Chapter 8: Across the Night Sky


A stark light illuminated Kasser from below as he looked at the Harmony night, giving the middle-aged man a ghostly pallor. He had an old can of beans full of black coffee in one hand and a cigarette in the other, as he leaned on the railing on the edge of the rooftop. While the sign below (for Hornung brand shoes, well beyond the purchasing power of most of the building’s tenants) glowed a soft blue from the street, the edge of the roof caught that thin band of the ad’s backlight that was unfiltered by its overlay. The inspector tried not to speculate about the mysterious assignment that pulled him out of bed at such an ungodly hour, contenting himself with a generalized annoyance at the prospect of having to work with unfamiliar personnel, while he pulled at his smoke between sips of deeply bitter coffee. That’s what you get for actually working for your salary instead of skating by like everyone else, he pondered. They make you into a celebrity, and then everyone wants to pester you with all sorts of random crap.

He was two thirds into his can and three cigarettes into his pack when he saw the flyer approaching, the bluish-green glow of its four large repulsors cutting the night sky as it flew high above the buildings. He looked up at the four lights in a diamond pattern as they stopped above him, turned in place, and started coming closer and closer with a loud, crackling hum. Yep, that’s the 5th, alright, Kasser thought. Love to show off their fancy toys. The large flightpod, a metallic manta ray with four leather seats on top, softly landed with its headlights rudely shining in the detective’s face.

“Good night, inspector,” the uniformed officer on the left wing seat said as he stepped out of the vehicle. “I’m Sergeant Abummar, and those are Elemin and Naledzar,” he said, pointing at the pilot and the officer seated on the right wing. “Here from Fifth Precinct to come pick you up for a special assignment that the Commissioner…”

“I know,” Kasser cut in. “I’m not up here to enjoy the weather. Let’s go.” He gulped down the rest of the coffee as he walked toward the rear seat, throwing the can into a dark corner of the rooftop just before climbing on the flightpod.

“Right… right.” Abummar awkwardly turned back to his seat. “Uh… remember to buckle up.”

“Yeah, yeah.” The detective did just that. “Fill me in on the way, would ya?” he mumbled through the cigarette in his mouth.

Once properly seated and secured, the officer slapped on the pilot’s shoulder, signaling for him to kick up the repulsors. “You know a company called Karnati?” he said, turning back toward their new passenger.

“Who doesn’t?” Kasser said. He looked around nervously as the vehicle ascended. “Hey, pilot… take it easy there, alright? I’m not used to being much higher up than it takes to break my neck if I fall.”

“Close your eyes,” the pilot yelled across the wind as they accelerated. “You’ll get vertigo up here if you’re not used to it.”

Kasser’s cigarette flew out of his mouth. “I’d rather see where we’re going,” he said, squinting. Although, between the dizziness and the wind, that wouldn’t be a bad idea, he considered.

“We’re headed straight to the Karnati building,” Abummar said. “Gotta hit the ground running… uh, so to speak,” he added, seeing the worried look on the inspector’s face. “They’ve got a lot of pull with the Commissioner, of course, which is how they got you requisitioned for the case, so goes without saying that we have to give it all we got.”

“Like there’s any other way to work.” The detective’s smirk made the implication clear enough – that he actually worked hard, unlike the reputedly soft officers down at the financial district. “So, who’s dead?”

“Nobody,” the officer said. “I mean… a guard got killed in the break-in, and the culprit herself got offed by Karnati folks. But that’s not why we’re there. Some vital equipment went missing, so we’ve got to look into the thief’s accomplices to get to the bottom of that.”

Kasser’s look turned sour. “You’re kidding me. You’ve gotta be.”

“Uh, n-no, sir, I’d never joke around a case, I, uh…”

“So, lemme get this straight… you get me out of bed at three in the morning, out into a cold wet night like this, and cart me off all the way across town on this vomit machine, all over some theft?”

“Look, sir, it’s not like we necessarily agree with that either, all right? But the order came from above, so… you know… give it a chance, at least?”

“Oh, I’m gonna find whatever it is they stole,” Kasser said grimly. “I take my job seriously. I’ve got my orders, and I don’t know how to work half-assed. Doesn’t mean I have to like it, though.”

“Great.” Abummar turned forward, unsure of where to look. “Great. Glad, uh… to have you on our team, inspector. I think… this one’s really in the bag, you know?”

Continue reading in Chapter 9: Alleyways