbing the gun with one hand and using the other arm to bring her down,
she didn't react. They both knew that it was too late.
Belette Fray made mewling noises.
No she hadn't, he was on top of her and she couldn't do much more than grunt as
the air was forced out of her lungs. But the voice patterns were hers.
This wasn't a memory. It was now.
Pulse broke free of the memory recall. His vision was restored. Before him lay the
dead Darian Farr and Belette Fray.
She was moving.

'Did you know those other people?' Mark asked the maintenance man.
He appeared to mull it over for a second. 'No, not really, I knew Detective Ndidjen
from his reputation but I never met him before.'
'The others?'
'No.'
Mark fell silent. They passed through empty room after empty room, Mark got the
impression that Brak was checking each room systematically, even though they had
decided that Julia was more than likely, not even on the container. It was probably his job.
'You were wondering how so many people came to be on the container at once?'
Samuel Brak asked after a few seconds of quiet.
'Well, I was told that it would be completely deserted. It is restricted.'
'I was wondering that also.' Brak admitted.
Actually, he knew about how Detective Pulse Ndidjen and Darian Farr came to be
aboard. Yesterday, the monthly supply run arrived. As well as bringing food, goods, new
crew members and mail, hidden within the outer seal of a rarely used docking arm was a
package the size of a zero-grav bed rolled up. Pulse received his supplies of high grade
drugs without requiring anyone on the supply run to be involved. All he needed to do was
set it up with one of the dry-dock maintenance crew at the other end. So far nobody on Sol
1 had ever found out. When the ship arrives, Pulse gets into a space suit, collects his
package, leaves a suitable payment and passes the drugs onto his dealer in a nice deserted
container deck.
Pulse Ndidjen had a space suit. It was the one thing Brak had forgotten when he
had first assumed the person who had locked them in was Phillipe Smith.
Brak reached into his pocket and felt the set of keys he had found in an inner
pocket when the detective had handed him his overcoat.
'We better head for the exit.'

Belette Fray was moving.


Pulse Ndidjen froze. The interface cable was supposed to clamp down on all spinal
bus related commands. Could she be one of the few trained to fight the cable's
programming?
Belette was not attempting to attack, she was not even trying to rise. She looked
confused and hurt. The only sounds she made were quiet mewlings. Ndidjen had seen this
many times before, the cable was an intrusive procedure that left it's "clients" shaken and
dazed for hours after it had been removed.
The cable had been removed.
Pulse looked at the female robot. The cable which had been left snaking out from
her back was now nowhere to be seen.
Suddenly Pulse felt something stick into his own back. Razor sharp hooks wrapped
around his spine. A hundred tiny needles forced their way into his spinal bus, his thoughts
and his memories. The momentary pain subsided, his vision swam, sounds faded.

Brak led the teen towards the entrance.


Still, with all of his best laid plans, Ndidjen hadn't counted on Samuel Brak and
Phillipe Smith. While Brak was the man who found out about Ndidjen's scheme and was
to steal the million C's, it was Smith's machine that made it possible.
Phillipe Smith was by all accounts, a very smart man. He had run his gangs
through the poorer quarters of Sol 1 for nearly a year. Gangs of robots, built by himself,
disguised as young humans and loyal to the death to him. Smith ran labs that produced the
lower grade drugs, equipment theft and "redistribution" rackets, illegal arms handling,
everything in organized crime, all under the lesser policed front of disorganized youth
gangs. Technology, perfectly made and undetectable were Phillipe Smith's trademarks.
That is why it was he who invented the C code stealing device.
No, Smith wasn't stupid, he had installed the encryption device to prevent Brak
from disappearing with all of the loot, a move expected by Samuel. He had also posted his
robot gangs everywhere Brak was expected to turn up, should he successfully disappear.
what he hadn't counted on was that his information owing to Brak's usual haunts was
wrong, and it wasn't the million credits that Brak intended to steal. There was something
of much greater value.
The code stealer itself.
It didn't matter too much that Smith had turned up to see how the operation was
going. Brak knew that was not the real reason he was here. After hearing that his chief
rival in drug supply, the man who undercut Smith's lower grade, homegrown drugs with
high quality, yet cheaply produced product; was one of the most highly respected police
detectives on Sol 1, he would have to find out for himself. And never letting an
opportunity slip by...
Brak chuckled. Smith and Ndidjen were probably trying to kill each other right
now.

Blackness. Silence. Ndidjen found himself in the hole, or what technicians referred
to as the operating system. Reflex of habit sent him to feel out his sense organs in an
attempt to reset his sight and hearing. Suddenly a flash of pain shivered down his back.
He remembered now, the interface cable, drops the robot "consciousness" into the
operating system, cutting off all input and output. Putting the robot to a sort of
unconscious sleep and readying the system for the investigator. If the robot tries to re-
establish control, he is rewarded with a sharp but short lived pain. The cable operates by
way of hundreds of tiny needles inserted into the spinal bus. A robot's spine contains
thousands of filaments which are the message carriers, each of the penetrating needles
breaks through and can take over hundreds of the microscopic filaments. The circuitry
built into the interface cable, much more powerful than the delicate biologically based
brain of the robot, takes control.
Who had removed the cable from Belette Fray and attacked Ndidjen?

Phillipe Smith wiped the disgusting robot blood from his hands onto the overcoat
of the detective. He had seen this type of cable in use before but guessed that more
experienced hands wouldn't make so much of a mess.
The robot girl, Belette Fray was coming to. She was still dazed from the sudden
removal of the cable, by the time she reaches full consciousness it would be too late.
Phillipe wasn't sorry for her, she was a robot.
Now only Samuel Brak and the boy stood in his way.

Few robots had been trained to escape the grasp of the feared cable.
Pulse Ndidjen was one of those few.
Robots were originally intended for space, their muscles did not deteriorate under
extended zero-g periods, they were stronger and lighter, and could take much more
damage than an average human. An example of this was in the spine, a human would
require urgent medical attention should their spine be damaged partially, a robot could
ignore the damage and continue the job with fewer filaments, even down to a few
hundred. That's why the interface cable needed all of it's needles to penetrate every part of
the spinal bus, and get within a millimetre of every working filament.
Normally, the chances of a cable missing the needed amount of filaments, ( at
least five-hundred,) was 0.4%. If a cable had been previously used and not checked for
broken or missing needles, that figure rose to 2%. If a cable was being used by someone
who was not properly trained, the odds jumped up to 10% chance of the needed filaments
being available. If applied at the wrong angle or quickly as if it was being used to subdue
the robot, as was the case with Ndidjen, the odds were 25%.
The odds were good.
The cable had also suspended all system programs and shortcut sequences
available to Ndidjen, he would have to feel his body out manually. Gently he sent out
testing signals to his toes, using different bunches of filaments, trial and error was the only
way to break though. Slowly he worked though his entire bus, remembering the free
patches and ignoring the multitude of captured filaments.
The total, fifty-seven filaments were at his disposal, far from the needed number
for near normal operations, but, Ndidjen had been trained for this too. With such spine
loss, a robot is expected to wait medical attention, as a policeman, lives may depend on
him finishing the job. Now, Detective Pulse Ndidjen's own life hung in the balance.
Communicating only bits at a time, using "hand compressed" information, Pulse
could manipulate his body to remove the cable, or at least pull it out enough to free
another four-hundred and fifty filaments. He would have to be discrete, the procedure was
slow and most likely his assailant would be still in the room, Pulse would have to free
himself before whoever it was realized he was moving. A nearly impossible ask.
Area by area, Pulse felt out his body, trying to find out how he was, no major
damage, pressure on the right side of his right leg, his right hip, shoulder, ribs and head,
all felt the same pressure on the right side. His right arm felt pressure on both sides, just
below the elbow, he was lying on his side, on top of his right arm. No other body part felt
anything. He was breathing normally and maintaining his heartbeat automatically, even
though no signals had been sent from the brain, (robot parts had higher value if resold
alive).
So he was lying down and seemed undamaged. Pulse wished he had the bus
capabilities for sight but he would have to hope that the attacker was gone or not looking.
It was now time to move. Pulse considered the fastest and quietest movements that would
pull out the cable or dislodge it. Here goes...
Pulse sent commands to his right arm, he hoped that his weight had not cut off the
blood flow and weakened it. He pushed out against the floor, for a time that seemed an
eternity. Was he applying the right force? Had the task been completed and simply not
worked or was he still trying to move? Pulse considered suspending the movement and
checking his nerves to see if it had worked. No, a little while longer. He sent the command
to push harder.
It must work.

Phillipe heard movement, not from the dazed female, Belette. He turned to see
Detective Ndidjen roll onto his back.

Pulse's vision exploded in light. He had succeeded in rolling onto his back, his
weight dislodged the cable partially, he had freed up at least six hundred filaments. Sight
and sound was suddenly restored and his movements were easy. A sharp pain on his lower
back spoke of the damage being done by the inserted and nearly wrenched out cable. It
was mostly superficial, hopefully.
Phillipe Smith was standing on one leg before him. In one hand he used a bent
piece of metal as a sort of crutch, in the other he held Ndidjen's gun.
Pulse acted quickly, or didn't act. He rolled his eyes back and shook as if under
some sort of seizure, emitting gasping strangled noises. It was a big gamble.
Phillipe visibly relaxed. He evidently believed that Pulse was helpless. He stood
there watching for a minute, amusement showing on his face.
Detective Ndidjen inwardly smiled. He knew who Phillipe Smith was, a man of
famous (or infamous), technical knowledge. Rumored to have originated from the Moon
colonies, no one knew his real name. Smith, as his current persona must be, ran gangs of
robots as part of an organized crime ring. Ndidjen had found these gangs to be useful aids,
he employed his own substantial knowledge of robotics to gain a measure of control over
the gang members, using them to find information for his own use. Pulse could have
brought the entire ring down in one sweep, Smith and all, but there was so much more to
be gained from this other "arrangement". Evidently Smith had found out about the
incursion, and wanted to stop it at the source, personally.
Pulse still pretended to be choking, he sucked air past a closed throat, his eyes
nearly popped out of his head, he thrashed around with less force, and finally stopped
moving. Pulse faked death. Eyes open, no movement, undetectable breathing.
Phillipe laughed out loud. 'For a moment I thought you had woken up. Sorry about
letting you roll onto your back. Didn't know it'd kill you.' He laughed again.
Pulse heard another sound, Belette was making those weak noises, she was in
shock. Smith spun as if he thought she was attacking. Again he relaxed, thinking the
situation was under control. He walked over to the "dead" Detective Ndidjen. He pocketed
the gun and leaned down on the crutch.
'Two birds, one cable. Eh, old boy?' he said, reaching for the interface.
Ndidjen's reply was to grab the man by the throat. Smith lost his balance and fell
on top of the detective. Ndidjen landed a flurry of blows before reaching for the pocketed
gun. He found the butt and pulled it out. Smith recovered from the attack and struck back,
hitting Pulse's hand.
The gun skittered across the room.
Ndidjen hit Smith in the face, Smith blocked easily, the cable was still inserted
into the detective's spine and his movements were still jerky and hampered. Smith, even
with his damaged leg, still had the physical advantage. Ndidjen would have to use all of
his training to subdue this man.
Phillipe Smith punched, and Ndidjen was too slow to react. The fist caught him in
the face and his grip on the other was lost. Smith seized the opportunity and wriggled free.
Ignoring the makeshift crutch he crawled towards the gun.
Pulse pulled his senses together and grabbed Smith's injured leg. Smith hissed in
pain, a metre short of the weapon. Pulse pulled Phillipe back and grabbed his neck from
the back, he wrapped his arms around and began to squeeze the life out of the human.
Smith couldn't reach over to any part of Pulse's body, his hands flailed about uselessly,
searching for anything.
They found the cable. Both of Ndidjen's own hands were busy. Smith found the
free end of the interface and the small case where the circuitry was held. If the cable was
wrenched free, the robot would experience nausea and pain for a few minutes, if the
controlling circuit was shorted or destroyed while in use, the hooked up robot could be
permanently destroyed. Somehow Smith knew this. He began to bash down on the plastic
casing, using the last of his strength. Pulse squeezed on Smith's neck tighter, hoping to kill
before the casing gave way.
Kill or be killed.
'Stop!' Belette's voice froze them in mid-kill.
She had the gun trained on them, she had used it before. The gun's aim shifted
constantly from Ndidjen to Smith. It was shaking badly, Pulse was reminded how unstable
and fragile Belette's mind was. The slightest thing could set her off.
'Wait...'
Belette pulled the trigger.

A single shot rang through the container living quarters, the sound reached the
maintenance man and the teenager. Immediately Samuel Brak headed off.
'Where are..' Mark Reddick asked.
'We have to leave. Now.'
'But..' Mark had to jog to catch the other. 'We're getting off the container?'
'Yes.' Brak continued his brisk pace.
'But, what about the others?'
Brak stopped abruptly and turned to face the boy. 'Didn't you hear the gunshot?'
'Yes, but...' Mark began but Brak had already turned and began walking away.
Mark ran to keep up. 'Yes, But what's going on?'
'There's no time to explain.' Brak called behind him. 'Let's just say that only four
people were supposed to be on this container.'
'They were supposed to be...?' Mark asked, still confused. 'You mean the cop and
the woman and the dead man and...and who?'
'Smith. He was in the other room.' Brak explained, not slowing in his stride. 'Yes,
it wasn't a coincidence that they all appeared here today.'
'Then how? Why today?' Reddick was beginning to lose his breath.

The sharp sound still rang in Pulse Ndidjen's ears. He still held the organized
crime boss around the throat. Phillipe Smith still held the cracked interface cable in his
hands.
Who was shot?
When Belette Fray pulled the trigger, the trajectory was wrong, it was way over
both of their heads. Belette had shown some proficiency when executing Darian Farr, she
must have missed on purpose. Maybe to get them to stop fighting. It had worked.
Smith seemed equally surprised to still be alive.

The corridor curved slowly around. Samuel Brak cursed himself for having to take
the long way around. he should have forgotten the boy's girlfriend Julia and headed
straight out. This was the only way to avoid the main room where the others were.
'Today is one day after the arrival of the monthly supply ship.' Brak explained.
'The detective smuggles his drug supply this way. Farr is his dealer and today they met to
exchange the drugs for a million C's.'
'Detective Ndidjen...' Mark breathed.

'Why are you here?' Belette Fray yelled from behind the sight of the gun. She still
had plenty of bullets and her mental state seemed to be deteriorating.
Pulse Ndidjen considered telling her the truth, she was going to die anyway, and a
condemned robot's mad accusations were seldom heard, the plan was to distract her with
new information, in her state it would take longer to compile. Maybe long enough to
regain his gun.
The gun flicked from Smith to Ndidjen, Ndidjen to Smith, back and forth. She was
not processing correctly, she may kill the first man to open his mouth. Her aim was still
pretty good. Ndidjen decided to keep as low a profile as possible.
'Why are you here?' Belette screamed, shaking even more uncontrollably.
'You came to sell drugs, didn't you.' Phillipe Smith hissed. Pulse's grip on his neck
was still fairly tight. 'Tell her that.'
'What are you saying?' Belette's voice was beginning to tire from the screaming.
She was beginning to tire, the constant stress had slowed her down, her hold on the heavy
gun wavered, it still passed aim between them quickly and menacingly.
'This man...' Pulse called to the disturbed robot. 'This man rapes and kills women.'
The aim of the gun fell firmly and unfalteringly onto Smith.

'So why is the crazy robot here?' Mark half jogged to keep up.
'She was sent a message.' Samuel Brak said. 'It said that someone had information
on the whereabouts of the Nineteenth Square Murderer. So she came.'
'She's trying to find a serial killer? Why?'
'He killed her assignee.' Brak answered. 'Caliele Baker, the person who didn't
know her personal assistant was a robot, was kidnapped and murdered. Belette Fray went
mad, she swore that no rapist or murderer of woman would live while she was alive.'
'So she's spending all of her time looking for this serial killer?'
'Not all. The Nineteenth Square Murderer takes up most of her time, but in the
time since she cracked, she has executed thirteen suspected and convicted sex offenders
and murderers.' The maintenance man stated.

'No!' Phillipe Smith yelled. 'That's a lie!'


'He does, Belette.' Detective Ndidjen spoke with coolness as opposed to Smith
who was yelling and attempting to escape the headlock. 'I'm stopping him from attacking
you now. I'm helping you.'
Confusion swept over Belette's face. 'You sent the note?'
What note? 'Yes... yes, I sent the note.' Pulse ran with it.
The gun wavered. Good, even if Belette tried to shoot Smith, she may miss and hit
Ndidjen. It was best to regain control of the situation and kill Smith and Belette himself.
Suddenly realization struck the mad girl's features. She pointed the gun at
Detective Ndidjen. 'You sent me to this place...' She walked over to them. 'You sent me
here so I would meet him...' Pulse couldn't tell if she meant Darian Farr or the Nineteenth
Square Murderer 'You didn't even warn me...' She spied the interface cable snaking out
from under Pulse, and caught her breath. 'You... you came into me....' She came up close
and put the gun to Pulse's head, pressing the muzzle into his eye. 'It's you...'
Smith felt the detective's grip loosen and suddenly he wriggled free.
Belette noticed the movement and pointed the gun at Smith.

'So what about this "Smith". Why is he here?' Mark Reddick found he needed to
know who these people he had been accidentally involved in.
'An organized crime boss. Detective Ndidjen knows about his operations and I
suppose they both want each other dead.' Brak chuckled. 'Smith was also helping Darian
Farr plan a double-cross on Ndidjen.'
The web spins upon itself.

Smith saw the gun pointed at himself, and cowered. 'Don't kill me.' He begged.
Detective Ndidjen found this to be highly unusual behaviour for a crime boss, was
it a gambit for more time? or did he know something about the psyche of robots that Pulse
didn't?
It worked, Belette didn't shoot. She looked frozen in indecision.
'He's the one you must kill.' Smith directed Belette to Pulse. 'He works with your
attacker, he wanted you to be raped.'
The gun was now trained on Ndidjen. 'But you sent the message...'
'No, he didn't, I did.' Phillipe Smith had found a hole to crawl through. He could
see daylight.
Suddenly Belette pointed the gun up. She looked calm and even clear headed. Her
voice was oddly quiet. 'Neither of you know about the message, do you?'

The brighter lights of the entrance lit Mark's face as a thought struck him. 'The
four were sent in to kill each other. They were sent into the container, and locked in. You
could tell they would wind up killing each other. It was a matter of time.'
Samuel Brak mulled it over. 'That makes a lot of sense. Just about everyone on Sol
1 would be better off without these people.'
'But how could this be organized?' Mark asked.
'And who would do it?'

Pulse Ndidjen and Phillipe Smith exchanged glances. Neither of them did know
about any message sent to Belette Fray.
The two men spoke at the same time. 'We're being manipulated.'
'What?' Belette seemed strangely calm.
'The meeting changing; the exterior door left unlocked; your message..' Pulse
ticked off with his fingers.
'My tip; all these people coming here; your message..' Smith continued.
'My message.' Belette breathed.
'Someone has planned for us to come together.' Detective Ndidjen stood up.
Belette reacted immediately. 'Wait!' She trained the gun's aim on Pulse. 'How do I
know it's not you.' She swung the aim onto Smith. 'Or you.'
Pulse held his hands up in an I-won't-hurt-you gesture. 'Look, I am as much a
pawn as you two.'
'You're a cop. You wanted to bust us.' Belette disagreed. 'There's nothing anyone
can get you on.'
'Yes there is.' Phillipe Smith laughed. 'He's a two bit drug smuggler.'
Ndidjen wanted to bust the guy's arse. Later. 'Belette, it's not us. You have to trust
me or we could all end up dead.'
'Then who? Him?' Belette indicated the dead Darian Farr.
'I hope not.' Pulse doubted, this plot was a little too well planned to have been
executed by a drug pusher.
'The maintenance man?' Smith guessed.
'No, I don't think the person would come on board. There's no reason. All they had
to do was get us on and lock the door after us.' Pulse had no idea who would have the
reason to do this. To kill the most powerful drug businessmen on Sol 1, none of the
smaller gangs had the manpower to cope with the sudden demand created. Plus, Pulse
Ndidjen supplied most of them.
'Why would someone just lock us in here, though? We would be found eventually,
there's a whole week left and the stripping operation isn't finished.' Smith noted.
'Yes, if they wanted to kill us they would have to somehow speed up the operation.
Jettison the container early, while we're still on it.' Ndidjen said.
'They couldn't, the manual release requires the security codes of the five highest
ranking engineers, and they wouldn't let go unless they checked if anyone is on board.'
Smith recalled.
'All of the com's are out.' Belette said.
'What?' Pulse turned to the girl robot.
'When I came in and got lost, before I met you, I tried to access the map.' Belette
explained. 'Everything was out.'
Someone would have had to go outside and cut the umbilical, it was the only way
to avoid the tamper alarm. Outside. 'This is well planned.'
'Well, no-one knows we're here, they still won't jettison without a reason.' Belette
Fray said. 'How can they do that?'
Smith remembered his private conversation with Samuel Brak, 'A leak in the
container. Cracked Glass. Anything. This place is about ready to go by itself.'
'Yes, but a bomb or something could have been planted days ago. There's no
reason for any one to still be on board.' Ndidjen decided.
'Yes there is.' Belette Fray stated.
'What?'
'They had to make sure that we had all arrived.' She said.
'That's right, they can't do this again if they miss anyone. Who was doing a roll
count?' Smith asked.

'So if everyone was here on purpose, how is it that we ended up here? I didn't do
anything wrong.' Mark Reddick said as they walked into the entrance hall.
'Bad luck I suppose.' The elderly maintenance man guessed.
'But how can we be sure? I mean, how do we know, we weren't on the list?' Mark
asked.
Samuel Brak laughed. 'Because I wrote the list.'

'Brak.' Pulse realized. 'He searched the ship and found everyone. He missed the
boy because Mark wasn't supposed to be on board.' Pulse said.
'He found us, and stopped looking.' Belette finished.
'And he used that searching time to plant the bomb.....Oh God.' Smith gasped.
'What?' Pulse nearly shouted.
'The disks he put on the weak points in the glass....' He left it hanging.

Brak pulled the receiver from his belt. All of the bombs returned an armed:
standby signal. It was nearly time.

Pulse Ndidjen pulled Phillipe Smith to his feet. 'We have to stop them leaving, or
we die.' He put his head under Smith's arm, allowing the crippled man to walk.
Together they headed down the poorly lit hallway.

Samuel Brak shifted uncomfortably in the maintenance uniform. He was used to


looser clothing as an undercover agent to Captain Lockheed. Seven weeks ago, he had a
private meeting with the captain, the captain wanted a special mission to be done. Highly
illegal, and with a substantial reward at the end of it. the task was to lure four people who
posed the greatest threat to Sol 1's internal security. There was no legal channels to
dispatch of these people so it was up to an "accident".
Detective Pulse Ndidjen and his partner Darian Farr smuggled drugs to more than
a thousand crew members with a near undetectable means, while this was the sole reason
behind Farr's demise, the corrupt detective had a greater reason to meet an early death.
Investigation had revealed that Pulse Ndidjen had organized the most widespread union of
robots and planned to use a ship-wide strike to shut Sol 1 down until equal rights had been
established. The captain didn't want this, nor did he want the riots and meelee's that would
accompany such a strike. The good side was that a union organized under such total
secrecy, needed it's leader to survive and rise to power. A martyr would not suffice, even
if the majority of unionists believed the accident to have been set up. When Pulse Ndidjen
died, so did his union.
And the others?
There was a personal reason behind one of the four set up in the accident. Caliele
Baker. A wealthy socialite and woman about town, was the captain's mistress, or as it was
referred to in the poor quarters, a second wife. Her only fault, a flat refusal to associate
with robots. Unwise for someone so rich and attractive and in need of bodyguards. The
captain provided her with a personal assistant, Belette Fray. Belette failed in her task of
protection and for that reason alone the captain wanted her dead. The murders of the sex
offenders and murderers was not considered reason enough.
Phillipe Smith posed a threat to Sol 1 security by himself, with his gangs of drug
running robots. His invention of the code stealing device, a machine that essentially
destroyed the value of the C overnight. The task was that Smith was to die, and the one
and only machine destroyed along with him. Intelligence assured that Smith retained all
of his blueprints in implants in his head. The machine would be gone and the security of
the C restored.
Samuel Brak, or Henry Baxter as his real name was, (known only to the captain),
always worked alone. He was given a task but how these tasks were fulfilled was up to
Brak.
So far? Perfect.
Brak reached for the Detective's set of keys, one was the standard size for outer
level airlocks and hatches. What a surprise.
Even though he worked directly for the highest power on Sol 1, the most respected
position, particularly for it's honourability, Brak's position was one of secrecy and
criminal acts. If he were to ever get caught he never worked for any governing body and
they had never seen him before. Although the pay was good, there was no sizable
retirement fund for people in Brak's line of work. Not many people made it to retirement
in Brak's line of work. That was not good enough for Samuel Brak, he didn't want a small
alcove in the lower courtyards, with a flower bed and a veranda where he argues about the
good old days with other uselessly old retirees. No, he's worked hard, the amount of time
Brak's life was in danger for the "good of Sol 1" deserved more than a citizen class
pension.
Samuel Brak wasn't getting one though. Not from the captain anyway, it was
however very difficult to work in such an illegal environment, without picking up a few
"unlikely to be missed" C's. It was an expected fringe benefit. Today, Brak had put
together his biggest scheme to date, and picked up the two biggest fringe benefits he was
ever likely to see. One million C's from a pair of drug dealers, and a C code stealing
machine. The million C's were insignificant compared to the value of the machine. Not
even the captain would know about the machine's existence, and Brak would live quite
well off, skimming the odd C off every person to walk past his house.
Samuel Brak picked his bag up from where he had left it. He would never leave
such a vast booty unsecured again. He looked at the display.
"Please insert correct key."
With Mark Reddick watching passively, Samuel Brak inserted the key into it's
circular slot.

Together the three ran down the hallway, arm in arm. A bemused side to Pulse
Ndidjen wondered how they had suddenly pulled into a team. Only minutes ago they were
ready to kill each other. In the future they may one day be doing just that, but right now,
they would work together if only to save their own lives.
Phillipe Smith checked his watch. 'We still have five minutes. He won't blow the
place until he's off.' Smith grunted every time he put weight on his damaged artificial leg,
although he wasn't letting it slow them down.
'What if he lied about the time needed to reconnect the docking arm?' Pulse called
back.
No answer.
Pulse missed the reassuring weight on his holster. Belette Fray had not returned
the gun to him, he considered insisting but there was no time for arguments should she
refuse. She was a reasonable shot anyway, and was showing remarkable recovery from
her earlier madness. It was odd but very little was known about the robotic mind. He had
heard of recovery from robotic madness before, even witnessed a once "frothing at the
mouth" robot seem quite coherent shortly before dismantlement. It was no doubt
temporary, as the case would be with Miss Fray.
The entrance room was much brighter than the hallway, they burst in not quite
knowing what to expect, Ndidjen took in the details in an instant.
The maintenance man Samuel Brak was sitting on a crate, next to the boy Mark
Reddick. A set of keys hung out of the outer door lock, Pulse recognized the set as his
own. The key which unlocked Pulse's secret airlock had been inserted. The monitor said:
"Incorrect Key. Door Locked."
"Please insert correct key."
Brak started to rise, as did Reddick.
"Stay down!" Belette Fray yelled, pointing the gun at them. Mark Reddick sat.
Samuel Brak stood.
'We know who you are.' Phillipe Smith stated. Puffing from his one legged run.
'I don't know what you mean.' The so called maintenance man said. Confusion
washed over his face.
Belette fray blew a stray lock of hair from her face, even with the blood drying on
her forehead and tension showing, she was still a beautiful woman. 'You were going to
leave us here, weren't you?'
'A double cross.' Smith added.
Confusion combined with fear. 'You think I... we were going to leave without you?'
Brak asked. 'But why?'
Detective Ndidjen stopped. He was very good at reading human faces. This either
was a man who truly did not know what they were talking about, or a very talented actor.
He started to doubt his earlier conclusion. The task of trapping Ndidjen, Smith, Fray and
Farr was best accomplished from a distance, no one would be foolhardy enough to risk
actually coming on board without a substantial reward to tempt them. Maybe Samuel
Brak was somehow involved in the plot, as a pawn, unknowingly making the final
preparations. Perhaps he too, was to die with them as an innocent bystander. Never
knowing what was going on until it was too late.
A reward for being a lowly maintenance man in the wrong place at the wrong
time.
'Look, someone has damaged the locking mechanism. I, I, I think someone's....'
Brak trailed off. His eyes never left the gun pointed at him. He was just scared.
Smith turned to Ndidjen. 'He doesn't know what's going on.'
Detective Ndidjen walked over to Belette. Her eyes were fixed intently on the
maintenance man, stress was beginning to show again. Gently he whispered into her ear. 'I
don't think he's involved.' Slowly he took the gun off her. She let it go limply. Hope had
drained from her eyes.
Pulse holstered the weapon.
'I'm sorry if we scared you Brak. I think I know why the door won't open.' Pulse
felt nothing. He simply lacked any ideas on what to do. 'We think someone is intentionally
locking us in here, we thought it might be you at first....'
'Container seventeen maintenance.' Smith said under his breath.
'What?' Pulse asked.
'Container Seventeen Maintenance.' Smith repeated. he was looking at Brak,
actually he was reading the identification badge on the man's uniform.
'What?' Pulse asked again. He wasn't sure what Phillipe Smith was trying to point
out.
'I asked for a drink of water.' Smith said quietly. 'He didn't know where it could be
found. He didn't know where anything was.'
All crew who were assigned to container stripping, were selected from
maintenance shifts from all over Sol 1, but none of them had Container id, only crew who
had spent the insanely long journey in such a small space carried that id. It would be fair
to say that everyone of them knew every square millimetre of the container.
Brak was no maintenance man.

Lightning fast, Detective Pulse Ndidjen drew his gun. In the same time Brak
pulled a small box from his belt and held it out in front of him.
'I think in your line of work you have seen a reverse trigger in use.' Brak said,
confidence suddenly coming into his voice. A small red light indicated that he was right.
A reverse trigger was a device designed for terrorists and anyone needing
hostages. It worked simply by not triggering when squeezed, but when released. The small
box this particular trigger was attached to was clearly a transmitter.
'The bombs!' Belette gasped.
Brak had depressed the trigger and was holding it there. In shooting him, Pulse
would only kill them all.
The signal constantly sent to each and every bomb would halt, they would explode
and shatter the glass compound, setting off every single warning device on the container.
Toxic gases from the payload would mix with the atmosphere of the bridge and living
quarters and kill them all in minutes, if they were lucky. If they were unlucky enough to
avoid the poisonous fumes, they would bear witness to the second stage of the failsafe: the
premature release of container 17 into the sun. Day by day, as the solar system's only star
looms closer, the temperature inside the container would rise degree by degree. Until they
perish from the heat, weeks before the container reaches the surface of the Sun. It was
quite a death threat Brak was holding in his hand.
'I wouldn't recommend shooting the device either. All of the charges are designed
to react to loss of signal too.'
Pulse discarded that plan. He still kept his gun aimed at the man.
'You must be crazy.' Smith near shouted. 'You wouldn't detonate with yourself on
board.'
'Are you willing to call my bluff?' Samuel Brak asked smiling.
Smith took a heavily limping step towards Brak.
Brak released the trigger. The red light flashed.
'NO!' Smith fell backwards.
Brak laughed and squeezed the trigger. The red light stopped flashing.
'What...?' Phillipe asked trying to get upright.
'There's a three second delay.' Ndidjen explained. From what he could see, the
trigger had been released for 1.8 seconds, well within limits, yet Pulse would prefer not to
have a human judge a safe interval.
Smith pushed himself into a sitting position. Brak was still laughing.
'Then you are crazy.' Smith concluded.
'I have a few questions for you...' Brak turned serious.
'You're nuts.' Smith interrupted.
'...it's about the locking mechanism on this door...' Brak continued unconcerned.
'You'd enjoy committing us to a fiery death, wouldn't you?' Smith said.
'...I think someone here may have had something to do with it...'
'You probably like fire.'
Pulse Ndidjen wondered why Smith was continuing the assault. Samuel Brak was
not taking any notice of his accusations, he seemed to be enjoying this sudden power over
the others. It looked like nothing would disturb his power trip.
Then Pulse saw the face of the young man Mark Reddick. Horror. Pure Horror.
Phillipe Smith wasn't trying to get to Brak, he was trying to get to Reddick.
'One of you here...'
Brak was interrupted as the receiver was pulled out of his hands. Mark, seeing that
he was the only hope for getting close enough to snatch the device away and repress the
trigger made a grab.
Suddenly the receiver was in the young man's hands. The light was flashing.
Frantically Mark fumbled for the trigger. Be calm boy, be Calm! Ndidjen watched as the
boy jammed down on the switch.
They all breathed a sigh of relief. 2.5 seconds that time. Brak made a move to
attack Mark but Pulse stopped him, still holding the gun on him.
'FREEZE! POLICE!' Pulse Ndidjen yelled the familiar words. They all knew who
he was, but it was time they remembered what he was.
Samuel Brak stopped. The boy's brave about face had suddenly lost him his
power. He looked scared again. This time it was not faked.
'Put your hands on your head, and get down on your knees.' Detective Ndidjen
pushed the advantage of having the only gun, with the detonator in the possession of a
young man who very much wanted to live.
Samuel Brak complied. 'You're a fool Mark. You leave us in the hands of
madmen. Criminals and killers.'
Mark Reddick looked hesitant, but he wasn't about to give the detonator back, he
had made his choice about which side to go to. Still he didn't look like he was ready to
give the device up to the detective either.
'Shut-up.' Pulse ordered. 'We have some questions for you.'
Samuel Brak made no reply.
'Was it you who set this all up?' Smith asked, it was an obvious enough question
but it seemed as good a place to start as any.
Brak looked like he was considering answering. He decided to say nothing.
'You planted the bombs.' Pulse listed on his fingers. 'You gather us together; and
here we find you attempting to leave.'
Brak said nothing.
'Do you have a better explanation for all of this?' Ndidjen asked.
Brak smiled.
Smart-arse. Pulse reversed the gun and struck Brak with the butt.
Brak was ready for it, he deflected the blow and struck out at Pulse's mid section
with his other hand. Samuel Brak punched Ndidjen full in the face, his skills at combat
were high. Before Pulse could right himself Brak had retreated.
Brak was upon Mark before the young man could escape, clutching the receiver
with both hands, he was unable to defend himself. Brak did not grab for the receiver, he
pulled Mark's head into a headlock. He was using the boy as a human shield.
'Don't let go of that box, Mark.' Brak whispered to the terrified young man.
'Let him go Brak.' Detective Ndidjen ordered the desperate man. 'There's nowhere
you can go. You can't hide behind the boy forever. When you slip up, you die.' Pulse
would love to shoot the bastard from behind Mark, he had the marksmanship skills for it,
unfortunately the same fail-safes that prevented him from striking a human female too
hard, also prevented him from shooting too close to an innocent hostage.
Still, Brak couldn't hide forever, soon he would be dead.
'You know, there's also a timer on those bombs.' Brak pulled out a hidden ace with
a casual remark.
'Set to when?' Smith asked.
Brak pretended to think hard. 'I can't remember.'
Pulse was beginning to think he was crazy. 'Enough time to get off the container.'
'I was supposed to get off half an hour ago.' Samuel Brak stated. He looked like the
possibility of time running out didn't worry him, Pulse guessed they had a while left.
'So, what do you want?' Ndidjen chose another tact.
'Same as you. Off this tub.'
'Then let's go. Together.' Pulse was happy to let him go, for now. Once out into the
rest of Sol 1, Ndidjen would have the weight of the entire on board police behind him.
Brak would not last a day.
'One problem.' Brak said. 'Someone here has locked the door and changed the
codes. Someone here.'
Samuel Brak had relaxed his grip on Mark Reddick. Mark saw the opportunity,
holding the receiver in one hand, he elbowed the older man hard in the stomach.
With a grunt, Brak let the boy wriggle free. Too late he made a grab for Mark, the
young man was free, almost.
Brak, knowing that being out from behind the boy meant death from Ndidjen's
gun, lunged. It was too late, he merely clipped Mark from behind. The distance was great
enough for Ndidjen to take a hastily aimed shot. As he felt the bullet explode from the
chamber, Pulse knew the shot would be centimetres off target. The shot pierced Samuel
Brak's arm and he began to spin to the ground.
Mark, struck from behind by Brak had lost his hold on the trigger and his footing
simultaneously. Focused on the receiver completely, he re-depressed the trigger. This time
it had only been off for 1.1 seconds.
In the millisecond that this happened, Ndidjen and possibly Belette, spotted the
problem before any of the humans or even Mark himself.
Mark had the trigger under control, but he was still falling. He put his free hand
out to catch himself but he fell too heavily onto that arm. The hand holding the receiver
smashed down before him. The receiver hit the floor and bounced up and away from the
boys reach.
0.5 seconds. The little box with it's flashing light, makes a shallow angle to the
ground. It's speed takes it far from Mark, the closest would be Pulse himself. Even as he
finishes the thought, he finds himself lunging to catch the device in which their lives
depend.
1.0 seconds. Pulse had chosen his trajectory right, but it would be close. Too close
to the three second limit. The small box clips the floor again.
1.5 seconds. The receiver turns over and over, the deadly flashing red light
alternatively visible and hidden.
2.0 seconds. Pulse, in mid air stretches his arms out. He would have to catch the
box and squeeze the trigger in the one movement. There was no time for anything else.
2.5 seconds. The box clatters along the ground. Pulse hits the ground. His hands
are centimetres from their goal.
2.9 seconds. Hands and metallic surface connect. Pulse curls his hands around as
fast as he can. The trigger is somewhere on the other side. He wraps and his middle finger
finds the bump.
Click.
Pulse Ndidjen breathed a sigh of relief. He turned his hand so he could see the red
light was once again, continuously on.
The light was off.
Too late.

There was no sound of explosions. The silence was eerie.


Blood was flowing from Samuel Brak's arm wound. He ignored it. Slowly he
stood up. He looked dazed.
'He has control of the bombs too.' Belette Fray spoke of the unknown person who
had trapped them all on the container.
'What do you think he wants?' Smith asked.
'That depends on who he is.' Ndidjen surmised.
Samuel Brak walked towards the door. Hanging uselessly from the lock receptacle
was Detective Ndidjen's set of keys, he had wrongly guessed that Ndidjen was the captor.
Brak's bag lay on the ground next to the door where he had left it several lifetimes ago.
'Well, who is it?' Smith asked.
Pulse Ndidjen thought hard, together they had built up a list of enemies a mile
long. Many of them would happily kill them and even a few innocents, Pulse glanced at
Mark, to get the job done. But very few would have had the skills and knowledge
necessary to infiltrate Samuel Brak's entire operation and take control with the so called
maintenance man being none the wiser.
Pulse looked at Brak. The man was looking into his bag. Only he had the intimate
knowledge of his little society to be able to think of who could pull this off. This was
beyond even Pulse's knowledge of the underworld.
'I don't know who it is.' Ndidjen admitted. 'But I know that Mark Reddick is
involved.'
As one they looked at Mark. Mark Reddick started. 'I don't know what's going on, I
really don't know.'
'I don't think you're the one who set this all up,' Pulse assured him. 'I just think that
you were set up like the rest of us.'
'But I've done nothing wrong.' Mark argued. 'Why would I be sent here to die?'
Samuel Brak numbly opened his bag. Inside were all the tools and supples a
maintenance man was likely to need on the container plus a few extras. What wasn't there
however, confirmed his greatest fears. The machine, created by Phillipe Smith, designed
to steal C codes from a short distance, plus the encrypted one million C loot stolen from
Detective Ndidjen and Darian Farr, were both gone.
The man who had entered space to sabotage the communication lines, changed the
door codes and stolen control of Brak's bombs, had also been on the container and stolen
the machine and one million C's.
'Why do you think Mark's been set up?' Phillipe Smith asked. 'It could be a
coincidence.'
'I don't believe in coincidences this big.' Pulse stated. 'Not in my line of work.'
'But still, there's no reason for him to be on board. He says he's done nothing
wrong.' Belette Fray argued.
'He has done something wrong.' Samuel Brak stood up and turned around.
'What?' Pulse asked. If the old man's theory was good, they may still have a chance
of getting off alive.
Brak addressed Mark directly. 'I know you. I wasn't sure because it was too big a
coincidence, but as Detective Ndidjen says, there's no such thing.'
They were all silent. Waiting for Brak's theory.
'I work for the captain, indirectly of coarse, but still, I have heard of you. You are
the Mark who is dating the captain's daughter, Julia Lockheed?'

'Yes, so?' Mark not understanding.


'Oh, No.' Pulse Ndidjen understood. 'He wouldn't do that would he?'
'In all your dealings with Captain Lockheed, you never guessed he could do such a
thing?' Brak asked the detective. 'The entire plot was his idea, actually.'
'Yes but..' In a twisted sort of logic Pulse couldn't find fault in doing away with
people such as himself and Smith, people who threatened to destroy Sol 1 for their own
needs. But a young man just because he was dating your daughter?
'Oh God, No.' Mark was beginning to see how involved he was. He could read his
own doom in the eyes of those who were to die with him.
'So, the captain gives you a list of people to kill,' Smith said. '...but decides to add
one more without telling you?'
'Not one more.' Belette told him. 'Two.'
Samuel Brak looked about himself. He was in like company, mortal enemies of
Captain Lockheed. Pulse Ndidjen, the corrupt detective who planned to close down Sol 1
operations; Darian Farr, the petty drug dealer who had his fingers in more illegal pots
than he could remember; Phillipe Smith, the crime boss who created a device to steal C
codes from a short distance; Belette Fray, the robot bodyguard who failed to protect the
captain's mistress; Mark Reddick, the boy from the poor quarters who was screwing the
captains daughter; and Samuel Brak, an employee planning to retire using the same
machine that threatened the security of the C.
Brak wondered if Lockheed had donned the spacesuit and conducted this part of
the operation himself, or if he had already appointed Brak's successor to do it. Brak
believed that the wearer of the suit was none other than Captain Lockheed, otherwise
Brak's complex network of informers may have gotten wind of it.
In a strange way, Samuel admired the captain's "hands on" approach.
'Is there anything we can do?' Smith asked.
'We wait.' Brak answered numbly.
They didn't wait long.
The gunshot-like explosions of dozens of small disc-like bombs cracked the air. A
sudden wind picked up. They could all smell something foul.