December 10, 2065
Rayne Lyncott strolled down the walkway overpass that ran the length of the London–Paris Archipelago, just outside of Seadover. A few joggers shared the overpass, who, upon spying the police badge hanging from her waist, moved to the other side and gave her ample leeway. Rayne was waiting on the forensics team to record a crime scene and render the hologram, but given the circumstances surrounding the deceased, she had expected it to take longer than usual.
A cold breeze swept off the English Channel, blowing her dreadlocks into her eyes and carrying the saltwater mist that tended to settle into everything it touched. The air smelled of brine and weighty anticipation. She tapped her sleeve to turn up the temperature on her long johns and called up the time. It blinked 9:35 in her periphery, overlaying the view of a construction crane in the distance.
Newly formed and renovated towns served as islands between the LPA anchor cities. Five Ashes, south of London, was a hotbed for crypto merchants, both legal and illegal. Sigy-en-Bray, northwest of Paris, served as a virtual playground for the tech-heads and databorgs yearning for erotic historical adventures, such as a romp in the hay with Marie Antoinette, or a private session with the Marquis de Sade. Seadover, however, was a different matter. It was a high-rent district catering to the well-heeled who wanted a waterfront view and freshly cloned seafood. The small town stood on the British side of the bridge between Bexhill-on-Sea in England and Dieppe in France, and served as an experimental high-tech answer to climate change and rising seas——an aquaculture community. Its homes and small business district were built on floating platforms with sheathed pilings that allowed it to glide up and down in response to water levels. On a stormy day, the entire town would bob up and down slightly from the choppy waters. It was said that living there made one acquire Seadover legs. And every time Rayne heard that joke, she groaned in her soul.
Rayne’s holocaster chimed and she tapped her temple to answer. A transparent image of her boss, Detective Superintendent Kay Winslow, appeared before her. Winslow was seated behind her desk in an office littered with boxes of paper files she hadn’t yet digitized, sipping on a mug of something. Rayne guessed it was a hot toddy, compliments of the whiskey bottle she kept in her desk. Her alcoholism was an open secret; silence was rewarded with a Christmas bonus.
“Superintendent,” Rayne said.
“How’s it going so far?”
“I finished the initial walk-through. Detective Sergeant Jones was already here as responding officer. He had called Bexhill and by the time I arrived, he had sent in the drone and was securing the area.” In fact, Jones’ voice had sounded strained on the caster when he called Bexhill, as if he’d been rattled by what he saw, and Rayne had wondered what could cause a regular purveyor of crime scenes to have such a reaction.
“What’s the status?”
“I’m waiting on forensics. Someone cut off the deceased’s leg. A right bloody mess,” Rayne said.
The superintendent frowned, which was a bad sign. It meant extra work. “It’s Seadover, so we need this solved. And quick. Let’s just say if you pull this off, it’ll go a long way toward your promotion to Chief.”
“Of course…Ma’am. Sorry, I have to go. Forensics.”
Rayne swiped left and rang off. Winslow was a third-generation legacy officer. Hence, someone to be obeyed, but also someone who didn’t know hard work from a bite in the ass. Rayne had begun to wonder if it was all worth it.
She paused to lean over the rail and watch the lights of Calais. Undulating peaks of the Strait caught the gleam of the evenly spaced street lights that lined the bridge. Neon-trimmed buildings loomed, stacked like a toddler’s blocks against the cityscape backdrop. She wondered how many people were being murdered there, among the twinkling lights, that night.
The sight stirred memories of the Orisha stories her grandmother used to tell her of Yemoja——the Yoruban goddess of rivers and streams——and how she protected the oceans, lakes, and other bodies of water. Rayne thought Yemoja would be deeply disappointed in humanity’s stewardship of the planet’s waterways and wondered why she hadn’t already withdrawn the seas into the Earth’s crust until the land’s ungrateful inhabitants died of drought. She was already absorbing the extra heat from climate change, sparing the land dwellers from the worst of it. But perhaps she was lurking, just underneath the surface, hatching a plan for retribution.
“Wouldn’t blame you if you did,” Rayne whispered.
Rayne had just wrapped up a murder investigation in Bexhill that involved a crypto billionaire and a disinherited son, who had taken offense to his new stepmother and her lavish lifestyle. The father was discovered dead in a crashed yacht. Turned out being rich was a risk factor for early death.
“Surprise, surprise,” she muttered to herself. Rayne slid a hand inside her leather jacket and pulled out an eCig. Tapped it on the handrail and the orange ring lit up, brightening to max within seconds. Took a pull. The taste and smell of black coffee filled her mouth and nose, ferrying caffeine to her central nervous system. It was a Thursday, and she hadn’t slept since the early hours of Tuesday. She still had to return to the office and finish writing the report. But it would have to wait until she could get some sleep. She was beginning to hear voices and see shadows where there were none.
“Inspector? Forensics is wrapping up the crime scene. It should be available on your node.”
Rayne turned toward the voice. It belonged to Detective Constable Phillip Davies, a fresh-faced 23 year-old who had just transferred from Horsham. “Thank you, constable,” Rayne said. She tapped the eCig and the orange light dimmed.
“You’re welcome, sir…uh, I mean ma’am.” Davies’ face flushed red.
“Sir, ma’am, I don’t care which one you use. Long as shit gets done. Just pick one and stick with it.”
“Y-yes, sir.” He stood still, eyes cast downward, flicking back and forth, as if looking on the ground for another reply.
“Relax, Davies.” Rayne sighed. “Tell me, why’d you join the force?”
He paused for a long while. Rayne noted his fists balling up at his sides. “I wanted to help people,” he said.
“Help people. Why do you want to help people?”
“Everyone needs help,” he said, his voice low, eyes still trained on the ground. “Sometimes.”
“Did your mother need help?” she said.
He looked up sharply at her, eyes wide, inquiring.
“I’ve been an officer for 10 years, five as a detective. I know the signs, either you or someone close to you,” she said. “Your dad beat your mom?”
Davies looked away, but said nothing.
“Where’s he now?”
“Vet home for the disabled.”
“That’s what they said.”
“And your ma?”
“Home. Pissed. As usual.”
Rayne nodded; Davies’ eyes glistened. She began walking toward the apartment block and reached out to squeeze his arm.