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A simple job
For the first time in his life, junior officer Lih realized he was going to have to break a sworn pledge. He crunched across the glass crusted rocks to the man he’d sworn to save. Below him, at his toes, a rising spray of oil slick and, beyond him, the vapors boiled and seethed. He felt daylight on his face. It was overwhelmingly intense.

Too much.

For long periods of time, his vision had been siphoned through the relay system of his lenses and standard helmet displays. Now his senses were exposed, raw, in the morning light. He could smell stone, gasoline, smoke. Crude power.

Tears ran from his eye corners. Removing his glove, Lih wiped the tears from his eyes and dropped down on one knee and looped his hands into the broken wreckage, pain throbbing from his bleeding fingers. As the only cop on scene, this last duty to show his respect fell to the watery-eyed albino, not the others. Boda. Fallen. Gone, but never forgotten. In his mind, Lih started the prepared statement of Boda’s life, actions and now, on confirming, death, and ready to be placed into the archive of the police network.

And, so what if Lih’s tears were borne out of self pity? He cried more for himself than Boda. Wasn’t most grief like this?

It wasn’t his fault. Men die in accidents, and it surely, absolutely wasn’t Lih’s fault. He was lucky to survive, and he knew for a fact he wished he hadn’t. He’d have liked to get back in action quickly. But it was more recent events that barred him from consideration. There would be an internal investigation, and the paperwork from internal affairs alone would chain him….

Even now, after all this, Lih wished for something less… routine. He had wished for more. Wanting to see actual action. Yearned to baptize and test his skills in fire. To be tasked to combat. That was what he was training for. To serve the will of the Ascendancy, and by proxy, the captain. If the captain wills Lih to fight he would fight. If the captain wills Lih to strip naked and stand on his head, that Lih does too. That is what Lih was paid to do; to support a toppling society on his shoulder; to brace and take the weight. To represent public interests and demonstrate both his unswerving loyalty and the permanence of the CCD. And the light have mercy on his soul, he had wished… he was hoping for… a solo field mission. Now he mourned years of his future before he’d ever get any field work.

“Get the fuck out of my way.”

A man approached without formality, barely seeming to prepare himself. He came forward in a way that had the younger man lurching back across the road. Lih hadn’t notice him at all, though it had less to do with the man’s arrogant bearing and more to do with Lih’s state of mind. Boda was going round and round in his thoughts.

Lord, please… Lih whimpered, keeping his eyes fixed on Ryker and his hands very obviously away from his own gun. Please… he’s a monster… Lih now choked, incredulous, wondering if he should prepare for some trick, some weird magic. He suspected perhaps that, checking if Boda was dead, this person intended him some harm.

The scarred man, not local, shoved debris out of the way and went to examine Boda’s body. Lih saw he carried what seemed to be a heavy rifle. Nothing especially significant about him apart from the fact that thirty seconds before he had been foolhardy enough to open fire just about everywhere.

Turning, he fixed his stare on Lih. With an experienced, unruffled, unseemly sutured eye, he marked Lih’s face as though hunting with the gaze of a predator. Lih felt certain his face was a blob in Ryker’s options. Imagined the unbidden, automatic graphics framed Lih’s visage with its white crosshairs. Ryker was looking him up and down with obvious delight.

I am meaningless, he thought, a cipher. That’s how he sees me. Interchangeable humans, copies without character. The uniform masks me so. Even as Ryker spent his time fixing and logging Lih’s face.  

The man turned to move to the house and stopped, “have fun with the paperwork.”

His parting words were trying to goad Lih. If the loss of Boda had really snapped Lih’s sanity, this remark about him being brave, and the promise of paperwork might put him over the edge. Lih tried to remain calm in face of such marvelous arrogance.

“Would you care to tell me what’s going on?” Lih said as calmly as he could manage, trying to ignore the urgings of the whimpers that lapped his mind.

He was a servant of the public. He didn’t indulge in spite or petty retribution against another member fo the public… despite what he might think of them. Even if they made fun of him.

Yet, right now, his weapon was drawn and armed and pointing at Ryker.

He realized it was. Annoyed with himself, he locked the safety and holstered the pistol. How inappropriate, he thought to himself. This wasn’t standard practice for the police to investigate a death of any significant person, and Boda, may the light rest his soul, was certainly that.

“Wait, I have to talk to you! The bombs… how did you do that? Please, you have to help me with the paperwork!” he declared, glaring up at the grinning man. Lih barely came up to his shoulder. Lih was amazed at his brazen outrage. He felt no fear of the armed warrior. Or maybe, he considered, his fear of the situation outweighed his fear of the man and his rifle.

He reached out with his left, gloved hand as if to catch Ryker’s sleeve. It was a curiously bold yet informal gesture and Lih withdrew at once.

“What are you doing? Where are you going?” Lih blurted, out of surprise than anything else. “You’re a hired gun right? Please tell me the why and who, please!”

Ryker turned and walked down Boda’s house. Lih’s raging questions followed him down the hallway.

Damn you! Stop! I need you to stop!

His curses he kept to himself. He would report this man, uncover his name with the police, ruin him and his reputation!

But he knew threats bounced off Ryker as harmlessly as raindrops. And Lih had a real duty to perform. When the time comes, he may have need to find out who had the most to gain…

That was when Boda’s car went up in flames.

“Probably should move back. The gas tank could blow any second,” the man said simply. There wasn’t really time to argue. The man meant it about the explosion. As if to underscore his words, a burst of fire whipped down the car from within, the larger metal debris ricocheting off the ground, the flash hot white and painful.

Lih ran wailing as Boda’s body tumbled free with such force it bounced off the tree in front of his car. The explosion had all but turned Boda inside out. 

This only made Lih chase Ryker faster.

Knowing Boda died was not the point. Knowing why and by whom was his job. No, this man was not the culprit. Of that, Lih was assured. He had considered the possibility of a bomb hitting the car, but no, Boda’s death was down to an accident. Either that or he was murdered in such an exquisitely subtle way, it looked like the action of old age and desperation.

This man was a person as yet unknown. He had suspicions the bombs came from this terrorist, though he did not see how this was done. He might be able to act on his suspicions soon. For now, he simply wished to broker peace between them. The man seemed to want to keep his mission secret. Lih would indulge him for now. If only because without the man’s cooperation, he would not succeed in understanding Boda’s death.

Ah, now, that was it, he realized. He wasn’t afraid of the man, because he understood what was waiting for him back at the office. A lesson, he thought. Even someone stupid enough to be unafraid of the terrorists hides in terror from the paperwork…

Lih, salty
Viktor Lih
Officer of CCDPD
Questions chased his heels like rats. If it weren’t for the supplies he needed to retrieve from behind the house, he’d been long gone by then. Instead, like some phoenix rising from the flames of a car fire, the officer streaked a black silhouette in chase.

Ryker sighed. He wasn’t in the mood to write up an explanation for killing a random police officer in addition to the shitstorm that was smoking Boda out of his hole.

He shoved at the tiny officer’s shoulder to move around him despite the wide clearance of the yard. “Maybe I’ll see you around, officer,” he said with an foreboding smile and disappeared into the trees.
Ryker located some supplies which he gathered up and allowed Lih to accompany him as far as the outer door of Boda’s house. 

Lih paused at the doorway, anticipating— or at least hoping— that Ryker might offer him some acknowledgement, perhaps even answers. The scarred man merely glanced at him, a brief, almost dismissive look, and then shoved past Lih walking on through the door without a backward glance, leaving Lih alone in the hallway.

Lih looked down at the floor, ran his tongue around the front of his upper teeth thoughtfully. He didn’t like the way Ryker had emphasized “see you” in his last sentence. The man was condescending, patronizing. And Lih didn’t like the way Ryker was suggesting Lih was anything less than a true cop in the field because he didn’t have the fighting experience. 

When Ryker smiled, Lih shrank back slightly, lost for words. There was something predatory about the way the expression changed his face. Like a wolf, Lih thought.

He decided he didn’t actually like Ryker all that much. His stomach turned to water at the idea Ryker would come see him even for a moment. 

All of which became academic when Lih tried to prep himself for what’s coming. Besides paperwork, after reading Lih’s statement in full, the in-house investigation would be both verbal and medical. He would have to submit to all manner of questioning and analytical procedures. Internal affairs will be thorough. There would be… hearings. The merest hint, be it verbal or psychological, that Lih was unsound… he needed to be prepared for the price to pay. The price of the mission he had failed. There was no way he could have come out of that shit storm untouched. The only nagging problem is that Boda died and now Lih’s faced the aftermath of what he’d undertook.
Viktor Lih
Officer of CCDPD

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