A criminal has to keep getting lucky to avoid capture. A cop has to only be lucky once.
Unless you happened to be David Felgate.
He wasn’t grandiose in his ambitions. He didn’t have ambitions to control the world, just to make a tonne of money and enjoy the decline.
David could make perfect replicas of himself. All his memories and aptitudes. Left handed, allergic to strawberries and possessed by a vague dissatisfaction with his lot in life.
He didn’t put on a mask or a spandex one piece. No initially he became a suit and tie motherfucker, sold penny stocks from his basement until the SEC put him in an armlock, made him cry uncle.
Apparently in a world where we repelled a terrorist campaign by talking apes with jet packs and handheld lazers, a room of perfectly coiffured Davids put two cops in therapy.
It took the law to make him a criminal. Playing doubles matches against himself when he could miss a dose of the medication. Learning from those who saw time served as an occupational hazard. Not to think of himself as a gang of one.
As a virus, self replicating and singularly minded in intention. Upon release, he disappeared completely. Sightings across the planet.
A tibetan monastery.
Twins at an orgy in a parisian club.
A student visa to MIT
Nothing as pedestrian as a bank robbery, his financials were immaculate and he wasn’t breaking any laws. His parole officer said on record that he wished all his clients were as co-operative.
Then David made his move.
To access the country of Nevonia takes three days hard drive and a plane ride that feels like being shaken like the worm at the bottom of a cheap tequila bottle.
Nevonia which has enjoyed three years of peace and prosperity under the rule of its young queen and her prince regent, American by birth but able to produce evidence of lineage that made him unusually suitable for the opportunity to woo the Princess Ksenia.
Coincidentally he adopted the surname of his distant, as in the moon is distant, relation so my royal audience is with David Von Eckhart.
He’s used to the exercise of noblesse oblige, and he’s negotiated trade deals with major corporations and yet he still swallows heavily at the sight of me, flanked by the royal security team. Not that he needs it when he can summon a perfect lynch mob with a moment’s concentration. His suit is tailored, nothing from a store for him,although he wears a sash of red silk and gold braid in addition to a heavy sovereign ring inlaid wth precious stones that captures the light greedily.
‘What brings you here?’
I looked around at the security team, wondered if any of them were actually him. It was disturbing to see how effectively he had been able to dominate, to infect this country with his singular vision.
‘I thought we might talk in terms of a business proposition.’
Nevonia had secure data farms that were not shy about whose data they were holding. Yet I knew that beneath the gold and the diamonds, beneath the affected surname and the fact that he was used to people bowing to him, he was still a man who was never wholly satisfied with anything and believed that a better deal was always on the horizon, and that all you had to be is ready.
When I told him what I was looking for, he smirked and shook his head.
‘Tempting, but I must refuse. I’ve done a lot of work in assuring that their data is safe here. You’re asking me to go against that, and against your government, of all people.’
I sighed and cocked my head to one side.
‘Do you think that if Nevonia represented a threat, you wouldn’t be getting a Hellstrike cued in on your cellphone signal before you knew it was in your airspace?’
He gave a diffident smile.
‘Drones? In European airspace?’ He shook his head, waving me off but unable to hide the nerves that sparked like lightning flashes.’I don’t think so, do you?’
He folded his hands in his lap and fixed me with a hard stare.
‘No, my concern is only to serve my subjects and maintaining my integrity is how I can best serve that obligation.’
He says this with the same, smooth tone that he used to shift penny stocks onto retirees and I smirk at him.
‘Well when they send The Pantheon in, and your subjects see them float down out of the sky, how are you serving them by letting that happen?’
He went to speak but I raised my hand and he stopped.
‘You’re safe. I have no interest in making threats to you. I question your motives, but not your heart in this, your highness.’
He turns pale at the mention of The Pantheon. Time was, you did a piece of work, they caught you, you did time. Uncivil behaviour needs a civil response. With The Pantheon, you could no longer expect that. In the same way that all that terror money made police departments militaristic, then fame and isolation had done much the same thing to them. Last month, they surrounded Oscar Gregory, a tactile telekinetic who had gone off his meds and started flipping cars, then buildings in downtown Seattle. He tried to surrender but they would not have travelled all this way without getting something for it.
He’s still in the coma.
David had done time with him.
David Felgate that is, who hasn’t existed in the real world for a good eight years now. Except, I imagine at night when the palace is silent and his beautiful wife is asleep and he has that jailhouse sensitivity come to life and haunt him with the dread of it all being taken away.
He asked me to stay for dinner. They do things with beets that are pure sorcery he said, and I wanted to believe him. Between the fourth course and the fifth, a servant slips a USB drive into my breast pocket that I don’t find until I am leaving. I did not look at the man’s face but I got an inkling that David Felgate still knew the value of being in more than one place at a time.
I had what I asked for from him. I had, I hoped the right people and evidence to help me.
Now I needed them to help me steal something.
Well, actually someone.