‘Science is all about the coulda, not the shoulda.’
The officer asked me if I want him to play the footage. I nodded and leaned forward.
He had been spotted in East Finchley before cameras had picked him up in Morden, which is 17 miles. The time stamps showed that he had made it in seconds. Teleportation was possible, but that had not tallied up with what the physical evidence was telling us.
There were reports of a boom in the tunnels at roughly eighteen forty-five. He had stood in front of a CCTV camera at eighteen forty-four, took his goggles off and stared at its unblinking mechanical eye. He had slipped them back on and disappeared between one blink and the next. His boots looked odd, and I tapped my finger against my thigh, spelling out the words that I needed to say to overcome the stammer.
The cameras ran constantly, but I was only looking for one single frame. I had to wind it back a few times, but I found it eventually. One frame, the platform is empty, the next he was there. Black hooded sweatshirt, black jeans and boots. He wore goggles and gauntlets which made his fingers look fat and white in the light on the platform. He lowered the goggles and let them dangle from his neck.
He looked up at the camera and sneered. He had a thin, lean face with pockmarked cheeks and cracked lips, but there was a light in his eyes that was difficult to look at. I saw it myself in the mirror every morning.
I thank the officer and asked him to arrange for that frame to be enhanced and sent out across the network. None of the street officers who picked it up would do anything, not from cowardice but because they wanted to go home at the end of the day.
That is why the Metropolitan had people like me on the payroll.
I’m not a serving officer. Consultant would have been a better title for it. It’s just as meaningless though. They paid me for my time and it made me feel better to pay something forward.
Some guilt too, but I used that to do my job.
A cigarette’s worth of peace and quiet allowed me to start thinking about what was there. We had two victims thus far.
Janice Weatherall. 43. On her way home from visiting her ex boyfriend. Grabbed whilst waiting for the tube She had friction burns in the shape of fingerprints on her collarbone and the inside of her right thigh. He did not manage to do anything more than that. She had reported it but it had not gone anywhere.
It didn’t even raise a flag, and I made a mental note that I would kick Jay’s arse up between his shoulder blades for not keeping an eye out.
Imogen Harris. 24. Broken neck. Spine broken in two places. Most of the sexual activity occurred post-mortem. She had been engaged to be married. The physics of the injuries got flagged that time.
Janice said she thought he smoked. She sat there, hands folded in her lap and nails bitten to the quick.
He wouldn’t stop. They never knew how to. Either we caught them or they developed complications from the implants or chemicals they used. I’ve been lucky when they’ve killed themselves, which happened more than I thought it would.
The terrible things that people did changed them. More than whatever they might have stuck or injected into themselves. That some people could see a means to become more than human, and to do ugly, human things with it depressed me sometimes.
Not that hunting them down made me feel any more noble.
Posting bodies wouldn’t do any good. The idea came to me as I walked into the station. I put in a requisition order and went up to the chief constable’s office.
I was watching drone footage whilst sat with a coffee in Liverpool Street Station. There were eight of them picking up blue tooth audio and streaming video. I wore contact lenses that allowed me to see the data, overlaid on the map of the underground that we were forming from real time data.
You should never think of these people as geniuses. You downloaded the specs from the internet, fabricated parts, either as implants or chemical molecules for tailored drugs. The surgical procedures were no more difficult than when you pierced your own ears with an ice cube and a hot needle. People posted videos of them.
A boom. Velocity was how we could track him. For anything else, I trusted my own senses and those of the surrounding people. I had more than an advantage in that respect. I looked at the map, saw the audio signal transposed over its location. The software was calculating the signal and working out where he was going next.
I had picked up on it when I had gone to see Janice. Then, it was there at Imogen’s autopsy. I had felt my sinuses prickle as the telltale fold of tissue grew. My head throbbed as my olfactory senses went into overdrive. Seeing as I lived in London, it was a trait that I saved for special occasions. It made questioning easier when I could pick up changes in their body chemistry. The discomfort of growing a canine olfactory information system was worth it.
He had a type. Tim Ferris once said that there was no such thing as a biological free lunch. If he had enlarged his suphrastic nucleus with tailored doses of uranium, then there were often changes to the way that their senses perceived and digested information.
How they processed desire.
Janice agreed to a swab, and I had gotten it sent to a lab in Mumbai, who sent back a recipe for a synthetic variant. An essential oil of the pheromonal signal that had reached into his tweaked and mutated brain and fired him up like a kiss on the lips from God.
There was about 50ml of it in a mister pack on my right hip. It gave off small bursts of synthetic nirvana that would bring him into range. What the lab in Mumbai had done was, which made it a variant, was also added a tailored sedative.
When you over-clocked the suphrastic nucleus, another side effect was that your ramped up body processes everything a lot faster. Including chemicals.
It wouldn’t knock him out but it would slow him. Once he was in range, I could take him out myself. If I had a sniper, he might have been able to catch the bullet. If anyone took me out, then that left other options for them to pursue.
I had an entire menagerie to call upon.
In my DNA lay the potential traits for animal abilities that had never been fully catalogued. I could alter my throat to throw out ultrasonic waves and see them as holographic images. I could grow infrared cells inside my nasal cavity and on my philtrum.
I could tell you what it feels like to have extra layers of teeth push through your gums. Claws splitting your cuticles and sliding forward inches past your fingertips.
It was a glorious and terrible burden.
My lenses said I had about six seconds. He couldn’t go full tilt but he had figured some out of the physics problems.
Turns out six was a generous assessment.
He stopped, his mouth hung open as a clear rope of saliva fell from his open chin. The pheromone and sedative cocktail had slowed him down to a stop. Through the goggles, his eyes were dull and unfocused. I knew that I did not have long. Whilst I had been waiting, I had focused on building an addition to the anatomy of my right arm. A piece of cartilage that would ratchet into place when I cocked my arm back.
It comes from the mantis shrimp, of all things.
Underwater, it is capable of throwing a single strike that reaches in excess of fifty miles an hour. I am slightly heftier than a mantis shrimp and so I wore a glove, fitted with moulded memory plastic underneath a slab of synthetic diamond.
It is not so much a punch that I threw at him, as his own velocity, honed into a single point of contact. I aimed for the bridge of his nose and the impact travelled up my arm as his head burst apart in a wet gout of brain tissue, skull fragments and hair. He staggered backwards with his legs buckling, the last signals of his enhanced but decimated nervous system trying for one last statement.
He fell backwards, which was fine by me. I slipped off the glove and gave the order to close in and clean up.
They found his place. He had ordered a series of injections from a deep web vendor and recorded it all for his own gratification. He had been deteriorating from where his body had started to falter under the pace of his own thought processes, he complained of how his legs hurt, how he had to eat mass gainer protein shakes mixed with oatmeal and raw eggs in order to maintain the calorific intake necessary to power his abilities.
All that pain and suffering, and all he could go was hurt people.
I lit up another cigarette as I felt the spring start to break down into simple proteins and minerals to be absorbed into my system. My phone rings and I answer it, already knowing what to say.
‘Where do you want me?’