Everything is Automatic

I don't know who did it kid. All I know is there's a gun with no trace, a camera with no film and a body that aint talking.

Feature by Hamza Khan | 15 Jul 2006

My alarm started beeping at dawn. The Lucknow link opened my curtains and increased the temperature, because I like getting up to a warm room. Once I woke, it ran the bath and brewed coffee.

I sat at my breakfast table drinking perfect coffee. The white-light TV displayed channels based on my viewing habits. Bloomberg said Sympaticorp shares hit rock bottom, and the temperature in New York City was 11˚C.

I picked up my badge and gun and drove to the station on a computed route factoring all road conditions. I didn't worry about turning off the lights or locking the door, it was taken care of automatically. Everything was automatic.


"He was murdered Kaiser, and it's your job to find out who did it," the chief of police growled through his cigar. The news was all over the station, scrolling across the walls: "Dr. Rufus Dishel found dead in home." When the richest man in New York sees his last blue sky the news spreads like electric fire.

"But why me chief? I'm just downtown homicide and this poor bub must have enemies from Alaska to New China."

"I don't care if the Loch Ness Goddamn Monster got him. It happened in my city and I need my best man on the case. I've assigned you a tech guy - talented rookie called Jack Brett. He'll provide background. Now get down to the crime scene." He waved his cigar at the door.

I left his office. Directions to Dishel's mansion had been Lucknow'd over to my car by Jack so I hit autopilot. It was raining now and a fog crept over the city like smoke.


Sympaticorp had made Dishel a very rich man. His mansion was bigger than most city blocks. When I walked into his tidy study the body was gone. The gun was in the room - an antique revolver with no ownership trace. I glanced at the ceiling.

"Did anyone check the surveillance camera?" I spoke into my collar.

"There's no point, sir. Electricity was cut to all surveillance," replied Jack Brett.

"Dammit. Witnesses?"

"Everything's automatic. The help are synths and his wife was at a dinner party."

"Alright. Whoever did this must've known him. Joe Stranger doesn't get this close without signs of a struggle. Known rivals?"

"Sympaticorp's in competition with Spektor Inc. There's no love lost between Dr. Dishel and Lewis Spektor."

"Spektor? Hmmm… It's worth looking into. Any other leads?"

"I'm trying to scan Dishel's computer but he's got encryption like I've never seen. Who do you think did it detective W…"

I interrupted: "I don't know who did it kid. All I know is there's a gun with no trace, a camera with no film and a body that aint talking. Bring in his wife, search all gun collections for a missing antique, and call me if that computer turns up aces. And Jack?"


"Call me Kaiser"


On the drive to Spektor's skyscraper I read about American energy. It was a two-man race. Sympaticorp was in the lead, but Spektor was hungry. Wherever I looked I found the same word: Zoketo. Was this Sympaticorp's coup de grace? Did Dishel find a way to win the race? Is that why he was killed?

My police Lucknow bypasses most security so I ignored the skyscraper's synth receptionists and called the private lift. It sped to the top floor like a bullet.

The elevator doors slid open to reveal the most beautiful blonde I'd ever seen. Her skin shone like snow but her eyes were dark like the red on her lips. She stood aside and long legs creased shadows in a dress cut to fit. A dress as red as her lips.

I stepped out and our eyes locked. She stepped into the lift and said "Ground," in a husky voice. The doors closed and she was gone.

I stood in a large office with a window over Manhattan. In front of the window was a large glass desk. It played news from every station and website available. I heard a tap and the glass turned black.

Spektor sat behind the desk. He was young and handsome and his suit was the colour of sharkskin. I asked him about Dishel and he feigned sincerity in a smooth, slick tone. Of course he was horrified at the murder. Of course he'd love to help. Of course.


As I rode the elevator down I thought through the case. Spektor wouldn't walk in and shoot; a guy like him doesn't get his silk suit dirty. Dishel wouldn't let a hitman get that close. And what's so important about Zoketo? As if on cue, Jack called:

"I just cracked Dishel's computer. Zoketo's serious. It could change everything. Middle-East oil, nuclear energy, pollution and all that bullshit Kaiser, none of it'd matter."

"Steady Jack, what are we sitting on?"

"Think of it this way: Lucknow connects everything. We don't need hard connections because we have Lucknow. But it requires power. Batteries and wires plugged into walls just like we had 200 years ago."

"So we have a modern day Tesla?"

"Better, Kaiser. What if a battery the size of a fingernail provided enough power to light up New York?"

"That's impossible."

"That's Zoketo. It's infinitely adaptable. Solder it into any existing circuit, no matter what size. Dr. Dishel made the only prototype, and now it's missing."

The elevator hit ground and my car was waiting - Lucknow'd on the way down. I hit autopilot for the station.

"Did you find Nina Dishel?" I asked.

"She just arrived at HQ, dressed to kill. I'll connect you."

The windshield flickered and became a video screen, hazy at first but the picture adjusted itself. And there she was - Nina Dishel - the blonde in red.

I cut the connection and grabbed the steering wheel, pulling hard. The tires screeched against the wet road and I hit the accelerator. I had a hunch.


Dishel's mansion looked drab and grey in the pouring rain. The only sounds inside were the synth help rolling by on rubber wheels. My footsteps echoed down the hall as I walked to the study.

In a corner the security camera lay dead - no one had fixed the power yet. I pulled over the chair, climbed on top and ripped the camera out. The wires and wallpaper tore apart in a cloud of plaster.

I walked to the car. I kept a knife in the glove compartment and in the pouring rain snapped the cover off the camera. Inside, the wires formed new patterns, solder stained the case. A switch read record/transmit. I flicked it to transmit.

The Lucknow in my car detected a new device, and displayed the video on the windshield. Me walking in to the room - me ripping off the camera - static.

"Rewind, 20 hours." A dead body on the floor.

"Rewind, 22 hours." Rufus Dishel at his desk.

"Playback, triple speed. Stop. Playback"

On my windscreen I saw the last few moments of Rufus Dishel's life. And under heavy grey raindrops, I saw the cold dark eyes of his killer.


"That's enough, Kaiser." That husky voice was accompanied by a cold barrel against the small of my back. "Turn around, drop the piece."

I turned and saw Nina Dishel in a black jacket with a high collar. Slowly I threw my gun on the grass.

"Thanks for finding Zoketo for me," she smirked.

"No problem, doll. You gonna shoot me now?"

"And spoil our moment?" The rain fell from her collar like liquor on ice cubes.

"Rufus was going to give Zoketo away wasn't he? Clean, free power for everyone, forever. Only problem was, you weren't making a buck off it."

"That selfish old fool didn't have a clue. A woman's got needs, Kaiser."

"And Spektor can provide them? Like that untraceable revolver? Was he your alibi for the party? Did you two make plans? But Dishel had plans too. He put Zoketo in the camera, it recorded everything."

Her smirk faded, slightly. "So you're right. So what? It isn't recording now. Nothing is…" Her nail tapped the pistol's safety.

"Actually, Sweetcheeks," I nodded to the camera, "that camera's Lucknow'd to my car. And my car's Lucknow'd to the station. And if I know my tech guy like I think I know my tech guy…"

The windshield crackled and Jack's face came on.

"The computers recorded everything, Kaiser. Squad cars are on their way."

Nina's face crumpled and she raised her gun. "You bastard! I'll kill you!"

I pulled out the knife and jammed it against the safety, tearing the gun away. She fell to her knees.

"Shit," she whispered.

I stood in the rain beside Nina. She shivered and trembled. "How'd you know Kaiser? How'd you know to transmit everything?"

I pulled out my handcuffs and wished I had a coffee; strong, black.

"I didn't Nina. Lucknow did. It was automatic. Everything is automatic."

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