“In a universe made out of energy, everything is entangled; everything is one” – Bruce Lipton
She was standing in a house at the top of carpeted stairs, the top of the open banister just at eye level.
“Grandma…Grandma where are you?” It was Talia’s voice, and it was coming from her. Talia looked down as she carefully climbed down the steps, stepping down with one foot, then the other onto each step before moving on to the next, and Cicepia saw the same white shoes on her daughter’s feet that she’d been wearing at McTurians earlier that day. That day. Had it really been less than a day since they’d landed on Invictus?
The prolapsed squeaker in Talia’s not-Blasto-at-all toy squonked sadly as Talia tightened her grip on it, and Cecepia could feel its soft felt under her right arm. Under Talia’s right arm. Somewhere behind her, she could hear a Blasto cartoon.
“What are you going to do, mohawked human lover of anachronistic music, cry on this one?”
As Talia reached the bottom of the stairs, the carpet gave way to smooth plascrete, and her footsteps led into a kitchen. Talia’s footfalls turned from a thud to a squelch as she stepped in something slick but viscous and sticky…and dark blue.
“Turn around,” Cicepia screamed. “Turn around and run!” but the connection appeared to be one way. She could feel Talia’s curiousity. She could feel that her daughter no didn’t connect the puddle of sticky blue liquid to the blood that oozed from the scrape on her knee when she’d fallen in the playground three years ago.
The kitchen was cold, and a wild haired human man stepped out from around the counter. He was tall, although anyone would look tall to Talia, and he wore a green jacket and a long scar running across his face.
“Hey, hey, it’s okay, it’s okay.”
“She’s fine. We were just playing a game. She just forgot to say ‘Simon Says’.”
Cicepia stumbled forward, and found herself half leaning against a squad car and half supported by Elias.
“Talia…I have to find Talia.”
“Are you okay?”
“I had a vision. There was blood. A lot of blood a their house and a man. A human.”
“Whose house?” Elias asked sharply.
“I think it was Horoponia’s – Talia’s grandparents house. Talia…I was seeing through her eyes and feeling what the felt and smelling what she smelled—”
Elias nodded. “She did that to me in McTurians.” He brought up his omni tool and something flashed across the inside of his faceplate. “They’re about 20 miles away,” he said. “1768 Cassia Street.”
“How are you tracking her?”
“I gave her a music cube,” Elias said with a shrug. “It has a tracker built into it. I don’t know if she’s still there, but that’s where the cube ended up.”
Cicepia nodded, took a deep breath and strode over to Sergeant Accius.
“Sergeant I need to commander a squad car. It’s an emergency.”
“Emergency? What kind of an emergency?”
“An attack and possible kidnapping in Creza Ward.”
“How do you know this?”
“I…heard from my daughter.”
The sergeant looked around where his squad were busy taking statements and securing the area.
“What’s the address? We’ll send a force once we’re done here.”
“Let me go ahead,” Cicepia said evenly. “If this turns into a kidnapping case the first hours are crucial.”
“With all due respect officer, I don’t believe you have jurisdiction here.”
“She’s my daughter,” Cicepia said evenly. “I’m going one way or the other unless you’d like to detain me for some reason. Let’s just make it official.”
Sergeant Accius hesitated, and nodded. “Go on then,” he said.
“1758 Cassia Street,” Elias said. “We’ll report in if you give me the channel.”
Above them the grey clouds that had been gathering all evening opened up and drops of rain pelted the windscreen of the squadcar as Elias drove them through the skylanes towards their destination.
“Are you all right?” Arkara asked her.
“No,” Cicepia said tightly. “I’’m not.”
“She’ll be fine.”
“We don’t know that,” Cicepia said.
As the glow of the city lights faded the medium rise buildings eventually gave way to large houses on generous blocks of land, each with landscaped lawns that probably needed daily tending given the speed at which plants grew on this jungle planet. It was a comfortable home, and even within the regimentation with which Turian life played out it was tastefully decorated and there were displays of subtle wealth that set it apart from its neighbours.
“Not a lot of security,” Elias noted as they parked the car.
“The system wouldn’t be on if Horoponia was home,” Cicepia said, pulling her jacket closer around her body as they stepped up onto the footpath and headed in towards the porch, the rain getting heavier as they walked up towards the house.
“Lights are on,” Arkara rumbled, her soft voice barely registering above the roll of thunder overhead.
“I don’t think she’s there, Cicepia,” Elias said. “The tracker’s still in there, but there’s no heat signatures that would indicate people that I can pick up.”
“You can just do that through a standard omni-tool?” Arkara asked.
“Well…yeah, if you have the mods and software and overclock your multi-scanner—”
“That’s not standard, Elias,” Cicepia said as she peered in through one of the front windows. “We should check it out anyway. Maybe we can find something that indicates where he took her.”
“He was blond, wild hair—wilder eyes. He said something about ‘Simon says’.”
Elias looked at Arkara, who shrugged. “I’m not from this universe either,” she said.
Seeing nothing in the front room, Cicepia tried the door, which was securely locked.
“Got a key?” Elias asked.
“I’ll break a window,” Cicepia said bleakly, gathering her will.
“Hey!” Elias put a hand on her shoulder. “Let me take a look at it.”
Cicepia forced herself to relax as the quarian hunkered down by the front door, the orange of his omni-tool shining brightly in the darkness. Somehow, it was hard to think of him as ‘Elias the Singer’ anymore. He was…just Elias.
“There,” he said, as the door’s bolts whirred and the lock clicked open. “And I deactivated the automatic alarm that kicks in if the door is hacked. You’d think Lucidis would upgrade his firmware for the door locks.”
“Not everyone is as paranoid as you are, Elias,” Arkara said as she lifted her assault rife and headed inside. She’d left her shield in the car in favour of a bigger gun this time around.
“Everyone should be,” Elias muttered as he gestured for Cicepia to go first.
The inside was a grand entryway of plascrete. Even in luxury homes, the turian military aesthetic remained strong. A faint sulfuric tang filled her nostrils along with the scent of verrum, a spice often used in the baking of cookies. Or at least, if they were chocolate cookies for Talia. The hallway was dark, but a flickering light shone from the back where the kitchen would have been. Above them, the Elias sung jingle for DexToC filtered down the stairs, and Cicepia’s eyes flicked to the wall clock – 1807 hours. The Blasto cartoon would have ended a short while ago. Waving her hand over a nearby wall panel, Cicepia turned on the hall lights, revealing a staircase up to the right, and small drops of blue blood leading from the door into the house.
“They go that way,” Arkara said, pointing into the house. “You can tell by the splatter pattern.”
Cicepia nodded tightly and headed towards the kitchen, following the steps Talia had taken barely ten minutes ago. The house had an open plan living/kitchen area, separated from the hallway by an internal wall, in keeping with the Turian desires for defensive fortifications and grand entrances. Heading once through the doors into the open area, Cicepia could see the kitchen island, upon which stood a metal mixing bowl, and a plastic container of flour. A bottle of verrum lay on its side next to the bowl, a small amount of the spice having spilled into the hard surface. The blood led further in, although it was a mess before the island, where some small footprints—Talia’s certainly—had stepped into it and tracked it across the floor for a few steps. In the kitchen proper, staring up at the ceiling with lifeless eyes was Horoponia, lying in a large pool of dark blue blood. Her chest had been slashed a number of times with a sharp blade, making out a crude ‘S’. Her throat had also been cut. Cicepia felt herself go into case mode. Talia wasn’t here. Horoponia was…family, of sorts, estranged, certainly, but right now, Horoponia had gone to be with the spirits and Cicepia needed to find out why. A flick of her wrist brought the familiar sensation of omni-gel gloves covering her hands as they were minifactured around her flesh. Best sterilising money could buy, really-single use recycled gloves purged of all organic impurities upon disassembly.
“Her throat was cut first,” Cicepia said. “And cut here. You can see the gush of blood from her throat on the base cabinets. But she was stabbed in the chest first—that’s where the blood train comes from. It looks like she grabbed a knife to defend herself with.”
“She didn’t have military training? I thought all Turians did military service,” Elias asked as Arkara carefully prowled the ground floor with military precision.
“She did, but she didn’t carry a gun. She never liked them.”
“Have you seen that ‘S’ before on another case?” Elias asked.
“No,” Cicepia said. “But I can tell you it was cut after she was dead. The wounds barely bled.”
“Hmm,” Elias said, and his faceplate flickered with data, which Cicepia was coming to know as a sign of Elias doing an extranet search. “There’s news of a serial killer working mostly in council space. He—or she—leaves a mark like this on their victims.”
“Any connections between the victims?”
“No, nothing,” Elias said. “But they do all seem to have had family ties to a biotic child. Fairly powerful biotic children.”
“And the children?”
“Mostly teenagers. There’s no sign that he’s ever killed any of them during the initial attack, but they’re all still missing. No bodies have turned up yet. And these cases go back just over four galactic years.”
“Eight standard galactic months, at first, dropping to seven, and this would be five if it’s the same person.”
“He’s escalating then.”
“Well, I…Talia saw a man.”
“Exactly what it sounds like.”
“The upstairs is clear,” Arkara said, coming into the kitchen. “Looks like a mess up there. Not sure if it’s the lived in kind or the other kind. You might want to have a look. I’ll keep watch down here.”
“Did you see Talia?”
Swallowing hard, Cicepia headed upstairs, Elias following behind her. There were photos on the upper landing, family photos of Talia and her grandparents, and one of a very young Talia with Cicepia and a man she’d tried her best to forget. Octavious. The upper landing led into what had once been a sitting area, but was now a playroom. Toys were scattered across the floor, and on the far side of the room, the television was playing the Humblebees music as the next cartoon went to an ad break. Turning left into Talia’s room, Cicepia found the place in more disarray than she’d ever have thought Horoponia would tolerate. Clothes were strewn everywhere, but cataloging the items against her internal list, she could see that there were a few key things missing. Entering the bathroom, she saw a pink toothbrush holder, but no toothbrush to be seen, and the bathroom itself had been rummaged through. As she walked through it something crinkled underfoot and she looked down to see a cigarette wrapper for those smokers who still liked to roll their own. No one in the household smoked as far as she knew, and reaching down she also found a stray strand of dried tobacco, which her omni tool scanner confirmed to be levo protein tobacco. A human.
Behind her, she heard Elias clear his throat. “Yes?” she asked.
“She didn’t take the tracker,” Elias said, holding up a small data cube. “So I don’t know where she is.”
“He took her,” Cicepia said. “He took her rainbow Humblebee bag, Blasto toy, some clothes, and some toiletries and he took her.”
“She’s alive then,” Elias said. “He wouldn’t take toiletries if he wasn’t going to keep her alive.”
Cicepia nodded. “Let me see if I can find her.”
Cicepia shrugged and closed her eyes. “She reached out to me with her mind. Maybe I can reach hers.”
Leaning against the counter for support, Cicepia focused on the feelings she remembered from when her daughter’s mind had touched hers. The way she saw everything from a shorter viewpoint. The careful way Talia moved down stairs, each step deliberate and supported with one hand on the banister. The way her daughter’s mind had felt and processed information. There was a connection there. A memory that was a sense that was a—
A flicker of an image and the softness of the Blasto toy clutched against her chest. A wave of confusion washed over her. She didn’t know where she was going, but she was in a car, a large car, and it was raining. The man from the kitchen was there, sitting ahead of her in the front seat of the car. The Humblebee theme song played through the car’s speakers. Through the rain she could also make out the tall buildings of the city out the window to Talia’s right. And—
That was all.
“Well?” Elias asked.
“They’re heading out of the city. West.”
“West, okay. Anything else?”
“They’re in a vehicle of some description.”
Elias nodded. “On it…Sergeant Accius? Yes, we’re here. It’s become a kidnapping. Best suspect is a human male, heading west with a female Turian child in a small skycar. They could have up to a fifteen minute head start on us. Do you have traffic cameras we can use to track them with? Uh huh. Uh huh. With all due respect, Sergeant the girl’s grandmother has been killed and it appears to be the work of the Sorro Killer. The girl is the daughter of a C-Sec officer and this is a galactic case now. Uh huh. Of course. I look forward to speaking with you in person.”
The quarian looked back up at her. “You’re going to have to pull rank on this one. This is your jurisdiction. Not theirs.”
Cicepia nodded, and placed both the cigarette and tobacco in a hastily minifactured evidence bag. “All right. Let’s go downstairs and meet them when they arrive.”
A few minutes later, three squad cars with lights flashing and sirens blaring pulled up at the house, and Cicepia saw shapes in the windows of the houses nearby as neighbours looked out to see what the fuss was. Let them look. They’d stared for years. Holding her head high she waited for the police to approach, and was only slightly surprised to see Sergeant Accius himself step into the hallway.
“Officer Altus. I’m informed this is a kidnapping and you’re closely related to the victims, you have my condolences. I assure you we’ll do everything we can to find your daughter.”
“Please spare me the pleasantries Sergeant, you and I both know the first hour is critical in a kidnapping case. This ‘Sorro killer’ has taken Talia’s favourite bag, favourite toy, some clothing and toiletries. I need you to give my technician access to the city traffic and security camera feeds.”
“That’s highly irregular Officer Altus, and you and I both know that as someone with close ties to the victims, you shouldn’t be on this case.”
“It’ll take days to get C-Sec or a Spectre out here Sergeant, if the citadel even sends one. We don’t have that time. If you’re going to do everything you can to help, then let me bring my team in. They’ll tell me if I’m overreacting.”
For a moment the words hung in the air between them, only to be broken by a discrete cough.
“Yes Constable Tullius?”
“I have a copy of the C-Sec case files you requested, Sergeant.”
Sergeant Accius brought up his omni tool. “Excellent, please send it to me.”
Out of the corner of her eye, Cicepia thought she saw Elias tap a few commands on his omni tool and saw his faceplate flicker with information before it cleared back to its usual white-blue glow, but she kept her eyes on the Sergeant, who was scrolling through the files on the virtual display.
“Well, it is a galactic case,” he said eventually. “It’s against my better judgement but I’ll let you bring your team in on this.”
“Thank you,” Cicepia said. “Can you get us information from the city cameras?”
“Better yet, can you get me access to the camera systems?” Elias asked.
“And who are you?” Sergeant Accius asked.
“He’s my hacker,” Cicepia said. “Best white hat I know.”
“I see. So you’re the tech and she’s the muscle?” Sergeant Accius asked Elias, tilting his head towards Arkara.
“Pretty much,” Elias said blandly.
“Ah, we spoke earlier, I recognise your voice. Here. I’ll send you the feed.”
Elias did a strange half bow in response, but Cicepia could see his helmet light up with streams of video footage, moving rapidly and switching camera views so quickly she was sure he couldn’t possibly be watching all of them.
“Well?” she asked.
“Cataloguing and winding back 20 minutes to see if I can find the van,” Elias said.
“How long is that going to take?”
“Oh I’ve found it, it’s dark blue. Trying to get a license plate, but tracking it is hard. I only have so much processing power in my suit, you know.”
“Back to the ship then?” Cicepia asked.
“That would be useful, yes.”
Cicepia nodded. “Thank you Sergeant, I’ll keep you informed.”
Sergeant Accius nodded. “Call for backup when you need it, Officer Altus,” he said. “Preferably before you need it if you’re heading out of the city.”