Take It Sloane
Dashiell Sloane slid free of the horizontal, minifig sized compartment and looked wearily around as he stretched his muscles. The place was empty, white walls and harsh fluorescent lighting stretching out in either direction and the cold, steel swinging double doors that lead to the mess directly ahead. Behind him, the wall spread out in an unbroken line of Transmission Chambers. Several hundred of them were still lit up with a calm, cyan glow, illuminating the sub-conscious officers within. Several hundred more were dark and silent.
Dashiell thought he might grab a bite to eat and reached up to shut the Chamber door when he caught his haggard reflection in the glass. He wanted to punch it but he knew that wouldn't accomplish very much. Glass clad polycarbonate, Trattorian make, he thought, though he wasn't entirely sure. He was, however, pretty sure he could set off a grenade in here and no one inside the Chambers would even feel the concussion. Wasn't really his area of expertise, in any case, but that didn't mean he didn't have one.
He left the door open and spoke to the open air, “Hey, Dot?”
“We've been over this, Detective Sloan. 'Dot' is very informal and, as such, is improper for our working relationship. Please refer to me as Dispatch or Tactical.”
“C'mon, Dottie, I told you I'd call you Dispatch if you called me Dash.”
“Detective Sloan. This is a waste of time and resources. Did you require assistance?”
“Yeah...I need you to...compromise and call me Sloan.” Dashiell was grinning now, his mood much improved.
“I...fine. If I might make a small suggestion...Sloan?”
“Sure, fire away.”
“Make friends with some of your colleagues. These late night talks are eating away at my valuable time.”
“These Koffin Jockeys?” Dashiell's tone was incredulous.
“These minifigs are the fine Space Police Officers of One PP, Detective Sloan!”
“Whatever! Your record as Sheriff out on the FringeWorlds may be impressive but I won't have you standing here denigrating the good--”
“--Alright, alright, don't get your panties in a bunch, Dottie.”
“I don't wear panties, Sloan, I'm a SuperComputer.”
“Say, that's fine. Listen, almighty grand machine brain, think you can scrounge me up another case?”
“Are you bucking for a promotion? I would advise against going under again so soon. You've just completed sixteen hours, twenty four minutes, and thirty two seconds in the pod.”
“So, you should seriously consider getting sustenance and rest. Give your body and mind time to recharge.”
“I'm fine. Gimme.”
“Sloan...officers begin to make mist--”
“Fine. But I've got to log it with The Brass.” Dispatch tapped into Dashiell's neural receiver and uploaded the most recent active case file into it. Within moments, the detective had transferred it over to his visual heads-up display and was manually flipping through its holographic contents. ABS Refinery, under siege by unknown forces, reports of massacre.
“Uh-huh, yeah, whatever...all those guys care about is results anyway...the fresh hell is this?” Dashiell yanked his head up angrily and addressed his questions once again to the vague direction of the ceiling. “When did this come in?”
“About an hour ago.”
“There are,” Dashiell looked back down and flipped back to the cover page, “exactly zero officers assigned to this case right now, Dispatch. What in BrikHell is going on?”
“Sorry, Sloan. No one was available. Brass sent in a programmer last week with a new priority list. I have a lot of autonomy but I'm still limited by my programming.” Dashiell could almost feel her shrug helplessly.
“It's fine. Damn bureaucracy anyhow.” Dashiell levered himself back up onto the cushioned rolling pin bed of the koffin kubicle (as he liked to think of it) and slid in, shutting the door behind him. “Alright, Dot, load me up.”
He didn't like the sound of that 'well.' “What's the problem?”
“Enforcement presence is already onsite.”
Dashiell thought about that for a moment. There was no other agency anywhere near the refinery. Nearest standard Merc base was three hours out. Even gang presence was low in the area. There was a SP Reciever Block on one of the moons orbiting the planet with the refinery but there weren't any officers assigned, so none of the units could have been dispatched... “Oh. Oh, no, tell me you didn't?”
“I had to. Standard Procedure calls for the Animation of Receiver Units in the event that Transmitting or Actual Officers are unable to respond in a timely fashion. Better some police response and presence than none at all.”
“Are you kidding? You let those...those...Dicedamned Dimmies loose on an unsuspecting populace!”
“Well, they're not technically Dimmies, Sloan. They're just really stupid clones until you transmit your consciousness into their bodies.”
“I don't care! I don't want some half-baked version of me running around doing the Great AFOL knows what unless I'm piloting it! Just...send me in.”
“Yes, Detective Sloan.”
“Sloan! Dice be Damned, Dottie!”
The erstwhile fringer sheriff was used to stepping into strange situations. Out there, one had to be prepared for anything. But Dashiell still hadn't quite gotten used to Transmitting. The body was his (usually), an exact replica scanned down to the last detail from his last scheduled physical, so he was (usually) very familiar with all the controls. The problem was in the way the core consciousness remained seated back at One PP while a tethered remote copy consciousness was cast out and into the body of the waiting clone. It felt foreign no matter how familiar the sense experience was to him. The safety net of it all struck him as somewhat cowardly, also, and that didn't sit well with him at all. Though, the tether was more for the protection of gathered information than it was for the protection of the officer, but still. What really bothered him most was the numbness, a subtle lack of both physical and mental acuity. In the field, whether in combat or collecting clues at a scene, he relied on the natural precision he had developed over so many years as a lawman.
But this. Well, this was ridiculous. Dashiell decided to add it to the 'Cons' column for Transmitting. Two minifigs were standing nearby, rifles slack in their hands, nearly doubled over in laughter. One was wiping tears from his eyes as the other engaged in a comical reenactment of what must have been the past several minutes of comedy. They were dressed all in black, utilitarian, mercenary types. Dashiell didn't recognize the company. He did, however, recognize the spreading feeling of thunderous head trauma. As he reached up and felt the magnificent knot on his forehead, he noticed the wooden rake at his feet. It didn't take him but a moment to put two and two together. He had only to wonder how long this silliness had been going on.
Next to the rake lay his clone's discarded standard issue assault rifle. As he clapped eyes on it, the mime seemed to take notice that something had changed and his eyes widened in alarm. Dashiell tucked into a barrel roll and scooped up the assault rifle. He expertly placed the stock against his shoulder and took aim in one swift movement and fired two perfect shots in swift succession into the skulls of the two buffoons.
“Nice shot, Sloan.” Dispatch's voice floated in over a comm plugged into the Receiver Unit's ear.
“Yeah, see, this is exactly why we should be waiting for occupancy procedures.” Dashiell checked the gun and its various ammo capacities, nodded in satisfaction and began striding down the main path toward the refinery's entrance.
“And deny these poor combatants the opportunity to die laughing?”
An M-Thronian Soldier stepped out from behind a barricade and fired off a shot in his direction. It struck the dirt several feet ahead and kicked up a cloud of dust. Dashiell strode through it, took his own aim, and caved the soldier's face in. “I didn't even get to drive the damn police car...”
“M-Throne? What are they doing here?”
“I mean, I really love driving the police car.”
Dashiell was almost upon the main gate now, the colossal ABS tanks rising up behind it. He spotted several miners pinned down in the gatehouse. They were giving it all they had to a small group of USA troopers. As he made his approach, he heard one of the miners yell out, “I'm out of ammo!” and another yell “Hell with it, if they come for us, we die on our feet!” Almost brought a tear to his eye. After all, he had to admire their gumption. These were just regular civilians who had held their own against a superior enemy for over an hour. He had expected to find no survivors.
As a warkeeper, nothing turned his stomach more than a one sided fight. Only cowards committed massacres.
But...something was wrong. Weren't there tensions between the M-Thronians and the USA? Who knew? Who the hell could keep up with BrikVersian Politiks anyway? But still, why were they both here together? What the hell was going on? As he considered the problem, the USA troopers stepped out of cover and moved carefully toward the guardhouse. Too closely grouped, he noticed. Casually, he flipped his weapon's mode over to grenade launcher and fired one into their midst. It was a contact grenade, so they didn't have time to react. It just hit the ground and created a three hundred and sixty degree half sphere of gore and rapidly receding body parts.
Through the fine red transparent mist that remained, slowly settling toward the dirt crater where the troopers stood only a moment before, Dashiell could see a much larger force inside the compound just beyond the gate.
“Well, hell. ETA on any other responding officers there, Dot?”
“No, sorry, Sloan. You're it.”
Dashiell moved over to the gatehouse, which had gone quiet, and tapped lightly on the corrugated, bullet-ridden metal door. One of the miners poked his head out. “I'm Detective Dashiell Sloan, Space Police, One PP,” Dashiell began to explain. The miner looked visibly relieved. “Sorry it took so long to get someone out to you folks but you've done a helluva job holdin' down the fort here. I'm going to need witness statements, alright? So you head north, keep your heads down, find some police cruisers and use them to get the hell out of here, ok? I'll deal with this here.” The miners nodded their thanks and took off down the path he had cleared for them.
“There are cars out that way, aren't there, Dottie?”
“Checking...yes, one still operational.”
“Still oper...what happened to the...you know what? Never mind.”
“Already forgotten. So, how are you going to do this?”
Dashiell rubbed his forehead and winced as he remembered the knot. With a shock, however, he realized the pain was rapidly receding. He pulled his hand away and looked at it. It was covered in a red liquid plastic. “Analyze,” he said quietly. His visual HUD confirmed his suspicion a moment before Dispatch did.
“It's pure ABS, Sloan.”
“How much of this stuff can one minifig absorb?”
“Research in that area has been privatized.”
“Okay, well, educated guess, then. What do you think happens if a minifig absorbs too much of it?”
“I do what I can. How is this relevant to your current situation?”
“Oh, I have a wonderful idea.”
It didn't take him overly long to gain the backside of the compound and the chain bayonet mounted to the rifle made quick, if not quiet, work of the fence. He could see the group at the far end of the compound had taken notice and was cautiously beginning an approach. They were far enough off yet for him to take a knee and review the case file. He remembered seeing a schematic. A few tense moments passed before he found what he was looking for. There, a gas main bisecting the compound laterally.
Dashiell launched two more of his grenades swiftly into the air and watched them gracefully come down one on top of the other. The first tore open the earth, exposing the main, and the second tore open the main. The noise was unimaginable and created a hellscape between himself and the main invasion force. It wouldn't hold them, he knew, but plus side, he now had another entry for the 'Pro' column of his Transmitting list. He wouldn't be deaf when this was over.
Knowing he had only moments, he launched his final two grenades, one to either side of him, upward at the ABS tanks flanking the main compound drive. The metal shrieked in agony as both tanks crumpled to the ground, spilling their multicolored contents in a flood that quickly drowned the back half of the compound. It was all Dashiell could do to stay afloat.
Then, the bullets started coming in. Much of the fire had been damped down but it still burned strongly. A few of the heavier units had scored some excellent firing positions and had begun unloading on Dashiell and the surrounding area, presumably expecting unseen allies given the surprising extent of the damage he had just caused. The rounds were massive and came in a continual stream. He tried to stand but his right leg was caught squarely and blown clean off.
“Dottie! Activate Streaming Feedback.”
“Detective Sloan, that is a dangerous procedure. I'm obligated to inform you that you could lose some motor function in your Receiver Unit as a result.”
Dashiell felt suffused with energy as the liquid that surrounded him rose up to connect with his hip stump and began to reknit him a new leg. Another stream of high caliber bullets tore his left arm free and sent it spiraling behind him. He laughed loudly, almost maniacally. “Dot, do it. This is a losing fight anyway.” He finally got his grip on his own rifle again and began firing back. As always, his aim was nearly divine, every shot sinking home into the brain matter of the poor sod who happened to be standing on the other end of the sights. His left arm began to regrow just as an explosive round removed a great deal of his gut. Still, he fired, and their number dwindled.
“But Sloan, the feedback loop could degrade the tether and corrupt the reintegration process. You could lose your mind.”
Blam, blam, blam, Another, and another, and another. They fell like dominoes but couldn't bring him all the way down. Even at this distance, he could see their fear starting to set in. Cowards. “I need to remember what happened here in proper detail. If this body dies and the tether activates without the Sync Protocol, you know as well as I that whatever is coming back is coming back corrupted and garbled. I need it clean, through my own eyes. Do it.”
At first it was a shot or two that hit center mass instead of the head but then, in the moments that followed, Dashiell's shots began to go wide. They began to pour more damage onto him than he was delivering unto them. He fell to his knees in the sinking liquid. It seemed to be spreading out. His time was up.
Looking up with his one remaining good eye, he could see why. Their leader approached. Bavarian? No, wait, Galacian. No, different again, shifting forms as he approached. Scythian. Immortal. Assyrian. Dashiell blinked hard, trying to clear his bloody vision. The figure stopped just in front of him, his hands held out to either side of him as though he were willing the ABS to part and flow away. His form solidified. Dashiell gasped, which came out as a kind of rattle.
“You can see me?” the figure inquired. And he could. Impossibly tall, with alabaster skin, bedecked in sinister blood red robes. Its face held no eyes and no nose, only a wide, wicked mouth which smirked in bemusement. From its back sprouted massive, jet black, feathered wings. “Interesting.”
Then it drew a massive hand cannon from beneath its robes and shot Detective Dashiell Sloane in the face.
The noise was unbearable. A blurry mess of shapes and formless sounds hovered busily over him. His head felt like it was caught in a vise and lit on fire. He was pretty sure, but not for absolute certain, that he was tasting blue. One voice kept insistently attempting to cut through his confused haze. For a few minutes it was easy to ignore. But it kept buzzing, like an insect.
“Detective Sloan, please respond. Detective Sloan, can you hear me? Do you know where you are? Detective Sloan...” And so on and so on.
The haze, ever so slowly, began to recede. Sadly, the headache did not. And blue took on shades of...grass? So there was that. But he began to comprehend two important facts. First, that he was, in fact, the Detective Sloan in question. And second, that the blurry shapes were those of a pair of medics. Fun. He just hoped everyone kept their head.
He chuckled and groaned. The haze began to more quickly recede. Silence for a moment.
Sloan grinned from ear to ear as he slowly rose to a sitting position, the medics fussing about him. “Dottie, old girl, I know exactly what we're looking for.”