The slot in the wall for the door was only a little blocked by archive boxes and the rubbish bin as Police Sergeant Camran pushed it open and made his way uncomfortably inside, stepping around boxes and tripping on loose items as he fell into the chair at the head of the table and squeezed into the gap next to the wall with a small cough.
Camran cleared his throat and sat up, putting his hands on the desk over a folder. “Would anyone care to explain this to me.” He said, looking down at his desk and picking up the folder.
It was only a few pages thick, with the word PARANORMAL printed on the front.
“This is the fruits of the division year of work. As you can see it’s very thick.” He continued, letting the folder drop flat on the desk between his fingers.
He coughed, and straightened his neck as he gulped, and then tried again. Tilting his head some more and putting his cap at a rakish angle.
“Would anyone care to explain this to me?” He said again, sterner this time, before sitting up and nodding.
The blank wall opposite him and the two empty chairs hard against it gave no answer. He sighed and let his shoulders fall as he looked back down at the folder on the desk.
He opened his mouth for one last practice before his radio squawked to life on his chest, making him flinch in surprise, and taking a breath.
“Paranormal required at a 10-15 Traffic Accident, inexplicable activity reported. How copy?” Came a calm feminine voice loudly over the radio.
“Paranormal required at a 10-15 Traffic Accident, inexplicable activity reported. How copy?” Detective Ada House, Mudwater Paranormal heard the order through her radio.It was the middle of the afternoon and sun was well past its peak, dipping the town in dull orange colors.
House audibly groaned, her eyes slowly opening from her seat in the car. She loathed paranormal cases, even more so than the petty bickering between people who always threatened violence when alcohol steeled their nerves and dulled their balance. Other planets, she would openly admit having received cases on subjects and things that she absolutely could not explain without resorting to the paranormal, magical, and simply otherworldly sources.
Mudwater was not like other places. Rather than housing some paranormal occultism that brought about strange activities and events, it was simply dull, dirty, and absolutely ruined any nice and comfortable clothes she owned that she now refused to bring outside her house. It was no coincidence that she was on a first-name basis with the local dry cleaners.
“Detective House, copy. Moving to investigate.” She responded with a click of the radio, adjusting her seat to actually drive rather than just lay back. “Someone hit a damn power line, got spooked by the sparks.” She grumbled as the car hummed to life. “Guarantee it, some people are spooked by their own shadow.” Buckling herself in, she idly moved the car into drive as the sights of civilization came back into view of the lonesome cruiser.
The police cruiser was old, muddy, and while the local mechanic tried to take care of it, it was clear that this was the old faithful spare that was kept in the back of the lot. At least it was a better color than the unmarked cruiser with its ugly olive color that peeled the first layer of the eyeballs off which was the only other car available to House.
“Copy, House, responders report…” there was a pause as the dispatch officer clearly picked up a sheet of paper to quote exactly “Unknown ectoplasmic substance with suspicious qualities. Good luck, out.”
With the squeal of a slightly dodgy brake the car cruised to the side of the road at the scene. Three police cars, one unmarked other than some sirens and a police traffic control hologram blazing into the road to direct traffic around were already at the scene. The tipped over truck that had puked it’s entire slippery contents onto the road lay covered in fire suppression foam as two firetrucks worth of underutilized firefighters stood staring at the mess, a few brave individuals trying to scrape it off with shovels into a wheelbarrow.
The substance reported was thick, sticky, and resisted all efforts to be moved, a sole ambulance was sitting in front of Houses car, from which she could see a rather frazzled, bruised, but still, alive truck driver having a mild existential crisis over as the weight of the possible insurance claims hit him.
One the edge of the destruction House recognized two trench-coated silhouettes of Detectives Ramos and Detective White, both mustached men staring at the scene as she pulled up, turning towards her as one of them lifted a hand. Even though the sun was just a fading memory on the horizon both men still wore their reflective aviator sunglasses, despite the settling darkness.
House could feel her jaw slightly grind her teeth as she saw the two silhouettes shift towards her direction, pulling the car to the side of the road. “Of course, I’d be lucky if it was the people who were being dumb.” She mumbled, stepping out of the car, letting her face shift into a stern one as she stepped towards the two of them. “I’ll take a wild guess, stop me if I get it, some form of hyper-adhesive for construction or industrial purposes, or maybe some form of quick-drying concrete. I could list a few dozen industrial chemicals that are transported this way but I think it’d be boring for all of us.” She eyed the mess from a distance as she closed the gap.
“I’d assume that proper precautions against gaseous chemical hazards or other, similar risks have been addressed? What exactly is it?”
“Beats me, Detective. I thought Paranormal would be all over unknown substances. Manifest says Aqua-Thermal Treated Silicone Allumiante And Ceramic For Construction.” Said Ramos, pointing his phone at the car as a light zapped to the sideways number plate and brought up all the information to his screen.
Off to the side of the three detectives, a plump uniformed police officer came calmly walking around as he set up holographic emitters that when switched on create an alert perimeter and holographic caution tape. Officer Rime smiled. “Good Evening!” He said pleasantly. He then spoke up. “I went ahead and set up the perimeter that away if any commuters come passing by, they will know not to come in. Your crime scene is secure Detectives!” He said nodding his head and smiling. As he did his eyes lifted with the smile.
“Oh. I interviewed the driver. He said a local black elk jumped in the road and caused him to swerve, and creating the accident. I’ll file the report at some point for the investigation!” Rime added sounding excited at having to finally do his job.
“Unknown is not anomalous.” House chided as she eyed the scene, the waste of silicone and base construction gel weighing in her mind. “Thank you, Officer.” She spoke as she walked past the sizely man. “And it sounds to me like you knew what it was, regardless. Unknown materials aren’t a joke, and that’s largely beside the point.” She sharply turned away from the duo, walking to the front of the truck that had crashed, clinical eyes scanning the impact zones of the vehicle.
“Was the crash caused by collision with the animal, or by attempts to swerve away from it, or a mix of both, or…?” She asked those around her. “It’d be a poor idea to just leave an injured animal of that size wandering about, especially given its place in local superstitions. That kind of thing just makes bad rumors.”
Rime eyed up the other two detectives. “Uh, He said he didn’t hit the animal. Plus walking around and setting up the perimeter, I didn’t see any blood, so I reckon he was telling the truth. “I was going to do a scan of the material. But, well. The detective came on the scene and the perimeter was a bit more of a priority.”
“I called the ambulance and put him in it. He is there if you want any questions.”
“Hey, if you want to go up and get the footage from the truck be my guest, Detective.” Replied Ramos as he nodded towards the three inch deep puddle of construction gel that was slowly seeping around the cab of the truck.
Next to him White smirked and turned towards House. “Got springs in your heels there, House? Go-Go-Gadget Helicopter?” He asked with a shit-eating grin.
Both men turned to each other, congratulating themselves on their little barb before turning towards House again.
“Good work, Officer Rime, why don’t you help House with whatever she decides to do. We’ll be supervising.” Said Ramos, standing back from the edge of the gel apocalypse.
Vaguely satisfied with what she could tell from a distance, House briefly returned to her vehicle, pulling a pair of wading boots from the trunk as she hastily put them on. They were uncomfortable, but they were also cheap, and she could afford to discard them if ridding them of synthetic applicants proved to be too time or cost consuming.
Approaching the cab of the truck from the shortest distance through the muck, she tried to ignore the quips of the two other detectives. “I’m just making sure that we have the accurate depiction of events. It’s far from uncommon for people to recall incorrect details. Luckily, cameras find it exceptionally difficult to lie.” She said, grimacing as she pushed through the suction of artificial paste. “I feel like the truck is a bit past its warranty regardless.” She added as she reached in to grab at the camera of the cab.
The first step slipped a few inches as she stepped into the gel before catching on the rough asphalt, as slow shaky steps brought her closer to the cab, a trail of slowly healing footsteps in the pale goo marking her progress as she reached it. The cracks across the windshield were long and a spiderweb of chipped safety glass made the first dozen inches of glass opaque. What was once the left hand door, now topside, stood open, and the damaged and scraped front grill of the truck looked mostly intact to use as a ladder.
The tedium of House’s investigation of the truck was suddenly, and loudly broken. There was a sharp loud screech, then a devastating explosion nearby. The heat and noise caused the local birds and wildlife to scatter. Officer Rime had after their exchange wandered off to the edge of the wood, and taken out his standard-issue Laser pistol and fired it at a nearby tree. The tree groaned audibly, then the wood splintered, and the large tree toppled over and crashed down deeper into the woods. “Yeeeeaaaa!” Rime exclaimed, “Don’t get to used these much around these parts!”
As tree fell there was a loud shrill animal scream and a dull thud amid the sound amid the cracks and snaps of a tree settling down on the ground, and a soft whimpering from that direction.
She nearly immediately regretting this course of action, but she was already several steps in. It was pointless to turn back, but that did little to lower the risk of falling into the synthetic goo, and she couldn’t decide if the ruined clothes or the jeers of the wonder twins would be worse. Thankfully as she made it to the truck with great effort, she began to scale the grill to try to make her way to the left side, now the top, of the truck’s cab. She almost lost her grip as she heard the telltale pulse of a pistol going off, followed by the explosive collapse of a nearby tree.
“Oh for the love of-” She groaned to herself, shaking her head. “Let’s not cause more damage, please!” She called out to the trio of humans, moving to lower herself slowly into the cab itself. “There’s enough of a mess as it is without sparking a fire!”
Ramos and White looked at each other before both of them turned slowly towards Rime and his antics as the mewling animal sound came from deeper in the forest. The entire scene had stopped to look at Rime, almost expectant looks on their face as pathetic animal sounds filtered through the trees.
“Well, Officer, go on. Take care of it.” White hissed, tipping his chin towards the tree Rime had destroyed.
Slowly, the rest of the emergency responders resumed the work of trying to remove the gel, or convince a depressed truck driver his life wasn’t over.
It seemed that all eyes were on Rime. He was smiling, and showing a mouth full of well cared for teeth. “What? It was a good shot!” He responded. Rime’s face soon turned into a frown. “Fiiiine, I’ll take care of the little bugger.” Rime said with a sigh.
Rime turned from the crime scene and advanced on the pained screams with his laser pistol at the ready.
The cab of the truck was a mess, with the contents of a coolbox smashed against the window-come-floor, and a dufflebag of personal items leaning against the back of one of the seats. With careful placement she was able to get her gel-covered boots to the bottom between the cans of energy drink, sarsaparilla, shattered chips of glass and other detritus. The front camera for the truck was located within the panels on what was once the center of the roof next to the windscreen, the black screen of the artificial rear view indicating a likely location.
The keys to the truck jingled next to Ada’s boot, the driver having emergency shut down the engine and pulled the key before evacuating. A silver skull hung from the keyring. A civilian dataport was located in the center console, normally used to power small personal devices but hooked into the central nervous system of the machines computer system for legacy reasons. It would only require power to use.
Outside meanwhile, Rime felt the effect of the forest even though the lights and noise of the workers were still in view. Broken, muffled, dampened. The loudest noise was his boots shuffling over foliage as the whimpering led him forwards.
It wasn’t far, but the lights of the cars on the road only barely flashed through the trees here. He moved up to a small furry shape on the ground, but as his eyes adjusted to the dark, he could see that it was already dead, neck broken in the fall. Instead, next to it was a small furry alien creature shaking at its larger parent, baying for attention, pleading for food, for attention, for anything.
Rime furrowed his brow as his eyes continued adjusting to the fading light. He tilted his head activating the light on his PDA to get a clearer look at the critter whose parent. “Oh no…” He said softly.
The parent was definitely dead, there was no way a neck could go at that angle. It must have shielded its young with its own body as it fell. The pup left shaking its mother was adorably fuzzy with long fingered paws, like an alien cross between a racoon and a possum. With big eyes.
Rime’s heart dropped. He didn't think things through and in the name of good clean fun hurt an innocent critter. “Uh okay. I did this.” He looked back at the flashing lights knowing that this would not be a funny story to tell. Rime reached into the pocket of his pants and pulled out a nutrition bar. He wasn't a biologist but he knew these creatures like to eat rubbish and anything they could find. He hoped, the little pup was to the point that it wasn't nursing anymore. He bent down and opened the wrapper. He broke of a piece of the bar and threw it gently towards the animal to see if it would eat. “Come on, have a bite. It wont give you your mum back but, at least you’ll have something…”
The critter turned to look up at Rime with big eyes, and cutely hopped towards him, and hopped again. It snagged the piece of bar on the ground and picked it up, sniffing it curiously before licking it. Somehow the critters large eyes reached absurd degrees as it started hopping after Rime on its hind legs, hold the piece in its front paws coming straight for him.
House was rightly disgusted by the state of the truck, and that was more than just the unsanctified mess of a wreck. There was a lingering state to the cab that seemed to exemplify the awful condition of a trucker who didn’t keep his working space clean, despite his constant presence in the vehicle itself. Having settled into an awkward, but clean position in the cabin, she quickly scanned over the interface of the truck, recognizing the section that housed the recorded footage.
Of course, her request for the data was met with no response, as the truck held no power. She pulled her sleeve up, segments in her arm opening to expose a series of wires connected into blank ports, to which she pulled a more generic looking one to connect into the device, diverting sparks of her own power into the simple computer of the truck, followed by another request for the video.
Rime slowly backed up. “Uh. Okay enjoy your dinner mate.” He then turned and quite literally fled from the critter. He came barreling out of the woods. “Uh okay I took care of it. Uh. But there's a problem!”
House felt the larger machine greedily suckle at the trickle of power she provided to its systems, fortunately it couldn’t draw enough power to run anything major, but it’s basic systems activated enough for panels to flicker and glow at minimum power. Authenticating her as a police officer with the city computer, House felt the truck sluggishly begin compiling the entire history of itself for her. Quickly she rephrased that search, and obediently the truck compressed and transferred over the wire the last five minutes before the crash and a minute after.
The files were large from a dozen different cameras and hundreds of sensors but House could skim through them to find the part moments before the crash on a few seconds notice. Transfer complete, the truck waited for her to handshake before disconnecting.
As Rime was fleeing back out of the forest, Ramos and White turned to face him and saw the small infant critter hopping after him with intent, and burst out laughing as the officer made a fool of himself. The critter stopped, and looked around at the flashing lights and all the other humans and dropped it’s morsel, cutely hopping across the asphalt to the nearest point of cover it could find. House’s empty shoes.
Low profile, high-tech hiking boots became the new bolthole for the hopping rat as it lunged inside one and wriggled in, burying itself inside with the final wag of a bushy tail.
Once House had the video downloaded, she signed out as quickly as she could, feeling a shudder run through her spine as if she had just stuck her hand into a greasy pit. She shook her head, aptly climbing back out of the truck, trying to quickly, and safely, make her way back to her car, and her boots. “And what, might I ask, are you three gawking at?” She questioned as she slowly tread her way back.
Rime scratched the back of his head. This house detective was a very serious person. He smiled and responded. “Oh, nothing.”
As she walked, she quickly played through the overall video, trying to get a grasp as to the accuracy of the drivers statement, as well as just confirm the reason for the crash.
The files were large and cumbersome to handle for her hardware, but with a bit of tinkering she was able to skim the file down to the front camera footage and skim through the frames. The large, shaggy shape of a Black Elk did indeed appear suddenly in front of the truck, the broken sequence of frames showing it raising its head towards the truck, headlights lighting it’s star-speckled eyes, before the AI and driver took evasive action. It looked as though the truck would be fine with a controllable avoidance, but then in the space of the next three frames she skimmed it suddenly turned and went sideways around the elk. Like a failed moose test.
The rest of the footage pretty much confirmed the story of the response after the crash until now. It could be worth pulling all the sensor data, but the cumbersome nature that data as well as its volume made it difficult for own processes to handle without some time.
Rime spoke up from behind House. “So what did you find on the footage?
House shook her head as she exited the synthetic goo, walking towards her normal boots by the cruiser. “His story checks out.” She confirmed, not thinking to give much more on the scene without transferring it to a computer that was better designed to decompile the data. “Looks like he just swerved too hard when he saw the elk, toppled over and made a mess.” She paused as she looked to the wonder twins, her brow furrowing as she digested the view of the three of them. “So tell me, what circus act did you put on for them?”
The two older detectives both looked at each other, before giving Rime very intense looks before White went off towards Rime’s cruiser and opened the door, dragging out the mans lunch bag and dumping the tupperware out into the seat.
“Welcome back, Detective. Officer Rime here has something very important to tell you…” White replied, tipping his head towards the young officer.
Ramos walked past White towards House’s boot on the ground and picked it up.
“He’s going to be a daddy, and I’m afraid you’re expectant.” Ramos finished, as he held the boot upside down over the back and shook it violently.
With a small squeak a furry brown shape flew out of the boot and landing softly in the back, there was a moment of confused ruffling before it settled down again as Ramos held the top closed.
“Yer alright, yer alright little buddy.” he said aloud until it settled down, before holding it over to Rime to take. House’s boot still in one hand.
“Take it down to the shelter in town when you get the chance. Don’t give it coffee or chocolate.” He said gruffly.
“Congratulations on being a Daddy, Rime.” Quibbed White from where the pair had stood.
Rime wrinkled his nose at the implication. “How am I the parent? I mean yea, I shot the tree that killed its mum. But it most certainly went to Detective House’s boots. Looks like House is a mum now.” Rime said shifting smile to t House
House simply stared at the trio before her eyes slowly went to her boots, feeling a growing urge to emulate the various ‘killer robot’ movies she had heard so much about that had gone through various phases of popularity. “Don’t pin it on me, I’m not taking care of the local scavengers. Take it to a bloody shelter, and don’t slap my name near it.” She directed, stepping over as she snatched her boot out of Rime’s hand, glancing inside it to make sure it hadn’t been soiled while the critter was inside it.
“Perhaps handing it off will better teach you to not randomly shoot trees. As you likely found out, animals like to live around them. There is most certainly a shooting range, and even if there is a lack of one, it doesn’t take much more than time and effort to create an amateur one, with a notable lack of such risks.” She quickly swapped her boots, tossing her messied boots into bags in the trunk of her cruiser.
“I’d hate to break us off so abruptly, but unless there’s some other goose you’d like me to chase, then I believe I’d find a better expenditure of time doing just about anything else.” The grumpy android quipped at the three.
“Paranormal, please update on that 10-15 and report your 10-20. 10-19 to precinct when able.” blared the entire groups radios as Dispatch came through.
Ramos reached for his radio and spoke into it, grinning at House at Rime.
“Ramos here, Paranormal is in a 10-16 with a 10-32, 10-52 needed for Officer Rimes dignity.” The older detective quibbed, making White snort loudly in laughter.
“Can that 10-30, Ramos. House, come in as soon as you can. Bring Rime with you.” Came a strong masculine voice from the Dispatch side, crisp and professional.
All of them recognized it as Captain Val, hard faced, no nonsense, and judging by the emphasis, not very happy with Rime.
The last of the suns rays had already eeked out of existence as the two older detectives smirked under their aviators at the fighting couple.
House stood silent for a moment as she listened to the call, before silently moving to her cruiser. “Officer Rime, please get in. Hand off the animal to these two fine gentlemen, if you would, and allow them to hand it off to the nearest animal rescue. It’s not coming in my cruiser, and more importantly…” She glared at the duo before she sank into the cruiser’s seat. “We have orders, you do not.”
With that, House reached to the cruiser’s radio, pinging a message back. “Copy, House and Rime en route.”