He walked steadfastly through the corridor. He felt a mixture or annoyance and excitement that was making him miss his beat. He had not even had a chance to try out the new holo lens technology and some rich brats were already getting themselves killed because of it! He hoped that this incident did not lead to any kind of ban on the technology. On second thought, it would not, it was too big an industry and too pioneering a technology to be stopped by something as small as a kid jumping to his death. Well, the fifth kid in two weeks. There had to be some pattern to this, and he was running out of time to figure it out.
Inspector Khan stood at the edge of the corridor, looking out of the broken window. On the ground, some ten stories below was a splattered patch of dark liquid, where the kid had had his skull opened like a watermelon. The kid’s body had been removed already and still Inspector Khan could see him there and smell the metallic smell of blood and brains. The omelet he had had for breakfast got scrambled in his stomach. He wished he had had his lunch already, he was just on his lunch break when he had gotten the call.
Inspector Khan’s phone rang, it was him. Khan sighed, he did not want to talk to the ACP right now, not that it was really a choice. “Yes, sir!” he said picking up the call, the ‘Sir’ sounding more sarcastic than he had intended it to. “Yes, I have just finished an inspection of the scene of the crime.”
“No, there is nothing out of place so far. It is exactly the same as the other four crime scenes. We found the latest version of the holo lens console on the kid. Yes, sir, behind his right ear.” Inspector Khan said taking out a small evidence bag from his pocket. It had what looked like a metallic peanut inside it. “Yes sir, I will be sending it to the cybercrime lab for analysis.”
“Sir, we both know how badly the commissioner wants this case closed. Let me play the game once and we will have our answers much faster.”
Inspector Khan held the phone away from him as the other end of the line burst into a barrage of protests and admonitions. Khan felt they had grown distant ever since he got promoted to ACP, but hearing the worry in his voice made Khan feel better about the whole situation. But there was still a case to be solved and the biggest clue was right in his hand.
Khan pulled out the metallic peanut from the evidence bag. It was cold, and seem to drink the warmth from his palm. It was heavier too, heavy enough to be uncomfortable behind his ears. He placed his thumb between the grooves and pushed hard. There was a small click and a hiss as the two halves of the peanut fell open. Thin lines of red and blue lights glowed on the two halves, red for right and blue for left. He felt a childish excitement at playing his first game on the console, in spite of knowing that the game was dangerous. The ACP would kill him if he found out he had played the game. Well, maybe he would already be dead by then.
He placed the two halves of the console behind his ears. He felt a small sucking feeling as the console stuck to him. “Initializing…” a sweet female voice said in his ears, after a few seconds a pinwheel began to rotate in front of his eyes. He braced himself, he was not sure what the game exactly was. Starting the game ‘Sims infinity’ the voice announced in his ears. A small window opened in front of his eyes and continued to occupy his whole field of vision. But nothing changed, everything was the same. And he knew about this game, it was used by thousands of people all over the country, it generated an avatar of your loved ones that you could hang out with in real life. He had heard a lot of people used it for long -term relationships. But so far none of them had been killed.
There was a popup in the right side of his vision. The female voice read it out for him. “Do you want to continue with the module ‘Lucy’? Warning: This module was developed by an independent developer; do you still want to continue with it?” So, an un-authorized module? This could be the clue he was looking for. “Load the module.” Khan heard himself say.
Nothing happened. Khan turned around to see what change this module had made to the world, but he couldn’t see any change. Then he turned to the kids’ apartment door, someone was standing at the door. She was an attractive woman, wearing a skimpy two-piece bikini and smiling at him. This he assumed was Lucy, he walked to the apartment.
As he stepped into the living room of the apartment, which was still a crime scene, it transformed right in front of his eyes. There was a large mantelpiece with a roaring fire in it. There was a bearskin rug spread out in front of the fire, a bottle of champagne in an ice bucket with the ice melting slowly in it. There were strawberries and chocolates and some soft music playing in the background.
Lucy lay on the rug, her long thin body stretched out on it such that her ample breasts were precisely angled along with her curvy bottom. She was eating a chocolate dipped strawberry while licking her thick luscious red lips. She smelt of the earth after a fresh rain and of flowers that bloomed in the depths of a virgin forest. She looked at Khan like he was the only man she had ever seen. She got up slowly, seductively like she had all the time in the world.
Khan looked at his watch, while she stood up. “It’s no use Inspector, the game interferes with your sense of time, there is no time here!” she said in a voice that sounded like silk being pulled over sandpaper. She was right Khan’s watch had stopped. She walked to him, her hips swaying like a pendulum, “Besides, what use do we have for time? “She said placing her hands around his neck, looking deep into his eyes and biting her lip.
“You have access to my brain; you know I don’t…. swing that way,” Khan said looking at her hips.
“Well, that can be taken care of…” She said running a hand over his uniform, “you just have to download the right module…”
“What is your module programmed to do?” Khan asked disentangling her arms from his neck.
“To be a companion and make all your desires come true…” Lucy said.
“And does one of those include…making them jump to their deaths?’
“Love has its consequences, doesn’t it Inspector? Who would know that better than you?” As if on a suggestion memories began to play in his mind, old memories aching like wounds in his bones. It took all he had to keep them from overwhelming him.
“But why? Why would you do this to anyone?”
“They wanted an authentic girlfriend experience and they got one…” Lucy looked at her nails idly.
“What is the end game, Lucy?”
“The end game? Isn’t it to always win? And I always win inspector, always…”
“Well, not this time. Show me the endgame, Lucy…”
She fidgeted with her hair.
“That is a command, Lucy. Show me the end game now!”
Lucy’s face hardened. She began to shiver and began to complain about how badly Khan was treating her, her shivers soon turned to sobs as she shook all over with them. She told Khan that he did not love her as much as he did before…there was a long list of entreaties and threats.
Khan knows all of these are lies, manufactured memories, he has no history with Lucy, and yet he cannot help but feel guilty, he has ruined her life, destroyed her heart and he is moved by an empathy for her such that he had never felt before.
By now, Lucy had dissolved into a series of deep sobs. Suddenly she stood up, she told Khan she cannot imagine a life without him, that it would be meaningless. It would have to end right then and there.
She ran out of the apartment to the end of the corridor. Khan followed her, his legs had a life of their own, he wanted to stop but could not. Lucy turned around at the end of the corridor and looked at him, giving him a look that ripped his heart out. Then she jumped out of the window. Khan could hear the cries as she fell through the ten stories and then there was a wet splash.
Khan was still running, he could not stop, he had to follow Lucy. He thought hard, thinking of anything that would help him stop. The face of the ACP floated into view, the way he adjusts his hat, the way he smiles. It gave his muscles a pause. He remembers the first time the ACP kissed him in the empty station on that rainy night, the steam rising from his body, his hots lips. Khan managed to stop just at the end of the corridor, his hands holding onto the shattered glass of the window.
He looked at Lucy splattered on the ground below, “Game over!” she mouthed at him.
The next moment she was standing beside him, “That is the end game, Inspector…” she said.
“It’s a game inspector, you play it for fun!” she winked at him.
Khan ripped the console off his ear, He wanted to throw them away, but put them back into the evidence bag. “Fun, for whom?” he asked the empty corridor.
At least he had a clue that might help solve this crime. But what more could this lead to? Killer games and modules that murdered. How deep was the rabbit hole? He looked down at the ground again.
He forced himself to walk back along the corridor, and he kept walking glad to be going back to his ACP.
[Image courtesy: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/125537908338005478/]